Monday, March 27, 2017

An Evening of Scenes by various writers and directed by Sal Landi

By Joe Straw

He would fade into something impalpable under her eyes and then in a moment he would be transfigured.  Weakness and timidity and inexperience would fall from him in that magic moment. – James Joyce – A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

On this evening, the audience coming to see the scenes was an eclectic bunch, off centered, old and young, tat’s and lace, venturing to see actors preforming.  There is an excitement in the air and you just never know who is going to show up.

Sal Landi, who directed the scenes, appeared to take the job of directing a little more seriously. On this night the direction had a strong through line, a well-defined theme, of strong women overcoming obstacles in various situations, and always having or getting the upper hand.  The performances on this night were totally engaging and it was a complete success.

The Pan Andreas Theatre is a wonderful theatre and just the kind of venue to showcase actors in their environment.  There was not much in the way of sets and props. The night was for the actors to create. The actors were outstanding on the stage, their environment, and their time.  Although the scenes were short (around 7 minutes), the actors provided a glimpse of defined and strong characters.  And seeing that makes one want to go to theatre again and again.

Cellini – John Patrick Shanley

She was beautiful but troubled. Life model, Caterina (Angelique Pretorius), was wearing an outfit that resembled playful bedroom attire.  She was a model posing for Cellini (Francisco Ovalle), an artist with a questionable reputation. 

Caterina was beautiful in a way models are not supposed to be, voluptuous and hungry, with a desire to get what she came for.  She wanted more money.

Cellini—poor and bare-footed—wanted to create art.  But without money, little was going to get done.  “Whore”, he called her, taking her head and moving it against her will. 

Touching was not part of the bargain, not now and, in Caterina’s mind, not ever.  Her strength was to find a way to live, feed herself, and enjoy life.  

Angelique Pretorius spoke her first few lines.  There was a trace of an accent from this South African native.  It was subtle at first, quiet, softly spoken, but then she moved on from there and created a startling life, a few feet in front of me, and it was there that I discovered a surprising range, of one who is sure in her moves, and capable of giving in extraordinary circumstances.  Pretorius is a marvelous actor.

There was a lot to enjoy in Francisco Ovalle’s performance. He also had an accent, Spanish, which suited the character, Benvenuto Cellini, an Italian artist known for his relationships with his models, female and male. Cellini enjoyed the chase with a touch of conflict and sometime treated his subjects unfairly and with distain.   Ovalle commanded strength in the manner he held the art stick and the way he sought to control his subject. It was beautiful work.

Before It Hit Home by Cheryl L. West

Wendal (Jahking Guillory) is lying under the blanket on his mother’s floor. He has lived his life precariously, on the edge, playing jazz in seedy dives, and mixing with the wrong kind of people.  He awakens this night sweating and takes some pills, when his mother Reba (Veronica L. Ocasio) walks out into the living room.  

Reba stares at her son in a purple housecoat and defined pink slippers giving color to her flat which is not much to look at on this given night, still it is her home.  

There is an edge to her relationship with Wendall but this moment in time reveals little. But why is Wendal there?  And why this night?

Wendal is unable to rid himself of the smell of nightly sweats. He comes home for a human anodyne and needs the comforting arms of his mother. If only he could get the words out.   

There is some good work going on here but there are things about character that could have been brought to the forefront. Taken from the 1989 play by Ms. West, Wendal is a saxophone player who comes home to tell his family that he has AIDS, despite the stigma associated with it, and the negative reaction he’ll encounter. Revealing that life, and that relationship, is what is needed in this scene.  

Dinner With Friends by Donald Marguilies

Don’t remember much about this scene with Beth (Elena Ghenoiu) and Tom (Jay Duncan) maybe it was a mental block of having gone through a similar situation.  

Tom is almost on the way out with Beth.  Beth is not forthcoming and Tom knows she is not forthcoming based on how she avoids even the simplest of questions. And the questions get harder as they get closer to their kids.

It hard to figure out who is running this show, Beth or Tom.  In the end, Beth gets her way.  I think.

This scene requires dramatic intimacy to get at the truth. It needs two actors standing toe to toe, starting in rehearsals and, once that connection is made, on to a blocked scene to keeps the connection. Ghenoiu and Duncan are fine in the roles but this should be a comedy of intimacy, of subtle discoveries, and of a hurt that tears the lining of an already broken fabric, their marriage.  

Four Dogs and A Bone by John Patrick Shanley

Shaking off the movie-making blues of the day, Colette (Sara Drust) and Brenda (Autumn Rusch) meet somewhere in the night, a trailer perhaps, a dressing room, each coming in with killer instincts, one to do the other one in in whatever form that takes.  The words sting when two of their kind come together for treacherous reasons.

But in this particular scene, there are no props, little in the way of costume and wig, just two actors going toe to toe. I found it stimulating that they were hitting their marks, making the point, and moving from one moment to the next. But for this scene, a little bit of symbolism would go a long way in terms of who they are, where they are, and how they reach their objectives.

Still, this was very fine work by actors, knowing their strengths, and completing their objectives.

