SHIV: Review Rundown

wpid-latimes.gifCRITIC’S CHOICE Riffing on a modern-day incarnation of the goddess Shiva, this subtly crafted portrait of a Hindu immigrant girl’s coming-of-age in her new American homeland shapes seemingly unrelated narrative fragments into a poetic, often humorous and ultimately profound journey of self-discovery, metaphorically mapped to the wonders and terrors of space exploration.

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sangabrielvalleytribune“Shiv” is given a sensuous, mesmerizing and thoroughly thought-provoking production at The Theatre @ Boston Court in Pasadena, playing through Aug. 9. Those daring to see it should be prepared to think, feel, and reflect on whatever part of life’s path one is currently treading.

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the stage struck reviewAt a time when the entire concept of white privilege is under a microscope, it becomes especially fascinating to explore the larger concepts of European/American imperialism and what that process has done to the world we now live in. Most particularly, what has been lost as several centuries of the practice interfered with the natural self-development of the peoples of the earth. Which proves foundational to Aditi Brennan Kapil’s “Shiv,” now receiving its west coast premiere run at The Theatre @ Boston Court. As the best introspective plays often are, this tale can be approached on a number of levels, but at its core it examines what is left behind when foundational cultures clash with dominant ones. It does so through the engaging story of one immigrant family from India.

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wpid-x9.png.pagespeed.ic_.ijr6gp7skw.pngThe west coast premiere of Aditi Brennan Kapil’sShiv receives a simply gorgeous mounting at the Theatre @ Boston Court. Amazing just how far, with the proper elements, your imagination will allow you to go. Shiv relays the story of a young south asian woman transplanted from her homeland to Skoie, Illinois. Monika Jolly embodies this title character, easily convincing us that she’s in her twenties (presently) or in her teens (in the many flashbacks) as she attempts to come to grips with her puzzling relationship with her recently departed father Bapu.

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paulmyrvoldShiv, by Aditi Brennan Kapali, is a complex, fascinating, time bending fantasy that weaves in and out of conventional time and space, taking place in the present, the past, and in physical and imagined realities of Shiv and Bapu drawing inspiration from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

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robstevensYou gradually come to realize that the scenes with her father, Bapu (Dileep Rao), take place when she was a child and the family had newly emigrated from India to Skokie, Illinois. Her father was a well- respected poet in his homeland but his attempts to translate his work into English and to write original poems in English only resulted in failure and disappointment. But Shiv adored her father and lovingly recalls their adventures together and his fantastical story-telling.

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awesometheatreblogAditi Brennan Kapil’s play Shiv, playing now at The Theatre @ Boston Court takes the idea of this self discovery, and places it in a surreal, post-colonial, post-modernist setting. It gently dances with the themes of loss, identity, and culture while maintaining the narrative of a beautifully nuanced relationship drama between a father and daughter.

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stage and cinema logoIn her play Shiv, the third part of an immigrant-experience trilogy first workshopped in 2013, Aditi Brennan Kapil writes of a character (played by Monika Jolly) named after a Hindu god most widely known as an agent of destruction. The girl’s troubled relationship with her poet father, and her subsequent involvement with a family that contributed to his downfall, are presented as illustrations of the post-colonial Indian diaspora in the West.

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la-weekly-logoThe play freely collapses Shiv’s idolizing childhood memories of Bapu (Dileep Rao), her beloved immigrant Punjabi-poet dad (based on Kapil’s real-life father), with scenes charting the curiously charmless romance between the adult Shiv and the grandson (James Wagner) of the patrician publisher (Leonard Kelly-Young) she blames for Bapu’s dissolute fall from grace.

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SHIV: Production photography

Photo credit: Ed Krieger

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My Barking Dog: Review rundown

onstagelosangelesThis is a tough ‘two hander’ (plus one) that offers a challenge for the actors as well as for the audience. Leave your expectations at home and come to Pasadena to see something just a little bit different.  Truly, Fantastic.

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la_weekly_logo_265x70Like Taste, Benjamin Brand’s recent play about a man driven to devour his own flesh, My Barking Dog by Eric Coble shocks and surprises, and in a most brilliant and entertaining way. Commencing as a portrait of two alienated souls, it builds beyond that initial rendering into a grim but droll commentary on our culture’s chilly dystopian values. Along the way it examines the macabre extremes to which alienation can spur the humblest and most vulnerable people.

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wpid-latimes.gifDirector Michael Michetti’s clarity and focus leave no doubt about the extent of both characters’ comically antisocial repression, though the alternating monologue format of the script’s first third poses a pacing challenge. The piece finds surer footing when Melinda and Toby finally meet as a result of the play’s unseen but transformative third character — a coyote foraging for food on their porches.

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sangabrielvalleytribuneAnd my, oh my, do those natures come out in full force as director Michael Michetti shepherds visible mankind and invisible beasts into this vivid but unimaginable world. His work with his actors is psychologically deep, bringing out truths about human nature. Michetti’s stagecraft, too, is fabulously imaginative. In collaboration with scenic designer Tom Buderwitz, lighting and video designer Tom Ontiveros and sound designer John Zalewski, Michetti cracks open the stage, the characters’ psyches and the audience’s minds.

