Category Archives: Reviews

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

Peanuts to Pathos: Absolutely Filthy at the New York Fringe

Reviewed by Carlos Stafford, The Model Critic

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Photo Credit: Shaela Cook

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“Past is Prologue” becomes a working theme in this outstanding and zany production originally from Sacred Fools Theater Company, Los Angeles. “Absolutely Filthy” is a Valentine gift to the Eighteenth Annual New York International Fringe Festival, as well as a kiss from the Little Red Haired Girl, for the action takes place on Feb. 14, 2013.

This play is a colossal comedic success spiked with an imaginative concept, endless wit, and razor sharp pacing. Inspired by the comic strip “Peanuts,” all the kids have now grown to adulthood, and are reunited for a bleak occasion–Charlie Brown’s funeral.

Like most reunions, the group shows up, symbolically staggering in from the mishaps, struggles, and ironies of life: Sally Brown, Schroeder, Linus, Lucy van Pelt, Peppermint Patty, Marcia, Franklin, and most importantly Pig Pen, who uninvited, inadvertently appears as a dirty bum in front of the church to the chagrin of the others, together with his homeless stench and muttering, psychological inferno. But as we soon see, all the gang has their own private bête noires in this astute parody of their lives.

smFuneralPhoto credit: Shaela Cook

As Walt Disney said in a softer context, ” that’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up.” Schroeder is a compromised pop star, Lucy has become a major B executive type, Marcia, a self-inflicted blind person/Opthamologist; Peppermint Patty, a vain fashionista from Paris;  Linus, suffering with PTSD from military duty; and Fredrick, a circuit court judge with a drinking problem. Yes, the kids from the comics have lost a bit of their Sunday morning primary colors.

Pig Pen becomes the unlikely source from which all the cathartic action proceeds. For something has been sick and slightly off-balance all these years, and as this brilliant, subversive play unfolds, Pig Pen alone in his social, solitary confinement becomes the most reliable, although crazed, point of view obliquely revealing the finer nuances of the group’s collective past.

As the outcast, grimey and disheveled, Pig Pen has fulfilled his destiny; he has finally embodied his childhood nickname, psychologically buying into his parental moniker as a real identity, all the while shielding himself in his own private galaxy with his ever-present Hula Hoop.

“This play is colossal comedic success spiked with an imaginative concept, endless wit, and razor sharp pacing.” 

Brendan Hunt, Playwright and Actor portraying “The Mess” is wonderful. His writing is  always engaging, wry and portentous, eliciting bundles of laughs. Also, his uncanny  ability to gyrate with the hoop while simultaneously acting his layered role with conviction, is well worth the ten pounds of hard work and determination he burns. Mr. Hunt lives his role with an unpredictable certitude, and never for a minute looses momentum. And even though the one joke theme runs the danger of thinning out towards the end, another motif quickly emerges keeping the proceedings thoroughly engaging. Thumbs up to director Jeremy Aldridge for keeping a perfect lyrical flow.

KJ Middlebrooks as Franklin was totally believable, and had great timing in his acting. Shannon Nelson, as Charlie Brown’s sister also gave a spot on solid portrayal. Robbie Winston as Linus was a charming, empathetic character and played with smooth energy.

And we all know in the theatre, dying is easy, comedy hard!

Light comes from many places in this well conceived show. Even Snoopy shows up to pay his last respects. What a dog, speaks German!  (Played admirably, and well groomed, by Rachel Germaine in a dual roles, also as Peppermint Patty).  And the ensemble was always electric, as they worked on the modest proscenium stage. No matter!  Scene after scene the audience was entertained by confident, well placed performances, while time becomes magically compressed.  As you can plainly see, I highly recommend this play. You’re assured of a good, soulful time, guaranteed. But please, leave the kids home.

In the end, Absolutely Filthy is a story about love, guilt, and missed opportunities. But a million other things too, as so much is packed into each character’s orbit. We care about The Mess mostly though, because as the anti-hero, he sees with a special vision that appears very sane, as someone who has made a bad decision and paid dearly, but who may still get his cuts at bat. He embodies the quote by RD Laing on the larger game:

“They are playing a game. They are playing at not playing a game. If I show them I see they are, I shall break the rules and they will punish me. I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game.”

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By Brendan Hunt

Directed by Jeremy Aldridge

WORTH THE TICKET!

WORTH THE TICKET!

Starring:

Jaime Andrews, Curt Bonnem, Anna Douglas, Rachel Germaine, Brendan Hunt, K.J. Middlebrooks, Shannon Nelson, Kiff Scholl, Robbie Winston

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Remaining Shows: FringeNYC Venue #17

Wed. Aug 13 at 7 
Tues.  Aug 19 at 2
Thurs. Aug 21 at 7
Fri.      Aug 22 at 2

Tickets: www.FringeNYC.org.  Or   www.absolutelyfilthy.com

Tickets $18 online, $24 at the door

Support FringeNYC– you’ll be amazed!!!

6 RMS RIV VU at the Sierra Madre Playhouse

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

Lena Bouton & Jeremy Guskin -- photo: Gina Long

Lena Bouton & Jeremy Guskin — Photo: Gina Long

6 RMS RIV VU the Summer romantic comedy now playing at the Sierra Madre Playhouse, was a straight shooter and that was the best part of opening night.

Several couples vying for a six room rent control apartment on Riverside Drive, Manhattan’s Upper West Side, race to get a piece of the apple and a view of the Hudson, only to discover that it’s a drek, maintained by a notoriously shady building manager and mostly in need of an overhaul.  But that isn’t stopping anyone. At $350 per month it’s still a steal and the heat is on for the lease.

When two of the candidates, Anne Miller, a (rather gorgeous) mom and homemaker and Paul Friedman, an advertising executive, collide one afternoon while measuring out the square footage they begin a sort of light version, Last Tango in Paris-like affair and it gets interesting in so many more ways than just sex.

It’s the 70s and both of these two are settled in not the most exciting of marriages.  Although they love their spouses and are completely committed to their families, they both, especially Paul, feel a bit like the “lost” generation passed on by.  Both are still very young and living within the new-found freedom of the time without the actual unrestrained ability to enjoy it.  Paul fantasizes about writing his own projects and having sex with other women.  Anne wouldn’t mind a day to herself, some adventure and a lot more attention from her architect husband.  Essentially they are both bored, desperately in need of at least a temporary rescue. So it’s no surprise that when the doorknob to the apartment goes missing and they become trapped for several hours alone, an attraction begins to flare up that seemingly could be consummated without consequence but for their own guilt.

6 RMS RIV VU, written by Bob Randall, originally premiered in New York City in 1972 at the Helen Hayes Theatre then on to the Lunt Fontaine and finally made it to television in 1974 with several star-studded casts also garnering an Emmy nomination.  It is a wholly New York City story including the behaviors, attitudes, vocabulary and dialogs that would have been typically heard during those times, very specifically in that city.  Although, if you’ve ever lived in the Big Apple, the rent control saga has been and still is the melodramatic center stage even today, as there are hardly any of them left.

The point is, the language has not been updated at all and although normally not always particularly noteworthy where older scripts are often concerned, it does comes into play with this production.  It could be considered a sort of classic with a contemporary line and flow but for the occasions where the verbal references are jarring.  And there are a few.  If you’ve not lived through preceding generations, and have never had the truly unique experience of apartment hunting prior to the 90’s, in New York City, there are words and circumstances that have the potential to take you out of the moment.  Although 6 RMS is a genuinely delightful and relationship relatable stage play, the innuendos will make this production a tiny bit harder for younger audiences to co-mesh with.

References aside, 6 RMS RIV VU is an overall crowd pleaser with a very easy to follow linear line that is entertaining, sweet and at times very comical, people just being as they are — silly, pushy, hopeful, adventurous, flirtatious, competitive and more.   There is a very human outcome not necessarily nice or naughty, but you’ll want to go for the ride just the same.  Excellent costuming by Naila Aladdin Sanders.  “Hits the mark.”

6 RMS RIV VU“6 RMS RIV VU”

Written by BOB RANDALL

Directed by SHERRIE LOFTON

Produced by ANISA HAMDAN and CHRISTIAN LEBANO for SIERRA MADRE PLAYHOUSE

Now playing through September 6, 2014

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Fri. and Sat. at 8:00, Sun. at 2:30.
**2:30 and 7:00 on Sunday, August 17 
**2:30 and 8:00 on Saturday, September 6
**Dark on August 16.

Talkbacks after every Sunday matinee- Please check website for details.

The cast (in alphabetical order): LENA BOUTON, ALBERT GARNICA, JEREMY GUSKIN, JILL MAGLIONE, CRAIG McELDOWNEY, BOB RODRIGUEZ, LYNNDI SCOTT and KRISTIN TOWERS-ROWLES

Written by Bob Randall. Directed by Sherrie Lofton. Produced by Anisa Hamdan and Christian Lebano for Sierra Madre Playhouse. Produced by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.

Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, CA 91024.

ADMISSION: $25. Seniors (65+), $22. Youth (13-21), $15. Children 12 and under, $12.

RESERVATIONS: (626) 355-4318.

ONLINE TICKETING: www.sierramadreplayhouse.org

Moon Over Buffalo in Burbank at the Grove Theatre Center

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
smMOB_0199-Kimberly-Lewis,-Paul-Galliano,-Keri-Safran---Photo-by-Ed-Krieger

Kimberly Lewis, Paul Galliano, Keri Safran – Photo by Ed Krieger

Entirely silly and wholly entertaining, Wasatch Theatre Ventures took a comedic deep dive with Ken Ludwig’s, Tony-nominated Moon Over Buffalo and landed a good old-fashioned, hilarious romp!  Opening last weekend at the Grove Theatre Center in Burbank, director Kiff Scholl presented an all-star cast in one of Broadway’s more outrageous parodies.

A lively show from front to back, actors Mark Belnick, Paul Galliano, Carol Herman, Sarah Hunt, Kimberly Lewis, Paul Michael Nieman, Chuck Raucci and Keri Safran, delivered technically on this very character driven, slapstick, situation comedy, timing critical script, keeping up a thoroughly animated energy and excellent fast pacing throughout. Not a moment of dead time ever doused the fun.  The cast worked together seamlessly in the ensemble work.  The audience reaped the rewards of a great show that kept them laughing for the entire performance.

“The cast truly pulls it all off beautifully…”

Charlotte and George Hay, a once-famed acting couple, are now on tour in Buffalo, NY in 1953 with a repertory consisting of Cyrano de Bergerac (the “revised, one nostril version”) and Noel Coward’s Private Lives. Audience tastes have changed with television and film taking over and have left this theatre duo in a rep rut with hardly any regular audience and hard-pressed to pay the bills.  Suddenly, Fate has given these stars one more shot at the big time: starring roles in a motion picture.  But can they survive their off-stage, daily madcap, melodrama and actually pull off a showcase performance, without a hitch, in front of legendary film director Frank Capra who is flying in to see the matinee?

The problem is, that they are a hodgepodge of players with extra cast ill-suited for stage and who quit on cue, a deaf grandmother who doesn’t like her son-in-law and who accidentally, nearly, sabotages the production, a not so ingenue leading lady ready to jump ship, a often drunk and philandering leading man, a runaway (to another career) daughter who claims she hates theatre, a jealous, head-over-heels-in-love, ex-fiancé stage manager trying to keep it all together, a ditzy, teary-eyed, supporting actress who needs a husband – quick, a love-sick, talent manager bent on stealing away the married woman of his dreams…and… one outsider, a weatherman, fiancé, who practically drives this farce all the way to an over-the-top epic fail.

 Paul Galliano, Mark Belnick, Kimberly Lewis, Keri Safran - Photo by Ed Krieger

Paul Galliano, Mark Belnick, Kimberly Lewis, Keri Safran – Photo by Ed Krieger

The story is pretty, disastrously, hysterical. As a note this show when it first opened on Broadway marked the return of Carol Burnett to the stage after a 30 year absence and also starred Phillip Bosco.  So the zaniness is built into the script and also quite a bit into the expectation.  But the cast truly pulls it all off beautifully.

All the actors gave standout performances.  One of the hands down critical moments was played by actress, Keri Safran (Rosalind) who was especially spectacular as she handled the comedy of holding down the fort, alone onstage, while her father roams around in the wrong costume, utterly drunk, during Private Lives. She and Mr. Galliano (Paul) also register a really exciting chemistry as the fallen out but still in love, sexually attracted couple.  Indeed the chemistry between the entire cast is what sets this show apart.

Michael Mullen’s costume design is more than noteworthy.  Creative and 1953 timeline spot-on his costuming of the characters in real life and onstage in repertory are absolutely gorgeous, colorful and remarkably, un-frumpily, flattering.

WORTH THE TICKET!

Everything about this boisterous show is delightful and Worth the Ticket.

3891MOON OVER BUFFALO
Plays:  Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm
               Sunday matinees at 3pm
Runs: Through Sept. 14 (Dark August 29, 30 & 31st)
Tickets: $25 
Where: Grove Theatre Center. 1111-B West Olive Avenue in George Izay Park, Burbank 91506
Parking: Please allow 10 minutes to park.  Free street and public lot parking.
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Tickets/Info: www.plays411.com/moon 

or (323) 960-7721

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 Geer (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