From June 14-24, theatre, comedy, music and some indescribable forms of performance were once again presented in venues that were blessedly within walking distance of one another in Hollywood.
Voices in My Head: A Life by Bill Ratner
More than just the premiere voice-over talent in Hollywood today, Ratner writes with subtlety and texture worthy of a literary fiction master. But it's all real and the tragedies that befell him in early life, as well as his love of radio, make this far beyond the average one man show. Sydney Walsh tastefully directs with live music by Vince White to accompany Ratner's mellifluous and wonderfully expressive voice.
Richard Parker by Owen Thomas
This spooky, absurdist two-hander is written by Thomas with a rationality that makes us hold our breath. Richard Parker (director Gareth John Bale) has researched and followed similarly named Richard Parker (Alistair Sill) onto a cruise ship. The former, with an unshakeable intensity, quotes strange consequences through history, leading up to his assertion that they will both wind up on a life raft together... and they do. Bale's double duty as actor-director is spot-on, Sill is a fine comedically confused foil and Thomas shows utter command of this strange interconnectedness.
Cycles by Robert Litz
A young man (Dominic Rains) shows up an older one (Alan Rosenberg) in an exercise room. But as revelations occur and the power shifts back and forth, we find in Litz's perfectly calibrated two character play that a tragic fire links the two of them, although culpability is up for grabs. Rosenberg, as a been-there-done-that real estate maven is particularly good here, showing up the insecure, muscular protégé who wants a revenge that may not justifiably be his to take.
The God Particle Complex by Chris Bell and Joshua Zeller
Science meets theatre of the absurd, as two scientists (Scott Harris and Andrew Erskine Wheeler) in CERN, the giant underground nuclear physics facility in Geneva, are in over their heads. The creation of a black hole threatens the universe, sending them a visitor from the future who keeps reappearing. While it doesn't all make sense dramatically, the science is at least clear and director Debbie McMahon gets major wacky style points.
Nostalgium by Matt Benyo
Tracy Dillon plays a woman who is pained by a leg that she wishes to amputate and visitor Luke Scroggins is not clear about the psychedelic button she claims he licked the day before. Oh, yes, they are both drug addicts and Benyo is more interested in atmosphere than explaining the exact nature of the relationship of these two characters. Director Alexander Thomas Scott gives it a go and Dillon impresses but the play raises too many unresolved questions to truly involve us.
The Black Glass by Guy Zimmerman
Writer-director Zimmerman has fashioned an amorphous, quasi-poetic mishmash about a CEO who is perplexed about his second in command, the two women who wander through his office and memory and his own daughter, who seems to have been forced into sexual debauchery. The women survive and the men meet dastardly ends. It's all way too precious and obscure for serious consideration.
Doc Faustus: A Soulless Western Comedy by Sound & Fury
Christopher Marlowe would not care for this over-the-top Wild West sendup of Doctor Faustus and not just because he comes from another century. The three-man comedy team of Sound & Fury are way too loose in performance style, too chock full of labored puns and asides that fall flat. Their often sloppy costume and scene changes are papered over with improvisation quips that cannot hide the fact that they need to be considerably less casual about the serious business of clowning about.
Dr. G's Empirical Compound by Norman Goldblatt
Norman Goldblatt is an astronomer, inventor and physicist. He is alas, not a seasoned performer and his wry, pleasant observations are held back by his uncertainty in the spotlight, as well as his over-reliance on "I'm-a-nerd" material that never reaches for the profound. Tim Lee is another likeable Ph.D. whose slides depict sometimes amusing analogies between physics and say, a roommate's hair on a bar of soap. It's charming as a curtain raiser for a while but both gentlemen need to plot a graph for the appeal of scientists who have not taken enough acting classes.
Drunk with Hope in Chicago by Tara Handron
A worthy idea for a one-woman show, but not conceived well. Handron shows charm and variety in multiple roles of women who are alcoholics: black, white, effete, ashamed, nuturing, furious. But she tries to do too many characters in one hour and does not reach the depths one would expect from the view into the lost souls of women on the verge.
I Am Google/Craig Shaynak
He's chubby, sweaty and has enough energy to light up downtown. Shaynak, as the hydra-headed cyber-entity known as Google has some fun relatives, like Yahoo and Skype and his one man show is punctuated by phone inquiries from Google users. He's good with improv as well but the show runs out of steam well before his 45 minutes of quips are up.
The Collector by Bridget Rountree and Iain Gunn
The dialogue-free puppet and video theatre of Rountree and Gunn has the feeling of the British animators the Quay Brothers, but with less intensity and focus. Still, there are moments when we connect with the emotions of a male puppet trying to bring life to a female or a monkey being pummeled by the same male. Low marks for coherence, high marks for theatrical daring.
If Water Were Present, It Would Be Called Drowning by John Sinner
Director Sinner's writing of this poetic condemnation of female purgatory in married life is very well played by Betsy Moore. She ranges all over the stage, showing humor, rage and sexual fantasy with equal aplomb. By the time she gains the courage to leave her robotic hubby, the audience is totally behind her and Sinner.
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