Tuesday, October 30, 2018

STEAMBATH by Carol Kaufman Segal;
            Imagine finding yourself in a steambath and not knowing why or how you arrived there.  That’s what happens to Tandy (Jeff LeBeau) in Steambath, written by Bruce Jay Friedman, playing at the Odyssey Theatre.  Tandy finds himself in the company of other people, sitting and sweating there as well.
            He meets everyone sharing the steambath with him, Bieberman, (Robert Lesser) a man who complains a lot, a young gay couple (DJ Kemp and Devon Scheolen), an Oldtimer (John Moskal), who is constantly being picked on by Bieberman., and a Broker (Brian Graves).  He becomes quite friendly with a young girl, Meredith (Shelby Lauren Barry), and while talking to her, he suddenly figures out that he and all of the others in the steambath are no longer alive on earth, but ascended to the afterlife.  God is a Puerto Rican bath attendant Paul Rodriquez) whose assistant is Gottlieb (Yusuf Yildiz).  God is no one like he, or any of the others, would have expected.  
           Tandy can’t accept where he finds himself, and he pleads with God to let him return to his life.  But this is not a warm and considerate God.  He is unfeeling and rash.  The way God is depicted in this play is blasphemous to me and I, personally, did not see the humor in it.  Naturally, Tandy is not returned to life, but is sent away with all of the other occupants to an unknown destination while God awaits his next arrivals to the steambath.
            Steambath was a hit comedy Off-Broadway in 1970, albeit controversial due to some language, some nudity and its “ungodly” representation.  It may be considered more acceptable in this age, but perhaps not by everyone.   Ron Sossi directs the capable cast that includes Anthony Rutowicz  (Longshoreman/Detective) and Shay Denison (Young Girl).  Sossi thinks the play has a particular resonance with Jewish audiences. I only see a heavily Jewish cast in a play written by a Jewish playwright. 
            Steambath is playing through December 16, at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles.  For the schedule and/or tickets, call (310) 477-2055, ext. 2, or go online at www.OdysseyTheatre.com.  Recommended for mature audiences.

Monday, October 29, 2018

            Merce Cunningham (1919-2009) was a gifted dancer who joined Martha Graham’s company in 1939.  In 1944, he debuted some of his own solo works, and the following year left Martha Graham’s troupe to work on his own.  He continued to develop solo pieces for himself, and in 1953, established the Merce Cunningham Dance Company.  He choreographed his own work using a great deal of music by John Cage, who became his life partner.  He also collaborated with artist Robert Rauschenberg, and eventually with other avante-garde artists including Andy Warhol. 
            Merce Cunningham, Clouds and Screens opened at the Los Angeles Museum of Art (LACMA) on the same date as did the Rauschenberg exhibition.  Upon entering the lobby of the presentation, visitors are met by Silver Clouds created by Andy Warhol (1928-1987) along with scientist and engineer Billy Kluver.  Dozens of these large pillow-like “clouds,” mixed with air and helium, float around the lobby.  Warhol thought of them as floating paintings that people could play with.  Merce Cunningham saw an exhibition of Silver Clouds when it debuted in 1966 at Leo Castelli Gallery in New York and asked Warhol to modify them as d├ęcor for his dance Rain Forest. 
            Charles Atlas created MC9 (Merce Cunningham to the Ninth Power) from videos he had taken during his and Cunningham’s investigation of the relationship of live performance and video documentation.  The exhibition includes excerpts from 21 of Charles Atlas and Merce Cunningham’s “dances for camera.”  Two videos of Cunningham dances are shown as well, Changeling, a solo piece for which Rauschenberg designed the set, costume, and lighting, and a duet for which Rauschenberg redesigned costumes and lighting.
            Curator of this exhibition is Jose Luis Blondet, Curator of Special Initiatives.  It will remain on view at LACMA through March 31, 2019, at the Los Angeles Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles.  The museum is closed on Tuesdays.  For tickets and/or further information, go online at lacma.org, or call (323) 857-6010.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

RAUSCHENBERG:  THE 1/4 MILE by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Rauschenbrg: The 1/4 Mile exhibition recently opened at the Los Angeles Museum of Art (LACMA).   Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) was one of the most pioneering artists of the last century as you can see as you peruse this expansive exhibition.  On view is his work of art, The 1/4 Mile piece that was completed over a period of 17 years (1981-98) and consists of 190 combined panels that measure approximately 1,000 ft., or approximately 1/4 mile.
            Resources for the variety of materials and images used in making The 1/4 Mile came from Rauschenberg’s travels to many countries in Europe, Asia, North Africa, Latin America, and the United States  His sprawling piece of work includes various textiles, mass media images, and photographs by the artist intermingled with trails of bold paint.  Ordinary everyday objects such as cardboard boxes, chairs, and books add a more solid depth to his creation. 
            In 1961 Robert Rauschenberg remarked, ‘There is no reason not to consider the world as one gigantic painting.” And following his one gigantic work, in1982, he said “By the time you’ve gone a quarter of a mile, if you have any mind at all, you’ve certainly forgotten what you had in mind when you started.”  This is the first time The 1/4 Mile had been presented in its entirety.  Curators of this exhibition include Michael Govan, CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director of LACMA, and Katia Zavistovski, Assistant Curator of Modern Art at LACMA.
            Rauschenberg: The 1/4 Mile will remain on view through June 9, 2019, at the Los Angeles Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles.  The museum is closed on Tuesdays.  For tickets and/or further information, go online at lacma.org, or call (323) 857-6010. Enjoy a leisurely 1/4 mile walk through the world of Rauschenberg.                 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

A PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, was first published July, 1890 in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine.  However, the editor of the magazine deleted some five hundred words of it without the author’s knowledge, worried that British book reviewers would find it morally offensive.  Wilde defended his work and art while revising and lengthening the story that was published as a book in 1891.  Not a wonder that it was considered blasphemous in those days.
            Dorian Gray (Colin Bates) might have been better off looking for the Fountain of Youth, but I dare say he had no idea what effect his wish to remain looking young would have on his life.  Dorian is a handsome and wealthy young man.  Lord Henry Wotton, known as Henry (Frederick Stuart) is visiting the studio of his friend Basil Hallward (Amin El Gamal), a painter, who is in the process of painting a picture of Dorian.
            Henry is taken with Dorian’s beauty and of the painting.  Dorian, himself, is so much aware of his youth and beauty that he wishes he could keep from growing old.  He says that he would give his soul if the painting would grow old instead of him.  (Guess we should think twice before we wish for something!!)   Henry latches on to Dorian and they become intimate friends.  All the while Henry has a marked influence on Dorian and his persona.
            Dorian meets and falls in love with Sybil Vane (Chelsea Kurtz), a beautiful actress, and they become engaged.  After seeing her perform on stage, he heartlessly breaks off their engagement.   When he arrives home, he notices his portrait has changed, and  suddenly feels guilty about his treatment of Sybil.  He decides to write her a letter expressing his feelings and love, only to discover the next day that she had committed suicide.
            But influenced by Henry, Dorian no longer feels guilty about his behavior towards anyone.  Men and women worship him; he is attracted to both, but cares about no one.  Eighteen years go by and as they do, his picture ages continuously.   Though his looks decline in the painting, it is Dorian who morally declines throughout the passing years.  Living such an unscrupulous life is bound to end tragically.                
            This stunning production is brilliantly directed (and adapted) by Michael Michetti who says, “This is not the story of a rotting portrait; it is the story of a rotting soul.”  What make this production so unique and artistic is as Michetti points out, is that “This adaptation uses elements of Greek Chorus and narrative dance, and the Victorian setting is filtered through a very modern sensibility, allowing us to tell this familiar story in a way that’s highly theatrical and has a distinctive style and point of view.”  
            This picture of Dorian Gray is not a portrait, but a full body image, and Colin Bates, who is perfect in his performance as Dorian Gray, is seen on stage posing ala natural for the painting.  A strong cast also includes Deborah Strang, Justin Lawrence Barnes, Daniel Lench, Tania Verafield, Amy Tolsky, Jose Angel Donado, Dale Sandlin, and Abe Martel.  The play runs 2 hours and 40 minutes; I believe it would be well to make some cuts to shorten the time.
            A Picture of Dorian Gray plays through November 16, at A Noise Within, 352 E. Foothil Blvd., Pasadena.  For tickets and information, go online at www.anoisewithin.org, or call (626) 356-3121.


