Sunday, March 30, 2014

L. A. Deli by Sam Bobrick

By Joe Straw

“He had mixed feelings about dying, of course. He wanted to know where he was going and what the accommodations would be like. To play it safe, he wanted to order room service early in case he arrived hungry. He was hoping for deli food, and by that, he meant real deli food, the kind he grew up eating in New York. And a nice bowl of chicken soup couldn't hurt.” 

While working for a large independent film company, I had the pleasure of meeting a number of above-the-line talent, famous and infamous.  And for some odd reason, they liked to come by my office to pick up their check.  Go figure.  

Once, a writer who I had never met, out-of-the-blue invited me to lunch at a deli in Beverly Hills.  Why anyone would want to have lunch with me is a mystery, but I reluctantly agreed.  Truth be told, I have a problem sitting next to a complete stranger, a successful writer at that, whose prosaic waste is gratified with an enormous paycheck.  

Naytheless, before I went to lunch, I thought I’d better read his script.

Reading his script was a monstrous effort.  I started losing interest somewhere, about, well, if I remember correctly, page two, and by the 109th page, I noticed my nails had started to grow long and twist. The tasty tidbits in this screenplay were as rare as malodorous white truffles.

And speaking of smells, I got wind, from the story department that the project was in turnaround. They weren’t going any further, and the possibility of a production date, pre or otherwise, were now a figment of someone’s overzealous imagination.  So it was just lunch, no commitments, but as I walked into the deli, having that information, I felt uncomfortable. 

The writer and I exchanged pleasantries and then he asked me about the script.  I said I enjoyed the read, looking at my newly clipped fingernails, and pointed out some of the good things in his screenplay.  

“So they’re going ahead with this?”

At this point, I’m having a hard time holding on to my truthful self. 

“Why is it so hot in here?” I asked.

These are uncomfortable moments because truth is a precious commodity in this business, and something I value, but not something people want.  It’s the flattery that drives the dreams that feeds the wants; I want it, you want it, he, she, it wants it – and isn’t that just grand.    

One thing about Los Angeles delis:  they give you lots of food.  There’s so much food you are obligated to feed yourself so as not to utter one morsel of truth before you suddenly find it’s time to end the meeting.    

L.A Deli by Sam Bobrick and directed by Walter Painter is now playing at the Marilyn Monroe Theatre through April 27, 2014 in West Hollywood.

Let’s not mince words.  Sam Bobrick’s new comedy is solid, lively, fast paced, and filled with so much truth it hurts. Anyone who has worked in the industry, lived and breathed the industry, or even knows someone who knows someone that enjoys the heartwarming stories of despicable characters will love this show. This is a comedy with a lot of heart, about people who have no heart.  And, isn’t that what comedy is all about?

L.A. Deli is a series of twelve sketches set in deli in Los Angeles.  Jeffery P. Eisenmann, Set Designer, has given us a set so wonderfully imagined and executed I worried it might overpower the acting on stage.

Nope.  Walter Painter, the director, keeps things lively on stage.  Painter works with six actors that are playing twenty-eight different characters.  Quickly they move in and out changing personas and or slightly changing their costumes to change characters.  Painter does yeoman’s work, keeping it all together, and magnificently moves the show from one sketch to another.  How are they going to do the deli foodstuff, with all that food? Painter makes it an obstacle easily overcome.   

The twelve sketches are tied together by the one person working in the deli, Kathleen (Gail Matthius), who puts up with the going on of all who enter and leave. But there’s something she might want to add to tie those scenes together.

I’ll get to that later.

“The Pitch”  

One can look at The Pitch a couple of different ways. David (Scott Kruse), a writer, is pitching his idea to J.B. (Phil Proctor), a movie studio boss, without the Louis B humph. David thinks he’s got a great script and, as he is pitching, J.B. proceeds to change everything.  And by the time the pitch is over, each person is telling his own story. Typically, writers say too much without getting to the substantial meat. What’s interesting about “The Pitch” is David, the writer, is saying nothing that we haven’t seen or heard a thousand times. J.B. has every right to throw out his ideas.  After all, despite the non-existent humph, he is the movie studio boss. Also, this is a very clever piece written by Bobrick who has the actors telling different stories at the same time and also having those same characters, playing out the roles, and living in different worlds.  

