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Sunday, September 15, 2019

DEADLY.. A World Premiere

Sacred Fools Theatre Company brings a brand new musical to the stage with Vanessa Clair Stewart's DEADLY.. Pulling out all the stops for their season opener, director Jaime Robledo with composer Ryan Thomas Johnson time travel us back to Chicago, 1893, the World's Fair and a chilling tale of murder! Murders, most foul.


How H.H. Holmes (Oil Can Harry slick Keith Allan) lured women to his dark lair, wooed them and then with the help of his drunken lackey, Benjamin Pietzel (David LM McIntyre in for the role opening night will share the role with French Stewart) is a mystery.  Stewart's premise promotes the idea that these women were bound to be 'modern' and for one reason or another struck out on their own to wind up in Holmes's Murder Castle.

DEADLY takes us forward and backwards in time.  Initially with Holmes questioned by detective Frank Geyer (Eric Curtis Johnson) as we flash back to the episodes that found Holmes meeting and disposing of what may have been as many as twenty two victims.

As each of the hapless women (Brittney S. Wheeler as Lizzie Sommers,  Kristyn Evelyn as Evelyn Stewart, Erica Hanrahan-Ball as Julia Conner, Ashley Diane as Pearl Conner, Rebecca Larsen as Anna Williams, cj Merriman as Emaline Cigrand and Samantha Barrios as Minnie Williams) is encountered we see Holmes work his smarmy spell and one by one they die. Horribly.
 
(L to R) Keith Allan, Erica Hanrahan-Ball, Ashley Diane and Brittney S. Wheeler Photo credit Jessica Sherman
Based on a true story, Stewart's script calls for tightening and some basic help with movement. Ryan Thomas Johnson's songs are all presentational and  confront the audience almost angrily in no uncertain terms. Where the show could make up time would be for Stephen Gifford's multi-tasking scaffolding that comprises the entirety of Holmes's Hotel to be more a moving part of the story.  The stop and go aspect with actors mostly providing the task of stage hands, distracts rather than adds to the dramatic structure of the play.

Make no mistake, this cast is professional to a person. They present well delineated characters who are believable in the Gothic context of the script.  High drama calls for broad acting and the acting, the presentation and the characters all meld beautifully.  The songs, however, no matter how enthusiastically presented.. and they are sung with conviction.. are difficult to understand. The parsing and meter of the lyrics is sticky at best. The tune that rings most true is the anthem sung by all the women, "Murder Castle!" Corwin Evans's projections work beautifully throughout, adding color and spice.  

In all, this massive effort is overly long and even with Linda Muggeridge's terrific costumes (the women appear initially in Victorian drag when alive and then in wonderful raggedy scraps of ghostly fabric as they greet one another to haunt the 'castle' after their unhappy demise) the show needs work. 

The opening night audience was enthrall with the two act drama. The cast took extended bows, not all together undeserved, as the effort and the excitement of presenting a World Premiere must be very heady.

This DEADLY effort deserves applause.  The show with a strong director's hand, may pick up the pace to bring it along to a well honed production. 



DEADLY
A World Premiere
By Vanessa Claire Stewart
Sacred Fools Theatre
The Broadwater
1076 Lillian Way
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Through November 2, 2019
Tickets and information:
323 207 5605 
http://tickets.sacredfools.org/
sfreservations@sacredfools.org


Sunday, September 8, 2019

Echo Takes A Risk HANDJOB

Echo Theater's artistic director Chris Fields who directs Erik Patterson's World Premiere production of  HANDJOB was seated in front of me during the opening night of one of the most brilliant pieces of theatre I have ever seen. Cognitive Dissonance notwithstanding.. and you'll understand why I bring that up when you go to see this show... Is an important part of the experience.  Watching Chris so enjoy this  play was a delight. 

The problem with reviewing a play like HANDJOB is that even though the performances are letter perfect bringing to life Patterson's amazing script... to discuss particulars would be unfair.
Steven Culp and Michael Rishawn
Photo by Darrett Sanders
We open on Amanda Knehan's cluttered set: It's Keith's (Steven Culp) apartment... with books to the left, books to the right.. piles of New Yorker magazines.. and just enough clutter to hire a topless cleaner. That would be Eddie (Michael Rishawn.)  Keith is a writer who has had success, but it's 'feast or famine.'  Keith is gay. Eddie is not. Eddie's six pack abs were probably a feast for the gay men in the audience and certainly they seemed  to be a banquet for Keith.  I thought I heard a woman behind me gasp. 

It's enough to know that the story starts with Keith and Eddie.  Suffice it to say that the rest of the cast: (Stephen Guarino, Ryan Nealy, Tamarra Graham and Gloria Ines) is extraordinary. The beauty of Fields's direction is that it's virtually flawless.  I did have a bit of trouble with the hilarious machine gun delivery of one of the characters.  Try to figure out which one.  

Bring your own personal sexuality to the play and see how it stands up... darn it. innuendo is almost unavoidable in the face of Patterson's tight and eloquent script.  This is a play dedicated to drawing the audience in, making us laugh a bit uncomfortably and putting us on notice that there are issues to be discussed. 
It's about how liberal we, the audience .. well. the heterosexual audience, anyway... may think we are. It's about the discomfort of being faced with our own prejudices, no matter how hip and happening we may be.  

HANDJOB is somewhat reminiscent of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins's play, NEIGHBORS.. that pitted stereotypes of African Americans  against what we might call just average African Americans in startling dialogue nine years ago, almost to the day at the Matrix Theatre in Hollywood. https://onstagelosangeles.blogspot.com/2010/09/neighbors-neighbors.html  (Copy and paste to compare after you've seen HANDJOB.)
As with NEIGHBORS, which insisted that we come to individual conclusions, Patterson wants us to head out of the theatre with opinions about where the line is drawn. Who draws the line? Can a theatre piece go too far?  
This is an adult program. Period. The issues discussed are hot button issues. The ethics, philosophy and cultural challenges of HANDJOB are complex. Be prepared to look directly into the face of the homosexual culture to draw your own conclusions about 'the line.'  

HANDJOB by Erik Patterson
Directed by Chris Fields
Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Ave,
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Through October 21, 2019
Tickets and Information
310 307 3753
www.echotheatrecompany.com
 


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Dark and Stormy at Little Fish

Martin McDonagh is an Irishman.  There is a dark history of the Irish.. drinkin' and whathaveye.  His play, The Lonesome West reminds of this limerick. It pretty much sums up the Connor boys, Valene (Bill Wolski) and Coleman (Cylan Brown).

"There once were two cats of Killkenny
Each thought there was one cat too many
So.. they fought and the fit 
And they scratched and they bit
Until .. except for their nails 
And the tips of their tails
Instead of two cats
There weren't any! "
Bill Wolski and Cylan Brown.  Photo by Mickey Elliot


The absurd meets the fantastic in McDonagh's 1997 play and a trip to San Pedro had better be on your agenda, if seeing what is pretty much a straight play is of any interest to yas at all atall. 

The lilt.. of the English language has never been more lyrical than in the speech patterns of the Emerald Isle. Having enjoyed The Cripple of Inishmaan recently at Antaeus Theatre Company in Glendale, hearing these well tuned actors filter into the rhythms that McDonagh creates beautifully is simply delightful, though the battle of the Connors carries on and on and on a bit.  Delightful is Eliza Faloona as Girleen.. a hot seventeen year old with mischief and the good Fr Welsh (Brendan Kane) on her mind. 
Eliza Faloona  and Brendan Kane Photo by Mickey Elliott
Directed by Stephanie Coltrin, The Lonesome West is the third play in McDonagh's  Connemara Trilogy.  As I am coming late to discovering McDonagah, the first two will be interesting to read, if not lucking into seeing productions.  

There's a lot of hair in this show.. And, it all adds to the feeling of authenticity that the cast brings to it.  To do an analysis of beards and curls would be a good project for any student of these characters. 
The off hand way that McDonagh presents the brothers.. as well as Fr Welsh and Girleen, sending them willy nilly into one another is at once charming and sad.  The evolution of  each of the characters is the essence of the story, unfolding in bursts of passion and moments of pure love.  

