Saturday, November 16, 2019

TITUS ANDRONICUS - Or How I Love All of Shakespeare’s Play’s but One…


    Having directed a production of this really sadistic play, and after shuddering through Julie Taymor’s gruesome film TITUS, I am always reluctant to attend live performances of this play. Well, a braver soul than I, name of Mikey Mulhearn, just gave the lie to my timidity with a bold production at the Kimpton Everly Hotel in Hollywood. Mulhearn presents non-traditional Shakespeare with his gender-bending company SHAKESPEARE ON THE DECK now in its 2nd year.

    My theater colleague, costume designer Tricia Stubbs, has been urging me to come along and see for myself the unique approach of this new group. Here are her comments after attending a performance of Titus last month:
“This play was first performed somewhere between 1590-1594 making it one of his earlier plays and his first tragedy. The setting tells the story of the fictional Roman general, Titus Andronicus, who comes back from a 10-year war with the Goths where he has lost 21 of his sons. He returns with Tamora, Queen of the Goths, as hostage with her 3 sons. When he sacrifices her eldest son in revenge for his own dead sons, he sets off a chain of horror starting with the rape and mutilation of his own daughter.
This production was both brilliant and powerful, each character well defined, each actor speaking their lines clearly, distinctly and with true passion. Shah Granville (Titus), Keaton Shyler (Tamora), Nima Rad (Lavinia) and Jahel Caldera (Aaron the Moor) head this superb gender neutral and race neutral company. Although there was no comic relief in this play, the fact that a white liquid was used in place of red blood lightened this otherwise very heavy show.”

Mulhearn directs his own adaptations of each play and transforms the space beneath the hotel’s Everbar into a fantastic otherworld. A new program, "Shakes After Dark," will include folio classes, public readings, fight nights, and free Shakespeare in a bar. For info:

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

LOVE IN BLOOM (Santa Monica Playhouse) - REVIEW

For all you Shakespeare aficionados this feel-good, bawdy musical comedy returns for another visit in tribute to the wenches and rogues of the Bard. They promise magic and mayhem, fops and fairies, mistaken identity, romance and humor, all in homage to Shakespeare himself, pantomimist Marcel Marceau, Commedia dell’arte and other classical theater. 

Written and directed by Evelyn Rudie and Chris DeCarlo. Reservations at

REVIEW/COMMENT: Shakespeare meets Gilbert & Sullivan in a show that resonates with the convoluted plots of one (Will) and the witty song lyrics of the other (Gilbert). Yes, there’s amusing stand-ins for Titania (Evelyn Rudie) and Oberon (Chris DeCarlo) leading the way into romantic confusion. 
The Tempest storm is there, and a darling Caliban (Zane Garcia), those cleverly disguised separated twins (Tara Alexandra Brown & Cynthia Zitter), and a moody Prince turned frog (Patrick Censoplano), with a very bawdy wet nurse (Rachel Galper). Other metamorphic characters are all boldly realized by Graham Silbert to keep the show reeling. The show is magically performed bv this ever changing ensemble who populate the stage with myriad characters. Plaudits to all!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY - (Fountain Theatre) Review

Author Stephen Adly-Guirgis happens to be my favorite American playwright ever since I saw his “Last Days of Judas Iscariot” followed by other works. So, don’t miss it! In this Pulitzer-Prize-winning comedy, an elderly ex-cop in New York City, recently widowed, is facing eviction from his large rent-controlled apartment on Riverside Drive. 

He wants to make a home there for his newly-paroled son, but the landlord wants him out, the NYPD want to close a lawsuit, and the church is on his back. The Pulitzer committee called it, “a nuanced, beautifully written play… that uses dark comedy to confront questions of life and death.’ Director Guillermo Cienfuegos, another theatre favorite, warns that “The play explores issues of race, policing and gentrification…” subjects that are always potent in contemporary-realist Guirgis’ work. At the Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave (nr Normandie), in Hollywood. Tickets: (323) 663-1525 or

REVIEW/COMMENT: As always, Guirgis creates a world as real as the one we inhabit ourselves and, just as our clever minds have figured out where he is going with his story, he surprises us with a revelation about human relationships that shocks us even as we recognize that this is the way life is.  
In this play, all relationships, whether the obviously loving or perhaps the unconsciously disdainful, are suspect. All great drama gives us a deeper understanding of who we are and yet reveals how blissfully fragile the truth always is. I always look for this “Revelation” in modern theater, and rarely find it, but Guirgis again comes through in this honest family drama.

With brilliant direction by Guillermo Cienfuegos, the superb cast is headed by Montae Russell, enigmatic and yet straightforward, as the beleaguered retired cop everyone calls Pops. Matthew Hancock as his rebellious son, and Victor Anthony his quixotic ward, both personify today's troubled youth searching for meaning. Joshua Bitton as an ambitious yet honest cop, and Lesley Fera as Pops loyal former partner, bring the outer world and its brutal realities into this sheltered home. Liza Fernandez is licentiously daring as a church lady on a mission, and Marisol Miranda is delightful as a seemingly tempestuous temptress. MMM 

Thursday, October 24, 2019


Author Stephen Adly-Guirgis happens to be my favorite American playwright ever since I saw his “Last Days of Judas Iscariot” followed by other works. So, don’t miss it! In this Pulitzer-Prize-winning comedy, an elderly ex-cop in New York City, recently widowed, is facing eviction from his large rent-controlled apartment on Riverside Drive. He wants to make a home there for his newly-paroled son, but the landlord wants him out, the NYPD want to close a lawsuit, and the church is on his back. The Pulitzer committee called it, “a nuanced, beautifully written play… that uses dark comedy to confront questions of life and death.’ Director Guillermo Cienfuegos, another theatre favorite, warns that “The play explores issues of race, policing and gentrification…” subjects that are always potent in contemporary-realist Guirgis’ work. At the Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave (nr Normandie), in Hollywood. Tickets: (323) 663-1525 or
In this timely play, The Republican National Convention is in full swing with a certain candidate feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of being the nominee for President. No, it’s not next year folks but set back in 1920 and Warren G. Harding is the one in question. His problems are an overly ambitious campaign manager, a superstitious wife, a star-struck mistress and what he fears is the frightening pull of inevitability. The play explores the extent to which fate appears to control our lives – but does it? Written by Connecticut-based writer Colin Speer Crowley and Los Angeles awardee Jules Aaron. Produced by David Hunt Stafford for Theatre 40. At Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 S Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills. Tickets: (310) 364-0535 or Free parking.
DEFENDERS (Hollywood)
This drama by Cailin Maureen Harrison is set in World War Two when three American G.I.’s are shipwrecked on Hrisey, a remote island off Iceland’s northern coast. With missing weapons, few supplies and a broken radio they must rely on the locals for survival. However, they are faced with the islander’s ancient fears of loss of culture, vulnerability of their women and suspicion of foreign invaders. Directed by Reena Dutt and produced by Racquel Lehrman of Theatre Planners for Pandelia’s Canary Yellow Company. At Broadwater Black Box, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood. Tkts: (323) 960-5770 or
  LOVE IN BLOOM (Santa Monica)
For all you Shakespeare aficionados this feel-good, bawdy musical comedy returns for another visit in tribute to the wenches and rogues of the Bard. They promise magic and mayhem, fops and fairies, mistaken identity, romance and humor, all in homage to Shakespeare himself, pantomimist Marcel Marceau, Commedia dell’arte and other classical theater. Written and directed by Evelyn Rudie and Chris DeCarlo. Reservations at
Already running to much laughter, here is the world premiere adaptation, by Neil Simon, of his play “Fools” where he’s credited with book and lyrics along with Phil Swann and Ron West. It’s set in the Ukraine in 1893 when a young tutor arrives after a harrowing journey. Soon he finds that the village is cursed, with every resident as dumb as a rock, but can he save himself and the village too? Presented by Open Fist Theatre Company at Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave, Atwater. Tkts: (323) 882-6912 or Free parking.


In this intimate portrait of a marriage, by playwright Jack Thorne, a deaf couple’s relationship is revealed through their love-making. As always, in their signature performance style, Deaf West combines American Sign Language with spoken English. My colleague Anibal Aprile came away raving about this adult-themed show and here are some of his comments: “Thank you for such an unforgettable evening at the theatre. It was my first time at Deaf West Theatre and you have to be a great director to create such interaction between the four actors. Tad Cooley and his ‘voice’ Nick Apostolina, Sandra Mae Frank and her ‘voice’ Natalie Camunas, are all superb in their characters, plus their astounding synchronization in movements and interpretation. This magnificent show made me and the audience vibrate on the seats.” Directed by Randee Trabitz. At Inner-City Arts, 720 Kohler Street, LA 90021. Tkts: (818) 762-2998 or
After a three day Paul Robeson Theatre Festival, celebrating 25 years of presenting challenging and meaningful shows, the Robey Theatre Company is launching the next 25 years with this provocative new play by George Corbin. Set in LA in the early 1940’s, a young African-American law student rents a room in the downtown Guardian Hotel. He is assigned the rundown “Colored Room” but needs the privacy to prepare for his Bar Exam. However, when he’s interrupted by people seeking to gain entry to the hotel through his window, he finds this excellent preparation for his future as a lawyer. Developed in the Robey Playwrights Lab under the auspices of Artistic Director Ben Guillory. At Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 Spring Street, LA 90013. Tkts: (866) 811-4111 or
MY WIFE YOUR WOMAN (North Hollywood) 
A military soldier, stationed in Iraq for the past two years, returns home to discover his wife has been unfaithful and is sharing their bed with someone else. When she decides to break off with the mysterious party things begin to spiral out of control. Sounds like a serious drama, but writer-director Mykel Coleman assures me “it’s a musical play full of suspense, twists, turns, laughter and dynamic singing.” Saturdays at MKM Cultural Arts Center, 11401 Chandler Blvd., NOHO. Tkts: or call (818) 570-0143.
Just in time for Halloween, Ari Stidham is bringing his one-man musical-comedy Edgar Allan Poe Show to town. With great silliness he re-enacts scenes and recites lines from favorites The Raven, The Tell Tale Heart, Fall of the House of Usher and many more. Written, directed and performed by Stidham, with his own funny original songs, this show is suitable for all ages. So bring the grandkids in their Halloween gear! At Two Roads Theatre, 4348 Tujunga Ave, Studio City. Box Office opens ½ hour before show-time. Tkts:
CONSTANTINOPLE (North Hollywood)
This timely play is a dramatization of events during the Armenian Genocide when a female journalist and a guerrilla fighter coordinate a mission for the recovery of abducted women and children. Crossing into Armenia becomes nearly impossible as the political situation around them takes a darker turn. An entire nation teeters on the brink of displacement. Written and directed by Aram Kouyoumdjian and produced by Vista Players. At Secret Rose Theatre, 11246 W Magnolia Blvd, NOHO. Tkts: (818) 538-4911 or

