Sunday, May 21, 2023

“No Place Like Gandersheim” at the Skylight

Editor's Note:
This review is somewhat patchwork, not unlike the backdrop for a play to be produced within the production itself.  Rather than edit for clarity, because there are still questions about this play, please read with a kind eye.  It is intended to shed light on the production, but may look a little like a chicken. 
“No Place Like Gandersheim”  by Elizabeth Dement .. with apologies to The Rocky Horror Show..  "Let's Do the Time Warp Again.." 
In three or four "scenes" the play becomes an  ambitious take on creativity. The world of theatre meets Show Biz. and then!!  (thanks  to  Buzz Lightyear: )   "To Infinity and Beyond."
Shades of Hildegard von Bingen, a German nun whose interest in music and extraordinary  talent later got her canonized, Sister Roz's (Jamey Hood) satirical play gives an historic bent to where a woman's  place.. especially in a cloistered 10th Century German convent, might be. Von Bingen was a musical prodigy with a  mystical take.  Sister Roz  is a playwright who may have learned Latin and / or Greek from the plays of a thousand years earlier by the liberated Roman slave,Terence.  Roz says that her play is a satire. She hopes to make Mother Superior Berga's (Shannon Holt) big wig Uncle Otto,  The Holy Roman  Emperor, laugh.
Jamey Hood, Lauren Gaw and Shannon Holt

Dement's dialogue flowing at counterpoint to the historical times is creatively anachronistic.    There is a sapphic spin.   Roz likes women... even more than Jesus! Madlen (Lauren Gaw)   resists the idea of playing the lacivious 'pots and pans' guy in Roz's comedy. When Otto exits the performance of Roz's play, I'm still not sure why.. Roz sees this as the imposition of the patriarchy.  "In a world ruled by men, women will never be safe," says Roz to the overly devout Madlen. 

 Theophanu (Charrell Mack)appears with her third baby at her breast and in her hip and casual way extols the virtues of Greek culture. The Greeks use masks!

Impressive effects by Shannon Barondeau blast us  forward a thousand years.  
Present day: Hollywood.
Roz is a lesbian mom, the mother of fifteen year old Thea (again, Lauren Gaw).  Roz is the showrunner for a popular network television show that may be getting Emmy buzz: "The Order", which is.. Surprise! revolves around nuns in Tenth Century Germany.   The predominance  of people with penises in power is still problematic. In this present day situation, Mallory (Shannon Holt), over the top "Queenpen  to be" of The UBC Television Network, fulfills the stereotypical personality of every network executive.. almost ever. (Tartikoff might have been a mench?) High energy abounds. . Holt does an amazing one eighty from Mother Superior Berga, the abbess of the Gandersheim Abby. Playwright Dement's exposure of how Hollywood "works" is spelled out clearly as the tables turn with secrets exposed that deep six Roz's television series. Oh Well.
As we are spun into what seems to be a happily dystopian future,  the issues of where Artificial Intelligence may be headed, especially with recent discussions regarding what Siri and her pals are up to, is chilling. In this future scenario,  the holodeck that entertains the denizens of more than one Star Trek series, the ability to interact with virtually any time, space or person  becomes Roz's final challenge as a writer.  "Have you been uploaded?" Vita (again Ms Mack), wants to know, sporting a great kiester in her 25 year old body. Immortality rocks!? 
Propaganda? Preaching to the world? To the choir?
Thomas Berger's "Regiment of Women" posits a world where women have risen to despotic ranks,   , of power, emulating the sterotypically gross male personae, while men are "assigned" to frills and makeup. What happens in this mildly pedantic theatre piece is for the audience to reckon a time when creativity and daring may begin to turn the tide.  Hello Ms Rhimes? Ms Campion? Tina Fey?
Will there be a time when men and women may stand on a level playing field? The good humor of Dement's characters and the lessons, especially from Theophanu (and interestingly, as well as from Kaya & Vita),   that victory may be reserved only for the truly bold. 
We all stand on the shoulders of others. Excellent performances by each actor (dare I say actress?) make the evening worth while. And, like it or not,  we still live in a patriarchy. 
In his Opening Night curtain speech, Artistic Director, Gary Grossman applauds, as does the audience, that this production, in development for many years, is produced in all aspects, by  women. A 'forty year marathon' has kept  The Skylight Theatre alive! with goals for forty more years. Right on !

