Review: Armenian genocide fuels Rogue Machine’s ‘100 Aprils’
The lies that have increasingly flowed into our post-truth era are terrifying stuff, to be sure. Arguably as painful are the omissions of fact — those stubborn denials of the undeniable that echo through the generations.
The refusal of the Turkish government to acknowledge the Armenian genocide of a century ago is the theme fueling Leslie Ayvazian’s play “100 Aprils,” a Rogue Machine production premiering at the MET Theatre.
The pain of that unresolved legacy has driven Dr. John Saypian (played by John Perrin Flynn). After a near-fatal drug overdose, John has been incarcerated, placed under restraints in a psychiatric ward (John Iacovelli’s starkly pristine set, masterfully lighted by Brian Gale).
The action is set in 1982, a time frame that gives the atrocities — and John’s memories of his older relatives’ first-person accounts of the barbarism — a harrowing immediacy, especially in John’s tortured mind. As John lingers near death in a hallucinatory haze, his wife, Beatrice (Ayvazian, starring in her own work), and his daughter Arlene (Rachel Sorsa), wait out his final moments. John’s persistent other visitor, seen only by John, is a Turkish soldier out of the past (Robertson Dean) who torments John with his refusal to take responsibility for his brutality.
Dean also plays a present day Turkish doctor who dismisses the very notion of Turkish wrongdoing — a denial that sparks a strange scene in which Beatrice and Arlene attack the doctor, pressing for a weirdly untimely confession as John is gasping his last. That’s just one example in a string of oddities, most notably Ayvazian’s protracted emphasis on minutiae — soiled pajamas, a bee sting — that may be meant to convey some larger meaning but ultimately seem negligible considering the play’s brevity and subject matter.
The cast includes Janet Song as a dryly unemotional nurse who displays a leavening trace of empathy. Veteran director Michael Arabian approaches his material with his typical assurance in a well-paced, well-acted staging.
There’s certainly the germ of a geopolitically relevant play here. There are also the makings for a plangent absurdist comedy. Unfortunately, “Aprils” falls precipitously into the divide between surrealism and political didacticism. Not knowing how to react or what to think, we remain at a troubling emotional disconnect throughout Ayvazian’s well-intentioned but failed experiment.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Where: Rogue Machine at the MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles
When: 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, 8:30 p.m. Mondays; ends July 16; no performance June 25
Information: (855) 585-5185, www.roguemachinetheatre.com
Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
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