Category Archives: Literature

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


For more information, call (818) 508-1754

or visit

Photo credit: Grettel Cortes

The World Domination of Richard III at Eclectic Company

 The villains get the best lines

Richard III

One of the most coveted roles in Shakespearean literature, Shakespeare’s history play recounts how Richard ascended to the throne and consolidated his power largely by accomplishing the murder of his perceived political adversaries, including members of his own family, in a story that resonates as surprisingly modern.  Fast, vicious and murderous, Richard III revels in Shakespeare’s gleeful poetry, hurtling along with Richard on his psychotic vision of world domination.

Directed by Natasha Troop, Eclectic Company’s Richard III is this season’s play to watch. Described as an “intimate encounter with Shakespeare’s most popular and cunning anti-hero, Richard of Gloucester,” the design elements of the current production are a mash-up of the futuristic and 1930s-era retro, highlighting both the elegance of life at court and the coldness of the Plantagenet feud.

It is both silky and seductive, ferocious and brutal, charming and repelling.

The cast includes Jon Mullich as Richard, also featuring Ovation award nominee Jesse Merlin (Re-Animator: The Musical) as Buckingham, and Christian Chan, Alon Dina, Melody Doyle, Carissa Gipprich, Rachel Kanouse, Jessicah Neufeld, David Pinion, Tim Polzin, Glenn Simon, Janie Steele, Randi Tahara, Gary Tremble, Eliot Troop, Micah Watterson and Nathan Werner.

Costume Designer: Wendell C. Carmichael   
Fight choreography: Christian Chan

Eclectic Company

The Eclectic Company Theatre
5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd. 
Valley Village, CA 91607 

(between Chandler and Magnolia)

WHEN: July 24- August 30, 2015. Fri. & Sat. at 8:00, Sun. at 2:00.


RESERVATIONS: (818) 508-3003.


Hollywood Fringe Announces 2015 Award Winners

Sixth Annual Festival Closes With a Bang


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.


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 Hamlet Mobile

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

Hamlet, Shakespeare on the go


There is a truly special performance happening at the Hollywood Fringe this year and you won’t find it in any of the normal standing Fringe venues on Hollywood’s Theatre Row.  You will however, get a heads-up on last minute pop-up locations in the area by following the Twitter handle @hamletmobile and also by checking the Twitter hashtag #hamletmobile.

Created by The Moving Shadow theatre company the Hamlet Mobile is featuring 8 short plays inspired by (and utilizing the language of) Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  It is totally FREE and no ticket reservations are allowed with one exception — if you are lucky enough to catch the truck, there are a limited number of viewing slots.  So you’ll have to sign up on the spot for a chance to participate.

“An experience like no other” is how this Shakespeare troupe on wheels is being billed and that might be the understatement of the day – of the Fringe really.  By happenstance, I caught up with these peeps last Saturday afternoon at a location around the corner from the Hudson Theatre and took the deep dive.

Totally immersive and interactive, you are escorted into a built out set van with players inside and outside talking with each other and with visitors.  It’s a doors closed, one on one theatre experience where at some point you will most likely be asked a question or asked to do something that participates in the story.  When I say AWESOME, the up close and personal of your 15 minutes won’t just be a sitting around on the floor, hanging with your homies kind of afternoon. Hamlet Mobile is an absolutely intriguing mind bender in that you are completely vulnerable to the intimacy of the moment and you will not know what is to happen next.

There are opportunities to see more than one show and you will be often invited to make origami while you wait your turn.  Best “brainchild” of the season produced by Monica Miklas and directed by Lauren Ludwig, this is how real artistry gets incubated right from the streets of Los Angeles into the hearts and minds of unsuspecting audiences, inviting the regular and non-regular theatre goers alike into our special world.

Simply deliciously what Fringe and what theatre is all about!

Very Highly Recommended

Get more information at the Hamlet Mobile official website:

You can also find them at:

Gia #HFF15 #Reviews : 50 Shades of Shrew

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

BDSM, bondage, domination, sadism, masochism


Taming of the Shrew has and is ever a problematic play to justify in the modern world of feminism and the independence of women. Why would any (at least Western) female today stand for the kind of treatment accorded to Kate who in normal versions of this Shakespearean classic is often looked upon with pity as a neglected daughter and on some levels an abused wife?  But add in a little bit of bondage and domination and oddly enough it all starts to make sense.

Directionally Broads’ World Theatre’s, 50 Shades rendition is occasionally a bit messy and almost gets in the way although never really does.  But it is nicely cast as a wholly female driven piece. And in this case, more than in many other all-female cast productions I’ve seen to date, it creates some very, very interesting and worthwhile dialog on the subject of relationships.

Whether by the fact that they are complicated, ‘feeling’, multidimensional females or just by the idea of it all, these ladies bring many more layers to the comedy than is often portrayed in a male/female circumstance.

The pre-show BDSM (Bondage, Domination, Sadism, Masochism) instructional by professional dominatrix Mistress Kara is lengthy for the actual payoff during the show. But it does offer a base for which the uninitiated can understand the lifestyle and how it is manipulated within the presentation, where which a completely inoffensive and hardly uncomfortable version of bondage and submission is displayed.

In the original, Petruchio has always given Kate “tit for tat” but here he/she gives her a little something extra.  It’s the 100% playfulness of a smitten Petruchio and his absolute desire to challenge and tame a thoroughly wild Kate, in the overt acts of domination that enlivens the excessive bravado. He never actually hurts her, nor means to, emotionally or physically, but merely frustrates her and brings her to task and to life through his roughness and mildly inflicted discipline. Kate finally submitting to Petruchio adjusts the balance of power.  Kate realizing that her submissiveness gives her her own power, actually gives her more.  In every way she becomes a definitively equal partner and the one of Petruchio’s dreams.  The relationship is more meaningful for both and a happy ending so much more palatable for us. One might even go so far as to say that Petruchio is humbled by his wife’s willingness to be “under his foot”. Kate as a submissive still retains her strong independence. Petruchio’s masculinity remains intact. It’s a very satisfying balance between them.

A superior performance and use of the text by Dawn Alden (Petruchio) matched by an equally impressive Jen Albert (Katharina/Kate).

Highly Recommended.

Lounge Theatre (Lounge Theatre ) 6201 Santa Monica Boulevard

Saturday June 27 2015, 10:00 PM | 90 mins

Gia #HFF15 #Reviews: The Poe Show

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move


Feels Like The First Time

Oh what a surprise and I’m grateful for that.  The Poe Show has been making appearances since quite possibly much, much longer than 2013 at Sacred Fools LA as a Late Night Serial Killer and on other stages in one iteration or another.

But this time, Edgar Allan Poe never had it so good.   In a special Hollywood Fringe 2015 presentation, in the hands of the ever demented Brendan Hunt, The Poe Show is back – LIVE from Burbank with very special guests, Frankenstein’s Monster, Dr. Frank, Dracula, Emily Bronte, Mary Shelley, Tom Sawyer and Mark Twain.

As a morbidly depressed, David Letterman-style late night talk show host accompanied by an equally obtuse Paul Shaffer-like sidekick, the Raven (voiced by Ed Goodman), The Poe Show’s Infection of the Fringe, delivers what is possible a perfect sketch comedy by a well-versed, on point cast with its strongest lead female, Lauren Van Kurin (an IO West regular and also appearing this Fringe in the award-winning King of Kong: A Musical) providing additional material for this show.

The brilliance of this piece, and why you will be hard pressed to find anything that will quite measure up, especially during Fringe, is just how much is actually unscripted.  The Poe Show follows an “arc” but it is during the pauses and what seem like holes, that the “OMG” realization moment happens.  Apart from the unparalleled bang out commercials, they are often “on the fly”.   The gags are hysterical as is Poe’s insatiable lust for the macabre and exposing some of the follies of his guests. You’re just gonna have to wait for it!

Very highly recommended.

Now Playing at Theatre Asylum 6320 Santa Monica Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90038

Tickets: $13

Remaining shows:

Saturday June 13 2015, 11:55 PM | 55 mins
Saturday June 20 2015, 5:30 PM | 55 mins
Wednesday June 24 2015, 8:30 PM | 55 mins
Saturday June 27 2015, 4:30 PM | 55 mins

Crazy Underneath The Trees

Crazy-FB (1)
Spontaneity is decidedly part of Moon Mile Run’s philosophy; if they hear about something that needs a bit of nurturing—even if it’s a last-minute Open Rehearsal to support a piece—they just might consider getting involved.
And they did!
How could they ignore the work of two paragons of Los Angeles’ theater history: Darrell Larson and Rob Sullivan? These two were doing “edgy and raw” theater in the Seventies, before those terms were used to describe theater.
Larson describes the piece, Crazy Underneath The Trees: “…not a play, not a poem, perhaps a prayer, definitely a confession, possibly an argument, seduction or negotiation? All of the above, actually, and with percussion. The latter is supplied by the inimitable MIKE TEMPO, of BONEDADDYS fame, with special guest, PAUL LACQUES on guitar.”
So join Moon Mile Run in Silver Lake for a COMPLIMENTARY EVENT on Monday, May 11, at 9:30 PM. Spirit Studio (3711 Evans Street, off Hyperion, 90027). Reservation are not required.
Mark Bringelson                 Michael Kearns                       Ryland Shelton