“The Rainbow Bridge” – A Review

Review by: Peter Foldy

The punchlines just keep on coming in “The Rainbow Bridge,” the new, Woody Allen-esque comedy currently playing at the Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica.  Clever writing from Ron Nelson, strong acting from a superb cast, and tight, fluid direction by Michael Myers make this a production well worth checking out.

The story deals with a middle-aged defense attorney, Jerry, who visits a veterinarian, Dr. Stein, in order to put his late mother’s ailing dog to sleep. The good doctor, who happens to be not only attractive but also a little bit sex crazed, has had the hots for old Jerry since he first started dropping by.

After the sad procedure is over,  Dr. Stein hands Jerry some text that she keeps on her wall in order to soothe the pain of grieving pet owners. The sappy, heartfelt little poem talks about pets and owners being reunited in the afterlife.

No sooner does Jerry finish uttering the words, his dead mother, Lois, and his dead sister, Amanda, materialize in front of his eyes. No one but Jerry can see them, and he is suddenly dragged back into the family chaos that has surrounded him all his life.

Jerry begs his mom to leave him alone, to let him live his life, and the feisty old broad agrees under one condition. That Jerry kill her nemesis, an elderly lady now suffering with dementia. Jerry says no way but mom and sis keep haunting the poor bastard, making his life miserable, until Jerry reluctantly gives in.

While this seems a far fetched and unexpected compromise from a fine, upstanding criminal attorney, you haven’t met his mother and sister. They are a foul mouthed pair who mock and taunt Jerry, pushing all his buttons because they know exactly where they are. After all, they’re the ones who installed them.

Though “The Rainbow Bridge” has a dark undercurrent, it is the non stop humor that help make that undercurrent, and the suspension of disbelief that much easier to digest.

Ron Nelson puts hillarious dialogue into the mouths of his characters. Lynne Marie Stewart as Lois, and Mary Carrig as Jerry’s sister, Amanda, are both rewarded with raunchy one-liners–though Paul Schackman as Jerry easily holds his own in the comedy department. The repartee between the trio delivers most of the laughs.

Emily Jerez is relatable as Jerry’s wife. Jaimi Paige is sexy and seductive as the veterinarian, and L. Emille Thomas is particularly strong as Jerry’s client, Theodore, a gay arsonist who unexpectedly gets dragged into the madness.

Rounding out the cast is Mouchette Van Helsdingen as Harriet, the intended murder victim who manages to get considerable laughs despite barely opening her eyes, and muttering only a few lines of dialogue.

“The Rainbow Bridge” is a fun diversion that will definitely leave you with a smile on your face.

When: 8pm Fridays – Saturday, and 2pm on Sundays, through September 17, 2017

Where: Ruskin Group Theatre – 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405

Tickets: $25 ($20 for students, seniors, and guild members) and can be purchased in advance by calling (310) 397-3244 or online at www.ruskingrouptheatre.com

Ample free parking available on site.

Cast Photos: Ed Krieger

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The Gun” – A Play Review

by Peter Foldy

An unhappily married couple and their lay-about friend engage in a power struggle over commitment and motivation in the world premier of “The Gun” by JUSTIN YOFFE now playing at the Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica.

“Steve” (JOSH DRENNEN) is a troubled actor unable to climb out of his soul crushing rut. His friend, “Mike” (JOHN COLELLA) seems to take pleasure in reminding Steve that his career is in the dumps, that his life is going nowhere. An in your face, cocky know it all; Mike’s life appears to be no picnic either. His marriage to his fragile wife, “Ellen” (AUSTIN HIGHSMITH GARCES) is shaky at best. Ellen is completely under his thumb and Mike doesn’t comprehend just how demoralizing his tone is when he talks to her. Mike is a nasty piece of work and Steven and Ellen have both just about had it with him.

After blowing a promising Broadway audition, Steve storms out of the casting director’s office feeling even more of a failure. Finding himself in an alley he discovers an abandoned hand gun in a garbage can. A homeless man, (HAMILTON MATTHEWS) tells Steve he saw someone dump it there. Unfazed, Mike keeps the gun and suddenly feels empowered. Is this the catalyst he needs to step up to the plate? To rise to the occasion and realize his potential?

Returning to Mike’s apartment with the weapon in his waistband,  Steve confronts Ellen. He questions her and Mike’s relationship and tells her he sees the way her husband treats her. Knows how unhappy she must be.

Ellen opens up to Steve and when Mike returns from work he finds his friend and his wife in an embrace. Confused and feeling threatened, he confronts Steve. What starts out as a verbal challenge soon turns nasty and physical. Mike is revealed to be even more messed up then Steve. He eventually gets a hold of the gun and from here the play rapidly spirals toward its climactic conclusion.

Hindered by a monologue-heavy piece of writing the actors dig deep and manage to bring this conflicted story to life.

Josh Drennen commands the stage as the troubled “Steve.” John Colella is suitably overbearing and delivers a nuanced performance as Steve’s best friend. Austin Highsmith Garces is suitably empathetic as “Ellen,” her character’s turmoil as sad as it is relatable.

Using the unconventional stage at the Ruskin Theatre to her advantage, set designer, HILLARY BAUMAN, smoothly transitions the story between it’s various setting.  Composer, HANNAH FLOREK, helps create just the right mood with her fine score, while Director, DAVE FLOREK, keeps the the tension of The Gun wound tight, presenting a compelling psychodrama that is tough, to the point and ultimately well worth the price of admission.

When: 8pm Fridays and Saturdays, 2pm on Sundays through April 30, 2017
(No performances April 14-16, or on April 29th)

Where: Ruskin Group Theatre. 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405

Tickets: $25 ($20 for students, seniors, and guild members) and can be purchased in advance by calling (310) 397-3244 or online at www.ruskingrouptheatre.com

Ample free parking available on site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“It’s Time” Is A Poignant Celebration Of Love And Life

Review by: Peter Foldy

The Beatles said it best. “All You Need is Love.” Paul Linke reaffirms that notion in his heartfelt, nostalgic solo performance currently running at the Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica. Linke’s current piece, IT’S TIME, bookends his Ace Award Nominated HBO Showcase entitled “Time Flies When You’re Alive.”

This time Linke shares a remarkable journey that saw him love deeply and then grieve desperately before finding a new love again, I_T_Paul_Linke2a love that has sustained him and his family for over twenty five years.

Best recognized for his role as “Artie Grossman” on the NBC-TV series CHiPs as well as for his co-starring roles in “Parenthood” and “K-PAX,” Linke’s story starts out in the 1960s. He introduces us to his younger self, a horny pot smoking college kid who has no clue where his journey is headed. Nor does he care. His main focus are girls and seeing the Doors at the Whisky Au Go Go. By chance he finds himself in a college acting workshop where at his audition he proceeds to embarrass himself with an impromptu improvised sex act on a plant. Not a great start, but, hey, it’s the 60s.  Fortunately, the people running the workshop see something in this free spirited wild child–a potential of talent–which gets him into class and ultimately sparks his interest in pursuing a life as an actor.

Having finally discovered his calling, Linke also manages to fall in love. It’s a deep, committedI_T_Paul Linke4 love that brings him much happiness and produces three beautiful children. But as most of us know, life sometimes has other plans. Linke’s wife is diagnosed with breast cancer and before long he finds himself a single dad with not a clue as to how to move forward.

Linke shares his deep debilitating grief while humorously revealing his attempts at dating and parenting. It’s a time of  pain and desperation but somehow Linke carries on.

Eventually, through an unexpected introduction, he meets a beautiful actress called Christine and he is instantly smitten. His nerves however get the better of him and he makes an obnoxious first impression. The opportunity almost implodes but the actress gives him another chance and gradually a deep, caring relationship is formed and a broken family slowly becomes whole again.

Expertly directed by I_T_Paul Linke8EDWARD EDWARDS, Linke’s story is brought to life through a series of projected photographs that ably connects the audience to Linke’s loved ones.

This is a beautiful journey. One that is honestly and openly shared. It is hard not to shed a tear, nor to feel empathy during Linke’s 70 minute performance. He celebrates the magnitude of life, the power of love and applauds the contributions of those around him who helped turn his life around. And isn’t that something we can all relate to? Seeing “It’s Time,” may compel you say thank you, or I love you to those who matter the most in your life.

When: IT’S TIME runs at 8pm on Fridays, 5pm Saturdays, and 2pm on Sundays through December 4, 2016 (no performances November 25 – 27).

Where: Ruskin Group Theatre is located at 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405.

How Much: Tickets are $25 ($20 for students, seniors, and guild members) and can be purchased in advance by calling (310) 397-3244 or online at www.ruskingrouptheatre.com Ample free parking available.