Sunday, December 7, 2014

Let’s Mess With Texas!

ISC’s Dickens: Make time for a treat! Give yourself a present.

-->Most of us immediately think of Alastair Sim’s Scrooge in the 1951 movie version of A Christmas Carol about the time that the Thanksgiving dishes have been washed and put away.  The tradition of Scrooge and Marley and the Cratchits is one we’ve heard a hundred times and counting.  The true poetry of Charles Dickens is really in the story telling itself.  Of course, the movie and the sundry plays with top hats and empty scuttles of coal or even Bill Murray’s “Scrooged” come to mind.  Today I learned that the way the story really must be enjoyed is by hearing Dickens’ words.  Dickens’ words delivered by …   Dickens!  They must be narrated as well as acted out.  The poetry must roll from the tongue with a slight British accent; a little music, a little song and the warmth and spirit of Christmas.  Scrooge’s story must be gently spread before us like the wonderful feast it is.

I’m happy to announce that The Independent Shakespeare Company’s tradition of presenting A Christmas Carol With Charles Dickens in just such a manner fills the bill to the brim and over flows with poetry and drama in a way so charming, so professional and with so much joy that it simply must not be missed.

ISC’s tiny space in an industrial complex in Atwater goes to prove that it’s the work that comes first.  The imagination and the dedication to the story and the work of the director (smoothly conducted by Melissa Chalsma) is flawless.  With Mr. David Melville, as Scrooge as well as the sundry other characters, including Marley, the Ghosts and most of the Cratchits; assisted ably by the lovely Miss Julia Aks, ISC presents the tale of miserable Scrooge with gusto and verve and the great good humor that must be much like the way Dickens himself may have presented the story a hundred and sixty years ago. 

Program notes remind us (as we were recently reminded in last year’s The Invisible Woman with Ralph Fiennes as Dickens) that the man not only gave us a wealth of classic and memorable stories, but he was also an actor.  Evidently, he caused some women to faint when he portrayed Bill Sykes in his dark tale of Oliver Twist! As Dickens, Melville welcomes the audience though not all that happy to be in a dinky little space in Atwater and needs reminding to introduce his pretty assistant, Miss Aks.  Melville embraces Dickens as one might enjoy the embrace of an old familiar cloak.  He wears him and becomes him as he brings Bob Cratchit, his hard working ‘clark’ to life and then embarks on his journeys with the Ghosts:  Marley arrives with chains (sfx by Miss Aks) and tells Ebenezer that it’s time to assess his life and watch out for the Spirits who will visit him in the subsequent nights to come. Melville provides the dialog for all but a few of the well known characters, having a splendid time the Scrooge’s nephew, Fred and all.  We see Scrooge through the magic of The Ghost of Christmas Past and learn that his greed and ambition cost him the love of his fiancĂ©, Belle, played with tenderness by Miss Aks. 

The seats in the ISC space are more practical than comfortable, so bring a pillow, but whatever you to do treat yourself to fine theatre and the true spirit of Christmas this year, make it over to Atwater and enjoy Melville and Aks in A Christmas Carol!

A CHRISTMAS CAROL With Charles Dickens by Charles Dickens
The Independent Shakespeare Company
3191 Casitas Avenue  #168
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Only 4 performances   
Saturday December 13 at 2PM and 7:30PM
Saturday December 20 at 2PM and 7:30PM
**The performance 12/13 at 7:30 pm is SOLD OUT
**The performances 12/20 at 2:00 and 7:30 are SOLD OUT
Tickets and Information: 818 710 6306

Friday, December 5, 2014

Broomstick at The Fountain

Broomstick by John Biguenet

The Fountain Theatre in Hollywood chalks up another winner with Jenny O’Hara starring as “Witch” in the extended Broomstick.  
Jenny O'Hara as Witch / Photo: Ed Krieger
The last time I saw O’Hara on stage was here at The Fountain with her talented husband Nick Ullett in Steven Sachs’s brilliant “Bakersfield Mist.”  Sachs directs this one with a steady hand.  

I’ve always rejected the term ‘character’ actor because, in fact, every single character we’ve ever seen on stage or in the movies is a persona inhabited by a skilled (hopefully) actor who is acting out the part.  Jenny’s husband, Nick, actually played himself in his one person show, “Dying is Easy, Comedy is Hard,” at the Matrix four years ago and in so doing, recreated himself to much acclaim. 

O’Hara takes Biguenet’s eighty minutes of rhyming couplets and spins them into tales: chilling and inquisitive.  At rise, Witch is visited by someone whom she ‘took in’ when he was a child and chides him for being shy. She goes on to tell how holding him off the floor by the hair of his head helped him calm down. This sets the tone for Biguenet’s couplets which O’Hara delivers with skill.

For over forty years on film, on television and on the stage, O’Hara has been a working actor.  She never holds back.  Indeed, in Broomstick, Witch, is an out there gal.  Witty and present, alive and feisty within her fairy tale hovel (brilliant Hobbit Hole set by designer Andrew Hammer, aided and abetted by Jennifer Edwards’ lighting that almost becomes another character in the play and Peter Bayne’s ebullient sound) where her story unfolds. O’Hara works her magic on an appreciative audience.

Witch recalls that she has always felt ‘misunderstood’ from the time she was a tiny child and goes on to relate an early romance with a beau whom she loved.  Losing him seemed to turn her toward discovery of her special powers.  The show has been extended, giving late comers, like me, the opportunity to see a well written show expertly presented in this, the 24th season of The Fountain. 

"Broomstick"  by John Biguenet
Fountain Theatre
5060 Fountain Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90029
8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays
2 p.m. Sundays. 
Extended to December 14, 2014
Tickets and information: (323) 663-1525