Sarah Fulton Group production Falling Upward.

THE LOS ANGELES TIMES - Critic's Choice evening when one can forget the current travails of modern life...

LA WEEKLY - Pick of the Week!

...charming Irish comedy that celebrates the virtues of friendship, community, and beer.

Like an impressionistic painting, it is best enjoyed and understood in its totality...

The music is superb; Jeff G. Rack's tavern set is artfully crafted, and director Tim Byron Owen creates an atmospheric charm that's irresistible. ...

Anyone yearning for a glimpse of the Emerald Isle, circa 1950, will be delighted by "Falling Upward".







Review by F. Kathleen Foley

"Recommended" HAVE A LAUGH AT BRADBURY’S PUB The prolific Ray Bradbury recently received a special citation Pulitzer for his decades as an "unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy." But you’ll find no endangered Martians or evil carnies in “Falling Upward”, Bradbury’s "comedic Irish fable," now playing at Theatre West. Inspired by the months Bradbury spent in Ireland collaborating with John Huston on the 1956 film "Moby Dick," the play, produced by Theatre West in 2001, is a fond and comical look at Ireland as filtered through the microcosm of a rural Irish pub. And what a pub! The boozy regulars are Heeber Finn’s view this watering hole as their second home, for obvious reasons. Jeff Rack’s set design, based on the 2001 set design by Daniel Keough and Joseph A. Altadonna, is so cozy and welcoming that want to jump onstage, belly up to the bar and order a pint. Indeed, alcohol figures prominently. When Garrity (Pat Harrington), the piece’s narrator, ponders the meaning of life, he concludes, "There’s booze and food…and you can forget the food." Heeber Finn’s is a boy’s only club, where no woman ventures and the blarney flows freely on tap, as does the wonderful Irish music – no jukebox required. Small matter that certain cast members suffer obvious line lapses or that the narrative wanders like a will-o’-the-wisp in a marshy fen. At least three distinct and unrelated story lines, linked only because they happen in and around Heeber’s pub, make up the "plot". But the emphasis is on atmosphere, and director Tim Byron Owen evokes this particular time and place with an attention to detail as loving as it is rigorous. Among the large and able cast, James Horan is particularly effective as an itinerant Brit whose exotic entourage discombobulates the local menfolk, while Mik Sciba is a fittingly towering Heeber who could eject the most obstreperous customer with a flick of his meaty paw. If you long for Ireland but can’t get there, a bracing visit to Heeber’s may satisfy your craving.

Posted By Katie Barnes

Ensemble Cast Defies Gravity in “Falling Upward”- Bradbury Side-Steps Sci-Fi to Raise Curtain at Theater West It would be obvious to anyone with a penchant for science fiction and fantasy that one supreme master of the genre is prolific writer and international book prizewinner, Ray Bradbury. But who knew such a solid fixture of the literary scene for over 50 years would have any time to write for both the screen and theater, and have a deep love and connection to both forms? Surely the tale to be told (if meant for the stage) would suggest supernatural beings, unexplained phenomena and propose alternative realities to the one we call our own. Instead, it was other-worldly to step inside Theater West on Cahuenga Blvd. in Hollywood and find the stage transformed into a very earthly, noisy Irish pub, complete with patronage downing pints and taking turns to belt out another loud Irish ballad. For taking place this evening was the opening night production of “Falling Upward” by Mr. Ray Bradbury, hugely popular, writer-extraordinaire. Reviving the comedy that set box office records at the Falcon Theatre in 2001, this night was particularly special as it included celebrations for the playwright’s recent 87th birthday. Sitting near the front of the stage for the performance, Bradbury seemed utterly delighted to be in the house to champion his actors’ first night, whilst being honored with a special award from the Pulitzer organization at curtain’s close. It was many decades ago that Bradbury spent nine months in Ireland working on the script for Moby Dick for director, John Huston. The writer’s free time enjoying the local pub culture led him to be inspired by the regulars that he encountered at his favorite watering hole in the township. The unique fellowship associated with drinking and pubs in Ireland was something that struck a chord with Bradbury. Thus the play’s story is largely character-driven and relates the adventures of the locals at Heeber Finn’s pub in County Kilcock. Through dealing with curve balls thrown into the normal village routine by a band of foreigners (amongst other events), the men learn that they share more similarities than differences with those whose way of living they do not recognize. The play is excellent- the cast have the accents, camaraderie and seamless execution of their parts that makes the pub environment palpable, leaving little between the audience’s imagination and the tangible experience within a “real” Irish stomping ground. The first Ireland native to direct this play, Tim Byron Owen has magically blurred the line of comedy, fable and pantomime, setting the tone of the room so succinctly that one could be mistaken for thinking they are part of the action. Owen’s involvement with the Celtic Arts Theatre and production company formed with Nick Cassavetes has spawned multiple plays, and several films, evidence that such a successful collaboration of talent across the board is no accident. Using a group of 24 seasoned theatre professionals in the all-male cast, the evening’s performance proved to be some of the finest two hours in LA theater. Yet the spotlight seemed built for Pat Harrington, one of the most gifted and generous performers seen to grace the stage. Emmy, Golden Globe and Dramalogue award-winner Harrington is perhaps best known for his character Dwayne Schneider on "One Day at a Time" and Guido Panzini on "The Jack Parr Show." With credits that stretch from Broadway to the big screen, this marvelous craftsman provided the glue that cements this stellar production, slipping effortlessly between narrator and leading character with little more than a step out from one light and into another. Scheduled for just six performances September 7-16, this must-see show is not just a chance to catch a bit of Bradbury but a view toward the Irish having more than a clue as to what makes life the very best.