Thursday, August 22, 2019



SISTERS IN LAW (Beverly Hills)
Tovah Feldshuh portrays Democrat Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephanie Faracy is Republican Sandra Day O’Connor in this play that celebrates the friendship – and conflict – between two modern day legends. As the US Supreme Court’s first female justices, they are confronted by a case that, by pitting them against one another, lays bare their most deeply held personal and political beliefs. Based on the book by Linda Hirshman, and written by Jonathan Shapiro, director Patricia McGregor has an all-female design team. At the Wallis Center, 9390 Santa Monica Blvd. Tkts: (310) 746-4000 or
THE JOY LUCK CLUB (Sierra Madre)
In San Francisco, four elderly Chinese women meet regularly at this club to play Mah Jong but, when one passes away, they invite her American-born daughter to join the group. Soon all of them struggle across a seemingly unpassable chasm of culture, generation and expectations to find common ground. Based on the novel by Amy Tan and adapted for the stage by Susan Kim. Director is Tim Dang, Artistic Director Emeritus of East West Players. At Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd. Tkts: (626) 355-4318 or Free parking.
In this surreal adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, playwright Jacqueline Wright transforms the gothic horror story into a contemporary meditation on the pursuit of beauty. Here the beautiful young Dorian awakens from a coma, unaware of his past, and seeks the perfection of nature in a corrupting aging world. In this existential view can beauty be kept or will it fade into death? Directed by the always imaginative Bart DeLorenzo, Founding Artistic Director of Evidence Room Theatre. At Theatre of Note, 1517 N. Cahuenga, Hollywood. Tkts: 323-856-8611, or visit
Pittsburgh folklore has it that there is a working-class bar where a teenage Andy Warhol drew on napkins in exchange for Coca-Cola drinks, and he also splashed a bold painting on one wall. Playwright Vince Melocchi states: “While drinking in that same bar, I began to see it… as an exciting, mysterious place.” In his intriguing and thought-provoking play, Melocchi explores the mystery that is art through the interactions between a budding eccentric genius and a hard-working, seemingly unimaginative, bar owner. Derek Chariton is brilliant as Warhol, a sly child with the wisdom of a sage. Keith Stevenson is deeply moving as a man whose dreams have been crushed by harsh reality. The play reveals the effect that their brief friendship has on each of them. Directed with sensitivity by Dana Jackson. At Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd. Venice. TKTS: (310) 822-8392 or
FEFU & HER FRIENDS (West Los Angeles)
Playwright Maria Irene Fornés is hailed as “the early feminist giant of the avant-garde” and this 1977 drama, still relevant today, shows her at her most fascinating and provocative. Fefu is the eccentric hostess when seven of her friends arrive for a women’s do-gooder event. At first what seems to be a drawing-room comedy, soon darkens into an exploration of the tremors that beset women regarding their relationships with male dominance and female powerlessness. All the actresses superbly embrace the quixotic demands of the script. Outstanding are Tiffany Cole as the dynamic Fefu; Sandy Duarte as emotionally damaged Julia; Cynthia Yelle as social outcast Paula, and Sydney A, Mason as vivacious yet troubled Emma (and eloquent saxophone player). Directed with passion by Denise Blasor and produced by Ron Sossi in association with Gloria Levy. At Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. West LA. Tkts: (310) 477-2055 ext. 2 or

Friday, August 9, 2019

LOOSE KNIT (North Hollywood) Review

In Theresa Rebeck’s potent comedy, five New York City women meet once a week to make sweaters and scarves but, apparently, do everything but knit! 

