Monday, November 20, 2017

THE DEVINE ORDER by Carol Kaufman Segal
            The Devine Order is Switzerland’s submission for the Academy Award’s Best Foreign Language Film.  It has already been the recipient of the Audience Award for Best Feature at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festive, and the Audience Award for Best Fiction Award 2017 Traverse Film Festival.     
            The film takes place in 1971 Switzerland, a time where many changes have come about in the world, but not so in Switzerland.  In Switzerland, some laws are still behind the times, including a law that denies women the right to vote.  
            Nora (Marie Leuenberger) lives in a small village with her husband Hans (Maxmilian Simonischek), their two sons, and her cranky father-in-law. Bored with her daily routines, she tells Hans she wants to go back to work.  He is adamant when he tells her he forbids it, and that it is his right to do so under Swiss law.
            Nora has been made aware that this is the year in Switzerland that the government has a ballot measure that just might change that law in the future because, if it passes, it will finally, give women the right to vote.  She has been asked to work for an organization to help get the law passed, because in her village, it appears doomed.  Since she has never been political, she turns down the offer.          
            Suddenly, Nora begins to notice more and more how women have little “say so” in their lives, how deeply they are affected by the laws of the country.  Her frustration over the situation gives her the impetus to join in the movement after all, along with the backup of an elderly friend, Vroni (Sibylle Brunner), who tells her she had tried to fight for women’s right to vote in the  50’s, but finally gave up.  She is, once again, willing to help in this venture along with newcomer Graziella (Marta Zoffoli).  Nora turns out to be the leader of their group and becomes well-known throughout the village.  She is vilified by many, and despite having to suffer from threats and the possibility of losing Hans, she refuses to let down.
            More and more women of the village come to comprehend how their lives are ruled by men and decide to take a stand with Nora and her group.  She eventually convinces them to go on strike and they all leave home, happy in the realization that they were brave enough to stand up to their men.  The outcome of their bravery turns out to be worthwhile for them as well as their country.
            The movie is well-written by Petra Volpe who also did an exemplary job directing a strong cast.  Marie Leuenberger gives an outstanding performance.  The entire production is worthy of recognition. 
            Not rated
            Running time:  93 min.
            In German, English, Italian and Swiss German with English sub-titles
                       






Sunday, November 19, 2017

PRESS RELEASE FROM SKIRBALL CULTURAL CENTER

Skirball Cultural Center presents the annual family favorite
HANUKKAH FESTIVAL: LA/LA
Sunday, December 10, 11:00 a.m.– 4:00 p.m.
Inspired by the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative, the Skirball’s annual Hanukkah Festival explores the themes of Hanukkah through the traditions of Los Angeles’s rich and diverse Latin American communities. Visitors of all backgrounds are invited to revel in the spirit of the holiday through music, dance, art making, storytelling, and other family-friendly fun.
Groove to musical performances by Latin Jewish bands Klezmer Juice and Pan Felipe, and learn salsa, cumbia, mumbo, hip-hop, and more with dance ensembles Versa-Style and Mambo Inc.
Create art celebrating light and hope with visual artist Sandy Rodriguez, and learn about Mexican chocolate and decorate chocolate gelt with culinary historian Maite Gomez-Rejón.
Also take part in family-friendly tours of PST: LA/LA exhibitions Another Promised Land and Surface Tension by Ken Gonzales-Day; and join Skirball storytellers in ongoing exhibition Visions and Values as they bring the Hanukkah tale to life in English and Spanish. Discover unique holiday gifts at Audrey’s Museum Store, and nosh on classic Hanukkah dishes like latkes and sufganiyot (jelly donuts).
Sunday, December 10, 11:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Art activities and storytelling take place throughout the day. Specific times for performances are as follows:
  • ·  11:00 a.m.: Klezmer Juice
Los Angeles-based band Klezmer Juice kicks off and closes the festival with their blend of Jewishklezmer, soul, and Latin music.

·  12:00 and 2:45 p.m.: Versa-Style

High-energy hip-hop and Afro-Latin dance company Versa-Style leads two workshops for dancers of all levels.
  • ·  1:00 p.m.: Pan Felipe
Los Angeles-based band Pan Felipe performs their unique mix of ska, klezmer, and Latin cumbia. Premier Latin dance company Mambo Inc. teaches visitors how to salsa, cumbia, and mambo.
  • ·  2:00 p.m.: Mambo Inc.
Acclaimed visual artist Sandy Rodriguez leads a workshop inspired by light and hope, in which visitors can create a work of art to take home, as well as contribute to a collaborative Hanukkah menorah installation.

  • ·  3:15 p.m.: Klezmer Juice & Friends
Culinary historian Maite Gomez-Rejón (Art Bites) shares the history of chocolate, from its originsin the ancient cultures of Mesoamerica to its modern forms—including Hanukkah gelt, which visitors can stop by to decorate.

Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90049
$12 General; $9 Seniors and Full-Time Students; $7 Children 2–12; FREE to Skirball Members and
Children under 2

Advance tickets recommended: 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

CAVALIA by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Cavalia is a world-wide entertainment company from Canada that specializes in creating a spectacular show that features horses, acrobats, musicians and stunning settings.  It was created by Normand Latourelle, one of the four co-founders of the Cirque de Soleil.  This thrilling show, entitled Odysseo, is being performed in Camarillo under their big tent, which in itself, is spectacular.  It was designed specifically for the show and is the largest touring tent in the world with 2,290 seats.
            The show features 65 of the most magnificent horses and 50 outstanding performers that include acrobats, aerialists, horsemen and horsewomen, dancers, and musicians  The staging is created by multimedia projections and special effects that is so realistic, it feels as though one is traveling through wondrous deserts, waterfalls, canyons, glaciers, even rain and snow.  Over 300 different costumes add to the magnetism of the performances.
            As appealing as the entire performances are from beginning to end, the big splash finale is an exceptional ending to a beautiful and exciting show.  The address for finding the big tent is   5230 Camino Ruiz, in Camarillo where Odysseo will be performing through January 7, 2018.  Tickets are available at the box office which is open daily from 10 AM to 7 PM., online at www.cavalia.com, or call toll free at (866) 999-8111 for further information. 
           



 HIGHLY RECCOMMENDED  for all ages           
Stupid Kid  extends at the Road Theatre on Magnolia through December 3, 2017.  See review dated May 2, 2017.

Monday, November 13, 2017

NEW YORK WATER by Carol Kaufman Segal        
            The Pico Playhouse in West Los Angeles is the home to The West Coast Jewish Theatre’s production of a comedy entitled New York Water written by Sam Bobrick, and directed by Howard Teichman (Artistic Director of the theatre).
            The title of the play refers to the quality of the tap water in New York which, sometimes, loses its clarity due to the rusty pipes in its service.  It is about Linda and Albert, two single people in their mid-thirties, who meet through a personal ad in New York City.  While Linda (Bridget Flanery) awaits the arrival of her blind date, Albert (Ross Benjamin), it is obvious that she is a very paranoid and overwrought woman.
            Once Albert arrives, a very funny scene ensues whereby he and Linda learn enough about each other to make the decision that they dislike living in New York, that they will get married and move out of New York to a place that is slower and friendlier.  We are not privy to how or why, but they end up in Davenport, Iowa, to look for a less stressful life.   Hmm, maybe too calm, because after three months, they find Davenport too quiet, not enough decent job opportunities,  eople aren’t quite so friendly, and everything seems to depend on corn!  What can they do to change their boring lifestyle in Iowa?  Why, Los Angeles, of course!  They can find everything there to satisfy their needs make them happy. 
            Act II finds our two wistful characters in Hollywood where Linda, with her brazen characteristics, has suddenly become a changed woman who has risen in the world of celebrities, while Albert has fallen behind due to his insecure personality, working as a gardener for all of those celebrities!  However, Albert is not the one complaining, it is Linda who sees that their life is not working out well.  But where to go to next?!
            Sam Bobrick has written an amusing play with enough comedy to keep you laughing throughout.  Ross Benjaminm is delightful as Albert, the young man with little or no self- esteem.  (Benjamin is a near clone to his father, actor Richard Benjamin.)  Bridget Flanery is very suitable for her role, but unfortunately, she overplays her character and often shrieks her lines, which is very annoying.  All –in-all, New York Water is an interesting and comical look at how relationships change overtime, and who doesn’t need a good comedy these days?

            New York Water plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 3 PM, through December 17, at the Pico Playhouse, located at 10508 W Pico Blvd., Los Angeles.  Tickets are available by calling (323) 821-2449, or online at www.wcjt.tix.com.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

MRS. WARREN’S PROFESSION by Carol Kaufman Segal
            George Bernard Shaw (July 26, 1856 – November 2, 1950) was an Irish playwright and critic who influenced Western theater and culture, from the 1880’s and even after his death.  In 1895 he became a theatre critic and began writing his own plays.  He wrote more than sixty plays, including major works such as Man and Superman (1902), Major Barbara (1905), Misalliance (1909), Pygmalion (1912) and Saint Joan (1923).  He became a leading dramatist of his generation and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1925.
             Mrs. Warren’s Profession, one of his earlier plays, written in 1893, is playing at A Noise Within in Pasadena.  I have seen this play before, and I believe that it is still showcased because it has a sense of modernity to it in regards to women and their choices in life.  
            Cambridge-educated Vivie (Erica Soto) thinks of herself as a practical, open-minded, and modern woman.  She has been raised in middle-class comfort by her mother, Mrs.Kitty Warren (Judith Scott), who has been able to provide their comforts as a former prostitute and current madam.  Vivie never had any idea that her mother was running an illegitimate business, and upon the revelation, she is unable to accept the situation, though Kitty tries to explain the reasons for her choice to her daughter.   
            Though there are other characters to add to the storyline, the play centers on the complications that arise between the relationship of the mother and daughter and how it affects their future.  The entire cast of talented actors also includes Peter James Smith (Mr. Praed, Mrs. Warren’s friend), Jeremy Rabb (Sir George Crofts, Mrs. Warren’s business partner), Martin Kildare (Reverend Samuel Gardner, Frank Gardner’s father), and Adam Faison (Frank Gardner, Rev. Gardner’s son and Vivie’s romantic interest), all under the astute direction of Michael Michetti.
            A Noise Within is a Classic Repertory Company that celebrated its 25th Anniversary last season.  They are located at 3353 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena.  Mrs. Warren’s Profession plays in repertory (closing Nov. 18) with A Tale of Two Cities (closing Nov. 19), and The Madwoman of  Chaillot (closing Nov.11).  Tickets and further information are available online at www.anoisewithin.org, or by phone by calling (626) 356-3100.


RECCOMENDED


A LOVE AFFAIR by Carol Kaufman Segal
            The Santa Monica Playhouse is presenting A Love Affair, written by prolific playwright Jerry Mayer.  Mayer’s career began over 40 years ago when he first began writing jokes, then scripts, and then scripts for popular television shows including All In the Family, M*AS*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and The Bob Newhart Show.  He also wrote and produced many other shows including six years as writer/Executive Producer of The Facts of Life. 
            After years working on television shows, Jerry discovered his first love, writing plays for the theater and has enjoyed success winning awards for his plays and musicals. He has written nine plays, eight of which had their world premieres at the Santa Monica Playhouse.  Six have had successful runs Off Broadway and five throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe.   A Love Affair is the latest in which all of his plays are being presented at the Santa Monica Playhouse during the 2015-2020 Jerry-Mayer-A-Thon.
            A Love Affair, in keeping with Mayer’s trend, is a romantic comedy which, perhaps, takes on events from his own life.  It goes through the years (back and forth) from 1991 to 1953 to 1991 covering the 38-year marriage of Jimmy and Alice.  They are played by four actors, the elder Jimmy by Chris DeCarlo and the younger Jimmy by Jacob Cooper; the elder Alice by Evelyn Rudie, and the younger Alice by Andrea Adnoff.  Rachel Galper plays several characters that show up in their lives during the years.
            From the 1950’s honeymoon through the 38-year marriage, we are privy to what a loving couple face together in life, and still manage to keep their marriage going through thick and thin for 38 years.  It’s the ups-and-downs, successes, disappointments, traumas, children, money, traumas about sex, and whatever life doles out to them, but fortunately, a real love affair wins out in the end. 
            Chris DeCarlo also directed the production and says “Jerry Mayer’s plays are a delight for a director, a cast, and of course an audience.  He writes about issues people can identify with, laugh at, and care about.”  And I have to agree with that statement in the case of each of his plays that I have been privileged to see.  The Santa Monica Playhouse is celebrating its 55th year offering continuous theater and educational services to the community.  Evelyn Rudie and Chris DeCarlo are Co-Artistic Directors of the Theatre.
            A Love Affair plays Saturdays at 7:30 PM, Sundays at 3:30 PM, through November 17.  The Playhouse is located at 1211 4th Street, Santa Monica.  Tickets are available by calling (310) 394-9779, ext 1, or reservations can be made online at santamonicaplayhouse.com/a-love-affair.html.    


