Saturday, January 26, 2019

INISHMAAN at Antaeus Yalla Mallows

THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN, Martin McDonagh's wonderful Irish story, echoes the actual filming of Robert J. Flaherty's 1934 "documentary," "Man of Aran." We are transported to the westerly side of the Emerald Isle to the Island of Inishmaan, the middle of the Aran Islands.  Inishmaan  is all a buzz to hear the local news via the bombastic JohnnyPateenMike
Stephen Caffrey
Photo by Geoffrey Wade Photograph
(Stephen  Caffrey) whose daily rounds of reporting the news are paid with goods from those on the island who don't find his stories boring.  
We find him in the general store of Kate and Eileen (Rhonda Aldrich and Julia Fletcher) whose banter enlivens us to the accents and rhythms of the play in such a way as to fall in love.  They are the adopted "aunties" of Cripple Billy (Ian Littleworth) whose parents were lost at sea just after his difficult birth.  Sadly his birth defects have made him  a target for bullies and cast him as a loserBilly is a reader and is plagued for his efforts by the relentless local
Ian Littleworth and Emily Goss
Photo by Geoffrey Wade Photography
Hellion: Helen (pretty Emily Goss) whose potty mouth and genuinely scary demeanor pretty much have the rest of the residents of Inishmaan on guard. Her poor brother, Bartley (Sebastian Fernandez) falls victim to her rants and attacks through out. His desires for "sweeties" (thus the cast names of Yalla Mallows and Fripple Frapples) is sweet and endearing in it's silliness.

We meet BabbyBobby (John Bobek) as he prepares his curragh to sail to the neighboring island, Inishmore, where Flaherty's filming is going on. Helen and Bartley hope to be in the movie and Billy sees his chance for fame as well. 

A hilarious side story blossoms wth Johnnypateen having attempted to kill his Mammy (Anne  Gee Byrd),  with drink over many years. His being in debt to her factors in as the story progresses.  Long suffering Dr. McSharry (John Allee) attempts to curb the alcohol with little effect.

John Iacovelli's superb set with projections by Kaitlin Pietras and Jason H. Thompson bring the rustic scene together perfectly.  

There's little subtly in director Steven Robman's movement and rhythms .. the feeling of the Auld Sod permeates the show with a distinct feeling of authenticity.  JohnnyPateen's bombast sometimes  goes well over the top, but we find, in time, that as he is the catalyst for all of the goings on that it's appropriate and funny.  What with the simplicity of the characters and the odd interchanges, it's a play that one can appreciate for its superficial romp and then, re-examine for the beauty of the language and the sincerity of the bittersweet  characters.  

As my ancestors come from just up the way from the setting of the play, I'd have loved a live preshow with bodhran and pennywhistle to guide us into the theatre, but recorded music sufficed and begorrah, a good time was behad be all. 

Antaeus Theatre Company presents
The Cripple of Inishmaan by
Martin McDonagh
Directed by Steven Robman
Kiki and David Gindler Performing Arts Center
110 E. Broadway
Glendale, California 91205
Through March 11, 2019
Tickets and information 
818 506 5436
The play is double cast
Watch this space for another review of the Fripple Frapples soon. 

Saturday, January 19, 2019


Open Fist Theatre Company presents a World Premiere:  LAST CALL  by Anne Kenney. Lane Allison directs. 
Lynn Milgrim, Laura Richardson,
Art Hall and Ben Martin
Photo by Darrett Sanders
Program notes inform us that Anne Kenney's writing credits are deeply involved in episodic television. Her 'semi-autobiographical' play has all the earmarks of that medium where it's easy to move from one time period or location to another in the blink of an eye.  Easy on television.  More difficult on the stage. Herein lies a problem. Short expository scenes and blackouts slow the pace: dramatically.
Kenney's basic story of how a middle aged creator/writer of a successful television series unfolds in a situation that many may face at one time or another. The notion is heart felt.  Where the heart exits is in the anger and strident performance of Jill (Laura Richardson), whose guilt and loss of just about everything returns her from Los Angeles to her childhood Ohio home in an attempt to fix things for her aging parents. 
Through 85 year old Walter (Ben Martin), the strong willed patriarch of Jill's family, we learn physical issues that will eventually do him in as he struggles with his wife of fifty five years, Frances (Lynn Milgrim). Frances is lapsing deeper and deeper into dementia.  Memory loss is an insidious disease and life threatening illness are the issues that challenge Jill, the successful distant daughter. Things are complicated by Jill's near do well brother, Ricky (Ben Martin) who has knocked up a sixteen year old girl, Jade (Bronte Scoggins), whom he met in rehab.  
Life on the doorstep.  Death at the door. 

The flow of a stage play and the episodic changes for television are pretty much diametrically opposed.   What Kenney and director Lane Allison have created is a mish mash of time and attitude that is "fish" and funny in one moment with a comedic line and "fowl/foul" the next with the complications turning on the end of lifeWe have an opportunity to see  attempted suicides, but are only exposed in marginal dialogue and unsubtle innuendo. 

Kenney admits in her program notes that she is unfamiliar with the stage and has taken on this project at the suggestion of her agent to possibly find a new direction.  Sadly, the direction of this project is stiff and predictable. Each of the actors seems to be somewhat on their own path with the difficult issue: what's to become of Frances and Walter, let alone Ricky and his pregnant girlfriend, Jade. How will Jill resolve her own personal situation?  

Jan Munroe's set is beautifully constructed. Ellen Monocroussos's lights and transitional music / sound by Peter Carlstedt set a tone that helps the laborious scene changes.  

Thankless appearances by Stephanie Crothers as Annette and Det. Mottinger (Bryan Bertone) to wrap things up are notable.  These are not small actors, but the parts are very small. 

The time line 'end credits' to the tune of NBC's "Your Hit Parade" Jo Stafford's "You Belong to Me" may be Kenney's tribute to her parents and her love of them. 

Though curtain speeches are seldom part of a play review, director Lane Allison brilliantly reminded the audience to turn off our cell phones and directed us to the emergency exits. Her admonition was perfect. 

The Open Fist Theatre 
presents a World Premiere:
LAST CALL by Anne Kenney
Directed by Lane Allison
Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Thursdays through Sundays
Check website for talk backs and 
specific times. 
Closes February 17, 2019
Tickets and information 
323 882 6912

Monday, January 7, 2019


After a quiet holiday, we start the New Year with A Misunderstanding by Matt Chait which asks, "Can we agree to disagree and still love one another?"
Matt Chait as Bertram Cates Photo by Ed Krieger
 With the state of the world in a bit of chaos right now, playwright Chait weighs in with what may be a tunnel with a light at the end.  Or, is it an oncoming train? 
The 'on coming train' in Chait's new play may be one of ethics, semantics and faith. Faith being the foundation of the argument of "Something Else" v. Darwin.  
"A Misunderstanding" presents the idea that a tenured teacher, Bertram Cates (Matt Chait),  a two time Nobel Laureate candidate and distinguished professor of Biology at UCLA, may be dismissed for including in his teaching that the essential ideas put forth by Charles Darwin might just have a flaw.
Cates has had an epiphany leading him to the idea that there is a 'missed' understanding in the origin of species.  Can the human mind comprehend that which passes all understanding? Lao Tzu says, "yes and no."

Though she may have been faulty in her "logic" Mary Baker Eddy has successfully convinced followers/practitioners of Christian Science that "... man is not material, he is spiritual."  Chait with his premise moves in that direction. His 'science'  proclaims that there may be a subtle essence that, in fact, might be comprehensible to human beings

Factor in the love affair of PhD candidate, Howard (Dennis Renard)  and, his betrothed, Melinda Brownstein (Amy-Helene Carlson). Melinda being the daughter of Joshua Brownstein (Bruce Katzman), the distinguished chair of the UCLA Biology department. The communication between the young man and his bride to be has been derailed by fear, which leads to another 'misunderstanding.' PhD candidate Howard  has been mentored by Cates and has secretly assisted him after Cates' dismissal. This revelation puts Howard at the risk of losing his position at UCLA. A 'coincidence' has brought professor and student together.

The tangled web of unshared information plagues everyone.   Of course,  the questions still remain.  
Who am I? Who are you? Why are we here? 

As Brownstein, Katzman holds his ground well in the 'trial' to decide if Cates will be reinstated as a fully tenured biology professor. Compromise and discussion (the essence of getting beyond missed understanding) blossoms and with a little give and take, all shall be well.

One intimate piece of the play turns on the reference to a sad suicide that the plot attempts to pin on Cates: the death of a young student, Matthew Brady.  In the back and forth during the trial, an analogy of a modern digital camera is introduced. "Does the camera actually 'see' what it photographs?"  

This brought to mind Civil War photographer, Mathew Brady Brady used his camera to record the heroes and the horror of what man can do. A simple coincidence? Or did Chait, intentionally want for his audience to make a connection?  

Dennis Renard and Amy-Helene Carlson
Photo by Ed Krieger
Todd Faux's simple set with Leigh Allen's lights bring the show to its essence.  A table, two chairs and a box to represent the scenes.  It's the argument of the play, that I would suggest, be carried into the audience either within the performance (as with Jack Grapes' "Circle of Will") or as a talk back to elevate the debate beyond the only slightly comfortable conclusion.  
Rubidor Productions presents
by Matt Chai
Directed by Elina de Santos
The Ruby Theatre at The Complex
6476 Santa Monica Boulevard
Hollywood, California 90038
Opened January 4, 2019
Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM 
Sundays at 3PM
Through Sunday, February 3, 2019