I ventured out on two polar-opposite theatrical trips on the weekend.
Aimed at very different audiences… one was fluffy fun, and the other was darkly devious. Both are commendable!
The Shape Of Things
LOS ANGELES- A dark and cutting-edge dramady that intrigued and captured our focused attention from the start… and blew us away with “psyche shock” by the end, this is a mind-bending production! Suspensefully written by Neil LaBute, with true grit and a “heady” concept, it ran onstage in New York and was also a feature film. Somehow I was not familiar with this story… The play opens in an art museum… As a beautiful and defiant graduate art student steps over the boundary ropes, equipped with a can of spray paint, intending to deface a statue, an art museum guard attempts to stop her. She, (Evelyn), a gutsy and free-thinking art purist, objects to the small town’s choice to cover the art statue’s penis with leaves… He, (Adam), an innocent, younger undergrad student and a “by the rules” geek, has more than met his match! They begin a Svengali relationship, as Adam falls hopelessly in love, and Evelyn takes on the methodical mission of totally transforming him. As the love-struck Adam becomes more attractive, fit, confidant and happy, under her manipulative guidance, the “price” of his metamorphosis unfolds. Under the sensually steamy direction of Brett Erickson (in his directorial debut), a quartet of excellent and many layered performances plays out here, taking us on a dark and deceitful journey. One wee grumble: Some of the play’s blocking, and all of the clunky onstage set changes, were distracting, and should definitely transition more smoothly. The stunning Christina Howard, as Evelyn, is sinfully seductive and explosively exciting, and Cameron Britton, as the blindly smitten Adam, is pure perfection! Two highly-effective actors, their shared scenes are captivating! Adam Chambers as Phillip, young Adam’s crass and quirky friend, is devilishly dynamic, and Deborah Baker, Jr., as his sweet girlfriend Jenny, is heart-wrenching. This is a dedicated, closely-knit young ensemble acting troupe. They soon plan to extend their membership in their magical, funky, and expansive loft theatre space in the downtown L.A. Arts District. This was only their second production, following last year’s acclaimed show, “Loft Variety Hour, Featuring Naughty Nancy.” I am a new “fan” of this enthusiastic group, and look forward to seeing/reviewing their future works… Running through May 23rd (Fridays and Saturdays only) at The L.A. Fringe Theatre – 929 E. 2nd St. (entrance on Vignes). Call 213-680-0392
Here Lies Jeremy Troy
GLENDALE- For a riotously rollicking, “laugh-a-minute” evening, this is one to catch! Sassy and fast-moving, with non-stop character “switch-a-roos,” this PG-rated comedy is perfect fare for a family theatre outing. From teens to seniors, there are plenty of belly laughs to be had! Why not take your Mom or Grandmom as a Mother’s Day treat this weekend? Written with ferociously funny flair by Jack Sharkey, and playfully directed by Tim Dietlein (who also designed the attractive set and lighting), a terrific cast takes us on a manic joyride! It is 1965 in New Jersey… Jeremy Troy, an affluent, happily married lawyer of 20 years, is expecting his big boss over for dinner. A very important evening in his career/life, he anticipates an offer to become a partner in the law firm. A man who has everything going for him, he seems to have the world in his hands… except for one teeny little detail: he’s been hiding the fact that he never actually earned his law degree! When Charlie, a free-loading long-lost college buddy turns up, threatening to expose his secret… the fun begins! In the title role, Daniel Roebuck is a wild ’n’ wacky joy as the lovable but deceitful lawyer (a constantly working character actor and co-star on TV’s “Matlock,” you will likely recognize him from one of his many roles, over his 25 year career). Kelly Flynn is screamingly funny as his opportunistic artist friend, who could “burst Jeremy’s bubble.” Both of the feisty femmes in the play are perky perfection! Megan Blakeley, as Jeremy’s devoted and trusting wife, and JJ Rodgers as a “ditzy” hired artist’s model, give kooky, comical, and highly-physical performances! Mario DiGregorio rounds out the cast charmingly as the constantly befuddled “big wig” boss in the midst of this diabolical circus. Angela Wood’s 1965 period costumes are delicious, and the entire experience is simply madcap fun! Running through May 16th (Thursdays through Sundays) at the Glendale Centre Theatre – 324 N. Orange St. in Glendale. For seats, call 818-244-8481.
American Idol Top Four
An “American Idol” addict from Season One, every year I get so caught up in the talent and back stories of the final ten contenders… you’d think they were my own kids! What an amazing show… an incomparable opportunity and learning experience for America’s young talent! This year’s finalists were, in my opinion, the strongest ever! Now down to four hopeful vocal artists… Adam, Kris, Allison and Danny… it’s anyone’s guess, but all are deserving! I predict the top two will be Adam and Danny. Only time will tell!
I met one of my co-Tolucan Times columnists for the first time last week. You’ve read his musings for years. Smart as hell… a deep thinker, an observer, and one opinionated (and sometimes grumpy) writer! I, for one, never miss his compelling and controversial column (whether I agree with his opinion or not). To my surprise, he was a friendly, handsome, and open-minded “regular guy” who always speaks his “own” truth. What else can one ask from a writer? Nice to meetcha’ Greg!
See you all next time…