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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

A NOISE WITHIN PRESENTS "METAMORPHOSES"

 In 1971 The Mark Taper Forum followed Paul Sills' Improvisational 1970 "Story Theatre"  with Sills's version of Ovid's "Metamorphoses"  in 1971. The idea of reviving two thousand year old stories worked at the Taper and A Noise Within now reaches back over the years with the challenge of a stage filled with water.  This exciting idea takes me back to what fun Gordon Davidson must have had as  The Taper emerged as a hip and happening new space at The Music Center.

The beautiful performance space that Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott & Company have created through the good graces of the theatre lovers in Pasadena is impressive.  A rectangular pool center stage reflects colorful lights.


Clockwise from center: Erika Soto, Trisha Miller,
Rafael Goldstein, Cassandra Marie Murphy
Photo by Craig Schwartz

Francois-Pierre Couture's splashy set serves and the far out business of the late sixties and early seventies comes to life again via MacArthur Fellow/ playwright Mary Zimmerman's script. 

Having been away from ANW for several years, it's a pleasure to be invited back to see  this new version of an idea that fifty years ago may have helped to inspire the Los Angeles Theatre scene that included The Company Theatre, The Burbage, The Odyssey & Scorpio Rising. Ovid's short scenarios presented by a talented cast of nine adept actors playing dozens of characters for Zimmerman's play, simply:  works. Some of the stories are familiar (King Midas's Golden Touch) and some not so. Ovid's basic message is that when you mess with the gods, they might mess with you.  Be careful what you wish for. 

Lavish costumes by Garry Lennon are beautiful.



 

 

 

 

Kasey Mahaffy and Nicole Javier
Photo by Craig Schwartz
  

Each of Ovid's stories carries the burden of a moral.  Geoff Elliott as a cranky King Midas bookends the Midas story to good effect. 

Some stories don't always end well. For instance, the story of King Ceyx and his queen Alcyone. Ceyx was an adventurer who longed for the sea. Alcyone was the daughter of Aeolus, God of the Winds. There we go, mixing and matching the Gods and mere mortals.  Spoiler alert!  Listen to your wife, if her daddy is a god.

I was so wrapped up in the show, I failed to take many notes. There is one terrific battle scene in the pool that sent front row patrons scurrying to dryer realms. 

You can't tell the players without a program. This protean company of nine players successfully creates a myriad of characters. Consulting the in hand program presents an artsy array of how Ovid's myths have evolved.   The actor who played Phaeton seemed to 'get it' that filling the huge space physically and vocally was not a bad idea.

The players are: DeJuan Christopher, Geoff Elliott, Rafael Goldstein, Nicole Javier, Kasey Mahaffy, Sydney A. Mason, Trisha Miller, Cassandra Marie Murphy, Erika Soto.

From the press release: Kudos to all:

"The creative team includes scenic designer Fran├žois-Pierre Couture; lighting designer Ken Booth; composer and sound designer Robert Oriol; costume designer Garry Lennon; properties designer Shen Heckel; fight choreographer Kenneth R. Merckx, Jr.; and dramaturg Miranda Johnson-Haddad. The production stage manager is Amy Rowell."

"Metamorphoses"

Adapted freely by Mary Zimmerman from David R. Slavitt’s free-verse translation of “The Metamorphoses of Ovid”

Directed by Julia Rodriguez-Elliott  

A Noise Within
3352 E Foothill Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91107

May 14 through June 5 on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays at 8 p.m.; 

Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.(no 2 p.m. matinee on May 14)

Sundays at 2 p.m. .

In addition, there will be six student matinees at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 11; Tuesday, May 17; Wednesday, May 18; Thursday, May 19, Tuesday, May 24 and Wednesday, May 25. Interested educators should email education@anoisewithin.org.

Tickets start at $25. Student tickets start at $18. Tickets to the preview on Thursday, May 12 will be Pay What You Choose, with tickets starting at $5 (available online beginning at 12 p.m. the Monday prior to that performance). Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.

Parking is free in the Metro Parking behind the theatre. 

 

 

 

Sunday, May 1, 2022

WAKINGS!! AT THE ODYSSEY

WAKINGS! WAKINGS!!  WAKINGS!!!

Ron Sossi and The Odyssey Theatre Esemble celebrate a Golden Anniversary this year.  

Fifty years of working like anything to keep the spirit of challenging theatre alive is no mean feat. It's terrific and   sometimes a labor of love.  Ron's bent toward the dark side .. a little.. has been his way of making sure that some form of classical theatre and new theatre would survive. .. at least in Los Angeles.

