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Cumbia de Mi Corazon, Dementia, An Evening With Sutton Foster 

Also, Jawbone of an Ass, Starmites: An Intergalactic Musical and more

Thursday, May 6 2010
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ACTING: THE FIRST SIX LESSONS Beau Bridges was 10 years old when his father, Lloyd, gave him Richard Boleslavsky's primer for actors, Acting: The First Six Lessons. Boleslavsky studied under Stanislavski and later developed aspects of the master's approach and passed them along to Group Theater luminaries Lee Strasberg and Harold Clurman (becoming in a sense the granddaddy of the American Method approach to performance). This adaptation, developed and performed by Bridges and his daughter Emily Bridges under the direction of Charles Mount, illuminates Boleslavsky's process in a series of scenes constructed around the relationship between a theater coach, played by Beau, and a passionate but initially untrained theatrical neophyte, portrayed by Emily. The piece spans five years, during which time the young actress makes a name for herself but returns to the teacher for professional guidance. Prefaced with down-home remarks to the audience, and evoked within a picturesque 1930s framework that they, impressively, put together themselves, this is a show that you want to like — but are constrained from enjoying by the inescapably pedagogical nature of much of the script. Passages instructing in the precepts of sense memory, observation and so forth will be familiar to performers who have attended theatrical workshops, and pretty much irrelevant to anyone else. That said, this stylishly mounted and smoothly executed production is worth viewing if only for Emily Bridges' translucent presence as a fervid young artist. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, Hollywood; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through May 16.(323) 851-7977. (Deborah Klugman)

GO  CUMBIA DE MI CORAZON A romance with music, set in the netherworld, playwright Tony Campion's delectable fable depicts a trio of afterlife employees trying to unite a fisherman named Heriberto (Eliezer Ortiz), dead 50 years, with his newly deceased wife, Maruca (Carla Valentine). To win her, he must ply the dazed, then disdainful woman (she doesn't recognize him at first) with songs from their youth — the spicy, enticing rhythms of cumbia, a popular Colombian dance with roots in slave ritual courtship. For the workers (Joaquin Jasso, Daniel Restrepo and Fanny Veliz), his success is crucial, as their supervisor (Angel Sabate), a cantankerous spirit in black hat and cape, is threatening their demotion to the fiery pit if they fail to maneuver the couple to "The Big House." None of this unwinds with any logic, nor does it matter. Directed by German Jaramillo, the ensemble juggles the whimsy, irony and emotional truth embedded in Campion's script with pitch-perfect skill. Among the play's charms is Katherine Castillo as La Angelita, in a beguiling dance-only performance. The music's beat is contagious, and by play's end the audience is hotly rooting for the once truculent, now newly energized Heriberto, to regain his life's love for eternity. One major problem for non–Spanish speakers in an otherwise very enjoyable show: English supertitles translate only a portion of the text, which is all in Spanish. Bilingual Foundation of Arts, 421 N. Avenue 19, L.A.; opens April 30; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through May 30. (323) 225-4044. (Deborah Klugman)

GO  DEMENTIA Anyone who survived the deadly HIV plague years of the '80s, when the best and brightest of the arts community were wiped out by the disease, can't help but be moved by the pathos of playwright Evelina Fernández's AIDS melodrama. While the play's urgency might have diminished somewhat in the intervening years of antiretroviral successes, director José Luis Valenzuela's restaging of the Latino Theater Company's acclaimed, 2002 production has lost none of its rousing panache or theatrical luster. Sal López reprises his tour de force performance as Moises, a flamboyant theater director drifting in and out of consciousness on his deathbed in 1995. He spends his lucid moments planning his final exit scene in a party to be attended by his close associates, which include his lifelong friend, gay hairdresser, Martin (the excellent Danny de la Paz), best straight friend/writing partner, Eddie (Geoffrey Rivas), and Eddie's wife, Alice (Lucy Rodriguez). Moises' less-coherent spells are spent in phantasmagoric dialogues with his conscience and drag-queen alter ego, Lupe (Ralph Cole Jr. in a showstopping performance), who belts out disco dance hits in between haranguing Moises about coming clean with his ex-wife, Raquel (Fernández), on the circumstances surrounding their 15-year-old breakup. A first-rate production design, including François-Pierre Couture's evocative lights, Nikki Delhomme's Mackie-inspired gowns and Christopher Ash's expressionist-surrealist set, underscores Fernández's Eros-trumps-conventional–morality theme with elegance and eloquence. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., dwntwn.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat. 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 30. (213) 489-0994, ext. 107, thelatc.org. A Latino Theater Company Production (Bill Raden)

click to enlarge PHOTO BY TOM ZELENY - Acting: The First Six Lessons
  • PHOTO BY TOM ZELENY
  • Acting: The First Six Lessons

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GO  AN EVENING WITH SUTTON FOSTER In the years since musical-comedy diva Sutton Foster was plucked from the chorus of Thoroughly Modern Millie, just before its opening at La Jolla Playhouse, and elevated to the title role, she's racked up an impressive résumé. In addition to playing a lead role in The Drowsy Chaperone at the Ahmanson and on Broadway, she's played Jo in the Broadway musical version of Little Women, the ogress Fiona in Shrek the Musical, and most recently, she was Nurse Fay Apple in the New York City Center revival of Stephen Sondheim's Anyone Can Whistle. In this solo performance, which closed over the weekend, assisted only by her accompanist, musical director and longtime friend Michael Rafter, her manner was casual and down to earth, but she provided a dazzling display of charm, musical skill, vocal virtuosity and comic chops. Foster treated us to songs and medleys from shows she's performed, plus "Something's Coming," from West Side Story, a comedy number evoking NYC's sweltering summer weather called "All You Need Is an Air Conditioner to Be the Man for Me," and Sondheim's poignant "Anyone Can Whistle." Her impishly subversive wit illuminated all she did, and she stopped the show repeatedly, whether belting out a power ballad, or crooning a rich pianissimo. The Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Closed. (Neal Weaver)

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