Road Rage Destroys a Family in “Redline”

Review by: Peter Foldy

Can a son forgive a father who has altered the lives of his entire family after brief meltdown? That is the question being asked in REDLINE, the new play by Christian Durso currently playing along side Sinner’s Laundry at the Lounge Theatre in Hollywood.

Raymond, (James Eckhouse) is pretty much your every man. He loves rock and roll and muscle cars. He’s crazy about his kids, especially his teenage son. Though his wife frequently nags and humiliates him in front of his children, Raymond puts up with her–until one day he can’t.

On a road trip with his family along a frigid eastern Sierra highway, Raymond snaps, losing all self control. It only takes five quick seconds, but it’s enough to cause a major and potentially deadly traffic accident. By some miracle Raymond and his family are spared, but the relationship with his wife and kids suffers irreversible damage.

When we meet him some 20 years later and it is obvious that Raymond is haunted and broken by those event from long ago. He has left the city and lives alone in a isolated cabin overlooking the very highway where the accident took place. He regrets his his road rage, and there is little joy in his life–but on this night there may be hope. Raymond finds a message on his answering machine from his son. Jamie, (Graham Sibley) says he is coming to see him, and Raymond feels he will finally get a chance to make amends. Patch things up with his boy who is now in his early 30s and on probation after a stint in jail. What Raymond doesn’t know is that Jamie is contemplating revenge–and  may even have murder on his mind.

The unsettling story initially unfolds as two separate monologues. First Raymond’s and then Jamie’s. Both actors break the fourth wall as they share their points of view. One might think that a plot conveyed in this manner could grow tedious, but in Redline it is anything but.

Mr. Durso’s writing is spot on and with smart direction from Eli Gonda and deeply committed, passionate performances from James Eckhouse and Graham Sibley, Redline evolves into a compelling, edge of your seat thriller. This is a taunt, visceral theatrical experience and by the time father and son reunite for the final showdown, you can cut the tension on stage with a knife.

Kudos to Rachel Myers for her set design, Josh Epstein for his creative lighting and Peter Bayne for original music and sound. They help make Redline a winner.

Where: Lounge Theatre
6201 Santa Monica Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90038
(just east of Vine)

When: Saturdays and Sundays through November 19.

Tickets: $30

Go to www.IamaTheatre.com to find the repertory schedule.

 

 

 

 

Erotic and Visual, “Freddy” Examines the Life of an Avant-Garde Renaissance Man

Review by: Peter Foldy

A brilliant and charismatic dancer, Fred Herko was a central figure in New York’s downtown avant-garde in the early 1960s. He was a member of Andy Warhol’s eclectic group of creatives who hung out at Warhol’s studio, known as the Factory. He went on to star in seven of Warhol’s earliest cinematic experiments in 1963, including Jill and Freddy Dancing, Rollerskate/Dance Movie and Salome and Delilah.

A musical prodigy, Freddy studied piano at the Julliard School of Music before switching to ballet at the age of twenty. In 1956 he won a scholarship to study at American Ballet Theatre School and within a few years he was dancing with New York’s most prestigious and established choreographers. He was a founding member of the Judson Dance Theater, presenting six of his own works in the group’s concerts between 1962 and 1964. He was also a co-founder of the New York Poets Theatre, which staged one-act plays by poets and provided a podium for dancers, musicians and filmmakers such as Brian De Palma and Andy Warhol.

As his career and reputation flourished, his personal life was falling apart. Freddy started using drugs, speed in particular, to fuel his creativity.

By 1964 he was strung out and homeless. On October 27th he went to an ex boyfriend’s apartment and proceeded to take a bath. Some accounts say he invited a group of people to watch a performance. According to those who were there, Mozart’s Coronation Mass was playing as Freddy emerged from the bathroom stark naked and began dancing around the loft. As the music climaxed, Freddy leapt through an open window, falling five flights to the street below. His untimely death at the age of 28 robbed New York’s underground scene of one of its most exuberant, colorful and versatile performers and rising stars.

The play, FREDDY, presented by the Fountain Theatre and the Los Angeles City College, was written by Deborah Lawlor, based on her true story as a confidant and one time lover of the volatile dancer. In the play, Ms. Lawlor, here called “Shelley,” and portrayed by two actresses, Kate McConaughy as the “Past Shelley” and Susan Wilder as the present day version, recollects how back in the 60s, she was  a naïve young woman who, like many others, fell under Freddy’s spell.

Freddy grabs you with a burst of energy and color that is reminiscent of the rock musical, “Hair.” Beautiful young dancers fill the stage, recreating the sensual, drug-fueled energy of Andy Warhol’s Factory. We soon meet Freddy (Marty Dew) and he is instantly the center of attention. Everybody wants to know him. Everybody wants to sleep with him.

Directed by Frances Loy, with movement/dance direction by Cate Caplin, the play moves through the various chapters of Freddy’s life, cleverly blending theater, dance, music and multimedia to tell this story. We follow Freddy through his triumphs, his personal failures, and finally his sad demise.

Marty Dew’s “Freddy” evokes charm and sympathy as he gives us a glimpse into this iconic character. A strong dancer and a powerful presence on stage, Dew pulls you in and make you care–but it is Susan Wilder as the “Present Day Shelley” who brings the most depth to her role. A seasoned pro, her past dance experience allows her to keep up with a young ensemble.

Katie McConaughy as “Past Shelly,” Mel England as “Jimmy Waring,” Lamont Oakley as “Pete” and Jamal Hopes as “Johnny” are also to be commended. Other cast members; Alexandra Fiallos, Jamal Hopes, Tristen Kim, Jackie Mohr, Connor Clark Pascale, Justice Quinn, Savannah Rutledge, Brianna Saranchock, Trenton Tabak and Jesse Trout are all outstanding and they give it their all.

Scenic Design by Tesshi Nakagawa is effective, as is Derek Jones’ lighting and Jillian Ross’ lighting design. Particularly impressive is a silhouette projection that shows Freddie’s pre-teen years  as he interacts with his controlling parents.

Freddy is a first-rate, joyous celebration of an accomplished, though short-lived life. It’s no accident that on the drive home I found myself singing the Elton John song, “Candle In The Wind,” particularly it’s final line;  “your candle burned out long ago, but your legend never did.”

Something makes me think that Freddy and Elton probably would’ve gotten along.

When: Performances of Freddy take place through Oct. 14.

Where: The Caminito Theatre, located on the campus of Los Angeles City College at 855 N Vermont Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90029. Parking is FREE in Structure 4 on Heliotrope at Monroe (between Santa Monica and Melrose).

For more information, call (323) 663-1525 or go to www.FountainTheatre.com.

Photos by: Ed Krieger

Br’er Cotton is a Timely And Moving Production

Review by: Peter Foldy

Written over two years ago, it is uncanny when one of the characters in BR’ER COTTON, the new play making it’s Los Angeles premiere at the Zephyr Theatre in Hollywood, talks about police brutality in Charlottesville, Virginia. It’s as if playwright, Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm and the Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble had a crystal ball and were able to see what was to come. But then Charlottesville is just one of many hot spots where racial tensions come to a boiling point.

Directed by Gregg T. Daniel, Br’er Cotton examines one African American family’s frustration as they try to cope with the rising tide of hatred that has enveloped the country. Set in a run down neighborhood in Lynchburg, Virginia, an area that was once the site of a thriving cotton mill, the story focuses on 14-year-old Ruffrino (Omete Anassi) who lives with his mother and grandfather in an old deteriorated house that seems to be sinking, much like their situation.

Mom, Nadine (Yvonne Huff Lee), cleans houses to support her family, and has done so for most of her life. Her other full time occupation is worrying about her young son. Ruffrino’s granddad, Matthew, (Christopher Carrington), tells the boy that they are a “stay out of it family.” They don’t get involved in conflict. It’s pretty clear that Matthew has given up the fight.

Ruffrino, meanwhile, is well aware of the ever increasing number of police killings of young black men and he is in constant conflict with his mother and grandfather because of their complacency. Though only 14, he views himself as a revolutionary. He incites riots at school and his on-line presence, as part of a violent video game group, brings out the haters who frequently call him the “N” word. It is only another gamer, a young girl who’s handle is Caged_Bird99 (Emmaline Jacott) who supports and encourages him.  Imagining Caged_Bird99 to be African American, Ruffrino is in for a surprise when he discovers her true profile.

His mom, Nadine, also gets a surprise when she discovers that the house she cleans is owned by a white cop. In an unexpected twist, the Officer, (Shawn Law) relates to the hardships Nadine has to endure and she welcomes his concern. Nadine clearly has no other shoulder to lean on.

Br’er Cotton is wrapped in a cloud of tension that never lets up. Mr. Chisholm is an accomplished writer and Omete Anassi, as Ruffrino, manages to infuse the play with a youthful energy that fuels the explosive debates, and the not-so-unexpected conclusion. The rest of the top-notch cast, particularly Yvonne Huff Lee, Christopher Carrington and Shawn Law, all deliver strong and committed performances.

Kudos to Gregg T. Daniel’s fine directing, David Mauer’s superb scenic design, Westley Charles Chew’s lighting, and David B. Marling’s sound design.

Br’er Cotton, at it’s core, is a human story filled with humility and love. It delivers a heart-wrenching, intimate glance into one black family’s struggle to navigate racial tragedy in these troubled times. Don’t miss it!

When: Br’er Cotton runs Saturdays and Mondays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm through October 29, 2017 (no performance on Monday Oct 9th).

Where: Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90046.

Tickets: $15 – $45. Reservation and information at www.lower-depth.com/on-stage and 323-960-7787.

Wheelchair access and ample street parking.

Photos: Ed Krieger

 

“Daytona” is a Touching Drama With Heart

Review by Peter Foldy

The devil is in the details of Daytona, a play making its American premiere at the Rogue Machine Theatre in Hollywood. Written by Oliver Cotton, produced by John Perrin Flynn and beautifully directed by Elina de Santos, the story is set in 1986 where we meet a couple of aging holocaust survivors, Elli (Sharron Shayne) and her husband, Joe (George Wyner). Married right after the war and still trying to leave the past behind, Joe and Elli are trying to enjoy their twilight years. Joe is at the tail end of a career as an accountant. Elli loves ballroom dancing, and the two of them are currently excited about a competition the following evening.

When Ellie leaves to visit her sister, Joe is stunned to find a man ringing the doorbell of his Brooklyn apartment. It is his brother, Billy (Richard Fancy), someone Joe hasn’t seen in over thirty years. Billy had disappeared without a word, taking some of Joe’s money with him. It’s an awkward reunion and after the shock wears off, Joe demands answers.

Without giving too much away, we learn that Billy and Joe were in a concentration camp together. Since leaving New York, Billy changed his name, married a Christian woman and has been living an ordinary, unfulfilled life in the mid-west. It is when Joe learns that his brother committed a violent act of revenge in Florida, and is now on the run from the law, that the story really begins to pick up steam.

When Elli returns she is equally shocked to see her missing brother-in-law and soon it becomes clear that there is a complex family drama in play. A twisted dynamic that goes back as far as 1945. As the tension and the urgency amp up we realize that there may be no happy ending here, which is sad as these survivors certainly deserve peace of mind.

Despite some fluctuation with her German accent, Sharron Shayne is powerful as the heart-broken Elli. She wears her pain on her sleeve as she confronts what could have been. George Wyner is believable as a man resigned to play the cards that life has dealt him, his inner rage swept under the carpet long ago.

Richard Fancy’s slow delivery seems odd at first but as his story plays out, he manages to make you care. All three performers are seasoned pros and have put their hearts into this play.

Production values, like most shows by Rogue Machine, are high. Hillary Bauman’s set design, Leigh Roston’s lighting and Kate Bergh’s costume all complement the play.

Despite it’s running time of two and half hours, (including a ten minute intermission), Daytona manages to get under your skin. It deals with the loss of love, the will to survive and the difficulty of letting go, it’s tragic, fragile characters are not ones you are likely to forget.

When: Saturdays and Mondays at 8:30pm, and Sundays at 3:00pm through October 30, 2017 (no performances on Monday Sept. 25th & Oct. 2nd).

Where: Rogue Machine in The Met, 1089 N Oxford Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90029.

Tickets: $40.00 Purchase at the box office starting at 7:30pm the night of the show. (Availability is limited).

Reservations: 855-585-5185 or at www.roguemachinetheatre.com  

Photos by: John Perrin Flynn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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