Observations Along the Road

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

Archive by Date: June, 2017

Hotel Reservation Websites — Grrrrrr

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Jun 30, 2017 @ 7:44 pm PDT

I’m in the process of making the hotel reservations for our upcoming trip to take our daughter to Grad School in Madison WI. We’re going to go out through Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, and Iowa, and after getting her settled, visit friends in St. Louis, and then back along Former US 66. After booking a number of hotels, I just realized I’ve been confused by the websites, and some may have been prepaid, but I’m not sure — and I’m pissed at the confusion they engender.

I’ve been using four primary sites: Trivago, Expedia, Booking.Com, and AAA, with Trivago just sending me to either Expedia or Booking. I’m trying to make reservations and not pre-pay, but it isn’t always clear. For example, the cheapest rates you see on Trivago are typically pre-pay rates, so take them with a grain of salt.

  • For Expedia, there are three key phrases: Free Cancellation, Reserve Now Pay Later, and Non-Refundable. They don’t appear to have an explicit phrase for Pre-Pay, so if you don’t see Reserve Now Pay Later, it appears you are paying now (but may be able to cancel)
  • For Booking.Com, there are also three key phrases: Low rate – no money back, NO PREPAYMENT NEEDED – pay at the property, and FREE cancellation before …. If you dont’ see NO PREPAYMENT NEEDED – pay at the property, it appears you are paying now (but may be able to cancel).
  • What appears to have suckered me was AAA. Some of their rates have an explicit bullet: Pre Paid – Book Now, Pay Now. Clearly Pre-Paid. Others explicitly have Non-Refundable. Those are likely Pre-Paid. Then others have Book now, pay when you stay. Those are no prepayment needed. But what about AAA Rate? All they have is Exclusive AAA Member Savings. No “Pre Paid”. No “Pay When you Stay”. Are these pre-paid or not? I was assuming not, because they didn’t say “pre-paid”, but when I booked one, the receipt has some words about pre-paying the stay. Now I’m totally confused. [ETA: It is now a week after I posted this, and so far, none of the AAA reservations have shown up on my credit card statement. I’ve reached the conclusion that their confirmation messages and emails are in error when they talk about the reservation being prepaid, and that the AAA rate is really “Book now, pay when you stay.”.]

Ah, I’m begining to miss the old days with the books where you could call the hotel, and had just one rate.

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Let Me Explain It To You

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Jun 28, 2017 @ 8:18 pm PDT

Continuing to clear the news chum, here are some interesting “explanations” I’ve found of late:

 

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Interesting History

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Jun 28, 2017 @ 6:56 pm PDT

Now that the Fringe Fest is past, it is time to start clearing out the news chum (if I could just do that with the 70 backed up podcasts!). This first batch all provide some interesting histories:

  • Knitting as an Espionage Tool. This is an older article — I’ve been holding onto it for about a month. It tells the interesting story of spies that used knitting as an information hiding technique. Whether women knitted codes into fabric or used stereotypes of knitting women as a cover, there’s a history between knitting and espionage. When knitters used knitting to encode messages, the message was a form of steganography, a way to hide a message physically (which includes, for example, hiding morse code somewhere on a postcard, or digitally disguising one image within another). If the message must be low-tech, knitting is great for this; every knitted garment is made of different combinations of just two stitches: a knit stitch, which is smooth and looks like a “v”, and a purl stitch, which looks like a horizontal line or a little bump. By making a specific combination of knits and purls in a predetermined pattern, spies could pass on a custom piece of fabric and read the secret message, buried in the innocent warmth of a scarf or hat.
  • Mr. Cellophane. In a previous post, I cited an article about the transformative nature of the elevator on society. Here’s another transformative item: cellophane. It changed the way we buy food by allowing clear packaging. Cellophane packaging let food vendors manipulate the appearance of foods by controlling the amount of moisture and oxygen that touched a product, thus preventing discoloration. In turn, it led to the rise of the self-service store. In a similar vein is plastic. We often think of gasoline and cars when we look at the impact of oil, but there’s an even bigger impact in oil-based plastic. Just imagine a world where there is no plastic. No plastic for food, gloves, medical equipment, insulation, packaging. It’s scary.
  • Hawaiian Pizza. It seems simple doesn’t it: Canadian Bacon and Pineapple on a pizza. It’s heresy to some. But someone had to come up with the idea, and here’s the story of the invention of said pizza. You have tiki culture to thank. According to Atlas Obscura, the rise of tiki culture, as troops returning from the South Pacific after serving in World War II, and the influence of American Chinese food were crucial to inspiring the creator, who sought to unite the sweet and the savory — a mission that ended in him dumping a can of pineapple on a pizza pie.
  • Yellow Cars. When you think of trolley cars and Los Angeles, I’m sure you think of the Red Cars — the cars made famous in Roger Rabbit — the cars that a “conspiracy” supposedly killed (truth: that’s an urban legend). But the Red Cars weren’t the only system. Here’s an article on LA’s narrow-gauge Yellow Car system. As opposed to the interurban Pacific Electric, the Los Angeles Railway provided quick, local service in downtown L.A. and nearby communities. For decades, the Yellow Cars’ bells rang as far west as La Brea Avenue and as far north as Eagle Rock, and the trolleys serviced neighborhoods from East Los Angeles to Hawthorne. Though their reach was shorter than that of the fabled Red Cars, the Yellow Cars carried roughly twice as many riders—at its peak in 1924, the Los Angeles Railway served 255.6 million passengers, and the Pacific Electric only 100.9 million.
  • Beauty Remains. Yes, this is SFW. Here’s an interesting little bit of history, wherein Playboy cover girls recreate their iconic covers 30 or more so years on. Guess what? A beautiful woman remains beautiful.
  • Boyle Heights. Lastly, there is currently an exhibition in the Boyle Heights neighborhood celebrating its Jewish history. I’ve been learning this history of late, and it is really fascinating — and it shows the impact of Yiddishists and Workers Movements on the Jewish Community of LA.
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HFF17 Batch 6: Transition / Khant Hotel / Bachlorette

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Jun 26, 2017 @ 9:47 pm PDT

Transition (HFF17)userpic=fringeOur last day of the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) was also musical free. The day brought us a sandwich: two excellent shows (Transition and Bachelorette by Leslye Headland) with something barely palatable (Khant Hotel) in the middle.

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Unlike our two previous Trump-related outings (Zombie Clown Trump and Trump in Space), Transition (non-HFF website), written by Ray Richmond (FB), is a somewhat serious voice of protest. It was written by a journalist fed up with the results of the November election. He sensed that there was both dramatic and comedic potential that explored the first closed door meeting between President Obama and President-Elect Trump after the election, especially given the personal history between the two men. The result was a semi-serious two-person show that actually opened well before the Fringe (back in March 2017), and that reminds me of one of my favorite TV shows that was resurrected as a staged reading series, Meeting of Minds, or an excellent theological exploration called Discord: The Gospel According to Jefferson, Darwin, and Tolstoy (JDT Project). There was, however, one yuuuge difference between Meeting of Minds and the JDT Project and Transition: in the first two, there was more than one intellectual in the room. In Transition, there is one intellectual and a narcissistic businessman.

The discussion in Transition is wide ranging, and attempts to cover many of the serious topics that a President-Elect would need to deal with, from the Middle East to Healthcare to the role of a President to proper national security to …. you get the idea. President Obama diligently wants to brief Trump on all these issues so he will be prepared. Trump, however, wishes there was more gold in the White House. He wants to rearrange the walls to make the rooms larger, more like Mar-A-Lago. He is more interested in trotting out campaign rhetoric and right-wing talking lines. The only way President Obama can get him to listen at all is to play into his game and to his ego, until the President has enough. It is really a great telling example of the different in temperament between the two men. Although I too am dismayed that such a man was taking over the office of President, I found this fascinating in a “What have we done?” kind of way.

The two lead actors — Joshua Wolf Coleman (FB) as President Obama and Harry S. Murphy (FB) as President-Elect Trump — may not look 100% like the persons they are portraying. But they are close enough, and they have the mannerisms and the voice down sufficiently to be believable as them. As the play goes on, your disbelief is suspended and they become the two men. It is a remarkable portrayal. Trevor Alkazian (FB) provides a supporting role as Randall, the White House intern/assistant.

This is a play that I strongly recommend that people see — whether in the Fringe incarnation or subsequent public or private productions. The message it conveys about the man this country elected in 2017 is chilling in an absurdist way, because, indeed, absurdity is in the Oval Office. For anyone that loves Meeting of Minds, for anyone that loved JDT, for anyone that loves great political dialogue — this is the play for you.

At the conclusion of the play, the rapper Dylan presents an original rap song, “The Divide”, that summarizes where this country is today — divided.

Transition was directed by Lee Costello (FB), who kept the pace quick and the characters believable. This was supported by Kate Bergh (FB)’s costumes and Fritz Davis‘s videos. Shelia Dorn designed Mr. Trump’s wig. Other production credits: David B. Marling (FB) – Sound Design; Kiff Scholl (FB) – Graphic Design; Erica Lawrence (FB) – Stage Manager; Danny Crisp (FB) – Running Crew. Transition was originally produced by Racquel Lehrman (FB) and Theatre Planners.

The Fringe production of Transition has concluded its run. I’m sure there will be future productions, so visit the play’s website for more information.

