Nowhere on the Border Playwright Carlos Lacámara Talks About His Critically Acclaimed Play at The Road

The Road Theatre Co is proud to present the premiere of Nowhere on the Border by Carlos Lacámara and directed by Stewart J. Zully. The play concerns itself with the question "Why do people cross borders?" Two working class men, an Anglo on border watch and a Mexican, face off in the desert. What is discovered is that border crossings are both physical and emotional. The play opened January 17 at the Road on Magnolia and will play through March 8. Playwright Carlos Lacámara, who also plays a role in the alternate cast, took time out of a busy schedule to discuss the play in detail.

Is the play Nowhere on the Border autobiographical?

CL: The play is not autobiographical, but as a refugee to this country, I have great empathy for those who tear themselves away from their homes and families to search for a better life.

What actual event(s) inspired you to write this play?

CL: Two different ideas inspired Nowhere on the Border. First, both my wife and I come from working class families. I find that working men (and I am specifically referring to men) often blame their difficulties on other working men of different races or ethnicities rather than on the upper classes that have more control over their fate. A working man from Pennsylvania and one from Mexico have much more in common with each other than they do with Bill Gates or David Koch, so I decided to let two working men from different nations battle out their differences along the southern U.S. border. My other inspiration came from a Los Angeles Times article that followed a father who spent weeks looking for his missing daughter in the desert. Along the way, he found many other dead bodies, and each time he did, he called the Border Patrol and waited for them to take the corpse away. I combined these two ideas to create Nowhere on the Border.

What is the play's intent?

CL: I want this play to remind us that we are all one.

What is it like  playing one of the characters in a play that you wrote?

CL: It’s wonderful to get to portray a character in my own story. Theatre is story telling. Playing a character gives me the wonderful opportunity to live the story I created, and it’s easier to memorize lines that I wrote myself.

What would you like audiences to take away from seeing the play?

CL: I would love for audiences to see themselves in the characters, and to understand that any of us could easily have found ourselves walking across a burning desert, fleeing danger and poverty, were it not for an accident of birth. Immigrants and refugees are as good and smart and deserving as any of us, maybe more so when you consider the courage it takes to do what they do.

Nowhere on the Border plays on Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 8 pm and Sunday matinees at 2 pm at the Road in The NoHo Senior Arts Colony that is located at 10747 Magnolia Blvd. in NoHo. There is plenty of street parking but arrive early. For tickets call 818-761-8838 or go to RoadTheatre.org.


Lee Blessing Shows Multiple Perceptions of Reality

Actors Co-op presents Lee Blessing's "A Body of Water" that opened February 5 for previews with official opening night Friday February 7. The play runs through March 15. Multi award winning actress Nan McNamara serves as director. I sat down with Blessing and here's what he has to say about the play and mounting this production.

I am always fascinated by your plays. What character is telling the truth? Or is it all a dream...or a nightmare? You keep us on the edge of our seats with your wonderful dialogue. How did A Body of Water come about? 

LB: I can't answer most of these questions, but I will say that the idea for the play occurred to me as I was waking up one morning. I was relatively newly divorced (from a long marriage) and was still feeling the very powerful (for me at least) post-trauma effects of that. In some ways I suppose this is a play about trauma in all its forms. It's about those moments in life when nothing that we think we know feels real any longer--nothing that we depended on, nothing that we knew in our hearts to be true. This happens to different people for different reasons of course, in different ways and at different points in their lives. But it happens to nearly everyone, I'd argue, whether we'll admit it or not.

You have been called our greatest American playwright because you deal with issues that are relevant. Sports are a typical love of the American culture and have played into many of your plays, like baseball in The Winning Streak and football in For the Loyal. Do sports play into this piece?

LB: Sports really don't have a role in this play, unless you count jogging. Actually I have the bad habit (for a playwright) of writing about a great many different phases and aspects of contemporary life as well as many different sorts of people encountering quite a range of challenges. America tends to favor playwrights who stick to a fairly narrow range of issues and styles and sort of do the same thing over and over again, often quite brilliantly. They develop sort of a "shingle" to hang out, so people will know what to expect before even seeing their next play. For whatever reason, I tend not to do that.

Tell our readers about A Body of Water in detail without creating a spoiler alert.

LB: This is such a difficult piece to talk about. It's highly conceptual, and one really doesn't want to ruin any surprises or sharp turns that it may contain. I will say that the two people that we meet at the start of play are in their fifties and in great physical health--just as I happened to be when I wrote it. I'll also say that while it's hard to talk about the play before seeing it, it's hard not to talk about the play after seeing it. So feel free to look me up then.

You always lace your plays with a delicious sense of humor. Is there humor here as well?

LB: There is a LOT of humor in this play. And, just like my life, it never fails to make me laugh.

What is the main theme of the play? What do you want audiences to take away after seeing it?

LB: I suppose if the A Body of Water has a theme, it has something to do with the nature of courage and our inability to live without faith. After all, something has to get us through the inevitable traumas.

Do you care to add anything?

LB: If there's such a thing as music in dialogue, I think this is one of the most musical plays I've written. Just don't expect to hum along.

To purchase tickets for A Body of Water, call 323-462-8460 or visit ActorsCo-Op.org


JOAN OF ART: The Mormons are Back, A Musical that's Worth a Trip, A Visit to the Iconic Grand Central Market, and Get Ready to Dance, Dance, Dance

There's a lot of super fun things going on this weekend and I'm going to try my best to be at every one of them.

First up THE BOOK OF MORMON is opening at the Ahmanson Theatre at 135 North Grand Avenue downtown.

I've seen this musical (are you ready?) four times over the last few years. Why do I keep going back? Because it's hysterically funny, brilliant and super clever on every single level. I absolutely loved every second of this show and I promise you will too.

According to The New York Times...THE BOOK OF MORMON is completely irrelevant, outrageous and 'the best musical of the century' and numerous publications more than agree with these sentiments.

This wonderfully offensive, extremely smart show is from the minds of Trey Parker, Richard Lopez and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park. Need I say more?

But I will. Briefly it's the misadventures of a mismatched pair of missionaries they are sent halfway across the world to spread the Good Word. They start out in Salt Lake City and wind up in a remote Ugandan village. What follows is a sidesplitting story of Joseph Smith and the Mormon Church like you've never seen before.

THE BOOK OF MORMON opened this week and plays through March 29th.

For more information and for tickets go to CenterTheatreGroup.org.

Next up is a different kind of musical that will have you traveling to downtown Los Angeles to The Los Angeles Theatre Center, which resides in a historic beautiful building that was originally a bank constructed In the late 1930's and early 1931.

It's really cool to see that some of the history of the building has been preserved. In fact on the lower floor is the bank's original vault and if you're super quiet and have a vivid imagination, you might just see a ghost or two.

Back to the musical which is entitled FOUND. This musical comedy was inspired by scores of surprising and eccentric discarded notes and letters that have been 'found' in the real world by every-day people and brought to irreverent theatrical life.

The show is based on the collection curated by Davy Rothbart in his 'Found' books and magazines. premiered off Broadway in 2014 and was the 'Critic's Pick' by The New York Times.

This insightful and hilarious musical is a raucous exploration of human connection and the beautiful weirdness in all of us. I personally can't wait to see it.

The Los Angeles Theatre Center is located at 513 South Spring Street, Downtown LA 90013. For tickets go to TheLATC.org/Found or call 213-489-0994.

FOUND opens tonight February 20th at 8pm with performances taking place on Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 4pm and Mondays at 8pm through March 23rd 2020.

Okay now that you're downtown, you must visit one of my favorite eating haunts that has always without fail satisfied all of my culinary needs and left me extremely full and happy. I'm talking about THE GRAND CENTRAL MARKET located at 317 South Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013

This is a feasting grounds with a dynamic lineup of vendors that have been here for decades. In fact, the market can be traced back from its days as an open grocery to its modern 'destination dining'.

Its excellent reputation draws James Beard quality chefs. All of the thirty stalls in GCM are definitely worthy of your attention whether it's for lunch, dinner or an in between snack. No matter what your food tastes are, you will find it here.

The Market is turning 100 this year and after you visit this place, you will definitely be shouting "HERE'S TO ANOTHER 100!."

To see everything the GCM offers go to their website at GrandCentralMarket.com.

Last on my list, but definitely not least is the BLUE 13 DANCE COMPANY noted for its rhythmic and charged performances that blend hip-hop, ballet and modern and traditional Indian dance.

This incredibly talented company showcases its exuberant genre bending artistry at one of my favorite theatres, The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, which is located at 9390 North Santa Monica Blvd. in Beverly Hills 90210.

BLUE 13 DANCE COMPANY is L.A. based and has been influencing the modern dance landscape through their reimagining of the classical forms from India with an American contemporary aesthetic.

They've performed on stages around the world, from Paris and Morocco to New York using dance as a vehicle for storytelling and I for one can't wait to see them.

The BLUE 13 DANCE COMPANY will be performing on February 21st through February 22nd at 7:30.

For tickets and more information go to TheWallis.org.

Whatever you do this weekend people, make it a super fun one.


Actress Barbara Brownell Continues to Inspire Us All

Actress Barbara Brownell is a true inspiration. She has spent her life performing on the Broadway stage, on film, and in television with a few great surprises along the way, which she discusses with us in much detail.

You have won a BWW award in 2017. What was the play you won the award for and what did you enjoy most about it?

BB: The play was Dull Pain Turned Sharp, written by Brent Beerman and directed by Kay Cole. I played Linda, a woman in her 60s who faces the dilemma of wanting her only daughter to have a grandchild, but is conflicted about a health danger she might have passed down to her. I enjoyed working on a multi-layered character and with a wonderfully talented cast.

You were nominated this past year for directing Laundry and Bourbon/Lone Star. Talk about the plays and what they meant to you.

BB: Laundry and Bourbon and Lonestar are two one acts written by James McLure. While the plays stand on their own, they make a nice companion set because the central conflict in each piece as well as its characters are related closely to those in the other play. They appealed to me because they contain serious themes about friendship, family, and getting through tough times and yet both plays are also delightfully funny. I was blessed to work with two strong casts which made the rehearsal process particularly fun and rewarding.

You have worked in the past with some great directors including Woody Allen. What play did you perform with him, what character did you play, and what was the experience like?

BB: I did Play it Again, Sam with Woody for one year on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre.

My part was Dream Sharon, his fantasy of the perfect woman. When we were in Boston, pre-Broadway, Woody decided to have his dream girl come to life at the end of the play. So I reappeared and he named the character Barbara, after me. Of course, working in a hit show on Broadway opened doors for me. I got a nice role in Going Home with Robert Mitchum and Jan Michael Vincent and was cast in The David Frost Review TV series. However, the most enduring gift is the close friendship I’ve enjoyed these many years with fellow cast member Cynthia Dalbey. I do remember Woody saying, about his writing, “There’s no secret. I make myself write everyday.” And about his directing, “I just cast well, and let them play.”

You also worked on the 2012 film The Master. You mentioned Paul Thomas Anderson, the director who obviously meant a great deal to you. Two of the stars, Joaquin Phoenix, who was competing for an Oscar this year for The Joker, and the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman are unforgettable. What role did you play and what do you remember most vividly about the movie?

BB: My character was a wealthy New York socialite who was being put through a Past Life Regression by the Master. When P.T. (Paul Thomas) found out that I was a hypnotherapist and familiar with the process, he sought out my help in shaping the scene. The only line he had written for me was “My name is Margaret O’Brien.” He wanted Philip and me to improvise the rest, and so we did. Many takes actually. It was exhilarating. Watching Philip work gave me chills. Joaquin was in the scene, but only as an observer. My impression is that he was never really out of character, even at lunch. While Amy Adams in addition to being extraordinarily talented, was one of the most down to earth people I’ve ever met.

Mention some of the other wonderful directors you have worked with.

BB: I was privileged to work with two giants of the sitcom world, Jay Sandrich, who directed me in both the Mary Tyler Moore and Bob Newhart shows, and Jimmy Burrows, who directed me in Barefoot in the Park where I played opposite Tab Hunter. Both Jay and Jimmy were such creative, inventive, and positive influences. I also was lucky enough to work with Steven Soderbergh in HBO’s Behind the Candelabra where I played Liberace’s sister, Angie. Candidly, the part didn’t amount to much, but I got to see Soderbergh work and how much his cast and crew adored him. More recently I’ve had the opportunity to work with two really talented “up and comers”, Ryan Eggold and Eric Bilitch, who both wrote and directed small, wonderful projects that I had so much fun doing.

This last year you were in the Grammy winning music video of Old Town Road with Billy Ray Cyrus and Lil Nas X, a song that set the Billboard record for consecutive weeks as the number one hit. How did this come about?

BB: I started my career as a dancer and continue to dance almost every day, especially line dancing. I auditioned with seemingly hundreds of dancers of all ages and styles, so that when I was cast, I really didn’t know what to expect or what I was to do. The song is a cross-over hit that combines hip hop with country dancing, which we did for hours. As the day turned to night, I was fairly certain that at least I’d be recognizable in the piece, but at 2am, they asked me to stay to shoot stills for the end piece of the video. So there I am, in the final frames, posed with Lil Nas X like a moonstruck couple in a prom photo. I found him to be delightful, if not a little overwhelmed by the sudden fame he was experiencing at the ripe old age of 20. I’ll say this, for all of my credits, from Broadway to the Silver Screen, no part has given me more cred with my grandchildren than my appearance in Old Town Road.

With such varied work on stage and on film both acting and dancing, what do you foresee as a main project for you in 2020?

BB: I’m working on a one person show tentatively entitled I am Barbara Brownell, I Think in which I explore how I navigated a challenging childhood and a lifetime of experiences to forge the person and performer I am today, only to discover late in life, that I’m not actually, biologically speaking, who I thought I was. The show gives me the opportunity to do just about everything...acting, dancing, even a bit of singing. It’s both wonderful and frightening to have complete creative control of something. I can’t very well blame anyone else for the writing, now can I?

Is there anyone in particular in the acting world who inspired you. Who are your favorite stars today ... from yesteryear and in present time.

BB: When I was very young, I did my best to imitate Shirley Temple. I even looked a bit like her, with a headful of curls. She was definitely my first inspiration. Nowadays? I’ve always admired Judi Dench, because she can do so many things so well. I used to love to watch her British comedy series As Time Goes By. And yet she’s just as deft in the classics, in Shakespeare, or in the Bond films, or a musical, or even as a director. All done with such class, but then again, she is a Dame!

Another contemporary British actress I’ve admired is Sarah Lancashire. Again, it’s the range she displays from drama and action to comedy that’s so impressive.

Do you prefer drama or comedy with either plays or screenplays?

