Monday, March 11, 2019


THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST by Carol Kaufman Segal
           
Oscar Wilde is still recognized today in many countries as a playwright as well as an author of novels, poems and essays. Born in Ireland n 1854, he died in France at the age of 46 leaving a great deal of work for such a short life. Perhaps, in this country, he is most noted for his novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray which was made into a movie and a play, as well as his play, The Importance of Being Earnest, which is being presented at The Crown City Theatre in North Hollywood.
           
The Inportance of Being Ernest is a satire that makes light of marriage and stuffy traditions. It centers on two rather carefree and well-to-do bachelors who, oddly enough, are both living a double life in order to escape their social obligations.  Algernon (Bobby Slaski) is visited by his friend Jack (Neil Unger) who he knows as Ernest.  He tells Algernon that he came to ask his cousin Gwendolyn to marry him. 
           
Algernon discovers Jack’s cigarette case with a different name inscribed on it and refuses to allow him to marry his cousin until Jack explains to him that he sometimes lives a double life as Ernest.  This leads Algernon to tell Jack that he, too, lives a double life.
            
Gwendolyn (Riegan Sage) and her daunting mother, Lady Bracknel (Michael Mullen), arrive at Algernon’s estate.  Jack proposes to Gwendolyn who eagerly accepts, telling him that she could only marry someone named Ernest.  However, Lady Bracknell finds him unsuitable for her daughter and refuses to allow her to marry him.
           
Meanwhile, Algernon decides to show up at Jack’s estate and pretend to be Ernest.  There he meets Jack’s niece Cecily (Ariel Barber) who never knew “Ernest”.  She falls in love with him, and when he asks her to marry him, she accepts his proposal, also saying she could only marry someone named Ernest. 
           
This is the gist of this very wild and funny caper before everyone finds out who is who and the mix-up is settled and the play ends with everyone living happily ever after.  Other characters in the play are Merriman, a butler and Lane, a manservant (Will Potter), Rev. Cannon Chasabul (John Sala), and Miss Prism, governess (Mouchette van Helsdingen who are all important to working out the foibles in order that “happily ever after”  happens.
            
Michael J. Marchak directs this very fine cast whose British accents are faultless.  The striking costumes are by Michael Mullen, and the set design is by Joanne Lamb. 
            
The Importance of Being Earnest is a classic.  It plays Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 3 PM, through March 31, at The Crown City Theatre, located at 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood.  Tickets are available online at crowncitytheatre.com, or by phone at (818) 605-5685.




RECOMMENDED



Wednesday, March 6, 2019


MISS AMERICA’S UGLY DAUGHTER by Carol Kaufman Segal
           
Bess Myerson was crowned Miss America in 1945, the first and only, Jewish contestant to win the pageant.  The title of this play, Miss America’s Ugly Daughter, written by her only daughter, Barra Grant, and performed by her, elicits a vision of an unattractive woman.  However, that is far from the truth.  Ms Grant is a lovely, charming, and talented woman despite her years growing up under her narcissistic and unaffectionate mother.
            
Barra’s story is told in flashbacks of phone calls from her mother in her later years, calls that come during all hours of the night and into the early morning (the voice performed off-stage by Monica Piper). 
           
Berra’s mother was constantly critical of her from her early childhood.  She never thought her daughter was pretty, and did not fail to make her aware of those feelings.  She lived her life in the shadow of her mother throughout her years growing up.  Myerson was always much too busy with her own life to dote on her daughter.
            
After winning the crown, Bess Myerson’s life became public.  She appeared on numerous television shows, became New York City’s First Commissioner of Consumer Affairs, an adviser to Mayor Ed Koch, served on presidential commissions, and ran (unsuccessfully) for the United States Senate.  Unfortunately, in her late 60‘s, she became involved with the wrong man and was indicted on bribery and conspiracy charges.  After a highly publicized trial, she was acquitted.  This proved to be her downfall until she passed away at the age of 90.
            
Barra wrote this play as a comedy.  Undoubtedly through it all, as revealed in her story about the late night phone calls and despite all, she has had the spirit to forgive. 
           
Miss America’s Ugly Daughter is playing Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 5 PM, and Mondays at 8 PM, through March 24, at the Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles.  Tickets are available online at MissAmericasUglyDaughter.com, or by calling (323) 285-2078.


RECOMMENDED

Monday, March 4, 2019


CATS by Carol Kaufman Segal
           
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s award winning musical, Cats, opened on Broadway in 1982 and ran for 18 years.   Based on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, it obviously has not lost its magic.  The original production was directed by Trevor Nunn and choreographed by Gillian Lynne.
            
 During the years, I must have seen Cats a number of times, but that was decades ago.  When I was aware of a touring company coming to the Pantages Theatre, I looked forward to reviving my Memories of the production and of reliving those memories and its magic.           
            
The North American tour, also directed by Trevor Nunn, opened at the Pantages Theatre February 27 with a completely full house of patrons that included many celebrities, even one who appeared as a cat!  Upon arriving at the theater, one could feel the excitement that continued throughout the entire evening of the performance.
            
