Four for Hamlin and Swit

What could be more lacerating than a sister’s scorn? Especially if she sits on the board of a prestigious art museum and he is a struggling conceptual artist. That’s the premise and dilemma of Joshua Ravetch’s new four-part play One November Yankee, now having its world premiere at the NoHo Arts Center in North Hollywood. Television superstars Loretta Swit and Harry Hamlin are the sister and brother in question, and they start off in the museum gallery where Hamlin’s latest art project has been installed. It is a bright yellow airplane standing upright and balanced on its crashed nose. To Hamlin, who has recreated an actual plane crash that took place five years earlier, the installation is a metaphor for civilization in ruins. “We’ve gone from Kitty Hawk to this,” he moans. His sister “doesn’t get it” and is bent on delivering comments to the press on why she doesn’t like it. She is fixated instead on an installation by a major artist that she had rejected in order to mount her brother’s work. The rejected piece, she explains, was a room crammed with white ping pong balls with one bright silver one inserted among them. Hamlin “gets it”: it’s “like a needle in a haystack,” he says. Swit criticizes an earlier work of Hamlin’s, called “Unmade Bed.” “I found it lazy,” she says, and follows with a plethora of puns at his expense. “The critics are always looking for fresh hamburger,” she tells him. “Only people who find themselves ordinary have to pun,” he retorts. This scene is followed by the earlier crash scene in the woods of New Hampshire and this time Swit and Hamlin are the victims of the crash. She is the pilot, traveling with her brother, a novelist, to a family wedding in Florida. (Yes, they liken it to John-John’s crash on the way to Cape Cod.) “This never happens to people like us,” Hamlin complains. “Us?” she asks. “Jewish intellectuals,” he says. And then, unfortunately, he aspires to an on-again off-again Jewish accent and inflection, both dreadful. She talks of the wedding couple as “Floridian society” and he calls the phrase “a perfect oxymoron.” She chides him for “having no dirt under his fingernails,” and he describes himself as “a magnet for trivia.” Next, it is “two days ago, somewhere in New Hampshire,” (representing two days before the first scene in the art gallery), and the wreckage of the crash is being discovered by a brother and sister who have been out hiking in the woods. And finally, we are back in the art gallery. It is later in the evening of the exhibition and the verdict is in. I’m not going to reveal the verdict, and I’m not going to tell you who—or what—One November Yankee is. Suffice it to say, Joshua Ravetch, the former Artistic Director of The Stella Adler Conservatory and Theater has written

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and directed a play that works well. It becomes a little repetitive at times, but otherwise is a nice addition to the plays he wrote for Carrie Fisher (Wishful Drinking), Dick Van Dyke (Step in Time: A Musical Memoir), and Stefanie Powers (One From the Hart). Harry Hamlin, especially, displays an acting talent that goes way beyond L.A. Law. One November Yankee will run Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 through January 5th at the NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd. (at Lankershim) in North Hollywood. Call 818-508-7101 for tickets.   Photo: Harry Hamlin and Loretta Swit    

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