Sunday, November 4, 2018


 Who is Cal and why is she in camo? 

Playwright William Francis Hoffman is not David Mamet.  Neither is he Sam Shepard. The energies and the characters of these other playwrights ring throughout Cal in Camo.   The goal of Red Dog Squadron and VS. Theatre as expressed in program notes is to bring works they consider important to the stage.  In the tradition of store front theatre, the mystery of finding the actual playing space, 32 or 33 tightly packed seats with marginal sight lines, is important to economy and challenges the audience to overcome the situation and to absorb the play. 

Cal (Bree Turner) is married to Tim (Brad Raider).
Bree Turner and Brad Turner Photo Credit David Rodriguez
Their new baby wails for the milk that Cal is incapable of producing either directly or by her unsuccessfully pumping like mad to no avail. She is bruised; f
rustrated and unhappy. We segue to a brief encounter in a local bar with husband, Tim, coming on like Elmer Gantry  to convert the neighborhood barkeep (Andrew Thacher) to stock his craft beer.. Suite.. get it?  Can you taste the special flavor? It's sweet because it's flavored with citrus and other fruity concoctions.  His rap is evangelical, but fails.

Director Amy K. Harmon's hand moves the story forward slowly and deliberately.  The arrival of Cal's brother, Flynt (Tim Cummings), a
Tim Cummings as Flynt  Photo Credit David Rodriguez
mountain of a man in khaki, faces up center, standing stock still. He is in shock from the recent death of his wife who drowned in a flood. He describes her being swept away...  just out of his grasp.  

The subtext of water and failure pulls us along  eventually putting Cal into Flynt's khakis as lightning flashes and thunder claps with the looming demise of the new home that Cal brags she particularly held out for in the new development, though we learn that her story is far from the truth. 

Money issues permeate the relationship between Cal and Tim. The energies of Mamet and Shepard prevail, reflecting perhaps a bit of greed reflecting Mamet's American Buffalo arriving with the odd discovery of a legacy Winchester 1873 rifle:  part of Tim's inheritance from his father. The rifle brings Flynt to life as heavy rains come in. This for some reason sends him into the woods to return bleeding and muddy with the story of hunting a deer with the ancient rifle.

This noble effort features strong performances with odd pacing that render this project worthy of an audience.  There's a moment when you think that you might die. 
Cal in Camo  
by William Francis Hoffman
VS. Theatre
5453 Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles, 90019
8PM  Thursdays-Saturdays
3PM Sundays
Through November 16, 2018
Tickets and information: 

Monday, October 29, 2018

Antaeus! The Little Foxes

"Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes." 

Lillian Hellman's 1939 play, THE LITTLE FOXES, may take it's title from the Song of Solomon.  The playwright's politics and strong opinions certainly inform the subtext of this play currently gracing the beautiful Victorian set by John Iacovelli at Antaeus Theatre Company in Glendale.  

Hellman's being called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and her partnership with Dashiell Hammett, all speak to the underlying 'stuff' that makes a powerful play like this one possibly suspect to the powers that be. 

Director Cameron Watson's cast presents well Hellman's undercurrent of greed embodied in Regina (rail thin Debroah Puette) the queen? whose lust for wealth  and position in life is unquenchable. Terri A. Lewis's gorgeous costumes and an air of presentation unfolds in three acts with the lines of conflict clearly drawn.  It's the early 1900s.  The southern 'aristocracy' and the abuse of power unfolds with the Hubbards: Benjamin and Oscar (respectively Mike McShane and Rob Nagle) brothers to Regina who has 'married well' to Horace Giddens (John DeMita) whose wealth is important to a huge business deal in the works. Watson has honed Hellman's characters to a razor's edge that is predictable from the first scene
Jocelyn Towne and Deborah Puette
Photo by Geoffrey Wade Photography
The exuberance of Birdie (Joycelyn Towne), Ben's wife and his bullying her into submission, along with the treatment of the negro maid, Addie and handyman, Cal (Judy Louise Johnson and William L. Warren sets the stage for the manipulation of wealth at the expense of Regina's ailing husband, Horace.

The Song of Solomon reference plays out as the greedy principals scheme to 'make millons' with the slyest fox of all, Regina, finding a way to increase her own financial and social position.  

As Alexandra, Horace and Regina's young daughter, Kristin Couture, may be paired with the bumbling, Leo  (Calvin Picou), who through misdeeds has procured $88,000.00 in negotiable bonds to move forward the deal his father and uncle hope to close. ($88K would be the equivalent of over $2.6 Million in today's money!)  With this kind of cash in play the stakes are extraordinary, not only in wealth, but in the moral turpitude engaged to take advantage of Horace's wealth.

Judy Louise Johnson, Kristin Couture
Photo by Geoffrey Wade Photography
The bully tone of the brothers and the succinct observations by the help are Hellman's commentary on what unfettered ambition and greed can do, not only to a family, but in essence to a nation or the world.   This is summed up by Addie's observation, 
 “There are people who eat the earth and eat all the people on it like in the Bible with the locusts. Then, there are the people who stand around and watch them eat it.” 

This moment defines the play in a nutshell.  The Hubbards are a greedy lot with Regina the most loathsome of all. Flirting shamelessly with entrepreneur William Marshall (Timothy Adam Venable), she only wants more...  and like the 'little foxes' in the Bible, is party to stooping to what is tantamount to murder to get more than her fair share out of life.  
Antaeus dedication to high quality productions of classic as well as classical theatre is at its pinnacle in this presentation.  Direction, acting and tech meld to present a play worthy of high praise. 

by Lillian Hellman
Directed by Cameron Watson
Antaeus Theatre Company
Kiki and David Kindler Performing Arts Center
Glendale, California 9120
Thursday through Monday
Closes December 10, 2018
Tickets and information:
(818) 506-1983 

Monday, October 22, 2018

MURDER! At The La Mirada..

AGATHA CHRISTIE'S MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS adapted for the stage by Ken Ludwig.

Murder most foul has ruled the headlines, whispered about through the ages and has been the absolute most dramatized solution to the problems of those bent on revenge or filled with ambition for time immemorial.  
 Tony Amendola  as “Hercule Poirot"
Jason Niedle
The novels of Agatha Christie continue to amuse in some perverse way the imaginations of millions of readers (and movie and theatre goers) around the world.  Christie's Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, has solved this mystery in the movies since the book's first arrival on the scene in 1934.  Most recently, Kenneth Branagh's film version featured himself as Poirot only last year followed earlier versions with Albert Finney and Alfred Molina as the detective.  The lush experience of these films on the 1930s Orient Express is challenged by bringing the project to the stage. Director Sheldon Epps's keen eye and deft direction, blots out the image of the cinema,  retelling on the LaMirada stage is lush in its own special way.

Tony Amendola as “Hercule Poirot” 
 Julia Aks as “Greta Ohlsson,” 
Hope Noel Bradley as “Daisy Armstrong,” 
Will Block as “Hector MacQueen,” 
Anne Gee Byrd as “Princess Dragomiroff,” 
Brad Culver as “Michel the Conductor/Head Waiter,” 
Christine Dunford as “Helen Hubbard,” 
Zarah Mahler as “Countess Andrenyi,” 
Matthew Floyd Miller as “Colonel Arbuthnot/Samuel Ratchett,” Rachel Seiferth as “Mary Debenham” 
 Time Winters as “Monsieur Bouc.”

McCoy / Rigby don't spare the horses with this lavish production in its West Coast Premiere. Stephen Gifford's gilt edged scenic design delights as the events that are familiar to readers of Agatha Christie over more than eighty years come to life on a full sized railroad train!   
As Poirot, Tony Amendola one by one puzzles out whodunnit with the cast of suspects, each with a motive and each with an alibi! For those who have not read nor seen this story, stay in the dark until the final curtain. This is pure theatrical excellence at its elaborate best.
adapted by Ken Ludwig
 Directed by Shedon Epps
 Through Sunday, November 11, 2018 
 Wednesdays; Thursdays at 7:30pm; 
Fridays at 8:00pm; 
Saturdays at 2:00pm; 8:00pm
Sundays at 2:00pm.  
Tickets and information:
(562) 944-9801 or (714) 994-6310
Student, Senior and group discounts are available. 
$15 Student Tickets available for the first 15 performances of the production.
LA MIRADA THEATRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS is located at 14900 La Mirada Boulevard in La Mirada, near the intersection of Rosecrans Avenue where the 91 and 5 freeways meet. Parking is free.

Rogue Artists Celebrate Señor Plummer

Coming from a background of strong ensemble theatre that called for hours and hours of not only rehearsal, but working to hone an idea that included major set construction, costumes, props and publicity, I love Rogue Artists for their dedication to working together to completely build an entire experience literally from the ground up.  It's the story of "Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta."  The life and times of Don Eugenio, the man who built his fortune that extended as far as The Hollywood Bowl site to West Hollywood where Plummer Park now stands.   Featuring more than fifty actors and technicians, Rogue Artists brings it all to life.

A brilliant but loopy script by Diana Burano, Tom Jacobson and Chealsea Sutton (with the Ensemble) introduces us to Señor Plummer.. in old age portrayed by three actors manipulating a puppet of the patriarch: it's a Western Bunraku!  After a brief orientation / slide show by the author of Plummer's biography, John Preston Buschlen, we are invited to exit the tiny theater and to follow any of the characters whom we have been introduced to.  Out we go: to adventure! A similar device was used many years ago in the production of Tamara that took place at the Hollywood American Legion Post 43. 

The Land Shark (Tighe Skehan) Photo: Chelsea Sutton
The term Fantasmagoria may be a bit hyperbolic, but the enthusiasm of the Rogue Ensemble cast is undeniable as small pods of the audience engage in several "stations"  that expose the story of the Plummer Family and some of the horror that by necessity is part of the historic foundation of the founding of the City of Angels.  

We are entertained in an authentic saloon; meet a lovely Chumash woman who tells of the early residents of Southern California; led through darkened mazes to witness early prejudices against the Chinese; enjoy the story of young Eugenio who falls in love and begins his family with stories of how his parents (I think?) homesteaded huge parcels of land only to be cheated of their holdings by a crafty City Slicker and his pal, The Land Shark! Big Fish meets Pecos Bill as one myth is acted out with Señor Plummer re-enacting  the story of how he rode on the back a shark!  

Somehow, the cast rounds up the scattered audience and corrals us all in the central plaza for  music and dancing.  We are reminded that in the spirit of Don Eugenio we never say 'goodbye'.. we say Hasta La Vista!  and indeed, another trip to this delightful show in historic Plummer Park might be in order.  This is fully engaging and immersive ensemble work that not only entertains, but educates the audience in the history and traditions that make Los Angeles the evolving and historic city that it is today. 

The ensemble cast features Richard Azurdia, Tyler Bremmer and Mariux Ibarra as Eugene Plummer at various points in his life, as well as Ricky Abilez, Kawika Aguilar, Magally Castellanos, McCristol Harris III, Amir Levi, Carene Rose Mekertichyan, Robert O’Hare, Sarah Kay Peters, Marta Portillo, Sheila of the Jungle, Tighe Skehan, Cary Thompson, John Wuchte.

Director Shawn T. Cawelti must be like the guy on The Ed Sullivan Show with all the spinning plates. The Plummer tales spin flawlessly. Coordination of tech, sets and lights by Matthew G. Hill and Wesley Chu are worth the price of admission alone. 

Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta by
Diana Burano, Tom Jacobson and Chealsea Sutton with the Rogue Artists Ensemble.
Plummer Park
7377 Santa Monica Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA  90069
Thursdays, through Sundays @ 7:30 p.m. 
Extended through November 18, 2018 
(dark Saturday, Oct. 27)

Tickets and Information:
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Monday, October 15, 2018


Real Women Have Curves by Josephina Lopez

It's 1987 in East L.A. Teen angst in transition puts Ana (Juliana Stephanie Ojeda)
Ana (Julianna Stephanie Ojeda) Photo by Chelsea Sutton.
in the dilemma of clinging to traditional Mexican family values while the siren song of the future calls her to her own life which she documents in her private journal hidden in the tiny bathroom of her sister's sewing 'factory'.  
Similar to Fionnuala Kenny's "Elvis's Toenail" that turns on the sewing trade in Dublin, we find cultural transition center stage as changes in the role of women in society and in the family emerge. 
Estella (Sherry Mandujano), Carmen (Blanca Araceli), Ana (Julianna Stephanie Ojeda), Pancha (Jackie Garcia), and Rosali (Claudia Duran)  Photo by Chelsea Sutton.
Ana's older sister Estela (Sherry Manujuano) has created a small sewing shop where her mother, Carmen (Blanca Araceli) and workers, Pancha (Jackie Garcia) and Rosali (Claudia Duran) secret themselves behind locked doors to finish a big, big order of dresses that will wind up on the backs of 'skinny white women' for four hundred dollars a piece.  Originally presented as a stage play in 1990 (and later as a film), Lopez's naive polemic promotes somewhat stereotypical archetypes with Ana, the aspiring writer, who sneaks into the tiny bathroom to narrate the story that will become her play as it becomes her life. A recent high school grad with high aspirations (that we learn in a final curtain speech do come true!) she emulates Sally Field in Norma Rae by standing on a chair to coach the others in how to say NO! Well before what has become the somewhat hysterical #MeToo movement, we see Estela charmed by an unseen Latin lover who slides poetic billets doux under the door: "How do I love thee, let me count the ways..."

As an homage to their curves.. each of the women in the second act strips to give us the idea that weight is just number, except for Rosali who tells the girls that she's on a diet "from China", which must include dehydration as she faints from the heat in the tiny sweat shop. 

All's well as the overlock machine is figured out and the hundred dress quota is fulfilled with Estela then dismissing with extreme prejudice the demanding client for whom the fancy dresses have been made. Director Mary Jo Duprey creates stage pictures in an odd split focus from time to time, but over all the play... such as it fine. A feel good story from the barrio, Tanya Orellana's realistic set announces in big letters No Chisme!!! reminding us that gossip is verbotten! 

Real Women Have Curves by Josephina Lopez

Garry Marshall Theatre
4252 W Riverside Drive 
Burbank, CA 91505
Through November 18, 2018
Thursday – Saturday at 8pm
Sundays at 3pm
Select Performances on: 
Wednesday October 17 at 8pm
Saturday October 27 at 2pm
Sunday November 4 at 7:30pm
Wednesday November 7 at 8pm 

Post show discussions with playwright 
Josephina Lopez:
Wednesday, October 17 after the 8pm show
Sunday, October 21 after the 3pm show
Saturday, October 27 after the 2pm show
Wednesday, November 7 after the 8pm show
Tickets and Information:
818 955 8101