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Khant Hotel (HFF17)Our second play, Khant Hotel, had such potential. The description of the show had a lot of promise: “Taking a vacation and staying at a hotel should be a luxury experience. Trying to maximize profit, Ka Hotels have taken a page from the airlines’ customer service handbook. This is the story of Livia’s stay at a Ka hotel. The poor treatment she receives leads her to seek the hotel’s owner, Mary. Persuaded to change the way the hotel operates, Mary breaks away from Ka Hotels. Mary’s new Khant Hotel treats Livia better. Her stay is more enjoyable, until it’s over.”

The promise of this show was dashed, however, from the beginning where there was a scene about a meek female engineer who must pass the “Pro E” exam in 24 hours, with no preparation, or lose her job. Unfortunately for the author (who was also the writer, director, and lead actress), Lindsey Blackman, both my wife and I are engineers, we know about the process of becoming a Professional Engineer, and we know numerous female engineers — none of whom are as meek and as milquetoast as the character portrayed on stage. Further, we are both of the belief that female engineers must be portrayed as a noble calling™, something that encourages other women to come into the field. This portrayal did none of that. The most galling aspect, however, is that the author, seemingly has an engineering degree and should have known better. In fact, her day job was once as an engineer and she should have known what PEs are like. Hint: Try talking to some of the wonderful folks at the Society of Women Engineers. (Full disclosure: I’m one of the folks behind the sponsoring organization for the Scholarship for Women Studying Information Security)

But that wasn’t the only problem with this show. The premise itself was simplistic and problematical. The notion was that hotels would start charging like airlines for every little service: fee for a key, fee for the elevator, fee for the stairs, three in a cramped room, unexpected bumping for higher priority passengers. A reasonable extrapolation, but the execution was poor. Furthermore, the production was poor. There was far too much on the stage, far too much rearrangement — so much so, that actors were bumping into props all the time. Sight lines were blocked by props and stage pieces. This production really needs a lot of work.

The actors did the best with the material they had. In addition to Lindsey Blackman in the lead, the acting team consisted of Jill Czarnowski (FB), Jennifer Wilson, John Siscel (FB), Jessica Dowdeswell (FB★, FB), Thang, Alex Dorcean (FB), Robin Stepanek (FB) and Cody Shampine. I’d give you character names, but the only form of “program” was a postcard with a picture of the actors. Hint: If one of the purposes of Fringe is to get seen and get exposure, than it is critical to respect your actors by providing their information to audience members.

The production was directed by Lindsey Blackman. The Fringe page gives no other credits, such as stage manager.

Sunday’s production was the last performance of Khant Hotel. About the only thing good that I can say about the piece is that it wasn’t at the level of Robot Monster – The Musical. There was at least a reasonable idea in Khant Hotel, however poorly executed. In the right hands, that seed of an idea could have been turned into something much more humorous and realistic. Alas, poor Robot Monster didn’t even have that.

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Bachlorette by Leslye Headland (HFF17)Our final Fringe production was Bachelorette, written by Leslye Headland. This was another show where we were drawn in by the Fringe description: “Ten years out of high school, Regan, Gena and Katie convene in the luxurious bridal suite of their old friend, Becky, the night before her wedding in New York City. Fueled by jealousy and resentment, the girls embark on a night of debauchery that goes from playfully wasted to devastatingly destructive. Their old fears, unfulfilled desires and deep bonds with each other transform a prenuptial bender into a night they’ll never forget. A wicked black comedy about female friendship and growing up in an age of excess.”

As the production started, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. There were a bunch of beautiful (at least in looks) women, downing liquor, trashing personal property of a friend, snorting coke, smoking pot, popping pills…. while at the same time insulting their “fat” friend who was about to get married to a very rich man. In fact, much of the play was setting up the conflict between these women, and demonstrating how pointless and meaningless their lives had become. There was really nothing important between them; even their friendships were discarded when it wasn’t convenient.

Yet, when I was just about to write the play off  and just enjoy the eye candy, it suddenly acquired a remarkable meaning and depth — in fact, a depth that made this one of the best things I saw during Fringe. At the end, the true friendships were discovered, inner strengths were found, and destructive personalities were exposed for what they are. The characters who were made fun of for the bulk of the play or dismissed turned out to be the real people, and the popular folks from high school days — well, they got their comeuppance.

This play formed an interesting trilogy with the other plays with similar themes — The ABCs and Reasons to be Pretty — demonstrating what true beauty is, what true strength is. It isn’t always what society views as conventional; it isn’t always the popular image of what is beautiful. It is the inner strength, the inner confidence, the whole person. It is a beauty that the lead in Khant Hotel should have possessed, but didn’t.

The performances in this were top-notch. Our popular drug-using girls were played by Skyler Patton (FB) as Gena, Julia Coulter (FB) as Regan, and Amy Huckabay (FB) as Katie. Their dates were Steven Cohen/FB as Joe and Jalil Houssain (FB) as Jeff. The bride-to-be, Becky, was played by Amie Hobson (FB). I especially enjoyed the performances of Coulter, Huckabay, and Cohen; they were just remarkable.

The production was directed by Matt Chupack (FB), with co direction by Skyler Patton (FB). Costumes were by Mallory Evelyn (FB). Lighting and sound design was by Stacey Abrams, who was also likely the stage manager. Bachelorette was produced by Skyler Patton (FB) and Julia Coulter (FB).

Unlike most Fringe shows, you haven’t missed this show. It was chosen to be part of the Fringe Encore series, and will have two more performances in July. Information should be available on the show’s ticketing page.

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And that’s it — that’s Fringe 2017. We saw a total of 17 shows over the month of June. What was the best? I think it was a toss up between the last plays: Bachelorette, The ABCs, Reasons to be Pretty, and Transition. Also strong were the two reviews, Slightly Off Broadway and Hello Again. My wife’s favorite was Conversations ’bout the Girls. All in all, a good Fringe.

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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts 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 currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (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:

July brings us back to normal theatre (° = pending confirmation). We start with The Voysey Inheritance at Actors Co-op (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend is currently open, but we’re thinking about Animal Farm at Theatricum Botanicum (FB). The third weekend brings Peter Pan at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and Ruthie and Me at  Actors Co-op (FB). The fourth weekend of July brings Motown/Miracle | Harlem/Renaissance from Muse/ique (FB). The last weekend of July brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB).  August will (hopefully) start with Brian Setzer° at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We may also squeeze in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast. The second weekend of August? What made sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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HFF17 Batch 5: The ABCs / Reasons to be Pretty

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Jun 26, 2017 @ 9:47 pm PDT

The ABCs (HFF17)userpic=fringeThe evening of our penultimate day of the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) changed our focus from musicals to dramas / dramadies / comedies. We started in the early evening with  The ABCs (FB) at the Dorie Theatre at the Complex, and continued the theme with Reasons to be Pretty.

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The description of The ABCs (FB) in the Fringe catalog is what caught my eye: “The ABCs explores fantasy and the imagination in the lives of teenage girls. Navigating the realm between childhood and adult hood, teenage girls are forced to give up the trappings of the young, like imaginary friends. They are thrust in a new, technologically unimaginable adult world filled with fantastical idols like the Kardashians. How can we ask teenagers to give up one fantasy for another? What happens when fantasy, imagination, and social media blend? How do teenagers navigate the world today when their “stories” can only be ten-seconds and will literally disappear on apps like Snapchat? The ABCs follows one girl, Dakota, on her quest for achievable perfection and fantasy fulfilled in a world that tells her that this is possible.”

The subject matter discussed here — the impact on teens of social media — was very timely. A Gen Z teen has recently joined our household — one who is obsessed with her phone, obsessed with Snapchat, and who is obsessed with looks and makeup. Hence, the subject here was appropos, and would provide an opportunity for all of us to learn, and to do what theatre does best: stimulate discussion.

The center of this story is a group of girls called “The ABCs” who are just about to graduate from high school. These girls — Adriana, Bella, and Caity — are obsessed with fashion and the fashion icons of the Internet. Their goal is to be perfect, and each has gone so far as to ensure they have the right clothes, the right makeup, and most importantly, the right body, for that perfection. They want to be “10”s, and if that means having breast augmentation, butt augmentation, or lip augmentation — well, that’s the price of perfection and who wouldn’t want to be perfect as the media wants you to be. Into this group comes Dakota as a provisional member. The ABCs like her: she has a great Instagram, she posts the right stuff online, follows the right fashion idols. However, she’s a new transfer student with an unknown past, and more importantly, she’s an “8”. For her to be admitted to full membership, she needs a better bust. Dakota’s best friend, Margot, agrees. She ultimately convinces Dakota that she must get the surgery and be perfect. There’s only one problem: money. Whereas the other girls had found various, umm, ways to get their enhancements funded, Dakota’s father refuses. But Dakota is convinced she must have the surgery to be beautiful, and she sees her salvation in the story of the Bling Ring. If she can just convince her friends in The ABCs to help her break into a rich friends house while the family is away, steal a few items that can be sold, she can have the money to get the surgery. Will the The ABCs value perfection over principles? That’s the central conflict in the story, and its resolution teaches lessons not only to the members of The ABCs, but to Dakota as well.

That’s about what I knew about the show going in. Most reviewers haven’t spilled the beans on the ending. I won’t as well, but for one thing: by the end of the play, the circumstances teach Dakota that she must stand up for herself, that she must learn to embrace her own beauty and not chase the imaginary perfection that the Internet creates. That is a vital message — and it is a message that will be echoed in a different way in our last Saturday show, as well as our last Sunday show.

In The ABCs, playwright Monica Trausch (FB) has crafted a  story that speaks to today’s teens and sends a vitally important message: that the perfection that society pushes is false and ultimately dangerous, and that the best thing is to love yourself for you. That’s an underlying belief of mine. A friend once said that perfection is when you cannot make mistakes and nothing changes. That only happens when you are dead. Life is being the best we can be an embracing our imperfections. So I truly think this is a wonderful play; perhaps one of the best I’ve seen at this year’s Fringe.

The ensemble presenting the story was very strong: Diane McNulty (FB) as Dakota, Lani Engstrom (FB) as Margot, Josette Canilao (FB) as Adriana, Lauren Henning (FB) as Bella, and Ashley Nichol (FB) as Caity. Engstrom as Margot was out even before the show started, in character, interacting with the audience. The others had the teen mannerisms down pat; one might believe they had recently been teens :-).  I’d like to particularl highly both McNulty and Nichol’s performances which were spot-on.

The production was directed by Sarah Cho, with fight direction by Chris Sanders. The ABCs was produced by Benno Rosenwald, Mooki Entertainment, and Elisabeth Rogge (FB).

As Fringe is over, what I saw Saturday was the final production of the show. As The ABCs did not get an encore award, it is unlikely to get an extension even thought it sold to sold-out shows.

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Reasons to be Pretty (HFF17)Another timely play, given the addition to our household, is Neil LaBute (FB)’s play Reasons to be Pretty, as it deals with what we consider to be beauty in society, and how different types of men and women perceive beauty. This year at Fringe I lucked out: there were two companies producing Reasons to be Pretty. One version had a multiethnic cast as was taking place in the heart of Fringe: at the Dorie Theatre of the Complex (where we saw The ABCs). This version was getting rave reviews both on the Fringe site and at Better Lemons, and they had postcards and everything. Unfortunately, we couldn’t fit that version in our schedule. What we were able to fit was the Maxwellton Productions version, it had no postcards anywhere. There wasn’t even an image online, and the event page they created had nothing on it. The sole image on the Fringe project page was of the cover of the printed play. This version was being held at the Asylum/Underground space over on Wilton (where we saw Wombat Man many years ago), and its final production was about an hour after The ABCs ended.

The good news is: even without the publicity, this production was sold out and was excellent. So what if I had to craft them an image for this writeup — the show was worth it (however, next time, Maxwellton, at least create some publicity). Trying to figure out the lack of publicity, I think it was because all of the actors trained at Joanne Baron/D.W. Brown Studio (FB), and this was a showcase for their students under the auspices of Fringe. The lead actress is involved with Maxwellton, so that organization helped to mount this. They didn’t need the publicity because most attendees either knew the cast, or were invited through the school. There were just a hapless few of us unwashed masses that actually read the description in the Fringe catalog and were enticed in. In any case, however we got here, we got a treat.

Reasons to be Pretty tells the story of two couples: Greg and Steph, who have been dating for a while, and Kent and Carly, who are married. Greg and works with Kent in a warehouse; Carly is a security guard there. Carly and Steph (who is a hairdresser) are best friends. The catalyst for the show is a seemingly small incident: In a discussion between Greg and Kent, Kent is talking about a new hire at the warehouse, how beautiful she is, and how he would like to get in her pants. He asks Greg what he thinks. Greg indicates the new hire looks fine, but he prefers Steph, who looks regular. Carly overhears this and reports the discussion, and World War III has been started. The little word “regular” has been perceived as an insult by Steph, who considers her face to be her most beautiful feature. The bulk of the play is the disintegration of the relationship, and the while the audience gains understanding about what it is that Greg really loves about Steph. In parallel to this is the story of Kent and Carly. Unlike “regular” Steph, Carly is beautiful, and Kent loves her for her physical appearance: her legs, her ass, her breasts, and her face. But he also chases beauty in other women… and you can guess what happens.

Reasons to be Pretty is really a study of different type of men, and their attitude towards women: One, Greg, loves women not for just the physical but for the person inside. However, he makes one slipup, then keeps tripping over his tongue by not realizing it. Ultimately, he loses the one he loves over his mistake, but never loses the love for her. The other, Kent, goes for the physical. This lust is what does him in. Will he ultimately be happy, or will he go from conquest to conquest, leaving broken relationships in his wake. As for the women, there is one who is secure in her beauty, but knows it is the only reason her man is with her. She has to keep up that beauty at all costs, and when it invariably fades from the perfection she desires (as it always does), the relationship disintegrates because it was built on the superficial. The other is insecure in her beauty, and believes she must have that beauty acknowledged or she can’t have confidence in herself. Not getting that reassurance, she implodes the relationship to find a man who will give it to her. Where will she find her happiness? The play is a brilliant expose of people and how beauty — or the perception thereof — impacts lives.