RECCOMMENDED



Monday, October 9, 2017

     I'M NOT FAMOUS starring Barbara Minkus  returns to the Santa Monica Playhouse November 4, 2017, for four weekly performances.  See review dated May 2, 2017.

     The Santa Monica Playhouse is located at 1211 4th Street. Santa Monica,  Call the Playhouse Box Office at (310) 394-9779 for the complete information regarding the return of this highly recommended performance.
CAGNEY by Carol Kaufman Segal
            When I knew Cagney was scheduled to open at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood featuring the original New York cast, I was looking forward to it with great enthusium.  I am always excited to see a good musical, but this production deserves much more than the word “good,” This musical is superb!  Whether you are old enough to have seen or remember James Cagney makes no difference.  You will enjoy everything about this elegant production.
            Robert Creighton stars as the incomparable Cagney.  He also wrote some of the original songs and lyrics presented in the show, together with Christopher McGovern.  His talents as an actor, singer, and dancer, are first-rate, and who could ask for anything more.  But there is more; the man has the looks, the build, the manner, and similar talents as those of the character he is portraying.  The New York Times wrote “Robert Creighton is born for the role.”
            James Cagney was born July 17, 1899.  He grew up in a tough neighborhood on the Lower East Side of New York.  The family was having a rough time financially, and when Cagney lost his job, his brother Bill (Josh Walden) saw an ad in the newspaper for a dancer and his mother (Danette Holden) convinced him to apply for it.  He was reticent to do so, but finally thought, “What the heck”.
              That was the start of his successful career as a singer, dancer, and actor on stage and screen and, eventually as a star in gangster movies.  It was also where he met his wife Willie (the lovely Ellen Z. Wright). The one thing missing in the story is where Cagney acquired his skills as a dancer, singer and actor.  Was it simply that he was a natural?
            Nevertheless, he did acquire these skills and he signed his first movie contract with Jack Warner (Bruce Sabath).  They clashed off-and-on for years throughout his career which led him to leave Warner several times, each time returning under better circumstances.
            Jeremy Benton also plays Bob Hope and other characters.  All cast members, except for Creighton, perform multiple roles as the story of James Cagney unfolds.  Creighton leads this cast as they tap dance through the wonderful music of George M. Cohan and the original songs by Creighton and McGovern.  Lovers of tap dancing will be overly enthralled, choreography by Joshua Bergasse.  The live music is under the direction of Gerald Sternbach, set design by James Morgan, great costumes by Martha Bromelmeir, all under the direction of Bill Castellino.
            Performances of Cagney will play Tuesdays at 7:30 PM, Wednesdays at 2 PM and 8 PM,   Thursdays and Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 3 PM. (with some exceptions) at the ‘’El Portal Theatre’s Debbie Reynolds Mainstage, 5249 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.  Tickets are available online at CagneyThe Musical.com or by phone at (866) 811-4111 (where you can also check out the exception dates).


HIGHLY REOMMENDED           



Saturday, October 7, 2017

SKIRBALL CULTURAL CENTER by Carol Kaufman Segal
          The  Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles is featuring two exhibitions as part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time LA/LA project.

Another Promised Land:  Anita Brenner’s Mexico        
          Anita Brenner was born in Mexico to Latvian-Jewish immigrants, but eventually grew up in America as an immigrant, thus often finding herself an outsider.  She was a journalist, an art historian and anthropologist and was important in introducing Mexican art and culture to America. She became a friend to academics and prominent artists in Mexico, including Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, among others.  

          It was important for Brenner to build a cultural understanding between The United States and Mexico.  This exhibition emphasizes that fact through more than 150 objects that includes artworks by Rivera, Orozco, Kahlo, and Edward Weston.  This exhibition also offers a look into the life of Anita Brenner and the reason for her feelings of being an outsider, whether in Mexico, or in America.  She always loved Mexico and considered it her home.
          This exhibition will remain on view through Feb. 25, 2018, at the Skirball Cultural Center, located at 2701 N. Sepulveda, Los Angeles.  Hours are Tuesday through Friday from 12 noon to 5 PM, Saturday and Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM, closed Mondays and holidays.  Exhibitions are free on Thursdays.  For further information, call (310) 440-4500, or go online at skirball.org.

Surface Tension by Ken Gonzales-Day:  Murals, Signs, and Mark Making in LA 
          Surface Tension by Ken Gonzales-Day is an exhibition of a special kind of art, art that we see every day as we drive through all areas of Los Angeles.  It consists of murals, signs, street art, advertisements, etc. that you may see one day and the next day they might vanish from view.  Ken Gonzales-Day, a prominent Los Angeles-based photographer, interdisciplinary artist, and 2017 Guggenheim Fellow, spent ten months traveling hundreds of miles around our metropolis taking photographs that reveal the diversity and creativity of our vast city.  
          This is a most unique exhibition, all displayed in one wide open area of the museum with the more than 100 color photographs  hung around all of the walls.  The floor is one huge map of our city, with numbers that correlate to the pictures on the walls to the locations on the map, allowing viewers to truly be immersed in the diversity of this widely-spread city.   Looking at this mixture, one can see the prominence of the Mexican influence in many of the works.
          This exhibition will remain on view through February 25, 2018.
          The Skirball Cultural Center is located at 2701 N, Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles.  For further information, call (310) 440-4500, or go online at www.skirball.org.



EXHIBITION:  FOUND IN TRANSLATION:  Design in California and Mexico, 1915-1985 by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Found In Translation is one of five exhibitions presented by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) as part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time:  LALA plan.  Organized by Wendy Kaplan, curator and head of the Decorative Art and Design department, and Staci Steinberger, assistant curator of decorative arts and design, this exhibition is on view in the Resnick Pavilion on the grounds of the museum.
            Despite the conflicts between Mexico and the United States, California and Mexico share commonalities that are examined through four themes in this exhibition.  They are Colonial Inspiration, Pre-Hispanic Revivals, Folk Art and Craft Traditions, and Modernism.  LACMA describes the four themes as revealing that design and architecture in California and Mexico are strongly rooted in using local materials and traditions to form a specific culture rather than an “international style.”  Thus, each found a more diverse voice through “translations” of the other.
            This exhibition looks at designs and architecture interchanged between California and Mexico from 1915 to 1985.  You will find more than 250 objects on display, including furniture, metal works, ceramics, costumes, textiles, paintings, sculpture, architectural drawings and photographs, mural studies, posters, collectables, and film by over 200 artists, architects, designers, and crafts artists.

            Found In Translation will remain on view at LACMA through April 1, 2018.  The museum is located at 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles.  For further information, call the museum at (323) 857-6000, or go online at www.lacma.org.



Friday, October 6, 2017

BOBBI JENE by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Bobbi Jene is a documentary about the life of modern dancer/choreographer Bobbi Jene Smith.  Bobbi Jene was born in Idaho and trained as a dancer at Julliard.  She had heard about the celebrated Israeli dance company, Batshiva that was run by highly acclaimed Artistic Director, Ohad Naharin.   At the age of 21, Bobbi Jene made the decision to move to Israel to join the company.  After nearly ten years with Batshiva, Bobbi Jene told her family that she never felt at home in Israel, that she was going to leave the company and return to America to fulfill her desire to make it on her own.  Director Elvira Lind directs this documentary about Bobbi Jene following her life-changing decision.
            Bobbi Jene’s decision was not an easy one.  One scene reveals her emotions as she tells Ohad of her decision and tells him how difficult it will be to leave the company and him  (They had a relationship at one time.).  However, she agrees to stay through the season.  It also means leaving behind a fellow Batsheva dancer, Or Shraiber, a man ten years her junior with whom she has become involved.  As the time nears, she tries to convince Or to come to America with her, but he does not want to leave Batsheva or Israel, explaining that Israel is his homeland just as America is hers, and it is where he wants to raise his children.
            The remainder of the film has her going to California and New York where she teaches and performs some solo works on stage.  There are some scenes visiting with family, times when she has conversations on line with Or, times when he visits her in New York or she returns to perform in Israel.  But throughout the scenes, it is difficult to really know Bobbi Jene except for her loyalty to dance.
            .  She finally gets a request to do a solo performance in New York and in Israel.  As she works on this important piece of a work, she debates whether she should perform clothed or without.  She makes her decision and after the conclusion of the performance at the Jerusalem Museum, she remarks “I want to get to the place where I have no strength to hide anything.”  Obviously, she got there!
            Playing at Laemmle Royal Theatre, West Los Angeles
            Running time, 95 minutes
            Not rated* 

*Not for children re CKS

Thursday, October 5, 2017

 MASTER CLASS by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Master Class, by Terrence McNally, opened the inaugural season of the Garry Marshal Theatre (formerly The Falcon Theatre), that focuses on the persona of celebrated opera singer, Maria Callas.
            Callas began taking singing lessons at the age of 14 and eventually became a renowned opera singer in the United States and Europe.  After her successes, she was called La Davina.  But it did not too long for this diva to become a prima donna resulting in her being let-go from many performances.  Eventually, she gave up the stage.  She later tried a comeback, but after suffering from vocal problems, she set up Master Classes at Julliard, which is the basis of this production.
            Emmy-award-winning actress, Carolyn Hennessy, performs the role of this fascinating and turbulent woman who spares no humility, no warmth, no tact, and no patience, as she works with three wanna-be opera stars.  Though she is “callous” with her students, her concern is for the art and she is extremely demanding.  Hennessy’s performance of Maria Callas is profound and so realistic as to feel as if one is actually seeing this marvel of a woman in person.
            The students who come to Callas’s Master Class are First Soprano, Sophie de Palma (Maegan McConnell), Tenor, Anthony Candolino (Landon Shaw II), and Second Soprano, Sharon Graham (Aubrey Truillo Scarr).  Despite the criticisms lashed out at them by Callas in this production, it is obvious these three performers are gifted with marvelous talent, as is Roy Abramsohn (the piano accompanist, Manny).  The Stagehand is performed by Jeff Campanella.   Astute direction is by Dimitri Toscas
            Master Class plays Thursdays and Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 3 PM, through Oct. 22.  Tickets are available by calling (818) 955-8101, or online at GarryMarshallTheatre.org.  The theatre is located at 4252 Riverside Drive in Burbank.              


RECOMMENDED        


Thursday, September 28, 2017

STUPID KID by Carol Kaufman Segal
          The Road Theatre Company is presenting Stupid Kids at The Road on Magnolia as their first production of the 2017-2018 Season.  As is the Company’s commitment to bring new works to their audiences, this is the premiere of the play written by acclaimed American playwright, Sharr White.  What a brilliant beginning to their season!
          Chick (Ben Theobald), 28-year old son of Gigi (Taylor Gilbert)  and Eddie (Joe Hart), has just returned home after spending 14-years in prison for the murder of his girlfriend.  Chick insists he didn’t commit the crime even though he pleaded guilty at his trial. 
          In the 14-years that he has been away, the family has suffered financially and he finds them under the duress of his treacherous Unclemike (Rob Nagle), Gigi’s brother.  The scenes in Act I present a family under a great deal of stress performed brilliantly by an exceptionally talented cast.         
          The tension mounts more so in Act II, and if anyone questions why Chick pleaded guilty to a crime he continues to insist he did not commit, the answer will be revealed as the play continues on to its conclusion.    
          This production deserves accolades for its artistry from the writing by Sharr White, the direction by Cameron Watson, the scenic design by Jeff McLaughlin, to a star cast that also includes Michelle Gillette as Franny Hawker, a most irritating neighbor, and Allison Blaize, as Uncle Mike’s forced upon girlfriend, Hazel.
          Performances of Stupid Kid are presented Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM, through November 12, at the Road Theatre on Magnolia located in The NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood.   Tickets are available by calling (818) 761-8838, or online at www.RoadTheatre.org.


HIGHLY RECOMMENDED



A FUNNY THING HAPPENED On the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City                                          by Carol Kaufman Segal
          The stage is set in a double hospital room in this production of A Funny Thing Happened ….. The title is especially cumbersome, the play even more so.  There are two women lying in each bed, a curtain dividing their space for privacy.  
          The premise of the play regards a young woman, Karla (Halley Feiffer who also wrote the play), sitting with her mother (JoBeth Williams) who is dying of cancer. She is loud and crude and doesn’t appear to be grieving over her mother’s illness.  A young man, Don (Jason Butler Harner), arrives to visit his mother (Eileen T’Kaye) lying in the bed on the other side of the curtain.  She, too, is dying of cancer.  Both mothers are seemingly unconscious.
          Don asks Karla to tone it down, and from that point on, the play is a total disappointment.  The language is crude, the actions are crude, and the premise of the play is beyond belief. These two characters, once the bickering stops and they find something more than friendship, are totally offensive. It is difficult to believe that two people could be so crass and so unconcerned about their mothers lying comatose on the verge of death.
          This play touched a very sore point with me, as I suspect it might have done with others who have experienced family losses from cancer.  As the play ended, and the audience was walking out, it was the most quiet I have ever experienced in a theater.  I saw the play on opening night and hassled over how I could write a review, thus the lateness of my offering.               
          A Funny Thing Happened ….. plays Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM, closing Oct. 8, at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles. 
          A Funny Thing Happened …..is the first production of the 2017/2018 Season at the Geffen Playhouse.  The rest of the season looks especially promising and I am looking forward to the theater’s future presentations.









Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Year By the Sea by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Year ByThe Sea opens with home films of special events in the lives of two young brothers as they were growing up.  In the next scene, we see Joan Alexander (Karen Allen), the boys’ middle-aged mother, preparing breakfast for her two boys, who are now adults.  Years have passed and the boys no longer live with their parents, but have come home for their elder son’s wedding.
            At the wedding, Joan discovers that her husband Robin (Michael Christopher) is being transferred to Kansas and putting their house up for sale.  She cannot believe that all this was planned without telling her and she is first learning of it at their son’s wedding.  Joan and Robin have been married for thirty years, but since the boys have grown up and left, something seems to be missing in their marriage and she is hurt and angry.  When the time comes to pack up and leave, Joan puts her luggage in a separate car as she made a decision not to go to Kansas with Robin, but to go away on her own to find a new adventure in Cape Cod. 
            When Jane arrives in Cape Cod alone, she begins to feel remorse about her decision.   But soon that feeling fades after discovering the beauty of her surroundings, and the warmth and friendliness of the people she meets.  She finds strength in her decision through the support of her long-time friend and literary agent Liz (S. Epatha Merkerson) as well as her new-found friend, Joan Erikson (Celia Imrie), a free- spirited lady who has much in common with her.  Looking for something to keep occupied, Joan applies for a help-wanted ad on the window of a store run by John Cahoon (Yannick Bisson), a fisherman who befriends her as well.Her life takes on a new meaning with positive relationships, enjoying fun times, living with nature and beauty, and knowing she is still capable of enjoying life, no matter how old she is.
            Year By The Sea was written, directed and composed by Alexander Janko.  It is based on the true story and New York Best Selling Book by Joan Anderson about the time she took a year from her normal life to, as expressed by the film maker, …”embark upon a journey of self discovery.”
            Karen Allen is glowing as Joan, and the entire cast brings life to all of the people they represent.   The scenes of the nature and beauty of Cape Cod are wonderful to see,
           
Year By The Sea at The Laemmle Royal, Townhouse Center, Playhouse 7
Not rated, in English, 114 minutes

National release to follow

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. 
           

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