Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Love Allways by Renée Taylor and Joseph Bologna

L - R Danny Siegel, Lucy Walsh, Chad Doreck, Abigail Kochunas - Photos by Mathew Caine @ Studio Digitrope

By Joe Straw

After watching the performance, I wondered; is the material by Renée Taylor and Joseph Bologna from practical experience or is this just hearsay? If it is from experience, they have had a wonderful life.  If it is hearsay, they must have had some really intimate and talkative friends. – Narrator

There’s no question, no question that I had a wonderful time at the party, the Love Allways party.  I don’t know where to begin, only that I have to begin, somewhere near the beginning. And saying too much would give so much away. You’ll just have to show up and laugh.

Jamaica Moon Prods. And the GGC Players present the Los Angeles Premiere of Love Allways by Renée Taylor and Joseph Bologna directed by Gloria Gifford at the Gray Theatre in North Hollywood through April 23, 2017.

The play is a lot of lovely nuance, cleverly disguised in vignettes, about the truth in relationships. The material by Renée Taylor and Joseph Bologna rings a comedic and sincere genuineness about life and love in intimate settings. There is a lot to enjoy from this outing.

My gosh, it seemed like there were ten thousand actors in this show! Actually, it’s 51 actors. There is a challenge of watching so many actors on a given night.  Multiple night viewings would suit the purpose of taking it all in.  One will give it my best, but no guarantees.  

The characters came down from the door, into the room, and nestled in the comfort of someone’s home. (We’ll have to talk about that opening later.) They were characters all dolled up, the men with shirts opened down to the navel and everyone, I mean everyone, was on the prowl, with hardly a decent refined character in the bunch. That uncomfortable feeling of being single is personified at the party.

So, where do we find ourselves? This is the nightly soiree we have come to know as Eleanor’s Magical Moment.

Eleanor’s Magical Moment

The pushing and moving of singles bodies is the sole objective to attract mates.  In this gathering, the pickings appear to be slim, slightly unnerving if one is looking for a sole mate.  Watching young married beings on the prowl for single encounters is always appealing because mistakes will be made.  

But the thought of hooking up with a single man or woman at this party seems as unappetizing as crackers in bed.   That’s where Eleanor (Tejaja Signori) and Herb (Danny Siegel) come in.  They are married, but not to each other, and Herb can’t get Eleanor out of his mind. He’s thinking of having that one magical moment with Eleanor, of finding the time, and then consummating the relationship.

So when their marriage partners, Betty (Cynthia San Luis) and Larry (Jeff Hamansaki Brown), suddenly leave the room, Herb makes his move.

Love of Susan’s Life

Stud-ly Nick (Nevada Schaefer) has got everything going for him except his girlfriend Susan (Raven Bowens).

“You’re not the girl for me.  It’s all over.” – Nick

To say this hits Susan the wrong way is a bit of an understatement.  And so she pleads for their relationship to continue. And in almost chameleon-like fashion, she changes herself into what he wants her to be.

Groveling is not an attractive vocation.  

Tony & Madelaine

Hollywood is a lush life lived lasciviously.  Oh but it can be so cruel, so cruel when, off the cuff remarks are made, lives are hurt, and relationships are scarred, left to fester, until they are miraculously unscarred again. 


Tony (Chad Doreck) and Madelaine (Jade Warner) are actors.  They are the finest of the fine, the cream of the crop, but now they are down on their movie luck – think Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton after Cleopatra.  Sullied words about bad acting are thrown about. But, as long as they are praised by their entourage (Joshua Farmer, Jose Fillippone, Kelly Musslewhite, and Deidra Shanell), they are like luscious crops, but instantaneously wither when criticism punctures their ballooned ego.

Naytheless, they are actors, and they can give just as they receive!

Maureen’s Gift

Two young people can have as much fun on a couch as humanly possible except when there’s some sort of conflict.  Two lovers in love, Maureen (Justine Estrada) and Eddie (Marlin Chan), have been dying to make it, to consummate their love, but something always gets in the way. Maybe they were not made for each other.

Michael Barker, Samiyah Swann

Benny and The Woman

Woman (Samiyah Swann) sits quietly on a bench when Benny (Michael Barker) approaches.  The two may have much in common, or out of common, depending on your perspective. They connect on a visceral level, neither really communicating with the other, both slightly mentally incapacitated, but willing to accept each other as they are until they don’t.

“It’s hurts to be alone. Goodbye.” Woman

Is this relationship the beginning or the end?

Biff, Dickie, Carmel & Roberta

For the last five years, these happy vacationers have been going on trips.  Biff (Danny Seigel) and Dickie (Jeff Hamasaki Brown) have been having the most fun on their vacation but their wives are getting a little tired of their antics. On the face of it, you would think the only happy couple in this resort town were the two inseparable men.  Their wives, Carmel (Lucy Walsh) and Roberta (Lauren Plaxco) are tired of not spending enough time with their respective spouses.   

The “snorting” thing is possibly one reason Biff would run into the arms of another man.
Act II plays out in a bedroom in a bungalow of a Club Med resort.  Director Gloria Gifford should find a creative way to move the actors in and out without having to make the bed each time, which becomes repetitive and unnecessary.

Bungalow 1

Steven (Haile D’Alan) and Loretta (Keturah Hamilton) are married but when Steven comes in, someone other than his wife (Tracey Nelson) is lying on their bed. (Not sure how this scene works in a bungalow but it feels like someone’s home.)

Loretta walks in with a number of bags of items she has bought. They proceed to discuss their relationship and why she is buying all those things, really a lot of things considering her source of income.

