“In Mother Words” of Wisdom by Pam Levin

“Tales of Modern Motherhood” This Sh*t Just Got Real, written and performed by Pam Levin, played to a sold out crowd and standing ovation at the Whitefire Theatre, Wednesday Sept. 13th.  This one woman show is witty, entertaining, poignant, real, raw, all in one; in short, it’s everything fine theatre should be.  The Whitefire solo shows yet again never cease to amaze me, delivering material, both edgy and honest, the quality of HBO’s finest.  This show is ninety minutes of Pam Levin pouring her heart and soul, in both humorous vignettes and musical numbers, all the while, exploring the underlying theme of motherhood, in all its glory, sometimes gory, trials and tribulations.  Mothers are sustainers, the life force, as it were, each one filled with her own unique story and ‘take’ on the maternal experience, both ‘joys and oys.’ Pam’s words, all of which are autobiographical from her own life’s journey, from marriage to motherhood, elicit tears of joy amidst stories of struggle and angst. One (of her many) humorous personal vignette revolves around her first learning of her pregnancy and testing it with both generic and name brand pregnancy tests just to ensure its validity.  Each and every story is told with heartfelt delivery (no pun intended), rendering life lessons and beautiful values.  Pam Levin is a veteran of the one woman show genre, and Tales of Modern Motherhood will make its East Coast Premiere off-Broadway at the United Solo Festival in New York City, October 2, 2017. With her strong, fierce persona, Levin has the confidence and wherewithal to carry her show solo, and captivate the audience in its entirety.  Following the huge success of performing “In My Own X-Rated Words, written by Fredrica Duke, Pam Levin is a force to be reckoned with, leaving a legacy, sure to resonate and ring true with all the women (and men in their lives).




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Find Yourself…”Lost In Yonkers”


Neil Simon is one of the greatest comedic-dramatic playwrights of all time, and his Pulitzer Prize winning play, Lost in Yonkers, graces the stage at the Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre in Noho arts district. Although this sentimental coming of age story takes place some 50 years ago, its message of family survival despite all odds (financial hardships; loss; disability) resonates with us today. The story is timely and contemporary, and topical to today’s troubled times, where families sometimes work odd jobs to scrape out a living and rely on extended family support, and the characters’ trials and tribulations affect us all emotionally.
The play, directed by Larry Eisenberg, and produced by Doug Haverty, centers around two brothers, Jay (Bennett Saltzman) and Arty (Brent Anthony), whose mother has died and are forced to live with their grandmother (Loraine Shields) and mentally challenged Aunt Bella (Roslyn Cohn). Meanwhile, their father (Patrick Burke) is caught in a maelstrom of debt and financial desperation, having no other choice but to travel and leave his sons behind with his extended dysfunctional family. As his facial expressions truly reveal his inner angst, Burke is a remarkable actor, eliciting compassion and empathy from the audience. De rigueur, Simon effectively uses sarcasm and schtick, particularly by brother Louis (Van Boudreaux) and sister Bella, as well as witty dialogue ala shades of Woody Allen/ Larry David style humor. Overwhelmed and overworked, he counts on his boys to be strong, ironically depending on a clan of helplessly dysfunctional relatives coming to his aid.
Simon’s witticisms and gems of dialogue are once again priceless in this comedic drama, as the two young men, lost in Yonkers, ultimately find themselves. Each character, in his or her own unique style, imparts words of wisdom, teaching us profound lessons on life, belonging, family, a home of one’s own.

Through October 22
Fridays and Saturdays 8pm
Sundays 2pm
Lonny Chapman Theatre
10900 Burbank Blvd.
818 763-5990

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‘The Nicest Kids in Town…’ in Act 1’s Hairspray

“Hairspray , the Musical,” comes to the stage at Theatre 68, presented by ACT-1; produced by Sierra Fisk and directed by Chera Marks. It is a paeon to the film cult classic, written and directed by John Waters. It dares to take on the once hot button taboo subject matter of civil rights and race integration in the 1960’s. The catchy, upbeat music is prevalent throughout each and every musical number, with some memorable highlights, including the opening piece, “Good Morning Baltimore,” (Tracy and Ensemble); and closing number, “You Can’t Stop the Beat.” (Tracy and company).
Benni Safchik delivers an impressive standout performance as Tracy Turnblad. She belts out her songs and dances her heart out, replete with authentic period hair ‘up-do’s’ and wardrobe, bringing the era to life onstage. This youth production definitely captures the decade portrayed, with the sensitive subject of race relations and tolerance all too timeless in today’s state of events. The uber talented ensemble breathes life into each and every character portrayed, with the unspoken tension in the air clearly palpable. This fine company, under the direction of Sierra Fisk, Graham Jackson, and Chera Marks, has done musical lyricist Marc Shaiman proud, enabling the audience to feel empathy and connection to each character on stage.

Through August 13th
Theatre 68 North Hollywood


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Our Janis…forevermore

“My Janis,” recently playing to sold out crowds at the Hollywood Fringe Fest 2017, is the passionate one woman show of the iconic singer, who flamed out like a candle in the wind much like her counterparts in an entourage of the fated 27 club, including Jimmy  Hendrix, Ken Morrison and Amy Winehouse. Impeccably portrayed by her uncanny lookalike, Arianna Veronesi,  Janis Joplin was
considered golden with only 3 albums made.
Veronesi managed  to create an aura onstage that comes along very rarely and when it does, we all need to pay attention. She came from the tiny little town of Port Arthur, Texas but managed to become a supernova in almost a split second and in this show we see her evolve from an unsure unknown to a vibrant innate talent.
Her voice alone indicated such a unique powerful soul and the songs she wrote will be remembered forever,  with  multitudes of versions springing up like toadstools.
If you wanted to sum up Janis Joplin in a couple of words – she suffered artistically more than most humans do , on her brief visit here on Earth. One song , strongly resonating with me ,  “If  You Love  Somebody,” is basically about relationships between women and men; all the pining, expectations and mostly disappointment , echoes brilliantly .
The hippie life/culture she was immersed in was an intrinsic part of my daily existence, as well as many audience members in attendance, as evidenced by many a tye dye T shirt; flowers in hair; and Birkenstocks.
The fact that she overdosed on heroin at 27
proves that what she expressed in her songs was tragically too real.
She basically seemed like a small town girl but even with her humble, simplistic attitude and outlook on life one can sense the inner brilliance and talent and fire within.



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A Royal Feast at Concern Foundation Block Party 2017

It was an evening fit for a king (or queen), set in the majestic backlot of Paramount Studios, all in the name of cancer research by the noble organization, the Concern Foundation.  Pulled brisket sliders and fried onion topping was one most exceptional of the offerings, from renowned caterers, “Someone’s in the Kitchen,” along with a memorable buffet of prime rib and horseradish dressing from none other than the knightly Lawry’s The Prime Rib. A line up to gather an abundant platter, yet worth its weight (wait) in gold! Another most popular booth was a Brazilian BBQ buffet by Samba! One of the many memorable desserts was a beautiful eye candy display by Provence Patisserie as well as Gluten free goddess, with cupcakes and brownies to one’s heart’s content, and Bertha Mae’s homemade brownies. Another standout was Dulen’s Soul Food, with a generous serving of collard greens, warm corn bread and fried chicken. And on such a hot midsummer ‘s eve, no block party would be complete without a bounty of libations, and Concern rose to the plate with sips and savors from Tito’s Vodka; Cuban mojitos, belle rose wine , and Reed’s Ginger Beer, among the many samplers.
Vegans/vegetarians need not worry, as there were soy and tofu options provided by Cornucopia caterers; and faux ahi tuna tartare made with compressed watermelon, courtesy of Ocean Prime.
No kingdom celebration/revelry of this caliber would be complete without its many loyal donors and supporters: 4000 people strong- one night-
Raising over $2 million to conquer cancer.


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Shimmer and Shine: “Living on Soul”


This film is the amazing story of Sharon Jones, an extremely talented singer/songwriter, who like so many of her varied mentors, could turn any song into a veritable masterpiece.  This also  is the story of the musical groups that accompanied her.  Jeff Broadway, with his Valentine Street Productions, produced, directed, and wrote this brilliant documentary, a true paeon to all involved.  If you look at Sharon, she could easily be seen as a ‘real housewife from New Jersey,’ but as soon as she struts as confidently  as a peacock onstage, and starts her chatty, personable, humorous repartee with her audience, one suspects a possible surprise alternative ending.  When she belts out her songs, all bets are off, and you know you’re in the midst of a true vocal genius and legend.  Broadway dissects her life in a wonderful way, showing scenes of her growing up in poor sections of NYC, and his amazing soundtrack/score delineates her long battle against cancer, which tragically beats  her in the end.  This film is one of the gems of the LA film fest, which I regard as one of the best festivals in the So Cal arena. The audience, on numerous occasions, applauded this woman and her courage. The q&a following the film told of the arduous, fastidious process of making this film. Special kudos to Broadway’s tireless crew, editor, in my mind, Oscar worthy.


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No Filters: Ronnie Marmo is Lenny Bruce


A one man show on the brilliant life (and tragic death, age 40 of an overdose); and legacy of the ‘god of comedy,’ Lenny Bruce just had to be made, and the perfect combination to do it are actor Ronnie Marmo and director Joe Mantegna. This show makes its premiere at Theatre 68 in Noho Arts district, written by Ronnie Marmo and Jason M. Burns; produced by Ronnie Marmo and Katy Jacoby. The show featured and highlighted the most significant, poignant, and bittersweet segments of his life, resulting in the audience’s awe at this groundbreaking icon.  He would have pushed boundaries to this day, as he stated succinctly in his show, “all I have are my words.”
Lenny Bruce’s vulgarities and obscenities in the comedy circuit in his time (think ‘Mad Men conservative’ era) led  him to court, conviction, and arrest, yet he forever remained passionate that his ‘words’ were funny, meaningful and misunderstood.
Lenny Bruce has evolved into a muse, blazing the trail for comedians the likes of Chris Rock and Louis CK, and HBO edgy programming whose material is much more outrageous and raunchy than Bruce’s, quite ironically.  Who woulda thought? Dreams deferred for decades later, where comedians of today look at Lenny Bruce as a mentor mastermind, a ghost of yesteryear, whose spirit is still alive and with us as a driving force. A condemning spirit, as if to say “the battle for freedom of speech must go on.”
Ronnie Marmo, born to play this role, is a natural in telling all his stories, more than occasionally bursting through with an amazing insight. “Big time religion is obscene. War is obscene.”
He reveals on stage once taboo subjects, such as masturbation, heroin addiction, pornography, yet in a tasteful respectful homage and love letter to Bruce’s genius. His courageousness in ‘pushing the envelope’ surely influenced so many individuals, almost as if he seemed to say, “I will not be forgotten.. defying the odds.” Lenny Bruce oft thought of himself as a ‘stand-up James Dean,’ and indeed he was truly a beatnik rebel, with a cause. His singular fight and day in court may not have been a victory for him, yet he has encouraged others, such as Ronnie Marmo, to impeccably write, tell, and portray his story.
Amidst difficult, challenging times in both his personal and professional life, Lenny Bruce’s story is a worthy subject, where the audience takeaway is a mixed bag of longing, love, respectability for his genius and brazenness.
Oh, that Lenny, an aura of inspiration.
Fade out. Thanks for the mentoring, for the pain and the purpose. His story lives on at Theatre 68, in “I’m not a comedian, I’m Lenny Bruce.”

through July 29  Fridays and Saturdays 8pm

Sundays 3pm   5112 Lankershim Blvd

for tickets: (323)9605068




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