Joely Fisher belts out her life journey in “Growing Up Fisher”


While it was a balmy, sultry night in the hills of Hollywood, with much of Los Angeles ablaze, Joely Fisher, too, was ‘on fire,’ in her amazing one woman show, ‘Growing Up Fisher;” her self proclaimed “in town audition,” at the Catalina Bar and Grill. Growing up right here in the LA/BH community, a product of a dysfunctional yet well meaning family, I feel a kindred spirit, of sorts, to the beautiful Joely Fisher. Her can do attitude of making lemonade out of sour lemons is a wellspring of positivity and opportunity, as indicated by her opening number.
She recalled a story of when Connie Stevens was in labor, Joely’s father was performing at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas. Onstage, he spoke on the phone to his wife and newborn baby, and a revealing joke was told by Frontier’s then busboy, Steve Wynn, now casino mogul, that Joely’s first singing words to her father were the lyrics “papa, can you hear me?”
– [ ] Joely opened her one woman show by stating, “my story is much to be told; I say do, try, laugh, believe in miracles. That’s how I put my act together.” In her newly released memoir, Growing Up Fisher, she felt she had so much to live up to, and in tribute to Eddie, she states “oh my papa, he made each one of us, his daughters, feel like his favorite.” In the background plays a slideshow of nostalgic family photos of Joely and family past and present. She shares with the audience how as a child she met legends, the likes of George Burns, Milton Berle, and Bob Hope, all serving as grandfatherly mentors. She wholeheartedly expressed, how “In this political time and precarious world, we must hold our loved ones tight,” and she abides by this philosophy.  In a segment of the show, called ‘love & stuff,’ she described what you do as Eddie Fisher’s and Connie Steven’s daughter and sang renditions from Grease (as Rizzo) and Cabaret (Sally Bowles). She received wonderful support and advice from her beloved sister, Carrie, “with the least amount of judgment and the most experience.” Looking into the “fishbowl,” as Joely called the offspring of Eddie Fisher , was like taking a peek into the “inner sanctum.” One original song that Joely shared had profound lyrics “for the girl that I used to be; the fate that sailed a thousand ships…nothing feels the way it was before and I don’t know how to proceed…I’ve got to know where I can be.” Continuing her moving tribute to Carrie, she sang “I never dreamed of sorrow – I wanted days of plenty. I refuse to feel tragic. There has got to be meaning. I want my life to go on, carry on. She will always be with you.
– [ ]


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Wherever you go, there you are… in “New York Water”

It’s a perennial question facing many a couple on relationships and geography (including my own past marriage!): New York or Los Angeles…or perhaps somewhere in between?
This profound dilemma is explored by playwright extraordinaire Sam Bobrick, in “New York Water,” now in its run at the Pico Playhouse.  Directed by Howard Teichman, this play begins with an opening scene, a blind date, as it were, where Linda (Bridget Flanery) and Albert (Ross Benjamin) grapple with their fears, doubts,  and suspicions of strangers and the outside world, yet come to the conclusion, that “Ah, kindness. What a simple way to tell another struggling soul that there is love to be found in this world.” As a cousin of mine once so poignantly stated, “New York is special. A city of extremes. A city where anything is possible.  It can be overwhelming. It can be unbelievable.  Where you are somebody and nobody.  Will this love affair ever end?”  This sentiment captures the essence of “New York Water” impeccably.  This play is truly  a witty, humorous ‘love letter’ to New York, essentially the third character in the show.  The two main characters, Linda and Albert, begin and end their entangled life journey in New York, progressing from roommates to lovers to spouses and eventually just friends/acquaintances. The rivalry between the two cities, NYC and LA, seems ageless, having been explored in theatre, film, and music a la Neil Simon, Woody Allen, and Neil Diamond. Just as Annie Hall was a love story for two people who didn’t believe in love, so too, in this show, the two leads come together, pull apart, re-connect, break up, and so the pattern goes. Bobrick is seamless in bringing to life onstage the trials and tribulations that this couple endures, ultimately finding themselves in Los Angeles, both literally and figuratively.  While Linda is attracted and lured into the superficiality of the showbiz industry,  Albert finds himself distanced and desperate to earn an honest living.  The audience develops an empathy for Albert’s plight, sure to resonate with many a hopeful in this city of angels.  New York Water is filled with extra twists and turns around every bend, a love affair gone awry, and many an irony, very characteristic of Sam Bobrick’s previous works.  Deep revelations and gutsy insights are gleaned from the play’s rich, flowing dialogue and incredibly true to life scenarios.  This offbeat comedy is smart, funny, and contemporary in one. The two actors carry the show effortlessly with their comedic timing and natural rapport, in both good and troubled times.  The period songs, and artwork  in between scenes, about New York, Midwest, and California life, further accentuate the play’s theme, versatility and many layers.  The play offers a laugh a minute, though also brings serious insights on relationships, shared values, and the quality of life… and New York water!

through December 17                                               Pico Playhouse 10508 W. Pico Blvd.                         Fridays & Saturdays 8PM ;Sundays 3PM                   (323) 821-2449                                                      





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Forgive, and Never Forget … in “Daytona”

Daytona, written by Oliver Cotton; produced by John Perrin Flynn, and directed by Elina de Santos, is a story of three Holocaust survivors, exquisitely played by Richard Fancy, Sharron Shayne, and George Wyner, whose lives intertwine amidst many twists and turns of plot. Billy (Fancy) goes to live in Daytona Beach, Florida, to far remove himself from the horrors, traumas, and catastrophic events that he faced during the war. Flash forward to Brooklyn, New York, winter of 1986, circa thirty years post war. Billy, unannounced, knocks at the door of his brother Joe (Wyner), and sister in law/ former lover Elli (Shayne), only to confess the unspeakable act of murdering a former vicious Nazi guard, whom he, without a doubt, recognized in Daytona, who had taken on a new identity, albeit never forgotten by a survivor’s eye witness memory . He pleads his case to family and implores their help. He said he could not control his impulse or rage, and the only answer was to kill him, in the name of divine retribution, as it were. One memorable line of dialogue, “I didn’t want him in jail; I wanted him dead.” Now in the bitter cold of New York winter, Billy still dons his tropical Hawaiian garb, and old nostalgic sparks fly and rekindle when seeing Elli once again. Joe is bewildered, as he has not seen nor heard from his long lost brother in 30 years. The subplot of an affair between his brother and wife is unbeknownst to him; they are both shocked to reunite with Billy under these circumstances. Billy magically wishes to make this situation ‘disappear,’ and to be absolved from all transgressions,apropos to the theme of the Yom Kippur holy day of atonement , which has just past. The brother and his wife reluctantly take mercy on Billy, yet insist that he turns himself into the authorities. This powerful, poignant play has messages one would be apt to hear in the Yom Kippur liturgy, including the idea of forgiveness and retribution. The timeliness of this production, during the 10 days of awe, personally resonated with me, and it is a very meaningful rendition of a theme found in many books and films, yet this one, now in theatrical form, is touching and beautifully written and performed.

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Hold the Phone! It’s “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally”

With Siri and Alexa becoming our new (albeit inanimate) best friends, “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally”, now in its run at the Odyssey Theatre is both timely and innovative . This millenial and baby boomer oriented show, written by Kevin Armento and directed by Peter Richards, creatively features the narrator (Thomas Piper), a smartphone , accompanied in the background by Foley/Soundscape Designer (Adam Smith).  Of note is the high tech, sleek, sophisticated set, designed by Pete Hickok and lighting designer Kelley Finn.   The phone recounts endless scenarios of personal conversations via texts, photos, and calls of a teen student Red McCray. While tossed and strewn about in a barrage of places such as his teacher’s desk drawer; plopped on the bed; or stowed away in the car glove compartment, the phone gives its point of view through a very anthropomorphic vantage point . The audience comes to connect with the phone, as almost human, with sensitivities and emotions just like the humans who are daily obsessed with their phones. As smartphones (at least for me) have become an additional limb or digit on our body, we can totally resonate with the narrator feeling almost abandoned by its owner in many a situation revealed onstage. The phone holds many secrets and stories, beneath the surface of its ringtone, and to unlock the password brings missed calls and opportunities to the forefront.
Not only does its hard outer shell get bruised, smashed, but its inner core (ego) ,as well. This play, whose title is a cleverly conceived mathematical/operations mnemonic acronym, sheds light on the fact that we should never take for granted inanimate objects, of the smart, electrical sort, which society today depends upon and cherishes deeply. This show illustrates how technology has taken the world by storm, and the idea that a phone can have feelings, thoughts, and human attributes is one idea that’s been perpetuated in films and books , but not on a live stage, thus far.
The play had shades of the 2013 indie film, “Her,” about a new operating system which develops into a unique and intuitive entity in its own right. This play is a novel concept and I believe this is just the beginning, proving that  if phones could talk… they would surely have something profound to say!

