I enjoyed a highly rewarding weekend, theatrically speaking.
Two exceptional productions to discus… I hope you will take time to “experience” both of them!
“To Kill a Mockingbird”
This compellingly captivating production marks the first full-run play at Burbank’s newest playhouse. Co-produced by Penny L. Moore and Colleen McGrann, (who also co-own the theatre) and directed with gut wrenching passion by Moore, this strong effort is a clear sign of things to come here. Taking on Harper Lee’s classic, Pulitzer Prize-winning “To Kill a Mockingbird,” (adapted by Christopher Sergel) and boasting a huge cast of 20 actors… this duo of creative women are fearless! It is the well-known racist story of a fair-minded attorney in 193’s, who heart-wrenchingly defends a negro man, charged with the unthinkable crime of raping a white woman. Jim Gleason is mesmerizing in the role of Atticus… flawless in every aspect! (Gregory Peck won the Oscar in the film version.) As the traumatized victim in question (Mayella), Hayden Wyatt gives a brilliantly focused performance, as does David Wells as her leering, low life father. Myron Rimes as the towering defendant is riveting, and Baadja-Lyne as Atticus’s family housekeeper/nanny is also wonderful! Penny L. Moore (the director) beautifully threads the events from her childhood, in memory flashbacks, as Atticus’s daughter, Scout. Three precocious kid actors: the young Scout (Rachel Arnold), the older brother Jem (Dalton O’Dell) and a visiting friend, Dil (Taylor Cosgrove Scofield). Each in their first staged play, they were precious but at times were not loud or clear enough. Opening night jitters, I suspect. The rest of the focused cast, in smaller roles, was excellent… staying deeply in character, one and all! Though they are many, I feel each actor deserves a mention. Colleen McGrann (Miss Maudie), Terri Simmons (Miss Stephanie), Morma Michaels (Miss Dubose), Gerald Brodin (prosecuting attorney), Gregor Manns (Reverend Sky), Heck Tate (sheriff), Michael Patrick McGill (neighbor), Charles Martin Warner (Judge Taylor), Alise Fuller (Helen), and Price Carson (Boo)—congrats to all! Moore’s detailed and attractive set and design, Darrell Bryan’s sound and the 1930’s costumes (a group effort) round out my enthusiastic kudos! A powerful and deeply involving production… Do see it!
Running through Oct. 25th at the Missing Piece Theatre (2811 Magnolia Blvd. in Burbank). For seats call (800) 838-3006.
The first offering in GRT’s 36th season, under the vision of its new artistic director, Ernest A. Fugueroa, is a “rotating rep” of three magical plays, alternating performance nights through November 8. The company members are “joined by the heartstrings” in their efforts to re-vamp the stage and theatre… and it looks fabulous! They are deeply dedicated to presenting quality productions in honor of their longtime mentor, Lonny Chapman, who passed away in 2007. I chose to see this play, and the other two will be covered by other of our Tolucan Times writers. “Boston Marriage” is a delightfully delicious play set in the Victorian Era… I loved every clever moment of this lively drawing room comedy! Written by David Mamet (who is best known for writing “male” characters) with his trademark caustic wit, off-color verbage and crisp pace… the laughs are non-stop and the underlying themes debatable. It is the titillating story of two Boston ladies, who had lived together in the past, dependant solely on each other, with no males present. Soul mates and partners in life… it is speculative whether or not a “sexual” union was shared. As the p play begins, Claire returns to Anna’s home after some time to announce her un-requited passion for a young girl, and Catherine reveals her current “relationship of convenience” with a married man. As memories “old hurts” and feelings explode in hilariously fast-paced “cat n’ mouse” dialogue… we are thoroughly entertained! The production design (Trefoni Michael Rizzi) and gorgeous Victorian costumes (Liz Rankin) set the tone with elegance! Impeccably directed by Lisa Wolpe (assisted by Renee Gorsey) with razor sharp timing and playful panache, a cast of three awe inspiring actresses held our interest and won our hearts! Stephanie Jones as the “larger than life” Claire, Lia Sargent as the “high strung” Anna, and Melissa Soso as the loveably looney servant girl, each gave award worthy performances! A fun filled evening ensues!
Running through November 8 at the Lonny Chapman Theatre (10900 Burbank Blvd. in No Ho). For seats and performance schedules, call (818) 700-4878. FYI: Inquire about their new annual $40 membership plan, which gives you half-price tickets to every play of the season, and a $5 discount on tickets for your theatre guests. A great deal!
Next week I will see/review two plays in NoHo: “Mom’s the Word” at The El Portal Forum and “A Big Gay N. Hollywood Wedding” at Crown City Theatre. See ya with a report on them then…