Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Thoughts on a Theatre Season: ICT 2016 Season

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Aug 26, 2015 @ 10:45 pm PDT

userpic=dramamasksContinuing my question to clear off the stored links…. I recently received (both from International City Theatre (ICT) (FB) and their publicist) the announcement of ICT’s upcoming season. Here are my thoughts on it:

  • Closer Than Ever. February 10 – March 6. Music and Lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire. Filled with hilarious and poignant songs about dating, parenting, aging and dreams both fulfilled and unrequited, Closer Than Ever is like a musical “how-to” manual for life. With each song a self-contained story inspired by real-life experiences, its message to value the little things in life remains timeless.

    Thumbs Down Alas, I just saw the excellent Good People Theatre Co (FB) production of the show at Hollywood Piano Co. [writeup]. Once you have heard it on a wonderful 9½ foot Mason & Hamlin grand piano, who needs Long Beach?

  • A Walk in the Woods. April 27 – May 22. by Lee Blessing.  Lee Blessing’s brilliant and funny play of ideas, based on an actual event, is a stunningly powerful and provocative drama that seems more timely than ever and probes the most important issue of our time – the very survival of our civilization. Nearing the end of the Cold War, a pair of arms negotiators – a clever, cynical Russian and an idealistic young American – meet in the woods outside Geneva to explore the obstacles their countries face on the path to peace. Can personal bonds bridge political chasms?

    Thumbs Down Although I haven’t seen this, the subject is not a sufficient draw to make me brave the traffic to Long Beach.

  • Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. June 8 – July 3. by Christopher Durang. One of the most lauded Broadway plays of recent years, this witty mash-up of Chekhov characters and smartphones is a delightful new comedy for our hyperconnected era. Middle-aged siblings Vanya and Sonia live an angst-ridden, melancholic existence on their Bucks County, PA family farm. That is, until their glamorous movie-star sister, Masha, swans in for a surprise visit-along with her hunky 20-something boy toy, Spike.

    Thumbs Down We saw this play in early 2014 when it was at the Mark Taper Forum (FB) [writeup]. Although entertaining, it’s not unique enough to make it worth the drive to Long Beach.

  • Doubt, A Parable. August 17 – September 11. by John Patrick Shanley. John Patrick Shanley’s riveting psychological drama examines the fine line between what seems certain and ambiguity, between conviction and doubt. It is 1964, a time of movement and change, but Catholic school principal Sister Aloysius values a stern hand over progressive education. When evidence points to an inappropriate relationship between Father Flynn and the school’s first black student, she begins a crusade to rid the church of him.

    Thumbs Down We saw an excellent production of this earlier this year at Rep East Playhouse (FB) [writeup] with the wonderful Georgan George (FB) as Sister Aloysius and Jeff Johnson/FB as Father Flynn. We also saw it back in 2005 at the Pasadena Playhouse (FB) [writeup]. Again, no strong urge to go to Long Beach to see it.

  • Shipwrecked! An Entertainment – The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as Told by Himself). October 12 – November 6. by Donald Margulies.A celebration of storytelling, this theatrical adventure is based on the real-life autobiography of Louis de Rougemont. An intrepid explorer, Rougemont’s amazing tales of bravery, survival and exotic locales left 19th century England spellbound. Join Louis and two other actors playing more than 30 characters in a high seas adventure with flying wombats, giant sea turtles and more.

    Thumbs Down Although this sounds like it could be a humorous play, it doesn’t sound like something with sufficient draw to bring me to Long Beach.

So, you’re probably wondering, what does draw me to Long Beach. First, when ICT does musicals that I’ve only heard or heard about, but never seen. Their productions of Loving Repeating, The Robber Bridgegroom, and Once on this Island fell into this category. Second would be a production of something I’ve heard about on Broadway and want to see, but hasn’t been done elsewhere in LA. Is He Dead? fell into this category.

