Monday, April 25, 2022




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:
Free parking lot across the street
Plenty of street parking

Sunday, April 24, 2022


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:


• 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.  


By Lucas Hnath

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:


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




Friday, April 15, 2022


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.
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.
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