Monday, July 25, 2022

IF I FORGET Fountain Theatre


 Welcome to the Casa Costanza! 

Jason Alexander admits that he did not know about The Fountain Theatre until recently. That the Fountain and Mr. Alexander, an icon from that  Classic TV Sitcom, have found one another is a blessing.  

Alexander directs Steven Levenson's "If I Forget", painting an age old story with nods nuanced sometimes in muted colors and sometimes in tough contrasts of black and white.  My "Costanza" reference refers to a lot of yelling.  

It's fast. And, loud.And, the audience laughed: a lot!

Make no mistake. The family interplay, which may actually be over the top in Jewish families, starts out at nine and quickly escalates to ten. 

The cast of eight actors is excellent with one amazing exception. Whatever is the next up from excellent is delivered by Caribay Franke as Abby.

 While the original text of  Levenson's  2017 play does not introduce on stage the character of 

Caribay Franke
Photo courtesy of
The Fountain Theatre

Abby, the daughter of Michael and Ellen(Leo Marks & Síle Bermingham), Alexander's brilliant device to have Abby physically appear in dramatic and truly luminous dance moves throughout the show with interstitial interpretations of her character becomes the mordant: ingeniously binding the chapters of the story together. Hers are thrilling bits of business that elevate the piece as a whole beyond what may have been Levenson's original intent. 

Franke is a revelation.

It's the first year of the new millennium and Michael and his wife, Ellen, have now to deal with teen daughter, Abby, who is making "personal discoveries" on a student group trip to Jerusalem. Michael fears for her safety and rightly so.

Difficult family decisions are brought to the table with increasing degrees of difficulty, all of which turn .. pretty much.. on what to do about Dad? Lou Fischer (Matt Gottlieb) is the aging patriarch of the Fischer mishpaca (I had to look that up). His three children, Michael, Holly (Valerie Perri) & Sharon (Samantha Klein), factor into the burgeoning family challenge, exacerbated by the issues in each of their personal lives and connection to the family store.  Politics and the times weigh  heavily on everyone's shoulders.  

Michael, having been a professor at his university for some time, is now scheduled for tenure. Yes, kind of a big deal because he and Ellen have opted to buy a home!  Michael is a scholarly author, his third book now in galleys,  apparently appears to instruct American Jews to reconsider the Holocaust!  The book has become an albatross around his neck as issues with daughter Abby erupt and his father goes into decline. Michael's younger sister Sharon and older sister, Holly, square off as family matters escalate... and, escalate!  as things change for the aging Lou.

The tiny indoor space at The Fountain challenges not only the audience, elbow to elbow, but for scenic designer Sarah Krainin, the play calls for several different locales. The cast facilitates the scene changes smoothly and artfully with Abby adding texture to each scene change. 

Taking a note from Brecht, Alexander plants his actors not participating in any current scene, off in the shadows but still on the stage. For me, a distraction.

Holly and her husband, Walter (Jerry Weil), are wealthy. He's an attorney and stepfather to Joey (the excellent Jacob Zelonky).   Holly, a wannabe interior designer, must deal with an absent daughter and  her grunge /  thug son, Joey. Surprisingly, Joey reveals himself to be, perhaps...  the sweetest of the lot in the face of the family's incalculable issues.

Jacob Zelonky, Leo Marks, Caribay Franke







A downstage red light, blinking in Morse Code,"Please Fix Me" and another lighting issue were minor distractions. 

As a side bar,  I need to say that my 'reviews' are not intended to be simply discussions of the show I've been invited to review.  My reviews attempt to reflect my entire  experience of being at the theatre and how not only does the play work (or not) for me, but how I may have come away affected by the experience.  It's a vanity trip that I hope informs the reader.  And, maybe, even...  the producers of the play.

I highly recommend this "If I Forget" and hope that this brilliant presentation warms itself to a well polished glow.  

