Monday, October 31, 2011


Debra Strang and Apollo Dukakis Photo by Craig Schwartz

TWELFTH NIGHT.. or What you Will by William Shakespeare

Richard Boone is possibly best remembered for his TV western, Have Gun, Will Travel. It told the story of a fast gun for hire in the early American West. Later, The Richard Boone Show set out of do a somewhat radical approach to television using a company of actors in repertory, featuring Mr. Boone acting and directing in a variety of roles that stretched their artistic abilities, allowing the television audience to enjoy familiar faces in a variety of roles from week to week. It was a noble effort and as we got to know the actors, including Ford Rainey and Harry Morgan, it was a pleasure to welcome them into our homes.

It is that familiar feeling that blossoms as we settle into A Noise Within Theater’s brand new space in Pasadena. It feels right to see Geoff Elliott (ridiculously silly Malvolio), Debra Strang (apt and sexy Maria), Apollo Dukakis (bawdy and then some Sir Toby Belch) and Robertson Dean as Orsino mount this stage, in this great new venue, having such a very good time. After nineteen years at their Masonic Lodge location, it became obvious to the Elliotts and the company that Glendale was not going to make any effort to keep the company there. Fortunately, more welcoming arms were outstretched in Pasadena. Mayor Bill Bogaard welcomed attendees as an unofficial greeter as we filed into the theater. The feeling of support not only for A Noise Within, but for the spirit of Art filled the auditorium.

Before their first official performance, ANW co-founder, Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, held forth to welcome the invited audience Home to ANW and The Redmond Stage, named for Charles Redmond, VP of the Times-Mirror and chair of the ANW board for many years. She thanked the assembled supporters of more than 300 as they rose to their feet to inaugurate the space with its first standing ovation.

Having rushed from a screening of ANONYMOUS (the new Roland Emmerich film) to make the early six o’clock curtain of Twelfth Night, I had had a taste of the play presented briefly in the film: the final scene where Sebastian and Viola reunite. Director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott’s take on the show was miles from the traditional sixteenth century presentation. She sets the scene in 1950’s Cuba with colorful rhumba and mambo dancers affecting the storm that blew the twins, Sebastian (Max Rosenak) and Viola ( Angela Gulner) asunder. The strong presence of Afro-Cuban influence erupts with Anthony Mark Barrow’s interpretation of Feste, the Fool in his prologue and through the play. It’s pre-Castro with cigars and rum in abundance. Also notable are Abby Craden as Olivia, sexy in polka dots and Steve Weingartner as Antonio.

Inventive use of machetes in the opening number with un-credited choreography, probably by director Rodriguez-Elliott sets the tone for the remainder of the play: fast paced and true to the letter of the author (I still think Shakespeare wrote everything he’s been credited with!!).

Keeping the thrust stage the company used in the former space, Kurt Boetcher’s simple sets transition quickly and smoothly with a feeling that may echo presentations at The Globe itself. Dedicated to the classics, Twelfth Night is a fine choice with which to open the new theater. With the exception of a couple of unsure soldiers, the cast delivers the show beautifully to life, bringing the audience to its feet once more as a final dance number somewhat confused the curtain call.

It’s a short walk from the Gold Line Parking to the theater. Consider taking the train and tell your friends that Shakespeare (or the Earl of Oxford?) is alive and well in Pasadena. Congratulations to the Company as this new venture becomes another bright jewel in the Crown City of California.


By William Shakespeare

A Noise Within

3352 E. Foothill Blvd.

Pasadena, CA 91107

Through December 16th, 2011 in repertory

Tickets and Information: 626 356 3100

Visit www . ANoiseWithin . org

$42.00 Top

Sunday, October 23, 2011

HOUSE OF GOLD (an anatomy) / Ensemble Studio Theatre

It’s a fine line between what could almost be a simple narrative and the psychedelic trip currently on hand at the Atwater Village Theatre. House of Gold, playwright Gregory Moss’s surrealistic examination of the odd world of the Ramsey family of Boulder, Colorado may be searching for answers or, perhaps, the play is like a Magritte painting, leaving discovery to the beholder. The ‘fine line’ becomes a tightrope for Jacqueline Wright as JonBenet upon which to balance. For an adult to play a child is a challenge because the line between ‘playing at’ and becoming the character fluxuates unless there is a believable commitment to finding the truth of the child. This holds true for Wright as well as Alex Davis as Jasper, JonBenet’s put upon childhood pal (or is he her brother?) Their performances are mostly consistent as the story unfolds. However, accepting adults in the role of children is a stretch. Of course, what the Ramseys did to JonBenet was to manipulate her into the role of an adult, probably to allow the mother, (an excellent Denise Crosby as Woman), to live vicariously through her pretty little six year old daughter.

The opening scene exposes the strained relationship between the Woman and the Man (Tony Pasqualini)/the Father as she serves up sausages made from JonBenet. Director Gates McFadden (artistic director of Ensemble Theatre/LA) has woven together the disparate aspects of this odd piece nicely. Notwithstanding the disjointed and highly physical interstitials of the four buff Apollonian Boys (Chris Arvan, Josh Heine, Matt Little and Eric Schulman) who gang up to plague Jasper, the dreamlike quality of the piece is augmented by a very innovative use of ET/LA’s basic black box. With the audience seated at just the north and west walls of the space, the scenes change seamlessly. Kurt Boetcher’s bare bones set featuring rolling screens and set pieces provide for innovative videos by Alexander Mirecki throughout the play. Like the play itself, the set, populated with impressive video screens and psychedelic artwork covering the floor are augmented by William H. Parks’ projections and Drew Christie’s animations.

Any surrealist work of art is open for interpretation. Certainly, House of Gold is deliberately thought provoking in this regard. In the fifteen years since the tragic death of JonBenet, no one has been brought to trial for her murder. The introduction of a very creepy guy, Joe (Graham Sibley), (who may echo Jasper as an adult?) may be a suspect, but clearly, the real culprit in the sad demise of JonBenet’s spirit is The Woman who browbeats the little girl into submission to present herself as a sexy six year old.

A disparate detour from the story (perhaps a nod to Arthur Kopit?) involves JonBenet’s visit to Grandpop (Melvin Weiss) who seems to be stored in the attic. He may be her refuge or even a fantasy in the midst of her father’s advances and her mother’s manic goal of making her daughter a beauty queen. Keith Arthur Bolden rounds out the cast as the detective and the coroner.

The beauty of McFadden’s and her professional crew’s efforts for this production and the other shows I’ve seen at the Atwater Village Theatre is that they spend the energy and truly invest talent and cash to commit fully to the edgy and innovative productions they opt to mount. This is disturbing material and though not always clear as to the argument of the story, the actors and the tech work beautifully together to fulfill the director’s vision.

House of Gold by Gregory Moss

Ensemble Studio Theatre / LA

Atwater Village Theatre

3269 Casitas Avenue

Awater Village, CA 90039

Runs through December 4, 2011

Tickets and Information

323 644 1929

Friday, October 21, 2011



Anteaus’s current offering adapted by Barry Creyton from Noel Coward’s somewhat obscure drama is directed smoothly by Casey Stangl. Curtain speech by the co-directors of Anteaus mention that it is the goal of the company to not only present important and classical theatre, but to create a space for the next generation of classically trained actors for the American Stage. A noble calling, indeed. The professional presentation runs for more than two hours with an intermission.

Stangl keeps the story moving apace as it examines what life in London might have been like had the Nazis invaded and held the city during WWII. Interesting video montages separate the scenes with stock footage manipulated to show Trafalger Square and Nelson’s Column surrounded by legions of German troops with the King and Queen on hand.

There is a contract that, though unwritten, between any theatrical presentation and its audience that relies on the abandonment of disbelief ; allowing the work of the play to become more a reality than simply an evening’s entertainment. I must admit that I have a prejudice in this regard and though Anteaus productions adhere closely to maintaining the reality of their shows, in this one, the first appearance of one of those phony plastic cigarettes, frankly, bounced me wholly out of the play. Certainly, the folks in London in the forties and around the world used tobacco all the time. It may be important to the argument of the script, but, to me, it was just silly. A London pub not filled with smoke was okay, but to fake the tobacco did not make sense to me.

It’s hard to get back to the contract when the agreement is broken. The second breech of contract comes with the brilliant video montages that separate the scenes and announce the passage of time. John Apicella’s projections would have worked beautifully, had it not been for the literal explosion of over amped sound effects that accompany the images. At least one other patron literally pressed her fingers into her ears to shut out the abusive volume. Theatre of Cruelty may be okay for Artaud and in other circumstances, totally called for. However, this story, though filled with palpable tension and effective brutality, is not served by the assault that the opening night audience was subjected to.

Stangl’s ability to hone his cast to a single unit, especially as he is directing essentially two separate shows is professional. The choice to insert some of Coward’s music accompanied by Richard Levinson’s live piano in the pub is an effective one. There are stand outs in the company. Steve Hofvendahl as the pub owner, Fred Shattock, holds the cast together beautifully. Because the cast is huge and references to the character names come infrequently, a strong nod to the raven haired chanteuse is in order as well as to Shattock’s wife, Nora, played by Lily Knight. This is an ensemble piece and notwithstanding the blatant distractions noted above, if one is a fan of Antaeus and owns earplugs, it may be worth a trip to NoHo for the show. It’s a long one. The British accents are acceptable to each Brit. Not so much for the Germans and one Austrian.

Peace in Our Time by Noel Coward

The Antaeus Company @ Deaf West Theatre

5112 Lankershim Blvd.

NoHo 91601

October 20 through December 11, 2011

$34 top

Tickets: 818 506 1983

Monday, October 17, 2011


Some theatre and literature is so vital that it cannot be denied. Antaeus Theatre Company dedicates itself to meaty stuff and this reading is one that should be heard, the novel read or the play presented. Unfortunately, Antaeus will do this reading only one time, but I hope they will consider mounting it or at least extending the readings to otherwise dark nights at Deaf West. Sinclair Lewis's novel was adapted into a play for the Federal Theatre in 1936. This reading commemorates the 75th anniversary of the production of the play. From Lucy Pollak, the following information:

Antaeus presents a reading of It Can’t Happen Here as part of a nation-wide effort to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Federal Theatre’s production in 1936. The dramatization of Sinclair Lewis’ satirical novel imagines an America overtaken by Fascism, tying in with the current Antaues production of Noël Coward’s Peace In Our Time which poses a similar question: what if the Nazis had successfully invaded and occupied Britain?

Written by by Sinclair Lewis and John C. Moffitt
Directed by Gigi Birmingham
Featuring John Achorn, Daniel Blinkoff, Avery Clyde, Kevin Daniels, Jeff Doba, Robert Goldsby, Arye Gross, Shannon Holt, Adrian Latourelle, William Mitchell, Angela Paton, Nicholas Podany, Joseph Ruskin, James Sutorius, Jason Thomas, and the voice of Dakin Matthews

Wednesday, Oct 26 @ 8 pm

5112 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood CA 91601

(one block south of Magnolia; free parking available in Citibank lot on Lankershim Blvd. South of Otsego St.)

(818) 506-1983 or

Free (donations accepted)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

More good news

One of the best things about this opportunity to share information about theatre in Los Angeles and environs is that I get to be objective and subjective at the same time. The handful of theatres who invite us to see their shows are generally professional in their approach and quality.

With the opening of their new ten million dollar plus theatre, A Noise Within Theatre Company has just announced their premiere Pasadena season. The Elliotts have taken the concept of "My uncle has a barn!" and "I can get some lights, let's put on a show!" to new heights. They deserve an audience. Though, once word gets out, tickets may be a challenge to obtain.

Check the ANW website for the
upcoming season and ... if you are a fan of farce, check your supply of Depends and do not fail to see Noises Off revived in January in the new ANW space!

They open soon with Twelfth Night. Play on!