Thursday, August 25, 2016

Don't Go Breaking My Heart (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

I've had the good fortune of seeing three previous comedies written and directed by Any Shultz, so I approached viewing Don't Go Breaking My Heart with confidence, even pleasure.  When comedies fail, it feels especially awkward.  The silence becomes louder than any gunshot.  Likewise you know a comedy works by echo of laughter in your own ears.

Good news!  I suffered no disappointment at all.  What I did find was a series of surprises--because Shultz does that.  He surprises us with a kind of zany twist on reality, but with a genuine heart behind it all, even at his most farcical.

Although Don't Go Breaking My Heart does not qualify as a farce.  Rather, I'd dub it a romantic comedy--thankfully one that avoids all the cliches plaguing the genre, especially in terms of films.

We begin in the home of Alan (Stephen Anthony Bailey) and his lovely, geeky wife Diane (Emma Chandler).  It is poker night, so Alan's best friend Jeff (Jon Christie)  is joining Diane's brother Mark (Javier Melgar Santovena) in the garage--because Jeff is no longer welcome in the house.  Calling this character a bull in the china shop that is his friends' (and his own) lives captures his personality pretty well.  He causes trouble.  He says things people shouldn't say.  By most standards he is a loser--not least because that summer job at a theme park at minimum wage remains his only source of income years later.  No wonder his wife Susan (Ilona Kulinska) wants a divorce!

Of course Susan is joining Diane in a get-together in the house, which results in one of a seemingly endless gyre of complications--the open conspiracy to not let these two know the other is present!  Adding to the brew--two more couples.  Mary (Samantha Grace Peterson) and Steven (Adam Messana) just moved into the neighborhood--squeaky clean to a degree just inside the bounds of reality.  Then there's cheerful, pretty Becky (Brianne Mammana) and her reluctant boyfriend Joe (Christopher Jewell Valentin) who knows with looming horror Becky expects a proposal any time now.  Believe me, the permutations possible with these ingredients bubble forth, with hilarious results!  And it bears noting a major reason remains how the characters remain real, remain not caricatures but living breathing people--silly, stupid, wise, flawed, delightful and infuriating people.

But wait, you may ask, didn't I say this was not a farce?  Yet the description sure sounds like one, doesn't it?

I know.  And no, this is not a farce--despite having the ingredients of one.  Rather it remains a romcom in the same vein as a lighter, zanier version of Love Actually.  Because in a farce one nearly always laughs at the people, at their foolishness and whether they have anything like a happy ending largely depends on the tone.  Don't Go Breaking My Heart is all about couples connecting, which makes it a romantic comedy, a remarkably successful one.  Each of these couples--and Mark kinda/sorta ends up part of one after he meets a Minister (Tom Jones)--undergo a quite funny trial by fire.  Each confronts issues arising from their personalities, from mistakes and assumptions made, finding hope in self-awareness and emotional courage.

Which could be maudlin as hell.  Instead, the script and actors together offer what too often gets little serious attention--the charm and importance of the ordinary.  Maybe that is why tragedies have historically so often been about the powerful in our society, but comedies increasingly deal with our neighbors, our classmates and the like.  The fellowships of the mundane, where the vast majority of human happiness and misery take place.  Not a huge drama about an arrest for murder, but the repercussions of a discovered lie between people who love one another. Not madness, but the frantic efforts of someone trying not to admit they have failed big time.  All, in this case, with a light and loving touch that looks unwincingly but also forgives.

Don't Go Breaking My Heart plays Thursdays at 8:30pm and Sundays at 7pm until August 28. 2016 at the Archway Theatre, 10509 Burbank Blvd. North Hollywood CA 91601.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

As Straw Before the Wind (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

The program of Felix Racelis' As Straw Before the Wind contains a fact sheet about World War II in regards the Phillipines and about the survivors of that conflict, who make up a startlingly large percentage of the nursing profession in California.  I did not know this or most of the historical facts given. Which seems to be part of the point--to open up about the Filipino and (especially) Filipina experience.  Admirable.

Does it succeed?  Well, somewhat.  There's something here in the show, in the tracing of one family and how it the Japanese Occupation's abuses continue to shape events and relationships today.  Our focus is on Nene (Tita Pambid), who runs a convalescent home in San Gabriel Valley in 1993.  Impressively, although many of her acts seem despicable, I never hated her.  The play does a good job of hinting trauma lies behind many if not most of her life's choices.  Specifically, some flashbacks to what happened during the War begin building on that early on.

