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Thursday, February 8, 2018

OCCUPANT AT THE GARRY MARSHALL

Edward Albee (1928 - 2016) states that he was a long time pal of the American sculptor, Louise Nevelson.  The heady connections that we imagine in the world of the arts comes to life, more or less with his play, OCCUPANT.  Friends had told him that his imagined interview with Nevelson thirty years after her death, now on stage at The Garry Marshall, pretty much captured "her essence, her ambivalence, her sense of self."  The conceit that "Man" (James Leibman), who seems to have done his research very well on the long dead Nevelson (Martha Hackett), makes no bones about arguing the fine details of her life, conducting the interview and correcting her recollections from time to time.  
James Liebman and Martha Hackett
 Originally planned to star Anne Bancroft in 2002, that production was scrubbed due to Ms Bancroft's ill health. 

Nevelson was a 'self made' woman who says in the play that when she was a tiny baby that the great Shalom Aleichem lifted her to his eye level and declared, 
"... she is destined for greatness!"  From humble roots and hard working parents, Louise (nee Leah Berliawsky) grew up feeling that the prophesy would some how come true. 

Director Heather Chesley's choices for Liebman and Hackett have either been co-opted by the actors or she may have had a reason to allow the huge gaps of time and space to elapse between the characters as the play progressed.  Albee's style of having the characters address the audience from time to time is charming. The only impression left is that the energies of both actors seemed to be somehow compromised each by the other.  Liebman as a somewhat cynical interviewer works slowly and deliberately.  Ms Hackett misses opportunities to move things along with a change of pace. 

Ms Hackett presents Nevelson as a strong and capable woman in the words but less so in the performance. Who's in charge of the interview and where does its ultimate power lie?  In the text, it feels as though Nevelson herself is coming back from the dead to expansively share her story.  The premise must be of interest to anyone who loves her work, as she relates that she spent a better part of her life struggling for recognition. For the play it seems that in her inimitable style she would be presenting her life with vigor and panache.  The energy is lacking.

Nevelson discusses how the "eyes" are the most important part of her presentation, (though Paula Higgins' signature headscarf and flowing garments are perfect)  saying that she never went anywhere without two pairs of 'sable eyelashes.'  "Did you ever try three," the Man asks.  She did, she said,  but couldn't keep her eyes open and everyone thought she was going around asleep!

The strong statements of Nevelson's sculptures, an example of which looms over the second act, are impossible not to recognize.  She fell in love with wood and it's the wood that she'll always be remembered for.  The energy of the discussion between the living and the dead must come to life with passion and enthusiasm on behalf of the woman and for her art. There is a palpable energy when confronted by one of Nevelson's huge black sculptures in any art museum in the world.  For the play to work, that energy must be present.  It seems to be in the text and, hopefully, may be on the stage as the production moves along. This somewhat static 'two hander' is physically lethargic which no noe would ever have thought about the artist herself.  "Don't smoke!"

OCCUPANT by Edward Albee
West Coast Premiere
The Garry Marshall Theatre
4252 W Riverside Drive
Burbank, CA 91505
Through  March 4, 2018
Tickets and Information 
818 955 8101
www.garrymarshalltheatre.org

 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

HOT! PINTER AT ANTAEUS


JD Cullum, Paul Eiding, Jocelyn Towne,
Rob Nagle, Peter Van Norden,
John Apicella, Graham Hamilton
Photo by Geoffrey Wade Photograph



When the wonderful local theatre company, A Noise Within, was essentially escorted out of Glendale, it took a couple of years for another wonderful company to come to town, to Broadway, no less, to bring professional productions to our fair City.  Having been a fan of Antaeus Theatre Company, a company of professional actors, and directors and designers for many years, enjoying their work in North Hollywood, it was exciting to see Glendale City luminaries attend the ‘ground breaking’ at the former electronics store just up the street from Brand to continue the Antaeus tradition of reviving ‘classic’ theatre. Embracing both ancient and relatively current dramatic literature, the appeal to those seeking to be enlightened and those just ready to be entertained is blossoming here.  What I’ve discovered, though having known it all along, is that when a community embraces an established theatre company, as Glendale did for years with A Noise Within, and is now beginning to embrace Antaeus, something happens.  There is a deeper feeling than just spending an evening to see a play.

