Sunday, October 27, 2013


Any relationship forged from need is, by definition, a needy relationship.  A relationship formed from desire is desired, desirable and, to me, a superior situation.  As a semi/pseudo intellectual (or would it be pseudo/semi?) I cannot begin to analyze Samuel Beckett’s ENDGAME currently in rep at Pasadena’s A Noise Within.  Well, I could, but it would mostly be a re-hash of having experienced productions of WAITING FOR GODOT and other of Beckett’s theatrical pieces.  The desolate world depicted outside scenic designer Jeanine Ringer’s sad gray set we can only guess at from Clov’s (Jeremy Rabb) reports.  He shuffles and shuffles and shuffles with his ladder to one window and then the other, reporting on the emptiness in the outside world.
Jill Hill and Geoff Elliott Photo credit Craig Schwartz

Hamm (Geoff Elliott who also directs and should reconsider directing himself) cannot stand.  He is master.  Clov, who cannot sit, is not.  Who has the power? Why do they stay? Is there any Hope?  The nihilistic world of Beckett sometimes anointed with the term Theatre of the Absurd may be in a class and a category all by itself.  Influenced by his friend, James Joyce, Beckett forged a new avenue to theatre.  The often told story of the failure of the initial production of Godot with Bert Lahr and Tom Ewell shows that audiences were unprepared to be challenged with free form despair.  ENDGAME does have structure with self referential asides and the fascination of waiting, hoping for something.  It keeps us in our seats.  Are we ever prepared to do the work that Beckett asks of us?

I sometimes overhear what someone in the audience says after the play. 
“What did you think?” 
“It was hideous!”

On one level I must agree.  To paint this netherworld where Hamm’s parents Nell and Nagg (Jill Hill and Mitchell Edmonds) linger in what the Brits call dustbins,  in this production they reside each in one half of a 55 gallon oil barrel,  Nagg and Nell appear and disappear, their futile existence echoing the desolation Beckett paints sometimes with broad strokes and sometimes with minutia… which  is a long sentence that begs the question: What is it all about?  

Elliott’s self direction could use a more critical: external eye and ear.   Not that there is much that one can do with the repetitive business and rambling speeches that Hamm must find meaning in… or does he?  Do we?  Beckett’s message to the world is not a happy one.  Of course,  not all theatre needs to send the audience humming a happy tune out the door.  Biff Rose once said, “Man does not live by bread alone, you’ve got to have a little toast.”  The nourishment of ENDGAME is in there somewhere and to ferret it out is a challenge to both the actors and the audience.  Technically, this production reflects what Beckett himself dictated in specific lines and stage directions with the exception of flopping Right for Left unless the playwright intended a literal view from the audience’s point of view.  As I see the author’s stage directions in my mind’s eye, had the play been staged as Beckett had dictated, it would have been even more uncomfortable. 

ENDGAME by Samuel Beckett
Sponsored by Terry and Jeanie Kay
A Noise Within
3352 East Foothill Boulevard
Pasadena, CA  91107
Plays in repertory through November 23, 2013
Tickets and Information
626 356 3100 ex 1



Garry Marshall’s Falcon Playhouse is a gem.  One hundred and thirty seats. A mini-Mark Taper Forum.  Set in the heart of Toluca Lake, the modified thrust stage puts every member of the audience close to the play and in Charles Ludlam’s The Mystery of Irma Vep the action is sometimes practically in our lap.

I love the theatre lingo ‘Two Hander.”  This Two Hander has the splendid twosome of Matthew Floyd Miller and Jamie Torcellini literally running for two full acts.  The action is hilarious and the message is … well.. there may not be a message, but it’s still hilarious.  Two actors and a bevy of characters, each singular and well defined. 

‘Jane Twisden’ (Matthew Floyd Miller) and ‘Lady Enid’ (Jamie Torcellini) in The Mystery of Irma Vep at the Falcon Theatre.  Photo by Chelsea Sutton

Director Jenny Sullivan has staged Vep before and the experience shows.   When Miller as Jane Twisden, the prime and proper House Keeper, makes ‘her’ first floating cross, it sets the stage for laughter and if one can follow the somewhat elaborate plot (or even if one can’t) the action to the word, the word to the action, it’s just plain fun.

