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.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

THE POW & THE GIRL – review

In a time of cruel stories dressed up as dark comedy, playwright Katrina Wood shows that in the end love is all we’ve got left. A young girl, heading into her future in 1980’s London, is living with her irascible grandfather who is haunted by memories that wrack his sleep and often daylight hours. “Get out” is the usual advice – the man is hopeless, he’s hostile, he’s dangerous. Why she hesitates to leave is the theme and revelation of this compassionate play.
Chas Mitchell is riveting as the POW whose years in a WW2 Japanese death camp have broken his spirit and left him with moods that range from childlike whimpering to fierce male rage. Samantha Mallory as his granddaughter shows the cheekiness of a teenager yet the underlying wisdom of youth. Adrian Burks as the young man who courts her, reveals a hurt soul eager to be healed. Natalia Bilbao, in a number of roles, shines best as the enigmatic other Girl. Lucas Helmersson as a local thug and Jeffrey Gibson a cynical Japanese soldier, add dimension to the two worlds this play inhabits.

Based on the author’s own memories of her father, who actually spent years in the Japanese Changi death camp in Singapore where prisoners were forced to build the Kwai bridge, and the Burma railroad, leaving hundreds dead of brutality and starvation. After the war, Percy Herbert became a familiar face in over 70 movies and, besides appearing in the Oscar winning Bridge over the River Kwai, he also served as advisor on the film.
Director Trace Oakley, working with a tiny space, brings the present and past to life through his concentration on character rather than lavish sets. He’s also not hesitant to show that, as in real life, there is humor alongside tragedy. Produced by Katie Mae Peters.

At The Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., NoHo. Tickets: (800) 838-3006 or For information: Https://