I have two relatable “slice of life” dramas to tell you about this week…

Both are worthy of your time and both have a valid message.

“Old Glory”

Photo by Tim Sullens

(L-R): James Messenger as Goss, and Jarrett Sleeper as Rat in “Old Glory.”

The Victory Theatre, opening their 30th season in Burbank, now offers a hypnotically mesmerizing production, focusing on the emotional and devastating casualties of war. Beyond the actual battles of warfare, this engrossingly cerebral story delves into the hearts and altered lives of the people/ families left behind at home. The mysterious death of a young American soldier in Iraq is explored with gut wrenching grit here, and is impeccably performed by six flawlessly focused actors, under the poignantly powerful direction of Carri Sullens. Written with exhilarating intensity by Brett Neveu, this play was described by the Chicago Tribute as “haunting, intimate, and intensely moving.” The story opens in a bar in Berlin, 2006. The ingenious triple set (designed by Brett Snodgrass) places the action in this bar, a family home in New Mexico, and a make-shift barracks in Iraq. As our journey begins, we view all of the actors, motionless onstage, divided in pairs on the trio of sets. With the dramatic lighting design of D. Martyn Bookwalter, and realistic costuming of Lauren Tyler, the mood is set. Very effective!  Director Sullens states in part, “I was attracted to Old Glory because of the interesting way the mystery unfolds, and the raw, urgent emotional lives of the characters.” Without making a statement about the Iraq war, the playwright gives us a taste of war in general, and the ways it affects all involved. Not wanting to reveal too much of the suspenseful storyline, I strongly recommend that you see this one for yourselves! The excellent cast includes: Tom Ormeny as Peter, a wartime colonel; Pete Gardner as Torlief, a grieving father wanting answers; Kathleen Bailey as a mother who recently lost her son to war; Chris Allen as Scott, her son’s Army friend; and James Messenger as Goss and Jarrett Sleeper as Rat, two feuding soldiers sharing a barracks. Not a weak link in the bunch, this is an award worthy cast! For an important and rewarding theatrical experience that will linger in your heart and mind, do take the time to see this one!

Running through April 25, 2010, at The Victory Theatre Center (3324 W. Victory Blvd. in Burbank). For seats, call (818) 841-5421.

“Salam Shalom: Enemies… Another Love Story”

Photo by Michael Lamont

Saleem, Christine Joëlle, and Korken Alexander star in the newly revised production of the award-winning “Salam Shalom,” now playing at The Greenway Court Theatre.

A poignantly sweet, yet politically disturbing, story of “love blossoming” regardless of huge obstacles, this is quite a thought-provoking story. It was last produced in Los Angeles in 2005, and has enjoyed critically acclaimed runs in San Diego, Palm Springs, San Francisco, and Sydney, Australia. Playwright Saleem, an openly gay Palestinian-American performer/ playwright, is dedicated to promoting cultural understanding between people, particularly Palestinians and Israelis. Saleem has now revised and rewritten his play to reflect the current political realities in the Middle East. Under the creative and well timed direction of Ty Donaldson, a strong cast of seven actors play these complex roles with heart and soul. When Nabeel, an Arabic PhD candidate, is housed to share living quarters with Yaron, a young Israeli student, their backgrounds, strict cultures, and beliefs cause immediate friction. Despite endless societal, political, and emotional differences, they eventually come to know each others’ “inner selves,” and fall in love. As the star-crossed lovers, Saleem and Korken Alexander play these two conflicted men with heartfelt emotion! Avner Garbi as Nabeel’s Palestinian father, Eileen Barnett as Yaron’s liberal Jewish mother, and Rafael Feldman as Yaron’s staunchly military brother, are all captivating. Christine Joëlle is delightfully upbeat as Liza, a campus housing coordinator/friend, and Jay Ali as a Palestinian activist round out the fine cast with explosive reality. Victoria Profitt’s scenic design, Lisa D. Katz’s lighting, Cricket Myers’ sound, and Juan Risuleo’s costumes all lend perfectly to our involvement. The haunting Middle Eastern music (oddly not credited) and sensual moments of male belly dance movements, shadowed behind the scrim, were mood-settingly gorgeous! This is a serious and important play, certainly not a fairytale. Saleem’s meaningful script focuses on the importance of relationships, communication, due respect, love, and determination among people of all beliefs. A worthy effort!

Running through April 16, 2010, at The Greenway Court Theater (544 N. Fairfax in West Hollywood). For seats, call (323) 655-7679, ext. 100.

Mark Your Calendars!

One night only, April 21, 2010, at 7:30 p.m., a group rep benefit show at The Lonny Chapman Theatre will rock NoHo with laugher! The event, called Yarmy’s Army, will feature some of your fave veteran comedians. (A reception will follow the show.) The whackos on board (pending availability) include: Shelly Berman, Jonathan Winters, Jack Riley, Sam Denoff, Peter Marshall, Howard Storm, Pat Harrington Jr., Steve Landsberg, and Jim McGeorge. Need a good laugh? Call (323) 822-7898.

Back next week with two new reviews…


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