The Cast: 

Ellen: Síle: Bermingham 

(pronounced Sheila):  

Abby:  Caribay Franke

Lou Fischer:  Matt Gottlieb 

Sharon: Samantha Klein:

Michael Fischer: Leo Marks

Holly: Valerie Perri

Howard:  Jerry Weil

Joey:  Jacob Zelonky

The Crew: 

Dance Composition  Allison Bibicoff 

Scenic designer Sarah Krainin

Lighting designer Donny Jackson

Sound designer Cricket S. Myers

Costume designer A Jeffrey Schoenberg

Prop master Katelyn M. Lopez  

Assistant director  Allison Bibicoff. 

Production stage manager  Shawna Voragen  

Lexie Seacrest assistant stage manager. 

For The Fountain Theatre. Simon Levy producer 

James Bennett associate producer 

Barbara Herman  executive producer.

House Manager: not listed. I told him I'd mention him.  Hello. 


If I Forget by Steven Levenson

Directed by Jason Alexander

The Fountain Theatre

5060 Fountain Avenue (at Normandie) 

 Los Angeles, California 

Secure, on-site parking is available for $5

July 23 through September 10, 2022
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. 
 Sundays at 2 p.m.
Mondays at 8 p.m. 
(dark Saturday, Aug. 13; Sunday, Aug. 14; Monday, July 24; Monday, Sept. 5). 
 Tickets range from $25-$45; Pay-What-You-Want seating is available every Monday night in addition to regular seating (subject to availability); all previews are Pay-What-You-Want. 
Tickets and information:
(323) 663-1525  

Friday, July 8, 2022


 After a too long "intermission", Theatre of NOTE literally charges into the fray with the World Premiere of Amy Dellagiarino's contemporary comedy, CLOWNFISH. 

If energy and speed are reasons for a good notice, this show is filled with both. Cassie, as she munches sunflower seeds, (doing a pretty good Wanda Sykes impression) cracks wise to the delight of the Opening Night Audience.  Erica creates a chandelier. 

The playwright has imagined that Denver is in the mountains and that a blizzard is raging,  making the trip up an icy mountain road to an El Cheapo motor court treacherous. The fact that Denver is not in the mountains doesn't stop this energetic cast from surging ahead. It's a shame that the playwright or the director had not seen the W.C. Fields classic "The Fatal Glass Of Beer."  A running part of "Clownfish" features folks coming and going from the outside where a blizzard is supposed to be raging. W.C. Field's bit in his short film could have informed the business of the blizzard beautifully. 

Jake and Katie (Groom and Bride respectfully) have ordered up a DIY wedding with a balloon arch and marble machine. They have called to service old college pals for some wedding fun. The fact is that not everyone is down with the idea of a 'dry wedding' (Somebody's uncle is an alcoholic) and when Katie, "I'm The Bride!!!", arrives with her first empty champagne bottle in hand: two sheets to the wind, it makes for some interesting repartee.  There is a lot of shouting.  Very fast shouting. The fact that Denver is not on a mountain, adds to the mystery of what is really happening here.

Sean Michael Boozer, Susan Louise O’Connor, Mara Shuster-Lefkowitz and Omari Williams star in Theatre of NOTE’s world premiere production of “CLOWNFISH,” written by Amy Dellagiarino and directed by Laura Stribling and now playing at Theatre of NOTE in Hollywood. PHOTO CREDIT:  Brad C. Light

Do you believe in ghosts?  It's one of the reasons that this party is so inexpensive.  Local lore regarding how to keep the ghost from actually haunting the party has us counting the guests.   Six is the 'magic' number.  Blithe Spirit is not on hand, but you never can tell when a spook might appear and knock the titular Clownfish (dubbed Trouty though he's huge and may possibly be a bass!) right off the wall.

Erica  has checked herself out of the looney bin to attend and having been tasked to decorate a 'chandelier' is doing just fine, thank you.  She may be the most sane member of the wedding. Cassie did not get the obligatory task packet / memo and has plenty of time for wisecracks though she was tasked to create the name place cards which are now up in the air because Tod (ney Todd) announces that he has changed hs name by eliminating from it one superfluous 'd'.

 The dialogue is fast and furious with a poignant scene between Ralph and Erica that is a lttle hard to figure out, but they obviously make a nice connection.

Director Laura Stribling's staging has some issues that I've seen in other small theatres.  I'm guessing that she failed to take into account that there would be people sitting in the audience. Thus when some very downstage business takes place on the floor, everyone but folks in the front row leaned forward to see what the heck was going on.   On the up side, each of these situation comedy characters is well defined and in the fast paced action finds a niche to fill and fills it.  

Bill Voorhees's scenic design works. The only tech idea missing is the maelstrom that could make the entries from outside funny.. well funnier. 


I love the poster for this show by Tom Misuraca that depicts the Clownfish full frontal with a tiny cabin tempest tossed on a flailing ocean.  How this factors into the argument of the play is a mystery, but it's a very cool graphic. .

 The Cast
Tod...............................................Sean Michael Boozer+
Hunter...........................................................Joe Mahon+
Erica........................................Susan Louise O'Connor*+
Katie........................................Mara Shuster-Lefkowitz+
Ralph.........................................................Bill Voorhees
Cassie.......................................................Jamila Webb*+
Jake.......................................................Omari Williams

Scenic and Properties Design Bill Voorhees
Sound Design Alex Diaz
Costume Design Linda Muggeridge
Graphic Design Tom Misuraca
Publicity David Elzer/Demand PR


By Amy Dellagiarino

Directed by Laura Stribling

Thursday, July 7  through Saturday, August 6, 2022

Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays @ 8pm

Sundays @ 7pm

No performance on Saturday, July 30

Added performance Monday July 18 @ 8pm

Admission: $25.00

Students/seniors: $20.00

Theatre of NOTE

 1517 N Cahuenga Blvd 

(just north of Sunset)

Hollywood, CA  90028



Parking on Sunset after 7PM is available. Meters until 8PM

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Early summer Mid Summer / Open Fist


Gone are the days 

when my heart was young and gay
Gone are my friends from the cotton fields away
Gone from the earth to a better land I know
I hear their gentle voices calling "Old Black Joe."

Stephen Foster 1853

William Shakespeare wrote "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in 1595 or 1596.. I had to look it up. It's filled with royalty, misplaced love, the Rustics, Puck and Fairy Magic.  Director James Fowler has set the play not in Athens, Greece, but Athens, Georgia in the Antebellum South.  It's summertime:  The livin' ain't so easy but the cotton is high.  A sharp
disconcerting  crack of a whip is heard off stage. Crack!

 Jan Munroe's set shines with a beautiful back drop by scenic artist Stephanie Crothers. A traditioal old plantation is the setting for our connection to the issue of Egeus (Alexander Wells) lookin' for support from Big Daddy Theseus (Bryan Bertone),   insistin' that his daughter, Hermia (Sandra Kate Burck), wed Demetrius (definitely Devon Armstrong). Of course she's nuts about Lysander (Dylan Wittrock).  If you can tell Lysander apart from Demetrius  you are ahead of the game.  On the other hand, diminutive and feisty Hermia is a ball of ginger fire and Helena (Ann Marie Wilding), the taller gal, is no pushover. 

*Note.. The confusion on who's who in the Lovers  Department is on me.  None the less, see this show and parse out the cast as best you can! This is a plea for in hand programs where photos and names can be compared and though it's no help to me.. now..  See this show.

At rise, Fowler sets the tone with a fully staged sort of cotillion: the Fairies and the Mechanicals all played (with one exception) by Black Folks and the White Slave Owner Ruling Class on board with heavy southern accents. After that shock either wears off...  or sinks in, the text of the play and the intentions of the characters settle with some margin of comfort.   Shakespeare's familiar lines are welcome, even with a southern drawl, y'all.

The fun of this play has been that once the fairies climb on board and the lovers are doped up in the Forest (&Titania, too!); Puck (doubling as Philostrate, the excellent  Monazia Smith) stirs the pot. The Rustics double as Fairies, which is okay. Bottom (Michael A. Shepperd having way too much fun!) bombasts his way into the middle of the mechanicals led by Peter Quince (Debba Rofheart). She struggles a bit to match the loud and enthusiastic presentational energy of the other players.

