Sunday, December 15, 2019


Rogue Machine Theatre, holding forth in Venice at The Electric Lodge maintains their intimate romance with productions that challenge not only their audiences, but their teams of artists, as well.  Neil McGowan's World Premiere of Disposable Necessities is no exception. 
Darrett Sanders, Ann Noble, Billy Flynn and Jefferson Reid 

McGowan imagines a future where ... for a price.. one may simply slide the essence of one's self into a new body: a new 'module' and there in lies the tale.  We can almost hear the voice of Rod Serling as the story unfolds. "This is the dimension of imagination. " 

Once one agrees to accept the premise that in the year 2095 or so.. It's unclear exactly how far into the future McGowan has transported us...  Christine Cove Ferro's clever costumes and the conceit that humans may shop at their local Life Forever Industires for new and improved "modules" comes easily to life.  That "modules" may be reactivated to contain essentially the 'soul' of the shopper, we are thrust into a world that stands on the shoulders of the world we live in today.  We identify ourselves to one another with a simple exchange of taps: one hand to another.

Novelist Daniel Totten (excellent Darrett Sanders)
simply taps his temple to activate a projection screen and by 'swiping' with his fingers in the air, he may recall images of past modules: his family in happy times. His implanted hearing device blocks external sounds to enjoy virtually any music at any time. It's the  implanted internet: always on line.

This topsy turvy world turns again when Alice Totten (Billy Flynn) arrives. It's unclear at first  that this man, twenty years Daniel's junior, is actually Daniel's wife. Al is the mother of his children, Chadwick (hilarious Jefferson Reid) and Dee (angry Ann Noble) from years ago when she had a functioning female body, of course.  We learn that Alice has transferred into the body of a young man for professional reasons.  Why Daniel, a successful novelist with a canon of books popular some fifty years ago has agreed to such a switch is enough to make a heterosexual male squrim. Now in his current module,  in his fifties, Daniel, for health reasons, has been forced to go 'on the wagon,' an issue that vaguely becomes a motivation for later events.  Each of McGowan's characters is self contained and with the exception of Dee,  is even blasé when it comes to simply 'youthening' by switching modules. 
Claire Blackwelder and Darrett Sanders

 We meet Philip Faine (sexy  Claire Blackwelder) Daniel's long time male pal stirring the pot with his introduction and announcement that living with a healthy Trust Fund has enabled him take a flyer and spend time living as the opposite sex! He enjoys himself immensely!

The question McGowan poses is, "Who (sic) would you like to be next?"  Director Guillermo Cienfuegos keeps his cast apace: all on the same page. The problem is how to resolve the issues of a troubled daughter, Dee, and to what extent is an 'eternal life' actually a good thing?  The play's attempt to resolve this issue dwindles with late exposition. A troubling 'deus ex machina' is introduced to bring the issue full circle.  In these days of re-examination of gender roles and self identification as male or female;  gay or straight or some other self identity that may even be fluid, the idea of how important youth and power based on one gender role or another deciding when is a good day to die, crash! Then things magically reignite with what becomes, to me,  a compromised conclusion. Should this story be all wrapped up in a neat little package?
Thought provoking and well done for what it is, it's up to the audience to decide if a trip to LFI might be an answer. Whom would you be next?
Photos by John Perrin Flynn

Disposable Necessities 
by Neil McGowan 
Directed by Guillermo Cienfuegos
Rogue Machine Theatre
(in the Electric Lodge)
1416 Electric Ave
Venice, CA 90291
Opening at 8pm on December 14, 2019
Sunday 12/15 3pm, 
Monday 12/16 8pm
(No performances 12/20-12/28)
Sunday 12/29 7pm
Monday 12/30 8pm
Schedule 2020: 
Saturday 1/4 8pm, 
Sunday 1/5 7pm, 
Monday 1/6 8pm
Continuing Saturdays at 5pm, 
Sunday at 7pm, 
Mondays at 8pm
(No performance on Monday, 1/13)
Through February 3, 2020 
Tickets and information:
Reservations: 855-585-5185  


Sunday, December 8, 2019


For listeners to KPCC 89.3 FM, the name of Sandra Tsing Loh may be familiar. Her off the wall  commentary, just the sound of her voice, always bring a smile.  
Guess Who?  photo by Jenny Graham
As I thought of clever ways to tout this highly energetic romp, the lyrics of an often relevant  1960s song by The Young Bloods came to mind:

"Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another... "  Right Now!!

No sooner has Sandra Tsing Loh burst upon the venerable East West Players stage than she has the entire audience turning to one another to introduce ourselves.  We are all in this together! There is no escape! So... for goodness sakes let's have a party!  Audience participation and Loh's no holds barred narrative never flag.

With Shannon Holt and Tony Abatemarco (and  Friar McCollister as Frosty, the Snowman who warms up the audience with "Does it smell like carrots in here" jokes)  Loh bounces joyfully through the story of her desire as a little girl to take part in a local production of The Nutcracker. Holt and Abatemarco bring her other characters to life in such a way that if their having a great time is not infectious, there must be some Grinch in your DNA.

TonyAbatemarco, Shannon Holt, Sandra Tsing Loh  
 Photo by Jenny Graham
Make no mistake,  this show will include you and get your chestnuts roasting with undeniable energy bringing your Holiday Spirit to Life... Or Else!  
Directed by Bart DeLorenzo with super scenic design by Keith Mitchell and great costumes by Angela Calen, this is an opportunity, thanks to the wit (and wisdom?) of Sandra Tsing Loh, to launch the Season with Joy.  Take the Metro. Walk a block or two through Little Tokyo to save on parking and take in the local flavor of Los Angeles. 

by Sandra Tsing Loh
East West Players
120 Judge John Aiso St. 
 Los Angeles, CA 90012
Thursdays through Sundays
Closes December 23, 2019 
Tickets and Information
(213) 625-7000

Sunday, December 1, 2019

UNRAVELED at the Sherry

NoHo hosts a handful of storefront theatres.  Having just lauded the wonderfulness of what these tiny spaces do for art and the theatre community, I was drawn to see a west coast premiere at The Sherry.

Jennifer Blackmer's "Unraveled"  brings reflections of sad stories that almost every person we know may face at one time or another. Time  marches on.  In fact, what may be the "illusion" of time emerges as the theme of the play. Joy (Meg Wallace) is a professor of Physics and Philosophy, an interesting mix that fuels the progress of the story.   Her opening speech turns on the idea that not unlike Billy Pilgrim in Vonnegut's "Slaughter House Five" we may slide back and forth in time, which she actually does,  encountering her mother at different episodes in their lives together. 
 Front: Meg Wallace, Carolyn Crotty  Rear: Kathy Bell Denton, Heidi Shon

Joy's elderly mother, George (Kathy Bell Denten) has been diagnosed with cancer  and suffers from chemotherapy induced dementia. When Joy is drawn back to her childhood we meet Young George: Carolyn Crotty.

As the story advances... and retreats in time, Joy travels  back to significant memories in her life. The closely bonded mother and daughter wind down the ever challenging road to the inevitable. 

Director Steve Jarrard shows great empathy for Blackmer's story.  It's evident that the level of experience of each of the cast members varies considerably.. Anna (Heidi Shon), the nurse caretaker for the elderly George, moves smoothly. More static is Michael, Joy's assistant/lover  (Drew Lee Davis Wheeler).

Unraveled by Jennifer Blackmer
The Sherry Theater
11052 Magnolia Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601
Nov. 15-Dec. 8
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 7 p.m.
Tickets and Information: 

(323) 860-6569