Thursday, January 19, 2017

THE LAST VIG …West Hollywood






If you’re looking for verisimilitude you can be assured that is exactly what you get every second that Burt Young is onstage and he’s there almost the entire show. He plays an aging mobster now working out of a shabby back room in a Chinese take-out and the years of being in charge permeate his very being. However, he’s now an old man, his wife is ill, he needs a last vig (the take from a gambler charged by a bookie) that will give him a chance at retirement in Florida. But, as we know from films about mobsters, things rarely go according to plan and when the scheme implodes we feel the anguish and bitter regret of a man who has lost his power.

Even though it’s often difficult to hear his words, you can’t take your eyes off Burt Young, his facial expressions and body movements tell all. This mobster is at the mercy of his followers and Young’s Big Joe can barely hide his impotent rage. The rest of the cast are superb: Ben Adams as his assistant; Gareth Williams as his old money-running pal; Paul Li as the overworked chef and, especially, Bruce Nozick as a corrupt detective.
 
Well written and directed by David Varriale. The grungy storage room setting by Joel Daavid is lit by Kelley Finn, with sound by Will Mahood. Costumes by Mylette Nora. Imaginatively produced by the ubiquitous Racquel Lehrman of Theatre Planners.

At Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose, West Hollywood, through Feb 19. Tickets: (323) 960-7712 or www.TheLastVig.com

Photos by Ed Krieger

Also reviewed in the February issue of not born yesterday.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

THE MANOR …in Beverly Hills






This site-specific drama, performing once a year at Greystone Mansion, is now in its 15th season and not to be missed. Haunting the halls of this classic Beverly Hills mansion is a murder mystery and the brilliant script by Kathrine Bates is based on actual incidents that took place in the very rooms and halls where we are witnesses. It starts out in the halcyon days of the roaring twenties when the MacAlister (Doheny) family are celebrating the wedding of their son and heir to the girl of his dreams.


 

 

However, all is not as it seems. As we move through the glorious building in separate groups, we enter private rooms and witness dramas that do not bode well for the future. There is intrigue afoot: a corrupt Senator is calling in a dubious favor from his rich old friend; the caretaker’s brooding son is in love with the eager bride, and a foreign housemaid ominously predicts tragedies to come.



Ten years later it all comes to a shocking climax in the very rooms we tiptoed through, as some people fall apart, others rally themselves, and still others die. Go see for yourself - and enjoy the journey with a brilliant cast, glorious setting and fabulous costumes.

Directed by Flora Plumb, from Beverly Olevin’s original staging, and produced for Theatre 40 by David Hunt Stafford. At Greystone Mansion, in Greystone Park, 905 Loma Vista Drive, Beverly Hills. Free parking. Reservations: (310) 364-3606.
Photos by Ed Krieger.
Also in the January issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY

Monday, December 26, 2016

AMÉLIE, A NEW MUSICAL …Downtown






 For those who remember the 2001 movie, “Amélie” is about a painfully shy young girl alone in Paris, the odd characters she befriends, and her mission to bring joy to others. When she falls for a troubled boy she flees, but when the boy chases her she puts him through a number of tests and, when he persists, Amélie finally must decide whether to open the door to her home, and her heart, to him.

The French film was nominated for 5 Oscars and is listed among all-time favorites by many film critics. I never saw it and, in this otherwise charming stage version, I had difficulty figuring out what was going on, so perhaps one had better see the movie first.

Most of the song lyrics, that clearly are intended to carry the story along, were difficult to comprehend in the huge Ahmanson. In a smaller theatre one might more clearly understand the lyrics, and see the facial expressions, but here much of it was miniaturized into a distant pantomime.

Leading the large and excellent cast are winsome Phillipa Soo as Amélie, dynamic 10 year old Savvy Crawford as Young Amélie, and spirited Adam Chanler-Berat as Nino.
  
This pre-Broadway run is directed by Pam MacKinnon, with book by Craig Lucas, music by Daniel Messé, lyrics by Nathan Tysen and Messé, choreography by Sam Pinkleton, musical direction by Kimberly Grigsby, and orchestrations by Bruce Coughlin.

At the Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N Grand Avenue, through January 15. Tickets: (213) 972-4400 or www.CenterTheatreGroup.org

Photos by Joan Marcus.

Friday, December 16, 2016

BAKERSFIELD MIST …in Hollywood




 
This delightful play has already been getting rave reviews from all the LA critics and here’s my addition to the accolades. The story is simple, full of witty humor, but moving. A woman in a trailer park has bought a supposedly original Jackson Pollock for $3 in a thrift store. It is certainly good enough to interest a renowned art expert from New York to travel to California to appraise it. 

As should be expected there is a clash between the blunt and saucy ex-bartender and the snobbish and repressed ex-director of the Metropolitan Museum. Who actually knows the truth and, in the end, does it really matter?

Author-director Stephen Sachs probes the hearts of two people passionate about the genuine article – whether in art or humanity. Inhabitants of different worlds, they dodge and parry over far more than a mere painting. With two brilliant actors at full gallop, we witness a magnificent battle of wills as Maude (Jenny O’Hara) fiercely challenges Lionel’s (Nick Ullett) complacent surety that he is the ultimate expert on authenticity.

The fabulous trinket-filled-trailer set is by Jeffrey McLaughlin, with subtle but effective lighting by Bill E. Kickbush, and sound by Peter Bayne. Costumes by Shon LeBlanc, and props by Terri Roberts, cleverly illuminate the class differences. Produced for Fountain Theatre by Simon Levy and Deborah Lawlor.

At The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave, Hollywood, extended through January 30. Tickets: (323) 663-1525 or www.FountainTheatre.com.  
Pay-What-You-Can every Monday night!

Photos by Ed Krieger.


Also reviewed in the January issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.