Category Archives: Reviews

Shiv at The Theatre @ Boston Court

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

Shiv

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“It’s just a story about a girl who wouldn’t get off her mattress.”

That was the line, actual words of playwright Aditi Brennan Kapil that had audiences at Boston Court giggling after all of the explanation director Emily Beck, expounded upon during the after show “Illuminations” dialog.  And of all the components of this visually imaginative production, it made the most sense. Thing is though, Shiv’s story is a little bit more.

Shiv’s father Bapu (Dileep Rao) is writer, a dreamer, an adventurer, a risk taker, a man full of desires in search of fulfillment and words longing to be spoken. For a well-known poet, in his own country, America is the next step to success.  But as it turns out, life as an “outsider” is harder than he imagined. His voice is stifled by culture and the business of publishing – tragic for an artist who breathes epic and verse. Not wanting to succumb to his own unhappiness or the idea that there is no more possibility for him, Shiv’s father leaves his family for a new life with a new American woman.  “He has to go”.

Shiv (Monika Jolly) is her father’s daughter. Smart, adventurous, unafraid of life or the things in it.  She has had most of the benefit of emigrating to America. And the secure embrace of her father’s unfailing love. But when her father leaves, Shiv is displaced. She tightly holds on to this man, his truths, his beliefs, his memories. She takes on his anger and disappointment and eventually sets on a path to heal his past by confronting the very thing that caused the rift.  Here is where story lies.

The mattress is not a metaphysical one.  It is a very real piece of “furniture” which they both use as a vessel to discover the extraordinary world of fantasy they live in. In many ways, the story is more about him – at least at the beginning.  He is such a big personality and influence with his ability and wisdom to see the extraordinary as well as the practical within the kaleidoscope of life.

In Shiv’s obsession to seek out the truth, however, she begins to see the world with her own eyes, her own imagination. She struggles with living in the moment, how to step into it and to leave the rest behind.

Eventually, through past and present, reality and fantasy, and through her father pushing her off their ‘ship’, she finally comes to learn that she is her own person and must travel her own path. She literally gets off the mattress and walks forward on her own road.

It’s a sweet, tale that by the careful direction of Emily Beck is brought to life in the most fantastical and beautiful of ways for a gorgeous satisfying finale. Shiv grows up. She awakens to herself and will forge ahead on an adventure of her own making.

Dileep Rao is so appealing and charismatic as Bapu. He is a resonant player that fills up the house as is Monika Jolly as Shiv.  There are some big gaps in the script mostly between Shiv and her lover Gerard (James Wagner), where the near pauses during each and every line between the two creates question as to the director’s intention. But otherwise the story is served, and well…who doesn’t like a happy ending.

Now playing until August 7th.

SHIV_final
SPECIAL EVENTS:
Illuminations On Performance: Sunday August 2 with the cast of Shiv.
Late Night Salon: Friday, July 31, and August 7. Stay after the performance and enjoy complimentary wine in the lobby.
Five Dollar Night: Wednesday, August 5. All tickets are $5. No presale. Cash only at the door. First come, first served. Limited availability.
Tickets can be purchased online at BostonCourt.org or by calling (626) 683-6883.

The Lillian Goes Out with The Great Divide

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
Adam Haas Hunter and Brandon Bales Photo credit: Bren Coombs.

Adam Haas Hunter and Brandon Bales
Photo credit: Bren Coombs.

As most of the Los Angeles Intimate Theatre community is now aware, The Lillian Theatre has been sold.  After many long years of mainstay dramatic, comedic and musical productions, this cherished location adjacent to The Elephant Theatre and Theatre Asylum and anchoring Hollywood’s Theatre Row, is mounting its last show this month.

For its final farewell, Elephant Theatre Company is presenting a world premiere of The Great Divide by Lyle Kessler, directed by David Fofi.

The Great Divide is a very complicated and convoluted fairy tale that should have been crystal clear but surprisingly missed the mark in many ways from script to execution. Billed as a dark comedy of baseball and brawls, which it momentarily touches upon, it jumps often from one unlikely story to another within this intensely dramatic puzzle about a serially controlling father, “The Old Man” (Richard Chaves) and his relationships to his sons Dale (Brandon Bales) and Coleman (Adam Hass Hunter) further tangled by a brother and sister duo Noah (Mark McClain Wilson) and Lane (Kimberly Alexander) who arrive suddenly to claim their due from Coleman who flat-out left them long ago in the middle of the night.

