Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Contributing Reviewer, Stan Mazin

The Artistic Director of Pacific Ballet Dance Theatre is Natasha Middleton, and she has every right to be proud of her company.  I was fortunate to see “The Best of Khachaturian” on Sunday, September 17th at the Alex Theatre in Glendale.  The company is made up of many Armenian soloists as well as soloists and dancers from around the world.  The evening began with a tribute in memory of the Armenian Genocide, “Remember” with selections from Armenian Composer Aram Khachaturian’s “Cello Concerto in E-Minor”.

 A beautifully moving tribute.  Choreography of the piece was by Natasha Middleton with solo performances by Elen Harutyunyan, Grigori Arakelyan, Natalie Grina, Ashley Dawn Smith, Hannah Hart, and Musetta Ruben.

This performance was co-directed by Natasha Middleton and Ruben Tonoyan, Associate Director and Ballet Master for Pacific Ballet Dance Theatre.  “Remember” was followed by “Spartacus”, a lovely adagio choreographed by Yuri Grigorovich, coached by Ruben Tonoyan and beautifully danced by Eduard Sargsyan (who served in the Amenian Army from 2006 to 2008) as Spartacus and Inga Demetryan (who performed with the Mariinsky Ballet Theatre as well as the Israel Ballet Company) as Phrygia.

The Intermission was followed by “Masquerade”, choreographed by Natasha Middleton, and lead primarily by Alexander Fost (who held the title of Mr. Dance USA as well as Mr. Dance International) as Prince Zeveditch, Alina Bormotova (soloist and Audition Director with Moscow Ballet)as Nina, and Natalie Grina (a soloist ballerina from London) as the Baroness. 

Oleg Loparevi, Ashley Dawn Smith, Hannah Hart, Jacob Magana, Musetta Ruben, and an all too brief Aerialist performance by Julie Sanches, this piece concerns the disappearance of a missing bracelet.  “Masquerade” is made up of ‘Masquerade Ball at Palace’, ‘The Gamble’ (my favorite if I had to choose) with Oleg Loparevi as the Dealer, ‘The Romance’ starring Grigori Arakelyan (a former National Scholar of American Ballet Theatre) as Arbenin and Alina Bormotova (from the Russian National Ballet as well as soloist in the Moscow Ballet) as Nina,

and finally ‘The Grand Dance’ featuring the dancing couple of Oleg Loparevi and Nataliia Lopareva (Champion Ballroom dancers of Gold and Silver in Germany as well as winners of other ballroom dance competitions worldwide).  A brief interlude is followed by “Gayane”, a celebration of life.  This piece includes ‘Saber Dance’, one of the most lively and famous Khachaturian compositions with dancers Ashley Dawn Smith, Hannah Hart, Jacob Magana, and Musetta Ruben.

At this point I must mention the names of the Corps De Ballet who did a remarkable job in supporting all the principals.  They are Chloe Verkinder, Hagop Tanashian, Razmig Tanashian, Raffi Bilemjian, Shoshana Mozlin, Elissa Brock, Devon Reisenbeck, Charlotte Harrop, Megan Van Darren, and Patrick Fitzsimmons.  If I have forgotten any names, please forgive my memory… I am an aging dancer myself.
The lighting for the evening was done by James W. Smith, with Music Editing by Carlos Sanches, beautiful costuming for “Remember” and “Spartacus” by Ann Lindsey, Seamstress for ‘Masquerade’ and ‘Gayane’ by Cami Warren, Production Images by Lana Davtyan, Pubic Relations for The Pacific Ballet by Steve Moyer.

         This review was written by Stan Mazin


Friday, September 15, 2017

Contributing Reviewer, Stan Mazin


I enjoy reviewing shows that have heart… shows in which you can see the cast members enjoying themselves.  And that is what I saw at today’s matinee of ‘Aladdin’, TNH Productions’s and Casa101’s re-visualized version playing at the Los Angeles Theatre Center in downtown Los Angeles through September 15th.  The show played Casa101 in January of this year, but this version was revamped by Jim Luigs and Jose Cruz Gonzalez, with music by Alan Mencken, Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, with music adapted, arranged and orchestrated by Bryan Louiselle.  This time out the show was 80 minutes with no intermission and ran overall quite smoothly.  The musical direction was by Caroline Benzon, with cute choreography (including a very nice tap number) by Tania Possick, with very attractive costumes by Abel Alvarado, and sets by Marco De Leon.  The lighting was adequate by Sohail J. Najaf (I say this because in one scene the romantic couple was on their flying carpet placed high above on a  huge box, and I felt the lighting would have been better with less light focusing more on the couple so we wouldn’t have to see the box they were sitting upon).  The projection design was by Yee Eun Nam with sound by Vincent A. Sanchez.  This production was directed as the last one was by Rigo Tejeda.  The cast of 20 worked very hard and as I stated the overall pace of the show was fine.  Special attention goes to Sarah Kennedy playing Princess Jazmin, Lewis Powell III playing the Genie, and Luis Marquez playing Jafar, the villain in the play.  My feeling about Daniel Sugimoto was that he could have been a little stronger and more charismatic, and his voice seemed to be at a lower level than other people on the stage, although he looked the part and certainly was as handsome as any Aladdin I have seen.  Supporting characters Andrew Cano playing Iago, Jafar’s pet parrot… Sebastian Gonzalez playing Abu, Aladdin’s pet Monkey… Rosa Navarrese playing Rajah, Jazmin’s pet tiger… Evan Garcia playing Captain de los Cardias… Danielle Espinoza as the Magic Carpet… and Blanca Espinoza, Shiner Sanders, and Beatriz Tasha Magana playing the Royal Translators all did fine work with the material given them.  And the balance of the ensemble including the ones who doubled doing the other roles filled out the fine cast beautifully.  This dual language edition seemed to work more than it didn’t work, although some of the sections seemed to be too long without using the second language… but the audience really enjoyed the performance.

The PR person is Steve Moyer and the number for reservations is (866) 811-4111, or online at https://www.thelatc.org/aladdin-duallanguage-edition.  To view performance footage of the musical, please visit https://youtu.be/UgqkZGpNojU.


 Reviewed by Stan Mazin, September 10, 2017 matinee (5pm)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

LOST IN YONKERS by Carol Kaufman Segal
            The Lonny Chapman Theatre is presenting Neil Simon’s comedy/drama Lost In Yonkers.  Neil Simon is a man of extreme talent and is the recipient of many awards for his abundance of work.  His multitude of plays, musicals, films, television shows and series have proven to be successes.  He has a gift for comedy as well as for drama, plots and characterizations.   Lost In Yonkers is one of his best plays.  It won the Tony Award in 1991, and brought Neil Simon the Pulitzer Prize for Drama that same year.           
            The play is set in Yonkers, New York in 1942, where Grandma Kurnitz (Loraine Shields) and her daughter Bella (Roslyn Cohn) run Kurnitz Kandy Store while living in an apartment above the confectionary (charming set by Chris Winfield).  Grandma’s two grandsons, 15-year old Jay (Bennett Saltzman) and 13-year old Arty (Brent Anthony) are waiting for their father, Eddie (Patrick Burke) to come out from their Grandma’s room, not knowing what to expect.   
            Eddie’s wife recently died and he is in debt due to her long illness.  He and the boys had to give up their apartment, and Eddie needs to go on the road to look for work to get out of his predicament.  He has come to seek help from his mother to take the boys in while he is away, and he knows it will not be an easy request.  Eddie’s mother has always been an extremely stringent woman, never revealing any love towards her family.  The boys are not too keen, themselves, about having to live with her.
            During their prolonged wait, Bella arrives home and she and the boys click.  Not surprising, Grandma says no to Eddie’s request, but Bella starts to bring their belongings in and Grandma acquiesces and agrees to a ten-month period.   During the ten-month period, Eddie keeps in touch with the family through letters (he reads aside on stage).    
            And during the ten-month period, Bella strives for a normal life though her mind is hardly more advanced than that of a child and it is obvious she has been deprived of love throughout all of her years.  Uncle Louie (Van Boudreaux) drops by for a visit and we also meet Bella’s and Louie’s sister Gert (Julie Davis), both of whom bear the scars of this dysfunctional family.             
            The Group Rep's production of this play is of the highest quality, superbly performed by an outstanding cast and superbly directed by Larry Eisenberg (Co-Artistic Director of the Lonny Chapman Theatre).  It is a drama filled with emotion, but comedy persists as well.  Every performer is outstanding and all actors' dialects are perfect throughout.  I must give extra kudos to Roslyn Cohn for her performance as Bella.   
            Lost In Yonkers plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM, through October 8.  The Lonny Chapman Theatre is located at 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood.  Tickets are available at www.thegrouprep.com, or info@thegrouprep.com, or reservations may be made by calling (828) 763-5990. 
           

