Category Archives: Theatre

Buried Child at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks, CA

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

Leon-Russon_Buried-Child

WORTH THE TICKET!

WORTH THE TICKET!

It was a flawless performance by leading man Leon Russom, in the astounding Whitefire Theatre production of Buried Child.  One of American playwright Sam Shepard’s darker plays, Buried Child originally won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 launching Shepard to national fame as a playwright. Thirty-five years later, this story has not lost a single shred of its merit or its impact.

“A thoroughly, outstanding achievement by Director Bryan Rasmussen, definitively and impeccably rendered by an ideal cast.”

A post modern narrative in utter realism Buried Child depicts the fragmentation of the American nuclear family and the disillusionment with American mythology and the American dream.  Whitefire’s production takes a macabre look at a Midwestern family living in an old farm-house on a failed plot of land, in Illinois, carrying a secret that slowly, painfully comes to light in the course of a single evening when grandson Vince, now living in New York City stops in unexpectedly with girlfriend Shelly, on his way to see his father Tilden in New Mexico.

A mentally unwell, Tilden now living back in his childhood home, does not recognize his son, nor does the rest of the family, or so they claim, leaving Shelly utterly perplexed. Grandmother Halie has left earlier in the day for Church and curiously does not reappear until the next day. As the night turns, Vince also disappears, while on a liquor run for his grandfather, leaving a terrified Shelly to fend for herself, with Vince’s acerbic grandfather, the delusional Tilden and eventually the cruel and bullying Bradley, an amputee and younger brother of Tilden.

Cast_Buried-Child

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To say that opening night was a perfect show would be an understatement.  Although, not entertaining in the ways that most audiences are used to with small theatre in Los Angeles, Buried Child none-the-less is deep, thoughtful and absolutely intriguing.

Bypassing any sort of heavy-handedness in the direction or the presentation, there is nothing about this story that meanders or loses sight of its direction. It is stone cold economically, morally and circumstantially run-down-to-the-ground.  And yet, as ugly as this story could potentially get, the audience is held in place by its weight and symbolism and by the powerful, all-encompassing energy of Mr. Russom himself as Dodge, the alcoholic, aging and dying patriarch, withered and ashamed of his failures and secrets.

Every character in this play has a very essential role to fulfill.  Nothing is extraneous. Everything is bizarre. Even the comedy which Shepard deliberately wrote into this piece is deranged at its occasion.  And yet, again, puzzling as each person, conversation, storyline, accusation and violent act is, it is not so morose as to be sickening.  In fact, it is the opposite.

Heavy hitters of the Broadway, Off-Broadway and Los Angeles stages, Leon Russom (Dodge), Jacque Lynn Colton (Halie) and Tonya Cornelisse (Shelly) amplify the surrealism of a deteriorated family while simultaneously making this show wholly accessible to audiences with Cornelisse absolutely driving the darkly comedic moments of the script.  They are joined by David Fraioli (Tilden), Cris D’Annunzio (Bradley), Zachary Mooren (Vince) and Grant Smith (Father Dewis) who each top this production with bold, graphic performances.

“No one knows better than Sam Shepard that the true American West is gone forever, but there may be no writer alive more gifted at reinventing it out of pure literary air.” ~Frank Rich, The New York Times

A thoroughly, outstanding achievement by Director Bryan Rasmussen, definitively and impeccably rendered by an ideal cast.

photo (8)BURIED CHILD  
A 35th Anniversary Production of the Pulitzer Prize Winning Drama by Sam Shepard
Now playing at The Whitefire Theatre
September 6 – October 11
Directed by Bryan Rasmussen
Produced by Scott Disharoon
Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM
The Whitefire Theatre 13500 Ventura Blvd.(at Sunnyslope) Sherman Oaks 91423
Parking:  Metered parking until 8pm on Ventura Blvd; some side-street parking
                 Please carefully read all parking signage.
                 Please allow at least 15 minutes to park
Tickets: $25
Buy Tickets: www.brownpapertickets.com/event/807730 or 818-990-2324
Production photos by Nico Sabenorio. 

HI-TECH HIJACK – A Musical In Three Bytes at Studio C

By Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

hitechhijack_poster_web-2Studio C Artists is in their final weekend of its current production HI-TECH HIJACK – A Musical In Three Bytes. And this show is one you don’t want to miss!

WORTH THE TICKET!

WORTH THE TICKET!

We’ve been hijacked by technology and we’ve all got to come to terms with it.  This comical collection of three one-acts explores man’s relationship with technology, how it has invaded our lives, how we, as a human race, deal with it and the quite surprising consequences.

Originally developed with New Musicals Inc. and presented as part of the 15 Minute Musicals evening MAN V. MACHINE in June of 2012 at the Colony Theatre in Burbank, HI-TECH HIJACK makes a seriously outstanding comeback with its Studio C rendition.

Actors/singers Allie Costa, Shannon Martinous, Luke Klipp, Kila Packett and Bryan Blaskie, pull out all the stops in every anxiety ridden, fantastical, desperate, kitchy piece of choreography and song.  The show is wildly funny at every moment in the vein of film musicals like Grease and Hairspray, with a tremendous amount of personality, especially Ms. Costa who full on vibes her own personal version of a “Breakfast Club” Ally Sheedy.

Each number (albeit repetitively) drones out the hilarious insanity of people trying and failing badly to communicate likes, loves, needs and cries for attention in a world where the ease of tech and social media is supposed to make our lives better and more connected but somehow gets ever more in the way. Even the technology itself makes a break from its own nano-prison into the unknown black hole of re-boot, tired of being tied down to fickle human preferences.

IWISH – In a desperate plea to her parents for attention, teenaged Becca calls for a gadget intervention and hides all the cell phones, computers and iPads in the house.

PHOTO FINISH – What would happen if grandma’s family photos took on a life of their own? Could they survive outside of the hard drive?

#BRAD4LAURA – It’s LOVE and Brad, wants to immediately tell the world…If only he can get past all the online disclaimers, pop-ups, advertisements, thumb typing mishaps and accidental sends to everyone else in his iPhone address book in order to get to Laura’s personal Facebook timeline, YouTube page, text messages, AOL email or Twitter.

At 45 minutes this show is so worth the ticket for the laughter. Not a second is lost with the momentum, the acting, outstanding singing talent, the music or the stories.  An all around great time!

A STUDIO C ARTISTS PRODUCTION
Located at:
6448 Santa Monica Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90038

Two shows left:

Friday, September 5th at 8pm
Saturday, September 6th at 8pm
 
Tickets can be purchased online at EVENTBRITE
Or call: (323) 988-1175
 

Three Shorts by Tim McNeil at the Stella Adler Academy & Theatre

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

three-shorts

WORTH THE TICKET!

WORTH THE TICKET!

One show whose final performance you won’t want to miss this weekend is Three Shorts written by critically acclaimed playwright in residence at The Stella Adler Academy, Tim McNeil, a series of one acts that expose the farcical, absurd and sometimes perverse underbelly of life.

In two out of three Mr. McNeil takes the starring role.  As Evan Dougherty, in The Straight Bozo, he is a man with a secret traveling the morning commute from Long Island New York to Wall Street.  A sort of idiot savant, he expresses his loneliness through the most outlandish intellectual dialog that takes two of his fellow passengers  on a ride they didn’t quite expect.  As it turns out, an idiot he is not – far from it. But his personal truth gets him into trouble with the other passengers.  Curiously written McNeil downplays this character to perfection as the most unlikely but brilliant sage.  It’s a straight up, oddball New York subway story, and believable if you’ve actually ever ridden the Long Island Express.  Supporting cast Brad Kaz (Bob) and Nikki McCauley (Terry) align wonderfully in their long haul duel with each other as Ms. McCauley’s character comes to understand McNeil’s true identity. Jay Kim’s appearance as a subway cop is a light entry but never-the-less gets the job done.

Purplish is a two women play which offers a view of a young poet dying of stomach cancer, trying to understand what the afterlife might be like.  Mona’s writing is her life and in death there is the possibility that there will be absolutely nothing.  It’s a terrifying awareness that she takes out on her estranged lover Amanda in a late afternoon love/hate melodrama.  McNeil’s writing for women is somewhat uneven here leaving Maia Nikiphoroff (Mona) struggling a bit for the character, but both Ms. Nikiphoroff and her lover Meghan Leone Cox (Amanda) pull this play quite nicely together.  Cox’s work is very strong and there is a lovely resolution that happens between them.

It is the finale, of this show however, that will have you rolling in your seat!  Schism is a thoroughly wicked comedy about Urban (McNeil) who has set up a second Vatican in a Kansas farmhouse where, he and his devoted assistant Milla (Fanny Rosen) attempt to bring down a corrupt Rome.  Milla and Urban play out  a high camp, burlesque of religion, uproarious love and lusty temptation. Unrequited, over-the-top, sinfully delinquent attraction culminates with a showdown ending of astronomical proportions.  One of the best and most outlandish pieces of writing experienced in a short play, Schism, leaves the audience in twisted stitches of shock and awe laughter.