Through October 8th
Fridays and Saturdays 8pm
Sundays 2pm
Odyssey Theatre 2055 S. Sepulveda
323 960-4429

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“In Mother Words” of Wisdom by Pam Levin

“Tales of Modern Motherhood” This Sh*t Just Got Real, written and performed by Pam Levin, played to a sold out crowd and standing ovation at the Whitefire Theatre, Wednesday Sept. 13th.  This one woman show is witty, entertaining, poignant, real, raw, all in one; in short, it’s everything fine theatre should be.  The Whitefire solo shows yet again never cease to amaze me, delivering material, both edgy and honest, the quality of HBO’s finest.  This show is ninety minutes of Pam Levin pouring her heart and soul, in both humorous vignettes and musical numbers, all the while, exploring the underlying theme of motherhood, in all its glory, sometimes gory, trials and tribulations.  Mothers are sustainers, the life force, as it were, each one filled with her own unique story and ‘take’ on the maternal experience, both ‘joys and oys.’ Pam’s words, all of which are autobiographical from her own life’s journey, from marriage to motherhood, elicit tears of joy amidst stories of struggle and angst. One (of her many) humorous personal vignette revolves around her first learning of her pregnancy and testing it with both generic and name brand pregnancy tests just to ensure its validity.  Each and every story is told with heartfelt delivery (no pun intended), rendering life lessons and beautiful values.  Pam Levin is a veteran of the one woman show genre, and Tales of Modern Motherhood will make its East Coast Premiere off-Broadway at the United Solo Festival in New York City, October 2, 2017. With her strong, fierce persona, Levin has the confidence and wherewithal to carry her show solo, and captivate the audience in its entirety.  Following the huge success of performing “In My Own X-Rated Words, written by Fredrica Duke, Pam Levin is a force to be reckoned with, leaving a legacy, sure to resonate and ring true with all the women (and men in their lives).



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Find Yourself…”Lost In Yonkers”


Neil Simon is one of the greatest comedic-dramatic playwrights of all time, and his Pulitzer Prize winning play, Lost in Yonkers, graces the stage at the Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in Noho arts district. Although this sentimental coming of age story takes place some 50 years ago, its message of family survival despite all odds (financial hardships; loss; disability) resonates with us today. The story is timely and contemporary, and topical to today’s troubled times, where families sometimes work odd jobs to scrape out a living and rely on extended family support, and the characters’ trials and tribulations affect us all emotionally.
The play, directed by Larry Eisenberg, and produced by Doug Haverty, centers around two brothers, Jay (Bennett Saltzman) and Arty (Brent Anthony), whose mother has died and are forced to live with their grandmother (Loraine Shields) and mentally challenged Aunt Bella (Roslyn Cohn). Meanwhile, their father (Patrick Burke) is caught in a maelstrom of debt and financial desperation, having no other choice but to travel and leave his sons behind with his extended dysfunctional family. As his facial expressions truly reveal his inner angst, Burke is a remarkable actor, eliciting compassion and empathy from the audience. De rigueur, Simon effectively uses sarcasm and schtick, particularly by brother Louis (Van Boudreaux) and sister Bella, as well as witty dialogue ala shades of Woody Allen/ Larry David style humor. Overwhelmed and overworked, he counts on his boys to be strong, ironically depending on a clan of helplessly dysfunctional relatives coming to his aid.
Simon’s witticisms and gems of dialogue are once again priceless in this comedic drama, as the two young men, lost in Yonkers, ultimately find themselves. Each character, in his or her own unique style, imparts words of wisdom, teaching us profound lessons on life, belonging, family, a home of one’s own.

Through October 22
Fridays and Saturdays 8pm
Sundays 2pm
Lonny Chapman Theatre
10900 Burbank Blvd.
818 763-5990

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‘The Nicest Kids in Town…’ in Act 1’s Hairspray

“Hairspray , the Musical,” comes to the stage at Theatre 68, presented by ACT-1; produced by Sierra Fisk and directed by Chera Marks. It is a paeon to the film cult classic, written and directed by John Waters. It dares to take on the once hot button taboo subject matter of civil rights and race integration in the 1960’s. The catchy, upbeat music is prevalent throughout each and every musical number, with some memorable highlights, including the opening piece, “Good Morning Baltimore,” (Tracy and Ensemble); and closing number, “You Can’t Stop the Beat.” (Tracy and company).
Benni Safchik delivers an impressive standout performance as Tracy Turnblad. She belts out her songs and dances her heart out, replete with authentic period hair ‘up-do’s’ and wardrobe, bringing the era to life onstage. This youth production definitely captures the decade portrayed, with the sensitive subject of race relations and tolerance all too timeless in today’s state of events. The uber talented ensemble breathes life into each and every character portrayed, with the unspoken tension in the air clearly palpable. This fine company, under the direction of Sierra Fisk, Graham Jackson, and Chera Marks, has done musical lyricist Marc Shaiman proud, enabling the audience to feel empathy and connection to each character on stage.

Through August 13th
Theatre 68 North Hollywood


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