HOLIDAY ANTICS

     We don’t have to remind you readers that this week is perhaps one of the biggest weeks when it comes to holidays and other notions to commemorate, either by way of a joyous celebration or through another reason to be stressed and tensioned out.
     For starters. It’s Thanksgiving, the time where family, “family”, friends, and even utter strangers get together for the big meal of turkey and all the trimmings. It’s also the day where folks travel from one place to another in order to gather with the for noted family, etc. for the said meal. And when these family members et al. gather, sometimes they all get along, and many times they fight–both through yelling and screaming and/or throwing fists. (These kind of fight fights tend to be more of sitcom fodder rather then actual events, so pleased take the last action in stride!)
     There are those that do good for the day by offering their time and/or resources to assist in a community gathering, where people who have nowhere to go for the holiday can enjoy a meal. Many of these events take place in church basements or social halls, community centers, or in many cases, in the open street with meals served by food trucks in depressed neighborhoods for those that can’t head off to a community center. Those folks that do ‘give back’ are those that are thankful for what they have, and wish to extend those thanks to those that are of a lesser status.
     Outside of Thanksgiving, then there is the day calling itself “Black Friday”. This is (or was–read on) the day where stores would open their doors bright ‘n early the Friday after Thanksgiving to offer deep discounted bargains on anything and everything worth shopping for. There has been countless stories and reports where folks would camp outside of a retailer for days just so they can make a big deal purchase of something they need or think they need. The theory behind this early shopping was to entice shoppers to spend for the holidays. But many of these buyers aren’t getting Christmas and related gifts for others; they are getting gifts for themselves! (Dose anyone know of somebody giving a big screen TV set to somebody as a Christmas gift? It can happen, but usually doesn’t!) But stores that jump the gun on the seasonal start as soon as they can get away with it are having their black Friday events on Thanksgiving day–or even the Wednesday or Tuesday before; the days when people who have to travel from one part of the nation to the other are supposedly in transit. And these early bird discounts are just in store only. There’s the ‘net as well, another factor as that stands.
     What makes this week rather interesting, if not confusing, is the fact that another holiday makes its mark; a day that usually begins sometime in December. Hanukkah, the Jewish eight day celebration of lights, begins at sunset (local time) on November 27th–one day before Thanksgiving!
     Calling this day “Thanksgivukkah”, the biggest holiday competing with Christmas is now competing with Thanksgiving, a day that doesn’t necessarily have ties to any spiritual based movement–although many religions hold connections to this day as expected. Not only this moment clashes with the day o’ thanks, it also leaves retailers out on a loop. After all, Hanukkah is a gift giving holiday, meaning that those retails, if they do wish to join the holiday spending bandwagon, should have started their shopping spree nonsense last Friday! In fact, many of them did!
     It’s also interesting to note on what will be served this Thanksgivukkah; roast turkey with a side dish of potato latkies? Since food “mash ups” are all the rage, perhaps this blend of foods may not be as wacky as it sounds! Visit your favorite search engine to find recipes to get ideals on this new tasty treat!
     However folks, enjoy these two holidays at the same time while you can, because according to a calculation, the next time Hanukkah and Thanksgiving will meet again will take place some 79,043 years from now–give or take a year!
     And to quote a comment about this holiday clash posted via Twitter, “79,000 years? Oy, we should live so long!”     
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NEWS AND REVIEWS
    Theatre 40 presents as their third production for the 2013-14 season, Moss Hart’s LIGHT UP THE SKY, a comedy about a group of theater folks on the road previewing a new play that’s bound to become a hit or a miss.
     In Boston, a play written by upcoming playwright Peter Sloan (Nick Denning) is currently in its preview mode before it officially hits the Great White Way. Meeting at the hotel suite of lead actress Irene Livingston (Stephanie Erb) are a number of those involved in the play, either as behind the scenes folks or those by default. Those gathered are Miss Lowell (Cathy Diane Tomlin, alternatively played by Elain Rinehart), a secretary and play ghostwriter, producer and backer Sidney Black (Arthur Hanket), his spouse Frances (Meredith Thomas), veteran playwright Owen Turner (Martin Thompson), the star’s mother Stella Livingston (Flora Plumb), her husband Tyler Rayburn (Bryan Bertone) director Charleton Fitzgerald (David Hunt Stafford), along with Shriner William Gallegher (John Combs) Castello) and Sven (William Murphy). As the performance takes place on the stage that is “off stage”, the production isn’t going too well on the floorboards. Each one in the room exchanges barbs with one another with the sense that this show will close before its opens. But is this play called an “experimental” work a true hit? Is the real drama occurring in this hotel room? Of perhaps the critics writing in the press will have their say before events become as bright as the sky, or as dark as a burnt out bulb on a theater marquee.
     This play, first staged in 1948, takes a behinds the scenes look (with a lot of creative license added) on how the theater biz operated, and was indeed part of a notable member of the performing arts along with motion pictures and to a lessor extent, radio. (Television was the new kid on the block, and wasn’t taken as seriously since what was mostly aired wasn’t considered as “art”!) The play itself has more wit than belly laughs. The notions expressed are well taken, even though this is a period work. As to the cast, each player is amusing to see and holds lots of appreciation and personality. While all the actors far exceeded the content of this play, each trouper conducts themselves as diverting, carrying themselves through an entertaining first act, and a somewhat slower and longer(?) second. David McClendon directs this show as lively as it could be projected that shows off this classic work; a comedy that isn’t as presented as often as it used to.
     And there are the visual aspects of this Theatre 40 production that add to the charm. Michele Young’s costume design is appealing, especially with the woman’s fashions that sport that overbuilt 1940’s era concepts. And Jeff G. Rack’s set design shows the hotel suite (where all of the action takes place) looking more like a full sized living room that a hotel suite. As noted before, this is a period piece, and hotel suites might have looked like living rooms since these places were intended to be homes away from home.
     LIGHT UP THE SKY is an interesting scan to behold on what went on in the theater biz back in the day, and the folks at Theatre 40 do a pleasing task of initiating a stage piece about a play nearly becoming a flop with its characters swapping witty lines rather than pratfalls and perhaps fists. Then again, such banter as vented is more of an art form than just gawking at a cluster of actors falling down a lot. As its been stated countless times, they sure don’t make ‘em like this anymore!!

     LIGHT UP THE SKY, presented by Theatre 40, and performs in the Reuben Corova Theatre located on the campus of Beverly Hills High School, 241 South Moreno Drive (off Santa Monica Blvd.) Beverly Hills ,until December 22nd. Showtimes are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings at 8:00 PM, and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM. No performances on November 28th and 29th. For reservations and information, call (310) 364-0535, or via online at http://www.Theatre40.org
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     STOREFRONT CHURCH, John Patrick Shanley’s play about a head of a regional  district who a holds a confrontation with a local minister at the type of titled house of worship, makes its west coast premier at North Hollywood’s NoHo Arts Center.
     Taking place within a vicinity located in the south Bronx, New York, Donaldo Calderon (Aris Alvarado) the head of the neighborhood borough, is in the process to save the home of Jessie Cortez and Ethan Goldklang (Johnnett Kent and Alan Ehrlich) from foreclosure, being some eight month behind payments. They do have a tenant, Chester Kimmich (Steven Stanton) a small time preacher who operates a house of worship; Not in a traditional church, but in a store that once held a cleaning business. (The old sign still is painted on the front window!) Since Ethan can’t negotiate a deal from the loan officer Reed Van Druyten (Ed Dyer), he asks the borough’s president for help since his political connections include businesses he is conducting with the bank CEO Tom Raidenberg (Charles Hoyes). What makes things a big conflicting, Donaldo is the offspring of a preacher who grew up with his father’s way of holding service. Adding to this mix is that his later mother cosigned the loan long before! The bank president would forgive the loan in exchange for Donaldo’s support on a multimillion neighborhood development project.
