Category Archives: Show Time

Vol. 11, No. 16 – May 9 – May 22, 2018 – A View from House Seats

The award-winning professional cast is outstanding at the Rubicon.

Rubicon Delivers in The Baby Dance: Mixed
by Shirley Lorraine

Affordable Broadway is in our own back yard. Continuing their 20th anniversary season with yet another World Premiere production, The Rubicon Theatre Company offers The Baby Dance: Mixed by acclaimed Emmy award-winning author Jane Anderson.

Anderson and frequent Rubicon director Jenny Sullivan have been collaborators since the plays’ conception and infancy. This staging is an updated version of The Baby Dance, brainstormed and brought to the Pasadena Playhouse stage in 1990 directed by Sullivan. Since then the play has been staged in several other countries and a translated version is currently running in France.

Once again, Anderson works with Sullivan who expertly directs this adaptation to include relevant current issues including a mixed-race couple of affluence seeking to adopt an African-American child. Their attorney has engineered an adoption agreement with a less well-off couple who already have four children and may be unable to care for another. The childless couple, an African-American woman and a Jewish Caucasian man, are desperate to adopt the baby when she is born.

The play simmers with highly charged emotion and conflicts from the beginning. The universal message of hope and anguish highlights sensitive situations that are humorous across ethnic and socio-economic lines. Both couples have myriad challenges to overcome and a desire for a “perfect” outcome despite their many differences. However, life has other ideas, as it often does.

The award-winning professional cast delivers warm, strong, engaging and complex characters across the board.

The mixed-race couple is played by Tracey A. Leigh as Regina, the adoptive mother. Her husband, Richard is played by Brian Robert Burns. They become acquainted with Wanda (Krystle Simmons) and Al (Gabriel Lawrence), who have decided that adoption would be the best option for their family’s current circumstances. They are joined by Carl Palmer who plays Ron, the adoption attorney who proves his ability to adapt quickly to any situation.

The across-the-board powerful performances are framed by settings designed by Rubicon technical veteran Thomas Buderwitz. Set dressing is exquisitely detailed by T. Theresa Scarano. The interior of the trailer where Wanda and Al and family live highlights their financial status and make-do creativity.

Stick around during intermission when the entire picture is transformed into a well-appointed hospital room – by itself a production worth watching. Sound is expertly filtered into scenes by Randall Robert Tico to complete the realistic and intricate settings.

The cast was invited by the author as well as the director to offer input into this new version of the play as they rehearsed and traversed the mine field that is involved in subjects of race, status and conscience. Talk-backs with the cast after the next two Wednesday evening performances will undoubtedly be extraordinarily insightful.

The Rubicon Theatre Company consistently provides high quality theatrical experiences. Their 20th anniversary season is proving to be another winner.

The Baby Dance: Mixed plays Wednesdays to Sundays through May 20 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 May 9 and 16 performances will be followed by a talk-back session with the cast. Tickets: $30-$55. There is 24-hour ticketing and seat selection online at www.rubicontheatre.org. (805) 667-2900.

Vol. 11, No. 16 – May 9 – May 22, 2018 – Movie Review

Avengers: Infinity War
Review: 3.5 Palm trees out of 4

by Manuel Reynoso

Avengers: Infinity War is a 2018 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics team the Avengers. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Avengers: Infinity War stars an ensemble cast of the previous Marvel films.

With Thanos finally making his move to gather the infinity stones, It’s up to the heroes of Earth and beyond to stop him before he unleashes the terrible might of the 6 infinity stones.

Even as someone who has always been in the periphery of the Marvel movie hype, I still can’t help but feel Infinity War had this monumental feel to it. It’s been ten years since audiences have been introduced to the movie magic that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and for it to coalesce into a single ensemble cast film really is a feat. I went in expecting a film about earth’s mightiest heroes banding together to take down the big baddie; but what I got was a film about loss, dire consequences, and the misguided journey of a single being.

