Observations Along the Road

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

Conversational Dynamics

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Mar 10, 2014 @ 6:05 pm PDT

userpic=oh-shitMany years ago, in a conversation with Larry Wall and the Biggars, the subject of conversational dynamics came up — specifically, of why people view other speakers as rude. Someone in the discussion posited the notion that it was a protocol mismatch. The theory was that there were three different speaking protocols: (1) Wait for a significant pause in the conversation to start; (2) Wait for any pause in the conversation to start; and (3) Just start (Ethernet style). The notion was that you are raised in a household with a particular style; when you get people of different styles together, the behavior is interpreted as rude. I grew up Ethernet style, because that was the only way I could get into the discussion.

Today, my friend Kat on Facebook posted a very interesting article that posited a different theory: “Interrupters? Linguist says it’s Jewish way“. This author believes that “high-involvement cooperative overlapping” is a typical Jewish conversation style. What is “Cooperative overlapping? Talking as another person continues to speak.

Evidently, the pattern of conversation found among many Jews from New York and its environs, especially those of Eastern European origin, differs in significant ways from that of most non-Jewish Americans from the South, Midwest and West. Along with cooperative overlap, Jewish-style conversational patterns include a “fast rate of speech, the avoidance of inter-turn pauses and faster turn-taking among speakers.” In a conversation among Jews, participants find the simultaneous talk and quick turn-taking unremarkable; they interpret silences and pauses as evidence of lack of rapport and/or interest. But those not accustomed to that style, according to the author, may see such active listening behaviors as rudeness, verbal hogging and lack of interest in the speaker. The very characteristics that promote good conversation among the in-group can create discomfort or hostility among mixed groups.

Other features of Jewish conversational style, according to the article, include a preference for personal topics, abrupt shifts of topics, unhesitating introduction of new topics and persistence in reintroducing a topic if others don’t immediately pick up on it. Jews also tend to tell more stories in their conversations, often in rounds; dramatize the point of a story instead of putting it into words; and focus on the emotional experience of it. People whose regional and ethnic background promotes a different way of conversing may not “get the point” of these rounds of story-sharing with no real plot. They also may find the expectation of personal revelation unnervingly intrusive.

In other words…. protocol clash.

OK. Umm, discuss?

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I Got The Blues

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Mar 09, 2014 @ 8:05 am PDT

Biloxi Blues (REP East)userpic=repeastRecently, we lost one of the world’s great comics, Sid Caesar. Sid Caeser was known for “Your Show of Shows“, which is where some of the best comedy writers in the world got their start. One of these writers was Neil “Doc” Simon, who at one time was one of the most popular comedy playwrights writing for Broadway. Perhaps you’ve heard of “The Odd Couple“? But Neil Simon seems forgotten these days; you rarely hear of his plays and shows. Luckily, small theatre companies love his work because it is still funny and still speaks to people. Of course, I’m talking about this because last night we were at Repertory East Playhouse (FB) in Newhall (Santa Clarita) to see on of Neil’s plays, “Biloxi Blues“.

Biloxi Blues” is the middle play in Simon’s so-called Eugene Trilogy — a set of three plays all about Eugene Morris Jerome (who represents Neil Simon when he was younger). The plays are “Brighton Beach Memoirs“, “Biloxi Blues“, and “Broadway Bound“, and I originally saw all three of these plays when they were first produced at the Ahmanson Theatre here in Los Angeles. Trilogies, or even larger forms of multi-play groups (such as the August Wilson’s “Pittsburg Cycle”) are very rare in theatre; forced sequels to plays and musicals typically fail big time (cough, “Bring Back Birdie”, cough, “Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public”, cough, “Annie 2: Miss Hannigan’s Revenge”).  “Biloxi Blues“, in my eyes, suffers from a common trilogy problem — as the middle of the story, it has no beginning and end of its own per se; it seems to be engineered more to move the main character from one spot and story in his life to another spot and another story to be told. Indeed, if you look at the character arc for Eugene in Biloxi Blues, you’ll see very little change and growth in Eugene’s character through the story: at the beginning his is a writer observing and chronicling his world, and at the end of the story, Eugune is still a writer observing and chronicling his world. You want character growth for Eugene, you need to look at “Brighton Beach” and “Broadway Bound“. So what is Biloxi Blues really about?

