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Best of Los Angeles Theatre for 2018

By Ernest Kearney  —  Many found 2018 a rather soft year for theater, and it possibly was.  Or perhaps it only seemed so since the past few years L.A. has enjoyed an embarrassment of riches in the sterling productions that have graced her stages.

Whatever the reality, 2018, far from a creative drought, witnessed some amazing work and was also a year where a great wealth of youthful talent peeked up their heads for the first time, which a healthy portion of this year’s summing up will be given over to celebrating.

We’ll commence with the larger and more established of the L.A. venues.

The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts under Artistic Director Paul Crewes stacked up an impressive number of stellar offerings for Los Angeles audiences this year, with I felt a single disappointment.

 

Hershey Felder is a scholar-in-residence at Harvard, who has compiled for himself a repertoire of one man shows focusing on the great composers.  With Joel Zwick providing solidly deft direction Hershey Felder’s Beethoven was one of the year’s highpoints.  As Gerhard von Breuning, the son of Beethoven’s lifelong friend Stephen von Breuning, Felder spun a captivating tale of genius as viewed through a child’s eyes.  The originality of the concept was jointed to a solid performance but the cherry on top of this tasty offering was Felder’s artistry at the piano in playing the works of Beethoven with such naturalness that one had the sense of coming onto the compositions afresh.  Felder is scheduled to return to the Wallis in 2019 with A Paris Love Story, a work on Claude Debussy that I have down as a must-see.

Great Expectations. Pictured David Mynne

Actor David Mynne in ‘Great Expectations’

When I told a couple of friends that I was attending a one-man performance at the Wallis of Great Expectations they waited for me to break wise with the punch line.  But no joke.

With nothing else save a simple table and suitcase holding seven items such as a wooden block and a hand mirror with a cracked glass, performer David Mynne pulled off one of the year’s most surprising and entertaining feats of stagecraft.  With vigorous flamboyance and elements of minimalist puppetry, Mynne brought before his audiences not only 15 of the novel’s major characters and a score of the lesser ones, but he conjured forth the sounds and spirit of Charles Dickens’ London.  I hardily hope the Wallis will have Mynne and his director, Simon Harvey return to L.A. with another gem from their repertoire.  If not, I’ll turn over my living room for as many performances as they please.

Still from ‘The House is Black’

Another limited engagement at the Wallis also worthy of a longer engagement was Sussan Deyhim’s homage to the feminist movement in her native Iran and Forough Farrokhzad’s, the country’s most influential feminist poet whose life was cut short at 32 when her car crashed as she swerved to avoid hitting a school bus.  Deyhim’s show takes its title, The House is Black, from Farrokhzad’s only work as a filmmaker, a short documentary on a community of Iranian lepers.  Deyhim, with Co-Director Robert Egan, constructed a delicate webbing spun from the film’s grainy footage and Farrokhzad’s silken poetry that was intoxicating to the senses.

Less successful was the Wallis’ staging of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night which featured one of the most ill-conceived sets I’ve seen in many a season.  Sadly, the performance of Lesley Manville as Mary Tyrone was the only survivor of that outing.

The Wallis closed out its year on a high note with Love Actually Live, Director Anderson Davis concert adaption of Richard Curtis’ 2003 film Love Actually, that brought some much needed cheer to my holidays.

Forever Flamenco-1000

(Courtesy of Forever Flamenco)

Deborah Culver and Stephen Sachs Fountain Theatre continue to host the magnificent Forever Flamenco series wherein one Sunday each month, the Fountain stage is ablaze with performances by Alexandra Rozo, Mizuho Sato, Diego Alvarez, Andrés Vadin, Gerardo Morales, Mateó Amper, Gabriel Osuna, Antonio De Jerez, Timo Nuñez, Fanny Ara and Manuel Gutierrez to name but a few of the world class flamenco singers and dancers that gather for those evenings.  As I have repeatedly said in the past, and no doubt will again throughout 2019, these Sundays are the hottest tickets in town.

The Fountain’s reputation for excellence in the arts of stagecraft was again proven to be well deserved in their staging of Chaim Potok’s The Chosen.

