“Cal in Camo” Is Compelling and Suspenseful

Play Review by Peter Foldy

Writer, William Francis Hoffman’s CAL IN CAMO, making it’s West Coast Premiere at the VS Theatre is a chilling, metaphoric drama with dialogue as raw as it’s wounded characters. The story revolves around Tim and Cal, a young married couple adrift in what seems to be a hopelessly doomed relationship. Like their newly bought home in rural Illinois, their marriage is at risk of sinking. Cal suffers from postpartum depression and is unable to produce breast milk for their newborn baby daughter  We soon learn that her problems go a lot deeper. Abandoned as a young child by her mother, Cal grew up in foster homes and has no family other than a brother, Flynt. A hunter with a deep connection to nature, Flynt has recently lost his wife in a tragic drowning accident.

Bree Turner and Brad Raider

To help her brother heal, Cal invites Flynt to spend a few days at their recently bought, isolated home in rural Illinois. This doesn’t bode well with Tim, especially when he learns that Cal flew Flynt first class, despite the fact that they are struggling to make ends meet. Tim has also not forgotten that Flynt walked out in the middle of their wedding reception, taking Tim’s favorite tie that his brother-in-law borrowed for the occasion.

Tim Cummings

A loner with a connection to nature, Flynt arrives wearing camouflage. Never a good sign. He says little and when he speaks he talks of pending doom. With turbulant weather on the horizon, and a rifle that is introduced into the mix, one gets the sinking feeling that this story will not have a happy ending.

Flynt’s visit does ultimately prove purposeful. Though he can’t give his sister what she asks of him,  Flynt does inspire Cal to seek what she desperately needs.

Brad Raider and Bree Turner

Bree Turner delivers a powerful performance as the vulnerable Cal, bravely exposing her character’s broken heart. Brad Raider’s Tim manages to evoke empathy as a failed beer salesman, struggling to keep his marriage together. Tim Cummings brings a cloud of mystery to this brooding tale, his presence elevating the sense of danger that builds throughout, not unlike the approaching storm that will either wreck havoc or clense the wounds that need healing.

Tim Cummings and Brad Raider

With solid direction from Amy K Harmon, impressive set design by Se Hyun Oh, and an outstanding score by Chris Moscatiello, who also created the sound design, Cal in Camo delivers a compelling and emotional roller coaster ride.

Cal in Camo plays at 8pm Thursdays-Saturdays, and 3pm Sundays through November 9, 2018.

VS. Theatre is located at 5453 Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles, 90019.

Tickets are $20 – $35. Reservations: reddogsquadron.com

For more information call: 323-739-4411

Photos by: David Rodriguez

 

A Poignant Look at Homelessness in “The Bench” at the Hudson Theatre

Review by Peter Foldy

Homelessness is a situation that devastates lives. Most of us avoid thinking about it. We look away as we pass the ever growing army of homeless souls the now seem to have become a permenant fixture in Los Angeles. We avoid eye contact, even as we make a small contribution. A new play at the Hudson Theatre directed by Jay O. Sanders confronts the issue head on and, at least for an hour, it makes the problem hard to ignore.

Robert Galinsky in “The Bench”

The Bench, a Homeless Love Story is set in the urban decay of a crumbling city during the start of the AIDS crisis. Mined from true stories of people in the New York neighborhood where he once lived, writer/activist Robert Galinsky presents a sobering look at life on the streets. Looking very much like a member of the homeless army himself, Galinsky’s one man play grabs you by the heart as it tries to open your mind. He introduces us to five homeless characters, four men and a woman, whose lives have become forever entwined. Each has a different story arc. Yes, some are self destructive, but many are victims of unforeseen circumstance. One thing is certain. They were all once somebody’s child. With brutal honesty and gentle humor, Galinsky acts out their various narratives, and as he shares their perspective, it becomes frighteningly obvious that some people are just one mistake, one life crisis away from joining this exploding population.

As you leave the theater you might find yourself filled with more compassion. But are you?

On opening night, a homeless man wondered into the after-party held in the Hudson Cafe next door. The man started yelling and making a scene, and as he did, most, if not all of the audience members froze. Tried to look away. I couldn’t help notice the irony. Was the lesson of “The Bench” already forgotten? Is ten minutes all it takes? This is exactly what Galinsky is trying to impress upon us and for that alone, The Bench, a Homeless Love Story should be seen.

Presented by Tony Winner, Terry Schnuck, OBIE/Drama Desk Winner, Barry Shabaka Henley and Golden Globe Nominee, Chris Noth, The Bench also delivers noteworthy set design and illustrations from talented artist Daphne Arthur.  She has also created a graphic novel called “The Bench” which is available for purchase at the show, with proceeds donated to various charities.

Arthur has had solo exhibitions at RARE gallery in NY and at the University of Massachusetts Boston, with numerous group shows in other major cities.

The Bench runs at 8pm Thursdays and Fridays through November 9, 2018.

The Hudson Guild Theatre is located at 6539 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90038.

Tickets are $25 online at www.plays411.com/thebench or call (323) 960-7822.

 

First National Tour Of Tony Award Winning Musical, “Dear Evan Hansen” Begins L.A. Engagement October 17

Los Angeles: October 5, 2018

Performances of the Los Angeles engagement of the first national tour of Tony Award-winning musical “Dear Evan Hansen” begin Wednesday, October 17, at Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre. The opening is set for Friday, October 19. The winner of six 2017 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, “Dear Evan Hansen” features a book by Tony Award-winner Steven Levenson, a score by Grammy®, Tony® and Academy Award® winners Benj Pasek & Justin Paul (“La La Land,” “The Greatest Showman”) and direction by four-time Tony® Award nominee Michael Greif (“Rent,” “Next to Normal”).

Ben Levi Ross (center) and the company of the national tour of “Dear Evan Hansen.”

The cast for the musical’s first national tour features Ben Levi Ross in the title role. Stage and TV star Jessica Phillips will play Heidi Hansen. Tony Award nominee Christiane Noll will play Cynthia Murphy and Broadway veteran Aaron Lazar will play Larry Murphy. Marrick Smith and Maggie McKenna round out the Murphy family (as Connor and Zoe, respectively), while Jared Goldsmith as Jared Kleinman and Phoebe Koyabe as Alana Beck complete the on-stage company.

The cast also includes Stephen Christopher Anthony (as the Evan alternate) along with understudies Ciara Alyse Harris, John Hemphill, Noah Kieserman, Jane Pfitsch, Coleen Sexton and Maria Wirries.

“Dear Evan Hansen” features scenic design by David Korins, projection design by Peter Nigrini, costume design by Emily Rebholz, lighting design by Japhy Weideman, sound design by Nevin Steinberg and hair design by David Brian Brown.

Music supervision, orchestrations and additional arrangements are by Alex Lacamoire. Ben Cohn is the Associate Music Supervisor. Vocal arrangements and additional arrangements are by Justin Paul. Danny Mefford is the choreographer. U.S. Casting by Tara Rubin Casting/Lindsay Levine. Adrienne Campbell-Holt, Sash Bischoff and Adam Quinn are the Associate Directors. Judith Schoenfeld is the Production Supervisor.

Fairy Tales for Adults, It’s a Musical at The Pico – Bold Young Company

By Peter Foldy

Be warned, your face may hurt from laughter after seeing, Fairy Tale Theatre 18 & Over: The Musical. This show is frinkin’ hilarious.

Originally inspired by a hot date gone wrong (and who can’t relate to that), “Fairy Tale Theatre 18 and Over” took Los Angeles by storm during a sold out run at the Matrix Theatre in 2011. It caught the attention of Billy Crystal’s Face Productions and is currently optioned at Warner Brothers digital with Wildline Entertainment.

Writer Michael J. Feldman has since created additional iterations on stage, winning the hearts and attention of both audiences and critics, and has now returned to Los Angeles with the musical version playing at The Pico for a limited run. Grab the kids and drop them with the babysitter, then treat yourself to an adult night out.

Ammunition Theatre Company has made bold choices this season, garnering themselves several Stage Raw awards for Bernardo Cubría’s “The Giant Void In My Soul,” and their latest choice, “Fairy Tale Theatre 18 and Over: The Musical” is paying off with great ticket sales and even more critical acclaim.

The play offers audience’s important life lessons digested with lots of laughter and original music. The delectable menu of tales includes a gay cat ballet, operatic singing, people and puppets telling stories about following your dreams (a penguin who sets out to fly), practicing what you preach (a privileged service dog calls out inequality, but refuses to give up the vest), and even trying to connect in a universe with so many shining stars, most of whom are looking like happy clusters, not unlike living in Los Angeles (but really, they’re all alone just hoping to avoid falling into the black holes).

Feldman tells us, “I knew this production was way too massive and expensive to mount. So I shelved it for years. But, fortunately, I joined a theatre company with a bunch of insanely talented people and they decided to put it up for their fall 2018 season. Without their resources, I never would have been able to mount this production.

 Some of those talented Ammunition members include the cast with Sheila Carrasco, Matt Cook, Jason Currie, Michael J. Feldman, Tina Huang, Jess McKay, Burl Moseley, Jason Rogel, Colleen Smith, Cloie Wyatt Taylor, and Greg Worswick.

Jason Currie is the Music Director/Composer, Alexandra Friedman created the Scene Designs, Andrew Schmedake is the Lighting Designer, Dalmar Montgomery the Sound Designer, Stephen Rowan the Costume Designer), Meghann Lucas the Choreogrpaher, and Noriko Ogawa the Keyboardist. Produced by Kim Hamilton and Bernardo Cubría, don’t forget to get it while you can!

With only a few perfomances left, this is a show that shouldn’t be missed.

Fairy Tale Theatre 18 & Over: The Musical runs at 8pm Fridays & Saturdays, and 7pm on Sundays through October 7, 2018 (Understudy performance on Thursday, October 4th at 8pm and added 11pm on Saturday, Oct 6th). The Pico is located at 10508 W. Pico Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90064. Tickets are $35 online at https://www.eventbee.com/event?eid=198363472#/tickets. Information: (323) 628-1622 and http://ammunitiontheatre.com

 

Since his “Swansong,” André de Vanny is keeping Conor McDermottroe’s Award Winning Story in the Hollywood Spotlight

Selected for the Munich, Montreal and Camerimage film festivals, Swansong won best drama at the Galway Film Fleadh and was nominated for six ITFAs in 2011. The film was adapted from Conor McDermottroe’s one-man theatre play Swansong which won raves worldwide and was translated into German and Swedish. Swansong makes its West Coast Premiere in Los Angeles on September 8, 2018, at the Skylight Theatre, produced in tandem with the Australian Theatre Company and directed by Greg Carroll.

This is theatre that doesn’t settle for easy answers. A gritty monodrama, it tells the story of Austin “Occi” Byrne, abused and isolated, violent and vulnerable, and searching for redemption.

Award winning Australian actor André de Vanny plays Occi. He began his career with the leading role in the international hit series Wicked Science 1 and 2 and it just keep getting better from there. André has since appeared in many Australian feature films including the upcoming The Combination 2, Hating Alison Ashley, Under a Red Moon, Nice Shootin’ Cowboy. Recently, he was given a nod for Best Actor at the Green Room Awards, acknowledging his work in Glory Dazed for Red Stitch Theatre Company.

Andre’s performance in Swansong has achieved widespread critical acclaim and the show has returned twice to sell out seasons at Sydney’s The Old Fitz Theatre as well as Melbourne’s Metanoia Theatre, and most recently a sell out season at Theatre Works in Melbourne.

This performance is quite a workout, emotionally and physically, even for a young actor. We asked if he’d let us in on where he gets that kind of stamina as an actor:

HR: How do you prepare for a role like this?

André: There are many highs and lows in the play that follow one after the other, often in quick succession. Once the show has begun I just have to let go and allow it to flow in its own unique way. But this takes rigorous physical, vocal and mental preparation. It’s the old story where, achieving spontaneity and freedom in the moment requires extreme discipline and thorough preparation.

HR: Is it more difficult to bring Occi to life without props and a set?

André de Vanny: This is a performance driven piece, a pure story telling experience. Without set, sound or props you have the freedom to create any world you want at anytime. It feels very natural and allows for a more direct and intimate relationship with the audience.

HR: Despite the adversity and challenges for this character he seems to hang tough. Do you see the POV of the playwright as endowing this character with a positive outlook?

André de Vanny: Occi is an eternal optimist. We all know people who have hope even in the face of the most dire situations. It’s inspiring and endearing. I hope people will take that away from the experience of seeing this show.

HR: You’re from Melbourne, but the play takes place Ireland, during the 70/80s. Do you feel it’s still relevant in this time, and in Los Angeles?

André de Vanny: Prejudice and mental illness are unfortunately still prevalent in society today. This play speaks to those issues here and now. It honors those people who slip through the cracks, those who are outcast and forgotten. Having a child out of wedlock is no longer the shameful sin it once was but the bullying and persecution that Occi endures as a result of this, is something many can relate to. It’s a timeless story that is as relevant today as ever, and in almost every city in the world.

