I had a great weekend, theatrically speaking.
I covered a duo of productions at two of my favorite “Valley-side” theatres…
NORTH HOLLYWOOD- When you book a seat at The Road Theatre, you are always guaranteed a unique experience! Their undying dedication, talented actors, and fearless vision have captivated L.A. theatre-goers for 17 years. Multi-awarded and highly revered, they consistently inspire us to laugh, cry, feel or think (and sometimes confuse you), with their unique script choices. There are simply no mindless clunkers at “The Road.” This disturbing and chillingly involving play is no exception. Written and directed with gut-wrenchingly eerie suspense by Craig Wright, the audience was collectively transfixed in a state of awe. (Directorial assistance by Scott Alan Smith and Elizabeth Sampson.) Such an unusual and hard-hitting concept, and so difficult to explain… I’m gonna cheat a bit by borrowing in part from the synopsis in my press release. “A Kafka-esque, darkly humorous examination of faith in an uncertain world… A psychological thriller about two tortured prisoners, incarcerated by a totalitarian regime, with no hope for escape or release.” Unable to see each other, two men communicate through cell walls, trying to keep their sanity for nine long years, by sharing horrific stories of their captors, and trying to work out a plan of escape. Curious noises and knocks between their cells indicate a mysterious new voiceless prisoner, captive between their cells, which piques their interest and heightens their hope. The only other human contact they are privy to is with “Smash,” a sadistic and violent guard who brings them crumbs to eat and empties their barbaric toilet pots. A deeply engrossing, grotesquely unjust journey unfolds. The trio of excellent actors portraying these multi-layered roles is superb! As two solitary strangers who must rely on each other for their sanity, Matt Kirkwood as Valdez, “a regular guy,” and Darin Singleton as Wallace, “a superior mind,” give emotionally explosive performances that will linger in your mind for a long time to come. Douglas Dickerman, as the terrifyingly twisted prison guard, is also powerfully perfect! A terrific design team captured the mood with artistic genius! Desma Murphy’s stark prison set, David B. Marling’s thunderous sound, Jeremy Pivnick’s dismally dark lighting, and the costumes of Elizabeth Brand… all flawless! An incredible production (though not for the faint of heart), this is a must see for L.A. theatre buffs! Running through August 22nd at The Road Theatre – 5108 Lankershim Blvd. in NoHo. For seats, call 866-811-4111.
Ten Cent Night
BURBANK- West Coast Premiere – Under the Co-Artistic direction of “super couple” Tom Ormeny and Maria Gobetti, The Victory Theatre has been offering exceptional productions for 30 years. Dedicated to finding and presenting a wide variety of “slice of life” plays… Some well-known “old favorites,” others new works by “rising star” playwrights, this savvy couple lives and breathes “theeatah!” From cutting-edge, shockingly X-rated choices, to PG fun for seniors… you can always expect top-notch performances and production values here. This current off-beat comedy, penned by young playwright Marisa Wegrzyn, with great insight and many laughs, is a quirky delight! Hilariously poignant, we look at the love, dark secrets, and humor that lingers under the surface of “family dysfunction.” This is one wacky family! Quoting Ormeny on this colorful script… “Marisa seems to have channeled bits of both Anton Chekhov and Sam Shepard, creating an off-beat family comedy, that celebrates unusual opportunities… both funny and sadly touching…” Beautifully directed by Gobetti… She touchingly honors the undertones of family pain while playfully orchestrating the wildly funny moments, in turns. As the play opens in New Orleans, Roby, a sexy young “barfly” and “would-be” country singer, finishes up her solo set at the local dive bar. Down on her luck, she meets Danny, a smitten “mute” customer, who lets her crash in his shabby room upstairs for a few days. As Roby, Tara Buck gives a sassy, spunky, and heartfelt performance, and Martin Papazian is remarkably relatable in a wordless role (as the mute). A letter from home tells Roby that her “one hit wonder” country singer father has fatally shot himself. She quickly hits the road home to Texas, carrying a guitar case filled with stolen cash, pilfered from Danny’s place. At odds with her responsible but lonely twin sister Sadie for many years… (A stellar portrayal by Allison Road.) Once home, old family resentments and secrets riotously and explosively unravel… and shockingly dysfunctional family relationships erupt. As her 16-year-old siblings (also twins), full of teen angst and inappropriate feelings, Shane Zwiner (as Holt) and Caitlin Muelder (as Dee) are dauntingly dynamic! Having stolen the cash for loving reasons… (which I won’t reveal), Roby is in for big trouble, when it’s rightful, smooth talkin’ owner Roscoe turns up, wanting it back (a screamingly funny Gareth Williams). As Lily, Daddy’s wife and a professional prostitute, with a shocking secret, (who’s there to claim inheritance money to open a new brothel), Kathy Bailey oozes naughty, bawdy, Southern Belle charm! Setting the zany tone perfectly, a “Big Howdy” to: Gary Randall (great set), Lauren Tyler (creative and eye-appealing costumes), Tom Ormeny (lighting) and Robert Corn (sound). This well-written play, with all of its passionate feuding familial frenzy, is a barrel of Southern-fried fun! Do see it! Running through August 2nd at The Victory Theatre – 3326 W. Victory Blvd. in Burbank. For seats, call 818-841-5421.
More to come next week…