Category Archives: Show Time

Vol. 17, No. 14 – April 3 – April 16, 2024 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine

The Shroud Raises Questions at Elite

Some questions are meant to be posed repeatedly throughout time, the answers to which may never come. This is the basis for The Shroud, now playing on the main stage at the Elite Theater in Oxnard.

Written by Michael Kassin and directed by Brian Robert Harris, the play presents a stirring experience as the capable cast wrestles with theories, religion, possible explanations and flat-out mysteries. For more than 700 years, historians and scientists have battled for superiority over the linen cloth espoused to have covered Jesus after his crucifixion. Is it fact or fiction? Or perhaps a little of both? The biggest question remains unanswered.

In this play, Dr. Laura Gibson (Theresa Secor) is presenting a symposium on the “facts” of the shroud. Attending the presentation are two colleagues from Los Alamos National Laboratory of New Mexico. One of them, Red Broida (Brad Strickland), makes his intense skepticism known, causing quick a ruckus. As a steadfast atheist who had worked on the development of the atomic bomb, Red needs more proof than faith can provide. After some confrontation, he is invited to become part of a scientific team to further investigate the shroud by applying modern testing techniques.

During this team’s exploration, Red’s mental strength is repeatedly challenged by his memories of personal failure, his colleague, John (Lawrence Gund), a faith healer with demons of her own (Cas Weisberg) and another gentleman from Los Alamos (Ronald Rezac). Erin De Horta appears briefly as Meg, Red’s former wife.

In a revealing talk-back with the author after the performance I attended, Mr. Kassin related that his goal in writing this piece was to capture the release and growth one might experience of inner transformation. One way was allowing the audience to follow Red in his spiritual journey when he comes to grips with the absolute faith some hold than can be healing even without proof, to his realization that the invention of the atomic bomb may have had a deleterious effect world-wide and that he was a major factor in that outcome. Other characters experience transformations they need to move forward. Each one carries a revelation.

The play causes one to reflect on many different levels. Even though the shroud itself is a focal point, the play is about much more than that. It is about inner struggles, faith versus fear, and coming to know yourself and what you believe in. It is about dealing with choices made and the resulting consequences.

The cast manages the weighty material well. Cas Weisberg delivers a strong and compelling performance. She brings her own identity as an Indigenous Two-Spirit actor into the already complex character of Laura with a knowing eye. The blend works especially well in the context of this multi-layered piece.

Theresa Secor, a familiar persona in Ventura County theaters also portrays her character with ease and a bit of humor.

The Shroud runs through April 20. www.theElite.org or 805-483-5118

Vol. 17, No. 14 – April 3 – April 16, 2024 – Movie Review

Streaming Spotlight by Cindy Summers
3 Body Problem – Netflix

3 out of 4 palm trees
Breeze rating from 1 to 4 palm trees, 4 being best.

3 Body Problem” begins during the 1960 Cultural Revolution in China, when Ye Wenjie (Zine Tseng) watched her father beaten to death in the public square merely for being a notable scientist during the Chinese class warfare. Due to her background as an astrophysicist, Ye was sent to the work camps and after nearly dying was eventually brought to a large radio telescope station nearby to serve the rest of her time. Ye was given limited tasks but quickly came to the conclusion that what they were working on was not a weapon but a communication device.

Ye learned it was designed to communicate with alien life and devised a plan to magnify the signal using the sun, though one of the guards took credit. Ye waited for the right opportunity to be alone to launch the signal and shockingly got a reply repeatedly saying “Do Not Answer” and that she was lucky a pacifist on the other end received her message from a world that would conquer Earth without hesitation. Ignoring this warning Ye replied “Come. We cannot save ourselves. I will help you conquer this world.“ forever changing the course of history on Earth.

Fast forward to current day in the UK where renowned Oxford scientist Vera Ye (Vidette Lim) (daughter of Ye Wenjie (Rosalind Cho) and Mike Evans, who met in China) led a group of researchers, all former physics students at Oxford, until recent unexplained suicide that coincided with a rash of intentional deaths of scientists around the globe. The students were a very close group of friends: Auggie Salazar (Eiza Gonzalez) who was working on nanofiber tech that she worked closely on with Saul Durand (Jovan Adepo) along with Jin Chen (Jess Honog) and wealthy entrepreneur and former member of the Oxford physics lab Jack Rooney (John Bradley).

Around the time of Vera’s death, Auggie started seeing a countdown and was given a message to quit work on her nanofiber project. Then a strange woman approached her asking “Has the universe ever winked at you?” telling her to be outside at midnight. Auggie told Saul about the interaction and asked him to be with her at midnight. Sure enough, all the stars in the sky started blinking in what Saul thought seemed to be a code that exactly matched Auggie countdown. The next day Auggie performed the scheduled and much anticipated test on her nanofiber project, but immediately shut it down after the text which did make the countdown clock disappear.

Jin visited Ye for answers to Vera’s death and Ye said she was constantly playing a video game, giving Jin a strange headset to take with her. It appeared to be a game where Jin had to save the world from some sort of climate catastrophe and after her initial hesitation, played the game to level 3. Jin discovered the problem was that there were 3 suns, not just one, affecting the climate and causing it to become unstable. Jin went to talk to Jack about the headset, but when he tried it on a woman immediately appeared saying you don’t belong here and chopped off his head with a Samurai sword. The next day a box with his name showed up at Jack’s door with a headset.

British investigator Clarence “Da” Shi (Benedict Wong) was investigating the multiple scientist suicides and discovered several of them possessed the same headset. Ye and Mike Evans knew that it was not a game, but as Jin and Jack eventually realized it was actually a portal to another planet repeatedly experiencing the same climate crisis that was looking for solutions through Earth’s scientists. The aliens were also working with Mike and Ye who were gathering allies and supplies around the world in anticipation of the alien race’s arrival. Through Mike’s arrogance and ignorance, he caused the aliens to not trust humans and the aliens sent a message to every device on Earth saying “YOU ARE BUGS” and related they were on their way to conquer Earth.

Runtime: 8 – 1h episodes

Vol. 17, No. 13 – Mar 20 – April 2, 2024 – Movie Review

Streaming Spotlight by Cindy Summers
American Fiction – MGM & Rent or Buy

4 out of 4 palm trees

American Fiction” is the story of well-educated black college professor and author Monk Ellison (Jeffery Wright) who was frustrated and challenged by a world around him that continued to support the outrageous stereotypes of black culture in American. Even the books he had written were shelved in the African American section of the bookstore, though the only black thing about most of them was the ink. Following a couple of incidents where Monk crushed the sensitivities of some students in his class of Literature of the American South, he was given some mandatory time off and through a string of unexpected events became the popular center of all he despised.

During Monk’s time off, he had already been scheduled to attend a writers conference in Boston, where he was part of a panel of authors that was meagerly attended due to the presence of another black author Sintara Golden (Issa Rae), who had just written a bestseller called “We’s Lives in Da Ghetto” filled with black stereotypes and ethnic language. Boston was also where his family resided and though Monk didn’t generally spend much time with them he took advantage of connecting with them while he was there.

Unfortunately, his sister Lisa (Tracee Ellis Ross) had a heart attack while they were at lunch and passed away shortly thereafter in the hospital. Lisa had tried to tell Monk that their mother Agnes (Leslie Uggams) was suffering from memory loss, and the point was driven home after Lisa’s funeral when their mom flooded the house while sitting in front of a bathtub of running water. Monk took his mom in for tests that revealed she had medical indications of early Alzheimer and that her situation would only deteriorate, recommending that the family seek a care facility soon.

With his sister gone and his brother on the verge of divorce, it was up to Monk to find and finance his mother’s care. Due to his mounting family issues and seeming frustration over Sintara’s success, Monk had a few strong drinks and decided to write his own book of black stereotypes filled with drugs, guns, deadbeat dads and gang violence, and called it “My Pafology” under the pen name Stagg R. Leigh. He sent it to his manager who said it would never get published, but Monk said he wrote it as a joke and didn’t care and wanted it submitted to publishers.