“Biloxi Blues” tells the story of Eugene’s foray into the Armed Services — his stint of basic training at Keesler Field, now Keesler Air Force Base, in Biloxi, Mississippi. As the story opens, we meet Eugene and most of his squad-mates (Roy Slridge, Don Carney, Joseph Wykowski, and Arnold Epstein) on their way to Biloxi from in-processing at Ft. Dix in New Jersey. When the story ends, it is with these same squad-mates in the same rail-car on their way back to the east coast to be shipped to the battle theatre. The character growth in the story is not that of Eugene Jerome, or even that of most of the squad; Biloxi Blues is really about what basic training brought out in Arnold Epstein.

When the squad arrives in Biloxi, they first meet their training sergeant, Merwin J. Toomey. Toomey is cut from the character cloth of sadistic basic training  sgts. who mold their men from individuals into killing machines, and from day 1 (day 0 if you are a C programmer) he has met his challenge in Epstein. All of the other squad members eventually give into to Toomey’s discipline, but Epstein stands his ground and does things his own way. Through the play, you see the method in Epstein’s madness; by the end, you see the final showdown between Toomey and Epstein and learn the eventual victor in the battle. Along the way to this battle, Eugene is constantly commenting and quipping on the army. There are also various vignettes showing life in the squad, and we get to see how Eugene has some milestones in his life — his first forey with a professional prostitute (Rowena), and his first forey into love with a girl he meets at a USO dance (Daisy Hannigan).  But these events change Eugene very little — he remains the observer on the side. But they provide the humor that powers the play.  This play is really about Epstein and Toomey.

So, ultimately, is the story good and satisfying? That’s a hard question to answer. It certainly is funny, although some aspects that weren’t a problem in the mid-1980s when this was written seem archaic today (such as the attitude of the army towards homosexuals during WWII). The battle between Epstein and Toomey is interesting to watch (especially its eventual climax). The rest of it is more a series of incidents observed with humor and only partially filling. It’s a good comedy, but not one of Simon’s greatest comedies.

Director Mark Kaplan (FB) and co-director Kimbyrly M. Valis (FB) bring out some great performances in the acting team. Leading that team is Craig Jorczak (FB) as Eugene Morris Jerome. Jorczak has Eugene’s accent down, and has the observer disconnection well.  He reminded me quite a bit of the original performers in this role, and that’s a good thing.

The main focus of this show, however, is the battle between Bear Manescalchi (FB)’s Arnold Epstein and Daniel R. Wolfe (FB)’s Sgt. Merwin J. Toomey. Wolfe’s Toomey brought out the right level of sadism and dominance, and Manescalchi’s Epstein had the required inner strength of stubbornly oppose him. This was brought to a head in the final scene between the two of them, where you got to see how Toomey’s training seemingly won out, but how Epstein’s inner strength of character ultimately won in the end. Very well acted.

Rounding out the squad were Daniel Lupa-Chazan (Roy Selridge), Alex Genther (FB) (James Hennesey), Darryn Gibbons (FB) (Dan Carney), and Ben Hopkins/FB (Joseph Wykowski). Hopkins’ Wykowski was very strong — you could easily see how this man was more muscle than brain (in contrast to Eugene and Arnold) — and Hopkins’ played him quite well. Another squad standout was Genther’s Hennesey. We meet Hennesey at camp, and the incidents around him serve less to grow his character as to provide opportunities for Epstein to grow and surprise. Still, Genther captured the gentleness and nature of the character well. Lupa-Chazan’s Selridge and Gibbon’s Carney were a little less stand-out-y as characters, but I think that is more the nature of how they were written in the squad, as opposed to their performances.

The remaining cast members were Alli Kelly (FB) (Daisy Hannigan) and Kimberly Patterson (FB) (Rowena). Patterson’s chacter, the well-worn prostitute, Rowena, appeared only in one scene can captured her well. More touching was Kelly’s Hannigan as the girl Eugene falls in love with — she brought a delightful tenderness and sweetness to the role.

Turning to the technical side: No credit is provided for the set, which served its function well to establish the Army barracks nature. The costumes were designed by Tonya Nelson (FB), assisted by Beth Ann/FB; Phil Wey/FB served as Historical Military Consultant and Stylist. It is here that I noted the only problems with the show. Although Wey got the treatment of the ties correct and the military positioning correct, the uniforms struck me as wrong from when I first saw them. Why? They were lacking the normal accoutrements one sees in Army uniforms — US insignias, soldier’s names. I initially thought they were also missing rank insignias as well, but the lowest level does not have any. Sound and lighting were by REP regulars Steven “Nanook” Burkholder/FB (sound) and Tim Christianson/FB (lighting), and both were effective. J. T. Centonze (FB) was the stage manager. Biloxi Blues was produced by Mikee Schwinn/FB and Ovington Michael Owston (FB).

