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

Thursday, April 13, 2017

PURE CONFIDENCE …in Hollywood






Inspired by a true event in 1813, when enslaved Simon Cato, a proud and sassy champion jockey, publicly taunted future president Andrew Jackson, an avid horse owner, for being a poor loser. In Carlyle Brown’s meaningful drama, we meet the intrepid Simon in Kentucky, just prior to the Civil War, where he has been rented out to jovial Colonel Wiley Johnson to ride his horse, Pure Confidence. 
 
It’s a study of an unlikely friendship as Simon, aware of his value to the companionable Colonel, boldly uses that to negotiate for his freedom. He is helped by the Colonel’s indomitable wife, Mattie, who is unaware of her paternalistic attitude to her bondswoman Caroline.

Plaudits to author Brown who subtly reveals that, in contrast to the film world’s sadistic image of slavery, everyday indignities also have the power to crush a person’s spirit. 

Under Marya Mazor’s masterly direction, Armond Edward Dorsey is brilliant as Simon, whose outer humor masks a resolute inner dignity.  

Strong backup by William Salyers (the Colonel) who blithely ignores the complexity of race relations; Deborah Puette (Mattie) whose heart is in the right place even though her actions are often condescending; Tamarra Graham (Caroline) who projects a docile yet deeply strong individual, and Eamon Hunt and Dylan John Seaton in multiple roles.
 
Presented by Gregg T. Daniel’s Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble, and produced by Racquel Lehrman, Theatre Planners.  

Sacred Fools Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way & Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood. Through April 30, Tickets call (323) 960-7745 or www.lower-depth.com/on-stage.

Photos by Ed Krieger.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

RED HELEN …in Hollywood







In Jennifer Barclay’s delightfully absurdist comedy, a formidable mother sits regally on a throne-like chair dressed in a blood red gown. It’s a madcap view of familial relationships, when we meet the three daughters under Helen’s thrall. Clearly, she wields power by alternately loving, bossing and denouncing each in turn. Meanwhile, the family steakhouse is failing, her husband is traveling far away, and Helen’s sense of reality seems to be deteriorating. When the youngest daughter brings home a young man from Europe, who she plans to marry, everything explodes and eventually implodes.

There are surprises in every confrontation, nothing is as we expect: the seemingly meek eldest gal has secret power impulses, the lumbering center sister has an inner sylphlike spirit, and the youngest gals inability to recognize deceit leaves her dottily vulnerable. Still it is mother, Red Helen, who dominates the action. Her power is seemingly immense, until the siblings clash and a number of secret discoveries threaten to sweep her away.

The marvelous cast are headed by Lynn Odell as the fierce matriarch; Channing Sargent as the enigmatic eldest daughter; Amanda Celine Miller as a gentle giantess; Sigi Gradwohl as the doll-like naïf, and Greg Nussen as her romantic/crafty/horny suitor with a devilish grin. 

This world premiere event is directed at full farcical gallop by Bill Voorhees, with jaunty costumes by Shelby Saelens. Produced by Chantelle Albers and Matt Orlando.

At Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N Cahuenga Blvd (at Sunset), through May 20. Tickets: 323-856-8611 or www.theatreofnote.com.

Photos by Darrett Sanders

Also reviewed in the May issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Friday, March 17, 2017

APRIL, MAY & JUNE …in Beverly Hills







Being the youngest of three sisters I can easily identify with Gary Goldstein’s brand new light comedy where three monthly-named sisters meet to clean out their dead mother’s cluttered home. 

Throughout the play, while they reminisce, we see that the woman who bore them is still an enigma to them. 

Its non-stop chatter, and laughter, and sometimes bickering over a memento one wants to keep, or what a packrat their mother was, and how someone’s marriage fell apart, and why mom ever stayed with that drunk called dad. Meanwhile, shelves get emptied, books get stacked, boxes get filled, and a few plates get broken. We are witness to the moment when suddenly a discovery, hidden in a closet, gives them all a new insight into who their mother really was.

The three excellent actresses never let up the pace, with Jennifer Lee Laks as responsible-sensible-bitter April the eldest; Jennifer Taub as warmhearted-happily married-forgiving May the middle sibling, and Meredith Thomas as mischievous-outspoken-unconventional June the youngest.

Director Terri Hanauer deserves a special round of applause since, while keeping the story of the bond between sisters flowing energetically, she has a room full of knickknacks cleared and packed and ready for Goodwill in under 2 hours.

Amazing set is by Jeff G. Rack, lighting by Ric Zimmerman and sound by Joseph ‘Sloe’ Slawinski. Costumes by resident costume designer Michèle Young. Produced by David Hunt Stafford.

At Theatre 40, on the campus of Beverly Hills High School, 241 S. Moreno Drive, B.H, through April 16. Tickets:310-364-0535 or www.theatre40.org

Photos by Ed Krieger.

Also reviewed in the April issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.