Friday, December 23, 2016

Dozen Best of 2016

No real spoilers to speak on, soooooo...

Been doing the reviewer gig for some years now.  As the number of theatres inviting me to attend and critique their works have grown, so too has my hat size.  Only a matter of time until I did one of these lists then.  However, I refuse to indulge in more negativity than absolutely necessary.  Behold therefore a Dozen Best List for the year about to end.  No Dozen Worst will be forthcoming.  Just don't want to go there.

Luckily for me, so many wonderful programs fall my way I had to limit myself to actual plays.  I mention this because a few shows like the gut-wrenchingly beautiful Girl Gods and Hex aren't really plays per se, which gives the out of allowing me to keep this list a reasonable length...

In no particular order (save perhaps maybe reversed order of viewing, I think kinda/sorta):

Hansel and Gretel Bluegrass at the 24th Street Theatre pretty much contains all I love in theatre.  It manages to tell a story in a way only theatre itself can, sparking the imagination first and foremost while at the same time using a dazzling (yet unintrusive) multimedia set of tools.  Yet at its heart remains a fantastic cast of actors bringing a kind of myth--in this case a fairy tale--to life in a brand spanking new way.

Ajax in Iraq counts as similar revelation--a tour-de-force of different theatrical styles across the ages as a modern story of US soldiers in Iraq play out intertwined with the tale of Ajax in the Trojan War, as told by Sophocles.  One of the most powerful pieces of theatre from the entire year and hopefully to be staged again before long.

The Suitcase as the Echo became one of the most fun, most heart-warming (in the deepest sense) theatrical efforts of 2016.  A softly presentational tale about a middle age man's revelation on his father, a man he never knew and never was told much about, yet for whom he quietly yearned for decades.  Not a story of nations, but of the connection between souls across time--and the ripples such connections can leave in their wake.

Othello at ZJU was a remounting of a production from last year so I almost didn't count it. Yet it remained one of the most powerful productions on many levels.  Dizzying in it re-imagination of Shakespeare's rather sordid murder story -- honestly, most productions of this play fail to entice me for this very reason -- Josh T. Ryan's direction and a wild, wonderful cast brought new life to this work in ways that never failed to at the least provoke a powerful reaction.

A Gulag Mouse may be cheating, since both playwright and director are friends of mine, but that doesn't change the fact this show fascinated me from the first image, then hit me in gut before the play's end several times.

Women Beware Women, a somewhat obscure Jacobean tragedy, proved the second time the Yours Is Mine theatre company took a classic work then rocked my world with it.  While the performances across the board reached wonderful heights, the entire production overall made my jaw drop.  In a single room, they made us feel as if we were simply there with these characters, watching it all by candlelight, with all the intimacy of a private party.  I eagerly await their next production!

The Dryway at Son of Semele was, I think, the first play I reviewed in 2016, and still haunts my memory. A three-woman musical retelling of a medieval legend, about three mermaids banished from the ocean by their mother, this single hour of theatre sucked me in the way I long to happen every time I take my seat.  It also managed to both surprise yet feel inevitable--a tricky feat yet often turns out a hallmark of the best theatre.

Lunatics and Actors by Four Clowns continued in that company's tradition of always doing something new, always making it different, always making it superbly.  Laughs and tears, horror and revelation were in store as a Victorian (?) scientist proceeded to lecture on the brain, using theatre and the insane as his milieu--with troubling, hilarious, insightful and very disturbing moments piling up one after another into our nervous systems.

Tempest Redux quite simply is the best version of this Shakespeare play I have ever seen, bar none,  Quite apart from the technical wonders going into the production, its central conceit digs deeper into the human soul than any other production of this play--or indeed of most plays--I have ever seen.  Were I drawing up a Top Dozen Plays for my entire life, this production would be on the list.

Occupation at the 2016 Fringe Festival has stayed with me, a genuinely challenging piece that in restrospect maybe should be staged again, perhaps even expanded in the wake of the election.  Taking place amidst a dystopian (but not, just to be precise, totalitarian) future America, it follows a group of women in that future time trying to make their way, heal their souls, make peace with the world, and decide for themselves the right thing to do.  Sounds simple, doesn't it?  Yet the depth of how this one-hour play explored that idea reminds me more than anything of a really profoundly beautiful haiku.

