Registered Critic: Paul Myrvold - Theatre Notes

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.
Mar

Suspended - Rorschach Fest

“Rorschach Fest—Inkblot C” at Open Fist Theatre

Over its thirty-year existence Open Fist Theatre Company has produced a lot of bold theatre in Los Angeles, new plays and revivals. Its annual Christmas delight, Both, a musical retelling of the Christmas story set to the tunes of the Beatles, is simply brilliant. Other recent hits are Under Milk Wood, Dancing at Lunasa, and the hilarious, over-the-top joy of Neil Simon’s Musical Fools. Its current production, Rorschach Fest, consists of five short plays performed in nonconsecutive rotating rep over an eight-week run and cleverly entitled, Inkblot A, Inkblot B, and Inkblot C.

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Mar

Postponed - The Serpent

This fluid ensemble acts out the Kennedy assassination as revealed by the iconic Zapruder film. As they perform the scene several times, the actual fuzzy-framed film is projected upstage. To say that it is affecting doesn’t say enough. It soon becomes clear that ritual is the key to this performance, especially when the action leaps backward over the millennia to the Garden of Eden, where Eve is tempted into disobedience by a snake that is composed of five actors twining together, slithering sinuously with their arms and legs twisting together, and their serpent tongues flicking in and out of their mutual mouths. And Adam is the doufus who goes along with it.

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Mar

Suspended - Rorschach Fest

John O’Keefe challenges an audience with the dark; no, not just dark, but utter darkness, a darkness that made this theatre-goer want to close his eyes. All there is to see in these black moments is the dim glow of florescent spike marks on the stage, an absolute necessity for the cast. In these extended periods of darkness, the six extraordinary performers give a choral rendition of the words and sounds of the self-aware dead, whose overlapping poetic cacophony of voices are heard coming from everywhere in the small theatre, often seeming so close that one could reach out and touch the actors. These sounds are words, not zombie groans. They have meaning for each of the characters that emerge when some light lets the audience see the performers.

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Mar

Suspended - Rorschach Fest

“Rorschach Fest—Inkblot B” at Open Fist Theatre

The valuable and venerable Open Fist Theatre Company opens its 30th Anniversary season with Rorschach Fest, a series of unique plays by playwrights known and little known. The performances are cataloged as Inkblot A, Inkblot B, and Inkblot C, and require the committed theatre-goer to return to the Atwater Village Theatre three times to experience the entire festival. My fraught schedule wouldn’t allow me to attend the performances in alphabetical order, so let’s begin with Inkblot B, which features Landscape by Harold Pinter and Never Swim Alone by Daniel MacIvor.

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Mar

IN MY MIND'S EYE

Patty (Peyton Kirkner) is a smart, sparkling young teenager, the child of a single mother, Lola (Maria Kress). The child was born with eyes that did not work right. She can see with her left eye, barely and with difficulty. She is chipper despite her situation and wants more than anything to be able to go to a regular school, instead of the “special” school she has been attending. Her smothering, over-protective mother resists the notion. She has a decent job, but the child is her life.

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Feb

CANCELED - A BODY OF WATER

A middle aged couple played by Bruce Ladd and Treva Tegtmeier enter into a nicely appointed living room set configured with the audience on all four sides of the square room. They are in their morning robes. They comment on how the house seems to be surrounded by water, a sight they find pleasing. The problem is they have no memories. They don’t know each other, they don’t know their own names. They seem pleasant and intelligent, but bewildered. They woke up in bed naked with the man’s hand on the woman’s breast. This leads him to believe they could be married. The woman is not so sure. They discretely open their robes to each other to check if that rings a bell. It doesn’t, and it wasn’t long before I scribbled the note, No Exit, referring to Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist play in which three people find themselves stuck in a room in Hell. This play is not that easy to pigeonhole.

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Feb

Postponed - Found

Pieces of paper? Pieces of paper found and picked up or gathered off the streets, or gleaned from under the windshield wipers of vehicles, or pried off laundry room bulletin boards, or wherever they were posted or tacked or stapled on whatever? This proletarian treasure became a gold mine for Davy Rothbart, creator and founder of Found magazine. These missives, gathered and selected, turn out to be treasure that illuminates the lives of everyday people. They are funny, or sad, or even sort of tragic. Seems like perfect fodder for the new “kick-ass” musical, Found: A New Musical, with book by Hunter Bell and Lee Overtree and music and original Lyrics by Eli Bolin.

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Feb

The Andrews Brothers

International City Theatre had a hit last year with Roger Bean jukebox musical, Life Could Be a Dream, so why not have another go, this time with The Andrews Brothers, that showcases the tight harmonies of The Andrews Sisters—Patty, Laverne and Maxine—their snappy, close harmonies still bringing joy to the listener. This music is iconic, and the trio kept at it for decades, despite the internal rancor that eventually developed. But let that pass, the music speaks for itself.

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Feb

Human Interest Story

Stephen Sachs’ new play, Human Interest Story, just opened at The Fountain Theatre, is a play for our times that is set “In an American City. Now.” The playwright and the scenic designer have given the play a feeling of New York and Los Angeles, weighed a bit more towards LA than NYC. He has also given his characters names and actions that will resonate in the minds of people of certain ages and experiences. The play is inspired by Frank Capra’s 1941 film, Meet John Doe, which starred Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwick.

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Feb

Law and Order: the Musical!

Sometimes when one has a craving to satisfy, it isn’t filet mignon that one hankers for, but maybe just a really good burger. Sometimes when one goes to the theatre to see a new show, you don’t know what to expect. Will it be a burger or filet mignon? How will it satisfy an inveterate theatregoer who has seen and reviewed hundreds, if not thousands of performances? A title can give a clue. A press release can titillate the proverbial palate with well chosen tropes. Law and Order: The Musical, a new show with book and lyrics by Ilyse Mimoun and music by Jeremy Adelman, which just opened at The Broadwater Second Stage, tickles expectation. What the show delivers is an umami burger, a delicious pastiche of spoofery, an extended, eighty-minute slice of SNL-esque buffoonery, with a bountiful serving of silly, snappy dialogue garnished with enthusiastic song and dance.

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Feb

She Loves Me

The provenance of the musical, She Loves Me, is as impeccable as it is fascinating. The show is based on the 1936 play, Parfumerie, by Hungarian playwright, Miklós László, which morphed into the 1940 film, The Shop Around the Corner, starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. It rose again as In the Good Old Summertime, which starred Judy Garland and Van Johnson. My other brain, who always sits next to me when I go to the theatre, whispered, “This is a lot like You’ve Got Mail.” Sure enough, good old Wikipedia lists it as starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

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Feb

Frida - Stroke of Passion

The action slips in and out of a tenuous realism with Frida interacting with real characters–her philandering husband Diego (Oscar Basulto); Cuban spy, Teresa Proenza (Kesia Elwin); the well known singer, Chavela Vargas (Sandra Valls); and faithful family retainer, Manolo (Francisco Medina, who accompanies Ms. Valls with his guitar).

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Feb

West Adams

The brilliant, disciplined cast (kudos to director Michael A Shepperd) kicks off the action with a rousing rendition of the National Anthem, led by a vigorously voiced Andrés M. Bagg (as Edward) who is soon joined by Allison Blaize (as Sarah), Clayton Farris (as Michael), and Jenny Soo (as Julie), two thirty-something married couples. They do the “Star Spangled Banner” proud in spiffy, shiny costumes and impeccable choreography. The two couples are rehearsing to get a shot to perform in a neighborhood block party. They are spritely, happy, white and full of themselves for having moved into classic houses in the historically black neighborhood of West Adams, located just south of Downtown Los Angeles.

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Jan

Pick of the Vine Season 18 - This Year’s Best Short Plays

The short scenes, selected from submissions by veteran playwrights from all over the country and across the sea, boast solid casts of performers that are directed by LFT veterans.

sweet

Jan

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

The Killer’s Head (1975) is a curtain raiser, running about ten minutes or so. A condemned man (Steve Howie, on the evening I saw it) is blind-folded and strapped in an electric chair of the “Old Sparky” design. In a sort of faux calmness, he talks about horses and trucks as the end grows nearer. The affect on this audience member was profound and gripping. The tension ratchets up, increasing when he goes silent. Director Darrell Larson is content to have an audience sit and absorb the minutes. When the inevitable occurs, the slowest light fade I have ever seen gives a release that is perfect.

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Jan

Earthquakes in London

The award winning British playwright, Mike Bartlett (Cock, Bull, King Charles III), won an Olivier prize for his play, Earthquakes in London, in 2010. This prescient play is more meaningful now than when it was first produced. With the climate running rampant due to evermore vigorous human activity that shows no sign of slowing down, Earthquakes in London is entertaining and scary, funny and tragic. It is a pastiche, a potpourri, a potent mix of styles and themes.

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Jan

VOLTA

As in all Cirque shows that I have seen and reviewed, the theme of each show provides a thin veneer of context and story as a platform for astounding physical feats performed by acrobats, aerialists, and dancers. They twist and turn high above the circular stage, on the stage proper, and other platforms, writhing, leaping, bouncing, skating, cycling, and contorting to sounds of music that is aggressively modern, or sometimes lyrical, as when the excellent musician, Camilla Bäckman, runs her bow across the strings of an electrical violin. As a singer, she joins with a nominal master of ceremonies, Eric DeShan, who accompany the action with songs throughout the show.

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Jan

(IM)PERFEKT

Jannica Olin’s one woman show, (IM)PERFEKT, is an exposé of the personal and professional angst engendered by the onset of the incurable condition, Alopecia, which is the sudden, progressive loss of hair leading, in some, to utter baldness. She is onstage when the audience enters. As the crowd settles in, she goes through a fetching routine of preparation—costume, makeup (in an imaginary mirror), the choosing of the right shoes—and so on.

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Jan

Fireflies

Playwright Donja R. Love’s, Fireflies is the second of a three-play trilogy entitled “The Love Plays” that depicts the experiences of queer people of color during slavery (Sugar in Our Wounds), the Civil Rights Movement, and the Black Lives Matter Movement (In the Middle). Set “somewhere down South” in the Fall of 1963 just after the bombing of the African American 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, that left four young girls dead, Fireflies is the story of Olivia (Christiana Clark), the brittle wife of Reverend Charles Emmanuel Grace (Lester Purry), a fiery orator in the mode of Martin Luther King, who shares the same kind of strengths and weaknesses of that great man.

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Jan

All My Sons

In this gripping, mesmerizing production, impeccably directed by Elina de Santos, the power of the performance of this modern three-act tragedy gripped this audience member from intriguing opening and exposition, through complications, then on to searing emotion, a stunning climax, and a wistful dénouement.

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