FacebookTwitterTumblrGoogle+LinkedInLiveJournalStumbleUponEmailPinterestMySpaceShare/Bookmark

Gluten Free Goodies

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Aug 26, 2015 @ 12:03 pm PDT

userpic=gluten-freeWhile I’m on vacation, I’m attempting to clear out the backlogs of links accumulated over the past few weeks of work-crazy. This first post is a collection of articles related to gluten-free and celiac, and it focuses on the problems that the gluten-free diet faddists have created for the truly Celiac and those with true non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

🍕🍔🍞🍩🍰

In “The Celiac’s (Gluten-Free) Lament” (if you’re caught by the WSJ paywall, do this search and click on the WSJ link), Thomas Swift relates his wife (Hania)’s relationship with gluten-free food since her diagnosis in 2002. He talks about how the food landscape has changed:

But gradually we discovered gluten-free versions of almost everything—except pierogies and Chinese food. Some substitutes were better than others; we got hooked on corn penne and brown rice fusilli. A friend, having discovered the latter, served them to her healthy teenage sons, who never suspected they weren’t devouring Italian wheat. Tasty gluten-free cookies and crackers also appeared, first in health-food stores, then on supermarket shelves, while flourless chocolate cakes became de rigueur on dessert menus. Breads popped up, usually frozen and sliced.

He also makes an important point about how the faddists have made life more dangerous for those with medical needs for eating gluten free:

Not long ago, we visited a restaurant known for its gluten-free fried chicken. Our waiter, on hearing of Hania’s disease, explained that, while technically gluten-free, the chicken was fried in the same oil as all the other chickens. That meant it was contaminated. This would be fine for most of the restaurant’s diners—the fashionably gluten-free—but not for celiacs. Without a knowledgeable waiter, we wouldn’t have known.

The gluten-free fad has corroded the meaning of the phrase, creating a playground for dabblers and a minefield for the minority of strict doctrinarians. Not only has the label become spurious, but many food-service workers have understandably grown lax, seeing the demands for gluten-free food as a passing fancy and not the requirements of a serious medical condition.

🍕🍔🍞🍩🍰

In “I Was Gluten-Free Before It Was Cool“, Laura Bennett expresses some similar points. Diagnosed with celiac about the same time as my wife (1990s), she talks about how eating gluten free has moved from a niche diet to a fad to a punchline:

In two decades since I first heard the word gluten, it’s evolved from the obscure scourge of the small population of people with celiac disease into a fad-diet obsession for carb-phobics. Along the way, it’s become a nutritional bogeyman, a shorthand for a kind of phony asceticism, a pop-cultural joke. It started with a few scattered articles about “gluten sensitivity” and some scientific papers speculating about whether American wheat had become less digestible. Then there was the surest sign of mass-cultural anointment: Gluten coverage migrated from the health and science pages to the style section. With growing awareness of gluten came a surge in self-diagnosed allergies to it. South Park skewered the alarmism of the anti-gluten set by devoting an entire 2014 episode to the imaginary plague of Gluten Free Ebola. A Tumblr called Gluten Free Museum went viral by Photoshopping out the wheat products from famous works of art. A real dating website launched called glutenfreesingles.com.

We are now in a golden age of glutenlessness. Gluten-free food sales grew by more than 60 percent from 2012 to 2014, and by 2019 the number is projected to increase by 140 percent. A 2013 study claimed that only 2 percent of shoppers who buy gluten-free goods do so because they have been diagnosed with celiac disease, while 59 percent buy them because they think gluten is unhealthy. That’s 59 percent of gluten-free shoppers who are willingly subjecting themselves to rock-hard bagels and cookies that—in the absence of the springiness that characterizes normal dough—crumble to nothingness when touched by a breeze.

She talks about those who have to eat GF have formed a community, bound together by the days of styrofoam bread. The early adopters have to clearly distinguish themselves from the faddists, as she writes:

I imagine that being an ur-gluten-intolerant is a bit like loving a band no one has heard of and then watching it climb the Billboard Hot 100: the mix of puzzlement (“how did everyone find out about it?”) and possessiveness (“they don’t even really get it”), the slight internal reshuffling required to disentangle it from your self-image, the chip that materializes on your shoulder whenever you hear its name. For most of my life, though, being allergic to gluten had been a quirk that was at once specific to me and, unlike most quirks, safely meaningless—in no way a symptom of my character or my tastes or my brain. Now, when I turn down a beer at a party, I try to arrange my face in a way that says “I know, right.” When I ask a waiter if there’s gluten-free pasta in the kitchen, I offer a sympathetic little grimace.

🍕🍔🍞🍩🍰

One problem, of course, is that eating gluten free isn’t necessarily more healthy. You’re just replacing the wheat with other starch, and adding more fats and sugars to make up for it. This article from the Daily Mail highlights this: “Doughnuts and pizzas on the NHS: £116million of food for special diets including junk food was handed out in prescriptions in the past year” . Evidently in the UK, the health service covers the food for special diets (unlike the Affordable Care Act). According to the article:

The NHS is handing out tens of thousands of prescriptions every year for custard creams, doughnuts and pizzas. Other calorie-rich treats issued to patients on special diets include Italian-style biscotti, cake bars and muffin mixes. The Health Service spent almost £116million last year on gluten-free products and other foods – twice as much as a decade ago.

This reflects the growth of the awareness of medically-necessary GF diets, but the growth of the GF junk food market. If you walk through a supermarked, you’ll see (if they have GF at all) loads of GF cakes, muffins, and cookies — but little awareness of whether the food in their prepared meal sections are gluten free. The problem for GF eaters is not the junk food, but finding safe healthy food that hasn’t had a bit of soy sauce for seasoning, or wasn’t cross contaminated.

🍕🍔🍞🍩🍰

The last article was posted by a Facebook friend, and it questions the existence of non-celiac gluten sensitivity:

For a follow-up paper, 37 self-identified gluten-sensitive patients were tested. According to Real Clear Science’s Newton Blog, here’s how the experiment went:

Subjects would be provided with every single meal for the duration of the trial. Any and all potential dietary triggers for gastrointestinal symptoms would be removed, including lactose (from milk products), certain preservatives like benzoates, propionate, sulfites, and nitrites, and fermentable, poorly absorbed short-chain carbohydrates, also known as FODMAPs. And last, but not least, nine days worth of urine and fecal matter would be collected. With this new study, Gibson wasn’t messing around.

The subjects cycled through high-gluten, low-gluten, and no-gluten (placebo) diets, without knowing which diet plan they were on at any given time. In the end, all of the treatment diets — even the placebo diet — caused pain, bloating, nausea, and gas to a similar degree. It didn’t matter if the diet contained gluten. (Read more about the study.)

The key things, to me, in the above was “self-identified gluten-sensitive” and the size of the sample. Other research has shown that while there might be a tiny, tiny, proportion of people who are non-celiac but sensitive to gluten, it is not nearly as wide-spread as the claims make it out to be:

But if only a tiny number of patients who report NCGS have a gluten-related condition, what’s going on with everybody else who complains of digestive woes?

They probably fall into several groups. Some may be in the early stages of celiac disease and the disease hasn’t yet produced any of its telltale signs, Guandalini said. Others are likely allergic to wheat.

Many may be sensitive to FODMAPs, or fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols, which are certain types of carbohydrates including wheat, lentils, and mushrooms that can draw water into the intestine and potentially ferment, causing digestive problems for some people.

This is what the second influential study on gluten sensitivity found. The 2013 study suggested that intolerance to the carbohydrates in wheat might account for what many believe is a bad reaction to gluten.

The Australian research team behind the study had previously shown that patients who self-identified as having NCGS did better on a gluten-free diet even when they didn’t know if they were eating gluten or not. When they launched a second study, they expected to confirm these results.

