Don’t Spoil The Big Surprise in “Small Engine Repair”

Review by Peter Foldy

First produced in L.A. in 2011, and off Broadway in 2013, SMALL ENGINE REPAIR is a taunt, character-driven drama that uses humor to draw you in before taking us to the dark side.

Written by John Pollono, who starred in both previous incarnations, the story introduces us to three former high school friends from New Hampshire who are slowly drifing into a life of mediocrity. Despite a rift that keeps widening, Frank, (Nick Reinhardt) Packie (Brandon Irons) and Swaino (Johnny Rivas)  share a lifelong brotherhood that Frank hopes will help him carry out his soon to be revealed scheme. Calling a summit at his out of the way garage, he suggests to gullable, kind hearted Packie that he may have received a cancer diagnoses while promising sex obsessed Swaino a night of booze and strippers. A single dad since the age of 17, Frank knows exactly what motivates his pals.

Johnny Rivas, Brandon Irons and Nick Reinhardt in “Small Engine Repair”

Pot and alcohol quickly fuels the impromptu reunion and the nature of their relationships are cleverly revealed through sharp, snappy banter that only best buds can pull off with ease. Much of the dialogue is sprinkled with insults and dick jokes, and many are frickin’ hillarious. Social media, and our current obsession with it, is also cleverly woven into the fabric of the story and that thread ultimately pays off in the jaw dropping reveal that is to come.

Brandon Irons, Johnny Rivas

When Frank finally informs Swaino and Packie that he has invited a 19 year old part time drug dealer to drop by with some Ecstasy, the guys know for sure that Frank has an agenda.

When Chad arrives it is clear that he is not cut from the same cloth as the other three. A spoiled, good looking frat boy, Chad wastes no time in letting them know that he’s got it all going on. Sex, drugs, a basketball scholarship and a daddy who is available to get him out of any jam if need be. Chad oozes white privilege and it wasn’t hard to feel an Eric Trump or a Jared Kushner vibe as he shared his background and point of view.

Declan Laird, Johnny Rivas and Nick Reinhardt

We soon discover the real reason Chad has joined the party. It’s not for the Ecstasy that he is peddling but infact something far more damaging and personal to Frank. Lets just say the kid is in deep shit and his presence and loose lips rapidly helps shift the dynamic.

It takes strong chemistry to make us believe the close bond that is at the heart of this story. All four actors have it in spades. Rivas and Irons get their moment to shine, and shine they do, particularly Irons who gets the biggest laughs of the night, but it is Nick Reinhardt who grounds the performance. He has the depth and conviction to make us believe that Frank is capable of pulling off what he has planned.

Declan Laird, Nick Reinhardt, Johnny Rivas

We only meet Declan Laird as Chad half way through the play. He saunters in with an upper class swagger that soon turns to panic. In a solid performance, Laird pulls the transition off effortlessly. Like the other three, he is an actor to keep an eye on.

Jo Galloway’s direction is fluid. She has her cast using every inch of the small but impressive set as she cleverly raises the tension. Clocking in at just over 70 minutes the show is a roller-coaster ride. The ending may have the squeamish closing their eyes, but the rest of us will surely be talking about it long after we’ve left the theater. Which ever camp you fall into, I can promise that you will not be bored. This production of “Small Engine Repair” is clearly a winner.

Brandon Irons, Nick Reinhardt, Johnny Rivas.

When: Running Fridays and Saturdays from February 8, 2019 through March 2, 2019 at 8:00pm

Where: The Broadwater Second Stage, 1078 Lillian Way | Los Angeles CA 90038 (enter from Santa Monica Blvd)

How Much: $25

For tickets and more info log onto: https://www.showorksentertainment.com/smallenginerepair

Photos by: Sean McGee

 

 

 

“Hello, Dolly” is a Pure Delight

Review by: Peter Foldy

The musical, “Hello, Dolly” has been around since 1964 when the late, great Carol Channing first introduced us to the loveable marriage broker, Dolly Levy. Fifty four years later, Dolly is back on the Broadway stage where she was recently brought to life by Tony award winning songstress, Bette Midler and later replaced with a much acclaimed Bernadette Peters in the title role.

Betty Buckley as Dolly Levi (Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes)

Truth be told, it was with a tiny bit of trepidation that I went to see this national tour. Like so many people, I was familiar with the classic title song, but not really having loved the movie with Barbara Stresand, I didn’t quite know what to expect from a show that some might consider an old theatrical chestnut.

I’m here to say that all my fears were totally unfounded. “Hello, Dolly” is a charming, feel good musical romp with an air of innocence that washes over you like a warm summer breeze.

Betty Buckley, Lewis J. Stadlen in Hello, Dolly Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Broadway veteran, Betty Buckley is irresistable in the title role. She delivers a  kind, matronly Dolly, a woman that might remind you of a favorite aunt. With impressive vocal and dance skills, Miss Buckley also brings humor and emotion to the role. Her performance certainly touched the opening night audience at the Pantages and had them on their feet more than once during the two hour and twenty minute show.

“Hello, Dolly” tells the story of a marriage broker, Dolly Gallagher Levi, who is on the hunt to find a match for the cranky Hoboken “half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder.

The Cast of Hello Dolly. Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Vandergelder is hoping to pop the question to milliner Irene Molloy (Analisa Leaming) back in New York. Once he leaves, Vandergelder’s slightly dim witted store clerks, Cornelius Hackl (Nic Rouleau) and Barnaby Tucker (Jess LeProtto), also decide to sneak off to Manhattan for a bit of adventure, and hopefully to kiss some girls. As expected, Dolly’s penchant for meddling soon pairs everyone up. They all find love, including Dolly herself with Vandergelder whom she is sure to tame. Lewis J. Stadlen plays the old curmudgeon and Stadlen almost steals the show with his fluid, vaudvillian delivery and imressive comedic timing. He and Buckley are a fine pair indeed.

With a book by Michael Stewart, (based on the Thornton Wilder play “The Matchmaker”) and music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, “Hello, Dolly” is joy to behold. Director, Jerry Zaks and choreographer Warren Carlyle have rounded up a rock solid cast that moves like a well oiled machine.

Charming cornball humor and impressive production numbers such as “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” and “Before The Parade Passes By” hustle the show toward the moment we were all waiting for. To hear that iconic song. When it finally came and Dolly sashayed down the staircase of the Harmonia Gardens with the cast crooning, “Hello, Dolly, most of the audience could not wipe the smiles off their faces. It was theater magic. There’s no arguing, fellas. She’s back and looking swell. If you love Broadway musicals, this Dolly should not be missed.

Where: Hollywood Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles

When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays; ends Feb. 17

Tickets: $35 and up

Running time: 2 hours, 40 minutes

 

Come From Away: Review

By Peter Foldy:

If you believe that people are basically decent in nature, COME FROM AWAY, the sensational Tony Award Winning musical, which opened at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, is solid proof. The story takes place in a little know place called Gander, Newfoundland. It’s in Canada and is the site of Gander International Airport, once an important refueling stop for transatlantic aircraft, and still a preferred emergency landing point for aircraft facing on-board medical or security issues.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, the townsfolk of Gander learn of the terrorist attacks taking place in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The attacks result in US airspace being closed, forcing 38 international aircrafts to land unexpectedly at the Gander Airport. The population of the small Newfoundland town goes from 9000 to 16,000 over night.

The Gander townspeople spring to action and prepare to house, feed, clothe and comfort the nearly 7,000 passengers (along with 19 animals in cargo).

The Company of the First North American Tour of “Come From Away.”

Once allowed off the planes and transferred to various emergency shelters in and around Gander, the passengers and crew learn the true reason why they were grounded. Frightened, they try desperately try to contact their families and pray for their loved ones, while the townsfolk work through the night to help them in any and every way possible. The travelers are initially taken aback by their hosts’ uncommon hospitality, but they slowly let their guards down and begin to bond with the quirky townspeople, as well as each other. Friendships and romances develop and the bonds that are made seem solid and long lasting.

The book, music and lyrics of this simple but brilliant production are by Irene Sankoff and David Hein. The composers incorporate Newfoundland’s Irish, English and Cornish musical traditions into a driving, foot-tapping score that grows on you and manages to penetrate your soul.

Stand out numbers include “Welcome to the Rock,” performed by the entire cast, Nick Duckart’s “Prayer,” and Danielle K. Thomas performing “I Am Here,” singing about the helplessness she feels as she wonders about the fate of her firefighter son in Manhattan.

The cast also includes; Cast: Kevin Carolan, Harter Clingman, Chamblee Ferguson, Becky Gulsvig, Julie Johnson, Christine Toy Johnson, James Earl Jones II, Megan Mcginnis, Andrew Samonsky, Emily Walton, Marika Aubrey, Jane Bunting, Michael Brian Dunn, Julie Garnyé, Adam Halpin and Aaron Michael Ray.

A simple but effective set design by Beowulf Boritt perfectly compliments this production. Less is more here, but what you feel is something you may always remember.

“Come From Away” is uplifting and energized. It’s a testament to the fact that people are inherently good and may imprint on you the need to trust and be kind to your neighbor.

The show continues through January 6, 2019, at Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre.

Tickets for “Come From Away” are available by calling (213) 972-4400, online at
www.CenterTheatreGroup.org, or by visiting the Center Theatre Group Box Office located at the Ahmanson Theatre. Tickets range from $30 – $135 (ticket prices are subject tochange).

The Ahmanson Theatre is located at The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in
Downtown Los Angeles, 90012.

Monica Piper Delivers The Goods in “Not That Jewish”

Review by: Peter Foldy

You don’t have to be Jewish to relate to Monica Piper’s hilarious, autobiographical one woman show, NOT THAT JEWISH, now playing at the Braid Performance Art Space in Santa Monica.

A respected stand-up comic and Emmy Award winning writer, Ms. Piper takes us on a poignant  journey that introduces us to colorful characters who could have stepped out of a Neil Simon play. There are cousins and uncles, neighbors and grandparent, not to mention Mickey Mantle, but more about him later.

Raised by loving parents in the Bronx, Monica’s father was a performer who gave up his career to support his family.

Though of the Jewish faith, Monica’s immediate clan are “not that Jewish.” They go to temple on high holidays and follow many of the traditions, but are not particularly religious. What they do have is the motivation to do the right thing. To be kind. To accept others. When as a child, she asks her mother if the family has a Jewish heart, mom replies, “yes, darling, we’re Democrats.”

As young Monica begins to develop her wicked sense of humor, her father, perhaps wanting to live vicariously, encourages his daughter to hone her comedy skills.

After a short lived career as a high school teacher, Monica takes her fathers advice and begins doing stand up at the Comedy Store in L.A. A long stint on the road solidifies her act and lands her a Showtime special, garnering a nomination for an American Comedy Award. Piper ends up being one of Showtime Network’s “Comedy All Stars,” and one of the top five female comedians in the country. This show is not about Piper’s accomplishments. It’s about winning and losing, and most of all it’s about laughing through it all.

Monica’s saga is both touching and heartbreaking. Getting back to that Mickey Mantle story, it concerns her childhood obsession with the great baseball star. She has his pictures on her wall and he is an inspiration to her, to the point that she marries not one but two tall light haired, blue-eyed non Jewish men. When  she finally encounters “the Mick” in person, years later in a New York bar, their interaction is both creepy and awkward–but like all of her anecdotes, it’s hilarious.

Never meet your heros, they say.

Ms. Piper’s comedy skills, both verbal and physical, are finely tuned and the laughs keep coming–even if some of them are through your tears.

Clocking in at a fast paced 85 minutes, Not That Jewish is an inspiring, finely crafted comedy performance that should not be missed.

Where:
THE BRAID
Performance & Arts Space
2912 Colorado Ave., #102
Santa Monica, CA  90404

When: 8pm Thursdays and Saturdays
2pm and 7:30pm all Sundays
Added performance at 8pm on Wednesday, December 12

Closes: December 16, 2018

How:
Reservations: at www.jewishwomenstheatre.org or (310) 315-1400

How much: $35 – $45

 

 

 

“Oppenheimer” Is Rogue Machine Solid

Review by Peter Foldy

OPPENHEIMER by Tom Morton-Smith is a sweeping and complex play that examines the moral issues and personalities surrounding the invention of the nuclear weapon that was used to devastate Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of WWII.

Boasting a cast of 24, the production stars James Liebman as the multi-faceted J. Robert Oppenheimer, a man who is best remembered as the father of the atomic bomb.

When we first meet him, Oppenheimer and his youthful cohorts share a common hatred for fascism and lean toward communism as an acceptable political stance.

With the war raging and the German’s making strides in developing a powerful bomb, Oppenheimer is recruited by the military to lead the work on the Manhattan Project. Before long he distances himself from his communist past and dives into the task at hand. He struggles with the rigors of army life, is challanged by an alcoholic wife and tries to be supportive to his mentally unstable mistress. Causing further problems are Oppenheimer’s brother and sister-in-law who refuse to step back from their communist leanings.

Michael Redfield, Dan Via, Rachel Avery, James Liebman, Jennifer Pollono, and Mark Jacobson

The competative political climate at Los Alamos ultimately finds Oppenheimer under the U.S. Army’s, and perhaps the FBI’s, microscope–but the military need him as much as they are confounded by him. Oppenheimer and his young scientists, who come to be known as “Oppie’s boys” eventually manage to split the atom. They send the bombs, “Fat Man” and “Little Boy” to be dropped on Japan, and while they win the war for America, Oppenheimer and his team change the dynamics for the survival of mankind.

Realizing the full impact of his accomplishments, Oppenheimer feels like “he has dropped a loaded gun in a playground.” He understands that the bomb he has created could wipe humanity off the face of the earth.

Its a heavy burden to carry.

Mark Jacobson, Kenney Selvey, James Liebman, Brewster Parsons, and Zachary Grant

Liebman cleverly balances Oppenheimer’s social unease, his brilliant mind and his sexual appetite. He is supported by a talented, hard-working cast who all deliver impressive performances. There are no slouches on stage. Every actor has a moment to shine. Particularly impressive are Zachary Grant as Robert Wilson, Ron Bottitta as General Grove, Ryan Brophy as Oppenheimer’s brother, Frank, Miranda Wynne as Jackie Oppenheimer, Landon Tavernier as Peer de Silva and Kenney Selvey as Giovanni Rossi Lomanitz.

Special mention also needs to go to 14 year old Sophie Pollono, who in a brief but memorable turn delivers some powerful dialogue with the ease of a seasoned professional.

Ron Bottitta, Landon Tavernier, Brendan Farrell

John Perrin Flynn’s fluid direction keeps the lengthy piece moving at a good clip. I especially welcomed the staging of a wild, ritualistic dance number in the second act, based on the Nobel Prize winning theoretical physicist Richard Feynman’s bongo playing. It’s a climactic, tension busting moment that celebrates the success of the Manhattan Project, allowing the cast to cut loose while also giving the audience a moment of much needed levity.

Other cast members include Jason Chiumento, Mark Jacobson, Kirsten Kollander, Brewster Parsons, Scott Victor Nelson, Jen Pollono, Rachel Avery, Michael Redfield, Dan Via, Brendon Farrel, Brady Richards, Daniel Shawn Miller, Rick Garrison and Marwa Bernstein.

Scenic design by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz, sound by Christopher Moscatiello and lighting design by Matt Richter and Tom Brown are all solid, as are the 1940s costumes by Dianne K. Graebner. It’s clear that a lot of thought and hard work went into making Rogue Machine’s first production in their new space at the Electric Lodge in Venice a memorable one.

Oppenheimer is absorbing and powerful. It should not be misssed.

Oppenheimer runs at 8pm on Saturdays and Mondays, 3pm Sundays through December 30, 2018 (no performances on 11/12, 11/17, 11/26, 12/1, 12/2, 12/8, 12/9, 12/10, 12/24).

It runs in rep with Finks by Joe Gilford, son of parents who were blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Both plays look at America in the 30s, 40s and 50s. The characters are dreamers who became activists. These plays are not about politics but about the universal ideal that we could be better than we are.

Rogue Machine is located in the Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Avenue in Venice, CA 90291.

Tickets are $40.

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

 

Antaeus’ “Little Foxes” Are Irresistibly Cunning

Review by Lucy Houlihan

The Little Foxes at Antaeus Theatre is stunning in both its appearance and its execution, and powerfully kicks off the Glendale Theatre’s new season. From the set, to the acting, to the costumes, this production gives an updated and captivating take on Lillian Hellman’s Post-reconstructionist Southern drama.

Rob Nagle, Deborah Puette, Timothy Adam Venable, Mike McShane, Calvin Picou, Jocelyn Towne

The extraordinary set (designed by John Iacovelli) is covered in perfectly ostentatious details: from sculptures of lounging women to black marble columns. However, the thing that draws the eye most intensely is the bright blue, velvet cameo back sofa. It is this extravagance, this garishness that drives the story of the Hubbards in Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes.

The sofa acts as a center for the action and the emotion of the room, Cameron Watson’s direction ensures the characters circle the grandiosity while scheming with and against each other. While the Hubbard siblings each grasp for the wealth they believe they deserve, they use the sofa to stoke their fires, a gorgeous reminder of a “by-any-means-necessary” itinerary.

Jocelyn Towne and Deborah Puette

Deborah Puette plays the brilliant and severe Regina Hubbard Giddens, who uses the sofa to trap her family where she wants them, a spider in a web full of seats. Her husband (John DeMita) and her brothers (Mike McShane and Rob Nagle) are at her whims, try as they might to stay ahead.

Jocelyn Towne’s remarkable performance as Regina’s sister-in-law and foil, Birdie,  is honest and captivating in its frenzied victimhood. Judy Louise Johnson shines in her kindness and poise as Regina’s black maid, whose presence in the script both solidifies the play in its 1900s setting and draws attention to the racial issues still present in America today. Kristin Couture is powerful as the the young daughter, who holds onto the hope of escaping and standing up to the locusts “who eat the earth and eat all the people on it.”

John DeMita and Judy Louise Johnson

The Little Foxes is written with the women at the forefront, and Puette, Towne, Louise Johnson, and Couture certainly stand their ground and provide a compelling, poignant view of feminism both then and now. The acting on all sides is superb, and Watson’s direction shows deep knowledge and reverence to Hellman’s characters and her story.

Anteaeus Theatre’s production is designed and performed to perfection, an enchanting two-and-a-half hours that should not be missed.

Where: Antaeus Theatre Company

Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center

110 E. Broadway

Glendale, CA 91205

When: opens Oct. 25 and runs through Dec. 10.

How much: $35

Photos by: Geoffrey Wade Photography

antaeus.org

A Poignant “Mexican Day” at the Rogue Machine

Review by: Peter Foldy

From 1902 to 1951, Bimini Baths was the premiere hot springs resort in Los Angeles. It served everyone from movie stars to maids. Admission was just 25 cents, but only if you were white. At the end of each month, before the filthy water was about to be drained,  the Bimini allowed people of color to use the facilities. They called it Mexican Day.

Playwright, Tom Jacobson has created a trilogy, (Plunge, Tar, and Mexican Day) based on true events.  Although some elements are fictionalized, three of the characters in the trilogy are real people strongly represented in the historical record. Jacobson used the actual writing of Hisaye Yamamoto, Bayard Rustin and Everett Maxell as inspiration for those characters, some of whom appear in more than just one production of  his trilogy.

Jully Lee and Donathan Walters in “Mexican Day”

Mexican Day takes place in 1948.  Civil rights activist, Bayard Rustin (Donathan Walters) has come to Los Angeles from New York to de-segregate the Bimini Baths. An openly gay man at a time when it was dangerous to be open about one’s sexuality, Rustin approaches a Japanese American newspaper reporter, Hisaye Yamamoto (Jully Lee) to help his cause. Yamamoto knows all about segregation, having spent part of World War II in an internment camp.

Zenobio (Jonathan Medina), the polite but hard-nosed Mexican gatekeeper at the Bimini, has little choice but to enforce the racist policies established by his employers. Despite their best efforts, Rustin and Yamamoto are repeatedly refused admission. They stage several sit-in protests, but the Zenobio can’t or won’t budge.

Jully Lee and Jonathan Medina

The pair soon recruit an art historian turned screenwriter, Everett Maxwell (Darrell Larson) to help them defy the ban. They don’t at first realize that Maxwell may not have been the most appropriate choice for this mission. He has been denied entry to the baths for decades due to his past misdeads which saw him spend time in prison. Both he and his soon to be revealed victim have left both men scarred for life.

At times the narrative drifts off course, especially when all four actors reappear in  other, less significant roles, the through-story of Mexican Day ultimately locks on to it’s intended message and brings us to a powerful and moving conclusion.

Donathan Walters and Darrell Larson

The actors here are all supurb. Donathan Walters leads the charge with his unstopable energy, driving the narrative. Jonathan Medina allows us to feel Zenobio’s conflict without over playing the character’s pain. Jully Lee is fresh and lively as Yamamoto, while Darrell Larson convincingly portrays a damaged soul with little hope of redemption.

Great performances, strong direction by Jeff Liu and an impressive set design by John Iacovelli make Mexican Day a play to see. It is not only poignant but also relevant to our current political and racial climate.

Where:
ROGUE MACHINE (in The Met Theatre)
1089 N Oxford Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90029
(Street parking or lot at Medical Center east of the freeway, at 5300 Santa Monica Blvd. $6)

When:
Schedule: 8pm on Fridays and Sundays, 4pm on Saturdays
(no performance on Saturday, July 14th).

Extended through: July 22, 2018

How Much: $40

For reservations call 855-585-5185 or www.roguemachinetheatre.com

Closing: July 15, 2018

Bad Jews: The Battle for the Chai

Play Review by: Peter Foldy

Three young cousins and a significant other spend the night together in a small apartment after the funeral of their beloved grandfather, a holocaust survivor they all call “Poppy” in Joshua Harmon’s BAD JEWS, currently playing at the Oddysey Theatre in West L.A.

Daphna (Jeanette Deutsch), is an observant “good Jew” who cannot wait to marry her Israeli boyfriend and move to Israel to further her Jewish education. Her cousin, Liam, (Noah James) an avowed secularist and a self-described “Bad Jew” is a graduate student who studies Japanese culture. Liam loaths Daphna. Finds her tedious, arrogant and toxic. He doesn’t buy into her rabbinical posturing and pious grandiosity. Daphna is jealous of Liam’s family money. She judges him to be a self-loathing Jew who is willing to give equal creadance to every culture, every race and religion, except his own.

Noah James, Lila Hood and Jeanette Deutsch in “Bad Jews”

Adding fuel to the volatile mashup is the fact that Liam has just returned after a ski trip with his blond, non Jewish girlfriend, the sweet but ditzy Melody (Lila Hood). Liam had dropped his phone from a chairlift, missing Poppy’s funeral, barely making it back for the Shiva, a traditional gathering of family and friends.

Before long the evening implodes into a free for all. Everyone fights like savages. Liam’s mild mannered brother, Jonah (Austin Rogers) tries to keep the peace but the insults soon escalate to physical violence.

Lila Hood, Jeanette Deutsch in “Bad Jews”

The prize they are fighting for is a Chai, a necklace that Poppy had hidden under his tongue during the Holocaust and later used as a ring of sorts to propose to his wife. Now that he is gone, both Liam and Daphna feel they deserve the heirloom. Liam wants to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and use it to propose to Melody, a woman he says he truly loves.

Daphna is of course mortified. The Chai is a beloved and valued symbol of Judaism, not to mention a cherished memory of their late grandfather. The fact that a Shiksa should wear it around her neck almost makes her physically ill.

The writing in “Bad Jews” is brilliant. It’s as poignant as it is hillarious. It’s clear to see why this play has been performed all over the world since it’s New York premier in 2012. The story works on many levels. On the one hand it’s an examination of family that resonates, regardless of your beliefs or your religion. On the other it’s a timely examination of modern Jewish beliefs and attitudes; of what it means to be a Jew in an age where young people are far more open and accepting of other cultures than in years gone by.

Lila Hood, Austin Rogers, Jeanette Deutsch and Noah James fight it out in “Bad Jews”

Performances here are exceptional. Noah James hits a slam dunk as Liam. His character is filled with rage while overflowing with love. It’s a moving moment when he states that his girlfriend, Melody, is a song. Those simple words, delivered from the heart, validates Liam’s point of view and wins us over.

Jeanette Deutsch is force to be reckoned with. She plays Daphna’s strenghts and weaknesses even-handedly, and by the show’s conclusion you feel sympathy for this strong willed young woman who is also just following her heart. Deutsch gives a memorable performance.

Lila Hood is a perfect Melody. She is the peacekeeper here, trying to stop tempers from coming to a boil. Hood makes us accept Melody’s shortcomings in the intelectual department and brings a certain kindness as well as a and a much needed balance to this explosive storyline.

Austin Rogers is the quiet one as Liam’s brother, Jonah. While he doesn’t have a lot to do, his final reveal is touching and unexpected.

Director, Dana Resnick keeps the dialogue-heavy piece moving at a clip. The play runs 95 minutes but flies by, while never losing your interest. With such a short running time I was stunned to hear so many cell phones ringing during the performance, despite the pre-show announcement asking people to silence their devices. The annoyance even managed to stop the show for a moment till the offending phone was shut off. If that’s not enough, there was also a whispered conversation going on behind me that drove me crazy.

Despite some bad audience members, “Bad Jews” is a powerful, impressive play that will stay with you long after the curtain comes down. I’m already looking forward to revisiting it again before it closes in June.

When: Performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. from through June 17.

On Sunday, April 22 only, the performance will be at 5 p.m. with no 2 p.m. matinee.

Additional weeknight performances are scheduled on Wednesday, May 9; Thursday, May 17; Wednesday, May 30; and Thursday, June 14, all at 8 p.m.

Talkbacks with the cast follow the performances on Wednesday, May 9; Friday, May 18; and Sunday, May 27.

Tickets: From $30 to $35;

There are three “Tix for $10” performances on Friday, April 27; Wednesday, May 30; and Thursday, June 14.

The third Friday of every month is wine night at the Odyssey: enjoy complimentary wine and snacks and mingle with the cast after the show.

The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, 90025. For reservations and information, call (310) 477-2055 or go to www.OdysseyTheatre.com

Photos by: Enci Box

 

 

 

A Warm and Fuzzy El Nino

Review by: Peter Foldy

Sharp writing from Justin Tanner and spot on performances from a talented cast make Rogue Machine’s new season premiere, El Niño, a must see theatrical event.

The first thing you notice as you wait for the play to begin is the incredibly detailed set from scenic designer, John Iacovelli.  Everything feels real on stage, right down to the rain that will eventually fall outside the windows.

Nick Ullett and Maile Flanagan

But what really grabs you as El Niño begins is the edgy, no holds barred dialogue from the loveably pathethic, yet sharply drawn characters who could comfortably meld into an episode of an old Rosanne Barr TV comedy.

Colleen, (Maile Flanagan) a rolly polly woman with an early Beatle haircut, has been kicked out of her home by an abusive boyfriend. We find her sleeping on her parent’s couch. Mother, June (Danielle Kennedy) and father, Harvey (Nick Ullett) clearly don’t want her around. Collen, in their eyes, is a slacker who is soon asked to pack her bags and find somewhere else to waste away. June and Harvey want their space back. Want their privacy. Colleen’s various ailments, however, don’t provide this lady with too many living choices and she convinces them to let her stay until she heals.

Enter, Colleen’s high strung sister, Andrea (Melissa Denton) and her recently acquired boyfriend, Todd (Jonathan Palmer), a veterinarian and a push over who puts up with

The cast of El Niño

more crap from Andrea then most would ever tolerate. Lonely next door neigbor, Kevin (Joe Keyes) also arrives on the scene and when  he discovers that Colleen is the author of a series of science fiction books that he is a fan of, Kevin begins hitting on her.

Collen gradually lets her guard down and the pair are soon making out on the sofa. The messed up family dynamic, however, give Colleen and Kevin a low chance of finding love–but it is mean sprited big sis, Andrea’s hard-hitting revelations that puts the final nails in the coffin. At least that’s what Mr. Tanner wants you to think.

El Niño gradually tugs away at your heartstrings as these hyper-real characters discover their compassion and their humanity. Outside the rain may fall but all ends well in El Niño, not just for our loveable screw-ups but also for the audience who are rewarded with almost none stop laughter.

Melissa Denton, Danielle Kennedy, Jonathan Palmer in El Niño

Maile Flanagan hits every note as the charismatic Colleen. She is a comedy prodigy who should have her own TV series. Danielle Kennedy reveals a powerful matriach, dishing out insult and guarded affection even handedly. Nick Ullett, Joe Keyes, Jonathan Palmer and Melissa Denton also give it their all. This is a connected cast who bounce of each other’s energy. They are a joy to watch. Kudos also go out to director, Lisa James who keeps the show fluid and energized.

El Niño is one of the early hits of 2018. Put on your raincoats and go see it. You’ll thank me later.

When: EL NIÑO runs Saturdays and Mondays at 8:30pm, Sundays at 3:00pm through April 2, 2018 (no performances on March 19th).

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

Tickets: $40.

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

Social Media Identifiers: #ElNinoPlay Twitter: @RogueMachineLA, Instagram: @RogueMachineTheatre; FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/RogueMachineTheatre

 

 

 

 

 

 

4Play Breaks Down Walls and Bounderies

Review by: Peter Foldy

4PLAY by Graham Brown examines the personal entanglements of three couples – one heterosexual, one gay and one lesbian. Told in something of a sitcom style, the show takes place among the audience who upon entering the venue find themselves in a nightclub setting with cocktail tables and a fully stocked bar.

Graham Brown and Dustyn Gulledge

Though the show opens with a jazzy piano rendition of Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things,” (well sung by Marian Frizelle), 4Play is anything but. It’s a meta-theatrical experience, a play within a play, and the actors let you know  immediately that they are breaking down the fourth wall.

4Play mixes life with art and throws in science and sports – not to mention infatuation and seduction in the process.

Graham Brown (“the director”) is getting over a breakup and figure this could be the right time to explore his bisexual side. He meets and hooks up with

Zoë Simpson Dean, Ariana Anderson and Dustyn Gulledge

Cameron J Oro, someone he doesn’t realize is in fact his best friend’s boyfriend. After a clumsy and disappointing encounter, the director decides that he may be straight after all.

Meanwhile Ariana Anderson (“the lesbian”) rents a room to Zoë Dean Simpson (“the roommate”) and the women are soon involved in a steamy tryst. Eve Danzeisen is their 3rd roommate and she, it turns out, is the director’s love interest.

The aforementioned boyfriend, (Cameron J Oro), and the director’s best friend, Dustyn Gulledge, have their own trials and tribulations. Throw in a fesity relative and a stage manager and what you get is an intimate, funny performance, with conversations that at times feel like that heart to heart, revealing chat you might have with your best friend at 4am.

Sound confusing? It’s really not. 4Play has a compelling story line and likeable characters who have both humor and depth. Mr. Brown’s dialogue flows as smoothly as a bottle of Dom Perignon and the fine cast have a chemistry that feels, spontaneous and authentic. By the time the pieces of the puzzle are put together and the conflicts come to a head at an awkward, ill fated dinner party, you almost want to swap phone numbers with these people so you can catch up in a few weeks to make sure that things have worked out for them. 4Play feels that involving. Don’t miss it!

Cameron J. Oro and Kaitlin Large

4Play was written by Graham Brown with Nathan Faudree and Lisa Roth, Directed by Graham Brown and featuring Ariana Anderson, Graham Brown, Bevin Bru, Eve Danzeisen, Zoë Simpson Dean, Marian Frizelle, Dustyn Gulledge, Lara Helena, Kaitlin Large, Zoquera Milburn, Cameron J. Oro, Christi Pedigo, Kirstin Racicot, Kelsey Risher, Robert Walters, Dan Wilson. Presented by trip.

 

 

 

 

WHEN:
Thursdays at 8 p.m.: Feb. 22, March 1, March 8, March 15
Fridays at 8 p.m.: Feb. 23, March 2, March 9, March 16
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Feb. 24, March 3, March 10, March 17

WHERE:
trip. @ The Actors Company
916 A North Formosa Ave
Los Angeles CA 90046

HOW:
(800) 838-3006 or www.tripnyc.org

TICKET PRICES:
• General Admission: $25

Photos by: Kelsey Risher