Two plays to review for you this week…

One a world premiere, and the other penned by a long-respected playwright… strangely, both contain a wee peek of male nudity…

“Sweet Sue”

Photo by Doug Engalia

Janet Wood, Laurie Morgan, Sean McGee, and Brandon Irons in “Sweet Sue”

This is a most unusual and entertaining play. Cleverly written by A.R. Gurney (known worldwide for “The Dining Room”), Mary Tyler Moore and Lynn Redgrave starred in the 1987 Broadway production. Four actors play two roles: there are two Susans and two Jakes. Each character presents alter egos and different sides of themselves throughout the entire play. Sounds a bit confusing, I know, and it takes a while to get into the multi-faceted rhythm, but soon it all falls into place. I enjoyed this “personality party” immensely! A risky and difficult task “directorially,” but Ernest A. Figueroa was up for the challenge. With four actors playing multidimensional characters intermittently, the “in and out” transitions were impeccably timed and playfully polished under his skilled vision. The cast was excellent! Susan, an intelligent and attractive divorced woman “of a certain age” who has put three children through college on her own, is a successful greeting card artist. Questioning her future and longing for a more creative and inspiring life, she has no idea that she’s about to have a heart- and mind-altering summer. The two Susans are richly played by a perky Janet Wood and a feisty Laurie Morgan. When Jake, her son Ted’s hunky college roommate, shows up to stay at her home for the summer while working in the area, her lust for life is reignited. The two Jakes are refreshingly played with youthful exuberance and raw emotion by Brandon Irons and Sean McGee. A “May – December” relationship eventually develops that will linger forever in the hearts of both the “younger man” and the “older woman.” A very sweet story, with relatable “food for thought,” “Sweet Sue” shows how each of them become more enriched individuals as a result of this fleeting summer fling. (There is brief but tastefully presented male nudity…) Kudos all around for exceptional performances by this entire quartet of actors in decidedly tricky roles! Setting the tone perfectly are a gorgeous set by Trefoni Michael Rizzi, lighting by Rachel Jaime Miller, costumes by Diana Martin, and sound by Alma Reyes-Thomas. Do catch this one… it’s fun!

Running through April 25th at The Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., in North Hollywood. Call 818-700-4878.

“The Blvd” World Premiere

Struggling actor Joe Kirkwood (Quentin Elias), gets caught in B-movie queen Norman Desmond’s (Lana Luster) web of deceit and desire as she attempts a movie comeback in THE BLVD.

Look out, West Hollywood! Norman Desmond, a B-movie drag queen, is in town, and “she” will do whatever it takes to reclaim her fame and fans. This hysterically outrageous and campy parody, combining the classic films “Sunset Boulevard” and “What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?” is so “out there” it’s “in!” Maniacally written by Joseph Castel and Danny De La Paz (who also directs the farce) with “gay gags,” “sicko” situations,” and crazy video visuals by Carey Dunn, this is a wildly wacky production. The muscle-bound, mega-tattooed Quentin Elias plays Joe, a struggling actor, who takes a job and residence with Norman as a nude housekeeper to pay the bills. (This French-Algerian actor is also a well known international solo singer.) Miss Lana Luster (of the West Hollywood drag circuit) is hilariously sassy as the narcissistic aging ex-trans gender star, desperate to make a comeback. Nearly stealing the show, Joe Garcia is brilliantly bonkers as Max, her servant, who dresses as “Baby Jane Hudson” in the second act to drive Norman “over the edge.” His screamingly funny portrayal offers some of the evening’s strongest moments! You may remember Garcia from his well-received and award-winning role at The El Portal some years back, in “The Puppetmaster of Lodz.” Miguel Angel Caballero capably plays a screenwriter who falls for Joe, and director Danny De La Paz and Brad Milne round out the insanity in multiple roles. The zany costumes (a combined effort) and uncredited set decoration are fabulously flamboyant! The first gay Latino production produced at Macha Theatre, this decadent offering is certainly not for the easily offended theatre goer, but shameless others should enjoy a sinfully hearty laugh at this naughty romp!

Running Thursday – Sundays through April 18th at the Macha Theatre, 1107 North Kings Road in West Hollywood. Call 323-960-1055.

“Tea At Five”

Next week I’ll be at NoHo’s Whitmore Lindley Theatre to catch Cissy Conner in this one-woman show. Having loved her “spot on” depiction of Marlene Dietrich many times, I’m thrilled to fall under her magic spell once again… as the late, great Katharine Hepburn. For early booking, call 800-838-3006.

Until we meet again… enjoy this heavenly Southern California weather!

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