Sunday, March 26, 2017

AN AMERICAN IN PARIS by Carol Kaufman Segal
            An American In Paris was a musical film produced by Metro Goldwyn Mayer in 1951 starring Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, and Oscar Levant, and directed by Vincent Minelli.  It was a big success, winning six Oscars and receiving two other nominations.   The musical play was inspired by the Academy Award winning film and opened at the Palace Theatre on Broadway on April, 2015.  The hit musical won several Tony Awards and is still running on Broadway today.  The Hollywood Pantages Theatre is proud to be bringing the wonderful touring company of this spectacular musical to Los Angeles.
            The era is 1945 post World War II in Paris, and ex-GI Jerry Mulligan (Garen Scribner) has remained in Paris in order to pursue his artistic talent.   He meets a lovely French girl, Lise Dassin (Sara Esty), a ballerina who works in a perfumery and he falls for her instantly.  He is unaware that he is not the only one who longs for Lise.  There is his friend, composer/piano- playing  Adam Hochberg (Etai Benson), as well as Henri Baurel (Nick Spangler), a wealthy young man who wants a career singing and dancing, who also becomes his friend
            Jerry is not very successful trying to sell his paintings on the sidewalk until Milo Davenport (Emily Ferranti) meets him and offers to help him.  She is also impressed by Lise’s talent as a ballerina and makes plans to finance a new ballet for her and to showcase Jerry’s art and Adam’s music.  It is obvious that Milo is interested in Jerry for more than his art, but when she sees how much he is in love with Lise, she relents. 
            As Lise and Jerry spend more time together, at times she appears to have feelings for him, but somehow holds back.  He finally discovers that she is engaged to Henri who plans to marry her and take her back to the United States where he has received a job doing to fulfill his dream.  Though Lise is in love with Jerry, she feels obligated to marry Henri who saved her during the war.  She and Henri walk away together, but he sends her back to Jerry. 
            The book by Craig Lucas (inspired by the film) is not what makes An American In Paris so great.  It is simply the background for the magnificent dancing and dancers (choreography by Christopher Wheeldon who is also the director), the beautiful voices and acting, wonderful George and Ira Gershwin music (Music Director David Andrews Rogers), lavish costumes, and glorious sets (sets and costume designs by Bob Crowly).  Just a very few pieces of Gershwin’s music you will enjoy hearing are I Got Rhythm, The Man I Love, S Wonderful, But Not For Me, They Can’t Take That Away From Me, and An American in Paris.  The crème de la crème is the beautiful ballet performed by Esty and Scribner to An American In Paris.
            I recall seeing the movie in 1951which I loved, but there is nothing like seeing An American In Paris come to life on the stage, especially with such a magnificent company of singers, dancers, and musicians, as well as those behind the scenes. 
            An American In Paris will be appearing at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 1 PM and 6:30 PM, through April 9.  Tickets are available at www.HollywooPantages.com, or www.Ticketmaster.com, by phone at (800) 982-2787, or at the Hollywood Pantages Box Office, located at 6233 Hollywood Blvd. which opens daily at 10 AM except on holidays.    An American In Paris is recommended for ages 6 and up.  (Children under 5 will not be admitted to the theatre, and all patrons must have a ticket, regardless of age.)

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED 









Saturday, March 25, 2017

APRIL, MAY AND JUNE by Carol Kaufman Segal
            April, May & June, a well written play by Gary Goldstein and directed by Terri Hanauer, is making its world premiere at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills.  It is not a play about the seasons, but one about three sisters in their forties, born a year apart. 
            You might expect there to be camaraderie between the three sisters since they are so close in age, but they grew up with different personalities and temperaments.  They grew up Jewish, but had a maternal Gentile grandmother who was said to have made the best Matzo ball soup!
                        April (Jennifer Lee Laks), being the eldest, is the most dominant.  Her marriage fell apart after she discovered her husband’s infidelity.  May (Jennifer Taub) never forgets she is the “middle one” and is conscious of her weight, but enjoys a happy marriage.  June (Meredith Thomas) is a lesbian who has a partner who has strayed. 
            Their mother recently passed away and they have gathered together to pack up everything left in the home where they grew up.  As they go through the process of scrapping their memories, their differences become more obvious.  When, at last, they are nearing the end of their job, they suddenly discover some hidden letters stashed behind a desk drawer. 
            When they cautiously open them up, they are shocked to discover love letters to their mother.  What is more shocking, they are from a teacher each of them had known from their school days.  Their mother had been the stalwart parent as they grew up with an alcoholic father, a perfect mother.   And what of their mother who they thought they knew so well, a woman who kept her secret while enduring her marriage throughout? 
            Everything from their childhood and growing up will seem different to them from now on in the light of what they have discovered.  Will it impact their relationships or their lives?     
            All three actresses give powerful performances and bring these three sisters to llife.  As Gary Goldstein says about why he wrote this play, “….if the words of this play can in any small way, help one rethink or reconcile any unsettled feelings toward a parent or a sibling, wouldn’t that be a great bonus?”
            April, May & June is produced by David Hunt Stafford, set design by Jeff G. Rack, and is playing at Theatre 40, in the Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 S. Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills, on the campus of the Beverly Hills High School.  Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, through April 16.  For reservations, call (310) 364-0535, or, for online ticketing, go to www.theatre40.org.

Recommended




FRANTZ by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Germany, 1919, following World War I, Anna (Paula Beer) is mourning the loss of her fiancé Frantz (Anton von Lucke seen in flashbacks), who died in the trenches during the war. When she makes her usual trip to place flowers on Frantz’s grave,she discovers that someone else has put flowers on the site.  She soon sees the mysterious stranger crying over Frantz’s grave.
            A man from Paris, Adrien Rivoire (Pierre Ninny) has come to call on Frantz’s parents, Dr. Hoffmeister (Ernst Stotzner) and his wife Magda (Marie Gruber).  But before he can explain his reason for his visit, Dr. Hoffmeister treats him with disdain and asks him to leave.  (Many Germans were killed by the French, and vice-versa, during the war and have no use for one another.)
            Anna meets up with the mysterious stranger who turns out to be Adrien, and when he tells her that he and Frantz were close friends prior to the war, and that he had come to pay his respects to his parents, she brings him back to the Hoffmeisters’ home.  Anna is especially close with the Hoffmeisters, their relationship like daughter and parents, and she would do anything to comfort them.  She feels that meeting Adrien and hearing about his connection to Frantz will bring them some consolation.
            While Adriens spends a great deal of time visiting with Frantz’s parents, and Anna as well, he is treated with animosity by the people of the town, as are the Hoffeisters and Anna for befriending him.  Anna is rebuffed by Kruetz (Johann von Bulow) who has wooed her since the end of the war.
            The Hoffmeisters become very close with Adrien and as Anna seems to be getting closer as well, they are quite upset when he suddenly leaves to return to France.  The reason for Adrien’s quick departure cannot be revealed in this review.  However, as the filmmaker, Francois  Ozon says, this movie is about “our need to believe.”   It is also about lost love.    
            Frantz is an excellent film with a cast that is special.  The characters are intense and interesting and hold your interest throughout the 113 minutes.  Written and directed by Francis Ozon, it is loosely based on Broken Lullaby by Ernst Lubitsch.
French & German Subtitles

Highly recommended


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

GOD AND SEX by Carol Kaufman Segal
            God and Sex is a comedy-drama written by Wendy Michaels and directed by Chris DeCarlo.  Playing in The Other Space at the Santa Monica Playhouse, it is loosely based on the playwright Wendy Michaels’ experiences prior to her wedding and first year of marriage in 1997.
            Amy (Rebecca Lincoln) has spent many years in a lesbian relationship and decides her life would be easier if she went straight.  She speculates that getting married and living a “normal, straight life” would be easier just like in the movies.  So Amy sets about getting married to Tim (Donald Rizzo), who was her friend in high school and loved her from the moment they first met.   Her choice for her maid of honor, none other than Karen (Andrea Gwynnel Morgan), her ex-lover!
            What could possibly go wrong?  Things seem to go well as they look forward to their special day, but when important details come up, things don’t go quite as well as expected. These are two grown individuals with their own dreams, each one wanting to cling to their own desires.  But life is not like the movies and divine intervention interferes and surprises them both.  This play presents an unusual plot for mature audiences only.

            God and Sex plays Fridays at 8 PM and Saturdays at 3 PM, in The Other Space at the Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th Street, in Santa Monica, through May 13.  For reservations, call the Playhouse Box Office at (310)394-9779, ext.1, or go online at Santa MonicaPlayhouse.com/god-and-sex.html.
IT’S TIME by Carol Kaufman Segal
            It’s Time is a true account by the writer, Paul Linke.  You may know him as Artie Grossman from the NBC-TV series CHiPs as well as his many other artistic endeavors.  I first met Paul when he was performing a solo play that he wrote entitled Time Flies When You’re Alive which was also filmed as an HBO Showcase.  That was when I interviewed him on my radio program over KPFK on March 22, 1995!
            Paul is a true survivor, a man who has managed to heal himself from a heartbreaking loss by “talking” about it publicly.  In 1986, Paul became a solo performer and writer eulogizing the loss of his wife to cancer at the age of 38, leaving him with three small children.  He said “It was a life changing idea and, most importantly, one that steered me out of that abyss of questions and into the experience of acceptance. “  It was the path to his personal healing when he wrote and performed Time Flies When You’re Alive.      
            In It’s Time,, Paul tells about spending time as a widower, but eventually being fortunate to be introduced by friends to a lovely woman, Christine, who became his second wife 25 years ago.  Paul felt it was “time” to give her the tribute she deserves for bringing him and his family the happiness they have.  Christine had been an actress and gave up her career to become the wife and mother to the Linke Family, and they have been “happy ever after.”
            Paul tells his story with love, pride, and emotion from beginning to end.  His performance is theater at its best.  It is directed by Edward Edwards and is being presented at the Pacific Resident Theatre in Venice.  It plays Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM, and Sundays at 3  PM, through April 16 (no performance Sunday, May 26).  The theatre is located at 705-1/2 Venice Blvd., Venice, CA.  For reservations call (310) 822-8392, or go online at www.pacificresidenttheatre.com. 

Highly recommended     
A DELUSIONAL AFFAIR by Carol Kaufman Segal
            A Delusional Affair, a comedy written by 91-year old Albert James Kallis, a man of many talents.  Kallis was born to Russian immigrant parents, and during his years, he has had four successful careers including a graphic design-marketing-advertising giant, a documentary filmmaker, co-founder of the IHOP restaurant chain, and an author.  He can now add to his dossier, a playwright!
            After two people have been married for a number of years, even though they still love one another, it seems that the romance fades and they take one another for granted.  In the case of the couple in A Delusional Affair, Julia Foxx (Rachel Galper) and Oliver Foxx (Gregg Berger), celebrating their 25th anniversary, has not worked out to be the good time that Oliver had hoped it would be. 
            Oliver is looking for a special romantic night.  He begins by telling Julia that he plans to sell his business for a great deal of money and has plans for the two of them to take a trip around the world.  Julia is working on her computer, barely listening or responding to anything Oliver is saying.  She is in the middle of writing a book that has already been accepted by a publisher and her mind is totally on her work, anxious to get it finished and printed.
            Feeling rebuffed, Oliver leaves Julia and of to bed he goes.  When he awakens in the morning, he finds himself in bed with a stranger, a beautiful young sexy woman named Gina (Albina Katsman).  Needless to say, he is shocked, but it turns out that Oliver is the only one who can see the girl who is a delusion of a character from Julia’s book. 
            Why has this girl appeared to Oliver at this time?  It seems that her presence, unbeknownst to Oliver and Julia, has come to life to actually save their marriage by making them question everything about their love, their marriage, and what their lives together are all about.
            Written with so much humor, and performed so well by the three actors, I recommend this play (but for mature audiences due to the topic and some nudity).  Credit goes to Chris DeCarlo for his fine work directing the cast.

            A Delusional Affair plays Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 3:30 PM, through April 30, at the Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th Street, in Santa Monica.  Reservations are necessary and are available by calling the Playhouse Box Office at (310) 394-9779, ext. 1, or online at SantaMonicaPlayhouse.com/a-delusional-affair.html.     


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

WHITE GUY ON THE BUS by Carol Kaufman Segal
            The title, White Guy on the Bus, is enough to relate to us that this play is about racism.  Written by Bruce Graham and directed by Stewart J. Zully, it begins in a light manner but builds up to an unexpected explosive climax.
            Ray (Kevin McKorkle), a well-to-do financial manager and his wife Roz (Amy Stoch) live in an affluent community in Philadelphia.  Roz is a dedicated teacher in an inner-city school where she faces challenging students on a daily basis.  Their relationship is close and loving.  Having no children of their own, Ray and Roz have become surrogate parents to a neighbor, Christopher (Crash Bruist) and his wife Molly (Teagan Rose).           
            Christopher is working on his Ph.D.  having to do with African Americans as CEO’s and Molly also works at a school, albeit a school in an up-scale neighborhood.  On an evening when the four of them gather together, their conversation ends up in a debate regarding racial issues and the differences in their philosophies.
            Suddenly the scene has a complete about face and we find Ray on a Saturday afternoon riding on a bus that goes through the indigent parts of town.  He begins a conversation with Shatique (Kacie Rogers), the young African American woman sitting next to him.  During the conversation, he learns a great deal about her.  But why is this man riding a bus through this part of town each week, and why the interest in the woman he sits next to each time?
            In a stunning scene, when Ray shows up at Shatique’s apartment with a disturbing proposition, he has become an entirely transformed and frightening individual, and we discover the answers to those questions.  The subject matter of Graham’s play is relevant, but the play is difficult to follow due to the way it is structured, the plot being rather unbelievable, but with a wonderful cast bringing it to life.

            White Guy on the Bus plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, at the Road on Magnolia, 10747 Magnolia Blvd., No. Hollywood.  Tickets are available online at www.RoadTheatre.org, or by calling (818) 761-8838.