I only caught one production to critique on the weekend, and I must say this …
The largely African American audience in attendance was absolutely gorgeous! Beautifully dressed, stunningly classy, and loveably gracious … I felt a bit like a “hick from the sticks”!
Written with “true to life” grit by August Wilson, this was one of ten plays he wrote in his “Pittsburgh Cycle,” over the course of the 20th century. Painting a passionate picture of life in his neighborhood, Jitney garnered major theatrical awards. The Pittsburgh Gazette wrote: “Jitney is a vivid mix of comedy and passion, backed by a sociology of men struggling to survive.” The year is 1977, in Pittsburgh’s largely black, Hill District. A sketchy area that legitimate cab companies would not service … unlicensed gypsy cabs called “jitneys,” transported the local people around town. The story takes place in Becker’s storefront jitney station, now in danger of being demolished due to urban renewal plans. A motley crew of men … societal misfits, drive their cabs to survive, while dealing with life’s disappointments and personal challenges. Their volatile relationships are competitive and explosive, in a “dog eat dog” world. The entirely believable African American cast gave heartfelt and realistic depictions … tho’ at times, some of the dialogue was difficult to hear clearly…. As Becker, the office boss, Charlie Robinson is poignantly powerful, throughout. He shares a strong and explosive scene with his son, Booster, who turns up after 20 years in prison … well played by Montae Russell. Larry Bates and Kristy Johnson also share a heart-touching scene as a couple in romantic crisis, who finally resolve their issues. David McKnight is a treat as the office “boozer,” and Ellis E. Williams is excellent as the sassy senior troublemaker. James A. Watson, Jr. as Doub, Rolando Boyce as a sleazy and flashy bookie, and Gregg Daniel as Philmore … round out the cast perfectly. Director Ron OJ Parson effectively brought the characters to life, featuring each actor’s spot-lit moments, while focusing on the ensemble effort. Technically tight as well: Kudos to Shaun Motley (set design), Dana Rebecca Woods (costumes), Brian J. Lilienthal (lighting), and Vincent Olivieri (sound). Presented by South Coast Repertory, this is quite a worthy and involving production … and the final offering at the Playhouse this season. Artistic Director, Sheldon Epps was thrilled with the success and excitement of the season, and looks forward to next year’s offerings. To catch this realistic and gritty “slice of life” dramedy, running through July 15, call (626) 356-7529 or go to www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org. The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 S. El Molino inPasadena.
Couple’s Counseling Killed Katie
Not assigned to “review” this one … but had to give it a brief and glowing “mention!” Written by TV’s Mark Roberts (Mike & Molly, Two and a Half Men), this is an outrageously hilarious production! A brilliant two person effort, Roberts costars with Jessica Tuck … poking fun at 7 offbeat “couples in crisis,” with a quirky variety of “issues.” Dark, provocative, and hysterical … and only running through June 30 (Wed. thru’ Sat.) atHollywood’s Elephant Theatre. Catch it if you can! Call (323) 960-7721.
The Stars of “Beatlemania” Come to the El Portal
Billed as the #1 touring show in Americacelebrating The Beatles. I am so excited to be covering this show on the weekend! It stars members of the original Broadway production of “Beatlemania,” which ran for 1,006 performances in New York. This dynamically updated version, promises costume changes, “rockin’” live performances, and technological multimedia magic! Only running from June 30 through July 1 (this weekend!) … You must be quick to catch it! Book seats now! I know every single word of every Beatles song … I’m sure many of you do too! Call (818) 508-4200 or go to www.elportaltheatre.com. Hope to see you all there!
Here’s Killing You Kid at The Coast Annabelle Hotel
An interactive murder mystery, unfolding in Burbankat The Coast Annabelle Hotel, this sounds like great fun! The story unfolds in Burbankin 1953, adopting a “noir parody style.” Seven people (actors), search for the famed “Majorcan Monkey,” after the death of the archeologist who discovered it. We get to help the detective figure out “Whodunnit,” while enjoying a delicious four course meal (4 dinner choices). Running weekends June 28 through July 28 … with August dates to be announced later. $49.95 per person plus tax and tip. (Cocktails also available for purchase.) For tickets call (818) 845-7800 ext. 608.
That’s my story for this week! There are so many talented and creative actors, writers, and technical wizards in Los Angeles … just waiting for an appreciative “audience” … Why not put “catching a play” on your “To Do List”!