We realize that this performance is happening before our very eyes.  It’s Living Theatre and no two performances are alike.  Antaeus embraces the tradition of double casting. The Hothouse currently up and running, presents two separate casts: The Ducks and The Pelicans. (See the show and these references will be clear!)  They do this for good reason. Company members are working professionals. Most actors are members of Actors Equity and earn a living not only from their work on the stage but in television and feature films.  Company members: representatives of Deep Space Nine and The Big Bang Theory were in attendance and other recognizable folks are supporting members of the company.

Our Antaeus actors are professional.  This preamble is to point up that when you go to see Harold Pinter’s The Hothouse, and I highly recommend that you do so… or any of the other productions scheduled for this season at Antaeus, you will find yourself in the company of well trained professionals who love living theatre.. both in the audience and on the stage.  (Not sure that the audience is well trained, but you get the picture.) The classics are presented to keep the company sharp and steeped in the long tradition of dramatic literature. 

Pinter is particularly challenging because his biting British satire rides sharply on the ears. Literally, in this production.  The crack of hard soles and heels on the stage underscore the sharp edges of the institution, the hothouse, where the ‘patients’ are known only by their numbers. Why?  Because that’s the way we do it.  That’s the way it’s always been done.

  Director Nike Doukas’s “Ducks” cast finds a comfortable and realistic ground of British accents. The play’s crisp pace has an undertaste of cruelty, which may be the whole point.  Roote (Peter Van Noorden)  is the doughty director of the .. what shall we call it.. asylum? The Home?  He rails and is confused.  Subtly, Gibbs (Graham Hamilton) has his eye on things, mostly clever self-preservation.  Cutts (blonde, pert and pointy Joycelyn Towne) enjoys time with almost anyone who can keep her ‘satisfied.’  The ambiguity of who’s who as the story unfolds introduces us to Lamb (hapless JD Cullum) and Lush (bombastic Rob Nagle). Moving us through a mystery of whom the father of a baby boy born to an inmate might be, as well as the death of 6457: another confusing and unhappy chapter in a day at The Hothouse.  It’s Christmas, for Christ’s sake! 

Rambling on, it’s clear that mismanagement, alcohol and just plain incompetence must all build to a raucus climax:  introducing us to the conclusion with Gibbs and John Apicella (Lobb) on board to continue the status quo.  Paul Eiding’s (Tubb) delivery of a Christmas Cake is testament to how even brief parts are enlivened by fine actors. 

Kudos to tech and Julie Keen’s period costumes to a fine point!


The Hothouse by Harold Pinter
Performances: Jan. 25 – March 11
Tuesday at 8 p.m.: Jan. 23 ONLY (preview)
Wednesday at 8 p.m.: Jan. 24 ONLY (preview)
Thursdays at 8 p.m.: Jan. 18 (preview), Jan. 25 (opening); Feb. 1, 8, 15, 22; March 1, 8
Fridays at 8 p.m.: Jan. 19 (preview), Jan. 26 (opening); Feb. 2, 9, 16, 23; March 2, 9
Saturdays at 2 p.m.: Feb. 3, 10, 17, 24; March 3, 10 (no 2 p.m. perf. on Jan. 20 or Jan. 27)
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Jan. 20 (preview), Jan. 27; Feb. 3, 10, 17, 24; March 3, 10
Sundays at 2 p.m.: Jan. 21 (preview), Jan. 28, Feb. 4, 11, 18, 25; March 4, 11
Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center
110 East Broadway
Glendale, CA 91205
(between N. Brand Blvd. and Maryland Ave.)
Tickets and Information:
(818) 506-1983 or www.Antaeus.org
  

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Lee Meriwether honored by Theatre West

THEATRE WEST TO HONOR LEE MERIWETHER!

LEE MERIWETHER has spent many years as a recognized and beloved member of Theatre West while working as a celebrated actress in TV and feature films.  Just yesterday I enjoyed an early Star Trek ("That Which Survives" 1959!) with Lee as an otherworldly beauty whose very touch disintegrates the cells of those unfortunate crew members whom we know will meet a sorry end when beaming down to 'the planet.'  