To both their shock and surprise not only did a reputable publisher want to publish the book, they wanted to offer Monk $750,000 believing that it would definitely be a bestseller. To see how far he could push the publishers, he insisted that the book be renamed to “F**K”, to which they excitedly agreed. “F**K” became a bestseller and Monk didn’t disclose to anyone that he was actually Stagg R. Leigh, not his girlfriend or any family, and was eventually chosen to be a judge for the annual Literary Award for which “F**K” was in consideration for though Monk did not support it.

Monk was again shocked that three out of the five judges voted for “F**K”, leaving Monk and Sintara on the losing side, and so it was decided by popular vote that the book won. Side stories were being circulated that Stagg was a wanted fugitive and the FBI even contacted Monk’s manager, though he didn’t reveal the true details. Riding on the wave of bestselling success and constant publicity, Monk was eventually offered millions to make a movie from the book. At this point, all Monk could do was concede to the tremendous success of what he considered a joke.

American Fiction” received five Academy Award Nominations, including for Best Picture and for Best Actor-Jeffrey Wright, and ended up winning one Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Runtime: 1h 57m

2024 Oscar Winners & Nominations

 

96th Annual Academy Awards

Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel
Sunday, March 10 on ABC
Dolby Theatre, Hollywood

 


2024 Oscar Nominations

Most Nominated Categories:
Oppenheimer
7 Oscars – 13 nominations
Poor Things
4 Oscars 11 nominations
Killers of the Flower Moon
0 Oscars 10 nominations
Barbie
1 Oscar 8 nominations
American Fiction
1 Oscar 5 nominations

Best Picture
Oppenheimer
American Fiction
Anatomy of a Fall
Barbie
The Holdovers
Killers of the Flower Moon
Maestro
Past Lives
Poor Things
The Zone of Interest

Best Actress
Emma Stone, Poor Things
Annette Bening, Nyad
Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon
(*1st Native American woman ever nominated for Best Actress)
Sandra Hüller, Anatomy of a Fall
Carey Mulligan, Maestro

Best Actor
Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer
Bradley Cooper, Maestro
Colman Domingo, Rustin
Paul Giamatti, The Holdovers
Jeffrey Wright, American Fiction

Best Supporting Actress
Da’Vine Joy Randolph, The Holdovers
Emily Blunt, Oppenheimer
Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple
America Ferrera, Barbie
Jodie Foster, Nyad

Best Supporting Actor
Robert Downey Jr., Oppenheimer
Sterling K. Brown, American Fiction
Robert De Niro, Killers of the Flower Moon
Ryan Gosling, Barbie
Mark Ruffalo, Poor Things

Best Director
Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer
Justine Triet, Anatomy of a Fall
Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon
Yorgos Lanthimos, Poor Things
Jonathan Glazer, The Zone of Interest

Best Original Song
“What Was I Made For?” Barbie
(Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell)
“The Fire Inside,” Flamin’ Hot
“I’m Just Ken,” Barbie
“It Never Went Away,” American Symphony
“Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People),” Killers of the Flower Moon

Best International Feature
The Zone of Interest
Io Capitano
Perfect Days
Society of the Snow
The Teachers’ Lounge

Best Animated Feature
The Boy and the Heron
Elemental
Nimona
Robot Dreams
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Best Animated Short
War Is Over! Inspired by the Music of John & Yoko
Letter to a Pig
Ninety-Five Senses
Our Uniform
Pachyderme

Best Live-Action Short
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar
The After
Invincible
Knight of Fortune
Red, White and Blue

Best Documentary Feature
20 Days in Mariupol
Bobi Wine: The People’s President
The Eternal Memory
Four Daughters
To Kill a Tiger

Best Documentary Short
The Last Repair Shop
The ABCs of Book Banning
The Barber of Little Rock
Island in Between
Nǎi Nai and Wài Pó

***Additional Categories not listed in print issue

Best Original Screenplay
Anatomy of a Fall
(Justine Triet and Arthur Harari)

The Holdovers
Maestro
May December
Past Lives

Best Adapted Screenplay
American Fiction
(Cord Jefferson)

Barbie
Oppenheimer
Poor Things
The Zone of Interest

Best Cinematography
Oppenheimer
(Hoyte van Hoytema)

El Conde
Killers of the Flower Moon
Maestro
Poor Things

Best Original Score
Oppenheimer
(Ludwig Göransson)

American Fiction
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
Killers of the Flower Moon
Poor Things

Best Editing
Oppenheimer
(Jennifer Lame)
Anatomy of a Fall
The Holdovers
Killers of the Flower Moon
Poor Things

Best Production Design
Poor Things
(James Price, Shona Heath and Zsuzsa Mihalek)
Barbie
Killers of the Flower Moon
Napoleon
Oppenheimer

Best Costume Design
Poor Things
(Holly Waddington)
Barbie
Killers of the Flower Moon
Napoleon
Oppenheimer

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Poor Things
(Nadia Stacey, Mark Coulier and Josh Weston)

Golda
Maestro
Oppenheimer
Society of the Snow

Best Sound
The Zone of Interest
(Tarn Willers and Johnnie Burn)
The Creator
Maestro
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One
Oppenheimer

Best Visual Effects
Godzilla Minus One
(Takashi Yamazaki, Kiyoko Shibuya, Masaki Takahashi and Tatsuji Nojima)
The Creator
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One
Napoleon


2024 Oscar Nominations Trailers
To view full playlist, click on the playlist icon in the right top corner below

Vol. 17, No. 12 – Mar 6 – Mar 19, 2024 – A View from House Seats

Eisenhower: this Piece of Ground

by Patrcia Schallert and Yana Khiyod

“A perfectly cast John Rubinstein, brings our 34th president back to life in a drama filled with timely political lessons from a leader who put country over party.”

Los Angeles Times

Introducing “Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground”! Prepare to be captivated and provoked by this remarkable theater production that delves into the life and achievements of the iconic Dwight D. Eisenhower. With meticulous research, author Richard Hellesen has crafted a truly engaging narrative, bringing to life the incredible journey of this renowned Presidential figure.

Through vivid storytelling, Eisenhower, takes a transformative journey from military general to President and the lasting impact he had on the nation. Tony award winning, Broadway and Hollywood star, John Rubinstein is a fascinating and charismatic actor, with perfect comedic timing. John Rubinstein’s portrayal of Eisenhower is nothing short of a masterpiece. His uncanny comedic tempo combined with his captivating presence, truly brings this historical figure to life on stage. As he delves into the life and achievements of the iconic Dwight D. Eisenhower. his performance was both stimulating and thought provoking.

Set in 1962, one year after Eisenhower’s presidency, the show depicts him diligently working on his memoirs at home, while stinging under the recent low presidential ranking given to him by historians in New York Magazine. He intimately shares with the audience, the great and small moments of his life, the things he is immensely proud of (creating NASA, signing Civil Rights legislation, balancing the budget, leading the Cold War, and modernizing US transportation by creating the Interstate Highway System), the things he is conflicted about (all the soldiers who died under his command in the Normandy invasion on D-Day), and his most painful moments (the guilt he feels over the death of his three year old son).

Doug Halter, Councilman from District 2 said, “This masterpiece performance is thought provoking and timely to today issues and not to be missed and it is hoped that Eisenhower’s legacy will continue to inspire generations.”

Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground brings us vibrantly into the past while commenting and gaining insights into current issues today. This performance runs through March 10th at the Rubicon Theater in Ventura.

Catch this sensational performance, Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground at the Rubicon Theater is running through March 10th. Don’t miss out!

Ventura’s Rubicon Theatre Company Presents Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground

John Rubinstein as Eisenhower at the Rubicon.

As part of its 25th Anniversary Season, Rubicon Theatre, the region’s award-winning not-for-profit professional theatre company, announces Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground, a riveting, one-person play starring Tony Award-winner John Rubinstein (Pippin, Children of a Lesser God). The production is set to open the week of President’s Day and runs from February 21 through March 10, 2024, at The Karyn Jackson Theatre in Ventura’s Downtown Cultural District.

Fresh from his acclaimed off-Broadway run, Rubinstein delves deeply into the role of President Dwight D. Eisenhower in this fascinating tour-de-force written by Richard Hellesen and directed by Peter Ellenstein. Entertainment Today hails the production as a masterpiece and praises Rubinstein’s brilliant portrayal, stating, “Not since Give ‘em Hell Harry has a show offered such insight into an American President. Moral courage radiates through Rubinstein’s powerful presence.”

Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground is based on the speeches and letters of our 34th president. Set in 1962 at his Pennsylvania farm, Dwight D. Eisenhower looks at his place in history – and the price of leadership – looking back at his Kansas upbringing, decorated Army career, victories in World War II, and the legacy of his presidency. The play offers an inspiring glimpse into the heart and mind of an extraordinary leader.

Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground opens Saturday, February 24, 2024, at 7:00 p.m., with low-priced previews February 21 through 23. The run continues through March 10, with performances Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (talkback following), Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Ticket prices range from $30 – $79.50, with discounts available for subscribers, students, veterans, active military and Equity members. To purchase single tickets, or to subscribe to Rubicon’s 25th Anniversary Silver Season, call Guest Services at (805) 667-2900 or visit www.rubicontheatre.org.

Vol. 17, No. 11 – Feb 21 – Mar 5, 2024 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine

Santa Paula Lets it Rip!

Santa Paula Theater Center has opened its 2024 season of all comedies with Ripcord by David Lindsay-Abaire. Directed by Taylor Kasch, the play takes place in Bristol Place, a senior living facility. If you have had any contact with people in such a setting, you will immediately see the humor and the pathos in familiar situations.

Abby (Cynthia Killion) has been living at the facility for some time and is quite set in her ways and preferences. For reasons that later become apparent, she has trouble making peace with having to have a roommate. Marilyn (Sindy McKay) is the newest assignee to the second bed in Abby’s domain. Abby’s grumpy, pessimistic nature clashes with Marilyn’s continually sunshine-esque countenance. The two are as different as oil and water.

Scott Blanchard plays the role of Scotty, the incredibly patient attendant, who tries to placate the two women, and still maintain facility standards.

The ladies eventually agree to disagree and make a bet of sorts. Marilyn attempts to get a smile out of Abby to “win” the right to stay in the room and move into the bed by the window. At the same time, Abby asserts that she can make Marilyn lose her cool, thus maintaining her coveted view and possibly gaining the room all to herself. It is a battle of wits and actions as the two try their best to force each other to concede. They both go to extraordinary lengths to gain the upper hand, to the utter exasperation of Scotty and others.

Ron Feltner and Karen Denny embody the roles of Derek and Colleen, Marilyn’s son-in-law and daughter, who assist in some of the shenanigans until they have just had enough and beg them to call a truce. Brooks Hope makes an appearance as Abby’s estranged son, adding another insight into her deeply rooted downer demeanor.

The play certainly has many moments of humor as the two ladies grapple with much more than the often-frustrating challenges of aging. There are also sentimental moments and realities of facility living that cause one to evaluate one’s own outlook.

The SPTC cast is a solid blend of talent and proficiency. However, I couldn’t help wondering if perhaps the material might be more humorous to persons with no personal contact with facility living. Because some of the irritations and complaints are all too real (personal experience with facility settings), I found it challenging to sympathize with both leading characters at times. Abby seemed to be not just grumpy, but mean, which did not win her any empathy points. The relentless positivity of McKay’s Marilyn was wearing as well.

There are countless areas of daily humor when dealing with foibles of the elderly. They can be inadvertently funny in mundane situations. Apparently, the author felt being outrageous in how the two ladies try to one-up each other would be funnier. I agree to disagree, and all bets are off.

Ripcord continues Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2:30 p.m. through March 3, 2024. www.santapaulatheatercenter.org

Vol. 17, No. 11 – Feb 21 – Mar 5, 2024 – Movie Review

Streaming Spotlight by Cindy Summers
The Holdovers – Peacock & Rent or Buy

4 out of 4 palm trees

The Holdovers is set in winter 1970 at Barton Academy, an exclusive all-boys boarding school in New England where classics professor Paul Hunham (Palu Giamatti) was saddled with the responsibility of looking after the few students that have nowhere to go during the Christmas break. Originally Hunham thought he would be there with the school’s cafeteria manager and four boys, but as Angus Tully (Dominic Sessa) waited on the steps with his bags packed ready to go he received a call from his mother that she and her new husband were taking their overdue honeymoon during the holidays and that he would have to remain at school during the break.

The other four boys didn’t know each other and were from various ages and backgrounds, but included Teddy Kountze (Brady Hepner), Angus’s enemy that he had just belittled about being left behind before finding himself in the same situation. Though the boys all thought they would be having a kick-back vacation, Hunham had other plans including regularly studying and exercising as if school was still in session. Also staying for the break was cafeteria manager Mary Lamb (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) who recently lost her son Curtis who attended Barton and joined the military to pay for college, but was killed in the Vietnam War.

Hunham’s general attitude was that the students at Barton were very spoiled and entitled, and felt it was his responsibility to not only educate them, but to help shape their moral character to help them grow up to be men of worth in the world. Due to the fact that many of the boys came from rich families with few boundaries, this was a huge task Hunham sought to accomplish through a strict attitude, causing him to not be liked by basically everyone in the school. Though Angus did well with his grades in Hunham’s class, he was constantly trying Hunham’s will and patience and this bad attitude only grew now that Angus unexpectedly had to spend the break with Hunham.

After six days, the father of one of the boys arrived in his private helicopter, inviting the other four boys to join them on a ski trip for the break. Hunham contacted the headmaster for authorization and then contacted the parents for permission, but unfortunately he was unable to reach Angus’ parents. This left just Hunham, Mary and Angus at the school until after the new year which made Angus even more angry and rebellious. During an act of defiance, Angus injured his shoulder in the gym, requiring Hunham to take him to the hospital. Hunham was concerned for his job, but to his surprise Angus covered for him and they kept the situation just between the two “Barton men”.

Hunham had a heart-felt moment at their shared Christmas dinner and offered to do whatever he could to make Angus’ or Mary’s holiday break better. Angus asked to go to Boston and Hunham initially said no, but eventually agreed after clearing it as a field trip with the headmaster. Angus had always told everyone his father died, but he was actually in a mental hospital in Boston, which unknown to Hunham was the true reason for his request. They traveled to Boston and went to a theater where Angus tried to sneak out during the movie, but when Hunham caught him and discovered the truth, he agreed to go with Angus to visit his father. Neither knew what major future implications this would create, putting their credo of “Barton men” to the test again.

The perfectly timed, clever, comedic dialog between the main characters keeps viewers laughing throughout the film, while also at other times brilliantly lightens the burden of some difficult scenarios. The film has won two awards for Supporting Actress Da’Vine Joy Randolph at the Golden Globe and British Academy Film Awards. For the 96th Academy Awards, “The Holdovers” received five nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

Runtime: 2h 13m

Vol. 17, No. 10 – Feb 7 – Feb 20, 2024 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine

Meteor Shower Rains Existential Mischief

Now in its 85th year of entertaining audiences, the Ojai Art Center Theater presents its 2024 season “Doorways to Dramatic Worlds” which promises to be stirring.

The Ojai Arts Center Theater is currently presenting an unusual, mind-bending piece of theater. Written by the multi-talented Steve Martin, gifted author, writer, actor and musician, the OACT has staged Meteor Shower, an extended one-act play cleverly directed by Brian Robert Harris.

Set in our lovely town of Ojai in 1993, the audience is invited to ponder some rather esoteric musings of a new-age couple who are trying hard to be “hip” yet who are actually wallowing in their own mediocrity. The piece is classic Martin, who is prone to philosophical questions that neither ask for nor require answers and who challenges the audience’s intellect and ideals without apology.

I thoroughly enjoyed the no-holds barred performances of all four actors – Evan Austin, Kimberly Demmary, Anna Kotula and John Medeiros. The cast was primed and ready for the adventure, each playing their characters with abandon. They are captivating to watch as they grapple with the many quirks in the telling of the story.

A charming split set design by Bianca Rice is complete with its own dazzling meteor shower, which, along with the artistic and functional living room, makes one feel comfortable and peaceful right away. The essence of Ojai is palpable in the serene setting. There are also a few surprising and effective special effects.

Myriad opportunities for laughter as well as philosophical references present themselves, along with the couple’s repeated attempts to “be emotionally connected” via affirmations. Ultimately, the play uses the allegory of the meteor shower raining down as insight into the couple’s inner emotional turmoil. However, the story is, in my opinion, bogged down by repetition of absurdities (really funny the first time, less so as the action continues) in a “let’s rewind and try a different outcome” mode which I found challenging to follow.

The extended skit is well acted and staged although the play itself was not satisfying to me. As in many of Martin’s New Yorker essays and other literary works, the premise began to fray with the repetition, settling for an abrupt “aha” revelation in the last moments which I believe was meant to explain the previous work.

The material does cover a wide range of sensitive adult areas which may be uncomfortable for some, including language that seems to be required these days to drive a point home. Be prepared to expand your mind to embrace whatever comes. The piece will certainly be a conversation starter for many.

Parking is limited and the street is quite dark in the evenings so early arrival and flashlights are recommended.

Meteor Shower runs through February 18 with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. www.OjaiArtCenter.org. Not recommended for children.

Vol. 17, No. 10 – Feb 7 – Feb 20, 2024 – Movie Review

Streaming Spotlight by Cindy Summers
Dumb Money – Netflix

4 out of 4 palm trees

Dumb Money” is based on a true story when millions of small investors led by a regular guy named Keith Gill (Paul Dano) took on Wall Street hedge funds by backing GameStop when hedge fund Melvin Capital Management was investing big that it would fail. Keith Gill also went by “Deep F*@k!ng Value” on Reddit in the Wall Street Bets (WSB) forum where he posted his daily balance sheets and also produced videos on YouTube as “Roaring Kitty” explaining his financial strategies.

In July 2020, Keith Gill invested $53,000 in GME (GameStop) at $4/share believing that the company was being shorted by Wall Street hedge funds to purposefully deflate the price until the company was destroyed. He shared this information on WSB and his Roaring Kitty YouTube channel, where he always wore a cat shirt and frequently a bright red bandana. Word spread about Roaring Kitty and GME, and thousands of everyday people started buying GME.


By September
2020, GME more than doubled to $10/share and kept rising due to a growing number of retail investors, who were referred to as “Dumb Money” by Wall Street professionals. Then Melvin Capital owner Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogin) shorted another 600,000 shares in GME, triggering a battle where Roar Kitty told his followers to hold, saying the situation was bigger than any personal gains – that it was their chance to rise up together and stick it to the Big Man.

WSB and GME hit the headlines, calling WSB a revolution and causing GME stock to rise to $25/share by December. Much of the trading was processed through the Robinhood app, which offered free trades with no commissions and gained 5 million users during the rise of GME. Robinhood was run by Co-CEOs Baiju Bhatt (Rushi Kota) and Vlad Tenev (Sebastian Stan) and though not made public information, was owned by Citadel Securities, a division of Citadel Corp owned by Wall Street tycoon and hedge fund mogul Ken Griffin (Ken Offerman).

By January 2021, GME soared to $100/share and Gabe Plotkin – Melvin Capital was losing billions daily and was actually considered bankrupt. GME rose to $150/share and after losing $6.8 billion, Melvin Capital received a $3 billion dollar bailout primarily from fellow investor Steve Cohen (Vincent D’Onofrio), CEO of hedge fund Point72, with a portion from Ken Griffin of Citadel. Keith Gill (Roaring Kitty) was up $23 million on GME but still wasn’t selling and told his followers to hold. An estimated eight million small investors all held and GME soared to $350/share.

Then WSB was shut down by Reddit for what they said was inappropriate content, and Keith Gill got a call from his boss at MassMutual and was let go from his job as a financial analyst due to all the media attention. When WSB was shut down and the small buyers didn’t have access to the Roaring Kitty balance sheet, many panicked and sold. When the stock got close to over $500/share a lot of people decided to sell and Robinhood shut down the buy option for stock on their app, though saying it was a technical issue it seemed to be to slow the buying frenzy.

The scare caused the stock to drop, but after WSB was back online and everybody saw that Roaring Kitty still held even though he was down to $17 billion, many small investors sparked an investment frenzy causing the stocks to go skyrocketing again. That’s when Roaring Kitty, Robinhood and Citadel received Congressional subpoenas regarding their involvement in market volatility which put a national spotlight on the institutional practices by Wall Street firms and demonstrated the enormous potential power of social media in the markets.

Runtime: 1h 45m