Observations Along the Road

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

Be Careful What You Wish For….

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Jul 03, 2017 @ 11:20 am PDT

Today’s lunchtime news chum brings two stories where getting what you wanted didn’t quite work out as planned:

  • We Elected A Business Man to run our Government. What Could Go Wrong?

No, I’m not talking about President Trump. Politico Magazine has a detailed analysis of Colorado Springs’ jump into Libertarianism. From the election of a politically-inexperienced Mayor who promised to run the city like a business, to the consequence of the financial crisis. From some initial successes, it was downhill. But the Springs are booming again? Why. A political conservative new Mayor was elected — but this time, one who understood what government is and how it functions.

  • We Wanted a Cheap, Reliable, Air Transportation System Between Domestic Cities. What Could Go Wrong?

The answer is, of course, corporate greed. This is what has led to the Boeing 737 being stretched longer and longer, with more efficient and powerful engines, going longer and longer distances. But there hasn’t been a change in fuselog width or underlying control systems. So we’re just packing more and more in, and squishing everyone closer together.  But don’t panic. The real Boeing 797 may be around the corner. It will be built of new composite materials, but doesn’t look to be a wide-body. Sounds like a 737 with new electronics and a lighter airframe, permitting even more speed and even more distance. How far can you throw a tin can?

 

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Parallel Divides

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jul 02, 2017 @ 3:18 pm PDT

userpic=divided-nationReading through my Facebook feed today, an article from Haaretz caught my eye: ‘Religion-hating Gangsters’: Israeli Orthodox Vitriol Toward Reform Jews Escalates Amid Kotel Crisis.  As the article is a premium article (meaning if you don’t come in right, it is behind a paywall), I’ll quote from it a bit more than I normally would:

“Inappropriate and insolent.” That’s how Rabbi Abraham Gordimer, a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the New York Bar, dubbed Reform Jewish protests against the government’s decision to freeze plans for a pluralistic prayer space at the Western Wall.

Rabbi Gordimer’s comments, published on the right-leaning Arutz Sheva website in English, were mild compared to the wave of bile heaped upon the followers of Reform Judaism in Israel’s right-wing Hebrew press. Readers would have been forgiven for forgetting that the government itself had approved the plan last year after four years of negotiations brokered by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky.

Far-right lawmaker Betzalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) accused the Reform movement of “dragging Diaspora Jews into a fight.” He said responsibility for the crisis lay with “a small fringe group of a few dozen activists in the Israeli Reform movement. They don’t care about the right of an individual to pray according to his beliefs.”

A profile of Reform leader Rick Jacobs in Israel’s Maariv daily newspaper and the NRG website portrayed him as an “extreme left,” pro-BDS “gangster” as one of the many Israelis who circulated the story on social media described him. A commentary on Channel 20 accused him of being a “selective Zionist” and creating a platform for anti-Semitic propaganda.

[…]

Non-Orthodox Jews were depicted as outsiders with no legitimate say in what should or shouldn’t happen at the Western Wall or in Israel at large.

[…]

Anti-Reform sentiment runs deep among Israel’s Orthodox leadership. At the Haaretz conference earlier this month, lawmaker Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism explained why he could not align with left-wing parties even though he found them “more intelligent” than their counterparts on the right. “Why don’t I go with the left? Because you sit with the Reform,” he said.

Last month, Rabbi Meir Mazuz, head of Yeshivat Kashei Rachamim, compared Reform Jews to pigs in his weekly sermon. “They are not Jews,” he said.

Rabbi Michael Marmur, provost of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem, said there has long been among some streams of the Orthodox movement “a long history of looking at the Reform movement as a boogey man and a tendency to blame Reform for all the heinous things in the world.”

“As we make more inroads into the conversation about what Israel should look like, there is an inflationary spiral in the rhetoric,” he said. “The vitriol you see expressed is in direct proportion to us trying to make a stand. We are wheeled out as the enemy, as traitors. The article about Rick Jacobs is a classic example. If Reform Jews and the Reform movement he represents are understood as a dagger in the back, as a fifth column, then the problem is neutralized.”

As I read through this, I was struck by the parallels in the rhetoric that I have seen — and continue to see — from what I would characterize as many in the far right — the ardent Trump supporters. Further, given the very un-Presidential tweet of an animation showing our President* beating up and bloodying the mainstream media, personified by CNN, I dare to say that this is rhetoric I’ve seen from our President himself.

From my very Conservative friends on my Facebook feed, I have seen posts making the same claims about Liberals that the Orthodox make about Reform. Read the quote above and replace the sentiment with Liberals, and it will sound familiar. “They are not Americans”.  There is “a long history of looking at the Liberal movement as a boogey man and a tendency to blame Liberals for all the heinous things in the world.” “Liberals are wheeled out as the enemy, as traitors. The article about [insert your Democratic candidate] is a classic example. If the Democratic Party and the Liberal/Progressive movement he represents are understood as a dagger in the back, as a fifth column, then the problem is neutralized.” As to why moderate Republicans might not work with the Democrats? Lawmaker [insert name here] of the Republican Party explained why he could not align with left-wing parties even though he found them “more intelligent” than their counterparts on the right. “Why don’t I go with the left? Because you sit with the Liberals/Progressives,”

It sounds far too familiar. Yet from Reform Jews towards Orthodoxy, just as from Liberals towards Conservatives, I don’t see the same level of hatred or divide. There is the willingness to accept the diversity of opinion, to recognize that we can agree to disagree. Reform Jews don’t characterize Orthodox as the source of all problems in Judaism, just as Liberals do not  characterize all Conservatives as the source of all problems in America. (Well, most don’t).

If this country is to move forward and not split apart, we must learn to see people as people and not the abstract enemy that we hate. Separation and hatred plays to activist bases, but doesn’t solve problems. Unfortunately, we may never get past this if the leadership of the parties do not set the example. If our leaders cannot work together, how can the people ever have a hope of doing the same. My voice is insignificant — I’m represented by congresscritters and senators that already feel as I feel. I’d urge those supporting the President to urge him to act Presidential, to remember that he is the President of the entire country, not just the minority of the voters that voted for him. But, alas, even as congressional leadership urges that, he is ignoring it.

Almost 27 years ago I started the Liberal Judaism Mailing List to provide a place where people from different Jewish movements could discussion issues in an environment where we respected each others as Jews and didn’t let movemental affiliation impact that respect.  Fundamental to that discussion was the notion that saying lies or propagating myths about the other side is essentially Lashon Horah, propagation of gossip and lies. Through hard moderation, we were able to keep a positive dialog going for a long time. Why can’t, as Americans, we do the same?

As we approach this July 4th, we must remember that the original motto of this country was not “In God We Trust”, and there wasn’t an emphasis on pushing Christianity on the people (the only reference to religion in the Constitution was the fact that there shouldn’t be a religious test for office holders). Rather, the original motto was, E Pluribus Unum, “From Many, One”. It is the many voices that came together to make this nation strong, not one voice stomping out all the others.

*: Yes, our President. Whether you voted for him or not, he is President of this  country. The fact that he doesn’t act very Presidential, as someone people can respect and model behavior after, is a different issue.

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A Questionable Financial Situation | “Voysey Inheritance” @ Actors Co-Op

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jul 02, 2017 @ 12:53 pm PDT

Th Voysey Inheritance (Actors Co-Op)What would you do if you discovered that your local bank was cheating people? Oh, it was paying interest and making loans and such, but if all the depositors came and wanted their money, they would discover it was all a house of cards, and no one could be made whole. If it was 2008, you’ld likely be OK — after all, that’s why we have deposit insurance. Close the bank, pay the depositors, and sell any remaining assets to another bank.

But suppose this was in the time before deposit insurance? The turn of the 20th Century, in fact — 1904. Suppose it was the family bank — the one keeping your lifestyle afloat? Would you just take the hit and liquidate then — paying people pennies on the dollar, and making some destitute? Or would you keep the sham going on the hope that you could recover and pay everyone back?

That’s the question at the heart of The Voysey Inheritance, a play by Harley Granville-Barker adapted by David Mamet, which is finishing up its run at Actors Co-op (FB) today, part of the Actors Co-Op’s Actors Co-Op Too! summer series — a series of short runs to explore new plays, grow new directors and new actors, and season the acting muscles of existing company members.

The Voysey Inheritence explores a financial dilemma encountered by the Voysey Family in Edwardian England.  Mr. Voysey is the head of a financial institution in London, inherited from his father. His son and partner, Edward, discovers that his father has been pilfering money from client accounts, paying them any interest and payments, but otherwise speculating with their capital, skimming any profits. He has been continuing the scheme with the hopes of making thing right, but this offends the son’s sensibilities. Further, the father has been using the funds to support other family member’s financial needs: son Hugh’s art, son Booth’s position, daughter Ethel’s dowrey, and so forth. When the father dies and the son inherits the institution, what is to be done? Especially, what is to be done after he discovers that most of the family knew of the sham, and kept it going to preserve his position? Does he liquidate, does he try and make the smaller accounts whole, does he try to make everyone whole? And what will he do when it all comes crashing down — as it eventually must.

As this show started, I didn’t know what to make of this? An odd Edwardian parlor drama? But as the story unfolded, I got caught up in it. It is surprisingly timely, especially given the aforereferenced situation we faced in 2008, as well as many of the financial charades undertaken or encouraged by many of today’s leaders.

Of course, it helped that there were top flight performances under the direction of veteran stage director David Atkinson (FB). That’s pretty amazing if you harken back to what the Actors Co-Op Too! series is and what that likely means: minimal rehearsal, newer actors, no budget — acting for the love of the craft. Atkinson and his team worked together to craft an excellent performance. Yes, there was the occasional minor line pause that became noise, but on whole it was excellent in character personification and intensity

In what I would characterize as the lead position was Thomas Chavira (FB) as Edward Voysey, who had perhaps the shortest bio in the program. Based on that and his resume, a new-ish actor who gave a very strong performance in this role. He brought the right level of hesitancy, honesty and passion to this role. Also strong was McKensie Garber (FB) as Alice Maitland, his cousin / fiancee (yes, I found that a bit odd as well). McKensie is another new actor, recently moved to LA after a stint as Miss Missouri. My eye was first drawn to her face, but her performance won me over quickly with a great sense of fun underneath the surface — a sense that made the ending of the play additionally sweet. It turns out we also had fun talking with her mom before the show, but I didn’t make the connection between the actor on stage and actual person until I looked at the program at intermission.

The patriarch of the family, Mr. Voisey, was played by Townsend Coleman (FB). He only appears is the first half of the production, but gave a strong performance in his interactions with Chavira’s Edward.

The other members of the Voysey family were played by Nancy Atkinson as Mrs. Voysey, E. K. Dagenfield (FB) as Peacey / Trenchard Voysey, Christian Edsall (FB) as Major Booth Voysey, Matthew Grondin as Hugh Voysey, Jorie Janeway (FB) as Honor Voysey, and Michelle Parrish (FB) as Ethel Voysey. Ms. Atkinson played the matriarch well; a small role where the primary characteristic was being hard of hearing. I SAID, BEING HARD OF HEARING. Dagenfield, who is a regular dialect coach at Co-Op, handled the one small scene as Trenchard in the 2nd scene well, but shone as Peacey in the 3rd scene in his interaction with Edward over a request for money. Edsall was strong as Maj. Booth in the bulk of the play after a weak introduction in the first scene (how the character is written, not the actor). Grondin’s Hugh was also stronger in the second act, especially in his interactions with Edward and the rest of the family. His character, Hugh, gets some of the most insightful lines about the corrupting power of money. Also, for whatever reason, Grondin’s photo was seemingly left out of the actor montage photo that Co-Op tweeted and I incorporated into the image for this post. Parrish’s Ethel is written very shallowly, but what characterization is there is captured well by Parrish. That leaves Janeway’s Honor (a name you never see these days). She has a very interesting characterization — initially capturing a stiffish-enigma, but bringing out some interesting depth as the play progresses — the one character to whom, perhaps, money never meant anything in particular with family being more important. A small role, but one that is very telling about the position of women in Edwardian society.

Rounding out ensemble was Bruce Ladd (FB) as George Booth and Tim Hodgin (FB) as Reverend Evan Colpus. Ladd gave a particularly strong performance during the second act, bringing out a lot of fire and emotion.

Being an Actors Co-Op Too! production, the production team was small: Director David Atkinson (FB) doing double and triple duty as the sound and lighting designer, actor Thomas Chavira (FB) doing double-duty as the producer, and Thien/Tintin Nguyen/FB as the stage manager. Kudos to whomever did the props on the budget for the excellent choice and taste in fountain pens: I could see a Montblanc, a Cross, and a Retro. I just happen to be a fountain pen aficionado, and it’s a nice choice (and one that no one else in the audience would likely notice, even if I do prefer Shaeffers).

The last performance of The Voisey Inheritence is today at 2:30pm. The performance is free, although a $10 or more donation is requested from non-subscribers. Information on the location may be found at the Actors Co-op (FB) website.

***

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). Next weekend is currently open, but we’re thinking about Animal Farm at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) if the tickets go up on Goldstar; otherwise, we may do Measure for Measure as part of free Shakespeare from the Independent Shakespeare Company (FB) in Griffith Park.. The third weekend brings  Ruthie and Me at  Actors Co-op (FB) followed by Peter Pan at Cabrillo Music Theatre (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 are also squeezing in On The Twentieth Century at the Pan-Andreas Theatre in Hollywood from Proof Doubt Closer (FB), as a friend is in the cast (you can contribute to the production here). 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). October is also filling up quickly, with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), a tribute to Ray Charles — To Ray With Love — also at the Valley Performing Arts Center (FB), and a hold for Bright Star at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking into November, we have The Man Who Came to Dinner at Actors Co-op (FB), the Nottingham (FB) and Tumbleweed (FB) Festivals, a Day Out with Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB), and HOLDs for Spamilton at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) and Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). 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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California Highway Headlines for June 2017

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jul 01, 2017 @ 7:09 am PDT

Turn up the heat — summer has begun in Southern California. Brush fires are in full force, smoke is in the air, the freeways are packed, and it’s hot. What better than some highway headlines…

  • Car talk: Caltrans Collects Comments to Improve a High Desert Highway. Highway 395 runs along California’s eastern side—a backbone highway figuratively—and a lonely one, too. Not as lonely as Nevada’s Highway 50—the so-called “Loneliest Road in America,” but Highway 395 travels a route through country that is high desert and scrub, shuttered towns and isolated cattle ranches with those sweeping, circular wheel lines that water the heck out of alfalfa fields.
  • San Francisco-sized population at Tahoe? Bridge could have changed lake forever. Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay is perhaps the most spectacular nook in one of the world’s beautiful alpine basins. But it can be an elusive nook. This winter, avalanches closed the highway above the bay for weeks, severing the loop road around the lake. What if the highway didn’t have to make that tightrope walk across the steep mountainside behind the bay? What if it simply ran straight and low along the lakeshore instead, like it does elsewhere in the basin? Of course, that would mean a bridge across the mouth of Emerald Bay.
  • Is Big Sur’s Highway 1 worth saving?. Ever since a thin ledge of pavement was poured along Big Sur’s cliffs, opening the rugged region to tourism in the 1920s and 1930s, California has fiercely fought to save Highway 1. And Mother Nature just shrugs it off. More than 60 times in its history, the Big Sur route has been buried by landslides. Even before this winter’s storms, about $130 million was budgeted over the next decade for repair, replacement and realignment.

(more…)

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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.

***

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.

***

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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