Sunday, February 17, 2019





RAGTIME: THE MUSICAL by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Ragtime: The Musical is written by Terrence McNally, based on the historical novel Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow, and playing at the Pasadena Playhouse.  Though the novel is historical, the play mixes the history with fiction in a captivating production with outstanding music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and a superb talented cast.
            The play focuses on the lives of three groups of people who represent different aspects of people in America in the early 20th century.  Though they have no knowledge of one another, or reason to have, this will change as their lives interweave in a story of life, love, tragedy, and the society of its time,
            Those involved include a well-to-do white family, Mother (Shannon Warne), Father (Zachary Ford), their Little Boy (Luke Barbato Smith), Mother’s Little Brother (Dylan Saunders) and Grandfather (Gregory North), who live a comfortable life in New Rochelle. There is a Jewish immigrant, Tateh (Marc Ginsburg), who has brought his Little Girl (Laura Nermirosky) to America seeking a better life.  And then there is Coalhouse Walker, Jr. (Clifton Duncan) an African American piano player, who finds himself alone since his girlfriend Sarah (Bryce Charles) left him as a consequence of his infidelity.
            These are all citizens seeking a normal life, while having to deal with the impediments of the world around them.  In their time, the people and the country dealt with social problems such as women’s rights, racial discrimination, and immigration.  With them, the play features some of the historical figures that advanced America’s future  including Harry Houdini (Benjamin Schrader), J.P. Morgan (Tom B. McMahon), Henry Ford (Ryan Dietz), Emma Goldman (Valerie Perri), and Evelyn Nesbit (Katherine McDonough).
            After seeing the problems that touch each of these people throughout the play, we realize how relevant this lustrous musical is today.  And we have to wonder – how much advancement have we really attained in the 21st century?
            The production features a cast of 21, some performing multiple roles, a 16-piece orchestra under the direction of Darryl Archibald, choreography by Mark Exposito, beautiful costumes by Kate Bergh, and a wonderful scenic design by Tom Buderwitz, all under the astute direction of David Lee. 
            You won’t want to miss Ragtime: The Musical playing Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM at the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 So. El Molino Ave., Pasadenathrough March 9.  Tickets are available at the Pasadena Playhouse Box Office, online at pasadenaplayhouse.com or by phone at 626-7529.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED                    


Friday, February 15, 2019


THE MOUNTAINTOP by Carol Kaufman Segal
            The Mountaintop is a tour de force written by Katori Hall and playing at the Garry Marshall Theatre in Burbank.  Directed by Gregg T. Daniel, it features two outstanding actors, Gilbert Glenn Brown and Carolyn Ratteray.  The play takes place on the night of April 3, 1968, following one of Martin Luther King’s most famous and stirring speeches known as I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.  Could he have foretold what the next day would bring?
            It is a stormy night with lightning and thunder accompanying the rain when Dr. King arrives in room 306 at the Loarraine Motel following the speech that he made in Memphis, Tennessee.   He appears uneasy, wanting coffee, which he orders from room service, and cigarettes, for which he has sent a friend out to bring back to him. 
            Dr. King’s coffee is brought to him by Camae, a charming hotel maid who, at first, is spellbound by being in the company of such an icon.  But as their conversation reverts from mundane subjects to love, civil rights, and King’s hopes and fears for the future, (all the while sharing cigarettes provided by Camae since Dr King’s friend never shows up with his). He is shown to be a man like any normal man with insecurities, fears, and tribulations.
            Finally, Camae reveals her real reason for being the person sent to Dr King’s room that night which precedes the history made on April 4, 1968.  The Mountaintop is a powerful play and is captivating throughout.  Gilbert Glenn Brown and Carolyn Ratteray give exceptionally strong performances         
            The Mountaintop is playing Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 3 PM, through March 10, as well as February 23, at 2 PM and 8 PM, at the Garry Marshall Theatre, located at 4252 West Riverside Drive, Burbank.  Tickets are available online at garrymarshaltheatre.org, or call (818) 955-8101.  



HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Monday, February 11, 2019


WHOOPSIE DOOPSIE by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Whoopsie Doopsie is a play written and directed by Art Shulman playing at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood.  The play is based on a novel written by Shulman and described by him as ”a wacky, quirky, fast-paced play with eight actors, six of whom play multiple roles, with the set basically consisting only of a number of cubes and a few screens.”
            I suppose that is the best description of it and I could do no better than to add to what amounts to the plot of the play.  It centers on Billy Harrington (Robert Michael Grant), popular, good-looking high school student and son of Professor Gordon Harrington (Brad Kahn, also various male roles) and Molly Harrington (Beccy Quinn and various female roles).  The Professor is a philanderer and his wife is a wacky mom.  So, no surprise when Billy’s life is turned upside down when he gets startling news from girlfriend Joannie (Lavanya Aggarwal) that they have a problem – Joannie is pregnant.
            The entire off-beat play centers on “what should they do?” while Billy’s Dad is having an affair with Joannie’s Mom (Jane Bonham and various female roles) and, who knows, maybe Billy’s Mom is having an affair with Joannie’s Dad (Jody Bardin and various male roles).  It all adds up to just a lot of helter skelter on stage, (or what the playwright calls Whoopsie Doopsie) throughout the play before Billy and Joannie make their life decision.
            Other cast members include Robert Duquaine and Shalonda Shaw-Reese, along with the afore-mentioned cast members, who deserve credit for their performances.
            Whoopsie Doopsie  plays Saturdays at 2 PM, and Sundays at
 7 PM, through March 3, Upstairs at the Group Rep of the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd, North Hollywood.  Tickets are available at www.thegrouprep.com, or by calling (818) 763-5990.



JULIA SWEENEY: OLDER AND WIDER by Carol Kaufman Segal
           
          Comedian and actress Julia Sweeney, undoubtedly, is most recognized and remembered from her years (1990-1995) on Saturday Night Live where she created the genderless character Pat.  I was first cognizant of her prior to those years when she was a member of the wonderful improvisational company in Los Angeles, The Groundlings.
           
          If you have missed Julia Sweeney in the entertainment world, it is because she has been living in the Chicago area for the last ten years with her husband and daughter as a housewife.   Now that her daughter is in college, she has returned to Los Angeles to resume her career as a writer and performer. It is a joy having her back as an Older and Wider entertainer in her newest monologue playing at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.
           
          As she stands alone with a microphone on a bare stage, her audience becomes her confidants as she exudes her charm by telling her stories of the past ten years with humor and honesty.  She admits that she is a staunch atheist, her adopted daughter is Chinese, and her husband is Jewish, all of these characterizations revealed with humor.  She has no qualms about letting us know her political views when she has a change of heart about her daughter’s boyfriend after discovering that he is a Trump supporter!  Throughout the entire monologue, Julia Sweeney is witty, charming, affable, and down-to-earth.
            
         
Julia Sweeney: Older and Wider is playing in the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse, 1886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles.  Performances are Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM,, Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM, through February 17.  Tickets are available by going online at geffenplayhouse.org, by calling (310) 208-5454, or at the theater box office.


RECOMMENDED


Aleichem Sholom will return to The Santa Monica Playhouse for the following three weekends in March due to audience requests:  March 9 to March 24, Saturdays at 7:30 PM, Sundays at 3:30 PM.  For further information, see review dated October 1, 2018.

Thursday, February 7, 2019


LAST CALL,  playing at the Atwater Village Theatre, has been extended through March 4.  See review dated January 31, 2019

Monday, February 4, 2019


HELLO DOLLY by Carol Kaufman Segal
            The national tour of Hello Dolly arrived at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre following its run at the Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa and has been playing to a full house ever since.  There is good reason for the success of this national tour, and the answer is Betty Buckley who stars as Dolly Gallagher Levi, a widow matchmaker who decides she is working for herself this time!
            Dolly has her eyes set on Horace Vandergelder, (Lewis J. Stadlen a wealthy merchant in Yonkers, who hired her to look for a wife.  Horace is a cantankerous miser who has never shown an interest in Dolly, but she has determined that she is the perfect match for him.  Therefore, she sets up a plan in order to hoodwink him into proposing.
            The plot (book by Michael Stewart) moves along with the antics of Horaces’s two rather senseless employees, Conrelius Hackl  (Nic Rouleau) and Barnaby Tucker (Jess LeProtter), who Dolly has her hand in matching with Minnie Fay (Krtisten Hahn) and Irene Malloy (Analisa Leaming).  The action takes place (as do all musicals) interspersed with the memorable music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and outstanding dance numbers (choreographed by Warren Carlyle) performed by superb dancers.   The entire production is elegant with its beautiful scenic and luscious costumes designed by Santo Loquasto, but the most captivating aspect of this musical is its star, Betty Buckley.
            Betty Buckley’s career has included theater, film, television, and concert venues around the world.  She has received a number of accolades for her work including a 1983 Tony Award for Best Actress in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Cats, nominated for Tony Award as Best Actress in a Musical for Triumph of Love, nominated for an Olivia Award for her role as Norma Dresden in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Sunset Boulevard in London, to name a few.  Of her 18 recorded solo albums, two were nominated for Grammy Awards and she was nominated twice for two Emmy Awards.   Her list of work is mind boggling.  You can be sure she is a winner in Hello Dolly when Horace finally realizes that Dolly is his match (and by her superb performance).
            Hello Dolly plays Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 1 PM, and 6:30 PM, through February 17, at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles.  Tickets are available by calling (800) 982-2787, online at hollywoodpantages.com/hellodolly, ticketmaster.com, or at the Pantages Box Office.

 HIGHLY RECOMMENDED  

Saturday, February 2, 2019





AN INSPECTOR CALLS by Carol Kaufman Segal

            I recently saw two episodes from The Twilight Zone at Theatre 40 (see review of Rod Serling’s Stories From The Zone, dated January 28, 2019).  J.B. Priestley’s classic play, An Inspector Calls has been described by The Washington Post asan episode of The Twilight Zone wrapped in an Agatha Christie mystery”.  Stephen Daltry directs the National Theatre of Great Britain’s production playing at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills.
            Yes, one might see that connection.  However, this production, which runs for one hour and forty-five minutes without an intermission, is much more complex.  It begins with three children pulling on the curtain until it opens revealing an unusual set designed by Ian MacNeil.  A Victorian mansion, raised above the ground is seen amidst a heavy fog and rain.  The mansion is home to the very wealthy Birling Family.  As the children are playing, an elderly woman (DianaPayne-Myers) offers food to them.  Meanwhile, the Birlings are enjoying a feast as they celebrate the engagement of their daughter Sheila (Lianne Harvey) to Gerald Croft (Jeff Hammer).
            The good woman, who offered the children food, happened to be the Birling’s housekeeper Edna.  You will see her throughout the play doing her job fastidiously without ever speaking or being acknowledged in any way. She welcomes a gentleman who arrives at the mansion and announces himself as Inspector Goole (Liam Brennan) who is investigating a suicide and wishes to interrogate each of the people attending the engagement party.  Those include Sheila and Gerald as well as Sybil (Christine Kavanaugh) and Arthur Birling (Andrew Macklin), Sheila’s parents, and Eric Birling (Hamish Riddle), her brother.
            When questioned by the Inspector, all of them admit to having had a personal interaction with the same woman.  Each admits that they treated her with little regard, as a person beneath their social level.  Perhaps any one of them could have been the reason for her committing suicide.  After ending his inquisition, the Inspector departs, leaving them all with guilty consciences – but only for the moment.  Suddenly they question who really sent the Inspector to their home, and upon second thought, they return to the mansion as though none of it ever happened.  Did it?  You decide.  There is a message in Priestley’s play, that is, to show the way the wealthy treat those less fortunate than they, without compassion or a conscience.
             An Inspector Calls is playing Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 7:30 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM, through Feb. 10th, at the Bram Goldsmith Theater in the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills.  Tickets are available online at TheWallis.org/Inspector, or by calling (310) 746-4000.



Thursday, January 31, 2019





LAST CALL by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Last Call is a semi-autobiographical play by Anne Kennedy making its world premiere at Atwater Village Theatre.  Kennedy has spent many years writing and producing works for television.  She explains, in the Program Notes, how she came to turn to playwriting, basically due to the loss of both of her parents within two months.
            In this day and age, with people living into their 80’s, 90’s and even past 100, it is not unusual to find families burdened with problems when they are no longer able to care for themselves, but not willing to give up their independence.  This is the basis of Kennedy’s play directed by Lane Allison.
            Jill (Laura Richardson), a TV writer in Los Angeles (we learn later she has recently been fired) has come to visit her elderly parents in Ohio, essentially to make arrangements to move them into an assisted living facility.  Jill’s father, Walter (Ben Martin), has a problem with walking and has been diagnosed with cancer, while her mother, Frances (Lynn Milgrim), has developed dementia.    
            Jill’s brother, Ricky (Art Hall), who has problems of his own, is back living in his parent’s home after being released from rehab (again).  To add more intrigue to his situation, 16-year old Jade (Bronte Scoggins), who he met in rehab and is pregnant, shows up at the house.
            Walter is made aware of Jill’s plans for him and Frances when Annette (Stephanie Crothers), who represents the assisted living home, shows up to talk to them about moving into a place where they will be taken care of for the rest of their lives.  Walter makes it very clear to everyone in the family that he has no intention for him and Frances to ever leave their home.  He shocks everyone by telling them that he and Frances have agreed to commit suicide!     
            How will the family’s dilemma ever become solved?  Throughout the play, it appears that there is no warmth or love between the members of this dysfunctional family, but there is more love between them that comes out at special moments throughout the play between the aging parents, between the brother and sister, and at the climactic end.
            Last Call is a very well written play with a fine cast, but due to the seriousness of its subject, it is not intended to simply be entertaining, but thought provoking.  It is playing Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM, through Feb. 23, at the Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Atwater Village.  There will be one Sunday evening performance at 7 PM on Feb 17. Tickets are available by calling (323) 882-6912, or on line at www.opennfist.org.  


Monday, January 28, 2019


ROD SERLING’S STORIES FROM THE ZONE by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Rod Serling’s Stories From the Zone is playing at Theatre 40 in repertory with Alex Goldberg’s It Is Done.  (See review below).  This production brings two of Serling’s television tales to life onstage, adapted and co-directed by award-wining set designer Jeff G. Rack who co-directed with Charlie Mount.
            The first story, Mr Garrity and the Grave, takes place in 1890, in a small town in the Old West known as Happiness, Arizona.  When a stranger shows up in town by the name of Mr. Garrity, he gets the attention of the town folks when he tells them that he is able to resurrect the dead.  Naturally, no one believes Mr. Garrity’s boastful remark until a man shows up with a dead dog in a basket, asking him to bring it back to life. 
            Sure enough, everyone sees this miracle and begins paying him the fee he requests to work his “magic” to bring back their lost relatives and friends.  But all of a sudden they realize that it might not be such a good idea.  By that time, however, Mr Garrity, who tricked the citizens of Happiness, has disappeared with their money.  What happens next, after Mr. Garrity gets away with their money in hand, remains to be seen!
            The second story, Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up? takes place at a much later date in a diner on a very snowy night.  We hear a loud crash outside, and a call comes in reporting the landing nearby of a UFO, followed by a group of people who arrive at the diner.  They are all passengers on a bus bound for Boston, but they became stranded due to a nearby bridge that has become impassable. Two State Troopers arrive to inspect the diner since they found footprints from the downed UFO leading to it. 
            The Troopers learn from the bus driver that he had six passengers on the bus, and lo and behold, there are seven people who showed up in the diner!  Could one of those people be an invader of Mars who has come to overtake our Planet Earth?  When strange things happen in the diner, it is obvious there is an alien amongst them.  But no one looks any different from any other person from our Planet.  If one of them is not, how will the Troopers ever find out?  You will be left in the dark until the final moment.
            The cast, each performing a role in both plays, includes Mark Bate, John Wallace Combs, Yancey Dunham, Harry Herman, Richard Large, Meghan Lloyd, Brianna Parcel, Brian David Pope, Philip Sokoloff, Toni Trenton, Roger K. Weiss, and Jeffrey winner, while the Narrator of both plays is performed by Jeff G. Rack, all giving splendid characterizations with their performances.
            Rod Serling’s Stories From the Zone plays through February 17, at Theatre 40, located in the Reuben Cordova theatre, 241 S. Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills.  For information on dates and times, or for reservations, call (310) 364-3606.  Online ticketing is available at www.theatre40.org.          


RECOMMENDED


Wednesday, January 23, 2019




IT IS DONE by Carol Kaufman Segal
            Theatre 40, in Beverly Hills, is featuring It Is Done, a play by Alex Goldberg that is playing in repertory with Rod Serling’s Stories from the Zone.  In some ways, these two presentations have something in common; for one, It Is Done is directed by Jeff G. Rack.  Stories from the Zone features two acts, one of which is also directed by Jeff G. Rack.  But the real commonality is that you will find that both of these productions are just downright creepy. 
            It Is Done takes place in Hank’s Bar on an isolated highway, miles from nowhere.  Hank (Kurtis Bedford) is happy being isolated because he is neither particularly ambitious nor fastidious.   However, on this particular evening, he happens to have one lonely customer, Jonas (George Villas), who is in no mood to converse with Hank.  He is a very troubled man who is haunted by dreams that won’t let him escape nor forget his past.                       
            Unexpectedly, Ruby (Kate Whitney), a sensuous woman, strides into the bar asking to use the phone.  Due to a sandstorm that is raging outside, her car has broken down         and she needs to call the Auto Club for help.  It appears now, that in a desolate bar, these three idiosyncratic people, a lascivious bartender, a psychotic gentleman, and an appealing woman, are destined to spend a long time with one another.  And during that long time, you can count on something occurring that you would, nor could, ever expect to happen!
            In addition to his directing It Is Done, Jeff G. Rack, who is a top of the art set designer, created a most wonderful bar that turns out to be perfect (with a bit of moving around of parts) for both productions in repertory at Theater 40.  You won’t want to miss any of these productions.       
            It Is Done plays through February 19, at Theatre 40, located in the Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 S. Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills.  For information on dates and times or for reservations, call (310) 364-0535.  Online ticketing is available at www.theatre40.org.

RECOMMENDED  (if you enjoy being spooked!)


Wednesday, January 16, 2019




SMART LOVE by Carol Kaufman Segal
            The Pacific resident Theatre in Venice is featuring the West Coast premiere of a modern play (especially speaking scientifically) written by Brian Letscher and directed by Elina de  Santos.
            The play opens in the very early, still dark morning, at the home of Widow Sandy Wachowski (Melissa Weber Bales).  Sandy and her new love, Victor (Scott Conte) are frighteningly interrupted by someone at her door.  It turns out to be her son Benji (Zachary Grant)          who has, unexpectedly, left his studies at MIT where he was a doctoral student working in an artificial intelligence lab. 
            Benji chose this special time to arrive with a large package to surprise his mother on the eve of his parents’ 25th anniversary.  This was a surprise to end all surprises when it turned out that Benji had created an artificial intelligence form of Ron (Michael Mantell), his departed father, who looks, acts, and speaks exactly like him.  Expecting his Mother to be more than thrilled, he is let down when she is more shocked and frightened.
            Benji was obsessed by the loss of his father and seemed to have a close relationship with Sandy.  He was expecting an entirely different reaction from her having never known all of the circumstances regarding their marriage.  And what would the outcome be for Victor?
            I must admit that I enjoyed this production as it held my attention due to the fine performances by the four actors.  However, I found questions regarding the play itself.  For instance, how did Benji get away from MIT with a full-grown “body” without someone hunting him down?  Was there a message in the play when it ended?
             Smart Love plays Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 3 PM, through February 24, at the Pacific Resident Theatre located at 703 Venice Blvd., Venice, CA.  Tickets are available online at pacificresidenttheatre.com, or by calling (310) 822-8392.