Tuesday, March 31, 2015

UNDER MY SKIN …West Hollywood

Inspired by true stories, this delightful show is composed of a series of monologues that explore the struggles and triumphs of those whom our society has labeled ‘different.’ However, rather than sad tales of woe, we are entertained with stylized movement, exuberant singing, wild dancing, and even poetry.  

Here is a show that tackles heartbreak, injustice and bigotry with warmth and humor, and each of its six excellent performers impress us as they portray gay or trans characters in our modern world.  

Dynamic Ludo Vika is an electrifying presence as the singing dancing Diva; Delante McCreary is touching as a young man describing his sexual awakening; Isabella Cascarano shows anguish as a lesbian betrayed by a female disorder; Leo Vargas is delightful as a reluctant bride-(or groom)-to-be; Anhel Jacobo Pulido is a proud trans-woman saluting those who went before; Daniel Galo is poignant as a dreamy abandoned lover, and Mariluz Acosta appears in tiny roles. 

Beautifully choreographed by Beatriz Eugenia Vasquez. Directed and produced by Emanuel Loarca, and written by Loarca, Fernanda Milán, and Victoria García, with decorous costumes by Jillian Clark. Executive produced by Laura Figueroa, this is a Teatro Akabal guest production in association with the Macha Theatre. Performed in English and Spanish with subtitles in both languages.


At Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood. Thursdays at 8 pm in April & on May 21 and 22. For info call (917) 689-4567. Tickets at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1326902.

Photos by Louis “Kengi” Carr and Betthy Juarez.

Monday, March 23, 2015

VERDIGRIS …Los Angeles


In this memory play by film/TV star Jim Beaver, a young aspiring actor in 1972 Oklahoma takes a job in a country house ruled over by a fierce woman in a wheelchair. Once a great beauty and felled by a crippling illness, Margaret brooks no nonsense such as self-pity. However, she also demands the same intense devotion and commitment from all who know her. 

The mixture of admiration and annoyance that she rouses in this young man dominates the action. When he finds he cannot break away from her spell, his own life grinds to a halt. His fiancé and some other inhabitants of Margaret’s domain are baffled by his loyalty. In the end, it is Margaret herself who frees him from the inertia of his life when she surrenders to the realization of her own condition.

Bravura performance by Sheila Shaw as Margaret, with fine backup by Jim Beaver as her drunkard brother, as well as Adam Conger, Katie Adler, Cal Bartlett, Dylan Vigus, David Mingrino, Ian Lerch and David Goldstein. Sadly, the overacting by Chloe Rosenthal and Corinne Shor was distracting.
Directed with humor by Mark W. Travis, with set design by Jeff G. Rack, lighting by Yancey Dunham, sound by Charlie Mount and costumes by Marjorie Vander Hoff. This Nawyecka Production is produced by Charlie Mount, Jill Jones and Arden Teresa Lewis.

At Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd West, Los Angeles, through April 26. Free parking across the street. Tickets: (323) 851-7977 or www.theatrewest.org
Photos by Charlie Mount.

Note: Funding support for this production came from over 900 supporters of the Verdigris Kickstarter Campaign. Bravo!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

TIGER BY THE TAIL …North Hollywood


This is the West Coast Premiere of a love story between two isolated disparate men, a gay therapist in Los Angeles and a straight prisoner in Florida. 

It starts with an ad in a gay newspaper by a prisoner looking for a friend to write to him. Caught by the man’s obvious erudition (and vivid poetry) the therapist is drawn to respond. The play covers a period of years where their relationship, through words read aloud, develops from caution to suspicion to rejection then to total acceptance, compassion and love.

Through this passage of time, there are scenes of violence that are hard to take and often the difference in the two men’s situation borders on mockery. How easy it is in the comfort of a California home to exchange loving words to a man under daily torture. Yet somehow, author Frawley Becker manages to break down that wall so we believe that the emotions each expresses are genuine and that unconsummated love can be real.

Bravo to the actors, especially Michael Taylor Gray as the troubled therapist, and Dave Buzzota as the eloquent prisoner, as well as the cellmates - boyish Michael O’Neil Callaghan, raging Marco Antonio Parra, and guileless Steven West. The guards are played with fierce mockery by Bob McCollum and Todd Andrew Ball. Psychiatrist friend Lloyd Pedersen doubts that this is any more than fantasy while prison reformer Lareen Faye shows empathy.

Director Jules Aaron balances the dramatic tension admirably even though the prison segments are often harrowing. The dramatically contrasting set is by Chris Winfield, with lighting by J. Kent Inasy, sound by Steve Shaw, and costumes by Angela M. Eads. Produced for The Group Rep by author Becker and Richard Alan Woody. 
At The Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood 91601. Tickets/info: (818) 763-5990 or www.thegrouprep.com. Through April 19. Plentiful street parking. 
Photos by Doug Engalla

Also reviewed in the April issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Friday, March 13, 2015

THE ENGLISH BRIDE …North Hollywood

This riveting play is loosely based on the 1986 Hindawi case, a true incident where a handsome Jordanian Arab planted a bomb on the El Al plane carrying his pregnant Irish fiancée to Israel. 

While author Lucile Lichtblau uses this case as a template, she has changed the facts to question and explore the ambiguity of love and betrayal. Here the girl is English, the young man an Israeli Arab, their affair is deep and passionate. The mystery is in the motivation of the Arab. Is he a terrorist setting out to callously murder over 300 people, or a confused young man faced with a catastrophic dilemma when his family learns of his disgrace?

We are given both sides of this conundrum and all the evidence is laid before us but never answered definitively. We must decide. Each of us can bring our own values and life awareness to this story. That is the author’s intent with this clever exploration of human motives. When people lie and their falsehoods bring temporary happiness to another, is this evil or kindness? When people lie to extract confessions from reluctant witnesses, is this fair or is the search for the truth more important? See the play and decide for yourself.

Directed with brilliant intensity by Marya Mazor, with superlative performances by Elizabeth Knowelden as the naïve Eileen, Steven Schub as the devious Ali, and Allan Wasserman as the enigmatic investigator Dov. Set design is by Kaitlyn Pietras, lighting by Pablo Santiago, sound by John Zalewski and costumes by Sarah Ryung Clement. Produced by Chet Grissom, Carlyle King, and Kevin Shipp.

At the Road Theatre, in the NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd. in North Hollywood. Extended through May 10th. For tickets: 818-761-8838 or www.roadtheatre.org.

Photos by John A. Lorenz

Also reviewed in the April issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.