The live theater is still closed, so Tom Dugan created a live theater in the backyard of Woodland Hills.


Tom Dugan as Mary Lincoln,

Tom Dugan starred as Mary Lincoln in the play “The Ghost of Mary Lincoln” in the Woodland Hills backyard. (Becky Petersen)

I checked my address many times and found that I was in the right place, Dugan’s Backyard Playhouse. It didn’t look like a theater, but I didn’t expect it. I knew Tom Dugan was doing his solo exhibition, “The Ghost of Mary Lincoln,” on a temporary outdoor stage in his house in this quiet Woodland Hills dead end. I confirmed attendance. It wouldn’t be creepy to me to bow across his lawn and slip through the back gate that opened at nightfall.

Still, I felt guilty. After staying at home for over a year, I felt like I was sneaking into Speakeasy and infiltrating a séance.

The Speakeasy aura disappeared as soon as I sat down. The patio chair next to the turquoise pool was separated from the other approximately 15 audiences. A candlelight performance space (by Chris and Becky Petersen) representing the cluttered attic where Abraham Lincoln’s elderly widow spent his last year was clearly visible. I was provided with free bottled water and snacks, and a blanket to protect me from the night air.

In contrast, the séance sensation is like a ghost from her eerie and dying tenure on this planet from 1818 to 1882, with Dugan leading a wonderful and tender spirit with Mary Lincoln’s pepper. It got stronger in the next 80 minutes when I shared a story.

Shortly before the start, director Shelby Sykes explained that she and Dugan played the actress and embarked on the development of the play, which she began writing in 2013. Sykes explained that Dugan would eventually take over and the cast would change to demand a suspension of distrust. Dugan is not only a man, but also tall. Mary was only 5 feet 2 compared to 6 feet 4 Abe.

Sure enough, at first glance, Dugan-slim, gray-haired, elegant in modern pajamas and robes-did not give off the mood of a “little grandmother in 1882.” Also, he did not speak in a high-pitched voice or influence feminine gestures. But somehow, from the moment he started talking, any distrust I might have stood up and left completely on its own, no stop needed.

I finally saw Dugan in him in 2015 One-man show “Weisenthal” At the Wallis Annenberg Performing Arts Center in Beverly Hills. So he worked harder to dress and speak like his subject, Simon Wiesenthal, but like this role, he impressed me as a medium rather than a spoof. .. He has the knack for selling a dramatic excuse for an imminent monologue — in this case we should be journalists at a press conference called by Mary — and he often interrupts the stage business with a fascinating anecdote. You can maintain the illusion by doing so. Steve Shaw’s sound design gives it a subtle feel.

As a character, Mary Lincoln is fascinating, but she doesn’t draw any particularly uplifting or ambitious arcs. She endured an unimaginable tragedy: the assassination of her husband, the premature death of three of her four sons, but according to the values ​​of the times (which may have had bipolar disorder), she Reacted so improperly that he lost a poor exile. Her only remaining son. But she was able to give as good or better as she got. And at the strongest moment of the play, Dugan lovingly conveys her enviable toughness and mean wisdom.

This story was originally Los Angeles Times..

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