A Lesson on Women…in “The Female Brain”

Such a mystique to understand the inner goings on of the female brain and neurology, and Whitney Cummings tackles it hands on in her new film, “The Female Brain,” premiering at the Los Angeles Film Festival 2017. In a q&a following film, she talks about the female’s thoughts and feelings, living alongside other human beings in complex relationships. Her film, based on the non fiction book of the same name, features various subplots in this funny, wildly inventive novel docu-drama. Starring Whitney Cummings herself, as the lead role, a budding neurologist in the throes of a clinical psychiatry study, she unexpectedly falls for her male subject (Toby Kebbell); alongside co stars Beanie Feldstein; Sofia Vergara; and Cecile Strong. This film focuses on an elaborate pseudo-scientific research project to differentiate how males and females look at and react to the world, and to experience the film without even reading the book as preparation, is quite an amazing, humbling journey. Cummings states, “people read non fiction and are hungry to learn…the takeaway from this movie is an illumination to learn new things to promote healthy relationships.” Various aspects of the female brain are illustrated in humorous scenes and vignettes, exploring the ‘fight or flight,’ instinct, nagging tendencies, insecurity; and emotional manipulation. The many stages of a relationship are explored… from initial dating and honeymoon phase… to slow disinterest of a marriage, potentially leading to divorce or running its course. Cummings’ voice and message is both intimate and general, sure to resonate with women no matter where they are in life’s precarious journey and where they will eventually end up. When asked if the film, (filled with hilarious, unpredictable moments of dialogue), was scripted or improv, she states, “for the most part, we stuck to the script.. I hired the best people and let them do what they do! Create a safe space and let them play!” With stories and scenarios as real as possible, funny and genuine results evolved naturally. “These actors came in and added some improv and their personal touch.”


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Bewildered, Bedazzled, “Beguiled”

The Los Angeles Film Fest 2017 recently premiered the new film by esteemed Oscar winning director Sofia Coppola at the LACMA Bing Theatre.  “The Beguiled” is a remake of Don Siegel’s 1971 Civil war drama starring Clint Eastwood.  It is a story of an injured soldier (Colin Farrell) taken into a confederate Southern boarding school  run by Martha Farnsworth ( Nicole Kidman) and her students (Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning, toplining an ensemble of unknowns).  Soon sexual tension leads to dangerous rivalry as they attend to his wounds.  In a q&a talkback, following the film, Coppola elaborated on her need for a change of scenery and period piece. “I knew I wanted to do something beautiful…” and beautiful, it was indeed, filled with Southern charm, corsets, and crinolines.  The stellar cast are all superb in their roles, including the male lead (Ferrell), as the overly coddled soldier who pays a heavy price.  Coppola expounded on how “the camera has always been an important part of her life.” In fact, during her studies in film school, she chose visual storytelling in the format of films rather than writing reports.  She attributes Helmut Newton as a huge artistic influence on creating this film, as well as her flair for a dramatic feminist approach. “That is basically how “The Beguiled” came to be.”  The result is an exquisite plot-driven production, filled with moss-draped oak trees, gothic Southern motif, a romance novel, with a tinge of horror genre.  On working with Nicole Kidman; Kirsten Dunst; and Elle Fanning, Coppola stated, “I thought of Nicole when I envisioned the role and wrote the part.  All of them brought so much of themselves to their characters.”  Coppola challenged herself in the project by staying “more naturalistic and close to the period piece, with minimal soundtrack and rather,  more emphasis on emotional tension.  She attributes her success as a filmmaker to her privileged  upbringing, as she was surrounded by “a lot of different people, on location with her dad, forcing herself to learn “how to fit in, and instinctively read the communication codes of a tribe.”  In so doing, “The Beguiled,” this time, written from a woman’s point of view, is a romance suspense novel brought to life onscreen, revealing women’s instinctively intuitive, nurturing nature.  In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Kirsten Dunst stated,  “when you see a Sofia movie, you know it’s a Sofia movie!”

As proven in her other films “The Virgin Suicides,” and “Lost in Translation,” (also shown at a later screening at the Bing that evening), Sofia Coppola is not just Francis Ford Coppola’s daughter, but a prominent director in her own right, with her own unique style.  This, in my opinion,  sets her apart as a budding icon.  Her care and attention to the film’s details, such as costumes, setting and music, are “integral and powerful, evocative elements to the overall aura,” she tells the audience.   Any subject she tackles, she clearly grabs the bull by its horns, and creates a verifiable masterpiece.  This simple story is timely and topical for today’s intense political and societal arena, as it’s told by a female point of view rather than by the male perspective of the soldier.  The film is clearly her successful attempt to specify the importance of women’s input in today’s world.  She’s a true role model for women and I believe she’ll equal or exceed her father’s legacy.