BB: It’s hard to make a blanket statement. To me, the most important thing is whether I connect to the piece. Truthfully, though, I prefer work that incorporates both drama and comedy. That’s why I so enjoyed directing Laundry and Bourbon and Lone Star, for they both manage to tell heartfelt, human, dramatic stories laced with moments of pure comedic joy, with neither feeling out of step or unearned. Of course, as a performer, there’s nothing as intoxicating as getting laughs from an audience, but it’s doubly magical when you sense the audience is also connecting with you emotionally.

Maybe that’s why Neil Simon remains my favorite playwright. Of course, he is widely acknowledged as a genius for his comedies, but I think he is underappreciated as a dramatic writer. I’ve been blessed to perform Barefoot in the Park, Star Spangled Girl, and Come Blow Your Horn, all certainly light fare. But Chapter Two, Lost in Yonkers, and the Eugene trilogy, to name a few, certainly prove his mettle as a serious playwright.

What do you feel has been your greatest achievement in your career so far?

BB: I was able to fulfill the dreams of a little girl from the poor side of Bound Brook, New Jersey to make it to Broadway. And to have the chance to work with the likes of Jimmy Stewart, Robert Mitchum, Woody Allen, Mary Tyler Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Jon Hamm. And to be a senior citizen dancing in a Grammy winning music video. Maybe my greatest accomplishment is that I’m still here.

Sum up your career in one sentence.

BB: It’s not over yet, is it? Ask me again in ten years.


Now Registered on the Better Lemons Calendar – February 10 - 16, 2020


Musicals, Comedy, Cabaret, Variety shows, and more now registered on the Better Lemons calendar!

For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page.


For The Love of the Glove

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Hot Tragic Dead Thing

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FERTILE

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Law & Order: The Musical!

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Old Jews Telling Jokes

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The Wild Party

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Richard Lederer's Presidents Tonight! at North Coast Repertory Theatre

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Matty: An Evening with Christy Mathewson

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Pan Am Returns

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The Swords of Sorrow- BURAI II

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Death and Other Girly Things

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AFTERGLOW

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Ain't All So Grimm

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Jelly Beans

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Deconstructing Holly

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Show Me A Hero

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Valentine's Weekend and Beyond: The Other Way to Celebrate Love With the Lights Out

Like a box of chocolates, here's a rich and varied collection of L.A. theatrical, comedy, magic, and variety shows, readings, and classic films to enjoy for your Valentine's, Galentine's, or Palentine's Weekend--and beyond--currently registered on Better Lemons' Calendar.


Loves Me/Loves Me Not

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She Loves Me

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Gifted

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The $5 Shakespeare Company

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That's the End of Our Time

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Mistakes Were Made

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Emma

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Shoulda Been You

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The Little Match Girl

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Valentine’s Weekend of Love at The Montalbán

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Casablanca - Valentine’s Weekend of Love at The Montalbán

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The Notebook - Valentine’s Weekend of Love at The Montalbán

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Breakfast at Tiffany's - Valentine’s Weekend of Love at The Montalbán

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Barefoot in the Park

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Never Been Kissed

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Mack & Poppy: 'Til Death Do Us Part

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Hot Tragic Dead Thing

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JOAN OF ART: Three Musicals and a Tango

Yes, this week it's all about music and in particular three musical icons who created music and who will always be remembered.

First up is BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL playing at the Fred Kavli Theatre in Thousand Oaks.

Long before she was Carole King, this chart topping music legend was Carole Klein, a girl from Brooklyn New York with a passion and lots of chutzpah.

She fought her way into the record business as a teenager and by the time she reached her twenties, had the husband of her dreams and a flourishing career writing hits for the biggest acts in rock 'n' roll. It wasn't until her personal life began to crack that she finally managed to find her real voice.

BEAUTIFUL is the inspiring true story of Carole King's remarkable rise to stardom from being part of a hit songwriting team with her husband Gerry Goffin to her relationship with fellow writers and best friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann ultimately becoming one of the most successful solo acts in popular music history.

The show continues to dazzle in New York and to packed houses world wide with its wit, charm and soul featuring a stunning array of beloved songs including 'I Feel The Earth Move,' 'One Fine Day,' 'You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman,' 'You've Got A Friend' and of course the title song.

I've seen the show in New York and I can't wait to see it again this weekend. Performances are February 13th at 7:30, February 14 at 8pm, February 15th at 2pm and 8pm, and February 16th at 1pm and 6:30pm.

The Fred Kavli Theatre is located at The Thousand Oaks Bank Of America Performing Arts Center, 2100 East Thousand Oaks Blvd in Thousand Oaks, 91362.

For tickets and more information go to bapacthousandoaks.com. or call (800) 745-3000.

Now for a musical about one of the biggest musical icons. The show is called JUST IMAGINE: A TRIBUTE TO JOHN LENNON.

The premise is simple. Imagine John Lennon returns for one last concert and you are there. 'Just Imagine' transports you to another place and time putting you 'one on one' with the musical legend who shook the world.