Theatre West's planned celebration of Lee and her career and her work on behalf of the theatre will take place Saturday February 10, 2018.  See below for details.

Please reference Onstagelosangeles if you make reservations to attend this wonderful tribute.  And... please pass this invitation on to friends who understand the importance of 99 Seat Theatre in Los Angeles!  
Forgive the odd spacing.. this from the Theatre West PR representative Phil Sokoloff:
CELEBRITY-STUDDED TRIBUTE AS THEATRE WEST PRESENTS LOVE LETTERS TO LEE MERIWETHER ON FEBRUARY 10
            Theatre West is celebrating its 55th Anniversary this year as Los Angeles’ oldest continuously operating professional theatre company by honoring one of its most famous members, someone who has been active with the company since its very inception.
            Lee Meriwether first became a national figure when she won the Miss America pageant in 1955. Following that, she was the first “woman’s editor” on The Today Show with Dave Garroway. Prime time series followed, including roles as a series regular on The Time Tunnel, Mission: Impossible, The New Andy Griffith Show, The Munsters Today (succeeding Yvonne De Carlo), Barnaby Jones (with Emmy® and Golden Globe nominations) and All My Children. Her thirty-plus feature film credits in a career spanning almost six decades include Batman: The Movie (in which she became the first feature film Catwoman, opposite Adam West), The Undefeated (with John Wayne and Rock Hudson), The Legend of Lylah Clare (with Kim Novak), Angel in My Pocket (with Andy Griffith), 4-D Man and Namu the Killer Whale (both with Robert Lansing).
            Live theatre, however, has long been Ms. Meriwether’s first love, and her many memorable appearances at Theatre West include its very first production, Spoon River Anthology with Betty Garrett, returning to that show four decades later for its 40th anniversary production; Aesop in Central Park with Richard Dreyfuss; Ladies of Hanover Towers with Carroll O’Connor; Pop.7, Passionate Ladies; Nunsense; A Short Stay at Carranor; and more, plus numerous appearances in regional theatres around the country, including productions of Follies (with seven former Miss Americas), The King and I (with George Chakiris); Plaza Suite; Hello, Dolly!; Mame; Last Summer at Bluefish Cove; The Odd Couple (female version); and her solo show Women of Spoon River: Their Voices from the Hill.
            Now, just in time before Valentine’s Day, Theatre West gets to return the love shown by Lee for the company with a special evening of performances, song and dance. The show features appearances and/or performances by Jim Beaver (Deadwood, Supernatural, Justified), Doug Jones (The Shape of Water, Star Trek: Discovery, Hellboy), George Chakiris (West Side Story), George Tovar (Magic Castle magician) , Michael E. Knight (All My Children), Bernie Kopell (The Love Boat, Get Smart), Adam Huss (Power), Robert Colbert (The Time Tunnel), Chad Darnell, Barbara Minkus (I’m Not Famous), Anthony Gruppuso (off-Broadway musical The Babies), Kiki Ebsen (daughter of Buddy Ebsen), Garrett Parks and Andrew Parks (sons of Theatre West co-founder and MGM legend Betty Garrett),  Lori Gangemi (CEO of Lee’s favorite charity, Ability First), more to come.
            Ms. Meriwether will also be presented with an award from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.
            Saturday, February 10, 2018 is the date of the gala occasion with festivities beginning at 6:00 p.m. with a reception featuring hors d’ouevres and beverages, as well as a silent auction.  The show begins at 8:00 p.m.
            The event is presented by Theatre West.
            At Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, in Los Angeles, CA 90068. This is near North Hollywood, Universal City and Studio City. There is parking available in the Panasonic Lot across the street (fee is charged). 
Admission: $55 (includes reception). Advance reservations are suggested, as a sell-out is anticipated. For tickets, go to www.theatrewest.org, or call (323) 851-7977 (and reserve with a credit card).
Proceeds from the evening support the ongoing artistic and educational activities of Theatre West, a 501c3 non-profit organization.