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The Writing’s on the Wall… in “Building the Wall”

The audience is the captivated 4th wall in Robert Schenkkan’s gripping, all too timely masterpiece, “Building the Wall,” recently premiering at the Fountain Theatre, Hollywood.  Upon considering attending this politically charged performance, I first thought it may be too soon to see a futuristic political drama, set in 2019 Trump America. Donald Trump has inspired this show, as all the bizarre talk of the leader of the free world as we know it , is realized in this compelling conversation. Yet, quite the contrary, as the current political soap opera evolves daily,  this hot button topic is ripe and ready for theatrical presentation. In “Building the Wall,” Schenkkan builds on the implications of the war on immigrants, whether legal or undocumented.  Flash forward: Trump is impeached, and the play focuses on a heated interview between Rick (Bo Foxworth), a death row inmate, being held in solitary confinement; and Gloria (Judith Moreland), an African American history professor, fascinated by his story and intent to learn of his motivations for the torture instilled in the prison he managed. Claiming, similar to the too familiar claims in Nazi Germany, of ‘merely following orders,’ the play’s dark, dismal tone and intense energy is felt by all witnessing the candid conversation. The two carry the performance impeccably, as one can practically hear a pin drop between the pauses of dialogue. In this Orwellian take on a post Trump presidency and apocalyptic world, we are treated to the horrific machinations of a narcissistic politician’s hopes and dreams realized, in particular his ardent war on immigrants.
Schenkkan, with a natural proclivity to works based on history (“The Kentucky Cycle,” and “All the Way”), truly delivers in this provocative psycho-social production, sure to keep the audience members in awe, long after the show’s end. Not only was a physical wall built, but a symbolic barrier alienating one people from another, as imaginary protection against the unknown.

for more information, visit





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Heavenly Monologue…in “Talking With Angels” Hollywood Fringe ’17

In every generation, Judaism has had its share of martyrs. Hannah Senesh, a Hungarian Jew and poet/writer of the profound “Blessed is the Match,” is one such example.  A lesser known heroine is Gitta Mallasz, whose story and poetry is now being brought to the limelight by performer Shelley Mitchell, in “Talking with Angels,” now premiering at the Hollywood Fringe Festival.  Gitta Mallasz (1907-1992) was a Hungarian graphic designer, artist, and Olympic swimmer, but perhaps best known for her transcripts of extraordinary spiritual messages now enlightening audiences privileged to attend this performance.

Some precious sparks of dialogue in the play, actual excerpts from her book, “Talking With Angels,” include “when the love comes, the two become one. One cell dies; another grows.
Her account onstage is a chronological one, starting in March 1944, when Germany invades her beloved Budapest.  A symbolic choir of  angels hover over her and the Jews she’s protecting in hiding (Hanna Dallos; Joseph Kreutzer; and Lili Strauss) singing “choose life, truth, song, praise.”
Shelley Mitchell beautifully expresses poetic metaphors that one can tangibly visualize:
“The wedding of heaven and earth where
Bride and bridegroom are vessels of joy.”
The timeless message of the prayer Shalom Aleichem,” where messengers of the divine
reveal how “reason stops breathlessly where faith begins.”
Just as in “Blessed is the match,” a flame rises up, visibly seen through the kindled lights of a menorah onstage, as Mitchell contrasts the duality of fire and air, and states, “without a wick, a candle doesn’t burn.” We clearly see and understand  the fire within and inner light of Gitta Mallasz, after all that she endured at this auspicious time, no fear, no filter.

She ends her show on a high note of hope: “May your mouth be closed if not declaring the truth… May your hands always be active…May your heart exude radiance.”

For show details, visit


Dorie Theatre 6472 Santa Monica Blvd

Thurs June 8; 7pm.  Sat June 10; 8:30pm. Sunday June 11; 2pm;  Tues June 13; 8:30pm. Friday June 16; 7pm. Sunday June 18; 6:30pm

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Magic, Cabaret… and All That Jazz

Master of magic, illusions, and jazz, Jonathan Sky dazzles onstage in his current show, “Rhapsody,” at the 2017 Hollywood Fringe Festival.  Billed as “50 minutes of musical magic,” this show has all the elements to wow the crowd, including 12 magical vignettes involving card tricks; invisible spheres and a myriad of ‘out of the box’ delights.

