Friday, July 29, 2016


Lindsay LaVanchy
Photo by Ed Krieger
Even in the relative cool of the funky little Fountain Theatre, the heat from four actors, each in his/her own little zone of Tennessee Williams, is palpable.  Opening night for the stage version of 27 Wagons Full of Cotton, Williams' expanded one act adapted by Pierre Laville and Emily Mann from Williams' screenplay, Baby Doll, under the steady hand of Simon Levy doles out expected passion on Jeffrey MacLaughlin's Mississippi Delta set. A familiar iron crib holds woman child, Baby Doll (Lindsay LaVanchy) as she strikes the familiar Carroll Baker pose made famous in Elia Kazan's movie of the same name.  It's the eve of Baby Doll's twentieth birthday and she has somehow gotten married to the older and tougher Archie Lee (John Prosky) who at rise is sawing a peep hole through the wall of the dilapidated old manse where they are sinking into financial ruin. 
The thing about being steeped in Tennessee Williams right now is that the power and dilapidation of his scenarios and his characters: tough and vulnerable; strong and sexy; troubled and aggressive as well as morally questionable, like characters from Commedia, we recognize Blanche and Stanley, Big Daddy and Brick, Maggie the Cat.. and then enjoy how the story evolves with thick southern accents and broad strokes.  There's nothing subtle about this one.  Karen Kondazian as Aunt Rose Comfort is seasoning for the gumbo.  Pixilated and homeless, her efforts to stay on board with Archie and Baby Doll are endearing.  The main course for all the heat is, of course, the arrival, with riding crop in hand, of Daniel Bess as Silva Vacarro. Vacarro's cotton gin is the unfortunate victim of an arson fire, the source of which we all know. The dance of seduction between Silva and Baby Doll is obvious and inevitable. 
The romance of Williams' words in and of themselves is seductive. When Baby Doll invites Silva to take a nap, apologizing for the size of her iron crib, he smiles and  says, "Any flat surface is suitable for slumber."  And,  the predictability of the plot moves quickly and assuredly thanks to Levy's decisive hand.  Bombast and seduction, a theme for Williams from time to time. That's what  this one is all about.  It's a must see for those who love the heat. 

By Tennessee Williams
Adapted for the stage from his screenplay by
Pierre Laville and Emily Mann

The Fountain Theatre
5060 Fountain Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90029
Through September 25, 2016
Tickets and Information
323 663 1525

Monday, July 18, 2016

ONE OF THE NICE ONES.. one of the nice ones @ THE ECHO

Graham Hamilton and Rebecca Gray
Photo by Darrett Sanders

If ever there was a cloning that seemed unlikely, imagine Henry Miller meeting Neil Simon.  Erik Patterson's  hilarious and profane comedy currently at the Atwater Village Theater occupied by the adventurous Echo Theatre Company is down and dirty, sexy, fast paced and even comes quickly.  Literally.  

Rebecca Gray as Tracy delivers a tour de force performance  as the wheel chair bound phone sales rep whose job it is to rope in potential customers.    Amanda Knehans' bizarre set serves with quick changes. But adds a touch of improv to the play.   Director Chris Fields whips his actors into a frenzy as the unexpected keeps everyone racing, literally, to keep the pace.  Graham Hamilton as Roger plays the tenured supervisor.  With phone rep Neal (Rodney To, whose facial contrivances are worth the price of admission alone), Roger's scene with him at the urinals in the men's room is  over the top.   

Unflinchingly profane, Patterson has brought the language that we all may use from time to time bubbling to excess with twists and turns that keep us guessing and gasping. Kudos to The Echo for being brave enough to produce this extraordinarily smutty comedy.  The play is 'smutty' in the very best sense of the word as the climax to the first scene will virtually knock your socks off.  

The argument of the piece teaches us new definitions of bizarre behavior and Fields'  excellent cast turns in an amazing performance.   Highly recommended for those with a skewed sense of humor and a high threshold for the language of Henry Miller or maybe Christopher Durang on acid.   It's a shocking and a totally unexpected rush.  

by Erik Patterson
Echo Theatre Company
Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Through August 21, 2016
Tickets and information:
310 307 3753

Saturday, July 16, 2016


Brian Burke, Susan Priver, Daniel Felix de Weldon
Photo by Michael Lamont
Tennessee Williams' KINGDOM OF EARTH opened tonight at The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble.

Production  holds few surprises as we engage Williams' hapless characters echoing familiar other characters in the playwright's ouvre.  John Iacovelli's two level set with winding staircase to Mama Lottie's boudoir welcomes the audience through a veil of fog and the threat of a major flood pounding the levy as the maelstrom rages along the Mississippi Delta. "Wood's Colt" Chicken (Brian Burke), half brother to Lot (Daniel Felix de Weldon) has the blood of a dark skinned paramour to his Daddy Ravenstock who also sired half brother 'blonde by choice' Lot, who sashays in with his new 'bride' Myrtle (Blowsy Susan Priver). Lot is just out of the hospital. It's unclear if it was the booby hatch or where he was being treated for his advancing TB. 

As the storm rages,  Lot and Myrtle, a ringer for  Blanche DuBoise, blow into the family manse. Myrtle used to be in Show Bizness.  She is now 'married' to Lot and hopes to have her own piece of real estate.  The property  may or may not actually belong to her new husband.

Thick southern accents and playing to the back wall of the theater makes Kingdom of Earth a beautiful exercise in the extremes that Williams' work calls for. Nothing subtle. The performances are Gothic.  The literal oozing of sexuality from Myrtle as she finds herself in the clutches of Chicken is palpable. The storm rages. The levy weakens. Sound Effects by John Nobori are great! Lot  emerges from the closet and with his last gasps, sends up a tribute to his dead mother. It's  pure Tennessee Williams.

Michael Arabian's direction deftly keeps the flow.  As one of the more obscure (at least to me) of Williams'  theatricals, to be immersed once more in the cloying humidity of the South and the drama within the drama makes this one work.  Another reviewer decided to dish the show as we headed for the food. His having seen Estelle Parsons in the original 1968 production. I'm sure that the original cast with Brian Bedford and Harry Guardino were great. Estelle was nominated for a Tony!  I enjoyed Priver's performance.  
This guest production deserves an audience. Bring a sweater!  

(The Seven Descents of Myrtle) 
by Tennessee Williams
Odyssey Theatre Ensemble
2055 S. Sepulveda Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Through August 14, 2016
Tickets and Information: 
310  477 2055