Emotionally compelling ‘The Beauty, The Banshee & Me’ at Whitefire Theatre

Review by John K. Adams

Children sometimes feel they were adopted regardless of their personal circumstances. Perhaps it is the beginning of the romantic imagination. Despite an ideal childhood, a child may sense a missed connection lurking in the shadows beyond their safe home.

The autobiographical, one-woman show, The Beauty, The Banshee & Me, written and performed by Cathy Lind Hayes, unflinchingly explores that yearning and her pursuit of the well-guarded truth about her birth parents.

It also exposes the emotional reasons for laws shielding privacy. When everyone seeks reconnection, those laws may seem arbitrary and cruel. But in a culture of convenience, privacy laws protect everyone when the threat of exposed shame might destroy more than any restored connection could heal.

Lind Hayes’ emotional and physical journey, despite legal barriers and warnings from all quarters, makes a compelling and poignant tale. Everyone pays a steep price for her to find this elusive and dubious truth.

Judged purely as performance, this play deserves to be seen. Hayes is a born storyteller and brings her audience to laughter and tears at will as she recounts her decades-long quest for reconnection with lost family.

Her portrayal of all the characters is vivid. She ensures everyone’s motives are understood, even when the resulting actions cause pain or damage relationships.

The Beauty, The Banshee & Me is a cautionary tale that may serve either camp to further their point. And it is also a remarkably well-written drama that deserves to be seen on its own merits.

“The Beauty, The Banshee & Me runs through October 23rd at the Whitefire Theatre located at 13500 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks. For tickets and information visit Plays411.com/Banshee or call (323) 960-1055.  

Note: This review originally appeared in the Tolucan Times on 9/22/16.

Double your pleasure with ‘Sawed in Half’ at NoHo’s Acme Theater

Review by John K. Adams

Andrea Mezvinsky tells her story in the one-woman show Sawed in Half, with the warmth and familiarity of an old friend. This reviewer’s friends should be so funny.

Much of Sawed in Half is about Mezvinksy learning to discern her true identity from the off-the-rack-into-the-box variety mandated by our culture: victim, feminist, slut, wife, mother. Can anyone find happiness when all their time is spent learning someone else’s lines and hitting marks set by another?

One of Mezvinsky’s first jobs, as a magician’s assistant, illustrates the contortions she felt required to perform in order to stay employed and to gain acceptance in the world. That she alone was creating the magic while stuck inside a box initiates her journey to self-realization.

Her dead grandmother’s sage advice to her ever “verklempt” granddaughter—urgently offered from beyond a heavenly cloud—is hilarious.

Mezvinsky’s portrayal of Every-woman defies belief with her full throttle, turn-on-a-dime performance. She flips into multiple characters with the ease some wish we had with our TV remote. Take that, Frieda Kahlo!

Veteran co-writer/director Victoria Larimore brings wit and focus to the proceedings.  Larry Minion co-produces.

Anyone who has felt trapped in a relationship, trapped in their life, or trapped in a spa owes it to themselves to see Sawed in Half.

“Sawed in Half” is staged through October 8th, 8pm, at ACME Theater located at 5124-26 Lankershim Blvd. in NoHo Arts District. Call (310) 920-2424 for tickets or email JeromeCleary@aol.com for more information.

Note: This review appeared in the Tolucan Times on 9/22/16.

‘The Civil War Remembered’ and relived at Eclectic Company Theatre


By John K. Adams

It has been said that we are not in history, but that history is in us. History exists in the hearts and memories of the living and those who lived and who passed their stories down to us. History lives and breathes and bleeds because we do. The Civil War Remembered, at the Eclectic Company Theatre, is a play written and produced in that spirit.

This play is no drowsy history lesson. It is made for those who love our history and are curious about what makes us tick as a people and as a country.The living souls who experienced that war, on either side, tell their stories through a surviving letter or a family account that keeps their memory alive.

The Civil War Remembered explores the ideas that divided our country; divided families to the point of death; tore lovers apart; broke people; made others rich – and made us, with all our flaws, who we are today.

