One “new” review this week… and one “repeat” review from last week, with The Tolucan Times’ apologies for last week’s errors. Off we go!

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String of Pearls

Cast of “String of Pearls,”left to right - Lareen Faye, Sean Kathryn O’Connor, Michelle Bernath, Katelyn Ann Clark.

Written explosively by Michele Lowe, this play about “everywoman” has been produced on stages since 2003. It is centered around a beautiful strand of pearls that have traveled around the world for decades, and the personal lives of the women whose necks they have adorned. Issues such as marital relationships, dementia, sex, lesbianism, cancer, family, friendships, and self awareness are explored alternately throughout the play. It’s a lot to take in, and this “not quite ready” cast, often stumbling over their lines, require you to really pay attention. Ambitiously tackled by four actresses in multi-character roles, and in separate and fleeting vignettes… it is not always easy to follow. Switching characters non-stop, some touching, some hilarious, and some heartwrenching… the audience is taken on a roller coaster ride of emotions. The undeniably capable cast, each achieving some individually stellar and memorable moments, tell of life events and emotional connections, as 27 different characters are studied. Director Sherry Netherland surely took on a difficult and daunting task in helming this play, but somehow I found this production harder to keep up with than when I saw it elsewhere a few years ago. A raw vigil into the hearts, minds, and relationships of women universally, the writer’s intention was innovative, but the mind-bending journey for the audience is exhausting! Also, the fact here that it all unfolds on a shoddy black box stage in dire need of a repaint job doesn’t help matters in the overall experience and impact. The quartet of actresses, depicting these complex roles with heartful intent, are: Lareen Faye, Michele Bernath, Katelyn Ann Clark, and a standout performance by Sean Kathryn O’Connor! A newcomer to L.A. theatre, she triumphed over each of her characters with chameleon-like skill! An effective and mood-setting effort in lighting design by Rachel Jaime Miller must be applauded! This one just wasn’t my cup of tea… or favorite style of play. Sorry… non-linear offerings always trip me up a bit, and this one often missed its mark. That said, if this style and compelling subject matter intrigues you, you can catch it Saturday nights at 8 and Sunday matinees at 2 through September 5th. I’m sure it will have tightened up a bit by the time you read this. The Lonny Chapman Theater is at 10900 Burbank Blvd., in North Hollywood. For seats, call 818-700-4878.

Congrats to Chris Winfield and Larry Eisenberg!

Longtime members and multi-talented artists in countless group rep productions, the “company” began its theatrical vision in 1973. Many wonderful plays have soared here under the passionate leadership of Lonny Chapman, who passed away in 2007. Recently appointed as co-artistic directors, Chris and Larry will oversee all aspects of each upcoming production to continue Lonny’s legacy. Good luck, guys!

Quickies T(h)ree: Comedy al Fresco!

Adam Conger and Stephen Taylor in “League of Awesomeness” by Bonnie Hallman.

This was the third, in a series of eight ten minute one-act evenings, with many more to come… Once again, this was a wildly entertaining well acted, directed, written, and “grouped” collection of offbeat stories. “Hip,” funny, “cutting edge” and relatable, sold out audiences flock to these risqué “Quickie” productions. Producer Ashley Taylor and director Moosie Drier have partnered successfully in each new venture, with a committee choosing the best eight scripts submitted anonymously, and auditioning actors to play the roles. Each set of mini-plays unfold in a common location. The first in the series took place in a bedroom, the second in a bar, and this one in a park. A creative process in the collaborative theatre effort, the critical raves and audience enthusiasm have been explosive! Each production runs about 90 minutes, and is followed by wine, snacks, and a “meet ‘n’ greet” with the cast, crew, and writers. Let me give you a brief peek at each hilarious scene in hopes you’ll go see this show yourselves:

  1.  The Great Outdoors. Written by Paul Forte. A young couple…. Slaves to the modern computer-age, technological world, hang out together at the park… NO devices allowed… in an attempt to communicate more personally. Starring Tommy F. Dunn and Leah Falls.
  2. Death is a Bench. Written by Shane Houston. A very old and ailing man sits on a park bench feeding his pigeons, whom he has given celebrity names. An eerie cloaked grim reaper claiming to be “death” appears, ready to take his life. Played by an impressive Newell Alexander and Dave Zyler.
  3. Home is Where the Bench Is. Written by Trudi Roth. An attractive corporate-type woman, stranded in the park waiting for Triple A to fix her car, is confronted by a “bum” with an interesting outlook on life. She, decidedly, is the less happy of the two… Each of them in different ways are better off for this chance meeting. Played by Gianna Bourke and Richard Horovitz. (One of my “fave” acts.)
  4. Princess Party. Written by Ashley Taylor. Two children’s party park entertainers, each dressed as Cinderella, and both with no love for kids, have a riotously competitive and heated conversation. Played by Ashley Taylor and Natalie Dreyfuss.
  5. What’s On Your Mind? Written by David Wally. We are witness to a guy on a bench, madly texting Facebook friends, as we share in their gripes, opinions, and interaction. Played by Tom Schanley, Shaun Loeser, Elisa Eliot, Brandon Loeser, Heidi Brook Myers, Derek Dean, and Megan Griffey.
  6. Village Idiots. Written by Lyn Woodward. Two recently laid off dads, now in charge of the family “kiddie park excursions,” meet on a bench while their children play. One nerdy, one “hip,” they manage to form a bond. Played by Dan Brinkle and Harley Jay.
  7. Gender Studies. Written by Rob Klier. A pretty gal, conducting a survey on “men versus women,” meets her match in an attractive young man… with compelling answers. Played by Elaine Small and Nicholas J. Harden.
  8. League of Awesomeness. Written by Bonnie Hallman. In this, my favorite scene of all… two geeky young boys, full of imagination, mischief, and energy… intract with screamingly funny dialogue, and visual insanity! These two grown men nailed these roles, and had the audience in hysterics! Played by Adam Conger and Stephen Taylor. Nice touch: Original music and songs written and performed live by Skip Stellrecht linked the scenes. For a wacky experience that will brighten your day with non-stop laughter… why not try a “quickie?” You even get a glass of wine afterwards! Running on Friday nights only, through August 27th at The Whitefire Theatre, located at 13500 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks. For seats, call 818-627-8425.

Back next week with more theatre chat… I hope you’re all enjoying this glorious Southern California weather!

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