Ron Irwin Travel & Entertainment

Reviews, views and profiles


American Veterans Getting Trumped

Donald Trump, President Donald Trump said that he will “take care of our veterans like they’ve never been taken care of before.”  Now the question is, was that a promise of improvement, or was it a warning of things to come?  Please allow me to explain with my own little story because I suspect that there are thousands of veterans in America in need of help from the Veteran’s Administration and that in too many cases the VA is falling short. 

 My first interaction with the VA happened in early 2013.  It came about because in December of 2012 I dropped dead briefly from Congestive Heart Failure.  My lungs filled with fluid so respiration stopped and so did my heart.  After 26 days in a hospital, not the VA, I emerged with a whole bunch of medical needs and no money with which to pay for them so I went to the Veteran’s Administration facility nearest me, about 16 miles away.  I found their bureaucracy a little annoying but overall the service I received was generally pleasant and efficient and best of all free to me.  That was a very good thing because it didn’t take long for the VA medical staff to add yet another bad disease to my growing list.  This time it was prostate cancer at Gleason level 9.  Ten is the highest and at that level I believe they simply start planning your funeral.

 Now as it turns out it seems that prostate cancer is fairly common in men but typically not until their late 70’s or early 80’s.  But there are thousands of us who served in Vietnam and in the course of that service were exposed to large amounts of Agent Orange which they learned creates prostate cancer and other very nasty health problems.  So after being run through a process that confirmed my dates and locations of service I was determined to be in that group that was indeed spritzed heavily with Agent Orange and therefore entitled to medical assistance and even compensation from the VA. 

 The first order of business was to get rid of the cancer and the overwhelming body of medical opinion focused on radiation treatment.which I finally agreed to do at a local hospital in Burbank using my wife’s group health plan and sparring the VA the time and expense.  Forty two radiation treatments later I was pronounced cancer free.  But there was a price not in dollars but in a whole new source of deep discomfort. 

 After my 42 radiation treatments came to end what came on was a situation in which I began to feel the need to urinate about every single hour of every single day all day and ALL NIGHT meaning that I stopped having anything like a good night’s sleep – ever.  Now there are only two things so horribly painful to me that I admit I would sell out to the enemy to rid myself of the pain.  One is dental pain and the other is sleep deprivation.  But this sleep deprivation had taken over me and was torturing me mercilessly. 

 So one day I went to an Urologist at the VA.  When I told him of my problem his advice was that I should “behavior modify” my bladder.  In simple terms he had no real remedy. 

 Now allow me to address another very important issue.  Sadly thousands of American men and woman have lost limbs and eye sight, have had severe brain injuries and severe psychological trauma because as General William Sherman said “War is hell.”  These unfortunate folks have abundantly obvious disabilities that the VA needs to fairly address.  But then again the venerable Chinese Water Torture where water is dripped drop by drop on the forehead of a person strapped to a board is equally horrific.  My sleep deprivation falls squarely into that type of scenario.  Believe me when you get up every single day already tired it is brutally disabling. 

 Given all of that I applied for disability compensation and was eventually in 2015 deemed to be100% disabled due to my unemployability.  That didn’t happen with a simply request but rather a long and detailed process which looked at every element of my particular situation but in simple reality it came down to these facts.

 I served as a Marine in Vietnam from 1966 through 1967.  During that time I had been frequently spritzed with Agent Orange without my knowledge or consent. Agent Orange does indeed cause a variety of diseases including prostate cancer.  The overwhelming opinion of the medical community recommended extensive radiation treatment which I submitted to doing.  As a consequence of that treatment I have developed a urinary malfunction that has no known remedy and which has for five years rendered me substantially sleep deprived and thus incapable of working at anywhere near the level I once did and that fact alone is deeply depressing.  At first the VA agreed with me, but then something happened.

 Without any indication of any kind that I had in some significant way changed some nameless bureaucrat in some back office of the VA somewhere decided I needed to be reexamined and reevaluated.  So I was ordered to go to some contracted medical doctors office which I did.  The good doctor asked me a few questions, stuck his finger up my butt, grabbed my testicles and sent me on my way.  He concluded that my cancer was in remission

 Then in just a few weeks I received a notice that the VA had determined that I wasn’t so bad off after all and that they were cutting my disability by about half.  Zero mention was even made of my sleep deprivation.  Well, of course I have started my appeal process but this experience got me to wonder.  How many more veterans are to be “reexamined” and will get their compensation lowered or cut completely?  How much of this is a new VA policy?  Is this what President Trump meant when he said he “take care of our veterans like they’ve never been taken care of before?”  I mean seriously if tens of thousands of men and women suffering the ravages of war can have their modest pensions hacked in half there would be millions more to build a wall or pay for Air Force One to carry the Trumps to and from his Florida “White House” every weekend.  I am not saying this is what is happening, only that it could be because I am so curious at how this all came about for me, out of the blue and very quick. 

 So here is my proposal.  I would like any and all veterans who are having their disability compensation cut or even terminated, or who have a legitimate claim that has been denied to please let me know the details of your circumstances.  I will look at as many as I can and where something looks amiss we can at the very least bring it to the attention of the American people.  This not a generalized slap at the overall Veteran’s Administration which very often does provide excellent services to our veterans, but I sense a strong undercurrent that could be hurting many and if that has merit I very much want to lead us to a full and fair resolution.  So if you or a loved one has had their disability pension denied, reduced or stopped unfairly please send me a summary of the situation and your contact information to helloronirwin@gmail.com.  Let’s see if together we can help our veterans live a better life.  One important note though, do NOT send any information that you would consider privileged because I am NOT acting as an attorney in this matter and so if I were asked to hand over information to a proper authority I would have no choice but to do so.  I just very much want to do what I can to help any comrade in arms who finds himself in need.  And for all of you nice folks who like to say “Thank you for your service” consider some monetary commitment to those who put themselves at serious risk on behalf of are far too often waring nation. 

 

 

 


The Lady in Motion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit

Richie Gaona


Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The 39 Steps’

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

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

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

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

 


‘Master Class’  the best show in town

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 


‘Stupid Kid’ World Premiere

 

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit:

Brian Cole


Miramar Airshow – a Salute to Vietnam Veterans

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

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

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

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

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

 

 


‘Fixed’ premieres in Los Angeles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 


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


‘Walking to Buchenwald’ a journey into extreme.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PHOTO Ben Martin & Laura James    CREDIT  Darrell Sanders

 


'Lost in Yonkers' powerful and hilarious.          

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brent Anthony, Bennett Satzman and Van Boudreux

Photo Credit

Doug Engalla


Legal Age is Bizarre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


‘The Marvelous and more Wonderettes.’  Zany passion

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

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

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

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

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

PHOTO CREDIT:  Gina Long