Beyond the Valley of the Deviants

In association with Celebration Theater and Dennis R. Nollette
a kate west review
7051 Santa Monica Blvd. (1/2 block east of La Brea)
Directed by Patrick Bristow
May 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, June 5, 12, 19
Reservations (323) 957-1884
Info & Group Rates (323) 656-0694

If you want to fall headlong into a screaming laughfest, by all means check out the latest vivacious production of the Deviant Laboratories. The Deviants are a multi-talented group of young comedy sketch artists consisting of Ted Cannon, Brian Clark, Drew Droege, Margee Magee, Tanya McClure, Nicol Paone, Michael Serrato and Scotty Scarboro. They are a terrific ensemble, all naturally funny and astonishingly energetic. The first show they performed at the Celebration Theater about a year ago was fresh, funny and new then and it is wonderful to see how much they have progressed beyond that. First of all, they added women, who give a better dynamic energy and balance to the show. Secondly, they have obviously been keeping up their improv skills because they were all dead on funny, quick and clever in the improv sets directed by Groundling Mitch Silpa. And please prepare yourself for the ridiculously entertaining opening and closing numbers, which are, thanks to the fabulous directing of Patrick Bristow (Groundling alum), a technicolor explosion of fast-paced, broad hilarity.

There were a few minor technical glitches opening night and the actors need to work on their projection so we can hear all the dialogue, which should not be difficult in such a small venue. Also some scenes were a bit weaker than others and could use some rewrites but overall, the characters were strong, original and engaging, particularly Michael Serrato in “Hot Soup,” Drew Droege’s Chloe Sevigny in “Meet the Press” and Nicol Paone’s Tony in “Tony, Toni, Tone” (Margee Magee and Tanya McClure were also fantastic in that one). Ted Cannon, Scotty Scarboro and Brian Clark, especially, held their own quite delightfully as well. Kudos to the entire cast for their obvious delight in working as a team, helmed by a brilliantly talented director.

This show was one of the most fun comedic productions I have seen in Los Angeles. Be a deviant. Go. Indulge and immerse yourself. Bring your friends. Laugh until you cry and then beg for more. It’ll be worth it. Read more!

The Nerd

The Nerd by Larry Shue
a kate west review
directed by David Rose at the Colony Theatre Company
555 N. Third Street, Burbank, (818) 558-7000, Opens June 7, 2003

Larry Shue, a promising young playwright whose writing career was tragically cut short at the age of 39, wrote one of his more successful plays, “The Nerd,” set in the 1980’s, shortly before his death. However, in the current production at the Colony Theater this play is fairly dated, the humor obvious and the characters seem to have stepped out of a 1940’s play. Although some of the actors were quite wonderful in the Colony’s previously acclaimed production of “The Laramie Project,” (Ed. F. Martin and Faith Coley Salie, respectively), it is disappointing to see the director, David Rose, allow the acting to be so broad.

The story is simple: William Cubbert (Ed. F. Martin) is a warm-hearted soul who has finally located Rick Steadman (French Stewart), the private soldier who saved his life in Vietnam. We learn this while Cubbert’s friends are celebrating his birthday. While he and his friends await his arrival, other characters are introduced such as an bothersome little boy (Justin M. Bretter) who keeps popping in and out of doors in an apparent attempt at farce. Jonathan Palmer is the stereotypical boss figure, Warnock Waldgrave, arriving with his mousy teacher wife, Clelia Waldgrave, played by Cindy Warren, who at least adds some interesting dimension to her nutty character. One of her characteristics is smashing saucer plates when upset, which Warren does with amusing relish. Ed F. Martin’s performance as Cubbert is relatively understated in comparison to his friends: Kevin Symons is sarcastically over the top as the droll Axel Hammond and Faith Coley Salie’s character of Tansy McGinnis is a bit shrill. After learning that the war hero is not all he is cracked up to be, the initial trio try their best throughout the rest of the play to oust the intruder with a variety of harebrained schemes.

The highlight of the production is French Stewart (of television’s “Third Rock from the Sun” fame) as Rick Steadman, the gawky, overbearing, clueless nerd who makes Cubbert’s life miserable. By the time he makes his first appearance, his refreshingly focused comic delivery style is a welcome relief from the expansive acting style of some of the other players. Stewart has real presence and although he portrays the ridiculous title character, he adds nuance and flair to his pesky character. He cannot carry the production alone, however, and it becomes a bit tiresome to watch the other actors try to reach the same extremes with less motivation. Stewart’s character was written to be broad and in his hands is fascinatingly weird, whereas the rest of the ensemble struggles to make the audience laugh with such antics as holding a bizarre dance ritual with grotesque hats in an attempt to scare off the unwanted houseguest.

The play is not without merit as the audience laughed heartily and seemed to enjoy the twists and turns of the comedy. However, the broad acting does not fit the normal comedic style the play presents so perhaps the script would be better served had the group decided to take it to an extreme and make it a true farce. Also the ‘unexpected’ revelation at the end (which you can see a mile coming) is not particularly believable. Still it is worth watching French Stewart at work as he is one of Los Angeles’ fun young talents. And it is always nice to visit the Colony’s relatively new and roomy space in beautiful downtown Burbank. Read more!