Observations Along the Road

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

Forbidden Love Rears Its Ugly Head | “Taming of the Show” @ HFF16

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 26, 2016 @ 10:32 am PDT

Taming of the Show (HFF16)userpic=fringeThose who have been paying attention this month may be wondering where this show came from? After all, it wasn’t on our original schedule of 15 shows; it wasn’t even on the list of shows of interest for the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). Those wondering would be correct. This show was added at the last minute, when we realized we had a three hour break between our two Saturday days, which were at the same theatre. This looked interesting, and it was at the same theatre — and so, for the first time, we had three consecutive shows in the Sacred Fools (FB) Black Box space: Squeeze My Cans at 4pm, Taming of the Show at 6pm, and My Big Fat Blond Musical at 8:30pm.

In the manner of productions like Kiss Me Kate, the focus of Taming of the Show is less the Shakespeare production itself than the meta-story of the making of the production. And, as in KMK, that “making” is going all wrong. In the case of Taming/Show, you have a maniacal director (Montana Stanislavski) who has a conception of the show as a time-travel story: an astronaut goes back to pre-historic times where mankind is living with dinosaurs. Think Flintstones, but with more grunting and less technology. OK, don’t think Flintstones; think It’s About Time. You have a lead actor (Brayden Stryker) who has an over-inflated sense of self, whose peak was being on the CW, and who uses drugs and sex to get by and a lead actress (Annie) who doesn’t want to have anything to do with the lead actor. You have one additional actor (Ronald Jeremy — and yes, they called him that) who played most of remaining male roles (and some female ones), and one additional actor (Betty Turnipseed) who played most of the remaining female roles (and some of the male ones). You have an aged stage manager Hilary Nikademus, and a former student of his drawn into being assistant stage manager, Eddie Littlejeans. Oh, and this ASM is recovering from theatrical tourettes, where he breaks out in song at any inconvenient moment.

What could go wrong?

Oh, and I forgot: there is a strong theme of forbidden love — the love that must not speak its name. That’s right: the love between someone in the crew and someone in the cast. Naturally, in this case, the tension isn’t just created with the show: Eddie falls in love with Annie, who is also the object of lust of the lead, Brayden. Annie wants nothing to do with either of them.

Now wind it up and let it go.

This isn’t Broadway-caliber writing folks. This isn’t even Colony-caliber writing. That’s not to say the show was bad. It was just not deep; it wasn’t complex. The characters were lightly drawn and boxed into particular tropes and roles. The humor was broad and broadcast. The show was funny and made you laugh, but then you felt guilty for laughing at such an obvious and broad joke. These problems can be laid squarely at the feet of the author, Blake Walker (FB) — and it appears they were intentional. The show notes indicate that the original production (this started when Walker was in college at SMU) was intended as a comment on the state of the theatre department there, and has been refined to embrace the tropes, cliches, frustrations and experiences found in the real world. Translating that, it means that this show was intended more as a parody and less as a real show — and parody is by its nature broad and cliched.

The performances were reasonably good and fit the materials — that is, the stereotypes and tropes — well. In the lead positions (at least from my point of view) was Jeff DeCrosta (FB) as Eddie and Chineze Enekwechi (FB) as Annie. DeCrosta gave a very affable and friendly performance; just a nice guy you wanted to succeed. I don’t judge these things, but my wife thought he was good looking.  He also had a very nice singing voice with only the occasional overreach. Enekwechi’s Annie was similarly accessible and friendly, and the actress just had a lovely face that was a delight to watch. I also kept detecting a slight sense of a lovely accent to her voice.

Steve Peterson (FB)’s Hilary Nikademus had an odd creepy cryptkeeper vibe to him, which was likely due to his makeup. This made the ending of the show a little hard to visualize, but then again, it takes all types. Peterson’s Nikademus had this aura of “been there, seen this, I don’t need another T-shirt” that was quite interesting.

The two “professionals” (at least in terms of the story) were Marc Forget (FB) as Montana Stanislavski and Greg Steinbrecher (FB) as Brayden Stryker. Both captured their stereotypes well: Forget as the overboard director more obsessed with his ego than the production, and Stryker as the celebrity actor more obsessed with his ego that …. well, you get it.

