Category Archives: Reviews

Antonio Sacre: The Storyteller “Stripped”

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

Antonio-Sacre-The-Storyteller

Antonio Sacre is a man at a crossroads, scrying into the future, embracing a sign of life to come.

As I entered the VS Theatre on the first Sunday evening for the preview of Sacre’s latest enterprise for the Solo Collective, The Storyteller (“What were you thinking letting me see this unfinished!”, I somewhat scolded him after the show.) I immediately got a gut feeling that this would be a mashup, a little bit of everything soup, a hodgepodge of ideas.   

Then I thought, “What was it that he had to say?  How much more new material could one contrive and expound upon in the ongoing past and present Sacre saga?”  So many questions in that vein, loomed in my mind.  This was going to very well be a defining moment.  I was right.

Bearing witness to the litany of his public stories thus far, I, like so many other regular fans and followers have come to know Sacre most intimately.  His multi-cultural Cuban/Irish heritage and growing up “split-down-the-middle”; his doctor father, his Bostonian mother, his competitive brothers, heart breaks, divorces and make-ups, including his own; his adoring Spanish grandmother, crazy “Mick” uncles and cousins, his bilingual capabilities, books, plays and now tours around the country telling children’s stories (including for LAUSD), becoming a father himself, and all the metaphors, mythologies and allegories built into and around the insanity that is his personal and professional life.  What a whopper! – pickles included.

For starters, like anyone who’s lived an unsettling life, especially that of a theatrical performer and writer, there’s always another drama to unfold.  This time around however, Sacre takes a different direction and a lot more risk in the material and the presentation than ever before.  It’s his exclusive, growing up, right of passage story told in “real-time” without apology.  And it is bold!

He’s quite funny actually.  Exposing the murky comedic shades of elusive industry success, he compares the evolution of his work and career path to stripping, something he claims to be quite an authority on via his college days, to the devolutionary art & hustle, balls to the walls performances of highly skilled bump-and-grinders. Song One: stepping out into the lights, you begin to create relationships. Song Two: showing more than just skin…hooking you into the drama.  Song Three: hitting the pole hard for the climax.  THIS is your moment! The big wigs are in the room scouting you for the new TV pilot.  And if you’re lucky, you’ll move on – BIG – and make it all the way, glittered and perfumed, to the private Champagne Room for the ultimate lap dance.  It is exciting, utterly divergent material for a man used to exposing merely charming, romantic vulnerability.

Weeks later, I got the opportunity for a second round with the updated show and although Antonio has altered a few of the lines, removed text, re-aligned some of the subject matter and pulled it all to center he has by no means wrapped himself in a safety blanket of watered down material.  He has remained as dedicated to dancing at the raw precipice as his first preview night.

According to Sacre, his life is rather boring and that his singular privilege allotted to him by the audience, is that he gets to write stories and tell them and make a living at it.  But by no means is he special or great or best in any way.  Even his own father jokingly and regularly tells him that he is, “Only the 10th best storyteller in the family.”  In the most honest of ways, it is laughable because there is a huge truth to the statement.  But, as one artist witnessing another, I’d have to say, it’s time to remove the “only” in any description of him.

In The Storyteller, Sacre is directly questioning himself and his future.  Closer than ever to crossing over into the largest of limelights, will it be possible to realize fame, stardom, influence and wealth with the power players of entertainment instead of performing on a small stage, in a black box theatre, for mostly friends he’s had to repeatedly tempt to participate, like one of his strippers, in his work? Will he be doing only this after tonight, after that and after that and after, after, after, AMEN?  Or is this, the amazing and wondrous ability to engage people with his chronicles and fables and getting paid for it, “the next best thing.”  It’s a touch point that uncomfortably, depressingly hits home with everyone at some point.  As for his own life…that is…”to be continued.”

The Storyteller officially closed this past Sunday evening. However, two more extended performances have been added in November.  You are highly encouraged to hear this personal work. Check with the Solo Collective website for more information or follow Antonio Sacre on Twitter for updates: @antoniosacre

THE STORYTELLER by Antonio Sacre

“The Storyteller”
written and performed by Antonio Sacre
directed by Paul Stein

VS. Theatre
5453 West Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019
United States

For twenty years, on three continents, in ten countries, in 45 states, and for over two million people, Antonio Sacre has told stories. He has published four books, six plays, and four audio recordings, many of which are award winners and critically lauded by magazines, newspapers, and other media worldwide.

Deaf West Theatre’s “Spring Awakening” DTLA at Inner City Arts

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

Spring-Awakening_1-CORRECTED

Just when I thought it would be easy to discount yet another rendition of Spring Awakening on the Los Angeles theatre scene (we’ve witnessed more than a few in the last several seasons), Deaf West Theatre pulled out all the stops and delivered hands-down one of the most exciting, pop/rock musical productions to date.  The kicker — it’s all in sign language!

Spot on casting that was age appropriate with choreography that this former dance/movement professional could finally sink her teeth into, and emerging talent beyond imagination, these kids skipped all of the teen angst and went straight for the love.

Spring Awakening Twitter Hashtag

I was curious, however, about the reason for this play’s never-ending popularity.  So I turned to one of my colleagues sitting beside me during this performance and asked, “What do you think keeps this story going? What keeps it from getting old, keeps it fresh?  I mean, it’s been around a long time.  The issues are not new in any way.  They’re not taboo. Most of them are in the open. And it’s probably a given that generationally teenagers in every age are always going to be different from their parents…want different things than their parents…maybe.”

“Rebellion” was the answer I got.  Rebelling against the status quo.  “Yes, definitely” I thought.  But from my point of view, there was so much more.  It went much deeper than that.

We live in a time where “teen rebellion” almost seems too superficial a label to describe kids today, what they are dealing with, and more to the point how they are handling their environments, the issues from body consciousness, to sexual identities, to bullying, their own spirited emotions, dreams, fantasies and realities – everything really.  And certainly the story itself, although taking place in a century before ours handles the repetitive issue of adolescent sexual awakening.  It’s a topic, we can count on to stay at the forefront of tween to college aged conversations until the end of time as long as teenagers exist. But oddly enough this Spring Awakening, based on Frank Wedekind’s controversial 1891 expressionist play,  concurrently places us in a distant time frame yet appears so modern, so real, so “right now” that mere rebelliousness feels like an old-fashioned ideal.

An exquisite, flawless, cutting-edge ballad of youth for all time.

In truth, all I could see from these kids was pure, unadulterated, naive, passion.  And that is the fully tapped first cause in this production of Spring Awakening that takes the story, the music, the ideas, and all the characters to such a heightened place, there is no coming down from the nirvana.  It is the reason that although the script has a particular set of circumstances that it deals with, it is totally new and appealing to youth who are hormonally exploding and emotionally looking for definition, and wholeheartedly believable and empathetic to seasoned, experienced elders of any crowd packed into the same house, for the same performance. It’s THAT good!

Spring-Awakening_6

Technically, it is utterly mastered and directionally perfected musical theatre. Timing & delivery, sight & sound, choreography, costumes, set design, singing, signing, and acting, is innovative. There is not a single, solitary moment that is out-of-place.  The cast is gorgeous in every way inside and out.  Really, these kids are special. As an ensemble they are unstoppable.

An immersive production simultaneously performed in American Sign Language and spoken English one of the key components which evokes astounding electricity, is that the deaf performers had to very uncommonly pace their signing with the music’s tempo. The entire cast was urged by Director Michael Arden to really stretch. Nine non-hearing actors sign and fifteen hearing actors who had to learn American Sign Language, sing and sign the roles of their deaf counterparts, also acting as inner selves, mirroring their respective character’s stage play resulting in a perfect storm of exposition.

This is the play you absolutely cannot miss!  An exquisite, flawless, cutting-edge ballad of youth for all time.

Def West Theatre Spring Awakening

Presented by Deaf West Theatre in association with The Forest of Arden 

Produced by: David J. Kurs, Christopher Sepulveda and Ann E. Wareham

WORTH THE TICKET!

WORTH THE TICKET!

Now Thru Nov 9, 2014

Recommended for mature audiences only: strong language, nudity and adult themes

Rosenthal Theater
Inner-City Arts
720 Kohler Street
Los Angeles, CA 90021HOW:
(818) 762-2998 or www.deafwest.org

Visit them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/deafwesttheatre
Follow them on Twitter: @DeafAwakening
 
TICKETS:
General admission: $34
Students with valid ID: $30
 
Thursdays at 8 p.m.: Sept. 25*; Oct. 2, 9, 16, 23, 30; Nov 6
Fridays at 8 p.m.: Sept. 12 (preview), 19, 26; Oct. 3, 10, 17, 24, 31, Nov 7
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Sept. 27; Oct. 4, 11, 18, 25; Nov 1, 8
Sundays at 3 p.m: Sept. 28; Oct. 5, 12, 19, 26; Nov 2, 9

*ASL Nights on Thursday, Sept. 18.and Thursday, Sept. 25: arrive at 7:30 pm for a 15-minute ASL workshop that teaches signs used in the play.

Starring Joey Antonio, Miles Barbee, J.D. Barton, Jimmy Bellinger, Katie Boeck, Joshua Castille, Julian Comeau, Daniel Durant, Treshelle Edmond, Max Fishman, Sandra Mae Frank, Kathryn Gallagher,Gabrielle Garza, Sean Grandillo, Karla Gutierrez, Joseph Haro, Amelia Hensley, Troy Kotsur, Daniel Marmion, Austin McKenzie, Lauren Patten, Natacha Roi, Rustin Cole Sailors, Daniel David Stewart, Ali Stroker, Alexandra Winter

Music by Duncan Sheik
Book and Lyrics by Steven Sater
Based on the play by Frank Wedekind
Directed by Michael Arden
Musical Direction by Jared Stein
Choreography by Spencer Liff
Set Design by Christopher Scott Murillo
 
Deaf West Theatre, in association with The Forest of Arden, reinvents the multiple Tony Award-winning musical about lost innocence and the struggles of youth with an immersive production performed simultaneously in American Sign Language and spoken English. Based on Frank Wedekind’s controversial 1891 expressionist play of the same name and featuring an electrifying rock/pop score, Spring Awakening follows the lives of a group of adolescents as they navigate their entry into sexual awareness. Featuring a cast of 25 deaf, hard of hearing and hearing actors and musicians.
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Hollywood Party at the Hudson Mainstage in Los Angeles, CA

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

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It was a vigorous performance. But timing is everything and timing is exactly what they didn’t have.

Aspiring actors and long time friends, Alberto Samaniego & Rodrigo Altamirano are invited (so they think) to a spectacular Hollywood party for the premiere of American pioneer (mostly silent) film actor, director, producer, Fred Niblo’s latest movie. At the party, Alberto and Rodrigo discover that two guests are there to murder a VIP Hollywood celebrity. While trying to unmask the culprits, they have to deal with lights, cameras, press, maddening movie stars, jewel thieves, cross dressers and a snooping butler.

The opening of Hollywood Party was an exciting prospect.  Hollywood’s most fabulous murder mystery set in the 1920s, parodying legendary film superstars like, Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, John Gilbert and Enid Bennett, was utterly, visually divine.  From the mirrored stools, to the leather cushions, beaded pillows, jet oversized chess pieces and other Deco remnants perfectly placed around the room, the set dressing, quite marvelously accoutred the evening to come which commenced rather calmly but eventually picked up some speed. The costuming by Octavio Carlin, multiple award-winning fashion designer to the stars, was delicious.

I can only guess that farce is not the strongest attribute of the cast as an ensemble. Right from the beginning, the lines often awkwardly halted, paused and dragged and actors seemed to have trouble keeping the split second pace, needed to make this comedy work, while keeping in heavy character.

The shining exception throughout, however, was Calli Ryals, a well rehearsed sketch comedy actress, who notably arrived as several distinctly different personalities, like a firecracker and with all of the chutzpah, and more, necessary for each diva in-house. Danny Menendez also pops in at the tail end as a very recognizable W.C. Fields.

It’s more likely, however, the production suffered from less energetic and solid direction, required for this type of burlesque as well as some of the key actors not quite understanding how to deliver it.  I kept longing for the likes of Nathan Lane or Philip Bosco to arrive with the sort of nuance, savvy and superior vaudevillian “muck up” that could actually take this show to an over-the-top zaniness.  The story, well-written as it is, almost gets lost in the middle but for Rodrigo, played by actor Kelly Brighton, who crisply sums up the play-by-play and keeps the audience up to speed.

On the glittering upside, cast members thoroughly and very successful do immerse themselves into the various characters and do camp it up quite well throwing down many highly entertaining moments. If they can marry some better pacing with all of the schtick in the coming performances, it’ll largely be a hit.  A fabulous time, however, can be had with this show.  Still giving it a thumbs up to the all around dedication by the cast and risk taken to produce this timing-difficult piece.

hollywoodpartyHOLLYWOOD PARTY

Written and Directed by Octavio Carlin
Starring Kelly Brighton, Nino Alicea, Thomas Christensen, Max Hambleton, Christina Lemon, Calli Ryals, Les Williams

Now Playing Thru October 19

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Fridays at 8 p.m: September 19, 26, October 3, 10, 17
Saturdays at 8 p.m: September 20, 27, October 4, 11, 18
Sundays at 3 p.m: September 21, 28, October 5, 12, 19

Hudson Mainstage Theatre
6539 Santa Monica Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90038

TICKETS
www.plays411.com/hollywoodparty
(323) 960-4418

General Admission: $30
Students and Seniors with ID: $20

Buried Child at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks, CA

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

Leon-Russon_Buried-Child

WORTH THE TICKET!

WORTH THE TICKET!

It was a flawless performance by leading man Leon Russom, in the astounding Whitefire Theatre production of Buried Child.  One of American playwright Sam Shepard’s darker plays, Buried Child originally won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 launching Shepard to national fame as a playwright. Thirty-five years later, this story has not lost a single shred of its merit or its impact.

“A thoroughly, outstanding achievement by Director Bryan Rasmussen, definitively and impeccably rendered by an ideal cast.”

A post modern narrative in utter realism Buried Child depicts the fragmentation of the American nuclear family and the disillusionment with American mythology and the American dream.  Whitefire’s production takes a macabre look at a Midwestern family living in an old farm-house on a failed plot of land, in Illinois, carrying a secret that slowly, painfully comes to light in the course of a single evening when grandson Vince, now living in New York City stops in unexpectedly with girlfriend Shelly, on his way to see his father Tilden in New Mexico.

A mentally unwell, Tilden now living back in his childhood home, does not recognize his son, nor does the rest of the family, or so they claim, leaving Shelly utterly perplexed. Grandmother Halie has left earlier in the day for Church and curiously does not reappear until the next day. As the night turns, Vince also disappears, while on a liquor run for his grandfather, leaving a terrified Shelly to fend for herself, with Vince’s acerbic grandfather, the delusional Tilden and eventually the cruel and bullying Bradley, an amputee and younger brother of Tilden.

Cast_Buried-Child

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To say that opening night was a perfect show would be an understatement.  Although, not entertaining in the ways that most audiences are used to with small theatre in Los Angeles, Buried Child none-the-less is deep, thoughtful and absolutely intriguing.

Bypassing any sort of heavy-handedness in the direction or the presentation, there is nothing about this story that meanders or loses sight of its direction. It is stone cold economically, morally and circumstantially run-down-to-the-ground.  And yet, as ugly as this story could potentially get, the audience is held in place by its weight and symbolism and by the powerful, all-encompassing energy of Mr. Russom himself as Dodge, the alcoholic, aging and dying patriarch, withered and ashamed of his failures and secrets.

Every character in this play has a very essential role to fulfill.  Nothing is extraneous. Everything is bizarre. Even the comedy which Shepard deliberately wrote into this piece is deranged at its occasion.  And yet, again, puzzling as each person, conversation, storyline, accusation and violent act is, it is not so morose as to be sickening.  In fact, it is the opposite.

Heavy hitters of the Broadway, Off-Broadway and Los Angeles stages, Leon Russom (Dodge), Jacque Lynn Colton (Halie) and Tonya Cornelisse (Shelly) amplify the surrealism of a deteriorated family while simultaneously making this show wholly accessible to audiences with Cornelisse absolutely driving the darkly comedic moments of the script.  They are joined by David Fraioli (Tilden), Cris D’Annunzio (Bradley), Zachary Mooren (Vince) and Grant Smith (Father Dewis) who each top this production with bold, graphic performances.

“No one knows better than Sam Shepard that the true American West is gone forever, but there may be no writer alive more gifted at reinventing it out of pure literary air.” ~Frank Rich, The New York Times

A thoroughly, outstanding achievement by Director Bryan Rasmussen, definitively and impeccably rendered by an ideal cast.

photo (8)BURIED CHILD  
A 35th Anniversary Production of the Pulitzer Prize Winning Drama by Sam Shepard
Now playing at The Whitefire Theatre
September 6 – October 11
Directed by Bryan Rasmussen
Produced by Scott Disharoon
Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM
The Whitefire Theatre 13500 Ventura Blvd.(at Sunnyslope) Sherman Oaks 91423
Parking:  Metered parking until 8pm on Ventura Blvd; some side-street parking
                 Please carefully read all parking signage.
                 Please allow at least 15 minutes to park
Tickets: $25
Buy Tickets: www.brownpapertickets.com/event/807730 or 818-990-2324
Production photos by Nico Sabenorio. 

Sunday Extra: How Innovative Is In Your iPhone 6 Really?

iPhone_infographic-thumbnail-150x150Everybody’s looking forward to seeing the new iPhone 6 this week. What do you think is the most wanted feature? Better camera? Bigger screen? You’d be surprised. Customer surveys show that what people wish for most is improved battery life. As for entirely new features sapphire glass tops the expectations list.  Check out this latest info-graphic by Alex Hillsberg at Finances Online using latest customer surveys and comparing specs of previous iPhone models, that shows how much innovation there really was in each iPhone so far. There’s also included a detailed analysis of what features clients expect from the new model.  You can also view the full article by clicking HERE.

iphone model comparison

HI-TECH HIJACK – A Musical In Three Bytes at Studio C

By Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

hitechhijack_poster_web-2Studio C Artists is in their final weekend of its current production HI-TECH HIJACK – A Musical In Three Bytes. And this show is one you don’t want to miss!

WORTH THE TICKET!

WORTH THE TICKET!

We’ve been hijacked by technology and we’ve all got to come to terms with it.  This comical collection of three one-acts explores man’s relationship with technology, how it has invaded our lives, how we, as a human race, deal with it and the quite surprising consequences.

Originally developed with New Musicals Inc. and presented as part of the 15 Minute Musicals evening MAN V. MACHINE in June of 2012 at the Colony Theatre in Burbank, HI-TECH HIJACK makes a seriously outstanding comeback with its Studio C rendition.

Actors/singers Allie Costa, Shannon Martinous, Luke Klipp, Kila Packett and Bryan Blaskie, pull out all the stops in every anxiety ridden, fantastical, desperate, kitchy piece of choreography and song.  The show is wildly funny at every moment in the vein of film musicals like Grease and Hairspray, with a tremendous amount of personality, especially Ms. Costa who full on vibes her own personal version of a “Breakfast Club” Ally Sheedy.

Each number (albeit repetitively) drones out the hilarious insanity of people trying and failing badly to communicate likes, loves, needs and cries for attention in a world where the ease of tech and social media is supposed to make our lives better and more connected but somehow gets ever more in the way. Even the technology itself makes a break from its own nano-prison into the unknown black hole of re-boot, tired of being tied down to fickle human preferences.

IWISH – In a desperate plea to her parents for attention, teenaged Becca calls for a gadget intervention and hides all the cell phones, computers and iPads in the house.

PHOTO FINISH – What would happen if grandma’s family photos took on a life of their own? Could they survive outside of the hard drive?

#BRAD4LAURA – It’s LOVE and Brad, wants to immediately tell the world…If only he can get past all the online disclaimers, pop-ups, advertisements, thumb typing mishaps and accidental sends to everyone else in his iPhone address book in order to get to Laura’s personal Facebook timeline, YouTube page, text messages, AOL email or Twitter.

At 45 minutes this show is so worth the ticket for the laughter. Not a second is lost with the momentum, the acting, outstanding singing talent, the music or the stories.  An all around great time!

A STUDIO C ARTISTS PRODUCTION
Located at:
6448 Santa Monica Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90038

Two shows left:

Friday, September 5th at 8pm
Saturday, September 6th at 8pm
 
Tickets can be purchased online at EVENTBRITE
Or call: (323) 988-1175
 

Three Shorts by Tim McNeil at the Stella Adler Academy & Theatre

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

three-shorts

WORTH THE TICKET!

WORTH THE TICKET!

One show whose final performance you won’t want to miss this weekend is Three Shorts written by critically acclaimed playwright in residence at The Stella Adler Academy, Tim McNeil, a series of one acts that expose the farcical, absurd and sometimes perverse underbelly of life.

In two out of three Mr. McNeil takes the starring role.  As Evan Dougherty, in The Straight Bozo, he is a man with a secret traveling the morning commute from Long Island New York to Wall Street.  A sort of idiot savant, he expresses his loneliness through the most outlandish intellectual dialog that takes two of his fellow passengers  on a ride they didn’t quite expect.  As it turns out, an idiot he is not – far from it. But his personal truth gets him into trouble with the other passengers.  Curiously written McNeil downplays this character to perfection as the most unlikely but brilliant sage.  It’s a straight up, oddball New York subway story, and believable if you’ve actually ever ridden the Long Island Express.  Supporting cast Brad Kaz (Bob) and Nikki McCauley (Terry) align wonderfully in their long haul duel with each other as Ms. McCauley’s character comes to understand McNeil’s true identity. Jay Kim’s appearance as a subway cop is a light entry but never-the-less gets the job done.

Purplish is a two women play which offers a view of a young poet dying of stomach cancer, trying to understand what the afterlife might be like.  Mona’s writing is her life and in death there is the possibility that there will be absolutely nothing.  It’s a terrifying awareness that she takes out on her estranged lover Amanda in a late afternoon love/hate melodrama.  McNeil’s writing for women is somewhat uneven here leaving Maia Nikiphoroff (Mona) struggling a bit for the character, but both Ms. Nikiphoroff and her lover Meghan Leone Cox (Amanda) pull this play quite nicely together.  Cox’s work is very strong and there is a lovely resolution that happens between them.

It is the finale, of this show however, that will have you rolling in your seat!  Schism is a thoroughly wicked comedy about Urban (McNeil) who has set up a second Vatican in a Kansas farmhouse where, he and his devoted assistant Milla (Fanny Rosen) attempt to bring down a corrupt Rome.  Milla and Urban play out  a high camp, burlesque of religion, uproarious love and lusty temptation. Unrequited, over-the-top, sinfully delinquent attraction culminates with a showdown ending of astronomical proportions.  One of the best and most outlandish pieces of writing experienced in a short play, Schism, leaves the audience in twisted stitches of shock and awe laughter.

Three performances left:

Friday, September 5th @ 8pm
Saturday, September 6th @ 8pm
Sunday, September 7th @ 7pm
 
Three Shorts
Playing at the Stella Adler Academy & Theatre -Gilbert Stage
6773 Hollywood Blvd, 2nd Floor
Hollywood, CA 90028
Tickets: General $20 / Students & Seniors $10
To purchase visit: www.LabTheatre.bpt.me or call (323) 455-3111