Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Cheer at ANW
Ensemble Cast for A Noise Within's A Christmas Carol
Alistair Sim may always hold first place for Best Scrooge in the 1951 film version of Charles Dickens’  A Christmas Carol.  Certainly, the production many years ago at Cal State Long Beach of Kenneth Rugg’s adaptation featuring huge pages of the story turning on stage to reveal in a pop up book the familiar chapters of how an unhappy man is led to understand the joy of living is memorable.  However, A Noise Within’s Geoff Elliott (Scrooge and the adaptor of Dickens’ story to the Pasadena stage) has accomplished a feat.  When Geoff and his lovely co-director Julia Roderiguez-Elliott got together for this one, the idea must have been to make it fun.  And, fun it is. 

Company member Robertson Dean, takes stage to narrate the story as it unfolds.   A wide variety of accents are sprinkled through the characters’ speeches, but all in all, the familiar lines and larger than life characters bring this old chestnut to life.

The ensemble shines. The familiar story unfolds with new twists and favorite members of the company take multiple roles bringing the Cratchitts, Scrooge and the Ghosts back from the dusty shelf. 

Mitchell Edmonds as Marley’s Ghost rattles chains that literally rattle the audience.  It’s broad and appropriate.  Clever set design by Jeanine A. Ringer accomplishes what ANW always excels at: efficient changes that become a part of the show.   The thrust stage accommodates moving platforms and set pieces that harmonize with Ken Booth’s intricate lighting to bring the story in beautifully in one act: smooth as silk.

Deborah Strang showing poor Scrooge his years gone by, as the Ghost of Christmas Past enters swinging.  Ebenzer has spent so much of his time toiling to make more and more money that it is only as Dickens drags him through lost love and opportunity that he realizes, step by step his sad fate.   He encounters Christmas Present (Alan Blumenfeld towers) and Kevin Rico Angulo as Christmas Future menacing and forboding.

The large protean ensemble members become revelers and harbingers of tidings, not always of comfort and joy.  Stand out D`amaso J. Rodriguez as Tiny Tim, only has to recite his familiar line to bring the story full circle and leave the audience ready to embrace the holiday season. 

A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens
(Adapted for the stage by Geoff Elliott)
A Noise Within
3352 East Foothill Boulevard
Pasadena, CA 91107
Through December 23, 2012
Tickets and Information
626 356-3500 ext. 1
www. A NoiseWithin . org

Monday, October 22, 2012

It's A Dilemma at ANW

The Doctor’s Dilemma
Geoff Elliott and Jules Wilcox Photo by Craig Schwartz


A Noise Within continues with its second season in its beautiful new space in Pasadena with G.B. Shaw’s The Doctor’s Dilemma.  The biting wit and social commentary written over a hundred years ago is interestingly contemporary.  Who lives and who dies we pretty much allow the medical profession to decide.  Before the National Health in Great Britain it fell to individuals to take care of their own medical needs,  or else.  Thus, we hear Sir Coleman Ridgeon (Geoff Elliott)  who, with his cronies Sir Patrick Cullen (Apollo Dukakis), Sir Ralph Blomfield Bonington (Robertson Dean) and Cutler Walpole (Freddy Douglas),  discusses the medical issues of the day. Tended by Ridgeon's ever faithful servant (ever crusty Deborah Strang),    Walpole is a germophobe who diagnoses every symptom as blood poisoning. Bonington rants and Cullen, most likely the actual voice of the playwright,  dishes G.B. Shaw as a cynic and holds Mary Baker Eddy’s Christian Scientists with disdain as they tend to deny being ill!

Slinky Mrs. Jennifer Dubedat (sly Jules Willcox)  comes to Ridgeon with a plea to save her husband, Louis (Jason Dechert) a skillful artist who is suffering from TB.  However, Ridgeon's friend, Dr. Blenkinsop, also needs his attention. How can he choose who may be more a boon to mankind?  Ridgeon is swayed by his attraction to Jennifer (as are all of his pals).  His dilemma comes down to whom to save.  The sad ethical twist takes a while to be revealed.

At two hours and forty minutes with the intermission, director Dámaso Rodriguez asks a lot from the opening night audience whose enthusiasm throughout was responsive.  Susan Gratch’s sets and again extraordinary attention to skillful scene changes by liveried stage hands is a dance that speaks to the professional approach of Pasadena’s Classical Theatre Company.

Performances are broad. Rodriguez keeps the dialogue rolling, but it’s still an evening approaching three hours in length. Grasping Shaw’s commentary, is possible, but, it could have been done by Moliere in a quick romp, leaving the audience chuckling at the final curtain.

The Doctor’s Dilemma
By George Bernard Shaw
A Noise Within
3352 E. Foothill Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91107
626 356 3100
Tickets  $52 Top
In repertory through December  2012

Saturday, October 20, 2012


You Can’t Take It With You

Anteaus Theatre Company is brimming with a family of dedicated theatre people.  Certainly, many of them have done well in feature films and television, which pays the rent, but their loyalty to the Theatre is a calling that few can truly understand.  Helen Hayes was reported to have said something to the effect that ‘he gave a great performance’ pointing up that when an actor puts on a character and hits the stage, it’s a gift to the audience.  Making money as an actor is an iffy business and doing the sort of theatre that we are gifted with by Anteaus isn’t making anybody rich.  However, the rich gifts that are offered in Kaufman and Hart’s silly play currently offered up at Deaf West Theatre in NoHo are a bargain that should be savored: twice.  A tradition that Anteaus continues is a good one. Two casts, The Kirbys reviewed here and on alternate dates The Sycamores present a classic American comedy.  Imaginative director Gigi Bermingham has her hands full with over thirty actors to keep track of.  Fortunately, these professionals step up to the plate, making Bermingham’s job that of inspiring and fine tuning an excellent cast.

  The Kirbys Cast is made up of dedicated actors who jete, amble, ramble, scurry, scramble, stroll, limp and hustle on Tom Buderwitz’s gorgeous 1930s set.  From time to time we hear and FEEL (thanks to Jeff Gardner’s vibrating sound design) an explosion from the basement where the family patriarch, Paul Sycamore (Marcelo Tubert), maintains his illegal fireworks factory with his quirky assistant, Mr. Depinna (Tony Abetemarco).  Like The Munsters, we have one ‘normal’ ingénue who works on Wall Street, perfectly cast Lizzie Zerebko as Alice Sycamore.  Lithe and lovely, she’s head over heels about Tony Kirby, Jr. (Jeremy Glazer) whom she met working in Tony’s father’s firm. This is young love at its most romantic. 

As Mom Penny (Perfectly charming Julia Fletcher) knocks out plays on a typewriter (that was delivered to the Sycamore home by mistake) and daughter Essie (very flexible Linda Park) practices her interpretive dance around the living room/dining room/family room table, her husband, Ed Carmichael (Michael Hyland) ‘creates’ Moonlight Sonata on his xylophone when not printing out quotes from Trotsky and delivering wife, Essie’s candy which she creates in the Sycamore kitchen.

It’s a three ring circus with Grandpa Vanderhof (the amazing and fabulous and dedicated Joseph Ruskin) administering his avuncular wisdom: the calm center of the maelstrom.  I have to insert a disclaimer here.  Joe Ruskin is a pal.   He has been one of those actors whom we have seen for most of our lives in hundreds of edgy roles as a dedicated working actor. His success stems from his being present and accounted for.  Recipient of the Ralph Morgan Award from the Screen Actors Guild and deeply engaged in the working conditions of actors for many years, not only is his well seasoned take on Grandpa Vanderhof endearing, it reflects his dedication to the craft of acting.  Experiencing Joe bring this character to life with such grace is a pleasure that I’ll always remember.  His real life daughter, Alicia, was my agent for many years and her dedication to representing actors is a direct reflection of her dad’s professional ethic. 

We now return to our regularly scheduled review.

It’s a simple story.  A ‘normal’ daughter has emerged in the middle of a wild and crazy family. Every single character is crisp and funny. Penny wants one of her play scripts to be interpreted by a professional and hauls an actress, Gay Wellington (adorable Janellen Steininger) home to do a reading. Gay is a fabulous drunk and passed out on the couch when Tony brings his hoity toity parents, Mr. and Mrs. Kirby (straight from Central Casting in the best sense: Josh Clark and Shannon Holt) to meet Alice’s parents.  Russian dance master, Boris Kolekov (over the top and having way too much fun to the delight of everyone, Jeff Doba) who blows in from the Steppes regularly to instruct Essie in ‘la danse’ creates havoc. Ms Holt returns with a flourish as Olga, a deposed Russian Royal, currently waiting tables in Times Square.

Tech credits are all super with nods to A. Jeffrey Schoenberg’s costumes and Heather Ho’s props.  Director Bermingham’s subtle hand in broad strokes has created a hit in every sense of the word. It’s a straightforward comedy that reminds us all that having a little fun is what life should really be about.  To quote a phrase, “Don’t Postpone Joy.”  Please see this show more than once.  Invest in great theatre. You Can’t Take It With You! 

By George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart
Directed by Gigi Birmingham
5112 Lankershim
NoHo, CA 91601
Through December 9, 2012
Tickets: $34 Top
818 506 1983
Highly recommended!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mamet + Taper = Political Romp

NOVEMBER by David Mamet

Greeted by a gorgeous replica of the Oval Office, complete with the Great Seal of the United States (the eagle should have had arrows in both claws) by Takeshi Kata, it shows once again that the Mark Taper Forum will not spare the horses when presenting top of the line theatre.  If the set is any indication of the fun to come, the audience is primed for a treat.

