Thursday, September 19, 2019


SKINTIGHT by Carol Kaufman Segal
            
Skintight is a fairly new play by Joshua Harman (Bad Jews, Significant Other) that made its debut Off-Broadway in 2017.   It is playing in Los Angeles at the Geffen Playhouse to sold-out audiences and rave revues.  The play has no plot as such, but still offers an interesting insight into its characters performed by a cast of outstanding actors.     
            
Jodi Isaac (Idina Menzel), a successful attorney, arrives without notice at her father’s upscale home, seemingly to celebrate his 70th birthday.  But to be honest, her true reason for her visit is to find some comfort from him.  Immediately and hysterically, she begins to rant on and on about the fact that her husband has left her for a 24-year old woman.
            
As it turns out, Elliot (Harry Groener), is not about to placate his daughter.  When her 20-year old son, Benjamin (Eli Gelb) shows up for his grandfather’s birthday celebration, they are both stunned to meet Trey (Will Brittain), also 20-years old, and a former porn actor who Elliott calls his “partner”.  It is obvious that Trey already feels like part of the family and is every bit at home and at ease in Elliott’s lavish home. 
            
Jodi is extremely annoyed by Trey and his stance.  She tells him that she and Benjamin are planning a family weekend with Elliot to celebrate his birthday and that it would be a good idea for him to stay at his own place while they are there.  Is she really oblivious to his and her father’s circumstances, or is she faking naivety?  He lets her know in no uncertain terms that, as Elliot’s partner, he lives there - with him!  Unfortunately, Jodi’s desire for some kind of familial tenderness will not be coming from her father.
            
Benjamin, unlike Jodi, is in a quandary about Trey who often walks around the house nearly nude  On the one hand, he is as troubled by him as is his mother is while sharing some of his Grandfather’s feelings.  He almost forgets that he is thinking about his Grandfather’s lover.  It is no secret about the fact that Benjamin is gay as opposed to the circumstances Elliot lived through in his younger years.  Though the play deals with serious situations, it is very much a comedy as well, with lots of funny lines and, for the most part, fast- paced.  The heart of the play is about aging, youth, beauty, and relationships.
            
Daniel Aukin directs this phenomenal cast that also includes Kimberly Jurgen (Orsolya) and Jeff Skowron (Jeff), Elliot’s household staff.  Idina Menzel, Will Brittain, and Eli Gelb are reprising their roles performed Off-Broadway.  The beautiful stage design is by Lauren Helper, and costume designs are by China Lee.
           
Skintight plays Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM., and  Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM, through October 12, in the Gil Cates Theater at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Cont Ave., Los Angeles.  For tickets call (310) 208-5454, go online at www.geffenplayhoouse.org, or go in person to the theater box office.
           
HIGHLY RECOMENDED

Monday, September 16, 2019


TO DAD WITH LOVE: A TRIUTE TO BUDDY EBSEN by Carol Kaufman Segal

 Buddy Ebsen (April 2 1908- July 6, 2003), was an American actor and dancer whose career spanned seven decades.  Most people would remember him as Jed Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971) and as Barnaby Jones in the television drama of the same name (1973-1980).

After Ebsen’s death, his daughter, Kiki Ebsen, discovered an old trunk in her parent’s attic years after they had both passed away.  The truck was full with her father’s past -  memories she could not get out of her mind.  After two years, she began to envision a show in which she could pay tribute to her father by telling the story of his life..  Thus, To Dad With Love: A Tribute to Buddy Ebsen, created by Kiki Ebsen and her brother, Dustin Ebsen, playing at Theatre West. 
           
The tribute is told via full-size pictures on the stage as she relates the events that occurred during his lifetime.  She intersperses with singing as she accompanies herself on the piano, as well as sometimes being accompanied by a four piece jazz ensemble (Jeff Colella {piano}, Kendall Kay {drums}, Kim Richmond {woodwinds}, Granville “Danny” Young {bass}).  Kiki has a beautiful voice as well as an exceptional stage presence. 
           
I loved seeing the pictures that made me recall times past such as the very tall Buddy Ebsen tap dancing with little 6-year old Shirley Temple.  They were both fantastic!  The scenes from Breakfast at Tiffany’s with Audrey Hepburn proved his acting prowess.  I loved seeing the films from The Wizard of Oz.  However, the story about how Buddy Ebsen was supposed to have been the Tin Man in the movie, but due to a health issue, had to be replaced with Jack Haley, had to be a bitter pill.
           
The entire production is wonderful and gratifying, but the most emotional part comes at the end when, behind a screen, a silhouette appears in the mode of Buddy Ebsen.  When the silhouette emerges from behind the screen in the form of Buddy Epsen (Gregory Gast), he and Kiki Ebsen performe a duet tap dance number that can only bring tears to one’s eyes.  This wonderful, as well as delightful and informative, production is directed by S.E.Feinberg.  Special effects are by Dustin Ebsen.                
           
