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Reviews: Donna/Madonna

Photo courtesy Rizzo 39 Productions

Perhaps one of the greatest unexpected pleasures in a committed theater goer’s life is seeing a small-stage solo show that doesn’t suck. Transcending the non-sucky to arrive at this entertaining accomplishment is writer-performer John Paul Karliak’s self-deprecating ode to his two mothers. To the horror of his adoptive parents, the pre-adolescent Karliak drops the first hint of his homosexuality during a self-produced living-room drag show featuring his uncanny Carol Channing vamp. Witnessing mom and dad’s slack-jawed dismay, Karliak scurries into the closet, and doesn’t come out until his teens, subsequently deciding that playing it straight in front of his kindly, fragile mother is the only way to ensure ongoing receipt of her love. He grows up and moves out of state, creating geographical distance in support of the ruse; mother-son weekly phone calls favor surface over substance. But when life in Los Angeles proves less than rosy, Karliak searches for his birth mother — certain she’ll understand him in a way his adoptive mother can’t. Surprisingly, he’s right. What follows is a study in compassion and abundance, a coming-of-age story that doesn’t rely on total abandonment of childlike ways. Though much of the situational comedy feels familiar, Karliak’s execution is top-drawer. His delivery is brisk but unrushed, his sense of humor, contemplative but unsentimental. Inhabiting the skin of his drastically different mothers, Karliak’s range is gleefully apparent. Rizzo 39 Productions at the Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlwd.; Tues.-Wed., 8 p.m. (added perf Mon., Aug. 1, 8 p.m.); thru Aug. 10, (323) 960-4420. (Amy Lyons)

Reviews: Poison Apple

Sean Galuszka’s low-key suspense drama is set in an apartment in NYC’s Hell’s Kitchen. There’s a violent banging on the door, and Paul (Chris Sams) emerges from the bathroom, wearing yellow rubber gloves and carrying a spray bottle. He seems nebbishy, yet there’s something sinister about him. He carefully takes his time before answering the door. When he opens it, a hooded man bursts in. Paul sprays him in the eyes with the bottle. After a brief contretemps, it emerges that the stranger is Jerry (writer Galuszka), a friend of Paul’s female room-mate. Learning that she’s not at home, Jerry asks if he can wait for her. Paul grudgingly agrees, and proceeds to serve him tea. An increasingly edgy conversation ensues, and the appearance of a lethal looking butcher-knife and a saw hint at violence. Clearly more is going on than meets the eye, including a sexual attraction between the two men. By the end, the play proves to be a love-story as well as a tale of homicide. The play is a carefully controlled – perhaps too carefully controlled — exercise in suspense. Director Susan Lambert skillfully charts the gradual emergence of the macabre facts, and the two actors cannily play off one another to keep the tension building. SPACE 916, 916 N. Formosa Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru August 20. (323) 848-4561. (Neal Weaver)

Photo credit: Susan Lambert

Announcing: “Poison Apple” Now Running Thru August 20 at Space 916 in Hollywood



Dancing Barefoot Productions and 134 West Productions have announced the return engagement of Poison Apple at Space 916 in Hollywood, through August 20 only. The play comes directly from its sold out world premiere at Celebration Theatre in last month’s Hollywood Fringe Festival. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8pm, and the one-act play runs 70 minutes with no intermission.

Poison Apple is a psycho-sexy, tragic love story. Based on true events that took place in Hell’s Kitchen in New York City, this frightening tale follows two men who are forced to confront their innermost demons and, ultimately, take unimaginable action. Of the world premiere during the Fringe, Back Stage called the play, “Ominous … harrowing … seductive.” And said, “A Hitchcockian game of cat and mouse with Grimm results. Edge of your seat thrills.”

Sean Galuszka is a writer, performer, singer, and songwriter. He graduated from Syracuse University with a triple major in acting, directing, and English. On stage in Los Angeles, he originated the role of Leo in the American premiere of Fucking Men at Celebration Theatre. He has also appeared in a revival of The Boys in the Band at the Coast Playhouse and the Los Angeles premiere of K2. Galuszka’s television and film credits include Taming the Wild West: The Legend of Jedediah Smith (TNT), Water for Elephants, Miracles, and The Ghost Whisperer. Chris Sams has been seen locally in the GLAAD Award-winning production of Revolver and The Boys in the Band, among others, and director Susan Lambert received an LADCC Award nomination for her work on An Appalachian Twelfth Night.

Performances of Poison Apple continue through August 20 on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00. Admission is $15, and tickets may be purchased by visiting or by calling (323) 848-4561. For exclusive details, news about secret performances and locations, and a pre-story dialogue via text messages between the characters, text POISON to 41411.

Space 916 is located at 916 Formosa Avenue in Hollywood, 90046. Street parking is available.

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