Writer/director Maureen Lucy O’Connell makes a living history from the letters and newspaper stories of the day and presents an intimate portrayal of people of the day, with living actors to make it real. Imagine history more real than what you see on twitter or Facebook today.

Meet the black journalist, Thomas Morris Chester, who investigates and tells what he found.

Then, the saga of a farewell letter, sent to a dying officer’s betrothed, but tragically never delivered.

Learn of Ellen Bond, a house servant recruited by a Union spy, Elizabeth Van Lew, to observe and pass information to support the Union cause.

And of course, there’s Mary Todd Lincoln—wife, mother and one who struggled with many demons besides being the wife and very visible first lady for President Abraham Lincoln. Her memories of the war, loss and the strife within her household bring many difficult realities to life. See the young woman disguised as a drummer boy, so she could follow her lover into battle, and never part.

Songs of the day are sung as they were then, a cappella, and with full hearts and joy.

Producer Siobhan Gilreath hopes The Civil War Remembered will reach students of all ages and inform us about what that war means today. She hopes to offer an alternative to standard fare with an actual live performance in a neighborhood theater that the whole family can share and relive together.

This is a play of flesh and blood and ideas celebrating what makes our country great.

“The Civil War Remembered” is staged through October 16th at the Eclectic Company Theatre located at 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd. in Valley Village. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm. Ample free parking is available. For more information email spooniad2014@gmail.com or call (818) 643-1662.

Note: This interview appeared in the Tolucan Times on September 22, 2016.

P L. A. Y Noir – One Acts -as Dark as it Gets

The Noir genre is often underestimated. Just populate the stage with sneering men and half clad, cynical ‘dames,’ add a dollop of decadence, sprinkle in a pinch of pistols, and voila! – an easy-bake concoction called Noir. If only it were that simple. It may look like Noir, but if wit is absent, taste will be missed.

One neglected, but essential ingredient to success, is the world-weary character who takes a moral stand and clings to his or her ideals in counter-point to the overwhelming darkness the world gleefully spews forth.  The audience expects an emotional connection. They hope to take solace in knowing they are not alone in attempting to navigate these murky times.

So, of course, our hero must try to fathom the shadowy labyrinth of human behavior. Those above mentioned ‘dames’ bear many secrets and are loath to reveal them cheaply.  Characters string the hero along by teasing the hinted at but hidden. Anything too easy or glaringly obvious is suspect in this world. Too much is at stake.

This year’s “P L. A. Y Noir” collection of one act plays at The Actor’s Workout Studio, pretends to be noir but too often trades broad humor for the tease. These plays have a sexual component, but expect a face full rather than the innuendo usually associated with the genre. How many times can a single word be milked for a sophomoric punch line?  Don’t ask.

One acts ‘get no respect,’ because they so often sink into sketchy material. The one act’s brevity actually raises the bar for excellence. Full length plays may survive a weak scene, but a one act is especially vulnerable to flaccid writing. These plays are the antithesis of what noir and one acts aspire to be.

I haven’t known that many killers, but I doubt they ever spend twenty minutes chatting to their prey about their dark existentialism. Do assassins have a poetic license?

“P L. A. Y Noir” runs the gamut from high concept to double-entendre laden shtick. Yuk, yuk.

Actors James Elden, Laura Boccaletti, Nicole Suzanne, Andrew J. Hillis, Jason Galindo, Gordon Meacham, Guy Noland, John Conroy, Angela Bray, Roy Oraschin, Jason Galindo, Tania L. Pearson-Loeser, Jim Shipley, Rachel Borbas, and Roxanne Jaeckel gamely bring energy to this potpourri of dead flowers. Many actors play multiple roles in this two-hour showcase of untested work.

Note: strong sexual content throughout.

P L. A. Y Noir is staged Fridays and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through October 2nd, 2016, at The Actor’s Workout Studio 4735 Lankershim Boulevard, North Hollywood, CA 91602.

Ticket information: www.playnoir.com.

Note: This review has not been published previously.

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