Wednesday, May 30, 2018
Monday, May 14, 2018
RED SPEEDO by Carol Kaufman Segal
By its title, you might expect that this play has something to do with swimming. Written by Lucas Hnath, it is about Ray (Adam Peltiera), a competitor swimmer who has finally made it to the Olympics and a possible lucrative deal with Speedo. Ray has devoted his entire life to swimming and appears to have a less than C average when it comes to smarts. Not at all like his attorney brother Peter (Coronada Romero).
Ray is experiencing a desperate moment in his life at this time knowing he may not excel in the Oympics. You see, Ray is a dope addict, and the only way he knows he can win is if he is on dope. Since dope was found in the locker room, his coach (Jason E. Kelley) is obligated to report the finding and the fact that the stash belongs to Ray. Being the shyster lawyer that he is, Peter tries a scare tactic on coach telling him how much his business has to gain with an Olympic winner and how much he has to lose with bad publicity about dope being found in his locker room.
Red Speedo is about the ambitions of all of the characters involved in the play, including Lydia (Kimberly Alexander), Ray’s supplier girlfriend. The play does not offer audiences the opportunity to feel empathy for any of the characters involved since each of them has a corrupt personality. Unfortunately, the fine direction by Joe Banno, good performances by a group of actors, and the neat scenic design with a pool by Stephen Gilford, is wasted on an unworthy play.
Red Speedo plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, at The Road on Magnolia, 10747 Magnolia Blvd, North Hollywood. Tickets are available online at www.roadtheatre.org, or by phone at (818) 761-8838.
BLUES IN THE NIGHT by Carol Kaufman Segal
Blues In the Night, is a Tony and Olivier Award-nominated musical playing at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (The Wallis). Conceived and directed by Sheldon Epps, it was originally staged by Sheldon Epps and Gregory Hines as a review in an off-Broadway theatre in 1980. It opened on Broadway in 1982 and was nominated for a Tony Award for the Best Musical. The Wallis is pleased to bring Sheldon Epps back to The Wallis with a phenomenal cast that performs 26 top Blues from the 20’s and 30’s as they convey their stories through their songs. (There is no dialogue in the production.)
With perfect voices to enhance the songs presented in the production, one can’t help but feel the emotion of each one, whether sung solo, or when all three women put their voices together for something more upbeat. Bringing back twenty-six well-known songs could not be more entertaining, especially when presented by such high quality talent. Included are such well-known songs such as Stompin’ at the Savoy, Lover Man, When Your Lover Has Gone, Blues In the Night, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out, and I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues.
The Musical Director is Abdul Hamid Royal. The band, ed by pianist Lanny Hartley, includes Kevin O’Neal (bass), Randall Willis and Louis Van Taylor (reeds), Lance Lee (percussion), and Fernando Pullum, The musicians are great, adding to the quality of the production. Costumes by Dana Rebecca Woods aid in the characterizations of the performers and the stories they are relaying.
Blues In the Night is playing in the Lovelace Theater in the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30 PM and 8 PM through May 20.
Saturday, May 12, 2018
SCHOOL OF ROCK by Carol Kaufman Segal
In 2003 Paramount Pictures released the film School of Rock starring Jack Black. The film was a huge success. School of Rock the Musical, based on the film, opened on Broadway in December, 2015. With book by Julian Fellowes, Lyrics by Glenn Slater, and new music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, it is an exciting and extremely entertaining musical that is just right for all ages. You can see it at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. (Recommended 8 years and up. Children under 5 will not be permitted.)
Dewey (Rob Colletti) is an underachiever whose main interest in life is music and his guitar. He has been taking advantage of the hospitality of his good friend Ned (Matt Rittner) whose wife Patty (Emily Borromeo) has had enough and insists on his paying rent or getting out. When he seems totally down-and-out, the phone rings, he answers, and is taken for Ned who is offered a well-paying position as a substitute teacher in a private boarding school.
Dewey shows up at the school pretending to be Ned. When he enters the classroom, he has no knowledge of the subjects he is to teach. All he knows is music, and when he discovers some of the students are adept at music, he ends up convincing all of them to form a band, and those who can’t play instruments all become backup or solo singers. Dewy turns out to b a number one teacher to a group of young boys and girls when it comes to music and the subject is “Rock”! The cast of young boy and girls are absolutely amazing with talent galore.
Dewey has been lucky not to have had his classroom shenanigans discovered by the authoritarian Principal, Rosalie (Lexie Dorsett Sharp). When he asks her out for a drink, she lets herself relax and she softens somewhat towards him. But what is happening behind closed doors is finally discovered. At first, not only is the school in a tiff, but so are all of the parents. He explains to everyone involved that he has been grooming this class of talented musicians in order to win the Battle of the Bands. The children plead with their parents to allow them to compete. The school consents and the Battle of the Bands takes place. Though the “School of Rock” does not win the competition, everyone turns out to be winners in the end.
School of Rock plays Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 1 PM and 6:30 PM, through May 27, with one Thursday matinee at 2 PM, May 24. The Pantages Theatre is located at 6233 Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles. Tickets are available online HollywoodPantages.com, Ticketmaster.com, by phone at (800) 982-2787 or in person at the Theatre Box Office which opens daily at 10 AM.
TRAIN TO ZAKOPANE by Carol Kaufman segal
In late 2014, I saw a new theatre production entitled Train To Zakopane written by Henry Jaglom. The play was based on a true story about an incident in his father’s life. It was a wonderful production with a heartbreaking tale and a marvelous cast headed by veteran actress Tanna Fredericks. The play has been adapted into a film by Jaglom and is playing locally in movie theaters.
The time is 1928. The train is crossing Poland on its way to Warsaw with four travelers sharing a compartment. They are Father Aexandrov (Stephen Howard), a former actress, Mme. Nadia Selmeczy (Kathy Arden), a young nurse (Katia Wampusyk (Tanna Frederick), and a successful Russian business man, Semyon Sapir (Mike Falkow). They soon begin to converse with one another,
As the hours pass, Katia and Semyon find themselves attracted to each other. Unfortunately, the conversation among the four of them brings up Jewish people, and Katia reveals her strong dislike for the Jews and her anti-Semitism. Father Alexandrov is prone to agree with her opinions. Semyon questions her about why she is so prejudiced against Jewish people, but he doesn’t reveal that he is Jewish to his travelling companions.
The train continues on towards Warsaw but Katia and Semyon decide to get off at the stop in the resort area of Zakopane. During their time in Zakopane, their romance blossoms, but Semyon is anguished over his deception. He realizes he can’t continue his relationship with her without telling her the truth, which he finally does. Though Katia is truly in love with Semyon, her anti-Semitism is too overpowering, and she takes the next train to Warsaw leaving him behind.
The story is very poignant and was a wonderful theater piece. Somehow or another, the screen version does not offer the same sentiment that is felt when seeing it on stage even though all of the talented actors from the stage production performed their same roles in the film. Is it seeing it in black and white? Is it the roaring sound of the train in the first part of the film? It is difficult to answer why the film does not match up to the original play production.
Train to Zakopane is playing at the Laemmle Monica Film Center in Santa Monica, Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Pasadena, and Laemmle Town Center 5 in Encino. The running time is 153 Minutes.
Wednesday, May 9, 2018
THE TEST & THE ART OF THINKING by Carol Kaufman Segal
Because most four-year colleges require it, more than 3 million high school students take the SAT (Standard Aptitude Test) or the ACT (American College Testing) every year. Michael Arden Davis’s very interesting and provocative documentary speculates on the validity of these tests. Davis certainly expresses his feelings through his interviews with various people who are affected by them.
In the documentary, he speaks to a large number of students as well as parents, teachers, professors, other academics, and those who are in the field of tutoring students for the precise job of being prepared to pass the tests. It seems these tests do not prove a person’s knowledge of what he or she learned in school to be prepared to go further into higher education. “It’s not a math test. It’s not a reading test. It’s get the right answers test.” Even though one person expressed it in those words, it was what everyone interviewed seemed to sum up in one way or another. It seems that the tests really have nothing to do with knowledge.
These tests may have had a profound effect on many people over the years, and can continue to affect the futures of today’s and tomorrow’s students. After viewing this important and interesting documentary, I have a very strong hope that the schools will seek a more credible way for students to earn entrance into their doors without wasting time, energy, and money (and most likely, nerves) on tests that have little or no credibility.
The Test & The Art of Thinking is playing at The Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills. Running time is 85 minutes.
BELLEVILLE by Carol Kaufman Segal
The Pasadena Playhouse is presenting Belleville, a new drama written by Pulitzer Prize finalist and Obie Award winner Amy Herrzog. It is directed by Jenna Worsham. Billed as a modern day Hitchcock-style drama, I did not see it as such.
When we first see Zack (Thomas Sadoski) and Abby (Anna Camp), they appear to be an idyllic couple, newlyweds living a great life in Belleville, a section of Paris. Zack’s job prompted them to move to France. But when Abby finds Zack at home one day, she questions him as to why he is not at work. Following his lame excuse, their ideal marriage begins to disintegrate, as well as does the entire play. They battle one minute, make love the next, until their ideal life together finally falls apart. We see the results of their situation as Alioune (Moe Jeudy-Lamour) and his wife Amina (Sharon-Pierre-Louis), property managers of the apartment building, are cleaning out the apartment as Abby rushes out. (Lovely scenic design by David Meyer)
I did not consider Belleville a suspense-filled production nor did I find myself caring about what was happening to the characters. Even though I found the play, itself, uneasy to watch I appreciated the expert performances by Thomas Sadoski and Anna Camp.
Belleville continues at the Pasadena Playhouse through May 13, playing Wednesday through Friday at 8 PM, Saturday at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sunday at 2 PM. The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 South El Molino Ave., Pasadena. Tickets are available at the Playhouse Box Office, by phone at (626) 356-7529, or online at PasadenaPlayhoose.org.