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


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