Friday, September 22, 2017

DAYTONA …in Hollywood






This intriguing play, by British author Oliver Cotton, is about two Jewish brothers who, in their youth survived the Holocaust, then reconnect after a 30 year rift. The younger one has a secret that he believes can bring satisfaction and closure to their past trials. Without giving away the surprises in the plot, let’s just say their brotherhood bond is being tested to the limit. The play vehemently touches on the question of justifiable revenge, but in the end focuses on loyalty and leaves the moral dilemma unresolved.

The parallel story of a past love affair distracts from the glaring question: Is seeking revenge for evil actions in the past, justice or murder? Although the author makes good points about the danger of denying one's past, I wish what could have been a serious ethical debate had not turned out to be a family drama about lost love. In fact, I would have enjoyed an after-show discussion on the theme.

Richard Fancy is an emotional tyrant as the long-lost brother Billy, while George Wyner’s Joe displays outward calm as he desperately tries to hold on to his once calm life. Sharron Shayne, as the practical Elli, shows the pain and wonder of being torn between two strong men.

This Rogue Machine presentation is produced by John Perrin Flynn, and expertly directed by Elina de Santos, with a naturalism that, unfortunately, often left us unable to hear the dialogue.

At the MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave, Hollywood, through October 30. Tickets: 855-585-5185 or at www.roguemachinetheatre.com
Parking is $6 at Medical Center, 5300 Santa Monica Blvd.

Photos by John Perrin Flynn

Friday, August 18, 2017

HONKY TONK LAUNDRY …Hollywood






It’s a rootin’ tootin’ good time at the local Laundromat where, along with the entertainment, you even get your clothes washed and dried. In this delightful show, two gals with a love of Grand Ole Opry find their personal lives illustrations of the plaintive country songs they always sing. Well, since the music biz won’t open its doors to them, they decide to create their own steamy Nashville venue, the Washateria Honky-Tonk Opry!

When, with cleverly provided scenery, lighting and sound design, they turn the Wishy Washy Laundromat into a nightclub, they prove to be a great song and dance team. While melodiously blasting their revenge against the men that done ‘em wrong (some apparently in the audience) we see how those shiny-red Boots Are Made For Walkin’ – which, along with Stand By Your Man and Independence Day, is just one of the rousing numbers in this song-filled show.

Bets Malone and Misty Cotton are both in fine form whether washing or warbling. Malone leads as the proprietress with a good heart and powerful singing voice. Cotton is her wacky assistant who is shy with customers but a hellcat with the men in her life.


Written and directed by Roger Bean (creator of the Wonderettes & other series) who cleverly builds this battle-of-the-sexes story around a string of rousing country songs. With lively choreography by James Vásquez, dazzling costumes by Renetta Lloyd, and droll hair/makeup by Byron Batista.
 
At Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood, through Oct 1. Tickets: 323-960-7773 or www.plays411.com/honkytonklaundry.

Photos by Michael Lamont.

Also reviewed in the September issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME …Downtown LA



 
  
In this highly theatrical show we are inside the mind of an autistic 15 year old with a brilliant mind, but the inability to empathize with the people around him. The story begins with the cruel stabbing to death of a neighbor’s dog with a gardening fork. 

Adam Langdon is extraordinary as the youthful Sherlock who sets out to discover the murderer, while the people who care for him can hardly comprehend him. With never a false note, Langdon segues from trembling fear to keen observation to physical dexterity to absolute scientific genius. He even flies!

In the process of his quest for understanding the world he inhabits, the boy moves from a quiet British village to the clanging dazzle of London. As it’s theater I had to accept the personal resolution, happy-ending, premise. However, in the real world I’d be calling in Child Protection Services!  

Hey, it received 5 Tony Awards, including Best Play, so who am I to wanna protect this vulnerable boy from future harm.

Standouts in the large cast were Felicity Jones Latta, Geoffrey Wade, Amelia White, John Hemphill and Brian Robert Burns. Gene Gillette, who played the Dad, was impressive but difficult to hear. Plaudits to Bunny Christie (Scenic/costume); Paule Constable (Lighting); Finn Ross (Video), and Scott Graham & Steven Hoggett (Choreography).
  
This National Theatre (UK) production is cleverly adapted by Simon Stephens, from Mark Haddon’s 2003 best-selling novel, and vigorously directed by Marianne Elliott.
 
At Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N Grand Ave, Downtown, through September 10. Tickets: (213) 628-2772 or www.CenterTheatreGroup.org
Photos by Joan Marcus.

