I caught two comedies this time…


One X-rated and the other P.G. Something for everyone!

The Muscles in Our Toes

(L to R) Bill Tangradi (background on piano) and Al Espinoza and Michael Benyaer (both center foreground) in “The Muscles in Our Toes.”

(L to R) Bill Tangradi (background on piano) and Al Espinoza and Michael Benyaer (both center foreground) in “The Muscles in Our Toes.”

NORTH HOLLYWOOD- Presented by Green Beetle Productions, and written by Stephen Belber, with a mega dose of testosterone and off-color macho humor, this is a gritty and explosive dark comedy. Under the volatile and victorious direction of Jennifer Chambers, we meet four old high school buddies at their 20 year class reunion in 1988. Ducking out of the main reunion hall, they hole-up in the school’s chorus room and hash over their lives and differences… past and present. Old “emotional” ghosts, memories and resentments surface, in between the “gin and tonics,” as each reveals the paths they’ve traveled over the past two decades. Long estranged, the quartet of men shares a panicked concern for the absence of the 5th wheel in their high school “boy’s club.” The once super popular Jim, “Class King” of 1968, now missing for three months, has been kidnapped by a radical group. They come up with an outrageous and dangerous plan to find and free him. Al, Reg, Les, and Phil, whose adult 9 to 5 suburban lives have taken many turns, reunite in their mission to save Jim. Kristen Lee Kelly (the only female in the play) gives a sassy and high-energy performance as a lonely and “sloshed” schoolmate, who has a sexual history with two of the men. The other excellently effective cast members include: Michael Benyaer (Reg), Al Espinoza (Dante), Daniel Milder (Les), Bill Tangradi (Phil), and Keith Ewell as Jim. This entire cast excels in powerful portrayals! Hilariously funny, crude, and painfully raw, in turns… yet somehow as written, we never really “feel” any redemption, solution, or sympathy for their flawed characters. Likely to get mixed reviews, this volatile script offers numerous entertaining moments and worthy individual scenes… but I can’t honestly say that I loved the play as a whole. Maybe I missed something? Strong behind-the-scenes efforts set the mood commendably: Costumes (Jamie Hebert), Scenic Design (Donna Marquet), Lighting (Brandon Baruch), and Sound (John Zalewski). The quality of the production was all around top notch, but sadly… the impact of the playwright’s intention entirely escaped me. It simply was not my glass of “gin and tonic”… one vodka martini please!
Running through June 29th at The El Portal Forum Theatre – 5269 Lankershim Blvd. in NoHo. For seats, call 866-811-4111.

Schoolhouse Rock Live! Too

(L to R) Lisa Tharps, Harley Jay, Jayme Lake, Michael Lopez, Brian Wesley Turner and Tricia Kelly in “Schoolhouse Rock Live! Too!

(L to R) Lisa Tharps, Harley Jay, Jayme Lake, Michael Lopez, Brian Wesley Turner and Tricia Kelly in “Schoolhouse Rock Live! Too!

HOLLYWOOD- Scheduled to review this fun-filled and fresh musical comedy on a Sunday afternoon, I wasn’t aware of its style or content. Once there, I found myself surrounded by dozens of “wee ones” under 9-ish, with all of their wide-eyed innocence. This is a happy, bouncy, “positive” show, based on the animated, educational 1970’s T.V. series of the same name. 20 great “learning” songs, each with a moral, loving, or educational message, play out with bubbly enthusiasm (under the skilled Musical Direction of Cody Gillette and his trio)! Staged and directed by “wonderkind” Rick Sparks, who also choreographed the lively play (assisted by Denise Giram), this is a “feel good,” eye-opening experience for youngsters. Sparks, a highly-revered, always innovative director, was thrilled to take on this sequel project (the first one ran here in 2007). (Currently, his delightful “Divorce! The Musical” has been running for months at Hollywood’s Hudson Theatre. I caught it Opening Night… and loved it!) As this story opens, the local neighborhood diner is in danger of foreclosure. Times are tough, and the customers have stopped coming in. What to do? An enthusiastic, perky, and multi-talented cast of six searches for a solution through teamwork snd 20 spirited song performances… dedicated to saving their beloved diner. Michael “Milo” Lopez loveably plays “Cookie,” the stressed-out diner owner (what a fabulous voice he has)! Infectiously inspiring depictions throughout by: Tricia Kelly (as Rebecca, the upstairs tenant), Jayme Lake (as Julie, the quirky waitress), Harley Jay (as a drifter, looking for a job), Lisa Tharps (as Nina, the building’s owner), and Brian Wesley Turner, (as a local teacher). Kudos also go to: Adam Flemming (cute set and clever video design), Jeremy Pivnick (Lighting), Fionnegan Justus Murphy (Sound), Daavid Hawkins (Props), and Kat Marquet (kooky and colorful costumes). While I don’t see “adults” choosing this charmingly light and informative show over the vast array of local theatre offerings… it is a perfect choice to enjoy with your children! Exposing young kidlets to the magic of “live” theatre is truly a gift that keeps on giving!
Running through July 26th at The Greenway Court Theatre – 544 N. Fairfax in Hollywood. For seats, call 323-655-7679 ext. 100.

Hot Tip!  Make a day of it… The Melrose Trading Post

Why not catch this fun-lovin’ family show on a Sunday afternoon? You can attend the 4pm matinee… and wander around this popular swap meet (right next door) pre-show time! An antique and collectibles market, loaded with unique treasures and colorful “people watching,” I shop there for vintage “finds” myself frequently! ($2 admission – $1 for seniors.)

I have two promising productions to catch next weekend. “East of Berlin,” at the The NoHo Arts Center, and “Fellowship” at the Falcon Theatre. Will tell you about them in the next column…


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