Wednesday, April 26, 2017

THE ORIGINALIST by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was an Associate of the United States Supreme court for thirty years.  Appointed to the Court by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1986, he was obviously appointed as a conservative force on the Supreme Court.   I wonder if anyone knew how strong and stubborn he would hold to his ideas as an originalist throughout those years.
            Playwright John Strand’s play about Scalia, entitled The Originalist, playing at the Pasadena Playhouse, is a fictionalized story that pits him against a young liberal woman who, despite their differences, they end up as friends.   
            The play opens with Scalia, (masterly performed by Edward Gero) with operatic music in the background and he talks about how much he loves opera music.  Then we find him on stage where he is holding forth a talk to a law school class and being interrupted repeatedly by a young woman in the audience as she challenges some of his remarks. 
            The next scene opens in Judge Scalia’s chambers where the same young woman arrives introducing herself as Cat (Jade Wheeler) while letting him know that she is a highly qualified Harvard Law School graduate looking for a job as his law clerk.  Knowing that Cat is a liberal, it seems surprising that he hires her for the job, but he does, thereby setting up the fictional tale between an exceptionally strong conservative Judge of the United States Supreme Court and a young equally liberal law clerk.
            Then the battle ensues.  Judge Scalia believes that anything before the court should hold fast to the Constitution despite the fact that it was ratified over two centuries ago (philosophy of originalism).  Most people feel that the Court should allow for changes as society changes.  Otherwise, we would be held to some very repugnant laws that, fortunately have been changed, such as racial and gender equality.  According to Judge Scalia’s interpretation, any laws that do not adhere strictly to the original intent by the founders, would be proclaimed unconstitutional.
            Scalia s a pure conservative and while he debates his side with Cat, she has answers for him through her legal research.  But as time passes, Cat does not see him as a man without feeling, and before long, they become friends
            Though admittedly, this could never happen, Playwright Strand, in his note to the audience, gives his reason for writing this play.  To quote him, he wrote. “What happened to the political middle?  How did compromise become a dirty word in American politics?  Civil discourse has been replaced by a verbal foodfight.    Why?”
            Directed by Molly Smith, the pay is extremely well presented.  I felt something significant and pleasing by the playing of opera music between each of the scenes.  Edward Gero is the perfect actor to play Judge Scalia.  His resemblance of the man s amazing.  Jade Wheeler is delightful as Cat.  Also included in the cast is Brett Mack who plays a small role, but helps to bond the Judge and Cat.
            The Originalist is playing at the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molina, in Pasadena, Ave., Pasadena, CA.   Performances are Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 4 PM & 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, through May 7th, with one Sunday evening performance at 7 PM on April 30.


RECOMMENDED


 90 minutes with no intermission

Friday, April 21, 2017

A QUIET PASSION by Carol Kaufman Segal (film review)   
            A Quiet Passion is a biographical film about American poet, Emily Dickenson, written and directed by celebrated British Director Terrence Davies.  In this film, Davies has paid homage to a woman who was not recognized for her talent until after her death.
            Emily was born in Amherst, Massachusetts in 1830.  The film opens in 1848 where Emily (Emma Bell) has been attending Mount Holyoke College.  When she refuses to accept God by a stern headmistress, she is expelled from the school.  Her family is only too happy to bring her home. 
            Emily, being an outsider, is only too happy to be home as well where she is more comfortable being with her father (Keith Carradine), mother (Joanna Bacon), sister Vinni (Jennifer Ehle), and brother Austin (Duncan Duff).   Though Mr. Dickenson does not stress religion to his family, he is not pleased with Emily’s outspoken denial of God.  At times he finds her difficult due to her free spirit but, at the same time, they have a loving relationship.  He is only too happy to grant her permission when she asks if she can stay up late at night to write her poetry.
            As Emily grows older (now played by Cynthia Nixon), she becomes more reclusive, has no interest in marriage, but finds a close friendship with Vrylin Buffam (Catherine Bailey) who is much more liberal than she.  Eventually Vrylin marries while, unfortunately, Emily finds an interest in Rev. Charles Wadsworth (Eric Loren) who is already married, and she feels she is destined to remain a spinster. 
            As the years pass, illness and family deaths cause Emily to become more and more isolated, as she spends further time in her room, refusing to see anyone.  However, her sister Vinnie remains close to her until her death at the age of 55.
            During her lifetime, Dickenson wrote close to 1800 poems, and less than a dozen were published.  However, following her death, and the publication of all of her work, she is considered to be one of America’s major poets.
            A Quiet Passion is a beautiful film with an outstanding cast.  Terrence Davies has personified each character perfectly.   The film is playing at Laemmle’s Royal Theatre in Los Angeles.
            MPAA Rating:  PG-13
            Running Time:  2 hours,  min.                           

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
             
               




Thursday, April 20, 2017

THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA McBRIDE by Carol Kaufman Segal
            The Legend of Georgia McBride is a story about Casey (Andre Burnap), a good-looking young man who doesn’t take life too seriously.   He is married to Jo (Nija Okoro) and it is obvious that they are a very happily married couple.  The only problem with their marriage is the fact that they have money problems and find it difficult to keep up with their rent and other expenses which never seems to bother Casey,
            Casey struggles to earn a living by impersonating Elvis in a low-class lounge called Cleo’s in the Florida Panhandle owned by Eddie (Nick Searcy).  When Jo chastises Casey for using some of the rent money to buy a pizza, he doesn’t understand the problem.  He tells her he just purchased a new showy jumpsuit that should help his act bring in more money.   That’s when Jo gives him the news that she is pregnant.  Almost at the same time, Jason (Larry Powell), their landlord, informs them that if they don’t come up with the rent money, they are going to have to move out.
            When Casey goes to work, Eddie’s cousin, Miss Tracy Mills (Matt McGrath) and “her” sidekick Miss Rexy (also played by Powell) have arrived there and is told by Eddie that he can no longer afford to keep him because he is not drawing the crowds.   Miss Tracy and Miss Rexy will be doing their act as drag queens, and if he wants to keep working at the lounge, he can join them!
            Soon Cleo’s is rocking with customers and becomes a popular spot.  But one night, Miss Rexy doesn’t show up and Miss Tracy teaches Casey what it takes to become a drag queen.  At first, Casey is ambivalent about cross dressing and performing as a woman but soon he gets so good at it, he cuts up his Elvis jumpsuit and becomes a natural now known as the very popular Miss Georgia McBride.
            Casey is now bringing home a lot of money and their financial situation is settled.  But what isn’t settled is the fact that Casey doesn’t have the heart to tell Jo about abandoning his Elvis gig to become a drag queen.  However, in time, all is settled. 
            The entire cast is superb.  The acts are a hoot by Burnnap, McGrath, and Powell, and the audience becomes those in attendance at Cleo’s when Nick Searcy greets everyone at the opening of the performance.   Nija Okoro is sweet and enchanting as Jo and Andrew McGrath is a charmer.  Their scenes together are especially heartwarming.   Larry Powell handles both his characters with ease.  Matt McGrath is superb and is an original New York cast member who reunited with the outstanding director Mike Donahue and choreographer Paul McGill in this West Coast Premier.  Costumes by E.B. Brooks are flashy and beautiful, and the set design by Donyale Werle is miraculous in its efficiency to change from a home to a dressing room to a lounge.
            The Legend of Georgia McBride plays Tuesday through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM, through May 14, 2017 at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles.  Tickets are available in person at the Geffen Playhouse box office, by phone at (310) 208-5454, or online at www.geffenplayhouse.org.  Fees may apply.  

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               








Tuesday, April 4, 2017

THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF COMEDY (abridged) by Carol Kaufman Segal
            There is so much seriousness in our world today that a good comedy is a breath of fresh air when attending the theatre.  Who could expect anything other than that when the title of the production is The Complete History of Comedy (abridged)?   This theatre piece, written by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, let me down in some ways.
            Yes there is some very funny material, but there is too much that is too slapstick, and some that is offensive, which I find unnecessary in a show with the intent that this one is meant to offer.
            The best thing that I thoroughly enjoyed in this comedy is the phenomenal cast of three, Zehra Fazal, Marc Ginsburg, and Mark Jacobson who make the evening worthwhile with their excessive talent for comedy, quick actions, unbelievable fast costume changes, and stage presence that makes one feel as if they are speaking directly to you.  At one point, Zehra Fazal even sings while accompanying herself on a ukulele, proving her musical talent as well as a lovely singing voice.
            The scenic design by Stephen Gifford is perfect for the production and must be a plus for the quick costume changes by the cast.  And speaking of the costumes, they too, are ideal,   designed by Jeffrey Schoenberg. 
            Act II proves to be more enjoyable than the first act, no political jokes, nothing offensive, and much funnier.  
            The Complete History of Comedy (abridged) is the final production of the 2016-2017 Season at the Falcon Theatre.  It plays Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 PM, and Sundays at 4 PM. through April 23.  Tickets are available online at falcontheatre.com or by calling the Box Office at (818) 955-8101 (hours Tuesdays through Fridays 12 noon to 6 PM, Saturdays and Sundays 10 AM to 4 PM,  or one hour prior to show tine on performance days).
            Later this year the Falcon Theatre will be renamed the Garry Marshall Theatre to continue to honor the memory of this wonderful and talented man with love and laughter.  The Theatre has brought exciting live shows to our area, which it will continue to do.  So next season, look for the same at the Garry Marshall Theatre in Burbank.



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