One of the Nice Ones, again at the Echo, is an extremely difficult play to describe, in the same sense and in some ways for similar reasons as it is hard to describe The Usual Suspects to those who haven't seen it.  I was definitely shocked, multiple times.  I laughed too many times to count, from barely suppressed giggles to out loud guffaws!  And I cried, not because someone tugged at my heart a la Timmy and his favorite dog were reunited etc.  No, I found myself feeling the yawing pain that might warp a human being, twisting them yet bestowing a strange power.

The Superhero and His Charming Wife makes for a rare but treasured kind of theatre--the more or less deliberate creation of a Myth.  What maybe proves most impressive, and startling, is how it focuses upon modern iconography, modern myths to tell its take.  Instead of a Knight in shining armor, we have a Superhero!  The danger that threatens is no Evil Ring or Dark Lord, but rather an existential question whose answer must prove terrifying.  I utterly adored this show, and frankly hope to see it staged once more!

I'm not going to mention a bunch of honorable mentions, because that would just go on and on forever.  My enormous good fortune is getting to see so much excellent theatre here in Los Angeles, for which I feel deep gratitude.  Thanks for reading these pretentious but sincere words.  Here's to more of the same in 2017 (including perhaps news of one or two plays I may be directing...!)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Cherry Orchard (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Note:  When I attended this performance, the understudies were 'up' and so you may see a different set of actors.  Mentioned for accuracy's sake not as anything like a criticism.  

Anton Chekhov's plays usually come across as somber dramas about hopelessness and despair.  In fact he himself didn't see them that way.  Rather, he saw them as very funny comedies about hopelessness and despair.

The Loft Ensemble's production of The Cherry Orchard successfully renders the very character-based humor of Chekhov, which so often gets interpreted as drama.  In fact they play more like dark sitcoms, a blend of soap opera with shows such as Cheers! than angst-driven tragedies a la Eugene O'Neil. Yeah all these people are pretty much losers, fools trying to get by who--for the most part--refuse to correct their own circumstances by making uncomfortable choices.  Lifeboats await them, the waters rise, but they keep hoping someone else will save the ship.  That way they won't have to change their clothes and choose which of their favorite toys and books they'll have to leave behind.  So, they ultimately drown, looking on with bewilderment as others abandon them in order to survive--said others often yelling over and over "Come with us!  Save yourselves!"

If that isn't the stuff of dark comedy, what is?

What adaptor/director Jared Wilson chose was to transpose events from turn-of-the-century Imperial Russia to modern day Texas.  Kinda/sorta.  The names remain the same--  --but costumes and accents pretty much scream "Texas."  One of my few complaints is how a more specific world doesn't quite emerge from this.  The talk of "dollars" for example amidst all the Russian names, coupled with the startling references to slaves in living memory, jar a bit.  But only a bit.  Mostly, I found myself sucked into this world--at first with the fascination of a seeing a car wreck, but eventually with a melancholy sense of affection for these...well, losers.

Renee (Jennifer Christina Derosa) and her brother Greg (Stephen Rockwell) function as the center this mini-society of a country estate, where one finds the title character, owned by Renee and Greg's family for generations.  The former has a surviving child, a daughter Anya (Dayeanne Hutton), who now accompanies her mother's return from Paris after five years.  It says something about this family that their nanny is a sometimes magician called Charlie the Mysterious (April Morrow).  Vanessa (Ainsley Pearce), the very religious adopted daughter of Renee, rounds out the family proper but of course the servants count in some odd way.  Firs (Mitch Rosander) especially, the ancient family retainer who knows no more of life than work and fondly remembers days before "The Freedom," i.e. when slavery was abolished.

In the original Russian setting this referred to serfdom, still part of the living memory of Chekhov and his contemporaries.

Central to the whole story lies Lenny (Maxwell Marsh), son and grandson of slaves, whom he hates yet whose respect he still desires.  Crude, trying far too hard, full of energy which has led him to acquire genuine wealth, Lenny hopes to save Renee and Greg--well, mostly Renee--from their debts.  He has a workable plan.  Sell the estate to make condos.  Simple, he insists.  Neither will listen.  Neither will even consider listening.  The whole idea -- the only way in fact of saving themselves from extreme poverty -- remains beyond comprehension.  Yeah, the ship sinks and they just hope somehow the water won't reach them.

As you may gather, the play's plot isn't really the story here.  Rather, it becomes a portrait of the characters and their world.  Rather than an over-arching story, Chekhov focuses on all the individual stories and how they intertwine, or at least happen in easy reach of one another.  Vanessa's hopeless love of Lenny, coupled with his fascination/obsession with Renee.  Estate Manager Yepi (Leon Mayne) and his unrequited passion for Patty (Barbara Ann Howard), who in turn has an affair with Yasha the driver (Shane Tometich).  Plus the neighbor Bill (Tor Brown), forever borrowing money from anyone who'll help but a good ol' boy in the best sense.  Then of course there is Anya's flirtation with Peter (Daniel Manning), her late brother's former tutor, the eternal student sure he knows all the answers without having really lived much in the world.

Even the various retainers at the estate--Joseph Bills, Madison Charest, Marryn Landry--make up part of the sinews, the blood and tissue of those who dwell, perhaps haunt, the old and beloved cherry orchard.  Yet despite all the absurdity, the casual and often deliberate cruelty, not to mention a tiny mountain range of foolishness, we laugh.  Perhaps to keep back the tears, because while sooner or later everyone does something hateful, we never end up hating them.  Rather, we grow fonder and fonder of these nice, stupid, petty and complex people.

The Cherry Orchard plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 5pm until January 22, 2017 at the Loft Ensemble, 13442 Ventura Blvd (across from the Psychic Eye), Sherman Oaks CA 91423.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Telenovela Christmas Carol (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

'Tis the season--for eggnog and decorating the tree, for Santa Claus and songs of Frosty, Rudolf, Bells and Little Drummer Boys.  Also, time for new iterations of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.  Because new versions abound, with successful ones returning at least for a time.

A Telenovela Christmas Carol, from Force of Nature Productions, emerged from the fertile imagination of Sebastian Munoz with Adam Neubauer.  Munoz appeared in as well as directing last year's Telenovela introducing us to these characters.  This year he also stars, which ultimately worked but must have left the man exhausted.  (I spoke to him afterwards--yeah, he was tired, although it never showed onstage)

The plot?  Pretty much what you expect.

Bitter rich tequila manufacturer Pedro Azucar (Munoz) makes life hell for his family, including sons Gerardo (Neubauer) and Mike (Gloria Galvan), daughter Palomita (Leah Wasylik), his worker Henry (Nicole Craig) and many others.  Especially around this time of year.  He was the villain in last year's play so naturally enough fills the Scrooge role.  The man's fury even extends to a poor child selling chiclets (Mona Park).

Naturally on Christmas Eve he has earned visit from his late wife (Jennifer Novak Chun) whom he murdered, so rather gleefully tells him he's to be haunted by three more ghosts.  What follows is a trip down memory lane to show the error of his ways--the details adapted to the specifics of this ongoing story.  Much like any time Dickens' most famous story gets stapled onto something else.  And it works!  That is why people keep doing it!

Of course one reason this works lies in how the show adheres to the style of those wonderful Spanish-language not-quite-soap operas with their over-the-top passions, ridiculous plot twists (especially involving sex), and the thick accents the entire cast uses.  "Yes" becomes "chess" for example.

So we follow the past already established and now fleshed out, his first love (Redetha Deason) eventually lost to former best friend (Brian Felson), amid painful memories of the sister introduced him to tequila!  Along the way lots of zany humor as well as some genuinely moving moments -- such as the Ghost of Christmas Present (Anne Westcott) trying to gently prepare him for "Who comes next."

So there is the essence of this show--fun, with some real emotion on top.  The whole cast is having fun, including Adam Shows, Jessica Weiner, Bianca Flores, etc. almost everyone playing multiple roles, with singing and dancing added to the mix just...well, because!  Why not?  With the added (welcome) announcement another Telenovela story is on its way!

A Telenovela Christmas Carol plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm until December 18, 2016 at the Archway Theatre 10509 Burbank Avenue,  North Hollywood CA 91601.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Very Die Hard Christmas (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

This year Theatre Unleased has two of its very popular holiday productions in repertory, dubbed "Naughty" and "Nice."

"Naughty" (for language and violence mostly) is A Very Die Hard Christmas.  The premise is pretty simple.  Take the 1980s action blockbuster Die Hard (which did after all take place at Christmas time) then blend it with a variety of different beloved Christmas specials and movies--including Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer and The Nightmare Before Christmas.   Add in some show tunes, plus plenty of jokes and behold one of the zaniest musicals you're ever likely to see!

