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Sunday, May 19, 2024

MISALLIANCE! A NOISE WITHIN


 Full confessions are seldom necessary in this land of make believe that we choose to inhabit, but I have realized that even though George Bernard Shaw is one of the most important playwrights of the last century and his reputation for stinging wit is legend..  well.. I did see Major Barbara oe time..The set was great!! 

But..  no scholar am I.

That said!!  We come to Misalliance!  It's May 31, 1909.  Rich folks.. The Summerhays and the Tarletons with interlopers.. They all come together in  broad strokes on scenic designer Angela Balogh Calin's

Josey Montana McCoy,
Deborah Strang,
and Frederick Stuart
Photo by Craig Schwartz

gorgeous set (really, really, really wonderful and really gorgeous) complete with portable Turkish Bath! 

Misalliance is filled with satire and a look at what Mr. Shaw thought of the Brits!  Director Guillermo Cienfuegos's vision, of manners and protocols (more or less on steroids) lands beautifully.

Cienfuegos's choreographed stage pictures echo the times: formal and in Shaw's estimation, well over the top.

As Bunny (please don't call me that) Josey Montana McCoy at about five feet nothing and one ten soaking wet visits the elegant home of his future wife, sturdy Hypatia Tarleton (Erika Soto) whose libido is high and  her tolerance for chatter is nil.  

As Hypatia's mother, Mrs. Tarleton (Debra Strang..a fave) pretty much rules the roost, we meet the players and unlikely 'comments' via Shaw's biting satire. Things move slowly through Act I.   Early on, very tall Johnny (Riley Shanahan)  Hypatia's brother, arrives to torment Bunny.  And,  Lord  Summerhays (Frederick Stuart) Bunny's dad and the former governor of some fictitious   British territory, when left along with Hypatia,,  delivers one of the best lines in the play as he plights his own troth to her by asking her to be his 'widow'!!  With Stuart as Lord Summerhays and Peter Van Norden as John Tarleton, Sr., sometimes it's a challenge to decide who is whom, but no matter. Read Twain.

Rolling right along, Misalliance is a very long and talky play.   I'm with Hypatia with all the blather, but a few zingers and the rolling pace keep us alert with events to come.  

Then!!  Thank goodness for the sound of an aeroplane engine sputtering and a crash that delivers huge surprises. Blackout!

Lights up!!  Act II

The plot explodes with the arrival of Joey Percival (Dan Lin). Diversity casting delivers, It's a stretch.  BUT!!  Oh For Goodness Sakes! a spectacular dare devil!  Lina Szczepanowka (Trisha Miller) from Poland! Lina is taking names & making a list of all the men who are immediately in line to become her Mister Szczepanowka.

Miller essentially steals the show.. but wait.. another off the wall character with an axe to grind with John Sr. shows up!!  With a pistol! 

Here's the rub.  The aforementioned Turkish Bath is placed well upstage  behind the sofa. The Turkish Bath  is vital to the final  revelations that Shaw has in store for us.

As Gunner (for lack of a real name at first) then later Baker..  Joshua Bitton brings the physical aspect of what Shaw may have had in mind, beautifully to the stage. Even as a footnote,  the physical action is a welcome bit that must reflect some issue that Shaw had with something that made him  decide to expand the story past to resolve basic plot.  It's a twist!

Had the Turkish Bath been more prominent in its placement, the end game of the intruder  and the dance that follows might have been even more fun.  

Suffice it to say that this spectacular production with amazing costumes by Christine Cover Ferro  presents a professional and welcome addition to the well earned reputation of  Pasadena's A Noise Within.

My advice for all who must find a performance to attend is to read this play first.  It's on line.  The British accents are well done, but for me sometimes difficult to understand.  And.. ANW has a new program that they are promoting with captioned dialogue sent magically to one's cell phone?  

Subtitles.  Check the ANW website for information.

Please..  See this show after reading the play AND wade in for the jokes and the excellent performances from a Master Builder of theatre one hundred and twentyfive years ago!  Read Shaw!

Kudos to director Cinefuegos and cast and crew!  See this one!

CAST

.  Johnny Tarleton: Riley Shanahan*

 Crew

scenic designer Angela Balogh Calin; lighting designer Ken Booth; composer sound designer Christopher Moscatiello

costume designer Christine Cover Ferro

wig and make up designer Tony Vald├ęs

properties designer Stephen Taylor; dialect coach Andrea Odinov; dramaturg Miranda Johnson-Haddad

assistant director is Rachel BerneyNeedleman

production stage manager Angela Sonner, assisted by Hope Matthews.

Public Relations  Lucy Pollak

Misalliance 

by George Bernard Shaw

Directed by Guillermo Cienfuegos

A Noise Within
3352 E Foothill Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91107 

Previews May 12 – May 17
Performances
May 18 – June 9
Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.: May 15 ONLY (Preview)
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.: May 23, May 30, June 6 (dark May 16)
Fridays at 8 p.m.: May 17 (Preview); May 24*; May 31*; June 7*
Saturdays at 2 p.m.: May 25; June 1; June 8 (no matinee on May 18)
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: May 18 (Opening Night); May 25; June 1; (No 8 p.m. performance on June 8)
Sundays at 2 p.m.: May 12 (Preview); May 19; May 26*; June 2; June 9
*Postperformance conversations with the artists take place every Friday (except the preview) and on Sunday, May 26.
A student matinee will take place on Thursday, May 16 at 10:30 a.m. Interested educators should email education@anoisewithin.org.

TICKETS:
• Tickets start at $29
• Student tickets start at $18
• Wednesday, May 15 (preview) and Thursday, May 23: Pay What You Choose starting at $10 (available online beginning at noon the Monday prior to that performance, and at the box office beginning at 2 p.m. on the day of the performance.)
• Discounts available for groups of 10 or more


www.anoisewithin.org
(626) 356-3100


 

Saturday, May 4, 2024

ICT LONG BEACH WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME

When fifteen year old Heidi Schreck found her way to Civics and The Constitution of the United States, she must have seen her future.

How any teen is drawn to civics is a bit of a mystery with all the distractions of being a kid nipping at your heels, and by her own admission Heidi was hot for boys from the get go! But!.  in this excellent and compelling presentation directed by ICT''s executive director caryn desai, it's a play, and then some, with its basic premise grounded in the Foundation of our USA!  Please attend! 

Please stand by for a lesson in civics that includes Heidi's delightful story of success: Bright Lights!   Show Biz!  (And a lost toy!)

Kelley Dorney as Heidi and then as herself, Kelley the actress,  tells Heidi's  very personal story  that the playwright  first delivered herself.  We are not only  taken to school on the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments  to the U.S.Constitution, but share the roots of how this now 'middle aged' woman.. (Dorney looks about sixteen) earned her college tuition with oratory in American Legion Halls all across the country. She credits her mom.

Since developing her great skill at debate and an early understanding of the Constitution, Schreck's intriguing story and this "teach-in" has swept the country, leaving  audiences more informed and, certainly, in love with Heidi. 

Kelley Dorney, Sheila Correa, Tom Trudgeon
Photo by Kayte Deioma


Adjunct Ms Dorney's  really amazing & creative monologue  we meet  Tom Trudgeon  as the American Legion guy and later becoming Heidi's pal, Mike and then the facilitator of the final debate..

After what is basically a 'teach-in' thanks to Heidi, we are treated to a very interesting debate that features the expertise of a high school debater 'from Wilson High'.. compelling and funny, Sheila Correa, who  rocks the audience participation pumped up by cheerleader Tom.   as the women take sides on  whether to keep the Constitution we now 'enjoy'  or junk it with a goal of creating a new version that may be more inclusive. 

These actors are thoroughly enjoying themselves, drawing the audience in. As it should be. The fourth wall is down for this one. .

The polemic regarding how the Supreme Court   of duly NOT elected white men ruled for years (Sandra Day O'Connor arrived as the first woman appointee in 1981) from what may be personal bias for years seems to say that SCOTUS is conducted not so much by law as by politcs.  Audio playbacks of recordings of actual discussions between justices trying to decide the meaning of the word "shall" would be funny if it was not so terribly important.  Google Castle Rock v. Gonzales for a very sad eye opener..

