Jesus' Kid Brother
a kate west review
Music, lyrics & book by Brian & Mark Karmelich
Directed by Jules Aaron
Hudson Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd
Hollywood, CA (323) 856-4200
EXTENDED October 3 now through December -
Although critically touted as a Los Angeles hit sensation, the new musical "Jesus' Kid Brother" leaves much to be desired. From the excruciatingly simple lyrical score (think along the lines of "Jesus in school. He is so cool") to the wildly inappropriate final dance number, this production fails to hit an intelligent satirical mark. It is certainly no "Jesus Christ Superstar."
Director Jules Aaron does a solid job of blocking the piece, while the real stage dynamics are credited to Choreographer Brian Paul Mendoza. Yet however much the actors work at it, they cannot overcome the poor material.
The story revolves around Larry Christ (the name is already a hoot!), Jesus' kid brother, admirably portrayed by John Altieri (on alternate nights) who pours his heart into an uninspiring role.
Other standouts include Jeffrey Landman as an earnest Joseph and Amir Talai as a proud, tongue-in-cheek Pontius Pilate. Larry is feeling down being under the shadow of the Messiah, while his family and friends offer comfort. Joseph explains that family is all-important and that he needs to find his own way. Larry takes this advice to heart and sets out to find someone to share his life with. He runs into Mary (vocally way-too-uber-strong Katherine Von Till), daughter of mortal enemy Pontius Pilate.
They fall in love but naturally Mary is already betrothed to a Roman soldier and her parents would never let her marry a Jew. That headache, combined with all-consuming guilt over the villagers choosing to free his best friend Barabbas (Christopher Dean Briant) over his own brother Jesus Christ, forces Larry to stage a resurrection in order to keep Jesus' image alive.
Incredibly offensive as this might seem to some, the creators push the envelope even further with a dancing Jesus as well as a dancing crucified Roman soldier. Jesus' actual resurrection supposedly redeems his brother Larry but the sight of Christ in a phony beard only takes the mockery to another level. (Costumer Shon LeBlanc might want to rethink that look.).
A special note should also be made to Lighting Designer J. Kent Inasy not to leave chorus members in the dark.
The entire story is not worth retelling as it not a tale worth recounting. Suffice to say, there is a lot of poor story-telling, bad music, bad jokes, bad puns, obvious humor, little originality and never any true parody. You would be much better off spending the ticket price for this fiasco on purchasing Monty Python's brilliant social satire Life of Brian ( a convenient link can be found below...). Read more!
Jesus' Kid Brother
a kate west favorite
For those of you already familiar with the series, you know Psychiatrist Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) used to hang out in the Bostonian bar at Cheers (of the hit show of the same name) and then moved back home to Seattle, Washington to star in his own radio program. Spin-offs can be annoyingly lame corporate marketing attempts, but this one was really superior. Great writing, great characters and great acting sell it all. You may see a few familiar "Cheers"faces too.
The basics: Crane bonds with his estranged father, Martin Crane (John Mahoney), and fussbudget little brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce). His assistant Roz Doyle (Peri Gilpin) offers lots of sassy comedic moments, along with Dan Butler's neurotically overcompensating Bulldog Briscoe. Crane hires a kooky housekeeper, Daphne Moon (Jane Leeves) from Manchester, England, who inspires Niles to a true romantic ideal. I won't go into details here as most people have seen the show. And if not, do Netflix it.
What I really want to know is - how, in eleven whole seasons, did Niles never waver for his love for Daphne? C'mon, do guys really pine away like that? Is it really possible - the whole torch-carrying thing? I'm sorry, I don't want to be bitter, but every time a guy breaks up with me, he immediately starts dating again and 80% of the time finds his true love. Right after me. So does that make me easy to get over or just really good practice? O.K. that sounded a little bitter. And maybe a bit off the subject. Didn't mean to, just trying to figure guys out. And I don't get asked out all that much. I know, go figure. In real life, you know how it is - the guys you like don't like you back or you don't like the ones that like you. The trick is in two people liking each other at the same time. And then liking each other for a while. What are the odds.
But I guess that's part of the show's appeal. It's idealized romance, or what you want to be true. The characters are silly and flawed and still manage to find happiness. Granted, after a long, long time. Kudos, though, to the writers for leading us to hope that it can happen for us too.
So we'll see.
Kelsey Grammer - (Frasier Crane)
David Hyde Pierce - (Niles Crane)
John Mahoney - (Martin Crane)
Jane Leeves - (Daphne Moon)
Peri Gilpin - (Roz Doyle)
Dan Butler - (Bulldog Briscoe)
Moose the Dog - (Eddie, the dog)
Series Directed by:
David Lee (41 episodes, 1993-2004)
Kelsey Grammer (38 episodes, 1996-2004)
Pamela Fryman (33 episodes, 1997-2001)
James Burrows (32 episodes, 1993-1997)
Sheldon Epps (22 episodes, 1998-2004)
Philip Charles MacKenzie (21 episodes, 1995-1996)
Jeffrey Melman (19 episodes, 1995-1998)
Katy Garretson (11 episodes, 1999-2004)
Scott Ellis (9 episodes, 2000-2004)
Andy Ackerman (8 episodes, 1993-1995)
Wil Shriner (8 episodes, 2000-2003)
Robert H. Egan (5 episodes, 1999-2001)
Jerry Zaks (4 episodes, 2002-2003)
Rick Beren (2 episodes, 1994)
Gordon Hunt (2 episodes, 1996-1997)
Cynthia Popp-Landsberger (2 episodes, 2002-2004)
Series Writing Credits:
David Angell (53 episodes, 1993-2002)
Peter Casey (53 episodes, 1993-2002)
Glen Charles (51 episodes, 1993-2002)
Les Charles (51 episodes, 1993-2002)
David Lee (51 episodes, 1993-2002)
Joe Keenan (24 episodes, 1994-2004)
Danita Jones (23 episodes, 2002-2003)
Lori Kirkland (19 episodes, 1998-2004)
Christopher Lloyd (18 episodes, 1993-2004)
Anne Flett-Giordano (17 episodes, 1993-1997)
Chuck Ranberg (16 episodes, 1993-1997)
David Lloyd (15 episodes, 1994-2001)
Bob Daily (15 episodes, 1999-2004)
Sam Johnson (15 episodes, 1999-2004)
Chris Marcil (15 episodes, 1999-2004)
Jon Sherman (15 episodes, 1999-2004)
Rob Hanning (14 episodes, 1997-2002)
Rob Greenberg (11 episodes, 1996-1999)
Jeffrey Richman (10 episodes, 1997-2004)
David Isaacs (9 episodes, 1994-2004)
Suzanne Martin (8 episodes, 1996-1998)
Jay Kogen (8 episodes, 1997-2000)
Eric Zicklin (8 episodes, 2000-2003)
Ken Levine (7 episodes, 1994-2004)
Linda Morris (7 episodes, 1994-1996)
Vic Rauseo (7 episodes, 1994-1996)
Dan O'Shannon (7 episodes, 1999-2002)
Saladin K. Patterson (7 episodes, 2000-2003)
Heide Perlman (7 episodes, 2001-2004)
Sy Dukane (5 episodes, 1993-1994)
Denise Moss (5 episodes, 1993-1994)
Steven Levitan (4 episodes, 1994-1996)
Mark Reisman (4 episodes, 1999-2001)
Patricia Breen (4 episodes, 2002-2004)
Michael B. Kaplan (3 episodes, 1996-1997)
Jack Burditt (3 episodes, 1996)
Janis Hirsch (3 episodes, 1998-1999)
Gayle Abrams (3 episodes, 2000-2002)
Leslie Eberhard (2 episodes, 1993)
Don Seigel (2 episodes, 1994-1995)
Elias Davis (2 episodes, 1995)
David Pollock (2 episodes, 1995)
Dan Cohen (2 episodes, 1996-1997)
F.J. Pratt (2 episodes, 1996-1997)
William Lucas Walker (2 episodes, 1997)
Charlie Hauck (2 episodes, 1999-2000)
Alex Gregory (2 episodes, 1999)
Peter Huyck (2 episodes, 1999)
Frasier - The Complete First Season
Seinfeld - The Complete Series Read more!
