Saturday, November 16, 2019

TITUS ANDRONICUS - Or How I Love All of Shakespeare’s Play’s but One…



    

    Having directed a production of this really sadistic play, and after shuddering through Julie Taymor’s gruesome film TITUS, I am always reluctant to attend live performances of this play. Well, a braver soul than I, name of Mikey Mulhearn, just gave the lie to my timidity with a bold production at the Kimpton Everly Hotel in Hollywood. Mulhearn presents non-traditional Shakespeare with his gender-bending company SHAKESPEARE ON THE DECK now in its 2nd year.

    My theater colleague, costume designer Tricia Stubbs, has been urging me to come along and see for myself the unique approach of this new group. Here are her comments after attending a performance of Titus last month:
“This play was first performed somewhere between 1590-1594 making it one of his earlier plays and his first tragedy. The setting tells the story of the fictional Roman general, Titus Andronicus, who comes back from a 10-year war with the Goths where he has lost 21 of his sons. He returns with Tamora, Queen of the Goths, as hostage with her 3 sons. When he sacrifices her eldest son in revenge for his own dead sons, he sets off a chain of horror starting with the rape and mutilation of his own daughter.
This production was both brilliant and powerful, each character well defined, each actor speaking their lines clearly, distinctly and with true passion. Shah Granville (Titus), Keaton Shyler (Tamora), Nima Rad (Lavinia) and Jahel Caldera (Aaron the Moor) head this superb gender neutral and race neutral company. Although there was no comic relief in this play, the fact that a white liquid was used in place of red blood lightened this otherwise very heavy show.”


Mulhearn directs his own adaptations of each play and transforms the space beneath the hotel’s Everbar into a fantastic otherworld. A new program, "Shakes After Dark," will include folio classes, public readings, fight nights, and free Shakespeare in a bar. For info: www.shakesonthedeck.com



Tuesday, November 5, 2019

LOVE IN BLOOM (Santa Monica Playhouse) - REVIEW




For all you Shakespeare aficionados this feel-good, bawdy musical comedy returns for another visit in tribute to the wenches and rogues of the Bard. They promise magic and mayhem, fops and fairies, mistaken identity, romance and humor, all in homage to Shakespeare himself, pantomimist Marcel Marceau, Commedia dell’arte and other classical theater. 

Written and directed by Evelyn Rudie and Chris DeCarlo. Reservations at www.santamonicaplayhouse.com/loveinbloom

REVIEW/COMMENT: Shakespeare meets Gilbert & Sullivan in a show that resonates with the convoluted plots of one (Will) and the witty song lyrics of the other (Gilbert). Yes, there’s amusing stand-ins for Titania (Evelyn Rudie) and Oberon (Chris DeCarlo) leading the way into romantic confusion. 
The Tempest storm is there, and a darling Caliban (Zane Garcia), those cleverly disguised separated twins (Tara Alexandra Brown & Cynthia Zitter), and a moody Prince turned frog (Patrick Censoplano), with a very bawdy wet nurse (Rachel Galper). Other metamorphic characters are all boldly realized by Graham Silbert to keep the show reeling. The show is magically performed bv this ever changing ensemble who populate the stage with myriad characters. Plaudits to all!



Tuesday, October 29, 2019

BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY - (Fountain Theatre) Review




Author Stephen Adly-Guirgis happens to be my favorite American playwright ever since I saw his “Last Days of Judas Iscariot” followed by other works. So, don’t miss it! In this Pulitzer-Prize-winning comedy, an elderly ex-cop in New York City, recently widowed, is facing eviction from his large rent-controlled apartment on Riverside Drive. 

He wants to make a home there for his newly-paroled son, but the landlord wants him out, the NYPD want to close a lawsuit, and the church is on his back. The Pulitzer committee called it, “a nuanced, beautifully written play… that uses dark comedy to confront questions of life and death.’ Director Guillermo Cienfuegos, another theatre favorite, warns that “The play explores issues of race, policing and gentrification…” subjects that are always potent in contemporary-realist Guirgis’ work. At the Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave (nr Normandie), in Hollywood. Tickets: (323) 663-1525 or www.FountainTheatre.com


REVIEW/COMMENT: As always, Guirgis creates a world as real as the one we inhabit ourselves and, just as our clever minds have figured out where he is going with his story, he surprises us with a revelation about human relationships that shocks us even as we recognize that this is the way life is.  
In this play, all relationships, whether the obviously loving or perhaps the unconsciously disdainful, are suspect. All great drama gives us a deeper understanding of who we are and yet reveals how blissfully fragile the truth always is. I always look for this “Revelation” in modern theater, and rarely find it, but Guirgis again comes through in this honest family drama.

