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Stage Raw

Stage Raw: Fringe Reviews, Week 2

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Tue, Jun 21, 2011 at 8:37 AM

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click to enlarge State of Incarcertion, in Radar L.A. - COURTESY LOS ANGELES POVERTY DEPARTMENT
  • Courtesy Los Angeles Poverty Department
  • State of Incarcertion, in Radar L.A.
More reviews from the Hollywood Fringe, which wraps up this weekend. And the TCG conferees have left the Biltmore. Radar L.A. has completed its inaugural festival. What does all this mean for the city? Did any of this leave a mark? Will there be a lingering influence and impact from Radar L.A., or was it mostly performed in a bubble for out-of-town visitors. For thoughts on these and other questions, see the Stage feature.

For NEW THEATER REVIEWS, press the More tab.

The L.A. Weekly and Back Stage

continue their collaboration to review a selection of Hollywood Fringe

Festival productions. For more show details, visit the Fringe website -- Hollywoodfringe.org -- or better yet, visit the Fringe, running through June 26. Scroll to the bottom for non-Fringe reviews.

NEW REVIEW GO AM I BLACK ENOUGH YET?

Playwright Clinton Johnston's piece humorously explores what it means

to be black in America today. Casting aside the burdensome moorings of

political correctness, five actors (Nika Williams, J. Patrick Wise,

Matthew Eisenberg, Katherine DuBois, and Kenny Cooper) adroitly work

through ten vignettes that lampoon everything from ghetto slang to

diversity run amok and even homophobia. It makes for a hilarious,

thought-provoking, and sometimes unsettling 85-minutes. I.S.M.O Theatre

Company at ComedySportz, L.A. Ballroom Studio, 733 Seward St., Hlywd.;

Wed, June 22, 7 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., June 25-26, 5 p.m. (Lovell Estell

III/LAW)

NEW REVIEW ANOTHER EFFING FAMILY DRAMA

Catherine Pelonero's absurdist comedy elicits faint echoes of Edward

Albee's early one-acts. Her aim appears to be an irreverent spoof of

dysfunctional-family plays, but there's nothing funny about boorishness,

vulgarity, and stupidity when they're laid on with a trowel. Josh

Brewster seems to be channeling John Goodman's take on Fred Flintstone,

and although slovenly lush Holly (Monica Martin) is the sister of

Brewster's character, her role would seem an ideal fit for Goodman's TV

spouse, Roseanne Barr. As an elderly mother and her estranged daughter,

respectively, Ann Ryerson and Eva Minemar struggle with circuitous

dialogue, and Kenny Johnston and Jack Hunter are straddled with

underdeveloped roles. Sharp Cocktail at ArtWorks Theatre, (Fringe

Central), 6567 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Sat., June 25, 3 p.m.; Sun.,

June 25, 5 p.m. (Les Spindle/BS)

NEW REVIEW CONFETTI BAYOU: THE LAST INTERVIEW WITH JANIS JOPLIN

Written by Cricket Leigh, this two character one-act features Leigh as

rock diva Janis Joplin and Nicholas Vitulli as Lenny, a clean-cut guy

and an admiring fan who interviews the singer shortly before her death. 

Soon professional journalism is out the window as their dialogue gives

way to personal revelations on both sides.  A relationship develops;

there's, a quarrel, then reconciliation; finally the pair succumb to

their attraction. Leigh's worthy intent is to probe the vulnerabilities

of this compelling and tragic figure, but the script rambles

circuitously, and neither her rather imitative and emulatory portrayal

nor Vitulli's delves very deep. Brian Powell directs. 
Powder Room

Productions at the Lounge Theatre, 6021 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.
Thurs.,

June 23, 8 p.m. (Deborah Klugman/LAW)

NEW REVIEW DEITY CLUTCH

Every actor onstage in this Porters of Hellsgate effort masters

heightened language. Too bad that language, and the storytelling it

attempts, can be described at best as plodding and at worst as

pretentious. In writer-director Gus Krieger's play, a cult falls apart

within a mysterious house, even though the outside world is a bad, bad

place--you know, don't trust "the man"! Yet just as the residents are

about to escape, they find the time to chat, two at a time, heading out

the door, to give the audience closure. Its 135-minute running time is

ideal for turning this bad play into a bad movie.
The Porters of Hellsgate at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Closed. (Dany Margolies/BS)

NEW REVIEW EM O'LOUGHLIN WAS A BIG FATTY BOOMBAH

As the title suggests, this is an irreverent look at someone who for

much of her life had an extreme weight problem. Aussie standup comic Em

O'Loughlin spins an hourlong autobiographical yarn about her decades of

using food to numb feelings of inadequacy, which led to her weighing 352

pounds. Relying on only a few props--most notably a life-size "before"

photo--O'Loughlin adopts a rapid-fire delivery to gloss over the weaker

jokes, and she wisely gives the lone dark twist ample time--and subtle

mood lighting--to reach its full impact, which transitions smoothly to a

self-proclaimed schmaltzy, yet satisfyingly optimistic, conclusion.

ArtWorks Theatre (Fringe Central), 6567 Santa Monica Blvd. and Theatre

of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hlywd.; Closed. (Jeff Favre/BS)

NEW REVIEW FACT & FICTION

Playwright William Nedved's mind-bending pair of world-premiere,

solo-actor works, skillfully directed by Dámaso Rodriguez, couldn't be

more aptly titled. In "Fact," Nedved recounts his high school year spent

as an exchange student in Brazil. Further commentary and less reliance

on reading passages directly from his journal would sharpen this piece,

clearly the more pedestrian of the two. But in "Fiction," actor Adam

Silver expertly tempers suspense with humor in detailing his experiences

as the stalking victim of a creepy filmmaker. With an enigmatic wink,

these "autobiographical" stories leave one wondering what is reality and

what may be imagined. Sixth Avenue at Elephant Theatre, 6322 Santa

Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Mon., June 20, 8 p.m.; Thu., June 23, 10 p.m.

(Dink O'Neal/BS)

NEW REVIEW GO GIRL BAND IN THE MEN'S ROOM

An unnamed four-girl grunge band in December, 1994 is lurking by the

urinals, squabbling about their future. Three want to sign a record

contract -- one so fervently she may have slept with the record

executive -- while the fourth, the songwriter, argues that fame proved

fatal for Kurt Cobain just eight months ago. "He was a drug addict!"

groans the bassist. Like director Michael Kortlander, playwright Robert

A. Ford, is a dude. But he's plugged into the grrrl power psyche, even

arguing that the slinky French-Canadian singer might have boned their

potential boss because . . . she wanted to. Yet the play feels like the

first draft of a first act. On MTV, girl grunge's pop culture moment is

strumming its last cords, and self-crowned queen Courtney Love is only

two years from getting a nose job and a Golden Globe nomination.

Artworks Theatre & Studios, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd. Wed., June 22, 5 p.m.; Fri., June 24, 6:30 p.m.; Sat., June 25, 9:30 p.m. 

(Amy Nicholson/LAW)

NEW REVIEW FEELING FEELING

Bubbly Darla (Kendall Carroll) is generally upbeat until the slightest

misfortune reduces her to paroxysms of tears. Her beer bottle chugging,

TV sports fixated boyfriend Dave (Jonny Loquasto) is generally perplexed

and insensitive to her woes. The pair have a nice rapport but Darla

sends him to therapy to learn how to feel and gets a chip implanted in

her head to manage her overwrought emotions. While therapy doesn't seem

to alter Dave's behavior, Darla becomes detached and career-driven.

Writer-director Sarah Doyle plots her tale in four-year intervals that

coincide with the Olympic Games, and nicely crosscuts her examination of

gender politics with a sad tale of Darla's forgotten best friend Tully

(Camellia Rahbary). Artworks Theatre & Studios, 6569 Santa Monica

Blvd., Hlywd. Closed. (Pauline Adamek/LAW)  

NEW REVIEW FOUR CLOWNS: ROMEO & JULIET

Regard for the Bard and the venerable art of clowning reach a perilous

new low as the Four Clowns brutally burlesque Shakespeare's immortal

tale of star-crossed lovers into an excruciatingly witless 90 minutes of

egregious, nonstop mugging and scatological excess. Alexis Jones and

Kevin Klein take on the titular roles, transforming the tragic

characters into foulmouthed, genitally obsessed louts in whiteface and

bulbous red noses. A hyperactive Raymond Lee doubles as the squeaking

emcee and Mercutio; Zach Steel is the lumbering Tybalt (among others).

Seven writers (including the cast and director Jeremy Aluma) take credit

for an "adaptation" that gives unwelcome new meaning to the terms

"broad" and "coulrophobia." ArtWorks Theatre, (Fringe Central), 6567

Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri., June 24, 10:30 p.m.; Sat., June 25,

7:30 p.m. Hollywoodfringe.org/projects/359. (Bill Raden/LAW)

NEW REVIEW  GO LIGHTS UP ON THE FADE OUT

Padraic Lillis' debuting drama offers an incisive portrait of a

middle-aged film director, Steve (Tom Hildreth), who wins his first big

career break while his personal life remains severely out of focus. As

he deals with complications surrounding a whirlwind romance with his

former high school crush (Alina Phelan), who has just ditched her fiancé

at the altar, Steve simultaneously must come to terms with the

worsening condition of his long-neglected father (Mark Bramhall), who

suffers from dementia. In the hands of director Ron Canada and the fine

ensemble, including James Parks as Steve's fed-up brother, this is a

moving and thought-provoking offering. Sternman Productions in

association with Delta Highway at the Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way,

Hollywood. Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 10. (323)

331-5123. (Les Spindle/BS)

NEW REVIEW GO THE MANY WOMEN OF TROY

Michael John Boynton wrote the book and lyrics and Brian Allan Hobbs

composed the music for this ambitious musical focusing on women's

experience of war and violence.  It begins with  a moving refrain sung

by five women searching for their dead or disappeared menfolk, then

leapfrogs through myth and history  to dramatize tragedies wrought by

religion,  totalitarianism (Argentina under Pinochet) and madness (the

Columbine massacre), among others.    Recurring  friction between four

nurturing characters and one narcissist hones the drama and keeps

didacticism at bay.   The videography and sound are notable, and while

finessing is in order, this piece has strong potential. Pallas Theatre

Collective at the Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd.,

Hlywd.
Wed., June 22, 10:30 p.m.; Sat., June 25, 10:30 p.m. (Deborah

Klugman/LAW)

NEW REVIEW THE NORMAL CHILD Normalcy

has gradations, particularly in the siblings of writer-director Phillip

William Brock's one-act. Claire (Amanda Weier) has confined herself in

the bedroom of her childhood home, perched on a chair, which is balanced

on four magnums of whiskey, which teeter on four stacks of books, which

puts her neck in reach of a noose. In this highly metaphoric work, her

brother Terrance (Rob Nagle) visits--either in her mind or in reality--to

urge her out of her room, either via his waiting car or via her ability

to fly. The work presumably indicts parental cruelty, but its strong

points are its poetry and the actors' lyricism. Open Fist Theatre, 6209

Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Sat., June 25, noon; Sun., June 26, 1 p.m.

(Dany Margolies/BS)

NEW REVIEW ROLLERBLADING IN GAZA

Diminutive writer-performer Maude Kochendler bursts onto the stage in a

cream Cinderella silk wedding dress (she tells us she already owns two)

and, projecting to the nonexistent balcony of this tiny black box

theatre, dreams of meeting the perfect guy. As evidenced by the proud

display of French, American and Israeli flags, Maude confides she's

still unsure of where she belongs as she moves from the Israeli Army to

Club Med to New York where she struggles for work as an actor. The

braying delivery of her one-woman show grates, but gutsy Maude seems

more at home belting out a cabaret tune. Despite her irrepressible

spirit, this commonplace personal tale is devoid of emotional insight.

Dorie Theater at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd. Fri.-Sat., June 24-25, 5:30  p.m. (Pauline

Adamek/LAW)

NEW REVIEW THE SEX LIFE OF ACHILLES

Actor-playwright David LeBarron set out to dramatize the entire Trojan

War in 60 minutes, with only 3 characters: Achilles' mother, the

sea-goddess Thetis (Rebecca Norris); the slave Briseis (Shanna

Beauchamp), fought over by Achilles and Agamemnon; and the slave

Acheanus (LeBarron). And after beginning the piece as a campy, cynical

send-up of the Greek myths, LeBarron then expects us to take them

seriously. But it's hard to take care about Achilles' great love for

Patroclus when we've just been told that he "fucked Troilus to death."

Theatre of NOTE, 1517 North Cahuenga Blvd.; Hlywd.; Tues., June 21, 6

p.m.; Sat., June 25, 12 noon; Sun., June 26, 4 p.m.

sexlifeofachilles.com. (Neal Weaver/LAW)  

NEW REVIEW STEAL AWAY: THE LIVING HISTORY OF HARRIET TUBMAN

Rick Balian has the right idea with this easygoing mix of acting and

puppetry targeted to young audiences. The real-life Harriet Tubman

escaped from slavery and lived to help others escape that and so many

other inhumanities. The play unfolds Tubman's memories, sweetly showing

that there are good and bad people no matter our race or gender. But

Balian's direction lacks an imagination that would enliven the work and

fully immerse the audience in Tubman's inspiring journeys. Pamela

Shaddock firmly portrays the no-nonsense icon, Skip Pipo elegantly

portrays the white men in her life, and they gracefully share the stage

with charmingly evocative puppets, by Sandra Eckert. New Perspectives

Theatre Company at Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hlywd.;

Sat., June 25, 10 a.m.; Sun., June 26, 2 p.m. (Dany Margolies/BS)

NEW REVIEW THE TROUBLE WITH WORDS

Gregory Nabours' musical revue has six singers, six musicians and 19

songs, all searching for a point. The theme, loosely, is

miscommunication and from that broad platform spring numbers about

fatherhood, seduction, sloganeering and Christmas. If trimmed of the

Disney ballad filler, Nabours has a full act of songs that deserve

attention: Chris Roque's radio-friendly "Listen," Aimee Karlin's heated

"Fool's Gold," Josh Eddy's slippery "Kid with a Heart On," and Ryan

Wagner's "Tongue Tied" -- the second act opener which rewards those who

stay past intermission. Packed onto the stage are a piano, xylophone,

violin, guitar, cello, saxophone and full set of drums, together loud

enough to drown out the lyrics. Joked the couple behind me, "I guess the

Trouble with Words is that you can't hear them." Patrick Pearson

directs.Coeurage Theatre Company at Actors Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa

Monica Blvd., W. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., June 24-25, 9 p.m. (Amy

Nicholson/LAW)

Non-Fringe reviews:

NEW REVIEW GO BAKERSFIELD MIST

Jackson Pollock's most famous paintings have polarized critics since

the artist first attacked a horizontal canvass. That polarization feeds

writer-director Stephen Sachs' new play, which uses a Pollock painting

as the central symbol of class war. Mouthy Maude (Jenny O'Hara) spends

her days lapping up Jack Daniels and watching police procedurals in her

kitsch-filled Bakersfield trailer, until a painting she buys at a yard

sale steals her focus from the idiot box. Convinced the cheap buy is a

bona fide Pollock, Maude summons erudite art expert Lionel (Nick Ullett)

to assess the painting's authenticity and value. Immediately disgusted

with the crass, tasteless Maude, Lionel aims to quickly view the

so-called Pollock and flee the mobile home scene. But Maude's initially

undetectable cleverness sparks a game of one-upmanship. Sachs directs

the two-hander with an abundance of spirit, smartly letting the

outstanding actors brawl and emote with delightful abandon. O'Hara

brings a gleeful raunchiness to Maude throughout, but forces her

character out of hiding to confront the quiet sadness shrouded by all

that brass. (Ullett's finest moment comes in a frenzied monologue that

mirrors Pollock's creative process.) When Lionel tells Maude he is there

to evaluate the painting, not her, the play winningly sets out to

disprove this lie at every turn. Jeff McLaughlin's set makes trailer

park life seem at once enviously cozy and exhaustingly humiliating.

Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,

2 p.m.; thru July 31. (323) 663-1525. fountaintheatre.com. (Amy Lyons)


NEW REVIEW BORDERING ON LOVE

Marriage and immigration laws get skewered satirically in Evangeline

Ordaz's new comedy, but bits of drag queen entertainment turn out to be

the more engaging material. Though the play needs editing - particularly

toward the close when a few false endings are dragged out by new,

late-breaking plot points - the fun factor is high whenever a quartet of

gowned guys does a song-and-dance number. Anthony (an endearing TJ

O'Connell) almost has the right stuff to wow audiences at George's (Jeff

Vinall) gentleman's club, but his slightly frumpy gowns and out-of-date

makeup call for a makeover. The only girl for the job is Marilu (Silvia

Tovar), but just when she takes Anthony from mediocre to fabulous,

Marilu gets slapped with a deportation decree. Though Anthony is really

in love with the two-timing, married George, he decides that a life-long

partnership with Marilu makes more sense than a tortured tryst with an

unavailable lover. Ordaz makes insightful, worthwhile commentary about

the nature of love and the motivation to marry. The playwright never

takes her eye off the humanizing ball, consistently calling attention to

the painful ramifications of present immigration laws and the struggle

for marriage equality. But attempts to tie up every plot point with a

neat bow backfire, and the crucial questions become eclipsed by a series

of simple happy endings. Christian R. Gibbs, Rudy Marquez and Kenneth

Sears all help O'Connell put on a delicious drag show, under Armando

Molina's direction. Cricket S. Myers hits a perfect note with her sound

design. Company of Angels at the Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St.,

Third
 Floor, downtown; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 2.

(323) 883-1717. (Amy Lyons)







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