HR: You’re returning to the role for the 3rd time, but for the first time in Los Angeles. What’s that like?

André de Vanny: It’s like visiting an old friend. Occi has remained close to my heart and mind. It’s like you just pick up where you left off. However, each time has felt new and special and has grown a bit. As will this run in Los Angeles at the Skylight Theatre.

Swansong opens at 8:30pm on Saturday, September 8th and continues Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30pm; 2:00pm on Sundays; and 8:00pm on Mondays through October 7, 2018. Skylight Theatre is located at 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave, LA, 90027. Tickets are $15 – $30. Reservations: (866) 811-4111, atctix.org

or http://SkylightTix.com

 

Stories of Truth for a World in Denial

A lifetime of family memories and five years of rewrites has garnered Leslie Ayvazian’s “100 Aprils” a spot in Rogue Machine’s 2018 season. The run has been extended twice and the schedule encourages audiences to stay after matinee performances on Sundays, for talkbacks with special guests.

The play packs a sobering punch while shedding light on a subject that has been swept under the carpet for over a century, the Armenian genocide. Strong writing and heartfelt performances make this a production worth seeing.

Described as a darkly comic look at the generational consequences, when history is denied, it travels a fine line between reality and hallucination. John Saypian is somewhat of a modern-day Don Quixote. He and his wife are second generation Armenians whose parents escaped the genocide. John believes that a tormentor is pursuing him, and as his health begins to fail him so does his mind. But, not his memories of the atrocities that he witnessed as a child, along with his family.

Rachel Sorsa, Robertson Dean, John Perrin Flynn and Leslie Ayvazian

To better understand where the subtleties and depth of writing like this is conceived, we asked playwright Leslie Ayvazian to talk about the journey of creating it.

HR: When did you begin, and what inspired you, to write 100 Aprils?

Leslie: I began the project about five years ago. Initially, I wanted to write a play to honor, and to coincide with, the 100-year commemoration of the Armenian genocide. Some excerpts of my play were included by CTG for their event “Staging the Unstageable” at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in 2015 but this is the true world premiere of the full piece at Rogue Machine.

Growing up in an Armenian family gave me endless resources for writing about this subject. I write what I know. My father was born in Turkey and escaped to NYC. Much of what I know of the genocide is what I’ve learned from my grandmother and my father’s stories, and even from his silences. Some things were too horrific to fully articulate.

Rachel Sorsa and Janet Song

I’m inspired to write about what I am pursuing, and I write what I want to know. For me I want to know why the world has not accepted the history of the Armenians when there is so much proof and so much evidence and yet there is this persistent denial.

HR: Is that what you hope audiences will become more aware of when they see the play?

Leslie: I just hope that audiences will find a reason that it’s relative, and that they are glad that they had the experience of seeing it. I don’t write plays to teach people anything. I write things that are true for me and I hope they’re true for others. I was looking forward to having the play open at Rogue Machine in Los Angeles because it’s a great company, and there is a large community of Armenians in the city. This community was profoundly supportive of my play, Nine Armenians, when Gordon Davidson directed it at the Mark Taper Forum years ago. Gordon believed this story must be told. And it doesn’t matter if it’s been 100 years or 1000 years, people must know the truth. They need to know how the genocide influences our lives, and generations to come. We will keep telling the story so it’s not forgotten, 1.5 million people cannot be brutally slaughtered and it still doesn’t show up in any history books, and certainly not in America.

It’s just a matter of trying to set the world right in truth.

Leslie Ayvazian and John Perrin Flynn

HR: How did you decide on the style of the play? You have described it as absurdist, correct?

Leslie: It comes from an absurdist world, with a sense of humor about the ways that we cope and learn to survive. Any history of family members is a surreal world. Although this piece lives partially in hallucination and partially in dreams that cannot be silenced, the characters are always reaching for what is real.

This style emerged from the experience of denial, and how it affects people who live in a world that has little connection to the truth of history. I remember how my grandmother would talk, and sometimes she would just drift off looking out the window with the pain of those memories. As a physician, my father carried this sorrow throughout his life. Most people from Armenian families have a version of this story. I’m not a person who paints pictures that are set in elaborately designed living rooms. I don’t write plays like that.

100 Aprils has extended twice to run Saturdays and Mondays at 8:30pm, Sundays at 3:00pm through July 23, 2018. Rogue Machine is located in The Met, 1089 N Oxford Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90029. Tickets are $40. Reservations: 855-585-5185 or at www.roguemachinetheatre.com

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