Christ McGarry and Lisa Joyce in "Doubt" at the Center Theater Group/Ahmanson Theater.
Photo by Craig Schwartz
I never want to learn what a play or movie is about before I see it, unless it’s totally depressing or in the horror genre, in which cases I’ll avoid it. So, though I was aware that “Doubt” had received many Tony awards last year, I somehow managed to avoid knowing the subject matter. All the info I allowed in is that people considered it to be “heavy.”
I attended the opening night at the Ahmanson, and the audience was laughing from the outset, so I thought I had been wrongly advised. For three quarters of the ninety-minute show, it did seem like a comedy. The rest of the audience went wild for the play, but I just couldn’t get into it, I’m sure due in part to outside influences (getting to the theater just a few minutes before it started, the woman next to me chewing gum like a cow, the man next to her crackling candy wrappers, etc.)
But the main problem was that by the third scene, I realized the topic was priest pedophilia. Not exactly an upper. And definitely not a laughing matter, by any stretch of the imagination. So, I was confused as to why it was written/directed in that manner, either way a strange choice, in my book. And the action took place in 1964. I can’t imagine the topic playing out this way back then. But I’ve never been privy to the machinations of the catholic school system, so maybe it is realistic. I just don’t think so. Worrying about the accuracy of the plot gave me a headache.
All four performances were solid, but just didn’t strike me as award-winning. Adriane Lenox, as the mother of the only black student at the school, was the stand-out. Everyone involved with theater in NY seems to love Cherry Jones, the lead, and it appeared that LA feels the same way. For me, though, no one cut to my soul.
The sets were perfect; simple, functional, and evocative of the time. And being the first time that I’ve sat towards the back of the orchestra in the Ahmanson, I must report that I think there’s not a bad seat in that house. Mind you, I don’t want to sit there for every show, especially not dance ones, but I was very pleasantly surprised. Maybe I was just so comfortable in my seat that I couldn’t feel the stresses of the world portrayed in the play.
“Doubt” running through October 29
Ahmanson Theatre 135 N. Grand Ave.
Guy Wilson, Dan Alemshah and Robert Gantzos stars in THE FAT OF THE LAND.
Especially in contrast to the above, the characters in this play seemed so real to me. I guess I know more neurotic artists and annoying neighbors than messed-up priests and nuns. I know that four out of six of the actors played it up for laughs, but they were believable anyway. Excellent performances, and great casting. The best casting I’ve seen in ages. Absolutely no one annoyed me, which just may be a first, even with one-person shows!
My favorite was Dan Alemshah, who looks like Jared from the Subway ads in his headshot, but played a transvestite who I would actually like to be friends with. John L. Bader, as a next-door neighbor none of us wants to have, is so perfect that I can’t picture him as anything other. And from the second the adorable Guy Wilson showed up as a starry-eyed Broadway wanna-be dancer, I was picturing him with his shirt off. I swear! Not from a lecherous point of view, really, but from an aesthetic one. And I was obliged in the second act. Big time. No wonder I loved this play!
I could actually picture all six actors working on TV or film. Usually at Equity Waiver productions, I just picture them in “Waiting For Guffman,” the true story.
“Fat of the Land” is playing at a theater I had never been to, and almost wasn’t this time either, as it’s on a very poorly-marked, dark street near Paramount. Bring a flashlight and mace. But, once there, it was pretty comfortable, except for the extreme air-conditioning. Maybe you better add a faux fur to that packing list.
“Fat of the Land” running through Oct. 29
The Theatre District 804 N. El Centro Hollywood
When I began my television show, “Karen’s Restaurant Revue,” I had zero expectations. So, whenever a PR person contacted me, I was surprised. The very first was Bobbi Cowan, the original rock and roll publicist. She invited me to review a restaurant she was repping, and came over to say hi. She said she just had to meet me because when she first watched the show, she said, “What the f*** is this?!!!” That’s still one of my favorite comments about my show.
Knowing Bobbi’s background, I have always respected her music knowledge. So, when she invited me to a recent record release party at Tangier in Los Feliz, I went, though with just an ounce of trepidation.
I usually don’t have patience for unfamiliar music (I know--how does it become familiar if one doesn’t listen to it the first time?), but I heard that Jeff Goldblum was a fan of Angel Travis. I had met Jeff a couple of times over the years and he told me that he enjoyed my show, so I trust his taste in female talent. Obnoxious enough for you?
I had a great time, all around. Tangier is a bar and restaurant that I hope to review in the future. The music venue is in the back and pretty well insulated from the bar noise, which is such a plus as I hate cacophony more than almost anything.
The party had open bar and passed hors d-oeuvres. I told a waitress, Michelle, that the food wasn’t getting to our seats, and she made it her personal project to make sure it got there. Repeatedly. That’s pretty rare at a packed event, as this was. And very appreciated.
The crowd was nice-looking and the sound system not bad. As a matter of fact, I was there early enough to catch the sound check, and whispered a comment to my friend about how they should fix the mixing. A second later, the sound guy told his crew the same thing. So, I started off the evening proud of myself, which put me in a good mood to begin with.
Angel Travis can really sing. Which she did, for over an hour. Her genre is jazz-y rock or rock-y jazz, at least that night. I truly liked every song. Not a lemon in the bunch. And though it was loud music in a relatively small space, it was oddly relaxing.
The only distraction the whole night was some idiot standing near me, with his blue-tooth flashing the entire time. He was in a music venue; he knew he wasn’t going to answer the phone in there. So why wear an annoyingly flashing earpiece??? I have news for him and his sort: the device doesn’t make you look hip and important; only insecure and rude. Maybe you should just carry a self-help book instead. And read it, while you‘re at it.
And lastly, don’t forgot that Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal is at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion this week-end. Check my most recent column, in the archives section, for details.