Theatre Reviews-I started writing Theatre Reviews this year and here is a sample of some of them.

Hermetically Sealed at The Skylight Theatre
by Erin Scott~

Theatre is still magic for me.  Going into a dark space and seeing a story unfold as a collective means something. The world premiere of Kathryn Graf’s Hermetically Sealed was an experience of interest. Katselas Theatre Company boasts of creating a place where play and experimentation can happen and here it did.  In the encouragement of risk taking, unlike traditional dramatic arc, the story starts with the opening scene, ramping up like a modern roller coaster, going from 0-90 in what feels like seconds flat. It’s a great risk but I found myself not invested enough in the characters Jimmy, played by understudy Jonathan Griffin Sterling and Mother Tessie (Gigi Bermingham) to relate to the mother’s frustration and anger which left me with a feeling of discomfort.  It was only after the second scene, where I found I was hooked in a slow build of letting the relationship between Tessie (Bermingham) and Conor played by Nicolas Podany reveal itself.

Hermetically Sealed is the story of a single, homebound mother who supports her family  (herself and two boys) by cooking and catering for another woman’s-Dale Jr’s- party planning business.  Like an egg which is hermetically sealed, the world of the May family home is safe and cozy but fragile to the environment outside. This is threatened when the outside support of Dale Sr., (Brendan Patrick Conner) and Dale Jr (Julia Prud’homme) infiltrate to pick up all the treats that Tessie bakes.

One enters the theatre by Skylight Books and comes into an intimate space where set and lighting designer Jeff McLaughlin as well as Heather Wynters as Props Master set a cozy home with keen attention to detail.  The hermetically sealed world consists of a small sized house where the kitchen is central and the den is a den of doom with Conor constantly playing video games.  Gaming is the way that Conor escapes from the frustrations and day to day reality in the May house.

Playwright Kathryn Graf’ establishes Tessie’s love for opera but often sound design choices of Christopher Moscatiello of what opera is playing through the kitchen radio in the background doesn’t punctuate the action but leaves one wondering why these notable songs were chosen at certain times in the action. Unlike opera structure though, the story bookends where the audience sees similar action in the end of the show as in the beginning.

It is always interesting at any age to see child protect and care for parent since that expectation isn’t typical.  This challenge is well enacted by Podanny as Conor where often Conor is the most adult among the adults he encounters-be it his mother or the Dales- Senior or Junior.

In hearing that the play was titled Hermetically Sealed, I first thought of biodomes and later in looking at the synopsis, was curious to see if this was a southern play but instead director Joel Polis and playwright Graf choose to keep it ambiguous in location.  Hermetically Sealed premieres after being chosen for development in Katselas Theatre Company’s Inkubator series and it will be interesting where the play develops from here. The show boasts of a strong cast and an interesting story where the collective gets to peek in on a family dynamic and home for a short period of time.

Hermetically Sealed runs through November 20, Friday and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 7pm.
The Skylight Theatre is located at 1816 N. Vermont, LA 90027
Ticket prices: $30 General Admission (Seniors $22.50 and Students $15) with group discounts available.
For reservations call 702 KTC-TKTS (702-582-8587) or online at ktctickets.com

Sun Sisters, Company of Angels At The Alexandria Hotel
by Erin Scott~

Sun Sisters is a new play by Vasanti Saxena that asks the question of do we ever know our parents? What life did they have before they were a parent and are there underlying reasons for their reaction to an adult child’s life choices?

The show opens with Edward (Peter Kwong) giving a lecture on architecture.  His monologues continue throughout the play, speaking of great monuments, in-between spaces, and architects limiting choices within buildings.  These lectures not only relate and parallel the story but also give relevance to daughter Jess’s (Andrea Lwin) occupation as an architect. Jess is home to take care of her ailing mother, Angie (Momo Yashima).  As Angie grows sicker and more frail, the more memories surface and ghosts from the past invade her mind and living room.

A mother’s secret unfolds of a conflicted triangle between young Angie (Elaine Kao), Carlton (Robert Hardin) and Evelyn (Jully Lee).  It’s the 1960s and Angie and her roommate Linda (Jennifer Chang) talk of what a life in the states means, and how one must lay down a foundation to build the future one hopes for.  Instead, Angie is conflicted in charting a path with an American man or with an Asian woman.  Young Angie is bright eyed and naive and one wonders what has happened from the 1960s to the present, where a frail and dementia ridden Older Angie is hardened and tries to protect her adult daughter with often negative reaction.

Ms. Yashima and Ms. Lwin are believable as mother and daughter although the dialog often feels dream-like versus reality based. Ms. Lwin’s portrayal of a daughter alone in an overwhelming task of care-taking shows the heartbreaking pain and love a child has for their parents. The friendship portrayed between Kao and Chang grounds this story and helps with the scenes set in the future and the narration from Kwong.

The design challenge  was met by set designer Luis Delgado and lighting designer Sarah Templeton.  For an alternative theatre space with little play in height, the set had levels and depth.  Windows were used as set pieces and metaphors with soft light streaming through them. The staging of the space by Lui Sanchez created smooth and lyrical movement throughout the story.  Playwright Vasanti Saxena’s intertwining of the Sun Sisters folk tale with the many different relationships in this story, created a complete family tapestry that shows although you live and love someone close, you may not always know the complete story.

Sun Sisters runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m through August 28.
Company of Angels is located at 501 S. Spring Street., LA, CA 90013, on the 3rd Floor of the Alexandria Hotel at 5th & Spring.
Tickets can be purchased online at http://companyofangels.org/
General Admission $20,
Seniors $15, Students $12

Rock in Her Pocket at Theatre Asylum
by Erin Scott~

Rock in Her Pocket means that the Hollywood Fringe Festival finally gets fringy. Performer Alix Angelis and director Vincent Cardinale bring an experimental and edgy hour long work to life, to the surprise and delight of the audience.  For an audience member, it’s always a little unnerving when the speech before the play not only reminds one to silence phones but adds that there will be a game, audience participation, and catharsis in the end.  All this happened in a magical way that walks the ridgepole of humor and provocative dialogue.

The show makes bold choices in use of all theatrical elements.  Lighting design uses color at choice times to create depth and an abstract element that the material calls for.  Rock in Her Pocket also incorporates movement, audio, projection, song, and prop playing in a way that makes sense and drives the story along.

Rock in Her Pocket explores the difficult times a college undergrad goes through  as she researches Virginia Woolf for a term paper and contemplates suicide-of herself and that of Virgina Woolf.  Alix Angelis seamlessly moves from character to character, and the show questions what would one’s life be like the few days before attempting to end one’s life.

Rock in Her Pocket had its last performance for the Fringe on June 26

FreakShow Deluxe at Fringe Central-Mainstage-ArtWorks Theatre- LA Theatre Review
by Erin Scott ~

Everything FreakShow Deluxe does is "Real---Real stupid" and so opens this modern carnival sideshow with Amy Amnesia performing the human woodblock.  This act consists of using a nail and hammer, building on this premise, she went on to shove a screw driver up the other nostril.  So the audience would see "new" freak show tricks as well as old school, Amy Amnesia pulled out a power drill and threw that back a nostril as well.  This reminded me of the time I stapled my finger with an airgun and had 100 pounds per square inch behind it. There was a quarter inch piece of wood in between my finger and the staple but it made me want to never have that happen again, where as many of these performers may have had something like that happen and they continue to perform feats of danger, pain, and mystery.

Be ready for sword swallowing, contortion, fan dancing and strip tease. There was a straightjacket contest between Ghoulia and Jonny Panic and the duo returned to display feats of pain and pleasure with a bed of nails.
Most enjoyable was William Draven's act of swallowing and procuring dental floss. Although a small audience, where audience particpation is key, the ladies chosen to come out of the audience represented the gamet of thrill seekers. With Draven's act he chose a young girl thinking she was off the hook and her reactions along with Draven's banter created comic genius.

FreakShow Deluxe returns to the Hollywood Fringe after winning the Best Cabaret/Circus. The show strives for family friendly but it still is people doing bodily harm to themselves as well as the expected inuendo and banter a sideshow would have.

FreakShow Deluxe plays Monday June 20 at 6 pm, Thursday June 23 at 10:30 pm, Friday June 24 at 6:30 pm and 11:59 pm

The Normal Child at The Open Fist
by Erin Scott ~

It's always interesting when an audience walks in a sees a set piece that makes it obvious that there will be limited movement or staging for a show.  To be fair, the playwright calls for this set piece (designed by Jan Muroe).  It dominates the stage and it is an amazing image that one walks into as the house opens with Clare (Amanda Weir) sitting in a precarious position on the stage.   Be that as it may, the play then starts to an amazing monologue and back story as told by Clare's brother, Terrance (Rob Nagle), revealing the secrets of a family tormented with death, mental illness, and issues of masculinity. Many outside the South shy away from stories with this theme but The Normal Child  humorously and beautifully plays with language in this one act that shouldn’t be missed.

The sound design by Peter Carlstedt was interesting, bringing in layers of underwater sounds as ambiance.  It was an unfortunate distraction that the off stage voices sounded recorded and less placed compared to other sound cues later in the play that brought the audience back into the story.  The sound design, like the rest of the show successfully walks the ridgepole between reality and fantasy.

The Normal Child plays Saturday June 18 at 2 pm, Saturday June 25 at 12 pm and  Sunday June 26 at 1 pm

Spring Awakening at Complex Theatres-from LA Theatre Review
by Erin Scott~

Lonesome No More! Theatre’s debut production of Spring Awakening, has youth running throughout.  The show started with house lights up and audio in the house fighting with actors’ dialog on stage, creating confusion for the audience as to if the show had started or not.  After this bumpy beginning, the remainder of the show was infused with enthusiasm and creativity, making theatre magic. The show begins with traditional conventions of mask, gesture work, and proscenium staging. It then pushes the envelope with uses of practical lighting, modern music, and use of space- staging scenes in the audience and backstage. Edward Sait meets a great lighting challenge and Joey Guthman's economy of set pieces conjures many places.

Spring Awakening, deemed obscene and explicit in its debut in 1906, deals with contemporary themes of teen sex and pregnancy as well as curiosity of the unknown-both in a young adult’s future and sexuality.  Jennifer Allcott's portrayal  of Wendla, a confident girl, naive to what womanhood will bring is refreshing.  Scenes between Moritz (Mikie Beatty) and Melchoir (Patrick Riley) are unapologetic in the pain and torment this time of life can bring.  The ensemble shows no weak link and their work behind a mask, particularly Amara Gyulai and Lizzie Fabie translates beautifully as sympathetic and concerned mothers.

Spring Awakening plays Thursday June 23 at 8:30pm, Friday June 17 & 24 at 10:30pm, Sunday June 19 & 26 at 2:00pm

Endgame at Complex Theatres-from LA Theatre Review
by Erin Scott ~

 Find the pattern and you’ll find the answer.  Endgame is a sweet and simple story told in one act.  A lost girl, Minette, (Rachel Andrea Cox) walks into a cafe and sits across from a writer, Devon (Couso), taking up time and space at a table.  In meeting, the two play a game of “make something up”, instead of the usual get to know you banter. The game continues, engaging with a chess board and the dialog mimics the timed game, resulting in the endgame being higher stakes and tension.  Questions created from Minette’s fuzzy memory are clarified after she takes the king and wins the game.

Beyond the answers of why Barista Bob (Wesley Schilling) knows her usual and that her painted likeness hangs on the cafe wall, Endgame also asks the question of what it means to be a writer.  The fantasy of creating a character collides with the reality of dealing with flesh and blood in addition to the idea that a writer’s world is not always the reality of others.

Writer and Director David Wisehart decided to keep it simple in his return to the fringe this year. In doing so, the beauty and the complexity of this story comes through clear in every detail of staging and acting. This short play took the audience on a journey of a full length play and left one wanting more.

Endgame plays June 19 and 26 at 12:15 pm ad 5:15 pm. _______________________ _________________________________