Two shipwrecked strangers: Actress Renée Marino on ‘Danny and the Deep Blue Sea’

by John K. Adams

You may doubt mere words could draw blood. But you haven’t seen John Patrick Shanley’s Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, extended through April 15th at Theater 68. It is as if Shanley writes in some secret language which penetrates our emotional core and reconnects us to that true life within us.

Brought to us by Panic! Productions, starring J. Bailey Burcham as Danny and Renée Marino as Roberta, Danny is a perfect storm of stellar writing and spectacular acting.

Since Burcham brought it to Marino over a year ago it has been their dream project. Some of Marino’s passionate comments on the play follow.

According to Marino, Burcham has her complete trust. “It is such a blessing to have a scene partner who helps lift the material as high as possible.” Trust is what you need when venturing onto an emotional tightrope like Danny.

Marino shares, “This play is the epitome of pushing my boundaries and taking the chance to reveal my heart and soul and life’s blood on the stage every night. To make the audience forget they are watching a play.”

“These stories need to be told. Bailey and I are so blessed to be able to explore these emotional depths and share them with audiences. It is really something to hear gasps from the audience.” Marino continues, “It means so much to work with material that isn’t just entertainment, but an opportunity to deeply move people.”

Marino sums up, “Shanley’s writing is so brilliant. The story is so layered, every time I review the script I find new moments to reveal.”

It is as if Shanley writes in some secret language which penetrates our emotional core and reconnects us to that true life within us.

“Danny and the Deep Blue Sea” is staged on extended run through April 15th, with three performances the weekend of April 7th and two on the closing weekend, at Theatre 68 located at 5112 Lankershim Blvd. in NoHo. Tickets for both shows are on sale at Plys411.com/danny.

Note: This interview originally appeared in the Tolucan Times on March 6, 2017.

Pet Orphans of Southern California Grand Reopening in Van Nuys

Animal lovers continue 40+ year commitment to ‘Rescue, Rehabilitate and Re-home’

By John K. Adams

If you have a pet or want a rescue pet, you should know Pet Orphans of Southern California is celebrating the Grand Reopening of their full service, affordable Van Nuys veterinary clinic on Sunday, March 12th, from noon to 4pm.

Come meet Dr. Melissa Roth and the staff and tour the spacious facility. Schedule a future appointment for veterinary care, grooming and a professionally photographed pet portrait. Or plan to fall in love with a special rescue pet in need of a loving, forever home.

Pet Orphans wants everyone to know their full service veterinary clinic and adoption service will be open to the public on Tuesday, March 21st. Pet Orphans is open seven days, from noon to 4pm Monday-Friday and noon to 5pm Saturday and Sunday.

Clients are encouraged to call for the clinic’s hours to schedule an appointment, as it is not a walk-in service. The clinic is closed on Fridays and Saturdays.

Dr. Roth, new to the organization, describes veterinarians as “Type A people pleasers, helpful in ensuring quality of life for animal family members.” She adds, “Vets are a little like the family doctor of yore – true generalists. While physicians treat humans and generally specialize, veterinarians have to be knowledgeable regarding multiple species including dogs, cats, lizards, farm animals, etc… If the apocalypse comes, grab a vet. They have broad knowledge.”

Director of Operations LaTanya Montgomery coordinates with rescue organizations throughout Southern California. Their primary goal is to “rescue, rehabilitate and re-home” every animal they receive. Trainers are available by referral to assist adopting owners to manage behavioral challenges with their new pets.

Adoption Coordinator Danica Reslock stated that they look at several factors when successfully matching a rescue pet with prospective owners. “It’s all about good fit, behavior, size and activity level,” she said. “When we are busy, we place as many as 10 pets per week.”

You can adopt your rescue dog or cat with a minimum donation that helps to offset the cost of spay/neutering, vaccinations, a microchip and grooming. Every rescue cat or dog is examined for health prior to exposure to the general population.

Groomer Penny Chong stays busy tending her furry clients. Her calm control helps relax the dogs and cats in an unfamiliar environment.

Pet Orphans survives solely on donations and receives no government support.

Appointments are preferred. Walk-ins will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Veterinary services include dental care. Pet health insurance is recommended and can be obtained privately.

Human-only refreshments will be available at the March 12th meet and greet. Please leave your pets at home.

Appointments for services booked on March 12th will be discounted 10 percent. Raffle tickets will be sold and a silent auction is planned.

Since 1973, Pet Orphans of Southern California is located at 7720 Gloria Ave. in Van Nuys. Visit PetOrphans.org or call (818) 901-0190.

Note: This story appeared originally in the Tolucan Times, March 2, 2017.

Love and scar tissue on display in ‘Danny and the Deep Blue Sea’ and ‘Poison’

John Patrick Shanley doesn’t write small talk. His characters fight like cornered animals, every syllable flung like a threat. Even expressions of love are spit through clenched teeth. There is a saying that “hurt people hurt people.” John Patrick Shanley brings that to the stage in living color. Shanley’s plays, Poison and Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, playing at Theatre 68, are vivid examples of this.

In Poison, the one-act directed by Kay Cole, Kelly (Kelsey Flynn) wants Kenny (Nicola Tombacco) back. Kelly asks a gypsy fortune teller (Katie Zeiner) for a potion to get him, no matter the cost.  Zeiner’s performance as the gypsy is worth the price of admission.

Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, directed by Ronnie Marmo, opens with Danny and Roberta (J. Bailey Burcham and Renee Marino) growling at each other over beers in a cheap bar. Is this scenario a mating dance, an attempted murder or a suicide pact? Shanley’s play takes them through seething anger and self-loathing to tenderness as these broken souls grope toward a warm embrace in a cold world.

Words on a page are only that without talented actors bringing those words to life. Marino and Burcham draw us into their character’s intimate, horrible reality and reveal, perhaps also within ourselves, the savage redemption of the irredeemable.

Note: This review originally appeared in the Tolucan Times on March 17, 2017.

The False Karass is Your Friend

Kurt Vonnegut’s concept of the false karass from his masterpiece Cat’s Cradle (1963), has assisted me to understand how things work, and don’t in social events.

Vonnegut’s definition of the false karass, (or granfalloon) is a group of people who imagine they have a connection that does not really exist. (A karass is a group of people linked in a cosmically significant manner, even when superficial links are not evident.)

That Vonnegut, however cynically admits to a divine purpose in his book is remarkable in itself.

How this concept has played out in my life may best be illustrated by two small examples.

When visiting friends in Buenos Aires, Argentina an evening ‘out at the clubs’ was planned. My hosts determined that I should borrow some clothes so as not to look “too American” and thus avoid becoming a target of the pickpockets known to frequent train stations and other gathering places.

Suitably disguised (in a shirt and blue jeans), we set off for the evening. While standing on the platform awaiting a train, I assumed what I thought of as an ‘Argentinian stance’ to better blend with the crowd.

Out of nowhere, a ‘man on the street’ news reporter and camera crew approached me and abruptly thrust a microphone in my face. She urgently asked my opinion on who knows what? I was busted. All I could do was stammer that I didn’t speak Spanish in broken Spanish.

Our best efforts ended up signaling every pickpocket within fifty yards that an illiterate foreigner was primed for fleecing. However, we drew so much attention that anyone with malevolent plans steered clear of our party.

//////

Shortly after moving to Los Angeles I was invited to a costume birthday party to be held for the American drummer of what was then a prominent English rock ‘n’ roll group. Jane, my date was high school friends with the drummer’s wife. It sounded like it might be fun. Jane always insisted that one of their hits was about her.

I was told the planned theme of the party was for everyone to dress as the ‘minister of a church’. There didn’t seem to be much to that requirement. Having lived in the South, I thought I could do a funny version of a huckster – Southern preacher/snake oil salesman.  I found a loud, plaid, polyester jacket to go with a straw hat, string tie, spats and some other details.

When we arrived at the party, I was chagrined to see everyone dressed in long black robes as ministers of the Church of England. One was dressed in drag as a nun. The theme was in the vein of what Monty Python might do.  It made perfect sense that an English band would play with that theme. I didn’t get the memo.

Of course, everyone ignored me. They didn’t know me and it was a party for a member of a close knit group. I had no standing. A non-entity, I felt as appropriate as a beach toy at a baptism.

Then came the big surprise. Jane’s ex-husband arrived carrying a cheap prop cross and dressed to look like Jesus Christ.

He didn’t dress according to the rules either, but being long-time friends with the group, he got a pass. It annoyed me since I was technically dressed as a minister – perhaps in the uniform of another team, but hey…

I always maintained a standard that if dressed in costume one should try to be ‘in character’. When the ex and I were introduced I mustered up my best Foghorn Leghorn, southern drawl and delivered a line that bordered on ironic genius.

“Ah’ve heard a lot about you but I don’t believe we’ve met.” If he was in character, his graceless portrayal was too subtle for me. I offered my hand to shake but his cross was apparently too cumbersome for him to reciprocate.

And not one seemed to notice the brilliance of my delivery.

The rest of the party has faded from memory. Like many parties, the most interesting moment is when you realize you have no reason to be there.

////

Nowadays I side-step any false karass that looms on the horizon. I have a strong sense of those with whom I am cosmically linked. The evidence is irrefutable.

Hits and Misses from the Past Year

It has been a very busy January and I have not produced much new writing this month.

However, the last year was an opportunity to write my blog, re-publish some items from my output at the Tolucan Times, and also, in a burst of creativity, to write a series of eight short plays. One of these received “semi-finalist” status in a short play competition.

Some of my blog posts did not get the attention I thought they deserved so to reprise 2016, I offer a collection of links for those of you who might enjoy a play review, a commentary, or a few memories from my past in no particular order:

https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2016/12/29/lying-in-wait-for-santa/

https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2016/11/29/the2tails-helps-you-celebrate-your-inner-mermaid/

https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2016/11/11/an-evening-with-betsy-oconnell-is-an-evening-well-spent/

https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2016/10/04/sexist-pet-costumes-or-the-unexamined-life-is-not-worth-leaving/

https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2016/09/25/p-l-a-y-noir-one-acts-as-dark-as-it-gets/

https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2016/08/19/an-occasional-squall-would-add-to-the-source-and-create-a-rising-crescendo/

https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2016/04/05/say-centanni-for-romantic-italian-dining-in-burbank/

https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/racing-with-evolution/

https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/missed-opportunities/

Enjoy!

 

 

Lying in Wait for Santa

My son Eliot, always had an analytical mind and a grown-up attitude. I would be pushing him in his stroller when he was just a toddler and people would ask me what college he went to. There was a poignant irony to hearing him singing in his little voice along with Sinatra’s “When You’re Young at Heart” while he rode in his car seat.

He was always driven to learn and excel. At four years old he was convinced he needed to know how to read before attending school. He thought that was why I kept him from going. He tried convincing me he knew how to read by pointing to our local pizza parlor as we drove by and saying “Look Dad, I know how to read. That says ‘pizza’!”

His first four or five teachers each tried to convince me to put him on Ritalin, not because he was disruptive, but because he consumed information so voraciously.

He long suspected that Santa Claus was a myth but one Christmas he became determined to prove it. He and his sister were sharing my studio apartment that year. Santa’s coming down a chimney was always a hard sell but we didn’t even have a chimney, so Eliot thought this would be easy.

A simple plan, he was determined to stay up watching until Santa arrived, or didn’t. His sister was always practical and went to sleep right away. I needed to wait for him to fall asleep before I could put presents under the tree.

Pretending to support his endeavor, I ‘bolstered his stamina’ by giving him some milk. He propped himself up with pillows on the top bunk, with a good view of the tree so he wouldn’t miss a thing.

I then feigned sleep and watched through half-closed eyes until Eliot’s attention waned. He drifted off about five minutes to midnight.

My window of opportunity was very narrow as he is a light sleeper. I swiftly stole into the walk-in closet and in a couple of trips had all the wrapped presents under the tree. I just made it back to bed and moderated my breathing in time to hear Eliot exclaim despairingly, “Oh man!”

I pretended to awaken. “What happened?”

“He was here! I fell asleep and he already came!”

“Oh well. That Santa is a sly one. We’ll catch him next year. Merry Christmas!”

And it was a merry Christmas.

Note: This was published in the Tolucan Times on 12/28/16.

Ivanka Trump Held to Account for Her Taste in Art

So now Ivanka Trump is getting tsuris from the artists whose work she owns (file under ‘Sins of the Fathers Department’).

According to PJMedia: ( https://pjmedia.com/trending/2016/12/23/group-of-artists-attacks-ivanka-trump-on-instagram-get-my-work-off-your-walls/ ), these denizens of Greenwich Village want her to remove their paintings from her home so their work won’t be negatively associated with her.

What ingrates! They were happy enough to accept her money when she bought the works. Now a little free publicity exposes them for selling their art to someone who doesn’t live up to their PC bona fides.

Oh the humanity, coming to terms with personal avarice in the face of artistic integrity! “OMG! What will my friends at the Met think?” Perhaps they will think they are sell-outs. And they would be right.

Ivanka now has several options as to how to best respond to this. Obviously she could ignore these uncircumcised philistines. That is what she will probably do and that would line up with her generally classy image.

But that wouldn’t be very much fun.

I think she should offer to sell the works back to the artists for the cost of the original work, plus any appreciation, plus a handling charge and the appraisal fee.

If the artists don’t care enough about their works to reclaim them to ‘safety’, Ivanka could offer them on the open market and glean what she can from them.

I can see the Craigslist ad now: “Buyer wanted for slightly used artworks by (insert names here). Pristine condition. May have slight water damage from melting snowflakes. Willing to accept any reasonable offer. Final prices will be publicized.”

Seeing their work going for pennies on the dollar via Craigslist should give these entitled artistes pause as they watch their cache diminish along with the demand for their work.

Living in the material world… or as Dorothy Parker once said, “You can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think”.

Sherry Theater’s ‘The Widow’s Testimony’ provides a dramatic guilty pleasure

Review by John K. Adams

This lurid story of murder, adultery and incest is set in the courtroom of a small, present day, Southern town. Dark secrets are revealed.

The structure of the story is familiar to anyone who has ever watched a courtroom drama. But this story is anything but conventional.

Director Christine Roberts keeps the proceedings moving along at a good clip. Twists are revealed rapidly and sometimes with comic effect.

Roberts guides the large cast to a solid, unified performance. Supporting roles, and even non-speaking roles like the stenographer (Piccora Manning), are delivered with style.

Shalonda Shaw wrote, co-produced and stars in the title role, and delivers a nuanced and believable performance as the beleaguered widow. Shaw’s writing provides a rich showcase for 15 talented performers who we certainly will see more of again.

Donald Prabatah, playing the accused Pete Walker, has few lines but is a riveting stage presence around which the unsettling story swirls.

Malika Smith plays the defendant’s mother, Betty Walker. Portia Kane portrays the murdered man’s mother. Both display poignancy and depth.

Joie Williams and Lex Michael play energetic prosecution and defense attorneys.

Local newscasters, played by Wynter Eddins and Skip Pipo, provide an amusing counterpoint to the dark proceedings.

Six members of the audience act as the jury, so even the cast doesn’t know the outcome of the trial until the very end.

“The Widow’s Testimony” was staged at the Sherry Theater located at 11052 W Magnolia Blvd. in NoHo. For more information on the cast visit Facebook.com/WidowTestimony.

Note: This review originally appeared in the Tolucan Times, December 18th, 2016.

Angel City Chorale brings on the joy

Review by John K. Adams

Merry Christmas!

Last weekend, Angel City Chorale once again delivered Bring on the Joy, their program of glorious chorale music that was unambiguously and unapologetically Christmas music.

If you have never heard music that was transcendent, you have not heard an ACC concert. I can imagine God listening to them with pleasure and turning to his angelic choir to say, “Listen to them. Sing like them.”

Ranging in material from ancient to contemporary, with three Hanukkah songs included, the program offered a rich variety of selections all dedicated to celebrating God’s love for his creation and especially the birth of our Savior, Jesus.

There were also sing-alongs of traditional carols. The audience sang these beloved songs, joyfully joining artistry with worship. There are so many great Christmas songs available from across the centuries and cultures. ACC sang sublime arrangements from the best.

The concert was ably conducted by ACC founder, Sue Fink, including her personable introductions to each song which emphasized “diversity.” Associate Conductor Dan Barnett lent support on the sing-alongs. The orchestra provided warm accompaniment led by Concertmaster Liliana Filipovic and principal accompanists Mark McCormick and Gordon Glor. The many soloists all sang beautifully and with feeling.

ACC now embarks on their annual Tour of Hope, where the singers take their holiday program on the road, performing concerts for the homeless, the elderly and any who could benefit from an infusion of holiday spirit.

Stay tuned for ACC’s upcoming annual Spring Concert in June 2017. Visit AngelCityChorale.org for updates.

Note: this review appeared originally in the Tolucan Times on December 9th, 2016.

The2Tails helps you celebrate your inner mermaid!

Imagine the look of sheer joy and dreams fulfilled on the face of your child when she opens her holiday gift to find a genuine swimmable mermaid tail from The2Tails. How can you miss that?

The2Tails founder, Ely Pouget, describes herself as a person who’s “good at what I’m passionate about and kinda bad at what I’m not. So it’s the passion I have for kids and the art of our tails that’s a big part of what’s made our business a success.”

The2Tails was born after Pouget and her twin daughters combined a pair of sweatpants with a cut-up yoga mat back in 2007.

Nine years later, using only eco-friendly materials, shimmery, resilient fabric and exquisite American craftsmanship, The2Tails offers the best mono-fin on the market—guaranteed. As she says, “If it breaks, we replace it. Period.”

Imagine undulating through the water just like a real mermaid. Mermaids are so cool!

Any swimmer can use these comfortable tails for a truly magical swimming experience. Designed to be neutrally buoyant, they do not sink or drag the swimmer down.

And the tails are safe. They’re as easily doffed as a wet bikini bottom.

Pouget sees mermaid tails as so much more than a novelty pool toy. She says, “When we started, I didn’t know the tails would help transform people’s lives. As my daughters used these tails, I watched them become inspired, resilient, independent and imaginative.  They have become  strong young women and storytellers. These tails are tools for growth.”

Twins Sofia and Natasha Garreton, along with their friend Marlena Lerner, starred in their own YouTube video series and later the award-winning feature film directed by their father, Andres Garreton, trending on Netflix: The3Tails: A Mermaid Adventure.  Today, at just 17 years old, they’ve started Lumahai Swimwear to design their sporty swimwear line

Each exclusive swimmable  mermaid tail is based on the fanciful paintings of Ely’s step-daughter, Catalina Garreton, which are then transferred to a four-way stretch, heavyweight fabric.

In 2014, Pouget received a request for a prosthetic mermaid tail for a 7-year-old amputee who wanted to swim. No one had ever tried to do that. She jumped at the chance.

Pouget founded The Mermaid Foundation with her daughters and husband, Andres Garreton. It is dedicated to providing real, swimmable mermaid tails and accessories for amputees and the differently-abled. Now they too can enjoy the fun, freedom and magic of swimming as mermaids.

One foundation client told Pouget, “If they are going to stare at me when I get into the water, I want them to stare for a reason.”

If you have a mermaid in your life, check out The2Tails mermaid shop in Burbank for all things mermaid. Sizes range from child to adult. Mermen and merboys are welcome too!

Dreams do come true, and this may just be the perfect gift for the holidays!

The2Tails and Lumahai Swimwear store are located at 3410 W. Burbank Blvd., in Burbank.

Mention “The Tolucan Times” to get your mystery gift from The2Tails.

Also visit The2Tails.com or call (323) 84-TAILS/(323) 848-2457.

They will be open Saturdays during the holiday season, so check the website for special hours.

Also visit LumahaiSwimwear.com and Instagram: @lumahaiswimwear.

The Mermaid Foundation can be found at MermaidFoundationInc.org.

Note: this article was published originally in the Tolucan Times on 11/23/2016.

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