Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

A Horse of a Different Color

May 12, 2010

David Cole in Palomino
Photo: Craig Schwartz/CTG 2010

It's no secret that American theaters have been overrun in the last decade with solo performance works of all stripes. And with the recent economic constraints faced by most organizations, their popularity with presenters shows no signs of abating. Here in Los Angeles, the solo performance has become a virtual staple at Center Theater Group's Culver City outpost, the Kirk Douglas Theater where such performances have prominently been featured in nearly every season since the venue was opened in 2002. It makes sense for such an intimate venue, but it also speaks to the organization's seeming continued confusion about what to do with the space. While most of these offerings have been marked by virtuoso performances by actors who handle a wide range of characters simultaneously, rarely have they been very satisfying. Works like Danny Hoch's Taking Over and Nilaja Sun's No Child... have been well-intentioned, but essentially polemic presentations on well-worn positions - gentrification is bad and education is woefully underfunded. So it is satisfying to report that CTG's latest solo offering, David Cale’s Palomino, breaks out of the mold by offering something much more developed with deeper currents.

Cale has crafted a narrative about a young Irish horse-drawn carriage driver who is lured into the life of a gigolo. And while this young man is a center of the play's action, the work is just as much about the middle-aged women who pay for his services and other tangentially-related people who cross his path. Cale flirts with a linear narrative by repeatedly returning to events previously described in another character's monologue each time providing more information from other perspectives. What seems obvious becomes less so over time, and I'll admit I was increasingly drawn to the people Cale created on stage. And while there is an overarching narrative, Palomino operates more like a groups of loosely interrelated short stories than a novel. And while this arrangement can lead to a frustrating lack of symmetry in the stories that make up the show, Cale's performance solidifies everything remarkably well. Some of this material is quite delicate concerning people in and out of lust, feeling at times sexy and at time repulsive. Yet he's completely believable, and never once is any of it canned or wince-inducing. By that I mean this doesn't feel like something you'd just run across on TV despite some of the more familiar elements in it. Palomino is solid and worth seeing at the Kirk Douglas Theater where it continues until June 6.



I'm with you on this one. I found Palomino to be quite special. Wonderful storytelling. Insightful and very human. I found myself memorized and often touched by this performance piece. Very much a cut above the usual one man show.
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