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

Thursday, April 25, 2019


Anyone who remembers the fun times upstate New York, in the Catskills, will enjoy Michael’s madcap routines as he impersonates beloved celebrities such as Jimmy Durante, Jack Benny, Louis Armstrong, George Burns and Ed Sullivan. He also sings, plays the harmonica and juggles a bit and, if you dare to sit close to him, he will even draw you into his act. 

Ah! I remember my young days there, when I directed and performed live theater, at The Woodlands! Look for Michael at your nearby Senior Center or contact him at (323) 654-6505 or
In this new dark comedy, a famous writer dies and, as his family gather to box up his belongings, secrets come to light and old conflicts revive. Playwright John Bunzel was inspired to write about family by the conflicting emotions he experienced when his parents died, saying, “Love can be defined in many different ways and the serious substance underneath makes the comedy authentic.”  Directed by Jack Stehlin, at New America Theatre, 1312 N Wilton Place, Hwd. Tkts: (310) 424-2980 or Ample street parking.
This 1908 drama by British suffragette Cicely Hamilton, a friend of George Bernard Shaw, turns the Cinderella myth on its head. Diana, an Edwardian shop assistant, is awarded a small legacy. When she decides to spend it all on a Taste of the High Life, she learns a bitter lesson about love, money and society. Says director Casey Stangl: “This is a play about the overworked and underpaid workers who maintain the very separate world of privilege that surrounds them.” At the Gindler Arts Center, 110 E Broadway, Glendale (Between N Brand & Artsakh). Tkts: (818) 506-1983 or
JULIUS WEEZER  (North Hollywood)
“Beware the Ides of March… in May!” warns The Troubies! It’s Rome 44 BC with Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’ mashed up with funk-rock riffs by the Weezer band. This show is part circus, part improve, part rock concert, and a loony adaptation of the classic play. A unique experience for theatre-goers of any age – so take the grandkids! Adapted, choreographed and directed by Matt Walker, artistic director of Troubadour Theater Co. At El Portal Theatre, 11206 Weddington St. NoHo. Tkts: (818)508-4200 or (866)811-4111 online
In this wacky John Patrick comedy, a famous actress leases a house in Vermont to write her autobiography. To shoo away nosy neighbors, she invents a mad, homicidal sister (herself in a fright wig) who scares off visitors. However, a local handyman falls for ‘Sister Sadie’ and some local ladies decide to save the poor woman’s soul. When Myra says her demented sibling has gone off to Boston she comes under suspicion of murder! Directed by Larry Eisenberg, produced by David Hunt Stafford for Theatre 40. In Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 S Moreno Dr. BH. Tkts: (310)364-0535 or Free Parking.
It’s a Battle of The Sexes comedy by local playwright Jerry Mayer. He asks, can mistakes between husbands and wives, girlfriends and boyfriends, fathers and sons, ever be fixed? Dick’s mistake: He let a sexy, blue-eyed doll threaten his marriage. Jeff’s mistake: He turned down a dream job, then heard screams, “You idiot!” Mel’s mistake: He hired a famous money manager, who stole his money. Dick’s wife’s mistake: She trusted him, then learned of his affair so had one too. And that’s just the beginning! Directed by Chris DeCarlo. At Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th St, SM. Tkts: (310)394-9779 or

May 2019 Theater Column for NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