Adapted from the 1967 novel by the author and Aaron Posner, the play followed the friendship of two Jewish teenagers in the late 1940s as they struggle with the ancient traditions of their faith in a world forcing them into modernity. Produced by Sachs, Culver and James Bennett this staging boasted superb performances by Dor Gvirtsman and Sam Mandel as the two young friends with Jonathan Arkin and Alan Blumenfeld as the two fathers faced with the loss of their sons to manhood.

Alan Blumenfeld-Fountain Theatre

Alan Blumenfeld in The Chosen – (Photo by Ed Krieger – Courtesy of Fountain Theatre)

The skills of Director Simon Levy made the passing of the two hours so engaging that audiences left wishing for a third.  DeAnne Millais’ scenic work, Donny Jackson’s lighting design, Michele Young’s costumes, and Peter Bayne’s sound design all reflected the professionalism one associates with the Fountain, as did Linda Michaels’ make up artistry in her very believable “payots.”

The Odyssey Ensemble Theatre demonstrated the craft that has made them one of L.A.’s foremost venues for over two decades with their production of Mark St. Germain’s Freud’s Last Session, about an imagined meeting between the father of modern psychiatry and the Christian Author C.S. Lewis.  Ably directed by Robert Mandel, with outstanding performances by Martin Rayner as Freud and Martyn Stanbridge as Lewis, the Odyssey’s high standards of stagecraft were apparent in Pete Hickok’s recreation of Freud’s Maresfield Gardens’ consulting room, Derrick McDaniel’s light design, Christopher Moscatiello’s sound score, Kim DeShazo’s costumes and Josh La Cour’s props.

I found less successful as theatre Joshua Harmon’s Bad Jews despite the undeniable talents of Austin Rogers, Jeanette Deutsch, Noah James and Lila Hood.   

Old Clown Wanted by Romanian Playwright Matei Visniec was another show I couldn’t connect with, or for that matter find any reason I’d want to.  Again, this despite it having a superb cast in Alan Abelew, José A. Garcia and Beth Hogan as a trio of old clowns trying to undercut one another at the audition they’ve all met up at.

The Odyssey was also the scene of the crime for one of the year’s true stinkers, Two Fisted Love, but as this was only a guest production, Ron Sossi and Beth Hogan remain blameless.

Downtown’s Music Center lured me in with Henry David Hwang’s Soft Power at the Ahmanson very appropriately described as “A play with a musical.”

At times cumbersome and in need of some trimming, Hwang’s raucously joyful pushback against the age of Trump managed to be inspiring and toe tapping fun.

With a score by Hwang and Jeanine Tesori, choreography by Sam Pinkleton and sets by David Zinn, which were one-half Vegas review and one-half acid flash back, Soft Power was a mini-revolution disguised as a Broadway show.  Francis Jue, Conrad Ricamora and Alyse Alan Louis wooed and wowed the audience under Leigh Silverman’s direction, with Kendyl Ito earning mention as well for her delightful scene stealing turn as Ricamora’s daughter.

Sadly, The Music Center was also the site of Quiara Alegria Hudes’ Pulitzer Prize winning car wreck Water By the Spoonful.  The less said the better.

The Broad Stage in Santa Monica played host to Tao Taiko Master Ikuo Fujitaka’s troupe of drummers and performers he formed in 1993 after arriving in L.A.  Their presentation of Tao: Drum Heart featured the classic drums of Japanese taiko from the snare-drum-sized Shime-daiko to the large drum or Ō-daiko resembling a wine casket in size.  To sit in the audience was like listening to the heart beat of a thunder storm, a truly amazing experience and one of 2018s definite highpoints.

At the other end of the spectrum was The Broad’s production of Small Mouth Sounds by Bess Wohl.  Highly touted in New York it proved remarkably insipid in Los Angeles, as did all the imports from the “Great White Way” I sat through this year.

The Lounge Theatre was the scene of two of the year’s best shows.

Mayakovsky and Stalin.

