Friday, December 31, 2010

Save Barnsdall Rally

Slightly off topic.. There is a crisis at the LA Municipal Art Gallery in Barnsdall Park in Hollywood. The City of LA has the facility on what is called a RFP (request for proposals) in an attempt to privatize the gallery and facilities, making it no longer Municipal. One City Councilman has called the necessary budget, less than two million dollars, 'budget dust.' It is important that the egalitarian access to this venue remain municipal. If you write to Councilman Tom LaBonge or Eric Garcetti simply asking for the Barnsdall Art Park to be taken off the RFP list, that will be a huge help. See below for a scheduled rally in support of keeping Barnsdall Municipal. Please copy and post where you can.. the voices of the people must be heard and this is a terrific way to lift them up. Thanks! Happy New Year!

Media. Newspapers.Bloggers and Film crew. Rally on Steps of City Hall.
Barnsdall Alliance Rally.
200 North Spring street @ 10.00 a.m Wednesday January 5,2011.
Barnsdall off the RFP list!! Other related issues as well......
Happy New Year 2011!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Neil LaBute benefit for Vs. Theatre Company

LaBute is a well known film director/playwright. This is an opportunity to be up close and personal with him. His reputation is wide spread and it seems that 'candor' may be his middle name. Support local theatre and rub elbows with some of the movers and shakers in Los Angeles. Please tell them that onstagelosangeles sent you. Happy New Year!

“An Evening With Neil LaBute
January 15th at the Howard Fine Acting Studio

LOS ANGELES – December 30, 2010 –Vs. Theatre Company, which will produce the Los Angeles premiere of Neil LaBute’s The Mercy Seat at [Inside] the Ford this spring, hosts “An Evening With Neil LaBute” on January 15. The acclaimed playwright and filmmaker will take questions from the audience in a discussion moderated by theater director/acting coach Howard Fine.

An Evening With Neil LaBute” will take place on January 15 at 7 pm at the Howard Fine Acting Studio, 1445 N. Las Palmas Ave, Hollywood, CA 90028. Tickets are $75 in advance and $95 at the door, and include food and drink. A limited number of VIP tickets are available for $125, which includes priority seating and a pre-event reception with Mr. LaBute. Ticket proceeds will benefit the non-profit Vs. Theatre Company, with a portion of each ticket donated to 9/11 Health Now. For more information and to purchase tickets, call 800-838-3006 or go to 21+ only.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"greedy" at the El Centro

The Little El Centro Theatre has been active in Hollywood for longer than I can remember: I first saw shows there in the seventies. The work there has ranged the gamut from musical previews to the beginnings of Torch Song Trilogy (the first act was called The International Stud). I don't know the Red Dog Squadron, but certainly applaud this kind of "going for it" attitude that this show may deliver. I'm unsure I'll have time to review it, but this may be one to support. The price is right. If anyone who is knowledgeable about theatre sees this show and would like to submit a review, let Lucy Pollak, Red Dog's publicity rep know and I'll consider it.

Happy New Year! See more theatre in 2011.. By the way.. A Noise Within in Glendale will reprise NOISES OFF! in January. It's an amazing romp.

RED DOG SQUADRON kicks off 2011
with West Coast premiere of "greedy"

James Roday directs Amanda Detmer, Kurt Fuller,
Peter Mackenzie, Ivana Milicevic, Brad Raider
and Roday's 'psych' co-star Maggie Lawson
in Karl Gajdusek's edgy comedy

"The more you have, the more greedy you become, you know. And all this crisis is the product of greed. Greed is the dominant value today in the world. And as long as that persists, well, we are done."
– Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef in an interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman

greedy – the West Coast premiere of Karl Gajdusek's edgy and very dark comedy. Five people struggle with greed, hope, desire and integrity in the wake of an emailed plea for money that promises big returns. Is it a scam or a golden opportunity? James Roday directs a cast that includes Amanda Detmer, Kurt Fuller, Peter Mackenzie, Ivana Milicevic, Brad Raider, and Roday’s co-star on USA Network’s psych, Maggie Lawson.

Written by Karl Gajdusek
Directed by James Roday
Starring Amanda Detmer, Kurt Fuller, Peter Mackenzie, Ivana Milicevic, Brad Raider and Maggie Lawson
Presented by RED DOG SQUADRON, James Roday and Brad Raider, Artistic Directors

Previews: January 6 & 7
Performance Schedule: January 8 through January 29
Thursdays @ 8 pm: Jan. 6 (preview), 13, 20, 27
Fridays @ 8 pm: Jan. 7 (preview), 14, 21, 28
Saturdays @ 8 pm: Jan. 8 (opening), 15, 22, 29
Sundays @ 8pm: Jan. 9, 16, 23

El Centro Theatre
804 N. El Centro Ave
Hollywood, CA 90038


TICKETS: $20.00

Thursday, December 9, 2010


It is my goal to be an honest critic and at the same time... as much as possible... a booster of theatre in Los Angeles. Personal stuff has me not attending some openings, but I hope to keep readers informed about what's going on that I'm told about. This is pretty exciting, as it was The Pasadena Playhouse / Patty Onagan Publicity who first treated me as a true member of the press. So.. this good news from Patty, I want to share with you and, if you are inclined, make a contribution to the Playhouse. It's a regal old gal... that place. Sure hope they come up with ways to please their basic audience and also move forward with edgy and interesting theatre in the years to come. The upcoming Dangerous Beauty musical will be interesting to say the least. Rent the movie to get the gist and then attend the show if you're as curious as I am.

Here's the current info on The Playhouse courtesy of Patty Onagan:


PASADENA, CA (December 9, 2010) – The Pasadena Playhouse (Sheldon Epps, Artistic Director and Stephen Eich, Executive Director) proudly announced today that they raised $2 million, which was a challenge inspired by anonymous donors’ $1 million matching grant. The theatre continues fundraising efforts with a new $2 million campaign named Fund the Future. The new monies raised will support opportunities for the Playhouse’s advancements including expansion of the next generation of theatre audiences.

"We are thrilled by the outpouring of generous gifts. So many sources have been willing to join forces by quickly and actively displaying their support in helping to reach the $2 million that we raised," said Sheldon Epps, Artistic Director of The Pasadena Playhouse. "The evidence of this extraordinary community backing reconfirms what I always say, 'People care about this theatre.' It is the commitment from our board and our supporters, that ensures us that we have a strong and exciting future and that The Pasadena Playhouse remains the vital and important theatre that it has always been."

Michele Dedeaux Engemann, Chairman of the Board of The Pasadena Playhouse said, "When we met the $1 million pledge, the Board knew immediately that we still needed to have an aggressive fundraising campaign to continue our ongoing efforts to reach our goals. We are thrilled with what we have accomplished since July of this year and are wholeheartedly dedicated to take on our new Fund the Future campaign."

Stephen Eich, Executive Director of The Pasadena Playhouse added, "The unanimous endorsement of this campaign from the Board and staff to raise $2 million tangibly represents our continued commitment to the Playhouse being the premier theatre of Southern California and an important part of the national theatrical scene.”

Contributions for "Fund the Future" can be made online at; by calling 626-921-1156; or by mailing a gift to Fund the Future, Pasadena Playhouse, 600 N. Rosemead Boulevard., Pasadena, CA 91107.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Free Theatre

Apologies to loyal readers. Hope to be out to new theatre productions soon.
Meanwhile, here's an opportunity to see some free theatre.. One night only. Debra Deliso is a talented director whom I've known for many years. If you are free on 12/11/10, please head up to Pasadena for her show. See below. Guest reviews for this show are welcome.


Dear Theatre Friends!

You are cordially invited to an evening of rich theatre stories! This Saturday night at Throop Hall in Pasadena I am hosting an "Evening of Solo Performances." Kaleidoscope Theatre Company is co-producing. 7:00 curtain, admission free, refreshments too! Please click on the link below to read about the beautiful line up of talent!
Hope to see you!
Debra Deliso

Throop Hall
300 S. Los Robles
Free parking in Throop Church lot
Pasadena, CA 91101
7:00 p.m. December 11, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


L to R: Michael Moynahan, Michael Sheehan and another guy

Guest Reviews: Billions for Billiam at the Moose Lodge, Glendale, CA 11/15/10.
Over a hundred friends and supporters filled the funky Glendale Moose Lodge to raise "Billions" for Billiam: William Quinn Barrett.

As a side note, the Moose are looking for a few good members: men and WOMEN! who may become a driving force to lift the spirits of the community by making this fantastically funky facility a venue for Variety Artists, musical events, comedy and a magnet for not only vaudevillians, but people who want to serve the community. To that end, on Friday, December 3, 2010, from 7:30 -11:00PM Moose Lodge #641 will hold an Open House at the Lodge: 357 Arden Avenue (2 blocks north of the 134 Freeway), located between Pacific and Central in Glendale, CA 91203. It's a wonderfully funky venue that deserves to be put to full use. New membership is the answer.

This review from Judy Kory in a letter to her sister, Stephanie, in Hawaii:

"I just got back from one of the most incredible evenings of my life, a benefit show and raffle for William (aka "Billly") Barrett. All these friends of William showed up to perform, sit in the audience roaring with laughter, eat healthy, homemade snacks, give generously for donated crafts and prizes such as: crocheted fools' cap 'n bells (mine) romantic, sexy clothing by Barbara Butcher; certificate for an hour with a psychologist; beauty products; yoga lessons; paintings; cds; antique memorabilia, sports event tickets; toys and much more.

The show!! OMG...all these faire folk and variety artists!
I'm sleepy so I'll describe just a few: the Flying Morgans' amazingly twisted contortionist/acrobatic act; Mitchel Young Evans' newly classic clown/mime; the 3 rapidly juggling, drumming, Mums; a sensational Mat Plendl and his amazing hula hoops; Christina, the sexy diva, singing and flirting with a nervous guy from the audience, who turned out to "eat" razor blades and gracefully dance; funny, dueling pianists, Jeff and Sandey; Hilary Carlip, with straight face, juggling while warbling a torch song ; Cock and Feathers singing and "signing" a song that touched us, romantically, I mean; Amanda Barrett (William’s beautiful daughter) of the Ditty Bops, sang a song her father wrote, Dreaming Away;
J Paul Moore as "Alfie" and his wry legerdemain; The Briton Ensemble singing their popular Renaissance song "co-written" by Paul McCartney and James Hendricks; and Molly Morgan's exquisite belly dance enticing people to rush up and put money wherever they could in her costume, while she kept on dancing and enticing.

I had so much fun selling raffle tickets, and sharing hugs with older, familiar faces while making friends with new ones. It was a privilege to be at this special night: this reunion of old friends. It was amazing to be in a ballroom full of professionals, who are also a unique, extended family, performing with love, with and for one of our own.

I was too young to see Vaudeville, but I saw the Real Thing tonight."

Guest reviewer Judy Kory
Judy Kory
Artist, storyteller, performer, teacher,
Family member of the original Renaissance Pleasure Faires
and Instant Theatre

/ / / / / / / / / / / /

And this from Daniel (Rover) Singer, director of The Briton Ensemble…

Review: Boffo Benefit for Billiam by Rover
"William's Billionaire Bash"

"Ever have that dream where everyone you know is gathered at a Moose Lodge in Glendale, California, watching you perform a vaudeville act you hadn’t done in decades? Or was it actually November 15, 2010? It was, in fact, a massive undertaking to celebrate the love we feel for the legendary William/Billy/Billiam Q. Barrett. Dozens of donated and somewhat eccentric raffle items—pet massage, anyone? His family and friends turned up in astonishing numbers on a Monday evening; and since so many of them are performers, a lavish variety show dominated the evening. Presented in typically slapdash fashion, the epic show lasted till nearly midnight, as a stream of astonishing variety acts took the stage in tribute to Mr. Barrett, whose long career as a hippy clown has brought joy to countless billions of hippy clowns around the world. By the end of the evening we were knee-deep in juggling clubs, rubber chickens, razor blades, ukuleles and hula hoops, with nary a dry seat in the house. Most astonishing—to this observer, anyway—was the astounding agelessness of these supposedly aging friends, who all seem as buoyantly youthful as ever. As a group our spirits are eternally ageless. Congrats and thanks to the scores of participants, and to Billiam, we say, long life and good health. –Rover"

Guest Reviewer: Daniel "Rover" Singer is the founder of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, a former production designer at Walt Disney Imagineering, and a professional bohemian.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


For folks who love Variety Shows.. the opportunity to see some terrific performers all to the benefit of an old friend, William Barrett (whom we called Billy for fifty years) is at hand.

Featured acts include Amanda Barrett (Ditty Bops), The Mums; Cock and Feathers!
When: Monday, November 15, 2010 is the date.
6:30 is the time (show at 8PM)
Where: Moose Lodge #641 357 Arden Avenue (between Pacific and Central) two blocks north of the 134 Freeway in Glendale 91203

$20.00 at the door. All donations are welcome.
No Host Bar / munchies..
Fantastic raffle items will be given away at the intermission

Why? To the Benefit of William for his incurred and mounting medical bills. Cancer is no fun, but the show will be!

Check Billions for Billiam on Facebook for more information.

See you there?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Great Great Expectations

Another Classic at A Noise Within
Deborah Strang as Miss Havisham

Kurt Boetcher’s stark bare bones set allows Neil Bartlett’s imaginative adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations to unfold boldly and melodramatically at A Noise Within. Highly theatrical from first light we meet Pip (Jason Dechert) seated in a graveyard: the stage floor laid out with simple lozenges of gray: an apt launching pad from which to narrate his orphan’s story. Moments into his narration, Pip is attacked by Magwich (Daniel Reichert), an escaped prisoner and forced to bring him food and a file to release him from his chains. Though captured soon after, Magwich takes the rap for the theft of the tools and food, protecting Pip because he had acted honorably. This kindness, as we all recall from reading the story, is repaid much later in Pip’s personal journey.

Dickens never told a short story. Or, if he did, it must have been a long one. However, Bartlett’s adaptation nicely moved along by Geoff and Julia Rodriguez-Elliotts tight direction unspools the episodes of Pip’s tale apace. It is a signature of the Elliotts, perhaps, that some things are rushed a little from time to time, especially when we meet Mrs. Joe, Jill Hill, who has always subscribed to the adage that to spare the rod is to spoil the child. Hill’s banshee of a Mrs. Joe is not a tolerant sister, though her more patient husband, (ANW founder Geoff Elliott), Mr. Joe, the blacksmith, who punctuates some scenes with ringing hammer blows, is certainly more kind.

Pip is trundled off to meet Miss
Havisham, an at once vivacious and eccentric jilted bride, nicely limned by ANW mainstay, Deborah Strang. Angela Balogh Calin’s costumes are appropriate throughout; especially with Havisham's tattered wedding dress which reflects her moldering wedding cake, now in shambles years after she was abandoned at the alter. Havisham has raised the beautiful Estella (Jaimi Paige) to break mens' hearts. Estella delights in tormenting poor ignorant Pip, leading him on and slapping him down while calling him “Boy.” Which, of course, draws the callow kid to her fall in love with her anyway.

Pip’s adventures continue by his being sent back to apprentice with Mr. Joe. He's then informed that he’s the recipient of a fortune that will enable him to go to London to learn to become a gentleman. This includes episodes with the talented cast doubling and a fine ensemble of supernumeraries who are crisp and dedicated: Darby Bricker, Elizabeth Fabie, Kurt Quinn and Taylor Jackson Ross who move props and literally become part of the scenery.

Mitchell Edmonds may have the most fun trebling as Mr. Pumblechook/Sarah Pocket and Bentley Drummle. The romance that Dickens has with names is equal to the fun that he has with the drama of the orphan and his adventures. The beauty of this production is that the lengthy tome with all its twists and turns pares down nicely to two acts in two hours with a cast who play the story with gusto. Jill Hill does double duty playing the complete opposite from her feisty Mrs. Joe, the pretty Biddy, who marries Mr. Joe after Mrs. Joe’s demise. Kurt Quinn plays
Wemmick. Stephen Rockwell doubles as Herbert Pocket and Compeyson.

