Circle X Theatre Co. at Atwater Village Theatre
Reviewed by Travis Michael Holder
Jimmi Simpson and Laurie Metcalf
Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging for Circle X Theatre Co.
They say theater in Los Angeles is really going to the dogs, and that the current battle between the West Coast office of Actors’ Equity Association and its many disgruntled members is truly for the birds. Still, gratefully, the stalwartly and inexhaustibly creative barebones-transforming Circle X Theatre Company is not monkeying around. In the LA premiere of Orange Is the New Black’s writer and co-producer Nick Jones’s brightly modern countercultural comedy, no animal hero has been more notably rendered since the last time Lassie saved Timmy.
Trevor (formidable physical comedian Jimmi Simpson) returns home to his trailerpark-y domicile, upset that his attempt to get a job at a local fast-food franchise didn’t work out. His surrogate mother, Sandra (the equally formidable Laurie Metcalf), is definitely not happy he went out without her permission, especially because Trevor chose to grab her keys from their most recent hiding place and drive her car several miles to Dunkin’ Donuts to offer his services. As he whines about his lot in life since leaving behind his Hollywood career for their current domestic sub-suburban existence, Sandra talks carefully and slowly to him, slapping the back of her hand repeatedly as she intones, “No, Trevor! No, no!”
Trevor, you see, is more than your typically discouraged and relocated Hollywood performer living on his past glories. He appeared in a reality-based straight-to-DVD release with some of LA’s best-trained performers and even did a commercial with Morgan Fairchild (Brenda Strong in a series of fantasized visits to the household), creating such a special bond with his co-star that he even feels comfortable calling her a peer. “And her hair is the color of pee,” Trevor tells us in one of his many monologues where the audience—unlike Sandra and other inhabitants in the play—can understand. “That’s why she’s so popular.”
As his actor friend Oliver (Bob Clendenin), with a career so successful he wears a different outfit every day, explains to Trevor in one of his several hallucinated visits, “Behave and the whole world opens up to you.” That’s good advice for our hero, who has a problem accepting authority not only from Sandra but also from anyone, including the local sheriff (Jim Ortlieb) sent to check on him (“One phone call and you’ll never wear that cop costume again,” Trevor warns him. “I know Morgan Fairchild!”) or the animal control officer sent to follow up to help decide if Trevor has become a risky and dangerous member of the community.
Should Trevor be allowed to (a) roam free as he once did, becoming so much a local attraction that his photo is even pictured in the area’s tourism brochure, (b) be restricted to his crate in Sandra’s backyard, or (c) be sent to a facility able to handle his increasingly scary antics?
The future of Trevor as a free agent is the issue here, something the title character is having a difficult time understanding. When the authorities start showing up at Sandra’s door after their frightened neighbor Ashley (Mary Elizabeth Ellis) reports him as a menace to the ’hood and possibly to her newborn child, since Trevor doesn’t speak the same language as anyone else “real” in the play, he is instead sure their presence means he and Sandra are returning to Hollywood and a great new acting job.
This uniquely quirky contemporary play explores the frustrations we share while trying to communicate with and understand one another. But here the quest is ingeniously seen from a uniquely simian perspective. Life is hard in the ’burbs for Trevor, whom we begin to realize is a 200-pound chimpanzee trying to exist in a people-dominated world, not to mention while navigating the rollercoaster ride of a showbiz career. As Oliver, also a chimp by the way (albeit a more successful one, having starred in the Ringling Bros. all-chimpanzee production of Hamlet), reminds him in one of his dream visits, “Sometimes you groom, sometimes you get groomed…. It’s just the nature of the business.”
Jones has created an absolutely hilarious contemporary comedy, made more flawless by its dynamic cast and the snappy, visually nonstop direction of Stella Powell-Jones. Simpson and Metcalf possess incredible comedic timing. But when playing together, they make their roles sing with pitch-perfect skill, creating an amazing sense of communication between two members of different species that will make anyone seeing Trevor go home, look their alternate-species family members in the eye, and wonder if they really know what’s on their pets’ minds after all.
March 24, 2015
The English Bride
The Road on Magnolia
Reviewed by Julio Martinez
Elizabeth Knowelden and Steven Schub
Photo by John A. Lorenz
Playwright Lucile Lichtblau bases her West Coast premiere one-act three-hander, The English Bride , on the real-life 1986 aborted attempt to place a bomb—unwittingly carried in the luggage of a pregnant Irish lass—onto an El Al flight headed for the Middle East. She believed she was flying off to marry her Jordanian fiancé. He was attempting to blow her up midflight. Lichtblau utilizes these facts to construct an intricate yet thematically flimsy house of lies.
Dov (Allan Wasserman), a deceptively soft-spoken Israeli Mossad agent, relentlessly peels off the layers of factual inconsistencies being thrust at him by Eileen (Elizabeth Knowelden), a plain-Jane barmaid from Leeds, and Ali (Steven Schub), a charismatic but emotionally fragile young man, here an Arab Israeli. Director Marya Mazor elicits capable performances from the cast but cannot instill compelling substance into a work that has none.
Set in mid-1990s London, the action moves forward in a series of alternating interrogations, punctuated by flashbacks into the relationship of Eileen and Ali, played out on Kaitlyn Pietras’s adaptable modular setting. From the outset, Dov has a single agenda: to uncover the Syrian agent who was the mastermind of the bombing plot. It quickly becomes evident that he is going to get the information he wants, which reduces the ill-fated couple to the level of irrelevant. The fact that Eileen and Ali have colorful—if not often viable—tales to tell is not enough to sustain the drama; the unseen but much talked about Syrian should be onstage.
Wasserman’s Dov projects a grandfatherly gentleness and good humor when dealing with his two charges, except for the few times he doles out quick but effective corporal punishment when he senses Ali’s prevarications are wasting his time. What’s missing is any sense of urgency or doubt that he will eventually get what he wants. Schubb presents an impressive portrait of a strutting peacock who at heart is a scared little boy who would rather commit the ultimate evil than confront his parents with the truth of how he has been living.
Knowelden is memorable as this thoroughly mediocre small-town girl who glows with self-satisfaction and humor as she relates the tawdry flimflams that have punctuated her life, including the thievery that got her out of Leeds and her willingness to go to any lengths, including blackmail, to secure her upcoming nuptials.
As a writer, Lichtblau proves she can create vivid characters and entertaining dialogue. She just needs to place them in a more tangibly realized stage work.
March 12, 2015
5–April 26. 10747 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. Thu 8pm, Sat 3pm, Sun
7pm. Running time 1 hour and 40 minutes, with no intermission.
$17.50–34. (866) 506-1248.
Closer Than Ever
Good People Theatre Co. at Hollywood Piano Store
Reviewed by Bob Verini
Sara Stuckey, Jessie Withers, and David Zack
Book musicals and musical revues are two different animals, and it’s a rare theater songwriter or team that can crank out both. Many of the very best— Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Stephen Sondheim, and Frank Loesser come to mind—are responsible for brilliantly unified scores for world-class musical plays. Yet when you divorce their songs from their plots and link them together into a cabaret entertainment, the result is at best pedestrian and usually unfortunate: The lyrics don’t work outside of the original characters, or the composers’ distinctive style, applied to number after number, becomes too much of a good thing. Even Kander and Ebb’s And the World Goes ‘Round, which had a celebrated NY run and still gets performed often, is a shallow reflection of the Cabarets and Zorbas and Chicagos that it ransacks.
By contrast, the ill luck Richard Maltby Jr. (lyrics) and David Shire (music) have suffered with their book shows hasn’t kept them from crafting some of the most-interesting and supple revue scores in many years. Though Baby (1983) has its admirers, it always struck me as three thin fertility narratives attempting, and failing, to make one significant thematic statement. And while they wrote almost three times as many songs as they needed for Big (1996), they never seemed to find the right combination of numbers that would bestow unique stage integrity on the Tom Hanks movie. Put simply, the musical’s raison d’être seemed missing.
But in Starting Here, Starting Now (1976), and even more so in Closer Than Ever (1989), the team gives virtually every song its own raison d’être. The latter show, currently getting a fine local staging by Janet Miller and her Good People Theatre Company, is especially effective because it takes up so many of the personal issues Maltby and Shire attest as central to their own lives: the compromises of marriage; parenting; growing old as one’s own parents grow even older; the disjunction between the dreams we held in youth and what we settle for today. Every song tells a self-contained story, and it’s usually one with a rueful, or O. Henry–clever, twist at the tail.
There’s not a dud among the 25-odd numbers as performed in the intimate, elegant side room of the Hollywood Piano store on Front Street in Burbank. Jessie Withers and Gabriel Kalomas are as scary as they are funny as two career builders, each insisting that the other mind the baby in “Fandango.” They’re joined by David Zack in enacting a pungent modern love triangle for “She Love Me Not.” Zack teams up memorably with Sara Stuckey for the mellow “Another Wedding Song,” ruminating on past heartbreaks and new hopes:
You’re not my first, as well you know;
Once before I left when marriage beckoned. All four get strong solo opportunities, but I think I will remember Stuckey best as “Miss Byrd,” grabbing a stereotype (the quiet, businesslike administrative assistant with a wild life after hours) and nailing it with new verve. It’s no surprise that Miller, one of our top choreographers, uses the space like buttah with just the right amount of movement. She should be staging the big, big shows on a regular basis, of course, but, in building Good People, she’s scaling back for the future, and it hasn’t impaired her inventiveness any.
But you’re so much more than merely first—
You are the first to be second.
NOTE: Closer Than Ever’s musical director, Corey Hirsch, will accompany the LA Drama Critics Circle Awards show on March 16, which Bob Verini is producing.
March 2, 2015
End of the Rainbow
International City Theatre
Reviewed by Melinda Schupmann
Gigi Bermingham and Brent Schindele
Photo by Suzanne Mapes
Great talent is often accompanied by great torment. Judy Garland’s life was filled with frequent affairs, failed marriages, suicide attempts, and professional struggles even as she was declared by many to be the world’s greatest entertainer. Rather than trying to encapsulate that legendary life, playwright Peter Quilter has chosen to focus on a six-week period toward the end of Garland’s career as she tries to revive her flagging fortunes in a concert tour at London’s Talk of the Town nightclub. She is accompanied by her soon-to-be fifth husband, musician Mickey Deans.
Following last season’s portrait of opera star Maria Callas for International City Theatre, Gigi Bermingham now takes on the demanding portrayal of the iconic Garland. Rather than attempting impersonation, she and director John Henry Davis focus on Garland’s roller-coaster emotional vicissitudes and insecurities.
The scene opens with Garland and Deans (Michael Rubenstone) arriving at their hotel room. Garland is upbeat, but it is clear from the beginning that Deans’s first priority, taking on the role of manager, is keeping her away from alcohol and pills and getting her ready to perform. Also on scene is her longtime accompanist, Anthony (Brent Schindele, also music director for the production). The dynamic among the three elevates the drama from a celebrity tribute performance to a compelling look at human behavior.
Bermingham delivers Garland’s music with all the pathos and style required to emulate Garland’s emotional makeup. From “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love” to “The Man That Got Away,” Garland masks her failing health and addiction dependence as she takes the stage on Aaron Jackson’s effective Talk of the Town set. Accompanied by musicians Max O’Leary, Ashley Jarmack, John Carbone, and Schindele, the performance numbers are executed with dynamism and plenty of heart.
Schindele gives an affecting performance, particularly when Anthony tries to convince Garland to quit show business and marry him, even though he is gay. It is perhaps the finest moment in the show. Rubenstone effectively sends a mixed message as Garland’s savior and promoter. Also in a clever cameo is Wallace Angus Bruce as a radio interviewer trying to salvage a failing interview with the doped-up Garland.
In spite of the high quality of the production and Bermingham’s bravura performance, what’s missing is more of the real Judy Garland in the show. As accomplished a performer as Bermingham is, those who watched Garland over the years will notice an absence of her elusive qualities. Still, Quilter’s exploration of Garland’s tragic early demise at 47 is a cautionary tale that makes fine drama.
March 1, 2015
Musical Theatre West at Carpenter Center
Reviewed by Jonas Schwartz
Alessa Neeck and ensemble
Photo by Caught in the Moment Photography
Musical Theatre West accentuates everything best about the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic South Pacific. Director Joe Langworth has acquired a talented cast, enhanced the naturalistic script so that the songs emerge from the actors conversationally, and made sure the Pulitzer Prize–winning book scenes are as enticing as the enchanting songs.
During World War II, before the US military turns the tides against the Japanese, a US Naval base on a small island battles its own racist tendencies as the mostly Caucasian officers mingle with the Polynesian locals. A youthful nurse, Nellie Forbush (Alessa Neeck), falls for a dashing French plantation owner, Emile (Christopher Carl), who has a secret past. Newcomer Lieutenant Cable (Patrick Cummings) sneaks off to the off-limits island Bali Ha’i to rendezvous with a young Polynesian girl, Liat (Cailan Rose). American morality clashes with the island’s more accepting mores with devastating consequences. Only those who can relinquish their prejudice can emerge from the war whole.
The score feature many beloved tunes, including “Some Enchanted Evening,” “I’m In Love With a Wonderful Guy,” and the piercingly controversial “You Have to be Carefully Taught.” Hammerstein and Josh Logan’s book is naturalistic and heartfelt. One of South Pacific’s achievements is how the characters seamlessly, sometimes mid-sentence, launch into a song so that the numbers appear to be an escalation of the characters’ excitement or anguish.
Neeck conveys both innocence and a quizzical nature necessary to believably portray Nellie’s evolution from a “Cockeyed Optimist” to a mature and tolerant woman. She has a gorgeous singing voice and manages to keep her Arkansas accent throughout her songs. Carl has a thunderous bass-baritone voice and a credible French, but not overwhelming, French accent. He and Neeck have passionate chemistry. Carl’s soulful version of “Younger Than Springtime” is a highlight.
Jodi Kimura, who played Bloody Mary in the national tour, is magnetic as the brassy, manipulative street vendor. She adds a strain of malevolence to her line readings, giving her almost a demonic presence. As the cunning Luther Billis, Spencer Rowe is a brash and impish con artist. The ensemble works wonderfully together, sounding harmonious in the numbers and instilling realistic relationships among the characters.
Langworth, who worked on the acclaimed 2008 Lincoln Center production, thoroughly understands the play, directing and choreographing with assurance. The dances, such as “There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame,” are athletic and exuberant. During the Thanksgiving talent show, Langworth allows his actors to be clumsy as nurses and sailors would be, adding to the accuracy.
Castellano’s subtle orchestra allows the actors to smoothly lead into their songs. The overture allows the loud percussion to clash with the strings playing the “Bali Hai” melody, musically representing the American military’s bombardment of the South Pacific islands.
Musical Theater West brings classics as well as new work to Los Angeles with Broadway-worthy performances. This production of South Pacific is one of its gems.
February 19, 2015
14–March 1. 6200 E. Atherton Street, Long Beach. Thu-Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm
& 8pm, Sun 2pm & 7pm. “Tickets start at $20. (562) 856-1999,
The Echo Theater Company at Atwater Village Theatre
Reviewed by Dany Margolies
Troy Blendell and Jesse Fair
Photo by Darrett Sanders
This show has quite the pedigree. Its playwright, Tommy Smith, wrote last year’s insightful and inciting Firemen, featuring abandoned characters in abusive and rescuing relationships. Chris Fields directed that play to detailed perfection, cutting straight to the crux of human relationships. Smith and Fields join their immense talents here, adding a highly skilled cast to tell of three composers who lived in three eras. So what went so wrong?
