Category Archives: Theatre

Nothing Neutral About “Charm” at Celebration Theatre

Reviewed by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
Lana Houston and Rebekah Walendzak star in the Celebration Theatre's West Coast Premiere of "CHARM."

Lana Houston and Rebekah Walendzak star in the Celebration Theatre’s West Coast Premiere of “CHARM.”

In no way is Charm, currently playing at Celebration Theatre on Hollywood Row, unpredictable or a shocker or immediately enthralling. Notwithstanding a very ‘everything’ Mama Darleena (Lana Houston), exquisitely coiffed and perfectly winsome in every scene.

Let’s face it, if one has ever lived or shopped anywhere remotely by the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and La Brea Ave, in Los Angeles, it’s never been hard to notice the [colorful] array of working girls, pre-ops and other gender spectrum that regularly hang out.

On the surface, Charm doesn’t cut new cloth or break new ground in so much as how today’s transgender, gender-neutral community might react to it. The simplistic title and kickin’ club pop interludes, certainly add flavor, but they merely allude to the superficiality of the moment, not the richness of the material.

For in Charm, there is a solid, singular point that screams loudly, making this story in reality, one of the more important plays a young person of any gender should see and experience.


Set in “The Center,” a shelter and safe space for LGBTQ, Charm explores the ever more complex issue of Gender Identity through Mama Darleena Andrews, an older, black transgender woman who arrives at the center to teach a class in charm to a youth group.

It’s ridiculous. Or so everyone thinks, including the center’s director of programming, ‘D’ (Rebekah Walendzak) who is happy to have Darleena there, but unnerved by her old-fashioned and potentially harmful methods of distinction.

And here’s where this world gets sticky. This particular group of young and not so young people are many things: on the street, poor, outcast, isolated, living with extraordinary, real fear, hiding in plain sight in gangs, incredibly conflicted about themselves or crossing back and forth from boy to girl at will like a Game of Life.

When Darleena steps in, the entire idea of ‘gender-neutral’ is completely challenged. She herself made a choice long ago about her own sex and in more than merely subtle ways, is instructing these young people to do the same. There are the makeup classes, the clothing choices, the tea party preparations and the dancing lessons which require a definitively unambiguous boy or girl partner.

None of this goes over well at first. But interestingly enough, against current transgender ideals of non-conformity, through etiquette and some old-school let’s get real, Darleena opens their respective eyes to the actual possibility of not just choosing the identity they want, or the labels of one. But living it. Ultimately they learn to accept themselves in their own unique ways.

Narratively and choreographically Charm is a bit of a tangle. But considering the chaos in which all these characters live, when the most truthful moments are given their deserved pauses, they land with considerable and definitive impact. And there is a substantial amount of hilarity and downright honest to goodness street smarts. The tough relationships are revealing.

Written by Philip Dawkins
Direct by Michael Matthews
With (in alphabetical order): Chris Aguila, Esteban Andres Cruz, Armand Fields, Tre Hall, Alexander Hogy, Lana Houston, Ashley Romans, Shoniqua Shandai, Rebekah Walendzak

Celebration Theatre @ The Lex
6760 Lexington Ave.
Los Angeles, CA , 90038

For more information, tickets and the online show program check the listing page.

Miss Saigon in Cinemas for Epic 25th Anniversary Event

gia on the move film theatreBoublil and Schönberg’s legendary musical, Miss Saigon is coming to select cinemas nationwide for a special one-night event on Thursday, September 22, in honor of its 25th anniversary.

Captured live in front of a sold-out audience at London’s Prince Edward Theatre, this epic love story tells the tragic tale of young bar girl Kim, orphaned by war, who falls in love with American GI Chris – but their lives are torn apart by the fall of Saigon.

gia on the move film theater

Eva Noblezada as Kim in Boublil and Schönberg’s legendary musical, Miss Saigon. Fathom Events, Universal Pictures and Picturehouse Entertainment.

This special event features a finale of epic proportions with appearances from the original cast, including Jonathan Pryce, Lea Salonga and Simon Bowman.



Please Don’t Ask About Beckett ‘Plainly’ Resonates

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

Becket_2[1]Wendy Graf has a peculiar talent. She writes ‘plain’.

To suggest plain writing is a talent might sound peculiar, to say the least. Where lots of other playwrights work diligently for depth, style, nuance, grandeur, humor, shock or creative word play, Graf’s work hovers somewhere just above surface on many accounts. Which is not to say, that Graf doesn’t strive for those qualities in her writing. But to listen to her script line by line, one might say, ‘not so out of the ordinary’ or ‘normal’ or just ‘plain’.

In Graf’s ‘plain’ however, lies a simplicity that seems to resonate an unmistakable empathy. One only has to look around the room, during a performance at the rest of the audience to witness the phenomenon. People connecting with elementary experiences. Hence why a normal review will only tell half a story.

Ordinary people often do or say or bear extraordinary things. Graf’s plays capitalize on that, leaving the door open for creativity by others in the physical crafting or interpretation, as it often happens with her plays. In this case with direction, staging, costume and mostly the actors who catapult this very quotidian story to a higher calling.

Graf’s latest ‘memory play’, Please Don’t Ask About Beckett, currently being presented by Electric Footlights and making its world premiere at Sacred Fools Black Box Theater is pretty patent. The characters are incredibly recognizable, within an environment more than plausible, inside a story so “now” that it’s almost not worth telling. Except it is.

‘Can parents love a child too much?’ is the question that gets asked over and over.

In Please Don’t Ask About Beckett narrated by Emily (Rachel Seiferth), the twin sister of Beckett (Hunter Garner) the audience encounters a family facing probably the greatest obstacles in the repertoire of relationships. For all that parents Rob (Rob Nagle) and Grace (Deborah Puette) or sibling Emily can do to care for or encourage or protect or save their child/brother Beckett, who cannot get his life together, there is a breathtaking irreconcilable finality about a person and a circumstance that cannot change.

Actor Rob Nagle is exceptional. Nagle has developed a very subtle and highly nuance character in Rob. Deborah Puette showcases one of her stronger performances as Grace. Hunter Garner embodies a free-spirited, charismatic Beckett, underlined by depression and self-criticism. Rachel Seiferth as Emily, is buoyantly expressive as a child growing into a young woman trying desperately to reconcile her love for her brother and wanting to emerge from his shadow.

There are emotionally challenging moments in this play but, they are unfortunately not always realized. Director Kiff Scholl has made a unique and well-decided choice to showcase this piece in the round. Ultimately, however, there are too many instances where actors are turned inward or so far out of peripheral view that one has to struggle to know where characters are. Consequently, Scholl’s use of the space doesn’t always achieve the kind of impact he is seeking.

Gorgeous 1970s costuming by Wendell C. Carmichael as is the set, sound and lighting design respectively by Evan A. Bartoletti, Cricket S. Myers and Kelley Finn.

Now Playing at Sacred Fools Black Box Theater
Presented by Electric Footlights
Written by Wendy Graf
Directed by Kiff Scholl
For more information visit the listing.

One Audition Book to Rule Them All

gia on the move shakespeare auditionsIn the world of performing arts, one audition trumps them all when it comes to sweating palms and butterflies in the stomach – the dreaded Shakespeare speech. Casting Director Donna Soto-Morettini remembers her first Shakespeare monologue…because who could forget it? Preparing Shakespeare’s texts can be a bit like a literary puzzle.

In her game-changing new book, Mastering the Shakespeare Audition, the only one of its kind on the market, Soto-Morettini provides a definitive guide that actors of any level can use to face auditions in only 35 concentrated hours, with confidence in the quest to get the role of their dreams.


Something to Learn from ‘Obama-ology’ at Skylight Theatre

by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
gia on the move theatre reviews tracey paleo politics

Nicholas Anthony Reid in the American Premiere of OBAMA-OLOGY by Aurin Squire

He wanted to be a part of history and create change. He did.

Obama-olgy now playing at the Skylight Theatre Los Feliz, CA, is not particularly a story about the President or his election campaign but really of the mindset and identity of today’s youth.

Actor Nicholas Anthony Reid (Warren) absolutely embodies a middle-class, college educated, enfranchised African-American, delivering a crystal clear characterization of a young millenial, vibrantly enthusiastic about his goal: to seat this country’s first African-American candidate in the White House as an apogee of modern American History. Every moment he chronicles in his journey of hope deepens our empathetic understanding to every character, even ones we don’t necessarily like at first. And every failure brings us closer to the truth about black minority culture in America.

Naïve and idealistic Warren’s initial exuberance for his new position is quickly replaced with jarring realities about himself compared to the lower class African-American people of Cleveland, Ohio who are far removed from his own  sophisticated upbringing and world views.

Obama-ology is a brilliant comedy that speaks to basic human relationships at its core through Warren’s daily positive and negative community outreach experiences, surface politics at home-base, fear of change, narcissism and critical encounters, all entrenched in campaign agenda.

Inside the impossible and sometimes dangerous life of a volunteer is the ambition of creating something extraordinary. The problem for Warren who has been hired because of his potential marketing & strategy talents however, is that he is completely unrepresentative of the people he must convince to follow him to the polls.

Although for some whites he’s black enough to get suspiciously followed through convenience stores, insulted to his face, regularly ticketed, nearly arrested and almost killed by local police, for being black or simply a proponent of the unwelcome Obama campaign, he isn’t black enough for the locals he needs to recruit. His intelligence, education, status, and speaking style – even the Buddhist prayer beads he wears – are too, uppity, too offensive, too strange to understand or familiar enough to trust.  Stuck between the extremes and not entirely accepted by either, he is forced to question himself.

Obama-ology, simplistically lays down the challenging external complexities, internal emotions and identity issues of young people and especially young black people, who are wading through political/societal muck, and who are attempting to voice important personal insights into the world around them. And although the story may seem like a generational repeat of idealistic youth, its distinction pointedly resides in the hot-bed emotions and environments of the present time.

Very creative direction by Jon Lawrence Rivera who playfully weaves writer Aurin Squire’s earnest script away from heavy-handed political drama and instead offers a moving, digestible narrative in which caricature is mostly avoided. These people are real.

The screen projections throughout are a nicely set device inside the production where ‘stock’ characters offer hilariously unhelpful, pedagoguish canvassing advice. Double-cast roles by the rest of the ensemble, work well. Recommended.

Starring: Brie Eley, Sally Hughes, Kurt Mason Peterson and Nicholas Anthony Reid

For tickets and more information visit:

Gia #HFF16 Reviews: Las Garcia

Reviewed by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

gia on the move theatre reviews tracey paleo hollywood fringe festivalSome stories about love are filled with heartbreak.  This is  one of them. Some stories about love empower and enliven the narrator.  This is one of them. And some stories about love make us realize that when all is said, done and experienced, the only thing we are is very, very human – to the core.

Gabriela Ortega opened her world premiere solo show, Las Garcia, at the 2016 Hollywood Fringe with an invitation to audiences to be wrapped into her very personal family tale of life-long searching for the grandmother who has influenced her life in so many more ways than she initially realizes. What they got was an enlightening, partly historical-political journey, that exquisitely and quite playfully details the closed-door intricacies of love and war, secrets and adventure.

The struggle of a woman takes place in her heart.  She is strong, defiant, longing for beauty in love and life, capable of reaching into the deepest places within herself to dream and willing to sacrifice everything to achieve it. Las Garcia are these women – to the core.

Gabriela Ortega is thoroughly enchanting as an actress.  As a female storyteller, her appeal rests within her own willingness to expose her most vulnerable and naive parts. Las Garcia is a gorgeous ode, in Ortega’s carefully crafted words, to the women who have come before us and whose lives help us to discover our own power through losses as well as triumphs.

“Come fly with me.”


Directed by Alex Alpharaoh

For more information visit:

Gia #HFF16 Reviews: Angel’s Flight

gia on the move theatre reviews hollywood fringe festival“Someone to watch over me…”

The sexiest surprise this year at Hollywood Fringe filled the Three Clubs on Vine with the worst campy one-liners of all time, goofy gags, a ridiculous premise, smokin’ hot “I’ve been a bad, bad” bad girls in sparkly costumes, dazzling over-the-top burlesque, a dead guardian angel and a pathetic ending. It was AWESOME!

Refer madness rules at #NoirAtTheBar with a page ripped right out of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer , in Angel’s Flight, written by Matt Ritchey and Benjamin Schwartz who have created a truly entertaining montage of film and stage noir ‘caberlesque’ comedy.

It’s Los Angeles, 1944. A girl’s gone missing, but a gumshoe is hot on the case. Will our sloppy, bum-luck, detective, Duff (Schoen Hodges), save the raven-haired beauty or will he fall short? As Duff reluctantly mucks his way through ridiculously obvious clues he gets caught up in booze, deadly illegal marijuana, prostitution and rivalries with foes that want him gone baby gone, especially the secret boss who’s right under his nose.

Hands-down best choreography, the girls swished, shimmied and slinked through the genre perfectly inserting a live LIVE performance into the night club space. The entire cast delivers on style, story, timing, direction, dance and overall performance. We’re hoping it makes a comeback somewhere, somehow.

Winner: Best Cabaret and Variety Show at the 2016 Hollywood Fringe and a “Pick of Fringe”.

Highly Recommended.

With: Bradely Bentz, Ben Bonigan, Heath Butler, Dvid Garver, Brin Hamblin, Sarah Hawarth, Madeleine Heil, Schoen Hodges, Allison Miller, Michel Onofri, Benjamin Schwartz, Kelly Stevenson and Ben Goldberg.

Directed by Matt Richey.

For more information visit: