Wednesday, December 13, 2017

ASHES TO ASHES …in West Los Angeles

 


Two hostile ex-lovers, political and philosophical opposites, are sent together worldwide on an ashes-scattering journey thought up by their dead friends (when they were alive). Ashes must be scattered, from a castle in Ireland, where one of them must hang upside down and kiss the Blarney Stone, through a series of other terrifying destinations, such as Spain for the nearly fatal Running of the Bulls. Piloting them on their journey is their ubiquitous fast-changing Guide who comments hilariously on the highly dramatic action.
 
Ever since the battling Beatrice and Benedick, in Much Ado About Nothing, were conned into falling in love by friends, I’ve loved the concept. In the great days of Hollywood, Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, battled the war of the sexes in marvelous screwball comedies. So don’t miss playwright Debbie Bolsky’s rollicking comedy, where she takes up the gauntlet with a new twist since, in this modern take, we are guided by a transforming angel who personifies each wild location.

Michael Uribes, as The Guide, is a total delight as Airline Stewardess, a Scottish Highlander, a Guerilla Fighter, and more, segueing through a series of personas, costumes and accents. Lena Bouton is dynamic as the nervous Sara, and Kevin Young intensely charming as the reluctant Jefferson. Wildly imaginative direction by Katherine James.

Presented by Laurel Wetzork for The Athena Cats, a collective of Southern California female playwrights & directors, and produced by Racquel Lehrman, Theatre Planners.
 
The Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West LA. For reservations and information, call 310-564-9410 or go to www.AshesToAshesThePlay.com.

Photos by Ed Krieger.

Also reviewed in the January issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER …in Hollywood





It’s the hilarious George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart tale of the obnoxious celebrity who falls on the ice in front of their doorstep and stays and stays. Having never seen Play nor Movie I realize now what I’d missed, so don’t you do the same. 

I urge you to get over to Actors Co-op because at this time we need all the laughter we can get. The direction by Linda Kerns is crisp and magical and the 18-member cast are all marvelous. Go! I guarantee you’ll thank me for it.

Heading the superlative cast is Greg Martin, who dominates the action as the troublesome guest; Natalie Hope MacMillan is an angel of patience as his assistant; Deborah Marlowe & Lawrence Novikoff amuse mightily as the embattled hosts; Catherine Urbanek is marvelous as a voracious blonde bombshell; Irwin Moskowitz adorable as a doctor with a punctured dream, and Wenzel Jones a standout as witty singing guest, Noel Coward.

Jean Kauffman delights as a beleaguered nurse; John Allee as a Marx Brother; Brenda Ballard as a ditzy lady with a past; Kyle Frattini & Lila Hood as two kids with a dream; Connor Sullivan as an honorable newspaperman; Karen Furno as a bedazzled cook; and Kevin Michael Moran, Hunter Lowdon, Goreti da Silva and Chris Savell in multiple roles.
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Produced by Thomas Chavira, with 1930’s set by Nicholas Acciani, costumes by Shon LeBlanc, hair/makeup by Amanda Walter and amazing props by Ernest McDaniel.

At the David Schall Theater, First Presbyterian Church, 1760 N. Gower St. Hollywood, through Dec. 17. Reservations 323-462-8460 or www.ActorsCo-op.org. Free Parking.

Photos by John Dlugolecki

Also reviewed in the December issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

NEW YORK WATER …West Los Angeles






This is a really funny play, so don’t miss it! You see there’s this young couple who meet and fall in love in New York City and every terrible thing that you’ve ever heard about life in New York crops up in their lives. So, looking for peace and quiet they move to Iowa and, as you can imagine, go nearly starkers with ennui. 

The solution is marvelous – they move out here to Hollywood!!! There she becomes a big-shot in the movies and he becomes… no, you have go and see for yourself!  The water in New York is reputed to be pure but sometimes it just gets brown and tastes funny, but who cares!

Bridget Flanery is hilarious as the mercurial ADHD-romantic, Linda, whose dynamic personality fluctuates with the wind. Ross Benjamin (lookalike son of Richard), as Albert, captures the desperation and confusion of a young man whom love eludes but whose optimism never wanes. 

