Writer: Joan Alperin

Joan was born in Brooklyn and spent many years working as an actress in New York City. Even though she traveled extensively, Joan couldn't imagine living anywhere else.. Well one day, she met someone at a party who regaled her with stories about living in L. A. specifically Topanga Canyon. A few weeks later she found herself on an airplane bound for Los Angeles. Joan immediately fell in love with the town and has been living here for the last twenty years and yes, she even made it to Topanga Canyon, where she now resides, surrounded by nature, deer, owls and all kinds of extraordinary alien creatures.. Joan continued acting, but for the last several years (besides reviewing plays and film) she has been writing screenplays. Joan was married to a filmmaker who created the cult classic films, (way before she knew him) Faces of Death.
Jan

"The Unseen Hand" and "Killer's Head"

When I think of the late Sam Shepard, his plays Fool for Love, True West, Buried Child and Curse of the Starving Class usually come to mind. I was totally unfamiliar with Killer’s Head and The Unseen Hand now playing as a double bill at the Odyssey in celebration of the theater’s 50th anniversary.

Killer’s Head first premiered at New York’s American Place Theatre in 1975 starring a then unknown Richard Gere. As part of the Odyssey’s Circa ’69 season, this ten-minute rambling monologue stars Steve Howey and will be played by several other actors throughout the run, including Dermot Mulroney. A blindfolded man is strapped into an electric chair as he awaits execution. It took me a few minutes to understand what was happening, as the murderer goes on and on about buying a new pickup truck and horse breeding and training. How avant-garde is the writing? The most interesting part was at the end: after a jarring light and loud noise, the man dies. I have no idea why Shepard wrote it. It’s James Joyce, Ambrose Bierce, and Sam Beckett on an LSD trip. Only Shepard cultists need apply.

Luckily the second play on the bill is much more interesting. The Unseen Hand is E.T. meets the Old West in Azusa. Meet the 120-year-old Blue Morphan (the excellent Carl Weintraub) who has been living for 20 years in the back of his broken-down 1951 Chevy convertible on the side of a highway.

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Dec

Salvage

GET YOUR SOUL SALVAGED
The minute I sat down at the Lounge theatre and saw the rundown bar on the stage equipped with a few tables, a jukebox and several guitars hanging on the walls along with a photograph of a famous country musician named Floyd Whitaker, I was transported to some small rural town which could exist anywhere in America. I also got a feeling that I was about to have a remarkable theater experience and that’s exactly what happened.

When Salvage opens there are two men in a bar. One is the bartender/owner Johnson (Leonard Earl Howze) and the other, a once-handsome bearded burnout named Preacher (David Atkinson). From his face and his gruff voice, we can tell that Preacher has been through a lot.

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Oct

All My Sons

THE SINS OF THE FATHER
There’s no doubt that Arthur Miller’s 1947 play All My Sons is an astonishing piece of theater. Not only is the writing brilliant, but the themes addressed are timeless and important. It’s difficult to imagine how the play could possibly be improved. It is based on a true story which appeared in an Ohio newspaper. The news story described how in 1941-43 the Wright Aeronautical Corporation based in Ohio had conspired with army inspection officers to approve defective aircraft engines destined for military use. It is amazing that Miller managed to pack so much drama into a play that takes place in the space of one day. Even if you’ve seen this classic play before, you would do well to go back; it still packs a punch, as proved by Pacific Resident Theatre’s moving and powerful production.

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Sep

Never Is Now

NEVER TAKE FOR GRANTED
THE PHRASE “NEVER AGAIN”
Wendy Kout, the playwright of Never Is Now asks the question, “What happens when people from diverse backgrounds experience the firsthand accounts of ten survivors who were labeled ‘undesirable’ and thrust into Hitler’s systematic genocide?”
She shows us exactly what happens in a very powerful, emotional and disturbing way. It doesn’t take long before Skylight Theatre patrons realize that atrocities which happened in Germany so many years ago could very well happen in our country today, if it hasn’t already started.

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Sep

THE CHINESE LADY

I saw this beautifully sad, poignant, dark play last Saturday evening and I’m still thinking about it. Thanks to the wonderful writing, acting and directing this two-person outing based on a true story is that memorable.

In 1834 a 14-year-old Chinese girl, Afong Moy (the excellent Amy Shu), arrived in New York from Canton. Supposedly Afong was the first Chinese woman to ever set foot on American soil. She was brought here after some American importers struck a deal with her parents for her to stay in this country for two years and then they would arrange for her passage home. However that was not the case.

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Sep

Fefu and Her Friends

Fefu and Her Friends is one of the most famous plays by the recently deceased feminist avant-garde playwright María Irene Fornés, a Cuban American who has won nine Obie Awards including the award for sustained achievement. After seeing this production directed by Denise Blasor, I understand why. Fornés brilliantly captures the time period using music, art, politics, wardrobe and dialogue.

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Jul

Death of a Salesman

DEATH LIVES

Arthur Miller makes Willie Loman, the tragic figure in his Death of a Salesman, 63 years old. So I was more than a little skeptical as to whether or not Rob Morrow (of Northern Exposure fame) could pull it off. At Ruskin Theatre Group, Morrow, with his boyish good looks, appears much younger than he is at 56. Yet as with Dustin Hoffman and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who were in their 40s when they tackled the role, and Lee J. Cobb, who originated the role in his late 30s, Morrow offers a completely compelling interpretation.

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Jun

At The Table

At the Table takes place in Catskills, a resort area in the low mountains in E New York State that I hold dear to my heart since I spent many summers there — as many Jewish New Yorkers did. The setting is the house of Nate (Christian Prentice), who has invited his thirty-something diverse group of liberal friends (gay, straight, white, black, bisexual, Asian, feminist, child-rearing and childless) for a weekend party, which includes pot and liquor — actually, a lot of liquor.
With no cell phones, computers, or internet, they have no choice but to (gasp) speak to one another. It doesn’t take long for these friends to discover that they are not as liberal or like-minded as they profess to be. The friends are over-educated as well as extremely opinionated and equally insecure.

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Jun

A Streetcar Named Desire

But one misstep producing this complex full-evening play, and it can go from being a poetic, passionate, sensual, sexual experience to an over-the-top campy mess. Luckily, director Jack Heller and his top-notch cast — which includes a stunning Susan Priver as Blanche — make this guest production at the Odyssey one which would make Mr. Williams proud, and rightfully elucidates why this is his greatest work.

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May

JULIUS WEEZER

Beware the Ides of March…in May!”

April 16, 2019…North Hollywood, CA…Et Tu, Weezer? TROUBADOUR THEATER COMPANY is back, and taking a stab at their latest hilarious world premiere musical comedy event with JULIUS WEEZER, adapted, choreographed & directed by Matt Walker. JULIUS WEEZER will preview on Saturday, May 4 at 8pm; Sunday, May 5 at 4pm; Thursday, May 9 at 8pm; and will open on Friday, May 10 at 8pm and perform through Sunday May 19 at 4pm at the El Portal Theatre, 11206 Weddington St. in North Hollywood.

Have you ever wondered what really happened to Julius Caesar on the Ides of March? The Troubies have…and are warning you to “Beware the Ides of March in May!” The terrible tidings and twisted tale of corruption, betrayal, and the quest for absolute power –no, not Washington DC – it's Rome circa 44 B.C., with Shakespeare's story of Caesar mashed up with the funk-rock riffs of the resurgent and ubiquitous band, Weezer.

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Apr

THE MEATBALL CHRONICLES

What happens when you're brought up to feel invisible? Where do you go for solace? Where do you go to find your identity? For actress Debrianna Mansini it was in cooking; this was her joy, her salvation, her escape and most importantly it was the only way she was able to communicate with her emotionally abusive mother.

Ms. Mansini first performed The Meatball Chronicles at the Hollywood Fringe Festival last year and it was a big hit. It's obvious why this is so. She has created a powerful, emotional and, at times, funny story about her childhood and her relationshi

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Feb

Hype Man

A promising hip-hop group formed by two childhood friends — a white writer and a black hype man — is thrown off its beat by racial tensions in the West Coast premiere of a powerful, funny and meaningful drama: Hype Man by Idris Goodwin. The Fountain Theatre has opened it's 2019 season with the third in Goodwin's series of “break beat plays” about hip-hop in America and the way that it has affected personal relationships, aspirations and politics. The 75-minute one-act covers issues of race, gender, privilege, responsibility and when to use artistic expression as an act of social protest, but mostly it's about friendship.

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Feb

The Joy Wheel

What begins as a hilarious comedy turns dark and serious — ending in a beautifully heartfelt way — as playwright Ian McRae (The Alamo) takes us on a powerful journey in The Joy Wheel, directed by Jason Alexander for The Ruskin Theatre.

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Jan

Forever Brooklyn

What I found most amazing about Forever Brooklyn! A Kosher Musical Comedy is that the writer/director Mark Wesley Curran is not from Brooklyn nor is he Jewish or even a comedian. Yet he totally captures what it is to be Jewish and what it was like growing up in Brooklyn. I should know since I am Jewish and I did grow up in Brooklyn. While I lived there years after this play takes place, the stories are completely identifiable. At the core, some places never really change. As the title promises, this solo show utilizes song and comedy to tell the story of Melvin Kaplofkis (the funny and endearing Danny DiTorrice), a young man growing up in Brooklyn in the 1950s who emerges the next decade as Mel King, “The King of Brooklyn.”

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Oct

BRIGHT STAR

Bright Star is a bittersweet bluegrass musical with music, book and lyrics by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. It was nominated for five Tony awards when it ran on Broadway and it's easy to see why.

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Oct

SHREK THE MUSICAL

The show has something for everyone. It's hysterically funny, with whimsical puppetry, high-energy dance numbers and dazzling sets. It also has a beautiful message about acceptance in one of the show's best numbers, “Freak Flag.” The whole cast is great. This is definitely a show for people of all ages. Don't miss it.

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Oct

UK Underdog

There are many reasons to see writer/performer Steve Spiro's entertaining and touching one man show, a powerful and emotional true story now playing at the Zephyr Theatre. Nicely shaped by director Ann Bronston, Spiro brings his childhood and subsequent years to life in a palpable way as he morphs from underdog to the inspirational person he is today. In a riveting performance, he convincingly lays bare how his life was formed by fortitude and self-regard.

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Sep

Fairy Tale Theatre 18 and Over: The Musical

You gotta love a revue that starts with a song, “Turn off Your Fucking Phone.” Even better is that Ammunition Theatre Company — which gave us the astounding Giant Void in My Soul this summer — ups the ante with this modern olio for grown-ups. Creative dude par excellence Michael J. Feldman, who has proven himself au fait with this genre, has come up with a winner at Pico Playhouse — Fairy Tale Theatre 18 & Over: The Musical — in which a zany cast peopled with puppets deliver babe-in-the-woods stories and songs but with morals and cerebral roadmaps for adults. Clever, funny, X-rated, and wholly original, an extremely talented cast led by Mr. Feldman will have you like Jack in the palm of a Giant's hand.

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Sep

SWANSONG

AN EXTRAORDINARY PERFORMER IN A POWERFUL PLAY Produced by the Australian Theatre Company along with Skylight Theatre, Conor McDermottroe's one-man play Swansong and André de Vanny's pile-driving performance will stay with you long after the 65-minute one-act ends.

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Aug

reviewed by reviewed by Joan Alperin reviewed by Joan Alperin

photo by Ed Krieger

'Paradise' A Bluegrass Musical Comedy That Will Have You Laughing & Dancing In Your Seats

Growing up in New York City I started going to musicals when I was six years old and my love for them has not diminished. I love musical theatre so much that I will travel hours to see one. Luckily, I didn't have to go that far to see 'Paradise' the new bluegrass musical comedy playing at The Ruskin Theatre.

'Paradise' was written by Bill Robertson, Tom Sage and Cliff Wagner. They like to refer to this as 'A Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy.' and after seeing it you'll understand why. (more…)

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