Forever House

by Dale Reynolds

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday January 25, 2016

Forever House

Tony Abatamarco's newest play, "Forever House," a drama about a mid-30s male couple who are purchasing their first home -- a "forever house" -- and the problems they encounter, similar but not the same as any couple would find.

Ben (James Liebman) and Jack (Michael Rubenstone), a couple for four years, have decided to join the suburbs by purchasing and remodeling a Craftsman home in Los Angeles. Not cheap, it's in a gated community with a "Fundy" Christian neighbor couple on one side and a nosy, bigoted WASP-Yenta (Elyse Mirto) nearby. Stress levels are high, and are added to by the cries of an infant coming from the basement and heard only by Jack. Is Jack cracking up under the pressures?

Well, they add onto this glitch by deciding to adopt a baby from a single mom who can't keep him. The idea is formed to turn the basement into a nursery, all gussied up with children's images of The Cow That Jumped Over the Moon, Humpty Dumpty, etc. Cute. But what about those infant's cries of woe?

It isn't until Jack's mom (the always-dependable Dale Raoul) arrives that all is explained, if not explained away. In fact, nothing is made of the ultimate revelation, which points to one of the problems with Abatamarco's play: the point of Jack's hysteria is not strong enough to carry it over the hump of believability.

Abatamarco is a proven actor, director and playwright and it's possible this play wasn't workshopped enough. It looks as though the director, Elizabeth Swain, who has proven herself in the past, didn't work with her lead actors enough to make Jack's neurotic breakdown authentic enough.

Rubenstone has authority on stage, especially in the more loving relationship with his significant-other, Ben, but his sarcastic and sardonic side isn't sitting comfortable with him. Liebman, on the other hand, sets his Ben up for tensions, affection and fear for his partner's mental and physical health.

The other two actors, stalwart members of "A Noise Within" and "Antaeus," do well in their two characters apiece, Joel Swetow as the real estate agent who sold them the house and who drinks too much (although on opening night he played the drunk scene too broadly for authenticity), and later in Act Two as one-half of the Fundy-couple from next door who convey the essence of their spirituality without the harsh judgment so many of their ilk convey. Elyse Mirto also shared her character's' emotional past with the gay boys her religion theoretically despises, and made us love her. They are both first-rate artists.

It's an uneven production, with the technical end in place (the earthquake is particularly effective (John Iacovelli, set design, Jeff McLaughlin, lighting, Terry A. Lewis' subdued costumes, and Nicholas Santiago's eerie video designer. There's no doubt the actors will continue to find the correct pacing as the play proceeds, and audiences will cheer, indeed, at the political and moral correctness of the piece. For now, it's a minorly flawed play in a better-than-average production and worthy of our attention. See it if you can.

"Forever House" plays through Feb. 28 at the Skylight Theatre, 1816 ½ N. Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027. For tickets or information, call 213-761-7061 or visit