Comedy, drama play out at Lake Erie, a soccer field and Chicago

| March 28, 2019 | 0 Comments

Lackawanna Blues, A Magical Musical Reminiscence is performed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson. He also wrote and directed this truly magical, entertaining evening. The story was also told in the award-winning HBO film of the same name. Accompanying him on stage is Grammy-winning blues guitarist and composer Chris Thomas King. This reminiscence (the time is 1956) is of Santiago-Hudson’s childhood in the titular Lackawanna, New York, a small town on the banks of Lake Erie, and it is a celebratory tribute to the colorful characters of his youth. 

Santiago-Hudson transitions easily and completely into voice and physicality of 20 different characters: young, old, male, female, lost souls, abandoned lovers, etc. And he also plays a mean harmonica. Many of the stories are centered on Miss Rachel, also known as Nanny, whose boardinghouse was open to one and all and was also Santiago-Hudson’s home. 

Writer Santiago-Hudson has captured the patois perfectly. “Seroaches” of the liver was a particularly memorable line. 

Director Santiago-Hudson has paced the comedy perfectly and timed the rhythm of the evening for greatest effect. This one-act is very funny and not to be missed. 

Through Sun., April 21, Mark Taper Forum, Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave., 213-628-2772,            5 Stars

• • •

In case you missed your workout at the gym, just watching the young performers in The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe should be enough to burn off that last pasta dish. 

The scene is an indoor soccer field. The titular Wolves are a soccer team of 16- and 17-year-olds, each one an angst-driven adolescent. The play opens with the girls in a circle executing a series of stretches and exercises. The familiarity of this workout allows free and easy conversation. The topics range from tampon choices to the Khmer Rouge political situation. The team consists of: super-cool #7 (Katherine Cronyn), skinny, kind #2 (Minzi), childlike #8 (Ellen Neary), brainy #11 (Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson), stoner girl #13 (Jacqueline Besson), #7’s insecure sidekick #14 (Donna Zadeh), Goalie #00 (Makeda Declet), the awkward new girl #46 (Caitlin Zambito), team captain #25 (Connor Kelly-Eiding), plus Soccer Mom (Alison Martin). 

Cliques form and enemies are declared as the play progresses, punctuated with demanding workouts. Tragedy ensues, but in the end the Wolves are a cohesive team. 

Playwright DeLappe says, “I wanted to see a portrait of teenage girls as human beings — as complicated, nuanced, very idiosyncratic people.” 

This Pulitzer Prize finalist is funny, insightful and very entertaining. 

Through Mon., April 22, Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., 310-307-3753, 

4 Stars

• • •

Diva Audrey Langham (Diane Carey) is in final rehearsals for “Medea” at a major theater in Chicago. And she is having a major meltdown, bitching and imploding over costumes, her director, etc. Such is the prologue of Too Much Sun by Nicky Silver. 

What’s a girl to do, but to go home? Not to Mother, but to the house of her married daughter Kitty (Autumn Reeser) on Cape Cod. There she finds her estranged family with their own set of problems. 

Kitty’s husband Dennis (Bryan Langlitz) is an adman / novelist with a whopping case of writer’s block. He’s exploring a relationship with Lucas (Bailey Edwards), son of neighbor Winston (Clint Jordan). 

Lucas is in the throes of coming-of-age and it isn’t going well. He’s also the local pot dealer (the police are a special customer). 

Winston is entranced by Audrey, and Audrey is ready for just such a relationship. 

Audrey’s arrival has triggered Kitty’s overeating. Mother and daughter have always had a strained relationship; Audrey sent her understudy to Kitty’s graduation. 

Added to this mix is Gil (a wonderfully quirky Joe Gillette), sent by Audrey’s agent to fetch her back to Chicago and “Medea.” 

The generic Cape Cod cottage porch and adjacent beach locale, scenic design by Alex M. Calle, are the perfect bland backdrops to the intense plot lines. Director Bart DeLorenzo guides this capable cast and adroitly blends the comedy with the drama. We learn of the characters’ final arcs as the ending brings us up to date on their eventual status. These monologues are delivered to the audience in a pat ending to the play. 

Through Sun., April 21, Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., 310-477-2055,      

3 Stars


Category: Entertainment

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