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Thursday, August 17, 2017

CHAGALL:  FANTASIES FOR THE STAGE by Carol Kaufman Segal    
            Marc Chagall was a prolific artist who created works in nearly every artistic category.  The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is presenting an exhibition that focuses on four of his works in the field of music and dance.  While the presentation stresses its artistic value, it is almost like being behind the scenes of a theater with its sounds and picturesque beauty. 
            LACMA’s CEO Michael Goven said, “In bringing together Chagall‘s well-known paintings and his innovative theatrical designs, Chagall:  Fantasies for the Stage will enhance our understanding of the artist’s expansive body of work.  By engaging both the visual and the performing arts, it also fosters a dialogue that reaches across the discipline of art, music, theater, dance, and even fashion design.”  And this is truly what the exhibition accomplishes.
             Forty-one costumes and nearly one hundred sketches and studies from three ballets and one opera are shown in four separate sections in chronological order.  The first is the ballet Aleko, 1942,         followed by The Firebird, 1945, then Daphnis and Chloe, 1959, and finally Mozart’s opera, The Magic Flute, 1967. 
            There is serenity in walking through this unique exhibition as selected music associated with each entity is played at various intervals each hour, music by Pyotr Tchaikovsky (Aleko), Igor Stravinsky (The Firebird),  Maurice Ravel (Daphnis and Chloe), and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (The Magic Flute)
            In addition to Chagall’s stage designs, the exhibition includes a small selection of iconic paintings, many of which are on loan from museums around the world including The Violinist (1920) from LACMA’s permanent collection.

            Chagall:  Fantasies for the Stage will be on view at the Los Angeles Museum of Art through January 7, 2018. The museum is located at 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles.  Hours are Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, 11 AM to 5 PM, Fridays, 11 AM to 8 PM, Saturdays and Sundays, 10 AM to 7 PM, closed Wednesdays.  For further information, call (323) 857-6010.



Sunday, August 13, 2017

THE FENCER by Carol Kaufman Segal
            The Fencer begins with some background information in order to offer an understanding of the situation that faces Endel Nelis as he arrives in Estonia in the early 1950’s.  During World War II, Nazi Germany occupied Estonia and recruited most of the men into the German army.  Later, when Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union, the government considered all German soldiers war criminals and proceeded to seek out any, including those in Estonia, and to imprison them.
            A young Endel Nelis (Mart Avandi) is one of those men and he flees Leningrad for Estonia to escape the secret police. He finds a position as a teacher and forms a sports club for the students offering them instructions in fencing, a sport for which he has a passion.
            The School Principal (Hendrik Toompere) is jealous of Endel and objects to what he is accomplishing with the children and tries to have the club removed from the school agenda.  However, the townspeople vote in favor of allowing it to continue, and the irritated Principal begins an investigation of Endel.
            Most of the children have lost their male relatives due to the actions of the          Russian government, but they have formed a loving relationship with Endel and he with them.  When his student, Marta (Liisa Koppel), hears about a national fencing tournament being held in Leningrad, she asks him about the club participating.   When Endel tells her it is not possible for them to attend, she and the students, in their disappointment, think that he does not think them qualified.  
            Meanwhile, his friend Aleksei (Kirill Karo) cautions him against ever returning to Leningrad.  Torn between seeing the children disappointed and hurt, or risking his life by going to Leningrad, Endel is left to make a choice.
            The Fencer is a stirring drama directed by Klause Haro  The screenplplay, written by Anna  Heinamaa, was inspired by the true story of Endel Nelis, Estonia’s legendary fencing master  A marvelous cast also includes Ursula Ratasepp  (Kadri, Endel’s love interest), Joonas Koff (Jaan, a student), and Lembit Ulfsak (Janaan’s grandfather).
           
Running time, 99 minutes          Estonian and Russian with English subtitles          Not rated


RECOMMENDED              

 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

RHINOCEROS by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Rhinoceros was written in 1959 by Romanian-French playwright, Eugene Ionesco.  He wrote most of his plays in French, and they were branded among “The Theatre of the Absurd.”  However, there is more to this play than absurdity, and it is being presented in Los Angeles at an auspicious time by the Pacific Resident Theatre in Venice.
            Ionesco wrote this play as a backlash to the sudden events going on in the world when Communism, Fascism, and Nazism were flourishing.  As you watch this excellent production, you will understand the lying message that Ionesco was sending out as a warning against what was occurring in the world. 
            The play takes place in a small town in France.  It opens in a square where there is a lot of normal daily activity occurring among the townsfolk.  Eventually the scene focuses on Berenger (Keith Stevenson) seated at a table.  He is unkempt, and obviously feeling the consequences of too much alcohol.  Seated at the table with him is Jean (Alexander Fernandez, the acting name of Director Guillermo Cienfuegos, who also directs the production), Beringer’s dapper friend who is chastising him to no end over his slovenly appearance.
            All at once, without warning, the crowd hears a deafening sound of hooves as a herd of rhinoceroses plow through the area, knocking over chairs, tables, and people.  Everyone is stunned, and cannot figure out where the animals could possibly have come from.  Did they have one horn, or did they have two horns?  Were they from Africa or were they from Asia?
            As the play progresses, more and more rhinoceroses appear throughout the village, and over time,  more and more citizens are surrendering to the change of becoming rhinos, everyone including Beringer’s friend Jean,  When Beringer and his girlfriend Daisy (Carole Weyers) are the only two people left in the town, Beringer swears he will never accept the change while Daisy, who has submitted the same to him, eventually falls in line with the crowd leaving Beringer the only human remaining in a crowd of rhinoceroses. 
            Though there is a serious message in this play, it is not without a lot of humor.   Cienfuegos directs a perfect cast.   David Mauer deserves kudos for a wonderful set, as does Christopher Moscatiello for the sound design.
            Rhinoceros plays Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM, and Sundays at 3 PM, through September 10, at Pacific Resident Theatre located at 703 Venice Blvd, in Venice.  Tickets are available online at www.pacificresidenttheatre, or by calling (310) 822-8392.


HIGHLY RECOMMENDED





Monday, August 7, 2017

SHOUT SISTER SHOUT by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Shout Sister Shout is a musical that relates the story of Gospel singer Rosetta Tharpe.  Rosetta was born in Cotton Plant, Arkansas in 1915.  She achieved notoriety in the 30’s and 40’s with her recordings of gospel music.  Accompanying herself on the guitar, her rhythmic style was the antecedent to rock’n’roll which had an influence on future rock’n’roll and soul singers to come along such as Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Aretha Franklin, and others.
            Rosetta Tharpe suffered a stroke in 1970 which had an impact on her career.  Subsequently, she had one of her legs amputated due to complications from diabetes.  In 1973, she suffered another stroke and died.  Cheryl L West, who wrote the book, begins the story at the time  Rosetta Tharpe (Tracy Nicole Chapman) dies and discovers that before she is allowed to enter heaven, she is required to return to Earth to tell her life story to Isaiah (Logan Charles).  Isaiah is a young man considering suicide because he feels his dreams of becoming a songwriter will never come to fruition.     
            This gimmick, as a way of telling the story, was fraught with good intentions, but left a young man often idling away on stage at times.  The story, itself, has its merits, but the draw of this production is due to the performances, the dancers, singers, the musicians, and the music which keeps the play moving while keeping the audience upbeat as well. 
            Shout Sister Shout was created by Randy Johnson and Cheryl L. West and directed by Randy Johnson.  Choreography is by Keith Young and music direction and arrangements are by Rahn Coleman.  Other cast members include Yvette Cason, Michael A. Shepperd, Angela Teek Hitchman, Thomas Hobson, Boise Holmes, and Armando Yearwood, Jr.   
            Shout Sister Shout is playing at the Pasadena Playhouse Wednesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM, through August 20.  Tickets are available online at PasadenaPlayhouse.org, by phone at (626) 356-7529, or at the Pasadena Playhouse Box Office located at 39 S. Molino Ave, in Pasadena.


