Tuesday, November 14, 2017

THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER …in Hollywood





It’s the hilarious George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart tale of the obnoxious celebrity who falls on the ice in front of their doorstep and stays and stays. Having never seen Play nor Movie I realize now what I’d missed, so don’t you do the same. 

I urge you to get over to Actors Co-op because at this time we need all the laughter we can get. The direction by Linda Kerns is crisp and magical and the 18-member cast are all marvelous. Go! I guarantee you’ll thank me for it.

Heading the superlative cast is Greg Martin, who dominates the action as the troublesome guest; Natalie Hope MacMillan is an angel of patience as his assistant; Deborah Marlowe & Lawrence Novikoff amuse mightily as the embattled hosts; Catherine Urbanek is marvelous as a voracious blonde bombshell; Irwin Moskowitz adorable as a doctor with a punctured dream, and Wenzel Jones a standout as witty singing guest, Noel Coward.

Jean Kauffman delights as a beleaguered nurse; John Allee as a Marx Brother; Brenda Ballard as a ditzy lady with a past; Kyle Frattini & Lila Hood as two kids with a dream; Connor Sullivan as an honorable newspaperman; Karen Furno as a bedazzled cook; and Kevin Michael Moran, Hunter Lowdon, Goreti da Silva and Chris Savell in multiple roles.
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Produced by Thomas Chavira, with 1930’s set by Nicholas Acciani, costumes by Shon LeBlanc, hair/makeup by Amanda Walter and amazing props by Ernest McDaniel.

At the David Schall Theater, First Presbyterian Church, 1760 N. Gower St. Hollywood, through Dec. 17. Reservations 323-462-8460 or www.ActorsCo-op.org. Free Parking.

Photos by John Dlugolecki

Also reviewed in the December issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

NEW YORK WATER …West Los Angeles






This is a really funny play, so don’t miss it! You see there’s this young couple who meet and fall in love in New York City and every terrible thing that you’ve ever heard about life in New York crops up in their lives. So, looking for peace and quiet they move to Iowa and, as you can imagine, go nearly starkers with ennui. 

The solution is marvelous – they move out here to Hollywood!!! There she becomes a big-shot in the movies and he becomes… no, you have go and see for yourself!  The water in New York is reputed to be pure but sometimes it just gets brown and tastes funny, but who cares!

Bridget Flanery is hilarious as the mercurial ADHD-romantic, Linda, whose dynamic personality fluctuates with the wind. Ross Benjamin (lookalike son of Richard), as Albert, captures the desperation and confusion of a young man whom love eludes but whose optimism never wanes. 

Their performances are exemplary but most of all, unlike so many other stage performers I’ve seen lately, I heard and understood every word clearly!

Written by the mischievous Sam Bobrick, whose career spans songwriting, multiple TV series, 40 plays including Broadway, and "two amazing grandchildren." Partnered with bold and crafty director Howard Teichman whose eye for comedy is unerring, it’s a sure hit. Witty sets and nostalgic wall projections.

Produced by Bill Froggatt and Howard Teichman for The West Coast Jewish Theatre. At the Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd. (nr Overland), West LA, through December 17. Tickets: (323) 821-2449 or www.wcjt.tix.com.

Photos by Michael Lamont.


Also reviewed in the December issue of Not Born Yesterday.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

THE DAUGHTERS OF THE KUSH …Hollywood



 

This intriguing new play, inspired by a true story, seems to suggest a racial conflict but author-producer George W, Corbin has larger issues to explore. In a black, tightly-knit sorority on an Iowa campus tragedy has struck. When a young woman dies, leading members of Kappa Lambda Nu (The Kush) are questioned by a detective: was it an accident, suicide or murder? 

The play takes us back in time and we must decide if their actions and decisions, motivated by a need to protect the sorority, are morally defensible.
 
The superb cast deliver amazingly delineated performances. Vanoy Burnough is dynamic as the embittered Clara; Alisa Murray is a poignant Rhonda; Dee Dee Stephens is magisterial as attorney-to-be Brenda; Hannah Mae Sturges is endearing as controversial pledge Kathy, and Brandon Raines is charming as an honorable sports coach.

 
Mack Miles is authoritative as Detective Diggs; Paris Nicole is touching as Ida, and Conor Sheehan amuses as a Frat Boy crashing into their house in his Confederate army uniform.


Director Veronica Thompson creates a vivid picture of life in a proud black sorority in the 1960’s. The set by Mark V, Jones is effective, but one hopes scene changes can be speeded up as they do halt the emotional drive of the play.

Playwright Corbin is a Brother of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity at Cornell University and his meaningful play was developed in the Robey Theatre Company’s Advance Playwrights Lab. 

At The Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd, (Highland Ave) through Oct 29. Tickets: (213) 908-5032 or https://corbinkush.eventbrite.com
Photos by Alberto Santillan.

This review also appears in the November issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY

Friday, October 6, 2017

BR’ER COTTON …in West Hollywood




This forceful new play takes place in Lynchburg, Virginia, ‘Right-right now’ and shocking daily news stories seem to be incorporated into the dialogue. Angered by omnipresent headlines, where unarmed black men are killed by cops, a 14 year old black youth (Omete Anassi) determines to go into battle. 

His hard working mother (Yvonne Huff Lee) fights to keep her son out of danger, while his grandfather (Christopher Carrington), who in his youth lived through times of terror, gently mocks this growing passion even as he tries to assuage it.

With great insight, playwright Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm shows us that we live in a complicated world and only chaos and sorrow ensue when racial lines are drawn. A friendly police officer (Shawn Law), whose kind heart is covered by his intimidating uniform, brings perspective to an easy stereotype. 

In violent video games, played with a distant stranger/friend (Emmaline Jacott), the enemies are obvious - a terrifying armed big guy (Dane Oliver), and half-clad gal (Jasmine Wright) - but in life it’s not so simple.
 
Chisholm suggests that as long as each character recognizes their shared humanity all will be well. Then he shows that when we objectify people our human bond is broken. Twice, in this haunting play, I wept.


The superb cast are directed with brilliant intensity by Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble’s Gregg T. Daniel. Plaudits to David Mauer (set), Wendell C. Carmichael (Costumes) and Doug Oliphant for awesome choreography. Produced by Racquel Lehrman of Theatre Planners.

The Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, through Oct 29. Reservations: 323-960-7787 or www.lower-depth.com/on-stage. Street parking.

Photos by Ed Krieger.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

RUNAWAY HOME …in Hollywood



 
 

Three years after the wreckage of Katrina, a 14-year old girl, who feels unloved, runs away from her embittered and angry mother. Set in New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward, where adults are fighting to keep their damaged homes, the play focuses on this teenager’s angst. However, when we meet her she is stealing from a local shop owner who inexplicably offers her a job. Later, when we understand why she is alone, our sympathies shift to her mother’s fight to survive as we become aware of the social issues behind abandonment.
 
Written by Jeremy J. Kamps, and directed with passion by Shirley Jo Finney, the fine cast bring these people to life. Camille Spirlin is an impish brat as Kali, Maya Lynne Robinson a beleaguered soul as her mother, and Armando Rey kindness itself as the shop owner. 

Strong support by Jeris Poindexter, Karen Malina White, Leith Burke and Brian Tichnell.

Fountain co-artistic director Stephen Sachs states, “Our mission is to use theater as a vehicle to raise awareness and empathy for the human condition.” A portion of all ticket sales will be donated to the Houston Food Bank in Texas!

I am reluctant to complain but, due to the southern accents, and the speed and pitch of Kali’s monologues, much of the dialogue was unintelligible. Also, the play runs 1 hour 40 minutes with no intermission, which for audience members needing a break meant disturbing the entire show by walking conspicuously through the action.

At The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave. LA (at Normandie) through Nov. 5. Tickets: 323- 663-1525 or www.FountainTheatre.com.
Photos by Ed Krieger.