Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The Book of Mormon ROCKS..

Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone's The Book of Mormon has been around for a long time.  If the energy disseminated by the bus and truck company now at The Ahmanson through March 29, 2020 could be captured, it might light up The City of Los Angeles for days.  Directed by Parker (remember South Park and Team America: World Police?) and Casey Nicolaw with spectacular choreography by Nicolaw, at rise, the audience is blasted with Heavenly Light to reveal the origins of the Mormon Church. Pow!
Accepting the idea that Jesus (blonde and beatific, but not credited in the program) came to the North American continent in ancient days and left a record of his visit is 'gospel' to the Mormons. They are duty bound to convert the planet to share their joy. Meet the Elders, specifically Gordon Matthew Brown  and Liam Tobin as Elders Cunningham and Price whose luck of the draw deports them on their Mormon mission to Uganda!
 Jordan Matthew Brown, Alyah Chanelle Scott and Liam Tobin Photo by Julieta Cervantes
Research reveals that every superlative in the English language has been written to describe this show. It's also  Profane. Uncouth. Perverse and Perverted. Every bad word you were instructed never to  utter? All get uttered! Wonderfully staged and surprisingly not the total put down of the LDS church that one might expect, all of the honors that this show has collected from Broadway to Timbuktu.. around the world (did it play in Uganda?) are well deserved. 
It's Fan effing tastic!

Meeting the rural Ugandans we are taught that when adversity strikes, there's a song to sing that makes everything all better! 
These Ugandans  simply throw their hands up to the sky and shout

Seeing The Book of Mormon will reveal why this phrase holds so much power.  

Superlatives and hyperbole have not been my style in the many reviews I've written over time. All the hype for The Book of Mormon had me reluctant to find brilliance in it,  but from first blush where we meet Mormon (Steven Telsey), Moroni (Andy Huntington Jones) and Joseph Smith (Ron Bohmer), it's a romp! A joy filled extravaganza!  

Tobin as Elder Price is a ringer for "Toy Story's"  Cowboy Woody while his mission partner, Brown as Elder Cunningham brings a touch of Olaf from "Frozen" with his unbridled optimism. Cunningham's arc from prevaricating dingbat to somewhat eventual maturity saves the day.  The ensemble cast doubles, triples and takes on dozens of other personas as the tale of the Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints unfolds.  Scott Pask's incredible scenic design is hampered a bit by the Ahmanson's huge speaker system above the proscenium, but no matter as the show unfolds.  

The Book of Mormon is a show that one may opt to see again and again regardless of what your religious beliefs might be.  
Biting satire? Yes! 
Guilty laughs? You bet!
For sure, it ain't Hakuna Matata!
  Hasa Diga Eebowai!

by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone

The Ahmanson Theatre
Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m.  
Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. 
 Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m.  
No Monday performances  
Added 2 p.m. performance on Thursday, March 26.   
Tickets and information:


Measure for Measure at Antaeus

William Shakespeare's  Measure for Measure goes up in Glendale.  As a major fan of Glendale's professional theatre company, Antaeus, it's difficult to report on a production that falls short of expectations. 
What possessed Antaeus to choose this play and decide to double and triple cast with actors who come on board with ranges from professional experience to what feels like no experience at all is a mystery.  

Paul Culos and Bo Foxworth
Photo by Jenny Graham
Paul Culos as The Duke of Vienna (after a curtain raiser that rivals Sodom and Gommorah) decides to take a leave of absence and hands the keys to the kingdom over to his 'trusted' pal, Angelo (Ramón de Ocampo).  Almost immediately, it comes to Angelo's attention that Claudio (Ramón de Ocampo) has  dallied with Juliet (not THAT Juliet, but Bo Foxworth! ready to deliver any minute!) his true love with whom...  unfortunately, he has not yet tied the knot. Premarital sex flies in the face of laws of the land. 
Naturally,  Claudio must die! It's in the book!

The interesting casting choice for Ramón de Ocampo to play Angelo as well as the miscreant Claudio is simply confusing.. Though some of the cast in this production possess protean skills enough to pull off more than one character, for the most part, not only do they not fool us, but even with a program, gender pronouns bouncing all over the place like anything,  keeping everyone straight is really no fun at all.  Paul Eiding's gorgeous full beard as Elbow, also playing a number of other guys, leaves us to  attempt to abandon our inner critic and dive right in to follow the story.  When it comes to iambic pentameter the marginal skills of some players just don't make it.  To his credit, looking a bit like Stephen Colbert, Paul Culos (disguised as a holy father) manages to pull off some couplets. 

I so want to report with joy the work that Antaeus does. Sadly,  ten minutes into the show I had the feeling that the best was probably not to come. Duty bound, I made an effort to follow the wonky plot and character challenges.  

Fredrica Naciemento's stark rectangular set features the scales of justice in The Duke's office illuminated in red, a harbinger of what's to come. No kidding.

Certainly, co-director Armin Shimmerman is well schooled and scholarly when it comes to the Bard. However, squeezing the text out of this cast was only occasionally clear and communicative.  Why co-direction with Elizabeth Swain was an idea is an unknown.  

The odd somewhat modern dress costumes by Allison Dillard are terrific. 

Thank goodness Antaeus's next production is such an American classic that unless we wind up in a drag bar in Lauguna Beach in the year 2525, The Time of Your Life, an all time favorite of mine by William Saroyan, will deliver to us a San Francisco waterfront bar in the 1930s with denizens to match.  It's a great opportunity for strong character roles via Saroyan's love for the common man.

Measure for Measure by
William Shakespeare
Antaeus Theatre Company
Kiki and David Gindler 
Performing Arts Center
110 East Broadway
Glendale, CA 91205
Performances: Feb. 21 – April 6
Thursdays at 8 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.:
February, 28; March 6, 13, 20, 27; April 3
Saturdays at 8 p.m.:  
Feb. 22, 29; March 7, 14, 21, 28; April 4
Sundays at 2 p.m.: , Feb. 23; March 8, 15, 22, 29; April 5(dark March 1)
Mondays at 8 p.m.: March 9, 16, 23, 30; April 6 (dark Feb. 18, Feb. 24 and March 2) 
Tickets and Information:
(818) 506-1983 or

Saturday, February 22, 2020


 A quick shout out to Lance Davis and his fertile imagination with Moliere's The Imaginary Invalid currently at Parson's Nose in Pasadena. 

A strange missed understanding put me in touch with an old actor pal, Barry Gordon, who is alive and kicking ... so to speak.. with the delightful and down home Parson's Nose Ensemble.  In the show, he doubles as a cafty notary and a doctor with a big nose (it's a mask). 

What's going on up there is an amalgam of a gang of theatre professionals teamed up to distill classical theatre:  charm the audience for an hour and a half, serve a glass of wine or a cup of tea and simply enjoy the good parts of the plays we revere from the past.
Mary Chalon's direction with artistic director and hubby, Lance Davis as Argon, the Hyped up Hypochondriac... simply makes for a great show.   The secret? Take the essence of a classic piece of theatre.. dissect it a bit, mix in some contemporary schtick, season to taste, then toss lightly in a former Pasadena funeral chapel ...  
and...Voila.. Moliere Light. 

With the entire cast having a great time in Michael Mullin's excellent costumes and keeping the pace moving like anything, it's simply great fun.
Kristin Igermeier as Angelique flutters like a butterfly not much interested in Thomas Diaoiforus (James Calvert) coached by his crafty doctor dad (John Rafter Lee) who has  eyes on Mrs. Argon (Marisa Chandler) who has eyes on Argon's stash of cash.
Enter Cléante (Colin Thomas Jennings)  as the true love suitor for Angelique, whose first appearance to the Pink Panther theme is one of the subtle nods to the present.. or recent past, anyway!  The story is bumped along beautifully with the expertise of Jill Rogosheske as Toinette, Argon's maid,  who takes no prisoners, keeping the story line active.
Davis and crew (notably stage managed and  tech directed by Jake Perri) invite you to Pasadena to have some fun.  Do. 

The Imaginary Invalid by
(mostly) Moliere and Lance Davis
The Parson's Nose
85 North Marengo
(Enter on Holly)
Pasadena, California 91101
February 8 – March 1, 2020
Fridays @ 8pm
Saturdays @ 3pm and 8pm
Sundays @ 3pm
Tickets and information:


Monday, February 17, 2020


Thanks to the Open Fist Theatre Company at The Atwater Village Theatre, challenging and moving theatre still lives.  In their current presentation of ROHRSHACH FEST starting with INKBLOT 'A' we encounter John O'Keefe's Ghosts directed by O'Keefe. The audience is in for ..well.. challenges. 

Featuring Bryan Bertone, Cat Davis, Jan Munroe, Tina Preston,  Elif Savas and Janine Venable emitting sound collage and voices from the dark .. voices from the early days of Bay Area avant garde theatre. They are undeniable. 
Written by O'Keefe and first produced at The Magic Theatre in San Francisco in 1981, the beauty of this piece, rather, these pieces, is the dedication to the process.  Six Ghosts speak to the audience, a chorus in the dark and then, one by one tell their stories, confront the audience as each of us must contemplate: 
The end. Death. 
O'Keefe remains alive and relishes the telling in the play and in his philosophical persona. Being in the moment.  Alive and contemplative. 

Jan Munroe's laughter is at once contagious and chilling. 
Jan Munroe Photo Elif Savas
Tina  Preston's operatic voice fills the space.
Tina Preston Photo Elif Savas

 The cast is listed as an ensemble. Preston and Munroe are performers whom I've known for years.  Every single actor is exactly where they are intended to be.
What the text demands from the ensemble is more than heavy acting chops.  The opening in the dark delivers a vocal sound collage/montage that transports the audience into another realm.  

O'Keefe's Ghosts is more than a play, going back to the days when experimental theatre asked the audience to participate, not necessarily directly, but to allow that the experience is visceral as well as being sight and sound. 
Applause to Martha Demson and The Open Fist for this ongoing exploration of the type of theatre that informs and inspires us to look beyond an evening's 'entertainment' to the art and craft of experience that calls for discussion and an exchange of ideas. 

Do NOT miss this show!  Brilliant text and brilliant performances! 
Check the Open Fist Website for the additional plays: a series of "Inkblots" to be presented.

John O’Keefe’s GHOSTS (Inkblot A)
Open Fist Theatre’s ROHRSHACH FEST  Atwater Village Theatre 
3269 Casitas Ave. 
Atwater, Ca. 90039  
Continues through April 5, 2020
Performances on Fridays at 8 p.m.
 Saturdays at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.
 Sundays at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Mondays at 8 p.m.
For reservations and information
(323) 882-6912 or



Stephen Sachs's world premiere of Human Interest Story at the iconic Fountain Theatre follows in the tradition of reaching out into the community. When you decide to see this show, round up some basic items that might help anyone whose luck has left them homeless. There are bins at the venue for depositing these donations. 
Directing his own play, Sachs celebrates the 30th anniversary of the theatre he and Producing Director Simon Levy have kept active with revivals and new works in their same funky venue.

With a lively cast (Tarina Pouncy, Rob Nagle, Aleisha Force, Richard Azurdia, Matt Kirkwood, James Harper and Tanya Alexander) Sachs imagines Frank Capra's 1941 movie, Meet John Doe, bringing it to life in a modern day metropolis.  Sachs mentions in his program notes that driving to the theatre, seeing unfortunate folks living on the streets of Hollywood reminded him of the Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck movie.  In Sachs' version, Andy Kramer (excellent Rob  Nagle), a well established columnist for the City Chronicle, (truly amazing projections by Matthew Hill) finds himself  downsized: virtually booted out the door.  In desperation Kramer 'invents' a homeless woman, Jane Doe, whose plight is dire. He composes a manifesto, attributing it to her. The old phrase "Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive" comes into play as Kramer in a final column recounts Jane Doe's story and her plan to commit suicide on the Fourth of July in a final act of frustration.  A convenient meeting in a park with Betty Frazier, the woman with the cardboard sign, a jobless teacher with an MA in education, evokes a partnership that lays in the course for the story.
Rob Nagle and Tanya Alexander
Photo by Jenny Graham

Sachs's strong polemic and over wrought acting by a few of the cast members scrambles the pace, but the message is clear. James Harper as Harold Cain, I suspect a deliberate ringer for Alec Baldwin's parody of the 45th president on SNL, blossoms and fades with way too much effort.  When the balance between parody and reality falters, the point is less likely to be taken seriously.  A nod to Orson Welles's John Foster Kane may be afoot.

The perplexing cross purposes of The Jane Doe Foundation, funded by mayoral candidate Cain and public donations to bring the issue to light makes ethical decisions by Jane thought provoking. Do we make a deal with the devil? Crosstalk on the wide, wide stage contrasts happy talk TV with gushing hostess Aleisha Force's Good Morning, St. Louis, with the tough approach by the Oakland BTV's (Tarina Pouncy with attitude!)  counterpart splits focus, but makes a point. A woman with a cardboard sign declaring "I AM NOT INVISIBLE" is parlayed into an examination of a very real issue that effects us all. It plays out dramatically and emotionally, leaving us with our own personal and perplexing questions. 

Human Interest Story is a must see World Premiere. Hopefully, as with Sachs's earlier efforts, his message flies beyond its comfortable nest on Fountain.

Written and directed by Stephen Sachs 
Through April 5, 2020
 The Fountain Theatre
5060 Fountain Ave.
Los Angeles CA 90029
(Fountain at Normandie)
Tickets and Information:
(323) 663-1525 

Monday, February 3, 2020


Prolific playwright Del Shores is at it again with families who pray together, but don't necessarily stay together.  Turning on his Texas roots, this Los Angeles premier takes place in Kentucky. The ghosts of his past productions come to life to haunt us once again. 

In his author's notes Shores tells a heart felt tale of where the characters in this play came from.  Suffice it to say that when you see it and read his notes it will all fall together in a beautifully dramatic way.  Dottie Rambo was the real life and very prolific Gospel Music icon whom Shores met in Kentucky. 
Dottie Rambo, the inspiration
Ditty Blaylock (
Sharon Garrison) is and has been the Christian doppleganger of Gypsy's Mama Rose, pulling together a successful singing trio: featuring her three formerly adorable daughters, Rachel (Bobbie Eakes), Abigail (Dale Dickey) and Bethany (Rachel Sarsa).  As "Super Stars for Jesus" many years ago, singing tunes written by Ditty, the Blaylock Sisters were on the top of the Gospel Music charts. Ditty's heavenly tunes reaped fame and fortune. It is now almost twenty five years since the 'incident' that changed forever, the pathways of the singing sisters and their proud mama. Rachel's husband Jude, lies in a coma where Rachel is discovered at rise taking her spousal pleasure as Ditty listens appalled in the living room and points a gun at her head. She pulls the trigger.
Rachel Sorsa, Sharon Garrison, Bobbie Eakes and Dale Dickey

As with his other plays, Shores pits family rivalries and the shadow of death (Daddy's Dyin' and Who's Got The Will?) to form a situation of conflict and dark humor that may be singular to his unique world view.  Shores' characters, especially in his one man show "Six Characters in Search of A Play," bristle or cuddle with a distinctly southern accent that endears his audience to the sometimes complicated argument in each of his productions.  His families are often a mess. We relish the love / hate / conflicts and their resolutions.

Mama Ditty has been invited to receive a life achievement award from the Gospel Music Association and has promised to deliver her trio of sisters to perform... without asking them first.  Abigail, the middle child, has been locked in a looney bin for twenty odd years and Bethany announces some radical personal changes as she is lured back into the fold. 

Rachel still lives in the family home with Ditty and Rachel's husband, Jude, long since in a coma fueled by the "incident" that is not entirely clear.  Well, it's a little clear, but that might be a spoiler.  

Returning to The Zephyr, Shores brings to life his endearing story on Tom Buderwitz's intimate set.  Staging in a tiny space like the Zephyr is always interesting. A couple of choices were a problem for me, but this story with its moments of humor ("That's coma humor," says Rachel at one point when the action seems to stop on a dime!) and deeply moving pathos.  The trick with Shores writing is the fine line walked between schtick and the reality of the lives of his characters.  Directing the production himself, these actors rise to the occasion beautifully. 
For playgoers who have enjoyed Del Shores' writing and his many productions (including film versions of at least two of his plays) this is a must see. 
It's in WeHo on Melrose, so take time to find parking! Good luck with that! Of course, a visit to The Zephyr and to Melrose is always a cultural adventure. 
So. Just go!  

Written and directed by Del Shores. 
Opened Friday, January 31, 2020
Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM
Sundays at 2PM and 7PM
Through Sunday, March 8, 2020
Zephyr Theatre
7456 Melrose Ave.
West Hollywood, CA