RECOMMENDED


Monday, July 31, 2017

SEQUENCE by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Sequence is a play written by Arun Lakra and directed by Bruce Gray presented by Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills.  In this production, two separate stories intermingle with each one featuring a male and a female, one a male professor and a female student, the other a female professor and a male student.  The back and forth dialogue from one couple to the other couple coincide with complex discussions that dwell on science, metaphysics, and who knows what else..
            You might be thinking, what is this really all about and why?  This was my very thought as I hunkered down for the eighty-five minutes from start to finish of this exceptionally over-the-top, out-of-my league dialogue.    
            I have been attending plays at Theatre 40 for many years, and I have to think that they were trying for something out of the ordinary.  I cannot remember ever totally disliking anything I have ever seen on their stage.  I will close the book on this one and look forward to the remainder of their 2017-2018 Season.  

            Sequence plays Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, through August 20, at the Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 S. Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills.  Reservations are available by calling (310) 364-0535 or tickets can be purchased online at www.theatre40.org.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

HERSHEY FELDER   OUR GREAT TCHAIKOVSKY by Carol Kaufman Segal
            I wish I could remember how many years ago it was that I, and other journalists, had the luck of meeting a young Hershey Felder who was in Los Angeles for his first appearance performing a piano concert at UCLA.   It was at an intimate luncheon held at the Canadian Consulate’s home in Hancock Park.  Felder and Kim Campbell (Canada’s Consulate to Los Angeles and wife of Hershey Felder) were warm hosts, serving a delicious lunch prepared by Hershey himself.  After lunch and a briefing about his concert, Hershey offered to perform on the piano for his guests which turned out to be the real high point of the day.  The young man, from those many years ago, has proven to be one of the world’s great artist and performers today. 
            The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (The Wallis) in Beverly Hills is presenting Hershey Felder in his latest production, Our Great Tchaikovsky, which is proving to be one of his most impressive productions.  He is a one man phenomenon due to his accomplishments as an actor, pianist, singer, writer, director, producer and designer.  His previous shows, George Gershwin Alone, Monsieur Chopin, Beethoven, Maestro (Leonard Bernstein), Franz Liszt in Musik, and Lincoln, An American Story, have all been popular with audiences and critics alike.   
            Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), a composer during the late Romantic Period, was born in Russia and was, and undoubtedly, is still the most popular Russian composer.  His glut of music consists of symphonies, opera, ballet suites, concerti, cantatas, choral works, and more.  Despite his popularity, he suffered from depression throughout his life, perhaps due to his homosexuality which he kept private throughout his lifetime.   
            In this glorious production, Hershey Felder plays not only the great Piotr Ilyyich Tchaikovky, but the myriad of people that affected his life, while sometimes reverting to himself.  Throughout the play, Felder performs Tchaikovsky’s music in conjunction with the text.  His skill on the piano is flawless, and I marvel at his ability to perform intricate musical works while never letting up on the narrative. 
             The beautiful set design by Hershey Felder, lighting and projection design by Christopher Ash, and the sound design by Erik Carsrtensen,  all add up to enhance this presentation, superbly directed by Trevor Hay.
            Hershey Felder performs Our Great Tchaikovsky Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM, through August 13, at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills.  Tickets are available online at TheWallis.org/Felder, by phone at (310) 746-4000, or at the Box Office located in the theater.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

          



 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

FALSE CONFESSIONS by Carol Kaufman Segal
             False Confessions is a modernized film adaptation of the 18th Century play be Pierre Marivaux and features Isabelle Huppert and Louis Garrel.  It was directed by Luc Bondy who, unfortunately, died in November, 2015, before the film was completed.  His wife, MarieLouise Bischofberger contributed to its finish.
             Dorante, once a wealthy accountant (Louis Garrel), is facing financial problems.  He pursues a position as a secretary to the wealthy widow, Araminte (Isabelle Huppert), a woman with whom he is infatuated.  He was told of the position by his former valet, Dubois (Yves Jacques).  Dorante also received help getting the position through Araminte’s lawyer who happened to be Dorante’s Uncle Remy (Bernard Verely). 
            Both men conspire on behalf of Dorante in the interest of love.  Dubois wants to match him with Araminte, while his uncle wants to match him with Araminte’s servant Marton (Manon Combes).  Yet another interloper, Araminte’s arrogant mother (Bulle Ogie), is trying to convince Araminte to marry a more prestigious count (Jean-Pierre Malo). 
            Despite the bumbling and the plotting by all of the characters that borders on the verge of slapstick, love wins out in the end.   The movie is beautifully filmed.  It is amusing, light-hearted, and perfectly cast.
           