But they didn’t. This time around, the researchers first reduced FODMAPs from the participants’ diets. Then they reintroduced gluten or a placebo. There was absolutely no difference in participants’ reactions.

The Australian team concluded that most patients who thought they couldn’t tolerate gluten were in reality sensitive to FODMAPs. Once they had cut consumption of these carbohydrates below a certain threshold, gluten posed no problem for them.

🍕🍔🍞🍩🍰

So where does this leave us? I think it makes it clear that diagnosing food sensitivities is difficult, misleading and tricky. It also makes clear that if someone says they cannot eat a particular food, play it safe and keep the dish clean. It might not make a difference to a large number of faddists, but if it significantly hurts one person, is it worth it?

Finding the Way Home

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Aug 25, 2015 @ 11:58 am PDT

A Company of Wayward Saints (REP East)userpic=repeastCommedia dell’arte is a particular artform with which I only have passing acquaintance; “passing” in this case meaning I’ve seen a high-school production of Scapino and heard the music of The Glorious Ones. However, I’ve never really understood the traditions or characters until a few nights ago when I saw the REP East Playhouse (FB) production of “A Company of Wayward Saints” by George Herman. So why did we go see it? First and foremost, because a friend (J. T. Centonze (FB)) was producing and directing the show; second, because we like the quality of REP shows; third, because my wife wanted to see it and we had that weekend open due to an upcoming trip. What did we think? Let’s put it this way: I’m very glad we went.

Commedia dell’arte is a 16th century Italian artform based on improvised performances utilizing particular character types. Originally, it was called commedia all’improviso. Performers played on outside, temporary stages, and relied on various props in place of extensive scenery. The better troupes were patronized by nobility. Characters typically wear masks, and fit a variety of stock characters, such as: The Harlequin (a clown); Scapino (the youth / acrobat / jack-of-all-trades); Pantalone ( the old man / money ); Il Dottore (the doctor / erudite); Il Capitano ( the captain / military man); the Innamorati, Tristano and Isabella (the lovers); Columbina (Harlequin’s mistress / the nag / impudent servant ); or Ruffiana ( tart / former prostitute). Other stock characters commonly found are listed / linked in the Wikipedia article.

I mentioned the particular character types above because A Company of Wayward Saints is the story of a commedia dell’arte troupe, La Compagnia dei Santi Ostinati (The Company of Wayward Saints) consisting of the above players. This troupe  is out on tour (no specific location, but it seems oddly to be somewhere in the midwest) and have started fighting with each other and becoming unprofessional. So unprofessional, in fact, that when the 8:30 PM curtain comes around, only Scapino and Columbina are there attempting to improvise and delay until the rest arrive. Harlequin, and shortly the rest of the troupe soon show up, and Harlequin informs the company that he has found a patron that is willing to pay their way home… on one condition. This patron, an unnamed Duke, has requested that they improvise on the theme of…. “The Story of Man”. If they do this, and they entertain him, he will fund their way back home. This is the set-up, and includes an introduction by Harlequin (the manager of the troupe) of the various characters in the troupe.

The remainder of the first act consists of the troupe’s first attempt to tell the history of man. They do this by attempting to do a variety of silly scenes illustrating human history: The Fall of Adam; Odysseus’ return to Penelope; the assassination of Julius Caesar. All fail miserably as the troupe keeps veering away from the point of each story, moving instead to illustrate failures such as arrogance, battles between the sexes, and much more. The actors upstage each other, end up infighting, and revert to being selfish children.  The act ends with the troupe members all walking out, leaving Harlequin to beg the audience to take a few minutes for themselves while he regroups the troupe, demoralized because they have “lost the art”.

The second act begins with Harlequin explaining that he couldn’t get the troupe back, but then they slowly all come back — having realized that their friendships and relationships were too strong. One character then gets the bright idea that the history of man need not be a literal history, but rather the history of the life of a man: birth, adolescent, marriage, death. The troupe then starts to stage these scenes — but this time they are working together. The scenes reflect the reality and pain of life: the birth scene is told from the point of view of the husband unable to help his wife, but learning how a child can bring back love; the adolescence scene relates the story of two Mississippi youth forming a relationship out of their tomboyish playfulness; marriage, where a negotiation between a female marriage broker and a daughter-marrying father ends unexpectedly with their liaison), and death (a story in which a priest on death row convinces his prosecuting soldier to take over for him). Out of these scenes comes the humor borne of reality and pain (as opposed to the heavy slapstick). This pleases the Duke and he agrees to fund their way home… but the troupe, having refound their art, decides to keep performing. At the end, Harlequin turns to the audience and requests them to single out no one player for your praise: showing that the selfishness of the first act has been abandoned.

As I indicated at the start, I was unfamiliar with this story and the characters that were portrayed. I was unsure as the act started, but ended the play touched and enjoying it quite a bit. The notion of a troupe rediscovering their art after a period of discord was a lovely and touching one. I can see why this play has had the longevity it has had (while researching this writeup, I even found a reference to when The Colony Theatre did the show, with John Larroquette as Harlequin). I found the story well worth seeing.

Although I could attempt to follow Harlequin’s dictum and not single out a particular player, I’d fail miserably. So let’s look at all the players equally instead. As Harlequin, Kevin Becker (FB) (who we saw just last week as Pontius Pilate) was wonderful and playful, capturing the clown well. He demonstrated his strong performance skills over both roles. Scapino was performed by Beth Ann Sweezer (FB), another REP regular, capturing the playfulness of the youth quite well … extremely fun to watch, both in the opening scenes, as the snake, and as the youth in the adolescence scene. Pantelone was Ryan Shrewsbury (FB), seen in REP’s Avenue Q, who captured the old man well (and was wonderful in the marriage negotiations). Dottore was  Stefanie Harbeson (FB), who was extremely touching in her discussions in the birth scene. Capitano was played with full bluster by Jay Potter/FB, appropriately stuffed in the Odysseus scene, but nicely down-to-earth in the death scene. The lovers were Benjamin Patrick Thomas (FB) [Tristano] and Kelly Boardman (FB) [Isabella], and seemed a well matched couple, both comically in the Adam and Eve scene, and touchingly in the birth scene. I’ll note that we just saw Thomas as Jesus in the REP’s Jesus Christ Superstar, and he looked totally different here. Columbine, the nag, was portrayed by Kim Iosue/FB with appropriate energy and shrewishness, and worked quite well in the marriage scene with Pantelone. Lastly, Ruffiana (the tart) was played by Marie-Clarie Erdynast/FB. I’ll note that I’ve known MC for years at REP, and I didn’t even recognize her in this role. A wonderful performance, especially in the adolescence scene.

As befits commedia dell’arte, the scenic design was minimal (and uncredited): the back of some flats left over from previous shows (with appropriate graffiti), some chairs, and such. It worked. The lighting design was by Jeffrey Hampton/FB, and had a few points where actors were in the dark as they moved into the appropriate spot space (hopefully this will be fixed in the second week). Hampton also served as Stage Manager. Fight choreography was by Jesus, ooops, Benjamin Patrick Thomas (FB) and was suitably realistic. Music was by Ryan Shrewsbury (FB). The sound design was by the everpresent Steven “Nanook” Burkholder/FB. The production was produced and directed by J. T. Centonze (FB). Alas, we’ll be seeing J.T. a lot less at the REP: he just got the keys, and will soon be opening, Off Kilter Kilts (FB) in Pasadena.

