Written by and starring talented Irish actor Pat Kinevane, BEFORE is, according to the author himself, “a piece about love…and what happens if we block it from each other.” A fascinating combination of music by a man who purports to hate musicals and an unfulfilled longing for the special love between parent and child, BEFORE shines in ways that only Pat Kinevane can craft. Director Jim Culleton does a superb job of corralling so many thoughts and feelings into a complete whole.
A native of County Cork (with current digs in Dublin), Pat Kinevane won an Olivier Award for “Silent” with Fishamble and Jim Culleton, both integral to Pat’s four solo shows. The team previously brought “Forgotten,” “Underneath,” and “Silent” to the Odyssey and return in 2019 with BEFORE, perhaps the most personal of the quartet. Only Kinevane can transform an empty stage into a world of his own design.
Pontius (named after the infamous Pilate by his very theatrical and Bible-loving mother) is about to meet his daughter after a hiatus of 17 years. The product of a one-night stand, he shared parenting his Astor (a mashup of the Gaelic “I love”) for the first four years of her life. When an explosive event occurs between him and his ex-girlfriend, he loses all custody rights, a true life-changer for this surprisingly gentle and sentimental man. Astor is now 21 and getting ready to immigrate to Australia when she unexpectedly makes contact and wants to see him. Pontius’ dream has come true. He leaves the bucolic countryside of Ireland to journey to Dublin, where he rushes to Clery’s department store on the day the 104-year-old iconic spot is set to close forever. He is searching for the very special gift to give to his little girl, one that will show the extent of his love and dreams.
All the while the audience is treated to a brief history of Pontius’ life – his quirky musical comedy actor parents and his young and delightfully cute baby sister. When his family unexpectedly dies in an auto collision, Pontius is left a lonely orphan who must fend for himself. Eventually, he even taps into the digital world to seek love. But things take an upswing when, in a night of drunken passion, a baby is conceived who will change everything for him. While weaving his life story, Pontius quickly lets the audience know that he absolutely abhors musicals, all the while singing select tidbits of the most famous musicals he can recall (or at least quasi-tidbits of those esteemed hits). On top of that, he can’t resist paying homage to Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire with some taps and flourishes.
For deep in the Irish soul, there lingers a poet struggling to find the right words – or lyrics – to let the rest of the world into his most private thoughts and feelings. And let’s not forget that – in anticipation of an “after” – there must always be a BEFORE. On some level, BEFORE is probably Kinevane’s most audience-friendly production. It should delight his fans – and might even create some new ones.
A co-production of Fishamble and Odyssey Theatre, BEFORE runs through December 8, 2019, with performances at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays (dark Thursday 11/28) and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025. Tickets range from $20 to $30 ($10 tickets available on Thursday 11/14, Friday 11/29, and Thursday 12/5). For information and reservations, call 310-477-2055 Ext. 2 or go online.