Friday, August 13, 2021


Jim Ortlieb as Jim Ortlieb, evidently

It is such a pleasure to see an audience. A real live audience and David Elzer, the PR guy, with an actual press kit and people lining up to prove they are vaxed and to go inside a  teeny-tiny black box and sit behind a pre-eminite Los Angeles theatre critic who declares that he is short in the torso, but in reality I still can't see through his head and then the house fills up and a guy named Johnny introduces himself and is friendly and I like that a lot and learn that he is John Kolvenbach, the author & director of this thing that we are about to not only see, but participate in, even though I'm not much one for immersive theatre, the houselights dim and come up on one Mr. Jim Ortlieb, who has credits as long as your arm and immediately takes charge of the proceedings by thanking the audience for coming into the world and paying money and putting themselves into this one of a kind, one night only (well, for us) arrangement that is not really that risky because we all had to have proof of vax and be ready to play. 

What a pleasure... sort of.

Take one part Spaulding Gray and add a dash of Beckett and maybe a smattering of Werner Erhard, only more sincere:  with the fourth wall now toast and a really great set by Danny Cistone & Zane Stein (with lights by Derick McDaniel) that features some ladders and a jumble of furniture from the courtyard of The Atwater Village Theatre, Mr. Ortlieb gathers us all together: We of the "F" tones and We of the "A" tones who, when softly sung create the exact sound of the old fashioned telephone dial tone: that warm and fuzzy dial tone inviting us to dial a friend, back in the days when we actually called one another  or to hear our mother's voice or order pizza. 

While dodging Mr. Stanley's head and struggling to catch all of the dialogue that made everyone in the opening night audience laugh, the challenge was to anticipate being able to see AND hear Mr. Ortlieb at the same time. Part of the actor's charm was his ability to softly intone many of the punch lines that I, from the back row of the tiny black box space could hear but not completely understand.   That is probably on me.. but still...

Notwithstanding the dead spots in the acoustics of the space, the audience was totally on board, standing at the appropriate times and only sitting if you did not play the trumpet as a child.. or something.

Ortlieb dominates the stage with nary a hint of acting, the program feels totally spontaneous with not a whit of effort until .....

Jim again & No Peggy

Until, there toward the feeling that a climax may be coming; another random member of the audience is invited to assist with the program.  It is, in fact.. a plant! Not Rhodo Dendron.. but Peggy Goss!  Who, when she removes her dowdy mask, blossoms as one of the loveliest plants I've ever seen.  Unfortunately, for me.. her voice matched Ortlieb's in tone and volume, still dodging Stephen's head and her response to Ortlieb's call.. their really funny (evidently) call and response... got a great chuckle from the audience and this note from me. "Please speak to the back of the house, no matter how close it might seem."  

Of course, Johnny was enthrall with his own work and I applauded at the end, too. He seemed like a really nice guy and the audience had a great time and I hope to goodness you have been vaxed and will go to see this play and sit close and participate and know that Theatre lives. 

Theatre lives and breathes and sighs.. (sighing is part of the deal, so come prepared to sigh, okay??)  I loved the ladders and the occasional lighting changes and there was a part with maybe the actor taking poison, but I'm not too sure. I probably should have stood on my chair to see that part.  This is  a positive review that turns on loving the total command that Ortlieb had of the audience from his first breath and the cadance and the flow and  the perfect timing that was signaled to me from behind the other critic's head by a genuine feeling of togetherness and good will emanating from the full house.  

It deserves an audience. There is clapping and singing and drama and something about the four of clubs.  It's a sweet two hander that made me fall in love with a plant.

Vs. Theatre Company & 
Circle X Theatre Co. Present:


written and directed by John Kolvenbach 

Atwater Village Theatre

3269 Casitas Avenue

Los Angeles, California 90039

Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays @ 8PM

Through Saturday, September 25, 2021

Proof of Vaccination will be required and seating will be socially distanced.  Performance is 70 minutes, no intermission.

Tickets and information:

Evidently, that's a copy and paste deal. 

It's seventy minutes. Easy and fun. Go! 




No comments:

Post a Comment