With plays. Thea-tuh. Stick to what you know. The Daily Press has two very accomplished and knowledgeable theater critics in Sarah A. Spitz and Cynthia Citron. So, leave it alone, okay?

I mostly do. But we have a lot going on here in Santa Monica in all the arts, not to mention that big city that surrounds us, and with one column a week neither of those fine critics can hit it all. Besides, I don’t do full-blown theater reviews, but when I come across something I’m really enthusiastic about, it’s hard not to plug it.

And now I have. One you have to run right out for, to not miss it at the end of its run this weekend, the other won’t be hitting the boards for a while, but I got a preview.

First, the timely one. What’s the most unusual place you’ve ever seen a play staged? Could be “An Illegal Start,” extending its run but now with its last two performances this weekend, Friday and Saturday nights at 8.

The whole play, with only two actors plus a musician, takes place at, around and on our famous carousel on the Pier. Since the talented playwright James Harris is also longtime deputy director at Santa Monica Pier Corporation, well, write what you know about, they say. But it is a perfect prop to wrap the story around.

I won’t go into those story details except to say it follows two close friends in a small town as they land at the abandoned carousel by accident while in high school, and has them reconnecting there throughout their later lives. I saw it last time they staged it and Harris and Tony-winning actor/director Paul Sand have made some good changes, including adding the live musician, who sometimes cruises into sight, and out, on a carousel horse. Both actors are outstanding, Irish Giron from the last run and Sol Mason coming on fresh this time, adding so much. Mason and the changes added have improved it significantly.


Haven’t been to one in years, was invited Sunday to the Ruskin, oh gosh, should I go, I might be bored to death but have to stick it out.

Not a problem. The reading was for “Frank & Stella Sitting in a Tree,” the new work by Ian McRae, who did such a fine job with “The Alamo,” running through March 31. I loved that one but this one, even as a table reading, could be an out-of-the-park home run.

So different, though. “Does McRae usually write comedy, too?” I asked managing director Mike Myers. “This is his first,” he grinned. “And ‘The Alamo’ was his second ever.” Talented grey-haired rookie.


About music? Another event you might fear is a snooze, but the last one I went to in the Jacaranda series, with Joel Salinas discussing his studies and personal experiences with multiple forms of synesthesia (the brain mixes up sensory responses — composer Olivier Messiaen saw colors when he heard music) was hang-on-every-word. So don’t miss the lecture at 7 for this Jacaranda performance Saturday.

RECOMMENDED: TONIGHT! — ACADEMY OF ST. MARTIN IN THE FIELDS with JOSHUA BELL (luminous English chamber orchestra, my favorite, founded half a century ago by Sir Neville Marriner and led until his death in 2016, with baton brilliantly picked up by renowned pianist Joshua Bell), 8 p.m., The Soraya, Northridge, $58-$85.

TONIGHT! — MOBY (c’mon, Moby, at the lil ol’ Echo? when will that happen again? — okay, tomorrow night… and last night…), and Fri, 8:30 p.m., the Echo, Echo Park, $35.

TONIGHT! — RICK SHEA (superb embodiment of distinctive SoCal country folk) & the Losin’ End, 9 p.m., the Cinema Bar, Culver City, no cover.

TONIGHT! — FARTBARF (costumes and masks, 2 synths 1 drums 0 guitars, vocoder vocals — all the stuff I hate, but they’re too cool on every count, especially musically), Eddie Ruscha/Secret Circuit (son of famous artist Ed, makes surreal electro concoctions from old analog synth collection), Quindar (Mikael Jorgensen of Wilco and local art historian/curator James Merle Thomas, all about space: quindars are the transmission “beeps” heard during NASA’s early Apollo mission), 6 p.m., MOCA Grand Avenue, downtown LA, no cover with RSVP.

“AN ILLEGAL START” — Theatre in the Merry Go-Round by Santa Monica Public Theatre, Fri, Sat, 8 p.m., Santa Monica Pier (carousel building), $24 – $30.

“THE ALAMO” (superbly written, acted and directed, gets deeper as it progresses), Sat, Sun, 2 or 8 p.m., and Fri, Sat, Sun through 3/31, Ruskin Group Theatre, SM Airport, $17-$27.

JACARANDA MUSIC AT THE EDGE SERIES – MENTAL ENERGY: Music of Messiaen, Xenakis, Barraqué, Sat, 8 p.m., pre-concert lecture (pianist Steven Vanhauwaert recounts his year-long journey of discovery to perform the legendary Piano Sonata by Messiaen student Jean Barraqué, and will demonstrate from the piano; concert with Jonathan Hepfer, percussion — this is a great series of unusual music, unusual instrumentation, every one so far very worthwhile) at 7 p.m., First Presbyterian Church, SM, $45.

JOHN McEUEN (founder of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, still putting out excellent albums, long drive, top dollar but he’s worth it), Sat, 7:30 p.m., Janet & Ray Scherr Forum Theatre, Thousand Oaks, $44.

JIM KWESKIN (he of the JK Jug Band — go!), Sat, 8 p.m., Boulevard Music, Culver City, $20.

ED MUNTER (fascinating character, singer-songwriter with conscience, will make you think, and feel, great look and voice and stage manner, shoulda been a star, maybe still will be), Sun, 8 p.m., Boulevard Music, Culver City, $4.

KXLU Fest IV with WILD WING, Mndsgn, Sextile, Band Aparte, Pinky, Pinky (go just for Wild Wing, or if you dig KXLU), Sun, 12 noon, Loyola Marymount University, Playa del Rey, no cover.

BAND NAMES OF THE WEEK: the Cooties, Criminal Hygiene, Exploding Pintos, the Electric Ferrets, Yachtley Crew, Oceans Ate Alaska, Dirty Priests, Andy Clockwise, Phew.

LYRIC OF THE WEEK: “Stop the money chase, lay back, relax, get back on the human track, stop racing toward oblivion, oh, such a sad, sad state we’re in. Do you recognize the bells of truth when you hear them ring, won’t you stop and listen to the children sing, won’t you come on and sing it children. He’s a stranger in a strange land, just a stranger in a strange land.” — Leon Russell

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 32 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com