Lady Enid Hillcrest (Torcellini) has come to live in Sir Edgar Hillcrest’s (Miller) lavish estate. She is an actress! She is dramatique! She is troubled by the portrait of Edgar’s now deceased former wife, Irma Vep, hanging over the well appointed mantel.  (Thomas S. Giamario’s scenic design and lighting are perfect!) Quick costume changes allow for Jane to rush out and return moments later as Sir Edgar, having trouble with his mustache.  The passionate “Edgar?” “Enid..”  “Edgar!!” “Enid!!” “EDGAR!!!”  “ENID!!!......”  is priceless. 

Story meanders to the audience’s delight with a trip to Egypt after the act break.     Elaborate costumes by Alex Jaeger allow the two talented actors quick changes and the action never stops.  Torcellini as Nicodemus Underwood (with a wooden leg and a limp) reminded me of Uncle Fester of The Addams Family.    

Playwright Charles Ludlam (Not to be confused with Charles Busch, as Busch often wrote plays for himself to play the female lead) was reported in the notes to have penned many of these two handers that he performed with his long time companion Everett Quinton.  Puns and silly references abound.    Giamario’s lights and David Beaudry’s sound effects become characters all their own, but it’s still a two person play!  Sullivan’s brilliant direction keeps the show moving a pace.  Hidden panels and a mythical critter round out the romp.

For a totally enjoyable evening that will leave you gasping slightly for breath and wondering how these two performers manage to keep the pace and the laughter going…   See This One. 

THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP (a penny dreadful)
By Charles Ludlam
The Falcon Theatre
4252 Riverside Drive
Burbank, CA 91505
Opens October 25, 2013
Closes Sunday November 17, 2013
Performances Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8PM
Sundays at 4PM
Tickets: 818 955 8101 or

Monday, October 14, 2013

Antaeus: Tangerines or Cherries?

 The Liar, take two.

Tangerines and Cherries / Cherries and Tangerines?   Not like apples and oranges but still a tough comparison.   Antaeus does the Los Angeles theatre world a favor with their tradition of creating two complete casts for their productions.  The chemistry of who plays what character and with whom is extremely interesting to watch and though comparisons are not all together a good idea, they are inevitable. 

The Sunday matinee of The Liar came off beautifully timed and well acted, but with a slightly different energy.  These are all professional actors.  They are well rehearsed and meet the demands of the text, which are considerable. Kudos again to director Casey Stangl.  Traditionally, Antaeus creates names for their separate casts, but this time, it’s a slightly jumbled mix and match of characters which meant that a couple of the actors from Thursday’s opening night, Jules Wilcox (sexy Clarice) and Jonathon Lamer (bigger and crisper in his second shot at Philiste) came to play at the Sunday matinee.  
Jules Willcox as Clarice, Ann Noble as Lucrece Photo by
Geoffrey Wade
David Ives’ adaptation of Corneille’s play is the key, of course.  His purposeful doggerel works so very well.  The brilliant script is contemporary and still maintains the flavor of the times, almost Shakespearean.  He cribs a bit from Hamlet here; a sonnet there, much to the delight of the audience. It is a play for lovers of the Theatre.  The energy seldom flags.

A matinee somehow is not the same as an evening performance. It’s the middle of the day.  The words are all the same, though interpretations must vary to suit the individual actor.  Where Bo Foxworth as Alcippe is compact and frenzied, Sunday’s Alcippe, Joe Delafield is more rangy. He, too, is wild but obsessed in completely different way.  As Lucrece, Ann Noble, is a ringer for her sister player, Joanna Strapp.  Noble reminded me of Poison Ivy Rorschach of The Cramps. Strong choices. Brian Slaten’s Cliton is barely a triple digit IQ and at once a perfectly hip and happening narrator for the play.  Graham Hamilton as Dorante approaches his Liar with great confidence.  To be a master liar, you must have a great memory and his work is well done, even the forgetful parts. 

Karen Malina White as the twins, Isabelle and Sabine, serving Clarice and Lucrece, was slightly difficult to understand from time to time, but the delineation of the two disparate characters still worked.  Antaeus staple, Robert Pine as Geronte, allowed his beats to syncopate from time to time but scored the only ovation on his exit from completing a complicated speech. 

