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.

The Dana Drug Store accepts major health insurance plans

There is no time. It’s your lunch break. How do you get your prescription filled, select a beautiful birthday gift for your wife, get a toy for your kid and find the perfect holiday card for Mom?

Go to The Dana Drug Store in Burbank. They have it all.

The Dana Drug Store is simply the best pharmacy (and all around boutique) to be found. Burbank citizens voted it “The Best Pharmacy in Burbank” for 10 consecutive years.

A family business since 1962, The Dana Drug Store accepts all major health insurance, including Medi-Cal and Medicare. Their certified pharmacist can prescribe emergency contraception for you, saving you a trip to the doctor. They administer flu shots and specialize in asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular management.

Ash Zaky, pharmacist and owner, wants the public to know “prescriptions are not cheaper at chain drug stores. At The Dana Drug Store, everyone pays the same co-pay for prescriptions as anywhere else.”

Prescriptions cost what they cost. Competition keeps prices down. The difference is more personal customer service at The Dana Drug Store. “We under promise and over deliver,” says Zaky. They also provide free delivery within a five-mile radius of the store.

Lois Zaky, Ash’s wife and partner, is the buyer for the store. He shares: “Lois scours the country for unique gift items that cannot be found anywhere else in Los Angeles.”

It staggers the imagination how varied that gift selection is. The Dana Drug Store carries unique gifts for all tastes and budgets. They have something for anyone on your list—women, men and children, from plush stuffed animals to Waterford Crystal. Their cosmetic boutique carries Estee Lauder, Clinique and Borghese lines. They carry Sonoma Lavender products.

Customers browse the store while waiting for their prescription to be filled and find treasures they weren’t even looking for: travel accessories, hair care, children’s toys, decorative candles, seasonal décor, bath and body care, pictures and picture frames.

They also have a complete line of perfume and colognes for women and men.

If you don’t expect to discover fine jewelry by Crislu in a neighborhood pharmacy, you haven’t been to The Dana Drug Store. By the way, Crislu stands behind all their jewelry with a lifetime warranty.

The Dana Drug Store’s extensive line of greeting cards will thrill you. They have something for every occasion, from heartfelt to hilarious.

Zaky continues, “Lois and I believe strongly in identifying every customer’s needs and exceeding that customer’s expectations, while satisfying those needs.”

And if you do go to The Dana Drug Store on your lunch break, don’t worry. They have protein bars too.

 The Dana Drug Store is located at 317 N Pass Ave. in Burbank. Visit TheDanaDrugStore.com or call (818) 562-1177.

‘An Evening with Betsy O’Connell’ is an evening well spent

Review by John K. Adams

An Evening with Betsy O’Connell spoofs the perennial one-woman show about a diva whose ego is larger than her career and is compelled to share the wisdom acquired over the decades as a marginal star of commercials and minor film roles.

While bawdily recounting her 60-year career as a child actress, star of Japanese beer commercials, voice-overs and as an almost-memorable character actor, O’Connell dishes about her many lovers and her long life as an “almost” star. For each missed opportunity or disappointment she assures us she will always “bounce back…like a boomerang.”

It is a daunting task to single-handedly hold an audience’s attention for the duration of a full length play. To do so while generating nearly constant laughter defies belief.

Completely fictional, and yet ringing hilariously true, Betsy is a gem of a play. Ira Heffler’s ironic writing reveals a deep knowledge of how Hollywood works – and doesn’t.  Heffler co-directs and co-produces with long-time collaborator and musical director, Bob Wayne. They keep the tempo light and lively.

Betsy is played by virtuoso Rosanne Limeres. Her sense of timing in her line delivery, singing and her physicality, borders on genius.

Firing on all cylinders, Betsy’s writing, directing and acting coalesce beautifully to make the elusive alchemy of comedy look easy.

“An Evening with Betsy O’Connell” is staged through November 27th at the Lankershim Arts Center located at 5108 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood. Tickets can be purchased at Betsy.BrownPaperTickets.com.

Note: this review appeared originally in the Tolucan Times on November 10th, 2016.

Kiki Ebsen’s ‘Joni Mitchell Project’ a fresh take on classic sounds

Review by John K. Adams

It’s that time of year and Kiki Ebsen has once again presented the Joni Mitchell Project at the E-Spot Lounge in Studio City on Friday, November 4th.

In honor of iconic singer Joni Mitchell’s birthday, Ebsen and her band of Joni-inspired musicians delivered an evening of favorite songs spanning Mitchell’s long career with style and devotion.

Mitchell’s intimate, witty and astute tumble-out lyrics and quirky melodies broke all the rules, and still draw us into her tapestry of images.

Ebsen and company did an amazing job recreating those great songs integral to the musical fabric of our lives. Each song sent me into a reverie of where I was when I first heard the song, and the mood of those times.

As familiar as these songs are, and as faithfully as Ebsen sang them, her honest delivery also coaxed nuances out of the songs that I’d never heard before. She and her band really brought Mitchell’s music to fresh life.

Ebsen sang beautifully and accompanied herself on piano and guitar. She was backed by stellar guitarists Grant Geissman and Terry Wollman. Steven Lawrence played bass and the drummer was Matt Starr. Everyone played flawlessly.

Kiki Ebsen performs each song as if just for you. Next up for Kiki is “To Dad with Love: A Tribute to Buddy Ebsen,” on December 28th at Catalina Jazz Club in Los Angeles.

The E Spot Lounge is located above Vitello’s Italian Restaurant at 4349 Tujunga Ave. in Studio City. For reservations call (818) 769-0905 or visit VitellosRestaurant.com.

Note: this review originally appeared in the Tolucan Times on NOVEMBER 10, 2016.

‘The Maids’ peels the onion at A Noise Within

Review by John K. Adams

What if, through an accident of birth, you were assigned a role that you could neither change nor escape? For example, you awaken daily to appear in an ugly “reality show.” You choke on unglamorous lines, but quitting is unthinkable.

Jean Genet’s The Maids, written in post-WWII France, depicts such a scenario, without the cameras, but with the characters submitting to all the expectations imposed by society’s educational, political and other power structures. It ain’t pretty. But it may feel eerily familiar to some.

The play exposes the characters’ roles in life. Two sisters shift their identities from maid to Madame to director and to audience as they playact through their lives and pretend they can control outcomes. With ever shifting roles, does a core identity exist? Where?

Are you the “other?” Or am I?

The Madame calls the maids her family. But the power difference is brutal, as generously granted gifts may be capriciously snatched away moments later.

Director Stephanie Shroyer says, “This play questions the idea of ownership and examines the very fickle nature of how power is decided.”

Who assigns the roles we play in life? What thoughtless act set our course, long before we knew the stakes? And once that die is cast, can it be miraculously snatched back?

Exploding expectations, Genet rejected all the roles assigned to him, from thief to saint. His art demands that we be wary of unconsciously accepting imposed roles.

Director Shroyer states, “The artist must work at that point between audience acceptance and rejection so as to generate the necessity for a conversation.”

The Maids will get you talking.

“The Maids” is staged at A Noise Within, located at 3352 E. Foothill Blvd. in Pasadena, through November 6. Contact A Noise Within via phone at (626) 356-3100 or online at ANoiseWithin.org.

Note: This review appeared originally in the Tolucan Times, OCTOBER 13, 2016.

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