🎭 HFF19 #8/#9: “Johnny ’81” / “Town Brawl”

Johnny '81 (HFF19)userpic=fringeFathers’ Day (and the end of the first formal weekend of the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB)) brought two more shows: Johnny ’81 at the Complex/Ruby), and Town Brawl at Thymele Arts (although for the latter, I put it on my Google calendar wrong, and we got there 15 minutes late).

The first show, Johnny ’81 (HFF, WWW, FB) was not what I expected at all. Consider the description in the Fringe program:

It’s 1981! The corpse of DISCO, the flames of PUNK, the plastic smell of NEW WAVE, and the balls of ROCK ‘N’ ROLL, all converge and merge on a seemingly peaceful street in WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA, along with the stories of a 12-YEAR-OLD BOY raised by a PILL-POPPING SINGLE MOTHER and the many GAY MEN in their life.

I was expecting loud music, hard rock, and a pulse pounding story. What I got was… The Moth. And that’s a good thing, because I had a proto-headache and was worried.

Johnny ’81 was 90 minutes of storyteller John Gonzales (FB) telling a series of stories about his 12 year-old self growing up in West Hollywood, and the characters that inhabited his neighborhood and whose paths intersected with his life. That’s it. No more, no less. They showed a kid who was forced to grow up sooner perhaps than he should, but one where a wide variety of people demonstrated that they cared about him. It was proof about it taking a village to raise a child, especially when one’s parents weren’t always there.

The show was written by John Gonzalez, and produced by Denise McCrory (FB). Hannah McDonald was the stage manager. Monica Martin was the venue manager.

Johnny ’81 has two more performances: Sat 6/22 at 1:45 pm and 6/29 at 8:15pm. Give it a try; it is very different than the Fringe program implies, and well worth seeing. Tickets are available through their fringe page.

Town Brawl (HFF19)For Town BrawlI must be upfront: due to my putting the show into my Google Calendar wrong, we arrived 15 minutes late. I’m not sure that made much of a difference. Town Brawl advertised itself as:

Inspired by the outrageous stories found on Nextdoor.com, Town Brawl is your chance to witness petty and absurd neighborly drama being settled in a no holds barred town hall meeting. If you hate your neighbors, you’ll love our show.

That really is what is was. When we arrived, we walked into a meeting in progress, with some guy complaining about the NextDoor posts with complaints about firecrackers and gunshots. He then made clear that it was he who was shooting off the offending items, and it got stranger from there. If you have ever read Nextdoor, then you know what I mean. There were neighbors complaining about everything: people snooping, people drawing penii around potholes (and badly drawn penii at that), people selling stuff. I’m just surprises there were no complaints about street vendors.

The show seemed to be a combination of scripted material and plants in the audience. It did a great job of making its points about how petty some of the discussions on Nextdoor are, and was funny in that aspect.

Credited performers were: Maura McCarthy (FB) Vicky Cook; Derrick Parker (FB) Dennis; Chuck Ramage (FB) Mike; Marjorie “MJ” Scott (FB) Carol; Max Banta (FBHunter; BK Phillips (FBRon JonesChristina Thomas (FB) Ruby; and James Ferrero (FBLarry. The show was written by JR Mallon (FB). There were no other production credits.

This was interesting immersive theatre. It was good, but had a very improvy sense to it. I don’t think walking in 15 minutes late hurt things in the slightest bit.

Town Brawl has two more performances: Thu 6/20 at 730pm, and Wed 6/26 at 900pm. Tickets are available through their fringe page.


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!