Write Act Repertory makes no wrong turns…in “Freeway Dreams”

“Freeway Dreams ” marks the reentry of the Write Act Repertory from New York to Los Angeles and appropriately pays homage to the city’s complex freeways, and frustrations thereof.  It validates the amazing quality and value of this company’s productions that is a signature of their reputation and history . While originally  based in Hollywood in a small church on Yucca St, I as a reviewer held their company as the best LA small theatre offers .

This particular show is  a slice of Lala land onstage. Yet it is completely beyond original . The 4 characters , cars in tow, we immediately see their frustration as they endure LA traffic, the most heinous gridlock ever encountered .
“Freeway Dreams” might possibly be more like ‘freeway nightmares,’ as each character undergoes his/her own trauma and tribulation with the brilliance of the music and lyrics (Wayne Moore), making their dilemmas all the more poignant .
The license plates identify each character : pizza delivery guy/ restaurant owner (Jonathan Brett ); Queen Bee Brenda  , a casting director and voluptuous lover; (Stephanie B. Andersen).
One plate states “ohm,” referring to Deborah , a yoga class groupie /sexy receptionist ala Marilyn Monroe , (Leslie Rubino); and the last but not least Andrew , a self described ‘fat actor,’ (Darren Mangler).  The opening song “Freeway,”  is a grabber for sure, about how everyone hates the freeway , itinerant cursing and honking in background enabling each character to get to their destination, both literally and figuratively, hopes and dreams not withstanding .
Many comedic scenes abound on this tiny bare stage including one scene in an Italian restaurant where Jonathan Brett recites his menu in song, demonstrating his aspirations beyond a waiter . A wonderful song is belted by Stephanie Anderson : “A Big Woman  Needs  a Big Man ,” and a wonderful rendition of “My Superman” by Leslie Rubino.
One casting session references Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise  , yet Darren Mangler  will suffice . A constant interplay ensues, between reality and fantasy,  all in the midst of surviving traffic against all odds to fulfill dreams
The director/choreographer of the show (Jim Blanchette) provides a very effective gibberish response to the many phone calls made onstage . This play owes credit to all the stellar players behind the scenes : John Lant (producer ); Wayne Moore ( writer, musical direction ) and Jim Blanchette (direction, choreography).
The Write Act is back on board and we are all blessed .

Through June 11

Write Act Repertory  Brickhouse Theatre

10950 Peach Grove Street Noho

Fridays and Saturdays 8pm; Sundays 6pm

for tickets : 800 838-3006. http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2951519

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That’s A Spicy Schtick… in “My Mother’s Italian My Father’s Jewish & I’m in Therapy”

Now playing at the Colony Theatre in Burbank, this play, written by Steve Solomon, and portrayed by Peter Fogel, is the story of one man, a Jewish-Italian hybrid, as it were.  Steve’s only true passion, right from an early age, was stand up comedy and he certainly had a lot of material to draw from his upbringing. Hailing from Long Island, a colony of its own, he credits his dysfunctional family for his much needed years of therapy.  In fact, the entire one man show is set in the therapist’s office, as he delves into his past and present psychoses. His mom from Palermo, Sicily and dad of Jewish heritage, are not seen yet heard through the iconic memories  of their son.  To complicate matters, the Jewish grandparents are a major part of the extended family, all meddling into Steve’s affairs, whether it be in the bedroom(sexual matters); or kitchen (Kosher dietary laws).  They proceed to pile on the guilt, ala a heap of chopped liver on rye, so he never seems quite absolved of his “sins,” and finds himself in the predicament of surviving as a product of two disparate worlds.  A major discussion ensues on Kosher cooking ; little does he know that his wife wishes to dutifully follow the laws while he’s fed up with the hazerai of the whole process.  One could actually say this show is a throwback to the beloved comics of the Borscht Belt era of yesteryear, paying homage to the likes of Buddy Hackett, Jackie Mason and Henny Youngman.  Bringing the nostalgic Catskills humor to the California stage, Fogel’s schticks  and puns galore fill the dialogue, such as when the therapist’s office  receptionist (in voiceover ) states, “you pressed the wrong button on the intercom,” he cleverly retorts, “you’re pushing all my buttons.”

Another running joke is his hard of hearing parents on the telephone, who seem to continually lose their hearing aids, whether by accident or intentional, making matters worse, as they can’t hear (or choose to listen) to what he’s saying.  This pushes Steve even further into therapy, as he states, “make that a double” (session).

As the show’s publicity tag line quite accurately   reads, “one part lasagna, one part kreplach, and two parts Prozac, this show is a laugh a minute must see.

through June 25

the Colony Theatre 555 N Third St Burbank

For reservations:

855- 4487469.  www. playhouseinfo.com

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Jewish Women’s Theatre: Courage at the Core

So many classics and memoirs have been written, centering on the theme of courage; to name a few, “Red Badge of Courage,” and JFK’s “Profiles in Courage.” On that note, the Jewish Women’s Theatre & Newground: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change presented a poignant at home salon theatre, entitled “More Courage.”  One standout vignette (among many)  was written by Barra Grant and performed by Tiffany Mualem; Ayeleyte Robinson and Mark Jacobson. “You can’t be beautiful and hate” told the story of the first Jewish Miss America, Bess Myerson, who wore the badge of courage well, as she faced and defied both subtle and blatant anti-semitism during the pageant. In the end, she just could not abide by the organization’s policies and wishes; i.e. to change her name, etc.  In a proud fit of heroism ala Queen Esther, she declined the tour, removed her gown and crown; and chose to stay loyal to her heritage.

Another wonderful performance, apropos to this upcoming Mother’s Day was a piece called “Mothers,” written by Leora Eren Frucht, adapted from Hadassah Magazine by Rhonda Spinak; and performed by Ayelette Robinson; Aneela Qureshi; Mark Jacobson and Tiffany Mualem.  This vignette focused on two women, one Arab, one Israeli, each from diametrically opposing cultures and mindsets, yet when encountering one another, develop an unbreakable bond as they discover they have more in common than one would ever believe, all in the name of motherly love.

“Kosher Rebel,” written by Abby Stein, and adapted from an interview by Julie Bram, and exquisitely performed by Ayelette Robinson, was perhaps the most powerful, compelling presentation of the evening.  Herman Hesse often wrote about the divergence between men and women and how often men have innate feminine characteristics. Even in today’s world, with transgender culture much less taboo, we are in constant dialogue and discussion over whether men are really men; women are really women; or are we just human beings conflicted within our own bodies? In this performance, a Hasidic man/woman comes to terms with sexuality against all odds and family tradition.

The need to improve and empower Muslim-Jewish relations and strengthen cooperation and mutual respect is clearly evident in this theatrical presentation.  Rather than a black and white news story or documentary, this vivid portrayal is a creative attempt to bridge the gulf.  Jewish Women’s  Theatre  and Newground have impeccably brought together a meeting of the minds and melting of the hearts and souls in one.  It’s clear that the only true solution is negotiation and tolerance , not war, hatred, fear, or madness.

The creativity and collaboration by these talented women is a huge start.

through May 18

http://www.jewishwomenstheatre.org

 

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LAJFF 2017 – Henry Jaglom Centerpiece Premiere

From page to stage to screen, Henry Jaglom’s “Train to Zakopane” will premiere at the Los Angeles Jewish Film Fest 2017, at the Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills, on Saturday April 29th, 8 PM.  “Train to Zakopane’s” tag line is “a true story of hate and love.”  The film version stars the talented leading lady Tanna Frederick and debonaire Mike Falkow.  It is a vivid story of tragic bittersweet love between 2 star crossed lovers, ala Romeo and Juliet, amidst the most uncertain of times.  This original play enjoyed an extended run at the Edgemar Center for the Arts in Santa Monica, and now makes its way to the silver screen, under the impeccable directorship of Henry Jaglom, who will participate in a Q&A following the film, moderated by the Jewish Journal’s David Suissa.  The film contains all the elements making for an evening of suspense, intrigue, mystery, and romance, with characters orchestrating the full gamut of emotion, leaving the audience in a state of awe.

For reservations, visit website at

www. lajfilmfest.org

213 368-1661

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Quite the Ride… in “Elevator,” at Coast Playhouse

“Elevator,” written and directed by Michael Leoni, now playing at the Coast Playhouse in West Hollywood, is an intense, thrilling ride of a show, leaving audience members at the edge of their seats throughout. All too often, we may think about what’s on the minds of people we briefly meet on an elevator, yet just as our curiosity stirs, with the muzak in background, the door abruptly opens. Not the case in this riveting piece, where seven passengers, with compelling performances by David Abed; William Stanford Davis; Erica Katzin; Karsen Rigby; Kristina St. Peter; Tyler Tanner; Deborah Vancelette; and Devon Werkheiser, are forced to get to know the inner workings, as the elevator they all share, comes to a sudden halt. To the writer’s credit, the audience is presented with a psychological phenomenon, where human beings are in a close, confined space, destined to meet each other in an intimate environs, all the while yearning for survival and ultimately the building maintenance man/owner to fix the lift.

As tensions mount, inner fears escalate, worries, dreams, hopes, and skeletons in the closet arise to the surface, and facades fade away, as the true identities and personas unfold and unravel. We quickly learn that only at one’s most vulnerable state, does the true character emerge from the many hidden layers within. For those seeking a mesmerizing performance and a dramatic play to immerse oneself in, leaving all daily cares and commitments to the wayside, “Elevator” is just the ticket.

Through April 30th Fridays and Saturdays 8PM; Sundays 3 PM

Coast Playhouse. 8325 Santa Monica Blvd

http://www.plays411.com/elevator 323 960-7787

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Whitefire makes beautiful ‘moves’ in “Martha”

“Martha,” by Ellen Melaver, tells the story of one of the most iconic dancers/choreographers our world has ever known : the one, the only Martha Graham.
Starring Christina Carlisi in her one woman show, she gives voice to this incredible art maker whose movement and choreographic expression has informed countless dancers and has influenced the aesthetic of decades of dance. Brava to the exquisite Carlisi, who, in her portrayal of Graham, reveals an illustrious heroine. The show is clearly an emotional autobiographic account of Martha Graham s performing highlights of her career as she vividly remembers . Recalling her once youth and beauty , the truth of her brilliance is unmistakeable, as the audience can see it onstage as the projected photos of her youth tell a thousand words.
Her beauty and talent is not a thing of the past. It comes to full life onstage at the Whitefire, amidst a simple set, where this talented actress performs solo , remembering Martha’s vibrancy and telling her stories in a mellifluous voice, acting them out with her articulate body and vivid facial expressions. She sometimes uses a gesture; sometimes a dance, recalling her past performances; love of her life Erick Hawkins; and dancing figurative duets with her younger image.
Multiple decades is a lot to pack into one single performance, yet the efficiency of this 85 minute show, directed by Stewart J. Zully, is quite an achievement and tour de force.

Through April 16  Sundays 7:30pm

Whitefire Theatre 13500 Ventura Blvd

for reservations 818 6878559

http://www.marthasoloplay.brownpapertickets.com

 

 

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Come to the Cabaret…at Brickhouse Theatre Noho Arts

 

There’s no doubt that composer extraordinaire Michael Antin has a vivid story to tell, amidst the dark backdrop of early World War II (1932), in “Lili Marlene,” set in Berlin, Germany. This original musical, directed and choreographed by Mark Blowers, and produced by John Lant and Tamra Pica, is a tale of incredible talent and will to survive, amidst intense fear of the unknown and uncertainty; incredible loss; and ultimately optimism and hope triumphing over despair.
The show features Amy Londyn as the perky, petite cabaret singer by the stage name of Lili Marlene; her given name, Rosie Penn, in a suspenseful story of life and death decisions . She is the heroine of her day , a queen Esther, as it were, destined to save her people and quite in love with Willi (Tavis L.Baker).
Together , in memorable duets, “Let Me Send You Away,” and “It is Time My Love,” we recognize how well suited they are for each other , with natural chemistry onstage and strong vocals. David Kamenir shines as music director, as evidenced by these dazzling numbers.
We get an intimate glimpse of the household and family life of siblings Janine (Aubrie Alexander) and Kurt (Judd Yort), yearning to stand up for ones beliefs and principles , despite the gendarme prowling about the town . His strong activism and sensibility shines through with his standout belting of “Time to Stand Up.” Things change when Kurt is tragically shot and murdered ; Lili Marlene realizes she must conceal her true identity to stay alive. Her ballad about wanting a new life, and her passion for Joie de vivre, “Two Stars in the Sky,” is the show’s bright spot .
The musical ends with anticipated hopes of Lili (with child); husband Willi and family fleeing Berlin for a new life, a new beginning , a new journey to hope happiness and wholeness . The original lyrics and songs reflect a random range of styles, while the large company of incredible talent have some touching moments indeed .
The words of the songs tell Lili Marlene’s story; the music has all the compassion of her young carefree spirit. Antin’s gift to bring this story to stage is testimony to all that was lost in the Holocaust; and the courage this family gains to reaffirm the art of living; and in turn, create a better world.

For reservations :
http://www.writeactreptheatre.org
Twitter/hashtag #lilimarlenemusical

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