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Sunday, November 20, 2022

ANATOMY OF GRAY at Open Fist


Open Fist Theatre Company presents ANATOMY OF GRAY  by Jim Leonard. Directed by Ben Martin.   A Los Angeles Premiere.


It's the 1800s. Gray, Indiana.  Perfect for our 21st Century we find ourselves in a clash between Faith and Science.  Promoted as The Wizard of Oz meets Thorton Wilder's "Our Town",  June (Rebekah Paugam) addresses the audience. It's June's story. She's fifteen. She is bored and she is restless.

Preceded by his shoe, the wind blows Dr. Galen P. Gray (Jeremy Guskin) into the tiny town of Gray. Is Gray's arrival an answer to a prayer? Does prayer change things?   Life and death issues ensue. As Pastor Phineas Wingfield,  Alexander Wells spends a little time standing on his head to attempt to pass a stone, adding welcome physical activity to the talky piece.This preceded by amusing dropping trou by the pastor and the doctor. 

 The fourth wall comes down and mostly stays down. The device works. 

The bare bones set with an installation of platforms and a bench that becomes a canoe,  stands against a wonderful painted backdrop by Stephanie Crothers that is, to me, fine art.

The double casting for Anatomy of Gray is a mixed bag.  Open Fist members step up to the plate and once the interesting accents mellow out a bit, the actors bring home a story that may turn on our current epidemic or the AIDS plague of the past.  Fear and loathing of the new doctor echoes how a pandemic can set a community on its ear.  

Our narrator, heroine, fifteen year old June takes us back to hear the story of a girl who looks a lot like her!   The actors are all fully committed and with  unrestrained energy. They deliver the presentational text in two short acts.   I asked the director, Ben Martin, what attracted him to this play.  He said he likes a story and that this one from 2006 has community appeal. This play certainly tells a story and there are moments in this production that will appeal to the community, much as community theatre has done for years.

CAST 

Rebekah Paugam as June 

Jeremy Guskin as Dr. Galen P. Gray. 

Martha Demson as June’s mother, Rebekah

Debba Rofheart as Maggie

Alexander Wells as Pastor Phineas Wingfield  Lane Allison as his sister, Tiny

Beth Robbins   as Belva   

James Fowler as Crutch Collins

Alex Hogy as Homer 


CREW 

Scenic designer Jan Munroe  

lighting designer Gavan Wyrick, 

sound designer Marc Antonio Pritchett, 

costume designer Mylette Nora, 

scenic artist Stephanie Crothers, 

prop masters Bruce Dickinson and Ina Shumaker. The production stage manager is John Dimitri

Anatomy of Gray by Jim Leonard

Directed by Ben Martin

Open Fist Theatre Company

Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90039

(FREE parking in the Atwater Crossing (ATX) lot one block south of the theater)

Fridays & Saturdays @ 8 p.m. 

Sundays @ 3 p.m
thru January 21 

Dark Friday, Nov. 25 and Dec. 18 – Jan. 6

 

 


Saturday, November 19, 2022

DRIVER'S SEAT One woman..

Ellie Brelis - Photo by Jenny Graham

Ellie Brelis
mounts a clean tiny space at the
newly remodeled Theatre 68 in NoHo to present her one person monologue, "Driver's Seat". She's a 'city girl.' She doesn't drive! (Or, didn't?)

A front bench seat of a twentieth century Buick sits center stage.. Suicide has been on Ellie's mind. She addresses the audience. And, so,  begins her quest for self discovery, possibly in spite of herself.  

Emily Mikolitch directs. Dramatic lighting changes by Gavan Wyrick set the mood.

There's something to be said for Ellie Brelis's stepping up to confront her own life..so far.. Laying bare her OCD (Obsessive / Compulsive Disorder), sundry addictions and brief glances into her own sexuality must be a huge task.  Most touching, midst the rants of a failed relationship with a man and his gifts of mugs, Ellie eulogizes her loving and generous Graddad, supplemented by terrific projections by Nick Wass and a voice mail from the old guy himself.  

Ellie's sips of a beverage to hydrate the sixty minute monologue might have been incorporated more smoothly into her presentation.

Unlike Chazz Palminteri's "A Bronx Tale" where the actor turned out a dozen or more characters with a prop or a gesture, Ms Brelis mostly  addresses the audience confidently as herself.  For anyone who has wondered if they had left the teakettle boiling on the stove half way to the car in the driveway and returned  to the kitchen to make sure that all was well, Brellis has been constantly harangued by her inner 'monster' who never lets up. 

Ellie Brelis - Photo by Jenny Graham
 Ticks and odd behavior are par for the course as we hear  of the actress being treated well and with empathy by other kids in school when she was a student. It lasted one week.

The renovation of what is now Theatre 68 where. in the past, Deaf West held forth and then Antaeus Theatre Company won high praise, the single space has been transforemed into smaller venues. It is impressive.  The vertical climb into the steeply raked audience seating in The Emerson Theatre has no hand rails. Climbing up the uneven steps may be a challenge for those of us with fewer mountain goat genes in our DNA.

Creative Team

Gavan Wyrick (Lighting Design)

 Gabriella Gilman (Costume Design)

Charlie Glaudini (Sound Design)

Nick Wass (Projection Design)

“DRIVER’S SEAT” 

Written & performed by

 Ellie Brelis 

Theatre 68 Arts Complex

The Emerson Theatre  

5112 Lankershim Blvd.

North Hollywood, CA 91601

Tickets: $25: 

www.Onstage411.com/DriversSeat

 



Sunday, November 13, 2022

SMILE : A WORLD PREMIERE at IAMA : Atwater Village

IAMA Theatre Company presents a World Premiere play, "Smile." Playwright Melissa Jane Osborne's. script moves  cinematically under the direction of Michelle Bossy to celbrate the fifteenth season of work by IAMA. 
,
Andria Kozica, Isabella Feliciana
Photo by Jeff Lorch
There are confusing moments that made the reason for Helen (
Andria Kozica) to be in grief support sessions  only discussed much later in the story. The exposition  evolves deliberately as  troubled lives collide. Rachel(Isabella Feliciana), a girl in what may be serious trouble, meets Helen (Andria Kozica), a guidance counselor at an upscale high school in Mainline Philadelphia. 
It's 1992 "The Year of the Woman." Brilliant projections by Sean Cawelti partner with Erin Bednarz's  over amped sound  to bring Yuri Okahana-Benson's  multipurpose canvas to life.   
Dan Weingarten's dramatic lighting steers us through the complicated exposition of the relationship between Helen and Rachel and Helen's husband, Matt's  (John Lavelle) simply attempting to understand what's going on.  
Why Osborne has taken so long to bring the issue of Maggie (please see this play:  Maggie is a huge factor) into focus is a mystery.  It is an interesting polemic that discusses the role of women in society and how they are treated in 1990s America. The story  unfolds with excellent and even portrayals by the entire cast to the credit of director Michelle Bossy. 
 
The role of Joey, a boy with whom Rachel  is smitten, was well played by understudy Alex Fox.  Brief expository scenes with the two teens flirting  must be necessary to show Rachel's evolution as an evolving young woman.  We end with a strong statement.
 
"Smile" is a crisp and well presented telling of a story that allows us to eavesdrop on a family that will, in time, heal.  The complications of Helen's efforts to help Rachel give us the twist necessary to see the who the strongest character in the play really is.
One 'gray' note has to do with scene changes.  Even in the dark to see the actors pressed into service to move set pieces is just wrong.  Because the flow of this play rolls very much like a movie, the short scenes in multiple settings is creatively accomplished, but, for me, this distraction is a distraction. 
An enthusiastic first night audience arrived to red carpet photos, hugs and kisses as this experienced theatre company launched into it's fifteenth year.  
 
CAST:
 Isabella Feliciana as Rachel

Alex Fox in for Ronit Kathuria  as Joey

Andria Kozica as Helen

John Lavelle as Matt

The creative team for Smile includes scenic designer Yuri Okahana-Benson; lighting designer Dan Weingarten; projections designer Sean Cawelti; costume designer Vicki Conrad; properties designer Heath Harper; and casting director Jordan Bass. IAMA ensemble member Anna LaMadrid is associate director and dramaturg. Grant Gerrard is the production manager and Kimberly Sanchez Garrido is the stage manager. Tiffany Moon and Kat Kim produce for IAMA Theatre Company.

