Ron Irwin Travel & Entertainment

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How a Wee Bit of Texas History Could Make You Rich

 

Back in 1996 Autry Stephens decided that he wanted to claim his share of oil riches so he struck out on his own and soon named his one rig oil company the “Big Dog Drilling Company.”  Over the next twenty years Autry Stephens continued to build his company until he eventually ended up with the largest closely held oil producer in Texas based on production volume.  He also changed the name to Endeavor Energy Resources L.P. based in Midland, Texas.  Once only named Big Dog today the truly big dogs including Exxon/Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp are trying to buy out Autry’ business making offers bids right around $15 billion dollars. 

As Autry was growing his company another company recognized a need for reliable wireless broadband services out in the remote oil patch of the Great State of Texas and beyond.  That company is ERF Wireless and has grown to become one of the largest wireless internet services providers in America.  Through a strategic combination of acquisitions, partnerships and new network development and construction ERF Wireless continues to grow and unlike Autry Stephens ERF Wireless is now a publicly traded company traded over the counter with the symbol ERFB.  At the time this article was written the share price of ERFB was a stunningly modest $.004 per share. But I suspect that is a about to change in a monstrously dramatic way. 

Various people associated with ERF Wireless began to develop an interest in doing some of what Autry Stephens had been doing extremely well for decades. So they too began acquiring mineral rich properties in the Permian Basin in fact right next to the Autry Stephens holdings.  As of now they control 230,000 acres of oil and gas rich properties with a value well into the billions of dollars.  As this growth took place the company began the process of a name change to give it a name more aligned with their new direction.  That process is nearly complete but as of now they oddly remain virtually unknown with a share price that seems to me to be ridiculously low.  Just how low? Well as of today a mere one thousand dollars could get you a quarter of a million shares.  So what if the stock went to say just two dollars?  Ponder that a minute or two. 

So as I consider all of this information the thought has occurred to me that you and I will never have an opportunity to share in Autry Stephens amazing wealth.  It is his and his alone, he built it, he took the risks and soon he shall reap the rewards so I salute you Mr. Stephens.  But there does a exist a very real opportunity for you and I to take a very similar ride ERF Wireless by simply buying in with some absurdly undervalued stock.  A few hundred dollars invested can yield literally thousands of shares at today’s price.  If ERFB performs even close to what Autry Stephens has done your modest investment could absolutely yield magnificent returns.  But as with all things in life there are risks and losses can also happen.  Just do yourself a big favor and at least take a serious look at this very rare opportunity. 
Great books available for Christmas or just because they are fun to read,  Here:  http://www.ronirwin.net/BooksbyRon.html. 


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Follow Your Dreams – Part Two

 

As I finished the final touches to my “Follow Your Dream” article it struck me how utterly compelling that approach to life influenced and still influences my life.  I’d like to share some of that now because I sincerely believe it can be deeply inspirational. 

The first thing that needs to happen is for a dream be born within you. For me that took a rather long and troubled path.  When I was ten after ten hellish years mom and dad divorced.  One year later I divorced them and left home.  I lived with a variety of strangers and my only dream was survival.  Then one day the seed of a dream creeped into my troubled brain. 

Typical of most boys at age 13 I had close to zero interest in or appreciation of western poetry.  But one day I visited a book store and saw a thin little book with an unusual design and a name I didn’t understand.  I picked it up and began reading.  Instantly I was enraptured and couldn’t put it down.  I read the whole book and then I bought it and two others just like it.  I had been captured by Japanese Haiku, an ancient poetry form from Japan.  Seed planted.

About four years later I happened to be walking around in Waukegan, Illinois one very cold day contemplating my future.  High school would soon end and with my depressing grade point average of 1.7 my best hope was maybe getting hired as an assistant part time gas station attendant.  Then I saw a sign that read:  “Join the Marines.”  I knew from some old movies that Marines were military guys and they served in Asia during World War Two and the Korean conflict so I thought that maybe they still served in Asia and since my introduction to Asia via Haiku I had the beginnings of a dream, so in I went.  Sure enough there were still Marines in Asia and upon the promise that I would indeed be sent to Asia as a United States Marine I joined. 

After boot camp and advanced infantry training I headed back to Chicago before continuing on to Camp Pendleton in Southern, California.  There was, however, an unanticipated delay.  I had caught pneumonia and ended up in the Bethesda Naval Hospital for a few weeks and then I got the shock of my life.  After being basically cured I was given a pass to go out and enjoy nearby Washington, DC.   Enroute to DC the van stopped at some military place and a guard came out shouting “President Kennedy has been shot!”  We all figured that shot doesn’t mean dead and the President would be fine.  We were all wrong .  By the time we arrived in DC the truth slammed us.  There I was a very young brand new United States Marine in our nation’s capital in my uniform on the day our president had been assassinated.  Dream shattered.  Around midnight I wandered over to the White House and watched as Jackie Kennedy arrived still wearing her blood soaked coat.  Somethings you simply never forget. 

But life goes on and a couple of weeks later I finally boarded a ship heading for Japan.  I will never forget the moments leading up to our arrival in Yokohama.  As the ship drew closer every Marine became tense and silent.  We were entering a foreign land where the people looked and spoke different from us.  Everyone was tense, except for me.  I felt a strong inner glow as if I was arriving home after a long and troubled journey.  First Haiku and now this, my dream was beginning to take shape. 

My first year in Asia was nothing short of spectacular.  I visited Japan, Okinawa, the Philippines, Taiwan and the Gulf of Tonkin.  I was in Tokyo for the 1964 Olympic games.   I partied with then super star William Holden in Hong Kong and I was still a teenager.  Damn!  So when I was ordered back to America I quickly began seeking a way to return.  I found a group of Marines forming what we called a rag squadron that would go to Asia so I volunteered to join them and it happened.  But this time was far different than my first experience.  This time I arrived in Da Nang, Vietnam and was given grenades and bullets and put on another airplane heading to Chu Lai.  Dream gone, replaced with pure hell. 

A little over a year later I returned home and was quickly discharged from the United States Marine Corps.  While I was in Vietnam my mother introduced me to a woman named Janet who began writing to me.  She seemed interesting and she was pretty, but when I arrived back home I was in no condition for any kind of a “relationship.”  So when I asked dear old mom to please pick me up at the airport I also asked her to PLEASE don’t bring anyone else, I am just not ready yet.  So, of course, mom showed up with Janet.  Worse, later that night mom basically shoved Janet and I into a bedroom.  Now after 13 months in Vietnam what do you think might happen? 

The problem here, and it was a big one, is that I had been given zero time to regain some sense of humanity.  So yes Janet and I had lots of sex, she eventually became pregnant and we got married.  But from day one it was a marriage from hell.  Too many years later it ended brutally.  In the interim I had managed to become a lawyer but I no longer cared and so after finalizing the divorce I quickly packed up and moved to Southern, California and that is when my true dreams began to slowly reemerge.

It didn’t take long before I found myself doing two things I enjoy, public relations and talk radio.  As that was coming together I began once again seeking female companionship but this time drawing upon my previous experiences in Asia I looked to Asia for a companion.  Many letters were exchanged and over time I became increasingly drawn to one young lady from the Philippines.  Her name was Nenita and she became very alluring to me.  So in pursuit of my dream I bought a ticket for Hong Kong where she was working at the time. 

The following morning after my arrival I was sitting in the lobby of the Park Hotel in Kowloon, Hong Kong when in walked a stunningly beautiful young woman. She had shiny long black hair.  She was wearing a double breasted black and white checked top and box pleated black and white checked skirt and her deep brown eyes were riveting. 

We spent a week together and I was totally convinced that at least one element of my dream would soon be fulfilled.  But on my flight home I had to spend overnight in Japan.  I had no doubt about Nenita but I did worry a little about me.  So I deliberately took myself to a Japanese girlie bar and was soon joined by a lovely young lady who expressed amorous intentions.  She was very pretty but I looked at her and saw Nenita so I said good night and left.  Getting closer to that dream. 

Our next stop was Honolulu.  There I stopped in a shop and bought a postcard.  I addressed it to Nenita and wrote: “Would you marry me?,  Love Ron.”

By October of 1984 I had returned to Hong Kong and on the 30th day we were wed.  A big part of my dream was now fulfilled.  It took a couple of months for the paperwork to get done but soon Nenita joined me in Burbank, California where we have lived ever since.  Now it was time to expand upon my greater dream and that meant travel. 

Since we have been married we have visited Hawaii, San Francisco, Chicago, the Philippines, New York, Miami, London, Morocco, Peru, Canada, Singapore, Mexico and more.  Recently Nenita and our two daughters Kimberly and Kari and out granddaughter Somaya took a two week trip through London, Brussels, Koln, Paris and Reims.  It was glorious and my larger dream has been fulfilled. 

Now as I approach the inevitable I do so with a sense of true deep fulfillment.  Our oldest daughter is still facing some struggles but now she is facing them and I am confident she will emerge ultimately happy with her life.  Our youngest daughter is days away from receiving her Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Southern California and because she is of our blood she is already planning on exploring much more of the world. 

So yes it has been a long and often difficult journey but once I discovered my dreams and committed to realizing them it happened.  Life has become totally meaningful and filled mostly with great joy and so I say again by all means follow your dreams, even when, no especially when life seems harsh or negative for when you follow your dreams you conquer life rather allowing the dark side to conquer you.  Or perhaps as they say at USC, “Fight On!”


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‘A Carol Christmas’  in review

I remember getting the invite and I was excited.  First of all it was being put on by The Group Rep at the Lonny Chapmen Theatre where I Always have a great time watching outstanding performances.  And who doesn’t like that wonderful classic, “A Christmas Carol” where once again I can watch the eventual transformation of that crotchety geezer Ebenezer.  Then I got to the theatre and looked at the play bill.  Wait a minute, this must be a misprint.  It read “A Carol Christmas” and not A Christmas Carol.  Nope no misprint, just a vastly different show with basically a female Ebenezer by the name of Carol who like Ebenezer was a less than pleasant boss who unlike Ebenezer was not transformed by the spirits of Christmas past, present and future but rather by three more contemporary psychic gurus including one terrifying Tarot card reader who like the Spirit of Christmas future transformed Carol into an extremely pleasant, loving and giving woman.  So yeah in the end it was very much the same story but told in different and compelling way with the famous Charles Dickens version having been tweaked by Doug Haverty.  It is also a musical. 

As the show begins five young carolers, Celine June Batista, Ellie Birdwell, Andrew Grigorian, Chihiro Kato and Momoka Kato come on stage and perform “Christmas Time is Here Again” followed by the entire company staff with “Just Another Christmas” and then Carol renders a rather harsh version of “All I want for Christmas” and the tone is set.  But then there is an outstanding and beautiful performance by a very young and very talented actress/vocalist Peyton Kirkner as Trina. Her performance of “Spelling Backwards” is truly emosewa.   

The show is only 90 minutes with no intermission but every one of those 90 minutes is packed with true entertainment value.  Yes this is a great show but does it mean that in the future we will be seeing more of “A Carol Christmas” and less of “A Christmas Carol?”  I don’t think so, but I do believe that if you get yourself over to the Lonny Chapman Theatre to see this show you too will emerge happy and even more ready for a great holiday season. 

The show runs from now through December 30th 2018 with show times 8:00 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2:00 p.m. on Sundays at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Boulevard, North Hollywood, California.  Reservations and ticketing available by calling:  818-763-5990 or online at: www.thegrouprep.com. 
Experience “The Dr. Ron Show” broadcast by the Universal Broadcasting Network out of the Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood and you can hear every show here:  http://www.ronirwin.net/the-dr--ron-show.html. 

 

 


Never Ever Quit

We know plenty of people who have set out on a particular path only to quit when they are faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles.  This is true in virtually all if not all human endeavors.  Perhaps it is in pursuit of higher education.  Sure, you got admitted to the college you wanted to attend.  Then you began your studies and along the way began to feel insecure.  Would you pass all of your courses?  What would happen to your scholarship money if you failed a course?  How the hell are you going to pay next semesters tuition?  Ah geez you got sick and missed two weeks of classes.  And the challenges just keep right on building until one day you decide that maybe this dream just wasn’t right for you.  You were seeking success, real success and you thought you had it in hand and then along came trials, tribulations and ever escalating doubt until you finally just pulled the plug and walked away. 

Or perhaps it is the matter of employment.  Everyone is telling you that this is the best the job market has been in years and yet after twelve job interviews you still haven’t received one offer.  Then finally you do get a job but shortly after starting to work it just doesn’t feel right.  It is an experience well below your expectations and with each passing day just getting up and going to work gets harder and harder and harder until finally you simply quit.  Now what? 

