Review of Sierra Madre Playhouse’s Production of Mitch Albom’s “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Albom and Jeffrey Hatcher

If you are interested in a play about a friendship between a student and his beloved sociology professor, look no further than Sierra Madre Playhouse’s
 production of Mitch Albom’s “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Jeffrey Hatcher and Albom at Sierra Madre Playhouse in Sierra Madre, CA through March 31st.
This is the story of a friendship between a nationally-known professor at Brandeis University suffering from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) 
and his famous sports journalist of a former student who has more questions than answers. 
 Within this moon glow of a relationship, two major questions are advanced:
1.What is friendship?
2.Who is God?
The former builds on stage throughout as the master, here referred to as coach, slowly withers away before us, the audience, but not before 
changing the student from a self-involved, time-absorbed professional to a kindred spirit unafraid of showing the love and freedom in his heart of hearts
and soul of souls.  The latter defined by the love displayed by both men.  One in coming to terms with his mortality, and the other by learning 
the meaning of life by releasing the inner light most of us are afraid to let shine and taught to hide.
The writing here is realistic, relevant and retroactive. It begins with mutual respect and ends in utter admiration of both parties for the other.
The words soar off the page like eagles, and fly with the saints.
They are a mountain peak and egg yellow sun tearing through gray storm clouds.
The language grabs you by the throat and dances on your cranium for 105 minutes, never letting go and always allowing space for humanity, grace and gentility
among friends and enemies alike.
Hatcher and Albom are truly gifted playwrights with a reason, rhythm and rhyme in their footsteps.
They feed us, the audience, the universe in small doses while growing the characters and expanding their repertoire to include intellectual and comical
flights of fancy and sincere, seamless and soaring poetry.
“Tuesdays with Morrie” is the best-selling memoir of all time, with over ten million copies sold worldwide.
Albom, along with Hatcher, adapted the book into a play which opened Off-Broadway in 2002 and has been produced in regional theatres throughout North America.
Albom, the nationally acclaimed newspaper columnist, radio host and television commentator, lives in suburban Detroit.
Director L. Flint Esquerra gives both actors room to be themselves. The director of two Tennessee Williams plays (“A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”)
at The Group Repertory Theatre in North Hollywood, where Larry Eisenberg (Morrie) is the co-artistic director, understands the themes of forgiveness and family running
in-between the playwrights’ lines like relish a hot dog and bun.
Like a cobalt sky brightening a dark afternoon, Esquerra adds restraint, order and discipline enough to allow the play to jump from the page to the stage,
and make for a deeper and more meaningful emotional and spiritual connection with the audience.
His helming of the production proves steadfast, efficient and colorful in imagination, personality and subject matter.
Esquerra assembles two courageous and transparent actors who comprehend, and are eager to accept, the play’s brutal honesty.
Eisenberg (Morrie) almost steals the show as the older professor with the silver tongue and golden words of wisdom.
The Shakespearean actor (“Comedy of Errors” and “King Lear”) gives a convincing and mesmerizing turn.
It is difficult to play a dying person.  Every movement, action and nuance must be perfect. The veteran theatre director is up to the challenge by
keeping us, the audience, torn between a laugh and a tear.
This tour-de-force of a portrayal may be the best work of the film writer’s (“David Proshker” and “Fish don’t Blink”) career.
It combines true generosity with genuine spontaneity that leave us, the audience, stirred and ready to take a good, hard look at our lives.
The Broadway World Regional Best Director award-winner for Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers” deserves a world of credit for taking on this 
vital and challenging role with such vigor and passion.   
But it is Jackson Kendall (Mitch) who runs away with the play.
In a brilliant, moving and electric performance that showcases a character’s growth from immaturity to maturity and boy to man, the veteran Sierra Madre Playhouse
actor shows-off a luminous vulnerability and substance that not only stop traffic for miles around, but a talent for tragedy and pure drama that will serve him well at any age,
but especially now.
The performing arc that the co-founder and vice president of Boom Stick Theater’s character takes is one usually reserved for Shakespearean tragedies and Greek dramas.
But here Kendall more than makes Mitch his own through a daunting stage presence, narrator’s gifted tongue and little boy charm that mark this characterization 
as one of the most important and relevant in recent local theatre history.
This critic hopes to see Kendall on stages in Los Angeles and beyond again soon.
Furthering the message of the play are Amanda Knehans’ set design, Derek Jones’ innovative lighting design, Christopher Moscatiello’s powerful sound design and Michael Mullen’s costume design.
All in all, “Tuesdays with Morrie” succeeds because of, not despite, the lessons it teaches about bravery in the face of overwhelming odds,
and the true meaning of life.
In its motivated and meticulous cadence and flow, the drama proves that age is but a number and regret just a word.
In its potent and powerful panache, the play takes us on a philosophical and metaphysical journey where love overcomes just about every obstacle and
friendship is so much more than a cliche.
That two actors can fill the stage for nearly two hours and not miss a beat is almost as miraculous as those two actors anchoring our attention for
that same time period.
All seems well on West Sierra Madre Boulevard as Artistic Director Christian LeBano and Managing Director Estelle Campbell’s 
choice of material and performers here weave a illuminating, inspiring and educational chemistry that leaves us, the audience, enchanted, enticed and enhanced as human beings.

