Sunday, January 31, 2010


Geography of a Horse Dreamer

The Moth Theatre presents Sam Shepard’s 1974 oddball take on dreams and playing the horses in a tiny hole-in-the-wall just west of Los Angeles City College. I mention the location because if you are a Sam Shepard fan and are stout of heart, this little band of players has hollowed out a store front where back stage is the front of the store and finding your way to the box office in the back may be a challenge. Don’t park in the colorful parking lot just east of the massage salon and the coin laundry. It’s not nearly as dicey as it looks and the up side is a cast that hits its marks and brings Shepard’s show to life.

Shepard has a reputation for gritty theatre and Horse Dreamer is no exception. Beaujo (John Markland) and Santee (Scoot McNairy) are the keeper/kidnappers of the unfortunate Cody (Kris Lemche) whom Fingers and his gang have discovered somewhere in Wyoming for his ability to dream the winners of horse races. Cody is shackled to a bed, all watched over by Beaujo and Santee: designated to record his dreams of winning horses and relay them to Fingers who places the bets and they all clean up. Well, except for Cody, who is pretty much a slave.

Unfortunately, Cody’s off his game. If it was up to Santee, he’d brutalize the kid until his dreams began paying off again. Santee's got a 'rod' and he ain't afraid to use it! Miraculously, the syndicate decides to switch their betting to greyhound racing and Cody, in spite of his unfortunate situation, is, apparently, back on track, dreaming of winning dogs.

Jamie Wollrab’s direction is solid, given the limited space of the dingy little hotel room, which evolves a few months later in Act Two to classier digs because of Cody's successful dreams. Fingers, played by Dov Tiefenbach, makes his entrance in cape and attitude and briefly stops the show. Accompanied by the mysterious Doctor (an imposing Thurn Hoffman) the story escalates to a whole new level. Shepard’s story telling is often visceral and bizarre and the twist in Act Two is no exception. The payoff is a huge surprise that makes little sense, but certainly is a payoff.

The members of the Moth Company met through director / acting coach Susan Seacat, who in the 1980s developed “The Way” (not to be confused with The Tao) based on the analysis of dreams as discussed by Carl Jung. Jung’s dream theories regarding deep feelings risen from the subconscious by analyzing one's dreams is melded in what sounds a little like The Method that Stanislavsky developed at the Moscow Art Theatre in Russia in the late 1800s. Evidently, it binds the company together.

The beauty of Horse Dreamer is that Wollrab has been able to corral the cast and their dreams into a solid production, a little mumbly (on stage is not on camera) and over the top at times (loud and mean can sometimes be low and intense) but the company’s efforts pay off.

Fridays and Saturdays only at 8PM through March 6, 2010
Moth Theatre
4359 Melrose
LA, CA 90029
213 666 2296 for reservations and information
Good luck parking and finding the entrance in the back!

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Sad news came this week when Stephen Eich, executive director of the Pasadena Playhouse, announced that with the last performance of the current production, CAMELOT, The State Theatre of California, will shutter its doors. Staff has already been laid off. Eich said that they had hoped for a deep pockets Angel to rescue the Playhouse, but no one has come forward to date.

An evening at the Playhouse has always been an event. Celebrities mingle with locals and the ubiquitous volunteers who distribute programs reflecting the population of Pasadena in a kind and attentive way.

The Playhouse District has been a landmark in Pasadena for years being dubbed the State Theatre of California just a few years after its opening in 1917. Evidently, financial woes have arisen over the years, but the theatre has been able to muddle through in the past. What a shame it will be if this iconic institution is really at the final curtain.

Contact Stephen Eich at the Playhouse if you have a plan. Don't let this economy rob Southern California of this important heritage.

Michael Sheehan

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Joel Swetow as Estragon and Robertson Dean as Vladimir Photo by Craig Schwartz

GuhDough’? Gawd’oh! Samuel Beckett, some scholars say, wanted Godot to be pronounced with the emphasis on the God.

As Gogo and Didi (
Joel Swetow as Estragon and Robertson Dean as Vladimir) await the arrival of Godot, the One who never comes, His Boy (Owen Sholar) materializes to announce that He, Godot, may come… tomorrow. But, even when tomorrow comes, things remain the same. They are Waiting… for Godot.

Director Andrew J. Traister sets the scene traditionally on Michael C. Smith’s barren plain: some rocks, a tree, a road. Beckett’s stage directions are very clear and Traister is loyal to them: the pauses, the exchanges and, of course, the waiting.

The action of Act I is a bit slow and labored, spurred briefly into over drive by Lucky’s (Mark Bramhall) amazing rant. What Beckett really wanted audiences to experience is up for speculation. John Lahr, in the New Yorker’s review of a recent Broadway production of the play mentions that when it opened with his father, Bert Lahr, in the role of Vladimir, audiences walked out. It was so very different from what anyone expected (especially with the Cowardly Lion starring in the play) that they simply could not fathom the depths and heights of inquiry to which Beckett’s writings would take us in the next fifty years. His examination of the human condition in oblique and confusing scenarios is the sort of thing that one either makes time for and works at, or throws up his hands in search of an easier row to hoe. The brave and the stubborn stick around.

The laughs are here, strained and quizzical. To really get beneath the surface of Godot, one must take the time to not only listen to the text and examine the plot, but do so more than once. One may still emerge kicking and screaming “What does it all mean??” Of course, that’s what it all means. We appear. We are present. We are confronted with issues and problems and if we are lucky (or even Lucky!) we deal with them and continue with new stuff until the final curtain.

High school students in the audience behind us were confused, but returned to see things pick up… a little… in the second act. Gogo and Didi are still anchored to their spot on the road and are interrupted again by Pozzo (Mitchell Edmonds) and Lucky’s return. Lucky’s rope is shorter so that Pozzo is more easily guided, as he has lost his sight. The metaphors are all up for grabs, the banter comes more quickly and even though none of the basic questions are directly answered (Why are we here?? When will the Truth be revealed? Godot?) Beckett leaves us with a sliver of hope that something may happen … tomorrow.

This short reprise of Samuel Beckett’s classic drama will only be available for two weeks at A Noise Within. Not for the impatient nor those who need to have their plots tied up in neat little parcels, this production is worth spending time with.

Closes January 24, 2009
Call Theatre for days and times.
A Noise Within
234 S. Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91204
818 240 0910 ex 1