Here however lies a major problem with the production.  Whenever these flashbacks happen, the whole play stops.  The lights go down, people enter to remove the scenery in silence, then the lights come up for the brief flashback.  And then the process reverses itself.  Worse, this happens throughout the entire play!  Opening night began a few minutes after 8pm and ended roughly at 9:40pm.  At least twenty minutes of the play consisted of scenery shifts, totally ending all momentum or interest while the audience sat in darkness, bored.  Had the production played appropriate sound during these shifts, it would have made a big difference.  Maybe radio broadcasts from the era of the Occupation?  Music or songs that touched upon the themes of the play?  Instead we got darkness and silence, with every single scene then starting from zero.

This is a major technical problem and severely interfered with the play.  Frankly, given the relatively subtle nature of the dynamics involved, it comes near to derailing everything.  Nene and her daughter Pilita (Sarnica Lim) run the Home, and the two ambulatory clients we meet are Mr. Enrile (Muni Zano) and Mrs. Novak (Anita Borcia), both frail human beings falling apart at the seams.  These two pretty much steal every scene, but then in hands of good character actors these are the roles designed to do so!  Nene is not the most gentle of health providers, but at heart she seems to mean well.  She does not however listen much better than Mr. Enrile or Mrs. Novak.  When her daughter tries to tell her she's going to marry her boyfriend, Nene simply cannot accept it.  Is sure she doesn't mean it.

Later, during a meeting at a bank Nene gets lost in a memory, that of her family seized by Japanese soldiers and her uncle (Zano in a double role) managing to salvage her doll from the burned home.  Typically, she seems unable to follow the bank officer's process.  These are all very good building blocks to tell a compelling story--although frankly the structure does resemble a movie rather than a stage play.  Or so it seemed, because the production is designed that way.  Honestly, why not have the flashback in the bank officer's office?  Would be far more interesting and you don't lose momentum.

In the style of modern drama or tragedy, As Straw Before the Wind proceeds as Nene's life essentially falls apart around her.  We understand why Maria (Rochelle Lozano), Mr. Enrile's daughter, comes to resent her as she finds her father in restraints then is present as the old man has a stroke.  Just as how can we not sympathize with Pilita as she seeks her own life from this smothering presence  But the constant total ceasing of all action to overload the set with furniture bleeds away our attention--nor does it help given the cast has picked up on that funereal pace.

Finally, catastrophe happens.  A fire, almost certainly begun by the senile Mrs. Novak with her cigarettes amidst a very charming dreams of her late husband, burns down the home.  All the patients save Mrs. Novak survive, and we learn Nene has plenty of insurance.  But this house, it was one her uncle build for her.  Nene collapses emotionally, as we flash back to her rape by a Japanese soldier all those  years ago.  We understand how that avid need for control, for physical things and for people to protect twisted this woman into what she is now.

Yet the pacing and scene shifts made me work much harder than I should have to keep my interest.  Later, headed home, I kept thinking of all sorts of ways to stage this play in a more dramatic and interesting way.  Frankly I hope somebody someday does exactly that.

As Straw Before Wind plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and on Sundays at 3pm through September 4, 2016 at the Ruby Theatre in the Complex on 6476 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood CA 90038.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Suitcase (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

In some ways I live a truly wonderful life.  Mostly because I get to see a lot of theatre and much of that from a group of fantastic theatre companies, who produce shows that genuinely nurture the soul.  My soul.

Like The Suitcase by Malgorzata Sikorska-Miszczuk.  No really, this takes the stuff of tragedy--on a scale both vast and intimate--and through the alchemy of art makes beauty in the shape of truth and joy.

Franswa Jackloh (Vincent Castellanos) is a retired gentleman in Paris, who at the insistence of his wife goes out one day.  They are officially separated but he cares still.  She insists and he goes, in part because she has seen he is looking for something, some fundamental truth.  Franswa doesn't know he is looking, but he is.

We know this because The Narrator (Jeff Alan-Lee) tells us.  He knows because he called the man's answering machine and voice on that machine told him.  In fact, that voice emerges from the phone line to find out who this Narrator might be.  Hence we meet Jackleen (Claire Kaplan), our second but named narrator.

Credit: Spencer Howard
Up front let me say that the two Narrators have their own love story going on, linked the tale of Franswa, makes one of many reasons I loved this play.

But back to Franswa--whom you may note is French but whose name is spelt phonetically.  Just a tiny detail.  But fun.  Now he tells us many things about himself but two stand out, two events.  First, his mother refuses to tell him anything about his birth father, who died when Franswa was a baby, never seeing the child.  And let us make this clear--she's told him nothing but the man's name:  Pantofelnik.  Second, years ago Franswa and his wife visited a city with what he called a "magic wall" where--locals said--you could leave a note in its cracks to be delivered to Heaven.

Against his better judgment, Franswa had written such a letter, rambling about his own lack of belief and intense but submerged desire to know his father, not merely the (good) man who married his mother and raised him. That note took the form of a fierce plea for a sign.  Of course, he says, nothing came of it.

So one day while his wife was having surgery, Franswa wandered into a museum, a Holocaust Museum in Paris, to meet with a frantic young lady, The Miserable Tour Guide at the Holocaust Museum (Alexandra Freeman) who has had it with this place!  She's depressed, and nervous, and this is her last day because she cannot take it any more!  The hundreds of photos, the unclaimed toys, the vast hill of empty shoes...!  She pulls herself together enough to answer Franswa's questions.  She even points out a suitcase.

Credit: Spencer Howard
A suitcase.  One of three, she says, to have somehow survived the travel from France to Auchwitiz Concentration Camp and then returned now to Paris.  No one knows whose it was.  There is a name, written in what seems to be a feminine hand, evidently on a card.  So they know the name of the man whose suitcase this was, but nothing more.  Save that of course he was a victim of the Holocaust.  Murdered, long decades ago.

The name?  You already know.  I did.  Still, when it was spoken out load, I felt it like a lightning bolt--just like Franswa.

Pantofelnik.  Franswa has found his father.

I don't want to reveal too much more.  I want you to buy a ticket and see for yourself.  But as you can imagine Franswa has problems dealing with this.  He even seeks out a Poet (Sigute Miller), well runs into her actually.  Later, he returns to find The Miserable Tour Guide no longer miserable!  Someone came to claim the suitcase, after all!  She imagines one day, perhaps, in the fullness of time, someone may yet claim all the items there--all the toys, all the shoes.  Maybe.  That such a minor character has such an arch helps make The Suitcase a little more special--no small feat.  I can tell you the memory of Pantofelnik (Eric Keitel) does in the end make an appearance.

Meanwhile the Narrators watch, and their lives are changed.  As are ours, the audience.  As yours can be.

The Suitcase plays Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8pm until August 25, 2016 at the Echo Theatre in Atwater Village, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90039.

Passages 2016 (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Each year Theatre Unleashed in North Hollywood shows a series of short plays directed by company members but using non-company members for the cast.  It has proven quite handy in recruiting new talent and highlighting original writing.  The event is called Passages, and is underway.  As ever, the results end up a tad uneven but worth the price of admission.

Five plays make up this year's lineup:

Telemachus, Friend is a musical of all things (don't scoff--TU did a cluster of mini-musicals this past Hollywood Fringe to justified audience acclaim).  A western love story, about a triangle that refuses to become a tragedy because the people involved--Telemachus Hicks (TR Krupa), Widow Jessup (Kristen Bennett), Paisely Fish (Jeff Blumberg)--prove just too nice to let it get to that point.  Lindsay Zana and Mel Hampton make up the rest of the cast as singing Narrators. It makes for a charming show, but Bennett kinda steals it. Book & lyrics by Michael Gordon Shapiro and directed by Graydon Schlichter.

Revisiting the Cave by Ben Atkinson is an interesting little slice of life, equal parts hope and despair, but without much judgment aimed at the two characters--a Friend (Francesca Gamez) visiting the cave of the title, home of the Gamer (Lena Raff) who still gets high and plays games and is still in show business with not a lot of focus or prospects.  Yet I liked them both.  Liked them together.  They'll probably never see one another again, which was bittersweet yet okay.  Kudos to the cast and director Liesl Jackson.