The musical parody of “The Fellowship of the Ring”
a Kate West review
directed by Joel McCrary
written by Kelly Holden & Joel McCrary
El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd. North Hollywood, CA 91601
Running the month of December 2004, Tickets (323) 960-7774
“Fellowship!” is a delightful little parody of the J.R.R. Tolkein “Fellowship of the Ring,” the first volume of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and the mega popular hit movies by Peter Jackson. Written by Kelly Holden and Joel McCrary, it chronicles the classic story of Frodo Baggins, winsome Hobbit (a furry little creature of Middle Earth) inheriting the one ring of power and embarking on a journey to the fires of Mordor in order to destroy it. Aided in his quest are eight other inhabitants of Middle Earth: Gandalf the Wizard; Sam, Pippin and Merry, fellow hobbits; Strider, rightful heir to Gondor; fellow warrior Boromir; Gimli the Dwarf and Legolas the Elf. A very serious business. Except in this version, when it is actually a silly and ridiculous saga of song and dance.
The happy ensemble is obviously overjoyed to entertain us with this gentle mockery of Frodo’s mighty trek. With lighthearted fun, Bilbo Baggins, the kindly older hobbit who first discovered the evil ring, begins the piece with his big birthday celebration. Dressed like a bad lounge singer, Steve Purnick aptly plays Bilbo, complete with cummerbund and ruffles, rattling off terrible puns, and thus sets the perfect tone of hilarity. This is perfectly illustrated as the cast joyfully launches into song at every opportunity. In addition, in between numbers as background to the zaniness, there are slide projections of sketch drawings depicting a map following their progress.
Cory Rouse is an excellent Frodo, reminiscent of the touching innocence of Elijah Wood in the film epics and Edi Patterson is spunky and effervescent as Legolas and later Arwen, Strider’s elfin love interest. Peter Allen Vogt is immensely likeable as Sam, the barely suppressed homosexual sidekick to Frodo and is irrepressibly funny as the headliner demon, the Balrog, especially in his show-stopping number “The Balrog Blues”. The rest of the ensemble is quite strong as well: Brian D. Bradley as Gandalf, Kelly Holden as an almost-too-cutesy Pippin, Ryan Smith as the tragically unmemorable Merry and El Rond, the Matrix-inspired Elvish King, Matthew Stephen Young as the dude-like Strider and Lisa Fredrickson as the fiercely proud Gimli. Each actor seems to have the time of his or her life paying homage to the beloved story.
Some deliciously original ideas include Legolas (Edi Patterson) and Gimli (Lisa Fredrickson), evolving from bitter Elf-Dwarf enemies to fast friends singing “I always thought,” an amusingly satirical ballad. Edi Patterson also contributes a very Stevie Nicks/Cher attitude to “One Moment (with you)” singing a love duet as Arwen with Strider (the very funny Matthew Stephen Young). Joel McCrary must be credited with putting together an excellent ensemble and unfolding such a strong concept in a very loving way. The audience happily follows along with each inside joke, thrilled to be so in the know. There are no weak spots or actors and every minute is as enjoyable as the next. The entire cast, crew and producers all deserve warm congratulations for such a fun experience. Of course, it helps to read the books or see the movies first so be sure to do that and then call the box office immediately to be part of the hippest show in North Hollywood. Afterwards, you’ll all clamor for a sequel. Guaranteed. Read more!
A Gift from Heaven
A Kate West review
Written by David Steen, Directed by Jim Holmes
At the Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Tickets (310) 855-1556, Playing through December 2004
Beth Grant, accomplished Hollywood character actress, (featured in a slew of movies, including “The Rookie” and “Speed”, not to mention countless television appearances), next tackles the psychologically complicated role of an Appalachian mother in “Gift from Heaven.” Running for a short time at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, this dark piece encompasses all that is dysfunctional and wrong in stereotypical hillbilly folk.
Grant, as the domineering matriarch, runs her small household like a veteran general, evoking awe and subjugation in her family. Messy (heartwrenchingly portrayed by Tara Buck) is the hopelessly unloved daughter of the clan, begging for any random scrap of affection. Charlie (Michael Petted) is the golden boy who, in spite of being a bit backward, can still do nothing wrong. Life in that southern abode remains pretty much the same until a distant cousin Anna (played deliberately wide-eyed by Tara Killian) visits, bringing optimism to Messy, love to Charlie and despair to the mother. Upon learning she is the real biological child of her mother and not just adopted, Messy is even more desperate to win her affection. It is too late, alas, as the mother, entrenched in incestuous possessiveness of her son, strikes out at the two girls, when she realizes her beloved boy-man is about to leave her.
The resulting climax of the story is violent and bleak as all the characters clash in an emotionally turbulent free-for-all. Messy’s desperate need for affection has governed her whole life and she can no longer stand inactive. Anna is horrified at the sickness rampant throughout the bloodline, Charlie realizes he can escape his current fate and actually have a future. Only the mother does not have a clean revelation, choosing instead to remain in her delusion of perverted religious fervor.
The two younger actresses are strong (Tara Buck and Tara Killian) and Michael Petted stays more or less on one note, although this is partly the fault of the extremely withdrawn character he portrays. Beth Grant, however, is dynamic, forceful, and equally as awe-inspiring as her fearsome character. Director Jim Holmes gleans good performances from everyone, vitally necessary in keeping with the stark, sometimes too-heavy-handed writing of David Steen. The original music by Christomos D. Argerakis highlights the alienation of such a backward family and on this past Saturday night, the audience was treated with a live rendition after the performance.
Be prepared for severe intensity and if you have the stomach for a glimpse at a bonafide Appalachian household, take a gander. Go especially for Beth Grant, a phenomenally talented lady; it is always a pleasure to watch her expert grasp of multi-dimensional women, a rare find in Hollywood. Read more!
The Ten Commandments
a Kate West review
directed by Robert Iscove
songs by Patrick Leonard and lyrics by Maribeth Derry
Contact (323) 308-6363 or www.the10com.com or Ticket Master (213) 480-3232
Extended December, 2004
Hollywood’s recent production of “The Ten Commandments” stars
The famous parting of the
In short, the overall impression is that of a slick film studio machine churning out entertainment for the visiting tourists but with no real soul. The production does not work as a whole but seems to merely serve as a vehicle for
Terrific Anniversary Edition:Read more!
Sex and the City
a kate west favorite
From 1998 to 2004, American women everywhere were riveted to HBO's bold new ultra feminine series, "Sex and the City". Sexy Manolo Blahnik heels and cosmopolitans abound in this sensually fulfilling indulgence (better than a box of chocolates and a night of "Desperate Housewives"). American style indulgence, of course. We all know Europeans are more sophisticated. But then again, this is New York, our most suave city, so maybe we do have a leg up after all, so to speak. And we want to believe in the magic that helps those girls walk the Big Apple in those impossible shoes.
Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) writes a column on sex and relationships. Her three friends are as single as she is and have apparently extravagant career and lifestyles enabling them to live in fabulous New York apartments. Miranda, the lawyer (Cynthia Nixon), Charlotte, the graceful housewife (Kristin Davis), and Samantha, the sexy PR lady (Kim Cattrall). They all want love, pretend they don't, and then decide they do. We've all seen the show. And it's a fun fantasy. But is it one to emulate?
On the one hand, they were four fabulously single and carefree ladies in New York, but on the other, the series ended with everyone successfully paired up with a man. Does this mean they are only complete with a man in their lives or that they each finally grew up and were finally mature enough to handle a relationship? I choose to think it's the latter. And because while all the guys come and go in their lives, the friendship foursome remains intact. At least that's what the creators wanted to leave us with. That and the burning desire to recreate some of that mojo in our own lives. We all want to be Carrie, but we're probably more a Miranda or a Charlotte. Or maybe some of us are lucky enough to be the uninhibited Samantha. In spite of all the risqué talk, these girls were fairly standard for their generation - my generation. And much of that bold talk often made them quite uncomfortable (again, with the notable exception of no-holds-barred Samantha). I get them, unlike the brash twenty-somethings these days who really do want to talk about anything and everything. Ugh.
