Two productions to talk about this week… both recommended!

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Firehouse — A World Premiere

From l, Bryan Rasmussen, Kamar de los Reyes, Jon Southwell and Ed Morrone in “Firehouse.”

A complex, intense and volatile story based on fact explodes on Friday nights in Sherman Oaks. I was there for its sold out opening night debut. Written with heartfelt and gritty tension by Pedro Antonio Garcia, the story erupts in a fire station in the South Bronx (set design by Chris Tulysewski). We witness all sides of a true and controversial “happening” and the turmoil it caused.

The “cutting edge” cast of familiar “working actors” is gut-wrenchingly believable as the facts unravel with gripping passion. The play opens with the “off color” joking banter of three firemen’s “testosterone loaded” camaraderie. Good for some laughs… but soon it changes to the serious nature of the plot. When Boyle, a rookie NY firefighter faced with the choice of “honor or loyalty” saves a fellow fireman, leaving a 12 year old girl to die… the largely Latino community revolts and a court case ensues (Boyle is powerfully portrayed by Gerald Downey). The station captain (a crusty Bryan Rasmussen) is summoned by law, to investigate the incident. As the other involved firemen… Ed Morrone (as Valentino), Jon Southwell (as Breaker) and an explosive Kamar de los Reyes (as Perry) offer chillingly effective performances! Perry’s attorney girlfriend Aida is an advocate for “the people” who are demanding justice…which causes them a re-evaluation of their relationship. Issues such as prejudice, devotion, class, loyalty, love, racial profiling and cowardice are scrutinized. In Act Two, an award worthy, heart stopping performance is given by Elvis Nolasco as Pito. As Perry’s outcast “junkie” half brother… he sheds new light on the “flaming” crack house case. The performances throughout are top notch, and the moral messages are valid and thought provoking… but for me, it ran a bit too long. At 15 minutes shorter I feel that the overall impact could be even more effective! Just my opinion… The notably impressive “showbiz” audience in attendance seemed to love every single moment! This one is certainly worth your time! Running through April 29 (Fridays only) at the Whitefire Theatre on 13500 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks. For tickets, call (323) 822-7898.

Afterthought:

The delectable “after show party” offering a gorgeous spread of Cuban food (generously provided by the executive producer Laura Coker…) was fabulous!

The Black Experience

From l, Dante Swain and Thomas Bell in “Souls to Take.”

Towne Street Theatre, LA’s premiere African-American troupe, offers their 4th Annual Ten-Minute Play Festival. In a dozen ten minute “one act” scenes, picked nationwide from over 100 submitted scripts (some funny… some serious), we peer in on the African-American lifestyle. A handpicked collection of stories… that will inspire your heart, broaden your horizons or tickle your funny bones… this is a mind-expanding, very entertaining night of theatre! So many gifted actors, writers and directors… it is impossible to credit every single dedicated person… but let me comment on my personal “faves” to entice you.

Secret Sisters

Compellingly written by Veronica Thompson and directed by Nancy Cheryll Davis. Two estranged half sisters… one black, one white, are reunited when one of their kids needs a blood donation.

Boo’s Flowers

Riotously written by Kay Poiro and directed by Veronica Thompson. A flamboyant white guy crazily spouting “black lingo” attempts to buy flowers from a cautious young black woman at closing time.

Souls to Take

Heart wrenchingly written and directed by Mark V. Jones. Two brothers… the younger an autistic and trusting boy… the older an opportunistic “junkie”… interact against their mother’s wishes. Powerful!

Still Growing Up

Sweetly written by Vonna Brown and directed by Tony Robinson. An attractive “senior” lady visits her gynecologist who encourages her to buy some condoms and rediscover her sensuality… then introduces her to a handsome gent.

These last two were my absolute favorites… and were both directed soulfully by Nancy Renee.

I Dream of Emmett

Beautifully written by David Lindsey, from a true racist event in the South in 1955. A young black teen boy is tortured and killed… wrongly accused of whistling at a white woman. To this day, his name has never been cleared of the supposed disrespectful act.

Conversation Café

Written for laughs by Nicole L. Hill. Three stylish women, longtime “friends,” meeting for their monthly lunch date… give “catty gossip” a run for its money. So funny!

The topics are diversely varied, and the performances are wildly worthy in this grouping of life’s little complications. Quickly crediting this ambitious cast’s names seems “a must!” They are: Sarah Allyn Bauer, Thomas Bell, Wil Bowers, Zoe Cotton, Tamara L. Curry, Djakarta, Darius Dudley, Corey Jones, John Kaisner, Mark V. Jones, Franceska Lynne, Kenny McClain, Mack Miles, Dyane Pascal, Viviane Ledesma, Raquel Rosser, Eddie Ruiz, Lynndi Scott, Dante Swain, Whit Spurgeon, Veronica Thompson, Londale Theus, Angela Tom, Elle Young and Shae Vianzon. Congrats to all!

Running through February 20 (Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 3 p.m.) at the Stella Adler Theatre (upstairs) on 6773 Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood. For seats, call (213) 624-4796. Anxious to share their “vision” and dreams… tickets are only $10.

Enjoy this amazingly sunny California weather! See you next week…

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