Sossi has wangled his way into the heart of 'important theatre' as a director and a producer, he's provided a stage for the work of Lucas Hnath (currently with the Disney show) and Van Itallie.. the wonderful sixties.. The Serpent.. and Shakespeare with Al Molina carrying a spear. It is the stuff that no one else dare strut and bellow.  Sossi survives in Art. 

The Odyssey's current offerning: "Wakings!" is a mixed bag.  This spectrum of the writings of Herman Hesse, Robert Coover and Harold Pinter  featuring actors I have admired over the years has its ups and down.  

We meet  Ron Bottitta and C.J. O'Toole as a couple of Pinteresque bozos in "Victoria Station."  Bottitta "gets it" that they (the actors) are in a huge space with high ceilings.  Even with his Controller''s microphone, he vocally builds his character expertly.  Poor old confused Driver 274 is barely audible in the back and forth confusion that brings Bottitta to apoplexy ...  

As a courtesy, a simple prolugue by Diana Cignoni and Kristina Ladegaard recall the story of how Rip Van Winkle wound up sleeping for twenty years.

The guy who does 'get it' is Darrell Larson. Larson rocks Robert Coover's "Rip Awake" with a fifteen minute monologue. I wonder about thunder and no lightning, but tech issues may fix that. Larson finds peaks and gullies  that question reality, eventually sending Old Rip up the mountain again to deal with the buggers who slipped him into slumber in the first place..  or did they? 



Pinter's "A Kind of Alaska" partly inspired by Oliver Sacks's "Awakenings" finds Hornsby (Ron Bottitta), on hand as Deborah  (Diana Cignoni) wakes from a years long sleep, durng which she has aged from being a teen to a ful grown woman. This one act suffers from the problem of the large space.   Of course, the piece is intimate and subtle, and it's obvious that Deborah on her awakening after many years lying asleep, has a handle on the acting challenge, as does her sister, Pauline (Kristina Ladegaard).. but to be subtle in a large space, which may work for the front row, loses impact as the audience rises out of hearing. 

The final piece that features all five members of the cast seems to wrap up the message that Sossi has in mind.  Life is transitory. Life goes on. Change is inevitable.. as is the Inevitable is invitable.. This selection from Herman Hesse's "Siddartha" (portrayed by C.J. O'Toole) is  read on microphones by the other four members of the cast. Hesse was required reading for "seekers" many years ago and the 'truth' in the book's description of how the Buddha became enlightened is dramatic and .. for seekers today, may ring true. 

"This sleep was deep; it seemed to him as if ten years had passed.
He heard the soft rippling of the water. 

A smile crept over his face, and a strong feeling of awakening from a long dream spread right
through his being."  Hesse

"To sleep... perchance to dream. aye, there's the rub..." W.S.

The actors are: Ron Bottitta, Diana Cignoni, Kristina Ladegaard, Darrell Larson &  C.J. O’Toole.

WAKINGS!

Directed by Ron Sossi

The Odyssey Theatre

2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., 

West Los Angeles, 90025

 Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. 

  Sundays at 2 p.m. 

 April 30 through June 5, 2022

Two additional performances  

Wednesday, May 11 and Wednesday, May 25, each at 8 p.m. 

Tickets range from $32 to $37

Tix for $10” performances, on Wednesday, May 11 and Friday, May 27

Post-performance discussions are scheduled on Wednesday, May 11 and Friday, May 20, and are included in ticket price

The last Friday of the month, May 27, is “Wine Night”: enjoy complimentary wine and snacks and mingle with the cast after the show. Additional discounts are available at select performances for seniors, students and patrons under 30; call theater for details.
 Tickets and information:

(310) 477-2055 

or  OdysseyTheatre.com


Monday, April 25, 2022

TEA at HERO

  

 

Elaine Ackles, Olivia Cordell,
Tomoko Karina, Hiroko Imai, Hua Lee
Photo by Jenny Graham 
 
TEA by Velina Hasu Houston revived by The Hero  and directed by Rebecca Wear.

"Five Japanese women learn to adjust to a new life in rural Kansas alongside their American GI husbands after World War II in this deeply moving, humorous and surprising play that explores a little-known chapter in American history."

I list the cast just to try to put things in order. 

