Two productions to talk about this week. One offers a cast of African-American beauties, and the other stars a spirited large cast of only men…

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf

(L to R) Top Row: Tiffany Snow, Shoneji Loraine, Char White, Tonya Harris. Middle Row: Deja Lewis-Smith, Alexia Robinson (Director), Madia Hill. Bottom Row: Andean Nicole Banks, Marlo Denise Stroud, and Jahmela Biggs in “For Colored Girls…”

(L to R) Top Row: Tiffany Snow, Shoneji Loraine, Char White, Tonya Harris. Middle Row: Deja Lewis-Smith, Alexia Robinson (Director), Madia Hill. Bottom Row: Andean Nicole Banks, Marlo Denise Stroud, and Jahmela Biggs in “For Colored Girls…”

BURBANK- Ntozake Shange’s Tony Award-winning “chorepoem” packs an emotional wallop! Boldly voyeuristic, heart-wrenchingly personal, and conceived in 1975, it soulfully combines ensemble song, poetry, dialogue and dance, laced with explosive monologues. An exciting cast of stunningly gorgeous and talented black women takes us on a gritty, sensual, and soul-searching journey. Exploring the minds, hearts, destinies, and painful experiences that plague many African-American women (tho’ less so today I feel than when this play was written), there is also an undeniable element of “truth” here for women of all colors. Issues of abandonment, rage, infidelities, self-esteem and “healing” are explored with “no frills” honesty. Alexia Robinson, a highly-acclaimed acting coach and an accomplished actress with impressive T.V./film credits, makes her directorial debut here with commendable guts and glory! She states: “If I felt I was going to ‘direct’ something, it would need to be a story close to my heart, on a subject that I know well… that might assist in women’s dreams becoming reality…” Having actually played a role in “Colored Girls…” herself in the ‘80s, this lady’s talents have no boundaries! Special “congrats” also to: Ashlee Katrice (choreography), and Amy Langner (sensually appealing costumes), Scott Smith (sound/lighting) and Gary Levingston for a haunting music design. The play begins with a lengthy monologue by Deja Lewis-Smith (Lady in Brown). Vital in setting up the volatile tone of the play, sadly, she was maniacally undecipherable, leaving the audience in a state of huh? Opening night jitters, maybe… but her overplayed performance must be toned down. Shoneji Loraine, as Lady in Blue, and Marlo Denise Stroud, as Lady in Red, were both captivatingly spellbinding, each “driving” their message home with aching passion. Tiffany Snow (in a smaller role), as the tough and street-smart, Lady in Green, was also a stand-out! Andean Nicole Banks as Lady in Orange, Jahmela Biggs as Lady in Purple, and Madia Hill as Lady in Yellow, all have their own mind-blowing moments too! In brief but pivotal roles, Marcus Nel-Jamal Hamm, and Charlie Giggers appeared as the typical black men they encountered. This is an important play that breaks the barriers of race and gender… It is gutsy, revealing, provocative, and yes, even funny at times, offering a feast of “food for thought.” Running through March 29th at The Alexia Robinson Studio Theatre – 2811 W. Magnolia Blvd. in Burbank. For seats, call 323-960-5775 or book online at www.plays411.com.

Falling Upward

(L to R) Walter Beery, Pat Harrington, Jr. and Mik Scriba in Ray Bradbury’s “Falling Upward”.

(L to R) Walter Beery, Pat Harrington, Jr. and Mik Scriba in Ray Bradbury’s “Falling Upward”.

NORTH HOLLYWOOD- Ray Bradbury’s delightful hit play about Irish working-class men, and their colorful communication at the local pub, is always a rollicking crowd-pleaser! I caught it some years back at Theatre West, under the direction of the “late/great” Charles Rome Smith. No, it’s running again locally (with most of the original cast), this time under the direction of Tim Byron Owen. He has reinvented the style, and lovingly added numerous traditional and contemporary Irish song performances. (Nice touch… and “inspiring” vocalists all ‘round.) Cleverly moving his large and lively cast about with precision timing and playful panache, the current production has a great “look.” (Although personally, I feel that this play works better in a more intimate-sized theatre space.) We peer in on the camaraderie and mysterious adventures of the regular lads who frequent Heeber Finns Pub, in the village of Kilcock, Ireland. (No ladies allowed!)  The towering Finn, (a boisterous Mik Scriba) offers a “home away from home” where the guys hang out, sipping suds and swapping stories. For spiritual guidance, they rely on the wisdom of the quirky Father Leary (a loveable Walter Beery), who pops in frequently for a “wee” nip. A huge cast of worthy actors (all male), energetically entertain us, as we share in their daily lives, concerns, and interactions. The beloved veteran actor Pat Harrington (best known as the apartment “super” on TV’s “One Day at a Time”), narrates the whacky events as Garrity, with a twinkle in his eye. Unfortunately, too often his words were totally lost in this large theatre, by sound that was not cranked up enough. Surely, this has been corrected by now… Also, for some reason, the overall level of lighting was often too dark for comfort. Also fixable… Too many actors to mention all… but Abbot Alexander (Doone) and Michael Gough (Peevey) must be applauded for exceptional portrayals! We follow these rambunctious pub pals to a riotous, wine swilling (and “spilling) funeral, and later enjoy their suspicious interaction with a band of foreign travelers at the pub, who have come from Italy. Ingenious and detailed set design by Jeff G. Rack, and great looking costumes by Kelly Fluker… add nicely to the authenticity of it all! Opening night… Mr. Bradbury himself honored us with a pre-show chat, and was as always funny, informative, and thoroughly charming! A rowdy and hilariously heartwarming Irish case of “boys will be boys,” this is one play that you gals can probably encourage your fellas to catch! Running through April 25th at the El Portal Mainstage Theatre – 5269 Lankershim Blvd. in NoHO. For tickets, call 866-811-4111.

Back next week to tell you about “E-Love”… a comedic musical dealing with romance, found on the Internet, and opening at Burbank’s Victory Theatre. Until then… “May the luck of the Irish be with you!” (Sent out personally from “Patsy Callahan… my maiden name!”