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 perform 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.     


 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

THE BOOK OF MORMON by Carol Kaufman Segal
            A hit musical, The Book of Mormon, made its Broadway premiere on March, 2011, after seven years of development by its creators, Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone, who wrote the book, the music, and the lyrics. It won nine Tony Awards, one for Best Musical, and is still playing to sold-out audiences in New York as it wows audiences with touring companies in cities throughout the United States as well as one in Australia and Sweden.   The Pantages Theatre is pleased to have The Book of Mormon return to its theatre for the third time.
            The story is about two young men, fresh out of an LDS Training Center being sent to Uganda for two years as missionaries for the purpose of converting the African population into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Elder Price (Gabe Gibbs) who was tops in the class, is totally disappointed, having had hopes of being sent to Orlando, Florida.  Added to his let down is that he has been paired with  Elder Cunningham (Connor Peirson), who was always out of sync with the rest of the class. Elder Price may feel down, but Elder Cunningham is euphoric.  He claims then and there that he and Elder Price are best friends.
            Upon their arrival in Uganda, they meet other missionaries who have been in Uganda for some time without being able to convert any of the Africans to Mormonism.  Elder Price is more pessimistic than ever, while Elder Cunningham is certain that, with his companion by his side, he can succeed in the mission.  Elder Price becomes more disillusioned with his situation, but Elder Cunningham suddenly takes on the burden of trying to win the population over to the church alone.
            Elder Cunningham, who never read the book of Mormon, makes up the stories he tells the people.  He garners the attention of Nabulungi (Leanne Robinson) who is taken with Elder Cunningham and his teaching, unaware that none of it is true, and she persuades the rest of the villagers to accept the Church.    
            When the Heads of the Mission learn of the success of converting all of the villagers in Uganda,  they decide to visit there to honor the missionary who did such a great job.  Elder Cunningham convinces Elder Price to act as if they have been mission companions all along.  When the villagers show what they have learned, none of it has anything to do with the Book of Mormon, and the Heads of the Mission are in utter shock.  However, no one need fret over the Missionaries outcome since they gave something for the people to believe in and to make their lives better,          
            The Book of Mormon is probably the most humorous musical of all time, (actually, it is hilarious) but nevertheless, it is sacrilegious and contains explicit language.  Even so, it is extremely entertaining and fun.  A lot of credit for the humor goes to Gibbs and Peirson who are superb.  The entire cast is first-rate under the direction of Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker.  The dancing is stupendous as are the dancers (choreographer Casey Nicholaw).  The music is perfect for the production, but not memorable beyond.
            Performances are Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 8PM, Sundays at1 PM and 6:30 PM, through July 9 (no performance Tuesday, July 4, added matinee, Thursday, July 6, at 2 PM) at the Hollywood Pantage Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles.  Children under age 5 are not permitted.  Tickets are available online at HolywoodPantages.com or Ticketmaster.com, by phone at 800-982-2787, at the Hollywood Pantages Box Office (open 10 AM daily) and all Ticketmaster Outlets Groups.
            HIGHLY RECOMMENDED 
            A lottery will be held daily throughout the run offering a limited number of low-priced tickets prior to every performance.  Entries will be accepted at the box office beginning two and a half hours before each performance, and names will be drawn two hours before curtain for tickets priced at $25 each.   Limit one entry per person and two tickets per winner.  Winner must be present at time of drawing and show valid ID to purchase tickets, cash or credit card accepted.














Friday, June 2, 2017

     
     The Road on Lankerhim has extended their production of The Lyons through Sunday, July16.  Please see review dated May 29, for further information.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

SEPARATE TABLES by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Separate Tables is a play written as two one acts by British Playwright Terrance Rattigan, Rattigan adapted it into a film that was made in 1958 featuring very popular stars at the time, Rita Hayworth, Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Burt Lancaster, and Wendy Hiller.  David Niven won the Academy Award that year for Best Actor, and Wendy Hiller won for Best Supporting Actress.  The movie also received nominations in several other categories.
            Theatre 40 is bringing the original play back to life in Beverly Hills with a very refined production under the direction of the venerable director, Jules Aaron.  The play takes place at the Beauregard Hotel in Bournemouth (90 miles southwest of London) in 1958.  We see the dining room with separate tables set up for the guests (a scrumptious set by Jeff J. Rack that revolves into a hotel lounge).  Most of the guests are regular patrons of the hotel.
            Act I:  Miss Cooper (Diana Angelina) is the hotel manager who is romantically involved with a scalawag, Mr. Malcolm (Adrian Neil) who is an alcoholic and had spent time in prison for attacking his wife. It appears that trouble will be brewing when ex wife, Ann Shankland (Susan Priver), suddenly shows up, threatening the relationship between Miss Cooper and Mr. Malcolm when the old flame rekindles.  Leave it to the most benevolent person, Miss Cooper, to fan the flame.
            Other guests in the hotel include a young couple, Jean Stratton (Melissa Collins) and Charles Stratton (Caleb Slavens), Lady Mathison (MarikoVan Kampen) and her friend Mrs. Railton-Bell (Mona Lee Wylde), her daughter Sybil Railton-Bell (Roslyn Cohn), Miss Meacham (Michelle Schultz), Mr. Fowler (John Wallace Combs), Doreen (Suzan Solomon), and Major Pollack (David Hunt Stafford).
            Act II:  Major Pollack (David Hunt Stafford) is also a regular guest at the hotel.  Sybil Railton-Bell, a shy and introverted young lady, has become infatuated with him.  Unfortunately, the Major has been accused of indiscretions with ladies at a local theatre.  When Sybil and her mother, Mrs. Railton-Bell, learn of his past, they are demoralized.  Mrs. Railton-Bell, being a dominate woman and mother, insists that Sybil forget all about him, but Sybil refuses the demands of her mother.  Once again, compassionate Miss Cooper comes to the rescue. 
            Since Separate Tables takes place in England, it must be noted how all of the actors perform with flawless accents which adds to the success of the production.
            Separate Tables plays Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, through June 18, at Theatre 40, located in the Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 S. Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills.  Tickets are available by calling (310) 364-0535, or online at www.theatre40.org.

RECOMMENDED






Monday, May 29, 2017

THE LYONS by Carol Kaufman Segal
            The Lyons, a play by Nicky Silver, is about a family, a rather dysfunctional family to say the least.  It opens in a hospital room with Ben (James Handy) lying in bed connected to an IV when his wife, Rita (Judith Scarpone) arrives for a visit.
            Rita is fashionably dressed, sits down in a chair with her home decorating magazines, and immediately begins discussing her plans for redecorating her house.  You would never believe that she is troubled by the fact that her husband has cancer and is dying in the hospital.  And, the fact is, she is not.  She rambles on and on about her future plans as if she can hardly wait for her life to change, while Ben raves and curses. 
            With the arrival of daughter Lisa (Verity Branco), things can only get worse.  Lisa is divorced with children of her own, but her relationship with her own mother is less than caring as well.  Finally Rita’s and Ben’s gay son, Curtis (Chad Coe), pays his call which only adds to the problematic meeting of the entire family.
            Does anyone seem to care that Ben is dying?  Does any family member seem to know anything or care anything about one another?    Even though the situation is sad, Silver has written the play with a lot of humor to make a point that some families can live and grow up together but never connect with one another.
            Under the direction of Scott Alan Smith, the production boasts a very classic and talented cast of actors that also includes Kris Frost, Liz Herron, and Amy Tolsky.  The Lyons is presented by The Road Theatre Company, their final show of the 2016-2017 Season.  This company inevitably presents wonderful and thoughtful productions and always with superb performances
            The Lyons plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, at The Road on Lankershin, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, through July 11.  Tickets are available online at www.roadtheatre.org, or by phone at (818) 761-8838.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED 

