Saturday, September 25, 2021


Thanks to an anonymous Angel, Theatre West, the long running playhouse theatre collective on Cahuenga lives. The dampanic and hard times have taken a toll on us in a myriad of ways. Art survives.

 Mark Wilding's World Premiere "Our Man in Santiago," is a stinging indictment, with laughs, of republican foreign policy.  Jeff G. Reck's wide and imaginative stage design has been up and ready for over a year.  Keeping a show alive for such a long time is no mean feat, but the hearty gang on Cahuenga has succeeded.

Preshow compliments are in order: Friendly members of Theatre West greet us, vet our health, make sure we are hydrated, guide us to our seats, start the show almost on time. It's a total experience.  

Nick McDow Musleh plays Baker, a miscast CIA agent fresh from his "tough" assignment in New Zealand, where he was never in danger, never learned Spanish and leaned on his Comp Lit degree to succeed. How he was transferred to Santiago, Chile (CheeLay) to aid in the overthrough of Salvador Allende (uncredited in the program) thanks to Richard Milhouse Nixon shows us that fuckups are probably SOP, especially when a republican cheater is in charge. 

Baker, at rise, stands in a pin spot to testify before a Senate committee post Allende coup and we then flash back to 1973 on the threshold of the military coup in Santiago. The swank Cararra Hotel sits directly across from Allende's Presidential Palace in Santiago. So unfolds the twisted tale of American meddling in a foreign country where.. doggone it, the Pepsi Bottling Company is about to be nationalized by Allende. Nixon is a Pepsi guy. Baker likes Coca Cola. So do I.

Melding the ridiculous with the sordid facts of what happened in Chile in '73 simply works... for the most part.  The stage at Theatre West is wide. Charlie Mount's staging .. maybe for safety from the dreaded Covid? turns the audience into spectators at a tennis match where the strokes are sometimes long, high lobs. The pace suffers.  Opportunities for movement are lacking.  Acting styles are divergent. George Tovar as Jack, the seasoned and rightfully paranoid CIA agent, swaggers in and blusters about as he pours Cuba Librés preparing to send Baker to his doom. Baker is unaware of the plot against him.

Who is the gorgeous maid, Maria (Presciliana Esparolini), whose basic English and curtsies may be those of a Mata Hari? Jack wants to know. Leave no toilet paper unfurled. 

Presciliana Esparolini, George Tovar, Nick McDow Musleh
Photo by Charlie Mount

The clever device of long distance orders direct from the White House, with Kissinger's (Michael Van Duzer)   feet propped up on Nixon's (Steve Nevil) desk, as the merits of Coke and Pepsi are debated, as well as the burgeoning coup by Pinochet and the Chilean army,  create some semblance of ironically imagined truth.

Charlie Mount's direction, keeping our heads swiveling back and forth, with the imagined situation and the foreshadowing of times to come returns us, at last, back to the post coup times.  Baker has survived his trial by fire, emerging bloodied but unbowed.. more or less. Mostly more.

Greeted by enthusiastic Theatre West members with their own brand of protocols is a pleasure.  Parking is a minor issue, but close by. This fully professional offering deserves attention.  The pleasure of sitting in an audience and sharing the laughter is worth the price of admission.  Theatre West lives and it' is this long standing company's dedication to the work that matters. Did Chile survive the Pinochet regime? Was Allende such a bad guy? Are CIA agents arrogant fools? Does God make Little Green Apples? Answers to these questions.. well, possibly,  except for the apples part. I just made that up.. may be revealed with laughs at Theatre West. 



World Premiere

by Mark Wilding

September 24 until October 24, 2021

Theatre West
3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West
Los Angeles, CA 90068

Tickets and Information: 

326 851 7977
(Located between Barham and Lankershim - north of the Hollywood Bowl and south of Ventura Blvd. in Studio City -  across the 101 freeway from Universal Studios)

Sunday, September 19, 2021


Depending on the edition of the OED that you have collecting dust on a walnut bookstand in your paneled library, if you crack it open to "Adorable", you may see Mary Tyler Moore as Happy Hotpoint or Rory Flynn from Rogue Machine and sandwiched right there between them the wonderfulness of Ms Rachel I. Parker. 

I did not make note of her actual middle name, but recall that her parents may have wanted to call her Rip? She, like Helen Hayes, is taller on the stage than she is on the ground floor but can strut the catwalk like a six foot lynx and has dance moves that rival Margot Fonteyn on a good day. 

Rachel Parker
Photo by Joshua Stern

Parker, in this well timed audition piece for every medium, has  employed the voice talents of friends to depict her mom and dad and others. It's a showcase.

Director Alina Phelon has been conservative in Ms Parker's guidance.  There are opportunities  beyond the actress's ongoing character embodiments through her growing up years that might have employed slicker costume  and attitude changes. I envisioned a koken assistant who would physically bring more color and variety to the talky business of her exposition supplying more energy that is  lacking in this current version. Why Parker has opted for her closely cropped hair style may be for a part she's playing elsewhere or just the convenience of what short hair can do for anyone in these dark days. 

Vanity performances that work are sometimes vital for the advancement of an acting career. Christmas carols are not a long suit for Ms Parker, but the opening night audience (who insisted on a second curatain call) was up for the singing. 

Rachel Parker
Photo by Joshua Stern

My personal experience with the success of monologues, turns back years to the reason a great monologist, Paul Linke, who had been story telling for a very long time, put up his cathartic "Time Flies When You're Alive" with an eye to find a TV series. It worked! (There was also an HBO boost!)

Ms Parker, if she finds a way to pump up the volume, add color and lose the off stage voices,  digging more deeply into her heart felt discussions with those phantoms (her mother was a friggin' haradan!) with faster pacing and intensity,  becoming even more intimate:  it might bring her more work and certainly a broader audience. There is someone at home. Turn more lights on! 

She really is adorable.

The Wolfe and the Bird

Rachel Parker

The Matrix Theatre
7657 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046

Saturdays and Sundays 


Through October 10, 2021

Six more shows


Parking is interesting .. plan ahead. 


Saturday, September 18, 2021

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike!.

 There's something to be said for the love of the theatre: for the love of community: the dedication to the craft, the art and the substance of the thrill of opening night: another opening ...  another show. The Kentwood Players were all set to open Christopher Durang's "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" in March, 2020! The set was up. The rehearsals all rehearsed. The fancy Footlights programs (John Finlayson's fine addition) printed: glossy! and then, the dampanic and the history that we have all existed through, with the psychological trips that continue and the losses many of us have suffered, the Kentwood Players have endured.  Kentwood and the Westchester Playhouse have soldiered on with a certain joy that we maybe see only in community theatre.  Joy. 

Valerie Sullivan, Chris Morrison,Sarilee Kach, Giovani Navarro






Christopher Durang has been knocking out plays for years with a special love for odd ball characters (Sister Mary Ignatius and The Actor's Nightmare) who are so theatrical that abandoning disbelief is a pleasure. In "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," theatre folks will recognize familiar Chekhovian names and themes.  We learn that the parents of Vanya (Chris Morrison) and Sonia (Valerie Sullivan),  reference Uncle Vanya, middle aged siblings (Sonia was adopted)  who survive in the lovliness of their Bucks County, PA family home buoyed by  the angst that often serves as the undercurrent of the well known Russian playwright. They are depressed.  Will the Blue Heron visit the lovely pond? Sister Masha is coming.

The tone of Durang's text serves up levels of irony and word play for broad comedy and some subtle stuff as well.  For those who are familiar with "Three Sisters" or "The Cherry Orchard," the Chekhov comes through. 

Enter!  Rich and successful movie star sister Masha (Sarilee Kahn) arriving with her boy toy, Spike (Giovani Navarro) in tow. Stir in Cassandra (we slip off into Homer here) played by director Susan Stangl,  whose loopy predictions all seem to come true.   Chekhovian angst, over the top hilarity and then.. the lovely and sweet Nina (Isabella Petrini) reference The Seagull, whose naiveté  sparkles: a delightful seasoning to Durang's  broad story. 

 Sonia, decries her sad state of being a fifty something frump living with her  frumpy 'brother' Vanya. Sonia suggests that they might make a go of it as a couple, save for the fact that Vanya is gay. How much Durang and his personal angst from being gay is invested is anyone's guess. Vanya does confess that he has been inspired by the character, Trigorin, in The Seagull to write his own play.  It turns on the days when the Earth no longer exists.  Pretty star struck Nina (ingenue from The Seagull) enthusiastically encourages Vanya to   read the play to the assembled gang. Spike has the temerity to respond to a text while pretending to listen.

Durang's personal feelings may be invested in  Vanya's explosive diatribe about "modern conveniences". It is at once sad and  funny.

There's a costume party that reaps some hope for Sonia and a turn of events regarding the sale of the family home, a change of heart on Masha's part and we all live Happily Ever After.

Director Susan Stangl has kept physical movement to a minimum with the humor mostly coming  in exposition. Stangl's Cassandra enjoys moments of romping, but the humor and biting wit of Durang's words and well defined characters win the day. 

This is theatre for the community: a gift that is given from the hearts of the volunteers and their love of the craft and the art and the joy of putting on a play. 

Masks and C19 vax cards are a big deal. There is a mask monitor! The spacious house holds about 120 with spacing for the comfort and safety of all. 


By Christopher Durang

Directed by Susan Stangl
Kentwood Players

Westchester Playhouse 

 8301 Hindry Ave., L.A. 90045

September 17 through October 10, 2021

on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, and Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00pm 


Reserved seat tickets are $22 with a $2 discount for seniors and students. To purchase tickets, please email the box office at or call (310) 645-5156