With a cast this large, there was a few issues with pacing throughout the film, particularly within the first hour. As each character was introduced, it was jarring being pulled from one situation to another in just a single cut, especially with each situation being so tonally different. These issues with pacing does not do the film any favors, as the already extremely long run time feels much longer as a result. Thankfully, the problem mostly goes away as soon as the big baddie of the film, Thanos, takes center stage. It’s from here where Infinity War really hits its stride.

I don’t think it’s misleading to say this isn’t so much a story about the Avengers as it is about Thanos. I feel like it’s this change in direction that made this film so much more interesting than the previous Marvel films. The journey of this story is not about a hero this time around, but about its villain. It’s his growth that we see, his motivation, and ultimately his story playing on the screen. Thanos steals the show, and hopefully we start to see more intricate villains such as himself and Killmonger.

Infinity War also played with much heavier themes than the previous films. Loss will be the main recurring theme of this film, and it is something the film does a surprisingly good job at portraying. Every action in this film has consequences, and the emotional weight these themes carry really emphasis that. But, being a Marvel film, it wasn’t all doom and gloom the whole time. So for better or worse, there were still plenty one liners and silly quips throughout the film. While some nail it, particular Chris Pratt and Tom Holland, many others fall flat.

Fans of the previous films have been waiting a decade for Infinity War, and it accomplished being one of the best films of the series. As a stand-alone film, it has its problems. The length, pacing, and the usual cliché writing of Marvel films may dissuade some movie goers. However for me, the sheer scale of this film made it a wild and fun ride from beginning to end, and for the first time I find myself eagerly awaiting the next film in the Avengers line up. PG-13 2h29m

Karyl Lynn Burns and Jane Anderson discussed her career and new play

“The more you have to bring in humor.”

by Jennifer Tipton

Writer Jane Anderson sat down for a Q & A with Karyl Lynn Burns (Rubicon’s Co-Founder / Producing Artistic Director) on Monday, April 30th before a group of Rubicon supporters, contributors and fans to discuss her career and The Baby Dance: Mixed now playing at the Rubicon. Jane said she dropped out of college in the 1970’s to become an actor and became aware of “what good dialog was”. Writing for theater and television, she has 2 Emmys, received Golden Globe nominations along with other awards. Karyl described Jane as “brave – because she writes not just comedy or tragedy” and Jane explained, “the deeper, more powerful the subject, the more you have to bring in humor!”

The World Premiere of The Baby Dance: Mixed runs at the Rubicon until May 20th. A drama delicately laced with comic overtones, The Baby Dance: Mixed is a compelling and urgent play about race, class, and wanting the perfect child. Read the full review in this issue.

Vol. 11, No. 15 – Apr 25 – May 8, 2018 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine

Hijinks on the High Seas at High Street

Batten down the hatches, the Navy has sailed into Moorpark. Based on the 1955 film starring Henry Fonda, James Cagney and Jack Lemmon, among other greats, the play Mister Roberts by Joshua Logan and Thomas Heggen brings a touch of nostalgia, chagrin, humor and poignancy to the High Street Arts Center stage.

The story centers around Lieutenant Douglas Roberts, a junior grade combat officer in charge of a fleet of bored sailors working a United States Navy cargo ship, the U.S.S. Reluctant, in the last few months of World War II. After months of providing supplies to other ships in remote areas of the Pacific Ocean with no relief, the crew has advanced cabin fever, entreating Roberts to secure some shore leave for them to let off steam.

Roberts tangles with his cantankerous Lieutenant Commander, Captain Morton, in efforts to grant the leave. Roberts is aided in his efforts by roommate Ensign Pulver and his good friend Doc, the ship’s medical officer. Through a series of shenanigans, leave is finally approved which results in total chaos for the entire crew. Throughout all this, Roberts tries repeatedly to gain transfer to see some actual battle.

The crucial role of Lt. Roberts is in the capable hands of R. Shane Bingham, who gives just the right combination of competent leadership and empathy for the crew’s plight. Captain Morton is played beautifully by Dale Alpert who displays a style quite reminiscent of James Cagney in the original role. The up and coming Ensign Frank Pulver is embodied by Patrick Rogers with a range of boyish enthusiasm. Phil Nemy settles into the role of Doc with confidence and control.

Olivia Heulitt carries herself well in the only female role – that of Lt. Ann Girard, who makes a brief appearance. The cast is filled out by a cadre of fit, youthful sailors eager to get off the ship to meet members of the opposite sex. Everyone in the cast is so lively and enthused, I fully expected them to break out into songs from the musical South Pacific any moment.

The well appointed U.S.S. Reluctant collaborated by set designer Scott Armstrong and director John Tedrick adds to the illusion. Sara Glauser pulled together the Navy uniforms to complete the picture.

Although clearly a “period” piece in language and attitude, it was easy to settle in with the primarily older crowd to relive some of the actions of the highly popular film and TV shows. One does have to keep in mind that this was a different time and unique situation which is presented in a light-hearted way. Many sighs of recognition were heard throughout, especially when it was announced that the war was over.

The High Street venue is always comfortable and welcoming. In addition to a full stage season, films are often presented as well as concerts and other special events. There is always something going on at the Arts Center. Settle in with some fresh popcorn and enjoy the show.

Mister Roberts continues through May 6 at the High Street Arts Center45 E. High Street, Moorpark. 805-529-8700 or www.HighStreetArtsCenter.com
Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. $22, seniors, students and military $20. Reservations highly recommended.

Vol. 11, No. 15 – Apr 25 – May 8, 2018 – Movie Review

A Quiet Place
Review: 3 Palm Trees out of 4

by Manuel Reynoso

A Quiet Place is a 2018 horror film directed by John Krasinski, written by Krasinski, Bryan Woods, and Scott Beck, based on a story by Woods and Beck. Starring John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmons, and Noah Jupe.

With the sudden appearance of blind alien predators, A family must live life in complete silence, or else risk being hunted down by these creatures.

First with Get Out and now A Quiet Place, these horror movies really won me over by taking horror genre elements and effectively incorporating strong themes to compliment the horror film. A Quiet Place is as much of a horror film as it is a film about family. Every scare and every threatening moment is compounded by the theme of family. John Krasinski’s choice to highlight this and show actual developing relationships is why A Quiet Place succeeds. While some aspects of the film may feel rehashed or illogical, overall it was a fantastic horror with genuine scares and emotional payoffs.

John Krasinski’s directorial debut was definitely a success but at times a bit safe. A Quiet Place had a strong gimmick revolving around silence, but it felt like little more than a plot device than anything more impactful. The choice to include a traditional musical score was an understandable decision to make, but it left me feeling that it sort of downplayed the importance of silence in the film. While I wouldn’t say it was the wrong decision to make, it left me wanting more. However, Krasinski more than made up for it with his strong emphasis on the family and their relationship. Interactions between every character was distinct and created a believable family unit. It wasn’t just a film about surviving, but about protection and love.

Having a strong family unit would not have been possible without the talents of the cast. There was such great emphasis on everyone’s relationship to each other and the cast had the prowess to make it believable. The care taken in accurately representing ASL in this film wasn’t just an important step in making this family believable, but was also a tremendous step for disability representation in cinema. Millicent Simmon’s inclusion in the film was key to bringing this family to life, she brought an understanding of deafness that would have been impossible to bring to the film without her.

A Quiet Place succeeds in being a horror film by creating a world that just feels dangerous. The rules are simple, and consequences for breaking these rules are made painfully clear early in the movie. It takes this kind of set up to give the audience a strong enough suspension of disbelief. It’s when the film has small moments of internal inconsistency that it may take you out of the film. It really boils down to having a “try not to think about it too hard” mentality for some parts of the film. While admittedly not optimal, I do believe that it’s pretty minor and overall plot and premise of the film is put together well enough to enjoy.

