I’m not even a big football fan, but I sure was glued to this one. I barely got to the theatre on time… moments after the last minute win by the Steelers… and by the way, Bruce Springsteen in still the “boss!”
HOLLYWOOD- There’s a visionary and fearless new theatre group in town, with hopes, dreams, big ideas, and plenty of talent to back them up! “Chalk Repertory” is spearheaded by five innovative young women, all graduates of The University of California, San Diego M.F.A. theatre program. They plan to offer classical and contemporary “works” in unconventional and unexpected theatre spaces around Los Angeles. I was there for their ambitious Maiden Voyage! In its U.S. premiere, Susan Coyne’s adaptation of Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” played out, in the beautiful Masonic Lodge at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Sitting amidst the action, Tom Ontiveros’s classy and expansive period set, who also created the lighting with Rebecca Bonebrake, and Raquel Barreto’s lovely costumes… magically involved the audience, as if we were really there. Although the three-hour length, perched on less than plush seats, was a bit challenging… the production was quite beautiful! It is the involvingly complex classic Russian story about the closely-knit Prosorov family (played here interestingly by Asian-American actors). Stuck in the present (for a multitude of reasons), they deeply pine for happier times, living for the day they can return to their beloved homeland in Moscow. Three most loving sisters and their brother exist in a nostalgic haze… their lives filled with ill-fated romances and broken dreams, as they struggle (each in their own way) with the hand life has dealt them. Under the focused and beautifully executed Direction of Larissa Kokernot, this fine cast was mesmerizing. The bitter sweetly believable relationship of the three unfulfilled sisters is at the very heart of the enchanting tale. Jennifer Chang (as the independent and feisty Masha), Aileen B. Cho (as the fragile and kindly Irina) and Joy Osmanski (as the scholarly and sensible Olga), offer some of the evening’s most enthralling moments, as did Feodor Chin, as their brother, Andrei, who is married to the brash and unpolished Natasha (Terri Reeves). Ricardo Antonio Chavira (Carlos on TV’s “Desperate Housewives’) positively sizzles as the dashing military battle Commander, Vershinin, smolderingly lusting for the married Masha. Corey Brill is brilliantly quirky as her husband Kulygin, and Adam J. Smith is achingly compelling as Irina’s smitten suitor. A trio of excellent depictions by veteran actors… Tony Amendola (the Doctor), Tom Carey (Ferapont), and Eva Wielgat Barnes (as the servant lady). Rounding out the large cast in smaller roles are: Tony Aguilar, Owiso Odera, and Richard Tanne. Whew! Since I only had one play to talk about this week, I felt passionate about naming each cast member… in a difficult and energetic ensemble offering. Praise to all! Running through February 22nd at The Hollywood Forever Cemetery in the Masonic Lodge – 6000 Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood. For tickets, call 866-468-3399. Seats are $30. F.Y.I (nice touch…) When space allows, they’re offering 1/2 price seats for students, and military discounts, at the door an hour before each performance. There will also be a “Pay What You Can” night on February 8th at 7pm. Tho’ every production in town hopes to be sold-out nightly in this economic crunch, it isn’t always the case. Better to share the experience with a larger audience at a discount, than a small one at a full price! Good concept by the savvy “Chalk Chicklets!”
A Don’t Hug Me County Fair
The zany Phil Olson is back! Get ready to laugh! A successful contemporary playwright, with nine published plays to his credit, that have “fractured” audiences all over the U.S… he writes about “what he knows.” Raised in a small town in Minnesota, his characters (often based on folks he knew…) are down to earth, unsophisticated, quirky nut cakes (and funny as hell)! His past whacky hit sagas include “Crappie Talk,” “A Nice Family Gathering,” and two previous “Hug Me…” plays… to name a few. This one, following as usual, the goofy folks in Bunyon Bay, Minnesota, takes us to a small town County Fair… where the local ditzy damsels will compete for the title of “Miss Walleye Queen.” A rollicking musical comedy (song lyrics written by Phil’s brother, Paul Olson), it is already booked to run in seven cities after it premieres in NoHo at the Group Repertory. Catch it while it’s in the “hood!” Will be there this weekend and tell you all about it in my next column.
Back next week with two reviews on a duo of lighthearted shows…