And this list of challenges is infinite and unending and every single human on earth has his or her own experiences.  But it is not so much a question of how to avoid getting into such tough situations but rather how do you handle them?  I firmly believe that the great Sir Winston Churchill had the right answer when he said: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

So you say what the heck is Churchill saying, that we should all go from failure to failure with joy and enthusiasm?  Not exactly.  The simple truth is that we all face challenges on a regular basis.  Sometimes they prevent us from achieving a particular goal or series of goals.  It happens to everyone on earth including the most successful people but those who ultimately win are those who simply refuse to quit.  Consider this:

Steven Spielberg was rejected three times by the University of Southern California School of Theater, Film and Television.  Stephen King’s first novel “Carrie” was rejected 30 times before it was published.  Once published it quickly became a reader’s favorite and spawned four movies and a Broadway musical.  The Beatles were rejected by Decca Records executive Dick Rowe because he said “They had no future in the business.”  Wonder how Dick Rowe’s career developed?  Steve Jobs was fired by Apple Computer the company he launched.  Fortunately for Apple he was invited back and helped Apple achieve massive success.  After only one performance Elvis Presley was fired by Jimmy Denny, manager of the “Grand Ole Opry.”  Denny reportedly told Presley: “You ain’t going nowhere, son. You ought to go back to driving a truck.”  J. K. Rowling was rejected by a dozen publishers before the highly successful launch of her Harry Potter series.  Everyone of these people could easily have simply said “F it” and walked away.  But knowingly or not they all subscribed to the wisdom of Churchill and went from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm and thus obviously became highly successful each in their own way. 

So perhaps now armed with this insight when you are next confronted with seemingly insurmountable challenges along your personal path to success and happiness you will have the courage to simply never, ever quit and in so doing you will greatly elevate your opportunity for achieving great success.  It may be a cliché’ but it is also absolutely true.  Winners never quit and quitters never win. 


‘The Rescued’ World Premiere

Many people have had the experience of visiting an animal shelter where we discover many dogs and cats all to varying degrees wounded by a troubled life and currently being harbored literally in an animal jail.  Frequently our hearts become filled with compassion and even love and we adopt an animal.  Then we take our new friend home and nurture it and rejoice when the animal begins show signs of rediscovering and maybe even discovering for the very first time how happy living in an environment filled with love can be.  But how does this dynamic work with people?  That is the avenue taken by playwright Julie Marie Myatt has taken in her play “The Rescued.”

The story begins in what is essentially a human version of an animal shelter, a home for the troubled and disadvantaged humans who need to be given shelter and rescued from their troubled past.  The story begins with the senior of the group, Harold as portrayed splendidly by J. D. Hall and Buster performed brilliantly by Leandro Cano.  Both men chat about their past as the sit side by side playing a card game as they talk.  Much if it is extremely humorous, especially by Buster who keeps the audience laughing.  But through that laughter emerges their dark histories.

One by one other guests of the home; Jason played by Patrick Joseph Rieger, Candace played by Meeghan Holaway. Darrell played by Rahul Rai and Lola played by Kacie Rogers are brought into the story.  It quickly becomes clear that each of them suffer from many years of neglect and abuse. There remains an abundance of humor, often dark but there is also an emergence of some very deep pain and suffering that has stripped these characters of an ability to love and be loved.

Jason tends to keep his barrier up by quick and commonly violent reactions where as Darrell has become totally obsessive-compulsive recording everything in great detail in his diary.  Candice is desperately seeking love and failing and then she sets her sights on Darrell and they both have great difficulty allowing the positive feelings to emerge.  Lola’s story is extremely brutal as she finds herself pregnant by way of being raped.  Is there any hope for this troubled group?   Can they emerge from their dark past and move into a better world?  Harold was one of many children and unsure who exactly his father was.  He left home at an early age and often found himself incarcerated.  In his case it is clear that late in life he has found a feeling of peace in the world.  Jason was once locked in a box for three years.  Just try to imagine how that could impact someone.

But as the story evolves there are signs of hope and redemption.  Oh, to be sure there remains a great deal of angst and uncertainty and yet hopeful signs of love and joy do gradually emerge.  I will admit as I watched the show unfold I was not at first certain of exactly where it was taking me.  It began with an abundance of humor but that soon got hit with powerful revelations of a dark and ugly history, Then as the story moved towards a conclusion sprinkles of hope and joy gradually began to emerge within this unique group of troubled individuals.  Ultimately something very sad and yet at the same time very unifying happens that brings this intriguing group together.

I will say that “The Rescued” turned out to be something far different then what I at first expected by looking at the images on the playbill.  It is also one of the most unique shows I have ever watched.  But without a doubt it is compelling and entertaining.

You may enjoy “The Rescued” at The Road on Magnolia, 10747 Magnolia Boulevard, North Hollywood, California 91601 now through November 11th 2018.  Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Reservations and ticketing can be done either at:  www.roadtheatre.org or by calling 818-761-8838. 

 
 

Patrick Rieger & J.D.Hall

PHOTO CREDIT:

Brian M. Cole

Leandro Cano, J.D. Hall

Meeghan Holaway


‘Gloria’ has arrived in L.A.    By playwright Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins

Written by playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins “Gloria” debuted at the Vanguard Theatre, Off-Broadway, in May of 2015.  By 2016 it became a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for a Drama.  Now “Gloria” has arrived for its West Coast Premiere at the Echo Theatre Company. 3269 Casitas Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90034.

The setting is the cramped office space inside a major publishing house in New York City. On a typical work day three regular employees and an intern exchange a steady and biting flow of barbs and comments about their condition.  They are all frustrated by their jobs because as well-educated aspiring writers they want more, much more, than they got.  One of them, Dean arrives to work severely hung over, an all too common condition.  Today the cause of Dean’s condition was his attendance at the house warming party for Gloria another but senior employee at their firm.  It seems that Gloria is a little unique and not particularly well liked so as it turned out Dean was the only person from their firm to attend Gloria’s party.  Ani seems to be the most stable of the group whereas Kendra has developed the habit of leaving early to make up for arriving late.  And the intern Miles, well he just enjoys listening to his favorite music on his headset so as to not be bothered by the constant scathing conversation between the others. 

As the day goes on the stresses and disappointments not uncommon in modern office environments builds so much so that their raised voices stimulate other nearby workers to complain thus adding even more to the stress.  Gloria drops in and projects an image of someone deeply dissatisfied.  Her behavior is at best bizarre and a little frightening, but she quickly departs.  At one point the apparent manager of the department, not seen but off set, a female, summons the intern Miles into her office.  For a time the sounds coming from the office suggest that Dean is having a very good time.

When you consider the totality of what is being portrayed it is extremely funny in many ways, probably reasonably accurate in its depiction of an office environment with frustrated and disillusioned workers. There is a steadily building element of darkness that crescendos when Gloria arrives back on scene with a pistol and begins shooting.  Miles and Ani are shot dead but Dean, Kendra, Nan and Lorin are spared the murderous rather of Gloria.  Why?  And how does this brutal shocking experience impact their lives? 

Clearly each co-worker has been severely impacted by what they saw unfold before them and they begin to question every aspect of the event.  How does one cope with a toxic work environment?  What exactly is it that cause some people, people like Gloria for example to “go postal?  The play even explores how in many cases artistic ambition can turn very ugly. But the big take away is clear.  If your boss invites you to a party – GO. 

So when looking at the totality of the show “Gloria” I saw something that is rich in abundant but often dark humor, while concurrently presenting valid issues facing our modern society and in all likelihood probably not all that rare in past generations as well.  If you are the kind of theatre patron who primarily wants to watch great choreography presented with spectacular music and overwhelming happiness “Gloria” is not your show.  But if you enjoy having your mind stretched and your thoughts challenged then “Gloria” will deliver for you. 

“Gloria” is running now through October 21st, 2018 with showtimes Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 4: p.m.  You can get ticketing and reservations information and even view a video trailer at this website:  https://www.echotheatercompany.com/gloria/. 
 

 

 


‘Waitress’ a musical in review

The show opens in Joe’s Diner located somewhere in Dixie.  The owner, Joe is a gruff but honest man and his three waitresses are portrayed in a fairly typical perhaps even stereotypical way but then the story begins to develop. 

Jenna [Desi Oakley] is a master pie maker and a big part of the success of Joe’s Diner but she is stressed because poor Jenna is in a very abusive marriage and she comes to learn that she is pregnant.  Her coworkers Becky [Charity Angel Dawson] and Dawn [Lenne Klingaman] have their own issues and clearly the shop owner Joe [Larry Marshall] is under pressure, yet there is a real camaraderie revealed in action and song.  Jenna becomes concerned about her pregnancy and goes to see her doctor, but the doctor she expects to see is not there and she is seen instead by a handsome young doctor Pomatter [Bryan Fenkart] and instantly there is a spark of something more than just a doctor/patient relationship. 

All of this is told in large part through the sensational music of Sara Bareilles.  As I watched Act One unfold I admit that I was at first somewhat underwhelmed but that changed quickly and powerfully.  It became evident that Jenna was much more than simply a pie maker and waitress and Joe had a far deeper soul that you might at first suspect.  As it always does in a great performance far larger issues soon began to develop.  Jenna was after all in a relationship she hated and yet she was now pregnant with the child from a man she did not want.  What would she do, what could she do?  The other people at Joe’s Diner had their own personal issues to resolve and even Earl [Nick Bailey] the abusive husband was inescapably involved.

By the end of Act One there were so many questions.  Would Jenna go through with having the baby?  What role would Dr. Pomatter play in Jenna’s future?  Would Jenna take a pie baking challenge which if she won could give a huge financial boost?  What would be the future for coworkers Becky, Dawn and Joe?  It was a fabulous set-up delivered with superb performances across the board.  It was clearly deeply rooted and real life, an understanding of what pretty much everyone has had to deal with in some way during their own lives.  In other words. “Waitress” is a very relatable story that touches everyone who sees it on stage.  There is, of course, plenty of action and drama in such classic musicals as Les Miserables but most who see that great show simply cannot relate to it in the way and to the degree most folks can with “Waitress” and that is why in my opinion “Waitress” is a super hit today and will ultimately be viewed as a true classic.  So my super kudos to the entire cast and crew and to six time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles and to Jessie Nelson.

“Waitress” Is playing at the Pantages Theatre, now through August 26th with show times Tuesday through Fridays at 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays at 2:00 and 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 1:00 and 6:30 p.m.  You may purchase tickets here:  https://www.hollywoodpantages.com/events/detail/waitress. 

 

Listen to L.A.’s exciting new talk radio show committed to entertainment right here: 

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Desi Oakley & Larry Marshall

PHOTO CREDIT:  Joan Marcus

Bryan Fenkart & Desi Oakly 


‘Side by Side’ in review

Stephen Sondheim is arguably one of if not they most prolific song writers in musical theatre.  Don’t think so?  Just check out this list:  http://www.sondheimguide.com/songs.html.  Now the musical tribute to the great writer of music is on stage at the Odyssey Theatre in West Los Angeles.  '”Side by Side” is directed by Dan Fishbach, a true Trojan with musical direction by Richard Berent and starring a long time and esteemed star of Los Angeles stage Chris Kerrigan along with Sarah Busic and Rachel McLaughlin all with abundant vocal and acting talent.  The performance is narrated by Mark J. Freeman whose grace and wit tie it all together in a very pleasing manner. 

You will enjoy renditions of “Company Follies, A Little Night Music, A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum and Anyone Can Whistle.”  And then there are other songs Stephen Sondheim wrote with such musical theatre giants as Leonard Bernstein, Mary Rodgers, Richard Rodgers and Jule Styne including “West Side Story, Gypsy and Do I hear a Waltz.”  What you won’t get is the flash and splash of your typical Broadway musical.  There are no flashing lights, no full orchestra, no abundance of back up dancers just good solid memorable music presented well in a modest setting by superb talent.  From a guy who has watched literally thousands of shows on Broadway, in London’s West End and locally in Los Angeles at the marvelous Pantages this is not one of those shows but it is very smooth, relaxing and enjoyable.

I do however offer one word of caution.  “Side by Side” has great appeal to all those who enjoy the music of classic musical theatre but if you happen to be someone who does not particularly like that musical form you probably would not enjoy this show.  Other than that I recommend you go forth and be fully entertained. 

“Side by Side” Is playing now through September 16th, 2018 at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90025.  Reservations and ticketing is available by calling 310-477-2055 Extension 2 or online at:  www.OdysseyTheatre.com. 

PHOTOS:  Top - Chris Kerrigan & Sarah Busic

                   Bottom -  Rachel McLaughlin

Photo credit:  Enci Box 

 


‘Cry it Out’ – a review

Absolutely anyone who has brought a child into this world knows well how deeply life changing that experience truly is in every way.  But some people are more severely impacted than others because such is life.  Careers change or get put on hold.  Even at a tender age it can become necessary to have non-parental day care for a new born child and that experience alone can be traumatizing.  In some cases, the birthing process can have profound physical and psychological effects on the mother.  And so now we come to the play, “Cry it Out.” 

Two neighbor ladies have given birth to their child at or very near to the same time.  Jessie [Jackie Chung] is a bright young lawyer soon to become a full partner in her downtown law firm, but she now has a new born child that has completely captivated her.  Lina, [Megan Ketch] is Jessie’s next door neighbor and she too has a brand new baby in her life, but Lina is a health care worker and less affluent than her neighbor.  Together they have formed a friendship based largely on their new experience as mothers and every day they meet to chat and drink coffee.  This bonding experience is seen from above, literally. by a much more affluent man Mitchell [Brian Henderson].  His wife Adrienne [Emily Swallow] is also a new mom and a very successful business woman, but according to her husband she has largely avoided bonding with her new child and so Mitchell approaches Jessie and Lina and asks if they would accept his wife Adrienne into their little group so that she, Adrienne, may become more like the other two woman, warmer with their newborn child.  They agree and soon the three come together however it is anything but a pleasant experience. 

