Sunday, November 20, 2022


Open Fist Theatre Company presents ANATOMY OF GRAY  by Jim Leonard. Directed by Ben Martin.   A Los Angeles Premiere.

It's the 1800s. Gray, Indiana.  Perfect for our 21st Century we find ourselves in a clash between Faith and Science.  Promoted as The Wizard of Oz meets Thorton Wilder's "Our Town",  June (Rebekah Paugam) addresses the audience. It's June's story. She's fifteen. She is bored and she is restless.

Preceded by his shoe, the wind blows Dr. Galen P. Gray (Jeremy Guskin) into the tiny town of Gray. Is Gray's arrival an answer to a prayer? Does prayer change things?   Life and death issues ensue. As Pastor Phineas Wingfield,  Alexander Wells spends a little time standing on his head to attempt to pass a stone, adding welcome physical activity to the talky piece.This preceded by amusing dropping trou by the pastor and the doctor. 

 The fourth wall comes down and mostly stays down. The device works. 

The bare bones set with an installation of platforms and a bench that becomes a canoe,  stands against a wonderful painted backdrop by Stephanie Crothers that is, to me, fine art.

The double casting for Anatomy of Gray is a mixed bag.  Open Fist members step up to the plate and once the interesting accents mellow out a bit, the actors bring home a story that may turn on our current epidemic or the AIDS plague of the past.  Fear and loathing of the new doctor echoes how a pandemic can set a community on its ear.  

Our narrator, heroine, fifteen year old June takes us back to hear the story of a girl who looks a lot like her!   The actors are all fully committed and with  unrestrained energy. They deliver the presentational text in two short acts.   I asked the director, Ben Martin, what attracted him to this play.  He said he likes a story and that this one from 2006 has community appeal. This play certainly tells a story and there are moments in this production that will appeal to the community, much as community theatre has done for years.


Rebekah Paugam as June 

Jeremy Guskin as Dr. Galen P. Gray. 

Martha Demson as June’s mother, Rebekah

Debba Rofheart as Maggie

Alexander Wells as Pastor Phineas Wingfield  Lane Allison as his sister, Tiny

Beth Robbins   as Belva   

James Fowler as Crutch Collins

Alex Hogy as Homer 


Scenic designer Jan Munroe  

lighting designer Gavan Wyrick, 

sound designer Marc Antonio Pritchett, 

costume designer Mylette Nora, 

scenic artist Stephanie Crothers, 

prop masters Bruce Dickinson and Ina Shumaker. The production stage manager is John Dimitri

Anatomy of Gray by Jim Leonard

Directed by Ben Martin

Open Fist Theatre Company

Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90039

(FREE parking in the Atwater Crossing (ATX) lot one block south of the theater)

Fridays & Saturdays @ 8 p.m. 

Sundays @ 3 p.m
thru January 21 

Dark Friday, Nov. 25 and Dec. 18 – Jan. 6



Saturday, November 19, 2022

DRIVER'S SEAT One woman..

Ellie Brelis - Photo by Jenny Graham

Ellie Brelis
mounts a clean tiny space at the
newly remodeled Theatre 68 in NoHo to present her one person monologue, "Driver's Seat". She's a 'city girl.' She doesn't drive! (Or, didn't?)

A front bench seat of a twentieth century Buick sits center stage.. Suicide has been on Ellie's mind. She addresses the audience. And, so,  begins her quest for self discovery, possibly in spite of herself.  

Emily Mikolitch directs. Dramatic lighting changes by Gavan Wyrick set the mood.

There's something to be said for Ellie Brelis's stepping up to confront her own far.. Laying bare her OCD (Obsessive / Compulsive Disorder), sundry addictions and brief glances into her own sexuality must be a huge task.  Most touching, midst the rants of a failed relationship with a man and his gifts of mugs, Ellie eulogizes her loving and generous Graddad, supplemented by terrific projections by Nick Wass and a voice mail from the old guy himself.  

Ellie's sips of a beverage to hydrate the sixty minute monologue might have been incorporated more smoothly into her presentation.

Unlike Chazz Palminteri's "A Bronx Tale" where the actor turned out a dozen or more characters with a prop or a gesture, Ms Brelis mostly  addresses the audience confidently as herself.  For anyone who has wondered if they had left the teakettle boiling on the stove half way to the car in the driveway and returned  to the kitchen to make sure that all was well, Brellis has been constantly harangued by her inner 'monster' who never lets up. 

Ellie Brelis - Photo by Jenny Graham
 Ticks and odd behavior are par for the course as we hear  of the actress being treated well and with empathy by other kids in school when she was a student. It lasted one week.