Casey McKinnon (Nadya, Maury Sterling (Stalin) in “Mayakovsky and Stalin”  –  Photo by Ed Krieger

There was Murray Mednick’s historical study of the nature of revolution and the revolutionary in Mayakovsky and Stalin.  Directing as well, Mednick assembled a sparkling cast with first rate performances from Casey McKinnon, Daniel Dorr, Laura Liguori, Alexis Boozer Sterling, Max Faugno, Andy Hirsch and Maury Sterling as a cold, clinical and chilling Stalin.

The Lounge closed out the year with the Beetlebung Road production of Sam Shepard’s Fool For Love where again audiences were treated to exceptional  performances by George Oliver Hale, John Ruby, Andrew Dits as Eddie and Sophia Silver as May, the maiden of memory’s malice.  Kymberly Harris burnished a golden ensemble to a blinding shine on a perfect set by David Goldstein.

Jessica Goldapple, Alana Dietze in “Gloria” – Photo by Darrett Sanders

The Echo Company mounted Gloria by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins yet another Pulitzer Prize-finalist for the year’s best drama that had me wondering if those on the selection committee were not all heavily medicated.  However the piece on stage surpassed the scripted work thanks to Chris Fields’ intense and focused direction and some fine acting by Michael Sturgis, Jenny Soo and Alana Dietze.

At the Hudson Backstage Theatre Writer/Performer Kathryn Taylor Smith in her one woman show A Mile In My Shoes assumed a variety of personas which placed firmly before her audiences the issue of homelessness in this city.  Aided by director Zadia Ife, Smith infused her show with compassion, humor and insight, attesting to the truth that any solution to the most pressing social problem facing L.A. can only be reached through our humanity.

The Open Fist Company succeeded with their rough-hewed but undeniably satisfying staging of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milkwood.  It was, I admit, refreshing to observe a huge cast on a confined stage where the outcome didn’t evoke memories of a demolition derby, but Director Ben Martin captured the beauty of Thomas’ verse while he and his talented cast infused the stage with a vitality of their own weaving.  So kudos to him and Bryan Bertone, Bruce A. Dickinson, Jennifer Kenyon, Katherine Griffith, Neil Asa Oktay, Katie May Porter, Richard Abraham, Carol Kline, Stephanie Crothers, Jade Santana, Paul Myrvold, Gina Manziello, Kenia Romero, Michael Philbrick, Clair Fazzolari, Christopher Cedeño, Dillon Aurelio Perata and Tim Labor who as the church organist Organ Morgan also provided the production with an original composition.

Tyler Marcum, Suzanne Slade, Amanda Conlon, Philip McBride in “Silence! The Musical”

Another diamond in the rough was the Bucket List Theatre’s staging of Silence! The Musical by Jon and Al Kaplan with book by Hunter Bell a snicker-fest parody of Jonathan Demme’ s film The Silence of the Lambs version of the Thomas Harris’ novel.  Amanda Conlon perhaps took on one hat too many in assuming the role of FBI trainee Clarice Starling while also serving as the production’s director and choreographer, but thanks to the comic chops of Philip McBride, Michael C. Silva, Courtney Bruce, Jeff Lagreca, Julie Ouellette and the high kicking Suzanne Slade it was impossible to walk away from the show without humming the tunes and feeling disturbingly peckish.

Across town The Skylight was less successful with Writer/Director Amit Itelman’s showcasing of Bride of Blood, a muddled mess of magnificent proportions that I’m hoping will eventually rise Phoenix-like as the production it has the potential of being bringing back Steven Schub’s performance as Solomon and Frederick Fraleigh’s remarkable creature creations.

Unhappily I can’t say I found The Whitefire Theatre’s staging of The Blade of Jealousy, playwright Henry Ong’s reworking of La Celosa de si Misma by the Spanish Renaissance playwright Tirso de Molina to be more than a summer camp skit. However, Henry and his camera was a presence in the L.A. theatre community whose sudden passing this year was unexpected by most who knew him and whose loss will be felt by all who did.

Of course the busiest month of my year, as well as my favorite, was June, due entirely to The Hollywood Fringe Festival 2018.  Though dealing with the demands of my own Fringe show, Ingersoll Speaks – Again!, based on the writings of the father of the American free thought movement, Robert Green Ingersoll * writer's hand *, I was able to attend 78 other productions.  As in prior years, it was my privilege to experience works of the highest caliber.

Shows with political overtones were especially well represented.

Ain’t That America was an exceptional piece of writing by John Brahan which offers a truly unique viewpoint on a segment of our society emboldened by the country’s current administration.  Brahan and Dan Schultz, who also directed, in their roles of two loners who meet at a small Southern college capture with frank and frightening honesty the allure and danger of the new white nationalist movement in this country.  Excellent work on all levels from both Schultz and Brahan.

In Pervert, Writer/Director Giovanni Zuniga placed his tale of the cancerous corruption of power in the arena of L.A. politics.  With the body blow conciseness of Ring Lardner’s Champion, Zuniga spins the tale of a candidate and his wife who will take any steps necessary to assure he wins his election to the U.S. senate.  Pervert offered stark insights into the justifications some use in rationalizing the “means” to their “ends.”  Zuniga’s work benefited from extraordinary performances by Robert Watkins, Nick Howard and Gabrielle Farrow.

Matt Ritchey deftly directed American Conspiracy an intelligent delving into political violence by Playwright Benjamin Schwartz, which gave David Garver a launching pad to blast off his wickedly fun outing as a coked out conspirator.

 

Performer, Virginia Tran (HFF18)

Writer, Jim Vejvoda (HFF18)

Skin Jobs by Jim Vejvoda was a stinging indictment of the racism beneath the surface of the Hollywood film industry, slyly cloaked in the story of a young Asian CGI artist assigned to make a blond starlet more “Oriental” for her role as an Anime action heroine.  Strong direction by Lee Costello and a crafted performance by Virginia Tran were perfectly in tune with Vejvoda’s intelligent script.

Solo shows are preponderate at fringe festivals, and this past June you could find a cornucopia worth of works by individual artists stretching the length of Santa Monica Boulevard’s theater ghetto and then some.

Included among the best efforts I encountered were —

Cooper Bates’ heartfelt autobiographical Black When I Was a Boy, a reframing of Paradise Lost into a tale of childhood innocence confronting the truth of racism in our nation.

Cooper Bates in “Black When I Was A Boy”

Joining the ranks of James Joyce, Archibald McLeish and Jean Giraudoux, Jordan Rountree employs the character of Elpenor Odysseus’s youngest shipmate oblivious of his impending fate and retools him for Epic Fail as an engaging if equally doomed slacker serving with the military in Afghanistan.

With Fringe stalwarts Michael Blaha and Matthew Quinn producing and John Coppola on hand to direct, one expected Last Christmas by Welsh playwright Matthew Bulgo to deliver, and deliver it did.

With Evan McNamara as an acerbic holiday misanthrope this reversed engineering of Dickens’ Christmas Carol, didn’t test the humanity of his corporate-age Scrooge but ours.

Solo shows were prominent in the ranks of those selected for TheTvolution’s “Best of the Fringe” Awards.

For his comic pondering on the divinity of gods and bugs, Playwright/Performer Joshua Thomas’ Let There Be Thistles, directed by Branda Lock, took top honors for “Best Solo Show (male),” while “Best Solo Show (female)” went to Katt Balsan for her homage to the resilience of the human spirit in Balls’On.

 

Bill Posley’s superbly slick, and raucously funny The Day I Became Black shared the “Best Comedy” award.  The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce should start considering where to place Posley’s Walk of Fame star, and Posley better show the good sense to have director Bente Engelstoft and Producer Kristen Boulé beside him for the presentation ceremony.

One of my sincere regrets of the 2018 Hollywood Fringe is that more audiences were denied the opportunity of seeing Butoh Medea.  Adapted by Sean Michael Welch and directed by Brian Rhinehart Euripides’ harrowing classic tale of a woman’s vengeance against her husband’s infidelity was spared the “warmed-over” refitting as an affirmation of feminist empowering and instead focused with a lazar intensity on the punishing price such an act extracts from one.

