Anne Frank imagines Life Beyond the War…in Anne, A New Play

The year is 1945 and the war is approaching its end. “Anne, a new play rediscovering Anne Frank,” now in its run at the Museum of Tolerance, starts out with an idealistic, wishful thinking scene, where Anne (Ava Lalezarzadeh) and Margot (Marnina Schon) are chatting via telephone; Anne at a cosmopolitan French cafe, in hopes of finding a publisher, and Margot in Israel.

Rewind: back to reality, where the family is in hiding under the kindness of Miep Gies (Mary Gordon Murray), in her attic in Amsterdam, where Anne is determined to write her heart out to her best friend, her diary, which becomes the legacy of this most complex, compassionate young woman, living with the horrors, heartbreak of grief in Nazi occupied Amsterdam, not surviving to live her dream. Of the entire family, only Otto (Rob Brownstein) survives, and miraculously captures his daughter’s diary for the world to know her story, her dreams, fears, and ideals as a youth, wise beyond her years. Ava portrays Anne as the morally complex, intelligent woman, with precision and impeccable range of emotion. The story is unique, in that it not only shows Anne Frank as a symbol of hope, goodness, and persistence, but also reveals the playful, mischievous, precocious side of Anne as a teen, flirting with Peter van Pels (Kevin Matsumoto), also in hiding. Producer Suzi Dietz and director Eve Brandstein deliver this story with grace and sensitivity, not leaving one dry eye in the house. The ensemble performs so cohesively to present an intimate portrait of the interactions and day to day tension of the families Frank and van Pels, along with Jan Pfeffer (Tony DeCarlo). I would encourage families to see the show (both adults and pre-teens and up); as it’s a beautiful rendering of a coming of age story of family bonding, and never ending hope for survival and redemption. The play reveals Anne’s most famous line, “I keep my ideals, because, in spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.” Brownstein is a solid constant as Otto, consistently in every scene, as he encourages his daughters to write, dream, and never give up; he consoles his distraught wife, Edith (Andrea Gwynnel); appeases and humors Mr. van Pels (Aylam Orian).

Perhaps, the most unique twist is actually having the publisher present (Timothy Brown), who develops a close knit connection to Anne and Otto and pledges to forever tell this story. Lalezarzadeh is truly a standout, and shines throughout the show, as a bubbly Anne, yet also reveals her contemplative, serious side, indicative of acting at its finest. Each cast member gives a memorable performance, creating each character’s legacy and imprint on us all. Leaves the audience in awe of this courageous, heroic group of people. A must see, especially in today’s world in which we live, with the resurgence of racism, anti-semitism, and senseless intolerance.

Through Aug 4th. Museum of Tolerance

9786 W. Pico

Sundays 3pm and 7 pm; Mondays 8 pm

(310) 772-2505 http://www.museumoftolerance.com

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Summertime…and the living is dreamy

Summertime means peaches and plums, lazy day lounging, sun bathing, popsicles, and most of all, California dreamin.’ Such was the theme of the 2019 Concern Foundation 45th annual Block Party, serving up summer foodie delights galore, and raising millions of dollars for cancer research. The organization’s mission statement is “to raise funds for advancing essential cancer immunology research conducted by innovative and promising scientists.” On the grounds of Paramount studios, a dreamy evening was had by all, as the guests sampled and savored treats from over 75 vendors. Some standouts were Buzz Bar’s alcohol infused ice cream, Bourbon St. chocolate; Pie Hole’s Raspberry Cream cheese; STK tuna tartare; Bar Hayama sushi; Factor’s Famous Deli pastrami sandwich; Gyu-Kaku’s marinated skirt steak; Bertha Mae’s brownies; Deluscious cookies; and Someone’s in the Kitchen, serving up beef brisket sliders, street corn, and sweet potato fries. To wash it all down, such a diversity of libations to sip n savor, including Nuda tequila; Tito’s Handmade Vodka (who generously donated 10 bottles for the raffle winners’ gift bags at end of the night); Asahi beer; Reed’s Ginger Brew and Virgil’s root beer; Humboldt Distillery; and Don Q. For those whose beverage of choice was non alcoholic, there was Health-Ade Kombucha; Pasquini Espresso; Don Francisco coffee; Suja Life; Vital Proteins Collagen water; and Uptime. For those wishing to take a breather from all things edible, Beauty Bus Foundation (which travels the city, offering cancer survivors a variety of beauty services) gave the guests a choice of manicure, eye lash extensions, glitter tattoos, hair braiding and hair tinsel. All glitzed up, they now were ready to play their cards right at the party’s casino area. Even a Ferris wheel and carousel enhanced the California beach pier theme and added to the overall enjoyment, all in the name of charity. Concern is an acronym for conquer cancer now and the block party fundraiser is a crucial event in support of cancer research. It is a breath of fresh air to witness the collaboration of restaurants, caterers, celebrities, block party sponsors, volunteers, and over 4,000 supportive guests of Concern’s ‘mission possible.’ Live music surround sound throughout the backlot with DJ’s playing California themed favorite tunes, by The Beach Boys and other notable bands and vocalists, a dreamy night indeed.

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Nancy Reagan- no aide to AIDS…in “Nancy F***ing Reagan”

Many a profound work of theatre has been written and presented on the AIDS epidemic, which include Angels in America; And the Band Played On; A Normal Heart, and Rent to name a few. Now comes “Nancy F***ing Reagan, with a smart sophisticated story and dialogue by playwright Daniel Hurewitz.  The play is a diatribe against Nancy Reagan and an administration that went silent during the crux of the AIDS crisis.  America today is still coping with the HIV/Aids crisis of the 80’s. That period of time was filled with hysteria and those infected were facing an inevitable death sentence.  It’s so refreshing to witness the wellspring of performance art, the one good thing that came out of this time period, a chance for writers and actors to make meaning of this horrible plague that took loved ones’ precious lives too soon and senselessly.  It’s also a chance for catharsis and mourning of the huge destruction this illness brought, and also an opportunity to fight for justice and speak out against political leaders, such as the Reagans, who turned a blind eye.

 The play centers on David (Kiff Scholl), on the eve of his 50th birthday. Beautiful language and poetic images are given right from the start, vividly portraying “the sun setting as he approaches 50,” the sunset years of his life.  Another creative character enters the stage, Richard (Mark Sande). At show’s start, he announces “writers are lonely misanthropes. It’s tragic that I’m losing my vocabulary just as I’m launching my career.”  He’s looking for his friends to bring some added excitement and zest to his ordinary hum drum life.  David is hoping that friends Jason (Greg Ivan Smith) and his young lover Kenny (Colbert Alembert) will bring new meaning to the concept ‘50 is the new 30,’ upon their arrival in Palm Springs. Amidst all this birthday drama queen ado, is a subplot involving Maggie (Debi Tinsley) current dean of Cardiff college, and activist/student Allison (Safiya Quinley) who pays an unannounced visit to Maggie’s home during the start of festivities. This play takes us back to a moment in history with a nation in mourning, yet it also highlights the first couples’ calculated coldness, and darker legacy, as thousands infected were dying each day. David strongly believes “Nancy F***ing Reagan took our youth,” and he’s in payback/revenge mode, scheming up a plan of karma, “what goes around, comes around.” David thinks up a plan that one may term ‘radical action to get revenge.’  Although the proverbial “2 wrongs don’t make a right” is widely followed, in David’s case he sought justice over the injustice from the Reagan administration and what better way to rectify the tragic stance on Aids than to splatter blood on her coffin, a most symbolic payback.

The moment the fiasco is about to occur  and David and Kenny spout words of hurt and anger to Nancy’s coffin, news reporter Erica (Amy Kersten) is right on cue with a play to play synopsis and coverage. Meanwhile, back at the Palm Springs home where the celebration should be starting, minus the birthday guest of honor, a heated debate between Maggie and Allison erupts over college policy and inherent racism on campus following a literary discourse they had on Philip Roth’s The Human Stain.  For the most part, I was interested and engaged, as these two strong, proactive women battled out a serious ethical debate about racism.  Hurewitz is spot on in writing good characters, dialogue and conflict; each member of the ensemble making a vivid, memorable first impression. Well directed by Larry Margo, it’s a piece that accurately and relevantly portrays an important part of American history, but still keeps you guessing what will happen next. 

Through Aug 4

The Secret Rose Theatre

11246 W. Magnilia Noho 

Fridays & Saturdays 8pm

Sundays 2pm

nfrnfr.eventbrite.com

Promo code NFRNFR

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No aide to AIDS…in “Nancy F***ing Reagan”

Many a profound work of theatre has been written and presented on the AIDS epidemic, which include Angels in America; And the Band Played On; A Normal Heart, and Rent to name a few. Now comes “Nancy F***ing Reagan, with a smart sophisticated story and dialogue by playwright Daniel Hurewitz.  The play is a diatribe against Nancy Reagan and an administration that went silent during the crux of the AIDS crisis.  America today is still coping with the HIV/Aids crisis of the 80’s. That period of time was filled with hysteria and those infected were facing an inevitable death sentence.  It’s so refreshing to witness the wellspring of performance art, one good thing that came out of this time period, a chance for writers and actors to make meaning of this horrible plague that took loved ones’ precious lives too soon and senselessly.  It’s also a chance for catharsis and mourning of the huge destruction this illness brought, and also an opportunity to fight for justice and speak out against political leaders, such as the Reagans, who turned a blind eye.  

             The play centers on David (Kiff Scholl), on the eve of his 50th birthday. Beautiful language and poetic images are given right from the start, vividly portraying “the sun setting as he approaches 50,” the sunset years of his life.  Another creative character enters the stage, Richard (Mark Sande). At show’s start, he announces “writers are lonely misanthropes. It’s tragic that I’m losing my vocabulary just as I’m launching my career.”  He’s looking for his friends to bring some added excitement and zest to his ordinary hum drum life.  David is hoping that friends Jason (Greg Ivan Smith) and his young lover Kenny (Colbert Alembert) will bring new meaning to the concept ‘50 is the new 30,’ upon their arrival in Palm Springs. Amidst all this birthday drama queen ado, is a subplot involving Maggie (Debi Tinsley) current dean of Cardiff college, and activist/student Allison (Safiya Quinley) who pays an unannounced visit to Maggie’s home during the start of festivities. This play takes us back to a moment in history with a nation in mourning, yet it also highlights the first couples’ calculated coldness, and darker legacy, as thousands infected were dying each day. David strongly believes “Nancy F***ing Reagan took our youth,” and he’s in payback/revenge mode, scheming up a plan of karma, “what goes around, comes around.” David thinks up a plan that one may term ‘radical action to get revenge.’  Although the proverbial “2 wrongs don’t make a right” is widely followed, in David’s case he sought justice over the injustice from the Reagan administration and what better way to rectify the tragic stance on Aids than to splatter blood on her coffin, a most symbolic payback.

The moment the fiasco is about to occur  and David and Kenny spout words of hurt and anger to Nancy’s coffin, news reporter Erica (Amy Kersten) is right on cue with a play to play synopsis and coverage. Meanwhile, back at the Palm Springs home where the 

celebration should be starting, minus the birthday guest of honor, a heated debate between Maggie and Allison erupts over college policy and inherent racism on campus following a literary discourse they had on Philip Roth’s The Human Stain.  For the most part, I was interested and engaged, as these two strong, proactive women battled out a serious ethical debate about racism.  Hurewitz is spot on in writing good characters, dialogue and conflict; each member of the ensemble making a vivid, memorable first impression. Well directed by Larry Margo, it’s a piece that accurately and relevantly portrays an important part of American history, but still keeps you guessing what will happen next. 

Through Aug 4

The Secret Rose Theatre

11246 W. Magnilia Noho 

Fridays & Saturdays 8pm

Sundays 2pm

nfrnfr.eventbrite.com

Promo code NFRNFR

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Survivor Instinct Prevails…in “Love, Madness, and Somewhere in Between”

James J. Cox (producer, actor, writer) is a true one man dynamo and survivor, in every sense of the word, as evident in his recent run at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in his solo show, “Love, Madness, and Somewhere in Between.” The adage, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” certainly applies to Jimmy Cox, storyteller extraordinaire, as he candidly relays his gritty experiences and encounters during his childhood and youth, being sexually abused at church, facing demons of alcoholism and addiction during his adulthood, and ultimately rising like a phoenix out of the ashes, surviving to tell this important tale. It all comes down to soul searching, story telling, and survival mode, of which James Cox is remarkable, in reclaiming himself in recovery and sobriety. He miraculously heals and forgives in the form of service as an “angel warrior” in the pediatric cancer ward of Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles. James Cox has always taken the path less traveled and has grown from every journey chosen. It’s oft said, ‘one lives and dies by one’s choices,’ and Cox is a prime example of choosing life. Facing obstacles and adversity is so often where true inspiration and character comes, and this is the case in Cox’ one man show. Sparks of creativity arise from places of pain, as he tells himself and the audience, “you have your whole life ahead of you…the humanity, the horror… rise above it.” It’s when he wakes up and ‘smells the roses,’ as it were, and is able to forgive, but never forget, that his true genius and philosophy of “almost dying yet still so full of life” really plays out onstage. Cox proves that humor, performance and strength is the best revenge of all. With candor, raw humility, and grace, Cox reveals the power of ‘writing what you know,’ and this brilliant actor does just that, in this brilliant show, garnering accolades, encores, and sold out crowds at the 2019 Hollywood Fringe.

http://www.hollywoodfringe.org

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JWT rings true with flying colors

These are my true colors…shining through.  My true colors…and that’s why I love every production of the Jewish Women’s Theatre even more than the last one!  Each of their poignant vignettes manages to leave no Jewish story untold or untraced.  In “True Colors,” the stories vividly take each character back to his/her roots, much as Alex Haley in Roots, inspired many of us to pursue family genealogy and lineage.  In Jewish Women’s theatre productions, the goal is to honor the written and spoken word, sans lavish sets or costumes.  

The show opens with a beautiful violin solo (Katherine Washington)  “I’ve Gotta  Be Me,” bringing memories of the late great Sammy Davis Jr, apropos to the show’s theme on Jews of color.  The universal question of “why can’t I simply be seen as human? is a running theme throughout.  In “The Color of Love,” based on a memoir of a mixed race Jewish girl, written by Marra Gad, and performed by Brie Eley; Heidi Mendez; and Kimberly Green, a baby is of “milk chocolate” color, “made in the image of God.” Every story shared a common theme of living in an ideal world, a utopia where all are color blind, viewing one another with rose colored glasses only.  One humorous story, written by Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl, and performed by Kimberly Green and ensemble, cleverly retells of a Korean take on Passover maror, in “Kimchi on the Seder Plate.” These stories resonate with audience members in today’s world with our profound need for inclusion and diversity.  Producer Eric Greene spoke in the post show q&a: “the actors inhabited their characters with flesh and blood, and to see it brought to life is a phenomenal task of portraying the complexity and humanity of their stories.”

So many voices were represented, so many authentic feelings,  so many soulful renditions, a true collaborative Jewish rainbow. 

http://www.jewishwomenstheatre.org

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5 Years The Charm…in “The Last Five Years” @ Actor’s Company

After Hours Theatre Company presents Jason Robert Brown’s “The Last Five Years, now playing at the Other Space at the Actor’s Company. It is a production like no other, providing the audience with an immersive multi sensory experience pre-show (curated cocktails in the mix); and 360 sound throughout the performance. Romantic scents of rose, hibiscus and lavender infuse the audience’s spirits and mood as we experience the magnificent vocal talents of Janel Parrish and Scott Porter. In song and lyrical whimsy, the two phenomenal singer/actors deliver a poetic paeon to the love story/relationship of Cathy and Jamie.  Each musical number is an intimate story in and of itself. “Shiksa Goddess” reveals a glimmer of Jamie’s (Scott Porter) ideal yet unattainable mate; while “A Summer in Ohio” is an expression of Cathy’s fears of a ‘no thrills, no frills’ hum drum love life. These two soul mates make some intimate connections in some pieces, while seem like two ships passing through the night in others. Career and curveballs get in the way of a long lasting bond. The movement, lighting, and costumes enhance the overall show. The opening song, “Still Hurting,” sets the tone, as Janel Parrish (Cathy) soulfully laments on what could have been. Its basically a message about painful choices, and the road less taken, as it were, to the promise of life long love. Jamie and Cathy provide further hopes of connection and romance in “A Miracle Would Happen/When you Come Home to Me.”

Each memorable musical vignette is an entire story on its own; and with each facial expression and natural chemistry, the actors instantly reveal their persona and we truly feel their angst.

“The Last Five Years” is the ultimate musical theatre extravaganza about the ultimate fantasy of finding the perfect mate  of one’s dreams in each evocative number. Another beautiful touch is how Cathy and Jamie sing out their story backwards and forwards, rather than chronologically, bringing fantasies into juxtaposition with real life romance.

This musical production is at one a powerful serenade of life and love’s precarious challenges and new beginnings, performed by a cohesive duo. The After Hours Theatre Company is a great example of small musical theatre offerings here in our city of angels.

Through July 14

Thursdays, Fridays,Saturdays 8pm; Sundays 7 pm

916 N Formosa

http://www.afterhoursl5y.eventbrite.com

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