I caught one meaningful drama loaded with American history, and one wacky comedy loaded with human dysfunction…

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Loved both of them! The diversity of theatre, and the worlds it explores, is the main reason I love this job!

“Waiting for Lefty”

The ensemble.

A hard-hitting and gut-wrenching gem of an ensemble piece, that captivates the audience, while stunning them with ugly truths that still exist…this is a wonderful production, written by activist/writer Clifford Odets in 1935, it studies the God-given rights of workers to receive fair compensation for an honest day’s work. It takes place at a union meeting of NYC taxi cab drivers in the ‘30’s.

Heatedly contemplating a “strike” against their corrupt union, they await the arrival of their elected chairman, Lefty. Beaten down, angry and destitute, struggling just to get by, we are privy to “spot-lit” intimate details of the personal lives of these people…devastated by a shattered economy. (…not unlike today’s economic situation).

Under the brilliantly executed direction of Charlie Mount, a flawless ensemble cast of 16 actors, bare their souls and tell their stories. Gripping! As enraged cabbies in the aisles shout out their concerns all around us, as well as those featured onstage…we fully realize their insurmountable plight.

Not a weak link in this sizeable cast…I’d like to mention a few unforgettable performances. Anthony Gruppuso was dauntingly despicable as the corrupt company union leader, and Dan Keough was explosive as an angry cabbie, passionately calling for a strike! Adam Conger was heart-wrenching as a young man too penniless to marry his lady love. (A sweet Heather Alysa Becker). The always mind-blowing Paul Gunning, was dynamically daunting as a man whose wife and mother of his hungry children, angrily threatens to leave him, if he doesn’t stand up and strike. (A strong Kristin Wiegand).

With such an inspiring and hard working cast, I must name each of the remaining members: Jason Galloway, Donald Moore, Walter Beery, Elizabeth Bradshaw, Charles Baird, Sandra Tucker, Roger Cruz, Alan Schack, David Baer and Alan Freeman. This is an important and thought provoking play…Do try to catch it!

Running through October 10th at Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. in L.A. (Studio City adjacent). For seats call 323-851-7977

“Bail Me Out”

From left to right: Renato Biribin, Jr.; Carissa Engle; Scott Alan Hislop; Amy Motta; and Terrance C. Jones.

An “adult” comedy that will have you laughing from the start, this is a rude, raunchy, riotously funny play! It looks at marriage, homosexuality, and the long-enduring friendships of a group of colorfully dysfunctional people in a small New Jersey town. Many skeletons fly “out of the closet!” Director Joshua Fardon succeeds in keeping the manic pace flying, while also honoring the tender moments.

Billed as a “21st Century Archie Bunker,” Renato Biribin, Jr. who penned this hilarious script…also nails the lead role of Joe Tidone, a macho, married, blue collar mechanic. His motto in life is “it ain’t my business”. Long married to Sherry, (a deliciously down to earth Carisa Engle), Joe still carries a torch for Melissa…now married to a hypocritical black preacher. (Impressively played by both Amy Motta and Terrance Jones). When Joe’s life-long best friend Ray, a podiatrist, “comes out” as a homosexual…all Hell breaks loose! (A heartfelt and focused performance by Scott Alan Hislop). When Joe’s friends and co-workers…Troy, a bigoted ex-con and Jimmy, a “foot-fearing” nutcake, learn about Ray’s “secret”, it’s more information than they can handle! (a screamingly funny Gary Wolf and Emilio McPherson).

There are countless maniacally funny moments here, laced with underlying messages about friendship, loyalty, tolerance, bigotry, disappointments, and small town mentality. Moody lighting by Jared Sayag, and clever use of the minimal set design by Lacey Anzelc, must be applauded.

This one is certainly not for the “easily offended”, but everyone else will laugh out loud repeatedly, as we did! The first staged play, written by Biribin, and “maiden voyage” offering by Harley Marley Productions…I really look forward to their future works!

Running Thursday thru Sundays through October 10th at the intimate Hudson Guild Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood. For seats call 323-960-7745 or to reserve online go to www.plays411.com/bailmeout.

See you next with more L.A. Theatre tips!

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