A Company of Wayward Saints has one more weekend at REP East Playhouse (FB). You can get tickets online at the REP Online Box Office; note that this homegrown system will soon be replaced by a spiffy new Vendini system. Discount tickets are available on Goldstar.  You can also find special discounts by liking REP East on Facebook.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I subscribe at three theatres:  REP East (FB), The Colony Theatre (FB), and Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: This coming weekend sees a vacation show:  Evita at the Maui Cultural Center (FB), starring Hawai’i’s top-selling female vocalist of all time, Amy Hānaialiʻi Gilliom. September starts with Tom Paxton’s last concert at McCabes (FB) on September 12, followed by “The Diviners” at REP East (FB) and “First Date” at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB). October will bring another Fringe Festival: the NoHo Fringe Festival (FB). October also has the following as ticketed or hold-the-dates: CSUN’s Urinetown (end of October – 10/30 or 11/1);  “The Best of Enemies” at The Colony Theatre (FB) (Ticketed for Sat 10/10); and  “Damn Yankees” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) (Ticketed for Sat 10/17). As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.

The Anniversary Post – 2015 № 30

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Aug 17, 2015 @ 11:09 am PDT

userpic=anniversaryThirty years ago today Karen and I got married (in Woodland Hills, by Rabbi John Sherwood Z”L). Here’s looking forward to at least thirty more years…

(to the tune of the “William Tell Overture”)
Happy Anniversary, Happy Anniversary
Happy Anniversary, Haaappy Anniversary

Pour a cheerful toast and fill it, Happy Anniversary
But be careful you don’t spill it, Happy Anniversary

Ooooo Happy Anniversary, Happy Anniversary
Happy Anniversary, Haaappy Anniversary
Ooooo Happy Anniversary, Happy Anniversary
Happy Anniversary, Haaappy Anniversary

Happy she and happy he, They’re both as happy as can be
Celebrating merrily, their happy anniversary

Ooooo Happy Anniversary, Happy Anniversary
Happy Anniversary, Haaappy Anniversary
Ooooo Happy Anniversary, Happy Anniversary
Happy Anniversary, Haaappy Anniversary

We now state emphatically, it’s happy anniversary
Not another day could be, a happy anniversary

Ooooo Happy Anniversary, Happy Anniversary
Happy Anniversary
Happy (slow)
Happy (slow)
Happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy (fast) Anniversary!!!

(Gioacchino Rossini; arr. William Hanna / Joseph Barbera)

Many years ago I saw a post on LJ that suggested an interesting tradition for anniversaries: For each year that you are married, post one thing that you love about your spouse. This year marks year № 30:

  1. I love that she keeps her head in a crisis.
  2. I love that she knows how to calm me down when I start panicking.
  3. I love that she helps me think logically when dealing with big ticket items or expenses.
  4. I love that she knows how to think through situations logically.
  5. I love that she is a very loyal friend, going out of her way to help others.
  6. I love that she is able to express herself very well, and convey information the information to others in ways they can understand.
  7. I love that she is a very good cook, coming up with creative gluten-free dishes.
  8. I love that she is willing to put away the laundry.
  9. I love that she pulls off very nice parties.
  10. I love that she has a good decorating sense.
  11. I love that she cleans up nicely :-)
  12. I love that she puts up with my disappearing off to Boardgame days and my working on the highway pages.
  13. I love the needlecrafting and fabric arts that she does (that is, the results–I’m less enthralled with the stash).
  14. I love that she knows how to deal with our daughter when I’m getting frustrated.
  15. I love that she was active in our daughter’s school life.
  16. I love that she is willing to deal with family situations I don’t want to deal with.
  17. I love that she is willing to deal with contractors and repair critters.
  18. I love that she doesn’t spend too much on quilting and fabric supplies :-).
  19. I love that she has similar tastes in friends to me.
  20. I love that she enjoys going to the theatre with me.
  21. I love that she understands that I’m not romantically inclined.
  22. I love that she puts up me when I’m dealing with my headaches.
  23. I love her compatible music tastes.
  24. I love that she’ll take my car in to get serviced, as opposed to saying “It’s your problem. Deal.”
  25. I love that she and I can have wonderfully intelligent conversations.
  26. I love her creativity.
  27. I love how she has helped raise our daughter into a bright, capable young woman.
  28. I love that she enjoys doing the “Berkeley Run” with our daughter.
  29. I love that she reminds me when it’s time to do the Anniversary Post.
  30. I love that she helps me take care of my health.

Of course, this list doesn’t include the things I love about her that I can’t post publicly :-). Maybe next year. You’ll just have to wait and see.

Who In The Hell Do You Think You Are — Revisited

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Aug 16, 2015 @ 7:32 am PDT

Jesus Christ Superstar (Rep East)userpic=repeastBack in early July, I attended the second performance of Jesus Christ Superstar at REP East Playhouse (FB) in Newhall. I wasn’t that impressed; the show wasn’t up to REP standards. My wife driving my daughter’s car back to her in Berkeley this weekend afforded me the opportunity to go to the closing performance of Jesus Christ Superstar. I’m pleased to say the show is 200% better. Yes, I put that in bold (well, “strong”) for a reason. This is a remarkable turnaround, and I’m delighted that the show went out with REP’s reputation for quality professional theatre intact.

So what happened? The weekend after we originally saw the show, the performances were cancelled so the show could retool. REP was reworking the show to bring in live music. Additionally, the actor playing Judas (who we had found problematic) left the show. This, combined with getting the sound mix right, made wonders for the performance — instead of leaving lukewarm, I left enthused over the performance.

As for the book…. well, the book still has its problems, but at least I could understand it a bit better now. I did find that seeing it a second time brought out some nuances I didn’t catch before. In particular, I felt a distinct parallel between the desire of Jesus’ followers to fight the establishment they didn’t like with the battles going on against the Vietnam War when this show was written. That may explain why it was so popular in early 1970s.

Chris Loprete (FB), who I had previously admired as Pontius Pilate, moved up to the Judas role and was spectacular. He sang clearly, and with the right emotion and power, and made the role work.  I also enjoyed his little nuances and reactions. This was head and shoulders above the previous performer — I was extremely impressed. It was how the role should have been played.

Moving into the role of Pilate was Kevin Becker (FB). Becker did very well with the role, with good singing and strong performance. Pilate only has a few scenes, so it is hard to say much more. His main performances come in the second act, and he was strong there.

There were also a number of other problematic areas corrected. In particular, the microphones on the actors were corrected, and you could hear everyone clearly. This was an amazing difference. I also thought that Michael Davies was much stronger in his scene as King Herod — there seem to be some nuances changed in that performance that suddenly brought forth the right tone. The remainder of the cast seems to have grown into their roles — of course, being able to hear them clearly makes a big difference. In particular, I noticed the trio (Eriel Brown (FB), Laura Norkin/FB, and I’m guessing Tara Cox/FB) and their singing and dancing much more, and it seemed to work better. I was also able to appreciate Alex Bowman (FB)’s Peter a lot more.

About the only remaining problem was that some of Jesus’ songs were at the upper end (or above the upper end) of the Benjamin Patrick Thomas (FB)’s range, and the stretch didn’t always make it. This wasn’t a major problem, however; overall, I believe that Jesus’ had gotten stronger in performance as well.

A significant change was the addition of a live band, consisting of Rick Pratt (FB), Justin G. Horwitz/FB, and Connor Pratt/FB. Live music made a significant difference, both in musical quality and musical timing. Live music for a show is a thing of beauty, and I believe and hope this is a REP tradition for the future. The band sounded wonderful.

Some things still struck me as odd: The set painting still didn’t make sense (even after having it explained — it was supposed to evoke 1970s Ocean Pacific design, but I don’t see the connections), and there were still some odd lighting flashes and points where performers were in darkness. But with all the other fixes, these nits moved to the background. Overall, I enjoyed the show much much more.

This was the last performance of Jesus Christ Superstar at REP East Playhouse (FB). For the next two weeks, J. T. Centonze (FB) moves from behind the bar to direct A Company of Wayward Saints by George Herman. J.T. is a busy man, as he is also opening Off Kilter Kilts (FB) in Pasadena. You can get tickets for A Company of Wayward Saints through the REP Online Box Office.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I subscribe at three theatres:  REP East (FB), The Colony Theatre (FB), and Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: Next weekend, we’re back at REP East (FB) for “A Company of Wayward Saints“. After that we’ll need a vacation … but then again we might squeeze in Evita at the Maui Cultural Center (FB) the last weekend of August. September starts with Tom Paxton’s last concert at McCabes (FB) on September 12, followed by “The Diviners” at REP East (FB) and “First Date” at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB). October will bring another Fringe Festival: the NoHo Fringe Festival (FB). October also has the following as ticketed or hold-the-dates: CSUN’s Urinetown (end of October – 10/30 or 11/1);  “The Best of Enemies” at The Colony Theatre (FB) (Ticketed for Sat 10/10); and  “Damn Yankees” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) (Ticketed for Sat 10/17). As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.

Doubles and Singles: News Chum for Everyone

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Aug 15, 2015 @ 3:07 pm PDT

userpic=observationsNow for the rest of the news chum, which seems to fit into the theme of doubles and singles — that is, we have a bunch of groupa-twos and a few singlets:

Chips In The Stew: Technology News Chum

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Aug 15, 2015 @ 2:25 pm PDT

userpic=verizonIn my continuing quest to work down the saved links, here are a collection of links associated by the fact that (a) they are related to technology (and perhaps cybersecurity), and (b) they were interesting to me. Note also that I’ve added some links to my post on Windows 10.

Let’s start with everyone’s favorite operating system, Android. Here are some Android related articles:

Let’s now look at Windows and other software:

  • Evernote. Evernote is a wonderful note-keeping software than runs on your phone and your PC. Here’s how to make it more secure.
  • Libre Office.  I think in the battle of Free Office Suites, LibreOffice has won. Here’s an interesting article from a LibreOffice developer on the lesson’s learned from its success.
  • Firefox. Although Firefox has improved greatly, it still sneaks in stuff. In this case, it is prefetching (or at least, pre-building the TCP connection) when you hover over links. Here’s how to stop the behavior.
  • Thunderbird. No article here, just some shared experience. We recently switched over to Office 365 and Exchange 365 at work. In the Lotus Notes era, I was lucky enough to have a Notes IMAP server, and happily used Thunderbird. It was a pain for calendar entries, however, saving the ical file and reloading it into Google Calendar. Here are some things that make my life easier — perhaps they will help yours. First, install the Exquilla Plug In. It is $10 a year, and allows Thunderbird to talk Microsoft Exchange. You’ll need the Outlook Web Address, and you’ll need to make the change in the URL they show. Next, at least temporarily, install the Manually Sort Folders extension. This allows you to move your Exchange account to the top and set it as the default. You can disable it when done. You should be prompted to turn on the Lighting calendar. After you have done so, add the addon Provider for Google Calendar. You can now add a new calendar and link it it to your Google Calendar. Remember to synchronize whenever you start up Thunderbird. Although you can’t accept events directly into the Google Calendar, you can accept them into your local calendar, and then drag them to Google. [EDITED TO ADD: An Update: Nevermind. This seemed to be working at work… until it wasn’t. There appears to be an interaction between Lightning and Thunderbird that causes it to (a) keep losing the folder pane, and then (b) keep crashing on startup. I had to disable Lightning and the Google Calendar Provider. Sigh.]

One last useful article: What to do when a CD or DVD is stuck in the drive.

Let’s Fly, Let’s Fly Away

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Aug 13, 2015 @ 10:28 pm PDT

userpic=psa-smileThis is a busy busy time, and the chum is accumulating. To whittle it down a little, here are some articles related to things that fly: