Friday, February 23, 2024

ICT Long Beach presents 'MARILYN, MOM AND ME"

 A World Premiere is always exciting.  

caryn desai (sic) is an artistic director I have admired for years.  Internationl City Theare's gorgeous space is an important adjunct to the big guys in Los Angeles. 

Brian Rohan, Alisha Soper. Laura Gardner
Photo by Paul Kennedy

Luke Yankee directs his own play "Marilyn, Mom and Me."  A writer directing his own work is an idea that I resist. This is an autobiographical story. a personal memoir Yankee says is mostly true.. My personal bias  notwithstanding, I find it an interesting piece of theatre even as directed by the author.

Yankee's premise turns on his sainted mother, actress, Eileen Heckart and her friendship with the mysterious blonde: Marilyn Monroe.

In the 1956 film version of William Inge's "Bus Stop," Yankee's mom, Eileen (crusty Laura Gardner)  plays Vera, a waitress. Marilyn (Very Marilyn! Alisha Soper)  as Cherie is a singer in the joint..  How actors unite to create the illusion of any story is a challenge. As   Yankee brings it to life, we begin as Luke (Brian Rohan) slips in the back door, so to speak,  with a goal to record his mom's personal memories of Marilyn.   Reluctantly, Eileen   warms to the idea that everyone has begged her to share for years. 

Luke presents his story: sharing the love and conflicts  of a gay son and his  troubled mom as the truth unfolds. 

The structure of the piece plays out in a mostly presentational way.  We are greeted by an essentially bare stage with levels that conceal props in little cubbies. A clever devise. A couple of bent wood chairs and huge projections upstage delineate where each scene takes place.  This device puts the weight of the show on the shoulders of the actors. Mostly, they succeed.

With the actors, it's a mixed bag. As Luke, Rohan's performance is all acting. It falters with the challenge of presenting his character at different ages. This is a difficult chore for anyone.. as cute as a grown man in jammies to depict his very early age.. he's still a really big guy in jammies acting like a child. In one scene after watching Luke in a production of Cameot,  Eileen lays her copious notes on the young actor. It is devastating and uncomfortable.  Herckart was a tough broad.

As Eileen, Ms Gardner plays it close to her vest  with strong personal moments as we anxiously anticipate the arrival of 'Her!"  "They all want to know about Her," says Eileen.. Make no mistake when SHE arrives, though I might quibble with Ms Soper's Marilyn voice a little bit, her Marilyn is a gorgeous ringer for the "most beautiful woman in the world.."  

The bond between Eileen and Marilyn takes its time and the connection becomes genuine. 

 I encourage you to travel to Long Beach to see this play... However,  I must mention that the title, "Marilyn, Mom and Me" emerges toward the end of the show. Just when I thought the performance  was over,  It was not.  Yankee presents Luke in a denouement  a beat or two too long.  To discuss it would be a spoiler and though disappointing to me, the audience stood to applaud Yankee's unique memoir.

Plan a day in Long Beach. check for blocked streets and construction!!    Skip Islands for a meal!

The supporting cast, doubling is okay.  The audience is called upon to do some of the work. Kim DeShazo's costumes for Marilyn are spectacular.


Marilyn Monroe: Alisha Soper
Eileen Heckart: Laura Gardner *
Luke: Brian Rohan *
Ella Fitzgerald/ Rosetta/ Paula Strasberg: Jacquelin Lorraine Schofield *
Joshua Logan and others: Noah Wagner

The creative team for Marilyn, Mom & Me includes set designer Dan Volonte, lighting designer Donna Ruzika, costume designer Kim DeShazo, sound designer Dave Mickey and prop designer Patty Briles. Casting is by Michael Donovan, CSA and Richie Ferris, CSA. The production stage manager is Don Hill.  


Written  and directed by Luke Santee


Marilyn, Mom & Me runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., February 16 through March 3

Two preview performances take place on Wednesday, Feb. 14 and Thursday, Feb. 15, both at 7:30 p.m. 

Tickets are $49 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays (except Friday. Feb. 16, opening night, for which tickets are $55 and include a post show reception), and $52 at Sunday matinees. 

International City Theatre is located in the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center at 330 East Seaside Way, Long Beach, CA 90802

Monday, February 19, 2024

The Winter's Tale by you know who

There is much to be said about our local 'classical' theatre company: Antaeus.  The space on Broadway in Glendale is intimate. the work by this long established company, in a former a store front has in the past, made magic.

Antaeus has tackled Shakespeare many times in the past, recently an innovative and  terrific presentation of The Tempest played to sold out audiences.  Wonderful double casts of King Lear went up when the company was still on Lankershim in a rag tag space that served them well.

The Winter's Tale.. a magical and manipulated tale, indeed, has a shot at magic and with Elizabeth Swain's direction brings my favorite part to life.   The Bear!

This short video that I found is a sort of crib sheet for understanding the play.  The tongue twister names, especially, do not roll trippingly .. to coin a phrase.. but once you figure out who's who, the story .. a little loopy and not the only  jealousy theme for the Bard.. moves on.

Copy and paste that link for a to speak. version of the story. 

Of course to see the play in person.. the best way.. it helps to have a handle on the plot.  I only like the play, actually.. because of the bear!   well.. and the magic.. and the reconciliation..  All's Well.. etc..

 Motive is always a factor  or should be.. in why any of us.. especially characters in plays do what they do.  Essentially, in The Winter's Tale, we have Othello echoed in Leontes (Adam J. Smith), the king of Sicilia. He's married to the beautiful Hermione (Kaci Hamilton) and is the father of his young son Maxmilius (Sabrina J. Li) But!  here's the rub.  Poixenes (Ned Mochel) has been a guest in the palace and the chemistry between Poixenes and Hermione awakens that Green Eyed Monster in Leones's imagination to stir things to a terrible pass.

If you watch that little video, it will essentially guide you along the primrose  path to the plot of the play. Twists and turns and turncoats and, sadly, some dead folks along the way

The business of this production turns on choices made by Ms Swain.  My idea of a good time is to be guided through the story with specific focus on the forward motion of the story. In this production the staging and stage pictures had me distracted and misdirected time and again.  Some casting seemed sideways, meaning that in this cast of able actors, my choices for some characters would have been different.  With Shakespeare, of course, language and the ability to speak it well, especially for American actors a challenge.  

With few exceptions, the rhythms of the dialogue came in fast and furious and ... furiouser.  Bigger! Faster! More dramatic!!  In my notes I used the term 'chewing the scenery' more than one time. 

Certainly there are  moments. and some fun stuff that in reading the play I'd over looked.    JD Culluma as Autolycus, a slick con man, shines and the device that several of the characters used: breaking the fourth wall works. Soliloquies  to the audience  mostly worked..

It's a simple bare stage with a grand use of drapes to delineate settings.  When it came time for the bear,  the scene , though a bit gruesome, was a creative approach I wish I'd thought of.

As Paulina, Ann Nobel

Ann Nobel

rocks as she finds her stride when standing up to the king. .It's her rhythms and pace and variations that give her character three dimensions.   Success is on the actor.

In all, the play works better than other versions I've seen but the business of profile presentation by the actors and the split focus often  draws attention to itself. 

I recommend this production because the heart of the play is basically served and our local Glendale Antaeus Company deserves patrons who appreciate the effort that goes into presenting classic theatre with panache.  The costumes are sort of  Victorian in design with cutaway coats for the men and long dresses for the women.  Hermione's hair style is a departure. 

Please see this show informed and listen for this line, "It Is An Heretic That Makes The Fire Not She Which Burns In It." The lessons of the past may be prologue to the present.

EMILIA/PERDITA: Shannon Lee Clair*
HERMIONE: Kaci Hamilton*
FLORIZEL/LORD I: Peter Mendoza*
POLIXENES: Ned Mochel*
PAULINA: Ann Noble*
LEONTES: Adam J. Smith*


The Winter's Tale

By William Shakespeare

Directed by  Elizabeth Swain


Saturday, February 10, 2024

ARROWHEAD.. inspired by playwright Catya McMullen's stay at a lovely San Bernardino  mountains cabin, explores the stuff of our sense of self and sexuality.  

Clockwise from Top L: Nate Smith,
Amielynn Abellera, Kathleen Littlefield,
Lindsay Coryne, and Kacie Rogers
Photo by Jeff Lorch.jpg


Google has flagged this review for language. I'm editing for content so that you can imagine the naughty words that I had spelled out.


Imagine, if you will.. An  abortion party for a self declared lesbian  who, drunk, evidently,  succumbed to the muscular advance of a man.  "He was rough and pulled my hair.. but it didn't hurt..I liked it".. and the story unfolds with not all of the characters saying the names of the other characters, but there's an attractive black woman and the attractive Asian and the pregnant breast pumping woman also attractive and the cheated upon lover really cute and the manly boys who may or may not be gay or bi or ?? because the story  steps off the cliff at an eight and quickly escalates to a ten, I imagine thanks to Jenna Worsham's decision as director to  . more or less.. present "Friends" with benefits and choices and applied sexuality  on Speed..or caffine. or both. Fast and faster!  Faster, bigger, funnier?

The breakneck pace and rapid delivery evoked laughter from the  opening night audience  for this World Premiere and because of the rapid fire dialogue..was anyone listening? were they? or just getting the juice flowing and some hot sex batting a thousand and inquiry and betrayal and hot stuff baby baby baby and the cat palace and what a retreat to Lake Arrowhead .. away from the bright lights.. might bring.

The characters are well defined (the guys are sort of not)  and the actors who portray them are all about the same twenty something age?  thirty?  and the set is gorgeous and the wham bam lights and sound literally rock the theater. The money is on the stage! Big time..  and I am sure that an age appropriate fwording audience whose vocabulary is also loaded with the now ubiquitous use of fword and  "poop"  without dropping a stitch is totally acceptable and representative of the way so many  folks communicate these days.. 


The rapid pace and the John Mashita dialogue/speeches.. with few exceptions.. cranks up to eleven ala Spinal Tap.. and  pretty much left me exhausted.

Not having access to the QR program to line up the characters with their actor selves, it is a compliment best I can manage.. that each is true to whomever author, Catya McMullen has created for them.. the Cat Lady appears in an off stage / on stage bit with her giant kitty palace and is adorable in a ditzy naive way .. The dialogue is punctuated with laughs that the audience enjoyed while I was still beats behind. That's on me.

So...  for the  generation that lives with their noses pretty much buried in one iPhone  or another, while  multitasking and stands to applaud while getting back on line or texting or such.. this is the play for them.  

Having vacationed at Lake Arrowhead, with an actual family, I can attest that the isolation truly does have an effect of bringing people together.. This cast IS together and then some.. Some of the sex is hot.  Okay. it's all hot and depending on what turns you on, there's bread and butter and toast and bagels and the idea that one thing an Arrowhead vacation can do is inspire connections. 

Amazing tech that literally vibrates the space and the gorgeous set and dedicated company of IAMA which I still don't understand what it really stands for.. has gathered an idea and professionally mounted it with pretty much a gayish theme that is well presented.  Bring a seat belt.


Amielynn Abellera, Stefanie Black, Lindsay Coryne, Adrián González, Kathleen Littlefield, Kacie Rogers, Nate Smith

The creative team includes scenic designer Carolyn Mraz; lighting designer Kai Hirota Magee; sound designer Eliza Vedar; costume designer Danae Iris McQueen; properties designer Nicole Bernardini; intimacy director Celina Surniak; and casting director Jordan Bass. Rosalind Bevan is associate director; Daniel Cyzpinski is the technical director; and Zaira Paredes-Villegas is the production stage manager alongside assistant stage manager Isabella Gomez and wardrobe supervisor Athena Saxon. Quinn O'Connor produces and Katharine Means co-produces for IAMA Theatre Company 

IAMA Theatre Company 

 World premiere of Arrowhead 

 by Catya McMullen

Performances: Feb. 8 – March 4

• Thursdays at 8 p.m.: Feb. 8 ONLY (Opening Night)
• Fridays at 8 p.m.: Feb. 9; Feb. 16; Feb. 23; March 1
• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Feb. 3 (Preview); Feb. 10; Feb. 17; Feb. 24; March 2
• Sundays at 2 p.m.: Feb. 11; Feb. 18; Feb. 25; March 3
• Sundays at 8 p.m.: Feb. 4 ONLY (Preview)
• Mondays at 8 p.m.: Feb. 19; Feb. 26; March
4 (dark Feb. 12) 

• General Admission (except Feb. 19 and Feb. 36) $40
• Mondays, Feb. 19 and Feb. 26: Pay-What-You-Can
• Previews: $25

Tickets and Information:
(323) 380-8843

Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90039
FREE parking in the ATX (Atwater Crossing) lot one block south of the theater.

Saturday, February 3, 2024


Review by Guest Critic Saratoga Ballantine

Theatre Forty is a busy bunch with their recent production of  The Manor followed closely by Craig Warner's "Strangers on a Train."

 Having been a fan of the Hitchcock film with Farley Granger and Robert Walker, I was eager to see how  “Strangers on a Train” would be presented on stage at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills. 
Interestingly,  the play was more inclined to lean towards the original story by Patricia Highsmith. If you are familiar with “The Talented Mr. Ripley”, you have a sense of the penchant Highsmith has for complicated plots and psychopathic anti-heroes..

We are introduced to our two leading men who indeed are strangers.  They meet on a train, which we thoroughly believe thanks to  the screen projection behind two cushy chairs center stage, designed by the always creative Jeff G. Rack.

It's impossible to miss how different the two characters are. Charles Bruno (MIchael Mullen) is not just the chattier of the two, but also the more obvious drinker.   Guy Haines (Joe Clabby) presnets an ambitious bespeckled architect  in the midst of a divorce. He's reading philosophy.  Slowly, with endless questions and hip flask always pouring, Bruno draws Guy out of his shell. 
 As the train hurtles to their destination, they begin to speculate on what it would be like to commit the perfect murder.

I found myself getting a little creeped out as the story unfolded!

Bruno is a Mama’s Boy who resents his father for withholding his allowance, and has an almost unholy relationship with his former show-girl mother,  deliciously sensual  Sharron Shayne. Their scenes together reveal even more of Bruno’s drinking problem, and deep psychological issues.
Guy goes home to his fiancé, Anne (Anica Petrovic) who is impatiently counting the days until Guy’s divorce is final so they can be wed. Anne's wardrobe was exquisite, and right on point for the 50’s.  Michael Mullen is also credited with the play's excellent costume design.
In a nutshell,  a murder is committed by the end of Act 1!  Act II sends us on an even darker ride, exploring how a serendipitous meeting on a train has now irrevocably linked Bruo and Guy together.

The rest of the cast includes: Todd Andrew Ball as Frank Myers), Michael Kerr as Best Man at the wedding of Anne and Guy (Robert Treacher) and the totally believable private eye Arthur Gerard well timed with humor and great skill by Larry Eisenberg. Gerard puts all the puzzle pieces together,

 Director, Jules Aaron, with countless plays under his belt, directs  with his usual savvy. The tension builds to the very end.  Some of us in the audience were visibly shaken as we left the theatre!!


Todd Andrew Ball, Michael Mullen, Sharron Shayne, Anicia Petrovich, Michael Kerr, Joe Clabby, and Larry Eisenberg.


Stage manager: Paul Reid. Set design: Jeff G. Rack. Costume design: Michael Mullen. Lighting design: Derrick McDaniel. Sound design: Nick Foran.

Stramgers on A Train

by  Craig Warner

Directed by  Jules Aaron

Theatre Forty 

241 S, Moreno Drive

Mary Levin Cutler Theatre 

 Beverly Hills, CA 90212. 

January 18-February 18, 2024. 

Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Sundays at 2:00 p.m.


RESERVATIONS: (310) 364-0535.