    

Sunday, May 28, 2017

ACTUALLY by Carol Kaufman Segal
          Actually is a two-person play by Anna Zeigler and directed by Tyne Rafaeli that aims to prove that when two people are involved in a situation, it is almost impossible to “actually” discover what really happened. 
          Amber ( Samantha Ressler) and Tom (Jerry MacKinnon) , two freshmen students at Princeton University end up very drunk in his dorm room.  The question is, after listening to what she says and listening to what he says, is it possible to “actually” know what really occurred?   Was it consensual, or was it rape, or do either of them “actually” know the answer?
          Tom, who is black, and Amber, who is white, meet on campus and become interested in each other.  Tom invites her to a party where they both drink a lot, and upon leaving together, end up in Tom’s room.  The end of the evening ends in a sexual encounter.   Was it rape or was it consensual sex?  Amber is urged to report the incident to the school, thereby becoming the accuser and Tom becomes the accused rapist. 
          The entire play takes place on a bare stage with two chairs set inside a box (set by Tim Mackabee).   Each one speaks to the audience as they try to characterize who they are and describe their backgrounds in an effort to defend themselves.  Did I really care who was guilty or innocent?  Not really in this particular case.  It could have gone either way.  How could I “actually” decide?
          Actually is playing in the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theatre at the Geffen Playhouse, located at 10886 Le Conte Ave. Los Angles.  Performances are Tuesdays through Fridays, at 8 PM, Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM, through June 11.  Tickets are available at the Geffen Playhouse box office, by phone at (310) 208-5454, or online at www.geffenplayhouse


AFTERIMAGE  by Carol Kaufman
          Afterimage is a film about a famous Polish painter, Wladyslaw Strzeminski, written by Andrzej Mularczyk and directed by celebrated Polish director Andrzej Wajda.  Strzeminski was born in Poland in 1893.  The film takes place in post-war Poland.
          Strzeminski was a professor at the State Higher School of the Visual Arts which he co-founded in Lodz.  He was a great artist who co-created the theory of Unism, a form of Modernism, and was revered by his students.  But many things changed in Poland following World War II when the country embraced Socialism.  Modernism was out, realism was in.
          Strzeminski refused to conform to the new regulations as he believed in freedom of art.  Although his students continued to stand by him, he was ultimately dismissed from his job as well as the artists’ union.  Without his membership, he was unable to purchase art supplies, and found it difficult to find or keep any type of work he was able to acquire.
          As a soldier during World War I, Strzeminski was seriously wounded, ultimately losing an arm and a leg.  This disability, along with his inability to earn a decent living found him suffering from starvation and poor health.  He eventually collapsed and passed away.  He was 52 years old
          Wladyslaw Strzeminski is skillfully performed by Polish actor, Boguslaw Linda who, by the way, is not disabled in any way.  Nevertheless, in some magical way, he realistically appears as a double amputee.  The entire film is exceptionally well-done with a talented cast under the direction of Wajda who, unfortunately, passed away at the age of 90, a month following the world premiere of this, his final film.

Running time:  98 Min.
English subtitles

Playing at Laemmle Theatres     

Thursday, May 25, 2017

 The Santa Monica Playhouse has announced the extension of I’m Not Famous – a Musical Journey with Barbara Minkus.  Performancs will continue Saturdays at 7 PM and Sundays at 3 PM, through July 22, 2017.  For further details, please see my review of this wonderful production on this site.

