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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