FOLLIES

Follies2 (Annie Sherman
Annie Sherman in the Conejo Players Theatre’s latest production ‘Follies’

 

FOLLIES

Conejo Players Theatre

351 W. Moorpark Rd, Thousand Oaks CA

Playing thru December 13, 2015

 

Whatever show you slip in to see, in any theatre or any particular part of the world, the chances are pretty good you’re only seeing half the story. For behind all the curtains and scrims, make-up and costumes, there’s often something else going on between performers. It may be the bond actors form under pressure – the skipped meals, auditions made and roles missed, and always the dreams of success off in the distance. Sometimes, however, that bond turns romantic.

We call it showmance.

The showmance often blooms at the start of the production and winds down by closing night. Sometimes, however, as is the case of Ben and Sally (Richard Osborne and Autumn Bodily), like a love of the theatre, it’s a flame that never totally dies out. The real relationships they’ve maintained throughout their lives are thin substitutes for the one romantic lead they missed and have never really recovered from.

When the curtain rises on the Conejo Players latest production, “Follies,” the Harlequin masks look down on Rick Steinberg’s dilapidated set of the old Weissman Theatre, a building whose years of pure joy have fallen into disrepair. But the good times are going to be had once more as Dimitri (John Barker) assembles the old gang for a final night together.

Director Arryck Adams does well to present each character in a similarly dual light. When the aged version of Solange (Wendy Babb) sings her ode to Paris, it is with her younger counterpart (Renee Delgado) spotted in perfect sync upstage. When local theatre veteran Richard Osborn sings about ‘The Road You Didn’t Take,’ it is with lament about the opportunities caught, cherished, and yet still with the lingering thought: ‘what if..?’ And though Osborn’s Benjamin Stone has achieved success and notoriety, he’s still left to wonder about ‘lives I’ll never lead.’

The one road Stone didn’t take was a lifelong showmance with Sally (Autumn Bodily). Bodily’s vocal range is one of the highlights of ‘Follies,’ and throughout we feel her pining beside the flame she’s kept for Ben all these years. The tune that has held her marriage together with husband Buddy (Andy Brasted) has always been played as a second fiddle; it’s just something to whistle until the full symphony that she believes could be life with Ben finally cues and life begins. Buddy curses his bad luck, having married a wonderful woman who doesn’t love him.

Similarly, Ben’s wife Phyllis (Dana Kolb) is a bombshell who doesn’t get the love she deserves from Ben because he’s in love with, well, nobody. But could she leave “the quips with a sting, jokes with a sneer, passionless lovemaking once a year?” Yes, she could. But will she?

And yet the one character who never tied down to any particular showmance is Carlotta, played with a keen sense of independence by Kathleen Silverman. In her number ‘I’m Still Here,’ Silverman recants the trials of a life in the theatre, a path she’ll keep walking without regret. When Ben tries to make a move on her she lets him know she liked him once, but now she likes someone else. And “next year I’ll like some other guy.” Unlike Sally, whose life is dictated by the love that never was, Carlotta’s is a love that will march on, stage after stage.

The first act comes in just under two hours, then it’s a race to the finish with a flurry of numbers and a visual parade of knock-your-eyes out costuming by Beth Glasner and Elena Mills. There’s one last dramatic scene between Ben and Sally, each nearing a breakdown. Ben is buckling under the pressure of performance and forgetting lines, while Sally realizes that she’s nothing now but forty-nine years old and alone. The warmth of their showmance may have once been enough, but on this final night in the old theatre, the warm memory of their time together will have to carry them through.

 

Follies

Thru December 13, 2015

Conejo Players Theatre

351 W. Moorpark, Thousand Oaks, CA

Tickets: 805-495-3715 or online at:

http://www.conejoplayers.org

Tickets: $20 adult, $18 senior/student/military

 

 

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FIVE COMEDIANS, ONE HASHTAG

Hashtag2.JPG

 

Hashtag Comedy

Hillcrest Center for the Arts

Saturday, November 21, 2015

8pm

 

Comedienne Carol Burnett famously quipped: “I couldn’t tell a joke to save my soul.” Yet for eleven years, week after week, Burnett went before audiences with a talented troupe of friends. And everywhere they appeared, audiences fell in love.

One click on YouTube and it’s clear that Conejo Valley native Julia Jasunas can tell jokes. And tonight she’s bringing a very talented troupe of friends to the Hillcrest Center for the Arts.

The latest incarnation of what Jasunas calls #Comedy (on Facebook at HashtagComedyLA) includes Conan O’Brien writer Laurie Kilmartin, comedy producer Bronston Jones, and Chris Porter, a Last Comic Standing finalist who opens regularly for Kid Rock.

The group, Jasunas says, is “high-caliber. The level of talent you find on a Saturday night in LA. They’re trekking out here because they love the art form.”

“Chris, Laurie – they are amazingly talented comics. And they’re not in this area very often. It’s a great show right in our backyard.”

Jasunas grew up working with the Young Artists Ensemble in Thousand Oaks. She studied at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia but, “not a fan of cold weather,” she admitted, Jasunas was soon home auditioning for Cabrillo Music Theater. There she ran into Hillcrest Arts director Scott Buchanan.

When Jasunas mentioned doing stand-up in L.A., Buchanan suggested bringing the show to town. #Comedy began in April 2014, mostly as a monthly feature.

“We expected a younger crowd,” Jasunas said. “We got the newspaper crowd. They didn’t really know what a hashtag is.”

In LA, Jasunas found a mentor in comedienne Jodi Miller. “It’s a tight-knit community,” she says of the scene. “I got my commercial agent thru a fellow comic. I got my modeling agent thru a comic…”

“You produce your own content, work on your craft, showcase yourself and that you’re working toward something.”

And what is this all building toward?

“The ultimate goal is film and television. When I can fully support myself with the creative arts, commercials, stand-up, acting – that’s when I’ve made it.”

And tonight, like Burnett, Jasunas will appear with yet another very talented group of friends.

 

#Comedy

Hillcrest Center for the Arts

403 W. Hillcrest Dr, Thousand Oaks. 8pm

Tickets $15 at the door or $12 pre-sale online at:

http://www.HillcrestArts.com

805-381-1246

 

Note: Admission is 18+. Beer & wine available with a valid ID. Please also note: these shows are meant for adults and may feature humor that will be offensive to some.

THE LOVELY BOAT

LovelyBoat2

THE LOVELY BOAT

High Street Arts Center

45 High Street, Moorpark, CA

Currently Playing thru November 22, 2015

If you’re from a generation past, sometimes there’s nothing like a little fantasy trip back in time.

High Street Arts Center’s “The Lovely Boat” provides just such a cruise into the glorious-if-you-say-they-were 70’s, when disco was the drug of choice and “The Hustle” was enough to transform American nightclubs into a room of dancing zombies.

And that’s just the way the evil Mr. Bjorke wants it.

Bjorke and his sidekick Baboo (Terry Miles and Chris Carnicelli, doing their take on Roarke & Tattoo of ‘Fantasy Island’) have concocted a fiendish plot: once the Lovely Boat sets sail, they’ll slip everyone genetically modified pineapples, laced with a mind-altering drug that will make everyone their slaves.

But not everyone’s going to go down easy. Captain Stubbing (Scott Pond) and his purser CHiP (the nimble and quick-witted Christopher Mahr) will fight them with their smarts and, if need be, shuffleboard cues in a well-lit and acrobatic fight scene. Perhaps Brock Masters (local theatre veteran Dale Alpert) might take the evil duo down with Barty (Quinn Lasher), his otherwise silent partner. And if that doesn’t work there’s always mild-mannered cruise director Lonnie (Kim Iosue) to enter guns-a-blazing ala Scarlett Johanssen’s ‘Black Widow.’

Costumer Reign Lewis has done well to differentiate her characters with the bright colors and patterns of the era’s spirit. When June (Sandy Pratt) first appears onboard, her wardrobe is borrowed right out of Mrs. Roper’s ‘Three’s Company’ closet. And when disco queen Christy (Laura Norkin) slithers onstage, Lewis’s shining ensemble is both dazzling and accurate. The show is accompanied by the tireless and intricate keyboard work of Rick Pratt (also the show’s director and playwright), who has sewn together a soundtrack of the deepest 70’s anthems.

Veterans of Moorpark Melodrama productions will recognize the audience-interactive spirit they’ve come to expect. When the bad guys show up, they don’t mind at all when the audience boos and hisses. Likewise, audiences are encouraged to let out a good “hummina-hummina!” when their favorite character strides onstage. The Melodrama is still a style of entertainment not often seen and thoroughly enjoyable.

Before “The Lovely Boat” set sail, Pratt introduced the show by asking how many in the audience lived thru the 70’s. Hands shot up. Pratt then asked how many actually remember the 70’s; not as many hands. But do you really need to have lived thru the decade to appreciate a cruise on “The Lovely Boat?” If the young girls spontaneously doing the ‘YMCA’ dance in the aisles during intermission is any indication, the legacy of the era will sail on much longer than any of us ever expected.

The Lovely Boat

Thru November 22, 2015

High Street Arts Center

45 High Street, Moorpark, CA

Tickets: 805-529-8700 or online at:

http://www.HighStreetArtsCenter.com

UNDER FIRE

Under Fire 1

“UNDER FIRE”

California Lutheran’s Theatre Arts Dept

141 Memorial Parkway, Thousand Oaks, CA

November 11 – November 22, 2015

American revolutionary Thomas Paine said that “an army of principles can penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot.” California Lutheran Theatre Arts Department’s latest offering, “Under Fire” takes aim the hearts and minds of its audiences by reflecting the common struggle of those who have answered the call to protect those principles we enjoy every day.

Playwright, director and Vietnam veteran Michael Arndt has brought together a script and cast that harmonizes beautifully to hit a single, universal chord: regardless of the war, the year or level of the sacrifice, the guiding principles of the soldier have remained steady throughout the ages.

“Under Fire” doesn’t complicate its delivery with elaborate costume changes, set pieces or complex sequences. Instead it fills every inch of stage with bodies at attention, and utilizes crafty silhouette and shadow designed to imply rather than overtly state. The result is a harmonious balance of choreography, lighting, script and acting that fires on all cylinders. Its multi-media approach, projecting footage of the real people whose stories the play is based upon, speaks as loud as the RPG or Huey that buzzes thru the theatre’s crisp sound system.

No need to mike these actors; their stories speak loud and clear. Based on the real experiences of World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq veterans, audience members watch generations of young faces enter basic training with an earnest sense of hope. Soon we see them shed their skins of naiveté and innocence for a jacket of responsibility toward their country and one another.

Here, Arndt hasn’t just enlisted 22 actors. The cast of “Under Fire” were united not only by want of a role in a production. Accepting a part came with a price. They assembled for cadence drills and the same hard physical work that their predecessors would have experienced at the hands of a retired Marine. And there are no starring roles in “Under Fire;” rather, a company of actors are simply assigned letters instead of names. “Under Fire” is truly an ensemble piece.

The set maximizes every inch of space. What seems like a corrugated outbuilding become backlit so actor’s shadows can dance and twist accordingly while a tale is told. Jeff Wallach’s choreography and Gary Mintz’s lighting blend evenly to set a mood then take right off again.

Perhaps it’s no accident that third on the list of credits is military trainer David Lopez. The cast of “Under Fire” are so thoroughly disciplined by Lopez and Arndt’s influence that one need only watch them reenact the joy of ‘mail call’ as soldiers, then stick around after the show to see a stagehand arrive with the actors phones in a Tupperware container. Each member then breaks from the ranks they’ve formed and the responsibilities shouldered for their 21st century mail-call. Soon they’re checking precious messages and updates in the real world where, let’s face it, the rest of us have it comparatively easy.

It is one more reminder that, in “Under Fire,” our American principles and comfortable real worlds are allowed to continue when others shoulder the responsibilities we may not be able to take upon ourselves. The cast, crew, and staff have done a near-perfect job of reminding us just how sweet a night at the theatre can be.

Under Fire

CLU’s Theatre Arts Department

141 Memorial Pkwy, Thousand Oaks, CA

November 11 – November 22

Tickets: 805-493-3452 or http://www.callutheran.edu/theatrearts

A LION IN WINTER

Lion2
Vivien Latham and Alan Waserman in the Elite’s latest offering “A Lion in Winter” (photo credit: Jennifer Corntassel)

A LION IN WINTER

Elite Theatre Company

2731 Victoria Ave, Oxnard, CA

October 23 – November 22

Election cycles are ideal for local theatres to stage shows about the pursuit of power and those who seek it. Elite Theatre Company’s latest offering, “The Lion in Winter” provides the insight into those bold enough to be ambitious and the inevitable trappings they’ll encounter. “Lion” is James Goldman’s play of wit and not a wasted word. Director Tom Eubanks has arranged so that the crisp dialogue is delivered in a space intimate enough to hear, yet broad enough to feel like a 12th Century palace. “Power is the only fact,” bellows King Henry II (a perfectly cast Alan Waserman). Henry is on a mission: having built an empire, this is the story about his pursuit of another end – that of transition. Knowing that his sons are lined up and conniving for his throne, Henry is having his final say: he chooses his mistress Alais (Morgan Bozarth) to marry his warrior son Richard (Adam Womack). Henry knows: if he doesn’t hand Richard the crown “he’ll take it anyway.”

Strong as Henry has built his heir apparent, his mother Eleanor (Vivien Latham) has also had her hand in building Richard’s character. By lending him the gift of poetry and instilling in him a love for words, she has created a weakness she can exploit at her will.

Like many elder statesmen Henry now desires peace to be his legacy and he’s called in Phillip, the King of France (Alex Czajka) to help negotiate a deal. With his other sons Geoffrey and John (Eric McGowan and Trent Trachtenberg) conspiring against him, Henry counts on the priests to write his ultimate legacy. “Henry,” they’ll say, “was a master bastard.”

The pursuit of power is a dungeon of its own. Is there anyone in “Lion” who doesn’t have an agenda? No. They’re all captive to their ambitions. Therefore Bob Decker’s set makes sense, giving the impression that, while safe from the outside world, each is in a dungeon of their own making.

Roger Krevenas has provided the palace with some nice furnishings and Jaye Hersh’s costumes are simple and functional, the centerpiece being Latham’s royal purple coat that flows nicely with a sheer dress and headscarf. Like each of the others, Eleanor seems prepared for the winter ahead, until power – and lives of those wanting it – finally transition.

The Lion in Winter

Elite Theatre Company

2731 Victoria Ave, Oxnard, CA

October 23 – November 22

Tickets: 805-483-5118 or http://www.elitetheatre.org