🛣 Headlines About California Highways – April 2022

The last headline post was on April 1st, so I must confess that there was one falsehood in the post:  “Maybe the right answer is just to put a fake headline somewhere in the headline list, and see if anyone falls for the rickroll.” That was just a tease to get you to go through all the headlines. Nothing was false.

However, there was one near truth:

  • How about: I’ve heard a lot about the growth of podcasting. Maybe now is the time for me to do that podcast I’ve always dreamed about doing detailed Theatre Reviews. I could make 10s and 10s of dollars towards my retirement. Now that’s worth quitting my job for. Plausible, but… would folks really fall for it.

The real truth is that I am starting a podcast, but it isn’t on theatre reviews. Right, I’m doing it with Tom Fearer from Gribblenation, and we’ll be going route by route through all the numbered highways in California. Right now, we’ve got a teaser episode up, and a sample and first episode written. We’ll be getting more written in May, and recording the same and first few episodes. You can find the forever home of the podcast at California Highways: Route by Route (caroutebyroute.org); you can find the alternate route over on anchor.fm. Subscribe, and we hope to have the sample episode — exploring Route 105 — up sometime in May.  We are still looking for someone to donate a public domain theme for the podcast; contact daniel@caroutebyroute.org if this interests you. We will also (eventually) be looking for podcast donors and sponsors, but that isn’t set up yet.

I’m also still working on the March/April updates to Cahighways.org. The ✔ below means that I’ve gone through the headline for the pages; I still have to go through the Gribblenation updates, the AAroads updates, the legislative actions, the CTC and Coastal Commission minutes. I also will need to go through the updated STIP and SHOPP, as they were approved at the March meeting. So the March/April updates should be posted sometime in late May.

The headline list is much smaller this month. Perhaps there are more paywalls blocking things. Perhaps there are less articles of interest for my pages (there are loads of articles on transit, but few new roads or major road changes right now). But you take what you get. Still, there are a few things of interest.

Key

[Ħ Historical information |  Paywalls, $$ really obnoxious paywalls, and  other annoying restrictions. I’m no longer going to list the paper names, as I’m including them in the headlines now. Note: For $ paywalls, sometimes the only way is incognito mode, grabbing the text before the paywall shows, and pasting into an editor. ]

Highway Headlines

  • ✔ Officials Approve $312 Million for 126 Highway Projects in California (Construction Equipment Guide). As part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s landmark $1.1 billion Clean California initiative, Caltrans is awarding $312 million for 126 projects along the state highway system. Designed to foster cultural connections and civic pride, the projects are expected to generate 3,600 jobs as part of the multiyear initiative led by Caltrans to upgrade interstates and beautify community gateways and public areas along highways, streets and roads while creating thousands of jobs for Californians. Ninety-eight percent of the projects will benefit historically underserved or excluded communities. […] Developed in close collaboration with tribal and local governments, non-profits and businesses, the 126 state beautification projects include art installations, green space and proposals that improve safety and promote community connections. Construction begins in April 2022. Some of the larger projects include: …
  • ✔ Public Feedback Wanted On Caltrans’ HWY 49 Project (myMotherLode.com). Caltrans and the Calaveras County Public Works Department want to hear from the public regarding a construction project on Highway 49 in San Andreas. The State Highway Operation and Protection Program (SHOPP) construction project stretches from one end of town to the other along the highway. The town hall will give the public a chance to hear and see drawings of the project that will upgrade facilities to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards with curb ramps, sidewalks and crosswalks.
  • ✔ Caltrans to add 41 parking spaces in Downtown Ramona starting this month (Ramona Sentinel). After a year-long delay, Caltrans will start a project to create 41 parking spaces in Downtown Ramona as early as this week, Caltrans officials said Tuesday. The parallel parking project between Eighth and 10th streets on state Route 78 could be done a few weeks after it starts, said Caltrans Public Information Officer Cathryne Bruce-Johnson. The restriping will create parallel parking spaces for 21 vehicles on the westbound side of SR-78/Main Street, and 20 parking spaces on the eastbound side of the street in currently designated No Parking areas.
  • $$ Temecula ‘smart freeway’ project could improve 15 Freeway commute (Press Enterprise). Transportation officials are banking on technology to ease the frustrating 15 Freeway commute in southwest Riverside County. The Riverside County Transportation Commission is investing $18 million in a “smart freeway” pilot project that will target the northbound drive along 8 miles of the 15, from the San Diego-Riverside county line near Temecula to the 15-215 freeways split in Murrieta. In that section, where commuters returning from San Diego County jobs daily encounter delays, the agency plans to work with Caltrans to install an array of sensors to measure traffic flow, volume and speed at various points, said David Lewis, capital projects manager for the commission.
  • ✔ Southern Marin routes eyed for flooding relief (East Bay Times/Marin IJ). Officials are considering plans to raise portions of Highway 101 and Highway 1 to ease flooding in southern Marin. A proposed project along Highway 101 would elevate a portion of the southbound lane and offramp at the Marin City exit; construct a 700-foot floodwall between the highway and a stormwater pond; and install pumping mechanisms to increase flow from the pond into the Richardson Bay, according to Caltrans and state Sen. Mike McGuire. The project also includes an effort to raise Highway 1 north of the Manzanita commuter lot, which is closed routinely because of flooding. An automatic tide gate would be installed at the lot and drainage would be reconstructed. The Mill-Valley-Sausalito multiuse path also would be raised by about 3 feet.

Read More …

Share

🎭 A Political Firebrand | “Ann” @ Pasadena Playhouse

Ann (Pasadena Playhouse)Back in February 2020, I was visiting my daughter in Madison WI. Tickets had just gone on sale for a show my wife really wanted to see, Ann, at the Pasadena PlayhouseAnn was a one-woman show that told the story of Ann Richards, Democratic Governor of Texas from 1991-1995.  Richards was a political firebrand known for speaking her mind, which was well demonstrated at the 1988 Democratic National Convention (where we first learned about her). It was Richards who came up with the line I’m sure you’ve heard: “After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.”

We had been planning to see the show in May 2020. But then COVID happened. The show was cancelled; we had a credit at the Playhouse that we rolled into their new membership program. The new season was announced. Guess what was on the season? Yup. Ann was back.

We ticketed it as soon as we could, and coordinated the handicapped seating for my wife.

The story of the show’s origins is best described by the LA Times. It is a play that Holland Taylor (who folks probably remember best as the mother in Two and a Half Men, but whom I remember from It’s a Living) was compelled to write. Taylor was a regular on “Two and a Half Men” when the desire to write “Ann” seized hold of her. She dropped to a visiting role, and started to write and research (starting in 2006). She did extensive research, and seemingly channeled Richards. The play started its life at a venue we knew well, the NoHo Arts Center (the executive producer is married to James Mellon, who ran NoHo ACE). It played in Texas in 2010, on Broadway in 2013, and was recorded for Great Performances. Taylor has indicated this is the last time she’ll be putting on the wig and playing the role.

(and, yes, I’m writing this review a week late. Last Sunday was really busy with preparations for a new podcast I’m starting, and I didn’t get to the review)

The presentation of the show is simple, and best divided into three parts (it runs just under two hours, plus an intermission). It opens with Richards giving a graduation speech at a Texas university I didn’t recognize, where she reminiscences about her life and her origins, include her life with her parents, her marriage, and her entry into politics. It then transitions to the Texas Governor’s office, where we get to see Richards at work playing the political game. The third part is after she’s left office, talking about her post-governor life.

The show was laugh-out-loud funny, which isn’t a surprise given Richards opinions and lack of a filter. It was also a reminder of how politics has changed — especially in places like Texas. Texas used to be a Democratic stronghold — remember they gave us LBJ — and even their Republicans were often moderates (when you look back at the Bushes, you can see that). I’ll note Richard’s didn’t have a high opinion of Bush — she’s the one that said “Poor George, he can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.” She also said of Republicans, “You have to be against government interference in business until your oil company, corporation or Savings and Loan is about to go broke and you beg for a government bailout.” So her attitudes are refreshing, and very far away from where Texas is today. Texas really needs someone who can speak the truth and be listened to; which is very far from the current leaders who toe the Trumpublican line.  Perhaps Beto will be that person.

Hopefully the few Conservatives in Southern California can go to this play and enjoy it. But it really works well given the progressive nature of the area. We really enjoyed it.

Supporting Taylor, but not seen, was Julie White as the voice of Nancy Kohler (Richards’ office professional)

Turning to the production side: The production was directed by Benjamin Endsley Klein, who directed the show on Broadway and kept the pace lively and the performances believable. The simple scenic design (a podium in front of a drape; the governor’s office) was by Michael Fagin (no relation), who also designed the Broadway production. The production team connections with this show continued with the sound and light: Ken Huncovsky Sound DesignSarah Ec Maines Lighting Design. Costume design was by Julie Weiss; and Hair and Wig design was by Paul Huntley. This was probably one of Huntley’s last productions; he passed away in July 2021. Both costumes and wigs were simple but critical: a light blue pantsuit, and Richards’ signature Beehive hairdo. Projections were by Zachary Borovay. Other production credits: Kevin Bailey Executive Producer; Bob Tolaro Stage Manager; Kevin Bailey Asst Stage Manager; TJ Norton Production AssistantThere was no credit for a COVID safety officer. Although it wasn’t in the Playbill, writing this up I discovered that Bailey was in a production at the Pasadena Playhouse we fondly remember, Heartbeats.

Ann continues at the Pasadena Playhouse through April 24. Tickets are available through the Playhouse’s website. Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar or through TodayTix. It is well worth seeing.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member (modulo the COVID break). 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 (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Actors Co-op (FB), 5 Star Theatricals (FB), Broadway in Hollywood (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), and we have a membership at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB). We were subscribing at the Musical Theatre Guild (FB) prior to COVID; they have not yet resumed productions. We have also been subscribers at the Soraya/VPAC (FB), although we are waiting a year before we pick that up again. 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. Note to publicists or producers reading this: here’s my policy on taking comp tickets. Bottom-Line: Only for things of nominal value, like Fringe.

Upcoming Shows:

For right now, we’re pretty much sticking with shows that come as part of our subscriptions or are of interest through our memberships. That may change later in 2022. Looking further into 2022: Next weekend brings the Southern California Renaissance Faire; and Tootsie at Broadway in Hollywood (FB). May brings Hadestown at at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). June will see Come From Away at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) and Pretty Woman at Broadway in Hollywood (FB), as well as Tom Paxon at McCabes plus as much of the Hollywood Fringe Festival as we have the energy for. July brings Moulin Rouge at Broadway in Hollywood (FB) [Pantages], Dear Evan Hansen at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), Newsies at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), and Freestyle Love Supreme back at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB). August is quieter, with just The Prom at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Lastly (for this look ahead), September brings Oklahoma the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) and Jagged Little Pill at Broadway in Hollywood (FB), although they are on the same day so I’ll be shifting one show. September may also bring Andrew Lippa’s version of The Wild Party at the Morgan Wixson Theatre. This was a show I had been planning to see before the COVID shutdown, so I’m putting it in the “part of our subscriptions” list. There may also be some Hollywood Bowl stuff, depending on how my wife is doing.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarOn Stage 411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. 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 (although I know it is outdated and need to update it). Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country (again, I need to review this for the post-COVID theatre landscape)!

Share

🛣 Headlines About California Highways – March 2022

April 1st.  April Fools Day. So what could I tell you that you would plausibly believe, but would be completely false?

  • How about: I’ve decided that the numbering naysayers are right, and I-238 is truly an abomination and they should complete the I-710 no matter what it takes. No, you would see right through that as well. I’m too neutral to take positions like that.
  • How about: I’ve decided that the vaccy naysayers are right, and I’m not going to get that 4th shot. Nah, you’d see right through that.
  • How about: I’m getting close enough to retirement. I’ve decided to chuck it all and go out for one gigantic roadtrip, traveling every road in California. Nah, I think I enjoy my real job too much, plus gas is far too expensive for anyone to believe that.
  • How about: After all this time, I’ve decided that music streamers are right, and I’m going to chuck my iPod Classics and stream away. Me? Never. They are my Precioussssssss.
  • How about: I’ve heard a lot about the growth of podcasting. Maybe now is the time for me to do that podcast I’ve always dreamed about doing detailed Theatre Reviews. I could make 10s and 10s of dollars towards my retirement. Now that’s worth quitting my job for. Plausible, but… would folks really fall for it.

Maybe the right answer is just to put a fake headline somewhere in the headline list, and see if anyone falls for the rickroll. That sounds good. So with that, let’s get to the roads.

Key

[Ħ Historical information |  Paywalls, $$ really obnoxious paywalls, and  other annoying restrictions. I’m no longer going to list the paper names, as I’m including them in the headlines now. Note: For $ paywalls, sometimes the only way is incognito mode, grabbing the text before the paywall shows, and pasting into an editor. ]

Highway Headlines

  •  Who decides what roads and freeways get fixed next? (Daily Bulletin). Q: Rosie Shaw asked about road construction. Shaw, who lives in Riverside County, asked how it’s determined which roads and/or freeways are tabbed for construction work or repairs, including roads in small cities, and where the funding comes from.
  • State Route 26/Fremont Street Bridge Replacement Project (FB/District 10). The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is preparing to begin a project that will improve vertical clearance for freight vehicles by replacing the State Route 26 (SR-26)/Fremont Street Overcrossing of State Route 99 in Stockton. Beginning February 28, 2022, crews will work during day and night shifts for approximately 200 days – Sundays through Fridays – with completion expected in late 2022. Roadside message signs will be placed on SR-26/Fremont Street and on SR-99 to alert motorists of scheduled highway and ramp closures.
  • State Route 99 Rehabilitation Project Through the City of Merced (FB/District 10). The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is preparing to begin a project that will rehabilitate approximately 20 lane miles of State Route 99 (SR-99) between Franklin Road and Childs Avenue through the city of Merced. Construction will be done in phases and is scheduled to start on Sunday, March 6, 2022, with completion expected in August 2023.
  •  The Ghost of Harry Bergman’s Roadside Museum on Highway 371 (Esotouric’s Secret Los Angeles). Greetings from your friendly historic Los Angeles sightseeing tour company, now offering digital programming until we can again organize groups to gather and explore the city we love. For our latest post that’s hidden from the rest of the internet, we want to take you on a very short road trip along State Highway 371, the rural road between Aguanga (pronounced Ah-WAHN-ga, from the Luiseño word awáanga, meaning “dog place”) and Anza—or between Temecula and Palm Desert, to use more familiar destinations.
  • Opinion: Alien circles in downtown? (Madera Tribune). Some years from now, passengers in a low-flying airplane may report seeing “alien circles” right in downtown Madera. However, unlike the “crop circles” that are sometimes reported to exist in mid-West farmlands, the local phenomenon has a logical explanation. After years of prompting and procrastination, Caltrans (California Department of Transportation) is finally going to do something to improve State Route 145 through the City of Madera. After multiple meetings with city officials and stakeholders, the state has produced “State Route 145 Pavement Project and Complete Streets,” under the direction of John Liu, Deputy Director, Caltrans District 6 Maintenance and Operations. The plan consists of a “South Segment” along 3,020 feet of South Madera Avenue, from Avenue 13 to the East Madera Underpass Bridge; a “Downtown Segment,” including major modifications from E Street to Lake Street; and a “North Segment” from Lake Street to an area a bit short of the High-Speed Rail (HSR) underpass.
  • The US highway that helped break segregation (BBC Travel). Along US Route 40, African diplomats were routinely denied service at local establishments. But their treatment set off a civil rights struggle that led to outlawing segregation. Adam Malick Sow had a headache. He was several hours into his trip from New York to Washington DC, and after his limousine crossed into the state of Maryland, he asked his driver to find a place to stop. A few miles later, the newly appointed ambassador to the United States from the African nation of Chad stepped into a diner along US Route 40 and asked for a cup of coffee. The answer on a summer day in 1961 would change history.

Read More …

Share

🎭 Update: Prognostications for the 2023 Pantages/Ahmanson Seasons

Back in mid-February 2022, I posted my predictions for Broadway in Hollywood (FB) (Pantages) and the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) seasons. BIH just made their announcement, so how did I do?

For the record, here’s what I wrote for Broadway in Hollywood:

  • Mean Girls. This was postponed from 2020.
  • Six.
  • Beetlejuice.
  • Tina – The Musical.
  • Ain’t Too Proud. This started out at the Ahmanson and went to Broadway. It is likely not to repeat at the Ahmanson — they want to reach a different subscriber base.
  • Wicked. On tour, currently at the Segerstrom. A likely retread that performs well and can do an extended sit-down at the Pantages.
  • Girl from the North Country (although this could end up at the Ahmanson)
  • Aladdin The Musical. This is a “newly imagined” version, and could be a draw.
  • Maybes:
    • The new equity tours of either Annie or Hairspray. Both are older, both done regionally, but both might be crowd draws.
    • The Cher Show. The tour was postponed, but it might come back.
    • The Spongebob Musical. One can always hope.
    • MJ The Musical. This was just announced (3/21) as going on tour in 2023. It is the type of show that would be at the Pantages, but I think the announcement is too late for the 2023 season. But one never knows; it might make it in.

What did we get?

I got the first four right on the button:

In my maybe list, the two retreads ended up being in the season:

  • The new equity tours of either Annie or Hairspray. Both are older, both done regionally, but both might be crowd draws.

Two of the shows I thought for the Ahmanson are coming into BIH instead:

I didn’t see a remounting of The Lion King; I wasn’t even aware they were still on tour. The Playbill article on current and upcoming tours indicates the Lion King tour ends in October 2022, and the BIH announcement indicates it is coming in 2023.

So where does this leave the other traditional touring house: The Ahmanson. There’s a push at CTG for more diversity and there’s a new managing director, so there could be some changes in direction. CTG/Ahmanson also does more local stuff, and stuff moving up. So what will we see from the Ahmanson? Here’s the revised prediction.

Ahmanson Theatre

The Ahmanson Theatre, in Downtown LA,  is a large venue that in the past has programmed both National tours, shows it has locally produced or produced pre-tours, or select touring productions from elsewhere, such as the West End. It has smaller capacity than the Pantages/Dolby, can accommodate mid-size runs but not long sit downs. There has been a recent strong push for diversity and local productions at CTG, and there is new artistic leadership, so I expect to see more diverse playwrights and local productions as opposed to only the tours we’ve seen of late.