For those who snoozed in High School Civics class, this show may be an opportunity to discover a little interest in how our country works. Copies of the US Constitution are included in the price of admission..  Clearly this show has a strong feminist point of view. The eloquence of Kelley Dorney and her friends makes it palatable, educational & fun.

Kudos to caryn desai and her cast. 

A personal plug for a five minute walk to  The California Pizza Kitchen. Fast service and a great menu.   

 Cast

Kelley Dorney as Heidi and herself

Tom Trudgeon  as the Legion guy & Mike

 Sheila Correa  as herself

Creative Team 

Set designer Tim Mueller

lighting designer  Donny Jackson, costume designer Kim DeShazo, sound designer Dave Mickey 

 prop designer Patty Briles

Casting  Michael Donovan, CSA and Richie Ferris, CSA

Public Relations  Lucy Pollak

WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME

Written by Heidi Schreck
Produced and Directed 

by caryn desai [sic]

International City Theatre
Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center’s Beverly O’Neill Theater
330 East Seaside Way
Long Beach, CA 90802

Performances: May 3 – May 19
Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.: May 1 ONLY (preview)
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.: May 2 (preview), May 9, May 16
Fridays at 7:30 p.m.: May 3 (Opening Night), May 10, May 17
Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.: May 4, May 11, May 18
Sundays at 2 p.m.: May 5, May 12, May 19

Opening Night (May 3): $55 (includes post-show reception with the actors)
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays (except Friday, May 3): $49
Sunday matinees: $52
Previews: $37

Tickets and Information:
InternationalCityTheatre.org.
(562) 436-4610 
 



Sunday, April 28, 2024

H*TLER'S TASTERS AT ROGUE MACHINE

Trigger Warning..

Should  you provide the 'i' for "*"??   This slightly silly ditty with grave undertones is, at once a romp..  and the story of "what if."

Developed at the beloved Pacific Residence Theatre, HT  rolls merrily along in present tense and at once with grave historical times, as well. 

An odd dichotomy.

It's a  time of innocence in the time of these Deutscher Madel in the Third Reich fueled by the  somewhat annoying anachronistic conceit of bubbling teeny boppers snapping duck lips selfies.


           Ali Axelrad, Olivia Gill, Paige  Simunovich photo by Jeff Lorch

Michelle Kholos Brooks's play moves quickly.

The rare occasion to use the term "flibberty gibbet" twice in the same twentyfour hour time period is rare.  Ach du Lieber!! (See yesterday's review of NORA)  The flibberty gibbets in this play have been selected to serve their country by having what 'he'' is' having. The 'tasters' are making sure der Furhur isn't being poisoned! 

The playwright has created strong specific characters. Each woman brings an attitude that moves the argument along.  A good start.

Selfies and blazing light effects become what is basically a sort of slumber party with bone china and gold cups and dialogue that ebbs and flows, but very little substance is on the menu.

The tiny upstairs Henry Murray Stage  at The Matrix Theatre shoe horns in about 35 attendees, barely  enough room for the cast.   The discomfort of the odd 5PM curtain dissolve as the lights black out!!  Now, we do our best to fathom the bizarre notion that der Furher  actually employed women in this capacity. 

Anna (Ali Axelrad)  is the sensitive one. Hilda (Olivia Gill) is the bossy blonde and Liesel (Paige Simunovich) with her long braids is he peacemaker. They are later joined by Margot (Caitlin Zambito)  and her intriguing red coat.

Interestingly, the simply choreographed activity of these young women; la la la dancing.. their stylized consumption  of Hitler's veggie diet...   all comes around to 'why?'  Why they consumed entire meals seems odd.   

Director Sarah Norris, is up against a tiny space for the bouncing activity with front row audience practically .. well pretty much ON the stage with the action.. yes  there is action.. inches away. She presents the show mostly projected forward  in the essentially,  thrust situation. Site lines are sometimes a challenge.

Why?

I keep asking myself this question. The actresses are all just fine.  Really.. But Why? 

In virtually  every episode of The Twilight Zone, there's always a twist that leaves the audience informed or nodding.  H*tler's Tasters provides .. more or less.. that moment. But, again, why?  It's a challenging exercise as the girls banter and time their possible Heavenly exit.  The looming presence of the next meal . .looms.  The boredom of just waiting and flipping back to selfies to share their boredom?  I wish their phones had flashed and we'd somehow see the faces of the girls chosen to serve der Faderland. Projections of the pretty Aryan (mostly) women?

Why?  

"Because!" That's why.  

Because it's an exercise that may draw parallels between the blind devotion of people in 2024 enthralled with a 'hero' who poses like a dictator to their delight?  Or, is it a look back with the caveat that blind devotion may lead down some primrose path to oblivion?  This is a challenging piece of theatre.  The actresses are all in .. all in the same play at the same time.. all believable to the extent that they are devoted to their roles: these hapless characters.  It's an exercise. 

I noted the man next to me taking copious notes. Presuming he's writing a review as I am now, I hope to read it to see what I may have missed.

The bottom line is .. for me.. to be as helpful and useful as I can to small theatre in Los Angeles. I love Rogue Machine and their devotion to trying stuff.  An interesting touch is the preshow "check" by a crisp SS soldier (not credited)  in his little office as we file past to mount the stairs to the neon cell where we are, like the cast, trapped for the duration.. that little office is perfect.  The SS guard has a clip board. We all just ignordd him as we filed past.  Had his authority been exercised: imposed!!  that might have put us all on notice that we were being watched and counted.

The Cast
Ali Axelrad (Anna)
Olivia Gill (Hilda)
Paige Simunovich (Liesel)
Caitlin Zambito (Margot)

 

 oH*tler's Tasters

Written by Michelle Kholos Brooks
Directed by Sarah Norris
Produced by Guillermo Cienfuegos and Lexi Sloan
A Rogue Machine Production
  
CREW:
Joe McClean and Dane Bowman (Scenic & Lighting Design)
An-lin Dauber (New Light Scenic Design)
Christina Tag (New Light Lighting Design)
Carsen Joenk (New Light Sound Design)
Ashleigh Poteat (Costume Design)
Christine Cover Ferro (Costume Coordinator)
Chris Moscatiello (Sound Consultant)
Carsen Joenk (Sound Design)
Ashlee Wasmund (Original Choreographer)
Emmy Frevele (Choreography for Rogue Machine)
 **
Victoria Hoffman (Casting Director)
Rachel Ann Manheimer (Production Manager)
Public Relations  Judith Borne 
 
 Opening at 5pm on Saturday, April 27, 2024

8pm Fridays, Mondays; 5pm Saturdays; 7pm Sundays through June 3, 2024

(no performances on Monday, April 29, May 13)

Recommended for ages 14+

Upstairs on the Henry Murray Stage

Rogue Machine (in the Matrix Theatre)
7657 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90462
Tickest and information 
855.585.5185 
Face masks are optional but encouraged.



Saturday, April 27, 2024

NORA. IBSEN REDUX AT ANTAEUS

 

Peter James Smith
 Jocelyn Towne
                         (Photo Credit: Jenny Graham)

Ibsen to Bergaman through The Markers to Watson at Antaeus in Glendale is in living color though most memories of Bergman recall shades of gray.   Diversity casting in   Ibsen's chilly Norwegian Christmastide via the Swedish master of cinema provides an opportunity for Classic Theatre out of the starting gate at a very brisk pace. We still get the gist of the sttory and the 'feeling' that must have been shocking in 1889.

Forty odd years ago, Frederick J. Marker and Lise-Lone Marker took on the task to condense Igmar Bergman's version  of Ibsen's classic drama for the stage.  I wonder what The Markers would think of this 21st Century's take on the play today? Or Mr. Bergman? My best guess is that Ibsen would approve.

On Tesshi Nakagawa's exquisite yet oddly open set, I got a slightly Brechtian feeling, seeing characters transitioning from one scene to another. The actors' extremely high energy had every character full throttle, which must be Watson's intention.  Nuance takes a back seat to getting the energy of the play moving. 

As Nora, lovely Jocelyn Town, exhibits the carefree money orientd flibberty gibbet with nary a care until a villain, Krogstad, (Michael Kirby) arrives with a double whammy.

In his program notes, director  Watson, discusses the business of how Ibsen created characters that seemed to be drawn from real life:  human beings (as Nora declares herself to be) with whom the audience may share feelings.  Indeed, as each character arrives, there are hearts on sleeves and clearly drawn lines of demarcation as Nora's story of independence  unfolds.

The issue of reputation and moral fortitude factors in with Nora standing her ground regarding the business deal she has engineered to save her husbands's life.  Prodded by her old friend Christine (Mildred Marie Langford) Nora is urged to  step up and to be honest with her husband, Torvald (Brian Tichnell).  Later, we find out Christine has a former connection with Mr. Krogstad, who holds the key to freedom for Nora. 

Dr. Rank,  Peter James Smith, fawns at Nora's feet, his feelings adjunct to his physical "bankruptcy": another opportunity for strong empathy as he shares with Nora his undying devotion.

Either by  Bergman or the Marker's, the inevitable showdown between Nora and Torvald has been changed dramatically from the original text,   Recalling Watson's gratuitous 'full monty' in the Antaeus production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, we may be led to believe that the couple, after the costume party, may have spent the night together? Torvald's stripping seems unnecessary, though it does create tension and emphasizes the vulnerability he has never experienced.  Perhaps,  being naked may be symbolic, adding  to the moment where Nora declares for herself and makes her dramatic exit.

Every performance features  extraordinary delivery at a high octane  pace. Watson's fluidly choreographed stage pictures add beautifully to the theatricality of the piece.  

Jeff Gardner's  impressive lighting design  and beautiful 19th Century costumes by Jared A. Sayeg are outstanding. Aaron Lyons's sound design recalls impressive rumblings, literally shaking the theater.

CAST: 
NILS KROGSTAD: Michael Kirby*
MRS. LINDE: Mildred Marie Langford*
DOCTOR RANK: Peter James Smith
TORVALD HELMER: Brian Tichnell
NORA: Jocelyn Towne*

 

Production Team

Cameron Watson

Director

Tesshi Nakagawa

Scenic Designer

Terri A. Lewis

Costume Designer

Jared A. Sayeg

Lighting Designer

Jeff Gardner

Sound Designer

Aaron Lyons

Props Designer

Carly DW Bones

Intimacy Director

Jean Michelle Sayeg

Choreographer

Ellen Mandel

Composer

Talya Camras

Production Stage Manager

Max Tel

Assistant Director

Casey Collaso

Assistant Stage Manager
 
Courtney  Agustin
Executive Assistant 

 


NORA: 

via Inmar Bergman from Henrik Ibsen

Translated and Adapted

 by Frederick J. Marker and Lise-Lone Marker

Directed by Cameron Watson

Antaeus Theatre Compay

Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center, 

110 East Broadway

Glendale,
CA 91205

Sunday, April 21, 2024

August Wilson's King Hedley II at A Noise Within

August Wilson, one of, if not the most importat voices for African Americans in world theatre wrote "King Hedley II"  over twenty years ago as part nine of his  Pittsburgh Cycle.   Sadly, the message seems as current as it may have sounded in 2001.  Ironically, the name of a 'rich man' "Mellon" comes up just as another rich Mellon currently is stirring the political pot today.

As King Hedley II, Aaron Jennings shares the frustration of bunping up against bureaucracy , even at Sears where he has a receipt for photographs that Sears can't or won't find.  Seven years in the clink have soured him as he struggles to win back his pregnant wife, Tonya (Kacie Rogers), who has issues of her own.

The broad scope of this play with stirrig performances  features AAVE (African American Vernacular English) or Ebonics, which for me is slightly problematic.  The language of the times and the language that is specific to Wilson's characters is musical in its rhythms and specific energy .

Christian Henley, Gerald C. Rivers,
Ben Cain, Aaron Jennings
Photo by Craig Schwartz 
 Th


 The depth of Wilson's storyteling reaches into the heart of how a strong spitit  and loss of self.... to a degree...  builds to desperate acts for a man who wants to do the right thing, but is frustrated by the marginal opportunities afforded to a thrity something ex-con.  A feeling of Steinbeck permeates the individuals who populate King's existence  as he struggles to sort out a life. His heritage has left him with Ruby (Veralyn Jones) whom he resents. Parallel stories with slick as slick can be Elmore (Ben Cain) wooing Ruby relentlessly and a questionable 'side hustle' that King has with his crafty pal, Mister (
Christian Henley) are dashed off.  . 

Most impressive as a sort of Greek chorus, the soothsayer, Stool Pigeo (Gerald C. Rivers) opens the show dramatically: punctuating his introduction with magnificent drumming... Later on, his juju includes tearful mourning as he buries a black cat with the belief that his ritual. when sealed by blood, will resurrect the animal.

Gregg T. Daniel's direction on the impressive ANW thrust stage is filled with movement that ebbs and flows  with stage pictures that engross the audience.  At times the energy is electric.

Efren Delgadillo Jr's magnificent set allows for broad  gestures and intimate moments with over amped.. in a good way,  lighting design by Brandon Baruch setting mood.

I am late to the party, but hope that folks who are still waiting to see this play will find a time and go.

CAST:

Aaron Jennings: King.  

Veralyn Jones: Ruby

 Kacie Rogers: Tonya; 

 Christian Henley: Mister. 

 Ben Cain: Elmore

 Gerald C. Rivers:  Stool Pigeon.

The creative team includes scenic designer Efren Delgadillo Jr; lighting designer Brandon Baruch; sound designer Jeff Gardner; costume designer Mylette Nora; wig and makeup designer Shelia Dorn; properties designer Stephen Taylor; and dramaturg Dr. Miranda JohnsonHaddad. The production stage manager is Taylor Anne Cullen, with Arielle Hightower

 

Written by August Wilson
• Directed by Gregg T. Daniel
• Starring Ben Cain, Christian Henley, Aaron Jennings, Veralyn Jones, Gerald C. Rivers, Kacie Rogers
• Presented by A Noise Within, Geoff Elliot and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, producing artistic directors
 

WHEN:
Previews March 31 – April 5
Performances April 6 – April 28
Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.: April 3 ONLY (Preview)
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.: April 4 (Preview); April 11*; April 25 (dark April 18)
Fridays at 8 p.m.: April 5 (Preview); April 12**; April 19**; April 26**
Saturdays at 2 p.m.: April 13; April 20, April 27 (no matinee on April 6)
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: April 6 (Opening Night); April 13; April 20 (no 8 p.m. performance on April 27)
Sundays at 2 p.m.: March 31 (Preview); April 7***; April 14**; April 21, April 28
*The performance on Thursday, April 11 is “Black Out Night,” an opportunity for an audience self-identifying as Black to experience the performance together; tickets include a post-show reception; non-Black-identifying patrons are welcome to attend, or to select a different performance. 
**Post-performance conversations with the artists take place every Friday (except the preview) and on Sunday, April 14.
***A one-hour INsiders Discussion Group will take place on Sunday, April 7 at 12:30 p.m., prior to the matinee performance (separate admission: $25).

In addition to the above dates, four student matinees will take place on weekday mornings (April 10, April 17, April 18 and April 24) at 10:30 a.m. Interested educators should email education@anoisewithin.org.

WHERE:
A Noise Within
3352 E Foothill Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91107

TICKETS:
• Tickets start at $29
• Student tickets start at $18
• Wednesday, April 3 and Thursday, April 4 (previews): Pay What You Choose starting at $10 (available online beginning the Monday prior to that performance)
• Discounts available for groups of 10 or more

HOW:
www.anoisewithin.org
(626) 356-3100

 






Sunday, April 14, 2024

Stalin's Master Class at the Odyssey

David Powell's  "Stalin's Master Class"

features Josepf Stalin: dictator,  Zhdanov, Stalin's lap dog and two well known Russian composers. As I am a guy who has had limited exposure to concert music.. the symphony.. It's only fair to share an eye opener..  This Shostakovich symphony is simply amazing.  The link did not highlight, so,, please copy and paste for insights as to why Stalin might have been threatened by this music.

For early readers of this review.. Apologies for the clunky connection to the Shostakovich. Lucky Pollak, the best PR person on the planet always helps with typos and such. Lucy sent this link that actually works.  This orchastra is amazing. 


https://tinyurl.com/7z3c7s6z

This is Shostakovich with a multitude of amazing kids.. Kids!! Randy Lowell as the composer presents a mousy antithesis to what I hear in this music.

