Gay marriage, a cigar factory and amazing magic take the stage

| May 30, 2019 | 0 Comments

Daniel’s Husband by Michael McKeever takes place in the elegant townhouse of Daniel Bixby (Bill Brochtrup) and his partner, novelist Mitchell Howard (Tim Cummings). Terrific scenic / props design by DeAnne Millais. 

Daniel and Mitch are entertaining Mitch’s agent Barry Dylon (Ed F. Martin) and his latest, very young boyfriend, professional caregiver Trip (Jose Fernando). The dialogue in these opening scenes is smart, fast and very funny. Seamlessly, the conversation evolves into a discussion of gay marriage and its legalization in 2015. Mitch is against the whole idea of marriage, but Daniel wants very much to be married. Daniel’s mother Lydia (the always awesome Jenny O’Hara) arrives. She’s a wonderfully inapt matriarch who has confused the meaning of a mother’s love. It’s at this point in the play that a life-altering event happens to Daniel that changes the direction of the action, although it feels as though something of this nature has been foreshadowed. 

The life struggle that this sets up perfectly crystallizes and clarifies the earlier discussions. Everyone in this cast is at the top of their game and director Simon Levy keeps the comedic pace and rhythm of the piece on the mark. The end of the play is a four-to-five-hankie event (for those of you who still carry hankies) with a clear message. 

Through Sun., June 23, Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., 323-663-1525,         5 Stars

• • •

The time is 1929; the setting is Ybor City, Florida. One of the last factories where cigars are hand rolled by skilled workers. This is the setting of Anna In The Tropics by Nilo Cruz, winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for drama. 

The factory interior is excellently re-created by scenic designer Christopher Scott Murillo. Vital to the smooth running of the factory and productivity of the workers is a “Lector de Tabaqueres,” an educated man who reads aloud to the cigar rollers to help pass the time. The factory workers’ future is in jeopardy as a mechanical cigar-rolling machine has been invented and is on the way. 

Their previous lector has left, so the arrival of Juan Julian (Byron Quiros), the new lector, is met with great excitement. He chooses Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” to read while the workers roll the product (interesting note: real tobacco is used and real cigars are made by the actors). As Tolstoy’s story of adultery and love is heard, family members interact, ignited by the words of the Russian master. 

This is an excellent cast guided with skill and compassion by director Jon Lawrence Rivera. But the ending of the play is incongruous and quite jarring, after almost two acts of passion and quixotic language. 

Through Sun., June 8, Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., 323-882-6912,             4 Stars

• • •

Invisible Tango, created and performed by Helder Guimarães and directed by Frank Marshall (“Jurassic World” plus), is a dazzling one-act of magic mixed with life philosophy and great storytelling. From a minor car accident to an antique store and a mysterious notebook to his friendship with Gabriel the clown, the narrative is spaced with spectacular card tricks. Original music is recorded by Moby. 

Portuguese-born, Mr. Guimarães holds several world championship titles in magic. His talent with cards is beyond amazing and he is a natural wit and a charismatic performer. The show is audience interactive and you would be fortunate if you get to participate. The Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse has been reconfigured to a black box with stadium seating to accommodate this unique performance, so all seats have good sight-lines. The playing area consists of a prominent square table where the magic is performed. And behind that is a bookcase / display case. 

Scenic designer Francois-Pierre Couture has added a number of unique set and prop pieces behind Guimarães including an intriguing clock and several objets d’art that play prominently in the story. The journey is tied together by the end of the one act, and the final trick is mind-boggling and perfect. Eighty minutes go by very quickly watching this creative multi-talented performer and his captivating tale. 

Through Sun., June 30, Geffen Playhouse, 110886 LeConte Ave., 310-208-5454,    4 Stars

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