May 19, 2024 #1 Local News, Forum, Information and Event Source for Venice Beach, California.

Elizabeth McGovern Lights Up The Stage in “Ava – The Secret Conversations”

Play About Legendary Screen Star Runs Until May 14 At The Geffen Playhouse

By Beverly Cohn

Ava Gardner, born Ava Lavinia Gardner in the small town of Grabtown, North Carolina eventually became one of the most stunning, talented actresses during the Golden Age of Hollywood. She married three of the most famous men of the era beginning with Mickey Rooney, followed by Artie Shaw, and finally, Frank Sinatra, whom she considered to be the love of her life. She also had a stormy relationship with Howard Hughes. 

Some of Miss Gardner’s most memorable films include Show Boat, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Knights of the Round Table, The Barefoot Contessa, Bhowani Junction, The Sun Also Rises, On the Beach, The Cassandra Crossing, and Mogambo for which she received an Academy Award nomination. 

Putting together a theatrical piece incorporating her life at one particularly challenging time is no easy task and yet Elizabeth McGovern not only wrote the compelling script, Ava: The Secret Conversations, based on the book by Ava Gardner and Peter Evans, but also assumes the role of one of the most iconic women of her time and delivers a tour-de-force performance, digging deeply into Gardner’s psyche. You might remember McGovern most recently for her role as Lady Cora in the extraordinary “Downton Abbey” series where she played the steady guiding light of her sometimes dysfunctional family. These two characters couldn’t be further apart in their specific complexities, but McGovern nails the superstar Ava from the opening beat of the play.

Photo: Jeff Lorch

Under Moritz von Stuelpnagel’s absolutely perfect direction, we first meet Ava in her beautiful hotel suite nicely designed by David Meyer. She is recovering from a stroke and one hand is partially paralyzed. She has fallen on economic hard times and needing money, calls journalist Peter Evans, wonderfully played by Aaron Costa Ganis, to see if he would be interested in collaborating on her autobiography. She tells him it’s either selling her jewelry or writing a book, adding “I’m sentimental about my jewelry.” The writer is rather awestruck by this famous movie star and it takes him a while to get over his enchantment with who she is and then the collaboration dance begins. 

Photo: Jeff Lorch

Ava is unsure of exactly what she wants to reveal and tries skirting around parts of her life that she doesn’t wish to have incorporated into the book and asks him if they could just make everything up. As Ava talks about her different husbands, beginning with Mickey Rooney, who she married at the age of 19, Costa Ganis seamlessly transitions into the different husbands depicting Rooney as a rather silly young man who insists that the gorgeous starlet marry him on their very first meeting. That marriage lasted a year, as did her marriage to Artie Shaw, who asked, “Do you mind if I go to Mexico and get a quickie divorce?” 

Ava reminisces about some of her films, referring to The Barefoot Contessa as “A piece of shit.” In between scenes with Ava, Peter discusses the project with his agent, Ed Victor, played by unseen actor Ryan W. Garcia, who gives him ongoing instructions on how to complete this book project. During the writing sessions, her language is sprinkled heavily with “f” bombs which she asks that her biographer removes from the book. 

During one of their conversations, Peter says, “Is it true you turned down the role of Mrs. Robinson?” She makes up an excuse as to why she made that choice. When the subject of Sinatra comes up, there are rear screen projections of the iconic singer designed by Alex Basco Koch, and we hear “Fly Me To The Moon.”

Throughout the play, there are germane sound designs by the always spot-on Cricket S. Myers. When asked about what happened to that marriage, which lasted for six years, Ava confesses, “I couldn’t be the woman Frank wanted me to be.” Throughout this one-act play, dressed in Costume Designer Toni Leslie’s exquisite costumes, and flattering lighting by Amith Chandrashaker, Ava drinks, smokes and slithers about the stage like a cunning feline. 

Photo: Jeff Lorch

The most talented Miss McGovern mines the multiple complex layers of her character, capturing the irony and wit of this legend an example of which, while refilling her never-left empty glass of alcohol quips, “I feel sorry for people who don’t drink.” As Peter spends more and more time with her, he begins to examine his own life and comes to the conclusion that he is not happy and doesn’t even know what that feels like. 

While the emphasis is on Ava’s story, Peter Evans emerges as an equally interesting character with his own pathology and personality. This play is basically a two-hander, but you couldn’t ask for a better pairing of actors to portray the complex life and times of one of the most revered Hollywood actresses culminate in an enchanting evening of theatre.

