Walking into the aptly named Theater of Note in Hollywood, one is immediately taken from the bright lights of day into the dark, brooding theater. It’s black walls, and narrow lobby do not give away what is about to come. Don’t expect bells and whistles from the current production, as it is not needed. The strong, and fascinating cast does not need it.
An opening monologue by Paul (Nicholas S. Williams), reminiscent of a thin (and bearded) Eric Bana, immediately sets the tone of I Wanna Hold Your Hand. The audience learns the story of Paul’s mother, now in ICU for a ruptured brain aneurysm. We are then whisked into the waiting room, where we meet Paul’s sister Julia, her husband Josh, and another worried family member of a patient. Soon after, we meet Ada, whose fiancé, Frank, has suffered the same ailment as Paul and Julia’s mother.
As the cast takes us on their journey of marriage, friendship, heartache, truth, and faith, the audience gets very swept away by the moments of authenticity. There are flashes of genuine emotion that are effortlessly relatable and sincere. Ada, played by Kirsten Vangsness, is captivating in every scene, most notably with Josh, played by Keston John
*. Her extraordinary performance in dealing with the reality of teetering between life and death, had this reviewer holding her breath.
While dealing with our sometime cruel twists of fate, playwright Erik Patterson infuses light-hearted and belly laugh moments that truly mimic human nature. This is highlighted by the wonderful direction of McKerrin Kelly, a match that this writer hopes work together again in the future. The casting was so well done, that Julia, played by Alina Phelan, felt like everyone’s best friend. Frank (Phil Ward) easily convinces the audience that he is recovering from a brain injury, and Mary Jean (Judith Ann Levitt)… oh, Mary Jean. She makes everyone secretly wish they had a spitfire relative like her!
Without a doubt, I Wanna Hold Your Hand should be on your list of things to do for the month of August, during it’s run at Theater of Note (August 1-30). Tickets are $25, $20 for Seniors/Students. Don’t miss this impressive world premier in the heart of Hollywood! To visit Theater of Note, click here.
*Keston John was recently cast in a new HBO pilot by Martin Scorsese, and the role of Josh will be played by his understudy on opening night.