This “Curious Incident” is Innovative Entertainment

Review by: Peter Foldy

Christopher John Francis Boone, the lead character  in Simon Stephens’ Tony-winning adaptation of Mark Haddon’s bestselling novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, is anything but your normal 15 year old. Christopher knows that adults “do sex” but bristles at human touch. He’s a genious at math and has a mind that is able to observe and remember minute details, but finds the trials and tribulations of everyday life overwhelming. His condition would seem to be Asperger’s but that is never verbally expressed. All we know is that Christopher sees the world differently. That he is a sharp, likeable young man.

The Curious Incident begins with Christopher finding his neighbor’s dog brutally murdered, killed by a garden fork. Strongly identifying with Sherlock Holmes, our young protagonist sets out to discover the killer’s identity, only to conclude that his own father, Ed, committed the deed. Fearing for his own life, Christopher runs away. Makes what is for him a difficult journey by train from Swindon to London to find and reunites with his mother, Judy. Told by his father that she died of a heart attack, mom clearly feels guilt for having abandoned Christopher and is happy to reignite their relationship.

Christopher eventually returns to Swindon, aces an important math test and reunites with his dad.

While the stakes here may read as simplistic, The Curious Incident is an intelligently conceived, entertaining theatrical experience, it’s execution nothing short of brilliant.

Marianne Elliott’s direction is imaginative and fluid, making powerful use of what at first appears to be a minimalistic set by Bunny Christie. The stage resembles the inside of a box, but the sound design and video projection by Finn Ross and the lighting design by Paule Constable smoothly transform it, among other things, into streets, escalators and train tracks. The visual and aural aspects play an important part of the show and distract us from any bumps in the story line.

Curious Incident is blessed with a highly talented cast. Adam Langdon as Christoper is fully committed in his role. He is agile, confident and likable, with an impressive amount of dialogue that he handles with ease. Langdon allows us a glimpse into Christopher’s soul and he makes us care. In a short scene after the curtain call, Christopher reappears to solve a math problem posed earlier in the show. This last little tag is a clever touch and, incase you were not already convinced, clearly demonstrates the character’s astute intelligence.

Felicity Jones Latta and Gene Gillette as Christopher’s parents and Maria Elena Ramirez as his teacher, who narrates some of the play, are especially strong but the entire ensemble works hard to bring the caper to life.

Winner of 5 Tony awards on Broadway, this touring production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time should not be missed. It is a timely show that compels you to focus, learn and listen as it thoroughly entertains.

Where: Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.

When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays; ends Sept. 10 (call for exceptions)

Tickets: $25-$130 (subject to change)

Information: (213) 972-4400 or www.centertheatregroup.org

Running time: 2 hour, 30 minutes (including intermission)

 

Two More Nights Left to see “Any Night”

Review by Peter Foldy

“ANY NIGHT” by Daniel Arnold and Medina Hahn is a play that takes us to a surreal and voyeuristic world where troubled souls, twisted minds and nightmares collide.

A young dancer, Anna, (Maria Fahlgren) moves into a basement apartment after a bad breakup. Anna has a chronic sleepwalking problem. Her caring upstairs neighbor, Patrick (Zac Thomas) a shy, nerdy handyman and jack-of all trades, is determined to make her stay safe and comfortable. The question is can Anna trust him–and can she trust herself as her nocturnal hallucinations refuse to go away?

Patrick understands her. He always manages to be there for her. As their friendship turns to romance it doesn’t take long to figure out that this needy relationship has a limited shelf life that come with consequences.

Ably directed by Elizabeth V. Newman, “Any Night” bounces between fractured reality and carnal intent. There is hardly a dull moment. Like in a horror film, the play lets you know early on that something bad is going to happen, and  as you wait for it, the tension becomes electric.

Ms. Fahlgren and Mr. Thomas give powerful performances, both as engaging actors and as agile dancers, delivering impressive and complicated moves choreographed by Erica Giondfriddo.

Great use of music, a clever set design by Vanessa Montano, and well thought out lighting and sound from Chris Conard also help wratch up the tension.

With only two more performances left in it’s Los Angeles run, “Any Night” is a psychological thriller that is well worth checking out.

Where: Sacred Fools Theater Company, 1076 Lillian Way, Hollywood, CA 90038

When: Saturday (July 29) at 8:00 p.m. Sunday (July 30) at 5:00 p.m.

Tickets: $30.00 for General Admission, $25.00 each Seniors and Students.

To purchase call 512-496-5208, or email filigreetheatre@gmail.com.

To learn more about the show, please visit the website, www.anynightaustin.com

Cast Photos by: Joshua Scott

 

 

“The Rainbow Bridge” – A Review

Review by: Peter Foldy

The punchlines just keep on coming in “The Rainbow Bridge,” the new, Woody Allen-esque comedy currently playing at the Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica.  Clever writing from Ron Nelson, strong acting from a superb cast, and tight, fluid direction by Michael Myers make this a production well worth checking out.

The story deals with a middle-aged defense attorney, Jerry, who visits a veterinarian, Dr. Stein, in order to put his late mother’s ailing dog to sleep. The good doctor, who happens to be not only attractive but also a little bit sex crazed, has had the hots for old Jerry since he first started dropping by.

After the sad procedure is over,  Dr. Stein hands Jerry some text that she keeps on her wall in order to soothe the pain of grieving pet owners. The sappy, heartfelt little poem talks about pets and owners being reunited in the afterlife.

No sooner does Jerry finish uttering the words, his dead mother, Lois, and his dead sister, Amanda, materialize in front of his eyes. No one but Jerry can see them, and he is suddenly dragged back into the family chaos that has surrounded him all his life.

Jerry begs his mom to leave him alone, to let him live his life, and the feisty old broad agrees under one condition. That Jerry kill her nemesis, an elderly lady now suffering with dementia. Jerry says no way but mom and sis keep haunting the poor bastard, making his life miserable, until Jerry reluctantly gives in.

While this seems a far fetched and unexpected compromise from a fine, upstanding criminal attorney, you haven’t met his mother and sister. They are a foul mouthed pair who mock and taunt Jerry, pushing all his buttons because they know exactly where they are. After all, they’re the ones who installed them.

Though “The Rainbow Bridge” has a dark undercurrent, it is the non stop humor that help make that undercurrent, and the suspension of disbelief that much easier to digest.

Ron Nelson puts hillarious dialogue into the mouths of his characters. Lynne Marie Stewart as Lois, and Mary Carrig as Jerry’s sister, Amanda, are both rewarded with raunchy one-liners–though Paul Schackman as Jerry easily holds his own in the comedy department. The repartee between the trio delivers most of the laughs.

Emily Jerez is relatable as Jerry’s wife. Jaimi Paige is sexy and seductive as the veterinarian, and L. Emille Thomas is particularly strong as Jerry’s client, Theodore, a gay arsonist who unexpectedly gets dragged into the madness.

Rounding out the cast is Mouchette Van Helsdingen as Harriet, the intended murder victim who manages to get considerable laughs despite barely opening her eyes, and muttering only a few lines of dialogue.

“The Rainbow Bridge” is a fun diversion that will definitely leave you with a smile on your face.

When: 8pm Fridays – Saturday, and 2pm on Sundays, through September 17, 2017

Where: Ruskin Group Theatre – 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405

Tickets: $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

Ample free parking available on site.

Cast Photos: Ed Krieger

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re All “Johnny” in Part Three of “The Johnny Cycle”

Review by: Peter Foldy

Set in a 19th-century marble Mausoleum in Altadena, the powerful conclusion to The Speakeasy Society’s THE JOHNNY CYCLE: Part III – The Living is immersive theater at it’s best.

As soon as you arrive at the venue you feel like you’ve stepped into a time warp. The place has a sense of timelessness that reminded me of the old abandoned hotel in the Stanley Kubrick psychological thriller, “The Shining.”

Here you are surrounded by the human remains and heart-felt memories that have been left abandoned. A perfect setting for what’s to come.

As you wait for the play to begin, wine and beer is served in the courtyard. Visits to the bathroom prior to the show are in groups, escorted by production staff. Thank you for that because you soon realize it would be very creepy to get lost in this foreboding monument to the dearly departed.

And then it starts. The audience is told that we are extras in a film. It’s a funeral scene and we’re instructed to cry on every take as the blacklisted Academy Award winning writer, “Dalton Trumbo” types away nearby, finishing Johnny Got His Gun, the novel that was the genesis for this masterful production.

Audience members are soon separated and suddenly we “become” Johnny, the title character. All of us are addressed that way as we are plunged into the tragic story of this once innocent young man – now a damaged war survivor.

Scenes begin to play out in various locations throughout the mausoleum. An office, an apartment, a courtroom, a picnic and more. Some audience members are selected for one on one encounters with the cast. While my friend was being interrogated by “Stripling,” a rabid Communist hunter portrayed by a powerful Michael Pignatelli, I was in a dimly lit closet side by side with “Yuri,” (an intense Michael Bates), his eyes burning into mine as he tells me how I, (“Johnny”) left him to suffer on the battlefield. All I can do is mutter “I’m sorry” before being sent back to join the rest of my group who are now wearing party hats and sipping champagne as they celebrate Dalton Trumbo’s birthday.

As the show progresses we meet other significant figures in the title character’s life. Among them his grieving mother, (a memorable Jenny Curtis) his innocent girlfriend, (Colleen Pulawski) and “Lucky,” a scantily dressed prostitute well portrayed here by Julia Henning.

The Johnny Cycle gets most everything right. Costumes by Felicia Rose and production design by The Speakeasy Society are distinctly authentic, but it’s the fine performances that really leave an impact. Some are downright haunting. Other members of this excellent troupe include Matthew Bamberg-Johnson, Jonathan Bangs, Zach Davidson, Alex Demers, Christie Harms, Zan Headley, Jessica Rosilyn, Chynna Skye and James Cowan.

Written by Julianne Just and Chris Porter, (the latter also composed the music), and directed by Ms. Just and Genevieve Gearhart, the show enables an audience to ponder questions of personal choice as well as experience the hurtful impact of war – not only those who are required to fight, but also those who are left behind to pick up the shattered pieces.

If immersive theater is your thing and you’re looking for a visceral pick-me-up, this Johnny is definitely the one to see.

WHO: The Speakeasy Society, www.speakeasysociety.com

WHEN:

Saturday, May 13th, 8:00 pm

Thursday, May 18th, 8:00 pm

Friday, May 19th, 8:00 pm

Saturday, May 20th, 8:00 pm

Thursday, May 25th, 8:00 pm

Friday, May 26th, 8:00 pm

Saturday, May 27th, 8:00 pm

WHERE: Mountain View Mausoleum

2300 Marengo Ave Altadena, California 91001

HOW: Johnny is performed in a guided, individualized experience over the course of about 90 minutes.  For audiences 14 and over.  (Performance requires mobility.)

General Admission: $65

For tickets and more info:  johnnytheliving.bpt.me

Photos by: Daniel Kleen and Sara Martin of Model 05 Productions

Pure Confidence Takes Us Back To A Complicated Chapter In America’s Past

Review by Peter Foldy

It’s perhaps a little known fact that prior to the Civil War, black jockeys dominated the sport of horse racing. Pure Confidence by Carlyle Brown explores that world in Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble’s West Coast Premiere of a powerful and multi layered tale that explores the complicated relationship between master and slave.

Simon Cato (Armond Edward Dorsey) is a cocky, confident and most winning jockey owned by two children who have inherited him. Through their lawyer, they lease Simon to Colonel Wiley Johnson (William Salyers) — a man Simon rides and wins for. The colonel’s horse is also the title of this play; Pure Confidence.

Simon and the colonel have an understanding, a friendship of sorts, and the colonel and his wife begin to think of their jockey and rented slave as a distant family member. Simon begs the colonel to buy him from the children so that he in turn can buy his own freedom with money he hopes to win by racing.

The colonel’s wife, Mattie (Deborah Puette) helps Simon put his plan in motion and even allows the Simon to buy her “girl,” Caroline (Tamarra Graham) on the condition that Simon marry her. These are forward thinking, modern minded people who are certainly out of step in their class conscious, racist world.

The first act sees Simon achieve his dream. He gets his freedom, but by the second act Simon’s fortunes have changed. Injured in a racing accident, he has suffered permanent damage that prevents him from riding and now works as a bellboy for an abusive, racist hotel clerk (Eamon Hunt). His marriage to Caroline, though caring on many levels has also turned abusive. Simon vents his anger by hitting his wife.

When a newspaper reporter (Dylan John Seaton) tracks Simon 15 years later so that he can write a story about the once great jockey, we learn that it was Colonel Johnson and his wife who hired the writer to locate their former jockey.

At a touching, heart-felt reunion, these two couples, one white and powerful, the other black and struggling, try to rekindle their prior relationship in the new age of Reconstruction, but they are thwarted by the social climate, ultimately having to acknowledge that it is not a level playing field, and a legitimate friendship between them is never to be.

Staged in a black box at the Sacred Fools Theatre, this production is most impressive.  Director, Marya Mazor has crafted a poignant piece that feels as real as it is disturbing.

The set design by Tom Buderwitz and clever use of film and photo projections from Nicholas Santiago help give Pure Confidence a slick, almost off-Broadway feel. Kudos to Mylette Nora for her costume design that looks and feels so authentic. But it is the acting that makes this play well worth seeing. Armond Edward Dorsey is exceptional as the ambitious Simon. William Salyers ably unfolds Colonel’s mindset, letting us see the complexities of his character.

Tamarra Graham asCaroline” is both sensitive and fragile, but strong when she needs to be, while Deborah Puette as the colonel’s wife convincingly portrays a modern thinking woman from a troubled time.

The rest of the cast, Eamon Hunt and Dylan John Seaton are both solid in their respective roles.

Pure Confidence is a thought provoking drama that compels as it takes us back to an ugly chapter in America’s past. Its message is not only powerful – it may also move you to tears.

Where: Sacred Fools
1076 Lillian Way
Los Angeles, CA 90038

Schedule: 8pm Fridays and Saturdays, 3pm Sundays
Closing: April 30, 2017

For reservations call (323) 960-7745 or online at www.lower-depth.com/on-stage

Tickets: $25 – $34

Production photos by: Ed Krieger

 

“Punk Rock” Screams Teenage Angst

by Peter Foldy

Our teenage years were fragile. Many of us grew up wondering how the other half lived. At times,  we wondered whether our class mates had the same fears and insecurities we did. Were they as fragile as we sometimes felt? Did they think crazy thoughts or was their journey as easy as it looked at the time?

Tony Award winning playwright Simon Stephens attempts to answer some of these questions as he examines the life of seven British teenagers in the excellent new production, PUNK ROCK, produced by Sally Essex-Lopresti and Ron Sossi, and currently playing at the Odyssey Theatre in West L.A.

Set in an up-scale Grammar school in the north west of England, Punk Rock gives us a fly-on-the-wall experience as these bright, articulate kids, living in a privileged bubble, prepare to take their college entrance exams.

William (Zachary Grant) is a quirky lad who could have easily stepped out of the hilarious British TV series, “The In Betweeners.” He is instantly likeable and reluctantly wears his heart on his sleeve. When a new girl, Lilly (Raven Scott), transfers to the school, William develops a crush on her but is soon shattered to learn that she has been seeing and sleeping with Nicholas (Nick Marini), a handsome student who is also a part of their core group.

We also meet Cissy, (Miranda Wynne) a pretty blonde who dates Bennett (Jacob B. Gibson), a savage bully who, under the guise of being macho, may in fact be secretly unsure about his sexual preference. Bennett’s main victim at school is the brilliant young student, Chadwick, (Kenney Selvey) a kid who doesn’t bother trying to defend himself from Bennett’s verbal and physical attacks. Chadwick is caught up instead in an existential belief system where nothing really matters.

Bennett’s other target of choice is Cissy’s best friend, the somewhat chunky Tanya (Story Slaughter). Bennett berates the girl, calling her fat, and Cissy does little to stop him. By her silence, she is also complicit, as are the other kids who stand by and do almost nothing to stop him. Nobody wants to get involved.

At first, the group gossips, talks about sex, teachers, and their prospects in the outside world; but as the pressure mounts and the story begins a slow simmer, the characters amp up their anxieties, allowing their true personalities to rise to the surface. We begin to wonder who will make it through this final semester. Who will allow the truth to be revealed – who will be the one to snap and reign chaos on their classmates?

Playwright Simon Stephens examines this vulnerable age where everything seemed so important. Sexual desire is hard to control and teenage angst feels like the world is coming to an end. A look, a rejection, a slight from a friend has a deep and profound effect.

Though this production might have benefited from pushing the envelope even a little further, director Lisa James manages to keep the tension building. She plays her cast like a game of chess, moving them fluidly around the stage. She is also fortunate in that she has assembled a fine cast who expertly bring this story to life.

Zachary Grant as William is charming and enigmatic; his transformation seems tragic and real. Jacob Gibson’s Bennett feels threatening but threatened at the same time – a victim of his suppressed insecurities. Kenney Selvey is the perfect little bookworm here,
detached, intelligent, and in need of a hug.

The rest of the talented performers, Scott, Marini, Wynne, and Slaughter, as well as Mark Daneri, who makes a brief appearance as Dr. Harvey, are on the mark in their respective roles. Each actor feels real and three-dimensional. Each scene change is punctuated by loud punk rock music as a statement of their youthful rebellion.

Punk Rock is raw, graphic, erotic, and ultimately highly disturbing. It reminds me of that time you pick up a large stone to find hundreds of little bugs scurrying about underneath. The turmoil is just below the surface – till it isn’t.

When: Fridays & Saturdays @ 8 p.m. and Sundays @ 2 p.m.
plus 2 Wednesdays: April 12 & May 3, and 1 Thursday: April 27, all @ 8 p.m.

Where: The Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90025

Tickets: $15 – $30 (Student, Guild and Senior Discounts available)

www.odysseytheatre.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Shades Of Disclosure” Celebrates Life

Review by: Peter Foldy

Heartbreaking, but ultimately positive and powerful, the World Premiere of SHADES OF DISCLOSURE, reminds us of the effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic that still continues to pose a host of social injustices such as homophobia, racism, immigration rights, healthcare discrimination, and the rights of transpersons.

Created and performed by the revolutionary QueerWise, a Los Angeles based group of LGBTQ writers and spoken word artists, Shades of Disclosure introduces us to a a number of HIV/AIDS survivors, and a few that were spared. Their deep and personal stories illuminate not only what they went through when the plague hit some thirty years earlier but how it still impacts their lives today.

The cast members on stage are not actors playing roles. They are real people sharing remembrances of heartbreak and loss, of good luck and bad. Some on stage were infected early while others, though promiscuous and care-free, escaped the epidemic.

Wrapped in an atmosphere of the current political climate, QueerWise tell their stories in well staged production that encourages others to do the same. “Who Are You?” they ask.

The outpouring of truthfulness on stage soon becomes contagious and one cannot help but feel a deep empathy.

Ultimately, we know that honesty about ones self is a beautiful, unifying and galvanizing force that we need to carry into 2017 if we are to survive, thrive, and maintain, says director, Michael Kearns.

Though it may sound like this performance piece is a downer, it is actually a celebration of being alive. Something we can all relate to.

Featuring Albert Auben, Gil Feroli, Cheri Gaulke, Randy (Joe) Gravelle, John Glenn Harding, Jessie Jacobson, Sophie Kim, Darrell Larson, Timothy Mack, Mason Mahoney, Jen O’Connor, Roland Palencia, Christine Papalexis, Jim Pentecost, Ken Pienkos and David Trudel, Shades of Disclosure plays at 8:00pm Saturdays, and 3:00pm on Sundays through February 25, 2017.

Skylight Theatre is located at 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave, LA, 90027.

Tickets are $15 – $40. Reservations: 213-761-7061 or online at http://SkylightTix.com

Review: Hedwig And the Angry Inch Keeps It Fresh At The Pantages

by Peter Foldy

HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH is an innovative, powerful and wickedly humorous musical that will stay with you long after the final curtain.

The show actually began its life as a racy, sexually charged cabaret act. Created by STEPHEN TRASK and JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL, it first morphed into a 1998 off-Broadway hit and thenDarren-Criss-Hedwig-and-the-Angry-Inch a 2001 film before finally hitting the bright lights of Broadway in 2014. As the show’s legend grew, ultimately rising to cult status, it’s stars also received well deserved acclaim. NEIL PATRICK HARRIS, who played “Hedwig” on Broadway won a Tony, as did LENA HALL, here in Los Angeles reprising her role as “Yitzhak,” Hedwig’s back-up singer husband.

Though it’s been twenty years since it’s inception, this welcome First National Tour still packs a punch and manages to keep it fresh for new audiences. As we are drawn into Hedwig’s heart-breaking story,  the nature of the play allows for saucy, cutting-edge, ad libbed banter from it’s star, here brilliantly played by the energetic and talented, DARREN CRISS.

Hedwig, we learn, is an East German rock singer who suffered a botched sex-change operation that left her down there with only an inch of flesh. In Los Angeles to perform a one-night-only concert at the Pantages, she reveals that 1434618341137.cachedshe was recently involved with “Tommy Gnosis,” a now famous rock star with whom she co-wrote many of the songs that helped fuel his career. Hedwig was in fact the “mysterious blond” who distracted Tommy while he was driving his car, causing him to crash into a school bus. That accident and it’s subsequent notoriety made Tommy a star, leaving Hedwig to live her sad life as an “internationally ignored song stylist.”

By coincidence Tommy is also in town, headlining the Hollywood Bowl, and when Hedwig opens the backstage door, she can hear him talking to his adoring fans, never once acknowledging Hedwig’s contributions.

Throughout the show we also meet the aforementioned “Yitzhak,” a doting waif of a man whom Hedwig treats with disdain. Though Yitzhak also craves the spotlight, Hedwig does all she can to prevent her husband from showing off his talents.

Joining the pair on stagehedwig-rebecca-naomi-jones-3794 is Hedwig’s fictional band, The Angry Inch, comprised of musicians JUSTIN CRAIG (guitars, keyboards), MATT DUNCAN (bass, guitars, keyboards), TIM MISLOCK (guitar) and PETER YANOWITZ (drums), the same quartet who played the Broadway run and who are really not a fictional band at all.

In between banter, Hedwig and the Angry Inch roll through an array of great songs, many of them a nod to glam rock, grunge and metal rock. There are also ballads like, “Wicked Little Town” and “Wig In A Box” that are also standouts.

But the real stand out here is Darren Criss. His performance as Hedwig electrifies as it breaks your heart. Criss is charming and likeable, seemingly inhabited by Hedwig’s persona in this 90 minute physically demanding role.82321-11 He speaks to all those with a dream not fully realized, making L.A. a perfect venue for this story. Criss’ job is not made any easier by the array of over-sized wigs and platform heels his character prances around in, but the physically fit actor makes it seem flawless.

Lena Halls surprises as “Yitzhak” once her powerful singing abilities are finally revealed, and in a clever twist, Hall becomes Hedwig by the end of the show, allowing Criss to reveal his muscular body and the fact that he is not a “slip of a girly boy” at all.

The set by JULIAN CROUCH is compact. A car crash scene with moving parts that seems a good fit for this car crash of a story.

MICHAEL MAYER’S direction keeps the show moving at a pace while some ingenious screen projections from BENJAMIN PEARCY during the beautiful ballad, “The Origin of Love,” make us feel as if we are watching Hedwig in an animated fish bowl, his thoughts coming to life in front of our eyes.18386_show_landscape_large_02

Tickets for HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH are on sale now and are available for purchase at www.HollywoodPantages.com or www.Ticketmaster.com, by phone at 800-982-2787, and at the Hollywood Pantages Box Office (6233 Hollywood Boulevard). Groups of 10 or more may purchase tickets by visiting www.PantagesGroups.com or by calling 866-755-3075.

Darren Criss will NOT appear as “Hedwig” in the following performances: Sunday, November 6th at 6:30pm; Sunday, November 13th at 6:30pm; Sunday, November 20th at 6:30pm & Friday, November 25th at 8:00pm.

 

 

 

 

“It’s Time” Is A Poignant Celebration Of Love And Life

Review by: Peter Foldy

The Beatles said it best. “All You Need is Love.” Paul Linke reaffirms that notion in his heartfelt, nostalgic solo performance currently running at the Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica. Linke’s current piece, IT’S TIME, bookends his Ace Award Nominated HBO Showcase entitled “Time Flies When You’re Alive.”

This time Linke shares a remarkable journey that saw him love deeply and then grieve desperately before finding a new love again, I_T_Paul_Linke2a love that has sustained him and his family for over twenty five years.

Best recognized for his role as “Artie Grossman” on the NBC-TV series CHiPs as well as for his co-starring roles in “Parenthood” and “K-PAX,” Linke’s story starts out in the 1960s. He introduces us to his younger self, a horny pot smoking college kid who has no clue where his journey is headed. Nor does he care. His main focus are girls and seeing the Doors at the Whisky Au Go Go. By chance he finds himself in a college acting workshop where at his audition he proceeds to embarrass himself with an impromptu improvised sex act on a plant. Not a great start, but, hey, it’s the 60s.  Fortunately, the people running the workshop see something in this free spirited wild child–a potential of talent–which gets him into class and ultimately sparks his interest in pursuing a life as an actor.

Having finally discovered his calling, Linke also manages to fall in love. It’s a deep, committedI_T_Paul Linke4 love that brings him much happiness and produces three beautiful children. But as most of us know, life sometimes has other plans. Linke’s wife is diagnosed with breast cancer and before long he finds himself a single dad with not a clue as to how to move forward.

Linke shares his deep debilitating grief while humorously revealing his attempts at dating and parenting. It’s a time of  pain and desperation but somehow Linke carries on.

Eventually, through an unexpected introduction, he meets a beautiful actress called Christine and he is instantly smitten. His nerves however get the better of him and he makes an obnoxious first impression. The opportunity almost implodes but the actress gives him another chance and gradually a deep, caring relationship is formed and a broken family slowly becomes whole again.

Expertly directed by I_T_Paul Linke8EDWARD EDWARDS, Linke’s story is brought to life through a series of projected photographs that ably connects the audience to Linke’s loved ones.

This is a beautiful journey. One that is honestly and openly shared. It is hard not to shed a tear, nor to feel empathy during Linke’s 70 minute performance. He celebrates the magnitude of life, the power of love and applauds the contributions of those around him who helped turn his life around. And isn’t that something we can all relate to? Seeing “It’s Time,” may compel you say thank you, or I love you to those who matter the most in your life.

When: IT’S TIME runs at 8pm on Fridays, 5pm Saturdays, and 2pm on Sundays through December 4, 2016 (no performances November 25 – 27).

Where: Ruskin Group Theatre is located at 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405.

How Much: 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 Ample free parking available.

 

 

Skulduggery – Never Trust A Ghost

Play Review by:Peter Foldy

MICHAEL SHAW FISHER’S musical prequel to Hamlet, SKULLDUGGERY, currently playing at the Sacred Fools Theater in Hollywood, is an emancipation of one of history’s most epic stories. Fisher takes Shakespeare’s greatest play and extracts the core, bringing the characters to life in a most vibrant and colorful way. In particular, Fisher shines a light on Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle and the villain of the original story, showing us his human perspective.

Skullduggery takes placeskullduggery-the-musical-prequel-to-hamlet_29404314503_o years before the birth of young Hamlet. Claudius is a meek and poetic teenager when he and his brother, the imposing Hamlet Senior, meet Gertrude for the first time. Emotions run high among the three youngsters and an attraction between Claudius and Gertrude is apparent. With the kingdom is on the brink of war swift choices must be made. Claudius’ sickly demeanor makes him more of a battlefield liability than a viability and he is soon left behind while Hamlet and their father, known only as “The King,” leave for war. Seven years later Hamlet Senior returns to Elsinore and takes Gertrude as his bride, leaving his brother nursing a broken heart.

Time passes. Chaos ensues and the country is forced to reconcile with the new, warmongering king.

While this may sound dark and gloomy, Skullduggery is also a light-hearted musical romp with songs such as “Never Trust A Ghost,” “Girl Talk” skullduggery-the-musical-prequel-to-hamlet_29737035550_oand “Snake In The Garden.” The play attempts to reveal answers missing from the original Hamlet. What really happened to Yorkick? What fate befell Ophelia and Laertes’ mother. The skeletons in Shakespeare’s masterpiece all come come out to play and ultimately, Claudius is faced with his most difficult decision. To kill or not to kill?

JOHN BOBEK as Claudius convincingly transforms from a poetic teen, filled with puppy love, to a murderous villain and the nemesis of Shakespeare’s classic play. DAVID HAVERTY creates an ominous force as Hamlet Senior, while LEIGH WULFF’S brilliant and melodic Gertrude brings them together and helps to reveal the humanity in the villain.

JOE FRIA (substituting last week for Brendan Hunt) as Yorick is a stunt-laden spectacle while CURT BONNEM as Polonius and REBECCAskullduggery-the-musical-prequel-to-hamlet_29404310583_o LARSEN as Berta, bring a lighthearted, comedic essence to the production.

The Scenic Design by DEANNE MILLAIS and the costumes by LINDA MUGGERIDGE bring character and a sense of reality to the incredible story.

Fisher’s intelligent play, (he wrote the script and the music), SCOTT LEGGETT’S sure handed direction, NATASHA NORMAN’S fluid choreography and MICHAEL TEOLI’S impressive musical direction, (leading a tight 10 piece band), make Skulduggery a not to be missed theatrical event. It’s a Broadway worthy production right here in our own backyard.

WHERE: Sacred Fools Theater, 1076 Lillian Way, Los Angeles, CA 90038

WHEN: Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sunday Matinees at 3pm. Ending November 5.

COST: $25 online at http://www.sacredfools.org or by calling 310 281 8337