The story basics are there for anyone who has seen the movie.  NY Detective John McClane (Wade F.Wilson) is on his way to spend Christmas with his estranged wife Holly (Kire Horton) and the daughter in Los Angeles.

For some strange reason Holly's employers are having their office Christmas Party on Christmas Eve, when a group of terrorists led by the West German but seemingly very English Hans Gruber (Josef Knauber) take over and want access to the super high tech vault.  McClane isn't expected and escapes into the unfinished floors of the skyscraper, starting an elaborate--and very, very, VERY violent game of cat and mouse.  No, really, I mean it.  By the curtain call McClane is dripping stage blood from all the fights.

This narrative is taken about as far as a theatrical venue and a really dark, absurd sense of humor will allow.  Musical numbers are the least of it.  So too the constant gags based on pop culture (usually but not always of the 80s).  An example of the latter is someone asking Gruber what "Hermione is really like" much to his rage.  But it gets more grotesque than that--up to and including deaths that are actually in slow motion.

Most of the cast--including Mark Lopez, Liesl Jackson, Robby De Villez, Lee Pollero, and Twon Pope actually play multiple roles.  One of them actually has to play three characters in one scene!  Meanwhile references to other Die Hard movies as well as bizarre little homages to Christmas abound.  One of the tenets of comedy is that everything isn't quite "real" (most of the time).  Everything is removed enough from reality we don't take what happens seriously but can wallow in the absurdity.  So a play in which an audience member is chosen to portray a character no one remembered to cast gives us a set up to laugh out load at someone being machine gunned to death.

Make that several people.  By a woman giving birth.  On Christmas.

Yeah, if you are easily offended don't go see this show.  I on the other hand laughed and laughed and laughed.  If you saw last year's production of the same musical--most of the cast is different and there've been other changes.  It is a different performance in many ways.

Enjoy!  I know I did.

A Very Die Hard Christmas plays Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 8pm until December 18, 2016 at The Belfry Stage, upstairs at the Crown, 11031 Camarillo Street, North Hollywood CA 91602.

It's A Wonderful Life: The Radio Play (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Along with A Christmas Carol, screenings and adaptations of the Frank Capra film It's A Wonderful Life flood the media each yuletide season.  NoHo's Theatre Unleashed, like many a Los Angeles theatrical group, proved unwilling to simply mount a classic.  They re-imagined it, in part because company member Jim Martyka wrote a fresh version--one with more than a few delightful surprises.

It's A Wonderful Life: The Radio Play proves itself a play-within-a play.  Like many an adaptation, Martyka's script uses the style of a radio play to get around the flashbacks and vast character changes required by the story.  But what his version does--and others do not (at least the ones I've seen)--is give a parallel story to the radio performers themselves.

We find ourselves in the studio of KAWL, a struggling radio station in 1940s Los Angeles with the cast and crew of tonight's live performance straggle in.  Honey (Caroline Sharp), Harriet (Molly Moran) and Holly (Ariana Weiss) set things up and gossip among themselves.  In the show they'll serve as a chorus singing Christmas carols for transition and atmosphere.  Soon the actors start to enter.  Victor Saul (Graydon Schlichter) almost trips into the studio, obviously drunk and as a result a little loose-lipped about his past with almost has-been Claudia LaBelle (Jennifer Ashe), while not-very-bright starlet Jennifer DaVinci (Sammi Lappin) waltes in chattering about her recent name change to seem smarter while sometimes-leading-man Clifton Logan (Andy Justus)  tries to woo her--as he evidently does with any attractive woman in reach.  Steven Pennington (Steve Peterson) can be heard doing his vocal exercises.  Newcommer Mitchell Thompson (Lee Pollero) cannot get over his good luck to be working here.  Each seems a real person, vivid enough to come across in not-very-many minutes--and each will reveal depths before curtain.

Pretty soon things start to go seriously wrong.  They don't have a Clarence!  But someone (Carey Matthews) who seems, possibly homeless (although pretty clean to be such), has wandered into the studio and hidden.  Station Manager Michael Anderson (Spencer Cantrell) simply recruits him to play Clarence--and fortunately he turns out to have a nice voice as well as a real ability to act!  After that crisis, the foley girl/assistant Judy Anderson (Margaret Glacuum) demonstrates why she only has this job because she's the boss's cousin.  She never delivered the telegrams from the male and female leads they cannot make the show!  So Michael and his girlfriend/co-manager Melanie Peters (Courtney Sara Bell) have to play the leads without warning!