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wpid-x9.png.pagespeed.ic_.ijr6gp7skw.pngPlaywright Eric Coble receives an incredibly superlative mounting of his smart, witty, theatre of absurd-esque My Barking Dog at the Theatre @ Boston Court. The Theatre’s Co-Artistic Director, Michael Michetti skillfully directs his two brilliant actors (Ed F. Martin and Michelle Azar) in a streamlined, no-fat depiction of two lonely souls possibly finding their ultimate purpose in life. In lesser hands, Coble’s very tricky piece– mundane, but realistically interesting, then slipping over to totally preposterous sci-fi– would be much less effective as an entertainment vehicle.

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stagesceneladotcom2Spectacular indeed are the surprises that scenic designer Tom Buderwitz’s initially stark urban set has in store (and which production stills purposely avoid spoiling). Spectacular too is sound designer John Zalewski’s mix of city and desert sounds coupled with that distinctive, tension-building “Zalewski hum.” Tom Ontiveros’s lighting and video design is equally striking, with Garry Lennon’s just-right costumes revealing much about Tony and Melinda and they journey each embarks upon. And there are some fabulous “body makeup effects” as well.

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My Barking Dog

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Statement re: AEA’s proposal

photoBoston Court Performing Arts Center has been closely following the statements and discussions surrounding AEA’s recent proposal to its membership for a new promulgated agreement to replace the AEA Los Angeles 99 Seat Plan. Many of us have individually participated in various discussions online and in town halls. Some of these discussions have prompted us to make the following organizational statement to bring clarity to the way our organization is structured, as well as state our support for the community at large:

Boston Court Performing Arts Center, originally founded in 2003 as The Theatre @ Boston Court, is a 501c3 company that has a lease agreement with a privately owned facility in Pasadena. Each year we program two performance spaces with four The Theatre @ Boston Court main stage theatrical productions, 25+ Music @ Boston Court events and a rotating visual art gallery, as well as numerous readings, public service events, and community rentals. Our full-time staff is employed by the performing arts center, and their salaries and our budget reflect the performing arts center as a whole. The Theatre @ Boston Court is one of the programs under the umbrella of Boston Court Performing Arts Center.

We have always valued our artists, paying actors performance stipends well above what is required by the AEA 99 Seat Plan, as well as a rehearsal stipend. We have reached out to AEA over the years, trying to find a way to produce outside the 99 Seat Plan. Unfortunately our overtures have not yet resulted in negotiations.

The Theatre @ Boston Court stands with the vast majority of the Los Angeles intimate theatre community in opposition to AEA’s current proposal. We strongly believe that, if enacted, this agreement will not lead to a substantial increase in Equity contracts, which supply a living wage to actors. We are not certain what the result will ultimately be for our organization. What we know for certain is that we, along with many of our colleagues in the community, believe the new proposal will have a detrimental effect on the quality and quantity of the new, innovative or risk-taking works which currently make the Los Angeles intimate theatre community so vibrant.

We remain hopeful that actors, producers, and theater makers of all stripes, will come to an agreement that allows both the artists as well as the art in Los Angeles to flourish.

-Boston Court Performing Arts Center

Video: The Missing Pages of Lewis Carroll

The Missing Pages of Lewis Carroll from Boston Court on Vimeo.

Review Rundown: THE MISSING PAGES OF LEWIS CARROLL

SR_logo1“Leo Marks portrays a most endearing, humbly playful Dodgson. The chemistry between Marks and Corryn Cummins as doe eyed, sassy, knock-kneed Alice is lustrous and palpable. The production’s glowing light feels like a warm hug at dusk– just before sitting down to read aloud a story– and the reveal into Wonderland is a magical, textured space for play. A color palette of winsome, flowing ivory and beige receive pay off with the iconic blue-dress Charles presents Alice (receiving audible sighs from the audience) and the scarlet shock of Mrs. Liddell’s dress when she brilliantly transforms into the Queen of Hearts. Director Abigail Deser’s inventive staging choices establish beautiful, poetic pictures for the eye to feast on.”

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Untitled“This project could have gone so wrong in so many ways.  But Lily Blau and company have created an intriguing, visually fascinating, and perfectly portrayed vision of what might have been, weaving in many Alice references and visuals, including the White Rabbit, who emerges from the rabbit hole and charmingly remains throughout the story to warn, goad, and observe Mr. Dodgson/Carroll. Every actor is perfect in his or her part. The set is gorgeous and smoothly transitioned from a closed room to a room with open windows, beyond which you can see the children’s swing and an ivy-covered wall that reaches beyond where the eye can see. Although Alice is played by an adult, she is wonderfully childlike and believable as young Alice. Mrs. Liddell appears as the Red Queen in several frenzied scenes, and the transition is fun to watch.”

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wpid-latimes.gif“The remembered Alice (fetchingly played by an adult, Corryn Cummins) is a Victorian Lolita, who has a crush on Dodgson and coyly sets out to seduce him. Her mother (the imposing Erica Hanrahan-Ball) keeps stumbling in at inopportune moments and morphing into the shrill Red Queen. This matter-of-fact mingling of fantasy and reality is a clear tribute to one of Carroll’s most endearing literary strategies, and the production, under the assured direction of Abigail Deser, uses it at times magically.”

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cultural weekly“Blau also smartly injects the undefined presence of The White Rabbit (a playfully surreptitious Jeff Marlow) as a wise alter ego and warning bell for Dodgson/Carroll. Once out of his rabbit hole, White Rabbit slips in and out of the action, connecting dots and goading Dodgson. Leo Marks, who plays the fundamentally timorous Dodgson/Carroll, skillfully provides the full complexity of the man, in a lucid and furtive performance that includes the poet, the arrested child within, the stutterer and the tortured soul.”

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examiner_Logo“Intriguing, well-acted and beautifully staged “The Missing Pages of Lewis Carroll” opened to a sold out house on Saturday, January 31, 2015. Between hallucinatory dreams and “real life” Lily Blau’s new play takes the audience down the rabbit hole to find out what might have occurred in pages torn out of math professor, Charles Dodgson’s/Lewis Carroll’s, personal diary.”

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sgvtribune“Nonetheless, the careful crafting of this piece is obvious everywhere, and the playwright’s fascinating juxtaposition of the internal fantasies of a man whose social life was thwarted in numerous ways and the overt world in which he walked day by day keeps one interested from start to finish. “The Missing Pages of Lewis Carroll” is performed without an intermission, and one can see why as the tensions and angst grow slowly over the course of the piece.”

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stage and cinema logo“The director’s work with actors is particularly tasteful. Together the two leads are Deser’s most handily-wielded tool. Leo Marks’s voice (the stutter when talking to grown-ups! the orotund vowels around children!) is even more impressive than his face and body; his Dodgson is a full, complicated, completely sympathetic human being. As Alice, Corryn Cummings is not merely convincing but equally fascinating as an innocent child, a mischievous object of desire, and a disappointed adult. As the other Misses Liddell, Erin Barnes and Ashley Ruth Jones delight and effectively project the trappings of childhood as well.”

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la_weekly_logo_265x70“Cummins’ transit from willful, coquettish adolescence to recriminatory womanhood is a marvel of observation and nuance, and director Abigail Deser’s staging gets high marks for sheer polish (helped by Garry Lennon’s surreal-edged costuming, Keith Skretch’s psychedelic video projections and John Ballinger’s vivid sound).”

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wpid-x9.png.pagespeed.ic_.ijr6gp7skw.pngLeo Marks IS Charles Dodgson, stuttering, hesitating, awkward, inappropriately sexual-all! Marks’ Dodgson charms and flatters the Liddell females while having enough education and smarts to win over Professor Liddell. Time Winters‘ perfectly scholarly and patriarchic as Dean Liddell. Erica Hanrahan-Ballgives Mrs. Liddell the proper upper crust attitude and posturing of a woman wed to a man in position. (And her many gowns stun! Many thumbs up to costume designer Garry Lennon!)”

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stagescene_wow“As playwright Blau delves deeper into what may have been in those titular missing pages, sound designer/composer John Ballinger, lighting designer Jaymi Lee Smith, and above all video designer Keith Skretch combine their prodigious talents to take us on a vertiginous journey into what might be either fantasy or memory, the White Rabbit averring that memory is but “a vivid form of fantasy,” to which Charles responds that “fantasy is to memory what desire is to action.” You be the judge.

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ustheater“Blau’s play, which supposedly occurs on the day when Alice has planned a visit to Dodgson for one last photograph before she marries Hargreaves, is a sad one, not only because it calls up all the quandaries of reality and imagination that, no matter how he actually lived his life, Dodgson surely faced, but because it finally reveals that his great failure in life was not doing some dreadful deed, but doing nothing.”

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theatreghost“Into this void — where lurid fantasies and undocumented theories have rushed — Blau lets something simpler and truer emerge.  A young girl finds she can be loveable to someone outside her family, and takes a shy practice step toward the terra incognita of romance.  A young man finds, to his consternation, that a young girl can be both innocent and desirable.  Perhaps, a kiss.  Perhaps.”

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talkin_broadway“The story begins in the early 1860s, when Dodgson (Leo Marks), a mathematics professor at Oxford, befriended Dean Henry Liddell (Time Winters) and his family. Dodgson took photographs of the family and entertained the three daughters with stories, one starring 10-year-old Alice (Corryn Cummins) in particular. Dodgson wrote the story down and had it published under the pen name of Lewis Carroll, and became ever more intrigued with Alice, now taking her picture alone. Years later, Dodgson defends himself to the White Rabbit (Jeff Marlow), saying he never did anything improper, but the Rabbit points out that several pages are missing from his diary, and in those pages Dodgson will find the truth he’s been running from.”

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bitterlemons

**

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