If this show is any example of what strong and dedicated women can do, more power to the distaff. The characters in the 'present day' segment of the play are interesting stereotypes.  Recalcitrant and moody daughter, Thea, named for Tenth Century Theaphenu;  High Energy and crusty Mallory and Roz. the now modern and thoughtful and successful TV showrunner.  Toss in the next generation of successful and hard working women, Roz's excutive assistant Kaya, and we begin to see women responding with strength, as well as women reaching back to show appreciation.  
The next to final scene that spins us psychedelically into the future of being uploaded into a Cyberverse where one is happy all the time is so fraught with message that poor Roz, with the touch of a button, opts to fly  back, back, back to Gandersheim and the love of Berga with the presence of daughter, Thea,  to complete the circle game. 
I am often asked, "Was it a good show?"  
Please? Define good?  We have an excellent  set, lights and effects; erfect costumes; strong dedicated performances thanks to the keen eye of director Randee Trabitz.  The polemic of gender roles and sexual preference?  Clearly, politicized. Theme? What is the theme?  Shoot for the stars? There's no place like home:  Gandersheim? 
So? What good is, is relative.  
Should audiences plan a time to attend this production!?  Absolutely!  
Parking is a bitch, so plan ahead.  "...Gandersheim" is an excellent presentation of ideas that float  upon our patriarchal times with a message. Maybe this medium is the message?

LAUREN GAW as Madlen/Thea  

CHARRELL MACK as Theophanu/Kaya/Vita
SHANNON HOLT as Berga/Mallory

Creative Team:

DeAnne Millais (Scenic Design)
Shannon Barondeau (Lighting/Video Design)
Mylette Nora (Costume Design)
Alma Reyes-Thomas (Sound Design)
 Joyce Hutter (Properties Manager)
Victoria Hoffman (Casting)
Cedes Sifuentes (Production Manager)

“No Place Like Gandersheim”
Written by Elizabeth Dement

 Directed by Randee Trabitz
Skylight Theatre, 

1816 ½ North Vermont, 

Los Angeles, CA 90027
Opening at 8:30pm on Saturday, May 20, 2023 with reception to follow
8:30pm Saturday, 3:00pm Sunday, 7:30pm Monday through June 25, 2023
(No performance on Monday, May 22, 29)

Tickets and information

(213) 761-7061or online at

Sunday, May 14, 2023

THE BOOK OF WILL / A Noise Within Pasadena

Lauren Gunderson.
's "The Book of Will" at A Noise Within in Pasadena imagines a time that seems incredible to me. Fact is that this production shines almost like no other I've ever seen at the Pasadena venue.  The pristine space, the magnificent set by Frederica Nascimento; enhanced by Ken Booth's lights that almost become another character, make for a standing O for co-directors Geoff Elliott and  Julia Rodriguez-Elliott.  Simply put, it's a wonderful production.  Geoff has again cast himself in a lead, Business Manager of The King's Men, John Heminges. At counterpoint,  Jeremy Rabb plays the less practical  actor Henry Condell.   Heminges, the former actor, out of necessity has become the  company manager of the King's Men. He plays  antagonist to the idea (at first)  to save Shakespeare's ouevre.

From time to time I note that these reviews are about not only the production on the stage, but my entire experience.  During the first act of the play I wondered what the tiny crackling sound was that seemed to be coming from directly behind me? At the interval, I watched a young woman  folding what may have been miniature paper cranes.  Thankfully, crinkling origami did not ruin the performance  nor the beautifully staged choreography as the entire cast sets to: moving props and furniture  to and fro and all around "..this wooden O..."  And!? At the reception,  I served, former exectutive director of the National Repertory Theatre Foundation, Raul Espinoza, a little dumpling!! 

It's been  three years since the Shakespeare's death in 1616, Burbage (excellent Frederick Stuart) and Shakespeare's pals sit drinking in the Globe Tap House: watering hole for The King's Men. These are the actors who within them  reside every shade of Hamlet & Lear; Lady Macbeth & Juliet. Actors!