Falling Upward Around 1956, director John Huston dispatched a sci-fi scribbler and teleplay writer in his mid-thirties to Ireland to write a screenplay adapting Herman Melville’s immortal classic Moby Dick. It should be noted that the great American novel is mostly set in the South Seas, but Huston’s attachment to Ireland probably accounts for shooting much of his Moby Dick there. (And of course, the best way to travel and/or live abroad is at somebody else’s expense – preferably a movie studio’s.) Huston had led much of Hollywood’s resistance to the gathering House Un-American Activities Committee inquisition of La-La-Land leftists and the looming blacklist exactly 60 years, and I venture to guess that this contributed to Huston’s self-imposed exile in the Emerald Isle. And with its mention of Bikini atoll – which, if memory serves, Melville does not refer to in his 1851 novel -- Huston’s Moby Dick was a comment on the Cold War, with Ahab’s (portrayed with much gusto by Gregory Peck) unholy obsession with the great white whale symbolizing nuclear testing. In any case, Huston’s last directorial effort, his 1987 adaptation of James Joyce’s The Dead, was the final story in Joyce’s Dubliners. And the first full-length play by Ray Bradbury -- that science fiction and TV writer Huston had imported (quite against his will) to Ireland in the mid-1950s – is likewise set in the Emerald Isle. At the September 7 premiere of Falling Upward, Bradbury told a packed crowd at Theatre West near Universal City that this play grew out of his sojourn to Ireland. Calling himself “Sean O’Casey’s bastard son,” Bradbury revealed how that playwright, Oscar Wilde, the celebrated Abbey Theatre (during the 1930s the Abbey Players included a boy wonder by the name of Orson Welles) and Irish pub culture influenced him. To Upward’s colorful cast of characters, Dubliners are city slickers. The cosmos of these boyos extends no farther than the village green of their County Kilcock township, and most of the play’s action takes place in a public house. Heeber Finn’s pub is to this play what the Mississippi River is to Huck Finn. I’ve never been to Ireland (I guess I just don’t have the luck of the Irish), but Jeff Rack’s convincing set design literally sets the stage with a convincing rendering of what I’d imagine an Emerald Isle pub looks like, down to the pheasant trophy adorning a wall. The all male cast’s singing and musical interlude preceding the curtain’s figurative rise certainly sets the mood – talk about “getting into character”! (Infinitely superior to the endless commercials ticket buyers “pay” for and are bombarded with at movie theatres. As Bradbury observed at the premiere: "Theatre is better than films. Film people want money. I don’t want money, I want love.") The narrator Garrity’s (Emmy and Golden Globe veteran Pat Harrington), who has been kissed by the Blarney stone, opens Falling Upward with witty, pithy observations about the foibles of his countrymen and pub-mates. There is much clever banter in brogues as the towering Finn (I kid thee not dear reader, this prototypical Irishman is actually portrayed by a TV/theatre actor named Mik (Mik Scribay) serves up foamy brewskies and the harder stuff to the boyos. There is some action involving an accident, the police and a quite clever close to the first act, as the boyos devise a hilariously brilliant scheme to consume rare vintage wines that somehow manages to fulfill the stipulations of a townsman’s curmudgeonly will. Befitting a renowned author of sci-fi, act two seems to fall from outer space – it is almost a completely different play, albeit with many of the same characters. As the second act begins, an entourage of sissy, swishy swashbuckling tourists from Sicily descend upon County Kilcock and take up dubious residence en suite at the village inn, which I believe is called the Royal Hyperion Hotel. The multi-culti effeminate travelers clad in kaftans, dashikis and berets are led with great panache by David Snell-Orkney (theatre thespian James Horan), and seem headed on a collision course with the macho denizens of Heeber Finn’s. Like Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, Upwards features culture clash. But the wise and wizened Garrity intervenes, pointing out to the pub’s all-male bonding group the similarities between the boyos and their apparently gay visitors. Bradbury adapted Melville’s novel featuring the harpooning of a whale named Moby Dick, while his Upward is set in a place named Kilcock. There is a heavy dose of homoeroticism in this tale brought to life by an all-male cast of more than 20 actors. Written more than 40 years ago, despite some limp-wrist, "fairy" stereotyping, Bradbury may have been way ahead of his time in tackling this subject in the Irish Chronicles. I enjoyed the wit and wisdom, as well as its music and dancing, of Falling Upward, which is deftly directed by Tim Byron Owen. The cast is quite good, but too large to mention all of its members here, although I’d like to single out the aptly named Walter Beery as Father Leary, who -- like his pub-besotted parishioners -- enjoys imbibing. But the Theatre West space somewhat undoes the play. The theatre was quite stuffy, and had this production taken place during L.A.’s recent heat wave, I fear the temperature would have suggested the title of Bradbury’s most famous work, Fahrenheit 451 – the temperature books melt at. In addition, some attendees at the premiere groused that it was hard to hear and follow the dialogue (rendered largely in brogues), so I suggest sitting near the front as I did in this open seating theatre, where I didn’t have this problem. After the curtain call, a certificate of recognition by Mayor Villaraigosa was read by a Theatre West producer to Bradbury and the appreciative crowd. As it was recently the author's 87th birthday – around one year for every two seats in the theatre – the crowd sang "Happy Birthday," and a reception featuring a sumptuous feast ensued. The wheelchair-bound Bradbury signed copies of his latest book, Now and Forever. May you – and the public – enjoy at least another 87 years of your vivid imagination, Ray!