 SMILE (World Premiere) 

by Melissa Jane Osborne

Directed by Michelle Bossy

Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90039

Performances: November 12 – December 5
Thursday at 8 p.m.: Nov. 10 ONLY (preview)
Fridays at 8 p.m.: Nov. 11 (preview); Nov. 18; Dec. 2; (dark Nov. 25)
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Nov. 12 (opening night); Nov. 19; Nov. 26; Dec. 3
Sundays at 3 p.m.: Nov. 13; Nov. 20; Nov. 27; Dec. 4
Mondays at 8 p.m.: Nov. 14; Nov. 21; Nov. 28; Dec. 5

FREE parking in the ATX (Atwater Crossing) lot one block south of the theater.f,m0o]/.=

TICKET PRICES:
• General Admission (except previews and opening night): $35
• Opening Night (Nov. 12): $40 (includes post-performance reception)
• Previews: $20

Tickets and Information:
323-380-8843 

 iamatheatre.com

 

 

Saturday, October 29, 2022

The Road Magnolia.. ACCORDING TO THE CHORUS by Arlene Hutton

The Road Theatre on Magnolia steps up with the world premiere of ACCORDING TO THE CHORUS   by Arlene Hutton.   This tight little space in a spiffy senior living complex in NoHo serves as a wonderful opportunity to see theatre that relies on the writing and  acting to succeed.   Paul Dufresne's scenic design  is just tacky enough.

PHOTO CREDIT: Elizabeth Kimball
>
> Jacqueline Misaye, Maria Spassoff (with Gidget Carradine), Kristyn Evelyn and Gloria Ines
It's  1984. The world is in flux. Quick and efficient costume changes for the girls in the chorus of an unnamed Broadway show that's been running for years, sets the scene. KJ (Samantha Tan) is  being trained by  Audrey (crispy Avery Clyde) for a seven second change. The air is electric with 'half hour' minutes away.  It's a play about the theatre.

Even with a program, it's difficult to tell the chorus gals apart.  Each dancer is self absorbed in her own way, but they all rally to support one another when a crisis erupts.   Director Emily Chase has created  some impressive moves as the girls warm up in the Quick Change  Room. Every dancer has an issue but getting their names straight was a bit of a problem.  The cast had one understudy (Brittany Visser for Sorel Carradine who usually plays Joyce).  Monica (Gloria Ines) stands out as always being hungry and probably bulimic and Jessica (Kristyn Evelyn) who is in a bad relationship and Niki (Jacqueline Misaye) who argues with herself about going on the road after this show closes to cross those "big mountains just beynd the big river."


The actual star of the show is Olivia the Dog,  Mallory's (
Maria Spassoff) brand new pup. I believe that the doggie in the photo is not the doggie credited in the program!  THIS JUST IN. THE DOGGIE IN THE PRODUCTION  I SAW IS BARON.  How director, Emily Chase, got a sweet little Egyptian Spider Dog (Mallory wanted her to have a pedigree) to be so cooperative and even sit on command is a feat of fine directing.  If credit is forthcoming, I will credit the stand in for Olivia.  Cherish Monique Duke will play Mallory for the remainder of the run.  Cherish was a stand out in the recent Antaeus production of "Everybody."     ALSO, THIS JUST IN. CHERISH WILL NOT COME INTO THE CAST AFTER ALL. MARIA SPASSOFF IS SCHEDULED TO COMPLETE THE RUN.

Amy Tolsky as Brenda, the senior dresser who is  never wrong, delivers the crusty character that easily might have been too much. She finds just enough authority.

Peter (Juan Pope) is gay. He's a successful actor in this show and pops in to say hello to KJ, to whom  he was, at one time, married.  The tension builds slowly.  The AIDs crisis is evident.  It's the summer of '84.  Many male dancers have been "replaced." 

Van (Danny Lee Gomez) brings home the Stage Manager nicely.  Because I've been brought to task for negleting to mention stage managers from time to time, my search of the program fails to yield the name of this production's Stage Manager. HANKS TO PR GUY, DAVID ELZER, HE POINTS OUT THAT THE NAME OF THE PRODUCTION STAGE MANAGER, MAURIE GONZALEZ IS PROMINENT SOMEWHERE THAT I OVERLOOKED.  I LOOKED AND LOOKED AND I GUESS IT WAS IN PLAIN SIGHT.

It's New York.. show biz.. bright lights  Theatre.. KJ has finally wtitten a hundred pages of a play. Peter wants to help. It may be a play about the backstage antics of a Broadway show? Or, a failed marriage?

"Chorus" presents a little bit of Gypsy; a smattering of A Chorus Line.  Certainly, playwright, Arlene Hutton, has spent time backstage and if she created "KJ" from her own experience, it's a slice of theatre  life that is summed up warmly with the anecdotes and "remember when's"  bantered back and forth by Brenda and Audrey as the show packs up and the cast and crew scatter to the four winds.


The Cast of ACCORDING TO THE CHORUS  

Samantha Tan as “KJ,” 

Avery Clyde as “Audrey,” 

Amy Tolsky as “Brenda,” 

Juan Pope as “Peter,” 

Maria Spassoff (first two weeks); 

Cherish Monique Duke (final weeks) as “Mallory,” 

Jacqueline Misaye as “Nicki,” 

Julia Manis as “Linda,” 

Gloria Ines as “Monica,” 

Kristyn Evelyn as “Jessica,” 

Brittany Visser as “Joyce,” 

Mara Klein as “Stacie,” 

Danny Lee Gomez as “Van,” 

 Gidget Carradine as “Olivia the Dog.”


The World Premiere of

ACCORDING TO THE CHORUS

Written by Arlene Hutton

Directed by Emily Chase

 

Opens: Friday, October 21 at 8pm

Runs: Friday, October 21 – Sunday, December 11, 2022

Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 2pm.

 

Previews: Tuesday, October 18; Wednesday, October 19

& Thursday, October 20 at 8pm

 

The Road Theatre

10747 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, CA  91601

 

Tickets: $39.00

Previews: $15.00

Students/Seniors: $15.00

Sunday Performances are Pay-What-You-Can

 

For tickets – visit www.roadtheatre.org or call 818-761-8838


 

 

 

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Monday, October 24, 2022

Leslie Jordan / Brother Boy

 Monday Octobr 24, 2022

Leslie Jordan and Del Shores

 

Leslie Jordan dies.

I didn't know Leslie Jordan very well.  When I first saw him in one of Del Shores' first hit plays.. was it Sordid Lives or Daddy's Dyin'..?? it was clear that this guy was fearless and a dedicated artist. 

We all mourn the loss of loved ones.. mostly when they have lived a long life and gravity and time has caught up with us.  Leslie was only 67, according to the LA Times report. Car crash in Hollywood. 

For those who really knew him, The Alexanders and Del Shores and Ann Walker.. friends of mine.. this is a serious blow.  How a guy so full of life and love is gone is a weight that takes the breath away.

The few times Leslie and I chatted, he was present and warm and engaged.  It seemed to be easy in spite of the Celebrity that he had become.  His warmth and humility and kindness are goals for all of us.

Please hold a good thought for Leslie's family and friends and for the millions whom he made not only laugh but embraced with kindness his life as a gay guy who was unparalleled and never ashamed.  

 

Michael Sheehan

Saturday, October 22, 2022

LEND ME A TENOR At ICT


ICT.. the Interntional City Theatre in Long Beach is an elegant space.  It's sort of a mini Taper featuring a thrust stage. Producer caryn desai (e.e. cummings may be a muse) is a welcoming hostess. 

"Lend Me A Tenor" by Ken Ludwig is one of those theatrical staples, first produced in London in 1986, but takes place in Cleveland circa 1934.  It comes around now and then and is, if nothing else: comfortable and lots of fun. 

