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Hollywood Fringe 2016—

The Plays Begin!

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Well we’re off to the races, Hollywood Fringe 2016 has opened, and here is the first handful of reviews for your consideration.Fringe-2016.jpg

I will be employing the rating scale that should be familiar to my readers:

GOLD: These are the “Oh my God!” shows. Leave your rich dying aunt’s bedside, cancel the conference on world peace at the U.N., and tell Rhianna or Chris Hemsworth, “Sorry Sweetie, not tonight I’ve got theatre.” Just go. These shows won’t disappoint.

SILVER: These are the “wow” shows. Solid work, solid performances and shows well worth seeing.

BRONZE: The “okay” shows. Read the reviews but make up your own minds. If the show sparks your interest in some way, well check it out. One man’s “bronze” is another man’s “gold.”

NO AWARD: This is a new category. Look, there’s a heck of a lot of shows to see and our time is limited. Sorry, but in the brutal triage of theatre these shows are set outside the tent with red crosses drawn on their foreheads.

EAR WAX: Okay, villagers, we’ll all meet at the castle, don’t forget to bring your torches and pitchforks, at midnight we march. Death to the abomination!

And here we go —

creeps.jpgTHE CREEPS

Wild eyed arachnid greets us in a darken room.

We are invited to explore, but not get lost in the darkness.

We encounter others in the darkness –

A sensual succubus whose breathy whispers of passion carrying the hint of a threat;-

An old man, his arms shaking as if nerve damaged;

A disturbing laughing child-woman, missing her hands, who threatens to murder the baby we hear crying somewhere near.

One sounds like Sean Connery.

Catherine Waller’s solo show The Creeps first premiered at the 2014 Hollywood Fringe; she has reworked it and is reviving it here in preparation of taking it to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer.

The power of the show, and its artistry, lay with Waller; its creator and performer. She scuttles over the darkened stage, fills each corner with images of humanity that are unnerving to say the least.

It is interesting to read in her bio that Waller studied both dervishing and clowning in New Zealand, because the characters she inhabits in the netherworld of The Creeps are on the surface farcical, but below are driven by an evil ecstasy we don’t understand.

cwaller1.jpgWaller’s assumption of each of her characters on stage is the magic of the show itself as she affords each an awful artistry in their creation, then provides them choreography with the grace of insanity.

The performance is interactive to a certain extent, and therefore whether each show limps or soars, is, to a degree, beyond her control. Unless that control is exercised with great subtly.

Waller does not exhibit that type of mastery over her show.

The tale is a loosely woven one of descent.

We go off in search of feeding that unwholesome voyeuristic craving we seem to have, the one that explains the success of scandal magazines and reality TV.

We go deeper seeking “the creeps.”

sribbon.jpgSeeking what lies in the darkness takes us too far in.

But what else is there in the darkness?

Oh yes, we are.

If I were basing my rating just on Waller’s performance it would be gold, for the overall production however: SILVER.

Click HERE for more.

deana.jpg

 

METAFAM

Deana Barone is a wonderful actress, and her one woman show offers some insight into the personal history that nurtured that talent.

Her show is a touching homage to that furnace in which we all are forged, the family. What comes across the strongest in Barone’s presentation is the tenderness of these people, who are flawed, who bear with suffering, but who are family nonetheless. Within the insanity of that relationship lays the cross all humanity must bear; a cross that is the crux of both our source and sanctuary.

sribbon.jpgBarone’s show is somewhat soft on solid central structuring, there is an audience interaction aspect that could perhaps be dropped, and the issues she seeks to deal with are misty, but her performance is unadulterated and very large on heart.

For that: SILVER

Click HERE for more.

snatched.jpg

 

A TASTE OF SNATCHED (STORIES FROM DOWN THERE)

Written and performed by Loree Gold, who also provided the original songs, this is the tale of a woman of years who finds her Teutonic “snatch” denying those years and refusing to allow them to crimp her style or her taste for younger women with long hair and supple skin.

lgold.jpgThe show is a multimedia (hit and miss) musical (nearly all hits) that feels like a project long delayed finally realized. As writer – “No matter how low I lower the bar, you get under it!” and as composer – a lovely ditty to her Snatch entitled “I won’t let you dry up” Gold scores points.

But as a performer there is hesitancy in her step and an uncertainty in her deliverance, neither of which director Jolene Adams has either addressed or been able to overcome.bribbon1.jpg

Regrettably Gold has written a rather nice one woman show that would be better performed by some other woman:  BRONZE

 

Click HERE for more.

 

breakin3.jpgBREAK IN

A fun concept and rather amusing piece of fluff, sorta your basic LGBT shaggy dog story with giggles and snickers layered in heavily.

A young woman is caught in the high beams of the police half way in, or out, depending on your POV, of a window. And from POV to POW right into the flashbacks where there are no other characters on stage with our heroine and no spoken dialogue at all.

The whole narrative of the piece is the young woman’s (Lisa Cordileone) internal monologue punctuated by the occasional texting from her ex-girl friend, recorded phone messages from her mother, and thanks to her apartment’s thin walls, overheard conversations of her neighbors.

Lisa Cordileone shows praiseworthy physical comedic skills, and playwright Amy Dellagiarino’s script is inventive and amusing. But it remains a script, not a play, a skit with ambition.

Director Rani O’Brien hasn’t served the piece well by allowing Cordileone to do her own sound design, for while the characters she portrays are acceptable, the skills needed to delineate internal monologue from dialogue eavesdropped on and originating from other sites is utterly lacking.bribbon1.jpg

A small quibble perhaps, but one that would have shown a greater commitment to the work and not hued the production with such an overall feel of amateurishness.

For Break In:  BRONZE

Click HERE for more.

pornrock.jpgPORN ROCK

Producer and playwright Lawrence Meyers recognizes and appreciates that the senate hearing on labeling record albums to provide parental warnings of offensive content and sexually explicit material was an important first amendment issue. The 1985 hearings on “Porn Rock” also involved an array of notable characters all of whom he fills his stage with: PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center ) founder Tipper Gore, wife of Al, Frank Zappa, John Denver, Senators Paula Hawkins and Al Gore, Twisted Sister front man Dee Snider.

But once these notables are collected there, neither Meyers not director Fred Keller seems to know what to do with them. The play is not a straight dramatic presentation of the transcript as in Are You Now or Have You Ever Been, nor is it a rocking sendoff like Death Wish 16 a comedy based on Ireland’s 1916 uprising against British rule.

Surprisingly, Porn Rock isn’t even a musical.

Meyers’ theme seems to be “censorship bad” but he does little to make any solid bribbon1.jpgargument that would sway those inclined to disagree with him over the issue of explicit lyrics. In the final analysis his play is neither fish nor fowl nor musical, and so leaves the audience asking what it was all about. And the only answer I can give them is it was about 65 minutes. And nasty words on record album jackets.

The call: BRONZE

Click HERE for more.

 

yuri.jpgYURI SPEAKS OUT

Yuri Kochiyama was a young Japanese-American girl at the time of the Pearl Harbor bombing. Her father, after recently undergoing major surgery, was detained and interrogated by the FBI, which lead to a rapid decline in his condition and death on the day of his release.
Then, like nearly 120,000 other Americans of Japanese heritage, she was forcefully removed from their San Pedro home and sent to a War Relocation Camp in Jerome, Arkansas where they would spend the next three years.

After the war she would marry and raise six children, but her experiences had made her into a activist politically who would play a significant role in obtaining reparations for Japanese-Americans interned during the second world war, protest America’s involvement in Viet Nam, and on February 21, 1965 would be in Washington Heights’ Audubon Ballroom for the assassination of her friend Malcolm X, holding his head on her lap as he died.

Playwright and director Morna Murphy Martell and actress Ariel Labasan have taken a fascinating and interesting personality and confined her in a play that is neither.

Labasan is unable to bring any dimension to her character.

Martell’s play is at best a slideshow, and her direction is non-existent.

That the “Yuri Kochiyama” within this work is a mere cardboard figure is regrettable, and contributing to this is the playwright’s whitewashing of this admirable, infuriating and immensely complicated individual who praised Mao Zedong and defended his deadly rule of China, was outspoken in her respect for and support for Abimael Guzmán’s guerrilla movement Shining Path which inflicted untold suffering and death among Peruvian peasants, and who, shortly before her death in 2004, expressed her respect for Osama bin Laden and the attacks on 9/11, stating that the “main terrorist and the main enemy of the world’s people is the U.S. government.”

NO AWARD

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Be sure to subscribe as this are more to follow. Many more!

And for all things Fringe, schedules, events and more, check it out HERE!

The Hollywood Fringe is on now through June 26 — Epicenter Theatre Row on Santa Monica Blvd.

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An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, Among the Vipers was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist three times in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. After a wild and misspent youth, which lasted well into middle age, Kearney has settled down and is focusing on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. Ernest's stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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