As I write my column on this gloriously sunny Sunday

I, like you I’m sure, am thrilled to see that gloomy and wet week behind us. It was pretty brutal!

“The City”

Photo by Doug Engalla

(L-R): Hector Hank, Bix Barnaba and Alexander Leeb in “The City.”

Written by prominent playwright Clyde Fitch in 1909, who died before its opening night debut, “all hell broke loose” with outraged responses. Near pandemonium broke out from offended and shocked audience members! Updated to present times here… quite frankly, I don’t feel that moving this century-old script to “today” was an effective choice! The storyline, corruption, secret scandals and deceptions these people dealt with would have, indeed, been shocking in the early 1900s. However, in 2010, I think these issues have become everyday happenings in our jaded modern times. Our response and reactions to the tangled webs weaved amongst these characters in the 1900s would’ve packed more of a punch, considering the olde-time values of the day and wearing “period” costumes. Also, trimming down the over 2.5-hour running time would be to the overall production’s advantage. Sorry to start out with negativity but I can only speak with my own opinion.
All of that said, however, under the ambitiously volatile direction of Stan Mazin, a hard-working and dedicated cast gave a variety of commendable performances (for the most part). Let me briefly set up the story for you: After his father’s sudden death (a bumbling unprepared Klair Bybee), his son, George Rand Jr. (an excellent, multi-layered performance by Hector Hank) has been nominated to run for New York’s Senator and is engaged to Eleanor, a sweet girl (played by the infectiously delightful Melissa Soso). As shocking secrets unfold (both personal and political), lies, corruption, legal issues and family skeletons are revealed as hidden truths bubble to the surface. Things get complicated! A freshly exuberant Trisha Hershberger plays the Rand family’s youngest daughter, Megan, secretly in love with her brother’s senatorial assistant (Glenn B. Collins) and Bix Barnaba is solid as the senator-elect’s attorney. The rest of the cast includes: a spirited Kady Douglas as the Rand mother; Jaclyn Marfuggi as the unhappy sister; Alexander Leeb as her dapper, estranged husband; and Diana Martin as the family’s devoted assistant. Although this play had “its moments” and some fine performances, it was kind of “all over the place” and ineffectively adapted to present day which, I felt, diminished its impact. Running through February 28th at The Lonny Chapman Theater (10900 Burbank Blvd. in North Hollywood). For seats, call (818) 700-4878.

FYI—An upcoming, light n’ lively musical “group rep” Valentine’s Day event for you and your sweetie will run February 13th and 14th only. The popular hit show “eLove,” starring Lloyd Pedersen and Bobbi Stamm, is a sweet and fun-filled romantic story with great songs and insight on the topic of “love found” via E-mail. For $25 a seat, you’ll also enjoy sharing chocolates and champagne! Call (800) GURU.

Mark Your Calendar:

“Julie and Friends,” Opening for 4 Thursday Nights, Starting February 4, at The Actors Forum Theatre
Directed by Audrey M. Singer and performed by her weekly workshop members, this is an evening of scenes and songs from “musicals.” Starring Julie Barry, with the mega-talented Billy Revel on piano, this should be lighthearted fun! To book seats at only $10, call (818) 506-0600.

“Price,” Opening at Theatre West February 12
Arthur Miller’s play, written in 1968, has been well received for over 40 years. Upon opening way back when, The New York Times stated: “…One of the most engrossing and entertaining plays that Miller has even written. It is superbly, even flamboyantly, theatrical.” This is the thought-provoking take of a family dealing with the disposal in the attic of their deceased parents’ property… and the “price” each has had to pay for the life choices they have made. Call (323) 851-7977.

“Broads!” Opening February 19 at El Portal Forum Theatre
A new musical directed by the incomparable Jules Aaron and choreographed by the always impressive Kay Cole… this looks like it’s going to be a hellacious hoot! Starring four longtime accomplished “divas” of theatre: Ivonne Coll, Leslie Easterbrook, June Gable and Barbara Niles as “sassy seniors” putting on a musical variety show in a retirement home… I’m already laughing! Call (818) 508-4200.

Will tell you all about these productions when I catch each of their own “openings.” That’s this week’s story… See you next week with more chatter.


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