By Sarah A. Spitz
Some of our smaller local theatres put on reliably good entertainment much of the time. Today a quick look at three of them.
The Ruskin Group Theatre showcases Paul Linke, an actor/playwright/director whose original claim to fame came from the 70s TV show CHiPs, in movies (Parenthood, Motel Hell) and as the founder and artistic director of the legendary local (now late) Powerhouse Theatre in Santa Monica. His solo play, “Time Flies When You’re Alive,” later filmed for HBO, told the story of his first wife’s death from breast cancer and their abiding love for one another through it all.
The word “time” appears in all six of Linke’s plays and “It’s Time,” now onstage at Ruskin, is devoted to his widowhood and meeting his second wife, Christine Healy. She gave up a successful acting career after falling in love with him and with his three children. They’ve been together for 26 years and she played the leading role in raising the kids, now fully grown.
This is a heartwarming, moving one-man show and tribute to a woman who, it can truly be said, saved his and their lives. It’s warm, fuzzy, moving, meaningful but not schmaltzy. It’s most definitely worth your time and a few shekels out of your wallet.
If you’re looking for something positive and personal to counteract the ugliness of this political season, look no further than Paul Linke’s “It’s Time” at Ruskin Group Theatre (Santa Monica Airport). Call (310) 397-3244 or www.ruskingrouptheatre.com for tickets. It runs through Dec. 4.
Her Life as a Dog
“Sylvia” is an odd play. In it, we watch a woman play a very lively dog who becomes the mid-life crisis of an empty nest husband, whose marriage is threatened by the presence of this stray pup.
Tanna Frederick stars as the poodle mix mutt, a role she began portraying five years ago in Sierra Madre and has revived for a new production, which she also directs, at The Odyssey Theatre in West L.A.
Although there’s no quibbling with the crazy energy she brings to the part (you’ll completely believe she’s a dog and the costumes are to die for), the play itself feels trite to me. A.R. Gurney wrote it and it made a splash in New York when Sarah Jessica Parker originated the role off-Broadway to good reviews. It’s been produced across the country, including a Coronet Theater production here in L.A. in 1997 with Stephanie Zimbalist, but it opened on Broadway in 2015 and closed three weeks early.
I can’t say I liked the play but Frederick is outstanding, as is Matthew Marcy, who plays a tough guy in the dog park, a totally believable (if very tall) woman friend of the wife, as well as an ambiguously male or female psychotherapist (depending on who he/she is treating).
The set is cleverly designed, the actors give it their all, and there are some laugh out loud moments. “Sylvia” is a guest production at the Odyssey Theatre in West L.A. Reservations at (800) 838-3006 or www.sylviatheplay.com.
Other People’s Money
This play is billed as a comedy but I didn’t find much to laugh about. Written by Jerry Sterner and produced by LA’s InterACT Theatre Company, “Other People’s Money” tells the story of a corporate takeover by a rapacious Wall Street arbitrageur who is bent on winning, no matter the impact on the lives of those affected by destroying a small community’s main source of employment.
Kudos to the actors who play the company president, the betrayed vice president, the loyal secretary (and boss’s lover), her daughter (a novice lawyer) and the arbitrageur “Larry the Liquidator.” But even with these lively performances, the play, to me, is depressing, a terrible reflection on American business and its heartlessness.
Talk about stereotyping, I was immediately put off by the fact that the corporate raider is blatantly Jewish (he’s named Larry Garfinkle). And I also found myself questioning the lawyer who wants to beat him but instead ultimately joins him.
Other reviewers have found more to love in this play than I. If you want to give it a shot (there were a lot of laughs from the audience, just not from me), you’ll find it at Pico Playhouse in Rancho Park. Tickets are very inexpensive and you won’t have a hard time getting them. www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2588643
Skirball Food Studio
There is some really interesting programming happening at the Skirball Cultural Center under the leadership of Andrew Horwitz. For example, tonight there’s a one-night only event, the LA debut of a live documentary/live music experience called “The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller,” narrated by Academy Award documentary nominee Sam Green (he’s also the filmmaker), scored live by Yo La Tengo.
On Sunday, from 2 to 5 p.m., I’ll be attending another first: L.A. Food Studios at the Skirball. Get up close and personal with some of the most creative and adventurous chefs working our in town, including Kwang Uh of Baroo, Steve Samson of Sotto, Top Chef winner Mei Lin, Wes Avila of Guerrilla Tacos, Pawan Mahendro of Badmaash, and Rose Lawrence of Red Bread. They’ll demonstrate how they create their signature dishes, answer questions, and offer ample samples for tasting.
Each chef will be paired with an apprentice from L.A. Kitchen, the non-profit training program for men and women coming out of foster care or incarceration.
The menus include pickled vegetables from Baroo, tortelli from Sotto, Chinese dumplings from Mei Lin, Wes Avila’s Ahi tuna tostada, Punjabi-style chick peas from Badmaash and jam tarts by Rose Lawrence – all for just $25!
Tickets available on site, online at skirball.org, or by phone at (877) SCC-4TIX.
Sarah A. Spitz spent her career as a producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica and produced freelance arts reports for NPR. She has also written features and reviews for various print and online publications. Contact her at email@example.com.
Stephen Howard and Tanna Frederick in “Sylvia” at the O