Monday, September 23, 2013

GALLERY SECRETS … at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

"A Vast Hoard" by Tom Jacobson
Directed by Janet Hayatshahi

In this intriguing show, it’s after hours at the Museum and the audience is led through darkened hallways to various galleries. In the 1913 Rotunda we are drawn back in time to where the Museum director is pleading for art works that now hang before us. 

"Skins and Bones" by Ruth McKee
Directed by Andrew Borba

A young gal then escorts us into the 1929 African Dioramas Hall where we witness a shy young couple, who work together on the bones collection, falling in love. 

"Under the Glass" by Zakiyyah Alexander
Directed by Jeff Wienckowski

Then, a giddy young man beckons us to follow him into the Gem and Mineral Hall where, in 1978, a sophisticated museum donor and his vivacious wife are facing a life and death crisis. 


This is interrupted by some scantily clad young
"Prom Season" by Boni B. Alvarez
Directed by Jennifer Chang
ladies who invite us to their prom in the Dinosaur Hall. Once there we see and hear a modern female guard give sensible warning to a young woman who seems bent on ruining her life with a seedy lothario.

These four plays were written and directed by local talents specifically for these locations. All of the performers were excellent but among the large cast I especially favored Blaire Chandler, Tony Amendola, Frank Daggett, Rod Menzies, Amy Ellenberger, Melinda Bielefelt, Joel J. Gelman, Katherine Sigismund, Marie Ponce, Angel Star Felix and Justin Huen.

Chalk Rep specializes in performing plays in unconventional spaces around Los Angeles County. In the Museum, each play is inspired by an assigned gallery, and set in the time period when that gallery was built, covering 100 years of history, architecture and exhibits.

At the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, 900 Exposition Blvd. at Vermont, through Oct. 13. For Chalk Rep call 323-379-9583 or  For tickets call the Museum at 213-763-3499 or www.NHM.ORG/calendar.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

THE BELLS OF WEST 87th Hollywood

The family feast on fake turkey!

 A young woman is managing a Manhattan apartment building while desperately trying to keep peace between her eccentric parents, now living next door to each other in the same building. Although they are separated, the wife is keeping an eye (or ear) on him through a series of bells that signal his wanderings through his rooms. However, he is quite happy alone, pursuing his dream of a career as an illusionist. Into this wacky mix the daughter brings her new beau, who she met in art class and, to her dismay, he finds her nutty family utterly charming. 

As do we, I might add.

Molly, Ida and Chris
Cameron Meyer, as the frustrated Molly, perfectly captures her lack of self-confidence, and James Marsters, as her boyfriend Chris, is delightfully nerdy and sweet. However it is Carol Locatell as Ida, the hyper-critical mother, and Robert Towers as Eli, the impish magician, who steal the show. They make it seem that four years apart might actually have been good for their marriage. Dagney Kerr as Maxine, the sister who has it all (or does she?) brings a sweet normalcy to the family gathering.
Eli and Chris

A truly funny view of family by playwright Elin Hampton , with witty direction by Richard Pierce. Adjacent NYC-apartments set is by Jeff McLaughlin, with effective lighting by Michael Gend; sound by Cricket S. Myers, and costumes by Susanne Klein.

Presented by Round Swamp Entertainment, in association with Greenway Arts Alliance.  At Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax, Hollywood, through October. Tickets: (323) 655-7679 x100 or  (free parking available)


An old settler is a coarse name for an old maid, but, in this case, it also suggests one who settles. This poignant play by John Henry Redwood is about a 50 year-old woman, in 1943, who is given the choice to embrace life, take a risk and find joy. A man twenty years younger offers her love and passion, but the society she lives in, personified by her sister and a young party girl, challenge and intimidate her.

Ruby Hinds & Jolie Oliver
Elizabeth is not a fighter, she’s a nurturer. Although a strong woman, she is dominated by those who mock and degrade her, whose actions are self-serving, and who can only love her when she is in defeat. The play often seemed to suggest the song lyric - some people get their kicks stomping on a dream - from “That’s Life.” However, Redwood understood the mores of the 1940’s and does not let us judge Elizabeth’s choice, or her sister's criticisms, from our modern viewpoint.

Elizabeth & sister Jolie

Ruby Hinds’ Elizabeth is dignified and deeply loving; Jolie Oliver, is delightfully funny as her unintentionally cruel sister; John R. Davidson, as the young suitor, shows a gentle man na├»vely trapped by split loyalties, and Crystal Garrett is sassy as Bessie May, a young gal who knows how to control men through sex.
Bessie May & Jolie

William Stanford Davis directs with sensitivity. Set design by Thomas Brown, lighting by Carol Doehring, costumes by Grace Goodson and props by Chuck Loring are all redolent of a bygone era.

A  JVO Productions in association with InterACT Theatre Company. At The Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, through Oct. 27. For reservations (323) 960-7712 or

The Old Settler premiered in 1995 at the O'Neill Theatre Conference and in 2001 was on PBS-TV starring real-life sisters Debbie Allen and Phylicia Rashad.