Friday, November 22, 2013

BY THE BOG OF CATS …in Burbank

In this dynamic play, Irish author Marina Carr gives life to the familiar lines from Congreve: “Heav'n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn'd, Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn'd.” Set in a small town in Ireland, Carr focuses on the Gaelic love of language, myth and superstition. Hester is a magnificent woman who had taken in a callow youth, Carthage, and transformed him into a man of ambition and intelligence. The fact that he is now fed up with her domination and seeks to advance himself through marriage to an heiress enrages her. In her mind she owns him and is determined to ruin him. On the surface it’s a modern retelling of Medea, but Carr gives this vengeful ex-wife a deeper motive for her final actions. Hester has a tragic back story, a painful secret, with a sorrow that time has never abated.

Kacey Camp is magnificent as the wrathful Hester; Joseph Patrick O’Malley suitably enraged as the harassed Carthage; Talyan Wright is adorable as their young daughter Josie; Barry Lynch is imperious as the local seigneur then tender as a loving father; Casey Kramer is wonderfully eccentric as a blind but far-seeing sibyl; Erin Barnes is touching as the troubled bride, and Rebecca Wackler is delightful as the chatty mother-in-law. Fine in smaller roles are David Pavao as an enigmatic visitor, Erin Noble a concerned neighbor, Shelley Kurtz a tipsy priest, Aidan Bristow a lost ghost and Jacob Lyle a cool-headed waiter.

Under Sean Branney’s superb direction the actors rise to Shakespearean levels of emotion. The wind-swept scenic design by Arthur MacBride is well lit by Bosco Flanagan with imaginatively evocative costumes by Michéle Young.

At The Banshee Theatre, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, through Dec. 8. For tickets call (818) 846-5323 or visit By the Bog of Cats originated at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin where Carr was an Artist in Residence.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

LOST GIRLS ...Los Angeles

A divorced couple are forced to confront each other, and their past, when their beloved 17 year old daughter vanishes in a snowstorm. It’s every parent’s nightmare and we witness the tormented mother, and the guilt ridden father, as they hold a seemingly hopeless vigil together. These are people who express their emotions openly, speak from the heart, and care nothing for the hurt feelings of others. 

We are intrigued by this domestic drama, but then author John Pollono confounds us and nothing is as it seems. We discover the runaway girl in a motel, with a boy, apparently believing they’ll hardly notice she’s gone, delighting in a great adventure and oblivious to any pain this might cause them.

   The play itself is riveting, and its impact is enhanced by the intensity of the performers. Jennifer Pollono is the mother trying desperately to hold herself together; Joshua Bitton is the father haunted by his own failings; Anna Theoni DiGiovanni is a rebellious teen seeking assurance of her real worth; Jonathan Lipnicki is an awkward young man maturing before our eyes; Kirsten Kollender is the new wife treading awkwardly between smugness and caring, and Peggy Dunne is the grandmother accepting a family tradition with bemused forbearance.

Brilliantly directed by John Perrin Flynn, with simple and effective set by David Mauer, lighting by Jeff McLaughlin and sound by Peter Bayne. Cleverly distracting costumes are by Caitlin Doolittle.

At Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, through Dec. 16. Reservations: 855-585-5185 or

Reviewed in the December issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Friday, November 15, 2013


Here is a witty and revealing play that imagines a meeting in 1866 between two legendary figures, Charles Dickens (54) and Lewis Carroll (34). While Dickens' career is at its peak, Carroll, still unknown, has sent him Alice in Wonderland and invited him for a portrait sitting. It is a duel of personalities, with Carroll (Charles Dodgson) prim, yet with sudden bursts of eccentric high spirits, and Dickens, urbane and observant, smug in his heavenly sphere of success. At first he dismisses Carroll’s writing, but in the end acknowledges he is a fellow artist who sublimates the sorrows and joys of his life into stories.

Playwright/director Daniel Rover Singer also explores the personal secrets that color our impression of each man, the writers’ genius versus the questionable human actions. In our modern day, Lewis Carroll’s love of children rouses suspicion and has tarred him with a terrible name, while Dickens’ cruel rejection of his wife to take up with a young actress has a cynical familiarity today. Singer asks where do these words, these books, that light up our souls and torment our hearts really come from? Perhaps genius has its own logic, or as his Dickens says, we just tell our own stories. 

At the curtain, we are invited to take a break and then hear Carroll and Dickens read from their work. Here was an optional but necessary Epilogue. As I laughed at Carroll’s charming unfamiliar fairy tale, and shuddered at Dickens story of a tragic loss at sea, I experienced the revelation of the play. We have met two men with human failings, were perhaps shocked a little by their actions, but their sublime work is beyond judgment. 

Bravo to actors Daniel J. Roberts (Carroll) and Bruce Ladd (Dickens) who, while embodying their characters with depth and sensitivity, manage to also boisterously entertain us. Rover Singer’s set, Will Hastings lighting and Vicki Conrad’s costumes, beautifully capture the elegant Victorian atmosphere.

Presented by Roverzone Productions. 
At Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Avenue (at El Centro), South Pasadena, through December 22. RESERVATIONS: (866) 811-4111 or

Reviewed in the December issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY