Theatre Review — Hamilton (National Tour)

Instructions: Read out loud in a “rap” style; white people pretend it’s a poem (except for EMINEM and Vanilla Ice). With apologies to Lin-Manuel Miranda…

Last night I took a trip to the Pantages, bought a ticket to a show; handed over half my wages

took a seat inside, excitement was contagious, as I flipped through my program’s pages

The lights went down, audience started to stir when out on the stage walked Aaron Burr

We listened closely as he started rappin, didn’t want to miss a thing, about what was happenin

then he introduced us to a native son, a man called Alexander Hamilton

From the Carribean, a bastard clear, daddy walked out, mama died holding him near

Had to escape, use his charms, in New York City, he heard the call to arms

Freedom was the cry from Laurens and Lafayette, joined by Burr and Mulligan, against the British threat

Washington with Hamilton by his side fought the bloody British and turned the tide

Born a new nation, like an infant it cried, as the founding fathers looked on with pride.

…and that was only Act One.

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The costumes were great, the set inspiring, the orchestra top notch, the dancers never tiring

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choreography on its toes, (who knows how they moved so gracefully in those heavy clothes)

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Too many actors to name them all by name, so I pick out a few who brought their A game

Rory O’Malley as King George always made us laugh…

Jordon Donica (Lafayette and Jefferson), tall as a giraffe, brought his characters to life with aplomb and panache…

Rubin Carbajal (John/Philip) got to die in Act One and Act Two, he played it so real we all got blue…

Joshua Henry (Aaron Burr) started the show, hero, and a villain, he rapped a different tune, then spent most of the show, envious of Hamilton and wanting to be “in the room”…

Isaiah Johnson (Washington), played frustrated but strong, defeated the British and became the father of our country where he belonged…

Ah, the ladies, Amber Iman (Peggy/Maria) and Solea Pfeiffer (Eliza Hamilton) brought sympathy, sophistication, and class, rapping with the best of them, and beat boxing with sass…

Finally, Michael Luwoye played with intensity/layers the star of the show, my recommendation? If you get a chance, I’d go…

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Richard Allan Jones is an actor, musician, and author from Los Angeles, California.

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Identity Check -Chapter Two

New exciting mystery-thriller now available on amazon.com on Kindle or paperback. Here’s the second chapter…

College junior Scott Harold, dressed in bleached-out jeans, a scarlet and gray varsity sweater, and brown penny loafers, looked at his watch–late again. He promised to meet Jessie for lunch but had run into some friends near the Natatorium and time had simply slipped away.

He picked up the pace, passing the William Oxley Thomas Memorial Library, weaving in and out of the hundreds of Ohio State students hurrying to class on the many sidewalks that crisscrossed the Oval. Chimes in nearby Orton Hall rang out the three-quarter hour as the powder blue spring sky started to cloud up. A few drops of rain fell on his face. Now he wished he’d listened to the WCOL weather report this morning before heading out to his six AM swim practice.

Covering his head with the campus newspaper, The Lantern, Scott waited for the light at Fifteenth and High Street to change. He smiled as he thought back to how he and Jessie had first met only a few months ago.

#

His fraternity, the Lambda Chi’s, wearing their traditional blue blazers, with matching striped ties, and tan chinos, had walked over to serenade the Delta Gammas. After the brothers finished the first song, instead of the girls coming outside to respond, the housemother stuck her head out the door, smiled mysteriously, and invited them inside the sorority house.

There, like a Busby Berkeley movie, poised on each step of a curving grand staircase, stood a bevy of the most beautiful women Scott had ever seen. On cue, the ladies slowly descended, each holding a flickering candle while singing a lilting ditty from Brigadoon. Although each girl appeared as beautiful as the next, he focused his attention on one particularly stunning young woman, who easily outshone the others, with her flashing eyes, high cheekbones, and international mystique.

Scott watched in fascination as this intriguing young lady, dressed in a flowing chiffon gown, got closer and closer, and then he broke out laughing when he spotted, just below the hem, a slip poking out imprinted with tiny Minnie Mouse figures. Black army boots adorned with polka dot laces completed the outfit.

