Sunday, January 22, 2017

Aladdin – Book by Jim Luigs, José Cruz Gonzáles, Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice


By Joe Straw

When I was a small child, my brothers and I found a lamp at the bottom of a trash heap.  It took me a while to get down to it, a slight cliff through some Georgian mud.  But I couldn’t resist the light coming from it.  And, because I was the one who got it, it was understood that I was going to do the rubbing.   

So, we sat there in tattered clothing and bare feet, (the bi-product of a broken home), in the middle of a cow pasture, with the lamp between us.

“Don’t worry, I’ll wish for something for all of us.” I said.

I glanced over to them just to see their reaction - ‘cause they never believed anything I said.   

And as I picked up the lamp we could feel the anticipation.  I moved the lamp back and forth, catching the sun and shinning it into their squinting eyes, they laughed, and pushed me along.  I made sure their fingers, toes, and eyes were crossed as I rubbed.

Well, nothing happened. I ran over to the cliff and threw the lamp back into the trash heap.

We walked away and dreamed for the next encounter, one that would, next time , bring us fame and fortune. – Narrator

The kids need some tap shoes. I said this as I watched a wonderful tap number performed without tap shoes. Well, it seemed like a tap number.  It wasn’t jazz, it wasn’t ballet, it wasn’t hip-hop, or soft shoe, and so it must have been tap.  I’ll say it again; the kids need some tap shoes. Sí, creo que sería una gran adición a la muestra.  

Casa 0101 and TNH Productions present in association with Los Angeles Councilmember, Gil Cedillo, Disney Aladdin Dual Language Edition, Book by Jim Luigs, José Cruz González, Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, Music Adapted, Arranged and Orchestrated by Bryan Louiselle based on the 1992 Disney Film, Aladdin. Directed by Rigo Tejeda, and Produced by Abel Alvarado, Felipe Agredano, Emmanuel Deleage, Edward Padilla, Rigo Tejeda & Conrado Terrazas.

Walterio Pezqueira manifested the lyric translations into Spanish, the language of the elite class residing in the castle. The peasantry spoke English.   The show was Musically Directed by Caroline Benzon and there were numbers in the show that were recognizable and warmed the heart. Beautifully Choreographed by Tania Possick as one eagerly waited for the next song and dance numbers – all were superb. 

Abel Alvarado, Costume Designer, did a terrific job.  The costumes were wonderful and gave this production an added boost. 

The majestic carpet ride was wonderful in execution. It confirms a specific thought that someone cared enough, and was generous enough to, one, make the carpet fly, and two, to see the production soar.
There is a lot to love about this production of Aladdin.  Certainly you’ve got to give it to the multitudinous actors who have put their heart and soul into the execution that will delight patrons of all ages, from the young to the young at heart.

But, this show is not without fault, which I will get to later.

Everyone knows the story of Aladdin.  Peasant boy meets girl, boy falls in love, boy loses girl, boy finds a genie, and boy gets everything he wants.

Or, another way to look at this musical, princess meets boy, princess falls in love with boy who doesn’t have a clue, princess sees the boy messing things up and getting arrested, taken into the desert, and thrown into a cave, while princess is left alone to defend herself against unsuitable suitors, the Grand Vizier, and a father who doesn’t understand her.

This particular Aladdin has a twist in that Jafar (Omar Mata) has made it so the members in the castle speak Spanish (the ruling class) and cannot communicate with the loyal subjects who speak the peasant’s English. Jafar has dreams of becoming the Sultan once he marries the lovely princess, Jazmin (Valeria Maldonado). Jafar doesn’t let anyone know of his secrets, only confiding in that wacky bird, Iago (Jason David), who doesn’t know when to keep his beak shut.

Michael Torrenueva was superb as Aladdin. In fact, he does yeoman work and has a very pleasant voice. Winning the girl as a peasant was an easy task but it was more difficult to win her as a prince.  Torrenueva played both actions with a smooth finesse.

Valeria Moldanado, as Jazmín, has a very persuasive delivery in Spanish.   There was also an underlying truth to her performance.  She was in love when she needed to be, coy when she wished, and full of vitality and strength – on top of that she has a very lovely voice.

Lewis Powell III, as the genie, sets the stage on fire with his incredible entrances and the power of his voice. He might want to add freedom to his objective starting with his entrance on stage and never giving that up. This would give the character want - whether that manifests itself physically, emotionally, or sub textually is up to the performer.

Jason David, Omar Mata

Omar Mata is the tenebrous Jafar.  On top of that wonderful height is an equally incredible voice and manner about the stage.  He is specific in his movements and his objective and appears at ease on stage.   Certainly, this is a performance not to miss.

The Royal Translators, Diana Castrillon, Blanca Espinoza, and Shanara Sanders were lovely in song and dance describing the injustices going on around the castle.

Also, the three princes, who wanted the hand of Jazmin, Alejandro Lechuga, Jesse Maldonado, and Bryant Melton, each presented a unique character, one too soft, one too hard, and one just full of himself. Lechuga and Maldonado have a terrific presence on stage and added nice touches to their roles as members of the ensemble. Maldonado always gives 110 percent.

Henry Aceves Madrid and Valeria Maldonado

Henry Aceves Madrid plays the Sultan and presents a fine character.

Evan Garcia played Razul.

Sebastian Gonzalez as Abu, the monkey, was fine but needs to make more of the relationship with Aladdin.  Jumping into his arms a few times is not enough to show a relationship. The relationship must be specific to give us an idea of how they work together, or don’t work together, to achieve their objective. At times, he must be the master, the slave, the ultimate thief, the caregiver, the lover, and on.

Jason David is Iago (the parrot) and has some moments that really shine.  Ironically, on this night, someone went up on his or her lines, and it was the parrot that squawked them back on track.  Iago has an objective; the problem is finding it and then building on that objective to make creative choices. Regarding the nature of using your own voice, I think it’s best to find your own voice and not an imitation of a voice heard from another medium.

Danielle Espinoza is the Magic Carpet and presents a wonderfully wicked smile as she guides the lovers onto the ultimate destination.

Rosa Lisbeth Navarrete was Rajah, the big wise cat that protects Jazmin.  There was something very sultry in her performance, a manner of inner beauty, of mysterious modus in her character. Dressed with a pieneta, an ornamental comb, like a flamenco dancer. Her craft works on a number of levels.  (I would love to see a flamenco dance from this character.)

Other members of the ensemble, which played terrific supporting roles, are Mariana Rocio Petersen, Jocelyn Sanchez, and Andrea Somera.

L - R Sarah Kennedy, Rosa Lisbeth Navarrete, Sebastian Gonzalez, Daniel Martinez

Other cast member that I did not see perform on this night are Evan Garcia (Razul), Sarah Kennedy (Jazmín), Luis Marquez (Jafar), Daniel Martinez (Aladdin), and Finley Polynice (Genie).

Rigo Tejeda, the director does a fine job with the help of a supporting crew of what seems like hundreds in this production. I have a few notes. The background scenes of the populace should flow supporting the events of the main characters rather than standing away or near the walls, which, at times, stop the action. There is too much pop culture presented rather than having the actors use their creative choices to showcase a moment, move the action, or simply sing a song.  This is possibly a perfect fit for this venue but moving it to a larger house will require additional work, especially where the actors are concerned. The execution is not clear about where the actors are at times, the cave, the desert, out of the cave, near the palace, et al., possibly because my Spanish is not that great. But overall I was able to follow the story.This show will only get better with more performances under their belt.

That said, Casa 0101 is a grand showcase for actors who have dreams, for those who want to perform, and for those who want to move a craft into a direction of perfection. The productions at Casa 0101 are moving in that direction, giving hope where there was none, breaking barriers, and encouraging diversity.

The production team played an extremely important part in having the dream come to fruition.  They are as follows:

Alysha Bermudez – Sound Designer
Jerry Blackburn – Stage Manager, Asst. Musical Director
Jules Bronola – Costumes
Ramon “Rooster” Cabrera – Assistant Stage Manager
Miguel Carachure – Sound Operator
Cristina “Crispy” Carrillo-Dono – Assistant Stage Manager
Angelique Enos – Spotlight Operator
Luis Gaudi – Photographer
Cesar Holguin – Scenic Designer
Karlo Ishibashi – Prop Master
Steve Moyer Public Relations – Publicist
Sohail e. Najafi – Lighting Designer
YeeEun Nam – Projection Designer
Edward Padilla – Casting Director
Tania Possick – Choreographer – A terrific job! (need to get those tap shoes)
Vincent A. Sanchez – Associate Lighting Designer
Soap Studio Inc. – Graphic Design/Program
Gilbert Valenzuela – Production Manager
Tony Velis – Puppet Designer
George Villanueva – Spotlight Operator   

Run! Run! And take someone who loves fantasy.

E-mail: or buy online at

Through February 29th, 2017

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Motherf**ker with the Hat by Stephen Adly Guirgis


By Joe Straw

The Motherf**cker with the Hat by Stephen Adly Guirgis and directed by Tony Gatto is now playing at the Lyric Hyperion Theatre through January 28th, 2017 for a very limited run in Los Angeles.

Stephen Adly Guirgis has written a masterful play of characters in dramatic intercourse – without conjugation. Set in New York, Guirgis captures the essence of these New Yorkers and adds a comedic barrage of obscenities to the mix accentuating their lives according to their own moral codes. This makes for a fascinating theatrical outing where one asks the question: if I were in the same predicament, what values would I identify with? 

Tony Gatto, the director, manages to articulate the heart, and create the physical life of Guirgis’ spoken words.  And this speaks volumes of his meticulous craft giving the audience an amazing night of precision rarely seen in a 99-seat venue. Gatto guides the characters in a way that highlights each character’s unconquerable obstinacy.      

Fayna Sanchez

Veronica (Fayna Sanchez) had three lines of coke next to her second line of offense – a bottle of gin or vodka – sitting on the small table in her dilapidated singles. An unmade mattress on the floor and a catchall love seat, all the unpleasant reflections of a life half lived.    

Today, Veronica is speaking to her mother on the phone and going a mile a minute with a Puerto Rican/New York accent – a sensory flavor that can be unquenchable when absorbed in small quantities.   When you think about it, it was probably the best time for Veronica to talk to her mother – high on coke – just to get all the words out in the least amount of time - about that man her mother is dating – asking her if she want to f*ck him or fry him.

Folding laundry, wearing only the necessities of clothing, black tights, grey sweat top, not really covering her black bra; she folds, only stopping to run back to take another snort from the neatly trenched lines on the mirror which was possibly lined with her maxed out credit card.  Bending down to take a snort, the mirror sadly reflects her eyes half shut.  Her single life, on her small table, and in her sparse apartment has got to get better.

Jackie (Jorge-Luis Pallo) appears out of nowhere, he doesn’t even knock, and one suspects a key was pulled from a lining of a forgotten pocket. But there he is, just watching, anticipating the realization of all the fantasies he had in jail.    

Oh and just from catching her eyes, there is a relationship here, a strong one, of two lovers who have not seen each other in a very long time.  Jackie brings her some flowers, a chocolate bar, movie tickets, and even pulls out a tiny fuzzy white bear for her secondary embraces.   

“Got a job.” – Jackie

“You’re sober and got a job.” – Veronica

Veronica gets a little misty-eyed knowing her Mr. man lover is employed. 

Jackie downplays his job as a porter in an apartment complex but he says there is a chance for advancement.

Any direction up is a cause for celebration.    

They embrace; well technically, they are all over each other like brown on (brown) rice.   Jackie wants to make it right now but Veronica says she’s a little gamey and wants to shower first. Veronica runs to the bathroom while Jackie starts to take off his clothes. And not short on words either Jackie shouts through the door, and the running water, so Veronica can hear him.  He undresses to his underwear until he sees a pork pie hat – a hat that is not his.

Jackie runs to the bed and smells – “dick and aqua Velvet” – on the sheets and now his mind is racing furiously. 

Veronica appears out of the bathroom in a laced bra and panties only to find the room temperature has changed.  The mood is now icy cold as Jackie inarticulately accuses, but he is unable to get the words out completely before Veronica volubly lashes out at him for making false accusations.  Jackie wants to know about the hat but the Puerto Rican rectification is flying fast and furious.

(Me thinks she protest too much.)  

It’s tough battling against her barrage, but in his squinting dumbfounderment, Veronica cuts through the mishmash of confusion, sees his slightly charming taciturn self, is somewhat hopeful, and asks him to go have pie with her.

“You’re so wrong.  Put the ghetto on hold.  Let’s go to the pie place.” – Veronica

Jackie is not much for thinking but he realizes that he has stepped out of prison and into the discomforting heat of another stockade; clearly he is out of his verbal league with this chick.

After pie, which apparently didn’t go well, Jackie runs to his AA sponsor Ralph D (Nelson Delrosario), a yeasayer, and a yoga man with a comforting health drink in his hands.  Ralph D offers Jackie a nutritional drink and shouts to his wife, Victoria (Libby Ewing) in another room to make another one.  But Victoria only shouts obscenities, a negative affirmation, something that happens a lot these days.   

“She lied to me in the pie place.” – Jackie

“Calm down.  Pray with me.” – Ralph D

And so they pray, a little, Ralph D says Veronica is an addict and maybe someone he should avoid.

From first judgment, one suspect that Ralph has got his life together – well, it’s his life, his togetherness – all except for the happy wife part.

Jackie tells Ralph D that he’s got a gun and he wants to get even with the motherf**ker with the hat. Ralph D convinces Jackie to give up the gun and Ralph D commits to stay with him until the task is done.

So, they visit Jackie’s cousin, Julio (Eddie Martinez), a funny top-heavy ambiguously gay man married to Marisol – a woman we never see. Cousin Julio has just rustled up his famous batch of empanadas and Beck’s beer for his new guest. Jackie gives the gun to Julio, who agrees to hide it, as a favor.

“Not doing this for you, doing this for your mother.” – Cousin Julio

Jackie says the gun belongs to Chuy Alvarado.  Jackie says he strolled over to the motherf**ker with the hat’s apartment, threw the hat on the floor, and then shot the hat. Jackie says he sorry about how it ricocheted into the television, and then through another man’s apartment. 

Jorge-Luis Pallo

Jorge-Luis Pallo has given Jackie a strong voice possibly to emphasize a character that is not heard.  Jackie manages to not understand the events of his life with his face constantly scrunched up in bewilderment. But, Jackie, despite going to jail for various offenses, has a newly acquired strong moral code, an unyielding rigidity of being honest and not cheating on his friend. Pallo does a tremendous job encapsulating that moral code; still there’s room for the other side of the coin when engaged with the other players who are not his girlfriend.

Fayna Sanchez is wonderful as Veronica as she gives the character a strong physical life. This is also true when she listens on stage, turning with her back to another character, deciding what she is going to do next, or how to get out of the predicament she is in. Veronica is unsure of her life, where to go, loving the one she is with, rather than the one she wants, if she wants anyone at all. This makes for emotional and conflicted woman when push comes to shove, and there’s a lot of shoving. Also, another thing, I loved the accent!

Nelson Delrosario

Nelson Delrosario is funny as Ralph D, a narcissist who believes the world and its inhabitants are there for his pleasure. He thinks nothing of hurting anyone as long as his pain is minimal. Friend, lovers, it is all a physical game to him for as long at that will last.

Libby Ewing

Libby Ewing is a very enticing Victoria.  Her performance is superb and her fluidity on stage displays a very strong craft.  At this point, Victoria’s love life is non-existent non-evident with her unreadable stare in her opening moment. Whether that is an intentional choice remains to be seen. Still, there is another choice to create a stronger relationship when she first meets Jackie, who is, after all, a single man, and possibly a future lover.  Ewing is a fascinating actor who takes risks with the character in a terrific non-stop performance.  

Eddie Martinez

Eddie Martinez is marvelous as Cousin Julio.  Martinez employs a strong craft and brings an amazing backstory to his character, Cousin Julio.  His story builds in humorous fashion taking us from his childhood to the present day. Cousin Julio is a man with strong emotional bonds and familia ties. It is a role Martinez nails exquisitely. Also, Martinez has a very strong presence on stage.  He is an actor for which you want to hear every word.

Okay, I have a couple of notes.  Don’t read any further if you can get tickets for this show.

There are times where dialogue gets in the way of intentions, which momentarily stops the action.   Those times are rare.  But, two scenes come to mind.  The first is when Jackie smells another man in his girlfriend’s apartment and when he seeks help he doesn’t notice the same smell in Ralph D’s apartment? Also, when Ralph D sees the gun, it’s unclear why he doesn’t react considering he might be the next victim. The subtext is critical when a scene is moving along.  

This show is presented in the round or rectangle.  Seating is on all four sides. Some things may have been missed when an actor has his head turned facing the opposite direction. But, the actor’s voices were strong and hardly anything was lost.

Other members of the crew were as follows:

Veronica Roy – Stage Manager
Kimber Pritts – Assistant Stage Manager
Stephanie Rios – Assistant Stage Manager

Run! Run! Run!  And take meat eater, someone who likes it juicy and raw!

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Last Straw Awards 2016 by Joe Straw

This year’s theatrical outings have grown tenfold and are surprising in ways I could not have imagined. They made me laugh, cry, and raised an eyebrow when I saw a moment that just sent me into the stratosphere.

I’m not sure how the changes to the 99-seat rule will affect the current situation of limiting the work by AEA actors. Up until this time the work and production values kept getting progressively better, especially in the 99-seat venue, who are now competing with the big boys that want your dollars.   

What is true is that actors need to work.  The work is the instrument to their being.  They also need to be seen to validate the work.

As long as I write, I will write about the work of the writers, the directors, and the actors and keep it on the level of the work so that others may benefit. I’ll try to tell it in stories, and break some rules while I am at it, with just enough flavor for you to absorb in case you want to produce the play in your own hometown.

The Last Straw Awards 2016 are presented to the Writers, Actors, and Directors whose work I found to be inspiring, unique, and also made the hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention.


Evelina Fernandez – La Olla
Bryonn Bain – Lyrics From Lockdown
Aliza Goldstein – A Singular They
Tommy Nohilly – Blood From a Stone
Carla Ching – Two Kids That Blow Sh*t Up
Robert O’Hara – Barbeque
Karen Zacarias – Mariela in the Desert
John Morogiello – The Consul, The Tramp and America’s Sweetheart
Daniel Henning – The Tragedy of JFK (As told by Wm. Shakespeare)


Vieux Carré by Tennessee Williams – Coeurage Theatre Company – Directed by Jeremy Lelliott
Jonathan Kells Phillips
Sammi Smith

Jack & Jill A Romance by Jane Martin – Directed by Jack Heller
Tanna Frederick
Robert Standley

A Singular They by Aliza Goldstein – Blank Theatre Company – Directed by Christopher J. Raymond
Lily Nicksay

Lyrics From Lockdown by Bryonn Bain – Directed by Gina Belafonte
Bryonn Bain

La Olla by Evelina Fernandez – Directed by José Luis Valenzuela
Cástulo Guerra
Esperanza America
Evelina Fernández
Xavi Moreno

Red Velvet by Lolita Chakrabarti – Junction Theatre – Directed by Benjamin Pohlmeir
Nicola Bertram

The Story of Alice Book & Lyrics by Michael Cormier, Music by Scott Hilzik – Directed by Gary Lee Reed
Emily King Brown
Emily Barnett

Blood From A Stone by Tommy Nohilly – LB Production – Directed by Thomas C. Dunn
Joanne Baron
Chad Brannon
Frankie Ingrassia
Jossara Jinaro
Ryan Lahetta
Gareth Williams

La Cage Aux Folles – Book by Harvey Fierstein, lyrics by Jerry Herman – Directed by Tim Dang
Jon Jon Briones  
Gedde Watanabe

The Armadillo Necktie by Gus Krieger – The Group Rep – Directed by Drina Durazo
Bert Emmett

All The Best Killers are Librarians by Bob DeRosa – The Establishment – Directed by Alicia Conway Rock
Lauren Van Kurin
Jennifer C. DeRosa

Ajax in Iraq – by Ellen McLaughlin – Not Man Apart – Directed by John Farmaesh-Bocca
Joanna Rose Bateman

Next to Normal – Music by Tom Kitt, Book & Lyrics by Brian Yorkey – Directed by Thomas James O’Leary
Isa Briones

The Two Kids That blow Sh*t Up – by Carla Ching – Artists at Play – Directed by Jeremy Lelliott
Julia Cho
Nelson Lee

Barbeque by Robert O’Hara – Geffen – Directed by Colman Domingo
Frances Fisher
Yvette Carson

Moral Imperative by Samuel Warren Joseph – Theatre 40 – Directed by Howard Storm
David Hunt Stafford
Brandee Steger

The Tragedy of JFK (as told by Wm. Shakespeare) – Conceived, Adapted & Directed by Daniel Henning
Tony Abatemarco
Chad Brannon
Cris D’Annunzio
Casey McKinnon
Jacob Sidney
Time Winters

The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe Revisited by Jane Wagner – Directed by Ken Sawyer
Ann Noble
Rachel Sorsa
Julanne Chidi Hill

Vonnegut USA by Kurt Vonnegut adapted by Scott Rognlien – The Next Arena – Directed by Scott Rognlien
Marjorie LeWit
Eric Normington
Paul Plunkett
JR Reed

Mariela in the Desert by Karen Zacarias – Directed by Robert Beltran
Rachel Gonzalez

Vanya, Sonia, Masha,  & Spike by Christopher Durang – Directed by Barbara Tarbuck
Michelle Danner
Nate Golon
Christine Dunford

A Christmas Carol in Prose Being A Ghost Story of Christmas by Charles Dickens – Directed by Jen Bloom  
Yael Berkovick
Mike Nedzwecki
Julianna Robinson

The Consul, The Tramp and America’s Sweetheart by John Morogiello – Directed by Jules Aaron
Brian Stanton


José Luis Valenzuela – La Olla
Gina Belafonte – Lyrics from Lockdown
Thomas C. Dunn – Blood From a Stone
Jeremy Lelliott – Two Kids that Blow Sh*t Up
Daniel Henning - The Tragedy of JFK (as told by Wm. Shakespeare) 

The Ortiz Award 2016 is given to the play that provides us with a grand presentation of diversity in a theatrical presentation. This year there are four recipients.

La Olla – The Latino Theatre Company
Two Kids That Blow Sh*t Up – Artists at Play
La Cage Aux Folles – East West Players
Barbeque – Geffen