Monday, January 14, 2019

NBY - JANUARY COLUMN: A Misunderstanding - Rod Serling's Stories From The Zone - 1776 The Musical - Sisters Three


A MISUNDERSTANDING (Hollywood)
In this challenging drama of ideas, playwright Matt Chait plays a biology professor who has been dismissed from the University of California for sharing his spiritual views with his science students. In today’s ever-increasingly partisan world, here is a philosophical and humorous exploration of the misunderstandings that arise when people with radically different world views become wary of one another and unable to communicate. According to Chait: …it’s about the essence of reality itself, and about the difficulty people have in understanding one another when the lens through which they view reality differs. Although my head was very much at work in the writing, so was my heart and my sense of humor. Directed by Elina de Santos, co-artistic director of Rogue Machine Theatre, and presented by Rubidor Productions. At The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood. Tickets: 323-960-4418 or www.plays411.com/misunderstanding.
After seeing the play here are my thoughts:
By juxtaposing two different scenarios, Chait brings what could be philosophical abstracts to life. A young couple are torn apart when one of them is ever so practical about science, while the other a sensitive philosophical skeptic; while a college professor is placed on trial by his superior for preaching spiritual questions to a presumably hard-line science class. In the end it is up to each member of the audience to decide whether either one is right or wrong, or maybe perhaps they all are! You go and decide for yourself.
ROD SERLING’S STORIES FROM THE ZONE (Beverly Hills)
Perhaps some of you might recognize these two classic episodes of Rod Serling’s best-loved TV series, adapted by Jeff G. Rack, who co-directed with Charlie Mount. 1.MR. GARRITY AND THE GRAVES: In the Old West circa 1890, a man and his wagon find their way into the town of Happiness, Arizona. The man claims to have the ability to resurrect the dead, but some of the townspeople figure that resurrecting the folks planted up on Boot Hill might not be the best idea! 2.WILL THE REAL MARTIAN PLEASE STAND UP!: Passengers on a snow-bound bus bound for Boston are stranded at a roadside diner and start to realize that one of them is actually an invader from Mars! Produced by David Hunt Stafford, for Theatre 40, in association with Arcane Theatreworks. At Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 S. Moreno Dr. Beverly Hills. Free parking. Reservations: (310) 364-3606 or www.theatre40.org
1776 THE MUSICAL (La Mirada)
Before Hamilton, I saw this rousing 1969 show about the founding of America, with music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards and book by Peter Stone. It was a huge hit, a Tony Award-winner and ran for over three years. It begins with a deadlocked Congress (sound familiar?) where attempts to adopt the Declaration of Independence are boiling over in heated confrontations. By the evening of July 2nd, the two sides are still miles apart, but remarkably, these contentious Founding Fathers harness their shared determination to do the right thing for a fledgling nation. Engaging, tuneful, witty and passionate, this clever musical depicts the likes of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson with humor and humanity. Irreverent and certainly topical, this revival is directed and staged by Glenn Casale, with musical direction by Jeff Rizzo. At La Mirada Theatre For The Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Boulevard (near Rosecrans Ave). Tickets: (562) 944-9801 or (714) 994-6310 or www.lamiradatheatre.com. Free Parking.
 SISTERS THREE (East Hollywood)
How might the 19th Century Brontë Sisters adapt in the 21st Century? In this modern retelling, Jane Eyre author Charlotte has dropped out of society and joined an ‘anti-technology’ commune. It’s an off-center drama about family, social media, fame, and holidays, while paying homage to the Brontë sisters and their brother Patrick. Says writer Jami Brandli: This play was inspired by the Bronte sisters, all novelists and poets. Though it’s not a biography, the fascinating sibling dynamic includes their brother Patrick, who was a painter… a complicated family of artists now living in a society that seems to place more value on the veneer of a perfect Instagram post, rather than appreciating the beautiful complexities of reality. Inkwell Theater at the VS. Theatre, 5453 Pico Blvd, (near Hauser), LA. Reservations: https://inkwelltheater.com


Thursday, December 6, 2018

NBY – DECEMBER COLUMN: A Carol Christmas, It's A Wonderful Life, Here's Johnny, Sugar Plum Fairy & Love Actually Live


Looks like some wonderful Holiday shows are celebrating this month, so here’s a few live shows to take the grand-kids to…
A CAROL CHRISTMAS – North Hollywood
The Group Rep presents a new musical version of the immortal Charles Dickens classic - instead of a miserly man named Scrooge we have a domineering woman named Carol. A successful hostess of a home-shopping network show, she despises Christmas and demands that her staff work through the holidays. There are 17 new songs, and all of the characters you know and love including Jacob Marley, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim and three Christmas Ghosts. It’s a fun, charming, family-friendly new musical. Adapted by Doug Haverty, with direction and songs by Bruce Kimmel, musical direction by Richard Allen, and choreography by Kay Cole. At the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd, NoHo. Tickets: (818) 763-5990 or www.thegrouprep.com



IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE & 
HERE’S JOHNNY – Cahuenga

Theatre West, who recently unveiled this glorious outdoor Judy Garland mural, has a number of December shows to catch. Based on the original 1947 Lux Radio Theatre version, Philip Matt Johnson directs this radio-drama style staging of the holiday classic It's A Wonderful Life. The cast includes Philip Sokoloff, Bonnie Kalisher, Maria Kress, Loida Navas, Sara Shearer, Tammy Taylor, Tatum Shank, Michael Van Duzer, Don Moore, James J. Cox, and Bill Sehres. Don’t forget to watch Jill Jones, the Foley master, magically recreating the old radio sounds. George Tovar produces for On The Air Players. Then on December 15, Here’s Johnny!, an afternoon of Music and Fun with actor-singer Giovanni Ferretti, who will delight with Romantic Ballads, favorite Opera arias and Neapolitan Folk songs. That’s Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. Info: http://theatrewest.org.
 
 SUGAR PLUM FAIRY – Los Feliz
This thoroughly original holiday treat tells the story of a 12 year-old girl who dreams of dancing the lead in The Nutcracker and the audience is invited to join in the fun. Created by NPR’s Sandra Tsing Loh's, this festive cheer is appropriate for ages 8 to 80. So bring the little ones and come decked out in bright holiday sweaters, tutus, red jammies and Hanukah hats, and be prepared to join in the madcap merriment. Bart De Lorenzo directs, Sandra Tsing Loh, Tony Abatemarco, and Shannon Holt perform. It’s a modern take on the Christmas season, and if you sit close enough to the stage you might go home with one of the show's props! Sandra Tsing Loh’s daily NPR radio minute, The Loh Down on Science, is internationally syndicated and heard locally on KPCC (89.3 FM). At Skylight Theatre, 1816 ½ North Vermont, LA. Tickets online at http://SkylightTix.org

LOVE ACTUALLY LIVE – Beverly Hills
If you enjoyed the star-studded 2003 movie, Love Actually, then don’t miss this live theatre production at The Wallis. Presented by special arrangement with Universal Theatrical Group, the Bram Goldsmith Theater is transformed into a giant, immersive modern-day cinema. This one-of-a-kind presentation is performed live by an all-star cast and 15-piece orchestra, and includes songs from the film, such as Christmas Is All Around, The Trouble with Love Is, and Both Sides Now. In case you missed the film, it showed different aspects of love through ten separate stories involving a wide variety of individuals, many interlinked as the tales progressed. Now in a three-dimensional world, scenery and video screens intertwine, providing a canvas upon which actors weave between projections as they bring scenes to life through the movie’s songs. At Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills. Tickets: (310) 746-4000 or http://TheWallis.org

