Friday, March 9, 2018


Unemployed Elephants by Wendy Graf 

This poster was irresistible! 

I cannot remember ever leaving the production of any play, in the literally hundreds of plays that I’ve reviewed, feeling angry.  Tonight is a night to remember and then forget.  The tiny Victory Theatre in Burbank has spared no expense to mount the World Premiere of Wendy Graf’s play, Unemployed Elephants. It’s a two hander that I’ll get to in a minute, but I must mention the pristine setting, a beauty of a set by Evan Bartoletti supplemented nicely by Carol Doehring’s lights and nice projections by Nick Santiago. 

Perhaps the most vital thing when we attend the theatre is to abandon the reality outside and come to the reality of what’s on the stage.  As the house lights dimmed two old biddies and I use the term specifically because their behavior was not only extremely rude, but through out the entire presentation they schmoozed, chatted and compared notes, using the white pages from their press kits illuminated by the stage lighting to bone up on one bit of information or another.  I was told that the biddy with the dyed brown hair was a woman named Pat Taylor who writes for the local weekly, The Tolucan.  I did not find out the other biddy’s name, but as they whispered during the scene changes and sometimes in the middle of a scene, inches from Marshall McCabe (Alex) as he brought one speech down toward the edge of the stage, the biddy on the right had the gall to lean in with her program to check some obscure information that most experienced reviewers might have checked before hand.

The nerve of folks who pass themselves off as theatre critics to so blatantly disturb the play is inexcusable.  It’s rude. If I knew the name of the blonder big hair biddy, I’d publish her name, too.  A fellow critic whose writing I admire said that I should have just told these old biddies to shut up.  I considered it, but as they were literally three feet from the stage in this intimate little space, and I directly behind them, five feet away from the action,  I silently fumed and made rude comments in my notes. I hope that the collaboration that Ms Taylor and her pal come up with become an interesting take on Wendy Graf’s World Premiere. Ms Graf and her collaborators deserve more respect than these women gave them. 

In press notes and in the text of the play, the plight of the elephants of Myanmar is spelled out sadly with information that because of the depletion of lumber and other political issues in the country, the elephants are falling into despair for lack of work. They are intelligent and productive critters who thrive when kept busy.

Episodic and fruitful, Graf’s long one act provides fodder for a marginal love story that Jane (Brea Bee) declares more than one time is ‘not real.’  Clever dialogue and the inevitable connection between two attractive twenty somethings, Alex and Jane, both lying through their teeth may or may not fall in love.

The meeting of the lovebirds in a distant airport is rocky.  Conflict is the fruit of drama and though it’s mostly banter, McCabe, a ringer for Harry Anderson of Night Court, persists to win favor and companionship as the coincidence of their bumping into one another from one scene to another progresses. 

To this progress, I must protest.  The play is written in twelve disparate scenes that call for the actors to provide scene changes for themselves. This made me wish that director Maria Gobetti, might have employed at least one silent koken, whom the actors may or may not acknowledge, who would facilitate the mostly simple scene changes. This would allow the actors to stay in character shifting from one situation to the next. Students of Kabuki Theatre will recall Kuroko who appear ‘invisibly’ on stage to change scenery or even provide props for the actors.  The audience cooperates by dismissing these black clad stage hands as an "invisible" part of the presentation. I felt sorry for the actors as they diligently moved scenery and props, staying in character I suppose, but it’s hard to keep the illusion going with the donkey work of changing the scenery.  To me, a koken (or two?) in the guise of a servant who worked at the various locations, even subtly changing costumes from scene to scene might have kept the flow of the play moving more smoothly. 

Unemployed Elephants is very cinematic in nature and though settings are nicely portrayed by Santiago’s projections, seeing this story as a Movie of the Week with actual locations might be very interesting. 

Aside from being distracted by the old biddies, this show deserves an audience who might behave and enjoy the clever dialogue with laughter in all the right places.  It gets a little heavy toward the end with Alex disclosing secrets that were a bit difficult to follow.  Ms Brea’s voice was not easy to take from time to time, but I think that young women in their twenties may be falling in to some kind of vocal thing, infected by one another, like Valley Talk (but this is NOT Valley Talk) that makes some of her dialogue difficult to handle. Acting chops are solid and Ms Gobetti’s direction is letter perfect (except for my koken idea..).

Brea Bee and Marshall McCabe
Photo by Tim Sullens

A World Premiere
by Wendy Graf
Directed by Maria Gobetti
The Little Victory Theatre
3324 W Victory Blvd
Burbank, CA 91505
 March 9 – April 15
Fridays at 8 p.m.: March  9 (Opening Night), 16, 23, 30; April 6, 13
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: March 3 (preview), 10, 17, 24, 31; April 7, 14
Sundays at 4 p.m.: March 11, 18, 25; April 1, 8, 15 
Tickets and Information:


Andrew Perez as Kinski

 (written and performed by Andrew Perez)

Theatre Row is home to experimental theatre unlike almost any other area of Los Angeles. Many years ago, actor/mime Richmond Shepard, became a visionary by purchasing store fronts in the 6400 Block of Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood. Recently, thanks to the efforts of Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, the area, including The Complex, Second Stage, Sacred Fools and The Hudson Guild officially became "Theatre Row!" The Hollywood Fringe Festival centers in the area.  It's a funky stretch of Santa Monica, no glitz or glamor here, but some of the plays coming along are enterprising and "take chances." I use that term a lot when reviewing new works: taking chances. Pushing the envelope of relevance and art is not for the faint of heart. Thanks to playwrights, actors, directors, producers with vision like these, we move to new heights. Hopefully.

Having just learned of this piece by Andrew Perez that premiered in the Hollywood Fringe Festival last year, I was invited to come to review it. Parking can be a major challenge in this neighborhood. Not impossible, but.. if you come to see a show here, plan ahead! 

Pre-show brings Klaus Kinski to life with a chronology of his life including reproductions of paintings and video that shows the volatile spirit that fought tooth an nail with German director Werner Herzog. In this 'reliquary' of information we learn that Kinski may have been addicted to sex by his own admission having had sex with more than 130 women over his life time.  

The energy that permeates Mr. Perez's performance fades in and out of the manic episodes that Kinski was famous for. Part of the story tells of the two performances of Kinski's one man show that took him ten years to create, announcing that he, Kinski, was Jesus Christ. He was heckled off stage and abandoned it during the second performance.

Perez's presentation takes us on a ninety minute tour of the life of this irascible and outrageous personality whose ragged vocabulary and vomit of epithets was par for the course, especially, if he was challenged regarding his work. Frightening at times and perhaps confused at others, for those who are familiar with Herzog's films that starred Kinski, it may be an evening of enlightenment. Perez's performance was somewhat uneven, but, knowing the back story by reading the time line of Kinski's life and understanding the psychological hardships that the man experienced in his life, including the death of his mother during WWII by Allied forces, along with his voracious appetite for sex, that may explain deliberate moments of pause

Anyone who rents a tiny little space on Theatre Rowwell, Studio C just east of the Comlex entrance, and gathers an audience deserves to be seen. It's an education and though rough around the edges, it's clear that Kinski himself would most likely have a love/hate relationship with the man as seen through the eyes of Andrew Perez.  

(written and performed by Andrew Perez)
Directed by Eric G. Johnson 
Studio C - 6448 Santa Monica Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90038
Thursdays at 8PM
Through March 29, 2018 with possible extensions.
Tickets and information:

Friday, March 2, 2018


After enjoying the "Ducks" cast for the opening of Harold Pinter's The Hothouse at Antaeus, I was delighted to see the "Pelicans" cast to compare and contrast. 
Steve Hofvendahl, Melanie Lora,
John Bobek, Leo Marks, Josh Clark,
Gregory Itzin, Adrian LaTourelle
Photo by Geoffrey Wade Photography

On the page, the words of Harold Pinter don't really have a voice.  The intention and the severity of the characters is there, but unlike the poetry of Williams or the starkness of Beckett, the words are more suggestions and it takes a director like Nike Doukas with an excellent cast, actually two excellent casts at The Antaeus, to bring this very odd story of an asylum / rest home /convalescent home to life.  It's Christmas!  The eclectic cast of characters each have a story to tell, more or less through the eye of Griggs (crisp and present Leo Marks), whose actual job is a bit unclear until we figure out that he stands smartly out of the danger zone and may be the shadow government in charge of the whole shebang!  

In the first scene, setting the pace, the contradictions all insisted upon by Roote (Josh Clark) ricochet at a dizzying pace.  Roote's complete incompetence is obvious, yet he's managed to attract the very attractive Miss Cutts (cool in red Melanie Lora) to dally and dilly and folderol while she, at the same time charms sweet Lamb (to the slaughter Steve Hofvendahl)  and finds that Mr. Griggs is also someone to snuggle up to.

Enter  brash and forceful Adrian LaTourelle as Lush, matching Roote's alcohol consumption one for one and then some.  His job... (the actual job of anyone seems to have only to do with shuffling papers as well as the inmates/patients/guests?) is unclear.  Guests are never referred to by a name because that's the way it must be done.  "6457" is dead but Lush convinces his mother that he's off to another facility.  Roote thinks that he has had a chat with him on a date AFTER the patient's death!  Impeccable Griggs points out that the diary/calendar of Mr. Roote is sticking poorly in his memory and shows that "6457" indeed has passed away. A clerical error by Roote:  a '7' for a '9', shows that 6459 is, in fact.. a woman who has just given birth!  Hilarity ensues. 

John Bobek as the modest Tubb brings a Christmas cake from the under-staff with a bit more English accent than necessary and after a severe interval and much commotion, we meet Lobb  (Gregory Itzin), the new chap in charge of the facility accompanied by the ubiquitous Griggs and life goes on, pretty much as always with the inmates in charge of the store.

The Pelicans bring a totally different energy to Pinter's play and the effect is funny and chilling. Director Nike Doukas has the luxury of a  company roster deep with excellent actors to fill Pinter's imagination.  The ability to allow the actors to bring their own energy to each of these roles is the sign of a director who really understands the business of collaboration in the theatre.  Julie Keen's costumes, especially for Miss Cutts, reflect to a "T" the style of the fifties. Written in 1958, Pinter shelved the play for twenty years with the first production in 1980.  Doukas has captured the fifties and the voice of Pinter with aplomb.  With only a few more dates for performance, I highly recommend this show with either cast, but seeing both will be a revelation and the second time, with anticipation, the audience will not be disappointed. 

THE HOTHOUSE by Harold Pinter
Antaeus Theatre
Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center
110 East Broadway
Glendale, CA 91205
(between N. Brand Blvd. and Maryland Ave.)
Thursday, March 8, 2018 at 8PM Fridays at 8 p.m March 2, 9 Saturdays at 2 p.m.: March 3, 10  Saturdays at 8 p.m.: March 3, 10 Sundays at 2 p.m.:  March 4, 11, 2018
Tickets and information: (818) 506-1983 or