Friday, December 13, 2013

Scrooge Returns to ANW

StatCounter - Free Web Tracker and Counter

  December, 2013  (This is a copy of my 2012 review of A Christmas Carol at A Noise Within in Pasadena.)

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.  Shane McDermott as Tiny Tim,  has only 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 22, 2013
Tickets and Information
626 356-3500 ext. 1
www. A NoiseWithin . org

Sunday, December 8, 2013

God’s Gypsy: St. Teresa of Avila by Coco Blignaut. A World Premiere

Developed at the Actors Studio in collaboration with the novelist, Bárbara Mujica, the world premiere of “God’s Gypsy” by Coco Blignaut continues at The Lillian.   It seems that for this reviewer, the tragedy of the Catholic Church has been immediate for quite some time now.  Another plug for Judi Dench’s Philomena is appropriate, as well as Fionnuala Kenny’s Elvis’s Toenail in Toluca Lake.  To top that off as I sat down to write this review, I turned on the TV for company and happened across an episode of Sally Field as Sister Bertrill in The Flying Nun!

The best thing about Ms Blignaut’s play is the amazing score composed and executed by the talented Lili Haydn.  For those who have not heard the story of St. Teresa of Avila, it speaks to the essence of ecstasy.  Ms Haydn’s Entre Act approaches and reaches the ecstatic, lifting the audience literally to heights seldom experienced.  Though over amped and with some difficulty with additional recorded playback, Haydn’s violin and voice, her very presence: long dark hair, eyes closed, contemporary black lace, ethereal and ephemeral … filled the room with expectation. 
Lily Haydn composer / musician

Director Joel Daavid’s set with appropriate lights by Leigh Allen heighten our anticipation.  Costumes by Michael Mullen are professional and expensive.  And, then, Ms Blignaut’s account of the life of Teresa, the Spanish Jew, begins.  Playwright Blignaut has cast herself as Teresa, the woman who saw Christ and communed with him, bringing literally hundreds of young women to take the veil in service to their Lord.  In 1525 Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella began to expel all non-Catholics from the land.  As the power of the Spanish Inquisition exploded, the idea that a woman could speak directly to God was heresy.  Not having read Ms Mujica’s novel, it’s unclear as to how accurate Blignaut’s version of the story might be. Suffice it to say that it is long.

The hypocrisy of how Catholic priests may have taken advantage of the faithful is a story that has continued certainly for the past five hundred years. Father Braulio (Daniel DeWeldon) has exploited Sister Angelica (Tsulan Cooper) and in the confessional does so blatantly. 

The play is slow moving, ponderous and seldom well acted (even an actual nun in the row in front of me nodded off from time to time). With modern colloquialisms, “Wow!”  “You have no idea.” dialogue is interlaced with occasional Spanish, “Gracias,” with no attempt at Spanish accents. Sundry acting styles (bombastic, sincere, loud, quiet, intense, wooden) made the evening even longer. Cantor, Pat Satcher, beautifully intoned a prayer for the dead as Teresa was laid out in the final scene.

And, so we come full circle:  a literally ecstatic prologue of violin and voice, an overlong narrative with brutal rapes, torture and souvenir taking, with gorgeous costumes (the royalty, not the habits) to a finale of Ms Haydn’s live performance after the curtain call, holding cast as well as the audience spell bound.  

A photo of Bernini’s exquisite statue of St.Teresa created a century after the life of the nun graces the program and posters.  Indeed, the sculptor seems to have found in marble what is illusive for most of us: a divine moment that passes understanding.  Would that the evening might have been played in pantomime with Ms Haydn’s voice and violin the singular testament to Teresa.

GOD'S GYPSY by Coco Blignaut
The Lillian Theatre 
Opened Saturday, November 30   
Plays Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m
Sunday at 6 p.m. through January 12 
(dark December 26-29).  
Tickets $30 
Call (866) 811-4111 or go to
The Lillian Theatre
1076 Lillian Way
Hollywood, CA  (1½ blocks west of Vine).