You will experience Lennon's timeless musical genius through Tim Piper who takes us through John's life from his tumultuous childhood to becoming a worldwide music superstar as well as a groundbreaking social icon that influenced generations.

The show promises to tell us the stories behind the songs and will reveal insights about the birth of the Beatles, the pressures of super stardom, and John's relationships with his lovers and fellow Beatles.

Backed by the rock band WORKING CLASS HERO Piper channels Lennon in this critically acclaimed tribute.

The show is playing at Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, located at 3050 Los Angeles Avenue in Simi Valley, 93065. For tickets go to Unsigned-Records.com or call the box office at (805) 583-7900.

The third musical on my 'must see' list this week has us traveling further back into the past. LADY DAY at EMERSON'S BAR & GRILL is a play with music recounting several events in the life of the one and only Billie Holiday.

The play premiered in 1986 in Atlanta Georgia and soon played off -Broadway and then it made its Broadway debut in 2014.

You can now see this wonderful and important production at the Ebony Repertory Theatre in Los Angeles.

The drama with music examines and explores the life of the legendary Billie Holiday during one of her final performances in Philadelphia in March 1959 four months shy of her death age the age of 44. Billie Holiday used everything that happened in her life to inform her art.

According to director Wren T. Brown, sixty years after her death, at a time in America when race, gender, and the opioid crisis are being discussed loudly on a daily basis, Miss Holiday's life and career are a great example of what it means to not just survive but triumph in the face of lifelong abuse and struggle.

The super talented Karole Foreman stars in the title role along with music director Stephan Terry.

The limited engagement began February 6th and plays through March 1st. I'm a big fan of Miss Holiday and I guarantee, after you see this show, you will be one too.

For tickets and more information go to EbonyRep.org. The Ebony Repertory Theatre is located at 4718 West Washington Blvd, Los Angeles 90018.

Lastly I recommend a show that explores one of my personal favorites - the Tango. In particular the Argentine Tango. No dance is more sensual nor expresses the man-woman relationship than this one. It's also known as the Authentic Tango.

The show is called ONCE UPON A TANGO and it is is the perfect way to spend Valentine's Day.

On February 16th at 6pm, Once Upon a Tango - Valentines Day Show will be playing at The Colony Theatre at 555 North 3rd Street in Burbank 91503.

After making their debut in Santa Barbara and San Diego in their #onceuponatangotour, GD Tango presents an all new version of the show that will be full of surprises. Not to mention their latest addition - master tango dancers brought to you from Argentina.

Guillermo Salvat and Miriam Lea brings romance and passion to each of their performances. Their dances are based on real people and events that the audience can enjoy and relate to. Through their movements thay tell an enchanting original tale that you will remember long after the curtain falls.

I've seen the show and I promise you will absolutely love it.

For tickets and more information go to GDTango.com.

Whatever you do this weekend people, make it a fun one. Oh and a romantic one.


Now Registered on the Better Lemons Calendar – February 4 - 9, 2020


Rooftop Film Festivals, Musicals, Comedy, Magic, Shakespeare, Cabaret, Variety shows, and more now registered on the Better Lemons calendar!

For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page.


Ragtime The Musical

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The Bogeyman

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ROD ROGET’S CELEBRITY NIGHTCAP at Zombie Joe's Underground

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Barrett Foa has Friends!

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Never Not Once

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Hamlet

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Hamlet: The Rock Musical

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Barefoot in the Park

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TAME: Up Close And Personal

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The Velveteen Rabbit

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Valentine's 2020 at The Montalban

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Casablanca at The Montalban

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The Notebook at The Montalban

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Breakfast at Tiffany's

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THE BETTER LEMONS CRITIC OF THE YEAR AWARD FOR 2019 GOES TO...

STEVEN STANLEY - Stage Scene LA

The CRITIC OF THE YEAR Award goes to the critic who has done the most to advance the fine art of theater criticism. This critic sets a standard for partnering with the artists who bring LA theatre to life and the audiences that LA theatre serves.

Congratulations to Steven from all of us!

Steven Stanley is the editor of StageSceneLA.com and he is also the author of Moroccan Roll, available at Amazon.com.

Steven has been an ESL instructor in the English Language Program (formerly the American Culture And Language Program) at California State University, Los Angeles since 1979.

In the early 1970s, Steven Stanley taught English at Lycée Ibn Sina in Beni-Mellal, Morocco—an experience which led him to write Moroccan Roll (2007, iUniverse) , a multiple-plot novel which has received favorable comparison to Armistead Maupin’s Tales Of The City and TV’s Sex In The City.

Steven Stanley’s love for theater began at an early age, as a young audience member at L.A. Civic Light Opera productions. In 1993, he returned to acting for the first time since a number of teenaged appearances with a featured role in The Pajama Game at the San Gabriel Civic. This was followed by numerous appearances on Los Angeles area stages including the Lillian Theatre, the Actor’s Group Theatre, the Stephanie Feurie Studio Theatre, the Gardner Stages, the Sierra Madre Playhouse, and the Whittier Center Theatre.

