Ron Irwin Travel & Entertainment

51-50  The Play

Reviews, views and profiles


‘A Christmas Carol with Charles Dickens’ a most unusual play.

“A Christmas Carol with Charles Dickens” does indeed have all of the important elements of the more typical version of “A Christmas Carol”  but it does so with but one man, the exceptionally talented David Melville supported by the talented and beautiful Kalean Ung.  So while it is not exactly a one man show by any means it does lack the more common full cast including the Crachit family, Jacob Marley, Tiny Tim and the three ghosts but they are all well represented through the magic of David Melville. 

David Melville’s talent is by any rational measure extraordinary.  His wit is sharp and his comedic timing flawless.  He transitions from character to character with perfection and each and every character portrayed is completely what one would expect of the original tale upon which this show is based.  Kalean Ung’s participation adds just the perfect blend and brings another important dimension to the show including her rendering of one enchanting Christmas song with captivating beauty. 

Typically I don’t much care for one man or one woman or even just one of each shows but “A Christmas Carol with Charles Dickens” is a rare and wonderful exception.  Maybe that is why this is the 12th year the show has been produced by the Independent Shakespeare Company.  It will absolutely elevate your Christmas spirit unless perhaps you happen to be a young child.  My granddaughter joined me the night I saw the show and she was not impressed.  That is most likely because the steady flow of wit flowing from the stage is probably a bit more adult oriented and not easily understood by a 9 year old.  Having said that there is also no reason I can think of for not bringing a young child in terms of content but they may be disappointed.  But for about mid teen and up it is superb entertainment. 

Directed by Melissa Chalsma, starring David Melville and featuring Kalean Ung is playing now at The Independent Studio, 3191 Casitas Avenue, #130, Atwater Crossing Arts + Innovation Complex, Los Angeles, California 90039.  Ticketing and reservations available by calling 818-710-6306 or online at:  www.iscla.org.  Go and enjoy the show for a merry, bright and fun Christmas.  The show runs now through December 23rd with performances Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2:00 p.m. 

 

David Melville

Photo Credit:  Mike Ditz

Kalean Ung



‘Antony and Cleopatra – the musical’

Some many months ago in a secret location there was a meeting of three of the most important theatrical people on earth; William Shakespeare [by way of the Royal Shakespeare Company], Lin-Manuel Miranda and Gloria Gifford.  Their goal was to stage the absolute best performance of the great Shakespearian classic “Antony and Cleopatra.”  Sir Shakespeare insisted the show stay true to his original intent and style, while Lin-Manuel Miranda suggested not only music but even contemporary musical forms such as rap and rock.  All Gloria Gifford wanted was the best possible performance of the classic play in its modern most compelling form to appear under her direction on stage at Gray Studios in North Hollywood, California.  Now in all honesty I am confident that such a meeting did not actually occur but from what I just saw it very well might have happened that way. 

What is playing right now at Gray Studios is a beautiful heart-warming glorious show with the best of 16th century Shakespearean drama magnificently illuminated with ample doses of 20th and 21st century music.  How do you quickly establish a core element of Cleopatra’s personality?  You start the show with a fun and powerful rendition of “Super Freak.” a Rick James classic. And when the soldiers become a bit frustrated with the way things are going just add in a fantastic group version of “Satisfaction” from the Rolling Stones.  Yes, and then there is Shakespeare all along the journey. 

Cleopatra is undeniably gorgeous but very manipulative and often cunning.  Because the show is double-cast you may see either Lauren Plaxco or Lucy Walsh in the role of Cleopatra.  Both fit the image of magnificent beauty and both deliver superb performances.  This I say with absolute authority because I actually watched the show twice in just two days, something I cannot recall ever doing before in somewhere around 3000 plays viewed.  To my utter amazement I was equally thrilled two days in a row, because yes, it is that good.  Also Antony is played by Danny Siegel as well as by Chad Doreck and Caesar is played variously by Justin Truesdale and George Benedict.  One other character that deserves special mention is Mardian the Eunuch played in all performances by Antonio Roccucci who displays subtle yet powerful wit as well as some compelling vocal skills. 

When it is all said and done “Antony and Cleopatra – the musical” remains one of the most powerful and gripping love stories ever told.  However in its modern incarnation with abundant contemporary music it is in this man’s opinion the best version of a great Shakespearean play to have ever been put on stage.  I am convinced that even the ghost of the Great Bard himself is smiling as he looks down upon this performance.  There are of course two great tragedies within this show.  One is the death of both Cleopatra and Antony and the other is that it is but a short run closing December 30th 2017.  If you enjoy theatre you will love this show so make your reservation now because in this case to hesitate is to swallow the poison.  “Antony and Cleopatra” is at Gray Studios, 5250 Vineland Avenue, North Hollywood, California.  Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 7:30 p.m.  Reservations can be made at: 310-366-5505 and tickets may be purchased online at:  www.tix.com. 

My totally unabashed kudos to the entire cast and crew of this great show.  It is one show you will never forget.  But yes I am a critic so therefore I must criticize.  Here then are my two criticisms.  Rarely but once in a while a performer may be briefly and slightly off on his or her lip sync.  The other is that the run is just too darn short.  So there you have it and it is still a must see show. 

Photo One:

Chad Doreck Lauren  Plaxco

Photo Two:

Sonia Diaz, Lauren Plaxco, Jade Warner

Photo Three:

Danny Siegel, Lucy Wlash

Photo Credit

Mathew Caine


‘A Midsummer’s Night Dream’ now at Lonny Chapman Theatre 

Absolutely one of if not the most popular of William Shakespeare’s great comedic plays “A Midsummer Night’s Dream is currently at The Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood.  There are four interconnecting plots all brought together by a celebration of the wedding of Duke Theseus of Athens and Hippolyta the Amazon Queen which is set simultaneously in the woodland and in the realm of Fairyland.  Okay so immediately a little confusing.  But keep going because it just keeps getting wilder and funnier.

Hermia is passionately in love with Lysander but her father Egeus insists that she wed Demetrius but Helena is very much in love with Demetrius who Hermia wants nothing to do with but Egeus has already arranged the wedding of his daughter to Demetrius and thus an irrestible force meets an immoveable object causing Egeus to invoke an ancient Greek law under which Hermia must wed Demetrius or face death.  Theseus offers her one other option:  Lifelong chastity while worshipping Artemis as a nun.  Clearly there are no good choices on the table but the game is far from over. 

The interplay between the fairies, the royals and locals creates a steady stream of conflict and laughter.  One of Shakespeare’s best known and loved plays performed in thousands of theatres around the world before many millions of happy viewers.  In some ways it is a 16th century version of the Kardashians only with actual beauty, talent, class and theatrical skill. 

But now that I mention the 16th century I am also compelled to offer my opinion that it is about time that all those devoted admirers of the great bard William Shakespeare seriously consider converting the 16th century language into something more easily understood in the 21st century.  Yes I know well that the true Shakespearean devotees will passionately argue that Shakespeare can and must be enjoyed in the language he wrote when he wrote it or accept the unacceptable risk of damaging or even destroying critical nuances.   Perhaps, but then again by using more contemporary language you reach a far broader audience and extend even further the enormous reach of William Shakespeare. 

Regardless “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in Elizabethan English and all and under the Direction of Marc Singer is now wowing audiences at The Group Rep at Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Boulevard, North Hollywood, California 91601 every Friday and Saturday evening at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. now through December 31st, 2017.  If this is your first experience with the magical world of Shakespeare it will move you.  If on the other hand you a lifelong fan of the great bard you will very pleased with this high caliber performance.  Reservations may easily be made and tickets purchased by simply calling 818-763-5990. 
 


Benazir!

In the afternoon of December 27th 2007 former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto gave a speech at a Pakistan Peoples Party rally held in Rawalpindi’s Liaquat National Bagh.  After delivering her speech she, Benazir, entered a bullet proof car and departed the area.  Along her route there was a man on a mission.  As the car with Benazir approached the location of that man Benazir opened the top hatch of the vehicle so she could stand up and wave to the assembled crowd.  It was then that the man on the mission fired three shots at Benazir and then detonated a suicide vest filled with explosives and ball bearings.  He was no more than nine feet away from Benazir and so it is unclear whether it was the bullets or the shrapnel that killed her but what was instantly undeniable that Benazir Bhutto twice Prime Minister of Pakistan was dead, slain by an assassin

For those who knew her well her assassination was deeply tragic but not totally unexpected.  Benazir Bhutto came from a politically prominent family, was well educated having studied at both Harvard and the University of Oxford.  She was a passionate woman driven by a deep love of her people and she was the first woman ever elected to high political office in the predominantly Muslim nation of Pakistan which meant she also had plenty of powerful enemies. 

Benazir’s spiritual sister hails from neighboring India and her name is Aasha Gowda.  They both came from politically and socially prominent families and they both share a passion for fairness and equality for women regardless of their religious persuasion.  But unlike Benazir, Aasha immigrated to America in 1999 to pursue a career in computer coding.  That brought here to Hollywood and Disney Studios where she entered and won an in house competition for the final episode of “Lost” the TV series.  But she was denied the prize because at the time Aasha was a consultant to Disney and not an employee.  What she did gain from the experience was an open door to pitch show and movie ideas to Disney executives.  Then she became totally enraptured by the life of her spiritual twin Benazir and Aasha began working on a film script for a movie she has entitled “Benazir.”  

To add reality and powerful insight to her project she recently paid a visit to former Vermont Senator and American Diplomat Peter Galbraith.  Over the years Galbraith had befriended Benazir and has a significant amount of knowledge on a vast variety of elements that impacted both Benazir Bhutto and the country of Pakistan including some rare insights on Benazir’s assignation.    All of the details Galbraith shared with Aasha shall forever remain secret but I was told by Aasha that what she learned will add even more punch to her screen play and book.

As this is being written final script details are being worked out as are details for her book about Benazir.  While there are still many details to worked out, given the abundance and importance of the details she now possesses Aasha Gowda is extremely confident of a successful movie and book.  I also had the opportunity to speak at length with her producer Paul Gant and his enthusiasm was inspiring and much of the necessary funding, I was told,  is already in place. 

So when you put it all together, the first woman in history to achieve top political office in a Muslim nation, deeply loved by her people, murdered by a suicide bomber and her story soon to be told by her spiritual sister Aasha Gowda with the extraordinarily powerful insights of former American Senator and Diplomat Peter Galbraith this is one project deserving of full attention.  I know I will be in constant contact with Aasha, her Producer Paul Gant and all others that come on board and I will be reporting to you.  This really is something very very big. 

 

 

Benazir Bhutto

Aasha Gowda


‘A Christmas Story’ now at Sierra Madre Playhouse

A classic Christmas comedy that is focused almost entirely on one young lad’s passionate desire to own a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200 shot Range Model Air Rifle.  Come on, what nine year old boy from America’s upper Midwest wouldn’t want a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200 shot Range Model Air Rifle just as much as Ralphie?  But when he brings up his dream gift for Christmas mom shoots it down simply saying “You’ll shoot your eye out.”  Ralphie is discouraged but not willing to give up. 

Moving along his quest we are treated to variety of experiences people and ideas many of them foreign to those who know only Southern California.  A young boy so totally covered with winter clothing he could fall off a roof and wouldn’t get hurt, a dad who is the only one to make the dogs bark and enters every contest imaginable and a school teacher as tough as nails are all common to Northern Indiana and as presented in “A Christmas Story” sheer delight.  One element that is sadly universal is the school bully who Ralphie and his friends are often required to fend off.  No serious damage is done.  But at one point Ralphie does take action against the bully. 

The story is to some significant extent narrated by the adult Ralphie a/k/a Ralph as portrayed superbly by Jackson Kendall.  He weaves the story together as the actors, many of them very young deliver the story superbly.  With each passing day Christmas gets closer and Ralphie’s passion for getting his beloved Red Rider Carbine Action 200 Shot Range Model Air Rifle – with compass in the stock seems ever less likely.

Then just before Christmas Ralphie and his family visit the Higbee’s Department store where in a last ditch effort Ralphie asks Santa Clause for a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200 shot Range Model Air Rifle and is devastated when Santa tells him no because “It will put your eye out.” 

This is a show where the trip is far more important and fun that the end.  That said the question begs, does Ralphie ever get his dream, the Red Ryder Carbine Action 200 shot Range Model Air Rifle with a compass in the stock?  Well now for that you will need to see the show because I ain’t tellin.’  But this reviewer will make this one confession.  I grew up not far from Northern Indiana and when I was 9 years old I indeed had a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200 shot Range Model Air Rifle but with no compass.  Nevertheless I can fully understand Ralphies passion. 

As is the norm for the Sierra Madre Playhouse the show, “A Christmas Story” is deeply entertaining with abundant humor all presented by a clearly talented cast under the exquisite direction of Christian Lebano who also serves as the Sierra Madre Playhouse Artistic Director. 

It is absolutely a fun romp so don’t miss it.  It is at the Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 West Sierra Madre Boulevard, Sierra Madre, California now through December 31st, 2017.  There are a variety of show times and dates on Tuesdays through Sundays so to pick the day, date and time most convenient for you simply call:  626-355-4318 or visit their website at:  www.siearramadreplayhouse.org.  Making the experience even more enjoyable there is abundant free parking right behind the theatre.  And if you have never been to Sierra Madre it is a beautiful town with several superb restaurants, so make a full day and/or evening of it and enjoy the moment fully. 

 


‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’

Now at Garry Marshall Theatre. 

It’s only one street and just three homes and it is all happening in ancient Rome well before the birth of Jesus Christ.  One home houses the brothel of Lycus which is pronounced “like us.”  The next home houses the typical ancient Roman middle class family of Senex, Domina and their son Hero.  The third house is that of Erronius who constantly bemoans the long ago kidnapping of his son and daughter. Pseudolus is a slave owned by Hero.  Pseudolus is quick witted and conniving and extremely anxious to gain his freedom by whatever means possible.  Philia is a beautiful young woman currently in courtesan training at the house of Lycus but the word on this ancient Roman Street is that for now Philia remains a virgin and Hero is desperately in love with her.  Very aware of the desires of Hero, Pseudolus makes a deal with him.  When Pseudolus wins the heart and hand of Philia for Hero, then Hero shall free Pseudolus.  And if you think this is getting wee complicated just wait until you meet the Captain.

