I have two new productions to tell you about this week …

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As different from each other as they could possibly be, but both are worthy of your time.

The Foreigner

From l, David Ghilardi (Froggy), Nan Tepper (Betty), Brian Graves (Charlie), Kelly Huddleston (Catherine), and Adam Simon Krist (Ellard) in “The Foreigner.”

From l, David Ghilardi (Froggy), Nan Tepper (Betty), Brian Graves (Charlie), Kelly Huddleston (Catherine), and Adam Simon Krist (Ellard) in “The Foreigner.”

A fast-paced hilarious farce with a dark edge to it, taking place in a fishing lodge in Georgia in the 1980s. This story of misconception, is a non-stop crowd pleaser. Written by Larry Shue, having had a Broadway run, he also penned the popular zany play The Nerd. This one has its share of dark surprises, underneath the hearty laughs. The lodge is owned by a spunky old gal named Betty (a delightful Nan Tepper). When her dear old friend Froggy arrives (a leeringly lovable David Ghilardi), he brings along his shy and boring British friend Charlie … and the mania begins. Froggy is secretly here to keep her property from wrongdoers. The plan is for Charlie to pretend to speak no English while here, so others (the bad guys) will speak openly around him. He becomes privy to many dangerous and frivolous secrets, and shares them with Froggy. In the process, he eventually discovers the extroverted and confident man hiding beneath his dry and dull exterior. Brian Graves plays the introverted Charlie with award-worthy and wildly funny perfection! Well performed, as tenants at the lodge, Reverend David (Jacob C. Head), his girlfriend Catherine (Kelly Huddleston), and her quirky kid brother Ellard (Adam Simon Krist) spice up the story in a variety of ways, as the devious plot pays out. Ian Patrick Williams as the villain at the heart of sweet Betty’s problems, was deliciously dark. Director Joanne McGee, who also designed the detailed and homey set, clearly inspired these fine actors to “shine” in these wonderful roles. As always at Crown City, the “behind-the-scenes” creativity was top notch! Costumes/Tanya Apuya, Lighting/Anna Cecelia Martin, Sound/ Nikko Tsiotsias, and Props/Keiko Moreno. An excellent production with a frightening undertone beneath the laughs … which I mustn’t reveal … The final scene where characters infiltrate the audience, is ingeniously mind-blowing! Catch this one for sure … It is a treat from start to finish! Running through April 27 at Crown City Theatre located at 11031 Camarillo St. in North Hollywood. For seats call (818) 605-5685 or go to crowncitytheatre.com.

The Trip Back Down

From l, Nick Stabile, Kevin Brief, and Larrs Jackson in “The Trip Back Down.”

From l, Nick Stabile, Kevin Brief, and Larrs Jackson in
“The Trip Back Down.”

Taking us into the world of competitive racecar drivers in 1975 … from the bawdy “rough ‘n tumble” lifestyle, to the wear and tear on the hearts of those who love them, this is a compellingly involving story. Written by John Bishop with raunchy realism, and directed with pulsating passion by Terri Hanauer, the stage is set for our total experience. We are privy to the family dynamics centered on Bobby Horvath’s return home after 8 long years on the pro car racing circuit. He, a daredevil driver who just escaped a “near miss crash and burn” accident … has given up his racing career. Now home in Ohio, he has many amends to make to the family and friends he left behind, those many years ago. Starring Nick Stabile, who gives a gut-wrenchingly heartfelt performance as Bobby, reflecting back on his life choices … and trying to move forward … He was most believable. A powerfully gritty performance was also given by Rob Derringer as Bobby’s racing competitor and feisty friend through the years. (By the way, ladies … these two guys are both gorgeous!) Kevin Brief and Larrs Jackson offer pitch-perfect portrayals as Bobby’s brother and father … as did Meredith Thomas as his sister-in-law. Attempting to make peace with the wife he left behind … (a heartfelt Eve Danzeisen) and get to know his daughter (a charming Lily Nicksay), Bobby’s emotional journey is daunting. In smaller roles, Karl Ebergen was a standout as the young fan obsessed with Bobby, and the remainder of this fine supporting cast includes: Lovlee Carroll, Gregory G. Giles, Scott Roe, Chad Anthony Miller, Chelese Belmont, Mike Mahaffey, and Terasa Sciortino. Taking place in 1975, but frequently flashing back in time to witness the chain of events in Bobby’s life leading up to now … our lengthy journey is mentally exhausting but theatrically rewarding. The mood-setting technical efforts are excellent! Kudos to Corwin Evans for an eye-popping projection design, Jeremy Pivnick/ Lighting, Tom Buderwitz/Scenic Design, Dino Herrmann/Sound, Shannon A. Kennedy/Costumes, Mike Mahaffey/Fight Director, and Katherine S. Hunt/ Props. This is a hard-hitting, emotionally wrenching look at one man’s driven passion for NASCAR racing … and the relationships he damaged along the way. Try to catch it! Running through March 29 at The Whitefire Theatre located at 13500 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks. For seats call (323) 960-7712 or go to plays411.com/trip.

Obama Spy Drama at Acme Comedy Hollywood through March 30

Oops! In my review of this maniacally creative spoof last week, I neglected to applaud Derek Jeremiah Reid and Karen Zill for their efforts. Each contributed additional dialogue to Nicholas Zill’s zany script. A devoted fan of those working in Equity Waiver productions, for very little monetary gain, and for the sheer love of performing … I always try to credit as many artists as I can fit in the space I have. To see this zany political comedy call (626) 274-1745.

That’s my story for this time. Back next week with my review of Boeing Boeing opening in North Hollywood at The Lonny Chapman Theatre this Friday night. For early booking call (818) 763-5990.

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