Meeting of Minds #10 (Martin Luther, Voltaire, Plato, Florence Nightingale)

A lunchtime review… Last night was our monthly sojurn to Steve Allen’s creation, Meeting of Minds at the Steve Allen Theatre. This month was Episode #10. The guests were:

The focus of this episode was Martin Luther and many of his outrageous positions. I particularly remember his strong antisemitism, advocating destroying synagogues, the homes of Jews, denying them free passage over roads. He felt equally about other heritics, advocating they should be put to death. This offended all the other participants (Voltaire, Nightingale, Plato). There was also exploration of what the reformation stood for and what has lasted, and the acceptance of a broad view of the notion of God. Plato explored the philosphy of the Sophists, and noted how they used rhetoric to make absurd points. It was here that the script was updated to include references to Fox News and Glen Beck as examples of which the sophists would be proud. There was also exploration of Ms. Nighingale’s reclusiveness during the last years of her life, and of how mankind is always resistant to reformation efforts and new ideas.

As time has gone on, there appears to be more freedom being taken with the scripts in the form of minor updates. I noted previously the references to Beck and Fox, but I recall there were other updates, such as a reference to BP and the oil leak. I see more of this when Maxwell is playing Steve Allen vs. Gary Cole. In general, I find that Maxwell makes a better Allen: his personality comes off more similar and less stiff, there appears to be better innate knowledge of the material (whether that is acting I don’t know, but that’s the mark of a good actor). Speaking of the acting quality, I’ll note that this episode was a step above the first episode of this pair back in October: both Mark Moses and Harold Gould were much more energetic and lively; Abruzzo was his usual caustic self (got to love Voltaire); and I found Smart to be the perfect Nightingale—she had the right fiestiness and bite for the character. This episode was a pleasure to watch. As always, the production was directed by Frank Megna, who did an excellent job working with the actors to bring out the characters.

Last month, Dan Lauria indicated he had written a new Meeting of Minds script, featuring Congressional Medal of Honor winner Smedley Darlington Butler, Medal of Honor recipient and Civil War Doctor Mary Edwards Walker, Saint Patrick of Ireland, and Saint Joan of Arc. The reading of that script was cancelled at the last minute; alas, there were no updates given regarding its rescheduling. This could be because Lauria is involved with a new Broadway production of a play on the life of Vince Lombardi. Hopefully there will be word on that production soon.

“Meeting of Minds” is produced monthly by Bob Ladendorf and Diana Ljungaeus for Opening Minds Productions, every third Sunday of every month at 7:00pm through August at the Steve Allen Theatre in Hollywood. The specifics of the regular July episode (Sunday, July 18, 2010 at 7pm) have not been announced. Alas, Opening Minds loses the use of the Steve Allen Theatre after August and is currently scouting for a new location.

Upcoming Theatre and Dance. This is a busy, busy summer. Next Friday, June 25, brings “It’s Top Secret”, a musical that is part of the Festival of New American Musicals, at the NoHo Arts Center; the next night, June 26, brings The Rocky Horror Show” at the Underground Theatre. As for July, the month starts with “In The Heights” at the Pantages on July 3, and the Western Corps Connection in Riverside on July 5. The next weekend (July 10 @ 8pm) is the first show of the 2010-2011 Colony season, “Grace & Glorie”. The third weekend of July brings ; The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” at REP East on July 17 and the July “Meeting of Minds on July 18. The 4th weekend brings Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” at Cabrillo Music Theatre on July 24, and “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” at the Mark Taper Forum on July 25. Plus July will possibly bring some ventures out to the Hollywood Bowl. July or August should also bring [title of show] at the Celebration Theatre (July 16-September 5). In terms of what is ticketed and calendared, August starts with “Young Frankenstein” at the Pantages on August 1, and (hopefully) “Rent” at the Hollywood Bowl (pending ticketing) the following weekend. August 15 brings the August “Meeting of Minds”, and August 21 “Side Man” at REP East. Looking into September, there is “Free Man of Color” at the Colony on September 4, and “Leap of Faith” at the Ahmanson Theatre (September 5-October 17, to be ticketed), and “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” at REP East (9/17-10/16). It is unknown if there will be a September “Meeting of Minds”, and if so, when and where.

As always: live theatre is a gift and a unique experience, unlike a movie. It is vitally important in these times that you support your local arts institutions. If you can afford to go to the movies, you can afford to go to theatre. If you need help finding ways, just drop me a note and I’ll teach you some tricks. Lastly, I’ll note that nobody paid me anything to write this review. In fact, I receive no remuneration for any reviews I write.