I had seen this Tony award-winning play elsewhere a little over six years ago, and remembered it being funny, so I decided to see it again at this theatre in Venice now. And it’s just as good as it was back then.
The action of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, (which I really wish had a better/easier/not gimmicky title,) takes place over one week-end in the lives of three grown-up siblings, who are named after characters in plays by the classic Russian playwright, Anton Chekov. I didn’t get much into the whole Chekovian aspect of it, though, because I’m far from a fan of the few plays of his I’ve seen; so I just enjoyed this one as it lay. Perhaps if you’re more familiar with Chekov than I am, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike will also have a deeper meaning for you as it goes along. (Only a few of us in the almost-full audience I saw it with chuckled at the many references, so it appears that I’m not alone in my nescience.)
Read full review: https://itsnotaboutme.tv/news/theatre-vanya-and-sonia-and-masha-and-spike-2/
Russian writer Anton Chekov (The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters and The
Cherry Orchard) is considered to be one of the greatest writers of all time. He,
along with Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg, were the seminal figures in the
birth of early theatrical modernism. Their collective works, illuminating the human
condition, stands the passage of time. The reason I point this out is that subtle
references are made to some of Chekov’s work in playwright Christopher Durang’s
Tony award-winning play Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, currently on
stage at the Pacific Resident Theatre. Durang’s brilliance was to create
comedies out of existential anger which is reflected in the characters in this
most entertaining play and is perfectly aligned with Chekov.
Read full review: https://splashmags.com/index.php/2023/05/17/theatre-reviewvanya-and-sonia-and-masha-and-spike-delights-at-marilyn-foxs-pacific-resident-theatre/#gsc.tab=0
“Director Dana Jackson deserves high praise for having put together this well-acted, handsome-looking production of Williams’s bitter-sweet but strong and compassionate rewrite of Summer and Smoke” – Total Theater
Opened: June 18, 2016
Pacific Resident Theater has celebrated its 30th anniversary by mounting The Eccentricities of a Nightingale, Tennessee Williams’s revision of his 1950s play Summer and Smoke. Williams has said that he preferred Eccentricities over Smoke because “it is less conventional and melodramatic.” He also added that Alma Winemiller is his favorite character.
This time around, Alma (strong, lustrous performance by Ginna Carter) is a more active character, fighting as best she can to win the heart of her girlhood crush, Dr John Buchanan (Andrew Dits). The handsome young man has just returned to Glorious Hill, Mississippi, shortly before WW I, after having graduated from John Hopkins University.
In Summer and Smoke, John is the catalytic force in the play, keen on introducing the wan, virginal Alma to the pleasures of the flesh. In Nightingale, it’s Alma who wants to take him to bed, even though she knows he doesn’t love her the way she loves him. Alma might be nervous, excitable, and eccentric (especially when she has to speak and sing in public), but she can laugh at herself, stand up for herself.
John is made of softer stuff, though, putty in the hands of his domineering, snobbish mother (Rita Obermeyer). She wants her golden boy to marry a socially prominent, elegant, upper-class girl, and not the frumpy daughter of the Reverend Winemiller (Brad Greenquist), who is not only poor and dour but has a batty mother in the attic (Mary Jo Deschanel). To his credit, John always treats Alma with respect and affection, having long recognized just what a unique, deeply feeling, highly intelligent person she is.
Williams writes about them with delicacy and understanding, particularly in the key scene of the play, when Alma persuades John to take her to a hotel room in Tiger Town, the seedy part of Glorious Hill. The way Williams probes character here, deals with the complexities of their relationship, brings out all their strengths and weaknesses, is quite astounding, the work of a truly great playwright.
The drama in Eccentricities of a Nightingale is on the muted, quiet side. There are flashes of humor, though, especially in the scene where Alma and a handful of local art-lovers meet to discuss a William Blake poem and help write a “manifesto.” Williams’s satire of these genteel, slightly pretentious but well-meaning folk is enjoyable and humorous.
Director Dana Jackson deserves high praise for having put together this well-acted, handsome-looking production of Williams’s bitter-sweet but strong and compassionate rewrite of Summer and Smoke.
Cast: Ginna Carter, Andrew Dits, Brad Greenquist, Rita Obermeyer, Mary Jo Deschanel, Paul Anderson, Joan Chodorov, Choppy Guilotte, Amy Huntington, Derek Chariton
Set: Kis Knekt; Lighting: Ken Booth; Sound: Christopher Moscatiello; Costumes: Christine Cover Ferro
Vince Melocchi is a 2008/2009 Ovation Nominee for Playwriting for an Original Play for his work LIONS at Pacific Resident Theatre.
If you’d like to add a congratulatory message for Vince (or any other Nominee or Nominated Company), to the Ovation Awards commemorative poster (distributed to all nominees and all attendees at the Ceremony), click here!
As an Ovation Award Nominee, LA Stage asked Vince the following questions:
What was the moment that first inspired you to pursue working in the theatre?
After seeing Al Pacino and Jeffrey Tambor in ”And Justice for All”, I knew I wanted to be an actor. But I also knew that to be the best actor I could be, I had to train seriously. And that starts on the stage. Once I took my first acting class I felt like I was home. There is a feeling I get in the theatre, as an actor or writer, that I just don’t get anywhere else. Years after seeing “And Justice For All”, I was working as an actor on a film in Kansas City with Jeffrey Tambor. At lunch, I told him it was his work that helped inspire me to become an actor. He smiled and said, “You never know who you’ll touch”.
What do you feel made the production you were nominated for particularly successful, either overall or for you specifically?
My director Guillermo Cienfuegos, my producer Lisa Nichols, my wonderful actors, being published by Samuel French, and getting repped by Chris Till at CAA in New York.
This production would not be what is was without Guillermo. No way, no how. Long before we began rehearsals, he’d give me feedback on the script. I’d send him the material, then we’d meet at Starbucks and he would give me notes. I’d go back and rewrite and we’d meet again. More notes. He also designed the set, and did sound design along with Keith Stevenson. Keith also originated the role Andy in LIONS.
My producer Lisa Nichols, was instrumental in helping shape the play. She worked tirelessly, and I couldn’t have asked for a better producer. Her commitment was second to none and I would have been lost without her.
My lead actor, Matt McKenzie was a rock. Really. He is a real pros’s pro and we would have been lost without him. Between Matt and Haskell V. Anderson III, Valerie Dillman and the rest of my great group, we were really, really blessed.
When the play was published by Samuel French, I was honored. Gwen Feldman, Melody Fernandez, Ken Dingledine, Leon Embry and the rest of the Samuel French family have been terrific. I cannot say enough about them and the support they’ve shown the play.
A terrific director I know, Michael Peretzian saw LIONS and recommended I get in touch with Chris Till from CAA in New York. I did. Chris read the play, saw it and liked it enough to start working with me.
Finally, I’m grateful to Marilyn Fox and the membership of Pacific Resident Theatre for their support and faith in LIONS.
What project or projects are you currently working on?
I’m right in the middle of a play that features one of the characters from LIONS, Feeg. He returns to his Western Pennsylvania hometown and is reunited with an old friend.
What do you love most about theatre in Los Angeles?
Being able to do theatre six blocks from the beach, being surrounded by some of the most fantastic actors in the world, and being able to catch the early football games before the Sunday matinee.
What’s your dream project?
A play about my relationship with my hero. My late father.
Biography: Growing up amongst the steel mills of his native Midwest, Vince Melocchi aspired to work there following high school, however, by graduation the factories had stopped hiring. Needing a job he was hired as a local janitor. Not seeing much of a future hauling trash, on a whim and a dare he enrolled in acting classes at a community college, inspired after seeing Al Pacino’s performance in “And Justice For All”.
He then enrolled in Penn State University’s Theatre department, where, in his playwriting class he found he was required to have a play written by the end of the term. Panic stricken, he called his father, who calmed him down by advising him, “Write what you know”. Taking those words to heart he did, and has been doing so since.
He wrote, ”Making Moves”, his play about a group of janitors. It was produced the following year at Penn State.
Next, he attended the American Conservatory Theatre’s professional training program and he has been a working actor since leaving ACT. As an actor he has appeared in film, television, and on many stages including his work in Robert Schenkien’s Pulitzer prize winning play, “The Kentucky Cycle” at the Mark Taper Forum. He is also an acting and playwriting company member at Pacific Resident Theatre.
As a writer, he studied with his mentor, the late Bill Idelson. Vince believes he became the writer he is today thanks to Bill’s watchful and ever vigilant eye.
Apart from ”Lions” (recently published by Samuel French), other plays include, “Figures”, “Bully”, “The Last Linen Day” and “Summer Games”.
He would like to send a special hello to Guillermo Cienfuegos, Lisa Nichols and the rest of his LIONS team.
December 6, 2012, 2:53 p.m. Review: ‘Nora’s’ excellent cast cuts to the heart of a masterwork – By F. Kathleen Foley
Jeanette Driver and Brad Greenquist (Vitor Martins)
Creator of such epic projects as “Fanny and Alexander” and “Scenes From a Marriage” — both later edited into feature-length format — Ingmar Bergman hardly seems the go-to guy when it comes to condensing an existing script.
Yet “Nora,” Bergman’s briskly abbreviated version of Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House,” translated to the English by Frederick J. Marker and Lise-Lone Marker, distills Ibsen’s overflowing themes into a bitter but bracing demitasse.
First produced in the early ‘80s, the play receives a near-optimum staging from director Dana Jackson at Pacific Resident Theatre. In uniformly cogent performances, a superlative cast cuts to the emotional heart of Ibsen’s masterwork.
Casting petite and gamine Jeanette Driver as Nora and towering, obviously older Brad Greenquist as her husband, Torvald, emphasizes Torvald’s complete domination of his child-like wife. The actors’ inspired physicality — with Torvald looming and Nora seductively cringing — points up the underlying creepiness of their near-pederastic marriage.
Conversely, the moving romance between Nils Krogstad (Scott Conte), Nora’s blackmailer, and Nora’s old friend, Christine Linde (Martha Hackett) is devoid of artifice — a coming together of battered souls who can no longer afford illusion. As Nora’s admirer, terminally ill Doctor Rank, Bruce French balances wistful yearning with heroism.
But a few gratuitous segues do creep in. Jackson unwisely overblows Bergman’s coy indication that Nora and Torvald have sex just before Nora’s defection.
As Driver plays her, Nora is so stunned by Torvald’s self-serving display that she allows herself to be manipulated into bed, like a blow-up doll. Granted, that’s a bold interpretation — but it largely vitiates Nora’s final epiphany and undermines her moral stature at a critical juncture.
By Elspeth A. Weingarten
It all started last winter, when Pacific Resident Theatre’s Writers Group held its New Work Series and company member Keith Stevenson brought the theatre a smash hit like it’s never seen before.
The series was created to give writers a goal for finishing their full-length projects and to give them an opportunity to put their work in front of an audience – both for the sake of creating a deadline and also to gather feedback on developing work.
Writers signed up to submit projects they had been working on – for years, in some cases. But when it came around to 14-year member, Keith Stevenson, he told them, “Yeah, I’ll whip something up.” At that point he had only a title and a concept – which he had carried with him for about 10 years prior.
Stevenson spent the next two and half weeks hunkered down in the back room of bars and camping out in a bare apartment, writing the play that was to become an unparalleled hit at Pacific Resident Theatre.
OUT THERE ON FRIED MEAT RIDGE RD. opened at PRT’s Co-Op space on March 29, 2012. It was slated for a three-week run, but it finally closed on October 6 – after six months, many returning audience members and an Ovation Award nomination for “Best Playwriting for an Original Play.”
During that time, the play developed an almost cult-like status among audience members who came back to see the show again and again – sometimes as much as five, six – even 12 times, or more.
“You’re guaranteed to feel better when you leave the theatre than you did when you came in – and there’s not a lot of things you can say that about,” saidFried Meat super-fan Ryan Smith, who has seen the show over 50 times.
“People loved the play because it was so funny; they were shocked and wonderfully surprised because it was so funny. But the reason they came back again – and the reason it stayed with people – was the way it made them feel,” said Fried Meat director Guillermo Cienfuegos.
It was clear from the first reading that this was something special. “[People] instantly started talking about how sweet the play was – what a heart it had, how it had this undercurrent of brotherly love and caring for each other,” Cienfuegos said. “Viewers recognized immediately the spiritual core at the center of all the laughter.”
Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Rd. is the story of a man who, upon answering an ad for a roommate, finds himself living with a hillbilly who purports to be the son of Christ. It’s an hour-long tour de force with non-stop jokes, a lot of coarse humor and a surprisingly rare and remarkable heart of kindness at its core – which is what keeps the audiences coming back.
“I loved so many things about this play. It’s sort of a perfect experience,” said company member Joan Chodorow, who has seen the show 13 times. “I just think the play’s amazing. It’s completely original. You think you think you know where it’s going to go, but then it takes all these unexpected turns and you come out of it feeling so good, feeling uplifted – it’s a profound play, but it’s truly hilarious. We’re all laughing from start to finish. Each time I see it, it’s like I’m seeing it for the first time.”
“I was incredibly humbled by the audience reaction and the fact that so many people returned time and again,” said Stevenson. “It was six of the happiest months of my life. I was thrilled to be working with such incredibly skilled actors who were so enthusiastic to be a part of it and who were so funny – surprisingly funny, actually – and the way that people just reacted to the story and to the characters… I was really taken aback by this wildfire of good feeling that surrounded the play.”
Stevenson said that he had been thinking for a long time of writing a character for himself based on the idea of a person who hadn’t lived up to his potential. He took the idea to the extreme and came up with the concept of someone who had descended from the DNA of Christ. But the character that emerged ended up surpassing that concept to became a figure very much rooted in real life – but one who was also the embodiment of love and kindness.
“It’s funny because people would talk to me afterwards and be slightly disappointed at talking to Keith, and not getting to meet JD,” he said. Stevenson had had a run of playing hard-to-like characters over the past several years and it was a change to find himself playing one with whom audience members completely – and consistently – fell in love.
“The audience wanted to hang out with JD and spend time with JD, because they felt good around him. In a way, JD was doing for the audience what he was doing for Mitchell and Marlene,” Cienfuegos said of the two “lost souls” of the play, whom JD sets on the right path.
“JD is just an amazing character,” said Chodorow. “He’s always weighing things out to try to make everything OK for everybody and he has no ego about anything. He’s all goodness, but it’s in this edgy play.”
Written on such a tight deadline, the actors had not even read the play until they came in the morning of the reading to begin rehearsal. But – unlike most projects that need multiple readings and revisions – Stevenson’s play was complete.
Cienfuegos said “it was just a matter of bringing everything out and putting it on its feet. From that first reading, to when we opened it at the Co-Op in March, the play remained virtually unchanged.”“Even though it had been written in two and a half weeks, it was obviously a finished work,” said PRT Artistic Director Marilyn Fox. ”The characters, the story the theme – it was a finished piece.”
And there’s more to come. This December, Pacific Resident Theatre will open the doors to more West Virginia mayhem in Stevenson’s A FRIED MEAT CHRISTMAS. This holiday sequel will inhabit the 703 space for a two-week limited run, which includes double-headers with the Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Rd. on Saturdays and Sundays.
“I’m very excited for A Fried Meat Christmas,” Stevenson said. “I’ve always wanted to do a Christmas play and to tell a story that embodies the spirit of Christmas. And to do it with these characters that I’ve lived with for all this time now is very special indeed.”
Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Rd.
By Carol Kaufman Segal
Pacific Resident Theatre in Venice is committed to presenting new works through their Playwrights’ Unit and Festival of New Plays. Their latest presentation is by Keith Stevenson, a member of PRT since 1998. Keith hails from West Virginia and must have one heck of a sense of humor. His play, Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Rd., is one of the funniest shows I’ve witnessed in a long time. Even the title is funny, and the cast is absolutely amazing under the direction of Guillermo Cienfuegos.
Mitchell (Neil McGowan) recently lost his job, his girlfriend broke up with him, and he has nowhere to go. Down on his luck, he answers a newspaper ad for a roommate. He ends up on a country road, and in a rundown cluttered motel room (scenic design by Norman Scott) Mitchell meets JD (Keith Stevenson). JD seems different, a bit mysterious, but with an exceptionally kind heart. Mitchell is dumbfounded when he finds out that this is the room that is being offered. He was expecting a neat two-room apartment with a little more privacy. In fact, it more than upsets him. Just how upset is seen in the expressions and manners of McGowan! A very witty scene ensues between these two characters.
To add to the raucous, JD’s friend Marlene (Kendrah McKay), who lives in the motel room next door to JD, drops by in an angry fit because she suspects her boyfriend Tommy (Jason Huber) is cheating on her. Tommy eventually shows up with the cops following after him and the motel owner Flip (Michael Prichard) arrives to try to calm things down, but this is a laugh-a-minute play that never calms down. The ending is a blast, one that could never be imagined but, I can assure you, the laughter won’t stop. Performances of Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Rd. are Thursday through Saturday at 8 PM, and Sunday at 3 PM, closing Sunday, May 27, 2012. Tickets may be purchased online at www.PacificResidentTheatre.com, or at (310) 822-8392. The Pacific Resident Theatre is located at 707 Venice Blvd., in Venice, CA.