Sunday, December 23, 2018

Dixie’s Tupperware Party by Kris Andersson

Kris Andersson (Dixie Longate)

Why would anyone woman marry a man named Absorbine and then call their kid Absorbine, Jr., (Walmart $10.99)?  Well, Dixie Longate (Kris Andersson) did just that.

Down South LLC, in association with Louise Hall Beard and Joe Everett Michaels, presents Dixie Longate in Dixie’s Tupperware Party by Kris Andersson and directed by Patrick Richwood at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City through December 30, 2018.

Absorbine is now dead along with her other two husbands, due to no fault of Dixie. (But, thinking about it, is she entirely faultless?)

As my Georgian grandpa use to say: “Well, sometimes people just ain’t no count.”

After the death of Absorbine, the husband, Dixie had to do something besides drinking, her one guilty pleasure in life, and it was something that was getting her nowhere, fast.  

She had three kids to raise (one with each husband). After attending her first Tupperware party, she was hooked. Not in the drugged or fishing kind of hooked, she just gravitated to a life that set a fire under her, that gave her some gumption within her loins.  

So Dixie, gussied up in a ‘50’s housewife motif, bouffant red hair, blue eye shadow, luscious red lips, and earrings down to her clavicles, she was ready to put on her very own Tupperware party in voluminous grandeur.  


Not to spread rumors because that’s not me, but, Dixie hasn’t entirely given up drinking. During this Tupperware party, she takes a sip here and there, one sip to take the edge off, and the next sip she was off sashaying into a dancing motif slapping her backside. After all, it ain't a party until Dixie's up on the table doing something.

She is especially driven to drink while watching a man, Orion (who appeared to have never set foot into a kitchen), open a can of soup. Though from a man’s perspective, I believe that Dixie’s directions were not that clear, possibly because of the drink, or the inability of a man ever understanding the sincere directions of a woman.

Oh, and let’s not forget about the lesbians.

Dixie’s Tupperware Party is too much fun! You live the experience if you are of the mindset that you are there to buy Tupperware and listen to the presentation (catalogue provided).  It just flows to incredible heights.

Not all of it is a wacky comedy; there are moments that ring a solid truth, truths about abuse and pain that shakes the house into a buying frenzy.  It is sincere but probably part of the plan.  

Dixie’s song is one of resilience, of a woman who has overcome many troubled periods to provide for her family and succeed at every level.  Still, she can’t shake the past and she brings that life with her to sell the heck out of those bowls, that are multicolored, last forever, and can be willed to many future generations

And it is probably why Dixie’s Tupperware Party has been running for eight or more years all across the country.

Kris Andersson (Dixie) is quick witted and the night is filled with glorious improvisational moments. So fast, one just lets things go because the next interesting thing quickly comes along. The jokes are a little blue and has this audience member saying, she said what?

Speaking of saying things, Christopher K. Bond’s Sound Design was a little off as the sound was not as clear as other productions witnessed at the Kirk Douglas.

Patrick Richwood, Director, leaves a lot of room for improvisation.  What is not clear is the progression of events, of Dixie getting more intoxicated as the night wears on, of a changing of character so profound that participants should be rushing the stage to buy the product. (Figuratively, of course.)

The night is filled with all sorts of goodies in a poke.  There is also a nice tribute to Brownie Wise the woman who started it all and who got women all across the country hosting, meeting, and getting to know their neighbors  

After the show, Kris Andersson marches into the lobby of the Kirk Douglas for a meet and greet, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact it has a lot of southern charm.

Other members of this delightful crew are as follows:

Richard Winkler – Lighting Design
MicheleHelbert – Tour Manager
K L Management – General Management
Patty Onagan Consulting – Marketing Director
Kristin Humphrey – Grass Roots & Promotions
Davidson & Choy Publicity – Publicity

Run! Run! And take your second cousin twice removed, the one who lives in a trailer park, not far from the creek.   You’ll both get a kick out of this.


Sunday, December 16, 2018

Tryst by Paul Coates

By Joe Straw

As a young boy
he noticed the changing of the light

as cumulus clouds moved
between him and the sun,

patterned billows diffused the light swiftly
from left to right

bringing light to darkness
darkness to light

and through the opaque window,
highlighting her hair,

her apron,
the sink,

the dark brown of the walls
turned a lighter shade,

and the inferior tiles in the kitchen
showed visible strains of children. 

Each light
another surprise and

a discovery
in the making - Narrator

Theatre is like this  - finding a moment in the light, discovering something new, an opening to a better understanding of the human condition.  – Narrator

The small stage at the Hudson’s Guild theatre was bare, except for four white chairs, and four black music stands on this Tuesday night December 11, 2018. 

One sign of humanity was a green backpack nestled against the wall, stage right. And, off to the side, a fancy white water bottle with a twist top that nourishes a human being.

Upstage against the wall hung an olive-green curtain that languished in the light – that held back darkness – and kept prying eyes from entering.

The particles of light emanate off the black box stage; walls and white chairs give the appearance of a purple fog and certainly a beginning to something new.  This would be a reading to “virgin ears.” This is where all theatre starts, from the very beginning.

Tryst: an appointment to meet at a certain time and place, especially one made somewhat secretly by lovers.

Tryst by Paul Coates, directed by Nick DeGruccio, was on stage this night. I really hadn’t come to write a review.  I thought I would just write notes and present them to anyone who would gratefully receive them. So, these are my observations.

About halfway through the second act, I looked at the audience, a sideway glance if you will, and noticed everyone in rapt attention, no moving, no phones, no drinking, or taking out candy. And although this was a reading, one could not have asked for a better performance.

Charlie (Paul Coates) and James (David Youst) are a couple who have been together for quite a while although they have never been married.

Charlie is in the television business, a producer/writer, who is trying to get a project with Mylie Cyrus off the ground. He does not want to leave his beautiful home on Mulholland to wrestle with traffic and fight with people at the studio.  

Charlie is on the phone negotiating deals and fighting with other people about who should be in his program.  He is an ex-patriot from England but has managed to keep his petulant English accent. (Think of his character as a cross between Elton John and Michael Shurtleff.)  Could his petulancy be the result that something is not quite right with his relationship at home?

James, his partner, seems to be the level headed one.  He is a corporate executive, a creative director of a department store who does not like the entertainment limelight and really wants to be as far away from that life as possible.

On the surface and together, they are open and share everything.

After finishing the pilot, they plan an extended three-month trip to Paris. They have been searching around for a dog sitter, when Devon (Alex Best) enters their life.

Devon is a good-looking 25 year-old man with a striking resemblance to Paul Rudd.  (That resemblance plays well into the play.)  He is a homeless actor, a fatherless young man, who has acted in a few things and is desperately looking for any kind of work.

Devon ingratiates himself to Charlie first.  In fact, Charlie, despite all the bad things in his life right now, will not leave for work until he gets to know the intimate details of Devon’s life.  

Meanwhile James is pushing Charlie out the door so that, one, Charlie makes his appointment and, two,  he can have Devon all to himself while he explains the job.

With Charlie gone, levelheaded James explains the rules of the house to Devon, gushing all the while, explaining his age and getting mixed messages that Devon may be coming on to him.

Devon lands the job and becomes a valuable assistant in the process. Both Charlie and James want more so they invite him to Paris.

But, Devon wants even more. Overhearing that “Shane” (not seen) is not working out with the new Mylie Cyrus project, “He just not funny enough,” Devon puts on a southern accent and takes a go at the script.

Charlie is blown away by the reading and invites Devon to read for the part and then fights for him to secure the role.

Soon thereafter, they invite Devon to move in and be part of their family

Without giving away too much, there is a lot to enjoy of Coates work. It gives light to the human condition and highlights not only the words but the pauses as well. It is Coates finest work to date, as an actor and as a writer, and one that ingratiates itself to intimate theatre, the closer, the better the experience. It is exceptionally beautiful and rings a solid truth.

The fascinating part of this experience is the characters never really reveal their intimacy, reflective of their own emotions; they drill in order tell the other what exactly is on their mind. It is remarkable in the way two men are able to communicate with each other on the surface, and move on about their lives, without saying what they mean or want, and each wanting the intimacy they cannot articulate.

It is difficult to determine if a threesome is sustainable, that level of maturity needs a tremendous amount of work.  Twosomes are difficult enough to maintain, but in this work of art the exploration of the relationships, given all of their problems, makes for fascinating theatre.

In my imagination, I saw the home as open, white and sterile, no matter where the characters were.  There are a number of creative choices the director Nick DeGruccio can take this marvelous play.

David Youst was tremendous in this reading.  Sympathetic, slightly aggressive, and hiding feelings the he would normally express.