Not being the kind of person to really enjoy horror films, I really believe a film like A Quiet Place highlights what other films have been missing. It’s not enough for me to feel scared because of what scary monster lurks in the dark, but it takes strong theming to make me feel scared for the person trapped there with it. That is what makes A Quiet Place the better horror movie. Theming is what makes even a pin drop enough of a scare to put me on the edge of my seat. Rated R 1h35m

Vol. 11, No. 14 – Apr 11 – Apr 24, 2018 – Movie Review

Love, Simon
Review: 2.5 Palm Trees out of 4

by Manuel Reynoso

Love, Simon is a 2018 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Greg Berlanti, written by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger, and based on the novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. The film stars Nick Robinson, Katherine Langford, Logan Miller, and Alexandra Shipp.

Threatened to be outed as gay by a blackmailer, Simon attempts to keep his sexual identity a secret as he attempts to learn the identity of the anonymous classmate he has fallen for over the internet.

I won’t fall into the trap of speaking as if I shared the same or similar experience growing up as an LGBTQ youth. So while I couldn’t tell you how effectively Love, Simon tells the age old story of a youth’s coming out process, It speaks volumes on the struggles one has with self-identity and love. While at times conflict can feel a bit contrived, Love, Simon was thoroughly heartwarming from start to finish. It will likely not make waves, but it’s just strong enough to give a good tug on your heartstrings.

I’m not one to ding a film for simplicity, but I can’t say Love, Simon did anything very revolutionary. It was a sweet and very charming movie, but still hit many of the same beats as other teen drama films. It has the usual themes of unrequited love, self-Identity, and acceptance one expects to find in a film of this sort. While these are important themes for all youth for sure, some felt a little underdeveloped.

The writing is where I felt a bit of a range in quality. There were some very novel moments written in the dialogue itself. It’s difficult to discuss without reducing the impact of the scene, but there was some clever wordplay throughout the film, culminating in a powerful scene thanks to said wordplay. So while this was a definite high point for me in the film, there were other moments of cliché that bring it down a bit. That along with the overall quality of the production really hurts the film.

I’m always conflicted when the cast of the film does great, but feels out of place. I am never going to get over seeing clear adults casted to play what are supposed to be children. I’m sorry if your acting chops are great, but seeing 5 o’clock shadow on a “child” takes me right out of it. I hate to sound nitpicky, but there has to be some level of realism or else my suspension of disbelief goes right out the window. Typically I go a bit more in depth on things such as camera work and other technical aspects, but I just found them to be par for the course. Not bad, but definitely not great.

I did hope that Love, Simon offered more than what I got, but there was enough there for me to recommend the film. Any gripes aside, it’s a simple story about finding love for an LGBTQ youth and every bit of that was heartwarming. Love, Simon may not be destined to become part of teen pop culture, but it’s strong enough to be memorable. Rated Pg-13 1h49m

King Lear at the Rubicon until April 1

Photo by Loren Haar

Michael Matthys (Duke of Albany), Tom Mueller (Oswald), George McDaniel (Earl of Gloucester),George Ball and Beverly Ward (Goneril) in King Lear at the Rubicon until April 1.

Considered by many to be Shakespeare’s greatest masterpiece, King Lear is a haunting and epic saga of love, greed, family strife, and civil war. Rubicon Theatre Company 1006 E. Main St. For tickets 667.2900 or go online at www.rubicontheatre.org

 

Vol. 11, No. 13 – Mar 28 – Apr 10, 2018 – Movie Review

Thoroughbreds
Review: 3.5 palm trees out of 4

by Manuel Reynoso

Thoroughbreds is a 2017 dark-comedy, thriller film written and directed by Cory Finley. It stars Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Anton Yelchin, Paul Sparks, and Francie Swift.

Troubled by her poor relationship with her step-dad, Lily plots to kill him with the aid of her emotionless friend Amanda.

From Amanda’s deadpan delivery, revealing her emotional ineptness; to the hauntingly sterile upbringing of Lily’s upper class lifestyle, Thoroughbreds makes its theme clear: I don’t feel anything. Now that isn’t to say you won’t, Thoroughbreds was filled with moments of dark comedy and suspense; it takes risks and is rewarded for them, well most of them. While the cinematography and directing style created a strong film-noir aesthetic, a propensity for style over substance leads to some scenes requiring you to slog through.

Thoroughbreds has a remarkably strong theme, and rode it out to the very end. The idea of not feeling emotions is a scary thought. One that this film plays with in more ways than I was expecting. The film carries the theme not just narratively, but with strong cinematography and direction. Scenes are slow and methodical, lit in the likeness of the dreary and cold setting we associate with hospitals. While I laud the commitment to the theme, there was a lot of what felt like fluff throughout the film. Many of the shots were well executed, but dragged on far too long. I appreciate the composition of the shot, just not when it stays on it for way too long. I don’t want to say this was a big deal, but I can very much see this film being considered way to slow by some.

The direction of Corey Finley to create a film that purposely felt soulless and sterile was a double edged sword. I do believe in context of the film, it proved to be an effective way to support the theme. However, in practice it feels empty compared to what one might be used to in other films. Sound design consisted more of soundscapes with various sounds and noises as opposed to the usual musical scores we may be used to. Again, I found these risks to be effective, but your mileage may vary.

I found Thoroughbreds enjoyable, despite feeling uncomfortable half the time(in the best way possible). While the film hinged entirely on not feeling anything, the same can’t be said for the viewer. I felt tense and scared one moment, and uncomfortable for laughing at this films dark humor right after. It’s worth taking the chance on something small but risky, you might just come away with more than you expected. Rated R 1h32m

Vol. 11, No. 12 – Mar 14 – Mar 27, 2018 – Movie Review

The 2018 Breezy Awards
by Manuel Reynoso

Award season is in the air and it’s my honor to present to you, the only movie awards that truly matter: The 2017 Breezy Awards! The format is simple, I have a variety of Breezy awards to give out, plus an honorable mention for some of the categories, followed by an explanation for the awards. With that, here are my picks for the 2017 Breezy awards.

Best Cinematography: Roger Deacon, Blade Runner 2049

All around fantastic framing and camera work, Blade Runner 2049 has some of the best camera work I’ve seen. It gave the already visually striking film much more impact.

Best Film Editing, Lee Smith, Dunkirk

While editing may not be my forte, it’s easy to recognize excellence when I see it. With a narrative presented as complex as this, Lee Smith’s mastery of editing made the complexity of Dunkirk work so elegantly.

Best Animated Film: Coco

Coco’s importance to me can’t be overstated. It was a beautiful work of art while also being a celebration of the Mexican people and their culture. I was engrossed by the sights and sounds of my people finally have strong representation on the big screen. Call it biased, but Coco was a fantastic animated adventure, that makes me tear up every time.

Honorable Mention: The Breadwinner

A gripping and emotional tale of a Young Afghan girl assuming the identity of a boy to provide for her family, it’s a film that might have flown under most people’s radar but deserves to be seen regardless.

Best Screenplay: Lady Bird by Greta Gerwig

The brilliance of Lady Bird’s writing wasn’t revolutionary in the way the story was written. Instead, I found it’s brilliance in the way its characters are written and presented. It was a simple story that found its complexity in the relationships between the characters. For me personally, that’s why I find it deserving of Best Screenplay.

Honorable Mention: Get Out by Jordan Peele

I do believe Get Out is equally as deserving of this reward as Lady Bird. Get Out of ingenious in the way it presented social inequality and was very clever with its use of double entendre. It presents a difficult topic in a way both easily consumable and subverts many of our expectations of horror.

