Tuesday, October 30, 2018

NBY OCTOBER COLUMN: OPPENHEIMER & FINKS - LOST IN TIME - BEAUTY QUEEN OF LENANE - THE RESCUED



OPPENHEIMER & FINKS (Venice)  Both Tom Morton-Smith’s play OPPENHEIMER and Joe Gilford’s FINKS will be playing in repertory as both examine socialism and communism movements in America in the 30s-50s. In OPPENHEIMER, directed by Artistic Director, John Perrin Flynn, we see the personal cost of making history as he struggles to cast off his radical past beliefs. While FINKS, directed by Michael Pressman, is a searing view of the blacklisting that resulted from these movements. Rogue Machine at Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave, Venice. (855) 585-5185 or www.roguemachinetheatre.com
LOST IN TIME (Atwater) When an older man wakes up one morning as his twenty-three-year-old self, he believes now is a chance to rectify the mess he’s made of his life. But when he attempts to alter his story by romancing the woman he knows will be his wife, it goes badly, and he finds himself in a desperate battle to save his future. Says director Keith Szarabajka, “Who hasn’t thought at one time or another, if only I could go back and do it all over again…knowing then what I know now!” Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave. LA. (818) 839-1197 or https://dime.io/events/lost-in-time
BEAUTY QUEEN OF LENANE (Hollywood) 
In a remote cottage in Ireland, beautiful Maureen has been caring for her manipulative, aging mother Mag for twenty years. When Maureen has a chance at happiness with a local beau, suffocated dreams and simmering resentments surface. From writer Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) comes this darkly comic tale. Developed at Actor’s Studio and directed by Mark Kemble. At Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave, Hollywood. (323) 960-7774 or www.plays411.com/leenane
THE RESCUED (North Hollywood) 
What happens to a human being after being abused, forgotten, and living in a cage for years? Do we find the same compassion for them, that we might find for rescue animals? Follow six souls who spend the day singing, sleeping, and comparing memories from their past with the reality of the present. Can they learn how to trust, how to love and be loved, and how to finally feel free? Written by Julie Marie Myatt, directed by Marya Mazor. At Road Theatre on Magnolia, NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd. NoHo. (818) 761-8838 or www.RoadTheatre.org

From my column in the October issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY




Wednesday, October 3, 2018

OLD CLOWN WANTED review




Ionesco meets Beckett in this delightfully enigmatic comedy inspired by a 1970 Federico Fellini film. It’s at an open-call theatre audition – or is it - where three former circus stars are vying for a job. Time has passed but memories of the glory days still throb in their hearts. They had performed together many years before and now, taken back in time, their circus act comes to life. These three marvelous performers transform from decrepit oldsters to their youthful past selves but rivalry, that old show-biz demon, humorously arises and causes conflict.

Alan Abelew as Niccolo is cleverly devious but sadly vulnerable; Jose A. Garcia as Filippo is a delightful nag but has a tender heart beneath, and Beth Hogan as Peppino, the classic actress, hilariously takes one-up-man-ship to a new level. All are superbly clownish performers who personify the hidden heartbreak under greasepaint and funny red noses. The ending is wonderfully ambiguous and hardly what was expected. Or was it? Go and see for yourself.

By Romanian-French playwright Matei Vi┼čniec, translated by Jeremy Lawrence, and directed by Romanian-born Florinel Fatulescu.

At Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd, West LA. (310) 477-2055 or OdysseyTheatre.com.

Photos by Enci.

Also featured in the October issue of Not Born Yesterday.



Thursday, September 13, 2018

BLACK! in West Hollywood




Intriguing and challenging. British actor, playwright and storyteller Michael Washington Brown impersonates four different men from around the world, each culturally identified as ‘black’ but who have very different ideas about what that means.  

There’s an ingenuous young American who loves Rap but not the hostile type; a studious Brit trying to decipher where he fits in to the ‘white’ culture; a mature man of the Islands full of pride and fatherly concern, and a philosophic South African sadly questioning the enmity between black Africans that causes atrocities. More than just character studies, Brown’s exploration of the word ‘black’ examines race from a global perspective. 

Says Brown, “There are so many stereotypes that seem to mesh all black people and their stories together. But not all of us are African-American, and we don’t all share the same experience. This show looks at race through a much wider lens.”