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

NBY OCTOBER COLUMN: OPPENHEIMER & FINKS - LOST IN TIME - BEAUTY QUEEN OF LENANE - THE RESCUED



OPPENHEIMER & FINKS (Venice)  Both Tom Morton-Smith’s play OPPENHEIMER and Joe Gilford’s FINKS will be playing in repertory as both examine socialism and communism movements in America in the 30s-50s. In OPPENHEIMER, directed by Artistic Director, John Perrin Flynn, we see the personal cost of making history as he struggles to cast off his radical past beliefs. While FINKS, directed by Michael Pressman, is a searing view of the blacklisting that resulted from these movements. Rogue Machine at Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave, Venice. (855) 585-5185 or www.roguemachinetheatre.com
LOST IN TIME (Atwater) When an older man wakes up one morning as his twenty-three-year-old self, he believes now is a chance to rectify the mess he’s made of his life. But when he attempts to alter his story by romancing the woman he knows will be his wife, it goes badly, and he finds himself in a desperate battle to save his future. Says director Keith Szarabajka, “Who hasn’t thought at one time or another, if only I could go back and do it all over again…knowing then what I know now!” Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave. LA. (818) 839-1197 or https://dime.io/events/lost-in-time
BEAUTY QUEEN OF LENANE (Hollywood) 
In a remote cottage in Ireland, beautiful Maureen has been caring for her manipulative, aging mother Mag for twenty years. When Maureen has a chance at happiness with a local beau, suffocated dreams and simmering resentments surface. From writer Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) comes this darkly comic tale. Developed at Actor’s Studio and directed by Mark Kemble. At Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave, Hollywood. (323) 960-7774 or www.plays411.com/leenane
THE RESCUED (North Hollywood) 
What happens to a human being after being abused, forgotten, and living in a cage for years? Do we find the same compassion for them, that we might find for rescue animals? Follow six souls who spend the day singing, sleeping, and comparing memories from their past with the reality of the present. Can they learn how to trust, how to love and be loved, and how to finally feel free? Written by Julie Marie Myatt, directed by Marya Mazor. At Road Theatre on Magnolia, NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd. NoHo. (818) 761-8838 or www.RoadTheatre.org

From my column in the October issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY




Wednesday, October 3, 2018

OLD CLOWN WANTED review




Ionesco meets Beckett in this delightfully enigmatic comedy inspired by a 1970 Federico Fellini film. It’s at an open-call theatre audition – or is it - where three former circus stars are vying for a job. Time has passed but memories of the glory days still throb in their hearts. They had performed together many years before and now, taken back in time, their circus act comes to life. These three marvelous performers transform from decrepit oldsters to their youthful past selves but rivalry, that old show-biz demon, humorously arises and causes conflict.

Alan Abelew as Niccolo is cleverly devious but sadly vulnerable; Jose A. Garcia as Filippo is a delightful nag but has a tender heart beneath, and Beth Hogan as Peppino, the classic actress, hilariously takes one-up-man-ship to a new level. All are superbly clownish performers who personify the hidden heartbreak under greasepaint and funny red noses. The ending is wonderfully ambiguous and hardly what was expected. Or was it? Go and see for yourself.

By Romanian-French playwright Matei Vişniec, translated by Jeremy Lawrence, and directed by Romanian-born Florinel Fatulescu.

At Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd, West LA. (310) 477-2055 or OdysseyTheatre.com.

Photos by Enci.

Also featured in the October issue of Not Born Yesterday.



Thursday, September 13, 2018

BLACK! in West Hollywood




Intriguing and challenging. British actor, playwright and storyteller Michael Washington Brown impersonates four different men from around the world, each culturally identified as ‘black’ but who have very different ideas about what that means.  

There’s an ingenuous young American who loves Rap but not the hostile type; a studious Brit trying to decipher where he fits in to the ‘white’ culture; a mature man of the Islands full of pride and fatherly concern, and a philosophic South African sadly questioning the enmity between black Africans that causes atrocities. More than just character studies, Brown’s exploration of the word ‘black’ examines race from a global perspective. 

