Sunday, December 17, 2023

Lonny Chapman / Group Rep 70, GIRLS, 70!!


I have attended shows at the Lonny Chapman / Group Repertory Theatre for many years. Their selections for production are varied and, thankfully, in a way, cater to their supportive fan base.  

It's the 51st year of operation for this hearty bunch.  The best that can be said about 70. Girls, 70 is that it is wonderfully over the top and corny.  The show has an amazing combo featuring musical director Carol Weiss on piano who rocks the show from the overture to   the final number.  The adorable Barbara Minkus (with whom I once auditioned for a commercial!) plays Ida, a crafty elder who returns to the resident Hotel after a forboding absence.  She's got a handle on how to save the hotel from booting the residents:  burglary!  Why not?  

There are plot holes, a romance about sex and the senior citizen and the best song of the lot about what happens when an elephant dies??

Most local theatre reviews are pretty cut and dried.  We list the names of the actors and crew. make a comment about the production. Praise or criticize a bit and essentially leave it up to the reader to choose to support the show or not.  

This review is about a dream.   

The Lonny Chapman dream bubbled up with Lonny's love of Theatre fifty years ago.  He had some dough. He had some friends.  Mickey and Judy putting on a show in a barn?  Whatever it was, it was a tribute to the foundations of what our artform contributes to the community and to the world.  A couple of hours in the dark: suspending our belief!

Sevety Girls is a silly romp with Artistic Director, Doug Haverty, says in his unfortunate  curtain speech (he  plays Harry  in the show) there's a total of 833 years of life on the planet on the stage. The elderest of the elders, Fae DeWitt, must be about a hundred (okay, she's only 91) and her baritone quips alone, as she is guided  glacially on and off stage is worth the price of admission alone.

These stalwart Thespians are having the time of their lives. It's over done and silly and the 21st Century Nairobi Trio with Carol Weiss on the upright is wonderful.  I don't use that term often in a review.

The true wonder is that this tribute to the "tea time of life??"  through gang activity, drugs and drag in pursuit of burglary to achieve a goal for the love of one another .. if you totally abandon disbelief all togther?  It works!

"By any means necessary!"  One hole that I wish the text would cover.. spoiler alert.. is if someone knows they are not long for the world, why wouldn't they take out a million dollar insurance policy so that that dough could purchase the hotel and the friggin' coffee shop to save the gang? 

If you are within driving distance to the Group Repertory Theatre and have time for two rather long acts  and getting home way late.. shaking your head at the energy of this band of dyed in the wool Theatre Folks, please go. Tell them I sent you. Try to NOT sit behind a really tall guy sitting in  the front row and rise at the over long curtain call and  Applaud like Anything for the cast and the crew and the Memory of Lonny Chapman whose vision and energy continues on Burbank Boulevard.

**   I did not realize that today is the last day of the show and am so in love with this review so far, that I'm leaving it all in.. 


To GRT members.  Find a way to get more youthful energy like the Babe, Danica Waitley, in this show into your membership.  Fantasic tap dancing and the energy that is vital to Theatre.    Notwithstanding that you are essentially a Community Theatre, sticking to entertaining stuff is okay. You don't need to bring Beckett and a stick to the stage often.. but Well Staged and enjoyable productions will keep the doors open and the Bums in the seats and hopefully for Fifty More Years of engaging the Community with the Essence of Art. New Blood and Comfortable Entertainment! Yes..


Music by John Kande; lyrics by Fred Ebb & book by David Thompson & Norman L. Martin.  It's a romp   directed by Bruce Kimmel (The First Nudie Musical!!)
70 GIRLS, 70 
Closes today:Sunday 12/17/23 
Lonny Chapman Theatre, 
10900 Burbank Blvd., 
North Hollywood, 91601.  
Check  to see if the show has been extended. 
Looks like you'll have to copy and paste that link.  Oy.

Sunday, December 3, 2023


Playwright Samuel D. Hunter is a well decorated  author.. braggin' rights for his the film version of his play, The Whale, that rocked the Oscars in 2023. This play holds much of the angst and quirky appeal that The Whale holds.

Bo (excellent Scott Jackson) and his sister Ally (Also Excellent Dalia Vosylius) have been called to their childhood home in Viola, Idaho.

It's the Holidays.  Tragedy and homecoming. The Holidays.  What I had forgotten is that there's a big long neck up from toney Sundance in southern Idaho that snakes all the way up to shouting distance from Canada.  It's rural and folksy.. Carol's husband, Martin (excellent Phil Cass seen on video) has been a marginal dad and husband. He's been a hospital janitor who in later life has become curious about the nature of the Universe: Big Bang!!  String Theory!!

Martin is dead. 

It's Christmas Eve and it's Martin's passing that draws the kids back to Viola. 


A touch of Pinter and Albee with a not so subtle absurdist undertones, the story evolves. bumping along with care. 

Director  Andrew Weyman, has already done some fine tuning with the show, workshopping it in one of PRT's intimate spaces.  The show is extending through the holidays and into the new year.     Good news.

So.  Martin is dead.

"He was just sitting there and he was breathing. Then, he wasn't." declares Carol (Excellent Terry Davis), the mother of the two adult kids whose lives could not be more distant in life style and location. Bo is a photo journalist, documenting atrocities in far off foreign lands. Kid sister, Ally, spends eighty hour work weeks riding herd on a fleet of transportation vans a couple of hours away. 

Sometimes I'll do background searches  for my reviews.  Google maps showed me parts of Idaho I'd never heard of!  Viola, Idaho is like Pouluse, Onaway and Potlatch.  The boondocks!  It's another world  where playwright Hunter actually comes from. The grit in this play may reflect those simple roots.  The grit is palpable.  

Emmy winning director Andrew Weyman declares that taking on a scary project is an exciting challenge. This play is one that at its surface may seem to be just the uncomfortable story of a family that succeeded just enough to survive. But, we go deeper. The now distant extended family has its own problems. The scary part is finding the thread that binds them, divides them, and now brings them home to unfathomable truths.

Terry Davis, as the scruffy gun totin' mom,  brings credibility to the land of the lost: with her loopy lovable character.  She is at once bright and articulate even in her cups, having been widowed only days before Christmas.  

Bo is three years Ally's senior. The rhythms of the story bounce from brother to sister with some scrappy political banter.  Ally's defense of her position turns on Business. Poor Bo is apoplectic that a gay woman would have supported a republican. 

I love the beats of this play. The topic is very uncomfortable and as we come to revelation and resolution, every member of the audience must be driven to a conclusion regarding the entire business of what Life is about. 

Just what is our Reason for Living? 

The pure joy of seeing successful store front theatre and specifically, the Pacific Resident Theatre,  guided for years by founder Marilyn Fox, whom I adore, may color this review only slightly.  The fact is that this production in this ragtag little space  has all the qualities of "Virginia Woolf" on Broadway or Pirandello  at the Playhouse. Drive to Venice and head down Venice for Cuban at Versailles on the way.  Arrive early for parking.  Check the lobby of the main stage for a salty snack or a beverage.. support this production. 

Then, please find a thoughtful other audience member after the show to see how the idea.. the notion of whether or not .. as Joni says..  "We are Stardust.." may be true. 

The acting never  shows. The tech credits and the crazy set  work beautifully.  It's a thoughtful evening with a few laughs and  a virtual banquet: Food for Thought.

 The Creative Team: 

 Michael Franco (Lighting Design),  

Andrew Weyman (Scenic Design),  

Susan Wilder (Costume Design), 

Keith Stevenson (Sound Design),  

James Morris (Projection Design).

 Bianca Rickheim  Stage Manager




by  Samuel D. Hunter

Directed by Andrew Weyman

Pacific Resident Theatre 

 Runs through January 14, 2024 

(check website for schedule). 

Pacific Resident Theatre is located at 703 Venice Blvd, Venice, CA 90291. 

Street parking or limited free lot behind building. Tickets start at $35 online 

 Closing: January 14, 2024


Sunday, December 3 – 3pm
Thursday, December 7 – 8pm 
Friday, December 8 – 8pm 
Saturday, December 9 – 8pm
Sunday, December 10 – 3pm
Saturday, December 16 – 8pm
Sunday, December 17 – 3pm
Thursday, December 21 – 8pm
Friday, December 22 – 8pm
Friday, January 5 – 8pm
Saturday, January 6 – 8pm
Sunday, January 7 – 3pm
Thursday, January 11 – 8pm
Friday, January 12 – 8pm
Saturday, January 13 – 8pm

Sunday, January 14 – 3pm

Tickets and Information: 

This link may not work!  I want you to see this play, so. just copy and paste into your browser and :  voila..

Or.. depending on when you call? Anna is on hand as a genuine human being who can take your reservation and wish you a Happy Holiday.   Just go.. Okay? 

  (310) 822-8392.