In the end, we see Pip, back where he’s started: in the graveyard where his parents and siblings lie. He again meets Estella, now more demure.. age has not been so kind and her killer attitude is dimmed, a reunion that we probably could see coming from the get go. Together at last.


A curtain speech before the show announced that a generous benefactor (not Magwich) has come forth to offer A Noise Within a one million dollar matching fund to help complete the expensive process of installing actual plumbing and such in the new ANW Theater in Pasadena. Glendale’s loss is certainly Pasadena’s gain and though this fine company will be twenty minutes further away, they’ll be in a brand new home where Pasadena will embrace them and will also embrace audiences with parking and a more tolerant atmosphere for the Arts. Opportunities for naming things, from the entire lobby to a porcelain throne, are available. As I don’t have to be objective, I very much admire this hearty troupe. I encourage you to see their season of plays and to dig into your pocket, shallow or deep and help to complete the new space in Pasadena in time for the Fall 2011 Opening there.

A Noise Within
234 S. Brand Ave.
Glendale, CA 91204

Through December 19, 2010
$46.00 Top
818 240 0910 x 1 for tickets for donations and information

P.S. Mark your calendars for a reprise of my personal favorite, NOISES OFF! January 21 – 30, 2011

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Merry Wives of Windsor

Merry Wives! Indeed! (Serena Evans and Sarah Woodward)

Applause! How many different and indifferent kinds of applause must there be? Gratuitous? Polite? Appreciative? Thunderous? The ovation! To hear British actors handle the language and the attitude of William Shakespeare is truly a feast. If you haven’t been to The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, this would be the time, if you can get a ticket. The beauty of the 499 seat space is that even from the back row one is still in intimate contact with the action on the stage. This company, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, on tour from London, plays wonderfully at The Broad because every word can be heard; every gesture, nuance, tick and eye roll is available.

Director Christopher Luscombe is credited with this new production designed especially for The Broad. Scene design by Janet Bird (who also did period costumes) presents on a severely raked stage, a double turntable holds a two story structure, the roof of which supports a five piece orchestra with what appear to be authentic Renaissance musical instruments. Nigel Hess's compositions are grand and the musicians seem to really be having a good time! Through out the play, they supply incidental music and sounds as well as just hang over the balcony from time to time enjoying the goings on.

There is a feeling of comfort and good will in all the company. Sir John Falstaff (complete and unfaltering Christopher Benjamin with credits going back to television’s The Prisoner) takes stage with all the bluster one could hope for. His randy gambols, especially ambitious for a man past sixty, extend to hustling two married ladies at the same time. Most wonderful Mistress Page (joyful Serena Evans) and Mistress Ford (equally conspiratorial Sarah Woodward) receive identical letters of intent from Falstaff and decide to trick him and embarrass him for his hubris.

To condense the plot would be a chore. Suffice it to say that outstanding performances by all the cast, especially Mistress Quickly (Sue Wallace) and completely silly Frank Ford (Andrew Havill) are like (insert your own ‘Breath of Fresh Air’ analogy here!). It’s simply fun and a romp. The language and the story are told with great good humor as evidenced in the final dance with the audience clapping in time and applauding concurrently. Huzzah! and Bravo! were heard at the curtain call.

When writing a rave, I have to slow myself down a little and not sound like a ringer. I invited a director friend of mine who is past presiding patriarch of the Finger Wagging Naysayers. He’s full of knowledge about theatre. He’s written books! He’s directed more shows than he can remember. I really wanted to share this play with him, but he lives what might be an hour’s drive away and it was raining, so he didn’t want to drive all the way to Santa Monica for ‘bad Shakespeare.’ That he would have been huffing and laughing and pointing, as he does when something good happens on stage is a given. That I was unable to coax him to Santa Monica is a shame. I told him I’d try to get the next show to just come and play under the tree in his backyard. He thought that was a good idea!

So… if you have theatre friends who love to hear Shakespeare recited and presented with great joy, find a way to get them to The Broad.

There are only seven more performances. Evening performances start at 7:30 PM. Call the number below or check the web site for specifics.

Merry Wives of Windsor
Through October 24, 2010
The Broad Stage
1310 11th Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Tickets start at $47.00
310 434 3412

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

FDR at The Playhouse

Ed Asner as FDR
Photo Courtesy of The Theatre Guild

The Pasadena Playhouse rises from the ashes with Ed Asner’s tribute to the 32nd President of the United States: Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In FDR, based on the 1958 play by Dore Schary, "Sunrise at Campobello," Asner takes the story past the original ending of the play to its sad conclusion as Roosevelt, having won his fourth term as President, succumbed to a massive cerebral hemorrhage while in retreat in Warm Springs, Georgia in 1945. Asner, a popular staple with television audiences with his long run as Lou Grant on the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" and the follow-up CBS hit "Lou Grant," now at the age of 80 wants us all to know that age is only a number and talent is as talent does. To tackle a tour de force like this, one hundred minutes of pure exposition through monologue, at any time of life is a major challenge for any actor. Asner is, however, not just any actor. This actor knows his stuff.

From the rise of the curtain that re-opens the Playhouse… well there is no curtain, uncredited scenic design presents a simple three area set that gives the story simple spaces to delineate time and locale, which works well. As Asner struggles from FDR’s wheel chair to canes, having told the story of how he awakened one day at the age of 40 unable to move a muscle and how he regained some movement, it’s clear that the actor has no intention of giving the audience an imitation of the President. To the contrary, even with a wispy hair piece, it’s still Ed, the familiar curmudgeon in demeanor and voice whom recent audiences enjoyed as the voice for Mr. Fredrickson in the Pixar hit, “UP.” Asner, unlike Ralph Bellamy, who played the part in the Broadway production of "Campobello," and subsequently in the film of the same name who successfully duplicated FDR’s voice and attitude… Asner simply allows the spirit of the President access. The actor steps out of the way and the words and tone of the President unfold.

As our country balances on the verge of social change, as it did when FDR took office and with his leadership found a way back to sanity, this memoir… a sort of love letter to the President, is apt and moving. FDR embodied all that is good in a political figure and Asner shares it with good humor. Having been accused of being overly thrifty, even a “penny pincher”, FDR tells the story of a poker game at the White House where, among others, a young army officer, Dwight Eisenhower, was in attendance. At the end of the evening, it turned that Roosevelt owed Eisenhower twenty dollars. When he paid the officer, Eisenhower asked him to autograph the bill for him. “Are you going to keep it,” asked the President? “Of course,” said Eisenhower. “Well, hell, then, give me back that twenty and I’ll write you a check!”

The Playhouse is open for business and this show should draw an audience.
Go prepared to listen.

FDR starring Ed Asner
Pasadena Playhouse
39 S. El Molino
Pasadena, CA
626 356 7529
Through November 7, 2010
$59.00 Top
$15.00 Rush one hour before the curtain
check for dates and times

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


(l-r) Scott Lowell (Charles Condomine) and Abby Craden (Elvira Condomine)
PHOTO CREDIT: Craig Schwartz

To be more British than Noel Coward would be a challenge if we are to believe the goings on in the Condomine household in Kent created by Coward in his 1941 epic, Blithe Spirit. The Condomines are ever so almost upper class. They have a household staff. The only one we really meet, Edith, the galumphing maid, played by the wonderful Alison Elliott (Geoff and Julia’s daughter) steals the show with every entrance and exit. Her parents must be proud. To carry on about Alison’s grace note to the play serves a double purpose. First, it may be Edith who represents us common folk and secondly, through her less than delicate business, she may subtly represent how we may feel about all of this pip pip folderol. Elliott’s work is practically all physical and worth the price of admission alone. She is also the most believable character in the show.

Though director Damaso Rodriguez has his cast well in hand, one note that some other ANW directors have yet to take and Rodriguez has not understood, however, is that the six or so feet upstage from the apron may be visible to anyone in an empty house, but for the audience sitting above the fourth row in the center section of the theater, it’s impossible to see action on the floor! But, I’m ahead of myself.

Charles Condomine (enthusiastic Scott Lowell) is a successful novelist doing research for a new book. He has invited the quirky medium, Madame Arcati (erratic Jane Macfie) to the home he shares with his second wife, the lovely Ruth (lovely, indeed, Jill Van Velzer). Charles’ first wife, Elvira (campy and vampy Abby Craden) has been dead for seven years. The current Condomines have been happily married for five. The banter as the couple awaits the arrival of Arcati is oh so Coward: Light and airy, cocktails and cigarettes. Edith announces visitors Dr. and Mrs. Bradman (blustery Gibby Brand and ever sweet Jacque Lynn Colton) who settle in for what may be a silly evening of summoning up spirits, Blithe and otherwise. The good doctor is a skeptic and then some.

Arcati’s arrival and the ensuing shenanigans summon Elvira back from the dead. Of course, only Charles can see her and the upshot is that it takes a while to understand that not only is Elvira back, but she’s very interested in having Charles join her. The romp that follows is typical high standard ANW fare with crisp performances (passing some lapses with Macfie who, from time to time, seems to be waiting her turn) culminating with surprises that should come as no surprise.

Coward’s snappy patter and oblique references to sex are charming and witty. The play, written in 1941 takes place in ’36, but makes no mention of any of the turmoil in Europe that had begun there then or the major world issues in ‘41. It’s a light romp which personifies what Coward said of himself, “I am England and England is me.” We hear his voice and experience these Brits through the eyes of a talented young man who spent his life extolling the virtues of his native land in theatre, film and music. Clever and fun, Blithe Spirit moves apace with an excellent scenic design by Kurt Boetcher, period costumes by E.B. Brooks and lights by James P. Taylor. Entre act music by Doug Newell has the feeling of the twenties and permeates the room.

Geoff Elliott’s curtain speech repeated opportunities for donors to contribute to the company’s expected new space in Pasadena next fall. Naming opportunities for donors for everything from seats to bathrooms are available. Donations are tax deductible and tours of the new space may be arranged for donors by calling the company at the number below.

A Noise Within
Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91204
Tickets 818 240 0910 x1
$46 top
In Repertory with Measure for Measure
and Great Expectations (opening October 23, 2010)
Blithe Spirit closes on December 5, 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Barnsdall Art Park / LA MUNICIPAL Art Gallery

Dear Mr. Garcetti,

I was impressed with your brief participation at the Barnsdall Gallery Theater last night. I was not impressed with the evening. Whoever was in charge of the questions filtered out the tough ones.

Here are some questions that I submitted that were not answered by the panel.

1. Why were employees of LAMAG not invited to the panel? Their lives are the most at stake including Nancy, in the wheel chair.

2. Is the annual budget of the City of LA actually $7Billion? (I'd like to know what the budget is, please.)

3. Is the budget for all the Municipal Arts Centers actually less than $1.5Million? (I'd like to know the actual budget, please.)

4. Is the actual budget for LAMAG $380,000.00?

5. What can ordinary interested citizens do to stop this RFP thing and help?

If you really believe that Olive Hill holds the "beating heart" of the arts in Los Angeles (I tend to agree), then it seems like pulling the plug on the space as a MUNICIPAL resource is suicide.

I didn't submit questions asking about the CAD's budget and the salaries of the staff. I understand that Olga Garay supervises a staff of seventeen. I wonder.. and will you tell me.. what her salary is?

With the recent uproar about the million wasted dollars on GPS devices for parking officers cars and the scandal of corrupt city officials in Bell ripping off the citizens there, it seems to me that some accountability should be forthcoming.

If Meg Whitman spends $120Million out of her own pocket to run for Governor while Bill and Melinda Gates funnel billions into their personal causes, certainly the City of Los Angeles must find ways to not let Arts Centers slip from municipal hands.

This bed tax thing is silly. And, your reputation regarding it for funding the Arts has been brought into question. I hope you are a true supporter, especially of the LAMAG and will be pro-active in finding the funding to keep it MUNICIPAL.

Finally. One solution for funds might be a simple two mill levy earmarked for the DCA and the Arts Centers on groceries and restaurant meals purchased in the City. As Los Angeles approaches or maybe passes a population of Ten Million residents, you can do the math.. but let's say that each of the ten million folks buys only two dollars worth of food a day. that's twenty million spent in the City in one day.. a miniscule levy of two mills would bring in $40,000 a day, over a million dollars a month: $12Million, plus annually.. Even for an average family spending as much as $500 a month, the donation would be one dollar!

My lowball estimate of the amount of food bought and consumed would solve the Arts Problem almost immediately.

This is all food for thought. Naysayers can come up with all kinds of reasons why any idea won't work. Pennies for the arts is certainly not what the City deserves.. make all the excuses you want about the economy and such, but if the 'heart' to which you referred is further and further stifled, then our society cannot help but deteriorate.

I refer you to an interesting book by Malcolm Gladwell. The Tipping Point discusses how trends take hold and how they affect society. On Page 141 in Chapter Four THE POWER OF CONTEXT Gladwell discusses how simple attention to maintaining a neighborhood can make a huge difference. The "Broken Window Theory" has to do with how attitudes of people change in an orderly environment. Broken windows make us feel that no one cares about a building, but where the environment is cared for, attitudes change. The correlation is that when the Arts are cared for, the citizenry gains the benefit, either directly by participation, or vicariously in the positive ripples that emanate from the source: music, dance, theatre, fine art, movies, etc...

Do the math on a two mill levy. No one would notice unless they bought a thousand dollars worth of food at one time.. and then.. their fair share would be a whopping two bucks!

Let's make LA a thriving center for culture and the people who..mostly unselfishly.. create cared for spaces in the City.

Michael Sheehan

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Measure for Measure is not one of Shakespeare’s more frequently produced plays and maybe rightly so. That A Noise Within takes chances and comes out with consistently good productions is testament to the company.

Robertson Dean photo credit Craig Schwartz

The issue
with the play is that it’s essentially all exposition. To critique the Bard is risky and indeed there are moments in the piece that are bright and wonderful. The politics of the Bard’s time may have influenced him, but as I never have claimed to be a scholar, though sounding like one would really help in this case, the issues in this play resonate a bit with the times we live in. The Duke of Vienna (Robertson Dean) has lost his grip on the city and opts to take a break from his administrative duties, hitting the road, so to speak in his executive helicopter, leaving the disposition of the city to his cousin, Angelo, a righteous cleric (Geoff Elliott). Yes. It’s modern dress.

Cleaning up Vienna becomes a radical proposition. As we find our own society lumbered with paranoia and the broad strokes of enforcing the letter of the law becomes the tail wagging the dog, Angelo in his pious wisdom, decides that the death penalty for immoral behavior will curb the deterioration of Viennese Society. Unfortunate, Claudio (William Patrick Riley) in love with and father to Julietta’s (Courtney Kocak) expected child, is brought to bear and in one of the most enjoyable moments in the play is hauled before the Duke’s appointee by Elbow, (well limned by Michael Faulkner) a constable. Word play with the sincere but out of sync Elbow garners laughs as Claudio is hauled off to await his execution.

Claudio’s sister, Isabella (Karron Graves), a novice just entering the convent, is called upon to plead for Claudio’s life. Madness of lust overcomes the heretofore righteous Angelo who says he’ll commute Claudio’s sentence if Isabella will yield to his charms. Herein lies a moral issue. Meanwhile, The Duke returns to Vienna in disguise to observe while unobserved how Vienna does. The plot is a little fuzzy, but it’s Shakespeare, after all, and if you read the play and/or the synopsis before you take the plunge, it’ll be all that much more enjoyable. I enjoyed the laughs the most. Elbow’s upside down speeches and Barnardine’s (Thomas Moses in lots of hair) refusal to be executed because he’s been drinking all night are hilarious.

ANW’s founders, Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez- Elliott's direction keep the words flowing, sometimes so quickly that the intention of the text gets lost. Stage pictures are efficient in Stephen W. Gifford’s high tech set though some far downstage action is impossible to see from above the fourth or fifth row. Julie Keen’s modern dress costumes work in the solemn modern setting. Elizabeth Harper’s lighting is dramatic. Doug Newell’s sound design serves as a strong foundation for the production. As with large cast shows, some of the supernumeraries are a bit self conscious, but spears (rifles) must be carried and these young actors will mature in time.

Whatever moral lesson Shakespeare intends to teach is in here somewhere. It all works out, as most of Shakespeare’s plays do... one way or another. All’s well and ends.

Measure for Measure
In Repertory with Blithe Spirit and Great Expectations

A Noise Within
234 S. Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91204
Through Sunday December 5, 2010
Tickets $46 Top
818 240 0910 x1


The Matrix Theatre has a reputation for well tuned productions and Nick Ullett’s “Dying is Easy, Comedy is Hard” is no exception. Ullett, a cancer survivor, came to the United States in 1964 with the promise of stardom. With his comedy partner, Tony Hendra, the duo worked clubs in New York as well as playing The Ed Sullivan Show in the sixties. Ullett opens the show with a somewhat bizarre bit, directing off stage chickens all clucking like anything. For what follows, the story of his forty-odd years in Show Business and dealing with the terrors of battling cancer, it’s just weird. Ullett’s delivery and timing took some warming up, but as a raconteur, singer and musician, he is sincere and charming.

Issues with projections on an upstage screen make them a little hard to see. It may have been a technical glitch. Possibly changing the lighting (which is a simple adjustment from the existing lights for the current Matrix show, NEIGHBORS) should be easy and make the projected images pop to illustrate the parts of the story he wants to emphasize.

The ninety minute show moves smoothly from Nick’s early stories of opening for Lenny Bruce at the Bitter End and watching him get hauled away for obscenities, funny interaction with Ed Sullivan trying to do a comedy bit, through four wives and two major bouts with the big C. Now in his sixties, Ullett (gullet without the ‘g’ thank you very much!) knows himself and plies his trade in a way that can only get better as the show matures. Lisa James’ direction is simple and straight forward. The possibility of a stage assistant might double Nick’s budget but the few costume changes he makes might go more smoothly with a little help. I’d lose the chickens, but maybe keep the tux.

Ullett’s closing song on the piano is a stitch and an apt climax to learning about his life… so far. This is a good way to spend a Monday evening.

Plays Mondays Only through October 25th
The Matrix Theatre
7657 Melrose
Hollywood, CA 90046
Tickets $15.00
323 852 1445

Monday, September 20, 2010

Bargain Theatre in Glendale

This from A Noise Within. An opportunity to see quality theatre at a bargain price.. Pay What You Can. These shows have not opened yet. Reviews will appear here soon.

A Noise Within, the critically acclaimed classical repertory theatre company, announces "Pay What You Can" dates for two of its fall 2010 productions, Shakespeare's stirring classic MEASURE FOR MEASURE and Noel Coward?s timeless comedic gem BLITHE SPIRIT.

"Pay What You Can" dates, which allow patrons to purchase tickets for what they can afford, are Thursday, September 23, 2010, for Measure for Measure and Thursday, October 7, 2010 for Blithe Spirit. Both performances begin at 8 p.m.

"Pay What You Can" tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis based on availability, with a limit of two per person. Tickets must be purchased in person at the box office (234 South Brand Boulevard), after 2 p.m. on the day of the performance with cash only. ($10 minimum suggested).

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE?S MEASURE FOR MEASURE, which opens Saturday, September 25 and closes Sunday, December 5, 2010 (previews begin Saturday, September 18), is one of two productions directed this season by Michael Murray. In this intricately woven play, the Duke of Vienna recognizes that through his neglect, society has become a rotted den of iniquity, so he transfers his authority to Angelo, by all accounts an unblemished, morally uncompromising servant of God. But Angelo's irresistible sexual attraction to Isabella, a novice nun seeking pardon for her condemned brother, transforms saint to beast. Penned centuries ago, Shakespeare?s timeless case study of lethal hypocrisy remains relevant today. The production is part of Shakespeare for a New Generation, a national initiative sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts in cooperation with Arts Midwest.

BLITHE SPIRIT by NOEL COWARD opens at A Noise Within Saturday, October 9 and closes Friday, December 17, 2010 (previews begin Saturday, October 2). Damaso Rodriguez directs Coward?s masterpiece, a quintessential ensemble work, in which novelist Charles Condomine and his wife Ruth get more than they bargained for when an after-dinner seance led by local spiritualist/eccentric Madame Arcati produces an uninvited guest from the great beyond to crash the party, prompting a delightfully cosmic clash of personalities both worldly and otherwise. In this glittering comedy of the soul that ponders the eternal essence of what it is to be in a relationship, Coward?s mastery of comedy is on display with extraordinary wit, talent for crafting an exquisite story and sense of timing.

A NOISE WITHIN is located at 234 South Brand Boulevard, Glendale, CA 91204. To purchase tickets or for a full season brochure, call 818-240-0910 x1 or visit

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


In the sixties Lenny Bruce taught society about freedom of speech and the power of language. His iconic routine, especially germane to Neighbors, where he directly addressed his audience and in jazz rhythms pointed to “a spic and a wop and a kike and nigger… a mick and a wop and a honky…” defused these epithets into simply utterances that some people use to try to defame others. The defamation is in the intent, not in the words and the playground retort, “I know you are but what am I?” and “I’m rubber and you’re glue. Bounces off me and sticks on you!” seems right to me.

Michael McClure broke ground in a big way theatrically with his play, The Beard, which was busted continually in the San Francisco area and then moved to Los Angeles where similar charges for obscenity were leveled at the actors. One account says that at the performances in L.A. there were two standing ovations, one at the end of the show and one as the actors were hauled away to be booked. McClure’s poetry and other bizarre plays, including works done at The Company Theatre in Los Angeles: The Meatball, Spider Rabbit, The Authentic Radio Life of Bruce Conner and Snoutburbler and later The Beard with Dennis Redfield and Trish Soodik and Pink Helmets, pushed the envelope… rather destroyed it vis a vis what theatre is all about. McClure, along with Alan Ginsberg, who had his issues with “obscenity”, sat at the forefront of avant garde poetry in the San Francisco area. Their loopy and succinct approach to art is what, to me, is vital to bring audiences to a state of not just simply being entertained. The polemics of Ginsberg and McClure along with a host of radical artists, including the San Francisco Mime Troupe (still active after more than fifty years of politically charged satire touring parks around the country) have and had the goal of shaking the Establishment. That’s what Neighbors does.

Passing the rough language in Neighbors, the behavior of the characters, both the cartoon Crows and the straight arrow Pattersons, reflects something deeper. It has to do with living a good life. A true life. The two dimensional Crows are not simply burlesques of black actors playing black minstrels in black face. The edge of the darkness that Jacobs-Jenkins imbues in the Crows is more. It’s a call to consciousness for anyone who can sit through the barrage of stuff he discusses in the play. American Society is slowly coming around and we still find ourselves smiling because at the time we didn’t feel that we were demeaning anyone by enjoying Eddie “Rochester” Anderson on the Jack Benny Show (indeed, Rochester was never really the foil, was he?) or Butterfly McQueen’s famous line “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ no babies!” But prejudice is not just skin deep. It’s to the bone and shall be until we become color blind. To that end, perhaps, Neighbors is divisive. As I’ve said.. we may think we are not prejudiced, but the discomfort that rises like bile as the show progresses is real and that may be Jacobs-Jenkins’ goal. Just to make sure that no matter how great we feel having elected a black President (well, half black) and even folks like Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell rising to international importance, the lines of color are still within us. Martin Luther King was a hero and a martyr for a cause, but the lines of color still mark our division.

The beauty of this play is that as soon as one accepts the stereotypes: both the Crows AND the Pattersons, the foul language becomes almost incidental. What the play points out, at least to me, is that as we define ourselves, so shall we be. Or, hope to be?

What Neighbors must do for every audience who sees it is, when it comes to the final curtain, is to shake them from complacency. To do work as an audience or as an individual is not what most of us expect to do. We like things wrapped up in neat little packages. We expect a climax and then a dénouement. In the final scenes of Act II, Richard’s explosion rocks the house and not in a good way. It becomes the catalyst for the final confrontation and unfortunately.. or maybe fortunately?, resolution is left pretty much up to the audience. It’s work. Work that needs to be done. And, that does not mean that any two audience members will have the same reaction.

Stay for the video directed by Spike Lee in the lobby.

Monday, September 13, 2010


at The Matrix on Melrose.. a tight little space with three rows and a broad stage.. The play turns on an upwardly mobile family in a sort of Stepford neighborhood.. Little boxes on a hillside that mirror one another in a perfectly bookmatched patchwork. Stage Right an empty space waiting to be occupied. Stage Left a sort of kitchen where The Pattersons live. John Iacovelli’s set, tinted in Diebenkorn pastels, announces nothing out of the ordinary, fraught with sameness. We are lulled into the notion that it’s safe here. Nothing could be further from the truth.

My lead line for this piece kept changing. “If you think you are Liberal, think again.”

“If you think you are not prejudiced, think again.”

“Led down the Garden Path, then bitchslapped… hard!”

None of these do justice to the brilliant writing the young black playwright, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, brings to the stage. It’s important that we know he’s black because white folk can’t say nigger and get away with it. They can’t portray a bawdy stereotypical Negro family of profane minstrels, ready to rub your face in the stuff of hundreds of years of struggle. But, Jacobs-Jenkins can and does. It’s poetry that ranks with Genet and Beckett.

Richard Patterson, (brilliant Derek Webster) a forty-something black adjunct theatre history professor wants… really needs, to gain a full time teaching position. His beautiful Caucasian wife (remarkable Julia Campbell) and gorgeous fifteen year old daughter (lithe Rachae Thomas) live their lives in a neighborhood where it's taken a year for them to be accepted. And now... BAM!.. the house next door is sold to a troupe of traveling players.. each and all stereotypical black folks.. “Niggers!” exclaims Richard because he’s black and he can use that word...

It’s the Crow Family: Mammy, Zip Coon, Topsy, Sambo and Jim, young Jim Crow! All in minstrel black face, they spout stereotypical black euphemisms. Loud and raucous, every member of the family wears an under taste of anger, except for Jim (talented James Edward Shippy) who, though also in black face, seems less angry and says that he doesn’t want to be just like his Daddy, now departed this fair Earth going on a year. The plan is to make a comeback with their show. It’s been a year since Daddy Crow died.

Mammy (superb Baadja-Lyne) in Aunt Jemima drag, runs the troupe with an iron hand, supplemented broadly by Zip Coon Crow’s (slick Leith Burke) slap stick and Steppin Fetchit moves. Sambo (ghetto tough Keith Arthur Bolden) reeks of rap, attitude and muscles. Naila Alladin Sanders’ costumes are works of art.

Topsy (an amazing Danielle Watts) enters, Buckwheat hair in raggity bows, dumping her box full of white baby dolls, (which may be Jacobs-Jenkins’ prediction for the future?) mooning and charming the audience with anything but innocent burlesque.

Jean looks out her suburban window and relishes the diversity that is coming, while Richard feels threatened, perhaps having overcome his blackness. With years of effort, his perfect speech and specialty in ancient Greek drama must place him on a higher social level that those people.

The plot: surreal… the issues: real and damning; profane and pornographic bracketed by frightening truths about our own prejudices and the 'race situation' in this country, sounds a wake-up call for not only our society, but for the world. As fear and antipathy insidiously provoke confrontations not only between the races, but religions; the people and the government, the military, law enforcement, the truth is that we must find a way to harmony in this current ever divisive atmosphere.

Jacobs-Jenkins’ lesson arrives on many levels. Shock for the sake of shock, not mildly profane, but deliberately pornographic becomes only slightly balanced as Topsy breaks the fourth wall to address the audience and in Josephine Baker bananas, steps into an interpretive dance that lets us know there’s more to her than silliness and mooning.

Nataki Garrett’s unobtrusive direction keeps the action moving until the final scene, the ultimate moment, that at once pits the mirror images of Zip and Richard, the nigger and the colored man, against the final tableau: the confrontation of the Crows.

Not for the faint of heart.
Publish Post

NEIGHBORS (A Play with Cartoons)
The Matrix Theatre
7657 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Thursday through Saturday at 7:30PM
Sundays at 2:30PM
Through October 24, 2010
Tickets: $25.00
323 960 7774

Monday, September 6, 2010

C A L L TO A C T I O N!!!

The Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery in Barnsdall Park is scheduled to be privatized at the end of 2010!

The City of Los Angeles, in an attempt to save money has sent out a request for other organizations to take over the Gallery. Current rumors indicate that MoCA may be in line for the job. The imminent firing of the current staff as well as the disturbing prospect of the somewhat elitist attitude of MoCA when it comes to exhibiting 'high art' taking charge is appalling.

LAMAG has been the refuge for new and burgeoning artists in Los Angeles for over forty years. Their egalitarian approach to showing art ranging from avant garde to more traditional works has been appreciated and taken advantage of by hundreds, if not thousands of local artists and in my opinion, this should not change.

Please take time to call or write to Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa, 200 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012 to voice your concerns and make suggestions. Councilman Tom La Bonge represents the Barnsdall area and he may be reached at the same address.

Do something!

Often I have discussions with a good friend who has issues about the world and I ask her, "What can I do?" My answer is to get involved with the things we actually care enough about and to simply do something.

If you care about the arts in Los Angeles, let your voice be heard and ask friends, artists, actors, producers, directors... everyone... anyone who may lift a voice.. to speak up and let the City know that this vital resource should remain under the aegis of the Department of Cultural Affairs and remain a bastion of hope for Art in Los Angeles. Or, at least remain a truly MUNICIPAL ART GALLERY and retain curatorial staff.

Please call or write the Mayor and Councilman La Bonge to voice support for the Gallery. Write op ed pieces and send letters to the editor of The Times. It's the People who need this space and if MoCA or some other 'high art' organization takes it over, the opportunity for local artists to show their work will be diminished in a major way.

Check the link below for your local council person.

Pass it on! Please!

Michael Sheehan

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Great Greater Greatest

GREATER TUNA by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard, aptly directed by Guilford Adams currently playing at the picaresque Sierra Madre Playhouse is if nothing else, a crowd pleaser. It’s the sort of romp that community theatre loves to embrace and without a doubt, it’s embraceable.
Greater Tuna opened almost thirty years ago and has been a staple in ambitious little theatres ever since.
Sierra Madre’s down home take on Tuna, Texas is a basic peek into the odd goings on in a teeny tiny Texas town. Featuring Dustin Fasching (Left) and Justin Baker (Right) (Photo by Donald Songster) playing every single part: men, women and an occasional dog, the show moves apace, as it should. The fun, of course, is in the challenge for each character to enter and have a scene while the other is madly changing costumes off stage. Baker and Fasching, brought their dressers Carrie and Melissa Flores on for the curtain call! It would be tough to accomplish the illusion without them.

Set in sundry locations in and around the Greater Tuna area, thus the name of the show, at rise we meet an unlikely pair of radio guys reporting the local news of the day, only to realize that they have failed to actually go on the air. The connections between all of the characters evolve slowly and the jokes are not subtle. The fun is in seeing these two talented actors switch characters at the drop of a hat and the donning of a wig and a dress. In a dress, Baker’s leg are impressive.

It’s tough to do an actual review of a show like this because it’s all in good fun and the nudge and the wink are built in. How the two actors keep track of where they are and at the same time keep a straight face while nicely defining each oddball character is terrific.

Dining near the theatre is diverse and it’s worth the trip up the hill to find a simpler time and place. Picaresque says it all.

Sierra Madre Playhouse
87 Sierra Madre Blvd.
Sierra Madre, CA 91024

Reservations or Information:
Through September 25, 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010


Parasite Drag..