Their performances are exemplary but most of all, unlike so many other stage performers I’ve seen lately, I heard and understood every word clearly!

Written by the mischievous Sam Bobrick, whose career spans songwriting, multiple TV series, 40 plays including Broadway, and "two amazing grandchildren." Partnered with bold and crafty director Howard Teichman whose eye for comedy is unerring, it’s a sure hit. Witty sets and nostalgic wall projections.

Produced by Bill Froggatt and Howard Teichman for The West Coast Jewish Theatre. At the Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd. (nr Overland), West LA, through December 17. Tickets: (323) 821-2449 or www.wcjt.tix.com.

Photos by Michael Lamont.


Also reviewed in the December issue of Not Born Yesterday.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

THE DAUGHTERS OF THE KUSH …Hollywood



 

This intriguing new play, inspired by a true story, seems to suggest a racial conflict but author-producer George W, Corbin has larger issues to explore. In a black, tightly-knit sorority on an Iowa campus tragedy has struck. When a young woman dies, leading members of Kappa Lambda Nu (The Kush) are questioned by a detective: was it an accident, suicide or murder? 

The play takes us back in time and we must decide if their actions and decisions, motivated by a need to protect the sorority, are morally defensible.
 
The superb cast deliver amazingly delineated performances. Vanoy Burnough is dynamic as the embittered Clara; Alisa Murray is a poignant Rhonda; Dee Dee Stephens is magisterial as attorney-to-be Brenda; Hannah Mae Sturges is endearing as controversial pledge Kathy, and Brandon Raines is charming as an honorable sports coach.

 
Mack Miles is authoritative as Detective Diggs; Paris Nicole is touching as Ida, and Conor Sheehan amuses as a Frat Boy crashing into their house in his Confederate army uniform.


Director Veronica Thompson creates a vivid picture of life in a proud black sorority in the 1960’s. The set by Mark V, Jones is effective, but one hopes scene changes can be speeded up as they do halt the emotional drive of the play.

Playwright Corbin is a Brother of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity at Cornell University and his meaningful play was developed in the Robey Theatre Company’s Advance Playwrights Lab. 

At The Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd, (Highland Ave) through Oct 29. Tickets: (213) 908-5032 or https://corbinkush.eventbrite.com
Photos by Alberto Santillan.

This review also appears in the November issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY

Friday, October 6, 2017

BR’ER COTTON …in West Hollywood




This forceful new play takes place in Lynchburg, Virginia, ‘Right-right now’ and shocking daily news stories seem to be incorporated into the dialogue. Angered by omnipresent headlines, where unarmed black men are killed by cops, a 14 year old black youth (Omete Anassi) determines to go into battle. 

His hard working mother (Yvonne Huff Lee) fights to keep her son out of danger, while his grandfather (Christopher Carrington), who in his youth lived through times of terror, gently mocks this growing passion even as he tries to assuage it.

With great insight, playwright Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm shows us that we live in a complicated world and only chaos and sorrow ensue when racial lines are drawn. A friendly police officer (Shawn Law), whose kind heart is covered by his intimidating uniform, brings perspective to an easy stereotype. 

In violent video games, played with a distant stranger/friend (Emmaline Jacott), the enemies are obvious - a terrifying armed big guy (Dane Oliver), and half-clad gal (Jasmine Wright) - but in life it’s not so simple.
 
Chisholm suggests that as long as each character recognizes their shared humanity all will be well. Then he shows that when we objectify people our human bond is broken. Twice, in this haunting play, I wept.


The superb cast are directed with brilliant intensity by Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble’s Gregg T. Daniel. Plaudits to David Mauer (set), Wendell C. Carmichael (Costumes) and Doug Oliphant for awesome choreography. Produced by Racquel Lehrman of Theatre Planners.

The Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, through Oct 29. Reservations: 323-960-7787 or www.lower-depth.com/on-stage. Street parking.

Photos by Ed Krieger.