The renovation of what is now Theatre 68 where. in the past, Deaf West held forth and then Antaeus Theatre Company won high praise, the single space has been transforemed into smaller venues. It is impressive.  The vertical climb into the steeply raked audience seating in The Emerson Theatre has no hand rails. Climbing up the uneven steps may be a challenge for those of us with fewer mountain goat genes in our DNA.

Creative Team

Gavan Wyrick (Lighting Design)

 Gabriella Gilman (Costume Design)

Charlie Glaudini (Sound Design)

Nick Wass (Projection Design)


Written & performed by

 Ellie Brelis 

Theatre 68 Arts Complex

The Emerson Theatre  

5112 Lankershim Blvd.

North Hollywood, CA 91601

Tickets: $25:


Sunday, November 13, 2022

SMILE : A WORLD PREMIERE at IAMA : Atwater Village

IAMA Theatre Company presents a World Premiere play, "Smile." Playwright Melissa Jane Osborne's. script moves  cinematically under the direction of Michelle Bossy to celbrate the fifteenth season of work by IAMA. 
Andria Kozica, Isabella Feliciana
Photo by Jeff Lorch
There are confusing moments that made the reason for Helen (
Andria Kozica) to be in grief support sessions  only discussed much later in the story. The exposition  evolves deliberately as  troubled lives collide. Rachel(Isabella Feliciana), a girl in what may be serious trouble, meets Helen (Andria Kozica), a guidance counselor at an upscale high school in Mainline Philadelphia. 
It's 1992 "The Year of the Woman." Brilliant projections by Sean Cawelti partner with Erin Bednarz's  over amped sound  to bring Yuri Okahana-Benson's  multipurpose canvas to life.   
Dan Weingarten's dramatic lighting steers us through the complicated exposition of the relationship between Helen and Rachel and Helen's husband, Matt's  (John Lavelle) simply attempting to understand what's going on.  
Why Osborne has taken so long to bring the issue of Maggie (please see this play:  Maggie is a huge factor) into focus is a mystery.  It is an interesting polemic that discusses the role of women in society and how they are treated in 1990s America. The story  unfolds with excellent and even portrayals by the entire cast to the credit of director Michelle Bossy. 
The role of Joey, a boy with whom Rachel  is smitten, was well played by understudy Alex Fox.  Brief expository scenes with the two teens flirting  must be necessary to show Rachel's evolution as an evolving young woman.  We end with a strong statement.
"Smile" is a crisp and well presented telling of a story that allows us to eavesdrop on a family that will, in time, heal.  The complications of Helen's efforts to help Rachel give us the twist necessary to see the who the strongest character in the play really is.
One 'gray' note has to do with scene changes.  Even in the dark to see the actors pressed into service to move set pieces is just wrong.  Because the flow of this play rolls very much like a movie, the short scenes in multiple settings is creatively accomplished, but, for me, this distraction is a distraction. 
An enthusiastic first night audience arrived to red carpet photos, hugs and kisses as this experienced theatre company launched into it's fifteenth year.  
 Isabella Feliciana as Rachel

Alex Fox in for Ronit Kathuria  as Joey

Andria Kozica as Helen

John Lavelle as Matt

The creative team for Smile includes scenic designer Yuri Okahana-Benson; lighting designer Dan Weingarten; projections designer Sean Cawelti; costume designer Vicki Conrad; properties designer Heath Harper; and casting director Jordan Bass. IAMA ensemble member Anna LaMadrid is associate director and dramaturg. Grant Gerrard is the production manager and Kimberly Sanchez Garrido is the stage manager. Tiffany Moon and Kat Kim produce for IAMA Theatre Company.

 SMILE (World Premiere) 

by Melissa Jane Osborne

Directed by Michelle Bossy

Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90039

Performances: November 12 – December 5
Thursday at 8 p.m.: Nov. 10 ONLY (preview)
Fridays at 8 p.m.: Nov. 11 (preview); Nov. 18; Dec. 2; (dark Nov. 25)
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Nov. 12 (opening night); Nov. 19; Nov. 26; Dec. 3
Sundays at 3 p.m.: Nov. 13; Nov. 20; Nov. 27; Dec. 4
Mondays at 8 p.m.: Nov. 14; Nov. 21; Nov. 28; Dec. 5

FREE parking in the ATX (Atwater Crossing) lot one block south of the theater.f,m0o]/.=

• General Admission (except previews and opening night): $35
• Opening Night (Nov. 12): $40 (includes post-performance reception)
• Previews: $20

Tickets and Information: