Little Fish Theatre
Reviewed by Dany Margolies
Amanda Karr, Lukas Bailey, Leona Britton, and Noah Wagner
Photo courtesy Little Fish Theatre
Appallingly feuding but passionately attracted couples are not new to the stage. Shakespeare drew them in The Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing. Edward Albee penned them in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.
Amanda and Elyot are quintessentially creations of the great British wit Noël Coward, in his 1930 play Private Lives. Coward, a master at cheekily spotlighting human foibles, gibes at the mores and marriages of his time. Amanda and Elyot had admittedly made each other miserable in their three-year marriage. Now, five years after they divorced, they find themselves on a balcony of a hotel at a French seaside resort. Unfortunately it’s the first evening of their honeymoons with their respective new spouses.
Elyot and his new wife, Sibyl, clearly aren’t the happiest of couples, either, as evidenced by Sibyl’s relentless probing into the causes of Elyot’s divorce. Meanwhile, Amanda’s new husband, Victor, is similarly interrogating Amanda. But once Elyot and Amanda catch sight of each other, the lust and the violence flow again.
The former couple runs off together, to her Paris apartment, where they hunker down as only English sophisticates can do. Their new spouses find them there—no sense asking how, nor, if it’s not too middle-class American to wonder, what each does for a living.
In the decades after Coward wrote the play, laws and mores have changed in the marriage department, but his points about love are evergreen, and those points are given further honing in this production, directed by James Rice.
The only disappointments here are in the design elements. The Act One balcony is packed with what look like paint-flecked tarpaulins tossed over presumably patio furniture—in reality hiding Act Two’s Parisian living-room setup. The audience would believe the setting is a badly neglected American backyard before it could possibly believe this is a honeymoon retreat on the English Channel.
Costuming is eye-catching though not period-defining. Garbing the hapless Victor in tails and spats might be a hint about his lack of couth, but it comes across as a design error.
Nonetheless, the actors soon lure the audience into the lives of these Bickersons. Rice’s cast may not display the frothy English sophistication Coward was known for, but the actors create real people onstage, particularly Rice’s two leads.
They are Noah Wagner, playing Elyot, and Amanda Karr as Amanda. In the role originated in London’s West End by Coward, Wagner gives Elyot a red-blooded presence. It’s needed, because Karr has a personality that envelops the stage. There’s no fear one or the other character will lose—nor get injured—in the verbal and physical battles that this romance comprises (excellent fight choreography by Mike Mahaffey).
By perfect contrast, Lukas Bailey makes a stiff-upper-lip Victor, and Leona Britton is a fluttery, wailing Sibyl. Elizabeth Craig completes the cast, playing the French maid, swiftly speaking only French and adding masses of Gallic disdain.
In real life, Amanda and Elyot would not be not the kind of couple with whom most of us would want to spend an evening. Fortunately, in the hands of Little Fish, they are separated from us by the nice, safe fourth wall of theater, so we admire the quality acting.
June 15, 2015
Republished courtesy of Daily Breeze
12–July 18. 777 Centre St., San Pedro. Entrance and parking behind the
theatre; access through alley between 7th and 8th streets. Thu-Sat 8pm,
Sun 2pm. $25-27. (310) 512-6030.
DOMA Theatre Company at MET Theatre
Reviewed by Travis Michael Holder
Jess Ford and Andrew Diego
Photo by Michael Lamont
Fifteen years ago, when superpower band Green Day decided to produce a rock opera paying homage to The Who, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, who is credited for writing 98 percent of the Green Day’s most celebrated music, created the dynamically screwed up anti-hero Jesus of Suburbia. When the effort catapulted into the band’s 2004 album American Idiot, it was a worldwide success and won the Grammy for Best Rock Album in 2005.
In 2009, Armstrong collaborated with Green Day fan and Broadway director Michael Mayer (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Tony winner for Spring Awakening) to turn the band’s Tommy-like concept into a stage musical. First mounted at Berkeley Rep, the theatrical version of American Idiot went on to New York, rocking out the venerable St. James Theatre for more than a year.
LA’s decade-old DOMA Theatre Company, which has been turning out some surprisingly massive and well-appointed productions for almost a decade, is a perfect match for Green Day’s loud and irreverent musical, which follows Johnny (Jess Ford), the Jesus of this show’s particular suburbia, who, with his two buddies Will (Wesley Moran) and Tunny (Chris Kerrigan), dreams in song of leaving the restrictive environment in which they grew up, ready to rebel by singing and rocking their way into the big city.
Things don’t work out so well for Will, whose wife leaves him with their infant son because he never seems to get off his couch, rise from his smoky haze, and put down his ever-present bong. Tunny, too, ends up in an unexpected state, whisked into the army and returning from one of America’s horrifying desert wars in a wheelchair.
Still, we follow Johnny the most closely, as his initiation into disenchanted youthful urban existence brings him into contact with Whatshername (Renee Cohen), who introduces him to her politically active and rebellious lifestyle, and St. Jimmy (Andrew Diego), who gets him high on a series of increasingly more debilitating street drugs.
After the perils of our disintegrating society and the bitterness of life in the real world nearly kill all three heroes, each returns to his hometown. Although it would be more satisfying if the guys discovered how to conquer their demons rather than retreat back to the place that shaped them, hopefully along the way their eyes have been opened to things none of them would have understood without their bellyflop into contemporary chaos.
But that’s fodder for American Idiot II, which in a perfect world should include a palpable sense of the era just past the one when the original album was released, a time when our country’s young’uns were forced to come of age through 9/11, as well as during the Iraqi War and conflicts in Afghanistan and across the globe.
Director Marco Gomez and his design team, especially Michael Mullen, who presumably on a shoestring created some the flashiest, most whimsical and creative costuming seen on any LA stage this year, join to lift this production way beyond the usual limitations of typical 99-Seat theater productions of large-scale musicals.
Musical director Chris Raymond and his excellent band add immensely to the mix, as do the generally balls-out performances by the principal players. One small criticism: Although the denizens of American Idiot are all purdy much continuously in pain, it would be a better character choice if every song and every spoken line were not delivered with a tortured expression and the appearance of emanating from a dying beast.
Especially when assaying Angela Todaro’s energetic and highly athletic choreography, the wildly fearless and spirited chorus of 17 knockout young triple-threats collectively liquefy together, wondrously becoming like one more principal character in the story, reminiscent of the townspeople in Evita who also often moved across the stage as one communal mass of humanity.
Of the talented ranks, it would be remiss not to mention the Joplin-esque vocal calisthenics of Sandra Diana Cantu, as well as the überanimated, appropriately over-bleached Kevin Corsini, one of the tallest ensemble members whose unruly crown of straw glows brightly under Jean-Yves Tessier’s exquisitely atmospheric lighting.
Green Day’s most popular tunes re-created in the musical—including “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” which became a message against governmental avarice and ineptitude after the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the title song and “Holiday,” both part of the Green Day’s in-your-face score and Armstrong’s literate and often depressing book and lyrics—clearly express an entire generation’s dissent over the actions initiated by our government in our own country and across the globe.
Underlying the musical’s sometimes simplistic plotline is a conscious message shouting out against corporate greed and unnecessary war, something that overpowers any minor clumsiness. Add in a cast this charismatic and such knockout production values, and this is a miraculous mounting of the musical not to be overlooked.
June 11, 2015
5–Aug 2. 1089 N. Oxford Ave., LA. Thu-Sat 8pm, Sun 3pm (dark July 4).
General admission $30; VIP admission (includes reserved seating and a
complimentary snack and beverage), $34.99; seniors and students with ID
$20. (323) 802-9181.
Reviewed by Dany Margolies
Amanda Blake Davis and Robyn Norris
Sometimes theater is about humankind’s greatest achievers. Sometimes it’s about supremely tragic figures. And sometimes, as with this show, it’s about the rest of us.
A group of Second City’s fine performers went off piste and conducted a social experiment. After Robyn’s (Robyn Norris) friend posted a profile on a dating site and asked Robyn to check it over, Robyn set up an account to access the site. Robyn created the outlandish profile of an admittedly “crazy-insane person” she named TracyLovesCats. A shockingly large number of men—and women—responded, begging for various forms of contact with “Tracy.”
Norris’s fellow troupe members Chris Alvarado, Rob Belushi, Amanda Blake Davis, Kate Duffy, and Bob Ladewig joined in, posting outrageous profiles no one could possibly think were anything other than a joke. These performers’ “sketch” show, Undateable, re-enacts verbatim the heartfelt responses by real, everyday people to these perverse personals.
So, even though Rob (Belushi) pushed the intimacy-phobic envelope with DoorSlamEric, women think Eric is dateable. And although PioneerInABox (Kate Duffy) gets busted (she claims to function as if in the 1860s, yet she’s online), she manages to lure interest. Even Amanda’s (Blake Davis) age-questionable Old4U75 appeals to a prospective beau.
The show, a fascinating concept, is well-structured and is imaginatively directed by Frank Caeti. It is also, of course, hilarious, though a strong strain of sympathy runs through it. And even though the show has been running for months, the performers have fresh energy. These performers are more interested in telling their story than in “being funny,” so the laughs come from the audience’s self-recognition and not from any obnoxious stage-hogging shenanigans.
The troupe sings and dances—and not badly—to enhance several of their “scientific” points about romantic behavior. A few minutes of improv at the end of the show reflect the performers’ well-honed chops.
Locational cautions: The venue is in Hollywood where street parking has a two-hour limit, metered until midnight on Fridays. The show is a mere one hour, but it undoubtedly will start a few minutes late. In addition, the theater is upstairs, and the site has no elevator. But if you’re swift and spry, head on up there for a dose of reality. It will probably provide you with more than several hearty belly laughs. It might also make you weep for mankind.
August 19, 2013
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