Observations Along the Road

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

Vigilantes, Mobs, and Bullies, Oh My!

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Aug 04, 2015 @ 11:35 am PDT

userpic=soapboxReading the news over lunch the last few days has been very upsetting. I’ve read articles about trophy game in Africa, potential underage sex, anti-abortion activists, and much more. What has been upsetting me most, however, is not the ostensible subjects of the articles — the killing of animals, the sex, and such. What is upsetting me — and what is prompting me to climb up on my soapbox and write this article over lunch — is the way that the Internet is turning people into cyberbullies, cybervigilantes, and cybermobs.

Let’s take the case of the dentist, Walter Palmer, who admits to shooting a lion with a bow and arrow. Long before he has had his day in a court of law, where it would be determined if he actually violated the law, his personal information was placed on the Internet. He has received death threats; his practice has been harassed and shut down. This has impacted not only Palmer, but his employees, his family, and his patients — none of whom are guilty of any crime. It has gone beyond Palmer. Even different dentists who happen to share the same last name are being harassed and threatened. Other game hunters — who hunted legally — are being harassed.

We’ve seen this happen in numerous other areas. Consider Jared of Subway fame. Claims have been made, and even before they are investigated, there is harassment. This harassment has extended to Subway franchises, who have done nothing other than try to run a business. It is even true in the case of Bill Cosby. I’m not trying to say that Cosby is innocent. But displays of African Art collected by Cosby are being boycotted — this doesn’t benefit Cosby at all, and financially hurts the art institution that was viewing the items as art.

Growing up, we all read books like The Ox-Bow Incident, where we learned about the dangers of vigilante or mob justice. We work to teach our children that cyberbullying is wrong. Yet on the Internet, we participate in it. There are people who troll comment forums, attacking anyone who expresses an opinion they disagree with. There are people who dox other people, disclosing home addresses and phone numbers to permit personal harassment and threats and expansion to family members. There are people that organizes attacks on businesses they do not like. There are people that go undercover and illegally film events, to disclose identities that put people at risk. These people are all, essentially, taking the law into their own hands.

I’m not trying to argue that Cosby’s actions, or Palmer’s actions or whomever’s actions are right. I’m saying that the Internet is not the place to try them. They need to be judged in a court of law, against the laws that are on the books, not someone’s personal moral code. If you don’t like the law, get the lawmakers to change the law. But we are a civilized society, and we do not take the law into our own hands. That means no trials in the court of public opinion, no sharing of rumors and heresay on the Internet, no doxing, no online harassment, no trolling, no cyberbullying. We — as a society — are better than that.

I shall now climb off my soapbox. That feels better.

P.S. If you are kid / teen facing a cyberbully, here’s some good advice on what to do.

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An Old Chestnut, Made Fresh Again

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Aug 03, 2015 @ 9:21 pm PDT

Green Grow The Lilacs (Theatricum Botanicum)userpic=dramamasksGreen grow the lilacs, all sparkling with dew,
It’s a familiar tale that you thought you knew,
What’s Oklahoma! now was once much more true,
Green Grow the Lilacs will win over you

Last May, Cabrillo Music Theatre announced its 2014-2015 season: Memphis, Company, Mary Poppins, and Oklahoma!. None of which I was interesting in seeing — especially yet another production of Oklahoma!.† I’ve seen Oklahoma! far too many times, both on the stage and on the screen. Yes, it was a seminal musical back in 1943, but today it seems tired. Yet when Theatricum Botanicum (FB) announced their season, I was excited to see Green Grow the Lilacs as part of the repertoire.  Oklahoma! you see with regularity. But Green Grow the Lilacs the play with music upon which Oklahoma! was based — you don’t see that often (after all, it only had 64 performances on Broadway). So, after a little rain delay, and a week after Cabrillo closed their very successful production of Oklahoma!, we were back for a second show at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) — Lynn Riggs’ Green Grow the Lilacs.
[†: Luckily, Cabrillo redeemed themselves with the 2015-2016 season, and we’re back as subscribers]

If you are familiar with Oklahoma!, you’re familiar with the basic plot of Green Grow the Lilacs. The cowboy Curly McClain is interested in the farmgirl Laurey Williams, who is living with her Aunt Eller Murphy in Indian Territory (eventually Oklahoma) in 1900. She’s interested in him but doesn’t want to show it, because their farmhand, Jeeter Fry, a large and potentially violent man, is interested in her and she’s scared of what will happen if she breaks it off. She has accepted an invitation to a dance party with Jeeter, making Curly take Aunt Eller. There is a comic subplot involving Ado Annie Carnes and a Syrian peddler. At the party, Jeeter makes unwanted sexual advances towards Laurey, and she runs him off. Curly proposes, and they get married. That evening, their friends drag them to the barn for the wedding night, but Jeeter shows up and sets the barn on fire. He fights with Curly, and ends up landing on his own knife. Curly is still taken away for trial. He escapes jail to return to see Laurey, but promises to go back the next morning.

If you are familiar with Oklahoma!, you’ll see some significant similarities and differences (if not, read this and come back). Some of the language was translated almost verbatim into song and dialogue, particularly the dialogue about the surrey with the fringe. However, there are significant changes in plots and subplots. In the main plot, the biggest change is the timeline and the fact that the final verdict is never rendered. There are no other girls Curly flirts with; there’s no jealousy involved. There’s no bidding on baskets. However, there are scenes that are almost directly translated into songs in the musical. The Ado Annie subplot is completely different. She’s much more timid and unsure about sex; there’s no Will Parker onstage at all. She’s there primarily as a friend for Laurie — mirroring almost the same relationship as the one between Rosalind and Celia in As You Like It. My wife commented that the story is much less centered on Laurey and Curly, and much more centered on Aunt Eller and her strength in holding things together. I’d tend to agree.

The music, of course, is completely different. GGtL features much traditional folk music: songs like Get Along Little Doggies, Old Paint, Green Grow the Lilacs, Careless Love, Skip To My Lou, Down in the Valley, and another song to the same tune as Frozen Logger. These are accompanied by the actors on the stage, almost all of who play instruments. There were numerous guitars, a banjo, an accordion, a harmonica, and various percussion devices including a washtub bass. The rendition of Careless Love was particularly beautiful and harmonious. For someone like me who loves folk music, this was a delight. In fact, I tended to like the original folk music much much more than the material Rodgers and Hammerstein developed.

