Saturday, August 29, 2015


The last outing of the Impro Theatre Company for me was The Western Un-Scripted.  The beauty of this band of actors lies in that unspoken glance, a love of the Theatre, taking the suggestion to ‘have fun with it’ deeply to heart and to stay in the moment.  Having an audience who loves you is very helpful, too.  Having the great musical skills on hand that the music director / Piano Man Peter Smith brings to the mix is vital. It’s truly wonderful and so much fun.
Ensemble Sondheim Unscripted  Photo: Jill Mamey

Having seen good improv and marginal improv and disastrous improvisation, I’m not all together a fan of the medium. When it’s done well, well.. that’s amazing.  The issue is ego. When ego leaps in, then the ensemble takes a hike. In tonight’s version of Sondheim Unscripted, that never once happened even with the direction turning to the Gods on Mount Olympus... and Down Below as well.  The scholarship and skill of this crew is undeniable.  One thing that I’d have appreciated would have been A Chorus Line sort of introduction with the players holding up headshots that had their names in bold type.  I was blown away by especially by Michele Spears, who is a founder of the company and credited with being a co-director. However,  the ‘direction’ comes from within the ensemble.  

What happens in Toluca Lake at The Falcon, will NOT stay in Toluca Lake because when the word gets out what a good time this company is having, The Falcon will be packed and the audience will be enchanted and probably making plans to come back for more just to see if the company can top themselves.

As in most Improv shows, we need an object..  what?  A Crock Pot? And four notes for the score.  I don’t know much about music but a B flat made things wonky in the best of ways. 

To recount the plot, is a challenge.  Somehow we wound up with Greek Gods on Mount Olympus and Hades down below hustling for all he’s worth a slap and tickle with Minerva (Spears).   The ensemble found its way into Broadway tunes and made them work!  One hopes that the group records their performances and may consider workshopping some of them into finished pieces. 

As Zeus decides to abandon Olympus, he utters, “Eternity Sucks…” The existential nature of the show with Gods and mortals mixing it up shows the scholarship and extraordinary skills of these talented actors. 

I'm just listing the credited cast.   I adore Spears. She played Minerva… We have eight actors and Smith at the keyboard.  The eight are among the following:  Daniel Blinkoff, Ted Cannon, Kari Coleman, Josh Dean, Lisa Fredrickson, Kelly Holden Bashar, Brian Michael Jones, Brian Lohmann, Dan O’Connor, Edi Patterson, Jen Reiter, Paul Rogan, Cory Rouse, Ryan Smith, Floyd VanBuskirk, Patty Wortham!

Needless to say, but I must:   To see improvisation at this level with the special bent of a dedicated theme on an amazing trompe d’oeil set by Sandra Burns and fly by the seat of the pants lighting by Leigh Allen, it’s a must see. It’s what theatre is supposed to be: entertaining, enlightening, exceptionally smart and thought provoking.. though the laughs may trump the thinking part.  These actors are like a well oiled machine with silly putty for gears that may head in an odd direction, but never too far afield for someone to not grab the brass ring and make hay with it if you like to mix your metaphors!  Must see. Must!  Discounts for returnees! 

The Falcon Theatre
4252 Riverside Drive
Burbank, CA 91505
Through September 27, 2015
Tickets and Information: 818 955 8105

Saturday, August 1, 2015




DON'T        MISS           THIS           ONE!

After more than forty years, this hilarious old chestnut has new life.  Written by Ron House (the original Pepe Hernandez) based on the wonderful El Grande De Coca Cola created by Alan Shearman, Diz White, John Neville-Andrews and House, the new version is irrepressible, unfathomable, energetic silliness of the highest order.  The Skylight Theatre is large enough for a full audience to roll in the aisles if need be and the opportunity abounds for a solid two hours.  As flamboyant Maestro Pepe Hernandez (Marcelo Tubert, whose first language was actually Spanish), slaughters with Spanglishish pronouncements and impersonations.  He also offers el coupono por uno dollar off on acting lessons in the Hernandez Technique that he says surpasses Stanislavsky and Strasberg and probably the guy who taught at the Skylight for years, Milton Katselas

Marcelo Tubert as Pepe Hernandez
Pre-show, Consuela (Lila Dupree, who also produces) and her seester, Maria (raven haired Olivia Christina Delgado), charm the audience, calling out celebrities who have attended.  “Helen Mirren” was hustled for possible jobs by Consuela, who passed out her resume to everyone with both of her credits including her phone number. 

Director, Alan Shearman, brings the show quickly to a boil and without pause, the audience is dragged kicking and screaming with laughter through skits and audience participation.  One highlight of the show is a tribute to Napoleon with drummer Juan (Aaron Miller)’s enormous effort to put a gigantic cannon ball into a cannon that fills half of the stage.  On drums Miller, shows a mad passion for rocking the show with abandon.  Worth the price of admission alone!

Multi-talented Paul Baird, as handsome Miguel, has an amazing tale to tell.  Evidently, he arrived at a call back audition for a show being cast adjacent to El Grande.   Knowing nothing about the show, he peeked in to see what was going on having been rejected from the audition that he was late for.  Producer, Lila Dupree, noticed him and invited him in, declaring to Shearman that he might be right for Miguel, who plays piano, is fluent in Spanish and would also play a German knife thrower.  His resume listed his attributes and when he could do the language (El Grande is mostly in Spanish.. ish..), ride a unicycle and play the piano and  accordion as well as capture the silliness of all the characters that House has expanded upon, the show was cast.  The actor, indeed every actor, has endless energy and rocks the two hours of nonstop Circus, including riotous interstitial commercials for El Coca Cola, the sponsor of the show? 

John Iacovelli’s cheesy circus set creates a perfect scene.  Live music created by Baird, fills the space.  There are encounters with Chupacabra (the circus’s wild tiger) who eats a Subaru leaving only a side mirror for Miguel to admire himself in. 

Plans for this show are extensive with a hoped for date in the West End of London on the agenda.  This is a romp that must be experienced.  For a limited time only at the Skylight, El Grande Circus de Coca Cola is an absolute must see for everyone who loves to laugh.  How the cast keeps the energy up is amazing and the tears of joy that return even remembering the evening cannot describe how much fun this production engenders.  Wonderful. It’s just wonderful. 

By Ron House
Directed by Alan Shearman 
The Skylight Theatre
1817 ½ N. Vermont Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Fridays, Saturdays at 8:30 and Sundays at 3PM
Through SEPTEMBER 20, 2015
Tickets and Information:
213 761 7061