Rounding out the cast were Paula Deming (FB)’s Betty Turnipseed and Anthony Pappastrat (FB)’s (Ronald Jeremy). First and foremost, I should note that Pappastrat’s portrayal of Jeremy was nothing like that other Ronald Jeremy. Pappastrat had the character with the most physical comedy of the ensemble, and he handled it well. I liked Deming, but I was confused as to what age she was portraying. She seemed to have both young and old aspects. Still, she was quite fun to watch.

The music was by Blake Walker (FB) and Michael Turner, and was provided by an on-stage upright piano — which must be a pain to load in/out for Fringe. Some notes were off, and there were times where the cast that sung (i.e., “Eddie”) had trouble reaching the notes of the lyrics.

The production was directed by Blake Walker (FB), assisted by Karissa McKinney (FB). Rebecca Schoenberg (FB) [any relation to Larry?] was the stage manager. Billy Gill (FB) was the onstage accompanist, with Todd Collins (FB) providing the fight choreography. Props and costumes were by Lynn Downey Braswell (FB). In general, the props and costumes worked well, modulo the cryptkeeper hair. Taming of the Show was presented by Little Candle Productions (FB).

We caught the last performance of Taming of the Show. If encore performances get added, they will be listed (and available to ticket) through the show’s ticketing page. This was a silly show, not deep, but situationally funny and enjoyable.

Attention Programmers! Take the Fringe Programming Challenge! Scheduling your shows at the Fringe can be a pain in the …. I’m trying to solve the problem for next year, so take a look at my specs for a Fringe scheduling app. Can you write it?

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September is similarly mostly hold dates at this point. 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 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

The L is for Love | “Squeeze My Cans” @ HFF16

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 26, 2016 @ 8:48 am PDT

Squeeze My Cans (HFF16)userpic=fringeWhat makes something a cult? What makes something a religion? Is any belief system valid? Who was responsible for rerouting Route 79 in Riverside County between Gilman Springs Road and the Ramona Expressway? Did you like “Battlefield: Earth”?

That last question is a really important one.

Squeeze My Cans (HFF16, FB), which we saw yesterday afternoon as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), is one woman’s story of how she got drawn into the tar-baby that is Scientology, how she worked her way into the upper tiers of the religions, and how she eventually escaped its grasp. Not only did this effort take more than a decade, it decimated her finances.

If you’re like me, you’ve heard of Scientology, and how it was created by science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard. You may have seen the large amount of properties they own in Hollywood. You may have heard perceptions that it is a cult.  You may have heard stories of Tom Cruise, Kirstie Alley, and John Travolta. You may have also heard that the Church of Scientology makes it very difficult for the truth of the story to get out, or for people to leave the church. You may have heard that the church tends to isolate people and disconnect them from their families.

Again, I’ll ask what is a church, and what is a cult? But don’t answer yet — after all, I wouldn’t want to draw the wrath of Scientology down upon me.

Now, coming in, I knew a little more about Scientology, primarily because I had listened to A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant (you can listen too) [As an aside: it has been years since that show has been done in LA, and it would be ripe for a revival at a future Fringe]. I know about Scientology’s notion of Thetans and Xinu and ideas about aliens that sounded like they had been lifted from a science fiction novel. But that’s about all I knew.

I found Cathy Schenkelberg (FB)’s story about her interactions with Scientology scary and fascinating. Her manner of telling the story brought just the right amount of humor and humility to counter the horror of it all. She drew me (and the rest of the audience) in, and just held our attention rapt for a very fast paced and packed 80 minutes. Looking at it from the outside, it was easy to see the cult-ish signs: the constant demands for money, the taking out of loans for classes and to move up levels, the control over the life, the isolation from the outside world and outside voices. It is chilling, but it is even more chilling the mind games that the Church played so that those inside never realized it.

But you know what is even more scary? The fact that the Church is still out there doing it, drawing people in with their celebrities and influence. Even more scary than that? A number of the evangelical groups within our accepted religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) are doing just that. Where do you think the radicalized religious fanatics come from? Programs that use the same techniques as Scientology.

But why did this touch me so? Because I remember the days of cults first-hand. I remember the Moonies on college campuses, and the large meetings where they would attempt to recruit and draw people in.

The presentation in Squeeze My Cans was not only performed by Schenkelberg, it was written by her based on her experience, developed over years. It was directed by Shirley Anderson (FB), with lighting design by Brandon Baruch (FB) and Sound Design and Projections by Toy Deiorio (FB). The direction, lighting, and sound faded into the background — as they should — because Schenkelberg’s story and performance was just so engrossing.

There is one more performance of Squeeze My Cans at the main part of the Fringe Festival: today (Sun 6/26) at 8:00PM. Tickets (if not sold out) are available through the Fringe website. It may be extended with a few more shows in July; that will be announced tonight. Performances take place at the Sacred Fools (FB) Black Box. Check their Fringe Page for updates. It will also be presented the latter half of July as part of the Solo Celebration in Chicago. Go see this, and learn about the danger that is Scientology.

Attention Programmers! Take the Fringe Programming Challenge! Scheduling your shows at the Fringe can be a pain in the …. I’m trying to solve the problem for next year, so take a look at my specs for a Fringe scheduling app. Can you write it?

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September is similarly mostly hold dates at this point. 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 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

 

 

A Dangerous Proposal | “All Aboard the Marriage Hearse” @ HFF16

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Jun 20, 2016 @ 10:23 pm PDT

All Aboard The Marriage Hearse (HFF16)userpic=fringeClosing out our third weekend of the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) was yet another demonstration of the range that is Fringe. This time, it was a fully realized one-act play — All Aboard the Marriage Hearse — about the institution of marriage. The quality was definitely not Fringe — this was a play that could work on any intimate stage in town.

Here’s the description from the Fringe catalog, which is as good a synopsis as any:

Sean and Amy are your typical co-habitating, Catholic/Jewish, thirty-something couple living in Manhattan. They work hard, love each other and share common goals in life. Well, sort of. After nearly four years together, Amy wants to get married but Sean does not believe in the institution. The game is on!!! Tonight is the night when they will settle the marriage question once and for all. They will both bring their “A” game and the gloves will come off. Sean will try to talk her out of it. Amy will try to talk him into it. Will they break up? Will they keep going on the path they’re on? Will they climb aboard the “Marriage Hearse?”

Author Matt Morillo (FB) uses the play to discuss the value of marriage. Sean strongly does not believe in the institution: he feels it is artificial life support for a relationship, a historic construct with no meaning. He’s willing to commit, for today, for a long term relationship. But make it official in the eyes of the world — nope. Amy, on the other hand, was raised to believe in the value of marriage, and she believes the relationship is at the point where Sean needs to, essentially, put up or shut up.

The resulting argument brings up many interesting points about relationships, and how any why we commit to each other.

If I had any suggestion for the author, it would be that I would want a bit more. To me, the conclusion leaves me dangling. I’d love to see a short second act with the same characters that explores where they are in relation to each other 20 years down the road. What it is the long term impact of their decision: was it the right one or the wrong one. It could be just the thing to flesh this into something fuller and deeper.

The performances were excellent. Tom Pilutik (FB) as Sean, and Jessica Moreno (FB) as Amy have a natural chemistry together; it is easy to believe them as a long-term couple. They just have a comfort with these roles and characters that comes across in their performances. There’s fire when required, but there’s also softness and playfullness. They are just fun to watch.

Tom and Jessica’s performances are augmented by the direction of the author, Matt Morillo (FB), who uses his familiarity with the piece to add to the comfort. There are no real credits for lighting or sound; the lighting in general is naturalistic. Costumes, again, are relatively simple (and now I know what Spanx look like 🙂 ). Erica Lawrence (FB) was the stage manager.  All Aboard the Marriage Hearse was presented by KADM Productions (FB) and produced by Joanne Hartstone (FB).

Alas, we saw the last Fringe presentation of All Aboard The Marriage Hearse. You can vote for the show for awards, and perhaps it will come back for an encore performance.

Attention Programmers! Take the Fringe Programming Challenge! Scheduling your shows at the Fringe can be a pain in the …. I’m trying to solve the problem for next year, so take a look at my specs for a Fringe scheduling app. Can you write it?

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September is similarly mostly hold dates at this point. 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 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

 

Truth in Subtitles: (or ‘The Bard Gets Hard!’) | “Sweet Love Adieu” @ HFF16

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Jun 20, 2016 @ 8:40 pm PDT

Sweet Love Adieu (HFF16)userpic=fringeAs I wrote yesterday, the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) has a wide range of projects, from first person narratives (our first Saturday show) to ensemble comedies (our second Saturday show) to improvised history (our third Saturday show) to touching dramatic one-person shows (our fourth Saturday show). But wait…. there’s more. And we saw it on Sunday.

Having been reintroduced to the comedic possibilities of Shakespeare through his timeless classic Bard Fiction, and having seen even more comedic possibilities in Four Clowns Presents Hamlet, I was eager for more Shakespeare in the schedule. No, Titus Andronicus Jr. didn’t satisfy my appetite.  I wanted more. I wanted parody (before the real thing, which will be our last HFF16 show). Reading through the schedule, my eyes set upon Sweet Love Adieu (which had not acquired its subtitle yet). From an established company. A production that had gotten rave reviews in the past. Something a bit bawdy (because I was not going to this). Plus, there was free chocolate.  The description in the catalog was short but intriguing:

Verse * tights * codpiece * lights. Romeo and Juliet meets Monty Python in this hilarious comedy of errors from multiple award-winning British verse playwright phenomenon, Ryan J-W Smith. Smith’s first acclaimed verse play – completely rewritten and updated for 2016!

Coming out of the production, my basic impression was: Ren-Faire theatre done long. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (in fact, I still believe that one of the other shows in Fringe was a production I saw at Nottingham Festival last year (hmmm, it appears it was)). But typical Ren-Faire Shakespeare uses the rhyming couplets and combines it with the bawdy humor and risque word play of Faire (without really showing anything at all). This was all that, extended to 80 minutes or so. If you go in expecting that, you won’t be disappointed.

The plot? Yes, I guess there was one. Here’s a summary of a version  from 2007; the 2016 version was a bit longer but similar:

The plot of Sweet Love Adieu revolves around a love-sick William who instantly falls for Anne Beaumont, who is the ward of the stereotyped villain Lord Edmund. When Edmund decides that he will have Anne as his bride, William and Anne become secret lovers as they plot with their friends, cousins, mothers, and friars to outwit the nefarious Edmund and his feckless manservant Sidney. Homage is paid to Shakespeare’s comedies through cross-dressing, period music, marginal swordplay, and a happy ending.

Yup. Ren-Faire Shakespeare.

The free verse was quite good, and there were numerous references to modern technology that were quite clever. There were times where the fourth wall was broken, and that too was great fun.

I think my basic point here is one of managing expectations. This piece is quite fun to watch. It is well performed and cleverly written. But it is, at its heart, a Renaissance Faire stage show with the level of bawdy humor and depth of plot one would expect from such a piece. It would do great at Southern Faire or Nottingham or any of the Northern brethren. But deep theatre it is not; particularly fringey it is not.  But you do get chocolate. Good chocolate. Chocolate that made it clear that they spent the money on chocolate instead of a program (you had to find the players online)

One additional note: Given the recent kerfuffle over the abuse at the Profile Theatre in Chicago, and the resultant collateral damage at Bitter Lemons, the issues of sexual harassment and non-consensual sex were heavily on my mind. Watching this sex farce, where the men were constantly treating the women like objects and attempting to (essentially) sexually force themselves on them, was quite uncomfortable. I’m well aware of how this was the style of those days. Still, it goes to show how even historical drama (or comedy) can raise questions for today, and why we must remember to view things in the light of their times — and think about how far we have come.

As I said before, the company putting it on performed it well and handled the language quite well. Let’s start with the folks that attracted my attention whenever they were on stage: the ladies:  Faith Kearns (FB) as Audrey, Katey Zouck (FB) as Anne, and Megan Barker (FB) as Faith. All three exhibited a wonderful sexy spunk that was just fun to watch — and the sex didn’t come from exposing skin but from a great assertive attitude that was just projected out to the audience. These were no-nonsense gals; all great.

The three guys — William and his two friends, who also handled multiple roles, were portrayed by Jason Linforth (FB) [William], Lance Frantzich (FB) [Ridley / Doctor / Magistrate / Priest], and Ryan Stiffelman (FB) [Latimer]. Linforth’s William was a suitably handsome and clueless young lad, and Frantzich was a hoot in his multiple roles — particularly as the priest with his non-priestly inclinations.

The remaining characters: Lord Edmond and his aide, Sidney, were played by Roger Carvalho (FB) and the author, Ryan J-W Smith (FB),  respectively. Carvalho’s Edmond was suitably sinister, and was fun to watch when his, umm, member was damaged. Smith’s Sidney captured the plotting quite well.