So there's nothing wrong with being any of those four stylish ladies, all different sides of a single gal. If only reality was so fab. Guess we'll all just have to keep being our boring old selves. Thank God for reruns, Netflix and Amazon.
Based on the book by
Sarah Jessica Parker
Who Could Resist?
Sex and the City - The Complete Series (Collector's Giftset)
Speaking of Indulgences:
Desperate Housewives - The Complete First Season
(Felicity Huffman being the one consistently elevating this show.)
And yet another modern twist on dating - men in the kitchen, cooking for women:
Cooking to Hook Up: The Bachelor's Date-Night Cookbook (Cookbooks)
Caroline, or Change - a new musical
a kate west review
book and lyrics by Tony Kushner
music by Jeanine Tesori
directed by George C. Wolfe
at the Ahmanson Theatre, 135 North Grand Ave, Los Angeles 90012
playing November 6 – December 26, 2004; contact 213-628-2772 or www.CarolineOrChange.com
Gordon Davidson, Artistic Director and Producer for the Center Theatre Group, has been bringing innovative and direct-from-Broadway hits to the Los Angeles theater audience for 37 years. Now in his final year of reigning supreme over such local powerhouses as the Ahmanson Theatre and the Mark Taper Forum, he kicks off the season with “Caroline, or Change.” Coming from the creators of the acclaimed Tony award-winning Broadway hit “Angels in America”, Tony Kushner and George C. Wolfe, this new musical should be a runaway hit and indeed has garnered many accolades on Broadway. Unfortunately, the current production does not fully match the majesty and unique brilliance of an acclaimed piece like “Angels in America.”
Fairly heavy-handed, the story revolves around a bitter, yet stoic black maid named Caroline (Tonya Pinkins) working for a Jewish family in Lake Charles, Louisiana, 1963. Her daily labor is accompanied by a Greek chorus of appliances: the Washing Machine (Capathia Jenkins, alternating), the Radio (Tracy Nicole Chapman, Marva Hicks and Kenna Ramsey) and the Dryer and an arbitrarily mobile Bus Stop (currently both played by Chuck Cooper). Although amusing, these devices do not really add much to the play, other than endlessly repeat Caroline’s inner struggle of conscience.
Noah Gellman (in this performance, strongly played by Sy Adamowsky) is the only child of the household. After his mother dies, Rose (Veanne Cox) moves in and tries desperately to be his surrogate mother but he only finds comfort down in the hot basement watching Caroline do laundry. Caroline is “implacable” his mother once said, and in spite of her roughness, Noah adores her until his stepmother’s plan to teach him a lesson results in driving a wedge between him and Caroline. Caroline struggles with her own stubbornness and is aided in achieving some sort of peace by her children, especially her eldest daughter, Emmie (the vibrantly talented Anika Noni Rose), who tries to drag everyone kicking and screaming into a more optimistic future.
The supporting cast is strong, including Veanne Cox as Stepmother Rose, Larry Keith as her argumentative father and Aisha de Haas (alternating) as the Moon overseeing the Louisiana neighborhood on the verge of entering the civil rights struggle. Regarding the title character of Caroline, the inherent danger of playing someone so unemotional and reticent is that she comes across as unsympathetic, on top of which Tonya Pinkins suffers from vocal problems, at times sounding raspy while straining her voice in the more bluesy tunes.
Be warned, if you are expecting a light-hearted musical, Jeanine Tesori’s music is not your snappy, hummable sort as the tone is more somber and not typically melodic. More “Sweeney Todd” than “West Side Story.” And although Musical Conductor Kimberly Grigsby leads a solid orchestra and the entire production is professionally mounted, from the Choreography of Hope Clarke to George C. Wolfe’s direction, overall it lacks real soul. The musical is more lackluster than impressive and what should inspire, merely depresses. The title itself is confusing. Does Caroline really change or does it refer to the power of currency? It is all a bit unclear. Perhaps the touring company lacks the fire of performing on the actual streets of Broadway. At any rate, the audiences seem to love it as demonstrated by their overwhelmingly positive response and the inevitable Los Angeles standing ovation after every performance. Read more!
Kith and Kin
a Kate West review
by Oliver Hailey
directed by Matt Kelley
at the Hudson Guild Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood
(corner of Santa Monica and Hudson)
contact (323) 960-7753
playing November 12 – December 18, 2004, Thurs, Fri, Sat. 8pm, Sunday 7pm
There is no dysfunction quite like southern family dysfunction. Oliver Hailey’s West Coast premiere of “Kith and Kin” at the Hudson Guild Theatre paints a picture of a disharmonious white trash clan. Drawn together by the death of their parents, one after the other, three brothers, Tommy Joe, Darryl and Big Boots, mercilessly brawl and torture each other into a state of semi-understanding. Thrown into the mix are two long-suffering women, Sarah, a surly pregnant widow and Charlene, a hardened four-time divorcee vamp. Each redneck is more socially repugnant that the next, ruthlessly competing in a twisted family feud of hilarious inappropriateness.
Tommy Joe (winsomely played by Nathan Brooks Burgess) is at first glance the most sympathetic. Enamored of classical music, he philosophizes and attempts to fight hysteria with reason. Yet he falls short of his potential. In one example, he longingly pretends to play the piano, but never actually learns it, although clearly devoted to the musical art and determined to teach it to his nephew Little Boots (whom we never see), giving him a more sophisticated route of escape from his roots. Though unseen, the child is pivotally important to each character in different ways. He represents everyone’s future and each character wants to manipulate it to suit his/her own needs.
Meanwhile, Big Boots (Drake Simpson), recently out of jail, is torn between escaping his responsibilities as a dad and embracing a new family. After murdering his wife for cheating on him, he may not be the ideal father figure but prison has seemingly refined him and softened his overall perceptions and prejudices. The middle brother, Darryl (Jeff Kerr McGivney), proudly renowned for introducing his two brothers to sodomy, and used to being the one in charge, is in the end reduced to pathetically depending on everyone else.
Sarah (played by Dawn Burgess, a saucy Toni Collette look-alike), is the closest thing to a mother figure the boys have. Never receiving affection from their own parents, they cannot appreciate Sarah’s loyalty as a housekeeper, who feeds them and holds a torch for Tommy Joe. Though fertile, she apparently drove her husband to suicide. Charlene (the deliciously sexy Kara Greenberg) sleeps with each brother periodically but never loves anyone. Thus the women are equally as toxic and flawed as the men and the actual actresses are a bit stronger than the men.
Matt Kelley (in his Los Angeles directorial debut), skillfully guides his actors into relatively strong performances. Despite some early nervous line flubs on opening night, it is more or less a sold ensemble, each actor taking turns to outrage, insult and entertain. In the end, each character is redeemed after confronting personal demons but this is no happily-ever kind of story. Life doesn’t work that way. It’s just life in Texas, folks. So no one gets what they think they want but all are able to ultimately live with their choices, having been forced into maturity. So if you have the stomach to dirty yourself a little on the wrong side of the tracks for a while, by all means go have a look-see. It’s not for everyone.
“There but for the grace of God go [I].” [John Bradford] After all, we are all a few degrees away from primitiveness ourselves. Read more!
Letting Go of God
(breaking up is hard to do)
a Kate West review
written, directed and performed by Julia Sweeney
at Hudson Backstage, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd. Hollywood 90038
from October 9 – November 21, 2004, Tix $20
contact (323) 960-4420 or www.juliasweeney.com
Julia Sweeney’s latest one-woman show, “Letting Go of God,” is a recollection of her crisis of faith and agonizing journey leading her to the terrifying conclusion that (for her) there is no God (hey, it’s in the title folks!)
Best known for the wacky, androgynous character “Pat” from the Groundlings Theatre and later Saturday Night Live, Julia first delved into performance monologues with “God, Said Ha!” - an homage to the memory of her brother Mike, who died tragically of cancer. Engulfed in the deepest sorrow, Julia still manages to charm and entertain audiences with hilarious anecdotes, all with a wonderfully warm immediacy. Her next endeavor, “In the Family Way,” chronicles her resolution to adopt a baby from China and she is now the proud mother of Mulan, a beautiful and precocious child. Another success.
“Letting Go of God” is departure from simply telling a life event in an amusing manner. All of her pieces are personal, yet “Letting Go of God” is the most intensely personal and vulnerable work. To begin with, publicly admitting that you doubt the existence of God is opening yourself up to controversy. Raised Catholic which filled her with warm memories, voicing her “conversion” to her parents seemed like a betrayal. Yet Julia is always compelled to be true to herself and, as she admits, by the need to confess it in public.
Her doubt begins to creep in after a seemingly innocent visit by two Mormon salesmen spreading the word. They ask her if she believes that God loves her and from then on, Julia starts to question everything she previously took for granted. Reading the bible cover to cover, she uncovers many contradictions and fallacies and wonders why she was always taught everything at face value. Exploring Buddhism next and then Darwinism (which includes an illuminating trip to the Galapagos Islands), she becomes more and more disillusioned with her childhood God and more and more convinced that humans are truly alone in the universe.
We suffer through every painful revelation with Julia and ache for her tortured soul. By the end of the play, however, she convinces us that she is peaceful and content with her beliefs and in fact, labels herself a naturalist (meaning she believes in the natural scientific order of things), rather than an atheist. It is also worth noting that throughout the performance, Julia is completely adept as always at entertaining and charming us, but never at any moment imposes her beliefs on anyone. With adroit professionalism, she recounts her long and painful journey toward her personal enlightenment without ever intimating that we do the same. Thus we can emphasize with her, yet still come to our own subjective conclusions. This is truly a gift she gives us, allowing freedom of thought, while allowing us a glimpse into her sharp reasoning skills. Read more!
In Between - a one act play
a Kate West review
written and performed by David Storrs
directed by Karen Maruyama
at the Elephant Lab/Lillian Theater
1076 Lillian Way, south of Santa Monica Blvd., between Cahuenga & Vine, Los Angeles
Every Thursday 8 p.m., October 21 – November 4, 2004, RSVP (818) 980-0843, $10
“In Between” is an adorable and clever true-to-life account of the pangs of despised love. Author David Storrs addresses the audience at the top of the play, explaining that we are about to see an account of his breakup with his girlfriend and what happens before healing – in other words, the “in between” stage - when people are at their most vulnerable and nutty.
Although Storrs credits Michael Naughton, Aron Kader and Jill Alexander with helping write some scenes, most likely taken from his stint in the Groundlings Sunday Company, (www.groundlings.com), his is the prevalent voice. The actors portray different people in Storrs life, depicting everyone from Shannon, the girlfriend who leaves him (sympathetically portrayed by Kristen Wiig), and best friend Kevin (the likeable Michael Naughton) to Steve Mallory, acting as a literal umpire, striking out Storrs whenever he puts his foot in his mouth. It happens frequently, as Storrs himself admits.
Through a series of amusing comedic vignettes, Storrs unmasks himself, unafraid to portray the fool and copping to all the mistakes he made in the relationship. Buoyed by a strong cast, including Stephanie Courtney, Liz Feldman, Jay Lay, Steve Mallory, Mark Mollenkamp, Katey Mushlin, Michael Naughton and Kristen Wiig, and guided by strong directing from Karen Maruyama, Storrs is the universal voice of the dumped. We emphasize profoundly because after all, who hasn’t had heard the “let’s-be-friends” speech or plaintively asked “what did I do wrong?”
We also have the added benefit of Storrs addressing us directly, creating an informal and welcoming atmosphere. He spars jokingly with fellow cast members vying for the spotlight, including girlfriend Shannon who wants to tell her side of things. Storrs is so friendly and open that we instantly sympathize with him, even when he is recalling the most embarrassing moments. It is precisely this stage presence that gives the play its charm. In other hands, it may have come across as more pathetic but Storrs highlights the drama with charming honesty and gentle self-deprecation.
At a little over an hour, the play is just long enough for one to get a good insightful look into the modern dating world, while still rooting for the main character. A little uneven at times, the play is constructed with previously written scenes that Storrs adapts for this new single-themed piece. Regardless, he wins us over by the very act of putting on this production, as he is proclaiming himself healed, giving the rest of us a little sorely needed optimism. A warm, self-contained piece, it would be interesting to see a full-length production of “In Between,” but as it stands, it is definitely an amusing evening. Read more!
a kate west reflection
This group, created by Charlie Todd in August 2001, brings chaotic joy to New Yorkers by creating "missions" of improv where they fake and trick their way around the city. For instance, giving a perfect stranger an impromptu birthday party, faking a suicide jump off a three-foot ledge and storming a BEST BUY store with everyone dressed in blue and tan, just like the employees. At best, they make people smile and at worst they humiliate, depending on your perspective, I suppose.
Their ultimate coup was becoming a screaming mob of fans for an unknown band called Ghosts of Pasha. Timed exactly, they filtered into a virtually empty performance space and gave the band "their best gig ever", dancing and quoting lyrics and begging for cds. Of course the musicians were overwhelmed and later confused and rather hurt. But time goes by and based on the band responses below, no harm was done so although it may initially have seemed rather cruel, everyone had a good time. So memorable an evening, Ira Glass picked it up for "This American Life" on NPR.
This type of guerilla theater is fun and funny when you're in your twenties, but a little more annoying the older you get. But then again, I'm irritated by a lot of things, from Burning Man (www.burningman.com) to SUVs, so it's definitely not my thing. Still they're not (seriously) harming anyone and even if people get upset, they either get over or they don't, but at the very least they will never forget their encounter with a brief bizarre left turn in life. We've obviously got bigger problems in the world.
Best Gig Ever: Band Response
Published on November 1, 2004 in Missions.
“I don’t know about you, but I feel like I have one life to live, and I choose to forever believe in what I felt that night. It’s my memory, and just because I was told it wasn’t real, doesn’t mean it didn’t feel real TO ME. What do I care just as long as I had a GREAT TIME?”
-Chris Partyka, GOP
It didn’t take long for Ghosts of Pasha (GOP) to figure out what had happened to them. We figured GOP would find the site sooner or later. A simple Google search of their own name would surely lead them to it eventually.
As it turns out, they found the site only a few hours after it was posted. Someone on our mailing list must have forwarded the link on to the band. It seems some of the members of GOP are from the New York / New Jersey area originally, and a few friends of IE are also friends of GOP. Small world.
A few days later GOP frontman Milo Finch emailed us a complete mission report from all four band members. Enjoy!
AGENT MILO FINCH (Vocals, Keys, Guitar)
As I drove home from the “best gig ever” the night was so aptly summed up by our guitar player when he said, “that was as creepy and unsettling as watching someone get hit in the back of the head with a pool cue and their eye popping out and rolling into the corner pocket.”
So you could imagine our relief from the strange felling when we found out what had really happened.
I was very hung over when I showed up to that show that night and really didn’t even feel like playing. But once we got into the swing of things is was business as usual for the band.
I couldn’t really see the crowd because of the lights in my eyes, so I never had a chance to see the fake tattoos and t-shirts. That would have been a big tip off to something being extremely wrong with the scene.
I have since been sent reeling into a paranoia questioning every person that I see. I even wrestled my waitress to the ground the other day because she seemed to be a little over zealous while taking my order.
I just want to say one thing to the “fans” that showed up that night: You know and I know that when the onstage tea bag happened you all rushed the stage out of pure rock and roll frenzy.
We rocked the place that night and you know it.
Thanks for a great night. I hope by the end of it all we really won you over as some true fans. Hope to see you again at one of our upcoming NYC shows.
This whole thing proves that all you need to do is put a few screaming fans in front of the Ghosts of Pasha and it won’t be long before we whip our cocks out and rock out.
AGENT E-ZMONEY (AKAthecop) FROM THE GOP SQUAD (Drums)
I thought it was great, just when we needed people to come out to a show, you guys came through.
I knew something was up right away I wasn’t “caught unawares”.
I could tell there was some acting going on.
Chicken fighting? Fake tattoo? Come on! It was our second gig in NYC :}
Plus, have you ever been to a rock show in NYC? From the simple fact that you weren’t standing there staring with your arms folded raised a red flag.
I just moved out of the city a couple of months ago.
Who knows, maybe we know some of the same people!!! (wink,wink) Spread the word–we are. Check out this week’s issue of STEPPING OUT, I think you will find it interesting
See you all at Sin-’e For the GLASTA OF PASHA show 8:00pm
over and out
agent E-z-money, GOP
Congrats to Improv Everywhere!
AGENT BRAD (Bass)
I don’t really care. I play the bass.
Ghosts of Pasha/Rock Beat!!!!
I go into the club.
AGENT PARTYKA (Guitar)
First of all let me say that I had a great time and I have no negative feelings about this. This is also not the first time this has happened…We played a show a few months ago in Vermont where there were 100+ people chanting pasha,(really! it was so much fun..) and they were just as rowdy as you guys…you weren’t half as drunk as they were though…at least that I know of.. We just love to play and get really into it always…it just seemed unlikely that people in nyc, even though were from there(and our website at one point was #14 on gosites.com)..would know lyrics to songs that aren’t on the net…fortunately we were in the spirit of things and we aren’t jaded enough yet that we would stop the show and ask if it was a joke…we didn’t do it at our first 100+ show in Vermont and we would never stop a show anyway…its just too much fun.. Second, let me assure anyone reading the guestbook for improv everywhere that no one from this band would ever write in and be angry about this. Milo and I have backgrounds in theatre…you’d probably find if you hung out with us that we’re alot alike..*(except for that guy agent V, whom I heard really loves the band PHISH)
So any negative stuff you read there is not from us. Everyone seemed very nice. Its too bad that I’m very stage shy normally and never look at the crowd. Eho knows how excited I would have been if I saw makeshift ghosts of pasha tees. I might have even made eye contact with someone.
I read that someone posting in your guestbook was upset at you guys. That’s kind of stupid. We will take any exposure willingly given to us and we are very grateful to have been punk’d by the likes of you cats. Like I’ve already mentioned, we are all solid people and were strong enough to see this for what it is, which is a rocking good time had by all that just happened to start as a joke. We don’t care. I play because I love to, and we were feeding off of it and it made for a great show. So, everyone wins! I’ll close by saying this: Wouldn’t be great if there really were an outlet for Indie rockers and Hipsters to scream out their suppressed rage…football game style? Wouldn’t it be great if Indie rockers and hipsters could forget feeling self-conscious and just go “bat-shit?” I motion that we voluntarily vent our quiet Indie rock angst when we go see our favorite bands…fuck what everyone around thinks…just yell! Just dance! I don’t know about you, but I feel like I have one life to live, and I choose to forever believe in what I felt that night…it’s my memory, and just because I was told it wasn’t real, doesn’t mean it didn’t feel real TO ME. What do I care just as long as I had a GREAT TIME, and thanks to your improv troupe, I really did…Because honestly even though I would have pounded those songs out and still put my heart into it to 3 people like I always do. It was nice to trade energy with an adoring crowd, albeit a “fake” one…
THANKS AGAIN TO IMPROVEVERYWHERE FOR THE GREAT CROWD!!!!
-FROM ALL THE MEMBERS OF GOP-
Agent Chris Partyka also posted the following in the Improv Everywhere guestbook:
You guys should make t-shirts and other memorabilia. I’d really like a t-shirt or a sticker that says something like “I’ve been punk’d by Improv Everywhere”. You guys are talented. I wish I wasn’t so shy when I play and that I looked up more. I don’t really have any memories to share with my band mates about it. I just played off of Milo’s reactions to you guys and stuck to that the whole time. Milo definitely has alot of specific moments he’s talked about. I think you guys helped show me that I shouldn’t shoe gaze so much. The point is though, our fire and energy originally comes from us, and then added in is whatever is going on around us filtered through Milo and our perceptions. What happened at Merc was perfect, intrinsically.
Ghosts of Pasha updated their website with a link to our report:
Improv Everywhere wishes Ghosts of Pasha the best of luck in all of their upcoming gigs. Be sure to visit their website to download their newest mp3’s and find out about their upcoming gigs. Long live GOP!
The remaining two members of Ghosts of Pasha play the IE 5th Anniversary Show nearly two years after this mission. Read more!
Under Milk Wood Dylan Thomas, the famously tortured Welsh poet, first published “Under Milk Wood” in the early 1950’s. Written specifically for radio, this lyrically beautiful piece has thrilled audiences for decades. The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum does a nice job of showcasing this audio tradition, set in their wonderful wood background out in the
by Dylan Thomas
a kate west review
directed by Ellen Geer
at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum,
July 10 –
Dylan Thomas, the famously tortured Welsh poet, first published “Under Milk Wood” in the early 1950’s. Written specifically for radio, this lyrically beautiful piece has thrilled audiences for decades. The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum does a nice job of showcasing this audio tradition, set in their wonderful wood background out in the
Depicting many diverse characters in a quintessential small town, “Under Milk Wood” is a play about the every person, our loves and lives, faults and nobility. Richard Gould is the First Narrator (mainly the voice of Dylan Thomas himself) and Katherine Griffith aids him as Second Narrator, both of them begin on book, reading from a binder which is admittedly a bit disconcerting.
There is also a plethora of appealingly fascinating characters from Paul Schrier’s blind Captain Cat, remembering fallen sailors and listening to the life sounds of the town to Melora Marshall’s Polly Garter singing wistfully of her lost love, Willie Wee. A special delight is Ted Barton, who plays the popular Butcher Benyon and the timid Mr. Pugh, dreaming gleefully every night of poisoning his shrewish wife Mrs. Pugh (the stern Gillian Doyle).Lulled by the sing-song poetry of Dylan Thomas and the warm afternoon sun, the audience is transported to a pleasant microcosm of the nature of the human character.
Director Ellen Geer weaves the actors on and off stage in keeping with Thomas’s gentle weaving of plot and character. The cast is strong and seem to enjoy reciting the well-known text. Aaron Hendry is a versatile Revered Eli Jenkins and No Good Boyo, Elizabeth George alternates between Mrs. Pritchard and oddball Mrs. Organ Morgan, playing to her equally odd husband, Mr. Organ Morgan (David Stifel – also Mr. Ogmore), who has no room in his life for anything but organ music.
At times it is rather difficult to keep track of all the characters and plot lines but it is always enjoyable to watch the actors blend into various stories, sometimes even turning into a group of taunting children. The recitation of the language alone is worth the price of admission. The entire ensemble works very well together – it can certainly be no easy feat to recreate this marvelous piece of literature. An added special treat is a rendition of a Dylan Thomas poem by a troupe of rosy-cheeked Welsh singers during the pre-show.
So if you are up to tackling something more artistically meaningful than the latest reality show, then make the trek up to the Topanga hills and pack a lunch. Perhaps you can even make a trip to
a kate west review
directed by Baz Luhrmann
Music by Giacomo Puccini, Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa & Luigi Illica
at the Ahmanson Theater, 135 North Grand Ave at Temple St., Los Angeles CA 90012
call 213-628-2772 Fall 2004
Baz Luhrmann’s more familiar magical feats are his two luscious films “Romeo and Juliet” and “Moulin Rouge”, both nominated for Academy Awards. His work in theater is no less dazzling. His latest production, “La Boheme,” direct from the Australian Opera and Broadway is now playing in Los Angeles and is a virtual feast for the eyes and ears. The cast rotates due to the demanding vocals and this particular matinee performance showcased the wonderfully talented young stars Alfred Boe as Rodolfo and Wei Huang as Mimi.
Set in Paris in the 1950’s, the producers contemporized the Italian score so the written English translations emulate 50’s cool with slang words of the day. The thinking behind this is to get away from the more traditional grand scale operas which depict unrealistic looking singers portraying young lovers and to make the beloved story more accessible to younger audience members. These singers really are young and cool. This Sunday Ben Davis (Marcello) and Chloe Wright (the sultry temptress Musetta) were especially captivating, while Daniel Webb (Colline) and Daniel Okulitch (Schaunard) nicely rounded out the rest of the Bohemian gang.
Mimi is sick with tuberculosis when she meets Rodolfo and both are terribly poor yet in spite of life’s circumstances they fall in love. Their story parallels that of Marcello and Musetta who fight back and forth and have a tumultuous and doomed love affair. Rodolfo eventually leaves Mimi when he realizes he cannot deal with her illness. They do not come together again until the end when the friends all gather around a dying Mimi. This simple story has been told in thousands of opera houses around the world and always evokes emotional intensity. The Bohemian artists struggle in life and love and still manage to celebrate their existence with fervent passion.
The production features a revolving set (designed by Prisque Salvi) which alternates between bare minimum and drab and jazzy, dazzling and electrifying. Also, the crew members are clearly visible to the audience, casually strutting in during scene changes demystifying the whole opera experience. Costume Designers Catherine Martin and Angus Strathie also alternate between drab and colorful, depending on the mood of the scene.
All of these elements tie in brilliantly to the humor and tragedy of the story rendering the production more than worthy of the famously romantic score. Baz Luhrmann is quite adept at capturing the soul of a piece, skillfully using the music, set and costumes to carry the story and in this production he outdoes himself once again. Definitely a must-see.
Puccini - La Bohème / Freni, Pavarotti, Harwood, Ghiaurov, Karajan Read more!
Battle of the Deviants
a kate west review
directed by Patrick Bristow
at the Celebration Theater, 7051 Santa Monica Blvd., 1 block east La Brea, Hollywood
Wednesdays & Thursdays at 8 p.m., July 28 – August 26, 2004 - EXTENDED!!!
Tickets $12, Groups (10 or more), $10, Call (323) 957-1884
The Deviant Laboratories (www.deviantlaboratories.com), that brilliant, inspirational local comedy sketch group, now in their third year of entertaining Hollywood, strikes gold once again with their latest show, “Battle of the Deviants.” Comprised of outlandish scenes such as a feisty, yet lonely girl raised by turkeys, brawling British boys, an over-the-hill once-glamorous actress, peaceful aliens and many other memorable wacky characters, “Battle of the Deviants” is an original, fast-paced evening of glorious insanity.
Director Patrick Bristow, luminous alum of the reputable Groundlings Theatre, once more creates refreshingly stunning stage pictures and blocking (an actor’s stage movement), deftly moving his actors from one scene to the next with the dexterity of a true pro. In a daring and strikingly innovative choice, there are often no scene transitions, which work amazingly well in blurring the lines of reality. It is also fascinating to watch the level of concentration between cast and crew alike as every spare second of the show is so carefully choreographed (including rapid costume, scene and character changes) that each person depends utterly on his fellow cast or crew member. True teamwork indeed, complete with faint echoes of Monty Python (the pinnacle of British comedy sketch.) Michele Miatello’s lavishly delicious and extreme set looks like a genuine boxing ring and adds yet another level of zany reality.
The entire cast is solid, and a tremendously strong group. One notable standout is newcomer James Adomian, whose multitude of characterizations dazzle and enchant spectators. Rather than give away any fun character reveals, suffice it to say that audience members do not soon forget him. Annie Morgan, another new recruit, has several nice moments and Carrie Seim and Chad Cline, new to the group as well, easily match the veterans’ professional pace. The usual suspects, Michael Serrato, Brian Clark, Scotty Scarboro, Tanya McClure and Ted Cannon are naturally quite wonderful and the whole ensemble works together well, considering many of the scenes collide (not to worry, all will be clear at the show). Some of the actors might want to work on projecting however, especially considering how the loud the show gets at times so that the occasional good one-liner is lost here and there.
The second act is even more chaotic than the first and each reveal more delightful than the next, especially the rare inside jokes you might pick up on if you have seen previous shows. Crowd favorites include “The Champ,” featuring an old time hammy actor portraying a cheesy boxer, “Battleship,” featuring familiar political figures, “TIVO,” with two lovers arguing about anger, “Playing by the Rules,” a particularly relevant and poignant piece about domestic partnership, a bitter old couple in “Oldie Fight,” stoic and taciturn lovers in “Fences” and an uproarious take on television’s “Little House on the Prairie.” “Anyway,” features a hellish shrill stage mother and untalented son team, much improved in a later incarnation by having them as the intermission act. This works much better than allowing them a separate scene in the show. Other unusual devices that add nicely to the multi-dimensional and sophisticated whole include an apologist and several rants (again, please see the show for a proper explanation.)
In short, the Deviant Laboratories is definitely the up-and-coming group to watch, a casting director’s dream, consistently showcasing the very best in young comedic talent. Never a dull moment in a Deviant show, each production is more ambitious than the next as their many fans wait breathlessly for what madness they will come up with next. Their latest show is an absolute must-see and will not disappoint. But be sure to see it now so you can say I-knew-them-when. Read more!
A Little Night Music
a kate west review
music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Hugh Wheeler
directed by Scott Ellis
at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, 135 N. Grand Avenue, L.A. 90012
July 7 – July 31, 2004; Contact (213) 972-8001 or www.losangelesopera.com
Stephen Sondheim, the preeminent voice of the sophisticated musical, is so prolific that it is impossible to list all of his beloved works of musical art. “A Little Night Music,” one of his best-loved and familiar musicals, first appeared in the late 1980’s and may be classified as an operetta (like “Sweeney Todd,” another Sondheim masterpiece). Known for his ability to take on complicated projects, Sondheim understood that it is not easy to deconstruct an Ingmar Bergman film (in this case “Smiles of a Summer Night”) and turn it into an audience-accessible musical. But if anyone can do it, Sondheim can. The current production at the Los Angeles Opera does fine justice to the stylish piece. Starring such Broadway luminaries as Zoe Caldwell, Victor Garber and Judith Ivey, Sondheim’s tale of lost love touches a cord, even while couched in the moral ambiguity of adultery.
Fredrik Egerman (the irresistibly suave and debonair Victor Garber), has married again, this time to the young virgin Anne (Laura Benanti) and his brooding son Henrik (Danny Gurwin) is quite obsessed with her. Meanwhile, Fredrik’s old love, the prominent stage actress Desirée Armfeldt (the dynamic Judith Ivey), has taken a lover, the married Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm (booming Marc Kudisch), but is unhappy with her dim-witted catch. She is secretly pining away for real love and feeling guilty about her fatherless daughter Fredrika (Ashley Rose Orr on certain evenings). Her grandmother, Madame Armfeldt (the immeasurable Zoe Caldwell), hovers in the background, commenting on the foolishness of youth, disapproving especially of Desirée’s nomadic lifestyle while raising Fredrika as her own.
Count Malcolm has problems as well, oblivious of his jealous long-suffering wife, Countess Charlotte Malcolm (Michele Pawk), who plots with Anne to get revenge against the husband-stealing actress Desirée. He only wants Desirée as a trophy, having no real feelings for anyone other than himself. He is furious that Fredrik, after seeing Desirée in a play, has gone back to her, partly frustrated by not consummating his new marriage and partly because he cannot seem to stop thinking about her. Fredrik’s home life torments him. His young wife Anne does not appreciate her older husband and his intellectually tortured son does not appreciate his own youth.
“A Little Night Music” is essentially a story about losing your only love, not appreciating what you have right in front of you and denying growing older (as evidenced by Fredrik’s falling for an 18-year old while still in love with Desirée). The only healthy, normal, vibrant character of the piece with no neurosis or hang ups is the servant girl Petra (Jessica Boevers) illustrated best when she sings the beautiful “The Miller’s Son.” She meets a man she likes, having enjoyed many men along the way, pursues him and they end up together without any agonizing discussions, a shining example to the rest of the wealthier phobic group that it is possible to find uncomplicated happiness. Countess Malcolm makes a half-hearted attempt at subterfuge, but as all the characters soon learn, it is not that much fun and not what they really want. Rather than pursuing what they do not need and running away from the truth, they are better off shedding the pretense and just following their hearts. After a climactic duel, most of the characters recognize how to be happy and there are even some surprising love matches.
Director Scott Ellis has assembled a fine cast, wonderfully integrated into the musical brilliance of the Sondheim score. From the famous “Send in the Clowns” to the upbeat “The Glamorous Life” and the tongue-in-cheek “You Must Meet My Wife,” the production showcases the best in theatrical talent. The three leads are a special treat but the rest of the cast is delightful as well and everyone involved from the Choreographer Susan Stroman to the Costume Designer Lindsay W. Davis maintains an operatic and just perfection. This production offers not only great entertainment but also a strong message of love and life. It may force you to think but it is well worth exercising a few extra brain cells in order to fully appreciate the evening’s outcome. Kudos to the Los Angeles Opera.
A Little Night Music (1973 Original Broadway Cast) Read more!
a kate west reflection
I was never good at science. I dreaded math class. I ended up a Theater Major (with an English Minor), for God's Sake. So ask me about Shakespeare. And yet I loved scientists. I read as much science fiction as possible and avidly watched every "Star Trek" (you know that many Star Trek fans probably grew up to be astronauts, possibly even cooler than being firemen). So I was excited when I had a chance to visit NASA in Texas ("Houston, we have a problem").
My brother and I took the tour with the tram and drove by several nondescript gray buildings but never got to go inside. Our tour guide would say "and this is where all the moon rocks are processed and other fascinating artifacts from space, but we won't be going in there". This happened a couple of times and all we got to see was a couple of old rockets out front. But then, FINALLY we got a quick trip through Mission Control. The old one. The new one is in Florida, I learned. That part was cool, as was a very short glimpse into some of the astronaut's training facilities. And plenty of time for the gift shop, of course. Houston weather is pretty humid in the summer, so it definitely felt like a vacation and trip to another world.
I wish I had more aptitude for that kind of field, but I just don't. I can only admire them from afar. I feel the same way about the United Nations (another fascinating tour), but I have a better shot with them if I join the Peace Corps and exploit my language skills. I hope.
To learn more, check out www.nasa.gov.
a kate west review
by Terrence McNally, directed by Simon Levy
Fountain Theatre production at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 Sepulveda, L.A. 90025
Extended through July 25, 2004! Tix (323) 663-1525; www.fountaintheatre.com
Following in the footsteps of a career-defining role such as Maria Class in “Master Class” is no easy task. Zoe Caldwell is well-known for brilliantly defining that part on Broadway and Faye Dunaway attempted the same in a recent Los Angeles production. Now the Fountain Theatre’s new production of “Master Class” provides the answer to the question, ‘can an actress make the role her own and still capture the essence of Callas?’ The answer is a resounding YES. Karen Kondazian’s recent interpretation is magnificent. She artfully plays the maestra, exposing Callas’ raw complexities, simultaneously making her sympathetic and terrifying.
The play begins with the house lights up and Callas (Kondazian) striding in after her accompanist (Bill Newlin). She acknowledges the audience as her “students” in one of her famous 1970’s master classes at Julliard in New York. She lectures us on how to behave and playfully picks out members of the audience, completing the illusion that she is indeed Callas, “la divina” resurrected. Thus we dare not make a sound, lest we anger the great one. Her students (“victims,” she calls them) come in one by one, never good enough and woefully unprepared for her attack. This particular evening the first Soprano, Sophie, is shyly portrayed by the alternate, Stephanie Reese. Barely getting out the first note, Callas rips into the poor girl, ruthlessly bullying her into feeling some real emotion. After these brutal onslaughts, Sophie’s final tearful attempt is significantly better than her first and one begins to see why Callas was considered possibly the greatest vocal artist of her century (1923-1977).
Another fascinating aspect of the production is that Callas is occasionally lost in reverie and the student fades out while we hear the actual Callas recordings of the same roles. During these flashbacks, we glimpse the torture and agony of being Callas, from her insecurity and paranoia, thinking everyone was talking behind her back and ridiculing her looks, to her tumultuous relationship with millionaire Aristotle Onassis. She was a real, vibrant, passionate, jealous and endlessly fascinating human being. Kondazian effortlessly jumps between the younger and older Callas, creating a fully realized, dimensional and superb characterization and homage.
The next two students challenge her authority. Clifton Hall saunters in as the Tenor, determined to get by on his good looks alone (and indeed Hall is pretty dreamy). Callas gives him a few notes and then sends him on his way. The final student, Alternate Sierra Rein, the second Soprano, imperious and proud, is the ultimate challenger, declaring her dislike for Callas and throwing all Callas’ doubts in her face. Absurdly over-dressed in a ball gown (credit Costumer Designer Naila Aladdin-Sanders), she is hurt by Callas’ relentless digs and lashes out. At this point, we feel deeply for Callas as she slips into another reverie, exposing the ultimate pain of her life and her current loneliness. Fighting with everyone around her, from her surly stagehand (Scott Tuomey) to her three students, Callas comes across as feisty and full of pride herself, yet missing something vital at the end. It is not easy being great.
Multimedia Designer Mark Rosenthal and Sound Designer John Zalewski support the reminisces with slide projections of the real Callas, Director Simon Levy sensitively puts Kondazian through her paces and Set Designer Desma Murphy creates a precise atmosphere with a bare stage, a piano and a table and chair for Callas just as it must have been during the actual master classes. All three students are fine singers as well, giving the audience the added bonus of listening to good musical performances (selections were from Bellini, Puccini and Verdi). The overall production is an intriguing depiction of Cecilia Sofia Anna Maria Kalogeropoulos, the New York born Greek diva who so tragically lost her voice early on. Playwright Terrence McNally should be honored to have his well-known play so lovingly depicted. An excellent production, one comes away with the burning desire to read a biography on Callas and of course to attend an opera as soon as possible.
The Very Best Of Maria Callas Read more!
Exits and Entrances
a kate west review
by Athol Fugard
directed by Simon Levy
at the Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Avenue, Los Angeles (near Normandie)
May 13 – July 25, 2004; Call (323) 663-1525 or www.fountaintheatre.com
Known for writing powerful plays that expose the damage to humanity and its far-reaching effects caused by apartheid, Athol Fugard presents the world premiere of his newest play, “Exits and Entrances,” at the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles. It explores the relationship between two South Africans: an idealistic playwright and a famous actor. Based on the story of André Huguenet, the critically acclaimed and award-winning South African actor of the 1960’s, “Exits and Entrances” is a flashback to Huguenet’s extraordinary theatrical career, seen (in this version) through the worshipful eyes of his dresser-turned-playwright.
In this intimate two-person production, William Dennis Hurley plays The Playwright with appealing innocence and optimistic fervor, while Morlan Higgins does a nice turn as the actor genius, André, portraying him as a larger-than-life personality who ultimately comes to terms with his own humility. Both are extremely personable, in spite of the constant bickering between the characters.
The play opens with The Playwright reading André’s obituary and then taking us back to his heyday when he brilliantly plays Oedipus in the highlight performance of his career. Through a series of flashbacks, we watch the great André prepare for his role, while carelessly dispensing wisdom to the eager young Playwright. He regales him with flamboyant and extravagant tales of his youth and life which The Playwright avidly drinks in, filled with awe.
The final scene takes place several years later, after they have long ago parted ways and The Playwright discovers André in a production of “The Prisoner.” His more recent performance is so different from the regal and proud Oedipus, so much more nuanced and basely human, that The Playwright is compelled to visit him in his dressing room, not merely for old time’s sake but to commend him on a very moving experience. Both actors play this pivotal scene very well, illustrating the vast maturity and growth of both characters. Each has learned about harsh realities but has chosen to deal with life in different ways. André chooses a tragic, untimely end while The Playwright believes he can save the world. Each is a little bit right, but a little bit wrong too. The backdrop of the political atmosphere of South Africa is but a small reflection of the greater universal injustice rampant in the world. And yet there are also exquisite moments of beauty in art and the hope of the intellectual.
The language alone in Athol Fugard’s piece commands attention from the riveted audience. Director Simon Levy honors the words by staging the setting simply and perfectly, encouraging the actors to give understated, yet powerful performances. Judging from his other currently running production, “Master Class,” Levy understands how to make our giants human, while leaving their dignity intact. A fine production, “Exits and Entrances” merits a good run. Read more!
a kate west review
by Jean Baptiste Poquelin de Moliere
translated by Richard Wilbur and directed by Jules Aaron
the West Coast Ensemble, 522 N. La Brea Avenue, Hollywood 90036
June 4 - July 25, 2004; Call (323) 525-0022 www.wcensemble.org
Now in its twenty-second year, an artistic gem of a theater, the West Coast Ensemble, consistently produces small but vibrantly genuine productions of the best quality. Their latest effort is no exception. Set in Messina, Italy of 1740, this version of "The Bungler" is an excellently appropriate translation from Moliere by Richard Wilbur.
The play revolves around Mascarille (wonderfully charismatic Steven Einspahr), the rascally clever servant to Lelie (portrayed with wide-eyed youthfulness by Joey Borgogna). Mascarille's main aim in life is to please his mater. This often proves to be a daunting task as Lelie is a bit slow-witted and often bungles the many well thought out schemes his beleaguered servant comes up with to help him. Still one has to try.
The current scheme is to win Lelie his true love, the Gypsy girl Celie (CB Spencer), currently serving Trufaldin (Larry Lederman). Through many mishaps and mistaken identities, Lelie and Celie are eventually united and all other misunderstandings and plot twists are resolved. Along the way we are entertained by the delightful cast, including the likeable and effervescent Dan Alemshah as the foppish Anselme, beautifully charming CB Spencer as Celie, the inspired comedic performance of Erika Amato as the desperately lonely Hippolyte and a solid performance by Alex Kaufman as the dashing young Leandre, in what would otherwise might have been a throwaway role. (In case you were worried, Hippolyte does end up with a true love of her own, Leandre.) Character actors Larry Lederman, Pablo Marz, Matt J. Popham and Gil Bernardi round out the ensemble quite nicely. From beginning to end, the acting is engaging, the direction impressively clever and the entertainment boundless. Everyone involved obviously enjoys doing the play.
A master of his craft, director Jules Aaron drills his actors into presenting seemingly effortless transitions, amusing asides and well choreographed sounds effects created by cast members seated upstage. The play actually begins in a dressing room where we watch the actors prepare for their roles. This fits in perfectly with the broad comedic style of Moliere and Aaron's interpretation creates an immediate accessibility. It also soundly illuminates the social satire of then and now (clever servant besting his superiors, etc.) It is very hard to pull off an impression of a play-within-a-play without coming across either woefully pretentious or clumsily inadequate, yet the West Coast Ensemble succeeds marvelously.
Scenic Designer Tom Buderwitz and Costume Designer Shon LeBlanc do their usual magnificently professional work, creating a simple, versatile revolving set and beautiful period costumes. The whole spirit of the show is profoundly sincere and light-hearted, while maintaining an acute standard of refreshing professionalism. A guaranteed crowd pleaser, this production is highly recommended. If you want become a Los Angeles theater subscriber, this is absolutely the theater to join.Read more!
Things We Do For Love
a kate west review
by Alan Ayckbourn
directed by Barry Phillips
at the Odyssey Theatre,
May 8 –
Barbara (Stephanie Nash) considers herself happy and self-reliant and in no need of the entanglements of love. Her friend Nikki (Caitlyn Shannon) is unlucky in love, always hopeful, yet forever picking the wrong abusive men again and again. But this time she has finally struck gold with gentle, good-natured Hamish (James Tupper). Barbara takes an instant dislike to him, foreshadowing the inevitable clash and reconciliation of two people hating each other and then of course falling in love. It happens a bit too quickly, in spite of Playwright Alan Ayckbourn’s initial set up of Barbara’s obvious deep-seated need for affection. In the process, they hurt sweet Nikki terribly and are so wracked with guilt that they almost call the whole thing off but ultimately decide to go for it. Life is short and good love is hard to find.
Stephanie Nash is good as the stiff and properly British Barbara, although she might have punched up her underlying passionate nature a notch. James Tupper is wonderfully sincere and ravenously attractive as the vegetarian Scottsman, Hamish, and Caitlyn Shannon is delightfully simple with a crowd-pleasing accent that nicely punctuates her amusing delivery. Greg Mullavey does a nice turn as the comic relief neighbor/postman Gilbert who lives in the basement and is secretly obsessed with Barbara. Each actor holds his/her own and keeps up quite well with the comic timing.
Director Barry Phillips has assembled an appealing production, although the scene transitions seem a little awkward and the ends of scenes rather abrupt. Set Designer Don Llewellyn has created a uniquely delightful set which contains a window into the downstairs basement and a peek into the guest room above. The audience can only see the upper bodies of anyone in the basement and the legs of the people upstairs and it works very well in adding that extra bit of zaniness.
All in all, this is the type of production you may not remember forever, but while you’re there, it is amusing, good, harmless fun. A nice summer respite.Read more!
“Thoroughly Modern Millie” Recollections of the 1920’s conjure up stylish flappers, fast music and rapid-fire dialogue. The Ahmanson Theatre’s production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” provides all of this in standard Broadway musical spectacle, with catchy tunes and spiffy dance numbers. Die-hard fans of the 1967 movie version starring Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore may miss the comedic asides directly to the camera and general immediacy of the characters. This particular production is even broader and audiences unfamiliar with the film will enjoy the retro sets and costumes as well as such visual gags as translating songs into Chinese via a lowered screen. This is how the creators wink at the audience, in keeping with the rather screwball humor.
a kate west review
directed by Michael Mayer
book by Richard Morris & Dick Scanlan
music by Jeanine Tesori; lyrics by Dick Scanlan
at the Ahmanson Theatre/Center Theatre Group/
May 19 –
Recollections of the 1920’s conjure up stylish flappers, fast music and rapid-fire dialogue. The Ahmanson Theatre’s production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” provides all of this in standard Broadway musical spectacle, with catchy tunes and spiffy dance numbers. Die-hard fans of the 1967 movie version starring Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore may miss the comedic asides directly to the camera and general immediacy of the characters. This particular production is even broader and audiences unfamiliar with the film will enjoy the retro sets and costumes as well as such visual gags as translating songs into Chinese via a lowered screen. This is how the creators wink at the audience, in keeping with the rather screwball humor.
Brand new to the Big Apple of Manhattan, New York, and all the way from
Along the way, Mille learns that love is what a marriage is all about, not business. Thus she becomes emotionally evolved and truly modern. The ultimate resolution is silly and a bit unbelievable but fitting for a rather frothy and formulaic musical. There are highlights, however, such as Scenic Designer David Gallo’s scrumptious set, Costume Designer Martin Pakledinaz’s luscious outfits and Director Michael Mayer’s quick transitions. Standouts include Darcie Roberts in the title role and Pamela Isaacs as the grandiose Muzzy Van Hossmere. (Side note: Although the latest trend of color-blind casting is noble in itself, it is a bit startling in a period piece.) Fun numbers prevail throughout, especially the tap-dancing stenographers in “The Speed Test” and the nightclub scene where the characters celebrate to “The Nuttycracker Suite.” If you are a fan of any and all musicals, you’ll tap your toes to this beat, but don’t look for a deeper meaning, obviously.Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002 Original Broadway Cast)
Roberto Zucco Murder itself is never justifiable but the potential for violence exists in all of us. What triggers that latent darkness is so
a kate west review
by Bernard-Marie Koltès
at Open Fist Theatre Company, 1625 N. La
Runs June 4 –
Murder itself is never justifiable but the potential for violence exists in all of us. What triggers that latent darkness is so
Inspired and loosely based on actual events, “Roberto Zucco” is a bleak, sardonic look at do
Set Designer Eric Hugunin maintains this sense of stylized isolation with his esoteric set, composed of huge, dark rectangles, in different shades of blue-grey, with a severe rake at stage left. The odd angles of the set add to the twisted perspective of the piece, where morality is not so easily defined and normal decency is rare. Who are the real criminals – the actual murdered or the cruelly pathetic
Avant-garde theater is an acquired taste and this production may be difficult to watch but in the end, one appreciates the thought-provoking influence it has on the audience, even while not drawing any satisfactory conclusions. If you are comfortable with unanswered life questions, then by all