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Conned Smiles

17457281_10104989712113755_7831127464094697024_nI was already smiling shortly after curtain, unable to help myself, the sardonic tone and look of Marty (Finn Snyder) matched every confidence man radio drama and film I grew up absorbing with either my grandmother or my Pa. It was more than nostalgia that had me smiling though; there is just something deliciously decadent about a story dedicated to villains, even those innocent trying to survive life villains, especially if they get their comeuppance in the end. A story about larger than life characters, able to pull off cons left and right; even if the payoff is simply one’s next meal. You can never fully tell where these stories will spin off to, their characters juggling multiple rackets and marks, conning themselves just enough so as to delay revealing to the audience just where the queen is, what the final play is.

Pulling off a constantly changing arc can be dizzying and it takes a strong lead; Dr. King (Jacques Feydont) juggles confidence instilling lines, to doubt sewn undercut asides and wool pulling explanations & fast talk, with a smoothness the measured and opposite to George Scot in the Flim Flam Man. Jacques portrayal had me fully confident that Dr. King alwayse had a way out, or at least thought he had a way out.

Just as a good confidence man spins many plates, Thomas Prosser (Writer/Director) wove many character threads through When Wrong is Right. A quirky pilot in Miss. Anna Preakness played by the energetic Brittney Levine soars through the clouds and her dreams while the others watch, As we watch life & dramas unfold around the players, pulled threads unraveled lay bare before us. The tough guy Shipwreck Shannon (Stephen Loftin) endearingly opening up, but was it just another gimmick? That’s when you find out the truth, not just events data & facts, but truth, the personal truths of the characters. What makes them tick, how will they act, what will they say? Discovering the characters’ lives along the journey might just answer that titular question, at least for the characters if not you personally.WRIR 3

A very character driven story, each of the characters Thomas put forth are interesting, fun, larger than life personas drawing you into their lives bit by bit. If the story and its tone started me off smiling, it was the characters that rounded out my enjoyment. Strong characters are simply a joy to watch brought to life by good actors. You want to see what their next action is; how they’ll mess up or get it right.

For the many smiles I enjoyed, I smiled nearly start through finish, a few scenes feel paced far too slowly. It’s as if the story and characters are so compelling, the scenes wish not to wrap up, move along. Which is true of the characters, portrayed brilliantly, their totality is compelling and you want to see more of them. In part, scene by scene, it can feel at times one is stuck in doldrums on the Atlantic waiting for trade winds to push you forward to the next scene. A line or two trimmed here and there, a bit faster pace on a few scenes can easily prevent that slippage. Finding oneself in a particular scene, emotion, or conversation too long can cause the mind to wander.

As I said though, the totality of the show is quite compelling. It’s one of those shows that can have you tilting your head to the side to confirm that yes the world can be viewed from this angle, and perhapse black and white things are all truly grey. On a case by case situation.

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When Wrong is Right at The Eclectic Company Theatre Fridays & Saturdays 8pm Sundays 2pm through May 7th.

For more information please visit www.electictheatre.org

Nostalgic Connections

3rd Rush 80’s Edition was the nostalgic shock we all needed, providing necessary laughter to a city which had been down in recent weeks. From the opening cords on Leif’s guitar the mood of the crowd rose through the clouds, lifted up on the kinship fostered by so much awesome music!

Six songs take us on a much needed lighthearted journey back to a simpler more rockin’ time. Sebastian coerced the muses to apply pressure to Rush creativity. The intense pressure worked and each piece of 3rd Rush stands alone a unique pillar supporting the overall mandate to make the audience laugh, make us happy.

From go a force flows, the dark theatre is hit with a wave of that rebellious energy from the 80’s, the audience instantly awoken by the cords of Take Me On sit up ready for what’s to come. The lights come up and you’re pulled into a scene so familiar you can’t resist the pull. From here on, these are scenes of life, they happened, somewhere, in some from. The writers all taped into the zeitgeist of our collective lives.