On the technical side, the production was written and directed by Ryan J-W Smith (FB). Lisa Lynn is the company manager. Because they spent all their money on chocolate, they must have pulled random people off the street to handle lights, costumes, and the like because no one is credited on their website. 🙂

There are two more productions of Sweet Love Adieu — June 24th at 5:30PM and June 25th at 2:30PM. Tickets are available through the Fringe website. It is essentially running in repertory with Macdeth! (MacBeth Done Wrong), which also has two more performances: June 23 at 7:00 PM and June 25th at 8:00 PM. Again, visit the Fringe website for tickets. Oh, and go see a show at your local RenFaire — tickets to Nottingham in Simi Valley are on sale now.

Attention Programmers! Take the Fringe Programming Challenge! Scheduling your shows at the Fringe can be a pain in the …. I’m trying to solve the problem for next year, so take a look at my specs for a Fringe scheduling app. Can you write it?

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September is similarly mostly hold dates at this point. 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 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

 

A Touching Tragedy | “The Old Woman” @ HFF16

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 19, 2016 @ 9:31 pm PDT

The Old Woman (HFF16)userpic=fringeAs I’ve said before, the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) has a wide range of projects, from first person narratives (our first Saturday show) to ensemble comedies (our second Saturday show) to improvised history (our third Saturday show) to… our last Saturday show: The Old Woman.  This show was another one-person show, but in a very different vein. Instead of going for the laughs (which it had), it went for the pathos and the emotion. It told the story of a son’s relationship with his aging mother, who is dealing with increasing dementia — combined with the worry that he might be facing the same fate.

In The Old Woman, John Grady (FB) starts with the simple: a walk with the dogs in Griffith Park. Through this, he introduces us to his mother, his family, and the questions of his own mental status. The story then moves into a visit with his mother, as he sees how she is becoming increasingly detached from the world. The production ends with a wordless dance — a ballet of sorts — that, well, left me thinking about what it was trying to say. My conclusion was that the dance was a tribute to his mother, her life, and her spiral down.

Saturday was a day for shows that hit home. Our first resonated with my wife, for she had also dealt with the issue of growing up with large breasts. The last resonated as well with both of us, as we’re dealing with dementia in her mom. We’re seeing everything that John portrayed: the short loop time, the argumentative nature, the refusal to do physical therapy, that intense desire to be someplace — any place else (and the realization from us, the children, that there is no other place else).

I think, of all the shows we’ve seen at the Fringe, this was perhaps was the most moving and touching of them all.

This was a true one person show; no credit was provided for director (so presumably John directed) or the technical (presumably arranged by John). That makes this even more powerful.

Sorry, I now need to go read my Shel Silverstein.

Alas, I think we saw the last production, but it might show up at the Fringe Encore in July. Watch  the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) pages for more information.

Attention Programmers! Take the Fringe Programming Challenge! Scheduling your shows at the Fringe can be a pain in the …. I’m trying to solve the problem for next year, so take a look at my specs for a Fringe scheduling app. Can you write it?

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September is similarly mostly hold dates at this point. 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 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

Missouri Standup | “Mark Twain Answers Your Questions” @ HFF16

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 19, 2016 @ 8:25 pm PDT

Mark Twain Answers all Your Questions (HFF16)userpic=fringeOur third show on Saturday was perhaps the weakest of the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) shows that we’ve seen so far — this is not to say that it wasn’t funny at points, but it was also much more improvised and disorganized.

The show was Mr. Mark Twain Answers All Your Questions, and the premise as described was: “Fresh off his award-winning performance at last year’s Poe Show,* Mr. Mark Twain is back with his one man show! This June at the new Sacred Fools space, Mr. Mark Twain will be shooting out the lights with stories, observations, and general nonsense (with extra nonsense on the side). If he fools around long enough, he may even say something worth repeating.”

As executed, it was a little different. The conceit was somehow that the Federal Bureau of One Person Shows was forcing Twain to do this show for some reason. The show involved Twain telling a few stories of his life, trying to tell some bad jokes, and the reacting and answering a number of questions from the audience in the Twain character. There was some level of audience participation, but in many ways the biggest question was whether Twain’s mustache would stay attached to his face. At our show, it didn’t and he eventually gave up.

Twain was played by a fellow named S. Clemens, who in reality was Ed Goodman (FB). Goodman was reasonably funny and quick on his feet, but I’m not sure he captured the Mark Twain character as the audience might expect.

Corey Rittmaster (FB) providedthe sound and voice, and served as the representative of the FBOPS when Twain broke the rules. Jeremy Aldridge (FB) helped develop the show and served as director. Suz Curtis was the Brainstorm Trooper. Mark Twain was partially funded by an Indiegogo Effort.

There is one more performance of Mark Twain Answers All Your Questions, Saturday June 25 at 11:30pm. Tickets are available through the Fringe Website.

Attention Programmers! Take the Fringe Programming Challenge! Scheduling your shows at the Fringe can be a pain in the …. I’m trying to solve the problem for next year, so take a look at my specs for a Fringe scheduling app. Can you write it?

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September is similarly mostly hold dates at this point. 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 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

Vengeance is a Dish Best Served Funny | “Lamprey: …” @ HFF16

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 19, 2016 @ 7:58 pm PDT

Lamprey: Weekend of Vengence (HFF16)userpic=fringeThe sort of shows that you find at the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) run the full range, from one person shows to fully executed musicals, from deep dramas to comedies, to families shows to shows where both the audience and the actors are naked. Don’t expect a writeup from that last one. Some are shows from first time groups, and some are from established groups. Our second show on Saturday, Lamprey: Weekend of Vengence (FB) was one of the latter; another show from the folks that gave us the excellent All The Best Killers Are Librarians (which we saw during the preview weekend of Fringe) — the Serial Killers (FB) team.

Serial Killers (FB) is a Sacred Fools (FB) late night production where each week, three continuing stories face off against two new tales. At the end of the show, the audience votes for the three stories that will continue on to the next Saturday night, where their subsequent episodes will then be pitted against two completely new storylines. The season culminates in a head-to-head battle royale between the sixteen top serials, including the eight longest-running serials plus audience-choice selections!

Just as Librarians was a successful serial made into a full-length Fringe show, Lamprey was a successful serial made into a Fringe show. There are some who believe that it is funnier; I tended to prefer Librarians slightly, but it is a matter of taste. Both exhibited a strong sense of earnestness, of going for the comedy jugular no matter what it takes. One also got a sense that the actors were having so much fun they were attempting to make the other actors break their role from laughing. This worked extremely well on the Carol Burnett Show to amplify the humor. I think it worked well here as well. I can say that both of these productions made me want to explore Serial Killers (FB) more (if it wasn’t past my bedtime 🙂 ).

Here’s the description of the show from the Fringe writeup:

The Lamprey is a cop named Lynn Alvarado who is trying to get people to call her the Lamprey. She also has to solve the murder of her partner, but only has one weekend to do it! Her family has gotten non-refundable tickets for a Disney Cruise that leaves on Monday morning, and she like, HAS to be on it. The Lamprey must navigate the criminal world of Los Angeles, some by-the-book internal affairs agents, a masked killer looking to take her out and the to do list that her husband gave her. SOMEONE must get vengeance for her partner and also get the kids to Romp and Roll, and that someone is the Lamprey. Can one woman really have it all, when everyone is trying to kill her?

You can see why this description just pulled me in. The production, under the direction of Victor Isaac (FB), played (and some might say over-played) it for the laughs. I’ll note it was nice to see Victor again, albeit briefly. We last saw him at ACSAC 16 when he was part of the conference presentation of The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam. Victor kept the story moving along briskly, a rapid-fire sequence of scenes that were very funny, yet demonstrated the serial origin of the show.

As the Lamprey, Carrie Keranen (FB) was vibrating with vengeance, umm, intensity. Unlike her small role in Librarians, this role allowed her to play the comedy to the hilt, and she put all her energy into the effort.  She was a lot of fun to watch.

In primary supporting roles were Pete Caslavka as Chris Alvarado, the Lamprey’s husband and Maya Imani Estephanos (FB) as Jen Murphy, the Lamprey’s partner. Caslavka’s character here was nothing like his character in Librarians; here, he was one of the few people that could stand up to the Lamprey and call her on her shit. Another person who didn’t want to deal with the Lamprey’s shit was Estephanos as her (late) partner, Jen. With both actors, you could see well the exasperation they felt from dealing with this over the top character.

Playing secondary supporting roles (i.e., playing multiple characters) were Peter Fluet (FB) [Chief / James], Amanda Blake Davis (FB) [Agent Calhoune / Graci], Glenn  Stanton (FB) [Agent Corrigan / Barrick], Derek Mehn (FB) [Tony / Clint], Dana DeRuyck (FB) [Alexis / Coroner], and Marshall Givens (FB) [Cop / Priest / Killer / Doug].  Of these folks, the performances that remain stuck in my head are Fluet’s wonderful Chief, whose interactions with the Lamprey reminded me of the screaming on Moonlighting, and DeRuyck’s Coroner, who just had this wonderful look about her. The rest all gave great performances; it was those two that stood out in my mind above the rest.

Lamprey: Weekend of Vengeance was written by Peter Fluet (FB), who appears to have done a number of productions at Serial Killers. Scott Golden (FB) was the assistant director. HeatherLynn Gonzales (FB) was the Stage Manager. Sondra Mayer (FB) did the fight choreography, which was very good (although I still prefered the fight choreography on Librarians). Music Composition was by Zachary Bernstein (FB). Erik Engman was an associate producers and made a special appearance somewhere.

There are two more presentations of Lamprey: Weekend of Vengeance: Monday, June 20th at 7:00PM, and Friday, June 24th at 11:00 PM. It is quite funny and worth seeing. Tickets are available through the Fringe Website.

Attention Programmers! Take the Fringe Programming Challenge! Scheduling your shows at the Fringe can be a pain in the …. I’m trying to solve the problem for next year, so take a look at my specs for a Fringe scheduling app. Can you write it?

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September is similarly mostly hold dates at this point. 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 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.

Busted! | “30JJ or Bust” @ HFF16

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 19, 2016 @ 10:53 am PDT

30JJ or Bust (HFF16)userpic=fringeSaturday was our four-show day at the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). Whew! Luckily, all but one of them were one-person shows, making the write-ups easier. The first dealt with a subject that is really out in front, something that calls and hold your attention, something that … oh well, just pretend I’ve inserted all  the gratuitous jokes about large breasts. Guys like to joke about large breasts; certainly, in Western society, they are what’s in for most people*. But for those that have them, dealing with them is no fun. A hot day like Saturday means you’re swimming in boob sweat. There are back problems, knee problems, self-esteem problems, … the list goes on and on. Anyone who thinks that large breasts are a blessing doesn’t have to live with them.
(*: as you are probably dying to ask: I’ll enjoy them whatever size they are, just keep ’em natural)

That, precisely, was the subject of our first show Saturday: “30JJ or Bust: The World is My Underwire“. The artist, Joan Afton (FB), shares her experiences living with “the girls” (use whatever term you want), framing the discussion with a call to her insurance company about getting breast reduction surgery — and the angst it creates when she thinks about changing something that is so much part of her identity.

During the show, Afton explores society’s relationship and view about breasts, as well as what large chested girls have to go through to deal with the chest. From learning how to camouflage and distract attention, to finding appropriate size bras and being measured properly, and exploring both the physical and emotions damage that large size breast can create.

Now, I’m a guy, and I found the show quite enjoyable. I also found it interesting to hear and explore the reaction of the audience to the stories. I never found myself wondering when the show would be over, and found myself caught up in Afton’s story.

But I’m not the best judge. My wife was in a similar position to Afton: When we met, she was in a KK cup; she had reduction surgery many many years ago — and she’ll tell you it was the best decision she ever made. She absolutely loved this show: she said it captured the experience of every large breasted girl growing up. It captured the concerns that leads one to have surgery, and also captured the questions that go through one’s mind. She thought it was the best show we saw on Saturday.

So, if the boobs that are giving you the greatest problems in life are not your partner and your co-workers, but your large breasts; if you really want to get something off your chest… you should really see this show. It’s also great for those guys who either live with or want to live with someone with large breasts: you’ll discover that your fantasy does not trump your partner’s pain.

30JJ was directed by Deana Barone (FB), who worked with Afton to help her transform her story into what you see on stage. Evidently, they are long-time friends, and that close relationship showed in how well the story presented itself. Barone has another show at the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) — MetaFam. She also hostied a workshop (well, it has just started) called Unleash Your Story, also at Fringe.

30JJ has one more performance:  Saturday June 25 2016 at 11:30 PM at  Asylum @ Studio C (Mainstage). Tickets are available through the Fringe website.

Attention Programmers! Take the Fringe Programming Challenge! Scheduling your shows at the Fringe can be a pain in the …. I’m trying to solve the problem for next year, so take a look at my specs for a Fringe scheduling app. Can you write it?

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre 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) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. 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: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September is similarly mostly hold dates at this point. 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 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.