Sunday, March 25, 2012

Circle X Goes Naked Before God

Naked Before God, Circle X Theatre’s World Premiere at [Inside] the Ford is slightly reflective of the issues in the raunchy cable sitcom Californication. There are laughs and an odd family situation that just might work for Reality TV.

Playwright/Director Leo Geter has conceived a situation steeped in silly dramatics that hits the stage at sixty miles an hour and for two fast paced acts seldom lets up. There are sex jokes, plot twists and moments of base stupidity.

Kristen (effusive Jennifer A. Skinner) and Vinnie (spot on Larry Clarke) are former Adult Film stars, who, through a miscalculated on set ejaculation twenty years ago have created a son, (a studly, not gay, gay porn star wannabe who doesn’t have the shoulders to be a ‘top) Duncan (Morgan McClellan), who is now almost nineteen years of age.

In the first five minutes, dildoes retrieved from a pot of boiling water foreshadow what’s to come. Duncan, after filming his first audition (it’s for the Internet!!) brings home his sex scene partner “Nick from Kansas” (equally studly Christopher Foley) who says he’s on the lam from his angry uncle back home for having sex with his, Nick’s, cousin who isn’t related by blood. Really?

Why this ménage is set in Phoenix is not clear. It’s equally hot in Chatsworth in the summer time as heat has something to do with risky business in the second act involving helicopters and the Afghan translator, Octavio (Aly Mawji), holding folks at gunpoint in the back yard by the pool.

The plot gets curiouser and curiouser (my spell check would like to substitute “curio user” and “carouser” here!!) with the arrival of news of … well, that would be a spoiler alert that leads to more histrionics from Kristen whose only excuse for going over the top is that she is… AN ACTRESS !!!! Christian radio personality, Barry (William Salyers) and Jen Kays as Duncan’s preggers wife, Carly, keep up the frantic pace. To his credit, director Geter manages to have his actors all on the same page. Performances are dedicated and consistent.

Circle X tries new things. Good on them. This World Premiere is from their writers’ group attached to the company. It is a bold first effort. Naked Before God, a broad farce, is immature and masturbatory, which may have been the goal. Decent tech credits from Brian Sidney Bembridge.

Naked Before God

Written and directed by Leo Geter

Presented by Circle X Theatre Company

Opened Mar 24, 2012

Plays Thur-Sat 8 pm; Sun 2 pm and 7 pm

Through Apr 28, 2012

Tickets: $25

[Inside] the Ford at the Ford Theatres complex,

2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood 90068

323-461-3673 (323-GO-1-FORD). www.

***Recommended for mature audiences, 17+

Monday, March 19, 2012

World Premiere The Many Mistresses of MLK

Ensemble Studio Theatre L.A.’s world premiere of The Many Mistresses of Martin Luther King by Andrew Dolan is a very well placed step toward keeping the essence of important theatre alive. At rise Janine (beautiful Judith Moreland) addresses the audience: a lecture hall full of students who may (or most likely may not) have done their homework. She discusses the essential job of the Chorus in Greek Drama and in so doing, she acts, at least in part, as the Chorus herself.

Dolan’s play is about race. The title of the play mirrors the title of a novel written by the maverick college professor, Simon, intensely portrayed by Philip Casnoff. The book, also provocative, discusses the indiscretions of Reverend King through the eyes of his paramours.

Director, Rod Menzies’s, gentle hand elicits the best from his players. A fine cast brings the text to life. They embody their characters beautifully. The only problem with the script has to do with time. In the first scene we discover the relationship between Simon and the terrific Tracey A. Leigh as Lashawna in full bloom. Then, oddly, with a scene change, student Lashawna arrives at the professor’s home to turn in a late assignment. Flashbacks and oddly disjointed scenes eventually come together, but the linear pathway has been abandoned, leaving the audience to do more work than might be necessary. Not that a challenge to chronological order is a bad thing, but in a couple of circumstances, figuring out Who’s on First becomes the focus when in a more linear presentation, the basic argument might have made more sense. It seemed to be a device for the sake of the device. Though the considerable age difference between Lashawna and Simon might have some tongues wagging, the fact that Lashawna is a black woman and Simon is white man might also add to the chatter.

Time slips and slides. Two couples, Lashawna married to Simon and Janine to Augustus (Carlos Carasco) are all teachers at an unnamed university. They socialize. In a minor subplot, Simon’s teen daughter, lost to divorce, is drawn to Janine and Augustus’s twenty year old son. Friction regarding race and stereotypes emerges with the introduction into the household of Lashawna’s brother, Anquan (Theo Perkins), an aspiring basketball player and petty thief.

This is a heady play with ironic twists and turns, mostly well laid out. Though not impossible to follow, references to the assassination of MLK in 1968 and Simon’s book coinciding with his book tour regarding the supposed sexual dalliances that the Civil Rights leader climax with heavy emotional results.

Excellent set by scenic designer, Tom Buderwitz. Well executed lighting by J. Kent Inasy.

World Premiere

The Many Mistresses of Martin Luther King

By Andrew Dolan

Presented by Ensemble Studio Theatre L.A.

Atwater Village Theatre

3269 Casitas Avenue

Atwater Village, CA 90039

Through April 29, 2012

www. ensemblestudiotheatrela. org

Phone 323 644 1929

$25.00 Top

Friday, March 2, 2012


Walking on Turtle Island

From the ‘res’ to the land of lakes to the great north west to a prison cell, actor/ playwright Robert Owens-Greygrass tells his stories of Native Americans, shape shifting through many ‘skins’ with poise and purpose.

Photo Credit: Craig Schwartz

His mild polemic discourses the peaceful lives of the red man in the Old Days living with the Old Ways in harmony with Mother Earth in peace and happiness. Then, the coming of the white man and the white man’s edicts pushing and shoving onto the North American Continent: Turtle Island. More money has been spent on Susan Sharpf’s well constructed set than necessary. An empty space, a simple bench, a table and a rocking chair would have easily been brought to life with the actor’s expertise. Owens-Greygrass takes stage with simple rituals and honed acting skills guided subtly by director Kevin Sifuentes. The audience is welcomed into the circle, into the ceremony of respect for each other and Mother Earth.

With simple and subtle changes of attitude, Owens-Greygrass brings us to know a young Rosebud boy, a dreamer who is taught the Old Ways by his grandfather, as they stand one foot in modern times and the other in ancient lands.

In Minnesota, we hear the story of Night Flying Woman, Ojibwe, beginning with her in her eightieth year and then easily swung back into her childhood where overwhelming conquerors seek to tear her from her roots.

In Oregon, The Warrior, Tyee John decries being displaced from pillar to post and back again, angry and confused at the so called laws that now govern Turtle Island, where before the western expansion and the yellow metal fever, there were no cages, no prisons.

In a no-name jailhouse, perhaps in Gallup or points south, Jesse White Toes, a drunken ‘breed, rambles unhappily until Spirit Grandfather appears to guide him through his sad state of affairs.

Finally, Res Boy returns, now a man, a discharged medic home from Iraq to honor his grandfather’s grave with his story of becoming a western medicine man at Stanford: a doctor.

Without a doubt, the inevitable invasion of Europeans across the North American continent has wreaked havoc among the First Americans. To see Owens-Greygrass’s portrayal of each of these characters, sculpted, fine tuned with sincerity and passion is a moving experience. The playwright / actor brings his stories to life with precision, good humor and deep pathos. What a pleasant surprise to experience one person owning the stage for just the right length of time to charm his audience and share his tales. Walking on Turtle Island is a must see.

Walking on Turtle Island

With Ghostlands of an Urban NDN

Written and performed by Robert Owens-Greygrass

Wells Fargo Theater at The Autry National Center

4700 Western Heritage Way

Los Angeles, CA 90027

Tickets and Information


323 667 2000 ext. 299

$20 Top ($10 students/military/seniors)

Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra at ANW

(l-r) Diana Gonzalez-Morret (Iras), Susan Angelo (Cleopatra), Geoff Elliott
(Antony), and Jill Hill (Charmian) Photo: Craig Schwartz

A Noise Within in Pasadena opens its spring repertory season with Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. Tom Buderwitz’s stark scenic design features broken columns which may foretell the harsh dissolution of the lovers (Geoff Elliott: Antony and Susan Angelo : Cleopatra) through the oft told story of their stormy relationship. Directed jointly by ANW’s founders Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, their innovative staging mostly works through the almost three hour production. The story of the historic lovers meanders through early years of what might easily be called the couple’s debauchery and on to harsher times.

Aldous Huxley once said, “Old Shakespeare for example. How many critical brains have been deceived by the quickness of his tongue? … We credit him withphilosophy, a moral purpose and the most penetrating psychology. Whereas his thoughts are incredibly confused, his only purpose is to entertain…” He goes on to credit the Bard with creating a ‘real’ character from real life, Cleopatra, and says, “His (Shakespeare’s) boundless capacity for abracadabra has deceived innumerable people into imagining that all the other characters are as good.”

I could not disagree more. Though the validity of the Works of Shakespeare may be doubted, debated and otherwise taken to task, to me, Cleo is marginal in her authenticity. I choose to find Will’s more familiar characters much more three dimensional than as she is drawn in this play. That said, I found the broad presentation of all the characters in this production to be evenly portrayed, with the vigor that a well mounted Shakespearean tragedy must contain. Sadly, the only line familiar to me from the entire script is Antony’s “I am dying, Egypt.” For me it was none too soon.

Thankfully, the Elliotts have included some wonderful physical action with soldiers and pirates swinging on ropes and finally hoisting poor Antony up to Cleopatra as he dies. Serious cutting might have let the audience take flight in under two hours, which would have been a good idea. For true fans of A Noise Within and this play, go for the action. As for the words, words, words… there are certainly a lot of them.


By William Shakespeare

A Noise Within

3352 East Foothill Blvd.

Pasadena, CA 91107

In Repertory through May 13, 2012

Tickets and information

626 356-3100 X 1

$46 top