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The Whistleblower

(Clockwise from lower left) Landon G. Woodson as Dan, Bill Christ as Richard, and Karl Miller as Eli
(Clockwise from lower left) Landon G. Woodson as Dan,
Bill Christ as Richard, and Karl Miller as Eli
Photo: Adams VisCom
 
To those caught up in the glitz, glamor, and glory of Hollywood, it seems a worthwhile pursuit: Get lucky—sell a script, land a role, or shoot a feature—and it's a dream come true, especially if awards follow. Then you're in the money and the ego is temporarily sated, but the heart, well, that's another matter ...

Right in the middle of closing a deal on his idea for a TV series, Eli (Karl Miller) tells the studio producer, Richard (Bill Christ), that he is no longer interested, much to the chagrin of his agent, Dan (Landon G. Woodson).

In that moment, Eli suddenly realizes that he has been lying to himself and others, and that various people in his life—his friends, lover, family, and personal and business acquaintances—have been lying as well, to themselves and others. He then decides to come clean, not only about his own lies, but about others' lies to themselves and their circles.

While this is not a new premise, the setting and circumstances make for an interesting ride that delivers a message surpassing our expectations for Eli from La-La Land. In a weird and unexpected way, playwright Itamar Moses has tapped into a quirky vein à la Steve Martin in L.A. Story.

Karl Miller as Eli
Karl Miller as Eli
Photo: Adams VisCom
Miller deftly unveils Eli's sudden transformation and ends up—like a 12-step graduate—trying to make amends via, truth-telling, with all the key people in his life, past and present.

After addressing his issues with Richard and Dan, on his way out Eli tells Sophie (Allison Jean White), Dan's secretary, that she needs to quit her job and find meaningful work. While this seems like an afterthought at the time, it ends up being a life-altering event for both of them, as we see in the final scene. White's ability to furnish Sophie with such a full and poignant arc in just two scenes is remarkable—soft-spoken yet earnest, she pays forward Eli's advice to her by saving his life, Chekhov's dictum on guns be damned!

Meredith Forlenza as Allison
Meredith Forlenza as Allison
Photo: Adams VisCom
 
Eli then proceeds to break up with his girlfriend, Allison (Meredith Forlenza), who freaks out. Miller's steady, calm demeanor underscores how normalcy appears abnormal in a dysfunctional society. Forlenza's fireworks are eye-popping, as Allison lets loose on Eli—tapping into the archetypal energy of a woman scorned, without overdoing the hyperbole, which has a wonderfully dark comedic sense about it.

(Left to right) Bill Christ as Joseph, Karl Miller as Eli, and Leslie O'Carroll as Hannah
(L to R) Bill Christ as Joseph,
Karl Miller as Eli, and Leslie O'Carroll as Hannah
Photo: Adams VisCom
 
Having taken care of his whistleblowing in LA, Eli set off for points north in the Golden State, to surprise his parents, Joseph (Christ) and Hannah (Leslie O'Carroll).

Christ and O'Carroll are hilarious as the polar-opposite couple, ceaselessly denigrating each other as they respond to Eli's confession, shattering Joseph's dream of his son helping him get a job as a cinematographer, and sending Hannah, a shrink, on a psychoanalytic rant regarding Eli's condition.

Allison Jean White as Rebecca and Karl Miller as Eli
Allison Jean White as Rebecca
and Karl Miller as Eli
Photo: Adams VisCom
 
Eli's second stop in the Bay Area is with his sister Rebecca (White), a meth addict in an abusive relationship. White's wound-up whirlwind, mile-a-minute motor-mouth mama—a perfect blend of empowerment and denial—leaves us speechless.

Landon G. Woodson as Jed and Meredith Forlenza as Lisa
Landon G. Woodson as Jed
and Meredith Forlenza as Lisa
Photo: Adams VisCom
 

Amends for Eli continue with a visit to his old friends, Jed (Woodson) and Lisa (Frolenza). In a nifty piece of writing, the playwright's double-casting mines similar traits in two entirely different sets of people. Woodson's sympathetic enabling as Eli's agent, Dan, with no one to temper him, comes off as obsequious, but as his old buddy, Jed, the same behavior gets called out by his wife, Lisa—with Frolenza, the vituperative vixen as Eli's girlfriend, now the domineering partner.

The entire go-around is about Eli wanting to apologize for how he treated a former girlfriend, Eleanor (White), who is a friend of the couple. Try as Lisa might to prevent Eli from contacting Eleanor, Eli gleans enough information to track her down to apologize. White again amazes as she and Miller play out the most poignant scene in the play, speaking to each other from opposite sides of the theatre-in-the-round. White accesses Eleanor's deep pain, from a broken heart, when Eli left her pregnant and headed to LA, and Eleanor's present strength of character. Miller, too, in this moment, is beautifully transparent, showing us Eli's pain over his behavior.

(Left to right) Ben Beckley as Max and Karl Miller as Eli
(L to R) Ben Beckley as Max
and Karl Miller as Eli
Photo: Adams VisCom
 
There is one final adventure left for Eli, with his old friend Max (Ben Beckley), "an unmedicated paranoid schizophrenic," who flips out, wildly firing a few rounds at Eli. The look in Beckley's eyes, both before and after the event, and his total buy-in to Max's alternate reality, is a marvel.

Allison Jean White as Sophie
Allison Jean White as Sophie
Photo: Adams VisCom
 

 
 
 
 
 
In the end, as Eli contemplates the ultimate existential question, Sophie comes to thank him for his earlier advice and, without knowing it, answers Eli's self-directed question by telling him how sometimes, someone you don't even know says just the right thing to you, and that makes all the difference—a fabulous testament to truth-telling and something that Eli immediately takes to heart!

The Denver Center Theatre Company's world premiere of The Whistleblower runs through March 10th. For tickets: denvercenter.org.

Bob Bows



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