A RETURN TO A DAY FOR GRACE FINDS VINCENT AND LLANAS AIMING FOR THE HEART, THROUGH THE EYES!

The Cliff Notes version of A Day For Grace.  The perfect primer for the new-to-the-pathos that is A Day For Grace.

The Cliff Notes version of A Day For Grace. The perfect primer for the new-to-the-pathos that is A Day For Grace.

So far, I have reviewed the play itself, in its formative state being honed on the stage of Stage Left Studio in NYC.  Then came the audio preview of the DVD soundtrack.  This time we are sent a tease of what is to come.

What is to come will be truly extraordinary.

For the main entry on this DVD is a teaser of the forthcoming, full length DVD.  I was hesitant to want to give this any attention once I saw the “abridged” notation on the disc label.  But after watching this sampler, I have changed my opinion.  If this disc can get people hooked on the message Vincent and Llanas deliver, it is a means to a worthy end.

For those not familiar with that message, A Day For Grace is about suicide prevention, dealing with alcoholic family, bullying, and the daunting task of coming face to face with new fatherhood and fearing the repetition of patterns within one’s upbringing.

The secondary entry on this disc is the trailer for the campaign to Send Sammy to Broadway.  An Indiegogo campaign that was set up to raise money to help finance the costs associated with bringing the show to NYC, Milwaukee, Chicago, and other venues such as the newly explored option called The Barn in Virginia.  This is still in the works as of press date.

I find myself a bit bashful about promoting the trailer as, at a certain point, my name is brandished on the screen with a pull quote from my original show review.  This is one project I feel no shame being associated with.  Many of the show’s topics (or messages) are in fact societal situations I have found myself having to deal with.  If blathering on about A Day For Grace helps one person discover it, helps one person through some troubling times, I can take the heat for being “repetitive, one-trick pony, boring and uninteresting” for covering this show and its efforts and progress.

For the DVD itself, it is sparkling!  The direction is spot-on, the performance is nothing less than perfection.  As subtle as those changes to the show were, from NYC to the eTown hall in Boulder, CO., in the editing down of this DVD, none of the drama, pathos, comedy and just as important as those, the factors and THE MUSIC come at you full on, full force and Vincent’s acting, with the cameras focused on Vincent’s expressive face, make each and every line either ten times funnier (when you can see the goofy faces up close) or the plaintiff agony when Vincent describes and acts out the more negative aspects of his life.  His expression of rage as he finds out his father had revealed his blatant bigotry, his horror and pain at finding his father’s dead body, the power, the pain, the joy, and again, the music.

It is not as though Llanas is there for show.  I have explained and detailed HOW Vincent and Llanas came together to form this amazing duo.  Only in truth, the duo is a trio in that Llanas’ manager and producer, Gary Tanin took on the role of music director as well as director for the show.  Vincent, Llanas and Tanin have all lost close family members to suicide.  Vincent and Llanas also share the bullying aspect as well, both having been bullied as children, as well as the alcoholic family members.  Songs like “Bully On The Corner” and “Good Day To Die”, as well as others from his 1998 solo debut Absinthe (with Tanin) A Good Day To Die, as well as songs from Llanas’ 2011 solo effort, 4 A.M. (The Way Home).  These abrasively coincidental songs that were written well before the completion of the script by Vincent, these amazing, clairvoyant songs whose poignancy is further upheld each time one is reminded of the fact that these “perfect for the storyline” songs were not influenced by the content of the stage show, and vice versa as Vincent was hoping to use the music of Llanas’ former project, of whom Vincent was a fan.  In reaching out to that project, he came across Llanas and when Llanas read the script, he knew that he already had music for the project, it was just in need of some reworking to integrate with the script and help the show congeal overall.

Enter Gary Tanin who, much akin to an alchemist, adds and subjects various elements of Llanas’ music and Vincent’s words to make scenes transition effortlessly.  Contributing clever production tips such as adding vocal ad-libs to transition points from music to script, cleverly arranging those songs to run in front and in back of Vincent’s topic of the minute.

After being announced, the performance starts with Llanas taking the stage and opening with “A Good Day To Die” from the Absinthe album of the same name.  Vincent takes over and details his perfect day with wife Jessica and daughter Grace.  The namesake of the play is not introduced until the end.  Llanas caps off the festivities with “Good Day To Die” into “A Little Bit Of Hell” also from the Absinthe album.  Once Llanas finishes, Vincent takes up residence along the right side of the stage and recites the birthing coaching he was taught as part of the pre-natal exercises.  As he guides wife Jessica through the birth, he is haunted by the thought that he may not be able to shield his as-yet unborn daughter from the rage he knows is genetically rampant within him from his father.  More details on that later…

Llanas joins up with “Nobody Knows” which is a new song freshly added for the eTown show.  Once he finishes the solemn lyrics, Vincent throws back to when he was a kid playing little league baseball.  How he worshipped Johnny Bench as he is bathed from light all over the stage and Vincent extends his arms out as though it were Bench on the cross.  Vincent then details his penultimate meeting at home plate with his personal bully Brian Bailey.  Llanas then punctuates with “Bully On The Corner” from A Good Day To Die.

Vincent further recalls his father as being quite the bon vivant at the little league field.  Talking (or as Vincent describes it), ‘bullshitting with all the hitters on their way to batting practice’.  Even if properly requested, performing the phenomenal false teeth ninja flip!  Even when dad had a crab hanging off of his finger, he still called his little man ‘pal’…

Llanas changes the mood after that with “It Don’t Bother Me” from A Good Day To Die.

As this is not all feel good, happy times, sunshine and lollipops, it is about at this point that things get real, and then get even more real.  Vincent regrets one of his final interactions with his father.  That interaction being the incident with Vincent’s sister dating a Vietnamese boy.  Dad, in an extraordinary stupor, asks the boy for his green card during the bigoted rampage.  The pain is visible in Vincent’s visage, audible in his voice.  Llanas reprises “It Don’t Bother Me”

At this point Vincent is spewing a string of expletives at his father and denying his father the apologetic hug his dad was asking for.  Not only does Vincent refuse to hug his father, he tells him ‘Don’t you dare call me pal’… as Llanas stops on the word ‘pal’.

Sam Llanas (left) and Doug Vincent (right); Llanas and Vincent are the well-oiled machine behind the play "A Day For Grace".  Photo by Matthew Staver

Sam Llanas (left) and Doug Vincent (right); Llanas and Vincent are the well-oiled machine behind the play “A Day For Grace”. Photo by Matthew Staver

Once Llanas resumes “It Don’t Bother Me”, Vincent tells the sick tale of going down to the sacred basement space that fostered many a discussion about family survival.  As many of you know from my constant coverage of the evolution that is A Day For Grace, this is the scene where Vincent finds his father having gone to great lengths during that stupor to carefully remove his favorite John Deere cap, remove those Ninja False Teeth, tie a perfect noose, and hang himself by that noose.  As Vincent recuperates from this trying scene, Llanas holds the show with “Messed Up Likes Of Us” and “A Good Day To Die” from the Absinthe album, and “4 A.M. (The Way Home)” from Llanas’ solo album 4 A.M. (The Way Home).

Moving from one harrowing topic to another, this portion of the edited show brings us to Grace’s birth.  There were some riotous lines about a nurse that brought my personal house down, coming from a long line of nurses.  I wish the references to Nurse Shitbird were left in.  If you are confused about any of this, feel free to check out my previous review of the entire show posted earlier on this site.  Vincent did leave in the reference about Dr. Wonderfulmarvelousgreatandgood.  There were fewer around who were bigger fans of the Dr. than the Dr. himself…

But while this obstetrician is good, he in all his experience was not prepared for Grace’s entry into the world.  Not only was Grace’s transition from expected to delivered a harrowing ordeal, but, upon arrival it is found that Grace was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, like a perfectly tied noose!

A synergistic entity Vincent did not need.

Once Grace is safe in the world, Vincent yields the stage to Llanas who brings out “Hey John”.

Vincent is brought back to present day, here and now, Boulder Creek Festival.  Lamenting that this moment in time, his perfect day, will pass.  Appropriately, Llanas brings out the final cut from the Absinthe album, “Time For Us”.  Once Llanas finishes, Vincent returns wearing a John Deere hat assuming the apparition of his father with a proclamation of pride for pal.  Once more for the final time, Llanas trots out “A Good Day To Die” and credits roll.

For anyone who has not seen the show, this would be a good intro to A Day For Grace.  But as someone who has seen the show and heard the pre-release audio discs, there are so many good portions of the show left out.  So should this abridged version become available to consumers, perhaps it would be a worthwhile investment to familiarize the uninitiated to the show.  But the quality performances may make the viewer crave more, the full length DVD, or better yet, catching one of the shows live at a venue near you.  Check for all the show details here:

http://www.boulderstoryhealers.org/

Or you can obtain a copy of the full length DVD here:

http://www.adayforgraceshow.com

For those of who who may be interested, this run will be kicking off in September of this year.  If you are like me, and share a commonality of these issues with the trio responsible for bringing these social tragedies to the stage, you will be drawn to this show like a moth to a flame.

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