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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.
“Only for a couple of weeks,” the wife tells the husband about the length of her departure, though we, the audience, know it may be forever.
The writing is bold and sure, never leaving us wondering of its sincerity or direction.
Director Aramazd Stepanian, who directs both plays, sets an ominous, but genuine, tone, yet allows the two actors freedom enough to make viable choices that meld beautifully with the German
playwright’s story of
racial and religous abuse.
The lone Stand Out is Sandrine Sahakians (Judith Keith (The Wife)) who runs away with the show by giving a sensitive and convincing turn as a woman trusting instinct and intuition in risking
her old life for a new one.
Sahakians portrays the character with depth, feeling and extreme ache.  The actress is natural, wonderfully gifted and as delicate as a freshly-picked yellow rose.
The second play focuses on a prostitute trapped between two versions of an incident where the truth is murky. In experiencing great doubt, pain and fear in choosing which description of the truth
to embrace, she
begins to understand that she must live with the consequences of her actions and decisions.
Set somewhere in the Southern United States sometime in the last century and translated by Lionel Abel, the language, blunt and often frank, candid and unequivocal (the N word is uttered at
least 39 times)
nonetheless manages to lead us, the audience, into a universe where good is bad and bad is good.  Morals and ethics are upended and human beings used like Kleenex.
There is no love here, only sex and racism.  Sartre brilliantly paints the outlines of of a town caught-up and caged in its own selfishness and uncertainty. The black man is cautious of the white man
and vice versa.
The chocolate and vanilla extremes do not mix, leading to a ice cream sundae of a city without balance or taste.  The French playwright’s work is pure, unbending and uncompromising.
Stepanian does not deviate from the mission and purpose of Sartre’s message.  The longtime Armenian director allows the fury, anger and hypocrisy of the piece to emerge naturally.
Stand Outs on the second-to-last Sunday of the run when this critic saw the show include:
Stepanian (Austin Clarke (The Senator)) who with wisdom, wit and will compassionately and steadfastly creates a character who uses subtlety and charm rather than violence and intimidation to
get what he wants.
Stepanian, also a veteran actor, shows what he has learned over the years with a lean and measured, but ultimately, muscular characterization.
But stealing the show is Maude Bonanni (Lizzie McKay (The Prostitute)) who sizzles, sashays and  seduces in style, substance and sexuality.  The Italian and French actress builds her performance
moment by
moment.
The more the writing demands, the more Bonanni gives.  The more her character cries out in the dark, the more the experienced actress comes to the rescue.  In the second half, her vulnerability
and fragility mark a
woman in psychological and spiritual turmoil who finds herself at a crossroads.
The talented thespian gives a courageous portrayal touched by strength, sauciness and sweat.
The New York-trained actress does not abandon her purpose or motivation here, only getting more electric, raw and interesting as the show progresses.
There is an uncommon generosity and sincerity behind Bonanni’s talent, which are on full display.  She is naked in spirit and mind, yet full in range and geometry.
This critic hopes to see Bonanni on the stages of North Hollywood and Los Angeles again soon.
All in all, “The Jewish Wife” and “The Respectful Prostitute,” then, succeed because of, not despite, their themes of racial and religous prejudice.
In an alabaster orb where the truth depends on who is telling it, Brecht and Sartre prove that racial and religous persecution can happen anywhere good people do nothing when evil raises its
head.
In an age when mass shootings often signal a racial or religous bias, these two written works of art show the length and width of the problem and the bravery and love it will take to overcome the
division, suffering
and indecision holding us back as a country, people and planet.
The pairing of these two groundbreaking dramas also proves that all is well at CAPS-ATC Productions, one of the most daring and courageous theatre companies in Los Angeles or anywhere.
Kudos and more to all involved.
By Radomir Vojtech Luza
Theatre, Film and Book Critic
Showtimes:
Friday and Saturday at 8 PM
Sunday at 7 PM
Tickets: $20.00 per person or $65.00 for four persons
Use DISCOUNT CODE: RADOMIR for a 20% Discount per Ticket.
INFORMATION/ADMISSION: http://www.itsmyseat.com/CAPS
WHERE: T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo Street, North Hollywood, CA

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.
“A Carol Christmas” features women in the lead roles of Marley, Cratchit, Fred and Tiny Tim and 17 brand new songs.
The writing by Haverty is the baseline to this play and underscores a new holiday update that could easily be playing on Broadway instead of Burbank Boulevard.
The language is gripping, touching, insatiable and insightful and gives us, the audience, a glimpse into how a successful, demanding and overworked businesswoman can get so overly engrossed in
her job that she not
only gives up on, but begins to despise the true beauty, charm and purpose of Christmas.
This libretto is so much more than your average book.  It is the narrative structure, the thinking, the big picture that the actors enter into and sing.
Being the most dramatically important element of a musical, Haverty’s libretto is the glue that keeps the songs from being disjointed.
It works perfectly in concert with Kimmel’s timeless music and lyrics.
The music and lyrics are the touchstone of this musical.  They are deeply significant for their personal and civic relevance.
Forever etched in this critic’s heart and soul, Kimmel’s notes and words will one day be the yardstick by which all yuletide musicals are judged.
They are not only staggeringly meaningful, but pure and true in their mission and voice.
Kimmel, the director, brings a depth to this lush valley, a cotton candy sky to this sunrise and a silent power to this swan white mountain range.
The writer, director and star of the cult movie hit, “The First Nudie Musical” allows each actor to be him or herself while getting the best work out of them with finesse and love.
The co-creator of the film, “The Faculty,” directed by Robert Rodriguez, seems to understand that Christmas in its raw and naked sacredness and duty to God rises above any small human
weaknesses, tragedies and
troubles to a yearly shredding of ego, pomp and circumstance in order to find the emotion, wisdom and humanity that bring us all together as a people, world and universe.
Two examples are the musical numbers, “Separate Ways” sung soulfully by John Schroeder (Blake) and “Little Miracles” sung beautifully by Savannah Schoenecker (Blythe/Ensemble) and Peyton
Kirkner (Trina) which
capture the sun, moon and everything underneath them.
The orchestration by musical director Richard Allen is daunting in its faith in mankind and spirit and electricity in turning every day into Christmas.
Allen, who has orchestrated for and conducted both The London Symphony and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestras in a CD of Sherman Brothers music, gets the ungettable: that Christmas
transcends any mere
human trappings and captures hopes, dreams and aspirations almost ethereal in nature.
Kay Cole’s choreography is staunch, nimble and full of grace and feeling.
The director and choreographer of the film, “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks” seems to let the actors add their own input and imagination into the dance sequences, numbers and steps only
making them that much
more real, defined and sensitive to the music.
The best examples of this are Lloyd Pedersen’s (Pearlman/Mr. Forrester/Mr. Death) musical number, “Shuffle Off this Mortal Coil” by Mr. Death and the Death-ettes and Janet Wood’s
(Joelle/Karina/Featured Ensemble)
equally hilarious and unique number “Owaska Tea” sung by the Russian Shaman Karina.
Kimmel assembles a gifted group of actors who comprehend the achingly powerful nature of the words, lyrics and music and prove it throughout the 90 minute evening.
Stand outs include:
Hartley Powers (Carol) who gives a deeply convincing turn as the host of the shopping network show.
Powers, who has been performing since she was 11-months-old, and was Hermia in The Group Repertory’s production of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” shines here with
vocal power and stage
presence galore.  The show revolves around her and the veteran thespian is up to the challenge.
In scene after scene, she makes the actors around her better as she concurrently builds in power.
This is a gem of an actress whose characterization grows and matures as dramatically as the show does.
Yet it is Schoenecker who almost runs away with the play by giving us, the audience, a deeply felt portrayal the kind of which this critic has not seen in a long time.
As rich as midnight soil and black oil, the American Academy of Dramatic Arts graduate’s singing chops and heartfelt compassion are felt throughout the proceedings.
One only hopes that the Shakespearean actress (GRT’s “Romeo and Juliet”) spreads her wings even further in the future.
Here she is a ten carat diamond attracting attention to her talent in every possible moment.