            Playing at Lammle Royal in West Los Angeles
            In French with subtitles
            Running time:  86 minutes
            Not rated   
            Not rated                                                                               


Thursday, July 27, 2017

NEWS RELEASE
           

            The theater production, The Marriage Zone, playing at the Secret Rose Theatre in North Hollywood, has been extended through September 24, 2017,  For further information, see review posted on July 19, 2017.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

THE MIDWIFE by Carol Kaufman Segal
            The Midwife is a French film written and directed by Martin Provost starring two highly skilled French actresses, Catherine Deneuve and Catherine Frot.  Provost wrote the film for these two very well-known actresses, and the film marks the first time that they appear together on screen.     
            Claire (Catherine Frot) is a demure woman who works in a maternity clinic as a midwife, but will soon be losing her position.  Because the small clinic is unable to compete with a nearby hospital, it is due to close imminently.  Beatrice (Catherine Deneuve), is an exact opposite of Claire, an undisciplined woman who lives a fast life.  Even though Claire and Beatrice are exact opposites, after years apart, they discover their need for each other.
            Beatrice, a flamboyant woman, was the mistress of Claire’s late father.  Claire was a young girl when Beatrice left them, leaving her father shattered.  She suddenly appears back in Claire’s life in need of help because doctors have diagnosed her with a brain tumor.   Claire wants no part of Beatrice, blaming her father’s suicide on her abandonment. 
            Even though she has been diagnosed with brain cancer, Beatrice cannot change her lifestyle.  She continues to gamble, smoke, eat all of the wrong foods (nothing like the staid Claire) while asking for help.  When she no longer has anywhere to turn, Claire, in her usual characteristic manner, is there to support her.  Before long, Claire finds her need for Beatrice as well, to fill the void of her being able to give aid to others and finding a mother she never had.
            The film is heart-warming and exceptionally well-told.  The scenes, with Claire bringing newborns into the world, are fascinating.  As I watched those scenes of Claire at work, I wondered how they could have appeared so authentic until I discovered that they were authentic.  They were filmed of real life births in a maternity ward.
            The Midwife is playing at Laemmle’s Royal Theatre in West Los Angeles.  Running time is 117 minutes with English subtitles. 

RECOMMENDED

           



Sunday, July 23, 2017

BUILDING THE WALL by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Building the Wall, a play written by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award- winning playwright Robert Schenkkan, is one of the most successful productions in Los Angeles this season.  Having opened in March of this year at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood, it has been extended a number of times, now scheduled to close August 27.  It is directed by Michael Michetti.
            What is this wondrous play, one might ask?  It features only two characters, it is not fast-moving, it is not exciting, there is no plot, and it might even be uncomfortable to watch.  However, it offers an important message, and perhaps, a warning as to what can take place anywhere in today’s society if we allow it.           
                Schenkkan has written this play to wake people up as to an occurrence that may seem unimaginable, but then again, maybe not.  We are looking at the future when President Trump has followed through on his campaign promise to amass and lock up millions of immigrants.  In the confines of a special room in a prison, we find Rick (Bo Foxworth), a former supervisor of a private prison, who is now a prisoner himself.  He is being interviewed by Gloria (Victoria Platt), a journalist who seeking the answers as to what prompted Rick’s incarceration.            
            As Rick reveals the shocking information that occurred in the private prison, due to the inability to cope with the numbers of “prisoners”, it is almost too much to perceive.  Yet, when one thinks back to World War II, and what took place in a country where no one seemed  to notice what was happening, or show concern, perhaps it is not as inconceivable as we might think.
            Building the Wall is not your usual play and not the easiest to watch.  It was written by Shenkkan to alert us, as citizens, to be aware of what could happen and that we need to do something about it.  His message is “To those who say that could never happen here in this country, I reply, maybe so, but that of course will depend entirely on what you do.”
            The Fountain Theatre is located at 5060 Fountain Blvd. in Los Angeles.  For a schedule of performances and/or to purchase tickets, call the box office at (323) 663-1525, or go online at www.FountainTheatre.com.  There will be participating audience discussions following some of the  performances.


