Friday, February 14, 2020


IN MY MIND’S EYE by Carol Kaufman Segal      
            
In My Mind’s Eye, written by Lonny Chapman’s Artistic Director, Doug Haverty, is being presented by the Group Rep, the first presentation of their 46th season, at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood.  This play is a revival that was the first full-length play produced years ago in the Lonny Chapman Theatre.  It became an award-winning play and is every bit as meaningful, thought-provoking and compelling as it was then.  The play was inspired by true events, and is based on a legally-blind female public school teacher who was Haverty’s teacher when he was in the 7th grade.
           
Patty is a young precocious school girl (played by very talented 14-year old Peyton Kirkner) who is legally blind, though she can see a bit through one eye at an extremely close range.  She happens to meet an elderly man, Calhoon (Lloyd Pedersen) who has a bit of trouble walking, and when he falls in her front yard, she befriends him.  Patty’s mother, Mrs. Lola Henderson (Maria Kress) finds him visiting with Patty when she arrives home.
           
Patty and Calhoon are both lonely people, and though he is 78 years old, they discover camaraderie with one another.  Patty and Calhoon form a very close friendship.  Her mother finds him visiting Patty each day that she arrives home and this causes her a great deal of concern.  Due to her apprehension, Lola can be too overbearing with Patty that often creates tension between mother and daughter.         
           
Eventually Lola makes arrangements to transfer Patty to a public school after discussing it with Miss Hester (Clara Rodriguez), dean of the school.  When Miss Hester meets Patty, she is impressed with her and agrees to allow her to attend the 9th grade class where she acclimates to fully.
            
The time has passed and grown-up Patty, using the name Trish (Kait Haire), is beginning a new position as a public school teacher where she meets Hugo, (Bobby Slaski) an English teacher next door to her room.  They develop a friendship that grows into a romantic affair and Lola voices her concern that, once again, creates tension between mother and daughter.  But Trish, more independent now than in past years, no longer feels the hold that her mother once held over her.  Happily, she and Hugo become man and wife.            
           
Bruce Kimmel did a sterling job as director of this exceptional cast and the play, having been written years ago, shows no signs of being outdated in any way.  There are human beings today that, undoubtedly, have characteristics that could match those we see in this production.  It is normal, I presume, for a parent of a child with special needs to become overly stringent in their lives.
           
In My Mind’s Eye plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sunday’s at 2 PM through March 15, at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood.  Tickets are available online at www.theGrouPrep.com, or for reservations and information, call (818) 763-5990.
            



HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Saturday, February 1, 2020


VOLTA (Cirque du Soleil) by Carol Kaufman Segal
           
I have thrilled over every Cirque Du Soleil production that I have seen over the years.   Their latest show, Volta, is its 15th Big Top performance to visit Los Angeles, and its 22nd show presented here.  I happen to especially enjoy Volta for its theme, music, acts and performers.
           
Written and directed by Bastien Alexandre with Jean Guibert as the director of creation, Volta presents outstanding acrobatics accompanied by thrilling music composed and directed by Anthony Gonzales (from electronic group M83).  You can see this extravaganza under the Big Top at Dodger Stadium.
            
The performances are inspired by street-sports; feats performed by aerialists, acrobat and trampoline artists who perform unbelievable achievements with jumping ropes, on roller skates, with bicycles, or simply their own human bodies, sometimes seemingly flying through the air,.  The breathtaking accomplishments, throughout the show, are astounding.  Bicyclists fly from a high structure as they spin their bicycles in the air.  A lovely woman performs a ballet suspended at the top of the tent by her hair. There are unique accomplishments by all of the performers that will take your breath away. 
A story ties all of the performances together while accompanied by the outstanding music, dazzling costumes by Zaldy Goco, and a cast of forty-six men and women from fourteen countries that include  the United States, Canada, Finland, United Kingdom, Brazil, Uruguay, Japan, Russia, China, South Africa, Switzerland, Australia, Slovakia, and Poland.
            
Volta will perform under the Big Top at Dodger Stadium in Los Angles through March 8, 2020 and at the OC Fair and Event Center in Costa Mesa beginning March 18 through April 19, 2020.  Tickets are available online at cirquedusoleil.com/volta, or by calling (877) 924-7783.
            

 HIGHLY RECOMMENDED       

Tuesday, January 28, 2020


NOWHERE ON THE BORDER by Carol Kaufman Segal
            
The Road on Magnolia is presenting a newly revised and re-written version of a play, Nowhere On The Border by Carlos Lacamara, directed by Stewart J. Zully.  The subject is extremely relevant today as it is a retrospect of the dramas that people endured in order to cross the borders into the United States and still do.
           
Roberto (Jonathan Nichols) is waiting around in a desert area to meet his daughter Pilar (Natalie Llerena) near the border in Arizona.  He found out that she had paid someone to get her across to Arizona where her husband has been for three years.  Gary (Chet Grissom) happens to be patrolling the area, and upon seeing Roberto, is very suspicious of him.  Gary doesn’t believe him when he tells him why he is hanging around in the area and calls for the Border Patrol               
            
Pilar had met with Don Rey (Thom Rivera) and paid him to make arrangements for her to travel to Arizona with a fellow traveler, Jesus (Leandro Cano), and the leader, extremely inadequate Montoya (Diana Delacruz).  Meanwhile, during the wait for the Border Patrol to arrive, the scenes are interspersed between Gary and Roberto and the three travelers on their hazardous trip.
            
With the passing of time, Gary and Roberto discover that they have both lived through similar situations during their lives.  The more Gary gets to know more about Roberto, the more he realizes he likes him.  In each segment with them, the two men find they have a lot in common and gradually become friendly with one another.  When the play reverts to the segments with the travelers, their situation becomes more and more challenging, and it is questionable when and if they will make it to their destination.  Guitarist Mackenzie Redvers Bryce performs soothing melodic music between the scenes.
            
Much of the time, I felt breathless through some of the scenes as I watched this production, not the easiest, but worth every minute of it.  I left the theatre with so much feeling for the marvelous performances by the entire cast.  The set design by Paul Dufresne, constructed by Red Colegrove, and the lighting design by Derrick McDonald added to its strength.
           
Nowhere on the Border plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM, at The Road on Magnolia, located at 10747 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood.  Tickets are available online at www.roadtheatre.org, or by phone at (818) 761-8838.
           
RECOMMENDED                         

Wednesday, January 22, 2020


SUNDAY DINNER by Carol Kaufman Segal
           
Theatre 40, in Beverly Hills, is presenting the world premiere of Sunday Dinner, the latest play written by well-known playwright Tony Blake who also directs the very talented cast.  It takes place in the Bronx at the home of the Matera Family (lovely set by Jeff G. Rack).

Michael Matera (James Tabeek) is a young priest in the Chicago Archdiocese who comes home following the death of his grandfather.  A family gathering is planned for a Sunday dinner.  Very shortly after Michael arrives, his father Eddy (John Combs) corners him in order to make a confession to him, hoping to receive absolution from his son.  Eddy is a retired blue-collar worker, and confesses to Michael that he has committed a misdeed that will, undoubtedly, affect the rest of the family.  Well, in reality, it is more likely a crime.  Eddy wants his son to grant him absolution and is appalled by his refusal to do so.  However, Michael has his reasons for his refusal.
      
 Eddy’s wife Rose (Sharron Shayne) and relative Margaret (Michele Schultz) are busy cooking and setting up for the dinner.   Those who will be arriving for the Sunday dinner are Richie (Kevin Linehan) Michael’s older brother, a cousin Flip (Dennis Hadley), and Richie’s former wife, Diane (Meghan Lloyd).
           
Before everyone arrives, we learn that Michael also has secrets that he has not revealed to his family.  He has, at last, admitted to himself that he is gay, but no one in his family has ever suspected it, and he has not yet let them know that he has given up the priesthood (his good reason for denying his father’s request).  Michael’s life is made more difficult because he will have to confront his former sister-in-law with whom he became involved in the past and who still has a crush on him.  This Sunday can certainly be a difficult day for him.
            
At last, when everyone sits down to Sunday Dinner, we soon discover that the Matera family is burdened with many secrets which perpetrates the fact that they are, undoubtedly, an extremely dysfunctional family.  When all is revealed at the Sunday Dinner, will the members of this family be able to understand each other and their problems, or will the Matera Family be destroyed?  
            
The answer can be found at Theatre 40 where Sunday Dinner is playing Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM through February 16.  The theatre is located in the Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 S. Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills.  For reservations, call (310) 364-0535, or for tickets, go online at www.theatre40.org.





Saturday, January 18, 2020


THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL by Carol Kaufman Segal

            
The Little Match Girl is a short story written by Christian Anderson in 1845.  Loft Ensemble in North Hollywood is featuring an adaptation of Anderson’s tale by Elizabeth Suzanne, directed by Tor Brown and featuring a cast of fifteen actors. 
           

The Little Match Girl is a story about a little girl, Annelise, (Ella Grace Bergeron) who lives in poverty with an abusive father (Raymond Donahey).  On New Year’s Eve, he sends her out in the cold, wintry weather to sell matches. The story follows Annalise as she spends the dreary night wandering the streets and the adventures she encounters.  It all opens her eyes to life, the suffering and the blessings of giving, and in the end, it is all about love and kindness.
            

The Little Match Girl is the fourth production of the eighth season of the Loft Ensemble.  It was quite an undertaking due to the very large cast who make up the people Annalise meets in her journey.  They include Barbera Ann Howard (Grandmother), Britt Crisp (Gisela), Paul Brodo (Vilhelm), Benjamin Shuman (Henrik), Ben Anderson (Jantzen), Jessica Wells (Petra), Ignacio Navarro (Stefan), Aaron Castle (Police Officer), Emma Gini (Incheline/Ensemble), Lemon Baardsen (Snow Queen/Ensemble), Maysa Sweeten (Shepherdess/Ensemble), Matthew Monaco (Tin Soldier/Ensemble), and Thatcher Boyd (Chimney Sweep/Ensemble). 
            

The scenic design is by Madylin Durrie, lighting design by Elza Hofeld, sound design by Tor Brown, costume design by Linda Muggeridge and Bree Pavey, choreography by La’Vel Stacy, and Jared Pugh is the Music Director.
            



The Little Match Girl plays Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 7 PM, through February 16, at the Loft Ensemble, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood.  Tickets are available online at www.loftensemble.org, or by phone at (818) 452-3153.                   

Saturday, December 21, 2019


A TWISTED CHRISTMAS CAROL by Carol Kaufman Segal
            
Phil Olson is an award-winning playwright who has published 16 plays that have been produced many times in countries around the world.  They are all comedies to be sure!  Many of his plays have made their world premieres by the Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood.  His latest Christmas play, A Twisted Christmas Carol, is making its world premier there now.  This comedy is a take-off of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
           
The characters in this play are quite different from those in Charles Dickens’ story.  This story takes place on Christmas Eve in a small town in Texas where we find Buford Johnson (Van Boudreaux) and his wife Darla (Lisa McGee Mann), owners of a barbecue restaurant.  How long they have been married, we do not know, but it is long enough that Buford certainly takes his wife for granted.
            
Their friends, who happen to spend a lot of time with them in the restaurant, are cute and whimsical Daisy Newsom (Veronica Roy) and Bubba Pickford (Christian Land) who has an inkling for Daisy (Veronica Roy) who side-steps his flirtations.
            
 Buford, who doesn’t show much patience, ends up in an argument with Darla and in a rage, runs out of the restaurant.  He leaves in his pickup truck in the midst of a storm, is hit by a twister, and ends up in a coma.  It is then that he is visited by his former business partner, Hank Walker (Paul Cady) who once had his eye out for Darla.  He visits Buford in his dreams as the ghost of Christmas past, present, and future and it all appears very real to him.               
           
The play is quite humorous.  The characters themselves are humorous to begin with, and of course we all know what to expect of the outcome when Buford awakens from his coma.  It ends in a very Happy Christmas for all.
           
A Twisted Christmas Carol is directed by Doug Engalla, set design by Chris Winfield.  This was a funny take on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.   I did not find this play close to being as charming and comedic as all of Olson’s plays that I have seen in the past.  However, I must say that all of the actors helped to keep it moving and funny throughout.
           
 The play is performed Upstairs at the Group Rep on the second floor of the Lonny Chapman Theatre,

10900 Burbank Boulevard, North Hollywood.  It plays Saturdays at 4 PM and Sundays at 7 PM.  For tickets and information go online at www.thegrouprep.com, or call (818)763-5990.





Tuesday, December 17, 2019


THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER by Carol Kaufman Segal
           
Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman wrote many successful plays in their lifetime.  One of their funniest comedies, The Man Who Came to Dinner, was written in 1939 and was eventually made into a film.  You won’t want to miss a revival of this play being performed by The Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood.
            
The play takes place in a small town in Ohio, in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley (Doug Haverty and Laura Wolfe)..  Sheridan Whiteside (Jim Beaver), a well-known New York radio personality had been invited to dine at their home while visiting the city.  He accidentally falls on some ice at their front door and finds himself confined to their home in a wheel chair for a month. 
           
Not as bad for Whiteside as it is for the Stanleys since he takes complete control of the house and the telephones, giving orders to the family, what they can do and not do while he is recuperating in their home!  He has an entourage of people with him constantly, who he insults, and orders around.  His closest visitor is his secretary Maggie (Hartley Powers), who has been with him for years and knows him only too well.  Others, though,  who have to put up with him, and his bullying, are a full-time nurse, Miss Preen (Kay Cole), and Dr. Bradley (Fox Carney).  His strange entourage of visitors includes performers, radio people, technicians, deputies and even a convict!  All of these characters, along with Sheridan Whiteside, bring comedy to the forefront of this play.  And in the end Sheridan Whiteside gets his retribution.
            
Other cast members include Neil Angevine, Bita Arefinia, Nick Asaro, Michele Bernath, Anastasia Burnett, Cheryl Crosland, Lareen Faye, Michael Gabiano, Chihiro Kato, Momoka Kato,  Christian Land, John Ledley, Sherry Michaels, Barry Pearl, Susan Priver, Steve Shaw, Marina Shtelen, Marc Stancato, Sal Valletta, Chris Winfield, Leslie Young.
            
The Man Who Came to Dinner is directed by Bruce Kimmel.  The entire cast is exceptionally outstanding.  Jim Beaver stands out as absolutely remarkable in a role that he makes his own.   Kay Cole, as Whiteside’s nurse Miss Preen, is utterly hysterical.  The beautiful stage design is by Chris Winfield.  This play will keep you laughing from beginning to end.
            
Performances run Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, through January 12, 2020, at the Lonny Chapman Theatre (Main Stage), 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood. (Talkback following Sunday’s matinee December 29)  For further information, or for tickets, go online at www.thegrouprep.com, or call (818) 763-5990.
            
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED