The Actor’s Gang is a Los Angeles treasure. The theatre has been around since 1981, specializing in original works and reinterpretations of the classics. They have a Prison Project that is currently in eleven California prisons and they can also be found in a few lucky Los Angeles public schools providing in-school immersion and after school programs. What is not to like? I couldn’t be more serious. The Actor’s Gang deserves your support, every opportunity you get.
Come on! It’s Hamilton. Musical Theatre geeks across America have either already made the trek to New York, the theatre homeland, and spent their life savings on tickets, or they’ve waited impatiently for it to arrive at the major metropolitan city closest to them. The fine folks in Chicago and San Francisco have had their turn and, well, it’s finally time for Los Angeles. And we are EXCITED.read more
I’m going to tread on some slightly new review ground this month. It’s all for you, the theatre enthusiast, that I enter this experiment. I’ve wanted to review the Independent Shakespeare Co. Griffith Park FREE Shakespeare Festival since I’ve been attending, which is pretty much forever now. But, the dates have never been quite right to review one of their individual shows, so, instead I will highlight the festival as a whole. And if I get you there with picnic basket (or Trader Joe’s bag) in hand, it will be worth it.
It’s summer! There’s extra pressure this time of year to get out and have some fun. Luckily in the City of Angles, we have a lot of great entertainment options. One you may want to add to your list is The Last Breakfast Club: Musical Parody at the Rockwell: Table & Stage. Gen Xers and 80’s music enthusiasts, this show is for you.
The show appropriately opens with the familiar R.E.M. song “It’s The End of the World As We Know It” as we find the expected gang of five in weekend detention. All is just as you’d expect, except there’s been a nuclear disaster and they are very likely the last brain, athlete, basket case, princess and criminal on the planet, all holed up in the library. But don’t you worry, Bradely Bredeweg (director, EP, co-writer) and Rockwell veteran Kate Pazakis (EP, artistic director, co-writer) have them all mulling over the same teenage angsty 80‘s issues from the beloved movie as well as a few new topics to add to the mix. Good ‘ole Principal Vernon is there keeping watch, although he is a now a zombie. And Carl the uptight janitor seems to have survived as well. Purists don’t fret, the changes are fun and there are a lot of them, it is The LAST Breakfast Club after all.
A CEO Woman, a Hot Girl, and a Maintenance Man walk into a bar. No, that’s not quite right, and this is not a joke. But the setup does sound like one, doesn’t it? Seven strangers get stuck in an elevator together. No, that’s really, truly the premise of Elevator and it’s currently on stage at Coast Playhouse in West Hollywood. Does it sound familiar to you? It’s possible you saw it at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in 2010 or at the Macha Theatre after that. But it has been awhile since you’ve had the opportunity and I say there’s no reason not to check it out.
Comedy is big. This isn’t a new thing. It always has been, hasn’t it? We have a long history of wanting to laugh, apparently. There are many options open to you as a comedy-seeker when you live in LA. Pretty much any day of the week, you can catch an 8 or 10PM (even on a school night) stand-up show in multiple locations in the city. You have improv shows in abundance, again, every night of the week. And now storytelling shows like The Moth or Mortified have gained in popularity in the City of Angels as well, which more often than not at least lean comedic. How do you weed through them all? You got me. I say hop around town and enjoy yourself while supporting live performance. But if you need a nudge in a certain direction, I’ve got a recommendation for you.
Ah, Mr. Eugene O’Neill. How is it even possible that you, Mr. Doom & Gloom, wrote Ah, Wilderness!? I’d love the opportunity to sit down and have a drink with Eugene O’Neill and discuss that, amongst many, many other things. If you follow these reviews monthly, you know both my admiration for EO, one of the “best” American playwrights, and that I sat fairly enthusiastically through 3+ hours of Long Day’s Journey Into Night last month at the Geffen. I couldn’t resist the thought of seeing another O’Neill piece the following month at A Noise Within. A completely different kind of piece, which most call a straight-up comedy (though more in the warm/feel good realm vs. the laugh out loud type), in which the main character gets his happy ending. It’s presumed to take place in the same small town as in LDJIN on July 4, 1906. And . . . that’s where most of the similarities end.
