Friday, November 17, 2023

‘Radical or, are you gonna miss me?’

 ‘Radical or, are you gonna miss me?

Elizabeth Ramos and Anna LaMadrid
Photo by Makela Yepez
by Isaac Gómez commissioned by IAMA Theatre Company explores the clash of two sisters and another 'sister' stuck in El Paso.  Radical politics and family responsibilities  factor into a story that .. from time to time shifts oddly in tone and direction.  The play is over long:   attempting to cover a panoply of issues.. 

When the best thing you can say about a new play is that the introduction of the Season by the two women whose names got lost in the applause and hooting, was enthusiastic and that the set and the lighting were effective and that staying awake for the whole thing was a challenge, that sums up, pretty much my experience.  

That IAMA has taken over the Echo Theatre space to present this clap trap piece and spent a lot of money on the set and lights is pretty impressive. That it goes emotionally from A to B with little effect and a few silly jokes is a mystery. Why? Why do this? 

Belinda (Elizabeth Ramos) is under house arrest on bond put up by her sister, Rosalie  (Anna LaMadrid). Belinda has become a recruit to a conservative political cause that may have something to do with radical women.  Something about a bomb and family ties and anger and skipping bail with your ankle monitor buzzing like a hive of angry bees.. Right wing dimbulb bees...  is part and parcel what  it may be all about. Too harsh.. Well. yes.. But I sat through the whole thing.

Erica (Kim Griffin) is an apple?  (That's how the Marlboro puffing blonde is described in the author's notes.)  Evidently, Belinda has met Erica on a graveyard shift. This leads to what might have been  civil disobedience, had the business of the bomb not factored in. 

Director Jess McLeod has decided to smack the audience silly with the explosive entrance of the sisters shouting at the top of their lungs with no emotional place to go.  Clashes with few breaks for love struggling to surface:  these poor women seldom take a breath before going hammer and tongs again with flash backs?  that are supposed to support the radicalization of poor Belinda (factor in the subtitle here?) but are just foreshadowing of some girl on girl action that was gratuitous at best.

The actors fall victim to the director's decision to attempt to interpret the subpar text   with broad strokes...  Mostly, I found this production, at best,  an exercise in futility. After the first volley from the sisters,  the voice in my head was pleading, "Let it be over.." 

But!!  The actors are fully committed, certainly. The set and the tech are well done, thanks to scenic designer Nicholas Ponting and lighting designer Josh Epstein.

Radical or, are you gonna miss me?

by Isaac Gómez

Driected by Jess McLeod

IAMA Theatre Company at the

Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90039

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

Previews: Nov. 11 – Nov. 15
Performances: Nov. 16 – Dec. 11
Tuesday at 8 p.m.: Nov. 14 ONLY (Preview)
Wednesday at 8 p.m.: Nov. 15 ONLY (Preview)
Thursdays at 8 p.m.: Nov. 16 ONLY (Opening Night) and Dec. 7 ONLY
Fridays at 8 p.m.: Nov. 17; Dec. 1; Dec. 8 (dark Nov. 24)
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Nov. 11 (Preview); Nov. 18; Nov. 25; Dec. 2, Dec. 9
Sundays at 2 p.m.: Nov. 19; Nov. 26; Dec. 3, Dec 10
Sunday at 8 p.m.: Nov. 12 ONLY (Preview)
Mondays at 8 p.m.: Nov. 27, Dec. 4, Dec. 11 (dark Nov. 20) 

• General Admission $40
• Previews: $25

(323) 380-8843

Monday, November 13, 2023



Full disclosure.  the director of "Freight", Joseph Megel, is an old friend.  Chatting with him tonight I learned that this play was developed with the current star almost ten years ago..  I highly recommend the show, but please try to arrange to sit in the center of the audience.  This is to have full access to the excelletnt video projections.  

Playwright Howard L. Craft sits us down,  and thanks to some well produced technical theatrics, we journey through the history of one Black Fella:  an actor:  Mr. Abel Green portrayed by the very able Mr.  J. Alphonse Nicholson.  

Nicholson, almost all  on his own, captures us and holds us hostage with presentational  tales from the early Twentieth Century through five specific episodes to the early Twentyfirst Century.  Craft has imagined  a story that turns. a bit.. on the Buddhist notion of reincarnation. 

An unexpected  and beautiful garnish boosts the story elegantly. Ms Sidney Edwards with fluid gestures becomes a sort of dancer koken to keep the flow of the story moving. She is present and at the same time never obtrusive. She is gorgeous!

Abel, of course,  guides us on his one hundred year journey including  incarnations that turn on stereotypes and some adventures which may sound familiar.   In this West Coast Premiere, the ease with which Nicholson melds his 'Abel' into the other characters prominent in each segment  is fluid and confident.  I wonder if he'll print this review out and carry it in his wallet?

Director Joseph Megel's deft  touch allows Nicholson the latitude to "kick out the jams" so to speak to bring to life the soul of a Brother whose adventures include brushes with the history and culture of a Black American's American  scenario.   

The technical crew turns in a fine "performance." Scenic designer Joel Daavid, lighting designer Alison Brummer, sound designer Marc Antonio Pritchett and video designer Eamonn Farrell.  The professional touch in The Fountain's tiny space is, as usual: simply excellent. 

 Having had this story under his belt for almost ten years, Megel noted that with time and experience, the presentation has matured. Nicholson is a big guy with  sustained power that never falters.  The delicate moments are fine counterpoint to the physical episodes, especially the surprise turn with the buckets.. 

In all we travel.. literally.. on a train that becomes a subway car and other locations as we advance from 1910 to the early 21st Century.  We feel the fun of being a black minstrel player in black face..and the shame of how in another incarnation, Abel takes the high living road to the low low road and into his future.

I loved catching up with Joseph Megel and am happy to report that the Fountain Theatre has made a good choice to bring this show to Hollywood.  The opening night audience was on its feet and not without good cause.

Additional crew!

Costume designer Danyele Thomas and props designer Rebecca Carr. The production stage manager is Kaitlyn R. Cramer. 


Freight: The Five Incarnations of Abel Green

• Written by Howard L. Craft
• Directed by Joseph Megel
• Starring J. Alphonse Nicholson
With Sidney Edwards
• Produced by The Fountain Theatre

Previews: Nov. 9, Nov. 10, Nov. 11
Performances: Nov. 12 – Dec. 16
• Thursday at 8 p.m.: Nov. 9 ONLY (preview)
• Fridays at 8 p.m.: Nov. 10 (preview); Nov. 17; Dec. 1; Dec. 8; Dec. 15 (dark Nov. 24)
• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Nov. 11 (preview); Nov. 18; Nov. 25; Dec. 2; Dec. 9; Dec. 16
• Sundays at 2 p.m.: Nov. 19; Nov. 26; Dec. 3; Dec. 10
• Sunday at 7 p.m.: Nov. 12 ONLY (opening night)
• Mondays at 8 p.m.: Nov. 20; Nov. 27; Dec. 4; Dec. 11 (dark Nov. 13)

The Fountain Theatre
5060 Fountain Ave.
Los Angeles CA 90029
(Fountain at Normandie)

$25 $45:
• Premium Seating: $45
• Regular Seating: $40
• Seniors 65 or older: $35 (regular seating only)
• Students: $25 (valid ID required)
• Monday nights: Regular seating ($40) and Pay–What–You–Want (subject to availability)
• Previews: Pay–What–You–Want

• Valet parking available
• Street parking available in the neighborhood north of Fountain Ave.
• No parking after 6 p.m. on Mariposa or Alexandria Avenues south of Fountain Ave.
• Allow extra time to find street parking; make sure to read all parking signs

(323) 663-1525