Archived entries for Reviews

Reviews: Ham logo


Ryan Luevano Review


Haines His Way logo


Shari Barrett

Performing Arts Live logo

“This Star Search-winning recording artist is at the top of his game in HAM: A Musical Memoir. As a singer, actor and storyteller, Sam Harris is as good as it gets as he melodically takes us through the ups and downs of his life. Music Director and pianist Todd Schroeder is outstanding as well. It’s a fascinating story and is one of our FEATURED events. Tony Award winner Billy Porter is Co-Director of this show. GO!” – Performing Arts LIVE


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Review: Expecting to Fly

Expecting to Fly

Theatre Planners at the Elephant Space

Reviewed by Neal Weaver
January 31, 2012
Photo by Mark Barnes

Michael Hyman’s long one-act takes its title from the Neil Young song. It’s set in late evening in a spectacularly cluttered NYC loft apartment (artfully designed by Keith Mitchell). A young man, Jared (Justin Mortelliti), comes barreling in drunk, high, angry, and exhausted. As he disrobes and prepares for bed, he talks and complains nonstop to someone we can’t see. Eventually, Sean (Casey Kringlen) emerges, and it seems that the men are estranged former lovers. Yet unanswered questions lurk: If the two have had a breakup, why are they still cohabiting? And why is there no bed, only a small sofa?

Jared is exhausted and wants only to sleep, but Sean insistently berates him for his self-destructive vodka swilling and promiscuity and suggests that they’re an attempt to escape the love and closeness he fears. To which Jared can only reply, “You don’t understand me.” Sean sets to work to re-create the happy moments they’ve shared in the past (“I want to remind you what it’s like to be happy,” he says). Jared alternately allows and repulses Sean’s attempts to close the gap between them.

At first they seem merely a pair of ex-lovers playing the blame game, but gradually we realize that more is going on than we’ve been told. It’s a tale of passionate love and loss, touching on issues of faith and trust, with elements of the supernatural, metaphysics, and exorcism. Hyman brings us a taut, convincing, carefully calibrated anatomy of a close yet stormy relationship. And director Kiff Scholl gives the piece a faithful if surprisingly athletic production, with the actors frequently leaping from platforms, climbing the furniture, or tumbling on the floor. It’s a little disconcerting at first, but it serves to underline the oddity and subjectivity of the tale. Still, I’d gladly have traded the gymnastics for clarity of diction. The words aren’t inaudible, but sometimes they’re muffled or swallowed.

The actors are deeply committed to their roles and play off each other in a subtle and intriguing symbiosis. Mortelliti is masculine and volatile, flinging himself around violently in his inarticulate pain. Kringlen is more purposeful and feline, determined in his attempts to make his partner admit the strength of his love.

Sound designer Corwin Evans provides a soundtrack of big-city ambience, and Matt Richter’s lighting cleverly draws us into the strangeness of the tale.

Presented by Theatre Planners at the Elephant Space, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Jan. 28–March 4. Fri. and Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. (323) 960-5772 or

Review: “God’s Ear”

LA Weekly

“God’s Ear”

God's Ear - publicity photo

Pictured: Jeremy Shranko, Amanda Saunders,Alana Dietze, and Tara Karsian

GO! “He’s in a coma, hooked to a respirator.” With these simple words, Mel (Amanda Saunders) informs her husband, Ted (Paul Caramagno), via telephone, about their brain-dead son, a victim of an accidental drowning. It is one of the rare instances in Jenny Schwartz’s eccentric drama where words and meaning coalesce into sensibility. For the remainder of the play, Mel and Ted become immersed in the seductive discord of a surreal world where language is increasingly divorced from context and reality, time and place contract, and the weight of loss is, literally, spoken out of existence. It’s a bizarre mise-en-scene, compounded by the appearance of a tooth fairy (Tara Karsian), a transvestite flight attendant (Jeremy Shranko) and a curvaceous b-girl (Andrea Grano). With a nod to the absurdist canon, and perhaps Lewis Carroll, Schwartz’s use of clichés, idiom and chatter is at times brilliant and funny, though the verbal effusion obscures the searing emotional and psychological pain at the heart of the piece. There is an appropriately other-worldly resonance about director Rory Kozoll’s staging, nicely accented by Kristie Roldan’s lighting. Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m., through Feb. 19. (877) 369-9112.

(Lovell Estell III)