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Theater Review (LA): Battle Hymn by Jim Leonard at Inside The Ford

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Circle X Theatre Company is one of the most reliable companies when it comes to providing first-rate entertainment. The shows they present are always challenging and the production values extremely high. Their current show is no exception. Battle Hymn, by the award-winning playwright Jim Leonard, is getting its world premiere at Inside The Ford, the old home of Taper Too, which now serves as a home to several theaters without permanent spaces through a partnership with Los Angeles County.

The show takes place during the Civil War. It's about a sixteen-year-old girl who gets pregnant by her soldier boyfriend and goes looking for him, only to find he has another lover: a very tall black man. She decides that the world is too precarious and dangerous and decides to forgo giving birth till times are better.

150 years pass and we see her at various transitional times in our history. Along the way she meets a colorful array of characters who alternately delight and move us. Wherever she turns she finds violence and deceit, and finally, when she discovers that the baby is her clone, she chooses to have and keep it. The lesson, of course, is that we are responsible for ourselves.

The cast consists of Bill Heck, Robert Manning Jr., William Salyers, John Short, and the wonderful Suzy Jane Hunt. Ms. Hunt is onstage the whole time and finds an archness in her character that is riveting, poignant, and funny. The other actors are skilled at transforming themselves into all the necessary people she meets along the way. They are required to play men and women, black and white, old and young. At one point two of the actors play singing cows.

The show never lags, thanks to the sharp direction by John Langs, who skillfully guides the cast throughout an ever-changing landscape. The original music by Michael Levine adds just the right feel for the various historical periods. The incredible sets, from the intricate stage frame to the versatile platforms, make you feel like you are seeing a show at one of the bigger, better funded theaters in town.


Battle Hymn plays at Inside The Ford until February 21.

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