Observations Along the Road

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

HFF17 Batch 6: Transition / Khant Hotel / Bachlorette

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

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

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

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HFF17 Batch 5: The ABCs / Reasons to be Pretty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

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

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

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HFF17 Batch 3: Zombie Clown Trump, Conversations/Girls, and Inversion

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 18, 2017 @ 8:16 pm PDT

Zombie Clown Trump (HFF17)userpic=fringeThe Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) offers over 350 shows during a single month; as you might guess, these shows cover a wide-variety of presentations and maturity. They range from one-on-one shows that take under 10 minutes to full-on 2 hour musicals; from everyone being naked to all clothed; from improv to rehearsed; from silly to serious. Yesterday’s sampling of the Fringe Festival was a strong demonstration of that: we saw shows that ranged from silly political commentaries (Zombie Clown Trump) to a one-woman show (Conversations ‘Bout The Girls) to a fully-realized, in-depth play (Inversion). What they all had in common was the fact that they all were excellent.

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Zombie Clown Trump (Non-HFF Website) is one of those shows that I would classify as a real Fringe show, or as the show put it at the end: “You only paid $7 for this, what did you expect?”. This, of course, was after we all sang, “We are the world, we are the Fringe Fest”, and waiving our flags, and wearing the red noses that they gave us.

Yes, this was one of those shows.

Zombie Clown Trump purports to be a show about Trump’s re-election campaign in 2020 against Dwaine “The Rock” Johnson, after bombing much of the rest of the world and excreting on the nation all sorts of noxious bodily fluids and substances. Through all of this, Kellyanne Cuntway is trying to suck up to trump, and Press Secretary Sean Sphincter and VP Mike Peenass are blowing it out their … Trump’s wife Barbania Trump has fallen in love with the Rock, and Becky has kidnapped Trump’s daughter SriLanka Trump, which has Trump upset because his homegrown hot piece of ass is gone, and …

It is a bizarre and surreal show, but is it any more surreal than real life, where as I write this I am reading the following: “A representative from President Donald Trump’s legal team said Trump is not under investigation, despite the President tweeting “I am being investigated” this week.”?

In any case, the show is a hot comedic mess, with parody songs and profanity and general sillyness and sluttiness. But it is also fun, and a form of political commentary that you’ll find at a Fringe Festival. It’s not high art, folks.

The performances were similarly across the map at times. I think the real standout was Maegan Mandarino (BS, FB)’s Barbania Trump / Becky. Mandarino had a really strong singing voice, good dance moves, and was quite a lot of fun to watch. A close second with Dani Savka (FB)’s Kellyanne / SriLanka — again, she was having fun with the songs and the comedy moves.

Trump was portrayed by the creator of the show, Rick Cipes (FB). Cipes was a clown and was having fun with the persona, exaggerating what was already an exaggeration (it is, after all, quite small), and keeping the show quite topical, with mentions of the latest Julius Caesar mess incorporated. Rounding out the cast was Craig Aldrich/FB as VP Mike Peenass and with his hand up Sean Sphincter’s ass (Sphincter was a puppet). Aldrich was the crass one would expect in such a position.

No further credits (i.e., director, stage manager, etc.) were provided.

Visit the show’s website for more information on this absurdity, and to see an interesting mouseover. There are two more performances of this show, June 23 @ 10:30pm, and June 24 @ 8:30pm. Performances take place at the OMR Theatre at The Complex. Tickets are available through the show’s fringe page.

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Conversations 'Bout The Girls (HFF17)The second show we saw yesterday, Conversations ‘Bout The Girls, is a great example of a one-person show / project common at the Fringe.  In the show, the author and performer, Sonia Jackson (IMDB, FB), takes on the persona of the proprietor of a lingerie / brassiere shop inducting a new hire. The permit her to take on the persona of a large number of shop patrons and characters, and to relate all sorts of stories about women’s relationships with their breasts.

These stories relate from the experience of their sudden appearance, the reaction of men to them, the reaction of parents to them, the experiences of breast examination and mastectomies (and potential reconstruction thereafter).

Now, I’m a guy and I didn’t personally relate to a lot of the stories (except as a satisifed examiner 🙂 ), but I did find it interesting to watch the audience, and especially my wife, as they reacted to the stories being told. This reflected their personal experience (something I confirmed afterwards with my wife), and in many ways was truly their story.

