Everything You Touch: Review Rundown

latimesCRITICS’ PICK: The performances, particularly of the two leads, are confident, nuanced and memorable. And the rich sensory feast Kubzansky and her team have served up — which also includes lighting by Jeremy Pivnick, sound by John Zalewski and witty props by John Burton — is a powerful reminder of why beauty, heartless though it may be, holds us in such thrall.

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2010-08-25 THR SketchThe cast is so superb that even the omnipresent models, both real and ghostly (another echo ofFollies), stir our empathy. Vangsness, a longtime mainstay of Theatre of NOTE as well as Garcia onCriminal Minds, wrings out every potential character cliché in her deeply personal incarnation of a standard type in contemporary comedy and drama, while Pierce displays the arrogance and insecurity of a truly creative man with old-school dash, an antihero capable of both superficiality and stature simultaneously. Yet the most convincing range and layered writing are reserved for Maher’s Esme, a caricature of Manhattan bile and self-absorption who undergoes perhaps the largest odyssey of transformation of all.

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artsinlaCallaghan’s bizarre, penetratingly poetic dialogue must be a challenge for any director, which is why this play is lucky to be in the capable deft hands of director Jessica Kubzansky. François-Pierre Couture designed the stunningly sparse set, and John Burton created the Dali-like props from mannequin parts. Other design elements include wildly painterly projections by Adam Flemming; creamy yet stark lighting by Jeremy Pivnik; and an echoing, clanky sound design by John Zalewski, who also contributes a quiet but haunting original music score.

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stagescene_wowThere’s no L.A. theater quite like The Theatre @ Boston Court for challenging audiences with plays that can, when things go as right as they do in Sheila Callaghan’s initially mystifying Everything You Touch, both stimulate the brain cells and touch the heart.

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stageandcinemaSpeaking of which, at the top of the show we witness the most amusing and jaw-dropping fashion show in theater history. Jenny Foldenauer’s soon-to-be award-winning costume design echoes a style review which is read by Esme: “The gothic, the treacherous, and the peculiar.” I see the female fashions as an über-clever mash up of Star Wars, Coco Chanel, and Kink.com. Later, Foldenauer’s line of 70’s wear, which is mass produced for sale at Dillard’s, is a riotous collision of 50’s housewife, 60’s mod, and 70’s exaggerated sunniness set in rich and ghastly-but-gorgeous autumnal colors.

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lifeinlaThe hard work of Kubzansky and Callaghan along with the cast is more than evident in Boston Court’s production of Everything You Touch. The interactions between the characters flow harmoniously as does the interchangeable set in which a chorus of models are integrated into each scene as random elements of décor. In a panel discussion following the performance, the actors agreed that it was the company’s collective belief in the play that gave them the strength to undertake such an ambitious production complete with 420 lighting cues, 220 sound cues, and 120 costume changes.

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Everything You Touch: Preview video

A touch of Everything You Touch, by Sheila Callaghan from Boston Court on Vimeo.

An open letter to Vanity Fair from a theatre fan

By Damaris Montalvo

Dear Vanity Fair,

On April 10, you published a review of For the Record: Tarantino, which the author entitled, “Can Quentin Tarantino and Rumer Willis Save L.A. Theater?” From the very title, I knew this piece would contain inflammatory content, for it immediately beckoned the question, “Why does LA Theatre need saving?”

The review opened with an incendiary assumptive statement, “Los Angeles is teeming with actors, so why is the theater so bad?” This makes me wonder what plays the author has been going to. Surely not those at The Theatre @ Boston Court. Or Rogue Machine. Or Antaeus. Or pretty much anything playing at Atwater Village. Or any of the thought-provoking, gut-wrenching, inventive, and transformative plays I’ve seen throughout Greater Los Angeles over the past six years.

Unless, of course, we have a very different perspective on what makes “good” theatre. If “good” theatre is defined by a star-studded Hollywood cast, and its quality is measured by an audience of celebrities, then I do nothing but go to “bad” plays.

As an avid patron who supports several of LA’s 99-seat theatres, I have been known to see 3 plays a week – on average. There have been weeks where I’ve seen a play each and every single night (hooray for Monday performances!). But why do I do this? I certainly don’t have a stake in the matter. I am not part of the theatre industry, nor am I related to anyone who is. Perhaps I am just a glutton for punishment, a ghost or zombie living in the wasteland of LA’s “dead” theatre.

But what a disservice that thought is to the talented people who bring these stories to life. How disrespectful it is to discount playwrights whose words capture the feelings that we often fail to articulate; artistic directors who take bold risks; sound, set and lighting designers whose work is often overlooked, especially when its subtly is so masterful that it seems inherent; actors who “strut and fret [their] hour upon the stage” to bring us to laughter or tears and put up a mirror to our own lives. And the many, many more talented people who pour their heart and soul into giving me, the theatergoer, an experience I’ll never forget.

I love LA theatre because it’s fearless. Unapologetic. Unafraid to say what needs to be said about everything from government to dogma to our own humanity. Unafraid to explore and overcome boundaries, breaking from traditional forms and moving us into new directions that film and other forms of entertainment can’t do.

I wonder if the author has ever seen a piece by Theatre Movement Bazaar. Or Critical Mass, Four Larks, or Theatrum Elysium. Original and adapted pieces that come alive in imaginative, unpredictable, and riveting ways.

Now don’t get me wrong: I enjoy For the Record. I’ve seen a couple of their shows and have been thoroughly entertained. But entertained in the way that a good cabaret show is entertaining. Not entertained like I was with Kemp Powers’ One Night in Miami, where I couldn’t get enough of the conversation with Cassius Clay, Sam Cooke, Jim Brown, and Malcolm X, so I saw the play five times to get my fix.

And though some of the cast for the For the Record productions is certainly good, “bold-face names that could bring other theater directors to tears with envy” is a gross overstatement. The theatre directors I know would cry over Paige Lindsey White, Ann Noble, Jill Van Velzer, or Kalean Ung any day over Rumer Willis. Don’t even get me started on Tim Cummings, John Sloan, and Justin Huen, to name a few.

To me, LA theatre has been transformative. Boston Court’s Twentieth-Century Way introduced me to the complexity of LA Theatre, with layers upon layers of meaning. Theatrum Elysium’s Cymbeline showed me that dance is a transcendental storytelling mechanism. Rogue Machine’s Small Engine Repair showed me the joy of conversation, and the struggle of growing up. Bad Apples taught me how disturbingly easy it is to dehumanize people. Boston Court’s Creation challenged my notions of love, relationships, and the meaning of “forever.” Repeat viewings of my favorite plays have taught me that perspective is different from where you’re sitting.

So “bad” theatre has taught me critical thinking, compassion, bravery, gratitude. And much, much more.

But this review does bring to bear an important thought: if good theatre is in every pocket of Los Angeles, how did your author miss it, Vanity Fair? How has this person been so out of touch that these outlandish remarks could come to be?

If it hadn’t been for Boston Court, which is conveniently located for me, I’m not sure I would’ve known about the wonders LA Theatre has to offer. I would not have gone as far as assuming that LA Theatre was dead, but I would’ve continued to have a narrow view of what LA Theatre meant, considering only well-promoted, large-scale productions at the Pantages or the Ahmanson.

‘Cause let’s face it: LA Theatre is kind of incestuous. It’s a common occurrence at every play I go to to shock other theatergoers when I tell them I’m not “in theatre.” The conversation often starts with, “Do you know anyone in the cast?” It’s hard for people to fathom that I go see so much theatre without an agenda or vested interest other than the pure joy of experiencing theatre itself.

So maybe, Vanity Fair, you can help “keep LA Theatre alive” for those who aren’t part of the industry by investing in it a little more. Theatres rely heavily on word of mouth, but there is much the local media can do to help boost awareness of the excellent theatre that’s out there. Assuming, of course, that you can set aside the Hollywood song-and-dance to let real LA Theatre shock, impress, delight and transform you.

Yours truly,

Dama

Everything You Touch: Production Photos

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Photo Credit: Ed Krieger

Everything You Touch: An Interview with the Model Chorus

An Interview with The Model Chorus from Everything You Touch from Boston Court on Vimeo.

Preliminary Costume Designs: Everything You Touch

Costume Designer: Jenny Foldenauer

Designs for Model Chorus; Everything You Touch, by Sheila Callaghan, directed by Jessica Kubzansky.

09 MODEL-ANTELOPE 10 MODEL-COBRA 11 MODEL-ELEPHANT 12 MODEL-GIRAFFE 14 MODEL-OSTRICH 15 MODEL-SCORPION 16 MODEL-ZEBRA

The Theatre Buddy

By Damaris Montalvo

“I just can’t have any more women yelling at me.”

That’s what one of my theatre companions – we’ll call him Malarkey – said after seeing Se Llama Cristina.

Great theatre puts up a mirror to your face, and there are some people that are not ready or willing to see their reflection. That’s what happened to Malarkey, who would have preferred we watch a nice musical. You see Malarkey is not one of my go-to theatre companions; he enjoys theatre for the escapism, not for the opportunity to be shown a slice of life – of reality – that is sad and dirty and broken … yet beautiful and hopeful. But he was available on LiveWired [LiveWired occurs once per production and includes $10 tickets with beer and pizza in the lobby after the performance] night, and I thought it might be fun for him.

I had been to the reading of Octavio Solis’ play at Boston Court in 2012, and my memory of the play was that it was about two broken people trying to help find their identities, running from the demons that haunted them, and finding in each other refuge to fill the voids and rebuild their lives under a cloak of poetry.

I did not remember many of the things that traumatized Malarkey – like the sexuality or the language – because I didn’t even notice them. The language –English, Spanish, Spanglish, nasty, poetic, ethereal, deeply expressive – is a core representation of our characters’ identities. Their bodies are critical means of expression for them – so much so that the production incorporated movement and dance to augment feelings when language isn’t enough. Continue reading