Two worthy new productions to tell you about this week…

“A Prayer For My Daughter”

(L-R): Gary Lamb and Matthew Thompson in “A Prayer For My Daughter.”

A gritty, “cutting edge,” explosive and shocking look at New York’s mean streets in July of 1977, this is a disturbingly dynamic play… (not for the easily offended). A violent and depressing period in NYC, then facing bankruptcy, and just before the major blackout that sent rioters and looters running wild… the lunatics were coming out of the woodwork. “Son of Sam” serial killer David Berkowitz was still on the loose and peoples’ faith in the American dream was shattered. Written with gut wrenchingly crude reality by Thomas Babe, the societal horrors at hand and four riveting volatile performances had us glued to our seats throughout! The play unfolds in a NYC police station interrogation room as two suspicious street thugs are violently grilled. One, a sleazy wise guy with a lengthy record (a slick and cocky Gary Lamb) who, like Manson, had a following of misguided youths under his spell… and the other, a screwed up, young drug addict captured by his teachings (a powerfully mesmerizing Matthew Thompson). They’ve been picked up on suspicion of the senseless murder of an old, Jewish merchant lady. Two corrupt and abusive cops work them over mercilessly, both mentally and physically. As Detective Kelly and his partner, Detective Delasante, a pair of slimy, “out of control” cops… Kevin Brief and Matthew J. Williamson are terrifyingly effective! In the midst of the grueling interrogation, Detective Kelly is also trying to deal with repeated suicidal phone calls from his daughter… yet, he stays at the precinct with his suspects into the wee hours. The suspenseful dynamic and well-timed direction of Albert Alarr and the mesmerizing manic performances of these four strong actors were flawless. Award worthy, one and all! Tho, I admit, I didn’t “get” all of the underlying cerebral meaning in this darkly daunting story… I was mesmerized non-stop! I must warn “light-weight” theatre-goers that this is a tough play to watch (…and there is full nudity) but it was presented with all-round theatrical excellence! Backstage kudos to: Sarah Krainin (set design), Caitlin Erin O’Hara (1970s costumes), Michael Franks (lighting) and Nikko Tsiotsis (sound).
FYI: Crown City’s four-month long hit run of “A Big, Gay North Hollywood Wedding” will continue to play out on Sunday afternoons. A delightful, funny and interactive affair… this one is a riot!

Crown City Theatre (11031 Camarillo St.—located at St. Matthews Church—in North Hollywood). For seats to either production, call (800) 838-3006 or visit www.brownpapertickets.com.

“Cool Negroes”

“Cool Negroes” cast.

In honor of Black History Month, Towne Street Theatre, an excellent African-American troupe, opens their 17th season with this soul searching “dramedy.” Recently coming out of a 10-month smash hit run in Hollywood of Del Shore’s “Daddy’s Dyin’ Who’s Got the Will,” this one is an original script, written by one of their own. I’ve followed/reviewed their plays for many years and am always impressed with their vision, dedication and performances. “Cool Negroes” opens at a heated revolutionary protest rally in an urban park in 1972. Afro hair-dos, blasting music, gawd awful ‘70s costumes, sex, drugs and strong political views explosively erupt… until the cops are called and all hell breaks loose. Written and directed with heartfelt passion and powerful range by Tony Robinson, this is the story of five ‘60s revolutionaries who’ve fought to make a difference. When one of them is killed by police fire, the story flashes forward to the present as we study the remaining four middle-aged ex-militants and the roads their lives have traveled. Still “rebels” at heart, and never forgetting that day, they have regularly met at the same park to share peaceful breakfasts and conversations for over thirty years. Each are still opposed to the “politically correct” modern world but are dealing with it, each in their own ways. When Al, a yuppie guy, invades their space (a delightfully nerdy Dane Diamond) and two rebellious and mouthy teen girls start hangin’ out at the park, too (a feisty Tené Carter Miller and Leslie La’Raine), sparks fly and hidden secrets are revealed… triggering much passion and retrospect. Playing the four ex-militants, now in a variety of professions and life situations, Sammie Wayne IV (Louis), Tom Hyer (Eric), Mark Jones (Mod) and Teressa Taylor (Deborah) give a quartet of power-packed passionate performances… Fine actors all! Alex Morris is heart wrenching as Joe, Diane Sellers is spunky as Mother Barnes (a wise, old blind woman) and Prema Rosaura Cruz is sweet as Odessa. A very good cast all around! Creative visionaries: Nancy Reneé (kooky 1970s costumes and present day), Jon Rogers (wigs and hair), Sammie Wayne IV (lighting) and 3AMSOUND (sound design). This thought-provoking drama is a meaningful mix of nostalgia, self realizations, forgiveness and hope… with plenty of laughs and a lot of heart!

Running Friday and Saturday nights, with Sunday matinees, through February 28 at The Stella Adler Theatre (6773 Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood). $2 parking is available at The Kodak Center with validation. For seats, call (213) 624-4796 or visit www.townestreet.org.

Back next week, as always, with more theatrical news for your consideration…


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