Monday, February 27, 2023

Picasso at the Lapin Agile

 Fair warning..

If "Silly" is in your wheelhouse,  Do Not Pass Go!  Simply head to the Ruskin at the Santa Monica Airport to see Steve Martn's 1992 play PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE.   

Simply put, Steve's play is a really wonderful play!

Freddy, is the owner/ bartender at the Lapin Agile (J. Teddy Garces). Early on he breaks the fourth wall to make sure that we "get it" that we are watching a play!  One quibble I have is that there are only those darned little QR  programs.  Only modern folks  who have one of those cute little flat phones can read the program. 

Onward!  Fred Deni as Gaston, with his age showing, pees a lot.  As the show gets going, he is playing catchup.   Director, Amelia Mulkey, has her hands full with a disparate cast of characters, some of whom adeptly find the groove of the text.  The play itself is  loaded with opportunities, but not everyone is on the same page at the same  time. Some of the wonderful back and forth between  Pablo Picasso (Isaac J. Cruz)  and  Albert Einstein.. (Ryan Stiffelman) works nicely.  I loved the drawing show down. Lines for Pable and formula for Al.  Art!

With farce, it's all about staging and pace.    Getting everyone together may happen  as the run goes on.  I want to encourage folks who know this show just to go.

J. Teddy Garces, Jack Merrill, Isaac J. Cruz, Amy Motta, Fred Deni

A tour de force by Ashley Barrett, who plays three very different women  is worth the price of admission, alone.  The off the wall shenanigans of interloper Charles Dabernow Schmendiman (Hudson Long) could be even more over the top.   The photo scene with  Jack Merrill as Sagot, the art dealter holds up nicely.

Taking  into  consideration Time Travel and  predictions  for the future through his characters, it's Martin's challenge to the audience to plumb the depths of their Jeopardy! knowledge and unearth the jokes.  It's 1904. This is the dawn of a The Twentieth Century. 

Einstein is a dapper  25.  Picasso is 23 and bigger than life.  They  spar as scientist and artist with pencils to paper, ready to change the world forever. 

 The Visitor (Jackson Glenn) really needs to do some research. Thank you very much.

These are larger than life characters.  When played  to the hilt, they are really wonderful. It may be a melodrama.. or close to it.  What was missing, for me, was that aspect of some of the characters that, either tempered or boosted so that everyone was on the same page at the same time, the fun aspect will escalate. Martin's wit calls for split second timing and presentation.  As Germaine, Amy Motta gives as good as she gets, defending herself regarding the value of art.

Please see this show and tell them I sent you.  Ryan Wilson's set and the final scene with Eugene Sales' stars works just fine.


Ashley Barrett (Suzanne/The Countess/A Female Admirer)

Isaac J. Cruz (Pablo Picasso)

Fred Deni (Gaston),
J. Teddy Garces (Freddy)

Jackson Glenn (Visitor) 

Hudson Long (Charles Dabernow Schmendiman), Jack Merrill (Sagot)

Amy Motta (Germaine)

 Ryan Stiffelman (Albert Einstein)

Creative Team:  

Ryan Wilson (Scenic Design)

Edward Salas (Lighting and Sound Design)

Michael Mullen( Costume Design), 

Paul Ruddy (Casting), 

Nicole Millar (Production Stage Manager) 

Picasso at the Lapin Agile”

By Steve Martin / Directed by Amelia Mulkey

Opening at 8pm on Friday, February 24, 2023 

8pm Fridays and Saturdays

2pm on Sundays 

Through April 2, 2023
Ruskin Group Theatre

3000 Airport Avenue

 Santa Monica, CA 90405



Sunday, February 19, 2023


I went to see a really decent play last night.. 

 Three characters..

It turns on technical exactitude in the face of art. 
It is chilling... in a way... It's an argument: a debate. Can someone tell the 'whole truth' ?   Ever?

This wonderful Fountain Theatre production of "The Lifespan of a Fact"  by Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell is based on the book by Jim  Fingal  & John D'Agata.  They call it   "Based on a real story.. Truth... ISH"

I overheard the director, Simon Levy, tell friends that these guys took seven years to research and create the book! O,r, was it the play?  The effort shows in the piece. It   brings into question the balance of accurate  journalism vis a vis how Literary License may expand upon or detract from a story to make an essay for a popular magazine reflect the essayist's intent and still be 'factual.' .

Inger Tudor, Ron Bottitta, Jonah Robinson
Photo by Jenny Graham
 Is Literary License important? 

We shall see.  

We shall  see. 

Any theatre piece that points up the importance of the use of a diphthong and discusses an "epistemological problem," means that it is time to grab our handy pocket dictionary  for definitions and pay close attention. 

In eighty minutes, director Simon Levy guides his actors smoothly through the sticky wickets of well crafted staging.  The play flows nicely with three very disparate characters working together: at odds from the get-go: to find their way to the Facts, ma'am, just the Facts? 

The play asks questions, reluctantly  answering them, and, it seems, intentionally, leaving the audience, scratching our collective noggins. The story works really well with each character championing a specific agenda.   

It's a comedy!  Sort of.

 As Emily Penrose, Inger Tudor   shines as the editor-in-chief of a "high end" New York City based magazine.  Emily's challenge is to publish an 'essay' that may be socially important enough to garner national attention and boost her readership, possibly inviting  important revenue.  

Emily is busy. Emily is not patient.  Emily is very direct and juggles the business of her responsibilities  effetively... until...  

and here in lies the tale.  

Jim Fingal (the actual author of the book with John D'Agata that the play is based upon) is played   enthusiastically by young Jonah Robinson.  Jim is a Harvard grad who has signed on  to Emily's publication with the goal  of becoming a working journalist. As an intern he mostly just makes coffee for an associate editor but is now specificlally tasked to do a Quick Fact Check of an essay by aforementioned Essayist, John D'Agata (Ron Bottitta). Meeting with Emily, Jim is now responsible for making sure the 'FACTS' (caps mine) in D'Agata's essay are verifiable.  Can Jim accurately Fact Check a heart rending essay by a cranky essayist?  Bottitta channels a bit of Norman Mailer in his relationship with Jim.

D'Agata's essay focuses on suicide.  

What is a fact?  What is Truth? Does the color of the bricks in a blood stained courtyard actually matter? Does it make a difference how many strip clubs are licensed in Las Vegas when telling the story of a sixteen year old kid who takes a nose dive from The Tower of the Stratosphere Hotel? How deep is our detail oriented  fact checker expected to dive to make sure D'Agata's essay is absolutely accurate?  Does the actual number of seconds ticking off Levi Presley's decent really matter? 

The beauty of this challenging tale  is that Director Levy has arranged for the cast to all be in the same play with near perfect energy and responses: all at the same time.  Ms Tudor  ramps up quickly as Robinson and Bottitta hit the stage full throttle.  The ethical issues of what a Fact is and how will the Truth be told, is a puzzlement. Bottitta's heart rending speech recouting the death of D'Agata's mother is masterful.

Great Tech with  texting and emails projected as they happen with visuals to suggest locations are perfect. The Fountain excels in this aspect  every single time.

I love the orgnization of this piece and hope that The Fountain will have, with patrons in attendance, all full houses.  Don't miss it.


Ron Bottitta : John D'Agata

Jonah Robinson : Jim Fingal

Inger Tudor: Emily Penrose


Directed by
Simon Levy

Set Design
Joel Daavid
Lighting Design
Alison Brummer
Sound Design
Marc Antonio Pritchett
Costume Design
Michael Mullin
Prop Design
Joyce Hutter
Video Design
Nicholas Santiago
Technical Director
Scott Tuomey
Production Stage Manager
Hannah Raymond
Assistant Stage Manager
Gina DeLuca




By Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell & Gordon Farrell 

The Fountain Theatre
5060 Fountain Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90029
(corner Fountain & Normandie)

Previews: February 15 – February 17
Performances: February 18 – April 2
Wednesday at 8 p.m.: Feb. 15 ONLY (preview)
Thursday at 8 p.m.: Feb. 16 ONLY (preview)
Fridays at 8 p.m.: Feb. 17 (preview), Feb. 24; March 3; March 10; March 17; March 24; March 31
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Feb. 18 (opening); Feb. 25; March 4; March 11; March 18; March 25; April 1
Sundays at 2 p.m.: Feb. 19; Feb. 26; March 5; March 12; March 19; March 26; April 2
Mondays at 8 p.m.: Feb. 27; March 6; March 20; March 27 (dark Feb. 20; March 13)
Parking info:

$5 in the Fountain lot, or please allow extra time to find street parking.
• Street parking is available in the neighborhood north of Fountain Avenue.
• No parking after 6 p.m on Mariposa or Alexandria Avenues south of Fountain.
• Make sure to read all parking signs!

Just a reminder that
masks are not required at Saturday's performance, but are highly recommended. 

Saturday, February 11, 2023


 The Group Rep / Lonny Chapman Theatre Company has been around for fifty years.  For about sixty of those years, director Larry Eisenberg has been the artistic director, a stage director, an actor (For me, his Kit Carson in The Time of Your Life will always be a favorite performance..) , boxoffice manager,  chief cook and bottlewasher : literally keeping the company afloat in the face of all kinds of  adversity.  To his credit, the roof no longer leaks and the spirit of theatre is alive and well on Burbank Boulevard. 
Larry's take on this odd play features no attempt at a realistic setting.  It is very impressive.  The use of projections and a couple of cute stage hands who double as suitors for Harold and moving 'men' are welcome and funny.   This preamble is to suggest that for locals who appreciate the sincerity of local community theatre, patrons will 'get it' that this work is  really  for them..  That said, please head to The Group for a treat.
By playwright Colin Higgins' own admission in notes to producers of this stage play of Harold & Maude, taken from his screenplay (1971 directed by Hal Asby), the challenge of this piece is that it is very cinematic in scope.  Eisenberg solves this with simple set pieces and the use of projections to suggest the various locations for where  the action takes place.
Asking other actors to stand in for the iconic Bud Cort (Landon Beatty as Harold) and Ruth Gordon (Clara Rodriguez as Maud) gives new life to the story of love and loss: ennui.   Eisenberg presents Higgins's story, in a beautiful and abstract way,  missing some of the sweeping and memorable San Francisco / East Bay moments from Ashby's movie, however, the lessons of love and how we love or try to love one another....  endure.
Kat Kemmet and Susan Priver

 Acting skills for this cast run the gamut from A to C, but for each of the actors, the joy of being on stage is evident.  One odd choice that was an easy casting for the film and probably for the 1980 Broadway production of Harold and Maud: Mr. Murgatroid.. a harbor seal.. was played by.. a seal.  In this production we find Mr. M. played by Fox Carney who had trouble with his costume stocking cap.  Mr. Carney also played  Harold's  shrink, Dr. Matthews who elected to gesture like.. maybe a walrus?  
Seeing different levels of acting skill in this old timey family company is part of the charm.  I expect that it might be a bit like herding cats for the director as the cast finds its way to these very eclectic characters. 
The opening night  audience was exremely supportive and in full force with scene change applause and  on their feet at the curtain call. 

Landon Beatty and Gina Yakes
Histrionics .. especially for  girlfriend number  three, Sunshine Doré (Gina Yates), pretty much  stopped the show. Her death scene from Romeo and Juliet? Worth the price of admission alone.

With double casting for both Harold and Maude, it might be an idea to request a deal for a return visit. Suffice it to say that Harold's well played arc, with Mr. Beatty presenting the loopy and spoiled  prankster as  he comes to adore Maude is believable.  As Maude, Clara Rodriguez has many opportunities to launch into stereotype and never does.  She lets us know well ahead of time her philosophy on life and death.  How John Ledley and Janet Wood will present their versions of Harold and Maude certainly may be different.
The Group Repertory in North Hollywood has a long standing reputation for a mixed bag of productions. This choice and the upcoming "The Laramie Project" first presented by the Tectonic Theatre Company shows a step towards socially conscious stage work.  These folks keep busy.

Tech credits are worthy of praise and the opening night sweets buffet was super.   Please support local theatre.  Applause for the audience's  enthusiastic  responses.  We must gather again at the footlights to keep The Theatre  alive..
Harold : Landon Beatty, John Ledley
Mrs. Chason : Susan Priver
Marie : Lareen Faye
Dr. Matthews : Fox Carney
Maude : Clara Rodriguez, Janet Wood*
Father Finnegan : Lloyd Pedersen*
Mourner : Lareen Faye
Gardener : JC Gafford
Head Gardener : Steve Shaw
Mr. Murgatroyd : Fox Carney
Sylvie Gazel : Kat Kemmet
Sergeant Doppel : Steve Shaw
Inspector Bernard : JC Gafford
Nancy Mersch : Jessica Kent
Sunshine Doré : Gina Yates*
Moving Man : Kat Kemmet
Moving Man : Jessica Kent 
by Colin Higgins
Directed by Larry Eisenberg
Group Repertory Theatre
Burbank Blvd
Burbank, California  


When:     February 10 – March 19, 2023

                 Friday & Saturday Evenings at 8:00 pm, Sunday Matinees at 2:00 pm

                 Opening Weekend Parties after the show Feb 10 & Feb 11

                 Talkbacks after Sunday Matinees Feb 19 & March 5

Running Time: Two hours.  There will be one 10 minute intermission.

