Reviews of "Soundings"
Listening to 'Soundings' of the Heart - By Jana J. Monji, Los Angeles Times
Linguists have long known that it's not just clothes that make the man, but his speech patterns as well. Beverly Olevin's slightly contrived "Soundings," at the Odyssey Theatre, is a thoughtful rumination about how stuttering has influenced the lives of two men, Jason (Jonathan Brent) and Paul (Ed F. Martin), who meet at a Santa Barbara institute that helps young people achieve and retain normal levels of fluent speech. Jason is a tattooed, cigarette-smoking punk sent to the center by a judge who thought learning to communicate better might release some of his repressed anger. Paul, at 42, is out of place, but earnestly determined to change his life for personal reasons. Under the direction of Jon Lawrence Rivera, Brent and Martin give sensitive portrayals of two men trapped by their speech impediments and social stereotypes. But Olevin's script is not always convincing. The brief romantic clinch between one of the center's technicians (Allison Sie) and Paul is awkward. Nothing leads up to it, and it goes nowhere. Jason's dysfunctional family is left conveniently out of the mix. These are minor quibbles in what is otherwise a thought-provoking play with heartfelt portrayals about a problem that's seldom addressed.
SOUNDINGS - reviewed by Neal Weaver in the LA Weekly newspaper as follows:
Stuttering is a devastating and isolating disorder, but
singularly difficult to dramatize -- particularly since current
research indicates that it's a physical rather than a psychological
problem, and overcoming it relies on individual hard work rather than spectacular revelations. Playwright Beverly Olevin therefore relies on multiple subplots to generate dramatic excitement, which works up to a point, but doesn't make for thematic unity. At an institute for stutterers, two wildly mismatched men are assigned to work together as teammates. Conservative blue-collar worker Paul (Ed F. Martin) is grieving over the tragic loss of his son (Caleb Moody) and the resulting estrangement from his wife (Stephanie Nash). Punkish Jason (Jonathan Brent), alienated, pierced and tattooed, has been sent to the institute after a drug bust. He pits his taste for anarchy and Nine Inch Nails against Paul's love of order and Beethoven, so the two are locked in mutual disapproval, which they must work through if they're to conquer their problems. Olevin's play is awkwardly structured, and leaves many questions unanswered, but it's always interesting. Director Jon Lawrence Rivera provides a meticulous production on John H. Binkley's handsome, semi-abstract set, and Martin, Brent, Moody and Nash deliver fine, persuasive performances. . . .
added June 3, 2001