Himiko (Tomoko Karina) The ghost

Setsuko (Hiroko Imai)

Atsuko (Hua Lee) 

Teruko (Olivia Cordell)  

Chiz (Elaine Ackles) 


It's the sixties.  We meet these beautiful Japanese War Brides having come to the United States twenty years ago, winding up in the middle of Kansas. The play charming and musical and colorful and mythical and sad ...a little..  

 Himiko (Tomoko Karina), glides dramatially down a long dark stairway. She confronts the spirit of her dead husband.  And.. then.. commits suicide to end her struggle as an unhappy widow. Himiko's past is slightly checkerd but she survived the Third Degree that war brides were subjected to, coming to America to endure a difficult life with her abusive husband, Billy Hamilton. She killed him in self defense.

Evidently, when service men in Japan found wives at the end of the war (more than 5,000 new immigrants opted for the West) many of those soldiers and their wives were all shipped to Fort Riley, Kansas. Subtext to the narritve seems to imply that sticking these folks in the 'middle of nowhere' would keep them safely together?

TEA takes its title from the way that ... in Japan.. the social and ceremonial aspects of sitting with others brings them together. Himiko has left an array of stuff behind. Her Japanese friends gather to do an exorcistic cleansing of the space and to work out their own issues in exposition that elevates each of the four women left behind to discuss the challenges and opportunities of being Easterners in a Western land.

Atsuko (Hua Lee) and Teruko (Olivia Cordell) arrive.  As each of Himiko's friends appear (after announcing in a prologue how they take their tea), the jockeying for social position in the group evolves. We meet Setsuko (Hiroko Imai) and eventually, the hip and happening Chiz (Elaine Ackles) arrives. Of all the women Chiz loves assimilation and has married her warrior hubby whom she describes as Sweet Brown Sugar!  

I highly recommend this production but with the caveat that 'getting' the names of the actors and the characters has been a challenge for me.  The story evolves much like a dance with time slipping here and there back and forth with the help of Carlo Maghirang's simple 3/4 set. Azra King-Abadi's lights combine smoothly and effectively. The careful pace of the production reminded me a bit of the Tea Ceremony: The precise & thoughtful way traditional  Japanese customs are presented.  I might have added wood block in the tradition of Kabuki as a nod, but this is a modern play with modern intentions. 

TEA is double cast. I was told that there were so many excellent actresses at the auditions that the idea to expand the production to include two casts was irresistible.   In my imagination, I wondered if each of the ten actresses on stage at the same time might have been an interesting choice.  Silly me.

TEA by Velina Hasu Houston

Directed by Rebecca Wear

Rosenthal Theatre
Inner-City Arts
720 Kohler Street
Los Angeles, CA 90021
(in downtown LA, just south of Little Tokyo & the Arts District)


April 23 – May 15, 2022 

Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays @ 8 p.m.

Sundays @ 2 p.m. & 7 p.m.) 

Tickets and Information:

http://www.herotheatre.org/tea.html
Parking:
Free parking lot across the street
Plenty of street parking

Sunday, April 24, 2022

THREE TABLES AT THE ZEPHYR

The Ensemble
Photo by Jenny Graham


"Three Tables" written and directed by Murray Mednick produced with The Padua Playwrights presents a World Premiere.  

The opportunity to see something brand new with the playwright directing his own work... especially in this time of our lives...  we are presented with philosophy, a bit of science and difficult questions.. This opportunity is more than just sitting in an audience as a viewer. It's an opportunity to tune in to ideas presented in what I sometimes call a 'left handed way' ... odd syncopation with very odd characters who, evidently  have the author's voice: A bit of Jewish guilt and angst? And, possibly a prophecy for today turning on what Brown Shirts did in Germany prior to WWII.

Are our lives just existential bull shit? Do we have purpose? Does gravity suck? Black Holes?

From The Coyote Cycle in the  seventies, Avant Garde Theatre in the Los Angeles area has been kept afloat by the spirit of Padua. 

The Zephyr is a funky little space on Melrose. That little alley still holds the anticipation of being slightly shoehorned into art.  

Jack Grapes' "Circle of Will" went up there long ago and set a tone, for me.. for how to sit literally practically in the lap of the action.   "THREE TABLES" challenges the audience in what might be a similar way with participation by three distinct elements of commentary. We eaves drop on three generations of locals, each with ideas about the state of the nation and the world.

Our attention is drawn from pillar to post with action directed through precision lighting by Azra King Abadi & John Zalewski's music and sound  each becoming  additional players in the piece.

Waiters Joe (John Fantasia) and Sol (Richard Sabine), old Jews,  deliver their take on the lessons from history and what's to come.  A knock on the door?

Christen (Laura Liguori),  Rodger (Michael Uribes) and Mike (Corey Rieger),  actors a local play? Bicker at one table while Margie (Raquel Cain), Don (Dennis Renard)  and Casey (Eric Stanton Betts) hold forth arriving at another table as the dance plays on.. Whether the late comers are versions of Chris, Rodger and Mike comes into question.  Mednick's precise direction leaves no opportunity for a missed cue. Style reminds vaguely of Beckett's "Play". Some may disagree.  

This is not theatre for the timid.  Mostly words. Little action.  Thinking caps in place. Historical knowledge: past and present will help.  The audience has a lot of work to do.

The essential theme of this short but pithy piece turns on what might be described as Beckett meets David Lynch (especially the ominous sound.)  With questions about the moment between thought and action, "Three Tables" may be, to quote Mednick, "an existential meditation on the advent of tyranny."

Three Tables 

Written and directed by Murray Mednick

 Zephyr Theatre
7456 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046

Opened April 23, 2022

Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM

Sundays at 3PM

Through May 22, 2022

Tickets and information:
onstage411.com/tables

TI
CKETS:

• General Admission: $25
• Preview: $20

Parking may be a challenge. Arrive early & read street signs!

 

 


Saturday, April 16, 2022

A DOLL'S HOUSE, PART 2 Lucas Hnath

 Every company, from Broadway to  small theatre  in a converted store front has an obligation to do a couple of things: 

The essence of the company must serve itself and also find ways to serve their patrons... established and/or invited.  When caryn desai's International City Theatre steps up to produce a play that may challenge its patrons, that's a brave move. The circumstances of our dampanic which pressed ICT into Zoom did not stop their service to the community. This is what thoughtful producers do. The continuing concerns about how to safely come together in the audience present different levels of protocol.  Protocol at ICT in Long Beach is all masked up and ready for new audiences now. 

This brief prologue is to encourage fans of exciting theatre to stretch their boundaries to support ICT that has served the Long Beach community with professional productions for many years. 

Founded in 1985, and finding a home in the beautiful Beverly O'Neill Theatre, ICT has worn many hats catering to the tastes of patrons and to their credit has continued to produce Challenging Theatre. 

That said, this is an unusual couple of days for me.  I often research the plays that I'll see and findng the roots of "A Doll's House, Part 2" revealed that in the original Broadway production of the play in 2017 with Chris Cooper as Torvald and Laurie Metcalf as Nora, and Jayne Houdyshell as Anne Marie, Emmy was played by a beautiful young actress: Condola Rashad. Last Wednesday, I reviewed "Blues for An Alabama Sky", directed by Phylicia Rashad who is Condola's mom.  

The serendipity of coincidence factors into my discussion of the ICT production because I like the idea of this strong theatre family coming together.  So?? Before Broadway?  Almost to the day, April 14, 2017, South Coast Repertory Theatre had commissioned this play and produced it in Orange County. ICT's production brings the play right back home.

Jennifer Shelton and Scott Roberts
Photo by Kayte Deioma
Lucas Hnath's play takes place fifteen years after the end of Ibsen's "A Doll's House", when Nora stepped into the abyss to escape Torvald's grasp,  leaving her husband and their three kids. In the fifteen years that have passed, Nora had thought that her husband must have filed for divorce. It is now 1894.  He has not. Trouble. 

The ICT cast features Boston Court founder Eileen T’Kaye as Anne Marie, Jennifer Shelton as Nora, Scott Roberts as Torvald and Nicolette Ellis as Emmy. Individually, and together, they land on a stark minimalist set by Yuri Okahana-Benson. It features the all important door directly upstage. Action comes to life through spotlighted announcements when each character has a 'say' regarding their current state of affairs. This play is boldly theatrical.

I've often referred to Hnath as a 'left handed playwright'. That's because he gives voice to actions that don't always behave as we might expect.  The challenge to the audience is to keep up and pay attention.  The speeches are crystal clear.

I recently met a 'retired' theatre critic whose cynical take on what critics do made me wonder if all we do is parrot the press release.  To me, for any given performance,  the work ... especially on opening night.. has an energy that permeates the audience and those on the stage and in the booth and in the wings.    To report the energy of the play and to provide an objective take on that performance may serve two masters:  

One: those who know the crititc's tastes may take that into consideration to decide to attend the show.. or not..

Two: To give an objective point of view for the producers to consider.  Every critic "directs" any play we might see in our own minds. When the show echoes our idea, that creates a good review, or a quote that the producer may use in their ads. Regardless, the review is an insight for patrons and producers/actors/technicians alike.

That said.. 

The stark setting of ADHP2 by  Okahana-Benson is spare: reflecting the feeling that I've always gotten from Ibesn.  Chilly and stark. (one production note: from audinece left, there is a glass panel way over on audience right that mirrors the action on the stage that is distracting. A black drape would be a good idea there.).  The circular playing space in two levels with a table and three chairs focuses all of the action on the players. It becomesThe Arena for the dance of conflict.  If Ibsen's play opened the door to feminism as we now may define it with Nora's bold exit, Hnath's play adds nuance to the discussion.

Director Trevor Biship-Gillespie keeps it simple as the action escalates. 

Highly recommended. Arriving early and findng parking will lend itself to a bite to eat in the neigbhborhood.  

A DOLL'S HOUSE, PART 2

By Lucas Hnath

INTERNATIONAL CITY THEATRE
Long Beach Performing Arts Center
330 East Seaside Way
Long Beach, CA 90802

Previews: April 13 and April 14 at 8 p.m.
Performances: April 15 – May 1
Wednesday at 8 p.m.: April 13 ONLY (preview)
Thursdays at 8 p.m.: April 14 (preview), April 21, April 28
Fridays at 8 p.m.: April 15 (Opening Night), April 22, April 29
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: April 16, April 23, April 30
Sundays at 2 p.m.: April 17, April 24, May 1

Tickets and Information:

562-436-4610 

 www.InternationalCityTheatre.org

Please check the International City Theatre website at www.InternationalCityTheatre.org prior to each performance for current, up-to-date Covid-19 safety protocols.


562-436-4610  www.InternationalCityTheatre.org
 

 

 






Friday, April 15, 2022

BLUES FOR AN ALABAMA SKY

The Mark Taper Forum opens "Blues for An Alabama Sky" directed by Phylicia Rashad with a nod to the power of community.  It's 1930s Harlem. 

From first light (it's three in the morning) Angel (Nija Okoro) steals the show, even in a drunken stupor after being dumped by her boyfriend who had the temerity to go and get married. Fashion designer for Josephine Baker, Guy (Greg Alverez Reid), out and proud, takes Angel under his wing as the story unfolds.

Phylicia Reshad is an actor first and it shows in how the cast has.. evidently.. been given a lead but have not been by pulled by puppet strings.   

We meet Sam (Joe Holt), a local doctor who has just delivered twins and has the good fortune to embody the notion of "Let the Good Times Roll!"  His interest in the hardworking Delia (Kim Steele), who lives across the hall from Guy, makes us smile. 

This is a straight play that reflects the period and the issues of the times. The emergence of bias, even in what most folks would imagine in the Harlem community would be tight and supportive, rears its hoary head.

 


How Leland, (Dennis Pearson),  a new arrival from Alabama, deals with personal issues in  Cleag's engaging script is a twist. 

Elizabeth Harper's lights join Iocavelli's period set to reach into the depths of the spirits of these disparate characters who come together as politics and Art merge as driving forces reflected in the Harlem Renaissance.

Blues For An Alabama Sky

by  Pearl Cleage

Directed by Phylicia Reshad 

Mark Taper Forum

Center Theatre Group

l35 N. Grand

Los Angeles, California 90012

Opens April 14, 2022

Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m., 

Saturday at 2:30 and 8 p.m., 

Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m. 

Tickets and Information:  (213) 628-2772

Call for exceptions


Friday, April 8, 2022

The Road Magnolia in repertory: BRIGHT HALF LIFE by Tanya Barfield

  BRIGHT HALF LIFE by Tanya Barfield   joins The Play You Want at The Road Theatre in North Hollywood.


Kacie Rogers and Tiffany Wolff star in the Road Theatre Company’s Los Angeles premiere of BRIGHT HALF LIFE by Tanya Barfield, directed by Amy K. Harmon and now playing at the Road Theatre in North Hollywood.
 


In 1981 a new format for television was initiated: MTV.  With MTV came an approach to entertain that has permeated world culture in the form of speed: quick cuts and dazzling changes that leave the devil to take the hind most.  As I trail behind and The Road ups the ante with socially relevant theatre, Tanya Barfield's play challenges not only the players, but the audience to keep up!  Or, Else!

  One of the joys of small theatre in Los Angeles is the variety of productions at any one time and that there are companies dedicated to challenging their audiences. Lesbians for two weekends in a row reflects our changing times. 

The Road does not disappoint. In this Los Angeles premiere, we meet Vicki and Erica (Kacie Rogers and Tiffany Wolff) who may or may not be in love. Vicky is more femme. Erica is.. a little butch.

Like Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse Five, our heroines are stuck and unstuck in place & time: it's an amorphous somewhere that the audience must play catch up to imagine. An office. An elevator. A Ferris Wheel and sky diving. It's a love story and a conundrum asking the actors to be in many ages and places and many different times at the flip of an imaginary switch.  This switch, the truly impressive lighting design by Derrick McDaniel and sound by Marc Antonio Pritchett, enhances the mood and physical changes demanded of the actors. This device is an acting challenge that includes the audience. A simple stage. A couple of chairs.  Beckett on speed?  Breathless.

 Lights and lives change. Time is slipping away.  What is our destination? Who are the travelers?  We exist, evidently,  in the space of over forty years. Joni Mitchell's "Circle Game" comes to mind, " we are captives on the carousel of time.." But here we quickly rush to and fro from a middle to a beginning to a wedding to a birth through the lives of partners who ... eventually.. eventually.. 

take the leap. 

Popular references notwithstanding. Erica and Vicky do the dance of meeting, courtship, love & family, parents / children and issues all in one fluid motion that sometimes makes sense. Sometimes.  Director Amy K. Harmon, sends her actors running full tilt straight out of the gate. The pace may occasionally change, but mostly it's Hell Bent for Something. 

 

BRIGHT HALF LIFE by Tanya Barfield

            

The Road Theatre

10747 Magnolia Blvd., 

North Hollywood, CA  91601

    Performances are Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 2pm through Su

May 8. Performances continue in repertory beginning Thursday, May 12 at 8pm; Saturdays at 2pm & Sundays at 7:30pm through Sunday, May 22.  

 

There will be no performances April 29, April 30 or May 1.



Sunday, April 3, 2022

A DEATH DEFYING ESCAPE.. It's Judy Carter!! Again!!


The tiny Hudson Guild space on Santa Monica where traffic is always in a hurry.. a Red Carpet w/ fancy backdrop stands waiting for opening night photos. There are a lot of good looking women with bouquets filing into the storefront where Judy Carter and company never miss a beat as she tells the story of the trials and tribulations of being...

Judy Carter.

https://www.lucypr.com/wp-content/uploads/2022_Judy_Carter_0006.jpg
Judy Carter
Photo by Jenny Graham

Aided and abetted by Kevin Scott Allen and Lyndsi LaRose who portray Judy's parents, her lovers, a mean magician, a guy in a golden jock strap and others, Judy Carter takes center stage comfortably. She tosses in a few magic tricks:  pick a card, any card.. The  Zombie and the old switcheroo.  The author/star/daughter/sister is comfortably in charge and Director Lee Costello's pace keeps us on board for the entire ninety minutes.

The heart of Judy's story turns gently on her devotion to her sister Marsha who suffered from birth defects that left her in a spastic condition. Judy's devotion to Marsha permeates the show with genuine pathos throughout.  Judy's  memories of making her grandmother as well as her sister  her first audiences is wonderful. She knew that she  was destined to become.. not a magician's assistant. but a working magician.

https://www.lucypr.com/wp-content/uploads/2022_Judy_Carter_0061.jpg
Kevin Scott Allen, Lyndsi LaRose, Judy Carter
Photo by Jenny Graham


The intimacy of the little space at the Hudson Guild is perfect for this presentation.  Judy and her crew have put the money on the stage with video projections and effects that will not be mistaken for Penn and Teller, but meeting Marsha and Judy's mother and grandmother. .even her dad .. will touch your heart because Judy Carter's heart is totally on her sleeve. 

I laughed. I absorbed the deep feelings Judy Carter shared and applaud her 'spunk'  to quote Lou Grant when talking about Mary. Great energy. Great hair. Great story.  

Judy Carter's opening night curtain speech included the introdction of the family whom Judy found to give Marsha a real home, to educate her and love her.  Applause.  This woman keeps her promises. 

Go and see the amazing senior citizen discount coupon clipping gal from Fairfax High. Just go. 

Lee Costello's direction is simple and straight forward.  Tech credits:  Nick Foran: Sound and Production Designer,  Matt Richter's Light Design is top notch. Craig Dickens designed the illusions.


A Death-Defying Escape! 