The performances here were top notch. The cast consisted of Matt Klemenz (FB) as Greg, Erika Rose (FB) as Steph, Andrew Gonzalez (FB) as Kent, and Railynne Danzot (FB) as Carly. All brought a lot of fire and heart to their performances, especially Erika in the opening scene with Matt. Their performances just grabbed you for the roller coaster ride of this story, and you were just drawn into it.

Reasons to be Pretty was directed by Emma Shalaway (FB) and Janice Park (FB), assisted by Ansley Rowe (FB). It was produced by Erika Rose (FB) (who served as executive producer), Janice Park (FB), and Emma Shalaway (FB). There are no credits for stage management. Note that this information comes from the show’s Fringe page — it was not in the handout provided to attendees nor were there bios associated with the production team on the Fringe page. The school may teach these folks how to act and direct; it does not, however, teach them how to properly publicize and promote their show, and how to recognize their production team. Those logistical elements are equally important to the success of a show, and it is the one place where this production of RtbP could learn from the other production of RtbP.

Not surprisingly, although this production was excellent, we saw the final production and it did not win a Fringe encore award. Your only hope is to contact a producer, if you can track them down. Hopefully, my sleuthing will benefit you.

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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts 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 currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (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:

July brings us back to normal theatre (° = pending confirmation). We start with The Voysey Inheritance at Actors Co-op (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend is currently open, but we’re thinking about Animal Farm at Theatricum Botanicum (FB). The third weekend brings Peter Pan at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and Ruthie and Me at  Actors Co-op (FB). The fourth weekend of July brings Motown/Miracle | Harlem/Renaissance from Muse/ique (FB). The last weekend of July brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB).  August will (hopefully) start with Brian Setzer° at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We may also squeeze in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast. The second weekend of August? What made sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

 

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HFF17 Batch 4: Hello Again, Slightly Off-Broadway, Trump in Space

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Jun 26, 2017 @ 9:46 pm PDT

Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman (HFF17)userpic=fringeOur penultimate day at the 2017 Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) started with our last three musicals, ranging from parodies of old (Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman) to parodies of new (Slightly Off Broadway) to  a walking talking parody elected to office (Trump in Space). All in all, it was a great start to the day.

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Our first Fringe show of the day was Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman. This is a show we’ve seen — nay, produced — before. We had the lead, Linden Waddell (FB), perform her one woman show as a fundraiser for our synagogue auxiliaries back in October. It was a great show then, and she brought it back for the Fringe (where it won a Fringe Encore award tonight!).

The Fringe version of the show was a cut-down version of our synagogue’s show (see, you should have come), given the limitations of Fringe. Still, a large number of songs were covered: There is Nothing Like a Lox; Green Stamps; Academy Award Medly: Call Me / Secret Code / Chopped Liver / Overweight People; Shticks Medly; Sir Greenbaum’s Madrigal; Your Mother’s Here to Stay; Skin; One Hippopotami; Night and Day (with punctuation marks included); Harvey and Sheila; Smog Gets In Your Eyes; All of My Laughter (from The Fig Leaves are Falling); Shake Hands with your Uncle Max; and Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah.

Listening to the crowd, there was a mix of young and old, and you could tell who was where by who laughed at what. What this meant was that for many, the show was an introduction to an artist they had never heard before (sigh – this is what happens when Dr. D goes off the public airwaves — oh, mighty MET, where have you gone). The laughter was raucous, and the show was well received.  This is a show that young and old will enjoy, although you might have to explain some of the references to the younger folk.

Linden was accompanied during the show by accompanist Marjorie Poe, who joins in on a few songs.  The show was directed by Janet Miller (FB). Stacey Abrams was the stage manager. PS: Linden is booked by Jeannine Frank / Frank Entertainment.

As the show won a Fringe Encore Award, there will be more performances in July and possibly August. Check the show’s Fringe Page for more information. You can also check out Linden’s page for the show, which gives upcoming appearances.

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Slightly Off Broadway (HFF17/Chromolume)The second Fringe musical of the day was from a theatre company we know and are growing to love — and, full disclosure, a company where we are subscribers: Chromolume Theatre (FB). Their Fringe entry this year was Slightly Off Broadway, a collection of 20 parady songs with music drawn from the catalog of Broadway and Movie musicals, and lyrics written by Bonnie Joy Sludikoff (FB), who also served as director.

As I was having too much fun during the show to scribble down all the parody songs, I’ll lift the list from another review: «“On My Phone” (to the music from Les Miserables) to “A Whole New Girl” (Aladdin) about dating on Tinder to “Something That’s Mean” (Little Shop of Horrors) about FaceBook revenge (to a) ticking biological clock “Maybe” (Annie), the high cost of visiting Disneyland “The Fast Pass Line” (The Lion King), obsessions with Lin Manuel Miranda “So Stoked” (Mary Poppins) and TV’s Law and Order SVU “Officer Benson” (West Side Story)…. Even the Fringe Festival itself gets “What I Did for Fringe” (A Chorus Line).»

The quote should give you an idea of the range of parody in the show. There was even a great Trump parody song, based on a song from Shrek. Seems appropriate, but who could ever fall in love with an Ogre?

Overall, I found the songs very cute and entertaining, and fun to listen to. The time of the show flew by far too fast. For someone — like me — who knows cast albums well — it was a joy. It was also the level of entertainment we’ve come to expect from Chromolume.

The songs were performed by Kelvin Ralph Chou (FB), Rita Outtrim (FB★, FB), Ken Maurice Purnell (FB) [who we saw in Zanna Don’t], Eleen Hsu-Wendlandt (FB), and the author, Bonnie Joy Sludikoff (FB). All were great to listen to and had wonderful voices, and seemed to create characters as necessary to fit the songs. Paul Cady (FB) was the musical director and accompanist. Rebecca Schoenberg was the stage manager.

Alas, we saw the last performance of Slightly Off Broadway, as it didn’t win an Encore award. You can, however, catch Chromolume Theatre (FB)’s next production: Pacific Overtures.

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Trump in Space (HFF17)Our final musical of Fringe was another commentary show on the election of Trump: Trump in Space. The basic premise of the show is simple: It is 400 years in the future. The policies of the Trump administration resulted in the Earth blowing itself to smithereens, and humanity is now on starships searching for a new home: Polaris IV. The captain of one of these ships, the USC (United States of Commerce, “Opportunity at all costs!”) Arizona is Capt. Natasha Trump, the great great great … great granddaughter of the Donald. She has been sent to capture and destroy the captain of the USS California (a ship of the resistance) — Capt. Gary Hart. Trump’s crew consists of Cmdr. Sessions, Lt. Cmdr Palin, and Lt. Josh Christie. Hart’s crew includes Carter and BoyGirl Clinton. I should note that the Trump side is lead by a shadowy Executive, of whom all you can see is orange hair.

The premise itself was clever: a mashup of political commentary and Star Trek, down to the style of the uniforms. The character names and mannerisms were a bit heavy handed, but this was an improv team at work so that wasn’t a surprise. The execution was funny, with a number of repeated bits (such as the elevator) that were hilarious. There was a strong improv element to the show. At our show, for example, it looked like two songs were just tossed in a very hilarious fashion. All of the acting team were trained improv specialists, so this worked well. In short, it was enjoyable and funny; however, it wasn’t “high art” and doesn’t have the potential — at least in its current form — of becoming a broader longer-lasting political commentary musical such as Bush is Bad or Clinton the Musical. For that to happen, I think a little greater focus and direction is required.

For the most part, the acting team was strong: Gillian Bellinger (FB) was an extremely cute and strong Captain Trump, and Scott Palmason (FB)’s Gary Hart worked well in his interactions with her. Supporting Bellinger was the Trump team: Jim Shipley (FB) as Palin, Kevin Richards [Gardner] (FB) as Sessions, and Landon Kirksey (FB) as Lt. Josh. They fit their characters well, played to the fun, and as such, were fun to watch. Supporting Palmason’s Hart was the crew of the California: Nikki Bittogrino (FB) as Carter and Muriel Montgomery (FB) as BoyGirl Clinton. Watch these two during the jail scenes — they are just a hoot. All of these folks sang reasonable well, and were just great at the improv.

Rounding out the performers were either Carrie Long (FB) or Rachel Boller (FB) as the Executive (I’m not sure which one was at our show, but the one that was had a lot of vocal trouble on her last song), and Don Schlossman (FB) as the voice of the Executive.

The show featured book and lyrics by Gillian Bellinger (FB) and Landon Kirksey (FB), and music by Tony Gonzalez (FB) and Sam Johnides (FB). Gonzalez served as music director and provided the on-stage music. I’d like to say that the songs were memorable, but none stuck in my memory. That could just be Fringe overload.

The production was directed by Matt Zettell, assisted by C.J. Leavens (FB). Annabeth Rickley (FB) was the choreographer. Sarah Emily Rish (FB) was the stage manager.

Alas, Fringe is over, and so I would normally say that you missed your chance to see this show. However, the show was the recipient of an Encore award, and so will live again during July and August. Check the show’s Fringe page for information on dates and tickets.

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Fringe Batch 5 will address the remaining Saturday shows, and Batch 6 will address Sunday’s shows.

