• Last Confession

    By John Farrell

    Catholic or non-Catholic there is a fascination with the ancient rituals and modern politics of churches.

    When Dan Brown wrote The Da Vinci Code he tapped into that fascination and made millions. But that was, for all the web excitement that book generated, a book of fiction.

    The Last confession, which recently opened at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, is based on truth — at least in its outline. There is a chance to see more red silk on stage than you’ll get this side of a papal conclave. Also, there is a chance to see it

    s star, David Suchet, playing a role that isn’t Hercule Poirot. (Suchet did every single Poirot story by Agatha Christie for PBS years back.) Don’t worry, as Cardinal Giovanni Bellini,  he does get a big second-act interrogation scene worthy of Poirot. Bellini engineered the election of Pope John Paul I, who some think was murdered after only 33 days as Pope.The play tells the story of that brief period in church history as Bellini confesses to what might be his part in papal murder. John Paul I proved to be a liberal and the Curia, the conservative faction of the church, had reasons to regret his election. Cardinal Albino Luciani (Richard O’Callaghan) becomes pope and is a sweet-spirited man who only briefly comes to the knowledge of how the church works before he dies.

    Cardinal Jean Villot (Nigel Bennett) is the chief villain, and he plays that role with just a little concealed malice. Bishop Paul Marcinkus (Stuart Milligan) is as much a caricature of a Chicago hood (he was from Chicago, but . . .) as an archbishop, and you have to wonder how he got so high in the church. (more…)

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  • Better? Probably Not. Funny? You Bet

    By John Farrell

    Does Shakespeare need help?

    Better Than Shakespeare certainly thinks so. For its inaugural production Much Ado About Something they have taken Much Ado About Nothing, kept much of the comedy, and added an alien invasion to the mix, making a delightful interpretation of the play that uses much of Shakespeare but adds a little more.

    For purists the play might be sacrilege, but for the audience it is a lot of fun, even if the original is better, — one of Shakespeare’s best.

    Written by Megan Kelly and Kate Grabau and William Shakespeare (and how nice it must be to have billing above the Bard!) the play takes just over an hour, from alien invasion to the final love scenes.

    Adam Grabau is Benedick, handsome and, just maybe, in love with Beatrice (Grabau). The love scenes between the two are as dynamic as in the original. Never have two lovers seemed less suited to each other, — never. In this play (both the original and this version) the wit used leads to an eventual and happy ending. (more…)

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  • Summertime Laughs

    By Lyn Jensen

    Whether or not you’ve got summertime blues, you can look for some summertime laughs (along with food and drink) at the Laugh Factory in Long Beach.

    It books many of the same acts that play the Laugh Factory in Hollywood, but the shorter drive will allow you to save on this summer’s high-priced gasoline.

    “The Laugh Factory Long Beach is unique from other comedy clubs in that it shares the same comedian roster as the world-famous Laugh Factory in Hollywood,” explains the venue’s General Manager Ivy Schember, “All bookings are done through the corporate office in Hollywood and guests at the Laugh Factory Long Beach are treated with the same high-caliber line-up.”

    Since opening in 2008, Long Beach’s Laugh Factory has become a major feature of the Pike—in close proximity to many of the city’s other top attractions. With a seating capacity of 670, the venue bears the distinction of being America’s largest comedy club.

    Jason Stuart is one comic who appears fairly regularly, most recently on the bill “Jason Stuart and Friends,” on May 28 and June 25. In his standard routine, which he says he’s been honing for 30 years—along with an acting career—he talks about being gay and Jewish. (more…)

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  • The Last Remnants of Cops, Robbers & Hollywood Cowboys: Small Scale but Fascinating 

    By John Farrell

    The Last Remnants of Cops, Robbers & Hollywood Cowboys doesn’t depend on fancy theatrics for its considerable charm.

    Based on short stories by writer-director Tom Cavanaugh, the play has little action, with actors taking directly to the audience, sometimes sitting stage-side to tell their particular story.

    But the stories, based on reality and collected by Cavanaugh by listening to people he meets and overhears in Los Angeles, are fascinating and moving.

    Six actors: Laura Raynor, Chris Narrie, John Ross Clark, Rhonda Christou, Anita Leeman and Tad Yagi tell Cavanaugh’s stories, which depend on the detailed narrative voice he brings to the stage, with the actors cooperating with him. It is all told on a bare stage, without props or costumes. These are bare-bones stories that you hear with fascination and more than a little identification. There is the story of a life brought to an end to told by a friend who wanted just to help, another about life on the hard streets of Hollywood. The entire play lasts only 45 minutes or so, but it’s well worth the time.

    Tickets are $12. Performances are June 19 at 7 p.m., June 20 at 9 p.m., June 21 at 7 p.m., June 26 at 7 p.m., June 27 at 9 p.m., June 28 at 7 p.m. and June 29 at 5 p.m.

    Details: (323) 455-4585 (no web site)
    Venue: East Complex Theater
    Location: 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles

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  • A Gay Take on a Classic

    By John Farrell

    The Importance of Being Earnest is Oscar Wilde’s incredibly witty play about the antics of a couple of British gentlemen in love in the 1890’s.

    It seems to be as heterosexual as a play could be, but re-imagined by Queer Classics and director Casey Kringlen it is just as delightful as a play about two men in love with two other men. Indeed re-imagined is a big word for the process involved. Just substitute two men as Cecily and Gwendolyn, a few leers extra, and make no other changes, and the play, done seriously as it must be, is every bit as witty as ever and even a bit funnier.

    Boone Platt is Jack, the young man who loves Gwendolen (Mason McCulley) but cannot marry her because her Aunt, the formidable and strongly opinionated Lady Bracknell (Nancy La Scala) does not approve of the fact that he has no parents. (He was adopted.)

    Algernon (Philip Orazio) schemes to find out what his friend Jack does in the country and succeeds, meeting Cecily (Grant Jordan) and falling in love. Miss Prism (Megan Soule) and Dr. Chasuble are also on hand as the denouement occurs, with Eric DeLoretta doubling in the roles of Lane and Merriman, two very different valets who both have great lines.

    The play, done in one act (and a little cut, without much harm) relies on one difference. The idea of two gentlemen marrying two others is never remarked, never even thought of. The objections raised to the two marriages, and the final resolution, are identical to the earlier version, and, frankly, everything is just as funny this way, right down to the final punning line that finishes the play. (more…)

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  • The Fantasticks: A Delight, Now and Forever

    By John Farrell

    Before there were any Fringe Festivals — well before the first Edinburgh Fringe Festival — there were plays that should have been in a festival, plays that started small and grew big and successful.

    Perhaps the best representative of that sterling, but very limited class, is The Fantasticks, which opened far off Broadway in New York in 1959, and is still running there.

    It was a small scale musical in a world of big musicals, but it was a hit nonetheless, a musical that brought back 19thcentury production values and a score that was rich and timeless, featuring hit songs and a story that harks back to Shakespeare, but remains as modern as young love.

    The Fantasticks, in a pristine revival (featuring a Harp! the show boasts) comes to the Hollywood Fringe Festival this year, presented by the Good People Theater Co. and directed by Janet Miller and featuring all of Tom Jones’ lyrics and Harvey Schmidt’s delightful music. On stage at the Lillian Theater it is simple and uses only one set, just like the original. And, if the cast isn’t quite as musical as it should be, they are, in all other respects, perfect. (more…)

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  • Fringe Fest Opening

    By John Farrell

    It’s time again for the Hollywood Fringe Festival, the celebration of all things theatrical that has become an annual rite for theater fans, for theater performers,  and for over-worked stage crews.

    It began officially on June 12 (though there were performances before that date) and closes on June 29 (though there are, again, performances after that date as well.)

    More than 1,500 performances are scheduled in more than 30 theaters from Hollywood Boulevard on the north to Melrose Boulevard on the south, from Gardner Street in the west to east of Western Avenue, with many theaters centered in an eight-block long section of Santa Monica Blvd. You can take the train and bus to the fun and see several plays without walking more than a few blocks – four or five a day, if you’ve got the sitzfleisch to endure.

    The Hollywood Fringe is based on the original Edinburgh Fringe Festival, but with a twist: Hollywood is home to more actor/waiters than anywhere else, and the Hollywood version includes many small plays where actors are trying to be noticed and are eager to here your reviews. (more…)

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  • Friends Like These Mixes Great Performances with Flawed Script

    By John Farrell

    Friends Like These is writer Gregory Crafts’ visceral look at one group of students at a local high school who you know are doomed from the start.

    The play begins with reports of a mass shooting at the high school and the only question is “Who does the shooting?”

    In this Theatre Unleashed production, directed by Wendy Gough Soroka, that is one problem. The other problem is the complete lack of parents in the mix. Scott Sharma plays Garrett. He is bullied to the point of spending a couple of weeks unconscious in the hospital with a broken jaw and no one, save his friends, seems to notice.

    That is a shame because, despite these logical flaws, the five cast members give riveting and real performances as students troubled and trying to work out their lives. You think about the flaws after the play: during the performance you are focused on Garrett, on his girlfriend Nicole (Parissa Koo), Diz (Sammi Lapin), Bryan (Sean Casey Flanagan) and Jesse (Le Pollero). Diz has lost Garrett to cheerleader Nicole and is devastated at her loss. Jesse is a jock with attitude and his former girl-friend Nicole has left him for Garrett. Bryan is Garrett’s friend and Jesse’s wrestling partner. The story, about high school angst and emotional problems, rings true if you don’t think things through. But the actors give great performances and it is only later that you begin to wonder.

    Tickets are $12.50

    Performances are Monday June 22 at 4:30 p.m.Wednesday, June 24 at 9 p.m. and Saturday June 28 at 10:30 p.m. (more…)

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  • RL NEWS of the Week Ending June 13, 2014

    Unofficial Election Results: Central SP Neighborhood Council
    SAN PEDRO — The results from June 10 election for the board of the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council are below.
    Results become final in a few days when the appeal filing period closes. The new board will be seated July 8 and officers will be elected by board appointment at that time.
    Carrie Scoville, Sue Castillo, James Preston Allen, Frank Anderson, Kali Merideth, Donald Galaz, Karen Ceaser, Danielle Sandoval, Debbie Rouser, Alexander Hall, Katherine Gray, Jose Guerrero, Grant Hartwell, Collin B. King, Debra A. Hunter, Andrea Serrao and Khixaan Obioma-Sakhu were elected to the neighborhood council.

    LB City Council Votes on Lifeguard Staffing, Training Rules
    LONG BEACH — On June 10, the Long Beach City Council voted 8-0 to receive and file communication from the fire chief to the Marine Safety Division staff regarding staffing the city’s four rescue boats.
    The five-month-old plan would lead to additional training for lifeguards and temporary staffing changes on a city rescue boat.
    The Long Beach Lifeguard Association opposed the plan, which involves temporarily placing a fire captain on a rescue boat while lifeguards undergo 80 hours of firefighting training because of questions about the type of training that would be required and budgetary concerns regarding temporary staffing.
    In January, the city was ordered to pay a worker’s compensation claim with regard to two lifeguards injured. Their duties included using fire equipment. (more…)

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  • Court House Closed for Business

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    Tino, the Cambodian-Texan bar owner of Crimsin, stood across the street as the state maintenance workers unbolted the letters which once read, “San Pedro Superior Court.” It was just two Latino guys with a ladder and some tools. By the time we noticed what was occurring, the letters were half gone, leaving only “erior court”– an ominous and foreboding reference to the demise of 100 years of local justice in this southern part of Los Angeles County.

    “Can we at least have a few letters from the sign as memorabilia?” we asked.

    “No,” was the answer. “They belong to the State of California.” The workmen looked over their shoulders at us like we were either drunk or crazy, continuing their work.

    Well, of course, they do but who would miss a few letters? We the people of Sixth Street might like to have some proof of what once was here. The workers continued pulling the letters off the building until they were all gone.

    It was back in 1909 that the Los Angeles Consolidation Committee promised the residents of the Harbor Area a “police court” as part of the deal to annex to the City of Los Angeles and there has been a court here in some form or another until June of 2013. (more…)

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