And so we're off!  As a playwright myself, the trick of getting the audience invested in the play's production made we want to applaud!  Eventually of course I did!  Because apart from the--very clever--writing, everything about this production struck the right notes.  The comedy veers between madcap to achingly human.  The stories echo back and forth on many levels, heightening the power of both the radio play and the radio players.  In fact, this may well be my favorite version of IAWL ever!  So writer, cast and director Jenn Scuderi Crafts all deserve lots of applause from plenty of audiences (which I hope they will get).

Because after all who doesn't know the story of the movie?  Haven't we all seen it time and again?  Plus many variations on the same theme?  Yet this production gives us more, pretty much flawlessly integrated and full of interesting characters who all live through yet another story--which changes them, in a way that feels so very very right for Christmas, or what Christmas is supposed to be.

It's A Wonderful Life: The Radio Play plays Wednesdays and Fridays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm through December 18, 2016 at The Belfry Stage, upstairs from the Crown, 11031 Camarillo Street, North Hollywood CA 91602.

The Latina Christmas Special (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

What is Christmas all about?  In fact, it seems unlikely more than a small handful of people would ever agree on one answer, but here's one many can see--Christmas is very often about memories, especially ones involving your family.

The Latina Christmas Special at LATC returns with a deeply entertaining exploration of memories, of three Latina women--best bestest friends--spending Christmas together.  They get a little drunk, they dance, they share stories.  Eventually they start talking about Christmas growing up, about their families (especially their mothers) and these are the ones shared most explicitly with the audience as well as each other.

In that respect, the show ends up a bit of hybrid.  Half a play, half a stand-up routine--the latter the kind involving stories with a funny/bittersweet and very moving climax.  Evidently, in this case, based on the lives of these three performers--so it cannot really be done the same way ever without this specific cast.  (This show goes back at least to 2014 and this year marks its second time running in LA's LATC).

Credit: Xavi Moreno
Maria Russell begins, in her Christmas suit showing plenty of leg and cleavage.  Gorgeous and knowing it (in part because of the absolutely unbounded support her mother gave growing up), hers tale comes across as the most...well, odd.  Not bizarre, you understand, but just unusual enough to make one wonder.  Yet at the end, the curiosity recedes into appreciation.  Curvy enough to attract the nasty comments of other children, one feels Maria's almost cocooned family life left her both more vulnerable to such yet at the same time with the defenses needed to meet them.  Plus of course her mother's unwillingness to allow anyone to bully her beloved daughter!  The details seem eccentric--like the way her mother still disapproves of Maria having left home to marry the man she loved--yet also natural.  One ends up feeling a bit envious of what seems pretty clearly a very happy childhood, an extremely loving  home, a wildly successful marriage as well this unashamed (yet very generous, even loving) Diva.

Credit: Xavi Moreno
Diana Yanez tells her story of growing up in Florida, the child of Cuban refugees whose parents bear some of the emotional scars of that upheaval--such a certain fierce materialism.  Diana has loads of stories to tell, about the family's encounter with a huge flying cockroach (Note: Having grown up in Florida, I can tell you every word brought up memories) as well as her first hint about Santa Claus' true identity.  Here's a hint--it has to do with buying on sale.  Still, we walk away with a lot of affection as well as laughs.  Because if we are lucky, our families do create that safe and happy place for children--at least enough to remain in our hearts for all the days that follow.

Credit: Xavi Moreno
Which brings us to Sandra Valls--tiny, gay and the one in whose home the trio have gathered.  Early on, they mention the holidays as hard on her.  Now we find out.  Again, much of it stems from her mother.  Honestly, it feels a little heartbreaking then bittersweet as she relates year after year Christmas presents from her mother that can best be described as "girly."  Sandra is not girly, and as the slide show (the whole performance includes a lovely bit of multimedia via designer Yee Eun Nam) demonstrates she never, ever could be called such.  So every year, Sandra's presents from her mother ended up given to Sandra's sister.  But--in this household family presents were for Christmas Eve, with Santa's opened Christmas morning--the next morning would be totally appropriate gifts!  What many would call "Boy Toys."  Only in retrospect does she realize her mother did see the real her--but obliquely.  Years and years later, as her mother slowly died from a disease that wasted her away, Sandra took care of  her, which in turn led to an epiphany.  A profoundly wise, gloriously comforting one--and which I think you should see the show itself to appreciate.

Geoffrey Rivas directed this show to capture exactly that--the way memories weave themselves into our souls, and how Christmas becomes a time for those memories to emerge, offer comfort as well as truth.  He and the cast succeeded enough I felt wrapped up in their stories, as if those memories were mine.  What more could we ask for, really?

The Latina Christmas Special plays Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm until December 18, 2016 at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 South Spring Street, Los Angeles CA 90013.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Hansel and Gretel Bluegrass (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Fairy tales, like children's stories (maybe especially children's theatre) tend to be tricky.  Ursula K. LeGuin once compared writing for children with raising them, in response to someone assuming such would be "simple."

Hansel and Gretel Bluegrass maneuvers around the pitfalls with great skill, not least in rendering a medieval German folk tale celebrating peasant cleverness into a more contemporary setting, turning it into a story of familial love in the face of all kinds of darkness.

In this re-imagination, Hansel (Caleb Foote) and his sister Gretel (Angela Giarratana) are a little older, on the threshold of puberty, with the natural bickering that entails.  Both deeply distressed over the loss of their mother, these two Appalachian children in the Great Depression get caught up in the backlash the coal mine where their father works shuts down.  We never see this father, instead having a narrator called Duke (Bradley Whitford) relate this storv via the radio.  Seems he got a letter from a little boy, complaining about how useless his little sister was.  This story consists of the Duke responding--and one of (very) many lovely nuances lies in the feeling this is somehow personal.  I walked away thinking maybe the Duke was Hansel, all grown up.  Or perhaps their father...

Credit: Cooper Bates
Their father, desperate to give his children some chance, some hope, gives in to a kind a madness in his despair.  Feeling he can do nothing for them, he abandons them in the woods in the hope that someone--anyone--might find his son and daughter to give them the succor he cannot.

Someone does, a weird and blind old Mountain Woman (Sarah Zinsser) who lives in a cave.  Perhaps a witch, perhaps a psychic, maybe a ghost or just someone so removed from the world she has in some way left reality as we know it behind.  Bryan Davidson's script never makes it clear, so we remain unsettled as well as subtly frightened of her.  First and foremost she remains strange, subtly cruel, very manipulative and yet in a way gracious.  Her desires seem focused on hearing Gretel sing for her.  Why?  I'm sure the actress has a shrewd idea but I can only guess, although that desire remains believable throughout.

Credit: Cooper Bates
She lures the pair to her cave--which seems like a nice house to them--and begins her ways to degrade the brother and ensnare the sister. Director Debbie Devine with the cast makes a fine job of balancing the unreal and the believable.  The set design by Keith Mitchell in particular helps, because while solid somehow everything also seems insubstantial.  Shadows created by Dan Weingarten's lights interplay with the layers of and colors of the set, so the same stage easily becomes a shack, a forest, a house, a cave.  That slippery reality--which many of us experience now and then--is where this production dwells.

And where tragedy is so narrowly averted.

Credit: Cooper Bates
Indeed the whole play creates the feel of a dream that might just come true, or perhaps arise from a memory of strange events.  Like a child, I felt drawn into a world both real and mythic.  One of my favorite experiences and nearly always only found in live theatre.

Listing all the wonderful ways this play and production explores and creates it world could take a lot longer than anyone wants to read.  Suffice to say, the dread and danger rises to Hansel and Gretel's souls--echoed in no small part by the sounds (Chris Moscatiello) and music (Megan Swan), the latter capturing that melancholy sense of courage and emotions so perfect in part through the Get Down Boys.  In the end, instead of the overt oven and cages of the folk tale we get a trap of the mind, coupled with a fiercely cold danger in a rainy night in the mountains, as two children end up defending themselves from a knife-wielding blind woman.  What happens next?  We do not know.  That, it seems, is another tale--and to paraphrase a novelist "while life goes on, this chapter has come to its end."  And I applauded with a lot of enthusiasm.

Hansel and Gretel Bluegrass plays Saturdays at 3pm and 7:30pm, Sundays at 3pm until March 26, 2017 at the 24th Street Theatre, 1117 West 24th Street, Los Angeles CA 90007. Note:  After December 10, performances will only be Sundays at 3pm.