Category Archives: Show Time

Vol. 11, No. 10 – Feb 14 – Feb 27, 2018 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine

Visions in Chiffon Float at Camarillo Playhouse

Camarillo’s Skyway Playhouse opens their 2018 season with Five Women Wearing the Same Dress by Alan Ball. Set in 1993 Knoxville, Tennessee in a bedroom of the bride’s home, the five bridesmaids use the room as a preparation area, a hide-out, a refuge and a place of self-discovery. They all must endure the matching ensembles with shoes and hat to match in their own way.

The play features five quite different women who have all consented to be a bridesmaid to a bride for whom most of them hold a measure of disdain but have their own reasons for saying yes. For any woman who has been through the bridesmaid gauntlet of matching gowns that only look good on one person, never all, the empathy is palpable. And hysterical.

Directed by Brian Robert Harris, the rapid pace keeps the action moving swiftly as the women seek refuge from the over-the-top reception going on in the garden. Harris has certainly chosen his cast well. Each actor is perfectly suited to her role, adding both subtle and not-so-subtle nuances to differentiate them even beyond the well written script.

The bride, Tracy, and groom, Scott, are discussed in depth but never seen. The outrageous ceremony is raked over the coals, each from a different perspective which heightens the amusement. The disparity in the well-defined characters results in almost continual enjoyment.

Kelly Whitaker plays Trisha, a former friend of the bride who has a “tainted” reputation to uphold with pride. Whitaker delivers a smooth performance with layers of depth.

Sarah Boughton portrays the mousy character of Frances with precision. A cousin of the bride, Frances brings her overt religious beliefs to the front, to the delight of all.

Meredith, the bride’s pot-smoking younger sister, displays her rebellious and angry nature in the form of actor Maddie Boyd with precision.

Kelsey Klinghoffer gives the role of Georgeanne, a well-rounded performance that accents her standing as an insecure former friend who really wonders why she was chosen to be a bridesmaid in the first place.

Completing the five is Julie Fergus as Mindy, the lesbian sister of the groom. She gives a solid, pragmatic performance that levels out the other four nicely.

All five deliver compelling performances. They are all so different, yet find commonalities they can work with.

Near the very end, David White appears as Tripp (the only male in the cast), an usher who hits it off with Trisha. Although the role is minor, White sparkles in its brevity.

The production is rated PG due to strong language and some themes that are discussed. Despite the abundance of explicatives, the language is woven into the characters so well that it fits rather than detracts and does not reduce the humor of the piece in the least. In places, it even adds to the characterizations.

Kudos to Harris, the cast and crew. It was an evening well spent.

Five Women Wearing the Same Dress continues through March 4 at the Camarillo Skyway Playhouse, 330 Skyway Drive near the Camarillo airport. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors, students and military. Not recommended for younger children. Contact the box office at www.boxoffice@skywayplayhouse.org or call (805) 388-5716. Season subscriptions are available. Curtain is 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. on Sundays. Note: added performance on Thursday, February 22 and no performance on Saturday, Feb. 24.

Vol. 11, No. 10 – Feb 14 – Feb 27, 2018 – Movie Review

The Post Review:
2.5 Palm Trees out of 4

by Manuel Reynoso

The Post is a 2017 American historical drama directed and produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer. Starring Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham and Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee. The Post depicts the true story of the Washington Post’s involvement with the leaked Pentagon papers, highly classified documents detailing the United States’ difficulty to end the Vietnam War.

Historical Dramas tend to be an easy sale for me. They are almost always relevant to the times, while also being pretty entertaining. To The Post’s credit, all that applies to it as well, but I do find it to be a little too predictable. Now, predictability has always felt like a loaded complaint to me. The very nature of screenplay writing itself is very formulaic, but there’s still enough creative freedom to subvert expectations, which is what I felt The Post failed to do. So while The Post had fantastic acting and great subject matter, I found myself not as engaged as I would have liked.

Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep’s performances were great, there is no doubt about that. However, I do think their performances were almost squandered on poorly fleshed out characters. Ben Bradlee is almost a caricature of the romanticized newspaper editor, and the amount of time dedicated to Katharine Graham’s social life was just not engaging more me. While it helps fleshed out the stakes that she faced during this time, I couldn’t find enough interest in it to justify the time spent on it. It felt almost outside the main story at times, and I do believe a lot of it could have been cut out for time spent on more engaging story beats.

While the personal narratives of these characters wasn’t engaging, every scene involving the Washington Post and the investigation into the Vietnam War documents completely engrossed me. The journalists and writers operating together as a single unit felt like a character itself. I felt the character development was best shown through Washington Post itself as an organization, more so than with Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. It was absolutely a story more about the group than the individual, and I wish there would have been more time spent on the men and women who made this newspaper possible.

With a bit more focus on the Washington Post’s involvement in the investigation, I felt The Post would have better exemplified the importance of an independent newspaper. Every bit of the subject matter felt as relevant today as it did back then. The actual story The Post illustrates is where the film wins me over. A story of government corruption and questionable war motives and how media can provide a check against it is really the kind of story we can learn from right now. While It has its problems, the overall story is definitely worth the watch. PG-13 1h56m

Vol. 11, No. 9 – Jan 31 – Feb 13, 2018 – Movie Review

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
3 Palm Trees out of 4

by Manuel Reynoso

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a 2017 American action adventure comedy film directed by Jake Kasdan and written by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, and Jeff Pinkner, from a story by McKenna. Starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan.

When four teenagers stumble upon the video game, Jumanji, they find themselves transported into a video game world. Where their only chance of survival is to complete the game before they run out of lives.

Jumanji (1995) was a film I forgot I loved. It was the kind of family fun adventure movie that you saw in your youth, that just sticks with you as good wholesome fun. So when the trailer for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle hit, the internet was pretty up in arms against its release. Admittedly I even found myself questioning the idea of a sequel to Jumanji. While a little late to the party, I was genuinely surprised how not awful the film actually was.

Funny enough, re-watching the original Jumanji really dates it hard in the 90s, while Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is such a product of millennial/generation z pop culture. So as a sequel, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is really the same campy fun that we grew up with. It’s a fun, action-filled romp that does the source material justice. Personally, that’s all I really needed the film to be in order to enjoy it.

All the big action set pieces of the film were a fun watch, and did use some surprisingly effective practical effects. While some of the cgi (computer generated imagery)could be better, it felt fitting with the whole trapped in a game type theme. The whole film was just well shot and generally very beautiful to look at in regards to the scenery, but the one thing that really stood out as exceptional was the acting of the cast. Jack Black and Kevin Hart absolutely carry the film the entire time. Jack Black playing as a teenage girl in a middle aged man’s body killed me. Without the performance by those two, I don’t think the movie would be nearly as well received. The Rock and Karen Gillan were fine, but absolutely overshadowed by the rest of the cast.

It’s not all praise, plenty of jokes fall flat throughout the film. Not enough to make it unbearable, but there are some real bad stinkers being thrown out there. One gripe that I have difficulty contextualizing is the randomness of some of the story beats. At times, entire plot points felt so forced and out of left field that I found it difficult to care what was going on. It’s difficult to explain, but seeing no build up for certain important events make any emotional investment for me nonexistent. I didn’t think this would be a problem, but seeing this occur again and again really left a sour taste in my mouth. To me it just didn’t come off well written.

Gripes aside, I really feel like I had more fun with this than I ever would have thought possible. I want to say this can be a great family film but there are some raunchy jokes that may skirt the lines of being acceptable for some families with younger children, especially due to the use of profanity. Everyone else that grew up with Jumanji still fondly in their memories can really get a kick out of this. It’s funny, action packed, and just an all-around good time. Rated PG-13 1h59m

Vol. 11, No. 9 – Jan 31 – Feb 13, 2018 – A View from House Seats

Brian McDonald stars in the Rubicon Theatre Company’s production of Buyer & Cellar now playing at the Rubicon Theatre.
Photo by Sandy Aichner

by Shirley Lorraine
Facts meet fiction for fun at Rubicon

And now for something completely different…. Buyer & Cellar now playing on the Rubicon stage mixes it up with a few facts, a lot of fiction and an evening of laughter. A solid hit from New York to Los Angeles, the Rubicon embraces the unusual concept with open arms to spread the joy to Ventura audiences.
The play centers around the true fact of a celebrity, Barbra Streisand, well known for her eccentricities, who has created a shopping mall in the cellar of her Malibu home to showcase her many collectibles. Shops include an antique clothing store, a doll shop, a sweets shoppe (the second e is required), and more. Author Jonathan Tolins was so taken with Streisand’s 2010 coffee table book titled My Passion for Design which features the mall, that his imagination soared with creativity around the subject.
Tolins then expanded the idea to include a huge what if. What if a frequently unemployed actor was hired to be the lone employee at the mall? His only “customer” would be Babs herself. The occasional interplay between the two then builds into an unlikely and quite humorous relationship. The resulting one-man show is a tour-de-force performance skillfully and effervescently executed by Brian McDonald.
Directed by Stephanie A. Coltrin, McDonald takes off in a frenetic, fantastic performance as Alex More, the actor, who delivers non-stop action and energy for close to two hours without an intermission. McDonald as More tells the audience right up front that he doesn’t do impressions. However, he does give rich dimension to a plethora of characters critical to the story, as well as La Streisand herself.
McDonald never misses a beat as he describes and demonstrates his “job” in the mall at a steadily quick pace. Imagine a meld of Robin Williams and Sean Hayes mixed with much McDonald. Adding to the fun are numerous show business and performance references. See how many you can catch. It is easy for the audience to get caught up in his excitement as he relates the events that could be occurring in the mostly solitary environment.
Woven into the story are lessons to be learned about the things we all accumulate as we go along and what is truly important in the big picture that is life. Especially now, in the wake of the Thomas Fire, the Montecito mudslides and other local carnage, laughter is a necessary form of healing for us all. This production and performance provides a welcome relief.
A picture-perfect and exquisitely appointed set designed by Mike Billings completes the illusion.
This reviewer’s recommendation – settle into Ms. Streisand’s lovely environment and enjoy the humor, the whimsy, the reflections and a superb performance.

Buyer & Cellar plays Wednesdays to Sundays through February 11 at the Rubicon Theatre Company, 1006 E. Main St. (corner of Main and Laurel Streets) in downtown Ventura. Matinees: 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Evening performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Wednesday January 31 and February 7 performances will be followed by a talk-back session with the cast. Tickets: $30-$55. The box office is open 7 days a week. There is 24-hour ticketing and seat selection online at www.rubicontheatre.org. (805) 667-2900.

Vol. 11, No. 8 – Jan 17 – Jan 30, 2018 – Movie Review

The Shape of Water
Review: 4 Palm Trees out of 4

by Manuel Reynoso

The Shape of Water was one of those movies that I knew I had to see. Everything from the trailer, to the movie poster, egged me on to come see it. I try really hard not go into a film with high expectations. The hype around this film, plus the weight of Del Toro being attached as writer/director, made it impossible for me to go in without some amount of excitement. Walking out of the theater, I really wished I had seen it sooner.

The excellence of Del Toro’s directing style is seen in every inch of this film. Almost every frame of The Shape of Water have angles that really bring out strong diagonal relationships between the camera and the subject. This was something Del Toro has always been fond of, but I really see how well it can play with body language and emotion. Most of the cast’s performances were already remarkable, so watching the camera play off of their movement and expression added a great deal to their acting.

The world in which The Shape of Water takes place was also very intimate. The movie comprised of only a handful of locations, but Del Toro placed a great amount of care in each scene. The observant viewer will really be rewarded watching The Shape of Water. The little details within the scenes fleshes out the characters and world making subsequent viewings so much more satisfying.

At its core, The Shape of Water is a romance, and a simple one. While the plot may lack complexity, it more than makes up for it with the depth of the characters making up that story. Each of their motivations, relationships, and mannerisms are unique and paint a vivid picture of who each one is. So much of this characterization is done in natural, non-expositional ways. It really was a triumph in terms of how they handles character development throughout the course of the movie.

The Shape of Water really felt like Del Toro’s labor of love. I’m still astonished how beautiful some of the scenes were when the film itself was made on a small 18 million dollar budget. I can’t say whether this was my favorite film of 2017, but I can confidently say that Del Toro was my favorite director of the year. There’s a lot to learn about directing from this film for aspiring movie makers, and a lot to enjoy for everyone else. Do yourself a favor and see The Shape of Water. Rated R 2h3m

Vol. 11, No. 8 – Jan 17 – Jan 30, 2018 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine

New Year – New Works at Elite

Many theaters begin their new seasons late in January or early February. The Elite fills in the early January gap with their one-act festival before the season officially starts. Now in its 9th year, the festival is an audience favorite.

The sequence of pieces was carefully chosen to lead the audience first into exploring several deep and personal subjects, then lightening up with humor from unexpected circumstances and ending with a generous helping of character-driven hilarity.

The first, Victimology, written by Rachel Linton and directed by Katrina Rabusin, takes place in a courtroom hallway. Steven Silvers and Hayley Silvers star as siblings whose differing viewpoints on a pending courtroom outcome have them diving into dark emotional waters. The action is hesitant as the two reconnect after a long period of disengagement.

The Waiting Room covered some familiar ground for anyone who has spent time in a hospital waiting room where time moves slowly and the coffee is bitter. An elderly man (Steve Grumette) waits for his wife of 52 years to come out of surgery. He passes the time by bantering with others who are also waiting. The action is authentic and heart-felt. Grumette’s character is spot-on as he chats with Flynn Bradley, Stephanie Rise, John Comstock and Colin Fluxman. The piece was written by Steven Doloff and directed by Howard Leader.

Author Terry Riley and director Angela DeCicco had fun with Obits featuring Sandra Demongenes and Helene Benjamin Cohen. The two women are having a nibble at
Starbucks while discussing the obituaries in the newspaper. Tailored with local references with permission from the author, this delightful vignette was filled with truths, points to ponder, and humor. Hayley Silvers cameoed as the bemused barista.

Tony Stetson and John Comstock portray brothers who live distinctly dissimilar lives in Five Days in Calcutta, authored by Fred Perry. Director Larry Swartz guided the two through a potentially serious situation highlighting the humor in the delivery. The two actors work well together, producing laughter and pathos at the same time.

Rounding out the evening’s entertainment is Sisters, Tramps & Thieves penned by Lily Rusek. Director John Comstock allowed each of the characters a wide berth to have fun. Three sisters, played to the fullest by Dorrie Bran, Sharon Reinhold and Nancy Hullihan, are different in every possible way. Hullihan plays it up wearing a tiara and cape. Her mental health matches her sparkly shoes. Reinhold is the flaky dyed-in-the-batik hippie chick and Braun fills the bill as the prim and proper one. They are gathered to greet an insurance man (Larry Swartz) regarding a claim for a missing brooch. The evening concludes with a healthy dose of hilarity.

The One-Act Festival runs through February 4. Friday & Saturday eves 8 PM, Sunday matinees 2 p.m. General admission $17. Reservations are encouraged. 483-5118 Elite Theatre Company, 2731 Victoria Avenue, Fisherman’s Wharf, Channel Islands Harbor www.elitetheatre.orgATRE COMPANY
2731 S. Victoria Ave

ELITE THEATRE COMPANY
2731 S. Victoria Ave
Oxnard CA 93035
805-483-5118
info@elitetheatre.org

Vol. 11, No. 7 – Jan 3 – Jan 16, 2018 – Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Review: 2.5 Palm Trees out of 4
by Manuel Reynoso

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a 2017 Space fantasy film written and directed by Rian Johnson. It stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, and John Boyega.

As Rey receives Jedi training from Luke Skywalker, the last remnants of the resistance finds itself on the brink of defeat.