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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts 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 currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (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:

July brings us back to normal theatre (° = pending confirmation). We start with The Voysey Inheritance at Actors Co-op (FB) the first weekend. The second weekend is currently open, but we’re thinking about Animal Farm at Theatricum Botanicum (FB). The third weekend brings Peter Pan at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and Ruthie and Me at  Actors Co-op (FB). The fourth weekend of July brings Motown/Miracle | Harlem/Renaissance from Muse/ique (FB). The last weekend of July brings The Last 5 Years at Actors Co-op (FB).  August will (hopefully) start with Brian Setzer° at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) on August 2, followed by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) on the weekend. We may also squeeze in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast. The second weekend of August? What made sitting through The Bodyguard worth it: Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). I’m still scheduling September, but so far we have The 39 Steps° at Actors Co-op (FB) and Pacific Overtures at Chromolume Theatre (FB). There’s also the Men of TAS Golf Tournament, if any theatre company reading this wants to donate tickets to our silent auction (hint, hint). More as the schedule fleshes out, of course, but we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018 already!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

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Time Changes Through Infographics

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Jun 22, 2017 @ 11:42 am PDT

Reading my news feeds over the last few days, I’ve uncovered three infographics that illustrate how the generations differ in various ways. As news chum is governed by the rule of threes (at least three items on a theme), that means it is posting time:

P.S.: A birdie tells me there’s going to be  a great graphic on freeway signage, using information from various source (including my site), sometime this weekend on the Southern California Newsgroup Papers. I’ll post a link to it when I have it.

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Don’t Sound Conservative To Me (A Lunchtime Rant)

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Jun 21, 2017 @ 11:40 am PDT

userpic=trump[NEVERMIND — It turned out the source that triggered this was from a satire site. This is not the post you are looking for. Move along.]

Recently, I commented upon a tweet of President Trump’s that was internally contradictory. Today, I was reading another article where a statement from Press Secretary Sean Spicer just blew my mind. Here’s the statement (from this article) — take note of the phrase I have emboldened:

Asked by several reporters to clarify the full extent of the president’s power, or in other words, its limitations – if they exist – Spicer argued that the Constitution “clearly states” what the President of the United States can and cannot do. “However,” he added, “one must also recognize the fact that our Constitution was written quite a while ago and, as such, isn’t ideal when it comes to facing the issues that plague the American society nowadays. One of those issues is also the limit of the president’s power. Just like our language and many other things that are typically American, our Constitution is also a living thing that changes and evolves as time goes by. And if it doesn’t do so on its own, then it has us, the people of America, to help it. However, seeing how the people already have more than enough on their plate these days, the president has decided not to bother you folks with such boring decisions.

One of the major complaints of the Republican Party has been activist judges interpreting the Constitution in the way that the founders never intended. This has been a primary argument of those desiring particular Supreme Court judges. In fact, one of the reasons that Trump’s nominee was such a concern to Democrats is that he was a strict interpreter. Trump, during his campaign, endorsed strict interpretation. Yet look at the statement again: “our Constitution is also a living thing that changes and evolves as time goes by.” That seems to be the argument that the Democrats have been making — so why aren’t the Republicans up in arms about this statement.”

As for the issue of limiting Presidential power: the desire for that limitation shouldn’t be based on the individual that occupies the office.  It seems that the Republicans wanted all sorts of limitations on Presidential power when Obama was in office. One would think they would want such limitations under Trump, because eventually Trump will be replaced by a Democrat.

Then again, there is this statement by Spicer:

“For example, President Trump not only has the power to fire Robert Mueller; he also has the legal ability and right to cancel and disband the Supreme Court of the United States as well, should he feel the need for it. And no one could argue with such a decision.”

Say that again? The Supreme Court is defined in the Constitution. He cannot disband it and fire all the members — that would be a clear violation of the constitution. There is also a long standing precedent about judicial legitimacy (see Episode 1 here) going back to the days of Marbury v Madison, which established the authority of the Supreme Court to declare Congressional and Presidential actions and laws unconstitutional. Given the length that this precedent has been standing, Trump’s legal team would need a very strong basis to overturn it — and arguing a flexible Constitution isn’t it.

In short: Yes, the President can fire Executive Department members, as the head of the Executive Branch. However, if those actions can be shown to be attempts to impede investigations, there can be charges of obstruction of justice (and yes, Mr. Gingrich, the President can be guilty of obstruction — look at Nixon and Clinton). The President cannot fire members of Congress or their staff. He cannot fire the Supreme Court; they are hired by Congress and serve for life or until they retire.

This is why it is vitally important that Congress — not the FBI — appoint an independent investigator to look into all charges related to Russia and its interference with American politics, into conflicts of interest that impact government decisions, and to use of elected and appointed offices for personal gain. That will insulate the investigator from Presidential interference. As with President Obama, I’m sure that if the investigator concludes there is nothing to see, everyone will believe it.

 

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