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Theatre Review (LA): Broadsword: A Heavy Metal Play by Marco Ramirez

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The award-winning Black Dahlia Theatre is known for presenting provocative and telling works from new voices, giving the plays well-designed (for the most part) productions with some of the best actors working on Los Angeles stages. Their latest effort is the West Coast Premiere of Marco Ramirez’s Broadsword. The story involves a gathering of members of the now-defunct rock band Broadsword to try to solve the mystery of the lead guitarist’s disappearance. The mystery gradually unfolds and the band members and other interested parties come close to discovering a new form of music, secretly recorded by the singer before he disappeared. The play also deals with the question of who owns the music.

The exemplary cast features veterans Morlan Higgins as Dr. Thorne, a musicologist; a mysterious Man In White (why do they always wear white?) played with power and a hint of something sinister by the incomparable Armin Shimerman; Kenneth Allan Williams as the bassist who wants to get something out of the dissolution of the band and, lucky actor, gets most of the funny and caustic lines. Rounding out the characters are Heather Sher as Becca, the band’s biggest fan, Nicky the drummer (Blake Robbins) who seems resigned to the disappearance of his friend, Tony the singer who has big plans of his own and hopes to ride on the tailcoat of his missing brother and maybe steal his music. Tony is played with fervor by Tim Venable who gets better every time I see him.

Kurt Boetcher has designed a wonderful, cluttered set that keeps your interest throughout the play. Leigh Allen has designed some terrific lighting given the smallness of the space, Raquel Barreto has created appropriate costumes that subtly reveal the characters, and Thomas Hajdu is the composer of the imaginative background score. Holding all this together is the remarkable actor/director Mark St. Amant. He had directed the long-running and prize-winning play The Bird and Mr. Banks at the Road Theatre and just finished acting in the superb production of Pursued By Happiness by Keith Huff, again at the Road Theatre. He is a talent to watch.

The acting is very good by all the cast but I really admired how some of the characters did so well with monologues, which are difficult to pull off. I was particularly struck by Mr. Shimerman who has a long, varied monologue early in the proceedings. His work is outstanding.

The real star of the evening is the playwright Marco Ramirez who really has a strong ear for dialogue. He writes with a kind of poetry that gives the play its depth. Broadsword: A Heavy Metal Play is being performed at the Black Dahlia Theatre until July 31 though I won’t be surprised if it extends several times.

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About Robert Machray

  • Darn, I’d love to see Armin Shimerman on stage!

  • Jenny Carol

    Totally agree with you and love the well written, astute review! It’s a fun, swift, inventive play and gives the audience a great little ride…I really enjoyed myself and heartily recommend. Just have to give credit where due, though, and say I think you might have switched character names in your review…at least when I saw it, the role of Nicky had all the caustic, funny lines and was getting the majority of big laughs. Blake Robbins’s character was the more subdued, resigned one, it seemed. No reflection on the acting at all, as everyone was very strong, but I’d hate for the actor playing Nicky to not have his moment in the sun for his great comic delivery and timing. Thank you, though, Robert, for an actual REVIEW and not just a play synopsis–what a refreshing thing to read!

  • Editor’s note: Cast credit corrections made 7/3/2011.