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Theater Review: 'Love On San Pedro' At Cornerstone Theater Company

Sarah Allen |
November 14, 2013 | 12:45 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Anthony Tate and Bahni Turpin, who portray the play's central love story, stand aside one another onstage at the Los Angeles Mission (Cornerstone Theater Company / Kevin Michael Campbell)
Anthony Tate and Bahni Turpin, who portray the play's central love story, stand aside one another onstage at the Los Angeles Mission (Cornerstone Theater Company / Kevin Michael Campbell)
In “Love On San Pedro,” Cornerstone Theater Company’s newest production at the Los Angeles Mission, the community-based cast gives audiences a refreshingly realistic glimpse of life on Skid Row.

Centered on a love story between two residents of Skid Row with troubled histories, the play is based on real interviews with members of the Skid Row community. Cornerstone went to such great lengths to ensure that the play reflects the experiences of the community, including staging readings on Skid Row to receive feedback.

The script’s tone ranges from hilariously funny, to deeply moving, to upsettingly tragic. The play's emotions are heightened by the fact that the play is founded in reality, and that each of the storylines embodies the experiences of a Skid Row resident. Even as a work of pure fiction, the play would have been touching, but the script’s real-life foundations reinforces an atmosphere of intimacy.

The play does not shy away from criticism of both private and public approaches to Skid Row. Some characters even express dissatisfaction with the highly regulated environment of the Los Angeles Mission, where the play is staged. The sometimes-blunt criticism of the public’s attitude toward Skid Row encourages audiences to connect with the characters while keeping real-life policy in mind.

READ MORE: Theater Preview: 'Love On San Pedro' At Cornerstone Theater Company

Despite the tragic content, the play is surprisingly and refreshingly funny. The characters tease one another without undermining their intelligence or credibility.

The play’s love story, though slightly cheesy at times, is just as authentic as the rest of the script. Though its development seems sudden, the couple’s interactions are sweet and genuine. The relationship is also touching in its defiance of circumstance. One particularly stirring moment takes place on a Metro bus. Despite the less than ideal setting, the pair’s date proves tender and even more sincere for the lackluster location.

True to the play’s intent to echo reality, the conclusion is far from idyllic. Nevertheless, the play closes on a hopeful note that suggests the possibility of a better future for Skid Row.

The show as a whole emphasizes that life on Skid Row is not so radically different from life anywhere else. As one character points out, “You got more in common with Skid Row folks than you got different.” While verging on forced at points, the production effectively conveys the message that Cornerstone’s Hunger Cycle hopes to achieve. 

The actors’ backgrounds contributes to the play’s sense of authenticity. Only 4 actors in the 26-member cast are professionals, and the remaining cast members are community actors. They play their parts naturally, perhaps assisted by the fact that their backgrounds may reflect those of their characters.

The cast clearly shares a companionship that extends beyond mere professionalism. One character notes, “People down here care about each other, maybe ‘cause no one else does,” and the cast’s natural rapport furthers that point.

“Love On San Pedro” is a sobering examination of an-often overlooked part of Los Angeles, and a reminder that love defies even the darkest of circumstance.

Reach Staff Reporter Sarah Allen here.

Cornerstone Theater Company's production of "Love On San Pedro" is playing November 7-24 at the Los Angeles Mission (303 East 5th Street Los Angeles, CA 90013). Previews are October 31 through November 6. Tickets are Pay-What-You-Can, and the suggested donation is $20. For more information, visit Cornerstone Theater Company's website.

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