Category Archives: Reviews

Verdigris at Theatre West

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
Verdigris

Adam Conger, Jim Beaver, Cal Bartlett, Sheila Shaw, David Goldstein, Chloe Rosenthal Photo credit: Charlotte Mount

Verdigris is a green or greenish-blue coating that forms like rust on brass, bronze or copper, especially with age or neglect.  It can also cast an eerily beautiful glow.  The funny thing about verdigris…it doesn’t just happen to brass.

It’s been said that if Tennessee Williams had been writing about the West, he might have come up with Verdigris. I would have to agree. Verdigris is as close as a modern writer might come to the kind of poetic emotional mine field Williams so thoroughly waded and hurdled in his works.  Writer/actor Jim Beaver exquisitely squeezes the heart of it, for sure.

First produced in 1985 at Theatre West, Verdigris feels as new as it’s first day live on stage.  This play is no mere romantic reminiscence of the past, of days gone by or dreams once lived and lost.  It’s hard!  As hard and frustrated and lonely and so damned moving as the horribly manipulative, Margaret Fielding, who can’t see much, use her hands or walk but can “hear paint peel”, around which the drama centers.  It stares you in the face with a square jaw, blunt and uncompromising.  There is no middle ground.

But unlike the decrepit house with cracked walls, flaking wall paper and far too many relics slowly crumbling into dust, Margaret a once movie star dazzling, desirable young woman, now crippled with age and illness, is still full of life. No matter the odds she keeps reaching for it.  And that is the tragedy.

It’s 1972, in the small town of Edgar, Oklahoma.  A young acting student by the name of Richard shows up to take a “position’ in the house caring for Margaret.  As Richard narrates the past in present tense, layers of history, of anger, of failure and of love are revealed for a final moment of redemption.

Verdigris ain’t for sissies!  It is a snappy, real time exposition of life in the raw endowed with plenty of grit and some truly wonderful, heartbreaking surprises.  This cast is gorgeous! Every moment is played out perfectly – sometimes hilarious, often cruel, ultimately wrenching right at the heart center.

THEATRE WEST PRESENTS a Nawyecka Production a 30TH ANNIVERSARY PRODUCTION OF ITS HIT PLAY VERDIGRIS 

VerdigirsPosterWeb-200x300

Now playing until April 19, 2015

Written by Jim Beaver
Directed by Mark W. Travis
Produced by Charlie Mount, Jill Jones and Arden Teresa Lewis.

Featuring Jim Beaver: Sheila Shaw (who also appeared in the 1985 mounting), Katie Adler, Cal Bartlett, Adam Conger, David Goldstein, Ian Lerch, David Mingrino, Chloe Rosenthal, Corinne Shor and Dylan Vigus.

Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, in Los Angeles, CA 90068

This is near North Hollywood, Universal City and Studio City. There is free parking in a lot across the street.

Fri. & Sat. at 8:00, Sun. at 2:00

ADMISSION: $25. Online, $20. Seniors: $20, online $15. Groups (ten or more) $15. Students: $5.
RESERVATIONS: (323) 851-7977.
ONLINE TICKETING: www.theatrewest.org

Book Review: Why Latinas Get the Guy

A No-BS Guide to Understanding the Allure of Latin-American Women and Spicing Up Your Love Life by Joe Bovino

Reviewed by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

The-Final-Final-Cover-205x300This book should come with a companion guide for women entitled something like, “How to recognize slackers, mysoginists, abusers, control freaks, perverts, baggage handlers, gay men faking it for mommy, boys with s’mothers and bisexuals who actually prefer men but love to lie to you, and the general male dating scum at large.” After all, as Mr. Bovino says, he’s really on our side, even though we’ve got to know the truth…about ourselves. So as a tiny helpful incentive for taking the deep dive into his bold advice, looking, acting and dressing like a sexy, friendly, flirty Latina in order to “get the guy”, I myself wouldn’t mind a little bit of, suck in your beer gut, wear some decent clothes once in a while, shave and shower often advice to men.  

I never thought I was supposed to take any part of this book seriously.  The stereotypical descriptions of Latinas and American women alike are so over-the-top that they actually gave me the giggles until I started coming across too many real life examples to my shock and chagrin of women who fit them in both cultures — and none of them flattering.

Mr. Bovino has a point.  In fact, I asked a couple of my guy friends how they felt about women today, heck I even asked my Dad. They all said they wished women were more approachable.  It’s not that they didn’t find us completely hot (well at least the ones trying), but they were pretty fed up with feeling like a bunch of jerks for actually liking us.

Women who consider themselves liberated from having to adorn to get a man are not going to like this book at all.  Some are going to be intrigued by the Chica-spotting visual aides and there will be many others who will treat this advice as Bible.  (And good luck to that!)  Most guys, I think are going to love this and shout hallelujah from the rafters.  (Although my street tough, lady-killer-in-his-day-father actually rolled his eyes at some of the portraitures of both Americans and Latinas – older generation…) In any case, it is a substantial amount of new fodder in the Battle Royale of the sexes.

That fact of the matter is when it comes down to the opposite sex, every man might want something different and every woman too but the commonality is we all could use some “pretty” and more than just a little “nice”.

Of all the things written in this tome, Mr. Bovino’s grandma actually has the most sound encouragement of all, “Just be happy and laugh a lot.”

“I’ll take it!”

amazon-logo-1It’s a brutally honest $5 Kindle read.  Keep in mind that it is one man’s opinion about women. 

The Carrie Hamilton at The Pasadena Playhouse Celebrates Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz in Properties of Silence

 by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
Properties-of-Silence
.

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.   ~Buddha

For its commemorative 25th anniversary “Properties of Silence”, produced by About…Productions in residence at The Carrie Hamilton Theatre at The Pasadena Playhouse is currently being paired in revival with a Convergence of Women’s Voices Salon Series of poetry readings, special performances, panels and discussions. 

Written by Theresa Chavez, Rose Portillo and Alan Pulner and directed by Chavez, this short play melds two seemingly separate yet parallel stories together which ultimately discuss the struggle for self-expression.

It is a simply breathtaking piece! 

The third part of a trilogy that deals with the inner voice as a possible source of personal spiritual and political truth, the play takes place in a multi-layered dreamscape highlighting not just its gorgeous, inspired presentation, but the very real importance of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a nun of  New Spain (Mexico) who in the 17th century was an acclaimed, self-taught playwright, poetess, scientist and philosopher. 

Sor Juana focused on highlighting and revering the beauty and necessity of earthly things, people, sciences and ideas as the real blessing of God rather than falling in line strictly behind Church dogma which was suffocating and unenlightening especially for women who were brutally repressed.  She became known in her lifetime as “The Tenth Muse” and the “Phoenix of the Americas”. During her life, she also acquired what is considered to be the largest collection of scientific and musical instruments in the Americas and possessed a substantial library.  Before being silenced by the Church, she was commissioned by the vice-regal court of New Spain, residing in Mexico City, to write verse and plays, a number of which were published in Europe.  

Sor Juana was silenced by the Church for being a woman but really, for being a woman of extraordinary intelligence and reason, attributes  that were forbidden by the Church itself for women to possess.  Sor Juana wrote during a time when the subjegation of women was absolute. Intelligence shown by any woman was considered and dealt with as a disobedience and even though she was completely devoted to her faith, much of Sor Juana’s writings are said to have been destroyed as part of her penance wherein she writes (or was told to write), I, the worst of all women...

Nevertheless, a few of her works managed to live on creating a legacy that could not be denied. Even the facts surrounding whether or not she actually signed the penance papers or that she completely conformed to her silence remain loosely in debate. She is considered the first feminist writer and a Latin American treasure.  Properties of Silence is inspired by her most significant poem, “Primero Sueño” (“First Dream”). 

Properties of Silence is as brilliant as Sor Juana’s works themselves.  It is hands down one of the most evocative, intelligent, accessible writings imbued with considerable simplicity and empathy for all women, for all, period, feminist or not. 

Set in Phoenix, Arizona and told all in poetic line and imaginary dream where the players cross time and space to meet, exchange ideas and confess their fears, the piece shifts lightly from past to present through metaphor and reality until both become one.  Barbara (Elizabeth Rainey) and Tom (Kevin Sifuentes) come to grips with their troubled marriage.  Sor Juana (portrayed by Rose Portillo) confronts her own imminent silence by the Catholic Church who is forcing her to silence her pen and her scientific inquiries.

Properties of Silence and the “Post-Silence” Salon Series runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m until March 29, with one weekday matinee on Wednesday, March 25 at 2 p.m. (dark Sunday, March 22). Four preview performances take place on Saturday, Feb. 21 at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 22 at 3 p.m.; Thursday, Feb. 26 at 8 p.m.; and Friday, Feb. 27 at 8 p.m. 

Post-Silence Salon Series remaining highlghts.

Red Hen Press will present poets Nicelle Davis, Laurel Ann Bogen and Amy Uyematsu on March 12 and Gail Wronsky and Alicia Portnoy on March 20.

Scholar Barbara Fuchs, PhD on March 14; and writer/performer/activist Karen Anzoategui on March 21.

Mujeres de Maiz will present poets Iris de Anda, Felicia Montes, Rebecca Gonzales and Xitlalic Gujosa Osuna on March 15, and poets/writers Las Lunas Locas on March 26.

Starring Elizabeth Rainey, Kevin Sifuentes and Rose Portillo

Written by Theresa Chavez, Rose Portillo and Alan Pulner

Directed by Theresa Chavez

Original compositions by Julie Adler

Projections by Janice Tanaka

Set design iby Akeime Mitterlehner

Costume design is by Marcy Froehlich

Lighting Design iby Pablo Santiago

Choreography by Sarah Leddy

Original prints created by artists from the first Maestra Atelier at Self Help Graphics & Art in tribute to Sor Juana will be displayed in The Carrie Hamilton Theatre lobby.

Now Playing through March 29

at The Carrie Hamilton Theatre at The Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena CA 91101

POS_graphic-medWednesday at 2 p.m.: March 25 ONLY

Thursdays at 8 p.m.: March 12, 19, 26

Fridays at 8 p.m.: March 13, 20, 27

Saturdays at 8 p.m.: March 14, 21, 28

Sundays at 3 p.m.: March 15, 29 (dark March 22)

.

Reservations and Information:

(626) 396-0920 or www.aboutpd.org

ADMISSION:

General admission: $30

Students with valid ID: $15

Leaving Home at the Ruskin Group Theatre Co.

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

LastovicLandryMulkeyMcMullensm .
It was shocking to watch Jacob Mercer (Chris Mulkey) take off his belt and violently whip his eldest son in the final moments of Leaving Home.  I daresay that is what has kept me from commenting on this play for such a long time until now.  It had less to do with this show being an otherwise mostly low key performance or that it was a good show with good direction, populated and performed by really great actors or that I found anything particularly wrong with the production. It was my loathing as a human being at witnessing the family dysfunction that was presented here. It struck a heavy cord.

Leaving Home, set in the 1970s, written by Canadian playwright David French and listed as one of the 1000 essential plays in the Oxford Dictionary, is according to director Barbara Tarbuck, a love story, an immigrant-generated struggle.  And I suppose seen in its full 5 play cycle it does showcase a much more intensified view of that.  However, seen as a single play, it had a slightly different effect. Whether or not Mr. French intended to spotlight the subject within his text, the issue of child ownership comes directly into play.

It’s a theme that resonates as much in Leaving Home as it does in classics like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet or A Midsummer Night’s Dream; parents forcing their children to be adults – into making adult choices and decisions that will steer the course of their entire lives, and yet controlling every aspect as to who, when, what, why, and how they will do it, deciding for them, conditionally, regardless of the intention. There is so much blame, emotional recklessness and revenge-taking in the first installment of this episodic, that it’s difficult to see how anyone is going to be able to rise above any of the issues and break free.  Jacob’s eldest son Ben (Kayde McMullen) tries.

With Jacob raising his sons to be men, it’s more than just proud father parenting.  Sure there is love.  I’m not saying Jacob is a heartless man or even that he is simply a man of his generation.  But for all of his good qualities, he is weak. And when he rips up his son’s high school diploma, threatens to cut him off financially, prevents him from taking his books, empties his suitcase of clothing, then finally forces him down onto the kitchen table for a brutal dose of, “you’re not a man”, it’s not about love or discipline or a punishment for ungratefulness or disobedience, it’s intentional hurt, anger, jealousy and resentment for not being included in both his boys’ lives and the petty household secrets they keep with their mother Mary (Karen Landry). The surface argument here is the issue of Ben  moving out of the house to live with his soon-to-be-married younger brother Bill (James Lastovic).  Ben actually wants to respect his father by becoming the man Jacob desires him to be.  He just wants to do it on his own terms.  Part of Jacob’s fear though is that his son might actually succeed and that Ben’s independence will make him irrelevant as a man and a father.  It’s a horrible emasculating moment for both of them.

In fact, the very behavior Jacob displays is exactly the kind foisted upon him by his own father in a past life only regarding the issue of religion, which is the cause of the strife surrounding the impending marriage of his son and pregnant daughter-in-law to be (Sierra Barter).

It’s ugly and it’s difficult to watch; which is the very reason to see this play in the first place. If you don’t feel confronted by the family dynamics and the subject matter in some way, then maybe you’ve had a blessed life free from turmoil.  I think most of us however, are going to find something deeply resonant within this play, immigrant status aside.

LEAVING HOME runs through MARCH 14, 2015 

Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm

Now playing at the Ruskin Group Theatre
3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405.

Directed by Barbara Tarbuck
Produced by John Ruskin and Mike Myers

Starring Chris Mulkey, Karen Landry, Kayde McMullen, James Lastovic, Sierra Barter, and Mary Carrig

Show Run Time: 1 ½ hours

Follow the Ruskin Group Theatre on Twitter @RuskinGroupThtr, and like them on Facebook.com/RuskinGroupTheatre

Tickets are $25 ($20 for students, seniors, and guild members) and can be purchased in advance by calling (310) 397-3244 or online at www.ruskingrouptheatre.com.

Free parking is available at the theater.

DOMA Theatre Company Rocks in Jesus Christ Superstar

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

Jesus-Christ-Superstar_1a

.

DOMA Theatre Company’s new rendition of Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice’s 1970’s ground-breaking rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar is simply a hit.  Slightly modernized to the concept: “What would it be like if Jesus walked around now in a world of Twitter, Facebook & Selfies,” it’s many parts, Goth, glitter and new wave bohemia including girl groupies, band-aides, army greens and skin cabaret moments amped up the flair and entertainment factor for the audience. It’s an exciting, thoroughly accessible take on a classic for Los Angeles small theater and thank you DOMA for that!

Of course, it would be pretty hard to screw it up.  Radical for its debut in 1970 as a concept album which topped the American pop charts and ignited controversy by questioning the divine nature of Christ, then produced on Broadway in 1971 starring Ben Vareen as Judas, and then transformed into a feature film in 1973, it still, even after 40 years, remains a global phenomenon.

Jesus-Christ-Superstar_4a

.

DOMA lived up to every moment starting with its powerful lead singing cast, which included downright show-stopping performances chiefly by a beatifically stylized, self-sacrificing, totally hot millennial Jesus (Nate Parker), Judas Iscariot (Jeremy Saje), Simon (Graham Kurtz), Mary Magdalene (Renee Cohen), Pontius Pilate (Kelly Brighton), and Peter (Blair Grotbeck), who belted their hearts out reaching the stars with their incredible range. And the songs that older audiences will remember hearing in and out of the theatre are still as gorgeous as they were the first time they were heard anywhere.

What DOMA also did was really step up the choreography factor this time.  Truly boy follies fabulous in every way, I was only disappointed by the lack of space that some of the exceptional dancers in the chorus absolutely could have used.  I got the feeling that if they actually had more room to move or if the nearly 23 member ensemble had been allowed to appear in waves and groups rather than all at once all the time, they would have been able to take the dancing to an even higher level.  Never-the-less, there were really no disappointments here.  Overall, every step, every note every moment, served the production well.

There are 12 more opportunities to experience this performance. Don’t miss it!

Music composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Directed by Marco Gomez
Musical direction by Chris Raymond
Choreography by Angela Todaro
Starring Nate Parker as Jesus Christ, Jeremy Saje as Judas, Renee Cohen as Mary Magdelene, Kelly Brighton as Pontius Pilate, Andrew Diego as Caiaphas, Michelle Holmes as Annas; Blair Grotbeck as Peter,Graham Kurtz as Simon the Zealot and Venny Carranza as King Herod. Also featuring Alex Allen, Jackee Bianchi, Charlie Bostick, Tym Brown, Sandra Diana Cantu, Kevin Corsini, Kaitlyn Fajilan, Kendra M. Hill,Allison Jakubowski, Wesley Moran, Ashlie Paige, Dekontee Tucrkile, Lauren Tyni and Anthony D. Willis

Produced by Marco Gomez and Dolf Ramos
Presented by DOMA Theatre Company

JCS_Graphic_medaNow playing until March 22

Fridays at 8 p.m.: Feb. 27 (CANCELLED); March 6, 13, 20

Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Feb.  28; March 7, 14, 21

Sundays at 3 p.m.: March 1, 8, 15, 22

.

WHERE:
The MET Theatre
1089 N. Oxford Ave.
Los Angeles CA 90029

HOW:

• Call 323-802-9181 or go to www.domatheatre.com
• Visit DOMA facebook: www.facebook.com/DOMATHEATRE
• Follow DOMA on twitter: @domatheatre
• Follow DOMA on instagram: @domatheatre

TICKET PRICES:
• General Admission: $30
• VIP: $34.99 (includes reserved seating and a complimentary snack and beverage)
• Seniors and students with ID: $20

PARKING:
Parking: $6 at 5250 Santa Monica Blvd (2 blocks east of the theater)

Learning Diversity From “The Church of Why Not” in NYC

Reviewed by Midge Guerrera, She’s one hot Italian Mamma!”

The Church of Why Not

.

As we got to NYC, winter storm Pandora was racing across the Northeast.  We parked in a snowdrift on 86th street and promptly hit a coffee house.  We sat next to two women who were talking about The Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew.  Since I was headed there to see Theatre 167’s production of “The Church of Why Not” – which is based on the various congregations of that church – I shamelessly eavesdropped.  The women belonged to the Jewish congregation B’nai Jeshrun.  Yup, a Jewish congregation shares space with Christians, Muslims, activists and addicts. The women spoke of diversity and openness and sadly noted the rest of the world is not the Upper West Side.

Well, the rest of the world needs to see and learn from “The Church of Why Not” written by Camilo Almonacid, Jenny Lyn Bader, and J. Stephen Brantley.  Conceived and directed by Ari Laura Kreith, the venue specific play brings the work of The Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew to audiences.  After the show, driving frustratingly slowly during the height of Pandora, this audience member prattled on about inclusion and diversity issues.  As my saintly spouse will attest, this production is absolutely a catalyst for conversation and if seen by enough people and congregations could also be a catalyst for change.  I’d love to see some “righter than right” folks in the audience – it might give them a kick in their intolerant butts.

The show opens with the congregation joyously singing a hymn and then cinematically streams from one character’s journey to another.  The minimal set – sturdy wooden chairs and a set of steps – facilitated the seamless flow from scene to scene.  Guitar music and familiar songs helped reinforce each characters story.  I won’t be a spoiler and tell you how, but when you go look for the clever way time travels and you know that each day of the week has past.

The not-quite-homeless, down and out character of Saul, played by author J. Stephen Brantley, brought home one of the key messages of the show – I may be misquoting a wee bit but the jist is – Where ever we are that’s where God is.  Like Shakespeare’s fools, this guy that many would walk on by as a bum, slyly brought us the wisdom of Buddha and lessons of spirituality.

The beauty of this work is that even though it is about a Church that caters to every group of people from an Ehtiopian Evangelical congregation to a LGBT Bapti-Metho-Costals and everything in between it wasn’t preachy.  The monologues in the second act got a tad “lessony” but not enough to send any atheist running.

I’m glad to have braved the storm named Pandora to see “The Church of Why Not”.  Actually, it is fitting since the play let so many thoughts out of the box.

The Church of Why Not” runs weekends through March 15, 2015 in The West End Theater at The Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew 263 West 86th Street, NYC. 

Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm and Sundays at 7pm www.theatre167.org

Theatre 167 Presents a World Premiere Production

The Church of Why Not – At The West End Theater

A New Play Inspired By The 

Believers, Skeptics, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Activists and Addicts Who Pass Through the Doors of One New York City Church

 

Theatre Unleashed Presents Ligature Marks at the Crown

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

Ligature1

What a curiosity. I felt like I was walking in familiar territory with Theatre Unleashed’s remounted Fringe hit and season opener, Ligature Marks by critically-acclaimed, award winning New York playwright Mac Rogers— a story wherein which one partner is asking another to murder her to ease the pain of loneliness—one partner angry and excited enough to make the play.  Curious indeed. But this production also has a most intriguing twist in the form of a game.

Theatre Unleashed has done what it is does best.  The company takes an ordinary story and wraps it into a maze but with a simplicity that is unmistakable.

Ligature Marks is lined with licentious desire and dysfunction.  The delivery waivers between crisp and lost.  But then what is being displayed throughout most of this story is the quite aligned emotional life of the characters who are also weak and sadistic in their power struggle with each other only empowered by the knowledge that nothing they embark upon is actually real.  And so it should be noted that for any perceived mistakes or wrong turns this work could take, it is also captivating, unusually funny, even charming.

WORTH THE TICKET!

WORTH THE TICKET!

.

Seriously unsettling, uncomfortable and fascinatingly delightful Ligature Marks definitely deserves a “worth the ticket” and some seat time for theatre goers looking for twisted, avant-garde adventure.

,

LIGATURE MARKS

Written by Mac Rogers
Directed by Jacob Smith
Produced by Theatre Unleashed

Starring Liz Fenning and Sean Fitzgerald

 NOW PLAYING UNTIL MARCH 7
Thursday, Friday, Saturday – 8 p.m.

LOCATION:

The Belfry Stage
Upstairs at the Crown
11031 Camarillo St.
North Hollywood, CA 91602

TICKET PRICES:

General Admission: $20
**Pay What You Want if you donate $5 at the box office for
The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

MORE INFORMATION:

For further information, please call: (818) 849-4039
Or check out the website at: http://www.theatreunleashed.org