Steven then begins to lay out the rules of a successful relationship and I don’t think Loretta is getting anything of his instructions.  

L - R Irini Gerakas, Jeff Hamasaki Brown, Joe Filippone 

Bungalow 2

Possibly a reality show is being filmed in Bungalow 2 with us as a live studio audience – You Waste Your Life hosted by Eddie (Joe Filippone) featuring an unlikely couple in a role playing situation, Bill Froth (Jeff Hamansaki Brown) and his wife Mary Froth (Irini Gerakas).

I’m a little lost on why this is filmed in a bungalow and why there is a studio audience. That said there were some very nice things going on in this scene.

Bungalow 3

Mario (Nadeem Deeb) is going to get to the meat of the matter and Yvetter (Kasia Pilewicz) has other ideas.

“I’m no good.” – Mario

“I love you.” – Yvette

A man and a woman lost in a relationship, of not knowing who the other is – a “lost cause in Czechoslovakia.”

Bungalow 4

Jimmy (Sam Mansour) and Evelyn (Hayley Ambriz) are caught in bungalow 4 testing their love.  They want to know about each other’s past sexual experiences.  Jimmy, from another country, is old school and Evelyn is not a saint.

Mansour, Syrian, has an unusual and likeable face.  He reminds me a lot of Danny Thomas.  This plays well in the scene as an overbearing man trying to take control of something he really has no control over, a woman with a, slightly kinky, sexual past.  

Antonio Roccucci and Kelly Musslewhite

Bungalow 5

There is something wrong with Marilyn (Kelly Musslewhite).  She is either confused, bi-polar, or thinks this marriage is the worst mistake of her life.   The one thing this newlywed is certain is that she is not certain about anything.   Her husband, David (Antonio Roccucci), can only listen to her rants, gnaws on Twinkies and relieves her fears.

Although, mostly silent on stage, Roccucci has a very commanding presence which is half of the battle. The other half is; how can you argue with a gorgeous woman in a negligee on your honeymoon when there are other pressing matters at hand.  C’est impossible!

Bungalow 6

He (George Benedict) and She (Nancy Vivar).  What am I to make of a scene with the characters named “He” and “She”? He was attractive.  She was as well.  They were in bed having a conversation, wanting something from each other.

Bungalow 7

Intimacy is something learned over the course of a relationship between two people but there’s four people in this bed Herb (Danny Siegel), Stuart (Chad Doreck), Erica (Lucy Walsh) and Joanne (Abigail Kochunas) and Joanne is the only one who has not reached orgasm.

Joanne has got to make her feelings known, first to her husband Stuart, and then to the other married couple in bed.  

The performance featured a diverse group of actors putting it all out there, laying it on the line, and giving it their best, in tight fitting, cleavage revealing garments, in all shapes and sizes, and for all occasions.  This was truly a night for laughs.

The performances and the direction by Gloria Gifford indicate that there’s more work to be done. It would help to take some of the moments to extremes and making the endings ambiguous so the audience can think what they want to think about the way the relationship ends so we see hope for the next encounter. For example, I am not sure Eleanor in Eleanor’s Magical Moment had that moment.  If she did, I missed it.

Also, in Benny and The Woman, the scene ends without a resolution, ambiguous or not.

The “snorting” in Biff, Dickie, Carmel & Roberta scene doesn’t move the characters to react, doesn’t progress the scene, and has no resolution.

This is a play where the actors can create multi-level characters which are bold. It’s really not enough to resemble the character. The characters must be defined in the way they love always, a major through line of the vignettes.  Bring the love and give us something different, very different.

And, we really have to work on the opening to set the stage of what we are about to receive. Lights out, have the actors take a position, accentuate the character and Love Always

The actors in this production are ripe for television. Danny Siegel fits in brilliantly in his scenes and favors Joe Bologna. Others whose work was exceptional were Chad Doreck, Jade Warner, Sam Mansour, Lucy Walsh, Kelly Musslewhite, Antonio Roccucci, Michael Barker, Samiyah Swann, Tracey Nelson and Jeff Hamasaki Brown.

Also, I don’t get Jeff Brown’s middle name “Hamasaki”.  Is that a reference to a sandwich and rice wine?  Hama mean beach in Japanese.  So, is it Saki on the beach, perhaps? (Also, Jeff, new headshots are in order.  The one in the program does not look like you.  Was this a misprint?)

Other actors who were in the production but may not have been mentioned are Alyssa Brown, Billy Budinich, Aaron Burriss, Leana Chavez, Heather Compton, Yvette De Vito, Sonia Diaz, Lindy Fujimoto, Dylan George, Genevieve Joy, McKenzie Druse, Chirstian Maltez, Maya Moore, Nakta Pahlevan Benito Paje, Gershon Roebuck, Justin Truesdale, Keith Walker, Teagan Wilson and Diva Yazdian. This is certainly a diverse group of actors.

The crew are as follows:
Gloria Gifford and Lucy Walsh – Set Design
Chris Rivera – Lighting
Philip Sokoloff – Publicist
Kasia Pilewicz and Gloria Gifford – Costumes
Kasia Pilewicz – Hair/Makeup
Tracey Nelson and Samiyah Swann – House Manager
Keith Walker & Justin Truesdale – Stage Management
Tahlia McCollum – Box Office

And just a note about the outside crew.  They were marvelous in the way they were welcoming to the Gray Theatre

Run! Run!  And take someone who likes a little conflict under the sheets!

RESERVATIONS: (310) 366-5505.

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