A word is needed here on butoh.  What began as a Japanese reaction to what was viewed at the end of the Second World War as a cultural invasion of Western ballet and modern dance, has warped into a philosophical denunciation of the concepts and confidence fixed to artistic theories since the advent of the enlightenment.  Structure and narrative are rebuffed and beauty is snubbed as unnatural, replaced by the incomprehensible and the grotesque.

Where American audiences have had their greatest exposure to the concepts of butoh, for better or worse has been in the films of new wave “J-horror” such as Audition and the Ringu series which are heavily influenced by Butoh.

There is so much more, but Yokko’s staggeringly brutal performance as Medea, choreographed by herself and Jordan Rosin, was riveting in its depiction of a woman damned by her own decisions.

With lighting by Derek Van Heel’s lighting and a sound score by Ren Gyo Soh, this was one of the Fringe’s finest  .

Also worthy of praise were Writer/Performer Mitchell Bisschop’s marvelously madcap mingling of Citizen Kane and Mad Men in I Can Hear You Now, with director Daniel De Lorenzo on hand to vigorously crank up the guffaws and chortles.

Christopher Piehler, a perpetual crowd-pleaser with his pieces at the Fringe persisted in peddling pleasure to the masses with his presentation of Sink or Swim his tribute to those who find their better angels plunged into the deep end.

In the category of fuller productions, there was another standout which represented the earliest expression of butoh.  Shilo Kloko employed video projections, choir singing, traditional Japanese puppetry and dance to weave a environment on stage both dreamlike and nightmarish, featuring Walter Santucci and Yoriko Murakami in support of Noa Kobayashi the primary Ningyōtsukai (puppeteer).

One image from the performance that will stay with me was when Kobayashi stepped up on and squatted atop a chair, then as a torrent of bright red beans poured out from between her legs she birthed a baby of white cloth which she turned over to the care of an audience member.  Such is butoh.

There were a number of young and recently established companies which acquitted themselves with distinction at HFF 2018, and have my pronounced encouragement to return.  One of the few shows that actually enticed me into attending for a second viewing was Mackers by Mark Marcus Mark Productions, a show that made me laugh so much I needed two evenings to get it all out of my system.

This was the show that shared the award for “Best Comedy” with Bill Posley’s The Day I Became BlackRose Bochner (Director of Arts) and Mat Severns (Director of Crafts) took Shakespeare’s Scottish play and stripped away everything but the funny parts leaving in all the double entendres, iambic pentameter punning and Obama impressions from the original Elizabethan text.  Adding in inspired adlibs, goofy hats and a drag queen Hecate (Michael Deni) who belted out “I’ll put a Spell on You” to Timothy P. Brown’s Macbeth the show achieved comedy rapture.  Arsalan Akhavan, Carlos Chavez, Jack De Sanz, Chase Mullins, Lelia Symington and Noam Tomaschoff completed this cry of player and presented an ensemble overloaded to the max with talent.

The Pretend Theatre reworked another of Shakespeare’s most popular pieces as Henry V (and Cocktail Party), planting their production in the very amidst of the “groundlings.”   The results were a tad too reserved for the concept, but the work was nevertheless praiseworthy, especially solid were Fabiana Formica’s Dauphin, John Eddings’ gruff Westmoreland, Brian Caelleigh’s Pistol and Mike Claman in the role of Fluellen.  Chris Chapman’s direction was intelligent and sure handed, but it was his performance as Henry that sold the show.

The International Theater Group billed its staging of Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts as “A Whole New Immersive Theatre,” which I did not find it to be; “immersive” no, “impressive” yes.  Performed within Carlo Maghirang’s arresting black ribcage set, with lighting by Briana Pattillo and Davy Sumner’s sound score Director Jonghee Woo and his ensemble of young actor presented an ageless production of striking immediacy that entranced nearly all who attended.