Ah, Wilderness! centers around the delightful middle-class Miller family. Nat Miller (Nicholas Hormann) is a newspaper publisher who, along with his doting wife, Essie (Deborah Strang), has been raising their four fine children, as well as providing a home for Essie’s never-been-married sister, Lily (Kitty Swink), and jovial/alcoholic uncle, Sid (Alan Blumenfeld). Wait, alcoholic Uncle Sid? Mr. O’Neill, maybe you DID write this play. Seventeen-year-old Richard (Matt Gall) is the second child and the central character who, gently mind you, rebels and pushes the boundaries by reading “daring” books, spouting socialist ideas, and quoting risque-ish poetry. As you might have guessed, he’s endearingly naive and harmless. It’s also not a stretch to predict that he happens to have fallen in love with Muriel (Emily Goss), but her grumpy and disapproving father has gotten squarely in the way by restricting his daughter to the house, and forcing her to write a letter to end their relationship. Heartbroken, Richard becomes a little unhinged, getting tangled up one crazy night with booze and fast women, before finding his way again, and returning back to her.
When was this written? Who wrote this? Okay, I admit, I didn’t ask the second question because the sole reason I went to see Long Day’s Journey Into Night was because it was written by Eugene O’Neill, thought to be the greatest American playwright (or certainly one of them) of all time, and this, his greatest play. And it’s on stage, people. Remember reading it in theatre school? Yeah, I don’t either. So this rare opportunity is yours—not only if you reside in the City of Angels, but if you live anywhere in the country; BroadwayHD will be streaming it live on March 11th at 7pm PST/10pm EST, with the broadcast then available on-demand through March 21st—if you have a subscription, of course. And this will the streaming site’s first broadcast from the Geffen Playhouse! But let’s go back to the first question. I did actually wonder to myself when this humdinger of a play was written, for two reasons: it’s really long and it’s really current. Current? Read on . . .
Storytelling is hot. I think it’s been hot now for quite some time, so maybe I should say hotter? But that doesn’t sound quite right. You get the idea. I had a terrific plan to follow the heat and catch The Moth GrandSLAM in downtown Los Angeles and share my experience with you, but it was sold out. Remember, storytelling is hot! So I searched the internet for an alternative. I landed on Rant & Rave at the Rogue Machine Theatre. Something like Mortified would have been a closer Moth match, but Rant & Rave is a storytelling-ish show and I was going!
Rogue describes the show as, “An ongoing art project where prose finds voice.” They select a group of Los Angeles writers, give them a topic word (the January show was “ESCAPE”), and a 20ish minute time limit—as far as I can tell—and the writers get up and deliver their own words. The show runs one Monday evening per month and I believe it always sells out. It runs about two hours and there is an intermission. That’s the deal.
I imagine getting a new musical ready to be Broadway-worthy is a challenge. There’s a long list of things that need to be great to feel really good about a musical. Book, music, lyrics, choreography, cast, set, etc. Amélie, A New Musical made its debut at the Berkeley Rep with the Ahmanson as the next, and last, temp home on the path to Broadway. I think Broadway audiences will be grateful for the additional LA pitstop and the opportunity to check off a few more boxes on the list of musical must haves. Unfortunately, it’s a little sparse at the moment.
I’m not sure I’ve met a person who has seen the 2001 French film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Guillaume Laurant who didn’t fall in love with it. I loved it. I also couldn’t tell you anything about it other than it was magical, REALLY magical, and that I loved Audrey Tautou. The magic hasn’t quite made it to the stage, certainly not at the film levels we are all hoping for, though Phillipa Soo as Amélie has the Audrey T. look and feel (not to mention a great resume with the wildly popular Hamilton right at the top), but just doesn’t fill the shoes . . . yet.