The Fountain Theatre

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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.

Heart-Song_1

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.

Heart-Song_3

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.

Heart-Song_2
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.

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A Little Night of Theater: Mar. 27th – 31st

Published March 27, 2013 by mickala

So many must sees!!!

“Complete” – Last Weekend – The Matrix Theatre – Hollywood
My Night Musing

“Songs of Bilitis” – Last Weekend – Bootleg Theater – Los Angeles

**”Chapter Two” – Runs Till Apr. 6th – Little 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. 13th – Elephant Theatre – Hollywood
My Night Musing

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

“Master Class” – Runs Till Apr. 14th – ICT – Long Beach
My Night Musing

“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

**”Paradise” – Runs Till May 4th – Ruskin Group Theatre – Santa Monica
My Night Musing

**”Walking the Tightrope” – EXTENDED Till May 18th – 24th Street Theatre – Downtown
My Night Musing

** = YOU MUST SEE THIS

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

Taking the Reins at the Fountain is the cast of “In the Red and Brown Water”

Published October 28, 2012 by mickala

Chanting takes over the small space of The Fountain Theatre before the stage is even lit. The entire cast of In the Red and Brown Water comes onto the stage gleefully singing their song, chanting “Oya” over and over again. This piece is somewhat interactive, extremely funny and heart breaking all at the same time.

In the Red and Brown Water is the story of Oya (Diarra Kilpatrick) a young talented runner who chooses to stay with her dying Mother over going to college on a running scholarship. After her Mother, Mamma Mojo (Peggy A. Blow)  passes, the scholarship is non-existence and she abandons running, the one thing in life that made her feel free. She turns to the one thing a poor Louisianan woman is expected to do, raise a family. She becomes lost and desperate when she finds out she cannot have children. It is a  gut wrenching, but at times hilarious story about how sometimes one wrong decision can vastly alter the path of your life.

Tarell Alvin McCraney has written a unique piece full of dancing, singing, haunting story telling and enchanting characters. One part of the piece is extremely odd and something that is hard to describe in a way that brings justice to the technique. Throughout the play, the actors will turn directly to the audience, breaking that sacred third wall to tell the audience what their stage direction is. For example, Mamma Mojo is livid that the sleazy Shango (Gilbert Glenn Brown) is hitting on her precious Oya once again. Before she enters the scene she turns to the audience in a disgusted and infuriated tone and states “Mamma Mojo enters”. The effect is inspirational. We all know exactly how she feels before she even speaks a scripted line and we feel as if we are a part of it. It is like they are letting us in on their thoughts and feelings before the other characters get to know them. Glenn Brown makes excellent use of this technique with each of his exits and entrances, putting an exclamation point on just how sleazy his character is.

The entire cast has completely run away with this piece. They have made it their own and are obviously having a blast performing it. Blow is fantastic as the sassy and all-knowing Mamma Mojo, her facial expressions and use of stage directions bring you laughing to your knees. Kilpatrick is energizing and devastating as the hopeful and later hopeless Oya. Her enthusiasm and naivety will relate to anyone who has ever been young and full of dreams. She becomes lost and misguided after her Mother’s death and falls into the traps of young love and words filled with promises.

The direction of this show by Shirley Jo Finney seems perfect for this odd but electrifying piece. For the majority of the play all of the actors are on stage, off to the side, watching, singing, interacting with whatever is happening center stage. At some points actors even come into the audience and sit on the steps  of the aisles, bringing the theatre together, as if we are all involved with what is going on. The actors are fully energized from beginning to end, starting with a song and ending the same way, getting the whole theatre involved in their rhythmic clapping. The Fountain is known for their great performances, often providing fantastic plays with their Los Angeles premiere, and this piece is no different.

In the Red and Brown Water is in the beginning of its run which lasts through December 16th. It is a play many ages and personalities will enjoy and one that will provide a new experience. It is like nothing you have ever seen before and something that is utterly fascinating and highly entertaining. If you have not yet discovered the hidden gem that is The Fountain Theatre then this is the perfect time to do so.

Athol Fugard’s “The Blue Iris” Leaves Unanswered Questions Hanging in the Air

Published August 31, 2012 by mickala

Sitting amongst the rubble of burnt, misunderstood memories, we venture into Athol Fugard’s newest creation, The Blue IrisThe Fountain Theatre has yet again mounted a visually stunning production that is carried by superb acting and producing talent. Where The Blue Iris draws a blank is unfortunately in the writing. The play is a story of a forlorn old farmer who has lost his wife in a traumatic fire, or was it in a heart attack caused by the fire? Unfortunately many questions like this one may arise for audience members after seeing the play.