RECOMMENDED   

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

THE MARRIAGE ZONE by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Beth and Cal are a middle-aged couple with a teen-age son Ron.  Who knows how long they have been married?  I would venture to say maybe around twenty years or so.  Long enough, anyway, for the honeymoon to be over, and when we meet them, it appears obvious that is a good guess. 
            The family has been living in the same house all of these years and Beth thinks it is time to move upward, even though it will put a strain on their finances.  After much discussion (and arguing),  Cal has relented, and their home now has a real estate agent’s “For Sale” sign in front of it. 
            We find Beth and Cal having their usual argument when they are interrupted by a knock at the door.  When Beth opens the door, she discovers a young couple who ask if they could see the house since they are planning to get married soon and it appears to be just what they would like for their first home.  Even though their agent is not there, Beth and Cal feel okay about letting them look around. 
            As the two couples converse, Beth and Cal are surprised to discover they have a lot in common with Skip and Ellie when an elderly couple appear at the door asking to see the house.  Mike and Liz are not interested in buying; they are simply “nosey” because as they explain to Beth and Cal, they lived in the house years ago when they were first married.
            As the play ensues, the obvious occurs when the three couples finally realize that they are all the same people in different stages of life (thus The Marriage Zone)!  Will this encounter benefit the life of any one of them in this unusual circumstance?
            The Marriage Zone is the fourth in a series of comedies written by playwright and director Jeff Gould that deal with relationships between men and women.  Though it is an unlikely situation told with many laughs, this plot might be an eye opener for some people.  A double cast performs the roles that include Anne Leighton/Rene Ashton (Beth), Jeff  Pride/Kenny Johnston (Cal), Jacee Jule/Dawn Joyal (Liz), Alex Hyde-White/Mark Sande (Mike)), Megan Barker/Britt Rose (Ellie), Ryan Cargill/Liam Donafee (Skip), and Ciaran Brown/Zach Louis (Ryan).

            The Marriage Zone plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, and Sundays at 3 PM, at the Secret Rose Theatre, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, through August 27.  Reservations are available by calling (323) 960-7784, or for online ticketing go to www.Plays411.com/marriagezone.       



Sunday, July 9, 2017

JACQUES BREL IS ALIVE AND WELL AND LIVING IN PARIS by Carol Kaufman Segal
            
            Jacques Brel was born on April 9, 1929 in Brussels, Belgium.  He had been writing songs most of his life.  In the early 1950’s he went to Paris where he became a popular singer and composer of French songs, and in 1966 he gave up the stage to become an actor in films and musicals.  His numerous songs have been translated into many languages. 
            A 1968 Off-Broadway hit by Eric Blau and Mort Shuman based on lyrics and commentary of Jacques Brel is now being presented at the Odyssey Theatre in Los Angeles.    Though we are fortunate to have his music alive and well at the Odyssey Theatre, Brel is neither alive nor well in Paris as he died from lung cancer in France on October 9, 1978.  
            This unusual presentation is performed by four extremely artistic performers, two women (Susan Kohler and Miyuki Miyagi) and two men (Marc Francoeur and Michael Yapujian) who not only sing the many songs by Brel, but act them out in a way that brings much more of the interpretation of them to life.  They are accompanied by a group of wonderful musicians, Anthony Lucca (keyboard), Cyrus Elis (bass), Conor Malloy(percussion), Ryan McDonald (alternate percussionist), and Max Wagner (guitar).
            Brel’s songs all have meaning about life in them, and the performances by this outstanding group is like watching twenty-four individual musical skits in two acts.  The musical direction is by Anthony Lucca.   Susan Kohler, Miyuki Miyagim, Marc Francoeur, and Michael Yapujian are all multi-talented singers and actors.  The production is under the direction of Dan Fishbach.
            Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris¸ will continue playing at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, through August 27.  For all information regarding reservations and/or purchasing tickets, call (310) 477-2055, ext. 2, or go online at www.OdysseyTheatre.com.