AVA: THE SECRET CONVERSATIONS
Gil Cates Theatre
The Geffen Playhouse
10886 Le Conte Avenue
Los Angeles: CA 90024
Written by: Elizabeth McGovern
Directed by: Moritz von Stuelpnagel
Run: Tuesday – Friday: 7:00 pm, Saturday: 2:00 pm & 7:00 pm, Sunday: 1:00 & 6:00 pm
Closing: Sunday, May 14, 2023
Running Time: 90 Minutes
No Intermission
Tickets: $30 – $129
310.208.2028 or
www.geffenplayhouse.org
Warning:
Strong Herbal Cigarette Smoke
Content Advisory: This production contains profanity, sexual themes

Related Posts

9th Annual MAINopoly Event Returns to Santa Monica This Weekend

May 16, 2024

May 16, 2024

Participating Establishments Include Ashland Hill, Holey Grail Donuts, Juneshine, Jameson’s Pub and Others The 9th Annual MAINopoly: A Taste of...

Homeless Man Drags Woman by the Ponytail, Charged With Multiple Felonies

May 16, 2024

May 16, 2024

The Victim Believes the Man Intended to Sexually Assault Her By Zach Armstrong A homeless man who dragged a woman several...

Venice Teachers Honored at 14th Annual WAVE Awards

May 16, 2024

May 16, 2024

The Theme Highlighted the Dedication of Educators to Fostering Unity Amid Challenging Political Times The Venice Chamber of Commerce honored...

New Grab-and-Go Café Opens in Marina del Rey Hotel

May 16, 2024

May 16, 2024

Standout Menu Items Include the Avocado Tartine MOJO Café has opened in the lobby of the Marina del Rey Hotel,...

“We Are Essential” Festival to Promote Water Conservation and Recycling

May 15, 2024

May 15, 2024

Activities Include Compost Workshops, Blind Water Tastings, Coloring Stations and Recycling-Themed Lawn Games “We Are Essential,” a community festival focusing...

Three-Story Complex Opens in Santa Monica, Offers Tenants “Creative” Office Space

May 15, 2024

May 15, 2024

The Building Is Divided Into Two Wings, Connected by a Glass-Enclosed Walk-Through Bridge Structure C.W. Driver Companies, has officially completed...

Migration Celebration Coming to Ballona Discovery Park

May 15, 2024

May 15, 2024

A Native Plant Bundle Pickup and Live Shows Included Prepare for a day of festivities at the Migration Celebration, taking...

Venice Shorts: Hampton Encampment Back on Sidewalk

May 15, 2024

May 15, 2024

New Encampment on the Saint Joseph’s side of the street worries residents By Nick Antonicello  A new sidewalk encampment has...

SMPD Make Six Arrests Over Drug Offenses

May 15, 2024

May 15, 2024

The Department Conducted an Operation Focused on Narcotics-Related Crimes By Zach Armstrong During an operation focused on narcotics-related crimes over the...

(Video) Hang-Ten Therapeutics Uses Sand, Ocean and Surfboards as a Source of Empowerment

May 15, 2024

May 15, 2024

More Information at hang-tentherapuetics.com @yovenicenews Surf therapy is a source of empowerment #therapy #surfing #losangeles #fyp #santamonica ♬ original sound...

Student Photojournalist Scores Recognition for Picture of Venice Woman Living in RV

May 14, 2024

May 14, 2024

The Woman Seen Is a Venice Beach Native Known by Her Friends as “Prophet” By Zach Armstrong Caylo Seals, a...

Suspect Outstanding After Stabbing Incident on Lincoln Boulevard

May 14, 2024

May 14, 2024

The Unidentified Victim Was Transported to a Local Hospital By Zach Armstrong A suspect is still outstanding after a stabbing...

City Seeks Input for Santa Monica Airport Conversion Project, Engagement Process Starts This Weekend

May 14, 2024

May 14, 2024

Residents Will Be at Various Stations to Engage With the Project Team, Listen to Discussions, Learn About Proposals and Share...

(Video) Angel City FC Soccer Is in Full Swing

May 14, 2024

May 14, 2024

The NWSL Team’s Schedule Runs Through November @yovenicenews The season runs through November #sports #soccer #womenssoccer #nwsl #losangeles #fyp ♬...

U2’s The Edge and Morleigh Steinberg Honored With Inaugural HEART Award at Star-Studded Gala

May 13, 2024

May 13, 2024

The Gala Raised $2.7 Million for the Services of Venice Family Clinic, the Nonprofit Health Center Which Serves Over 45,000...