Just loved “L.O.V.E.R!”

The one woman show, L.O.V.E.R. , performed and written by dynamo Lois Robbins, is now in its run at the Zephyr Theatre. The show is an eye opening, empathetic, cathartic bravura solo performance. As a writer, her prose and delivery is synchronized and brilliant. She deals with multiple experiences, sexual and otherwise; as the actress/mouthpiece, Robbins is stellar quality. The story is comprised of her mostly autobiographical anecdotes, of affairs with many an interesting man until she finally lands ‘Mr. Right,’ one that her protective father will approve of. Her wry and wit remind me of a mix between Catcher in the Rye, Tom Jones, and Lolita, a coming of age delight, with elements and seeming inspiration from these great works. The opening scene itself is very telling: a washing machine in spin cycle, with all its quirks and quivers, as the actress is perched on top, gyrating in sync with the churning. This show is an ‘all hangs out, let loose’ kind of wild tale, with no holds barred and much revealed. She’s a whimsical dancing fairy onstage, with a myriad of voices at the ready: her mother, father, and assorted characters along her wonderful, hilarious journey. She quips about profound advice a friend gave her, and by which she lives by: “whoever you end up with, will peel your grapes!” At a certain point in the show (and in her real life), things turn serious, as she discovers she has breast cancer. With poetry, profundity, and heartfelt monologue, she compares her life to a Woody Allen film, one in which you can’t keep secrets from your kids. The incidental music, montage of photographs and videos all were wonderfully concocted. One attribute sums up  Lois Robbins, as she proudly self describes, “I was always a good listener.” From this strength, a standout insightful, comedic performance results. One highlight is her story of climbing a mesa, with both literal and figurative effects on her life. This play is about climbing mountains, facing plateaus, and leaving the audience energized, ready to climb one’s own Everest.

Through May 12
Zephyr Theatre
7456 Melrose Ave
Thursdays 8 PM; Fridays 8 PM; Saturdays 8PM; Sundays 3 PM
(323)960-5770
http://www.plays411.com/lover

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Healing Emotional Wounds… in “Damaged Furniture.”

A play as well performed and profoundly written as Howard Skora’s newest, “Damaged Furniture,” deserves the highest of accolades. Rarely have I seen a family ‘dramedy’ with characters this sharp or dialogue this funny. As a story of humans coming together, with emotions still raw, after losing their beloved patriarch of the family, “king” of the furniture business, this show is a true winner. The play centers on a dysfunctional family coming to terms with love, loss, loyalty and deception. Mo Collins plays a new widow, (Laurie), coming to terms with her late husband’s bizarre fetish with furniture, especially of the recliner persuasion. Her physical humor and monologues are definite standouts. Alex Skuby, as the tormented son and nephew, (Doug), is excellent as he contemplates onstage the pros and cons of being back in New York with his family or in Los Angeles as a budding character action figure actor. Jessica Pohly so credibly portrays the sister (Gina), a therapist trying earnestly to heal her inner child along with understanding her family members. Yet, she is so insecure and unsure herself, she can’t help but lash out at everyone else. Peggy Maltby Etra is the mother, (Irene), determined to keep the peace at all costs, relentlessly pushing her son’s and daughter’s buttons. Robert Mangiardi is the father, (Phil), stricken with cancer and seemingly in the shadow of death, yet defying every moment with his beloved booze. All actors in this ensemble are so convincing in their roles, and the dialogue contains gems of wisdom, such as “wounds may heal, but they have ugly souvenirs of emotional trauma,” and “shame is the only shame in life.” The play deals with real life, relevant issues of disease, death, and denial, without dancing around the issues but truly delving within.

Through May 26th
Saturdays 8 pm
Whitefire Theatre
13500 Ventura Blvd
damagedfurniture.brownpapertickets.com
http://www.whitefiretheatre.com
818 9902324

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Let Go and Let God… at Jewish Women’s Theatre

“Crossing Our Red Sea”
Why is this show different from all other shows? Because this show is the one to celebrate women’s freedom from oppression and all that may shackle us, since nothing is ever easy, especially this theme, and this time of year, as Passover, story of the exodus,  is upon us.  The women (and man ) who tell the profound stories of their own personal ‘exodus,’ as it were, prepare us for the meaning of Passover, and in essence, the value of life. The stories are told and performed by AJ Meijer; Kate Zentall; Melanie Chartoff; and Tiffany Mualem. These stories are about freedom, family, and forgiveness. It’s a mix of darkness and lighter comedy; a blend of fears, tears, and laughter as well.
“Crossing Our Red Sea” is also a statement of Jewish identity, from many personal points of reference. From secular to religious, from immigrant to convert, the autobiographical stories touch on many topical themes of today’s world, which are sure to resonate with many an audience member, regardless of gender, age, and belief. The tension between who we are and what we believe and obtaining the freedom to be and express who we truly are is at the core of each vignette presented. The intimate venues of the Jewish Women’s Theatre productions allow the audience members to literally be part of the situation and vicariously share the joys and heartbreaks that each storyteller vividly relates.
At the Q&A following the show, one audience member commented on how each talented artist made each individual story come to life vividly onstage, really sounding autobiographical and from the heart. This ability is truly what fine acting is all about. What a joyous, apropos show to bring on the season of spring and rebirth, the festival of freedom. Writer Natasha Basley; her piece, entitled “Crossing the Red (Communist) Sea,” addressed how her father’s stirring story in turn brought her closer to her own identity, as a Jew, a daughter of an immigrant, and a woman. “This is my identity – and I’ve found a creative outlet to channel it.”
For the chance to explore the profound themes of liberation, love, life, and loss, don’t miss “Crossing Our Red Sea.”
For more information on show venues and dates, visit http://www.jewishwomenstheatre.org

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Choose to see “The Chosen” at Fountain Theatre

 

In my 10th grade AP English class at Fairfax High, I was given a reading list with The Chosen by Chaim Potok as my favorite pick! Now, from page to screen to stage, The Fountain Theatre presents The Chosen, directed by Simon Levy and starring Jonathan Arkin, Alan Blumenfeld, Dor Gvirtsman, and Sam Mandel.
The play opens with Reuven Malter (Mandel) and Danny Saunders (Gvirtsman)meeting on the baseball field, antagonistic toward each other at first, but then leaning in to understanding and ultimately a deep friendship. Both with  Orthodox upbringings, Danny is a genius, with secular, worldly interests, a passion for psychology, and only speaks with his father, Reb Saunders (Blumenfeld), when engaging in Talmud; while Reuven comes from a Zionist family, with a kind, empathetic father, David Malter (Arkin), a modern Orthodox Rabbi.  I recommend this play to all ages, genders and religions for its universal appeal.  Much more than sports rivalries, the story delves into religious differences including dogma, faith, and tradition. The amazing friendship that these two young men develop is the essence of the story and their connection is truly palpable. The passages of dialogue (and even sounds of silence) reflect the profound rite of passage from boyhood to young adulthood, particularly between the sons and their fathers. These characters bring to life onstage the fictional world that Potok conjured.

through March 25. Saturdays 8pm; Sundays 2pm; Mondays 8pm

The Fountain Theatre. 5060 Fountain Ave

(323)663-1525  www.fountaintheatre.com

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Battling Love and Illness in “Two Fisted Love” at the Odyssey Theatre

“Two Fisted Love,” by David Sessions, centers on a quintessential dysfunctional family, each individual searching for love, loyalty, belonging, and acceptance, quite apropos, as Valentines Day is auspiciously upon us.  The main conflict facing the family is obvious, from the start, as Caroline Connors (Serena Scott Thomas) has an advanced case of multiple sclerosis; while her husband Kevin (David Sessions) is a wandering eyed philanderer and her son Justin (Jacob Osborne) is unlucky. Kevin’s sexual madness includes an affair with the maid, Maria (Paula Lafayette). He’s a seemingly high society man, guiding promising college students in the upscale Silicon Valley, yet things aren’t always what they seem, as the plot thickens. There are references to the economic crash in ‘08, along with references to the timely “me-too” ism.  Gadflies play a prominent role as well: one is male, one is female. The daughter, Rachel (Laura Long) unwittingly becomes a gadfly, when in one humorous scene, she plays naive and asks her father, Kevin, where the maid is, as she has mysteriously disappeared. Rachel becomes the voice of conscience, as she puts her father in his place, in a foreshadowing tone. The other gadfly is Andy Wainwright (Jason Downs), the randy Englishman, who seems to have wanderlust, as he visits Thailand and engages with exotic women, even under age, with quite devastating consequences. Kevin lives in a forever state of denial, yet is constantly reminded that one cannot afford to live in denial in the 2008 crash, much like the 1929 depression, when the world is crumbling around him, both financial and personal.  If you only care about yourself, which on the surface he seems to do, then you’re just irresponsible and narcissistic, which Rachel calls him on.  In light of our current presidency, which cannot be ignored in this review’s context, so much of this play refers to our current, insane state of affairs. The topical nature and voracity are truly evident in the wonderful writing and superb acting.  Director Jules Aaron is a genius, proven multiple times over. I was moved by the pathos, dry humor, irony of an absurd degree, and melodrama. Two Fisted Love is a dynamic production at the Odyssey; well worth a ticket.

Through March 11

Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm Sundays at 3pm

Odyssey Theatre 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.  (866)811-4111.   http://www.twofistedlove.com

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Emilio Estevez ‘reads it forward’ in “The Public,” at Santa Barbara International Film Festival ‘18

  • “The Public,” directed by Emilio Estevez made its world premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2018 at the historic Arlington Theatre, and is truly ‘one for the books.’  On hand to celebrate were Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, and Jena Malone. Just a few weeks after the tragic disaster of devastating fires in Montecito and environs, displacing hundreds who lost their homes and killing 21 people, Festival director Roger Durling addressed the packed crowd by stating “more than ever, this city needs film to bring us together, to uplift our spirits.” It’s incredible how close one can be to a disaster yet still be able to escape into films and still have the idyllic paradise of Santa Barbara.

Appropriately enough, this opening film deals with a cold wintery night in Cincinnati, where the homeless population ‘occupies’ the public library, after hours, with the aid of compassionate librarian, played by Emilio Estevez. Homeless and mentally ill people living on the streets nationwide has been a crisis decades in the making, and this relevant film tackles an often taboo, uncomfortable subject in our society.
This dramedy comes to push open the envelope of the very real and tragic situation happening today in America’s public libraries. A place known for people to congregate, read, learn, and feel safe, the library has also transformed into a safe, warm place for homeless to congregate and find shelter. During his research at the Los Angeles Central Library,  for the film Bobby, Estevez spent many a day observing how “libraries have become de facto homeless shelters and librarians have become social workers.” The film effectively gives voice to both sides (the homeless and mentally ill population, as well as police and library officials).  Also starring Christian Slater and Gabrielle Union, “The Public” is a true ensemble production. A surprise twist to the story brings a much needed levity and laugh to such a distressing matter.  Bravo to the Sbiff for presenting such an enlightening, provocative film on its opening night. This festival has become known for a venue of new filmmakers and fresh voices to present ‘left of center’ studio films.
For the full lineup, visit sbiff.org

 

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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.
– [ ] http://www.catalinajazzclub.com

 

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