I caught two very good dramas on the weekend!

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Both beautifully acted and directed, and each emotionally in depth looks at human frailties….

The Paris Letter

From l, Lloyd Pedersen and Lar-ry Eisenberg in “The Paris Let-ter.”

A powerfully controversial “adult” play, written with soulful truth and painful realism, by Jon Robin Baitz (who created TV’s Brothers & Sisters), this is a grippingly emotion packed production, in all aspects of theatrical magic. Every single performance was flawlessly depicted, under the passionate and “true to life” direction of Jules Aaron, assisted by Sherry Netherland. The deeply complex storyline which repeatedly darts back n’ forth in time periods over four decades (early ‘60s to 2011) is often tricky to follow. This makes it difficult to summarize the plot for you, as non-linear plays often confuse me a bit. Borrowing from Larry Eisenberg’s “news letter….” whose riveting performance in the lead role of Sandy Sonnenberg and Dr. Schiffman, was nothing short of brilliant…. He writes: “This is the story of Sandy Sonnenberg, a successful Manhattan financial manager who spends his life trying to deny and submerge his sexual identity, and illustrates the disastrous consequences that befall him, and all the people he loves. It is a heartbreaking story. In this age when lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Americans are still struggling for equal rights, it remains an important story to tell.” Lloyd Pedersen as Anton (Sandy’s long ago lover … and forever soul mate) is flamboyantly fabulous! Julia Silverman as Sandy’s devoted wife, and later as Lillian … is deliciously dynamic in both roles. Alex Parker as “young” Anton, and Dan Sykes as “young” Sandy, playing two gay lovers in conflict, are hypnotically heartwrenching, and Paul Cady is fun as the waiter. An excellent cast in a spellbinding and intriguing story! Technically setting the tone with perfection: Chris Winfield’s set design is gorgeous, and Liz Nankin’s costumes are top notch. Steve Shaw’s crisp sound and J. Kent Inasy’s moody lighting, round out the effective “behind the scenes” efforts. This ambitious theater troupe of nearly 40 years, whose mentor/leader Lonny Chapman passed away five years ago, have reemerged as a fearlessly cutting-edge, deeply dedicated troupe. I am there … dead center, front row, for every one of their opening night productions! Do see this “slice of life” emotion packed Group Rep production! (Mature audiences only – contains male nudity). Running weekends through Sept. 2 at Lonny Chapman Theatre, located at 10900 Burbank Blvd. in North Hollywood. For tickets, call (818) 763-5990 or visit www.thegrouprep.com.

All My Sons

From l, Patrick Cavanaugh as Chris Keller and Caroline Westeimer as Kate Keller in Dreamhouse Theater’s “All My Sons,” by Arthur Miller.

Written by the legendary Arthur Miller, this is a complex story, unfolding the truths at the core of “the Kellers….” a seemingly average family dealing with the loss of their older son Larry, who went missing during the war. As we all know, in life, things are not always what they seem. During wartime, the father Joe Keller and Herbert Deever made airplane parts. When they turned out a shipment of defective parts, which resulted in the deaths of many men, Deever was sent to prison, while Keller managed to remain unblamed and free, and became a wealthy man. Two years later, their younger son Chris proclaims his wish to marry the imprisoned man’s daughter, Ann, who had been his missing brother Larry’s fiancé. All hell breaks loose, as facts and complications are revealed. Under the heartwrenchingly focused direction of Alex Sol, a strong cast of nearly a dozen actors turn out impeccable performances … rich in passion and abundant in talent. As the Keller family, Joe, the father (Ronald Quigley), Kate, the mother (Caroline Westheimer), and their younger son, Chris (Patrick Cavanaugh), give a trio of soul searching performances! As Ann, the sweet and conflicted fiancé, Jacqueline Hickel is feisty and focused. Ross Kramer as Ann’s infuriated brother is explosive, and as the two neighborhood couples: Brad MacDonald, Leona Britton, Autumn Winters, and Lukas Bailey … all have shining spot-lit moments! As the precocious neighbor kid Bert, Max K. Salinger is an adorable diversion from the heavy issues at hand. This is a strong and involving story, loaded with familial dynamics and painful truths. Ronald Quigley’s charming and detailed backyard set is so appealing … you could live there … and Vicki Conrad’s period costuming is quite lovely. Both are enhanced by Terry Rodefer’s lighting, and Luke Mueller’s sound. Presented with artistic flair by Dreamhouse Theatre Co. they have just become the resident company at Jet Studios. Welcome them to our locally booming NoHo theatre district, by booking a seat here on their “maiden voyage.” Tickets are available at www.dreamhousetheatre.com or call (818) 745-7331. Parking is challenging, so try to come early, find a space, and then wander through the NoHo Gallery L.A. in front, preshow.

Delectable Footnote:

Charming producer Sarah Sol arranged a fab feast for the “opening night” audience. A delectable and decadent treat – prepared by “finger food” specialist, Jyll Everman. Sinfully savory! To learn more about her catering capabilities … go to www.jylliciousbites.com.

Farm Boy (the Sequel to War Horse) Opening July 28 at The Matrix Theatre

Adapted by Daniel Buckroyd from the novel by Michael Morpurgo, this “family friendly” play (kids over 7) should be quite inspiring. Starring Lawrence Pressman, and Simon Lees in hisL.A.theatre debut, David Fofi will direct. A story about love, the love of family, land, and horses, at the time of World War I, I look forward to this one. For early booking call (800) 939-3006.

That’s my story for this week. Turn off that TV … and catch a play!

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