BIRDLAND BLUE - Robey Theatre, Downtown L.A. - Review

In 1959 the biggest star in jazz was trumpeter, bandleader and composer Miles Davis, and New York’s nightclub, BIRDLAND, was the center of the jazz world. This drama with music takes place there, one evening in August, 1959. 
You cross the threshold of the Robey Theatre and are transported back into an actual nightclub with round tables and chairs, a tiny stage, and surrounding you rough walls of brick and plaster. Somewhere in the gallery there is soft jazz playing and soon various men wander by carrying music cases or musical instruments, pre-occupied with their own thoughts.
Far to your right, in a small ante-room with a sofa and desk, one man sits alone, his head drooping, a trumpet hanging loosely in his hand, his demeanor sad and thoughtful. When he stirs and rises he plays a short riff on the instrument that resonates through the space with a mournful sound. Yes, here is Miles Davis and for one brief night you get a backstage peek at the reality of the pressures faced by this innovative artist and see that music is not his only challenge.
As the leader of his sextet he must deal with five rebellious musicians, a devious club owner, a smirking racist cop, drugs galore, and a shapely young woman journalist who is not averse to discarding her objectivity and flirting with a legendary genius. Still, when the sextet finally plays its promised set the club reverberates with a nostalgic reminder of the time when jazz was the ultimate musical trip.
Heading the superb cast is Marcus Clark-Oliver as the mythic Miles Davis; Damon Rutledge is an amusingly philosophical Julian “Cannoball” Adderly, and Jermaine Alexander a serious John Coltrane. Eddie Goines as Wynton Kelley, Micheal David Ricks as Jimmy Cobb and Rogelio Douglas III as Paul Chambers are impressive. Noteworthy are Charles Isen (club owner), Tiffany Coty (reporter) and Darrell Philip (sleazy cop).
Plaudits to author Randy Ross, PhD, who also plays sax offstage with drummer Ricardo “Ricky” Mowatt and bassist Marion Newton. The show was developed in the Robey Theatre Playwrights’ Lab, and has strong imaginative direction by producer Ben Guillory.
At Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Downtown. Tickets: (866) 811-4111 or
Color photo by Ian Foxx

Friday, March 22, 2019


Award-winning, writer/actress looks back on a life full of memorable roles in Hollywood and on Broadway. As a woman who had worn every size from 4-18, she tells about her high and lows – on and off the scale –and how the ability to laugh gets you through it. Taylor dishes out juicy anecdotes about Hollywood legends Joan Crawford, Marilyn Monroe and Barbra Streisand. She also serves up poignant stories about her late husband, Joseph Bologna, her partner in work and life for 52 years. The Wallis Annenberg Center, 9390 Santa Monica Blvd. Bev Hills. Tickets: (310) 746-4000 or

The Group Rep presents this long-lost Agatha Christie play, a comedy of manners laced with murder! In this mystery, a cosmopolitan adventurer discovers more than he bargained for when he arrives at an English country house and finds himself in the center of a murderous international conspiracy. Directed by Jules Aaron. At Lonny Chapman Theatre,10900 Burbank Boulevard, NoHo. Tickets: (818) 763-5990 or Free street parking.

At the height of her career, Doris Day was THE biggest star in show business, so it’s easy to understand author/actor Scott Dreier’s devotion. In this one-man musical, Dreier sings her hits with piano and bass accompaniment, i.e. Secret Love, Que Sera Sera, It’s Magic, etc. He weaves behind-the-scenes stories with photos and clips from Day’s film and recording career. Written by Dreier and Kurtis Simmons, directed by Richard Israel. 

Donations to the Doris Day Animal Foundation will be encouraged and a rescue animal in need of a home will be featured at every performance. Tickets: (626) 355-4318 or Free parking. 


In 1959 the biggest star in jazz was trumpeter, bandleader and composer Miles Davis, and New York’s nightclub, BIRDLAND, was the center of the jazz world. This drama with music takes place there, one evening in August, as two of Miles’ musicians - Julius “Cannonball” Adderley and John Coltrane - are about to leave him to start their own groups. He also has problems with the club owner over payment, challenges from a crooked cop, as well as dealing with his own substance abuse problems. Playwright Randy Ross, Ph.D. is also a saxophonist and member of the jazz group the Blue Morning Quintet. Music performed live by Dr. Ross, Ricardo Mowatt and Marion Newton. Produced and directed by Ben Guillory, the show was developed in the Robey Theatre Playwrights’ Lab. At Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Downtown. Tickets: (866) 811-4111 or

