The Revelation in Repetition

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This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theater for KCRW.

On Friday night, thanks to the KCRW Drama Club, I got to do something special: I got to see a great piece of theater again.

Now, with a lot of theater once is enough. I'm not talking about bad theater, for which, frankly, once is more than enough. But even most good plays don't reward a second viewing. Once you've experienced the plot or the conceit of the play, the joy of discovery is gone.

The Day Shall Declare It isn't built like that.

Part of that has to do with the space of the play itself. The site-specific immersive play takes place in an old warehouse that's been turned into a 1920's speakeasy of sorts. Your journey through the play isn't about finding a seat and receiving, it's about travelling through the space with the rest of the audience and discovering. A second viewing is, almost by definition, a totally different experience. Where you stand changes the journey through literally and figuratively changing your perspective.

But it's not just about seeing different things. It's about tracing different threads through the structure of the text. The piece is culled together as a collage of the words of Studs Terkel and Tennessee Williams. We're not following a single story so much as we are circling around a number of stories. This isn't a single dramatic arc leading to a central climax with everything tied up into a neat little bow at the end. Instead, we're watching the same motifs or dynamics, play out across different relationships. We hear about love and passion, about the struggle to make a buck, about the challenges of work and status. Returning to this world a second time, different ideas resonate and you find a new through-line - like returning to a favorite poem and finding a new, undiscovered world. This sounds fragmented but The Day Shall Declare It manages to carry an audience between ideas, stories, and climaxes fluidly.

The magic lives in the bodies of the three extraordinary actors: Annie Saunders, Anthony Nikolchev and Chris Polick.

In The Day Shall Declare It these actor's bodies carry the weight of the story and seamless transitions between worlds. They transform with such ease that we can’t help but be carried along. Their movement is at once grounded in the naturalism of the gritty scenes and then magically transcends them to capture the poetry of metaphor and the acrobatics of dance. We read and experience through their bodies not only text and subtext but something more profound: constant presence.

Presence not only with each other and with the play . . . but presence with us, the audience. Not only do they masterfully guide us through their world, they speak to us. I'm not talking about perfunctory asides. I'm talking about the kind of connection you feel with a lifelong friend or a lover -- the kind of connection that cuts to the quick. It's an experience that's both thrilling and disturbingly intimate in the same instant.

You can't miss this experience. You need to see this play.

The Day Shall Declare It is extended through July 10 downtown in the Arts District.

This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theater for KCRW.

Run time: 80 minutes without an intermission.

Photo: Annie Saunders and Anthony Nikolchev in The Day Shall Declare It. (Gema Galiana)