Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A WORD OR TWO …at the Ahmanson Theatre

Christopher Plummer is in town for just 16 performances in this emotionally potent one-man play that the New York Times called “a passionate love letter to language…” Plummer grew up in Montreal reading Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, George Bernard Shaw, Rudyard Kipling, A.A. Milne, Lewis Carroll, Lord Byron, Dylan Thomas, W.H. Auden, Stephen Leacock, etc. and was “hooked on the intoxication of words.” Here is a celebration of the poetry and literature that has meant the most to him, stitched together with ruminations that range from mothers to strippers, jazz to cabaret, religion to death.

Plummer begins in his boyhood, spying Lewis Carroll's "aged man, a sitting on a gate" only to find himself at 82 becoming that fellow, as old age arrives more quickly than you think! So what to do? He quotes Oscar Wilde: "No man is rich enough to buy back his own past!" He talks of Dylan Thomas, whom he once hung out with in New York. What about Love? Religion? With these usual solutions to our existential angst banished from the stage, Plummer's reassures us that, for him, "the power of the writer's words make death and decay bearable."

The show is directed by Des McAnuff, although written and arranged by Plummer who is surrounded onstage by a tower of books angling up, over and behind him, as eloquent witness to his passion.

At the Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles Music Center, 135 N Grand Ave, Jan 19 through Feb 9. Tickets at the CTG box office or www.CenterTheatreGroup.org or call (213) 972-4400.   

Reviewed in the January issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY

Friday, December 13, 2013

MOM’S GIFT …North Hollywood

If you love the comedy “It’s a Wonderful Life” this modern variant by playwright Phil Olson is just for you. You see, Mom, who has been dead nearly a year, has to accomplish a task to earn her wings. Her eldest daughter, Kat, is estranged from Dad, blaming him for Mom’s death and suspicious of his relationship with Mom’s former nurse. Mom shows up at Dad’s birthday party hoping to reconcile them but, unfortunately, the only person who can see or hear her is the angry Kat. Trying to get through to this gal, who is in a court-ordered Anger Management Program, is not easy. Still, here is a mother undaunted and, under her loving energy, Kat, Dad, Nurse, bratty Kid Sister and the shy Boy Next Door all finally reconcile in loving harmony. 

Julia Silverman is delightfully warm and gracious as Mom; Gina Yates is a troubled hellcat as Kat; Chris Winfield is touching as the grieving Dad; Lisa McGee-Mann is ingenuous and sweet as Nurse Trish; Trisha Hershberger is amusing and lively as kid-sister Brittney; Cyrus Alexander is appealing as Kevin, the faithful boy next door, and an offstage Mystery Voice is hilarious as their nutty neighbor, Mrs. Norquist.

Director Sherry Netherland balances deftly between comedy and emotional truth so the play is inspiring and never grim. Chris Winfield has designed a faultless Minnesota home that is enhanced by Steve Shaw’s sound design, Sabrina Beattie’s lighting and Lynda Pyka’s costumes. Produced by Laura Coker for The Group Rep.

At the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd. North Hollywood, through January. For tickets: (818) 763-5990 or www.thegrouprep.com   

Also reviewed in the January issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.