Directed by Todd Nielsen, famous Italian Tenor Tito Merelli (Michael Scott Harris) has been hired to perform "Pagliacci" for a benefit for the Clevelnad Opera Society (I spelled Paigiacci right on the first pass! EDIT.. Okay. I was tired and am leaving this because it is typical of me an getting names wrong!   It's 1934. Tito is late.  Let the fun begin. And, it does! This old show has all the doors and all the elements of mistaken identity and doors and the business of physical comedy that calls attention to itself in spades.  And, doors!

Suffice it to say that every single character brought to life by every single actor in this show is in the same play and on the same stage and having the same fun.. clearly joyful stuff.. that the playwright intends and director, Todd Nielsen, has brought to life.

Max (Nick Tubbs), enamoured of Maggie (Bella Hicks)  is the guy who is responsible for collecting and looking after the famous Italian. Tito is late!

Matt Curtin and Bella Hicks
Photo by Kayte Deiomathe famoud

Tito finally arrives (looking just a tad like Mussolini!). Max is tasked with making sure Tito is ready for the big benefit for the Cleveland Opera folks.    When he finally does arrive, along with his cutie patootie wife, Maria (Jade Santana), Hot Italian Fireworks erupt and without creating a huge Spoiler Alert: Tito is magnanimous, Maria is jealous.  cute blonde Maggie is nuts for Tito and the first act finds Max and Maggie's dad, Saunders, (over the top Barry Pearl) in a pickle.  

I should have said at the outset that J.R. Luker's gorgeous and fully functional set in the fancy Cleveland hotel with six delicious doors;  immediately telegraphs the idea of a wonderful farce. It is perfect. Simultaneous business in the fancy bedroom and the parlor/sitting room with a 'poof' works.

I was thrown for a minute when Diana, the hotsie totsie local soprano "working her way" through the men in the opera cast, played by Kailyn Leilani,  showed up looking a lot like Maria.  Resident Costume designer, Kimberly DeShazo's beautiful wardrobe choices for the whole company are spot on late thirties, but virtually duplicate red dresses on Diana and Maria made me check the program. 

Our obligatory matron, Holly Jeanne as Julia with enough glitter on her gown and tiara to illumniate the entire theatre is welcome.  

Max has declared that he could perform Paigliacci (just in case EDIT.. DID IT AGAIN!) but you'll have to see the show to get that part and the subsequent doors, doors, doors and doors! which make for a fun & fast paced show.  It is truly a delicious production.  

I said to my friend on the way out, that the curtain call alone is worth the price of admission.. and it is! Well performed physical comedy is no small feat. And... best of all, it is clear that every member of the cast is having a great time.  Well... there's the Bell Boy .. Go and see why the Bell Boy (Matt Curtin ), from time to time knocks it out of the park. 

Broad physical farce calls for perfect timing and even though the business of mistaken identity and manipulated plot is far beyond belief, this production draws us in and slaps us around and a good time is had by all. 

Go for the extraordinary Curtain Call having had to catch your breath a time or two with the other silliness. 

 

Cast:
Matt Curtin as the Bell Hop

Michael Scott Harris as Tito Merelli

Bella Hicks as Maggie

Holly Jeanne as Julia

Kailyn Leilani as Diana

Barry Pearl as Saunders

Jade Santana as Maria

Nick Tubbs as Max

LEND ME A TENOR by Ken Ludwig 

Directed by  Todd Nielsen


INTERNATIONAL CITY THEATRE
Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center
330 East Seaside Way
Long Beach, CA 90802
 

Performances: Oct. 21 – Nov. 6. 2022

• Thursdays at 8 p.m.: Oct. 20 (preview), Oct. 27, Nov. 3
• Fridays at 8 p.m.: Oct. 21 (Opening Night), Oct. 28, Nov.4
• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Oct. 22, Oct. 29, Nov. 5
• Sundays at 2 p.m.: Oct. 23, Oct. 30, Nov. 6, 2022

Tickets and information:

(562) 436-4610  

www.InternationalCityTheatre.org

 





Sunday, October 9, 2022

THE ELABORATE ENTRANCE OF CHAD DEITY. an OC Premere.

