A most remarkable musical play, Salvage, has opened at the Lounge Theatre in Hollywood. First time playwright, Tim Alderson, creates a powerful story of ambition, frustration, love, loss, despair and hope, which is fueled by the music and lyrics of Mark Heard, Pat Terry, Randy VanWarmer, and Alderson himself, and backed by the efforts of a first-class creative staff.
Salvage is set in “a rundown, out-of-the-way bar” in real time, that in my mind conjures a place somewhere in the hinterlands of rural California between Barstow and Bakersfield, but could be anywhere across our vast country. The barkeep, Johnson (Earl Howze), is seated behind his bar and country music spins on the jukebox. Preacher (David Atkinson), a tall, slim, bearded guy with a handsome, weary face enters dangling an absurdly large metal lavatory key. He lurches over to the jukebox, yanks out the cord, gets his guitar, sits down next to a table and a half-filled bottle of whiskey and starts to sing a mournful song, “I’m So Tired of It All.” His guitar playing is impeccable; his unique voice matches his mien. His singing goes straight to the heart, drawing an audience in to share his woe. He is deep into his cups and drinks steadily throughout, calling for another bottle when he drains the present one. He is a not a falling-down, slurring drunk, but a rough, eloquent one like Dylan Thomas.
Harley (Christopher Fordinal), an enthusiastic, tall, bright-faced young man of twenty-something, enters with his ball-cap reversed and clutching a guitar case. On his way to pawn his guitar, he realized that the adjacent bar was the site of the death of one of his musical heroes, a well-known guy named Floyd. He is giddy with excitement, but is soon brought down to earth by Preacher, who mocks the choice of pawning his instrument because of his young wife’s pregnancy and their dire financial straights. As the action of the play proceeds, Harley is revealed as an excellent, guitar-playing, singer-songwriter himself. His wife, the aptly-named, Destiny (Nina Herzog, who boasts vocal power of her own), begs him not to sell his guitar. The story goes deep into the past, with Johnson weighing in on the truths of Floyd’s death and those responsible. In all, eleven original songs are sung that are elegant in structure, musically and lyrically. They are incredibly affecting, drawing the audience in with their power. Director Damian D. Lewis keeps the action brisk and the emotions true.
The Salvage creative staff is superb. The evocative scenic design by Joel David is sandwiched into a limited space that feels much bigger than it actually is. The lighting grid sports tin-ceiling-style tiles, and that the same style is repeated on the bar front medallions. Jenine MacDonald’s property design enhances the set with detail. The lighting plot by Matt Richter is subtle in supporting the action as it moves between song and story. Christopher Moscatiello’s sound design is, as always, impeccable. Wendell C. Carmichael’s costumes support character, place, and action. Graphic design is by Kiff Scholl, AFK Design. The music director is Stephan Terry. Laurien Allmon manages the production and its stage with cool assurance.
Salvage is a solid hit at The Lounge Theatre. Do not miss it! Congratulations to Tim Alderson and his many associates on a brilliant opening. I look forward to Mr. Alderson’s next play.
Salvage, produced by Racquel Lehrman, Theatre Planners, runs through December 15 at the Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd, in Hollywood.