Monday, January 27, 2014

Schtick at the Whitefire

Saul Ilson, John Shull, Marcia Rodd, Barbara Minkus who took the photo!
If you can’t make it to Grossinger’s or other Borscht Belt resorts in the Catskills, you’re over fifty and an old joke is like an old friend; mark  your calendar for a Sunday matinee at The Whitefire in Sherman Oaks.  There’s good news and bad news.  The bad news is that Ronnie Schell, one of those comics you’ve seen a million times but may not know his name, who has starred in the show may not be appearing.  To top that off, the understudy for the show I saw had emergency surgery, which left playwright, lyricist, composer / director of DON’T LEAVE IT ALL TO YOUR CHILDREN, Saul Ilson, to step in at the last minute (after fixing the sound system and apologizing to the audience for a late start) to fulfill the old adage that the Show Must Go On.  To his credit, the show, though a little long, rolls along merrily with the unflappable Ron Ross at the keyboard who never misses a beat.

The ensemble, Barbara Minkus, Marcia Rodd and John Shull carries on with song and dance all dedicated to living life in their senior years.  Old jokes punctuate the musical numbers and monologues. If those ‘do you remember’ emails with photos of skate keys and penny candy are your cup of tea, then this is the revue for you. It’s a trip down memory lane as well as a kick in the pants to keep dancing and singing and to live your life to the fullest.  The songs and schtick run from the silly to  sweet nostalgia.  Each actor plays their own strength:  Minkus has always been the cutie pie, Rodd is elegant and sincere.  Shull, the big nostalgic guy, has television and stage credits as long as your arm. Ilson does his best to keep up and the audience was with him all the way.

There’s not a stitch of pretense in this one.  The audience, mostly senior citizens or their parents, bopped along with the catchy tunes and nodded knowingly as the stories rolled along.  One of the best was about a Jewish guy who went to a Dude Ranch and wanted to ride a horse.  The wrangler had a horse that understood Yiddish! Oy!


Written and directed by Saul Ilson
Sunday Matinees only at 2PM
through March 30, 2014 (no shows February 9 or 16)
Whitefire Theatre
13500 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
(818) 990-2324
$30.00  Group Rate (10 or more) $25.00
Tickets and information:
800 838 3006

Sunday, January 19, 2014

DISCORD at NoHo Arts

Armin Shimerman, David Melville and Larry Cedar
PHOTO CREDIT:  Michael Lamont

The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy:  DISCORD 
by Scott Carter

Playwright Scott Carter’s heady imagining of a meeting of great minds, huge egos and inevitable questions unfolds in a limbo reminiscent of Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit” and Tad Mosel’s “Impromptu.”  A stark bare space.  A modern door.

“Don’t Close The Door!”  Catapulted through a modern door we meet a taller Thomas Jefferson (Larry Cedar) to find three aluminum Navy chairs, a bare white walled enclosure, a table with drawers that do not open.  The Fourth Wall, a mirror in which Jefferson finds himself attractive.  He examines his new surroundings.

Jefferson is followed by colorfully costumed Charles Dickens (foppish David Melville) who ignores Jefferson’s shout, “Don’t close the door!!”  Brilliant dialogue sprinkled substantially with familiar quotes or partial quotes pit the 18th century Jefferson against the 19th century Dickens and then the two become three with the arrival of Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (bearded and barefoot Armin Shimerman), who also allows the door to close. Three brilliant minds: Tolstoy aware of Jefferson and Dickens, Dickens aware of Jefferson and Jefferson without a clue to the other two.  Thus begins a heady inspection of morals, ethics, confessions and inquiries brilliantly mounted on Takeshi Kata’s crisp white walls with projected graphics by Jeffrey Elias Teeter that are becoming standard fare even for smaller theatres today. 

What may have become a simple/not so simple talking heads piece, under Matt August’s able direction, we encounter three entirely different characters in a pas des trois literally pacing, almost dancing around the table that eventually relinquishes its drawers to reveal a quill, a dip pen and a fountain pen; blank journals and a King James Bible.  This leads to the three thinkers beginning to dictate their own personal “gospels” examining ‘personal truths’ which may eventually set them free.

Wealth and power permeate the text.  Tolstoy eventually abandoned … or so he says, all of his copyrights.  Jefferson discusses the difficulties of being responsible for so much of his personal life and the lives of his slaves (including Sally Hemmings) and the new United States of America.   Dickens relates his difficult early youth and eventual successes including the guilt of abandoning his wife.  And, then, they pace.

Fine tech introduces hash marked ‘chapters’ with animated projections which become a palpable part of the play.  Perfect lighting by Luke Moyer and authentically theatrical costumes by Ann Closs-Farley are wonderful. To fully enjoy the dialogue, familiarity with the three men is a must.  To each actor’s credit, and to director August’s imaginative stage pictures, we get a feeling for each man’s times in style and approach.   Read up.  Go see it!

The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy:  DISCORD 
By Scott Carter
NoHo Arts Center
11136 Magnolia Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601
Runs January 17  through February 23, 2014
Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8PM
Sundays at 3PM
$35 Top
818 508 7101 Ex 6

Further information:

Friday, January 17, 2014


GOOD NEWS from a guy whose mug you know, but may not know his name:  Larry Hankin!  A short film that he starred in and directed many years ago garnered an Oscar Nomination.  No small feat!  Word has it that he's at it again with another little movie with more actors whom you'll know, including Edie McClurg!   I'm all for supporting actors making their own way and Larry and his crew seem to be doing that.    Tell him Sheehan sent you!

Click on the poster to read the tiny print.

Here's the invitation:

The Free showing of Larry Hankin's new low budget, independent comedy feature film, “How To Become An Outlaw” (Don Quixote on a motorcycle), starring Larry Hankin & Edie McClurg opens March 1st  & runs thru June 14th (14 showings).   
(It will not show on 2 Saturday nights:March 22 & May 24th )
How to Become An Outlaw written, produced and directed by Larry Hankin will show (free) every Saturday night at 8 at: 
The Talking Stick Coffee Lounge
1411C Lincoln Blvd., Venice, Ca 90291  (310.450.6052)