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Fun, Laughs, Song and Dance in “Ionescopade” at the Odyssey theatre.

Published June 2, 2013 by mickala

The lights go down and the three piece orchestra starts in on a ridiculous romp of a tune, complete with slide whistles, bells and many of the classic sound effects one associates with slapstick and vaudeville. This overture sets the perfect mood for Ionescopade, a vaudeville variety-type show, derived from the work of Eugene Ionesco now playing at the Odyssey Theatre. It opens with a silent clown type narrator (Alan Abelew), who portrays the writer of the show. Abelew slinks throughout the show, smiling, and acting as a sidekick to many of the performers. Though at times his little acts are cute, the part is not really necessary and does not add anything to the show. The rest of the cast members, however jump brilliantly in and out of different characters as the scenes are always changing between vaudeville-esque song and dance numbers, to thought provoking sketches, to heart-rendering songs.

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This type of show would fall completely flat if it was not supplied with an absolutely superb cast, but luckily this production is. Though everyone has their strong points, Tom Lowe steals the show, with his velvety voice, stellar dance moves and ability to jump in and out of each scene while not missing a beat. Lowe is often paired with the vibrant Cristina Gerla, who dances and sings her way into your heart, as her big eyes and contagious smile lights up the stage. A personal favorite part of the show, is brought by Andrew Ableson, when he sings the lonely smoky bar tune, “Madeline”. His voice is sublime, and in a song that barely gives room for breathing, he executes it flawlessly.

Though there are many different elements and subjects of the show, the underlying theme is based on war and the idiocy of leadership. Ionesco was a writer in post World War II France and he was one of the prominent figures for the Theatre of the Absurd. So many of his pieces are down right silly, yet some of them really challenge us to think and take a look at the world around us. Though written decades ago, the themes are still relevant today and many of the subjects we can all easily relate to.

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Ionescopade was originally conceived by Robert Allan Ackerman, with music and lyrics by Mildred Kayden. This production has been slightly re-structured from previous versions by the director/choreographer, William Castellino, and he has done a stellar job. Quick paced, eye catching and strongly cast, this fun vaudevillian romp is sure to make audiences, laugh, ponder and applaud with sure delight.

Ionescopade runs Fridays – Sundays with select Wednesday and Thursday performances through August 11th.

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“Heart Song” Stomps its Way onto the Fountain stage with Litte Enthusiasm

Published June 1, 2013 by mickala

Sitting down in the Fountain Theatre brings expectations. It is a stellar theatre that puts on high quality shows. Their current production holds even more anticipation with direction by Shirley Jo Finney (In the Red and Brown Water) and a script by Stephen Sachs (Cyrano). Though it is at times humorous and features some great dancing, Heart Song, fails to deliver that fully rounded, wow quality that the Fountain is known for.

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Heart Song brings us Rochelle (Pamela Dunlap), an older Jewish New Yorker,  who is depressed, lost and mourning the death of her mother. What first comes off of as sarcastic wit and charm from the heavily accented Dunlap, soon becomes annoying and a bit pathetic. The play follows Rochelle as she is dragged to a Flamenco dancing class by her Japanese-American masseuse Tina (Tamlyn Tomita). Rochelle moans and groans the entire way there and throughout the class, refusing to try to dance and continuously insisting that she is too fat and old. We wait with anticipation for the moment where Rochelle sees the light, embraces the fierce, vibrant beats of Flamenco and releases her woes and negativity, however that moment never comes. Though she is constantly encouraged by her flamboyant, invigorating dance teacher Katarina* (Maria Bermudez, who also choreographed the play), Rochelle continues to resist and at one point flees the class all together, never to return during the remainder of the play.

The acting in this play is what you cling to. Dunlap throws herself into the highly emotional berating Rochelle. Bermudez is also powerful, and brings a wonderful ferocity with her dance moves and attitude as the vivacious dance teacher. Overall the acting and the dancing are the only true strong points of Heart Song.

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What this play lacks is focus and a true plot. We learn of Rochelle’s troubles and her disability to listen to anyones advise or to even empathize with their problems. We then learn of the hurt and pain in Tina’s past by her mother and father’s experience of meeting in a Japanese American Internment camp. We also learn of Daloris’ (Juanita Jennings) trouble as a breast cancer survivor, who tries to pick Rochelle up with her encouraging, life-affirming words and how Flamenco changed her life, yet Rochelle never seems to get it. At least not until the last five minutes of the play. For some reason, between the time the lights went down and up again between the last two scenes, what everyone in the cast had been trying to tell her for two hours had finally sunk in. What it actually had to do with Flamenco dancing, is not clear.

