"Twenty-Two" is a play based on a true story that premiered at the Knightsbridge Theatre in Los Angeles in January 2010 written by Julia Morizawa directed by Raymond Donahey produced by Joseph P. Stachura co-produced by Julia Morizawa & Shaina Vorspan starring Julia Morizawa, Shaina Vorspan, Raymond Donahey, Matthew Black & James Adam Patterson
LA Theatre review stated, "Well, if art is supposed to imitate life, Twenty Two has accomplished its mission. The characters are totally believable, the dialogue is as natural as it gets and the acting overall is amazingly realistic."
Nothing ever changes for Leila and her circle of so-called friends: sex, drugs, more drugs and... punk-hop? Their days and nights revolve around cocaine - getting high, coming down, and doing anything to get more. But nothing lasts forever, and when the drugs run out or stop working, they are forced to confront what they've so desperately been trying to avoid - life.
"Twenty-Two" is based on the true story of a young woman and her downfall into drug addiction. She thought she found a true understanding of reality in cocaine and the people she used with. But when the lifestyle repeatedly drains her of her will to live, she has to make a choice between the comforting appeal of death and the frightening attempt at rebirth. What will it be this time?
There’s small theater and then there’s intimate theater. For its current production, The Knightsbridge Theatre has taped off its normal 99 seats and gathered about 25 folding chairs around the stage, pulling the audience so close they almost feel part of the action. Which is, I guess, the point. What’s more, the company makes an inspired choice not to pass out programs until after the play is over, so as to further make audience members feel like participants, rather than mere observers.
As for the play itself, Twenty-Two is an original one-act by new playwright Julia Morizawa about her personal struggles with drugs, or as it is described, 'a young woman's cathartic downfall into drug addiction.' Now a recovering addict, Morizawa uses theater as part of her own recovery and also to inspire others.
She also stars as the primary character, Leila, whom we first encounter as she anxiously awaits her drug buddy Danny (played by Matthew Black) to come back with another '8-ball,' which they proceed to inhale within a few minutes of his arrival. They are joined by their mutual friend Eric (Raymond Donahey) and Leila's BFF Zoe (Shaina Vorspan), who are more than happy to join in. I must admit that at this point, the idea of recreational drug use seemed rather appealing.
However, that feeling soon dissipated. As the play continues, Leila and her friends continue to ingest whatever they can get their hands on in a futile attempt to keep ahead of the inevitable crash. Together, they partake when they are happy so as to sustain their mood and when they are hurting in order to dull the pain. Either way, their lives are totally preoccupied with drugs, as they're either selling it, using it or thinking about how to get some more. In fact, there was so much simulated drug use during the course of this play, I left the theater with a real case of the munchies. (That joke would have been a lot funnier except for the fact that most of the drugs ingested were actually appetite inhibitors.)
All along, Leila recognizes the insanity of the downward spiral in which she is caught. She is ashamed of what she is willing to do for a fix, even as she is doing it, be it pulling tricks in the parking lot or licking remnants off the inside of the plastic baggie. It is brutally honest and astonishing realistic.
They say the invention of the camera led to the development and proliferation of impressionism and abstract forms. After all, if the best an artist can hope to achieve can already be done by a machine, why bother to compete with that? Theater (and later motion pictures), on the other hand, never really faced this predicament. In fact, if anything, the trend in acting has been towards becoming more realistic.
Well, if art is supposed to imitate life, Twenty Two has accomplished its mission. The characters are totally believable, the dialogue is as natural as it gets and the acting overall is amazingly realistic. James Adam Patterson in particular gives an incredibly believable performance as Sol (pronounced, appropriately, “Soul”), the cool, smarmy, quick-tempered drug dealer, the kind of undesirable that drugs can apparently bring into your life. Despite the harshness of the character, Patterson gives a surprisingly nuanced portrayal.
As a snapshot of the playwright's life at 22 (which I am assuming is the meaning of the title) or as a mirror on the daily existence of all-too-many addicts in this country, Twenty-Two works. It doesn't attempt to really answer any deeper questions: 'How did she fall into that trap to begin with?' 'Is it just a physical addiction, or do drugs fill a bigger hole?' 'How does she pull herself out?' 'What happens to her friends?' 'Do they join her in sobriety or at least support her in her journey?' Perhaps the answers to those questions will have to wait until Twenty-Three.
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Script & Performance Requests
The first ten pages of the play are available read/download below. For the full play and/or performance inquiries, please contact the playwright directly at juliamorizawa[at]gmail[dot]com