Saturday, May 28, 2022

BELOVED at the Road / Magnolia

 "Every shopping mall in this city -- in the world -- is a horse and buggy rolling in the wrong direction on a super highway. It’s only a matter of time before suburban retail dies out altogether." Dorothy.

A 'World Premiere" is a pretty exciting thing for me. To see work that will, no doubt, find it's way, maybe even to Broadway, is a treat.  Cameron Watson's direction and staging seemed, at times, to not favor the actors, but all in all, that said, the difficult text and the brilliant turns by three actors in five parts works nicely on the multipurpose set at The Road on Magnolia.  

Road founders Sam Anderson and Taylor Gilbert as Stephen and Dorothy present parents past traditional parentng prime.  After twenty years of trying and then, in their forties? Pow.. Bun in the oven.  Dorothy's recounting Stephen's reaction to her pregnancy is a dear and defining moment.

Three disparate episodes of Arthur Holden's unusual episodic play present  a story of conflict and anticipation. It bubbles with angst. In part this is because the human element of a family mired in 'change' has consequences beyond the business of Business.  The family's business needs attention and the goal: resolution?  redemption? is a difficult quest.

It is impossible to not take sides as Stephen, David's father   and his mother,  Dorothy wait. And,wait  ..  This stew and stewing is made up of twentyfirst century issues with a smattering .. or more than a dollup of Edward Albee as these slightly 'older' parents of their troubled teen age son field dark issues in his life. And then? Then, to, the issue of  the married real estate business partners' failings.  The dialogue crackles. Something, bit by bit is about to hit the fan.  

Taylor Gilbert and Cherish Monique Duke PHOTO CREDIT:  Michele Young









For the playwright to rely on only one actor to fill the roles of three important characters is an interesting proposition. 

The excellent Cherish Monique Duke becomes the mordant that holds the play together. She first brings a mousy parochial school counselor, Sylvia Mendes, beautifully to life. Then she finds her way to becoming a hip psychiatrist, Miriam Jacobs... And THEN.. crashes into a prosecuting attorney's formal gown as Marika Stavridis (It's Canada, okay?). Duke manages to whip out the word "asshole" with style and grace more times than I could count.




Sam Anderson and Taylor Gilbert
PHOTO CREDIT:  Michele Young



Brian Graves's simple setting is amplified by Nicholas Santiago's terrific video projections. Lights by Derrick McDaniel. The use of huge set pieces that work for other productions at The Road focuses our attention literally, on the argument of the piece. Too much information would spoil the play, but suffice it to say that when The Road opts to 'go for it' with strong professionals, the result is a short (100 minutes) presentation that has moments of tough humor and some deep emotions that transcend to the heart.  

Playwright Holden leaves us much to ponder on our own.  The plot twists work and the ultimate question: resolution? and/or redemption?  must be left to us. 

Beloved : World Premiere

by Arthur Holden

The Road on Magnolia

10747 Magnolia Blvd. 

North Hollywood, California

Runs through Saturday, June 25 

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




Sunday, May 22, 2022

Antaeus The Bard and the Dane

Antaeus Theatre Company has taken a hit from the dampanic, but dives back in for an in person production with a somewhat modern take on the classic tragedy: William Shakespeare's "Hamlet". 

There is something to be said for 'diversity casting'. Director Elizabeth Swain has stretched this idea beyond the pale but still the heart of the most familiar parts of Hamlet are solid. Ramón de Ocampo as Hamlet, Veralyn Jones as Gertrude,   and Adam J. Smith as Horatio  are singualr in their roles. Not all traditional, but steady.

Ramón de Ocampo, and Adam J. Smith
Photo by Frank Ishman

Swain's multiple casting  is somewhat confusing. One problem is because the excellent Sally Hughes is lumbered with so many different characters that it's difficult to discern whom she might be at any given time. The final scene of  the play: Act V, with the arrival of Fortinbras (Ms Hughes) discovering the remnants of the melee is difficult to appreciate. 

Michael Kirby as The Player Queen is convincing.  Sadly his Laertes may have just fallen off the turnip truck. Of course, the audience must abandon disbelief, but it's the responsibility of the production to guide us there.  

Shakespeare's  plots are well conceived and the verse, once we get the hang of the iambic pentameter...  and the actors fall in cadance, we settle back. To me it's like enjoying the music of a favorite band when they cover their own familiar hits. We can recall 'Speak the Speech' or "To be or not to be..." de Ocampo does not disappoint.

Ramón de Ocampo as Hamlet is by nature a super protean. Like the Little Engine That Could de Ocampo rises to the challenge and draws us in by speaking directly to the audience. 

Conversely, I found difficulty understanding the somewhat muddy speech patterns of Gregg T. Daniel as Claudius. As the Ghost, he shines.

The two actors having the most fun, are Peter Van Norden as Polonius (and as the Grave Digger) and Joel Swetlow in the plum role of the First Player.  

For an unknown reason, the staging of the scene between Gertrude and Hamlet with Polonius hidden behind a curtain has the curtain virtually hidden off stage. Something odd happened in the scene when (spoiler alert!)  Polonius is stabbed behind the arras that brought a laugh. The staging was awkward and it may have just been a mistake.

The essence of Hamlet is, to me,  the myriad of questions that Shakespeare scholars have debated for centuries. de Ocampo exhibits the melancholy side of the Dane and plays the madness well. Is it better to suffer the slings and arrows? Really?

Jeanne Syquia finds Ophelia's arc, but  after we bury Ophelia, why director Swain  cast Ms Syquia  as Osric seems a mistake.The hat business in the text seems to suggest that Osric is probably a gay man. Sometimes a man should be played by a man.

Thanks to Stephen Gifford's exotic set design and lighting by  Jared A. Sayeg and especially bone rattling thunder by Sound Designer Cricket S. Myers Elsinore is brought to life.

Ramón de Ocampo as Hamlet
Gregg T. Daniel as Claudius
 Veralyn Jones as Gertrude
Jeanne Syquia as Ophelia
Peter Van Norden as Polonius
 Michael Kirby as Laertes and Player Queen
Adam J. Smith as Horatio
Sally Hughes, Lloyd Roberson II and Joel Swetow each play multiple roles.  
Per the press release: "Creative team includes scenic designer Stephen Gifford, costume designer Dianne K. Graebner, lighting designer Jared A. Sayegthe, sound designer Cricket S. Myers, prop master Shen Heckel and violence designer Ned Mochel."

Bottom line is that this production deserves an audience and a trip to Glendale is one that fans of Antaeus must take. My criticisms are personal, but the show should be seen.
by William Shakespeare
Anateus Theatre Company
Directed by: Elizabeth Swain 
Antaeus Theatre Company
Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center
110 East Broadway
Glendale, CA 91205
Performances: May 20 – June 20
• Fridays at 8 p.m.: May 20 (Opening), May 27, June 3, June 10, June 17
• Saturdays at 2 p.m.: May 28, June 4, June 11, June 18 (no matinee on Saturday, May 21)
• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: May 21, May 28, June 4, June 11, June 18
• Sundays at 2 p.m.: May 15 (preview), May 22, May 29, June 5, June 12, June 19
• Mondays at 8 p.m.: June 6, June 13, June 20 (dark May 23 and May 30)
Tickets and Information:
(818) 506-1983 or
• Join us on Facebook at
• Follow us on Twitter: @AntaeusTheatre

Tuesday, May 17, 2022


 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 François-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."


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

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



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.


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