Sunday, February 21, 2016

BROKEN FENCES …North Hollywood

Steven Simoncic’s play is set in the present where a Yuppie couple move into a newly renovated house in a poor black neighborhood in Chicago. These privileged whites are now in the hood where crack pipes and graffiti soon desecrate their neat little yard. As if from separate planets, they gaze at their neighbors with alarm and timid fellowship while the African American couple next door are equally hesitant as they offer them welcome.

Basic to the story is the need for the black family to cling to their roots in this ramshackle old house once owned by grandparents. Simoncic shows the poignant loss when one’s heritage is being swept away by encroaching gentrification. There are no villains in this story. Poverty has its own rationale and if one day the guy next door is stealing their boxes, the next week they’re sharing a bottle of beer. 
Bruce A. Lemon Jr. and Donna Simone Johnson show complex depths of feeling as the shy black neighbors;  Coronado Romero and Mia Fraboni are excellent as the ingenuous white intruders; Kris Frost and Ivy Khan are suburban whites personified; 

Ben Theobald is the racially enigmatic resident punk, while James Holloway is dynamic as the local cynic who knows how to play the race card and win.
Smoothly directed by Andre Barron and produced by Donald Russell for Road Theatre Company. At the NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd, NoHo, through April 3. Tickets: 818-761-8838 or visit

Photos by Michele Young.

Saturday, February 13, 2016


We are flies on the wall in this one-man play about an elderly Jewish businessman who, having survived the best and the worst, is faced with an ultimate challenge. Although Charles Dennis’ script leans rather heavily on exposition, the brilliant acting by Michael Laskin soon compensates for any lack of dramatic tension. Set in New York City in the 1990’s, Altman is fighting to save his last refuge – his second-hand shop – from being taken from him. Although fictional, Franz Altman is based on any number of vulnerable men who had to fight for their lives against the crushing powers labeled progress.

The conceit is an interview with an invisible lady reporter but Laskin is quite capable of carrying the action without that prop. Having become a media celebrity through a 60 Minute segment, Altman is galvanized into action. This is a man who has survived tragedies, least of all imprisonment in Auschwitz, and if you think a greedy landlord and his attorney will rout him never fear. This may be Altman’s last stand but how he fights that battle is both amusing and plausible.

Director Charles Haid keeps the action moving with knocks on doors and phones ringing so the sense of reality never lets up. Impressive seedy NYC office set and nostalgic projections are by Yee Eun Nam; sound is by Corwin Evans, lighting by Toranj Noroozi, while Laskin’s evocative 1990’s costume is by Jeffrey Kurland.

At Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood. Tickets: (323) 960-4412 or online at

Photos by Ellen Giamportone

Friday, February 12, 2016



He’s back with his cheery jokes, his magic tricks and his sweetly sardonic comedy, but also to share darker stories from his life. After Broadway shows, multiple TV appearances and drama series, Orson Bean is appearing as himself. Here is the saga of a young boy breaking away from a terrible childhood into the magical world of stand-up comedy. He reveals that what kept him going throughout his life now seems to him a series of miracles.

Handsome as ever and winsome as we knew him best we spend a delightful 90 minutes discovering who he really is. The inner life of a comedian is often shaded with tragedy that is only overcome by humor and optimism. That’s what this show is about and I recommend it unreservedly to all who remember the man and laughed at his gentle view of humanity.

Director Guillermo Cienfuegos sets a languid but intimate mood that draws in audience members to feel as though they are Orson’s special friends. The clever mix of humor, magic & melancholy works admirably throughout. Also, if you sit in the front row you might be lucky enough to be drawn into some amazing magic tricks.

At Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd. in Venice. For tickets call (310) 822-8392 or online at
 *Wry Note: In the 1960’s when I was a young Broadway actress I was briefly in a show with Orson but, as often happens with a neophyte and a star, we never personally met
Also reviewed in the March issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.  His memoir, Safe At Home, is available on Amazon.