Friday, June 27, 2014

Long Live the Queen: Ellen Geer as “Lear” by M.R. Hunter

Shakespeare's women are not shy about donning on a codpiece when necessary, but gender-reversals can bode uneasy misgivings and critical doubt from the outset as to how successful the sex-switcheroo might pan out. The title character of King Lear is not one so easily redressed given the patriarchal overtures and the blustery folly of a man steeped in ego and arrogance.

Having seen both Harry Groener and Dakin Matthews in the preeminent Antaeus production 4 years ago, I was a bit skeptical about this version starring the incomparable Ellen Geer as Lear. I didn't go charging up the hill to see it on opening weekend. It took awhile to mull the idea over. Queen Lear? I'm no purist, yet whenever gender trumps the integrity of a story, let alone a title character, it's been my experience that usually the idea is about provocation rather than insight.

I was wrong.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Eyestrology: Happy Birthday Cancer by Cici Psy-Chic

For the month of 6/21/14-7/22/14

Happy birthday to these celebrity June Cancers: Meryl Streep (6/22), Randy Jackson (6/23), Solange Knowles (6/24), Carly Simon (6/25), Sean Hayes (6/26), Khloe Kardashian (6/27), Kellie Pickler (6/28), Neil Perry (6/29), Michael Phelps (6/30)

Celebrity July Cancers: Missy Elliott (7/1), Ashley Tisdale (7/2), Tom Cruise (7/3), Neil Simon (7/4), Edie Falco (7/5), Kevin Hart (7/6), Ringo Starr (7/7), Kevin Bacon (7/8), Tom Hanks (7/9), Jessica Simpson (7/10), Lil' Kim (7/11), Bill Cosby (7/12), Harrison Ford (7/13), Jane Lynch (7/14), Forest Whitaker (7/15), Will Ferrell (7/16), Donald Sutherland (7/17), Vin Diesel (7/18), Benedict Cumberbatch (7/19), Sandra Oh (7/20), Robin Williams (7/21), Selena Gomez (7/22)

This will be a high energy, go-go-go kind of early summer. We'll be packing a lot into our weeks. Things can become stressful if we try to do too much both in work and play. Be selective about how to spend your free time. Now that Mercury is going direct, communication should be better. Stay on top of emails, texts and calls and try to be on top of all your daily correspondences now. Air and Fire signs should bite their tongue while Earth and Water could be more expressive about their needs. This is not an ideal period for being opinionated or stubborn. Blame the heat!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


OOH AAH - FIREWORKS! In our safety obsessed society, where no hang nail goes unlitigated, normally cautious people become momentarily unhinged with delight at the thought of lighting up a hot, sparkly, multicolored, illegal incendiary device on Independence Day. Play it safe, we have lots of recommendations for a fun and fiery fix.

Grand Park will again have a free July 4th celebration with fireworks in Downtown LA. The 4th of July Block Party starting at 4pm. Go Metro but watch for advisories.  This park has proved to be very popular and there may be some restrictions in accessing the park via the Metro Red Line watch for updates at the Grand Park site or at  

Whether you have a favorite “hot spot” to watch these patriotic displays or don’t know where to go, our annual list has them including some of our tips for getting the most for the least.  


El Paso BBQ in Tarzana

Good ol' American BBQ is often a matter of taste and style. Do you like it sweet, smokey, spicy? Do you prefer it Kansas, Missouri, Texas or Southern style.  And these are just a few of the variations out there. 

Cooking methods, sauces and rubs all play a role.  But I think the most important foundation for great Q is the quality of the meat.

The key to the food here is quality. The ribs are succulent, the brisket and the steaks are tender, salads are crisp and fresh.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Theater the Way It Should Be: “The Brothers Size” at the Fountain Theatre by M.R. Hunter

Following last year's widely acclaimed "In the Red and Brown Water," the second installment of Tarell Alvin McCraney's "Brother/Sister Plays" trilogy at the Fountain is impactful and stunning. One does not need to have seen the first play as each is a standalone piece relating to the themes of African Yoruba mythology, interpersonal relations, struggle, locale and McCraney's signature style of vocalizing the stage directions as a reminder that THIS is a theatrical art form.

And it is definitively theater—not pseudo-theater plaguing many underwritten, uninspired or creatively hesitant new plays as of late. McCraney's stories work on the stage because he writes FOR the stage instead of the other way around. From the melodic dialogue with its poetic underpinnings, mythological symbolism, multilayered characters filled with pathos, hubris and complexity, "The Brothers Size" is one of those rare gems of contemporary playwrighting that gives hope to the future of the craft. Being able to tell a story is a privilege most people enjoy. The art of storytelling however is a very exclusive ability and when it unfolds in such a way to leave one breathless and clamoring for more, then a certain respect must be paid to its talent.

McCraney infuses his work with folklore from Yoruba, located in southwestern Nigeria which made its way to the southern states of the U.S. This play is set in the rural Louisiana bayou in elder brother Ogun Henri Size's home and his auto shop. Younger brother, Oshoosi has just come home after being paroled from jail, struggling to adapt to his newfound freedom. Elegba, Oshoosi's friend infiltrates the tenuous relationship with his own secret agendas only Ogun can sense as he watches his brother fall into a seduction of good vs. evil, inevitably setting him free.

Friday, June 13, 2014

“The Human Spirit” at the Odyssey Has A Lot of Heart by M.R. Hunter

Nelson Mandela's death earlier this year elicited a worldwide outpouring of genuine admiration for a revolutionary but peaceful leader who after being imprisoned for 27 years, went on to become the first president of South Africa and championed tirelessly for a transition from a racially divided apartheid country to one working for progressive change. For all that Mandela was able to achieve, the roots of prejudice, fear, hate and political corruption are still ever present in the embittered colonized African countries. While it may seem another world away, the people still struggling to mend the fences and bloodshed after half a century of tyranny continues to affect us all.

This is Carole Eglash-Kosoff's primary mission with her play "The Human Spirit" based on her nonfiction book published in 2010 recounting the unlikely heroes of four women who banded together to make a difference in the community. These women nicknamed the "Mamas" comprised of two segregated locals (the charming Allison Reeves and exquisite singer Rea Segoati), a South African nun (Zuri Alexander) and a white Jewish sympathizer (Lisa Dobbyn). They invited great risk to ensure medication, basic essentials and food reached those who were in most desperate need of them and due to apartheid, were the ones least able to have access. Their journey and refusal to acquiesce under pressure, imprisonment and physical harm captures the enduring strength of compassion and fearlessness in the worst of times.

LACMA's World of Color – Expressionism, Mobiles, California, Futbol, and the Metropolis by M.R. Hunter

Bringing together some of the greatest painters of the early 20th century from Bonnard, Cézanne, Gauguin, Marc, Matisse to lesser notable names as Cuno Amiet, Heinrich Campendonk, and Edouard Vuillard along with a smattering of rare pieces by van Gogh into its recent exhibit running through September 14, one can see the fluidity of the expressionist movement and how it related from the work itself to the artists themselves in an open dialogue.

Friday, June 6, 2014

“Backyard” Isn’t For Pussies at Atwater Village Theater by M.R. Hunter

Let me open with a disclaimer: this show has copious amounts of violent and graphic situations, sex and comedy. In short, it's a real winner for those who have a high tolerance for gore. For sensitive audiences who can't stand the sight of blood, self-inflicted pain, or oral copulation, I recommend you see something else. "Backyard" isn't for pussies. That being said upfront, I will now tender my review to everyone who, like me, enjoys a theatrical brawl, KO style.

Mickey Birnbaum's examination of backyard wrestling has less to do with the realities of this teenage pastime and instead uses the topic as a symbol of society's penchant for anger, disillusionment and peacocking. In a lower middle class suburb on the border of Mexico near San Diego, a family "earns their blood" when they practice and stage a recorded wrestling match complete with ridiculous characters: The Destroyer, King of Tears, Hellgirl, The Traveler, The Mantis, and Komodo Dragon. The premise sounds a bit shaky and at times the storyline wanes from the absurd to the gratuitous to the downright silly but Birnbaum manages to always up the ante just when it seems nothing more could possibly be explored in this serrated cut vein dramedy.

In lesser hands, the script would still entertain but it could pose as a dangerous enterprise for any less capable theater company or actor lacking health insurance. The toll and demand on the ensemble is extraordinarily high as they whip around, belly flop, whack, kick, and pummel and grapple each other on a padded floor or the occasional pinball ricochet against a mattress. There are moments when the choreography hugs dangerously close to being too real but this cast proves sturdy and flexible enough to take the blows like champions. This alone is almost worth the price of admission, but the jaw-dropping humor and colorful characters combined gives this play real heft beyond shock value alone. Is it shocking? Oh, yes, and exhilarating.