Best Director: Guillermo del Toro, Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro continues to completely floor me in how much style and substance can be added to a film by having a strong direction. The art direction, cinematography, acting, and so on work together so beautifully under his direction.

Honorable Mention: Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk

For me, Christopher Nolan is the master of big-budget movie making and Dunkirk was just another success in a long line of them. It’s a fantastic film, and no one makes them have impact quite like Nolan.

Many of the films listed above deserve an honorable mention for picture of the year, but only one can win the coveted 2017 Breezy Award for Best Picture.

Best Picture of the Year: Baby Driver

While it may seem unexpected, Baby Driver was the single most enjoyable film I’ve seen in 2017. Strong theming is the easiest way to my heart, and Baby Driver going all in on the theme of rhythm and music was beautiful. It was edited on beat, the dialog flowed like music, and the film marched along at the beat of its own drum. A surprising, but easy pick for Picture of the Year.

Vol. 11, No. 12 – Mar 14 – Mar 27, 2018 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine

Brothers Collide in True West at Elite

A thought-provoking piece by prolific American author Sam Shepard, True West is considered to be Shepard’s “signature” works. The gritty characters are somewhat autobiographical and speak to his preoccupation with the myth of a vanishing West. Elite’s Artistic Director Tom Eubanks directs the 1983 Pulitzer Prize-winning offering.

Austin, a screenwriter, is house-sitting for his mother who is away on vacation to Alaska. Interrupting the flow of his work enters Austin’s estranged older brother, Lee, a bombastic grifter and opportunist. His main occupation is drinking, however, at which he excels. Much to Austin’s dismay, Lee settles in and makes himself at home.

Austin is desperately trying to finish his current script before meeting with his agent, Saul Kimmer, due in the next day. Lee makes an unscheduled appearance and immediately bullies Saul into meeting with him over golf so he can pitch his own story, a Western.

Conflicts arise when Saul agrees to can Austin’s work in favor of Lee’s new story. Both brothers are badly in need of this redemptive contract and tension builds as they struggle to get the completed story on paper. Ultimately, the roles become reversed as they both realize they must see this through to survive. Austin drinks to cope with the situation and Lee begins to see light over the horizon, at least financially.

Mom eventually returns from her trip, dismissing the brother’s tussle and differences. It appears that both sons have been enabling their alcoholic father over the years, which contributes to the emotional conflict. Mom chooses to ignore the reality of the situation completely.

The brothers are played by Aaron Gardner as Austin and Sean Mason as Lee. Both capture the essence of their characters to the core. Gardner comes across as a fairly meek man struggling to provide for his family, while Mason pulls out all the stops as the disheveled drunkard drifter.

Saul Kimmer is given a superb characterization by Buddy Wilds with just the right amount of stereotypical oily persona. His Hawaiian shirts alone exude the essence of the laid-back go-with-the-flow man who can easily be persuaded to change his mind by losing a bet on the golf course. Marilyn Lazik embodies the briefer role of the slightly confused and deluded Mom. Mom’s appearance doesn’t stop the arguing brothers but does add dimension to the overall dysfunctional picture.

The piece highlights the duality of each brother secretly wishing to be in the others’ shoes. Austin wishes he had the freedom on which brother Lee thrives, while Lee expresses his deep-down desire for the stability that Austin enjoys.

True West is billed as a comedy and although there are some laughs throughout, the action and dialogue between the belligerent bully and the home-in-the-suburbs family man takes on a pervasive dark tone accented by dim lighting. A detailed interior setting by Henry House becomes its own character in the play, providing context and a background canvas of stability and warmth that contrasts with the brothers’ situation and actions.

True West runs through March 25. Friday & Saturday eves 8 PM, Sunday matinees 2 p.m. General admission $20. Seniors and students $17. Season subscriptions are also available. Reservations are encouraged. 483-5118 Elite Theatre Company, 2731 Victoria Avenue, Fisherman’s Wharf, Channel Islands Harbor www.elitetheatre.org