Filling the House @ The Pico Playhouse for “A Giant Void in my Soul”

How to fill a void in one’s soul has been the existential question of the universe forever.  Playwright Bernard Cubria tackles this conundrum head on in a brilliant, artistic exploration between Fool 1 (Karla Mosley) and Fool 2 (Kim Hamilton), together on a mission in the Ammunition Theatre Company’s  “A Giant Void in my Soul.”   Through a series of colorful vignettes, the Fools and an assortment of other characters (bartender, thinker, co-workers, parents) set out to solve this philosophical question in a most enlightening manner, with costumes and physical humor ala cirque de Soleil.  The sketches depict how possibly food or drink abundant can fill a void, or perhaps a new baby onboard is the ultimate answer. The play is full of witty dialogue, poetic exchanges; the plot is consumed with each of these characters searching for wholeness. It covers much ground and is quite apropos for those here in Los Angeles, the land of the lonely hearts and soul seekers.  Not until show’s end is the dilemma fully figured out…leaving the audience searching for even more! This show is an amazing, amusing journey, and just another perfect example of the gems produced by this production company.

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Put “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” on your Short List

“Long Day’s Journey Into Night” is truly a renowned literary masterpiece, from whose own personal life, playwright Eugene O’Neill created a story both evocative and powerful. His writing and style is extremely relatable, with characters so real, their emotions worn on sleeves. From page to screen to stage, this epic drama graces the stage of the Wallis Annenberg Performing Arts Center, with luminaries Jeremy Irons (James Tyrone) and Leslie Manville (Mary Tyrone) shining extraordinarily in the spotlight. This story, like no other, reveals the sanctity of the human spirit, and the need to belong, be loved, and find purpose. The entire ensemble is incredible, each one genius in his/her own right. Jeremy Irons (Brideshead Revisited) has yet again risen to the occasion of a most challenging feat, and his portrayal of Tyrone is a masterful culmination. What we find out about Leslie Manville (Phantom Thread), is that her character Mary has a very strong personality, and when she sets her mind to do something, she follows through. Manville and Irons are nothing short of amazing in taking on this incredible production, here in LA, following their run at Wyndham’s Theatre (West End) and Brooklyn Academy of Music. Rory Keenan, as Jamie and Matthew Beard, as Edmund, are true gems, with standout performances and pithy dialogue, revealing their vulnerability and need for belonging and stability. One line of dialogue reveals the protective brotherly love “If you can’t be good, you can at least be careful.” (Act 1). Jessica Regan is also a standout, as she reprises the role of the Irish maid, Cathleen, from the 2016 Bristol Old Vic production.
It’s very hard to fail at “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”; the monologues, being some of the most compelling in American literature. That said, this production, which didn’t cut any lines, but clocks in at 3 hours and 25 minutes, is a model for how to efficiently stage such a masterpiece. There is also a lot of subtle, yet effective foreshadowing throughout the show. As the foghorn sounds, and darkness descends, the mood changes, as the family wallows in its despair, credit to lighting director extraordinaire, Peter Mumford. Add to this, dialogue and poetry of epic Shakespearean nature, and you have the quintessential tragic drama of its era, and actually timeless.

“Long Day’s Journey…” should be seen in any production on any level, amateur or professional: you will carry it with you for the rest of your life. But this production in Beverly Hills, at the Wallis Annenberg Center, has the pairing of Jeremy Irons and Leslie Manville as James and Mary Tyrone, two of the most indelible characters ever. Jeremy Irons suavely climbs the mountain of James Tyrone in his “bad, good luck” monologue. Leslie Manville plays the lonely, drug addicted mother, Mary Tyrone, former convent girl, without hysteria, just ever so delicately and on edge. There is more than a vestige of love between all the members of the Tyrone family, however doomed and enveloped in fog, their own personal pathos. If you want to experience theatrical history, in a production that will be long remembered, this is it.
Following the opening day performance, the privileged audience attended a reception in the Wallis courtyard, catered by Food & Bounty, and Sipsmith London Gin.

Through July 1
(310) 746-4000

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Melinda ‘Grace’s The Stage In her one woman show in Fringe Fest 2018

“Confessions of a Hopeful Southerner… in front of Strangers” is a creative, original and honest look at Melinda Grace (Mel)’s passion for excellence and success in her chosen craft of acting. In her one woman show, she plays 19 different roles, ranging from her prim and proper acting teacher…to a 4 year old whining toddler… to assorted characters of the illustrious playwright Tennessee Williams.
Her one hour autobiographical chronology flows and evolves naturally, as each unique character comes to represent a stage in her life and to illustrate the dichotomy of her life in New York, as an aspiring off Broadway starlet…to her arrival in Hollywood, where she currently feels is ‘the right place to be.’ Many of her caricatures and scenarios are directly out of the masterful works of Williams, such as “Summer Storm;” “A Streetcar Named Desire;” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” In each progressing monologue, Melinda Grace’s confidence soars and star appeal shines bright. She is both dramatic and humorous in one, and her stage aura is captivating. Every individual who pursues acting has a unique niche, and Melinda Grace is no exception, as she finds her own signature style in this heartfelt solo show (my particular favorite genre!). Her ‘more than 15 minutes of fame’will undoubtedly lead to many years of working onstage in both coasts, much like a ‘younger’ Kristen Chenoweth. As a consistent, quite sentimental sub-plot, Melinda goes to the front corner of the stage, on her daily long distance telephone conversations with her father, clearly her supportive ‘rock.’ This show ensures a whimsical yet gritty look at life, love, and the daily travails of a working actor forging a career in the big city, while maintaining her Southern ‘comfort zone’ and innate perennial charm.

Performances June 16 9pm
June 22 7pm

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Steven Shaw ‘finds himself’ in “Lost and Found: A Guilt Trip Through Show Business

“Lost and Found” is a wonderful collaboration between two talented individuals in show business: Steven Shaw and Joan Darling.  This is a one man play about the fascinating life of Steven Shaw, who is both writer and performer.  He comes across as a Pete Seeger or Woody Guthrie type character, casually relating a life well lived.  The show is tagged as a guilt trip through show biz, but it’s really the audience that gets the guilty pleasure of peering into Shaw’s singularly amazing career and life journey.  He grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and tried to make it as an actor as a young man, but was unsuccessful.  By hustling and nibbling at the edges, he was able to procure a nine year job as property manager for the New York Shakespeare Festival at the Public Theatre, under the auspices of the iconic Joe Papp.  After that, followed a 20 year gig as stage manager on Broadway, the Great White Way.  Finally, while in his 60’s, he was able to quench his acting desire and landed roles in over 60 film and TV episodes.  Yet, his life was rife with pain and tragedy. His sister committed suicide by turning on an oven in a narrow space, and his parents were alcoholics in true Irish fashion. He was also molested by a character actor along the way, but maintained his tough attitude, believing these things would only make him stronger. Oh, and not long after, he married and had three kids, and not long after, his wife said “it’s over,” so he moved on. A true story of note was his working with George C. Scott in Sly Fox on Broadway.  As dumb luck would have it, flu decimated the ranks of understudies, so it turned out that he, the stage manager would have to fill in for Scott himself.  It was a play directed by Mike Nichols, and in true comedy of the absurd tradition, he ordered the crew to moon the audience, and did so as well!  Shaw’s droll and casual delivery belies the extremely bumpy road he traversed.  The production is another example of the fabulous Theatre 40 and their consistent high standards.  Joan Darling has achieved high renown as a director, and her direction here is understated but powerful.
Tnere is a great choice of songs that accompany the action and monologue, such as “Let the Sun Shine,” from Hair, which was among the many famous musicals and shows that Shaw was proud to be a part of.  The starkness of the set, which consists of a microphone stand and a chair, (upon which the actor rarely sits), show that when you have a performer as wry and poetically conversant as Shaw, then that famous Hollywood expression applies here: ‘less is more.’  His amazing ease of being in the spotlight as well as his repartee with the audience is quite natural and admirable in one.

for reservations :

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Wander No More: “The Bronx Wanderers” have Arrived!

When one first enters the Windows showroom at the Bally’s Hotel in Las Vegas, one immediately feels like it’s something directly out of the old time Rat Pack shows at the Sands, or, perhaps a nightclub on the Jersey shore in Atlantic City.  The magical vibe of this show is felt instantly, as one takes a nostalgic view down memory lane, watching a slideshow of featured clips of ‘oldies but goodies,’ ranging from Beach Blanket Bingo to Ferris Bueller; from Moonstruck to the Sopranos; from Tony Orlando to Wayne Newton.  Then enters dynamic lead singer of “The Bronx Wanderers,” Vinnie Adinolfi, who vivaciously greets the audience, stating “when you’re from the Bronx & you make it in the show biz, it’s a real miracle come true!” He reminisces of times and images of his beloved Bronx neigborhood with doowop on every corner.  Apropos for the show I saw on Memorial Day, the band started out with a Veteran/Memorial Day medley, including songs like “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” and “Fortunate Son.”  The Show is a homage, a love letter of sorts, to the yesteryear of the Bronx (i.e The Bronx Tale). Vinnie relays a story about how his dear friend Chazz Palminerri suggested he start a group with his boys Vinnie Jr. and Nick.  “That moment changes our lives forever.”  The Bronx Wanderers is Jersey Boys meets the sidewalks of New York, replete with images onscreen of cannoli, calzones, and stickball.  Vinnie shared fond memories of growing up, as his friends listened to Led Zeppelin and heavy metal, he longed for the melodies along the GW bridge, such as “Save it for Me” (Frankie Valli), and “Ragdoll,” (The Four Seasons).  The phenomenal high energy band graced the stage  from show’s start to finish, delving into the rich, golden history of gentler, kinder days gone by, in a musical driven extravaganza like no other.

Vinnie told of his true ‘American idols,’ from his formative years, like Dion & the Belmonts and Danny Aiello: “just call them, and they’d come running.”  He nostalgically told about his encounters with music  legends and luminaries that lit up the stage, like Neil Diamond, Elvis Presley, and Ray Mazanra (the Doors).  The Bronx Wanderers performed songs that were the memorable hits at the time, such as the standout number, “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant,” (Billy Joel), “Who Loves You,” (The Four Seasons), and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” (Queen).  The band accompaniment was exceptional, moving from  rock & roll to old standards, doo-wop and beyond.  This show is so full of high energy, outstanding vocals, and sheer team effort.  What a way to start a night out on egg town in the ‘other city that never sleeps,’ Vegas, a dreamy diversion, to celebrate a special occasion, or life in general!

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The Fab Fiona in her one woman show @ the Zephyr

Fiona Goodwin makes no bones about being very  British and very lesbian in the extremely  funny, droll, and ascerbic one woman show, “A Very British Lesbian,” now in its run at the Zephyr Theatre on Melrose.  She both wrote and stars in this brilliant show, and based on the audience’s reaction opening night, she is comparable to a Jerry Seinfeld or Sarah Silverman stand up act at a comedy venue.  She pretty much spills her guts and we are the privileged recipients of her poetic and introspective dilletante prancing and dancing up a storm onstage.  And yet, it’s all done in a very British self effacing style.  She says things like “I eat as much as I can because I’m starving,” (showing she’s hungry for food and sex in one gulp); and “I’m determined to have hetero sex even if it kills me,” showing that what you see and believe about any person (especially a gay one,) is not necessarily what you get.  As she talks and titters away about her interesting life & lovelife, a backdrop screen relates images that hilariously quantify her experiences.  There is also a strong religious theme mixed in with her stories on attempting to become an actress, and so she says things like “when I was doing a play about Jesus Christ, I fell in love with the actress playing the Virgin Mary….Oh, and then she goes and gives birth…and by the way the baby is Jesus!”  She continues on a self pity rant : “how could she do this? I loved her with my heart and soul and thought she was the one!”  There is a wonderful selection of musical interludes that spice up the shenanigans we are witnessing.  There’s not one dull moment, as the audience applauses and laughs throughout.  A memorable moment is her riff on The Sound of Music , and her dancing and talking  just like Julie Andrews. The direction by Wendy Hammers was phenomenal; the wardrobe and lighting were the icing on the cake!  Go see this play! You will not be disappointed.

Zephyr Theatre  7456 Melrose Ave


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Enjoying ‘guilty pleasures’ @ JWT

The Jewish Women’s Theatre & Next @ the Braid does a consistently brilliant job of having actors play the writers’ true stories. The show was produced by Ronda Spinak, artistic director; and Abbe Meryl Feder, Next Executive Producer; and directed by Lisa Cirincione.   When an actor portrays the writer’s work, and the writer is siting right there in the audience, it is a surreal experience indeed.  Such was the case
in a recent presentation of “Guilty Parties,” when writer Courtenay Edelhart watched Nadege August recite the story about her adopted son in “Save the Last Dance for Me.”
States Edelhart, “ she was telling  my life story and  I was crying simultaneously!”  As comedienne/performer Judy Carter sat with the idea of guilt, and the story of finding true unconditional love,  she so appreciated being accepted by the audience, and in turn, this show helped her eradicate her own sense of internal guilt.
As so many of us may find ourselves guilty in one situation or another, and quickly push it away, the ensemble of actors onstage (Rosie Moss, Judy Carter, Chelsea London Lloyd, Nathan Bock, and Nadege August each took a new take on the concept  of guilt, revealing both positive and negative aspects of this once taboo topic.  The subject matter truly is of a universal nature, appealing to millennials and beyond.   Always incorporating a new layer, a new dimension, each piece can be interpreted individually, with the performer vividly bringing the writer’s words to life onstage.
At the Q&A following the show I attended, a profound question was introduced: “How much of yourself do you bring into the performance?  Do you bring your own guilt into someone else’s story.”  There was quite a consensus amongst the ensemble that within each monologue there is obviously inherent conflict and self questioning.  Interestingly, each performer felt he/she learns something new every time and may even try the line a new way or nuance at each show.
While the topic of guilt resonates with us all, with each individual story unique yet universal in one, the style and format of Jewish Women’s Theatre is quite special, and different from any other theatre venue.

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