A Skewed View of Herstory | “There’ll Be Some Changes Made” @ HFF18

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When I initially set up our Fringe* schedule, I thought last Saturday’s show at the Soraya was on Friday. This meant I had to shift some shows around; in particular,  a show that I had originally planned for Saturday at 8pm I had to move to a Thursday night — and so, last night saw us walking Hollywood Blvd for an evening show about women and their place in history. But first, I should explain the asterisk:

* For those unfamiliar with  Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), there are over 390 different shows occurring in the heart of Hollywood, with most along the stretch of Santa Monica Blvd from Western to W of LaBrea, and between Hollywood Blvd and Melrose. The shows run from 5 minutes to 2 hours, from one person shows to gigantic casts, from mimes to musicals. They have one — and only one — thing in common: they have to be able to load into a theatre in 15 minutes or less, and get out afterwards in the same time. You never know what you will see: it could be complete crap, it could be the start of a major new show. The shows and scheduling thereof are a nightmare to coordinate, but you could easily end up seeing four to five shows in a day. However, you can be guaranteed of a good time.

Now, on to last night’s show:


They'll Be Some Changes Made (HFF18)Every year, many of the Fringe shows seem to coalesce around a particular theme or event. In 2017, unsurprisingly, it was the election of Donald Trump. In 2018, I’d opine that the theme is women, and the impact of #MeToo and #TimesUp. Certainly, the show we saw last night, There’ll Be Some Changes Made Today (FB) was a result of that theme. It was described in the Fringe catalog thusly:

Women’s Past, Present and Future. Take a tour through humanity…Now Showing: History’s Better Half. Some things never change: worries about infidelity, fertility, baking the perfect cake, and how to be a good wife. But there’s a new twist…when She’s writing the story! #CHANGES Women are grappling with new issues these days: Men’s Issues! Then there’s living past 100, cake, and being a good wife in the 23rd century. A comical, musical, heartful and hopeful journey.

The show was a valiant attempt at achieving that goal. However, it was a Fringe show, and thus at an early stage of development. There were some problems with the writing and the direction, at least from my point of view, that clearly needed some work. But the spirit was clearly there, and it was, for the most part, enjoyable.

The basic structure of the show was an intermix of songs popularized by Peggy Lee and vignettes of interactions with women “throughout history”. However, given that the first vignette was clearly from the 1960s, the span of history wasn’t all that far into the past. The action and story was moved along by a narrator who attempted to draw out interaction from the audience. The vignettes included a 1960s woman dealing with a cheating spouse, a couple dealing with fertility issues, aging and the changes in the family dynamic, and women and men in the far future. The show was written by Katherine King (FB), who also performed all of the songs.

The notion of the show — exploring the changing view of women, especially in a post #MeToo era — was a good one. The execution, however, was decidedly skewed, and this impacted the perception of the end product. Perhaps my wife and I come from a different audience: we’re both engineers, both have worked with all sexes in a professional environment that is not based on looks but skills, we’re both older (in our late 50s), and my wife claims I’m one of the more supportive men out there. The show’s perception of men and women, however, was decidedly different. It began with the presumption that women aren’t direct, and are more passive-aggressive. As for the men, they were more of the aggressive slimeball variety — cheating, and interested only in themselves and sex. When the narrator tried to get participation from the men in the audience, the question was: “Do you think women should be able to go to a topless beach?” The correct answer is: It doesn’t matter what I think; it is what she wants. But of course, what they wanted was the tongue-drooping sex crazed answer. This could simply be a reaction to the industry the author grew up in — I’d opine that the behavior of men in the entertainment industry is very different than modern engineers.

This was the starting point of the problem with the writing, but that starting point led the vignettes to be painfully pejorative and slanted. There was also overuse of modern expression — perhaps I’m old fashioned, but one should not use “hashtag” in any discussions. Those belong on Twitter, not spoken.

I think the writing problems are correctable, and future iterations should get better with some more seasoning and input.

The other problem with the show was the direction, or should I say over-direction. The director, Stephen Juhl (FB), simply over-did it. One would want the vignettes to be somewhat realistic, recognizing this is Fringe and thus precious little in the way of sets or props to support the realism. But the performances seemed a bit forced and over the top, and thus the characters went beyond the believable. Again, this some that could be corrected, and in a different show an over-the-top performance might have fit well. But not with this show, not with what it purported to be.

So let’s get to the performances. As I noted before, Katherine King (FB) was the author and performed all the songs. Songs I remember in the show included the title song (“There’ll Be Some Changes Made” as well as “Is That All There Is“, and “I’m A Woman” and others I cannot remember). She had a pleasant voice and handled the songs well, although her movement was perhaps a bit stylized (but that can be a common problem). She did well, filtering out the overdirection, in her vignettes.  Christina Marie Leonard (FB) served as Narrator for the journey, and had the unenviable job of getting a weeknight small audience to participate. She did her best and it was fun to watch her, but some audiences make it difficult. She, again, was reasonable in her vignettes once overdirection was filtered out. Rounding out the women in the cast was Ayla Rose Barreau (FB). I mostly liked her in the vignettes — she was good in the reproductive medicine scene — but her 105-year-old was a tad stereotypical. Again, likely the director.

The men in the cast — Justin Baltz (FB), James B. Sherrill (FB), and Bryan Sapphire (FB) were more of a supporting/foil role. Props go to Sapphire for his difficult job of trying to warm up a Fringe audience in 5 minutes.

Supporting the performance were Sang Hee Cho (FB) on piano and Zach Pope (FB) on guitar, both of whom were great. The amplification on the guitar could have been lowered just a notch, as it tended to overpower King on one or two songs.

Production support was provided by  Jeremiah Benjamin (FB)), whose position is listed as “Mr. Awesome” (and whom we just saw in Family Schmamily). Lindsey Lune provided the publicity.

***

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 5 Star Theatricals (FB) [the company formerly known as Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)], the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB), a mini-subscription at the Soraya [nee the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB), and the Ahmanson Theatre (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:

It’s June — ah, June. That, my friends, means only one thing: the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), Here’s our June schedule:

July will get busier again. It starts with the 50th Anniversary of Gindling Hilltop Camp, followed by On Your Feet at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). The next weekend brings Jane Eyre The Musical at Chromolume Theatre (FB) at the Hudson [yeah! Chromolume found a new location]. The third weekend in July brings a Bat Mitzvah in Victorville, and Beauty and The Beast at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) that evening on Saturday, and a hold for the OperaWorks (FB) “Opera ReConstructed” at CSUN on Sunday. The last weekend may be a Muse/ique (FB) show. August starts with Waitress at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) on Saturday, and the Actors Co-Op Too! production of Always Andrews: A Musical Tribute to the Andrews Sisters on Sunday at Actors Co-op (FB). The next weekend brings the last Actors Co-Op Too! production, Twelfth Night, or What You Will at Actors Co-op (FB). There may also be a production of The Most Happy Fella at MTW — I’m not sure about it, but the hold date is on the calendar.

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. 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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