Thursday, September 27, 2018

            Jose Rivera’s play, The Untranslatable Secrets of Nikki Corona, is largely about the afterlife, a mysterious subject, to say the least, playing at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.
            Abril leaves her sister Nikki (both roles played by Onahoua Rodriguez) a phone message before jumping to her death from the Golden State Bridge.  Nikki is beyond grief over missing her sister’s call and decides to look for help by going to the office of A Better Orpheus that offers a rather bizarre service, a way of communicating with the dead.  This is accomplished by putting a client in touch with a dying person who is willing to make contact and deliver a message once they reach the beyond.  Nikki has doubts about this whole practice but, nevertheless, is impelled to go through with it
            Maren  (Cate Scott Campbell), owner of A Better Orpheus, sends Nikki to meet Orlando (Ricardo Chavira) in a hospital room where he is dying of cancer.  Orlando is a good looking young man, but she rejects his advances towards her even though she feels sorry for his dilemma.  I found this a strange situation in the play, quite bizarre, and out-of-place.
            Act II opens with Orlando having died, and from that moment on, my interest in the play becomes lost as it is “much ado about nothing.”   It seems that Orlando forgets about his obligation to Nikki.  In fact, the whole idea seems completely forgotten for most of the act, while she seems no longer a part of the play at all as he wanders around the land of the dead meeting up with his own relatives accompanied by Lisandra (Cate Scott Campbell).
            The play also includes Zilah Mendoza, and Juan Francisco Villa performing various characters throughout the second act, all under the direction of Jo Bonney.
            The Untranslatable Secrets of Nikki Corona plays Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM, through October 7, at the Gil Cates Theater at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles.  Tickets are available by phone at (310) 20-5454, or online at

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

NATIVE GARDENS by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Native Gardens is a comedy written by Karen Zacarias, directed by Jason Alexander, and playing at the Pasadena Playhouse.  It focuses on two very different couples whose friendship turns into a feud.
             Pablo (Christian Parillas) a striving young attorney recently hired by a prominent law firm, and his young pregnant wife, Tania (Jessica Meraz) have moved into their first home in a trendy neighborhood in Washington, D.C..  The property needs a little TLC, but they are excited about its great yard, wonderful mature tree, a home of their own, and the birth of their first child. 
            Pablo and Tania are enthusiastically welcomed by their next door neighbors, Frank (Bruce Davison) and Virginia (Frances Fisher) who are happy to see a nice family moving into the property that has been neglected due to various renters over the years.  They take pride in their neighborhood, their home, and Frank particularly in his garden that he has nurtured over the years into a lush expanse of tulips and other beautiful colors of flowers.
            Tania has ideas for turning her yard into a garden indigenous to their surroundings and centered around their beautiful mature tree.  She panics when Pablo tells her he has invited his entire office to visit on the coming Saturday.  Realizing they haven’t the time to get the house in order, they agree to have a bar-b-que and rush to get the yard in shape.
            The two couples had agreed that they needed to remove a decades old iron fence and replace it with a new wooden one, but when a survey proves that Frank’s garden has been imposing on 80 square yards of their neighbors’ property, their friendship flies out the window.  Both parties feel they are the injured party.  So, while the gardeners (Julian Arrmaya, Richard Biglia, Bradley Roa II) continue to build the fence on the legal boundary line, upsetting Frank’s garden, the dispute between two couples erupts into a rollicking comedy.
            The cast are all commended performers who are diligently directed by Jason Alexander in bringing an outstanding comedy to the Pasadena Playhouse.  The beautiful set design is by David Meyer.
            Native Gardens plays at the Pasadena Playhouse Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM, through Sept. 30.  Tickets are available online at, by phone at (626) 356-7529, or at the theatre box office, 39 South El Molino Ave., Pasadena.


Monday, September 17, 2018

BREADCRUMBS  by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Breadcrumbs is a play written by Jennifer Haley playing at the Second Floor Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood.  At times it is very touching, other times it is emotional, and there are moments when it can be inexplicable while embracing a situation that is timely today.
            Alida (Lareen Faye) is a reclusive aging writer who lives alone.  While in the midst of writing her autobiography, she is diagnosed with dementia, and is having difficulty remembering words to write.  She goes to a clinic where she is given a memory test by an inept nurse’s aide named Beth (Lisa McGee Mann) who messes up the files and calls Alida by someone else’s name.
            A few days later, Beth shows up at Alida’s home, offering to become her assistant.  Alida is reticent to give her the job since it is obvious to her that the two of them have nothing in common, but Alida recognizes she is need of help.  Beth has worked as a bartender, a stripper, has had many men in her life, and is obviously looking for something to better herself.  How will two such opposites manage to work together?    
            As the days pass, Alida finds much to complain about while working with Beth.  But as her mental condition worsens, she relies more and more on her to find the words to help her recall her childhood memories.  While they follow the breadcrumbs toward her past, they discern a commonality between them which brings them towards a more understanding of one another.  Who would have thought that Alida had lived her life with a mother just like Beth?!
            Lareen Faye and Lisa McGee Mann give sterling performances in this well directed play by Bert Emmett.  Breadcrumbs continues Saturdays at 2 PM, and Sundays at 7 PM, through Oct. 14.  Tickets are available online at, or by phone at (818) 763-5990.  The Second Floor Lonny Chapman Theater is located 10900 Burbank Blvd, North Hollywood.  The theater is not handicapped accessible.
80 minutes, no intermission
Appropiate for adult audiences

Friday, September 14, 2018

            Ray Bradbury (August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012) was an American author whose work included books, short stories, plays, and screenplays, either horror stories, mystery fiction, and science fiction. He authored over 600 short stories and over 30 books, winning numerous awards, including a 2007 Pulitzer Citation.
            Martians – An Evening With Ray Bradbury is a play that brings Ray Bradbury back to life on the stage, in the form of actor playwright Charlie Mount, at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks.  Written by Mount and Jeff G. Rack (who also directs the production), it takes the audience on a visit to Mars.  Much of the wording comes from Bradbury’s own words
            Ray Bradbury (Charlie Mount) reveals four of his short stories to his audience by also bringing his characters to life on stage.  You see a space ship take off (via projected films) and arrive on the planet bringing a young couple coming to settle on Mars (Michael Perl and Melissa Lugo).  The story of the couple’s plight is based on The Strawberry Window.  His story, the Blue Bottle, is about two soldiers of fortune (Paul Gunning and Joe Seely), who have come in search of the famous Blue Bottle of Mars.  Father Niven (Eric Keitel) traps a Martian who reshapes himself in the form of Christ (John T. Cogan) from The Mesiah.   Night Call, Collect reveals the last man on Mars, Old Barton (Don Moss), who is left alone with no way to communicate except by recordings of his younger self (Richard Mooney).  The cast also includes Robert Paterno (The Searcher/The Martian)   
            This is not the first time Charley Mount has portrayed Ray Bradbury.  He played him in a production of The October Country and produced his play, Falling Upward, both at Theatre West.  His portrayal of the man is very credible.  The entire production has an aura of being somewhere other than Earth (production design by Jeff G. Rack).    
            If you are an aficionado of Ray Bradbury, you definitely will not want to miss this production at the Whitefire Theatre playing Fridays at 8 PM, through Nov. 7, with one Saturday night performance, Nov. 10, at 8 PM.  Tickets are available online at, or by phone at (800) 838-3006.  The Whitefire Theatre is located at 13500 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

ROMEO AND JULIET by Carol Kaufman Segal
            When I was first made aware of Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare, being performed with a “fresh twist,” I couldn’t image such an undertaking, nor could I imagine how it could evolve into a worthwhile production.  How could the same plot by Shakespeare be set in pre-World War II, Berlin, featuring Romeo as a German boy, and Juliet as a Jewish girl?  Well, needless to say, I found out how, and was more than enamored with the results of this very fine presentation by the Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre.
            Romeo (Mike Bingaman) is a Montague and a German Nazi, Juliet is a Capulet (Savannah Schoenecker) from a well-to-do German Jewish family who is against Hitler and his growing regime in the country.  Black and white films of the growing danger that is mounting in the country give a vivid story of what is to come.
            The plot stays as Shakespeare wrote it.  Romeo and Juliet fall in love and he romances her under her balcony (where the Jewish faith of the family is made obvious by the Sabbath candles seen in the window).  Romeo and Juliet decide to visit their friend, Gypsy Lawrence (Mark Atha) who performs a marriage between the two lovers.  Later, there is a run-in between the Montagues (Germans) and the Capulets (Jews) whereby the fight results in Romeo being banished for killing Tybalt (Heston Horwin).   All of the fight scenes in the production are outstandingly realistic (Choreographer Cylan Brown). 
            Juliet never wavers in her love for Romeo while he is away.  However, the Capulets turn against him.  Her mother, Lady Capulet (Belinda Howell), and her father, Capulet (Patrick Burke) demand her to forget Romeo and marry Paris (Ashkhan Aref) and arrange for the marriage.  Nurse Bubby (Janee Hull) tries to console her, but Juliet takes her problem in her own hands and goes to Gypsy Lawrence for help.  He gives her a special potion that feigns death for several days, in order to cancel her wedding day to Paris.  Unfortunately, when Romeo returns to seek out Juliet, he is not aware of Gypsy Lawrence’s potion, and when he comes upon her seemingly dead body, he kills himself.  Upon awakening, Juliet becomes overwrought when she sees Romeo lying dead, draws his dagger from him and ends her life.
            The Capulets gather together for the double funeral, which brings the play to its close as they have obviously been taken prisoners of their enemies (The Nazis).  Yes, it did succeed in its “fresh twist,” of one of the worst happenings in the history of the world.
            Director Shira Dubrovner deserves kudos for a fantastic job directing an extremely talented cast of actors.  The cast is very large, and beside the wonderful performances by those playing the main characters, each of the actors add to the life of the production. 
            Romeo and Juliet plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, through October 14, at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, located at 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood.  Tickets are available online at, or by phone at (818) 763-5990.