As their lives quickly evolve changes, not always wanted, nevertheless take place.  Lina for instance finds herself with no choice but to allow her mother-in-law to watch her baby while she, Lina, returns to work.  Then Lina is devasted when she returns home and finds her mother-in-law passed out drunk. 

Jessie is absolutely convinced that she would rather commit herself totally to her new child and to hell with her highly compensated career as a lawyer. She has done the math and they can get by on her husband’s substantial income alone.  But perhaps her math was a bit overly optimistic and eventually she accepts that she too must return to work. 

And what of Adrienne? Is she really the cold hearted uncaring mother she appears to be?  Well sometimes things aren’t always what the may at first seem to be.  But to see exactly how that plays out, well you will just have to go and watch the show. 

Watching “Cry it Out” is pleasant and enjoyable largely thanks to the superb talent on stage.  But in all truth I have to say that at the end I thought to myself: “Well yeah life is always full of ups and downs and not infrequently things don’t work out the way we would like, so what is so special about these three women?”  It does however demonstrate very dramatically just how powerful is a new child in everyone’s life along with the reality that life must still go on.  And as for a drunk woman raising a child, well I know all too well just how devastating that can be.

You can watch a trailer here:  https://www.echotheatercompany.com/cry-it-out/.

This is the West Coast premiere of “Cry it Out” and you can watch it now through August 19th 2018 at the Echo Theatre Company, Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90039.  For reservations and ticketing call 310-307-3753 or visit www.EchoTheatreCompany.com. 
 

 


‘Mother F**ker With the Hat’  a review

Let’s just begin with the title to this show.  It is perhaps one of the weirdest and possibly most provocative I have ever seen.  Yet as the story unfolds it makes sense and it was after all written by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis.  It is also directed by multiple award winning Gloria Gifford and staged at her new Gloria Gifford Conservatory in Hollywood.  Oh and what a tale is told.  Though billed as a dark comedy I saw much more.

It begins with Jackie, recently released from prison after serving time for dealing drugs and his smoking hot but sadly addicted girlfriend Veronica.  Later we meet Ralph, Jackie’s sponsor in a 12 step program.  As their relationship is revealed it become clear that Ralph may very well not be the best possible sponsor for Jackie or for anyone else for that matter.  Two other characters come into play, Victoria, Ralph’s wife and Cousin Julio, Jackie’s cousin.

Central to the theme is a hat Jackie finds in Veronica’s apartment.  It is a man’s hat and not belonging to Ralph.  This sparks a jealous rage in Jackie and eventually causes him to shoot the hat in the apartment of the man he believes owns the hat and who he assumes was also playing around with his girlfriend.  Jackie eventually learns that the man he assaulted did not own the hat but someone else close to him did own it.  That revelation comes only after Jackie learns that he will soon be returning to prison for a parole violation.

If all of this seems a bit confusing it can be at times.  And yes there is indeed plenty of dark humor but there is also a real look at issues of addiction, the veracity of 12 step programs and the many struggles pretty much everyone faces at some level during their lives, because dark as it may be “Mother F**ker With the Hat” does present some very powerful real life emotions and conflicts that can arise in a variety of relationships. As the show draws to its conclusion I also got a sense that in its very own unique way it also presented one very powerful if indeed troubled but passionate and undying love.

This show is not for everyone.  Certainly no children and anyone sensitive to an abundance of profanity should stay away.  However I am willing to bet that pretty much everyone over the age of 30 can relate to at least of most of the components of this story.  You may have never used drugs and most people have never sold drugs but pretty everyone at the very least knows someone who is a drug user and/or alcoholic which is just another form of drug.  We have known of at least one family member, co-worker or friend who has had difficulties related to drug or alcohol abuse.  And as for the language, well I submit that pretty much everyone in our world has used or at the very least heard most if not all of the curse words used in this show.  So again I say that “Mother F**ker With the Hat” is heavily rooted in reality and its presentation is indeed humorous and intriguing and fun to watch being played out.

“Mother F**ker With the Hat” Is playing now through August 26th  2018 at the Gloria Gifford Conservatory, 6502 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood, California 90038.  With performances Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 7:30 p.m. reservations may be made by calling 310-366-5505 and tickets may be purchased online at:  www.tix.com.  The show is triple cast but the team I saw on opening night were absolutely superb and having seen several Gloria Gifford productions I am confident that the other two casts are equally impressive. Kudos to Gloria and her highly talented team. 

 


‘On Your Feet’ wins the world – a review

 

From Broadway, all across America and heading for London’s West End the smash hit musical “On Your Feet” has arrived at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood and what a magnificent show it is.   Opening with a spectacular light show and soul grabbing music the audience enjoys meeting the young Cuban immigrant Gloria Fajardo Garcia with amazing song writing and vocal skills.  Then she meets a very handsome somewhat older man with a band.  The man is Emilio Estefan and his band is called the Miami Latin Boys.  There is an instant attraction and Emilio invites Gloria to visit his band during an upcoming rehearsal.  There is instant magic and it doesn’t take long before that the Miami Latin Boys name just won’t cut it anymore and soon the Miami Sound Machine is born.

As this is all played out the audience is treated to nonstop great Estefan music.  Anything for You, Coming Out of the Dark, Con los Anos Que Me Quedan, and one super hit you simply cannot sit still for, Conga.  Oh yes and there is more, much more.

It is the story of the love and life of Gloria and Emilio Estefan and each and every glorious moment is beautifully presented in a way that is unforgettable. Of course there are disappointments because it is life, real life with the added element of an immigrant perspective making it all that more compelling amidst the current events in our nation.  There is one scene that totally rocked the audience.  Gloria and Emilio go to New York City to meet with the manager of their record label.  Their goal is to expand beyond the Spanish language market to the broader English language market.  They have the songs and the talent but the manager refuses to accept their proposal because they are, after all, not exactly “American.”  A very outraged Emilio gets right up into the managers face and says:  “…this is my home and you should look very closely at my face because whether you know it or not this is what an American looks like.”  The audience exploded in applause and cheers.

Throughout the show we see the incredible positive energy of Gloria and Emilio Estefan and a never wavering abundance of love.  While a lot of people may well have simply accepted the record labels rejection and crawled away, not the Estefans.  They got down in the trenches and built the Miami Sound Machine into a multi Grammy award winning mega success blessing the world with a massive list of unforgettable music.

But yes, of course, it is also an exposition of how immigrants remain often the focus of hostility in America with comments like “go home” and other insults still far too common.  When you think about it such an attitude is truly bizarre because every single American alive today came from immigrant roots.  Yet there is no denying that there indeed does remain some extra challenges to contemporary immigrants in America.

What makes this show so compelling beyond the steady flow of heart grabbing music is the pure positive energy and nonstop commitment to success and love shown by Gloria and Emilio Estefan meeting and conquering every set back and challenge.  Before your eyes and ears is a message of passion, commitment and love all too rare in our world.  Delivering this story requires extraordinary talent and that is provided superbly by Mauricio Martinez as Emilio and Christie Prades as Gloria and every other cast member under the direction of Jerry Mitchell and choreography of Sergio Trujillo.  But I did have one thought about what it must have been like for Mauricio Martinez and Christie Prades to do their job while seeing Gloria Estefan and Emilio Estafan sitting right there watching it all unfold,  Unnerving?  Could be, but it is a true masterpiece of entertainment so my super kudos to all.

There is not one moment that is anything short of totally entertaining.  On a very personal note very early in the show there is scene where Gloria’s dad is in the American Military serving in Vietnam.  There year was 1966 and I remember it well because I too was in the Marine Corps in Vietnam in 1966 so in some strange esoteric way I had an immediate connection I was not expecting.  What you can expect however is about two hours or so of great entertainment that will stay with you forever.

The show runs now through July 29th at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, so do no miss out on this exceptional and beautiful show.  Just click here https://www.hollywoodpantages.com/ for show dates and times and purchase tickets.  Then prepare yourself for some of the very best entertainment in the world today.


‘Pump Boys and Dinettes’  -  in review

Just to add a little history and perspective to the “Pump Boys and Dinettes” I will begin with this little excerpt from Wikipedia. 

The musical premiered on Broadway on February 4, 1982 at the Princess Theatre and closed on June 18, 1983, after 573 performances. The cast featured Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, John Foley, Mark Hardwick and John Schimmel. It had premiered at the Chelsea West Side Arts Theatre in 1981, moving to the Colonnades Theatre (Greenwich Village) in October 1981.

The show played in London's West End at the Piccadilly Theatre from September 20, 1984 to June 8, 1985 and transferred to the Albery Theatre from June 11, 1985 to September 2, 1985.[4][5] The production starred, amongst others, Paul Jones, Clodagh Rodgers, Joe Brown, Brian Protheroe, Carlene Carter and Kiki Dee.

And now this Tony nominated show has arrived in Southern California at the always pleasing Sierra Madres Playhouse.  It is a country music oriented musical production embracing the relationships between friends and by and between the female workers at a dinette located conveniently across the road from a local garage/gas station with its several male workers.  The thing is that every one of the pump boys is also a clearly accomplished musician and both of the waitresses at the Dinette happen to be excellent vocalists.  So this show somewhat surprisingly to me I admit is essentially a country music opera.  Oh but don’t get me wrong, while I was expecting – and I am not sure why – more interplay between the two groups the emphasis was clearly on abundant music.

But as the show goes on there is plenty of very entertaining music amplified with antics and indeed some intriguing relationships between the Dinettes and the Pump Boys.  In the end what I believe emerges is a revelations of the joy of friendships as they develop before you.  I don’t know what the off Broadway shows were like but at the Sierra Madres Playhouse there is a great deal of interface between cast and audience, including placing three audience members on stage sitting in the restaurant and clearly very much enjoying the experience.  And every audience member gets an opportunity to help the waitresses with a tip, but fear not it will cost you nothing. 

In fact as I write this it has occurred to me that this is perhaps the most direct audience involvement I have ever seen in a stage show and it was pure fun.  So if enjoyment is one of the major criteria for any theatrical performance then “Pump Boys and Dinettes” is undeniably a five star show. 

And I haven’t begun to touch upon to abundance of great singing by every single member of the cast – except the drummer who just keeps on drumming.  Now if you just do not like country style music then this may not be your show.  Otherwise it is as close to a must see as any performance can ever be. 

I offer mega-kudos to the entire cast:

Cori Cable Kidder [Rhetta Cupp]

Jim Miller [Bobby – drummer]

Michael Butler Murray [Jim – guitar & dobro]                           

Sean Paxton [L.M. – Piano & Accordian]

Kevin Tiernan [Eddie – Bass]

Emily Kay Townsend [Prudie Cupp]

Jimmy Villaflor [Jackson – Guitar]

 

“Pump Boys and Dinettes” Is playing now through July 29th 2018 at the Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 West Sierra Madres Boulevard, Sierra Madre, California.  Show times are Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.  For reservations and ticketing information call 626-355-4319. 

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And now you can enjoy “The Three Amigos” radio show broadcast every Wednesday from11:00 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. from the Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood.  CLICK here: 

http://ubnradio.com/channel-2. 

 

 

 

 


‘Rumors’ in Review

The Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood has produced over 300 plays including 70 world premieres and is approaching a half century of theatrical artistry.  Its latest offering “Rumors” by Neil Simon is yet another example of theatrical excellence.  Of Neil Simon USA Today wrote: “Neil Simon makes people laugh a lot!”  True.  But without superb acting all shows in general and “Rumors” in particular could easily fall into disaster.  Happily for The Group Rep they have once again succeeded in assembling an astonishingly brilliant cast for its presentation of “Rumors.” 

The banter is fast paced often sharp and witty with a steady interplay amongst the cast.  Almost every line is laugh inducing as the story is told, a story that is all the more hilarious because the audience can easily identify with the events being portrayed on stage.

An upscale couple is celebrating their wedding anniversary and they have invited several of their friends to the party.  But before the party even has a chance to begin things start to fall apart when the first guest discovers that the man of the house has been injured apparently from a gunshot and the wife is missing.  In search of what has happened the man begins to try and piece the puzzle together relying heavily and a wide variety of rumors about the couple and their relationship.  As others enter the scene the story continues to morph with the introduction of more rumors and assumptions and perceptions be they accurate or not. 

As the story continues to unfold the group of assembled guests reach a near panic and the audience is immersed in none stop laughter.  Here is where I made a huge error because as the show arrived at intermission I formed the opinion that what would happen would be that everyone would calm down and draw back to a far more rational and reasonable view of the situation before them.  That, however, is not what happens.  Two police officers show up and a whole new dynamic sets in.  The conclusion?  Well now I will tell this, you will be blown away by the story of events as told by Lenny Ganz [played by Kent Butler] pretending to be the man of the house. 

