Archive for fun

“Play Dead” – spooky fun at the Geffen – Los Angeles theater review

Photo by Michael Lamont.

Photo by Michael Lamont.

Striking the perfect balance between scares and laughs, Play Dead delivers plenty of delicious thrills, macabre chills and giggles. The one-act show features Todd Robbins as our ghoulish host and runs through December 22 at the Geffen Playhouse.

The raised stage in the Geffen’s dimly lit smaller space is crammed with all manner of random junk. We see icons such as a lit jack o’ lantern, a large ‘Jesus Saves’ neon cross, axes, nooses, shotguns, a crystal ball, death masks… There are cardboard boxes marked with names of the deceased and their corresponding birth and death dates, such as Edgar Allen Poe, S. S. Adams, Willis O’Brien and Dorothy Bembridge, an unknown whose sad story is related to us.

To the ghostly tinkling of an unmanned piano, Robbins promises us, the nervously shivering audience, that he is “going to invite death to come out and play.” What unfolds is an exploration of the limits of terror and hilarity as his immaculate white suit becomes daubed with blood.

Soon after the beginning of the show, the theater doors are dramatically locked tightly and we settle in. Every now and again we are plunged into absolute pitch darkness and then all manner of disquieting things happen around us in the dark. Shrieks of terror mixed with laughter can be heard. Ethereal shapes can be seen. Wraiths drift behind you, harmless tiny objects are tossed at you… It’s all in good fun.

In the vein of “spooky amusement,” Robbins performs a series of terrifying stunts including an unholy resurrection, the staging of a séance, the conjuring of spirits, the horrifying murder and disposal of a willing audience member in a vat of acid—even a circus side-show geek act involving a live rat and the visceral and bloody psychic surgery on an unsuspecting audience member to remove a “demon.”

Robbins proves an excellent storyteller, relating ghastly tales of hideous acts such as Albert Fish (1870—1936), a real-life serial killer and cannibal from NYC who preyed on dozens of children. Robbins provides grisly details of his gruesome deeds and eventual execution via electric chair.

 Worth seeing!

Photo by Michael Lamont.

Photo by Michael Lamont.

Play Dead

Written by Todd Robbins & Teller

Directed by Teller


Geffen Playhouse

in the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater

10886 Le Conte Avenue,

Westwood CA 90024


Running time: approximately 100 minutes, no intermission



Monday                                    Only Monday, November 25 at 8pm (Thanksgiving week)

Tuesday – Friday                     8:00pm*

Saturday                                   3:00pm; 8:00pm

Sunday                                     2:00pm; 7:00pm

*No performance on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 28

Runs through Sunday December 22, 2013

Ticket Info:

Ticket prices range from $57 to $87 and are available in-person at the Geffen Playhouse box office, online here or by phone at 310-208-5454.




Photo by Michael Lamont.

Photo by Michael Lamont.



Funky Punks Circus Spectacular

Funky Punks ensemble - photo by Chelsea Sutton


Pratfalls, balancing tricks, breathtaking trapeze artistry, general tomfoolery and funny business – the Troubadour Theater Company”™s Funky Punks clowns are currently yucking it up in Circus Spectacular! over at the Falcon Theatre in Toluca Lake.

Review & candid photos by Pauline Adamek

Directed by Matthew Morgan, Funky Punks Circus Spectacular is a high-energy, interactive, circus art and clown extravaganza expressly created for kids! Small children, from babies and toddlers up to 8 or 9 year-olds, will best appreciate the gentle humor, slapstick and fart jokes that feature in this clown show. At times the clowns clamber across the seats and infiltrate the audience, all to good comic effect.

You and your kids will be amazed by stilt-walkers, jugglers, dancers, trampoline tricksters and super slippery table sliders and so on.

Funky Punks - Matt Morgan as Matty - kids

The entertainment begins with the vibrantly dressed cast of seven clowns climbing out of seemingly bottomless and gaily-painted toy box, in a variation of the old “car full of clowns” gag. They”™re all wearing red noses (natch) and clad in fun, cute costumes of stripes, polka-dots, spangles, patches, tutus and oversized shoes. Actually, some of the bowler-hatted, waist coated male clowns reminded this critic of colorful versions of Beckett”™s tramps from Waiting for Godot. Indeed, there is a thread of existentialism – and certainly absurdity – that runs through any clown or vaudeville act (and vice versa).

Funky Punks Circus Spectacular is a very silly, one hour long show, featuring plenty of buffoonery, sweet dance sequences and ballerina moves, and even a random character with a lion”™s head that had the little ones perplexed. There”™s no storyline – just a sequence of comedic sketches and feats of clown skills, such as stilt-walking, juggling and hat-tossing.

Funky Punks - Heidi Brucker as Heidi - kids

The uncontrollable giggling from some of the kids in the audience is almost as funny as the on-stage antics.

A highlight is a trapeze act by Caroline Gross who plays Ariel. She performs her deft and graceful balancing magic within a ring and later executes some amazing feats while wrapped up in a long “˜tissue”™ cloth. It”™s astonishing work and a little dangerous, seeing as she is poised several feet above the stage without a safety wire.

In fact, there was an element of danger that ran throughout the entire show. One fantastic feat involved the talented clown Guilford Adams (aka “Gilly”) who accomplished a stunning trick involving a ladder that almost had him landing in the laps of the kids in the front row. It was impressive work from this accomplished and longtime comedic performer. He makes it look so easy”¦

Funky Punks - Caroline Gross as Ariel - kids

After the show, the kids can meet the clowns and get their programs signed. Funky Punks Circus Spectacular is a wonderful and fun-filled show for tiny tots.  I urge you to find a pint-sized companion and get over to the Falcon Theatre!

Funky Punks Circus Spectacular

Falcon Theatre

4252 W. Riverside Drive

Burbank, CA 91505


Runs until Sunday, June 5

Saturdays & Sundays at 11am

Running time:

One hour, no intermission


Adults (ages 13 & Up) $15.00

Children (ages 12 & Under) $10.00 (cheap!)

Box Office:

Purchase tickets here or call (818) 955-8101

Call the box office for wheelchair accessible seating.

Troubadour Theater Company is celebrating its fifteenth year of laughs. Los Angeles”™ renowned ensemble of actors, comedians and musicians has performed throughout southern California since 1995. Their fast-paced, laugh-filled “˜adaptations”™ of classic plays, as well as their original works and hilarious sketch material, make Troubadour a unique and exciting experience for theater-goers of any age.

The company is a Not-for-Profit organization and has performed charitably for many causes including animal conservation, adult rehabilitation, AIDS awareness, California Literacy Night for LAUSD, Children with Autism and other youth programs.

Past productions at the Falcon Theatre include: Oedipus the King, Mama!; Frosty the Snow Manilow; As U2 Like It; A Charlie James Brown Christmas; JACKson FROST; Much Adoobie Brothers About Nothing; Little Drummer Bowie; Hamlet, the Artist Formerly Known as Prince of Denmark; Santa Claus is Comin’ to Motown; It’s a Stevie Wonderful Life; OthE.L.O. and Alice in One-Hit-Wonderland 1 & 2.

In addition to the Falcon, Troubadour has performed at the Getty Villa, Hollywood”™s Ford Amphitheatre and Matrix Theatre, Santa Monica”™s Miles Playhouse, La Mirada Theater for the Performing Arts, Garden Grove Theater Center, the Long Beach Carpenter Center, the Ojai Shakespeare Festival, the San Francisco Fringe Festival, the Adelaide Fringe Festival (Australia) and in Hailey, Idaho, in conjunction with Company of Fools at the Liberty Theatre.

The Troubies were honored with 12 Ovation Award nominations for the 2008-2009 season for their productions of Alice in One-Hit-Wonderland 2: Through the Looking Glass, As U2 Like It and It”™s a Stevie Wonderful Life, walking away with three awards for Best Director of a Musical, Best Costume Design and Best Season. They recently received Ovation Awards for Best Production of a Musical and Best Director of a Musical for Oedipus the King, Mama! in their 2009-2010 season.

‘Love, Connie’ returns to the Cavern Club in Silver Lake

Love, Connie - All photos credit:  Loretta Ramos


She’s baaaaaaaaack! Love, Connie — that drag show with a difference created by and starring John Cantwell — is back for another weekend at Silverlake”™s Casita del Campo’s intimate subterranean Cavern Club deathtrap – I mean theater.

Cantwell’s up-beat multimedia dance comedy thriller is a fun evening of entertainment that mashes faux noir movie scenes with live performance, featuring energetic flashdancing, pageantry and more!

John Cantwell stars as Connie, a loveable, blonde-wigged and hirsute heroine, prone to executing impressive high-kicks in platform heels.

The entire show is basically a love letter to her fans and a full-on dancefest set to raucous 80s pop tunes such as B-52″™s chirpy Housework and snippets of tracks by Prince, Blackeyed Peas, Pointer Sisters and Herbie Hancock. The choreography is just fantastic – this six-foot tall bloke has got the moves! – and a costume highlight is a fab red, white & blue bikini complete with red tassels where it counts. Turns out this eye-catching little number is a vintage collectible from the Kathy Ireland collection for Target. Stylin”™!

Love, Connie - All photos credit:  Loretta Ramos

The dance numbers are interspersed with funny fake advertisements, as voiced by someone with a plummy British accent, and we also see further scenes of these sinister projected mini-movies. It transpires that the black-wigged stalker chick Bambi (Kelly Mantle) has evil designs on Connie”™s precious white cat, Vickie.

Lightning-speed costume changes and high-energy dance routines keep the slightly demented Connie on her toes and Cantwell maintains a cracking pace. Love, Connie runs for barely 50 minutes, but that leaves plenty of time for killer margaritas in the buzzy upstairs bar.

Molly Cranna co-stars as the shapely cat “Vickie”, complete with kitten mask and anatomically correct white suit. She performs a sweet pas de deux with Connie, set to Madonna”™s “Beautiful Stranger,” and this sequence accompanies pre-taped flashback to when Connie adopted her beloved kitty.

Refreshingly, the only dialogue in this hilarious evening is an on-screen chunk of exposition, venomously snarled by our villain Bambi as she explains her deadly motivation. The gorgeous Kelly Mantle clearly relishes her dastardly role. Incidentally, Cantwell has also appeared in campy, fun movies such as Legally Blonde, Nick & Norah”™s Infinite Playlist.

By the way, the mini-movie, directed by Michael Bodie, is beautifully done. Apparently filmed on the streets and staircases of Silver Lake, it was shot in less than two days.

The mood of this spooky little drama was inspired by music and scenes from all the best psycho thrillers, including Dressed to Kill, Sisters, Body Double, Cape Fear, Friday the 13th, White Dog, Psycho, Exorcist 2: The Heretic. Cantwell says he focused mostly on the superb musical scores of Ennio Morricone, Pino Donaggio and Bernard Herrmann and if you”™re especially perceptive, you might even hear snatches of music reminiscent of the haunting melodies from Klute by composer Michael Small.

With its emphasis on bubbly fun, Love, Connie is such a tonic! Especially for this Sydney girl – the show was a real blast from the past. I just didn”™t realize how much I had been missing my hometown, birthplace of Pricilla, Queen of the Desert, and the drag shows of Oxford Street. Pure enjoyment!

Cantwell is a consummate performer who gives his all and had the enthusiastic and vocally appreciative audience in the palm of his hand.

Be advised, however – this is a risqué performance, featuring suggestive groping and scandalous simulated broomstick penetration. Also the basement cave “˜theatre”™ setting is not suitable for claustrophobes.

But Love, Connie is as funny as hell! Don”™t miss this riotous show!

Movie info:

The short film sequences were shot on the Panasonic HPX-170, which is a small HD digital camera that shoots to P2 cards.

Old film-style visual effects (such as scratches, dust and flash frames) were added in post using Final Cut Pro plug-in filters.

Director – Michael Bodie

Executive Producer – Bryan Fuller

Producer – Loretta Ramos

Screenwriter – John Cantwell

Cinematographer – Lisa Wiegand

Camera Operator – Reza Tabrizi

Makeup – David DeLeon & Molly Cranna

Editor – David Kittredge

Original Music Editor – DJ Shyboy

Additional Music Editor – Mr. Dan

Graphic Design – Nubar

Photography by Gabriel Goldberg

Acting by John Cantwell and Kelly Mantle.

Love, Connie runs until THIS WEEKEND O N L Y, with performances on Friday, September 10th and Saturday, September 11th, 2010.

Show starts at 9:00 PM

B O N U S appearance–

Sunday, September 12th,

*** Sunday show starts at 8:00 PM ***

Tickets are $15.00 (cheap!) — purchase here

Cavern Club Celebrity Theatre at the Casita Del Campo Restaurant
1920 Hyperion Ave,

Silver Lake, CA 90027
Phone: (323) 969-2530

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Review by Pauline Adamek