With brilliant direction by Guillermo Cienfuegos, the superb cast is headed by Montae Russell, enigmatic and yet straightforward, as the beleaguered retired cop everyone calls Pops. Matthew Hancock as his rebellious son, and Victor Anthony his quixotic ward, both personify today's troubled youth searching for meaning. Joshua Bitton as an ambitious yet honest cop, and Lesley Fera as Pops loyal former partner, bring the outer world and its brutal realities into this sheltered home. Liza Fernandez is licentiously daring as a church lady on a mission, and Marisol Miranda is delightful as a seemingly tempestuous temptress. MMM 

Thursday, October 24, 2019

NBY. November 2019. BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY,FIFTEEN MEN IN A SMOKE-FILLED ROOM, DEFENDERS, LOVE IN BLOOM, NEIL SIMON'S MUSICAL FOOLS.



BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY (Hollywood)
Author Stephen Adly-Guirgis happens to be my favorite American playwright ever since I saw his “Last Days of Judas Iscariot” followed by other works. So, don’t miss it! In this Pulitzer-Prize-winning comedy, an elderly ex-cop in New York City, recently widowed, is facing eviction from his large rent-controlled apartment on Riverside Drive. He wants to make a home there for his newly-paroled son, but the landlord wants him out, the NYPD want to close a lawsuit, and the church is on his back. The Pulitzer committee called it, “a nuanced, beautifully written play… that uses dark comedy to confront questions of life and death.’ Director Guillermo Cienfuegos, another theatre favorite, warns that “The play explores issues of race, policing and gentrification…” subjects that are always potent in contemporary-realist Guirgis’ work. At the Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave (nr Normandie), in Hollywood. Tickets: (323) 663-1525 or www.FountainTheatre.com
FIFTEEN MEN IN A SMOKE-FILLED ROOM (Beverly Hills)
In this timely play, The Republican National Convention is in full swing with a certain candidate feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of being the nominee for President. No, it’s not next year folks but set back in 1920 and Warren G. Harding is the one in question. His problems are an overly ambitious campaign manager, a superstitious wife, a star-struck mistress and what he fears is the frightening pull of inevitability. The play explores the extent to which fate appears to control our lives – but does it? Written by Connecticut-based writer Colin Speer Crowley and Los Angeles awardee Jules Aaron. Produced by David Hunt Stafford for Theatre 40. At Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 S Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills. Tickets: (310) 364-0535 or www.theatre40.org. Free parking.
DEFENDERS (Hollywood)
This drama by Cailin Maureen Harrison is set in World War Two when three American G.I.’s are shipwrecked on Hrisey, a remote island off Iceland’s northern coast. With missing weapons, few supplies and a broken radio they must rely on the locals for survival. However, they are faced with the islander’s ancient fears of loss of culture, vulnerability of their women and suspicion of foreign invaders. Directed by Reena Dutt and produced by Racquel Lehrman of Theatre Planners for Pandelia’s Canary Yellow Company. At Broadwater Black Box, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood. Tkts: (323) 960-5770 or www.Onstage411.com/defenders
  LOVE IN BLOOM (Santa Monica)
For all you Shakespeare aficionados this feel-good, bawdy musical comedy returns for another visit in tribute to the wenches and rogues of the Bard. They promise magic and mayhem, fops and fairies, mistaken identity, romance and humor, all in homage to Shakespeare himself, pantomimist Marcel Marceau, Commedia dell’arte and other classical theater. Written and directed by Evelyn Rudie and Chris DeCarlo. Reservations at www.santamonicaplayhouse.com/loveinbloom
NEIL SIMON’S MUSICAL FOOLS (Atwater)
Already running to much laughter, here is the world premiere adaptation, by Neil Simon, of his play “Fools” where he’s credited with book and lyrics along with Phil Swann and Ron West. It’s set in the Ukraine in 1893 when a young tutor arrives after a harrowing journey. Soon he finds that the village is cursed, with every resident as dumb as a rock, but can he save himself and the village too? Presented by Open Fist Theatre Company at Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave, Atwater. Tkts: (323) 882-6912 or www.openfist.org. Free parking.


NBY.October 2019. SOLID LIFE OF SUGAR WATER, WRONG KIND OF PEOPLE, MY WIFE YOUR WOMAN, EDGAR ALLAN (POE) SHOW, CONSTANTINOPLE



THE SOLID LIFE OF SUGAR WATER (Downtown)
In this intimate portrait of a marriage, by playwright Jack Thorne, a deaf couple’s relationship is revealed through their love-making. As always, in their signature performance style, Deaf West combines American Sign Language with spoken English. My colleague Anibal Aprile came away raving about this adult-themed show and here are some of his comments: “Thank you for such an unforgettable evening at the theatre. It was my first time at Deaf West Theatre and you have to be a great director to create such interaction between the four actors. Tad Cooley and his ‘voice’ Nick Apostolina, Sandra Mae Frank and her ‘voice’ Natalie Camunas, are all superb in their characters, plus their astounding synchronization in movements and interpretation. This magnificent show made me and the audience vibrate on the seats.” Directed by Randee Trabitz. At Inner-City Arts, 720 Kohler Street, LA 90021. Tkts: (818) 762-2998 or www.deafwest.org.
THE WRONG KIND OF PEOPLE (Downtown)
After a three day Paul Robeson Theatre Festival, celebrating 25 years of presenting challenging and meaningful shows, the Robey Theatre Company is launching the next 25 years with this provocative new play by George Corbin. Set in LA in the early 1940’s, a young African-American law student rents a room in the downtown Guardian Hotel. He is assigned the rundown “Colored Room” but needs the privacy to prepare for his Bar Exam. However, when he’s interrupted by people seeking to gain entry to the hotel through his window, he finds this excellent preparation for his future as a lawyer. Developed in the Robey Playwrights Lab under the auspices of Artistic Director Ben Guillory. At Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 Spring Street, LA 90013. Tkts: (866) 811-4111 or www.thelatc.org.
MY WIFE YOUR WOMAN (North Hollywood) 
A military soldier, stationed in Iraq for the past two years, returns home to discover his wife has been unfaithful and is sharing their bed with someone else. When she decides to break off with the mysterious party things begin to spiral out of control. Sounds like a serious drama, but writer-director Mykel Coleman assures me “it’s a musical play full of suspense, twists, turns, laughter and dynamic singing.” Saturdays at MKM Cultural Arts Center, 11401 Chandler Blvd., NOHO. Tkts: https://MCSLive.net or call (818) 570-0143.
 THE EDGAR ALLAN (POE) SHOW (Studio City)
Just in time for Halloween, Ari Stidham is bringing his one-man musical-comedy Edgar Allan Poe Show to town. With great silliness he re-enacts scenes and recites lines from favorites The Raven, The Tell Tale Heart, Fall of the House of Usher and many more. Written, directed and performed by Stidham, with his own funny original songs, this show is suitable for all ages. So bring the grandkids in their Halloween gear! At Two Roads Theatre, 4348 Tujunga Ave, Studio City. Box Office opens ½ hour before show-time. Tkts: https://edgarallanshow.com.
CONSTANTINOPLE (North Hollywood)
This timely play is a dramatization of events during the Armenian Genocide when a female journalist and a guerrilla fighter coordinate a mission for the recovery of abducted women and children. Crossing into Armenia becomes nearly impossible as the political situation around them takes a darker turn. An entire nation teeters on the brink of displacement. Written and directed by Aram Kouyoumdjian and produced by Vista Players. At Secret Rose Theatre, 11246 W Magnolia Blvd, NOHO. Tkts: (818) 538-4911 or www.itsmyseat.com/Constantinople.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

NBY.Sept. SISTERS IN LAW, THE JOY LUCK CLUB, DRIVING WILDE, ANDY WARHOL’S TOMATO, FEFU & HER FRIENDS



 

SISTERS IN LAW (Beverly Hills)
Tovah Feldshuh portrays Democrat Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephanie Faracy is Republican Sandra Day O’Connor in this play that celebrates the friendship – and conflict – between two modern day legends. As the US Supreme Court’s first female justices, they are confronted by a case that, by pitting them against one another, lays bare their most deeply held personal and political beliefs. Based on the book by Linda Hirshman, and written by Jonathan Shapiro, director Patricia McGregor has an all-female design team. At the Wallis Center, 9390 Santa Monica Blvd. Tkts: (310) 746-4000 or www.TheWallis.org/Sisters.
THE JOY LUCK CLUB (Sierra Madre)
In San Francisco, four elderly Chinese women meet regularly at this club to play Mah Jong but, when one passes away, they invite her American-born daughter to join the group. Soon all of them struggle across a seemingly unpassable chasm of culture, generation and expectations to find common ground. Based on the novel by Amy Tan and adapted for the stage by Susan Kim. Director is Tim Dang, Artistic Director Emeritus of East West Players. At Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd. Tkts: (626) 355-4318 or www.sierramadreplayhouse.org. Free parking.
DRIVING WILDE (Hollywood)
In this surreal adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, playwright Jacqueline Wright transforms the gothic horror story into a contemporary meditation on the pursuit of beauty. Here the beautiful young Dorian awakens from a coma, unaware of his past, and seeks the perfection of nature in a corrupting aging world. In this existential view can beauty be kept or will it fade into death? Directed by the always imaginative Bart DeLorenzo, Founding Artistic Director of Evidence Room Theatre. At Theatre of Note, 1517 N. Cahuenga, Hollywood. Tkts: 323-856-8611, or visit www.theatreofnote.com.
ANDY WARHOL’S TOMATO (Venice)
Pittsburgh folklore has it that there is a working-class bar where a teenage Andy Warhol drew on napkins in exchange for Coca-Cola drinks, and he also splashed a bold painting on one wall. Playwright Vince Melocchi states: “While drinking in that same bar, I began to see it… as an exciting, mysterious place.” In his intriguing and thought-provoking play, Melocchi explores the mystery that is art through the interactions between a budding eccentric genius and a hard-working, seemingly unimaginative, bar owner. Derek Chariton is brilliant as Warhol, a sly child with the wisdom of a sage. Keith Stevenson is deeply moving as a man whose dreams have been crushed by harsh reality. The play reveals the effect that their brief friendship has on each of them. Directed with sensitivity by Dana Jackson. At Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd. Venice. TKTS: (310) 822-8392 or www.pacificresidenttheatre.com.
FEFU & HER FRIENDS (West Los Angeles)
Playwright Maria Irene Forn├ęs is hailed as “the early feminist giant of the avant-garde” and this 1977 drama, still relevant today, shows her at her most fascinating and provocative. Fefu is the eccentric hostess when seven of her friends arrive for a women’s do-gooder event. At first what seems to be a drawing-room comedy, soon darkens into an exploration of the tremors that beset women regarding their relationships with male dominance and female powerlessness. All the actresses superbly embrace the quixotic demands of the script. Outstanding are Tiffany Cole as the dynamic Fefu; Sandy Duarte as emotionally damaged Julia; Cynthia Yelle as social outcast Paula, and Sydney A, Mason as vivacious yet troubled Emma (and eloquent saxophone player). Directed with passion by Denise Blasor and produced by Ron Sossi in association with Gloria Levy. At Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. West LA. Tkts: (310) 477-2055 ext. 2 or www.OdysseyTheatre.com.

Friday, August 9, 2019

LOOSE KNIT (North Hollywood) Review





In Theresa Rebeck’s potent comedy, five New York City women meet once a week to make sweaters and scarves but, apparently, do everything but knit! 


It’s a delightful play with a fabulous cast: Margie (Julie Davis) is a loquacious wanna-be actress desperate to find Mr. Right while blasting men. Gina (Lisa McGee Mann) is a lawyer who, after being made redundant, tries to knit her way back to authenticity. Paula (Cathy Diane Tomlin) is a therapist who wonders if she helps, or damages, her clients by anything she ever says or does. 

Lily (Stephanie Colet) is an Earth Mother attempting to save the world, and her friends, when all seem about to crash and blaze. Liz (Marie Broderick) is the dynamic glamour gal who men adore because she is such a fabulous challenging bitch. Bob (Doug Haverty) is happily married to the perfect wife, but still panting after the girl of his dreams. 
Miles (Todd Andrew Ball) is the blind date from hell – a suave, rich, highly connected, handsome bachelor who threatens to break up their weekly knit circle. He’s quite a catch, but clearly a shark when it comes to business and women. Still, the prize he seductively dangles brings our gaggle of knitters to philosophically question their own lives and purposes. 

Directed boldly and keenly by L. Flint Esquerra, and produced by Katelyn Ann Clark for Group Rep. At the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd. NOHO. Tickets: www.thegrouprep.com or (818) 763-5990.