Fugard no doubt has talent; during his 80 years on this planet he has contributed many great pieces to the theater world. Perhaps this play is too fresh and not quite yet fine tuned, but something seems missing. We meet Rieta Plaasman (Julanne Chidi Hill) and her boss Robert Hannay (Morlan Higgins), who are rummaging through the rubble of their beloved burnt home. Robert is desperately searching for the answer as to why his late wife Sally (Jacqueline Schultz) is haunting the remains of their house. While Rieta does her best to pack up what is salvageable and convince Robert to leave their past behind them.

After thirty minutes of talking about Sally and her beloved drawings of wild flowers, a chill ran down my spine as Schultz appeared in an upstage doorway dressed in an all white night gown. I truly felt as if I was seeing a ghost and that moment alone makes the whole night worth seeing.

After that breathtaking moment the play seems to lose all air it had like a helium balloon slowly deflating. Any suspense that had been built up with unanswered questions and unknown feelings, goes out the window when Robert and Rieta pack up and leave. No real conclusion is drawn, perhaps a lesson is learned but what particular lesson it is seems unclear.

What makes the first half of this play intriguing at all are the actors. Chidi Hill’s Rieta is played to heart wrenching perfection from her mannerisms to her impressive South African accent. She interprets the illusive text to the best that it can be and shows a strong array of emotions. Watching Chidi Hill work through the material is fascinating to a show stealing level. Which can become a problem for Higgins, since Chidi Hill is staged so far from him in most of their scenes. The set is beautifully tragic and sprawling as it ranges from the burnt down front room of the house and an outdoor section located directly next to the house. Robert spends most of his time running around frantically searching for Sally. While Rieta desperately tries to restore normalcy with a proper dinner prepared on a fire range outdoors. Because these two are barley ever next to each other, it almost feels as if you are watching a tennis match, trying to absorb the emotions of both actors.

            Perhaps I am just not familiar enough with Fugard’s work to understand the deeper meaning to this rather odd piece. To me it seems as if there is a lovely structure to a story somewhere in the text, yet it is never quite filled in. It is almost as if a few pages got left out somewhere and the key to what makes everything come together is simply missing. Either way, though the play is flawed, the Fountain Theatre has done it’s normal feat by presenting a beautifully staged, lighted and acted production of this new work. Through the Direction of Stephen Sachs, they have made this questionable piece as entertaining and moving as it could possibly be. One thing is for sure, a trip to the Fountain will never leave you with a bitter tang of disappointment, but on this occasion it will probably leave you with a few unanswered questions.

“Cyrano” a Modern Love Story Premieres at The Fountain Theatre

Published May 11, 2012 by mickala

Communication is one of the most important aspects of human existence. Communication is a simple or perhaps not so simple way of responding and feeling in a way in which others can share, feel and respond. We usually think of communication as spoken word, however with the surge of technology surrounding us there are now immensely more ways to communicate with each other that far reach beyond the abilities of the spoken word. The Fountain Theatre is currently presenting a new rendition of the classic Cyrano De Bergerac with their collaboration with the Deaf West Theatre. Stephen Sach’s Cyrano is a modern interpretation of the classic tale, in which Cyrano (Troy Kotsur) is not hindered by his unpleasing looks but by his inability to hear. He falls in love with a hearing woman named Roxy (Erinn Anova), who of course is infatuated with Cyrano’s brother Chris (Paul Raci), who in this case is an aging rocker with a limited vocabulary.

Troy Kotsur and Erinn Anova
Photo by Ed Krieger

Sach has written a heart wrenching love story that incorporates technology and how it can tear down barriers that may have been impossible to cross before. Throughout the play characters communicate with each other through emails, text messages, Facebook, etc. With exquisite Technical Direction by Scott Tuomey and Set Design by Jeff McLaughlin the stage is beautifully put together with diversity that can easily change from a bar to a rooftop to an apartment almost instantly. They make use of several television monitors that line the back of the stage to portray set backgrounds as well relay text messages to audiences and provide captions for any section of the play that does not include American Sign Language (ASL).

Much of this play is told through ASL and this could be a barrier between the actors who are trying to portray the story and the hearing audience who do not know ASL However, as one of those particular audience members I can tell you that is not the case. Deaf West Theatre has been around for 21 years and they obviously have mastered how to present an ASL play. The use of technology was beautifully done and it fit right in to the theme of the play.  They also take it further by making great use of iphone applications such as maps to tracks Cyrano on his long walks.

None of this technology and translation would mean anything if the message of the play was not presented so passionately by Kotsur. A well-established ASL actor Kotsur brings out the pain of Cyrano’s situation through his signing. One might think that the lack of being able to use words in different tones and levels with different accents may take away from one’s acting, but in this case it absolutely does not. Kotsur signs with utter despair after he has pushed his brother Chris right into Roxy’s arms. The last scene will clutch at your heart as you watch Cyrano try so desperately to express his pain while for the first time during the play he has found himself at a loss for words.

Perhaps Kotsur is at a different level then some of the other cast, perhaps the character of Cyrano provides so much more to be presented then the others, but Kotsur is the definite star of this production. Anova’s Roxy seems one-dimensional but perhaps that is her plight, she loves Cyrano’s words and poetry, but is not all that intellectual herself. Raci’s Chris is hilarious as well as heart breaking and his sung rock solo in the second half is one of the best parts of the play.

Troy Kotsur and Paul Raci
Photo by Ed Krieger

Stephen Sach’s Cyrano is a different experience if you have never seen a Deaf West production before, however it is one worth experiencing. It is a beautiful tale of love and the boundaries it faces in a world where boundaries are being broken every day.

“El Nogalar” at the ‘Fountain’ of Creativity

Published February 26, 2012 by mickala

      Amidst run down houses, cracked sidewalks and an occasional homeless person or two stands an odd building, lighted just enough to stand out. On the side of the building tucked just far enough so you can see it only if you’re looking for it, is an illuminated sign that says “The Fountain”. On Fountain Ave in Hollywood is this amazing little theater, The Fountain Theater is in it’s twenty second year of productions and they have awards displayed in the lobby to show that they are no ordinary hole in the wall theater. Currently playing is the West Coast Premier of Tanya Saracho’s EL Nogalar (The Pecan Orchard), The Fountain has transformed it’s entire tiny theater into the house and surrounding orchard of Los Nogalar for this production.

            El Nogalar was inspired by Anton Chekov’s play The Cherry Orchard, not being extremely familiar with that play I will not be comparing them in this review. My biggest critique of this show is the casting, not because of the skills or talent of the actors, but because of the age. The cast consists of four women and one man, two of the women are supposed to be the daughters of Maite (Yetta Gottesman), who appears to be around the same age as her “daughter” Valeria (Isabelle Ortega). However, if one can look past the age of the actors then you can truly be transported in this city in Mexico being overtaken by the cartel.

            Brought back together by the threat of losing the family’s Pecan Orchard, the women who barely ever got along must face each other and their fears in order to try and save their land. The acting is stellar and the incredible and versatile facial expressions of the family’s maid Dunia (Sabina Zuniga Varela) almost steals the production away from everyone else. Varela is obviously having fun with her role, and it is fascinating to watch her character develop and grow throughout the performance. Staying right by her side with a heartbreaking performance is Ortega, who shows the pain and shyness in the eldest sister Valeria. Ortega is in utter hysterics listening to her mother and she has the audience crying, gasping and laughing alongside her.

            What brings this production full circle is the beautiful set and exquisite lighting. Though one is forced to use their imagination when the stage is set the same way but is sometimes used as one room, two rooms or even outside of the house, for some reason it works. Perhaps it is the enchantment the actors put on the audience, or perhaps it is because everything is so colorful and so sparsely staged that it is not hard to realign the rooms. With tree branches all over the outside of the house, in hallways and on the side of the theater it is easy to be transported to the orchard. Lonnie Rafael Alcaraz has lit the production with perfect elegance. Providing eerie backdrops to emotional flashbacks as well as having perfect timing with the constant battle of having light son or off in the house.

Though this production does have some flaws and will probably have you discussing them in great details after the show with others, it is definitely worth going. Take a trip to the heart of Hollywood and enter the world of El Nogalar, and perhaps save sometime after the show to go upstairs and have some cake and coffee in “The Fountain’s” café, it will be a great night of theater I can assure you that.

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