“Rumors” now onstage at the Lonny Chapman Theatre is a nearly two hour immersion into great fun and rich humor.  It could not have been executed so well without a great cast and here they are:

Todd Andrew Ball  as  Glenn Cooper

Kent Butler  as  Lenny Ganz

Fox Carney  as  Ken Gorman

Cheryl Crosland  as  Claire Ganz

Doug Haverty  - as -  Ernie Cusack

LizAnne Keigley  - as -  Cookie Cusack

Hisato Masuyama-Ball  - as -  Cassie Cooper

Robert McCollum  - as -  Officer Welch

Judy Rosenfeld  - as -  Officer Pudney

Debi Tinsley  - as -  Chris Gorman 

The show runs now through July 29th at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Boulevard, North Hollywood, California.  For further information including reservations and ticketing visit:  https://thegrouprep.com/boxoffice/.  Or call 818-763-5990.

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A brand new radio show hits the internet airwaves starting Wednesday. June 20th at 11:00 a.m. Pacific time and each Wednesday thereafter.  The show hosts are Ron Irwin, Victor Onuigbo and Richard Perry and they call their show “The Three Amigos.”  Fun guaranteed so check it out here:  http://www.ronirwin.net/3-amigos-radio-show.html. 

AND TUNE IN HERE:  http://ubnradio.com/channel-2/

 



‘The Color Purple’ a review

 

In 1982 American author Alice Walker released her novel, “The Color Purple” to rave reviews.By 1983 the novel won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction as well as a National Book Award for fiction.  It didn’t take long for Hollywood to catch on and in 1985 “The Color Purple” hit the big screen directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Margaret Avery and Oprah Winfrey.  That movie earned eleven Oscar nominations and won 14 other awards. 

Then by 2005 “The Color Purple” landed on Broadway earning eleven Tony Award nominations.  It ran until 2008.  By 2015 it was back as a revival and quickly began earning Tony Awards.  And now it has arrived at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. And so the question begs, what makes this such a powerful show; what is it that captivates audiences everywhere? 

 To begin with while the harsh life of Celie growing up around the 1930’s in America’s rural south is certainly a central theme and illuminates a tragic reality of the exceedingly low place African American women held at that time and place. Then as the story unfolds on stage there are a wide variety of stories interwoven in the experience.  There is the relationship between Celle and her younger sister Nettie who is deemed pretty while Celie is proclaimed ugly.  There is a strong bond of sisterly love between the two but of course there is conflict.

 Celie is beaten and raped frequently by her supposed father and gives birth to two children from him who later gives Celie away to be married to Mister. The problem is Mister wants Nellie who wants nothing to do with Mister thus creating an obviously far less than perfect relationship.  Indeed Mister mainly treats Celie as his personal servant and little else.  And as this is unfolding Nettie takes off to do missionary work in Africa. 

 But a bright ray of sunshine does fall on Celie when Blues singer Shug Avery comes to town.  Mister wants Shug, Shug doesn’t want Mister but she is interested in Celie and begins to show Celie a love she has never before experienced. 

 This is but some of the multiple directions this show takes.  It is complex, often violent, filled with tragedy and sorrow, but can there be, is there indeed at least some level of joy and happiness for Celie and others?  That is something you will need to discover for yourself but with faith, persistence and commitment there is always hope. 

 That said as you allow this show to take you down its twisting winding path you will be treated to a plethora of magnificent music and powerful vocal performances, sometimes sprinkled with little treats of irreverence. 

 I openly admit that some of my facts might be short or inadequate or maybe in some ways inaccurate simply because there is so much happening that keeping all in perfect order is severely challenging.  But of the five star quality of the acting and singing I am certain.  And that anyone can endure the life of Celie and still hold on to hope, joy and love is nothing less than a true miracle making “The Color Purple” well worth experiencing for yourself.

“The Color Purple” is playing now through June 17th at The Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90028.  Show times are Tuesdays through Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 1:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.  For reservations and ticketing options visit: www.hollywoodpantages.com. 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celie [Adrianna Hicks] and

Nettie [N'Jameh Camara] and

Cast of "The Color Purple."

Photo Credit:  

Matthew Murphy


America – A Nation in Distress

When I was a young boy I remember with glee the pure joy of every 4th of July.  There was always a parade and every kid in town decorated his or her bicycle and many attached playing cards with clothes pins so that as the wheel turned the spokes would hit the cards making the bicycle sound somewhat like a motorcycle.  There would be bands playing music and military and former military men and women marching.  It was a beautiful day capped off with a dazzling night of fireworks and everyone was proud to be an American.  We had just ended World War Two in victory and the nation rejoiced. 

Then came the Korean War, called the Korean conflict by the politicians who knew we as a country didn’t want any more war.  Not very long after that debacle which resolved absolutely nothing and which never actually formally ended things began to heat up in Vietnam.  As that war progressed from bad to very bad resulting in a never ending stream of sometimes violent protests across our land and ultimately the death of more than 58,000 Americans and more than 3 million Vietnamese and a victory for our enemy North Vietnam a major shift in America had taken place. 

Personally I actually volunteered to be a United States Marine and eventually I even volunteered to serve in Vietnam.  I shall be forever proud of my service as a Marine, but much of what I witnessed in Vietnam deeply disgusted me.  That said I still maintained great pride in my nation, but now that feeling has been deeply challenged. 

Just the other night I heard a story on television news that made me instantly thoroughly enraged so much so that I began thinking of just where else other than America I might want to move to.  The TV news report stated that about 1500 children have recently been separated from their parents by ICE agents.  The parents of these children were allegedly illegal immigrants and had to be deported, but the children, having been born in America were American citizens and therefore would remain here but not with their parents but rather in some lifeless refugee camp run by the Department of Human Services.

So utterly disturbing was this tid bit of news that I began looking a little deeper and was horrified to learn that this practice has been going on for several years resulting in more than 71000 deportations of parents separated from their children.  This is a pure disgrace and shall forever tarnish what was once a truly great nation.  Every Congress person who does not immediately seek to end this horror deserves to be voted out of office regardless of party affiliation.  Oh but what are they to do you ask, we cannot just let everyone come into our country.  I mean if you really want to know how bad an open door policy can be, just ask any of the 562 Indian Nations, Tribes and Pueblos how well it has worked for them.  That said there really is a rational solution.

Any man or woman who seeks to live in America may apply for a residency permit which will be granted when the applicant can prove that he or she has gainful employment and no criminal history.  The process should be made fast and simple so there would be no valid reason for avoiding the process.  Once residency has been granted, and application for citizenship should be made available ten years after lawful entry upon demonstration that the applicant remains gainfully employed and free of any criminal actions.  Done.  And what of all who are already here illegally?

Simple.  Once apprehended they would be sat down and walked through the lawful residency request process and their applications would be given top priority and they would be allowed to remain in our country with their children until their application was processed.  Yes, they would need to have a periodic check in process which they would be required to maintain but which would not be unnecessarily onerous.  I can’t with absolute certainty claim that everyone who goes through this process would be accepted because some do indeed take up criminal activity such as the notorious MS-13 gangsters, but I can say that a whole lot of otherwise very decent people would be welcomed and their children would not have to face the horror that so many now face. 

Just pause for a moment and think what it would have been like if you had been forcibly taken from your parents when you were but five years old and placed in a government detention center.  How long would your tears have shed, how crushed would your heart be?  Hey, President Trump, want to make America great again?  Good than put an end to this atrocity. 

 


'Paris Syndrome’ review

One of oh so many shows in the ongoing Los Angeles Fringe Festival  I was attracted to this one, “Paris Syndrome” by its title and even more when I discovered that there really is such a thing as a “Paris Syndrome.”  It is defined as a transient mental disorder exhibited by some individuals while visiting or going on vacation to Paris as a result of extreme shock derived from the realization that Paris is not what they had expected it to be.  Now I don’t know about you but wouldn’t that also fir a large group of folks who come to “Hollywood” and hang out around Hollywood and Highland actually expecting to meet up let’s say Matt Damon or Julia Roberts.  Okay so I am a cynic, but on to the show. 

Emmy nominated and USC graduate Ross Buran, wonderfully assisted by Heidi Hayward and Mark David Christenson tells a tale of a young man who falls in love, gets married and honeymoons in Paris, the City of light and love.  Eternal love was his expectation but a few years later his bride bids him farewell sending him, the character him, into deep depression and shock.  Finally he determines that the best way to pull out of his simmering funk would be to return to Paris and among other things remove the lock he and his love once placed on a Parisian bridge to symbolize their eternal love.  But alas that effort goes array. 

But as in most things in life the story told in “Paris Syndrome” is much more about the journey than the destination.  It is a well-crafted and superbly presented tale filled with a steady stream of great humor as the main character works his way through his many experiences past and present presented in a way that genuinely entertains. 

The show is short, only about an hour, but it is a thoroughly enjoyable hour and absolutely worthy of your time.  Up for a Tony?  Ah not likely but again a very enjoyable one hour of your life with several more of happy memories.  On a personal note I found it a bit extra amusing as I only recently returned from a trip to Paris, and a few other fun places.  I was accompanied by my wife of 34 years, my USC graduate daughter, her older sister, my beautiful granddaughter, and two beautiful ladies of our extended family visiting from Singapore.    Just one old guy accompanied by six beautiful ladies in the city of light and love; now that was truly awesome.  But yep I too met the surly cab driver.  I’m just too jaded to succumb to the Paris Syndrome. 

Kudos to Ross Buran, Heidi Hayward and Mark David Christenson for a job very well done.  “Paris Syndrome” runs now through June 24th at The Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood, California.  Reservations and ticketing available at: http://hff18.org/4853.

 
For even more fun visit:  www.ronirwin.net. 

 


‘Violet’ in review

In 1997 “Violet” with musical score by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by Brian Crawley opened off Broadway and won the New York Drama Critics Award for Best Musical, the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical, and the Obie Award for (Special Citation – Music) for Jeanine Tesori.  By 2014 “Violet” was on Broadway and receiving a torrent of very positive reviews.  Today it is at Actor’s Co-op in Los Angeles and once again deeply pleasing the audience.

The story is set in 1964 and begins in North Carolina, which I found particularly intriguing to me as I was in North Carolina in 1964 and in the military.  Violet is a young woman who has suffered severe physical injury and seeks to relieve herself of the scars with the help of a tele-evangelist in Oklahoma.  She is traveling by bus and on that bus there are also two Army men.  As the wheels on the bus go round and round an intricate and beautiful story unfolds with an abundance of very enjoyable music. 

Atypical of a smaller venue, this show at the Crossley Theatre has a live band backing the vocals giving the show even greater depth.  And the performances of all of the team but especially Claire Adams [Violet], Jahmaul Bakare [Flick] and Morgan West [Monty] are enrapturing. 

For many people today there is little if any remembrance of enforced racial segregation but it absolutely did exist in North Carolina and through-out the south in 1964 and that reality is poignantly revealed in the course of this show.  It has an impact on Violet and in some ways shapes her future. 

But what Violet really comes to grips with on this journey is a full self-acceptance and an ability to feel and express love.  It even involves an evolution in the relationship with her father which is presented through-out the show with flash back scenes along the journey.  Once angry and hateful, Violet emerges forgiving, understanding and loving.  She also develops a love relationship with a man, but I think what really shines through is the love and full acceptance of herself that develops on a bus ride and beyond.  Oh, and that man she finds love with, he too will surprise you. 

“Violet” is playing now through June 17th, 2018 at the Actor’s Co-op Crossley Theatre, 1760 N. Gower Street, Hollywood, California 90028.  The easiest way to purchase tickets is online at: 

https://sa1.seatadvisor.com/sabo/servlets/EventSearch?presenter=ACTORSCOOP&tck=true

 

 

 


‘Wood Boy Dog Fish’ a review

On opening night the entire theatre inside and out was awash with a rich and alluring carnival sense.  It very much set the tone for what was to come and it was truly a work of art created by Jason Anderson and Victoria of HHFX.  So I begin with a heartfelt salute to their good work.  And then the house opened and the drama accelerated.  I believe this shall continue throughout the run and I surely hope so because it truly does set the stage. 

The set design was absolutely spectacular.  It was very three dimensional and visually captivating; arguably one of the most intriguing I have seen and I have seen thousands.  But then again that is pretty much the standard for the Garry Marshall Theatre.  Now let the show begin.

‘Wood Boy Dog Fish’ is heavily influenced by if not based on the 1940 Disney hit movie “Pinocchio” but taking to a whole new level.  Geppetto is wood carver who, with some magic from Blue creates a living wooden puppet who strives to become real.  But along his danger filled path the question to some extent becomes what exactly does it mean to be “real?” 

On his pursuit of “real” Wood Boy is threatened by a seemingly never ending array of dangers and unsavory characters including the fabled Dog Fish monster.  With a steady plethora of astounding costumes and masks, original music and phenomenal stage effects Pinocchio winds his way through Shoreside, a tourist trap with a strange and quirky carnival atmosphere.  All it brought to powerful life with great acting, great music and a whole lot of special effects. 

It is so intense and the action is so fast that at times I found it almost overwhelming.  At the suggestion of my good friend and top tier actor friend who joined me for “Wood Boy Dog Fish” Victor Onuigbo I revisited Disney’s 1940 smashed hit movie “Pinocchio”, a show I hadn’t seen in such a long time I won’t even tell you how long, and suddenly everything fell into sharp focus.   So if you want to assure maximum enjoyment of you viewing of “Wood Boy Dog Fish” I would highly recommend you spend just a minute or two at this wikipedia site first. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinocchio_(1940_film).

But again that question of exactly what does it mean to be “real” keeps jumping up.  At one point the adorable cricket is killed, but is he?  Was that killing real?  I ask because he returns.  And what about the choking and gasping he is hung at the end of Act One.   How can a rope around a piece of wood serving as a neck cause choking when there are no lungs/  Oh wait maybe that chunk of wood is in transition into something else, something more real. 

It is thoughts and experiences like this that fill the show with massive energy and visual as well as mental stimulation and I love shows that not only create emotion but which also generate mental stimulation as well and “Wood Boy Dog Fish” does that abundantly.  Ergo this is a show of great entertainment value but I am also convinced to see it at its very best you really do need to refresh your recollection of Pinocchio first.  Yes I know I just repeated myself but that is because I truly do believe it is that important to achieve maximum joy from watching a truly great cast deliver a deeply memorable performance on stage now at the Garry Marshall Theatre in Burbank, California.  It is a wild and zany ride and one you will long remember. 

And one other thought to contemplate.  Could it be that Geppetto is the father of Wood Boy and that Blue is his mother?  I don’t know if that was a subliminal intent of playwright Chelsea Sutton or not, but it emerged in my mind as a possibility as I was re-exploring this show in preparation for writing this review.  And that is yet but one more example of the awesome mental stimulation “Wood Boy Dog Fish” delivers. 

Written by Chelsea Sutton and produced by Rogue Artists Ensemble “Wood Boy Dog Fish” is on stage now through June 24th 2018 at the Garry Marshall Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank, California 91505.  Ticketing and reservations are available by calling 818-955-9101 or online at:  www.GarryMarshallTheatre.org


‘Forever Bound’ A world Premier

A couple months back the world was shocked when authorities discovered 13 children shackled and tortured in their own home in Perris, California.  It is extremely difficult to even imagine such horror and yet again just recently 10 more children were found in their Fairfield, California home under similar circumstances.  Has our world gone totally mad?  I grew up in a time when giving a kid a swat on his or her fanny to emphasize an error and encourage a correction was the norm but soon parents doing such things were being ostracized and the practice mostly drifted away.  Yet now dozens of children are being found in unthinkable horror from their own parents. 

<<< French Stewart & Steve Apostolina

Possibly at least somewhat motivated by such current events or possibly merely by a very focused imagination on the workings of the minds of people who commit such horrors and the deep and lasting impact it has on the victims motivated playwright Steve Apostolina to write “Foverever Bound” now playing at Atwater Village Theatre.  But whatever the motivation or inspiration what appears onstage in “Forever Bound” is without question one of the most compelling plays currently on stage anywhere. 

It begins when two friends chat about their financial struggles with one of them facing eviction because he is unable to pay his rent.  Broke he may be but he also has ample integrity.  So when his friend Shep suggests he has a solution to his friend Edmund’s financial woes Edmund is stunned to learn it involves stealing a very valuable book and he declines.  But as the noose tightens Edmund reconsiders and eventually it is agreed that the burglary will be done.

All goes well except for one little very unexpected thing, Edmund returns not only with the valuable book but with a young women who he found shackled in the basement of the burglary victims house.  The young woman, Rosalind, is clearly severely traumatized and eventually her full story unfolds. 

As this story unfolds on stage it builds and illuminates the many horrific and powerful ways in which such unconscionable behavior deeply wounds the victim.  The path to recovery is long and uncertain but love and compassion do make a huge difference.  It is this dynamic that is so masterfully written by Steve Apostolina and presented by the superb acting of French Stewart [Edmund], Rob Nagle [Thomas], Emily Goss [Rosalind] and Steve Apostolina [Shep and Playwright]. 

<<< Bob Nagle & Emily Goss

It also presents such intriguing real life dilemmas the most overpowering is what do they do with the young woman?  The obvious choice would be to take her to the Police so perhaps she can be reunited with her family and the evil man may captured and sent to prison.  But the problem with that is how do they explain how they happened to find her?  “Well officer there I was burglarizing this house when unexpectedly I found this nice young lady.”  Well they really didn’t want to do that, so what could they do?  That my friends is what you must go and discover for yourself.  I assure you that the process will be spellbinding. 

You may see the very best show in town at the Atwater Village Theatre, 3289 Casitas Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90039 now through June 16, 2018.  Reservations and information are available by calling 323-960-4429 or online at:  www.plays411.com/foreverbound.  You should leave the kids at home but you will delighted that you went. 
 

Photo Credit:  Kathy Flynn  

 

 

 


One Man’s Story

Finding an actor in my hometown of Burbank, California is about as rare as finding trees in the forest.  I have over many years observed that if you were to drop dead while walking down a street in Burbank you would hit three actors before landing on the ground.   But meeting an actor who possess everything one needs to become a truly successful actor, now that is extremely rare and yet only recently it happened to me. 

One afternoon I was walking my dog, Princess Patsy, her Royal Muttness when I met my friend and neighbor Rick.  We began chatting and soon there appeared another man who could not be ignored.  He was at least 6 feet 7 inches tall and topped off with an impressive bundle of hair that took him to at least seven feet.  He joined in our conversation and spoke nothing about anything vaguely related to Hollywood; just basic guy stuff and I learned that this very tall man’s name was Victor Onuigbo and that he began his life in Nigeria.  Actually I think he is just covering up that he in fact began his life in Wakanda but what do I know. 

But as our conversation progressed Victor’s demeanor was constantly friendly and bright and the nature of our discussion revealed that he was also extremely witty and intelligent.  So here was a man whose vision could simply not be ignored with a very happy and pleasant attitude, a pleasing voice and clearly a sharp wit.  Clearly this guy was not yet another actor. So I asked him “Victor, what kind of work do you do?” to which he cheerfully replied “I am an actor.”  But that was it, there was no bragging about TV shows or movies just a simple modest statement that he was an actor.  Then I knew I had met a man who was on his way to a night in the Spring of some year not too far off walking on a red carpet in front of the Dolby Theatre. 

But later I did look him up on IMDb, a data base of absolutely anyone who has ever done anything even remotely connected to film or television and sure enough he had some very impressive credential’s; not yet “star” level but clearly headed in that direction. 

Later in other conversations I learned that Victor Onuigbo had been born in Nigeria to a very strong family with a father who was a very well-known and greatly respected physician.  But not too long after his birth the government in Nigeria began showing signs of great difficulty and their future looked grim so dad left for America to begin building a new life. 

That task was extremely difficult because for his father to resume practicing medicine he had to once again go through internship and residency and then take and pass medical board examinations.  While doing this money became very tight and the family was under stress but they pulled together and dad was successful.  It was that level of drive that inspired Victor to achieve his own level of success his own way.  Victor did recall that at around age 3 or 4 he and his family lived in Houston, Texas but didn’t particularly care for their life there so they moved up to a better life in Baltimore, Maryland where Victor lived until about age 14 and then it was on to Eau Claire, Wisconsin and the beginnings of a real commitment to his future in Science and Engineering Management.  He narrowed down his choices for college to the Wharton School and Stanford University and eventually chose Stanford which he loved.  He graduated ahead of scheduled and took a job with Caesars Gaming Industries in Las Vegas, Nevada.  The pay was excellent but he didn’t much care for Las Vegas or the job so he came a little bit further west and began to shift his focus to acting.  It didn’t take long for him to land a recurring role on the hit TV series “Shameless.” 

After a great deal of internal exploring of his heart, mind and soul Victor Onuigbo is now totally committed to fully developing his acting career.  He is not at all interested in being a “star” or parading around on a red carpet; rather he treats his new focus with the same commitment to detail as he employed when working in the field of Science and Engineering Management and that is one of the many persuasive reasons why I see Victor Onuigbo as a very real star in the making because he fully understands that “show business” is made up of two words and that the second word – business – has twice the letters and ten times the importance of the first word.  Watch out Hollywood, Victor Onuigbo has arrived and he is ready to rock. 

 


‘SEX’ by Mae West

Margy LaMont [Andrea Hutchman] is the best known most successful madam of the sex trade in Montreal, Canada.  One of her best customers, a British Naval Officer is in love with her and he wants her to marry him.  Then she meets Jimmy Stanton [Ryan Philips] who also instantly falls in love with her and who also has the big advantage of being heir to huge estate.  But what can she do?  Her opinion of men in general has been shaped by many years in the sex business, meaning she holds men in very low regard and also the fact that she knows that she will never be able to erase her past and may not even want to. 

By the end of act one the story has shifted to a Caribbean island and the audience is treated to one of the very best scenes of the entire show, a musical and dance performance with a sensational performance from the entire cast. 

As the story continues to develop a lot of people who have known Margy professionally in Montreal are shocked when they meet her again either in the Caribbean of later in plush mansion. 

In every aspect the show is quite intentionally exaggerated.  For example the behaviors of the house service staff are in the extreme.  Likewise so is the behavior of a clearly corrupt cop as well as other characters.  I believe the point is to emphasize the truly comedic aspects of the show.  “SEX” debuted on Broadway in 1926.  It was written, produced and direct by Mae West well known not only for her writing and acting but also for her true enthusiasm for sex.  While “SEX” was a box office hit, Mae West was arrested and convicted for obscenity and spent eight days in jail. 

I am confident that neither Director Sirena Irwin nor Producers Jocelyn O’Keefe and Kevin Comartin will be put in jail for this production of “SEX.”  But yes the show definitely has its bawdy moments and clearly is intended for an adult audience but in my view falls far short of any reasonable understanding of the word “obscene.”  What it genuinely is is funny, even hilarious.  Yet it does also stimulate deeper thought. 

Driving home from the show my friend and neighbor and TV actor [Shameless, et.al.] Victor Onuigbo and I vigorously discussed “SEX” and the commercial form of sex, prostitution.  One question was can prostitutes ever stop and return to “normal” society?  I believe not based on having met thousands of prostitutes mainly as a very young Marine serving in Asia, But then Victor raised the question of societal hypocrisy and why are women scorned but not the men?  Great question and one at the very least alluded to in the play “SEX.” 

But while the show does raise some very significant questions about our society the show’s purpose I believe is primarily to entertain with abundant comedy and that it does and does well. 

“SEX” is on the Main Stage at the Hudson Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood, California 90038 now through June 17th, 2018.  Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 7:00 p.m.  Ticketing is available online at:  https://dime.io/events/buzzworks-sex or at the Hudson box office. 

Enjoy the SEX but do leave the children at home. 

Kandace Lindsey

PHOTO CREDIT:  Rich Hutchman

Andrea Hutchman, Wayne Wilderson and Susan Edwards Martin


‘School of Rock ‘ rocking at the Pantages

Two lifelong buddies, both former band members now have different lives, but are they really all that different?  One became a school teacher and got married.  The other has basically just pretty much given up on life.  But then one day something very unexpected happens when the unemployed man takes a phone call intended for the school teacher man.  Seems a local school wants to hire the teacher to be a substitute for a few weeks at a pay rate that dazzles the unemployed man so he accepts the job.  Now keep in mind that the job offer was not for the unemployed man yet that is the man who accepts the offer.  That is the beginning but where it goes is how the word “amazing” is defined. 

“School of Rock – the Musical” is based on the 2003 Golden Globe nominated movie “School of Rock” starring Jack Black, Mike White and Joan Cussack.  “School of Rock – the Musical” has an original score by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Glenn Slater and book by Julian Fellowes.  At the Pantages the cast features Bob Colletti as Dewey the unemployed band member now temporary teacher and dozens of clearly extremely talented young performers most in their early teens or even younger. 

Once Dewey arrives at a very rigidly run private school to teach he does begin to teach but it ain’t readin’, writin’ and rithmatic he is teaching.  Oh no Dewey falls back on what he loves most – music in general and rock and roll in particular.  How this all develops and how it ultimately all ends up is clearly the core of the show which will, I promise, grab and hold you to the very end.  But much of the magic comes from the very young actors who are nothing short of spectacular.  Yes I do keep mentioning this because it is that powerful. 

When the rather stuffy school principal, Rosalie [Lexie Dorsett Sharp] finally discovers what her substitute teacher Dewey is doing disaster is avoided by Dewey playing the Stevie Nicks trick.  What is that that you ask?  Well watch the show and you will see for yourself but it is yet one more way “School of Rock – The musical” entertains in ways most theatrical presentations just don’t.  I am not saying “School of Rock – The Musical” is better that every other show, only that it is very unique, often extremely funny, filled with great music and some unexpected twists and turns.  And I cannot over emphasize the fact that one of the most compelling elements of the show are its many very young and supremely talented performers.  Just watching them is well worth the price of admission. 

“School of Rock – The Musical” is at the Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, California now through May 27th 2018.  Show times are Tuesday through Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 1:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.  Recommended for age 8 years and up.  Reservations and ticketing online at HollywoodPantages.com or Ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-982-2787.  
 

Rob Colletti and Cast.  Photo Credit:  Matthew Murphy

 


‘Native Son’ at Antaeus Theatre Company

I was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1945, just a few years after the time frame of the play “Native Son” but over the years I had many opportunities to observe some of the conditions and abundant de facto racism presented in this powerful work.  On one occasion I got to go to North Carolina in the summer of 1959.  When we stopped at a bus station to use its rest rooms we were shocked to find four different rest rooms, one for black women, one for white women, one for black men and one for white men.   That was a wild, to us, example of legally enforced racism.  Chicago and other northern cities has long had abundant de facto racism.  In many ways Chicago is a truly great city.  But one glaring example of how it was often not such a great place dramatically occurred technically not in Chicago but in its 100% white next door neighborhood of Cicero, Illinois.

On July 11th 1951 a bus driver by the name of Harvey Clark Jr. who happened to be African American, had the unmitigated nerve to move into an apartment with his family in the city of Cicero.  He was soon greeted by roughly 6000 very angry white folks who demanded that he leave which in order to keep on living he did.  Nothing about that incident was legal but it was a classic example of extreme de facto racism. 

Fifteen years later in 1966 Martin Luther King Jr. participated in a march to and through the city of Cicero.  Miraculously no one was killed that day but it sure got gobs of media attention.  Then there arose in 1967 several racially based riots across the United States including Chicago.  In response then President Lyndon B. Johnson commissioned a panel led by Illinois Governor Otto Kerner that resulted in a report entitled “Healing a Divided Society.”  But truth be told, little if anything has changed in Chicago and most likely other major American cities as well. 

So my point in all of this is to add even more credence to the essence of the story as told in the play “Native Son.”  The story is of a young black man Bigger Thomas and reveals how his life in rat infested poverty in Chicago’s South Side shaped him and played upon his mind driving him in what would ultimately become his own violent death.  There on the stage is presented not merely the man Bigger Thomas but also his conscience speaking to him as he experiences his life spinning steadily out of control. 

The troubles amplify when Bigger takes a job as a chauffeur for a wealthy white family.  The mother directs Bigger to take her daughter to school but the daughter has other plans instantly creating stress because no matter what he does he will be wrong, very wrong in at least one person’s mind be it mom or daughter.  So decisions are made because they must be made and consequences, horrible consequences occur largely aggravated by the undeniable presence of a racial divide perpetuated by the culture of the place and time. 

Whatever “Native Son” may be without doubt it is powerful and thought provoking.  It raises far more questions than answers but it severely provokes thought.  So if having your mind stimulated and your thoughts provoked is entertaining for you than this show “Native Son” is a show you will not want to miss.  If, on the other hand, you prefer watching French soldiers singing while engaged in a fire fight then skip this and go see Les Miserables.  Personally I would chose “Native Son” and hopefully my brief overview of the long history of the racial divide so deeply ingrained in the culture of Chicago will provide even greater understanding of the story being told on stage.  Special kudos for a powerful performance by Jon Chaffin as Bigger Thomas. 

“Native Son” is playing at the Antaeus Theatre Company, Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center, 110 East Broadway, Glendale, California 91205 now through June 3rd.  Show times are 8:00 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays through Saturdays and 2:00 p.m. on Sundays.  Reservations and ticketing are available at www.Antaeus.org or by calling 818-506-1983. 
Love to travel?  Then check this out as well.  http://www.ronirwin.net/EnjoyOurWorld.html. 

Photos top to bottom.  Jon Chaffin, Matthew Grondin & Noel Arthur.  

Mildred Marie Langford & Jon Chaffin

Brandon Rachal & Jon Chaffin.  Photo Credit:  Geoffrey Wade

 

 


‘The Immigrant’ at Sierra Madre Playhouse

It begins in the year 1909 in a place off the beaten track in the small town of Hamilton, Texas population about 1200.  Then and there a stranger arrives, a young man clearly from another country barely able to speak or understand any English he is pushing his cart filled with bananas for sale when he happens upon a banker and his wife at their lovely home in Hamilton.  A friendship between them quickly evolves and the young man Haskell Harelik is offered much needed help including shelter by the banker Milton and his wife Ima.

<<< Kaye Kittrell & Stuart W. Howard

At first it is mostly a rather cute and somewhat funny story but as it evolves a wide array of issues arise, many of them centered on the all too common condition of xenophobia that is every bit as much alive today as it was in rural Texas in 1909.  You see Haskell Harelik is an immigrant from Russia from which he fled to escape the horrible conditions of his life there seeking freedom in the United States of America.  His immigrant status is inescapably obvious due to his language difference but an even more difficult challenge soon becomes obvious because he is also a Jew now living in a town that is devoutly Christian. 

Clearly against all odds Haskell Harelik begins to succeed in business with the courageous help of his banker friend Milton.  But then something huge jumps in the way of Haskell’s rise to success and true freedom.  He tells Milton that to grow more he needs a worker.  Milton is absolutely against the idea pointing out that it is a very bad business decision but Haskell persists and finally reveals that he already has an assistant – his wife.  Seems that by working hard and saving money Haskell Harelik was able to bring his wife from Russia to the United States of America so they could be together and prosper together in America.  The problem is his wife Leah has her own brand of xenophobia and doesn’t much care for folks who wear cowboy hats, big belt buckles and pointy boots. 

<<< Stuart W. Howard & Adam Lebowitz-Lockard

So where is this train heading?  What good can possibly come out of this seemingly insurmountable collision of cultures and attitudes? 

Watching this show brought back some vivid memories of my dear old grandma about 65 years ago now when one day I happened to walk with a girl from school to her home on my way to my house.  As we approached the door of the girl’s home, her name was Rebecca by the way, I saw something unfamiliar to me on the door frame.  I asked Rebecca what it was and she told me it was a mezuzah.  I never did fully understand but I thought it was exciting so I ran home and excitedly told my dear old grandma, born and raised in Germany, that I had walked Rebecca to her house and saw a mezuzah.  I thought granny was going to have a heart attack, “Oh my God, she is one of THOSE people.”  Now please understand that overwhelmingly grandma was a very sweet lady who wouldn’t hurt a flea but clearly I had struck a chord with her.  She was not a fan of Jewish people almost certainly because of how and where she had been raised whether it made any sense or not. 

And the beat goes on to this day.  Fueled largely by fear a great many people react poorly to anyone who in any significant way is different from themselves.  Taken to its extreme this condition can be severely brutal and has and will continue to take innocent lives.  But back to the play.

What would become of Haskell Harelik and his lovely but deeply distressed wife Leah?  Could the friendship with Milton and Ima continue and if so how might their relationship transform?  “The Immigrant” is a powerful story with many fascinating revelations of the human condition and it is also a true story based on the real life of the playwright’s grandfather.  Mark Harelik is a renowned author and actor and he brings a real sense of family to “The Immigrant” ultimately revealing what it can mean to be an American.  The acting is five star across the board with well-deserved kudos to Sigi Gradwohl [Leah], Stuart W. Howard [Milton], Kaye Kittrell [Ima] and Adam Lebowitz-Lockard [Haskell Harelik]. 

<<< Sigi Gradwohl & Adam Lebowitz-Lockard

“The Immigrant” runs now through May 26, 2018 at the Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Boulevard, Sierra Madre, California 91024.  Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday’s at 2:30 p.m.  Reservations may be made by calling 626-355-4318 and online ticketing is available at: www.sierramadreplayhouse.org. 

Photo Credit:  Gina Long


 

Another great slice of entertainment is back in town for just two shows in May.  Kate Huffman presents her award winning one person show “I’m Too Fat for This Show.”  Where: ACME Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, 90036

When: May 23rd & 30th 8pm

Ticket info: acmetheatres.org

 

 


‘An Undivided Heart’  a world premier

Ponder this.  You are a well-educated person engaged in a profession you deeply love.   The organization you work for you have long held in extremely high regard.  Then one day you learn something about another person holding a position of power within your organization who you have good reason to believe has engaged in many serious evil acts that have severely damaged many of those with whom he had a duty to protect not destroy.  What do you do?  What can you do? 

                                                          Matthew Gallenstein & Bob Clendenin > > > > >

You decide that this is such a deeply important issue that the whole world must learn of this treachery so you write a book detailing the evil deeds so that they will stop.  That all sounds good but there are many within your organization who never want to see such a book in print.  They are convinced that the problem is entirely internal and needs to be resolved without any public scrutiny.  You on the other hand are firmly convinced that this matter is so important that the only fair, reasonable just and moral thing to do is to inform the public at large. 

So you meet with one of your very senior executives to discuss your book.  He agrees that there “may” be a problem but restates that it is an internal matter that best be resolved entirely within the framework of the organization and without any public involvement.  He essentially tells you that if you go forward with your book your career, the career that you deeply love, will almost certainly be taken from you.  What do you do?

That is one of the main themes in this extremely powerful play “An Undivided Heart.”  This is not the kind of show that entertains by tickling your funny bone or filling you ears and mind with beautiful music.  This is a work that demands serious and at times truly profound thought.  This is a show that entertains and entertains well by demanding of your deep and sometimes unpleasant thought.  It puts before the audience moral issues that don’t have simple answers.  This is a play based in large part on the on the revelation of sexual abuse by one or more Roman Catholic Priest(s) that first came to light in Massachusetts in 1992.  Father Mike Cleary played superbly by Matthew Gallenstein is convinced that another priest has been sexually abusing young boys and he is convinced that the offending priest must be stopped and exposed.  But there are many in his church, the church he deeply loves, who want him to back down and allow the church to heal itself solely from within.  Not following that advice would in all likelihood cause him to lose a job he dearly loves, but not taking action would destroy him from within.  And this is but one of two themes that drive the show. 

                                                                                          Jennifer A. Skinner > > > > > 

Along the way Father Mike Cleary meets Janice, a practitioner of Zen Buddhism and portrayed with conviction by Jennifer A. Skinner.  Her approach to life’s issues fascinate Father Cleary and then he becomes frustrated when he cannot correctly solve a problem posed to him by Janice.  The test goes something like this.  In one hand she holds a cat in the other hand a knife.  He is then given three chances to correctly say something that will keep her from killing the cat.  He fails two or maybe three times.  Of course, no actual cat is involved but the message does eventually come through and it guides Father Clearly in making the right decisions about how to deal with the sexual abuse scandal he has become aware of and feels a need to address.  The solution that saves the cat involves recognition and acceptance of surrendering to risk of personal loss to achieve a greater good.  Think about it. 

Like I said, this is a play that demands thought and it isn’t always easy to follow.  But eventually a great deal of wisdom shines through.  There is some strong language and not everyone will thrill at everything its puts forth.  So children and anyone incapable of considering effective ways to deal with some severely dark events should stay home.  Everyone else will be thrilled with the show.

“An Undivided Heart” is playing now through April 22nd, 2018 at the Echo Theatre Company, Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90039.  Show times are Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m.  Reservations and ticketing available by calling 310-307-3753 or online at:  www.EchoTheatreCompany.com. 

                                                                                 Photo Credit:  Reza Allah-Bakhshi


‘Unemployed Elephants’ take over Burbank

 

Okay so maybe that isn’t totally accurate because Elephants unemployed or otherwise have not swarmed Burbank, but the love story written by acclaimed playwright Wendy Graf and entitled “Unemployed Elephants” has indeed launched at Burbank’s Victory Theatre and it fun with a powerful message or two. 

It begins innocently enough when Jane, portrayed splendidly by Brea Bee and Alex played with great skill by Marshall McCabe meet by chance and soon discover that they are heading to the same rather unusual destination, Myanmar.  Their chance meeting is anything but instant love.  Jane is undeniable a very pretty woman and Alex is a handsome man but there are many road blocks along their path.  Most significantly Jane was only very recently literally left standing alone at the alter Clearly Jane is in no mood for another relationship anytime soon.  Alex, on the other hand finds himself drawn to Jane and begins working hard to tear down her resistance.  This dynamic is replete with abundant humor brilliantly executed. 

But as time moves on affection does grow between the disparate couple.  Jane slowly begins to move beyond her recent heart break but slowing things down is a persistent mystery surrounding Alex.  Is he really a producer for Animal Planet in search of a possible show about Myanmar’s unemployed elephants?  Turns out he confesses that is not true but rather he is a man in pursuit of his long missing sister.  That too eventually is revealed as false.  So then who exactly is Alex?  Jane is beginning to have positive feelings about Alex but his apparent inability to truthfully reveal exactly why he has chosen Myanmar to visit keeps getting in the way of their relationship.  After all Myanmar is a country steeped in very dark tragedy despite its abundant outward beauty. 

Indeed as the story progresses another story well beyond that of Alex and Jane maybe falling in love emerges.  This story is torn from today’s headlines and is focused on the apparent ethnic cleansing of Myanmar’s Muslin minority.  Not everyone sees the same set of circumstances in exactly the same light, of course, but there is little doubt about some very unpleasant realities haunting Myanmar formally known as Burma. 

The play, “Unemployed Elephants does little if anything to suggest a solution to the problem but does make it very clear that significant problems do exist with that Southeast Asian nation.  And so in the end “Unemployed Elephants” is a fascinating often hilarious love story mixed in with a dose of powerful global politics.  Such a mix, love and chaos, is absolutely not mutually exclusive and is well blended in this show. 

“Unemployed Elephants” is now playing at The Little Victory Theatre, 3324 West Victory Boulevard, Burbank, California 91505 through April 21st, 2018.  Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday’s at 4:00 p.m.  Reservations and ticketing are available by calling 818-841-5422 or online at:  www.thevictorytheatrecenter.org. 

And one final note about a Star I met at the theatre.  She is a true and beautiful Star, very friendly and loving with an unforgettable smile.  That is all I am saying for now but with any luck you too may meet the Star of the Victory Theatre and most likely not on stage. 

 

 

Marshall NcCabe & Brea Bee

Photo Credit:  Tim Sullens

Marshall McCabe & Brea Bee 


‘Year of the Rooster’ now at Theatre of Note

The “Year of the Rooster” is without doubt the weirdest or certainly among the weirdest play I have ever seen and I have seen thousands.  Now I am saying weird which is neither good nor bad.  I think this opinion starts when the show opens with an obviously extremely angry rooster.   I mean seriously, how many times have you seen a genuine full sized man partially covered in feathers and clearly extremely angry in a play or otherwise?  Yeah, me neither.  But to his great credit the actor portraying the rooster gave a great performance in his role and that actor is Keston John who in addition to his stage work has garnered some impressive film and TV credits as well. 

Indeed every cast member delivered exceptionally well.  Travis Moscinski is totally convincing in his portrayal of Gil, a true “loser” and burger joint employee with close to zero life except for his most beloved rooster Odysseus Rex.  So convinced that his bird is a true winner Gil bets it all on Odysseus Rex in a cock fight.  To everyone’s surprise his rooster wins the fight and for a brief moment Gil is on top of the world.  For one all too brief shining moment Gil wins the attention of if not exactly the undying love of his boss Philipa exquisitely presented by Amanda Celine Miller.  But, of course, that won’t last. 

And then, of course, there is his nemesis Dickie as splendidly portrayed by Christopher Neiman.  Indeed it is Dickie’s bird that Odysseus Rex conquers but Dickey smells a rat and refuses to accept defeat.  There is also Gil’s mom Lou a tired broken old lady with a very strong attachment to her dog.  Kathleen O’Grady is excellent in her role of Lou. 

At times it can be a little hard to follow but in the end there is a purpose or indeed a variety of purposes or points delivered with an abundance of laughter.  But the one thing I guarantee that you will take away from this show and which will, like it or not, stick with you for a very long time is the performance Keston John as the severely angry battle hungry rooster.  So yup it is weird but it is also very worthy.

You can see “Year of the Rooster” now through March 24th, 2018 at the Theatre of Note, 1517 N. Cahuenga Boulevard, Hollywood, California.  Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 7:00 p.m.  Reservations and ticketing are available either by calling 323-856-8611 or online at:  www.theatreofnote.com. 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 


‘The Cape and the Klan’ absolutely the best show in town.

 Okay I will admit that if you are the type of theatre goer who only enjoys musicals then by all means renew your Pantages membership.  You can also explore the hundreds of smaller venues that saturate the greater Los Angeles area.  But for a serious deeply entertaining drama you really must see ”The Cape and the Klan” currently playing at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood.  Let me break it down for you.

<<Bix Barnaba & Doug Haverty

 Every stage play begins with a script.  The problem in this wonderful City of Los Angeles is that if you could gather up every script currently in existence in this part of the world and place them all on the deck of the USS Gerald R. Ford CVN-78 that giant ship would sink.  So writing the right script that tells a spell binding story in a way that informs as it entertains is a huge challenge.  Playwrights Tin Penavic and Ted Ryan have done exactly that with their true masterpiece “The Cape and the Klan.”  They and their production and acting team also deserve extreme kudos for their courage in using some language that in today’s world is deemed severely politically incorrect.  But it is not done for shock value but rather for the very good point of creating the truth about a very real world as it existed in 1951, the time in which their story took place.  In other words they focused on reality rather than pander to popular trends and notions.  But what is this story about?

<<Matthew Hoffman & Natalia Santamaria

 “The Cape and the Klan” is about how ordinary flawed humans can do extraordinary things when motivated.  A less than perfect journalist finds himself in America’s Deep South on an assignment when he comes upon a situation he believes absolutely must be told to the world.  That less than perfect journalist Harry and he is played magnificently by Doug Haverty.  What he sees is the murder of a woman for the sin of having a cup of coffee and being black while doing it.  The woman Rita Walker hypnotically portrayed by Shalonda Shaw Reese shows strength and courage beyond what most people could even imagine yet her portrayal is heart wrenchingly real.  Then there is the bad guy, the almost unbelievably bad guy Sam, the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan played so convincingly by actor Bix Barnaba that at times you really want to jump up and strangle the guy but then you realize it just an act but an extremely well done acting job. 

<<Shalonda Shaw & Bix Barnaba

 In order to gain further knowledge of the true inner workings of the Ku Klux Klan Harry pretends to be sympathetic to the Klan’s purpose and goals and he seeks admission into the Klan.  Harry knows very well how extremely intolerant and wildly violent the Klan can be yet his drive to seek and expose the truth drives him into taking virtually insane and absolutely life threatening risk.  Indeed by the end of Act one it seems as if he is killed.

 Getting the truth is one thing and a very important thing but informing the world of that truth can be and often is a nearly impossible task.   Fear, all manner of fear including fear death or financial ruin can and often does silence potential truth tellers resulting in the continuation of deep evil.  But though hard work and unrelenting perseverance the truth and in this case does finally get told.  The vehicle for that exposure becomes WOR Radio one of America’s most powerful radio stations in New York City. 

 In actual fact a journalist by the name of Stetson Kennedy did indeed infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan and what he discovered became the basis for a seventeen part radio play entitled “The Clan of The Fiery Cross.”  Playwrights Tin Penavic and Ted Ryan have taken some creative license in their creation of “The Cape and the Klan” but in a way that merely adds depth and dimension while delivering important truth.  The entire cast under the direction of Stan Mazin have brought to life a story that is every bit as important and relevant today as it was in 1951 when the real events took place.  Moreover they have done so in a way that is saturated in entertainment value without in any way distorting important elements of truth.

<<Bruce Nehlsen, Scott Seifert, Kristin Towers Rowles and

Mike Thatcher 

 “The Cape and the Klan” is a show deserving of worldwide attention.  But for now you will have to see it and enjoy it at a rather diminutive but pleasant venue upstairs at the Group Rep Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Boulevard, North Hollywood, California 91601.  This is as close to a must see show as I have ever witnessed and to see it all you need to do is to either go online at:  www.thegrouprep.com or call 818-763-5990.  Currently it is scheduled to run only Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and Sundays at 7:00 p.m. now through March 11th 2018.  I think there is a possibility it may be extended but don’t take a chance, go now.  You can thank me later. 

 Photo Credit:  Troy Whitaker


‘Don’t Hug Me, We’re Family’ where cultures collide and happiness wins.

Located in what Angelino’s and New Yorker’s would simply dismiss as “fly over country” are many small towns in the North Woods of Minnesota and in one of those towns there is a radio station comfortably located within a super stereotypical north woods bar. complete with mounted fish and at least one deer head plus plenty of beer banners.  Gunner Johnson hosts his talk show “Crappie Talk” dedicated to talk about fishing mainly for the well-known Crappie.  But then again the show has no listeners because, well mainly because it really is a crappie show.  With no listeners his one and only sponsor pulls out and the bar pretty much has no customers leaving Gunner and Clara at the brink of financial ruin and the tensions between Gunner and Clara are mounting when something totally unexpected or even imagined happens.

A man walks into the bar one fine day and announces that he is the new owner of radio station KOLD, but who is this man?  He has a heavy Brooklyn accent and an appearance as if he had just walked off the set of a God Father movie all something extremely rare in the land of 10,000 lakes.  On the one hand his arrival is viewed as a very good thing assuring that KOLD shall remain on the air, but on the other hand he appoints a new General Manager which heightens even further the stress between Gunner and Clara.  But the overriding question remains, what the hell brings a hardcore New Yorker to a tiny town in Northern Minnesota?  Well sorry but I am not going to tell you.  To find out you will need to see the show and I am confident you will be glad that you did.  

The set design is spectacular and each and every actor carries his or her role superbly.  But adding even more to the theatrical mix this show is a musical with 14 original songs.  While each song is well performed and totally enjoyable I will say that “The Bodyguard” has nothing to fear.   Bu then again “The Bodyguard” lacks the immense dose of hometown warmth reaching out from the stage in “Don’t Hug Me, We’re Family.” 

“Don’t Hug Me, We’re Family” is a true theatrical gem well worth your time and modest cost.  You may enjoy the show now through March 25th 2018 at T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo Street, North Hollywood, California  91602.  Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8: p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m.  Reservations and ticketing are available at: donthugme.brownpapertickets.com or by calling 818-850-9254. 

 
 

 

 

 


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


‘The Hothouse’ more than a little crazy. 

“The Hothouse” was written by Nobel Prize for Literature winning playwright Harold Pinter and is now onstage with the Antaeus Theatre Company in Glendale, California.  Dual casts are directed by Nike Doukas and what is delivered is dark and powerful and utterly captivating; an exploration into the world of torture and mind control under the guise of mental health care. 

Roote is the head of the institution, the man in charge, the guy at the top.  All responsibility resides ultimately with him only he has come to a point where he really just doesn’t care much anymore.  He was an Army Colonel but those days of power and focus are long gone.  Others on his team of senior staff seem divided.  One tends to follow along the degenerating path of Roote while Gibbs seems to be far more focused to the task.  As their story plays out it becomes increasingly clear that the line between those incarcerated in the institution and those who run it is vanishing as they may well be equally insane.  However those in charge have the power and in fact do submit those under their care to acts of severe torture just to keep them in line. 

As the story unfolds there are abundant doses of very dark humor along with a growing realization that the very dark and ugly story unfolding has a very real relationship with conditions that in fact continue to exist and may very well be even growing in our modern world.  As a result watching this performance evokes both the joy of humor and the deep dark pain of some realities and the two are inseparable.

Also along the path of this magnificent tale the prospect of murder emerges as a very real possibility.  But exactly who gets murdered and by whom remains a mystery until eventually after a long dark ride a stunning reality emerges from the chaos. 

This is in some ways not an easy story to follow but it is also impossible to ignore.  There is not a moment when what is transpiring on stage doesn’t grab and hold the audience completely.  By final curtain the feeling is simply but deeply Wow! 

“The Hothouse” is dual cast.  On the day I saw the show the cast was “The Ducks” consisting of  Peter Van Norden as Roote, Graham Hamilton as Gibbs, Jocelyn Towne as Cutts, JD Cullum as Lush, Paul Eiding as Tubb and John Apicella as Lobb all superb in their task.  But whichever cast you may see I promise you will be completely entranced.  The Antaeus Theatre Company has a long standing and well-deserved reputation for delivering at the peak of the art and “The Hothouse“ is no exception. 

“The Hothouse” runs now through March 11th at the Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center, 110 East Broadway, Glendale, California.  Further information including ticketing and reservations are available by calling 818-506-1983 or online at:  www.Antaeus.org. 

 

Peter Van Norden & Graham Hamilton

Photo Credit:  Geoffrey Wade

JD Cullum & Graham Hamilton


The Chinese Wall

 Over the years I have been privileged to see many plays at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, most if not all of them presented by The Group Rep and all of them at worst very good and most of them truly outstanding theatre.  So I was shocked when I saw “The Chinese Wall” for it truly was my very first disappointment at that distinguished venue.

 It was clearly a slap at President Donald Trump using a historical perspective on the failures of many leaders over time.  That is a reasonable premise but in application it missed the mark.  Now if you happen to be among the great majority of people in Southern California who deeply deplore Trump the mere fact that he is being ridiculed could well be sufficient but that alone does not meet the mark of entertainment for this writer.  Watch Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon and you will see that virtually every one of their monologues has abundant slaps at President Trump but in their monologues it is also nearly always funny, so much so that even Trump might laugh while watching it.  However what I saw on stage during the performance of “The Chinese Wall” lacked all but the most minor amount of any real humor. 

 Then there was the fact that various characters over a very wide range of history were brought together with no particular purpose or reason easily discernable.  Why, for example would Cleopatra, Napoleon and some ancient Chinese Emperor all gather in the same place and time?  I am sure there was a reason but it was just a bit too vague for me to comprehend.  And isn’t it funny how in this day and age when women are demanding greater respect and refusing to be “objectified” the producers of “The Chinese Wall” thought it was a good idea to have Cleopatra appear topless.  I’ll admit as a lifelong male pig it was for me a pleasant vision, but how did it in any way add anything other than carnal thoughts to the performance? 

 And yes it absolutely does point out the absurdity of Trump’s demand for a wall between The U.S.A. and Mexico by relating back to the Great Wall of China built under the Emperor Qin Shi Huang around 221 to 201 BC to keep out the nomads and other undesirables.  It failed as will any wall built under the Trump administration for there are no walls high enough, deep enough or long enough that they can’t be climbed over, dug under or gotten around by anyone truly committed to the task.  So on that point the show “The Chinese Wall” gets kudos but it still comes up short on the entertainment scale. 

 The show runs now through March 11th 2018 at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank, Boulevard, North Hollywood, California.  Further information including reservations and ticketing is available here:  https://thegrouprep.com/. 


 

‘Nothing is the Same’ a look back to December 7th 1941

It was a pleasant warm day in Hawaii on December 7th 1941.  Children were having great fun playing marbles and gently teasing each other as children often will do.  Hawaii is a great melting pot of cultures from all across the Pacific and in this one group we find two of Korean heritage, one Filipino and one whose family came from Japan – regardless of their heritage they were Hawaiian and thus American.  But on that day, a day that shall forever live in infamy, as bombs fell from the sky killing 3000 or so people in and around Pearl Harbor, Hawaii things changed dramatically.  Nothing would ever be the same for these four children nor for pretty much anyone else on earth. 

The big problem most severely struck American citizens who happened to be of Japanese heritage for now both the United States of America and Japan were at war.  The almost immediate reaction from the mainly Caucasian political and military leaders was to round up and incarcerate anyone who looked Japanese and to the non-Asians that could mean even Koreans and Filipinos a reality that struck the four youngsters very hard.  Clearly after the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan nothing was the same for everyone especially in Hawaii.  Coping with that reality is at the core of the play “Nothing is the Same” written by Y. York Directed by Tim Dang and currently on stage at the Sierra Madre Playhouse.

Watching as these four young folks had to grasp with and find ways to cope with the new reality of their day and place was exquisite stage work performed by a double cast.  But I couldn’t help but to think about how those events from nearly 77 years back have some striking similarities to current affairs only today the enemy is perceived as people of Middle Eastern heritage and perhaps also Muslim.  Of course, at least as of now we haven’t launched a wholesale round up and incarceration of Arab looking Muslims but it is clear that it has been considered by some. 

“Nothing is the Same” is captivating and intriguing and certainly thought provoking.  It can be enjoyed by young and old alike and I was intrigued by how thoroughly diverse the audience was in age, gender and cultural heritage.  It is a great show but with one flaw to my ears.  The dialogue is filled with local colloquialisms from that time and place.  Words like “Pau” meaning done, finished or “Shishi” meaning pee or urinate or “Huli’’ meaning upside down.  I have no doubt but that the writer’s intent was to make the play as real as possible.  The problem for me at least was that it sometimes made the dialogue difficult if not impossible to follow.    I fully understand the intent, but consider this by way of example.  Take pretty much any war movie about World War Two.  There may well be brief scenes where the German soldiers were speaking German but even then there would likely also be English translation graphically generated for the audience to read and understand the context.  Any lengthy dialogue from a German would in an American made film aimed at and American audience would be in English.  My only point is that the abundant use of Hawaiian colloquialisms was, to me, more distracting than enlightening. 

That said it is very well done and worthy and absolutely does stimulate thought so I unflinching do recommend “Nothing is the Same” at the Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 West Sierra Madre Boulevard, Sierra Madre, California playing now through March 3rd 2018.  Further information including reservations and ticketing is available at:  www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.  or by calling 626-355-4318. 

And now just for fun I leave with this little Haiku inspired by the show.

 

Children play marbles

 

Having great fun in warm sun

 

Bombs drop.  Nothing same.
 

 

 

Tristin Kim, Asia Ring, Yeng Kong Thao

Photo Credit:  Grace Kim

Yeng Kong Thao, Asia Ring, Tristin Kim, Melvin Biteng


‘The Enchanted Nightingale’ a lesson of love.

 The Garry Marshall Theatre in Burbank is well and correctly known for its visual appeal and comfort and for being a venue where the entertainment shines bright.  But the evening when I went with my ten year old most granddaughter Somaya to see “The Enchanted Nightingale” the stage was set in a most captivating way.  It was undeniably Asian in general and Chinese in particular and it was both intriguing and beautiful, and all of this was even before the show actually began. 

 But the show indeed did begin and the audience is introduced to the omnipotent ruler of ancient China, Emperor Li as presented convincingly by Marc Fajardo, Major Mi delivered with passion and conviction and more than a touch of wit and humor by Ravi Kapoor, Mrs. Wu played convincingly by Melody Butiu and Chef Zu brought to life by Jully Lee.  So given the set and the cast and the time period of the story surely this would be a play rich in the lore of ancient China, right?  Well not so much.

 The Emperor is a blatantly spoiled brat who is only happy when constantly presented with priceless gifts, because he is after all, the Emperor.  But then along comes a very unusual gift, a bird that sings, a very beautiful bird a Nightingale that captures the Emperor’s heart like no other gift.  But, then a serious complication sets in and in resolving the crisis something wonderful and almost magical happens.

 It is clearly a story aimed at children of all ages and presents a view of a right way and a wrong way to approach life.  And I must say that when I first saw the set I was a little bewildered by the solid focus on things Chinese.  Well ultimately the setting really doesn’t matter that much except that there is a certain mysterious quality about ancient China and it gave the entertainers an opportunity to also entertain with a very sweet fan dance that simply wouldn’t have happened had the writer placed the story let’s say in Denver.

 In all “The Enchanted Nightingale” is a fun and entertaining show that captured and held the children and even their parents for about an hour while delivering a very important lesson to all.  The set and costumes added even more punch to a very well delivered story.  Oh, and thank you Major Mi for recognizing my most granddaughter as the princess she truly is. 

 So treat you self and your children to a night of fun and magic.  “The Enchanted Nightingale” is playing at the Garry Marshall Theatre, 4252 West Riverside Drive, Burbank, California 91505 Now through March 18, 2018.  For everything you need to know including reservations and ticketing simply vist the Garry Marshall Theatre website at:  https://www.garrymarshalltheatre.org. 

 

 

 

 

Ravi Kapoor, Marc Fajardo, Melody Butiu

Photo Credit:  Lisa Francesca

Jully Lee


‘Freud’s Last Session’

Sigmund Freud was born in Austria on May 6th 1856.  He trained and became a neurologist but went on to be the founder of psychoanalysis.  In 1939 he fled his native Austria to escape the advancing Nazis and spent his final days in the United Kingdom where he died on September 23rd 1939.  Writer, producer, director Mark St. Germain found a book entitled “The Question of God” written by Dr. Armand Nicholi.  The book focused on the widely different perspectives of Sigmund Freud versus those of C. S. Lewis.  This sparked a powerful thought in the mind Mark St. Germain; what if Freud and Lewis met and had a lengthy discussion about God?  As so came the critically acclaimed play by Mark St Germain “Freud’s Last Session” an off Broadway hit and currently at The Odyssey Theatre in Los Angeles. 

The fictional meeting between Dr. Sigmund Freud and acclaimed Professor and prolific author C. S. Lewis at Freud’s home in exile takes place on September 23rd 1939.  During a long and conflict filled but civil discussion between the two gentlemen the matter of God and religion take center stage.  Freud is a devoted atheist and finds absolute no empirical evidence to support the existence of any divine being including God.  Freud subscribes solely to his own devote faith, science.  C. S. Lewis comes from a completely opposite perspective.  He presents numerous arguments that he believes clearly demonstrate the importance of faith and the undeniable reality of God.  This exchange is exquisitely presented by two very talented men; Martin Rayner as Sigmund Freud and Martyn Stanbridge as C. S. Lewis.  Their exchange lasting about an hour and fifteen minutes is consistently powerful and witty and often with spikes of humor. 

During the course of the discussion air raid sirens go off prompting both men to don gas masks and take cover.  They also learn from a BBC radio broadcast that more than 20,000 people have been killed in Britain by the Nazi bombings.  This reality sparks even stronger debate about the existence of God.  Would a true God allow such mindless slaughter?  It is men who deny God who commit such atrocities.   Is this a true conflict?  And what of life after death?    Well this amazing play also addresses that in a very dramatic way for it all takes place on September 23rd 1939. 

The only thing I found a little bit off is that I saw no actual resolution of anything.  Typically a story presents a problem or two and then shows the path to an obvious resolution.  This story is all about the many questions with no real ultimate solution.  But then again that can sometimes be exactly what is intended.

Regardless “Freud’s Last Session” is a truly captivating theatrical presentation.  It does provoke and thus does require some deep thought but it is an exercise very much worth doing.  It is playing now through March 4th at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90025.  The show runs Wednesdays through Sundays.  Details including ticketing and reservations are available on line at:  www.OdysseyTheatre.com or by calling 310-477-2055 Ext. 2.  I would recommend mature teens and adults only simply because of the intense intellectual content.


‘Aladdin’ OH WOW! 

The pure magic begins with the song “Arabian Nights” and with the Genie played by Michael James Scott who is unbelievably powerful, energetic and pure fun along with the full Company establishing the where and when of the story.  It is a spectacular start and it only gets better. 

Aladdin portrayed by Adam Jacobs is a street urchin filled with energy and charm but lacking in truth and honesty.  He eventually acquires a very magic lamp from which the Genie appears and grants Aladdin three wishes.  Aladdin’s eyes have fallen upon a beautiful young woman, Jasmine who is a princess played by Isabelle McCalla.  Thinking that he would have a better chance connecting with Jasmine were he Aladdin, a prince.  So he makes his first wish to the Genie, that he Aladdin become a prince.  Aladdin also promises the Genie that his third and final wish will be to free forever the Genie from his magic lamp.  Will Aladdin actually keep that promise? 

As the story unfolds Aladdin, the princess and even the Genie are confronted with challenges that tear at their moral fabric.  Along the path from the stage flows fills with non-stop beauty, magic and energy The choreography is nothing short of spectacular deliverd by a genuinely magnificient cast enhanced even more by the orchestra. While the story is strong and positive and utterly enjoyable to watch unfold there is one visual effect that left me and I believe the entire audience simply spell bound.  It is when Aladdin takes Jasmine for a ride on his magic carpet.  It actually flies.  Oh sure there had to be wires or some sort of connection that allowed it to be lifted and moved about the stage but damned if I could see any.  Now how important is this in the overall production?  Okay not all that much but it does underscore the extent to which the production team is driven to create the illusion of magic with perfection.  Clearly their efforts pay off.  Clearly their commitment has paid off making Aladdin s super hit on Broadway and now on stage in Hollywood at the marvelous Pantages Theatre. 

If there was any criticism I could make it would be that at times the energy being delivered while spectacular and fun got right to the edge of over powering.  But then I am a wee bit long in the tooth and overall the show is solidly within the five out of five star category.  And while not exactly a pure youth oriented story it does appeal to pretty much all ages from about 6 to 100 plus. 

“Aladdin” is at the Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, California now through March 31st 2018.  For further information about “Aladdin” and other upcoming shows at the Pantages Theatre you may visit their website at:  http://www.pantagestheatre.net/.
 

 

 

Top to Bottom

Genie - Michael James Scott

Ensemble

Aladdin - Adam Jacobs  Jasmine - Isabelle McCalla

Photo Credit:  Cylla von Tiedermann &

Deen Van Meer


Bugaboo & the Silent One

 Bugaboo [played by award winning actress Heidi Sulzman] is a lonely loud mouth chatter box locked up in the Henderson County Jail in West Virginia.  She has been alone in her cell for almost a month and a half and she has spent much of that time accepting Jesus into to her heart and mind.  But she still frequently slips and uses the Lord’s name in vain only by now she does pray for forgiveness.  She is awaiting her final sentencing and while waiting seeking some measure of redemption.  Then she gets a cell mate.

Her new cell mate is also awaiting final sentencing.  At first she does not talk nor make eye contact with Bugaboo who finally simply calls her the “Silent One” [portrayed by Jacqueline Toboni].   

From time to time the two inmates interface with the jail guard played by Michelle Gardner who you may have seen in Transparent, Bones, Criminal Minds and The closer to name a few of her accomplishments.  Her portrayal of a jail guard is spot on. 

All three actors are excellent and each character is completely believable and each in their own way very strong and powerful.  But for bringing the story to life the credit goes fully to writer/director Marja-Lewis Ryan who somehow seems to know with great vision the dynamics of a jail and the people within in its walls. Please allow me this one digression to explain that in my past life as a lawyer I had occasion to visit the Cook County Jail in Chicago a few times and the visual and dynamic I saw on stage in “Bugaboo & the Silent One” was a near perfect match.  For that some of the credit also goes to set designer Michael Fitzgerald. 

What evolves in the course of the play is the development of a sincere and deep friendship between the two inmates despite facing overwhelming negativity.  First they must break the silence and then despite an abundance of good reasons not to do so they must learn to trust each other.  And all of that takes place as each woman awaits the final sentencing both facing 25 years to life in prison.

To call this a fun show would be a huge mischaracterization even though there is frequent humor coming mainly from the often amusing even funny utterances from Bugaboo.  But to say that “Bugaboo & the Silent One” is powerful and even compelling is a very good fit. 

I would not recommend it for children under 14 nor to the hyper sensitive.  Otherwise you will enjoy pretty much every one of the approximately 75 minutes of the show’s run time.  You will find “Bugaboo & the Silent One” at the Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90038 now through January 27th.  Show times are 8:00 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and at 2: p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays.  Reservations and ticketing are available at:  batso.brownpapertickets.com or by calling:  800-838-3006.
 

Go to the first page and discover how you can help support American military vetrans while having a great time.  

 

Michelle Gardner & Jacqueline Toboni

Photo Credit:  Billy Baque

Heidi Sulzman & Jacqueline Toboni


‘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. 


'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. 

 

 


‘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