Written and performed by Judy Carter

Directed by Lee Costello

Saturdays at 8 p.m.  

 Sundays at 3 p.m. 

April 2 through May 15

The production will become available for online streaming beginning April 9

 The Hudson Guild Theatre 

 6539 Santa Monica Blvd

Los Angeles, CA 90038

Proof of vaccination (including booster if eligible) is required for admission. Temperature checks will be performed on all patrons before entering the theater Masks (no cloth or scarves) must be worn at all times while inside the theater. The theater is wheelchair accessible.

Tickets and information www.deathdefyingescape.com.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Lucas Hnath! A PUBLIC READING OF AN UNPRODUCED SCREENPLAY ABOUT THE DEATH OF WALT DISNEY

For  dedicated fans and practitioners of Theatre with a capital "T" ...  Lucas Hnath (nayth) has a take on the practice of writing and performing works for the stage unlike any other playwright in recent memory.  The World Premiere of his "Dana H" at the Kirk Douglas a couple of years ago was so enticing and wonderful, that to call this guy a genius.. well..from what I've seen and read, he's right up there with Beckett.   My bias tends to lean toward plays and theatre companies who develop their own material and/or invite playwrights like Hnath to work with them to make the stage come alive with the unexpected.  

Cory Washington, Brittney Bertier,
Thomas Piper and Kevin Ashworth
Photo by Jenny Graham

Certainly, just the memorization of the title of this show is a challenge and when we think of the almost literal sainthood that has been bestowed on Uncle Walt, this imagined discussion, mostly between Walt Disney, (in a tour de force presentation, Kevin Ashworth)  and his brother, Roy  (a perfect foil with a bandage # on his head from where an Oscar grazed him, Thomas Piper) , is filled with healthy jerks and starts.  That Hnath employs marks of elipses  in his scripts to sustain the pace he desires is evident here.  

We are at a table read. The actors are actors playing characters with scripts aided by a few projections.  When Ron Miller (Cory Washington) and Diane Disney Miller (Brittney Bertier) take stage, we open into a sort of dance studio with floor to ceiling mirrors that expands the scope of this ego fest: all conducted by Walt. 

What the heck is really going on? Diane Disney Miller's husband, poor Ron Miller  gets some rough treatment as Walt rides roughshod over Ron's hope to become a true part of the Disney family.

Walt's perfect reading of the camera moves (Cut: on Walt, close on Walt, ON WALT) in the screenplay rambles in such a way as to peek inside the mind of a guy whose take on life is to Take Life and do with it as he pleases, even to the end of time.. as we know it. Or? Live forever!  The cryogenics deal is here, too.

Hnath's dissembling structure becomes a new languge that .. like learning Pig Latin .. begins to make sense.  

For those not familiar with the structure of a screenplay.. this table read  moves a pace and we see an imagined version of the personality whose name is familiar to very single person on the planet who has electricity and maybe some  folks who don't  The performances are all solid:  professional. A few props factor in to add slightly to a cartoony aspect of the show.  Walt's vodka bottles bear "XXX" brand. Swilling pills and vodka may have been what might have really happened.  The animators strike and a nature film about lemmings come sideways from real life, but mostly, this is Hnath's imagined take on the ego of one of the world's most revered filmmakers / entrepreneurs and scalliwags in modern history.

Peter Richards' direction is flawless. It's a terrific play.  Wonderful stuff..  

Another of Hnath's plays, "A Doll's House: Part 2" will go up at the ICT in Long Beach in a couple of weeks. I can't wait.  Meanwhile.. see this one.


A PUBLIC READING OF AN UNPRODUCED SCREENPLAY ABOUT THE DEATH  OF WALT DISNEY by Lucas Hnath

Presented by Working Barn Productions

Directed by Peter Richards

Preview: March 25
Performances: March 26 – May 1:
Fridays at 8 p.m.: March 25 (preview), April 1, April 8, April 15, April 22, April 29
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: March 26 (Opening Night), April 2, April 9, April 16, April 23, April 30
Sundays at 2 p.m.: March 27, April 3, April 10, April 17, April 24, May 1

 Odyssey Theatre
2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles CA 90025

PARKING:
On site : Five bucks

Street parking is a little dicey but available.

Tickets and information:

www.Onstage411.com/Disney.

 

 

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Jonathan Livingston Seagull" A Solo Flight at the Atwater Village Complex

 

Andrew Thacher / photo credit Jill Carol

About fifty years ago when New Age was sort of New.. Richard Bach, a pilot who wrote books and a writer who flew airplanes came on the scene with a little allegory that echoed  the philosophy of a teacher by the name of Richard Alpert, whom you may remember as Ram Dass. The Ram Dass book "Be Here Now" is in it’s umpteenth printing and Bach’s "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" shows up on a Google search as having sold at least 40 million copies.  

My personal connection to Richard Bach prompted me to blatantly ask to review this current production of the one person show: "Jonathan Livingstonj Seagull: A Solo Flight".  

Andrew Thacher is the solo. His adaptation of Bach's book is the text with spectacular projections in the teeny tiny space that is adjacent to the Open Fist and Echo Theatres at the Atwater Village Theatre Complex. 

For those who may have never heard of Jonathan, it is one of those little books with big print and a story that... according to Richard Bach, came to him in two parts.  The first part, I remember him saying, was when he lived in Long Beach and was out for a walk. Behind him.. over his left shoulder. or was it his right?  He distinctly heard a voice say "Jonathan Livingston Seagull." Turning to find no one there.. the idea of an allegory of freedom came to him with the voice of a bird as the narrator.  He immediately wrote the first half.  I don't recall how long it took Bach to find the end of the piece.  It was a while..

Bach was a pilot. One of those guys who owned airplanes and knew about flying from a personal perspective.  The notion of freedom in flight was his beacon. "Stranger to the Ground (1963)" was his first book published when he was 27.  Then "Biplane" in 1966.. with some other work coming along, turning on flight and freedom.

The big winner was "JLS" which put Bach on the map. It's simple road to Freedom became a hit. 

 

Andrew Thacher is an actor / artist whose fourteen year journey has finally landed him in one of the little spaces in Atwater with some excellent tech to enhance what is essentially a dramatic reading of Richard Bach's bird story.  

There is a quality to the story that speaks for itself: the character who doesn't see the world the way the world seems to insist that he must see it and be in it and act in it and do what he's told.  Makes sense that a pilot who had ideas about life, maybe under the influence of the Sixties? would find a metaphor in a young seagull who wanted to really... Really.. fly.

What Thacher has done in his fourteen year love affair with this story is to internalize the message and on a flyer.. so to speak.. has mounted the show on a shoestring, though the tech credits and especially the video projections (and one really cool special effect) bring the audience into the heart of the message: Go beyond your limits. Find love. Respect those who condemn you and find a way to freedom. 

Speculation might lead someone to see the Christ  story here.. the Troublemaker who is condemned by society.  Or the Siddhartha story .. in a way.. a taste of Tao and Buddhist reincarnation? All shared with a genuine and present joy by Mr. Thacher in a way that I am sure Richard Bach  would find charming.

It's rare for me to rave or gush these days.  Getting back into an audience is such a friggin' pleasure.  Being able to share a show like this with a friend was special, but the really special part is that to be told this story in such a clear and personal way enhances it beyond the pleasure of finding the book again.  The original book had some cool photos of real live seagulls.  Personifying the characters like Sullivan and Fletcher and Chang (sp?) comes easily for Thacher.  The natural flow and a simple change of posture and voice is what all actors do to bring their characters to life.This guy is so subtle that each individual character bubbles up effortlessly.. There's just no pressure. The presence of the actor barely shifts. The story being told just happens.

 

I am loving writing this review.  My personal connetion to the author is part of it, a moment long ago that I recall with great pleasure.. but more than this, I want for audiences who may never have heard of Bach or Jonathan,  to come to Atwater and support this play.  

It's kind of like being in a public place and seeing a beautiful sunset or a cloud formation and turning to a complete stranger with the irresistible need to just say, "Would ya look at that!  Isn't that beautiful??" 

Andrew Thacher's work is superb.. and super.. and inching toward the sublime..but let's not get carried away.  


We live in the land of doubt these days with lots to  piss and moan about.  An hour.. a little more.. on a pleasant evening with a friend may not change your life, but the allegory that Thacher shares with us is certainly food for thought. 

 

Please see this show. The friends and friends of friends have showed up.. as they should. Now is the time for an audience beyond that circle to come to see what devotion to hard work and a genuine love for the subject matter can do.  


JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL: 

A SOLO FLIGHT 

based on the book by Richard Bach

Performed by Andrew Thacher

Directed by Paul Millet

Atwater Village Theatre Complex

3269 Casitas

Los Angeles, California 90039

Thursday, Friday, Saturday 8PM

Sunday at 2PM

Closing March 27, 2002

Tickets and information: