Stage Raw: Fringe Reviews, Week 2
|Courtesy Los Angeles Poverty Department|
|State of Incarcertion, in Radar L.A.|
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The L.A. Weekly and Back Stage continue their collaboration to review a selection of Hollywood Fringe Festival productions. For more show details, visit the Fringe website -- Hollywoodfringe.org -- or better yet, visit the Fringe, running through June 26. Scroll to the bottom for non-Fringe reviews.
NEW REVIEW GO AM I BLACK ENOUGH YET? Playwright Clinton Johnston's piece humorously explores what it means to be black in America today. Casting aside the burdensome moorings of political correctness, five actors (Nika Williams, J. Patrick Wise, Matthew Eisenberg, Katherine DuBois, and Kenny Cooper) adroitly work through ten vignettes that lampoon everything from ghetto slang to diversity run amok and even homophobia. It makes for a hilarious, thought-provoking, and sometimes unsettling 85-minutes. I.S.M.O Theatre Company at ComedySportz, L.A. Ballroom Studio, 733 Seward St., Hlywd.; Wed, June 22, 7 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., June 25-26, 5 p.m. (Lovell Estell III/LAW)
NEW REVIEW ANOTHER EFFING FAMILY DRAMA Catherine Pelonero's absurdist comedy elicits faint echoes of Edward Albee's early one-acts. Her aim appears to be an irreverent spoof of dysfunctional-family plays, but there's nothing funny about boorishness, vulgarity, and stupidity when they're laid on with a trowel. Josh Brewster seems to be channeling John Goodman's take on Fred Flintstone, and although slovenly lush Holly (Monica Martin) is the sister of Brewster's character, her role would seem an ideal fit for Goodman's TV spouse, Roseanne Barr. As an elderly mother and her estranged daughter, respectively, Ann Ryerson and Eva Minemar struggle with circuitous dialogue, and Kenny Johnston and Jack Hunter are straddled with underdeveloped roles. Sharp Cocktail at ArtWorks Theatre, (Fringe Central), 6567 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Sat., June 25, 3 p.m.; Sun., June 25, 5 p.m. (Les Spindle/BS)
NEW REVIEW CONFETTI BAYOU: THE LAST INTERVIEW WITH JANIS JOPLIN Written by Cricket Leigh, this two character one-act features Leigh as rock diva Janis Joplin and Nicholas Vitulli as Lenny, a clean-cut guy and an admiring fan who interviews the singer shortly before her death. Soon professional journalism is out the window as their dialogue gives way to personal revelations on both sides. A relationship develops; there's, a quarrel, then reconciliation; finally the pair succumb to their attraction. Leigh's worthy intent is to probe the vulnerabilities of this compelling and tragic figure, but the script rambles circuitously, and neither her rather imitative and emulatory portrayal nor Vitulli's delves very deep. Brian Powell directs. Powder Room Productions at the Lounge Theatre, 6021 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A. Thurs., June 23, 8 p.m. (Deborah Klugman/LAW)
NEW REVIEW DEITY CLUTCH Every actor onstage in this Porters of Hellsgate effort masters heightened language. Too bad that language, and the storytelling it attempts, can be described at best as plodding and at worst as pretentious. In writer-director Gus Krieger's play, a cult falls apart within a mysterious house, even though the outside world is a bad, bad place--you know, don't trust "the man"! Yet just as the residents are about to escape, they find the time to chat, two at a time, heading out the door, to give the audience closure. Its 135-minute running time is ideal for turning this bad play into a bad movie.
The Porters of Hellsgate at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Closed. (Dany Margolies/BS)
NEW REVIEW EM O'LOUGHLIN WAS A BIG FATTY BOOMBAH As the title suggests, this is an irreverent look at someone who for much of her life had an extreme weight problem. Aussie standup comic Em O'Loughlin spins an hourlong autobiographical yarn about her decades of using food to numb feelings of inadequacy, which led to her weighing 352 pounds. Relying on only a few props--most notably a life-size "before" photo--O'Loughlin adopts a rapid-fire delivery to gloss over the weaker jokes, and she wisely gives the lone dark twist ample time--and subtle mood lighting--to reach its full impact, which transitions smoothly to a self-proclaimed schmaltzy, yet satisfyingly optimistic, conclusion. ArtWorks Theatre (Fringe Central), 6567 Santa Monica Blvd. and Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hlywd.; Closed. (Jeff Favre/BS)
NEW REVIEW FACT & FICTION Playwright William Nedved's mind-bending pair of world-premiere, solo-actor works, skillfully directed by Dámaso Rodriguez, couldn't be more aptly titled. In "Fact," Nedved recounts his high school year spent as an exchange student in Brazil. Further commentary and less reliance on reading passages directly from his journal would sharpen this piece, clearly the more pedestrian of the two. But in "Fiction," actor Adam Silver expertly tempers suspense with humor in detailing his experiences as the stalking victim of a creepy filmmaker. With an enigmatic wink, these "autobiographical" stories leave one wondering what is reality and what may be imagined. Sixth Avenue at Elephant Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Mon., June 20, 8 p.m.; Thu., June 23, 10 p.m. (Dink O'Neal/BS)
NEW REVIEW GO GIRL BAND IN THE MEN'S ROOM An unnamed four-girl grunge band in December, 1994 is lurking by the urinals, squabbling about their future. Three want to sign a record contract -- one so fervently she may have slept with the record executive -- while the fourth, the songwriter, argues that fame proved fatal for Kurt Cobain just eight months ago. "He was a drug addict!" groans the bassist. Like director Michael Kortlander, playwright Robert A. Ford, is a dude. But he's plugged into the grrrl power psyche, even arguing that the slinky French-Canadian singer might have boned their potential boss because . . . she wanted to. Yet the play feels like the first draft of a first act. On MTV, girl grunge's pop culture moment is strumming its last cords, and self-crowned queen Courtney Love is only two years from getting a nose job and a Golden Globe nomination. Artworks Theatre & Studios, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd. Wed., June 22, 5 p.m.; Fri., June 24, 6:30 p.m.; Sat., June 25, 9:30 p.m. (Amy Nicholson/LAW)
NEW REVIEW FEELING FEELING Bubbly Darla (Kendall Carroll) is generally upbeat until the slightest misfortune reduces her to paroxysms of tears. Her beer bottle chugging, TV sports fixated boyfriend Dave (Jonny Loquasto) is generally perplexed and insensitive to her woes. The pair have a nice rapport but Darla sends him to therapy to learn how to feel and gets a chip implanted in her head to manage her overwrought emotions. While therapy doesn't seem to alter Dave's behavior, Darla becomes detached and career-driven. Writer-director Sarah Doyle plots her tale in four-year intervals that coincide with the Olympic Games, and nicely crosscuts her examination of gender politics with a sad tale of Darla's forgotten best friend Tully (Camellia Rahbary). Artworks Theatre & Studios, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd. Closed. (Pauline Adamek/LAW)
NEW REVIEW FOUR CLOWNS: ROMEO & JULIET Regard for the Bard and the venerable art of clowning reach a perilous new low as the Four Clowns brutally burlesque Shakespeare's immortal tale of star-crossed lovers into an excruciatingly witless 90 minutes of egregious, nonstop mugging and scatological excess. Alexis Jones and Kevin Klein take on the titular roles, transforming the tragic characters into foulmouthed, genitally obsessed louts in whiteface and bulbous red noses. A hyperactive Raymond Lee doubles as the squeaking emcee and Mercutio; Zach Steel is the lumbering Tybalt (among others). Seven writers (including the cast and director Jeremy Aluma) take credit for an "adaptation" that gives unwelcome new meaning to the terms "broad" and "coulrophobia." ArtWorks Theatre, (Fringe Central), 6567 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri., June 24, 10:30 p.m.; Sat., June 25, 7:30 p.m. Hollywoodfringe.org/projects/359. (Bill Raden/LAW)