Alex Best, not quite the spitting image of Paul Rudd, but had some remarkable moments as well. The Character Devon is not willing to give up his secrets so easily but once he is secure he shares those moments.

And in the end, still not able to articulate their feelings, the ending is pleasing and totally unexpected.  


Sunday, December 9, 2018

Bus Stop by William Inge

L - R Jack Sundmacher, Kaitlin Huwe, Gary Ballard, Niko Boles, Mani Yarosh

By Joe Straw

Bus Stop, by William Inge and directed by Ann Hearn Tobolowsky, is now playing through December 16, 2018 at Theatre 40 on the campus of Beverly Hills High School.  And as always, parking is free!

In this dingy dinner, the donuts are what you’d expect, hard, under glass, and a couple of days old.  Two for a nickel sounds right for a hard swallow and a nice cup of joe.

There are slightly stained swivel chairs, Formica countertops, and duct tape patches on the holes of the diminishing dining chairs. About the best thing you could say about this eating establishment is that it is clean. Which is remarkable because there’s a privy outside in the back, and everyone must scrape every scrap of mud off his or her shoes before coming in.

The dining establishment’s floor is so clean that you could almost eat off it.

It says a lot about Jeff G. Rack Set Design that although everything is somehow not quite right in this diner, things can surely get better.

For the time being, this one-horse town is a rest stop for weary bus travelers. It is a slight respite from the malignant odor of a much-travelled Topeka bus heading for destinations unforeseen and places forgone to the west.

Kansas never had it so good, or so bad for that matter. A little diner tucked away about thirty miles west of Kansas City, Missouri, or Kansas City, Kansas whichever you prefer.

The time is one A.M, sometime in the early ‘50’s, a blizzard has hit, snow has accumulated on the window seals, and the waitresses are preparing for a bus coming in because of a road closure west of the diner.

As Grace (Michele Schultz), the owner, and Elma (Mani Yarosh), high-school aged waitress, await the bus riders, they chat about all kinds of things, like Grace’s missing husband, Barton (not seen), her loneliness, and Elma’s good grades in school.

Sheriff Will Masters (Shawn Savage), mackinaw and all, without a gun, comes into the shop to tell them the bus is almost there and wondering if he could get a fresh cup of coffee.   

“It just went through, Will. Fresh as ya could want it.” – Grace

And just after the bus stops Cherie (Kaitlin Huwe), a nightclub singer with questionable abilities, runs in, suitcase in tow, asking to be hid. Will, always wanting to help anyone in trouble hears Cherie’s plea, “I need protection.”

“What from?” – Will

“There’s a cowboy after me.” -- Cherie

Will gets the story – about her abduction to Montana by a mean cowboy – and he says he will protect her.

And as Elma talks up Will’s ability to take on any man, a man comes into the diner.

Not the cowboy, it is Dr. Gerald Lyman (Jack Sundmacher), slightly inebriated.

“Ah! ‘This castle hath a pleasant seat.’” – Dr. Lyman – (Macbeth by William Shakespeare – Act I scene VI)

Dr. Lyman, somewhat ignorant about geography, seems slightly confused as to where he is at the moment. Carl (David Datz), the bus driver, explains exactly where he is. 

Undeterred, Dr. Lyman warms himself by the heater. Then he sees Elma and his eyes light up at this young high school student.

“’Nymph in thy orison, be all my sins remembered.’” – Dr. Lyman (Hamlet by William – Act 3 scene 1)

Elma is a little confused by Dr. Lyman’s rattling off Shakespeare at any given moment and doesn’t know how to respond.  The doctor orders a rye whiskey on the rocks.

That ain’t going to work in this diner that only serves sandwiches, soft drinks, bakeries, and coffee.

Will, takes a look around at the patrons and asks Carl if that’s it.  No, and Carl warns him about two cowboys sleeping in the back of the bus – Bo (Niko Boles), the young mean cowboy, and Virgil Blessing (Gary Ballard), his companion.

“I’d jest as soon they stayed where they’re at.  One of ‘em’s a real troublemaker.  You know the kind, first time off a ranch and wild as a bronco.  He’s been on the make fer this li’l blonde down here.” – Carl

L - R Niko Boles, Gary Ballard, Shawn Savage, Kaitlin Huwe

There are exceptional performances in this production of Bus Stop.  It is slow to start but manages to gather steam and then soars.  And, as the performance end, one is wrap up in the humanity of it all and sent out of the theatre bundled in the warmth of empathy.

Ann Hearn Tobolowsky, the director, defines the humanity of each character in ways that allow us to zero in on an expression and also a defining moment in the character’s arch.  Those moments ring beautifully, soulfully, and capture a feeling of not wanting this night to end.

Still, I have some observations to share. Take what you like, discard the rest.

Gary Ballard as Virgil Blessing.  The name Virgil implies a philosopher which he is as he tries to reason with Bo and teach him the ways with women.  The relationship between these two could have been stronger, almost a father and son but came off as sidekick, which he is not.  The ending between these two should have us all in tears but the relationship never got to that point.  Ballard’s guitar playing was magnificent and worked beautifully with the song All or Nothing at All (1939 Music by Arthur Altman, lyrics by Jack Lawrence). How can we have an effective ending for Virgil?

Niko Boles had his moment as Bo, a young man who is not really that mean.  He walks in with his legs spread like he’s been riding horses all day and takes a drink of a quarter of a gallon of milk in two gulps, dripping some down his chin as he finishes it. But during those moments he took his eyes of the prize, which he should never do.  Inquisitiveness was one thing lacking in the way he approaches his romantic interest when things aren’t going his way. One would like to see an emotional ending to his relationship to Virgil, torn between his girlfriend and the man that took care of him after his parents passed away.  Although the character of Bo could be a little more refined, still some very good work.

Michele Schultz, David Datz

David Datz also had his moments as Carl. Datz has a natural presence in a defined character.  His objective was clear in words but not necessarily in action. He takes his eyes off the prize during the quiet moments before leaving the diner to go for a supposedly long walk.  The imaginary rope must be tied to his love interest before he leaves.

Kaitlin Huwe presents a grand figure as Cherie.  The song, All or Nothing at All, was just superb.  It was interesting that they chose the song to be pitch perfect.  If she is that good, she should dump the guy and go straight to Hollywood.  And maybe it is one reason she goes to Montana, not entirely because of the charm of the cowboy.  That aside, Huwe does some amazing work as the night progresses and as she decides to stay with Bo.  Her entry on stage needs work, more to highlight of who she is and what she is.

Shawn Savage as Sheriff Will Master also does a terrific but is pretty much low key in his character. One wonder if there is any more to this character, the sheriff without a gun. Is there is more to the man than his fists?  The young waitress praises the sheriff on his strength and virility but that goes by like ships in the night. One wonders if there is a stronger choice for this character, his objective, and how that relates to his interactions with the other characters.

Michele Schultz gave just the right touch to Grace.  She was very funny and gave the character a lot of strength and resolve.  Was there a point where she invites the bus drive up to her place?  If there was, one didn’t see it.  And, is there more to the ending and the relationship with the other man before she closes the door on him?  The ending is very sad and leaves us with little to know that more is coming.

L - R Mani Yarosh, Jack Sundmacher, Gary Ballard

Jack Sundmacher plays Dr. Lyman.  The rumbled suits fits, the inebriated self gives him a façade, but the core of the character needs a little work. It needs definition to give him a stronger center. Once he sees the young waitress, nothing should stop him, except perhaps his inner demons. Professors are unique, each one, in their way of action and expressions.  Let’s find some ways to give this character life.  The relationship to the waitress should be stronger, almost to the point of being unhealthily close. The collapse is a moment that needs highlighting. It could be presented in many different ways, it could even be ambiguous, but it has to involve her, his life, and what he chooses to be at this point.    

Mani Yarosh does some fine work as Elma, squinting eyes and a broad smile plays into her naivety.  The scene where she finds out that someone loves her is as beautiful a moment as one could have on stage.   Some wonderful work.  

David Hunt Stafford wonderfully produced this production.

Don Solosan was the Stage Manager.

Michéle Young, Costume Designer, did a beautiful job with the costumes.

Brandon Barush was responsible for the Lighting Design.  

Joseph “Sloe” Slawinski was the Sound Designer and provided original music.

Richard Carner is the Assistant Stage Manager, and Susan Mermet is the Assistant Director.

Ed Kreiger as the photographer and Philip Sokoloff did the publicity.

Richard Hoyt Miller did the program design.   

Run! Run! And take a lascivious professor!

Reservations and information:  310-364-0535