Archive for January, 2010

Thomas Hampton Reviews THE JAMB, at the Eclectic Company Theatre

January 28, 2010

Tuffer is pushing forty, and makes a cracked-out blackout phone call for help to his old buddy.   His old friend Roderick rushes to save him, only to find Tuffer holing up with his new boy toy.  In a last chance effort to save Tuffer from his own self-destructive tendencies, Roderick packs some bags and drags everyone off to his Mom’s New Mexico adobe for some sober assessment.

On its way to the desert, THE JAMB gently toys with story theater conventions, allowing characters to call their own sound and light cues…  feel like a monologue?  Ask for the spot.  Need to break a glass?  Cue and call your own “break” effect.

What is generating all of the broken fourth walls?

Self reflexive theater must be all the rage- nearly all of the shows reviewed here include some overt wink at the audience.  Of course, this kind of direct appeal has been around since a storyteller enthralled an audience in front of a fire.  The Greek chorus!  The monologue!  Can you believe it has almost been 90 years since the (initial failure, then) success of the premiere engagements of Pirandello’s Sei Personaggi in Cerca d’ Autore/ Six Characters in Search of an Author?

Some of this must be a reaction of the playwrights.  They want to engage their audience, and will pull out all of the tricks that they can to do so.  And don’t discount technology.  Today’s theater audience is able to “play god” at home in front of the television.  Stop.  Rewind.  Skip Commercial.  Fast Forward…

So a modern character can have that power as well; and J. Stephen Brantley’s do.  He has one character introduce another character’s monologue, even a dialogue, and quickly abridge it for us.  Each of the players takes a turn to “use the remote,” as they thankfully help the audience to avoid undue exposition.

Why?  Are these techniques being used to snare a restless audience used to dvrs and remote controls?  Is it simply the evolution of “popular” theater, as elements from progressive works filter their way in to more mainstream dramas?  Is the local theater scene sensing a need for this?  Is the audience requesting it?

It is probably a mix of all of the above.  But it does make sense that smaller shows are going to break the fourth wall.  When done well, it allows for a direct, intimate connection to the theatergoer.  It is difficult for a black box/ 99 and under to have the “polish” of an opera or post Broadway tour that screams, “Hey, look’it all the money we threw up on stage.  Where we are telling the story.  To you- the audience member- who must be wowed by our use of fly wire and turntables and green makeup and smoke and fire;” or you might be disappointed with the crazy expensive price you paid.

It is a fine line that productions have to walk- toy too much with traditional narrative structure and style and no one will get it.  OR throw up “traditional theatRe” and lose your audience to innovative film and television, or the big houses with big budgets.

In many ways, the questions raised in this macro review remind me of THE JAMB’s protagonists, Tuffer and Roderick; two guys on the cusp middle age.  All they have to hold on to are their own anger and drug fueled escape.  Can they- like today’s small theaters- learn to accept some of their own inherent problems?  Can they change just enough to bring us in to their world and take us along for a ride?

Thematic content includes: Drug Use, Violence, Self Destruction, Love, Humor, Redemption

THE JAMB runs from 1/15 to 2/21.
F, Sa at 8pm Sn at 7pm, $18.
Map of the Eclectic Theatre
Purchase Tickets
Visit the Eclectic’s Website

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Kelly Todd is excited about MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG at the Chance

January 25, 2010

We met Kelly Todd, the choreographer, at the Ovations!  She is excited about MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG at the Chance Theater.

Download now or watch on posterous

Kelly Todd MERRILY.mp4 (407 KB)

(big apologies for the merrily misspell…)

MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG opens on February 4th, and runs through March 7th.

Th, F, Sa at 8pm, Sn at 7pm.
Most S and Sn have matinees at 2pm and 3pm, respectively.
Map of The Chance Theater
Buy Tickets
Visit the Chance Theater’s website

Production stills of THE JAMB at The Eclectic Company Theatre

January 24, 2010

We went to see THE JAMB at The Eclectic Company Theatre.  A World Premiere engagement by playwright J. Stephen Brantley.



See and download the full gallery on posterous

All photos by Susan Lee (director of this production)

Thematic content includes: Self Destruction, Sex, Love, Violence, Redemption, Humor, Drug Use

The Jamb runs from 1/15 to 2/21.
F,Sa at 8pm Sn at 7pm, $18.
Map of The Ecclectic Company Theatre
Purchase Tickets
Visit the Ecclectic Company Theatre Website

Production Stills of PROJECT WONDERLAND at Bootleg

January 20, 2010

Production Stills from PROJECT WONDERLAND at Bootleg.  We saw it opening weekend.  This show runs Thursdays through Sundays!





All photos by Ashley West Leonard

Thematic content includes: Bring Kids, Redemption, Puppets, Singing, Live Music, Dance/ Movement, Highbrow, Humor, Drug Use

PROJECT WONDERLAND runs from 1/15 to 2/7
Th,F,Sa at 8pm Sn at 3pm, $15-$25.
Map of Bootleg
Purchase Tickets
Visit the Bootleg Website
(Free parking available to Bootleg customers behind the Praise Christian Fellowship Church across the street at 2235 Beverly Blvd. Turn North on Roselake Ave. off of Beverly and the parking lot entrance will be on your left.)

Thomas Hampton Reviews PROJECT WONDERLAND, at Bootleg

January 20, 2010

PROJECT WONDERLAND

Fifteen years ago, director/ adaptor Robert Prior’s Fabulous Monsters created Project:Alice; a piece based on the classic Alice in Wonderland.  Faced with an open spot in their calendar due to the delay of the newest $.99 show, Bootleg’s Alicia Hoge-Adams, Corbett Barklie, and Jessica Hanna have produced a re-tooled, revved up version, making great use of talent already lined up for the delayed $.99 show (including Ken Roht, John Ballinger, and innumerable members of the cast and crew.)

The show begins conventionally enough, in the real world of Reverend Charles Dodgeson, aka Lewis Carrol.  Soon enough, his doctor delivers some high grade opiates, and we follow the Reverend down his (and our) personal rabbit hole.

Just as PROJECT WONDERLAND is itself a telling of the Reverend’s personal journey/ hallucination; it truly excels at opening our (the audience’s) eyes to personal issues and questions we face in our own journeys through life.

Not that it is “all serious.”  The show is far from it.  It keeps the pacing light and fluffy with interludes and incorporation of shadow (and non-shadow) puppets, fantastical movement, costume, lighting, and song.

Early in the show, the ensemble rolls out a large mirror facing the audience.  A subtle reminder of our actual location IN a theater, as theatergoers, as we are able to spy the dark outlines of the audience (many other shows are employing self-reflexive techniques currently, including Twenty-Two at Knightsbridge that seats the audience on stage inside the set, and last season’s Family Planning by the Chalk Repertory which played INSIDE actual living rooms around the city.)

And as the Reverend makes his way (and takes us with him) deep within his priss and prim, and loosens the “proper” self-restraint, what are we to think?
I found myself questioning and affirming a tremendous sense of self… Who am I?  And who am I as I change, grow, and learn- emotionally, mentally, physically…

The caterpillar asks the Reverend/ Alice, “What size do you want to be?”
And I know that whatever size I am, or become; well, that is the perfect size.  Because as I learn to accept myself, fully accept who I am and what I desire; this acceptance allows me to find beauty in the most unexpected of places:  a neon garden, an over sized, outstretched leg of a Hatter, an undersea dance troupe… even an old bra factory on Beverly Boulevard.

Thematic content includes: Bring Kids, Redemption, Puppets, Singing, Live Music, Dance/ Movement, Highbrow, Humor, Drug Use

PROJECT WONDERLAND runs from 1/15 to 2/7
Th,F,Sa at 8pm Sn at 3pm, $15-$25.
Map of Bootleg
Purchase Tickets
Visit the Bootleg Website
(Free parking available to Bootleg customers behind the Praise Christian Fellowship Church across the street at 2235 Beverly Blvd. Turn North on Roselake Ave. off of Beverly and the parking lot entrance will be on your left.)

Lara Nall is excited about PROJECT WONDERLAND at Bootleg Theater

January 16, 2010

Lara Nall is excited about PROJECT WONDERLAND at Bootleg.

Thematic content includes: Bring Kids, Redemption, Puppets, Singing, Live Music, Dance/ Movement, Highbrow, Humor, Drug Use

PROJECT WONDERLAND runs from 1/15 to 2/7
Th,F,Sa at 8pm Sn at 3pm, $15-$25.
Map of Bootleg
Purchase Tickets
Visit the Bootleg Website
(Free parking available to Bootleg customers behind the Praise Christian Fellowship Church across the street at 2235 Beverly Blvd. Turn North on Roselake Ave. off of Beverly and the parking lot entrance will be on your left.)

