Non-Registered Critics: Joe Straw

Producer, Director, Writer, Actor (SAG/AFTRA) all in film and stage. Reviewer for Los Angeles stage productions and some New York. Worked on a number of films (100 +) over a twenty years span.
Mar

Canyon

Jonathan Caren has written an exquisite play.  His words are masterfully relevant at time before the world turned ugly.

The acting is well above par and it moves along in a fast clip, sometimes too fast as the pain in moments have little time to make their mark.

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Mar

Born To Win

Michael Matthew, the director, gives the show a rousing interpretation filled with surprises including exceptional performances by all. The chase scene has funny moments but goes on long beyond its purpose.

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Feb

Fairy Tale Theatre 18 and Over: The Musical

And while some things need work (as all shows do), there is a sense of kindness that radiates in the work and one that presents a dramatic truth. The characters personified present a grand realization that touches the theatregoer to the core and sends us out smiling into the colorful night.

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Feb

Famous

Michael Leoni, director, gives us some amazing moments and strong visuals, but he takes on too much as the writer and director of the play. And while there are fascinating things happening on stage, the play loses its focus, the through line – Harold Clurman fondly speaks to – and the nuanced story line loses its focus.

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Feb

YELLOW FACE

Robert Zimmerman does an outstanding job in bringing Yellow Face to Los Angeles. Playfully iniquitous in the way humans move to achieve their rightful positions in life. Yet, it is a difficult and demanding presentation where limited rehearsals must bring out multiple characters for the six actors in the other roles. Finding a significant through line would be the ultimate test for any director. But, overall the actors succeed nicely. Well, mostly, still one has observations.

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Feb

BUS STOP

There are exceptional performances in this production of Bus Stop. It is slow to start but manages to gather steam and then soars. And, as the performance end, one is wrap up in the humanity of it all and sent out of the theatre bundled in the warmth of empathy.

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Feb

DIXIE’S TUPPERWARE PARTY

Dixie’s Tupperware Party is too much fun! You live the experience if you are of the mindset that you are there to buy Tupperware and listen to the presentation (catalogue provided). It just flows to incredible heights.

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Feb

VALLEY OF THE HEART

In the darkness, desperation plays a vital role in the through-line of becoming one family once again. The end is reflective of the beginning in Luis Valdez’s play. The storyteller should not be lost during the course of the actions on stage. But, is there more of a dramatic ending to be had? Possibly, we should see those who made it and maybe those that didn’t. And we should see that in dramatic fashion.

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Feb

Desert Rats

That said, I did enjoy the show and I would like to see the players grow exponentially during the course of the run.

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Feb

It Is Done

It Is Done by Alex Goldberg is a marvelous play that escorts you from the cozy confines of your own home into an out-of-the-way bar, and, at the end, from a sombre perspective, has you seared to the floor in terror wishing you had never met these people.

Maybe this is being overdramatic, or maybe not. Naytheless, there is a dramatic intensity in this play and an exquisite cohesiveness among players that makes this a must-see!

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Feb

Brilliant Traces

Carleton manages to put all of those things into the makeup of her character which was a pretty amazing performance….There is a lot to enjoy about Cardano’s performance who manages not to completely lose his cool with his abstruse partner.

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May

reviewed by

By Joe Straw

Sometimes something comes along that is, at first glance, startling and then manages, by the very nature of theatre, to capture the imaginative spirit. It is rare when you come across a new play that is breathtaking, breathtaking in the way that it fills the senses and settles the intellectual beast within.

There is a dramatic intimacy in Bernardo Cubria’s work of art, a fire breathing, soul searching familiarity that leaves one delightfully lightheaded when stepping out into the cool night air.

The Ammunition theatre company presents The Giant Void in My Soul, written by Bernardo Cubría, and supremely directed by Felix Solís, is now playing at the Pico Playhouse through June 3, 2018.

Cubría has written a play that respires the human condition and defines it exquisitely, all for the benefit of understanding the human kind. This play is a major work of art that veers off from heightened realism to highlight the struggles of humanity – all realized in a clown costume.

Solís, the director, has overseen and has executed a show that is almost flawless. The moment the performers step onto the stage their eyes reflect a deep objective and a history of the character. Solís is a master craftsman and what we see is the craft, brilliantly implemented, and exceptional in every conceivable way.

Let it be clowns to help us understand the deeper meaning of life.

But what is it about this particular play that touches so many humanistic chords? Simply put, it is the story of the human condition, and the searching of a salvation that will fill the void.

Funny, but, when we enter the theatre we are face to face with a red curtain, blocking our view, that bathes us in an eerie red shadow. Cramped behind the red cloth, knee to keen, elbows to elbows, there is unusual feeling of wanting out, or wanting more until the curtains slowly open.

Fool 1 (Karla Mosley) and Fool 2 (Kim Hamilton) are the best of friends. In real life, they don the articles of comic entertainers, in white clown suits, in clown makeup, and painted faces – the works. They are inseparable juvenile clowns excited to be making their place in the world.

They speak to create an original thought or the one thought that would change the world.

On two grey sawhorses they sit, one sawhorse with fur fabric and the other with a plain leathery fabric that one might find in a three-ring circus to hold back the humanistic throngs of indulgent fans or wild animals.

Tonight, they grow tired of the banter that leads them into cavernous pit of self-doubt until a red bow falls from the sky and that “falling star” sends them into a tizzy.

Seriously, clowns take life exponentially, which is why they are clowns.

The bow unfolds – a tattered piece of red cloth – but, exponentially now, a small red curtain. But, what does it all mean?

And through a ceremonious inclination Fool 2 places the red curtain in front of Fool 1’s eyes and lifts it as Fool 1 immerses herself. And through the act of mental inertia Fool 1 feels a strong need to fill a giant void that is now in her soul.

So, they sally forth on an incredible clown journey, with copious resources in hand, to that place, in a faithful act of fulfillment and gratuitous suppostions.

This would be, beyond a doubt, the finest cast ensemble I have seen in intimate theatre.

L – R Claudia Doumit, Kim Hamilton, Karla Mosley

Karla Mosley is Fool 1 who rides the sawhorse of naivety, grows up, has a child, and is still a clown, always searching for something to fill the void. Mosley is terrific in the role, a clement clown that wants only one thing. Mosley gives an outstanding performance.

Kim Hamilton is Fool 2, a clown that has aged wisely and leisurely seeks to discover something that is not. But she takes the journey for the sake of her friend. It is a crash and burn journey, still things turn out well because she waits and listens. Hamilton conveys the strength in this character nicely. She also presents a deep concentration while in her character, one that sends a delicious shiver down one’s spine.

Claudia Doumit has a number of roles as the Bartender/Woke 1/Deep Thinker/Partner; in each role, she is decidedly different. Doumit has a very sultry look, (despite the wonderful clown makeup) and is incredible in each role. She has a level of concentration one rarely finds in intimate theatre and her physical performance was inventive and joyous to watch.

Top: Liza Fernandez, Bottom: Claudia Doumit

Liza Fernandez was also outstanding as Drunk/Woke 2/ Coworker/Baby/Parent. Her round face works perfectly as the Drunk and as the crying Baby. But there is more to her than just the look as she glides effortlessly throughout the night in her performances.

There are three actors who did not perform the night I was there. Xochitl Romero (Fool 1 understudy), Malorie Felt (Bartender/Woke1/Deep Thinker/Partner understudy), Karen Sours Albisua (Drunk/Woke 2/Coworker/Baby/Parent understudy) and Liza Fernandez will move into the Fool 2 role on May 27th 2018.

The extraordinary Producer on this project were Julie Bersani, Michael Feldman, and Bernardo Cubría.

Sami Rattner, Costume Design, and Lighting Design by Lauren Wemischner paint a brilliant chiaroscuro as the white clown costume blend in with the natural colors of their mood in yellows, blue, and reds. It is mesmerizing in its effect.

Mischa Stanton’s Sound Design takes us through another time and place. It places the audience in the void and helps us to come out.

Erica Smith’s Makeup Design, the clown makeup, highlights the individual characteristic of each clown that helps to send us on a delirious journey.

Arian Saleh was the Composer, and Brian Nichols was responsible for the Projection Design.

Run! Run! Run! Run! And take someone who likes to explore the intimate details of all things.

https://thegiantvoid.eventbee.com

The Pico

10508 W. Pico Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 90064

sour

Dec

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily

Anyone who enjoys Sherlock Holmes will enjoy this tongue-and-cheek adaptation of sorts by Katie Forgette who employs fictional characters (Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Watson, and Professor Moriarty) with real-life actor Lillie Langtry, the Jersey Lily, royal assistant Abdul Karim, and Lillie’s friend and playwright Oscar Wilde.

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Nov

New York Water

New York Water by Sam Bobrick is theatre of the absurd, or a farce. That’s all you really need to know to just sit back and enjoy this wicked and wonderful ride.

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Oct

Exit Strategy

Exit Strategy by Ike Holter has an exceptional cast, each providing a special brand of character, an ethic mix of educators with an altruistic sense of self and propriety. Deena Selenow wonderfully directs it in an amusing likeness of real and not-so-real school antics. There is so much detail in Selenow’s direction; it is the little things that put this production way over the top in form and execution. Every moment is a joy to watch and the acting is astonishing.

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Aug

Sequence

Sequence, by Arun Lakra is a grand play that exposes a valid truth but a truth that must be hunted, discovered, and then thrashed with the simplest of finesse. The characters are all diametrically opposed, but attached in some way by a strand of thought, a curiosity that has them moving in circles, all to ensnare or bond through completion of the task.

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Jul

Love is a Dirty Word

This play is performed in stylized words, measured lines in a kind of lyrical arranged meter. It is stunningly beautiful and solidly moving. By the end, Adams has indescribably triumphed as an artist, a man, and a human being.

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Jul

Danny and the Deep Blue Sea

Danny and the Deep Blue Sea by John Patrick Shanley is a wonderful play with solid performances by Tanna Federick (Roberta) and Robert Standley (Danny). Carl Weathers (you will remember him as Apollo Creed from the Rocky films) has a critical eye that propels this version of Danny and the Deep Blue Sea into a proficient, remarkable, and pleasing night of theatre.

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Jun

The Sweetheart Deal

Rodriguez’s work elevates the human spirit. The characters costumed in masks and wigs visually jolt our slumberous moral reticence. And in this type of meretricious theatre, perhaps an offset of commedia dell’arte, we wonderfully absorb the meaning in unimaginable ways and in the manner of our own interpretation.

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Apr

The Cruise

The Cruise by Jonathan Ceniceroz is a wonderful captivating comedy that is engaging in ways that explores the human condition. The writing is exquisite. At most, it is the examination of deeper relationships – almost excavating to get beyond the surface of simple human foibles.

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