As many of you know from my theater column of many, many years …

I love live theatrical productions! Of course some are disappointing, but each one invites you to consider different lifestyles and situations. This vicariously broadens the tapestry of your life experiences, while enjoying a night out with friends. Last weekend was a particularly rewarding one. I caught a pair of excellent plays, offered by two long-successful theater groups….

The Different Shades of Hugh – A World Premiere.

From l, Tom Musgrave, Coronado Romero, and Zachary Mooren star in the Road Theatre Company’s World Premiere production of “The Different Shades of Hugh,” written by Clete Keith and directed by Sam Anderson and now playing at the Road Theatre on Magnolia.

From l, Tom Musgrave, Coronado Romero, and Zachary Mooren star in the Road Theatre Company’s World Premiere production of “The Different Shades of Hugh,” written by Clete Keith and directed by Sam Anderson and now playing at the Road Theatre on Magnolia.

Written brilliantly by Clete Keith, this play held the opening night audience riveted throughout, and earned a rousing standing ovation! A tricky play to review for you, as there are secrets I must not reveal, which you will see when you catch it yourself … and you must! It explores the complex and innermost madness and passion that lies in the soul of one particular artist. As Hugh, this artist doubting his work and stuck in a gray world … Coronado Romero gives a dark and mesmerizingly powerful performance. Directed with soul searching passion by Sam Anderson, the audience was suspended in hypnotic bliss throughout. The play opens as Diane (Hugh’s beautiful ex-girlfriend) arrives to help him set up an intimate art showing of his work in his apartment. An unsuccessful venture, Hugh plunges further into self doubt and manic self-exploration. When Maris, a lovely girl from the art gallery next door, and its abrasive curator knock on his door, his cerebral whirlwind of confusion and madness is exacerbated. (Played with sweet “girl next door” charm by Ellie Jameson and pompous perfection by Stephan Smith Collins.) In Act Two, Hugh is visited by two weird and whacky artists, there to help him find his artistic vision … and the plot thickens. As these two artistic nutcakes, Tom Musgrave and Zachary Mooren are riotously fearless! Sadly, I mustn’t reveal much more, or I’ll ruin your experiences. Act Two explodes with delicious twists n’ turns, plenty of laughs, and revealingly unexpected events. This is a wildly creative script … acted, directed, and produced with top notch skills all around. The mood setting, “behind the scenes” efforts were also eye & ear poppingly fabulous, and must be credited. David B. Marling (sound design), Adam Flemming (scenic and projection design), Jeremy Pivnick (lighting), and Jocelyn Hublau Parker (costumes). A mind boggling, hilarious, and totally unique production. Do not miss this one! Running through March 15 at The Road Theatre’s second home located at 10747 Magnolia Blvd. in North Hollywood. For tickets call (866) 506-1248 or online at RoadTheatre.org.

On the Money

From l, Maria Tomas, Jeff Kober, Jonathan Kells Phillips, and David Fraioli star in “On the Money” at The Victory Theatre.

From l, Maria Tomas, Jeff Kober, Jonathan Kells Phillips, and David Fraioli star in “On the Money” at The Victory Theatre.

Written by Kos Kostmayer, with a great understanding of the human spirit, and the lengths people will go to survive … this is a totally captivating play. Having hosted this play’s West Coast Premiere here 30 years ago, and noting that the financial problems of good American folks haven’t changed much in 3 decades … the Victory Theatre folks decided to reproduce this gripping play once again. A past review of this very play in The L.A. Times stated … “An exceptionally powerful naturalistic play about the evils of money – or lack of money … Theater of the head and the heart.” Directed powerfully and poignantly by Tom Ormeny! A compelling cast of 10 fine actors bare their souls, in heartfelt performances that still ring true in today’s economic difficulties. The story unfolds at The Black River Café in New York in the 1980s. The likeable bartender Jack (an excellent Jonathan Kells Phillips), the stressed out waitress (a quirky Maria Tomas), and Benny the angry waiter (a cocky David Fraioli) work their tails off to make ends meet. Their wealthy and miserly boss is a tough guy to please, and couldn’t care less about their personal issues (a dynamic performance by Vincent Guastaferro). The trio of disgruntled staff eventually plot a dangerous and shady way to get what they need out of their self involved employer. In the midst of it all, a spaced out and whacky cowboy drifter saunters in a wanting a drink, but has no money, and returns later. Jeff Kober is captivating as this mysterious loner, and offers an unforgettably passionate scene toward the play’s end, as we learn more about his life issues. Tony Maggio is sleazy perfection as a heartless loan shark, here to collect money from the bartender. In smaller roles, rounding out the fine cast are Michael Filipowich, Cara Manuele, Robert Dominick Jones, and Luca Rodrigues. This is a very strong production that holds the audience under its gritty spell throughout! Setting the mood perfectly: The detailed bar and café set is gorgeous, designed by D Martyn Bookwalter, who also designed the lighting. Crisp sound design by Rob Corn, and costumes designed by Bonny Baldwin, round out the “tech” efforts perfectly. This is a totally enthralling play that has a lot to say … Do plan to see it! Running through March 2 at The Victory Theatre located at 3326 Victory Blvd. in Burbank. For seats call (818) 841-5422 or go to thevictorytheatrecenter.org.

Do try to catch both of these strong productions! Back next week….


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