Thomas Hampton Reviews Absinthe, Opium, & Magic: 1920’s Shanghai -Grand Guignolers

January 13, 2010

Absinthe, Opium, & Magic:  1920’s Shanghai

Popular entertainment will always cater to the lowest common denominator.  Regardless of your highfalutin’ thoughts of “art and culture,” what people want is titillation and escape:  graphic violence, high cut slits, and low cut blouses.

And you get it in spades.  Take a look at the top selling video games and films of the recent past:  you’ve found sex, drugs, and explosions larger than California’s current budget woes.

So what does it take to get an audience out for live theater?  One draw should be an experience unlike any found at home or the cinema.

Debbie McMahon’s Grand Guignolers take that to heart, and provide a fully encompassing presentation that begins outside the door to the theater, and continues to pull you in during a fully immersive evening of entertainment.

If only every lobby and pre-show was so buzzing with activity, revelry, and joy.
Sigh…

Thematic content includes:  Sex, Violence, Self Destruction, Drug Use, Puppets, Singing, Dance/ Movement, Lowbrow, Humor

Absinthe, Opium, & Magic: 1920’s Shanghai runs from November, 21, 2009 to February, 7, 2010.
(some Thursdays) Friday, Saturday, Sunday $25 to $30.
Map of Art/Works Theater
Buy Tickets
Visit the Grand Guignoler website
Contact the production/ producers

Thomas Hampton Reviews Absinthe, Opium, & Magic: 1920’s Shanghai Lobby Shots -Grand Guignolers

January 12, 2010

Here are some lobby shots from our treck to Absinthe, Opium, & Magic: 1920’s Shanghai.  Keep a look out for our “Macro Review” later this week- and take advantage of a PAY WHAT YOU CAN night this Thursday, January, 14, 2010.




See and download the full gallery on posterous

Thematic content includes:  Sex, Violence, Self Destruction, Drug Use, Puppets, Singing, Dance/ Movement, Lowbrow, Humor
Absinthe, Opium, & Magic: 1920’s Shanghai runs from November, 21, 2009 to January, 24, 2010.
(some Thursdays) Friday, Saturday, Sunday $25 to $30.
Map of Art/Works Theater
Buy Tickets
Visit the Grand Guignoler website
Contact the production/ producers

 

Production Stills of Absinthe, Opium, & Magic: 1920’s Shanghai -Grand Guignolers

January 12, 2010



See and download the full gallery on posterous

We headed out to see the Grand Guignolers’ Absinthe, Opium, & Magic:  1920’s Shanghai last night at Art/Works Theater.  Here are some production stills.  Stay tuned for lobby shots from our visit, and later this week, the Macro Review.

If you are low on cash, check out their PAY WHAT YOU CAN night this Thursday, January, 14th.

Thematic content includes:  Sex, Violence, Self Destruction, Drug Use, Puppets, Singing, Dance/ Movement, Lowbrow, Humor
Absinthe, Opium, & Magic: 1920’s Shanghai runs from November, 21, 2009 to January, 24, 2010.
(some Thursdays) Friday, Saturday, Sunday $25 to $30.
Map of Art/Works Theater
Buy Tickets
Visit the Grand Guignoler website
Contact the production/ producers

Thomas Hampton Reviews Twenty-Two Knightsbridge Theater & The Filthy Lovelies

January 11, 2010

Twenty-Two

How long can you ignore evidence of a problem before you attempt to fix it…  or do you choose to ignore it and double down?

We seem hardwired to fuel our never ending destructive consumption in an attempt to attain more:  more money, more house, a higher high.

Julia Morizawa’s (playwright/ actress/ producer) characters all admit to their personal demons.  They know they do too much blow, drive drunk, abandon their children, take advantage of each other.  They know they shouldn’t.  Can they choose to change their behavior?

If you are a student of history, the answer is simple enough and self evident:  Tulip Mania of the late 1630’s, the tech sector’s spectacular fall ten years ago, our current housing/ mortgage debacle.

Can we choose to change our behavior before our bubble bursts?  Can we afford not to?

Thematic content includes:  Sex, Violence, Rape, Self Destruction, Drug Use, Humor.

Twenty-Two runs from January, 8, 2010 to January, 30, 2010.
Friday and Saturday, performances at 8pm, $10.
Map of Knightsbridge Theater
Buy Tickets
Visit the Twenty-Two or Knightsbridge website
Contact the production/ producers