Curious to meet this fashion diva, he worked his way through the boisterous crowd to her side. “Hi,” he shouted over the noise. “I’m Scott Harold. Love your boots.”

She looked him up and down, and then asked, “Are you wearing any underwear?”

Scott checked his zipper, relieved to see it remained closed. “Ah, yes, why do you ask?”

“You strike me as the kind of guy who might go commando to one of these shindigs.”

Scott blushed. “Thanks…I think…and you are?”

“Thirsty,” she grabbed him by the arm and pulled him toward the dining room. “Buy me a drink, and if you’re lucky, I’ll tell you my fascinating life story.”

They stood in line forever for a half-filled paper cup of chilled fruit punch, plus the last of the coveted chocolate-covered mint cookies and then found space to sit down on one of the living room couches.

She faced him, her brown eyes open full…their knees touching. “OK, you’ve got one shot–so, impress me.”

Scott thought, be bold, don’t hesitate, and don’t be clichéd. No, wait, what if she talks brash, but is really shy? Oh crap, I can’t screw this up. What should I say?

Jessie raised an eyebrow. “You with the zombie stare–did I put you to sleep, or is the pressure too great to carry on a normal conversation?”

He blurted out, “You are the most beautiful woman in the world–and I can lick my own eyebrows.”

She laughed so hard punch came out her nose. “Good one–and as a token of good faith in this negotiation, I am not wearing any underwear.”

“Would you go out with me?” he said.

“You’re cute, but a little dense. I’m giving off such a positive signal that I could be mistaken for a lighthouse. I think I’ll call you, Pookie.”

Scott frowned. “I’d rather you didn’t.”

“Why not?”

“What if I called you, Snookums?”

“Would it help with the Pookie thing?”

Scott shook his head. “Not really.”

“Okay, no nicknames, until we get to know each other better. Pick me up Friday night at eight.” She stood up to go.

Scott touched her arm. “Wait, what’s your name.”

She turned and smiled. “Jessie.”

#

That wonderful beginning had led to a series of incredible dates. Now Scott thought only of Jessie…his former girlfriends left far behind. His fraternity brothers had grown fond of her too. She had become a house favorite after showing up for the Hell’s Angels party on a Harley Fat Boy Classic, wearing nothing but combat boots, a red bikini, and a German World War Two helmet.

Today, Scott intended to take their relationship to the next level.

He entered the Char Bar and scanned the packed restaurant. It didn’t take long to spot Jessie because at five-foot-seven she easily stood out amongst the crowd. Wearing an open bolero-length leather jacket and jeans, she leaned against a high-backed booth, chatting away with Pam, one of her sorority sisters.

Jessie saw him approaching and loudly announced to the entire restaurant, “Mr. Scott Harold, here you are at last. I feared you had abandoned me. I’m pregnant and you won’t pay for an abortion. I’m ruined–ruined, I tell you.” She broke into tears and covered her face with her hands.

Several students within earshot gave him a disgusted look–including sister Pam, whose eyes grew so large she almost popped a blood vessel.

“Very funny, Jessie,” he said. “That’s not true…and please lower your voice, people are staring.”

Jessie took his hands but continued speaking at top volume. “When you left me that morning, ravaged from a torrid night of savage sex, you promised to love me forever. But by the next weekend, you couldn’t remember my name. Now I’m a gal in trouble, and you won’t return my phone calls.”

Pam’s jaw fell to her chest.

Scott whispered. “Tell Pam we haven’t done…it yet before she has a kitten.”

Jessie gave a clear, no holds barred laugh, wrapped her arms around his neck, and kissed the end of his nose. He loved that laugh–one of her many wonderful attributes, along with her trademark scent that smelled like a blend of fresh flowers and the lusty month of May. Whenever he got a whiff, he would flashback to their last make out session.