Monday, November 25, 2013



Directly on the heels of seeing Judi Dench’s current take on the Magdalene Girls, (Young women sent to the nuns to give birth in shame) PHILOMENA,    Fionnuala Kenny’s ELVIS’S TOENAIL brings the story of shunning and punishment by the Catholic Church, one’s own family and the community directly to the heart.  

At rise we hear a vicious argument and see pregnant Rita (perfectly cast Leanne Klingaman) expelled from her parents' home. 
Lenne Klingaman plays Rita

It’s 1961 on Raffle Road in Dublin.  American Rock and Roll is on the rise. On the wall of the workshop where progressive Mrs. Kelly (well presented Laurie Wendorf) turns out frocks as well as supplying nuns’ habits and school uniforms for the local abbey and Catholic School, Elvis's poster, in motorcycle gear: a shrine graces the upstage wall. Mrs. Kelly employs four unique colleens who work hard and, incidentally, adore The King.  

Giddy excitement by bouncy veryredhead Carmel (bouncy and energetic Arielle Davidsohn) and her pal, Imelda (equally enthusiastic Christine Quigless) permeate the shop as their somewhat senior colleague, Christine (McKerrin Kelly), demurs to their youthful excitement.  
 Christine Quigless as Imelda and Arielle Davidsohn as Carmel

The heavy polemic of the cruelty of the Catholic Church rings loudly throughout Kenny’s script as Rita finds her way to Mrs. Kelly’s, disobeying the order to go to the nuns with the shame of her pregnancy.  Her extraordinary skills and strong work ethic endear her to her co-workers.  We meet Mother Francis (trooper Marnie  Crossen) who places a large order for garments that will help Mrs. Kelly’s business and her connection to the abbey.   A side story of missing seamstress, Rose (tall and dark Katie Savoy) buttresses the issue of pregnancy without the state of marriage as Father Ambrose (slightly over the top Gary Bell) comes looking not only for Rose, who has vanished on payday, but Rita as well. This strongly exhibits the  extraordinary power that the Church may even to this day hold over the faithful.  Kenny’s script leads us to feminism and independence that was difficult, if not impossible to imagine fifty years ago, not only in Ireland, but around the world as well.    In no uncertain terms, the good guys and the enemy are  clearly drawn.  The title is almost incidental to the play.  Imelda’s relative has sent The Toenail, a relic from the bathroom of King Elvis, which is now displayed with his poster and covered with a velvet curtain ironically depicting the Sacred Heart.  When criticized by Father Ambrose, it’s pointed out that it’s all about Hope, without which, life may simply be unbearable. 

Unnecessary fake smoking by Miss McEvoy, the buyer (Francesca Ferrara) and a fine turn by Saxon Jones as Christy round out the cast of this must see production.  Sal Romeo’s direction (with Joe Banno) comes together on the tiny stage, set design executed by Elana Kathleen Farley. 

I highly recommend seeing Elvis’s Toenail before seeing Philomena and somewhere in the mix rent Peter Mullan’s The Magdelene Sisters for insights into how religion and prejudice have shaped our society and the hurdles that still challenge us: hurdles and walls which must be conquered to promote   acceptance of Women’s Rights as they struggle even still for Equality.  

by Fionnuala Kenny
The Sidewalk Studio Theatre (View)
4150 West Riverside Drive
Burbank, CA 91505
Runs November 15th -December 14th, 2013
Fridays and Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 3pm.  

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Ordinarily, these pages are dedicated only to reviews of local  L.A. theatre productions.  

However, I just received a notice that a star studded cast of entertainers will be on hand on presenting "Sparkle! An All Star Holiday Concert" Friday, December 13, 2013 at 7:30PM at the Acme Theater in Hollywood to the benefit of The Actors Fund.

Having personally seen the good works that The Actors Fund has done for over a hundred years (131, thank you very much!) I hope that there will be lots of deep pockets in attendance.  A very special singer/actress I met on a commercial shoot in Denver years ago for Old Country Buffet, Sharon McKnight, will be singing, along with a bevy of well known stars.  Please pass this information on:

Ticket prices for SPARKLE! An All-Star Holiday Concert range from $35 — $100 (VIP package including priority seating and post-show meet and greet).  
The Acme Theatre in Hollywood is located at 135 N. La Brea Avenue. Los Angeles, 90036.
To purchase online, go to 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


“What goes around comes around” may be a theme on more than one level with the current production of Bruce Norris's  The Pain and the Itch currently playing at The Zephyr on Melrose.  The slip sliding of time is a theme in Harold Pinter’s  1978 drama Betrayal currently revived on Broadway.  The fierce sniping of Albee’s Virginia Woolf also snakes through Norris’s well crafted two act drama.  A comparison is inevitable. Norris is in good company.  The play begins rather at the end,  wending its way through flashbacks (Ric Zimmerman’s lighting on Joel Daavid’s well designed set adds to the mix) to a sad resolution.  Originally produced by Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre in 2005, at that time set in New York City, director Jennifer Chambers sets the play in the toney L.A. neighborhood of Pacific Palisades.  The issues of success, gender roles and social class clash.  Thanksgiving with little to be thankful for runs amok.  
Left to right:  Katilin Huwe, Alec Tomkin, Sally Schaub, Beverly Hynds, Christopher Guyton, Eric Hunicutt,
Miss Ava Bianchi  Photo by Michael Sheehan

Mr. Hadid, a large dark skinned man (Christopher Guyton) weeps… sobs on the stylish sofa in the well appointed home of Clay and Kelly (Eric Hunicutt and Beverly Hynds). Clay is uncomfortable and sympathetic.  As Mr. Hadid composes himself, his interest in how much things cost inches us toward understanding.  Then, Clay tells the story in flashbacks as to how events have come to pass.  The story unfolds.  Sibling rivalry, a mysterious malaise, strong characters well acted emerge.

Full disclosure: I wanted to see the Sunday performance of this play because a friend is an alternate in the cast and was going on that night.  Also, in our Los Angeles theatre community, there are probably hundreds of dedicated actors who agree to do a show standing by and seldom get the attention they deserve.  The four alternates in Sunday’s show brought the play to life:  Guyton as Mr. Hadid, Alec Tomkin as Cash, Katilin Huwe as Kalina and Sally Schaub as Carol.  Miss Ava Bianchi plays Kayla (not an alternate, but sharing the role.)

A special anxiety having to do with jealousy, social class and guilt seems to be Norris’s goal and director Chambers brings home not only these discomfiting issues, but finds resolution as her actors immerse themselves deeply into the conceit that we are human beings; we make mistakes and are not always capable of fixing them.

Norris puts his characters through difficult paces.  Sally Schaub as Carol is the mother of Cash and Clay.  “No wonder two boys would fight whose names were Cassius and Clay!”  Her beautiful straight blonde hair and bangs reflect another time as does her dialogue with Mr. Hadid regarding watching PBS. She may be what some might term a socialist.  Parenting is difficult at best as we see in her grand-mothering of Kayla and her being soundly criticized by Clay because she always liked Cash best. The conflict between Cash and Clay bubbles in snipes and shouts.  Clay is a stay-at-home dad while spouse Kelly is the go-to-work mom with a new baby on her breast who has her own conflicted issues.  Her four year old daughter romps through the house being chased by Cash’s sexy nineteen year old playmate (Kaitlin Huwe with a strong Eastern European accent, excellent timing and too much the truth, eh?). This lays the ground work for an Albee-esque battle that expands to the mystery of the gnawed upon avocado.

The play is an actor’s dream.  Every character is singular and complexly designed to make the audience do some self examination regarding gender roles, success, morals and prejudice.  The Pain and The Itch are more than just physical symptoms. They are indications of the attitude to which each of us may set our own personal compass and sail off into our lives.

By Bruce Norris
Zephyr Theatre
7456 Melrose
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Through December 1, 2013
Tickets and Information:
323 960 5774
General Admission $25.00
Students  $15.00

Monday, November 11, 2013


Reginald Rose’s 1954 teleplay adapted by him for the stage is a perennial staple for theatres ranging from high school productions to professionals.  Sometimes staged as 12 Angry Jurors to accommodate women, the Pasadena Playhouse reminds of the prejudices and other issues that have plagued society, especially pre-civil rights USA, for years.  Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s grimy scenic design and appropriate costumes take the audience directly into the barren jury room on a hot and muggy New York day. 

(L-R) Gregory North, Adam J. Smith, Bradford Tatum, Robert Picardo, Jason George. Photo by Jim Cox.

 Shadows of Henry Fonda as Juror Number 8 from Sidney Lumet’s 1957 Oscar nominated feature,  or,  the ’97 version directed for television by William Friedkin with Jack Lemmon as the lone detractor are cast long and wide. Initially, eleven of these men are anxious to bring back a quick conviction of the fifteen  year old kid accused of stabbing his father to death.  In Pasadena Playhouse Creative Director Sheldon Epps’ production at rise we find Jason George as Juror Number Eight, thoughtfully poised, gazing out a window contemplating the task he and eleven other men, six white and the other five also black, have before them.  The program cover and the ad posters set the scene.  It’s six against six.  The Caucasians vs. The African Americans.  White vs. Black.  Unfortunately, on this special opening of the play, the issue of Diversity is being celebrated but the stereotypes, especially for the Caucasians are simple and superficial.  This is a wonderful play that speaks to the issues of prejudice, ageism and impatience.  Each of the jurors is well developed, even the huge bully, Juror Number Three, Gregory North, whose height and bulk are literally loaded with weight and substance.  Why an equally intimidating African American might not have been cast in this pivotal role is never discussed, but it seemed to me that the casting certainly exhibits some questionable stereotypes of the Caucasians in word and deed while each of the African American jurors fielded the issues with a more patient and thoughtful demeanor. 

The innocence or guilt of the defendant, whose name we never know, but is characterized by one of the white jurors as ‘one of those people’ who are plotting to over run the United States, hangs in the balance as Number Eight begins to ask questions.  Though it’s all hear-say to the audience, we become jurors as well, as the ‘facts’ unfold.  Juror Three exclaims that the 'facts' get all twisted around.  It’s an open and shut case, isn't it?!

Juror Four, Robert Picardo, is a long time hold out whose actions are vital to the deliberation.  Rose uses subtle hints to aid Juror Eight as he casts doubt on the "open and shut case." Of course, the most important  issue in any criminal trial is to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.   Rose has constructed a situation that has won him high acclaim over the years and for good reason.  His characters work.  Why, in this effort to bring diverse casting to the Playhouse, women and/or other actors of color and age were not considered is a shame.  To simplify the battle over guilt and innocence in this basic black/white all male cast, has deprived us of a real opportunity for diversity.

Scott Lowell, as the Jury Foreman, has his work cut out for him.  Challenged at the get go by other jurors and getting them to all sit down at the table took some doing.  Difficulty in hearing the senior member of the jury, Adolphus Ward as Number Nine and trying to coordinate the numbers of the other jurors with their actor selves makes writing about individuals difficult. Suffice it to say that the play holds up.  The tensions and dramatic beats are well choreographed by Epps as the story moves along.  Each of the other jurors: Number Two, Jeff Williams; Five, Jacques C. Smith; Six, Ellis E. Williams; Seven, Barry Pearl; Ten, Bradford Tatum; Eleven, Clinton Derricks-Carroll and Twelve, Adam J. Smith have their specific moments that shock, sustain and enliven the well mounted event. 

By Reginald Rose
The Pasadena Playhouse
39 S. El Molino Ave,
Pasadena, CA 91101
Tickets and Information:
Phone: (626) 792-8672
Through Sunday December 1, 2013

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Black Suits Rock at the Kirk Douglas.

If you’ve ever been a teenager.  If  you’ve ever had a band.  If you’ve ever been deep in love and the next day not so sure. If you’ve ever had a passion and believed with all your heart, you’re not alone. You'll find yourself in the right place for The Black Suits (world premiere musical).  Joe Iconis’s music and lyrics partner with his and Robert Emmett Maddock’s book bringing us, Ladies and Gentlemen… a rock and roll extravaganza.   

Sitting next to a man who smelled of peanut butter and tobacco who touted himself a ‘real critic’ added to the experience for me.  He seldom applauded at the end of the multitude of expository numbers and informed me that he and his writers write ‘real criticism,’ whatever that is!  Of course, we all know the difference between a lowly ‘reviewer’ and a ‘true critic.’  Or do we?  To be taken to school by a smelly middle aged guy who did not deign to applaud nor rise with the standing ovation at the curtain certainly put me in my place, boy!  If these brief insights of mine inform or enlighten a bit, that's my only goal.  

That said, a packed house at the Kirk Douglas in Culver City (CTG’s extended venue) enthusiastically absorbed the high tech teen angst with glee.  Derek McLane’s scenic design  is brilliant. Ben Stanton's elaborate light design must have the meter spinning off the wall!  All the elements of a Broadway Musical (emphasis mine) are in place.  Charlie Rosen’s orchestration is double covered by his offstage orchestra led by him while doubling on bass. Steven Feifke, Keyboards; Austin Moorhead, Guitar;  Taylor Murphy, Drums and Aaron Schuman, Guitar/Keyboards supplement beautifully.  Our onstage musicians are each spot on.  On bass we have the ever horny and frog kissing Nato (Will Roland); Berkeley Acceptee, Brandon (Harrison Chad) sits on his throne with drums;  Lead guitar, handsome Jimmy Brewer as John  and, the man with the band, singer/titular leader, Chris (Colby Getzug). 

A group of pals are drawn together.  A garage band. A girlfriend,  also looking for artistic expression (“Photography is not an art,” says, Brandon, the drummer, comparing years of study to become an accomplished musician). Crafty Lisa (pretty Veronica Dunne) becomes a photojournalist and her art blossoms even through a phase with rather fetching blue hair.

Chris’s angst takes him to neighbor Mrs. Werring’s (Amazing Annie Golden) kitchen.  She’s had her own brushes with greatness in the Music World.  She becomes a literal cheerleader for Chris and his band.  Golden’s outstanding voice kicks out the jams. At times I could virtually feel my socks being knocked off!

The predictability of the uncomplicated story is simply a comfort. Obvious issues evolve. Summer pals hone their chops; struggle through their first real gig out side the safety of the garage. Their roller rink gig moves them along to finally compete in THE BATTLE OF THE BANDS!, but not without girlfriend issues, ego issues, missing parents issues and issue issues.  Somewhat over written, the book and score blast us through teen age memories and some decent music. None of the tunes much stick as we’re headed out the door, but the memories of youthful angst and passion are all available and well played by The Black Suits, for sure, yo.  

The Black Suits
CTG’s Kirk Douglas Theater
9820 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
November 3 through November 24, 2013
Tuesdays through Sundays (No Performance on Mondays)
Tickets and Information: 213 628 2772

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Any relationship forged from need is, by definition, a needy relationship.  A relationship formed from desire is desired, desirable and, to me, a superior situation.  As a semi/pseudo intellectual (or would it be pseudo/semi?) I cannot begin to analyze Samuel Beckett’s ENDGAME currently in rep at Pasadena’s A Noise Within.  Well, I could, but it would mostly be a re-hash of having experienced productions of WAITING FOR GODOT and other of Beckett’s theatrical pieces.  The desolate world depicted outside scenic designer Jeanine Ringer’s sad gray set we can only guess at from Clov’s (Jeremy Rabb) reports.  He shuffles and shuffles and shuffles with his ladder to one window and then the other, reporting on the emptiness in the outside world.
Jill Hill and Geoff Elliott Photo credit Craig Schwartz

Hamm (Geoff Elliott who also directs and should reconsider directing himself) cannot stand.  He is master.  Clov, who cannot sit, is not.  Who has the power? Why do they stay? Is there any Hope?  The nihilistic world of Beckett sometimes anointed with the term Theatre of the Absurd may be in a class and a category all by itself.  Influenced by his friend, James Joyce, Beckett forged a new avenue to theatre.  The often told story of the failure of the initial production of Godot with Bert Lahr and Tom Ewell shows that audiences were unprepared to be challenged with free form despair.  ENDGAME does have structure with self referential asides and the fascination of waiting, hoping for something.  It keeps us in our seats.  Are we ever prepared to do the work that Beckett asks of us?

I sometimes overhear what someone in the audience says after the play. 
“What did you think?” 
“It was hideous!”

On one level I must agree.  To paint this netherworld where Hamm’s parents Nell and Nagg (Jill Hill and Mitchell Edmonds) linger in what the Brits call dustbins,  in this production they reside each in one half of a 55 gallon oil barrel,  Nagg and Nell appear and disappear, their futile existence echoing the desolation Beckett paints sometimes with broad strokes and sometimes with minutia… which  is a long sentence that begs the question: What is it all about?  

Elliott’s self direction could use a more critical: external eye and ear.   Not that there is much that one can do with the repetitive business and rambling speeches that Hamm must find meaning in… or does he?  Do we?  Beckett’s message to the world is not a happy one.  Of course,  not all theatre needs to send the audience humming a happy tune out the door.  Biff Rose once said, “Man does not live by bread alone, you’ve got to have a little toast.”  The nourishment of ENDGAME is in there somewhere and to ferret it out is a challenge to both the actors and the audience.  Technically, this production reflects what Beckett himself dictated in specific lines and stage directions with the exception of flopping Right for Left unless the playwright intended a literal view from the audience’s point of view.  As I see the author’s stage directions in my mind’s eye, had the play been staged as Beckett had dictated, it would have been even more uncomfortable. 

ENDGAME by Samuel Beckett
Sponsored by Terry and Jeanie Kay
A Noise Within
3352 East Foothill Boulevard
Pasadena, CA  91107
Plays in repertory through November 23, 2013
Tickets and Information
626 356 3100 ex 1



Garry Marshall’s Falcon Playhouse is a gem.  One hundred and thirty seats. A mini-Mark Taper Forum.  Set in the heart of Toluca Lake, the modified thrust stage puts every member of the audience close to the play and in Charles Ludlam’s The Mystery of Irma Vep the action is sometimes practically in our lap.

I love the theatre lingo ‘Two Hander.”  This Two Hander has the splendid twosome of Matthew Floyd Miller and Jamie Torcellini literally running for two full acts.  The action is hilarious and the message is … well.. there may not be a message, but it’s still hilarious.  Two actors and a bevy of characters, each singular and well defined. 

‘Jane Twisden’ (Matthew Floyd Miller) and ‘Lady Enid’ (Jamie Torcellini) in The Mystery of Irma Vep at the Falcon Theatre.  Photo by Chelsea Sutton

Director Jenny Sullivan has staged Vep before and the experience shows.   When Miller as Jane Twisden, the prime and proper House Keeper, makes ‘her’ first floating cross, it sets the stage for laughter and if one can follow the somewhat elaborate plot (or even if one can’t) the action to the word, the word to the action, it’s just plain fun.

Lady Enid Hillcrest (Torcellini) has come to live in Sir Edgar Hillcrest’s (Miller) lavish estate. She is an actress! She is dramatique! She is troubled by the portrait of Edgar’s now deceased former wife, Irma Vep, hanging over the well appointed mantel.  (Thomas S. Giamario’s scenic design and lighting are perfect!) Quick costume changes allow for Jane to rush out and return moments later as Sir Edgar, having trouble with his mustache.  The passionate “Edgar?” “Enid..”  “Edgar!!” “Enid!!” “EDGAR!!!”  “ENID!!!......”  is priceless. 

Story meanders to the audience’s delight with a trip to Egypt after the act break.     Elaborate costumes by Alex Jaeger allow the two talented actors quick changes and the action never stops.  Torcellini as Nicodemus Underwood (with a wooden leg and a limp) reminded me of Uncle Fester of The Addams Family.    

Playwright Charles Ludlam (Not to be confused with Charles Busch, as Busch often wrote plays for himself to play the female lead) was reported in the notes to have penned many of these two handers that he performed with his long time companion Everett Quinton.  Puns and silly references abound.    Giamario’s lights and David Beaudry’s sound effects become characters all their own, but it’s still a two person play!  Sullivan’s brilliant direction keeps the show moving a pace.  Hidden panels and a mythical critter round out the romp.

For a totally enjoyable evening that will leave you gasping slightly for breath and wondering how these two performers manage to keep the pace and the laughter going…   See This One. 

THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP (a penny dreadful)
By Charles Ludlam
The Falcon Theatre
4252 Riverside Drive
Burbank, CA 91505
Opens October 25, 2013
Closes Sunday November 17, 2013
Performances Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8PM
Sundays at 4PM
Tickets: 818 955 8101 or

Monday, October 14, 2013

Antaeus: Tangerines or Cherries?

 The Liar, take two.

Tangerines and Cherries / Cherries and Tangerines?   Not like apples and oranges but still a tough comparison.   Antaeus does the Los Angeles theatre world a favor with their tradition of creating two complete casts for their productions.  The chemistry of who plays what character and with whom is extremely interesting to watch and though comparisons are not all together a good idea, they are inevitable. 

The Sunday matinee of The Liar came off beautifully timed and well acted, but with a slightly different energy.  These are all professional actors.  They are well rehearsed and meet the demands of the text, which are considerable. Kudos again to director Casey Stangl.  Traditionally, Antaeus creates names for their separate casts, but this time, it’s a slightly jumbled mix and match of characters which meant that a couple of the actors from Thursday’s opening night, Jules Wilcox (sexy Clarice) and Jonathon Lamer (bigger and crisper in his second shot at Philiste) came to play at the Sunday matinee.  
Jules Willcox as Clarice, Ann Noble as Lucrece Photo by
Geoffrey Wade
David Ives’ adaptation of Corneille’s play is the key, of course.  His purposeful doggerel works so very well.  The brilliant script is contemporary and still maintains the flavor of the times, almost Shakespearean.  He cribs a bit from Hamlet here; a sonnet there, much to the delight of the audience. It is a play for lovers of the Theatre.  The energy seldom flags.

A matinee somehow is not the same as an evening performance. It’s the middle of the day.  The words are all the same, though interpretations must vary to suit the individual actor.  Where Bo Foxworth as Alcippe is compact and frenzied, Sunday’s Alcippe, Joe Delafield is more rangy. He, too, is wild but obsessed in completely different way.  As Lucrece, Ann Noble, is a ringer for her sister player, Joanna Strapp.  Noble reminded me of Poison Ivy Rorschach of The Cramps. Strong choices. Brian Slaten’s Cliton is barely a triple digit IQ and at once a perfectly hip and happening narrator for the play.  Graham Hamilton as Dorante approaches his Liar with great confidence.  To be a master liar, you must have a great memory and his work is well done, even the forgetful parts. 

Karen Malina White as the twins, Isabelle and Sabine, serving Clarice and Lucrece, was slightly difficult to understand from time to time, but the delineation of the two disparate characters still worked.  Antaeus staple, Robert Pine as Geronte, allowed his beats to syncopate from time to time but scored the only ovation on his exit from completing a complicated speech. 

The matinee emerged from the same deep well of Casey Stangl’s vivid imagination and holds up beautifully. It’s impossible not to compare performances, one to another and impossible not to have a favorite or two.  The upside is that whichever cast that you may choose to see, and I recommend that anyone within the sound of my ‘voice’ must get to NoHo to see this show, laughs are guaranteed. The performances are so worth the effort that you must become another advocate for The Liar.  Which ever cast you choose, you’ll leave the theater smiling and ready to tell a friend.

Pierre Corneilles’s THE LIAR 
"slapadapted" by David Ives
Antaeus Theatre Company
5112 Lankershim Boulevard
NoHo, CA 91601 (1 ½ blocks south of Magnolia)
Two casts Opens October 10, 2013
Continues Thursdays through Sundays
Closes December 1, 2013
Call theater or check website for specific casts, dates and times
818 506 1983
$34.00 Top

Michael Sheehan

Saturday, October 12, 2013


Pierre Corneille's The Liar  "slapdapted" by David Ives 

Thanks to Melinda Peterson, I learned that Antaeus was a Titan, not a God, who always kept one foot on the ground.  As long as one foot was on the ground, he was immortal.  He lost immortality if he allowed himself to go airborne. Antaeus Theatre Company has both feet planted firmly on the ground and if their current productions of The Liar are any indication, they must continue to flourish. 

I had a musician friend whose vanity license plate, “A440,” referred to perfect pitch. Approaching perfection is a goal. To achieve it is rare, but one thing that I’ve seen over the years with Antaeus Theatre Company is that their choices of material and dedication to the heart of theatre continue to strive for perfection.  Their current offering, The Liar, written by David Ives is adapted from Pierre Corneille’s 1644 adaptation of  Spanish-American playwright, Juan Ruíz de Alarcón’s  La Verdad Sospechosa which was published in 1634.  Ives’ “translaptation”: a rhyming adaptation in iambic pentameter, is a gem.  He has even been so bold as to hippity hop almost four hundred years with contemporary references in clever dialogue which director Casey Stangl has instilled in her actors to romp with.  Yes.  It’s a romp. 
Nicholas D'Agosto as Dorante, Bo Foxworth as Alcippe
Photo by Geoffrey Wade
The beauty of this first performance (a second cast follows with Antaeus’s tradition of doing a complete double casting) is that the language, the attitude and the style all meld to perfect pitch and rhythms.  It’s not easy to keep a beat, but the beat goes on starting with the familiar preshow admonition to turn off electronic devices and such when the house lights go down and a spot comes up inhabited by Cliton (Brilliant Rob Nagle) who cannot tell a lie.  He is not a simpleton, but a pretty basic guy who starts the show with a little exposition that leads us down the garden path to lies and more lies and mistaken identities and ... what else? A happy ending.

The Liar, himself, Dorante (gaining traction with every step, Nicholas D’Agosto), arrives in the Tuilleries ready for action.  He soon enlists Cliton to be his wingman as in come hotsy totsy Clarice (dark and slightly S and M Jules Willcox) and not so hotsy in her hornrims, Lucrece (really very attractive Joanna Straap).  Playing twins, warm and cuddly Isabelle and not so cuddly Sabine (Gigi Bermingham), all add to the mixup as Dorante thinks he’s fallen for Clarice, but remembers Lucrece’s name! 

It gets better.  Alcippe (rabid Bo Foxworth) and his pal, Philiste (staid Jonathon Lamer) keep the ball in the air as we finally meet Dorante’s daddy, Geronte (flip shades Peter Van Norden), whose goal is to marry off his son.  Oh frabjous day!

Rhymes and pacing never flag, which is all thanks to Stangl’s fluid and dramatic direction. Lines fly fast and furious with never a syllable lost.  Minimal set by Keith Mitchell functions perfectly. Costumes: black on black on black (with a little lace: black) by Angela Balogh Calin are just right.  This is professional theatre in a storefront that matches or outweighs most anything I’ve ever seen.  These are theatre folks dedicated to the stage.  Of course, many of the Anteaus members work regularly in features or on TV, but the camaraderie of the company is totally dedicated to the ensemble, which, of course is pitch perfect when everyone is so enjoying the process of creating the gift of a great performance.   A440!

Pierre Corneilles’s THE LIAR 
slapdapted by David Ives
Antaeus Theatre Company
5112 Lankershim Boulevard
NoHo, CA 91601 (1 ½ blocks south of Magnolia)
Two casts: The Cherries and The Tangerines
Opens October 10, 2013
Continues Thursdays through Sundays
Closes December 1, 2013
Call theater or check the Antaeus website for specific casts, dates and times
818 506 1983
$34.00 Top

Michael Sheehan