Theater Review: Romeo and Juliet at A Noise Within

On a typically warm SoCal Sunday afternoon I jumped onto a frigidly air-conditioned bus for the seven-minute jaunt to the Eastern Pasadena locale of the theater company known as A Noise Within. But as always my first stop was Hook Burger, though I was in a time dilemma: I wasn’t hungry yet at 1:30PM, but the play wouldn’t be done till 4:30, which meant my stomach would be gnawing at me around intermission time. So I did the only logical thing: rather than having a burger that I wasn’t in the mood for yet, I ordered an orange cream float, because everyone has room for ice cream, right? I even found out I can have it to go, which sounded weird but turned out easier than I anticipated, in a regular fancy-coffee-style cup with me adding the orange cream soda whenever needed through the hole in the dome on top.
Once inside the stylish 1960’s building housing the theater, I spent some time perusing the display of past productions, as next year is the company’s 25th anniversary and they want the fans to play a part in choosing next year’s shows. That wasted enough time for me to finish my dessert-first-or-only meal before heading down to my seat. Once comfortably ensconced, I took in the stage, which featured a graffiti backdrop with similarly decorated dumpsters. More to the point, the actors were on stage, walking around, talking to each other, as though psyching themselves up. In my head I joked that they were going to form in a circle and put their hands in for “Break!” only to find them actually doing it!
Okay, on to Romeo and Juliet, no doubt the most famous of Shakespeare’s plays, along with Hamlet; star-crossed lovers and all that. In the lobby I’d seen plenty of teens, so I wondered just how surprised they would be to find the play isn’t just the love affair that is emphasized in most high school English classes, no doubt in order to get the students to pay more attention.
Unlike people I’ve talked to who are fascinated by every rendition of the Queen Mab soliloquy, I’ve never thought of it as that special. . . until Rafael Goldstein did it here. I can’t even tell you why it got to me this time, only that it did, at least enough for me to remember it as one of the highlights.
Just about every Shakespeare piece has some music to it, in this case the party at the Capulets, where Romeo sneaks in and first sees Juliet. The difference in this production was the inclusion of a live violinist up in what would later become Juliet’s window (don’t get me started on the “balcony” thing). There’s also enough banging on the dumpsters during the fight scenes to remind me of Stomp.
I’ve seen Robinson Dean in plenty of productions here, as well as being the translator for Antigone, but this is my first time watching him do comedy, shuffling about barefoot like a ditzy old man; his exclamation of “Holy Saint Francis!” had me metaphorically rolling on the floor. Lacy Capulet, played by company regular Jill Hill, brought some levity as well as heavy angst to the small role, looking like a Beverly Hills matron/airhead in her gold boots while smoking and drinking before letting it all out when she wanted Romeo dead for killing her nephew Tybalt.
But if I had to single out one actor, it would be June Carryl, whom at the beginning shows a barely controlled rage as the Prince—I love how this company has a tradition of casting women in male roles, as though thumbing their nose at Shakespeare’s time, when all the actors were men—and then delivering a hilarious performance as the nurse, particularly when she exasperates Juliet by claiming she’s too out of breath to tell the news. I wish I could remember her turn on Castle, but I’ll sure be on the lookout for her name from now on. Also switching genders was Charlotte Gulezian as a tomboyish Benvolio, who quickly made me forget the character was supposed to be male, so natural was she.
If I had one small quibble it would be with Will Bradley in the male lead. Let’s face it, Romeo is well described as the world’s first Emo, so there’s plenty of room to ham things up. Still, I thought that in this performance he might have taken it too far; having seen it so many times, this is the first time I really didn’t like Romeo, thought he was a selfish jerk more than just a guy carried away by love. Will was so excellent in Figaro, but that was a farce, where there’s no limit to the ham, cheese, and relish you can stuff in that acting sandwich, but here I would have appreciated just a touch more restraint. Also leaving tooth marks on the scenery was Alan Blumenfeld as Capulet, but whether being jovial at the party or angry during the fights scenes and his disagreement with Juliet, it seemed completely in character.
I almost hate to leave out Juliet, because it’s not that I had any problem with Donnla Hughes’ portrayal. I suppose because some of the other actors were so amazing, she didn’t register as much with me, or perhaps as the voice of reason she didn’t get as much opportunity to shine.
As for the set, I don’t think the graffiti-clad alleyway did anything for me; not worse, but not better. Same for their clothes, though Romeo in a hoodie was as perfect as possible. What was strange was seeing the actors hanging around the stage, both in the wings and on the steps around the stage, almost part of the audience, watching but not part of it, seeing things their characters didn’t. Have to admit it was a little distracting.
The dumpsters, on the other hand, might be considered their own characters. They are used to full effect, like in the scene with the apothecary, where he’s inside the usually-smelly rolling box, wearing a mask so we don’t see it’s same actor as Mercutio. There’s plenty of acrobatics on them, with some of the actors lying on them as they watch the action, banging for sound effect. At one point Juliet is climbing back to her window and hangs with her foot on the narrow side protrusion, a precarious position that had me fearing for her safety. Even more so was when the dumpster was used to hold her supposedly dead body at the end, though fortunately for her comfort they added a mattress. Since it’s impossible to gauge how wide the thing is from the audience, I was again distracted by the thought she might fall off, more than doubly so when Romeo joined her up there. The paper lanterns didn’t help the depth perception either, and made the scene kinda eerie, yet also produced a beautiful light as Juliet lies there. And then there’s Paris lying on the floor for what seemed like forever. . .
Whooo! Deep breath as the light come up. As usual I waited while most people scooted out, then glanced at the nextrip app and saw that my bus was leaving in two minutes! Dashing up the stairs, which none of my doctors recommend, I dodge through the crowd like a running back, out the back door, along the small tree-lined walkway between the condos and the construction site, and into the cavernous bus station under the parking structure and light-rail station. Made it just as the bus was pulling in! Endorphins flow!

Bonus coverage!
Last night was the meeting of the INsiders, a group under the auspices of A Noise Within who gather to discuss the plays being done, and of course this was Romeo and Juliet night. That was why I waited to write this review even though I saw the production last week. We were joined by Miranda Johnson-Haddad, who is a renown Shakespearean expert, and Amir Abdullah, who brought Paris to life. . . and death.
But first I had to go to Hook Burger of course, for my customary Prime Burger plain with cheese and bacon, with an orange cream soda to wash it all down. It only helped that they had sent me a coupon for a free burger in the mail, and I went early enough not to worry about being late to the meeting. In fact I had enough time to walk down the block to the really long strip mall, where I bypassed Jamba to hit up Baskin Robbins, finding to my amazement they had a bucket of orange sherbet open for business! I have not seen orange available for at least five years, so it felt like this was a night where nothing could go wrong, and to hell with tempting fate!
Hard to remember all the topics that were covered once things got started, but with this being such a popular play there was plenty to discuss, even for me; in the past I’ve felt left out when I didn’t know the production all that well. My main question for Amir was: considering the setting and costumes, was there any discussion to completely modernize and set the play in contemporary times? He admitted they had talked about it, and he joked that he would have liked to pull out his cell phone when he’s asked the time, but they ultimately decided against it, which I think was the right call for two reasons. First and foremost, the tragedy hinges on Romeo not getting the news that Juliet’s faking her death, with the Black Plague as an excuse for the messenger not getting the job done. In modern times it would have simply taken an email, and would have been especially timely, since Romeo would have heard about Juliet’s death on Facebook or Twitter. The second reason was that even if modern doctors were fooled by the potion simulating Juliet’s death. . . autopsy! Yikes!
One point that I forgot to bring up was that this is not just an infatuation between teens, but an infatuation between RICH teens. Had they been peasants, no one would have cared, and all the deaths wouldn’t have happened. In fact, poor teens probably wouldn’t have reacted that way anyhow; they had work to do.
{Hmmmm, I just remembered there were a couple of times when Miranda said, “What’s discussed in this room stays in this room.” Oopsie. . .}