David Mamet’s 2008 Broadway hit comes to the Taper with no holds barred. From the first line, the playwright’s biting satire and clever images bring to mind exactly what may be wrong with the way the world works.  President Charles Smith (the wonderfully wonky Ed Begley, Jr.) rants with typical Mamet expletives aided and abetted by the excellent Rod McLachlan as Archer Brown, the President’s Chief of Staff, who matches Begley line for line.

 “Why won’t they vote for me?” 

“Because they all hate you, Chuck!” 

It’s just before the Big Election and President Smith is in big trouble. Not only can he not handle the country nor his blabbermouth wife, nor his brilliant head speech writer, Clarice Bernstein (versatile and facile Felicity Huffman), but there’s trouble with the Turkey Lobby (the bird, not the nation). Unnamed Turkey and Turkey By-Products Manufacturers’ Representative (frenetic Todd Weeks) has arrived at the White House expecting the President to exercise his executive office in the traditional Pardoning of the Turkeys (two Big Birds who must be given an opportunity to smell the President’s hands before the upcoming telecast.)  The chaos ramps up.

Mamet hits a beautiful stride with this farcical romp.  The business of Quid Pro Quo turns the tables on President Smith when he attempts to match wits with a First Nation Leader, Dwight Grackle (Gregory Cruz), who is prepared to build a 4000 room casino on half of Nantucket Island.

About the time Smith gets the Turkey Rep to cave in to his ridiculous demands for two hundred million dollars, another glitch crashes the scene.  It’s pure Mamet and pure comedy. It’s timely and echoes the suspicions that half of the country must have had about the Oval Office for most of the first decade of the 21st century.  Mamet echoes through Clarice, the lesbian speech writer, beautiful sentiments that can only be heard if Smith agrees to marry her and her partner, Daisy.

Director, Scott Zigler, has this cast rolling at first light and it never lets down in the fast paced ninety minutes.  Staging in the wordy show is punctuated with clever physical business that never misses a beat in the dialogue.  Those offended by Mamet’s fast and loose language choices may even find that it sounds natural and funny and appropriate in an Oval Office where decorum has been chucked out the window. 

This is simply brilliant theatre.

By David Mamet
Mark Taper Forum/
Center Theatre Group
Music Center 135 N. Grand
Los Angeles, CA
Tickets:  213 972 7231
$20 - $75.00
Through November 4, 2012
Dark on Monday
Click on photo for full information.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ensemble takes a look at The Troubles

Continuing with their examination of war and its effects on human beings, The Belle of Belfast is a welcome World Premiere at Ensemble Studio Theatre Los Angeles at the Atwater Village Theater.   


How religion has divided human beings one from another is not a mystery.  When we are indoctrinated into any formal (or informal, for that matter) belief system, those beliefs become Truth.  And, if my truth trumps your truth, you lose and I win or we fight and we all lose.  Playwright Nate Rufus Edelman examines these issues in this world premiere presentation.

The Irish are a lovely lot.  In a Simpsons episode a while back the show parodied the different ‘Heavens’ where the “saved” might go.  The Irish Catholics were portrayed on a cloud that featured donnybrooks and booze.  When folks lean toward a wee drop and a dust up, this sets the scene, at least in part, for The Troubles that plagued Northern Ireland for over twenty years.  The loyalist Catholics and the Protestants had issues that divided their country in a vicious way.  Anne Malloy (effective Sarah Gise), is a ‘wild child’ orphaned when a bomb blast claimed her parents when she was just eleven. Now seventeen, she struggles with all the angst of any girl her age, exacerbated by deep feelings of abandonment and an escalating lust for the local priest, Father Ben Reilly (the excellent Daniel Blinkoff).  Blinkoff manages to capture at once the deep conviction that must hold sway for anyone taking the cloth and believably shows the struggle we imagine any man might face when confronted with undeniable urges.

In the Irish film The Magdalene Sisters, the penetrating heartbeat thrum of the bodhran narrates the first reel with genuine passion. The Irish frame drum is heard again here in the pre-show. It is 1985 in Belfast. Illustrated with projected slides of cheeky Irish kids, marches in the streets and the detritus of civil war the tension is passionate and palpable.  The music is not credited, but may have been The Chieftains or The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem who even still today share the heart of Irish music around the world. Penny whistle and fiddle skim over the resonate beat and musically set the scene. Belfast is a battlefield where there ought to be peace. The music melds well with Pablo Santiago’s lighting and spare scenic design by Hana S. Kim.

Elderly Emma Malloy (the wonderful Carol Locatell) attempts to make her confession to the amiable Father Reilly.  In fact, she is a lonely lady, the great aunt of Anne.  She is frustrated that her great niece is out of control. She steals a moment near the end of the play when she makes her final confession.

Feckin’, arse and bollocks salt and pepper the text not only through Anne, but the priests themselves as they gossip in the rectory. Bill Meleady as the elder priest, Father Dermot Behan, may be a bit too stereotypically a drunk, where moderation in the character might show not only a touch of sympathy, but decorum as well.    However, director Claudia Weill, has her actors in check for the most part and the well defined characters are sad and funny and touching.

The accents are not Ulster, thank goodness, and mostly consistent.  The women were more difficult to understand than the men.  Anne’s girlfriend, Clara Murphy (spot on Caitlin Gallogly who could easily have played Anne as well) is a handy foil. Her special moment is delivered in a tender rendition of the last verse of a haunting Irish ballad, The Parting Glass, to honor their school chum who has perished in a bomb blast which virtually rocks the theater.

Though the lesson of the play is not to understand The Troubles, per se, we do become deeply involved in the motives and ethics of the characters as their lives unfold in this time of war, well told in Edelman’s play.  

Please go to see it for yourself.

The Belle of Belfast
By Nate Rufus Edelman
Ensemble Studio Theatre Los Angeles
At The Atwater Village Theater
3269 Casitas Avenue
Atwater, CA 90039

Through October 28, 2012 in repertory 
with Year of the Rabbit

323 644 1929

Monday, October 1, 2012

Shakespeare, et al? Cymbeline at ANW


 (l-r) Jarrett Sleeper (Guiderius) and Adam Haas Hunter(Cloten) Photo by Craig Schwartz

The story of Cymbeline as retold by A Noise Within in its season opener brings good news and bad news.  The good news is that Pasadena’s Classic Theatre Company kicks off its season with nowhere else to go but up.  The bad news follows: Director Bart DeLorenzo presents the conceit that Will himself may have taken, it’s just a play. The stage is set with an ancient work light in anticipation of the curtain’s rise.  Various props from other of Shakespeare’s plays are strewn on the steps to the stage itself.  The show begins with a flourish as we quickly are given glimpses of Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello and others of The Bard’s more familiar stories. It is as though with Cymbeline Shakespeare just tossed them all into a hat, pulling them out with a little narration:  a story of a girl pretending to be a boy, an old man played by a woman (for reasons that escape me) and a panoply of characters who strut and bellow… a lot.

When at the intermission (of the two and a half hour evening) one over hears a member of the audience declare that the scene changes are very smooth, it’s a sign of something missing.  What’s missing here is a company of players who are all on the same page.  Of them all, veteran actor Time Winters as Pisanio and Gaoler screws his courage to any sticking point as best he can and with decent mastery of the language he brings his characters to life.

Adam Haas Hunter plays the handsome swain Posthumus as well as the boorish fop,  Cloten.  Cleverly, at rise, both are on the stage at the same time while narrators in evening suits set up the story. King Cymbeline (Joel Swetow) sorely needs his daughter, Imogen, (Helen Sadler), to marry well, but she’s already married to a commoner, Posthumus.  Although Posthumus is uncommonly an okay guy and really in love with Imogen, he gets banished right off the bat only to return to the stage as  the wicked Queen’s (Francia DiMase who also plays Belarius) favored suitor, her son, the foppish Cloten (Hunter).  So, now we have an evil queen and poison that is switched by a suspecting chemist for an elixir that only makes one appear to be dead, a banished good guy, intrigue and mixed up messages delivered by a trusty servant.  Where have we heard that one before, Will?  I have a faint cold chill.

The up side is that there is one terrific scene with swordplay choreographed by Ken Merckx.  There’s a beheading, too. But, other than that, not only is the story disappointing, predictable and long, but the uneven performances and inability of DeLorenzo to keep his actors suiting the action to the word and the word to the action unhappily makes this production feel like a marginally interesting Masters Degree Thesis Project.  

Angela Balogh Calin’s costumes are perfect.  Sets and lighting by Keith Mitchell and Ken Booth, respectively, are just fine. 

And, the scene changes are executed very well . 

by William Shakespeare
Directed by Bart DeLorenzo
A Noise Within
3352 E. Foothill Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91107
Tickets $40 -$50.00 Group rates available
626 356 3100
Through November 18, 2012


Sunday, September 16, 2012



  Gates McFadden’s Ensemble Studio Theatre L.A.’s new season kicks off with professional actors in a beautifully designed set by Hana S. Kim with mixed results. Playwright Keliher Walsh’s script is a heavy polemic that approaches wars past and present in a very personal way.  Reminiscent of Megan Terry’s 1966 condemnation of the Viet Nam War, VIET ROCK, Welsh employs transformational characters, the stand out of whom is Elyse Dinh, playing many, including Lieu, a Vietnamese survivor of that war.  This is the ever shifting story of love under pressure both in 1960’s Vietnam and Afghanistan, 2012. Terry’s play was facilitated by the cast as an ever changing ensemble, all in pretty much the same costumes, creating multiple characters on a bare stage: an open space.  Year of the Rabbit is more specific with props, costumes and platforms. A fine use of projections and the well executed lighting of Pablo Santiago keep the action well centered.

