First Simon Wiesenthal, now Mary Lincoln: Tom Dugan’s new present

I’d checked the handle over and over, so I knew I used to be in the correct place: Dugan’s Yard Playhouse. It didn’t appear like a theater, however I hadn’t anticipated it to. I knew Tom Dugan was doing his one-person present “The Ghosts of Mary Lincoln” on a makeshift out of doors stage at his home, on this quiet Woodland Hills cul-de-sac. I had RSVP’d. It will be not be creepy of me to skulk throughout his garden and slip by the open again gate at dusk.

Even so, I felt transgressive. After staying residence for greater than a 12 months, I had the sense that I used to be sneaking right into a speakeasy or infiltrating a séance.

The speakeasy aura dissolved as quickly as I took my seat, a patio chair alongside a turquoise swimming pool, separated from about 15 different viewers members — all of us masked. I had a transparent view of the candlelighted efficiency house (by Chris and Becky Petersen) representing the cluttered attic the place Abraham Lincoln’s aged widow spent her ultimate years. I used to be provided complimentary bottled water and snacks, in addition to a blanket to guard me from the night time air.

The séance feeling, in distinction, intensified over the following 80 minutes as Dugan channeled Mary Lincoln’s peppery, splenetic, tenderhearted spirit and shared ghostly tales from her uncanny, death-haunted tenure on this planet from 1818 to 1882.

Simply earlier than the beginning, director Shelby Sykes defined that she and Dugan got down to develop this play — which he started writing in 2013 — with an actress within the position. Dugan finally took over, a casting change that may demand, Sykes defined, suspension of disbelief. Not solely as a result of Dugan is a person, but in addition as a result of he’s tall: Mary was solely 5-foot-2 in contrast with 6-foot-4 Abe.

Certain sufficient, at first look Dugan — slim, white-haired and stylish in his fashionable pajamas and gown — didn’t give off “little outdated woman in 1882” vibes. Nor did he communicate in a high-pitched voice or have an effect on noticeably womanly gestures. But one way or the other, from the second he started to speak, any disbelief I may need been harboring acquired up and left, solely by itself, no suspension required.

I final noticed Dugan in 2015 in his one-man present “Wiesenthal” on the Wallis Annenberg Heart for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. There he made extra of an effort to decorate and communicate like his topic, Simon Wiesenthal, however, simply as on this position, he struck me extra as a medium than an impersonator. He has a knack for promoting the dramatic pretext for an impending monologue — on this case, we’re imagined to be journalists at a press convention Mary has referred to as — and he manages to maintain the phantasm by intercutting stage enterprise with typically spellbinding anecdotes. Steve Shaw’s sound design imparts refined ambiance.

As a personality, Mary Lincoln is fascinating however doesn’t include an particularly uplifting or aspirational arc. She endured unimaginable tragedies — her husband’s assassination, the early deaths of three of her 4 sons — however as a result of she reacted so inappropriately, in keeping with the values of the period (she could have had bipolar dysfunction), she died an impoverished outcast, estranged from her solely remaining son. However she might give nearly as good as she acquired, or higher. And within the play’s strongest moments, Dugan endearingly conveys her enviable toughness and cantankerous wit.

‘The Ghosts of Mary Lincoln’

The place: Dugan’s Yard Playhouse, Woodland Hills (avenue handle supplied upon reservation)

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; ends Saturday

Tickets: Instructed donation $20


Operating time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

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