The matinee emerged from the same deep well of Casey Stangl’s vivid imagination and holds up beautifully. It’s impossible not to compare performances, one to another and impossible not to have a favorite or two.  The upside is that whichever cast that you may choose to see, and I recommend that anyone within the sound of my ‘voice’ must get to NoHo to see this show, laughs are guaranteed. The performances are so worth the effort that you must become another advocate for The Liar.  Which ever cast you choose, you’ll leave the theater smiling and ready to tell a friend.

Pierre Corneilles’s THE LIAR 
"slapadapted" by David Ives
Antaeus Theatre Company
5112 Lankershim Boulevard
NoHo, CA 91601 (1 ½ blocks south of Magnolia)
Two casts Opens October 10, 2013
Continues Thursdays through Sundays
Closes December 1, 2013
Call theater or check website for specific casts, dates and times
818 506 1983
$34.00 Top

Michael Sheehan

Saturday, October 12, 2013


Pierre Corneille's The Liar  "slapdapted" by David Ives 

Thanks to Melinda Peterson, I learned that Antaeus was a Titan, not a God, who always kept one foot on the ground.  As long as one foot was on the ground, he was immortal.  He lost immortality if he allowed himself to go airborne. Antaeus Theatre Company has both feet planted firmly on the ground and if their current productions of The Liar are any indication, they must continue to flourish. 

I had a musician friend whose vanity license plate, “A440,” referred to perfect pitch. Approaching perfection is a goal. To achieve it is rare, but one thing that I’ve seen over the years with Antaeus Theatre Company is that their choices of material and dedication to the heart of theatre continue to strive for perfection.  Their current offering, The Liar, written by David Ives is adapted from Pierre Corneille’s 1644 adaptation of  Spanish-American playwright, Juan Ruíz de Alarcón’s  La Verdad Sospechosa which was published in 1634.  Ives’ “translaptation”: a rhyming adaptation in iambic pentameter, is a gem.  He has even been so bold as to hippity hop almost four hundred years with contemporary references in clever dialogue which director Casey Stangl has instilled in her actors to romp with.  Yes.  It’s a romp. 
Nicholas D'Agosto as Dorante, Bo Foxworth as Alcippe
Photo by Geoffrey Wade
The beauty of this first performance (a second cast follows with Antaeus’s tradition of doing a complete double casting) is that the language, the attitude and the style all meld to perfect pitch and rhythms.  It’s not easy to keep a beat, but the beat goes on starting with the familiar preshow admonition to turn off electronic devices and such when the house lights go down and a spot comes up inhabited by Cliton (Brilliant Rob Nagle) who cannot tell a lie.  He is not a simpleton, but a pretty basic guy who starts the show with a little exposition that leads us down the garden path to lies and more lies and mistaken identities and ... what else? A happy ending.

The Liar, himself, Dorante (gaining traction with every step, Nicholas D’Agosto), arrives in the Tuilleries ready for action.  He soon enlists Cliton to be his wingman as in come hotsy totsy Clarice (dark and slightly S and M Jules Willcox) and not so hotsy in her hornrims, Lucrece (really very attractive Joanna Straap).  Playing twins, warm and cuddly Isabelle and not so cuddly Sabine (Gigi Bermingham), all add to the mixup as Dorante thinks he’s fallen for Clarice, but remembers Lucrece’s name! 

It gets better.  Alcippe (rabid Bo Foxworth) and his pal, Philiste (staid Jonathon Lamer) keep the ball in the air as we finally meet Dorante’s daddy, Geronte (flip shades Peter Van Norden), whose goal is to marry off his son.  Oh frabjous day!

Rhymes and pacing never flag, which is all thanks to Stangl’s fluid and dramatic direction. Lines fly fast and furious with never a syllable lost.  Minimal set by Keith Mitchell functions perfectly. Costumes: black on black on black (with a little lace: black) by Angela Balogh Calin are just right.  This is professional theatre in a storefront that matches or outweighs most anything I’ve ever seen.  These are theatre folks dedicated to the stage.  Of course, many of the Anteaus members work regularly in features or on TV, but the camaraderie of the company is totally dedicated to the ensemble, which, of course is pitch perfect when everyone is so enjoying the process of creating the gift of a great performance.   A440!

Pierre Corneilles’s THE LIAR 
slapdapted by David Ives
Antaeus Theatre Company
5112 Lankershim Boulevard
NoHo, CA 91601 (1 ½ blocks south of Magnolia)
Two casts: The Cherries and The Tangerines
Opens October 10, 2013
Continues Thursdays through Sundays
Closes December 1, 2013
Call theater or check the Antaeus website for specific casts, dates and times
818 506 1983
$34.00 Top

Michael Sheehan

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

On Garde! ANW

The Guardsman by Ferenc Molnàr, translated by Frank Marcus 
Sponsored by John K. and Barbara Lawrence
Elyse Mirto, Wendy Worthington, Freddy Douglas

Scenic designer Tom Buderwitz’s letter perfect set for The Guardsman foreshadows the fun to come currently in rep at A Noise Within.  Presenting their third season at the new ANW theater, Artistic Producing Team Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott continue the schedule with their ‘classics’ presentations to the enjoyment of, at least, the matinee audience I watched the show with. 

Michael Michetti’s direction is not particularly inspired, but the cast is having quite a good time beginning with wonderful Wendy Worthington’s (The Mother) entrance through subtle histrionics that abound in witty dialogue and enjoyed by all concerned.  The play is all about the trials and mixed up tribulations of The Actor (Freddy Douglas) and The Actress (spot on Elyse Mirto) as a plot is hatched by the former to test the loyalty of the latter.  Let the games begin. 

Why The Critic (ANW perennial Robertson Dean), who has his 1920s postures down pat, is hanging out with the couple is not exactly clear.  As an interlocutor and friend to both of our main characters, he certainly helps to move the plot along. Ah! The Theatre!  The Actor will pretend to go off to play in the hinterlands, when, if fact, he shall return as The Guardsman (he’s already prepped The Actress with flowers he’s sent as the soldier) to see if her love may be swayed away from their marriage.

The clever ploy The Actor has devised to test his new bride’s loyalty, announcing that The Actress will never recognize him in his shiny military drag seems silly to The Critic, however, without the ridiculous plot, the play would simply not be happening.  Buderwitz’s set morphs from the couple’s tony digs to The Opera (a box, actually, where Worthington is the only somewhat attentive audience member, while a dicey tryst evolves in the elegant sitting room adjacent to the box.  The Guardsman: The Actor with wig, mustache, shiny helmet and uniform, appears and The Actress coyly responds.  Is she wooed?  Or, is she also acting?  (For a minute here I could hear Jon Lovitz as The Master Thespian gesturing and saying the word! ACTING!) It’s great fun.  Douglas’s pseudo Hungarian (I think) accent is difficult to cipher out, (I understood that he may have had some health issues affecting his voice) but the audience loved it. 

Segue to Act III as the opera box quickly reverts (kudos to uncredited costumed stage hands) back to the couple’s home and the dance of whom played who and whom knew what and when, if ever…  waltzes on.  A clever transformation for The Actor to become again, The Guardsman is hilarious and worth the wait!  We may never know if the plan worked out just right, but all’s well as the scene reverts, ala La Ronde, to right back where we started from.

Pretty Sasha Pasternak as Maid, Todd Andrew Ball as A Creditor season the show just right.  Judy Durning’s Usherette missed a couple of moments for subtle humor, but that may be on Michetti. 

Gary D. Lennon’s costumes are perfect to the times.   Complete with baby grand, Buderwitz’s set is a perfect compliment to the wonderfulness of the production. 

All in all The Guardsman works just fine and is what ANW is dedicated to, bringing little known classic theatre to Pasadena.  Rumor has it, however that moving toward living playwrights may be in the wings, which would be, to me, a welcome change.  Actually creating classic theatre may also be an idea as this dedicated company settles into its new home.  
Home in Pasadena, Home where the grass is greener… 

The Guardsman by Ferenc Molnàr
A Noise Within
3352 East Foothill Boulevard
Pasadena, CA  91107
Plays in repertory through November 30, 2013 
Tickets and Information
626 356 3100 ex 1