How the plays of William Shakespeare may have been collected and  saved from oblivion by true love tells the tale.  For scholars, jokes about Pericles abound. I had to look Pericles up.  Yikes!

In Jack Grapes's "Circle of Will" (1989) we examine a roundabout conundrum.  Will and his pal, Christopher Marlowe play an existential  motif.  Gunderson's "The Book of Will" is more practical. Where are the scripts?.. Some of them  are only in the memories of the actors who actually acted in the plays!  Who owns the rights to publish and to perform?? A folio?

Burbage, The Master Thespian, is ready to throttle the 'Boy Hamlet' (Kelvin Morales also rocking the clown:  Marcus!) who opens the show with an embarrassing recitation that will set on edge the teeth of any patrons even vaguely familiar with  Hamlet.  Ouch.. The now exuberant Burbage elevates the tavern with his rendition of To Be.. and Richard III and other familiar characters to spontaneous applause. 

Outstanding Kacey Mahaffy as Crane .. at first dismissed as a simple scribe, turns out to have the project well in hand, literally! showing up with pieces of almost all of the plays that must be preserved. "Love's Labors Lost" however, is lost. Paper is everywhere! Imagining scribes like Crane who hand copied oceans of text is overwhelming, let alone the task of setting into type the copious lines we have come to love these four hundred years later. 

Kelvin Morales, Jeremy Rabb, Geoff Elliott
Photo by Craig Schwartz
Almost everyone plays more than one character.  The women are all excellent.  Deborah Strang steadfast  as Rebecca, the wife of Hemenges (later Anne Hathaway).   Elegant Trish Miller plays Emilia Bassano Lanier (The Dark Lady and former lover of The Bard.)  

Dialed up to Eleven.. as maybe, he ought to be, new to the cast, Alex Morris as Ben Jonson: impatient, bombastic, drunken  Poet Laureate of England,  makes sure that he is heard!  

Angela Balogh Calin's gorgeous costumes  are.. well.. gorgeous! 

Not being prone to superlatives, this will be an exception with a call to see the play. Celebrate the 400th birthday of the First Folio!


Henry Condell: Jeremy Rabb*
John Heminges: Geoff Elliott*
Richard Burbage/ William Jaggard / Horatio: Frederick Stuart*
Elizabeth Condell/Emilia Bassano Lanier/
Fruit Seller/MarcellusTrisha Miller*
Rebecca Heminges/Anne Hathaway Shakespeare: Deborah Strang*
Ralph Crane/Barman/Compositor/FranciscoKasey Mahaffy*
Alice Heminges/Susannah Shakespeare: Nicole Javier*
Ed Knight/Isaac Jaggard :Stanley Andrew Jackson*
Ben Jonson/Barman 2/Sir Edward Dering: Alex Morris*

Marcus/Boy Hamlet/Crier/Bernardo: Kelvin Morales 

Creative Team:

scenic designer Frederica Nascimento

 lighting designer Ken Booth

 sound designer Robert Oriol

 video designer Nicholas Santiago

 costume designer Angela Balogh Calin

 wig and make up designer Shelia Dorn

 dialect coach Andrea Odinov

dramaturg Miranda Johnson-Haddad. 

rehearsal stage manager: Deena Tovar.


by Lauren Gunderson  

Co - directed by Geoff Elliott & Julia Rodriguez-Elliott

A Noise Within

3352 E Foothill Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91107

Performances May 13–June 7
• Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.: May 10* ONLY (Preview)
• Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.: May 11 (Preview); May 25; June 1 (dark May 18)
• Fridays at 8 p.m.: May 12 (Preview); May 19**; May 26**; June 2**
• Saturdays at 2 p.m.: May 20; May 27; June 3 (no matinee on May 13)
• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: May 13 (Opening Night); May 20; May 27; June 3
• Sundays at 2 p.m.: May 7 (Preview); May 14; May 21**; May 28; June 4

**Post-performance conversations with the artists every Friday and on Sunday, May 21 (included in ticket price)

Tickets and Information:

(626) 356-3100



Saturday, May 6, 2023

Rogue Machine can i touch it ?

can i touch it (sic)  by francisca da silveira (sic who may have no shift key) brings urban  issues  to the stage with strong polemics and my still trying to figure out what "Woke" means. 
Struggling with the term, I find this:  "African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) meaning 'alert to racial prejudice and discrimination' ". 
Yes!! this is a Brilliant Woke  Production that takes time to alert us to the particular trials and tribulations of Shay (On Point! Safiya Fredericks) upon whose shoulders rests her intimate beauty supply sanctuary for local women in her long time African American  Boston neighborhood.

