Thursday, February 27, 2014




When I was a child, a young mother in my English town took her life when her lover moved away. While experiencing this play, that captures the sublimity of perfect love, I finally understood what depth of feeling might have driven her to it. To adaptor & director Emma Rice, theater not only consists of language because, as she demonstrates, love and longing are visceral; here is a roaring sea in the mind, there a fall to the floor when approached by the beloved, all a visualization of the swept-away feeling that overcomes lovers.

Coward’s simple tale of two people meeting in a railroad tea shop in 1938 is transformed into an exuberant ballet where various aspects of love – the forbidden, the carnal and the adolescent – combine to show the passionate reality that love brings to mundane daily life. All of this Rice accomplishes through musical numbers, film projections and vaudeville turns by her brilliant multi-tasking performers.

The mostly British cast, many from the original Kneehigh Theatre UK production, are headed by Hannah Yelland who, as Laura, captures the stiff-upper-lip bravado of a gracious British housewife struggling against a passion that might wreck her life; Jim Sturgeon as Alec is a decent chap unable to resist the pull of a promised love; 

Annette McLaughlin as Myrtle is a sassy broad with singing and dancing talent to spare; Joe Alessi plays her lover Fred, a cheeky train dispatcher one moment, then Albert a solid understanding husband; Dorothy Atkinson plays Beryl, a cheeky teenager, as well as a loquacious grande dame, and Damon Daunno as Stanley is an eager beaver wanna-be Romeo.

At the Bram Goldsmith Theater, Annenberg Center,  9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills through March 23. Tickets: Annenberg Box Office, phone 310-746-4000 or

Monday, February 17, 2014

GOING TO ST. IVES …Hollywood


In this compelling two-person drama, the imperious mother of an African dictator visits the English ophthalmologist from whom she seeks help for her failing eyesight. In an elegantly furnished home in St. Ives, England, there is some challenging social interaction over cups of tea. However, both women have hidden agenda’s that require them to betray their personal beliefs in the search for a greater good. It involves a murder, and ultimately triggers a bloody chain of events with life-and-death consequences.

Both attain their purposed goal but months later, meeting again in Africa, are faced with the spiritual failure and personal annihilation that their actions have wrought. Author Lee Blessing presents questions of personal ethics, global politics and moral responsibility through two strong-willed women trading confidences across a wide cultural divide.


 In the end, Inger Tudor, as the haughty May N’Kame, delivers a heart-wrenching monologue on a mother’s loss that brings the play into tragic focus, while Nan McNamara, as the dedicated surgeon Dr. Gage, passionately mourns the loss of the idealism that made her a doctor.

Uncompromising direction is by Linda Kerns, with set by Mark Henderson and Tim Farmer, lighting by Bill E. Kickbush, sound by Warren Davis, and elegant costumes by Vicki Conrad. Catherine Gray produces for Actors Co-op.

Actors Co-op is located on the grounds of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, 1760 N. Gower Street, Hollywood. Free parking is available. For play dates: (323) 462-8460 ext. 300 or

Reviewed in the March issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Monday, February 10, 2014

PASSION PLAY …West Los Angeles

In this three-part saga, playwright Sarah Ruhl’s kaleidoscopic view of life is revealed through the backstage romancing, social conflicts and political shenanigans of different historic eras. 

In the show, three different acting troupes are staging a pageant on the death of Christ in 16th century England, then Nazi Germany, and finally 20th century South Dakota. In these enactments locals of the time squabble, seduce each other and rehearse the crucifixion, seemingly oblivious to the threats looming via their government leaders. 

Illustrious visitors to the pageants include the warlike Catholic-persecuting Queen Elizabeth the First, the high-booted snarling Adolf Hitler, and the chirpy half-distracted Ronald Reagan. It’s a heavy show, told as a Music Hall romp, fascinating to watch but in the end leaving this audience member wondering what it all adds up to. It's a bleak picture where lust gives way to suicide, homesickness to betrayal, and patriotism to madness.

Under Bart DeLorenzo’s fluid direction the large ensemble smoothly transition from loutish peasants (1570), to cynical Germans (1934) to naive Americans (1984). 

The three icons of Queen, Dictator and President are brilliantly impersonated by Shannon Holt, who makes you laugh as your blood runs cold.  Christian Leffler is dominating as a man robbed of his innocence and his beloved wife by an unnamed war, Dorie Barton portrays Mary the Virgin as a hot little number, while Daniel Bess is a virile Christ. Also notable are Dylan Kenin, Amanda Troop, Bill Brochtrup, Brittany Slattery, John Charles Meyer and John Prosky.

Set is by Frederica Nascimento, lighting by Michael Gend, music and sound by John Ballinger, and costumes by Raquel Barreto.

At Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West LA through March 16.  Tickets: (310) 477-2055 or

Reviewed in the March issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.