The Joy Wheel

Critics

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Reviews: 13

Audience

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Reviews: 0

JASON ALEXANDER DIRECTS IAN MCRAE'S NEW PLAY

An all-star cast includes Dann Florek, Gina Hecht, Lee Garlington, and Maury Sterling.

“Hilarious comedy...ending in a beautifully heartfelt way. Riveting ensemble, the takeaway will resonate long after play's end”- Stage and Cinema

Life is changing for Frank and Stella. On the day of Frank's retirement party, this once loving and simple couple find themselves pulled in different directions as the winds of change blow through Joy, Illinois. The world is not what it was. Joy is not what it was. Stella is shaken, but inspired, by her best friend becoming a liberated, sexualized, independent woman, while Frank decides to emulate his doomsday prepper friend by building an underground bunker that once was the family swimming pool. It's as if all of them are riding the Joy Wheel, hanging on to someone else so they can stay their ground.

“A Laugh a Minute. McRae has penned a raucous, sexy, and hysterical comedy which will entertain and delight…”- LA Splash

“While The Joy Wheel is fun and funny, it is also about people who find themselves losing connection and confidence in the lives they have built,” says director Jason Alexander. “They desperately reach out to find something that helps them feel safe and secure. It feels like a reflection of what so many people are experiencing in these divisive, uncivil times. I very much wanted to be part of the journey that these characters take in finding something better. Ian has written a beautiful play and I'm thrilled to be a part of its world premiere.”

Jason Alexander directed the Los Angeles premiere of The God of Hell at Geffen Playhouse, Native Gardens at Pasadena Playhouse, Broadway Bound at Odyssey Theatre, and the world premiere of Windfall at Arkansas Rep. His feature film directing credits include, “For Better Or Worse” and “Just Looking.” Jason won a Country Music Award for his direction of Brad Paisley's “Online” video. TV directing credits include: Seinfeld, Criminal Minds, Everybody Hates Chris and Mike and Molly. He served as the artistic director of Reprise where he directed Damn Yankees, Fantasticks and Sunday in the Park. When not directing, he has occasionally tried acting.

Ruskin Group Theatre launched the World Premiere of Rex Pickett's Sideways The Play, picked up by La Jolla Playhouse and now slated for New York, as well as the project Paradise, A Bluegrass Musical Comedy. Ruskin's Healing Through The Arts program brings their actors into Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA, where they are working with the Chase Child Life Program, to work with and entertain the patients. The CAFÉ PLAYS, created by RGT, are produced and now celebrating their 12th anniversary. RGT supporters Dylan McDermott, Ed Asner, Chris Mulkey, Olivia d'Abo, and other industry celebrities joined to produce the Best of Café Plays (both shows sold out within hours) for their 10th season. Anthony Hopkins, David Mamet, and Ed O'Neill are just some of the noted guests to have taught Master classes at the Ruskin.

Ensemble: *Dann Florek, *Gina Hecht, *Lee Garlington, and Maury Sterling

The Joy Wheel runs Thursdays - Saturday at 8pm, Sundays 2pm through March 31, 2019 (no performance on Thursday, March 28). Ruskin Group Theatre is located at 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405. Tickets are $30 - $35 and can be purchased in advance by calling (310) 397-3244 or online at www.ruskingrouptheatre.com. Free parking available on site.

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Reviews

"If The Joy Wheel is ultimately a comedy, viewers pay a price for their pleasure. How is there any reconciliation possible with the fascist-mindedness of Stew's Storm Trooper-like buddies, whose real-life counterparts are out there in frightening force—in the woods, in bivouac encampments, in Charlottesville, and in hoods? Frank asks Stella in genuine wonderment, “How did you get so strong and I got so weak?” Realignment of gender assumptions is happening, and it's transforming society from top to bottom as we either grow more human or descend ever deeper into fear."

sweet - Ed Rampell - Hollywood Progressive - ...read full review


Eric A Gordon
"Moving in the opposite direction, against the tenderness and vulnerability that love demands, Frank has been seduced into following the doomsday fears and prognostications of his PPPPPPP “prepper” friend Stew (Maury Sterling) by building an armed underground survival bunker in the space that once was the family swimming pool. For those outside the apocalyptic prepper community, PPPPPPP—which Stew has finally been able to secure as his Illinois license plate—stands for “Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.” When the barbarians come—you know, the “globalists” and their government jackboots—the well trained preppers in this millenarian fantasy will stay on to defend civilization as we know it, and repopulate the Earth with fertile young women chosen for that purpose. McRae posits that everyone is riding the Joy Wheel, an amusement park ride where only the person holding the center of a whirling centrifugal circle will survive, the others being spun off the island. Happiness is a zero-sum commodity and few will win it."

sweet - Eric Gordon - People's World - ...read full review


"Under the magic touch of famous Director Jason Alexander, this is a “must see and will love” world premiere production."

sweet - Ingrid Wilmot - WillCall - ...read full review


"Thanks to McRae's  snappy, topical script and to Alexander's skilled direction—and of course to the excellent work on the part of the cast—The Joy Wheel can be highly recommended."

sweet - Willard Manus - Total Theater - ...read full review


Shari Barrett
"Jason Alexander's vision for this ambitious production in such a small space succeeds due to the marvelous performances of its cast, with Dann Florek (Law & Order) as Frank Conlin, Gina Hecht as Stella Conlin, Lee Garlington as Margie, and Maury Sterling stealing the show as the frighteningly crazy doomsday believer Stew. Unfortunately, the need to transform the inside of the Conlins' home into an underground bunker, as designed by John Iacovelli, was completed by moving in four massive bookcases loaded with survival supplies from backstage during important soliloquies by cast members, disrupting the flow of the show to the point of breaking the audience's focus on the important details of the story and characters being shared, even though Edward Salas' lighting and sound design attempted to hide the commotion from the audience."

sweet-sour - Shari Barrett - ...read full review


Joan Alperin
"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."

sweet - Joan Alperin - Stage and Cinema - ...read full review


"A must see and will love world premiere production....under the magic touch of famous Director Jason Alexander. This show has legs and it will, undoubtedly, embark on a successful stage journey for many years to come."

sweet - Ingrid Wilmont - Will Call - ...read full review


"Highly recommended…thanks to McRae's snappy, topical script and to Alexander's skilled direction—and of course to the excellent work on the part of the cast."

sweet - Will Manus - Total Theater - ...read full review


"A Laugh a Minute. McRae has penned a raucous, sexy, and hysterical comedy which will entertain and delight… hilarious story of people seeking some new in the old."

sweet - Elaine Mura - LA Splash - ...read full review


Deborah Klugman
"... these strengths are undercut by a glibness in the interchange between husband and wife, played to the familiar rhythms and cutesy shadings of television comedy."

sweet-sour - Deborah Klugman - Stage Raw - ...read full review


Gil Kaan
"Playwright Ian McRae's THE JOY WHEEL kicks offs with one of the most effective opening, introductory scenes I've seen in a while. Jason Alexander smoothly and sure-handedly directs his two top-notch actors, Dann Florek and Gina Hecht as husband and wife Frank and Stella Conlin, as they vividly describe their relationship (40 years married)) and back stories leading up to their present situation - preparing for Frank's retirement party that evening."

sweet-sour - Gil Kaan - Broadway World - ...read full review


"This is the second show we've seen at Ruskin (the first was Paradise), and they are two for two. This production was funny and touching and just a joy to watch. As usual, there are many factors that contributed towards this."

sweet - Daniel Faigin - CA Highways - ...read full review


"With The Joy Wheel, playwright Ian McRae has crafted a terrific, raucous comedy filled with vividly written characters that conjure up memories of the best of Neil Simon, seasoned with whiffs of the head-butting “Honeymooners,” and served up with delicious, outrageous sexual frankness by Jason Alexander's superb direction."

sweet - Paul Myrvold - Theatre Notes - ...read full review


"If The Joy Wheel is ultimately a comedy, viewers pay a price for their pleasure. How is there any reconciliation possible with the fascist-mindedness of Stew's Storm Trooper-like buddies, whose real-life counterparts are out there in frightening force—in the woods, in bivouac encampments, in Charlottesville, and in hoods? Frank asks Stella in genuine wonderment, “How did you get so strong and I got so weak?” Realignment of gender assumptions is happening, and it's transforming society from top to bottom as we either grow more human or descend ever deeper into fear."

sweet - Ed Rampell - Hollywood Progressive - ...read full review


Eric A Gordon
"Moving in the opposite direction, against the tenderness and vulnerability that love demands, Frank has been seduced into following the doomsday fears and prognostications of his PPPPPPP “prepper” friend Stew (Maury Sterling) by building an armed underground survival bunker in the space that once was the family swimming pool. For those outside the apocalyptic prepper community, PPPPPPP—which Stew has finally been able to secure as his Illinois license plate—stands for “Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.” When the barbarians come—you know, the “globalists” and their government jackboots—the well trained preppers in this millenarian fantasy will stay on to defend civilization as we know it, and repopulate the Earth with fertile young women chosen for that purpose. McRae posits that everyone is riding the Joy Wheel, an amusement park ride where only the person holding the center of a whirling centrifugal circle will survive, the others being spun off the island. Happiness is a zero-sum commodity and few will win it."

sweet - Eric Gordon - People's World - ...read full review


"Under the magic touch of famous Director Jason Alexander, this is a “must see and will love” world premiere production."

sweet - Ingrid Wilmot - WillCall - ...read full review


"Thanks to McRae's  snappy, topical script and to Alexander's skilled direction—and of course to the excellent work on the part of the cast—The Joy Wheel can be highly recommended."

sweet - Willard Manus - Total Theater - ...read full review


Shari Barrett
"Jason Alexander's vision for this ambitious production in such a small space succeeds due to the marvelous performances of its cast, with Dann Florek (Law & Order) as Frank Conlin, Gina Hecht as Stella Conlin, Lee Garlington as Margie, and Maury Sterling stealing the show as the frighteningly crazy doomsday believer Stew. Unfortunately, the need to transform the inside of the Conlins' home into an underground bunker, as designed by John Iacovelli, was completed by moving in four massive bookcases loaded with survival supplies from backstage during important soliloquies by cast members, disrupting the flow of the show to the point of breaking the audience's focus on the important details of the story and characters being shared, even though Edward Salas' lighting and sound design attempted to hide the commotion from the audience."

sweet-sour - Shari Barrett - ...read full review


Joan Alperin
"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."

sweet - Joan Alperin - Stage and Cinema - ...read full review


"A must see and will love world premiere production....under the magic touch of famous Director Jason Alexander. This show has legs and it will, undoubtedly, embark on a successful stage journey for many years to come."

sweet - Ingrid Wilmont - Will Call - ...read full review


"Highly recommended…thanks to McRae's snappy, topical script and to Alexander's skilled direction—and of course to the excellent work on the part of the cast."

sweet - Will Manus - Total Theater - ...read full review


"A Laugh a Minute. McRae has penned a raucous, sexy, and hysterical comedy which will entertain and delight… hilarious story of people seeking some new in the old."

sweet - Elaine Mura - LA Splash - ...read full review


Deborah Klugman
"... these strengths are undercut by a glibness in the interchange between husband and wife, played to the familiar rhythms and cutesy shadings of television comedy."

sweet-sour - Deborah Klugman - Stage Raw - ...read full review


Gil Kaan
"Playwright Ian McRae's THE JOY WHEEL kicks offs with one of the most effective opening, introductory scenes I've seen in a while. Jason Alexander smoothly and sure-handedly directs his two top-notch actors, Dann Florek and Gina Hecht as husband and wife Frank and Stella Conlin, as they vividly describe their relationship (40 years married)) and back stories leading up to their present situation - preparing for Frank's retirement party that evening."

sweet-sour - Gil Kaan - Broadway World - ...read full review


"This is the second show we've seen at Ruskin (the first was Paradise), and they are two for two. This production was funny and touching and just a joy to watch. As usual, there are many factors that contributed towards this."

sweet - Daniel Faigin - CA Highways - ...read full review


"With The Joy Wheel, playwright Ian McRae has crafted a terrific, raucous comedy filled with vividly written characters that conjure up memories of the best of Neil Simon, seasoned with whiffs of the head-butting “Honeymooners,” and served up with delicious, outrageous sexual frankness by Jason Alexander's superb direction."

sweet - Paul Myrvold - Theatre Notes - ...read full review