How do those of us who love one another redeem ourselves when we've behaved not just badly, but despicably? And, on purpose? McDonagh questions the 'rules' of the Catholic Church. How is it that there is redemption for those who confess to any manner of mayhem but...  for the suicides there is only Hell to pay.  Murders are confessed to.  And, there are suicides. It's very dark comedy with a thoroughly committed cast.  The pathos of loss and the question of redemption leave the audience to determine for ourselves what's fair, what's not and in the end, the sad situation of the Connor boys whose best efforts go for naught. 

If for no other reason than an immersive evening that will leave you with as many questions as answers, The Lonesome West is highly recommended. 



The Lonesome West 
by Martin McDonagh 
Little Fish Theatre
San Pedro’s Arts District
777 S. Centre St., San Pedro, CA 90731
Ticket Range: $15 - $28
Prices above do not include a $1 ticket service fee
Discounts Available for Groups of 10+
Discounts for Seniors 65 and over ($26) and Patrons 25 and under ($15)
Box Office: 310.512.6030


Monday, August 26, 2019

Kelly Mullis / Marilyn/ at The Whitefire

Marilyn Monroe, 
American icon, died 
August 4, 1962
in Brentwood, California.

In her one woman show, "Marilyn Monroe: The Last Interview," Directed by Wayne Orkline, Kelly Mullis walks a narrow pathway, imbibing champagne and as the show evolves...  harder alcohol while flirting with an interviewer, Richard Merryman (woodenly voiced by Robert DiTillio), to recount a version of the life, the legend... of a woman who was so desperate to be loved that she sometimes peddled it and sometimes gave it away, in reality, all the while the woman child whom America and the world came to adore.

The Last Interview has bubbles of silliness and moments of tragedy, especially for anyone who remembers the story of the Lost Actress and her rocky career.   Mullis, touching briefly on Marilyn's early days,  meanders through the biographical points of interest mostly on one note. One of the  problems is that the brief references to the celebrities and others in Marilyn's life, voiced by actors apparently pre-recorded, are very brief.  Projections used are almost intrusive. 

There is more effort in Ms Mullis's seventy five minute monologue than really necessary. Had she taken another route to the character possibly by even transforming from the actress she is to functionally become the star, that might have made the anecdotes and de-evolution of Monroe's state of mind... which may or may not have led to what was pronounced a suicide in early August, 1962, more interesting.

Mullis's visual presentation is credible. She does not present a fawning stereotypical look-a-like  / Marilyn impersonator.  There are moments when the actress selects a pose or a story that reminds us of the fragile beauty and genuine simplicity of the star.  One brief projection, Marilyn's famous nude shot on a brilliant red drape, is shocking and welcome.

Depending on how steeped in the lore of Marilyn's last day on earth one might be, we know that the star was found dead of an apparent overdose in her locked bedroom, nude, with an empty bottle of barbiturates nearby.  In The Last Interview, the drama continues to unfold with Marilyn rising for a final confrontation with the audience; to declare that she was, in fact, not a suicide and lists the reasons why.  A beautifully revealing final tableau closes the show with Marilyn, nude, slowly glides up stage  to 'a better place' ... and bids us adieu.

What really happend to our Marilyn may always remain a mystery.  Mullis shows us why Marilyn had every reason to live and therein lies the tale. 

Marilyn Monroe: The Last Interview
Written and performed by Kelly Mullis
WhitefireTheatre
13500 Ventura Blvd, 
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
Final Performance 
Sunday, September 29, 2019
Tickets and Information
818 990 2324  

Monday, August 19, 2019

HANNAH AND THE DREAD GAZEBO

 In her interview with Carolina Xique, playwright Jiehae Park  discusses  how she came from being primarily an actor to finding her way to writing a play that eventually became the foundation of her Masters thesis. 
Jully Lee and Monica Hong
Photo by Jenny Graham

On Yee Eun Nam's beautifully functional set, we meet Monica Hong as Hannah who must be the doppleganger for Ms Park, as her mystery unfolds. Hannah addresses the audience directly and as the story begins, we meet Hannah's family: Janet Song, her over engaged with Craig's List mother; her dad, played by Han Cho, pedaling for all he's worth in the world of Seoul; hip and like happening, yo, Brother Dang (who refuses his given name Dong: for cause) Gavin Lee.  Like Alice down the rabbit hole, Hannah receives a mysterious parcel (literally, the Inciting Event) with a note written in Korean by her mother's mother whom we meet only in a flash, perhaps her leap to freedom? The parcel holds a small bottle containing a pebble: a wish.   
With the use of appropriate projections by designer Yee Eun Nam and the protean hopping back and forth from one character to another by shapeshifting Jully Lee,  a phantasmagorical polygolt unfolds. 
Has Grandmother actually committed suicide by leaping from the sixty third story of the Sunrise Dewdrop Apartment City for Senior Living into the DMZ that has divided North from South Korea for over fifty years?  Kin Jong Il is dead! Will there be nuclear war?? Can the family reclaim Grandmother's body... if there is one? Can Dong/Dang find love and purpose riding the subways of Seoul while encountering mysterious strangers including the incredibly cute Girl (really, really cute Wonjun Kim)?
Wonjung Kim and Gavin Lee
Photo by Jenny Graham
Is garlic the secret to long life and health and happiness? What about the origin story: The Tiger and the Bear?

Park's story moves apace with smooth as silk set changes enhanced by spectacular video projections.  How will Hannah's mother, anxious for her daughter to be married and to have the good life that she imagines for Hannah survive? AND!?? How will Hannah herself survive?  She, who has worked like anything through years of schooling and internships and residencies to become a board certified pediatric neurologist: her crucial final test looming in New York  only hours away, while fielding calls from her Argentinian lover intrude making life for this modern young woman a battle on many fronts? Well she does. 

Park's fluid script and smooth staging by director Jennifer Chang create an evening where suspension of disbelief is made relatively easy by the genuine quality of each of these over the top characters.  Occasional interaction by the Koreans spoken in Korean has no need of translation as the folks in power we encounter are pretty much all the same around the world.  We hear the familiar name of Grandmother's retirement home within the Korean discussions and experience the rooftop where she might have taken the plunge with bullets flying from the North. We find resolution in.. oh wait.. no spoilers... but we do find resolution and you may, too, by visiting https://www.amishgazebos.com .

The Fountain Theatre in partnership with East West Players again charms us with socially relevant issues that go beyond the obvious.  This experience is just right for Los Angeles... located only a few blocks from Koreatown, from where, we hope a native audience may come to enjoy native language, myth and fairy tale ... and garlic.  Everybody else should come, too.
 
Hannah and the Dread Gazebo 
by Jiehae Park 
The Fountain Theatre
5060 Fountain Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90029
Opened Saturday August 17, 2019 
Performances: Aug. 17 – Sept. 22
Wednesday at 8 p.m.: Aug. 14 ONLY (preview)
Thursday at 8 p.m.: Aug. 15 ONLY (preview)
Fridays at 8 p.m.: Aug. 16 (preview), 23, 30; Sept. 6, 13, 20
Saturdays at 2 p.m.: Aug 24, 31; Sept. 7, 14, 21 (no matinee performance on Aug. 17)
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Aug. 17 (Opening Night), 24, 31; Sept. 7, 14, 21
Sundays at 2 p.m.: Aug. 18, 25; Sept. 1, 8. 15, 22
Mondays at 8 p.m.: Aug. 26; Sept. 2, 9, 16 (dark Aug. 19)

Tickets and Information:
626 336 1525 / fountaintheatre.com


Sunday, July 21, 2019

Legends, Movement and Memories / LA Womens Theatre Festival


Hosted by Ms Marla Gibbs and Ms Florence LaRue, L.A.WOMEN’S THEATRE FESTIVAL presented an evening of entertainment diversity to bring attention to the good works of women in theatre.  An air of casual serendipity prevailed as raffle tickets were sold and a display of crafts greeted the audience at The Greenway Court tonight.  
Full disclosure.  This is not the type theatre that onstagelosangeles usually reviews.  An invitation came in from LA PR guy Phil Sokoloff that mentioned the dancer/performer Juli Kim.  

Juli is from a Korean background.  I have recently purchased a zither that looked like one that Korean musicians were playing on Youtube. So.. I contacted Juli to see if she could help me get information about my new Korean zither: a gayaguem.  Are you with me so far?
Juli connected me with Korean masters of the gayaguem who told me that the zither I have is NOT a gayaguem!  But, Juli was so nice in our email exchange that I wanted to see her performance and meet her in person. 
Tonight's program was hosted by two legends in the world of entertainment: Ms Florence LaRue, formerly of The Fifth Dimension, who opened the show with singing that raised the roof. Ms Marla Gibbs, best known for The Jeffersons and her own series, 227 bantered with marginally written information that both ladies were seeing for the first time.  Introductions were totally charming as they credited LAWTF for the good work the organization does. Our patient audience took it all in with good humor.

Following Florence LaRue's opening number, my connection, Juli Kim, presented a beautiful  Korean dance  accompanied by her son on cello and daughter on piano. 
The grace and fluidity of her dance was beautifully  engaging.
Scene changes by stage manager Ms Brandi Johnson and her crew were somewhat tentative, but the entire time, the audience was totally engaged.  
Amy Milano's "Dancing With Crazies" began with an energetic dance routine that led to a somewhat labored one woman presentation that chronicled events in her life evolving into a tap dance routine! 
We skipped momentarily the scheduled intermission with an additional song by gorgeous Florence LaRue who, after being a part of the Fifth Dimension so long ago showed that she has only improved with age.. 
Then..  intermission and the hawking of more raffle tickets! Florence predicted that she'd win something! AND.. she did!  Hmmmmm....
After intermission we were treated to an amazing display of rhythm with Juli Kim and a five drum dance.   Ms Kim exhibited the elegant calm of her introductory dance enhanced by acrobatic percussion using five decorated frame drums that came to life with her expert drumming. 
The beauty of this evening's diversity was the professional presentations seasoned with our beautiful hostesses weathering through the required dialogue.  I was fortunate to reconnect with actress Dagmar Stansova whose "Loose Underware" show I reviewed recently as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival.  Her shared insights as the program progressed pointed up the spontaneous quality of the evening.   
With an onstage musical trio: Rahan Coleman: keyboard, Michael Saucier: bass and Quentin Denard on drums,  Ms Freda Payne paid tribute to her childhood idol, Ella Fitzgerald. Ms Payne presented Fitzgerald's personal history with familiar tunes with some scat mixed in.  
Such diverse entertainment was well received with my personal surprises brought by Ms Kim.  This was a one time only event, but should opportunities to see Ms Kim perform, her bringing the Korean culture to the western stage is truly impressive. 
 Finally!
I've learned that the zither that I have come into is probably NOT Korean, so if anyone knows anything about a Chinese zheng or guzheng, please contact me. 
This zither has sixteen strings, with friction pegs and sixteen triangular bridges that the strings are strung on, any information shall be appreciated. I need more bridges! 
Thanks to producer / LAWTF co-founder Adilah Barnes for a most unique evening of theatre. For more information about the workshops and activities of LAWTF go to  http://www.lawtf.org/ and support these dedicated artists. 
Michael Sheehan
onstagelosangeles

Monday, July 15, 2019

BRECHT! ANTAEUS: CHALK CIRCLE

It's a long way to go to tell the old Bible story of the wisdom of Solomon. What Bertolt Brecht has done in one way or another with most of the many plays he's written has been to set a standard for production that makes the show itself not just a play.. not just a few hours in a dark space with a story, but a polemic .. the undercurrent of the times.. the strong cast of characters.. and Anteaus's cast of thousands.. well.. a few dozen played with aplomb by sixteen protean professionals... starts with a preshow that sets the tone for putting on a play! 

"We'll put on a play!" exclaims John Apicella as an Expert who is responding to a situation in a mythical village in the Caucasuses.  The play will be called..  "The Caucasian Chalk Circle!"
Liza Seneca, Alex Knox, Turner Frankosky,
Gabriela Bonet, Steve Hofvendahl,
Claudia Elmore and Troy Guthrie
Photo by Jenny Graham

Brecht's telling   of the chalk circle reportedly goes back to an ancient Chinese tale that echoes the Bible telling of Solomon and the two mothers.  What Brecht does and has done and Antaeus does  beautifully is to expand the idea of positive political action as well as revealing wrong doing in nations and in courts with a polemic that speaks directly to what the United States is experiencing today. Corruption and rule by force all come to light with a slight tongue in cheek while our sixteen actors interchange  characters on the fly. 

The ever moving basic set pieces by Frederica Nascimento and Erin Walley's props work beautifully. Scenes evolve smoothly as the characters all change,  accompanied by actor/musicians on a multitude of odd instruments to uplift each scene. I particularly liked Apicella's banjolele.

Brecht drops the fourth wall and makes no bones about keeping us informed that this is not just a show but an examination of ideas dramatically expanded.  The acting is sometimes deliberately slightly off kilter or maybe that actor has not fully engaged with his role? Regardless, it's a play: a theatrical. It's transformational and current. Stephanie Shroyer's direction is so smooth that the ensemble seems to guide itself through the paces!

Played with a particularly casual quality, Steve Hofvendahl as The Judge (having attained his position with no qualifications whatsoever!) reveals that 'the law is the law!" and his rulings are final, adding an ironic twist to how the law might work. La Dee Dah..
Steve Hofvendahl
Photo by Jenny Graham




















The ensemble:   
John Apicella Noel Arthur Paul Baird
Gabriela Bonet Claudia Elmore
Turner Frankosky Troy Guthrie
Steve Hofvendahl Connor Kelly-Eiding
Michael Khachanov Alex Knox
Mehrnaz Mohammadi Madalina Nastase
Liza Seneca Janellen Steininger George Villas

Caucasian Chalk Circle by
Bertolt Brecht
Antaeus Theatre Company
Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center
110 East Broadway
Glendale, CA 91205
(between N. Brand Blvd. and Artsakh Ave.)
Performances: July 11 – Aug. 26

Thursdays at 8 p.m.: July 11 (opening) ONLY
• Fridays at 8 p.m.: July 5 (preview), July 12, 19, 26; Aug. 2, 9, 16, 23
• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: July 6 (preview), July 13, 20, 27; Aug. 3, 10, 17, 24
• Sundays at 2 p.m.: July 7 (preview), July 14, 21, 28; Aug. 4, 11, 18, 25
• Mondays at 8 p.m.: July 22, 29; Aug, 5, 12, 19, 26 (dark July 15)

 
(818) 506-1983 or www.Antaeus.org
 


DANCING AT LUGHNASA / OPEN FIST

 Playwright Brian Friel's reputation as the Chekov of Irish drama seems deservedly so. Open Fist's "Dancing at Lughnasa" (Loo nasa) poetically invites us into his 1936 memory play narrated by Michael (David Shofner)
David Shofner, Ann Marie Wilding, Lane Allison
Photo by Darrett Sanders
who returns in memory to his childhood: his loving sister/aunties more or less governed by elder sister Kate (Martha Demson) who rides herd on family fantasies. Michael's mother, Chris (Caroline Klidonis) has had her 'love child' with the rascally Gerry (Scott Roberts) who stops by now and then with promises that are seldom kept, but an Irish charm that is irresistible. Maggie (Lane Allison) is the tease whom Michael remembers for her wit. Agnes (Ann Marie Wilding) and beautiful Rose (Sandra Kate Burck) with their sisters all want to attend the Harvest Dance that's on the horizon.  Dancing shoes are constantly being changed and we get a little dancing in the mix.  
Martha Demson, David Shofner, Caroline Klidonas
Photo by Darrett Sanders


Father Jack (Christopher Cappiello) has returned from his service as a Catholic priest in Africa and slowly emerges to his old self and with a mighty monologue extols the virtues of the natives with whom he celebrated a religion more true that the one that sent him there.

Set in the mythical Irish town of Ballybeg, Friel poetically envelops us in the love he renders probably from his own childhood.  Born in 1929, Friel wrote the play in 1990, recounting his poetic tale from a considerable distance in time. The depth and distinct personalities of his characters all ring with a gentle kindness that reminds of Martin McDonaugh's "Cripple of Inishmaan." 

Set in Donegal: Northern Ireland: Ulster...  the accents that director Barbara Schofield has chosen are more Limerick than Donegal. Stage pictures and the easy flow of the work are well done.

A beautiful set design by James Spencer was solidly constructed by Jan Munroe.


Dancing at Lughnasa  by Brian Friel
 Opened Friday, July 12 
Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 4 p.m. 
 Mondays at 8 p.m. through Aug. 18. 
One additional Friday performance 
Aug. 16 at 8 p.m.   

Atwater Village Theatre  
 3269 Casitas Ave  
Los Angeles, CA 90039
On-site parking is free. 
For reservations and information
 (323) 882-6912 

Friday, July 12, 2019

WRONG IS RIGHT AND 'OOPS' INSPIRES!

Ironically. .. my first attempt to load in a photo for this review is hanging up.  
Cast of The Play That Goes Wrong / Photo by Michael Sheehan

Well. on with the show, so to speak.
For those of us in the theatre, we have had moments of forgotten lines, missed cues, a prop gone missing,  or an exit or an entrance that happened, should have happened, happened too soon.. happened too late,, didn't happen at all..  well you get the picture.  And, the darned picture is still loading!  
(I tried again and there we are.)
 "The Play That Goes Worng"  a masterwork of theatrics, comes to life deliberately over the top while tasking the audience to actually read their programs, should they want to know who's who in the cast.   See above.

Of course it's silly to attempt to out silly amazingly silly stuff.  However, when art inspires us, well... then...   there you go.  
The Cornley players of The Cornley University Drama Society are a somewhat ragtag band of players under the mostly unsteady hand of Chris Bean (Evan Alexander Smith) who also plays Inspector Carter in the play within the play.  

By turning your program pages past the ads for Merrill and Mission Tile, we find the cast list which may then be coordinated with the characters playing the characters who then, on another page may be coordinated with the actual actors playing the actors who limn the characters in this evening's performance of "The Murder at Haversham Manor!" 
Light cue! Sound/Sting!  
I was going to make a reference to Great Expectations with a clever aside, but a Dickens pun seems somewhat of a stretch.  

Sketchilly "written" by Susie H.K. Brideswell, (in fact by Henry's Lewis and Shields and Jonathan Sayer) Society President, Chris Bean, is credited with scenic design and every other credit including voice and dialect coach. Mr. Bean's  amazingly complicated set (actually the incredible design is by Nigel Hook)  becomes another character in the show enhanced by Ric Mountjoy's lighting design and Andrew Johnson's sound.

Pre-show antics engineered by the Stage Manager, Annie Twilloil (Angela Grovey) aided and abetted by production lights and sound guy, Trevor Watson (Brandon J. Ellis) include audience participation with Annie hiding behind Trevor in attempts to secure the crumbling set before the play begins. 

After Director Chris Bean's curtain speech laying the groundwork for the mayhem to come, lights up as the dead body of Charles Haversham (as Jonathan Harris played by Yaegal T. Welch) almost makes it to the chaise lounge and the beautifully acted bad acting ensues.  
From this point on, the uncomfortable silliness escalates with broad physical moments that defy explanation. There are more sight gags than a litter of Golden Retrievers. It's delicious. 

In his attempt to steal the show, Ned Noyes as Max Bennett playing both Cecil Haversham, the cad!  and  Arthur the Gardener in Act II may think that he gets away with it, but we know it's you, Max. 

Timing, physical gags that make the audience gasp and truly terrible acting make this production out perform Noises Off! at every turn. Noises Off! used to be the standard for really silly theatre but! No longer! TPTWG is now at the top of my list and as the promo that suggests that "Monty Python meets Sherlock Holmes" isn't far from worng! For another silly reference, I mention  the very silly Firesign Theatre just to see if this gets a mention in another on line venue.  See this show!!

“The Play That Goes Wrong”
Written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields
Tour Directed by Matt DiCarlo
Original Broadway Direction by Mark Bell

Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre
The Music Center

135 N. Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m.  
 Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m.  
Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m.  
No performance on Mondays.  
Exceptions: Added 2 p.m. show 
Thursday, August 8. 
No 6:30 p.m. show Sunday, August 11, 2019



 

Monday, June 24, 2019

THE SIXTH ACT / SCORPION AND FROG

As luck would have it.. and it was a lucky mistake.. I arrived for the aforementioned Loose Underware at the New American Theatre two hours early!  Who should appear, but 6th Act artistic director and all around good guy, Matthew Leavitt.  He invited me to his 'time-killer' "The Scorpion and The Frog" that was just about to go up in the NAT's black box. What the heck? 
 
Alex Parker and Christine Sage 
The beauty of the Hollywood Fringe Festival is that it's a shotgun blast for theatre that makes no bones about its simple approach and out of the dozens of little shows popping up with pals and afficianados lining up to pay a couple of bucks with the hope of finding a diamond in the rough, I joined in. It's tough to review these shows fairly because they seldom present fully produced work.  "The Scorpion and The Frog" is no exception. 
Picture, if you will.. a blank space. A cardboard sun shines on a 'river' of blue flowing from a cardboard river bank. 
Oh wait.. there's this big guy (Thomas Bigley.. imagine that coincidence!)  with an eye patch playing a cardboard ukulele while Matt plays an actual guitar and the Big Guy sings a sea chanty.. sort of.  Stuff happens. 
If playwright, Spencer Green, had been recently to see Waiting for Godot or the terrific Happy Days at the Taper, he may have come under the spell of Samuel Beckett and thus, taking the story of the frog and the scorpion or the scorpion and the frog to heart as an exercise in futility to create what he calls a 'time-killer' seems reasonable.  The beauty of this piece, directed by Matthew Leavitt is it's complex simplicity.  As the Scorpion we meet the cuter than cute Christine Sage.  Playing the cute card.. well, cute and a little hot, actually. Scorpion encounters Frog (Alex Parker) wearing a bowler hat that immediately made me think of Godot.. He may be cute to girls, but not so much to me. 
However!! the familiar story that Green unfolds though we know the story well, as it unfolds, is really fun to watch. "I can't help it. It's my nature." Glub, blub, glubbb.

Lights out. 

Lights up.. Christine now appears as Frog in her cute little hat while Scorpion/Alex goes all smooth and cool: denim sport coat sleeves rolled up and cool...  coaxing a ride to the other side of the river. The sometimes existential exchange as we go back and forth a couple of more times is, indeed.. a "time-killer" but totally enjoyable as the inevitable story unfolds ... again.  Watching the actors manipulate and in finality succumb to the nature of Scorpion and the inevitable naivete of Frog is food for thought as well as focused and dedicated timing and fun. 
Bigley has a deal with Penny Peyser.  Now, just forget I mentioned Penny.. Okay? 

Dedicated performances with slight tongue in cheek that will make you laugh and nod in accord as we witness the sinking of the good ship ScorpiFrog or FroPio. I loved it. I can't help it...  well, you know.  
Parking can be a hassle. Arrive early and schmooze with the folks who love new theatre.

World Premiere! 
The Scorpion and The Frog: A time-killer
by Spencer Green
Final weekend:
June 27, 2018 and June 28, 2018 at 7:15PM
June 29, 2018 at 2PM
New American Theatre
1312 N. Wilton
Hollywood, CA 90028
Tickets and information
The6thAct@gmail.com 
Michael Sheehan