Observations Along the Road

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

A Diamond Is, Um, Uh, Forever

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 24, 2015 @ 11:03 am PDT

Neil Diamond - Hollywood Bowl 2015userpic=folk-guitarNeil Diamond (FB) is one of those key performers in music history — one of the major songwriters who moved from writing his own music that was covered by others to being a major singer-songwriter in his own right (Carole King is another writer in that vein). Neil Diamond in concert is well known to be something special. From the original Hot August Night in 1972 to return visits to the Greek Theatre or the Bowl — his concerts are great. When I started getting announcements about his tour to the Bowl this year I was… disinterested. I thought they would sell out too fast; I was unsure about the quality of the concert given his age (74). More importantly, it was also the evening of Confirmation at Temple and I was encouraged to be there a Board member. But then I got a call from my daughter asking me to try to get tickets so she could surprise her mom after she got home from school. My daughter takes precedence. Luckily, there were tickets on Goldstar; so last night saw us at the Hollywood Bowl. I’m guessing Diamond doesn’t sell out as he used to, although the 18,000 seat Bowl appeared full. I’ll note that the show was also live-streamed on Periscope.

Before I go into the show itself, one comment about getting to the bowl. Normally, we take the Park and Ride to the Bowl from Chatsworth. The Park and Ride prices had gone up, so this time we experimented with Metro to the Hollywood and Highland Red Line station, and then taking the shuttle to the bowl. Metro worked wonderfully to get us to Hollywood. What we encountered in Hollywood was unexpected. There was a Paramore concert at the Dolby Theatre, and both the Hollywood and Highland facility, as well as traffic in the area, was FUBAR thank to Para-natics. This meant that the shuttle that was supposed to show at 7:00 PM couldn’t make it to the pickup point, and then couldn’t guarantee making it to the Bowl on time (although the Bowl is less than 10 minutes away). This forced us to hoof it to the Bowl — which luckily wasn’t that bad. Still, it is something to think about next time.

As for the concert itself: Musically, it was wonderful. The music was everything you would expect from Neil. The set list is below. Where something was slightly lacking was in Neil’s dialogue with the audience; at least in the beginning. He started out low energy, he seemed confused and perhaps befuddled. During “Red Red Wine” he walked out the walkway to the audience, and then wondered how he got out there and how to get back. Although it was funny, it was also a reminder that the artists of our youth are aging; they are senior citizens and may not be around for much longer.† Tom Paxton, himself up there in age now, was prophetic when he mused whether Mick Jagger (who recently did a concert down the street) read of self-rising chairs over his breakfast of yogurt and bran. He warmed up as the show went on, and luckily he primarily stuck to the music.

[†ETA: On Twitter, someone responded to this comment that it might have been Diamond joking. Perhaps, although it didn’t strike me that way given how it was said and the energy behind it. There were also numerous other times where he seemed to forget things: the name of special group that was there that night (Jennifer Diamond), or the name of his new album (Melody Road). A fact of life is that our music icons age — although the music is timeless, the people are human like us. I recall a Peter Yarrow solo concert at UJ where Peter was just rambing and didn’t realize it. I’ll note it also could be due to some medication taken before the show having an unexpected reaction. It could also have just been a bad night. In any case, for those Diamond fans out there, it was merely an observation, and it didn’t take anything away from the timeless music.]

One last note related to Diamond’s aging: The song “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” acquires a creepy overtone when sung by a 74 year old. As he sang it, I was thinking it might be Josh Duggar’s anthem. [Too soon?]

Another factor that struck me was that most of these songs were written before 1985; only two were newer. That says something about how Diamond’s output has changed; that said something about what his fans expected. Of course, they loved the classic hits — they were on their feet, phones out recording the show even though they shouldn’t.  The show ran about two hours, with no intermission.

The songs in the show were:

  1. I’m A Believer (1966)
  2. Love on the Rocks (1980)
  3. Hello Again (1980)
  4. Pretty Amazing Grace (2008)
  5. Kentucky Woman (1967)
  6. You Got To Me (1967)
  7. Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon (1967)
  8. Play Me (1972)
  9. Red Red Wine (1967)
  10. Beautiful Noise (1976)
  11. If You Know What I Mean (1976)
  12. Brooklyn Roads (1967)
  13. Shilo (1967)
  14. The Art of Love (2014)
  15. Forever in Blue Jeans (1979)
  16. Cherry Cherry (1967)
  17. Crunchy Granola Suite (1971)
  18. Morningside (1972)
  19. Holly Holy (1969)
  20. I Am, I Said (1971)
  21. Cracklin’ Rose (1970)
  22. Sweet Caroline (1969)
  23. Coming to America (1980)
  24. Heartlight (1982)

Diamond’s set include a large diamond-shaped video screen, which was used to good effect to project a home movie montage of Neil’s youth during “Brooklyn Roads”, and for wonderful visuals during “Coming to America”. He had a very strong backing band and backing singers. He was courteous enough not only to introduce them, but to give each their own solos during “Cherry Cherry”.

One additional observation about the audience that night. As we walked out, we joked that when Diamond originally played the Greek, the audience was probably on drugs. The current audience is probably still on drugs, only different ones (blood thinners, anti-depressants, blood pressure meds, etc.)

This was a lease event at the Bowl, and crowd control was not up to usual bowl standards. In particular, the security and ticket taking was a confused mess that created a bottleneck  at the bowl entrance and added to the crowding and gridlock. There was a similar mess at the end; we just opted to walk down the hill back to Hollywood and Highland than to mess with the shuttle bus in that crowd.

As we walked down the hill, we mused about the following question, which I leave you with: What musical artist of the Millenial or later generation — that is, an artist who rose to prominence since 2000 — with be the equivalent of Diamond when they turn 74? That is, who of today’s modern pop artists will still be performing in their 70s, still filling double-digit-thousand seat arenas with fans in their 40s, 50s, and 60s? Lady Gaga? Madonna? Missy Elliot? Any Hip-Hop or Rap artists? Not listening to pop music, I don’t have the answer, but it is an interesting question.

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 Shows: This afternoon brings “Love Again“, a new musical by Doug Haverty and Adryan Russ, at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB).  The last weekend of May brings “Entropy” at Theatre of Note (FB) on Saturday, and “Waterfall“, the new Maltby/Shire musical at the Pasadena Playhouse (FB) on Sunday. June looks to be exhausting with the bounty that the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) brings (ticketing is now open). June starts with a matinee of the movie Grease at The Colony Theatre (FB), followed by Clybourne Park (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and a trip out to see the Lancaster Jethawks on Sunday. The second weekend of June brings Max and Elsa. No Music. No Children. (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and  Wombat Man (HFF) at Underground Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Marry Me a Little (HFF) by Good People Theatre (FB) at the Lillian Theatre (FB) on Sunday. The craziness continues into the third weekend of June, with Nigerian Spam Scam Scam (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and Merely Players (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Uncle Impossible’s Funtime Variety & Ice Cream Social, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Sunday (and possibly “Matilda” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) in the afternoon, depending on Hottix availability, although July 4th weekend is more likely). The Fringe craziness ends with Medium Size Me, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Thursday 6/25 and Might As Well Live: Stories By Dorothy Parker (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Saturday. June ends with our annual drum corps show in Riverside on Sunday. July begins with “Murder for Two” at the Geffen Playhouse (FB) on July 3rd, and possibly Matilda. July 11th brings “Jesus Christ Superstar” at REP East (FB). The following weekend is open, although it might bring “Green Grow The Lilacs” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) (depending on their schedule and Goldstar).  July 25th brings “Lombardi” at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB), with the annual Operaworks show the next day. August may bring “As You Like It” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB), the summer Mus-ique show, and “The Fabulous Lipitones” at  The Colony Theatre (FB). After that we’ll need a vacation! 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.

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The Week’s News, in a Tasty Stew

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat May 23, 2015 @ 3:12 pm PDT

userpic=lougrantAnother week has come and gone, which means I have another week’s worth of links to share. I’m sure you’ll find something of interest. Let’s do this one old-style:

 

One Man’s Trash

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri May 22, 2015 @ 11:25 am PDT

userpic=televisionIt has been a while since lunchtime reading of the news has prompted me to set down my salad and pick up my keyboard. It happened today when I read an article about David Letterman. Now, I’ve mostly been ignoring Letterman — I never quite got into him or his humor, being more of the Carson / Leno / Fallon mold. But this time the problem isn’t specifically Letterman — more, it is his production company or CBS. Why? Well, with the exception of one or two pieces, the rest of David Letterman’s set has gone to the dumpster.

What a waste.

Letterman should have taken a lesson from Survivor, which for years has put props from the season just closed up for auction, with proceeds going to charity. I think that’s a wonderful thing, but most shows don’t bother to do it. Letterman certainly should have — he could have really helped charities, and cleaned out a bunch of stuff that wasn’t wanted. Hell, even Stephen Colbert (who is replacing Dave) auctioned off his desk for charity. For me, it just centers my impression of Letterman as self-centered.

It also highlights one of the few problems I have with the entertainment industry as a whole: they are incredibly wasteful. For example, think of all those car crashes and car stunts in a movie. What do you think happens to the cars? They fill up junkyards. Loads of industrial effort… that is just trashed for entertainment. Think about all the water scenes filmed and the water wasted. Think of all the fictional house and office sets for TVs and movies. Most are used once and trashed. Waste of wood. Waste of plastic. I’ll note its not just movies and TVs — the same is true for ballet, opera, and stage, although often there sets are warehoused and leased out for use to future productions.

Then there is intimate theatre, which often does reuse props and sets. However, that’s more due to the fact they need to save money than any ecological desire. In fact, in smaller theatres, that sofa you are sitting on today was probably in a previous production (and before that, rescued from a thrift store). Don’t believe me? Ask the REP where the piano in the Hydeaway Lounge came from, or the Colony where the Egyptian Coffin came from.

That’s better. Rant is out and lunch is done.

Building Up STEAM

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue May 19, 2015 @ 8:53 pm PDT

userpic=mad-scientistToday was that one day a year when I take off from work and go help the emerging generation by serving as a judge at the California State Science Fair. This year, yet again, I was the judge for the Junior (6-8 grade) Math and Software Panel. A few observations:

  • For the first year in a long time: not a single project calculating π, and not a single “Monty Hall Problem”. We still, though, got two projects related to sports.
  • Perhaps mirroring society, we’re getting more and more projects where the emphasis is on the software, not the math.
  • Perhaps mirroring society yet again, we’re getting more and more software projects where the students role is integrating pre-existing pieces, as opposed to developing code from scratch.
  • So what were the hot trends this year: use of Arduino boards, Lego Mindstorm, and programming in Python, Java, and Excel.
  • This year I was much more annoyed by the crowding and interruptions of the interviews, and how the special category judges always seem to be talking to the person I needed to talk to next. Boos to the ScienCenter person who interrupted an interview to tell me I couldn’t sit my closed, sealed iced-tea on the table; I had to balance it with everything else I was carrying.

A few comments on the projects themselves:

What else did we have this year? Someone building an elevator in Minecraft. Two projects trying to program video games for the blind. Two projects dealing with autonomous cars (one navigating the maze, the other merging). One attempting to do text compression and storing the frequency library in the cloud. A fellow who programmed a calculator and got it into the Google store.  Those were the ones that stuck in my mind.

In any case, quite an interesting day. Always fun.

Where Beauty Is To Be Found

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon May 18, 2015 @ 8:47 pm PDT

Violet (Kelrik Productions)userpic=theatre_musicalsWhen I find a composer I like, I tend to explore other shows they have done. This is especially true with some of the newer composers, such as Jeanine Tesori, composer of Thoroughly Modern Millie and Shrek: The Musical (and of the current hit, Fun Home, on Broadway). Back in 2008, one of the shows of Tesori’s I explored was her 1998 Off-Broadway show, Violet. I found that I really liked the music as well as the message. It was revived last year via Encores, but failed to find footing on Broadway (although it was notable for Sutton Foster doing the role without makeup). However, there really hadn’t been any productions that were in reasonable driving distance. That is… until last week. Kelrik Productions, a production company out of San Luis Obispo that has recently started doing shows at the Monroe Forum Theatre at the El Portal (they got rave reviews for their recent Sweeny Todd), has just opened a three-week run of a production of Violet. We saw it last night, and it was just spectacular. It you want a really moving musical, with a great message and wonderful performances, get down to the El Portal before this closes. Violet is well worth it.

Violet (Music by the aforementioned Jeanine Tesori, lyrics and book by Brian Crawley, based on “The Ugliest Pilgrim” by Doris Betts) tells the story of Violet Karl of Spruce Pine, NC in 1964. When Violet was 12, an accident with her father and an axe left her with a large facial scar, from cheek to nose. Ever since, she has been teased and grown to accept her ugliness. Keeping her going was a faith healer in Tulsa OK. Now 25, Violet has raised enough money to take Greyhound to Tulsa to be healed. Going through Tennessee, she meets two Army soliders: a black sergeant named Grady “Flick” Fliggins, and a young white corporal named Monty. Both take an interest in Violet. While overnighting in Memphis in a hotel that accommodates blacks, they go out to party and Monty ends up sleeping with Violet (although Violet told Flick she had left the door unlatched).  When they arrive at Fort Smith AR, the Monty indicates he will come back Saturday to meet her bus after she’s done in Tulsa. She continues on to Tulsa where she meets the healer… and you can likely predict what happens there. I won’t spoil the details of the end of the story, but you can read them on the Wiki page for the musical. Throughout the show, there are regular flashbacks to young Violet and her father showing their relationship and how she reacted to the scar and the absence of her mother. PS: I also found a wonderful scene breakdown.

As I said, this is a show with a strong message — and it isn’t about the charade of faith healers (although there is a strong message of the power of belief). At one point, the phrase Act ugly, do ugly, be ugly.” is used. In many ways, this is the underlying metaphor for the show. What you believe about yourself, how you behave, is what makes you ugly or beautiful. At the beginning of the show, Violet sees herself, due to the scar, as ugly. Later on in the show, after she believes she has been healed, you can see the change in her — she now believes she is beautiful and through the stint of that belief, transforms. But it isn’t just Violet. We see the soldiers transform from acting ugly to becoming caring people. We see, in the reactions of others, ugliness reflects. What becomes important is not “Act ugly, do ugly, be ugly” but its counterpoint: “Act beautiful, do beautiful, be beautiful.” It is our beliefs and behaviors that dictate how society sees us. Further, given this is the south in 1964, it is how society behaves — beautiful or ugly — that determines what society is.

As with the Encores revival, this show is best when it is kept simple. Joshua Finkel (FB), the director, kept is simple. There was no complex set; locations were hinted at through a few props and a digital screen implying the location. There was no elaborate makeup — in particular, neither young nor adult Violet had a visible scar. This emphasized that the real scar was inside, and that sometimes a scar inside is both harder and easier to heal. He used the reactions of the other players to create the impression of the scar. This worked very well.

The talent was also top top notch. In the lead female positions were Kristin Towers-Rowles (FB, FB) as adult Violet, and Jaidyn Young (FB) as young Violet. We’ve seen Towers-Rowles before (in Victor/Victoria); she was even better here. Strong singing, strong movement, and strong performance. She made you believe she was a southern girl with a scar solely through behavior alone; it made the transformation remarkable. She was particularly moving in numbers such as “Lay Down Your Head”. Equally strong was Miss Young — whose face kept reminding me of our dear friend Val M. For a 14 year old, she had a remarkable voice and presence, and was just delightful to watch in her various numbers (I particularly enjoyed “Luck of the Draw”, but then again, “Luck of the Draw” is one of my favorite songs).

In the leading male positions were Jahmaul Bakare (FB) as Flick and Michael Spaziani (FB) as Monty. Again, two more spectacular performances — both in acting, singing, and movement. Bakare had a voice that would just make you melt; it was particularly notable in numbers such as “Let It Sing” and “Hard To Say Goodbye”. Spaziani also had a great voice that he showed off in numbers such as “You’re Different”

The remaining named positions and actors were all equally strong. Particularly notable were Jason Chacon (FB) with a touching performance as Violet’s father, and Erika Bowman (FB) was a knockout as the Gospel Singer and Landlady. You’ll fall in love with her performance in “Raise Me Up”. Rounding out the excellent cast were Richard Lewis Warren (FB) (Preacher / Bus Driver), Gail Matthius (FB) (Old Lady / Hotel Singer), Benai Alicia Boyd (FB) (Music Hall Singer / Mabel), Jeremy Saje (FB) (Waiter / Mechanic), and Justin Anthony Long (FB) (Billy Dean / Virgil). With the ensemble, notable numbers include the opening (“On My Way”) and the touching “Who’ll Be the One (If Not Me)”.

The choreography by Stage Manager Samantha Marie/FB made effective use of the limited space in the Forum theatre, particularly in the opening number and in the gospel numbers. Music was under the direction of Joe Lawrence (FB), who also played keyboard on-stage. Joining him were Barrett Wilson/FB on guitar, and in the back, Jason Chacon (FB) providing percussion.

The set design by Erik Austin (FB) [the “rik” in the producing team] was simple but effective, and served to focus attention on the actors. Props were provided by Lester Wilson/FB; I particularly liked the attention to detail in the Greyhound tickets. The lighting design, also by the choreographer Samantha Marie/FB served well to focus attention and create the mood. There was no credit for sound design; I seem to recall some effective sound effects (but perhaps my mind is playing tricks on me). The costumes by Kathleen Forster/FB, for the most part, were good. I only had one quibble (probably because I work with the Air Force, who use the same insignia as the Army): although Grady’s insignia were correct for a Staff Sergent (three chevrons, one rocker), Monty’s were wrong for a Corporal (a CPL is two chevrons; Monty only had one making him a Private E-2). The wigs by Debi Hernandez worked well. Samantha Marie/FB  was the stage manager, assisted by Lainie Pahos/FB. Violet was produced by Kelrik Productions (FB).

The Los Angeles premiere of Violet continues at the Monroe Forum Theatre at the El Portal (FB) through Sunday, May 31. It is well worth seeing for the great music and the great story. Tickets are available through OvationTix; discount Goldstar tickets are sold out (you snooze, you lose). Go see it.

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 Shows: Next weekend brings Confirmation services at TAS, a visit to the Hollywood Bowl, and “Love Again“, a new musical by Doug Haverty and Adryan Russ, at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB).  The last weekend of May brings “Entropy” at Theatre of Note (FB) on Saturday, and “Waterfall“, the new Maltby/Shire musical at the Pasadena Playhouse (FB) on Sunday. June looks to be exhausting with the bounty that the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) brings (ticketing is now open). June starts with a matinee of the movie Grease at The Colony Theatre (FB), followed by Clybourne Park (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and a trip out to see the Lancaster Jethawks on Sunday. The second weekend of June brings Max and Elsa. No Music. No Children. (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and  Wombat Man (HFF) at Underground Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Marry Me a Little (HFF) by Good People Theatre (FB) at the Lillian Theatre (FB) on Sunday. The craziness continues into the third weekend of June, with Nigerian Spam Scam Scam (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and Merely Players (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Uncle Impossible’s Funtime Variety & Ice Cream Social, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Sunday (and possibly “Matilda” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) in the afternoon, depending on Hottix availability, although July 4th weekend is more likely). The Fringe craziness ends with Medium Size Me, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Thursday 6/25 and Might As Well Live: Stories By Dorothy Parker (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Saturday. June ends with our annual drum corps show in Riverside on Sunday. July begins with “Murder for Two” at the Geffen Playhouse (FB) on July 3rd, and possibly Matilda. July 11th brings “Jesus Christ Superstar” at REP East (FB). The following weekend is open, although it might bring “Green Grow The Lilacs” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) (depending on their schedule and Goldstar).  July 25th brings “Lombardi” at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB), with the annual Operaworks show the next day. August may bring “As You Like It” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB), the summer Mus-ique show, and “The Fabulous Lipitones” at  The Colony Theatre (FB). After that we’ll need a vacation! 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 of a Relationship

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 17, 2015 @ 1:15 pm PDT

Dinner with Friends (Rep East)userpic=repeastThis August marks my 30th wedding anniversary. As with any relationship, my relationship with my wife has seen its ups and downs, and it has changed and adapted as the years have gone by. Relationships — especially long-term relationships — are like that. Communication is key — both verbal and non-verbal — as well as understanding and humor. With the right skills, relationships can last. Without them… you end up with a story like the one we saw last night at Rep East Playhouse (FB) in Newhall (Santa Clarita): “Dinner with Friends” by Donald Margulies.

Dinner with Friends” tells the story of two couple — Gabe (Jack Impellizzeri (FB)) and Karen (Nancy Lantis (FB)), and Tom (Dennis Hadley (FB)) and Beth (Leslie Connelly (FB)). They have a deeply interwoven relationship: Gabe and Tom have been friends since they first met in college; Karen and Beth have been friends since they worked together at a publishing company. Further, Gabe and Karen brought Tom and Beth together 12 years ago. The two couples, like many couples do, formed an extended family (together with their two children, each). As the play opens, Gabe and Karen are having Beth over for dinner (Tom being unavailable due to a business trip); they are their usual epicurian selves, going over every detail of the food and their recent trip to Italy. Beth breaks down, informing them that she and Tom are splitting up, and describing what lead up to the breakup. After returning home from the evening, Beth is suprised by Tom (whose business trip was cancelled). Tom discovers that Beth told Gabe and Karen about the split, and is pissed that he didn’t get to present his side of the story. So he heads over to Gabe and Karen’s to tell the events as he sees them. As the play goes on, we learn the backstory of the split — as well as the fact that neither side is presenting the events without their particular spin on the story. We also see the effect of the split on Gabe and Karen, who seemingly have a solid marriage built around humor and communication. Gabe and Karen are placed in that unenviable position that happens when a close couple splits: Who do you believe? Who do you side with? Who will remain as friends, and can it be both? What does it say about us as a couple that we didn’t see this coming? It also makes Gabe and Karen subtly question their relationship: perhaps their relationship isn’t quite what they think it is.

It is at this point that Gabe uses the phrase, “The evolution of a relationship”. He believes that relationships change as practical matters take precedence over abandon. This is the real difference between the two couples: Tom and Beth wanted abandon; Gabe and Karen have learned to replace that with the practical. In fact, as the play end, Gabe tries to force the abandon, and it just feels wrong.

To me, studying the evolution of relationships what this play is about. Reading other reviews of the play, I think that’s why this play resonates with so many. In natural language — a language we can all understand —  audience members see their own relationships. Perhaps they are like Tom and Beth — not seeing the signals of things going off the rails, not realizing the reasons they came together may not have been conducive to the long term. Perhaps they are closer to Gabe and Karen, addressing things with humor (and similarly not seeing potential warning signs that might be nothing… or might just be indicative of a much longer fuse cord). The presentation wasn’t earth shattering; it wasn’t grand entertainment. But it also wasn’t contrived — it came across as a slice of real life that reflected natural relationships.

Is this play a comedy or a drama? It has elements of both; I think it tries to find the comedy in complex dramatic situations. The couple we were with seemed to view it more as a drama; in fact, they wanted more drama and conflict. They also noted the fact that the characters weren’t particularly likeable — there was no one they could empathize with. I didn’t see those problems, but I bring them up because I do think different people will react to this differently.

The performances were uniformly excellent. Under the direction of Brad Sergi (FB) (assisted by Bill Quinn/FB), the chemistry between each couple was amplified in a playful way, and they came off as realistic characters (Sergi and Quinn are the team that did such a great job on last year’s Cat). I really can’t single out any performance — they were just a perfect ensemble.

Technically, the set was simple. Tables, chairs, sofa, bed, not particularly tied to a particular place by design. It worked, proving you don’t always need a fancy design to establish place — often the skill of the actors can create the place through performance. More significant, technically, were the excellent sound effects — including the children and the car chirps. Lighting, like the set, was also simple but served to focus your attention on those portions of the stage that required focus. The technical team consisted of: Mikee Schwinn/FB (Set Design / Stage Hand), Jeffrey Hampton/FB (Stage Manager / Lighting Design), Steven “Nanook” Burkholder/FB (Sound Design), J. T. Centonze (FB) and Vicky Lightner/FB (Additional Stage Managers). Costumes and food props were provided by the cast. Dinner with Friends was produced by Ovington Michael Owston (FB) and  Mikee Schwinn/FB.

I’ll note that the program for this show was skimpier than usual. Upon inquiry, I learned that was because the sponsorship for this show materialized late. This is a demonstration of the fact that ticket sales alone are insufficient to support intimate theatre. Grants help some, but are also insufficient. Shows often depend on corporate and institutional sponsors to underwrite their costs of production; without such underwriters, production is precarious. If you are aware of a business in Santa Clarita or the San Fernando Valley — especially the northern Valley — that wants to support local cultural institutions and promote their business to attendees, contact REP East Playhouse at 661.288.0000.

Dinner With Friends continues at Rep East Playhouse (FB) in Newhall (Santa Clarita) until June 6. Tickets are available through the REP Online Box Office; discount tickets may be available through Goldstar.

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 Shows: This evening brings “Violet: The Musical” at the Monroe Forum Theatre (FB). The weekend of May 23 brings Confirmation services at TAS, a visit to the Hollywood Bowl, and “Love Again“, a new musical by Doug Haverty and Adryan Russ, at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB).  The last weekend of May brings “Entropy” at Theatre of Note (FB) on Saturday, and “Waterfall“, the new Maltby/Shire musical at the Pasadena Playhouse (FB) on Sunday. June looks to be exhausting with the bounty that the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) brings (ticketing is now open). June starts with a matinee of the movie Grease at The Colony Theatre (FB), followed by Clybourne Park (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and a trip out to see the Lancaster Jethawks on Sunday. The second weekend of June brings Max and Elsa. No Music. No Children. (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and  Wombat Man (HFF) at Underground Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Marry Me a Little (HFF) by Good People Theatre (FB) at the Lillian Theatre (FB) on Sunday. The craziness continues into the third weekend of June, with Nigerian Spam Scam Scam (HFF) at Theatre Asylum (FB) and Merely Players (HFF) at the Lounge Theatre (FB) on Saturday, and Uncle Impossible’s Funtime Variety & Ice Cream Social, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Sunday (and possibly “Matilda” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) in the afternoon, depending on Hottix availability, although July 4th weekend is more likely). The Fringe craziness ends with Medium Size Me, (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Thursday 6/25 and Might As Well Live: Stories By Dorothy Parker (HFF) at the Complex Theatres (FB) on Saturday. June ends with our annual drum corps show in Riverside on Sunday. July begins with “Murder for Two” at the Geffen Playhouse (FB) on July 3rd, and possibly Matilda. July 11th brings “Jesus Christ Superstar” at REP East (FB). The following weekend is open, although it might bring “As You Like It” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB) (depending on their schedule and Goldstar).  July 25th brings “Lombardi” at the Lonny Chapman Group Rep (FB), with the annual Operaworks show the next day. August may bring “Green Grow The Lilacs” at Theatricum Botanicum (FB), the summer Mus-ique show, and “The Fabulous Lipitones” at  The Colony Theatre (FB). After that we’ll need a vacation! As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.

 

Saturday Chum Stew: Water, Vegas, Revolts, and Death. A Typical Week.

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat May 16, 2015 @ 12:29 pm PDT

userpic=observationsSaturday, and time to clear out the news links before a busy weekend. Hopefully, you’ll find something of interest in these:

 

Sunday Stew: Women, Stains, Sex, Jazz, Food, Hotness and Bedrooms (A Mother’s Day Mix)

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun May 10, 2015 @ 1:00 pm PDT

Observation StewSave your mom from the drudgery: here’s some tasty news chum stew to chew on while visiting mom: