I caught two productions last week

The first, a realistic look at human emotions… the second, a beloved old Christmas story with a twist…

Our Beds Are Crowded

Carlyn Blount and Vince Palmieri in a scene from “Our Beds Are Crowded” (The Russian).

Written by N.Y. playwright Christie Perfetti with an in-depth look at relationships, this thought-provoking grouping of seven “one acts” deals with the “ghosts” of relationships. Soulful, passionate and dark… and at times connecting reoccurring characters from previous acts… the complex format is a bit confusing, but the performances are spellbinding! A chance to showcase the talents of “Write Act Rep” actors, while considering the effects of our choices on all involved… there are plenty of contemplative and gut wrenching moments. Sex, love, loss, marriage, lust, infidelity, lesbianism and more, are studied with intense scrutiny… with occasional laughs weaved into the mix. Under the realistic and raw direction of Stefan Lysenko (who also designed the minimal and moody set with Anne Mesa), a large cast depicts the games of the heart we play, and the emotional price we pay for our choices. Sultry lighting by Mark Baker, and black and white costumes by Kellie Armbrust, set the tone of the piece perfectly. The seven acts are entitled The Numismatist, The Toast, The Proposal, The Russian, The Magazine, The Neighbor and The Man. My particular favorites (for various reasons) were The Toast, which was heart-wrenchingly played by Jay Charan and Melanie Cruz; The Magazine, a riveting solo performance by Annie O’Neil, who mourns the loss of her son; and The Russian. This, a serio-comical piece, was performed with humorously touching skill by Venice Palmieri as a nervous customer at a massage parlor, and Carlyn Blount as his sexy, Russian massage therapist.

Stephany Northcutt must also be praised for her passionate portrayal of “The Mistress” in the opening scene of The Numismatist! The remainder of the dedicated cast, weaving in and out of the montage, are Tracey Silver, Gary Werntz, David Doman, Diane Chernansky, Meghan McGarry, Gregory Guardino, and Liana Johnston. A complex and interesting production… running through December 21st at 7:30 p.m., Mondays and Tuesdays at Write Act Repertory – 6128 Yucca St. in Hollywood. For seats, call (323) 469-3113.

A Chicago Christmas Carol

Sadie Calvano as School Boy, Anne Mannal as Headmistress, Gary Lamb as Ebenezer Scrooge, and Dave Berges as Jacob Marley in “A Chicago Christmas Carol.”

My first holiday play of the season, magically setting the mood for the wonders of Christmas… this is a beautifully staged, highly entertaining, must-see production! Presented by Crown City Theatre, this is a newly cast, cleverly revised version of their 2008 production about Scrooge and the colorful characters who change him forever. This is a dedicated and inventive NoHo troupe, offering one fine play after another. Here, if a character is written as despicable, they will see to it that we hate him… if they offer a musical, you can count on great singers… and if they stage a comedy, we are guaranteed uproarious laughter! You must get to know them and their innovative, well-thought out work! This delightful version of the classic story of the mean-spirited Scrooge and his wondrous revelations takes place on the freezing streets of Chicago in 1908. Following the familiar story in their own way, we enjoy 20 wonderful and original songs, inspiringly written by William A. Reilly (book and music), and Gary Lamb (lyrics). Under the fun-loving, breathtakingly inventive direction of Brent Beerman (assisted by Ben Rovner), an excellent cast of 13 actors win our hearts. Gary Lamb is mesmerizingly marvelous as the cold-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge, who comes to realize the error of his ways. As the eerie ghosts of his “past, present and future”… Louis Silvers was quirky fun (Present), and Misha Bouvion played the spirits of both Past and Future with chameleon-like flair. Dave Berges offered a powerful Marley (Scrooge’s deceased business partner).

It’s difficult to fully credit each cast member in detail, as most of them played multiple roles, but let me assure you… there wasn’t a weak link among them! Impressive singers and expressive actors ALL, the rest of the lively cast include Paton Ashbrook, Sadie Calvano, Susan Grozier, Anne Mannal, Paul Marchegiani, Pamela Taylor, Kevin Michael Moran, Mikhail Roberts, and Kelsey Lee Smith. Kudos all around to the behind-the-scenes “visionaries” as well! Stephanie Pease (sassy choreography), Keiko Moreno (great set), Tanya Apuya and Caitlin Erin O’Hare (“fab” costumes), Rachel Myles (effective lighting), William A. Reilly, Ben Rovner, and Kathi Chaplar (creative musical direction), and Marcus Lamontagne (focused technical direction). This entire effort is joyously commendable and fully deserves a run in a larger venue! Someone should invite David Geffen to come and fall under its magical spell! Running Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. (dark November 25th and 26th in observation of Thanksgiving). The show runs at the Crown City Theatre – 11031 Camarillo St. in North Hollywood. For seats, call (818) 605-5685.

P.S. It’s a bit risqué for the wee kiddies, but teens and adults will love it!

Next week, I look forward to seeing and reviewing Sweet Mama String Bean, a celebration of blues woman Ethyl Waters, at The Fremont in South Pasadena… and Inspecting Carol at The Lonny Chapman Theatre in North Hollywood.


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