It’s a delightful play with a fabulous cast: Margie (Julie Davis) is a loquacious wanna-be actress desperate to find Mr. Right while blasting men. Gina (Lisa McGee Mann) is a lawyer who, after being made redundant, tries to knit her way back to authenticity. Paula (Cathy Diane Tomlin) is a therapist who wonders if she helps, or damages, her clients by anything she ever says or does. 

Lily (Stephanie Colet) is an Earth Mother attempting to save the world, and her friends, when all seem about to crash and blaze. Liz (Marie Broderick) is the dynamic glamour gal who men adore because she is such a fabulous challenging bitch. Bob (Doug Haverty) is happily married to the perfect wife, but still panting after the girl of his dreams. 
Miles (Todd Andrew Ball) is the blind date from hell – a suave, rich, highly connected, handsome bachelor who threatens to break up their weekly knit circle. He’s quite a catch, but clearly a shark when it comes to business and women. Still, the prize he seductively dangles brings our gaggle of knitters to philosophically question their own lives and purposes. 

Directed boldly and keenly by L. Flint Esquerra, and produced by Katelyn Ann Clark for Group Rep. At the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd. NOHO. Tickets: or (818) 763-5990.

Monday, August 5, 2019


The character of Don Juan was first created in 1630 by Spanish playwright Tirso de Molina, as a tragic drama about a libertine on the pathway to Hell. Now the Classical Theatre Lab has transformed what was then a grim tale into a totally hilarious farce. Adapted by British playwright Nick Dear, this tale of a notorious cad getting his come-uppance is a total delight. In a shady outdoor garden, Carlo Figlio as Don Juan heads a superb cast of proud royals, sullied maidens, and saucy attendees. Plaudits to director Suzanne Hunt for capturing the exact tone of merriment while making sure, even in the outdoor setting, every word and gesture resonates clearly. Elegant costumes by Susan Deeley-Wells and daring swordplay by choreographer William Hickman. Presented by City of West Hollywood at Kings Road Park, 1000 N. Kings Road, WeHo. Info: or (323) 960-5691.
LOOT (West Los Angeles) Review
Last month I listed this Joe Orton play and, after seeing it, I guarantee you’re in for a delightful surprise. An outrageous, farcical and absurdist writer, his characters seem in many ways more believable than what’s often presented onstage as real life! In this madcap romp two young men rob a bank, try to hide the money in an occupied coffin, gain a beautiful shrewd accomplice, and are hunted down by a maniacal police inspector. All the actors are marvelous, with impeccable accents from various regions of the British Isles, and project loudly so no dialogue is lost. Bart DeLorenzo directs with the carefree flair of one born and raised in a madhouse. At Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. West LA. Tickets: or (310) 477-2055 ext.2. Not to miss!
 LOOSE KNIT (North Hollywood)
Once a week in New York City five women gather in a knitting circle but, as the scarves and sweaters pile up, their lives unravel. Gina loses her job, Paula is having an identity crisis, Liz is having an affair with her brother-in-law and Margie just wants to find a man. When a handsome millionaire shows up looking for a wife the circle becomes a dating game. On a series of blind dates, Miles and each woman go head to head, humorously attempting to figure out what they really want. Playwright Theresa Rebeck outlines this battle between the sexes with wit, ferocity and insight to create a contemporary comedy of manners. Directed by L. Flint Esquerra and produced by Katelyn Ann Clark for Group Rep. At Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd. NOHO. Tickets: or (818) 763-5990.
PASS OVER (Atwater Village)
In this modern take on Waiting For Godot, two men stand on the corner talking boisterously and aggressively, passing the time, hoping that today a miracle will come. Award-winning playwright Antoinette Nwanda crafts their everyday profanities into poetic and humorous riffs, to expose the human spirit of young black men who dream about a promised land they’ve yet to find. Historical, religious and pop culture references collide in this meditation on race, manhood, and the cycle of violence that prevents so many from realizing their full potential. According to Nwanda, “This play asks us collectively to consider the value of the lives of young black men who are not entertainers, or athletes, or secret math geniuses.” Deena Selenow directs for Echo Theater Co. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave, LA. Free on-site parking. Tickets: or (310) 307-3753.

