Friday, November 30, 2012

2012 PERMANENT INK

"Vintage Ink" AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by artnoose
 
It's on!  Click here to vote for the best, original, unpublished plays to debut in Los Angeles on 2012!

Last year, someone gamed the survey and managed to nab a spot on the list.  In order to provide a check against that, there are two new qualifications for inclusion:
1. Each play must have been reviewed at least THREE times by reputable online sources of live theatre criticism. 
2. Each play must have had a run of at least two weeks.

The playwright who gamed it last year would have been easily disqualified by both points, so I feel pretty good about this update.

Last year we had a paltry 78 responses to this survey.  We can do much better than that.  Remember: the more people who respond, the more accurate this list will be!

Voting closes on December 30th, and the results will be posted on New Years Eve.  Vote, forward the link, and spread the word.

Here's the web address to the survey for you to copy and paste: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/6R6HMXT

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Support the Monday Night Tease!


Lili VonSchtupp, producer extraordinaire of the longest running weekly burlesque show in Los Angeles, The Monday Night Tease is raising funds for a retrospective of the show:

My weekly burlesque show, Monday Night Tease, has been a staple in the Los Angeles live entertainment scene since 2004. It’s not just a home to LA performers but it’s a destination for out of town performers as well. It’s been described as the heartbeat of the LA burlesque scene launching new talent and nurturing performers to take risks. A lot of burlesque shows have come and gone, but on any Monday night you find yourself in LA at 9:45pm, you know there will be performers at  backstage at The Three Clubs, touching up their makeup, applying false eyelashes, and gluing on pasties getting ready to dance their hearts out.

Four years ago, I set foot on Lili's stage.  I'm pretty sure it was with Red, as part of the Tarantino-themed burlesque show:


Since then I've hosted, co-hosted, stripped, slapsticked, sung, killed, bombed -- you name it.  There is no stage I'm more comfortable on, and no producer I admire as much as Lili VonSchtupp.  

She gets it done.  Weekly.  Her show is on time, often standing room only, and it always pays.  She gives newcomers much needed stage time, and she rolls out the red carpet for legends of burlesque who are still shaking it well into their 60's.  Performers from all around the world have graced her stage.  It is a burlesque show, but she books variety artists as well: magicians, jugglers, contortionists, performance artists, musicians, ventriloquists, and these two guys:


That's Phillip Kelly and me, aka "Mr. Snapper & Mr. Buddy," making our Monday Night Tease debut.

Permanent Ink List 2012

"Crisis on the desktop" Attribution Some rights reserved by Alan Cleaver
Last year I ran a poll and you, the reader, voted for your favorite original plays of 2011.  We'll be doing that again shortly (once I figure out some sort of a failsafe to prevent people from gaming the poll.  Apparently the honor system is not enough.  Eh ... theater people. O_o)

BUT FIRST!  Let's review the reason why we do this, shall we?

I was inspired by an article Howard Sherman wrote at HowlRound back in November of last year:

I wonder whether the not-for-profit theater is guilty of what we accuse “popular culture” of doing, that is to say, constantly embracing the new and abandoning anything that can be accused of being “so five minutes ago” (as is that particular phrase). Do we lionize only the true hits and consign the vast body of literature engendered by and created for our stages to the dustbin of history? Yes, you can browse for them at the Drama Book Shop in New York or the Samuel French shop in Los Angeles, but beyond that, they require archeological hunts, facilitated by sites both commercial (Amazon) and altruistic (the dizzyingly thorough Doollee.com). But how many never even saw publication, relegating them to permanent anonymity?

One of the most depressing things about reviewing shows is seeing decades-old posters for "The New Play By ..." prefaced by some title I've never heard of and followed by some name I maybe recognize as a current board member for the theatre company.  These posters may be found in just about every lobby of every theatre company in town.  Seriously, go look.  It's like we produce these things, hang the poster on the wall like a hunting trophy, and promptly forget them.

And I get it.  Theater is a constantly evolving, immediate artform.  Yet we think nothing of producing stale, 400 year old plays by some English playwright whose name escapes me.  Why not give legs to a year-old play that perhaps has more relevance for today's non-doublet-wearing crowd?

The point of the Permanent Ink List is to say THESE PLAYS ARE GOOD AND DESERVE FURTHER PRODUCTION.  Artistic Directors and dramaturgs in far-flung burgs, we're making your work easier here at Mad Theatrics.  Simply take the list of five plays, contact the playwrights, arrange for production, and you have your next season all picked out.  Boom!  Done!  Nailed it.

Keep your eyes peeled, new play fans.  We'll be posting the 2012 poll in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Avenue Q

DOMA Theatre presents
Avenue Q
by Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty
directed by Richard Israel


review by Phillip Kelly

Other than hearing a few hooks from some of the songs, this was my first experience with Avenue Q. I've never heard any of the music. In fact, I avoided it so I could hear it for the first time on stage. And I'm pleased to report that my first experience was a good one. Q is not as raunchy as Peter Jackson's Meet the Feebles, which is not a bad thing. The creators' inspiration was more Simpsons, South Park or Family Guy. It's irreverent in a silly way. I can't imagine this show offending anyone. Much of the story is told through Sesame Street like vignettes, but I'm not going to go into the story as you probably already know it, or should see it.

Like watching a movie with subtitles - it takes a few moments to adjust to keeping your eyes on the felt as opposed to the flesh and blood performers, who all do fantastic jobs, many times voicing two puppets from different areas of the room at once. Their character voices are spot on, and their singing voices are vibrant. Chris Kauffmann (voicing Princeton and Rod) and Danielle Judovits (Kate Monster, Lucy), are both extremely talented in these areas. Thank goodness, as they are the leads! Judovits does need to loosen her arm up a bit, get the puppet off her hip, to really bring it to life. At times, it feels like she forgets it's there and has the tendency to upstage her felt personas (This is me being nit picky, as she's an excellent performer). Mark Whitman is extraordinary, taking on several of the more secondary characters to great effect. The nonpuppet carriers Chris Kerrigan and Janelle Dote do a stand up job playfully giving fresh interpretations to all the human friends on Sesame Street. Benai Boyd as Gary Coleman, captures the spirit of the little man we all loved to tease out of love. But the one who really deserves some attention here is Libby Letlow, who voices Mrs. T and one of the hilarious Bad Decision Bears, when she's not voicing those roles she's physically bringing the puppets alive when they aren't on the appropriate voice actors arms. A performance like this is the backbone of any show. She's not a lead, and yet she's full of life, commitment and works the hell out of those puppets! To cast someone any less talented than Libby, would have brought the entire production down a few notches. But nope, everyone here is equally talented and they bring a joy to the production that's infectious.

The show's heart didn't surprise me. This level of satire and spoof comes with intelligence and typically that means the production will have some heart for people to connect with. Here, it was effective.

I've now seen a handful of productions at DOMA and this is probably the best I've seen, and a great way for anyone to introduce themselves to this ambitious company. You could say it's hard to screw up such a good piece of material, but let me tell you - it's easy to, look at how much poor Shakespeare is done. Israel has brought together an incredibly talented group of people, including Chris Raymond, the musical director, Angela Todaro, the choreographer, and all of the designers. This is a top notch show. 

Nicely done.

Avenue Q 
Directed by Richard Israel
Presented By DOMA Theatre @ The Met Theatre
1089 N. Oxford Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90029
November 9th-December 16th Fridays-Sundays
For tickets and times: www.domatheatre.com or 323-802-4990

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Woyzeck

The Illyrian Players present
Woyzeck
by Georg Buchner
adapted and directed by Jaymie Bellous



review by Phillip Kelly

The play Woyzeck is simple. And in that simplicity it touches upon the complexities of human nature: love, dishonesty, jealousy, madness, revenge – but which of these is real and which is imagined. The title character, Woyzeck, is prodded and pushed, teased and twisted around backwards until the audience doesn’t know if what we’re seeing is what he thinks may be happening or what actually is happening. It’s a story of a man who sells his soul piece by piece to make a little money to give to his mistress who has a child, and in doing so becomes less of a man.

Presented by the Illyrian Players, the director, Jaymie Bellous, has taken the extra step to emasculate Woyzeck by casting a woman, Emma Hawley. Of the cross gender casting I’ve seen in Los Angeles, this is one of those that makes sense and thematically is effective. But that isn’t the only surprise! The director has incorporated the art of clowning. Two silent chorus clowns are interspersed throughout the show, in between scenes, sometimes to highlight the absurdity, other times to mirror a theme or emotion, and finally to simply and cleverly get a prop into one of the actors hands. The other actors, too, are made up to appear slightly clown like. This helps sell the cross genderizing and adds a level of absurdity and surrealism to the proceedings (two things I like most.) She’s tied it into a bow with haunting music and sound design (Sinan Zafar) and lighting schemes (Jennifer Hill). As an audience member, we’re supposed to perhaps feel Woyzeck’s madness, and when the production is at its most effective, we do. And when all the ideas don’t quite connect, well, it’s never, not interesting.

Overall the cast is game and quite good. Madeline Harris as Marie, Woyzeck’s mistress, is a natural – she captures all the commitment, desires and confusions that live within a woman. Gerard Marzilli playing the Drum Major is one of the few men in the show and he rages with masculinity in a way that truly offsets Hawley’s performance and demeanor.

While tonally the landscape was effective, the final moments of the show – the tragedy - didn’t command my attention or emotional involvement as much as I would have wanted. The words were said, the action is taken and, unfortunately, this to me is one of those instances where the production fell short. At times it seemed like a little more effort was directed towards the world the characters inhabited than grounding the character’s emotionally in the situation. Hawley, while effectively cast, doesn’t always convey the growing madness, desperation and anxiety that drives Woyzeck, at least as well as the design team was able to do with the environment around her. At other times some of the performances didn’t always flow emotionally from one instance to the next – like there’s a thought missing in the performance that would get us to the next step. Part of it could be simply that it was a highly stylized show. Part of it could be, as a lot of productions struggle with this in Los Angeles*, a lack of dress and final rehearsals. There’s enough talent on stage that I have no doubt these missing beats will be filled in as the actors become more comfortable.

Overall, Bellous has found an interesting and effective way to tell the story of Woyzeck, even if the show doesn't quite live up to its own ambitions, at least everyone involved should be proud that they had such high ambitions; a character trait I’m always pleased to see in artists and their theatre companies.

*This comment is not to be seen as a disparagement against the show or Illyrian. Having been an Artistic Director and director of many productions in LA, when you're working on a budget, you're contending with other rentals in the space you're at. It's a simple and oft times frustrating reality. The fact that Illyrian and Bellous pulled off as much as they set out to do, is a testament to the talent involved.

Woyzeck presented by The Illyrian Player 
Performances: FRIDAY - SUNDAY, November 2nd - 18th.
Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm
Location: The Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood CA 90038
All Tickets are $10
TO RESERVE TICKETS NOW:
www.illyrianplayers.com/tickets.html