All in attendance were in awe of Sky’s extraordinary sleight of hand, with audience interaction an intrinsic part of the show.  His mesmerized audience anticipated each trick with bated breath,  wondering the hidden secret that was never fully revealed. His opening act, the New Orleans poker gambler, was a standout,  revealing his wizard genius skills on the trumpet.   It is easy to see how Jonathan Sky can easily join the ranks of illusionist masterminds, the likes of Houdini. This one man show not  only provides mystifying magic, soothing music, but also a theatrical flair of the unexpected, just what we so need right now.


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Breathe Deep…and give praise…to “Trixie: The Musical

“Trixie: The Musical” pays homage to the art of psychotherapy in its many creative forms, from cognitive behavioral therapy, expressive art therapy; to motivational interviewing and empathic reflective validation.  Under Elizabeth DelloRusso’s superb direction, ensemble members, Emily Decker (Trixie); Elizabeth DellaRusso (Lily); Sean Benedict (Bradley); Kate Bowman (Jackie); Adam Lau (Paul); Samantha Lawrence (Lydia); and Christopher Robert Smith (Mark), give a stellar performance.  The exchanges between each ticking time bomb and their trusty therapist will keep the audience engaged throughout the show, with a subtle, satiric look at the industry of self help and psychotherapy.  Each character hopes to resolve his/her personal issues, some deeply rooted from childhood, and in turn help heal therapist Trixie at the same time. The play is quite intense and profound in one, as ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety’ come to life onstage, taking anthropomorphic forms as they dance around Trixie.  It is an exploration of the human spirit, with all its temptations and addictions, and the journey of the common man/woman driven to the edge.  The show’s hook right from the start is a slide image of a soothing blue ocean wave, with a voiceover encouraging us to ‘meditate, breathe deep.’  Musical interludes ensue, with musical numbers and catchy tunes, having the audience hum along in no time. When Trixie  finally embraces her  full, true self, she becomes the beloved therapist and authentic person she’s been all along.

for more information


The Complex Theatre

June 10 @ 7:30 pm.  June 16 @ 8:30 pm

June 17 @ 1:30 pm. June 24 @ 10pm

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Barbara Minkus: Her ’15 Minutes’ and Much Much More

Barbara Minkus is a senior in her glory days acts and looks more like a junior.  In a most animated one woman show, directed by Susan Morgenstern, Barbara delights her audience at the Santa Monica Playhouse. Now in her prime, golden years, Barbara shares a musical journey of her full life that certainly many would admire and envy.  In “The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost writes “Two roads diverged…I could not travel both.”  Yet Barbara Minkus manages to defy the odds, as it were, and take on two distinct roads, and many faceted characters in her fabulous performance.

She is the woman in this one woman show “I’m Not Famous,” and when she’s not speaking profound words of wisdom she’s either singing or dancing to communicate the incredible nature of her amazing life’s journey.
She started off as a frumpy girl on Chicago’s north side , frequently ridiculed as a ‘chubby scrappy nobody.’  But those harsh words and mean girls did not deter her from her dream to make it big as an actress or comedienne In show biz and in the end she managed to fulfill this dream among many other ones.
Her motto was constantly “run, don’t walk,”and run she did as a true go getter.
Resembling Bette midler in her youth she tried her hand at opera arias, yet was laughed at and encouraged to pursue the great white way on Broadway.  She began her career in show business in NYC in Julius Monk’s Bits and Pieces, continuing on as the original Lucy in the recording of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”
A lucky break was being discovered by Merv Griffin and obtaining an agent in Hollywood (Howard West) and through persistence and drive, she landed a coveted role as Fanny  Brice In Funny Girl  and as luck would have it … she’s been passionate about theatre ever since.
Her career took a curveball as it were and ended up in Hollywood , with cameo comedic bits in sitcoms like Love American Style and the Danny Kaye Show . Along the way she found true love on a blind date and built a happy life and family.
Most people would be happy enough with such accomplishments but she also fulfilled an ‘alter ego ‘ role as a therapist, a main revelation in her solo show. She relives how she studied acting by day and psychology by night.
And never the two would meet until graduation day when she belted “People  who
Help people are the luckiest people in The world,” ala Barbra Streisand.
A memorable number, quite a standout in this show was Barbara’s rendition of Sinatra’s “That’s Life.”
Barbara Minkus has had more than 15 minutes of fame but rather a whole life of success and accomplishment
Her memoir onstage is s true tribute to her creativity and originality .

through July 22

Saturdays 7pm; Sundays 3pm

Santa Monica Playhouse 1211 4th St

310 3949779



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