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


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 … 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  To view performance footage of the musical, please visit

 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, or, or reservations may be made by calling (828) 763-5990.