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The Trip Back Down (Whitefire Theatre)

John Bishop’s 1977 drama has been given a fine revival in Sherman Oaks at the Whitefire Theatre.  Bishop (1929-2006) wrote a number of credible plays over the years and this one, in spite of a much-too-long length (apparently the publishers wouldn’t allow any cuts), is compelling.

An insider’s look at Nascar drivers and their followers – willing women and starstruck drunks – and how both winning and losing impact on their psyches.
Bobby Horvath (Nick Stabile) has been a star on the track for a decade or more but has emotionally burned-out.  His wife left him, his kid is alienated, and his father and brother don’t know how to deal with him any longer.  But Bobby is finally coming to grips with the reality (and unreality) of that rarified world and has come home to his small community to try and find himself.

Amid many flashbacks, we watch him evolve from a teenage racing wonder to his shell-existence in 1975 when the play takes place.  His wife, Joann (Eve Danzeisen), her brother, John Meeghan (Gregory G. Giles), Bobby’s brother, Frank (Kevin Brief), his wife, Barbara (Meredith Thompson) and father, Will (Larrs Jackson), all have to deal with him in his current off-putting presence.

Bishop did a fine job of presenting these folk in a natural setting, letting his plot come out of character.  (The original Broadway production was directed by Terry Schreiber in 1977.)  He created authentic folk, making their dilemmas, small as they are, products of human frailty. 

Director Teri Hanauer has cast it adroitly, with Stabile and the balance of the company is fine fettle.  As episodic as it is, she keeps the action fluid, with the cast changing the sets quickly so that little time is wasted.  Bishop’s play could have used some trimming, with at least two endings before the official one, but even at the 2hour/45 minute length, it still resonates with the audience.

This is a strong production of a fine play and deserves to be discovered by audiences.  One note of caution:  parking in the area is tough, although they do have paid valet parking available, so allow yourself extra time to find street parking.

The Trip Back Down plays through March 29th, 2014, at the Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423.  Tickets:  323.960.7712 or