Sunday, March 18, 2018

ENGAGING SHAW by Carol Kaufman Segal
            I have seen many plays by George Bernard Shaw, but until I saw Engaging Shaw, a comedy written by John Morogiello, based on true events, I knew nothing of his personal life.  Shaw was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1856.  He moved to London in 1876, where he struggled to become a writer, eventually becoming the leading dramatist of his generation.  Engaging Shaw is making its Los Angeles Premiere at Theatre 40.
            The play takes place at the country home of Beatrice Webb (Susan Priver) and her husband Sidney (Warren Davis) in England, 1897 (beautiful set by Jeff G. Rack).  Their house guest is George Bernard Shaw (Grinnell Morris), playwright, critic, and political activist, who insists on being called Bernie.  During a conversation between the Webbs and Bernie, Beatrice tells him about the impending arrival of another house guest that he soon will be meeting.         
            When Charlotte Payne-Townsend (Jennifer Lynn Davis), a wealthy Irish heiress arrives, it appears that he had already “accidentally” met the lady.  It also appears that the Webbs had a motive in their plan of inviting them as house guests at the same time.
            When left alone in conversation, Bernie and Charlotte discover they each have their own individual and different views.  However, Shaw is very pleased and happy to meet another person from Ireland, and the one thing they both agree strongly about is the fact that neither of them wishes to ever get married.  (They are both in their 40’s.)  Shaw also finds Charlotte interesting and quite intelligent.  She realizes that he is a womanizer, but she still finds him interesting and they discover that they find themselves enjoying spending their time together. 
            Eventually conversations are not enough for Charlotte, and she changes her mind about not ever wanting to get married.  But not Bernie, even though he does not want to lose Charlotte, he remains dead set against marriage. She finally takes a step towards her goal by working as a secretary to Shaw.  How far will she have to go to win her man?
            Theatre 40, once again, has provided audiences with a charming and well-done production.  Morogiello has written a delightful play, and the four actors, under the direction of Melanie MacQueen, are superb.      
            Engaging Shaw plays Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM through April 15, at Theatre 40, located in the Reuben Cordova Theatre on the campus of Beverly Hills High School, 241 S. Moreno Drive,, Beverly Hills.  Tickets are available online at, or call for reservations at (310) 364-0535.                                   

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

A RAISIN IN THE SUN  by Carol Kaufman Segal
            A Raisin In the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry, is playing at A Noise Within in Pasadena, directed by Gregg T. Daniel. Hansberry was the first African American woman to write a play presented on Broadway.  The year it opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre was 1959.  Hansberry was 29 years old.  It has been performed many times in many theaters throughout the years.  In Director Daniel’s notes, “According to American Theatre magazine, Raisin was one of the 10 most produced plays of the 2017-2018 theatre season.”  Perhaps the relevancy of today’s climate makes it important today, withstanding the fact that it is a well-written play.                       
            A Raisin In the Sun is about the Youngers, a family that includes a widow, Lena Younger (Saundra McClain, referred to as Mama), her young daughter Beneatha (Sarah Hollis), her son Walter Lee (Ben Cain), Walter’s wife Ruth (Toya Turner), and Walter’s and Ruth’s son Travis (Sam Christian).  The Younger family lives in a cramped tenement apartment in an ill-kept building in South Chicago.
            Since the death of her husband, Lena is the matriarch of the family.  Beneatha is a college student who hopes to be able to continue her education to become a doctor.  Walter works as a chauffeur for a wealthy white family and dreams of a better life by owning a business of his own.  Lena has been anticipating a check from her husband’s life insurance policy which she hopes can be used to improve their lifestyle.  When the $10,000 finally arrives, Walter looks upon it as his chance to invest in a business to which Lena does not agree.  She refuses to give Walter the money, and, instead, puts a down payment on a house in Clybourne Park, an all-white neighborhood in South Chicago
            After putting the money down on the house, Lena still has $6500 left that she agrees to put in Walter’s hands with instructions on how he is to handle it for the family and to make sure there is money for Beneatha’s college tuition. But Walter sees this as his chance to invest the money for security and a better life for all of them.  Unfortunately, the money ends up in the hands of a scam artist and he loses it all, leaving Beneatha without money to continue her dream of becoming a doctor, and the rest of the family in shock.  As though the family has not been traumatized enough, Karl Lindner (Bert Emmert), a representative from the  Clybourne Park Welcome Committee, calls on the family, not to welcome them to the neighborhood but to let them know they are not welcome in their community. 
            How the Youngers stand up for their rights in a world of racial intolerance is the crucial point of this magnificent play, performed at A Noise Within by an equally magnificent cast that also includes Amir Abdullah (Joseph Asagal) and Rosney Mauger (Bobo).  This production is of the highest quality by everyone involved in it.  It is one not to be missed. 
            A Raisin In the Sun plays Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 PM, Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sunday at 2 PM and 7 PM, through April 8, at A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena.  Tickets are available online at, or by phone at (626) 356-3121. 


Friday, March 2, 2018

THE CAPE AND THE KLAN  by Carol Kaufman Segal
            The Klu Klux Klan began its first of three movements in the United States in the 1860s.  It thrived in the late 1860s, disintegrating in the 1970s.  The second group was founded in 1915, grew in the early and mid 1920s, but weakened rapidly in the later 1920s.  The third appearance emerged strong again in the 1950s with the rise of the Civil Rights Movement when African-American veterans from World War II began demanding equal rights.
            The Cape and the Klan, a play written by Tin Penavic and Ted Ryan is making its world premiere at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood.  The time is 1951 and Harry (Doug Haverty) is a reporter who goes undercover to infiltrate and expose the Ku Klux Klan.  He has been accepted as a member by Sam (Bix Barnaba) after a great deal of scrutiny.  After some time, Sam becomes suspicious of Harry, leaving him with his life in danger and no way to expose the organization. 
            But then Harry remembers his friend, Bob (Matthew Hoffman), producer of the radio thriller The Adventures of Superman, which has recently been losing its audience due to lack of interest in its recent series.  He explains his dilemma to Bob, but offers him an idea for a plot to save himself, as well as the radio production, in which Superman exposes the Klu Klux Klan. 
            Bob, in turn, along with Harry, brings the idea to those involved in the production, Station Manager Dan (Timothy Roscoe), and radio players Smitty (Bruce Nehlen), Joe (Scott Seiffert), Ben (Michael James Thatcher), and Lana (Kristen Towers-Rowles).  They all have been racking their brains trying to come up with a thrilling show that would bring back their audiences.  They all agree to accept the challenge, the script is written, it is performed over the national airwaves, and      once again, Superman’s ratings go sky high, the Klu Klux Klan is exposed, and Harry’s job is saved.
            The playwrights said, “The events depicted are based on true events and the work of Stetson Kennedy who did, in fact, infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan.  By bringing it to New York, the story became a seventeen part episode, The Clan of the fiery Cross.”  However, the characters in the play are not the actual people involved in the true story.
            Stan Mazin directs a brilliant cast that also includes Veronica (Natalia Santamaria), Harry’s wife, and Rita Walker (Shalonda Shaw-Reese) whose small, but crucial, role is especially emotional.
            The Cape and the Klan plays Saturday at 2 PM, and Sundays at 7 PM, through March 18, Upstairs at the Group Rep in the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd, North Hollywood.  Tickets are available online at, or by calling (818) 763-5990.


Saturday, February 24, 2018

DON’T HUG ME, WE’RE FAMILY by Carol Kaufman Segal
            I love entering the world of the north woods of Minnesota where I have had the opportunity of looking in on the characters from Phil Olson’s Don’t Hug Me series of plays.  Phil is the writer of the books and lyrics; his brother, Paul Olson, writes the music.  Their sixth collaboration, Don’t Hug Me, We’re Family, is making its world premiere at Theatre Unlimited (T.U. Studios) in North Hollywood., and it is a real “kick”.
            It is February and, as usual in Bunyan Bay, it is brrrr cold!  The local radio station, KOLD, is set in The Bunyan Bar where Gunner Johnson (Andrew Carter) has been the host of a radio show called “Crappie Talk.”  His entire show is dedicated to ice fishing for crappies.  I guess it doesn’t create too much interest, even in Bunyan Bay, because he has not been able to maintain listeners, and he loses his only advertiser, Kanute's Bait Mart (owned by his friend Kanute {David Pluebell}).
            Losing his sponsor creates an even bigger problem for Gunner because his wife, Clara (Truett Jean Butler) hosts “Book Beat” which is very popular in Bunyan Bay and has lots of advertisers and listeners, and now competition exists between the two of them.  To make matters worse, an Italian gentleman from Brooklyn, Sal, (Michael Cortez) shows up at the Bunyan Bar followed by his ex-wife, Donna (Christina Gardner).  He announces that he has purchased the radio station, and Donna announces she has purchased the Bunyan Bay Hotel.  He only followed her to Bunyan Bay to keep an eye on her and ended up buying KOLD! 
            How much mayhem can these two interlopers cause in Bunyan Bay?  When Sal decides to fire Gunner and shows more than a bit of interest in more than simply Clara’s successful show, Gunner’s friends, Bernice (Allison Hawkstone), Aarvid (Micky Shiloah), and even his former sponsor, Kanute, side with him.  But it is questionable whether they are a help or a hindrance.  But as love will have it, it wins out in the end for all involved.
            As the plot of Don’t Hug Me, We’re Family moves along, it is interspersed with the songs by Phil set to the music by his equally talented brother, Dr. Paul Olson along with some dance numbers (Choreography by Michele Bernath).  The Bunyan Bar and radio station KOLD was designed by Chris Winfield.  The production consists of 14 original songs and 12 radio jingles (jingles performed by Allison Hawkstone).  The exceptionally talented cast is directed by Doug Engalla.  Enjoy a theatre experience loaded with talent, comedy, and a great deal of fun
            Don’t Hug Me, We’re Family plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, through March 25, at T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood.  Tickets are available online at, or by phone at (818) 850-9254.


Friday, February 23, 2018

A DELICATE SHIP, playing at the Road Theatre on Magnolia, has been extended through March 24, 2018.  See review dated February 5, 2018.

ALRIGHT THEN by Carol Kaufman Segal
            If you are looking for an upbeat theater experience, look no further that the Pacific Resident Theatre in Venice that is featuring Actor Orson Bean and his Actress wife, Alley Mills, in a production developed and performed by the couple entitled Alright Then.  Making its world premiere at PRT and directed by Guillermo Cienfuegos, Orson Bean was spurred on by the success of his previous one-man, self-written performance of Safe At Home:  An Evening with Orson Bean, an award-winning production that also had its world premiere at PRT.
            It would seem to be against all odds that these two people would find each other in this great big world, but it is also obvious that, despite the difference in their ages, (Orson is 89, Alley is 67) it was meant to be.  In this production, Alley tells you all about it.
            Orson tells about his early years before becoming the star that he is and Alley reminisces about her early life as well.  Neither of them grew up with love and security, but they each took separate paths before they both ended up in the world of entertainment.   Orson was on his own from the age of 16 while Alley graduated magna cum laude from the first women’s class at Yale University and she also earned a Masters Degree from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. As the two of them banter back and forth with the interesting stories of their lives and the paths each of them took to be where they are today, one can see and feel the magical closeness between them.
            Though their formative lives were quite different, I can point out one very important thing that was common to both of them, and that is their talent.  Oh, and one other very important thing that emerged from their meeting, and that is their forever loving bond for one another.
            Alright Then plays Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 3 PM, through March 25, at the Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., in Venice, CA.    Tickets are available online at, or by phone at (310) 822-8392.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

IRONBOUND  by Carol Kaufmman
            Ironbound, a play written by Martyna Majok, and directed by Tyne Rafael, is playing at the Geffen Playhouse.  It focuses on the life of Darja (Marin Ireland) a Polish woman who, having immigrated to the United States, is still trying to survive. 
            The play covers 22 years in Darja’s struggling life, which seems to be exacerbated by the men in her life.  We see her in 1992 at age 20, in 2006 at age 34, and in 2014 at age 42 (as stated in the program, not necessarily in that order!). It begins with the present (which, in this case, is 2014).  Darja is 42-years old and is sitting at a bus stop in Elizabeth, New Jersey.  She needs a ride home because her 22-year old son ran away, taking her car with him.  (He is just one of her problems.)  Her deceitful long-time boyfriend, Tommy (Christian Camargo) comes by to take her home in his vehicle.  They end up in a squabble over his constant infidelity, and she tells him she is not going back to be with him any longer.                                                                                 
            Darja used to work in a factory and, in addition, she cleaned houses.  Since the factory closed down, her only income now is from cleaning houses and her earnings are much less.  She has always been and is still obsessed with having money and security, so she tells him she’ll go back to him if he gives her $3,000.       
            While Darja is left waiting at the bus stop, we are privy to the time when she was 20 years old, newly married to Maks (Josiah Bania,) and they were struggling to make it in their new country.  Maks is a dreamer with his head in the clouds and he wants to move to Chicago to pursue a music career.  But Darja is against a move, fearful of losing her job in the factory and their security, particularly with a child on the way.  Of course, that marriage ends and Darja is left with the burden of keeping herself and her son solvent.  
            The third man to enter into Darja’s life turns out to be Vic (Marcel Spears), a teenager who finds her, late at night, sleeping behind the bench at the bus stop.  He feels sorry for her and wants to help her by offering her money to go to a hotel.  It is a mystery as to why he is out so late at night and how he happens to be in possession of a large amount of money.  But even though she is grateful for his gesture, she refuses to accept his help, feeling more exacerbated by her lowly position in life.  The play ends with Tommy returning to the bus stop, and Darja going home with him.
            Marin Ireland’s Polish accent is perfect, and she, as well as Christian Camargo, Josiah Bania, and Marcel Spears, all give sterling performances.  However, I personally, found the play, itself, very depressing.
            Ironbound plays Tuesdays through Friday at 8 PM, Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM, and 7 PM, through March 4, at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles. Tickets are available at the Geffen Playhouse Box Office, by phone at (310), 208-5454, or online at