Category Archives: Reviews

The Inkwell Theater presents the World Premiere of Luigi

Reviewed by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

CastLUIGI

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I winced as they slightly butchered the language and just a little bit of the culture of my great grandfather throughout each mild cliché and lagging scene…and yet somehow, something about it still felt familiar.  Maybe it was the slow pace after all or how the family embraced each other in the laughing, the teasing, even in the arguing.  I understood it completely.  It felt like home.  But then I thought, these are not Sicilians.  They are not actually my people.  And in any case, everyone else just thinks that we’re all boiled into one melting pot of spaghetti eating, loud mouthed, over-the-top, nonsensicals, easily dismissed, and made sport of, but for mafioso films, Michelangelo and ancient Roman history.  So it doesn’t really matter.  Of course it does! …what was I thinking.

One bona fide Italian in a production pulling along a host of actors playing Italian does not necessarily, even with the best of intentions and rehearsals make a real life … non è così.

In, “Luigi”, when the patriarch of an Italian family is in his last days, relatives gather in Tuscany for a reunion to celebrate life, love and to rediscover the bonds that hold them together.

It began promising, but the bloom quickly faded with each passing scene in a menage of unending moments that arrived at a precipice of truth, but never quite gave way to the essentiality of the story.  In and of itself it is a gentle tale, beautiful, sweet and heart-warming.  A tale so full of life attached to the inevitability of death where writer Louise Munson attempts to gather the fragrant and fully blossomed moments inside vivid, spontaneous recollections that we actually remember as opposed to what is left, the decomposition of memory and of factual and emotional history.  With and without us, life goes on.  What we pass to the next person, the next generation however, is often precious in ways we may never know.  How we remember for ourselves and for each other is what creates life in the present and hope for the future.

The trouble with this comedy/drama is that there are so many moments to distill; too many.  And so the story creates an endless Summer that feels like a heatwave we want to end, instead of the sweet kiss of a deliciously warm breeze that unbearably rolls over the skin, making us long for the touch of it over and over.

The actors, some of whom are seasoned Broadway and television veterans, are uneven in delivery, dialog, cultural backgrounds that don’t quite stitch together and projection. But they do put in their best performances to be sure. Ultimately, though, the cast as a whole does not truly capture the “Italian.” The stage direction and pacing, unassisted by the small space, corrupted the fleeting intimacies and what should have been a more crisp evolution of time.  Scene changes were awkward. There were just too many.  And the story itself could be cut down and strung together more cohesively to evince the most special and evocative aspects. Unfortunately, what we crave to grasp here is exactly what we don’t get to hold onto — the sincere kinships and the deep, deep love between all the family members, especially between Luigi and his young American niece, Anna, who finds in her uncle, a relationship she has always longed to have.

An “assemblage” needs to happen with this production. It has a world of potential but has quite a way to go to fully reach it.  During the run, it will hopefully pick up speed and emerge as a home-grown yet more universal drama.

LuigiNoText_zpsc6d060e7LUIGI

NOW PLAYING
until August 18, 20141
Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 2pmTickets:
Pricing: $10-$20
Box Office reservations: http://www.inkwelltheater.com/
Theatre Information:
VS Theatre (a guest production)
5453 W. Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles, 90010

Appropriate for all ages 

Cast: Nicola Bertram, Helen Duffy, Ryan Plourde, Erin McIntosh, Stephanie Sanchez, Gian Franco Tordi, Ray Xifo

Directed by Annie McVey
Produced by Daniel Shoenman and Bonnie Hallman
Written by Louise Munson

David Mauer (Set Design), Derrick McDaniel (Lighting Design), Daniel Shoenman (Sound Design), Stephen Rowan (Costume & Prop Design), Lisa Pantone (Casting Director), and Josephine Austin (Production Stage Manager)

Tickets: http://www.ruskingrouptheatre.com

All’s Well That Ends Well

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

All's-Well_1

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“All’s well that ends well”… and that’s a good thing for one of Shakespeare’s more notoriously problematic and confus-ed plays currently in production at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, as part of its celebration of the Bard’s 450th birthday and an All-Shakespeare Repertory Season.

If Love is a battlefield then this one is filled with mines for handsome, naïve, Bertram who just can’t figure out enough ways to avoid marriage and commitment.  He is convinced, like any young man, (and not just by his own mind) that life as a soldier in the King’s army is the adventure he craves.

Helena on the other hand is determined to have what she wants and gets it by all means, whether the object of her amore is willing or not, justified by the unadulterated fact that, “she loves.”

Ah me!

Though originally classified as one of Shakespeare’s comedies, All’s Well That Ends Well is considered by most critics difficult to be categorized as either a tragedy or comedy.  The title taken from the old proverb, which means that problems do not matter as long as the outcome is good, leaves one slightly aghast in this mire of manipulative mayhem.

All’s Well That Ends Well is a bittersweet story about class differences.  Theatricum’s production attempts to bring it into the 21st Century showcasing Helena as a great female role model who crosses class lines to follow her heart.

It’s a hard line to cross, though.

Low born Helena is merely the daughter of a renowned physician taken into Bertram’s house after the death of her father.  Living in the same household she falls in an awkward love with Bertram, who is a Count and well above her station. Despite all of her qualities, her beauty, her eligibility in every other way, including the blessing of Bertram’s mother, (the Countess of Rousillon), he leaves for court to make a brilliant life and an understandable “future” marriage to someone more befitting his rank and wealth.

In the most egregious of ploys, Helena travels to Paris and heals the King of France from an incurable illness with the help of one of her father’s remedies.  She is then given the right to marry any man she loves. Bertram however bitterly rejects Helena, and but only for the command of the King, forced to go through with the ceremony, subsequently leaves Helena un-bedded, alone and sent back to a home to which he will never return.  From here she must use her wits, her wiles and whatever friends she can muster in order to eventually seduce her own husband into impregnating her – the only way he says he will ever truly be her husband.

Helena although struggling from an honest place, in an honest course, still defies modernity in execution.  Embodied by the lovely and talented Willow Geer as a softer, outplayed-at-almost-every-turn, yet determined woman in love, Helena is compelled by the fact that she is a female living by the rules of a socially strict culture, to shape her fortune in what can easily come across as deceit.  And frankly, what she does is deceitful. But there are no other means.

The biggest complication with trying to make the story modern is that, were it not for a King’s ultimatum, Helena would most likely never have won an opportunity at Bertram’s heart apart from sisterly love, and most definitely would not have been made his wife.  It’s still and old-fashioned trap portraying Helena more as a go-to girl rather than the heroine that girls today are looking to for answers about love.

That all being said, the production itself is quite marvelous.  Earnestine Phillips (Countess of Rousillon), Mark Lewis (Parolles) and Wayne Stribling Jr. (King of France),  assemble, sort out and pull along a partly green but jocular cast in a thoroughly enjoyable, well-executed romp under a moonlit, outdoor, Summer theatre sky.

Leading lady Willow Greer (Helena) is a well-honed, driving instrument; perceptive and intuitive in her delivery.

All’s Well That Ends Well, is by all means, a show worth seeing and a concept curious enough worth visiting.  No matter the complications or structure of the Bard’s script or the shortcomings of a the attempted reboot, there is hardly a disappointment to be found from first to last line, made more special by the gorgeous environment of the outdoor stage itself. All in all — a treat.

All's Well1-Art-sm 

WHO:

  • Written by William Shakespeare
  • Starring Alan Blumenfeld, Willow Geer, Chelsea Fryer, William Dennis Hunt, Max Lawrence, Mark Lewis, Earnestine Phillips, Wayne Stribling, Jr., Debi Tinsley
  • Directed by Ellen Geer and Christopher W. Jones
WHEN:
Performances through Sept. 27:
  • Sunday, July 20 at 3:30 pm
  • Saturday, July 26 at 4 pm
  • Sunday, July 27 at 7:30 pm
  • Friday, Aug. 1 at 8 pm**
  • Sunday, Aug. 3 at 7:30 pm
  • Friday, Aug. 8 at 8 pm
  • Sunday, Aug. 10 at 3:30 pm
  • Sunday, Aug. 17 at 3:30 pm
  • Sunday, Aug. 24 at 3:30 pm
  • Saturday, Aug. 30 at 4 pm
  • Sunday, Sept. 7 at 7:30 pm
  • Saturday, Sept. 13 at 4 pm
  • Saturday, Sept. 20 at 8 pm
  • Saturday, Sept. 27 at 4 pm
**Pre-performance “British Pub Grub” dinner at 6:30 pm on Friday, Aug. 1 and Friday, Aug. 8 (separate admission, or combination packages available)WHERE:
Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum
1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Topanga CA  90290
(midway between Pacific Coast Highway and the Ventura Freeway)HOW:
TICKETS:
  • Adults: $37 (lower tier); $25 (upper tier)
  • Seniors (60+), Students, Military Veterans, AEA Members: $25/$15
  • Children (7-12): $10
  • Children 6 and under: free
  • “British Pub Grub” dinner/play combos: call theater for pricing, advance reservations required
OTHER:
The outdoor amphitheater at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is terraced into the hillside of the rustic canyon. Audience members are advised to dress casually (warmly for evenings) and bring cushions for bench seating. Snacks are available at the Hamlet Hut, and picnickers are welcome before and after the performance.
 

The Curse of Oedipus at the Antaeus Theatre NOHO

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

Oedipus_Thebes_1.

It started off promising but somehow didn’t quite make it all the way.

The world premiere of, “The Curse of Oedipus” written by Kenneth Cavandar, directed by Casey Stangl and developed by the Antaeus Company was more like a “little bit of everything soup” than muscular tragedy.

But let’s start with the best of this production, for which there is a more meaningful reason to experience it.  “The Curse of Oedipus” is a newly translated rendition stringing together the various versions of this legend for what the company calls a “distilled” evening of (a massive) drama: a retold mythology of people caught in a web of pride and self destruction.

Oedipus_Thebes_9There were thoroughly meaty performances delivered poetically intact by Ramon de Ocampo (Oedipus), Josh Clark (Creon, brother to Queen Jocasta), Fran Bennet (Tieresias the blind seer) and Joanna Strapp (Antigone). Each of these actors brought an uncanny believability, evil and righteousness to the characters and moved the chugging storyline along at a thankfully measurable pace.  Without the stronger leads the show could have easily stood still.  The story however, is clear and understandable.

So what was off…

Mr. de Ocampo dove deep for the epic, sweeping tragedy  and physicality of Oedipus himself.  But curiously he remained unsupported by a large ensemble cast that although was vocally vibrant, didn’t register intensity that matched him.  The sound effects dispatched by a talented Adam Meyer on drums, were powerful but overall felt more laid-up-against the material rather than intrinsically aligning the movements, emotions, or lyric line.  It never really immersed the audience into the reality. And the opening child sacrifice would have benefitted by a little bit more compelling severity rather than what came off as screaming silliness.

They went for the laughs – sort of.  Playing in the middle somewhere between comedy and drama hurt this production.  At times the characters went for dramatic breath then suddenly dropped into something reminiscent of slapstick.  It’s not to say that it couldn’t work.  But it didn’t. They didn’t “take it all the way” and it made the piece confusing.  The exception was the fun performances of the two brothers, the gods, Apollo (Mark Bramhall) and Dyonysus (John Apicella). Mr. Bramhall and Mr. Apicella’s appearances were like mini mis-en-scenes in themselves; a tete a tete of underplayed neurotic, bitchiness, humor and reason.  Mr. Apicella as Dyonysus especially drove the important ideas of mortality and power home with well–delivered wisdom and a final speech that utterly hit the mark, adding much needed cohesion.

Style is everything. The costumes were decent. There were no fails there. But there was no real excitement or creativity either in their contemporary form. On the other hand, what truly elucidates every moment in this production are the lighting/scenic changes and transitions, beautifully designed by Francois-Pierre Couture.

It’s a long, long way… If it weren’t for the fact that it’s mostly understood that a Greek tragedy is going to take a few hours, the length of this show would have tested the patience of the gods themselves and nothing, not even brilliance should take an eternity.  Even if you are a dedicated classical theatre devotee, plan on making a serious time commitment.

OedipusNOW PLAYING AT

Antaeus Theater
5112 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood CA 91601
(1/12 blocks south of Magnolia)
 
Until August 10th, 2014
Thursday, Friday and Saturday @8pm
Saturday & Sunday @2pm
Tickets: Thursday & Friday $30 / Saturday & Sunday $34
 
Visit www.antaeus.org for tickets and information or call: (818) 506-1983
Follow them on Twitter: @AntaeusTheater

Fringe Up: Riot Grrl Saves The World

p_1724_i_5965239by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

Capturing the zeitgeist of today’s girl empowerment movement, Riot Grrrl Saves The World, is as exuberant as it is insightful.

“It’s the end of the world as they know it…”

A world premiere play by award winning playwright Louisa Hill Riot Grrrl Saves The World explores the deep issues that girls more than ever have been questioning and rebelling over with fervor.

You’re a girl.  It’s your job or maybe even your forever fate to conform.  You can’t really do anything you want.  You’re not human.  You’re a girl.  Because you know, at the core of your body is fear.

…or you could explode!

And that is exactly what they do.  Forming a nucleus of team members who create handmade magazines publishing their thoughts of the month and attempting to “change the world” these teens are no less than 100% committed to the the Riot Grrrl Revolution.  But when a Jehovah’s Witness stumbles into a Riot Grrrl meeting, dynamics change along with goals, loves and loyalties.

Riot Grrrl Saves The World truly exposes the hearts and minds of teen beliefs, prejudices, frustrations and the best part of what they are willing to be — a force for change from the heart.

Idealism, however, comes with a heavy price especially if you are a high school aged kid without a lot of control, money or power over your own destiny, the decisions of your future lurking in the background, your zine getting hijacked, your community threatening to shun you and worse, the mainstream media wanting to invade your special rebel space to take it down, tempting your compatriots with fame — its most infectious brand of mediocrity.  As we discover, the revolution is not about altruism it’s about survival.

There are incredibly potent elements, ideas and stories that come up in this play, revealed through movement, spoken word, music and “the best band ever” created by the girls as a way to gain followers and money for the publishing efforts.

The grand scale change they hope for doesn’t really come to pass.  But oddly enough, what they leave behind, sparks a new age of revolution.  Riot Grrrl Saves The World is a winner as is each of these girls.

There are no performances left for the Hollywood Fringe.  But you can learn more about the movement by visiting: http://willplayforfoodtg.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

 

Fringe Up: The Wake

The Wakeby Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

“When Love Asks You Answer Recklessly.”

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One of the edgiest returns to the Hollywood Fringe Festival this year is Ben Moroski in The Wake.

From his first appearance last season with his acclaimed autobiographical one-man show, This Vicious Minute – Moroski has been setting a new standard for solo performance by young up & comers.

Meticulous writing/storytelling skills paired with intense, raw, delivery are the hallmark of this talent.  The Wake dubs him a de facto force to be reckoned with.

Currently in the running for the Fringe Award for solo performance – no matter what the outcome of today’s decisions, there is no doubt that Ben Moroski’s star is rising and deservedly so.

In The Wake Moroski takes “amore” on an impassioned journey into the macabre with a dark comedy about love and loss.  A play within a play this story loops around the idea of healing through theatre for an incredibly shocking ending that will have you rolling and crying in your seat.

Pete a substitute teacher falls head over heels for the most unlikely sexy creature, Tali, who accidentally struts into his life and who later summarily dumps him.  Lonely and depressed he decides to go out on the town one night where he meets the other girl of his dreams whose attention he can’t seem to get across the dance floor.  But destiny has them collide in the parking lot — literally.

I saw this show twice and was intrigued even more with the second go-around.  This IS the show you absolutely cannot miss!

There are two opportunities to actually catch it. Running time is 1 hour.

Friday July 11 2014, 8:00 PM

Saturday July 19 2014, 9:00 PM

Playing at Theatre Asylum (Asylum Lab) 6320 Santa Monica Blvd
Visit the Hollywood Fringe website for Tickets

Fringe Up: Meet & Greet

Meet & Greetby Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

It was a stunning performance!

This perfectly written script endowed with an all-star female cast and cute little “devil” of a casting assistant, Meet and Greet is proof positive that comedy can be dryly hilarious and insanely over the top with no danger to the experience.

Currently up for a Top of Fringe (Best Overall) award, there is no doubt that this show is one of the most deserving of attention at the Hollywood Fringe this year.

Writers Stan Zimmerman (The Golden Girls, Roseanne, The Gilmore Girls and The Brady Bunch) and Christian McLaughlin (Married with Children, Desperate Housewives) took the season to a new level of distinction with this offering harnessing the power of experience, good taste, timing and bullet-proof talent.

Four leading ladies of scripted television, reality and stage (in real life and in the play — [ Desiree: Daniele Gaither (Mad TV) Teri: Teresa Ganzel (Tonight Show & Toy Story) Margo: Carolyn Hennesy (General Hospital, Cougar Town, True Blood) Belinda: Vicki Lewis (Newsradio)] are gathered together to audition for a new hit show with a juicy, guaranteed to re-launch a career role. All of them think they have been singled out for greatness until the find out the truth, the part is up for grabs.  The in-fighting begins as each relentlessly and ruthlessly attempt to stand out for the casting directors’ attention.  All the while being subjected to the mood swings of a catty, young gay casting assistant [Paul Iacono (GBF, Hard Times of RJ Berger) ] who lionizes them and then rips them to shreds.

It’s Hell…except they don’t know it…

According to the Fringe website there is actually one more performance on July 11th at 8pm to catch this must see show.

Visit the Hollywood Fringe website for more information.

You can also learn more at: www.zimmermanstan.com

Fringe Up: Small Parts

Small Partsby Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

He has no right to complain about his life.  But we’re so glad he did.

Richard Tanner has an age old story aching to be told about the trials and tribulations of what it’s really like being an actor.

“I can’t get no satisfaction”…for a lifetime so far.

Imagine having one of the more recognizable faces on television, appearances on too many hit shows to even number, going head to head on camera with stars and celebs for some of the more memorable moments of taped drama, and yet nobody knows your name.

If you don’t think that living the life of a passionate artist isn’t all that tough, I dare you, go and try it.  But be prepared, because much like Richard your career will be measured in “small parts”.

Small Parts is a singularly heartwarming, comical and sometimes awful cautionary tale of a very young boy’s dreams pursued into adulthood at all costs especially his heart. From the moment he steps on his grammar school stage as George Washington, the Father of our country, and told, “you got it kid,” he is utterly taken by the vision of a wondrous future that only he can imagine.

It is completely relatable and spot on, a banner for the “we’ve been there and done that over and over again” theatrical community.

The saddest part is that he is not unique in his journey which is rank with excitement, hope and a lot of the time, debilitating depression.  You will not always be satisfied in your quest.  You will suffer. You will go hungry.  Your body will ache.  And so will your heart more than you will ever admit.  You will live in the extreme because you have no other choice. The dream is everything.  It’s only just around the corner.  You will have to bear the sharp thorns and nettles of an unforgiving business that will tear you apart inside and out for the desire of it. Your journey will never conclude and it may never be fulfilled.

And yet, according to Richard, he wouldn’t change a thing.

Definitely one of the more fulfilling solo shows at Fringe.  Kind of a tear jerker. It unfortunately has no more performances. But you can keep up with Richard on the website of the show.

http://smallpartstheshow.com/

Fringe Up: Lost Moon Radio’s Million Dollar Hair

Lost Moon Radioby Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

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Million Dollar Hilarious!

L.A.’s darling sketch comedy group Lost Moon Radio continues it’s reign supreme in its newly minted “Million Dollar Hair,” an awards ceremony-style retrospective of music industry mogul, Bernie Schonfeld, pitifully celebrated by the “has beens” of music icon, who have against all reason, made him a fortune — all but his daughter.  This pathetic assemblage has arrived to show devotion, respect, adoration and temporarily resurrect their careers in front of a live audience of fans and celebs.

Absurdly devised and hosted resentfully by Bernie’s only daughter, the amalgamated cast of characters one by one, make their way onto the performance stage to shamefully steal the spotlight more for themselves rather than honor the genius who took each of these artists from total obscurity to the heights of stardom.

Of course, he’s more than occasionally over-promised and under-delivered, left everyone flat taking off for Europe in a tax scandal, forcing his daughter to live in the horror of a middle class childhood, hoodwinked a few of them out of residuals, married half of them or at least stolen a wife away…no matter.

For the man who was said to have spent more than a fortune on hair care – his real personal passion – and who was eventually ousted from his own company by a group of ruthless 12 years old music executives groomed by his own for-profit educational program, it is a send-off befitting a producing King of Pop.

One of those “you’ve got to be kidding me” stories that you really have wonder “Is this really fictitious?”

There is one more opportunity to catch this show.  Today!  You can get a ticket online but it would be best to go directly to the box office.  Running time 65 minutes.

Saturday June 28 2014, 5:30 PM

Hudson Theatres (Hudson Backstage) 6539 Santa Monica Boulevard

But…and that’s a big one…This group is astoundingly prolific musically and otherwise.  If you miss today’s show, Lost Moon Radio can be enjoyed throughout the year via their regular programming with host D.J. Jupiter Jack.

Follow their media and sign up for the newsletter for updates.

http://www.lostmoonradio.com./

Fringe Up: The Best of Craigs List LIVE

p_1703_i_270330by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

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It was a total surprise!

A last minute stop over to the Hudson Theatre resulted in 60 of the most outrageous minutes spent at the Hollywood Fringe this year.

Inventive and hilarious beyond proportion, The Best of CraigsList LIVE, an assortment of real posted adds culled from the millions of CraigsList world-wide, and which began as a Funny or Die web show, exposes the insanity, stupidity, lasciviousness and quite possibly dangerous nature of the world’s ultimate “hook me up with stuff”, online classifieds.

“Super hero side-kick needed.  Must be available nights and weekends.  Must own your own costume.  It should be complimentary in color. Mine is black.  I have a car but you need to be willing to contribute gas money.  Discretion is a must.  No one must know about your true identity.  You will be wearing tight fitting clothes. Consider this an internship.  There is no pay.  But if you are looking to fight EVIL in all forms send in your resume.”

From the first moment to the last the show is silly, psychotic and shamefully uproarious. Filled with great songs and deftly executed comedy by a seriously committed cast.  It is one of the better LIVE parodies of a new age medium since The Onion hijacked the news.

More could be said, but it would be so much better to experience this show in person. There are two more opportunities.

Playing at Hudson Theatres (Hudson Backstage) 6539 Santa Monica Boulevard

Run Time:  1 hour

Saturday June 28 2014, 3:00 PM
Saturday June 28 2014, 9:45 PM 
 
Visit the Hollywood Fringe website for tickets.
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 If you miss the shows you can also catch them online by visiting their website:

The Model Critic Reviews: Step on Broadway

dancecompany
The Steps Repertory Ensemble
Special Guest: Complexions Contemporary Ballet
Sidra Bell Dance NYC
The Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theatre 
Reviewed by Carlos Stafford, The Model Critic
 

STEPPING IT UP!

In a bright and varied evening of contemporary dance, Artistic Director, Bradley Shelver, bookended the evening, finishing with the fun and audacious piece, 3114 BCE.

With music from Ravel’s Bolero, Shelver takes an amusing dip into Primitivism, and comically imagines how our ancestors might have cavorted in their caves. Clearly not a dance inspired by the Court of Louis XIV, but rather to more distant, teeming past, 4000 years earlier. The costumes consist of baggy, soiled underwear, early Calvin Klein. Makeup: perhaps Courtney Love inspired.

As the dancers thump across stage exposing breasts, grabbing genitals, humping and screaming, water plink-plonks off the cave’s ceiling. What we have is a depiction of our early, good citizens, albeit with severe kyphosis, having a little Saturday night after-dinner soire before dousing the torches. You could say it was just gore-juss!

Accompanied by Ravel’s driving, mathematical cadences, the dancers forego their extensive barre training, and execute fast, challenging, asymetrical movements to the swelling music. The ensemble was up to the task and delivered with amazing energy and precision.  Appreciative cave bows followed!  What we’re left with is the presumed working theme–we are that; or shall we say, kind of like that, in 2-ply cotton.

“Flight” presented by Complexions Contemporary Ballet, and choreographer Jae Man Joo, was a fine surprise. Danced powerfully and with abandon by three male solo performers–Max Caserta, Terk Waters, and Philip Orsano.  Like a good poem, no collective move was redundant; each gesture and intention illuminated a clarifying meaning–the strength of the human will through struggle.  The trio, lifted and lean created dynamic movements of psycholgical tension and release, beyond words.

Two older works by renowned dance makers, William Forsythe and Elisa Monte held up brilliantly. “Limbs Theorem” by Forsythe created for the Frankfurt Ballet in 1990, was exerpted here, and danced en pointe by the versatile Katherine Sprudzs, and partnered with picture clean aplomb by Landes Dixon.  Together they delivered exciting artistry in this short, polished piece.

Monte’s “Pigs and Fishes” that premiered with the Ailey dancers in 1982, had an elemental trance-dance feeling, without narrative. Leading the dancers was expressive Carley Marholin and Lane Halperin, as other dancers filtered in to deliver a joyous, unselfconscious celebration to life.  It quickly became apparent that the group dancing in unison had a power all its own. This dance was easy and fun, and required no thought from the audience since it reached another level of spirit beyond categories, as structure and composition fell away and was forgotten; not because they were not there, but because they became invisible. In essence, a dance that was simple, communal, and elemental, that appealed to the soul and senses and made you happy.

Shelver’s other piece opened the evening, and got everyone thinking on love.

“She and Him, Him and Her, He and I, Us and Them.”  With masterworks by Bach,

Scarlatti, Chopin, and Beethoven, four evocative duets convey “Le Ronde” of love, each linked, interwoven in a complex of sublties. With a voice overlay, a poem is recited in French, and we see lovers engage, sometimes repeating movements from previous couples, but with added uniqueness, underlying known and unknown sources and connections.

—-I have wandered alone, sometimes with myself, and sometimes with Her, sometimes

with a thought of Him and Her, but always with an eye on the door, with an eye on goodbye.

—-I will think about those musical moments moved by thoughts of fingers and toes, eyes and ears, Us and Thems.

The ensemble was well rehearsed, and danced with unity, depth, and commitment.

This program was presented only on two successive nights.  The Steps Rep Ensemble, however, is dynamically active in NYC, and worth catching next go-a-round.

No more performances.

Photo Credit:  Nan Melville

 

 

 

Fringe Up: Hamlet Max

Hamlet Maxby Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
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Post apocalyptic in theory.  A mashup of classical and  modern theatre.
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There is more to like than not in the new production of Hamlet Max an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet currently being presented by Central City Productions and co-presented in the Hollywood Fringe Festival by Schkapf and Sacred Fools.
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It is for the most part a well thought out production that attempts to “freshly explore” Shakespeare’s text and which also deeply underscores the emotional/psychological dilemmas of a passionate young Hamlet in contempt.

There are troublesome areas however beginning with the basic delivery of the verse, which is derived from the Second Quarto (Q2) and takes character inspiration from the Norse history myth of Amleth.

Stylistically, Hamlet Max is its own unique creation.  Often filmic, it is set by the classic animates of  Hillary Bauman’s manga-style background art which does well to capture albeit lightly, the post apocalypse,  the general environment and “feeling” of the moments.

However, as it is a “language” play, the play rests in the language itself and unfortunately it is at times lost.  A basis lack of enunciation (by some of the actors) and too fast moving speech (perhaps a sacrifice for pacing) without stressing the importance of the spoken work, occasionally hurts the points of the story.

To be sure there are meritorious performances by Kathy Bell Denton (Gertrude) Jonathan Goldstein (Claudius), Matt Henerson (Polonius), and Andy Hirsch (Horatio) who offer clarity and and color; also a well executed Ophelia (Corryn Cummins); and a well tempered Laertis (Kellie Matteson).  Casey McKinnon (Guildenstern) puts in a light performance and does what she can with what she is given, which is not much.  As a gender bending role, along with Ms. Matteson (doubling up as Rosencrantz) it is plausible to a degree but is not a best choice for the story.

Hamlet himself  (played not so nihilistically but rather with more quiet, calculated revenge and rather vulnerably, by Jacob Sidney) is brought to an even more introspective level via the media of the production; inner thoughts register on the background scrim with dubbed voice-over, given breath by Hamlet, to only the words that simply cannot be held silent.  It is quite an effective technique that actually works.

What irritates is the music that forcefully leads the audience down an overbearing emotional path.

What was excellent:

Animation – Chris Hutchings
Set & Lighting Design – Mike Rainey

Hamlet Max is definitely worth the ticket for the season’s Hollywood Fringe.

Tonight is the last show.  Tickets are currently sold out and the theatre is offering RUSH seats at this time.  $20 — Cash only — Get in line early!!!

Running time 90 minutes.

Tuesday June 24 2014, 7:30 PM

Schkapf  (MENAGERIE [main stage]) 6567-6585 Santa Monica Boulevard

Fringe Up: And She Bakes Live

And She Bakes Liveby Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

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Flapping between bubbly and broken hearted, And She Bakes Live”, is an actual and currently running YouTube series in which viewers write in and get their relationship questions smartly answered by The Bakeress, while being taken on a step by step dessert instructional that parallels the emotional process.

This particular (expanded) episode leads the audience through a recipe of marriage that has failed before it even starts,…and peanut butter treats, rounding up all of the ingredients needed for a healthy relationship, and comestible indulgences, the importance of each one, and why the right ‘timing’ to add them is essential.

Particularly delightful Ms. Karnofsky is a very mercurial, capricious sort of girl who tends to make bad decisions, that she regrets, about everything BUT her cooking.  Stuck in a somewhat abusive relationship, torn between passion and comfort, she finds her way out through the empowerment of chocolate, vanilla extract, peanut butter, honey, salt, a sprinkling of rice crispies for the quirks, a little bit of dance magic and a whole lot of much needed self-love.

Her happiness is her own creation.

“And She Bakes Live” is as tender as the heating mixture in the crock pot onstage and as silly as the go-go boys who join her for the celebratory “cut-loose. Just go with it. A shared personal triumph, all around satisfying and darling.

Vegan and gluten free treats are passed out at the end.  And they ARE delicious!

There is one show left.  Running time is 55 minutes:

Saturday June 28 2014, 2:30 PM

Theatre Asylum (Elephant Studio) 6320 Santa Monica Blvd

Visit the Hollywood Fringe website for tickets.

You can also learn more about The Bakeress on her website:  www.andshebakes.com