Review of Combined Artform’s Production of Alex M. Frankel’s REVOCABLE TRUST on Theatre Row in Hollywood, CA

Review of The 68 Cent Crew Theatre Company’s Production of I’M NOT A COMEDIAN…I’M LENNY BRUCE in North Hollywood, CA Extended Through September 15th

Review of Group Repertory Theatre’s Production of William Shakespeare’s ROMEO AND JULIET in North Hollywood, CA Arts District

If you are interested in a new concept of old-fashioned love, make a beaten path to The Group Repertory Theatre’s successful adaptation of
William Shakespeare’s “Romeo And Juliet” running through October 14th in the North Hollywood Arts District.
Set in pre-World War II Berlin, Germany, where Romeo is a German boy and Juliet a Jewish girl,
this brand new version of the more than 450-year-old play manages to hold onto its luster and heartbreak at the same time.
The language dances, dodges and demands.  It ascends to the turquoise sky while descending through lush valleys and aqua green oceans with the
beauty of a black eagle soaring and the sophistication of Audrey Hepburn in the Oscar-winning film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
The words have never sounded more appealing, passionate and refreshing.  The metaphors powerful and explosive.
This Shakespeare is as pure as possible given the fresh twist.
The syllables echoing off the walls of the staid Lonny Chapman Theatre as the actors come down from Row Z reciting line after rich line.
Oh, to have been a piece of paper staring at the Bard’s ink pen during his heyday of penning about 38 plays and 154 sonnets.in the late 1500’s and early 1600’s.
Director Shira Dubrovner, a former GRT member, installs a large digital black and white screen on the wall behind the stage
flashing photographs, statements, explanations and quotes regarding the Jewish experience in Germany during the 1930’s.
This visual aid is a brilliant friend to the proceedings as it explains the whys and wherefores of the plot and past.
As one who has seen many deplorable ideations of Shakespeare, I am thrilled and happy to report that this adaptation works because it adds
a deeper, more tragic and meaningful layer to Shakespeare’s already potent, fervent and electric story.
Stan Mazin’s choreography is brazen, bold and beautiful.
It reminds of “West Side Story” not only in its Capulets (Jets) versus Montagues (Sharks) antagonistic, anti-hero glory, but its stark, brave and naked
motivation, movement and montage.
The dance sequences shimmer in moon dust and the fight action in bloody, but soul redeeming physical magic.
Dubrovner assembles a wonderfully gifted cast that comprehends the simple beauty and complexity of the playwright’s poetic symmetry.
Standouts include:
Mike Bingaman (Romeo) gives a convincing turn as the star crossed lover.
The native of Perth, Western Australia brings a strong and solid emotional and spiritual makeup to the role that
leaves us, the audience, deeply touched and moved.
The American Academy of Dramatic Arts graduate embraces the part as if it was his own while not
forgetting who Romeo is at his core.
Savannah Schoenecker (Juliet) portrays her character with a mix of jubilation and suffering that leave tears beneath the seats and
silent hosannas wafting towards the rafters.
The AADA graduate’s soul felt and heart full spontaneity is enough to awaken a slumbering Paul Bunyan as she sprints and saunters to and from the stage throughout the evening.
Schoenecker’s Second Act is a thing of delicate, tender and transcendent power, sensitivity and beauty.
She gives all and holds back none in some of the Bard’s most difficult lines and monologues.
But running away with the show is Heston Horwin  (Tybalt)  whose stage presence and intensity command the boards and whose every breath we believe and dare not betray.
Given that this is Horwin’s Los Angeles theatrical debut, the young actor’s seeming experience and maturity belie his age.
Yet once he opens his mouth we realize that this old soul will be around the theatre for decades to come.
Also running away with the play is Kyle deCamp (Mercutio) whose performance makes us weep, laugh and contemplate the state of humanity and society.
In what is one of the truest characterizations I have seen not only at the GRT, but anywhere ever, the University of Southern California BFA rules the stage, his arresting sense of humor and
nimble physique meshing perfectly with Shakespeare in mind, spirit and body.
It is little wonder, then, that deCamp has studied the Bard with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and worked with the Montana Shakespeare Company.
DeCamp’s larger than life stage presence is on full display here, especially in Act One, where he shows that the only limitations placed on an artist’s abilities and talents
are those he or she puts there him or herself.
Adding to the message of the play are Cheryl Crosland’s costumes, Steve Shaw’s ever consistent work on sound design and J. Kent Inasy’s typically innovative light design.
In the end, “Romeo And Juliet,” which had its world premiere at Mammoth Lakes Repertory Theatre where Dubrovner serves as Artistic Director and Festival Director of the Mammoth Lakes
Film Festival, succeeds because of its
new setting, not despite it.
Putting the classic in such a rare, unique and historically significant place at such an important time in mankind’s journey only helps solidify the acrobatic and Herculean imagination and vision
behind this production.
The new surroundings prove thought provoking and timeless in their authenticity, sincerity and further understanding of the mistrust, hatred and jealousy the two houses harbor for each other.
Give us a playwright whose sentient work and prolific output have been described as “the literary bridge to God” along with a talented director, choreographer and cast.
Let them shine a direct spotlight on German Fuhrer Adolph Hitler and the often unspoken truth that if good men and women are silent when there is nothing but bad surrounding them,
the bad will continue or increase in size and scope, and you have more than a play about a boy and a girl and their families, but a direct condemnation and indictment of those who stood, stand
and will continue to stand by and say
and do nothing while Rome burns.
By placing us in this fresh bubble, the love story also intensifies focus on the meaning and mission of love in a seemingly sexually-stimulated world interested more in uppers and downers such as
alcohol and drugs
which numb not further the euphoria, joy and wisdom accompanying true love.
By choosing this tragedy as past of its main stage season, the GRT has once more proven that it is one of the most inspired, inventive and innovative theatre ensembles not only in the City of
Angels, but the country.
Once turning-out little more than “community theatre” fare, the GRT has made a remarkable turnaround in less than a decade under the leadership of Co-Artistic Directors Larry Eisenberg and
Chris Winfield to a wonderfully creative
theatre and thought factory for many of the
deepest, most compelling, prolific and honored plays of our time and the actors, directors, choreographers and crew that wish to spread their message.
The future certainly seems sun red on Burbank Boulevard under these two theatrical visionaries.
The GRT is the San Fernando Valley’s Truth Tangerine.
Kudos to the juice it makes and all those who regularly drown in it.
It appears to be paying maximum dividends.
By Radomir Vojtech Luza
Theatre and Book Critic
Showtimes:
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm
Talk back after Sunday matinee on September 23rd.
Tickets:
General Admission: $25
Seniors/Students with ID: $20
Groups 10+: $15
Information/General Admission: (818) 763-5990
Where: Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Boulevard, North Hollywood, CA 91601.

 

Review of Rabindranath Tagore’s SACRIFICE by Radomir Vojtech Luza

If you are interested in an epic play with dancing regarding the philosophical, spiritual and religious differences between a country’s king and chief priest, run do not walk to the
CAPS Productions presentation of “Sacrifice” by legendary Bengali playwright Rabindranath Tagore running through July 22nd at The Broadwater Theatre in Hollywood.
This story of the King of Tripura banning blood sacrifices at the temple of Goddess Kali and the affect it has on the Chief Priest, who stops at nothing to defy him,
is nothing short of a tragic classic that reminds us why we are alive.
Through sheer simplicity, grandeur and deep thought the playwright takes what could have been a simple tale of the clash between spirituality and religion to new heights
 worthy of being produced and read until the end of time.
The language is moving, poetic and lyrical.
It forces us, the audience, to ask questions about the existence of God and religion and the importance or insignificance of war and violence.
The play is a river that does not stop flowing, a mountain that never reaches its peak and an eagle that does not stop soaring.
The words free us from the shackles of the mind and body and allow us to fly to the ends of the sky to be seated at the right hand of the Maker.
The playwright uncuffs us from deeply held religious beliefs to let us find our own way through this maze of philosophies and beliefs called existence.
In other words, Bengali poet and musician Tagore, who was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913, and who reshaped Bengali literature and music
as well as Indian art with Contextual Modernism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries is showing us the universe his way.
.
The dancing is singular, soulful and salient.
It reflects Tagore’s play writing and rebellious nature.
Its rhythm, athleticism and grace give the show a unique aspect that separates it from other tragedies of this magnitude.
The choreography and dance direction are stellar.
The movement rare, mysterious and dark to underscore the playwright’s contemplative flights.
Overall, the dancing is dramatic, dogmatic and daunting.
The ten dancers deserve high marks.
Director Aramazd Stepanian interprets Tagore’s language and mindset here wisely, profoundly and eloquently.
He does not get in the way of the actors or Tagore’s penmanship.
Stepanian, instead, assembles a deeply gifted cast and group of dancers to further the idea that what is read in the scriptures cannot be duplicated in real life.
Stone, stucco and rock, after all, are not flesh, bone and soul.
The veteran director brings together a group of actors that comprehend the difficulty and complexity of Tagore’s thinking and writing.
Stand-outs include:
Louie Mandrapilias (Govinda-the king of Tripura) who gives a convincing turn complete with compassion, sympathy and leadership qualities enough to make
his character burn with love and command with calm.  Mandrapilias’ laid-back style serves him well, especially towards the end of the proceedings.
Aramazd Stepanian (Raghupati-the chief priest of the temple)  In sheer presence alone, Stepanian almost steals the show.  The longtime director and actor understands his character as well or better
than any other actor in the play.
His pronunciation, profundity and power make this portrayal nothing short of unforgettable.
Tagore, himself, were he alive, could not have pictured a different performer in the role.
Stepanian’s strength stems from his firm belief in the script and playwright.
Here it turns out flawlessly.
But it is Manik Bahl (Jaising-a servant of the temple) who runs away with the show.
Bahl’s sensitivity and humility belie an intensity and drive second to none.
The young actor never stops being true to his character or the audience.
At one point in the first Sunday performance, standing on the front of the stage, the New Delhi native performed some of his lines to a man in a wheelchair sitting in front of the audience.
Such is the humanity and legacy of this brilliant actor.
His natural flow begins in the heart and soul and ends up on the boards at Lillian Way..
A performance for the ages.
This critic hopes to see Bahl on the stages of Hollywood or Los Angeles again soon.
Adding to the message of the play are Dance and Musical Director Rajasri Chakraborty, bold Costume Designer ‘Piu’ Mohua Roy and
Projectionist and Designer Erik Finck.
All in all, “Sacrifice” succeeds because of its spiritual color, philosophical raindrops and religious meadows, not despite them.
The mercurial, lyrical and natural quality of the writing is of the highest grade.
The direction, acting, dancing and music electric and drowning in the human spirit.
The play is a three alarm fire that forces us to gather ourselves and determine who we are, and what it is we believe,
or sometimes, do not believe.
It cajoles, communicates and caresses, often leaving a love song where a gaping hole in our heart once was.
This play must be seen because it is extremely unique and rare.
Penned by a non-white Indian who opposed British rule and saw things from a different perspective than the European and Industrial regimes of the day made him, like it or not, ahead of his time.
This masterpiece deserves to be placed in the same canon with the plays of the early Greeks and the world-renowned English playwright William Shakespeare.
.In many ways, it reminds of Shakespeare’s popular and tragic play “Hamlet.”
The play, then, proves that all is well at CAPS Productions.
The choice and success of this theatrical mother lode display a courage, intelligence and boldness most theatre companies can only hope to develop in their members and a
love and understanding of the stage many theatre ensembles can but hope to instill in their partners.
Kudos to all involved in an untainted and untamed realization.
By Radomir Vojtech Luza
Theatre, Film and Book Critic
Showtimes:
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 7 p.m.
Tickets:$25
Seniors and Students:$15
(Two tickets each per performance for groups of 4 and 6 persons are available online at www.itsmyseat.com/CAPS or from Abril Bookstore only (Not at the Door)
Reservations and Information:
(818) 450-4801
WHERE:
The Broadwater Theatre (formerly the Lillian Theatre)
1076 Lillian Way (at Santa Monica Blvd.)
Hollywood, CA 90038

Review of Mary Anneeta Mann’s Latest Play TORTOISE SHELL

Review of Mary Anneeta Mann’s MENTORING POEMS: Four Centuries of Selected Poetry

Review of Thelma T. Reyna’s Latest Collection of Poetry READING TEA LEAVES AFTER TRUMP

Review of Mary Anneeta Mann’s Latest Play TORTOISE SHELL

Review of Mary Anneeta Mann’s MENTORING POEMS: Four Centuries of Selected Poetry

Review of Thelma T. Reyna’s Latest Collection of Poetry READING TEA LEAVES AFTER TRUMP

Get in touch Radomir!