NEW REVIEW GO LIGHTS UP ON THE FADE OUT Padraic Lillis' debuting drama offers an incisive portrait of a middle-aged film director, Steve (Tom Hildreth), who wins his first big career break while his personal life remains severely out of focus. As he deals with complications surrounding a whirlwind romance with his former high school crush (Alina Phelan), who has just ditched her fiancé at the altar, Steve simultaneously must come to terms with the worsening condition of his long-neglected father (Mark Bramhall), who suffers from dementia. In the hands of director Ron Canada and the fine ensemble, including James Parks as Steve's fed-up brother, this is a moving and thought-provoking offering. Sternman Productions in association with Delta Highway at the Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Hollywood. Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 10. (323) 331-5123. (Les Spindle/BS)
NEW REVIEW GO THE MANY WOMEN OF TROY Michael John Boynton wrote the book and lyrics and Brian Allan Hobbs composed the music for this ambitious musical focusing on women's experience of war and violence. It begins with a moving refrain sung by five women searching for their dead or disappeared menfolk, then leapfrogs through myth and history to dramatize tragedies wrought by religion, totalitarianism (Argentina under Pinochet) and madness (the Columbine massacre), among others. Recurring friction between four nurturing characters and one narcissist hones the drama and keeps didacticism at bay. The videography and sound are notable, and while finessing is in order, this piece has strong potential. Pallas Theatre Collective at the Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd. Wed., June 22, 10:30 p.m.; Sat., June 25, 10:30 p.m. (Deborah Klugman/LAW)
NEW REVIEW THE NORMAL CHILD Normalcy has gradations, particularly in the siblings of writer-director Phillip William Brock's one-act. Claire (Amanda Weier) has confined herself in the bedroom of her childhood home, perched on a chair, which is balanced on four magnums of whiskey, which teeter on four stacks of books, which puts her neck in reach of a noose. In this highly metaphoric work, her brother Terrance (Rob Nagle) visits--either in her mind or in reality--to urge her out of her room, either via his waiting car or via her ability to fly. The work presumably indicts parental cruelty, but its strong points are its poetry and the actors' lyricism. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Sat., June 25, noon; Sun., June 26, 1 p.m. (Dany Margolies/BS)
NEW REVIEW ROLLERBLADING IN GAZA Diminutive writer-performer Maude Kochendler bursts onto the stage in a cream Cinderella silk wedding dress (she tells us she already owns two) and, projecting to the nonexistent balcony of this tiny black box theatre, dreams of meeting the perfect guy. As evidenced by the proud display of French, American and Israeli flags, Maude confides she's still unsure of where she belongs as she moves from the Israeli Army to Club Med to New York where she struggles for work as an actor. The braying delivery of her one-woman show grates, but gutsy Maude seems more at home belting out a cabaret tune. Despite her irrepressible spirit, this commonplace personal tale is devoid of emotional insight. Dorie Theater at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd. Fri.-Sat., June 24-25, 5:30 p.m. (Pauline Adamek/LAW)
NEW REVIEW THE SEX LIFE OF ACHILLES Actor-playwright David LeBarron set out to dramatize the entire Trojan War in 60 minutes, with only 3 characters: Achilles' mother, the sea-goddess Thetis (Rebecca Norris); the slave Briseis (Shanna Beauchamp), fought over by Achilles and Agamemnon; and the slave Acheanus (LeBarron). And after beginning the piece as a campy, cynical send-up of the Greek myths, LeBarron then expects us to take them seriously. But it's hard to take care about Achilles' great love for Patroclus when we've just been told that he "fucked Troilus to death." Theatre of NOTE, 1517 North Cahuenga Blvd.; Hlywd.; Tues., June 21, 6 p.m.; Sat., June 25, 12 noon; Sun., June 26, 4 p.m. sexlifeofachilles.com. (Neal Weaver/LAW)
NEW REVIEW STEAL AWAY: THE LIVING HISTORY OF HARRIET TUBMAN Rick Balian has the right idea with this easygoing mix of acting and puppetry targeted to young audiences. The real-life Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery and lived to help others escape that and so many other inhumanities. The play unfolds Tubman's memories, sweetly showing that there are good and bad people no matter our race or gender. But Balian's direction lacks an imagination that would enliven the work and fully immerse the audience in Tubman's inspiring journeys. Pamela Shaddock firmly portrays the no-nonsense icon, Skip Pipo elegantly portrays the white men in her life, and they gracefully share the stage with charmingly evocative puppets, by Sandra Eckert. New Perspectives Theatre Company at Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hlywd.; Sat., June 25, 10 a.m.; Sun., June 26, 2 p.m. (Dany Margolies/BS)
NEW REVIEW THE TROUBLE WITH WORDS Gregory Nabours' musical revue has six singers, six musicians and 19 songs, all searching for a point. The theme, loosely, is miscommunication and from that broad platform spring numbers about fatherhood, seduction, sloganeering and Christmas. If trimmed of the Disney ballad filler, Nabours has a full act of songs that deserve attention: Chris Roque's radio-friendly "Listen," Aimee Karlin's heated "Fool's Gold," Josh Eddy's slippery "Kid with a Heart On," and Ryan Wagner's "Tongue Tied" -- the second act opener which rewards those who stay past intermission. Packed onto the stage are a piano, xylophone, violin, guitar, cello, saxophone and full set of drums, together loud enough to drown out the lyrics. Joked the couple behind me, "I guess the Trouble with Words is that you can't hear them." Patrick Pearson directs.Coeurage Theatre Company at Actors Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., W. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., June 24-25, 9 p.m. (Amy Nicholson/LAW)
NEW REVIEW GO BAKERSFIELD MIST Jackson Pollock's most famous paintings have polarized critics since the artist first attacked a horizontal canvass. That polarization feeds writer-director Stephen Sachs' new play, which uses a Pollock painting as the central symbol of class war. Mouthy Maude (Jenny O'Hara) spends her days lapping up Jack Daniels and watching police procedurals in her kitsch-filled Bakersfield trailer, until a painting she buys at a yard sale steals her focus from the idiot box. Convinced the cheap buy is a bona fide Pollock, Maude summons erudite art expert Lionel (Nick Ullett) to assess the painting's authenticity and value. Immediately disgusted with the crass, tasteless Maude, Lionel aims to quickly view the so-called Pollock and flee the mobile home scene. But Maude's initially undetectable cleverness sparks a game of one-upmanship. Sachs directs the two-hander with an abundance of spirit, smartly letting the outstanding actors brawl and emote with delightful abandon. O'Hara brings a gleeful raunchiness to Maude throughout, but forces her character out of hiding to confront the quiet sadness shrouded by all that brass. (Ullett's finest moment comes in a frenzied monologue that mirrors Pollock's creative process.) When Lionel tells Maude he is there to evaluate the painting, not her, the play winningly sets out to disprove this lie at every turn. Jeff McLaughlin's set makes trailer park life seem at once enviously cozy and exhaustingly humiliating. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 31. (323) 663-1525. fountaintheatre.com. (Amy Lyons)
NEW REVIEW BORDERING ON LOVE Marriage and immigration laws get skewered satirically in Evangeline Ordaz's new comedy, but bits of drag queen entertainment turn out to be the more engaging material. Though the play needs editing - particularly toward the close when a few false endings are dragged out by new, late-breaking plot points - the fun factor is high whenever a quartet of gowned guys does a song-and-dance number. Anthony (an endearing TJ O'Connell) almost has the right stuff to wow audiences at George's (Jeff Vinall) gentleman's club, but his slightly frumpy gowns and out-of-date makeup call for a makeover. The only girl for the job is Marilu (Silvia Tovar), but just when she takes Anthony from mediocre to fabulous, Marilu gets slapped with a deportation decree. Though Anthony is really in love with the two-timing, married George, he decides that a life-long partnership with Marilu makes more sense than a tortured tryst with an unavailable lover. Ordaz makes insightful, worthwhile commentary about the nature of love and the motivation to marry. The playwright never takes her eye off the humanizing ball, consistently calling attention to the painful ramifications of present immigration laws and the struggle for marriage equality. But attempts to tie up every plot point with a neat bow backfire, and the crucial questions become eclipsed by a series of simple happy endings. Christian R. Gibbs, Rudy Marquez and Kenneth Sears all help O'Connell put on a delicious drag show, under Armando Molina's direction. Cricket S. Myers hits a perfect note with her sound design. Company of Angels at the Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., Third Floor, downtown; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 2. (323) 883-1717. (Amy Lyons)