Thursday, June 21, 2018


For 10 years, I presented Family-Friendly-Shakespeare outdoors in NYC.  It was always my summer joy! (Shakespeare in an Hour, published by Shakespeare, Inc.) So, for Shakespeare lovers, here are some local productions. 

The fabulous Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival is presenting A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Titus Andronicus (Aaaagh!). Over in Topanga Canyon, Theatricum Botanicum, presents a timely Coriolanus - the political warrior who has contempt for the common people, in a city where the one-percent rules! Group Rep in NoHo has Romeo & Juliet upcoming in August, while over at Pasadena’s A Noise Within, youngsters perform his plays in Summer With Shakespeare.
A furry musical tale for animal lovers set in a neglected animal shelter. Residents include a Chihuahua named Pepe, a Mutt named Donna, a haughty French Poodle, a rambunctious Pit Bull, a handsome Lab mix and a pudgy Corgi. Creator Tony Cookson says, “The idea came to me in a dream. I saw singing dogs in an animal shelter, and started writing the next morning.” It’s a Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney ‘let’s put on a show’ with original songs: Take Home A Stray; I’m Lying Here (Scratch Me), and When You Hear Barking, I Hear Words Instead. At Kirk Douglas Theatre.
Martial arts fans will be enthralled by this live presentation that provides all the things to love about Samurai drama. Warriors wield weapons, as obligations of honor and duty are fulfilled, in this action-packed story set in 19th Century feudal Japan. After her brother’s death, a young woman is compelled by a ghost to confront his killer in mortal combat and the stage is set for an epic sword battle. One of them must die! Playwright, director and producer, Naoki Fujiyama, portrays the ghost. This gripping historical family drama is a Burai Production, at Edgemar Center for the Arts.
Get ready for a rousing night of rock ‘n’ roll! Inspired by a famous recording session, this biographical musical tells what happened when icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins came together in December 1956 at Memphis’ Sun Studios. Hits include “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Sixteen Tons,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “I Walk the Line,” “Fever,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “See Ya Later, Alligator,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” and “Hound Dog.” This live happening brings you inside the recording studio to experience a tale of broken promises, secrets, betrayal and celebrations. A Gershwin Entertainment production at Laguna Playhouse.
100 APRILS (Hollywood)
John Saypian is a modern-day Don Quixote. He and his family are second generation Armenians whose parents escaped the Genocide, but John believes a tormentor is pursuing him. Is the enemy a haunted memory from his childhood or is he real? This darkly comic play explores the generational consequences when history is denied. “I needed to contribute something to honor, and coincide with, the centennial commemoration of the Armenian genocide,” says playwright Leslie Ayvazian. “It is a story that all Armenians carry, and tell throughout generations. It lives partially in dreams, but cannot be silenced.” Rogue Machine Theatre at The Met. 
MARCHING ON (Culver City)
This original play is performed by military veterans from Veterans Empowerment Theatre. Their artistic journey brings their personal stories, from life in boot camp to returning home, and highlights the difficulty of transitioning back into society. For one, her return unlocks memories that have been hidden away for years, another feels rejected because of the color of his skin, while another realizes family matters most. These heroes come together as a unit as they search for the strength to keep marching on. CRE Outreach’s theatre, The Blue Door, is a performing space for the voices and stories of people marginalized by society.

This article appears in the July issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Saturday, June 16, 2018


Saw Gordon Lightfoot (79) at the Saban, with his still rich voice, singing If You Could Read My Mind and Canadian Railroad. Over at Theatre West, Tesla, and at Theatre 40, Tom Dugan’s Wiesenthal. The LA Women’s Theatre Festival has Freda Payne, performing Ella Fitzgerald, First Lady of Song. Don't miss You In Midair, performed by Danna Schaeffer, mother of actress Rebecca Schaeffer whose life was cut tragically short when she was murdered by an obsessed fan. And all month The Hollywood Fringe Festival explodes with hundreds of solo shows. If you like one person shows there is a plethora of them this June. 

ALBERTA HUNTER (Santa Barbara)
Cookin’ At The Cookery: The Music And Times Of Alberta Hunter. In my Hollywood Reporter days I often saw Hunter perform at the 8th Street Cookery CafĂ©. One of my favorite jazz artists, who can forget her unique style and salty repartee that made her a NY sensation at 83! This show brings her singular and improbable life story to the stage. Written, directed and choreographed by Marion J. Caffey, show features hits Sweet Georgia Brown and Darktown Strutters Ball. Did you know in 1928, she played opposite Paul Robeson in the London production of Show Boat at the Drury Lane Theatre?

The Schwartzes are gathered upstate New York to say prayers for Dad a year after his passing. The whole family are at loggerheads, nobody seems to know what it is to be kinfolk anymore. Norma's husband hasn't spoken to her since she turned in their 15 year old son for smoking pot. After five miscarriages, it appears Herbs wife, Bonnie, won't provide him with an heir. Simon has one foot on the moon. Gene's girlfriend, Kia, is about to have an abortion. And its a comedy! Presented by West Coast Jewish Theatre at Edgemar Center for the Arts.


The 1956 Broadway production, starring Fredric March and Florence Eldridge, inspired me to become an actress. Now Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons and Olivier Award winner Lesley Manville take on the roles of James Tyrone, an aging matinee idol, and Mary, his drug-addicted wife. Along with their two grown sons, Jamie and Edmund (O’Neill’s alter-ego), the most poisonous addiction is one they all share: the irresistible urge to stab at one another’s most vulnerable points, and then pretend they didn’t really mean it. Richard Eyre’s Bristol Old Vic production, comes to the Wallis Annenberg Center for three weeks.

The experience begins one hour before show time when the audience enters a mysterious and quirky carnival world with games, food, drink and surprises before they even find their seats. This immersive show has music, puppets, masks and amazing special effects. Written by Chelsea Sutton, directed by Sean T. Cawelti, it’s a modern, mature and delightfully macabre adaptation of The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. The action is set in the tumbledown town of Shoreside, a tourist trap built around the legend of a terrible sea monster - the Dogfish. The Rogue Artists Ensemble, at The Garry Marshall Theatre.

VIOLET (Hollywood)
On Broadway this musical, based on the short story The Ugliest Pilgrim, by Doris Betts, was nominated for four Tony Awards, three Drama Desks and three Outer Critics Awards. Set in North Carolina in 1964, a young woman with a scarred face rides a bus through the segregated South. She hopes a TV evangelist in Oklahoma can heal her scar, the result of a traumatic childhood accident. Along the way, Violet meets two soldiers, one black, one white, who teach her about love, courage and the true meaning of beauty. Actors Co-op on the campus of First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood.

Published in the June issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.