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.

Friday, May 19, 2017

HOLLYWOOD FRINGE FESTIVAL, 2017 - June 8-25




  
Anyone with a show and a dream can perform at the Fringe and, with nearly 400 shows to choose from this year, here are a few that hold special appeal for me.

Hollywood Diary. A fictional encounter between gossip columnist Hedda Hopper and film star Mary Astor, where details from Mary’s diary reveal that dour George S. Kaufman was very sexy! Dog Sees God: Confessions Of A Teenage Blockhead. Tackles issues of LGBTQ intolerance and bullying through dark humor and favorite comic strip characters. Cast is comprised of actors aged 16-18. The Sacred Beasts. The booze-soaked real life friendship of Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles is conjured in scenes spanning three decades. They drink, fight, hunt and smoke in a show of hyper-masculinity. 


Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl. Cherita Armstrong portrays enslaved Harriet Jacobs who spent seven years hiding out from her depraved master in her grandmother’s attic. Nights At The Algonquin Round Table. The 3 Clubs is transformed into New York’s Algonquin Hotel, where notorious wise-crackers Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and George S. Kaufman gather to one-up each another with caustic quips. 


The [ ] Box. Six short plays written by members of Alliance Of Los Angeles Playwrights, all incorporating a small wooden box. What’s inside the box? Is it alive… or is that only your imagination? Unspoken: Shakespeare's Personae In Peril. Shakespeare’s works are about to be privatized and characters from Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, Merchant of Venice and Midsummer Night’s Dream, must fight for their relevance.
            Info: www.hollywoodfringe.org.

 Also listed in the June issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

LUCKY STIFF …in Hollywood







If you go to the theater for fun then this musical is your show. It’s madcap, silly and full of surprises. The staging and choreography are delightful and the laughs keep on coming. You see, there is a corpse from New Jersey who wants to go to Monte Carlo – to dance, to scuba dive, and to meet beautiful women! 

With a multi-million dollar offer he can’t refuse, a rather reclusive young man in England agrees to take him there. Well, all is not as it seems and, with hotel doors opening and closing, with others who want to grab the prize, with a young lady from Brooklyn who needs the money for a good cause, the suspense and the laughs build.

Young couple Brandon Parrish and Claire Adams are sweetly romantic, with highly energetic backup by Gina D’Acciaro, David Atkinson, Alastair James Murden and José Villarreal. Lively show-stealers Rory Patterson and Brian Habicht are matched by  living-dead Vito Viscuso. At the opening show, choreographer Julie Hall stepped in for a missing actor, while producer Catherine Gray nearly stole the show as brassy cabaret singer Dominique.

Created by Broadway team Lynn Ahrens (book and lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (music) it’s a polished show and sure crowd pleaser. Directed at full gallop by Stephen Van Dorn, with musical direction by Taylor Stephenson.

At the David Schall Theatre on the campus of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, 1760 N. Gower St. Through June 18. Tickets: (323) 462-8460 or www.ActorsCo-op.org. Free parking.

Photos by Michael Lamont.

Also reviewed in the June issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

DR. DU BOIS AND MISS OVINGTON …Downtown


Photo by Matthew Leland.




In 1915, co-founders of the NAACP, W. E. B. Du Bois and Mary White Ovington, find themselves alone in the New York office on a Sunday morning. He is about to resign as editor of their magazine, THE CRISIS, because the Board claims he is alienating white supporters. 

She is speaking for his detractors, not because she agrees with them but because his presence and his message on race is the core of the mission of the NAACP.

Author Clare Coss never lets us forget that Du Bois and Ovington were flesh and blood people, divided by race but joined together by a passion for truth and justice. It’s a play of ideas, but also a love story of two people who recognize the value of honesty no matter how much it endangers one’s relationships.

Ben Guillory is majestic as Du Bois, dominating the action with his presence and strong voice. Melanie Cruz, as Ovington, subtly reveals the inner strength of a woman of strong principle. However, a lot was lost when too often her voice dropped down to conversational level.

A Robey Theatre Company production, directed by Guillory, with fine period set by Thomas Meleck well lit by Michéal David Ricks.

Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., downtown. Reservations (213) 489-7402 or www.robeytheatrecompany.org.

Final Note: As the audience was leaving, an elderly lady tripped over a downstage platform on the set and fell. Someone needs to stand guard at each performance as this is a hazard to the departing audience.


Friday, April 14, 2017

LORD OF THE UNDERWORLD'S HOME FOR UNWED MOTHERS …in Los Feliz





This play is based on histories of many young women who, in the 50’s and 60’s, conceived out of wedlock and were forced to surrender the baby for adoption. In Louisa Hill’s poignant drama pregnant Dee, age 16, is forced to give up the baby that is the focus of all her love. 

Deciding what is really best for their daughter, and determined to correct the situation so no one will ever know, her parents send her away. The social workers, and the nuns in the Home, have no feeling for the damage being done. The teenage girl goes back to school, while the baby is sent off into the blissful prospect of a perfect life.

It’s an indictment of our society that what happens through the years bears no resemblance to the utopian dream of adoption. When we meet Corie the abandoned child, 25 years later, she has been shuttled from rejecting families to foster homes with no knowledge of her birth mother’s pain. When the two do finally connect the drama of misunderstanding threatens to rip them apart again.

The compassionate direction by Tony Abatemarco inspires deeply moving performances by Corryn Cummins (Dee) and Michaela Slezak (Corie). Adrian Gonzalez smoothly transforms from stern father to eager boyfriends to cool seducer, while Amy Harmon matches him as pompous mother, practical social worker, kindly nun. Marylin Winkle on cello adds haunting melancholy sound. 

Produced by Gary Grossman and Skylight Theatre Company. Photos by Ed Krieger


At Skylight Theatre, 1816 North Vermont, Los Feliz, through May 14. Tickets: (213) 761-7061 or http://SkylightTix.com 

 Also reviewed in the May issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY