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Review: In Rogue Machine’s harrowing ‘Daytona,’ revenge rings the doorbell

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George Wyner and Sharron Shayne play a couple confronting the past in Rogue Machine’s “Daytona.”
(John Perrin Flynn)

The Rogue Machine production of “Daytona,” an American premiere, receives such an optimum treatment by director Elina de Santos and her cast that we can forgive the play’s psychoanalytic redundancies.

It’s obvious that its author, longtime actor Oliver Cotton, can write. His many years on the other side of the footlights, however, may account for those indulgent, drawn-out monologues. “Daytona” could use a judicious edit or three, but even so it treats huge themes — loss, shame, regret — with undeniable poignancy and raw power.

We’re in 1986 Brooklyn, in a middle-class apartment beautifully realized in Hillary Bauman’s set. The action opens as hard-working accountant Joe Zimmerman (George Wyner) and his wife, Elli (Sharron Shayne), anxiously rehearse for a senior dance competition — their hobby of the last 15 years. When Elli goes off for a gown fitting, Joe’s brother Billy (Richard Fancy) rings the doorbell and blows up the Zimmermans’ domestic nest.

Wyner, left, and Richard Fancy in “Daytona.”
Wyner, left, and Richard Fancy in “Daytona.”
(John Perrin Flynn)
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Joe, Elli and Billy all survived the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps and immigrated to America. Shortly after starting a successful business with Joe, however, Billy simply disappeared.

Thirty years later, he arrives to drop a bombshell on his brother: While on vacation in Daytona Beach a few days earlier, he committed a rash act directly linked to the atrocities in the camps. There’s also a secret in this trio’s past, although one that’s not quite as secret as Elli and Billy had assumed all these years.

To reveal anything more specific would be a spoiler. Suffice it to say that De Santos is a proven and protean director whose staging of “Daytona” stands alongside her very best work. Fancy, Shayne and Wyner perform at the peak of their craft. They invest Cotton’s flawed but fascinating play with a harrowing emotionalism that is unforgettable.

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♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

‘Daytona’

Where: Rogue Machine at the Met, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A.

Where: 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, 8:30 p.m. Mondays; ends Oct. 30 (no performances Sept. 25 and Oct. 2)

Tickets: $40

Info: (855) 585-5185, www.roguemachinetheatre.com

Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

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