🎭 HFF19 #12/#13: “A Night Out” / “Neighborhood Watch”

userpic=fringeThe second set of shows we saw Saturday, as I noted before, also demonstrate the reasons why someone produces a show at the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). Again, we had a larger-cast drama (A Night Out) and a one-woman show (Neighborhood Watch) . But there were difference this time. The ensemble drama wasn’t new: it was an established play from 1951, being presented to showcase a set of actors from the LACC Theatre Academy. The one-woman show wasn’t an established scripts, but a one-woman comedy telling stories about a neighborhood and its problems.


A Night Out (HFF19)The third show of the evening was A Night Out, which is an early (1959) less produced play by Harold Pinter. We went to see it because we knew someone in the cast from our days subscribing at the late, great, Repertory East Playhouse in Santa Clarita.

A Night Out is a strange play. Wikipedia summarizes it thusly:

Albert Stokes, a loner in his late twenties lives with his emotionally suffocating mother and works in an office. After being falsely accused of groping a female at an office party, he wanders the streets until he meets a girl, who invites him to her flat, where he responds to her overtures by angrily demeaning her. Then he returns home to his mother.

Another summary I found captures the play a bit better: Alburt Stokes is not only henpecked by his mother, but by his friends. Even though he disdains interest in women, his friends push them on him as a joke. Even though it wasn’t he who groped the woman, his boss believed the accusation. When he gets called a Mother’s Boy, the rage within him outs, and keeps coming out to the end of the play.

That’s the story. But what’s the underlying point of the play? That’s much harder, and I think the answer is different  60 years later from when this play was first done. Back in 1959, the teasing and bullying was normal, and I think the focus was on the impact of the demented mother. But today?  You have a man who is not interested in girls — or boys for that matter — being pressured for it. In the closet asexual? Gay? Those wouldn’t have been notions in the 1960s. Then there’s the groping, which comes across totally different in the #metoo era than it would in 1959. There’s the whole issue of false accusations (Mr. Ryan clearly did the touching), and the reaction of people to it. Then there’s the behavior of the mother, who in the 1960s would appear to be the henpecker, but today seems to be clearly dealing with dementia and potential Alzheimers, and is just grasping for normalcy, a standard rhythm, and a pattern in life.

Today, this play would be reconsidered, and possibly have those points explored more. But for now, this is just slightly comprehensible early Pinter.

What makes this play standout are the performances, under the direction of Sam Grey (FB), assisted by Michael Macrae (FB). In the lead positions are Georgan George (⭐FB) as Mother, and Troy Rossi (FB) as Albert. We’ve known and seen George for years going back to when we first met her at REP. She’s grown as an actress, and was simply steller in this production, capturing the dementia and the tenderness of the character well, as well as those glimpses of something more. Rossi was very strong as Albert, presenting a wonderful simmering rage under the surface; an anger that just kept growing as people kept pushing and prodding at him. Both were mesmerizing to watch.

As The Girl (also Betty), Amy Kersten (FB) did a great job of portraying the British girl who was just looking for fun, and got more than she expected.

The remainder of the cast had much smaller roles, or selected point interactions. They were all strong, but didn’t have the time to establish lasting characterizations that stuck with you: Sam Grey (FBSeeley; Tyler Smith (FBKedge; Oliver Boon Barman/Horne; Simon James Mr. King; Christelle Baguidy (FBJoyce; Bree Wernicke (FBEileen; Cyrus Palizban (FBGidney; and Michael Macrae (FBBarrow.

There are no credits given for scenic, sound, lighting, etc. The only production credits in the program are Jesse Fiene Stage Manager; and Crescent Hurley Asst. Stage Manager.

If I had one suggestion to make for this show, it would be this: Support your acting team. Find the space to duplicate a full page, double-sided program with short bios, even if it is black and white. Get all your actors to have profiles on the Fringe website, and have them linked on the show pages. Create a page for the show — even a free wordpress site — that has links to the pages on the actors. You’re not doing this show to sell an established play, but to sell and promote the acting talent in the play. Those people who like the talent need to be able to find them again.

A Night Out has two more performances: Fri 6/28 at 630pm and Sat 6/29 at 1030p. The story may be a bit incomprehensible (but, hey, this is Pinter), but the acting is top-notch and the show is worth seeing and trying to figure out. The show just needs to promote the wonderful actors better. Tickets are available through the show’s Fringe website.


Neighborhood Watch (HFF19)The last show we saw on Saturday was another one-woman show: Neighborhood Watch, written and performed by Lisa Pedace (FB). When I was first contacted about this show, I thought it would be something along the lines of Town Brawl, which we saw last week. Perhaps it started that way, but that’s not where it ended up.

Neighborhood Watch is ostensibly about a woman decrying the changes that have happened in her tract home neighborhood of almost 30 years. As President of her Neighborhood Watch, she’s seen the neighborhood changes from a community of like-minded people concerned about each other, to a neighborhood that only cares about itself: from the half-dog half-horse leaving turds on her lawn, the airbnb, the renters, and the people that just don’t care.

So far, so much Next Door territory.

But the story takes a sharp turn to the weird when the chickens move in. And when she starts recording them on her phone, and then starts playing them backwards to find hidden messages … you begin to wonder whether it is the neighborhood that has turned weird, or whether someone else has gone off the deep end.

Overall, the show is a great mix of humor and the weird. It holds your attention throughout, and is really fun to watch. Plus, they sell spices in conjunction with the show. It’s a long story. You’ll need to go to the show to see it, but I understand that the special spice is great on Chicken.

There are no other production credits given, and there were no programs handed out.

There are two more performances of Neighborhood Watch: Sat 6/29 at 300pm, and Sun 6/30 at 530pm. It’s a funny show, and worth seeing. Haven’t tried the spices yet. TIckets are available through the Fringe website.

🎭

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted (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 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) [2018-2019 season], and the Musical Theatre Guild (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:

The the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) has started. If you are unfamilar with Fringe, there are around 380 shows taking place over the month of June, mostly in the stretch of Santa Monica Blvd between 1 bl W of La Brea to 1 bl E of Vine, but all generally in Hollywood. On a first pass, there were lots I was interested in, 30 I could fit on a calendar, but even less that I could afford. Here is my current Fringe schedule as of the date of this writeup. [Here’s my post with all shows of interest — which also shows my most current HFF19 schedule. Note: unlike my normal policy, offers of comps or discounts are entertained, but I have to be able to work them into the schedule with the limitations noted in my HFF19 post]:

Key: : Non-Fringe Show/Event; °: Producer/Publicist Arranged Comp or Discount

As for July, it is already filling up. The first weekend of the month is still open. The second weekend brings An Intimate Evening with Kristen Chenowith at,The Hollywood Bowl (FB).  The third weekend of July brings Miss Saigon at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), followed by A Comedy of Errors from Shakespeare by the Sea (FB)/Little Fish Theatre(FB). The last weekend of July brings West Side Story at 5 Star Theatricals (FB). August starts with an alumni Shabbat at camp, and The Play That Goes Wrong at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). August ends with Mother Road at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (FB), and we might do rush tickets for Alice in Wonderland as well. In between those points, August is mostly open.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 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. 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!

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🎭 HFF #10/#11: “Silver Bullet” / “Shirley Valentine”

userpic=fringeWhy does someone invest their time and money to do a show at the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB)? It really varies by show, but the four shows that we saw on Saturday truly demonstrated that wide range of reasons: from starting a play onto what will hopefully be a long life, to showcasing an established actress, to showcasing a set of students and actors, to putting on a one-woman show to spread a message. All are reasons artists take the time to be at Fringe. But artists are nothing without an audience to hear and see them, and Saturday’s shows demonstrated that as well: the importance of folks like you and me being that audience.


Silver Bullet (HFF19)Silver Bullet was one of those projects that is just beginning its life. It was a world premiere of a play by Jesse Feldberg (FB), and of the many routes a new play could take, was traversing the route of the Fringe Festival to shape its development.  Some plays work with companies (such as the reading we saw a few weeks ago); some find backers and go through workshops; this play decided to brave the dark alleys of the Fringe Festival. Appropriate. I learned about the play a few weeks ago when the author contacted me and invited me to see it. The description sounded interesting, and so I coordinated tickets:

A film noir inspired drama in which an upper class business woman must control the investigation into the death of her best friend’s husband while the detective must use his charm and intellect to uncover the truth, navigate class politics, and avoid the wailing siren of the femme fatale.

My top level assessment after seeing the show?  There’s potential there, but it does need some work (which isn’t a bad thing). It didn’t have a Fringe-y feel to it: the story felt put together, and the performances were reasonably good. Yes, there were some staging and performance notes, but those are correctable. More significant was the story: there is potential there, but some more shaping is needed to bring it to that next level.

The story itself is much like the “Law” side of a “Law and Order” episode: we see a murder take place between two people we don’t know. Apparently, a police officer was shot by some woman on his day off. We then see the investigation into that murder by an Det. Mathieu North, with the discusssions revolving around the victim’s wife, Angelina Mulroney, and her employer, Lila Caine. North, complicating the matter, develops feelings for Caine from the get-go while also considering her his prime suspect, which annoys his boss, Capt. Beverly McKennon, no end.

The basic notion of the story is fine, but there are a number of story aspects that serve only to distract or confuse. For example, at the end of the show we learn that Angelina was beat up by her husband supposedly the morning of the murder and Lila saw that. Yet the detective at the beginning didn’t notice or comment on the bruises — a beating that the Captain indicated landed Angelina in the hospital. This timeline makes no sense. Either there needs to be sufficient time for bruises to heal and not be visible, or the detective needs to see the bruises. Second, at some point the Detective and Lila go out for dinner, and she makes the comment when the main dish was brought that she was starving and hadn’t had anything to eat. That’s distracting, as they ordered both soup and salad, and the soup would have been brought before the main dish — in a finer restaurant in the 30s, with bread. Either the dialogue or the order of the meal needs correction. There was also a comment about print not being dead when a character is reading a paper. That’s not something that would have been said in the 30s and 40s, when print news was in its heyday (newsreels and radio were a far 2nd), and television news hadn’t even started.

There are some larger issues. Although I’m not a writer (except of comments on government documents), I do know that good stories move a character from one place in their life to another, with some change along the way triggered by some catalyst in the story. Det. North seems to be the only character in this play that changed at all. But what was the precipitating reason? A pretty girl. It’s unlikely that one girl would be sufficient, so it needs to be clearer what about Lila or this situation triggers the change in North. Why does he move from where he is at the beginning to where he is at the end?

Lastly, story-wise, somethings my wife noted. First and foremost, in the era in which this supposedly taking place, there would not be a female Captain of Detectives. In that era, women were just not in those positions in the Police Department. Either change the nature of the character to some other position, or have some justification as to why she was promoted from the Meter Maids of the era. Secondly, there was mention of USF, Jesuits, and lots of use of Yiddish. My wife went to Santa Clara University in the 70s, and knew the Jesuits. At the time, they didn’t know Yiddish — she had to teach it to them. They knew Hebrew. So that creates another jarring distraction.

All of these are correctable, and the basic story itself was interesting.

Moving to the staging aspects of the show, under the direction of Jesse Feldberg (FB): This supposedly was in the film noir style — a style characterized by pessimism, fatalism, and menace, by heightened sexual undertones, by a grittiness, a darkness, and a cynicism. There was also a strong emphasis on the dark underbelly of the urban experience. The sex came across, as did the cynicism … but the grittiness was replaced by darker lighting. If noir is the style desired, there needs to be a stronger way to convey the overall menace of this taking place in the big city — and perhaps why this particular detective stands above it all. It needs to embrace the Raymond Chandler, but not duplicate it (and especially not duplicate it to the form of parody of a Gary K Wolf). Hampering the staging was a subdued performance from the acting team. Not bad, mind you. My wife thought they came off as not invested in their roles. I don’t think it was that, but they were clearly at some lower energy state (or most of them were). There needed to be more snap and vitality under the surface. Again: This is something correctable. Lastly (and this is something only someone of my generation would pick up): They need to learn to dial a rotary phone.

Speaking of performance, the acting team was: Katherine Kimball (FBLila Caine; Taylor Mack (FBCapt. Beverly McKennon; Mark Piller (FB) Det. Mathieu North; Eden Rubinpour (FBAngelina Mulroney; Raul Tapia (FBMichael Mulroney, other male roles. A few notes here. I liked Kimball’s performance — much of the time she had the right energy and did a great job of exuding sexiness.  Piller needs to work a bit on his enunciation: it wasn’t until I started writing this post that I learned his name was “North”; from the show, I thought it was “Norf”. His performance was generally good, but needed a bit more energy and grittiness behind it. Rubinpour seemed to express the right amount of grief, but needed to work a bit more on capturing the subtext of why she was behaving the way she does — picking up mannerisms of a battered wife. We’ve noted the problems of a female captain before, but modulo that, Mack was good. Her costuming was more problematic: would a female detective wear that to the workplace (or go out with seams that weren’t absolutely straight).

Turning to the production side. There are no credits for scenic, costume, sound, or lighting. Other production credits: Venus Zamora Stage Manager; Steven Nelson (FBCasting; Taylor Mack (FB) and Katherine Kimball (FB) Producers; Jesse Feldberg (FB) and Steven Nelson (FB) Executive Producers.

There are two more performances of Silver Bullet: Sun 6/23 at 8pm, and Fri 6/28 at 7:30pm, at the Asylum Underground Theatre on Wilton near Fountain. Tickets are available through their Fringe web page. This was pretty good for the first outing of a script. It needed some work, but we enjoyed it.


If there is a lesson to be learned from our second show on Saturday, Shirley Valentine, it was the importance of marketing and an audience. I say this because we were the only audience. Well, the audience was us, the director, and the young lady who was taking tickets. This was an out of town director who was new to the Hollywood Fringe Festival, and it demonstrated the value of the Fringe social events, the postcards, the ads on the Fringe website and Better Lemons, and the promotion through the various bloggers, writers, and such. Sometimes a great show and a great title is not enough… even if it has been at previous festivals.

So why did we go? The simple answer is that I knew the title, and remembered the 1989 movie. I was curious about the original one-hander play that led to it, by Willy Russell. I knew the subject matter would be fun for my wife. So I went and got tickets. I’m so glad that I did.

For those unfamiliar with Shirley Valentine (which is apparently more people than I thought), Wikipedia describes it thusly:

Wondering what has happened to her youth and feeling stagnant and in a rut, Shirley finds herself regularly alone and talking to the wall while preparing an evening meal of egg and chips for her emotionally distant husband. When her best friend offers to pay for a trip-for-two to Greece, she packs her bags, leaves a note on the cupboard door in the kitchen, and heads for a fortnight of rest and relaxation. In Greece, with just a little effort on her part, she rediscovers everything she had been missing about her existence in England. She finds so much happiness, in fact, that when the vacation is over she decides not to return, ditching her friend at the airport and going back to the hotel where she’d been staying to ask for a job and to live a newly self-confident life in which she is at last true to herself.

This is a wonderful story of finding yourself, deciding to live life for your self, and doing what is right for you. Although the movie might make one think this is a larger story, the original play is a one-woman show loaded with British-isms. Be forewarned, forearmed, and bring your travelogues for the fortnight.

Side note: In researching this production (i.e., trying to find artist webpages), I discovered the show has been done previously at the United Solo Festival in NYC, and the artists are involved with the Hastings Fringe Festival in the UK.

Although she was performing for a tiny audience, Heather Alexander (FB) didn’t behave like it. Modulo a minor startup problem I’ll attribute to jet lag and this being the first performance at Fringe, the show was great. Alexander did a great job of becoming the character and making you believe the change occurring in her. I’m sure she looked younger and happier at the end than at the beginning, and that’s with no time for makeup or other changes. About the only problem was understanding the British-isms in the script, especially early on in the show when they were coming fast and furious.

The only other production credit was for Steve Scott, presumably the producer.

This was just a real fun and enjoyable show, and I wish there was a greater audience for it. Shows are nothing without an audience, so get off your butts, and go get tickets to see shows!

This production of Shirley Valentine was a great one-woman execution of a very funny show.  We really enjoyed it.

There are four more performances of Shirley Valentine: Sun 6/23 @ 6pm; Wed 6/26 @ 830pm; Fri 6/28 @ 1030pm; and Sat 6/29 @ 830pm. This is a really funny show, and you should go get tickets, which are available through the Fringe website, or for $10/£9 at the door.

🎭

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 (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 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) [2018-2019 season], and the Musical Theatre Guild (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:

The the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) has started. If you are unfamilar with Fringe, there are around 380 shows taking place over the month of June, mostly in the stretch of Santa Monica Blvd between 1 bl W of La Brea to 1 bl E of Vine, but all generally in Hollywood. On a first pass, there were lots I was interested in, 30 I could fit on a calendar, but even less that I could afford. Here is my current Fringe schedule as of the date of this writeup. [Here’s my post with all shows of interest — which also shows my most current HFF19 schedule. Note: unlike my normal policy, offers of comps or discounts are entertained, but I have to be able to work them into the schedule with the limitations noted in my HFF19 post]:

Key: : Non-Fringe Show/Event; °: Producer/Publicist Arranged Comp or Discount

As for July, it is already filling up. The first weekend of the month is still open. The second weekend brings An Intimate Evening with Kristen Chenowith at,The Hollywood Bowl (FB).  The third weekend of July brings Miss Saigon at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), followed by A Comedy of Errors from Shakespeare by the Sea (FB)/Little Fish Theatre(FB). The last weekend of July brings West Side Story at 5 Star Theatricals (FB). August starts with an alumni Shabbat at camp, and The Play That Goes Wrong at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). August ends with Mother Road at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (FB), and we might do rush tickets for Alice in Wonderland as well. In between those points, August is mostly open.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 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. 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!

 

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