To Dad With Love: A Tribute to Buddy Ebsen, plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM, through September 22, at Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, Los Angeles.  Tickets are available online at buddyebsentribute.com, theatrewest.org, or by calling (323) 851-7977.

            HIGHLY RECOMMENDED





Saturday, September 7, 2019


WITCH  by Carol Kaufman Segal
           
The Geffen Playhouse is featuring the West Coast premier of Witch, an excellent new play by Jen Silverman, inspired by The Witch of Edmonton written by William Rowley, Thomas Dekker, and John Ford in 1621.
           
A stranger named Scratch (Evan Jonigkeit) has arrived in Edmonton with the purpose of convincing the townspeople to sell their souls to him in return for gaining their life ambitions.  You see, Scratch is a Devil of a man who is trying to make his quota.  He finds two people with whom he has little trouble convincing them to sell their souls to the Devil to gain what they want in their lives   
            
He is aware of the wealthy Sir Arthur Banks (Brian George) a widower who hopes to see his only son Cuddy (Will Von Vogt) take his place when he is gone.  Unfortunately, Cuddy doesn’t show much interest and is quite peevish.  On the other hand Frank (Ruy Iskandar), a young man with little future, has wormed his way into Sir Arthur’s life and is determined to become his heir.  One complication on his side, however, is that he is secretly married to Sir Arthur’s housemaid Winnifred (Vella Lovell).  Cuddy and Frank are patsies!
            
He seeks out his next victim who he believes will be an easier conquest to acquire than either Cuddy or Frank since the people of Edmonton have labeled her a witch.  Elizabeth Sawyer (Maura Tierney) is an outcast living alone.  However, he is in for quite a surprise the more times he sees her in his failure to convince her to sell her soul. 
            
Audiences, as well, are surprised by the outcome of this exceptionally intriguing play under the perceptive direction of Marti Lyons.  A marvelous cast creates each character they play to perfection.   The unusual scenic design by Dane Laffrey adds a great deal to the feel of the play.  A fight scene, choreographed by Steve Rankin, is absolutely breath taking.
            
Witch plays Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM and 8 PM, in the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave. Los Angeles.  Tickets are available online at www.geffenplayhouse.org, by phone at (310) 208-5454, or in person at the Geffen Playhouse box office.
            

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Thursday, August 22, 2019


ANDY WARHOL’S TOMATO  by Carol Kaufman Segal
            
Andy Warhol was born Andrew Warhola on August 6, 1928, in Pittsburgh, PA.  (He later dropped the a from his last name.)  The play, Andy Warhol’s Tomato by Vince Melocchi is making its World Premiere at the Pacific Resident Theatre in Venice. 
           
The play takes place in the storage room of Bonino’s Bar in Homestead, a city near Pittsburgh, PA in the summer of 1946.  Therefore, we know that Andy Warhol (Derek Chariton) is 18 years old when we see him awakening on the floor after having collapsed outside of the bar where he was rescued by Mario “Bones” Bonino (Keith Stevenson).  Andy accidentally destroys a favorite picture frame of Bonino;s, and in order to make up for the loss, he offers to paint a new outdoor sign for his bar.  This means he will be returning to the storage room until he finishes the painting.
            
Playwright Melocchi develops the two very opposite characters, as they meet on a daily basis, in a way that makes one feel that the storyline is true, one a sensitive artist, the other seemingly a complete opposite rough bar owner.  Watching Chariton’s portrayal of Warhol at that age seems so realistic, that I imagined him exactly as he is characterized on the stage by this marvelous actor. 
           
I could not have expected the sensitive character that Bones so remarkably turns into in his day to day encounter with Andy.  But after all, as we discover, he is not as crass as he appears.  He has secretly been hiding his typewriter and the writing that he has been spending his time developing for some time.  Not even his wife is aware of his extracurricular activity.  Stevenson is outstanding as he portrays this rough but sensitive man.
           
According to Vince Melocchi, the connection that he developed between Andy Warhol and Mario Bonino is due to his perfect knowledge of these two men.  He admits that it is “because in many ways I am both of them, I’m the artist and will always identify with the blue collar man”.  Wonderfully written, superbly performed, well-directed by Dana Jackson, perfect scenic design by Rich Rose, all makes for a production you won’t want to miss.
            
 Andy Warhol’s Tomato plays Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 3 PM, through September 22, at the Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice.  Tickets and/or information are available online at pacificresidentheatre.com, or by phone at (310) 822-8392.
           




HIGHLY RECOMMENDED                       

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


DEREK KLENA by Carol Kaufman Segal
           
Derek Klena is a 28-year old handsome, warm and talented young man who grew up in California.  Now a successful Broadway actor and singer, he came back to Los Angeles for his first LA concert that was presented at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood on August 10. 
            
Derek Klena’s show was an intimate look at his life from his early years in West Covina where he was born and where he first performed locally at the age of 6.  He told about his family life, his childhood, people who helped him in his life and career, and all of his experiences before moving to New York.  All throughout, he interspersed his accounts with songs accompanied by pianist Ben Rouhala and guitarist Emily Rosenfield. 
           
 Derek’s guest star of the evening was Lindsey Mendez who had appeared with him on Broadway in Wicked and Off-Broadway in DogFight.  Their performance together was delightful.  The El Portal was packed for this production.  Derek made the audience feel as though he was speaking to each one personally.  He has a wonderful singing voice, and I hope one day, in the very near future, he will come back to Los Angeles to entertain us in a full Broadway production.

Saturday, August 17, 2019


OTHERWISE ENGAGED  by Carol Kaufman Segal
            
Otherwise Engaged, Simon Gray’s play written in the 70’s is the latest offering by the Group Rep Company at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood.  It is set in the living room of Simon Hench’s London flat in 1975.
            
Simon Hench (Michael Robb), a successful publisher, is home alone, his wife having left on a trip to the country.  Obviously he is relishing having time to himself to relax while enjoying a quiet afternoon listening to a recording of Wagner’s Parsifal which seems to stir his emotions.  But fate will not have it so, for as soon as Simon gets comfortable, he is interrupted by Dave (Joseph Marcelo) his bungling tenant. 
          
  Following Dave’s departure, his insecure school teacher brother Stephen (Fox Carney) shows up.  There seems to be no rest for the wicked because, when his brother takes his leave, his friend Jeff (Doug Haverty) an imbibing journalist, arrives with his girlfriend Davina (Kait Haire) who has written a book that she wishes Simon to publish.  She makes it obvious that she will stop at nothing to get him to do so! 
            
His longtime friend Wood (Lee Grober) becomes another infringement upon his privacy.    It seems his fiancĂ© has been cheating on him only to be an additional conquest of Simon’s.  Simon has shown no feelings of any kind to any one of his visitors.  He is numb to anyone but himself.  Last but not least to conflict with Simon’s plan for the day, is the unexpected return home of his wife Beth (Beccy Quinn).  She tells him that she has been having an affair, is pregnant and is leaving him.  As she walks out of his life, one wonders if he thinks or cares about anyone in the world but himself, or wonders if he ever has.
            
Otherwise Engaged is directed by Linda Alznauer.  The actors give fine performances.  Michael Robb is perfect as the insufferable Simon Hench.  Because the play takes place in London, their roles are performed with English accents. At times I found it difficult to understand some in the early part of the production.       
            
Otherwise Engaged plays Saturdays at 4 PM, Sundays at 7 PM, through September 8, Upstairs at the Group Rep, Second Floor of the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood.  Tickets and information are available online at www.thegrouprep.com, or by phone at (818) 763-5990.                    

Friday, August 16, 2019


ECHOES THAT REMAIN - A Special Screening for Tisha B’av by Carol Kaufman Segal
            
Echoes That Remain is a documentary that was filmed in 1991 by award winning filmmakers Arnold Swartzman, (director, writer), Rabbi Marvin Heir (writer), and Richard Trank (producer).  In conjunction with the Jewish Holiday of Tisha B’hav, a special screening of Echoes That Remain was held at the Museum of Tolerance on Sunday, August ll.  
           
Narrated by Martin Landau and Miriam Margolyes, it is a documentary rich in its portrayal of Eastern European Jewry before the Holocaust.  The film shows hundreds of rare archival photos and never before seen film footage taken in former Jewish communities in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. 
           
The production team spent over a year researching archives around the world, collecting film and photographs to aid in dramatizing the early years of the Jewish people in those countries.  Important to the film are a series of images created by Roman Vishniac, the famed photo biographer of Eastern Europe shtetl life.
            
This film generated a very special feeling of emotions for me as my father’s entire family, including all close relatives were born and lived in Poland before coming  to the United States in mass in 1912 (thanks to their foresight).  I felt I was watching all about them and their lives in the days before they left.
            
Echos That Remain has been shown in theaters and film festivals in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia and has been the recipient of numerous awards.  We, who saw this screening at the Museum of Tolerance, were fortunate enough to have a question and answer session with the three afore mentioned filmmakers.  I definitely recommend this film for everyone.  Watch for the opportunity to see it sometime, somewhere, as I am certain it will be shown over and over again for years to come.