Writing a review for Star Wars: The Last Jedi feels dangerous. While it was pretty universally well received, fan reception was, divisive, to say the least. So, full disclosure: I am not a huge Star Wars fan. To date, I have only seen the first film in each of the 3 trilogies; sacrilege, as far as my more hardcore friends are concerned. I say this not because I dislike the franchise, but because I understand that my review is coming from somewhere different. I am treating Star Wars: The Last Jedi like it exists in a vacuum. My understanding of the franchise is limited, and thus I will limit my commentary to whether the film succeeds in telling a good story on its own. With that, I am a little torn.

The story did not come off as poorly written at the time, it was competent and had some spectacular moments. The visual effects, both practical and computer generated, are some of the best in the business, but it took me a lot of time to figure out what worked and what didn’t. I walked away entertained, but I couldn’t help but feel like something wasn’t right for me with the film.

Let me start with something that Star Wars: The Last Jedi did right. It was an absolutely beautiful film from start to finish. Everything from shot composition, costumes, and special effects had a painstaking attention to detail. It’s the type of care that creates a world, as opposed to just another setting. For me, this is a really big deal. I love getting lost in the imagery and dynamics of the world I see on screen and is clearly one of the reasons why I probably should watch the Star Wars movies.

Unfortunately, as the film went on, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something off. I was having a fun time watching it, and that stayed with me from start to finish. After mulling over it, I think the film failed for me thematically. The Last Jedi throws a lot of different themes at you during the course of the film. Themes ranging from learning to fail, the cost of sacrifice, moving on, and so on; none of them felt properly built up. There were so many separate threads in this film that it felt unfocused. While most were wrapped up, I asked myself, “ how necessary was this story beat?” This also created some clashing tones throughout the film. My moral take-away from one story thread seemed almost at odds with another. To be blunt, the more I mull over the details of The Last Jedi; the less I like it.

I’ve written before how important theming is to in films and unfortunately, these issues bring down the over experience for me pretty significantly. However, I am but one voice in a sea of contention over this film. Your mileage may, and probably will, vary. I can at least guarantee the movie is a fun watch. Rated PG13 2h35m

Vol. 11, No. 6 – Dec 20, 2017 – Jan 2, 2018 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine

Healing through entertainment

In times of disaster, there is a desperate need to be entertained. During the last few weeks Ventura County has been pounded with strife, destruction and loss. The usual Christmas season preparations may take detours this year due to natural consequences beyond our control. However, county theaters are doing their best to provide healing laughter and sanctuary for our minds.

For those who may say “this is not the time to be going to the theater” – I say Bah, Humbug! This is exactly the time to take a breather (masks encouraged) to refocus and recover. And, as the old saying goes, “The show must go on”. Our county’s theaters have risen to the challenge.

Santa Paula Theatre Center has recently been lauded for continuing to stage “It’s A Wonderful Life: On The Air”. Not only the audiences, but the actors as well require a way to escape and focus on positive aspects of the season. The show continues through December 23 – go see it and have your spirits lifted.
Despite a difficult situation, the Ojai Theatre Center only cancelled one performance of its holiday offering, “Animal Crackers”. The community needs the theater as a reminder of the wonderful place they live and a welcome, if temporary, diversion from the struggles facing the valley.

Camarillo’s Skyway Playhouse presented several weekends of the lively and hilarious “Nuncrackers”, a musical that is just pure fun. Although rehearsals were somewhat compromised, according to director Dean Johnson, by the smoky atmosphere (not conducive to singing), the opening went ahead as scheduled.

Rubicon’s popular version of the classic “A Christmas Carol” continues through December 23, as does the musical “A Christmas Story” at the Simi Valley Arts Center.

Even the Ventura Improv Company is up to the challenge, planning a performance at the Ventura Harbor Comedy Club for December 23.

The Every Now And Then Theater has been delighting county radio audiences for 27 years. Two of their award-winning Christmas themed radio dramas will be broadcast commercial-free on Newstalk 1590 KVTA at various times on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The all-volunteer productions, in conjunction with KVTA, annually raise funds for the Children’s Services Auxiliary of Ventura County serving foster children. This year the fire destroyed the homes of 61 foster children. Support is needed more than ever.

Most theaters will be on a short holiday hiatus as they prepare for their January offerings. Season schedules for 2018 are being announced and publicized. Patrons will want to take note of the wonderful, challenging, moving and amusing options each theater is planning.

Here’s how to find out just what’s on stage around the county:
Camarillo Skyway Playhouse www.skywayplayhouse.org, 388-5716
Conejo Players Theater www.conejoplayers.org, 495-3715
Elite Theater www.elitetheatre.org, 483-5118
Every Now And Then Theatre www.everynowandthentheatre.com
High Street Arts Center www.highstreetartscenter.org, 529-8700
Ojai Arts Center Theater www.ojaiact.org, 640-8797
Rubicon www.rubicontheatre.org, 667-2900
Santa Paula Theatre Center www.santapaulatheatercenter.org, 525-4645
Simi Arts Center www.simi-arts.org, 583-7900
Ventura Improv www.venturaimprov.com , 643-5701

Vol. 11, No. 6 – Dec 20, 2017 – Jan 2, 2018 – Movie Review

Coco
Review: 4 Palm Trees out of 4

by Manuel Reynoso

Coco is a 2017 musical, family film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. Based on an original idea by Lee Unkrich, it is directed by Unkrich and co-directed by Adrian Molina.

For me, representation is lot more than just seeing someone with the same complexion as me on screen. It’s the embrace of what makes my culture unique and irreplaceable. It’s seeing our stories, our music, and our life up on the silver screen for all to enjoy, and I got that with Coco. The worldwide success and admiration for Coco is a victory for Mexican representation in Hollywood, and being able to see Coco at our local theater playing in Spanish is a small step in validating the Chicana/o people here in Ventura County. For me personally, it brought tears to my eyes. To see a film so meticulously exhibit the values and culture of a people, and move them to tears is what film inspires to be.

Coco’s ability to capture a people was the single most gratifying part of the movie. When I saw Coco on screen, I saw my abuelita. Then I saw my brother, my cousins, my uncles and so on. I saw what so many have tried and failed to do, and that was bringing the Mexican family to the big screen. The writing of these characters was genuine and natural. The world of the dead Pixar created was original and stunningly beautiful. So much care and craft went into the production of Coco and it shows from beginning to end.

The themes of family and death were heavily present during this film but treated with a lot of care. Death has always been an important matter in Mexican culture, and I believe Coco showed how our people handle it. The day of the dead aesthetic tends to serve as little more than window dressing, so seeing it used well aesthetically and in writing was great. While the writing may at times come off as predictable, it’s so well executed I found little issue with it. The biggest star attraction was the music. The familiar rhythms I’ve heard in Mexican music was used so effectively. It felt both nostalgic and fresh listening to the soundtrack on the way home from the theater.

Coco is going to be a film that stays near and dear to my heart for a long time. I think it’s a must watch for families of all cultures. While there’s a lot of fun and great music to enjoy, Coco will be a tear jerker for even the toughest of us. PG 1h49m

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

It’s Christmas Eve, and Ebenezer Scrooge is visited in his sleep by the ghosts of three spirits who show him the error of his ways. This imaginative version of Dickens’ transformative tale, told in words and music, offers a revealing portrait of the yearning lost child inside the cold-hearted miser. The actors perform in the storytelling style of Nicholas Nickleby, playing characters, animals…even dressing gowns and doors! Broadway veterans Peter Van Norden (RTC’s “Copenhagen”) and Emmy Award-winner Joe Spano (“NCIS,” RTC’s “Bucky” and “Sylvia”), lauded for their “virtuoso performances”, head a remarkable and versatile 24-person cast.

Rubicon offers special 10 am student matinees throughout the school year. These performances are for productions with suitable content and educational appeal. The theatre experience is enhanced with access to a study guide.

December 6th- December 23rd– 1006 E. Main St. Box Office: (805) 667-2900