The rest of the Char Bar patrons went back to their meals, as the couple slid into the booth opposite Pam. Jessie said, “So, where have you been, dummy?”

“Sorry–unavoidably delayed.”

“Well, don’t let it happen again, or I’ll tie you down and spank you–oh wait, I already did that!” She laughed again.

Pam shook her head.

A waitress, in matching white apron and cap, took their orders. He selected the usual huge amount of food required to fill his six-foot frame, while the girls chose a salad, accompanied by the Char Bar’s famous double-thick milk shake. It amazed Scott that he could eat as much as he wanted and never weigh more than one-eighty-five–thanks to the four hours a day he spent in the pool as a member of the OSU swim team.

Jessie said, “Okay, we’ve ordered. What’s the secret you wanted to tell me?” Both girls leaned in for his answer.

He loved the way her eyes sparkled when she smiled. She was a wonderful, complex, intelligent woman who kept him constantly on his toes. And although she liked to shock people with her brazen sex talk, they had waited to sleep together because she wanted the moment to be right. Who could guess that Jessie would turn out to be a Romantic?

He swallowed hard, turned toward her, and held out a gold twin heart promise ring in his open hand. “Jessie, would you wear my ring?”

Across the table, Pam squealed and nodded yes faster than a bobble head mounted in a speeding car on a bumpy road.

Jessie remained silent; her eyes guarding her thoughts, for what seemed an eternity. Finally, she said, “I don’t know, Scott. First, I agree to go out with you–and now you want me to wear a promise ring. People will say we’re in love.”

“Well…aren’t we?”

Pam’s head started bobbing up and down again.

“This is a giant first step, followed by engagement, marriage, and a baby carriage. Do you want lots of children, Scott Harold?”

He stammered. “I…I…uh…didn’t think that far ahead…well, ah…we might, uh, maybe…”

She laughed. “Don’t panic, I have no desire to march down the aisle quite yet either.”

Scott let out a sigh of relief. “So, what do you think?”

“Of course, I will, silly.” Jessie slipped the ring on her finger. “Now kiss me.” She pushed him against the back of the booth, pressing her body against his. Fortunately, she stopped after a few seconds or he might have burst. Jessie demurely brushed back her hair and took another sip of her milkshake.

“I should give out promise rings more often,” Scott said, mopping his brow with a napkin.

Jessie punched him in the arm. “Not if you want to live.”

“You two should be arrested for making out like that in public,” said Pam.

“Well then, we’d better keep it private.” Under the table, Jessie slipped her hand between Scott’s thighs.

“No w-way,” Scott’s voice broke, as he put Jessie’s hand back on her side of the booth. “I want to tell everybody that you’re my girl.”

“Let’s take out an ad in the campus paper.”

“Come on, I’m serious…and I want you to meet my mother.”

Jessie shook her head. “Not after what you told me.”

“Why, what’s wrong with his mother?” Pam asked.

“She can be a little intimidating,” Scott admitted.

Jessie twirled several of the dark brown hairs on the back of his neck around her finger. “Must I go?”

“Only for a couple of days. We’ll stay over Saturday night, eat a home-cooked meal, and then drive back to campus on Sunday. I can give you your choice of accommodation in our twelve room historic home.”

“So, where in this giant residence is your room?”

“Sorry, Mom’s an old fashioned kind of lady with a very strict Catholic upbringing. I had to learn about the birds and the bees from the neighborhood kids.”

“So asking her to join us is pretty much out?”

He gave her a look. “What do you think?”

“I get the picture–your mom’s legs are glued together, and no hanky panky for us on the schedule either.”

“I didn’t say that–we always could go watch the submarine races on the Miami River.”

Jessie kissed him on the cheek. “Now you’re talking. Who knows, you might get your periscope wet this weekend. ”

Scott chuckled. “Whatever am I going to do with you?”

Jessie smiled like the Cheshire Cat. “How much time before your next class?”