“The Actor & The Agent”   

Agent Ted (Jeffrey Landman), a man who will not bullsh*t anyone, is out to get a young, up and coming, slightly goofy talent, Jimmy (Scott Kruse).  Ted takes him under his wing and treats him like family because “I got to follow my heart.” But as soon as Jimmy excuses to himself to go to the bathroom, Ted calls his boss and tells him that he signed the talent hocking the old “ I’m your family” spiel.  Another agent, Stu (Phil Proctor), in the deli listening, moves in and tells Ted that Jimmy’s last three films stink, stank, stunk.  Then things suddenly change in their “family” relationship.

“The Big Lie”

The Big Lie is a sketch about Babette (Darrin Revitz) and Harry (Phil Proctor), a happily married couple.  Opps, I forgot, only one is happily married, Babette wants a divorce because Harry lied to her and that lie has destroyed their marriage.  All before the Matzo ball soup arrives.

“The Funeral”

The Funeral finds two studio people coming together to speak about their boss who has recently been laid to rest. Brian (Jeffrey Landman) and Marty (Scott Kruse) question why his earthly demise was so sudden.  “There was three minutes of applause lowering him into the ground.”  You can take that either way.  

“The Agent’s Wife”

Ginger (Darrin Revitz), the agents wife, and Paul (Scott Kruse), the writer, get together at the deli to toss around ideas for Ginger’s inane screenplay “Jane and the Beanstalk” starring Sandra Bullock or Oprah Winfrey.  Ginger has access to Sandra.  Well, they don’t actually know each other, but they go to the same place to get their teeth done. And it’s not beneath Ginger to cram the screenplay into Sandra’s bag.  For Paul it is a meeting in hell.

“The Contract”

The Contract is an interesting sketch about Lewis (Phil Proctor) who wants to get “rid” of his wife of thirty years and finds just the right person to do it, hitman Edward (Jeffrey Landman).  Love makes strange bedfellows of assassins.  Lewis explains he wants to marry his assistant, and over a tuna on rye and a cup of coffee they discuss the intricacies of the operation until something changes. Unfortunately, someone got to Edward first.

“Forever Young”

Forever Young was probably the funniest scene of the night.  It is the story of a once successful and very youthful looking actress, Debbie (Rachel Boller).  Oddly enough Debbie has a thoughtful and caring agent Michael (Jeffrey Landman). (Okay, now we’re testing credulity.)  Michael honestly tells her that she has got to stop with the plastic surgeries or they will kill her.  Her skin is pulled too tight, and her organs are not where they are supposed to be. That Debbie is not young is evident when her adult grandson Josh (Scott Kruse) greets her.  And last but not least, coming out of the bathroom is her co-star from her Lassie days, Peter (Phil Proctor). This was by far the funniest scene of the night and the timing was impeccable.   

“The X’s”

Tina (Rachel Boller) and Diane (Darrin Revitz) get together to talk about there ex-husbands and compare notes.  Unfortunately there’s been so many, some with the same names, they get all confused.  

“The Team”

Arnie (Scott Kruse) and Jerry (Jeffrey Landman) are a writing team.  Arnie is the hard worker while Jerry is the slacker and Arnie has had it. Arnie says it’s the end and this forces Jerry to get down on his hand and knees to get him to take him back. But, there’s a lesson to be learned here before you tell your partner off, before you get things off your chest.  It’s better to keep things close to home when you’re dealing with Hollywood people.  

“The Firing”

The firing is a nice sketch about an older movie boss, Tom (Phil Proctor) on his way out and being fired by his successor Nancy (Rachel Boller).  It’s not a pretty picture of age losing out to economics with a very funny twist at the end.

“After the Screening”

Sid (Jeffrey Landman) and Al (Scott Kruse) decide what they are going to do after their movie get low marks during a screening. The cards do show a hopeful sign “Worst movie ever!!!” That fact that someone wrote that means he cares.

“The Waitress”

The Waitress was another one of my favorites.  It gives Kathleen (Gail Matthius), the waitress, a chance to shine. After working a long day in the deli, she falls asleep at a table when a man, Bob (Phil Proctor), who hasn’t seen her in many years, wakes her.  He’s in town from back east, has found out where she works, and wants to see her. Bob is her former husband, who she left without so much as a goodbye to him and their two beautiful kids in search of pursuing a dream in Hollywood. When she left, she was young and beautiful, enjoyed the promise of success before everything stopped, and now she finds herself years later, alone, slinging corned beef and blintzes to obnoxious deli patrons.

There is a lot of sincerity in the work from Gail Matthius.  Kathleen is a character with a lot of heart and her reality is there’s no future for her in the entertainment business.  Still she performs her job with grand dignity.  At this point in her life the character Kathleen must be looking for her husband or her kids to come through the deli door to see her and she must regard each patron as that life to tie the twelve sketches together. But all in all, this is very good work.

Rachel Boller as Debbie in “Forever Young” does an incredible job keeping everything up and tight. It’s a very funny scene but one in which Debbie should still be strongly vying for the ingénue roles. Boller’s role in “The Firing” is right on cue and shows us her ability to completely change characters. Very nice work.

Scott Kruse does some very amusing work in seven different roles.  Each character is slightly different than the other.  The character Jimmy in “The Actors & The Agent” was one of my favorites as an insecure, green, and orphaned actor trying to find his way in the Hollywood jungle.  His attenuated body sipping on a soft drink and soaking in the flattery is like watching the lamb before the slaughter.  Kruse’s character work was exquisite.  

Jeffrey Landman also has some marvelous moments in six different roles. The characters didn’t appear to be all that different from each other but physically he fits all the roles.  Landman has a strong voice and adding another layer to his characters wouldn’t hurt. For example, the Ted character in “The Actor and & The Agent”, we need to see where his being duped is coming from, when, in his ghastly amiability; he is in actually conning the actor. Also, as Brian, in “The Funeral”, needs more of an emotional stake. Edward, in “The Contract”, should give his condolences to his counterpart before departing.  Little quibbles for work that is very fine.  

Phil Proctor is a workhorse of an actor and does an incredible job in the seven characters he portrays on stage. His work in “The Contract” and “Forever Young” is very satisfying, funny, and extremely enjoyable.

Darrin Revitz plays three roles and does some really good character work.  Babette in “The Big Lie” is a fine role but you have to wonder how smart the character is when she doesn’t know the age of her husband.  Ginger is another ditsy character in “The Agents Wife” that doesn’t really have a strong objective. And Diane in “The Xs” gives us another glimpse into the life of the absurd.  Finding the strength of these characters and their objective would only add to some very fine work.

Susan Huckle, Perry Lambert, Lyndsi Larose, David McCharen, and Matthew Wrather are alternates that I did not see perform on this night but will be performing on Friday April 11th at 8:00pm and Saturday April 12th at 3:00pm.

The reality of going into a deli in Los Angeles is that you cannot go into one without seeing someone of color, behind the counter, on the floor, sweeping, mopping, serving, etc. Not one person of color in this cast or alternates by Casting Director Michael Donovan.  It is slightly discouraging to see this in this day and age. But despite the barren aridity of color and my delicate raillery, it is still a remarkable cast giving their all.

Racquel Lehrman, Theatre Planners is the Producer and has done a fantastic job. Victoria Watson, Theatre Planners is the Associate Producer.

Michael Gend lends his voice as the Lighting Designer.

Michael Mullen is the Costume Designer.

Chris Moscatiello is responsible for the Sound Design.

Ken Werther Publicity was responsible for the Public Relations.

Natalya Zernitskaya is the Assistant Stage Manager and Liana Dillaway is the Production Stage Manager.

Richie Ferris was the Casting Assistant.

Kiff Scholl did the wonderful Graphic Design.

Lawrence Grossman was the Music Supervisor.

Run!  Run! And while you’re at it take someone who flatters you whether they mean it or not.  And then hop on over to Canter’s Deli and try their hot potato knish.

For tickets:


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Talhotblond by Kathrine Bates

By Joe Straw

(Bear with me in allowing my imaginative self to immerse myself in this character to tell a story.)

I, Thomas Montgomery (Mark Rimer), am an average, middle aged, no comb-over, balding man.  After I was discharged from the Marines, I found a low-end job - that I hated - pushing papers at a manufacturing plant in upstate New York. 

I have a daughter, Gwen Montgomery (Julian Arian), a very beautiful sweet daughter who doesnt deserve me because of what I did. 

I crossed a line, no, the line, to saturate a need. 

This doesnt explain anything, but being average never satisfies, anything. 

I have a home, well, a small house with nasty curtains that I share with my daughter and wife, Cheryl Montgomery (Kathleen OGrady).  She is a beautiful woman for which Ive completely lost interest.  Our early sex life was far from great, although I think she thinks its great, and its gotten worse over the years.  At this point, nothing is working, my job, my life, and you can throw in that cold, nasty, tasteless meatloaf sitting on the stove.

Something had to change.  And, no sooner than I thunkit, someone dramatic came into my life. Who would have thought that goofing off at work, playing games would lead me to see the name Talhotblondon my computer screen? My soon-to-be, dear, sweet Jenny (Erin Elizabeth Patrick), a very clever young woman, dropped suggestive comments to me.  Innocent comments and then, we started connecting, and something just moved inside me.  

Hot and heavy, like the flush I get when I take a Niacin tablet, is how I felt when I read her remarks.  My face burned, my heart raced, and my pulse quickened. I wanted to jump right into the computer screen and play. 

Through every moment with her on the computer, sweat poured underneath my arms and down my sides. My fingertips burned typing fast and furiously.  My prodigious digits had a life of their own, and said things that I could never say to anyone else.  In my mind, colors became brighter, the screen started changing to a glorious shade of pink, and the frustrating part is that I could not get any closer.  I wanted to inhale her.  

I was a young Marine,  I lied, marinesinper was my tag name, and I took control of her like I took control of my rifle after firing off a couple of rounds.  The gun was hot, she was hot, and the only oral satisfaction I got, after it was all over, were my lips and teeth sinking into a nice ripe peach. 

I lugged around my Dell everywhere.  Doing it at work, typing before that kid Pete (Oscar Cain Rodriguez) comes in and, in a stinking sinking moment, disrupts everything.  And of course I cant set a bad example so I switch it off.  But hes not as bad as that overly good-looking college kid, Alan Garrett (John-Paul Lavoisier). He reminds me, of me when I was a kid, and theres something about his good looks that rubs me the wrong way. 

Well, he used to.

The Ruskin Group Theatre Company and Sammy and Zoey Productions stages the World Premiere of Talhotblondby Kathrine Bates and directed by Beverly Olevin through April 26, 2014 in Santa Monica, California.

The cover on the Footlights program has a picture of a benign motionless young woman, with a pixelated face.  Indistinguishable on a cover is not an appealing image.  Below her buttocks is a chat font TALHOTBLOND: everybody lies online. 

I believe everybody lies onlineis giving away the store. From here, you can conjure any scenario and come up with your own conclusions precisely guessing the ending of the play. 

That aside, the thingthat drew me to this play was the plot steps necessary to get to the ending.  How could this be carried out to give the audience an emotionally charged evening on stage?  The process is what fascinates me about theatre. 

But the progression of the action on stage doesnt live up to the image or the tag line.  What we are watching is a PG presentation of an intimate sexual fantasy that doesnt go beyond the hand holding stage.   And theatre in Los Angeles is becoming so engaging these days that there is a need for theatre that is mentally stimulating, and provocative without being overly graphic.  Certainly, in this production, theres a lot of room for risk taking.

My personal needs are to feel the heat, the emotional connection with the characters. And be that as it may I want to talk about the actors, the characters, what I saw, and what I would like to see first and foremost, and then speak to the writing and directing.

Mark Rimer plays Thomas Montgomery, has a nice voice, projects well, and moves about the stage comfortably with little effort. But the character, in his impotent despair, is emotionally detached from his fantasy.  There is dialogue suggesting he is on the computer all the time. If that is the case he should treat his computer like the nubile 18-year-old of his imagination.  To hide, to love, to pet, to physically fantasize are a few verbs that would help with the implacable relationship he has with his computer.  This alone would get us into his emotional stage of mind.  Also, being closer physically to your fantasy on stage would help as well. Additionally, he should be apologizing to his 18 year old daughter every chance he gets if only to give the character an emotional state of mind and physical characteristics of a man on the edge. His relationship to all of the characters on stage should grow with each step. In order for his character to work in this romantic tragedy the character should be emotionally, physically, and spiritually swept away. Inert fanaticism should play a small role in his characterization.

Erin Elizabeth Patrick (Jenny the THB) makes an interesting choice in using a Southern accent for someone living in West Virginia who writes mountain talkand probably should speak it as well.   Its a rather odd choice. That aside, the character must include actions to make her more sexually appealing every time she steps on stage.  Putting on different garments does not help if not accompanied by strong luring physical actions.  Because she is behind the computer screen there is a lot of room for taking it up a notch and taking dramatic risks. If everyone lies onlinethen there is room for the character to expand her character, and give us audacious gestures that defines the character, all in line with moving toward her objective.

Ben Gavin (Tommy Marine Sniper) has an appealing look but needs work on the man that is a Marine in the way he carries his body on and offstage.  His character is a fantasy, he is military, and he neednt be sashaying on and offstage. A military man in his boots sends a strong message. He needs to take her in a way a Marine takes a woman and also he needs to figure out how to do that and in a way that heightens the fantasy.

Kathleen OGrady (Cheryl Montgomery) has the task of being the mental suffering wife. She tries her best to please her man but manages to make a remark about his erectile dysfunction. (This is a moment that should get more traction but passes by with hardly a notice or a glance.) After finding out about the affair, its not enough to tell her partner to get rid of the computer, by this time she has exhausted civility, she should rip the computer from his arms and start throwing his clothes out the window along with the panties, all in the same breath.  (In a manner of speaking.)

Julia Arian (Gwen Montgomery) does some very good work on stage.  Her concentration is laudable and the manner in which she handles her sixteen-year-old character is remarkable. She is an actress that captures the light and treats moments like they were new to her.  She does not mask the ordinary and that is a very good thing. 

John-Paul Lavoisier plays Alan Garrett.  He is good looking, and has little to do other than play along.  His relationship with the TALHOTBLOND does not go beyond the computer screen. And the other characters around him force the action when it is Garrett that should be generating a strong action with a stronger objective. Garrett is the man and has the right to take whatever he wants if only to playfully provoke in his game of life.  

Oscar Cain Rodriguez (Pete) plays the young man in the office.  Although he is not very clear about his position (a gofer) or someone who wants to move up the ladder.   He is an instigator without really knowing what he is doing, or what he has done.  Rodriguez is very young, has a charm about him, and has room and time to grow.

Mary Carrig plays Rose Sheiler and does an exceptional job as the character, staying in the moment,  and giving us a good look at the truth. 

Lane Compton, Jack Noonan, Jim Poole, Shelby Kocee, Rachel Pollack, Presley Christine, Feroz Quazi are alternates and understudies who did not perform the night I was there.

Kathrine Bates is probably one of the hardest working writers in Los Angeles today. Every time I turn around she working on something or has another production up on its feet.  She never stops and this is a good thing. The line everybody lies onlinefascinates me and I think this makes for a good through line for this tenebrous tragedy.  But if thats the case, the characters lies must be directed through the computer. The action and reaction plays an important part in making the relationships work. On this night there was a curious air of detachment from the characters onstage and sometimes that happens.  But, in retrospect, the characters need further development; we need to know what drives them.  One example is the relationship between Thomas and Pete.  Who is Pete?  And what is the force that propels him. Is he a gofer, the son to the boss, just a kid who liked to see other people get in trouble?  Why was he there?  The male characters were not fully developed, while the female characters had more layers. Odd. 

Beverly Olevin directs this mad affair.  On this night the actors never really find themselves embedded in the characters.  If Thomas Montomerys objective is to have Jenny, then he must stop at nothing to get her.  And Jenny, who never progresses beyond the two costume changes, should be working just as hard to get her man.  Jenny can be much more imaginative behind the computer screen.  Also, the computer dialogue on screen doesnt work.  The words are coming out faster than the characters dialogue.  Maybe use it once and then lose it.  We get the point.  Also, the young marine is too tame to not be all over the figments of their imaginations. Actors should use the fourth wall to reach an objective and little else. There is too much of this in the play. 

When the truth is revealed in the end, the two characters should be closer together shoulder to shoulder, perhaps one in handcuffs, the expressions revealed on their faces, and the imaginary character should stand between them, smiling.  At least, that is how I see it in my imagination.

Nicely produced by Robert Cannon, Michael R. Myers, and John Ruskin.

Other crewmembers are as follows:

Production Manager Mike Reilly
Stage Manager Nicole Millar
Lighting Designer Mike Reilly
Graphic Design Eddie Jauregu, Sierra, and Amelia Mulkey
Sound/Projection Designer Marc Olevin
Set Designer/Dressing Jeff Faeth
Casting Paul ruddy
Set Builder Cliff Wagner
Costumes Sarah Figoten Wilson

Publicity Judith Borne

Run. Drag someone who vicariously lives the chat room life and show them there is more to life than fingers pecking away. 

Reservations:  310-397-3244

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Stand-Off at Hwy #37 by Vickie Ramirez

L - R DeLanna Studi, LaVonne Rae Andrews, Kalani Queypo - Photo Credit:  Craig Schwartz

By Joe Straw

Native Voices at The Autry, America’s Leading Native American Theatre Company present the World Premier of Stand-Off at Hwy #37 by Vickie Ramirez and directed by Jon Lawrence Rivera through March 16, 2014.

Closing March 16, 2014 – hardly enough time to get my thoughts together on this sometimes amazing and delightful play. But here goes.

The first thing one notices when entering the theatre is the marvelous set by Set Designer and Technical Director Jeff McLaughlin. We are at Hwy #37, in upstate New York, where it is almost hard to see an imaginary green line that runs across the set giving us a demarcation line, a line of no return, a line that is not to be crossed.  And Adam Flemming’s sign “Welcome To The Site Of The New Highway #37 Bypass” gives a very nice three-dimensional look to the set.

In a manner befitting a woman who has been around trouble, Aunt Bev (LaVonne Andrews), on stage alone, solemnly introduces us as to how things were with the Iroquois, also known as the Haudenosaunee.  Iroquois means, “little snake” and it is the name given by another tribe many years before the white man made his mark on these shores.   

Aunt Bev wants to give us the law of the land – she presents the Iroquois Confederacy, which is a compilation of the Mohawks, Onodaga, Seneca, Oneida and the Cayuga.  And one should also throw in the sixth, the Tuscarora, the Shirt Wearing People.  And in the middle of the Flag of the Iroquois Confederacy she presents the tree of peace. Aunt Bev describes the banner and how the woman are the voting council and have the right and ability to vote for a chief.

And then as quietly as she came on, Aunt Bev walks away satisfied.  After many battles, she must ready herself for the conflict that is headed her way on this lonely stretch of road.  And that conflict coming to their land will be the bulldozers to make way for a new highway on Highway #37.

L - R Tinasha LaRayé, Eagle Young, Matt Kirkwood - Photo:  Craig Schwartz

The authorities believe trouble is brewing so they send the National Guard to keep the peace. Captain Donald Hewitt (Matt Kirkwood) with two of his soldiers arrives in the early morning hours to quell any disturbances.  Those soldiers are Thomas Lee Doxdater (Eagle Young), a Tuscarora native, and Linda Baldwin (Tinasha LaRayé), an African American guardswoman.

Captain Hewitt wants to keep the peace but he gives instruction that no one is to cross the reservation line under any circumstances.  But this is not an easy task for the two young guards who are constantly battling each other in their own private turf war for guard supremacy.

