Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Is it ART? Yes!!

Bradley Whitford, Roger Bart and Michael O'Keefe
Photo credit Jim Cox


The Pasadena Playhouse

A warm January Sunday afternoon

Michael Gross

Jeans and Jackets

A little glitz

Jackets w/ ties

Jackets w/ No Ties

No jackets

Really really high heels

Old guys with girls in low cut dresses

More heels

Just off the tennis court, a woman flits to and from the Box Office

A woman in a Phyllis Diller Op Art Chemise

All smiles

Big hugs

Men happy to see one another, very

Up the stairs a suspicious woman eyes my observations

The woman with the chest tattoo has a drink, worried, perhaps, by

The leaky forecourt fountain?

It’s Opening Night at The Pasadena Playhouse. El Molino's all abuzz with the folks who love the Theatre. Old friends schmooze and as the courtyard fills with the sold out crowd for Yasmina Reza’s ART, it is, indeed, a perfect day.

The Play, however, is the thing and Reza’s way with words, translated from the French by Christopher Hampton, roll off the actors’ tongues trippingly and truly. For me it’s a virtual feast of ideas and ethics and words and the collaboration of some very talented people. Director David Lee brings his sit com takes, pauses and timing to what could be just a lot of words. The scene is set in three beautiful contemporary Parisian apartments. Serge’s digs (haughty Michael O’Keefe) are the fanciest, of course, because he’s the wealthiest of the three old friends. He’s just acquired a new work of art and is madly in love with it. The argument of the play becomes the well constructed vocal objection to this piece of shit… or is it? by Marc, the deep seeded cynic of the three, the excellent Bradley Whitford. Perhaps in an effort to protect his wealthy pal, he loudly protests the two hundred thousand Euros that Serge has shelled out for an essentially ‘white’ abstract painting.

Enter the hapless Yvan, (pronounced Eye-vn, though I have heard it pronounced Eee-van in other productions) an appropriately quirky Roger Bart. The self involved and over the top neurotic stops the show with a three page monologue that rattles through his issues at machine gun pace and leaves no doubt who is the most emotionally conflicted of the three.

The beauty of Reza’s writing, to me, is the fluency and craft of each character’s self revelation expanded by interaction with the others. Marc is agitated and abrasive. Serge is smug and self congratulatory. Poor Yvan is conflicted and bounces like a rubber ball between the other two as the issue of the painting becomes more heated. Their interaction reminded me of The Three Stooge’s: Larry, Moe and Curly and David’s Steinberg’s wonderful riff on how in any given situation there is always someone in charge (Moe), someone who wants to be Moe (Larry) and how someone else just wants to not be Curly (Curly). The power shifts from Serge to Marc with Yvan at last evolving, more or less, into his own as the plot resolves itself. Reza won the Tony for this show in 1998, deservedly. The characters may be over the top, but the interaction is triumphant and in this production, it’s a complete collaboration between the playwright, the cast and the director, supplemented by rich technical support.

Tom Buderwitz’s massive set reminded me of the current Tacita Dean exhibit at the Tate Modern. A huge monolith center stage sets the background for all three apartments that are accented by the artwork selected by the characters, reflecting each one’s tastes. “Motel Art” graces Yvan’s humble home while a modern landscape, reminiscent of Yoko Ono’s large window photographs, is center stage for Marc. The abstract Artrios comes and goes at Serge’s. Jared A. Sayeg’s lighting is dramatic and appropriate.

As The Playhouse regains its sea legs and launches into new waters, I’d hope that the seating situation in the house would be on the list for reconstruction. My seat was threadbare and uncomfortable. There was a hole in the floor big enough for a cat to leap through ready to swallow dropped keys or small children. Sight lines are terrible and the closeness of the rows to one another makes getting to know the other folks crab walking to their seats a bit more intimate than might be desired.

The play, however, is the thing. And, ART deserves repeat patronage and many sold out performances.

ART by Yasmina Reza

The Pasadena Playhouse

39 S. El Molino

Pasadena, CA

Runs through February 19, 2012

Rush tickets $15

General Admission $29 - $59

626- 356-7529

Sunday, January 22, 2012



That the current Inside the Ford projects take chances and LA County makes the space available to companies like Furious is commendable. The space itself has gone through many metamorphoses over the years as the Pilgrimage became the John Anson Ford. The Company Theatre produced a unique version of their James Joyce Memorial Liquid Theatre there in the early seventies to huge audiences upstairs … Outside at the Pilgrimage. Prolific playwright Robert Patrick (Kennedy’s Children) held theatre workshops in what was then a simple open space downstairs. Later, Steven Kent’s ProVisional Theatre, split off from The Company, performed political theatre with the story of Xa reminding audiences of the horrors of war.

The space was called the “Taper, too,” for a while, with small creative productions sponsored by the Mark Taper Forum. It’s been a space for experiments. And, yes, experimental theatre is sorely needed to keep the art form vital and fresh.

If nothing else, Furious Theatre Company is taking chances. This lurid tale of teenager Josh Jaxson (Nick Cernoch), spray paint huffer/graphic artist/burgeoning super hero is a stretch. Like a 21st Century graphic novel, Pelfrey’s script flings the audience left and right with unprovoked violent attacks, super hero interventions, parallel universes and some wild video projections reflecting, as a friend pointed out, the heavy influence of television on the youth of today.




The triumverate of erstwhile Super Heros:

Security Guard (Troy Metcalf)

Fire Man (Shawn Lee)

Hellbound Hero (Nick Cernoch)

These three hapless heroes, modern day everymen: just pretty much normal guys, are thrust by individual heroic efforts into the spotlight, lionized, vilified and eventually driven to a bad end are based on playwright Matt Pelfrey’s examination of Richard Jewell, the Atlanta security guard who may have saved lives at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Enjoyment of and relating to this play will turn on the generation with whom you survive. Twentieth century aficionados who remember early comic books with super heroes like Superman and Batman will find themselves struggling for a point of reference. Evidently, the Graphic Novel has supplanted the comic book in the geek spotlight. There’s a bad moon rising.

In the cast we find a mixed bag of mumblers, screamers, good guys, bad guys, archetypes, stereotypes and bad impersonators. The task is for the audience to figure out which is which, who is who and whether or not to care. With all the doubling going on, program references are a must. Director Damaso Rodriguez has his hands full. Skill levels are uneven and dialogue like “It’s cool, man. Seriously, I’m good.” speaks for itself.

Video projections by Jason H. Thompson are terrific using moving scrims for projections to set the scene on the grungy multipurpose set. Actors duplicate themselves now and then via video. That part works, too. It may be the acoustics in this small space, but much of the dialogue, to me, was garbled, though the action pretty much made up for the loss of any words. Thank goodness the action was graphic. The staged fight scenes need work.

Furious has spent a lot of time, money and energy on this project. I learned that there are five hundred cues: lights, sound and video, making the real super heroes of the evening the Furious technical crew.

No Good Deed by Matt Pelfrey

Furious Theatre Company

A live-on-stage graphic novel adventure

Inside the Ford

2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East

Hollywood, CA 90068

Tickets and information 323 461 3673

General Admission $25

Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays Through February 26

Call theatre for specific times and prices

Thursday, January 19, 2012


I don't usually review films, but I was invited to Paramount Studios tonight to see Paramount's restored version of WINGS. The effect that I'm sure it will have on audiences makes it important to share.

Though it is unlikely that the restored version of the first Academy Award Winning Picture, WINGS, with Buddy Rogers, Clara Bow, Richard Arlen and a very young Gary Cooper will show up in your local movie palace, it needs commenting on. It’s been over 85 years since William A. Wellman directed this epic of the air. Most of us have seen clips from the film, perhaps in a Chuck Workman montage with Richard Arlen grimacing directly to camera as he bears down on the Heinies. This is to report that this silent film, though over two and a half hours long, with an intermission… takes us back to what a movie is supposed to do. It involves us emotionally, mentally and physically. The declamatory style of acting is what actors practiced in 1925. It’s broad, over the top and totally appropriate.

Clara Bow and Buddy Rogers were at the top of their game in silent films and hundreds of thousands of fans filled the movie houses to thrill to the story. Budgeted at two million dollars, it brought in over four million, a tidy sum in 1927. The story holds up beautifully. The enhanced sound effects, especially the dogfight sequences and battle scenes on the ground are truly amazing. In a day with no green screen nor rear screen projection, Wellman mounted cameras on the bi-planes that the actors themselves literally flew. Bombing sequences were done in real time with real bombs. Thousands of U.S. troops were recruited to re-enact battle scenes which took Wellman and his crew to Texas to accommodate the use of battle gear and soldiers stationed at Camp Stanley in near by San Antonio.

John Stepan Zamecnik’s magnificent score was literally collected, researched, reassembled and restored by Paramount musicologist, Jeannie Gayle Pool. Contrary to information on the Internet, the collection of the original paper music restoration for WINGS was all due to the expert work of Pool. In their introduction to the film, Paramount officials acknowledged the music, having Zamecnik’s family rise for acknowledgement.However, they opted to not mention Dr. Pool nor acknowledge the many members of the orchestra in attendance who recorded the score.

To see the film projected, fully restored, featuring a full orchestra was a unique moment in cinema. As the credits rolled, I searched for Dr. Pool’s name along with the credits for every musician in the orchestra and was disappointed that she was not credited there.

WINGS will be released on Blu-Ray. However, any opportunity to see the it in a real theater with a great sound system will deliver the goods and then some. The Academy’s first Best Picture holds up in every way. Applause to Paramount for dedicating itself to the preservation of this beautiful film.

Michael Sheehan

Sunday, January 8, 2012


The new space that is almost paid for created by A Noise Within Theatre Company was shaking with laughter, literally, this weekend. A love letter review will follow with kudos to ANW for transplanting the rickety set and the rollicking performances from the old Glendale space to the new theater. A pitch was made for donors who may have the desire to fund a seat for a donation of $2,500 to pay down the remaining half million that the Company hopes to eliminate in the next three years.

Jill Hill and Stephen Rockwell in Noises Off!
Photo Credit Craig Schwartz

Sadly, Noises Off! closes on January 15, 2012.

Here is my actual review. Michael Sheehan

Noises Off! Party On!!

The beauty of writing what I want to write is that when a show as entertaining and professionally presented as is Noises Off (through January 15th at A Noise Within in Pasadena) in this brief reincarnation, I can rave about the acting, the writing, the production values, the costumes, (not to mention the lovely set pieces donated to ANW by a friend) and the way a matinee audience explodes with appreciation as this charming cast of players: Shaun Anthony, Apollo Dukakis, Geoff Elliott, Jill Hill, Mikael Salazar, Lenne Klingaman, Emily Kosloski, Stephen Rockwell, and Deborah Strang, cavorts for three amazing acts that rival anything you’ll see at the big houses in town or in New York or London, though I’ve never actually seen the show done anywhere else, so I’m spoiled with the way that Julia Rodriguez-Elliott and co-director Geoff Elliott guide their ship away from rocks, reefs and rough seas, sailing in smoother waters, this errant “British company” of players who, after a tense final rehearsal, which may be a tech or a dress or just a panic before opening night, launch into a voyage filled with sardines, grimaces and doors, doors, doors opening and closing with imprecise precision, locked and blocked and otherwise the fodder of what Moliere would agree most certainly is the heart of farce: as Lloyd Dallas, director of Nothing On, the play within Noises Off, well ranted by Geoff Elliott, announces in the depth of his frustration that this play, funded by-the-by by Dotty Otley (again, triumphant Deborah Strang) is simply put, just about doors and sardines, of which Dotty has an intimate knowledge and that “Looks and gestures is what acting is all about!” encouraging his cast to get on with it while one or another of them asks questions about motivation that anyone who has ever been in a play has asked and probably been answered that maybe just pretending and getting the job done is our objective now and that question should have been asked in the first rehearsal, not the night… well, the morning, now, before the show must go on because that’s what show folk do, they make the show go on and with the carryings on of the assistant stage manager, Poppy Norton-Taylor limned to a fine finish by Lenne Klingaman with whom Dallas may have had an intimate interlude as well as with the blonde bombshell, Vicki, played by Brooke Ashton, brilliantly bouncing down the stairs in her garters or suspenders or whatever you call that sexy thing that holds ones stockings up, Emily Kosloski (which for the gentlemen in our audience, makes the whole three acts certainly exciting and worth the price of admission alone); Act II back stage presents mayhem with jealous abandon, missed understandings and missing actors, which in Act III, as the show playing on the road winds up in the British hinterlands, brings us not one, not two but three burglars crashing through the window, nose bleeds, and of course, several courses of, dare I say… yes, my mountain flower… yes… sardines.

Noises Off by Michael Frayn

A Noise Within

3352 East Foothill

Pasadena, CA 91107

Through January 15, 2012

Tickets and Information


$46.00 top

Friday, January 6, 2012


Michael Sherman is an old actor pal who has made a living in every form of show business for the past sixty or seventy years. Well.. for a long time! He's been an actor, a balloon animal clown and a Friendly Santa

Michael's doing a matinee, evidently undaunted by superstition, on Friday the Thirteenth at One PM at the Fairfax Senior Center. Free Coffee and Donuts for Members, but I'm sure that Michael will make a good deal for non - members.

One Show Only 1/13/12 1PM
Fairfax Senior Center
7929 Melrose