“Still” (Hollywood Fringe Festival 2018)

Talent and potential were both glaringly apparent in the surreal thriller Still, the Fringe’s first participant from South Africa.  Director/Writer Olivia Fischer unraveled a decade old murder down to the unsuspected seed of a high school love triangle turned date rape between Laura Lee Mostert, Nelson Menell and Jazzara Jaslynj from her enclosure on stage in the waters of a translucent coffin.

The high-points of the musical offerings were reflective of the freewheeling range the Fringe has to offer.  Undoubtedly, the jaw dropping surprise of the festival was New Musicals Inc.’s Manson Girls, a retelling in song of the twisted path that ended in the Tate-La Bianca murders.  Megan Rose Ruble stood out as Susan Atkins in this restraint and thoughtful staging.

Davia Schendel’s Beatniks: A New Musical and Michael Shaw Fisher’s Doctor Nympho vs the Sex Zombies had audiences toe tapping with great vigor, but the pick of the Fringe for me was We Need This Musical to Stop Us From Killing Ourselves – The Musical!   Long of title, longer in downright fun, Glasgow Lyman and Jeff Rosick’s first venture into the realm of musical theatre was a stylish, silly songfest on the subject of suicide boasting such titles as “Shut the F**k Up” and “Who Cares if You’re a Terrible Person – Don’t Be a Quitter.”  Adyn Wood added her talents in support of the argument that song writing and great sex beats self-slaughter any day of the week helping to make this show a success on every level.

Four shows can be used in demonstrating the high standards of artistry that the Hollywood Fringe has established and surpasses:

The merry and madcap geniuses collectively known as The Burglars of Hamm accounted for two.  The program notes for Resa Fantastiskt Mystisk informed audiences the production they were about to view was a newly discovered work by the nineteenth century Swedish Playwright Lars Mattsun, author of Where the Shoes Squeeze and The Toothless Otto.  But in fact, The Burglars were lying big time.

Director Albert Dayan and his ensemble Carolyn Almos, Matt Almos, Jon Beauregard, Joel Marshall, Toss Merrill, Katharine Noon, Victor Ortado, Laura Otis and Selina Merrill sold their audiences a bill of goods worth every penny they paid in this very serious farce that took TheTvolution’s top honors.

The second show was the 2018 version of the Burglars’ popular Easy Targets series.  Easy Targets: Artists and Heroes offered audiences an inspired quartet of solo show spoofs while also supplying them with unlimited “sox-balls” in order to express their critical opinion of the pieces while testing their pitching arms.  Truly excellent work by Selina Merrill, Jon Beauregard, Eric Curtis Johnson, Matt Almos, Tracy Leigh, Jaime Robledo with Scott Golden taking a sabbatical from his duties with the CIA’s Black-Op operations in order to produce.

Each year The School of Night Artistic Director Christopher Johnson and his partner Jen Albert set the bar for production artistry and stagecraft at the Fringe, and each year they set it higher than the prior year.  This was the case in 2016 with their live action Punch and Judy, in 2017 with The Faggot King or The Troublesome Reign and Lamentable Death of Edward II, and in HFF 2018 with the great Roman playwright Lucias Annaeus Seneca’s Hercules Insane.  Directed by Johnson in high Roman style, this nearly 2,000 year old drama blindsided audiences with the violence, body count and profusion of oversized phallic members used in telling the story of what the hero Hercules (Jason Britt) endured at the hands of the jealous goddess Juno (Dawn Alden.)

For me, the perfect show of HFF 2018 was Padualab’s Jack Benny (A Ménage En Train.)   Part of what qualifies it as the perfect Fringe show is its inability to be described in a brief Readers’ Digest fashion.  Think of a Zen koan delivered by Bruno Antony from Strangers on a Train, but in the steam room scene from Night at the Opera and not to Farley Granger but to Groucho.

With a routine from a Jack Benny radio show for a starting point, writers Gray Palmer, Juli Crockett and Guy Zimmerman, artistic director of the Padua Playwrights Productions, concocted a wildly original robust and frolicking riff that was as puzzling as it was pleasing.  Shaughn Buchholz, Gray Palmer, Jenny Greer and Juli Crockett portrayed four train passengers trapped by the dictates or the cosmos spoken by Brian Tichnell.  I think the whole thing was an existential rejection of God’s existence.  Or of Groucho’s.

