Saturday, April 21, 2018

NOT BORN YESTERDAY – April 2018


DEAR READER:
There is so much great live theater in Southern California, and my lifelong passion has always been to see it all and share my enthusiasm with you. Back when I was the Broadway critic for the Hollywood Reporter, my New York apartment was about a five-minute walk from every Broadway theatre. I saw and reviewed everything. Now that I live in Los Angeles, the distances to exciting theater are often daunting, so most of my reviews have been for shows within a comfortable drive from home.
Yet NOT BORN YESTERDAY covers a far vaster canvas. Often I learn of a fabulous show opening in Long Beach, or La Mirada, or Santa Ana, that I am unable to cover. So, as live theater is the passion I want to share with you, from now on I will tell you of my choices and recommendations. Hopefully, after experiencing one of these shows, you will share with me your personal opinion.

 
UNEMPLOYED ELEPHANTS (Burbank)
Actors Brea Bee and Marshall McCabe, play two strangers on the run from loneliness who happen to meet in an airport lounge in Burma. Their search for a missing monk might be their last chance to find true love - if they can seize it! Inspired by a trip she took to the Far East in 2015, author Wendy Graf wrote this romantic comedy, noting, “The trip highlighted and encapsulated for me our modern sense of feeling adrift, seeking something without knowing quite what.” Directed by Maria Gobetti. Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W Victory Blvd, Burbank. Tickets: 818- 841-5422 or www.thevictorytheatrecenter.org
ENGAGING SHAW (Beverly Hills)
This romantic comedy is based on heiress Charlotte Payne-Townshend’s pursuit of the famous playwright, critic, socialist and egotist, George Bernard Shaw. He claimed marriage was "an abomination and a nightmare" but in John Morogiello’s witty play, through spirited debate, heated emotion and the occasional flinty spark of desire, she prevails. As directed by Melanie MacQueen, it’s thought-provoking fun. Theatre 40, 241 S Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills. 310-364-0535 or www.theatre40.org.
THE MADRES  (Los Feliz)
In this drama by Stephanie Alison Walker, three generations of women face state terrorism in Buenos Aires. Based on the women in Argentina who, in 1977, defied the government’s efforts to terrorize its people into silence and submission. People were disappearing off the streets but no one dared talk about it, and the mother’s quest to find the bodies of their missing children gave birth to a whole movement. The Madres de La Plaza de Mayo de Los Desaparecidos, inspired generations of artists and activists to resist and persist. Skylight Theatre, 1816 N Vermont, Los Feliz. 213-761-7061 or SkylightTix.com
PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT  (Hollywood)
This hilarious yet touching musical is based on the 1994 hit film about two drag performers and a transgender woman driving across the Australian outback in an old bus and performing cabaret. Their musical road trip includes dance numbers It’s Raining Men and I Will Survive. The film’s positive portrayals helped introduce LGBTQ themes to a mainstream audience. Book is by film’s author/director Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott. Directed by Jessica Hanna. Celebration Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave, Hollywood. 323- 957-1884 or www.celebrationtheatre.com

Friday, March 2, 2018

THE ALAMO (Santa Monica)




 

In an Italian-American section of Brooklyn sits a rundown local bar called The Alamo. The place is fighting to keeps its doors open and welcomes the arrival of young artists wanting to adopt the bar as an entertainment hangout. 

However, the aging customers, eight working-class neighbors, don’t want to surrender their bar, much less their neighborhood, to these neo-carpetbaggers. 

These are vivid characters who carry scars of the past - from Vietnam to 9/11 - and they are ready to fight for their place in the world.

Says director Kent Thompson, “I love this play, because Ian McRae writes with such passion, compassion, and humor, about a forgotten group of people - blue collar Americans!” 