;o)

Mozart non-opera and opera

Despite severe exhaustion from the volleyball day at Northridge, I valiantly headed out to A Noise Within for Figaro; it helped that all I had to do was cross the street to catch the bus. It also helped that I’d already paid for the ticket, otherwise I might not have tried it. Bus almost zoomed by me, maybe because it wasn’t expecting to pick anyone up, considering there was only one person aboard. Very rare. Driver told me I shoulda used my flashlight, but it wasn’t until walking back that I remembered I had a flashlight with me. Two actually, but why quibble? After that a couple got on, she Indian with a British accent, he hippie from South Philly, and on an almost-empty bus they sit right behind me and subject me to such inanities. . .
Okay. Off the bus, I walk down the length of the bus station, then cross the small road, and I’m at the back door of the venue, first one there. Unfortunately there’s a late rehearsal, so the audience is dark and they’re not letting anyone in just yet for fear of someone going splat. By the time they open there’s a dozen people and I don’t feel special anymore. Also didn’t feel special when I had the row all to myself and someone else came by, but oh well.
Tonight’s production of Figaro is the same plot as the famous Mozart opera, just no singing. And it’s in English. The only music we get is during scene changes, and it’s a rock version–heavy on electric guitar–of Mozart’s music. The main characters are on first, Figaro and Suzanne, but it isn’t till the Count comes out–dressed in what a stylish 70s rocker type might be sporting–that things really take off. Later there’s a scene where he takes off the long wig, and yeah, definitely changed not just the actor’s appearance but his whole mojo; we would not have believed all that bombastic entitlement from the meek accountant-like guy underneath.
Though the play is witty and sarcastic, what really sells the comedy is the body language, particularly by Suzanne. The character doesn’t have much grace, sitting with her legs spread and shoulders slumped, especially opposed to the mincing high-heeled steps of the Countess. But later in the play, when the roles are reversed, the maid has to fix the countess’s body language, slumping her shoulders and spreading her legs rather forcibly. All small touches, but add up to a lot of funny, the best being when Figaro has to describe what’s in a letter and Suzanne is behind the count giving him huge pantomime hints. . .
If you’re at all familiar with the plot, you know it’s about Figaro coming up with grandiose schemes and not realizing how clueless he is; Suzanne’s gonna be the one wearing the pants in that family. Everyone’s got their own ploys and scams, and for a while it’s hard to keep all the tangles clear in your head, but of course since it’s a comedy everything will work out fine in the end. . .
I had told myself that if I wasn’t having fun by halftime I would leave, thereby catching the last bus home. But it was so good I stayed, and then had to walk for an hour, as I said already exhausted from the previous day. Strangely enough, only one person passed me, and that was outside the Taco Bell. Two bikes overtook me, but other than that it was actually a pleasant solitary walk which left me with plenty of time to think. . . except with my senses attuned to the extra dangers darkness brings, I didn’t think of much anyway.

Sorry, UCLA gymnastics. Far too exhausted to trudge across town on Saturday. Gonna miss you and your amazing smile, Elette.

Still a bit tired–losing an hour made it worse–but more than game Sunday morning to head out to real opera, if you can call it that. As usual went early, and as it turned out the bus downtown had to take not just one but two detours, missing Union Station, heading off a block away from the house–probably no longer there–where I spent the first seven years of my life. Ended up at the central library after another detour, due to some gathering in front of City Hall, then had to wait some minutes for it to open so I could hit the restroom. Not only that, but the little old Asian lady sitting next to me on the bus stole my water bottle! What is the world coming to?
At least I catch the subway right in step, and even with the detours I’m pretty early when I step into the sun of North Hollywood. Earlier I’d googled–can’t believe that’s a real verb–restaurants but couldn’t find anything that my taste buds and allergies could take. There was some diner nearby, but it was closed. After catching a pure vanilla at Coffee Bean, I set off down Lankersheim toward Universal, walking and walking and kept walking till I finally found a burger place about a half hour later. Had thought about eating there in the air conditioning, but instead figured I’d eat while waiting for the bus. Nope, something ornery in my mind said go ahead and walk by while eating, which is difficult when you have a burger, fries, and a drink to deal with and only two hands. If they’re right about evolution, how come we don’t have an extra hand sticking out of the chest or something? (old joke)
Finished off the fries just in time to get in line for theater, where my ticket was found with no problem, once the guy realized my last name wasn’t Franklin. A cute Orion slave girl handed me a program, then I gave my ticket and was led–not just given directions–to a small hutch on the left side, where there were five seats in two rows–combined. Instantly the two ladies in the three-seat row, Portland and Ruth, pronounced me their new best friend, so there was a little bit of chatter as I tried not to listen to their conversation when they weren’t including me. At the last moment two guys, one in an original pilot command shirt, sat in the two-seat row in front of us, so no leg-stretching allowed after all.
Finally it gets going, with the Star Trek theme, including “these are the voyages,” played by the orchestra in the pit. . . but just when you think they’re gonna launch into the main song it instead turns to the Mozart, which got a chuckle.
Instantly we get Captain Belmonte, played with relish, ham AND cheese, by Brian Cheney. His credits show he is indeed an operatic tenor, but I doubt he’s ever done anything like this. Not that the singing is out of his wheelhouse, but the sheer. . . Shatner-ness cubed of his performance. . . it’s actually shocking that anyone could out-Shatner Shatner, but then his many aside glances to the audience proves this is well past anything that pretends not to be farce. . . and I mean that in a good way! Later on he plays a certain “Scottish mechanic,” and that accent is, again, something he’s never done in his opera career before. . . I hope. But the contenders for his biggest laugh are the barrel rolls and when he works in an “Oh my!”
Once the Klingons come out he hides in front of a rock to spy on them, which is good because the Klingons are singing in. . . well, Klingon! Even the supertitles say “Some Klingon. . . more Klingon.” At this point Belmonte calls for the Universal Translator, and order, such as it is, is restored. Nice touch.
The Spock is named, just like in Mozart’s version, Pedrillo, which makes it fun when the bimbo pronounces it wrong later. Constanza–a name as close to the original as you can get without actually using it–is the Uhura, whom Belmonte has fallen in love with; not something we ever saw in the show or the movies, though considering Kirk’s reputation, not out of the question. But easily my favorite character is the Orion slave girl; in the original the character was simply called Blonde, so it makes sense here she’s Blondie. Her Brooklyn bimbo accent is so perfect; she plays ditzy so well that when she sings operatically it’s almost shocking. She gets a great stealth joke where she complains that people are trying to get the “slave” part of the name out, but traditionalists back in Orion–most of them below the belt, in the South part–are resisting. I think the only reason they made the Orion Slave girl a major character was for the obvious–saw it coming a kilometer away–“It’s not easy being green” line.
Gotta say, these are some wimpy Klingons, though to be fair they were wimpy Ottomans in the original too. The chancellor is easily toyed with, and even the cruel Osmin gets played with by Pedrillo, Blondie, and even the captain. He does have a really funny chuckle, though. It didn’t occur to me that these are Next Generation Klingons interfacing with original series Federation until the end. But then, considering even the laser burn effects were cheesy–I’m hoping purposefully so–everything just fit together in an outrageous and hilarious way.
And nothing was more out there than the recreation of Kirk’s battle with the Gorn! Even the conductor in the orchestra put got into it, throwing Belmonte a rock as a weapon in the middle of battle. But since we didn’t have time for him to rediscover gunpowder, Belmonte pulls out his phaser and Indiana Jones’s the Gorn to oblivion. BeeTeeDubya, as I was walking out of the place I saw that the Gorn was actually a pretty brunette, without the Gorn head that is.
Can’t have the thing end without a redshirt showing up! And of course getting his head chopped off right away. No rescue there. Then we get the main four singing about how they should be escaping, not singing, and of course get captured. Those of you familiar with the Mozart, it ends the same way here; those who don’t, find out by going to see it somewhere.
The whole thing was so over-the-top they needed oxygen masks and Sherpas, but again, it was all in good fun with only a couple of eye rolls.
After all the bows we get a tribute to Leonard Nimoy, as it should be.
Well, that was simply awesome, though my own pleasure was somewhat mitigated by my eyes going watery throughout. Thought it was due to the darkness and my still-new glasses, but once outside on the way to the subway–just two blocks away, convenient–the nose went runny too, so I took an allergy pill with a Gatorade I had to buy off the street, since you might recall my water bottle was stolen earlier. Yeah, like Chekov’s gun. . . and not the Star Trek Chekov!
Three nights ago, after the Northridge day, I was thinking how dark it got coming back from North Hollywood; this time the sun is still high, thanks to daylight savings. Too bad, I like the dark. . .

;o)

Dance of Death at A Noise Within

Been a long time since I wrote about one of my adventures in the City of Beautiful Angels, though I’m not at all sure going to see a play should be labeled adventurous.
This was the second time I would be seeing theater at A Noise Within; I’d bought a season package simply because I could cross the street from my apartment, get on a bus, and a few minutes later debark and be right at the rear entrance of the theater. This was especially helpful as the last few times I’ve gone to see live acting it’s been over 100 degrees.
This Sunday was not nearly as hot, but there were other worries. The first time I’d taken an early bus and was consequently the first person there, trying not to flirt too obviously with the concessions girl while waiting for almost an hour for things to start. When I saw there was a bus that would leave me where I needed to be with ten minutes to spare till curtain, I chose that one instead. . . only for the bus to be late, and catch all the red lights. Yikes!
So I arrived, after a bit of a dash through the bus station, with two minutes to spare. . . only for them to start well late. Sigh, story of my life. . .
Okay, on to da show. For some reason I can’t figure out I prefer watching the previews, and in this case the very first one. This day’s performance would be Dance of Death, by Strindburg, who I certainly can’t say is among my favorites. I pictured something heavy, like Proof, but was ready to take a break from all the funny musicals I’ve seen recently.
Though there was plenty of psychological drama, I certainly didn’t expect a bickering couple to be so humorous! Perhaps this was included by the guy who’d adapted it–I need to check that–but some of this wit was classic!
It’s basically the story of a married couple who’ve been together almost 25 years, he a martinet of a non-commissioned Army officer–the reasons why he never rose very high in rank were spot-on–and a retired stage actress. And yes, they hate each other; he threatens to throw her out of the house or have her arrested, while she claims she’ll divorce him and leave him by himself, and then who will take care of him, especially now that he’s sick, though he’ll never admit it. . . and the local doctor hates him.
The set was fascinating; in act one we learn they actually live in the old jail! Seems appropriate, though I found it hard to watch, especially the humorous moments between all the psychological torture. At one point it occurred to me that he was an evil version of the The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper! The most memorable moment–can ya tell I love alliteration?–comes when she plays the piano, or rather harpsichord, and he goes into a hilarious dance, like a demented Russian or Bavarian folk dancer, before spinning–literally–out of control.
There’s one more character, a relative of the woman, who becomes the prize they fight for as they categorize their grievances against each other; his innocence is of course tainted by all this. There’s a great line where he tells his cousin that as a doctor he carries certain drugs, leading her to gasp, in a happily surprised tone, “You have morphine?”
But the most telling line is “It is too late for shame.”
As I said earlier, despite all the hilarious moments, this was simply too hard to bear! But as good as it was, I hated the happy ending!
So once it was done I checked the handout and found the main actor was Geoff Elliot, who founded the company with his wife and is a much younger man than the old coot he’s playing; makes me wonder if he ever played Mark Twain. In all the makeup and especially the broad acting style he reminds me of James Whitmore Jr. in Proof. It also made me ponder about the art of acting; playing subtle moments allows an actor to shine, but playing a character like Edgar must be all about fun!
From there I settled my long-gnawing hunger–can’t remember the last time I had lunch after four, if ever–across the street at Hook, now my second fave burger joint after In-N-Out. . . and they have bacon, which almost gives them an edge in this contest. They also have orange cream soda, and as I’m reading the painted label on the bottle, I see the second ingredient–after water–is cane sugar. No wonder it tastes so good. . .
And that’s the way to end a day at the theater. . .
;o)

Everything’s Better With Redheads

This time I got to the bus stop with one red light to spare, even though I left way earlier than usual. The drivers insist on getting here early, as though testing me. Then it did the 40-minute route to downtown in 25. Next, I only had to wait two minutes before the subway took off; I’m gonna be way early again. . .
And of course I was, despite more time in Radio Shack than I’d anticipated. Was greeted by Annabel–you don’t know her–right at the door, who helped me choose some cheap folding headphones, then led me to the counter, where we find that because of a printing glitch my $10 off coupon is not working. But since I still had the email, I took out my Kindle Fire and she plugged in the store’s wi-fi code. . . but then the email didn’t show up on the app, so she suggested I go through the web. . . and it worked! Got my $10 off, then got another $10 off coupon. That’s the most satisfying shopping experience I’ve had in a long time. . . I know, I know. . .
Always feel better after my Jamba Orange Dream Machine, or more likely during. And as many times as I’ve been in this elevator in Ackerman, and seen the sign, it never seemed funny until now. “Bridge to Kirckhoff Hall, this is the Captain. Mr. Hall, please respond.”

002
Just like it happened at the Daniela Ruah play last month, I was way early, even with the long walk up to the NE corner of UCLA. 003

Even though I spent countless days studying in the sculpture garden,010

I had never been past it into what must be the Theater, Movie, and Television Arts area. Found a theater, but it was wrong one, so I changed direction and walked past a group of loud kindergarteners apparently graduating. . . ah, there it is. Finding the place open, I ask about doors, where I find it would happen only ½ an hour before showtime instead of the usual hour. . . see, that’s why you ask.
And as I move back the way I came for a shady bench on which to have the first half of my Subway bacon and egg footlong–not a plug–there’s Molly Quinn striding into the theater. . . once again, timing is everything. Later, as I went to throw away the drippings into the trash, I almost bumped into Susan Sullivan, who did not look like she wanted to be bothered, so I didn’t.
Bored with sitting, I stroll around the area–like I said, I’d never been up here–and then watch as a clarinetist in a black strapless ballgown sets up to entertain the people waiting. As she got her reeds ready I asked her some basic clarinet questions–no Rhapsody in Blue or Mozart today. Only thing recognizable throughout her entire show was Somewhere over the Rainbow.

The Cast

The Cast

The Poster

The Poster

The scene

The scene

The clarinetist

The clarinetist

First here, almost last in, as usual; not as big a deal this time because seating was reserved. Still, people got seats wrong, so I had to stand up a lot. Finally took a look at the stage, finding only seats, stools, and old-timey microphones, making it obvious this is gonna be a radio play.

The stage

The stage

There’s a screen up there, as you can see in the photo, running commercials for their previous stuff, including apparently their whole collection for $1000 dollars instead of the normal $1500. One of the previous plays was Art, which readers of this blog might remember I saw earlier this year; one of the actors in this version was the incredibly Machiavellian Cyrus from Scandal.
First we get the media guy telling us about the taping and make sure all the cell phones are off–yeah, right–then the director came up to inform us this was the 75th year since the crux of the story, the Kinder Transport. Interestingly, the final paper for my history minor at UCLA was the different ways in which people escaped the Nazi regime; my favorite was the Danish fishermen, but that’s a story for another time. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who’d ever heard of Schindler (besides Spielberg) before that movie came out. Anyhoo, this is just to say that I had heard about this story, but hadn’t read more than the basics; even though this is fiction, it personalized everything to a tremendous degree, with the repercussions that are bound to happen when kids leave their parents. This was especially important, since the director announced three of those Transport Kinder are here! Wow!
According to the program, the playwright has also written about Mata Hari; suddenly I wish she were here, as I have some interesting theories about that dancing lady. . .

Cast
Shannon Lee Clair–Eva
Jane Kaczmarek–Helga
Angela Paton–Lil
Susan Sullivan–Evelyn
Molly Quinn–Faith
Hugo Armstrong–Ratcatcher/other roles
Foley guy at stage left

As the play starts the main character seems to be Eva, and Shannon gives her a huge German accent; actually, she speaks quite a bit of German here, and sounds natural to my semi-experienced ear. Jane alzo. . . I mean, also with a heavy German accent, which is fun for me, having so many German friends and even an ex. Molly, on the other hand, has a delightful–almost subtle but definitely there–soft British accent. Angela, on the other hand, had a bit of a cliché lower-class British grandmother tone, not nearly as bad as Monty Python though perhaps owing a little bit to Benny Hill; still, it worked. Hugo did German as well as a number of British drawls, all very well. Did not detect any accent from Susan.
The first scene is between Evelyn and Faith takes place in the attic–we know that by the photo on the screen–where Faith is moving out to go to college; it reminded me a bit of Alexis doing the same with Castle, which was cute. Then Molly went into even more adorable range by singing “Runaway Train,” which I know I’ve heard Benny Hill do, though not as well. From there on it was too dark for me to write many notes, though I do remember a point where Eva is on the train heading for England and mentions the “Hook of Holland,” which made me laugh because I’ve taken that train route and she’s right, it looks nothing like that.
Not to toot my own horn–couldn’t reach anyway–but I figured out Eva was Evelyn long before the script expected me to. Yay me. . .
I know this is a little ridiculous, but having seen Molly only on Castle and Avalon High–definitely need to see Hansel and Gretel Get Baked–it was a bit jarring to hear her utter “Shit!”–twice!–as well as “Fucking!” But then I grinned and moved on.
At this point I should mention that, since it’s a radio play, what the actors wore didn’t matter, yet I think some of them did dress up. Susan didn’t seem to, even wearing heels, but Jane was all in black, in seemingly dowdy clothes, and Angela was draped in a housecoat that looked distinctly like something a woman her age would wear in England. Shannon was dressed cutesy in a short dress and stockings, but Molly was in jeans and a tight purple top. At one point I thought she looked hippie-ish with her multicolored belt and long blonde-looking hair, but more on that later.
So, I know four of the five actresses here, so leave it to the one I’d never seen–Shannon–to give such an overwhelming performance that left me breathless; really, everyone was fantastic, but she nailed this role–sometimes it seemed like it was dual roles, her German life contrasted to her British life, with corresponding accents–so amazingly I really can’t imagine anyone doing it better. It also occurs to me that the Foley guy must be having so much fun. . .
At halftime, after navigating the steps down to the restroom–can’t imagine how the wheelchairs get there–I stayed standing against the wall just outside the seating area, stretching a bit, only to notice an open door to the side, with an old lady on a cell phone and two guys who were probably crew smoking. Taking a peek outside like a curious gopher, I spot written on the wall next to me “George Burns Soundstage” in giant block letters. I look further, and indeed it looks like a studio backlot; once again I’m amazed that after all these years I still find new places at my alma mater (and not in the science area!) I hope Molly got a chance to explore. . .
As the second act begins I take more notice of the way the actors are seated when not standing at their mics. As I mentioned, there are stools between the seats and the microphones, short ones that seemed to swivel; at times the actors’ backs would be to the audience, while at others they would be facing to the side, all planned I’m sure. At one point Molly and Susan were facing each other, really close, and Molly grinned so delightfully. . .
A few funny lines: first of all, apparently Hitler smells! All Germans do, according to the male British character. I’ve actually heard that before; I had an Ethnic Studies teacher who’d been in WWII who’d said the same thing. Too bad for him I was dating a German girl at the time, and she smelled divinely. He retired soon after, thankfully. Another funny was when they were talking about the parting of the Red Sea and how the Egyptians drowned trying to follow the Jews: “They deserved it!”
Pretty sure Angela has been in every scene in the second half, switching between present day–though not really present day, more on that later–and back when Eva first came to England. I haven’t mentioned it before, but all of the actors were holding scripts, with Shannon the only one using a folder. It’s about at this point, when Molly’s character Faith forces her mom into hidden revelations, that we find out Helga–Jane’s character–survived the concentration camp and met with Eva–now Evelyn–after the war; not even her English mother knew about this. Having given up her parents for dead, resigned to making a new life, Evelyn–who insists that is now her name–won’t go with her birth mother to New York, and apparently never sees her again. In about fifteen minutes of heartbreaking disclosures, this was the toughest of all to watch. . .
At this point Molly’s character gets to tell Susan’s character some really terrible stuff, making me wonder if Molly gave her a hug after the first time they rehearsed it. There was just so much to take in–before a bit of a happy-ending finale–that the only way I can think of putting it is. . . shit got real. . .
Considering I always have trouble going into the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam, I feel I did pretty well with this. . . but still. . .
Talked to the Foley guy after, I told him it must be so much fun and he definitely agreed, even if he didn’t get to break anything this time. Waited a while to talk to the cast; they were speaking to the special guests, the original German kids sent to England, and I wasn’t about to interrupt that. But when Molly was finally free, she passed close enough for me to ask if I could get a photo, and once again I’m stunned by my calm demeanor; I think I was even more composed than I was with Daniela, since I now had the previous experience of speaking to a favorite actress without getting rattled.

Cuteness overload

Cuteness overload

Molly is incredibly cute in person–though she is on stage or camera too, of course–and very nice. After the photo I told her how fun it was to watch her as something other than Alexis, then asked what kind of accent she was doing. She seemed to light up as she told me about the research she did, how the counterculture in the late 60s in England wanted to sound anti-posh, definitely not at all like their parents; to this point I hadn’t been aware the play took place in that era and not in modern times. . . though this did make wonder if that belt and her hair style were part of the same characterization. It looked like she enjoyed it when I realized it was all her and not in the script; I can only hope she was pleased to have all the work she put into it acknowledged. We talked about accents a bit more, which is an interest of mine, and though she seemed okay with it I could tell she wanted to go, so I shook the hand she offered and went away happy, my only regret being I forgot we were both lefties and shoulda shook that way.
After the longest walk through UCLA I’ve ever suffered through,

Men! {and pigeons!}

Men! {and pigeons!}

I Just missed the Sunset bus as usual, so on to Wilshire again, where after only a couple of minutes a regular turned the corner, thus guaranteeing me a seat, even if it would take longer to get to Vermont–the street, not the state–than the express; as it was we didn’t get passed by an express until we were almost there, so that’s okay. Unfortunately I was in a bit of a dead zone transportation-wise, with no way out of a long wait for one bus or the other after I was done with the subway, but no time to eat the second half of my Subway bacon and egg footlong either.
On the subway I saw conclusive proof that not all babies are cute, though I can’t imagine why anyone would pierce the ears of a three/four month old; that’s just wrong. Kid already has bags under eyes too. Is that enough evidence to call child services?
Got a little harassed by a painted-blonde deputy checking passes while looking so bored, in direct contrast to the last time, when the male cop had seemed friendly as a puppy. Looking over these photos you see here while on the light-rail, I played around with the buttons on the still-new camera, making sure once again I had it set to never use flash, since that’s against my photographic religion. Once I saw the symbol on the display area I couldn’t help but laugh as I named it flash/slash.

Not-so-super moon. . .

Not-so-super moon. . .

So. . . if I were to extrapolate the happenings of the past few months, hopefully the next checkmark on the actress bucket list is Katherine Heigl. . . hey, dare to dream!

;o)

Proof Daniela Ruah is Awesome

Already scorching hot in the morning as I walk the two blocks to the bus, again just catching it as it arrives two minutes early; I so love living on the edge. . .
Just like Friday, or what you would call “last blog,” I was a bit hungry but not enough to get lunch at Union Station, so this time I passed up Wetzel’s and went straight to McArthur Park, where I spotted a McD’s right next to the subway entrance and grabbed a large fries to go. There have been times in Europe when I bought two of those and didn’t get hungry till next morning, so I knew this would be more than enough to tide me over till I was done with what I came to see. Haven’t been in this neighborhood since the time I took the photo of the violinist dancing to the drummer in one of the previous blogs; I know it was on my birthday but can’t remember what year. I do know it wasn’t anywhere near as hot that day as I walk past hundreds of families and a pee-wee soccer game before finding a bench that didn’t burn my tushie too much. Took me a lot less time to polish off the fries than I’d hoped, so soon enough I found myself on my feet again, and from the edge of the park I could see the marquee of the Hayworth Theater a block and a half away; so much for going early to make sure I found it, but then I’m a firm believer in Shakespeare’s quote “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”
Walked to it anyway to see if anyone was there who could tell me when the doors would open—usually an hour earlier, of course, but for the few times it’s different, it’s well worthwhile to ask. Everything is still locked up, but with the thought that there might be a back door with people going in and out, I move over to the side of the theater, instead finding a big parking lot where indeed there are some humans offloading things from their cars. Having no idea they were heading this way, I shouted my question, and when they got closer the older man of the group said I could wait inside with them—I think having the cane all day today helped to make me look a lot more innocent and safe than I usually do, and the fact it was already near 100 degrees no doubt added sympathy.
It took me about three seconds to realize the young quiet lady smiling behind them while lugging a carton of water bottles and a flower pot was indeed the diva I came to watch, Daniela Ruah, star of NCIS: Los Angeles—Chris who? LL who?—and frequent entry in my Top 15 actresses blogs. This may indeed be the happiest moment of my life. . . not so much that I got to meet her, but that I managed to do so without making a complete foolish drooling ass of myself! Let’s hear it for self-control!
Still, it did occur to me how amazing it felt being so close to her. . . and instantly I realized how nice and. . . normal she is. I like to use the word diva as a joke, but if anything, she’s the anti-diva. I even got to tease her about how I was going to tweet all this, and luckily she laughed along. After a small discussion on Portugal she went off to do what she needed to do to get ready for her performance, leaving me with Aliah Whitmore, director-actress-person in charge of Whitmore Eclectic, with whom I had some fun moments but mostly uncomfortable silence. . . though it beats standing in the 101 degree sun. Still, I wish she would have given me something to do, like empty the bags of brownie bites. . . good thing I already ate. . .
Her brother Jake, the set designer and sound guy, also came by and offered me something to drink; gotta say everyone in this family that I met, including the older man who turned out to be none other than James Whitmore Jr., were incredibly nice and not diva-like at all. Just before they started letting other people in for the show, Daniela comes back out to run lines with Aliah, which was interesting because—knowing nothing about the play—it was strange hearing her doing a monotone, curt emotionless—almost robotic—delivery. Found out later it was only this scene, thankfully, and I did my best not to be noticed, just in case. . .
Finally let inside the theater, picking the left aisle seat of the fourth row, while I take a good look at the set in front of me: a ramshackle house with a porch in front of it, a couple of wooden deck chairs, and off in the corner the weirdest tree I think I’ve ever seen, but then I don’t watch horror movies. It was actually kinda inspiring, made me think set design might be cool thing to do. . .
These are the strangest seats I’ve ever parked my tuckus on: they seem to roll back and forth with your body weight, although it does leave a lot of foot room under the seat in front.
Aliah comes out to say hello and tell us how long our bladders have to wait till intermission. . . not in those words, of course. Then all goes dark, but it only takes a few seconds for light to come back up, and there’s Daniela. . . I mean, Katherine, in discussion with her father, who has brought her champagne for her birthday. . . except it’s not really champagne, as it is made in Wisconsin, and she rightly calls it the worst she’s ever tasted. This gives me hope there will be humorous moments throughout the play alongside what promises to be heavy stuff. Daniela is wearing furry boots and a braid that make her look incredibly cute, along with plaid pants/pajamas and a U of Chicago sweatshirt. At one point she’s at the middle front of the stage and does a squat, making herself so tiny it’s really rather amazing.
Okay, from here on it’s gonna be more of a stream of consciousness as to what tickled my interest during the play; a lot of it is going to be out of context, as I’m not going to explain the plot or anything like that. For instance, at one point she uses the word “bughouse,” which had me thinking of the movie Starship Troopers for a few seconds before I could rally from the silliness.
As much as I know it’s something every actor loves to do, I seriously cannot stand to watch crying, especially someone I admire, like Daniela. I know it’s acting, part of the script, so I guess it’s a bit of a complement that she’s making me feel this way, but I don’t like being made to feel uncomfortable. . . especially when I’m paying for the privilege! {This is no doubt why I prefer seeing stuff like Avenue Q and Spamalot and Book of Mormon!}
Along comes a new character, Hal, played by Dustin, who according to the program is Aliah’s fiancée; knowing this fact would prove interesting for me later. He’s playing a math nerd, and like most of that ilk is trying to pretend he’s not; I kept thinking he should simply own his nerdiness and move on. . . but on the other hand, the fact that he’s a drummer in a band made me laugh really hard, so maybe not. . .
While not nearly as bad for me as crying, it’s still a bit difficult watching Daniela playing severe confusion, but it has to be said, she rocked this scene. At the beginning I got the sense I wasn’t going to care for this character, but wow, she’s really making me feel sorry for her. Adding to that are cackling sound effects which are so severely fucked up, meant to mimic what’s in her brain; job accomplished, very creepy. . .
With cop sirens blaring we go to black, and that’s barely the end of the first scene! Wow, this is gonna be quite a ride. . .
Now comes the scene they were rehearsing in the lobby, with Aliah, who with just a few subtle changes of wardrobe has gone from free spirit to career woman, completely different from when I was speaking to her. . . that’s why they call it acting, duh. Daniela has changed into a shirt and black tights, barefoot with her hair up. Considering how little time there was between scenes, I’m gonna guess that was what she was wearing underneath, but it was the first of many times I noticed how much I love the clothing changes, both in how it changes the mood of the scene as well as how seamless and easy they made it look. In this scene Daniela is showing so much nervous energy, incredibly skittish, along with that curt emotionless tone. It was at this point that I had what was probably my most important thought of the afternoon: with any other actress I would have found the performance amazing as well, but having gotten so used to her as Kensi, to see her play something so totally opposite made her performance all the better, at least in my eyes. It also made me realize that the show hasn’t been using her character to full potential; it’s supposed to be all about undercover work, at least in the beginning, but there hasn’t been a lot of that lately. There could surely be some scenes where Kensi’s playing something other than a bimbo or Deeks’ wife. . . something to show her range like this play did.
But enough of the editorial; I’ll just repeat that this was an excellent job of acting. At this point in the play Claire—Aliah’s character—wants to take Katherine away to Noo Yawk, trying to sell her on all the fine points, including a garlic press, which leads Daniela to utter a very heartfelt “What the fuck are you talking about?” Probably the biggest laugh of the show. The incredulousness Claire shows at Katherine talking about a math geek in a rock band—before he shows up in the scene—was also good for a big laugh, and when he does appear, or rather after he’s gone, she says, “He’s cute.” Of course he is, Aliah, he’s your fiancée! {Told ya the thing from the program would boomerang back!}
We have another change and blackout, and this time Daniela—I really should remember to write “Katherine” instead—is all in black, sitting on the rocking chair. I thought it was rather strange that she went to her father’s funeral in the black tights; it wasn’t until she stood up that I saw she was wearing a dress. There’s another scene with Hal, whom she appears to be a lot more into now. . . until he makes the classic blooper of saying, while talking about the late-night party, “Mathematicians are insane!” Oops!
From there it’s Geek Courting, as Katherine tries to show her brain credentials by talking about Sophie Germain, whom oddly enough I have heard of, not being any kind of math lover at all; Every once in a while you hear in the news that the largest prime number to date has been discovered, and they’re talking about the Sophie Germain prime.
Finding this kind of thing works for him, he kissed her, and Daniela makes it quite obvious that, while surprised, she likes it. Still, she’s playing it shy, until suddenly she blurts, “What do you do for sex?” Yup, she did; it was so out of the blue it took me a moment to laugh. At first I wondered if she was asking him if he was gay, but obviously that couldn’t be it, considering he’d already kissed her. Luckily I didn’t have to think any more about it as she kisses him back and the set goes black; this time, because they’re at the front of the stage and have further to go, you can hear them scurry off.
When we come back Daniela has taken off the dress and put the sweatshirt back on, sitting at the front of the porch on what’s no doubt the morning after. Hal comes out and it’s lovey-dovey for a while, but more in the manner of a one-night-stand–which it is, at least so far–where they still don’t know each other very well, than a real relationship. At one point they’re talking about how great the sex was, and he mentions being embarrassed, to which she replies, “It’s only embarrassing if I don’t agree.” There’s a pause as he looked very uncomfortable—and the audience laughs—before she quickly adds, “So don’t be embarrassed!”
He leaves, and after a few seconds of her looking contented, the best moment of the play occurs: Daniela, still sitting there at the front of the porch, throws her arms in the air like she’s at a rock concert; she’s even got the face for it. Then she lies down and does a fair impression of a squirming puppy getting its belly rubbed as she has a gigglefest, celebrating either having a boyfriend or just getting laid. I imagine a lot of women do this, but like her wait till he’s gone so he doesn’t get a swelled. . . head or something. Maybe it has to be seen, but it was so awesome!
And then Claire comes out, clearly hung over. Katherine is still happy, bouncing on the front of the porch to make it squeak—so incredibly cute, and nice work by Jake to design that into the set. Her happiness doesn’t last of course, as first Claire and then Hal bring her down. We get to the gist of the story—too late to mention spoiler alerts, of course. Hal had been at her place to look through her dad’s math journals, and she leads him to something completely new and possibly earth-shattering. . . and then she says it’s not dad’s work, but hers.
Dum-dum-dum! And intermission. . .
Other than a non-stop toilet and a grumpy old man waiting in line, nothing much happened during the break. Watching the stage, I see a young lady hanging laundry on the left side, so I imagine Chekhov’s gun is in effect and it’s about to be used. A few minutes later Daniela does come back out with a basket to gather said clothes—couldn’t possibly be dry already, but anyway—looking even cuter than before in jeans, grey tank, sweater, and sneakers, as well as a fluffy ponytail that makes her look all of twelve. It takes a few minutes to realize this is another flashback, to the time when the lovers first met, which is mentioned earlier. They’re sitting together in a relatively small chair as Dad has a long soliloquy—you can tell Mr. Whitmore is loving this!—and the fact that we now know how much they like each other makes it an even more interesting scene, smiling uncomfortably as they pretend to listen to the long-winded speech.
After another scene switch, with a creepy Mr. Roboto mask floating in the window, we’re back to where we left off before intermission, where she claims to have written the proof. Claire wants her to explain it, to which Katherine retorts, “It’s not a muffin recipe!” which got a big laugh. It’s crazy how well she does crazy. . . lest Daniela reads this and takes it the wrong way, I mean she obviously did a lot of research to get the small touches right, because this scene was furiously intense! Wow. . . she really brought it, all three of them did; I have to imagine this is the kind of stuff actors live for. And it’s a lot more interesting seeing Aliah and Dustin doing this scene, knowing they’re a couple—makes me wonder how deliberate it was to put that info in the program.
During the next change we see Katherine in the window, looking at dad, who’s out in the snow doing his thinking; she charges out of the house and to the front of the stage, at which point we find Mr. Whitmore coming up the aisle from the back of the theater; nice touch. This may have been the most difficult scene of all to watch, as he ignores everything she says, deep in his mental condition, until at the end he breaks down and collapses in her arms. Very painful to watch, and difficult to appreciate just how amazing the acting is, but somehow I managed.
Another change—Mr. Roboto’s in the window again—as she’s in a white shirt now, hair down; changes her look completely. Aliah does love boots–she’s in some knee-high brown ones here, and considering they’re about to catch a flight. . . didn’t think about airport security, didja? It’s another confrontation scene, with Daniela at first emotionless again, then changing to barely-controlled anger. When Claire mentions her boyfriend has a lot of connections in Noo Yawk, Katherine snarks, “Does he know anyone in the phone sex industry?” which most likely got the biggest laugh of the day. Aliah throws the airline ticket, which hits Daniela’s empty coffee cup and knocks it over; you can see Daniela standing it up again as she grabs the ticket. It made me smile, though I’m sure no one else in the audience had my attention to humorous detail.
Hal comes in for another confrontation, where he tells her he believes her about the proof now, but she basically tells him he blew it for not believing her when it mattered. “You got laid AND you got the proof. You’re a genius!” She’s crying again, looks like such a forlorn little kid. . . it really is heartbreaking. . .
After a while they calm down and he asks her to read the proof to him, and as she does she gets spotlighted, at which point he leaves while she’s still talking. . .
Crazy sounds. . . and fade. . .

Phew! I don’t know about the actors, but I’m sure sweating! Was not expecting that much intensity, for so long. It took me all of the break—about ten minutes while they scouted for chairs—to get my brain back in gear, and I can only imagine what it’s like for the actors, having to come back to being themselves and finish off the performance-high adrenaline. But everyone did look calm as they sat to take questions, this being the last performance of the run. First they introduced themselves: “Hi, I’m Daniela, I play Crazypants.”
Most of the questions centered around schizophrenia, which was apparently never mentioned outright in the play but was assumed to be what Dad was suffering from, given the symptoms. It was said that, when off meds, people suffering from this often become euphoric, showing extreme creative genius. . . which explains why a lot of them go off their meds, I suppose. {This is exactly the kind of thing I would usually research after such a project, but now I’m afraid to.} The auditory hallucinations that freaked me out so much were a part of that; hearing those things in my head only once would certainly inspire me to take my meds.
Aleah talked about how Daniela had started rehearsals “strong,” as in body language, and had to “break down” physically, which was interesting, made me want to see what she looked like at first {Thought I suppose watching DVDs of her pointing guns would suffice.} At this point a man in the front row from the Air Force talked about his family history of the disease and gave her a challenge coin, which most people didn’t understand, though she did. “You rendered me speechless; that doesn’t happen often.”
As this went on I had an interesting thought. . . well, interesting to ME: if you’ve read through this page you’d find that every year I list the sexiest women on TV, and so far Daniela has won every year. For the first time ever I didn’t find her “sexy.” Somehow she managed to turn that off, which I never would have imagined possible. . . but at the same time I definitely LIKE her more, if you know what I mean. If she wasn’t before, she sure is my favorite actress now. . .
When I returned to my physical location I heard Aliah saying that the play was “more about grieving than anything else.” Daddy Whitmore claimed it was “useful to be an imbecile,” and I’m sorry to leave that without context, but it sounds a lot funnier this way. Aliah was asked by someone who’d seen the play before why this ending was more definitive than the original, and this time she had an instant answer: “I had more empathy for her that way.”
The tree on extreme stage left is finally mentioned, carved with hideous faces; I think the guy who asked wanted to take it home. Daniela was asked if there was anyone who wasn’t supportive of her doing the play, to which she answered no, saying even her agents—theatrical, not NCIS—were “thrilled.” She also admitted that when she first brought it to Aliah “I didn’t have an effing clue what this play was about.” Daddy Whitmore summed up his acceptance of the role with, “My daughter said we’re doing this.” And Dustin, who apparently didn’t feel much for the Hal character at first, mentioned, “I wasn’t crazy about it, but now I fuckin’ love it.”
When asked about the difference between live theater and TV, Mr. Whitmore stated, “Theater’s like a sporting event. You have to keep going whatever happens,” while Daniela mentioned that in TV there were so many things out of an actor’s control, like editing. Then she came up with the line of the night: “When the lights come up, I can hear my heartbeat. Theater makes you alive.” I couldn’t stop smiling after that one. . .
Someone with a math background asked the cast how much they knew about the numbers game; Dustin’s easy reply was, “I just memorize the lines, buddy.” Daniela’s reply was, “I have trouble adding tips. . . but I passed it in school, for all you kids out there!” {And right now I’m watching the NCISLA episode where Kensi is a math tutor. . . HA!} Aliah flat out says she doesn’t like math, though she does explain that the scene where Katherine is yelling at Hal about wanting to see what’s in his backpack could be said to be game theory.
Once there were no more questions, and this being the final night—or day—the crowd was invited to join in the after-party, which featured a type of food I’m not familiar with, and considering the scents, it’s better for me to keep it that way. That’s okay, the fries were still doing their job. Instead I waited for the chance to talk to Daniela. . . and as I’m waiting, a Rush song comes on in the theater! Okay, it was Tom Sawyer, far from my fave, but still. . . forgot to ask who chose it. . .
Among other things, I told Daniela how I enjoyed the play so much I wanted to see it again right now, but I don’t think she understood my point. Oh well. After some Marine Corps talk–and a hug!–it was time for me to move away before I lost control and said something stupid. . .
So I went up to Mr. Whitmore and told him that, while watching him up on stage I got an epiphany: “Were you Robber on Battlestar Galactica?”
“I was! How the hell did you remember that?”
“I don’t know!”

Phew. Maybe I’ve simply been lucky. I don’t go to much theater, and even then only when it’s musical and funny, but I can’t remember a time when a production hasn’t been superb in every way: set design, lighting, sound, directing, and definitely acting. Everything about this show was brilliant.
One more thing: I’ve lived in Los Angeles practically all my life–only time I was really away was in the Marine Corps–and you can’t do that without having some run-ins with “Hollywood.” I’ve met many famous people, mostly actors and musicians, and plenty of Hollywood “types.” I think the attitude that comes with the name is a cliché that is overblown, though of course there are enough cases to make it somewhat true. For the most part, a good majority of the people I’ve met in the industry are like everyone else, nice and thoughtful and just being themselves.
Having said that, Daniela Ruah is easily the nicest, most down-to-earth TV star I have ever met. Period. . .
And you can bet this will be staying on the internet for centuries to come!
Can’t believe I went the whole day without stopping for ice cream!

;o)

Music, Magic, Art, and a Vixen

I hadn’t played Tetris in years—okay, decades—but I found a fun version on the internet and tried to recapture old glory. Took me months to get to level 10, and then even longer to defeat it, but I finally did. . . only to find that’s as far as it goes. Didn’t even break 70,000. A few days later I did it again, this time reaching 74,003, so, feeling all smug and satisfied, I left it there for a while, only to come back to it a few weeks later. . . and I’m having trouble getting past level 7 again. The thing is even haunting my dreams, although there’s apparently a reason for that.

Wednesday

Have you ever bought a footlong at Subway for later consumption and found it completely wet a few hours—sometimes only minutes—later, with the plastic bag leaching all the moisture out of it? This time I was prepared, bringing paper bags. . . except I didn’t have any of the classic brown ones, all I could find was some samples from a zoo, with kiddie stuff all over them. They were a big hit, but not in a way I would have preferred. . .

Just about every time I’m on the bus going down Wilshire—the subway to the sea cannot get here fast enough for me, though I’m fine with it just getting me to UCLA—near the eastern edge of Koreatown I notice a building not all that different from the others, but it has a tiny driveway on the corner, like you’d see in Noo Yawk and especially D.C. It had occurred to me that whenever you see a show featuring such a place—NCIS in particular, now Scandal as well—this is probably where it was filmed. And yep, this time as we zoom by there’s all the huge lights, with a dozen trucks down the side street. It’s called the Talmidge, if you ever visit El Lay and want to see mundane filming sites.

Got to Westwood even earlier than I’d scheduled, so I took my time at the FedEx office, printing stuff, filling out forms, boxing my ailing telephoto lens, and finally sending it off; thank goodness for Tamron’s six-year warranty! I even had enough time to waltz—not literally—to Jamba at the student union, then casually walk back to the blood and platelet center, though it occurred to me my cold mouth might give unusual readings when they take my temperature.

Apparently it didn’t, and the funky guy in dreads I always chat with informed me they’re a lot more worried with elevated temps, due to fever. Ensconced in my platelet-giving bed, I channel through all the movie offerings, finally figuring as a completest I should at least give Quantum of Solace a shot, despite how much I’d hated Casino Royale. Didn’t realize that was Alicia Keys singing, but my spirits were buoyed when I saw Paul Haggis’ name as one of the co-writers! I may have to watch a few episodes of Due South tonight. . . As for the movie, it was better than I expected, which is not unusual for me when Tosca is featured. The main actress didn’t do much for me, but Strawberry Fields was awfully cute. Disappointed to find later the actress didn’t always look like that, but in the in the raincoat and brown boots, and particularly the red hair. . . very hot, very vintage Alison Smith, one of my fave thespian redheads of all time.

While I was sitting there through a slow scene, it occurred to me: what if there was an emergency, like a fire? What if all the patients had to suddenly be unplugged and moved out? What’s the procedure for getting that needle out of the vein as fast as possible, stemming the flow, and then moving on to the next one? Alas, I forgot to ask. . .

For once I had a perfect hour and a half there—not even feeling the need to hit the restroom—but things are never simple with me around. As I’m getting off the bed my left calf cramps. . . and I was being so damned careful with it, just for that reason! Luckily one of the doctors had experience with that and knew just what to do, so it didn’t go full-blown; I could have done it myself, but there was no wall handy. Gotta figure out a way to get out of those things without it happening! And even though I know I’ve said how much I love Kirsten’s perma-smile, I really didn’t need to see her grinning as I winced through the pain. . .

Okay. After partaking of the snacks and the newly-available orange Gatorade—those juice boxes always fountain on you when you stick them with the straw—I headed off back to Wilshire, already doing the return trip. Caught an empty 20 in stride, even though there was an express right behind it. Still well ahead of schedule, and it only took 50 minute to get to Western, definitely not bad for rush hour. Since this is the starting place for this spur of the subway—for now, hopefully—I had no trouble getting a seat, though it filled up quickly. The same could be said as I got on the light-rail to Pasadena, only I definitely chose the wrong seat there, finding my knee stuck against the very hard thigh of a woman who didn’t feel it. This is why I always sit on the sideways-facing benches.

Finally survived that, if barely, then had to wait a lot longer than I expected for the last bus of the day, but finally I was warm and sorta safe at the Coffee Gallery, for Jimi Yamagishi’s Songnet Showcase. I usually would not have bothered to show up after such a long day, but my buddy Paulina Logan had mentioned she’d be playing tonight, and I love listening to her songs almost as much as photographing her. Since she’s an aspiring actress I asked her if she wanted to play a Bond girl, only to find she wanted to BE Bond! Jane Bond, I assume. As mentioned in the previous blog, she’s one of my music models. . . or muses. She debuted “Won’t Be Still For Long” without any obvious mistakes, then launched into the always touching “Lovely,” of which more later.

As for the rest of the evening, I was. . . annoyed by a distinct lack of rhyming ethics. . . or maybe it’s just laziness. In general things were the same as most times, the usual suspects, but we did get some new blood. Fernando Perdomo always brings it, and this was my first time seeing Al Sanchez, who is a genuine guitar wizard, doing things on the strings–hey, there’s a rhyme!–that I’d only seen Alex Lifeson do. Another new guy with some good singer-songwriter chops was Mark Baldonado, while Thomas Valle-Guatemala impressed with a 12-stringer this time. Melissa Thatcher was her usual cuteness-incarnate self, and Diana Green brought the old-time jazz. . .

Which was quickly shattered by Jimi Yamagishi’s debut of “SHUT THE FUCK UP!” As he said, “If you’re offended by profanity. . . well, fuck it.” I’m sure most musicians have had loud crowds and an unruly audience, and no doubt wished they could get away with this. . .

With two thrown-in acts and only one no-show, it was a more impressive night than usual, and really, what more can you ask? With the telephoto lens out in the ether of the parcel service, I only had my standard to shoot with—wasn’t about to bring the film cameras—but it was okay since we were in the starry front stage, close to the action. Still got 299 shots, of which I kept 86, a ratio I will take any day. . .

 

Sunday

Such a languid day I didn’t want to get up from my comfy chair in front of the computer and TV. Felt that way on Saturday too, but the event downtown I wanted to see was free, so I wasn’t losing anything by not going. But for this thing on Sunday evening, I’d already bought my ticket, so I had to go, you know?

Travel not any kind of issue—for once—as I got off the subway at Hollywood and Vine, noticing the marquee of the Pantages promoting Catch Me If You Can: the Musical. That just sounds silly to me, but since in recent years I’ve enjoyed Dangerous Beauty and Spamalot, I’m not about to complain about this trend of turning movies into musicals. Heard Somewhere in Time was also musical’d, but since I haven’t seen it, it doesn’t count. . . and I always feel grand after inventing a new verb.

Interesting walk down to the Ruby Theater, made less interesting by how hard it was to munch on fries—dinner—while using a cane. Luckily the heel pain never got too bad, but I was surprised by the amount of people who deferred to me because they thought I was crippled. . . and then later how many didn’t, but that’s another story. Zigzagging down to the infamous Santa Monica Boulevard—it’s not called S&M just for the initials—I accidentally found the Fireman’s museum and memorial, which I’d hear about but was luckily closed, keeping me from having to make a tough decision. As it was I got to the theater way early, as usual. The guys there were pleasant but not all that talkative, so I sat in a corner reading a trade magazine while a couple of arias from Carmen blared.

Tonight’s show was called What Is Art? making it a catch-all for a number of pieces, starting with art on display on the stage, once we were allowed into the seating area. As it was I spent more time perusing the dresses—one slutty, the other Aztec warrior—than the paintings, though there was a memorable one of a Spanish Inquisition-type scene, with a Nazi, a KKK, and other evil villains smirking, and the Statue of Liberty in background, looking sad. The couple of b&w photos showing protest scenes were no big deal at all, rather pedestrian, so that’s that. . .

On to da play, an apparently famous piece simply entitled Art. Basically it features a white painting. . . as in all white, blank; it has some wrinkles, but come on. The first guy we see, Serge, just paid 200,000 francs for it, and invites a friend over to see it. . . turns out to not be a great idea, and even his saying, “You gotta see it at the right angle!” didn’t help. At this point I’m reminded of a cartoon I saw years ago, only this painting was black, and called Midnight in Paris Through the Eyes of a Dead Man. That put me in a better mood for the insanity that was to come, especially when the characters came to the front of the stage to deliver spotlighted soliloquies, like a character lesson in a 70s sitcom.

When we meet Yvan, he’s frantically looking for his pen cap, establishing his character. Everyone thinks the others have lost their sense of humor, so we know this isn’t really going to be about art, but rather a meditation on friendship and understanding. Marc, who is clearly the antagonist of the piece, reminds me of the Mentalist, all snooty and obnoxious. There was enough humor to make me like it; after a long discourse about how horrible a time he had with his fiancé and mother, Yvan does not look happy when Serge asks, “Then what?” Yvan is wearing an orange shirt, socks, even shoelaces; despite the color coordination, he comes off as quite a spineless individual, so it’s no shock when he’s called an amoeba. {Interestingly enough, I later looked up the bald actor and saw a photo of him as a gangbanger, so awesome range, bro.} After a few turns of “Read Seneca!” Yvan storms out of the apartment, making us think the friendship is over, only to come back a few minutes later with the proclamation of “Yvan returns!” You can never go wrong referring to yourself in the third person, right?

There’s a piece on how Marc’s wife or girlfriend waves cigarette smoke away with a disdain the others don’t like, which leads me to believe these actors enjoyed the script and wanted to do it when they saw all the emotional screaming they’d get to do. . .

So, very nice; I’d see it again.

Nice fast piano piped in during intermission, but I forgot all about that as from the rear of the stage the curtain parts to reveal. . . Vixen DeVille! Hoo boy, I’m glad I was sitting next to Paulina Logan’s mother, thereby forcing a modicum of restraint on me. As if she wasn’t absolutely gorgeous, with my favorite quality in a woman—a devious and amazing sense of humor—it turns out she’s a fire eater! First she runs the flame along her arms, then flicks it along her waist and it. . . undoes her coat! Amazing, never seen anything like that. . . plus it leaves her in a corset and stockings, yum! Don’t tell Paulina, but this was more than worth the price of admission for me: a gorgeous, hilarious, sexy Brit. . . as longtime readers know by now, I am the living epitome of my friend Cheryl B. Engelhardt’s lyric, “I fall in love at least four times a day.” This lady will be taking up at least a week’s worth!

Okay, time to scrape myself off the ceiling and watch the acts—good thing I’m allergic to alcohol, right? First on the stage was Corporal Punishment, who comes out in Marine Corps uniform, but is sporting officer insignia. He’s singing—talking, really, with piped music, so karaoke—as he strips off his shirt to show off his sparkly chest; dust flies. The tearaway cammo pants are next, leaving him in a g-string and shoes. . . and socks with holders, which I will always find hilarious. When he turns to walk off stage his entire ass is hanging out, which I really didn’t need to see; hope the floss irritates his ass crack. . .

Didn’t catch the name of the Japanese girl singing next, whom I would guess is from Brazil; Vixen tells us the song was originally in Portuguese, then done in Japanese, and now English. Didn’t enjoy it at all, not the least because the voice was high-pitched and squeaky, but it wasn’t horrible, so there’s that.

Poet didn’t show, so Cat–I mean, “Vixen”—is filling the time with audience participation storytelling; thankfully the mic cord didn’t reach me! The story featured Compton, an upper-clas-Brit twit, a monkey, a cop, an Australian, wind, mud, a distant train, and possibly other things I’ve forgotten. At one point she’s tugging on the mic cord, looking like she’s trying to reach me, when she jokes, “Does it reach? Story of my life. . .” Damn, she’s good. Then the guy in front of me whines, “You promised you wouldn’t tell!” to which she replies, “I tell everything at my shows.” Later on there was a line about “Simultaneous climax not always possible,” which I missed the context, probably a good thing. I did notice she does a really good valley girl accent. . .

On to the real reason for being here, a second serving of the one and only Paulina Logan, who did “Lovely” again, and even though I just heard it Wednesday, it sounded so heartbreaking this time; she seemed to like that when I told her after. You know the audience feels it when there’s a pause after the song is finished, as though they’re trying to gather themselves or wipe away the tears, before the thunderous applause starts.

As it turned out, I would need those two performances, for next was Alice in Wanderlust, exactly what you’d imagine from the title. A cutesy doll-like blonde is totally Alice’d out—though I doubt the original wore such garish blue eyeshadow—as she comes up to the crowd to sing, so close to me that the bottom of her short dress is tickling my arm, close enough for me to see the tattoo on the inside of her wrist. Couldn’t crane my neck up to see her, so instead I watched the slinky green caterpillar with the hookah strip all the way to a thong—not a very attractive woman, with cellulite and short hair—then strip Alice all the way; that gal shaves, and both of them had way too many tats to be convincing in their roles. For a guy who takes photos of the most beautiful women in the world for a living—and especially with Vixen around—color me not impressed. Things perked up a bit when a submissive-dressed Cheshire Cat—male this time—comes in, saying, “Some people go this way, some people go that way. . . I go both ways.” He dresses her up, and they leave. . .

Micah Cover ended the show, doing a bit of standup to start, shoutouts to the previous people, then a trick with butterflies and hand fans, which did indeed look cool. He pretty much summed up the night: “If it’s good, it’s magic; if it’s bad, it’s performance art.”

;o)