BAR MITZVAH BOY (Santa Monica)
Joey Brant is a Jewish divorce lawyer in his 60s who never had a bar mitzvah ceremony. He feels the need to get one now, and the ceremony will take place at the synagogue he attended five decades ago. Joey must now re-connect with the faith of his ancestors, but he promptly alienates the synagogue’s regular instructor. This means he must go to the temple’s rabbi, a woman, for his bar mitzvah lessons. Rabbi Levitz-Sharon finds her faith challenged at the same time that Joey is rediscovering his spiritual roots. R. Emmett Lee plays Joey. Written by Mark Leiren-Young, produced and directed by Howard Teichman. Presented by West Coast Jewish Theatre. At Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica. Tickets: (323) 821-2449 or Free parking. Note: Bring a picture of your own Bar or Bat Mitzvah and receive a $5 reimbursement at the door.

As listed in my column in the April issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.

Monday, February 18, 2019

NBY COLUMN FOR MARCH: Anna Karenina - Miss America's Ugly Daughter - America Adjacent - Tuesdays With Morrie


This adaptation of Tolstoy’s epic novel is staged in a stylized manner that cuts to the heart of Anna’s familiar story: the stifling marriage, the rapturous affair, the throwing caution to the wind and, of course, the ultimate tragedy. 

However, British playwright Helen Edmundson spreads a wider canvas by showing two other women of the period in marriages both conventional and threatened. In fact, by focusing on three parallel stories the play becomes a modern appeal against female oppression. Yet Edmundson is careful to show how a man – in fact all of the men – can love the woman in their lives yet not see how callously they oppress them. 

The cast are superb. Eva Abramian’s headstrong Anna is a torment to her husband Bruce Ladd; Lauren Thompson is a devoted wife betrayed by her husband Michael Worden; Ivy Beech is a proud girl challenging her conventional husband Joseph Barone, while Deborah Marlowe and Garrett Botts are impressive in multiple roles. Directed with style and piercing dramatic intensity by Heather Chesley. An Actors Co-op production at First Presbyterian Church, 1760 N Gower St. Hollywood. Tickets: (323) 462-8460 or Free parking.

It is always fascinating to learn of the at-home behavior of a famous person and Barra Grant, daughter of Bess Myerson, does not disappoint. In this play we see the petty bad-mother side and the effect it has on a vulnerable child. There is poignant humor in the duel between them for attention after the parade has passed by. It’s an entertaining show but I wish Grant had told of her mothers good works as well as her selfish home behavior. 

Bess Myerson did a lot of excellent public work that is missing from the show – it’s in the program but not on the stage. As the first Jewish Miss America, she was hit with the anti-Semitism that she fought against the rest of her public life. When I was NY Bureau Chief for the Hollywood Reporter I met Bess Myerson, then NY Commissioner of Cultural Affairs. More than a beauty queen, or TV personality, she was a public figure doing significant work. 

Written and performed by Barra Grant, with Monica Piper as Myerson’s offstage voice. At Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N Fairfax, (nr Melrose). Tickets: (323) 285-2078 or Free parking.

In this timely play, six pregnant women from the Philippines, living together in a one-bedroom, one-bath unit in East Hollywood, do their best to overcome fears of jail and deportation. Playwright Boni B. Alvarez examines the promise of US citizenship, saying “As the child of Filipino immigrants, I have always been fascinated by the American Dream. How far would you go to give your child a better future?” Directed by Jon Lawrence Rivera and produced by Gary Grossman and Tony Abatemarco for Skylight Company. At Skylight Theatre, 1816 N. Vermont, Los Feliz. Tickets & Parking info: (213) 761-7061 or

Journalist Mitch Alborn saw his beloved college professor, Morrie Schwartz, on ABC-TV Nightline being interviewed about the challenge of living with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Mitch starts to visit Morrie every Tuesday and learns from him how to live life fully in the face of loss. The play debuted off-Broadway in 2002 and New York magazine said: "Unforgettable! No matter how well you tell the story, the play makes it more vivid, more shattering, more humorous." Larry Eisenberg is Morrie, Jackson Kendall is Mitch. At Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W Sierra Madre Blvd. Tickets: (626) 355-4318 or Free parking.