Writer: Ernest Kearney

Ernest Kearney, an award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note, has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist three times in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His play Peddle was selected by the Midwest Theatre Network as one of the best plays of 1997. His most recent work 'The Salt Prince' was awarded honors from the Nathan Miller History Play Contest as well as the Fremont Center Theatre Play Contest. A passionate theatre and history buff, Mr. Kearney's reviews can be found on workingauthor.com and TheTVolution.com. Hang with him on Facebook. Comments welcome.
May

The Cruise

Festival Fringe Time in Hollywood 2018, Part IIFor any creative soul, when the truest and most vibrant colors are sought, the source most readily turned to is that intimate palette of one's own personal narrative. Writers, novelists, playwrights tend to display the greatest dependency on this singular resource. The process of extraction can be as varied as the specific commodities sought and the method in which they will be employed. You have writers like Stephen King and Ray Bradbury, who are blessed with imaginations that function like finely tuned assembly lines of creativity, in which their personal chronicles are called upon to provide an epidermal reality to their more phantasmagorical constructs. Some writers claim deep reserves of accumulated episodes, which they tend to render up faithfully and so feel it is obligatory, much as Ernest Hemingway did, that they be constantly replenishing their pool of experience.

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May

DRYLAND

Dryland by Ruby Rae Spiegel drew its inspiration from a 2012 article in The New Republic concerning the assault on the reproductive rights of women in America and the lengths some found themselves forced to go through when faced with an unwanted pregnancy. In the intervening years, that assault has only increased in its intensity, but Dry Land is more than a tirade about the efforts to limit a woman's control of her own body, it is a slice of life cut with the precision of a surgeon's scalpel and held unflinchingly beneath the collective microscope of its audience. Amy (Teagan Rose) is the popular blonde “in” with the most “in-est” of her Florida high school's crowds. Ester (Connor Kelly-Eiding) is a recent transfer to the school. Awkward and gangly on dry land, she finds her gracefulness in the pool of the high school swim team. She and Amy share no common ground, but they do share the water.

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May

Elevator

Okay, I'm going out on a limb here in assuming that Elevator, currently at the Coast Playhouse, is Michael Leoni's first play. If I am wrong or if right doesn't matter overly much, because the seven character ‘elevator' play certainly feels like one. I mean that in ways both positive and negative. Nothing like a good, straight forward premise: Seven strangers step into an elevator at the start of the business day, but before any of them reach their intended floors… —CLANG-BING-JANGLE-CLUNK-KACHINK-GNASH-THUD — Our septet suddenly find that they are trapped and immobilized in Otis limbo with no rescue arriving anytime soon.

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May

Sinner's Laundry

IAMA Theatre Company's production, Sinner's Laundry, at the Lounge Theatre in Hollywood, can be summed up simply as Orange is the New No Exit. Two inmates at a women's correctional facility find themselves suddenly alone, surrounded by clothing which, had been worn by others but, is now lying empty, strewn around the floor about them. Is it the Rapture? Is it The Leftovers? Did everybody else take off for pizza and forget to invite these two? Who knows? The script by playwright John Lavelle takes us many places, up and down and all around, but the fault is it begins nowhere and ends nowhere. If this was the playwright's intention, well then congratulations, however from an audience's point of view, it is somewhat frustrating.

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May

Cardboard Piano

In my opinion, Long Beach's International City Theatre artistic director, caryn desai has a genius for selecting and staging plays that are fail-safe, in so far as proving fully satisfying experiences for her devoted subscription holders; retirees who probably still have LP collections and have been complaining about the price they pay at the pump since gas was seventy-five cents per gallon. Catering to such a group is not as easy a task as you might think. It requires acute judgment and a committed attentiveness to the sensibilities and standards of those purchasing season tickets and in this desai is an ace.

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May

MOBY DICK

Going into South Coast Repertory's production of adapter/director David Catlin's Moby Dick, based on the novel by Herman Melville, I immediately encountered a red flag in the program notes by Kat Zukatis with the opening line: “Let's all agree: Moby-Dick is a terrible novel.” My lovely wife Marlene and I quickly agreed that we didn't agree with that statement, and that Zukatis' program note was one of the worst we had ever encountered. Catlin, as well as a number of those in the ensemble and production crew of Moby Dick, is part of Chicago's renowned Lookingglass Theatre Company.

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May

BRIGHT STAR

Bright Star is the epitome of what the Broadway stage does to perfection. It is a huge, radiant, exquisitely produced and performed crowd-pleaser; guaranteed to delight busloads of tourists visiting from Kansas. It is the stuff that allows Broadway theatre to survive. The three strengths of the show are the music by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell and the presence of Carmen Cusack reprising the lead role of Alice: a role which was not only her Broadway debut (2016), under Walter Bobbie's consummate direction, but also earned her a Tony Nomination in the process.

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May

Disinherit the Wind

Matt Chait's Disinherit the Wind opens quite nicely, with a depiction of Bertram Cates (Chait), a neurobiologist giving a lecture on DNA before his college class. Those few enjoyable minutes, unfortunately, roll into three hours of intellectually flawed arguments, eschewed logic, cardboard characters, woeful misinterpretations of facts and a rehashing of the standard assaults on the theories of Charles Darwin that conveys all the dramatic tension and impact of a stack decked of Old Maid cards. The plot can be fitted in a nutshell with room left over to accommodate a NordicTrack Incline Trainer. Having been dismissed for daring to challenge the holy writ of Darwinism, Cates is suing his old college cohorts (in the persons of G. Smokey Campbell and Ken Stirbl), confronting his academic nemesis (Circus-Szalewski – whose character is such a blatant “straw man” I expected him to break out with, “If I Only Had a Brain.”)

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May

Under The Jello Mold

For those of a certain generation, Jennie Fahn's piqued but perfectly prancing paean to her late mother roars with resonance. “My mother didn't wear sneakers,” Fahn proclaims at the opening of her one-woman show, Under the Jello Mold, on-stage thru November 4 at The Whitefire in Sherman Oaks. And though she is an East coast Jewish daughter and I a West coast Irish son, both of our mothers were of a type unique to 1950s.

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May

HANSEL & GRETEL BLUEGRASS

For those who have not cultivated an appreciation for the theatrical craft and are unaware of the merits and delights to be derived from the stage, there are certain theaters in Los Angeles that I always try to persuade them to attend. Theaters whose productions can sometimes allow the novice to experience the wonders illuminated from the stuff of magic and imagination which makes for theatre at its best and in which the world will be molded anew for them, and they for the world.

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May

SOFT POWER

With “Soft Power,” Playwright David Henry Hwang has birthed a dizzyingly madcap political opus accented by an existential preoccupation with the nature of identity; an opus that is by turns dazzlingly insightful, frustrating, convoluted, inspiring, thoroughly entertaining and undeniably brilliant.

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May

Bad Jews

There is genius in playwright Joshua Harmon's "Bad Jews," now playing at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble. A well-crafted play that is well-produced, extremely well-acted and superbly directed. It was also hard to watch.

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May

ICE

Performers Jesús Castaños-Chima and Tony Durán — so memorable in 24th Street Theatre's superb production of “La Razón Blindada” — give their all, in playwright Leon Martell's “ICE.” Director Debbie Devine pulls out all the stops as well. And while this production is well-acted and beautifully staged, “All the King's horses and all the King's men” can't lift the play itself much above middling.

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Mar

Jackie Unveiled

Award-winning playwright, Tom Dugan claims what drew him to write his one-woman drama, “Jackie Unveiled,” was the idea of a woman on the cusp of history, half-in and half-out of her progress towards modernity. Also, he points to the current assault on all that women have achieved which we are witnessing daily about us. Dugan's play is undeniably fascinating. Jenny Sullivan's direction on a beautifully realized set by Francois-Pierre Couture is the epitome of skilled craftsmanship. And actress Saffron Burrows' performance of Jackie Kennedy Onassis is rock solid.

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Feb

Freud's Last Session

From the perspective of the Odyssey's audience, it is hard to imagine either a better cast or better staging of playwright Mark St. Germain's, "Freud's Last Session." Key players, Martin Rayner (Sigmund Freud) and Martyn Stanbridge (C.S. Lewis) are not only superb in their own performances but achieve a precise partnering in their interplay that raises the production, as a whole, to a loftier height still. Credit for this must go to director Robert Mandel for guiding his players to the pinnacle of their potential, as well as for centering the drama on a foundation of the humanity of the two men.

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Feb

Two Fisted Love

There is a great deal of talent involved in "Two Fisted Love," currently running at the Odyssey Theatre. On stage and off, the production is saturated with film and television professionals whose program notes would prime the salivation glands of about 87 percent of the actors in this town. Playwright Sessions, who has re-booted Grant Wood's "American Gothic," has worked the surface details nicely but has not attended to the interior demands of the piece. This limits what director Jules Aaron can accomplish, since a director's work is 90 percent beneath the surface.

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Feb

WATER BY THE SPOONFUL

The 2014 Pulitzer prize-winning, “Water by the Spoonful,” now at the Mark Taper Forum through March 11, is Act II of the “Elliot” trilogy by “In the Heights” coauthor, Quiara Alegría Hudes. And while I admire the ambition of Hudes' undertaking, sadly, if the parts are unable to stand independently as in Alan Ayckbourn's "The Norman Conquests," Horton Foote's "The Orphans' Home Cycle" and of course Will's "Henry IV," Parts 1 and 2 and "Henry V," then the effort is moot. The characters of Elliot and Yazmin who are bridges to the preceding ("Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue") and proceeding ("The Happiest Song Plays Last") plays—in this middle work, are, “dangling flanks” with all of their inherent weaknesses.

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Feb

Great Expectations

The audience has come to The Lovelace Studio Theatre at the Wallis Center for the Performing Arts, in expectation of a theatrical interpretation of one of the great classics of English literature; that 183,349-word bildungsroman boasting six principal characters, 33 secondary characters and scores of supernumeraries - Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations"— said adaptation being accomplished by playwright Andrew McPherson. They will not leave disappointed.

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Feb

The House Is Black

That Sussan Deyhim's The House is Black Media Project had such a limited engagement at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts is unfortunate. In Deyhim's homage to the feminist movement in her native Iran and Forough Farrokhzad, we are reminded that underneath the atavistic fundamentalism of their ruling government, lies an ancient and noble culture of 81 million souls who have been stifled but not extinguished.

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Feb

The Chosen

The Fountain Theatre's West Coast Premiere of “The Chosen,” adapted for the stage Aaron Posner and Chaim Potok—author of the original work—is a well-deserved celebration of the novel's 50 year anniversary. An evening of theatre at its finest, Director Simon Levy succeeds in that rarest of feats, making two hours fly by only to leave his audience wishing for a third.

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