Monday, May 27, 2013


FOOL FOR LOVE by Sam Shepard

Director Gloria Gifford holds tenuous sway over her four person cast in Sam Shepard’s Fool For Love currently at T.U. Studios in NoHo.  After sitting through a questionable performance of Shepard’s True West in Pasadena recently I felt ‘once burned’ by the playwright.  Shepard’s writing is unmistakably pithy and well nuanced but that show was terrible.  I was not about to be held hostage for over two hours for what should be a fast paced one act.  
Robert May Photo by Mathew Caine

In Gifford’s production we are virtually assaulted by Eddie (no nonsense Chad Doreck) and May (sexy Lauren Plaxco) in a love/hate relationship that is at once romantic and repellant: brutal and tender and on again / off again in the blink of an eye.  Could it be that both Eddie and May (actually half siblings) are, in fact, battling factions of Shepard himself, as are the brothers Lee and Austin in True West?  Is the ghost of Eddie and May’s father, The Old Man ( Robert May) another Other who also represents the playwright?   

One issue that I have with this production is the level of drama that slaps us silly in the first few minutes of the play.  I try to imagine  Kathy Baker, who starred as May in the play in 1983 with Ed Harris as Eddie, both winning Obies. I wonder if she drove herself into a frenzy in her interpretation of May?  In this interpretation, both actors keep the energy level over the top for most of the show’s fast paced ninety minutes.  

Enter Martin (well tempered Zach Killian), an honest to gosh neophyte, astonished by the contradictory passions that bristle through Eddie and May.   All he expected to do was to take May to the movies.  Little did he know that she'd removed her undies and donned her skin tight dress in anticipation of her date with him.  Or was it all just to tease half brother Eddie? 

Exposition through The Old Man, a ghost from another dimension,  reveals Truth or Lies? Or, it could all just be a lie of Shepard's mind as the tequila flows; May gets well fondled (adult content: questionable taste) and culminates with the destruction of Eddie’s truck and trailer by a mysterious stranger in the motel parking lot.

By Sam Shepard
T.U. Studios
10943 Camarillo Street
North Hollywood, CA 91607

May 18 through June 23, 2013
Saturdays at 8:00 PM
Sundays at 7:30 PM
Tickets $25 / Seniors and Students $18
310 366 5505

Sunday, May 26, 2013


Heart Song World Premiere
by Stephen Sachs

“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.
~ Rumi
Playwright Stephen Sachs’ exploration of Jewish guilt wrapped in Spanish Flamenco seasoned with man’s inhumanity to man seen through the eyes of the Holocaust and Heart Mountain culminate in the shaking off of sorrow and the resolution to move forward in life. 
A burst of energy confronts the opening night audience for Stephen Sachs’ new play. Kartina ‘s (commanding Maria Bermudez) fingersnaps and flashing eyes challenge us to be present and we’d better be accounted for.  Fountain Theatre Co-Founder Stephen Sachs’ last effort, Bakersfield Mist  was so well structured and beautifully done that I really wanted to his new play.   

The Fountain has been a venue for Forever Flamenco for many years as well as welcoming original productions to its stage. This world premiere for Heart Song draws on the fiery passions of the dance and presumably features dancers from the Flamenco program there.

Flamenco, as described by Katrina, a Spanish Gypsy who takes this artform very, very personally, is an expression of the essence of life… and death. El Morte, she says, is always present in the room with Life, La Vida.  Her Flamenco class renews the spirit, bringing women of completely different backgrounds back to their goddess nature, their essence and their purpose:  their true selves.  This is serious business and the expressions on the faces of these dedicated dancers tell the tale precisely.

 Rochelle (Pamela Dunlap) is on the phone with her rabbi.  Though not an observant Jew, she feels obligated to follow tradition to dedicate the monument to be unveiled on her mother’s grave in less than two weeks’ time. She is in physical and emotional distress as her body worker / masseuse Tina (beautiful Tamlyn Tomita), strives to relieve her tension.   Tina diagnoses a severe blockage in Rochelle’s heart chakra and suggests that attending Katrina's flamenco class might be just the thing.  Even though Rochelle is Jewish and is built no way like a dancer, she allows Tina to drag her to the mysterious Kartina's  class.  Katrina explains that the parallels between Gypsy traditions and the exile of Jews goes all the way back to early days in Spain when Muslims, Moors and Jews all wound up there together.

