Monday, May 16, 2016


THE HAIRY APE by Eugene O’Neill 

Ron Sossi’s Odyssey Theatre Ensemble had a colorful beginning in the last century on the shady side of Hollywood.  For over 45 years, Ron and actors, directors, designers, playwrights, publicity folks and all the elements of creating imaginative theatre have come together with Sossi’s interest in presenting Theatre. Not just plays, but Theatre in the sense that it fulfills the classic and ‘important’ role that The Theatre is called upon to play in world culture.  His dedication to playwrights like Brecht and O’Neill to bring grit and importance to the Los Angeles Theatre Scene blossoms in the current production of O’Neill’s THE HAIRY APE.   Add to Sossi’s dedication to the ‘stuff’ of world theatre his invitation to Steven Berkoff, to direct his own version of the 1922 play with a cast of seasoned actors? There we have something: Something important.  Berkoff, now in his seventies, has a long reputation of not fooling around with his directing and has gained notoriety as a playwright, actor and teacher as well.  Early on in his career he associated with Jacques LeCoq, a renowned teacher of a physical approach to acting. This physicality is abundant in Berkoff’s direction of this O’Neill and the energy and dedication in the ensemble, stylized and poetic, at once enchants and brings the text to life.

The language of the 1920s as we may remember from early motion pictures is not easy to reproduce.  Haile D’Alan as Yank is thick and mean.  He rules the Stoker Room where the crew’s singular task is to keep the engines of the giant cruise ship moving.  Haile  Parker’s costumes , Katelan Braymer’s lighting design on Christopher Scott Murillo’s bare stage bring the show to life.  Berkoff’s ability to assemble his ensemble as a unit shows that when an imaginative director is given trust by his cast, amazing things can happen. 

The energy of an early opening night (5PM) made some of the shouted dialogue difficult to understand.  The early twentieth century style of O’Neill’s words takes a special affinity for losing contemporary rhythms, see?  As this production moves forward, I’m sure that opening night adrenalin will dial back a notch or two.  Even though the physical action of the play fully supports the dialogue, understanding the language is still important.  

 Yank and the crew are visited in the bowels of the ship by Mildred (Katy Davis) who has basically defied the influence of her Aunt “shiperone” (splendid Jennifer Taub) having told the Engineer that her father is a big wig  and is led to the depths of the ocean liner in her pristine white dress to see how these ‘apes’ do their work.  She faints at the site of Yank calling him a “Hairy Ape!”  The incident sticks with Yank and spurs him later on shore leave in New York to taunt the ‘swells’ and even attempt to join the Wobblies (IWW: International Workers of the World) who sign him up and then reject him because his goal is to wreak havoc.  Rejected, he finds his way to The Zoo where he attempts to connect with the apes.  Ultimately, he does connect:  to his demise.  The physical work throughout is beautifully coordinated.

An important factor in the over all success of this production falls to the brilliant introduction of live percussion by Will Mahood. 

By Eugene O’Neill
Directed by Steven Berkoff

2055 S. Sepulveda
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Through July 17, 2016
Tickets and Information
310 477 2055 x2

Sunday, May 8, 2016


The GOLDEN DRAGON by  Roland  Schimmelpfennig,  translated  by  David  Tushingham

The Boston Court is a bold little theater that puts every ounce of energy into every production I’ve ever seen there. Boston  Court  CoArtistic  Director  Michael Michetti’s direction takes The Golden Dragon on a fast paced journey with side trips into Aesop’s Fables as well as fulfilling hopes and dreams in fantastic ways.  Sara  Ryung  Clement’s multi-level set enhanced by  Elizabeth  Harper’s ingenuitive lighting design provide multiple settings for the larger fable to unfold.  There’s a touch of Brecht going on as the five actors:  Susana  Batres,  Joseph  Kamal,  Justin  H.  Min,  Theo  Perkins and Ann Colby Stocking initially all workers in the noisy kitchen of The Golden Dragon: Thai/Chinese/Vietnamese Fast Food Restaurant with steam fogging the scene, become a myriad of others.  Most interesting, to me, was the complete against type casting that was beautifully achieved.  All of the actors play multiple roles. The Nordic blonde stewardess is played by muscular African American Perkins.  Beautiful Mexican actress Batres, plays a number of different roles including ‘Barbie Fucker,’ the boyfriend of the dark haired cabin attendant, Barbie (Kamal) .. A Young Man (Min), a lithe and limber dancer, plays not only an aged grandfather, but also the dancing Cricket in the familiar fable expanded as he is pimped out by diminutive Stocking as the hard line Ant who repeats and repeats that one must work to eat. 

The ensemble graces the stage with alacrity and confidence.  The through line of the piece turns on a young undocumented Chinese boy (Batres) who is in agony with an infected incisor.  Again and again we return to the kitchen of The Golden Dragon where An Older Man (Kamal) decides that the tooth must come out!  We move toward the extraction with side stories that include the arrival of two international women airline cabin attendants (Perkins and Kamal) for dinner where the blonde winds up with Thai coconut soup, “Number Six,” which includes the liberated tooth of the wailing Chinese boy.  Repetition reminds of another German, Tom Tykwer, and his film Run, Lola, Run.. but The Golden Dragon eventually delivers a single outcome as we move toward the climax of the play.

Schimmelpfennig’s story plays out broadly with verbalized ‘short pauses’.. and longer pauses, that punctuate the characters’ speeches.  When not on stage, we see them quietly inert in the open wings.  Annie Yee's choreography and well timed scene changes mark the success of fine directing and a dedicated cast. John Nobori’s sound and music cues are perfect.  Resolution of the death of the kitchen boy brings his life full circle as his errant tooth becomes the true thread of the story.

What a treat to see a professional cast bring together a challenging script.  Applause!

The  Golden Dragon
Boston  Court Theatre 
70  North  Mentor  Avenue  
Pasadena,  CA  91106  
Opened May  8
Thursdays  through  Saturdays  at  8  p.m.  
Sundays  at  2  p.m
through  June  5  with  an  added  performance  on  
Wednesday,  June  1, 2016 
Senior,  student  and  group  discounts  are  available
Tickets and information
(626)  683 6883