Elephant Shavings Review – A Practical Guide to Metaphysics

Denise Blasor and Diana Cignoni in ELEPHANT SHAVINGS - Photo by Kayte Deioma
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Written and directed by Odyssey Theatre Ensemble artistic director Ron Sossi, ELEPHANT SHAVINGS makes its world premiere at the Odyssey Theatre in 2023. Sossi’s imaginative play weaves Eastern philosophies, like Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sufism, into modern metaphysical teachings by people like Rupert Spira and Mooji. To quote Sossi, “It’s part existentialist thriller, part ghost story…the theater functions as a character in the play, as does Sepulveda Boulevard, which is just outside the exit door and covers an ancient footpath used by the Gabrieleno Tongve people.”

Giovanna Quinto, Jack Geren, and Diana Cignoni – Photo by Kayte Deioma

When members of a theater acting group begin to discuss things which can and cannot be explained by modern science, Lizzie (Diana Cignoni) finds herself challenged to confront the disparate ideas we have about the nature of reality. When the acting troupe – Peter (Jack Geren), Sam (Jeff Lebeau), Erin (Cameron Meyer), and Jill (Giovanna Quinto) – leave for the season, Lizzie seizes the perfect opportunity to study these provocative issues. She will live for a month in the abandoned theater pondering the intriguing questions raised by her colleagues while she meditates and listens to videos made by some outstanding current speakers on the controversies surrounding this inexplicable topic. Enter Pearl (Denise Blasor), a strangely informed and weirdly eccentric woman who may be the custodian of the theater property – but, then again, perhaps not.

Diana Cignoni – Photo by Kayte Deioma

Ron Sossi wears multiple hats in this production – he doubles as writer and director – as he lays out issues relevant to his lifelong quest to understand the core essence of human consciousness, awareness, and the meaning of life. His goal is enhanced by a talented cast who dig into these complex and sometimes incomprehensible queries, typically difficult to pin down and/or prove through today’s scientific method. Kudos to the enigmatic Pearl, who also fulfills two tasks as actor and co-costume designer with Juliette Blasor. Jan Munroe’s scenic design is appropriately shadowy and mysterious. The production also benefits from Jackson Funke’s unpredictable lighting and Christopher Moscatiello’s suggestible sound.

Diana Cignoni and Giovanna Quinto – Photo by Kayte Deioma

ELEPHANT SHAVINGS is definitely a metaphorical tale which will likely prove puzzling and even strange to the uninitiated. At the same time, it may provoke thoughtful consideration of the unexplained phenomena which surround the average person every day. This is a play which will probably linger with audiences after it ends. After all, Sossi’s story combines drama, humor, and absurdity in equal measures. This “lazy person’s guide to enlightenment” can be a fascinating experience. Besides, it’s kind of fun to be sitting in the center of the action at the Odyssey Theatre on Sepulveda.

Jeff LeBeau and Cameron Meyer – Photo by Kayte Deioma

ELEPHANT SHAVINGS runs through October 1, 2023, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays (9/18/23 only) and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025. Tickets range from $25 to $40 (Mondays and Wednesdays Pay-What-You-Will (reservations online and at the door staring at 5:30 p.m.)  For information and reservations, call 310-477-2055 ext. 2 or go online.

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