Curtain Up: Tale of 2Cities
By Anne Burke
Published Oct 1, 2006 12:00 AM
"Doesn't everybody feel that way, that, 'Where I grew up, it's gone?' " asks the playwright and performer Heather Woodbury, her brow furrowed quizzically.
Probably so. You go back, and the corner gas station is a boxy retail center. All the new people look like interlopers. "In some sense, it's the human condition; I mean, human beings have been building and ripping down for eons," Woodbury continues. "So people are right when they say it's been going on forever, but they're also right when they say this time it seems to be different."
This idea of loss of place is the central theme in Woodbury's new play, a saga called Tale of 2Cities: An American Joyride on Multiple Tracks. The play, which Woodbury wrote and acts in, was commissioned by UCLA Live and P.S. 122 in Brooklyn and makes its world premiere as part of UCLA Live's Fifth International Theatre Festival.
The "2Cities" are New York and Los Angeles, and the event that binds them is the Brooklyn Dodgers' 1957 move to Los Angeles. The move, ripping apart a Dodger-Brooklyn link that was one of the closest relationships between team and community in American professional sports (many New Yorkers would say it was the closest), led to all sorts of social upheaval and dislocation on both coasts.
When the Dodgers' Ebbets Field — the shining example of an American ballpark at its best — was demolished, Brooklyn's beloved Bums were transplanted, and Brooklyn's sense of community crumbled. White flight and grim housing projects followed. In Los Angeles' Chavez Ravine, hundreds of Mexican Americans saw their clapboard homes bulldozed by the city to make way for Walter O'Malley's new stadium. Another community "vanished," says Woodbury, who now lives in Echo Park, just over the hill from the bulldozed barrios.
Tale of 2Cities explores loss and dislocation by dropping into the minds of characters seemingly separated by time and place: Manny, the talented but troubled L.A. deejay, and his dead grandmother, a "hungry ghost" who traverses past and present; Richard, the New York cop; Angela, who maybe killed someone, maybe not; Gabriela, whose family is displaced by the stadium. Woodbury plays Miriam, a leftist Jewish activist from Brooklyn. The cast of seven core actors includes celebrated film actor John C. Reilly, who plays Mike, cab driver and hardcore Brooklyn Dodgers fan.
Tale of 2Cities follows Woodbury's solo play, What Ever: An American Odyssey, an eight-act epic that toured the United States and Europe to critical acclaim. The New York Times called What Ever a "masterwork of the solo form" and compared it to Lily Tomlin's Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.
Tale of 2Cities: An American Joyride on Multiple Tracks. Sept. 30 – Oct. 8. Freud Playhouse. Tickets: $15–$35. Call (310) 825-2101 or log on to uclalive.org.