Biloxi Blues” continues at Repertory East Playhouse (FB) until April 5. Tickets are available through the REP Online Box office, as well as through Goldstar. As with all REP productions, it is well done and worth seeing. REP also announced a fundraising concert on April 18-19: “A Night At The Rock Opera”. For tickets, contact Repertory East Playhouse (FB).

[Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. 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 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 Theatre and Concerts:  The weekend of March 16 brings Purim Schpiels, with Sunday afternoon bringing “Inherit the Wind” at the Grove Theatre Center (FB) in Burbank. March 22 brings “Harmony” at The Ahmanson Theatre (FB), followed by “Author, Author: An Evening with Sholom Aleichem” at the Santa Monica Playhouse (FB) on March 23. The last weekend of March is open, and will likely stay that way as we’ll be exhausted. April starts with “In The Heights” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on April 5, and should also bring “Tallest Tree” at the Mark Taper Forum, as well as the Southern California Renaissance Faire. April may also bring “My Name is Asher Lev” at the Fountain Theatre (FB) (as this runs through April 19). Current planning for May shows “The Lion in Winter” at The Colony Theatre (FB), and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at REP East (FB). 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.

Evolution in Action

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Mar 07, 2014 @ 8:23 pm PDT

userpic=caduceusToday’s lunchtime (well, I meant to post this at lunch, but the day got away from me) news chum post deals with evolution, in various forms and shapes:

  • Evolution of… a Musical. In a couple of weeks, I’m going to be seeing “Harmony“, the new Barry Manilow musical at the Ahmanson. The story of how this musical came about is quite interesting. You see, although Barry Manilow is involved with this musical (writing the music), it isn’t a pastiche of existing Manilow music. This musical goes back to when Manilow met Bruce Sussman at the 1972 BMI Musicals Workshop (before Manilow was a pop star), and it tells the the little-known true story of the Comedian Harmonists, a vaudevillian German sextet that rose to wild superstardom in the 1930s. But three of the group’s six members were Jewish, and by 1935 they had been forced to flee to the United States after the Nazis dissolved the sextet, destroyed all their albums and burned their 12 movies. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.
  • Evolution of… a Meme. Slashdot is reporting on a study about the way that memes evolve on Facebook, and it turns out they evolve in a manner similar to the ways genes evolve. Specifically, memes spread, mutate and evolve in ways that are mathematically identical to genes. However, there are important differences too. The authors of the study say that understanding this process can give deep insights into the way information spreads through cultures and the way individuals change it as it spreads. BTW, in other Facebook stuff, Wired looks at our obsession with online quizzes, and even includes their popularity back in the days of Livejournal.
  • Evolution of… the Vegas Marquee. When the Las Vegas strip started in the late 1940s, marquees were nothing. There might be a signboard announcing artists and a pool along US 91. Then the Flamingo added the champagne tower, and everything took off. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was neon everywhere. But go to the strip these days, and you’ll find very little neon. What’s replaced it? Gigantic LED high-def displays. The Las Vegas Weekly has a nice article looking at this evolution.
  • Evolution of… the Coffeemaker. First, you should know that I don’t like coffee. Coffee, to me, only belongs in ice cream or covered in dark chocolate. But there are those that like it. Growing up, my mother did… and she always had a percolator. You never see those any more. They were replaced by drip coffeemakers (“Mr. Coffee”), and then French Presses (or cold brew setups like my wife uses). Nowadays, we’re all into the waste of the K-Cup and the Keurig. Keurig wants to be the HP or Canon of coffeemakers… and by that I mean they want to make you captive to their cups (think cheap printers and expensive consumables). How are they going to do this? DRM in the K-Cup, meaning the coffeemaker will only work with Keurig-produced K-cups. I think I’ll stick with loose-leaf tea, thankyouverymuch.

 

The Good, The Bad, the Scary, and the Really Scary

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Mar 04, 2014 @ 12:16 pm PDT

userpic=stressedToday’s lunchtime news chum brings together the makings of an Italian Western: the good, the bad, and the ugly….

  • The Good. Know a woman interested in Information Security? Then point her to the Scholarship for Women Studying Information Security (SWSIS), sponsored by ACSA, CRA-W, and HP. In fact, HP has just made a sizable donation to support this scholarship.
  • The Bad. Carl Kasell is retiring from “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me!“. Evidently, he will be Announcer and Judge Emeritus, and occasionally show up and still record voice mail messages for winners. I wonder if Legendary Announcer Bill Kurtis will take over; he’s filled in for Carl enough.
  • The Scary. Here’s an unspeakable fear for you: What if a big rig carrying your mail went up in flames on the highway? Hyptothetical? Nope, it just happened. Think of those bills you paid… that will never get the check, ruining your credit rating. Think of those bills you thought you would receive… and thus will never pay. Tax returns. Amazon shipments. All gone, and you’ll never know. MWahahah.
  • The Really Scary. As scary as that last one was, how about this: One in ten Americans thinks HTML is a sexually-transmitted disease. Expect to see this one on Wait-Wait, but it really highlights how little people understand about technology. Other findings of the same study: 27% identified “gigabyte” as an insect commonly found in South America;42% said they believed a “motherboard” was “the deck of a cruise ship”;23% thought an “MP3″ was a “Star Wars” robot; 18% believed “Blu-ray” was a marine animal; and 15% believed “software” is comfortable clothing. Oh, and just think, these people are voting in elections, commenting on news articles, and (ummm) watching “Honey Boo Boo”.

 

California Highways News for February 2014

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Mar 03, 2014 @ 12:37 pm PDT

userpic=roadgeekingThe following are articles related to California Highways that I’ve seen go past during February:

  • New Highway 92-El Camino Real interchange in San Mateo will ease backups. State transportation officials are moving closer to finalizing a plan to overhaul a major interchange where state Highway 92 meets El Camino Real. San Mateo residents have until Feb. 15 to submit comments on a draft environmental report on the $16 million Caltrans project, which is designed to ease congestion on Highway 92 and improve traffic safety. If the plan is approved in its current form, Caltrans expects to begin construction in 2017.
  • More Express Lanes Coming to Ease Bay Area Congestion. Nearly 300 miles of toll lanes are coming to the Bay Area by the end of the decade. But for some people that won’t be soon enough. People are willing to pay to get where they have to go faster, which has made so-called “hot lanes” — express lanes designed to ease congestion — popular among commuters.
  • Big names to help rechristen Bay Bridge span for Willie Brown. A who’s who of more than 500 people from politics, sports, entertainment and high society is expected to join former San Francisco Mayor and ex-Assembly Speaker Willie Brown on Treasure Island for Tuesday’s official rechristening of the western portion of the Bay Bridge in his honor.
  • S.F. Artists Snub Willie Brown, Install Rogue Sign Naming New Bay Bridge After Emperor Norton. Much to the chagrin of San Francisco progressives, the western span of the Bay Bridge was officially rechristened the Willie L. Brown Jr. Bridge Tuesday in a ceremony held on Treasure Island. But while politicos, including Gavin Newsom, flocked to Treasure Island to celebrate, a group of artists remained on this side of the Bay Bridge and did a little celebrating of their own, honoring their successful attempt at upstaging Willie Brown. Late Monday night, a group of unidentified artists installed a large sign at the Bay Bridge onramp at Fifth Street, commemorating Joshua A. Norton, not Willie L. Brown.
  • $349 million, 20-year proposed fix for Highway 29. Easing traffic congestion in south Napa County, the focus of a yearlong Caltrans-funded study, may cost more than $349 million and take 20 years, the Napa County Transportation and Planning Agency reported Monday. The draft Highway 29 Gateway Corridor Improvement Plan calls for expanding the highway from four to six lanes from American Canyon Road to Highway 12/Jameson Canyon, as well as new interchanges at Highway 12/Jameson Canyon and Highway 221 and improvements to the juncture of 29 and Highway 12/Carneros Highway.
  • Willie Brown Bridge now open. Former S.F. Mayor Willie Brown (center) celebrates his bridge honor Tuesday with Assemblyman Isadore Hall and NAACP’s Alice Huffman on Treasure Island.
  • Tear down SoMa’s stub of I-280, national group recommends. The notion of demolishing the stretch of Interstate 280 that lands near the Caltrain yard South of Market is gaining support – and national attention. Until now, the idea of tearing down the stub end of the freeway, putting traffic onto wide boulevards – a la the Central Freeway and Octavia Boulevard – and developing the vacant land, as well as unused portions of the Caltrain yard, into a new neighborhood has been mostly confined to city planners and dreamers, which one might argue are the same thing.
  • 405 Freeway closures through Sepulveda Pass planned this weekend . What’s more complicated than Carmageddon and could seriously mess with the flow of Angelenos’ long Presidents’ Day weekend? It’s Jamzilla. That’s the monster-evoking moniker that transportation officials have adopted for the 405 Freeway lane closures slated to begin late Friday, just in time for the post-Valentine’s-Day dinner rush. For 80 hours — from about 10 p.m. Friday until 6 a.m. Tuesday — most or all lanes on the busy northbound side of the freeway will be closed.
  • Pacifica residents rally against Caltrans’ plan to widen Highway 1. About two dozen people gathered Saturday afternoon along Highway 1 to launch a campaign against a Caltrans proposal to widen roughly 1.3 miles of the coastal corridor. The opponents claim the $51.6 million project is unnecessary and would tear the fabric of the small beachside community. They hope to replicate the success of a recent grass-roots movement that forced Caltrans to abandon a proposed bypass around nearby Devils Slide in favor of a tunnel, which opened to great fanfare last year.
  • The 710 Long Beach Freeway: A History of America’s Most Important Freeway. From the corporate investment of Jamestown to the Wolf of Wall Street era, economic interests have superseded many other American values. The I-710 Long Beach Freeway, meanwhile, has become the country’s most important — although clogged — economic artery, in the vascular system of American capitalism. The business of America is business. Yet, the 710 Freeway’s primary function has aided in the largest trade deficit in world history, facilitating the exporting of U.S. manufacturing jobs, while Pocahontas pajamas, children toys, and a litany of consumer goods are imported onto thousands of diesel powered trucks.
  • Transportation board endorses plan for Highway 29 upgrades. A $349 million, 20-year plan to expand Highway 29 in southern Napa County drew debate from elected officials Wednesday on whether it was worth the cost to fix the traffic snarls snagging motorists between Napa and American Canyon.

Monday Rant: How To Get More People to the Theatre

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Mar 03, 2014 @ 11:27 am PDT

userpic=theatre_ticketsMonday’s at lunch are my normal time to write rants. Today’s is based around an article a friend sent me entitled “Arts Education Won’t Save Us from Boring, Inaccessible Theater“. In it (and I recommend reading it), the author discusses why the audience for live theatre remains white and greying. He opines that it isn’t because of a lack of arts education; rather, it is because of the content of the shows, the nature of the edifaces, and the policies they impose. Some of the ideas he discusses are ones that Ken Davenport has discussed before on his excellent Producers Perspective blog. I agree with the author somewhat, but disagree with him as well.

First, the goal of arts education is not to get people into the theatre. The goal of arts education is to encourage an appreciation of creativity in all of its forms: be in drama, comedy, dance, art, or music. The creative process in the individual informs other areas of life and produces more rounded individuals. Remember, what we call scientists today were philosophers in the past; their artistic side encouraged their scientific endeavors and vice-versa.

Does having younger playwrights bring younger people in the theatre? Not necessarily, because one never sees the playwright. What brings people into the theatre are good stories that are relevant to them; stories that are well-written and engaging. What does this mean in practice? The playwright doesn’t need to be young, but needs to understand the sensibilities of the young. This can be helped with an appropriate dramaturg who can shape the story so it appeals to a younger audience. A critical player in this is the Artistic Director, who also has the young sensibility. The artistic director needs to not only program for the reliable older audience, but include in the season mix material to challenge the older audience and bring in the younger audience.

When plays speak to the audience, the audience comes. A good example of this is the Pasadena Playhouse: when it presents plays with African-American themes, the African-American audience comes out in droves (and, alas, the non-African-American audience often doesn’t). The problem is that when those themes go away, the audience doesn’t stick. Audiences come out for specific shows; they aren’t subscribing.

I posit the notion that audiences don’t subscribe because of cost. A vision might be interesting, but when you have to drop $800 or more for two seats in one shot — well, it is easier to buy the seats for individual shows. One of the reasons I like the Colony Theatre is that they allow me to split my payment; I believe that if more theatres offered split payments for seasons (2 or 4 payments), they would get more subscribers.

Another reason theatres have trouble getting subscribers is that they don’t cultivate relationships. Relationships between the theatre and the audience are vital. From the audience perspective, the relationship makes you care about the theatre — it makes you want to support them, it makes you want to donate, it makes you care about the existence of the organization. From the theatre’s perspective, it allows you to know the audience, and just how far you can challenge them. It also creates your best ambassadors, for what brings people into the theatre is word of mouth.

This is the other thing that is hurting the theatre community: we are losing the voice of the critics. Trained critics help the audiences discover shows — they alert people to what might be of interest. Arts education might make you receptive to theatre, but unless you know what shows are out there you won’t go. For many theatres — especially small ones with no advertising budget — the only mediums are email and postcards, which tend to go only to audiences that already know you or know theatre. Critics are in major media outlets, and are seen much more broadly. Even if the critic doesn’t like the show, the description of the show might speak to you.

Lastly, the author blames theatre policies. I agree with him on some points — there should be an easier ability to obtain refunds if plans change or to reschedule tickets, but I can also see the problem that if tickets are returned too late, they can’t be easily resold. Other points he is off about — there is a certain etiquette that people must understand that is simple common courtesy: turn off your phones, don’t illuminate your face during a show, and arrive on time.

So what are your thoughts? How do we get more people to the theatre?

 

Getting Schooled

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Mar 02, 2014 @ 7:09 pm PDT

Sex & Education (Colony Theatre)userpic=colonyEducation is important. Sometimes it occurs during school hours, and sometimes after school. But the most important factor in the education is the teacher that is teaching it. [Well, and being able to pay for it, which is where the Scholarship for Women Studying Information Security comes in, but I digress.]

As I was saying, education and teachers are important. The play we saw at  The Colony Theatre (FB) this afternoon (which should be seen by every English teacher we know, as well as everyone who is a grammar nazi), “Sex & Education“, addresses just that subject. It tells the story of an English teacher (Miss Edwards) who is tired of teaching; a teacher who is quitting the profession to go sell real estate. It also tells the story of a horny high-school basketball playing senior, Joe, who has accepted a scholarship to North Carolina to play college basketball. It is three days before graduation, and Miss Edwards is administering the final exam in her English class (which includes Joe). She’s looking forward to getting out of the school, and intends just to pass everyone. But then she catches Joe passing a note to Hannah, a cheerleader who is also Joe’s girlfriend. The note is confused mix of topics including insulting the teacher, the test, and asking Hannah to have sex with him under the bleachers, given that she has given him a blowjob before. It is riddled with obscenity, bad grammar, poor sentence construction, and much more. Miss Edwards she asks Joe to stay after the test.  What happens next is every English teacher’s dream. She works with Joe to write a proper persuasive essay to get Hannah to overcome her reluctance and sleep with him. Naturally, Joe is reluctant, and the witty repartee as Miss Edward’s “schools” Joe is wonderful. Does Joe successfully persuade Hannah to “do the deed”? You’ll have to come to the show to find out.

Sex & Education” was written by Lissa Levin, and it is clearly a love note to her teachers. Anyone who appreciates the importance of good writing (or who is dismayed at what passes for writing these days) will love this show. It not only teaches the difference between “lay” and “lie”; it emphasizes the importance of persuasion in getting “laid”.  You’ll come out of this show not only entertained, but refreshed in English grammar. How many shows can say that?

The production was transparently directed by Andrew Barnicle (FB) who made his actors seem reasonably realistic. Miss Edwards was played by Stephanie Zimbalist (FB) with energy and enthusiasm. She seemed to be enjoying the teaching role, and handled the large amount of dialogue well (with only a few line blurbles). Playing her foil, Joe, was William Reinbold (FB). Reinbold had the height to be a realistic basketball player, and he came off convincingly young and horny. The third element of the equation was Hannah, played by Allison Lindsey (FB). For much of the show, she was relegated to the sidelines, acting the role of cheerleader. This bothered me, but luckily in the final scenes we got to see her much more as a real character, and this worked well.

The set was designed by Trefoni Michael Rizzi (FB), and it initially reminded me of Lysistrata Jones with the underlying basketball court and hoops on each end (although there was no basketball playing on stage). On top of the court was a large piece of college-ruled paper with a blackboard and desks that constituted the schoolroom. This worked very well. Properties were by John McElveney (FB). The costumes, by Dianne K. Graebner (FB), were appropriately high-school (basketball warm-up suit, cheerleading outfit) or stuck-up teacher. The lighting design by Jared A. Sayeg (FB) worked reasonably well, although sometimes the actors seemed to have to hunt out their lighting positions. The sound design of Drew Dalzell (FB) provided appropriate sound effects. Dale Alan Cooke (FB) was the stage manager. Barbara Beckley (FB), the artistic director for the Colony, was away and unable to do her normal announcements, so the new Colony Development Director, Karen Kendrick (FB), did them. I could swear that she was channeling Barbara — she had the mannerisms down pat! She did make one mistake, however: She said their next production, “The Lion in Winter“, was in August … when actually it is in May (see below for August).

As I noted when we saw MoonIE and Broon at the Colony in January,  the Colony Theatre (FB) has announced the 2014-2015 season. The season consists of 5 shows: (♦) “Family Planning” by Michelle Kholos Brooks (July 12-August 10, 2014), a comedy about putting a lot of relatives in the same space (stated as a World Premiere, although it was done by PRT in 2012); (♦) “What I Learned in Paris” by Pearl Cleage, a comedy about lovers in Atlanta in 1973 (West Coast Premiere); (♦) “Handle With Care” by Jason Odell Williams, a story about “love, fate, and the importance of GPS-enabled tracking devices” (West Coast Premiere); (♦) “The Road to Appomattox” by Catherine Bush, a drama about Lee’s final retreat to Appomattox (West Coast Premiere), and “Words by: Ira Gershwin & The Great American Songbook” by Joseph Vass (lyrics by Ira Gershwin, Music by Harold Arlen, Vernon Duke, Jerome Kern, Kurt Weill, and George Gershwin), a jukebox musical about Ira Gershwin (Los Angeles Premiere). Subscription prices run around $175 for the set of shows (at least for where we sit on a Saturday night). Subscription information for the current season is here; I suggest contacting the Box Office (boxoffice@colonytheatre.org) to be mailed information on the 2014-2015 season.

Sex & Education” continues at the Colony Theatre through March 16, so you have two more weeks to catch. Do so; you’ll enjoy it. Tickets are available through the Colony Box Office; discount tickets may be available through Goldstar or LA Stage Tix.

[Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. 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 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 Theatre and Concerts:  Next weekend brings “Biloxi Blues” at REP East (FB) (moved from March 29). The weekend of March 16 brings Purim Schpiels, with Sunday afternoon bringing “Inherit the Wind” at the Grove Theatre Center (FB) in Burbank. March 22 brings “Harmony” at The Ahmanson Theatre (FB), followed by “Author, Author: An Evening with Sholom Aleichem” at the Santa Monica Playhouse (FB) on March 23. The last weekend of March is open, and will likely stay that way as we’ll be exhausted. April starts with “In The Heights” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on April 5, and should also bring “Tallest Tree” at the Mark Taper Forum, as well as the Southern California Renaissance Faire. April may also bring “My Name is Asher Lev” at the Fountain Theatre (FB) (as this runs through April 19). Current planning for May shows “The Lion in Winter” at The Colony Theatre (FB), and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at REP East (FB). 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.

Damn Furriners

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Mar 01, 2014 @ 12:53 pm PDT

The Foreigner (Crown City)userpic=yorickIf you had asked me a few weeks ago what show I was seeing the last weekend of February, I would have told you “The Real Thing” by Tom Stoppard, at Two Roads Theatre. But I had gotten those tickets based on the strength of the author — once I read the reviews of the actual production… in particular the review of M.R. Hunter… I began to get nervous. Luckily, I’m at a level with Goldstar where I can cancel tickets without penalty. So I did, and I replaced it with another show that had a good reputation with a company that I know does great work. That show was Larry Shue‘s “The Foreigner“, and the company was Crown City Theatre (FB) in North Hollywood. The production was well worth braving the sorely-needed torrential rains to go see.

“The Foreigner” is, in many ways, a farce — it depends on good timing, good performances, and misunderstandings that the audience is clued into but the people on stage are not. The setup of “The Foreigner” is simple. Froggy LeSueur is a British demolitions expert who sometimes runs training sessions at military installation near a fishing lodge in rural Georgia. His best friend, Charlie Baker needs to get away from his situation at home where his wife (who pathologically cheats on him, but whom he loves dearly) is on her deathbed. So Froggy brings Charlie with him to Georgia to spend a few days at the fishing lodge. The problem is that Charlie (a proofreader for science-fiction magazines) is pathologically shy and is terrified at the prospect of having to converse with strangers at the lodge for three days. To help his friend, Froggy tells Betty, the owner of the lodge, that Charlie is from an exotic foreign country and neither speaks nor understands English.

Charlie doesn’t want to go along with this, but when people start talking around him as if he isn’t there, he starts to play along. He soon learns the situation at the lodge: Catherine is staying there with her fiancee, Rev. David, and her dim-witted brother, Ellard. Catherine has inherited lots of money, and David wants to get all that money and the lodge. He has been plotting with Owen, the county inspector, to have the lodge condemned. He’ll then marry Katherine, buy the lodge, and recreate the Georgia Empire of the KKK. Catherine knows nothing about this. While learning this, Charlie grows into his role, including pretending to learn English under the training of Ellard. He uses his broken English to goad both Owen and David, with the net result that the Klan sets their eyes on the foreigner, Charlie, and sees an easy way to gain the lodge. The second act is how Charlie foils the KKK attack — and I won’t spoil that for you as it is hilarous.

The performances in this were supurb under the seamless direction of Joanne McGee (FB). I particularly enjoyed watching the actors who were not the focus on the scene reacting — you could tell they were having fun with this show. In the lead position, as “the foreigner” Charlie Baker, was Brian Graves (FB). Graves had this mischievous streak in him that just shone through in the performance; this playfulness worked well. He was so natural with this role that I began to wonder if there was some measure of improvisation going on. His buddy, Froggy, was played by David Ghilardi (FB); Ghilardi had an equal measure of playfulness in his scenes — especially in the final scene.

The actors behind the folks at the lodge were equally talented: Nan Tepper (FB) as Betty, Kelly Huddleston (FB) as Catherine; Adam Simon Krist (FB) as Ellard, and Jacob C. Head (FB) (Rev. David). Rounding out the main players was Ian Patrick Williams (FB) as Owen. We’ve seen Tepper before at REP East; she was very good playing the bufuddled owner of the lodge. I truly enjoyed watching Huddleston’s Catherine — I was unsure in her first few scenes, but as the production went on I loved how she got into the character, got playful, and was having fun with Graves’ Charlie. Krist was appropriately energetic and yet slow as Ellard, and Head and Williams provided the appropriate element of evil. Rounding out the cast as the KKK members for one scene were some combination of: Richard Kray, Stephen R. Peluso, Derek T. May, Mark Leland, Ivone Reyes, James Hall, Orion McCabe, Jade Rosenberg, David Yukon, Sarah Keller, Stephanie Green, Michele Mahone Kwas, London May, and Amy D. Higgins.

The set design by Joanne McGee (FB) was appropriately lodge-ly and kitschy — I particularly appreciated the three Billy Bass mounted on the stage, and the effort to find a dial phone. Prop Design was by Keiko Moreno (FB). I also noticed the excellent sound design of Nikko Tsiotsias — this was especially apparent in the opening scenes with the car sounds and the rain. Also excellent was the lighting design of Anna Cecelia Martin, particularly with the creation of the headlight effect. Rounding out the technical and creative credits are: Tanya Apuya (Costume Designer), Zad Potter (Stage Manager), Oriana Havlicek (House and Literary Manager), and Gary Lamb/FB (Executive Producer, Technical Director, Co-Artistic Director) and William A. Reilly/FB (Producer/Co-Artistic Director).

Larry Shue’s “The Foreigner” continues at Crown City Theatre (FB) through at least March 30 (and Crown City often extends their shows). You can get tickets through Brown Paper Tix here. Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, or Plays411. If it was worth braving the rain for, imagine the strength of a recommendation for a sunny day.

[Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. 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 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 Theatre and Concerts:  Tonight brings the MRJ Regional Man of the Year dinner at Temple Beth Hillel, followed by “Sex and Education” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on Sunday March 2 (moved from March 8). The weekend of March 8 now brings “Biloxi Blues” at REP East (FB) (moved from March 29). The weekend of March 16 brings Purim Schpiels, with Sunday afternoon bringing “Inherit the Wind” at the Grove Theatre Center (FB) in Burbank. March 22 brings “Harmony” at The Ahmanson Theatre (FB), followed by “Author, Author: An Evening with Sholom Aleichem” at the Santa Monica Playhouse (FB) on March 23. The last weekend of March is open, and will likely stay that way as we’ll be exhausted. April starts with “In The Heights” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on April 5, and should also bring “Tallest Tree” at the Mark Taper Forum, as well as the Southern California Renaissance Faire. April may also bring “My Name is Asher Lev” at the Fountain Theatre (FB) (as this runs through April 19). Current planning for May shows “The Lion in Winter” at The Colony Theatre (FB), and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at REP East (FB). 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.