Category Archives: Reviews

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

The Most Massive Woman Wins: A Hollywood Fringe Encore Extension

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

tmmww

Playing at Theatre Asylum on Santa Monica Blvd., as a Hollywood Fringe Festival 2014 Encore extension, The Most Massive Woman Wins, by Madeleine George and directed by Lish Ananda, opened the 2014-15 inaugural season for the Poor Man Theatre Company, and I will say, it was definitely a great choice.

The Most Massive Woman Wins takes a look at how today’s society and the media has arrested women’s bodies away from them.  Espousing rhetoric that takes a journey with four ladies as they claim their bodies back, this play attempts to become a champion for Woman’s Rights and “girl power.”

“Baby Got Back!”

Opening to the music of Sir Mix-a-lot we get a close up view of four women in the waiting room of the surgeon who is going to transform their bodies from the socially unacceptable, overweight, bingers to (in a land far far away) more svelte and shapely, more lovable, more desirable versions of themselves.  Selves that will be taken more seriously and hold more “weight” without all the fat.

Each tells her story, of subjugation and bullying: eating disorders that begin in early childhood from criticisms; teasing in the form of school-yard paddy-cake rhymes by other children; mothers who bribe them into patient and good behavior with treats, off-handedly encouraging habits that start them on the road to obesity; the humiliation of being paraded around as the not quite perfect daughter; the inability to live up to the current GQ version of the female ideal, the cutting, the secret snacking, the eating for love, the teenage pregnancies and all the worst choices that each makes from feeling outcast in her own own body.

As the story progresses it actually becomes more universal than just a story about fat girls.  It really is the “war on women”; how we are expected to be pretty, silent, silly, perfect, automaton, decorations or maids and want nothing at all.  And it becomes crystal clear that these women eat because they are SO emotionally starved.

It is truly black box theatre, but certainly not at it’s barest.  And it works, most of the time. There is movement choreography which tends to be a bit naive and obscure.  Check that off to inexperience but not for lack of imagination.  And there are empty holes in the direction. But otherwise, the intention was all there and each woman fully dedicated herself to this performance.  By the end, it was hard not to see them as a slowly emerging force, albeit at the beginning stages, to be reckoned with.

Melibelle Lavandier (Rennie), Marta Portillo (Sabine), and Jenelle Russell, (Cel) captured every bit of the spirit, heartbreak, language, longing, frustration and silent anger of today’s women and young girls.  Cherilyn Walker (Carly) knocked a home run right out the park with her performance which was thoroughly honest and plain out “gutsy”.  Ava Violetta Laurel (Receptionist) played a fine touch supporting role.

Well done!  A performance that stands centered on its feet and talks about the issues as women “experience” them.

The only disappointment about this show was that there were just three performances.

If you are interested in getting more information about this company, I suggest you connect with them on Twitter: @1playatatime or email them for information about upcoming shows: poormantheatrecompany@gmail.com.

Lost in Lvov: A Los Angeles Encore Presentation

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

Lost in Lvov

Sandy Simona is a woman filled with introspective, exuberant joy that when voiced and sung aloud is infectious from the moment you walk into the house.

Lost in Lvov is a melodic slow burn of biographical remembrances and collective memories of things long awaited and yet to be fulfilled, suddenly exploded and turned wildly upside down and inside out.  Imbued with immersive sadness, longing, bliss, ecstasy the stories of love are embroiled into a single, poetic and passionate affair of the heart.

Ms. Simona guides us through sensuality, sexual awakening, terrible loss, dreams of three sisters and above all the twists and turns of the real woman who is her feisty, bold, but secretly broken-hearted mother, exposing the deepest cavities of her soul and revealing her most inner emotions and truths.

This over-the-top, story is inventive and filled with abandon. From her mother’s description of her fat neighbor returning home from the army as the now transformed “not fat anymore” man who becomes Sandy’s father, and who writes poetry to her (mother) like Pushkin, to the desperate woman waiting for the vacuum cleaner salesman who takes the train from Manhattan to Brooklyn, to walks on the boardwalk in Brighton Beach, Sandy offers a high-spirited, strung together, account of her family, emigrated from the Soviet Union, “where the moon came out to dance with the sun before it came down”, now settled in America.

Watch the trailer here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nm7eowAXMSU

A hilarious array of personalities including Sandy herself, (not so coincidentally named after Olivia Newton John’s character in Grease), Ms. Simona challenges us and invites us in through comedy, dance, gorgeous live music and word, divulging piece by piece her experiences growing up as a first generation Russian Jew, dating failures, artistic discoveries and the shame of watching her father, a former scientist in his home country, having to work as a greasy mechanic. Most of all she boils down the truth of her mother’s obsession to have Sandy succeed, in love and life: the dream of an academically brilliant student to become an Engineer but deliberately failed by the school for being a woman and a Jew.

This entire show thrives completely in the moment, is hot to the touch and exciting without relief.  An exquisite experience.

Lost in Lvov  was mounted for the Hollywood Fringe Festival 2014 and has been part of the combined artform Producer’s Award ENCORE extended presentations. There are however, no more encore performances left in Los Angeles.  And so we tearfully send this production on its way to New York City for the United Solo Festival at Theatre Row Studios.  If you are an East Coaster you can catch this phenomenal experience in November 2014.  Check the website for tickets.

LOST IN LVOV

Written, Directed, Choreographed and Performed by Sandy Simona

Live music by: Jacob & Julia Kanter, Endre Balgoh from Paris Chansons and Kassandra Kochoshis, Agrenta Walther

Please visit:  www.LostinLvov and www.sandysimona.com