Floating around this more pointedly psychological piece  are so many themes and fables that come to mind which are heightened by some interesting elements, the Old Man pretending to croak and rising miraculously from the dead after days on the couch waiting for the seemingly Prodigal Son Coleman, reluctantly returned after 10 years of deliberate distance; Noah’s variety of explanations for the loss of his arm, one more extraordinary than the next; Lane’s ability to hear anything, even the clicks of the combination to Dale’s safe where he keeps his mysterious writing never seen or read by anyone, hidden from the stain of human touch or judgment; and the ghost lullaby that punctures the drama without reason, sung by the boys’ long dead mother.

So much of this play feels disconnected and I daresay that the “disconnection” is the story itself. Incredibly, although no one is utterly or exactly fulfilled by this “reunion”, freedom, love, new life, security, admiration, a big happy family, all the players come close. Saying a lie long enough or wanting something bad enough can make a thing become the truth. We are left though, with so much unresolved emotion that this piece feels like a not quite desirable scent hanging in heavy humid air, waiting for a gust of wind to blow it away.

Not for the lack of talent, this show paces quickly and is endowed with some exceptional players. But this is one case where Mr. Kessler’s writing didn’t meet his actors with a better story nor Mr. Fofi the ability to perfectly illuminate it.  It’s a toss-up.

Written by Lyle Kessler, Directed by David Fofi, Produced by Bren Coombs and Shannon McManus. Set, Sound, and Lighting Design by Elephant Stageworks.

Starring Kimberly Alexander, Brandon Bales, Richard Chaves, Kate Huffman, Adam Hunter, Forrest Lancaster, and Mark McClain Wilson.

The Great DivideNow Playing Through August 29th.

Thursday – Saturday 8 PM – Sunday at 5 PM

Where: The Lillian Theatre 1036 N. Lillian Way, Hollywood, CA 90038

How: Tickets are $25 and available at Plays411.com/divide or by calling 323.960.4429

Public Private Moments in Broken Bone Bathtub

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She took a bath and we all got in.

Her name is Siobhan O’Loughlin and she’s got some broken bones. Not just the 10 shoulder and arm bones: clavicle, scapula, humerus, radius, and ulna; or the 16 wrist bones: scaphoid, lunate, triquetrum, pisiform, trapezium, trapezoid, capitate, hamate; or the 38 hand bones: 10 metacarpals and 28 phalanges (finger bones) – the osseous matter housed in her giant colorful hand cast. I’m talking about real emotional skeletons.  The ones most of us carry around daily like unwieldy passions, unfulfilled dreams, frustration, loneliness, uncertainty.

And how does she heal?  By a heart to heart with friends, strangers and bubbles in an almost uncomfortably, immersive theatrical pastime – washing, literally and metaphorically naked in the bathtub.

Broken Bone Bathtub is so intimate that one needs to take a moment and a deep breath to relax into the interactive moments of helping Siobhan ritualistically bathe, while she also casually relates the very traumatic episode of her life-altering bike accident.

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I admit I went into a flash panic being (myself) asked to wash her back during and as a part of the performance.  Maybe it was the wine.  There was plenty of it in the kitchen along with other tasty accoutrements in a small apartment overlooking Hollywood Boulevard in the street-lit distance.  And I did giggle as one guy, awkwardly washed Siobhan’s hair, something he’d never done for anyone before. Inevitably strange yet lovely was the feeling of sharing in something  warm and personal as to be soothing and for a fleeting hour, “not weird”.  We all told our stories about love, dating and bathing, private and public moments, back and forth to each other prompted by Siobhan. But yeah, it IS weird.  Hello, she’s in the tub. The novelty though, was enough to draw all 8 of us in to the moment utterly.

Quite an experience!

Broken Bone Bathtub PosterBroken Bone Bathtub

Created & Performed by Siobhan O’Loughlin

US Premiere: Los Angeles

Last performance is tonight!
Wednesday, July 22nd at 8:00pm in Sherman Oaks, zip code: 91411.

Hosted by Danielle Cintron. (Towon Alumni Night PART TWO)

EXTENDED UNTIL  SUNDAY,

JULY 26!  

VISIT THE WEBSITE FOR RESERVATIONS AND INFO: http://siobhanoloughlin.com/broken-bone-bathtub/

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Independent Shakespeare Rocks Romeo and Juliet at Griffith Park

Erika Soto and Nikhil Pai in ISC's Romeo and Juliet

Erika Soto and Nikhil Pai in ISC’s Romeo and Juliet

@IndyShakes returns to Griffith Park this Summer with Shakespeare’s most famous play about teenage folly as it’s season opener.

The emotional knee-jerk characteristics of tween/teens are thoroughly captured in this production by a not yet 13, overly cutesy Juliet and a capricious Romeo falling in and out of infatuation with Rosalind and then soundly in love with the girl of his dreams.

It’s a solidly modern theme that never loses its resonance or it’s impact especially with younger people today driving culture into a very adult landscape, drowning out the motif of children being babies, in its wake.  That’s not exactly the case here, but the power of extreme youthful passion craving experience in its fullest value is never more displayed so well as in Romeo and Juliet.

Once past the somewhat manufactured physicality of actress Erika Soto’s (Juliet) naivety, who displays a more adult change-up in the second act, there really is a quite brilliantly executed performance.  Ms.  Soto captures on one hand an exuberant, refreshingly high-spirited pre-teen and on the other, a singularly desperate, very young girl trapped in a situation with no options, no empathy from her parents, and no social recourse whatsoever.  Suicide is a clear choice.  For Juliet, it is the one way she knows how to absolutely decide her own fate.

Independent Shakespeare has taken pains to master a raucous Romeo and Juliet focusing much more into the quicksilver aspect of the teenage love story and the bawdiness of Shakespeare’s original writing.  Everything about the presentation is pointedly interactive, jolly, “loose,” laying so much less heavily on Shakespeare’s age-old theme of parental control, but nevertheless making the heady and lightening speed ending absolutely potent.

In fact, it is noticeable that some of the darkest aspects of this play – the death of Mercutio, the fatal duel with Tybalt, the severity of the consequences of Romeo and Juliet’s secret marriage – are almost skipped in favor of  what seems like a “never-ending party.” Here we have a thoroughly libertine Mercutio powerfully executed by Andre Martin and a surprisingly un-frumpy, street-wise, quick-thinking nurse played by Bernadette Sullivan almost entirely coopting focus.  Actor Nikhil Pai is a perfectly appealing Romeo who matches Juliet.  And there is truly an immersive quality about this production.

In the end though, the message for Juliet remains the same: that Love is most definitely NOT unconditional.  She has “lain with her sworn enemy”.  There will be no forgiveness for the truth and no way out of a life she can no longer accept through the “forced” new open eyes of an adult.  In Romeo’s case, death is as definitive a choice, and that of a young boy so immersed in the conviction of love without reason.  He really believes his life is over when he hears of Juliet’s untimely demise.  Romeo and Juliet’s only real support system is Friar Lawrence who (even though only) by accident, fails the couple, when it counts.

The violence of Romeo and Juliet’s actions is not shocking at all.  Their course has been set for them, mostly by the haste and bullying with which Juliet’s parents arrange her “womanhood”.  They are well-meaning but typically narcissistic adults more concerned about appearance and legacy than their child’s “actual” happiness.  Sound modern?  It should.  It’s a behavior still happening in every culture ore’ the world difficult to render it excusable for the “times,” be it cross-racial divides, religious and cultural differences that don’t assimilate, buying and selling child brides…and grooms, keeping kids on lock down for more than safety reasons, the gamut is endless – just watch the news.  And that is what makes this story ultimately so tragic.  We may have moved the needle in the direction of facilitating awesome human beings rather than ordering our children into a kind of submissive adulthood.  But plenty over centuries hasn’t really changed.

Independent Shakespeare’s production of Romeo and Juliet under the direction of Melissa Chalsma is an overwhelming success with it’s completely fresh interactive presentation.  Here we have absolute beauty, intelligent comedy and painful tragedy unequivocally balanced.  

One of the most gorgeous and seriously fun aspects of this production is the original fairytale-punk, rock score designed and performed by David Melville & Ashley Nguyen with William Elsman & Jack Lancaster.  Undeniably the highlight of the evening.

Highly recommended.  It’s a bit bawdy at times for young children, but no one was complaining.

The Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival
Friday through Sunday until July 26th
at The Old Zoo in Griffith Park

7:00pm

For more information, call (818) 508-1754

or visit www.iscla.org

Photo credit: Grettel Cortes

Hollywood Fringe Announces 2015 Award Winners

Sixth Annual Festival Closes With a Bang

hfawards

Photo credit: Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

The 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival ended last night after crowning this year’s award winners at the annual Award Ceremony and Closing Night Party. Over 650 people attended the event.The Freak Awards are community-voted by Fringe participants and attendees. Winners included:

Click here to see a full list of award winners, including sponsored awards and extensions.

Hollywood Fringe

The sixth annual Fringe was a huge success according to festival organizers, with record-breaking online ticket sales and attendance. Official numbers and year-to-year comparisons will be released in the coming weeks after settlement is complete.

ABOUT HOLLYWOOD FRINGE

Hollywood Fringe Logo

The Hollywood Fringe Festival is an annual, open-access, community-derived event celebrating freedom of expression and collaboration in the performing arts community.  Each June during the Hollywood Fringe, the arts infiltrates the Hollywood neighborhood: Fully equipped theaters, parks, clubs, churches, restaurants and other unexpected places host hundreds of productions by local, national, and international arts companies and independent performers.

Participation in the Hollywood Fringe is completely open and uncensored. This free-for-all approach underlines the festival’s mission to be a platform for artists without the barrier of a curative body. By opening the gates to anyone with a vision, the festival is able to exhibit the most diverse and cutting-edge points-of-view the world has to offer. Additionally, by creating an environment where artists must self-produce their work, the Fringe motivates its participants to cultivate a spirit of entrepreneurialism in the arts.

Gia #HFF15 #Reviews : The Devil You Say

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

The Devil You Say

You will never look at Satan the same.  He is part origin, part change, part prankster, part evil.  Of all the monikers accorded the Devil, in this adaptation of the Dark One, he is no less a brilliant reasoner giving explanation to his very existence and in fact, so calm and likable, one cannot help but be swayed by his argument sans any manipulation.  In this conversation about himself, he is very much partial to the truth.

Exquisite puppetry beginning with an opening classic favorite of Punch and Judy which turns into a Punch and Devil battle, Punch being triumphant, creator, director and puppeteer Robin Walsh opens a portal and a forum for Satan to directly speak with the audience.

“Grace appears most purely in that human form which either has no consciousness or an infinite consciousness…And who, or what, has had and lost more grace than Satan?”

Incredibly crafted the text is compiled by existing words, sayings and dialogues attributed to Satan from the 1400’s to the 1990’s and has been interpreted from playwright Yvonne Mitchell’s solo piece “Speak of the Devil.”  The Devil, the puppet is extraordinary and so life-like as to mesmerize.

I got to see this show at midnight on Friday evening this past weekend.  What a mysterious captivating treat!

Highly recommended.

http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/2098

Gia #HFF15 #Reviews : Suicide Notes: In Their Own Words

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

Suicide Notes: In Their Own Words

Writer Stan Zimmerman returns to the 2015 Hollywood Fringe with a departure the issue of suicide.

A totally staged reading, Suicide Notes: In Their Own Words, is an account of actual letters written by people from all walks of life – veterans to LGBT  bullied teens, well-known historic figures throughout several centuries, even celebrities, including the letters of D.C. Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey and Kurt Cobain.

What’s so hard-hitting about these letters is the honesty of the issues each one faces, how specifically and heartfelt they dialog to their friends and loved ones about their feelings and most of all the apologies for the guilt of committing the final act of suicide.

And yet there is an unmistakable clarity in that decision.

Most excellently directed and performed in every way, this show takes us on a journey of evidence a la Vagina Monologues and although rife with fails, ends on one incredibly hopeful note, when a young teenage LGBT boy is found lying unconscious in his room by his parents, revived at the hospital and lives.

The moral of the tale is that living is accepting that life can and will get better — if you are willing.

A portion of the proceeds for this show went to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. (800-273-8255)

Recommended (if you can comfortably sit through the material)

http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/2458