Navy pilots, Lt. Brice Skinner (Will McFadden) and Lt. Kara Bridges (Ashanti Brown) are Navy pilots: flying partners and somewhat reluctant lovers as they carry out assignments to bomb ‘legitimate’ targets in the current war in Afghanistan.  The use of navy lingo, especially in regard to the scattering of human beings during an air strike is shocking.

Meschach Taylor shines as Vietnam War Vet J.C. Bridges, who, it turns out has a vested interest in both Lieu and Kara.  In a random scene at a pharmacy, Allie Skinner (playwright Walsh) has a run-in with Bridges in what later becomes an ironic connection that only the audience is privy to.

Allie and Spence Skinner (Peter Mackenzie) are bereft at the loss of their Navy pilot son.  Walsh seems to be in a slightly different play than the rest of the cast with occasional over the top histrionics, but comes to earth in a final scene with Kara.

Running at just ninety minutes, Year of the Rabbit is an opportunity for the audience to compare the current US involvement in a foreign war to the ravages of the war in Vietnam and how on a personal level these conflicts touch individual human beings.

Director James Eckhouse guides his cast well.  Artistic Director Gates McFadden hopes that this season’s provocative choices will awaken audiences  and with Year of the Rabbit, questions may arise as to why we have allowed war to become the ‘status quo.’

On hand is a book of artwork by artist Luke Cheuh who has designed mailers for both shows: (Rabbit and The Belle of Belfast, the next show to run in repertory) the new EST/LA openers.  It’s worth a look.

Year of the Rabbit
by Keliher Walsh
Ensemble Studio Theatre Los Angeles
Atwater Village Theater
3269 Casitas Avenue
Atwater Village, CA 90039
(In Repertory with The Belle of Belfast Opening October 6, 2012)
Through October 28, 2012
Call theater for dates and times
323 644 1929
Tickets: $25.00

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

From Center Theatre Group / FYI

Normally, this space is reserved for theatre reviews.  

I've been appreciating CTG more and more lately, so if this information is helpful to anyone you know, please pass it on.   

Michael Sheehan

Applications for Both Programs are Due in October 2012
Following the success of the 2011-2012 August Wilson program, Center Theatre Group has announced its continued participation and is now accepting applications for both facets of the program – the national August Wilson Monologue Competition and the CTG August Wilson in-school residency program.
Student applications for the August Wilson Monologue Competition are due October 11, 2012.  Local in-school residency applications are due on October 22.  Applications for both programs are available at
For more information, see attached release. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Live and in color at The Elephant Room

(Please click on the photo for the full effect)

The Elephant Room currently unleashed at CTG's Kirk Douglas in Culver City may get an audience in spite of itself.  

 Kings (and Queens) of Comedy include duos and trios in the form of Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Burns and Allen, Martin and Lewis, The Marx Brothers, The Three Stooges, The Ritz Brothers and in modern times The Flying Karamazov Brothers.  If the guys (Lounge Lizard: Dennis Diamond, Cowboy: Daryl Hannah .. no, not THAT Daryl Hannah and Hippie Louie Magic in bad wigs and marginally executed slap dance choreography ) tearing up the Elephant Room had taken a cue from any of the above it might help.  The irony is that they have successfully taken their show on the road and in spite of the mess, bad jokes and lame tricks, the audience laughs, sometimes in concert, sometimes just shaking its collective head, realizing that they are sitting still for such shenanigans.

The shiny main curtain changes colors as the audience crams itself into airline seating.  Why, at rise, the three guys are sitting on a fold out sofa that is spewing smoke is a mystery. They recite the opening stage directions milking moderate applause from the audience.  We’ve been warned that these guys are on the prowl.  Leering stares from the trio are supposed to let us know that they mean business, ladies.  It’s a mishmash of silly dancing and an introduction to the turquoise Elephant Room  which is literally sitting on cinder blocks (to show there are no trap doors, I guessed) where the ‘magic’ will astound and entertain.

The magic is marginal, using mostly store bought magic tricks, performed in concert from time to time, each member of the cast contributing his particular brand (Lounge Lizard, Cowpoke, Hippie) of magical comedy.  Though never mind bending, the best trick, perhaps, is the trio working together with materializing and disappearing eggs.  One egg apparently shifts from one guy to the next in a clipped rhythm that is pretty impressive.  More impressive is the manifestation of a crystal wine glass and the guys breaking their now three manifested eggs into it one at a time.  Meanwhile, Daryl returns to the stage with a frying pan, Diamond produces a block of cheese, Louie produces a fork and an omelet is created with magic “fire” from Diamond’s finger tips.  Before our very eyes the seemingly normal fry pan cooks the eggs to a perfect turn. 

The old call-a–volunteer-from-the-audience-routine produces an attractive young woman who screams and hollers as an electric sabre saw we’ve just witnessed shredding a head of romaine is passed through a special device over her body and saws something else on the other side.  It’s cheesy old stuff.  The script is minimal and the dumber and dumberer patter is completely in sync with the purpose of the whole silly production: simply to have some fun.  Serpentine streamers, a ton of confetti, a disappearing guy from the audience named Kyle and an embarrassed blonde named Paige, are all part of ninety minutes of only slightly organized mayhem instigated by director Paul Lazar. Created by three "magicians," Trey Lyford, Geoff Sobelle and Steve Cuiffo, it could use some tightening, but for a good time call... 

P.S. Loxodontics by Eric Wright and the Puppet Kitchen are the frosting on the big cheesecake.

Created by Trey Lyford, Geoff Sobelle and Steve Cuiffo
CTG presents at The Kirk Douglas Theatre
9820 Washington Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232
Tuesday through Friday 8PM
Saturday at 2 and 8 PM
Sunday at 1 and 6:30 PM
Through September 16, 2012 
Tickets $20 to $50.00 (subject to change)
213 628 4017

Monday, August 20, 2012

  L to R: Joe Pacheco, Patrick Quinlan, Austin Hebert, Shaun O’Hagan, Scott Conte

The Irish Curse, continues through September 16, 2012 at the Odyssey.  It is a fine, fine play. 

Contrary to the publicity hype, that seems to promote the show as a comedy, I found it more dramatic than I'd expected and though presented with good humor, it is much more. 

We find five men:  A cop, tall and handsome by his own admission, Stephen (Shaun O’Hagan);  Rick (Austin Hebert) the feisty Irish 22 year old kid; Joseph (Scott Conte), an attorney in his forties and newcomer Kierin, from Ireland (Patrick Quinlan), a virgin who’s afraid his bride (he'll be married in two days) may reject him because of his diminutive size

 Father Kevin Shaunessy (Joe Pacheco) is the 50 year old Catholic priest who runs an AA type session for men with the "Iris Curse:"  colloquially:  a tiny penis.  What Martin Casella’s dialogue does beautifully is to defuse the embarrassment of penis terms, along with a healthy smattering of curse words that are inappropriate but effin’ necessary in the meeting room of St. Sebastian's Catholic Church.  It’s a rainy night in Brooklyn and these men, who alternately love and hate, reject and respect one another, come together to find new insights into their mutual concern: how to regain and/or maintain self respect in the face of a society that apparently places great value on the size of a man’s penis.

Casella’s script is way more than cock jokes.  As we are made privy to the private lives of the four members of the group we discover the fears which dominate their egos, that, in a patriarchy, are so fragile.  The coincidence of Father Shaunessy’s bumping into Kieran, brings new life to a group that has become somewhat jaded to the ongoing issues that have been hashed and rehashed, while the good Father tries to rein the rhetoric in.  The characters are superbly written, beautifully defined, well arced and professionally acted. To his credit, Director Andrew Barnicle moves his actors minimally, but after all it’s really only exposition.  Bantam rooster Rick in the big cop’s face, after admitting that he, Rick, stuffs his jock strap with a rolled up tube sock, is about as confrontational as it gets. The dialogue and the action such as it is, never stop flowing. At once the characters are sometimes confrontational and often funny. Even the priest makes confessions regarding his reductive member which affected his decision years ago to join the clergy.

We discover the 'issues' that these men face because of embarrassment and teasing and how self esteem can be challenged by their individual size situations.  Yes, size does matter, no matter what they think women think.  It matters to them.  A lot.  The real stand out in the dialogue is the new guy, Kieran.  The angst and issues of the newlywed-to-be surface more deeply as he tells of how the ‘curse’ effected his da and how in a similar scenario of his finding his his way to this group,  his da found another accepting group years before.  Perhaps Casella is promoting serendipity or chance, maybe even fate, but what we have here is an hour and a half where we forget the sniggering about the size of anyone’s cock or Johnson or mushroom or pee pee and gain believable insights into strong feelings harbored deep within five exceptional yet average guys on a rainy night in Brooklyn. 

The play has been extended...   through September 16, 2012

The Irish Curse by Martin Casella
The Odyssey Theatre
2055 S. Sepulveda
LosAngeles, CA 90025
Tickets $30 Top 
310 477 2055 Ext 2

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Alfred Molina as Mark Rothko
John Logan’s RED invigorates the imagination and resurrects beautifully the spirit of Mark Rothko currently at the Mark Taper Forum. 

Alfred Molina  as the painter not only takes the stage, but draws the audience in with exaltations of the creative process and ego that stir the passions. At once the image of the painter and the actor meld in the Passion/ Work of Molina and Jonathan Groff as Ken, his assistant newly hired who shows up dressed to impress but does not.  Rothko immediately puts Ken in his place and as the story evolves, it may be Ken who survives with the notion that, as Rothko exhorts him early on, he may be the son who kills the father.  Director Michael Grandage’s hand is invisible as the story unfolds flawlessly.  The best credit one can give a director is when his work appears so naturally. 

Ken knows that he is in the presence of something great and allows that being a part of it is an education that can be gained in no other way.  The two discuss philosophy and in a stroke of genius, Logan has Ken compare Rothko to Apollo and Pollack to Dionysus in masterful strokes.  Rothko says that painting is ninety percent observation and thinking and ten percent laying on of the paint.  The physical action of laying the ground for one of the painter’s huge canvases is, simply, a dance in Red.

Rothko was born Marcus Rothkowicz in Russia, moving at the age of ten to Portland to be with his family.  After a three year separation and only months after his arrival in the United States, his father passed away, leaving a hole in the young man’s spirit.  This loss seems to have permeated the life of the painter, who began with making figurative artwork and after moving to New York and being influenced by abstract  expressionists like Jackson Pollack began what became an obsession with large fields of color. 

The year is about 1958.  Downstage the fourth wall becomes the mural that Rothko was commissioned to paint for the Four Seasons Restaurant in the new Seagrams Building in New York City.  From time to time the actors come down to contemplate the work. Inspiration comes and goes.  Scenic designer Christopher Oram’s practical atelier where Rothko worked toward the end of his life and career is excellently crafted and is supplemented by Neil Austin’s lights which almost become another character in the play, as do the sound cues by Adam Cork.  It is spare, but active with huge canvases upstage and Rothko and Ken working in concert with panels on a large rolling  easel.   

Rothko’s ego splashes all about the stage unbound.  The man arrives at the studio from home dressed in suit and tie and then transforms into the artist.   This is his calling, his work, his profession, his life.  At one point in a discussion about the demise of Jackson Pollack, Rothko calls the splatter artist’s death a suicide.  “He didn’t commit suicide,” Ken responds.  Then Rothko enumerates all of the contributing factors that led the hard drinking wild man from Wyoming to hit a winding country lane in an Oldsmobile convertible at break neck speed.  “If that’s not suicide, I don’t know what is.  My suicide" he says, "won’t be so ambiguous.”
The heady dialogue is fodder for debate and elucidation.   For artists and those who fancy themselves ‘in the know’ about contemporary art, it’s a wonderful colloquy.  For fans of Molina, he does it again and again, stepping out of the way to allow Rothko's complex character to emerge: ebb and flow and flood the stage.  Young Groff holds his own and in a huge speech meets the famous artist head on in a way that shocks and surprises but at the same time necessitates the next steps for both the youngster and the master.  It’s a masterful play and a wonderful production with nuance and laughs and performances worthy of more praise than I can find words for here.  Tickets are dear.  Go anyway.
Michael Sheehan
By John Logan
Mark Taper Forum
Los Angeles Music Center
135 North Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: 213-972-7211
$100 top
Closes September 9, 2012

Thursday, August 9, 2012

INsiders at ANW

This from Pasadena's Classic Theatre Company:

 "The INsiders" Launches Wednesday, August 29, 2012, 7 pm;
Continues Through April 2013 at A Noise Within 

A Noise Within (ANW), the acclaimed classical repertory theatre company, launches "The INsiders" program to explore the company's six 2012-13 season masterwork productions and their relevance to the 21st century with lively discussion forums led by guest experts and specialty workshops on the artistic process.  "The INsiders" begins on Wednesday, August 29, 2012, 7 to 9 pm, with "The Dark Fantasy of Cymbeline," a program focused on Shakespeare's Cymbeline presented by Dr. Miranda Johnson-Haddad.  It continues throughout the season, spotlighting George Bernard Shaw’s The Doctor’s Dilemma, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath adapted by Frank Galati, Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice, and George Farquhar’s The Beaux' Stratagem adapted by Thornton Wilder and Ken Ludwig.  The interactive conversations, held September 19, October 10, November 7, 2012; January 9, February 6, March 6 and April 10, 2013, offer in-depth information on the historical, cultural, political and philosophical influences impacting the plays and their contemporary relevance as well as insights into the artistic process.  "The INsiders" (formerly known as “Scholar’s Society”) was established to engage members in challenging and lively discussions about A Noise Within's work, which has been lauded by critics as "freshly imagined," "invigorating," “inspired,” and “masterfully crafted.”  Members also receive a copy of each play.  "The INsiders" meetings take place at A Noise Within’s new 33,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art Pasadena venue. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

ALL MY SONS / Dreamhouse Theater Company

 Patrick Cavanaugh and Caroline Westeimer   Photo: John Sullivan
All My Sons

Arthur Miller’s success as a playwright stems from his deep interest in the human condition.  Most think first of his Death of a Salesman, the story of failure through the best of intentions mingled with excuses.  Interestingly, Salesman was Miller’s second play following the success of ALL MY SONS in 1947. Evidently, based on a true story of greed and malfeasance stemming from the sale of faulty airplane parts for the WWII effort ALL MY SONS foreshadows the sad tale In Miller’s Willy Lohman with the main character, Joe Keller.  Briefly, Keller (multitalented Ronald Quigley who is credited with the set design) has profited from the war in a suspicious way.  Blaming his partner, Steve Deever, for shipping cracked cylinder heads, Keller is exonerated in court while Deever is sent to prison. 

Dreamhouse Theater Company’s current production of ALL MY SONS at The Jet Theater in NoHo stands with professional productions of the play in many aspects.  Quigley’s spot on exterior of the Keller home takes us to Ohio a few years after the war.  Keller has grown his business after the cylinder head scandal and his son, Chris (Patrick Cavanaugh) is the beneficiary.  There is a bravado in the Keller men.  The matriarch, Kate (Caroline Westheimer) holds out hope that their older son, Larry, will return from the war, though he’s been declared missing in action and presumed dead. The war is now over, yet Kate holds out for the unlikely return of her son. Frank Lubey (Lukas Bailey) fans the flames of Kate’s vigil by declaring that, according to Larry’s horoscope, he could not have died on his ‘favorable day.’

The story, as in other works by Miller, goes down a rocky path of familial strife. A young man seeks his own way out of the shadow of his father’s apparent greed.  Personalities conflict.  Hard feelings are maintained.  Chris wants to marry Larry’s girlfriend, Ann Deever (beautiful Jacqueline Hickel), against his mother’s wishes.  The dialogue is crisp and cutting.  Finding the through line to any kind of happiness is difficult for Arthur Miller and whether or not this play leaves us with much hope is beside the point.  It’s a story of people struggling to survive in the face of ruin.  How Keller is finally revealed as the true culprit in the cylinder head debacle turns him inward with shame and, as later in Death of a Salesman for Willy Lohman, the end is near.

Director Alex Sol (working with his lovely wife, Producer Sarah Sol) is building a strong company of theatre professionals whose youth and enthusiasm are vital to taking a storefront and building a space to present theatricals.  Excellent tech (with the exception of one flash that should be seen anywhere but behind the front door of the Keller home) is flawless.

Arthur Miller’s language is an absolute reflection of the forties in Post WWII middle America.  The cast pulls it off, keeping pace and their individual characters lively and involved.  It’s an intimate space where every nuance of the issues of the story are immediately available.  Small theatre like this deserves an audience.  Tell a friend and experience the joy of a dedicated company with a difficult play.

ALL MY SONS by Arthur Miller
Dreamhouse Theater Company at
The Jet Theater
5126 Lankershim Blvd. (Enter in the back)
North Hollywood, CA 91601
Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM
Sundays at 7PM
Tickets $25.00
Understudy Matinees August 12 and 19 @ 2PM $12.50
Through September 2, 2012
818 745 7331

Saturday, July 14, 2012

KOMITAS at Atwater Village Theatre

Jesse Einstein, Gina Manziello
                                                                                                                  Photo by Kevin Mills

From time to time guests are invited to see a show that I may be unable to make time to see.  This is from
Guest Reviewer, Arpine Eloyan. Thank you, Arpine.

The story of Komitas is synonymous with and revered by Armenians all over the world.  His unique, all encompassing musical talents have made him a national icon.  
Revolutionizing Armenian music, he purified it from early Turkish influences.  His music has become a symbol of joy, sorrowful       perseverance and triumph for an entire nation.  In addition to his musical talents, he was also a poet, a philosopher, a teacher and a priest.  His inner struggles between his personal faith and church made him an unconventional hero.  Ultimately, “he was so traumatized by the 1915 Genocide that he spent the last 20 years of his life in an asylum in virtual silence.”
Komitas has said that life begins when sound is born and so with his familiar music playing in the background  the play begins  at the Circle X Theater in Atwater Village.
On a minimalistic but yet poignant set, Lilly Thomassian has demonstrated her craftsmanship of fine writing by presenting this very complex and challenging biographical play which tackles the many facets of Komitas’s intriguing life. 
Director Pavel Cerny has done a unique job in terms of creating scenes of make believe, fantasy and symbolism.  It’s hard to imagine the difficulty of creating a genocide march on a relatively small stage where one is able to visualize, feel and hear the stomps of the tens of thousands of the marchers who were about to be mass murdered on a remote island.  To accomplish a scene of this intensity with a limited amount of actors is touching, surreal and profound. 
Jesse Einstein, as Komitas, exudes a high level of energy, rhythm and dynamism keeping the audience’s attention from start to finish on his life’s journey.  The onstage chemistry between the Young Komitas, Arthur Parian, and his grandmother, Takui Akopyan, is dynamically refreshing, powerful and moving. 
Komitas is an interesting, engaging and emotional play that has all of the major elements of one man’s struggle within himself: his passions and choices vs. his destiny. Ultimately, Komitas's beliefs and convictions come to resolution; best expressed through his music with love.
By Lilly Thomassian
Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Avenue, Los Angeles
July 14th through August 19th.