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There is no question that Sachs is a talented writer. He has an interesting core concept that a hurting, defeated woman has her life changed by Flamenco dancing. However that is not this play. What this play is exactly about is hard to tell. Yet, it is the Fountain Theatre, so though they might not have had a great script to work from, the choreography, lighting, stage design and casting is stellar. Unfortunately this “Heart Song” has no true melody.

** The role of Katarina will be played by Denise Blasor starting June 15th.

Heart Song runs Thursdays- Sundays until July 14th.

Taking a “Master Class” with Opera Legend Maria Callas at ICT

Published March 26, 2013 by mickala

Master Class_2There are singers, and then there are performers, people who envelope themselves in the role and are able to convey emotions through song that someone just singing the notes is incapable of. Maria Callas, the famed Opera Singer of the 40’s and 50’s was a true performer. She was known for her fierce ability to throw herself into many of the great female opera roles, as well as a personality to go with that capability. Callas lost her voice after a short career due to her reckless carelessness with her voice. She spent the short remaining years of her life teaching classes to opera students at refined schools such as Julliard. Hard headed, wounded and a genius in her own right she is a fascinating character to observe.

And observe we get to, in Terrance McNally’s Master Class now playing at ICT in Long Beach. You are treated to what it would be like sitting in an auditorium as a student at Julliard watching Callas help tutor opera students. Gigi Bermingham plays Callas to her best ability, trying to capture that star power that shot Callas to stardom, as well as her wounded bird interior. Thoroughly entwined in herself, Callas cannot make it through one student’s song without remembering her own rendition of the piece or claiming that the student will never be one of the greats, never leaving her own name off of the noteworthy list.

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Todd Nielson’s production is slow at times, with Bermingham often pacing back and forth, and at times even leaving the stage at will, trying to get across the difficult behavior that made working with Callas such a bear. However the entire thing is an interesting character study. It is like watching a fascinating wild animal in a strange environment. Callas was not used to teaching, to letting others perform, she could not let go of her own memories and desires.

The cast is exceptionally talented, the three opera students have beautiful voices,  yet the repetitiveness of the singing that comes with a classroom environment does get a little boring. Though the portrayal of Callas is fascinating, it does leave a little to be desired, Bermingham fights to possess the presence Callas was known for, but comes up shy. If you are adverse to Opera singing, there is a lot of it, so perhaps this is not for you. However, if you, like me, are fascinated with taking a look into the life of a genius you may never have known had existed, then head down to Long Beach to take a Master Class with one of the greats.

–Mickala Jauregui

Master Class Runs Till April 14th at International City Theatre in Long Beach.

A Little Night of Theater: Mar. 13th – Mar. 17th

Published March 14, 2013 by mickala

So many great options this week!!!

A Family Thing” – Last Weekend – Stage 52 – Los Angeles
My Night Musing

“Ladyhouse Blues”Runs Till Mar. 24thNewPlace Studio Theatre – North Hollywood

“Dirty Filthy Love Story”Runs Till Mar. 24th – Skylight Theatre Complex – Hollywood

**”Walking the Tightrope” – Runs Till Mar. 30th – 24th Street Theatre – Downtown
My Night Musing

“Complete” – Runs Till Mar. 30th – The Matrix Theatre – Hollywood
My Night Musing

“Songs of Bilitis” – Runs Till Mar. 30th – Bootleg Theater – Los Angeles

“Paradise”Runs Till Mar. 30thRuskin Group Theatre – Santa Monica
Night Musing Coming Soon

**”Chapter Two”Runs Till Apr. 6thLittle Fish Theatre – San Pedro
My Night Musing

“The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” – Runs Wednesdays Till Apr. 10th – Theatre Asylum – Hollywood
My Night Musing

“Trainspotting”Runs Till Apr. 13thElephant Theatre – Hollywood
Night Musing Coming Soon

“Dreamgirls”Runs Till Apr. 14th- MET Theatre – Hollywood

“Tomorrow” – Runs Till Apr. 21st – Skylight Theatre Complex – Hollywood

“Mrs Warren’s Profession”Runs Till Apr. 21st The Antaeus Company – North Hollywood

“On The Spectrum” Runs Till Apr. 28th – The Fountain Theatre – Hollywood
Night Musing Coming Soon

** = YOU MUST SEE THIS

Little Fish Theatre + Neil Simon = Excellent Production of “Chapter Two”

Published March 9, 2013 by mickala
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Richard Perloff and Trisha Miller. Photo by Mickey Elliot.

There are good playwrights, bad playwrights, playwrights with good ideas but bad technique and then there is Neil Simon. The most famous and successful playwright of all time. With over 30 plays which include The Odd Couple, The Goodbye Girl, Barefoot in the Park and many many more. Simon is a master of comedy and relationships, if done correctly his work will charm you all night long. That is the key point, if done correctly. Simon’s work focuses so much on relationships and chemistry that if his work is not done by the right actors, all of its charm could fizzle away. This is definitely not the case at Little Fish Theatre with their current production of Chapter Two. The four actors who perform this riveting piece are not only superbly talented they have amazing chemistry with one another.

Chapter Two is a delightful play about two people, George Schneider (Richard Perloff) who is now a widower and Jennie Malone (Trisha Miller), a fresh divorcee. They are hurt, broken and not quite ready to start the second chapter of their lives. Neither are looking for love but they find each other with the help of their matchmaking supporters. The story touches upon the fear of letting go the old, as well as the paralyzing feeling of letting in the new. It is funny and heartwarming and at times rather sad. It has everything it needs to be a stellar play, but why should it not, it is Neil Simon.

What makes this particular production special is the company and the staging/set design. There are two settings in this play, George’s apartment and Jennie’s. Scene Designer, Chris Beyries has done a clever job in creating these two places in a small space. On stage right is George’s apartment, a perfect setting for a writer and on stage left is Jenny’s. The two meet in the middle sharing a sofa for their living rooms. Now this could go totally awry, but it works. At times, George is in his apartment sitting on the couch and Jennie is in her home sitting on her sofa. It may be the same sofa but you completely believe that they are in separate apartments. In order to pull off Beyries clever set, you need phenomenal directing, which Patrick Vest brings, and convincing actors, which they most definitely have.

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Richard Perloff and Tony Cicchetti. Photo by Mickey Elliot.

Perloff is devastating , charming and heart wrenching as the widower George. He loved his deceased wife, Barbara as much as any woman wishes to be loved and is now at a loss. Your heart skips a beat when he loses his mopy lost puppy persona and becomes love struck with the beautiful, clever and funny Jennie. Miller keeps you on your heels as Jennie. She is a strong independent woman who vows not to waste her life on another wasted relationship. Yet when her and George hit a rocky road, she stands up for herself and for their love in a monologue that is riveting. The sidekicks of the play, portrayed by Tony Cicchetti and Dana Pollak are loveable as they push their hurting friends into each others arms.

Chapter Two at Little Fish Theatre is a must see. It has everything you want from an evening at the theater and more. If you have never been to Little Fish then this is the time to go. It is a theater full of people who love what they do and it shows. This is only my second trip to this theater but I can securely state that it is quickly becoming one of my favorite theaters in LA.

–Mickala Jauregui

Chapter Two runs until April 6th, at Little Fish Theatre in San Pedro.

A Little Night of Theater: Mar. 5th – 10th

Published March 5, 2013 by mickala

A Family Thing” – RunTill Mar. 17th – Stage 52 – Los Angeles
My Night Musing

**”Walking the Tightrope” – Runs Till Mar. 30th – 24th Street Theatre – Downtown
My Night Musing

“Complete” – Runs Till Mar. 30th – The Matrix Theatre – Hollywood
My Night Musing

“Songs of Bilitis” – Runs Till Mar. 30th – Bootleg Theater – Los Angeles
Night Musing Coming Soon

“Chapter Two”Runs Till Apr. 6thLittle Fish Theatre – San Pedro
Night Musing Coming Soon

“The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” – Runs Wednesdays Till Apr. 10th – Theatre Asylum – Hollywood
My Night Musing

“Trainspotting”Runs Till Apr. 13thElephant Theatre – Hollywood
Night Musing Coming Soon

“Dreamgirls”Runs Till Apr. 14th- MET Theatre – Hollywood

** = YOU MUST SEE THIS

A Little Night of Theatre: Feb 28th – Mar 3rd

Published February 28, 2013 by mickala

“The Snake Can”Last WeekendOdyssey Theatre – West Los Angeles
My Night Musing

**A MUST SEE**
“Walking the Tightrope”
Runs Till Mar. 30th24th Street Theatre – Downtown
My Night Musing

A Family Thing”Runs Till Mar. 17th Stage 52 – Los Angeles
My Night Musing

“Complete” – Runs Till Mar. 30th – The Matrix Theatre – Los Angeles
Night Musing Coming Soon

“The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” Runs Wednesdays Till Apr. 10th – Theatre Asylum – Hollywood
My Night Musing

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