Relieved to have the manic Halloween season behind me at my shop for the 27th year…

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I caught two productions to review on the weekend. It is such a pleasure to have time to “live” again!

Spider Baby The Musical

Bianca Gisselle (girl with knife), Dominique Cox as Elizabeth (girl on lower step), Enrique Acosta (man with guitar) and Jose L. Hernandez (other man) in a scene from “Spider Baby the Musical.”

O’migod… this one is outrageously dark, x-rated, dysfunctional and “out there!” It felt like a mass audience “acid trip” with a room full of strangers, as we peered in on an eerie group of “nutcakes.” Loaded with rampant lust, lunacy, chilling familial loyalty, and an aversion to outside visitors… we soon discover that “the family that slays together, stays together.” Adapted from Jack Hill’s 1964 classic cult horror film Spider Baby: The Maddest Story Ever Told, this is a bizarre new rock musical version. Reinvented by Enrique Acosta (book and music), with lyrics co-written by Acosta, Lorien Patton and Helen Acosta (who also directs the show), this is the violently macabre story of the Merrye family. A trio of siblings, suffering from a degenerative mental disorder, live in the isolated care of Bruno (Acosta), due to his promise to their father. The mentally deranged kids (played by Dominique Cox, Bianca Gisselle, and Jose L. Hernandez), have had no contact with the outside world. When greedy distant relatives (Jesse Seann Atkinson and Tanya Wilkins) turn up with an attorney (David Clark) and his secretary (Katherine Goldman), intending to institutionalize the kids and sell their land, all hell breaks loose!

Although the 14 discordant songs tell the eerie tale sufficiently and everyone in the cast are capable actors/singers… this disturbing romp was “just not my cup of blood.” The effective set by Mark Hugo and lighting by Liza Burns added greatly to the shocking “vibe.” Aimed at audiences with a ghoulish taste for offbeat cult stories that take you to the dark side of life… this saga is definitely not for everyone! That said… those who get a kick out of this genre may find it voyeuristically good fun! The show runs through December 5th at The Lyric Hyperion Theatre – 2106 Hyperion Ave. in Silver Lake. For tickets, call (800) 838-2006 or visit www.brownpapertickets.com.

Yes, Svetlana, There is a Grandfather Frost

From left: Erika Godwin, Tyler Rhoades, Lisa Younger and Morry Schoor in “Yes, Svetlana.”

This is a dramedy, offered by SkyPilot Theatre Co., and you may have seen their work around town or at our local Toluca Lake Sidewalk Theatre. In August, they made an exciting move forward. Now the “resident company” at The Luna Playhouse, they’ve remodeled the theatre (it’s gorgeous), held auditions (doubling their membership,) and have a full roster of “premiere” productions scheduled. Tonight was their “maiden voyage” here… and I, for one, look forward to sharing their journey. Yes, Svetlana takes place in a bustling Russian newspaper office in the 1950s at Christmastime. Compellingly written by Jeff Goode, with a complex, yet personal look at the Soviet Union’s regimented mentality at the time… I found some of the plot to be confusing. It seems a technical glitch on opening night omitted a pre-show video, setting up the story… which now sorted out, will be helpful for the audience. Based on facts, the “new regime” removes all references to Santa Claus, and instills an alternate “Grandfather Frost,” in celebration of the Russian New Year. Two official state brutes barge into the office during the holidays with frightening threats and accusations. Combining the conflicts, emotions, and complexities of running a Russian publication freely in the ‘50s, under glaring “official scrutiny,” they meet many obstacles. A tricky and truthful balancing act at best… Dangerous at the very worst. This worthy holiday story unfolds with wit, spirit and a lot of heart. Directed with well-timed, passionate focus by Gideon Potter (who also designed the appealing set), and performed by six flawless actors, whose Russian accents were impeccable, this is a top notch production! Lisa Younger as the naïve young office assistant, Devuchka, positively lights up the stage, and Erika Godwin as Madame Editrix, the editor-in-chief, is mesmerizing.

Tyler Rhoades, as the flirty in-house journalist, offers playful diversion from the serious nature of the story, and Morry Schoor as the senior journalist is heart-wrenching. Powerfully rounding out the cast as the intimidating intruders from the security committee, stating the paper’s infractions, are Ken Lyle and Bob Rusch. A very strong cast all around! If this production is any indication of “things to come” from SkyPilot… we’re in for some mesmerizing theatre offerings. Check them out!

The show runs through December 19th at Luna Playhouse – 3706 San Fernando Rd. in Glendale. For seats, call (800) 838-3006 or visit www.skypilottheatre.com.

How about all of that sunshine in November? Only in California, huh?

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