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  

Monday, January 28, 2019

            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          


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

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, or by calling (310) 822-8392.