Two plays to “review” for you this week

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For the rest of October I’ll only see one play a week… due to my shop’s “Halloween Madness!”

Don’t Hug Me I’m Pregnant

From l, Bert Emmett as ‘Kanute,’ Rebekah Dunn as ‘Clara,’ and Patrick Foley as ‘Gunner’ in “Don’t Hug Me, I’m Pregnant.”

If you’re up for a break from the woes of the world, and ready to laugh until your cheeks hurt… this is the one to catch! A whacky storyline, five hysterical actors, 17 zany songs, and a happy ending… What’s not to love? Riotously written by Phil Olson (book and lyrics) and his brother Paul (music), this is the fourth in the series of maniacally funny “Don’t Hug Me” musical romps. The first three have been published by Samuel French, and have run in over 100 cities in the U.S. and Canada. Taking place in Bunyan Bay, Minnesota, in a little north woods bar call “The Bunyan,” owned by Gunner and Clara Johnson, each one has been funnier and more outrageous than the last! (I’ve seen all of them.) Loaded with “Minnesota mentality,” and small town charm, these zany characters don’t seem to know there’s a whole other world out there. This time around, Clara is 8 ½ months pregnant. Hormonally “out of control” and more than ready to deliver the “wee one,” Clara is anxiously awaiting guests for her baby shower. When a freak snowstorm hits Bunyan Bay, with only the usual few “nutcakes” having arrived… they are snowed in, and everyone else is snowed out. In the midst of this “tsnownami,” Clara goes into labor. Panic breaks out as the squeamish and goofy Gunner realizes he’s going to have to deliver the baby himself. Guttbustingly funny, the nonstop audience laughter was thunderous! Under the fast paced direction of Doug Engalla, the entire cast is frantically flawless, and the songs (accompanied by a most unusual Karaoke machine) are ingeniously riotous! This perfectly cast group of five actors had us laughing uncontrollably throughout! Patrick Foley plays the insensitive goofball, Gunner, and Rebecca Dunn is his loving but frustrated wife, Clara. In a small town “love triangle,” Greg Barnett plays Aarvid, Natalie Lander plays the coveted Bernice, and in an insanely “over the top” performance, Bert Emmett plays Kanute. Lively and looney choreography by Stan Mazin, fabulously fun set design by Chris Winfield, and kooky kostumes by Cheryl Crosland Butler, set the manic tone perfectly! If you’re already a “Don’t Hug Me” fan… I’ll know you’ll catch this one too. If you’ve never seen any of the others… it’s high time you did! Book a seat today! Running at The Secret Rose through Nov. 30 located at 11246 Magnolia Blvd. in NoHo. For seats, call (323) 822-7898.

Pulling Leather – A World Premiere

From l, Ted Ryan, Sheila Oaks, and Bert Hinchman in “Pulling Leather.”

“The term ‘pulling leather’ is used when a bronc rider touches any part of the saddle or horse with their free hand, triggering disqualification.” The first full play ever written by Ted Ryan, he also stars in the lead role, as the conflicted Jacob, a career rodeo cowboy. This is an inside look at a pro-bronc rider, who has recently lost his nerve in the ring. In a panicked attempt to face this personally devastating obstacle, and regain his confidence, he seeks therapy, embarks on a challenging love affair, and must deal with a shocking truth from his childhood. Roommates with Cliff, a cocky sleazeball womanizer (Christopher Sloan), Jacob gets involved with a politically passionate, tattoo covered woman (Tess Christiansen), which adds to his confusion. At the same time, the tacky Cliff “plays house” with a sexy, much younger bimbo, “wannabe” actress (Stephanie Jeffrey). In the midst of therapy sessions with Dr. Kitner (Larry Lederman), a strange woman approaches Jacob, claiming to be a scout (Ann Marie Morell). Aptly directed by the long respected Audrey M. Singer, with gritty and realistic choices… Somehow in Act One… the cast’s performances just didn’t hit home! Overacted and uninspiring in many cases, I was not really impressed. Then in Act Two… it all turned around for me, and I finally became involved. The performances became more “true” and compelling, and featured numerous theatrically worthy, “spot-lit” portrayals. A lovely and heart-touching scene between Jacob’s landlords, Vince and Grace (Bert Hinchman and Sheila Oaks), on their romantic 40th anniversary, was a highlight! Attractive set design (uncredited) and effective lighting (John Grant) and sound (Jerry Sider) must be mentioned. Will Jacob regain his nerve, dare to love, and accept his past? You’ll just have to see the play to find out… Running through Oct. 30 at the Actors Forum Theatre located at 10655 Magnolia Blvd. in NoHo. For seats, call (323) 822-7898.

Back next week to tell you about “And Then There Was None”… An Agatha Christie mystery, directed by Shira Dubrovner, and opening at The Lonny Chapman Theatre.

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