The Picture of Oscar Wilde by Brandie June Chernow might be my favorite script offered this year.  Essentially it imagines the great writer Oscar Wilde  (Samwise Aaron) on the verge of death in exile following his release from prison for sodomy.  A handsome young man approaches and turns out to be none other than Dorian Grey (Damien Luvara) , arguably his most (in)famous and personal creation. Author and creation have a conversation, immortal character and dying human man, about life and art and desire.  Frankly, the whole thing proved so well-written I wanted a longer play.  Half an hour at least!  I was less than fascinated by the actors, but then I also thought they probably had the most difficult task, and director Matthew Martin certainly drew something quite real from them.

Cyrano di Padua by Bobby McGlynn frankly felt rather odd.  Imagine if you will Cyrano de Bergerac (Jeremy Michael Kozeluh) as a good friend of Petruchio (Nate Champion) from The Taming of the Shrew.  Hence the famous "balcony scene' of the former's play is reworked into a plan to help Petruchio win himself a bride, Bianca (Madi Vodane).  Yeah, Bianca.  That he ends up with Katherine (Kimberly Sadovich) is the twist, one I personally found a bit beyond my understanding, but maybe that was me.  Director David Foy Bauer certainly seemed to have done a fine job.

Get a Job by Wendy Gough Soroka might be the most successful miniplay of the show, simply  because it comes closest to realizing its full potential.  Plus I love the premise--an afterlife for fictional characters who died.  Hamlet (Michael Marcel) goes to an employment agency in this afterlife and finds out his worker is none of than Medea (Libby Letlow).  Honestly, this is my kind of zany, played to a tee by both performers and with some genuine surprises to enjoy along the way.  Directed by Courtney Sara Bell.

Passages plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm until August 20, 2016 at the Belfry Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St, North Hollywood, California 91602 (upstairs).

Baby Doll (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

The late, great Tennessee Williams became enamored of characters, of clusters of imaginary people who fascinated and obsessed him.  Hence his return over and again to certain stories.  Baby Doll tells of one such group, two men and one very young woman about whom he wrote several times.  Eventually this became the more-or-less basis of the (very controversial) film Baby Doll.

Now, with the permission of the Williams estate, Pierre LaVille and Emily Mann had adapted that screenplay into a stageplay, currently playing at the Fountain.

The biggest factor in enjoying this play remains whether the audience finds these people interesting.  Or not.

Credit:Ed Grieger
Our title character (Lindsay LaVanchy) is the almost wife of Archie Lee Meighan (John Prosky).   Note the word "almost."  It forms an important factor in this whole story, not so much in terms of plot but the reasons for the plot's exact shape and feel.  The Meighans have yet to consummate their marriage.  As we learn very early on, Archie Lee made a promise to Baby Doll's father to provide for her and not force the teenager into more than she was prepared for--although Baby Doll herself also made a promise. She said on her twentieth birthday she would give herself to Archie Lee if he provided for her.

He has not.  Soon is her twentieth birthday, and Archie Lee is struggling.  All (well, almost all) of his furniture soon ends up repossessed. The reason--a new, more modern cotton gin that has taken all Archie Lee's business.  One night, he goes off and comes back after the rival gin has burned to the ground.  He demands Baby Doll lie, to swear if anyone asks that he was in bed all night.

The real tension now starts to climb as the owner of that rival gin, Silva Vaccarro (Daniel Bess) shows up the next day with truckloads of work for Archie.  Left alone with Baby Doll, two questions immediately begin to simmer.  Will Baby Doll remember to lie, when she isn't that bright and is almost painfully honest?  And will she succumb to the genuine attraction she feels for the younger, more handsome and far more charming Silva?

Credit:Ed Grieger
Here also we start to see differences from the famous film.  Important ones.  For example, instead of a vaguely sleezy businessman as in the movie, this Silva comes across as a genuine Lothario--someone who feels frankly a far better match for the girl.  More, while ruthless in his way--tricking/threatening her into signing an affidavit for example--he doesn't seem particularly cruel.  Or even dishonorable.  Maybe this shows up mostly in his treatment of Aunt Rose Comfort (Karen Kondazian), Baby Doll's senile aunt who lives at the decaying mansion with her and Archie Lee.  She's one of those vague, sweet, irritating and childlike females one finds in many a southern story.  Archie Lee can barely stand her.  Silva, he treats her kindly, even gallantly.

Of course, what we don't find out for certain is whether than gallantry has been more than tactics.  The ambiguity inherent in the entire situation forms part of what makes the play work. Baby Doll has been infantalized, in part by herself, but that must end soon, one way or another.  Archie Lee, a despicable man in many ways, nevertheless seems a nicer man at least than he might be.  And oddly guileless, even gullible at times.

