Monday, April 25, 2016

CURRENCY …in Los Angeles

Playwright Jennie Webb has described her work as “domestic absurdism” and in this play the absurd certainly lays waste to the domestic. Here, a sweet middle-aged couple are just getting to know each other after a night of bliss. It is the morning-after in her bedroom and, as they shyly make grasps at intimacy, all hell breaks loose. 

Among an onslaught of intruding relatives and friends are a mad sister, a daft kid brother, an office co-worker and an omnipresent dear departed. Hey, you’ve heard of dysfunctional families but this bunch will make the hair stand up on your head, even as you laugh aloud!
Actually, the couple, Warren Davis and Dale Waddington, were clearly made for each other and, in another sort of play, would have married and lived happily ever after. Still, Webb reminds us, we live in a complicated and threatening world and sometimes our most intimate kin are leading the charge. 

Gina Torrecilla as the ball-busting sister, has everyone’s best interests at heart; Josh Stamell, as the loquacious kid brother, has found the key to universal happiness; while Shirley Jordan, as the loyal co-worker, knows that the vicious business world, not love, is our only hope.

Fast-paced direction by Annie McVey keeps the action speeding. Dollhouse bedroom set by Krystyna Loboda is effectively lit by Derrick McDaniel with awesome sound by Stephen Swift, while costumes are by Allison Dillard.

At VS. Theatre, 5453 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, through May 21. Tickets at
 Photos by Stephanie Fishbein.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

MY MAÑANA COMES …in Hollywood

In Elizabeth Irwin’s powerful new play, four young men work as busboys in the kitchen of an upscale New York restaurant. The leader is African American, the other three Mexican, two of them illegal immigrants. While juggling delicate entrees and demanding customers they jest and care for each other in a way only those who face similar discrimination can achieve. Hey, these guys have to move fast, work quickly and keep a cheery smile. We’ve seen them ourselves when dining in fine restaurants. Or not really seen them as this play reminds us.

There is comedy, sure, but underneath there is understanding of the unrealized dreams of the overlooked little guys. To be underprivileged in the midst of wealth means that loyalty and compassion for a brother is at the mercy of the master’s whim. In this case, the owner has decided to cut their wages and let them live off meager tips. This cruel decision creates the heart wrenching denouement because, when pitted even against a brother, is there any other option than your own survival?

Under Armando Molina’s meticulous direction there are brilliant performances by Lawrence Stallings, Richard Azurdia, Peter Pasco and Pablo Castelblanco. Great theater reminds us of our common humanity and, at a time when there are demands to close all borders against those in need, this is an important statement.

At The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave, at Normandie, Hollywood, through June 26. Tickets: (323) 663-1525 or Note: Pay-What-You-Can every Monday night!

Photos by Ed Krieger.
Also reviewed in the May issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

PHRAZZLED …in Hollywood


This dark comedy is set outside two TV production’s writers’ rooms, where hopeful assistants juggle their daily tasks while hoping for a chance at success. In this wonderfully absurdist play, writer-director Phinneas Kiyomura certainly knows the territory.  Seems everyone in Hollywood is writing a screenplay – or stage play – while toiling in the dungeons of TV-sitcom-land. Here, in two string-theory-like universes, two hack writers struggle to secretly write a masterpiece based on their own angst and rage.

Somehow their worlds parallel each other with the same humorously predictable ending. You see, there is this young devil-may-care pal who has the chutzpah and the connections to make their dream come to life on a major stage. Success is imminent for all. Right! 

There is comedy in the patter but under it a dark shadow since in Tinseltown there are no friends and betrayal is merely an occupational hazard. As they should all know well by now.

Under Kiyomura’s energetic direction, the cast give it full force. Tempestuous Tony DeCarlo and urbane Troy Blendell are well matched as the writers striving for success in Hollywood; mercurial Will McFadden is their enigmatic savior; Keith Hanson and Andrea Ruth are delightful as their inevitably envious fellow-workers; while Sierra Marcks and Gina Garcia-Sharp portray female bosses from heaven (1) and hell (2).

At Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd. (north of Sunset) through May 21. Tickets at 323-856-8611 or
Photos by Darrett Sanders.
Also reviewed in the May issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

ACTING OUT INK FEST! …in Hollywood

A 21 Gun Salute to 2Cents Theatre Group for their 3-day INK Festival of 21 Plays by Female Playwrights. I was only able to drop by on Saturday afternoon and see four of the plays but the quality of the writing, directing and acting was high. 

Of my four, favorite was Allie Costa’s sensitive Raise Your Hand about the disintegration of a love affair, directed by Miranda Stewart; next was the impressive if confusing Twisted by Joni Ravenna, directed by Joel Asher, with an awesome performance by Rebecca Reaney; the lady-in-a-box Broken Latches by Deanna Ableser, directed by Josh Galitsky, was amusingly absurd, while Message From Patagonia (set in South America) by Faye Sholiton, directed by Laura Stribling, gives fair warning to nosy visitors.

Plaudits to the actors I saw, whose performances were polished and interesting: Jeremy Boros, Roxanna Kaye, Brett Colbeth, Shobhit Agarwal, John Salandria, Kate Bowman, Will Brunson, Brynn Alexander, Venk Potula, Deborah Cresswell and, in 2 roles, Michael Armstrong Barr.

Lets not overlook Producer & Artistic Director, Kristen Boulé; Literary Director, Tiffany Roberts-Asta; and Festival Manager Jen Schwartz. If the rest of the plays were as good – which I have no doubt they were – this 3rd annual festival deserves to have a 4th.

At the Hudson Theatres in Hollywood! April 15-17. Visit for information on submitting for next year. For more details on what you missed, go to their

Sunday, April 10, 2016

BACH AT LEIPZIG …North Hollywood


 In Itamar Moses historic farce, we are at a sort of American Idol contest in 18th century Germany where a group of illustrious classical organists have assembled to audition. Since half of them are named Johann, and all are avowed enemies, there is a lot of confusion and whispered intrigues. However, one needed a deep knowledge of history to appreciate the drama and, personally, I was non-plussed. 

Not being a classical music aficionado I felt baffled by the in-jokes and historic references that hopefully had meaning to other audience members. Where was the Johann of the title? A chubby guy with white curly hair did prance through a few times, but it was left for us to surmise this was the great musician himself.

Now for the fun part. The actors were marvelous and having a great farcical time, led by Chris Winfield and Larry Eisenberg, who smite and parry at each other with delightful fury; Troy Whitaker and Mikel Parraga-Wills represent the embattled younger generation; Todd Andrew Ball is poseur extraordinary, and Lloyd Pedersen a befuddled darling. Steve Terrell, apparently as the great Bach himself, has exuberant walk-bys.

Calvin Remsberg expertly directs in the elegant Comédie Française style, the costumes by A. Jeffrey Schoenberg and set by J. Kent Inasy are lavish enough to make Moliere green with envy, while sword fights are scarily choreographed by Adam Conn.

A Group Rep  production at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., NOHO through May 1. Tickets: (818) 763-5990 or