EVERYBODY'S GOT ONE  

 

CURRENT REVIEWS 

From TRAVIS MICHAEL HOLDER  

 

"Critics are men who watch a battle from a high place then come down and shoot the survivors."   ~ Ernest Hemingway  

 

Reefer Madness: the Musical

THROUGH JULY 21: The Whitley, 6555 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. www.reefermadness.com 

[REVIEW TO COME]

 

Topsy Turvy

Photo by Ashley Randall

Actors’ Gang Theatre

Founded by Oscar-winning film star Tim Robbins 42 years ago and still active under his continuing leadership, the Actors’ Gang has produced more than 150 plays in LA and has toured 40 states and five continents in its mission to honor the sacred heritage of live theatre by introducing unconventional new works and creating exciting reinterpretations of the ancient classics.

It’s been a little bit David Lynch, a little bit what the company calls “The Style,” and a whole lot of worshipful homage to the 15th-century traditions of Commedia dell’arte that conspire to energize the Gang and simply, nobody does it better.

Starting its journey in garages, art galleries, street corners, and late night takeovers of small venues, the company's unswerving search for theatrical windmills has never wavered—that is until the pandemic put a major obstacle in their path as they strive to create, educate, and inspire through their art.

Although the Gang members continued to try to adapt their workshops and educational outreach programs to online formats, Robbins could not shake the sense that something vital was missing. From that came Topsy Turvy (A Musical Greek Vaudeville), now world premiering at the Gang’s theatre for a limited run before heading off to the Sibiu International Theatre Festival in Romania, certainly with more international tour dates to follow.

Written and directed by Robbins—his 15th original play to debut at his theatre since 1982–the roots of Topsy Turvy sprout both from classic Greek theatre and the deliciously lowbrow tenets of burlesque.

As the unity of a 10-person modern Greek chorus is upended due to a widespread pandemic that keeps them from being able to meet in person, they turn to the gods—you know, the old ones with names like Dionysus and Aphrodite—to seek their wisdom and help mend the divisiveness in their ranks destroying their ability to harmonize.

Explains Robbins of his inspiration: “What was missing was what theatre reliably provides, a place of gathering and community. The Gang could not meet in its shared space… and for some, there was something tragic and wrong about their theatre being closed, something ominous and unsettling about gathering places all around the world being shuttered.”

The result is Topsy Turvy, limning that overwhelming sense of loss many of us are still experiencing four years later. It is one of the earliest theatrical responses to the experience that took such a huge chunk out of our lives and as so, presented in the usual-unusual modus operandi for which the Gang has become known, nothing and no one is left without a voice, from the unnerved members of the chorus to the gods themselves.

Robbins also strikingly directs his latest international-bound project, leading a wildly game cast of zanies who are, as always, fearless in their willingness to go beyond the bounds of any restraint in creating their characters, this fearlessness the outcome of working together in the Gang’s rule-challenging ongoing workshops.

The members of the chorus searching to “find the virtue in loneliness” are each distinctive, presumably developed from being given the freedom to bring their individual roles to life from the first gasp of artistic birth. And together, their musical moments are also quite impressive.

Although a musical director is not officially credited, I would suspect another Robbins, brother David Robbins, who has created, performed, arranged, and designed the sound for many of the troupe’s productions since 1985 (even contributing improvised musical accompaniment for the Gang’s workshops), should be acknowledged here for helping the chorus find their perfect harmonies.

The talent must run in the family as sister Adele Robbins, herself a 30-year member of the company, is an eager member of the chorus here and, aside from writing and directing Topsy Turvy, the overachieving Tim has also composed six exceptionally evocative songs and lyrics for his “musical vaudeville.”

As the summoned gods who interrupt the frustrated members of the chorus in danger of losing their moxie and no longer able to "find meaning in distraction,” Luis Quintana and Scott Harris are special standouts as the Vegas lounge-like comedy team of Cupid and Bacchus, the latter gleefully noting that since the lockdown began there’s never been a time when wine has been more appreciated.

Harris also proves his versatility doubling in the more serious role of the Biblical character Onan and as Dionysus, arriving to blast our species for the systematic destruction of our planet—and prompting a chorus member to point out that “all the gods seem so grouchy.”

Perhaps the most chilling indictments of human behavior which has directly caused the Topsy Turvy nature of our world we live in comes from Guebri Van Over as Aphrodite and a dynamic showstopping turn by Stephanie Galindo as Aztec goddess Coatlique, who accuses us all of our planet’s impending destruction and near distinction of our Native American ancestors.

Quintana, back as aptly named Barnum-esque master of ceremonies Distracto, leads a raucous troupe of street-style carnival magicians, hypnotists, and particularly Megan Stogner as a wonderfully entertaining monkey anxious to escape from her cage. All contribute to bring welcome comic relief to lighten up the proceedings between the sharply accusatory monologues by gods and others shaming our species for the rampant disregard of our planet and the responsibility of creating a “society in chaos, a society that has lost its sense of up and down.”

If there’s anything to criticize in this impressive and freshly innovative production, it might only be a sense that, between the circus-like comedic interludes, the harsh diatribes delivered to the audience by the gods begin to feel a bit like too much sermonizing. I believe this is only something noteworthy here in Topsy Turvy’s Los Angeles debut where, especially considering the general hipness of the Actors’ Gang devoted audiences, the issues raised seem to be preaching to the choir.

Robbins notes that the themes and warnings present in his latest opus are “intended as a catalyst for a conversation” and I kept thinking as it was unfolding how much its message will resonate, educate, and in a way apologize to the participants of the Romanian Sibiu Festival and to audiences anywhere it will subsequently travel.

“We are living in an aftermath of disorder and disarray,” Robbins explains of his quest for windmills. “Theatre is here precisely for these times. It has the potential to unite us. It can inspire laughter, bring us songs that touch our hearts, raise difficult questions and dichotomies, remind us of our shared humanity.”

In other words, art heals—and nothing could be more potentially healing than the fiercely creative magic generated by Tim Robbins and the invincible members of the Actors’ Gang.

THROUGH JUNE 8: The Actors’ Gang, 9070 Venice Blvd., Venice. 310.838.4264 or theactorsgang.com

Girl from the North Country 

Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

Pantages Theatre

People are either going to passionately love this one or absolutely hate it. For me, Girl from the North Country is the best new American musical in years—or should I say best new musical about America in years.

I guess it’s no secret for anyone who knows my theatrical likes and dislikes that most musical comedy falls into the latter category in my world. I’ll take stories about barbers slitting throats, housewives descending into bipolar disorder, lesbian cartoonists dealing with their father's suicides, or people paying to pee any day over corn as high as an elephant’s eye or someone growing accustomed to her face. Musical theatre as the antithesis of classic musical comedy is where I get a little giddy.

That said, Conor McPherson’s morality play with music, utilizing the classic songs of Bob Dylan to tell the story of a ragtag group of miserable middle-American people doomed by the Great Depression, should have won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, an honor given to a distinguished new play by an American playwright, preferably original in its source and dealing with some aspect of American life. If McPherson wasn’t born and raised in Dublin, this would have—or at least should have been—a shoe-in.

Simply, Girl from the North Country is a stunning achievement. The Olivier-winning and five-time Tony nominee playwright (The Weir, Shining City, The Seafarer) has created a dizzying number of characters, all presented as residents of a ramshackle and soon-to-be foreclosed upon boarding house in Duluth, Minnesota in 1934 swept away in the aftermath of the Depression, each one of them vivid and desperate people grabbing to regain hold of their shattered lives.

Nope, not the Von Trapps by any means.

McPherson directs his own masterwork, fortuitously delivering an evocatively gossamer, almost Carson McCullers-esque quality to the musical that somehow also manages to be extraordinarily theatrical. With 22 sensationally passionate musical theatre performers crowding onto the Pantages’ stage, under less skilled leadership from anyone but the playwright himself, identities could indeed become confusing. Instead, each actor has been gifted with a remarkably clear throughline that makes shaping their simple yet complex characters comprehensible.

Many actors are given their own showcased solo number, unostentatious Dylan ballads brilliantly transformed into anthems for broken people to earnestly tell their stories, most sung centerstage behind an old 30s radio show standup microphone—yet no character is deemed too important to not move set pieces or play onstage instruments accompanying their fellow players’ psalms of hope and redemption.

Somehow, we learn to care about each and every one of these desperate stand-in everymen for those countless forgotten people stuck in dustbowls and breadlines during one of our country’s most challenging periods of time, appearing here as though living embodiments of a Dorothea Lange photograph.

This evocation of the lost souls of America in the wake of the Depression is made real by the contributions of an amazing, truly world-class ensemble of performers, all obviously intensely committed to their characters and the rich source material.

Jennifer Blood, as the mentally lost wife of the boardinghouse’s owner Nick Laine (John Sciappa), is the heart of the production, offering a performance reminiscent of a young Amanda Plummer crossed with the down-home rustic scrappiness of Frances McDormand. And when she ends Act One with a showstopping rendition of Dylan’s 1965 classic “Like a Rolling Stone,” the idea of how to dropkick a finale before intermission reaches a whole new level.

Everyone in the cast is a knockout, palpable in their sincerity and gifted with vocal chops that could guarantee each of them a career well beyond the limitations of musical theatre.

Ben Biggers and Sharae Moultrie are notable as the Laines’ shiftless alcoholic son and quasi-adopted daughter, both of whom have memorable duets with their respective loves, Biggers sharing a haunting “I Want You” with his departing former girlfriend played by Chiara Trentalange and Moultrie in an inventive melody of “Hurricane,” “All Along the Watchtower,” and “Idiot Wind” with her nomadic ex-prizefighter beau played by the extraordinary Matt Manuel.

David Benoit, Jill Van Velzer, and Aiden Wharton are standouts as the once-successful Burke family and their mentally challenged son Elias. Van Velzer, who also doubles quite impressively on the drums, takes over the stage every time she steps up to sing and Wharton knocks it out onto Hollywood Boulevard in a postmortem eleventh-hour gospel-inspired production number version of “Duquesne Whistle” that brings the house down.

Although North Country could easily hold up as a play, the incorporation of Dylan’s songbook is a stroke of genius, his unconventional stylings grounding the piece in a kind of hypnotic pragmatism rather than how other famous songwriters’ music has been employed over the past few years in the conventional jukebox musical genre, adding glitz to sell the show rather than any substance to the story.

That said, perhaps the greatest contribution here aside from the unearthly gifts of Conor McPherson is the cutting-edge sagacity of arranger Simon Hale, whose uncanny and innovative interpretations of Dylan’s tunes—some familiar, some obscure—won him a well-deserved Tony Award for Best Orchestrations.

There is indeed a grimness in the reality presented here, but McPherson also delivers a haunting exploration into the depth of despair into which the human psyche can be thrust and how much that experience can fuck with our species’ ability to choose right over wrong.

Through the bleakness and hardship, there’s an omnipresent glimmer of hope that threads throughout Girl from North Country as this stepped-upon group of tyrannized survivors fight to discover what it is they want in their lives and how they can pull themselves up to make it happen in a heartless world that no longer seems to have a place for them.

THROUGH JUNE 2: Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. 800.982.2787 or broadwayinhollywood.com

SINGULARITIES or the Computers of Venus 

Photo by Brian Graves

Road Theatre Company

Science, we’re told by a character in the Road’s world premiere of SINGULARITIES or the Computers of Venus, is a series of contradictions working together to make truth.

Three female astronomers from different periods in time work toward the same goals in the world premiere of Laura Stribling’s arresting new play, each contributing important discoveries about the mysteries of the universe, and each functioning under the thumb of their male counterparts who take credit for their explorations.

For anyone naïve to the perceived notion that women are not given their due as equals in the scientific community—let alone the world—will be challenged by Stribling’s poetic yet to-the-bone text, which includes a trio of real-life historical figures, women toiling in 1789 to the post-Civil War era to modern times.

Stribling employs a fascinating device, seamlessly and innovatively melding history and fiction, with groundbreaking astronomers Caroline Herschel (1750-1848) and Maria Mitchell (1818-1889), as well as author/poet/abolitionist/suffragette Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910) as major protagonists, each presented interacting with some equally interesting fictional characters beaten down by the inequities of being a member of what was long dismissively referred to as the “fairer sex.”

All three sections take place in the same observatory at different periods in time, the first storyline featuring Herschel (Avery Clyde) confronted by a young admirer named Elizabeth Leland (Noelle Mercer) who longs to have a career as rewarding as what she envisions her mentor’s must be, but instead she is consumed by the demands of the late 1800s expectations of the role to which a woman must conform.

A century later, as Mitchell (Susan Diol) is visited by her friend Howe (Blaire Chandler), the temptations of breaking the bonds of society’s demands as their relationship turns to love overwhelms the great scientist, while in the play’s last coupling, the yearnings are reversed.

Set in the present time, Sophia (Krishna Smitha), the assistant of the former boss of astronomer Lena (Lizzy Kimball) is sent to spy on her research by her main competitor, but along the way she enters into totally new territory for her when she instead falls in love.