Says Brown, “There are so many stereotypes that seem to mesh all black people and their stories together. But not all of us are African-American, and we don’t all share the same experience. This show looks at race through a much wider lens.”


Technical design by Caitlin Rucker. At Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood. 
Tickets: (800) 838-3006 or blackonemanshow.brownpapertickets.com.


Also reviewed in the October issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

ARRIVAL & DEPARTURE





We are in the New York City subway in this modern-day version of Noel Coward’s classic Brief Encounter and again here are two people, meant for each other, who can never realize the happiness it promises. Stephen Sachs has written and directed this extraordinarily moving play with a new approach: the eloquent man is Deaf and the troubled woman hard-of-hearing as are the two actors. Their communications are all by signing and yet we hear their voices through other actors and their words by writing on the walls. By framing this against vivid fast-moving film of NYC crowds and scenes, Sachs draws us into that dynamic high-energy milieu.

Heading the superb cast are Troy Kotsur and Deanne Bray, and there is an intensity to their performances that transcends imaginary characters. Bray’s Emily especially tears at our hearts. Married to a good but insensitive man, with a rebellious teenage daughter, her need for tenderness is palpable. Kotsur’s Sam is a teacher at a school for the Deaf, who gives support wherever he finds need while asking for little in return. When he forms a bond with Emily he opens himself to longings and emotions he has held in check for years. Their final parting although anticipated (we all know the original story) has an impact that resonates deeply. The ever haunting – if only

 
Adding to the intensity of the play are parallel stories, with Jessica Jade Andres and Shon Fuller (Waitress vs. Subway Cop) teasing and battling in their longing to connect honestly. Aurelia Myers’ troubled teenager searches desperately for love on social media. Brian Robert Burns is touching as Emily’s sincere but mystified husband, while Adam Burch and Stasha Surdyke are splendid in multiple roles. 

At The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave (at Normandie) in Hollywood.

Photos by Ed Krieger.

Also reviewed in the September issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY

NBY SEPTEMBER: SCHOOL GIRLS - PARADISE - HOLE IN THE SKY

Maame Yaa Boafo



SCHOOL GIRLS: THE AFRICAN MEAN-GIRLS PLAY
If you think bullying is a problem in the USA, here is another view. Paulina (Maame Yaa Boafo), the reigning queen bee at Ghana’s exclusive boarding school, has her sights set on the Miss Universe Pageant. But Ericka (Joanna A. Jones), a new student with beauty and talent, captures the attention of the pageant recruiter and Paulina and friends gear up for battle! 
Jocelyn Bioh’s biting comedy explores the universal similarities facing teenage girls across the globe. Said Frank Scheck in his Hollywood Reporter review: School Girls is a ferociously entertaining morality tale that proves as heartwarming as it is hilarious. Directed by Rebecca Taichman. At The Kirk Douglas Theatre, Culver City.

PARADISE
This Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy is set in a Southern coal-mining town going from boom to bust. A charismatic preacher arrives, along with a sexy gal he rescued from a stripper pole! But there’s a Hollywood TV producer, with Reality-Show contacts, who has an idea of how to make the town great again. Music & book by Cliff Wagner, book & lyrics by Bill Robertson and Tom Page. Directed by Michael Myers. At Ruskin Group Theatre, 3000 Airport Road, Santa Monica (lotsa free parking).



HOLE IN THE SKY 
This on-site experience is staged at a working horse-ranch about 15 minutes north of Burbank. A young woman returns home to find her family and community in a bitter fight over who owns the local groundwater during a devastating California drought. 
People are trying to live with nature, but nature doesn’t seem to want them there. Playwright Octavio Solis based his timely play on interviews in rural Siskiyou County. Directed by Kate Jopson. At Courtship Ranch, 11270 Dominica Ave, Lake View Terrace, CA 91342. Info: www.circlextheatre.org