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'Reunion' — and rematch

Upcoming play at South Coast Repertory involves brawl among actors, thanks to fight choreographer Edgar Landa.

March 04, 2014|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • Michael Gladis lifts Kevin Berntson as Tim Cummings, right, looks on during a rehearsal for Gregory S Moss' world premiere of "Reunion" at the South Coast Repertory.
Michael Gladis lifts Kevin Berntson as Tim Cummings,… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

Edgar Landa is intrigued by violence.

But that's not to say he's a savage sort with a proclivity for destruction, the Hollywood fight choreographer is quick to add.

Starting out as an actor, Landa began training with fight directors as he followed his curiosity about that place in each of us where the capacity for violence resides. He strove to understand what people are capable of under stress or when driven by rage or passion.

On the flip side, does a victim fight back? Why, under what circumstances and to what extent?

"An act of violence can be a push, shove, slap or stabbing someone 16 times," Landa, 43, said. "What causes that switch in people?"

He came to realize that most individuals, under certain conditions, are capable of brutality. Thankfully we don't always choose to engage that part of our personalities, though the fight-or-flight response can be life-saving, he said.

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Landa is now working with the cast of "Reunion," which will be presented at South Coast Repertory starting March 9. No need for alarm. The leading men, Michael Gladis, Kevin Berntson and Tim Cummings, are not going to give each other a black eye (or worse).

"We are creating the illusion of violence, not violence itself," Landa remarked. "The audience [members] fill in a lot of the gaps in the illusion with their imaginations."

Directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt, "Reunion" is the world premiere of work by playwright Gregory S Moss.

"We read the play and did a workshop of it in the 2013 Pacific Playwrights Festival," said South Coast Repertory's artistic director, Marc Masterson. "Greg's character work and storytelling skills are first-rate."

Viewers will be privy to the humorous story of three friends — Max, Peter and Mitch — who reunite after a 25-year gap. The trio reflect on their misadventures, but the fun goes awry when they dredge up painful memories and struggle with apologies.

"It's such a unique play," Gladis, 36, said. "The first act is one thing, the second act something else entirely. It explores so many things — ideas about identity, especially as it pertains to who we were in high school and how we do or don't move on, friendship and estrangement, forgiveness of self and others. There's a lot going on in one play."

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