But stealing the show is Kirkner, who in making her GRT debut, proves that youngsters can sparkle on stage as much, if not more, than adults.
The eighth-grader in the Musical Theatre Conservatory at Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana, CA, also proves that there is nothing more irresistible or powerful on the boards than
natural talent.
Kirkner’s singing and acting, especially when paired with Schoenecker, who plays her mother, is irrepressible, beautiful and charming.
In some ways, watching this gifted young performer is more than a little miracle.
One only hopes that she will continue to study and perform in this vein.
This critic hopes to see Kirkner on the stages of North Hollywood and Los Angeles again soon.
Also furthering the message of the musical are Tesshi Nakagawa’s innovative set design, Morgan Gannes’ unique costume design, Austin Quan’s sound design and Sabrina Beattie’s lighting design.
In the end, “A Carol Christmas” succeeds because of, not despite, its new, modern, feminized version in this age of #Me Too.
When women, especially young ones, prove that they can play men’s roles as well as, if not better, than the men who originally played them, maybe it is time that we realize that we are
living in a new and different world.
Women are not only beginning to get paid equally for their labor, but now are earning and landing jobs and roles they never have in the past.
Yes, it is still a man’s world, but watch out boys, the girls are gaining on you quickly.
This show, this musical feast, then, may be one of the steepest, if not the steepest, undertakings in The Group Repertory’s history, and that is quite a long one.
The writer, lyricist/director, musical director, choreographer, actors and crew that put this piece together are nothing less than magical in their creativity, wry sense of humor and fluid energy.
The show gives us, the audience, hope for a better day and world in this nuclear age of mass shootings and global warming.
It proves that musical theatre is not fluff, but a powerful and necessary form of art, entertainment and communication equal to its brother drama.
In following its muse, moment and masters, this show never swerved from doing what many do not: achieving both artistic and commercial success from the looks of the packed theatre on
opening night.
The fact that The Group Repertory may have a hit on its hands is due more than anything to the decision made by co-artistic directors Larry Eisenberg and Chris Winfield when they took over to
take The Group
Repertory on a swift and straight journey from producing and staging community theatre fare to reflective, meaningful and important work.
This brilliant chess move has yet to backfire, and once more hits platinum pay dirt here as it puts the ensemble on track to what could be an award-winning 2019.
If Christmas and its profound social, moral, ethical, psychological and spiritual impact over the years matters to you, and it should, then this is the show for you and your family to see.
Without one reference to Santa Claus, this neon night never deviates or bends from its intended task of breaking down barriers, taking bold risks and opening eyes to a fresh tomorrow that not only
aids in understanding
Christmas, but the human race.
By Radomir Vojtech Luza
Theatre, Film and Book Critic
Showtimes:
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM,
Sundays at 2:00 PM
No show on Friday, 11/23
Additional matinee, 11/24 at 2:00 PM
Talk-backs on 11/25 and 12/9
General Admission (Ages 5+): $25.00
Seniors/Students with ID: $20.00
Groups 10+: $15.00
Information/Reservations: (818) 763-5990
WHERE: The Group Repertory Theatre at Lonny Chapman Theatre:
10900 Burbank Boulevard, North Hollywood, CA 91601

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
illness.
The beautiful writing by Ramsburg makes every moment fresh and new and marks a tense standoff between mother and daughter.
The language flows like a crystal stream and forces us, the audience, into the fragmented life of Amelia who has a job selling memberships to a charity that rescues children in overseas countries
and watches television
to soothe the scars she perceives as caused by her mother and the rest of humanity.
These are the words of a master playwright: specific, detailed, wrapped in imagery and covered in lush reality.
Let us be honest.  There are raw and naked scars here.  But they are presented with such nobility and grace that we genuinely understand their beginnings and sincerely hope for their ends.
The O’Neill Theatre Conference Semi-Finalist is a masterwork moving and crisscrossing the four characters into and out of each other’s prism and purpose like good soldiers.
The hug in the title refers to the human warmth and love that Amelia has been desperately yearning for since her childhood when she attended foster home after foster home, and is contemplating
sharing with Ben, a
co-worker who has shown great interest in her.
Her journey to that acceptance, self-love and understanding is brilliantly chronicled by Ramsburg, who is an avid book reader and by day works on the Netflix original series “13 Reasons Why,”
making this oft-produced
play perhaps the most successful production this 11-year-old ensemble has ever staged.
Director Steve Jarrard, who is also the Managing Director of the company, helps this talented group of actors tell a story that proves profound and admirable in its account of pain and suffering
and the bruises they leave
behind.
Jarrard gets out of the way and allows the actors to use their wit, guile and imagination to transport us, the audience, to a different reality than we may be used to.
The result is a winning production with the Southern California native at the helm steering proudly but firmly.
The director of many of the ensemble’s plays over the years assembles a gifted company of actors who comprehend the great sensitivity and insight the Los Angeles based playwright has brought to
this quartet of lives.
Stand outs include:
Meg Wallace (Amelia) The New York trained actress (Marymount Manhattan College), Hollywood Second City Conservatory Program graduate and founding member of Collaborative Artists
Ensemble
almost runs away with the show by giving maybe her best Ensemble portrayal ever.
The veteran stage and screen actress has acted in a string of brilliant and beautifully crafted turns for the Ensemble, but saves maybe her best for last.
Wallace shows more of her sensitive and giving nature here than we, the audience, have ever witnessed before.
She is typically gripping and electric here, but unusually analytical and guarded.
The actress, who has appeared in every Ensemble production that this critic has seen over an eight year period, must be highly commended for taking on a role many actresses would not attempt
because of its degree
of difficulty.
Wallace is a gem of an actress who makes those around her better.  A larger compliment cannot be paid to a performer.
But stealing the show is Leslie Thurston (Iris) who anchors the play with a warm, relaxed and almost sacred performance.
This is a characterization only a wise and inspired veteran could pull off.
Thurston’s social worker is the glue that holds this play together.
Her calm and positive nature is all Sonia and Amelia have to keep them going.
The New York City native can currently be seen in “Dismissed” (Netflix), “Fallen Stars” (Amazon Prime) and the upcoming fourth season of “Fuller House” (Netflix).
This freight train of a performer was seen in “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” the commercially and artistically successful film of the early 1990’s, which featured Oscar-nominated performances
from Angela Basset (Tina
Turner) and Laurence Fishburne (Ike Turner), and was named Best Supporting Actress at The 168 Film Festival for “Stroke of Faith.”
Thurston brings a tranquility and harmony to the proceedings, and in so doing, announces her arrival with a bang not a whimper.
Her first production with Collaborative Artists Ensemble proves that a steady hand is sometimes more than an actress needs to make a name for herself.
This critic hopes to see the award-winning actress on the stages of North Hollywood and Los Angeles again soon.
Furthering the message of the play are Jarrard’s unique set design and Jason Ryan Lovett’s innovative lighting design.
All in all, “Anatomy Of A Hug” succeeds because of the rift between mother and daughter, not despite it.
Amelia’s self-consciousness and Sonia’s past clash in the living room of Amelia’s apartment where both show deeply felt anger, disgust and frustration with each other regardless of Sonia’s
inevitable death.
That bitterness is rarely as realistic and sobering in stage productions of other plays as it was on the second Saturday evening when this critic saw this show.
The biting and telling back and forth only go on to solidify this play as a true original.
In theatrical space and time it does what most plays only attempt to do: make us feel and think at the same time.
Sonia’s very real battle with Ovarian Cancer is handled with aplomb, grace and honesty throughout.
If the last ten minutes of the play do not bring a geyser of tears to your eyes then you are not human.
The playwright, director, actors and crew have come together to give us a rare glimpse into two very different lives, and in so doing, changed the landscape of American theatre forever.
That window, and this choice of play, also show that Collaborative Artists Ensemble remains one of the boldest, most talented and open theatre companies, not only in Los Angeles, but anywhere.
Kudos and more to all involved.
By Radomir Vojtech Luza
Theatre, Film and Book Critic
Showtimes:
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 7 PM
Admission:$20
Information/Reservations: (323) 860-6569
WHERE: The Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601

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

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Get in touch Radomir!