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