I caught two enjoyable productions on the weekend. Lots of laughs!

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Over the River and Through the Woods

(L to R) Robert Gallo, Klair Bybee, Michele Bernath, Irene Chapman, Alyse Courtney and Ren Bell in “Over the River and Through the Woods.”

(L to R) Robert Gallo, Klair Bybee, Michele Bernath, Irene Chapman, Alyse Courtney and Ren Bell in “Over the River and Through the Woods.”

NORTH HOLLYWOOD- A poig-nant and very funny play about “family,” and their undeniable influence in the long run, on the kind of adults we become, this is a delightful play. Thoughtfully written by Joe DiPietro, alternating hearty laughs with our own nostalgic memories… Do see this one with your own “unique” family members (of all ages). DiPietro’s “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” a smash-hit musical comedy, ran off Broadway for 12 years, and “Over the River…” opened there in 1998.
We meet Nick, a nice 29 year old fellow, who has had Sunday dinner with his two sets of quirky Italian grandparents every week of his life. The love, lessons, and familial guidance he gained from these relationships has shaped his life’s journey… but as the play opens, “the bird is ready to leave the nest.” A single, young professional, anxious to escape his New Jersey roots and try out his wings on his own, he has accepted a perfect job offer in Seattle. He must announce his news to his grandparents without breaking their hearts… and so the frantic fun begins! These two sets of loving, long-married grandfolks are as different from each other as possible… but are passionately united in their quest to thwart Nick’s plan. They secretly invite a “nice girl” from the neighborhood to join them for dinner (a fresh and loveable Alyse Courtney), in hopes of sparking a romance that would keep Nick in Jersey. The cast of six are all wonderful, under the fun-loving and fast-paced direction of Larry Eisenberg. Each actor paints a vivid picture on the value and complexities of family relationships. A quartet of notable veteran actors plays the pesky grandparents, scheming to keep Nick nearby. Klair Bybee (Frank), and Irene Chapman (Aida), are preciously relatable as “The Gianellis,” blissfully co-residing in a lovely home Frank built himself (charming set design by Chris Winfield). He must relinquish his car keys due to countless mini car crashes, and she lives to serve everyone home-cooked meals 24-7. As the flashy, “hipper” duo, “The Cristianos,” Robert Gallo (Nunzio), who has a hidden secret, and Michelle Bernath (Emma), who dresses like a nightclub diva, are a total riot! Ren Bell is excellent in the lead role of the flustered young Nick, struggling to balance his love for his sweet grandparents with his yearning for independence. Nice work behind the scenes too: Diana Martin (Costumes), Peter Strauss (Lighting), and Steve Shaw (Sound). The non-stop familial bantering and zany zingers run a bit like a TV soap opera at times… but then, so does “real life” in most families! Running through June 27th at The Group Rep Theatre – 10900 Burbank Blvd. in North Hollywood. Call 818-700-4878.

Nights of Noir!

(L to R) Scott Gerard (Bolt) and Megan Evanich (Dottie) in “Marked for Love.”

(L to R) Scott Gerard (Bolt) and Megan Evanich (Dottie) in “Marked for Love.”

LOS ANGELES- If you’re up for a roaringly riotous, raucous and racy romp into the world of decadent crime, circa 1942, “Nights of Noir” will take you there! Two naughty, nutty, and highly-entertaining  related one-act plays, following the bizarre cases of a 1940’s “gum-shoe” named “Bolt,” this show is a bawdy bundle of fun! Set in a bygone era when “men were men and women were dames…” we view the underbelly of crime on the dark and murky streets of L.A. A pair of “who-dunnits,” titled “Marked for Love” and “Of Dicks and Dames,” loaded with spicy innuendo and leaping libidos unfold, with tongue in cheek hilarity! Cleverly written with the vibe of the 40’s, and directed with playful flair by Kasey Wilson, her cast of 11 loony actors seems to be having as much fun as the audience! The evening, hosted by burlesque goddess “Honey Ima Home,” she saucily performed a tastefully tantalizing “strip tease” number between the mini plays. In the lead role as Bolt, a devilishly handsome young Scott Gerard is a deadpan delight, as the detective with a roving eye for the “babes!” In standout performances, I especially enjoyed Megan Evanich as his ditzy secretary, Rachel Kanouse as his one true love, and Lauren Leonelli and Amie Donegan, as two estranged sisters with a huge pending inheritance (one a porn star, the other a nun)! The rest of this insanely capable cast includes: Elizabeth V. Newman, Drew Droege, Eric Charles Jorgenson, Jan Pessin, John Szura, and Mike Park. A “bare bones” production (producing plays is an expensive undertaking). What this show needs/deserves is “backers” who want to sink some cash into a worthy and fun-filled project! The set is bleakly stark, and the casts’ constantly shuffling props around is distracting! Also, though a reasonable facsimile (and occasional authentic pieces of “Fab 40’s” vintage costumes are worn), a genuine “period” wardrobe, draped on this attractive cast, would make this production sparkle! (To be fair… as a long-time vintage store owner myself, this visual observation probably bothered me more than it will you.) All in all… this is a light-hearted, campy caper of an evening… chock full of lusty laughs! See it… Running through June 27th at The Attic Theatre – 5429 Washington Blvd. in Los Angeles (between Fairfax and Hauser). Call 323-960-1055 or go to www.plays411/com/nightsofnoir.

Not thrilled to be adding another “number” to my years on the planet today… I’ll be somewhere hiding under a rock!

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