I caught two productions for review on the weekend …

As different as they could be in style and content, but both ambitious in their own ways….

Storefront Church – A West Coast Premiere.

The cast of “Storefront Church.”

The cast of “Storefront Church.”

Written with heartfelt passion by the highly acclaimed John Patrick Shanley. Offering their second production as the resident theater co. in the intimate back space at The NoHo Arts Center … “The 68 Cent Crew” have produced over 50 highly touted shows and festivals in Los Angeles. Founded by Ronnie Marmo twelve years ago, with 68 cents to his name … and the gift of theatrical vision, they have become a highly regarded troupe. We are so fortunate to now have them in our thriving local theater circle in NoHo! As the play opens – a couple and their conflicted resident “preacher with a dream,” are about to lose their home, and prospective local Bronx 12 seat Storefront Church. As they meet with a Bronx Borough President in the midst of the mortgage crisis (an excellent Aris Alvarado), the heart-wrenchingly poignant and humorous story unfolds. Directed with riveting realism by Ronnie Marmo (assisted by Heidi Rhodes) the ensemble effort is brilliant and the individual performances are flawless! I strongly feel each actor here must be mentioned: Johnnett Kent as the spirited Jessie, and Alan Ehrlich as her quirky husband Ethan, fighting to keep their home, give powerfully heart-touching performances. Steven Stanton is captivating as the preacher with inner conflicts, who has lost his New Orleans church to “Katrina.” Charles Hoyes is despicably dynamic as the heartless bank CEO, and Ed Dyer is unforgettable as the insecure, palsy afflicted loan officer, with quite a story to tell. Danny Cistone has created a remarkable, ever changing set design, and the moody lighting design by Matt Richter and Caitlin Rucker, set the mood with excellence. This is a powerful and moving story, which I highly recommend to all avid theater lovers. Inspiring a rousing standing ovation the night I attended … I expect this production to garner attention, come L.A. Theater Awards season! I won’t reveal any more of the plot … but the final scene in the church, ties it all together with hidden truths and aching beauty! Don’t miss this one … Running on weekends through Dec. 21 at The NoHo Arts Center located at 11136 Magnolia Blvd. in NoHo. To reserve seats call (323) 960-5088 or online at theatre68.com.

Christmas 2 – A World Premiere.

From l, Jude Evans as Jesus and Anthony Backman as John the Baptist in “Christmas 2.”

From l, Jude Evans as Jesus and Anthony Backman as John the Baptist in “Christmas 2.”

Written and playfully directed by Jeff Goode, with irreverent and outrageous Biblical characters and situations … this is a wildly whacky ride! An accomplished and highly revered playwright, his quirky and offbeat imagination has no limits! His riotous hit play, “The Eight: Reindeer Monologues” has enjoyed over 500 productions worldwide. This one, also a “spoof,” though hilarious at times, and well performed, just didn’t play out as well for me. It all takes place 30 years after Jesus’ birth. The ghosts of Nativities Past converge on Bethlehem to teach him the true meaning of Christmas. This script is political, raunchy, funny, bawdy, sweet, and certifiably insane, in turns. Nearly impossible for me to keep up with … but I must say, the audience the night I went howled with laughter repeatedly! Jude Evans played Jesus with hysterical versatility, as did Anthony Backman as his kooky cousin, John the Baptist. Eliza Kiss was fabulously feisty as Maggie, and Franci Montgomery is a riot as a “boozing” angel. Trevor Eyster was lovably funny as Jonah the quirky Sheep, and Samantha Carro was precious as his Shepherd Lass. The remainder of the cast also gave convincing “off the wall” performances, in this menagerie of biblical maniacs. They are: Ellen Rae Littman, Morry Schorr, Marie Pettit, Brett Koontz, and Wayne Baldwin. The show is double cast, so you may catch the other group depending on when you attend. The whole shebang, while often hilarious … was just a tad too frantic for my taste, but there are those of you who will undoubtedly love every zany moment! Creative Costumes by Samantha Carro, Set Design by Tifanie McQueen, Lighting by Maura Reinhart, and Sound by James Sharpe … set the stage with whacky flair. Running through Dec. 22 at T.U. Studios in North Hollywood. For seats call (800) 838-3006 or go to SkyPilotTheatre.com.

Happy Thanksgiving to all! Drive carefully, and enjoy the company of family and friends. Take a moment to count your blessings … and realize that tho’ “not perfect” … life in the USA is a breeze when compared to many other countries. Ta Ta for now.


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