She did relate one item that was enlightening. She imagined if men had to go in to be fitted for a jockstrap, and the store clerk making statements like, “Don’t worry, it may be small now, but I’m sure it will grow.”, or yelling out to the story, “Do we have any of the petite left in stock?” Including this story did make this production much more understandable to the men in the audience.

Overall, I’d say this is a fun show for women or man, and a great example of what a one-person show can be: A personal exploration and exposition of a particular subject, based on personal experience.

According to the program, this isn’t a new show. It has been in development for 12 years, has been adapted into a full length play, and has been subsequently adapted into a screenplay.

Conversations ‘Bout The Girls was directed by Jessica Lynn Johnson (FB). Props appear to have been provided by Sara’s Lingerie. (FB).

Given how late I’m writing this, there is one more performance of Conversations ‘Bout The Girls on June 24 @ 1pm at the Dorie Theatre at the Complex. Tickets available through the show’s Fringe website.

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Inversion by Aditya Putcha (HFF17)The final show of the day, Inversion, was at the other end of the spectrum. While Zombie Clown Trump was a surrealistic hot mess, but funny, Inversion was a serious well-written play about a realistic subject. It was an exposition of something that many people feel — especially folks in my field of work — when dealing with the opposite sex. Author and lead Aditya Putcha (FB) has created a story that speaks to personal experience. It is remarkably well crafted for a first play. I think it reflects another aspect of Fringe: the launching pad for new plays — a place to get them out there, and start shaping them for a full-fledged professional production. I think with a bit more shaping and expansion, this could be a production worthy of most intimate theatres in Los Angeles, a potential off-Broadway production, and possibly an even longer life.

The description of the show is as follows: Adam (Aditya Putcha (FB)), a socially awkward mathematician, especially with women, laments his inability to find the hot woman of his dreams before his mom (Lena Zhanik) declines too far into the world of Alzheimer’s. His best friend, Brendan (Adam Daniel (FB)), who seems to get any woman he wants, tries to support his endeavor, with disastrous results. Thus beings the spiral into dating and love and relationships as Brendan encourages Adam to date a low self esteemed slightly older (and, as portrayed, larger) woman, Rhonda (Shayna Spielman (FB★, FB)), in order to help Adam learn how to date. In meeting up with Rhonda, Adam finds his hot woman: Natalia (Gaia Passaler (FB)), Rhonda’s roommate. Thinking he’s finally met the woman of his dreams, Adam forges ahead with Natalia thinking maybe he can also ease his mother’s concerns about his well being as she declines. Romantic entanglements explored in this touching, all too real look at how men and women relate to not only the opposite sex as friends and lovers, but how friendships are tested by the dating world.

Now most reviewers of this show are likely trained critics, with experience in the humanities — or they are actors who are working as reviewers. On the other hand, I’m actually like the lead — I was a math major at UCLA; I’ve been doing cybersecurity for 30 years. My wife, similarly, is an engineer. We know characters like the lead character; we’ve seen the same mistakes he has made happen time and again. In an over-zealous lust for the “hot chick”, imagining that every small positive gesture conveys full blown love, and over-reacting. Meanwhile, the potentially right girl gets ignored and insulted. However, unlike what you would expect from this story (everyone ends up happy; the schlub of a guy ends up with the lovable schlub of a girl), this story ends up with a bit more empowerment: the schlub of a girl realizes she doesn’t have to settle, but can be there for herself. The hot chick ends up with a guy that she loves, not that is just hot for her. The guy who dates around realizes what true love is, and finds both a job and the right girl. And the lead is left… perhaps more confused than ever.

As the lead, I was unsure of what to make of Aditya Putcha (FB). He comes from a background of real stuttering. He has an awkward performance where he seemingly gets stuck on lines at points, but it is unclear whether this is reality or performance. In real life, such a character would be stuck on those same lines, and would exhibit the same problems talking to women. So his performance, while awkward, is remarkably realistic.

I just loved Shayna Spielman (FB★, FB), but perhaps this is just because she’s the type of girl I’ve always enjoyed watching. Playful and happy and confusing and such. She gives a performance that is fun to watch, and again, something that is very realistic because I’ve known girls just like that. As her roommate, Gaia Passaler (FB) also gives a strong performance, believably Russian. Beautiful, and also fun to watch, the two young ladies work very well together, playing off each other and off the character of Adam.

The remaining two performers only interact with the lead. As the best friend, Adam Daniel (FB) gives a suitably bro performance, and handles the transformation from ‘bro to adult quite realistically. Lastly, Lena Zhanik handles the mom with Alzheimer’s quite well, portraying a wonderful level of confusion. Dealing with a similar situation with my M-I-L, it is a confusion that is all too real and all too sad.

The production was directed by Elise Marie Hodge (FB) of EMH Productions (FB). Veniese Razo was the stage manager.

Overall, this was a very realistic show, well-performed with a good story. It demonstrated the professional end of Fringe as a place for new playwrights to get a great start.

Alas, the last performance of Inversion was (a) today, and (b) was sold out. Supposedly, a DVD of the performance is available for a short time from their Indegogo page.

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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). This is the current planned schedule for HFF. To see the full Fringe guide, click here.

With respect to the Hollywood Fringe Festival: I’d like to recommend Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman. Linden, the artist, did the show for our synagogue Mens Club back in October, and it was a delight. So good, in fact, that we’re going to see the show again during Fringe. If you want a fun show full of parody music, see this one.

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

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

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HFF17 Batch 2: The Heart Change | 86’d | Insuppressible/Leah Rimini

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jun 11, 2017 @ 1:28 pm PDT

userpic=fringeYesterday, we saw our second batch of Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) shows: Ink Theater (FB)’s The Heart Change, 86’d , and Insuppressible: The Unauthorized Leah Remini Story. Unlike our first Fringing day, there was nary a clunker in the bunch. We found parking for the first two easy, and were able to pick up our Fringe pins at Fringe Central without difficulty. The only sour spots for the day were our continuing headaches, and the parking ticket I got in West Hollywood for not being precisely within the parking space markings. Cost of doing business, I guess — I haven’t had one in over 20 years. On to our first show….

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The Heart Change - INK Theater (Hollywood Fringe)We selected Ink Theater (FB)’s The Heart Change because the description sounded so interesting: here was a show not only with kids as actors, but the kids wrote it, designed it, choreographed it, designed it — it was basically a creative project for a bunch of kids ages 7-12. The subject was also interesting: “When a group of kids have to face a crabby Hollywood director and realize just how powerful they are. ” Shows done by kids are usually fun at Fringe – witness last year’s Titus Andronicus Jr. – so this had good potential.

I’m pleased to say that I sat through this entire show smiling. No, by adult standards, it was far from perfect. Some jokes were sophomoric, the story was a bit simplistic and stereotyped, and there was a bit of caricature/overacting in the performance. But these kids aged 7-12. For their ages and what they did it was remarkable.

Last week I saw adults in a show that was painful because of the potential squandered. This week, I saw kids in a show that was imperfect, and all I could see is the potential-to-be.

The basic story the kids developed is this — insert the appropriate suspension of belief. Hollywood director is forced by his studio to make a movie with kids. He hates kids, and needs the money. The kids audition and get the movie, but problems arise immediately between the kid’s personality/sense of entitlement and the director’s desire to control. It doesn’t end well, and the kids quit the production. But the cameraman relates the story of one of the kids, and as the director and the kids learn more about what is driving them and what their behavior was making, they have a change of heart and learn to work together.

This is a story written by kids under 12. Pretty remarkable isn’t it. It also contained three songs, performed by the kids on-stage, and a dance.

There were also some great performances. You’ll have to excuse my imprecision here: there were no photos in the program, and these kids don’t have an internet presence yet (being under 13), so I can’t necessarily put names with the performances I liked. There was a little black kid who kept spouting scientific stuff about nutrition and eating tomatoes who was just hilarious. I also liked the two girls who sung — such a great effort (I think they were Bela Salazar and Caytlin McKinney). One girl kept reminding me of my niece with her vocal style and behavior (this is in a good way), and the two kids who played the baboons were just hilarious. This was just a delight to watch.

The cast consisted of: Olivia Brumit – Alexandria; Stephen Ramsey – Bob; Sienna Sullivan – Charlotte, Waiter; Emma Patti – Eliza Jane; Malachi Turnbull – Jacob; Gael Bary – John Pierre; Ruby Miller – Luna; Bela Salazar – Mercedes; Nadia Gray – Ms. George; Zoe Gray – Nelly; Terydan Green – Roberto; Caytlin McKinney – Sunshine; and Tegan Linehan – Toby.

Credited adult supervision was Rachel Kiser (FB) – Director; Sarah Cook (FB) – Producer / Choreography Coach; and Erin Hall (FB) – Acting Coach / Stage Manager.

There is one more performance of The Heart Change, today at 7:00pm. If you enjoy watching kids with potential — hell, if you enjoy just watching incredibly cute kids on stage — go see this.

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86'd (Hollywood Fringe)The second show that we saw was, 86’d, a one-woman show about life in the service industry — something every actors supposedly knows because being a waitron is supposedly one of the best subsistence jobs. I went into this show expecting it to be a one-woman monologue of vignettes. Instead, Co-writer and performer Courtney Arnett (FB) presented a series of scenes from what was ostensibly her life as a server at a restaurant called “Sweats”.

These vignettes begin when she has been working a double shift, and gets assigned a clueless newbie to train. They continue through the life of the restaurant, its decline, its rebirth as a new venue with the same chef and staff, until that venue’s eventual decline and closing. It ends, fittingly, with her being the newbie at a new restaurant.

During the saga, we get to see how a life such as this doesn’t permit her life to go on. She may meet bartenders and busboys and chefs, but her reason for moving to Los Angeles is never achieved, and she never achieves her goals of family either.

However, that is the character in the story. My hopes for this actress, however, are much more. In this production, she demonstrated a remarkable singing voice, great comic timing, wonderful expressions, and an easy-going way of relating to the audience. We found the show very enjoyable, providing a different view of those servers we see every day.

The title, “86’d”, refers to a term used in the restaurant industry for running out of a food or service items (e.g., “We’re 86’d on the haddock today.”). Early in the show, the running joke is that everything on the menu is 86’d except for the hamburger, fries, and Miller Lite.

86’d was cowritten by Julia Meltzer (FB), who also directed the piece. Courtney Arnett (FB) created the piece. It was produced by Terri Arnett, Rachel Germaine (FB★; FB) [who was checking us in at the door], and Matt Robinson. Music was by Kait Hickey and Ariana Lenarsky (FB). Tech by Colin Johnson (FB).

86’d has 3 more performances: Wednesday June 14th @ 700pm; Monday, June 19th @ 830pm, and Friday, June 23rd @ 1130pm. It plays at Studio C as the Asylum, which is right next to “The Complex” group of theatres near Fringe Central.

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Insuppressible - The Absolutely Unauthorized Leah Remini Story (Hollywood Fringe)The last show we saw yesterday was Insuppressible: The Unauthorized Leah Remini Story at The Actors Company facility in West Hollywood. Yes, this is where I received the love note from the West Hollywood Traffic Force for not being exactly between the lines. Not worth contesting, but something others should note when visiting this venue. Perhaps they were agents of David Miscavige, mad about my seeing this show.

Going in, my only knowledge of Scientology was what I picked up by listening to A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant. I had heard roughly about the disappearance of David Miscavige’s wife, Shelly, but hadn’t followed the Leah Remini (FB) series. My wife, however, had.

[ETA: I completely forgot, until the tweet with this writeup was re-tweeted, that we saw Squeeze My Cans at last year’s HFF. That show was 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. Quite interesting to think about, when paired with this musical.]

Insuppressible started late due to the previous show running late (this is Fringe, folks); I’m sure the show after us was late due to the same shift, plus the confetti left by this show. I’m glad to say, however, the show was worth the wait.

I went into the show, for some reason, thinking that his would be  a one-woman musical. Far from it. This was a large cast (8) musical, executed well, with strong song and dance, and great effects. This was the exact opposite of Robot Monster: The Musical. This is a good thing.

Insuppressible tells, in five scenes, the story of Leah Remini’s path through Scientology. It opens with her making friends with Shelly, and Shelly to encourage her to persue her dream of acting. It then moves to her professional pinnacle in King of Queens, and her being a Scientology Celebrity up there with Tom Cruise. It then moves to the wedding of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise, where all the resentment that Remini has with Scientology starts to bubble up, leading to her split with the group. It ends with her getting the courage to leave Scientology and go onto a life of success or something close thereto.

