A few years ago, I met up with two of the founders of Modjeska Playhouse, Christopher Sullivan and Joshua Stecker. In the interview below, we discussed the founders’ history and how they decided to start the challenging — especially in an area with very little theatre presence — endeavor of creating a theatre. Even now the Modjeska Playhouse stands as the only performing arts theatre in the city of Lake Forest. Despite these challenges, the Modjeska Playhouse has consistently released a wide variety of scripted and unscripted shows for Lake Forest and the surrounding communities. Continue Reading
Geppetto (Ben Messmer) and Puppet (Rudy Martinez, with puppeteers Lisa Dring and Mark Royston). Photo by Chelsea Sutton
There is something comforting about knowing you are about to hear a story with magic. Fairy tales are a huge part of our culture, and some of them are more engrained in the collective Bank of Childhood Memories than others. This can be attributed to the might of one Walt Disney. Disney took already famed tales and made them even more mainstream, doing various touch ups here and there on his scripts to make them more appealing in cartoon form. Pinocchio is one of these stories. Most people know all about the wooden puppet who longs to be a real boy and his devoted companion Jiminy Cricket. So it would be nothing short of weird to hear our beloved marionette and his friends curse (as this is an adult production) and make sexual references (again, this is an ADULT PRODUCTION. FOR ADULTS). Nevertheless this is what happens in Rogue Artists Ensemble’s production of Wood Boy Dog Fish. Continue Reading
Have you ever watched an episode of television where the hero is trapped in a room with another character?Most of the time the other character is someone the hero despises, or the trapped characters have unresolved romantic feelings for each other.It could even be both.Once trapped, secrets get revealed.Feelings get shared.However, at the end of the ordeal, the issues are resolved, and the characters have a newfound appreciation for themselves and for each other.Yasmina Reza’s Tony Award winning play God of Carnage completely deconstructs this scenario.
photos courtesy Modjeska Playhouse (l to r) Keith Bush, Laura Flores, Cassidy McMillan, Wade Williamson
The cast consists of four characters –two pairs of husbands and wives.Cassidy McMillan and Wade Williamson play Veronica and Michael Novak.Veronica is a social activist who considers herself a “citizen of the world.”Michael runs a hardware company and appears supportive of his wife’s ideals.Keith Bush and Laura Flores bring Alan and Annette Raleigh to life.Alan is an amoral attorney while Annette is increasingly frustrated with his unbreakable attachment to his cell phone and apathy towards everything else.Together, the two couples meet in the Novak living room to discuss what they should do about the Raleigh’s son hitting the Novak’s son. The conversation quickly steers away from the children and towards topics that shed light on everyone’s darker nature.Continue Reading
New way, new day, new play—new things abound. I had not seen this play before. Although the name is something I’ve heard often enough. Costa Mesa Playhouse is currently running The Lion in Winter –an impressive title if ever there was one. (The Chronicles of Narnia can just step aside because the war of the titles is over). The storyline is about a king and his captive queen living in a castle while their three sons argue and scheme to inherit the throne. It’s a basic story with what turns out to be some great characters, but the acting is not as impressive.
The theater critic has existed as long as theater itself. Ask Plato. It’s a co-dependent relationship where both thrive on each other’s existence. For the ever-sensitive actor the critic carries a double-edged sword: if they get a good review they love the critic like family; if they get a bad review (or no review at all) the critic is a complete moron who should be tarred and feathered. However, the theater depends on the critic’s review to bring in the crowds, they have access to the media and some people even read reviews. So there is the delicate balance of the relationship, based on an ever-tentative tolerance.
This relationship gets trickier when the critic is a member of the local theater scene, as both a participant, colleague and friend. For myself, I’ve been acting and writing in local theater in the Fullerton area since 2005. Several years ago I was invited to start writing critiques on Facebook for a local theater, a theater where I had acted in shows and had many friends. Knowing how touchy theater folks can be – they don’t call it drama for nothing – I was a little hesitant, and I warned them that I was going to be honest. But they liked my writing and were okay with that. So far I’ve had no complaints, at least not to my face. I’ve also started writing reviews for this website over the past year. Although I’ve been writing reviews on and off for forty years, I’m a relative newby to the OC theater world.
Joel Beers has been writing theater criticism in Orange County for twenty years, in the OC Weekly. Joel is easily the funniest and best writer of all local theater critics (of which there are few), and for my money, the most versed in the subject matter. Like me, Joel is a member of the theater world, as a playwright. He’s had a number of plays produced at Stages Theater over the years, and writes reviews for every theater in town, although the Weekly has seriously cut back on space for Arts the past few years. Joel gets criticized a lot by people in the theater world for being too hard on local theaters. He speaks his mind and is always honest. If he’s critical it’s because he holds the world of theater to a high standard. Nobody expects Broadway standard production values on a community theater level, but one does expect good quality theater: writing, acting, directing, design, imagination. That doesn’t require money. Joel will always research shows he’s reviewing, looking for interviews or background on the writer and the play. He does this because he takes it seriously.
Tune in every Friday to http://www.kuci.org/or if you’re in the areas of Santa Ana, Irvine or Tustin turn your radio receiver to 88.9FM @ 4pm – 5pm for the AMB Theatre show in partnership with the Orange Curtain Review.