Review by: Peter Foldy
It is well documented fact that a boy’s relationship with his father is probably the most important one he will ever know. A hostile or unavailable father can burden a young man with bagage that he may carry for the rest of his life. This was certainly the case for Christian Brando, the son of legendary actor Marlon Brando. In many ways, Christian’s turbulantlife was shaped by his interaction, or lack of one, with his brilliant father, perhaps best remembered for his portrayal of Don Corleone in the 1972 film, “The Godfather.”
The program for WILD SON: The Testimony of Christian Brando, now playing at the Santa Monica Playhouse, tells us that playwright/director, Champ Clark, met the younger Brando in 2005. The two became friends and before long Clark was putting Christian’s recollections on tape.
This one-man show, based upon those interviews, is a revealing look at young Brando’s turbulent life. His story is filled with anecdotes populated by the likes of Jack Nicholson, Michael Jackson, Johnny Depp, Sean Penn, Anjelica Huston, and Robert Blake among others.
Actor, John Mese delivers the narrative with confident, self-deprecating humor and earnest conviction.
Christian Brando’s life was centered on and around abandonment. He was left to fend for himself at a very early age. His mother, unhinged and uninterested, uses the boy to hurt her ex-husband. As Christian grows into a “wild child,” embarking on sexual romps starting at age 13 and stealing drugs from his “uncle” Jack Nicholson, his notoriously promiscuous father begins to see Christian as a threat, perhaps even as competition. “There is only one star in this family,” Marlon Brando tells his son.
At one point Christian is banished to the Midwest, and later to a Tahitian island where he is left to live without his parents for periods of time.
As he grows older and eventually returns to Hollywood, psycho-dramas seem to follow him everywhere. He struggles to find balance and happiness but he is constantly haunted by memories of a hostile, humiliating father and an uncaring mother. It’s no wonder that the troubled young man we meet in “Wild Son” comes across as brash and dangerous on the outside, while on the inside he nurses a broken heart. This is a story worth knowing–and a play worth seeing.
What: Wild Son: The Testimony of Christian Brando
Where: Santa Monica Playhouse (Main Stage), 1211 4th Street, Santa Monica, CA 9040. Parking at nearby City Garage on 4th Street, or street parking.
When: Sundays, through May 26th
Time: 5:30 pm
Tickets: $20.00 General Admission
Reservations: Online at wildson.brownpapertickets.com and by calling 800-838-3006