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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.

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

Do Yourself a Favor and Buy a Ticket to “Paradise”

Published March 20, 2013 by mickala

What do you get when you bring together a holier than thou preacher, an ex-stripper, a small town in the backwoods of America and a reality TV show? Paradise: A Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy now in its World Premiere at Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica. Full of catchy and hilarious songs, unique characters, an interesting story and an extremely talented cast, Paradise is a refreshing piece of musical theater. Created by Bill Robertson, Tom Sage and Cliff Wagner, this ridiculous romp, is funny, highly entertaining and full of great bluegrass songs.

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We start in the small struggling old mining town of Paradise, where Reverend John Cyrus Mountain (Jonathan Root) stumbles in claiming a desire to save the town with a reality show and a mega church. Meeting hesitation by Louanne Knight (Rachel Noll), owner of the town’s general store and descendent of the town’s most influential people, the Reverend works his magic through his trusty sidekick Chastity  Jones (Nina Brissey). However, Louanne is not convinced by Chastity’s Jesus loving pole dance and continues to refuse the Reverend’s plan. This brings trouble when the crew from Hollywood arrives and expects to be able to start shooting. What ensues is fun, ridiculous and at times a bit raunchy. Touching upon such subjects as religion, sex, and homosexuality this show is not for everyone. However, if you are fine with these subjects and poking a little fun at them, then you will absolutely love this show.

Though there is not a weak link in this cast, Kristal Lynn Lockyer steals the show, as Cinderella  Tiara Applebaum, the town’s “special” citizen who was born in a barn and has fleas. Lockyer is energizing, disgusting and absolutely brilliant, especially with her star turn  number “Light a Bag of S***”. You will be appalled and yet you can’t help but applaud the absolute comic genius that she possesses.

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I saw this production a few days ago and yet the songs are still stuck in my head and I still laugh thinking about it. If you are a long time reader you know that I am a musical theater junky as well as a snob. I am not a fan of a lot of the new musicals popping up, but this show is an extreme exception. With the subject matter I am not sure how wide of an audience this show will have, but with how big “Book of Mormon” has become, who knows. All I can say, is that now that this production has been extended through May 4th you really have no reason to not go see it. However, because of the sheer enjoyment this show brings and the size of the theater, performances have been selling out. So grab a ticket, get ready for a laugh or a few dozen and head on over to Paradise.

–Mickala Jauregui

Paradise runs weekends through May 4th at the Ruskin Group Theatre.

A Trip Down the Tracks with “Trainspotting” at The Elephant Theater

Published March 18, 2013 by mickala

Between the intensity of the performers as they act out the lives of druggies, the choppiness of the script and the thick Scottish brogue the actors have donned, the play adaptation of Trainspotting is shocking, riveting, but at many points very hard to follow and understand. The seat of your pants Productions presentation of this play, currently on stage at The Elephant Theater in Hollywood, is bold, with full male and female nudity, vivid and disturbing props of human feces, urine and bloodied tampons as well as strong language. This is not a show for all audiences but for those who can handle it, it is intense, thought-provoking, and filled with some outstanding performances.

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Adapted from Irvine Welsh’s cult classic book of the same name, Harry Gibson has taken the series of short stories about heroin addicts in Scotland and wrote it as a play, melding many stories in order to repeat characters and have more of a coherent arc. Originally written for only 4 actors, playing dozens of roles, Director Roger Mathey asked for permission to expand the cast allowing for less overlap of characters. This was allowed, and Mathey first brought his version of the play to Los Angeles audiences in 2002 resulting in rave reviews and many awards. Now the production is back, with four of the original cast members re-tackling these in-depth roles with ten more years of life experience themselves.

Trainspotting is a dark look into the lives of four friends whose entire lives are dictated by their heroine addictions. It covers a wide variety of themes that many people can relate to in one way or another. Mark Renton played to brilliant perfection by Justin Zachary, leads the cast in this whirlwind snapshot of this drug hazed group. Set in 1980’s Scotland which provides poverty, the AIDS outbreak and a lack of country pride for the characters to muddle their way through, as they try to embrace what they are living for. They have made conscious efforts to not amount to anything, to spend their lives “trainspotting” which is a term used for people who have too much spare time on their hands.

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The play itself is well staged, generally well cast, with Zachary and David Agranov as Tommy** standing out as the stars of the show. The direction is great for what the script provides. Since this was taken from a series of short stories it comes off as a bit choppy and at times it can be confusing. Mark is recognized as the narrator during the first act, yet the character Alison (Alison Walter) becomes the narrator in the second act which is unexplained and not as interesting.

Overall Trainspotting is a raunchy, in your face play that will definitely feel like a smack in the face. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes we need a good smack in order to ask ourselves what life is about and what we are actually doing with it. For there is nothing like watching a bunch of addicts, waste their lives to make you want to go out and do something with yours.

–Mickala Jauregui

Trainspotting runs weekends until April 13th. Please note that this production contains adult content and cigarette smoking.

**Please note that most roles are double cast and this review is based on the cast seen on Saturday March 16th.

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

The Ups and Downs of Making Yourself “Complete” at The Matrix Theatre

Published March 4, 2013 by mickala

“Create yourself being” is a phrase that would drive linguists insane, yet it is one that many self help professionals use. It is the idea that you are responsible for your life and how you react to things. For example you do not blame another for what they have done to you, for you alone are in charge of how you respond to such actions.  “Complete” written by Andrea Kuchlewska now in its West Coast Premiere by Wilder Theatrics, asks these such questions through the interwoven story of Eve (Meredith Bishop) and Micah (Scott Kruse), their love for language as PHD Linguist students, and as both having experienced “The Program” which is based off of the 1970’s-80’s fad EST.

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The story itself is interesting, yet where it loses momentum is in the way it is laid out. Filled with much repetition and time jumping, it easy to get bored and lost. Because of the jumping back and forth,and side to side in to different time frames, it takes a minute to realize in which time frame the scene is taking place. Though it is followable, it distracts from the overall plot of the play and could perhaps be arranged to flow more smoothly. Another distracting part of this piece is the repetitiveness. Some scenes are played more than once in their entirety and I just do  not see the need for this. Others are first described within a scene, as a character is referring to what had happened previously. Than later on in the play that aforementioned scene is then played out. It is not needed, you do not have to describe an entire situation and then show it. If many of these scenes were cut the, 90 minute length of the play would be closer to 60, which would probably be better for holding the attention of the audience.

The saving grace of this play is the acting. Though a difficult piece of material to work through, the three leads do a phenomenal job. Kruse brings warmth and immense character to Micha, making him adorable and extremely likeable. You feel for him as he does the only thing Eve would hate for him to do just to be able to tell her that he loves her. Bishop is psychotic and afraid as Eve, a not-so-proud graduate of “The Program” who resents it for telling her that she is to blame for how her father’s abuse has impacted her. Their chemistry is perfect for their characters and their wildly heated arguments are hilarious to watch.

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Overall “Complete” has  a lot of good potential; it contains an interesting story and a fascinating topic. However, perhaps it is trying to cover too much. Their is so much behind the personal stories of Eve and Micah and yet they are barely covered, because the focus is “The Program” and how it has affected Eve and Micah. If the play was reconstructed, I truly feel that it could be a powerful piece of work. If this is ever done, then I would go back to the actors cast in this current production, for they bring an electricity to this odd and rather chaotic piece of theater.

–Mickala Jauregui

“Complete” is being presented by Wilder Theatrics at The Matrix Theatre in Hollywood until March 30th.

The Echo Theater Company Tackles World Premiere of “A Family Thing”

Published February 18, 2013 by mickala

In life there are many uncertainties, yet one certainty that many people turn to is family. Something many people assume everyone has. However, in today’s society it is very common to have a dysfunctional or completely non-functioning family. The Echo Theater Company presents such a family in the World Premiere of Gary Lennon’s “A Family Thing”. The three Burns brothers maneuver their way through life the best they can, after being partially raised by a drug addicted hooker of a mother and a murderous father. Two of the three follow in the footsteps lain before them, Jim (Johnny Messner) is fresh out of jail and has it out for his boozing, snorting, hooker loving older brother Frank (Saverio Guerra) who let him down so many years before. Both brothers are at a complete loss as to what to do with the youngest brother Sean (Sean Wing) who is a homosexual with an African American boyfriend.

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This racist, unconventional, abandoned “family” struggles through their reunion after years of not speaking. They are forced to face each others problems while finding that most of them stem from the same reason: a lack of understanding and a feeling of never really being loved. This play is vulgar, a bit slow paced at times and overall contains very strong subject matter. Dealing with homosexuality, drug, alcohol and sex addiction, the cobwebs of one’s past, the uneasiness of new relationships, the heartache of old ones and the reality of death. There is a lot of heavy material in this play that it guarantees to be a conversation starter.

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This piece is brutal and it grabs you by the collar and makes you pay attention. In order to do this it needs the right actors, which Echo has. A bevy of young talent from the stage, small and big screens, these performers are no strangers to a daunting script. Wing brings heart and despair to the youngest brother Sean in his search for understanding life. His interactions with his new found life coach/boyfriend Joe (Darryl Stephens) are truthful and touching. Stephens is equally as impressive in his attempts at understanding his new attraction and the family he comes from. Messner is frightening and yet there is something about his portrayal of Jim that leaves the audience feeling that there is something more than meets the eye to the jail-hardened middle brother. Guerra is the weakest link of the three brothers with his portrayal of the drowning eldest, Frank. Though you feel the desperation thriving deep in his character, Guerra often swallows his lines and it is ultimately hard to understand most of what he says.

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The direction of this play is only slightly flawed. Chris Fields has taken this huge new piece of work and has made it his own creation. Certain scenes drag on too long, and some could probably be cut altogether. However, there is a lot to be thought of when one sees this play. It has a great story and one that many people will find they relate to. There are many back stories and several story lines, which at times can be hard to follow but the true arc of the play is family or lack there of and that is something anyone can understand. So as long as you are not offended easily and you want to strike a few chords within you, then head down to Stage 52 and delve deep into the reality of “A Family Thing”.

–Mickala Jauregui

“A Family Thing” plays at Stage 52 until March 17th.

An Absolute Must-See Theatrical Spectacular: “War Horse”

Published July 27, 2012 by mickala

Sometimes there are shows that you hear about and they are so intriguing that you decide you must see it. Then, as the years go by and you finally get the chance to see it, you are built up with so much excitement and expectation that the show will probably never live up to what your mind has concocted. However, the handspring puppet spectacular War Horse not only lived up to all of my expectations, it surpassed them with flying colors. This is a stunning visual piece, but it is also an emotional ride that captivates the entire audience. Nearing the end of its almost two month long run at the Ahmanson, the theater was still completely packed, and almost the entire theater seemed just as captivated as I was.

I would hate to spoil any of the heart wrenching/warming and nail-biting moments that take place during this production, so I will do my best to be vague, and yet still make my point. There are several places during the evening where the audience audibly gasps together as we all fear the worst will happen. There are also moments where we all break into relieved and excited applause in unison, as if we have some actual connection to the life of the puppet horse on stage.

London 2011 Cast
Photo by: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

The creators of this show, alongside South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company have done a marvelous job at bringing the horses, especially the main horse, Joey to life. Even though the three puppeteers (Christopher Mai, Derek Stratton and Rob Laqui) that man Joey are completely visible and are dressed in period garb, just like any other character. After a short while they become part of the horse. The horse comes to life and has just as much personality as his beloved owner Albert (Andrew Veenstra) does.

The five-time Tony Award Winning War Horse has been adapted from the novel written by Michael Morpurgo. It follows the story of a young man, Albert, who becomes responsible of raising a horse who he names Joey. After growing attached to Joey, Albert’s drunk, money hungry father sells him to the army. Driven by love and naivety, Albert flings himself after his horse and through the bloody trenches of war, hoping he will find Joey alive.

London 2011 Cast
Photo by: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

War is never pretty to watch, and to see what horses went through during the First World War is even less pretty, especially for those who are avid animal lovers. However, this is a visually pleasing show. Between the horses, puppet birds and the projector they use  on a white screen on the back of the stage, everything is brilliantly portrayed.

The transition between the cavalry and tanks and machine guns, becomes a subplot of the story, as Joey maneuvers his way through different jobs during the war. It climaxes when the lone horse comes face to face with a tank; visualizing the moment where the need for horses in war has become obsolete.

Ultimately, this is a love story. A lost and hopefully found love story that is beautifully told.

London 2011 Cast
Photo by: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

I will truly say that I can never recommend a show more than this one. I am an avid lover of small theaters and small productions but sometimes, big masterful pieces of work steal my heart and this is one of them. War Horse is an enchanting evening and one that you must experience. Though there are only three more performances here in Los Angeles this show is continuing on its national and international tour. They will be returning to Southern California in January and I hope to see you there. Trust me, this is a night of theater that is not to be missed. Theater is meant to transport one to another time and place, and to tell a mind-fulfilling story. War Horse does just that and so much more.

–Mickala Jauregui

Photos Courtesy of: warhorseonstage.com

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