Tuesday, August 8, 2017

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME …Downtown LA



 
  
In this highly theatrical show we are inside the mind of an autistic 15 year old with a brilliant mind, but the inability to empathize with the people around him. The story begins with the cruel stabbing to death of a neighbor’s dog with a gardening fork. 

Adam Langdon is extraordinary as the youthful Sherlock who sets out to discover the murderer, while the people who care for him can hardly comprehend him. With never a false note, Langdon segues from trembling fear to keen observation to physical dexterity to absolute scientific genius. He even flies!

In the process of his quest for understanding the world he inhabits, the boy moves from a quiet British village to the clanging dazzle of London. As it’s theater I had to accept the personal resolution, happy-ending, premise. However, in the real world I’d be calling in Child Protection Services!  

Hey, it received 5 Tony Awards, including Best Play, so who am I to wanna protect this vulnerable boy from future harm.

Standouts in the large cast were Felicity Jones Latta, Geoffrey Wade, Amelia White, John Hemphill and Brian Robert Burns. Gene Gillette, who played the Dad, was impressive but difficult to hear. Plaudits to Bunny Christie (Scenic/costume); Paule Constable (Lighting); Finn Ross (Video), and Scott Graham & Steven Hoggett (Choreography).
  
This National Theatre (UK) production is cleverly adapted by Simon Stephens, from Mark Haddon’s 2003 best-selling novel, and vigorously directed by Marianne Elliott.
 
At Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N Grand Ave, Downtown, through September 10. Tickets: (213) 628-2772 or www.CenterTheatreGroup.org
Photos by Joan Marcus.

Friday, July 28, 2017

RHINOCEROS …in Venice



 


It’s not often you see a full grown man transform into a large thick-skinned mammal before your very eyes but mastermind director Guillermo Cienfuegos makes it happen. In fact, from all accounts he pulls this trick himself, onstage, in this madcap drama by playwright Eugene Ionesco. 



It’s about a delightful French town where friendly locals are faced with a dilemma – whether to hold on to their humanity or be sucked into the miasma of becoming unfriendly beasts! As these characters become rhinos we can see the contentment in embracing a herd mentality.
 
Although written in 1959, it’s a prescient view of today where it appears that standing ones ground for humanity is under attack. Ionesco‘s alarmingly absurd tale grew out of his own youthful experience in Romania when he saw people drawn into acceptance of the rise of Fascism. 
To quote him: “When people no longer share your opinions, when you can no longer make yourself understood by them, one has the impression of being confronted with monsters - rhinos, for example. They have that mixture of candor and ferocity. They would kill you with the best of consciences.” 

The highly impressive cast is headed by Keith Stevenson as the bewildered holdout and Alex Fernandez as his loquaciously demonic friend; with dynamic support from Peter Elbling, Jeff Lorch, Carole Weyers, Melissa Weber Bales. And, in multiple roles, Brad Greenquist, Sarah Zinsser, Robert Lesser, Sarah Brooke & Dalia Vosylius with Melinda West on accordion.

At Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice, through September 10. Tickets: (310) 822-8392 or www.pacificresidenttheatre.com. Free Parking.
Photos by Vitor Martins.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

THE MARRIAGE ZONE …North Hollywood


 
What if you were able to view your life as it was in the past, and will be in the future? Would you refuse to accept the inevitable, or do you believe your destiny has been decided by some unknown power. Welcome to The Marriage Zone, where a couple halfway through their not-so-happy wedded lives are confronted with just such questions. It’s an intriguing conceit and handled brilliantly by author and director Jeff Gould and, after you see this play, you will never think of your own relationships the same way again.


Actually, with this excellent cast, it’s a sweetly told story of a marriage that is starting to unravel. Beth (Anne Leighton) cannot stop picking on her husband Cal (Jeff Pride); he has sunk into a sardonic attitude that blocks her out, while their son Ryan (Ciaran Brown) has his ears plugged into a world of music. It’s a familiar domestic comedy until visitors arrive: Skip and Ellie (Ryan Cargill and Megan Barker), young and in love, can’t keep their hands off each other; Mike and Liz (Alex Hyde-White and Jacee Jule), cynical, divorced and full of regrets. We recognize these people because we are these people.
 
On another level it’s a triangle between wide eyed youth, mid-career strugglers, and jaded elders. Gould also has a sense of humor that pokes fun at us! e.g. just as my companion whispered to me “I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone” the onstage senior said the exact words.