Technical design by Caitlin Rucker. At Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood. 
Tickets: (800) 838-3006 or blackonemanshow.brownpapertickets.com.


Also reviewed in the October issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

ARRIVAL & DEPARTURE





We are in the New York City subway in this modern-day version of Noel Coward’s classic Brief Encounter and again here are two people, meant for each other, who can never realize the happiness it promises. Stephen Sachs has written and directed this extraordinarily moving play with a new approach: the eloquent man is Deaf and the troubled woman hard-of-hearing as are the two actors. Their communications are all by signing and yet we hear their voices through other actors and their words by writing on the walls. By framing this against vivid fast-moving film of NYC crowds and scenes, Sachs draws us into that dynamic high-energy milieu.

Heading the superb cast are Troy Kotsur and Deanne Bray, and there is an intensity to their performances that transcends imaginary characters. Bray’s Emily especially tears at our hearts. Married to a good but insensitive man, with a rebellious teenage daughter, her need for tenderness is palpable. Kotsur’s Sam is a teacher at a school for the Deaf, who gives support wherever he finds need while asking for little in return. When he forms a bond with Emily he opens himself to longings and emotions he has held in check for years. Their final parting although anticipated (we all know the original story) has an impact that resonates deeply. The ever haunting – if only

 
Adding to the intensity of the play are parallel stories, with Jessica Jade Andres and Shon Fuller (Waitress vs. Subway Cop) teasing and battling in their longing to connect honestly. Aurelia Myers’ troubled teenager searches desperately for love on social media. Brian Robert Burns is touching as Emily’s sincere but mystified husband, while Adam Burch and Stasha Surdyke are splendid in multiple roles. 

At The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave (at Normandie) in Hollywood.

Photos by Ed Krieger.

Also reviewed in the September issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY

NBY SEPTEMBER: SCHOOL GIRLS - PARADISE - HOLE IN THE SKY

Maame Yaa Boafo



SCHOOL GIRLS: THE AFRICAN MEAN-GIRLS PLAY
If you think bullying is a problem in the USA, here is another view. Paulina (Maame Yaa Boafo), the reigning queen bee at Ghana’s exclusive boarding school, has her sights set on the Miss Universe Pageant. But Ericka (Joanna A. Jones), a new student with beauty and talent, captures the attention of the pageant recruiter and Paulina and friends gear up for battle! 
Jocelyn Bioh’s biting comedy explores the universal similarities facing teenage girls across the globe. Said Frank Scheck in his Hollywood Reporter review: School Girls is a ferociously entertaining morality tale that proves as heartwarming as it is hilarious. Directed by Rebecca Taichman. At The Kirk Douglas Theatre, Culver City.

PARADISE
This Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy is set in a Southern coal-mining town going from boom to bust. A charismatic preacher arrives, along with a sexy gal he rescued from a stripper pole! But there’s a Hollywood TV producer, with Reality-Show contacts, who has an idea of how to make the town great again. Music & book by Cliff Wagner, book & lyrics by Bill Robertson and Tom Page. Directed by Michael Myers. At Ruskin Group Theatre, 3000 Airport Road, Santa Monica (lotsa free parking).



HOLE IN THE SKY 
This on-site experience is staged at a working horse-ranch about 15 minutes north of Burbank. A young woman returns home to find her family and community in a bitter fight over who owns the local groundwater during a devastating California drought. 
People are trying to live with nature, but nature doesn’t seem to want them there. Playwright Octavio Solis based his timely play on interviews in rural Siskiyou County. Directed by Kate Jopson. At Courtship Ranch, 11270 Dominica Ave, Lake View Terrace, CA 91342. Info: www.circlextheatre.org


Saturday, July 21, 2018

MUTT HOUSE & THE L.A. THEATRE SCENE




MUTT HOUSE (Culver City)
In this delightful musical there’s an awkward young man, (Ryan McCartan), who talks to animals, and a bevy of his furry friends who talk back. All reside in a rundown animal shelter that the cruel lady-Mayor, (Heather Olt), wants to close down. This means euthanasia for the dogs, none of whom deserve to die. When a Best-of-Show French Poodle, (Valerie Larsen), arrives, she is the most elegantly popular Sniff of the Week! 
It’s a charming show, with joyous canine songs and superb dance numbers by Janet Roston. Creator Tony Cookson’s message is clear: If you love animals help support No Kill groups. Otherwise, adopt one yourself and discover the love that always gives back. 
So, bring the grandkids – they’ll love it too. And don’t worry, there’s a happy ending with catchy song “All You Need is One!” At Kirk Douglas Theatre.

THE LOS ANGELES THEATRE SCENE is home to a staggering number of companies, all devoted to keeping theater alive. From Hollywood to Long Beach, from Westside to Downtown, exciting new projects take the stage. Here are a few of the theatres developing new works.
In LA: Theatre West has an in-house writing group - I just saw their impressive one-act festival; 
Blank Theatre’s long-running Living Room Series is committed to work by diverse voices; 
Rogue Artists Ensemble are starting a writers lab to do a festival of new work.
In NoHo: Road Theatre Company’s Summer Playwrights Festival has 50/50 male and female playwrights;
Actors Workout writers group creates short plays on one theme; 
Group Rep presents plays from in-house writers. 

Sherman Oaks: Loft Ensemble gives new playwrights a production platform to explore and develop work; 
Whitefire has a theater development lab. 
Burbank: Garry Marshall Theatre has a new works festival. 
Topanga: Theatricum Botanicum's 'Seedlings' is a hotbed of development.

To Be Continued...
These comments are also in the August issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Friday, July 20, 2018

SCREWBALL COMEDY & MAYAKOVSKY AND STALIN


SCREWBALL COMEDY (Beverly Hills)




'Screwball comedy' refers to the American genre of story-telling which had its heyday in the 1930s & 40s. The elements included a male and female who are adversarial at first, but are ultimately ideal for each other; some farcical or slapstick action; a female with the upper hand in the relationship, snappy patter and crackling dialogue. And in this case, sexual tension!

With a superb cast that sparkle with audacity, this U.S. Premiere of Canadian playwright Norm Foster’s Screwball Comedy is both homage to as well as an example of the genre. 
The year is 1938 and aspiring reporter, Mary Hayes (Kate Whitney), is struggling to break into the male-dominated world of journalism. Jeff Kincaid (Lane Compton) may be the hottest reporter in the city, but his boss (Daniel Leslie) is fed up with his shenanigans so his job is on the line. Ambitious Mary might be the one to replace him if only she can resist his manly charm. 

Like the zany comedies with Gable vs. Colbert, or Hepburn vs. Tracy, let alone Rosalind Russell vs. Cary Grant, this delightful play crackles with wit and humor! Under Howard Storm's I-dare-you direction David Hunt Stafford almost steals the show as the Percy Dovetonsils butler and everyone else are at the top of their game. 

At Theatre Forty, 241 S. Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills.


MAYAKOVSKY AND STALIN (Hollywood)



Lilya and Vladimir


In this new play, writer-director Murray Mednick explores two distantly connected relationships: that of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and his wife Nadya, and of poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and his married lover and ‘muse’ Lilya Brik. The emphasis is on the tumultuous  days of the Revolution that affected the personal lives of very different people - artists and politicians.

It’s a dramatic character study incorporating historical footage and photos. Sadly, it focuses mainly on the brutal suicides of tormented Vladimir (Daniel Dorr) and raging Nadya (Casey McKinnon) that makes for a sad and rather grim two hours. Historically interesting, the image of Stalin (Maury Sterling) is unsurprisingly frightening, while the irrepressible Lilya (Laura Liguori) illuminates the carefree sexuality of the 20's and 30's. 

Stalin and Nadya
We learn how Mayakovsky was a giant rebel in 20th century Russian literature who was turned into a symbol of the repressive state when, after his death, dictator Stalin declared: “Mayakovsky is the best and most talented poet of our Soviet epoch.” Hailed as The Poet of The Revolution, Mayakovsky’s legacy was censored and intimate or controversial pieces were ignored. According to Boris Pasternak, this Stalin-sanctioned canonization dealt Mayakovsky a second death. 
At The Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd. Hollywood.


Also noted in the August issue of Not Born Yesterday.