Thursday, October 31, 2013

A GOOD GRIEF …in Hollywood

In this new play, four very disparate people who have lost a parent assemble for grief counseling but, like Godot, the counselor never comes. So, left to their own devices, they soon drop the formalities and start to tear away at each others facades. It soon appears that what might have taken six months in group therapy, in this case, is humorously achieved in under 90 minutes. It is funny but also touching as, with their illusions mocked, each one faces up to and admits the gnawing sorrow of their lives. In the end, their impromptu session achieves what appears to be (and one hopes is) a catharsis for all.


First up is Stanley (Gary Rubenstein) as the quintessential Mama’s Boy whose declarations of adoration for the long-departed ring false to practical Ray (Paul Messinger) and no-nonsense Ruth (Rachel Boller). Both of them insist they have no need for grief therapy - Ray has the perfect marriage and Ruth the perfect job. 

Then comes Brenda (Mandy Dunlap), the worried mother of rowdy youngsters, who is not ashamed to admit that her grief over her father’s death is more for what was lacking in life with him than for his leaving.

Author Leslie Hardy has a keen but tender eye for people’s muddled emotions and all of her characters ring true and distinctive. Director Jeffrey Wylie paces the show for ultimate attention – making us flies on the wall so we are practically included in the goings on. The set by Bill Cole captures the bleak after-hours atmosphere of a yellow-walled schoolroom with plastic-tile floor. Developed at Fierce Backbone Theatre Company and produced by Victoria Watson. 

At the Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd (East of Vine) through December 1st. Tickets: 323-960-7784 or

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

FALLING ...Los Angeles


This moving and fascinating play is inspired by brave author Deanna Jent’s life with her own autistic son. From the moment it starts, we are witnesses to the bravery and dedicated love of an often overwhelmed mother and father. There is a charming madness to the ritual touching, sounds and movements of the young man onstage, yet in seconds he can turn into a threatening force. Although the Martins have managed to achieve a semblance of normalcy, when his grandmother comes to visit, with her religious faith and parental advice, the entire family dynamic is threatened.

Under Elina de Santos’ brilliantly realized direction, Matt Little is unforgettable as the erratic but loveable Josh; as his mother, Anna Khaja passionately conveys a love that will not accept defeat; as his father, Matthew Elkins subtly shows the impatience anyone might feel when their life is out of control; as the grandmother, Karen Landry is bewildered by the changes in her once-sweet grandson, and as the second child, Tara Windley displays the anger and confusion of one whose peace of mind is constantly under siege.

 The serene family setting is designed by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz, with illumination by Leigh Allen and comforting sound by Christopher Moscatiello. Costumes are by Elizabeth A. Cox. Plaudits to fight director Joe Sofranko for the riveting scenes of sporadic violence that kept us all in a constant state of preparedness.

At The Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 Pico Blvd., LA, through December 1. Reservations: 855-585-5185 or

 Reviewed in the November issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY, available in Public Libraries and Senior Centers throughout the Los Angeles area.

WILD IN WICHITA ...downtown Los Angeles

This is a sweet play about two people in their 70’s, in a Kansas convalescent home, who fall in love. He is Mexican, she is Puerto Rican, a fact that initially divides them but, stranded as they are in the bleak landscape of Kansas, actually draws them together. Both have serious health problems, she also has emotional scars, but they daringly try to escape their infirmities by acting as wild adventurous teenagers. 

They go skinny dipping, plan to elope to Vegas, meanwhile driving their adult children into worried rages. It blissfully works for awhile, life is full of promise, until reality arrives to knock sense into them and cool their ardor. The play asks the age old question, “can love conquer all?” and in this case I believe it can.
Sal Lopez, as the romantic Joaquin, steals the show with his zest for life, his beautiful melodic singing and expert guitar playing. Anyone could love such a man, and happily the morose Carmela, played by Denise Blasor (who also directs) soon does.   

As Carmela’s worried son, Alberto de Diego, is an energy source in himself; and Crissy Guerrero, as Joaquin’s bossy daughter, goes from bullying to understanding as the play unfolds.

Produced by The Latino Theater Company, and written by native Texan, Lina Gallegos, a Spanish version played nearly two years in NYC. As director, Blasor subtly brings the cast to full human potential and the sun-bleached patio set by Carolina Ortiz, well lit by John A. Garofalo, captures the dry bleakness of Kansas.

At Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., downtown, through November. Tickets: (866) 811-4111 or

Reviewed in the November issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY, available in Public Libraries and Senior Centers throughout the Los Angeles area.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


This is a one man show but actually, under the spell of playwright-performer Darin Dahms, there are three distinct men on stage, all fully realized and all fascinating. The action takes us back to the mid-19th century, where we meet the three significant members of the historic Booth family.

Junius Brutus Booth
There is Junius Brutus Booth, the patriarch, a man possessed by demons, with an equal passion for the soliloquies of Shakespeare and the numbing magic of liquor. As the events we are all too aware of unfold, his parental mantra “an actor must act!” takes on a deeper significance, as does his fatherly advice to his actor sons, “always wear your spurs.”

Edwin Booth
 The sane member of this trio, Edwin Booth, is a gentle man forced into acting, and struggling for years, until he is hailed as the greatest American actor of his century. The sacrifices he has to make for this itinerant career are poignantly revealed by the loss of his young wife while he strides a distant public stage.

John Wilkes Booth
Then there is the younger brother, hothead playboy, John Wilkes, boasting he will be the most famous actor of all time, and succeeding with the act that changed history: the assassination of Lincoln. We accompany John Wilkes step by step through the Ford Theatre to the president’s private box. Taking his father’s advice literally, he wears his spurs, which become his undoing when, leaping to the stage, they catch on the flag and he breaks his ankle. Dahms knows the psychology of actors and his revelation on John Wilkes’ motivation, petty grievance turned into megalomania, rang true in this setting even though historians prefer a conspiracy claim.

Dahms’ boldly weaves in Shakespeare’s words, and most famous soliloquies, to illustrate the dramatic action and spiritual changes throughout. Brilliantly written and performed, this is a must-see for lovers of Shakespeare and students of history.

At the MET Theatre, downstairs, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hollywood (at Western Ave. & Santa Monica Blvd.), through Nov. 2. Fri. & Sat. at 8 p.m.
RESERVATIONS: (800) 838-3006. or: