Tuesday, September 18, 2018

NATIVE GARDENS by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Native Gardens is a comedy written by Karen Zacarias, directed by Jason Alexander, and playing at the Pasadena Playhouse.  It focuses on two very different couples whose friendship turns into a feud.
             Pablo (Christian Parillas) a striving young attorney recently hired by a prominent law firm, and his young pregnant wife, Tania (Jessica Meraz) have moved into their first home in a trendy neighborhood in Washington, D.C..  The property needs a little TLC, but they are excited about its great yard, wonderful mature tree, a home of their own, and the birth of their first child. 
            Pablo and Tania are enthusiastically welcomed by their next door neighbors, Frank (Bruce Davison) and Virginia (Frances Fisher) who are happy to see a nice family moving into the property that has been neglected due to various renters over the years.  They take pride in their neighborhood, their home, and Frank particularly in his garden that he has nurtured over the years into a lush expanse of tulips and other beautiful colors of flowers.
            Tania has ideas for turning her yard into a garden indigenous to their surroundings and centered around their beautiful mature tree.  She panics when Pablo tells her he has invited his entire office to visit on the coming Saturday.  Realizing they haven’t the time to get the house in order, they agree to have a bar-b-que and rush to get the yard in shape.
            The two couples had agreed that they needed to remove a decades old iron fence and replace it with a new wooden one, but when a survey proves that Frank’s garden has been imposing on 80 square yards of their neighbors’ property, their friendship flies out the window.  Both parties feel they are the injured party.  So, while the gardeners (Julian Arrmaya, Richard Biglia, Bradley Roa II) continue to build the fence on the legal boundary line, upsetting Frank’s garden, the dispute between two couples erupts into a rollicking comedy.
            The cast are all commended performers who are diligently directed by Jason Alexander in bringing an outstanding comedy to the Pasadena Playhouse.  The beautiful set design is by David Meyer.
            Native Gardens plays at the Pasadena Playhouse Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM, through Sept. 30.  Tickets are available online at pasadenaplayhouse.org, by phone at (626) 356-7529, or at the theatre box office, 39 South El Molino Ave., Pasadena.


Monday, September 17, 2018

BREADCRUMBS  by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Breadcrumbs is a play written by Jennifer Haley playing at the Second Floor Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood.  At times it is very touching, other times it is emotional, and there are moments when it can be inexplicable while embracing a situation that is timely today.
            Alida (Lareen Faye) is a reclusive aging writer who lives alone.  While in the midst of writing her autobiography, she is diagnosed with dementia, and is having difficulty remembering words to write.  She goes to a clinic where she is given a memory test by an inept nurse’s aide named Beth (Lisa McGee Mann) who messes up the files and calls Alida by someone else’s name.
            A few days later, Beth shows up at Alida’s home, offering to become her assistant.  Alida is reticent to give her the job since it is obvious to her that the two of them have nothing in common, but Alida recognizes she is need of help.  Beth has worked as a bartender, a stripper, has had many men in her life, and is obviously looking for something to better herself.  How will two such opposites manage to work together?    
            As the days pass, Alida finds much to complain about while working with Beth.  But as her mental condition worsens, she relies more and more on her to find the words to help her recall her childhood memories.  While they follow the breadcrumbs toward her past, they discern a commonality between them which brings them towards a more understanding of one another.  Who would have thought that Alida had lived her life with a mother just like Beth?!
            Lareen Faye and Lisa McGee Mann give sterling performances in this well directed play by Bert Emmett.  Breadcrumbs continues Saturdays at 2 PM, and Sundays at 7 PM, through Oct. 14.  Tickets are available online at www.thegrouprep.com, or by phone at (818) 763-5990.  The Second Floor Lonny Chapman Theater is located 10900 Burbank Blvd, North Hollywood.  The theater is not handicapped accessible.
80 minutes, no intermission
Appropiate for adult audiences

Friday, September 14, 2018

            Ray Bradbury (August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012) was an American author whose work included books, short stories, plays, and screenplays, either horror stories, mystery fiction, and science fiction. He authored over 600 short stories and over 30 books, winning numerous awards, including a 2007 Pulitzer Citation.
            Martians – An Evening With Ray Bradbury is a play that brings Ray Bradbury back to life on the stage, in the form of actor playwright Charlie Mount, at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks.  Written by Mount and Jeff G. Rack (who also directs the production), it takes the audience on a visit to Mars.  Much of the wording comes from Bradbury’s own words
            Ray Bradbury (Charlie Mount) reveals four of his short stories to his audience by also bringing his characters to life on stage.  You see a space ship take off (via projected films) and arrive on the planet bringing a young couple coming to settle on Mars (Michael Perl and Melissa Lugo).  The story of the couple’s plight is based on The Strawberry Window.  His story, the Blue Bottle, is about two soldiers of fortune (Paul Gunning and Joe Seely), who have come in search of the famous Blue Bottle of Mars.  Father Niven (Eric Keitel) traps a Martian who reshapes himself in the form of Christ (John T. Cogan) from The Mesiah.   Night Call, Collect reveals the last man on Mars, Old Barton (Don Moss), who is left alone with no way to communicate except by recordings of his younger self (Richard Mooney).  The cast also includes Robert Paterno (The Searcher/The Martian)   
            This is not the first time Charley Mount has portrayed Ray Bradbury.  He played him in a production of The October Country and produced his play, Falling Upward, both at Theatre West.  His portrayal of the man is very credible.  The entire production has an aura of being somewhere other than Earth (production design by Jeff G. Rack).    
            If you are an aficionado of Ray Bradbury, you definitely will not want to miss this production at the Whitefire Theatre playing Fridays at 8 PM, through Nov. 7, with one Saturday night performance, Nov. 10, at 8 PM.  Tickets are available online at www.whiltefiretheatre.com, or by phone at (800) 838-3006.  The Whitefire Theatre is located at 13500 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

ROMEO AND JULIET by Carol Kaufman Segal
            When I was first made aware of Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare, being performed with a “fresh twist,” I couldn’t image such an undertaking, nor could I imagine how it could evolve into a worthwhile production.  How could the same plot by Shakespeare be set in pre-World War II, Berlin, featuring Romeo as a German boy, and Juliet as a Jewish girl?  Well, needless to say, I found out how, and was more than enamored with the results of this very fine presentation by the Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre.
            Romeo (Mike Bingaman) is a Montague and a German Nazi, Juliet is a Capulet (Savannah Schoenecker) from a well-to-do German Jewish family who is against Hitler and his growing regime in the country.  Black and white films of the growing danger that is mounting in the country give a vivid story of what is to come.
            The plot stays as Shakespeare wrote it.  Romeo and Juliet fall in love and he romances her under her balcony (where the Jewish faith of the family is made obvious by the Sabbath candles seen in the window).  Romeo and Juliet decide to visit their friend, Gypsy Lawrence (Mark Atha) who performs a marriage between the two lovers.  Later, there is a run-in between the Montagues (Germans) and the Capulets (Jews) whereby the fight results in Romeo being banished for killing Tybalt (Heston Horwin).   All of the fight scenes in the production are outstandingly realistic (Choreographer Cylan Brown). 
            Juliet never wavers in her love for Romeo while he is away.  However, the Capulets turn against him.  Her mother, Lady Capulet (Belinda Howell), and her father, Capulet (Patrick Burke) demand her to forget Romeo and marry Paris (Ashkhan Aref) and arrange for the marriage.  Nurse Bubby (Janee Hull) tries to console her, but Juliet takes her problem in her own hands and goes to Gypsy Lawrence for help.  He gives her a special potion that feigns death for several days, in order to cancel her wedding day to Paris.  Unfortunately, when Romeo returns to seek out Juliet, he is not aware of Gypsy Lawrence’s potion, and when he comes upon her seemingly dead body, he kills himself.  Upon awakening, Juliet becomes overwrought when she sees Romeo lying dead, draws his dagger from him and ends her life.
            The Capulets gather together for the double funeral, which brings the play to its close as they have obviously been taken prisoners of their enemies (The Nazis).  Yes, it did succeed in its “fresh twist,” of one of the worst happenings in the history of the world.
            Director Shira Dubrovner deserves kudos for a fantastic job directing an extremely talented cast of actors.  The cast is very large, and beside the wonderful performances by those playing the main characters, each of the actors add to the life of the production. 
            Romeo and Juliet plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, through October 14, at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, located at 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood.  Tickets are available online at www.thegrouprep.com, or by phone at (818) 763-5990.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

            The Man Who Saved Everything is an original drama by Benjamin Suglia playing at Theatre West in Los Angeles.  It is about a man with a problem, a man who could not rid himself of anything that had to do with his life.
            Berry (David Mingrino) left home before his adulthood to further his education.  When his aging parents needed help, he returned to care for them.  After both passed away, Barry stayed on, and what overcame him can be a mystery.  He became obsessed with every single thing in the house, treasuring all in order to retain memories of his youth and the memories of his parents.           
            After years, what Barry considered his collection, became a clutter beyond imagination, and he is faced with a tremendous problem.  His entire neighborhood has outlived its time and is being demolished in order to be redeveloped.  Actually, Barry’s house is the only one still standing.  He is in danger of being forced out by police.
            Barry’s longtime friend from college, Chuck (James J. Cox) and his niece Darla (Ashley Victoria Robinson), concerned about his health and the fact that he will be forced out of the house, try everything they can to make him realize he has to leave.  But how can he?   We watch him facing his dilemma as he walks about looking at and touching items throughout the house, wondering what will happen to him when he no longer has his memories to keep him alive.
            Hoarding is a mental disorder as well a health problem but rarely recognized as such, therefore, rarely treated.   Suglia took on a difficult subject, but tried to give audiences an insight into the subject without offering answers to it.  Other members of the cast include Julia Silverman (Mother), Suzanne Collins sharing the role of Mother, and Alan Schack (Father),  directed by Michael VanDuzer.  
            The Man Who Saved Everything plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, through September 23, at Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, Los Angeles.  There will be talkbacks after each Sunday matinee.  Tickets are available by calling (323) 851-7977, or online at www.theatrewest.org.      

Friday, August 24, 2018

 MEMOIR OF WAR by Carol Kaufman Segal
            The film, Memoir of War, written and directed by Emmanual Finkiel, is based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Marguerite Duras.  Duras died in 1996 at the age of 81.  In her novel, the famed author goes back to a time in her life during World War II.  As she looks back on her diary, she can hardly remember ever writing about her life during that time.
            The year is 1944, the place, Nazi-occupied France.  Marguerite Antelme (Melanie Thierry) is a young writer deeply lost in her emotions since the arrest of her husband Robert (Emmanuel Bourdieu), a resistant fighter who has been sent to a labor camp.  An active member of the movement along with her husband and a group of fellow fighters, Marguerite is obsessed with the loss of her husband, consumed with trying to find him, hoping for him to come home.
            Marguerite even goes so far as to become friendly with Pierre Rabier (Benoit Magimel), a French Nazi collaborator with hopes that he will tell her where Robert is.  He asks her to meet him every day, offering hope that he will have information about him. He reveals an interest in Marguerite  because she is a writer, but is he really going to help her?  Her friend and Robert’s, Dionys Mascolo, (Benjamin Biolay,) and the other Members of the Resistance, are concerned that Pierre is only trying to get information from her regarding the movement.  They don’t approve of her continued meetings, and after many months, she realizes that he has been stringing her along.     
            Each scene throughout the film portrays a woman suffering from her loss, fighting for the life of her husband, sometimes strong, and yet living through moments of weakness.  Through all of the months of wondering if she will ever see Robert again, Marguerite has seeked solace and love from Dionys which has intensified her guilt and pain.   When all that she has fought for over a year comes to fruition, we are left with a fading scene.           
            Melanie Thierry is the focal point throughout the entire film.  Her portrayal of Marguerite is outstanding.  She keeps one focused on what is happening throughout.  However, it becomes difficult to feel sympathy for her character in the final analysis of the story.
            Running time, 127 minutes.   Not rated
            In French with English subtitles
            Playing at Laemmle Royal, West Los Angeles; Laemmle Playhousec7, Pasadena, Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino                       

Monday, August 13, 2018

DORIS AND ME by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Seeing Doris and Me was like spending one of the most fantastic evenings at a nightclub.  Actually I was watching an exceptionally talented young man, Scott Dreier, who absolutely loves Doris Day and was performing his show commemorating her music, life, and career at the Colony Theatre in Burbank. 
            “My name is Scott and I love Doris Day” are the first words spoken when Scott walks out on the stage.   We soon learn that he not only loves Doris Day, he is absolutely obsessed with her, and that obsession began at a young age.  He talks about as many of the 39 films she made during her years in Hollywood as he is able fashion into his story, and sings so many of the songs that she made famous during those years  At the same time, wonderful nostalgic pictures of those films are projected on the back stage.
             That era of music is my favorite, so listening to the songs so beautifully performed made a perfect evening for me.  Here are just a few of the memorable songs he sang:  The Way You Look Tonight, Secret Love, Sentimental Journey, Whatever Will Be Will Be, Que  Sera, Sera, and By the Light of the Silvery Moon.  Of course, this was just a small “taste” of the evening’s music.
            It is no surprise to know that Scott has become acquainted with Doris Day, who is now 96 years old and, from the picture that was shown on the back stage, she does not appear her age at all.  She is living comfortably in Carmel, CA, and due to her strong love for animals, she created the Doris Day Animal Foundation whose mission is “to help animals and the people who love them.  We fund nonprofit causes that need assistance for their work, caring and protecting animals.”
            Scott Dreier is loaded with stage charisma, and tells his story with a great deal of feeling, but it his outstanding voice and style that made the evening so enchanting.  Accompanying him through the evening was Musical Director and pianist Bret Simmons, with Carlos Rivera on Bass, two outstanding musicians who added to the quality of the evening. Doris and Me was written by Scott Dreier with Kurtis Simmons and was directed by Richard Israel.   
            Watch for Scott Dreier’s next appearance in Doris and Me in the Los Angeles and nearby areas.