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.

Monday, January 22, 2018


I finally got to see the work of this international dance company at The Wallis in Beverly Hills. In a three day celebration of the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., they gave dramatic expression to incidents in black history.  

Choreographer Lula Washington does not flinch from confrontation. 

In The Movement a white man throws objects at a group of walking protesters, then Michael Tomlin III, as Dr. King, expresses his anguish in an emotional solo while photos of lynchings and other horrors unreel on the backdrop.

The Little Rock Nine is a tribute to the nine African-American students who bravely integrated Arkansas’ Central High School in the fifties. Krystal Hicks is poignant as Minnie Jean Brown, the girl being jeered and spat upon in the famous photo. In We Wore the Mask Tamica Washington-Miller recites Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s poem, as a lone, masked figure yearns to join a joyful group of dancers.

Not all the pieces were as grim. Global Village was an upbeat, Afro-Jazz number with colorful, flowing, non-stop action. Then Saidiya Imari, as Rosa Parks, danced a subtly ironic solo on taking her seat on the bus. 

Internationally recognized for its unique blend of African, Afro-Caribbean, Modern, Street Dance and Jazz techniques, this is more than just a modern dance company, even though all the different styles could come under that one heading.

The other superb high-energy dancers were: Joshua Joseph Alexander, Queala Clancy, Tehran Dixon, Jasmine Francisco, Christopher Frazier, Jack Virga-Hall and Adama Ideozu. All three programs were performed with Marcus L. Miller and his Freedom Jazz Movement.

Photos by Krystal Tomlin Bernard.

Also in my theater column in February’s NOT BORN YESTERDAY.