Credit:Ed Grieger
Hence, we end up feeling for him.  For all these characters, or at least I did in ways the cast of the film never sparked.  LaVanchy never comes across as a scheming vixen, even unconsciously.  Rather she seems to grow up into a rather brave young lady by the final line of the play (which is hers).  Bess's Silva made me believe he might lack much malice at all, despite some justified rage--or he might have a startlingly sophisticated taste in cruelty.  Maybe.  Prosky's Archie Lee likewise seems more than a trope of a violent hick.

Which makes the ending feel real, even though some might say it pulls its dramatic punch.  I do not say that.  Because Baby Doll and these characters don't seem to me the stuff of tragedy, or at least not of a Tragedy in theatrical terms.  Instead it seems a drama--an exploration of the interplay between these people within their world.  More, that world feels vividly real and detailed!  Even though (or, more likely, because) the set by Jeffrey McLaughlin looks more like an expressionist sculpture than a literal depiction of that house and its garbage-strewn yard.

Although a relatively minor work compared to masterpieces like The Glass Menagerie or Summer and Smoke, this adaptation of Tennessee Williams nicely demonstrates his status as one of America's great playwrights. Yet even great plays need good performers and designers, which this production enjoys.

Baby Doll plays Mondays,  Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm until September 25, 2016 at the Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90029 (at Fountain and Normandie).

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Blueprint for Paradise (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Ever felt a little bit out-of-phase with time?  As if somehow you stepped into a different era?  Well, given that Blueprint For Paradise by Laurel M. Wetzork takes place in 1940, this should be something you feel while watching it, yes?

Yes!  Because while the play recreates the period with considerable finesse, it also uses a style that while generally popular I don't see much anymore.  But I'll get to that in a moment.

Los Angeles remains a city of many an urban legend, one of the juiciest surrounding a fifty-acre plot of land in the Pacific Palisades. Different versions exist, but central to nearly all remains the notion of a covert Nazi camp/training ground (possibly post-apocalyptic haven) with at least some foreign funding.  Certainly something big had been planned, with work from several architects, including (this makes for a very intriguing twist) the most prominent African American architect of the day!

What is the truth?  No one knows.

But Wetzork takes the strings of legend and history, weaving a tapestry of events that highlight human drama amidst casual, often cruel prejudice (well, is there any other kind?)

Credit: Ed Krieger
The central relationship of the play is between the aforementioned architect, Paul Revere Williams (Regi Davis) and Mrs. Clara Taylor (Meredith Thomas) wife of the businessman who is the public face of what the former believes to be a refugee camp.  Clara had no idea the man who designed so many homes and building she liked was (to use the period term) colored.  Her husband Herbert (David Jahn) hits the roof, but the German backer Wolfgang (Peter McGlynn) quite likes the idea.

At this point one might wonder why Wolfgang feels that way.  Therein lies something I very much enjoyed in this script--how the context of what happens explains it without anyone ever having to make a speech on the subject.  For the record, Wolfgang is using Herbert Taylor and cheating him.  Hiring a black architect keeps his true victim nicely distracted...

Credit: Ed Krieger
Along the way, we meet a circle of characters surrounding the rather bizarre situation. There are the Taylors' servants--Fenny (Ann Hu), their Chinese maid and Alex (Alex Best) their Italian-American chauffeur. Then of course there's Ludwig (Steve Marvel) an ardent Southern Nazi wannabe eager to turn back the clock, preferable to the Confederacy. All uniformly do fine jobs with their roles, although clearly Davis and Thomas have the plumb parts, getting to do the most with them.

Despite what counts as very high production values in many of the areas that matter most--acting especially--a couple of flaws stand out as well, both in the script.  But then, are they flaws?  Depends.  Blueprint For Paradise frankly comes across as quite old fashioned in overall style.  Taking place entirely within a living room in a nice neighborhood of 1940s Los Angeles, it exemplifies what at school we used to call the "well made play."  Most popular in the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s this style creates a vitamin pill of elements designed to hit all the right notes and give a satisfying conclusion.  Such satisfaction isn't a matter of a happy ending, but one that moves the audience with great precision.  Certainly this play does that, weaving a very plausible scenario to account for the urban legend, giving every single cast member at least a few moments to shine, setting up the plot points in a good workmanlike manner, etc.

