Carla Delaney Corrals her "Voices"

1802540

Carla Delaney in "Voices" at the Hollywood Fringe Festival.

Actress/voice over specialist Carla Delaney has successfully plied her craft in a number of performance outlets, including such animated TV fare as The Family Guy and The Cleveland Show, commercials (the voice of Carol Brady for Snickers) and reality TV (Conan, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Dana Carvey’s First Impressions). Her one-person show, Voices, follows her intrepid journey in her efforts to reveal not only the source of her talent but her essence as a human being. Solo show guru Jessica Lynn Johnson helms the proceedings with a zesty pace and pinpoint timing, although not every moment needs to be so specifically choreographed (such as Delaney’s relentlessly thrusting of her chest during a Sofia Vergara impression).

Delaney’s opening scene tribulations at a non-union voice-over session while attempting to please two seedy unseen producers (voiced by Jared Nigro and Nick Armstrong), not only allows her to display her adroit command of celebrity voices (Liza Minnelli, Drew Barrymore, Betty White, Vergara), it also serves to launch this lady into a quest to find out why she is in such a state of dissatisfaction, fighting throat soreness, a cold, career insecurities and an awareness that something is just not right. Aided immensely by the tech fluidity of Colin Pope, Delaney’s search for health and happiness leads her to seek medical help and psychic enlightenment, even to study yoga, but her throat and respiratory system are not improving and neither is her life. That’s when the show takes a leap forward as the myriad of voices within her, stifled throughout her life, now come out to play and to rebel.

Delaney incorporates a vast range of vocal colorations to bring such unique personalities as her heart, her brain, her snotty respiratory system, and a couple dozen more internal inhabitants to the fore. She even voices many of the people and objects in her life (like her disgruntled French Horn). Growing up as the youngest daughter, always trying to please everyone but herself, Delaney impressively distills the dysfunctional nature of her family during a simple trip to dine out. While her clueless mother, intractable father and domineering older sister are unable to agree on a destination, Delaney’s hapless younger self enthusiastically validates everyone’s opinion but cannot voice one of her own. However, the virtuosic highlight of the show is when teenage Delaney—despite the warring disapproval of every voice inside her but her heart—gives up her virginity to an unworthy lad who simply wanted to play “hide the salami.”

Voices reveals Delaney’s way out of the entrapment that has played havoc with her insides (ever hear of Hashimoto’s Syndrome?), as well as her professional life. She reminds us that, “the body is a sophisticated messenger. It tries at every turn to speak its truth! And if you ignore that truth, if you stuff it down, it will give you the flu.” If Delaney does Voices II, it would be nice to learn even more about her personal life.  But she would still have to do her seamless vocal journey through the Simpsons family. That was delicious.

Voices

Plays: Sunday, June 13 (8:30pm); Friday, June 17 (7:30pm); Sunday, June 19 (7:30pm); Sunday, June 19 (7:30pm); and Saturday, June 25 (4pm)

At Asylum Studio C Theater, 6448 Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood.

Tickets and more information available here.


"Sexy Maus" Brings a Seductive Spin on the Homeric Odyssey

374536

Andrea Schell is that friend of yours who is the life of the party.  

Entertaining, enthralling, smart, sexy, she can salvage the shoddiest dinner party by her mere presence.

And there you have both the strength and weakness of “Sexy Maus” which is appearing as part of the 2016 Hollywood fringe.

Schell is a dynamo as she relates her journey through some of continental Europe’s inviting capitals – her itinerary connecting her various destinations together to form a huge question mark.

Her journey is somewhat on par with the 12 Stations of the Cross, only minus 4 and a hell of a lot sexier, and much, much funnier.  

Her story launches from a low spot. She finds no joy or longevity in any of her relationships, she tending her elderly parents, a mother who wails when she tries to replace dead bushes about the house and a father who pushes back when she suggests some house cleaning: “throw out those five broken vacuum cleaners I was going to fix?”

On top of that she turns forty.

Schell travels to Europe, not so much to escape her life, as to find if she’s still capable of having one, and the show consists of the stories of that trek, and the series of romantic encounters in the places she visits.

Wade Gasque directs. He fuels the pacing evenly, and has a sturdy grip on the delivery of both the pathos and humor. It is questionable though also inconsequential, why he thought a bedroom, while so much an arena of the narrative, needed to be on stage when it is hardly employed. Schell’s dialogue percolates with humor and style, describing one encounter, as all “sweetness and Targaryens”, and quips after one interlude of self-inspection, “I don’t have an answer but I do have a date.”

She is engaging, rippling with vitality and sexuality.

Less so her tales.  

Perhaps an over reliance of her energy and wit is the problem here, for Schell’s narrative feels underworked and her eventual decipherment of life as “sex can be anything”, while sweet is a bit undernourished.   

While her challenges and tribulations certainly do connect with the audience, they bruise rather than break the skin. 

“Sexy Maus”, more than anything else, is Homer’s Odyssey, but framed within a feminine perspective. By which I don’t mean “feminist”, though there are a couple of well timed and very amusing nods in that direction.  

But rather that Schell’s tale is devoid of any appreciable testosterone, so there was no cannibalistic Laestrygonian or six-headed Scylla, and no one gets turned into a pig though Waller does kiss one or two.

She does find herself briefly “lashed” to the mast as she passes through an Oktoberfest celebration which supplies the whirlpool of Charybdis, and where the masculine equivalent of sirens threaten not with their alluring song, but groping hands.

In tuned to her gender perspective of genre here, it is a giant wooden shoed Polyphemus that comes to her rescue that ends not with a blinding but with arms tenderly entwined.

The odyssey that Schell spins is in essence the tales of Circe, Calypso, Nausicaa and Penelope, where Schell doesn’t find them in distant foreign lands but within herself.  

Whatever else it is however, Schell’s “Sexy Maus” is both great fun and an entertaining reminder that “He, who would bring home the wealth of the Indies, must carry the wealth of the Indies with him.”

Or in this case, “her.”

SEXY MAUS

Continues at the Hollywood Fringe Festival at at Sacred Fools Theater (Studio) 1078 Lillian Way

Performances: Saturday, June 4th @8PM (preview), Saturday, June 11th @ 12:30PM, Sunday, June 12th @2:00PM, Saturday, June 18th @ 8PM, Sunday, June 19th @10:30AM (father’s day!), Saturday, June 25th @ 10:00PM

For tickets and more information go here.


"God's Waiting Room" Lifts Spirits

1609723

The message is clear.

One is unlikely to find God waiting in the reception area of the Let Live theater. This privately placed house of performance is snuggled stealthily between “I think Waze is broken.” and “Wait, Isn’t this The Actor’s Company or CAZT?”  

However, following one’s successful ability to sort through some minor geographical challenges, a very seriously managed parking lot and many anxious actors in various stages of undress outside the theater, one will finally be curtly ushered into the serenity of “God’s Waiting Room”.

The set of God’s waiting room borrows politely from the nostalgia of a vacation bible school basement. Surprisingly this religious conjuring is somewhat fitting because within the soul of this play lounges a specific, unwavering message crescendoing with patterned consistency.  

Additionally, much like a production one may find in a church, “God’s Waiting Room” lingers in your mind much longer than the running time it’s assigned. Both productions may deliver a message to an audience hungry for that message. Ironically, however, in “God’s Waiting Room” the main ‘protagonist’ is the legalistic church-goer.

The play is set at Palm Springs Hospital, Lois (Denise Carol), and husband Steve (Geoffrey Gilbert)  rush to Lois’ gay brother Billy’s (Fillip Hoffman) side as he dies. However, Lois refuses physically to be by his side as she disapproves of his lifestyle. Especially after she comes in contact with her brother’s partner (Randy Vasquez), who provides  for her a new layer of disdain. The detached hospital worker (Deandra Dixon) balances the characters out well with matter-of-fact delivery.

Although somewhat formulaic, this play is to be applauded for it’s unique delivery. Accommodating all action in a waiting room of a hospital is a very intriguing premise. This context suggests an environment enceinte with emotion and revelation.  

The transitions initially take a few scenes before one acclimates to the structure. Even so, once they are established, the transitions used are mostly clear and quick and the performers rarely use what is perceived as the backstage area. The inventive staging takes pressure off late-comers since the same area was used for entrances and exits.  