THE PRODUCERS  (Hollywood)
Celebration Theatre, under the artistic direction of Michael A. Shepperd, presents the hilarious Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan’s hit musical about two luckless Broadway producers. Based on Brooks’ 1967 movie, it’s the story of a sleazy theatrical promoter and his neurotic accountant who scheme to get rich by overselling interests in a Broadway show that’s sure to be a flop. Complications arise when the show, that makes fun of homosexuals and Nazis, turns out to be a roaring success. Director Michael Matthews (I still remember his fabulous work on “Peter Pan; the Boy Who Hated Mothers”) brings his take to this; as does choreographer Janet Roston (likewise her “Mutt House” musical). Anthony Zediker is musical director. Presented with the support of the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division and produced by Andrew Carlberg and Rebecca Eisenberg. At Celebration @ the Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave, Hollywood. Tickets: 323-957-1884 or
Joe Orton was a young British playwright whose outrageous dark comedies scandalized theater audiences in the 1960s. After winning a scholarship to RADA in 1951, he met actor-writer Kenneth Halliwell who became his lover and mentor. In his rapid-fire writing Orton wrote shocking and unconventional plays examining moral corruption, authoritarian abuse and hypocrisy. Tragically, in 1967, his life was cut short when Halliwell killed Orton, then himself. In this darkly comic masterpiece, Hal and Dennis rob a bank next to a funeral parlor and hide the money in the coffin of Hal’s recently deceased Mum. But her corpse keeps reappearing at the most inopportune times. Nothing is safe from Orton’s savage wit, whose targets include religion, attitudes towards death, police brutality, corruption, and everything in between. Directed by Bart DeLorenzo. At Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. Los Angeles. Tickets: 310-477-2055 ext2 or
Since its initial opening in 1949, when Arthur Miller’s drama won the Pulitzer Prize, numerous name actors have portrayed Willy Loman (from Fredric March to Dustin Hoffman). Considered by many to be the role-of-a-lifetime, now TV star Rob Morrow is making his Los Angeles theatre debut as Willy in the Ruskin Group Theatre’s production. More than a museum piece, the play is strikingly relevant in our times as Willy desperately tries to hold on to his “American Dream” in spite of personal and financial failures. Director Mike Reilly says: The Loman family struggles with the same social, economic and environmental pressures that we seem to keep experiencing in our own lives. Yet, at the center of this story is the deeply personal human tragedy of Willy Loman and his family. Produced by John Ruskin and Michael R. Myers. At Ruskin Group Theatre, 3000 Airport Ave. Santa Monica. Tickets: 310-397-3244 or Ample Free Parking.
AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE  (Topanga Canyon)
In Henrik Ibsen’s classic drama, the water in a popular tourist spa in Norway, at the heart of a local town’s economy, is discovered to be contaminated. When powerful people decide to put commercial interests above the health of visitors, the town doctor speaks out against the town leaders. For this he is declared the enemy and is soon threatened with violence. A timely play that adapter-director Ellen Geer has reset the events in the small town of South Fork, South Carolina in the 1980s, where issues of race further compound the economic concerns at stake. At Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd. Topanga, CA. Tickets: 310-455-3723 or Performances continue through Sept. 28.

Monday, July 15, 2019

THE LAST DAYS OF DON JUAN in West Hollywood - Review

The character of Don Juan was first created in 1630 (14 years after Shakespeare died), by noted Spanish playwright Tirso de Molina, as a tragic drama about a libertine dancing arrogantly on the pathway to Hell. Now the Classical Theatre Lab have managed to transform what was then a grim tale into a totally hilarious farce that speaks loudly to our #me too times. 

Adapted by British playwright Nick Dear, this tale of a notorious cad getting his come-uppance is a total delight. In an outdoor shady garden, Carlo Figlio as Don Juan heads a superb cast of proud royals (Stuart W. Howard, Alexander Wells, Cesar Di Bello, Vertic Emil Brown, Ian Waters), sullied maidens (Erin Fitzgerald, Michael Sturgis, Carolyn Crotty), and saucy attendees (Christina Conte, Nico Madden). 

Plaudits to director Suzanne Hunt for capturing the exact tone of merriment while making sure, even in the outdoor setting, every word and gesture resonated clearly. Elegant costumes by Susan Deeley-Wells, and daring swordplay by choreographer William Hickman. 

Presented by City of West Hollywood & Classical Theatre Lab for five weekends outdoors at Kings Road Park, 1000 N. Kings Road, WEHO. Info: (323) 960-5691 or email

Thursday, June 27, 2019


Shakespeare on the Deck is back in action and, after their all-female “Macbeth” last year, are now featuring an LGBTQ-focused storyline on everyone’s favorite summer play. 
This isn’t your Grandma’s Shakespeare…but you’ll love it! 
It’s a madcap version of the story, when four runaway lovers go to meet in the Forest outside Athens, boys and girls meet and certainly greet! There is also a gender-defying dispute among the Fairies who protect the forest, and, best of all, a bunch of hard working women rehearse and present the hilarious tragedy ‘Pyramus & Thisbe.” 
Amongst these groups runs a mischievous Puck (Sarah Hinchcliff), armed with a love potion capable of making anyone fall for the first person they set eyes upon. What could go wrong? 
With dark green, cut silk, in the shape of tree branches hanging from the ceiling, contemporary costumes – Titania (Craig Gibson) in a beautiful silk kimono; bright colored chiffons and tights for the Fairies, and denim cut offs or ripped jeans for the motley crew –  it came alive. Director/adapter Mikey Mulhearn ignites the rowdy spirit of 1605 in this naughty, tender, and transgressive piece, with the audience very much included in the action. 
His company of players are youthful, eloquent and very agile, every word well paced and spoken clearly, and it’s a delight to see this work brought to life in clever “gender neutral” roles. 
At the Kimpton Everly Hotel, 1800 Yucca Avenue, Hollywood. For info on their next production email:
 Review by Tricia Stubbs

