When “It’s a Wonderful Life” is brought up in conversation, people immediately picture Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore in Frank Capra’s 1946 motion picture; however, the one-man show that is currently playing at Two Roads Theatre in Studio City, Calif. with the same title is not exactly an adaptation. What takes place in the petite theater in between coffee and knick-knack shops is an intimate story of a life of hardship, strife and turmoil, and how it was turned around to make a difference.
The tiny theater, which is entirely painted black, has no set decoration or props in the room, except for three square wooden boxes in the center of the stage and a couple of red lights to accent the floor in addition to the standard stage lighting. The room is completely silent — that is, until a tall, dark (okay, and handsome) figure comes out from behind the curtain to the left, a man dressed in very simple attire: a white T-shirt, blue jeans and a pair of dressed-up work boots, with his hair pulled up in a neat chaos of dreadlocks and braids. The minute the curtain opens, a smile forms on his face and he greets the audience.
His name is Charles Michael Edmonds, although the audience soon discovers that he goes by “Mike.” He begins to explain that his “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a story about his struggle with a major cocaine addiction and how Capra’s movie has helped him maintain his sobriety in a tale that is the perfect mix of melancholy and empowerment.
Edmonds paints the scene by explaining the first time he came in contact with cocaine, his eventual drug of choice. His four friends and he had decided to take an impromptu trip from New York to Washington, D.C. to meet up with their senior class that was there on a trip. Somewhere along the way, his friends came in contact with cocaine and were planning to sell it. While his friends ended up trying the drug, Edmonds decided against it.
That is, however, until about two weeks after that trip was over. Almost immediately, Edmonds becomes a victim of an addiction, though he refused to believe he was in trouble. That refusal continued long into his recovery time at a drug rehabilitation center in Minnesota, which wasn’t quite the picture-perfect vision of a facility by the beach that he was looking forward to.
Each day of Edmonds’ detox brought new challenges that he would face, along with new eye-opening epiphanies.
His regimen started his path toward the realization that everyone around him had a problem, though he, of course, was fine. It did not take long, however, until Edmonds began to see that if all of these people had the same problems he did, he might just be a little worse off than he had ever imagined.
The rest of Edmonds’ story depicts the struggle he had with his family, his so-called friends and himself as he tried to get through life while on cocaine.
Each moment of his tribulations through rehab showed a different side of Edmonds, and while he tells the story, you can literally see the man called “Mike” change before your eyes.
The man who began the rehab process by stating, “This is why we get high — we don’t like feelings,” begins to take that feeling into account and learns how to change his life so that feelings not only become more bearable, but also something necessary to living his life.Edmonds relates this effortlessly to the main protagonist (played by Jimmy Stewart) in the film version of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” as he feels like he is getting a second chance in a similar way to Stewart’s character.
While the writing of Edmonds’ story is stunning and enticing, it could not have been performed by anyone else.
The way Edmonds acts out each scene is so intricately detailed, it makes the audience feel like it is in the rehab facility with him, despite the fact that Edmonds is sitting alone on an empty, dark stage. His stage presence is enough to force the audience into laughter, tears and astonishment with every word that hangs off of his lips.
“It’s a Wonderful Life” is running every Friday and Saturday night at 8 p.m. from now until June 27.