At Ruskin Group Theatre, 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA through March 31. Tickets: 310-397-3244 or www.ruskingrouptheatre.com. Free parking.
Photos by Ed Krieger

Also in my column in the March issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

ANTONY & CLEOPATRA: THE MUSICAL (North Hollywood)



Shakespeare’s tragedy has it all: romance, passion, sex, heartbreak, the fascination of royalty, war, politics, the epic sweep of history and one of history’s most celebrated love stories... of Roman Mark Antony, and Cleopatra Queen of Egypt. 




Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton in the film "Cleopatra"


In case you missed the famous film, but remember one of Hollywood's most celebrated love stories, here’s a chance to enjoy the original stage version live. 
In one of her signature moves, director Gloria Gifford retains Shakespeare’s text while expanding the proceedings with a modern song score and a dazzling 35-member cast.



Executive produced by Gifford and produced by Jade Warner, Lauren Plaxco and Chad Doreck for Jamaica Moon Productions and The GGC Players. At Gray Studios, 5250 Vineland Ave., North Hollywood, through March. Tickets: 310-366-5505 or www.tix.com.

Also in my column in the March issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

THE LAST WIFE …in Beverly Hills



  

We all know from books, films and TV that England’s King Henry VIII had a bad history with his six wives. #1.Divorced; #2.Beheaded; #3.Died; #4.Divorced; #5.Beheaded; #6.Survived. This is a play about Katherine Parr (Olivia Saccomanno), the one who survived him. 


Playwright Kate Hennig has taken the conceit to move the story into the 21st century. Biographers have described Parr as strong-willed, outspoken and physically desirable. In Hennig’s version, she is also a forthright feminist, standing up to her pompous King-husband (David Hunt Stafford) in ways that could cost her her head.

The facts are verifiable as Parr, in her early 30’s, did successfully advocate for the rights to succession of Henry’s daughters Mary (Nathalie Rudolph) and Bess (Lily Daugherty) that led to them following Edward VI (Andrew Grigorian) on the throne. 

Here she is teacher to the boy Edward, a friend to the sullen Mary, and mentor to lively Elizabeth (Bess). She has a lover, Thomas Seymour (Caleb Slavens), and manages to keep him hidden from her possessive husband (others weren’t so lucky). However, since the panoply of Royalty is missing, the relationships seem more Orange County than Elizabethan and the modern tone and style robs it of the terror of Henry’s reign.

Directed by L. Flint Esquerra, with impressive set by Jeff G. Rack. Produced by David Hunt Stafford.

At Theatre 40, in Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 s. Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills. Through Feb 18. Tickets: 310-364-0535 or www.theatre40.org
Free parking.

Photos by Ed Krieger.

Friday, January 26, 2018

THE CHOSEN …in Hollywood




 


In the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn in the 1940s, two young Jewish males meet with hostility at a local baseball game. Due to an accident they become unlikely friends. 


Their fathers, one Hasidic the other Orthodox, represent two opposing value systems. We witness the complicated relationship between parents and their children, and how fathers who care can both dominate and inspire their sons.

This deeply moving drama is based on the 1967 novel by Chaim Potok. It was adapted by Potok and Aaron Posner into a stage play that has had many reincarnations. This one, directed sensitively by Simon Levy, is as fresh and meaningful as today’s headlines. 

The story begins in 1944 when the protagonists are fifteen years old. It’s set against historical events: the death of President Roosevelt, the end of World War II, the revelation of the Holocaust in Europe, and the struggle for the creation of the state of Israel.

Sam Mandel, as Reuven, is so likeable you understand why the stern Rebbe (Alan Blumenfeld) accepts him into his home.  Dor Gvirtsman, as Danny, is touching as the emotionally guarded acolyte, while Jonathan Arkin, as activist/philosopher, brings clarity to the questions that haunt both young men.

DeAnne Millais’ set design, of two households with book-lined studies side-by-side, helped to emphasis the underlying contradictions that exist in their worlds.

At the Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave. LA (at Normandie), through March. Tickets (323) 663-1525 or www.FountainTheatre.com. Parking $5.

Photos by Ed Krieger.

Also in the March issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.