Members of Katrina’s class, Andrea Dantas, Sherrie Lewandowski, Mindy Krasner and exotic Elissa Kyriaccou are  essentially back up dancers (each of whom performs with precision) combined with a very strong portrayal by Juanita Jennings as cancer survivor Daloris make this production work. Though occasionally hit and miss on Opening Night, Flamenco sweeps the audience up into its rhythms and on to a moving climax as Rochelle discovers what she has always known about her mother's internment in Nazi Germany.  At once sad and in places very funny, Sachs script is loaded with pungent one liners and Rochelle's angst as she must execute tradition without a minyan or her rabbi to dedicate the marker on her mother's grave at the one year anniversary of her death.

The extraordinarily moving power of Flamenco keeps the story and the characters alive.  Workable set by Tom Buderwitz and nice direction by Shirley Jo Finney complete the kind of show we expect from The Fountain.  

World Premiere
HEART SONG by Stephen Sachs
The Fountain Theatre
5060 Fountain Avenue (at Normandie)
Hollywood, CA
May 18 through July 14, 2013
Thursdays through Sundays
Call Theatre for ticket information and specific times
323 663 1525
www . FountainTheatre . com
Tickets $25.00 - $34.00

Sunday, May 19, 2013


Peter Pan II

Back Row L-R: David Hemphill, Daniel Shawn Miller, Jackson Evans, Benjamin Campbhell,
Front Row L-R: Trisha LaFache, Liza Burns, Amy Lawhorn
Photo Credit: Mary Ann Williams

It’s fun to be enthusiastic about really well done theatre. 

Yesterday, I was describing to a friend the moment in the show in Peter Pan: The Boy Who Hated Mothers where Tinkerbell (Amy Lawhorn with a glowing ball on a stick!) has observed Hook (really scary, though totally gorgeous Trisha LaFache) poison the ‘medicine’ that Wendy (wonderful Liza Burns) has left for Peter (Daniel Shawn Miller).  In a gallant gesture, Tink drinks it before Peter can.  This is a dark moment in the story that most of us remember with Mary Martin or Cathy Rigby or the Disney version where Tink’s life energy ebbs and ebbs away.  Peter narrates for her. He tells our rather sophisticated audience that she can only survive if we validate her existance.  The audience must declare that we ‘believe.’

 “Do you believe in fairies?”   Peter implores.


“Do you believe?” 

The entire theatre is completely dark: black out dark.  Not a shadow.  Dark.  And, then, one small voice beside me quietly peeps, “I believe.” 

Are we embarrassed? Are we too hip? Are we just too ‘adult’ to say it? 

And, then, another voice, “I believe…” and another and another and the cacophony of voices is enough to bring tears to your eyes.  The effect of Tinkerbell’s light re-emerging is beautiful and the stage returns to life as she does.  Whew.

There are a hundred other moments in this production that spark the imagination. The ensemble brings them off with so little effort that there are times when you may believe not only in fairies, but that an actor really does fly. 

A stage combat scene is always hard to deal with because the actors, of necessity, must be ‘careful.’  This, of course, is death to a sword fight.  When Hook and Peter face off with epees, Sondra Mayer's beautiful choreography simply works.   

Mine is not an objective review. This is a fan letter to the Blank Theatre and this fine production that, thankfully,  has been extended.  There are only 55 seats in the tiny space at Wilcox and Santa Monica.  Please make a reservation and go! Supporting this production with full houses will keep the Blank functioning and hopefully encourage them to bring more and more innovative work to their stage.  

And, always remember and never forget that it is completely cool to know in your heart and to say out loud, “I do believe in fairies!”

Michael Sheehan
On Stage Los Angeles

Saturday, May 18, 2013


Trisha LaFache and Daniel Shawn Miller Photo credit Mary Ann Williams

Peter Pan: The Boy Who Hated Mothers 
by Michael Lluberes

How often do you brave Santa Monica Boulevard, the theatre district adjacent to rock and roll and seven foot drag queens and emerge having experienced real magic?  This is not that Vegas “make the elephant vanish with smoke and mirrors routine” but before your very eyes the energy of a cast of actors so committed that the thrift store set: flotsam and jetsam: the detritus of basic stuff all come together with atomic energy: fission and explosions of wonderfulness that, when we are lucky, leaves us with tears in our eyes and the knowledge that not only do you believe in fairies, but you believe in love.

Michael Lluberes’ play imagines… really re-imagines J.M. Barrie’s story of the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up in such a creative way that it’s a little hard to describe.  Mary Hamrick’s multifunctional set combines with superior lighting design by Tim Swiss and Zack Lapinski to transform the Darling bedroom into a rag tag Neverland, a pirate ship and magical settings elsewhere all before our very eyes.  Director Michael Matthews has cast actors who have decided to all be in the same play at the same time. They keep a breakneck pace sparked by the acrobatic skills of Daniel Shawn Miller as Peter.  With doubling we meet the Lost Boys/Pirates (David Hemphill, Amy Lawhorn and Jackson Evans), Tinkerbell, Captain Hook (really sexy and evil to the core Trisha LaFache who also plays Wendy and John’s mother Mrs. Darling).  At once a little girl and a very necessary mother, Liza Burns creates a multifaceted Wendy. Benjamin Campbell plays brother John.

Michael Darling has died as a baby.  Mrs. Darling is melancholy until her medicine perks her up.    All children grow up… except one and Peter is determined to never do so.  He learns deep life lessons and at one point in a fierce confrontation with Hook must look into his own face as Hook declares that they are one in the same. Lluberes’ script touches in a beautifully gritty way the familiar story of the Pan who invades The Darling Children’s bedroom in search of his shadow.  The physicality of Miller’s performance is exhausting.  Totally involved, his energy is contagious and the remainder of the cast keeps up stroke for stroke. 

The Blank Theatre has been around for many years.  Founding Artistic Director Daniel Henning has created a space for creativity at its highest level.   This tiny theater invites the audience in from busy Santa Monica Boulevard and from the first moment on the stage something extraordinary is happening.  I always go into any theatre with a high expectation and often find myself stepping back looking for the ‘stuff’ that will draw me into the essence of the play.  Seldom does that happen.  Tonight, the ethos and pathos of the writing combined with the genuine commitment to the story and the action by the actors left me breathless and with hope for what the Theatre is supposed to do every time:  entertain, elucidate, engross, entitle the mind to expand and accept the cardboard and fluff as the real deal: the real moment.  The real magic.

Photo Credit Mary Ann Williams
This is one of the best productions that I have ever seen. It brings back good memories of the seventies when The Company Theatre created ensemble pieces like The Emergence and Children of the Kingdom.  It is simply  excellent work.

Peter Pan: The Boy Who Hated Mothers by Michael Lluberes
 NOW EXTENDED THRU Sunday July 28, 2013
Thursday / Friday / Saturday at 8pm; Sunday at 2pm
ADMISSION: $30             
Available online at
or by calling  (323) 661-9827. 
The Blank’s 2nd Stage Theatre  
6500 Santa Monica Boulevard
(at Wilcox), in Hollywood  
Arrive early for parking.  
The little Cafe at the Hudson is expensive, but really nice. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013


“Having found his song, the song of self-sufficiency, fully resurrected, cleansed and given breath, free from any encumbrance other than the workings of his own heart and the bonds of the flesh, having accepted the responsibility for his own presence in the world, he is free to soar above the environs that weighed and pushed his spirit into terrifying contractions." These, the last lines of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, August Wilson’s declaration through the character of Bynum Walker (amazing Glynn Turman) shouting after Herald Loomis who has exploded into his own at the close of the play reflect the theme of independence.  Wilson addresses the emergence of the down trodden black man from both the literal and metaphoric shackles that have held him prisoner because of the misfortune of his social position.  The poetry of the author and its expert interpretation by director, Phylicia Reshad and her cast delivers well.

It’s 1911 Pittsburgh where Wilson sets the second play in his Century Cycle.  Echoes of slavery are still abroad, though the Emancipation Proclamation was issued over fifty years before.  Black folks are still under the oppressive thumb of white folks as they struggle for equality.  Joe Turner, the fabled brother of the governor of Tennessee, has a reputation for indiscriminately swooping down on blacks and commandeering them on his chain gang.  Herald Loomis (imposing John Douglas Thompson) has been the victim of Turner’s exploitation for seven long years.    
At rise Seth Holly (powerful Keith David) runs a boarding house with his exuberant wife, Bertha (Gorgeous Lillias White who stops the show with Love and Laughter in the second act) in the Hill District of Pittsburgh.  Seth peers out the back door at the mystical Bynum Walker as he performs his odd religio-spiritual practices.  Bynum is a ‘binder’ who learned binding from his daddy. He has the ability to bind together folks who desire to be bound.  Cricket S. Myers’ blues oriented interstitial music binds the scenes together as the hot August days roll by. John Iacovelli’s period set allows Reshad to easily paint stage pictures allowing the souls of the Wilson’s characters come to life.

Impressive performances by the two kids in the cast, Skye Barrett as Zonnia Loomis and flirty little Nathaniel James Potvin as Reuben Mercer reflect the desires of the adults in the story.  Seeing young actors hold their own with the language of the play is a pleasure. 

Loomis’s strange behavior makes Mr. Holly uneasy, but the two dollars rent for the week makes him acquiesce to Loomis (who is seeking his wife and mother of daughter Zonnia).  Bertha soothes his ruffled feathers.  Arrival of beautiful Mattie Campbell (January LaVoy) immediately attracts the attention of the Holly’s friend, young Gabriel Brown (Jeremy Furlow). Ruthorford Selig (the familiar face of Raynor Scheine) is the only white man in the show: a sympathetic friend who buys pots and pans and other metal things from Seth.  The steamy Molly Cunningham (vivacious Vivian Nixon), the kind of woman who really needs no protection, vamps Herald, who, after years in isolation on the chain gang no longer has the ability to touch.  Being out of touch may be another metaphor for the struggle of African Americans in August Wilson’s canon.  

At last Herald’s long lost wife, Martha Pentecost (petite Erica Tazel), appears and in an amazing spiritual duel with Herald,   builds to the fiery climax.

As in other Wilson plays, characters wear their hearts on their sleeves through the poetry of this prolific playwright who has come and gone too soon. 

By August Wilson
Opens May 8, 2013
Continues through June 9

Mark Taper Forum
Performance Days and Times:
• Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m.
• Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.
• Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
• No performance on Mondays.
EXCEPTIONS: No public performances May 21 – 24 (student matinees only.)
No 1 p.m. performance on Sunday, May 5.
Ticket Prices: $20 – $70 (Ticket prices are subject to change.)
Tickets are available:
• Online at
• By calling Center Theatre Group Audience Services at 213.628.2772
• In person at the Center Theatre Group box office at the Music Center

Saturday, May 4, 2013



A trek to the Los Angeles Theatre Center is an adventure.  Friday night in Downtown L.A., especially with the Stones down the street, is a mixed bag of delights.  The double one act bill in Theatre Two is a mixed bag.  “Transfiguration” refers to changes that the characters in both plays, Harvey Fierstein’s 1987 On Tidy Endings and the “World Premiere” of Rod Bramback’s TransMe  are experiencing.

I first encountered Harvey Fierstein’s work at Ted Schmidtt’s Circle Theatre in the late seventies.     The first play in Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy, The International Stud, was about a gay relationship.  What I realized then was that when human beings have romantic feelings for one another, gay or straight, they are deep and personal.   I’d never really thought much about gay men’s or women’s relationships, but through Fierstein’s adept rendition in that one act, I began to understand.

Understanding and grieving illuminate Fierstein’s 1987 one act: On Tidy Endings.  Colin, the former husband of Marion (excellent and nuanced Renee Kelly) and father of eleven year old Jimmy (Nick Ikovic-Frick) has died of AIDS. For the past three years he and his husband/companion, Arthur (Ricardo Salcido), have lived as a couple in a New York condo that was originally purchased during Marion’s sixteen year marriage to Colin.  After Colin’s coming out, Marion moved on. She remarried but shared custody of Jimmy.  She came to be supportive and understanding of Colin’s choices.  I could ‘hear’ the playwright’s voice in every line, articulate and funny; casual and caustic, as Marion and Arthur struggle with the deep loss that both are experiencing.  Jekyns Pelàez’s direction is simple.  By necessity, perhaps, Heather Fipps’ scenic design facilitates a living room in the process of becoming an empty room.   Acting styles are straightforward and realistic.  Appropriately over the top Heather Holli Oliver plays June, the attorney more worried about her parking situation than the business at hand.

For some reason the Monty Python line “And now for something completely different” has been popping into my head recently.  The second one act in Transfiguration, TransMe by Rod Brumback can only be described as a college mish mash of fun and nonsense dealing with another sort of ‘coming out.’  Ionesco meets Thornton Wilder’s Antrobus Family might be one way to describe the shenanigans.  Chris, a transgender male who has been living in New York City as a woman for three years, (Alain Thai), returns home to confront his rural Georgia family of odd balls and reveal his/her life path.  A mixture of broad college review and silliness, the diverse cast of Cal State Los Angeles students under loose direction of Whitney LaBarge, what at first sounds like a poignant coming out story quickly crumbles into Chris’s being the most normal of the bunch.  What might have been an opportunity for the issue of transgender as an evolving situation in society to be discussed becomes a burlesque in which the entire cast  (on the stage and off) are mostly in celebration of themselves.  Of course, this is a college production and some leeway may be in order.   I really don’t like to use the term ‘for a college production’ and won’t.  But, you get the idea.  The contrast between On Tidy Endings and TransMe is like night and day.  A supportive opening night audience loved the latter.  

LA Theatre Center
514 S. Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Through May 12, 2013
Tickets and Information
866 811 4111
www. Thelatc. org