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Saturday, March 18, 2017

33 VARIATIONS! YOU MUST SEE THIS PLAY!

Why? 
Why Theatre?  
In LA..  it’s about many things that include looking for work, but there are actors who, when they come together with exceptional writing and actually get the play; get the characters and the characters’ lives and loves and stories and a director gets the script and there’s music and talent and love of the moment.. the moment before the lighting booth brings the house to half, the curtain speech is spoken and then, house to dark and the stage manager calls “Places” and the cast is ready and the play is ready and the audience is ready, probably not knowing what it’s in for and that moment of breath before it all begins .. and then.. something happens.  It’s not the text or the actors or the effects, it’s some synergy that brings the people in their seats and the crew and the actors all together in an unspoken agreement that we are all here for one purpose: we abandon our disbelief and let the play begin.  Let the magic happen. This one unique moment when we leave the outside world to do what it will still be doing later..  the blinking off thank god of all the little screens.. of all the after thoughts of future to attain the moment of the play.. That time ..when it really works.. not only as the lights come up and the story unfolds and the criticism of a gait or voice or other things that critics like me enjoy or find some fault with.. it all becomes The Play.  It all becomes this time. It all becomes.
Bruce Ladd and Nan McNamara  PHOTO CREDIT:  Lindsay Schnebly

Invited as a guest to see 33 Variations by a dear pal, I had not intended to write a word.  I’d sit and let the play just be the play and the actors (with an understudy, no less) do the work and just allow it all to wash over me and the guy who attends to make a report would be well absent, down the block or back at home.  But, moments after Dylan Price strode boldly across the stage to become the heart of Moises Kaufman’s  33 Variations settled at the grand piano, the story emerged: we meet the characters who arrive from the present time and from a time long ago now and the actors disappeared as their characters came to life with focused care and individual presence that simply ascended them into our lives.

It’s rare to become so involved in a play that the deep feelings that permeate the lives of the characters truly lift the audience to the moment.  “The Moment” is what every actor strives for and in this play the moments unfold with passion and if there is a shred of ‘acting’ going on, it totally eluded me.  These lovely characters: in the present becoming echoes of the past and brilliantly melding in harmonies that flow from Ludwig Von to his champion, Katherine B., and back again explore their paradigm with dignity and humor and love in such a way we seldom see in two hours time away from where we live.

33 Variations is a must see.  Extended for only one more week (or longer if Los Angeles is lucky), it’s a play so well crafted and so well directed and so well acted that for human beings who truly love The Theatre to not find a way to First Presbyterian to become immersed in what the Art of Theatre is truly about… Well, that could be a real shame. 

I have deliberately left the stuff of reviews out of this because the real review will be the one you leave the theater with in your heart. 

Please quickly make a reservation and go. Just go.
     

33 VARIATIONS
 by Moises Kaufman
Actors Co-Op
David Schall Theatre
First Presbyterian Church
1760 N. Gower St.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Through March 26, 2017
Tickets and Information:
Phone (323) 462-8460
http://actorsco-op.org/wp3/ticket-info/

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

BEHIND THE ORANGE CURTAIN AT SCR



 ​Karthik Srinivasan, Pia Shah and Anjali Bhimani in South Coast Repertory's 201​6 ​production of ​Orange by Aditi Brennan Kapil. Photo by ​Debora Robinson/SCR


ORANGE,  a play about Orange County, California currently at the lovely Julianne Argyros Stage at South Coast Repertory Theatre in Costa Mesa, directs us to the sights and sounds that locals and tourists have marveled at for years.  Leela (Pia Shah) arrives from India with her mother (Anjali Bhimani and all of the other females in the show) to attend a local wedding. Leela is 'on the spectrum' which means that autism or Asperger's Syndrome is a factor in the way she interprets and responds to the world.  Like a child, Leela is very literal.  Unlike a child, she is often monosyllabic and under stress filled with angst ..  Her father (Karthik Srinivasan who also plays a variety of roles as the only male member of the cast) is a very busy businessman who shunts off responsibility for 'watching' his adult.. or nearly adult, daughter to a hip and rebellious Americanized cousin.. again the quite versitile Anjali Bhimani

Discussion of 'adventure' and what it means factors well into the subsequent events that are aided and abetted by gorgeous scenic design  created by Michael B. Raiford and equally impressive projections by Mike Tutaj  which virtually become additional characters in the play.  It's not great when the most outstanding memory of this ninety minute production turns out to be the scenery.  Not that the 'adventure' of a young Hindu woman who prays to a pantheon of gods goes begging.. the energy (in spite of the choices made by Ms Shah  and/ her director Jessica Kubzansky to remain stiff and presentational... even when attacked on an Orange County beach) never lags.  This is a slice of life featuring a segment of the OC population that is at once, traditional to its Indian roots (barely) and a window into the way most folks behave when given an opportunity to slip the bonds of convention and head into the night. 

Tech credits practically overcome the stage work. All three actors turn in presumably what director Jessica Kubzansky required.  
The opportunity for more is waiting.  

ORANGE
by ​​​Aditi Brennan Kapil
​directed by ​​​​Jessica Kubzansky

​Julianne Argyros Stage
South Coast Repertory Theatre
South Coast Plaza
655 Town Center Dr
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Through ​March 5-26, 201​7
Tickets and Information:
www.scr.org
 (714) 708-5555