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Identity Check -Chapter One

New exciting mystery-thriller now available on amazon.com on Kindle or paperback. Here’s the first chapter…

Calvin Mills, the senior Democratic Senator from Maryland, relaxed in his favorite leather chair, watching the latest CNN news summary. He’d spent a long day on the hill fighting for his water conservation bill and felt as drained as a rock star after a three-hour concert at JFK Stadium. After shutting down the big screen TV, he headed to the kitchen where he found Danny sitting at the table, eating a late-night meal. “You find everything you need?” The startled Secret Service agent jumped to his feet, his mouth stuffed with a man-sized bite of a turkey sandwich, and mumbled, “Yes, sir, appreciate your hospitality.” “This protection is a waste of taxpayer money,” Calvin said, as he grabbed a soda from the magnet-covered refrigerator. Danny, his white shirt opened at the neck and his striped tie pulled aside for comfort, discretely wiped mustard off his chin with his finger. “No matter how much you complain, sir, we’re not going away.” Calvin nodded. “Now sit down and finish your sandwich, I’m going to bed.” The senator climbed the stairs toward the second-floor master bedroom, paused at the midpoint landing to catch his breath, and then entered the bathroom to brush his teeth. Judy, his wife and best friend for more than thirty years, clad in a white silk nightgown, sat up in bed, leaning against the headboard, but remaining so engrossed in her latest romance novel, she didn’t notice him enter the room. The sounds of running water, gargling and spitting, however, broke her concentration. “Calvin Mills, is that you?” He stuck his head out. “No, dear, some stranger is using your sink. Honestly, if I can’t get your attention, how do you expect me to win the nomination next month?”
“Don’t pout because I fail to dote on your every move. Look, you are a shoo-in. You have a sizable lead in the polls, and Walter doesn’t stand a chance in the general election.” Calvin put the toothbrush back in its silver holder, crossed to the antique four-poster oak bed, and slipped under the covers. “I can’t remember when an incumbent President didn’t win the nomination, and by the way, today’s Washington Post editorial agrees with me. Maybe I should have accepted his offer to be Vice President.” Judy laid down her book. “Absolutely not…why play second fiddle when you can lead the orchestra?” He held her hand and looked at her slightly wrinkled, but still lovely face. “We’ve been down this trail many times. You think I can walk on water, but it would take an even bigger miracle for me to become President.” “Don’t sell yourself short. Who knows what will happen? If you can’t line up enough votes, we’ll strike a deal. Walter’s will need his own deus ex machina to stay in office, but no matter what happens between you two, we can’t let the Republicans move back into the White House.” He kissed his wife on the forehead. “Now I remember why I’ve kept you around all these years.” Judy swung a pillow at his head, but he ducked, and playfully pinned her on the bed. “Besides, if everything else falls through, my old law firm would take me back in a heartbeat.” Judy wiggled under his weight. “It’ll work out for the best. It always does. Now get off me, you big horse.” Calvin rolled over to his side of the bed, smiling, as his wife performed her evening ritual–turning the nightstand clock radio to light jazz from WJZW-FM, setting the sleep timer for thirty minutes, and kissing the ornate, silver-framed picture of their son, daughter-in-law, and three wonderful grandchildren. Judy sighed, settled under the covers and leaned over to give Calvin a peck on the cheek, “Goodnight, sweetheart.”
“Goodnight, dear.” He switched off the Tiffany lamp, and cuddled behind her, spooning like newlyweds. The moonlight through the bedroom windows projected a diffused tick-tack-toe pattern on the polished mahogany floor as they drifted off to sleep. # A tall figure, nearly invisible in his hooded black sweats, waited deep in the shadows within a stand of birch trees, his breath crystallizing in the cold night air. Through powerful infrared binoculars, Frank Tate observed the activities at the Mill’s large colonial home, nestled safely in the upscale community of Chevy Chase, Maryland. He checked his watch and smiled with satisfaction as the agent, like every other night, finished circling the house, punched in the home security code, and opened the back door–trading places with a second agent, who now stood under the porch light enjoying his last smoke of the evening. Nasty habit, Frank thought, doesn’t he know those things can kill you. Pulling a titanium compound hunting crossbow from his bag, he cocked the heavy gauge Dacron synthetic string, placed an aluminum shaft, four-bladed arrowhead into position, and took careful aim through the ATN Mars6x Gen.2 scope. His adrenaline surged as he squeezed the sensitive trigger and the arrow flew true to its mark. The agent could only gurgle as he tried in vain to shout a warning to his partner and the sleeping couple he had been assigned to protect. Before the injured man could pull his gun, Frank quickly crossed the perfectly-manicured lawn and pinned the agent against the house. While covering the man’s mouth with one hand, Frank plunged his hunting knife just below the ribs. He stared into the man’s eyes, watching him blink several times before the agent fell to his knees and toppled face-first to the cement. Frank retrieved his arrow by pushing it the rest of the way through the neck.
Frank’s head throbbed after another successful kill. He tried to rub it out, but the unrelenting pain and intense flashes of blinding light behind his eyes made relief impossible. He fumbled out a homemade briar pipe from his jacket pocket and filled the bowl with a pungent-smelling mixture of marijuana and tobacco. After tapping the crushed leaves down with his finger, he raised the pipe to his lips and held a match to the potent concoction until it began to glow. Taking several deep drags, his headache subsided to a tolerable level. Frank put out the pipe, broke down his crossbow and tucked it away along with his arrow, and then advanced to the still open doorway. He peered into the empty kitchen and then inched his way forward into the home. He lowered his bag silently onto the kitchen table and stole a bite of a mostly-eaten sandwich lying there. Grabbing some paper napkins from an antique holder, he wiped clean the freshly-coagulated blood along the blade’s serrated edges but chose the back of his sleeve to brush away a few bread crumbs from the corner of his mouth. One down, one to go, he thought. Hearing a TV playing in the den, Frank bent low and crept across the carpet until he reached a spot behind the second agent. With the only light coming from the flickering screen, he rose, silent as a specter, knife in hand, and ended the man’s life with one slashing stroke, while a late night comedian made jokes about President Kendall’s latest ineptness. Crossing to the stairs, Frank looked up into the darkness and listened for any noise coming from his primary target. The blinding flashes returned, so he lit his pipe again, and then step-by-step climbed toward the master bedroom, hugging the wall as he went, so the stairs wouldn’t creak and provide any advance warning, although he wasn’t too concerned about the sleeping couple putting up much of a struggle. # Jazz still played on the clock radio, but discordant free-form improvisation didn’t cause Mrs. Mills to jerk awake–it was her keen sense of smell. She wrinkled her nose and shook her husband. “Calvin, get up. Something’s burning on the stove.” He moaned and replied without turning over. “Why does your imagination go into overdrive the minute I fall asleep? We never cook, so there can’t be anything burning–unless one of the agents decided to surprise us with a Sunday roast.” But then he picked up the scent too. Now a non-smoker, he could still recognize–and briefly crave–burning tobacco, but the familiar aroma was mixed with a sweetness he hadn’t smelled since his undergraduate days at Yale. Now wide awake, Calvin sat straight up in bed, put on his glasses and scanned the room for the source of the odd scent. He stopped at the bedroom door when he came upon a red glow, like a demonic eye, staring back at him. “Who’s there?” He shouted. But his words had barely left his lips before the stranger took three quick strides to the astonished senator’s side, pinned him to the headboard, and sliced a jagged trench just below his distinguished chin. Calvin turned toward his wife with a look of astonishment before sliding down to his pillow; coming to rest in an expanding pool of blood. Judy stared up at the man, trembling, crying. She tried to speak, but nothing came out until one pleading word emerged. “Why?” Frank shrugged. “It’s j-just some-thin’ I g-gotta do.” He moved toward her, and she screamed, “Danny…John,” but no one answered. Frank hated to do this, especially to a sweet old lady, but his orders were clear–no witnesses. As he reached for her, she picked up a silver picture frame from the nightstand and threw it at his head. He ducked and saw the missile shatter against the wall, sending shards of glass flying everywhere. Judy scrambled across her dead husband and ran out the bedroom door screaming. He caught her at the top of the stairs, his strong fingers snapping one of the thin straps of her nightgown, causing the woman to ricochet off the banister, half falling, half tumbling down the steps–collapsing in a heap at the bottom. Taking three stairs at a time, Frank hauled the dazed woman to her feet and held her tightly from behind. His head next to hers, he picked up the faint scent of her lily-of-the-valley perfume. Judy’s eyes opened in terror as he whispered into her ear, “S-S-Sorry ma’am.” With a gloved hand, he drew the knife across the woman’s delicate white throat, simultaneously severing another scream and the carotid artery. He scooped up her crumpled body in his arms, cradling the woman like a small child, and carried her back upstairs-carefully placing her beside her dead husband. He watched her lacy pillowcase turn dark red, the sticky blood making a mess of what used to be her immaculately-styled, mostly gray hair. After wiping his weapon on the bedspread, he put it back in its sheath and knelt down beside Mrs. Mills. He drew close, gently stroked her pale cheek, and wept–such a waste. Shaking off the sadness, Frank picked up his pipe from where he had dropped it during the attack and relit it. The drug, along with a moment of meditation, helped reduce the pounding in his head long enough for him to finish his assigned task. He opened a jewelry box on the dresser, stuffed a handful of rings, bracelets, and necklaces into his jacket pocket and threw the box on the floor. In a quick turn around the bedroom, Frank knocked over a lamp, trashed some books, and for good measure kicked a hole in small TV sitting on a wheeled stand in the corner. Pushing aside the clothes in the closet, he ran his hand along the floor looking for a seam, until he found and removed a small square of Velcroed carpet. Pulling a piece of paper from his pocket, he dialed the in-floor safe combination, opened the heavy metal door, and removed several documents and a banded stack of cash. Frank flipped off the light, bounded down the stairs, and swept up his equipment bag on his way out the door. Producing a cell phone, he hit a pre-programmed number on the pad.
After three rings, a thin male voice answered, “Yes?” “I d-d-done it…like you t-t-told me.” “Good. I’ll send the money to your regular account, Frank.” “I d-don’t d-do this for the m-m-money.” “Whatever.” “Why d-d-did that woman have to d-die?” “Don’t worry about it, Frank. Just go home.” Frank walked to an unlocked gray Ford Taurus station wagon and threw his gear into the backseat. He had parked three blocks away in case any of the neighbors might be watching. Probably not a necessary precaution, because these days neighbors barely spoke, let alone looked out for each other. Nobody had ever cared about him or his sisters. He sighed, climbed in behind the wheel, took another deep drag on his pipe, and drove off into the night.

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The Gift

the giftWent to the Geffen Theater last night and saw a most interesting Australian play (premiered in Melbourne). “The Gift” centers on two couples, Sadie (Kathy Baker) and Ed (Chris Mulkey), very successful franchise owners from Los Angeles, and Chloe (Jamie Ray Newman) and Martin (James Van Der Beek), struggling intellectuals from New York.

Chloe and Martin win a vacation to a fancy resort where they meet Sadie and Ed, a comfortable, but bored, pair celebrating their 25th anniversary. The two couples quickly become good friends over several bottles of wine and mojito pitchers…a bond later solidified when Martin saves Ed’s life, after he falls off a sailboat in a sudden storm.

Ed offers Martin a gift…anything the younger couple wants for saving his life. They refuse at the time, but promise to meet one year later and tell Ed & Sadie what they want most. Without giving away the ending, let’s just say what Ed & Chloe request will surprise, if not anger, most members of the audience.

Minimum set serves the play well, as most of the action is left to the actor’s abilities and the audience’s imagination. Kudos to all four actors who put their heart and soul into the performance. From the front row at the curtain call, it was easy to note the emotional/physical commitment to the final ten minutes of the play on their perspiring faces, especially Kathy Baker and Chris Mulkey.

There were several laughs last night in this “dramedy,” sometimes from the lines, sometimes from being uneasy or embarrassed. I guarantee you will talk about relationships and responsibility in the car on the way home. We did.

“The Gift” is playing at the Geffen Playhouse (10886 Le Conte Ave, Los Angeles, CA) through March 10. Tickets are $47-$77. More information located at GeffenPlayhouse.com.

“Backbeat” Review, Ahmason Theater, L.A., 1/24/13

ImageAlthough the play previewing at the Ahmanson Theater this week has its slow sections, and sometimes the Liverpool dialect is hard to understand, in the end it is all about the music. “Backbeat” thunders with live rollicking classics like “Twist and Shout,” “Love Me Do,” “Long Tall Sally,” “P.S. I Love You,” “Rock and Roll Music,” and “I Saw Her Standing There” played in classic early Beatles venues from seedy Hamburg clubs to the Cavern, where they were discovered by manager Brian Epstein.

The crowd last night stood on their feet for the last 15 minutes, dancing like teenagers (including one young woman who came on stage & managed to get a hug and kiss from “Paul”, as these outstanding actors/musicians recreated the exact historic moment the lads from Liverpool became “The Beatles.” Not an award-winning play (book is focused mainly on the relatively unknown relationship between fellow art students John Lennon & Stuart Sutcliffe (original bass player), but the live experience is priceless for any fan of Beatles music.

“Backbeat,” which came to L.A. direct from London’s West End, continues at the Ahmanson through March 1, 2013.

The Jacksonian

Had the opportunity the other night to see an outstanding new play at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Beth Henley, and directed by Tony award-winning director Robert Falls (Death of a Salesman), the story takes place in 1964 inside a seedy old motel, The Jacksonian, located on the outskirts of Jackson, Mississippi. Ed Harris (National Treasure) and his real life wife, Amy Madigan (Field of Dreams), play Bill and Susan Perch, a separated couple, trying to work out their differences. Bess Rous is their daughter, Rosy, who serves as the play’s narrator, tying together scenes as the action jumps back and forth over several months.

Ed Harris and Glenne Headly
Ed Harris and Glenne Headly

Bill Pullman (Independence Day) scowls & squinches his way through the story as Fred Weber, a shady bartender at the motel, who hands out drinks and advice, swallows swords, and may have committed robbery & murder. Glenne Headly (Mr. Holland’s Opus) rounds out the cast as Eva White, a saucy maid who desperately wants to get married. In exchange for an engagement ring, she provides Pullman an alibi for the night of the murder. Later when Pullman rejects her, she sets her sights on Harris in a funny, nitrous-oxygen induced, semi-undressed romp.

The Jeffersonian starts out slowly, like a Sunday afternoon on the plantation porch, as we get to know the characters, but builds in quick layers to an unexpected conclusion. Harris gives an excellent understated performance of a man about to explode as he faces his past and likely future. Denying his KKK heritage, he is surviving the situation by focusing on his beloved dentist business, and a steady diet of alcohol, laughing gas, morphine, and chlorophyll.  When he loses his license after pulling every tooth out of a prejudice patient, Harris exudes pure raw emotion, as he watches his life quickly self-destruct. Madigan nails the proper, yet deeply disturbed wife, who has physical/emotional scars from a complete hysterectomy, approved by her husband while she was still under. She hangs on to Harris because she still loves him, but won’t ever let him move back home…or forgive him.

Torn between her stage parents, Bess Rous is the youngest member of the ensemble with the shortest pedigree, yet she makes some interesting choices for Rosy. I loved her physicality, slouching around the hotel, teenage splotches all over her face, bouncing back and forth between an obedient daughter, and a rebel just waiting to break out.

Primarily a drama with a heartbreaking finale, there are liberal laughs sprinkled throughout the production, mostly from Pullman and Rous. Well worth the time if you are in the L.A. area. The show runs 90 minutes without intermission.

The Jacksonian continues in the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater through March 25, 2012.