There were other shows and performances at this year’s Fringe deserving acknowledgement Matt Curtin’s Allen Ginsberg and Rachel Berman’s Diane di Prima in Beatniks: A New Musical, Cyanne McCaerin as Constance Wilde in The Importance of Being Oscar, Koni McCurdy from Blind Spots, Burt Grinstead & Anna Stromberg’s Dr Jekyll & Mr. Hyde now in New York, and I have every confidence in the world that the Hollywood Fringe Festival will, in 2019, continue to present a marvelous platform to showcase talents from both our city and afar.  If you haven’t spent a balmy June night strolling Santa Monica Boulevard, Fringe program in hand agonizing over which of a half dozen shows to go rushing off to see, you don’t know what you’re missing.

One last nod of appreciation, this one in the direction of Semanal Media.  Now once upon a time there was not much theatre in L.A.  But oddly, the Los Angeles Times would send their drama critics to college productions and their reviews would be published on the front of the Calendar section.  Above the fold, if you can believe it.  And every Sunday, the Times would list in the expanded Calendar section every show opening in the upcoming week and every show still running with special emphasis on those shows about to close.  There was also a phalanx of other critics on the theatre beat in such publications as the LA Reader (defunct), the Dramalogue (ditto), and the LA Weekly (kinda ditto).  The irony is, of course, that L.A. is now the center of American theatre, *   * a world class theatre town in every aspect except in the recognition it warrants from either its civic government or the media corporations “serving” it.

A testament to the shortsightedness of both.

Now the LA Weekly always leaned heavily towards those radical jelly beans representing the arts’ more extreme affiliates.  This is known as the “Oooohhhh, shiny” fallacy.

But the loss of the LA Weekly’s reviewing staff and support for this town’s theatre community (scant as that support had been), when Semanal Media bought the publication a year ago, was unfortunate.

Now things have not gone particularly well since then for what was once one of the country’s top alternative weekly newspapers.  It started with a comment from one of the investors behind the buyout: Steve Mehr, disparaging Los Angeles with the comment, “We don’t have a cultural scene on par with New York and San Francisco”; a statement that speaks to the difficulty of making clear-cut observations when wearing your sphincter as a necktie.  Since then the LA Weekly has dwindled down to resemble a cocktail napkin while its glut of advertising for the city’s marijuana clinics has caused some to dismiss it as a “pot-rag” for the industry.

However, I want to send some love to the “new” LA Weekly and publisher Brian Calle for giving some ink (sporadic as that “giving” is) to the LA theatre community.  This is just a thank you for that attention, joined with the hope that there’s more in the future.

With that I want to encourage all of you who support the arts in Los Angeles to please continue to do so.  And to those of you who aren’t actively engaged or involved in this city’s theatre and artistic scene, let me just say, you’re gonna burn in hell if you don’t change your ways. (Just kidding. * Gold Trophy *)

 

Let me suggest, if I may, checking out some of the theaters mentioned in this article to learn what shows they’re offering in the new year, and when you find one that holds some interest for you, make a point of going; or check out the Hollywood Fringe Festival’s 2019 website (www.hollywoodfringe.org) with upwards of 500 different shows during the month of June being offered.

 

Believe me, live theatre is one of the great joys of life and seeing it will make you a better person and more interesting.  *   *

♦    ♦    ♦

 

And allow me to close with a reminder to all,

That to criticize is easy,        

The challenge is to achieve.

And so whatever endeavors are undertaken in 2019,

We at TheTvolution wish success to them,

And a Happy New Year to all.

 

♦    ♦    ♦


** writer's hand ** Yep, that’s right, shameless self-promotion.

**  ** That’s right, you heard me.

** Gold Trophy ** No I’m not.

** ** Not to mention it will save your ass from frying in the eternal fires of hell.


 

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Written by

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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