Yes I know it is a bit intense in detail and it gets much more so as the play goes on with the result of non-stop hilarity.  The original production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” opened on Broadway May 8th 1962 and closed after 954 shows on August 29th 1964.  Music and lyrics were by Stephen Sondheim and the book was by Larry Gilbert and Burt Shevelove. It was by any measure a smash hit on Broadway and now this classic musical comedy farce is on the West Coast at the fabulous Garry Marshall Theatre in Burbank.  I can’t honestly say that I saw the original production on Broadway but I will absolutely say that the cast in the Garry Marshall production is nothing short of superb, 

At times the show is wildly madcap. Always highly energetic and filled with rich satire “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” is pure entertainment even if somewhat challenging to explain.  Yes it is funny and yes it provides a steady stream of comedy but it also touches upon tougher issues such as slavery and treating women as chattel.  One may even wonder just how much our society has changed over the last 2000+ years.  But as you are contemplating you will also be laughing. 

This is only the second show in the first season of the Garry Marshall Theatre formerly known as the Falcon Theatre and from the early indications it promises to be a season of non-stop audience pleasing hits.  And it is also a fun but stressful time of the year so why not give yourself a pleasant escape and go and enjoy “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” at the Garry Marshall Theatre, 4252 West Riverside Drive, Burbank, California 91505.  Show times are Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 2:00 and 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 and 7:30 p.m.  Reservations may be made by calling:  818-955-8101. 


‘Psyche on Vine’ a very happy surprise.

I will confess that when my friend and sometimes collaborator Paul Gant invited me to see a show at The Three Clubs on Vine I said “Sure” with just a wee cringe.  Oh there Is nothing all that bad about the place; it is actually a very pleasant little tavern attached to another room where drinks and food are served and where shows are also performed including the one Paul had dragged me to see, “Psyche on Vine.”  I wasn’t expecting much and I figured I could handle a wee bit more than an hour of whatever.  And then it began.

The basic premise was a unique restaurant where all of the servers were also clinical psychologists and so the story went you could nourish your body while cleansing your mind, sort of a blend of Freud and Souffle’.  The results proved to be absolutely hilarious.  Very soon my initial negativity transformed into unrestricted enjoyment.  In truth it is sadly all too rare for any show to deliver the degree of hilarity and joy found in “Psyche on Vine.” 

The quality of the show and its rather large cast of players reflects the proven quality of its creators Doug Van Bebber and Sean Whalen.  Doug Van Bebber is a well known writer and producer with a long list of credits including “Crazy Hollywood Nights, Jackie Collins Presents and Street East.”  Sean Whalen is an actor, writer and director known for “Bunk’d, The Axe Murders of Villsca and Superstore.”  When combined with the direction of Kathleen Randazzo known for “Joe Dirt, Dichie Roberts Former Child Star and Bust” and a large cast of proven performers what you get is a GREAT SHOW. 

The wit and punch and flow of nonstop hilarity and wild entertainment ran from the opening moments to the very end and in all truth I can’t remember laughing so hard.  It was nothing short of theatrical brilliance.  So my initial negativity instantly evaporated into a near euphoria of giggles and joy.  Okay so thanks Paul, now let’s share this slice of theatre magic with the rest of the world. 

There is a good chance this show may run forever at The Three Clubs on Vine but to get actual show dates and times and to make reservations your best choice would be to visit their website at: www.psycheonvine.com.  And just in case it doesn’t run forever, visit that site now and make your reservations now because this is one show you don’t want to miss. 
 


‘deLEARious’ an Open Fist revival

In a style reminiscent of Mel Brooks and Monte Python the Open Fist Theatre Company has launched a revival of the smash hit production of “deLEARious” now on stage at the Atwater Village Theatre.  Book, music and lyrics are by Phil Swann and Ron West and it is directed by Ron West with Musical Direction by Jan Roper and it is nonstop laughter for the better part of two hours. 

While centered around the late 16th century the show does skip around through various times in history.  Queen Elizabeth I is dead, King James is in and King Lear is out and clearly the bible needs some major revision and while still open to debate there is abundant evidence that the Bard himself, William Shakespeare played a role in writing the King James version of the bible.  Meanwhile good old King Lear has clearly gone mad.  From this explodes a nonstop run of madcap comedy at its finest. 

The cast is large for a small venue, seventeen actors in all each rendering superb performances.  The show is a musical but basic consisting mainly of vocals with piano accompaniment. But the vocals are strong and good and the piano is excellent.  So when you add it all up what you have is a very funny show, very well done and consistently hilarious coupled with excellent music which when taken together generates almost nonstop laughter and a certain sense of joy and levity. 

In many ways “deLEARious” is complex and thus not that easy to define except to say that if their goal is to entertain then Open Fist and its cast of players has undeniably delivered.  You really owe it to yourself to go and enjoy this show. 

“deLEARious” is playing now through December 16th at the Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90039.  Show times are Thursday, Friday and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday Matinees at 3:00 p.m.  Making it easy there is even abundant free parking just 1 block south of the theatre.  Reservations and ticketing are available either by calling 323-882-5912 or online at:  www.openfist.org. 


The very best of Southern California.  The sea, the mountains and the desert all captured on this beautiful 23 minute breathe taking video.

Just click the pic and ENJOY!


'A Map of Virtue’  weird and wonderful

There is a new team in town, an experimental theatre company called “Barker Room Rep” and they are strutting their stuff with Erin Courtney’s award winning play “A Map of Virtue” at the Atwater Village Theatre. 

It begins with a man and a women standing on stage each addressing the audience and my very first thought was “Oh no!”  But their words resonated and I got hooked.  It seems they had or perhaps developed a common bond with a bird or actually a small statue of a bird.  That bond keep them attached in some perhaps spiritual way over time.  But the woman was inspired by the bird to become a painter and a rather successful painter at that.  One day the man sees a painting of the bird, a large very well done painting but its existence enrages him for it is after all his bird and so he does something wild and criminal. 

Further down this ever more bizarre road the man with the bird, the woman painter and her husband find themselves in a small shed in a very remote area far from town.  There they are tormented by another woman and a man in a bird costume.  Will they die there, or will they escape?  What will come next in their lives?  It is all on the table and for all of its weirdness or perhaps because of it the show grows ever more captivating and compelling.

My experience has been that often when a playwright strives for uniqueness through quirkiness the attempt fails and the show is a mess.  That is absolutely not true the case in “A Map of Virtues” which is deeply entertaining and riveting throughout as it moves from one virtue to another and back again the ride is fun and moving thus proving that simply being different is not the same as being bad.  Heck when a Puerto Rican playwright decided to make a play about the founding father’s of America who were in his mind black coupled with some great music and choreography his show has done very well.  And yeah sure “A Map of Virtue” certainly lacks the musical element and will never exceed the massive success of “Hamilton” but it is nevertheless extremely worthwhile and deserves your attention. 

“A Map of Virtue” is playing at the Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90039 now through November 18th 2017.  Show times are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8:00 with a Saturday matinee November 18th and a Sunday matinee November 12th both at 4:00 p.m.  Reservations and ticketing are available online at:  www.artful.ly/store/events/13400 Theatre Box Office. 

 

 

Top row: Ryan Ashton, Mark Sitko, Donald Rizzo, Sam T. West

Middle row: Randal Sumabat, Michael Rahhal, Erin Courtney, Mary Jane Gibson

Bottom row: Carlo Maghirang, David Roy, Megan Branch, Bobby McElver, Ian Merrigan

 


‘The Man Who Came to Dinner’ now at Actors Co-op

Written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman “The Man Who Came to Dinner” was first produced on stage in 1939 and has been on many stages around the world with adaptations on radio, TV and even a feature film.  Now this sensational award winning classic comedy has come to the stage at Actors Co-op in its 26th season and it shines bright. 

The Stanley family home in small town middle America Mesalia, Ohio is in a frantic buzz.  It is in the mid 1930’s and world famous radio super star Sheridan Whiteside has graciously accepted an invitation to join the Stanley family for dinner.  Unfortunately Sheridan Whiteside fell as he ascended the stairs to the family home.  Apparently somehow a pebble had landed on the stairs and caused Whiteside to fall.  So as the show opens everyone is running around providing care for Whiteside.  Finally he emerges from the bedroom in a wheelchair.  The demanding attitude of Whiteside immediately launches peppered with wit, sarcasm and way more than just a little arrogance. 

Immediately Sheridan Whiteside takes complete control over the Stanley home and all within it.  The family, out of a sense guilt over Whiteside’s injury complies.  The string of events, plots and sub plots rapidly develop.  Whiteside fills the library with cockroaches and penguins and invites paroled convicts over for lunch.  Yes it is outrageous and hilarious.  Whiteside’s medical doctor continues to pester Whiteside to promote a book written by the good doctor.  Then a local newspaper reporter, Bert Jefferson shows up and gets the instant wrath of Whiteside, but Bert stands tall and gains the instant positive attraction of Whiteside’s secretary Maggie Cutler.  Throughout Whiteside is in steady telephone conversation with the top entertainment industry leaders and super star actors of the day. 

Sheridan Whiteside’s behavior would most likely be deplored for it is mostly deplorable yet as presented in “The Man Who Came to DInner” it becomes a steady source on unending laughter even as he engages in an evil plot to foreclose on the glowing love between the reporter and Whiteside’s secretary.  Sensing the sudden arrival of the glamorous diva Lorraine Sheldon as an effort by Whiteside to destroy her relationship with Bert Jefferson, Maggie responds with a brilliant counter attack involving a British super star Beverly Carlton. 

The chaos and conniving and thrusting and jabs keep building to a crescendo and the show is a wild ride simply bristling with wit and brilliant humor presented by a superb cast rendering a truly outstanding performance.  But how does this wild ride and chaos ultimately resolve?  Well now for that you can best find out by seeing the show and for that you will also be rewarded with a bit over two hours of great entertainment.  You will even discover just how injured Sheridan Whiteside really is. 

“The Man Who Came to Dinner” is at the Actor’s Co-op David Schall Theatre, 1760 N. Gower Street, Hollywood, California 90028 now through December 17th 2017.  Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.  Reservations and ticketing available by calling 323-462-8460 or online at:  www.actorsco-op.org. 
 

 

 

 

Greg Martin, Jean Kauffman and John Allee

Photo credit:  John Diugolecki

Connor Sullivan and Natalie Hope MacMillian


‘Les Liaisons dangereuses’ gripping, torrid and dark

There are dangerous connections in Southern California these days and they don’t all involve Harvey Weinstein.  In fact one such dangerous connection had its beginnings in France way back in 1782 when Durand Neven first published the works of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos.  Since then it has been presented not only as a novel but on the theatrical stage, as opera, ballet and even on film thus demonstrating that mankind seems to be eternally intrigued by seduction, cruelty, exploitation and wild manipulation especially within the ranks of nobility.  Now it is being powerfully displayed on the stage of the Antaeus Theatre Company at the Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center, 110 East Broadway, Glendale, California. 

Elyse Mirto portrays La Marquise de Merteuil and Scott Ferrara portrays Le Vicomte de Valmont, ex-lovers and vicious competitors in a never ending games of deception and manipulation of those lesser people around them.  In my view the two elite game playing manipulators La Marquise de Merteuil and La Vicomte de Valmont rapidly emerge as two people you love to hate and when one of them is killed there is no pain. 

The connection has been made between pre-revolutionary France and our modern world in terms of vast corruption especially amidst the elite.  But I don’t see it as being quite that simple.  Throughout recorded history there have always been those who use their power and advantage to shamelessly play with and even destroy other “lesser” people around them.  As disgusting as that reality may be the show itself is powerful and compelling.  And beyond mere entertainment “Les Liaisons dangereuses” further serves to stimulate deeper thought which is always a positive.    

The performance of Scott Ferrara in character as Le Viconte de Valmont is absolutely brilliant with a constant display of disgusting but exquisitely delivered efforts to verbally control the targets of his desires.  You may well hate the intentions and the pain and suffering he causes but you will be forever impressed by his extraordinary if albeit on some level wildly dark talent. 

NOTE:  This show is double cast so you may not see the same players I saw when reviewing the show.  But Antaeus has a long tradition and powerful reputation for presenting the very best so it is unlikely that you will be disappointed.  It is playing now through December 10th at the Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center, 110 East Broadway, Glendale, California.  Show times are at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.  Reservations and ticketing are available by calling 818-506-1983 or on line at: www.Antaeus.org. 

Scott Ferrara & Elyse Mirto

Liza Seneca & Scott Ferrara

Photo Credit:  Geoffrey Wade Photography

 


‘Redline’ simply outstanding theatre. 

Every play, television show and movie begins in the imagination of one or more writers.  The writer then must reduce his or her imagination to the printed word.  Then it becomes the actor’s job with the help of a director to bring those words to life.  In “Redline” Christian Durso presents a riveting tale of just how one man’s 5 seconds of rage radically changes the lives of many.  Then vastly talented and award winning actors James Eckhouse as Raymond and Graham Sibley as Jamie with direction from Eli Gonda transform the written word into powerful and compelling live action on stage.  It is one unforgettable wild ride.                                                                                 James Eckhouse >

I think what makes “Redline” so compelling is that it artfully stretches the bounds of human experience but without exceeding plausibility.  What I mean is that the story told has elements that virtually anyone can relate to.  With the star level acting of Eckhouse and Sibley it penetrates the hearts and minds of the audience and in so doing provides a five star level entertainment.  All too often when a playwright pens a script with the good intention of grabbing and holding the minds and hearts of the audience he or she will go a bit too far and lose credibility or not go far enough causing the audience to lose interest,  Christian Durso found and delivered a powerful and perfect balance.  James Eckhouse and Graham Sibley deliver it as close to perfection as the human experience allows. 

Who hasn’t had relationship problems?  Who hasn’t felt rage sometimes to a very dangerous level?  Who hasn’t done something they regret for a very long time yet shift their focus to other distractions to help ease their pain?  All of these and other elements can be found in “Redline” a world premier launching the 10th season of the IAMA Theatre Company and currently on stage at the Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood, California 90038.  Reservations and ticketing available by either calling 323-380-8843 or online at:  www.iamatheatre.com. 

                                                                                                                                                     Graham Sibley >

NOTE:  There is some very harsh language in this show.  It is not gratuitous but rather very appropriate within context.  Yet for the young and hyper sensitive it could be disturbing and therefore this show should be avoided by the young and/or super sensitive.  For everyone else do not miss it because you will thoroughly enjoy the experience. 


‘The Ugly Duckling’  award winning musical 

 

Written by Hans Christian Anderson and first published in 1843 The Ugly Duckling is a story of transformation, acceptance and healthy interrelationships.  It told the story well then and now that extremely important message is being delivered every Saturday afternoon by the Storybook Theatre at Theatre West.  I cannot think of a better tale to tell in these increasingly divisive times.  When a duckling is born who doesn’t look or sound exactly like all of the other ducks she is scorned until one day it is discovered that the ugly duckling is in fact a beautiful swan.  The story speaks to how people or ducks, dogs and swans all have their unique qualities but their uniqueness can enhance their beauty and is not a good reason for bullying or other bad behavior.  Now this important message is be delivered with great passion and good cheer by the Storybook Theatre as a musical. 

A big part of the magic is that virtual every child in attendance gets an opportunity to go on the stage and perform even if only a tiny role.  Watching the show it became clear that every child who participated was thrilled to do so adding yet another element not generally available in the vast majority of theatrical productions.  This is entertainment produced to inform and thoroughly entertain children primarily from about age 2 through about age 8 or 9.  Of course the parents find joy as well through the happiness of their children.  And everyone receives the very important lesson of acceptance amongst a diverse population.  If only that message could be effectively delivered worldwide we might just be able to end war.

“The Ugly Duckling” Storybook Theatre style was created by Lloyd J. Schwartz with music and lyrics by Adryan Ross, directed and designed by Anthony Gruppuso and produced by Barbara Mallory Schwartz.  The performers are Anthony Gruppuso as Dog, Kathy Garrick as Mama Duck, Heather Keller as Rosie and Kristin Towers Rowles as Ugly Duckling/Swan.  It is a sweet and wonderful treat for all but it is especially fun for young children and their parents.  It is at Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Boulevard West, Los Angeles, California now through March 3rd 2018 every Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m.  They also encourage school field trips and I couldn’t think of a better one.  For further information and reservations call 818-761-2203.
 


The Lady in Motion

I recently heard of a woman in the greater Los Angeles area who had earned a remarkable reputation as one of the most effective and compelling instructors in the art of greater health, better movement and far less pain through her own style and application of yoga. joga, kinesiology and exercise physiology.  She is the founder and owner of both Champion Pilates and Body by Jessica and her client list is filled with some of the biggest names in Hollywood.  I very much wanted to meet this lady Jessica Schatz and learn more of her professional life as a preeminent health and fitness coach, a subject long dear to me. 

We decided to meet at the Chado Tea Room, the perfect place located right next to the main door to the Dolby Theatre where once every year the Hollywood elite show up to participate in the great celebration of Oscar.  Chado Tea Room is also a perfect spot for anyone who enjoys great tea and well prepared and mostly very healthy food. 

I arrived early as is my habit but not long after so did the very lovely Jessica Schatz, the Core Expert and personal trainer to A list movie stars and NBA players.  We ordered some hibiscus tea and began our chat.

From a very young age Jessica Schatz had been fascinated with movement.  She began to dance and soon became professionally engaged on stage in various productions in San Francisco and Los Angeles.  Today she is far too busy to resume theatre work but she does train one of the cast members of Hamilton currently at the Pantages Theatre.  Her philosophy is founded on her belief that everyone has the opportunity to live a better life.  Her goal is to give each client the power to shape their lives from the inside out starting with the core and then connecting mind, body and spirit. 

But beyond the obvious connection with movie stars and professional athletes Jessica Schatz reaches out to many people including one elderly gentleman she holds very dear to her heart.  This particular gentleman suffers from Parkinson’s disease, a horrible disease for which there is no known cure and which gets progressively worse over time.  So Jessica makes no claim of curing the man, but it makes her extremely happy to see him in much less pain than when she first started working with him.  Sadly yes the Parkinson’s remains but today with less pain and far better movement a very powerful benefit for a now much happier man. 

As Jessica continued to tell me about her work and philosophy I thoroughly enjoyed her soothing voice that delivered her very important message.  I also enjoyed with great humor the actions of s small group of tourists that had entered the tea room.  When they saw Jessica they became very excited and started talking gleefully amongst themselves and then they started taking a few photographs of Jessica.  She didn’t notice any of it I am certain, but it brought amusement to me so in the end it was a perfect moment.  A brilliant and beautiful lady, excellent tea and superb light snack, a focus on great health and wellbeing sprinkled with a fun dose of humor all taking place at a world renowned location.   

To learn more about this amazing lady you may visit her website: jessicaschatz.com -OR- just click on the photo above.  



‘The Face Behind the Face Behind the Face’  A musical adventure by Anthony Gruppuso

I couldn’t help but to wonder as I sat in my seat at the charming Theatre West watching the undeniably vastly talented award winning actor/singer Anthony Gruppuso take us on a wild ride through  the challenges faced by all who pursue a career in the performing arts just how many in the audience could completely identify with that experience.  I mean Theatre West is located right next to Universal Studies and clearly draws much of its audience from the surrounding area often referred to as Hollywood. 

He tells his tale while delivering seventeen songs all performed beautifully by Anthony while at the same time reflecting on the frustrations of call back after call back after call back without landing the part.  Even worse moments when he gets the part and then the show falls apart before ever being performed. 

Yet for all of the disappointments and frustrations would Anthony Gruppuso or any other performing artist stop chasing the dream and accept life as, oh I don’t know maybe an insurance salesman?  I don’t think so because it is their passion that drives them.  But can any of this be truly entertaining to people not in “the industry?”  Yes, of course it can because after all a show without an audience is irrelevant so the audience in its own way shares in the passion of the performers.

“The Face Behind the Face Behind the Face” has earned Anthony Gruppuso a nomination for Broadway World’s Male Artist of Year and in 2014 a Scenic Award for Most Memorable Solo.  Now it continues to dazzle audiences at Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Boulevard West, Los Angeles, California.  But there are only a few shows left each on Sunday night at 7:00 p.m. now thorough October 29th.  Ticketing and reservations are available by calling 323-851-7977 or online at:  www.theatrewest.org. 

Theatre West is now in its 55th year.  Theatre companies don’t last that long without consistently producing quality shows and this is one of them. 

 

Photo Credit

Richie Gaona


Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The 39 Steps’

Award winning Actor’s Co-op Theatre Company has just launched its 26th season with Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps” adapted by Patrick Barlow.  Okay so say Alfred Hitchcock and what do you think?  I think a wild ride through powerful mystery with many unexpected twists and turns.  Well this show does do that, sort of, but clearly the focus on this particular production is a steady dose of wild and whacky comedy in many ways similar to Monty Python. 

The four clearly talented players steadily deliver a rush of sometimes slap stick but always funny material while taking on multiple characters.  The play is loosely based on a 1935 thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock which was itself loosely based on a 1915 novel by John Buchan. 

The pace is fast, furious and mostly hilarious.  The story follows Richard Hannay played by a newcomer to Actor’s Co-op Kevin Shewey as he desperately seeks to avoid arrest for murder.  The costume and scene changes are non-stop and add to the overall comedic experience of the show. 

If you want deep penetrating drama wrapped in mind bending mystery this is not your show.  But if are looking for an evening of near non-stop laughter then this presentation of “The 30 Steps” is the show to see.  It runs now through October 29th 2017 at The Actor’s Co-op located on the grounds of the Hollywood Presbyterian Church, 1760 N. Gower Street, Hollywood, California.  Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.  Tickets and reservations are available online at:  www.actorsCo-op.org or by calling 323-462-8460.

 


‘Master Class’  the best show in town

“Master Class” was written by acclaimed playwright and longtime friend of Garry Marshall.  It was also one of Garry’s favorite plays and now it has become one of mine.  “Master Class” a brilliantly written masterpiece delivered with stunning power and perfection by the cast now on stage at the Garry Marshall Theatre in Burbank, California.  It is based on the life of Opera super star Maria Callas, a life of wild swings and lofty aspirations, filled with monumental success and overwhelming tragedy.  Bringing that story to life on stage now at the Garry Marshall Theatre is Carolyn Hennesy as Maria Callas.  Her performance is totally riveting.  I have never seen any performance that was more engaging, moving and compelling than that being presented by Carolyn Hennesy in “Master Class.”

The entire production is a presentation of a “Master Class” offered to aspiring opera singers by the gloriously famous Maria Callas.  It is nothing like a typical play but then Maria Callas was far from being a typical person.  Her first student in the show is Sophie de Palma played by Maegan McConnell.  Now I will admit that I have never been a huge fan of Opera but when Maegan McConnell sang as Sophie her voice totally captured and held me.  She was and is spectacular. 

Another of Maria Callas’ students was Anthony Candolino brought to life by Landon Shaw II.  He also has a rich and powerful tenor voice but for him it was far more a display of attitude that added yet another dimension to the show. 

Then there was Sharon Graham played by Aubrey Trujillo-Scarr, Manny portrayed by Roy Abramsohn and Jeff Campella as the stagehand.  All superb performances adding laughter, context and texture to this beautiful show.  You will laugh, you will cry and you will never forget this great presentation of “Master Class.” 

“Master Class” is in many was the perfect choice for the launch of the rebirth of the fabulous Falcon Theatre as the Garry Marshall Theatre renamed and reformed in honor of its founder the late great Garry Marshall.  It is absolutely a show not to be missed.  It is at the Garry Marshall Theatre, 4262 W. Riverside Drive, Burbank, California.  The show runs now through October 22nd, 2017 with show times Thursday and Friday evenings at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m.  The easiest ways to make your reservations and purchase tickets is by simply calling 818-955-8101. 

Many many years ago now I had the great pleasure of watching Joel Grey in Cabaret on Broadway.  That experience was so delightful it has never faded in my memory.  “Master Class” at the Garry Marshall Theatre is of that same caliber. Go see it, you will be glad that you did.  And if you want to see other recent reviews take a minute and visit ronirwin.net. 

 

 

 


‘Stupid Kid’ World Premiere

 

The story actually begins 14 years before the current day when then young Chick Ford inexplicably stands up in court and pleads guilty to the murder of his girlfriend.  All along he maintained his innocence yet he plead guilty and went off to prison.  As the show begins he arrives back home one day earlier than planned and faces a sea of hostility from his family.  It doesn’t take long for the local news media to get involved because they believe a murderer has returned to their sleepy Midwestern town.  One very harsh reality made very obvious is that Chick’s parents have fallen into poverty during the 14 years he was in prison and that condition only further exasperates the level of stress that engulfs Chick’s homecoming. 

The interplay between Chick, his mom, his dad and Unclemike is boisterous, often hostile and nonstop leading ultimately to a crescendo at a brief pause for intermission.  That there were several powerful dynamics in play full understanding was left unresolved until Act Two when among other astonishing reveals is the fact that Chick had indeed not committed the crime.  But why then did he plead guilty?  Well now for that you need to see the show and you truly should do so.

I will grant Act I was so dramatic and over the top with no obvious direction it at times felt as if we were watching a wild and perhaps pointless mess.  But stick around because it all becomes blazingly clear as Act Two unfolds so when taking this show as a whole it is genuinely an outstanding presentation of theatre art. While it is unlikely most people will have experienced every element found in this show everyone will have means of connection at some level making it truly relatable and therefore even more powerful.  And while every player was superb I give a special nod to Rob Nagle as Unclemike, the kind of man you will love to hate. 

Leave the children at home but otherwise go and enjoy “Stupid Kid” at The Road Theatre Company, 10747 Magnolia Boulevard, North Hollywood, California.  Show times are:  Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m.  For tickets either call 818-761-8838 or go online at:  www.RoadTheatre.org. 
 

Joe Hart, Taylor Gilbert, Rob Nagle, Allison Blaze, Ben Theobald.

Photo Credit:

Brian Cole


Miramar Airshow – a Salute to Vietnam Veterans

The annual air show is under way right now at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego, California and it is spectacular.  The gates open at 8:00 a.m. By 9:00 a.m. renowned stunt pilot Sean D. Tucker takes to the air in his Oracle Challenger II airplane.  Then is off to the air power and Marine Corps races with a never ending stream eye popping demonstrations involving several different aircraft including the amazing AV-8B Harrier with its vertical takeoff and landing capabilities.  The U. S. Army’s Golden Knights parachute team is true sky poetry in motion and they are followed by equally as impressive U. S. Navy’s Leap Frogs Parachute team. 

The United States Marine Corps, Third Marine Aircraft Wing marching band entertains with their precision and dazzling execution including, of course, the United States Marine Corps hymn.  But it is in the afternoon when the skies just explode with utterly amazing flight demonstrations from The Patriots Jet Team followed by the never to be missed true aviation super stars, the Blue Angeles.  For 71 years the Blues have entertained, dazzled and deeply impressed millions of people all over the globe. 

Beyond the flight line there many aircraft and other military vehicles on static display.  I even saw two aircraft I had personally seen well over 50 years ago.  One was a A6A Intruder from VMA(AW) 242 when I severed in that, the first ever Marine Corps A6A squadron at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina.  The other was an A4 Skyhawk which was in Chu Lai, Vietnam when I was in Chu Lai, Vietnam.  But even if that little slice of personal nostalgia doesn’t move you  there is so much to see and enjoy including a row of booths representing most if not all of the units currently operating out of MCAS Miramar.

On Friday, I along with about 200 other Vietnam Veterans were acknowledged and “Pinned” in honor of our service in Vietnam.  This modest but very moving ceremony took place directly in front of a scaled down version of the Vietnam War Memorial Wall that bears the names of more than 58,000 American men and women who died while in service of their country in the Republic of Vietnam. 

MCAS Miramar is located in north eastern San Diego between the 805 and 15 freeways.  Parking is free as is general admission.  However there are also various other seating and chalet options available.  For further information you may call:  http://www.miramarairshow.com/.  And by all means even if you cannot make the show this year do put in your to do list for next September. 

 

 


‘Fixed’ premieres in Los Angeles.

Wow!  I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing.  It reached down deep within me and brought back powerful memories from over a half century ago and now here it was on stage in Los Angeles.  Way back when the dinosaurs roamed I was a young Marine traveling throughout much of South East Asia.  What many of us found rather frequently were a number of very pretty young women who weren’t – women that is.  They were what we came to understand as “Lady Boys” and we soon understood what others meant when they told us that in Asia some of the most beautiful women weren’t. 

The whole vide and life style is by any measure extraordinary and playwright Boni B. Alvarez has done a masterful job of the portraying the often weird and bizarre yet at the same time unavoidably compelling world of Lady Boys and massage parlors where the customers usual enjoy a happy ending.  Presenting this world takes enormous delicacy and finesse which Boni B. Alvarez demonstrates extremely well.  Failing such skill it would be far too easy to merely dismiss the world of the Lady Boys and those around them as nothing more than weirdos, but that misses the greater point.  Bizarre that world is but it is also brimming with passion and joy and pain on many levels and all of that comes through in “Fixed.” 

“Fixed” is in the end a tragic love story of a relationship that never had a chance but which was nevertheless a powerful motivator for Miracles [played by Chris Aguila].  Her or his love interest is Mariano [Wade Allain-Marcus] the wild brother of a successful politician who is very conflicted.  How the relationship plays out is the central theme of the show and while tragic it is also unforgettable. 

It is focused on Filipino massage parlor in Los Angeles and not in Olongapo, Philippines or Bangkok, Thailand or even Singapore but the same dynamics are in play regardless of location.  Screenwriter Boni B. Alvarez is perfect in his presentation Gigi the manager or in some places known as the mamasan of the establishment. 

But enough of the details, this is a show extremely well presented and most who see it will be deeply impressed.  However I do caution that some people may find it offensive and it is definitely not for children, If you want to be exposed to very real element within the greater human experience do get over the Echo Theatre Company at the Atwater Village Theatre and get your imagination and curiosity fixed. 

“Fixed” runs now through October 22nd at the Atwater Theatre, 3269 Casitas Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90039. Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30 p.m., Sundays at 4:00 p.m. and Mondays at 8:30 p.m.  Reservations and ticketing are available by calling 310-307-3753 or online at:  www.EchoTheatreCompany.com. 

 

 


A very special treat for all true theatre buffs.  Just click on the cover to your left, order and ENJOY!  


‘Walking to Buchenwald’ a journey into extreme.

Currently on stage at the Atwater Village Theatre the Open Fist Theatre Company presents “Walking to Buchenwald” written by Tom Jacobson.  It is a fairly short two act show with a superb cast who do an excellent job of creating an abundance of humor while concurrently stimulating deeper thought as they first prepare and then embark on a trip throughout much of Europe.  It is on that trip we learn from the playwrights perspective the world vision of America has turned very negative. 

What begins as a very humorous family tale soon evolves into a severely partisan and often wildly misstatement of world history.  Oh it starts out rather funny with the older lady proclaiming that they, she and her husband, are the only two democrats in Oklahoma.  But as the show progresses the hate and contempt they hold apparently for President Donald Trump and gigantic misstatements of historical fact emerge.

At one point there is a discussion of the Peace Memorials in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  I never visited the memorial in Nagasaki but as a young United States Marine I had the honor of visiting the peace memorial in Hiroshima and was forever moved but what I saw.  Yes, it was a horrific moment in world history and it was and remains for now at least true that the United States of America is the only nation to have ever used a nuclear weapon against another nation and its people.  Given that reality I quickly formed and still hold to the opinion that no major political leader on earth should be allowed to hold office until such time has he or she visits the peace memorial at Hiroshima.  That will never happen, of course, but it is my dream. 

But to say that those attacks were unjustified because Japan was just about ready to surrender is absolutely contrary to the reality of that time.  The leadership of Japan in 1945 was totally committed to continuing the fight.  So when then President Harry S. Truman, a democrat by the way, made his decision to launch two nuclear attacks on Japan that decision weighed those horrible deaths of thousands against the very real probability that were the war to continue the death toll could easily have gone into the hundreds of thousands or even into the millions of both Japanese and American people.  It was not an easy decision for President Truman but based on then available facts it was in his opinion the best of two very ugly choices. 

Throughout our history our nation and for that matter every nation has had leadership not always enjoyed by the people it served.  No one now or throughout history has been loved by everyone.  Our nation has for a long time been controlled by a mix of the two main political parties, the Republicans and the Democrats.  But throughout my life in the end all people were first and foremost Americans and their political party was second.  I saw an elegant example of that truth when I had the honor one day to be a guest of Senator Everett Dirksen who at the time was the leader of the Republican party in the Senate.  As we were talking by the door to the Senate chamber another man came off of the Senate floor to say hello.  He was a very prominent Democrat by the name of John Kennedy.  Both men greeted each other warmly despite their political differences. 

But now in “Walking to Buchenwald” we get to experience the elderly woman claiming to feel so much more freedom in Europe than back home in America.  She is so disgusted with the current President and so imbued with a whole new sense of power that she celebrates the moment by advocating the assignation of the President.  NOTE to writer Tom Jacobson, your actress was not in France at the time, she was in California, USA where it is a very serious felony to advocate the killing of any American President of any political persuasion.  May I suggest Ton that one should always at least attempt to disagree but without becoming disagreeable and I just happen to be of the opinion that advocating the murder of a sitting President of any political persuasion to be extremely disagreeable as well as felonious. 

If you enjoy political extremism you will love “Walking to Buchenwald.”  It is at the Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Avenue, Los Angeles, California Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 7:00 p.m.  Reservations may be made and tickets purchase by calling 323-882-6912. 

PHOTO Ben Martin & Laura James    CREDIT  Darrell Sanders

 


'Lost in Yonkers' powerful and hilarious.          

The Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre has a long and noble history of presenting truly outstanding performances and their latest offering of Neil Simon’s multi award winning comedic drama “Lost in Yonkers” continues that grand tradition with gusto. 

It begins with two teenaged brothers in the living room at their grandmother’s home in Yonkers.   The tension is hypnotic because they have no idea why their father arranged this meeting with their grandmother well known within their family as a somewhat mean curmudgeon.  Both the tension and the comedic element soars as dad keeps slipping back and forth between grandma’s room and the living room. 

Gradually other characters get involved including a sweet but clearly challenged aunt Bella and eventually even Uncle Louie who seems to be mob connected.  As the characters interrelate the comedic value and the drama keep on getting stronger.   Finally we learn that this entire meeting with grandma is an attempt get her take in the two teen boys while dad goes across the country on a new job that requires travel but will also give dad enough money to resolve a large debt from a loan shark. 

The eventual resolution will likely surprise you as it concurrently warms your heart.  “Lost in Yonkers” is a perfect blend of comedy and drama splendidly brought to life by a true five star cast.

“The best play Simon ever wrote” according to the New York Post.  Since I have never read all of Neil Simon’s work nor have seen all of it on stage I can’t confirm their position but I won’t disagree.  This is an extremely well-constructed theatrical piece brought to life by a richly talented cast directed by Larry Eisenberg and produced for the Group Rep by Doug Haverty.

I have been blessed with an opportunity see and review literally hundreds, maybe even thousands of plays from Broadway to London’s West End and throughout Los Angeles from the largest to the smallest venues and I have never seen any other theatrical group with a consistent and lasting history of presenting great shows.  So yes absolutely I recommend this latest offering of Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers” but you might also want to consider becoming a subscriber because I am positive you will not be disappointed.  

“Lost in Yonkers” is at the Lonny Chapman Theatres, 10900 Burbank Boulevard, North Hollywood, California now through October 22nd.  Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m.  Ticketing and reservations are available at www.thegroup reo.com or by calling 818-763-5990.

Brent Anthony, Bennett Satzman and Van Boudreux

Photo Credit

Doug Engalla


Legal Age is Bizarre

It is generally accepted throughout the United States that to lawfully drive a vehicle on public streets and roads you must be at least 16 years of age.  But upon reaching 16 years and passing both a written and practical test you may legally take out on public streets and roads a one ton vehicle often capable of speeds in excess of one hundred miles per hour and often in close proximity to scores of other people at any given time.  So clearly those who declared that sixteen year olds were capable of handling such responsibilities were than willing to accept significant risk.

But sixteen year olds cannot legally enter a binding contract, although in some states they may actually get married which has many binding elements to it.  Nope to enter a binding contract one must be at least eighteen years of age.  Age 18 is a pivotal age in America because not only may you enter into legally binding contracts you can also vote which means that any American citizen age 18 or older can actually help decide on who shall be President and in the Congress.  That is pretty heady stuff because an 18 year old can help put a President in office but he or she cannot become President.  To assume that office one must be at least 35 years of age presumably because our wise leaders thought that one must have at least 35 years of experience in life in order to possess the wisdom essential for running the office of the President.  And even though 18 year olds can help elect Congressmen and Senators they cannot hold either of those offices either because one must be at least 30 years of age to be a U.S. Senator and at least 25 years of age to become a Congressman.  So what this says is any 18 year old is wise enough to help decide who holds those important offices but clearly lacking adequate maturity to hold any of them his or herself?  Please tell me how does that make any sense? 

Also 18 year old American citizens can, subject to meeting a few other requirements join the U.S. military and go off to some foreign land and possibly get killed.  So 18 years olds can drive, they can vote, they help elect senior positions in the government and they can even voluntarily go get killed.  But what no 18 year old cannot legally do in the United States of America is enjoy a glass of wine with his or her dinner.  Nor can any 18 year old in America legally have a beer at the baseball stadium.  Nope to be able to handle that one must be at least 21 years of age.  Now tell me please how does any of this make any sense whatsoever?  Any American 18 year old can legally jump in his hot rod, scream over to the polling place and help get someone elected President or to the Congress, can sign legally binding contracts and then speed off to a recruiting office and volunteer for foreign duty as an infantryman go off and get killed and that is fine.  But don’t give that 18, 19 or even 20 year old a glass of wine or you are breaking the law. 

Now let’s consider a few changes to return sanity to the system. 

The insurance rates for automotive liability insurance speak loudly to just how much we really trust 16 year old drivers – we don’t.  Even so there are many good arguments for allowing 16 year olds to get licensed to drive.  So I would keep the age the same but double down on required training, both book training and even more mandatory behind the wheel training with qualified instructors and not only mom and dad.  Yes there would be some additional expense, but far less than the cost of just one unfortunate collision.  Driving is not a right it is a privilege and those who seek to exercise that privilege must be genuinely qualified so some extra training seems reasonable. 

Now as for the 18 year olds being able to sign contracts, vote, get married, join the military much of that came in reaction to the Vietnam War.  It was before previously deemed that 18 year old females were adults but men did not qualify as adults until age 21.  Huh!  Why that is sex discrimination!  You bet but with some justification because there is abundant evidence to suggest that girls do mature overall more quickly than boys.  Consequently there was plenty of evidence to suggest that an 18 year old female was about equal to a 21 year old male in matters of basic maturity.  But along came the Vietnam war and the big argument was if men could be drafted and sent off to an awful war at age 18 then they should also have some say in who runs the government at age 18 plus it eliminated the clear sexual discrimination.  Sounds rational and in some applications it is fine, local government, school boards, even state and county elections arguably 18 is adequate but I don’t believe it applies to the federal government. 

If our forefathers who did a heck of a lot right with our constitution firmly believed that no one should be allowed to serve in Congress until reaching at least age 25 or the Senate until at least 30 or as President until at least age 35 then doesn’t it also make sense that no one can vote for candidates seeking those positions until such time as they have attained the required age to serve?  Want to vote for a Congressional candidate then you must be 25 to vote for a Congressman, 30 for a Senator and 35 for President.  Why should anyone deemed not yet fit to hold an office be allowed in determining who can be elected to that office? 

So summing it all up I propose keeping the driving age 16 but requiring some further training prior to being granted a license.  Age 18 is young but reasonable for most adult activities including legal responsibility and to vote in many but not all elections.  Whenever a particular office has a legal mandated age minimum those voting for such candidates should also have attained that same age before they can vote for any candidate seeking that office.  And as for the wine…..

Do we as a nation or do we not hold to the principal that every American citizen is entitled to enjoy maximum individual freedom of expression and their personal pursuit of happiness?  If that is true, then is not each individual’s very own body theirs and only theirs to be enjoyed fully and freely without governmental interference?  Yes, absolutely whenever anyone’s action causes pain, damage or even death to another then the person causing such damage should and must be held accountable for their wrong doing and the damage it brings to others.  If that is true then how is it even possible that an 18 year old person in America can be denied access to wine or another beverage for that matter?  If a father or mother or brother or sister wants to go out for dinner to celebrate some wonderful family event, why can’t everyone enjoy a glass of champagne it they wish without governmental interference?  Sure they can and probably often do simply celebrate how they want in the privacy of their home but why is that necessary? 

And yes overindulgence is a bad thing in many ways including some of the very bad things that can happen when someone decides to drive while intoxicated.  But that is true of a person at age 80 as well as someone at age 16.  It is the risk to others that is properly protected by severe legal consequences for drunk driving.  So why have a particular age restriction on the consumption of alcohol?  With proper parental guidance the risk of any significant damage to anyone can be reduced to very near zero. 

So let’s all be real adults now and restore some level of sensibility to who and how we get to do what when and how based currently based almost entirely on very irrational ages.  Sure there have to be rules and lines but to be most effective they also have to make sense and serve the greater good while currently offering the greatest amount of personal freedom. 


‘The Marvelous and more Wonderettes.’  Zany passion

 The year is 1958 and the location is Springfield High School or pretty much any high school in Anytown USA and it is senior prom night.  The entertainment is being provided by four lovely young ladies calling themselves “The Marvelous Wonderettes.”  Not just “The Wonderettes” mind you but “The Marvelous Wonderettes.”  A pleasing plethora of mid 1950’s era pop music flows with sweet harmony from the stage as “The Marvelous Wonderettes” Cindy Lou [Kelsey Boze], Suzy [Kelly Klopocinski] Betty Jean [Kate Ponzio] and Missy [Afton Quast] exquisitely deliver a medley of period pop songs such as “All I Have to do is Dream, Born Too Late, Goodnight Sweetheart” and “Dream Lover” plus many more.  No rap, just real music aimed mainly at the teen population where most of us have been at least once.  But then there is the drama and some sassy humor.

The prom queen has yet to be crowned and all four girls on stage and one who is absent are in the race prompting a wild ride of jibs and jabs by and between the girls as they compete against each other for the crown.  The four actors fully engage the audience as they, the audience, are invited to cast their ballots for prom Queen.  By the time act one concludes we have a winner and it is time for the four “Wonderettes” to move on with their post high school lives. 

So in act two the “Wonderettes” are reunited at a tenth high school reunion.  What happened to each of them as their post high school lives provide another serving of drama, humor and 1960’s era music.

All in all “The Marvelous Wonderettes” is a truly excellent serving of humor and a reminder of  the many quirks and oddities of high school life in particular and for that matter life in general.  Virtually everyone who sees the show will connect with at least some of the behaviors and many of the songs even if they weren’t on the “Top 40” during your life.  “The Marvelous Wonderettes” does a great job of generating warm feelings, lots of giggles and most likely more than a few fond memories.  While not precisely accurate I thought that in many ways “The Marvelous Wonderettes” is the prequel to “American Graffiti.”  But however you define this show it is absolutely deserving of your time.

“The Marvelous Wonderettes” is playing now at the perfect venue the Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Boulevard, Sierra Madre, California now through August 26th.  Show dates and times are    Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.  There will also be three Saturday matinees at 2:30 p.m. August 12, 19 and 26.  Make your reservation by calling:  626-355-4318 and tickets may be purchased online at:  www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.  There is abundant free parking available and several great choices for dining nearby the theatre.  But despite the lyrics of the song you really do need to do a little bit more than dream, you need to see the show to get fully immersed in its magic. 

PHOTO CREDIT:  Gina Long