Friday, May 30, 2014

“Gruesome Playground Injuries” is a Hard Pill to Swallow by M.R. Hunter

Rajiv Joseph's dark romantic comedy is a typical boy meets girl story with a twist: every defining moment boy spends with girl is marked by his injuries requiring trips to the school nurse's office, later a hospital, until he ends up incapable of bringing on more self-harm. The relationship that spans 30 years between them is as gauzy as bandages, wobbly as crutches, consistent as an IV drip and as constrictive as a wheelchair. They connect on the physical plane of pain and act as salves to their emotional hurts brought on by their choices and by each other.

It's an interesting concept but the lack of verisimilitude in the artificial setup undermines this grisly courtship with heavy-handed symbolism and an unsatisfying lack of resolve or epiphany. Further exacerbating the superficial appeal is the playwright's inscrutable demand of setting up scenes in a non-sequential order. The injuries, primarily inflicted by the white knight's brave but foolish boyhood antics such as jumping off the school roof on his bike or lighting firecrackers too close to his face are uncomfortably juxtaposed by mortal accidents like being struck by lightning.

This irony is lost in the tenuous cohesion of a timeline connecting these incidents by etching an age and a theme onto a small chalkboard. Towards the final two scenes, Joseph is forced by his own hand to collapse the chronology into a final conclusion riddled by query, vague sentiments and a lack of closure both for the characters point of view and the audience. It is frustrating because there is a lot of promise to the premise too orchestrated perhaps to escape its conceit.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Eyestrology: Happy Birthday Gemini! by Cici Psy-Chic

For the month of 5/21/14-6/21/14

Happy birthday to these celebrity May Gemini's: Naomi Campbell (5/22), Drew Carey (5/23), Bob Dylan (5/24), Ian McClellan (5/25), Lenny Kravitz (5/26), Christopher Lee (5/27), Gladys Knight (5/28), Daniel Tosh (5/29), Idina Menzel (5/30), Clint Eastwood (5/31)

Celebrity June Gemini's: Morgan Freeman (6/1), Justin Long (6/2), Anderson Cooper (6/3), Angelina Jolie (6/4), Mark Wahlberg (6/5), Robert Englund (6/6), Prince (6/7), Joan Rivers (6/8), Johnny Depp (6/9), Kate Upton (6/10), Shia LaBeouf (6/11), Ella Joyce (6/12), Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen (6/13), Donald Trump (6/14), Ice Cube (6/15), Abby Elliott (6/16), Venus Williams (6/17), Blake Shelton (6/18), Paula Abdul (6/19), Nicole Kidman (6/20), Prince William (6/21)

Although summer is upon us and most of us would like to be out catching the rays by dashing off to the beach, many signs will be feeling introspective and homebound in the next few weeks. Choose events and activities that stimulate the mind and lift the spirit but be prepared to cozy up with a Kindle or simply wile away the day in PJ's. There is a good opportunity for weekend trips, meeting new people or positive changes in career towards mid-June but for now take it easy. Use this time to plan, reorient or address anything requiring resolution and a sense of peace.

In-N-Out-Land, Baldwin Park, CA, 2014 by Charles Phoenix

The world's most honest-to-goodness hamburger chain has gifted us with a faithful replica of its iconic original 1948 drive-thru stand.

Everything about this replica is picture perfect. From the oh-so classic neon sign to the matching candy striped awnings and hand-painted menu board, every single dreamy detail seems authentic inside and out. There is even an old cigarette machine hanging from the signpost.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

“Pray to Ball” Makes a Bank Shot at the Skylight Theatre by M.R. Hunter

It isn't often when sports are realistically performed onstage. Spatial limitations along with unpredictable physical coordination generally rules out taking such dramatic risks, but Amir Abdullah's rousing play successfully incorporates the game of basketball into its enlightening drama concerning a friendship tested when one coverts to Islam.

The risky endeavors in terms of the subject matter and required athletic improvisation combined make for a rewarding payoff and an engaging storyline about two rising star NCAA players at University of Miami, Lou (Abdullah) and Hakeem (Y'Lan Noel) who seem to have the world by the tail. As they are surrounded by fans, groupie girls, and potential professional offers, the duo revel in their instant stardom until an unexpected loss forces Hakeem to reexamine his life and beliefs. A flyer inviting him to the Muslim Student Association sparks his interest and newfound discovery in Islam.

Lou rejects and undermines his best friend's efforts as Hakeem's budding faith grows under the guidance of an on-campus counselor and his Muslim tutor, Tamana (Ulka Simone Mohanty). The tension leads to frustrations both on and off the court, heated exchanges and seemingly impossible reconciliation as the men drift further apart until a career-changing accident takes one of them out for the season.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Stouffer’s Mac and Cheese Food Truck by Valerie Mitchell

The Stouffer's Food Truck made a special stop in Santa Monica!

It was an absolutely gorgeous day to be outside in the Southern California sun. The truck parked on Ocean Avenue near Santa Monica Blvd. The skies were blue and the view of the Pacific and Santa Monica Pier were stunning. It was a lovely day for a comfort food lunch.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Monorail, Disneyland, 1961 by Charles Phoenix

Whooshing by on the highway in the sky, passengers travel in supreme space-age style between the Disneyland Hotel and Tomorrowland. Hopefully they heard the "Please keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times" recording because there are no windows!

The monorail is like an airplane without wings, or a cross between a snake, shark and catfish. It also has a foot-long hot dog/Oscar Meyer Wienermobile feel to it. BTW, it's not too late for an Oscar Meyer sponsorship. They could called it the Oscar Meyer Weinermonorail!!!

Never have green tinted glass, ribbed stainless steel panels, lipstick red, and pinstriped white looked so great together. 

Go! National Theatre Live Screenings at L.A. Theatre Works by M.R. Hunter

Whether you're a theater lover or not, National Theatre in London reliably mounts the best productions in the world bar none. Unless you're flitting across the pond a few times a year, the chances of witnessing these outstanding, ground-breaking shows are slim. The NT productions are the kind of quality we can learn and be inspired from as artists regardless of our discipline. Unfortunately, some folks are reticent about attending a "screening." Theater purists for a lack of better word, reject the idea that a screening can be just as good as watching something live. Let me assure anyone with these misgivings of their error. It is as good and the cinematic quality put into these screenings allows even further appreciation, not less of both art forms (theater and film). These stagings will NOT be touring in the U.S. so there isn't much in the way of opportunity to see these shows unless you go to the screening (which is limited in its run and venues across the country).

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

“Fat Pig” is a Safe but Fair Revival at the Hudson Mainstage by M.R. Hunter

There's been an uptick in revivals for Neil LaBute's plays what with last year's L.A. Theatre Works' staging of "Reasons to Be Pretty" followed by the sequel "Reasons to Be Happy." "Fat Pig" now playing at the Hudson is a slightly tweaked version from its 2007 Los Angeles premiere at the Geffen Playhouse but in the intimate space the play still holds up, edited or not, and typifies the playwright's keen if not brutal insight into current sociological attitudes and conflicting mores.

The interest in LaBute most likely stems from his appalling yet accurate portrayal of Gen X'ers trying to maintain an uneasy balance between vapidity and a modern-age pragmatism that circumvents attachment and feeling in the quest for personal freedom, happiness or simply gain. Unlike some of his other works which takes an almost cynical tone amid a sparring showdown, "Fat Pig" is at its heart a tender love story wrought by outside influences and societal judgment.