Wednesday, October 28, 2015

NEED TO KNOW …Los Angeles

   After having once lived in a rent stabilized NYC apartment I totally get it. You have neighbors, some weird, some adorable, and some even are both. In this truly delightful look at what it means to have a paper-thin wall dividing you from heaven knows who, or what, we meet a lovely young couple who are trying to work out their creative and amorous lives by relocating from the West Coast to the Big Apple. Then, yikes, they happen to have a truly strange next-door neighbor. 

Or is he really so strange? Isn’t he rather a darling? Is that a sense of humor and a compassion for mankind disguised as a dork? You will have to go and see for yourself. Just be glad to know this NO EXIT has a happier conclusion than Sartre's grim tale.

Playwright Jonathan Caren takes a delight in revealing there might be a dork inside each of us, only some are more disguised than others. There is fish-loving Lilly (Corryn Cummins) with a bad case of writers block; macho Silicon Valley guy Steven (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe) teetering on the brink of creative despair, and into their midst comes lumbering giant Mark (Tim Cummings) clutching a manuscript and a loving if vengeful heart.

Under Bart DeLorenzo’s sparkling direction we are joyfully drawn into their lives. The artfully done double apartment set is by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz, lit by Chu-Hsuan Chang, with sound by John Zalewski. Costumes by E.B. Brooks.

At Rogue Machine, 5041 Pico Blvd, LA, through Dec. 13. Tickets: 855-585-5185 or

 Photos by John Perrin Flynn

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Playwright Allen Barton has the gift of creating real people in relationships and situations that we recognize in our own lives. Far more than a diatribe against Scientology, this is a nearly tragic look at how all organized religions, by their very essence, separate people. Two stories overlap and prove this point, one with terrible sadness, the other with a fearful warning. To be a sane thinking person in a mad world is obviously a major problem in our own society today.

A man (Bo Foxworth) seeks his lost daughter who was sucked into a cult at age 15 after her mother was killed in a car accident that was his fault. He tries to ingratiate himself into the cult and in the beginning finds serenity and an easing of his burden of guilt. Then as the tentacles grow stronger and more obvious he has to decide if his love for his daughter is stronger than his fear of the machine.

The first act is deeply moving as the man is embraced by an elderly music teacher (Dennis Nollette) who helps draw him back to sanity. The bond between them is strong, yet it must be disconnected. 

The daughter (Carter Scott), now a young wife, and pregnant, deeply loves her brainwashed young husband (Luke Cook). She longs to escape the same tentacles but, when she faces down the Chairman (Everette Wallin), she must be disconnected.

How that is managed becomes the alarming second act. The only false note is two monologues that spell out what we already grasp and nearly wreck the emotional impact of the play.

Superbly directed by Joel Polis and produced by Gary Grossman of Skylight Theatre Company.
At the Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 South Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills, though November 8. Tickets: 213-761-7061 or

Photos by Ed Krieger

Saturday, October 17, 2015


A quixotic Bertolt Brecht scholar (Davey Johnson) is being terminated by his university, and his exit interview is with a deeply religious woman (Catie LeOrisa) who praises the Lord no matter what evil befalls. Their scenes are cleverly written, and well performed, but interspersed by a dubious running gag of a lone gunman shooting offstage. There are sacred cows, for sure, but school massacres are hardly food for comedy.

It was like watching Saturday Night Live with a group of extraordinarily talented performers doing a series of numbers, some brilliant others asinine, with a screeching bunch of cheerleaders as openers that almost had me running for the serene Hollywood outdoors.

Perhaps the best skit was a Catholic priest (Rich Hutchman), Irish and affable enough to be a man of the cloth, who chastised the professor for losing his faith. Another delightful sketch was a self-loving TV host (Wayne Wilderson) giving notes to a bewildered guest (Jocelyn O’Keefe) before the TV cameras rolled.
All the actors deserve applause, but the show was confusing as it leaped from farce, to an indictment of hypocrisy, to a slap against religious people. Perhaps my sense of humor is skewed but when the gunman finally appeared it was disturbing to realize that anything is grist for a laugh nowadays.

Written by William Missouri Downs, directed by Sirena Irwin, and produced by Andrea Hutchman and Craig Anton for Buzzworks Theater Company..

At The Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood, through Nov 15. Tickets: 323-960-7712 or

Photos by Carl Steinbauer.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

WATCHING O.J. …Atwater Village

Remember where you were when the verdict in the O.J. murder case came down, and your reaction? Playwright David McMillan takes us back 20 years to a Los Angeles neighborhood where a group of people, black and white, await the verdict, each with their own expectations. 

You’ll be riveted as you take this journey with them and perhaps surprised at the contradictory reactions. These are all friendly, civilized folk, tolerant of each others differences, although consciously aware of them. Yet, while one young woman vomits at the ‘not guilty’ decision, another dances. How this is possible is the theme of this profoundly moving play.

There’s a Dry Cleaners owned by a Jewish man (Tony Pasqualini) with a loyal black assistant (Angela Bullock), and a Car Mechanic Shop owned by an astute black man (Robert Gossett) with a smart but impulsive assistant (Kareem Ferguson). Customers come and go in both shops, outspoken Lisa Renee Pitts, frazzled Eve Sigall, medical students Tarah Pollock, Roy Vongtama, and cop’s wife Kelly Wolf.

All await the decision to the 9-month trial they’ve been following. At first the analysis are light-hearted – after all who could possibly doubt the verdict – it’s only after the decision is read out that the explosion happens and the definition of justice is under scrutiny.

Under Keith Szarabajka’s brilliant direction, McMillan’s compassionate view of  people who are not racists, but in some deep way are separated by race, is explored. Produced by Stephen Burleigh for Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA.

Atwater VillageTheatre, 3269 Casitas Ave. LA. Through Nov 8. Tickets: 818-858-0440 or  
Photos by Hope Burleigh

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

THE MONEY FI$H …in Hollywood

What is a man willing to suffer for money? What depths of degradation will he go before waking to the fact that he is wretchedly unhappy, even with a pocketful of cash. In this engrossing one-man show, John Cox takes us on his personal journey to enlightenment through back-breaking work. This young man’s search for meaning, after an abusive childhood, leads him to pursue the goal of $$$ earned within the confines of a brutal world.

Months at sea capturing and sorting fish soon endows him with a small fortune in cash. The ultimate goal is the real catch – become a Captain and after 11 months at sea you go home with half a million. When someone who matters to him says the old cliché ‘money doesn’t buy happiness’ he wonders if he’s been suckered into a false dream.

Under Michael Arabian’s dynamic direction, Cox creates a number of people who influenced his life: the snarling captain who had only contempt for his workers; the happy-go-lucky shipmate who wasted his life ashore and was wasted by the ship itself, even momentarily the step-father who beat him. 

Also the child psychologist who taught a broken boy how to survive, and the young woman who lifted a mirror so he saw his life pattern.

Imaginative set (John Iacovelli), lighting (Leigh Allen) and sound (Julie Ferrin). Don’t miss this inspiring true story.

At The Hudson Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd. Hollywood, through Nov. Tickets at (323) 960-7780 or
Photos by Michael Lamont

Also reviewed in the November issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY