Friday, March 20, 2020

SHOW ME A HERO by Carol Kaufman Segal
Show Me A Hero, written by Willard Manus, is making its world premiere at the Brickhouse Theatre in North Hollywood.  The play is about two real people, Alexander Panagoulis (1939-76), a Greek politician, and Oriana Fallaci (1929-2006), an Italian journalist, author and political reviewer.  When living in Greece, Manus was intrigued by Panagoulis when he first heard about him.  After reading a story about him being interviewed by Fallaci, he wrote Show Me a Hero about their love affair, fictionalizing their names.
In 1974, following the collapse of the military dictatorship in Greece, Luisa (Lisa Robins) came from Italy to interview Petros (Ilia Volok).  He had become famous for fighting against the military dictatorship that had taken over in 1967 and was arrested after his failed attempt to assassinate the dictator on August, 1968.  During the interview, Petros becomes very emotional in relaying his years of pain, torture, and deprivation to Luisa.  He finds her easy to talk to and she, in turn, finds him to be a real hero.  Very quickly, they fall in love.  Thus begins their amorous romance.
When they are together it is quite obvious that Petros and Luisa are very much in love, but she is not free to spend all of her time with him.  She still has a job to do and must leave Greece, periodically.  However, after each assignment is finished, Luisa returns to Petros.
Petros is not a man who can sit back without wanting to fight for what he feels is right. He has decided that he must seek out the perpetrators who were involved in overthrowing the Greek government.  Despite the warning of his friend Dimitry (Rico Simonini) and the woman who loves him, he is fixated on finding those who tried and succeeded, for a while, in taking over and ruining the country he loves.  Sadly, this time he pays for his unsuccessful attempt with his life.
I was simply mesmerized throughout this one act play, not only for the work by Willard Manus, but by the emotional and truly phenomenal performances by Ilia Volok and Lisa Robins.  I also have to give credit to Rico Simonini for his small, but important role as well.  This world premiere production was scheduled to play at the Brickhouse Theatre in North Hollywood through March 29.  I am hoping it will be able to return, and if and when it does, I highly recommend it.


Thursday, March 19, 2020

TAMING THE LION by Stan Mazin, Guest Reviewer

A World Premiere of a new play, “TAMING THE LION” written by Jack Rushen opened at Theatre 40… and what an interesting play this is.  Based on a true incident, the play concerns a gay actor named William Haines who acted in 50 films between 1922 and 1934, and who was the number one box office draw at the end of the silent era.  Fearing that Haines’ gayness might prove to be detrimental to the MGM Studio name, Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg attempted to force Haines to marry.  Haines was already in a committed relationship with Jimmie Shields, a relationship that lasted until Haines death in 1973.  Consequently, he refused to comply with MGM’s wishes, ultimately giving up the business and becoming an interior decorator from then on.  Comparisons were made with, supposedly, closeted Ramon Navarro and Rudolph Valentino, but Haines stood his ground and refused to live a lie.  And so you have the story.  Written with believable conversation by actor playwright Jack Rushen who was a two time recipient of the Julie Harris Playwriting Award from the Beverly Hills Theatre Guild, the play flows comfortably from scene to scene.  The second act has more action than the first which naturally contains more exposition.  Directed with acute sharpness by Melanie MacQueen, the characters come to life as quickly as the play begins.  Landon Beatty does an excellent job as William Haines, while Niko Boles portrays his lover Jimmie with emotion.  Marie Broderick portrays Joan Crawford, and while she does not give an impersonation, she is strong and real in her relationship with Haines until the end.  Kevin Delude gives another realistic portrayal of Irving Thalberg, as does Jean Mackie as Ida, Mayer’s secretary.  But it is Jeffrey Winner, in his portrayal of Louis B. Mayer, who carries the bravado necessary to ‘become’ the head of the MGM Studios.  While the title makes you think that Taming the Lion refers to the taming of Mayer himself, I believe it is his pressure to try to influence Haines’ decision to marry that the title of the play refers to.  The set design by Jeff G. Rack is another great set for Theatre 40, containing basically 3 areas, the Haines/Shields living room, Mayer’s office, and a table at the Brown Derby, complete with black and white character drawings of Hollywood stars.  The costumes by Michele Young served the play well as did sound design by Joseph “Sloe” Slawinski, and Hair, Wigs, and Makeup by Judi Lewin, and Stage Manager, Don Solosan.  Press is by Philip Sokoloff.  Overall the play stands as a lesson in American theatrical history to show us all what a long way we have come to accept this subject matter. 

Reviewed by Stan Mazin, March 13, 2020

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

LA VIE EN ROSE by Stan Mazin, Guest Reviewer

“La Vie en Rose” at The Odyssey Theatre starring Julia Migenes.

What can I say?  After a four year absence from the stage, Julia Migenes performed her one person almost farewell performance, and as it happened, it was the last performance at The Odyssey Theatre, since the upcoming performances have been cancelled due to the Carona Virus, spreading throughout our country.  So, how fortunate can we be to have seen this artist perform one of her past concerts.! Her show, “La Vie en Rose” is scheduled to return to the Odyssey stage sometime in September, so whatever you do, make sure you run, race, and rush to get tickets to this beyond excellent performance.  Julia is a master craftsman, and I cannot stress enough how watching her perform is more like a master class in acting, singing, and interpreting a song as no other person can.  And the songs were all in French.  What she does in her relaxed almost humorous way to to describe what the next song is about, while giving a little of the history of the song, and who sang it… then she follows by performing in her own brilliant way the song she described.  Most of the songs were heart wrenching, while some were whimsical.  And even though other than part of the last song, they were all in another language, she has a way of acting the song so we could understand her emotional commitment during her performance.  Among the songs sung were first a combination of Mon Homme (My Man), music by Maurice Yvain with French lyrics by Jacques-Charles and Albert Willametz… with Milord (My Lord), written by Georges Moustaki and Marguerite Monnot, both tunes very recognizable to those of us who do not speak French.  She followed these with two Charles Aznavour songs, Hier Encore and La Boheme.  Other songs sung were Les Paumas Du Petit Matin by Francois Rauber and Jacques Brel, and La Chanson Des Vielles Amants by Jacques Brel.  Julia even talked about certain songs not sung in tonights performance.  She closed with Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg), lyrics by Jacques Demy with music by Michel Legrand, and it was this final song that she performed partially in English, and it only showed her prowess being able to sing in any language with equal emotion.  The lighting for this show was as emotionally full as the performance of the soloist, and was designed by Bosco Flanagan.  The scenic design was by Chris Bell, simple with a grand piano, a couple of chairs, an old phonograph, and small step stool so Julia could sit on the piano.  The sound design was by Christopher Moscatiello, and included her head microphone so she could almost whisper sometimes, but could be clearly heard throughout the theatre.  The stage manager who also ran the sound and lights was Jacob Price.  The PR person was Lucy Pollack, and the show was produced by Beth Hogan.  Directed by Peter Medak, Julia used all parts of the stage, creating one emotional moment to another.  But the woman who was onstage with her, supporting her in every way possible, was her accompanist on piano, Victoria H. Kirsch, an outstanding pianist who felt every emotion with Ms. Migenes.  I cannot say enough about this very special show.  Look for it when it comes back and DON’T MISS IT!

Reviewed by Stan Mazin, 3/14, 2020

Monday, March 16, 2020

MURDER MAFIA by Carol Kaufman Segal
Murder Mafia is a presentation at the Edgemar Center For the Arts in Santa Monica. It is directed and produced by Derek Jeremiah Reid.  It features a cast that includes Vanessa Gelacio, Carly Harper, Deia Jain, Marion Maclou, Malu Martins, Albi Neziri, Meitar Paz, Mariana T. Restrepo, Manni J. Santamaria, Salvatore Tabone, Rory V, Josefine Wallensgaard and Sashil Zakwai.
Since Murder Mafia is an improvisational show, there is no written scrip for this production.  The actors know what the play is about, what is supposed to occur throughout to make it all happen, and the actors are given their characters to perform in order to do just that.   
The party game Mafia is the inspiration for this murder mystery/comedy and the audience becomes involved when Derek Jeremiah Reid, the Master of Ceremonies of the production, tells them there will be ten suspects, one of whom is a member of the Murder Mafia. He then asks the audience if any one of them can find the killer…”before it’s too late”. 

Then the production begins with one murder after another before the real culprit is discovered.  Reid, as Master of Ceremonies, does an outstanding job keeping the play moving and adding to the laughs throughout until the very end.  It’s all in fun, especially if you enjoy feeling as though you are a part of the show.
Murder Mafia, is scheduled to continue March 21, and March 28, at 8 PM, at The Edgemar Center For the Arts, 2437 Main St., #B, Santa Monica.  Reservations are available by phone at (310) 392-7327, or online at  Please check to see if the theater is still open.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

FRANKENSTEIN by Carol Kaufman Segal
I never read Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, nor did I ever see any movies about Frankenstein.  All I was ever aware of was that Frankenstein was known as something “spooky”, and as a child, I never wanted to have anything to do with “spooky.”  So when I knew that Frankenstein was being presented by Four Larks at The Wallis Theatre in Beverly Hills, I thought I might like to find out what it was all about.
Having seen this world premiere production of Frankenstein, I must be honest and admit that I was completely baffled by the entire creation.  I wish I had read the story printed in the program book I received upon entering the theatre so that, at least, I would have had an inkling of what was really happening throughout the production. 
Though I had difficulty discerning the story, I have to say that this was an unusual and very interesting performance by an unbelievably talented cast, including music developed and arranged by Mat Sweeney with his ensemble of musicians (cast members).  Kila Packett, who performs the role of Victor Frankenstein, is the most physically talented person I have ever seen, creating the role while performing unbelievable body movements. Other cast members include Max Baumgarten, Lu Coy, Philip Graulty, Yvette Holzwarth, Joanna Lynn-Jacobs, Kila Packett, Lukas Papenfusscline, Craig Piaget, James Vitz-Wong, Katherine Washington, James Waterman, and Claire Woolner.  The cast performes double roles, some perform the music.  The scenic and properties design by Sebatian Peters-Lazaro was difficult to understand as most of it was just a lot of stuff on the stage that had no use.
The play was adapted from Mary Shelley’s novel by Mat Sweeny, Sebastian Peters-Lazaro, and Jesse Rasmussen, choreographed by Sebastian Peters-Lazaro, directed and composed by Mat Diafos Sweeney.  There is a warning in the book that the production utilizes a strobe light effect, flashing lights, theatrical haze and contains partial nudity.  The most difficult for me was the strobe light and some flashing lights.
Though I found Frankenstein left me perplexed throughout most of it, I appreciated the performances by the entire company.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Ballet BC   ROMEO + JULIET by Carol Kaufman Segal
Described as one of North America’s finest Dance Companies, the Vancouver’s Ballet BC presented their ballet production, of Romeo + Juliet, choreographed by French Choreographer Medhi Walerski, at the Soraya, the Valley’s Center for the Arts, located on the grounds of Cal State Northridge.
The ballet is accompanied by Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet, Op.64, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andre Previn which, alone, is beautiful.  Add to that, an exceptionally excellent dance company, as well as the creative choreography, makes Shakespeare’s tragic story of forbidden love come to being.  This full-length work is a first for Ballet BC and the two performances at the Soraya that was seen February 29 and March 2, marked the United States debut of the production, directed by Emily Molnar.

  Ballet BC’s dancers are exceptional in their style of movement like no other company of dancers I have ever seen.  Their technique is thrilling to watch.  They will continue touring with this production to Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, then on to the Sydney Opera House where they will make their Australian debut.  Hopefully Ballet BC will return to Los Angeles in the future. 

Saturday, February 29, 2020

HUMAN INTEREST STORY by Carol Kaufman Segal
Human Interest Story is making its world premier at the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles.  The play was written by Stephen Sachs, a man of immense talent who is not only a playwright, but a director, a producer, and a Co-Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre.  He also directed this superb production that features a highly talented cast of men and women.  The play takes on situations that we are very much aware of today, loss of jobs, fake news, and homeless people,
Andy Kramer (Rob Nagle) has written columns at The Chronicle for twenty years. When the newspaper is taken over by a new owner he, along with others, is given his last day.  When he happens to run into, a homeless woman in the park, he talks her into letting him write a story about her for his final column in the paper, hoping it will save his job.  She agrees and he writes a fictitious story about a homeless woman using the name “Jane Doe” (performed outstandingly by Tanya Alexander).  In reality, the woman is Betty Frazier who earned a master’s degree and was a teacher before falling on hard times.
Andy’s article, about Jane Doe facing a destitute existence and promising to kill herself on July 4 due to a heartless civilization, saves Andy’s job.  Because his article arouses the public, multimillionaire Harold Cain (James Harper), who took over The Chronicle, is quick to give him his job back.
“Jane Doe” becomes a phenomenon overnight and is interviewed and seen on television stations throughout the country.  Andy Kramer insists on writing Jane Doe’s speeches.  With the success of his newspaper, Harold Cane finds it a good time to run for Mayor of the city.  All of the characters’ personas become changed over the fallout that has affected them and the country by the story of “Jane Doe”.  Will Jane Doe really commit suicide on July 4th?  Does Andy Kramer begin to respect her abilities?  And what effect does she have over whether or not Harold Cane wins his bid for the Mayor’s office? 
Stephen Sachs has written a most interesting and well-thought-out play.  It certainly is a Human Interest Story.  A superb cast brings realism to the production.   Other cast members include Richard Azurdia, Aleisha Force, Matt Kirkwood, and Tarina Pouncy.

 Human Interest Story plays Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, and Mondays at 8 PM, through April 5, at The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles.  Tickets are available online at, or by phone at (323) 663-1525.