Tuesday, November 13, 2018

IN A BOOTH AT CHASEN’S by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Chasen’s was a restaurant that opened in 1936 at 9039 Beverly Blvd. on the border of Beverly Hills. It soon became a favorite spot for people in the entertainment business, and for many years it was the site for the Academy Awards party.  Many regular patrons had booths named in their honor, so when you see the musical, In A Booth at Chasen’s at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood, you will understand why the Ronald Reagan booth is on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.  (Chasen’s closed in 1995 due to a decline in business,)
            It was November, 1949, when Ronald Reagan (Brent Schindele), still feeling the pangs from a recent divorce from Jane Wyman, had a blind date with a 29-year old starlet named Nancy Davis (Kelley Dorney).  They met in a booth at Chasen’s, and Nancy was rather nervous being with a tried and true actor who was also the President of the Screen Actor’s Guild.  As the evening progressed, they were feeling quite comfortable together, and following their first meeting, they began spending more and more time with each other.
            During the next two years, they became extremely close.  They opened their hearts to one another and sometimes squabbled, just like any married couple.  So why did it take Ronald so long to propose to Nancy?  The play draws on the long amount of time it finally takes him to do so, and when he finally does, it is in their favorite booth at Chasen’s!
            The story is well-written by Sam Bennett, and the music and lyrics by Al Kasha and Phil Swann add a special feel to the story as beautifully sung by Kelly Dorney and Brent Schindele.  The two actors are so perfect in their roles that they give one the feeling of actually seeing and hearing Ronald and Nancy relaying their story. 
            In A Booth at Chasen’s is directed by Kay Cole, Musical Director is Jonathan Tessero, and the lovely scenic design is by Andy Walmsley.  The production is playing at the El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, through November 25th.  For further information regarding the schedule and to order tickets, call (818) 508-4200, or go online at www.InABoothAtChasens.com.


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

THE LITTLE FOXES by Carol Kaufman Segal
            The Antaeus Theatre opened its season with Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes at the Kiki & David Gindler performing Art Center in Glendale.  Written by Hellman in 1939, it was considered a classic of 20th century drama.  While the play takes place in Alabama in 1900, it is amazing how nothing in it would have to be modified if it were set to take place today.
            Everything about this production is of the highest quality.  While waiting for it to begin, the audience sees a magnificent stage setting of a luxurious living room in the Giddens’ home in a small town in Alabama (set design by John Iacovelli).   On stage right is a foyer that leads to the front door (door not seen) and at stage left there is a dining room that can be seen into through a glass door.  Backstage left are stairs leading up to the second floor bedrooms.      
            Regina Hubbard Giddens (Deborah Puette), her brothers Benjamin Hubbard (Mike McShane), and Oscar Hubbard (Rob Nagle) appear to be a close-knit family.  They often find themselves together in Regina’s home along with Regina’s young daughter Alexandra Giddens (Kristin Couture), Oscar’s wife Birdie Hubbard (Jocelyn Towne), and their ninny son Leo Hubbard (Calvin Picou).  Regina’s husband, Horace Giddens (John DeMita) has been in a convalescent home for nearly five months, his health failing due to a heart condition.  Never fear, he will show up eventually.      
            Regina, Benjamin, and Oscar do not spend their time together because they love one another so much.  Oh no, they spend their time together figuring out ways to add to their riches.  And they will do anything to anyone in order to achieve their goal, including one another.  They will use each other, or any family member, with no regard of the consequences in order to build up their riches. The three siblings arrange a meeting in Regina’s home with William Marshall (Timothy Adam Venable) who offers them a chance to make a lot of money by investing with him.  After he leaves, the next thing they decide they have to do is figure out how to get the money in order to invest with  Marshall to become rich.
            Poor Birdie wonders why she ever married Oscar who chastises her for everything she says or every move she makes. To him, she is more of a hindrance than part of his family.  However, his son is different because he can be of help in their scathing plans.  When Horace comes home in a wheel chair after his long convalescence, Alexander is very happy, though not aware of why her Mother had him come home.  Thrilled to have him, she pampers him, as do Cal (William L, Warren) and Addie (Judy Louise Johnson), the household help.
            The plot thickens when plans go awry and Horace, unfortunately, discovers why he was needed back home.  When Regina pulls the rug out from under Benjamin and Oscar, and when she loses her daughter who suddenly evolves from a teen-ager into a mature woman in control of her  own existence, she is left standing alone, albeit, a woman who paid dearly for the riches she would do anything to obtain.. 
            While the play is presented in three acts with two intermissions, every actor is so outstanding, it holds one’s attention every minute from beginning to end and the time seems to fly.  This spectacular production is directed by Cameron Watson.  The beautiful period clothes for the men and the women were designed by Terri A. Lewis.  The lighting design, by Jared A. Saying, adds to the ambiance of the setting.   
            The Little Foxes,  a production of the Antaeus Theatre Company, plays Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, and Mondays at 8 PM, through Dec. 10, at the Kik i & David Gindler Performing Arts Center, 110 East Broadway, Glendale.  For tickets, call (818) 506-1983 or go online at www.Antaeus.org.


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

STEAMBATH by Carol Kaufman Segal;
            Imagine finding yourself in a steambath and not knowing why or how you arrived there.  That’s what happens to Tandy (Jeff LeBeau) in Steambath, written by Bruce Jay Friedman, playing at the Odyssey Theatre.  Tandy finds himself in the company of other people, sitting and sweating there as well.
            He meets everyone sharing the steambath with him, Bieberman, (Robert Lesser) a man who complains a lot, a young gay couple (DJ Kemp and Devon Scheolen), an Oldtimer (John Moskal), who is constantly being picked on by Bieberman., and a Broker (Brian Graves).  He becomes quite friendly with a young girl, Meredith (Shelby Lauren Barry), and while talking to her, he suddenly figures out that he and all of the others in the steambath are no longer alive on earth, but ascended to the afterlife.  God is a Puerto Rican bath attendant Paul Rodriquez) whose assistant is Gottlieb (Yusuf Yildiz).  God is no one like he, or any of the others, would have expected.  
           Tandy can’t accept where he finds himself, and he pleads with God to let him return to his life.  But this is not a warm and considerate God.  He is unfeeling and rash.  The way God is depicted in this play is blasphemous to me and I, personally, did not see the humor in it.  Naturally, Tandy is not returned to life, but is sent away with all of the other occupants to an unknown destination while God awaits his next arrivals to the steambath.
            Steambath was a hit comedy Off-Broadway in 1970, albeit controversial due to some language, some nudity and its “ungodly” representation.  It may be considered more acceptable in this age, but perhaps not by everyone.   Ron Sossi directs the capable cast that includes Anthony Rutowicz  (Longshoreman/Detective) and Shay Denison (Young Girl).  Sossi thinks the play has a particular resonance with Jewish audiences. I only see a heavily Jewish cast in a play written by a Jewish playwright. 
            Steambath is playing through December 16, at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles.  For the schedule and/or tickets, call (310) 477-2055, ext. 2, or go online at www.OdysseyTheatre.com.  Recommended for mature audiences.

Monday, October 29, 2018

            Merce Cunningham (1919-2009) was a gifted dancer who joined Martha Graham’s company in 1939.  In 1944, he debuted some of his own solo works, and the following year left Martha Graham’s troupe to work on his own.  He continued to develop solo pieces for himself, and in 1953, established the Merce Cunningham Dance Company.  He choreographed his own work using a great deal of music by John Cage, who became his life partner.  He also collaborated with artist Robert Rauschenberg, and eventually with other avante-garde artists including Andy Warhol. 
            Merce Cunningham, Clouds and Screens opened at the Los Angeles Museum of Art (LACMA) on the same date as did the Rauschenberg exhibition.  Upon entering the lobby of the presentation, visitors are met by Silver Clouds created by Andy Warhol (1928-1987) along with scientist and engineer Billy Kluver.  Dozens of these large pillow-like “clouds,” mixed with air and helium, float around the lobby.  Warhol thought of them as floating paintings that people could play with.  Merce Cunningham saw an exhibition of Silver Clouds when it debuted in 1966 at Leo Castelli Gallery in New York and asked Warhol to modify them as d├ęcor for his dance Rain Forest. 
            Charles Atlas created MC9 (Merce Cunningham to the Ninth Power) from videos he had taken during his and Cunningham’s investigation of the relationship of live performance and video documentation.  The exhibition includes excerpts from 21 of Charles Atlas and Merce Cunningham’s “dances for camera.”  Two videos of Cunningham dances are shown as well, Changeling, a solo piece for which Rauschenberg designed the set, costume, and lighting, and a duet for which Rauschenberg redesigned costumes and lighting.
            Curator of this exhibition is Jose Luis Blondet, Curator of Special Initiatives.  It will remain on view at LACMA through March 31, 2019, at the Los Angeles Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles.  The museum is closed on Tuesdays.  For tickets and/or further information, go online at lacma.org, or call (323) 857-6010.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

RAUSCHENBERG:  THE 1/4 MILE by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Rauschenbrg: The 1/4 Mile exhibition recently opened at the Los Angeles Museum of Art (LACMA).   Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) was one of the most pioneering artists of the last century as you can see as you peruse this expansive exhibition.  On view is his work of art, The 1/4 Mile piece that was completed over a period of 17 years (1981-98) and consists of 190 combined panels that measure approximately 1,000 ft., or approximately 1/4 mile.
            Resources for the variety of materials and images used in making The 1/4 Mile came from Rauschenberg’s travels to many countries in Europe, Asia, North Africa, Latin America, and the United States  His sprawling piece of work includes various textiles, mass media images, and photographs by the artist intermingled with trails of bold paint.  Ordinary everyday objects such as cardboard boxes, chairs, and books add a more solid depth to his creation. 
            In 1961 Robert Rauschenberg remarked, ‘There is no reason not to consider the world as one gigantic painting.” And following his one gigantic work, in1982, he said “By the time you’ve gone a quarter of a mile, if you have any mind at all, you’ve certainly forgotten what you had in mind when you started.”  This is the first time The 1/4 Mile had been presented in its entirety.  Curators of this exhibition include Michael Govan, CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director of LACMA, and Katia Zavistovski, Assistant Curator of Modern Art at LACMA.
            Rauschenberg: The 1/4 Mile will remain on view through June 9, 2019, at the Los Angeles Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles.  The museum is closed on Tuesdays.  For tickets and/or further information, go online at lacma.org, or call (323) 857-6010. Enjoy a leisurely 1/4 mile walk through the world of Rauschenberg.                 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

A PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, was first published July, 1890 in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine.  However, the editor of the magazine deleted some five hundred words of it without the author’s knowledge, worried that British book reviewers would find it morally offensive.  Wilde defended his work and art while revising and lengthening the story that was published as a book in 1891.  Not a wonder that it was considered blasphemous in those days.
            Dorian Gray (Colin Bates) might have been better off looking for the Fountain of Youth, but I dare say he had no idea what effect his wish to remain looking young would have on his life.  Dorian is a handsome and wealthy young man.  Lord Henry Wotton, known as Henry (Frederick Stuart) is visiting the studio of his friend Basil Hallward (Amin El Gamal), a painter, who is in the process of painting a picture of Dorian.
            Henry is taken with Dorian’s beauty and of the painting.  Dorian, himself, is so much aware of his youth and beauty that he wishes he could keep from growing old.  He says that he would give his soul if the painting would grow old instead of him.  (Guess we should think twice before we wish for something!!)   Henry latches on to Dorian and they become intimate friends.  All the while Henry has a marked influence on Dorian and his persona.
            Dorian meets and falls in love with Sybil Vane (Chelsea Kurtz), a beautiful actress, and they become engaged.  After seeing her perform on stage, he heartlessly breaks off their engagement.   When he arrives home, he notices his portrait has changed, and  suddenly feels guilty about his treatment of Sybil.  He decides to write her a letter expressing his feelings and love, only to discover the next day that she had committed suicide.
            But influenced by Henry, Dorian no longer feels guilty about his behavior towards anyone.  Men and women worship him; he is attracted to both, but cares about no one.  Eighteen years go by and as they do, his picture ages continuously.   Though his looks decline in the painting, it is Dorian who morally declines throughout the passing years.  Living such an unscrupulous life is bound to end tragically.                
            This stunning production is brilliantly directed (and adapted) by Michael Michetti who says, “This is not the story of a rotting portrait; it is the story of a rotting soul.”  What make this production so unique and artistic is as Michetti points out, is that “This adaptation uses elements of Greek Chorus and narrative dance, and the Victorian setting is filtered through a very modern sensibility, allowing us to tell this familiar story in a way that’s highly theatrical and has a distinctive style and point of view.”  
            This picture of Dorian Gray is not a portrait, but a full body image, and Colin Bates, who is perfect in his performance as Dorian Gray, is seen on stage posing ala natural for the painting.  A strong cast also includes Deborah Strang, Justin Lawrence Barnes, Daniel Lench, Tania Verafield, Amy Tolsky, Jose Angel Donado, Dale Sandlin, and Abe Martel.  The play runs 2 hours and 40 minutes; I believe it would be well to make some cuts to shorten the time.
            A Picture of Dorian Gray plays through November 16, at A Noise Within, 352 E. Foothil Blvd., Pasadena.  For tickets and information, go online at www.anoisewithin.org, or call (626) 356-3121.


Monday, October 22, 2018

NOTORIOUS RBG The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg by Carol Kaufman Segal
            An exhibition featuring the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg opened at the Skirball Cultural Center October 19.  The exhibition is based on the book of the same name that was co-authored by journalist Irin Carmon, a national reporter at MSNBC, and attorney Shana Kriznik who partnered with the museum and its curator, Cate Thurston in its development.
            This most in-depth look covers the life and work of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and comes at a time marking 25 years since being appointed to the Supreme Court.  Through archival photographs and documents, historical artifacts, contemporary art, media stations, and gallery interactives, it covers her various roles in life from a student, a wife and mother, a lawyer, judge, and a women’s rights pioneer.
            It begins with a re-creation of the living room in Brooklyn where Ruth Bader Ginsburg grew up.  On display is a robe and jabot from her Supreme Court wardrobe.  There are family photos, home movies, and even a replica of a 50’s Chevrolet that her husband Marty owned during the time he was courting her. You can browse yearbooks, written letters, listen to a number of her oral arguments, opinions, and dissents in Supreme Court cases over ten listening stations.  And you can even put on a judge’s robe and sit as a Supreme Court Judge on a replica bench. 
            Barely through the exhibition, you will realize the brilliance and strength of this woman and think how fortunate for all of us and our country that she has served on the Supreme Court for these past 25 years, and that she will continue to be the stalwart voice on the highest court in our nation for many years to come.
            This exhibition will remain on view at The Skirball Cultural Center through March 10, 2019, after which it will go on national tour over the next four years.  You won’t want to miss seeing it while it is in Los Angeles.  The Skirball Center is located at 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles.  It is open Tuesdays through Sundays, closed Mondays.  Public tours are available.  For further information, call the Center at (310) 440-4500