Wow! It was a theatrically thrilling, highly-rewarding week…

 Two excellent and mind-bending productions… Make it a priority to catch both of them!

Insanity

(L to R) Dana Meller (background) and Kevin Bailey star in “Insanity,” now playing at the NoHo Arts Center.

(L to R) Dana Meller (background) and Kevin Bailey star in “Insanity,” now playing at the NoHo Arts Center.

NORTH HOLLYWOOD- When you attend any production at The NoHo Arts Center, there is a magical sense of “belonging” and “family” in the air that welcomes you. The circle of artistic members clearly loves being there, and visiting audience members are caught up in the joy. It all started in September 2004, when James J. Mellon and Kevin Bailey, partnered with Doug Hutchinson, bought the existing theatre and made it “their own.” Their positive energy and theatrical savvy quickly spurred “new life” throughout our NoHo Arts District. Offering unique and thought-provoking, meticulously produced, multi-award winning shows, they have revitalized the camaraderie and inspiration in the surrounding theatres. This dynamic new serio-comical musical, “Insanity,” written powerfully by Scott DeTurk (music and lyrics), and James J. Mellon (book and additional lyrics), is their latest brainstorm! Under the spectacular, “larger than life” direction of Mellon, a stellar cast of 13 actors/singers held the audience captive in spellbinding performances. Starring Kevin Bailey (who boasts an impressive list of Broadway credits), this is a wild ‘n’ wacky ride! This charismatic actor has it all! Handsome, spirited, focused, believable, and with a singing voice that penetrates your soul… he inspires “excellence” from any cast he joins. He depicts Zarek Saxton here… a big-wig Hollywood film director, making a “slasher” film. Volatile and difficult, he believes that his life has been taken over by Ovacu, the Shaman (an eerie Curtis C.). When the studio producer, displeased with the eccentric Zarek’s tirades (a solid Bob Morrisey), has him committed to a psych ward for observation, he is counseled by a psychiatrist with “issues” of her own (Dana Meller; a fine actress with a chillingly gorgeous voice). Through 19 storytelling songs and a riotously revealing “peek” into the minds of a ward full of colorful “nutcakes,” we embark on a poignantly funny trip into the complexities of the human spirit. Notable work in supporting roles by Jonathan Zenz as Zarek’s frustrated brother, Sabrina Miller as a typical “bimbo starlet,” and Tara Lynn Orr as Head of the Clinic. As the quirky and fragile patients in the “Tinseltown” loony bin, we encounter Peter, who thinks he’s a Priest (Victor Warren), Monica, a rebellious young vixen (Cat Davis), Virginia, a “would-be” opera singer (Kathryn Percival), Raymond, a specchless guitarist (Alex Robert Holmes), Rex, a once-famous Shakespearean actor (Brad Blaisdell) and Hughie, a pregnant man (Arthur Ross). Touching, funny, and commendable performances by all! As always here, the behind-the-scenes efforts are flawless! Sweeping scenic design (Laura Fine Hawkes), creative costuming (Curtis Jackson), mood-setting lighting (Luke Moyer) and crisp sound (Jonathan Zenz). This is a captivating story that considers the thin dividing line between insanity and normalcy… Most of us fall somewhere in between! You’d be “crazy” to miss this one! Running through August 9th at The NoHo Arts Center – 11136 Magnolia Blvd. in NoHo. Call 818-508-7101 ext. 7.

Carved in Stone

(L to R) Curt Bonnem, Leon Acord, Levi Damione, Kevin Remington, and Jesse Merlin in “Carved in Stone.”

(L to R) Curt Bonnem, Leon Acord, Levi Damione, Kevin Remington, and Jesse Merlin in “Carved in Stone.”

HOLLYWOOD- Hang on to your hats, folks! This is an E-ticket journey into a bizarre literary lounge in the “afterlife,” where famous gay writers verbally spar, drink, and swap stories. A boldly boisterous and bodacious bitchfest! Written brilliantly by Jeffrey Hartgraves, this play got raves during its first run in San Francisco in 2002. Lovingly produced in his honor by Laurence Whiting, Matthew Quinn, and Combined Artform, this hilarious version is “fracturing” local audiences (both gay and straight)! Gryphon, an inspiring novelist, jumps on the subway… never to see “earthly” life again. The next thing he knows, he has been transported to an unknown colorful lounge room with a free-flowing bar. Stunned, confused, and disbelieving, he soon realizes that he is in the company of four deceased and legendary gay writers. Quentin Crisp, Oscar Wilde, Tennessee Williams, and Truman Capote… all seem to have expected him, and consider him a literary icon, like themselves. He eventually accepts that he too, is dead. Why has Gryphon, a heterosexual man (though perceived as gay by others) landed in this “afterlife” fantasyland? The performances all around are excellent, and the intellectual bickering that ensues is hilarious! A great play for L.A. writers to see… as countless revered “lines” of this quartet of decadent writers are quoted, and many of their quirks and personal lifestyles are exposed. Directed with comedic vision and razor-sharp timing by John Pabros-Clark… Meet the Cast – Levi Damione in the lead role plays the baffled Gryphon Tott, with fiery focus, as a young man who died before his time. Kevin Remington (a “dead ringer” for Capote) and Leon Acord, as the femme Crisp, are both flamboyantly fabulous! Jesse Merlin as the caustic and snobbish Wilde, and Curt Bonnem as the lecherous Williams, are deliciously delightful! Wildly “chameleon-like” multi roles, played by Alex Egan (as Gertrude Stein, Frank Nelson and Shakespeare) and Amanda Abel (as Alice B. Toklas, Bette Davis, and a hot song medley as Garland). The polished production was artfully designed by John Pabros-Clark (cute set), John Toom (lighting), Roberto Rangel & Sugano (wacky wigs, hair and make-up), and kooky costumes, by the entire cast. This is a laugh-a-minute” lark… do see it! Running through August 9th; Friday and Saturday, $25, Sunday matinees, $20, and now on Tuesdays at a “recession busting” $10 (if you can get a seat)! Theatre Asylum – 6320 Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood. Call 310-473-5483.

More to come next time…


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