Boys Next Door by Tom Griffin

Norman Bulansky (John Reno) invites Sheila (Kelley S. Park) into his home.  Norman is mentally challenged, as is Sheila.  Besides working in a donut shop, the special thing about Norman is that he is in the procession of a set of keys that he wants to give to Sheila for reasons known only to him.

Sheila is a little concerned about what might happen there.  She says she has to leave soon to catch a bus. That means Norman has to work fast to get what he wants and, if that includes flowers and chocolates donuts, so be it.  

Reno displays enormous work in character, voice, and mannerism as he parades around his home in padding that makes him look obese, the side effect of a character working in a donut shop. This gives Reno the appearance of a 3-D bop bag which works wonders when he falls to the floor and rolls in pain. Reno provides a dramatic truth in Norman Bulansky – one that rings a sympathetic chord in this observer - right down to the last kiss.

Park also provides comic timing with a neck brace and a pair of small binoculars.  (I’ve seen this woman ushering at the Pantages in the late 1970s!). Park gives a very honest portrayal of someone trying to find her way in life.

Venus in Fur by David Ives

Thomas (Yoshi Barrigas) has had it up to here trying to find someone to cast in his new production, a period piece. He needs someone with an accent and is sick of what everyone has to offer.

Lucky, or unlucky for him, Vanda (Ashley Liai Coffee) shows up. By all accounts, Vanda is the wrong woman.  Wrong in shape, wrong in size, and wrong in beauty and skin color.  Besides she is so ditsy that she doesn’t have her act together; she is frazzled, costumes in one bag, lipstick in another.

Thomas tells her to leave but Vanda will not take no for an answer.  He decides to let her read and gets a very pleasant surprise and one that may not be so pleasant at the end.

One is fascinated with Barrigas’ work, the manner in which he executes, and the voice that carries throughout the theatre.  The work is simple, concise, and shows an exciting dramatic range.

Coffee is excellent as well moving from one extreme to another and giving life to another being other than her original character. Coffee provides depth in character and a rich history to go along with that.

Four Dogs and A Bone by John Patrick Shanley

A production of a movie is extremely stressful when actors are vying for more screen time, better lines, and a longer career.  After a long day, Victor (Bryan Zampella) and Collette (Jovita Trujillo) retreat to a bar. Victor is looking for Brenda (not seen).

Collette, the actress, is certainly a mad dog looking for the bone which essentially has no meat on it.  Victor, the writer, knows it, and tries to make the best of a bad situation. He’s not in a great mood especially since his mother recently died.

“I love your script. It’s so chunky.” –Collette

Victor is not taking the bait and tries to leave, but stays just long enough to find out what Collette is up to and it ain’t pretty.  

Zampella and Trujillo work well together in this scene, their voices are fine, and the words of the play are well executed and funny.  Still there is more work to be done with character and backstory that will add nicely to what they have already done.

The Old Rugged Cross – author unknown

Sweltering Ophelia (Koda Corvette) sweeps a country porch. She is bare footed and wears a dress that outlines the shape of her young body. Ophelia sweeps the crumbs from the sugar butter biscuits, along with the dog hair, cat mess, and other stuff than manages its way onto a country porch. All is swept away into the garden except her daydreams.   

Billy (Jadon Fitzpatrick), probably a neighbor from up the street, appears while no one is home and intends to do her no good. He gets to know her, cajoles her, and wants her to go with him.

But Ophelia, says she can’t go out with him, talks a lot about her Christian values without making a negative mark on his masculinity. And then something hits home with him and he leaves her alone.

Fitzpatrick, slight and muscular, wearing no shirt and a leather jacket, is excellent as Billy, a man up to no good.  The manner in which he approaches her and attempts to convince her to go with him was really fine work.  But what are the exact words, or the emotional connection that make him leave her alone? Something had an effect but what was it?

Corvette is sultry on the porch, not paying attention, singing a song, and totally unaware of strangers approaching.  She sees him, is enticed by his good looks, projects a tremulous glow, and wants to make a connection of some kind.  There are the two sides of her passion, one that wants, and the other that doesn’t. Corvette’s acting is subtle and very effective.

Fresh Horses by Larry Ketron

Larkin (Nick Machado) has gotten himself into a lot of trouble by hooking up with a high school dropout, Jewel (Chloe Wu), a young woman who is not quite all there.

Larken has plans of being something other than a factory worker like his dad.  Jewel is so out of it, she doesn’t know if she is coming or going. Larken truly doesn’t believe the relationship is going to work.

Jewel has taken his car and doesn’t know what happened to it, or doesn’t let on that she knows. Her manner is to speak volubly without saying anything or without giving away information critical to where she was the previous night. 

There is a lot going on in this scene with Machado and Wu, possibly there’s too much information in this short scene.  We never really get into the meat of the story but are left floundering around for answers that may or may not come.  Still, I enjoyed the work and the scene.

This type of venue is a meet and greet venue.  The key things here is to have your work seen.  Secondly, it’s best to have time to meet at the end of the performance and to have a resume available just in case job opportunities comes a knocking.

Sal Landi has created a venue for an audience to see the work and what happens after that is anyone’s guess.  Hopefully, the work will lead to paying jobs and a fulfilling career. This definitely was a night for being seen.  

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