HIGHLY REOMMENDED

Saturday, July 8, 2017

DIAL M FOR MURDER by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Dial M For Murder is a stage play written by English playwright Frederick Knott.  In 1954, Warner Bros. Studio produced the film based on Knott’s stage play and directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starred Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, and Robert Cummings.
            I saw the film when it played in theaters those many years ago and was anxious to see it performed live on stage.  I wondered if it would be as interesting and credible in a small theater.  Presented by the Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood, it proved to be worthy of acclaim for a production extremely well-done. 
            The play is presented in three acts all set in the living room of the Wendice’s apartment in London in 1954 (an outstanding set by J. Kent Inasy).  Tony Wendice (Adam Jonas Segaller) was once a tennis star who is married to Margot (Carrie Schroeder), a woman of wealth.  Their outward appearance does not show their animosity towards one another, though Margot has been having an affair with, seemingly, a family friend, an American Max Halliday (Justin Waggle), and Tony, who is aware of her infidelity, is merely interested in her money. 
            Since Tony loves money, but not his wife, he decides his life would be better off with her money but without her.  Therefore, he goes about developing a fool-proof plan to have her murdered whereby he will end up with her fortune.  But nothing, it seems, is ever really fool-proof, and his plan backfires when, in self-defense, Margot struggles with the intended murderer, Captain Lesgate (Michael Robb), and kills him.  
            It appears that the villain in the play will end up as he wished after all when Margot is arrested, put on trial, and sentenced to death for the murder of Captain Lesgate.  But once again, the situation takes a turn as Inspector Hubbard (Doug Haverty) unravels another new surprise. 
            The entire cast, which includes Hisato Masuyama-Ball as Thompson, deserves kudos for their fine and flawless performances.  They can all be seen Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, through August 13, at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood.  Tickets are available online at www.thegrouprep.com, or at info@thegrouprep.com.  Reservations may be made by calling (818) 763-5990.

RECOMMENDED     


LETTERS FROM A NUT by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Come on, don’t take it seriously.  This presentation is not trying to be a play, nor a drama, but it is simply a gentleman (Ted L Nancy, aka Barry Marder) with a sense of humor who wants to make you laugh.  And he does a good job doing just that.  Letters From a Nut is directed by Pierre Balloon.
            This is how it all began.  One evening Marder, a veteran stand-up comedian, was relaxing while munching on Fritos when he happened to read on the bag, “Got a problem?  Write to us at Fritos.”   Thinking out loud, “Who would write to Fritos?  his girlfriend responded, “A nut, that’s who?”
            Marder began sending ludicrous letters to companies everywhere under the pseudonym Ted L, Nancy.   The responses he received back from service departments were just as ludicrous, and in 1997, he put together a book entitled Letters From a Nut, followed by six more books.
            In his show, Nancy explains all of this to his audience before he sits down at a desk and begins reading a letter (a copy of which is projected on the stage) followed by the response (also shown) by Beth Kennedy who takes on numerous corporate characters throughout the 80 minute  production.  Letters from Ted L. Nancy are so absurd it is difficult to believe that any company would take them seriously enough to respond to him.  But respond they do, and for all good intentions, they add to the essence of this very comical production.  As difficult as it is to believe, all of the letters are real.
            Letters From a Nut was written by Ted L.Nancy, pseudonym for Barry Marder, a former writer for Jerry Seinfeld who produced this show.  He has written for Bill Maher, Jay Leno, and David Letterman.  He was a co-writer for DreamWorks animated hit The Bee Movie and wrote with George Carlin. 
            Beth Kennedy is a long standing member of the Troubadour Theater Company and is the recipient of multiple Ovation, Backstage, and LA Drama Critic Circle Awards for other performances.
            Sam Kwasman appears as Pagliacci dressed in a clown’s suit, but though he does the character well, it is questionable why he is even a part of the production.  Perhaps three’s a charm!

            Letters From a Nut  plays Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM, through July 30, in the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles.  Tickets are available at the Geffen Playhouse box office, by phone at (310) 208-5454, or online at www.geffenplayhouse,org. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

CONSTELLATIONS Carol Kaufman Segal

            Constellations, written by British playwright Nick Payne, features just two characters, Roland, a beekeeper (Allen Leech), and Marianne, a physicist (Ginnifer Goodwin), two unlikely people to ever fall in love.
            Throughout the entire play, the two characters hold conversations with each other going from one moment in time to another showing how their relationship can change from one circumstance (depending on the moment) to another.  Whether or not, this is a clear explanation as to what occurs on stage with these two characters or not, it is the best way that I am able to let you know what goes on in this eighty minute production. 
            Suffice it to say, it is a very unusual and interesting theater experience performed exceptionally well by Goodwin and Leech who keep their characters and circumstances fascinating, leaving one wondering if the two will eventually find their bond.

            Constellation is playing at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles under the direction of Giovanna Sardelli.  Performances are Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM.  Tickets are available by phone at (310) 208-5454, online at www.geffenplayhouse.org, or at the Playhouse Box Office.  The Geffen Playhouse is located at 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles.  Originally scheduled to close July 16, Constellations has been extended through July 23.