Three performances left:

Friday, September 5th @ 8pm
Saturday, September 6th @ 8pm
Sunday, September 7th @ 7pm
 
Three Shorts
Playing at the Stella Adler Academy & Theatre -Gilbert Stage
6773 Hollywood Blvd, 2nd Floor
Hollywood, CA 90028
Tickets: General $20 / Students & Seniors $10
To purchase visit: www.LabTheatre.bpt.me or call (323) 455-3111

The Most Massive Woman Wins: A Hollywood Fringe Encore Extension

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

tmmww

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

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

“Baby Got Back!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lost in Lvov: A Los Angeles Encore Presentation

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

Lost in Lvov

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

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

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

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

Watch the trailer here:

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

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

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

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

LOST IN LVOV

Written, Directed, Choreographed and Performed by Sandy Simona

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

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

People, Stories, Adventures: International City Theatre Turns a Fiery 30

international-city-theatreInternational City Theatre trumpets its 30th Anniversary in 2015 with a season of five plays celebrating famous people, fiery stories and fun adventures.

ICT will pay homage to two icons of the American musical, kicking off the season in February with End of the Rainbow, Peter Quilter’s tour de force musical drama about Judy Garland, and finishing the year in October with the Los Angeles premiere of Sondheim on Sondheim, the James Lapine-conceived musical revue that offers an inside glimpse into the artistic process of Broadway’s foremost composer/lyricist. The three other plays include the West Coast premiere of Abigail/1702 in which Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa picks up the tale of Arthur Miller’s child-villain Abigail Williams ten years afterThe Crucible; a 30th anniversary production of August Wilson’s modern American classic, Fences, which premiered at Yale Rep in 1985 — the same year that ICT was founded; and the Los Angeles premiere of David Ives‘ inspired and hilarious adaptation of Jean-François Regnard‘s 18th century French classic, The Heir Apparent.

For more information and to subscribe to the 2014/2015 season, the public should call 562-436-4610 or visit online at www.InternationalCityTheatre.org.

“What I love about these five plays is the combination of more recognizable subject matter and name playwrights that should appeal to audiences, while at the same time they have substance with thoughtful and provocative material that is new to Los Angeles,” says ICT artistic director Caryn Desai [sic]. “We are proud to be able to present a West Coast premiere and two Los Angeles premieres as part of this special anniversary season.”

One of the few theaters in Los Angeles that has successfully made the step up from a 99-seat venue to a mid-sized, Equity House, ICT is Long Beach’s resident professional theater company at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center.

The 2015 schedule is as follows:

EndofRainbow_WebTempFeb. 20 – March 15 (previews Feb. 18 and  Feb. 19):

End of the Rainbow Peter Quilter’s savagely funny play offers unique insight into the inner conflict that inspired and consumed one of the most beloved figures in American popular culture. It’s 1968, and Judy Garland, at 46, appears to be on the way to a full recovery following a lifetime of abuse, addictions and attempted suicides. Encouraged by her fiancé and manager, Mickey Deans, and in cahoots with her gay pianist friend Anthony, she has booked a six-week run at London’s ‘Talk of the Town’ nightclub. End of the Rainbow is a powerful, and at times hilarious, exploration of the final days of this lonely and exploited star. Part drama and part concert, the production features Garland’s most memorable songs including “The Man That Got Away,” “Come Rain Or Come Shine,” “The Trolley Song” and, of course, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.”

Abigal_WebsiteTempMay 1 – May 24 (previews April 29 and April 30):
West Coast premiere of

Abigail/1702 — Whatever happened to Abigail Williams? It’s 1702, a decade after The Crucible‘s infamous seductress danced with the devil in Salem. Imagining the destiny of the immortal stage villain who cried “Witch!,” this thrilling next chapter by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Fox’s Glee, Broadway’s Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark) finds Abigail living under an assumed name in a village far from Salem, trying to start afresh. But now her past is about to catch up with her. Winner of the 2012 Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award.

Heir_WebsiteTempJune 19 – July 12 (previews June 17 and June 18):

Los Angeles premiere of The Heir Apparent — From the ever-antic pen of David Ives (Venus in Fur, The Liar) comes his latest laugh-fest, this time adapted entirely in hilarious rhyming verse from a comic masterpiece by Jean-François Regnard. Meet young Eraste. He has it all: good looks, a beautiful fiancée and a huge inheritance from an ancient uncle. There’s just one little problem: the uncle won’t die and has bequeathed his entire fortune to a distant relative. Oh, and did we mention the uncle also intends to marry Eraste’s fiancée? What’s a fine 18th-century fellow to do? What else but enlist the aid of his resourceful servant, Crispin, who could “out-Figaro” Figaro.

Fences_WebTempAug, 21-Sept. 13 (previews Aug. 19 and Aug. 20):

Fences — Troy Maxson has stepped up to the plate too many times in his life only to go down swinging. Shut out of the big leagues by prejudice, the former Negro League homerun king is now a garbage collector with little future. He tries to do right by his family, but when his youngest son Cory shows promise on the high school football team, Troy must come to terms with his past disappointments or risk tearing his family apart. Set in the 1950s, Fences is the sixth entry in August Wilson’s “Century Cycle,” a decade-by-decade exploration of the black experience in 20th century America. This Pulitzer Prize and two-time Tony Award-winner (1987 “Best Play” and 2010 “Best Revival”) is Wilson at his best: challenging the American dream through a poetic, powerful and deeply personal story.

Sondheim_WebsitetempOct. 16-Nov. 8 (previews Oct. 14 and Oct. 15):

Los Angeles premiere of Sondheim on Sondheim — Writing songs that reflect the complexity of his characters, Stephen Sondheim changed the way we define a great musical. Yet even though millions of fans know his songs by heart, few know much about Sondheim himself. Until now. Conceived by frequent Sondheim collaborator James Lapine, this intimate evening combines exclusive interview footage offering an inside look at Sondheim’s personal life and artistic process with sparkling-new arrangements of over two dozen Sondheim tunes ranging from the celebrated to the obscure. A unique theatrical experience. Rating: A Major.

International City Theatre was born in 1985 when Shashin Desai opened a 99-seat black box theater on the campus of Long Beach City College where he was chairman of the drama department. From the beginning, the fledgling company attracted critical acclaim and multiple awards – including the Los Angeles Drama Circle’s prestigious Margaret Harford Award for “Sustained Excellence in Theater.” Determined to build a high quality professional, mid-size theater company in the City of Long Beach, Desai persuaded the City Council to give him space in the Center Theater of the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. By 1996, ICT was producing simultaneous seasons on the college campus and at the Performing Arts Center. In 1999, the Long Beach City Council proclaimed International City Theater the “Professional Resident Theater Company” at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. A year later, ICT made the choice to invest entirely in the downtown, mid-size theater with an annual five-play season. When Desai retired in 2011, ICT’s board of directors unanimously approved caryn desai, ICT’s general manager since 1990, to take the reins as producing artistic director. The 2015 season marks the fifth under the leadership of Caryn Desai.

 

Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival Presents “Of Culture, Of Self on September 5th

For one very special night

the Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival (LAWTF) comes to Culver City for a unique performance on

Friday, September 5, 2014 at 8:00 p.m.

wpfcc45ab0_06

The venue will be the Ivy Substation, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232.

Tickets for the performance are $20 in advance, $25 at the door, and $18 for students, seniors, and groups of ten or more.

Reservations: (818) 760-0408. Online reservations are available at http://www.lawtf.org

Follow LAWTF on Twitter: @LAWTF

The theme of the evening will be “Of Culture, Of Self,” featuring three of LAWTF’s favorite performers, as well as one artiste new to the Festival. Included are:

Karen A. Clark: In this spoken word excerpt from “The Women,” Karen A. reflects on the powerful women in her family through music, poetry and storytelling. She recounts the ritual of baking bread at family reunions, an activity that brought everyone together. In particular, she pays homage to her loving mother, who added a “wow” factor to her life.

Sariyah Idan : “Homeless in Homeland” has a documentary hip-hop theatre aesthetic and is based on Sariyah’s journey that  took her to Israel and Palestine. It combines poetry, dance, and characters met. Idan conveys in this excerpt a young Jewish-American woman’s struggle to understand her identity and the meaning of home through the lens of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Ada Luz Pla: “Tracing My Lineage: A Story of a Puerto Rican Spitfire” pays homage to the many women who raised Pla in Puerto Rico and later in the South Bronx projects where 15 of her family members shared a small three-bedroom apartment. In the lively excerpted piece, Pla brings to life some of the amazing women in her family.

Kat Kramer : MY DUET WITH MICK is an original one-person-musical-solo-show that follows Kramer’s journey down “Rolling Stones Road” to meet the great and powerful “Sir Mick Of Jagger.” Along the way, in this excerpt, Kat meets some unique characters, and makes an important discovery about herself.

The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival, a non-profits arts organization, was founded by Executive Producer Adilah Barnes and Miriam Reed.

“Of Culture, Of Self” marks the LAWTF’s fourth-year program for residents of Culver City. This program is made possible in part by the City of Culver City Performing Arts Grants Program with support from Sony Pictures Entertainment.

To join and follow LAWTF on Facebook and Twitter, click on their links at http://www.lawtf.org