 "The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity" is an Orange County premiere presented by The Chance Theater, written by Kristoffer Diaz; directed by Jeremy Aluma.. 
After a two year enorced hiatus, the Chance Theatre in Anaheim has rallied to construct a full sized wrestling ring in their La Palma space and on we go with a bizarre and energetic take on the world of professional wrestling, moral ethics and a huge dose of silliness. 
 
Full disclosure.  My friend, Hank Garrett, an actor I've known for many years, was a body builder and professional wrestler in the long ago days when the 'tour' took the show around the country. Therefore,  my take on this play will be colored by the wonderful stories that Hank has told me. For reference, he's the Postman in Three Days of The Condor who broke Robert Redford's nose in the big fight in Faye Dunaway's apartment. . 
 
Name dropping aside, Chad Deity is a fascinating story of how fall guy, aka "jobber" Macedonio Guerra (Ruby Solis III) finds his way in the morass of politics and racism, to have a life in the ring. Together with Vigneshwar Paduar (RJ Navarra Balde II) their rise to the "top" unfolds. These actors rock the show!
 
 RJ Navarra Balde II and Rudy Solis III Photo by Scott York   
 
Thanks to director Jeremy Aluma's beautiful stage pictures, the production values are top notch and the sleazy grandeur of the world of "professional" wrestling unfolds ..  An appreciative audience seemed to 'get' the story better than I did. Solis amazing ability to memorize and deliver the very long narrations in his casual and meaningful way is pretty amazing. Director Aluma has created beautiful stage pictures and Kara Ramlow 's impressive lighting design almost becomes another character in the show. 
Of course, it's all about the 'show' and promoter EKO (over the top  James Michael McHale) manipulates his crew to make a million bucks a month all on the backs of the actual workers. Londale Theus Jr. as Chad Deity rocks and one bit using a machine gun device to shoot money into the audience is worth the price of admission alone. 
All presentational and essentially two dimensional, a tribute to how most of us have always perceived professional wrestling. We know it's staged. We know it's fake. We know it's a performance with a script and blood and costumes and hype, that, evidently, is the appeal. The polemic of how Mace, the guy who grew up loving the spectacle of good guys and bad guy wrestlers on TV and finds his way, after a goodly amount of nonsense with including his pal, over the top with energy and rap,   RJ Navarra Balde II as Vigneshwar Paduar, THE FUNDAMENTALIST, the guys have an epiphany and the rest is silence. Admittedly, there may be a nuanced message here, but I can't find it. The sheer blatant blather by all concerned, highly theatrical, really beautifully played and staged by all concerned, is so contrived that even the epiphany for Mace to quit the game and VP's departure to hustle cuties over in Brooklyn in several different languages remains a mystery to me. Though the spectacle works.. it left me wondering if this is an important piece of theatre with its two dimensional characters presented not unlike the wrestling shows that I grew up with years ago and continues to make millions as 'entertainment' today? I asked a young man several years ago why he was such a huge fan of Wrestlemania? Without dropping a stitch, he said, "It's entertainment." 
Indeed..  
 
 Creative Team:

Scenic Designer Fred Kinney
Fight director
Martin Noyes 

Projection designer Nick Santiago 

Lighting designer Kara Ramlow 

Costume designer Bradley Allen Lock 

Sound designer Marc Antonio Pritchett 

Stage manager Kaylee Mesa  

Dramaturg Joseph Galizia 

Cast:

Rudy Solis III as Macedonio Guerra  

Londale Theus Jr. as Chad Deity,

 James Michael McHale as Everett K. Olson

 RJ Navarra Balde II as Vigneshwar Paduar Aaron McGee as The Bad Guy

Matt Takahashi as the Referee.  

THE ELABORATE ENTRANCE OF CHAD DEITY by Kristoffer Diaz

Directed by  Jeremy Aluma

The Chance Theatre

Bette Aitken Theater Arts Center on the Cripe Stage

5522 E. La Palma Ave.

Anaheim, CA 92807

October 1 -October 23, 2022

Fridays at 8 p.m., 

Saturdays at 3 p.m. & 8 p.m., 

Sundays at 3 p.m. 

TICKETS: $20-$39

www.ChanceTheater.com 

(888) 455-4212