Your Low-Tek News

Theatre West presents the return of Ray Bradbury's FALLING UPWARD, or "To Eire is Human, To Forbid Divine", a comedy of the ins and outs taking place at a local "public house" located in a small Irish village. The setting is Heeber Finn's Pub, located in County Kilcock. There, one will find a group of the regular gents that frequent the place, almost making this establishment a second home to all that stay. Pat Harrington plays Garrity, the leader of the pack. Actually, nobody really made him a leader, but it just seems that way. He narrates some of the little misadventures that go on in and around the tavern. Of course, every one of these working class lads must have a nip or two, just for that good Irish luck. This charming tale, first presented at Theatre West in 2001, is Ray's loving tribute to the Emerald Isle; a place he visited and lived in while writing the screenplay for John Houston's epic film Moby Dick in the early 1950's. The passion of Ireland never left him and still speaks about this land as if it was an old friend. Although there isn't a plot per se, consisting of a few short stories woven in, it makes this production that is green as the mother country, and black as a tall glass of Guiness. In other words, it's very "colorful", it's full of wit, charm, and has plenty of life-now and for the hereafter! A huge ensemble cast makes up this production, featuring (in alphabetical order), Atotesfaye Abdu-Hakim, Abbott Alxander, Walter Beery, David Evans Brant, William Brunold, Roger Cruz, Tom Debone, Donald Giddings, Michael Gough, Austin Grehan, Matthew Hoffman, James Horan, Michael Lagrias, Robert W. Laur, Timothy Martin, Donald Moore, Ken O'Malley, Christian Reeve, Christian Rozak, Mik Scriba, and Phillip Sokoloff. All perform under the stage direction by Tim Bryon Owen. Also a special note to Jeff Rack's set design, based on a design by Daniel Keough and Joseph A. Altadonna, that makes up Hebber Finn's pub, bring the scene and setting as cozy and warm as the play itself. After experiencing FALLING UPWARD, one will wish that they too were Irish! Even if one really had a li'l Irish in 'em, that is all the better! Another round is ready and waiting! REVIEW PLAYS Review by Carol Kaufman Segal Falling Upward Or, "To Eire is Human, To Forbid Divine" Theatre West in Los Angeles celebrated the award-winning playwright Ray Bradbury’s 87th birthday Sept. 7th, with the opening of his play, Falling Upward. Truthfully, the play is about nothing, but it has so much charm, who cares? It takes place in Ireland in the 1950’s where we find a gathering of men sitting around Heeber Finn’s Pub singing Irish songs and telling stories. We become involved as Garrity (Pat Harrington) speaks directly to the audience. He tells us that "we are in a place where anything can happen, and it always does." But nothing ever really happens in this play. It is just good fun because the actors are so at home in their characterizations, there is humor in the production and it is just plain good entertainment. Mike Scriba, as Heeber Finn, is the ideal Irish bartender and Harrington is the ultimate audience confidante. The entire company is perfectly cast, each one very realistic, as they delight us with their perfect Irish brogues, their singing of Irish folk tunes, and even a wee bit of an Irish jig. They include Abbott Alexander, Walter Beery, David Evans Brandt, William Brunold, Roger Cruz, Tom Debone, Michael Gough, Austin Grehan, Matthew Hoffman, James Horan, Robert W. Laur, Donald Moore, Ken O’Malley, Matt Sklar, Phil Sokoloff and Timothy Martin. The village is visited by a group of men who appear completely out-of-place with the men who frequent the pub. At first, the Irish do not make them feel welcome, but eventually, they discover that they have much in common, and before the visitors leave, they are treated in a friendly manner and bid a fond farewell. These actors include Atotesfaye Abdu-Hakim, Donald E. Giddings, Michael Lagrinas, Christian Reeve and Christian Rozakis. Falling Upward is directed by Tim Byron Owen, produced by Charlie Mount. The pub set, by Jeff Rack, is absolutely fantastic.

Jim Horan, Mik Scriba & Pat Harrington in Falling Upward. Falling Upward cast. Falling Upwards Boyos in the band. Falling Upwards Ray Bradbury with cast. Falling Upward at the hotel. Falling Upward cast at the grave site. Falling Upward cast.Falling Upward Boyos in the band. Falling Upward Jim Horan, Mik Scriba at the grave site.