“You talk,” Morrie says, “and I’ll listen.” 
Sierra Madre Playhouse has listened, and now they are talking.
By Radomir Vojtech LuzaTheatre, Film and Book Critic
SHOWTIMES: Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 2:30 PM, except March 17th.Pay what you can performance on Monday, March 18th.ADMISSION: $40. Seniors (65+),$36, Students (age 21 and under), $20.INFORMATION/RESERVATIONS: (626) 355-4318WHERE: Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, CA 91024               Just east of Pasadena.PARKING: Ample free parking in a lot behind the playhouse.      

Review of Group Repertory Theatre’s Production of WHOOPSIE DOOPSIE By Art Shulman Upstairs at the GRT in North Hollywood, CA

If you are interested in a charming, comic tale of two young people at a crossroads in their relationship and lives, run do not walk to The Group Repertory Theatre’s production of

“Whoopsie Doopsie,” written and directed by Art Shulman, and playing in the Black Box Theatre Upstairs at the GRT in the North Hollywood Arts District through March 3rd.
This is the story of a young man who gets his girlfriend pregnant, but instead of having the baby, the young woman decides to have an abortion.
In-between the story of the two lovers, we, the audience, are treated to events happening to the young lad each year from age two to the current 17.

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Review of Group Repertory Theatre’s Production of One-Acts LAUNDRY AND BOURBON and LONE STAR by James McLure

If you are interested in two one-act plays that intertwine through time and place, run do not walk to The Group Repertory Theatre’s production of
James McLure’s “Laundry and Bourbon” and “Lone Star” at The Lonny Chapman Theatre in The North Hollywood Arts District through March 3rd.
These are the stories of three women and three men who come together separately on a hot day in Maynard, Texas in the early 1970’s for tales of
love, marriage, desperation, betrayal and, ultimately, redemption.
“Lone Star” completes what “Laundry and Bourbon” begins with grace, aplomb and passion.
These are six authentically human characters presented by the Louisiana-born and Jesuit-educated playwright as nothing less than strong, funny, but, undoubtedly, vulnerable and wounded

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Review of CAPS-ATC Productions Presentation of Bertolt Brecht’s “The Jewish Wife” and Jean-Paul Sartre’s “The Respectful Prostitute”

If you are interested in two plays about racial persecution that are motivated by and echo in today’s world, run do not walk to The CAPS-ATC Productions’ presentation of
Bertolt Brecht’s “The Jewish Wife” and Jean-Paul Sartre’s “The Respectful Prostitute” running through December 9th at T.U. Studios in The North Hollywood Arts District.
Both plays tell stories of suffering, doubt and paranoia.  The first, translated by Eric Bentley, of a Jewish wife in Berlin, Germany in the late 1930’s leaving the world she knows behind because of
the impending and
looming threat of the Nazi Party and its brutal and final anti-Jewish solution, is simple but profound in plot, intent and execution.

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Review of The Group Repertory Theatre’s Production of A CAROL CHRISTMAS

If you are interested in a new musical version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” run do not walk to The Group Repertory Theatre’s World Premiere production of “A Carol Christmas,” book
by Doug Haverty, music
and lyrics by Bruce Kimmel, at The Lonny Chapman Theatre, running through December 30th in the North Hollywood Arts District.
This adaptation of the Dickens classic, set in today’s America, features a woman named Carol, the brains and beauty behind a home shopping network show, who does not like Christmas and
wants her staff to work through the holidays.

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Review of Collaborative Artists Ensemble’s Production of Kat Ramsburg’s ANATOMY OF A HUG

If you are interested in a drama about a relationship between a mother and her daughter, look no further than Collaborative Artists Ensemble’s production of Kat Ramsburg’s award-winning
“Anatomy Of A Hug”
running at The Sherry Theatre in The North Hollywood Arts District through December 2nd.
This is the story of Amelia, the heartbroken but idealistic daughter, and Sonia, the dying mother who murdered her husband, Amelia’s father, when Amelia was a child.
With the aide of a social worker, Amelia agrees to take in her mother as Sonia is suffering from Ovarian Cancer and has been given Compassionate Release from prison because of her terminal

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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.

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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.

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