Friday, July 28, 2017

RHINOCEROS …in Venice



 


It’s not often you see a full grown man transform into a large thick-skinned mammal before your very eyes but mastermind director Guillermo Cienfuegos makes it happen. In fact, from all accounts he pulls this trick himself, onstage, in this madcap drama by playwright Eugene Ionesco. 



It’s about a delightful French town where friendly locals are faced with a dilemma – whether to hold on to their humanity or be sucked into the miasma of becoming unfriendly beasts! As these characters become rhinos we can see the contentment in embracing a herd mentality.
 
Although written in 1959, it’s a prescient view of today where it appears that standing ones ground for humanity is under attack. Ionesco‘s alarmingly absurd tale grew out of his own youthful experience in Romania when he saw people drawn into acceptance of the rise of Fascism. 
To quote him: “When people no longer share your opinions, when you can no longer make yourself understood by them, one has the impression of being confronted with monsters - rhinos, for example. They have that mixture of candor and ferocity. They would kill you with the best of consciences.” 

The highly impressive cast is headed by Keith Stevenson as the bewildered holdout and Alex Fernandez as his loquaciously demonic friend; with dynamic support from Peter Elbling, Jeff Lorch, Carole Weyers, Melissa Weber Bales. And, in multiple roles, Brad Greenquist, Sarah Zinsser, Robert Lesser, Sarah Brooke & Dalia Vosylius with Melinda West on accordion.

At Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice, through September 10. Tickets: (310) 822-8392 or www.pacificresidenttheatre.com. Free Parking.
Photos by Vitor Martins.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

THE MARRIAGE ZONE …North Hollywood


 
What if you were able to view your life as it was in the past, and will be in the future? Would you refuse to accept the inevitable, or do you believe your destiny has been decided by some unknown power. Welcome to The Marriage Zone, where a couple halfway through their not-so-happy wedded lives are confronted with just such questions. It’s an intriguing conceit and handled brilliantly by author and director Jeff Gould and, after you see this play, you will never think of your own relationships the same way again.


Actually, with this excellent cast, it’s a sweetly told story of a marriage that is starting to unravel. Beth (Anne Leighton) cannot stop picking on her husband Cal (Jeff Pride); he has sunk into a sardonic attitude that blocks her out, while their son Ryan (Ciaran Brown) has his ears plugged into a world of music. It’s a familiar domestic comedy until visitors arrive: Skip and Ellie (Ryan Cargill and Megan Barker), young and in love, can’t keep their hands off each other; Mike and Liz (Alex Hyde-White and Jacee Jule), cynical, divorced and full of regrets. We recognize these people because we are these people.
 
On another level it’s a triangle between wide eyed youth, mid-career strugglers, and jaded elders. Gould also has a sense of humor that pokes fun at us! e.g. just as my companion whispered to me “I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone” the onstage senior said the exact words.

At The Secret Rose Theatre, 11246 Magnolia Blvd. NoHo, through September 24.  Tickets: 323-960-7784 or www.Play411.com/marriagezone Photos by Ed Krieger.

Also reviewed in the August issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Monday, June 19, 2017

BUILDING THE WALL …in Hollywood





According to playwright Robert Schenkkan, in spite of our Constitutional protections it can happen here! A professor of history, writing about a terrible crime, interviews a man on death row who sees himself as merely a cog in a wheel of political command. 

What if 11 million undocumented aliens were ordered to be deported but their countries of origin refused to take them? It seems like this is already a possibility and, in this frightening play, we learn about the consequences of such action. Who is responsible? The politicians that made the edict, or the menials who have to carry it out?

Through highly dramatic dialogue we are carried along on the journey from political rhetoric to deliberate action to eventual murderous expediency. It resonates with Hannah Arendt’s theory on The Banality of Evil and seethes with moral indignation at the present attempt to cleanse the USA of undesirables in the name of national authenticity.

Under Michael Michetti’s fluent direction, the two actors, Judith Moreland and Bo Foxworth, duel with passionate intensity over the difference between responsibility and blame. Many people in the arts are using their creative tools to protest injustice and here, with productions of this play scheduled across the country, the alarm is raised. Hopefully such a tragedy could not happen here even though, in this play, it makes perfect logical sense.

At The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave (at Normandie), Hollywood. Tickets: (323) 663-1525 or www.FountainTheatre.com. Extended to August 27 with Victoria Platt as Gloria. On-site parking $5.