My prediction:

    • To Kill a Mockingbird (Tour). This was postponed from 2021.
    • 1776 (Musical). This was postponed from 2021.
    • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. This could be a local mounting as a tour hasn’t been announced, but there has been a sister production at the Curran in SF. This isn’t a formal tour, so it would require a local mounting of the show — which means it would require the Ahmanson, as Broadway in Hollywood doesn’t locally mount stuff.
    • Jagged Little Pill. This just seems a bit more like an Ahmanson show.
    • Girl from the North Country
    • MJ: The Musical
    • Diversity author slot.
    • Pre-Broadway or West-End Musical

I still believe that Ain’t Too Proud will NOT come back to the Ahmanson, but I could be wrong. The Ahmanson did bring back both Dear Evan Hansen and Come From Away, which they presented before. Other tours are shows that are retready enough they don’t fit CTG, such as Aladdin The Musical or Wicked, and although a new production of 9 to 5: The Musical is going on tour, I don’t think it would be a sufficient draw for CTG.  I still don’t think Emojiland: The Musical  will end up at the Ahmanson either.

And still no Spongebob Musical. But one can always hope.

Share

🎭 What You Find in Community | “Trayf” @ Geffen Playhouse

Trayf (Geffen Theatre)As you may have figured out by now, I wear many hats. Some look like train engineer hats. Some are whatever a roadgeek wears. Some protect your information technology investments. And others, well, clip on with a hair clip and cover your head in shul. In other words, a kippah. Now, mine isn’t always black, nor do I wear a fedora on top of that, or any other additional hat. Still, I know those communities well, being a co-maintainer of a set of Frequently Asked Questions on Judaism, as well as founder and moderator of the Liberal Judaism Mailing List.  More on that in a minute.

With my kippah on, I serve as facilitate for a group out of our Reform synagogue in Northridge that regularly attends Jewish-themed live theatre. We’ve attended a wide variety of shows over the years: Eight Nights at Antaeus; It Shoulda’ Been You at MTG; Shared Legacies at JWT;  Stars of David at the Y! I Love Yiddish Fest; Fabulous Fanny Brice; Allan Sherman Unmasked!; and Jews, God, and History (Not Necessarily In That Order). So I’m always on the lookout for Jewish themed theatre for our group; and as COVID restrictions were lifting, something we could do in person again. So I was very pleased to get an email from the Geffen Playhouse announcing a production that sounded interesting. Here was the description:

Zalmy lives a double life. By day, he drives a Chabad “Mitzvah Tank” through 1990s New York City, performing good deeds with his best friend Shmuel. By night, he sneaks out of his orthodox community to roller-skate and listen to rock and roll. But when a curious outsider offers him unfettered access to the secular world, is it worth jeopardizing everything he’s ever known? This road-trip bromance is a funny and heartwarming ode to the turbulence of youth, the universal suspicion that we don’t quite fit in, and the faith and friends that see us through.

The production was Trayf , written by Lindsay Joell and directed by Maggie Burrows, which would be running at the Geffen from March 1 through April 10, 2022. So I put out a call to see if there was interest, and coordinated group tickets. We ended up with a group of 18 temple members, who came out to Westwood Saturday afternoon to see the show. It was a very successful outing.

Trayf tells the story of Zalmy (Ilan Eskenazi) and Shmuel (Ben Hirschhorn), two Chassids out Crown Heights, best friends since grade school, who are going around encouraging people to do mitzvahs. For shoe unfamiliar with Chassidic Judaism, you should consult my FAQ let me explain (from my FAQ): Chassidic Judaism is a group within the broader rubric of Orthodox Judaism. It started in the 1700’s (Common Era) in Eastern Europe in response to a void felt by many average observant Jews of the day. The founder of Chassidism, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (referred to as the “Besht,” an acronym of his name) was a great scholar and mystic, devoted to both the revealed, outer aspect, and hidden, inner aspect of Torah. He and his followers, without veering from a commitment to Torah, created a way of Jewish life that emphasized the ability of all Jews to grow closer to G-d via everything that we do, say, and think. In contrast to the somewhat intellectual style of the mainstream Jewish leaders of his day and their emphasis on the primacy of Torah study, the Besht emphasized a constant focus on attachment to G-d and Torah no matter what one is involved with. The group continued, as modern Lubavitch Chassidism,  commonly known as Chabad, follows Rabbi Schneerson and his teaching. They are still very active today with Chabad Houses in almost every community. They are well known for inviting more secular Jewish in to do commandments laid out in the Torah, such as joining them for Shabbat, laying Tefillin. Back in the 1990s, when this story took place, they were active going out on the streets to pull folks in to do Mitzvahs. I remember them regularly on the streets of Westwood when I was at UCLA.

So, back to the story. Zalmy and Shmuel are in Chabad, best friends in the insular community that is Crown Heights, following all strictures of Orthodox — including separation from the secular world. Their own outreach is the Mitzvah Tank — a van they take to neighborhoods to “spread the word” (but only to other Jews, as Judaism does not encourage conversion). Shmuel has a secret, thought … he loves secular music and is drawn to it. One day, in comes Jonathan (Garrett Young), a young man whose father just died, and who discovered information that his father’s family were survivors of the holocaust, rescued by a non-Jewish family. He wants to get in touch with his Jewish soul. One of the through lines of this play is Jonathan’s movement into the insular community. As he learns about Chabad’s enthusiastic brand of Judaism, he is drawn in deeper.

But we do learn in Judaism that no one’s path is travelled in isolation. Jonathan’s journey impacts others. One person impacted is Leah (Louisa Jacobson), Jonathan’s girlfriend. Suddenly — although she is Jewish by birth — she is no longer Jewish enough for Jonathan. You see, she was raised Reform. Her kitchen isn’t kosher; she doesn’t observe the strictures, and Jonathan pulls away. Also impacted is the tight friendship of Zalmy and Shmuel. Shmuel is drawn to Jonathan for the secular music, and keeps encouraging Jonathan to come into the Chabad community more. But as he comes in, the secular is pushed out. This drives wedges between Jonathan and Shmuel, and Shmuel’s embracing of the secular draws a wedge between him and Zalmy.