The story, itself, is irrelevant.  The true magic of Cats is the glorious music, the astonishing cast of thirty-two actors, singers, and dancers who transform into Jellico Cats by their costumes and their catlike movements, while subsisting in a junk yard (and set design by John Napier). The excitement reverberates as they sometimes leave the stage to run up and down the aisles. Their voices do more than justice to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music, but I found their dancing to be exceptional, exciting and the highlight of the production (choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler based on the original choreography by Gillian Lynn).
           
Cats is playing at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles through March 24.  The performance schedule is Tuesday through Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm & 8pm, and Sunday at 1pm & 6:30pm. There’s an additional performance March 21st at 2pm, and no performance March 24th at 6:30pm. 
           
Tickets for Cats are now on sale, and available at www.HollywoodPantages.com/Cats, and www.Ticketmaster.com, by phone at (800) 982-2787 or in person at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre Box Office (Opens Daily at 10am)
            
This is a production that can be enjoyed by young and old alike.  It is recommended for ages 5 and up.  Children under 5 years old will not be admitted and all patrons, including children must have a ticket.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED






Saturday, March 2, 2019




A RETROSPECTIVE OF DIMENSIONS BY ARTIST L by JoAnn Fites-Kaufman, A Guest Reviewer
Tucked away in a nice neighborhood in Santa Monica is the Five Car Garage Gallery  (https://emmagrayhq.com/). A multidimensional exhibit, A.S.T.R.A.L.O.R.A.C.L.E.S. by the artist L is currently on display (http://888666444222000111333555777999.info/ao_3). L is an up and coming artist who started his artistic career in Utah where he has had solo exhibitions at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art. His work as been shown at galleries in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Dublin, Bucharest. L’s work has been reviewed and written about in Frieze Magazine Artforum, New Yorker Magazine, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times among many others.

The exhibit occupies the entire space with a colorful, meticulously created space that envelopes ones senses with representations of multiple dimensions. An entire wall displays painted sections with anodized aluminum plates engraved with symbols representing the elevation of one’s inner being and all of combined spirituality and energy from one to nine dimensions. According to L, subatomic, waveform energy is the unifying basis of all dimensions represented by colors and symbols in the exhibit, the encompassing waveform energy described as quantum mechanics (physics).


Adjacent walls contain large mirrors with engraved radiating lines and intricate geometric designs that represent the multiple dimensions and reflect the colored walls and each other.


The symbolism of multiple dimensions and associated colors is repeated in different forms on the last wall and center of the floor. Opposite of the painted wall is a low bench with a progression of colored vinyl window films. On one bench are a series of colored anodized containers with individually created, uniquely scented perfumes created by a perfumer to match his impression of each dimension. The other bench contains tea vessels arrayed to hold specially designed teas by another artist. There are collaborations with artists and crafts persons on different aspects of the exhibit, embodying another aspect of multiple dimensions through human interactions.

In the center there is a seven pointed star with each point painted colors to match the wall. At the point of each star is a large vessel containing tinted mineral oil and a number of marbles that represent each dimension. Crystals in the jars represent the combination of multiple dimensions. The description is complex and multidimensional and so is the exhibit. The scale of each portion is based upon the dimensions of L, the artist, the distance from the ground to the tips of his upraised hands—similar to the Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci.

While the underlying concepts of multidimensionality that L portrays may be beyond the grasp of the average person, when a person walks into the gallery space, there is a sense of color, light and beauty. It feels like you are in a different dimension, of multiple senses. L has created something that is both complex and intrinsically beautiful and mind opening. Maybe L stands for light, and all the many dimensions of light.





TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Tuesdays With Morrie was a best-selling book by Mitch Albom in the year 2000.  I read the book that year, and because it had such a strong impact on me, it was one that I could never forget.  Watching it performed on stage at the Sierra Madre Playhouse, with two infallible actors, brought it to life.            
            Upon his graduation day from Brandeis University, Mitch Albom (Jackson Kendall) has a warm parting with Morrie Schwartz (Larry Eisenberg), his sociologist teacher.  Mitch had attended Morrie’s class every Tuesday, and they had formed a very close relationship.  Before he leaves, Mitch promises Morrie he will stay in touch with him.
            After graduation, Mitch pursues a career as a pianist, but eventually, he gets a job as a sports reporter for a newspaper.  Over the years he becomes successful as a sportscaster as well as a sports journalist.  During all of those years, Mitch never keeps his promise to Morrie.
            One night, while watching television, Mitch sees 78-year old Morrie as a guest on Nightline being interviewed by Ted Koppel about his fight against Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease).  He is taken aback, and, undoubtedly, feels a great deal of remorse for his failure to keep his promise.  It has been sixteen years and, at that moment, Mitch makes up his mind to visit Morrie, which he does the very next day. 
            Mitch and Morrie spend hours talking as if they had not missed all those years that had passed.  It wasn’t difficult for Morrie to coax Mitch to return the next week, on “Tuesday”.  And following that, it became a ritual for Mitch to fly every Tuesday to visit Morrie.
            Their discussions were always long and hit upon many subjects that had to do with all things important in life, “love, work, aging, family, community, forgiveness, and death”.   Morrie grew weaker as each week passed, but he seemed to add strength to Mitch who tried to do all he could to be of help to Morrie.  Mitch’s final Tuesday visit with Morrie is extremely emotional, and for me, though I tried to hold back during this part of the play, my strength weakened and tears welled up in my eyes.  Two such exceptional actors could not have portrayed these two men more realistically.
            Though the book, Tuesdays With Morrie, was written by Mitch Albom, the play was written by Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom.  This production was astutely directed by L. Flint Esquerra.    
            Tuesdays With Morrie plays Friday and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2:30 PM, through March 31, at the Sierra Madre Playhouse, 97 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, CA. There will be no performance Sunday, March 17, but rather a Pay What You Can performance Monday, March 18, at 7 PM.  Reservations are available by phone at (626) 355-4318, online ticketing at www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.

RECOMMENDED
           


Thursday, February 28, 2019


LIGHTS OUT:  NAT KING COLE by Carol Kaufman Segal

            Lights Out:  Nat King Cole, written by Colman Domingo and Patricia McGregor, is based on the evening of the final Nat King Cole television show in 1957.  He had been the first African American to host his own television program.  But though he always appeared calm, gracious and smooth, his inner manner den
ied his true feelings.  With his beautiful voice accompanied by his piano and an orchestra, he was the epitome of charm and talent that belied what was in his heart and soul.           

            The show only lasted one year, and as Nat King Cole (Dule Hill) waits in his dressing room for the start of his final variety show, he is upset and angry when the make-up lady appears at the room to cover his face with white powder.  When he refuses, he is told by his producer (Bryson Dobson), it is for the best so that he comes across more acceptable to his audiences.  Ever since he had been performing his show, he had to endure offensive situations of one kind or another in respect to his color.  By now, he has had enough, 

            Throughout the performance, as the show is presented, he is whispered off-stage to by the producer to keep from getting too close to his female guests on the show, and other obstreperous instructions, that by the time of the finale, he is so strung out that he ends with a wild tap dancing battle with guest star, Sammy Davis Jr. (Daniel J. Watts). 

            Due to the fact that the play jumps into different times and situations, it is often difficult to follow and to make sense of it.  There are moments when Cole thinks about past shows, and former guests show up on the stage in the form of Betty Hutton, Peggy Lee, and others (Ruby Lewis), and Eartha Kitt and others (Gisela Adisa).  Their performances are wonderfully realistic,  Adisa is a perfect Eartha Kitt.   Dule Hill as Nat King Cole and Daniel J. Watts as Sammy Davis, Jr. are stupendous.  All voices are superb.   The problem I find with the production is that the play lacks form and can be confusing at times.           

            Other members of the cast include Zonya Love (Cole’s mother Perlina and others), Connor Amacio Matthews (Billy Preston and others), Mary-Pat Green (Candy and others), and Brandon Ruiter (Stage Manager and others).

            Lights Out:  Nat King Cole plays Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM, through March 24, at the Geffen Playhouse located at 10866 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles. Tickets are available by calling (310) 208-5454, on line at geffenplayhouse.org, or at the theatre box office.                        





Wednesday, February 27, 2019




Laundry and Bourbon and Lone Star by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Laundry and Bourbon and Lone Star are two one-act plays written by James McLure and directed by Barbara Brownell  The two plays  have a commonality which is a good reason for them being presented together.  They both take place in a small town in Texas and the characters in each play are related in one way or another.  Though each play is a comedy, they focus on the lives and problems of those involved.
            Laundry and Bourbon takes place at the home of Elizabeth (Savannah Schoenecker) where we find her, seemingly, in a worried stage, unable to keep her mind on getting her laundry done, when her friend Hattie (Kristin Towers-Rowles) drops by to gossip.  As they hark back to their more youthful days before their marriages, they begin to imbibe when Amy Lee (Sarah Zuk) arrives, only to gloat over her less fortunate friends.  Before long, their conversations become so fueled, they end up in a brawl, leaving Elizabeth and Hattie alone to complete the laundry job.
            Lone Star focuses on Ray (R.J. DeBard), Elizabeth’s husband, a Vietnam Veteran who is showing some signs of being unsettled.  (Now we are aware of what put Elizabeth in a worried state.)  Ray and his frivolous brother Roy (Christopher Showerman) are hanging around at the local bar where, as they become more intoxicated, they begin to reminisce about their lives and their loves.  Fired up from too much drinking, Ray has a row with his adversary, Cletus (Todd Andrew Ball).  After Cletus leaves, Roy, in his inebriated state, makes a startling confession to Ray.
            Though I have tried to describe the reasoning for these plays, the overly raucous comedy in each of them, took away any of the enjoyment for me.  Unfortunately, I could not appreciate the hard work of the talented performers.  Chris Winfield’s fine set worked for both plays with a bit of adjustment.   
            Laundry and Bourbon and Lone Star plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, through March 3, at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood.  For information and/or tickets, call (818) 763-5990, or go online at www.thegrouprep.com.