Award winning writer and director, Robert Austin Rossi, skillfully relays pain, disappointment, longing and fear within his text. Despite this play being formulated from a well known genre mold, his particular words fill the mouths of the actors fully, as if they were as essential as oxygen. The objective of the play is clear and unwavering. It is apparent (or skillfully implied) that the actors, too, share in the purpose of the piece. All of these factors makes for an enjoyable performance from a cohesive ensemble.  

The play is also an original play. Which means it is fresh and alive. Potential is what is heard loudest from this artistic attempt.

With so many elements in place for success, the fingertips of this play fall very slightly short of grasping the title of perfection. 

In this particular performance (of note, this was a preview) the actors seemed comfortable with the words that they were allowing to fall from skilled tongues, there was an inexplicable hesitancy in some scenes, sometimes mid-scene. This left the indication that the performers were still acting from within their heads. This made the performance feel stilted at times and created some uneven pacing and confusing moments. The audience is made to jump unexpectedly between actor and character a few times, and this throws off purposeful narrative slightly. 

The asides are crisp and colorful and provide a clear picture of the issues of each character. The text’s sole obstacle being that it is a bit long and slightly overwritten. The audience is left thirsty to witness some of the action described. The descriptions that painted this vivid, yet damaged world, were held solely by the actor charged with delivering them as if read from a (albeit beautifully written) book. One further step of exhibiting this action, rather than merely describing it, would provide “Gods Waiting Room” with a more energetic performance, encouraging the concept of anger to inspire intensity and the concept of sadness inspire defeat. Stakes are written high, but performed complacently.

Nonetheless, “God’s Waiting Room” does exactly what it wants to do. It speaks to the audience that it is intended for and even some open minded patrons that it is not intended for. The play is simple, succinct, and truthful. This play places a mirror in front of its audience and demands it choose a side.

Though undoubtedly more portrayal and less recounting of the events may make this production beefier, perhaps the perfection of this play lies within its imperfection. Feasibly, no beef is needed to make one a believer in this show’s formulaic message. “God’s Waiting Room” seems intent on the disrobing of its perception of what is truth. For all one knows “God’s Waiting Room”may be better fitted for the mouth of a “truth-tarian”.

Nonetheless, see this show.

It will definitely soon hit its stride.  

GOD’S WAITING ROOM

June 11-26, 2016 (Let Live Theater)

The Actor’s Company (LIL theater next door)

916 N. Formosa Ave Los Angeles, CA 90046

Tickets $12

Running time: 1 Hour


You Win Some, You Lose Some, in Love and "War Stories"

2275453

Clayton McInerney, Brian Guest, Sarah Schreiber and Sarah Kelly in War Stories. Photo credit: Lemon Melon Photography

According to the website DiscoverLosAngeles.com, there were 4 million people living in the City of Los Angeles in 2015. If you add all of LA County, the number grows to 10.1 million. That’s a lot of hearts falling in and out of love at any given time.

In Sarah Kelly’s new play, War Stories, we meet four of them: Chelsea (Sarah Schreiber), an actress constantly attracted to catastrophe; Sam (Clayton McInerney), a writer whose motto is ‘never fall in love with an actress’; Jen (Sarah Kelly) a therapist, and sucker for a good love story; and Jake (Brian Guest), an intense actor convinced that love is the worst. Four people. Four separate issues. All of them call LA home. 

On the outside, they seem to be reasonably sane, happy people with hopes and dreams like everyone else. What we learn from each of their initial monologues, however, is that they are only showing part of themselves to those they love and it is the distance between who they are and who they appear to be that is secretly causing them pain.

Their stories will intersect as only they can in a city whose foundation is built on the backs of unfortunate betrayals and wishes that don’t always come true. And since none of us can escape the relationship rat’s wheel, their dilemmas resonate in a surprisingly universal way.

What is so compelling about the play is how nuanced it is. Kelly’s writing captures the tenderness and vulnerability of love’s uncertainty without crossing the line into cloying sentimentality. Her characters are real. We can relate to them and empathize with the decisions they’ll have to make in order to grow. 

War Stories has been in development since the beginning of the year and, because it has had time dedicated to the creative process, it is one of the most polished presentations you’ll see at the Fringe. Director Stacy Ann Raposa takes four actors, one set, and a play that alternates between monologues and 2-person scenes, and spins it into gold. It helps to have actors who have done their homework and who understand the honesty required to make a piece like this work. Each of them is a complete portrait.

The actors remain on stage throughout. Lighting changes define the active playing areas and also amplify the sense that, even in a city surrounded by millions of people, each one is still alone. That same lighting focuses the audience’s attention on the actors’ faces, and again, in a city where it’s easy to pass by people without even looking at them, we really see these four individuals.

It’s beautiful work done with conscious attention to detail. Fringe fellows, see what they have done with their limited resources and let it inspire you. The current running time is an hour but, happily, there are plans to expand it further into two acts.   

This play was a surprise. It isn’t a fluff piece and it isn’t jaded or off-the-cuff. War Stories shows you the life you give up when you don’t acknowledge how you really feel and, in some cases, it shows you the way back again. What better place than LA to get an opportunity for one more take?

WAR STORIES
June 4 – 24, 2016
Sacred Fools Theater (Black Box)
6322 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Tickets: $14 at http://hff16.org/3476
Running time: 1 hour


This "Wheel" is Missing Too Many Spokes

231656

A Family of Invention

Writer/Director Brandon Beck has divided this supposed cautionary dystopian excursion into mankind’s dubious future into two sections. Part One offers a thematically jaundiced glimpse into a theme park universe envisioned and ruled over by megalomaniac Herman J. Weintraub (played to the basso profundo hilt by Sokratis Frantzis). The fictional Weintraubsylvania, in West Nyack, New York grotesquely exaggerates the sins of today’s monumentally overpriced and suffocatingly overproduced mega theme parks, which evolved out of family entertainment mogul Walt Disney’s original desire to completely envelop park visitors with his vision. Of course, the audience can only imagine Weintraub’s park since it is merely described by park guide Melanie (volume-challenged Megan Duquette) on a nearly bare stage.

The proceedings devolve into thematic chaos when the stage is taken over by disgruntled park workers who have been morphed into performing crows and a trio of singing bears led by murderous Mamma May Shotgun (Kelsey Goldberg). The most entertaining aspect of this segment is the adroit pre-recorded fiddling of Ethan Joseph subbing for the voice of bear performer Phiddlin’ Phil (James Madejski).

There are no thematic payoffs to these unfocussed onstage shenanigans, which include a workers rebellion, a murder spree and a farcical trial complete with prosecutor (Diana De Luna) and Judge (Frantzis). Beck fails, both as a writer or director, to underscore or illuminate his sketchy swipes at the dilemma of the abused, underpaid and over-prosecuted working class. And one has to take at face value that visitor Shaun’s (Brook Banks) fascination with the park will lead to total brain washing.

Part Two is taken over by Weintraubsylvania’s main attraction, The Wheel of Invention, wherein a typical American family—Father (Madejski), Mother (Duquette), Rover the Dog (Brook Banks), son Junior (Angel M. Castillo), Grandma (Goldberg) and teen Daughter (De Luna)—journey through Weintraub’s apocalyptic vision of the world’s future. Beck’s dramatic throughline follows this nuclear family through four stages, relentlessly escalating their inevitable entrapment and enslavement by technology while systematically reducing their humanity to the level of bestiality. Beck’s imagination is vast but he does not put it on the stage.

There is not enough solid content or adroit direction for the ensemble members to actually establish any viability, although Duquette’s Mother does take impressive glee in her increasingly aggressive emasculation of Father. Composer Andy Roninson’s musical underscoring is quite acceptable and his theme park ditty, “The Banjo Bears,” with lyrics by Beck, actually adds veracity to the theme park proceedings.

The Wheel of Invention

Plays Sunday, June 12 (9:30pm); Thursday, June 16 (10:30pm); Sunday, June 19 (2:30pm); Friday, June 24 (11:30pm); and Saturday, June 25 (11pm)

At Asylum @ 6470, 6470 Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood

Tickets available at: http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/3282?tab=tickets