Beverly Hills Playhouse Production
STAGE SCENE L.A.
HOLLYWOOD THEATER EXAMINER
by Don Grigware
May 7, 2012
Lovestruck: 8 Short One-Acts by Dale Griffiths Stamos
Playwright Dale Griffiths Stamos has conceived an intriguing world premiere evening of short one-acts, 10 -15 minutes each, called Lovestruck, all dealing with the theme of love: parental love, love based purely on sexual attraction, marital love, love for those over 70, homosexual love and even abusive love. Some are funny; some, exceedingly serious. With an outstanding company of 15 actors and 7 out of 8 directed by Maggie Grant (who also acts in two of them ) - the 8th is helmed by Barbara Bain - the play is in residence at the Beverly Hills Playhouse through May 27, which means you have only two more weekends to get lovestruck.
Identity, starring Barbara Bain, Peter Van Norden and Dave Roberts, offers an elderly mother suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Hearing on the radio that a popular jazz musician has died, Roxanne (Bain) begins to vent some feelings that her son Paul (Roberts) does not understand. In fact the unsettling news that he hears from his father (Van Norden) sheds a whole new light on his relationship with both parents and makes for an unusually uncomfortable Sunday visit to the home where Roxanne resides. Bain steals the scene with merely a few scattered lines to say. Her discombobulated reactions and emotions are pulsating. Despite the heartbreak of the whole scenario, her delicately beautiful performance exudes a bittersweet joy that is enthralling.
Matchmade, co-starring Bain and Nick Ullett, is much lighter, very funny and terribly, terribly sweet. Meredith (Bain) owns a matchmaking agency for folks over 70 and her no-nonsense approach to not dating clients is put to the test when applicant Charlie (Ullett) turns out to be an old flame, her deceased husband's best friend in college. Both Bain and Ullett are awfully good as two people trying to express the awkward feelings of two older lovers who haven't seen each other for close to fifty years. Bain is especially riveting in a roller coaster mix of strength and vulnerability.
Of the two monologues Jeremy's Fear starring Eric Charles Jorgenson (pictured) as a closeted homosexual musician is the most engaging. Speaking with a pastor after his mother's funeral service, Jeremy (Jorgenson) describes the struggles/joys of love in the gay world, in spite of what religion has dictated. Stamos' detailed writing, which gives Jeremy free reign and Jorgenson's heartfelt work make this playlet a little gem.
Also of note on the lighter side are Amanda Split, The One, with a particularly enjoyable performance by Kirk Enochs as a silly man/child, and The Session. On a more serious note there's Dirty Little Secret with a wonderfully controlled performance by Maggie Grant as a therapist determined to exercise power over her volatile patient.
Praise as well to others in the cast including Samm Hill, Bob Ebinger, Molly Leland, Julianna Robinson, Ryan Cross, Matthew Brenher, Tara Windley, and Natasha Charles Parker. Highly skilled direction is to be noted from both Grant and Bain. Set art design by Adam Hunter - a bold contemporary painting representing love in all of its wild splendor and torture - offers amusement.
Lovestruck is a well acted, finely directed, and intelligently written evening of mini-plays by the versatile Stamos, that will entertain you, make you laugh, shed a tear or two and even think a little; at the very least they will open up your mind and surely your heart.
4 out of 5 stars
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By Pat Taylor
May 17th, 2012
A highly entertaining set of eight one-act plays, on the age old subject of "Love" ... this is a wonderful collection of stories. All penned by Dale Griffiths Stamos, with skill, humor, and a passionate sense of the intricate workings of the human heart ... she is, I feel, a truly gifted writer. Taking us from laughter to aching pain, to soulful life situations repeatedly, there is much to ponder here. Directed with inventive and "true to life" emotion by Maggie Grant, a fine cast of over a dozen actors spill their guts, bare their souls, and tickle your funny bones, as the evening plays out. Sadly, when reviewing "one act" productions, there's never enough space to feature every actor and scene individually ... so I must pick my favorites overall.
When her loving husband and adult son come to visit her at a retirement home (well played by Peter Van Norden and Dave Roberts) the Alzheimer-afflicted Roxanne reveals a shocking secret. A mesmerizing performance by Barbara Bain, in this beautiful play.
In a gutwrenching solo performance by Eric Charles Jorgenson, a man confesses and tries to justify his homosexuality over his mother's funeral casket ... There wasn't a dry eye in the audience!
A clever and animated look at a "good girl-bad girl" fantasy piece. We hilariously view the "alter ego" of Amanda, as she struggles with her attraction to a "no good" unsuitable lover. Fun-filled depictions by Molly Leland, Julianna Robinson, and Ryan Cross.
A stunning older woman, running a "Love After 70" dating service, gets a surprise visitor. After 50 years, a male friend of her and her late husband turns up, hoping to court her ... and possibly build a romantic relationship. Taken totally by surprise ... Will she or won't she? This delightful play, played with plenty of "senior sassiness" by Barbara Bain and Nick Ullett ... was probably my favorite!
Too many to comment on all of the plays ... but each of them, and their actors, were commendable ... and perfectly cast! Triple kudos to Lila Cannon, who handled the set, sound, and lighting, for the entire production! This enjoyable grouping of "one act" plays is heart-touching, thought provoking, and a lot of fun at the same time, with life situations to consider, for theater lovers of all ages.
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STAGE SCENE L.A.
By Steven Stanley
May 11 2012
Playwright Dale Griffiths Stamos follows her 2011 collection of family-based one-acts, Thicker Than Water, with an even bigger and better bunch for 2012, an octet of love-themed playlets aptly titled Love Struck.
TV legend Barbara Bain returns from Thicker Than Water, as do three of her costars along with director-star Maggie Grant, who has once again assembled an oh-so talented ensemble including headliners Peter Van Norden and Nick Ullett.
Spanning the comedic, the dramatic, and the in-between, Love Struck's eight pieces range from the just-okay evening's opener to a couple that are truly memorable.
Best of the eight are a pair of monologs, billed as a single one-act but in actuality two quite different "Confessions," both in setting and tone.
"Tracy's Sin" stars the extraordinary Tara Windley as a popular teen (think Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club) who learns that dropping a boy who could talk about "quarks, and black holes, and how one twin could space-travel near the speed of light" in favor of "the absolute cutest, hunkiest, every-girl-in-the-senior-class would-die-over guy" can have life-altering consequences.
Later, Eric Charles Jorgenson does his finest work yet as a gay man who, despite having found the love of his life, still fears eternal damnation, making "Jeremy's Fear" about as powerful—and topical—a piece on Christianity and homosexuality you're likely to see any time soon. (Oh, and Jorgenson solos expertly on the violin as well.)
Bain's two playlets are also quite terrific. In the first, "Identity," the star of TV's Mission Impossible and Space: 1999 is Alzheimer's patient Roxanne Carrington-Hunt, whose reaction to the news of the death of a former love has unexpected repercussions on her husband Paul (Van Norden) and adult son Lawrence (Dave Roberts).
In "Matchmade," the evening's finale, Bain is entrepreneur Meredith Reed of Love After 70, a matchmaking service for seniors, and Ullett is Charlie Baxter, who seeks Meredith's help in finding not quite the mate the matchmaker might have had in mind for him. Bain is quite marvelous in both—and versatile to boot, and there's not a weak link among her three splendid costars.
"Amanda Split" reunites Molly Leland and Julianna Robinson, who in Thicker Than Water played a wife confronting her husband's unsuspecting girlfriend. This time they are Amanda and Mandy, two sides of the same woman, one sensible, one daring, and "both" on a date with hunky Ethan (Ryan Cross). One of Stamos's cleverest pieces, "Amanda Split" has Leland and Robinson alternating who's in charge and Cross interacting with both prude and temptress to considerable comedic effect. Leland and Robinson once again prove themselves expert comediennes and soap-star-handsome-(and-built-like-a-brick-shithouse) Cross makes for a first-rate comic foil.
Grant's two playlets aren't quite as strong as those described above, but both have numerous entertaining moments. In "The Session," Grant and Bob Ebinger are married couple Angela and Harvey, attending their first couples therapy with wild-and-crazy Dr. Max Rightman (Samm Hill). Grant and Ebinger make for amusingly mismatched mates, and the fabulous Hill plays the would-be shrink with quirky abandon. In "Dirty Little Secret," Grant switches from hippy-dippy Angela to starched-shirted Anna, court-appointed therapist to domestic abuser Nick (an excellent Matthew Brenher), who may just have met his match in his power-suited shrink.
Least successful of the bunch, and therefore not quite the best choice to open the evening's festivities, "The One" has 30ish Cody (Kirk Enochs) paying a surprise visit on his high school girlfriend Laura (Natasha Charles Parker) with a surprising request. "The One" suffers from a lack of credibility, and though Parker and Enochs do their best to keep things screwball-bouncy, audience reaction remained muted on Opening Night. (UPDATE: "Amanda Split" now opens the show, with "The One" moved to the middle of Act Two.)
Still, with so much first-rate writing and acting, and Grant assuredly in the director's chair, the pluses far outweigh the minuses in Love Struck.
Lila Cannon's set design consists of furniture moved on and offstage between scenes to sound designer Cannon's well-chosen playlist of love-based hit tunes. Scene changes take place relatively swiftly, though Cannon might have thought of more ways to minimize the necessity of lugging sofas and tables on and off each and every time. Making this year's design head-and-shoulders above last year's is Adam Hunter's stunning artwork backing up each scene. Cannon wears the lighting designer's cap as well, and quite effectively. Uncredited costumes are mostly quite fine choices, with Mandy/Amanda's complementary outfits a particularly well-designed pair. Only Parker's neon green dress in "The One" clashes unattractively with the production's color palette, one with which all other costumes are in sync.
Love Struck is produced by Three Roses Players and Venice Sky Productions. Adryan Russ is associate producer. Alec Stamos is crew and Maurie Gonzalez stage manager.
As StageSceneLA readers may have noticed, this reviewer rarely attends one-acts, preferring full-length plays in the same way I invariably opt for novels over short stories. Still, there are times when I make exceptions, and in the case of Love Struck, I'm quite glad I did.
Note: Robert Miano plays Charlie and David Wells plays Dr. Max on May 18-20. A prerecorded James Horan is the Radio Voice in "Identity."
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HOLLYWOOD THEATER EXAMINER
"Love Struck" Many Faces of Love
At the Theatre with Audrey Linden
Maggie Grant of The Three Roses Players brings Dale Griffiths Samos "Love Struck" to the Beverly Hills Playhouse. Grant directs the delightful eight one acts about love. Each of the one acts stood on its own and though short, were very interesting and complete. We learned of the courage it takes to love a spouse with Alzheimers or dementia, that love is asking for forgiveness, love is the give and take between couples, and love is bigger than religious biases, wounded love stems from deep childhood hurt, and that it is never too late for the magic of romantic love to become active in our lives. Grant's direction of these well delineated and well written one acts was swift and she moved the action along at a good pace and got the most out of her performers. There was humor, pathos, sadness, and joy in these eight one acts. ‘Love Struck" made for an enjoyable evening of theatre.
Barbara Bain, Peter Van Norden, Nick Ullett, and Robert Miano are the stars of this series of one acts. All have long standing credits in theatre, film, and television. The rest of the cast bring solid background, boundless energy and insight into each of their one acts.
The evening opened with "Amanda's Split" with Molly Leland as Amanda, Julianna Robinson as Mandy, and Ryan Cross as Ethan. We saw two sides of Amanda's consciousness come to life. One side is serious and not into men and dating. This drives her other side into desperation and causes hunk Ethan (Ryan Cross) to run. Love is a balance and the gals work it out.
Barbara Bain as the demented Roxanne did a magnificent job of going in and out of the present as she looks into the mirror of her past. She thinks her handsome son, Paul, (Dave Roberts) is a former jazz legend she had loved. Peter Van Norden does an admirable job as her caring husband, Lawrence. The song at the top of this one act was perfect, "I Can Only Give You Love That Lasts Forever." Bain held us spellbound with her fine and effortless acting.
There were two solo one acts that were absolutely outstanding. "Confessions Part 1: Tracy's Sin" with Tara Windley was an exquisite performance piece. This young actress more than held her own among the more established talent. "Forgive me father, for I have sinned." Eric Charles Jorgenson as Jeremy in "Confessions Part 11: Jeremy's Fear" came on with a violin to "Amazing Grace" and is an accomplished violinist. He was playing at his mother's funeral and got into issues with the Church and the pious but judgmental pastor. Even God can forgive some sin that Jeremy was made to feel guilty for and cast out by his Church. Jorgenson's acting moved me to tears as he declared, "God is more loving than that."
"The Session" opened with Sinatra singing "Love and Marriage" and what a perfect choice as the lead-in to this fun one act about a couple in a counseling session. If you live and stay married long enough, couples do go through various incarnations, or at least Maggie Grant's Angela does, much to Harvey's chagrin. Bob Ebinger's Harvey no longer knows whom he is married to. He has seen Angela through so many phases and maybe Samm Hill, as the wacky psychologist, can get the couple to communicate….or not.
"The One" with Natasha Charles Parker as Laura and Kirk Enochs as Cody was cute. Again, the music at the top, "One Way Or Another, I'm Gonna Find You" was a telling lead-in. Old loves may remain love in memory, but , in reality people change and outgrow childish and immature love. Enochs gave a good portrayal of the once "cool" but now hackneyed old love from high school. He shows us some things are best left behind or in the yearbook. He was but a "hormone rush."
The acting by handsome Brit, Matthew Brenher was electrifying in "Dirty Little Secret." Maggie Grant as Dr. Anna Reynolds, the psychologist assigned to his court mandated case, is no match for his abusiveness. Brenher, with his Sly Stallone-like looks is more than a brute and just maybe Dr. Anna can manage to find the hurt child underneath this abuser.
And, what a way to end the evening with hope springing eternally with a lovely job done by both Barbara Bain as matchmaker, Meredith, and Nick Ullett as the warm and engaging Charlie from her past. "The Very Thought of You" with Sinatra again crooning, opened this well done one act. Both actors were charming and engaging and this one was one of my favorites. Charlie comes to matchmaker Meredith and he wants the "whole package." Meredith who was married for 53 years is well past all that and happy to be single fixing others up for a living, or is she? You will have to see this evening of one acts to find out. The evening ended with this charming and sentimental play and with the Beatles' song, "All You Need Is Love." These one acts made for an easy and delightful evening of theatre. See them with someone you love.
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Love Struck Passionately Celebrates the Three Roses Players
by Margie Barron
Jun 10th, 2012
Nurturing new works for the theater is the goal of the Three Roses Players. That is something the acclaimed North Hollywood-based theater company does very well. And once again they have struck newly minted golden prose with their presentation of Love Struck by award-winning playwright Dale Griffiths Stamos.
It was staged as an evening of eight one act plays, all embracing aspects of love by Stamos, who has received past accolades for her Thicker Than Water collection of one-act plays with a family theme.
Produced by Three Roses Players and Venice Sky Productions, with enormous help from associate producer Adryan Russ, the show was presented at the historic Beverly Hills Playhouse. Seven of the Love Struck stories were directed by Maggie Grant, who also performed in two of them. And one relationship story had Barbara Bain at the helm.
Barbara Bain, best known for her Emmy-winning iconic role on the original Mission: Impossible TV series, starred in two of the plays, joining a stellar ensemble that brought the collection of stories to life. Some were rib-tickling comedies that reflected amorous situations which everyone has experienced. And there were much more serious stories that presented thought-provoking themes.
There were two monologs, "Tracy's Sin" and "Jeremy's Fear," which were heart wrenching pieces that worked thanks to the actors who brought passion to the words. It was a showcase for Tara Windley as Tracy, and Eric Charles Jorgenson as Jeremy.
"Dirty Little Secret," about a therapist's office encounter with domestic abuse, featured an explosive Matthew Brenher and the multi-talented Maggie Grant.
"Identity" had a son dealing with his mother's dementia, and learning about a secret from her past. Bain played the mother, with Peter Van Norden as her husband, and Dave Roberts as her son.
On a lighter note, the "Matchmade" story had Bain playing a modern day matchmaker for the senior crowd. Her emotions go wild after the appearance of a long lost love (Nick Ullett), who wants to rekindle feelings from long ago. It's played for laughs but with the sensitivity that showcases the perfect marriage of performers and storytelling.
The entire cast deserves praise for acting from their hearts and making the show throb with passion. A fine example of that was the "Amanda Split" story. It was wonderfully played with two women (Molly Leland and Julianna Robinson) portraying the same person: one a proper lady, and the other wanting to give in to her sexual desires with hunky Ryan Cross. Guess who wins?
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Love Struck: A Theater Review
by Irene Rubaum-Keller
May 15th, 2012
Love Struck is a series of eight one-act plays, written by Dale Griffiths Stamos, directed by Maggie Grant and produced by Three Roses Players and Venice Sky Productions. It's currently playing at the Beverly Hills Playhouse through May 27th.
The production starts out with Amanda Split, starring Ryan Cross, Molly Leland and Julianna Robinson. All three do a good job portraying the pull between mind and body when faced with a sexy, bad boy.
The Session follows with Maggie Grant and Bob Ebinger playing a married couple at their first therapy session. A standout comedic performance by Samm Hill as their therapist made this play really funny to watch.
Identity stars Barbara Bain as a mother suffering from Alzheimer's disease who in her mental state reveals a shocking truth to her son, played by Dave Roberts. Peter Van Norden plays her husband and all three do an outstanding job.
Matchmade also stars Barbara Bain as a widow who runs a matchmaking agency for people over 70. Nick Ullett plays Charlie, a client with a secret. Barbara is mesmerizing on stage and still beyond gorgeous. Nick Ullett is a veteran actor and did a fantastic job. What fun to see the chemistry between them.
The One is a funny scene about a man returning to sweep his high school sweetheart away. The One featured Kirk Enochs and Natasha Charles Parker.
Tracy's Sin and Jeremy's Fear are both a pair of powerful monologues performed by Tara Windley and Eric Charles Jorgenson. My hat is off to both of them. As an actress myself, I always found monologues to be the hardest thing to do and they both did an amazing job.
Dirty Little Secret stars Maggie Grant as a therapist working with court ordered abusive men and Matthew Brenher as her client.
All eight short plays were excellent. Some of them were touching, some funny and all engaging. The staging, lighting and sets were very minimal and yet the talented cast transported us into each scene and we forgot we were sitting in a theater. To me that's the mark of a good production. Don't miss it!
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LA Review: 'Love Struck'
Three Rose Players and Venice Sky Productions at Beverly Hills Playhouse
Reviewed by Eric Marchese
May 16, 2012
The concept of Dale Griffiths Stamos' "Love Struck" play isn't anything new—an octet of one-act plays on various aspects of love. But Stamos understands the emotions and motives of her characters, whom she isn't afraid to either ridicule or empathize with. She also evinces an ear for dialogue and has keen insights into human nature. Those skills give director Maggie Grant and her cast plenty on which to hang their hats. The playlets range from lightly comedic to deeper and more penetrating, yet even the most somber vignettes are leavened with just enough humor to render them palatable and make them among the evening's most lifelike.
The show's comedies are admirably restrained, a product of Stamos' writing and Grant's direction. The most cogent of these is "The One," in which the pretty and brainy Laura (Natasha Charles Parker) receives a surprise visit from handsome and reckless Cody (Kirk Enochs), a guy she briefly dated while in high school. She has moved on, he hasn't, and he wants her back. As truths about their youthful acquaintance are revealed, "The One" turns heartfelt, leaving a bittersweet ending.
Intriguing but less satisfying are the comedies "The Session" and "Amanda Split" and the dramatic "Dirty Little Secret." "The Session" pits flaky artist wannabe Angela (Grant) against her stodgy husband, Harvey (Bob Ebinger), during their first visit to a therapist (Samm Hill, alternating with David Wells) whose wacky methods unite the couple. The fluffy, lighthearted "Amanda" involves the efforts of pretty lawyer Amanda (Molly Leland) to resist the advances of buff gardener Ethan (Ryan Cross); Julianna Robinson generates most of the laughs as the younger sister who can't believe Amanda is immune to Ethan's charms. Though as polished as the plays surrounding it, the two-hander "Dirty Little Secret" is a misfire. The story concerns the wealthy but potentially violent and emotionally stunted Nicholas (Matthew Brenher), who tries everything to escape court-ordered therapy with a woman therapist (Grant). The tense character study benefits from Brenher's portrayal of a worldly, filthy-rich SOB and Grant's countervailing work as the ultra-professional shrink determined to get through to him.
Two playlets named "Confessions" are sobering monologues about individuals seeking refuge in the privacy of their churches. In the first one, Teenager Tracy (Tara Windley) has dumped a sweet, brainy guy for a stud and is guilt-ridden now that her former beau has endured a life-changing physical calamity. The story soars on its thought-provoking ideas and Windley's impassioned reading. Even more affecting is "Confessions Part II," whose focus is Jeremy (Eric Charles Jorgenson), an almost comically conflicted man who loves being gay yet expects to be "condemned to eternal damnation." The studied laugh lines of his story make the piece's dramatic coloring all the more gripping as Jeremy unfolds a personal story that must echo that of gay men everywhere.
The production's star, veteran actor Barbara Bain, engagingly pulls off two contrasting roles. "Identity" presents her as Roxanne, a senior citizen awash in Alzheimer's. When Roxanne struggles with her memory, Bain effects a foggy look that screams "lack of recognition," her personality turning ingenuously little girl–like. Husband Lawrence (a solid Peter Van Norden) is devoted to the nuances of her personality—even those that wound him—while Paul (Dave Roberts), the couple's reliable son, can feel only shock and rage when his parents drop a bomb on him.
The show closes with the dramedic "Matchmade," with Bain as Meredith, a stylish 70-something who runs a matchmaking service for those over 70. Her newest customer is Charlie (Nick Ullett, alternating with Robert Miano), who loved her 50 years ago when his best friend first dated, then married her. Now that Meredith is a widow, Charlie wants a chance to have what he never could, but skeptical Meredith throws out every roadblock she can imagine. Ullett sketches his character's refinement and an impressive persistence clothed in courtesy, and Bain responds with a portrait of a deeply loving woman who has convinced herself that love is not integral to happiness.
Lila Cannon's sparse set is dominated by Adam Hunter's large canvas depicting a red heart swimming in waves of white and lavender, and her modular design, which moves various pieces of furniture and other props on- and offstage, individualizes each playlet.
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