Monday, March 20, 2023

Oy! Yaacobi & Leidental.. at the Odyssey


Yaacobi & Leidental at The Odyssey! 

 There is a lot to be said for  serendipity. Two highly unusual plays back to back with a common denominator:  confetti!  Never having heard of the playwright, Hanoch Levin, it was a genuine and an honest-to-goodness  pleasure to discover that the 'big' space at The Odyssey was decorated to give "Yaacobi & Leidental" a beautiful Music Hall feeling and for this important show to finally get on it's feet.   

Full disclosure..  I have known the actor, Michael Redfield (Leidental) for a long time. At the age of three he bested me in a game of Hangman and I have never forgiven him!  Well.. never  forgotten, anyway.  

That said! "Yaacobi &  Leidntal" is a play with text and subtext with wonderful performances that include a gorgeous mystery woman on piano (Musical Director Nisha Sujatha Arunasalam), who, at last, brings Hanoch Levin's play full circle. I'm humming Joni Mitchell's "The Circle Game" now. It's an analogy that director, Yonatan Esterkin,  has made. We go round and round and round...

Naaman Tammuz tackles the  business of translating, playwright Hanoch Levin's Hebrew text to almost colloquial English.  The rhythms of the English  translation retain the cadences of the Hebrew. The accents are subtle. There's a bit of Dario Fo and an odd warmth with the contradictory business going on in a series of short scenes. Abbot and Costello? No.  But an undercurrent of the conflicts that each of the characters encounters in attempts to best one another and land the girl.

Poor Leidental (Michael Redfield) and equally unhappy Yaacobi (Ilia Volok) sound at the outset a little bit like Martin McDonaugh's Colm and Padric with the back and forth of wasting time in a dead end friendship. Yaacobi's  first speech declaring that he's done with his dear old dominoes pal, Leidental is just sad.   Ow.

Factor in the very voluptuous Ruth Shekhash (Wonderful Sera Heywood-Rakhimova) with  her delicious bouncing breasts and Really Big Tuchas and off we go.


Sera Heywood-Rakhimova, Michael Redfield,
and Ilia Volok
Photo by Jenny Graham
There is a sense of  the presence of Beckett? In a hat? Brecht being busy?Sholom Aleichem?  No Fiddler on stage, but perfect music underscoring softly  written by Alex Kagan.   And, expository songs

It's a play with music.  Director Esterkin discusses 'horizons' and how we all look to new horizons..and in this story it seems we come full circle: never having really reached the horizon at all.  The Circle Game.

"Yaacobi &  Leidntal" comes along Music Hall presentational style, breaking the fourth wall with honest declarations by each of the characters discussing their true feelings, anxieties and issues. The audience  is privy to what we seldom see or hear in 'real life,' the inner hopes and dreams of these unique and beautifully presented characters. 

 Thanks to Ron Sossi  and The Odyssey for continuing to stay in the avant garde of important theatre.  Pete Hickock's highly functional set (and refrigerator!) is an important part of how the show works. Michael Blendermann's lighting? YES!  And, Denise Blasor's costumes, especially, Shekash's Booosums & Tuchas  with jiggle &  bounce steal the show.  

See this play!  

A personal side note:  The wire rim glasses helping to define the chubby Liedental are the same glasses worn by Michael's Dad, Dennis Rhoton (Redfield) in a film he made many years ago.  

Dennis was a friend.

Dramatis Personæ
Leidental   Michael Redfiled
    Ilia Volok
Sera Heywood-Rakhimova

Musical Director Nisha Sujatha Arunasalam

Yaacobi and Leidental 
play with short songs
Hanoch Levin
from the Hebrew by Naaman Tammuz

Odyssey Theatre
2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles CA 90025

Previews: March 15 and March 16
Press Preview:
March 17 (also open to the public)
March 18 – April 30
Wednesdays at 8 p.m.: March 15 (Preview), March 29*, April 12* and April 26 ONLY
Thursday at 8 p.m.: March 16 (Preview)
Fridays at 8 p.m.: March 17 (Press Preview), March 24** and April 14** ONLY
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: March 18 (Opening), March 25, April 1, April 8, April 15
Sundays at 2 p.m.: March 19, March 26, April 2, April 9, April 16
Mondays at 8 p.m.: April 3, April 10 and April 24 ONLY

*Post-performance discussions on Wednesday, March 29 and Wednesday, April 12
**Wine Nights on Friday, March 24 and Friday, April 14: complimentary wine and snacks and after the show.

• Previews: $20
• Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays: $25$40
• Mondays: Pay-What-You-Will (reservations open online and at the door starting at 5:30 p.m.)

(310) 477-2055 ext. 2



 Challenging Theatre...   Confetti! 

I am an unabashed fan of the playwright Lucas Hnath.  Thanks to him, American contemporary theatre has characters with substance and ideas that are so off the wall that sticking with them is sometimes a rollercoaster ride. 

What I love about Artistic Director Chris Fields and The Echo Theatre in Atwater is that they find projects that seem to be designed to draw the audience in and give them a five course meal: Soup to Nuts!

That said,  in The Echo Theatre production of Hnath's "The Thin Place" the stuff of the play takes place in the imaginations of the audience almost as much as within the production itself. 

Greeted by door attendants we are given the opportunity to participate in a séance. Psychic:  Linda, a Landed Brit, (confident Janet Greaves) has asked us to write the name of a departed friend or relative on a slip of paper which is deposited in a decorative urn at one end of the 'tennis court' setting designed by Abigail Deser and Amanda Knehans
.   Hilda (excellent
Caitlin Zambito) roams the open space, taking in the audience,  remembering her recently departed grandmother who attempted to teach  her to "receive" psychic messages via her third eye.   Hilda tries it with us with no success.

As the meeting ends, Hilda stays to engage Linda with questions. A bond develops. Linda has arrived from England having had some questionable issues with her homeland Business Practices.


As Hilda narrates her blooming friendship with Linda, she magically changes the séance space into the swank home of  Sylvia (Corbett Tuck). Sylvia,who has, evidently been a patron of Linda, is elegant in emerald green and sky high ankle strap pumps. Sylvia's relationship with Jerry (Justin Huen) who factors into the story in an odd way seemed a bit unclear, though romantic?   Jerry's ideas regarding charity may spark internal conflict in the best of us.

Justin Huen, Corbett Tuck,
Caitlin Zambito, Janet Greaves
Photo by OddDog Pictures

What Hnath does and has done with his other work is to give voice to characters who may echo the thoughts that any of us may have had about life.  Is there life after death?  What is the 'Thin Place?"

Director Abigail Deser's staging on the comfortably open space is fluid and beautifully choreographed.  Some of the conflict between Jerry and Sylvia may turn on copious goblets of wine and whether or not charity is actually a good thing remains unclear to me.

Hilda's 'drive' from Sylvia's home, with Linda in tow, to the house where Hilda grew up is brilliant, leaving us to contemplate the idea of a 'place' where the corporeal essence of ourselves may linger mysteriously. Very mysteriously.  

"The Thin Place...."


Hilda:    Caitlin Zambito
Linda:    Janet Greaves
Jerry:     Justin Huen
Sylvia:   Corbett Tuck
DROP DESIGN The Fourth Wall Design
VIDEOGRAPHY Shea William Vanderpoort
SEAMSTRESS Roxanna Romero
GRAPHIC DESIGN Christopher Komuro
Irene DH Lee
Lucy Pollak

Matt Richter, Hayden Kirschbaum
Alysha Bermudez
Abigail Deser, Amanda



By Lucas Hnath

Directed by  Abigail Deser

Echo Theater Company
Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90039y

Previews: March15, March16, March17
Performances: March 18 – April 24
Wednesday at 8 p.m.: March 15 ONLY (preview)
Thursday at 8 p.m.: March 16 ONLY (preview)
Fridays at 8 p.m.: March 17 (preview), March 24, March 31, April 7, April 14, April 21
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: March 18 (opening night), March 25, April 1, April 8, April 15, April 22
Sundays at 4 p.m.: March 19, March 26, April 2, April 9, April 16, April 23
Mondays at 8 p.m.: March 20; March 27, April 3, April 10, April 17, April 24

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

Fridays/Saturdays/Sundays: $34
Mondays: Pay-What-You-Want
Previews: Pay-What-You-Want
(310) 307-3753





Saturday, March 11, 2023

THE HUMAN COMEDY Saroyan at Actors CoOp


An old pal has read this review and I am grateful for someone actually reading it.  She has noted some typographical errors.. Mostly, I knock out a review in a few hours and let free association take charge and hope that I've spelled the names of the actors and production staff correctly.

This play, The Human Comedy, adapted by Thom Babbes from William Saroyan's novel, is an enormous undertaking.  In my original review, I didn't raally mention the costumes and the lighting: all excellent. It takes a village.. to coin a phrase, to mount any theatrical production.. This one is sort of like that guy on the Ed Sullivan Show who was a juggler who spun special plates on long sticks all in a row and had to run like the Dickens to keep them all going at the same time.  To direct one's own work means that one may be sure to get it all right!  But, boy! All the running! 

 Thom Babbes long quest  is up and running.  My critique below is a report of what impressed me.  This addendum is in apreciation for pointing out my shoot from the hip typos and hopefully to make this review less of a challenge to read and to encourage locals and all the ships at sea to land in Hollywood to see The Actors Co Op's grand effort. 

michael sheehan 

Pi Day, 2023 

 The Review..

Adapted by Thom Babbes (who also directs this World Premiere)  from William Saroyan's 1943 novel, "The Human Comedy" we find ourselves pretty much in "Our Town " West.  It's the San Joaquin Valley circa 1943. Also Steinbeck country.

It has been two years since
 Matthew Macauley's (Marc Elmer) death. He is our unseen narrator, inviting us to Ithica, California to tell  of the Odyssey of his son, Homer (Brendan Shannon) and little Ulysses (Finn Martinsen) and his widow (Jessica Woehler) and daughter Bess (Eva Abramian) and PVC Marcus (Mitchell Lam Hau on concertina!) who is on his way to war. .  
It's the 1940s. WWII is sending American casualies home daily. Homer at the age of fifteen must rise to be the  'man of the family'. He lands a job as a messenger for the local telegraph office managed by  decent and kind  Tom Spangler (Kendall Lloyd.)

The sense of 1940s California. World War II  raging in Europe and in the Pacific Theater with Saroyan's unabashed subtext of the importance of community speaks directly to how it has always been:   immigrants who keep Community alive.

Saroyan's interest in the common man, as in his most excellent play, "The Time of Your Life", moves beautifully both physically and emotionally as we discover the heart of distressed America through fifteen year old Homer Machauley's eyes. 

Fifteen actors play more than thirty characters.  

Culling the essence of The Human Comedy from Saroyan's novel is not a simple task.  Babbes' take on some characters left in.. and some left out are choices that keep the play under three hours. Barely.   

I do miss Mr. Mechano, the storefront 'robot' that teaches young Ulysses the  experience of fear.  And, Babbes takes a slight liberty with Homer's encounter with The Girl in the Slip  (wonderful Eva Abramian) at The Bethel Rooms. 


The Actors CoOp has succeeded  right off the bat with an  easy to read and follow program that is very necessary as most of the actors are doubling and tripling to bring life to this  myriad of characters whose lives intermingle with Homer on his reluctant journey to maturity. 

The talent pool for this play runs deep  with some of the most impressive work done in the secondary. Eva Abramian's quick changes from Homer's sister, pure as the driven snow Bess,   to the raven haired Girl in Slip and then to Auggie, the ambitious newsboy is worth the price of admssion alone!

Tim Farmer's  wonderfully creative scenic design  and some physically impressive staging include rolling doors that serve in a multitude of ways to make the set almost another character in the play.

It's ambitious for Actors Co Op  to tackle this elegant sweeping story with specific ideas that come directly from Saroyan's deep belief in the goodness in all men.  Babbes has culled from the novel and found the heart of the story, though it indulges in some  moments with songs that over extend the theme. Conversely, some actors find that a reflection of  early thirties rapid fire machine gun presentation of their lines is appropriate. Perhaps opening night adrenalin  brought some actors over the top.  

Bruce Ladd as Willie Grogan, the world's fastest telegrapher, helps to calm the waters a bit. He may be the thoughtful reflection of Saroyan's father,  Takoohi Saroyan, to whom the novel is dedicated.

The device of Matthew Maculey's narration is Saroyan's idea that keeps the story on track.  Some elements of exposition are a bit too subtle while the over all presentation is highly stylized. Now and then, for some of the cast, the acting shows in a superficial way which may have been the director's intention.

Babbes presentation of the 220 Low Hurdles Race becomes cinematic  as Homer and the snooty Hubert (Mictchell Lam Hau) are physically lifted high over the low hurdles. Ben Kientz as Coach Byfield reflects the angry bias seen in some antagonists who must be.. at least  acknowleged. 

 At almost three hours in length, it's a long evening at the theatre.  For certain, this production shows the care and love that Babbes has for Saroyan and his version of Saroyan's story. The broad Co-Op stage sweeps our attention from right to left and center with the excellent use of a turntable with the entire cast on board creating the dozens of characters to bear witness to Homer's reluctant rites of passage. We see Homer emerge from an eager to please kid to a young man taking full responsibility for not only his family but for himself as well. 

I encourage folks to attend.  Having knowledge of Saroyan's championship of fairness and the common man will bolster your experience. 


EVA ABRAMIAN (Bess Macauley, Girl in Slip, Auggie Gottlieb)


(Diana Steed, Mary Arena, Helen Eliot),


(Miss Hicks, Mrs. Sandoval, Mrs. Eliot)

MARC ELMER (Matthew Macauley)


 (Joseph Baca, Texas, Sailor, u/s Henry)


(Coach Byfield, Mr. Covington, Horse, Businessman)

BRUCE LADD* (Willie Grogan)

MITCHELL LAM HAU (Marcus, Hubert)


(Tom Spangler, Joe Higgins, Sleeping Student)

FINN MARTINSEN (Ulysses Macauley),


(Sam Washington, Fat, Homeless Man)

JACK SANCHEZ (u/s Ulysses Macauley)


(Henry, George Papadopoulos, Tobey George)

BRENDAN SHANNON (Homer Macauley)


(Katie Macauley, Principal EK, Dolly Hawthorne)


Production Team 

 Tim Farmer (Scenic Design), Shon Le Blanc (Costume Design), Martha Carter (Lighting Design), Emmett Lee Merritt (Property Design and Assistant Stage Manager), David B. Marling (Sound Design), Cooper Babbes (Music Design), Judi Lewin (Hair/Wigs & Make-up Design), and Kassy Menke (Stage Manager).



Written and directed by Thom Babbes 

From the novel by William Saroyan

Actors Co-op Theatre Company

David Schall Theater  

1760 N. Gower

Hollywood, California 

March 10 – April 23, 2023

Friday and Saturday at 8 pm

Sunday at 2:30 pm

Additional 2:30 pm matinees 

 Saturdays, March 18 and April 1, 2023. 


Well marked parking across the street is free. 

Sunday, March 5, 2023

World Permere Let Me In

Deaf West becomes Antaeus becomes Theatre 68 becomes another Theatre 68 all to the benefit of intimate theatre in Los Angeles. 
It's a World Premiere!  
What's not to get a little excited about?  
Bryan McKinley, Jorge Garcia, Rachael Meyers
Photo by Jeff Lorch 
 As a
Lights up on an explosive KABANG!!  of a frying pan pounding on an upstage door.  The pan part clatters to the floor.  Gorgeous (and statuesque) Red (Rachel Meyers) screams at the door waving  the now panless pan handle.  Clearly there's an issue! 
This is a big big play on a tiny stage. It's a   New York apartment the size of a postage stamp. There are remnants of a Bachelor Party?
Opening night energy is electric. It sizzles! 

This day was supposed to be the wedding  day for Bobby (Brian McKinley) and his fiancé. Bobby's best friend, Red,  is dressed in black? 
Yelling and Banging.    

Enter NYC cop, Hamilton (Jorge Garcia). It's his last day on the job.  He has  seen everything. This is a routine 'Loud Disturbance' call.  Red holds a tooth pick.  "Give me the toothpick, Lady.. " 

Bobby (Still in his room and refusing to come out) and Red are expected at what was supposed to be a wedding and, sadly, has become a funeral. Bobby's fiancé has been killed in a  car crash. Somehow Bobby has survived.  
From here evolves the tale of doing the right thing. Bereft Bobby must attend the funeral. 
Bobby is a wreck. Red negotiates with Hamilton. Jocularity.  Really! 
The twists and turns of "Let Me In"  evolve a little slowly, but evolution is afoot.
Garcia is laconic as Hamilton,  the cop. His last day on the force.  He is  entertaining the idea of heading for Italy with his wife to enjoy sun drenched vineyards and the peace and quiet of retirement. Plot twists.   Drinking.  Wheat Thins.  Issues.
With the introduction of "Alexa" as an additional electronic member of the cast and the mumbling radio dispatcher Hamilton checks in with, revelations and issues emerge to an unexpected conclusion.
After some crazy negotiations, Hamilton and Red, whom we come to find out is a well known football on the field televsion commentator with an attitude, are able to usher bereft Bobby into the living room. 
Sometimes I like to say that I am happy to see all of the actors "in the same play at the same time." Thanks to playwright / director  Bryn Thayer, it mostly works.  The exremely tight playing space presents some mechanical problems.  On a larger  stage, some of the really funny business would have an opportunity to be even funnier..
Let Me In is highly energetic, well paced and left me puzzled.  Please support this effort.  The production got delayed a week because of the weather.  They deserve an audience.


Jorge Garcia   Hamilton

Bryan McKinley   Bobby

Rachael Meyers  Red

‘Let Me In’
• Written and Directed by Brynn Thayer
• Produced by Misha Riley for Theatre Planners
• Presented by DSE Productions

Performances: Feb. 25–April 2
• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Feb. 25 (Opening); March 4; March 11; March 18; March 25; April 1
• Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.: Feb. 26; March 5; March 12; March 19; March 26; April 2

Theatre 68 Arts Complex – The Rosalie
5112 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601


Parking is a bitch!!  

Saturday, March 4, 2023



Caryl Churchill's "Love and Information" written  when she was 74 in 2012 goes up at Antaeus  with a flourish.  

It couldn't be more simple. 

It couldn't be more complex.  

Eight actors. 

Dozens of characters. Dozens of scenes. Flowing.

To call Churchill's work flourishing may be a stretch, but this challenging theatre piece is, at once: painting in broad strokes,  allowing the audience to absorb the 'information' and then, in intimate moments, finding the 'love'. .

Certainly, it's a workout for  the cast and for the audience. Director Emily Chase creates a head swiveling event that literally has us involved. 

It's a sort of tennis  match.  In presentation.

Churchill has constructed what may be perceived as an amorphous ramble stream of consciousness exercise to jolt us from our often complacent seat of a comfortable linear narrative, projecting us into the realm of "what if?".    Like a dream, we sometimes see a clear and present  story. Quick changes: not always quite so clear.

We enter the theater passing an Invitaton printed on the Open Door:  


At rise, the ensemble presents itself:   

Eight Actors.  

And, then the "Exploration" begins.

This ensemble  of working theatremakers invites us to take a leap of faith. They physically and vocally transport  us..  and at the end of the performance, deliver us back into the 'real world' having had what might be called a Collective Dream. 


Love and Information :  The Ensemble Photo:Jenny Graham

The best way to appreciate this unusual play is to sit back and allow it wash over us. We're invited  into intimate discussions, odd arguments and bizarre ideas.  Boundaries of sexual orientation and age ebb and flow. Churchill allows for broad interpretations. Every single scene played with different actors and different approaches would be equally inviting. 

Frederica Nascimento's simple set: an ornate divan sits center on the top of three broad  levels. 

There are some doors: surfaces for John Apicella's wonderful videos to punctuate the space with color and 21st Century technology.  

However, I really enjoyed the "I don't play guitar" scene with Kevin Matsumoto and Apicella on the banjolele. Acoustic,analog, fun. 

Kevin Matsumoto, Zoe Yale, John Apicella
Photo by Jenny Graham

Short vignettes flow like blackouts with actors sometimes simply waiting on stage for their next scene.  Brecht.


It's a trip. 

Climb on board.  Bring a friend.

 The Ensemble:

John Apicella*

Anne Gee Byrd*

Darius De La Cruz,
Kwana Martinez* 

Kevin Matsumoto*

Erin Pineda*
Lloyd Roberson II*

Zoe Yale*


by Caryl Churchill

Directed by Emily Chase

Antaeus Theatre
Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center
110 East Broadway
Glendale, CA 91205
next to Marshalls, at Brand Blvd.


My first experience with Caryl Churchill's work was with the Antaeus production of Cloud Nine in March, 2016. Trippy theatre at its best: