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Monday, October 15, 2018

REAL WOMEN AT THE GARRY MARSHALL

Real Women Have Curves by Josephina Lopez

It's 1987 in East L.A. Teen angst in transition puts Ana (Juliana Stephanie Ojeda)
Ana (Julianna Stephanie Ojeda) Photo by Chelsea Sutton.
in the dilemma of clinging to traditional Mexican family values while the siren song of the future calls her to her own life which she documents in her private journal hidden in the tiny bathroom of her sister's sewing 'factory'.  
Similar to Fionnuala Kenny's "Elvis's Toenail" that turns on the sewing trade in Dublin, we find cultural transition center stage as changes in the role of women in society and in the family emerge. 
Estella (Sherry Mandujano), Carmen (Blanca Araceli), Ana (Julianna Stephanie Ojeda), Pancha (Jackie Garcia), and Rosali (Claudia Duran)  Photo by Chelsea Sutton.
Ana's older sister Estela (Sherry Manujuano) has created a small sewing shop where her mother, Carmen (Blanca Araceli) and workers, Pancha (Jackie Garcia) and Rosali (Claudia Duran) secret themselves behind locked doors to finish a big, big order of dresses that will wind up on the backs of 'skinny white women' for four hundred dollars a piece.  Originally presented as a stage play in 1990 (and later as a film), Lopez's naive polemic promotes somewhat stereotypical archetypes with Ana, the aspiring writer, who sneaks into the tiny bathroom to narrate the story that will become her play as it becomes her life. A recent high school grad with high aspirations (that we learn in a final curtain speech do come true!) she emulates Sally Field in Norma Rae by standing on a chair to coach the others in how to say NO! Well before what has become the somewhat hysterical #MeToo movement, we see Estela charmed by an unseen Latin lover who slides poetic billets doux under the door: "How do I love thee, let me count the ways..."

As an homage to their curves.. each of the women in the second act strips to give us the idea that weight is just number, except for Rosali who tells the girls that she's on a diet "from China", which must include dehydration as she faints from the heat in the tiny sweat shop. 

All's well as the overlock machine is figured out and the hundred dress quota is fulfilled with Estela then dismissing with extreme prejudice the demanding client for whom the fancy dresses have been made. Director Mary Jo Duprey creates stage pictures in an odd split focus from time to time, but over all the play... such as it is...works fine. A feel good story from the barrio, Tanya Orellana's realistic set announces in big letters No Chisme!!! reminding us that gossip is verbotten! 

Real Women Have Curves by Josephina Lopez

Garry Marshall Theatre
4252 W Riverside Drive 
Burbank, CA 91505
Through November 18, 2018
Thursday – Saturday at 8pm
Sundays at 3pm
Select Performances on: 
Wednesday October 17 at 8pm
Saturday October 27 at 2pm
Sunday November 4 at 7:30pm
Wednesday November 7 at 8pm 

Post show discussions with playwright 
Josephina Lopez:
Wednesday, October 17 after the 8pm show
Sunday, October 21 after the 3pm show
Saturday, October 27 after the 2pm show
Wednesday, November 7 after the 8pm show
 
Tickets and Information:
818 955 8101

Monday, October 1, 2018

GLORIA.. Echo Theatre

Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins's Gloria directed by Echo Theatre Company's artistic director Chris Fields brings to life the playwright's reported early days in New York coming up with dialogue and characters that sizzle. 

 
Steven Strobel, Alana Dietze,
Devere Rogers, Jenny Soo,
Michael Sturgis
Photo by Darrett Sanders
GLORIA tells the story a young and ambitious writer who, at the age of almost thirty is still an assistant to an editor and his encounters with fellow staffers in the publishing world. Pecking order is well established: the quiet intern, Miles (versatile Devere Rogers later as Shawn, a barista and Rasheed, a TV producer) runs errands at the whim of others in the office. Pretty Alana Dietze (Ani, then Sasha, then Callie) answers phones and Jenny Soo (sharp tongued Kendra later as Jenna). Central to the drama is the writer, Dean (Michael Sturgis.. later as Devin). Lest we forget the overworked fact checker Lorin (Steven Strobel) whose moments charge his scenes with heart felt angst.

To define Jacobs-Jenkins's play is difficult, but on the whole it paints a picture of young professionals all attempting to move off the dime and into the world of publishing one way or another.  Basic plot describes how long time staffer, Gloria (Jessica Goldapple, later as Jan), has invited the entire editing team to her special party that only Dean winds up attending.  When Gloria shows up the next day, there's not a lot of dialogue, but the air is charged and thick with disappointment.

Amanda Knehan's simple set, creates the magazine office, a Starbuck's and later a TV production office in California.. The switch from coast to coast and how the story of a story unfolds, actually co-opted by one of the characters, to name would spoil the plot.. works. Eventually, it's clear that as life goes on, we all have our own versions of any story, witness the current Kavanaugh maelstrom rocking Washington right this minute.  Who was there and what really happened and who gets to tell the story?

I became intrigued with this playwright when reviewing a production of his earlier play "Neighbors" presented at the Matrix Theatre in 2010.  His ability to juxtapose personalities and fill out characters in that play was fascinating. 

http://onstagelosangeles.blogspot.com/2010/09/neighbors-neighbors.html  

His take on his characters in GLORIA is not quite so dramatic as Neighbors; more subtle, but Fields helps bring them to life by giving them moments.. some with rushed and angry dialogue.. and some in silence. It gets the job done.  

The play ends with a bit of ennui, but with the practical realization that even though the action we have witnessed has been somehow turned on its head, it may be only natural that life.. such as it is.. goes on. 

GLORIA 
by  Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins
Directed by Chris Fields
Echo Theatre Company 
3269 Casitas Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Performances: Sept. 15 – Oct. 21
• Fridays at 8 p.m. Oct. 5, 12, 19
• Saturdays at 8 p.m. 22, 29; Oct. 6, 13, 20
• Sundays at 4 p.m. Oct. 7, 14, 21
• Mondays at 8 p.m.: Sept. 17, 24; Oct. 1, 8, 15

• Call 310-307-3753 or go to  www.EchoTheaterCompany.com