StageSceneLA.com debuted in August of 2007, just as Steven Stanley was concluding two years as an Ovation Awards voter, during which time he attended and voted on over 375 productions. Each September, StageSceneLA.com presents the Scenies to the finest Southern California theater talents.

To view all of Steven's review excerpts, visit his Better Lemons page HERE.

To view all the Registered Critics on Better Lemons who post their own review excerpts and give each show a LemonMeter rating, go to Better-Lemons.com/Registered-Critics.

All Registered Critics write theater and art reviews for their own publications and then rate registered shows on our website and add their LemonMeter rating. Please contact them through their own website to congratulate them and to get them to review your production.

And here are the previously announced 2019 Critic Award winners:

THE BETTER LEMONS "FOMENTER OF REVOLUTION" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Ed Rampell from Hollywood Progressive.

THE BETTER LEMONS "NAME DROPPER" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Jill Weinlein from Onstage Blog.

THE BETTER LEMONS "SAY WHAT" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Lorenzo Marchessi from The Geek Authority.

THE BETTER LEMONS "SILVER TONGUE" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Vanessa Cate from Stage Raw.

THE BETTER LEMONS "DIRECTOR" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Ernest Kearney from TheTVolution.

THE BETTER LEMONS "UP LATE" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Eric Gordon from People's World.

THE BETTER LEMONS "THEATRE HOUND" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Shari Barrett from Broadway World.

THE BETTER LEMONS "I LOVE LA" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Paul Myrvold from Paul Myrvold Theatre Notes.

THE BETTER LEMONS "ENLIGHTENMENT" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Deborah Klugman from Stage Raw.


Award-winning director Katharine Farmer Returns to the Rubicon

Carey Crim's west coast premiere Never Not Once plays at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura February 5 through 23 for a three week engagement only. Award winning British director Katharine Farmer will helm the production. In our conversation she talks about the play, her cast and just how enriching it is to work at the Rubicon.

Discuss the complexities of Never Not Once and your challenges as the director.

KF: Never Not Once is as complicated as you want it to be. It can simply be watched as a family drama, or it can trigger a conversation that is longer than the play itself about identity and whether we are more than the simple sum of the choices that we, and others, make. I hope that the play will give our audiences the option to think, and if we have all done our job correctly, audiences will feel compelled to care.

The central challenge to directing and staging the play has been to capture and convey the haunting humanity that definitely exists in the plot and its characters, but lives just as much between the words as it does within them.

What is the message of the play? How does it stand apart from other dramas about dysfunctional families?

KF: We are living in an era of self, but it is not obvious that this is making us any happier. Likewise, science is evermore confident that it is providing us with answers, but is it making us any smarter about which questions really matter?

The message of Never Not Once is that while trying to understand one’s self is the most natural thing in the world, a focus on “I” should not crowd out an understanding of “us”. This play certainly has it’s fair share of dysfunctionality but the concept of family is less of the problem and more of a solution.

Tell us about your cast and their dynamics.

KF: For everyone in the cast, this is their Rubicon debut!

Sydney Berk is playing Eleanor, the college student who wants to find her father. Sydney trained at LAMDA in the UK and has worked extensively with A Noise Within in LA. Her two mothers are played by Diahnna Nicole Baxter and Melanic Cruz. Diahnna co-created, co-wrote and starred in “SATACRACY 88,” the first web series to win an Emmy Award, and was nominated again the next year. Melanie had a recurring role in HBO’s Big Love and recently was seen on stage as Sara in Lucky Me at Theatre West in Nebraska. Our other two cast members are Issac Cruz, who was recently involved with the multi-theatre homeless support production of Homeward LA for the second consecutive year, and Michael Polak who’s theatre credits include The Illusion at North Coast Repertory Theatre and Doubt at International City Theatre.

Working with this fantastic cast has been a pleasure. They have always approached rehearsals with a focus, passion, and openness that really serves the play.

Two moms and a daughter searching for her father. Is it a lesbian couple or does that bring about a spoiler alert?

KF: A lesbian couple are at the centre of the play and yet the play is not about lesbianism. Allison and Nadine have created a truly loving home, thereby ticking the “nurture” box. Their daughter Eleanor feels the need to find her father to fully understand her genetic heritage, in order to tick the “nature” box. This need would be every bit as essential if her mother was in a heterosexual relationship. The lesbian relationship brings it greater clarity, intensity and poignancy. Separately I think that it will constitute progress for the LGBTQIA+ community when characters in drama are from that community without the plots of those dramas implying that their sexual orientation is all that defines them.

Talk about the other plays you have directed at the Rubicon. Do you have a favorite?

KF: Asking me what my favourite show is is like asking me to pick my favourite child: I have loved them all. I will always remember Last Train to Nibroc as my first professional directing experience. I will always be proud of South Pacific for the courage it took to put a twist on one of the great classics of musical theatre. But to answer your question, Gulf View Drive was my favorite, for its sense of closure for both the characters and the audience who’d followed May and Raleigh’s journey for three years.

