Monday, December 7, 2015

THE WINTER’S TALE by William Shakespeare

William Dennis Hunt is an old friend.  It is because of his pioneer vision that The Company Theatre of Los Angeles became a cause celeb many years ago holding forth in a magical space on Robertson Boulevard.  I am grateful to The Company for many things.  So..  with that said.. Bill has taken a plunge!  It’s the Bard!  It’s one of his plays that most of us know little about.  THE WINTER’S TALE! (Emphasis mine.)

Return with us now to those dusty days of when kings and queens roamed the hills and nonsense was afoot.  Remembering the names of King Leontes of Sicilia (Max Lawrence) and his old pal King Polixenes visiting from Bohemia (Allen Barstow) has been tough as I’ve discussed this show with friends. What Shakespeare had in mind is confusing and frustrating because his basic elements are in here somewhere and Director Hunt in a creative way has done his best to ferret them out.  Motivation for the action of this play in Act I is cloudy at best, though the actors are working their tails off to get through the language, and accomplish this with some success. 

The Other Space is not unlike many intimate little theaters in town.  Forty seats, simple lighting. A black box.  As we enter, the cast is on stage sort of chatting.  It was unclear if this was an actors warm up or if the characters were just having a little get together before the show actually began.  This is a young company and the energy for the play is palpable.  A good thing.

Leontes has been entertaining his friend from childhood, Polixenes as a guest in Sicilia.  Polixenes doesn’t want to overstay his welcome and announces that it’s time to head for home.   Leontes persuades his pregnant wife, Hermione (very lovely Carolyn Marie Wright) to coax Polixenes to linger a little while longer.  For reasons that are unclear, Leontes becomes mad with jealousy and orders his retainer, Camillo (Taylor Jackson Ross) to poison his old pal because he’s decided that Hermione’s unborn child is Polixenes and not his!  He denounces his wife and trouble's afoot! 

Camillo decides that the king must be nuts and tells Polixenes she is supposed to poison him! They run away poste haste! Following the plot here becomes troublesome. Hermione delivers a daughter.  Hermione ‘dies’ and the “bastard” daughter, Perdita (appearing in Act II as a young maiden, Hayley Brown) is taken away in a basket by Antigonus and left on the shore of Bohemia (shades of Snow White).  What ever got into Leontes to make him go off his rocker is unclear.  Even with my program in hand, telling who was who after this with doubling and tripling makes it impossible to report specific performances.

ACT II..  “Time” (Played by producer Hannah Pell) announces at rise that sixteen years have passed! Perdita, having been been raised by the generous Old Shepherd (Frank Weidner who, as Antigonus, was eaten by the bear at the end of Act I) is now sixteen.  Highlight of the show is the appearance of the scallywag, Autolycus (excellent Olivia Buntaine) who brings the second half to life with her pickpocketing skills, skullduggery and mandolin virtuosity.  Cute!   

Suffice it to say that all’s well that ends well, with Leontes coming to Bohemia, making amends with his old pal, Polixenes as Polixenes son, Florizel (Roman Guastaferro) has fallen in love with Perdita, Hermione ‘comes back to life’ and la dee dah. 

This is a noble effort. Hunt and his young cast deserve an audience and applause, though the twists and turns of Shakespeare’s wonky plot would be impossible to follow were it not for a thorough perusal of a synopsis before heading down to the theater! 

The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare
Directed by William Dennis Hunt
Mine is Yours Theatre Company

The Actors Company/ The Other Space
               916 A North Formosa Ave
               West Hollywood, CA 90046

Friday 12/4 at 8:00PM
              Saturday 12/5 at 8:00PM
              Sunday 12/6 at 2:00PM
              Friday 12/11 at 8:00PM
              Saturday 12/12 at 8:00PM
              Sunday 12/13 at 2:00PM

$18 general admission
                 $10 w/code BEAR

Sunday, November 8, 2015


I am an unabashed fan of this show.  To critique it would be a Fool’s Errand, as nothing goes right. Well.  It all goes right, but the left turns are so much fun… which is the whole point.. and, of course, the reason to simply go!   
Paul Baird, Lila Dupree, Marcelo Tubert, Olivia Christina Delgado, Aaron Miller    Photo by Ed Krieger
Spinning off the forty year legacy of El Grande de Coca Cola, penned by Ron House, Diz White, Alan Shearman and John Neville-Andrews which ran for over 1,400 performances Off Broadway, El Grande Circus de Coca Cola never fails to burlesque Burlesque.   

Alan Shearman’s deft hand and a cast of five amazing performers bring El Grande Circus de Coca Cola from recent sold out beginnings at The Skylight in Hollywood arriving now in Burbank!  It continues to leave the audience limp from laughter.   Ringmaster, Don Pepe Hernandez (excellent Marcelo Tubert), shows up a little late as half seesters Maria Hernandes (Olivia Christina Delgado) and Consuelo Hernandez (Lila Dupree), daughters of Don Pepe, respectively, are from ‘wifey numero uno or dos.. (I’m unsure) and numero quarto, a beautiful Swede. They 
engage the audience, hustling acting jobs and for Maria finding a husband! “Martha Stewart” and “Larry David” are interviewed.  “So? How was prison? Was it like Orange is the New Black?”  Non-stop silliness!

Over the top; filled with hubris, Don Pepe presents silly ‘eempersonations’ and promotes his own special brand of acting. He poopoos Uta Hagen (sounds like an ice cream!) and Lee Strasberg.. mumble jumble..  There’s even a coupon in the program for a discount to attend his acting workshop.

Drummer Juan Rodriguez (manic Aaron Miller) fiercely attacks not only his drum kit, but takes on history with his portrayal of a three foot tall Napoleon loading a gigantic cannon ball into an impossibly huge cannon.  The physical agility and prowess of all of the cast members is nothing short of incredible. 

Handsome Paul Baird as Miguel Vasquez plays piano, charms every woman in the audience, AND circles the stage riding a unicycle while playing the accordion!

John Iacovelli’s cotton candy set transfers beautifully from the smaller venue.  Sarah Vigoten’s costumes are perfectly tacky. 

Having become a fan of this craziness, all that really needs to be said is that one must abandon all disbelief to fully embrace an hour and a half of hilarity (mostly in Spanglish and Spanish! Which really need no translation) at the beautiful Colony Theatre.  This is professional work by an energetic and professional cast.  The Colony now has a license to serve at their bar, so come thirsty, my friends.

Directed by Alan Shearman
555 N. Third Street
Burbank, California
Through December 13, 2015
Tickets and Information:
818 588 7000 extension #15

Sunday, October 25, 2015

SCOTT AND HEM at The Falcon in Toluca Lake

Playwright Mark St. Germain’s take on what a meeting between old pals Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald might have been like in the hey day of Hollywood circa 1937 ran into a slight glitch opening night.  Adam J. Harrington, the original actor to play Scott, was replaced by understudy Thomas Owen.  St. Germain’s play itself on Francios-Pierre Couture’s beautiful adobe set struggles with a sense of true purpose. The actors, though reciting well and embodying some essence of these two famous writers, only hit their marks if you buy their story. 
Ty Mayberry, Jackie Seiden, Thomas Owen
Fitzgerald is squirrled away in an apartment at the infamous Garden of Allah and is all watched over by the gorgeous Eve Montaigne (gorgeous Jackie Seiden) who is on hand to be his assistant as well as his guardian to prevent him from lapsing into his cups, preventing him from finishing a screenplay.  We learn that if Scott doesn’t come up with the goods, it’s curtains for him as well as for Ms Montaigne.  It’s an odd situation for the Fourth of July at a notorious hot spot where orgies and other shenanigans going on were legend.

Hemingway enters. Rather, in bursts handsome Ty Mayberry, mid thirties; sui generis.  Mayberry captures the swagger and even the look, but after consuming two full fifths of alcohol by the end of the full length one act, he is still ramrod straight and unchanged from the moment he enters and attempts to seduce Ms Montaigne.  All the while Hem’s attempt to lure Scott back to drink has an ulterior motive.  The killer complications of these two most famous contributors to the American literary scene swing to Scott’s need to institutionalize Zelda; resist the temptation to abandon his full nine days of sobriety and finish this script.. Or, else!

Energy rises on stage when Seiden sweeps in to monitor the goings on and fend off Hemingway’s advances.  Otherwise, it’s pretty much a text book rendering of a “what if” that is a play that leaves more questions wanting than answered.

