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Stage Raw: Stage Door

Stage Raw: Stage Door

This week's THEATER FEATURE On Bobrauschenbergamerica and Orpheus Descending

NEW REVIEW GO STAGE DOOR

Stage Raw: Stage Door

Photo by Kelsey Edwards


In 1936, when Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman's comedy and homage to The Theater (that would be Broadway) showed the divide between the legit stage and the vulgar movie biz in Hollywood (an industry where "You only have to learn a line at a time and they just keep taking it until you get it," and "You don't even have to be alive to be in the pictures,"), the authors were playing off an East Coast/West coast divide. How strangely apt, then, that the play may now speak more to L.A. theater, and its ongoing love-hate relationship with Hollywood, than to the Broadway of yore. If you think this revival is just a valentine to a bygone era, think again. This week, the Pasadena Playhouse is closing its doors. The year after Stage Door premiered on Broadway, the Pasadena Playhouse was named the State Theater of California. It had, in its 12 year existence, produced the entire Shakespeare canon and 500 new plays. In August, 1937, Tempe E. Allison described the Playhouse in the New York Times, as "theatrical refreshment in this dust bowl, if not desert, of the legitimate stage, which has been sucked dry by the gigantic growth of its next-door neighbor, Hollywood." Though that kind of mythology has shifted over the decades, and our legitimate stage is anything but a dust bowl, the authors' portrayal of the theater as a somewhat Quixotic and poverty-stricken home for actresses placing an odds-defying bet on a rare moment of spiritual fulfillment has a current sting of truth, even after more than 70 years.  The home, here, is a boarding house for actresses called The Footlights Club. Some like Louis (Katy Tyszkiewicz) are surrendering into marriages they dread while others, like pretty Jean Maitland (Kim Swennen) get swept away by Hollywood and one of its dapper producers, David Kingsley (Arthur Hanket). Problem is, pretty Jean can't really act, even though she's thriving out west as cover-girl material in a land where artists become employees for hire - and often they're hired to sit around in the sun. This theory gets tested when Jean gets shoveled back by the Studio to star on Broadway  -- a cynical marketing ploy.  Mephistophelean Kingsley, dripping with self-loathing (a nice turn by Hacket), pushes to replace Jean with his own flame, Terry Randall (a smart, sensitive portrayal by Amanda Weier). Terry, who has talent, has no desire for Hollywood and its games. In her deft and stylish staging of a cast that tops two dozen, Barbara Schofield pits the brunette Terry against blonde Jean, the talented against the talentless. Terry had been dating a lefty playwright (Matt Roe) who sold out his pedantically stated ideals quicker than it now takes to swipe a credit card. This production comes on the heels of last year's Light Up the Sky, demonstrating this company's firm grip on smart, sassy period comedies. Detailed set by James Spencer and Shon LeBlanc's textured costumes further feed the ambiance. Open Fist Theatre Company, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.;  Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 13. (323) 882-6912. (Steven Leigh Morris)    

For all NEW REVIEWS seen over the weekend, press the Continue Reading tab directly below.

NEW THEATER REVIEWS scheduled for publication February 4, 2010

NEW REVIEW GO EXILES

Stage Raw: Stage Door

Photo by Kelsey Edwards


In 1936, when Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman's comedy and

homage to The Theater (that would be Broadway) showed the divide

between the legit stage and the vulgar movie biz in Hollywood (an

industry where "You only have to learn a line at a time and they just

keep taking it until you get it," and "You don't even have to be alive

to be in the pictures,"), the authors were playing off an East

Coast/West coast divide. How strangely apt, then, that the play may now

speak more to L.A. theater, and its ongoing love-hate relationship with

Hollywood, than to the Broadway of yore. If you think this revival is

just a valentine to a bygone era, think again. This week, the Pasadena

Playhouse is closing its doors. The year after Stage Door

premiered on Broadway, the Pasadena Playhouse was named the State

Theater of California. It had, in its 12 year existence, produced the

entire Shakespeare canon and 500 new plays. In August, 1937, Tempe E.

Allison described the Playhouse in the New York Times, as

"theatrical refreshment in this dust bowl, if not desert, of the

legitimate stage, which has been sucked dry by the gigantic growth of

its next-door neighbor, Hollywood." Though that kind of mythology has

shifted over the decades, and our legitimate stage is anything but a

dust bowl, the authors' portrayal of the theater as a somewhat Quixotic

and poverty-stricken home for actresses placing an odds-defying bet on

a rare moment of spiritual fulfillment has a current sting of truth,

even after more than 70 years.  The home, here, is a boarding house for

actresses called The Footlights Club. Some like Louis (Katy

Tyszkiewicz) are surrendering into marriages they dread while others,

like pretty Jean Maitland (Kim Swennen) get swept away by Hollywood and

one of its dapper producers, David Kingsley (Arthur Hanket). Problem

is, pretty Jean can't really act, even though she's thriving out west

as cover-girl material in a land where artists become employees for

hire - and often they're hired to sit around in the sun. This theory

gets tested when Jean gets shoveled back by the Studio to star on

Broadway  -- a cynical marketing ploy.  Mephistophelean Kingsley,

dripping with self-loathing (a nice turn by Hacket), pushes to replace

Jean with his own flame, Terry Randall (a smart, sensitive portrayal by

Amanda Weier). Terry, who has talent, has no desire for Hollywood and

its games. In her deft and stylish staging of a cast that tops two

dozen, Barbara Schofield pits the brunette Terry against blonde Jean,

the talented against the talentless. Terry had been dating a lefty

playwright (Matt Roe) who sold out his pedantically stated ideals

quicker than it now takes to swipe a credit card. This production comes

on the heels of last year's Light Up the Sky, demonstrating

this company's firm grip on smart, sassy period comedies. Detailed set

by James Spencer and Shon LeBlanc's textured costumes further feed the

ambiance. Open Fist Theatre Company, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; 

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 13. (323) 882-6912. (Steven

Leigh Morris)  

NEW REVIEW GO STOMP In this era of high-tech theatrical extravaganzas, every so often a show comes along whose conceptual framework makes you appreciate the refreshing virtue of simplicity. Such is the case with this percussive spectacle, now in its 15th year of rattling audience eardrums. For the uninitiated, the show is a collage of choreography, dance, performance art and percussion pyrotechnics generated by an eight member troupe who use a mind-boggling array of "found" instruments to make music. These include trash cans, kitchen items, steel drums, matchbooks, push-brooms and even, yes, the kitchen sink. From start to finish, co-creator and director Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas put these performers through their paces, with one sweat-inducing routine after another. The opening segment using bush brooms starts out placidly enough, but it soon morphs into a fiery, imaginative tempest of rhythmic clatter. One of the most stunning moments occurs when the lights darken, and the troupe use the "click" of zippo lighters to create a tune, which is given more impact by the flames. Most remarkable about this 90-minute show is the seemingly endless variety of sound and tonal effects that emerge from what are properly considered commonplace items (my favorite: a number done with crumbled newspapers). And the creators have tossed in a nod to circus tradition with an engaging bit of clown antics.  Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 2 & 8 p.m., Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 7. (800) 982-2787. A Broadway L.A. presentation. (Lovell Estell III)

NEW REVIEW GO SWEENEY TODD

Stage Raw: Stage Door

Photo courtesy of the Carpenter Performing Arts Center

Thirty years ago, Stephen Sondheim's gothic melodrama arrived on Broadway as the game-changer that would usher in an era of operatic opulence in musical theater - paving the way for Les Miserables, Miss Saigon and The Phantom of the Opera. In the decades that followed, Sweeney enjoyed revivals throughout regional theatre, joined the repertoire of legit opera companies and was finally revived in a reduced concept in which the ten performers also doubled as their own small orchestra. But now Musical Theatre West has returned Sweeney to his grand guignol roots with a vast productions, faithful to Hal Prince's original production. Director Calvin Remsberg, who toured as Beadle Bamford with the original Broadway cast, has recreated the original's power and majesty with help from a uniformly outstanding cast, partnered with musical director John Glaudini and his full orchestra. Not a moment of the nearly three-hours lags in this gruesome story of the vengeful barber and the bake shop proprietress  Mrs. Lovett who contrive to make meat pies from unsuspecting tonsorial clients. Norman Large earns his last name in his huge performance as the cut-throat, and Debbie Prutsman is truly as fine as Angela Lansbury was in 1979. Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 7, 2 & 7 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 14, 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 14. (562) 985-7000. A Musical Theatre West production (Tom Provenzano)

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