Last week was the culmination of the months of planning and scheduling that go into making the Directors Lab West the success that it is. My modest part in this was as associate producer, and sometime photographer, recording what I could of the various sessions that took place over the course of the week.
An alum of the DLW myself it was a joy to see this group come together and bond. How rare it is to have 40 to 50 stage directors and choreographers in the same room at the same time sharing ideas and methodologies. The week included workshops, round tables, panel discussions, a host of invited guests and presenters, as well as a packed schedule of performances to attend in the evening.
Among them Scottish Ballet's A Streetcar Named Desire was one of the most exquisite performances I have ever seen.
We also so Peter Brook's production of Battlefield based on his Mahabharata. It was beautifully told. I had never seen a Brook production before so it was long overdue. The composition of the actors on the stage, the lighting and storytelling were simple and clear and yet I wished for a different kind of drama where characters were directly locked in conflict to produce a more immediate form of drama. This is where Brook has been for some time - in this storytelling mode - and while it was a story told well, I can't help lament the passing of his earlier engagement with classics of the Elizabethan and Jacobean stage. None the less, as one might expect with a Brook production, it will live long in the book of memory.
Karen Rizzo's Mutual Philanthropy is a gem of a play and the Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA production serves it well.
Miller's classic runs at the Ahmanson Theatre, Downtown Los Angeles until October 16th. Here's my View From The Mezzanine. In this pic you can see the onstage area with a black tab (centre) obscuring the acting area (before curtain up) and on either side of the stage audience members seated onstage.
This beautifully stylized and tightly choreographed production was marred by two lead actors who struggled to cope vocally. Having audience onstage and beyond the footlights couldn't have helped. They may be skilled on-screen actors with an abundance of TV credits between them but they simply lacked the vocal power to fill the space.
It might claim to be the same Van Hove production but with a different cast it lacks the punch that so excited audiences on Broadway and in the West End. The Los Angeles Times is generous when it refers to the production as "smoldering" (latimes.com).
Anna, in the Darkness at the Lounge Theatre is a powerful thriller with a malevolent undercurrent that carries its audience from the show’s first suspenseful moment to its very last. And since the audience is literally holed up in the same house as the story’s central character, a small-town teacher turned local pariah, every moment of this psychological drama is underscored by the feeling that we’re in it together and maybe, just maybe, none of us are getting out alive.
Amanda Weier’s direction gives great dynamic shape to this solo show, and as Rebecca Lincoln’s compelling performance ratchets up the tension, we see a character on the verge complete breakdown defiantly clinging to a residual sense of injustice and wrongdoing. Lincoln moves deftly from moments of dark humour to those of paralysing fear. It is a consummate performance that marks her out as an actor of breadth and integrity.
Find out more about this show including performance dates and times at the Hollywood Fringe Festival website www.hollywoodfringe.org
A Very Modern Marriage at the Lounge Theatre
Where to begin a feast? With breakfast naturally, and so it was that I kicked off my 2015 fringe experience at the ungodly hour of 11.45 a.m. (okay, that's more brunch than breakfast) but I'm happy to report a good house at Scott Marden's Will Play production of A Very Modern Marriage at the Lounge Theatre, and that's no surprise with such a lively and dynamic production on show. I should also point out that Saturday's performance was the only early start - all other dates and times are PM slots and as with all the shows reviewed here you can check out full details at the Hollywood Fringe Festival website at www.hollywoodfringe.org
Marden and his actors navigate more the twists and turns than Magic Mountain's Twisted Colossus in Arthur M. Jolly's contemporary farce. The production is a wickedly funny ménage à trois that doesn't pause for breath. The 90 minute show, performed without an intermission, feels more like 60, the action changes gear effortlessly, the transitions between scenes are never clunky, and three excellent actors squeeze every ounce of drama out the script.
This is not what I'd call a "fringey" fringe production (no actor defecating in a bucket while another performs a naked handstand reciting the words of Doctor Faustus backwards) but what exactly does "fringey" mean? Isn't that the great joy of a festival like this - that we get exposed to the kind of fringe diversity that encompasses and array of performance styles and genres?!
The bottom lines is this: a tight and well-oiled production with great acting. Estaban Andres Cruz is vibrant and deliciously conniving as Christopher; Donal Thoms-Cappello as Matthew displays a manliness that cleverly belies the vulnerability of his character as the plot unfolds; and Deborah Jensen is superb as the wife-with-trust-issues who is part-tiger-part-kitten.
Amelia's Going Down at the Elephant Theatre
Okay, next on this fringe feast menu comes lunch: The tasty, and delectable Amelia's Going Down at the Elephant Theatre, directed by Mark Hein.
It is a poignant and tender production that imagines Amelia Earhart's fated last journey ending on a desert island with her navigator Fred Noonan.
The story is told uniquely, embracing radio drama as a backdrop to the action onstage. As such, this is a production that draws the audience in, demanding their attention. This is not so much InYerFace theatre as InYerEars theatre: a subtle, thought-provoking and well-crafted piece with solid performances from the likes of Lara Lihiya and Jason Britt in the roles of Earhart and Noonan, supported by a diverse cast that includes Ramona Creel, Charlotte Plummer, David MacDowell Blue, and Elissa Anne Polansky.
Smile, Baby at the Dorie Theatre
And so we come to the Main Course. I caught the late night show of Kate Motzenbacker's production and having feasted on theatre all day long thought my appetite had been sated - until I saw this fantastic production with the extraordinary talents of Madison Shepard, Sonia Jackson, Jessica DeBruin, Linda Serrato-Ybarra, and Molly Wixson. Between them they bring 16 superbly well-crafted characters to life in a devastatingly funny tale of womanhood in the world today.
The parade of characters, costumes and different settings is anchored by the simple through line of two women waiting for a bus but you won't believe where the journey takes you!
Smile, Baby is an excellent show, a comedy that packs a punch and a 2015 Hollywood Fringe MUST SEE.
“Total f**king insanity!” It was with these three words that I embraced director Josh T. Ryan last night following his production of Othello at Zombie Joe’s Underground. The hour-long adaption (and the word “adaption” is one you really should bear in mind before seeing this show) by Ryan and the legendary Zombie Joe himself displays the kind of majestic anarchy and unrivaled theatrical madness that sets it apart from the regular diet of staid retellings usually on offer. The production is witty, engaging, and constantly on the move: Iambic pentameter by the scruff of the neck, Shakespeare by the horns, everything ravaged by a cracking pace of delivery and devilry.
The course is steered by a truly ensemble cast. Vincent Cusimano’s fearless Iago is very, very funny complete with full-throttle theatricality and naked flesh. Vanessa Cate’s Othello is brooding and paranoid, and the entirely invented role of the Photographer, played by Sebastian Muñoz is as wicked as it is depraved. The rest of the cast including Kirsten Benjamin as Desdemona, Anna Gion as Emilia, Quinn Knox as Cassio, Hedy Beinert as Bianca, Tyler Koster as Montano, Hannah Mosqueda as Roderigo, and R. Benjamin Warren as Fineas all sparkle in their own unique way and make a sensuous dance of this adaptation.
The high-octane humour is tempered by moments of genuine poignancy…but lest the production take itself too serious it’s not long before the Moor of Venice is breaking into song. I want to repeat again my first impression: Total F**king Insanity! Go and see this show. It is Othello as you have never seen him before, diva of the fashion industry, Iago the prince of the catwalk accompanied by rock ballads, Lycra, Glam Rock and New Romantics styling.
Running until June 27. Check out ZJU website for more details: www.zombiejoes.com
Another superb RAZE THE SPACE event at Samuel French:
Only just getting round to posting this blog about last month's festival of shorts at Samuel French - a great success thanks in no small part to the sterling work of all those who took part - an international array of directors, writers, and actors who came together to put these readings on. Visit www.razethespace.com for photos of the day. The festival will be back next year and we remain tight lipped for now but hope to post some good news in the near future regarding the next stage in the life of this play festival X
15 actors, 5 directors and 4 writers took part in today's Staged Reading at Samuel French in Hollywood. The event, Raze The Space's Global Theatre Project explored global drama with a series of globally relevant plays, scenes and excerpts. The event was well-attended and very well received! We look forward to the next one. You can see a slideshow of the reading at:
Directors Lab West fosters an intensive laboratory environment where a community of directors and choreographers inspire each other to dream and create the future of American Theatre.
I am very proud to have taken part in the 15th Lab hosted by Pasadena Playhouse, SDC and various other institutes and partners.
It was a transforming experience and one that will live long in the memory.
I have a diverse, intelligent and wonderful new artist family, my fellow Labbies!
The Malibu Playhouse, formerly the Malibu Stage Company is heading in a new direction under the stewardship of its Artistic Director Gene Franklin-Smith.
Alongside its exciting season of plays, the Playhouse is introducing a conservatory program with a host of creative artists and I'm delighted to be a part of it.