The work centers on the love triangles in the lives of the Russian Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840–1893), Austrian Arnold Schoenberg (1874–1951), and Italian Carlo Gesualdo (1566–1613). The work’s title refers to a musical form involving repetition and imitation. It also likely refers to a psychiatric state involving a loss of identity. Bits about who each composer was and his musical contributions flavor the script. Artistic frustrations tie the three men together.
But Smith goes too far in trying to create a structural fugue: having the characters speak the same lines at the same time to evidence their common longings and struggles. Even if the actors could manage to get their rhythms and inflections perfectly synchronized, the effect is totally distancing.
Thus this work emphasizes form. So while the characters experience heart-wrenching events, the audience remains almost constantly aware of the architecture imposed on the storytelling. Give it this, though: The script doesn’t feel like a Movie of the Week biopic or an “And then I wrote” chronology of the composers’ lives.
Schoenberg (Troy Blendell) is in an unhappy marriage to Mathilde (Amanda Lovejoy Street). She meets and has an affair with Austrian painter Richard Gerstl (Jesse Fair). Prince Gesualdo (Karl Herlinger) seduces and marries Maria (Jeanne Syquia), who takes as her lover Fabrizio, duke of Andria (Justin Huen). Tchaikovsky (Christopher Shaw) recently married his number one fan (Alana Dietze), but he is overwhelmingly in love with his nephew (Eric Keitel).
It remains debatable whether the wives were coaxed into marriage or whether they sought the fame their husband brought to the union. History, at least superficially, tells us the men here were destroyed by artistic insecurities. Smith may be showing that the more likely causes of their breakdowns were disastrous romances.
By this time, the audience is pretty much hip to the “what” of this production. The remaining question is “why.” Apparently the many talented theatermakers involved here believed in the project, dressed it up, and put it on the stage. Well, the dressing-up part worked out beautifully. The production’s costumes, by Michael Mullin, are as good as those that have graced the Ahmanson Theatre stage.
Fields bolstered the script with some of the best actors in the city, as well as ensuring the actors here look like their real-life counterparts. But so much of this script induces puzzlement in the viewer. One example before letting this alone: Toward the end of the play, Tchaikovsky begs his nephew to open a vial of poison and drop the contents into a waiting glass of water, which Tchaikovsky will drink. Why can’t the composer handle this task on his own behalf?
There’s a lot of (simulated) sexual activity on this stage. Presumably Smith wanted to show extraordinary people doing ordinary things (assuming anal penetration with the hilt of a dagger is ordinary). Just in case this choreography doesn’t convince the audience of the composers’ passions, the red curtains surrounding the stage, and the two red-draped beds, pound in the point (pardon the pun).
February 16, 2015
14–March 22. 3269 Casitas Ave., Atwater Village. Free onsite and street
parking. Fri-Sat 8pm, Sun 7pm. Running time 2 hours, including
intermission. $25. (310)
Pride and Prejudice
Reviewed by Neal Weaver
Paul Turbiak, Greyson Chadwick, Lori Berg, and Adam Burch
Photo by Lindsay Schnebly
When this adaptation of the much-loved Jane Austen novel, by Australian writer Helen Jerome, was produced on Broadway in 1936, pictures suggest, the sets and costumes were lavish, opulent and expensive. A relatively small company like Actors Co-op had to take a more modest approach. Its efforts with the settings are generally successful. The company opted for a unit set, with a backdrop that depicts an impressionist view of the English countryside, and elegant, moveable architectural elements, in grey and white, including Corinthian columns and a couple of impressive doorways, that can be rearranged to suggest the various locales.
Vicki Conrad’s costumes, however, are a very mixed bag. Many of them are beautiful, graceful, becoming, and very much in period, but others, which appear to have been pulled from stock, seem skimpy and graceless.
Jerome’s generally adept adaptation simplifies the tale by eliminating two of the five daughters for whom the ambitious Mrs. Bennet (Deborah Marlowe) must find husbands, though when her script was adapted for the screen, the missing girls were happily restored. Otherwise, the piece seems relatively faithful to the novel.
At the heart of the story, the independent-minded Elizabeth Bennet (Greyson Chadwick) is both attracted and repulsed by the stern and taciturn Mr. Darcy (Paul Turbiak). Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s sister Jane (Ivy Beech) is first courted and then dumped by the amiable Mr. Bingley (Brandon Parrish). The necessary conflict is provided by Mr. Wickham (Sean McHugh), the caddish seducer and fortune-hunter who elopes with the youngest Bennet sister, Lydia (Francesca Fromang).
The pretentious Mr. Collins (Adam Burch) who stands, under the law of entail, to inherit the Bennet estate after Mr. Bennet’s death, adds to the complications. Stirring the pot is Darcy’s imperiously aristocratic aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Lori Berg), who locks horns with Elizabeth over her suitability as a bride for Darcy.
Chadwick is a spirited and attractive Elizabeth, well matched by Turbiak’s Darcy. While Olivier, in the film, played Darcy as a romantic figure, Turbiak gives us a forbidding man imprisoned in his own rectitude, whose romantic side is revealed only gradually as love shatters his composure. Beech’s languishing Jane is a sympathetic figure, and Parrish’s Bingley exudes optimism and good humor.
Marlowe’s Mrs. Bennet scores her comic points with zest, and Bruce Ladd is an admirable foil as her long-suffering husband. Burch is a bit over the top as Collins, but the audience adored him. Berg gives us a stylish and stylized portrait of the bullying Lady Catherine. Director Linda Kerns faithfully preserves the period flavor and expertly marshals her cast of 20.
Despite the period trappings, the piece doesn’t seem out of date. Jane Austen had a clear-eyed view of society, and pride and prejudice will always be with us.
February 13, 2015
6–March 15. 1760 N. Gower St. (located on the grounds of First
Presbyterian Church of Hollywood). Fri-Sat 8pm, Sun 2:30pm (additional
Saturday performances Feb. 14 and March 14, 2:30pm). Running time 2 and a
half hours, including intermission. $20–30. (323) 462-8460, ext. 300.
Cabrillo Music Theatre
Reviewed by Jonas Schwartz
Shelley Regner and Alxander Jon
Photo by Ed Krieger
Launching a version of Company, Stephen Sondheim’s groundbreaking 1970s musical, is a daunting task. The script focuses on Bobby, a passive character who observes his friends’ marriages. It requires a compelling actor who fills the vessel that Sondheim and his librettist George Furth had forged. The production at Cabrillo Music Theater features several stellar performances but ultimately can’t survive a bland Bobby.
Several vignettes strung together by Sondheim’s striking score, Company shines a light on the evolving (or devolving) marriage unit in the 1970s. Drugs, alcohol, divorce, casual sex, and neuroses prevent the characters from growing. Their emotional handicaps have taken a toll on their single friend Bobby (Alxander Jon). His friends phone him incessantly, harp on his relationships, and treat him like a crutch and a surrogate spouse. Bobby sees these cracked relationships and chooses to remain closed off from love. He dates several flighty girls but has no desire to make a connection. When he wants to marry, it’s not for love but to fill a void. As his friend Amy says, “You have to want to marry somebody, not some body.” He finally has an epiphany, reflected in his closing number, “Being Alive.”
Director Nick DeGruccio imbues this production with a sense of isolation through staging and lighting. Even when people are surrounded by friends, they seem out of touch, outcasts at their own parties. The direction offers a palpable subtext of loneliness that haunts the play. Unfortunately, DeGruccio allows his cast too many pregnant pauses during book scenes, and much of the dialogue sags. Alexander Jon is an affable actor with a pleasant voice, though he go off-pitch at times. Problematically, his Bobby lacks the backbone or charm to command the audience’s empathy. In his scenes with Bobby’s girlfriends, he comes off smug. When with his dynamic friends, he becomes a wallflower.
Several actors stand out, giving exemplary portrayals. Tracy Lore is perfectly cast as the acerbic Joanne. She unleashes venom in “The Ladies Who Lunch” and an inestimable sadness beneath the cold façade. Shelley Regner as the panic-stricken Amy takes the tongue twisting “Getting Married Today” and turns it in a free-flowing stream of terror. Her comic timing is tight, and she makes one wish the story would center on her. Chelsea Emma Franko’s belting voice makes “Another Hundred People” a jolting anthem.
Cassie Nickols’s vibrant orchestra adds extra sting to Sondheim’s music and Jonathan Tunick’s arrangements. Thomas Marquez’s costumes reflect the swinging ’70s, while Tom Buderwitz’s set is functional while representing the overbearing city crushing its inhabitants.
Sondheim’s Company is a masterpiece. It reflects how the flower-power ’60s crashed and burned in the early ’70s, leaving a generation struggling for fulfillment. The musical requires a Bobby who’s less scrambled than the one here.
January 31, 2015
23–Feb. 8. 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks. Thu 7:30pm, Fri 8pm,
Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 2pm. $30–69. (800)
Theatre 40 at Greystone Mansion
Reviewed by Travis Michael Holder
Darby Hinton and Daniel Leslie
Photo by Ed Krieger
For the past 13 years, the prolific Theatre 40, now celebrating its 50th year, has presented a singular environmental experience that leads theatergoers on a journey through the massive reverberating halls of E.L. “Ned” Doheny’s Greystone Mansion, the infamous palatial estate nestled in the hills above Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills.
Designed by noted SoCal architect Gordon Kaufmann, Greystone was completed in 1928 on 12.5 acres of primo real estate with a breathtaking view of Los Angeles. The property was given to Doheny as a wedding gift by his incredibly oil-rich father. The original cost to construct the sprawling 55-room, 46,054-square-foot main house alone was $1,238,378. Including the maze-like grounds—which originally comprised stables, kennels, tennis courts, a fire station, gatehouse, swimming pool and pavilion, greenhouse, lake, babbling brooks, and cascading waterfalls—the entire estate set the Dohenys back a trifling $3,166,578.
Still, great wealth never seems to guarantee happiness and, on the night of Feb. 16, 1929, Ned Doheny was shot to death inside his expansive stone manor house at age 36, victim of an apparent murder-suicide perpetrated by his longtime personal friend and aide Hugh Plunket.
Playwright Kathrine Bates, who appears in The Manor as fictionalized family matriarch Marion MacAlister, has crafted a clever theatrical experience inspired by the Dohenys’s sad true story, uniquely performed on the grounds and in the very rooms where the real events occurred all those years ago. As butler and narrator James (Daniel Lench) explains to the gathered at the show’s very beginning, the names have been changed “to protect the guilty.”
The cast appearing as the MacAlister-Dohenys and their close associates is exceptional throughout. Finding reality and balance while making themselves heard and trying to seem natural performing in the mansion’s high-ceilinged, stone-walled echoing chambers cannot be an easy task, but this veteran ensemble succeeds splendidly.
Director Flora Plumb guides her players (based on the original staging of this production by Beverly Olevin) to keep the scenes crisp and uniform in length as the mansion’s three loyal servants (beautifully played by Lynch, Katherine Henryk, and Esther Levy Richman) lead three separate groups of audience members from room to room as scenes are enacted in a loop before them.
Darby Hinton is particularly noteworthy as Charles MacAlister, the embattled and eventually crushed patriarch who rose from poverty to unreal wealth and fame. Bates is affecting as his loyal wife, especially memorable in a late scene with Melanie McQueen as Cora Winston, the gossipy yet long-suffering wife of a Foghorn Leghorn–style blowhard US senator (Daniel Leslie) whose gambling debts and crooked deals nearly leave the MacAlister clan in disgrace and ruin—analogous to the Teapot Dome scandal, which rocked the administration of President Warren Harding and almost sent the elder Doheny to prison along with Harding’s Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall.
John-Paul Lavoisier and Ben Gavin stand out as the MacAlisters’s doomed son Sean and his executioner Gregory Pugh, subtly bringing into their rather stereotypical roles, with body language alone, something perhaps intentionally omitted in Bates’s otherwise worthy adaptation: the long-rumored reason why Plunkett murdered Ned Doheny, the kind of relationship people back then referred to as the “love whose name cannot be spoken.”
The story’s timing, too, has been changed from history. Here it spans the younger MacAlister’s tenancy in the manor across 10 years; in actuality, Ned Doheny and his family lived at Greystone only five months before his murder. This is an understandable adjustment to make the timeline work in two acts. But, although much of Bates’s dialogue, especially James’s lyrical opening and final monologues, is evocative, any viewers with a tad of historical OCD might wince at conspicuous missteps. These include Cora’s use of the term “bad-mouthing,” which didn’t come into the American lexicon until many years later, as well as the moment when Gregory’s gold-digging shrew of a wife, Henrietta (Sarah van der Pol), enters the wedding party in her flapper finery singing Dubin & Warren’s “We’re in the Money,” a song not written until 1933.
The real star of the show here, of course, is Greystone. There’s something oppressively lonely and forlorn about the place, a feeling that sinks in and chills your bones while you follow the actors through the halls and from one jaw-dropping room to the next, ultimately affording pensive evidence to support the thought that, as Bates relates, “Tragedy knows no bounds of race, creed, or social standing.” If indeed, as many people insist is true, Greystone Mansion is haunted by the restless ghosts of the Doheny family, hopefully their spirits remain content with the continuing success of The Manor, enough at peace to tolerate this fictionalized telling of their notorious downward spiral in spite of incredible wealth and privilege—and allow those who experience it to leave for home a tad more grateful for what they themselves have.
January 31, 2015
Loma Vista Dr., Beverly Hills. See show’s website for schedule, but in
general: Thu-Fri 6pm, occasional Sat 1pm shows (note early curtain). $55 (plus $3 service charge) (310) 694-6118.
Dame Edna’s Glorious Goodbye: The Farewell Tour
Reviewed by Bob Verini
Barry Humphries and ensemble…and ensemble
Photo by Craig Schwartz
Dame Edna! The mere title and name connote rapier wit, lightly off-color insults, and self-obsession, in the ultimate unabashed satire of celebrities’ narcissism, not to mention their closet contempt for the paying customers. Barry Humphries’s genius creation isn’t a character anymore; she’s a brand, and the brand is in its usual shape in this latest and apparently last appearance at the Ahmanson.
This long—rather too long, probably—evening can be highly recommended to no one who’s ever seen Edna. I mean, how many more chances are you going to get? And those who are deliriously in love with her shtick certainly aren’t waiting for the likes of me to give them the high sign; they’ve likely been and come back already. It’s those of us in the middle, who enjoy and admire the work yet with a critical eye, who may find that the timing is just a bit off, the laughter just a bit less explosive and prolonged.
“I don’t think of this as a show. I think of it as an intimate conversation between two people, one of whom is much more interesting than the other.” It’s a good line, as it was back in 1999 when I first encountered her in The Royal Tour on Broadway. I don’t remember her using it five years later in her next Gotham appearance, Back With a Vengeance, but her overall playbook hasn’t changed much in each of the extravaganzas. If Humphries means it, and this really is the farewell tour,” he’s certainly letting Edna go out true to form.
It goes like this. A film segment introduces us to the “lady” and her rise. (This year’s is a variation on an E! Channel expose.) We meet her as she’s accompanied by a few chorus members on halfhearted display, and then she talks. To the orchestra (“Hello, possums!”), to the balconies (“Hello, paupers”), and above all to the individuals in the first five or six rows who look like they’ll end up good targets.
Edna may have a little more trouble hearing spectators’ names than in the past, but she’s just as sharp in gently tweaking their backgrounds (“You live in…Pa-coi-ma?”), clothes, and hairstyles, and above all condescendingly reveling in the adoration she assumes everyone feels for her. If anyone has the temerity to stand up or fight back, she coolly blows them away—hecklers beware. A few celebrity names are dropped for some more snark; the highs and lows of her careers and life are recollected; and intermission.
After the interval, there’s more reminiscence and banter with the audience, followed by an extended segment in which two hapless spectators are brought up on stage to participate in some sort of elaborate charade. This year’s prank—having two strangers get married in a ceremony over which Edna officiates—was pretty great, followed as it was by a live, audible-to-us phone conversation with the son of the “bride”; though I have to say it never hit the heights of her most brilliant Ionescopade in 1999, when she had a spaghetti dinner catered onstage for two patrons and forced them to eat while we watched and she commented. Talk about turning the tables. (As I recall—Dame Edna appearances tend to blur in the mind—dinner was followed by a call to a diner’s unsuspecting babysitter.)
Truth be told, nothing in this Farewell Tour is fresher than the material from past visits, but who’d expect it to be? Humphries is turning 81 next month, and traversing the world while constantly slipping in and out of gowns, a giant purple fright wig, and layers of makeup must take its toll. He/she is hanging in there, a little shaky in the pins but every bit as rascally as ever, and attention must be paid.
For the first time (that I know of, anyway), Humphries steps out of character at the end to thank everyone for their longtime fandom and support. It’s a nostalgic, oddly sad moment, as if he were signaling that this is really, really, the last appearance. If so, Dame Edna is going out with no need for apologies. She’s made us roar and, in her slyer potshots at celebrity and fandom, made us think a little as well. Shake those gladiolas for her, fellas.
January 31, 2015
28–March 15. 135 N. Grand Ave. Showtimes vary, but in general Tue-Fri
8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 1pm & 6:30pm. Running time 2 hours and
30 minutes, including intermission. $55–115.(213) 972-4400.
Billy Elliot, the Musical
La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
Reviewed by Melinda Schupmann
Vicki Lewis and Mitchell Tobin
Photo by Michael Lamont
After the success of the 2000 film Billy Elliot, it wasn’t a stretch to imagine making the story into a musical. Lee Hall, who wrote the screenplay, created the musical’s book and lyrics, and with the help of Elton John’s music and Stephen Daldry’s direction, turned out a production that is still currently playing in England today. Concerns over how the British working-class dialogue might play out on a world tour evaporated when productions were widely successful as the musical turned global. The appeal of dreams realized is universal.
In the McCoy Rigby Entertainment show at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, a down-to-the-wire replacement for Billy occurred when Noah Parets, the original cast member, broke his arm during rehearsals. With only a week before the opening, 14-year-old Mitchell Tobin stepped in as the little boy who chooses dancing over boxing. Since the success of the show depends, in a large part, on the charisma of the actor playing the title role, it was a knuckle-biter, but Tobin more than exceeds expectations.
The show is gritty and has at its core the unhappy coal miner’s strike in northern England in the 1980s. Billy’s Dad (David Atkinson) is rough and angry, not necessarily ingredients for accepting his son’s desire to dance ballet, hence the conflict. As the story begins and Billy almost accidentally discovers his passion, the scene is set for the fulfillment of Billy’s hopes and aspirations by show’s end.
Director Brian Kite masterfully combines the darker elements of the storyline and the somewhat forgettable musical score with energy enough to convince the audience that improbability can triumph. Dana Solimando’s choreography also goes a long way toward making the story appealing.
As Mrs. Wilkerson, the ballet teacher whose gaggle of little girls is less than inspiring, Vicki Lewis delivers humor and a cocky edge as she encourages Billy to pursue his talents. Her feisty exchanges with Atkinson as he tries to prevent Billy from dancing are standout. Atkinson is also excellent as the bewildered widower who finds parenthood a challenge in the midst of social upheaval in his life.
Also interjecting much-needed humor is Billy’s friend Michael (Jake Kitchin), a cross-dressing pal who shows Billy the joys of female attire. Kitchin is ebullient and shines in his characterization. Another notable is Marsha Waterbury as Billy’s forgetful grandmother. Her rendition of “Grandma’s Song,” an account of her unhappy marriage and struggles, is moving and a welcome addition to the musical numbers.
The overall ensemble for this production is well-cast, with many noteworthy cameos. Stephen Weston as Billy’s brother Tony adds pathos as he rails against the plight of the miners and their probable defeat at the hands of the government. Kim Huber provides touching moments as the ghost of Billy’s mother.
There are two standout moments in the show for Tobin. One is when he imagines his future as a dancer, with Brandon Forrest as adult Billy; the other is a passionate solo filled with anger and frustration. At these moments, the vision of the story is richly articulated.
Casting is at the heart of the success of this production, and McCoy Rigby has gathered a colorful group to spin out the story. Though at times a bit too formulaic, it still provides a worthwhile foray into British musical theater.
January 27, 2015
8. 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada. Ample free parking. Wed-Thu 7:30,
Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 2pm. $20-70 (562) 944-9801 or (714)
Love, Sex and the I.R.S.
Palos Verdes Performing Arts at Norris Theatre
Reviewed by Dany Margolies
Bryan Dobson, Diane Vincent, and Jeffrey Cannata
Photo by Melissa Mollo
Farce. It’s that theatrical plot in which a character—apparently always male—tells a lie and gets wound up in it. Then, somehow, over the course of two hours, he manages to unwind himself and earn the forgiveness of his fellow characters. Not many stage productions of farce succeed. This one does, earning top marks all around.
Billy van Zandt and Jane Milmore wrote the play in the late 1970s, and director Ken Parks sets his version in that era. The play is considerably funnier in that context. Somehow, in the 1970s, love seemed easier, sex more daring, and tax fraud less common and less troubling.
The writing seems well-plotted, explaining away possible inconsistencies and leaving the audience free to howl at the one-liners. Or perhaps this production makes the situations more plausible because of Parks’s crisp staging and the spectacular comedic chops of this cast.
The play takes place in the Manhattan apartment of two men: starving musicians Jon and Leslie. Jon has finally found work for their band. In Weehawken. At a bar mitzvah. The following October. In the meantime, Jon has been saving money by preparing his own, and Leslie’s, taxes. He has saved them further money by filing as husband and wife. They’re being audited. In two hours. Jon swiftly persuades Leslie to cross-dress and pretend they’re married.
In the blink of an eye, Leslie grows petulant. Meanwhile, Jon’s idea of feminizing the apartment is to accessorize with throw pillows and antimacassars, making it look as if their great-grandmother lives there.
Jeffrey Cannata is an extremely gracious actor. Playing Jon, this solid scene partner lets the storm swirl around his character rather than grabbing attention. So as Jon’s panic and desperation gradually increase, the audience buys into the story.
David Herbelin, meanwhile, is thoroughly physically invested in Leslie. By the time Leslie gets into a dress, heels and wig (costumes by Christina Bayer), Herbelin is into female mode, starting with a simpering grin. As Leslie gets tenser, Herbelin’s brow furrows ever deeper, and his shoulders creep up around his ears, nearly touching the bouncy copper curls of his god-awful wig.
Adding other farcical elements, Jon’s girlfriend Kate has the warmies for Leslie. But she sticks by Jon, even helping to dress Leslie. Playing Kate, Shannon Fitzpatrick is half Herbelin’s size, ensuring laughs when he squeezes into her once-dainty dresses. Leslie, smitten with Kate, has been ignoring his girlfriend Connie. Elaine Hayhurst brings the Jersey Shore to the stage as she plays the lovelorn lass.
The playwriting device of an invasive landlord lets doors get slammed and window ledges get utilized. Kevin Paul plays him with a deep well of chutzpah. Naturally, Jon’s mom happens by from Chicago in the midst of all this. Playing her, Diane Vincent starts as an average concerned mother. But as the scotch flows, she becomes pratfallingly tipsy, then passing-out drunken, melting over much of the sofa. None of this affects Vincent’s ability to deliver a punch line.
And now for the I.R.S. portion of the evening. Bryan Dobson plays agent Floyd Spinner, who’s clean-cut, bespectacled, and garbed in a starchy suit and tie. But after several schooners of scotch, Spinner’s true, vibrant colors come out as Dobson ratchets up the comedy. Dobson’s old-time shtick is polished to a gleam, and still he makes it seem fresh and immediate and totally tailored to the character.
Even the interstitial music adds to the humor of this show. Cue “Ladies’ Night” and “Taxman,” and the audience is dancing in its seats. Cue “Macho Man” for the curtain call, and the cast is dancing during the bows. Cue theater this good, and everyone is beaming on the walk back to the car.
Jan. 24–Feb. 8.
27570 Norris Center Dr., Rolling Hills Estates. Free parking. Fri-Sat 8pm, Sun 2pm. Running time 2 hours, including intermission.
$25–55. (310) 544-0403, ext. 221.
Time Stands Still
Secret Rose Theatre
Reviewed by Julio Martinez
Nik Isbelle, Aidan Bristow, Presciliana Esparolini, and Troy Ruptash
Photo by Dan Warner Photography
Donald Margolies’s sojourn within the lives of two conflicted battlefield journalists, who are attempting to readjust their lives and relationship now that they are separated from the foreign conflicts that originally drew them together, is given a deeply involving up-close-and-intimate outing at Secret Rose Theatre in NoHo.
The play’s title aptly applies to the emotion-rending events that battered the body of photographer Sarah (Presciliana Esparolini) and crippled the psyche of her journalist lover James (Aidan Bristow). Sensitively guided by helmer Vicky Jenson, Esparolini and Bristow offer a finely detailed, emotionally compelling pas de deux as Sarah and James attempt to achieve a level of post-war-zone compatibility as a “normal” couple living in a Brooklyn flat.
Margolies doesn’t supply any feel-good resolutions to the conflicts he sets up. He supplies only struggles, leading to arbitrary decisions. This is a good thing because Sarah and James eventually come at each other with raw nerve-endings and naked souls. Esparolini’s Sarah is combative, fighting the limitations of her bomb-blasted limbs, the sometimes claustrophobic needs of the man she loves, and her own sense that she is not appreciated professionally. Yet she projects a loving soul who truly wants to please James and keep him safe.
Bristow offers an effective portrait of a much more emotionally closeted writer who finally hit a wall of battlefield horror that he could not get past. Now he is slowly coming to terms with a changing agenda about how he wants to live the rest of his life. Bristow’s James seems to bloom as he only too gladly settles into the insignificant everyday pleasures of civilian life.
Supplying well-timed point and counterpoint to this saga are the journalists’ middle-aged editor and longtime friend Richard (Troy Ruptash) and his much younger girlfriend Mandy (Nik Isbelle). This is not an infusion of equals. There is no free-flowing intellectual/aesthetic discourse amongst this quartet. Helmer Jenson admirably achieves a balance among competing agendas and blatant contentiousness, smoothly moving the action forward, solidifying the reality that these four are deeply committed to one another.
Ruptash’s Richard, who at one time had a relationship with Sarah, projects a believable amalgam of heartfelt concern for and editorial detachment from the often demanding Sarah/James duo. Isbelle’s comedically gifted outing as Mandy provides welcome relief, as she undercuts Sarah’s and James’s journalistic highhandedness, telling them people don’t want to read all their “bummer” pieces.
Complementing the proceedings is the original music underscoring of music director Craig Richey. Tim Paclado’s setting certainly realizes the space limitations of an average Brooklyn apartment, but also causes occasional awkward stage movement.
January 21, 2015
17–Feb 8.11246 Magnolia Blvd. Handicap accessible; street parking
available. Fri-Sat 8pm, Sun 2pm & 7pm. Running time 1 hour and 50
minutes, including intermission. $30. (323)
Jack Lemmon Returns
Reviewed by Jonas Schwartz
Two-time Oscar winner Jack Lemmon has always been at the top echelon of acting talent. A gifted comedian (he represented Billy Wilder’s personification of the everyman in The Apartment and Irma La Douce) and modern tragedian (his alcoholic characters in Days of Wine and Roses and Save the Tiger are Shakespearean in scope) demonstrate a tremendous range. His son Chris Lemmon’s one-man show toasts his father’s accomplishments and delves into their complicated relationship.
Utilizing conversations with Chris Lemmon as well as Chris’s memoir, A Twist of Lemmon: A Tribute to My Father, author-director Hershey Felder follows Jack’s early life with a stern father and flamboyant mother (she was the model for Daphne in Some Like It Hot), his first amateur performances, college life at Harvard, and his career. Lemmon shares his father’s good moments and low points, which sometimes occurred at the same time: The night Lemmon won his first Oscar for Mister Roberts in 1956, he abandoned his first wife at the ceremony to leave for after-parties, signaling the end of their marriage. Jacks’ alcoholism and personal parallels to his characters in Days of Wine and Roses and Save the Tiger are disclosed.
The best reason to recommend Jack Lemmon Returns is Chris’s winning personality. He imitates his father’s voice adroitly and changes his normal expressions to evolve into Jack. He captures Jack’s cadence, humor, and nervous tics. Chris stares directly into audience members’ eyes, creating a sense of intimacy. He plays piano with style, a skill he learned from his father. Director Felder should have relied on footage of Jack’s best scenes instead of having Chris enact them. Because these moments and Jack’s talent are ingrained in the audience’s memory, it comes off as a peculiar choice.
Felder’s script doesn’t delve as deeply as it should have done. The timelines are unclear, leaving the audience confused. Chris mentions Jack’s alcoholism while discussing the death of Jack’s best friend Walter Matthau, but it’s uncertain if Jack admitted and treated his alcoholism at that time only (12 months before Jack died) or if he came to grips with the disease earlier in life and Felder chose to draw the parallels at that point in the script. The relationship between Chris and Jack also could have used fleshing out. The show tells good stories of Chris’s youth and Jack’s abortive attempts to spend time with him; but then nothing mentioned about their interactions during many years.
Also, because the crux of the story involves their relationship, it would have been intriguing to hear from Chris how the addition of a half-sister positively or negatively affected him. Did he see his father be more attentive to her than he had been to Chris, or did he repeat patterns? As Felder has done in his own works, he focuses on Jack’s films and peppers those times with anecdotes instead of painting a full picture of the man.
Despite script issues, Jack Lemmon Returns is a loving but complicated portrait of a revered man told by the son who obviously adored him. Chris Lemmon not only exposes new dimensions of an American legend but also reveals himself to be a charismatic stage presence.
January 12, 2015
7–25. 1310 11th St.See Broad Stage website for schedule. Running time 1
hour 45 minutes, no intermission. $54-175. (310) 434-3200.
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Reviewed by Dany Margolies
Amanda Blake Davis and Robyn Norris
Sometimes theater is about humankind’s greatest achievers. Sometimes it’s about supremely tragic figures. And sometimes, as with this show, it’s about the rest of us.
A group of Second City’s fine performers went off piste and conducted a social experiment. After Robyn’s (Robyn Norris) friend posted a profile on a dating site and asked Robyn to check it over, Robyn set up an account to access the site. Robyn created the outlandish profile of an admittedly “crazy-insane person” she named TracyLovesCats. A shockingly large number of men—and women—responded, begging for various forms of contact with “Tracy.”
Norris’s fellow troupe members Chris Alvarado, Rob Belushi, Amanda Blake Davis, Kate Duffy, and Bob Ladewig joined in, posting outrageous profiles no one could possibly think were anything other than a joke. These performers’ “sketch” show, Undateable, re-enacts verbatim the heartfelt responses by real, everyday people to these perverse personals.
So, even though Rob (Belushi) pushed the intimacy-phobic envelope with DoorSlamEric, women think Eric is dateable. And although PioneerInABox (Kate Duffy) gets busted (she claims to function as if in the 1860s, yet she’s online), she manages to lure interest. Even Amanda’s (Blake Davis) age-questionable Old4U75 appeals to a prospective beau.
The show, a fascinating concept, is well-structured and is imaginatively directed by Frank Caeti. It is also, of course, hilarious, though a strong strain of sympathy runs through it. And even though the show has been running for months, the performers have fresh energy. These performers are more interested in telling their story than in “being funny,” so the laughs come from the audience’s self-recognition and not from any obnoxious stage-hogging shenanigans.
The troupe sings and dances—and not badly—to enhance several of their “scientific” points about romantic behavior. A few minutes of improv at the end of the show reflect the performers’ well-honed chops.
Locational cautions: The venue is in Hollywood where street parking has a two-hour limit, metered until midnight on Fridays. The show is a mere one hour, but it undoubtedly will start a few minutes late. In addition, the theater is upstairs, and the site has no elevator. But if you’re swift and spry, head on up there for a dose of reality. It will probably provide you with more than several hearty belly laughs. It might also make you weep for mankind.
August 19, 2013
Sage Awards 2014
Buyer & Cellar, Center Theatre Group at Mark Taper Forum
Everything You Touch, The Theatre @ Boston Court and Rattlestick Playwrights Theater at The Theatre @ Boston Court
Henry V, Pacific Resident Theatre
Stupid Fucking Bird, The Theatre @ Boston Court and Circle X Theatre Company at The Theatre @ Boston Court
The Curse of Oedipus, The Antaeus Company
Mickey Birnbaum, Backyard, The Echo Theater Company at Atwater Village Theatre
Sheila Callaghan, Everything You Touch, The Theatre @ Boston Court and Rattlestick Playwrights Theater at The Theatre @ Boston Court
Scott Carter, The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord, NoHo Arts Center and Geffen Playhouse
Kenneth Cavander, The Curse of Oedipus, The Antaeus Company
Greg Pierce, Slowgirl, Geffen Playhouse
Marja-Lewis Ryan, One in the Chamber, 6140 Productions & Lounge Theatre at Lounge Theatre
Tommy Smith, Firemen, The Echo Theater Company at Atwater Village Theatre
Aaron Posner, Stupid Fucking Bird, The Theatre @ Boston Court and Circle X Theatre Company at The Theatre @ Boston Court
Troubadour Theater Company, Abbamemnon, Troubadour Theater Company at Falcon Theatre
Matt Almos, Brendan Milburn and Burglars of Hamm, The Behavior of Broadus, Sacred Fools Theater Company and Burglars of Hamm at Sacred Fools Theater
Guillermo Cienfuegos, Henry V, Pacific Resident Theater
Jessica Kubzansky, Everything You Touch, The Theatre @ Boston Court and Circle X Theatre Company at The Theatre @ Boston Court
Robin Larsen, A Delicate Balance, Odyssey Theatre
Michael Michetti, Stupid Fucking Bird, The Theatre @ Boston Court and Circle X Theatre Company at The Theatre @ Boston Court
Marcus Choi, Beijing Spring, East West Players at the David Henry Hwang Theater
Julie Hall, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Actors Co-op at the Crossley Theatre
Spencer Liff, Spring Awakening, Deaf West Theatre in association with The Forest of Arden, at Inner City Arts
Jake Anthony, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Actors Co-op at the Crossley Theatre
Eric Heinly, The Snow QUEEN, Troubadour Theater Company at Falcon Theatre
David O, Floyd Collins, La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
John O’Neill, Harmony, Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre
Jared Stein, Spring Awakening, Deaf West Theatre in association with The Forest of Arden, at Inner City Arts
Tom Buderwitz, A Delicate Balance, Odyssey Theatre
Melissa Ficociello, The Last Act of Lilka Kadison, Falcon Theatre, Abbie Phillips and Jan Kallish in association with Lookingglass Theatre Company, at the Falcon Theatre
Stephen Gifford, Backyard, The Echo Theater Company at Atwater Village Theatre
Andrew Hammer, Broomstick, Fountain Theatre
Jeff McLaughlin, Pray to Ball, Skylight Theatre
Leigh Allen, A Delicate Balance, Odyssey Theatre
Francois-Pierre Couture, The Curse of Oedipus, The Antaeus Company
Guido Girardi, Beijing Spring, East West Players at the David Henry Hwang Theater
Lisa D. Katz, Floyd Collins, La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
Luke Moyer, The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord, NoHo Arts Center and Geffen Playhouse
Gregg Barnes, Kinky Boots, Pantages Theatre
Jenny Foldenauer, Everything You Touch, The Theatre @ Boston Court and Rattlestick Playwrights Theater at The Theatre @ Boston Court
Sharon McGunigle, The Snow QUEEN, Troubadour Theater Company at Falcon Theatre
Peter Bayne, Broomstick, Fountain Theatre
Richard Woodbury, Slowgirl, Geffen Playhouse
PERFORMANCE IN A PLAY
Brooke Adams, Happy Days, The Theatre @ Boston Court
Hugo Armstrong, Backyard, The Echo Theater Company at Atwater Village Theatre
Rae Gray, Slowgirl, Geffen Playhouse
O-Lan Jones, A Delicate Balance, Odyssey Theatre
Eric Lange, The Country House, Geffen Playhouse
Abigail Marks, Top Girls, Antaeus Theatre Company
Kristine Nielsen, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Center Theatre Group at Mark Taper Forum
Ann Noble, The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia?, Los Angeles LGBT Center at The Davidson/Valentini Theatre at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Village at Ed Gould Plaza
Jaimi Paige, Venus in Fur, South Coast Repertory
William Petersen, Slowgirl, Geffen Playhouse
David Selby, A Delicate Balance, Odyssey Theatre
Susan Sullivan, A Delicate Balance, Odyssey Theatre
Kirsten Vangsness, Everything You Touch, The Theatre @ Boston Court and Rattlestick Playwrights Theater at The Theatre @ Boston Court
Paul Witten, The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia?, Los Angeles LGBT Center at The Davidson/Valentini Theatre at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Village at Ed Gould Plaza
Jacqueline Wright, Backyard, The Echo Theater Company at Atwater Village Theatre
PERFORMANCE IN A MUSICAL
Carter Calvert, Always…Patsy Cline, El Portal Theater
Larry Raben, The Drowsy Chaperone, Norris Center for the Performing Arts/Palos Verdes Performing Arts at Norris Theatre
Jeff Skowron, The Producers, 3-D Theatricals, Plummer Auditorium and Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center
Kyle Taylor Parker, Kinky Boots, Pantages Theatre
Peter Allen Vogt, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Actors Co-op at the Crossley Theatre
Stuart Ward, Once, Pantages Theatre and Segerstrom Stage
Mark Whitten, Floyd Collins, La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
Kris Andersson, Dixie’s Tupperware Party, Geffen Playhouse
Annette Bening, Ruth Draper’s Monologues, Geffen Playhouse
Barry McGovern, I’ll Go On, Center Theatre Group at Kirk Douglas Theatre
Christopher Plummer, A Word or Two, Center Theatre Group at Ahmanson Theatre
Michael Urie, Buyer & Cellar, Center Theatre Group at Mark Taper Forum
One in the Chamber, 6140 Productions & Lounge Theatre at Lounge Theatre: Kelli Anderson, Robert Bella, Alec Frasier, Fenix Isabella, Emily Peck, and Heidi Sulzman
Stupid Fucking Bird, The Theatre @ Boston Court and Circle X Theatre Company at The Theatre @ Boston Court: Will Bradley, Arye Gross, Charlotte Gulezian, Zarah Mahler, Matthew Floyd Miller, Amy Pietz, and Adam Silver
The voting critics of ArtsInLA.com: Travis Michael Holder, Dany Margolies, Julio Martinez, Dink O’Neal, Jonas Schwartz, Bob Verini, and Neal Weaver
January 5, 2015
for theater in 2013
Who says critics don’t like
anything? Our theater critics chose their tops of 2013, from best
production through best fight choreography, and the crossover among our
choices gave rise to a surprisingly large list.
And so we have decided to inaugurate our Sage Awards—named for the
obvious reference to the wisdom we hope for, but also for the plant that
covers the Los Angeles area, as we do.
Congratulations to the Sage Award winners, and we hope to share more great theater in 2014.
Ah, Wilderness!, Actors Co-op
El Grande de Coca Cola, Ruskin Group Theatre
Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, Ahmanson Theatre
One Night in Miami…, Rogue Machine
Our Class, Son of Semele Ensemble at Atwater Village Theatre
Pericles, Prince of Tyre, A Noise Within
The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later, L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s Davidson/Valentini Theatre
The Nether, Kirk Douglas Theatre
The Scottsboro Boys, Ahmanson Theatre
We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of
Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German
Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884–1915, Matrix Theatre
Jennifer Haley, The Nether, Kirk Douglas Theatre
Bruce Norris, A Parallelogram, Mark Taper Forum
Kemp Powers, One Night in Miami…, Rogue Machine
Christopher Shinn, Dying City, Rogue Machine
Jackie Sibblies Drury, We Are Proud to Present a Presentation
About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa From the
German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884–1915, Matrix Theatre
David Ives, The Liar, Antaeus Company
Nancy Keystone, Alcestis, The Theatre @ Boston Court
Jessica Kubzansky, R II, The Theatre @ Boston Court
Joe Iconis, The Black Suits, Kirk Douglas Theatre
John Kander and Fred Ebb, The Scottsboro Boys, Ahmanson Theatre
Matthew McCray, Our Class, Son of Semele Ensemble at Atwater Village Theatre
Michael Peretzian, Dying City, Rogue Machine
Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, Pericles, Prince of Tyre, A Noise Within
Ken Sawyer, The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later, L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s Davidson/Valentini Theatre
Dennis Castellano, The Fantasticks, South Coast Repertory
Eric Heinly, A Midsummer Saturday Night’s Fever Dream, Troubadour Theater Company at Falcon Theatre
Ross Seligman, One Night With Janis Joplin, Pasadena Playhouse
Robyn Wallace, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Chance Theater
Rob Ashford, Evita, Pantages Theatre
Matthew Bourne, Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, Ahmanson Theatre
Lee Martino, Nuttin’ but Hutton, NoHo Arts Center
Arlene Phillips, The Wizard of Oz, Pantages Theatre
Susan Stroman, The Scottsboro Boys, Ahmanson Theatre
Kelly Todd, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Chance Theater
Ken Merckx, Pericles, Prince of Tyre, A Noise Within
Adrian W. Jones, The Nether, Kirk Douglas Theatre
Keith Mitchell, Billy & Ray, Falcon Theatre
Allen Moyer, Parfumerie, Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
Jeanine A. Ringer, Pericles, Prince of Tyre, A Noise Within
Thomas A. Walsh, Annapurna, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble and Evidence Room, at Odyssey Theatre
Ken Booth, Pericles, Prince of Tyre, A Noise Within
Paule Constable, Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, Ahmanson Theatre
Christopher Kuhl, The Nether, Kirk Douglas Theatre
David Lander, Parfumerie, Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
Justin Townsend, One Night With Janis Joplin, Pasadena Playhouse
Angela Balogh Calin, Pericles, Prince of Tyre, A Noise Within
Lez Brotherston, Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, Ahmanson Theatre
Michael Krass, Parfumerie, Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
Jonathan Snipes, Wait Until Dark, Geffen Playhouse
PERFORMANCE IN A (PRIMARILY) STRAIGHT PLAY
Mark Bramhall (grandfather), Walking the Tightrope, 24th STreet Theatre
Phil Crowley (Nat Miller, father), Ah, Wilderness!, Actors Co-Op
Jason Dechert (young Pericles and pandar), Pericles, Prince of Tyre, A Noise Within
Arye Gross (Mr. Sipos), Parfumerie, Wallis Annenberg Center
Robert Lesser (lawyer/Greek chorus), A View From the Bridge, Pacific Resident Theater
Dakin Matthews (Doyle), The Nether, Kirk Douglas Theatre
Seth Numrich (Eli), Slipping, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater at Lillian Theatre
Deborah Strang (narrator), Pericles, Prince of Tyre, A Noise Within
Paige Lindsey White (Esme the granddaughter), Walking the Tightrope, 24th STreet Theatre
PERFORMANCE IN A (PRIMARILY) MUSICAL PRODUCTION
Sabrina Elayne Carten (Blues Singer), One Night With Janis Joplin, Pasadena Playhouse
Nate Dendy (The Mute), The Fantasticks, South Coast Repertory
Mary Bridget Davies (Janis), One Night With Janis Joplin, Pasadena Playhouse
Jamie McKnight (Scarecrow), The Wizard of Oz, Pantages Theatre
Josh Young (Che), Evita, Pantages Theatre
Lorenzo Pisoni, Humor Abuse, Mark Taper Forum
The Katrina Comedy Fest, Bayou Playhouse and Flambeaux Productions at Lounge Theatre: Peggy Blow, Deidrie Henry, Travis Michael Holder***, Judy Jean Berns, L. Trey Wilson, and Jan Munroe
One Night in Miami…, Rogue Machine: Giovanni Adams, Kevin Daniels, Jason Delane, Matt Jones, Ty Jones, Jason E. Kelley, Burl Moseley, and Jah Shams
Our Class, Son of Semele Ensemble at Atwater Village Theatre: Melina
Bielefelt, Sharyn Gabriel, Matt Kirkwood, Michael Nehring, Gary Patent,
Gavin Peretti, Sarah Roseberg, Kiff Scholl, Dan Via, and Alexander
The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later, L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s Davidson/Valentini Theatre: Johanna
Chase, Paul Haitkin, Michael Hanson, Elizabeth Herron, Carl J. Johnson,
Che Landon, Ed F. Martin, Ann Noble, Dylan Seaton, Christine Sloane,
and Paul Witten
The Scottsboro Boys, Ahmanson Theatre: Gilbert
L. Bailey II, David Bazemore, Ayanna Berkshire, Shavey Brown,
Christopher James Culberson, Joshua Henry, Trent Armand Kendall, Max
Kumangai, Hal Linden, JC Montgomery, Justin Prescott, Clinton Roane,
Cedric Sanders, Deandre Sevon, Christian Dante White, and C. Kelly
We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of
Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German
Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884–1915, Matrix Theatre: Daniel Bess, Julanne Chidi Hill, Joe Holt, Phil LaMarr, Rebecca Mozo, and John Sloan
***Travis Michael Holder reviews for ArtsInLA.com. He did not nominate himself, nor did he nominate his show.
The voting theater critics of ArtsInLA.com: Travis Michael Holder, Dany
Margolies, Julio Martinez, Dink O’Neal, Melinda Schupmann, and Bob
January 5, 2014