Cheers to Karen MACARAH in “Wine Time With Roni”

“Wine Time with Roni” is an intimate portrait of one woman (Veronica), conflicted by life, love, and of course, wine. She appears first, with glass in hand, and throwing caution to the wind, she proceeds by telling of her episodes of ‘bad sex’ with fat men; thin ones; short ones; tall ones; gay ones; men with other women (ménage a trois);et al, and then she winks at the audience and mischievously reveals all her ‘badness.’ Her rapport with the audience is infatuating, as she receives much laughter, applause, and more than one standing ovation. She reminds me of one of those gossip mavens who spill all the dirt, but it’s not taken from the headlines but rather very real exasperating adventures of her own life. All the while, Roni is composed, bemused, and just the most magical poetess and raconteur. Her recounting and ranting is a sight and treat for sore eyes (and ears). I left the theatre uplifted and dazzled beyond the imagination. Karen Macarah is a writer and performer extraordinaire, and she has been seen as Edith/ Young Edie in the Tony award winning musical “Grey Gardens” and the witch in Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.” The direction by Hollywood Fringe Festival veteran, Michael Lorre, is magnificent. Roni’s storytelling, singing, and dancing can only be described as delicious, bawdy, and 100% Fringe.” As Roni states, “Come for the wine, stay for the conversation.”

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And the Vets Go “Marching On” @ The Wallis

“Marching On,” a production of CRE (create, reflect, empower) Outreach, directed by Greg Shane, throws a powerful punch, with shocking honesty, to shake us up into consciousness and awareness of the veteran’s plight and the transition back into civilian life . This show is truly a noble, honest work of art, full of blood, sweat, and tears. This show recounts eight veterans’ tours of duty, from boot camp to homecoming, through a series of vignettes and soliloquies. This amazing ensemble of veterans (Josie Benford, Irene Cruz, Paul E. Johnson, Monty Montgomery, Jefferson Reid, Judith Welch, Carla Brame Wilkerson, and Mason Vokes) infuses their roles with a raw intensity of personal experience that illuminates enduring truths. Their personal, heartfelt stories deal with once taboo subjects, such as alienation, drug & substance abuse, post traumatic stress disorder, abortion, all tenuous situations, taking a toll on these men and women for their entire lifetime. One memorable moment (of many) was of a female vet standing up for her rights and proving her strength and stamina are more than performing a set of push-ups. One veteran spoke candidly of how her transition unlocked once hidden memories; another felt ostracized due to the color of his skin; while others longed for family, which ultimately matters most. Hard-edged and gritty, this show also has soft and sentimental moments, with the eight actors forming a cohesive, solid ensemble. CRE gives these veterans a safe, creative venue through theatre to “uplift, unite, teach, build communities, inspire, and heal.” “Marching On” is sort of like an ‘acting boot camp!’

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A Delightful Duo in an Evening of Musical Theatre @ The Wallis

Zina Goldrich & Marcy Heisler, longstanding musical theatre faves, both on east and west coasts, graced the stage of the Sorting Room at the Wallis, as part of the summer 2018 “Sorting Room Summer Series.” This enjoyable evening of upbeat music and clever banter takes me back to evenings in many a New York cabaret and piano bar, with only a few venues to choose from here in Los Angeles! Their creative numbers and original songs just go to show that American musical theatre is alive and indeed thriving, for audiences of all ages to enjoy. Ambitious and prolific are these two ladies, with a recent show of Ever After,(collaborated with Drew Barrymore) in Atlanta. Zina & Marcy performed an enchanting song from this show, entitled “Who Needs Love?” A major element of the show was introducing a medley of their friends, including Cinco Paul, Scott Coulter, and Adam Hunter, each with a breath of fresh air and an inspiring tune. The audience was in for quite a treat, as they got to hear each distinct voice, each replete with larger than life personalities. Some standout numbers were “Alto’s Lament,” “Baltimore,” and “Fifteen Pounds.” With their belting voices, dazzling and comedic personalities, the two complement each other and perform with a natural rapport. Their vibrant intensity and charisma feeds off the spotlight, and more than exceeds the audience’s expectations. Each entertainer was a true star on stage in his/her own right. It was truly a show filled with fresh, promising musical talent. In the troubling political climate we face today, it’s refreshing to hear voices of hope and uplift, as is the case with Marcy and Zina. Their passion for the performing arts, both vocal and instrumental, is obvious, and this evening at the Wallis was the perfect choice for a magical summer soirée.