CAROL KAUFMAN SEGAL


Monday, May 15, 2017

THE BODYGUARD, The Musical by Carol Kaufman Segal
            The Bodyguard, The Musical is based on the 1992 MGM film written by Lawrence Kasdan, starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner.  The musical book was written by Alexander Dinelaris and opened on Broadway December 5, 2012.  A wonderful company began touring the United States in May, 2015, and the Los Angeles premiere is playing at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre.
            Not having seen the film, I can only speak for the musical, and I think this production of The Bodyguard is spectacular.  What makes a musical spectacular?  To me, it is the performers, the acting, singing, dancing, staging, lighting, costumes, music, an interesting storyline, all rolled into one exciting show.
            Deborah Cox, the female lead in this musical thriller, is a sensation as Rachel Marron, a superstar who is being threatened by an unknown stalker.  Her theater group hires a former secret service agent, Frank Farmer (Judson Mills) for her protection.  However, Frank is not too interested in taking the job when he finds himself in the midst of “stars” until he finds out that Rachel has a young son, Fletcher (highly talented Kevelin B. Jones III alternating with Douglas Balldeo). 
            Rachel and Frank don’t see eye-to-eye.  However, he has a winning relationship with Fletcher.   Rachel’s sister Nikki (Jasmine Richardson) finds herself falling for Frank, but his interest towards her is only as a friend.  Fortunately, Frank is quick on the trigger during one of Rachel’s performances when he saves her life as the stalker gets away.  From that moment on, Rachel warms up to Frank and they fall in love.  But life has a funny way of changing, and it is on again, off again, until the final ending when Rachel sings the beautiful song I Will Always Love You. 
            The story is not so much what makes this production so wonderful.  It is all of the things I mentioned previously.  Every member of the cast is outstanding  as are those behind the scenes that include Karen Bruce (choreographer), Tim Hatley (set and costume designer), Mathew Smedal (music director),  the entire company of dancers, all under the direction of Thea Sharrock.
            The Bodyguard, The Musical continues Tuesday through Friday at 8 PM. Saturday at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sunday at 1 PM and 6:30 PM, at the Pantages Theatre.  For more information, visit www.TheBodyguardMusical.com.  For tickets or more information visit the official website for the Hollywood Pantages Theatre at www.HollywoodPantages.com/TheBodyguard.  




HIGHLY RECOMMENDED  

Saturday, May 13, 2017

HAROLD AND LILLIAN:  A Hollywood Love Story by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Harold and Lillian, a happily married Hollywood couple whom, no doubt, you had never heard of before, will be remembered henceforth after seeing the documentary about them, Harold and Lillian:  A Hollywood Love Story written and directed by Daniel Raim.
            Harold Michelson was a storyboard artist and Lillian was a researcher who spent six decades in the film industry.  They were exceptional in their fields, and due to their talent, hard work, and dedication, they were in demand by film makers and worked on hundreds of films.  However, they were never credited on screen for the work they accomplished in aiding in the success of the films in which they collaborated. 
            Basically, the film is an interview with Lillian who recounts the story of her life with Harold.  After serving in the army in World War II, Harold, 28 years old, and Lillian, 19 yrs old, eloped to California where he got a job doing storyboards for films and Lillian was a stay-at- home mom raising their three boys.  Harold became one of the film industry’s best storyboard artists. 
            When the boys grew up, Lillian became a volunteer worker at a film research library.  Little did she know then that she would end up owning her own research library and becoming a most sought after film researcher until her retirement. 
            Throughout the documentary, the love, devotion, and collaboration to help one another brings out the quality of two of the nicest people you could possibly ever find in Hollywood, and everyone in the industry knew them for that as well.  They were married 60 years when Harold passed away at the age of 86.  Lillian is now 88 years old and resides in the Motion Picture and Television Country Home in Woodland Hills.
            Early in the movie, a few of Hollywood’s artists offer their kudos to Harold and Lillian for their collaboration with them.  They include Danny DeVito (also Executive Producer of the film), Mel Brooks, and Francis Ford Coppola.
            I found this film to be especially heartwarming and wish I could have had the opportunity of knowing this lovely and charming family.

Playing at Laemmle Theaters    

           


 

Friday, May 5, 2017

KISS by Carol Kaufman Segal
            I have attended many plays over the years as a reviewer, but I have to admit, going to see Kiss was a very unusual experience.  Firstly, as I opened my press kit, the first thing I saw was a paper with a message that stood out requesting those of us who write reviews to abstain from giving away the details of the plot.  Fair enough, I often do this with plays that I feel it is not fair to tell too much to prospective attendees. 
            Secondly, to add to the mystery, upon entering the theater, I was informed that programs for the production would not be provided to audience members until after the performance, I presumed that this also had something to do with keeping the details secret until the end. Obviously, all of this made for the expectation of an intriguing play.
            Kiss takes place in Damascus, Syria, in 2014.  In Syria, soap operas are very popular, and four friends are meeting for a party at the home of Hadeel / Andrea (Kristin Couture) to watch a soap opera.   Hadeel’s friends are Ahmed / Martin (Max Lloyd-Jones) the young man she is planning to marry, Youssif / Daniel (Kevin Matthew Reyes), who also loves Hadeel, and Bana / Laura (Natali Anna) Youssif’s girlfriend.  This could be a strange situation, and it turns out to be, not only strange but very hectic as well.  It is almost like a comedy until a strange thing happens.  One of the friends drops dead!
            The next scene is a complete change, more mysterious, more complex, and more political with the four characters interviewing the Syrian woman (Cyntia Yelle) who wrote the soap opera.  She is wearing a disguise, and is speaking through a woman (Nagham Webbe) who is her interpreter.  I cannot delve into too much more about the play, because frankly, I had a difficult time digesting it and wondered most of the time what was happening.
            Kiss was written by Guillermo Calderon and I applaud the fact that he took on this serious problem that all of the world should face, but I would have liked to have seen it told in a less complex manner.  The cast and director Bart DeLorenzo did an excellent job with a rather difficult scenario.

            Kiss is playing at the Odyssey Theatre Fridays and Saturdays at 8 M, Sundays at 2 PM, with additional performances Wednesdays, May 27 and June 7 at 8 PM, through June 18.  The theater is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles.  Tickets are available by calling (310) 477-2055, or online at www.OdyssseyTheatre.com.




Thursday, May 4, 2017

A DULL PAIN TURNED SHARP by Carol Kaufman Segal
            The world premiere of A Dull Pain Turned Sharp, is playing at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood.  It boasts a very talented cast that includes Barbara Brownell (Linda), Doug Haverty (Frank), Amy Earhart (Julie), Janet Wood (Elizabeth), and Todd Andrew Ball (Dorin).  Kay Cole, who does a wonderful job directing the play, is a veteran in many fields, not only as a director, but as an outstanding choreographer, writer and teacher, as well as being a fine actress who has performed on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and theaters throughout the U.S.  The play was written by Brent Beerman.
            Linda and Frank have been happily married for many years.  They are in possession of a beautiful grandfather clock handed down to her from her great grandmother.  During their early marriage, Linda had a number of miscarriages but finally safely carried through one pregnancy and had one daughter, Julie.  Julie is a successful business woman, not interested in marriage or motherhood, much to the consternation of her parents.  They long to have grandchildren in their lives.   And to whom will Linda be able to pass down the family heirloom?
            One afternoon, a stranger comes to see Linda, a Hungarian woman named Elizabeth who is the mother of Steven, Julie’s former beau from high school.  She explains her reason for coming to see Linda by telling her that Steven passed away after being in the hospital in a coma for months after being beaten and she is in possession of his sperm.  Since Julie always loved Steven, she wants her to take his sperm and bear his child.  As we learn later, Steven was gay, but Elizabeth tried to put that fact out of her mind by rejecting his partner Dorin. 
            At first, Linda can’t believe what she is hearing, but, on second thought, she and Frank want a grandchild disparately, so she tells Julie about Elizabeth’s visit.  Naturally, Julie tells her mother there is no way she would accept the idea, even though she loved Steven, and she also tells her mother he was gay.
            Julie meets Dorin at Steven’s funeral, and after the two of them spend time together reminiscing about him, their love for him, and their loss, she suddenly changes her mind.  She realizes that everyone could be happy if Elizabeth could accept Dorin with her and the baby, her parents would be blessed with a grandchild.   And Linda could pass the family heirloom to Julie following her forthcoming marriage.
            All of the cast members are perfect in their characterizations.  Wood is amazing as Elizabeth with a perfect Hungarian accent and manner.  Brent Beerman has infused some comical moments into the play, but I found the whole idea, and the outcome of it, just too incredulous.  My enjoyment of the entire production came from the wonderful performances by the five actors who made it all worthwhile.  

            Performances of A Dull Pain Turned Sharp run Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, through June 4.  The Lonny Chapman Theatre is located at 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood.  Tickets are available at www.thegrouprep.com, or at info@the grouprep.com, or by phone at (818) 763-5990.     




Tuesday, May 2, 2017

I’M NOT FAMOUS A Musical Journey With Barbara Minkus   by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Who says Barbara Minkus is not famous?  Not I, for sure!  This adorable and talented actress has been around for quite some time, and if you don’t know who she is, you are missing a lot!  She has personality-plus, a terrific voice, and you can find out all about her in her one person musical, entitled I‘m Not Famous, A Musical Journey With Barbara Minkus  at the Santa Monica Playhouse..
            Originally from Chicago, Barbara began performing in Julius Monk’s New York review, Bits and Piece, followed by touring as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl to rave reviews.  She was the original Lucy in the recording and Off-Broadway production of You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown.  She also performed on Broadway in The Education of Hyman Kaplan directed by George Abbott.
            You may know her from television as she was on Love American Style for six seasons and also performed as Gittle the Witch in Curiosity Shop on ABC.  She was a guest on The Merv Griffin Show twenty times, and appeared numerous times on The Tonight Show and the Danny Kaye Show.        
            Barbara married and took time off to raise her family.  She finally returned to the theater to play in Funny You Don’t Look Like a Grandmother at the Santa Monica Playhouse, then later starred there as Molly Picon in Picon Pie, which she reprised Off-Broadway.  She starred as Jennie Grossinger in Stephen Cole’s Saturday Night at Grossinger’s in Los Angeles, Florida, and Off-Broadway.      
            This is just an inkling of Barbara’s outstanding career.  Now appearing again at The Santa Monica Playhouse in her one-person musical biography, you will delight at her performance.  Her story is interesting, she tells it with passion, her voice is beautiful, and she is charming.  Barbara is accompanied by talented keyboardist Ron Barnett.  The show is directed by Susan Morgenstern.
            The show plays Sundays at & 7 PM, through May 28,  In June, it will play Saturdays at 7 PM, and Sundays at 3 PM, through June 25th, at The Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th Street, Santa Monica.  Reservations are available online at http://SantaMonicaPlayhouse.com/im-not-famous.html, or by calling the Playhouse Box Office at (310) 394-9779.


HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

THE ORIGINALIST by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was an Associate of the United States Supreme court for thirty years.  Appointed to the Court by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1986, he was obviously appointed as a conservative force on the Supreme Court.   I wonder if anyone knew how strong and stubborn he would hold to his ideas as an originalist throughout those years.
            Playwright John Strand’s play about Scalia, entitled The Originalist, playing at the Pasadena Playhouse, is a fictionalized story that pits him against a young liberal woman who, despite their differences, they end up as friends.   
            The play opens with Scalia, (masterly performed by Edward Gero) with operatic music in the background and he talks about how much he loves opera music.  Then we find him on stage where he is holding forth a talk to a law school class and being interrupted repeatedly by a young woman in the audience as she challenges some of his remarks. 
            The next scene opens in Judge Scalia’s chambers where the same young woman arrives introducing herself as Cat (Jade Wheeler) while letting him know that she is a highly qualified Harvard Law School graduate looking for a job as his law clerk.  Knowing that Cat is a liberal, it seems surprising that he hires her for the job, but he does, thereby setting up the fictional tale between an exceptionally strong conservative Judge of the United States Supreme Court and a young equally liberal law clerk.
            Then the battle ensues.  Judge Scalia believes that anything before the court should hold fast to the Constitution despite the fact that it was ratified over two centuries ago (philosophy of originalism).  Most people feel that the Court should allow for changes as society changes.  Otherwise, we would be held to some very repugnant laws that, fortunately have been changed, such as racial and gender equality.  According to Judge Scalia’s interpretation, any laws that do not adhere strictly to the original intent by the founders, would be proclaimed unconstitutional.
            Scalia s a pure conservative and while he debates his side with Cat, she has answers for him through her legal research.  But as time passes, Cat does not see him as a man without feeling, and before long, they become friends
            Though admittedly, this could never happen, Playwright Strand, in his note to the audience, gives his reason for writing this play.  To quote him, he wrote. “What happened to the political middle?  How did compromise become a dirty word in American politics?  Civil discourse has been replaced by a verbal foodfight.    Why?”
            Directed by Molly Smith, the pay is extremely well presented.  I felt something significant and pleasing by the playing of opera music between each of the scenes.  Edward Gero is the perfect actor to play Judge Scalia.  His resemblance of the man s amazing.  Jade Wheeler is delightful as Cat.  Also included in the cast is Brett Mack who plays a small role, but helps to bond the Judge and Cat.
            The Originalist is playing at the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molina, in Pasadena, Ave., Pasadena, CA.   Performances are Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 4 PM & 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, through May 7th, with one Sunday evening performance at 7 PM on April 30.


RECOMMENDED


 90 minutes with no intermission

Friday, April 21, 2017

A QUIET PASSION by Carol Kaufman Segal (film review)   
            A Quiet Passion is a biographical film about American poet, Emily Dickenson, written and directed by celebrated British Director Terrence Davies.  In this film, Davies has paid homage to a woman who was not recognized for her talent until after her death.
            Emily was born in Amherst, Massachusetts in 1830.  The film opens in 1848 where Emily (Emma Bell) has been attending Mount Holyoke College.  When she refuses to accept God by a stern headmistress, she is expelled from the school.  Her family is only too happy to bring her home. 
            Emily, being an outsider, is only too happy to be home as well where she is more comfortable being with her father (Keith Carradine), mother (Joanna Bacon), sister Vinni (Jennifer Ehle), and brother Austin (Duncan Duff).   Though Mr. Dickenson does not stress religion to his family, he is not pleased with Emily’s outspoken denial of God.  At times he finds her difficult due to her free spirit but, at the same time, they have a loving relationship.  He is only too happy to grant her permission when she asks if she can stay up late at night to write her poetry.
            As Emily grows older (now played by Cynthia Nixon), she becomes more reclusive, has no interest in marriage, but finds a close friendship with Vrylin Buffam (Catherine Bailey) who is much more liberal than she.  Eventually Vrylin marries while, unfortunately, Emily finds an interest in Rev. Charles Wadsworth (Eric Loren) who is already married, and she feels she is destined to remain a spinster. 
            As the years pass, illness and family deaths cause Emily to become more and more isolated, as she spends further time in her room, refusing to see anyone.  However, her sister Vinnie remains close to her until her death at the age of 55.
            During her lifetime, Dickenson wrote close to 1800 poems, and less than a dozen were published.  However, following her death, and the publication of all of her work, she is considered to be one of America’s major poets.
            A Quiet Passion is a beautiful film with an outstanding cast.  Terrence Davies has personified each character perfectly.   The film is playing at Laemmle’s Royal Theatre in Los Angeles.
            MPAA Rating:  PG-13
            Running Time:  2 hours,  min.                           

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED