Californian Lives

Rating [rating=3] Reviewed by Tony Peters

Martin Foreman’s play consists of three monologues, two of which were first performed at the 2012 Solo Festival of one-man shows.

The common theme is that of relationships, their highs, their lows and their complications.

In Los Feliz, Robin Holden plays a salesman and rep who lives a fairly lonely existence; a prisoner of the freeway as he moves from one client to the next. We find him eating alone in a diner where he recounts the story of his failed marriage and his encounter with a “dream woman” who he believes will be his escape from a mundane world.

Ben and Joes’s features John Vernon as a regular at a gay bar where he spends the “afternoon shift” shooting the breeze with assorted friends in playful bonhomie until a stranger upsets the balance and brings out hidden prejudices.

In the final piece, Sunset, Carolyn Lyster plays a middle-aged woman recounting the good and the bad moments (mostly bad) of a marriage in the wake of a tragedy.

All three monologues are generally well played by the actors, who created believable characters. However, I didn’t always feel I wasn’t making the emotional connection that was expected of me.

The stand-out for me was Vernon, who told his story with personality and a lovely ability to switch voices when quoting the bar’s assorted characters — we even had a delicious little Jimmy Stewart impersonation.

Martin Foreman’s writing sparkles at times and is shot through with wry humour and an air of melancholy. Again, it’s in the John Vernon piece where this really shines as he describes one of his fellow customers pursuit of a young man as “trying to ward off middle-age with Viagra and dollar bills”.

I found things to like in all three of Foreman’s monologues, but sadly not in equal measure. If you’re lucky enough to make a connection with all of the characters, Californian Lives could be an enjoyable evening. If not, it makes for a rather uneven watch.

Written by Martin Foreman
Directed by Emma King-Farlow

Man in diner (Los Feliz)​​ Robin Holden
Man in bar (Ben and Joe’s)​​ John Vernon
Woman (Sunset)​​ Carolyn Lyster