Some Enchanted Evening

Freddy Douglas, (left) and Graham Hamilton duel over the woman they both love in "The Illusion" at A Noise Within. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

It was way back last September when I looked over the collection of productions planned for the acclaimed repertory company A Noise Within’s first season in its brand new Pasadena home. Of those plays set to be staged, the previously unheard of “The Illusion”  — a comedy written way back in the 17th century by Pierre Corneille and adapted by Tony Kushner — interested me the most, especially when I read it was about an estranged father going on a mystical journey to reunite with the son he’d long abandoned. Not to get all TMI or psychoanalytical but the reason it struck a chord is that I’m a son of an abandoning father whom I’ve never met and thus with that kind of baggage I quickly ordered up tickets to see what Corneille and Kushner might have to say on the subject. Then I waited. Six months. Until last night.

Going in, I had no expectations about the play but with many past experiences sitting before A Noise Within’s stage, I had every expectation the company would do an incredible job, and it most certainly did.

“The Illusion” opens with the father, Pridamant (Nick Ullett), venturing into a cave in search of the sorcerer Alcandre (Deborah Strang) to help reconnect him to the son (Graham Hamilton) he selfishly disavowed 15 years earlier. With the help of her servant Amanuensis (Jeff Doba) Alcandre conjures three episodes from the young man’s life. Pridamant watches with each scene finding the boy in a slightly different world where names change and allegiances shift, but only as the strange tale reaches its conclusion does he learn the ultimate truth.

Continue reading “Some Enchanted Evening”

Exploring Hunger with Cornerstone Theater Company

A lot will happen in the next five years.  You’ll be an astonishing half a decade older. We’ll have the same or a new president with whom no one will be completely satisfied unless all that hope for change actually translates to more real dollars and a lot more sense. For Cornerstone Theater Company, the next five years will be dedicated to hunger: nine plays, to be exact, that will address the topic from all sides, including nutrition, environment, access, and food equity.

To kick off the series, Cornerstone is hosting “Creative Seeds: An Exploration of Hunger,” a two-week event starting November 7 and stuffed full of panels, discussions, art events, workshops, and demonstrations with Farmers, chefs, artists, performers, and food writers.  On the 10th, for example, popular organic peach farmer David Mas Masumoto will be part of a “Who’s Your Farmer?” roundtable (if you haven’t read his Epitaph for a Peach, go and get it, now), and on the 15th, our homegrown Jonathan Gold will part of a “Food Critics” panel discussing what “different generations of food critics hunger for.”  And, because this is a theater company after all, there will be an evening of one-minute plays for those whose attention lasts as long as their (in)ability to compose an wildly interesting 140-character tweet

The panel discussions are free, and most of the other events request just a modest donation.  See the full schedule here, and reserve your tickets here. And, if you want to start your food drive contributions straight away, you can donate non-perishable food items at all Creative Seeds events.  This looks like a good one, guys.  Go on. Five years will be here and gone before you know it.

Picasso In Hollywood

Picasso At The Lapin Agile at the Complex Theater - East.

A fantastic production of Picasso At The Lapin Agile has come to its final performances at the Complex Theater – East. Class up your weekend with a little culture.

Picasso At The Lapin Agile (written by Steve Martin) is the tale of a chance meeting between Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein at a Paris pub in 1904, on the eve of Einstein publishing his Special Theory of Relativity and Picasso painting his masterpiece. There is even an appearance by another historical figure, but I’ll let that be a surprise.

I’m no Ben Brantley, but once in a while I do like an evening at the theatah. I can tell you that this cast is packed with stand-out performances, and with a script written by Steve Martin you know there will be quite a few laughs.

What: Picasso At The Lapin Agile
Where: The Complex Theater – East, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd.
When:
Final performances this weekend.
Tickets:
(323) 960-7714 or www.plays411.net/picasso

Want to really impress your Valentine? Forget about dinner at the Olive Garden and a screening of Valentine’s Day (seriously, Ashton Kutcher? That’s a bad idea.) Take your true love (or BFF, friend from work, or that tattooed cutie you met at Intelligentsia) to see some terrific live theater. You’ll be glad you did.

Half-Priced Penis Puppetry

Puppetry of the Penis at the Coast Playhouse. Photo courtesy of Goldstar.com.
Check out the soft launch of "Puppetry of the Penis" at the Coast Playhouse this month. Photo courtesy of Goldstar.com.

I’m no stranger to penis puppetry, having emceed an impromptu penis puppetry show in the desert a few years back. I also have a friend who is quite skilled at the art of genital origami. He even has names for each creation such as, “The Birth of a Nation” and “The Double Cheeseburger, Hold the Mayo.” OK, I made up that last one.

Whether you are a long time fan of the art, new to the scene, or just looking for something special to do for Valentine’s Day, Goldstar is offering a great opportunity to experience the international hit, “Puppetry of the Penis” at the Coast Playhouse in West Hollywood. The ticket discounter is offering half-priced tickets to the show February 17 – 21, check out Goldstar.com for more information and to reserve your seat for this very special engagement.

The Coast Playhouse
8325 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood CA 90069
thecoastplayhouse.com

Lodestone Theatre Ensemble to Close its Final Production this weekend

After 10 years of being one of LA’s edgiest Asian American theatre groups, the Lodestone Theatre Ensemble is about present its final show, before shutting its doors for good. Don’t worry– this was a conscious decision made years ago by the artistic directors, not a victim of the global recession.

In 1995, following the 1992 Los Angeles riots, veteran actor Soon-Tek Oh created the Society of Heritage Performers (SHP), a Korean American theatre ensemble. SHP evolved into Lodestone Theatre Ensemble in 1999, organized by original founders: actors Alexandra Bokyun Chun, Tim Lounibos and Chil Kong, and writer Philip W. Chung. Their new focus was embracing a broader Asian Pacific American identity. Chung and Kong have remained to the end as co-artistic directors.

You can still catch the final weekend of their final production, Grace Kim & The Spiders from Mars, which is a play that was specifically written as a farewell to Lodestone. Inspired by classic screwball comedies, Grace Kim & The Spiders from Mars tells the story of Grace, a young Korean American woman, who has withdrawn from the world after the death of her mother ten years ago. But Grace’s life is thrown upside down when she meets her sister’s fiancé and falls in love with him. The play will be permanently retired after this run. (Meet Grace Kim in the video below…)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zj4CoeORyO8[/youtube]

Tickets have been lowered to the same price as the first show in 1999: $12 for general admission and $10 each for reserved groups of 10 or more.

Only four more shows before GRACE KIM and Lodestone are gone forever! Performances are Thursday through Saturday (12/17) at 8 p.m. (2-for-1 Thursday tickets with password “Ziggy Stardust”) and closing on Sunday, 12/20 at 2 p.m. RSVP now: (323) 993-7245

GRACE KIM & THE SPIDERS FROM MARS
GTC BURBANK
1111-B W. Olive St.
Burbank, CA 91506
(inside George Izay Park, just west of S. Victory Blvd.)

FREE PARKING: Park near the jet plane in front of George Izay Park at 1111 W. Olive St. Walk into the park, past Olive Recreation Center. GTC Burbank is behind the Rec. Center, facing the softball fields.

Surf’s Up in Hollywood

The PA holds cue cards for "Keanu" while "Pappas" looks on.
The PA holds cue cards for "Keanu" while "Pappas" looks on.

The longest running theater show in Los Angeles celebrated its two year anniversary on Saturday at the Dragonfly in Hollywood. Point Break LIVE! has been extremely successful, and with good reason. It is one of the most entertaining theater pieces in my memory; even better than Cats. (Okay, granted: most shows are better than Cats. Point Break LIVE! is exceptionally good, though.)

Point Break LIVE! is an absurdist stage adaptation of the classic 1991 movie starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves. The twist to this show is that at every performance the role of “Keanu” is performed by a member of the audience (hence, the cue cards.) Because the show has been running for two years, I’m certain there are dozens of reviews more eloquent than mine just on the other side of a Google search. This is not so much a review as an unabashed endorsement.

Buy tickets. See this show. Now! I’m already planning to see it again with other friends.

Point Break LIVE! is a spectacular interactive theater show with comedy, stunts, special-ish effects, hot half-naked surfer dudes…everything you could want in a big budget action movie, but on a seriously diminished budget. There are so many delightful surprises in this show, I don’t want to say too much for fear of spoiling any of the fun. I will include this, though, from the Point Break LIVE! ticketing site:

“This show is not for the squeamish, uptight, faint of heart, or the easily offended. Theater snobs probably won’t get it. If you are looking for a traditional theater experience – STAY THE F**K AWAY FROM THIS SHOW.”

MetBlogs readers don’t fit any of those categories, so you should all enjoy it immensely. Point Break LIVE! runs Saturday evenings at the Dragonfly in Hollywood. Get tickets here.

PRO TIP: When you collect your tickets at the box office, you’ll be offered a “survival kit” for a buck. Take it. It may be the best dollar you’ll ever spend. Seriously.

Rantoul and Die – see it!

shapeimage_1Looking for a brutal relationship comedy? Well, you’re going to have to travel to Rantoul, IL to get it.

Actually you can get it right here at the Lillian Theater, if you’re seeing the new play RANTOUL AND DIE. Brought to you by the writer and producer of tv’s Two and a Half Men, this play really raises the bar on 99-seat theater in LA.

(Being from Chicago, I’m more than acquainted with Rantoul: It’s where you pee when you’re traveling from Chicago down to the lower parts of the state for the universities. But this play has nothing to do with that; it’s set there and boy do you ever get the feel for it. Job security means the local DQ fer chrissakes.)

Without divulging too much, they’re calling this “a romantic comedy wrapped in razor wire” and it can be brutal at times. But it’s also tightly written and beautifully (and intensely) acted. Cynthia Ettinger is utterly amazing.

It’s a short run and tickets are cheap, so there’s no excuse to miss this.

LA Times infoblurb is here. Kenneth Jones Playbill online is here.

Cartoon Dump!

Photo by gaelenh used under Creative Commons.
Photo by gaelenh used under Creative Commons.

I’ve said it before, and it continues to be true: One of the best parts of living in L.A. is that every night of the week there is something to do that will be fun, interesting, and perhaps more than a little unusual. Case in point, last night’s performance of “Cartoon Dump!” at the Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood.

Cartoon Dump! is a parody of a children’s television variety show which centers around some of the worst cartoons ever aired. The show was created by Frank Conniff (formerly of Mystery Science Theater 3000) and animation historian Jerry Beck. In addition to the really bad cartoons, there are songs, comedy, puppets, and (at least last night) a juggler.

Follow me past the jump for more about Cartoon Dump! Continue reading “Cartoon Dump!”

Good news for Bob Baker (and his puppets)

Bob's happy, but he's not out of the woods yet -
Bob's happy, but he's not out of the woods yet -

From Esotouric‘s own Kim Cooper, just this morning: There’s good news for Bob Baker, but he still needs your help.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 5 – BOB BAKER’S MARIONETTE THEATER is up for
Cultural-Historic Monument landmark status, with a 10am hearing at City
Hall. As the blabbermouth who leaked the news of the unscrupulous
foreclosure threat facing this beloved site, I’ve been heartened by the
outpouring of love, press coverage and cash that’s helped keep Bob’s magical
theater running into 2009. The landmarking application is the work of Lauren
Everett, who we worked with on last year’s successful Charles Bukowski CHC
proposal. Come down (City Hall, 200 N Spring Street) and show your support
for Bob and his puppets, or email your support of the nomination to The
Cultural Heritage Commission before 5pm Wednesday, c/o
[email protected]

I know not everyone can attend the hearing, but it would be great if you could send a quick email!

Dias Y Flores World Premiere

Opening this weekend at Company Of Angels, the oldest non-profit theater company in Los Angeles, is the world premiere of Dias Y Flores – an original play by Oliver Mayer.

Dias y Flores is a meditation on love – straight, gay and filial. Testing which love is strongest, the play seeks the musical magic of love. Its story is loosely based on “A Thousand and One Nights” and the music of Cuban Silvio Rodriguez and Beethoven, played live. It also looks at the changing face of Latinos – Caribbean to Mexican. What does it mean to be Latino and in love? What happens when your sexual feelings cross boundaries? A new play with live music, set in the jungles and gardens of New York’s Lower East Side: Sherezad’s got an ache so deep in her soul it’s driving her mad. Can Silvio Flores, with his guitar and lilting melodies, be Sherezad’s Arabian Knight?

The production runs Friday, Saturday (8 pm) and Sunday (7 pm) through February 8th at The Alexandria in Downtown L.A. (501 S. Spring St. 3rd Floor). Tickets are $20 and can be purchased in advance via Brown Paper Tickets.

For more information visit the Company Of Angels website.

Save the puppets!

Don\'t be scared; it\'s just a puppet!
Don't be scared; it's just a puppet!

Legendary Puppeteer Bob Baker needs your donations to save his theater from foreclosure.

I know, things are tough all over, but this is a particularly sad story.

WHAT: Emergency Campaign to generate funds to save The Bob Baker Marionette Theater from Foreclosure

DEADLINE: $29,000 needed by December 3 or Bob Baker’s theater and home will be sold

For more that 60 years, puppeteer Bob Baker has brought delight and amazement to children of all ages with his innovative marionette performances. Through shows at his Bob Baker Marionette Theater, located just west of downtown LA, and his huge list of film and TV credits, he has entertained millions of people. Today Bob Baker’s puppet theater continues to operate on a daily basis with a crew of young puppeteers trained by the master.

But unless you help, this magical theater will disappear in a matter of weeks. Bob Baker, a proud man and a humble artisan, has no choice but to reach out to his public for a lifeline.

Two years ago, Bob Baker was the victim in an elaborate mortgage fraud operation bent on stealing his theater and home. This outrageous mortgage, written under threatening and deliberately misleading conditions, has left him owing ever increasing payments that are beyond his ability to pay.

This week the situation has reached crisis point, and Bob quietly reached out for help. Many talented people have responded to his call. A plan for improving the theater’s financial prospects is being formulated by the Valley Economic Development Center and many of Bob’s friends and fans are working behind the scenes to protect Bob and his theater and home from the sharks. The theater has enormous potential, Bob wants everyone to know that he is not going out of business.

But time is of the essence, and right now, Bob Baker needs your donations if he is going to be able to keep up with his mortgage payments long enough to get the loans modified.

As of today, Bob needs $23,000 for past due mortgage payments on the theater, and $6,000 for past due mortgage payments on his home. The deadline for payment in December 3, or the buildings will be sold and Bob and his thousands of puppets will be homeless.

If you have been entertained by Bob Baker’s Marionettes, if you love the spirit of old Hollywood creativity that he embodies, if you want to reach out and help someone wonderful who has been terribly wounded by the mortgage crisis and outright fraud, please open your heart and give to Bob Baker at this difficult time. The children of Los Angeles are not ready to be without this great entertainer, who has many more years of magic before him.

Tax deductible donations can be made to “The Academy of Puppetry and Allied Arts.” Send your check to 1345 West First Street, Los Angeles, CA 90026 or call 213-250-9995 to make a donation by credit card.

Puppeteer Bob Baker is available for interviews. Contact Richard at
[email protected], or call 213-250-9995.