Beauty and Homelessness
Irish thespian Pat Kinevane takes on two of L.A.’s most enduring themes
By Christina Campodonico
Pat Kinevane isn’t from Los Angeles. He hails from a small town in the south of Ireland called Cobh, speaks in a rich Irish accent and is one of his nation’s most acclaimed thespians.
Yet his one-man monologues “Underneath” and “Silent,” playing at the Odyssey Theater this month, are preoccupied with two of L.A.’s most enduring themes — beauty and homelessness.
“Underneath” takes place in a crypt, where Kinevane plays a dead woman, called Her, who contemplates her life and her disfigured face.
“Silent” follows a homeless man’s riches-to-rags journey from success to the streets of Dublin.
Both subjects fascinate Kinevane, known for exploring characters on the fringes of society — the elderly in his first solo show “Forgotten” from 2006, and more recently the disfigured, the marginalized and the homeless in 2011’s “Underneath” and 2012’s “Silent,” which he collectively calls an “accidental trilogy.”
“I never had a master plan of working by myself for this long,” says Kinevane. “It just happened that way. … One rolled into the other.”
Kinevane won a 2016 Olivier award for “Silent,” but he’s still curious to know how L.A. audiences will react to it and its sister show during their Los Angeles run.
“I suppose it’s going to be fascinating for me because, let’s face it, Los Angeles is the beauty capital of the world. All the great stars went there, some of them immigrants, coming in having to change their entire look to fit in or to become even more successful, altered by surgeons. Way back before we ever knew that plastic surgery was going, it was happening in the big studios. They literally made stars out of people.” says Kinevane. “And so, it’s almost going back to where it all began, where all that Western idea of beauty [started]. All of our perception of the world has come through the camera to us.”
Traces of Hollywood’s influence appear in both “Silent” and “Underneath,” he says.
“There’s a line in ‘Underneath’,” recounts Kinevane. “And [Her] says, ‘I had wide, angular shoulders. My mum told me to be proud of them like Joan Crawford.’”
Another line Kinevane recites goes: “‘I was named the day after my mother saw ‘Cleopatra’ in 1965 and she didn’t call me after Liz Taylor, ‘cause there was a ton of scandal about her and Richard Burton, but if I was a boy, she would have definitely called me Nile after all things Egyptian.’”
Both lines exude the glint of Hollywood’s glamour, but “Silent” also looks at the darker side of Tinseltown, telling the story of a homeless Dubliner named Tino McGoldrig, who’s fallen on hard times and escapes his troubles by dreaming up forays into the cine-matic world of silent film star Rudolph Valentino.
“It’s the odyssey of a man who has apparently had everything in his life and then loses everything due to addiction and mental health issues and ends up on the street in Ireland,” explains Kinevane. “So the only way he can actually deal with his demise and the journey of his demise is to tell it through the style of an incredibly famous, international movie star, like Rudolph Valentino.”
Kinevane says that his character’s journey is both homage to the golden days of Hollywood and juxtaposition between “the life of a hobo versus the life of a movie star, Hollywood versus the dirty street in Dublin.”
The writer and actor observed such a clash when he first brought “Silent” to the Odyssey Theater four years ago.
“When I went to do it in Los Angeles I was fascinated to discover how many homeless people are there,” says Kinevane. “And yet seeing so many homeless people in Los Angeles I was kind of really taken aback — a place of incredible wealth and stardom, and then there’s people just thrown aside. It’s just extraordinary.”
In the end, Kinevane hopes that his work may make an impact in the city from which both plays draw inspiration.
“I think the theater should be a place where we’re moved and we’re taken out of our own lives, but also where we’re challenged,” says Kinevane. “And I hope really that people would just enjoy the theatrical journey of it, enjoy the spectacle of it, and maybe change their minds on things subtly on the subject matter of homelessness and beauty.”
“Underneath” makes its L.A. debut with a preview show at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West L.A. Regular shows happen Oct. 14, 15, 16, 20, 22, 23, 27, 29 and 30. “Silent” plays at 8 p.m. on two Fridays, Oct. 21 and Oct. 28. Tickets run $10 to $25. Call (310) 477-2055, ext. 2, or visit odysseytheatre.com.