Front to back: Iesha Daniels and Suzen Baraka
                             Photos by Jeff Lorch

 Props to John P. Flynn and Rogue Machine Theatre for stepping up with this heavy discussion regarding the plight  of this specific Boston neighborhood plagued by money grubbing money grubbers to the detriment of this community!

You can't tell the players without a program (and the excellence in the doubling of this cast of actors makes it no small task). Jargon is peppered with tought language that, is, evidently simply a way of talkin'.  Epithets are no longer vulgar language, they're just a cultural way to express one's identity.  I think? 


Assisted by outspoken Meeka (Amazing Suzen Baraka who also plays Beth, the tight-assed banker who may be white?), Shay runs her African beauty store that "smells like comfort" along Dudley  Street in Boston.  Shay's store is an integral part of a community where things have been uncomfortably changing for some time now.  Shay is a widow:  the single mom of her teen daughter, Ruth (spot on Iesha M. Daniels / equally cool as far out Lili).  Shay needs a Small Business Loan to keep her shop afloat.    Good luck with that!

With double casting, we keep the women  characters separated by wig changes. There are a LOT OF WIGS. 

Frustrations emerge regarding the changing times and some obvious bias (Shay directs her final speech to the audience. We all may be guilty) that still weighs on  people of color attempting to retain their cultural values. (It reminded me of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins "Neighbors") This lays the groundwork for what folks must do to survive. Meeka, the fireband to the fore!!  I wish I understood Twitter or Tweeker or whatever it is. Social Meida!  To the rescue!

 Scott Victor Nelson plays kindly and practical Mark, limning nicely Nicky and Leo as well.  He is the only guy in the cast. The challenge of playing multiple roles is tackled beautifully by every member of the company. When only four actors take the curtain call, it's a bit of a shock!

 Mark Mendelson's   spectacular scenic design smoothly morphs locations featuring huge turning panels. The budget is on the stage!   Excellent lights by leIgh allen shift scenes easily from Shay's shop to a bank to a meeting room to a park bench.  Excellent tech!

"can i touch it"  asks other "Questions" that are answered with an arcane ritual that I did not understand. But!  I appreciate the commitment of the actors. There's also some odd business that has to do with magic and a sort of earthquake? that happens, but went right over my head. The physical presentation and choreography of the questions is terrific!



Shay:  Safiya Fredericks
Scott Victor Nelson
Iesha M. Daniels
Suzen Baraka
Tory B voice recorded by Stanley Andrew Jackson

 “can i touch it?”
Written by francisca da silveira
Directed by Gregg T. Daniel
Produced by: John Perrin Flynn and Guillermo Cienfuegos
Associate Producer: Mildred Marie Langford
A Rogue Machine Production

Opening: 8pm on Saturday, May 6, 2023

8pm Fridays, Saturdays, Mondays;  3pm Sundays

(No performance on Monday May 8)

Continues through June 11, 2023

Note the generous Monday dates that invite other theatre companies to  attend when their shows may be dark.

Rogue Machine 
7657 Melrose Ave
 Los Angeles, CA 90462
Face masks are optional but encouraged.

Producers: John Perrin Flynn & Guillermo Cienfuegos
Gregg T. Daniel

Associate Producer: Mildred MarIe Langford
Assistant Director: Vanessa
 K. Hanish


Scenic Design: Mark Mendelson

Lighting Design: Leigh Allen

Sound Design: Chris Moscatiello

Costume and Wig Design: Wendell Carmichael

Prop Design: Ashley Crow

Movement Design: Joyce Guy

Dramaturge: Lindsay Jenkins

Casting Director: Victoria Hoffman

Technical Directors: Dane Bowman & Joe McClean

Production Manager: Rachel Ann Manheimer
Dramaturg: Lindsay A. Jenkins
Graphic DesignMichelle Hanzelova-Bierbauer 

Stage Manager: Ramón Valdez