By Mark St. Germain
The Falcon Theatre
4252 Riverside Drive
Burbank, CA 91505
Through November 15, 2015
Tickets and Information:
818 955 8101


What I love about the Independent Shakespeare Company’s work is that it’s all about the Work..  No frills to speak of, trained professional actors, simply ‘a plank and a passion.’  They are lean and lithe, especially our gorgeous little Ingénue, amazing Erika Soto, who flies in to an “open rehearsal” for RICHARD III starring Himself: The Actor (David Melville, who also collaborated with the company on the script).  He is the man with all the credits and all the attitude and all the ‘stuff’ that sometimes makes us cringe if we are dragged kicking and screaming to see something by The Bard.  Melville’s tongue in cheek approach to Richard is delightfully way over the top and his impatience when we learn that the director of the piece has fled and that the actress to play Mrs. III, Anne Neville, has split the scene as well. 
Erika Soto, Sam Breen, David Melville

The Ingénue is handed the script and attempts to read the queen’s lines.  As all actors should do in seeking clarity in their character’s parts, she is flummoxed by the speech, stops the reading and simply asks for clarification regarding the lineage of Richard…   and away we go. 

Stage Manager Sam Breen’s terrible Accent Francais thankfully disappears as The Actor and The Ingénue and The Stage Manager begin to chart the Strange Eventful History of the kings of England.  Familiar scenes from other plays of Shakespeare emerge with these three:  these happy three, this band of two brothers and a sister as they embark on a wild and furious ride that, though imperfect, is perfectly presented with The Actor using an entire wall to chart the lineage of the Kings of England.  Melville and the ISC are not the Reduced Shkspr Co.  They are specific in this presentation that brings to the audience a peek into what Theatre is all about.  We see behind the scenes a bit and as the actors morph through generation after generation of the Royal Monarchy, we keep track of who’s on First by the writing on the wall. 

Direction is a bit hazy.  Joseph Culliton is credited with ‘Direction’ instead of ‘directed by’ and this may be because the entire company is credited with the development of the piece with Melville.  Some scenes placed far downstage play wonderfully well for the  first row, but then the folks behind must shift and crane our necks to see the action.    However, the evening goes a pace and the actors coming in and out of their ever changing characters proffer a lesson of which few of us may be aware.  This presentation is wonderfully graphic with these three strong talents romping through the ages.  A rack of costumes stage right by Houri Mahserejian and simple set by Caitlin Lainoff work just fine. 

Especially wonderful is Ms Soto as Princess Catherine with Breen as the English speaking nurse discussing body parts from Henry V.  C’est formidable.  Le elbow!

Uncomfortable seats in a wonderfully rag tag rehearsal space elevate this production to the heights.  Go and see it! 
Ticket prices are as follows:
Generous Admission: $35
General Admission:  $20
Ten tickets are set aside for each performance at no charge. 
Call ISC for information. 

By David Melville and the ISC company with
William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe
 Independent Shakespeare Company
3491 Casitas Avenue  #168 
(Enter on the west side by the parking lot)
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Through November 22, 2015
Tickets and Information:
818 710 6306

Monday, October 19, 2015


Czarist Russia in the last part of the 19th Century predates the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the rise of Bolsheviks and the establishment of the USSR.  Not unlike the issues that challenge us in the 21st Century, the elite are in power and times are changing. Vanya (excellent Ayre Gross), uncle to  Sonya (Shannon Lee Clair), the daughter of Serebrakov (steadfast Harry Groener) and Vera (now deceased) has managed the estate and farm that Serebrakov  (now remarried to the fetching Yelena (yummy Rebecca Mozo) and Vera have established.  The tangled web of who loves whom and (like the Cherry Orchard?) what shall become of the estate emerges.   Though I am not a Chekov scholar by any stretch of the imagination, my recollection of every play of his I’ve ever seen or directed or acted in, there’s angst and trouble brewing.  The future, if there is one, is bleak.  The message, however, is that we must endure.

By chance I paged by a TV sitcom, “Ellen” while stalling the writing this review.  There, twenty years ago is love sick Ayre Gross as series regular Adam Green, pining away for a woman that Ellen has fixed him up with, only for him to be rejected. 
Fast forward to 2015 and then backwards again more than a century to Chekov’s Russia.  There’s Ayre again… pining away for his youth and what might have been. This new translation of Uncle Vanya is streamlined compared to other translations I’ve heard.  There is a modern click track that keeps the action moving (thanks to director Robin Larsen’s smooth hand) and the language, though still sounding like Chekov, is less stilted and more accessible.  The year is 1898, at the sixty four room mansion on the estate where Vanya,  at ‘the age of 47 years’   pines away for the much younger and lovely Yelena, wife of The Professor. As Serebryakov, Groener carries the feeling of the Russian aristocracy on both shoulders and realizes that he is much too old for his trophy wife who turns the heads of every other male on the stage.  Vanya laments in soliloquy not sweeping Yelena off her feet years ago when she was fourteen and was only twentyseven.

As in many of  Chekov’s plays, change is inevitable.  Folks are coming and going, hearts are breaking; love is unrequited. Sonya loves, Astrov, the Doctor (Andrew Borba). Astrov yearns for Yelena and Marina (Dawn Didawick) wishes that he would notice her.  Age is taking its toll and change is unavoidable.  Sadness and angst prevail.   Annie Baker’s adaptation of a new translation of the play from the original Russian by Margarita Shalina simply works. Works beautifully.  This gives director Larsen and her Antaeus actors (there are two separate but equal casts) room to move.  Flowing text and crusty angst create an odd feeling of cognitive dissonance with the essence of 19th Century Russia and a correlation to today’s social situation, including Astrov’s intense interest in saving the trees.

Kind and philosophical Mimi Cozzens as Maria adds texture as this cast moves as an ensemble, with only occasional nibbles at the scenery.  With such angst abounding, it’s permitted.

The tiny Antaeus space on Lankershim has been slightly expanded to accommodate interiors and exteriors of the estate while Waffles (Excellent Clay Wilcox on the mandola) sings interstitials with Yefim (Paul Baird) on accordion.  All together it’s what I believe Mr. Chekov would applaud heartily.   I certainly do and encourage you to get to Antaeus in this, their last season on Lankershim.  Broadway here they come!! (In Glendale!! in the later part of 2016)

UNCLE VANYA by Anton Chekov
Adapted by Annie Baker
5112 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood CA, 91601
(1½ bocks south of Magnolia)
Through December 8, 2015
Tickets and Information:
(818) 506-1983 or


Monday, October 5, 2015

Twenty Years Gone By.. WATCHING O.J. at EST/LA : AVT

Notwithstanding the guy who stepped full on my foot and throughout Act II of WATCHING O.J. A WORLD PREMIERE by David McMillan, sat behind me and crinkled his Skittles bag and peanut butter cup wrapper in my ear, the play bubbles to the surface a joke (from 1995 when the play takes place) about how long it may take to get a black President, and then turns mostly on rehashing the Trial of OJ Simpson and a discussion prejudice.  

 It is not a bad play. Director Keith Szarabajka guides with an even hand this strong polemic that centers on the verdict of the murder trial in 1995.  It employs stereotypes and our still racist feelings about crossing the ‘color line’ which in 1995 was very slowly beginning to fade, but was still very much in play. These twenty years since the verdict, which sent cheers through the African American community, the issue still resonates.  

Oz (Robert Gossett, who seemed to struggle with lines from time to time) is the black neighbor of Harold (Tony Pasqualni)) who runs a local cleaning establishment. He sums the situation up in a way that white people might understand.  The not guilty verdict brings harsh words and broken friendships.  Oz tells Harold that this might be his opportunity to feel what it’s like to be a black man: To have the verdict reflect what the Black Community finally needed to hear: that ‘justice’ is relative.  “Tomorrow you can be white again, Harold.”

We are all prejudiced.  We pre-judge for many reasons.  Making an informed decision  may turn on how awake we are. We are preprogrammed to decide if we are in danger and just as in  Rodgers and  Hammerstein’s lyrics from South Pacific, “We have to be carefully taught to hate and fear.

Harold’s daughter has died of a drug over dose on this date in the distant past and it weighs on him.  Guilt and angst elicit strong feelings in addition to his outrage that O.J. is now a free man. His assistant, Cordelia (excellent Angela Bullock) is kind and thoughtful. She is anxious for her son, Jamal (Kareem Ferguson), a mechanic who works for Oz, to find a girlfriend after his recent break up with Allison (Tarah Pollock), a doctor in training from Brentwood.  Jamal aspires to ‘make a difference’ and plans to attend the upcoming Million Man March organized by Louis Farrakhan the following week.  (Farrakhan has announced a twentieth anniversary of that day for October 10, 2015.)

Feisty Lisa Renee Pitts as Kim speaks of corruption and the culture of oppression that has put minorities on the defensive:  a stance that continues to this day in 2015.  Though some may think society has become ‘color blind’, we have miles to go.  Perhaps the polemic of how we still drag our feet on the slow walk to freedom and equality could be served by an attempt at a solution. Of course, answers are never obvious but the reuniting of Jamal and Allison subtly points a way.  Allison's short term boyfriend, Derek (Roy Vongtama) relating the looting of his Korean parents’ store during the Rodney King riots in 1992 and how they rebuilt in an attempt to elevate the South Central community is touching. Sheila (Kelly Wolf), the wife of a Los Angeles policeman whose son aspires to follow in his father’s footsteps, brings her perspective. Heavy duty fireworks ignite as Sheila and Kim go toe to toe regarding the verdict. Was every black person watching the announcement of the Not Guilty verdict elated?  Was Justice served?   Was it?

Does it really matter to replay the day of the verdict? Should we slip slide twenty years into a past that still leaves Ron and Nicole lying in their lakes of blood? Perhaps it does, and  as much as anything may recommend Watching O.J. There are decent performances and insights. Still that will not erase this ragged scar upon the judicial system.

Watching O.J.  by David McMillan
Atwater Village Theatre Complex
3269 Casitas Ave. LA, CA 90039
8pm Fridays and Saturdays, 2pm Sundays
Through November 8, 2015.
Tickets and information:

Monday, September 28, 2015

EXTENDED! Amazing Odets’ AWAKE AND SING at the Odyssey

As The Odyssey Theatre celebrates its 46th Season, Beth Hogan and Ron Sossi’s  production of Clifford Odets’ AWAKE AND SING! (coproduced with Marjie Mautner) reflects all of the professionalism and certainly important theatre of our times The Odyssey has been known for all these years.    Odets’ cast for the 1935 Broadway show at the Belasco Theatre featured Stella Adler as Bessie Berger and John Garfield as her son, Ralph.  Sanford Meisner filled a supporting role.  These greats were pals with the playwright and imagining the power of this production is wonderful. 

 Twenty years ago Marilyn Fox played the overbearing matriarch Bessie Berger.  In the play today, still echoing Odets’ cry for creativity and fairness, she returns to powerfully bring Bessie back to life.  Tour de force is too mild a term, as Fox and company roar to life and make the eighty year old play as contemporary as anything we might see today.  Odets’ handle on the human condition and even with his poetry of ancient language, the cast elevates the story straight into our hearts. 

I tried to imagine how this play, mounted in 1935 at the Belasco Theatre with the likes of Adler and Meisner in the cast, must have sounded to the theatre audience of the time.  A nickel for a haircut.  Pennies spent like dimes or more? A dollar was worth about $17.50 in today’s value.  Bringing home twenty bucks a week would come to $350.00.  Almost a living wage?  A nickel for a haircut would have been just shy of a buck. In these days after the depression, Bessie reminds her family and anyone who will listen that families are being put out of their homes right and left.  Thrift is essential.

Odets’ voice rings brilliantly in every character under Elina de Santos’ deft direction.  Pete Hickok’s brilliant set is one that David Belasco himself would have applauded. Every detail is attended to. It is the perfect canvas for this epic story to unfold.  A slight glitch in the lighting at rise is quickly forgotten as the Berger family struggles through their evening meal. The pecking order is well defined.  Excellent James Morosini as the kid, twenty two year old Ralph,  is filled with dreams and angst and love for the girl he pines for. He speaks for the new generation.  He’ll fly to California.  He’ll conquer the stars.  It is his line that echoes at the final moment.

The dance of these characters ebbs and flows with grace.  Three acts in just over two hours rush by flawlessly.  Grandfather, Jacob, Allan Miller, speaks for the past and his love of Caruso and the idea of loving one another falls to the ground.  Bessie’s cruel tirade in Act III shows the frustration that she has always harbored and brings the dramatic conclusion to the play. Jacob’s advice to Ralph, however, sticks with him.  Awake and Sing!

Beautiful Melissa Paladino’s Hennie is in trouble.  It’s telegraphed in subtle ways until the truth comes out.  Again, imagining the culture in 1935 and how the general population dealt with unwed pregnancies is a conundrum.  Bessie’s reaction says it all as she connives to quickly find a husband for her errant daughter.  Enter Moe Axelrod, (David Agranov) who has some dough and knows how to get it.  He’s hot for Hennie, but initially, she will have none of it.  Some of the most beautifully dated lines come from Moe who really loves Hennie.    Robert Lesser as the hen pecked and compliant husband, Myron Berger is mostly guided by our current phrase: “Happy Wife. Happy Life…”     Overbearing and wearing the ‘capitalist black hat’ is Bessie’s successful brother, Uncle Morty, beautifully captured by Richard Fancy.   Is it a sin to make your fortune on sweatshop schmatas? His wealth helps support the Bergers. Bessie treats him like a king.  He flaunts his success and almost succeeds in cheating young Ralph as the play winds to a close.

Enter the unsuspecting husband and ‘father’ of Hennie’s baby, Sam (Gary Patent).  English is not a first language for Sam and his bubble is about to be burst. Oy!

All together, the excellent direction of de Santos with a professional cast hitting every mark and playing in a natural style at once with what must have been the style of Odets’ era, it all comes down to doing the right thing.  A Jewish family must stick together as best they can to survive.  Jacob’s advice to young Ralph in Act One reverberates in the dénouement.  He must find his own way and Awake and Sing!

Kim DeShazo’s costumes and excellent tech credits envelop the audience and enhance the words.  This message of sadness and hope emerges, ringing as true today as it must have rung all those eighty years ago. 


AWAKE AND SING by Clifford Odets
2055 S. Sepulveda
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Through JANUARY 31, 2016
Tickets and Information:
310 477 2055 ext. 2

Saturday, September 26, 2015

ICU at The Atwater / Circle X

Circle X is a favorite company in the intimate theatre business at the Atwater Village Theatre.  They try new ideas and this new effort, “ICU” written by Fielding Edlow is a journey into not only physical intimacy, but emotional depth that is more than the sum of its parts.  If typical Jewish mothers connive to marry off their forty something daughters to doctors, we have that.  If typical Jewish fathers judge their children and tell off color jokes, we have that.  If typical middle-aged Jewish daughters constantly joust with their parents.  Again: a good dose of that.  Toss in a ringer in the waiting room, Doug Sutherland as Kevin/Kevyn? who says he must see his old friend, Brian (Tony Decarlo) who is the reason we are all gathered in the slightly grubby St Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital waiting room featuring outdated magazines and terrible coffee. 
Dagney Kerr and Ericka Kreutz photo credit Jeff Galfer

Stir in Charge Nurse Kate (the wonderful Ericka Kreutz) whose arc in this dark comedy is a catalyst that helps the story gel.  Add, handsome and overly patient Dr. Garber (Shaun Anthony) and the cast is set;  the stage is ready for a quickly paced overlapping back and forth that challenges the audience to stay apace.

Designer Amanda Knehans’ spare tennis court setting is a tiny arena no bigger than a large living room allows for only about forty audience members. Everyone is in the front row!  It’s tight and works well.  Act II in the ICU itself is equally well done. Brian Schnipper’s direction is generally effective, however, remembering site lines is lost by the actors briefly from time to time.  

 In the ICU Waiting Room in Act I, the cast hits the stage full speed ahead.  Brian, the son of Siggy (Joe Pacheco) and Ruth (bombastic Caroline Aaron), has suffered a heart attack.  The parents are in denial regarding their son’s drug and alcohol abuse.

Edlow’s play is part situation comedy and part Albee’s Virginia Woolf.  Not that that is a bad thing. But, because the play starts on a relatively high energy level, the escalation of the shouting becomes as much about the noise as where we are headed with concern for Brian. 

Kevin, who sits quietly beside his huge teddy bear and is drawn into the maw of angst shared by Brian’s worried  family,  says he’s there to offer an ‘amend’ to his former friend.  Spin class instructor Jenna (Dagney Kerr) has her own problems and becomes the guardian at the gate protecting her ailing brother.   
Ericka Kreutz, Tony DeCarlo and Doug Sutherland

Photo Credit Jeff Galfer

Caroline Aaron and Tony DeCarlo photo credit Jeff Galfer
Dark comedy that is literally ‘in your face’ though the fourth wall remains intact evolving to big laughs and major tsuris upon which  some Jewish families may thrive.   Never resolved is Jenna’s forty day menstrual period and the dénouement of the piece is a bit confusing. Excellent performances and frantic pace with attempted control by Kreutz’s wonderful Nurse Kate brought the audience to their feet.   

Excellent tech possibly by Jeff Gardner including vital statistics monitor and iPhone business is impressive.  
ICU is a theatrical whirlwind that deserves an audience. 

ICU  by Fielding Edlow

Circle X Theatre Company

Atwater Village Theater

3269 Atwater Village, CA  90039

Thursday – Saturday at 8PM

Sundays at 7PM

Through October 31, 2015

Tickets and Information: 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

AMERICAN FALLS West Coast Premiere at The Echo

The acoustics at The Echo in the Atwater Village Theatre are strange.  This is appropriate as Miki Johnson’s play, American Falls, is at once linear and also all over the map.  As the audience filed in, music playing was difficult to parse out.  The whole scene (a tableau has the actors all on stage, as they are for the entire show) is at once very ‘homey’ and foreboding and forbidding.   I was immediately transported in memory to David Lynch’s mysterious television series, Twin Peaks.  Beneath the rumble, I could hear the falls and Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting theme in my head.  There was another rumble, maybe the air conditioner that underscored the lines of the play but seemed oddly appropriate.  Chris Fields’ handling of this very odd piece leaves room for the individuals whom we meet their own time and space.  It’s a sad and disturbing story of misspent lives, angry diatribes and elements that leave an audience wondering.  Barbara Tarbuck as Samantha sits quietly in her rope swing and in her turn relates that she’s pushed eleven human beings from her body. A life a drift on oceans of beer and clouds of tobacco as she tramped  her way through high school focuses on her son, Samuel (Karl Herlinger), her surviving triplet.  We are tossed back and forth from Limbo to American Falls through time and no time piecing together Johnson’s jigsaw puzzle pieces of unhappiness. 

Billy Mound of Clouds (excellent Leandro Cano)  works at Payless shoe store and relies heavily on his shoes and his feet inside his shoes to get the sense of the goings on in American Falls, Idaho.  It’s Magic. Not “bullshit magic,” but real MAGIC… He is a Native American but he is not an alcoholic.  He’s done his time with alcohol and meth, but now.. he watches TV and loves his girlfriend, Gloria. And, he listens to his shoes.  As narrator, he engages us deeply and sincerely.  In the Q and A following the show, an audience member pointed out that everyone was “on the same train.”  I have to slightly disagree. The scene featuring Eric (Eric Hunnicutt) and his pals, Maddie (Beth Triffon) and Matt (Garrett Hanson) sitting at a kitchen table tossing back Jaegermeister shots and beer telling tales of dreams and such only slightly paid off in the end.  The play breaks the fourth wall and retains in an interesting way. The significance of the young folks off by themselves was a mystery.

Lisa (Deborah Puette) is lithe and airy and dead.  She is nowhere, but also is with us to explain how she came to die and why.  Samuel, now a widower and “not dad” to Isaac (Tomek Adler) has seen his wife go from fat and ugly to slender and pretty and then just gone from him because of Eric who swept her off her feet when they met in Algebra II in a community college in Pocatello.

Dramatic tension is palpable as Samuel’s dance of anger and hatred bubbles within him. Isaac is the recipient of this tirade as it escalates to a boiling point.

Johnson says that she didn’t consider Thornton Wilder’s American Classic, Our Town when writing this play.  Indeed the plots are very different, with her take on small town Idaho and infidelity and dead people walking carries with it more questions than answers.  Still a comparison is in order, no matter how dark.   Fields guides his actors through a virtual mine field.  The dance they do to keep their lives afloat engages and envelops us. 

With actors sharing roles from performance to performance, it was noted that the energies and ‘textures’ of the acting gives each diverse cast more to work with.  Everyone is on the stage for the full 72 minutes.  It nicely ebbs and flows. Though the dreams discussed in one portion of the play seem to be somewhat disconnected from the other scenes, there must be a reason.  It just escaped me. 

To leave a performance filled to the brim with the play, though a bit uncomfortable, is a rare and welcome occurrence. The Echo Theatre takes chances, which I applaud. AMERICAN FALLS serves up food for thought and strong emotions. When you go to see this one, your comments and insights are solicited and welcome.

American Falls  by Miki Johnson
Directed by Chris Fields
Tomek Adler  Leandro Cano Karl Herlinger
Eric Hunicutt Barbara Tarbuck 
Jessica Goldapple (Fri & Sat @ 8, Sun @ 4) / Beth Triffon (Sun @ 7)
Andrea Grano (Sat @ 8, Sun @ 4) / Deborah Puette (Fri @ 8, Sun @ 7)
Garrett Hanson (Sat @ 8, Sun @ 7) / Ian Merrigan (Fri @ 8, Sun @ 4)
Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Ave
Atwater Village, CA  90039
Tickets and Information: 
310 307 3753