As different as could be … I caught a “brain teasing” drama, and a fun loving musical on the weekend.

Madagascar

“Madagascar” stars (L-R) Sam Anderson, Deana Barone, Taylor Gilbert

Wow! This disturbingly dark, and dauntingly complex play had the audience united in a hypnotic trance, from start to finish. The multi-award winning Road Theatre, long one of L.A.’s most highly regarded troupes, always challenges their audience’s psyches to the “max,” and offers flawlessly skilled performances. Though the “occasional” comedy emerges on their roster, most often, they present mindbending, hard hitting, uniquely contemplative, and gritty life situations to ponder. Such is the case here, as the “after party” buzzed with conversation, controversy, and varied opinions on the eerie experience we just shared. Hauntingly written by JT Rogers, and running in rep with his highly revered White People (which I’ll see/review next week), this is a most unusual script, and theatrical format. It tells the in-depth story of a mysterious disappearance that deeply alters three lives forever. Three Americans, at three different times, try to make sense of the loss of the same person, in a hotel room in Rome, Italy. The first, June, is a young ancient ruins tour guide. The second, Lillian, is her wealthy, “jet setting” mother, and the third is Nathan, a disheveled university economist. Each of them disclose in detail their individual reasons for being here in this hotel room, and eventually… their personal relationship to the missing young man. A bit confusing to take it all in, as all three actors are often onstage at the same time, offering monologues, but never do they acknowledge each others’ presence. Anytime June speaks… it is a few days ago. When Lillian speaks… it is five years ago, and when Nathan speaks it is present day. See what I mean? Pretty tricky… but stunningly involving at the same time. The trio of performances are breathtakingly brilliant, and the focused direction of Brendon Fox is mesmerizing. Taylor Gilbert (The Road Theatre’s founder) plays Lillian with gutwrenching upper class skill, and Sam Anderson (a cast member on TV’s LOST) is precise perfection as Nathan. Two of my very favorite L.A. theatrical actors, it was thrilling to see them weave their magic onstage together for the first time! As a lonely young June, the perfectly cast Deana Barone gave a beautifully multi-layered performance… rounding out the trio of complicated characters. The behind the scenes efforts set the macabre tone perfectly. Kudos to Helen Harwell (scenic design), Christian Epps (lighting), Holly Poe Durbin (costumes), David B. Marling (sound), Marc Rosenthal (video design), and Linda De Vries (dialect coach).

Another worthy “head trip” offering from the Road Theatre. Their never ending dedication and passion for intriguing scripts is truly remarkable! Running through July 9th at The Road Theatre at 5108 Lankershim Blvd. in NoHo. For tickets and performance schedule, call 866-811-4111 or go to RoadTheatre.org.

Rockin’ With The Ages II

“Hurry On Down” from “Rockin’ With The Ages II” L-R: Carolyn Val-Schmidt, Bobbi Stamm, Valorie Paradise-Lant

A musical variety revue, featuring 26 talented stars over the age of 60, this is high falootin’ hoot of a show! Following last year’s Part I, which ran at The Actors Forum Theatre to sold out houses, this is a snappy all-new version, with a larger cast. The diminutive 77 year old “bundle of dynamite” Jackie Goldberg, known as “The Pink Lady,” plans to produce one rockin’ revue a year, each bigger and better than the last… till it gains “Palm Springs Follies” status and size. To her good fortune and delight, this time she has hired the visionary and infectiously loveable David Mingrino to direct her show. Of David she told me, “My God, he’s amazing! The cast just loves him! He could get a 70 year old to do the splits!” A cast of over 20 enthusiastic senior singers/actors/ dancers (many with impressive theatrical bios) present 26 vocal and dance production numbers… many of them familiar hits from Broadway shows. Beloved songs from such musicals as Chicago, Pippin, West Side Story, Cabaret, Gigi, Ain’t Misbehavin’, and Les Miserables are covered! Energetic and effective musical accompaniment onstage by Ron Rose and Craig Fine added to the fun. You’ll laugh… you’ll sing along, and “remember when”… all the way through this uplifting “senior romp.” Way too many songs and performers to comment on all, but the entire sassy cast worked very hard, and had a great time! The showstopper of the night for me was “The Cell Block Tango” from Chicago, as six riotous female performers reveal why they “did away” with their “no good” hubbies. The chilling full cast closing numbers, “Coming to America” (as each cast member held up photos of their relatives) and “Grand Old Flag,” ended the night with a bang… and a few surprises! Director Mingrino and Bobbi Stamm (Dance Captain) had their work cut out for them… and met the challenge with stylish skill! Such a huge effort on a small theatre stage, I feel I must credit each cast member with a mention.

The happy cast included: “The Razmatappers,” Lee Olsen, Bob Kindseth, Lynda Modell, Sandy Barry, Joni Flaherty, Tricia Kling, and Charlene Skolion. The sin-gers/actors: Joe Cardinale, Hallie Richman, Dennis Wickman, Valerie Paradise Lant, Arnold Arch, Pattie Brooks, Raffi Mauro, Anna Pagan, Richard Hardy, Carmelita Pittman, Bobbi Stamm, Phyllis Lovit, Miriam Birch, Sue Smart, and Susan La Croix. Lighting design: Brian Farr. This charmingly entertaining revue is “A little naughty… a little nice… a rollicking dose of senior spice!’ See if it you can… it’s already nearly sold out for the run of the show. Running 5 times weekly through June 13th at the Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Venture Blvd. in Sherman Oaks. For tickets call 818-606-6679 or email PinkLady7@earthlink.net.

FYI. Aside from her theatrical endeavors, Jackie is widely known for her Senior Motivational Seminars, called “Get Up, Get Out, & Get A Life.” She is a firecracker of a gal!

Mark Your Calendar! “Bert & Friends” at The Actors Forum Theatre. A month of Thursdays, May 27th through June 17th. Showtime 7:30. Tickets only $10. Directed by Audrey Marlyn Singer, and featuring respected veteran actor Bert Hinchman. A variety evening of scenes and songs, with the incomparable Billy Revel at the piano, and a fun lovin’ cast of five… this should be a neat mid-week treat!

See you next week with two more new reviews. Pick a play of your choice… and get out among ‘em!


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