Where:    Lonny Chapman Theatre – Main Stage (1st Floor)

                 10900 Boulevard, North Hollywood 91601

                 Wheelchair Accessible. Free Street Parking

Tickets:   General Admission $35. Students/Seniors with ID Tickets: $30.00.      

                 Parties of 10+: $25.00.

Buy Tickets/Info/Health & Safety Protocol: or 818.763.5990


Facebook                                                                   Instagram

Friday, February 10, 2023


 Rarely do I get the opportunity  or even take the time to see a play that I have written a review for  more than one time.  "DO YOU FEEL ANGER"  by Mara Nelson-Greenberg comes up again because I was so knocked out by the show the firest time, that I wanted to see if it held up. 

This is a link to my first review.

It may show up over to the right of this page.. 

That director, Halena Keys, keeps these excellent actors cranked up to eleven is truly a credit to her and the strong ensemble.  I might have said "Pirandello meets Monty Python.." because this play is a modern example of Theatre of the Absurd.  Some jokes are played so beautifully, that we might miss them.  There is still a lot.. a whole lot.. of yelling and information delivered in such a machine gun fashion  that it takes a second for it to sink in.  I still love defining the term 'empathy' as a bird!  See the show and you  might get it.  The full house responding was fun for us all.  

François-Pierre Couture's perfectly executed set and lighting hold up with mad interstitial scene changes and a warning about strobe lights that add to the disorienting clamor of the play. I still think that the white board markers need to be wider to share the information that empathy facilitator, Sofia (Paula Rebelo),  uses to attempt to bring her loopy bill collector charges into understanding 'empathy'.. The energy in this full length one act never lets up.

Rose Portillo as Sofia's  mom, attempting to connect with her daughter on the phone, is at  counterpoint to the riot act antics of the office manager,  Jon (Casey Smith), Howie (Rich Liccardo:), Jordan (Napoleon Tavale) and Eva (Tasha Ames), leaving us to wonder whose reality is the real reality?  Have we .. perhaps .. just been a party to a dream... or a nightmare?

Jan Munroe is the guest 130 year old man who rolls into the conference room prepared to blow the place to smithereens.  Evidenly, he's been the love interest for Eva who shoos him out of the building.  He interrupts himself needing to tell the story of his childhood on the playground at the age of five.   It works. Munroe is internally frantic with cans of dog food as bombs. 

Circle X is back with a strong opener.  It's refreshing to see an great script excellently executed!


Tasha Ames : EVA
Charlotte Gulezian : JANIE:
Rich Liccardo: HOWIE
Rose Portillo: SOFIA’S MOTHER
Paula Rebelo: SOFIA
Casey Smith : JON:
Napoleon Tavale
Cameo appearance by

Jan Munroe  as The Old Man 

Producers – Kat Haan, Jen Kays, and Tim Wright
Assistant Director – Lee Hannah Conrads

Set and Lighting Design – François-Pierre Couture

Lighting Design – Stephen Azua

Costume Design – Dianne K. Graebner

Sound Design – Jesse Mandapat

Prop Master – Kat Haan

Specialty Prop Design – Richard Maher

Production Stage Manager – Roella Dellosa

Assistant Stage Manager – Yaesol Jeong

Box Office Manager and Front of House Manager – Jasmine Leung

Publicist – Lucy Pollak

Graphic Design – Christopher Komuro

Program Design – Rita Ikerd

Video Design – Dustin Hughes

Social Media Manager – Brandon Ganske
Do You Feel Anger? 
 Mara Nelson-Greenberg
Directed by 
Halena Keys

Saturday, January 21 @ 8 p.m.
Sunday, January 22 @ 2 p.m. through Feb. 25: 

Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays @ 8 p.m. / Sundays @ 2 p.m. 

Cameo appearance schedule:

♦ Jan. 26-Jan. 29: William Salyers

♦ Feb. 2-Feb. 5: John Getz

♦ Feb. 9-Feb. 12: Jan Munroe 

♦ Feb. 16-Feb. 19: Tony Amendola

♦ Feb. 23-Feb. 25: Silas Weir Mitchell 

Atwater Village Theatre

3269 Casitas Ave
Los Angeles, CA  90039

(Free parking in the Atwater Xing lot one block south of the theater)