Love and Loss In “The Cellar” Now Playing At The Hollywood Fringe Festival

Review by:Peter Foldy

June 15, 2015

Sometimes you see a couple and you just know that they are perfect together.  Even if they’re having problems sustaining a relationship, one can feel the love that bubbles below the surface.  That was my initial reaction as I watched “The Cellar,” a compelling two-hander currently on stage at the Flight Theatre in Hollywood  as part of the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival.

Jay Seals as “Troy”slide_Complex_front and writer Kimberley Cooper as “Helena” portray the couple who, after attending a friend’s party, find themselves trapped in his wine cellar.  Soon the pain of their recent breakup leads to a raw and no-holds-barred exploration of just what went wrong.  Each of them hold grudges and as the wine begins to flow, insults fly, secrets are revealed and the balance of power firmly put to the test.  Vino verite indeed.

With her first stageplay, Australian actress, Kimberley Cooper shows strong writing  potential with this fast paced, cutting-edge production. Though the twist and turns in “The Cellar” are ones that have been explored in numerous films and plays, Cooper still makes the revelationsIMG_5188 feel fresh as she gives us a voyeuristic look at this couple unraveling.  Her dialogue rolls off her tongue and finds a fine balance between heart wrenching pain and self deprecating humor.  She is brash and confident, both as a writer and as an actress, her brazen, no bullshit attitude coming across as likeable as her Aussie accent.

Jay Seals as her ex brings on the charm and is also easy to like.  He’s like one of your buddies and you want this couple to get back together,  despite Seals’ betrayal of Cooper’s character.  But “Helena” also has some revelations up her sleeve and we soon learn the she too had her hand in a deceit, one with perhaps even greater consequences.  Though it may be too late for them to turn back the clock, the familiarity that exists between them is still there, a comfort level that only people who truly know and like each other can convey.  It is a fine accomplishment from both these actors that they can bring that comfort level to life.

Director, Jonathan Roumie keeps the piece fluid, letting his actors work the stage as the story comes to a boil.  Clocking in at a mere 35 minutes, ‘The Cellar” is a solid piece of theater that deserves kudos for it compelling dialogue and realistic performances.  Go see it while you can!

Where: The Fringe Theatre, 6472 Santa Monica Blvd. L.A. CA 90038 (2nd Floor)

When: Saturday June 20th at 4:15 pm, Sunday, June 21st at 6:15 pm and Friday June 26th at 10:30 pm.

Tickets: $10

Stage Manager: Roger Mathey, Original Score: Nick Kenworthy-Browne

www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/2447

 

Love Never Dies. Laughs Never Stop.

Reviewed June 9, 2013 by Palmerston Hughes

Half way through the play “You Make Me Physically Ill: Season 01, Episode 2: Love Never Dies” the character of “Jo” (Faith Hall) walks on stage and asks, “what the fuck is going on here?”  And that’s exactly what you will be wondering as you watch this tight little one hour of insanity and sexual perversion unfold at the Elephant Theater in Los Angeles.

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But logic is not what you’re there for. Expecting “Love Never Dies” to make perfect sense is like going to a strip club for a higher education, or watching porn to gain insight into the world of politics.

Okay, if you really need to know, the story goes something like this. John, the demented head of a family of misfits has invested his life savings to put on a show starring himself and his lusty daughters Jennifer, Jaclyn, and Sally. Unable to afford an actual theater John manages to book time in a local strip club where he stages his musical, a ripped off work based on Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Love Never Dies.”  Jennifer’s boyfriend, Will and his buddy, Eddie, try to stop the show but are foiled by the handsome “perfect man,” Jason.

Written by award winning theater director, Roger Mathey, who just scored a home run with his recently closed revival “Trainspotting” at the same venue, “Love Never Dies” is a jaw droppingly hilarious, politically incorrect piece of absurd entertainment that will make you cringeLove Never Dies as you laugh your ass off.

As with the first “episode” of “You Make Me Physically Ill,” Mathey again manages to push the envelope, this time perhaps even further.  Episode 2 is soft-core theater through and through.  If this were a real TV show ratings would be through the roof.

The able cast consisting of Katie Aquino, Amanda Rae Castruita, Joshua Hensley, Michael Lutheran, Travis McHenry, Emily Claire Tisler, Karl Wade, Faith Hall, Heidi Kendrick and Jacob Wolber dive right in and play along with the madness, all of them committed to the high jinx in this fast paced comedy.  Even the audience gets in the act by being invited to throw play money at the young ladies as they work the pole in the strip club scenes. Take that as you will.

Complete with a soundtrack that consists of some of your favorite hit songs, “Love Never Dies” plays June 16th @ 4pm, June 20 @ 7 pm, June 24 @ 8:30 pm, June 29 @ 7pm at the Elephant Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd. Hollywood, CA 90038. Tickets are $10.

The show is a part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival.

For reservations go to: http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/1379

 

 

 

 

Trainspotting is Nude, Rude and Crude–but You’ll Love It

Reviewed March 10, 2013

In 2002, Roger Mathey shook up the L.A. theater scene with his daring and ballsy production of Irvine Welsh’s “Trainspotting.” The play went on to win a host of awards and was picked by the Los Angeles Times and Entertainment Tonight as one of the best of the year.

Mathey has revised the04 Tommy (AJ Jones) and Mark (Justin Zachary)-1 production for 2013, and it is as gritty and in-your-face as the original.  If you are looking for nude, rude and crude, this is the play to see.  Despite that, “Trainspotting” may also break your heart as these sad lives unravel before your eyes..

The staging here is crisper than the production I had the pleasure to see back in 2002.  This version feels tighter and darker.  There is truly never a dull moment and the Elephant Theatre feels like a great venue for this show.  Where ever you sit, you can practically smell the stench of these pathetic shit stained, heroin addicted characters, and  yet, you can’t help but feel some empathy for them.

Mathey rotates the cast with a Friday/Saturday group and a different set of actors on Sundays.  Justin Zachary, who was  the lead in the 2002 production and received a “newcomer of the year” nomination is back as the lovable loser, “Mark Renton.” He is your02 Mother Superior (Travis McHenry) helps Mark (Justin Zachary) to shoot up-1 narrator and guide through this brutal world and he manages to be both wide eyed innocent and at times cold, calculating and heartless.

Zachary does a lot of the heavy lifting in this production and is the only cast member to appear all three night.

Last Sunday’s performance boasted a fine turn from AJ Jones as “Tommy” who alternates the role with David Agranov, one of the 2002 originals and now a producer of the play. Karl Wade and Francesca Manzi were in fine form as “Mrs. and Mrs. Houston” and a variety of other roles.  Katie Aquino, Travis McHenry and Sam Bangs were all  outstanding as “Gail Houston,” “Mother Superior” and “Laura McEwen” respectively.

The Scottish accents in the play are thick and often hard to follow but the meaning and the intention is never lost.  Just in-case, there is a glossary in the program to help navigate the slang.

The cigarette smoke on stage can get a little thick, especially if you are sitting close, but that discomfort (if you’re not a smoker) only helps to augment the grungy feces, urine and vomit laced environment you have just found yourself in.

“I woke up in aTrainspotting-cropped-med strange bed, in a strange room” indeed.  “Trainspotting 2013” is not to be missed.

Don’t bring the kids.

Performances:
Fridays @ 8 pm: March 15, 22, 29; April 5, 12
Saturdays @ 8 pm: March 16, 23, 30; April 6, 13
Sundays @ 2 pm: March 17, 24, 31; April 7

Elephant Theatre
6322 Santa Monica Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90038
(1½ blocks west of Vine).
323-960-7785 or www.plays411.com/trainspotting

Geeks vs Zombies

Theater Review: August 18, 2012

Four geeks locked away playing video games in a basement are ready to fight for survival when they discover that the Zombie Apocalypse has begun. Armed with only baseball bats and a vast and extensive knowledge of every zombie film ever made, the geeks know exactly what works and what doesn’t when it comes to killing the undead. With little time to waste they plot their escape, hit Costco for supplies, hide out in a fort, kill a few dozen zombies and strengthening their friendships in the process.

Written by James Kopp and David Rock, “GEEKS vs ZOMBIES” began it’s theatrical life in Bakersfield where it enjoyed a successful run in 2010 and again in 2011.

Intent on bringing the play to Los Angeles, the writers approached Roger Mathey, the prolific director of the 2002 hit play, “Trainspotting” and asked him to help produce an L.A. version. Mathey signed on and once again brought back director John Morrison, who co-directed the Bakersfield run along with Kopp.

Mathey and Morrison don’t disappoint. The play is a rousing, fast paced, funny couple of hours that had the audience cheering every action scene, of which there are plenty. Boasting two large casts that alternate on different nights, there is a lot of traffic on the small stage at the Ruby, yet the well thought out direction makes it all flow effortlessly.

Our Geeks, “Macready,” “Blair,” “Loomis” and “Wallace” are a media savvy bunch. They know everything about fanboy culture, have opinions on music, video games and movies, including the yet to be released Brad Pitt zombie film “World War Z”. They have studied “Shaun of the Dead,” “28 Days Later” and “The Night of the Living Dead.”  These Geeks love “Star Wars” films but hate the 2008 flop, “The Spirit.” Rightly so.

Just in-case the earth and all it’s treasures are destroyed, our Geeks feel it their responsibility to make a list of the best and worst of mankind, highlighting their favorite films and video games while ragging on 80s music, boybands, posers and hipsters.

Geeks they may be, but our lads also boast a healthy supply of testosterone. There are several minor romantic plots woven into the story-line. While these never overshadow the gritty action scenes, they do manage to provide extra laughs.

The play also touches on a philosophical argument for and against free will vs god’s will as well as a metaphoric comparison to world events.

It is perhaps no accident that this Zombie Apocalypse started in the Middle East.

Despite it’s flirtation with serious issues (there is even an appearance by “God,”) “Geeks vs Zombies” knows its audience and fully understands what they want. Fun, raunchy dialogue and gore. Thus the play doesn’t linger too long on religion or politics, or even on women, concentrating on punch lines, and fight scenes. Oh, and did I mention blood? Yes, there is plenty of that.

Last Saturday night’s performance boasted stand-out turns from Josh Hensley as the level-headed “Macready,” Peter Mendoza as the porn loving “Wallace” and Steven Brandon as the clingy, needy “Blair,” an Aussie whose accent and cranky delivery put smiles on faces.

The ten actors playing zombies look the part in both makeup and movements. The program states that several of them are hearing impaired.

Lighting and set design are competent though the fine (uncredited) musical score that punctuates the action sometimes over powered the dialogue on stage the night of this review.

All in all, “Geeks vs Zombies” is delicious theatrical experience.  Like “Mcready” says, “hang out with more geeks. Maybe you’ll learn something.”

Geeks vs Zombies plays Thursday – Saturday at 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm through September 23, 2012
Ruby Theater @ The Complex
6476 Santa Monica Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90038
Tickets $20 cash at the door

Check out their Facebook page HERE.

Click on photos to enlarge.