Saturday, December 3, 2011
Baby Doll at the Lillian
Friday, December 2, 2011
Desire Under the Elms at ANW
L to R: Monette Magrath, Jason Dechrt, William Dennis Hunt
In the description of the set for Desire Under the Elms, Eugene O’Neill describes the scene poetically: "...a farm house needing paint with two huge elm trees framing it. They bend their trailing branches down over the roof… to protect and at the same time subdue… like exhausted women resting their sagging breasts and hands and hair on its roof…” Doesn’t sound like a lot of laughs.
Written in 1920, when O’Neill was just 36 years of age, this modern tragedy echoes the classic Greek drama Phaedra. A seasoned theatre scholar once told me that everyone cribs from time to time. O’Neill’s effort is, indeed tragic and rambles its way to a sad conclusion.
The tyrannical Ephraim Cabot (William Dennis Hunt) shows the power of age and religious conviction. He has ruled his domain, a hard scrabble New England farm, for fifty years. Ephraim’s stern exterior, a reflection of his stony soul rules with an iron fist. Jason Dechert plays Eben, a clever and on again, off again fellow with confused emotions and a plan to keep the farm for himself.
At rise, Ephraim has abandoned the family farm leaving his two sons, Simeon and Peter, (Christopher Fairbanks and Stephen Rockwell) from his first marriage and his son by his second wife, Eben. Eben persuades the brothers hit the trail for the Gold Fields of California by buying out the brothers’ shares and sending them on their way. Suddenly, Ephraim returns, having married the young and beautiful Abbie (Monette Magrath), who in a confusing love/hate beginning falls for Eben and under the influence and elms, is impregnated by him. A son is born and Ephraim is allowed to believe the child is his, becoming his heir to the farm. Adultery evolves to an even darker hue. The desire of the flesh and the avarice that turns men… and women into lustful greedy people foments into loss for all involved: a tragedy in the classical sense.
Andre Balogh, the Fiddler, beautifully enhances the scene changes with his own minor key melancholies that emphasize the great acoustics of the new performance space.
Director Damaso Rodriguez has cast the play well, though the revelations at the close of the piece are somewhat confusing with a split focus that might be difficult to puzzle out at first.
John Iacovilli’s two level set echoes the hard existence as described by O’Neill. Clever lighting by James P. Taylor works beautifully.
DESIRE UNDER THE ELMS
By Eugene O’Neill
A Noise Within
3352 East Foothill Boulevard
Pasadena, CA 91107
In Repertory through December 18, 2011
Tickets and Information
626 356-3500 ext. 1
www. A NoiseWithin . org
Monday, October 31, 2011
A NEW NOISE AT A NOISE WITHIN PASADENA
TWELFTH NIGHT.. or What you Will by William Shakespeare
Richard Boone is possibly best remembered for his TV western, Have Gun, Will Travel. It told the story of a fast gun for hire in the early American West. Later, The Richard Boone Show set out of do a somewhat radical approach to television using a company of actors in repertory, featuring Mr. Boone acting and directing in a variety of roles that stretched their artistic abilities, allowing the television audience to enjoy familiar faces in a variety of roles from week to week. It was a noble effort and as we got to know the actors, including Ford Rainey and Harry Morgan, it was a pleasure to welcome them into our homes.
It is that familiar feeling that blossoms as we settle into A Noise Within Theater’s brand new space in Pasadena. It feels right to see Geoff Elliott (ridiculously silly Malvolio), Debra Strang (apt and sexy Maria), Apollo Dukakis (bawdy and then some Sir Toby Belch) and Robertson Dean as Orsino mount this stage, in this great new venue, having such a very good time. After nineteen years at their Masonic Lodge location, it became obvious to the Elliotts and the company that Glendale was not going to make any effort to keep the company there. Fortunately, more welcoming arms were outstretched in Pasadena. Mayor Bill Bogaard welcomed attendees as an unofficial greeter as we filed into the theater. The feeling of support not only for A Noise Within, but for the spirit of Art filled the auditorium.
Before their first official performance, ANW co-founder, Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, held forth to welcome the invited audience Home to ANW and The Redmond Stage, named for Charles Redmond, VP of the Times-Mirror and chair of the ANW board for many years. She thanked the assembled supporters of more than 300 as they rose to their feet to inaugurate the space with its first standing ovation.
Having rushed from a screening of ANONYMOUS (the new Roland Emmerich film) to make the early six o’clock curtain of Twelfth Night, I had had a taste of the play presented briefly in the film: the final scene where Sebastian and Viola reunite. Director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott’s take on the show was miles from the traditional sixteenth century presentation. She sets the scene in 1950’s Cuba with colorful rhumba and mambo dancers affecting the storm that blew the twins, Sebastian (Max Rosenak) and Viola ( Angela Gulner) asunder. The strong presence of Afro-Cuban influence erupts with Anthony Mark Barrow’s interpretation of Feste, the Fool in his prologue and through the play. It’s pre-Castro with cigars and rum in abundance. Also notable are Abby Craden as Olivia, sexy in polka dots and Steve Weingartner as Antonio.
Inventive use of machetes in the opening number with un-credited choreography, probably by director Rodriguez-Elliott sets the tone for the remainder of the play: fast paced and true to the letter of the author (I still think Shakespeare wrote everything he’s been credited with!!).
Keeping the thrust stage the company used in the former space, Kurt Boetcher’s simple sets transition quickly and smoothly with a feeling that may echo presentations at The Globe itself. Dedicated to the classics, Twelfth Night is a fine choice with which to open the new theater. With the exception of a couple of unsure soldiers, the cast delivers the show beautifully to life, bringing the audience to its feet once more as a final dance number somewhat confused the curtain call.
It’s a short walk from the Gold Line Parking to the theater. Consider taking the train and tell your friends that Shakespeare (or the Earl of Oxford?) is alive and well in Pasadena. Congratulations to the Company as this new venture becomes another bright jewel in the Crown City of California.
By William Shakespeare
A Noise Within
3352 E. Foothill Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91107
Through December 16th, 2011 in repertory
Tickets and Information: 626 356 3100
Visit www . ANoiseWithin . org
Sunday, October 23, 2011
HOUSE OF GOLD (an anatomy) / Ensemble Studio Theatre
The opening scene exposes the strained relationship between the Woman and the Man (Tony Pasqualini)/the Father as she serves up sausages made from JonBenet. Director Gates McFadden (artistic director of Ensemble Theatre/LA) has woven together the disparate aspects of this odd piece nicely. Notwithstanding the disjointed and highly physical interstitials of the four buff Apollonian Boys (Chris Arvan, Josh Heine, Matt Little and Eric Schulman) who gang up to plague Jasper, the dreamlike quality of the piece is augmented by a very innovative use of ET/LA’s basic black box. With the audience seated at just the north and west walls of the space, the scenes change seamlessly. Kurt Boetcher’s bare bones set featuring rolling screens and set pieces provide for innovative videos by Alexander Mirecki throughout the play. Like the play itself, the set, populated with impressive video screens and psychedelic artwork covering the floor are augmented by William H. Parks’ projections and Drew Christie’s animations.
Any surrealist work of art is open for interpretation. Certainly, House of Gold is deliberately thought provoking in this regard. In the fifteen years since the tragic death of JonBenet, no one has been brought to trial for her murder. The introduction of a very creepy guy, Joe (Graham Sibley), (who may echo Jasper as an adult?) may be a suspect, but clearly, the real culprit in the sad demise of JonBenet’s spirit is The Woman who browbeats the little girl into submission to present herself as a sexy six year old.
A disparate detour from the story (perhaps a nod to Arthur Kopit?) involves JonBenet’s visit to Grandpop (Melvin Weiss) who seems to be stored in the attic. He may be her refuge or even a fantasy in the midst of her father’s advances and her mother’s manic goal of making her daughter a beauty queen. Keith Arthur Bolden rounds out the cast as the detective and the coroner.
The beauty of McFadden’s and her professional crew’s efforts for this production and the other shows I’ve seen at the Atwater Village Theatre is that they spend the energy and truly invest talent and cash to commit fully to the edgy and innovative productions they opt to mount. This is disturbing material and though not always clear as to the argument of the story, the actors and the tech work beautifully together to fulfill the director’s vision.
House of Gold by Gregory Moss
Ensemble Studio Theatre / LA
Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Avenue
Awater Village, CA 90039
Runs through December 4, 2011
Tickets and Information
323 644 1929
Friday, October 21, 2011
PEACE IN OUR TIME / ANTEAUS
PEACE IN OUR TIME / ANTEAUS
Anteaus’s current offering adapted by Barry Creyton from Noel Coward’s somewhat obscure drama is directed smoothly by Casey Stangl. Curtain speech by the co-directors of Anteaus mention that it is the goal of the company to not only present important and classical theatre, but to create a space for the next generation of classically trained actors for the American Stage. A noble calling, indeed. The professional presentation runs for more than two hours with an intermission.
Stangl keeps the story moving apace as it examines what life in London might have been like had the Nazis invaded and held the city during WWII. Interesting video montages separate the scenes with stock footage manipulated to show Trafalger Square and Nelson’s Column surrounded by legions of German troops with the King and Queen on hand.
There is a contract that, though unwritten, between any theatrical presentation and its audience that relies on the abandonment of disbelief ; allowing the work of the play to become more a reality than simply an evening’s entertainment. I must admit that I have a prejudice in this regard and though Anteaus productions adhere closely to maintaining the reality of their shows, in this one, the first appearance of one of those phony plastic cigarettes, frankly, bounced me wholly out of the play. Certainly, the folks in London in the forties and around the world used tobacco all the time. It may be important to the argument of the script, but, to me, it was just silly. A London pub not filled with smoke was okay, but to fake the tobacco did not make sense to me.
It’s hard to get back to the contract when the agreement is broken. The second breech of contract comes with the brilliant video montages that separate the scenes and announce the passage of time. John Apicella’s projections would have worked beautifully, had it not been for the literal explosion of over amped sound effects that accompany the images. At least one other patron literally pressed her fingers into her ears to shut out the abusive volume. Theatre of Cruelty may be okay for Artaud and in other circumstances, totally called for. However, this story, though filled with palpable tension and effective brutality, is not served by the assault that the opening night audience was subjected to.
Stangl’s ability to hone his cast to a single unit, especially as he is directing essentially two separate shows is professional. The choice to insert some of Coward’s music accompanied by Richard Levinson’s live piano in the pub is an effective one. There are stand outs in the company. Steve Hofvendahl as the pub owner, Fred Shattock, holds the cast together beautifully. Because the cast is huge and references to the character names come infrequently, a strong nod to the raven haired chanteuse is in order as well as to Shattock’s wife, Nora, played by Lily Knight. This is an ensemble piece and notwithstanding the blatant distractions noted above, if one is a fan of Antaeus and owns earplugs, it may be worth a trip to NoHo for the show. It’s a long one. The British accents are acceptable to each Brit. Not so much for the Germans and one Austrian.
Peace in Our Time by Noel Coward
The Antaeus Company @ Deaf West Theatre
5112 Lankershim Blvd.
October 20 through December 11, 2011
Tickets: 818 506 1983
Monday, October 17, 2011
IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE! ANTAEUS READING
Antaeus presents a reading of It Can’t Happen Here as part of a nation-wide effort to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Federal Theatre’s production in 1936. The dramatization of Sinclair Lewis’ satirical novel imagines an America overtaken by Fascism, tying in with the current Antaues production of Noël Coward’s Peace In Our Time which poses a similar question: what if the Nazis had successfully invaded and occupied Britain?
Written by by Sinclair Lewis and John C. Moffitt
Directed by Gigi Birmingham
Featuring John Achorn, Daniel Blinkoff, Avery Clyde, Kevin Daniels, Jeff Doba, Robert Goldsby, Arye Gross, Shannon Holt, Adrian Latourelle, William Mitchell, Angela Paton, Nicholas Podany, Joseph Ruskin, James Sutorius, Jason Thomas, and the voice of Dakin Matthews
Wednesday, Oct 26 @ 8 pm
THE ANTAEUS COMPANY@ Deaf West Theatre
5112 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood CA 91601
(one block south of Magnolia; free parking available in Citibank lot on Lankershim Blvd. South of Otsego St.)
(818) 506-1983 or www.Antaeus.org
Free (donations accepted)
Sunday, October 16, 2011
More good news
With the opening of their new ten million dollar plus theatre, A Noise Within Theatre Company has just announced their premiere Pasadena season. The Elliotts have taken the concept of "My uncle has a barn!" and "I can get some lights, let's put on a show!" to new heights. They deserve an audience. Though, once word gets out, tickets may be a challenge to obtain.
Check the ANW website for the upcoming season and ... if you are a fan of farce, check your supply of Depends and do not fail to see Noises Off revived in January in the new ANW space!
They open soon with Twelfth Night. Play on!
Monday, September 26, 2011
Google Bakersfield Mist / Fountain Theatre for details or page back to my review here. Don't miss this one!!
ANW OPEN HOUSE OCTOBER 23, 2011
Reservations are a must.
A NOISE WITHIN is located on the corner of Foothill Boulevard and Sierra Madre Villa Avenue at 3352 East Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91107. Free self parking is located in the Sierra Madre Villa Metro parking structure, with entrances on northbound Sierra Madre Villa Avenue or North Halsted Street. The Open House is free, but reservations are required and may be made by calling (626) 356-3127. www.ANoiseWithin.org.
Saturday, September 3, 2011
The Encyclopedia of Hallucinations La Luz de Jesus Gallery
If you have not visited Billy Shire's La Luz de Jesus / Wacko / Soap Plant Gallery on Hollywood Boulevard, you are missing out on a piece of Hollywood history. Originally on Melrose in the heart of hip and happening, the gallery moved to East Hollywood (just east of Vermont) bringing the feeling of Melrose to the neighborhood. The area is burgeoning with 21st century boutiques and venues.
The current show in the Gallery features the art of Rob Reger and his gal pal, Emily the Strange. Emily, for those who may not have heard, is a darkly "tween" who brooks no fools nor posers. Now a world wide phenomenon, Rob's original artwork featuring Emily and many images of kitties, is exciting collectors.
The show next door features outsider artists presented by Gordon W. Bailey including south eastern US artists including the raw emotion of Sam Doyle.
Included in the gallery with Rob's paintings are weird little critters "Misfits of the Forest" by Lauren Gardiner.
The amazing inventory of the space is worth the trip alone. Say hello to Matt Kennedy, the gallery director and tell him OnStageLosAngeles sent you. Gallery owner, Billy Shire is hard to miss. His championing of new art should be applauded.
Show closes on October 3, 2011. Parking is tough on the weekends, but not impossible.
Monday, August 29, 2011
DRAMA WEST FEST: Play Readings by the Seat of Their Pants!
DRAMA WEST FEST
Good news for Silverlake locals and fans of new theatre. In a funky little community meeting room at the Edendale Library at Sunset and Alvarado, theatre by the seat of its pants is burgeoning.
Every other month Catherine Stanley, producer and Hettie Lynne Hurtes, casting director, present a handful of very short plays in staged readings. This kind of theatre is vital to the community as it gives playwrights, actors and directors an opportunity to toss ideas into the air just to hear them on their feet. Or to see if they might fly?
Playing to a packed house (over fifty in attendance) Saturday’s performances included six clever pieces that showcased six playwrights and a healthy company of players and directors. Also included was a well written and produced short film, "Misusing Irony."
Play readings were climaxed by Mary Steelsmith’s “The Miraculous Day Quartet,” a chilling recounting of four diverse characters all somehow not where they should have been on September 11th 2001. Presented in a somewhat Beckettian manner conducted by a maestro with a baton, director Susan Stangl brought the piece in nicely.
Steelsmith has been writing plays for over thirty years and it was a pleasure to see her and remembering her one act, “WACs in Khaki” which we produced at The Company Theatre in 1981!
Playwrights, directors and actors are solicited for the Drama West Fest at the Edendale. Pieces should be no longer than ten minutes and may be presented as a staged reading. This is truly theatre by the seat of its pants.
Next readings will be presented around the last Saturday in October.
For more information producer Catherine Staley may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, August 26, 2011
Virtual Realty Comes to the Stage
“You are Dead. You are Here.” is a theatre piece in progress written by playwright Christine Evans collaborating with University of North Carolina director Joseph Megel. Story turns on actual therapy currently being developed along with a program called Virtual Iraq that literally takes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder patients back to the scene of the crime: war torn Iraq, to help them confront the issues brought on by the tragedy of being in war.
Presented at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, a beautiful complex in Playa Vista, Evans’ play will eventually be mounted using Virtual Reality programs currently in development at the ICT. Today’s reading featured Media design by Jared Mezzochi which incorporated projections including Skype images as well as use of the current Virtual Iraq program.
It was noted that not everyone thinks that having PTSD patients wading back into their traumatic situations via Virtual Iraq is a good idea. The results in the real world remain to be tallied.
The evolving use of New Media in theatre is on the cutting edge thanks to the collaboration with USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies.
Thanks to Joseph Megel, Christine Evans and Jared Mezzochi and their cast of three who are opening not only these new techniques to the stage, but helping to defuse the stigma of seeking treatment for trauma experienced by the fighting men and women of the United States.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Friday, August 5, 2011
A WHALE OF A TALE!
A Whale of a Tale: Moby Dick Rehearsed at the Lyric Theatre in Hollywood
To those of us who are fond of brilliance, it may seem as though only too much can be said about Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, and the genius of Orson Welles tends to speak for itself. Director Aliah Whitmore skillfully blends the artistry of both in Orson Welles’s Moby Dick Rehearsed, now presented by the Whitmore Eclectic at the Lyric Theatre. This play recounts the plot of Herman Melville’s novel as experienced by an intense young enthusiast, The Young Actor/Ishmael—vigorously played by Dustin Seavey—who insists that parts of this book were meant to be spoken; James Whitmore Jr.’s performance of Father Mapple’s Sermon in the following scene assures us that this is true as the words of Melville swallow the audience whole and the voice that speaks them rains fire and brimstone.
However interesting the play, this production of Moby Dick Rehearsed is not for the lazy audience member. From the beginning the audience is made to understand that more is required of them than usual: the actors bring the characters to life, but it is left to the imagination of the audience to provide the sea and the whale. This is not difficult with the strength of Ishmael’s narrative voice; Seavey’s intensity cuts through the audience’s concentration, as does that of James Whitmore Jr. and Richard Cox.
However, the monologues of the three major speaking roles were written with such strict poetics and attention to detail that any slight mistake stings the ear. Every stammer feels like a stumble and every missed rest like a record skipping. Mistakes were minimal, but noticeable; overall, they are forgivable.
The timeless passages and monologues of Moby Dick are brought to life with authenticity and all of the Gothic Realism that is signature to the style of Herman Melville. The play stays true to the words of Melville which are delivered with an intensity that transcends volume. The major speaking roles are those of James Whitmore Jr. as Captain Ahab, Dustin Seavey as Ishmael, and Richard Cox as Starbuck, all of whom capture the very essence of their characters. The remainder of the cast embodies the entire crew, whether on or off stage, with a mix of general whale ship sounds and caricatured representations—most notably Flask’s feistiness, which is embodied by Andrew Patton’s mustache, and Kate McManus’s portrayal of Pip, whose tone of voice seems to always be saying “remember, I’m a little black boy.”
At times, due to the proportions of the stage, all of the actors are crossing each other’s paths at once, weaving in and out of each other’s way. The stage becomes so busy with movement that the audience is not certain who or what to watch. Director Aliah Whitmore capitalizes on this organized confusion and the audience finds that their eyes are beginning to follow their ears; people with stiff necks should consider waiting for their pain to subside before making their visit to see this play as it will be showing through August 28th.
The grim authenticity of Melville’s work is palpable with the first glimpse of the stage. The stage itself has limitations in its depth as well as its lighting, but to master one’s limitations is to create one’s own style. It is obvious from the first scene that a harmony of relationship exists between the director and the building itself. What the stage lacks in depth it more than makes up for in width which may prove to be a hindrance to most other directors who do not possess the personal understanding of a stage that Aliah Whitmore has with her own.
Complete with lofty speeches and talented directing, the tableaus of frozen faces make this production priceless, let alone worth twenty dollars; this production of Moby Dick Rehearsed is a fun time for any active imagination.
Moby Dick Rehearsed by Orson Welles
Directed by Aliah Whitmore
The Whitmore Eclectic
The Lyric Theater
520 N. La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, Ca 90036
Tickets and Information
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8PM
Sundays at 3PM
Closes August 28th
Monday, August 1, 2011
THAR SHE BLOWS!
MOBY DICK: REHEARSED at The Lyric in Hollywood.
Orson Welles, born almost a hundred years after the birth of Herman Melville, shared some of Melville’s adventurous spirit that was evident also at an early age. Melville, born in 1819, was just 22 when he signed on a whaling ship and found himself round the Horn in the Galapagos Islands. Experiencing the sea and the hard work of whale hunting likely led to his magnificent 1851 tome, Moby Dick, known to most of us through director John Huston with Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab in the epic 1956 film. Welles has long since been recognized as a genius with his work with the Mercury Theatre and Citizen Kane. His dedication to art and new ideas blossoms these fifty some years later in Whitmore Eclectic’s production of Moby Dick: Rehearsed now playing at the Lyric.
As the audience settles, we observe various members of the cast on the periphery of the stage and learn from the Stage Manager (Director Aliah Whitmore, third generation of the acclaimed acting family) and her silent assistant Andre Verderme, that a rehearsal of the show is about to begin. They are visible off right with live music and sound effects through out, reminding us that this is, after all, a theatrical... circa late eighteen hundreds. Jacob Whitmore’s set and Grant Dun’s lights are purposely simple representations, allowing the audience to make up the difference, helping to create the reality of the tale as the actors take on multiple roles depicting the well known story. Well done costumes are not credited.
As The Young Actor, Dustin Seavey, evolves into Ishmael, who has survived alone to tell the story. Eclectic founder James Whitmore (The Governor, Father Mapple, Ahab), bursts upon the stage with all the charisma that one must have.. as Welles indeed possessed.. to command the scene, first spouting lines from King Lear as Welles himself must have read them. We learn that budget is an issue. Thus, the rigging of the Pequod is very basic with marginal props and lighting to depict the journey into the Atlantic and on to warmer waters to seek out and destroy the Leviathan who has claimed Captain Ahab’s leg. In the actors’ speeches we hear the voice of the playwright. As the actual rehearsal begins, the voice of Melville is brought to life.
The introduction of the players is telling. There is a professional pecking order in the company. Tim deZarn literally steals the scene as The Old Pro, purposely chewing the scenery from time to time. As the characters in the rehearsal come to life, the egos of the actors whom we’ve met are left behind. Also notable is Richard Cox as Starbuck, the attempted conscience of Ahab whose pleadings to abandon the vengeful hunt go unheeded.
Director Aliah Whitmore has whipped her crew into an ensemble who function as a well-tuned machine. Their physical dedication to the show is outstanding. Benches for whaling boats and rag tag suggestions of the Pequod work well.
Cross casting of talented Kate McManus as the Black Cabin Boy, Pip is a challenge. She mentions that there are no parts for women in the play, so she is cast as Pip. Her rendition works beautifully. In fact each of the ensemble members, Steve Madar, Robert Fabiani, Andrew Patton, Michael G. Welch in multiple roles are well defined as individuals.
Why the design did not include actual sails that may have been unfurled from time to time was a mystery to me as the crew hove to with ropes and pulleys as the Pequod found, at last, the White Whale. The strenuous business of the encounter is dramatic and exhausting.
Whitmore’s ensemble is a hearty and dedicated crew. The show deserves an audience.
MOBY DICK: REHEARSED
Presented by Whitmore Eclectic
520 N. La Brea
Hollywood, CA 90036
Thursday through Saturday at 8PM
Sundays at 3PM
Closes August 28, 2011
Reservations 818 826 3609
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Stephen Sachs has a winner with this one. Don't miss it!
For the full story rent Who the Blank is Jackson Pollock? Fascinating.
Monday, June 13, 2011
Mysterious Bakersfield Mist
Bakersfield Mist, written and directed by Stephen Sachs is a brilliant new play having its world premiere at The Fountain Theatre in Hollywood. It echoes the real life story of Teri Horton, a retired truck driver, who, in 1990, found a very large canvas in a thrift store in San Bernardino. The dumpster diving lady invested five bucks and her quest began. Over the years, she has been offered, ostensibly, nine million dollars for the painting. To date, she has refused to sell, citing the desire to properly vet the canvas to the abstract expressionist, Jackson Pollock. “Bakersfield Mist” references Pollock's 1950 painting “Lavender Mist” currently in the National Gallery of Art.
Jenny O’Hara as Maude Gutman limns the tougher than nails, hard drinking and smoking former bar tender who buys a painting at a local thrift store bargaining the price from five to three bucks. O’Hara’s portrayal slowly builds but is hampered slightly because the script calls for Maude to smoke. The nasty habit is one that the actor probably does not have and it shows. Certainly, Maude could be tough and hard drinking without faking the smoking. It’s a nit pick in an otherwise beautifully evolving portrayal. As with Horton’s story, Maude greets the prim and proper Art Evaluator, Lionel Percy (finely tuned Nick Ullett). former director of the Museum of Modern Art (it’s in New York, you know) who arrives in a limo to see Maude's spattered canvas. It looks as though the business will take only a few minutes. Indeed, in a ‘blink’ Percy finds Maude’s painting to be anything but authentic. And, then the tussle begins. Maude insists that it must be real: a genuine Pollock. Percy insists that it is not. But, Maude’s desperate search for Truth evokes questions that lead to doubts that lead to an examination of personal taste and the true nature of Art.
Ullett stops the show as he channels Pollock, envisioning the artist as he creates a canvas: laid out on the floor, engaging it passionately. O’Hara’s potty mouth erupts naturally and uncontrollably throughout. Later we see past her crusty shell as she reveals the hardships she has faced, exposing a thoughtful inner woman.
Set designer Jeff McLaughlin’s single wide trailer bristles beautifully with tchotchkes and clutter, setting the scene for the dance that Maude and Percy tumble into. The whole question of what art really is… how it can move the Spirit of Man and capture the soul… unfolds in ways that thoughtfully enlighten. Visions of Yasmina Reza’s award winning play, “ART,” are brought to mind as the discussion of the painting deepens. It’s a pas de deux exploring the question of who really knows best and what, exactly, is ‘good taste’ as the play digs deeper into the characters’ psyches. Sachs directs with a steady hand and the actors bring not only strong comedic touches to the story, but moments of tension, angst and drama.
Ken Booth’s lighting works well except for one odd flare from off stage right. It may have been meant to be the setting sun. Or, it may have simply been a misdirected instrument which drew attention to itself by glaring in the faces of the actors. As the show progressed I thought the light might fade. Eventually, it does, but not quickly enough for that one lone spot. Technical glitches are forgivable, but should never be so obvious as to distract from the play itself.
After watching the Tonys on television tonight, I realize anew that it is only in the living theatre where an audience is directly involved with a once in a lifetime art filled experience. Every performance is unique. These professional actors mount the stage to create their own distinctive form of art. In the moment, O’Hara and Ullett, bring this quirky story beautifully to life. This is the Real McCoy. The Art of Theatre, when presented with such care, as this show is, is undeniable.
Written and directed by Stephen Sachs
The Fountain Theatre
5060 Fountain Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90029
(Fountain at Normandie)
Tickets and information
323 663 1525
www .FountainTheatre dot com
Thursdays through Sundays
Closes July 31, 2011
$30 top (discounts for seniors and students)
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Importance of The Importance
Produced by Julie and Robert Borchard-Young for BY Experience, Susan A. Loewenberg for LA Theatre Works and Harold Wolpert for the Roundabout Theatre Company, The Importance of Being Earnest ... Oscar Wilde's comedy of manners, shines beautifully after over a hundred years. The words are brought to life by a finely tuned cast with Brian Bedford at the helm as well as playing the completely genuine Oh So Upper Class Lady Bracknell.
As an ensemble, the excellent cast performs without flaw and should have been mentioned initially:
Jayne Houdyshell (Miss Prism)
Brian Murray (Rev. Canon Chasuble)
Jessie Austrian (Gwendolen Fairfax)
David Furr (John Worthing)
Paul O'Brien (Lane)
Charlotte Parry (Cecily Cardew)
Tim MacDonald (Merriman)
Amanda Leigh Cobb (Servant)
Desmond Heeley (Set & Costume Design)
All tech credits are professional. Seeing the play in high definition, certainly, is not 'being there' but the experience is very impressive. David Hyde Pierce hosts an interview with Bedford that may have played better after the show itself. Ditto for a glimpse of the actor's transformation to Bracknell at the intermission. I prefer the illusion first and then the insights. It was a little like a magician showing the audience how she does the trick and then performing it. Too broad an analogy, but you get the idea.
Regardless, please find your way to the UCLA James Bridges Theatre (see below) or to other venues listed below for the ongoing HD performances. The play simply works. Bedford's broad strokes resound like listening to a favorite tune that one is happy to hear again and again. The sparkling wit of Wilde as he explores the issues of Class and Love in Victorian England is as fresh as it must have been in 1895.
Kudos to All Concerned for this bright idea to bring the Broadway stage to the country, indeed the whole world. Sitting in a theatre with a full audience, sharing the show with the New York audience is almost like being there. Video direction by David Stern is unobtrusive and though Bedford's staging has actors pictured at wide angles from time to time, closeups provide subtle insights that we would never see from the balcony.
The opening night audience at UCLA thoroughly enjoyed the show, as did I.
See the trailer at www.EarnestHD.com
Normally, I'll keep my reviews relatively succinct. At the request of the Roundabout Theatre Company the information for the entire series of these special HD Events is listed below. Feel free to copy and paste to friends, relatives and colleagues across the country, in foreign lands where the electricity may still be working and anywhere in the Universe they may roam.
Roundabout Theatre Company, L.A. Theatre Works and BY Experience
Announce dates & venues for international high-definition screenings
Roundabout Theatre Company’s acclaimed Broadway production of
Oscar Wilde’s comedy
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Directed by and starring Brian Bedford
Global screenings begin on June 2, 2011
Hosted by David Hyde Pierce!
To view the HD trailer visit: www.EarnestHD.com
Roundabout Theatre Company, L.A. Theatre Works and BY Experience are thrilled to announce dates and venues for the upcoming screening of Roundabout’s critically acclaimed Broadway production of Oscar Wilde’s comedy The Importance of Being Earnest, directed by and starring Brian Bedford.
The Importance of Being Earnest: Live in HD will screen across the U.S. and internationally on Thursday, June 2, 2011 and varying dates through June 28. Digitally equipped movie theaters and performing arts centers throughout the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Mexico, and throughout Europe have signed on to host special screenings.
This high-definition event brings the best of Broadway to movie audiences, and includes the added bonus of host David Hyde Pierce taking viewers backstage for special behind-the-scenes peek! Mr. Hyde Pierce says: “This delightful production of Earnest shouldn't be missed, and for the people who can't see it on Broadway, Broadway is coming to them.”
Oscar Wilde expert Michael Hackett and actor Alfred Molina will discuss the writer and the man in an intermission special.
The Importance of Being Earnest: Live in HD was captured live in high-definition from Roundabout’s American Airlines Theatre (227 West 42nd St.) and features the original cast of this new Broadway production.
The Importance of Being Earnest is a glorious comedy of mistaken identity, which ridicules codes of propriety and etiquette. Dashing men-about-town John Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff pursue fair ladies Gwendolen Fairfax and Cecily Cardew. Matters are complicated by the imaginary characters invented by both men to cover their on-the-sly activities – not to mention the disapproval of Gwendolen’s mother, the formidable Lady Bracknell.
A full list of participating cinemas, exhibition dates and ticket prices is available at www.EarnestHD.com. New venues will continue to be added.
U.S.VENUE & DATE INFORMATION:
The Loft Theater (Tuscon, AZ) – June 5
Phoenix Art Museum (Phoenix, AZ) – June 12
Downtown Independent (Los Angeles, CA) – June 9
The Gaslamp (San Diego, CA) – June 22, 23
James Bridges Theater at UCLA (Los Angeles, CA) – June 2, 5, 23, 26
La Mirada Theatre (La Mirada, CA) – June 26
Lark Theater (Larkspur, CA) – June 6
Mann Theatre (Hollywood, CA) – June 2, 7
Rialto Cinema Cerrito (El Cerrito, CA) – June 2, 13
Rialto Cinemas Elmwood (Berkeley, CA) – June 2, 7
Rialto Cinemas Sixth Street Playhouse (Santa Rosa, CA) – June 7, 14
Sierra Cinemas (Grass Valley, CA) – June 8
Sundance Kabuki (San Francisco, CA) – June 12, 13
Colorado Mountain College (Breckenridge, CO) – June 2
Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center (Old Saybrook, CT) – June 7
Quick Center for the Arts (Fairfield, CT) – June 4, 10
Douglass Theatre (Macon, GA) – June 5, 19
Kahala 8 Theater (Honolulu, HI) – June 16, 19
McKendree University (Lebanon, IL) – June 2
Music Box Theater (Chicago, IL) – June 9, 12
Notre Dame Browning Cinema (Notre Dame, IN) – June 28
The Grand Auditorium (Ellsworth, ME) – June TBC
The Lincoln Theater (Damariscotta, ME) – June 2
The Strand (Rockland, ME) – June 2, 5, 7
Avalon Theatre (Easton, MD) – June 2
Amherst Cinema (Amherst, MA) – June 2, 18, 21, 26
Cape Cinema (Dennis, MA) – June 2
Coolidge Corner (Boston, MA) – June 2
Julie Harris Stage (Wellfleet, MA) – June 4, 11, 18, 25
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center (Great Barrington, MA) – June 9
Shalin Liu Performance Center (Rockport, MA) – June 5
The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (Williamstown, MA) – June 18
Michigan Theater (Ann Arbor, MI) – June 2
Guthrie Theatre (Minneapolis, MN) – June 6
Tivoli Cinemas (Kansas City, MO) – June 13, 19
Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center (Lincoln, NE) – June 9, 12
Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth (Hanover, NH) – June 24, 25
The Music Hall (Portsmouth, NH) – June 2
Pollak Theatre at Monmouth University (West Long Branch, NJ) – June 4
The Lensic (Santa Fe, NM) – June 2
Taos Community Auditorium (Taos, NM) – June 8, 17
Cinema Arts Center (Huntington, NY) – June 2
Cinema 123 (New York, NY) – June 2, 5
Jacob Burns Film Center (Pleasantville, NY) – June 22
John Drew Theater at Guild Hall (East Hampton, NY) – June 2
Kew Gardens Cinemas (Queens, NY) – June 2 two showings
Skirball Center for the Performing Arts (New York, NY) – June 11
Spectrum 8 Theatres (Albany, NY) – June 2, 5, 12, 13
Staller Center, SUNY Stony Brook (Stony Brook, NY) – June 2
Time & Space Limited (Hudson, NY) – June 2, 4, 11, 12
Hanesbrands Theatre (Winston-Salem, NC) – June TBC
Lumina Theater at UNCW (Wilmington, NC) – June 2
Sunrise Theater (Southern Pines, NC) – June 2 two showings
Cedar Lee Theatre (Cleveland Height, OH) – June 22, 26
Circle Cinema (Tulsa, OK) – June 9
Newport Performing Arts Center (Newport, OR) – June 24
Third Rail Rep at the World Trade Center Theater (Portland, OR) – June 2, 12
Allentown Symphony Hall (Allentown, PA) – June 2, 10
Ambler Theater (Ambler, PA) – June 2, 5, 12
Bryn Mawr Film Institute (Bryn Mawr, PA) – June 2, 5
County Theater (Doylestown, PA) – June 2, 5
Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center at Mercyhurst College (Erie, PA) – June 2
Oaks Theater (Oakmont, PA) – June 2, 5
Jane Pickens Theater, Event Center (Newport, RI) – June 2
Paradiso Cinema (Memphis, TN) – June 12, 14
Angelika Film Center (Dallas, TX) – June 8, 9
Angelika Film Center (Plano, TX) – June 12, 14
Catamount Arts (St. Johnsbury, VT) - June 2, 4
Town Hall Theater/Opera Company (Middlebury, VT) – June 12
The Paramount Theater (Charlottesville, VA) – June 4 two showings
Shakespeare Theatre Company, Sidney Harman Hall (Washington, DC) – June 28
The Lincoln Theater (Mount Vernon, WA) – June 2, 12
Rose Theatre (Port Townsend, WA) – June 4, 11, 12, 18
SIFF Cinema (Seattle, WA) – June 2, 5
Sundance Cinemas (Madison, WI) – June 25, 27
The Importance of Being Earnest: Live in HD cast features the original company of this new Broadway production featuring Dana Ivey as “Miss Prism,” Paxton Whitehead as “Rev. Canon Chasuble,” Santino Fontana as “Algernon Moncrieff,” David Furr as “John Worthing,” Tim MacDonald as “Merriman,” Paul O’Brien as “Lane,” Charlotte Parry as “Cecily Cardew,” Sara Topham as “Gwendolen Fairfax” and Amanda Leigh Cobb as “Servant.” The design team includes Desmond Heeley (Sets & Costumes), Duane Schuler (Lights) and Drew Levy (Sound).
Elysa Gardner of USA Today says “Roundabout Theatre Company's Broadway production of Wilde’s most famous play is delightful! Bedford proves a perfect fit for Earnest's juiciest character”. Charles Isherwood of the New York Times says: “The great actor Brian Bedford is brilliant in this funny and effervescent production. It’s one of the great performances of the season; to miss it would most definitely look like carelessness.” Scott Brown of NY Magazine says Earnest is “Funny as hell!” And Charles Spencer of the London Telegraph exclaims: “Brian Bedford’s production is the finest ‘Importance’ I have ever seen.”
The Importance of Being Earnest: Live in HD was filmed and is being distributed to movie theaters and performing arts centers globally by New York-based BY Experience.
Executive Producers for cinema are Julie Borchard-Young and Robert Borchard-Young for BY Experience, Susan A. Loewenberg for L.A. Theatre Works, and Harold Wolpert for Roundabout Theatre Company.
Lead funding for this project is provided by the Sidney E. Frank Foundation.
Due to demand, the critically acclaimed Broadway engagement of The Importance of Being Earnest was extended 17-weeks through Sunday, July 3rd, 2011. The Stratford Shakespeare Festival presented an acclaimed production of The Importance of Being Earnest, directed by and starring Brian Bedford, in 2009.
BROADWAY TICKET INFORMATION:
Tickets are available by calling Roundabout Ticket Services at (212)719-1300, online at www.roundabouttheatre.org or at the American Airlines Box Office (227 West 42nd Street). Ticket prices range from $72.00-122.00.
To become a Roundabout subscriber visit www.roundabouttheatre.org or call Roundabout Ticket Services (212)719-1300.
The Importance of Being Earnest plays Tuesday evenings at 7:00PM, Wednesday through Saturday evening at 8:00PM with Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00PM.
ABOUT ROUNDABOUT THEATRE COMPANY:
Roundabout Theatre Companyis a not-for-profit theatre dedicated to providing a nurturing artistic home for theatre artists at all stages of their careers where the widest possible audience can experience their work at affordable prices. Roundabout fulfills its mission each season through the revival of classic plays and musicals; development and production of new works by established playwrights and emerging writers; educational initiatives that enrich the lives of children and adults; and a subscription model and audience outreach programs that cultivate loyal audiences.
Roundabout Theatre Companycurrently produces at three permanent homes each of which is designed specifically to enhance the needs of the Roundabout's mission. Off-Broadway, the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre, which houses the Laura Pels Theatre and Black Box Theatre, with its simple
sophisticated design is perfectly suited to showcasing new plays. The grandeur of its Broadway home on 42nd Street, American Airlines Theatre, sets the ideal stage for the classics. Roundabout's Studio 54 provides an exciting and intimate Broadway venue for its musical and special event productions. Together these three distinctive venues serve to enhance the work on each of its stages.
American Airlines is the official airline of Roundabout Theatre Company. Roundabout productions are made possible, in part, with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; the New York State Council on the Arts, celebrating 50 years of building strong, creative communities in New York State’s 62 counties; and the City of New York Theater Subdistrict Council, LDC and the City of New York.
Roundabout Theatre Company’s 2010-2011 season features Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, starring and directed by Brian Bedford; Tennessee Williams’ The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore starring Olympia Dukakis, directed by Michael Wilson; Anything Goes starring Sutton Foster & Joel Grey, directed & choreographed by Kathleen Marshall; David West Read’s The Dream of the Burning Boy, directed by Evan Cabnet; Dart, Stoller, Butler’s The People in the Picture, starring Donna Murphy, directed by Leonard Foglia; Stone, Meehan & Yeston’s Death Takes a Holiday, directed by Doug Hughes.
Roundabout Theatre Company’s 2011-2012 will feature Bob Fosse’s Dancin’, directed by Graciela Daniele; Stephen Karam’s Sons of the Prophet, directed by Peter DuBois; John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, directed by Sam Gold.
ABOUT L.A. THEATRE WORKS:
L.A. Theatre Works (LATW) has been recording award-winning audio versions of stage plays, musicals, and novels for nearly three decades. Founded in 1974, LATW, under the leadership of Producing Director, Susan Albert Loewenberg, is a non-profit theatre and media arts organization which marries innovative forms of technology with timeless and compelling stories. LATW's long-running weekly radio show, L.A. Theatre Works, is heard on NPR stations nationwide, and its unprecedented collection of over 400 recordings is available in thousands of libraries, via iTunes, Amazon, in bookstores and direct from LATW.org. Plays are recorded in front of live audiences (The Play's the Thing) with America's top actors as well as in the studio, and the company tours nationally with its radio-style productions. L.A. Theatre Works recordings are made available for secondary education (Alive & Aloud, for middle and high schools) and to under-served communities (Library Access), and now to higher education through its recently launched The Play's the Thing for Higher Education project, a digital database of plays indexed for use in scholarly research and college and university instruction.
Recent recordings include Lucy Prebble’s Enron, starring Steven Weber, Greg Germann & Amy Pietz, directed by Rosalind Ayres; Kenneth Lonergan’s This Is Our Youth, starring Mark Ruffalo, Josh Hamilton and Missy Yager, directed by Mark Brokaw; Terry Johnson’s The Graduate, starring Kathleen Turner and Matthew Rhys, directed by John Rubinstein; Tartuffe starring Brian Bedford, directed by Rosalind Ayres; Arcadia starring Kate Burton, Peter Paige, Gregory Itzin, directed by John Rubinstein; Jon Robin Baitz’s The Paris Letter, starring Ron Rifkin, Neil Patrick Harris, Josh Radnor and Patricia Wettig, directed by Peter Levin; and Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin In The Sun, starring Judyann Elder, Corey Hawkins and Rutina Wesley, directed by Lou Bellamy.
ABOUT BY EXPERIENCE:
BY Experience kicked off the digital revolution of live events to movie theaters and other locations globally with David Bowie’s 2003 Reality album launch and since then, nearly 10 million tickets have been sold worldwide for events BY Experience has distributed and/or produced. BY Experience introduced the live in cinema concept to the Metropolitan Opera, and from conception of the Live in HD series in 2006 to the present, has served as the Met’s Worldwide HD Distribution Representative. In 2009, BY Experience began working with the U.K.’s National Theatre as International (ex-UK) Distribution Representative for National Theatre Live, now in its second season. BY Experience teamed up with The New York Times on its speaker’s series, TimesTalks LIVE for select cinema events with authors John Irving and Steven King, and the creators of ABC’s hit series Lost (2009 - 2010). Additionally, BY Experience has produced, distributed, and executive produced several highly successful unique one off events for cinemas, including the public radio shows A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor (February and October 2010) and This American Life – Live! with Ira Glass (April 2008 and May 2009), several high profile concerts includingThe Big Four: Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax (June 2010), BBC Electric Proms: Robbie Williams (October 2009), David Gilmour: Remember That Night — Live from the Royal Albert Hall (September 2007), and the classic music celebrations BBC Last Night of the Proms (September 2009 and September 2010). For more information, visit: www.byexperience.net
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