To me, knowing both shows, I actually preferred Green Grow the Lilacs. The indeterminate ending seemed to feel right, the characters had the right complications to their characters. R&H simplified things and upped the humor, but sometimes the more gentle humor works better. The dialogue had a very midwestern feel to it, with loads of folk aphorisms and sayings, and midwestern behavior. The directoral team was the same as for the previous day’s As You Like It  — director Ellen Geer (FB) assisted by Jonathan Blandino/FB, and they did a wonderful job of bringing out the folksy in the characters, as well as the realism. I particularly remember watching the faces of the actors, which were mesmerizing throughout.

Green Grow The Lilacs - Publicity StillsThe acting was top right — especially when you consider that the same lead actresses had leading roles in the previous day’s As You Like It, where they played Rosalind, Cellia, and Jaques. How they remember all the dialogue astounds me. Our lead couple was Willow Geer (FB) [Laurey Williams] and Jeff Wiesen (FB) [Curly McClain]. Geer had a lovely charm about her, a friendliness and folkishness that made her perfect for the character. Her performance was wonderful — she was one of the faces I couldn’t stop watching — and her singing was delightful. She also played the banjo very well (but there’s more money in acting :-) ). Wiesen had a lovely singing voice and created a great character as Curly — you could see why Laurey loved him.

Aunt Eller was portrayed by Melora Marshall (FB); yesterday’s Jaques. Here she changed from a grizzed war veteran to a grizzed farmer who was worldly wise from experience. Again, she gave a wonderful portray, and combined that with lovely singing and performance on a multitude of stringed instruments (I saw guitar and autoharp).

The subplot couple was portrayed by Elizabeth Tobias (FB) [Ado Annie] and Zachary Davidson (FB) as the Peddler. Tobias was wonderful comic relief — in some ways similar to her As You Like It role, and was fun to watch in the second act when she was working on sewing, or her comic walking with the garters. Davidson was similarly humorous, especially when he was hiding or jumping around trying to sell things.

The remaining major character was Steven B. Green (FB)’s Jeeter Fry.  Green gave Fry the appropriate menace the character required.

Rounding out the cast in smaller named roles and ensemble parts were: Leo Knudson [Old Man Peck], John Manahan [Man], Wendy Pigott/FB [Cory Elam], and in the ensemble: Dimitri Aleman Jones, Tate Ammons (FB), Olivia Buntaine (FB) , Carina Cherbosque (FB), Caitlin Durkin, Arielle Fodor (FB), Devin Holliman (FB), Kathleen Leary/FB, Kendall Linzee (FB), Victoria Yvonne Martinez (FB), Jay Sosnicki (FB), Schyler Tillett/FB, and Alexander Wauthier/FB. Understudies were Anahi Bustillos (FB) and Colin Simon (FB). I also think I saw Cameron Rose (FB) in the cast (I recognized him from As You Like It).

Turning to the technical side: there was much more scenic design than in As You Like It. There were numerous set pieces and properties, under the direction of property master Erin Walley. As her link shows she is a set designer, I’m guessing she did that as well. The Sound Design by Ian Flanders (FB) was much more noticeable, as there were numerous sound effects. In fact, I almost thought the noise of all the crickets was a sound effect as well — they were that good. Lighting was by Zach Moore/FB, and was mostly white. The costume designer was Randy Hozian, and was quite effective and seemingly appropriate for the period. Kim Cameron/FB was the stage manager, assisted by Jackie Nicole (FB).

Green Grow The Lilacs continues in repertory with As You Like It, A Midsummers Night Dream, To Kill a Mockingbird, and August:Osage County at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) through September 26. There appears to be two shows most weekend, usually at 7:30 PM (except 8/16 at 3:30 PM). Tickets are available through the Theatricum Box Office. Discount tickets appear to be available through Goldstar. This is well worth seeing — you don’t see the real Oklahoma every day. It is also wonderful if you love folk music.

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 is busy, with “The Fabulous Lipitones” at  The Colony Theatre (FB) on Friday, our summer Mus-ique show on Saturday, and Concerts on the Green in Warner Park (with a Neil Diamond cover band) on Sunday. The third weekend of August is calmer, but only because we moved theatre off the weekend because my wife is driving my daughter’s car back to the bay area. As for me, I might very well go back to see the revised “Jesus Christ Superstar” at REP East (FB) — they are returning to have live music and I expect that will make a significant difference. The third week of August may see us back at REP East (FB) for their “secret seventh show”, which has been revealed to be “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 right now is mostly open, with the only ticketed show being “The Diviners” at REP East (FB) and a hold-the-date for “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.

This Wide and Universal Theatre

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Aug 02, 2015 @ 10:43 am PDT

As You Like It (Theatricum Botanicum)userpic=yorick“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; and one man in his time plays many parts…”

These are the words of William Shakespeare (perhaps you’ve heard of him) in his play “As You Like It“. I actually hadn’t realized this play was the source, as I’m not a Shakespeare scholar. In fact, the only play I had ever walked out of was an incredibly bad production of As You Like It (titled As U Lyk It: A California Concoction) at the Pasadena Playhouse in 2006. The production of As You Like It at the Theatricum Botanicum (FB) [which I saw yesterday], on the other hand, redeemed this play for me. It is fun and delightful, well-performed and updated well by not attempting to update it. I had a few minor quibbles, but for the most part I enjoyed this production thoroughly.

If you are not familiar with the basic story of As You Like It, well… neither was I. Luckily, I was able to obtain a one page synopsis of the show and read it beforehand — this helped immensely as it is difficult for those unfamilar with iambic pentameter to pick out everything that is being said. You can find a reasonably good and understandable summary of the plot at No Sweat Shakespeare, the Cliff Notes summary is also good. For the TL;DR generation, the Shakespeare Resource Center has a short and sweet summary. This is one of Shakespeare’s comedies (like Two Gentlemen of Verona), meaning that there is lots of convolutions and humor, and everyone ends up married and happy in the end. In this case you have Rosalind and her close friend Celia disguising themselves and running off to the forest, and her love Orlando not recognizing her and pretending to woo her as if she was her. It may sound silly, but it was the convention of the time and well, umm, just go with it. If you don’t like it, you can always see the musical Omlette.

Shakespeare, unlike perhaps any other playwright, has this unique ability to have his plays translated in time (and not necessarily translated in word) to other places and times. Thus West Side Story is Romeo and Juliet translated to 1950s New York, and The Lion King is a translation of Hamlet. Translations don’t always work, as demonstrated by the 2006 translation of As You Like It to the Mojave Desert. This production does a very light translation of As You Like It to the days of the Civil War. A few words of the original are changed (primarily titles and the name of a character or two), and songs are sometimes replaced with songs from the Civil War era (I know I heard at least one Stephen Foster tune). Otherwise, times are suggested by a uniform here and there. For the most part this works, but in some areas it is quite distracting. For example, the couple of William and Audrey are presented as an interracial couple (something that would never have been permitted — at least out in public — in the South). Duke Senior is presented as the ostensible leader of a Confederate army band; again, the likelihood of mixed races there would have been low. Lastly, many of the costumes were not of the Civil War era — they were Renaissance costumes of the cotton weave and style  as would be found in Elizabethan era peasantwear. I don’t think any of these were fatal flaws; at worst, they were distractions that could have been easily corrected if there was awareness (hell, if William had been black, the suspension of disbelief to have a black couple as part of Senior’s band would have been much easier).  I truly like the notion of translating this to the Civil War timeframe — it is one of the reasons I wanted to see this production. I hope that future productions can figure out the way to explore the translation a bit more fully (even if that might mean doing a bit more adaption of the words).

As You Like It (Theatricum - Cast Photos)The director, Ellen Geer (FB), assisted by Jonathan Blandino/FB, does a great job of making the production work in the specific natural space that is the Theatricum stage.  It is as if the director grew up in that space (oh, right, she did) in the way she utilizes the sides, the hills, and the natural setting to strong effect. She also helped the characters, who do not have much characterization in the Shakespeare original, figure out who they are and what their personalities are like. This appeared to help the actors to truly enjoy performing this play; I have long felt that an actor that enjoys the role translates and unconsciously broadcasts that joy to the audience. The audience, in turn, amplifies the joy and returns it to the actor. This creates a feedback loop that can turn a well known story into a spectacular performance, and I believe the production at Botanicum does just that.

In the main tier positions in this production were Willow Geer (FB) as Rosalind, Elizabeth Tobias (FB) as Celia, and Colin Simon (FB) as Orlando. Geer’s Rosalind/Ganymede was playful and joyous, believable as the character and just fun to watch. Particularly memorable was her playfulness in Act III, Scene II, where Silvius is chasing Pheobe, Phebe is chasing Ganymede (Rosalind), Orlando is chasing Rosalind, and Ganymede (Rosalind) is trying to disavow Phebe without revealing herself to be Rosalind. She had a great interplay with Tobias’ Celia/Aliena, who played the cover role as sister and friend well. Tobias showed the depth of the character more in the transition from the girlish Celia to the girlish (but in a different way) Aliena. Lastly, in this tier, was Simon’s Orlando as the outcast son of the de Boys family. He had the handsomeness and the brawn to be convincing in the wrestling match with Charles, but also had the playfulness to handle the interplay with Ganymede (Rosalind) in a believable fashion.

In the second tier roles were Gerald C. Rivers (FB) as Touchstone, the jester who accompanies Rosalind and Celia in their trek to the forest; Melora Marshall (FB) as Jaques, the melancholy officer loyal to General Senior (Duke Senior), and Earnestine Phillips (FB) as Aida, the faithful servant to Orlando.  River’s Touchstone was an interesting jester, who came into his own after the intermission in his interactions with Audrey. He also had some of the best commentary on lying and observations of people, and was in general quite fun to watch. Marshall’s Jaques (doing a common repertory gender-bending) got some of the more fun observational speeches; he interacted well with both General Senior as well as with Simon’s Orlando. Phillips’ Aida represented one of the more interesting character transformations in the story. Orlando’s traditional manservant, Adam, was transformed into a Mammy-ish characterization who accompanied Orlando. It wasn’t a Mammy characterization, and it wasn’t quite the expected slave portrayal due to independence and the relationship with Orlando, but it provided enough evocation through implication to work well. Whatever the intent, Phillips played it well.

In terms of the the third tier and supporting roles, there are a few worthy of special note. Cameron Rose (FB)’s Silvius and Christine Breihan (FB)’s Phebe had an interesting interplay. Rose (normally playing William) had an interesting look as Silvius and handled the apparent love for Phebe well; Phebe, in turn, had a wonderful puppy attraction to Ganymede (Rosalind) that worked well. Crystal Clark was an especially bubbly and endearing Audrey; her interplay during the opening announcements was extra funny. As I noted earlier, her relationship with William (Clint Blakely/FB at our performance) was unrealistic given the stated setting of the show; other than that, her performance was just fun to watch. Thad Geer‘s General Senior was suitably paternalistic and friendly; I didn’t even realize that it was the same actor playing the evil brother, General Frederick. That said something about how one man was able to do two distinct characters. As Orlando’s foil, Oliver, Frank Weidner (FB) gave a fine Southern portrayal, and had the look of a Southern gentleman. His turnaround at the end worked quite well. Lastly, as Le Beau, Robbie Allen (FB) (moving up from the Ensemble) laid on the French accent a bit thick, but worked well in a humorous fashion. His appearance, however, as part Senior’s band (with the tall stave) seemed out of place. Rounding out the cast in smaller and ensemble roles were: Tate Ammons (FB) [Lord 2, Ensemble]; Olivia Buntaine (FB) [Hesperia, Ensemble]; Steve Fisher (FB) [Charles, the wrestler]; Leo Knudson [Corin]; John Manahan [Sir Oliver Matext]; Jackie Nicole (FB) [Rebel Soldier, Ensemble]; Gray Schierholt/FB [Lord 1, Jaques deBoys]; Caitlin Stegemoller (FB) [Hyman]; Jason Whisman (FB) [Amiens], Clayton Cook (FB) [Ensemble], Vladimir Noel/FB [Ensemble], Michael Zachary Tunstill (FB) [Ensemble], and Michelle Wicklas/FB [Ensemble].

Period music was provided by the actors themselves, and no particular credit is in the program. I do remember that Melora Marshall (FB) was on guitar, and Gerald C. Rivers (FB) did some level of drumming (which isn’t a surprise if you look at his webpage). Additionally, I recall seeing a ukulele, harmonica, accordion/concertina, and a melodica on stage. There is no list of songs.

Turning to the technical side, well, there wasn’t that much of a technical side. The production utilized the Theatricum multilevel stage with no real set pieces, with any additional place established by props (Kristina Teves was Properties Master). Sound Design was by Ian Flanders (FB), but there were no obvious sound effects nor amplification, so I presume this was the period music. Lighting was by Zach Moore/FB, although our production had mostly natural light. The costume designer was Amy Mazzaferro; this area was my other quibble. Whereas some costumes worked well (the Generals, Jaques, Ganymede/Rosalind, Oliver, Orlando), many of the others looked more renaissance than antibellum. Elna Kordijan (FB) was the stage manager, assisted by Karen Osborne (FB).

As You Like It” continues in repertory with four other productions (“To Kill a Mockingbird“, “A Midsummers Night Dream“, “August: Osage County“, and “Green Grow the Lilacs“) at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) throug September 27. It runs at selected Saturdays and Sundays at 3:30 PM. Tickets can be purchased through the Theatricum Website. Although Theatricum does have tickets on Goldstar, there are no current listings for As You Like It. Similarly, there are no discount tickets on LA Stage Tix.

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 weekend’s double header at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) continues this evening with the rescheduled “Green Grow The Lilacs” on Sunday.  The second weekend of August is equally busy, with “The Fabulous Lipitones” at  The Colony Theatre (FB) on Friday, our summer Mus-ique show on Saturday, and Concerts on the Green in Warner Park (with a Neil Diamond cover band) on Sunday. The third weekend of August is calmer, but only because we moved theatre off the weekend because my wife is driving my daughter’s car back to the bay area. As for me, I might very well go back to see the revised “Jesus Christ Superstar” at REP East (FB) — they are returning to have live music and I expect that will make a significant difference. The third week of August may see us back at REP East (FB) for their “secret seventh show”, which has been revealed to be “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 right now is mostly open, with the only ticketed show being “The Diviners” at REP East (FB) and a hold-the-date for “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.

 

Saturday News Chum Stew: Theatre Etiquette, Water, Fat, Cybersecurity, and Science

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Aug 01, 2015 @ 9:47 am PDT

Observation StewIt’s Saturday, and it’s been a busy couple of weeks. Time to clean out the accumulated links. Before I do, however, here’s a reminder link: If you are a Windows user and comtemplating upgrading to Windows 10, you should read my summary post about why I’m waiting, and what I want to remember when I finally do. On to the stew:

 

California Highway Headlines for July 2015

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Aug 01, 2015 @ 7:07 am PDT

userpic=roadgeekingJuly was another busy busy month for highway headlines. Here’s what I collected:

  • $1.14 billion later, expanded 405 Freeway is a hodgepodge of design. Imagine if the ancient Romans, late in their empire-building days, had suddenly forgotten how to design aqueducts. Or if Chicago started filling the Loop with a collection of ungainly skyscrapers, each more of an eyesore than the last. Something similar — a sad reversal of infrastructural fortune — is happening in Southern California. A region once synonymous with freeways no longer builds them with much confidence or skill. How else to judge the new-look 405 Freeway, which has been widened, at a cost of $1.14 billion, to make room for a single carpool lane on its northbound side between West Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley?
  • Bay Area tunnel to be renamed after late actor Robin Williams . A Bay Area tunnel, known for the brightly colored rainbow painted over its arched entrance, will now be called the Robin Williams Tunnel. Commonly known as the Waldo Tunnel or the Rainbow Tunnel, the passageway led travelers from Marin County to the Golden Gate Bridge. The late actor, who lived in Tiburon, Calif., likely traveled through the tunnel when he visited San Francisco.
  • Caltrans project set to start on 101 Fwy from Calabasas to Studio City. Caltrans is gearing up for a 24-mile asphalt repaving project on the 101 Freeway, stretching from Las Virgenes Road in Calabasas to the 170/134 interchange in Studio City. New guardrails will also be installed. “The crews are going to go through, grind away the old pavement and place new pavement right behind that,” Caltrans spokesman Patrick Chandler said.
  • Legislators clear plan to rename Marin tunnel for Robin Williams. The rainbow-adorned portal into and out of Marin will soon bear a new name: the Robin Williams Tunnel. The state Senate on Thursday approved the resolution introduced by Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, to change the name of the Waldo Tunnel. The state Assembly took the same action in April. Because it is a resolution, the change doesn’t need a signature from Gov. Jerry Brown.
  • With accidents aplenty on PCH, Malibu greenlights safety improvements . One of the world’s most scenic and celebrated ribbons of asphalt, Pacific Coast Highway has served as mood-setting backdrop to films and TV shows and inspired lyrics by artists of such diverse sensibilities as the Beach Boys, Jaden Smith and Hole. For 21 miles northwest of L.A., the fragmented, 650-mile road becomes the city of Malibu’s main thoroughfare. And almost daily the squawk of gulls and thump of waves are drowned out on this stretch by shrieking brakes, crumpling metal and sirens’ wail as accidents send people to hospitals and bring traffic to hours-long standstills.
  • Doyle Drive closure opens golden era of Presidio Parkway. Early Monday, after a three-day traffic nightmare, drivers heading to and from the Golden Gate Bridge will be greeted by the brand-new Presidio Parkway, a sleeker, safer, better-looking version of Doyle Drive. “It’s going to be a brand-new feeling and a brand-new driving experience — for everyone,” project spokeswoman Molly Graham said Tuesday as she showed off the new roadway. “We’re asking people to be patient on Monday and we do expect delays for the first couple of weeks.”
  • $1.8 million road project underway in Tam Valley. A $1.8 million road improvement program is underway in Tamalpais Valley this summer as Ghilotti Construction works on a resurfacing, curb, ramp, guardrail and drainage project.
    Areas for improvements coordinated by the county Public Works Department include Homestead Valley and Almonte behind Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley. Officials said the work involves Circle Way from Homestead Boulevard to the end; Homestead Boulevard from Stadium to Loring, and Morning Sun from Dolan to Homestead.
  • Maintenance Contract Approved For Permanent Return Of Bay Lights. A maintenance contract approved Wednesday should keep the popular Bay Lights art installation on the western span of the Bay Bridge twinkling well into the next decade. The Bay Area Toll Authority approved a 10-year, $2.1 million contract for Philips Lighting North America Corporation to maintain the Bay Lights installation once it returns as a permanent fixture next year.
  • $1.1 million approved for plan to keep Bay Bridge bolts safe. The committee wrangling with the Bay Bridge construction problems voted Thursday to spend an additional $1.1 million to come up with a plan to prevent further damage to bolts anchoring the eastern span’s signature tower to its foundation. The decision, approved on a 2-1 vote, came despite a statement from a seismic review panel that the bridge doesn’t need any of the 424 anchor rods to survive a major earthquake.
  • New contract approved for Bay Bridge lights. Fans of the lights installation that has adorned the San Francisco end of the Bay Bridge can expect to see the span illuminated well into the next decade, under a new maintenance contract approved Wednesday. The Bay Area Toll Authority approved a 10-year, $2.1 million contract for Philips Lighting North America Corporation to maintain the Bay Lights installation once it returns as a permanent fixture set for next year.
  • Experts to make recommendations to test, repair anchor rods in Bay Bridge tower. A panel of experts convened to determine the extent of water damage to anchor rods in the base of the Bay Bridge’s new eastern tower will make their first recommendations for testing and repairs today, according to Caltrans officials. Among the recommendations chief bridge engineer Brian Maroney will ask the Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee to approve is a dehumidification system to dry the rods, according to Caltrans.
  • Long Beach sues Caltrans, OCTA over 405 Freeway widening project. Long Beach is suing Caltrans and the Orange County Transportation Authority over the $1.7 billion project to expand the 405 Freeway. The City Council authorized the city attorney in closed session Tuesday to file the lawsuit challenging the environmental documents filed with the plan, which widens the 405 by four lanes through Orange County to just past the Long Beach border.
  • The new Jameson Canyon: Wider and faster. Jameson Canyon Road, a stretch of Highway 12 between Highway 29 and Interstate 80 once known as “Blood Alley,” is safer today than it was a year ago, thanks to a barrier in the median and an expansion from two lanes to four. But the once infamous stretch of roadway still has problems. With congestion now reduced, motorists are more likely to speed, said California Highway Patrol Officer Roger Kellogg, who patrols it regularly.
  • Work continues on I-680 project. Repaving work on Interstate 680 between Fairfield and Benicia is continuing this week. Intermittent lane closures and alternating ramp closures should be anticipated nightly through Friday as crews work on the 13-mile stretch of I-680, according to the California Department of Transportation.
  • State Agency Cites Caltrans, Contractors for ‘Serious Violations’ Leading to Willits Bypass Collapse. A state investigation has determined the falsework that collapsed on the Willits bypass on January 22 “was not properly designed, was not erected as per the design plans, was missing components, [and] deficiencies were not identified when inspected and signed off by the project engineer for the company erecting it.” The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited all three employers at the worksite – Caltrans, Flatiron West, Inc., and “DeSilva Gates-Flatiron West: A Joint Venture” – for four “serious” violations. Those July 16, 2015, citations were for: failure to properly inspect the falsework; failure to make a thorough survey of the conditions of the site to determine “predictable hazards” to employees; failure to ensure vertical supports were erected on a “properly compacted and reasonably level” base; and failure to ensure the falsework was designed and erected to “assure its ability to withstand all intended loads.”
  • Caltrans Completes Highway 99 Widening Project Through Manteca. Traffic flowed smoothly during the morning commute Wednesday. It wasn’t bumper to bumper or even congested thanks to a newly completed Caltrans road widening project two years in the making. “Each individual should recognize about a 16 minute savings in time. That is a big difference for those who want to get through this area especially through peak hours,” Dennis Agar, Caltrans director for District 10, said.
  • Bridge collapse shuts down major California freeway after record-breaking July rain. Historic rain in Southern California—the most we’ve had in July since 1886!—caused a bridge collapse near the town of Desert Center, California over the weekend. The bridge collapse shut down all traffic for hours on the highly-traveled Interstate 10 freeway between Los Angeles and Phoenix. One unfortunate driver plowed his pickup truck into the collapsed structure, and hundreds of other cars were stranded. Alternate routes will require cars and trucks to travel hundreds of additional miles.
  • Caltrans considering Ceres’ diverging diamond idea. Although the design is being used successfully in a number of states, Caltrans is acting slowly to approve the “diverging diamond” design for the future Mitchell/Service/99 interchange. Caltrans officials from District 10, which covers Ceres, like the design but it is being viewed cautiously at state headquarters.

I Think I’ll Wait to Wash the Windows

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Jul 30, 2015 @ 5:11 pm PDT

userpic=compusaurUnless you’ve been  hiding under a rock (or perhaps an apple), you’re probably aware that Windows 10 dropped and is available to install. As to why it is numbered Windows 10, given that it follows after Windows 8.1, the answer is simple: stupid programmers. Yup. You probably remember Windows 4, Consumer Edition? This was the version that followed after Windows 3.1, and ran on top of DOS. Microsoft, in their wonderful style of naming conditions, called that version Windows 95, and its successful successor was Windows 98. Application software tested for this by, you guessed it, testing for the string  “Windows 9″. Now there is hopefully none of the code from the Windows on DOS branches left in the OS (except perhaps for the start button), but those applications are out there: and Microsoft didn’t want to break them. Thus the jump from Windows 8 to Windows 10 (because presumably there are no Windows 1.0 applications still running).

[In case you’re curious, Windows 10 is not from the Windows on DOS branches: it’s lineage traces back to Windows NT 3.5, which begat Windows NT 4.0, which begat Windows 2000 (NT 5.0), Windows XP (NT 6.0), Windows 7, Windows 8 (and 8.1), and now 10. Windows-on-DOS died with Windows ME.]

In any case, Windows 10 was officially released yesterday, and for a year (until 29 July 2016) it is available as a free upgrade for anyone on a home edition of Windows 7 or greater. There’s a little Windows icon where you can reserve your copy and everything. All of the early adopters are downloading like crazy. The reports are that Windows 10 is a pretty good product (Ars Technica, TechspotNewsweek), but they are also noting that if you don’t need it immediately…. it’s probably worth waiting a month or two for problems and patches to settle down. Then again, there are good reasons to stay on Windows 7.

I would tend to agree. There have already been a number of problem reports, from odd installation problems to problems with too many items in the new start menu. I’m also leery of how upgrades vs. clean installs work: I want to see some actual reports from users in the field that Windows 7 actually upgraded well, and all applications still were in the right places and ran. That will take some time.

However, all the news is coming out now, so I figured I’d do a post to help me keep it in one place. Feel free to comment with useful articles of your own. This is the stuff that interests me:

[15-07-31: PCWorld has also published a superguide bringing together all their articles. Note that many of the links they have are also linked above.]

So what are your thoughts? Did you upgrade from Windows 7? What do you think of Windows 10 on  a former Windows 7 machine (for the record, I’ve got an intel Core i3, 2.4 GHz, with 4GB (3.80 available) memory. The other Windows 7 laptop is an i5 processor. The old XP print server is an AMD Athelon 64 3200 with 160GB disk and 512MB memory (I think the HP has more memory, perhaps 2GB)). Have you upgraded an XP era machine, and was it worth it? What installation problems did you run into? What do you think of the new OS?

Exploring Relationships

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Jul 27, 2015 @ 9:33 pm PDT

Singed (Operaworks)userpic=theatre_ticketsEvery year we go to a fascinating show that is impossible to describe. The show is the finale of the Operaworks (FB) Advanced Artist Program called “Opera Reconstructed”. Here’s why this is so fascinating:

The Advanced Artist Program is for operatic performers in graduate school or beyond, who want to work in-depth on their repertoire – dramatically, musically, and physically. It’s goal is to teach the performers the “other” side of opera beyond singing. In particular, the not only learn how to address the business and marketing side, but they learn how to act and move on stage as actors and actresses — how to relate to other characters as characters, not just stand in front of a piano and sing. The program culminates with two performance shows of improvised opera. The show consists of three acts, not necessarily related. For each act, the students pick a location and come up with one paragraph bios of their characters and their relationship to the other characters in their act. They then pick arias, from both operas and other musical theatre, for each character to relate to another character. Improvising dialogue, they now put these characters and arias into a show. Here’s an example bio:

Brynne (Pulver), 42, was tragically murdered last year at her co-owned business, the speakeasy, Sassy Sally’s. She was the songstress for over fifteen years, and was a local favorite. A beloved mother, sister, and friend, she is survived by her daughter, Alexandra, and son-in-law Scott; her sister Johanna, and from what we are told, long-time lover Evelyn. Some say they still feel her presence in the speakeasy. Will she ever rest in peace?

If there is one constant in these shows, it is sex and violence. Perhaps this is because stronger emotions are easier to portray, to express. But the plots are convoluted (as one might expect from those familiar with opera), and remembering them a day after the fact can be difficult. It is also rare in these shows for a performer to sing more than one song — not a surprise when you have 32 performers and 32 songs in 2.5 hours.

This year the tree acts were only tangentially related: some characters from Act One reappeared in Act Three — even though it was almost 80 years later. Time discontinuity aside, that was really the only connection. Let’s look at the acts and the singers from what I remember.

Act One was called “The Speakeasy”, and took place in a 1920s speakeasy called Sassy Sally’s. Sally’s is run by Noelle (Thomson); she runs the establishment and interacts with all. Joanna (Watson) is the cigarette girl and assistant manager, and loves to daydream about her ex. Jaime (Billman) is coming off a messy divorce with Shelly (who reappears in Act Three). Evelyn (Tsen) was in love with Brynne (see above), and hasn’t been able to move on. But now she has feelings for Karen (Levandoski), a cop who was investigating the case.  Madelaine (M. Martinez) is the new songstress, and wants to end her days as a high-end prostitute. Maggie (Woolums) is a prep school graduate who was friends with Alexandra and Elena. Scott (Ballantine) was a guard at the state prison (which we see in the next act) and comes to the speakeasy after work. Alexandra (A. Martinez) is in a tumultuous marriage with Scott, and is also a bootlegger. Elena (Bird) has resorted to exotic dancing to support her drinking problem. Cole Perder (Douglas Sumi) was the speakeasy pianist, playing piano to fund his addiction.

Arias in this act were (in order) [🎶 title 🎼 composer 🎤 singer]:

To me, the most notable performer was Ms. Thomson — she was comfortable as her character and kept interacting with others and playing throughout.

Act Two, “The Prison”, took place in a prison. It seemed to concern a racial war between white prisoners and, umm, non-white prisoners (who were either Asian or Hispanic). The prisoners and other characters were: Carmen (Metry), a former foster child who found heroin on the streets; Mengtao (Zhou), a Chinese Black Widow who murdered seven boyfriends and is now in love with the guard, Nick (Harmantzis), who was brought up in an abusive environment and has pent up frustration and anger. Azur (Valcour) was sexually brutalized, and so strangled her oppressors and drank their blood. Katherine (Bruton) is a housewife with particular values, so she poisoned the blacks that moved into her neighborhood with arsenic. Christina (Ramos) had her child taken away, and is soon to be released — she’s also the only sane person in the unit. Eva (Kastner-Puschl) is a slutty murderer who killed her boyfriend, and subordinate to the leader of the “Whities” and makes out with the guard. Margaret (Boeckman) is a lifer who killed a nun who physically abused a friend, who is also under the rule of white supremacist Katherine. Lily (Barber) drowned her infant daughter and 3-yo son. Lau (Pu) is from a prominent family who killed her fiance. Elle (Logan) is a southern girl who had a psychotic break and dismembered the torso of her ex-husband. Quite a fun bunch. Tickling the keys was Dolores Cliburn (Mark Robson), a cross-dressing former piano instructor with a penchant for arson.