In the first act of SINGULARITIES, the three storylines unfold consecutively, while in the second part, they begin to defy the restrictions of time and scenes between the time zones are cleverly woven together. This is accentuated as the older characters stand watching as the others, despite the loosening of acceptable norms, still must deal with the same issues that originally kept them from achieving their objectives, receiving the recognition they deserve, and living their lives without judgement both personally and professionally.

The production, playing in repertory with Peter Ritt’s sadly far less successful High Maintenance, is elegantly austere, neatly sharing Brian Graves’ appropriately simple set that augments the serenely psychedelic projections by Ben Rock. Beginning with an extended 2001: A Space Odyssey-esque light show highlighted by Derrick McDaniel’s lighting and David B. Marling’s sound, the feeling is rather like a live imageless tribute to Koyaanisquatsi, the 1982 documentary favorite of all us inveterate stoners everywhere.

Directing one’s own play is often a huge mistake, but Stribling’s imaginative and often-choreographic staging of her SINGULARITIES is as mesmerizing as her intelligent and often quite strikingly lyrical text.

Her cast is quite superb, uniformly believable in their committed and heartfelt effort to create characters striving to uncover the mysteries of the solar system as they fight the need to find love that reaches beyond what the societies of their various timeframes find appropriate.

Kimball and Smitha are especially touching in their starcrossed emotional journey, while Chandler brings a delightful spirit to the already spirited Howe, who in real life worked magic to change the injustices and male-dominated partisanship of the America she so passionately advocated.

The always sturdy Clyde is quite compelling to watch as Herschel, the discoverer of several comets including one named after her, even though the character’s achievements and career never quite crawled out from the shadow of her more famous brother William. Unfortunately, Clyde’s performance is somewhat hampered by a rather indecipherable German accent further frustrating due to her low volume, at least for the ancient ears of this particular 938-year-old observer.

Beyond everything, SINGULARITIES or the Computers of Venus, developed from scratch in the Road’s fourth prolific Under Construction workshop, is a remarkable effort, although promising new playwrighting voice Laura Stribling could still judiciously trim the more repetitious exposition and eliminate the need to include some clever but unnecessary historical elements, no matter how artfully they have been woven into her script; a 90-minute runtime without intermission would be more than enough to tell her exciting and timely tale.

THROUGH JUNE 2: Road Theatre Company, 10747 Magnolia Blvd., NoHo. 818.761.8838 or RoadTheatre.org

The Hope Theory 

Photo by Jeff Lorch

Geffen Playhouse

Helder Guimarães is a phenomenal magician, all right. When it was first announced he would be returning to the Geffen with an all-new show called The Hope Theory, I went back into my files to check out what I had written about his last appearance there in his spectacular and many-times extended Invisible Tango.

I looked back to my 2023 file. Nope. Farther back. 2022? Uh-uh. I keep accessing my files of older and older reviews and finally found my piece on Invisible Tango—written in 2019. So, it’s obvious everything surrounding this guy is magical, since his last memorable appearance at the Geffen was five friggin’ years ago and is still indelibly stuck in my mind as one of the most unique and jaw-dropping performances I’ve ever experienced.

As with that first time out, The Hope Theory is again directed by Guimarães’ longtime mentor, admirer, and collaborator Frank Marshall, himself a lifelong amateur magician and EGOT-winning producer of such notable film franchises as Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, Back to the Future, and the Jason Bourne sagas.

As Guimarães quietly takes the stage entering through the audience, he immediately allows us to see him for exactly who he is: a rather nondescript guy with an easily identifiable Portuguese accent holding a deck of cards—and his genuine non-theatrical humility naturally imbues him with the power to set his audience at ease. 

His welcoming simplicity helps bring his electrifying magic to life when subtly introduced into the story he shares about his immigration to the States. As it unfolds, Guimarães gradually begins to win over our trust as he welcomes us into his first cramped Los Angeles apartment, recreated onstage in masterfully simplistic fashion by that always impressive LA wunderkind designer François-Pierre Couture. 

Throughout the performance, he takes piles of wooden storage boxes and scattered pieces of memorabilia from his life and organizes them into a bookcase display in an attempt to transform his dismal apartment into a home, all the while reminiscing about the struggles of being an invisible twenty-something from another country trying to navigate the cultural inequities of the American experience.

As he attempts to tackle the usual difficulties of establishing a professional showbiz career, for him compounded by his broken English and lack of networking opportunities, he is also quick to admit his uphill battle and sad lessons learned about trust in others were still better than living through the political oppression his family faced while he was growing up in Portugal in the 1980s.

The Hope Theory is all about survival and the necessity of maintaining some kind of hope in a basically uncaring society, although for anyone less scrappy and committed to success as Guimarães, the experience could have easily broken him.

His long journey to American citizenship and the creation of his own personal space is of course peppered with his mind-boggling magic, something reviewers have been asked by Guimarães and Marshall to “refrain from including major plot and illusion spoilers,” but let me say no one in the audience is exempt from possibly being called upon to help prove his abilities are real and completely inexplicable—and opening night that included three of us pressfolk, one of whom nearly crawled under his chair in an effort not to be included.

Witnessing a single card trick from Helder Guimarães alone is enough to make anyone slide to the edge of their seat realizing his unearthly gifts are grounded in something far deeper than first appearances reveal. The underlying message of The Hope Theory comes through this worldclass conjuror and raconteur’s skills and, for a brief time, he makes the chaos we all share these days disappear with the ease of his sleight of hand, shuffling our communal cares and worries back into the deck. 

THROUGH JUNE 30: Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Av., Westwood. 310.208.5454 or geffenplayhouse.org

Fatherland 

Photo by Jenny Graham

Fountain Theatre

According to Merriam-Webster, the second definition of the term "swan song” is:  “A farewell appearance or final act or pronouncement.”

Last month, just as his new play Fatherland was set to world premiere at the Fountain Theatre, the continuously groundbreaking facility’s artistic director Stephen Sachs announced his retirement from the pioneering 78-seat non-profit space he founded in 1990.

I proudly consider myself part of the Fountain family, having appeared there as the Witch of Capri in Tennessee Williams' The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore directed by the Fountain's producing director Simon levy, with Karen Kondazian and yours truly traveling on to play our roles at the annual Tennessee Williams Literary Festival in New Orleans, and in a special encore presentation of the award-winning Hollywood Fringe Festival hit The Katrina Comedy Fest by NOLA playwright Rob Florence.

Over the past 33 years, the Fountain has produced 36 world premieres and 54 U.S., west coast, or L.A. debuts, each chosen to reflect a unique cultural voice with a fierce determination to make waves and to serve our town’s incredibly diverse ethnic communities.

During that time, Sachs has directed dozens of award-winning productions at the Fountain and across the country, authored 18 of his own plays, including the comedy-drama Bakersfield Mist that has toured extensively and was presented in London’s West End, and among numerous other achievements gave a welcoming theatrical home to Athol Fugard where several of his newest plays were introduced to the world.

And so, Fatherland might indeed be Sachs’ crowning achievement while helming the Fountain and nothing could be more celebratory. Created as a “verbatim play,” meaning every word spoken and all situations presented in the script come from actual court transcripts and testimony, interviews with the real people involved, and public statements, it provides a riveting, unsettling experience that will hopefully (intentionally) haunt us all as we watch the current unconscionable election season unfold in our poor befouled country besieged from within.

Although the two leading pivotal characters are only listed as “Father” and “Son,” Sachs’ play is indeed written about Guy Reffitt of Wylie, Texas (where else?), the first defendant convicted and jailed for his involvement in the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, and his son Jackson, who made the incredibly brave and heart-wrenching decision to turn his father in to the F.B.I.

As the blusterous deluded father in Sachs’ scarily cautionary tale, one of our community’s scrappiest and most prolific theatrical treasures, Ron Bottitta, is nothing short of magnificent in the incredibly demanding role.

From loving dad slinging burgers in the backyard to rabid conspiracy theorist ready to overthrow the government in a brief 80-minute ride, Bottitta brings an uncanny believability to the challenge, making his character alternately both pitiable and absolutely terrifying. It is a tour de force performance that, if I were currently back teaching the craft on a daily basis, I’d insist each and every one of my acting students attend to see a true master craftsman at work.

As his 19-year-old son, the trajectory of the Carbondale, Colorado native and LA newcomer Patrick Keleher’s journey from backpacking around 11 African counties, Asia, and Australia to his current incarnation being cast in Fatherland is the stuff of which, in a fair world, future legends could possibly begin.

Back in his hometown after reading about the Fountain’s search to cast his character, on a whim and with a lot of chutzpah Keleher flew to LA, auditioned for Sachs, and the next day while debarking back home from his brief trip, received a text that he’d been cast.

His performance is a gripping, amazingly multi-layered thing of wonder, quite unexpected from someone who hasn’t been around this nasty ol’ business long enough to have become disillusioned or have had time to doubt himself in any way. Resembling a kinda corn-fed, farm-grown version of a modernday James Dean, Keleher is the heart of this production as a sensitive kid torn between his love for his father and his family and what he knows is a twisted assault on the very fabric of democracy.

Guy Reffitt began his career as an oil worker and eventual rig manager before the 2016 collapse of the price of oil. Losing his $200,000-a-year position as an international oil industry consultant, he moved his family back to Texas and, as his savings began to dissipate, his interest in politics concurrently began to move dangerously right as he sucked in Trump’s laughably masturbatory The Art of the Deal.

To the horror of his son, he linked and quickly fell under the twisted spell of a virulently ultra-conservative Texas militia group called the Three Percenters—naming themselves that because they believed only three percent of A’murkins had the cajónes to stand up against what they saw as a police state.

“When tyranny becomes law,” Bottitta’s father bellows to his horrified son, himself turning in the other direction after the murder of George Floyd, “revolution becomes duty.”

This of course leads to him becoming instrumental in calling for 10 million equally deluded souls to join him and his ragtag tribe of racist fake Christians for the infamous storming of the Capitol under the spell of that orange-hued monstrous antihero unable to believe he lost an election and enjoy a brief almost orgasmic high that made him finally “feel like a fucking American.” Eventually, of course, his euphoria led to Reffitt’s sentence of 87 months in federal prison.

What Fatherland perhaps inadvertently exposes is what causes such a person to become radicalized. It’s not necessarily a "patriotic" rational calling for justice and change as it is a desperate need to be a part of something, to be right about something, to be better than others in a world that has continually left such people behind and their voice unheard. It’s what my partner and I refer to as Little Pee-Pee Syndrome, a far more dangerous version of souping up one’s car with oversized wheels and a sound system able to blast all those people who ignore you on that arduous and treacherous road we call life.

Under Sachs’ passionate leadership and sharply fluid direction on a nearly bare stage framed by Joel Daavid’s exquisitely simple set and Alison Brummer’s jarringly effective lighting plot, Bottitta and Keleher are mesmerizing as their characters’ relationship tragically devolves and their lives are forever changed by the boy’s commitment to help spare our democracy from his father and his twisted band of treasonous cohorts.

As the defense and prosecuting attorneys grilling the son in court, characters here utilized as conduits to present the material—again completely gleaned from actual testimony and other statements craftily manipulated by Sachs to become a play—Anna Khaja and Larry Poindexter are sufficiently serviceable in roles which by their very nature are rather thankless.

Kudos are especially in order for Khaja, who must introduce each of the play’s new thought by the questions her U.S. Attorney asks the boy. As I try to impart to every actor I coach, dialogue is best memorized by learning lines thought-by-thought but, as with the psychiatrist Dr. Martin Dysart in Peter Shaffer’s classic play Equus, Khaja must have had to learn her lines in some kind of sequence without the benefit of prompts from the lines themselves; one random question asked out of the proper scripted order and she could singlehandedly wipe out pages of dialogue.

To say that Fatherland is arresting and highly polished playmaking is a given but still, as brilliant and perfectly seamless as this production and its performances may be, it is by nature not something that can simply be referred to as an entertainment. It is incredibly disturbing and, as any such project sadly preaching basically to a likeminded choir, I wish there was a way it could be presented to a far wider audience. It might even change the minds of people we as left-coast liberals only began to realize existed and were about to crawl out from below their Morlockian rocks with the rise of that malevolent antichrist Donald J. Trump.

So, I mentioned Merriam-Webster’s second definition of the term “swan song” at the beginning. Actually, the first is:  “A song of great sweetness sung by a dying swan.” This in no way reflects the retirement of Stephen Sachs from the incredible theatrical space that has benefited immeasurably from the many projects he has championed into existence despite what must have been some thorny challenges and ups and downs over the past three decades.

One can only hope that, although Sachs has quite literally left the building, his new life will lead him to develop many, many more amazing artistic statements such as the world premiere of his remarkable Fatherland. This “swan song” isn’t sung by a swan on his way off to Valhalla by any means; it signals the flight of a great and unstoppably majestic creature with an enormous wingspan ready to travel off into new directions that will surely prove the betterment of everyone and everything in his path.

THROUGH JULY 21: Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Av., LA. 323.663.1525 or fountaintheatre.com

 

See? I'm an angel.