Credit: Ed Krieger
But it suffers all the limits of that form as well.  For example, no character really reveals much about themselves save as they would in a realistic manner to a fellow character.  Thus, generally they remain opaque and in a rather pedestrian rather than compelling manner.  That the set itself is very Realistic (note the capital) increases this impact.  Movies, alas, beat theatre hands down when it comes to any portrayal of naturalistic realism.  For that reason so much of the best theatre for a few decades now tends towards non-realistic style.  Hence the success of both Shakespeare and musicals.  Honestly, I felt myself longing for the characters to address the audience directly between scenes, or for an entire scene to go towards the absurd, only to be revealed as a dream.

Let us be honest, though--that is merely my personal opinion.  Like the rest of this review, which overall remains quite positive.  After all, can I really complain about a period play that uses a period style of theatre?  Well, yes, obviously I can.  But--maybe I really shouldn't.

Blueprint For Paradise plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm until September 4, 2016 at the Hudson Theatre Guild, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90038

One of Us (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Here's a fun aspect of writing theatre reviews--finding a new playwright to follow with interest. In this case said playwright, named Anna Mavromati, wrote One of Us currently running at ZJU in North Hollywood.

As you might gather from the poster (and, frankly, the title if you've ever seen Tod Brownings' most notorious film) the play concerns and takes place within a freak show. More, the whole production pretends the audience quite literally arrived to view this freak show rather than a play.  Quite neat, really.  As the house opened, a Barker (Ian Stanley) urged audience members to step right up and view the bizarre aberrations waiting within...

While we waited, a Psychic (Trish De Luca) ambled through the crowd, offering palm readings as well.

For the next hour (almost) the Freak Show proceeded, with dissension and even fear flittering through the ranks of the performers.  From the Reptile Man (Aaron Rivera-Davis) we even get a bit of backstory about the show itself--how the former manager abandoned them, forcing them to carry on by themselves under the barely-respected leadership of the Strong Man.  Along the way we meet the Wooly Mammoth (Matt Vorce)--clearly intended as an iteration of those individuals with hair growing everywhere--along with a Human Skeleton (Raphael Dirani), an Albino Magician (Taylor Thorne), Alice the Contortionist (Megan Greenspan), and of course Chrissie (Jenny Nwene), the speaking half of a pair of siamese twins--who, disturbingly, were not born that way.

Credit:  Larry Duncan& Marlee Delia
Think about that last one for a second or two.  And shudder.

Freak Shows make up their little subgenre of horror, echoed in film and t.v. and (mostly) in comic books. Clearly the playwright knows this, uses the tropes of same with a series of neat twists.  She's admirably set up this particular performance as one where things go wrong, not least because everyone feels on edge, given to revealing more than a little of the truth.  Certainly more than an audience of a real freak show would (probably) want to hear.  One performer feels unable to go on.  Another is brand new and fairly awkward.  Still another simmers with rage against the Barker and against the audience.  It all comes to a head due to a rude audience member (John Patrick D'Arcy) who heckles the freaks as they perform.

In short, this is a good play.  Especially for a second work (I got a chance to talk with the playwright afterwards)! 

Credit:  Larry Duncan& Marlee Delia
Unfortunately, this production is clearly under-rehearsed. The actors all show genuine talent, giving us glimpses of real humanity and emotion and even character arcs through the course of the show.  No small thing!  I've seen plenty of productions with many cast members never achieving that much!

But One of Us really needs to create its own world, the sense one has stepped into someplace Other.  Such pretty much requires more rehearsal time than this cast had available.  On the flip side, each performance with a live audience is likely to improve the show a great deal for much the same reason.  An audience makes a difference, as those who've done a lot of theatre can attest.  I saw this opening night (which is nearly always the least accomplished of any performance in the run) and I feel certain the cast will respond to having an audience.  Some might feel that an odd prediction, but I've seen it happen.  And--as noted above--this is a talented cast who are already achieving a lot.

So I recommend this, despite some problems with pacing and roughness around the edges.  Not least because of the genuine talent on stage and the interesting script they perform.

One of Us plays at 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays through August 13, 2016 at Zombie Joe's Underground 4850 Lankershim (just south of the NoHo Sign) North Hollywood CA 91601. Call 818-202-4120 to make reservations or go to