Two productions to talk about this week… One, an in depth family drama, and the other, a dazzling dance production – both excellent!

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I Never Sang for My Father

From l, John Sloan, Anne Gee Byrd and Philip Baker Hall in “I Never Sang for My Father.”

Brilliantly written by Robert Anderson, this is an in-depth, powerfully engrossing and contemplative story, combining the sensitive complications of family dynamics, and the achingly bittersweet issues of “aging.” Directed with simmering passion by Cameron Watson, an impeccably selected cast of actors mesmerized us throughout! Dramatically (and at times humorously), they deeply involved us in the strained relationships of one family. We peek into the lives of Gene, a college professor and son, his domineering 80 year old father, Tom, his estranged sister, Alice, and his adoringly loving but frail Mother, Margaret. The time is the present (1968) and the past (1964). As the story begins, Gene, the son, dutifully picks up his elderly parents at Penn Station to escort them home after a trip… and continues, as they verbally explore their past and present challenging relationships. There is much to ponder in the meaningful script, as our own personal family issues slip in and out of our thoughts throughout the play. A strong cast of highly respected “working actors” brings the poignant story to life. John Sloan gives a heartwrenchingly strong performance as Gene, the conflicted son, harboring inner resentments, and Dee Ann Newkirk explodes with emotion as the bitter sister Alice, shunned by her father for marrying a Jewish man. The scenes shared by these two siblings are gutwrenching! Anne Gee Byrd is mesmerizing as the loving and long suffering wife, who clearly loves her family with limitless boundaries. The “star,” Philip Baker Hall (a recognizable and respected star of film and TV) takes to the “live stage” for the first time in 11 years, and gives a “tour de force” performance! As a stubborn, opinionated and tough old guy, whose memory has been slipping for years, his character, Tom, sees the world only one way… his! This dazzling quartet of strong actors should be contenders… come theatre awards season! Fine depictions also given by the supporting cast members. They are: Paul Messinger, John Combs, Tim Halligan, Chelsea Povall and Brittani Ebert. Setting the realistic tone with excellence… kudos to: An ingenious visual teaming by John Iacovelli (scenic design), Christopher M. Allison (projection design) and Jared A. Sayeg (lighting). The stylish costumes (Terry A. Lewis) and crisp sound by Cameron Watson and Jeannine W. Stehlin… round out the excellence! This is an intensely rewarding, and darkly meaningful play, loaded with human emotion, flawless performances and a hard, cold look at the inner struggles we face day to day… just to survive.

A hard hitting, thought provoking and heart touching drama, that will linger in your psyche… long after you see it… and I highly recommence that you do see it! Running through May 22 at the The McCadden Place Theatre located at 1157 N. McCadden Place in Hollywood. For seats, call (310) 701-0788 or go to www.NewAmericanTheatre.com.

Footnote:

Presented and produced by “dynamic duo” Jack Stehlin and Jeannine Wisnosky Stehlin, their “New American Theatre” group (formerly called “Circus Theatricals”), was founded in New York in 1983. Multi-award winning and critically acclaimed, their vision and production choices have “wowed” audiences ever since. Later this season, they will proudly move into their own new resident theatrical venue located at 2501 Wilshire Blvd. I’ll let you know when that happens!

Luminario Ballet

The Luminario Ballet Company.

The Luminario Ballet Company just sizzled in an electrifying three day run, at our beautiful El Portal Theatre. In a rewarding departure from my usual “theatrical play reviewing,” I was thrilled to catch this unique and dynamic show! Sadly, you won’t be able to experience their amazingly beautiful, highly skilled, and sensually creative offering, this time around… as they closed last Sunday. Still, I was so impressed that I wanted to rave about it a bit… to entice you to catch one of their future “extravaganzas.” Founded in 2008 in Los Angeles, they have already gained a huge following of enthusiastic contemporary ballet fans! Savvy Managing Director, Judith FLEX Helle, a past career dancer and current choreographer herself, has ingeniously created an exciting concept in live dance production. Combining traditional ballet with daring aerial acrobats, and stunning sculptural movement, set to both classical and modern music genres… Every moment is mesmerizingly marvelous! Celebrating the vibrant diversity in Los Angeles, the “cutting edge” vibe of the hot music and sizzling productions numbers evokes non-stop thunderous applause. Since the show is already closed, I won’t try to name each riveting musical number performed, but feel compelled to list the names of the beautiful, outrageously toned, and multi-talented members of the production I saw. Winners all! Clever choreographers: Judith FLEX Helle, Bella Lewitsky, Jamal Story and Josie Walsh. Delicious dancers: Jaclyn Betham, Sadie Black, Ashley Hoffman, Stephanie Kim, Season Winquest, AJ Abrams, Damien Diaz, Evan Swenson and guest soloist Carrie Lee Riggins. Amazing aerialists: Sita Acevedo, Alex Stabler, Michael Waldrop and Brett Womack. An amazing and hard working “va va voom” cast all around, and a fabulous production! I will definitely let you know the next time “Luminario” stages a new show! In the meantime, to learn more about this innovative group… go to www.luminarioballet.org.

Over and out… until next week!

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