Monday, October 22, 2018

NOTORIOUS RBG The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg by Carol Kaufman Segal
            An exhibition featuring the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg opened at the Skirball Cultural Center October 19.  The exhibition is based on the book of the same name that was co-authored by journalist Irin Carmon, a national reporter at MSNBC, and attorney Shana Kriznik who partnered with the museum and its curator, Cate Thurston in its development.
            This most in-depth look covers the life and work of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and comes at a time marking 25 years since being appointed to the Supreme Court.  Through archival photographs and documents, historical artifacts, contemporary art, media stations, and gallery interactives, it covers her various roles in life from a student, a wife and mother, a lawyer, judge, and a women’s rights pioneer.
            It begins with a re-creation of the living room in Brooklyn where Ruth Bader Ginsburg grew up.  On display is a robe and jabot from her Supreme Court wardrobe.  There are family photos, home movies, and even a replica of a 50’s Chevrolet that her husband Marty owned during the time he was courting her. You can browse yearbooks, written letters, listen to a number of her oral arguments, opinions, and dissents in Supreme Court cases over ten listening stations.  And you can even put on a judge’s robe and sit as a Supreme Court Judge on a replica bench. 
            Barely through the exhibition, you will realize the brilliance and strength of this woman and think how fortunate for all of us and our country that she has served on the Supreme Court for these past 25 years, and that she will continue to be the stalwart voice on the highest court in our nation for many years to come.
            This exhibition will remain on view at The Skirball Cultural Center through March 10, 2019, after which it will go on national tour over the next four years.  You won’t want to miss seeing it while it is in Los Angeles.  The Skirball Center is located at 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles.  It is open Tuesdays through Sundays, closed Mondays.  Public tours are available.  For further information, call the Center at (310) 440-4500 

Monday, October 15, 2018

REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES by Carol Kaufman Segal       
            Real Women Have Curves is a play by Josefina Lopez that takes place in a small sewing factory in East Los Angeles in 1987.  It premiered in 1990 and was adapted into a film in 2002.  It centers on issues of women, Latina immigrant experiences, and politics, and has been updated to today, earmarking its relevance to present times as it was decades ago.  The entire production is presented by an all-woman team from the director (Mary Jo Duprey) to the scenic designer (Tanya Orellana), and everyone involved in putting on a show.
            The cast includes Ana (Julianna Stephanie Ojeda) who recently graduated from high school, Estela (Sherry Mandujano), Ana’s older sister and owner of the factory, Carmen (Blanca Aracelli) mother of Ana and Estela, Pancha (Jackie Garcia), and Rosalie (Claudia Duran).  All of the ladies work together in Estela’s factory.   Each one bears a self-image problem of her own. Ana, the youngest, is looking forward to going to college.  She is not happy working at the factory, but needs the money, and her sister needs her.  She tells the story through the writing in her journal.   
            Estela admits to everyone that she has gotten herself deep in debt, has fallen behind on a scheduled order for dresses to be completed, doesn’t have her green card, and is fearful of being deported unless she gets the order completed in a week to pay off her debts.   She is counting on all of them pitching in with her in order to save her and the factory. 
            The women are all for helping Estela and pull together as they work in secret, fearful of being raided by immigration authorities.  Throughout the week, with the windows and doors tightly closed in the heat of the summer, they find themselves airing problems with one or another.   However, there is never any true animosity between them.  More often they are in good moods and seem to have formed a bond with each other through the many hours working together.
            The heat finally gets to Ana and she strips down to her underwear as she speaks of feeling secure in her own body.  Her action gets her co-workers on a rampage, each one stripping down to their underwear, while relaying their views about their own bodies.  This, of course, is the climax of all that we have seen throughout the play and leads to the finale to show that Real Women Have Curves.
            The play, after all is a comedy though based somewhat on Josefina Lopez’s own life when she worked in her sister’s factory.  It gives an insight into the experiences faced by immigrants and proves the power of women.  All five women in the production proved their ability with their flawless performances.
            Real Women Have Curves plays Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 3 PM, through Nov. 18, at the Garry Marshall Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank.  Tickets are available online at GarryMarshallTheatre.org, or by calling (828) 955-8101.  Select performances will be presented Wednesday, Oct. 17 at 8 PM, Saturday, Oct, 27 at 2 PM, Sunday Nov. 4 at 7:30 PM, and Wednesday Nov.7 at 8 PM.               

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

BROADWAY BOUND by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Broadway Bound is the third play by Neil Simon (July 4, 1927 – Aug. 26, 2018) that features Eugene Jerome, a character based on his own life.  The play opened on Broadway in 1986 and closed after 756 performances.  It was nominated for four Tony Awards, winning two, one for Best Actress and one for Best Featured Actor.  In 1987 it was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize for a drama. 
            The play relates the story of Eugene Jerome (Josh Reiter) and his older brother Stanley (Matthew Nye) who work together as they dream of becoming successful comedy writers for the radio.  They live with their parents Kate (Jill Remez) and Jack (Mark Sande) and their grandfather Ben Epstein (Shelly Kurtz) in Brighton Beach.  The year is 1949.  
            All is not well at the home of the Jeromes.  The boys feel the tension pervading between their parents, and realize that Jack is having an affair.  Their aunt, well-to-do Blanch (Maria Sapssoff), tries to convince their Grandfather to move to Florida, where his wife has gone to live, in order to take the strain off of Kate. 
            When Eugene and Stanley get their first job to write for a comedy show on the radio, they base it on their family.  Jack recognizes the resemblance of the illusory family and theirs and becomes enraged.  Though Kate does her best to try to hold the family together, it is obvious that her life is not the same.  Her nostalgic conversation with Eugene reveals her heartbreak.   
            Eventually Jack makes the decision to leave.  Eugene and Stanley move out when they are offered a job that guarantees them success as comedy writers.  This leaves Kate alone in the house with Ben who, ultimately, makes the move to Florida.   
            How can one not fall in love with the characters portrayed by Neil Simon?  After all, based on his life, they are real human beings with real human problems and one can’t help having real strong feelings for them.  If his play is other than one of his comedies, he is always able to make it magical by adding enough light comedy to it.
            Howard Teichman, Artistic Director of the West Coast Jewish Theatre, directs one of the finest productions of this play that I have ever seen.  Each actor seems born for his or her role, each exceptionally realistic bringing his or her character to life.  The ideal set was designed by Kurtis Bedford.
            Broadway Bound is playing at the Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica.  It plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, through October 18, with Thursday performances Oct. 11, 18 and 25, at 8 PM.  Tickets are available online at www.wcjt.tix,com, or by phone at (323) 821-2449.


Saturday, October 6, 2018

THE CAKE by Carol Kaufman Segal
            The Cake, a play written by Bekah Brunstetter, had its world premier at the Echo Theater Company in 2017, earning rave reviews and extending for many weeks. For theater goers who might have missed this extraordinary fine production, The Geffen Playhouse has brought the entire production to its Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater.
            Della (Debra Jo Rupp) owns a bakery in Winston-Salem, North Caroline where she is known for her delicious cakes.  She is also a devout Christian.  What does that have to do with her cakes? You might ask.  You are soon to find out.  
            A young woman, Macy (Carolyn Ratteray), drops in to the bakery, but not to make a purchase.  It seems she is waiting for a friend.   Della loves to chat about her cakes, and in doing so with Macy, learns that she is an African American writer who lives in Brooklyn. When Jen (Shannon Lucio) shows up at the bakery, Della is thrilled to see the daughter of her late best friend whom she helped to raise. 
            Jen tells her she is getting married and has come back home to have the wedding where her parents were married.  She also came to ask her if she would make the cake for her wedding.   Of course, Della is thrilled, and yes, she would be very happy to make her wedding cake.  When Della inquires about who Jen is marrying, she introduces her to Macy whereby Della is flummoxed to no end.   Their conversation becomes strained and she hems and haws over the making of the cake until Jen tells her she needn’t do it.  At that moment she can’t refuse.       
            Della can’t get the whole situation out of her mind and finally tells Jen that she is unable to make the cake.  But after doing so, she becomes obsessed over her decision.  Her husband Tim (Rod McLachlan) reminds her that Jen put her in the predicament she finds herself.       
            Della is scheduled to appear as a contestant on TV’s “The Great American Baking Show”, but she begins having strange visions of what her appearance will be like as she finds herself quoting from the Bible rather than giving out her recipes!     
            Jennifer Chambers directs a superlative cast.  The play is not at all overly serious, and Debra Jo Rupp is a natural who makes one feel for her situation while she brings out its lighter moments.  
            The Cake plays Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM, through October 21, at The Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater, located in the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave, Los Angeles. Tickets are available at the Geffen Playhouse box office, by phone at (310) 5454, or online at www.geffenplayhouse.org.
            HIGHLY RECOMMENDED             

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

23 PEBBLES by Carol Kaufman Segal
            23 Pebbles is a heartfelt play written by playwright/actor Eric Ulloa, playing at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills.  It relates the story of the horrific massacre that took place on December 4, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, the mass shooting at Sand Hook Elementary School, in which 20 children and six school staff members were murdered.
            Ulloa went to Newtown to interview residents whose lives were changed forever by this atrocity.  He then created 23 Pebbles by putting them all together in an emotional and consoling play that takes place six months later.           
            The play consists of six excellent actors who each take on the role of the many number of residents whose stories make up the script.  The cast includes Jennifer Lee Laks (Jenn, Carla), Joe Lorenzo (Michael, Darren, Bill, Father Weiss), George Villas (Joe, Chris, Rabbi Shaul Praver, Mike), Jean Kauffman (Sally, Jeriann, Yolie), Michele Schultz (Gerogia, Kat, Carrie), and Roslyn Cohn (Julie, Starr, Carole). 
            Under the astute direction by Jules Aaron, these actors give a true human touch to the characters they play, and reveal how the people of Newtown came together to bond, cope, heal, and look ahead with hope for the future.
            This play will not leave you feeling down.  You will actually have an emotionally good feeling to know that the people of Newtown feel as the local rabbi remarked, “Newtown doesn’t want to be remembered as the town of tragedy.  We want to be remembered as a bridge to a new and kinder world.  It’s not about the suburbs or the urban areas.  It’s about the red blood that flows out of all of our veins.  It’s about the clear tears that flow out of our eyes.  We are all the same…”
            26 Pebbles plays Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, through October 14, at Theatre 40, located in the Reuben Cordova Theatre, on the Beverly Hills High School Campus, 241 S. Moreno Dr, Beverly Hills.  Tickets are available online at www.theatre40.org, or by phone at (310) 364-0535.


Monday, October 1, 2018

ALEICHEM SHOLOM!  The Wit and Wisdom of Sholom Aleichem by Carol Kaufman Segal           
            Sholom Aleichem (Translated from Hebrew as a greeting “Peace be with you”) was the pseudonym of Sholom Yakov Rabinovitz,  born February 18, 1859, in Pereyaslav near Kiev, Ukraine, in the Russian Empire.  He became a leading Yiddish author and playwright, the first writer to use Yiddish, the popular language of the people.
            Aleichem Sholom!  The Wit and Wisdom of Sholom Aleichem is based on the writings and letters of Sholom Aleichem and adapted for the stage by well-known husband and wife team, Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie, with songs by Ben Weisman, Emery Bernauer, Evelyn Rudie, and Sholom Aleichem himself.  .
            Through their Santa Monica Jewish Heritage Program, DeCarlo and Rudie have brought stories of Sholom Aleichem to audiences for over forty years that included Author! Author! An evening with Sholom Aleichem, The Clown Prince, The Great Fair, Sholom Aleichem on Tour, and Because of You.  This production is an addition to their “quintology” (name coined by former L.A.Times theatre critic Dan Sullivan) of keeping Jewish theater alive.
            Based on the writing and letters of Sholom Aleichem, the production features Chris DeCarlo as Sholom Aleichem in his later years as he journeys through Russia on a speaking tour, accompanied by his wife Olga (Evelyn Rudie).   She handles his schedule and worries over their finances as he entertains audiences with his wit and storytelling.  The play is interspersed with wonderful songs, and even some dancing by both DeCarlo and Rudie as their story plays out.
            It is a wonderfully written musical play, beautifully performed by DeCarlo and Rudie, who bring Sholom Aleichem, Olga, and other characters they portray, to life.
            Chris and Evelyn are exceptionally talented in every facet of the theater.  They are wonderful writers, directors, musicians, actors, singers, quick at changing characters and costumes, running a theater, teaching their skills, and I could go on and on.  Chris is celebrating 53 years with the Santa Monica Playhouse this year.  Evelyn was a child star by the age of six and has appeared in many TV productions, movies, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  This year, the husband and wife team celebrated 45 years as co-directors of the Santa Monica Playhouse,
            This play has been playing to full capacity at every performance since it opened in May of this year, and has been extended several times,  If you haven’t seen it yet, you are in luck as it  has recently been extended through November 17, with performances Saturdays at 7:30 PM , and Sundays at 3:30 PM, at the Santa Monica Playhouse located at 1211 4th Street, Santa Monica.  Tickets are available by calling the Playhouse Box Office at (310) 394-9779, or online at SantaMonicaPlayhouse.com/aleichem-sholom.html.