Having seen this play many times over the years: one show set in Colonial India! with British Royalty & Hindu Gods..    and the 1974 Peter Brook production at the Ahmanson with the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Open Fist's entry stands up very well.  Make no mistake, the physical business, especially the Lovers' Battle, is beautifully choreographed. This production is a tribute to the universality of what a good show is all about. With a twist.  

(I have just learned that Peter Brook has died at the age of 97. His notion of The Open Space is revolutionary. Flights of Angels..) 

Sir Peter Brook (21 March 1926 – 2 July 2022)



Debba Rofheart, Azeem Vecchio, Syanne Green,
Ash Saunders, Erica Mae McNeal,
Michael A. Shepperd and Monazia Smith
Photo by Frank Ishman

I still have trouble with who's who when it comes to the lovers and their mix and match affairs. So? the Helena/Lysander/Hermia/Demetrius trip  works anyway. A friend said that the Lovers are confused, so it's okay for me to be confused, too. It all works out in the end.

 Fowler has an agenda. We are confronted with his notion that Shakespeare's idea of a playful Midsummer Romp is secondary to our setting:  the South, and how Negro Slaves were mistreated and unappreciated adjuncts, though  central to the economy but plagued by prejudicial biases of those dark times.

Fowler's production is vibrant and alive with stand out performances and a polemic that I, as a white guy, am still pondering.  For those who love theatre and highly theatrical productions, this show is a must see. I recommend it for all of the reasons we love to be challenged by new works. Indeed, this presentation may be within the realm of what New Theatre is supposed to be and to do.  I am not so sure that The Bard would find all of his play  appealing.  But, the show is undeniably thought provoking.  The not so subtle foreshadowing of the conclusion and Puck's familiar departing speech is worthy of a serious discussion. 

It's a gorgeous production.  I have questions that I'd like answers to and may come back to later.  Fowler has created a version of A Midsummer Night's Dream that is extraordinary.

And.. maybe?   Even important.

Mylette Nora's costumes are perfect. Creative lighting by Gavan Wyrick moves us around nicely.

In order to spell the actors and crew's names correctly, I'm going to just copy and paste  the  information from the digital program. 

Cast of Characters
Theseus:  Bryan Bertone
Hippolyta:  Heather Mitchell
Philostrate/Puck:  Monazia Smith
Egeus:  Alexander Wells*
Hermia:  Sandra Kate Burck
Helena : Anna-Laurie Rives &Ann Marie Wilding
Lysander : Dylan Wittrock
Demetrius:  Devon Armstrong* & Nick Mizhari
Oberon:  Phillip C. Curry
Titania:  Ash Saunders
Peaseblossom/Fairy/Starveling/Moonshine:    played by Syanne Green

Cobweb/Snout/Wall:  Erica Mae Mcneal
Moth/Snug/Lion:  Azeem Vecchio
Mustardseed/Flute/Thisby:  Malik Bailey
Peter Quince:  Debba Rofheart
Bottom:  Michael A. Shepperd 

The Crew

Scenic Design  Jan Munroe
Costume Design Mylette Nora
Lighting Design Gavan Wyrick
Sound Design Nayla Hull
Properties Ina Shumaker & Bruce Dickinson
Scenic Artist Stephanie Crothers
Choreographer Faith Knapp
Fight Choreographer Nick Mizhari
Production Stage Manager Jennifer Palumbo*
John Dimitri
Vocal Arrangements James Fowler
Publicist Lucy Pollak
Production Manager Amanda Weier
And a special thank you to Justin Eick for original choreography of the lover’s quarrel. (It's wonderful)


A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare

Directed by James Fowler

Open Fist Theatre Company

The Complex 

Atwater Village Theatre 

3269 Casitas Ave.

Los Angeles, CA 90039

General Admission (except previews): $25

Students, Seniors, Veterans: $15

• Check website for current Covid-19 protocols on the date of each performance.
• Appropriate for ages 10+

(323) 882-6912 or