Monday, August 31, 2015

29 YEARS FOR 13 SECONDS …Larchmont. Los Angeles

What happens to a man who is imprisoned for 29 years for a crime he didn’t commit? Does he sink into despair as he rages against the machine, or can he find meaning in his life so he reenters the world with dignity and a mission. 

In this deeply engaging play, the inspiring saga of Vance “Duke” Webster is almost a parallel of Nelson Mandela’s journey to greatness. At age 17, Webster witnessed a murder and, due to the code of honor he lived by, did not “snitch.” Then tumultuous events in his personal life conspired to have him accused of that murder and thereby sent away to Folsom Prison.

In this eloquent play, adapted by Alexus Rhone based on the book she wrote with Webster, we witness the misunderstandings that robbed him of 29 years and yet see how one man, tormented and scorned, can stand proud when all seems lost.

Billy "Issim Dark" Ramsey portrays Webster with naïve grace that aptly fits the shy man who speaks to us by words in the play, and in person, after the performance. Most amazing is Shanel Nicole Moore who not only directs with imaginative zest, but also swiftly transforms into a series of women, his lovers, his mother, and even one troubled young man right before our eyes.

Produced by author Rhone, with John Brady of Opportunity BRIDGES as executive producer. At the Stephanie Feury Theatre, 5636 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles. 
Performances vary so for future dates contact

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


As I write this review, it is the one year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the cry “Black Lives Matter” resounds throughout the country. In this challenging meditation on race in America, poet Claudia Rankine and adapter Stephen Sachs take us on a journey into a region we are reluctant to acknowledge. Through poetry, prose, movement, music and strong video images we observe and experience what it feels like to be treated like “the other” in your own country.
Rankine, who teaches poetry and creative writing at Pomona College, has said her primary subject is not so much about race, but the ways in which we encounter and fail each other. Here she shows it is not only the militarized racism that catches one unawares, it is the everyday, matter-of-fact contempt or the hidden awareness of difference where there really is none. 

There is anger expressed, but also a deep sorrow that is a reminder of the often unheard words by other poets over hundreds of years.
Shirley Jo Finney’s direction ignites the performers - Bernard K. Addison, Leith Burke, Tina Lifford, Tony Maggio, Simone Missick, Lisa Pescia -  who play myriad parts with energy and passion. 

Powerful video design by Yee Eun Nam; sound by Peter Bayne; lighting by Pablo Santiago; movement by Anastasia Coon, costumes by Naila Aladdin-Sanders.

At The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave, LA, through Sept. 14. Tickets: (323) 663-1525 or
Pay-What-You-Can every Monday night!

Photos by Ed Krieger.

Also reviewed in the September issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Friday, August 7, 2015

LUKA'S ROOM …in Los Angeles

In this brilliant new play, by Rob Mersola, a naïve teenage boy goes to live with his grandmother and is given his absent father’s old room. He meets a bold young woman and brings her to his room where she introduces him to the imaginative joys of sex. For a few months he shyly discovers his appetite for sexual play with or without a partner. Then, to his horror, he discovers all his bedroom antics are being viewed publicly on the internet.

This sounds like an amusing concept, and in a way it is, but it’s also an indictment of our modern obsession with exhibitionism and the sad loss of privacy. There’s not a false note in this play, each character is complex and totally believable, but the author lays bare the cynicism of our age and how innocence can be just another product to be exploited.
Nick Marini is touching as the guileless Luka; Sarah Scott is dynamite as the uninhibited Angie; Alex Fernandez is exuberant as encouraging Uncle Nick; Joanna Lipari is moving as befuddled Grandma Franca, and Vince Melocchi is disquieting as Luka’s formidable Dad. 

Peerless direction by Joshua Bitton, with choice casting by Victoria Hoffman.  Excellent set by John Iacovelli, lighting by Leigh Allen, projection design by Nicholas Santiago, sound by Christopher Moscatiello and costumes by Michèle Young. Awesome fight scene by Ned Mochel. Produced by John Perrin Flynn and Jen Pollono for Rogue Machine.

At Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 West Pico Blvd, LA, through Sept 20. Tickets: (855) 585-5185 or
Photos by John Perrin Flynn
Also reviewed in the September issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


In Lee Blessing’s moving play, a young man searches for the father he never knew and comes up against a grumpy old chap who apparently couldn’t care less. Or could he? There are many people living apparently busy lives who never connect emotionally with another human being, except perhaps for one precious night that stays in one memory but had no consequences, until out of the blue that half-forgotten event suddenly holds out the promise of belonging to someone. If you dare.

Don’t miss this play, you’ll laugh and perhaps even cry a little, but you will see recognizable human beings who make us aware how we all need people and what a tragedy it is to never connect. It’s a deeply human story, experienced similarly by close friends of mine, and in each case nothing was as it seemed. So it is in this poignant, funny and honest play.
Lloyd Pedersen is heartbreaking as the curmudgeonly old baseball umpire who appears to value the winning of a Series to the gaining of a son. Dan Sykes is forceful as the ever-impatient son, demanding to know where and who he came from, but frustrated at every turn by the seemingly impenetrable wall between them.

There is an added poignancy here because the original director, Sherry Netherland, died after staging the play but Group Rep artistic director Larry Eisenberg carries her vision forward admirably. Minimal set by Chris Winfield, graphics by Doug Haverty, lighting by J. Kent Inasy, sound by Steve Shaw and costumes by Angela M. Eads.

At the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd, North Hollywood, through August 30. Tickets at (818) 763-5990 or

Photos by Doug Engalla.