Arias in this act were (in order) [🎶 title 🎼 composer 🎤 singer]:

I’d list memorable performances, but I was so involved with watching this one I forgot to make any notes.

Act Three, “The Family Reunion”, brought together a large disfunctional family to see Grandpa Mark (Mark Robson). The family members were as follows: Katia (Kotcherguina), a fun-loving party-going college student.  Shelley (yes, the one divorced from Jaime of the first act) (Mitchell), who is still hurting from the divorce (80 years ago?). Laura (Remy), the father of the family who came out last year and is transitioning, trying to connect with her two daughters, Ekaterina/Katia and Lindsey, who is estranged from her sisters Anna and Sarah. Anna (Buck), the mother of three who just wants perfection, and who has cut ties with two of her rebellious children, Michelle and Jen. Carolyn (Forte) is married to Andrew (Metzger), the winner of a reality show. Jen (Hansen) is a feminist lesbian. Sarah (Baumgarten) is a single-mother to Andrew, and has found Jesus and judgement. Michelle (Drever) left home at 16 and is a paleontologist and does makeup. Lindsey (Fuson) is a defiant teenager feeling abandoned with her father’s transition and her sister going off to college.

Arias in this act were (in order) [🎶 title 🎼 composer 🎤 singer]:

Again, this was an act where I was so caught up following the performances that I failed to make notes.

Technical Credits: Stage Direction: Zeffin Quinn Hollis (FB). Movement Coach: Dr. Paula Thomson. Improvisation Coach: Laura Parker. Artistic Director: Ann Baltz (FB). Additional faculty and Operaworks staff is listed on the Operaworks site.

Alas, yesterday’s was the last performance. Operaworks (FB) will have a winter production on January 16, 2016, so look for it.

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: August continues the theatre craziness, with a double header at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) the first weekend: “As You Like It” on Saturday, and the rescheduled “Green Grow The Lilacs” on Sunday.  The second weekend of August is equally busy, with “The Fabulous Lipitones” at  The Colony Theatre (FB) on Friday, our summer Mus-ique show on Saturday, and Concerts on the Green in Warner Park (with a Neil Diamond cover band) on Sunday. The third weekend of August is calmer, but only because we moved theatre off the weekend because my wife is driving my daughter’s car back to the bay area. As for me, I might very well go back to see the revised “Jesus Christ Superstar” at REP East (FB) — they are returning to have live music and I expect that will make a significant difference. The third week of August may see us back at REP East (FB) for their “secret seventh show”, which has been revealed to be “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 right now is mostly open, with the only ticketed show being “The Diviners” at REP East (FB) and a hold-the-date for “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.

 

Winning is an Attitude

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jul 26, 2015 @ 9:56 am PDT

Lombardi (Group Rep)userpic=99loveIn the fall of 2009 into the late summer of 2010, one of my favorite TV programs, Steve Allen’s Meeting of Minds, had come back to the stage. thanks to the hard working efforts of the people at Working Stage, especially Dan Lauria. Unfortunately, the run was ending: Working Stage had lost the use of the Steve Allen Theatre, and Dan Lauria was heading off to Broadway to star alongside Judith Light in some new play about a football coach.  I was always curious about the play that brought an end of Meeting of Minds in Los Angeles, and last night I finally got the chance to see it at the Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre (FB): the West Coast Premiere of Lombardi by Eric Simonson.

I have to admit, going in, that I really know nothing about football. That’s the game they play on the court where they kick an orange ball and make baskets, right? Seriously, I think I’ve been to one football game in my life (in the 80s, at UCLA). But I have heard of Vince Lombardi, although I knew little about him. In other words, I was probably your typical theatre audience member seeing this play :-). That’s because sports, as a subject, is not common theatrical fodder: you can probably count on all your fingers the numbers of shows about any major league sports: football, baseball, basketball, soccer, etc. combined. This is odd because sports and theatre are oddly similar: both are intensely dramatic, both follow a back and forth story to get to the ultimate goal, and both have coaches that can have intense winning and losing streaks. Both also have their ardent fans, and both often require sacrifices on the parts of the players (even if they are well compensated).

I’m pleased to say that — as a distinct non-football fan — I enjoyed the story. The pacing was reasonably fast (the show runs a bit over 90 minutes without an intermission). It gave a great sense of the man and his approach to coaching and life (which I’m not sure could be separated). It did not require understanding the specifics of the game of football and its terminology (one could treat that like technobabble on Star Trek). Yet, I think, it remains accessible to the football lover — the man or woman who lives for Monday Night Football and the NFL, the one ardently concerned about whether LA will get a football team. I do encourage those with a sports fanatic in their life — someone who might never normally go to the theater — to bring that person to this show. It might get them hooked.

Lombardi depends on a simple storytelling hook to tell the lifestory of Vince Lombardi: A reporter from Look Magazine who has come to Green Bay to do a piece on Lombardi. This reporter, Michael McCormick, was created by the author (according to the play’s study guide), who also created a fictitious connection between the reporter’s father and Lombardi. This hook permits the reporter to interview players, family, and the coach himself to bring out the story; it also permits the use of flashbacks to illustrate points as well as the use of direct exposition to the audience by the reporter. I read some reviews where this approach was viewed as problematic; I didn’t find it a problem. I do agree with the articles that this approach tended to keep the larger swirl of the world outside away from the story of the play. Was that a problem? I tend to think that it wasn’t, because America has shown time and time again that professional football is a world unto itself; fans tend to like football precisely because it tends to keep the harsh realities of the world away.

In preparing for this writeup after the show, I read a number of online articles about Vince Lombardi, including his wikipedia page and a very interesting interview about the man held with Dan Lauria when the show was on Broadway. Based on these, I think that Simonson captured about 80% of the legendary man’s character. In particular, it provided glimpses of the man’s values with respect to civil rights — he was famously quoted that he viewed his players as neither black nor white, but Packer green. It did not show his equivalent values regarding homosexuality, which are even more notable given the time and context of the play and the fact that Lombardi came from a strong Roman Catholic background. I think the most important thing that the play captured was Lombardi’s ethic: his notion that winners thought of themselves as winners, that winning was an attitude, and that it was always possible to win with appropriate effort, perseverance, and hard hard work. More importantly, it captured the complement to the attitude: that losing was an unacceptable attitude, that even permitting the notion of losing might make one a loser. It showed, reasonably well, how this attitude not only permeated both his team life and his home life — in fact, how it lead to his death. The man was so focused on winning, he couldn’t even admit when his body was losing a battle. (I’ll note, however, that the stomach problems shown in the play would have put the production near the end of Lombardi’s Green Bay run, in 1967-1968 — not the 1965 time shown in the play).

If there was any weaknesses in the story, it was the few ancillary threads that got brought up and discarded. The whole bit with the players union seemed to be overemphasized solely to explain why one player didn’t talk to the reporter; Lombardi’s children were brought up and promptly never mentioned again. Those are more writing flaws than production flaws.

The director, Gregg T. Daniel (FB), did a good job of bringing out the realism and inner characters of the people portrayed in the story. I often write that I have difficultly separating what the actor brings from what the director adds. I’m crediting the director here more for the overall feel created — the little touches of having the football players practicing onstage during  the pre-show period, of having the actors provide the football noise background during the scenery change blackouts, and such. This is something an actor would not bring, but is an attention to detail that a director would bring to the story.

Lombardi Cast Photos (provided by Nora FeldmanLet’s talk a little about the actors and what they brought, and how their characters worked in the story. In the lead position was Bert Emmett (FB) as Vince Lombardi. Emmett assumed the role well; I could see nothing of the Bert Emmett I had gotten to know in other roles at GRT over the years. In fact, I could also feel Dan Lauria superimposed over Emmett in the production, for Emmett brought a Broadway-quality immersion to Lombardi. The character, as written, captured the discipline, internal strength, and anger of the man; it also captured how his wife could humanize him. Emmett brought those aspects out in his performance. In short, to this audience member who knew nothing about the real Vince Lombardi, Emmett seemed very Lombardi-like.

As the reporter/foil, Troy Whitaker (FB) — another GRT regular —  gave off a youthful naivete that worked well. He seemed to have an uncanny recall of football statistics — as if there was a script in the background — but this was believable simply because there are football geeks who know statistics that well. Whether a cub writer in the early 1960s would have access to such statistics is a different question, and is a minor flaw in the writing of the story. Independent of that, Whitaker was a believable reporter and propelled the story along well. In his few scenes where he stood up to Lombardi, he had sufficient backbone to be believable.

Julia Silverman (FB) portrayed Lombardi’s wife, Marie. The characteristics I’ve read about Marie in the various sources came across well in the portrayal — the sacrifice, the heavy heavy drinking, the ability to be the only person that could get Lombardi to back down. Her overall role in the play was small, but critical in the overall arc of Lombardi’s wife.

The cast was rounded out by the three football players: Steven West (FB) as Dave Robinson, Ian Stanley as Paul Hornung, and Christopher Hawthorn as Jim Taylor. I think the most important fact is that these three were believably football players, and they were believably distinct characters. This is a good thing. Each provided useful insights into Lombardi’s character. About my only quibble was the Hawthorn seemed a bit slight to be a football player, but then what do I know about football players :-).

The production itself was relatively simple set-wise. There were a large number of chalkboards with football plays on them (don’t ask me if they were correct plays), with a projection screen on the back, and two side projection screens. There was a small office for Lombardi off to the side that was used for one scene. In general, location was established through a projection on the back screen, with either or both of the side screens used for ancillary location establishment. There were a number of set pieces (couches, benches) that were constantly being moved on and off the stage by the football players. This design (by Chris Winfield (FB)) worked given the limitations of the GRT space. THe sound design by Steve Shaw (FB) provided suitable sound effects. The lighting design by J. Kent Inasy mostly worked; there were a few moments in the beginning where there was a disconnect between blocking and lighting (i.e., people were in the dark) — presumably, that will be adjusted as the show goes on. The costumes by Angela M. Eads seemed appropriately period; I cannot speak to whether the numbers for the players reflected their actual numbers, or whether the costumes were historically correct for the Packers of that period. Trust me, there are people that will comment on that. Remaining technical and production credits: Christian Ackerman/FB [Videographer], Glenda Morgan Brown (FB) [Dialect Coach], Nora Feldman (FB) [Public Relations], Doug Haverty (FB) and Arts & Sound Design [Graphic Design], Drina Durazo (FB) [Program, Producer for GRT], Haley Miller [Director’s Assistant], Mikel Parraga/FB [Assistant Director]. The program does not contain a credit for stage manager.

Lombardi continues at the Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre (FB) until September 6th. Tickets are available through OvationTix (GRT’s online box office). Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar and LA Stage Tix. The show is well worth seeing even if you don’t like football; it is especially well worth seeing if you like football.

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: Our triple header weekend continues today with the annual Operaworks show  in the afternoon, followed by seeing Astro Boy again in the evening at  Sacred Fools Theatre Company (FB). August continues the craziness, with a double header at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) the first weekend: “As You Like It” on Saturday, and the rescheduled “Green Grow The Lilacs” on Sunday.  The second weekend of August is equally busy, with “The Fabulous Lipitones” at  The Colony Theatre (FB) on Friday, our summer Mus-ique show on Saturday, and Concerts on the Green in Warner Park (with a Neil Diamond cover band) on Sunday. The third weekend of August is calmer, but only because we moved theatre off the weekend because my wife is driving my daughter’s car back to the bay area. As for me, I might very well go back to see the revised “Jesus Christ Superstar” at REP East (FB) — they are returning to have live music and I expect that will make a significant difference. The third week of August may see us back at REP East (FB) for their “secret seventh show”, which has been revealed to be “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 right now is mostly open, with the only ticketed show being “The Diviners” at REP East (FB) and a hold-the-date for “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.