And as happenstance would have it, Aunt Bev enters with Darrin Jamieson (Kalani Queypo), a ne’er-do-well Cayuga.  He is carrying a chair, which Aunt Bev tells him to place off the reservation land into the way of oncoming bulldozers. In her own quiet little way, Aunt Bev is a demagogue.

The cockalorum Captain Hewitt doesn’t like the looks of the situation getting out of control. And to add to this matter Sandra Henhawk (DeLanna Studi), a Mohawk, enters the fray saying she is representing the occupiers and wants the invaders out.

“Our people didn’t invade.” – Linda Baldwin

Meanwhile a piquant know-it-all but sagacious New York Times reporter, Evelyn Lee (Fran de Leon) enters the skirmish hoping to write a story about Johnny Depp and his involvement in the protest. Whoops, no Johnny Depp. She has been slightly duped by Sandra Henhawk who was hoping to gain more publicity for their cause. Deflated, at this point, Lee sees this as a non-story.  

Now, Captain Hewitt doesn’t want trouble.  He speaks to Aunt Bev and asks her politely to move her chair back onto the reservation.  But Aunt Bev makes pleasantries and reaches into basket for a tasty treat while she wiles away her time. And while she is at it she picks up ceremonial club and places it across the arms of her chair.

Not getting anywhere, Captain Hewitt states that Aunt Bev is not the innocent old lady she appears to be.  She is an activist who has been involved in other trouble spots for many years.  Still he leaves it to Thomas Lee Doxdater and Linda Baldwin to get Aunt Bev to move. But she’s not leaving despite anyone's sweet-talking words and no one is forcing her away from her spot while Darrin is around.

Oh yes, Darrin is a presence, but a very unreliable presence.  He’s only there when you need a body filled with testosterone and half the time he is off asleep or in his own private world.

Thomas Lee and Darrin were close as young boys but Darrin robbed Thomas Lee’s parents and neither man has forgotten. And in particular Darrin still feels the shame and guilt of having robbed his best friend’s parents.  

Although Aunt Bev, Sandra, and Darrin are happy for Thomas’ career in the National Guard and his accomplishments, they are none too happy with the side he has chosen. Darrin considers Thomas an “Apple: red on the outside and white on the inside.” This doesn’t sit too well with Thomas, as he holds his M-16 and hopes to get Aunt Bev to move to the other side of the line.

When Captain Hewitt returns and finds Aunt Bev sitting in the same place, all hell breaks loose, alignments change, and someone gets into big trouble.

Now Evelyn Lee has a bigger story to write about and is excited by the commotion going on despite the fact no one is willing to speak on record.

Stand-Off at Hwy #37 by Vickie Ramirez is probably one of the best plays I’ve seen at The Autry.  The play is filled with remarkable characters that see the immediacy of their present day conflict, and have a desire to resist knowing full well that progress is hard to stop.  Still, through strength of character, they fight peacefully to change the course of human events until something goes horribly wrong.  

And of course, I have some notes.

LaVonne Rae Andrews as Aunt Bev does some remarkable work trying to tell her story and keep the peace.  Peaceful protest is what she is all about as she tries to forge a nation whose paths follows a peaceful stream, like the symbol she presents.   Unfortunately, streams never follow a straight path and peace cuts a treacherous path.  There are many conflicted twists and turns and Aunt Bev has to think her way out of the problem they have gotten themselves into. Andrews does a great job making her point.

Eagle Young plays Thomas Lee Doxdater and has a very nice smile.  Unfortunately, we don’t see a smile or humor in his performance.  It’s something he might want to add. Still, he did a fine job.  But his relationship with his “brother” needs fine-tuning.  This relationship is a two way street.  But, Eagle Young must make decisions that requires an emotional build up of accumulated moments, that propels him into action, and that changes the course of the character’s life.   As it is now, this thing (and I can’t give this away) just happens.

Tinash LaRayé does an excellent job as the character, Linda Baldwin. The character manages to win the day, simply because she out-soldiers her competition in the end.  But this is serious stuff, and their relationship needs another emotional level so that we empathize with her and the other characters. LaRayé is marvelous in the role.

Kalani Queypo as Darrin Jamieson has come a long way since I last saw him in Palestine, New Mexico. Queypo gives Darrin a nice physical life and an accent that is stronger when he wakes up.  (Dreaming Indian?) Bringing up the robbery again after so many years must be like a knife in the heart.  But we don’t really see this action. The final moments require a stronger emotional bond between the two “brothers” in order for the relationship to really pay off.

DeLanna Studi does a fine job playing Sandra Henhawk, a woman who lived off the reservation but decides to move back.  She is not as competent as she wants to be but tries hard to come back and help her people.  There is another layer we are not getting from this character.  She comes back to help the nation survive, but they have been surviving for generations.  What more can she offer?  When she figures that out and incorporates that with her physical and mental actions she will find the other layers.

L - R DeLanna Studi, Fran de Leon - Photo:  Craig Schwartz

Fran de Leon is excellent as Evelyn Lee, a woman who is in search of the bigger story, no, probably one who demands a bigger story, or a woman who will make the story by asking relevant questions. But no one is willing to answer her questions and she has a hard time of it. Still she is determined to get the story and stay out of the way.  If she could only get her smart phone to work.  Leon shows us a lot of terrific work and provides a lot of nice touches with the physical life of a reporter, the way she questions a subject, and the manner with which she moves about the stage chasing the story. It is all excellent work.

Matt Kirkwood plays Captain Donald Hewitt.  As the character he is not heavy handed in his job.  But there are outside forces pulling his strings.  We must see more of this.  Also when the tables are turned, we must see more of his life on the line.  Does he have kids, a wife, a mistress he is about to lose all in the blink of an eye, or in the pull of a trigger? Something to think about, still Kirkwood does some very good work on stage.

Other members of the cast who are listed as understudies but did not perform on this night were Jason Grasl, Tunisia Hardison, and Shyla Marlin.

Vickie Ramirez, the writer, is an impressive artist.  The work is a fascinating blend of history and individual conflict that has been raging for hundreds of years.  Her work tears at the heartstrings and manages to say that progress comes in the form of peaceful protest and as humans being we have the ability of co-exist even though our paths move in different directions. 

Jon Lawrence Rivera does a nice job directing Stand-Off at Hwy #37. The characters are real, the pace moves along nicely, and he does some nice things with the comedic and dramatic elements of the show.

But I have some thoughts about the direction and writing.  Please don’t read any further if you have in interest in seeing the show.

There are relationship problems with Doxdater (the National Guard member) and Darrin.  They are regarded as being close like brothers but we really only see this in words not action.  Darrin has some big time making up to do to get into Doxdater’s good graces and the only way he knows how is dress in Darrin’s clothes and surrender for him.  But it is in this moment when the stakes are not high enough.  Darrin comes out, with a gun, hiding his face a little bit, and surrenders, but more should be made of this moment so that Doxdater sees his action and makes the decision to change his mind and help his “brother”.

Also, the relationship between the National Guards Doxdater and Baldwin should be stronger.  At a certain point, Doxdater only trusts Baldwin and together they try to figure things out.  This makes for a stronger emotional bond between the two.  (They may even be lovers.) When the results are futile and he chooses to leave one life for the other, it is not a very satisfying end.  The end of their  relationship needs movement, both physical and emotional.  

Executive Producers Randy Reinholz and Jean Bruce Scott bring another new and exciting work to The Autry and should be commended by their tenacity.

Other members of the crew are as follows:

Lighting Design – R. Craig Wolf
Costume Design – E. B. Brooks
Sound Design – Cricket S. Myers
Props Design – Misty Carlisle
Dramaturg – Jean Bruce Scott
Production Stage Manager – Tim Ross Davis
Assistant Stage Manager and Costume Mistress – Jennifer Bobiwash
Master Electrician – Matthew Barrs
Associate Lighting Designer – Matthew Johnson
Light Board Operator – Genetra Tull
Military Advisor – James Bane  - A very good job with the National Guard and the way they presented themselves on stage.
Group Sales – Kiri Stevens
Public Relations – Libby Huebner and Laura Stegman

Run! Run! And take someone who likes to combat injustice. 

Reservations:  323-667-2000 X 299