When I received the invitation to this show, I imagined a leech in high heels and big hair. In fact parasite drag is an aeronautical term that has to do with anything on an aircraft that doesn’t contribute to lift. How this relates to the troubled story of Gene Brown, a weak man with a strong Christian faith (Robert Foster) and his invasive brother, Ronnie (intense Boyd Kestner) from whom he’s been estranged for years, and the bonding … in a way of Ronnie’s wife, Susie (lithe Agatha Nowicki) with Gene’s spouse, Joellen (Mim Drew), is at best obscure.

Written by Mark Roberts and well directed by David Fofi, the acting makes more of the text than the play itself delivers. In the first act we encounter Gene and Joellen attempting to resolve a situation that has left Gene with a black eye and Joellen rationalizing how she inflicted it. The Elephant Theatre Company’s program features a woman running, it appears, toward a funnel cloud with the text “Past is Prelude’ included in the image. References are made to storm warnings as the play advances and it seems that there’s no end to the troubles about to erupt within this anxious family.

Gene and Ronnie’s sister is a victim. Currently, in the hospital after years of drug abuse and living on the streets, Ronnie appears with Suzie, his equally tough and unsophisticated wife to begin to stir old passions. Ronnie does not share Gene’s devotion to the Lord. Resolution for past issues is on the table, but the ability to do something about them is, at best, difficult.

My first impression of the first act brought the cynical notion that Parasite Drag was Virginia Woolf meets Mama’s Family. Roberts was executive producer on Two and a Half Men and is currently producing another sitcom for CBS. The feeling of television pacing is not necessarily a bad thing, but it seemed evident. It’s not until the second act, though some gratuitous sex at the close of Act One brought a chuckle from the audience, that exposition lets us know the terrible things that the Brown kids have had to endure. How one went to Christ and the other to the Devil is revealed. The essence of the last scenes between Joellen and Susie and then an angry encounter between the brothers parallels the impending storm. These powerful scenes may be worth the effort of enduring the first act. Playwright Roberts is not an Albee, but the energy Fofi draws from his actors in the final scenes is powerful and revealing. Interpretation of the final moments of the play is up for speculation, as eight millimeter home movies unspool and everything goes dark.

PARASITE DRAG by Mark Roberts
Elephant Space
6322 Santa Monica Boulevard (just west of Vine)
Hollywood 90038
Thurs – Sat at 8PM
Thru September 18, 2010
Call (213) 614-0556, or reserve online:
$20 Top

Sunday, August 1, 2010


On July 31, 2010 Vlatka Horvat spent the entire day in the Los Angeles River with fifty chairs.

She started at nine in the morning and with only brief breaks, moved the chairs around the thirty thousand foot space where the River flows under Fletcher Avenue near the 2 Freeway. Throughout the day, on-lookers watched from the bridge or wandered down to the River’s edge as Vlatka created pattern after pattern with blue skies, swifts and egrets for company.

Julie Deamer of Outpost Contemporary Art sponsored the installation with a reception in the burgeoning art district developing in China Town.

Every cliché one can think of has been uttered about art at one time or another. To call Horvat’s performance an installation; her installation a performance, performance art or by any other name, is to diminish it. The Work was in the moment. For one short day in July the art was mostly in the artist who generously included appreciative patrons warmed by a perfect California day.

In eight hours' time, moving
steadily at a dancer’s pace, Horvat arranged each piece of her ever changing puzzle one or two chairs at a time. The patterns, moment to moment improvising, ever calculating her next move evolved kaleidoscopically. Patterns in the design, emphasized by the gently flowing River, occasional applause as she completed one pattern, was not acknowledged.

The Artist, the medium and the River all flowing together, punctuated a moment in time: the reflection's come and gone.

michael sheehan

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Juan Pope as Malcolm Jennifer May/ Reel Sessions

Writer/Director David Wally’s examination of life in these United States is at once cynical and arcane. IN & OUT The USofAlienation currently playing Tuesdays at The Whitefire challenges the audience to ride along through a morass of notions that never become completely clear in the text nor in the action. In a series of at once associated and disparate scenes we encounter the ‘alienation’ which is the foundation of Wally’s work.

A program note mentions that the only character who remains consistent in the play is Malcolm, portrayed by an effective Juan Pope. Malcolm appears and stirs the social pot with various other characters by asking intimate questions that all come back to the absence of civility in the United States today. Some scenes work better than others. Two vignettes with Gregor Manns (Bartender and Rod) work well. One scene examines the origins of ‘us vs. them.’ Later as a homeless former security guard the feeling of quiet desperation and dignity prevail.
His portrayal of Rod, the former Security Guard, is touching and certainly civil. Manns is a really large guy who quips that one of the ladies in the latter scene might just take him home and turn him into a professional football player.

A mysterious Black Satchel seems to arrive and depart in each scene on its own. It draws attention to itself making us think that an actor may have missed a prop cue. In fact The Satchel belongs to Malcolm, the one consistent character in the sundry scenes. In the final scene we learn that he is, in fact, a research doctor for the CDC in Atlanta possibly bringing (in the satchel?) dark foreboding. His purpose in the piece may be designed to make the audience ask themselves difficult questions about the end of life.

Interstitial music (Don McLean’s American Pie plays as the audience enters the theater) may deliver clues as to the playwright’s intent vis a vis why our society has become so compartmentally uncivilized. Unfortunately, even with some decent performances and believable scenes, including a poignant but gratuitous lesbian tryst, the show lumbers along with only an occasional glimmer of the argument that each of us, indeed all of us must find a way to communicate and to be a little nicer to one another.

Laura Fine Hawkes’ bare bones set design leaves everything to the imagination. The stars and stripes hang above the stage: red tire treads and white handprints on a blue field. Nice. Uncredited over amped sound may have held clues as to the intent of the play, but became cacophonous in between scenes.

IN & OUT The USofAlienation
Whitefire Theatre
13500 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
Runs Tuesdays only at 8PM
Closing September 14, 2010
Reservations: (866) 811-4111
$20.00 Top

Monday, July 26, 2010

Yellow at the Coast

L to R David Cowgill, Kristen McCullough, Evie Louise Thompson and Luke McClure

Del Shores has been writing plays for a long time. In 1983 "Daddy's Dyin' and Who's Got the Will?" opened to stunning reviews at Jeff Murray’s Theatre/Theater in Hollywood. Del has been prolific on the theatre scene as well as having produced and directed at least one film and worked on high stakes television shows. His ability to round out a character and at once make an audience think, laugh and weep continues to develop with time.

YELLOW, written and directed by Shores at The Coast Playhouse, examines a modern southern family, the Westmorelands, of Vicksburg, Mississippi: the father Bobby (David Cowgill), Katie, his wife (excellent Kristen McCullough), football hero Dayne (Luke McClure), and his frantic sister, Gracie (enthusiastic Evie Louise Thompson). As Dayne enters his senior year of high school, Bobby, a former NFL football player turned PE Teacher/Football coach, has high hopes for his son. The kid is a natural and both are dedicated to a great final season.

Gracie is a fifteen year old “actress” whose histrionics as a fanatical high school drama student burst like IEDs in an attempt to get her parents’ attention. Hormones raging, her sibling rivalry with big brother Dayne reaches fever pitch causing their parents to sigh and shake their heads. It’s a phase.

s the Westmorelands celebrate their wedding anniversary, a brief feeling of situation comedy permeates early in the play. We then meet Kendall (tres gai Matthew Scott Montgomery), Gracie’s gay guy pal. Kendall is an aspiring musical comedy star who can quote the plot line of any Broadway show and sing a number to document his love of the genre. Gay through and through, Kendall facilitates one issue through which Shores develops a theme of tolerance evolving into a strong polemic.

The play takes a sharp turn to the right as Kendall’s mother, Sister Timothea Parker (the evangelical Susan Leslie) appears. Sister Timothea is a fervent fundamentalist Christian Woman who can quote both Testaments to prove any point. There’s a fine line between parody and a sincere portrayal of this type of character. Leslie treads this line with frightening perfection.

Shores’ ability to direct his own work, simply, works. From time to time his actors deliver lines directly upstage and some other choices either by the direction or that the actors have made are slightly distracting, but the play works. The message works. The actors are all on the same page at the same time.

Robert Steinberg’s contemporary set is perfect, capturing the middle class status of the Westmorelands. Kathi O’Donohue’s always excellent lighting design accentuates and isolates individual scenes flawlessly.

That YELLOW has been extended for six weeks and had a full house for a Sunday matinee speaks to the fact that good press and word of mouth have done their job. The sensitivity with which Shores intertwines familiar themes of his past work: fidelity, homosexuality and fundamentalist religion, continues to leave audiences laughing and emotionally involved. Themes in this play don’t hit us over the head, but lead us to come to our own conclusions. Redemption and forgiveness are only available when even our deepest feelings are given an opportunity to find their way to new understandings.

YELLOW written and directed by Del Shores
Coast Playhouse
8325 Santa Monica Boulevard
West Hollywood

Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM
Sundays at 2PM and 7PM
Extended through Sunday September 5, 2010
Tickets: / or by calling 800 595 4849
$34.99 Top

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Geoff Elliott (left) shares A Noise Within's Commendation from Mayor Bogaard and the City of Pasadena.

When the Mayor of Pasadena and the artistic director of the Pasadena Playhouse turn out with a couple of hundred other folks on a warm July morning to a construction site, something big is going on. In 1991 Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott with three thousand dollars of their own money found their way into the old Masonic Temple on Brand Avenue in Glendale with the dream of making a theatre dedicated to the classics. Over time, the Elliotts, their resident artists and crew along with their dauntless Board of Directors of A Noise Within, currently led by Chairman Terry Kay, have moved steadily toward creating a modern and comfortable space to do their valuable work.

With ten million dollars pledged, they still need another three million to get to a finished product for the fall of 2011. With the enthusiastic gathering at the ceremony on Tuesday, it looks like their goal is well within sight. The ground is broken. Construction has begun.

The differences between Glendale’s marginal support of the arts and the way that Pasadena takes giant steps to embrace A Noise Within are like night and day. There may have been opportunities for the City of Glendale to entice the Elliotts to stay in the city, but witness the new parking regulations that prevented patrons from parking near the theater at Brand and Colorado for more than two hours. And, then observe the Glendale City Council that seems to have so little interest in any of the arts that no one made the slightest effort to find a space for the company within the city limits. Of course, art flows to where arms fly open. Apparently, arms in Glendale were folded to the company and an ideal opportunity blossomed in the City of Pasadena.

The ceremony opened with a performance by members of the Resident Company. Supporters then told stories of how the past nineteen years have been on ‘the threshold of a dream.’ The dream of A Noise Within now moves in a material way to a beautiful permanent home under way at Sierra Madre Villa and Foothill Boulevard in Pasadena. In a complex designed by Edward Durell Stone (designer of Radio City Music Hall as well as the Museum of Modern Art and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC) the new 33,000 square foot complex space will feature a sweeping thrust stage surrounded on three sided by the audience. A state of the art theater with flies and advanced technical capabilities will be an arts destination convenient to the Gold Line.

Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard presented the company with a proclamation welcoming
them to the city. Bogaard was praised by others for his championship of not only ANW, but the arts in general in Pasadena. Sheldon Epps, artistic director of the Pasadena Playhouse, in attendance indicates the acceptance of a sister company which can only assist the embattled Playhouse by drawing more attention to Pasadena.

Glendale’s loss is certainly Pasadena’s gain. A Noise Within is on par with regional theatre anywhere in the country and with this new space opening in the autumn of 2011, we can expect even more inventive and creative productions in the future. At the risk of sounding like a fan.. the remaining three million dollars needed to make this jewel sparkle may easily be made in modest donations from each of us. Contact A Noise Within Development Department at 818 265 7959. For further information, link to

Congratulations to A Noise Within for never letting go of their dream.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Round and Round and Round in the Circle Game

Jack Grapes (far right) and Company in a quiet moment before Circle of Will at The Macha Theatre. Photo by Alexis Fancher.

Circle of Will

Many years ago I participated in a production of “Impromptu” by Tad Mosel. It’s a one act that places four characters on a bare stage and makes them figure out who they are and what they are supposed to do. It’s a great exercise in an existential examination of who we are and what we are doing and where we are going. Of course, we’d go nuts if we spent too much time dealing with this stuff. However, a few great playwrights: Beckett, Ionesco, Pirandello... did that and basically made the audience do a lot of the work about figuring out who Godot might be, if he exists and if, ever, he might come, etc. Circle of Will is a less cumbersome play than any of the aforementioned writers' efforts, but it does bring up some issues and addresses them in a most amusing and entertaining way. Okay, an hilarious way. Way hilarious.

I loved this show.

Written by Jack Grapes & Bill Cakmis, Circle of Will features Grapes as Will and Joe Briggs as Richard “Dirk” Burbage at The Macha Theater in WeHo. Formerly, The Globe, this crusty little theater survives with its art. It’s a perfect setting for Circle of Will in that the feeling of The Globe (Shakespeare’s Globe) persists for what is … at least for a time… between 1610 and 1616. The Tempest was written in 1610.. happy 400th to Caliban (whom I saw in the persona of John Ritter in this very theater before we came to know what Ritter could really do), Miranda and all.

Notable as Eunuchs One and Two, Cuthbert (John Brocato) and Quincey (Josh Grapes), entertain and introduce the play. A rich atmosphere of 1970's Renaissance Pleasure Faire permeates their foreplay. Juggling takes practice. (Note to Eunuchs: practice juggling.)

Shakespeare struggles as he attempts to cobble together ideas he’s had brewing for a long time with what may become his last play, “Gonzago and the King” (which Burbage dubs a ‘footstool’ because it weighs a ton and looks like… well… a footstool.) Then, troubles are afoot as the argument morphs, literally into a quantum continuum exploration of the meaning of meaning, more or less.

Director Brian Herskowitz keeps his actors in the moment, which, as the play progresses becomes more and more of a challenge. Martin C. Vallejo’s set allows for some farcical shenanigans. “Shenanigans” being the best description of the entire goings on. There are lots of shenanigans, clever puns and literary references. And, as the story bounds and leaps and leaps and bounds through time, some very interesting deeper thoughts emerge. A lot of scholarly thought has gone into this script and the business that every play encounters with every audience becomes problematic. What’s real? What’s fantasy? Where are we now? When are we going to get there? And, then? What then?

Eavesdropping on any actor symposium will find us discussing ‘being in the moment’ and playing the reality of the characters. Will and Burbage go round and round (it’s a Circle of Will, after all) in the attempt to satisfy Dirk’s enormous ego and get this last endeavor of the Bard’s together in time for previews in a few days. Burbage is tired of playing women and just wants to be a leading man for a change. As Will and Burbage deconstruct (or self destruct), the question of who’s who and what’s what becomes more entangled. Simply put, it’s wonderful. At the risk of trying to be too clever, the only way find yourself breathless with laughter and at the same time questioning what Life is
really all about is to go to see this show. Check into the Time Warp and then decide for yourself.

Appearances of a large
ephemeral cast, feature Stephanie Nguyen doubling as some body and the stage manager, Steve Roland (Gonzago), Bob Downing as The King, Peter Funt plays Nicholas Bishop, Bert Connors is Thomas Heywood, and Michael Kzynenski as Julius Caesar. Cynthia Tyson limns Lady Macbeth, the androgynous C. J. Potter (a flawless Ophelia). Pam Bohusalv is regal as The Queen, Romona of Verona is played by Christiana Bolaslavsky (no relation to Richard with an ‘e’), Sherrod Klippel as Prospero. Lady Prospero disappears as Lucinda van de Velde, Cynthia Connors plays Miranda of Naples, Capulet (Omar Truzdale) and Grizelda of Beaujolais (Christa Marsh) round out the cast.
Lynda Goodfriend does not appear in this production.

Costumes by Anasuya Engle and Sound and Lighting by Carey Dunn are all just fine.

Just go see this play.

Circle of Will
Macha Theater
1107 N. Kings Road
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Thursday through Saturday at 8PM
Sundays at 7PM
Reservations: 323 960 7822
Through August 15, 2010
$30 top