Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Weekday Update

I adore Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. So I was pretty much a sucker for the new movie "Baby Mama" from the get go.

Fey is a career-woman determined to have a baby, despite her t-shaped uterus. Amy Poehler is the white-trash surrogate hired to carry Fey's baby.

And the hilarity ensues.
Posted by Picasa

My pretentious friends in high school used to throw around the name Jean-Paul Sartre, but I never really knew much about him or his philosophy.

So Tuesday night I went to see his play, "No Exit," running at the Lounge Theatre on Theater Row in Hollywood.

It's an interesting premise. Three individuals are put together in a room in Hell for all eternity with no exit. Turns out the torture in Hell isn't actual torture -- skin ripping from the bone -- instead each person must spend eternity with the two people who most drive them crazy. In other words, Hell is other people.

This play is performed in exaggerated realism which at first is annoying but after 90 minutes just seemed pointless.

I still don't know that I can describe Sartre's philosophy of life, other than we each create our own reality. Exaggerated or not.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, April 28, 2008

Raunchy, Raunchy, Not Raunchy and Raunchy

The latest production from the Judd Aptow movie factory, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is pretty darn funny, in a look-at-that-grown-man-naked-and-crying sort of way. Humiliate the men and you've got gonzo box office.

I actually spent lots of the film thinking about how long it's been since I've been to Hawaii (where most of the film is set). It's been awhile but not long enough to cry about.
Posted by Picasa

Ventured over to East Hollywood on Sunday night to catch the Sacred Fools Theater's production of "Beaverquest! The Musical."

And what is a beaverquest? (Other than an obvious platform for bad, dirty puns?) According to the evening's program a beaverquest "is that time in your life when you've decided to make a change but you haven't gotten to where you want to be yet." In other words, one of life's important journeys.

And this affecting little musical, about a rabbit and a beaver who fall in love, really works its way into your heart. And the rockabilly music and terrifically talented cast make this show a winner!
Posted by Picasa

Daniel Beaty's one-man show "Emergency" at the Geffen Playhouse examines what is means to be African-American is today's United States. Particularly timely stuff as we appear to be on the verge of electing our first African-American President (with all due respect to Bill Clinton).

The idea Beaty effectively puts forth is we're all haunted by a collective history, whether we choose to deny it or or recognize it.

Creating over 40 characters on stage, and centered on slam poetry, Beaty's show is both humorous and moving at the same time.
Posted by Picasa

The margaritas were flowing at Silver Lake's Casita Del Campo Friday night (mine was a double, blended, no salt) before the 9 p.m. performance of "Chico's Angels -- Chicas Are 4Ever" in their basement Cavern Club Theater.

With performers with names like "Kay Sedia" and "Frieda Laye" it's obvious this is a thespian experience best accompanied by a drink (which, conveniently, can be taken into the theater).

This hilarious take off on TV's "Charlie's Angels" features a crime-fighting trio, bad plots, cheesy music and chase scenes just like the famous show.

Filled to the brim with really bad, dirty puns it's hilarious. Especially if you have another round during intermission.

And Kay Sedia is available for your very own Tupperware Party. Seriously.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, April 25, 2008


Alan Ayckbourn's 2002 chiller of a play, "Snake in the Grass" is enjoying it's North American premiere production and last night the audience at the Matrix Theater was screaming in its seats. (OK, me mostly -- but it's really scary.)

Adult sisters are reunited after their Father's death. The older sister, who long ago fled England for life in Tazmania, does her best to seem certain and strong but her doubts are very visible just under the surface.

The younger sister still seems like a baby, but is she?

And the nurse who cared for their Father in his final years shows up with a major chip on her shoulder.

Using a great set, effective lighting and cracker jack acting this show recreates the very creepy, overgrown backyard of an English estate.

From the get-go, this show has its fist around the audience's neck and never let's go.

Go see it, but remember -- you've been warned.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

All the Trappings

Saw a fun little movie tonight called "Kiss the Bride." It's about a couple pushed by everyone around them to get married until they develop cold feet the night before the wedding. Tori Spelling does a winning turn as the bride unconvinced her intended is the marrying kind.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, April 21, 2008

Not Actual Size

Flew up to San Francisco for meetings today and tomorrow in Burlingame. Had dinner at Max's Restaurant -- one of my favorite places. Didn't have any of their delicious Waterfall Cake, photographed on the wall.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, April 20, 2008

All Growed Up

Some novels are probably best just left as books. But Charles Dickens' classic novel "Great Expectations" gets the musical treatment in a show of the same name.

I actually met the co-author, Brian VanDerWilt, a couple of years ago through a mutual friend and I remember his excitement over the development of this show. It started with an 85-year old literature teacher from Iowa named Margaret Hoorneman. As part of her yearly curriculum she always included "Great Expectations" and became very familiar with the book.

As a theater lover she decided to write a musical adaptation. Completed in 1997, she sent her "labor of love" to VanDerWilt, a successful TV executive and, importantly, her grandson.

The project has progressed from there and now is being presented as a "developmental production" at the Hudson Backstage Theater.

Personally, I found the score boring and the story muddled. Yes, Pip's struggle against class in his effort to achieve his own "great expectations" is moving, but I found the plot in the second act -- which seemed to proceed at breakneck speed -- to be confusing.

The large cast -- including enough child actors they actual credit a "kid wrangler" in the program -- guaranteed a large turn-out of friends and family in today's matinee audience.
Posted by Picasa

"Coffee Will Make You Black" opened Friday night at the Celebration Theater and I had the chance to catch it on Saturday. Tracing the coming of age of an African-American girl at the same time the civil rights movement also was "coming of age," this exciting show benefits from some outstanding performances -- especially by its winning star, Diona Reasonover.

With a mother determined to keep her mind out of "the gutter," Stevie can help but be fascinated by her own emerging sexuality. Faced with choosing her friends, be they "good" girls or "bad" girls, Stevie ultimately has to chart her own way on dating and relationships.

The Celebration Theater continues its streak of presenting shows unlike any other that are being staged. And I congratulate them on their ability to chart their own way in the challenging Los Angeles live theater market.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, April 18, 2008

Dumb Doris Was So Dumb....

"The MisMatch Game" at the Renberg Theater in Hollywood is a hilarious send-up of the 70s classic TV game show "The Match Game" -- one of my childhood favorites and a regular on my after-school viewing schedule somewhere between "Batman" and "The Brady Bunch."

Famous for pushing the limits of 1970s TV good taste, this rendition starts out raunchy and just gets more outrageous.

Tonight's "celebrities" included Paul Lynde, Miss Piggy, Charles Nelson Reilly, Shelley Winters, Ricardo Montalban and ditsy, self-absorbed Rena Z.

And these folks came up with answers just as witty as their TV originals.

They even have the cheesy "theme" music.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, April 17, 2008

No Comment on Melting Clocks

Tonight I went to see a surreal little play called "References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot" at the Art/Works Theater on Theater Row in Hollywood.

Written by Jose Rivera, who was nominated for an Academy Award for "The Motorcycle Diaries," it's about the line between love and horniness, I think. At least that's my best guest.

During intermission I met the 40 year-old father of a 16 year-old member of the cast, Julian R. Works, who plays a 14 year-old so determined to lose his virginity he's going crazy. Dad asked my opinion on a 16 year-old being in a show with nudity, sexual content, language, firearms and even a little herbal cigarette smoke. Awkward!
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hit Me

Spent most of Monday in the central San Diego County town of Ramona, which has a cute little Old West style downtown. What a kick to see this old roadster pulling out of a parking lot -- it looked right at home in Ramona. Fortunately I was quick enough on the draw to snap this photo.

Tonight I went to see the new movie "21" about MIT students turned card counters who make a fortune playing blackjack. I enjoyed the movie which runs like a two hour commercial for Las Vegas -- except for the casinos-will-beat-you-up-if-you-win-too-much-money part.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Theater Round-Up

Sunday afternoon -- Went to see the World Premiere production of the new musical "Mask" at the Pasadena Playhouse.

Based on the true story of a young man born with a condition that caused his face to develop in a very disfigured manner, his imperfect mother who was his strongest defender and the group of bikers who became his family. Yes, a musical about bikers and their annual Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota.

This show had the audience in the palm of its hand from the get-go, you could hear audible reactions to every twist and turn of the story and lots of hankies were pulled for the teary ending.

Personally, I found the story ultimately moving but I didn't really care for the half-rock/half-country music.

But I won't be surprised if this show, about facing the differences in all of us, goes a long way.
Posted by Picasa
Saturday night -- Three recently discovered one-acts make up "The Lost Plays of Tennessee Williams" at the Davidson/Valentini Theater.

Williams once described the one-acts he wrote as "the little glass slipper lost in my midnight scramble down the stairs."

These three -- two of which are set in the New Orleans French Quarter -- are breathtaking and are given sterling productions here.

All three deal, one way or another, with the melancholy topic of aging. But they all prove that art, at least when it is discovered, is timeless.

William's writing is so easy to the ear. And I loved it when his Southern Belle character declared "I don't believe in dullness."

No dull moment in the presentation of these three one-acts -- even as they switch the sets from a decrepit French Quarter apartment of an old poet awaiting death in 1942, to a dressing room where two boxers (one young and one old) are preparing for their matches to, finally, Mr. Delaney's over-the-top finely decorated French Quarter apartment in the late 1950 at the beginning of Mardi Gras weekend.

Friday Night -- "The Common Air" is a beautifully performed one man show starring Alex Lyras. Set in and around JFK Airport during a delay caused by suspected terrorism, Lyras delivers six 8 to 15 minute interlocking monologues by six different characters ranging from a cab driver on the way to the airport to a delayed traveler.

An emotionally touching show, Lyras is remarkable in his ability to create these very different characters with little in the way of costume changes.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More Cowbell

"All About Walken" is a very funny comedy show running at Theater 68 -- in one of the ugliest locations in Hollywood.

The show features 10 actors all imitating Christopher Walken in a series of sketches based on movies he was in and movies the audience wishes he was in, like "There Will Be Blood" -- "WoW, I duhrink your....Milkshake."

Some of the Walkens are spot-on and some only have the zest of Walken. Several ladies are in the cast including one who amazed as DeNiro doing Walken.

This was my first visit to Theater 68, stuck in the end of an ugly office building on Sunset Boulevard in East Hollywood. You now it will be strange when the address includes "Suite D." But the space inside was certainly functional.

At a crisp 70 minutes, a cute idea that could get real old real fast doesn't.
Posted by Picasa

Sadly, Jude Law's new movie, "My Blueberry Nights" isn't very good. A young woman -- played by Norah Jones -- stumbles through her life meeting interesting people. (Spoiler Alert.) But ultimately she returns to New York City where Jude Law's character runs a cafe and he's waiting for her with a piece of pie.

I have to admit some of the pastries in his cafe looked awfully good. But I could swear the same four cupcakes were in the display case before Jones left town as when she comes back a year later -- and a lot wiser. Shouldn't there be a "Sell By Date" or something?
Posted by Picasa

Monday, April 07, 2008

Gimme Shelter

Tonight I went to see a new coming-of-age movie called "Shelter." It's a touching movie about love and acceptance.

But what I think I like best about it was it's set in between the world of the Palos Verdes "haves" and the San Pedro "have nots." I spent a happy year or two at the Tree Tops Nursery School in San Pedro.

And I enjoyed their use of the Vincent Thomas Bridge as a scenic backdrop. I always liked the Vincent Thomas Bridge. But when I was little there was a nearby rickety old drawbridge I liked even better. I used to beg my parents to drive over it whenever we were going between Long Beach and Wilmington. It always seemed like such a hard-worker to me, much more so than the beautifully soaring Vincent Thomas Bridge. But when you come down to it, I think I really liked the little drawbridge better because the road surface was a lot louder when you drove over it.

I took the photo above at the courtyard of the shopping center at 8000 Sunset Boulevard. Right after I took it a security guard snapped at me, "no photos!" When I asked why he said it was because of "security." How ridiculous. If you're going to take a formerly homely courtyard and make it pretty by hanging some lamps you've got to expect people to take photos. Especially when they don't have any other photos for their blog.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Dysfunction Junction

Made my way over the Cahuenga Pass to the Falcon Theatre in Burbank to see David Landsberg's very funny new play "An Act of Love" starring Susan Sullivan (best known as Greg's mother on "Dharma & Greg).

Sullivan plays a mother/monster incapable of expressing love to her two adult children because she's full of resentment that she never made it big as an actress. So her son "hires" her for one day to play a loving mother.

The writing is a quite witty, if a little sit-comy. Sullivan is pitch perfect in her role and a true joy to watch on stage. Full of surprises, this show had the mostly senior audience at the matinee in the palm of its hand. Sometimes the audience reactions were so strong it was almost distracting. But that's a sure sign they weren't bored.
Posted by Picasa

Before the show I had dinner across the street at Mo's. When the waitress told me my hamburger was ready for me to pick-up at the Hamburger Bar I told her that reminded me of one of my favorite places, Hampton's in Hollywood. She told me that because this location used to be the Hampton's in Burbank. I never knew there was a Hampton's in Burbank.

Sadly, the food wasn't as good as I remember the food at the Hampton's in Hollywood being. It's been closed for a few years now.
Posted by Picasa

Hocus Pocus

"Orange Lemon Egg Canary" is having its West Coast Premiere at the East Theater on Theater Row in Hollywood. It's a play about a magician dealing with a disgruntled assistant and features some pretty impressive magic in the show.

The show's title comes from a famous magic trick -- performed at the end of the show -- where a magician cuts open an orange and inside there's a lemon. Cutting open the lemon there's an egg. And when he cracks open the egg there's a -- wait for it -- live canary.

The star of the show, Brett Schneider, impresses with both his ability to do magic as well as act. He started the show by doing some sleight of hand in the audience. He asked me to pick a card and I did -- the three of spades. I put it back in the deck and Schneider shuffled and put one end of the deck of cards in his mouth. He pulled the deck away but kept a few cards between his lips. He revealed them one by one but, alas, he hadn't found the three of spades. He coughed a little bit and opened his mouth and pulled out a card -- neatly folded to reveal one of the corners and, you guessed it, it was the three of spades.

Elizabeth V. Newman, an actress in the show, gets points for delivering her lines in one scene while skewered on a pole four feet parallel to the floor after a levitation/balance trick went "awry."

I thought it was cute the bird had its own line in the program. At tonight's show the role of Canary was played by Chirpy.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Motionless, Like a Statue

Went to the Elephant Theater tonight on Hollywood's Theater Row to see the Los Angeles premiere production of Craig Lucas' 1995 play "The Dying Gaul."

It's an odd mish-mash of a play that can't focus on one topic -- artistic integrity in Hollywood, marital infidelity, grief and mortality -- and instead ends up being about nothing. And the acting, under the direction of Jon Lawrence Rivera, is oddly muted so scenes of great anger and grief end up very underplayed.

They can't all be gems.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Oh Dear

"The Bank Job" is an excellently paced, thriller of a robbery movie.

Amateur crooks decide to break into a London bank's safe deposit vault and find they've bitten off more than they can chew.

Based on a true story from the 70s, this movie implies the British have quite a sleazy side barely hidden under a thin veneer.

Check it out.
Posted by Picasa