Friday, June 21, 2019

FRINGE FESTIVAL REVIEWS 2019 (in the order I saw them)

PRETTY, WITTY NELL A wacky slapstick historical romp. All I knew about Nell Gwynn (and I’m British-born) was that she was the saucy mistress to one of the Kings Charles back in the good old days. After experiencing Ryan J-W Smith’s slapstick theater in verse, I now know she was a very wicked wench who romped with more than her share of blue-blooded royals. Not to give away the surprises Ryan J-W has in store, my only gripe is that the cavernous theater space, and the rapid-fire pace of rhyming dialogue, made it hard to hear what anyone – Nell or her many comical lovers – were actually saying. Still, the message is clear – Nell really was quite a pretty, if not particularly witty, Bad Girl, as portrayed lustily by Melanie Johnson.

MR. YUNIOSHI Brilliant writing and acting. Shows the human face behind an offensive caricature. If you loved the actor Mickey Rooney, in spite of this one awful role, then don’t miss this show. Asian actor J. Elijah Cho, both writer and performer, brings Rooney to life in all his dare-devil humor and Hollywood-legend status. Cho's impersonation will have you laughing and, as the story of what Hollywood demands of one of its icons, perhaps even close to crying. Cho also transforms smoothly into other characters, both on and off-stage, to give us a meaningful understanding of the world Mickey inhabits. Paradoxically, Cho shows how Rooney, after becoming this figure of dubious fun, found acceptance in the community his performance mocked, while the rest of us so-called Caucasian folk still recoil in shock and disgust. As not everyone has seen 'Breakfast At Tiffany's' (1961) perhaps showing a clip of Mickey's Mr. Yunioshi before the play starts might illuminate the subject for those audience members. If the rights aren't available then a blow-up poster might do.  Winner: Best Solo Play.
SCORPION and FROG: A TIME KILLER A scorpion asks a frog to carry it across a river. The frog hesitates, afraid of being stung by the scorpion, but the scorpion argues that if it did that, they would both drown. The frog considers this argument sensible and agrees to transport the scorpion. The scorpion climbs onto the frog's back and the frog begins to swim, but midway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog, dooming them both. The dying frog asks the scorpion why it stung, to which the scorpion replies "I couldn't help it. It's in my nature!” Playwright Spencer Green, (loved his BUMPERSTICKER musical in the 2016 Fringe Festival) has adapted this fable for The 6th Act. Even with excellent actors Alex Parker and Christine Sage, four crossings with almost the same dialogue grew tiresome. Felt like a charming ten minute play stretched to one hour.

In my former life as a librettist I wrote a musical THE WINDSOR FOLLIES about this same Duchess that performed in their Royal Suite at The Waldorf Towers (see it on You Tube). I was curious to see playwright David Bosley’s take on Wallis Simpson from Baltimore, who snared a King, and was delighted to recognize the same enigmatic gal I had discovered. No need to question why she would flee a socialite party to hang out with a gaudy strip-teaser who owned her own club. In this remarkable play, brilliantly directed by Ezra Buzzington, two women who came from nothing, yet achieved international fame, spend an hour comparing notes. Blaire Chandler is a believably introspective Wallis and lets us see deep into the soul of a normally secretive woman. Alli Miller is not only gorgeous as Blaze, she also reveals the shrewd yet understanding nature she usually masks behind pasties and G-strings. Don’t miss this well-structured dramatic play that is an emotional and intellectually-erogenous masterpiece. 
THE NARCISSIST NEXT DOOR Having lived in Hollywood many years, I can recall meeting many narcissists, in fact this town breeds them. In Ellen Buckley’s humorous sitcom, the actor portraying the neighbor from hell actually makes the looney guy very likable… to the audience that is! It starts in photographer Sebastian’s apartment, when his gal-pal Kate, a struggling playwright, drops by. Like in a Seinfeld episode, there is a knock at the door and in roars their high-spirited, loquacious neighbor Tony. From the moment he enters, actor Luca Malacrino dashes off with the play. He is dynamic, energetic and the more he brags of his accomplishments the more one suspects this Tony is a fantasist as well as a narcissist. When the beleaguered characters attempt to escape to Mexico, Tony is right there and, when danger lurks, turns out he’s the man who can handle any situation. This turnaround gave the play a delightful contemporary meaning – never underestimate the power of a fool – but the final action contradicted this and left me baffled.

HELLO AMERICA  This play demonstrates the political power in live theater as seven dynamic young actors relate what it means to be black in America and be acknowledged as a man. They start with anger and the sadly familiar list of injustices suffered under the iron fist of racism. Then, one by one, they reveal the hurt that permeates their lives and the bewilderment at why this continues to happen. Introspection follows, with each of them remembering their childhoods and the small incidences and insults that forced them to hide their vulnerability even from themselves. When they robustly celebrate their young manhood, the sexual and physical challenges they overcome gives them an illusion of invincibility. Then, with some, the longing for emotional connection moves them to accept and show love. Others, even when the fear of being hurt keeps them apart, find pride in self-awareness. Writer and director Brandon Rainey, through the talent of these seven extraordinary individuals, makes a powerful statement that deserves to be heard across America.

LEAR/LOMAN  Will meats Willy in this intriguing and dynamic play where two fabulous actors, playing theatrical icons who meet after death, wage contest. The irony of this truly realistic drama is that these are dramatic characters, from familiar plays, yet we are pulled in to their lives as if both were once real, sentient human beings. Leon Russum is magnificent as King Lear and brings out the arrogance as well as the crushing vulnerability of the maddened king. Bruno Oliver makes a truly persuasive Willy Loman who, while still full of pride and bluster, after his suicide comes to face the illusions that drove him to a false glory. At only 60 minutes these two performers brought both of their literary characters to life and made plausible the friendship across generations that connected them. The addition of other known characters – Cordelia, Linda Loman, Biff and Happy, cruel sisters Goneril and Regan – helped to dramatize the conflict. My only cavil is that, unlike the two principals, these fine actors often spoke so low that even I, who have acute hearing, missed most of their dialogue. (In a large space you have to project!) Being familiar with both plays helped me to enjoy the confrontations and accept the resolution, because this play works on its own integrity. Bravo to playwright Kate Schwartz and director Scott Leggett.
If you’ve never seen a Joe Orton play you are in for a delightful surprise. An outrageous, farcical and absurdist playwright, the irony is that his characters are in many ways more believable than what is often presented onstage as “real” life. Sure, the man of the house is a professional assassin, the lady that he loves a former prostitute, and the violent young man who intrudes on their domestic scene is a charmer with a hidden agenda. Anyway, Brian Foyster, as ever-so- deadpan Mike, will have you chuckling before one word is out of his mouth, Sile Bermingham as bewildered Joyce, trapped in domestic bliss, will bring tears of laughter to your eyes, and Reed Michael Campbell as The Ruffian will win your heart as an innocent boy forced into violent acts in his search for justice. All three actors are just absolutely marvelous and share impeccable accents from various regions of the British Isles. This was Orton’s first success, as a BBC radio play in 1964 that he rewrote for the stage after other plays gained him recognition. Mark Kemble directs with the perceptive and carefree flair of one born and raised in a madhouse.  This production is already being extended for a two week run. Not to miss!
GREENWOOD 1964    
As a drama student in New York in the 1960’s, I saw Sidney Poitier in Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 ground-breaking drama, A Raisin in The Sun, attended Harry Belafonte’s concerts, and marched for Civil Rights in the safety of the North. Other idealistic young friends went South into dangerous territory and many gave their lives for the cause. In this well-researched and illuminating play, writer/director Mohammed Ali Ojarigi, imagines the conversation between two great stars, Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte, who went to Mississippi in 1964. Hidden in a safe house, in the dangerous heart of the violence, it appears that their presence, as examples of the dignity of black men, might give courage to those trapped in this state where the KKK reigns. Their conflict reveals how Belafonte, in his fierce dedication to helping the cause, has persuaded Poitier, as a beacon of nobility, to show up for his people. It’s a dialogue that presents an eternal question – how does one fight injustice? Is merely being a good example – or in Poitier’s case a great example - enough? Being a martyr brings recognition but might being an icon be equally contributory? See the play and decide for yourself as there are no easy answers to this conundrum. As Poitier, Eli Goree is extraordinary, capturing the body language, the vocal inflections and the charismatic glow of this familiar screen and stage giant. Thomas Ramseur-King is physically less recognizable as Belafonte, as he nags and denigrates Poitier’s contribution to the cause. This play helps tell the story of the tumultuous years when an oppressed and violated segment of our country bravely fought back. Personally, I can never forget the sacrifices, and the brutality, that marked that era and I applaud those who stood up to evil and those who now, through the arts, continue the resistance.
For two years, on her You Tube series “Ask A Black Woman,” people of different races have been asking Shanara Sanders all kinds of questions. However, in this show she barely touches on these mini interviews. Her intent is to take us through her personal journey as a black woman in America through verse, song and even extraordinary dancing.  Looking like a teenager in black T-shirt and jeans, Shanara reveals the ambushes that haunt everyday living – the sudden insult, the need to pacify, the toleration of stupid remarks. As a young black woman Shanara has endured a number of noteworthy events, starting with the condescension of witless white folk, on to the hurtful criticism of her own family members. She tells all this with humor, energy, some amazing dance movements and oftentimes well-justified anger. Yet her effervescent spirit and confiding ingenuousness makes her solo show a special celebratory event.

Monday, June 17, 2019


The Hollywood Fringe Festival is exploding all over the city in June, so don’t miss this truly exciting Theater-For-All event. From the hundreds of choices offered, being British-born and now American, I picked this one. It’s 1961 and Wallis Simpson, (who stole the British monarch), now Duchess of Windsor, returns to her hometown, Baltimore. There she visits the Adult Entertainment District and meets famous Burlesque performer, Blaze Starr, infamous for her torrid affair with Earl Long, Governor of Louisiana. When these two famous home-wreckers meet in a strip club more than skin is laid bare! Says playwright David Bosley, a Baltimore native, “I look for Baltimore stories that do not involve drugs or a gun!” Directed by Ezra Buzzington who advises - Includes nudity! At The Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd. Info:

GO FRINGE! For information on other wonderfully outrageous plays and musicals by innovative artists contact:

INDECENT (Downtown)
This emotional play, by Pulitzer Prize-winner Paula Vogel, is inspired by true events surrounding the controversial 1923 Broadway debut of Sholem Asch’s “God of Vengeance.” Seen by some as a seminal work of Jewish culture, but by others as an act of traitorous libel, it follows the history of this incendiary drama and the paths of the actors who risked their careers (and their lives) to perform it. Director Rebecca Taichman won a Tony Award for the Broadway production. Infused with klezmer music, they have reassembled the Broadway creative team for this production. At The Ahmanson Theatre, downtown. Tickets: (213) 972-4400 or

AT THE TABLE  (North Hollywood)
Six sexually, and ethnically, diverse friends head out of the city for an annual weekend retreat. The rule is: no social media, no cell phones and no internet allowed! This forces them to look up from their screens and actually talk to each other! When the liquor starts flowing, and the tongues loosen, no conversation is uneventful and no topic off-limits. In the end, these ‘liberal’ friends realize they’re not as enlightened as they believed they were. Written by Michael Perlman and directed by Judith Moreland for Road Theatre Company. Tkts: (818) 761-8838 or At Road on Lankershim, 5108 Lankershim Blvd. NoHo.

Back in 1979, a young Dennis Hackin wrote and co-produced the movie Bronco Billy, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood! After a busy career, Hackin has written the book for a musical version of his Western love story. Sweet-natured Billy (Eric B Anthony) struggles to keep his traveling Wild West Show alive, but when he meets a NYC heiress (Amanda Leigh Jerry) she turns his world upside down. Directed by Hunter Bird, songs by Chip Rosenbloom and John Torres, lively choreography by Janet Roston. Skylight Theatre, 1816 N. Vermont Ave,  Tkts: (213) 761-7061 or online

Bill Brochtrup and Tim Cummings play Dan and Mitch, a seemingly perfect gay couple, wrestling with what it means to be committed to someone. The conflict is about marriage, and what will happen if one objects to ‘tying the knot.’ Michel McKeever’s play is a universal story that reminds us it’s important to grab those we love and hold them close. Jenny O’Hara plays Dan’s mother. Directed by Simon Levy. At The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave (at Normandie). Tkts: (323) 663-1525 or

Tuesday, May 21, 2019


In this wacky John Patrick comedy, it’s 1975 and a famous actress leases a house in Vermont to write her autobiography. To shoo away the annoying nosy neighbors, she invents a mad, homicidal Sister Sadie - herself in a fright wig bearing giant scissors - to scare off visitors. 

However, a local handyman falls for this dynamic psycho, and some local ladies decide to bring the woman to a religious rally to save her poor soul. When, in trying to get them all to leave her alone Myra says her demented sibling has gone off to Boston, she comes under suspicion of murder!

 It’s a silly but fun show as Hollywood escapee Myra (Diana Angelina as the only sane person in the town), hides out in Vermont to write her memoirs. Well, as the neighbors arrive to welcome the newcomer this town makes Peyton Place seem like paradise. 

There’s tall and kindly Reba (modestly personified by Ann Ryerson enamored of a traveling preacher); loquacious Cora, (a real oh-my-gosh Amanda Conlon full of wild gossip); Willa Mae, (the local soothsayer, Leda Siskind, mad as a hatter, who only predicts disasters), and the bearded goofy handyman, Piney (bashful, adorable but country-shrewd Jeffrey Winner). David Datz as Myra’s agent genially represents our calm, sane, kindly Hollywood world!!! And William Joseph Hill doubles as a manly sheriff and choreographer of the many quite daunting fights. 

Director Larry Eisenberg pulls out all the slapstick spots he can find before surrendering us to the happy ending. The late Playwright John Patrick is best known for Teahouse of the August Moon that garnered him the Pulitzer Prize and The Tony Award for drama, as well as the screenplay for personal favorite Love is a Many Splendored Thing.

Produced by David Hunt Stafford and, as always at Theatre 40, awesome production values include set by Jeff G. Rack, lighting by Brandon Baruch, sound by Steve Shaw and costumes by Michèle Young. In Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 S Moreno Dr. Beverly Hills. Tickets: (310) 364-0535 or