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Tara Fass, LMFT
Tara Fass, LMFT Licensed Psychotherapist in Los Angeles
6mo Story
'The Joy Wheel':  How Stella and Frank Got their Groove Back

                Known worldwide as George Costanza from the 'Seinfield' show, Jason Alexander discusses the world premiere of “The Joy Wheel" presented by the Ruskin Group Theatre has been extended until the end of March 2019.  

Written by Ian McRae, Directed by Jason Alexander, Starring Dann Florek (Frank), Gina Hecht (Stella), Lee Garlington (Margie) and Maury Sterling (Stew). 

We all know folks like Frank and Stella.  They may be you.  If you're too young and not there yet, they could be your parents, aunts, uncles or their friends.  You may worry about them.  They are the proverbial 'salt of the earth,' people who have worked hard all of their lives, anchors of their communities who are of retirement age.  Life for them is dramatically changing.  You may wonder what are their plans for navigating this passage?  

'The Joy Wheel' portrays a couple ripe for a middle age makeover.  I call this passage another adolescence aka the 'adult-essence' transformation with the last third of life to live.  If they continue to evolve differently, without a common purpose in their respective outlooks and goals in life, a 'grey divorce'  may be in the offing. There could still be time to save themselves from that trouble.  The changes they honor now could be a way to rally and turn back to each other instead. 

Keeping the courtship alive.  This may be the single most important challenge every relationship faces, especially long term ones.  What can Stella and Frank look forward to in their 'wisdom years' other than failing health?  How are they going to manage the transition and continue to make meaning of their existence?

Stella embraces her vulnerability.  Her authentic and genuine suffering is sincere. Stella takes her misery seriously.  Instead of going down the road of complaining, becoming resentful and acting out, instead she stands up for herself. Ironically, Stella's greatest strength is what Frank mocks.  Undeterred, Stella's fortitude lies in her recognition of outworn and counter productive assumptions rather than continuing to align with Frank's resignation and despair.  What may appear counter intuitive and irrational to Frank at first, saves them both precisely because Stella persists.  

Stella has a comrade, Margie, in her journey.  She is positively influenced by a neighborhood seeker further along the path of self-discovery, excited to bring Stella into her circle of care.  Together they inspire each other and conspire to bring Frank along with them.  

Frank vociferously resists at first.  Instead he turns to another troubled curmudgeon, the paranoid survivalist Stew.  Worse off than himself, Stew allows Frank the 'luxury' of hiding and covering up his anxiety which ultimately morphs into incompetence.  Stew and Frank pump up their sense of powerlessness and irrelevance with empty rhetoric until the ruse falls apart under the weight of its sanctimony and dangerous contradictions.  To paraphrase the late writer James Baldwin, once the hate is gone they will have to deal with their pain.    

In time Frank chooses to strengthen his connection to Stella.  He realizes she is in the light and right.  His love for her and the vision she represents is the more compelling, sustaining and life affirming.   Without giving away too much of this hilarious and at times chilling plot, feelings of loss are reinvigorated into a more vibrant new phase of their lives.  


  The live theater scene is part of what is so wonderful about Los Angeles.  Like Ruskin, there are dozens of small houses hiding in plain sight.   On these stages relative unknowns strive to be discovered.  On others such as this production of the 'The Joy Wheel,' the familiar faces of working actors keep their 'game on' in between film and television gigs.  

For almost 20 years, the Ruskin has operated an acting school with community outreach programs in addition to a small live theater located within the Santa Monica Airport which includes a variety of park land, playing fields and public gardens.  

'The Joy Wheel' runs Thursdays - Saturday at 8pm, Sundays 2pm through March 31, 2019 (no performance on Thursday, March 28).  Ruskin Group Theatre is located at 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405.  Tickets are $30 - $35 and can be purchased in advance by calling (310) 397-3244.  Free parking available on site (which means a lot in Los Angeles).      

2 replies

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  • bosssmca
    6mo ago

    Loved this show! Dann Florek was amazing! 

    Loved this show! Dann Florek was amazing! 

    • Tara Fass, LMFT
      Tara Fass, LMFT Licensed Psychotherapist in Los Angeles
      6mo ago

      I did too.  I think it will go far.  If I had a crystal ball I'd say this play has legs and for good reason.  

      I did too.  I think it will go far.  If I had a crystal ball I'd say this play has legs and for good reason.  

Tara Fass, LMFT
Licensed Psychotherapist in Los Angeles

Tara Fass, LMFT #35078, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles, California. She treats adults and couples dealing with a broad range of issues from navigating the legacy of divorce in one's life, to the quarter life crisis and conscious aging. Together we attempt to make meaning [...]

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