The life of the Buddha in his own words - the evolution of his thought, his triumphs, and the rarely portrayed tragedy at the end of his life. The West Coast premiere of Evan Brenner's moving and enlightening one-man play, Buddha – A Fantastic Journey now under the direction of John C. Reilly, gets a limited four-week engagement through March 4 at the Bootleg Theater.
The man we know as the Buddha lived in Northern India around 500BC and introduced the teaching known as Buddhism. After his death, an extensive oral history of the movement was written down and carried throughout Asia, becoming the taproot for all Buddhist traditions. Framed in a most unusual and personal context, writer/performer Evan Brenner brings selections from these texts to the stage, unchanged, to enact the extraordinary life of the man from start to finish. It's an epic story of personal struggle, supreme enlightenment and horrific tragedy.
"I found myself discouraged by the confusing and contradictory array of Buddhist teachings, so I set out to discover what I perceived to be the source of the Buddha's teaching," explains Brenner. "I became deeply engaged in the sutras which are really quite dramatic and work really well just as a story. And so I had a eureka moment: what if I did the Buddha as a one-man play - in his own words, taken directly from the sutras?"
It's no dry tale: the Buddha's life stands among the great archetypal adventure stories. Brenner workshopped the play for two years before premiering it at Boston Center for the Arts in 2009. "Enchanting, poignant, revealing, compelling-I loved it!" raved Boston Globe critic Terry Byrne. The Boston Heraldwrote, "Riveting! Brenner is a subtle and masterful storyteller." Agreed Boston Metro, "Wonderfully entertaining… marvelous to experience." Following the Boston production, Brenner has toured with Buddha to performing arts venues around North America including New York, Pittsburgh and Denver.
Evan Brenner majored in Drama and Religion at Vassar College then received a Masters Degree in Dramatic Writing at Loyola Marymount University. His writing and directing credits include both film (The Riddle, Two Bits, and Dr. Fisher) and television (America's Most Wanted and Little Bill.) As an actor, he appeared in the films The Deep and Dreamless Sleep, Two Boneheads, West Side Evan, Spare Me and Waking up Crazy. Evan has practiced meditation and studied Buddhism for more than twenty years and since 2003 has pursued canonical sutra studies in the Therevada tradition. He is particularly interested in the Buddha's life as an expression and example of spiritual struggle, achievement, and on-going challenge.
Oscar and Tony-nominated actor John C. Reilly is best known for his roles in respected films like What's Eating Gilbert Grape,Georgia, Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Chicago, Gangs of New York, The Aviator, Talladega Nights, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Cedar Rapids and, most recently, Roman Polanski's Carnage. He received his BFA in Acting from DePaul University in Chicago and made his professional stage debut with Chicago's Organic Theatre, where he also wrote and directed a series of monologues called Walkin' the Boogie. He appeared with the prestigious Steppenwolf Theatre Company inOthello and again in the 1988 premiere of The Grapes of Wrath which transferred to Broadway and went on to earn a Tony Award for Best Play. In 2000, Reilly returned to Broadway in Sam Shepard's True West, in which he and co-star Philip Seymour Hoffman displayed their extraordinary range by alternating their roles as feuding brothers throughout the show's four-month run, both receiving Tony nominations.
Buddha – A Fantastic Journey runs Fridays and Saturdays @ 7:30 pm (please note early curtain time) through March 4. There will be one Sunday matinee on March 4 @ 3 pm. Tickets are $30. The Bootleg Theater is located at 2220 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles CA 90057. For reservations and information, call 800-838-3006 or visit www.thebuddhaplay.com.