Elizabeth is convinced her husband Robert is at death’s door, and she’s determined to get the whole brood together for a final family holiday, quickly, before his bird has flown. Of course, all three kids and their spouses have their own lives, agendas and emergencies, but a few obstacles won’t stop Elizabeth. Some people will do anything to defend their nest in the world premiere of Last Swallows, a modern family dramatic comedy by Cailin Harrison. Kiff Scholl directs Pandelia’s Canary Yellow Company’s production, opening on September 21 with a run through October 20 at the The Other Space @The Actors Company in West Hollywood. One lower-priced preview takes place on September 20.
Last Swallows is set in present day New England and framed through the contemporary scope of a diverse family including the spouses of the families’ adult siblings. The retired patriarch who is happy to see life go by through binoculars birdwatching while the doting matriarch only wants her family to all be together. Harrison gets up close and personal with the dynamics of the parents, their three adult children and their spouses, with all the attendant ups and downs. Last Swallows shows how even families who love one another can be amazingly dysfunctional. As the saying goes, ‘You can pick your spouse but not their family.’ The play is foremost a comedy about a family bickering relentlessly about every little thing but also a drama about how life can take painful and unexpected turns.
Shaw Purnell (Villain, Deathtrap, Death of a Miner) stars as Elizabeth Whitestone, the matriarch of the family; and Bob Telford (Waiting for Grace, A Few Good Men, The Big Snake) portrays Robert Whitestone, the patriarch. Tina Van Berckelaer (Grand Guignolers de Paris, recently performed with The Porters of Hellsgate, The Theatre @Boston Court, Sacred Fools Theatre) plays the eldest child Julia Whitestone Gray, who is married with children to Edward Gray, played by Matthew Downs (roles in the films Straight Outta Compton, In Plain Sight, Timeless); Ty Mayberry (Argonautika, The Glass Menagerie, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Henry V) plays middle child Thomas Whitestone, who is happily child-free and married to bi-racial Moira Grady, played by Leilani Smith (Dancing Lessons, Flyin’ West, Home); Abby Eiland (Welcome to Santa, Classy Parties which she co-wrote, and best actor at the Almeria Western Film Festival for her role in Cassidy Red) plays the youngest child, Dr. Caroline Whitestone Perry, who is in a same-sex marriage with children to Simone Perry, an Asian-American politician played by Leah Zhang (Ocean’s Twelve).
“Loosely based on my husband’s family, I wrote Last Swallows, first and foremost as a sort of thank you to my mother-in-law, but also because it’s a universal story of family dynamics and the squabbling that comes with the territory,” exclaims Harrison. “The feedback from those who have read the play is always the same, ‘that’s exactly my family!’, completely relatable. This is a story about an outsider trying to become part of her husband’s family and a mother-in-law who learns to appreciate her.“
Playwright Cailin Harrison, an American and Irish citizen, is a graduate of the USC MFA screenwriting program. Some of her plays that have hit the stage include “Waitless” (full length drama) which was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2015, and won the Hollywood Fringe Festival Producer’s Choice Award in 2014; It was also produced by No Strings Company in New Mexico 2018. “China Smoke” had a showcase workshop at Neo Ensemble and East West Players in 2017; “Last Swallows” held a public workshop at Fierce Backbone in 2018; “Whole Foods” and “Talk in Ten” (short plays) at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in 2012; “Oh Christmas Tree – Why Me?” at the MonoSlam series at Secret Rose, Hollywood in 2011; “Binding Ties” (full length drama) at Network Theatre/Man on the Moon Productions, London in 2010; “Connections” (one act) at Cheeky Maggot Theatre as a staged workshop in 2009; “Connections” (ten minute version) was part of the Short and Sweet International Festival including Manila and Hollywood, and “Time Out” was performed at the New York Fringe Festival in 2001.
Harrison’s past work in film and tv includes time with companies including CBS, FOX, USA, New Line, Columbia Pictures and Viacom Networks and ISSA-UK. She is currently a member of Fierce Backbone, Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights, the Dramatist Guild, American A Community T and several USC women’s film organizations.
In November, Harrison returns with her play Defenders which will have its first full run at the Broadwater Theater in Hollywood. Taking place during WWII with three American G.I.s who are shipwrecked on a tiny Icelandic island, Defenders explores where the lines between myth and reality and between the past and present blur. Defenders was originally part of a public workshop weekend production with Drive Theatre/Fierce Backbone at Son of Semele in 2016.
Kiff Scholl’s recent directorial productions include The Direction Home, West Bollywood, The Last Schwartz, Brilliant Traces, The Red Dress, Wicked Pagan Gays, Future Sex, Inc., Please Don’t Ask About Becket, Dinner at Home Between Deaths, and Moon Over Buffalo (BroadwayWorld nominee). Other critically acclaimed productions include La Bête and world premieres Car Plays, A Mulholland Christmas Carol; Middle Savage; Act a Lady; and Don Giovanni Tonight, Don Carlo Tomorrow at Sacred Fools, about which the LA Times observed “Director Kiff Scholl has few peers at keeping us intrigued.” His shows have garnered seven Backstage Garland awards, five LA Weekly awards, a GLAAD nomination and an Ovation award. Scholl was listed as “one of LA’s emerging and accomplished stage directors” by the LA Weekly. Other favorites include The Poseidon Adventure-The Musical!, and Kill Me, Deadly, and Shake at Theatre of NOTE. An award-winning filmmaker, his feature “Scream of the Bikini” won numerous awards, including a Maverick Movie Award for Best Director (Amazon/ Japan: “Spy Mission”). His films include “11/11/11” (Netflix), “Surprise” (Dekkoo), and Medicare Mermaids which he co-wrote and directed www.MedicareMermaids.com. As an actor, Kiff recently starred in Nancy F***ing Reagan, lots of commercials, also “Criminal Minds”, “Reno 911!”, “Untold Stories of the ER”, “Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss”, “11/11/11”, “Girls Will Be Girls 2012” and a lead on “Be Cool, Scooby Doo”.
The creative team for Last Swallows includes set designer Brad Bentz, sound designer Jesse Mandapat and costume designer Alex Jaeger. The production stage manager is Seira Murakami, and Racquel Lehrman, Theatre Planners produces.
Last Swallows opens on Saturday, September 21 at 8:00 p.m., with performances continuing on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through October 20. There is one preview performance on Friday, September 20 at 8 p.m. General admission is $20 for the preview and $30 for performances.
The Other Space @The Actors Company is located at 916 A North Formosa Avenue
West Hollywood, CA 90046. For more information and to purchase tickets, call (323) 960-5770 or go to www.Onstage411.com/swallows.