On one hand, this story is a deep examination of the power of friendship, and whether that friendship can survive someone moving out of an insular community. Is the strictures of one’s faith more powerful than friendship. But this is also an examination of what an insular community can do to someone: how it can draw them in and get them to reject their former live and friends. But for me, what was most telling was the one scene with Leah, where a Reform Jewish woman was considered “less than” by these two young Chabbadniks. That’s not really what Judaism teaches, yet it is an attitude that is far too common.

This got me thinking back to my days at UCLA, across the street from the Geffen. I was effectively a Jewish Studies minor, and I knew a few Chabbadniks. Yet I never gave in to going to the Chabad House (or Hillel). I know folks who did. But one of my best friend was from the Orthodox Yeshiva community, and we had wide ranging intellectual discussions I treasure to this day. There is beauty in what Chabad does; but I don’t always agree with their isolating approaches. But it did trigger those memories.

In general, I think this was a great show for our little group (I’ve also recommended The Lehman Trilogy, which we saw last week). I’m on the lookout for our next show.

Rounding out the cast as the necessary understudies one needs in this COVID world: Katie Croyle U/S Leah; Josh Green U/S Zalmy / Shmuel; and John Garet Stoker U/S Jonathan.

The scenic design by Tim Mackabee was simple: chairs, a streetlight, some signs, a center auto console with a tape deck. This conveyed enough to establish the needed sense of place. It was supported by Lap Chi Chu‘s lighting design that established the mood, and Everett Elton Bradman‘s sound design, which provided the soundscape for the lives and communities. Denitsa Bliznakova‘s costumes captured the Chabad esthetic well. Rounding out the production team were: KC Monnie Choreographer; Rachel Wiegardt-Egel Dramaturg; Leia S. Crawford Production Stage Manager; Matt Shakman Artistic Director; Gill Cates Jr. Executive Director; and Behnaz Ataee CFO.  I always make a point to credit the COVID-19 Compliance Manager, Phil Gold, without whose work the theatre would not happen.

Trayf continues at the Geffen Playhouse through April 10. Tickets are available through the Geffen; discount tickets may be available through Goldstar.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member (modulo the COVID break). 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 (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Actors Co-op (FB), 5 Star Theatricals (FB), Broadway in Hollywood (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), and we have a membership at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB). We were subscribing at the Musical Theatre Guild (FB) prior to COVID; they have not yet resumed productions. We have also been subscribers at the Soraya/VPAC (FB), although we are waiting a year before we pick that up again. 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. Note to publicists or producers reading this: here’s my policy on taking comp tickets. Bottom-Line: Only for things of nominal value, like Fringe.

Upcoming Shows:

For right now, we’re pretty much sticking with shows that come as part of our subscriptions or are of interest through our memberships. That may change later in 2022. As for the remainder of the first half of 2022: We have no more theatre in March. April brings Ann at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB), the Southern California Renaissance Faire; and Tootsie at Broadway in Hollywood (FB). May brings Hadestown at at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). June will see Come From Away at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) and Pretty Woman at Broadway in Hollywood (FB), as well as Tom Paxon at McCabes plus as much of the Hollywood Fringe Festival as we have the energy for.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarOn Stage 411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. 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 (although I know it is outdated and need to update it). Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country (again, I need to review this for the post-COVID theatre landscape)!

Share

🎭 That Last Step is a Doozy | “The Lehman Trilogy” @ Ahmanson

The Lehman Trilogy (Ahmanson)Well, that was unexpected.

Yesterday, we went to go see The Lehman Trilogy at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Unlike the musicals we see (where I generally know the music and perhaps the plot ahead of time), I knew nothing about this show other than the awards it had won. I was expecting, perhaps, a conventional play that focused heavily of the fall of Lehman Brothers: that is, focusing on the circumstances that led to the fall. I thought it might be similar to Enron, the play that told the downfall of Enron. It wasn’t.

I also expected, perhaps because it is the current trend in the theatre, a play that was pretty realistic in its staging and presentation. Conventional sets, multiple locations, good old flying scenery.

Instead, I got a play that I wanted to recommend to my synagogue’s live theatre group; a play that was very Jewish in content. I got a play that had a single modernistic advanced office set, with the basic props being tables, (transparent) white boards, and loads of moving boxes. I got three actors portraying a multitude of characters.

This wasn’t at all what I expected. Yet I was engrossed in the story from the minute that it started, and the 3 hour 20 minute running time (3 acts, 2 15-minute intermissions) just flew by.

The Lehman Trilogy, with story by Stefano Massini adapted by Ben Power, tells the story of the Lehman Brothers Investment Bank, from the origin to the fall. The first act (“Three Brothers”) focuses on the first going into the second generation, beginning with the establishing of first a fabric store (and then a cotton trading concern) by three brothers in Montgomery Alabama: Henry Lehman (Simon Russell Beale), Emanuel Lehman (Howard W. Overshown), and Mayer Lehman  (Adam Godley). The family emigrated from Bavaria to find a better world before the Civil War — a common path for Jews at the time (my family was similar, coming from Eastern Europe to Tennessee). Throughout this act, the Judaism was emphasized, and how it dictated their behaviors, how they celebrated, how the cycle the governed their lives was Jewish, and how they sat Shiva and closed their business for a week when one of the brothers died.  This act also shows the origins of the financial firm, moving from selling cotton goods to selling the raw cotton from the south to the north, and finding profit in being the middleman. This continued as the family started the move to New York, and the branching into other commodities such as coffee. It was also when we saw the first foreys into Lehman Brothers being a bank.

The second act (“Fathers and Sons”) focuses on the next generation, where we get to meet Emanuel’s son Philip Lehman and Mayer’s son, Herbert Lehman. We get a deep exploration of the relationship of each son with their father, and in turn we get introduced to the next generation, Robert “Bobbie” Lehman, Philip’s son. We see the commodity traders start to broaden the investment portfolio, and become more of an investment bank. We also see them move further from Judaism — it is explicitly noted they move into Reform (mistakenly called “Reformed” — tsk, tsk), and mourning periods become shorter. The emphasis is that this is the American generation, bringing American values and American greed. The move away from investments that can be seen and touched and traded becomes increasingly foreign to the older generations. Values are lost.\

The last act (“The Immortal”) focuses on the last generation of Lehman to run the bank, Bobbie Lehman. It also focuses on how times were changing in the 1950s and 1960s, and how increasingly modern ideas were reshaping banking. This included an upstart trading division run by Lewis Glucksman, a new Presidency under Pete Peterson, and the successor, Richard Fuld. It is in this act we see the loss of the family from the leadership, and perhaps the loss of the family values and the Jewish values. But the actual end comes very abruptly with only a few minutes focusing on how the company was divided up, and then went bankrupt. It doesn’t provide a lot of understanding of the fall, other than the notion that things went off the rails when the family left.

The storytelling was done in an interesting way. The actors, in addition to performing a multitude of characters, also served to narrate the story. There’s a lot of exposition in this one, folks. This is very much a “tell you the story”, vs “show you the story” form of play. The set was simple: a modern office, desks, lamps, loads of moving boxes that were stacked and restacked to form things, and clear Plexiglas walls used as whiteboards. It was effective, although the ceiling of the set limited sightlines from the balcony seats (where we were).

The performances themselves were very strong. Beale, Godley, and Overshown captured all their different characters well, and really brought acting to the fore in how one actor can be multiple people.

So what is the verdict? First, this show is definitely worth seeing. The story is engrossing, and you learn things about the Lehman family you probably never knew. The performances are strong and the staging is amazing. However, you do walk about wondering if the fall of the firm was ever adequately explained. But perhaps that’s the point: to stimulate that discussion, as opposed to whacking you over the head with a moral.

Rounding out the cast were: Aaron Krohn Janitor, Mayer Lehman Standby; Tony Carlin Henry Lehman Standby; R. J. Foster Emanuel Lehman Standby; and the individuals whose sole job is to be extras in the closing scene (I hope they have something fun to do while they are waiting): EJ Assi, Mark Jacob Chaitin, Lee Cohen, Sumeet Dang, Sabah El-Amin, Bo Foxworth, John Massey, Jalon Matthews, Elaine Rivkin, Scott Roberts, Kyla Schoer, Sean Smith, Heather L. Tyler, and Tom Waters.

Music was provided by Rebekah Bruce and Em Goldman Pianists.

The production was directed by Sam Mendes Director assisted by Zoé Ford Burnett Associate Director and Rory McGregor Assistant Director. Movement was coordinated by Polly Bennett. The design team was Es Devlin Scenic Design; Katrina Lindsay Costume Design; Luke Halls Video Design; Jon Clark Lighting Design; Nick Powell Composer and Sound Design; Dominic Bilkey Co Sound Design; and Candida Caldicot Music Director.  I’ve already commented on the scenic design; I’ll note additionally that a number of design elements were not visible from the balcony due to the “ceiling” of the office. There’s no need for that ceiling dramatically; it is a flaw of the scenic design. I also want to note the sound design: there were excellent sound effects throughout the show. Rounding out the production team: Wendy Spon CDG Casting; Jim Carnahan CSA Casting; Aurora Productions Production Management; Jim Leaver UK Production Manager; David Lober Production Stage Manager; Cynthia Cahill Stage Manager; Danielle Ranno Stage Manager Megan Curren Associate General Manager; and Deirdre Murphy Company Manager. I always make a point of crediting the COVID Safety Team: Uriel Trepman Covid Safety Manager – The Lehman Trilogy; Niki Armato Facilities Asst./COVID Compliance Officer; and Nicki Heskin Temporary COVID Communications Manager.

The Lehman Trilogy continues at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) through April 10. Tickets are available through the Ahmanson Theatre; discount tickets may be available through Goldstar or through TodayTix.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member (modulo the COVID break). 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 (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Actors Co-op (FB), 5 Star Theatricals (FB), Broadway in Hollywood (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), and we have a membership at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB). We were subscribing at the Musical Theatre Guild (FB) prior to COVID; they have not yet resumed productions. We have also been subscribers at the Soraya/VPAC (FB), although we are waiting a year before we pick that up again. 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. Note to publicists or producers reading this: here’s my policy on taking comp tickets. Bottom-Line: Only for things of nominal value, like Fringe.

Upcoming Shows:

For right now, we’re pretty much sticking with shows that come as part of our subscriptions or are of interest through our memberships. That may change later in 2022. As for the remainder of the first half of 2022: Next up in March Trayf at the Geffen Playhouse (with the TAS Live Theatre group). April brings Ann at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB), the Southern California Renaissance Faire; and Tootsie at Broadway in Hollywood (FB). May brings Hadestown at at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). June will see Come From Away at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) and Pretty Woman at Broadway in Hollywood (FB), plus as much of the Hollywood Fringe Festival as we have the energy for.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarOn Stage 411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. 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 (although I know it is outdated and need to update it). Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country (again, I need to review this for the post-COVID theatre landscape)!

Share

🛣 Changes to the California Highway Website covering January-February 2022

And the first updates for 2022 to the California Highways Website are live. Enjoy. And as always… ready, set, discuss …

February 2022:

And with the flip of a calendar page, we’re in a new year. Hopefully 2022 will see the COVID numbers continue to decline, continuing infections go down, and our moving into an endemic vs a pandemic phase. We will eventually get this to a level where we can live with it, and it will be like a seasonal flu: fatal for some, a serious illness for others, mild for still others, and some will be resistant. As always, you can do your part to help us return to the new normal, when we can get out on the road again: do what you can do to stop the spread of the disease (wear masks, get vaccinated), and stay home when you don’t feel well or have been around folks that might have been contagious. I know this sounds like a broken record each update, but I’m tired of dealing with this from the last two years. I’m doing my part—with your help, perhaps we can get past this.

Beyond that, 2022 has started out really busy: We’re understaffed at work and the customer wants more (and we’re looking for good folks, so if you see something of interest let me know and I might be able to refer you in). My wife is still recovering from her fall in November, and I’m still acting as a caregiver. We still have the occasional theatre. But I’m taking some time to get these updates done for you. So let’s begin, shall we?

Updates were made to the following highways, based on my reading of the (virtual) papers in January and February 2022 (which are posted to the roadgeeking category at the “Observations Along The Road” and to the California Highways Facebook group) as well as any backed up email changes. I also reviewed the the AAroads forum (Ꜳ). This resulted in changes on the following routes, with credit as indicated [my research(ℱ), contributions of information or leads (via direct mail or ꜲRoads) from GaryA(2), Nathan Edgars (NE2)(3), Tom Fearer(4)Great Lakes Roads(5), Tike Narry(6)]: Route 1(ℱ,4), Route 2(ℱ), I-5(ℱ), US 6(3), Route 12(ℱ), Route 17(ℱ), Route 19(4), Route 22(4), Route 32(ℱ), Route 35(ℱ),  Route 37(ℱ), Route 39(4), US 40(4), Route 42(4), Route 47(3), US 66(4), Route 67(4), Route 75(ℱ), Route 78(ℱ), I-80(ℱ,4), Route 89(ℱ), US 91(4), Route 99(ℱ,4), US 101(ℱ), US 101A(4), Route 103(3), I-105(4), Route 118(ℱ,2), Route 123(ℱ), Route 125(4,5), I-215(ℱ), Route 133(ℱ,4), Route 138(ℱ), Route 198(ℱ), Route 231(ℱ), Route 238(ℱ),  Route 239(6), Route 241(ℱ,4), Route 261(ℱ,4), I-505(ℱ), Route 710(ℱ, 3), I-880(ℱ).
(Source: private email, Highway headline posts through February 27, 2022 as indicated, AARoads through 02/27/2022)

Added the Gribblenation page “Golden State Highways” to the appropriate regional links page. As a reminder: If you have a regional page (state, country), please let me know so I can add it to the links directory. Yes, this is old-fashioned in these days of search engines, but it still does serve to increase the visibility and ranking of all sites.

Reviewed the Pending Legislation page, based on the California Legislature site. As usual, I recommend to every Californian that they visit the legislative website regularly and see what their legis-critters are doing. As many people are unfamiliar with how the legislature operates (and why there are so many “non-substantive changes” and “gut and amend” bills), I’ve added the legislative calendar to the end of the Pending Legislation page. The last day for bills to be introduced is Feb 18; to get a new bill after that, and existing bill must be amended. As a result, quite a few “non-substantial changes” bills are introduced as placeholders. These bills that make a minor meaningless grammatical change in some provision, just so there is a bill in the system that can later be amended to do something else after the deadline for introducing bills has passed. Some of the more amusing ones are AB1673 (Counties); AB1901 (California State Boundaries); AB1953 (Assembly Great Seal); AB1967 (State Government); AB2174 (Traffic Control Devices); AB2493 (Cities and Counties); AB2760 (Utility poles and structures); and SB1243 (Counties). This also shows “hot topics” for the year, included bills related to retail shoplifting, cryptocurrency, catalytic converter thefts, broadband equity, and elections. At this point, no bills have been passed in the 2022 session. Note: As a side-impact of this, I made some formatting changes to make the legislative page easier to read.

Through the headline discovery I do, I discovered the online agenda of the California Coastal Commission. I reviewed the agenda for the 2021 and 2022 Coastal Commission meetings, and noted the following actions that rose to the level of Highway Page significance:

  • February 2022 (Weds., 11.a) Application № 4-21-0182 (Caltrans, Santa Barbara Co.).
    Application of Caltrans to replace Route 217 bridge at San Jose Creek with new bridge with four traffic lanes, standard bridge railings and shoulders, separated bicycle and pedestrian path, and coastal hazards adaptation features, located between the City of Goleta and the University of California, Santa Barbara in unincorporated Santa Barbara County. (SD-V)
    ❧ Moved to Consent Calendar, APPROVED WITH CONDITIONS
  • September 2021 (Thurs., 10.a): September 2021 Application № 1-21-0074 (Caltrans, Fort Bragg)
    Application of California Department of Transportation to widen two-lane Route 1 bridge over Pudding Creek to add shoulder width and separated pedestrian walkways with relocation of utility lines and drainage improvements at Highway 1 crossing of Pudding Creek in City of Fort Bragg, Mendocino County. (AL-A)
    ❧ Moved to Consent Calendar, APPROVED WITH CONDITIONS
  • January 2021 (Weds 11.a) January 2021 Application № 1-20-0422 (Caltrans, Del Norte County)
    Application of California Department of Transportation to demolish and replace existing two-lane U.S. Highway 101 (Dr. Fine) bridge over Smith River with new two lane bridge with separated pedestrian walkway and construct temporary detour bridge, relocate utility lines, and replace culverts at Highway 101 crossing of Smith River, Del Norte County. (TG-A)
    ❧ APPROVED WITH CONDITIONS

I checked California Transportation Commission page for the results of the January 2022 meeting of the California Transportation Commission. As always, note that I tend not to track items that do not impact these pages — i.e., pavement rehabilitation or replacement, landscaping, drainage, culverts, roadside facilities, charging stations, or other things that do not impact the routing or history, unless they are really significant. As such, the following items were of interest:

[ Note: ° indicates items that were below the level of detail for updating the specific route pages; ♠ is an indicator used to keep track of what has been added to the pages; ❧ indicates the results from the meeting, if the meeting minutes were available. ]
Read More …

Share

🎭 Who Cares for the Caretaker? | “Marvin’s Room” @ Actors Co-Op

Marvin's Room (Actors Co-Op)The last few times I’ve gone to the theatre it’s been strange. Either I went without my usual theatre companion, because she was in the hospital, or I had to navigate handicapped access at the theatre. This is because my wife (my regular theatre companion) fell in mid-November, and after a few weeks in the hospital, has been in a wheelchair ever since. She just got the clearance last Thursday to start putting weight on the leg; she won’t be walking normally for a while. This has put me in the position of being her caretaker, on top of my normal work and volunteer activities. It also means I’ve doing everything around the house. It’s exhausting.

Why do I mention all this in a theatre writeup? Last night, we saw a show at yet another of our subscription venues that is coming back to life. This time it was our intimate theatre subscription at  Actors Co-op (FB), which is on the grounds of First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. The show was the show that was just about to go on when the world shut down: Marvin’s Room,  written by Scott McPherson, directed by Thomas James O’Leary. I’m not sure I would have gotten it then. I get it now (after a bit of thought).

This is because Marvin’s Room is, at its heart, about caregivers.  In one corner we have Bessie (Francesca Casale), who has given up her life for the last 20 years to take care of her father, Marvin, and her Aunt Ruth (Crystal Yvonne Jackson). Marvin has been living with a number of medical complications: diabetes, a stroke, and much more. Ruth is in better shape, but has been dealing with constant pain and dementia. In the other corner we have Bessie’s estranged sister, Lee (Tara Battani). Lee is also a caretaker, but in the other direction: she’s taking care of her two sons: Hank (Dean Hermansen) and Charlie (Marek Meyers). Lee also has her hands full: Hank is in a mental institution after setting their house on fire, and Charlie (who looks up to his brother) has retreated into books.

Normally, the worlds of these two related caretakers would not collide: one is in Florida; the other has retreated to Ohio. However, there arises the age-old question: who takes care of the caretaker? In this case (and the precipitating incident for the play) is Bessie being diagnosed with Leukemia. She needs a blood marrow transplant, and who better than her sister and her family. When these groups are brought together, we see the different ways that the sisters have dealt with their caregiving: Bessie does it through patience and love; Lee does it through anger and drowning her sorrows. The problem is that approaches that work for one doesn’t work for all. It turns out that Bessie has the approach that can get through to Hank. Through that approach, we see the sisters come together.

On the surface, play is loaded with jokes,  and quite a few of the characters — in particular Aunt Ruth and the supporting characters Doctor Wally (Brian Habicht) and Doctor Charlotte / Retirement Home Director (Kimi Walker) — are played more as caricatures for the broad humor. The jokes keep the level of entertainment up. But it is the characters that sustain it. Figuring out the point of the story was a bit harder. As I left, I was unsure what the story was about or what the point was. But I let it cogitate in my head — I did my headlines post and updated the highway pages — and as I reread the synopsis it came to me.

There are two key messages in this play. The first is about approaches to caretaking. One can approach it with humor and patience, taking things one day at a time. This was Bessie’s approach (and in many ways, the approach I take). But it is tiring, and it takes something out of you. Lee had a different approach. Hard, pushing those in her care away. She didn’t want to deal with the problems. For her, the answer was in letter her guard down, and seeing those in her care (and who cared about her) as people.

The second message in the play was about who takes care of the caretaker. This is a joke I’ve had with my wife: can you finally get well so I can get sick? A big fear of a caretaker is who will take care of your charges and responsibilities if you get sick. Both Bessie and Lee had this issue. Bessie was worried about the older generation, and she wanted to retain the control (eschewing a retirement home). Lee was worried, but in a different way. You got the sense that Lee’s life was defined by the care she was given, even if she was angry about it. She was scared more of being alone.

These came together in the moment when the two sisters put down their guard and actually talked to, as opposed to at, each other. I think in that moment, they saw each other. That different form of care is what elevated this play.

We’ve had two plus years of taking care of each other, and we’re tired. We’re worried what will happen to us if we aren’t there to take care of those we love. Perhaps the delay in the presentation of Marvin’s Room made the presentation more timely than the Actors Co-Op team knew when they made the selection.

I still, however, want to see what would have been the remaining play in their season, the musical A Man of No Importance.  Maybe it will be in the 2022-2023 season.

The performances in the production were strong. I’ve listed most of the cast above. I particularly liked the performances of Francesca Casale, who really brought Bessie to live, and Dean Hermansen, who captured both the anger and the depth of Hank.

Rounding out the cast was Justin Bowles Marvin/Bob.

The scenic design of Nicholas Acciani (with additional work by David Atkinson and Jeff McGrail) established the location well; Avery Reagan lighting established the mood well (additional lighting help by Martha Carter). The costumes of E. B. Brooks (assisted by Annie Szeliski) established the characters well. Rounding out the production team were: David B. Marling Sound Design; Lori Berg Property Design; Dylan Price Original Music; Kassy Menke Stage Manager; Mia Cotton Asst. Stage Manager; Emmett Lee Merritt Asst. Stage Manager; Nora Feldman Publicist; Carly Lopez 2020 Producer; Crystal Yvonne Jackson 2022 Producer.

A few additional caregiving notes: The support from Actors Co-Op for the handicapped access was great. A bit weaker was their COVID protocols: they did require vaccinations 👍🏼 and masks 👍🏼, but also accepted proof of negative testing 🤷‍♂️ and a statement of acquired immunity 👎🏼. I’m lukewarm on that last one, but I understand their audience and luckily the numbers are going down. They did have an announcement about keeping masks on, but did not check ID/vaccination status trusting people on their word. In a theatre crowd, that’s likely OK… but I would have been more comfortable if they had checked. Hopefully, they can get a checking protocol in place for future performances. The program does not credit a COVID compliance officer or COVID coordinator — that could be part of the problem 🤔.

Marvin’s Room continues at Actors Co-Op through March 27. Tickets are available through Actors Co-Op. Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar.

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member (modulo the COVID break). 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 (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Actors Co-op (FB), 5 Star Theatricals (FB), Broadway in Hollywood (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), and we have a membership at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB). We were subscribing at the Musical Theatre Guild (FB) prior to COVID; they have not yet resumed productions. We have also been subscribers at the Soraya/VPAC (FB), although we are waiting a year before we pick that up again. 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. Note to publicists or producers reading this: here’s my policy on taking comp tickets. Bottom-Line: Only for things of nominal value, like Fringe.

Upcoming Shows:

For right now, we’re pretty much sticking with shows that come as part of our subscriptions or are of interest through our memberships. That may change later in 2022. As for the remainder of the first half of 2022: March brings The Lehman Trilogy at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB), Trayf at the Geffen Playhouse (with the TAS Live Theatre group). April brings Ann at The Pasadena Playhouse (FB), the Southern California Renaissance Faire; and Tootsie at Broadway in Hollywood (FB). May brings Hadestown at at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). June will see Come From Away at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) and Pretty Woman at Broadway in Hollywood (FB), plus as much of the Hollywood Fringe Festival as we have the energy for.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarOn Stage 411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. 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 (although I know it is outdated and need to update it). Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country (again, I need to review this for the post-COVID theatre landscape)!

Share