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

Tracie Lockwood Shines in “Hostage” at the Skylight Theatre

If you keep a list of rock solid A-list stage actresses in Hollywood, then you’re already familiar with the name Tracie Lockwood. Winner of a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Featured Performance (A Permanent Image at Rogue Machine), Tracie also garnered two nominations for Supporting Actress from the Los Angeles Stage Alliance Ovation Awards and from Stage Raw, as well as six other ensemble awards for productions she has appeared in Los Angeles.

Currently, Tracie is on stage at the Skylight Theatre in a new play called Hostage by Michelle Kholos Brooks. One of the most compelling, heart rendering productions currently showing in L.A., Hostage is based on a little known but true story the story took place during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. A rogue mother from Wisconsin travels to Iran to save her son who has been taken prisoner by the Iranian revolutionaries. It is a highly personal take on the incident and uncovers an unexpected connection between two disparate cultures. At a time when the U.S. State Department was unable to help the hostages during the 444 day stand off, the human spirit proved bigger than politics.

Tracie is dynamic as “Barbara Timm,” the mother who makes the trip against all odds, and L.A. audiences are once again taking notice of her strength as an actress. The Los Angeles Times noted “Lockwood’s deceptively unassuming performance is a beacon of authenticity that lights the stage…emotionally shattering.”

Zachary Grant and Tracie Lockwood

We were able to sit down with her between shows to find out more about her role and the play:

HR: Why did you want to take on this role?

Tracie: Because it spoke to me on a cellular level. I am a mother myself; the story is very compelling for two major reasons. First, the idea that this is based on a true story…that Barbara, the character I play, actually did this crazy thing despite her governments objections. She gets on a plane and flies to a hostile country to ask her sons captors to release him, that’s just a beautiful crystallization of what it means to be a mother and what lengths you are willing to go to for your children.

Second, because, especially as a mom, at this point in our political climate it seemed very important to me to tell stories that reflect our common humanity and fragility. At its core, this story asks us to stop demonizing each other as merely reflections of our politics, governments or belief systems and asks us to look at one another as humans with different but equally relevant worldviews.

Cast of “Hostage”

HR: What was the most difficult part about preparing for this role?

Tracie: Honestly, this show was a not difficult. The cast is wonderful, Michelle the writer, and Elina de Santos, the director (who are both mother’s themselves) are incredible and collaborative artists who encouraged us to really play and explore and to keep the central story of a mothers love front and center in our minds, so I got a lot for free.

Maybe the only danger is getting too comfortable in the repetition of doing it over and over and allowing yourself to forget for even a moment how truly shocking, harrowing, and brave the whole thing really was. I think about how quickly your comfortable situation can change, and then I am able to click right into Barb’s story.

HR: How does your experience differ at the Skylight Theatre, from other L.A. theaters?

Tracie: Somehow, at the Skylight, I always seem to get cast as a Republican. I’ve done two world premieres there, the other being Church and State by Jason Odell Williams. In both plays my characters, though wildly different, could be summed up as Republican women who start out with very conventional, conservative worldviews. They are challenged by an extraordinary event and as a result, they change slightly which in turn also challenges what are often very liberal audiences, stereotypical views on Republican women.

Cast of “Hostage”

HR: How have audiences been reacting to this play?

Tracie: Very positive. It has not been uncommon for people to contact me days after seeing the show. Many say that they are still thinking about it, processing it and being impacted by it. It’s a quick ride but such a roller coaster, and it really doesn’t give you a break emotionally once it starts. Because of the three quarter staging and the way that the two timelines weave in and out of each other, the audience is kind of in the hostage room(s). During some performances it has been so quiet in the house that you can hear a pin drop and the audience is just holding their breath waiting to see what happens and other nights the audience takes every opportunity to laugh. Michelle Kholos Brooks has very cleverly included some really funny moments to act as pressure valves that release a little tension. But, as we get to the end we can usually always hear a fair amount of sniffling in the house. We’re really proud of this production. It’s a compelling story, at a compelling time.

HR: Thanks for talking with us, Tracie.

Tracie: Thank you.

Satiar Pourvasei, Zachary Grant, Tracie Lockwood and Vaneh Assadourian

Skylight continues with their post Sunday matinee series, “Beyond Conversation,” free to audiences who attend the performance. The discussion panels allow audiences to gain deeper insights into the contemporary themes of the play. A full list of guest speakers, dates and topics will be posted on Skylight’s website http://www.skylighttheatre.org

HOSTAGE runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30pm; 2:00pm on Sundays; and 8:00pm on Mondays through June 24, 2018.

The cast includes Vaneh Assadourian (Tehran Mary), Jack Clinton (Kenny), Zachary Grant (Kevin), Christopher Hoffman (Richard), Tracie Lockwood (as Barbara), and Satair Pouvasei (Ebrahim)

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

Tickets are $15 – $39.99. Reservations: 213-761-7061 or 866-811-4111. Online at http://SkylightTix.com

 

 

 

Bernardo Cubría Reveals the Genesis of “The Giant Void In My Soul” at The Pico in West L.A.

May 14, 2016

Ammunition Theatre Company is a fairly new, and young, artistic group in Los Angeles, known for their diversity and passion for activism. They foster young playwrights, and champion works that are crafted with inclusivity in mind.

Currently, they are presenting the world premiere of Bernardo Cubría’s latest work, The Giant Void In My Soul at The Pico (formerly Pico Playhouse). This play reaches across social, political, and cultural divides during a crisp 90-minute performance with characters, written as clowns, in a Commedia dell’ arte style. Taking on big big questions and goals in life, it still manages to mine the humor and relatable ironies that we all face when of searching for meaning in life.

Bernardo Cubría

The Giant Void In My Soul is insightful, spot on with excellent performances. We sat down with playwright Bernardo Cubría who gave us a look at how it all came about:

HR: What Was The Genesis Of This Play For You?

Bernardo: Last year, I was sitting at home one day feeling quite depressed and I recognized the absurdity yet universality of this emptiness I was feeling. Here I was -privileged enough to pursue my passion and make a living, married to an amazing partner, living in a great place with great friends, family, etc. Yet something felt off. It dawned on me – maybe we just all have a giant void in our souls? Influenced by the silence in Waiting For Godot and the friendship in Don Quijote, I banged out a first draft two days later on a flight to New York. And, surprise! The “void” is STILL NOT FILLED!

HR: How Long Did It Take For You To Write This Play?

Bernardo: About 8 months of writing on and off. But for me, these things are never done. I sit in the audience every night and think of changes I still may make for the next run. My dream is that the play keeps getting done in different venues for many years, and I that I can continue to tweak things in each of the iterations. Once, when I was acting in a production of Burn This, Lanford Wilson gave me a line change the night before opening. I thought to myself, ‘this play is an iconic masterpiece, why are you changing things?!’ Lanford said the play wasn’t finished. I get it now.

HR: Had You Considered Writing This Play With Traditional Characters Instead Of Clowns?

Bernardo: Not really. Sadly for my wallet, I see the world in terms of clowns. I love clowning because it gets to the essence of what humans are. Forget race, gender, class, etc., let’s talk about what makes humans human, and what makes this whole human experience hilarious. Also, I wanted to write a script where any actor of any race or gender could play the roles. So it kind of has to be clowns. I promise they are not scary!

HR: Can You Share Something About Your Background That Influenced You To Become The Artist That You Are Today?

My grandmother was a poet in Mexico. And I grew up in awe of her, always longing to follow in her footsteps. She was so creative. She would speak casually and it always sounded like poetry and wisdom. My favorite line in this play is something she used to say. In an effort to post no spoilers I will say it’s about how life is a theatre. She was magical. I like to think that she would have liked this play.

Directed by Felix Solis and produced by Julie Bersani and J. Michael Feldman, this cast includes Karla Mosley, Kim Hamilton, Claudia Doumit, and Lisa Fernandez in roles written for any gender or ethnicity.

The Giant Void in My Soul, by Bernardo Cubría, runs on Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 7pm through June 3, 2018 (understudy performance on May 27th). The Pico is located at 10508 W. Pico Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90064. Tickets are $25 online https://thegiantvoid.eventbee.com, or $30 at the door. Website: http://ammunitiontheatre.com

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 Fight Well Fought at “The Alamo” Now Running at Ruskin Group Theatre

by Peter Foldy

Ruskin Group Theatre continues to celebrate the essence of arts and humanity with the world premiere of THE ALAMO by Ian McRae. This is their second decade of bringing Los Angeles audiences unique staging’s of live entertainment.

The Ruskin Goup Theatre, located at the Santa Monica airport, is an intimate space with approximately 55 seats, where you can see some of the best actors in the business. Bobby Costanzo who plays Joey, an ex-cop who also narrates some background history, and Tim True who plays Munce, the long time owner of the neighborhood bar, are two actors in an ensemble of nine that keep the action lively in this play, beautifully directed by Kent Thompson.

Bobby Costanzo, Tim True, Jack Merrill and John Lacy in “The Alamo”

The play takes place in the blue-collar Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn where a rundown neighborhood institution called The Alamo; the last great American bar, is struggling to survive. With an aging clientele, the place is fighting to keeps it’s doors open and the only hope seems to be the arrival of artist/musician/millennials who are moving into the neighborhood and wanting to adopt the bar as an entertainment hangout. The regulars don’t want to surrender their bar, much less their neighborhood, without a fight which presents a humorous and dramatic portrait of working class natives who always seem to find themselves on the front lines of change in America.

Actors Bobby Costanzo (Joey) and Tim True (Munce) talk about their rewarding experience with the project:

HR: What was it about Ian McRae’s play that made you want to be involved with this production?

BC: I thought that Ian’s play was poignant, funny and had a kind of Eugene O’Neill realism as in THE ICEMAN COMETH. I loved the idea personally of being a narrator working the audience (my secret nightclub persona)and then stepping into the action of the play.

 TT: I met the director, Kent Thompson, at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. When I heard he was in LA to direct a new play, “The Alamo,” I wanted to audition. While reading the script I was drawn in by the rich tapestry of characters. It reminded me of some of the folks at my local watering hole in Astoria Queens where I lived for awhile after grad school.

HR: Had you worked together previously, or done a play at the Ruskin Theatre?

BC: I had not worked with any of the cast before but I’m very impressed with everybody’s talent and professionalism.

 TT: Never. This is my first show at Ruskin and with everyone in the cast. I moved here from Portland Oregon, where I was pretty much full time in theatre. I co-founded a company there, Third Rail, that’s been around since 2005. When I came to Los Angeles I stopped doing theatre so that I could focus on the TV/Film thing, but once I was able to gain some momentum on that side I felt that I could do both.

I love working with everyone in the cast, they are really wonderful, and particularly Eileen Galindo, who plays my wife Carmen, and Kelsey Griswold and Julia Arian, who alternate in the role of Michaela – my Goddaughter. I have 2 key scenes with those characters and we’ve gotten close during the run.

HR: Were there surprises or unexpected character discoveries during the rehearsal process?

BC: As in all good writing you get to discover that nobody is overtly evil or malicious but usually has their own sort of “Rashomon” way of looking at things, coming from their own perspective, which is either reinforced or changed by their interactions with others. I feel that “Joey” (my character in the play) sees that, after his scene with Carmen, he knows he’s been selfish and demanding of her and not appreciated her emotional and physical pain.

TT: Oh lord, I guess so. Munce is a guy, who will tell you he doesn’t have many regrets, but the fella really lives there – in the past.

HR: You both have impressive film and TV credits, and you keep coming back to the theatre. What is it that you love most about working on stage?

BC: The immediacy and challenge of “getting it up,” so to speak, and discovering the way that each audience changes inflections and deliveries of moments within the play. It is truly the actors’ medium.

TT: Theatre was my career from the moment I decided that I wanted to act, which incidentally was as a freshman in high school getting a big hug from one of the senior girls after a curtain call. I trained in the classics, performing Shakespeare for about 10 years. I really love the use of language and how aural a play is. It’s the words and phrases, sure. But I also love finding a character’s rhythm, and where he places the sound – where, in his mouth, and where, in his body he resonates from.

HR: What other projects are coming up for you after this show closes?

BC: I’ll be playing “Uncle Bud in a new comedy called Champions debuting on NBC.

TT: I’m forming a theatre company, called Door Number 3. We will present Martin McDonagh’s “The Lonesome West” at the Odyssey Theatre this fall. I’m recurring in an upcoming Netflix series…but I can’t say more without pissing off the producers and endangering my family and everyone I care about.

The Alamo runs on Fridays and Saturday at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm through May 12, 2018. Ruskin Group Theatre is located at 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405. Tickets are $27 – $30 and can be purchased in advance by calling (310) 397-3244 or online at www.ruskingrouptheatre.com . Free parking available on site.

The cast includes Bobby Costanzo (Joey), Eileen Galindo (Carmen), Nancy Georgini (Claudine), Milica Govich (Mary), Julia Arian (Micaela/Alternate), Kelsey Griswold (Micaela /Alternate), John Lacy (Dominic), Jack Merrill (Tick), and Tim True (Munce)

Running time: 1 hour and 55 minutes with one 15-minute intermission

Production Photos by Ed Krieger

 

 

Skylight Theatre Company’s “Rotterdam” Receives The Most Awards for Intimate Theatre, Including Best Production From Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle

LOS ANGELES, CA (March 20, 2018) – Skylight Theatre Company, Hartshorn – Hooks, along with producers Gary Grossman, Tony Abatemarco and Andrew Carlberg, garnered 3 awards from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, including the award for Best Production. There were two winners of the 2017 Production award, the other award going to Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages.

Jon Brittain received the Writing award for Rotterdam and actress Ashley Romans took home the award for Lead Performance for the role of Fiona/Adrian in Skylight Theatre’s production of Rotterdam.

Directed by Michael A. Shepperd and nominated for the Ensemble Performance award, the Rotterdam cast included Miranda Wynne, nominated for Lead Performance, Ryan Brophy, Audrey Cain, and Ashley Romans.

Presented by Skylight Theatre Company & Hartshorn – Hook Productions, Rotterdam was produced by Gary Grossman, Tony Abatemarco, and Andrew Carlberg in Association with Providence Entertainment, Ltd., with Josh Gershick as Associate Producer and Dramaturg, Jonathan Muñoz-Proulx, Christopher Aguilar, and Shaina Rosenthal as Associate Producers.

Rotterdam’s creative team included Jeff McLaughlin (Set and Lighting Design), Christopher Moscatiello (Sound Design), Naila Aladdin Sanders (Costume Design), Michael O’Hara (Props), Shen Heckel (Assistant Director), Garret Crouch (Stage Manager), Tuffet Schmelzle (Dialect Coach), Raul Clayton Staggs (Casting Director), and opened November 11, 2017 with an extended run through January 28, 2018.

Skylight Theatre Company discovers, develops and produces new, exhilarating works that expand mainstream theatre while nurturing and educating the people who create them. A recipient of the Steinberg National Theatre Critics Citation (Dontrell, Who Kissed The Sea – Nathan Alan Davis), Skylight’s resident PlayLAb writers have been recognized with productions nationwide, a national 2014 USA Ford Fellowship in Theater and Performance (Sigrid Gilmer), and locally as a winner in the 2015 Humanitas/CTG Playwriting Prize  (Louisa Hill – Lord of the Underworld’s Home for Unwed Mothers). Skylight won 4 Ovation Awards in 2014 for The Wrong Man and Pray To Ball (the most of any intimate theatre in LA). LA Weekly included the Skylight’s productions of Years To The Day, Open House and Sexsting on their Top Ten list of plays for 2013. Their first year as a company dedicated to developing new plays, 2011, found Skylight’s production of Hermetically Sealed on the LA Times annual list of Top Ten Plays, while Mad Women moved from Los Angeles to La MaMa in New York. Since then, plays developed by Skylight have been performed Off-Broadway and in other New York theaters, Chicago, Washington D.C., Oregon, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Kansas City, and internationally in Scotland and France. For more information, script submission policy and production history go to http://skylighttheatre.org

Facebook: SkylightTheatre  Twitter: @SkylightThtr #RotterdamLA
Instagram: SkylightTheatre
Website: http://skylighttheatre.org

 

L.A.’s Australian Theatre Company Seeks Full-length Plays for Annual Reading Series in June

LOS ANGELES (March 5, 2018) — L.A.’s award-winning Australian Theatre Company is inviting submissions of full-length plays to be presented by a professional director and cast as part of its 2018 Summer Reading Series, scheduled to take place this June at the Zephyr Theatre.

This year the focus is on presenting new works that have not been previously produced in Los Angeles. ATC welcomes new works by both established and emerging writers of any nationality. Australian Theatre Company’s mission is to create a meaningful cultural exchange with American artists and audiences. Although an Australian voice should be present in each piece, that voice could be represented by the writer, a character, the location or an overarching theme.

The Summer Reading Series is part of ATC’s development process for future productions. Previous themes have included “Stage to Screen” (great Australian plays that have inspired films), “Works by Women” (plays by Australian female writers presented on the U.S. stage for the first time) and “United On Stage” (plays featuring the intersection of American and Australian characters). Previous main stage productions of Speaking In Tongues and Ruben Guthrie were both developed in the reading series.

ATC was established in 2014 by founding members Nick Hardcastle, Nate Jones, Jackie Diamond and Josh Thorburn. Critically acclaimed productions have included Holding the Man, Speaking in Tongues, Ruben Guthrie and Grey Nomad, winner of the 2017 Broadway World Award for Best Play- Local Production. A truly collaborative company, ATC continues to harness the rich breadth of Australian talent in Los Angeles along with the finest American theater practitioners.

This annual community event is also a way for ATC to connect with local and international writers, actors and other theater artists, and to develop new audiences — all while enjoying some great Australian wine, courtesy of Penfolds. The readings will take place every Monday in June at 7 p.m at the Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Avenue, and are presented by the Australian Consulate General of Los Angeles. Admission is always free.

Submissions close Friday March 30. For more information on how to submit a play for consideration, go to https://www.australiantheatrecompany.org/reading-series/

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

 

 

Actors Dylan Wittrock and J.B. Waterman Discuss “The Red Dress”

By Peter Foldy

Set in Berlin and inspired by a true story, Tania Wisbar’s romantic drama, THE RED DRESS, currently playing at the Odyssey Theatre in West L.A, explores the intersection of politics and art during the years between the Treaty of Versailles and the rise of Fascism. The play tells story of “Alexandra Schiele,” a famous film actress from a prominent Jewish family, who falls in love with a down-on-his-luck World War I vet, “Franz Weitrek.” Franz parlays his wife’s connections into work as a film director, but when his career takes off making Nazi propaganda films, his wife suddenly becomes a liability.

We caught up with DYLAN WITTROCK who portrays “Officer Dieter Keller” and J.B. WATERMAN who plays “Franz” and asked them to share their thoughts about the show.

HOLLYWOOD REVEALED: Hi, guys.

JB Waterman

DYLAN: Hello.

HR: Can you tell us how you got involved with this production?

J.B: A cast mate of mine in a different play was working with the casting director of The Red Dress and thought I’d be a good fit for the role of Franz. He encouraged me to audition. I had worked with (director) Kiff Scholl, before and I was lucky enough to land the role.

DYLAN: I auditioned.

HR: A play about radicalization seems timely and important. Did you have much knowledge about Germany prior to WW II?

J.B: I only knew about the contradictory images, the liberal and artistic Weimar Republic Germany, depicted in the film and the play, Cabaret, and on the opposite end, the radical plays of Bertolt Brecht.

DYLAN: I knew a little about the years leading up to the war from the American and British standpoint, but I knew very little about Germany itself between the two world wars.

HR: Were you able to sit down and chat with the playwright about the story?

DYLAN: Yes, Tania being around was definitely valuable.

J.B: She and I talked a lot during rehearsals. She shared some of the differences between Franz and her real father, Frank. Franz is softer and a bit more sympathetic, than her father was.

Dylan Wittrock

DYLAN: Tania was able to provide a lot of information about what the political and social climate was like in Germany during the period between the two world wars. Her insights helped me to grasp what it would be like to grow up during that very volatile time.

HR: What was your take away from all that?

J.B: I was particularly drawn to the complexity of the German political and social situation  after World War I that she brought to my attention. It was an open marketplace for depictions of the truth and political theories.  The “truth” was being shaped by competing powers.

HR: What’s the most challenging thing about the role you guys are playing? What process did you use to shape and define your character?

J.B: I felt that Franz was not a born soldier but an artist who was forced to go to war. That’s a big piece of what I build the character around. I guess the most challenging thing was having to empathize with the Nazi party and their propaganda about Jews. There isn’t a lot of justification in the script about why Franz feel that way, so I had to come up with it myself.  I think a lot of my motivation has to do with overcoming the character’s PTSD and reclaiming what WW I took from him.  Franz believes that the Jews were suppressing German national pride and as an actor I tried to dig into believing that.

HR: What about you, Dylan?

DYLAN: Tania really wanted the audience to see my character, Dieter Keller, as someone who is coming into his own. In the second act he has total control over the other two characters, but he’s still a little green, so he gets very uncomfortable when his authority is questioned. Showing that vulnerability while still maintaining the control that the scene demands is quite a challenge, but it also gives the character nuance and depth. When you’re dealing with a character that has become almost archetypal in popular culture, you need to find every little thing about him that is unique and personal.

HR: So where are you guys from and how long have you been in L.A?

DYLAN: I was born in Lenox, Massachusetts, grew up for a few years in Chicago, then moved to LA when I was 8. I went to college in San Francisco then moved to New York for three years. Been back in LA for a year now.

J.B: I’m from Bainbridge Island, Washington. I lived in Chicago after college Moved to Los Angeles 10 years ago.

HR: When did you first know that you wanted to be an actor?

DYLAN: I was practically born on stage. My father and brother are both actors, so I grew up loving acting. I was in my first Shakespeare play when I was 5, and I’ve never stopped performing. I questioned whether I wanted to pursue acting as a career during college when I became a Spanish major. I stopped performing for about a year and was miserable, so after graduating I went right back to it.

J.B: For me it was in our community theater production of Snow White. I was only 9 but being onstage was intoxicating. I loved the lights, I loved the make believe, I loved that it was a serious play.

HR: What was your first paid acting gig? Did it get you a SAG or an Equity card?

DYLAN: It was a commercial for JC Penny that I was in when I was 13. It never aired, but I used the money to buy a drum set. I got my SAG card from one-liner on the show Power.

J.B: My first paid acting gig was as a non-equity actor in a show at the Berkshire Theatre company in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.  It was $45.00 paid per week, room and board included. I remember staring at that check in disbelief. Someone was actually paying me to do this.

HR: What TV shows have you binge watched lately?

DYLAN: Mindhunter is amazing. I’m also loving Stranger Things.

J.B: Transparent and I love Dick. Jill Soloway does such creative, risky and fun storytelling. I love her obsession with her themes; gender, identity, feminism, sex. Even when I get mad and disagree with what she does or says (in the shows) I still love that she has the balls to say them.

HR: What’s next for you guys?

J.B: I’m directing a production of Chekhov’s The Seagull in the spring that I hope will make people laugh a lot and change the world.

DYLAN: I’m looking forward to the release of a couple short films I shot last year. Other than that just trying to audition as much as possible and work on creating something of my own.

HR: Thanks for chatting, guys, and enjoy the rest of the run.

J.B: Thank you.

The Red Dress is performed: Fridays & Saturdays @ 8 pm and Sundays @ 2 p.m. thru Nov. 19 at The Oddyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. Los Angeles, CA  90025

Running time: 1 hour and 50 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

Tickets: $15

Call (323) 960-5521 or visit www.Plays411.com/reddress

Production Stills: Ed Kreiger