Friday, January 19, 2024

Theatre Forty presents.. The Manor

Review by

Guest Critic:  

Saratoga Ballantine










 Simply arriving at Greystone is the start of a unique theatrical experience!

Walking from the parking lot to the mansion I began to get goosebumps. To think that a family actually lived here in this astounding mansion and what their lives must have been like stirs the imagination before the audience is even seated.

“The Manor” is in its 19th season, and is a fictionalization based on real events that occurred in the mansion over 95 years ago. The names have been changed to protect the guilty.

The audience is brought in to the elegantly furnished  living room,  by James, the Butler, convincingly played by the elegant and well spoken  David Hunt Stafford.

It’s the late 1920’s and a wedding party is going on  in full swing.

The wealthy patriarch of the McAlister family, Charles (played with proper pomposity by Darby Hinton) is happily leading Prohibition toasts of “ice tea” (wink wink nudge nudge) up the wazoo, and is the proud father of the groom, played here with grace  and charm by Peter Mastne.   Abby, his blushing bride (beautiful Nathalie Rudolph) is giddiness personified, especially when she spots the handsome Gregory Pugh (Eric Keitel) who has returned to the manor as a guest at the celebration.

The wonderful conceit of the play is that the audience is now divided into three parts, and depending upon which group you are in- you are led by either James, or Ursula, the Housekeeper (played with great energy and spirit by Katyana Rocker-Cook) or the silent maid, Ellie, (essayed by the creative and sprightly Gail Johnston, who uses dinner bells and arm gestures to signal the audience when it’s time to move to the next room.

Getting caught up in the inciting incident, which depicts momentous changes in the family fortune, I learned was based on surrogates of the oil-rich Doheny Family. Charles makes an illegal, though well intentioned loan to Senator Alfred Winston (strongly played by Daniel Leslie with “good ‘ol boy” panache).   Winston is based on the then Secretary of the Interior, Albert Fall.  Both men will face imminent disgrace in the oncoming Teapot Dome bribery scandal which brought down the Warren Harding administration, because the loan was made with cash, and there was no proper record. The family's close friend and lawyer, John Combs, (Frank Parsons) does all he can to help, but Charles McAlister is in too deep.

Abby meanwhile seems  more than ready to lose her virginity, and we are privy to an intimate glimpse into her boudoir as she prepares to receive the gifts of womanhood  while the wedding party is still merrily going on in other parts of the mansion! Thank heavens her Mother- in- Law (an honest and surely once dazzling Carol Potter)  happens to come into the bedroom to put the kibosh on this wreckless behavior just in the nick of time.

The fly in the ointment is that Abby, while loving her new husband, also has very strong feelings for Gregory Pugh, who has been away  and has returned to the Manor with his new over-sexed and  tarty wife (raucously played by Kristin Rowers-Rowles)

After a brief intermission, the audience returns to the main living room and the time is now 10 years later.

Lots more action in Act 2, as the family status and fortune is in ruins. The wife of Senator Winston, Cora (played with great sympathy and humor by Amy Tolsky) has a touching scene with Mrs. McAlister. She is not unaware of her husband’s slimy motives.

I really can't reveal the highlight of Act 2, but the shocking events only go to drive home the lesson that having money and status really does not bring one happiness in life.

The play is written by Kathrine Bates and directed by Martin Thompson, You don’t want to miss this limited run and won't soon forget your visit to Greystone and “The Manor”


 Sound design: Bill Froggatt

Stage manager: Craig Hissong
John Combs as Frank Parsons
Darby Hinton as Charles MacAlister
Gail Johnson as Ellie the maid
Eric Keitel as Gregory Pugh
Daniel Leslie as Senator Alfred Winston
Peter Mastine as Sean MacAlister
Carol Potter as Marion MacAlister
Katyana Rocker-Cook as Ursula the housekeeper
Nathalie Rudolph as Abby MacAlister
David Hunt Stafford as James the valet
Amy Tolsky as Cora Winston
Kristin Towers-Rowles as Henrietta Pugh



The Manor 
Written byKathrine Bates. 
Directed by Martin Thompson. 
Original production directed by Beverly Olevin. 
Produced for Theatre 40 by David Hunt Stafford.
 Greystone Mansion, in Greystone Park, 
905 Loma Vista Drive (above Sunset Blvd.), Beverly Hills, CA 90210. 
Free parking onsite.
January 18- February 3, 2024.
Thursday and Friday Evenings at 6:00 p.m. on January 18, 19, 25, 26, February 2.
Saturday and Sunday Matinee at 1:00 p.m. on January 27 and 28. Other performances are sold out.
RESERVATIONS: (310) 364-3606. No one will be admitted without advance reservation. Please reserve early, as many performances will sell out.

Sunday, January 14, 2024


The Road on Magnolia presents another take on death and homosexuality and 'what if' in Steve Yockey's 2015 play "Mercury". It's a West Coast premiere.Whatever prodded Yockey to this edge of the Universe, the cutting dialogue and the absolute ensemble works.  If Alfred Hitchcock Presents meets Rod Serling meets One Step Beyond in any iteration, you have an inkling of where this adventure will take you.

A clever revolving set brings us to a series of vignettes that devolve deliberately into questions that emerge.  What if?? What if people behaving badly had eternal penalties?

Google's take on "Mercury in Retrograde" a term I've sort of understood for years, says, 

(0.27 seconds) 
"Mercury retrograde is an optical illusion which means it looks as if the planet is moving backward from our view here on earth. Astrologers believe that during this perceived backward motion, technology and communication could get disrupted, putting a damper on anyone's summer mood. "

 Yockey's play and communication regarding how I got to see the show all reflects this astrological phenomenon. 

Meeghan Holaway and Danny Lee Gomez star in the Road Theatre Company’s West Coast Premiere production of “MERCURY” by Steve Yockey, directed by Ann Hearn Tobolowsky and now playing at the Road Theatre in North Hollywood.  

"While the 'official' end date is 1 January, (2024) there's a shadow phase that continues through to 20 January (2024) as Mercury returns to where it started this whole retrograde shenanigans, in the sign of Capricorn."

For The Road to tackle this loopy approach to 'what if' is a brave undertaking indeed.  We are all in the business of communication and frankly, this one is a mystery. The mystery of life.  AND DEATH.

Shows I've seen over the past several months as we emerge from death and pandemic, have turned on homosexuality, race and death.  All the folks in "Mercury" are basically white bread, so any racial theme is missing, though the gay aspect rears its head.  And, some folks die! Sort of.

As Pamela (Meeghan Holaway) and Heather (Andrea Flowers) open the play, for some reason the feeling of Leave it to Beaver meets Johnny Walker fueling the banter comes to mind. What Heather and Pamela have been up to is not all that unusual ..but in Oregon?  A next door neighbor tryst?  Heather's dog, Mr. Cuddles, has gone missing. Sadly..

The play revolves and evolves in episodes that at first seem unlikely to meld. Please stand by   It ain't pretty, but, the energy and the 'what's to come' are loaded.. literally.. for Bear!

Nick, played by Justin Lawrence Barnes whose mother is ailing and in the hospital goes off to work.  Boyfriend, Brian (Danny Lee Gomez) has has moved in with Nick.  Casting, to me might have the boys switch parts.  Downstairs busybody neighbor Olive (Christina Carlisi) has the hots for Nick and plots to have him for herself in spite of an age difference and that Nick is gay. 

Factor in bad blood (lots of blood!) and jealousy and vengeance and this romp takes us down a rabbit hole that smacks of an illustrated novel and then some.

Occult 'shop' owner, Alicia (Gloria Ines) sells magical products to 'fix' problems presented by her clientele.    Sam! (Billy Baker) barks on the intercom from..? Where?  It's an interesting very long term relationship!  You can get anything you want at Alicia's occult shop. The lethal stuff she sells comes with a warning!

There's a trip to the Netherworld and  back? For someone? and Karma and ..did I mention the blood? 

Director Anne Hearn Toblosky has her hands full of what some might call "Grand Guignol". It is truly an offal situation.. There are props and physical action bringing this to high drama, no fooling around.  Every Theatrical  succeeds or fails on how the director interprets the text and guides the cast to find the nuances and the blow ups.  Toblosky nails it as the opportunities for over the top  presentation are reigned in.  Dramatic effect enhanced by Katrina Coulourides 's beautiful revolving stage and well apppinted sets, along with spot on Tech and an impressive sort of planet projection upstage, bring this odd ball play along beautifully.  Hints along the way. Murder most foul. Sex and the strange netherworld couple all congeal with Alicia and Sam facilitating a reconciliation and a kicking and screaming addition to their bizarre collection.  All of this in Oregon where there may be bears!  I had a thought as I left the theatre.  If this show continues to sell out, having the actors swap parts might be a stretch, but what an acting exercise.  


Meeghan Holaway “Pamela” 

Andrea Flowers  “Heather” 

Justin Lawrence Barnes  “Nick” 

Danny Lee Gomez  “Brian” 

Billy Baker  “Sam” 

Gloria Ines  “Alicia” 

Christina Carlisi “Olive”


Scenic Design  Katrina Coulourides 

 Lighting Design  Derrick McDaniel

 Sound Design  David B. Marling

 Projection Design Ben Rock

Costume Design  Jenna Bergstraesser

Production Stage Manager  Maurie Gonzalez. MERCURY is produced by 

Taylor Gilbert & Danna Hyams.


DIRECTED BYAnn Hearn Tobolowsky

MERCURY will preview on Tuesday, January 9; Wednesday, January 10 & Thursday, January 11 at 8pm; will open on Friday, January 12 at 8pm and run through Sunday, February 18 at the Road Theatre, located in The NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd. in North Hollywood.


Performances are Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 2pm.


Ticket prices are $39; Students and Seniors are $15.00; Previews are $15.00.  Sunday Performances are Pay-What-You-Can.  Special group rates available for parties of 8 or more.  For tickets, please call 818-761-8838; visit or to purchase tickets online or to view complete schedule. 

Saturday, January 13, 2024




(Click on the photo and you will find Paul!) 

Every monologue that Paul Linke has presented has been pithy and personal.  "It's Only A Show!"  is no exception. 

Full disclosure.. I've known this guy for a long time.  I'm a fan.  He's present and accounted for.    

Last Saturday, I was up in Barnsdall Park in Hollywood.  I stood where an audience sat on the lawn, peeling free oranges, to enjoy local talent. Paul and a group of artists had developed the Garden Theatre Festival in a friend's back yard.  Paul was the emcee. Somehow they got the City of LA to bring the Festival to Barnsdall.  It's Theatre History! 

I had an adventure there with an exploding prop!

Linke is a natural. It's that quality that makes his monologues special.  That Paul was pals with Charles Nelson Reilley brings him to the stage again. Today is Charles's birthday! January 13th!  At once it IS a show!! .. but there's something special going on with the pictures that Paul paints with words and those moments when the pace pauses and the images come to life in the audience's imagination.

Most folks recall Charles as a charming panelist the TV game show, Match Game.. He presented sort of a laid back Paul Lynde?  Charles was also a respected director, working with Burt Reynolds on Burt's show "Evening Shade."..  Linke extols the life and times of ths legendary guy in such a way that we can see Charles's early beginnings in New York and how the 'bug' blossomed.

Linke brings Charles back to life with great good humor and a warmth that I'm sure Charles would approve of and  enjoy. Of course, they wrote the show together!

Once Paul steps on stage.. He owns it .. We are all  transported.  Anecdotes and the story of a long friendship unfolds.  From time to time the rhythms change which proabably lands on the shoulders of director Edward Edwards. 

A warm moment at the close from Emily Dickenson that prays for doing no harm and making a difference in the lives of others.. Interestingly, this echoes the admoniton of David Dean Bottrell's show I reviewed on Wednesday.  

Be alive. 

Be grateful. 

Acknowledge the folks whom you love.  

To that I shared a special moment  with Paul after the show to remember 'the little guy' Dennis Rhoton. A good friend who was there for me.

Ed Salas created  the Lighting & Sound Design

Nicole Millar is the stage manager and prize wrangler.

“It’s Only a Show!”
Created and Performed by Paul Linke
Written by 
Charles Nelson Reilly and 
Paul Linke
Directed by Edward Edwards
Opening at 5pm Saturday, January 13. 2024 
Additional Performances 
5pm Jan 20, 27, and Feb 2, 2024
Ruskin Group Theatre 
3000 Airport Avenue, 
Santa Monica, CA 90405

For reservations 

 (310) 397-3244



Thursday, January 11, 2024

David Dean Bottrell: The Death of Me Yet

 The Matrix Theatre in Hollywood has hosted hundreds of shows that reflect the 'age and body of the times.' Rogue Machine Theatre expands the importance of this little space with relevant and thoughtful Theatre. 

Perched on the  Edge of Success, a gay man with a clipboard in his hand (eventually) David Dean Bottrell carries on the important legacy of the Matrix and Rogue Machine Theatre.

Perched on the edge of a rave, I found Bottrell's beautifully presented anecdotes, presumably from his true adventures are undeniable. Ranging from bleeding like a stuck pig at LAX to being mugged in a developing neighborhood in LA, to the story of Uncle Ray's funeral (that reminded me of my own Uncle Jim's) and a tribute to his friend and colleague, Don, whose end of days story was, at once touching and sad and...  liberating.  .


David Dean Bottrell  photo Conor Weiss
Depending on one's age, The Grim Reaper may be just down the block or out past the horizon. Bottrell's pithy personal stories attempt to put "you know what" into perspective. 

Ultimately, the polemic of Bottrell's pitch, balancing him on that precipice of here and there is a Wake Up Call:  "I Am Alive!".. Amen, Brother.. 

He eschews the term 'journey.. ' but.. of course. we are all on the trail that sooner or later (in Sinatra's voice) we face the final curtain.   Shall we come to grips with reality .. or stay  in denial? 

If you are alive?  Get to the Matrix and storm the gate early for close to center seating.  Bottrell's stories & his message are like honey:: they ebb and flow with recreated characters like Aunt Marie at Uncle Ray's funeral what with one thing and another.. draw us in, never skipping a beat to share what life on the edge is all about. 

Step up, stand up and applaud.


Production Manager/Stage Manager: Rachel Manheimer
Artistic Directors: John Perrin Flynn & Guillermo Cienfuegos
Co-Artistic Directors: Elina de Santos
Publicity: Judith Borne
General Manager: Ramón Valdez
Executive Director: Justin Okin
Marketing Director: Michelle Hanzelova-Bierbauer
Social Media: Ruth Fowler
Company Manager: Scott Sheldon

David Dean Bottrell: 

The Death of Me Yet  

 January 10. 2024

 8pm Wednesday – Saturday; 

3pm Sunday 

 January 14, 2024.  

Five performances only

Rogue Machine

Matrix Theatre 

 7657 Melrose Ave., 

Los Angeles, CA 90046.  

Tickets are $45 

(Seniors $35, Students $25).  

Pay-What-You-Want ($20 minimum) 

Thursday January 11, 2024 

 Reservations: or Information 855-585-5185


Rogue Machine has upgraded their HVAC system at the Matrix Theatre to exceed compliance with current COVID protocols. They have installed HEPA air purifiers in all public spaces. All staff and artists are fully vaccinated and boosted.