Building on this collective nostalgia 3rd Rush weaves a sense of community, a connection to those around you. 3rd Rush is simply put, good theatre, it accomplishes what Sebastian set out to do and so much more. It made the audience happy, but showed us how connected we are despite our myriad of differences.

Andy Shultz took Dead Man’s Party literally, showing us the what ifs of a world with enough magic for crazy exes to wield. The dead shall rise, and complain about it… in humorous ways (I’m smiling remembering as I write this). Jahel Caldera is infinitely mutable, becoming whatever his directors need of him. This time Jahel intensely acted almost entirely in the background, adding the right amount of depth to shape the world, while not distracting from the central drama unfolding. His interactions with John Lewandowski and Anastasia Elfman serve to build and shape the drama serving as the needed foundation to show the full nature of the world and Anastasia’s character.

From the dead returning, to one’s hens coming home to roost The Great Wisconsin Orgy of ’88 is a fun and poignant piece. David Kaufman has an interesting stage presence; he both goes with the flow and becomes the boulder or bend in the river that changes the flow in unforeseen yet logical directions. This is the second time I’ve seen him on stage and his portrayal of a regular hedonistic man was so real that for all his faults you kinda hope more people had his virtues. If David hit this one out of the park, it’s because Ian Heath set him up with a strong character and a complex gordian knot of emotions to work through with Meghan Lewis, who herself brought that complexity to the drama.

Coming to the end of 3rd Rush the placement of the final two pieces cemented to notion that this is the every day, these dramas unfolding on stage could be any of our lives or those of our friends. We all know a few people who practice voodoo and witchcraft, they might not be able to call down lightning and raise the dead, but they’re out there.

Forever’s Gonna Start Tonight with Steven Alloway playing that friend we know who can never sleep and reads a lot of Anne Rice, you know the one. The silly happenings that unfold leave you happy and ready for the final piece.

Flash Gordon: The Musical-The Play comes in in a Flash, shocking you into alertness for the big finish. Everything in life is big and moving fast, while we’re simply trying to live our lives, work our jobs, maybe do something meaningful. FG-The Play follows the dance ensemble, behind the scenes and through their odd interpretive dance as Hawkmen, living trees, spaceships and who on earth know. There are layers to FG-The Play, life has layers, there is what we do to earn a living and what we want to be doing. It’s frustrating, it’s annoying, but sometimes you get to have fun with it. Pumping the audience with energy in the end to tie together the communal energies 3rd Rush was putting out from the start.

3rd Rush 80’s Edition Side B a Force of Nature Production ran at the Eclectic Company Theatre Friday 3rd-Sunday 5th.

For more information on Force of Nature visit: http://www.FONProductions.com

hyenaszju_-postcardBurning Gods’ only know what, for laughter and art, Hyenas is a good representation of the wonderful insanity Zombie Joe’s is producing as they push creativity outside the black box.

Brandon Slezak and David Dickens are crafting some amazingly odd out of the box worlds on stage at Zombie Joe’s Underground, Hyenas had me tilting my brain sideways to see the world refracted through whatever dark prism Dickens and Slezak have been viewing the world through. Not only does this make for good theatre, it was quite fun pondering the weirdly intricate world presented through time jumps on stage. Though Dickens would caution it’s best not to ponder his world too deeply for your sanity.

hyenaszju_photo-2The dark tones of both story and set were an ever present weight, aided by a sound design which was full of depth and form. Between the atmosphere projected from the ensemble, the enveloping sound, and the velvety dark lighting, you’re left cocooned in this surreal mad house of a world. A mad house where the patients have taken over it seems. It’s quite the ride, I type grinning ear to ear remembering, this roller coaster through a laughing farce.

Hyenas An American Farce razorbacks through its surreal landscape, focusing your attention on each wonderfully twisted scene long enough for your psyche to draw in closer for a better view, only to pull the wheel hard right jolting your focus off its last center leaving you adrift ready to grasp onto the center of the next scene. Each scene leaves you craving further exploration while giving you just enough to drive the narrative forward.

hyenaszju_photo-5The pace is fast, and eager, ever building. An ever building, or ever changing pace needs consistent energy throughout the ensemble, or the delivery can become muddled, static on the line. Each part of Hyenas was executed well unto itself, but there was a lack of harmony in the energies of the players. It was a thoroughly enjoyable ride, but it could be even more captivating, and brilliantly mind numbing if there was coherence in the energy of the cast. A few ensemble scenes felt as lost as Martin (Ian Michaels) was supposed to feel on his wild journey. Ian drove forward those scenes, finding the thread and bringing the audience along on the journey.

Brandon Slezak is pushing the bounds of what has been tried at ZJU, Hyenas use of sound, light and props wove depth into the infinitely mutable stage at ZJU. To carve out the depth built up on stage; Brandon gives his chief tools, his ensemble, new claws, and clubs to beat a path for to pull the audience through. The use of motion on stage, overly exaggerated mannerisms, pulpy body effects for fight and kill scenes, it’s beautifully macabre and Zombie Joe’s at its most fun.

hyenaszju_castphoto

Hyenas An American Farce runs at Zombie Joe’s Underground, Fidays & Saturdays 8:30pm through February 25th

All Photos Credit: Zombie Joe’s Underground

For more information please visit: www.zombiejoes.com

 

A City Living the Same Lives

Connectivity, we are all living the same or nearly the same macro lives in this city of dreamers, and the symbolism which hammered this lesson home? Effing Los Angeles TRAFFIC that’s ‘traffic’ as in the four letter word we all hate so much!

The moment you walk into the theatre you’re enveloped in the whimsy of Wonder City The Visceral City Project. From the parking ticket you’ll likely receive to the interactive preshow set, everything about Wonder City tells you you’re in for a happy pleasant evening.

Dreams, Wonder City is a collection of the stories of Los Angeles, in a city of dreamers Wonder City puts the every day on stage and magnifies it, lifts up the common allowing everyone to see how connected, how alike we are. As I said, the show starts with Los Angeles traffic, each player is both vehicle and driver making their way through the clogged and congested arteries. Through the passing, stop and go, cutting off, makeup applying; you see behind two thousand pounds of metal glass and plastic are people, people markedly akin to ourselves.

As the Traffic piece comes to an end, you see the start of threads which can be interpreted by the audience. Wonder City is the type of Play where five people can come up with six or seven different opinions on the interweaving of the subtle story throughout; which is Los Angeles at its core. We all live the same macro events, but how we react becomes a personal experience. Wonder City is a sonderous journey which serves to remind us; that while we experience our individual story, so is everyone else around us.

The players were aided in the painting of this immersive dream by two characters. One character was the unseen, charmingly local, nostalgic and whimsical sound design by Roger K. Weiss. The other character is Los Angeles Herself. Unheard, grand yet tangible; the scenic designs of Meg Cunningham bring to life the Los Angeles we are familiar with of old dreams. With the talented ensemble the living sound, props, scenic set, and blocking, a dream as grand as Los Angeles is put forth on stage, and it makes you feel at home.

Wonder City is a breath of fresh air in a world that presently seems all too polluted. It’s a clean rain to revitalize the spirits of the City of Angeles. Every member of the ensemble deserves mentioning equally, which is why aside from the sound and set I held back on names. The pieces are too grand to be described, and each weaves through Wonder City with nearly equal weight. Wonder City is a collection of dream Venn bubbles overlapping, passing through one another. Each piece can be connected to others, and interpreted in more than one way, and the ensemble weaved this dream beautifully. To pick apart any of the threads would leave one quickly in knots. Sit back, breathe the fresh air, and enjoy Wonder City.

Wonder City Directed by Ashley Steed appears as part of Company Creation Festival, at Son of Semele Theater January 18th through February 12th.

For more information visit sonofsemele.org

 

Ashley Steed, Christina Bryan, Meg Cunningham,Roger K. Weiss, Mate Motzenbacker, Alexander Freer, Joe Shea, Mark Hein, Stacey Jack, Christian Pretice, Melissa R. Randel, Flor San Roman, Eric Trules,

 

Nasty Women’s Revolt

As I drove down, I was saddened for the need of protest shows; the whole audience was somber at the onset, reflecting my general tone. Fortunately our fires were stoked by the passions and fury on stage.

The spirit of dissent is alive and well in the world. Which is a very good thing; I was afraid we’d made so many gains in such short order that we were going soft & complacent. I am glad for the spark start of our vital essence to progress towards equality.

Anti-Inauguration Night: a variety show to benefit Planned Parenthood what better way to christen Eclectic Theatre as the new home of True Focus Theater! The fires of determination were kindled and great billows of anger breathed icy wrath into the flames. Before the end of the first piece the audience was alive and ready for an energetic evening. Sally Sincere doing an ASL strip tease was just the magic spark needed to get us fired up.

This nearly all female variety show, shows a wide breadth of diverse women, each finding unique ways to express their pains, anger, frustrations, fears, etc… The eve before the Women’s March AIN was the perfect primer to get everyone ready to fight for change, fight to keep our rights!

Issaic came on stage, after Sally Sincere had finished teasing the crowd, and delivered a powerful spoken word. There was a repeated line that resonated so strongly it needs to be shared. “I will not go quietly into this inauguration night.”~Issaic

The Eclectic Theatre was standing room only on January 20th, thankfully there was room for me to sit on a step. Just after Women Matter, there was a scene so powerful I had to sit down. I’ve lived through hell, and this show was able to show the audience that that hell still exists for women across the nation. Yet we get up every morning hide our pains and keep going.

If this is the caliber of what we can expect from True Focus Theater at their new home, then the theatre audience in the Los Angeles area is about to be rocked with powerful pieces that can shake you, raise you up, lay you low showing you truth. True Focus Theater lived up to their name, there was more Truth on that stage than we’ve injected from the doublespeak and doublethink miasmic fog which is creeping through society.

Anti-inauguration day was the best medicine to get through such a horrible day. I look forward to seeing what True Focus Theater will do with their new stage.

 

Whimsy & Wine

Miss Cate has chosen a deliciously dark & enchantingly enthralling venue to display the hypnotic dance skills of her talented girls.

Upon entering The Vampire Lounge & tasting room, I was fortunate enough to spy the lovely Miss Cate entertaining guests at the bar, one of her girls, coat cloaked, came up to her and spoke with her. As Miss Cate smiled and laughed I was overtaken with the impression the Vampire Lounge materialized around her, and the lovely ladies of Cabaret le Fey. Such is the tone set by the alchemical concoction catalyzed by the perfect sound accompaniment, picked to enhance the night by Vanessa Cate.

The world needs whimsy & beauty; kicking off 2017 with a David Bowie inspired cabaret is a great way to raise the whimsy to eleven.

Everything about the night blended together into a fine evening out, and a better Thursday night in winter I can’t think than wine and talented women dancing beautifully. I began with an obligatory red wine, Miss Cate having told me I could put my fate in the hands of the sommelier, and proceeded upstairs again on the recommendation of Miss Cate. As the leader of Cabaret le Fey, she knows her venue well. There were box seats pushed up next to the railing giving a balcony view akin to a theatre purpose built for cabaret.

If you want to be closer to the action, the bar is the perfect place, the dancers are as close as life with the stage being a perfectly framed corner, the dancers tantalizing & teasing the passersby through a large pane window. Set in the corner wall from the window is a gorgeous mirror affording a second angle of the dark angels tempting our more interesting thoughts to the surface.

The whole evening as I said was accompanied by music picked purposefully by Miss Cate to drive our emotions forward through the theme of the evening, which mirrored 2016 using David Bowie and the roller coaster of the past year. The dancers drew us visually through the sway of rise and fall, fast and slow. As if the music and dancing weren’t magick enough Miss Cate admitted that she used the darkest sorcery to fog up the window for the first time ever, or at least during a show. She was forced to admit her witchery after I’d commented that the venue seemed to further evolve its enchantments.

I look forward to the next bi-monthly installment of Cabaret le Fey, with rumors of vampires flitting through the Vampire lounge, I hope to position myself across the mirror at the bar. I’ll need to closely see if the dancers gracing the stage have reflections or not.

If you’re looking to do something fun, eclectic and witness something stunningly beautiful, you should consider stopping by Cabaret le Fey, every other week on Thursdays. It’s the perfect week night relaxing entertainment.

 

Cabaret le Fey runs every other Thursday at Vampire Lounge & tasting room from 9p to 12a

For more information please visit:

https://www.facebook.com/cabaretlefey/

and

Cabaret le Fey

and

https://www.vampire.com/vampiretastingroom/

*Warning* Respitory Distress

diehard_sqA wisp of startled breath tickled a grin unto my face moments after curtain, a smile that didn’t go away until I woke for work the following day.

*Warning* *Health Advisory* A Very Die Hard Christmas is the funniest Christmas musical I’ve seen. Multiple times throughout I was silently gasping for breath, unable to stop laughing. I can’t even be coy with the start of this review, simply overt and direct. Go buy your tickets, Link, I’ll wait. Good, now back to the review…

Theatre Unleashed distilled the essence of the Holiday movie/special: concentrated it, then added their biting wit and sarcastic regard for modern social politeness, damn good improve, covered it all in holiday magic and laughter. The entire audience was laughing from start to finish, to the point where I knew several unique laughter styles. Feeling the entire audience laughing along with you, it was impossible not to be moved into feeling magic was real.

The improve and interaction with the audience… if the acting, direction, and lyrics hadn’t been among the best comedy I’ve seen, the immersive pulled in feeling from the fourth wall breaches would have made this show amazing. Sarcastic asides, hinted inside jokes, this feeling of being in the know. The audience wasn’t just watching, they were experiencing, and we were invited to be along for the ride.

Though never directly opposed Robby DeVillex and Josef Knauber were dueling for ownership of the stage. Separate categories though; Josef owned the stage through the strength of his sarcastically dark portrayal of Hans Gruber. Robby was the everyman, five of them to be precise, two of them anthropomorphized puppets. Each character was perfectly delineated, even when bouncing between three characters in one scene. You’re left wondering if Robby did some dark ritual to channel Dead Pool with his improvisation and fourth wall sundering (thanks for the ultra close air kiss darlin’).

Wade F. Wilson, you need to be cast in the eventual reboot, Demand Gregory Crafts be part of it, because a dark comedy take of Die Hard needs to be a thing the world sees.

You have to see A Very Die Hard Christmas, the only thing I could do here is poorly relate the grandeur and joy I felt literally through the night until the following morning and through work even. Every aspect of the show: the wit, songs, satire, improvisation, set use and direction, every single aspect was on point. All building to an ending that felt like Christmas magic was happening on stage.

A Very Die Hard Christmas is up there with memories of watching Die Hard with Pa at Christmas, I felt like he was there with me, and like he would have laughed with me the whole way though.

That’s the Christmas Magic I felt and I’ve been avoiding writing for a week because of how powerful that was, and what I’m going through in my life. I’m sorry for the delay in this review, but thank you, because I’ve felt like my Pa was back with me this last week and I needed that more than any other time.

I know that last paragraph isn’t entirely professional, but this show was powerful and brought Christmas Magic to life to someone who game up on Christmas Magic long ago. The Theatre is powerful, and this time it really got to me…