A review by Suzanne Birrell.
Chris Gardner and Laila Ayad in Unbound at Hudson Theatre
The World Premiere of Unbound opened this week at the Hudson Theater in Hollywood. As the plot thickened and drama intensified and the audience progressively leaned towards the stage, I realized
Unbound is a
"Thriller." I don't usually like thrillers, but this was such a fabulous story I was pulled in with the rest of the audience.
It is the fall of 2011 and two young Occupy activists - Michael (Chris Gardner) and Kate (Laila Ayad) - wake up together in a hotel room, unable to remember how they got there. The uncomfortable silences are palpable while the audience settled into easy laughter. While getting to know each other they find they have common ideals which resonate with current events ("The whole country should be ashamed of itself; of what the powerful do to the powerless.") As their collective goal to undermine an upcoming election gets out of hand, the ebb and flow of their developing relationship pulled the audience forward in their seats. Chris Gardner and Laila Ayed were totally committed to their roles. The audience was literally holding their breath in the final moments of the first act.
(Right: Ellis E. Williams and Gates McFadden)
The second act starts revolves around Dana, a Tea Party senator who is planning to be the next President of the United States (Gates McFadden) and her bitter enemy Ellis, a former Black Panther (Ellis E. Williams). Again, the moot point is power: "Either you have or you don't." The two do rather a dance around the subject. Knowledge is power and having a connection to the president of the United States is power, but as Ellis points out "
Helping people is power, not guns."
The fight choreography by Ahmed Best was intense and fluid. Laila Ayad and Chris Gardner played off each other with such focus that we the audience were palpably fearful for their health and welfare (Partially the result of some unplanned breaking of glass which did not slow their dynamic performance down one iota.)
Unbound, written by D.G. Watson, does everything theatre should do. It entertains, it takes us on a journey with unexpected twists and turns, and it gives us food for thought. Director Jennifer Chambers brings a brilliant sense of silence and dynamics which serves to enhance both the comedy and tension of the story.
Unbound could easily become an American Classic. Don't miss this premiere production.
runs through Sunday, November 27 at the Hudson Backstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood. Performances are Saturdays at 3:00pm & 8:00pm & Sundays at 7:00pm.
Ticket prices are $30.00. Tickets may be purchased online by visiting www.iamatheatre.com