This was a fringe show. Jeffrey McCrann (FB)’s book and Robert Hill (FB)’s music were relatively entertaining, although it is unclear if they could extend the piece into a fully-sustained two-act musical with a deeper book and connection of the songs to the inner turmoils of the characters as opposed to being more scene oriented. Still, it might be worth a try. I certainly didn’t sense the show dragging, although I would have liked to find out more what happened afterwards, and to see some more fleshing out of the beliefs of the group and how strange they are. But then I’m always for exposing strange rituals.

The performances were excellent. In the lead position was Leslie Rubino (FB) as Leah. We saw her a few weeks ago in Freeway Dreams, and again we were blown away by her talent, voice and sense of comic timing.  It is worth seeing this show alone just for her performance.

The remaining seven cast members all are strong. Jaimie Day/FB‘s Katie Holmes was mostly a caricature, but she was spectacular in her solo number “Katie and Tom”. A great LA theatre debut. There was just something about Tiffani Ann Mills (FB)’s Shelly Miscavige that was a delight to watch. Perhaps it was her believable friendship with Leah; perhaps it was her look; perhaps it was her singing in the opening number — in any case, I just couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. Libby Baker (FB)’s Mother was strong in the opening number, but then the writing moved her to more of a background role, although she was strong in “The Gaslighting Song”. Nicole Clemetson/FB‘s J-Lo was a hoot — I have no idea whether J-Lo acts like that in real life, but that’s how I want her to act.  Clemetson was also a strong singer. Lastly, of the female cast, Sohm Kapila (FB) was Nicole Kidman. She only had one scene as Nicole in the end and was good in that. Note that all of the actresses other than the lead were also in the ensemble in various scenes.

There were two male members of the cast: David Wilkins/FB as Tom Cruise and Milo Shearer/FB as David.  Both were strong performers and strong singers — they were particularly strong in “Matter, Energy, Space, and Time”.

Music was a mix of prerecorded music and on-stage music from Robert Hill (FB).

No credits were provided for choreography, set design, costumes, sound, lighting etc. With respect to those creative areas, a few observations. First, someone went crazy with the glitter glue. Second, I’m sure the production following this wanted to shoot this production for the on-stage confetti gun that left confetti everywhere. Third, there was some sort of sound problem that sounded like constant rain, which was annoying. Other than that, however, the costumes and props were clever, and the show fit in and out of the Fring requirements great.

The production was directed by Jeffrey McCrann (FB).

Insuppressible: The Unauthorized Leah Remini Story continues at the Let Live Space at the Actors Company with four more performances: Sunday June 11 2017, 5:30 PM; Thursday June 15 2017, 8:30 PM; Friday June 23 2017, 11:30 PM; and Saturday June 24 2017, 4:00 PM. We found this to be a very enjoyable production, and predict you will as well. If not, well, there are always soup cans.

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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). This is the current planned schedule for HFF. To see the full Fringe guide, click here.

With respect to the Hollywood Fringe Festival: I’d like to recommend Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman. Linden, the artist, did the show for our synagogue Mens Club back in October, and it was a delight. So good, in fact, that we’re going to see the show again during Fringe. If you want a fun show full of parody music, see this one.

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

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

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HFF17 Batch 1: My Hustle Has ADHD | Robot Monster (Musical) | B Kills E

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Jun 05, 2017 @ 9:27 pm PDT

Hey Hollywood, My Hustle Has ADHD (HFF17)userpic=fringeThe Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) has started, and we’re going to be seeing multiple shows each weekend. So I’m going to batch my writeups… and this is batch one. We saw all these shows Sunday night.

***

As Hey Hollywood, My Hustle Has ADHD started, the author and sole performer, Rasika Mathur (FB), was clearly unprepared.  It was as if she had put off writing and blocking and staging this show until the last minute.  As if her attention had been focused somewhere else, and she just didn’t sit down and get the damn show done. I mean, at times she was even having to go back and review the script to see where she was. I know this was a preview, but … Then again (and possibly more likely), that was the point of this exercise — to make you realize the impact of ADHD on a person’s life. Not knowing whether it was an act or real was part of the charm, just like knowing how hard it is for a trained singer to intentionally sing bad.

Hustle is structured as a one-woman show, but it really isn’t. Mathur brings up audience members to represent key people in her life — her parents, casting agents, Nick Cannon, her manager and agent. She then plays off these people to tell her story, and how her condition affected her life until she decided to take charge of it.

I found the show fascinating, especially as we had brought a teen relative who may have ADHD with us to the show. The bell rang and the lights went of. It was also interesting to see the levels of ADHD within ourselves, and seeing something like this is the first step on dealing with it. So the show was enlightening and entertaining and a great start to the Fringe Festival. I just wish there was a show from the other side: Hey Hollywood, I’ve Got To Deal With An Actor with ADHD!

Hustle was directed and developed by Deana Barone (FB), who worked on last Fringe’s 30JJ or Bust.

There are three more performances of Hey Hollywood, My Hustle Has ADHD: June 11 @ 6PM, June 15 @ 10PM, and June 24 @ 10PM. It plays in the Lounge 2 Theatre, 1 block E of Vine on Santa Monica.

***

Robot Monster - The Musical (HFF17)I always operate on the conceit that the stage production came first, and then they made a movie of it. If that was true, then they improved Robot Monster when they made the movie version of the story, based on the musical Robot Monster – The Musical (FB), which was our second Fringe show. And since Robot Monster (the movie) has 1.9 stars on IMDB, and a 31% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, that should scare you more than any Ro-Man could ever do.

So why did we go? Well, the description made it sound better than it was:

Hailed as one of the greatest bad movies in the annals of film history, the 1953 cult sci-fi classic, “Robot Monster” is a beloved fan favorite for its complete absurdity, hammy acting, charming naiveté and – most of all – for its famously tortured space gorilla.

But more than just an infamously “bad movie,” the film has a charming and unpretentious sincerity that’s so appealing in our frenetic age

With 16 original songs, the musical includes everything current and new fans demand from a show about a space gorilla sent to earth to destroy the human race. Will he succeed?

I will say that the musical had all of what was claimed: complete absurdity, hammy acting, charming naiveté and a tortured space gorilla. But often — almost usually — stage musical versions of bad musicals figure how to turn the camp into a redeeming feature. Look at shows like Johnny Guitar, Zombies from the Beyond, or even Evil Dead – The Musical. They make it work. Partially, it is because a campy plot can be improved by good songs and performances.

Not here.

For the most part, the performances were weak (again, that may have been intentional given the camp and the history) — but they were at the verge of painful. Yes, this was a preview performance, but when the best part of the performance is the line missteps…. But I do say, “for the most part”. Dana Deruyck (FB) was perhaps the sole redeeming player in this show. Her “Johnny” was a hoot with hilarious facial expressions, strong singing, and just, well, she was fun to watch. Her sister, Stephanie Thomas/FB, was also fun to watch.

Now, I will admit that perhaps I was expecting to much from this. After all, the show’s FB page indicated that other audience members really enjoyed this and found it a hoot. So perhaps you need to be a Robot Monster fan to truly appreciate what was done here. In other words, YMMV. But for someone who had never seen the movie, and was going based on experience with other campy SF movies turned into good small musicals, I was expecting much much more.

Cast: Stephanie Thomas/FB – Carla; Dana Deruyck (FB) – Johnny; Don Margolin – The Professor; Andrew Villarreal (FB) – Roy; Val Peterson/FB – Martha; Jamie Miller (FB) – Alice; Marcus Chavez/FB – Ro-Man XJ2; Derek Long (FB) – Voice of Ro-Man XJ2; Rich Silverman (FB) – Great Guidance.

The musicians would not admit they were in this show.

Production Team: Brandon Baruch (FB) – Lighting Design; Madeleine Dahm – Select Choreography; Corwin Evans (FB) – Video Design; Paul Frederick (FB) – Arrangements and Music Production; Derek Long (FB) – Director; Pamela J. Paulson (FB) – Assistant Director; Rich Silverman (FB) – Producer, creator, composer, lyricist, etc.

Robot Monster – The Musical (FB) has four more performances at the Sacred Fools Mainstage: June 10 @ 8PM; June 15 @ 5PM; June 18 @ 1:30 PM; and June 23 @ 11PM. If you are familiar with the original movie and know what you’re getting, you’ll likely enjoy this. Anyone else — your mileage may vary drastically.

***

Buffy Kills Edward - A Musical Romp (HFF17)If this had been a normal Fringe night and venue, you would have likely seen a glowing review of Buffy Kills Edward – A Musical Romp. After all, a wonderful actress we’ve seen before, Kim Dalton (FB), was in it.

But we didn’t see the show — through no fault of the producer.

You see, the Fringe venue for the show, The Three Clubs, is a bar.  This means they cannot admit anyone under 21. Anyone. No exceptions.

Even if you have a ticket.

Even if you have a ticket from the Fringe Festival itself, because the information on the show did not indicate the venue was age restricted (it does now, after I complained). The Fringe ticketing system didn’t inform us of the fact.

So the one show we really wanted to see Sunday night … we were turned away from the door by the big burly (but very nice and understanding) bouncer.

I have written to Fringe, and they are supposedly processing a refund.

But be forewarned: If you are planning to see this show, or anything else at the Three Clubs, you must be 21 and have ID with you.

But I’m sure the show is great, and I encourage you (if you are old enough) to go see it. Visit their Fringe page for ticket information.

***

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). This is the current planned schedule for HFF. To see the full Fringe guide, click here.

With respect to the Hollywood Fringe Festival: I’d like to recommend Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman. Linden, the artist, did the show for our synagogue Mens Club back in October, and it was a delight. So good, in fact, that we’re going to see the show again during Fringe. If you want a fun show full of parody music, see this one.

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

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

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HFF17 – Current Schedule Plans

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri May 12, 2017 @ 11:16 am PDT

userpic=fringeThe Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) schedule is starting to gel. I’ve done some further planning over lunch, and here is how June stands. We are ticketing in two groups: this weekend (¹), and right after June 1st (²), to split the charges.

Saturday, June 3:

⇒ Unavailable to Fringe

Sunday, June 4:

⇒ Until 4p – Annual Gluten Free Expo | [K/R]
⇒ 6p – Hey Hollywood! My Hustle has ADHD | [D/K/R¹]
⇒ 8p – Robot Monster the Musical | [D/K/R¹]
⇒ 930p – Buffy Kills Edward: The Musical | [D/K/R¹]

Saturday, June 10:

⇒ 3p – The Heart Change – Ink Theatre | [D²/K²]
⇒ 5:30p – 86’d | [D/K]
⇒ 7p – Insuppressible: The Unauthorized Leah Remini Story | [D²/K²]

Sunday, June 11:

⇒ 3p – Five Guys Named Moe @ Ebony Rep | [D]

Saturday, June 17:

⇒ 1p – Pretty, Witty Nell | [D²/K²] (Poss. Canc.)
⇒ 3:30p – Zombie Clown Trump | [D/K]
⇒ 5:30p – Conversations ‘Bout The Girls | [D/K]
⇒ 7:30p – Inversion | [D/K]

Sunday, June 18

Fathers Day – Open

Saturday, June 24:

⇒ 11:30a – Hello Again, The Songs of Allan Sherman [D²/K²/R²]  (Maybe)
⇒ 3p – Slightly Off Broadway (Chromolume) | [D²/K²/R²]
⇒ 5:30p – Trump in Space | [D/K/R²]
⇒ 7p – The ABCs | [D/K/R²]
⇒ 9p – Reasons to be Pretty / Maxwelton | [D/K/R²]

Sunday, June 25:

⇒ 2p – Transition | [D/K]
⇒ 4p – Khant Hotel | [D²/K²]
⇒ 5:30p – Bachelorette by Leslye Headland | [D²/K²]

Note:

  • To see the full Fringe guide, click here.
  • There are those out there that I’ve bamboozled into thinking I’m a reviewer‡, and who want me to see their shows. In order to do so, (a) it would have to fit in the schedule above (including transit times between theatres), and (b) be agreeable to the boss (K), and if applicable, the pseudo-daughter (R). Ethics rules from work are ingrained in me: I do not take free tickets, but will gladly do half price or some other discount.

‡: I’m just a cybersecurity specialist who loves attending live performance, being an audience member, and telling my friends and others who read my blog about what I see, so they might see it as well.

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Hollywood Fringe Festival – Downselect Help Needed

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue May 09, 2017 @ 8:01 am PDT

userpic=fringe

I need your help in planning my Fringe schedule. The following was in my most recent theatre writeup about my plans for the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). I’m working on the schedule now. The shows of interest are as follows — however, the total for tickets is over $700, which is way too high. I need help paring down this list. Not all of these are currently in our schedule (¤ unscheduled as of now). If you know of any discounts for these shows, or have recommendations / disrecommendations, please let us know. Note that I’m generally restricted to Fringing on the weekends (living in the valley and working full-time).

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