I only caught one production for review on the weekend. Sometimes it works out that way … It’s “feast or famine”….

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Nickel and Dimed

Photo by Olivier Riquelme

From l, Zachary Barton as Barbara and Carmen Lezeth Suarez as Maddy in “Nickel and Dimed.”

This “slice of life” script is based on Barbara Ehrenreich’s best-selling book, Nickel and Dimed. As a human research writer, here she explores working folks stuck in menial jobs. How they struggle on minimum wages, and what it does to their spirit and quality of life. On the subject of (not) getting by in America, a staged play is born. This revised current version was written/adapted by Joan Holden, and cleverly directed for stage by Richard Kilroy. The lead character Barbara, in her mid-fifties, takes us along on her personal journey, in the late ‘90s. She sets out to explore the pitfalls of the pain, degradation, hard work, and ego-destroying life of a “low wage” employee. Taking on exhausting minimum wage jobs as a coffee shop waitress, a hotel maid, an aid to the disabled and elderly, and others … her husband, back at home, supports her quest. We are witness to the underpaid, employment issues, both emotionally and physically, that at the time included one third of all American workers. Comedic, gut-wrenching, touching, and painfully truthful in turns … the concept is both intriguing and undeniably “eye opening.” In the lead role as Barbara, Zachary Barton gives an ambitiously worthy performance, loaded with raw emotion, and laced with “true to life” humor. The rest of the cast of six actors each play multiple roles as her various coworkers, struggling to pay their bills and maintain their self respect. Earning a measly five to seven bucks an hour, for undeniably hard work, there never seemed to be enough money … and even less appreciation. Each actor had their own memorable “spot lit” moments. They were Veronica Alicino, Kathleen Ingle, Johnnie Torres, Matthew Wrather, Jackie Joniec, and my personal favorite … Carmen Lezeth Suarez. Costume Designer Jackie Gudgel did a fabulous job, dressing each actor in multiple wardrobe changes, depicting nearly 30 characters. Now here’s the problem for me … There was so much time spent repeatedly, on countless onstage set changes, breaking the mood each time … that it made the otherwise worthy effort feel laboriously lengthy! If there was a way to correct that issue … it would do the overall production much justice. Sorry. Still, this play had a lot of valid messages, with plenty of humorous and thought provoking moments. A meaningful and heartfelt effort for the most part … that would benefit greatly with some trimming down. Running through Aug. 25 at The Hudson Mainstage Theatre located at 6539 Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood. For seats call (323) 960-5770 or reserve online at plays411.com/nickelanddimed. com.

Smoke and Mirrors

For years now, Albie Selznick has mesmerized audiences with his wonderfully unique magic show. Weaving in a storyline about his relationship with his father, while “wowing” us with amazing feats of magic, he is also joined by a cast of six quirky illusionists. This is a highly entertaining, “feel good” show for the entire family! I fully reviewed this show in my column running in Santa Monica a year ago … favorably of course. L.A. Weekly called Albie’s show “a bewildering tour de force,” and the L.A. Times critic wrote, “a superb theatrical magic show.” It is all of that and more! Do catch it while it’s here in NoHo at The Road Theatre. For tickets go to TIX.com or online at SMOKEANDMIRRORSMAGIC.com.

Back soon with more theatrical musings … and random chit chat.

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