One appreciation I've had regarding this kind of music is from a former friend who actually  writes this stuff. When I asked if she could "hear"  every instrument that she created parts for, she responded casually, "Of Course.." as if anyone could do it.  How this factors into Stalin and the guys in this play?  I am not sure.. but if that sassy Doctor of Music says she can hear all of the instruments., then Shostakovich certainly must have .. it's pretty amazing.. And, this may be a threat to the old Georgia boy, Josef Stalin.

Prokofiev (Jan Munroe) is also under the gun from Comrade Stalin.    Prokofiev has missed an important state conference of musicians tasked to figure out the direction the State will dictate as to how composers will create in the new world of Stalin and Communism.  

Peter and the Wolf is Prokokiev's most familiar to me. this in marked contrast to that   of  Shostakovich. Thanks again to Lucy for this simple link. 
https://tinyurl.com/4nd4kf7t

Is the music of these world reknowned composers problematic to the "democracy" that Stalin (Ilia Volok) and his multitasked secretary of the Communist Party, Andrei Zhdanov (John Kayton)? Their intimidation strives to suss out with vodka and interrogation just what these intellectuals are up to.  The argument that all art takes time to be recognized..or not is pretty much ignored.

One thing to be said for Director Ron Sossi and The Odyssey is that light weight selections may be on the docket now and then, but this plunge into the politics of Post WWII Russia and those awakward times, may be reflected in what's going on in our world today. It is timely.

From the youtube selections that I grabbed just at random, I imagine that sitting in the Disney Hall or other important symphonic venue, to have the full orchestra with professioal musicians virtually in rapture, expertly knocking out this amazing music  might just be transformative. And! inspirational..and a threat to anyone who seeks to retain power.

Ilia Volok, Jan Munroe,
John Kayton and Randy Lowell
Photo by Jenny Graham

 

The transformations that interest Stalin with Zhdanov, in tow..  include wanting to turn back to the simple folk tunes of Stalin's Georgia childhood. He drunkenly recalls sitting under his father at his cobbler bench, tapping out a rhythm.

Factor in lots and lots of vodka and a terifying purge.. (Props to the props designer Jenine MacDonald, for this show) and the message is clear. The scary part is that there will always be "leaders" who may  have only their own greedy interests: Power and More Power.. at heart. 

Zhdanov's huge office set by Pete Hickok with a grand grand piano reflect the gloom of post war Russia and when Zhdanov locks the door after the composers have nervously arrived;  poor old Prokokiev with one foot in the grave, the tension builds to a ridiculous and drunken climax.   Dwarfs are never kights!

Cast: 

Prokofiev (Jan Munroe

Shostakovich (Randy Lowell )  

Stalin (Ilia Volok

 Zhdanov (John Kayton),

Crew:

Scenic Designer Pete Hickok
Lighting Designer Jackson Funke
Costume Designer Mylette Nora
Sound Designer Christopher Moscatiello
Prop Designer Jenine MacDonald*
Musical Director Nisha Sue Arunasalam
Pianists Nisha Sue Arunasalam, 

Michael Redfield
Pianist Nisha Sue Arunasalam
Stage Manager Jennifer Palumbo*

Public Relations  Lucy Pollak
Graphic Designer Luba Lukova
Produced for the Odyssey by Beth Hogan
 
 
Stalin's Master Class

• Written by David Pownall
• Directed by Ron Sossi
• Music Direction by Nisha Sue Arunasalam
• Starring John Kayton, Randy Lowell, Jan Munroe, Ilia Volok
• Produced by Beth Hogan
• Presented by the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, Ron Sossi Artistic Director, in association with Isabel and Harvey Kibel

WHEN:
Previews: April 10 – April 12
Performances: April 13 – May 26
Wednesdays at 8 p.m.: April 10 (Preview); April 17* and May 15* ONLY
Thursday at 8 p.m.: April 11 (Preview) ONLY
Fridays at 8 p.m. (wine nights): April 12**(Preview)**, April 19**, April 26* **; May 3**, May 10**, May17**, May 24**
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: April 13 (Opening Night), April 20, April 27; May 4, May 11, May 18, May 25
Sundays at 2 p.m.: April 14, April 21, April 28; May 5*, May 12, May 19, May 26
*Post-performance discussions on Wednesday, April 17; Friday, April 26; Wednesday, May 15; Sunday, May 5
**Wine Night Fridays: Enjoy complimentary wine and snacks following all Friday night performances.

WHERE:
Odyssey Theatre
2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles CA 90025

TICKET PRICES:
• Saturdays and Sundays: $20$40
• Fridays: Pay-What-You-Can (reservations open online and at the door starting at 5:30 p.m.)
• Previews: $15

HOW:
OdysseyTheatre.com
(310) 477-2055 ext. 2



Thursday, April 11, 2024

GRT present "CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT 'EM"

 


 

Lee Redmond's   new play in the small space up the heart attack steps at The Lonny Chapman Group Repertony Theatre is a hike and a laugh possibly worth  exploring. 

The device of a guy in the coma, Tom..or Tommy or Thomas or Mr. Axelrod. has its moments, but not enough to engage for the entire two acts that the story demands.

Staging is awkward, and the actors need to shout practically from the get go makes for a trial by volume. This is an awkward way to say that if  the director had any sense of rhythm or how to find the funny stuff in a situation with the guy in the coma unseen by the rest of the cast commenting on the argument and the situation.. yes.. it's pretty much a situation farce with little subtlety. The best line in the show was an ad lib by Tom, Tommy, Thomas when the stage lights began to flash red and green incessantly for no reason.. A tech guy came out at intermission to explain. Poop happens.

Broad characters with little to offer but shouting.. mostly, made for a long evening even with the early curtain. 

 

The flip side  and it's important!  Don't sit behind a kid with  haystack hair that blots out the entire stage left side of the stage. Sit higher up! 

Keep in mind that tthe Group Rep is a dedicated company with members who  are sincere in their efforts to bring a show to life.  This play really does have life in the text.  I know this, but two dimensional presentation of characters who actually may have three dimensions, except for Coma Guy.. and maybe with the fix on the tech, some kind professional may spend some tiem with the actors, reciting from memory Hamlet's Advice to the Players and hope to goodness, that they may take Hamlet's  advice to heart.

In cases like this..when the text has value but the recitation and the presentation are   thin,  a truly intriguing story with surprises and some fun slips ... it is just a shame.

GRT is a community playhouse.  Lonny Chapman's gift to North Hollywood  is important  and the efforts there are geared, mostly, to the tastes of their current administration and the local audience.  This show deserves an audience in spite of my having a difficult time with it.

The post show curtain speech by Tom, Thomas, Tommy was sincere and kind. He emphasized the importance of us all, audience and players and all..  agreeing to climb the stairs, catch our breath and abandon disbelief for a unique  experience. The sad thing for this performance is that the screwy run away lights and the ad lib were the highlight of the show. 

The text and the premise are valid and with proper handling might be a hit.  Or at least some fun.

Rather than embarrass the cast by naming names, I can say that on one level, every actor was pumped up and rarin' to go. What blew it for me was the volume .. the yelling.. the missed cues, the staging that needs a lot of help. 

 CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT ‘EM

World Premiere Play 
Written by Lee Redmond
 
April 11 – May 12, 2024
Thursdays and Sundays at 7:00pm; Saturdays at 4:00pm
Lonny Chapman Theatre - Upstairs at GRT (Second Floor)
10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood 91601

Thursday, April 11 at 7pm – Opening Night

 

Saturday, April 13 at 4pm

 

Sunday, April 14 at 7pm (Talkback with cast & staff)

 

Thursday, April 18 at 7pm

Saturday, April 20 at 4pm

Sunday, April 21 at 7pm (Talkback with cast & staff)

 

Thursday, April 25 at 7pm (Dr. Payne U/S Danny Salay performs)

Saturday, April 27 at 4pm (Dr. Payne U/S Danny Salay performs)

Sunday, April 28 at 7pm (Dr. Payne U/S Danny Salay performs)

 

Thursday, May 2 at 7pm (Chrissy U/S Holly Seidcheck performs)  

Saturday, May 4 at 4pm (Chrissy U/S Holly Seidcheck performs)  

Sunday, May 5 at 7pm (Chrissy U/S Holly Seidcheck performs) 

 

Thursday, May 9 at 7pm

Saturday, May 11 at 4pm

Sunday, May 12 at 7pm (Mother’s Day) – Show Closes