The Truth

bang. Comedy Theatre



Seven intrepid storytellers sit on stools placed across the proscenium of the modest bang. stage waiting as host and director Ezra Weisz to choose an audience member to randomly select the topic for the ensuing evening of unprepared, unprompted monologues.

After said topic is chosen from a pile of sealed envelopes housed in a hollowed out book and the performers have raised a right hand to take an oath to only tell The Truth when they eventually relate their tales, each sits quietly on the dimmed stage for a few tense minutes muttering and vaguely suppressing mysterious facial expressions while deciding what their individual unrehearsed rant will involve. Cheesy game show music plays on to accompany their ruminations, humorously heightening the stakes until one brave member of the troupe rises to become the evening’s first victim, at which point the lights turn instantly full, much to the relief of the other participants in this riskily spontaneous entertainment.

Improvisational sketch comedy meets story theatre in Sigmund Freud’s outer office on this tiny stage—and the result is this uniquely fascinating and somehow quite courageous little show.

“Nakedness” was the theme chosen the night this reviewer attended, something met with much eye rolling and lip biting until Chris Loprete started in on the first monologue, all about finding himself at a frat party in college where everyone was suddenly downing their beers and smoking their funny cigarettes sans togas. Admitting he was never comfortable in his body, Loprete successfully set the tone, making way for the other six monologists to be equally gutsy about opening their hearts and memories to the modest sea of observers intently watching and listening in the dark.

Steven Loeb took it one step farther describing in detail his decision to check out an underground rave-like sex party with his equally adventurous significant other, followed by Frances Nichols’ colorful description of what it’s like visiting the much too brightly lit dancers’ dressing room at the raunchy strip club where she works during the day as a cocktail waitress.

Interestingly, with the exception of Sonia Sanz’ warm and guiltless reminiscences of her earlier days working as a nude model for artists and photographers, her comfort inspired in part by a mother with “one foot in the 50s, one in go-go boots” and a painting in her childhood home of a naked woman with “one boob that followed you around the room,” the general theme of the evening became about discomfort with not being lucky enough to be born mesomorphic.

Even as Antonio Sacre fondly recalled his Cuban family’s lackadaisical attitude toward being naked at home, the frequent sight of his Papi’s significantly super-sized dick became a lifelong source of comparison with the part of him sorrowfully not passed down from father to son.

Jenny Noa’s bittersweet admission about feeling “body dys-phobic” throughout her life and Shawn Schepps’ memories of a life spent as a “plus-size girl in a zero-sized world” living with arms like a “Russian peasant” proved to be the evening’s bravest and most poignant reminders of what evolved into becoming the overall point of the exercise here: we’re all of us emotional messes, if not totally friggin’ nuts.

If we’re honest with ourselves and valiant enough to spill our hearts out to total strangers, there’s obviously a great sense of liberation involved in telling The Truth, something that’s probably a lot more cathartic to the folks on the bright side of the footlights than it is for those voyeurs who paid $10 to observe them.

In the final analysis, The Truth reveals one important condition of life as homo sapiens trying to stay on our feet on our constantly turning planet filled with both inner and outer obstacles to overcome during the course of a lifetime: no matter how it may appear to the outside world, only about one in seven of us is content with how we look and, subsequently, who we are.

The Truth plays on the  third Thursday of every month at the bang. Comedy Theatre, 457 N. Fairfax Av., Hollywood; for tickets, call 323.653.6886.

TRAVIS MICHAEL HOLDER teaches acting and theatre/film history at the New York Film Academy’s west coast campus at Universal Studios. He has been writing about LA theatre since 1987, including 12 years for BackStage, a 23-year tenure as Theatre Editor for Entertainment Today, and currently for As an actor, he received the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Best Actor Award as Kenneth Halliwell in the west coast premiere of Nasty Little Secrets at Theatre/Theater and he has also been honored with a Drama-Logue Award as Lennie in Of Mice and Men at the Egyptian Arena, four Maddy Awards, a Award, both NAACP and GLAAD Award nominations, and six acting nominations from LA Weekly. Regionally, he won the Inland Theatre League Award as Ken Talley in Fifth of July; three awards for his direction and performance as Dr. Dysart in Equus; was up for Washington, DC’s Helen Hayes honors as Oscar Wilde in the world premiere of Oscar & Speranza; toured as Amos “Mr. Cellophane” Hart in Chicago; and he has traveled three times to New Orleans for the annual Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, opening the fest in 2003 as Williams himself in Lament for the Moths and since returning to appear in An Ode to Tennessee and opposite Karen Kondazian as A Witch and a Bitch. Never one to suffer from typecasting, Travis’ most recent LA performance, as Rodney in The Katrina Comedy Fest, netted the cast a Best Ensemble Sage Award from ArtsInLA. He has also been seen as Wynchell in the world premiere of Moby Pomerance’s The Good Book of Pedantry and Wonder and Frank in Charles Mee’s Summertime at The Boston Court Performing Arts Center, Giuseppe “The Florist” Givola in Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui for Classical Theatre Lab, Ftatateeta in Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra at the Lillian, Cheswick in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at the Rubicon in Ventura, Pete Dye in the world premiere of Stranger at the Bootleg (LA Weekly Award nomination), Shelly Levene in Glengarry Glen Ross at the Egyptian Arena, the Witch of Capri in Williams’ The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore at the Fountain, and Dr. Van Helsing in The House of Besarab at the Hollywood American Legion Theatre. As a writer, he has also been a frequent contributor to several national magazines and five of his plays have been produced in LA. His first, Surprise Surprise, for which he wrote the screenplay with director Jerry Turner, became a feature film with Travis playing opposite John Brotherton, Luke Eberl, Deborah Shelton and Mary Jo Catlett. His first novel, Waiting for Walk, was completed in 2005, put in a desk drawer, and the ever-slothful, ever-deluded, ever-entitled Travis can’t figure out why no one has magically found it yet and published the goddam thing.