Skulduggery – Never Trust A Ghost

Play Review by:Peter Foldy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pocatello – A Play Review

by Peter Foldy

Rogue Machine’s production of Samuel D. Hunter’s play, POCATELLO currently playing at the Met Theatre in Los Angeles deals with dysfunctionality and the corporatization of America. Set in a nation-wide Italian restaurant on the brink of closing down, the play brings together a group of characters who struggle with the changing landscape of their hometown and the shifting and fragile relationships they endure with their families and co-workers. They find it hard to communicate with each other and some have not been able to let go of the demons of the past that continues to haunt them.

Mark L. Taylor, Justin Okin, Eden Brolin, Melissa Paladino, Tracie Lockwood, and Trevor Peterson

Mark L. Taylor, Justin Okin, Eden Brolin, Melissa Paladino, Tracie Lockwood, and Trevor Peterson

At the center of the play is Eddie, the restaurant manager (Matthew Elkins) who juggles two secrets. His sexuality and the fact that the business is on the brink of going under. His crotchety mother, Doris, (Anne Gee Byrd) a woman unable to show affection, does everything in her power to put Eddie down in front of his bother, Nick (Rob Nagel) Nick’s pretty wife, Kelly (Rebecca Larsen) as well as Eddie’s employees.

We also meet a waiter named Troy (Justin Okin) who struggles to make ends meet while trying to deter his alcoholic wife, Tammy (Tracie Lockwood) from drinking again. He also has to cope with his senile father (Mark L. Taylor) and his cryptic wild child of a daughter named Becky (Eden Brolin).

Mathhew Elkins and Anne Gee Byrd

Matthew Elkins and Anne Gee Byrd

Also working at the restaurant is the crack addicted and otherwise unemployable waiter, Max (Trevor Peterson) and his occasional sex buddy, Isabelle (at this performance played by Melissa Paladino). 

As the eatery approaches it’s demise, so does the connection between the characters. Nick and Kelly leave Pocotello promising never to return. Tammy slips and drifts back into drinking again while her daughter, Becky realizes she must escape Pocatello as soon as she is able.

Tracie Lockwood, Eden Brolin, and Justin Okin

Tracie Lockwood, Eden Brolin, and Justin Okin

John Perrin Flynn’s direction moves the characters on Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s beautifully designed set like pawns on a chessboard. Each and every cast member in Pocotello shines. They are highly committed and believable in their respective roles. With such great actors portraying these lost souls one would think that Mr. Hunter’s script would help us care about their problems just a little more, but sadly his characters find it a struggle to articulate them. I wanted to know why Troy and Tammy’s marriage is failing. Is it just the booze? Why does Nick seem to hate his brother, Eddie so much? Is it because he is gay? What happened between these people?

While sometimes less is more, in this case more would have been a blessing. What we end up with is a mash up of explosive outbursts, family psychodrama and nostalgic monologues about days gone by.

At the end of the day only the kind-hearted Eddie manages to find some redemption, leaving us with a glimmer of hope that Eddie and mom have taken a small step toward normalizing their fragile relationship in a town where nothing is normal anymore.

Pocotello ends up feeling much like a turbulent Thanksgiving dinner with your family. Love them or hate them you may one day look back with nostalgia at the event, perhaps even grateful for having been there.

POCATELLO runs at 8:30pm on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and 3pm on Sundays through April 10, 2016. ROGUE MACHINE is located at The Met, 1089 N. Oxford Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90029.

Tickets are $34.99.

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

Photos by John Perrin Flynn