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Forget your Troubles, come hear “The Book That I’m Going To Write,” by Judy Garland @ the Fringe

Jason Powell perfectly captures the passion, the talent, and most of all the angst of the legendary Judy Garland, in his solo show at the Fringe 2018. This is a new, original play adapted from spoken word recordings, and Powell is truly phenomenal in this portrayal. A whole lot of people have always felt strongly about Judy, and the chance to hear her intimate, innermost sentiments on love, life , family , marriage, fame, and fortune is a rare privilege indeed. From beginning to end, Powell,s physical mannerisms, facial expressions, and choice of selections leave no room for doubt why audiences are enthralled and mesmerized by the potent personality that is Judy Garland. The show covers the actress’ life at a most precarious time, starting in London, 1964, during a series of concert comebacks, just a few years before her tragic overdose in 1969. One standout monologue delves into her marital and financial woes, significantly placing blame on former spouse, Sid Luft. Obviously, what a one person show about Judy Garland needs is strong performer, and this show, brilliantly directed by Phillip Fazio, is blessed with powerhouse Jason Powell. His delivery of the star’s iconic aura, both her highs and lows, mania and magnetism, is clearly revealed, amidst a simple set of a room with a recording device and plenty of booze bottles at her access. References to her classic favorites, such as “The Trolley Song,” and “Over the Rainbow” bring a sense of nostalgia and ominous sympathy to the tragedies to soon befall this once innocent, beloved young starlet. The Ruby Theatre at the Hollywood Complex was the ideal venue for Fringe theatre-goers to “forget their troubles, come on, get happy, and go somewhere over the rainbow,” to hear “The Book That I’m Going to Write,” by Judy Garland.

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All I can say is WOW! for “Ageless Wonder”

“Ageless Wonder” is the catch-all phrase that succinctly captures the essence of writer/performer Mindy Fradkin’s solo show at the Hollywood Fringe Festival.   She starts off by telling her audience that she was once one of the Beatles’ screaming fans in the 60’s.  She, herself, started performing at the young age of nine years old, and along her fascinating life journey, she was a hippie and went to comedy school in NYC.  There is a wonderfully conceived backdrop to her animated storytelling, replete with moviolas, pictures, and music by her and the very talented Roland Moussa.  She’s also has a forte in custom designing hats, which have been sold at Nordstrom’s and various boutiques.  She is also the founder of the ‘Smile Revolution,’ her attempt at making people who have trouble smiling, smile and feel better for it!  Among her myriad of hats, she was also a radio host, with guests like Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, and Richie Havens.  She has a great rapport with the audience, and one standout sequence is when they wear her hats and wigs, which amazingly enhance and embellish their own personalities.  Her performance style, while droll and deadpan, is ironically like a young pixie, when extolling the virtues of seniors, the golden oldies.  She ceremoniously announces that she is “Princess Wow,” and she proceeds to prove it with her heady, loving tribute to 106 year old Anthony, a barber, who doesn’t smoke or drink, but rather cuts hair as if he’s merely 70 years old. There is a clip of an array of dazzling seniors, looking wise and wonderful beyond their years.  Mindy herself is zippy, zesty,  and full of life, and you will walk out of the theatre transformed.  I truly identified with her and loved taking her exciting carousel ride through life as an ‘ageless wonder.’ Also, the direction by Jessica Lynn Johnson, an established performer of one woman shows, is extraordinary.   Go see it; it’s one of the best of this year’s Fringe Fest offerings.

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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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