You have won many awards. How does that make you feel about working at the Rubicon?

KF: Karyl Lynn Burns and James O’Neil are the best mentors that a young director could hope for and the Rubicon is so much more than just a venue. From the “Friends of Rubicon” to the staff and volunteers, Karyl Lynn and Jim have created a loving, caring and support structure for creatives of all ages and in my case, all nationalities. Rubicon is a shining example of excellence in regional theatre on a global scale. When it comes to awards, they are a much appreciated blessing that I would rather not dwell too much upon. My focus and priority is that my next audience will enjoy my next show.

Back to Never Not Once. Does the play come to the Rubicon intact or have there been changes since it premiered at Jeff Daniels' theatre?

KF: I first read the play in 2016 and loved it since inception. We have made a few small changes to the script since its production at the Purple Rose Theatre, but it’s very much been a case of evolution not revolution. I have always been in awe of Carey Crim’s gift for natural dialogue and compared to other pieces of new writing that I have worked on, much fewer iterations have been required.

(photo credit: Craig Sugden)

Never Not Once plays at the Rubicon Theatre February 5 through 23. The Rubicon Theatre Company is located at 1006 E Main St Ventura, CA 93001

Guest Services: (805) 667-2900


THE BETTER LEMONS "ENLIGHTENMENT" CRITIC AWARD FOR 2019 GOES TO...

DEBORAH KLUGMAN - Stage Raw

The "Enlightenment" Award goes to the critic who does the most to inform and educate.

Congratulations to Deborah from all of us!

Deborah Klugman has been writing for alternative media in Los Angeles since 1987 when she began writing theater reviews for the LA Reader. She was a theater critic for the LA  Weekly from 1995 through 2013. She has also reviewed film, books, and food for various publications, along with articles on social and political issues. She joined the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle in 2013. She also posts for ArtsBeatLA.com

To view all of Deborah's review excerpts, visit her Better Lemons page HERE.

To view all the Registered Critics on Better Lemons who post their own review excerpts and give each show a LemonMeter rating, go to Better-Lemons.com/Registered-Critics.

All Registered Critics write theater and art reviews for their own publications and then rate registered shows on our website and add their LemonMeter rating. Please contact them through their own website to congratulate them and to get them to review your production.

Tomorrow we will announce the last winner for 2019, which will be the "Critic of the Year" Award.

THE BETTER LEMONS "FOMENTER OF REVOLUTION" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Ed Rampell from Hollywood Progressive.

THE BETTER LEMONS "NAME DROPPER" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Jill Weinlein from Onstage Blog.

THE BETTER LEMONS "SAY WHAT" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Lorenzo Marchessi from The Geek Authority.

THE BETTER LEMONS "SILVER TONGUE" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Vanessa Cate from Stage Raw.

THE BETTER LEMONS "DIRECTOR" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Ernest Kearney from TheTVolution.

THE BETTER LEMONS "UP LATE" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Eric Gordon from People's World.

THE BETTER LEMONS "THEATRE HOUND" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Shari Barrett from Broadway World.

THE BETTER LEMONS "I LOVE LA" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Paul Myrvold from Paul Myrvold Theatre Notes.


JOAN OF ART: The L.A. Art Show, A Poignant and Important Musical, Sneakers Everyone and The Constitution

There are a lot of super fun things happening this weekend in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas starting with the L.A. Art Show.

The L.A. Art Show continues to lead the way with innovative and one of a kind experiences for an expanding audience. The show is the unparalleled international art experience with over 120 galleries from more than 20 countries exhibiting painting, sculpture, works on paper, installation, photography, fashion, design, video, and performance.

More than 200,000 square feet of exhibition space is committed to today's prominent galleries. I've been going to this event for the last 20 years and I'm never disappointed. Besides great people watching, the eclectic art displayed here is some of the best.

The show takes place at the Los Angeles Convention Center at 1201 South Figueroa Street in Downtown LA, 90015. It runs from February 5th through the 9th. Hours are 11am-5pm. For more information and tickets go to LAArtShow.com.

As you know I absolutely love musical theatre and one of my favorite shows Ragtime (which I've seen twice) is back in Southern California at The Carpenter Performing Arts Center February 7th through the 23rd in honor of Black History Month.

This five time Tony Award Winning musical is based on E. I. Doctorow's acclaimed novel which tells the story of three families trying to find their way during the turn of the 20th century in New York City. Each family is struggling with the changing cultural climate in America and each facing the promise of hope and new beginnings in the midst of prejudice and bigotry.

Tony Award winning playwright Terrence McNally wrote the book and features a score filled with memorable songs. The music is haunting and memorable. If you see one musical this year, I highly recommend Ragtime.

For tickets go to Musical.org or call (562) 56-1999. The Carpenter Performing Arts Center is located at 6200 East Atherton Street in Long Beach 90815. It's definitely worth the trip.

Now if you're a fan of sneakers and think of it as art, then SNEAKERTOPIA; SNEAKER AND STREET ART EXHIBIT is the place to be this weekend.

Sneakertopia is the new massive sneaker and street art exhibit, transporting you through a series of immersive, mind-blowing galleries celebrating the art and culture of sneakers. This is a story of creativity, expression, and innovation.

You will witness the sneaker's epic ascension through sports, music, film, fashion, and fantasy.

There will be a 15,000 square foot indoor playground packed with priceless kicks, oversized sights and sounds and interactive street art masterpieces.

SNEAKERTOPIA takes place Friday February 7th through March 1st at 6081 Center Drive, Suite 222, Los Angeles 90045. For tickets go to Sneakertopia.com or call (323) 546-5950.

Lastly there is a powerful, important, and extremely moving play at the Mark Taper. The play is called What The Constitution Means To Me and this is a definite 'must see.'

In fact every man, woman, and mature teenager should see it. At a time when the Constitution is being assailed by those who have sworn an oath to defend it, this buoyant and often stirring civics lesson is the theatrical curriculum Americans desperately need now.

Actress Maria Dizzia brings to life the maddening, mournful history of how women's bodies have been abused by laws and the male dominated courts imperiously interpreting them. And don't worry about the play getting too heavy. It is infused with humor...lots of it.

For tickets to this extraordinary theatrical event go to CenterTheatreGroup.org. The Mark Taper is located at 135 Grand Avenue in Downtown LA, 90012. The show runs through February 28th.

Whatever you do this weekend people, have a great one.


THE BETTER LEMONS "I LOVE LA" CRITIC AWARD FOR 2019 GOES TO...

 PAUL MYRVOLD - Paul Myrvold's Theatre Notes

The "I Love LA" Award goes to the critic who did the most to promote LA Theatre in 2019.

Congratulations to Paul from all of us!

Paul Myrvold, has been writing theatre commentary for over thirty years, first in the Bay Area covering every kind of performance including plays, musicals, ballet, opera, circus, and even a Portuguese-style bull fight. He has written about theatrical performances at all levels in all kinds of venues from the premiere theatres, such as A.C.T., Berkeley Rep and TheatreWorks, to smaller, high quality venues such as San Jose Stage Company, City Lights Theatre Company, and Pacific Repertory Theatre in Carmel. He has also covered community theatre productions, college and university productions and, on occasion, high school productions.

Now residing in Southern California, Paul has been commenting on shows throughout Los Angeles County and has stretched his beat to Orange County and South Coast Repertory.

An Equity actor for over forty years, Paul played Jonathan Jeremiah Peachum in San Jose Stage Company’s award winning production of The Three Penny Opera and the dual roles of Sir Walter Elliot and Admiral Croft in the world premiere of Jane Austen’s Persuasion also at San Jose Stage Company. He earned a Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for “Outstanding Performance” in the supporting roles of J. V. “Major” Bouvier and Dr. Norman Vincent Peale in the musical Grey Gardens at TheatreWorks (2008). In the summer of 2018, he appeared in the highly acclaimed Open Fist Theatre production of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood as Reverend Jenkins and Narrator. Paul has performed on Broadway (most notably in the hit show Shenandoah with John Cullum), off Broadway, off-off Broadway, in regional theatres, summer stock and as a Guest Artist at colleges and universities from coast to coast. He has performed his signature role Cervantes/Quixote in Man of La Mancha eight times over four decades, the latest of which was an intimate, theatre-in-the round production at Pacific Repertory Theatre. Some other favorite roles include King Lear, Fred Graham / Petruchio in Kiss Me, Kate, Trigorin in The Sea Gull, Fredrik Egerman in A Little Night Music and Caldwell B. Cladwell in Urinetown. Paul is never happier than when he is in the theatre, either on stage or in the audience, and he hopes to see you at intermission or after the show.

To view all of Paul's review excerpts, visit his Better Lemons page HERE.

To view all the Registered Critics on Better Lemons who post their own review excerpts and give each show a LemonMeter rating, go to Better-Lemons.com/Registered-Critics.

All Registered Critics write theater and art reviews for their own publications and then rate registered shows on our website and add their LemonMeter rating. Please contact them through their own website to congratulate them and to get them to review your production.

Tomorrow we will announce the winner of the "Enlightenment" Award - the critic who did the most to inform and educate in 2019.

THE BETTER LEMONS "FOMENTER OF REVOLUTION" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Ed Rampell from Hollywood Progressive.

THE BETTER LEMONS "NAME DROPPER" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Jill Weinlein from Onstage Blog.

THE BETTER LEMONS "SAY WHAT" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Lorenzo Marchessi from The Geek Authority.

THE BETTER LEMONS "SILVER TONGUE" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Vanessa Cate from Stage Raw.

THE BETTER LEMONS "DIRECTOR" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Ernest Kearney from TheTVolution.

THE BETTER LEMONS "UP LATE" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Eric Gordon from People's World.

THE BETTER LEMONS "THEATRE HOUND" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Shari Barrett from Broadway World.