At The Secret Rose Theatre, 11246 Magnolia Blvd. NoHo, through August 27.  Tickets: 323-960-7784 or www.Play411.com/marriagezone Photos by Ed Krieger.

Also reviewed in the August issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Monday, June 19, 2017

BUILDING THE WALL …in Hollywood





According to playwright Robert Schenkkan, in spite of our Constitutional protections it can happen here! A professor of history, writing about a terrible crime, interviews a man on death row who sees himself as merely a cog in a wheel of political command. 

What if 11 million undocumented aliens were ordered to be deported but their countries of origin refused to take them? It seems like this is already a possibility and, in this frightening play, we learn about the consequences of such action. Who is responsible? The politicians that made the edict, or the menials who have to carry it out?

Through highly dramatic dialogue we are carried along on the journey from political rhetoric to deliberate action to eventual murderous expediency. It resonates with Hannah Arendt’s theory on The Banality of Evil and seethes with moral indignation at the present attempt to cleanse the USA of undesirables in the name of national authenticity.

Under Michael Michetti’s fluent direction, the two actors, Judith Moreland and Bo Foxworth, duel with passionate intensity over the difference between responsibility and blame. Many people in the arts are using their creative tools to protest injustice and here, with productions of this play scheduled across the country, the alarm is raised. Hopefully such a tragedy could not happen here even though, in this play, it makes perfect logical sense.

At The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave (at Normandie), Hollywood. Tickets: (323) 663-1525 or www.FountainTheatre.com. Extended to August 27 with Victoria Platt as Gloria. On-site parking $5.

Friday, May 19, 2017

HOLLYWOOD FRINGE FESTIVAL, 2017 - June 8-25




  
Anyone with a show and a dream can perform at the Fringe and, with nearly 400 shows to choose from this year, here are a few that hold special appeal for me.

Hollywood Diary. A fictional encounter between gossip columnist Hedda Hopper and film star Mary Astor, where details from Mary’s diary reveal that dour George S. Kaufman was very sexy! Dog Sees God: Confessions Of A Teenage Blockhead. Tackles issues of LGBTQ intolerance and bullying through dark humor and favorite comic strip characters. Cast is comprised of actors aged 16-18. The Sacred Beasts. The booze-soaked real life friendship of Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles is conjured in scenes spanning three decades. They drink, fight, hunt and smoke in a show of hyper-masculinity. 


Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl. Cherita Armstrong portrays enslaved Harriet Jacobs who spent seven years hiding out from her depraved master in her grandmother’s attic. Nights At The Algonquin Round Table. The 3 Clubs is transformed into New York’s Algonquin Hotel, where notorious wise-crackers Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and George S. Kaufman gather to one-up each another with caustic quips. 


The [ ] Box. Six short plays written by members of Alliance Of Los Angeles Playwrights, all incorporating a small wooden box. What’s inside the box? Is it alive… or is that only your imagination? Unspoken: Shakespeare's Personae In Peril. Shakespeare’s works are about to be privatized and characters from Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, Merchant of Venice and Midsummer Night’s Dream, must fight for their relevance.
            Info: www.hollywoodfringe.org.

 Also listed in the June issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

LUCKY STIFF …in Hollywood







If you go to the theater for fun then this musical is your show. It’s madcap, silly and full of surprises. The staging and choreography are delightful and the laughs keep on coming. You see, there is a corpse from New Jersey who wants to go to Monte Carlo – to dance, to scuba dive, and to meet beautiful women! 

With a multi-million dollar offer he can’t refuse, a rather reclusive young man in England agrees to take him there. Well, all is not as it seems and, with hotel doors opening and closing, with others who want to grab the prize, with a young lady from Brooklyn who needs the money for a good cause, the suspense and the laughs build.

Young couple Brandon Parrish and Claire Adams are sweetly romantic, with highly energetic backup by Gina D’Acciaro, David Atkinson, Alastair James Murden and José Villarreal. Lively show-stealers Rory Patterson and Brian Habicht are matched by  living-dead Vito Viscuso. At the opening show, choreographer Julie Hall stepped in for a missing actor, while producer Catherine Gray nearly stole the show as brassy cabaret singer Dominique.

Created by Broadway team Lynn Ahrens (book and lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (music) it’s a polished show and sure crowd pleaser. Directed at full gallop by Stephen Van Dorn, with musical direction by Taylor Stephenson.

At the David Schall Theatre on the campus of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, 1760 N. Gower St. Through June 18. Tickets: (323) 462-8460 or www.ActorsCo-op.org. Free parking.

Photos by Michael Lamont.

Also reviewed in the June issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY