Richard (Jonathan Goldstein) is your typical Hollywood denizen with a typical Hollywood story. A former stand-up comic, his dreams of hitting it big in the business have all but vanished and he now lives in a one-bedroom apartment, working a dead-end job and staying stoned as a way of masking the pain of a mother of a mid-life crisis.
With two failed marriages behind him, he has a sometime girlfriend, Galina (Vera Cherny), whose noncommittal visits for a drink and a sexual rendezvous suit him just fine. He talks about restarting his comedy career, but he has absolutely no motivation. In short, he’s just drifting.
He also has a tenuous friendship with his neighbors, hotheaded Jackson (Danny Parker) and subservient Lydia (Nikki McCauley), a couple transplanted from Texas. Even though he can hear Jackson beating his wife through the paper-thin apartment walls, he chooses to ignore it rather than trouble himself by getting involved in other people’s lives.
But when RFK (Lilan Bowden), his stepdaughter from a long-ended second marriage, arrives with startling news, Richard’s complacency is shaken. He is forced to examine the meaning of his existence, and he doesn’t like what he sees – but is it too late to change?
With Schlomo, Timothy McNeil has written an honest, compelling mood piece. His characters are all strong and realistic, and the laughter generated is of the rueful kind rather than guffaw-inducing. It’s well-staged by director David Fofi, and the set design – a dingy living room and kitchenette painted in depressing grays and blacks – is appropriate for the subject matter.
The cast is terrific, too. Richard is a wasted schlub who shouldn’t engender any sympathy, but McNeil and Goldstein allow us to see the humanity within, so much so that we can understand why Galina keeps hanging around. Parker brings a tangibly dangerous edge to Jackson, and McCauley is multidimensional as the victimized wife, astounded that she’s allowed her life to come to this. Bowden shines as RFK, who makes every effort to stay upbeat in the face of tragedy.
With its wry humor and strong characters, The Twilight of Schlomo plumbs the darkness of a defeated life, yet offers a surprising message of redemption. It plays Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. through February 9 at the Elephant Space, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Tickets can be obtained online or by calling (323) 960-4442.