So Donaldo meets Chester in his “church” to find out upon the real low down of this storefront ministry.
     This play is part of a trilogy of previous theater pieces that mix religion and confliction in the Bronx. The first, and perhaps best known of the trio is Shanley’s one act play Doubt, a period piece about a Catholic priest and an action that he was supposedly accused of bearing. (See review: Vol. 17-No. 30). This current piece takes a different look upon this form of confliction that balances the notion of modern day neighborhood development and a man trying to spread the “good news” in his down and out community. The dialogue spoken is biting and to the point, each stanza voiced in rapid fire tones. Aris Alvarado as Donaldo Calderon is the type of small time politician who cares for his community, even though that community has seen its better days pass. Johnnett Kent and Alan Ehrlich as couple Jessie and Ethan are both amusing; the former is gentle and understanding while the latter is more high strung, but in a good way! Ed Dyer as Reed holds an appearance of a man made creature; Nothing scary per se, but somebody that would be a bit on the freighting side. Charles Hoyes an Tom is more all business–running a bank and all! And rounding out the cast is Steven Stanton as Chester, the man of the cloth who would preach from the good book, although he does hobble from a crutch! Ronnie Marmo directs the play (also serving as producer) into a production that is dramatically whole while holding on to a bit of humor. It’s far from a comedy in the conventional sense, but shows a willingness to be as dramatic as it can become.
      In addition to the performance seen on stage, Danny Cistone’s set design shows a run down retail place that is “magically” turned into a church by using a worn looking pulpit and a few folding chairs as its pews, decked out with exposed pipes and an electrical junction box affixed on its harsh walls. Donaldo’s office space is just a simple office desk and a few other furnishings. Noting special, but the real heart of the story is the for named location upon what the narrative is all about!
     STOREFRONT CHURCH is another chapter between the never ending struggle between “church and state”. Although the church isn’t as glamorous as St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the political machine presented doesn’t have the same power as the folks running the city during the glory days of Tammany Hall, it still poses these concerns. All in all, it’s a tight little play that holds a massive allure.

     STOREFRONT CHURCH, presented by Theatre 68, and performs at the NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd. (at Lankershim), North Hollywood, until December 21st. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday evenings at 7:00 PM. For reservations, call (323) 960-5068, or online at http://www.Theatre68.com
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     NEBRASKA (Paramount Vantage) stars Bruce Dern as Woody Grant, an elderly man who was born and bread in rural Nebraska and currently lives in Billings, Montana with his wife Kate (June Squibb) of fifty plus years, along with their two grown sons Ross (Bob Odenkirk) and younger sibling David. (Will Forte). Woody suffers from a slight case of dementia, having the tendency of leaving his home to wander award. One day, Woody receives a letter in the mail, informing him that he “won” a million dollar cash prize! Although this letter was send as part of selling magazine subscriptions, the old man insists that he travels to the sender’s corporate office in Lincoln, Nebraska to claim his fortune. Will, who oversees his dad, tells him that the letter is just an advertisement. But Woody, the hard man that he is, is still hell bent in getting the cash he supposedly won. Will decides to take him on a road trip to Lincoln so his dad can grab the goods: This trip would be Woody’s last go-round (so to speak) since the years for him are slowly coming to its end. As they travel, they decide to stop over in the town of Hastings, Nebraska-Woody and Kate’s home town (Kate joins the two later) to visit distant family still residing. While in Hastings, Will discovers a lot of long hidden secrets about the early days of his folks, especially about Woody’s drinking and money problems from long ago.
     This drama is a film about bonding (to an extent) between an elderly and rather confused father, and his wiser son who knows better while looking after the man. It’s full of interesting characters that speak for the hard working midwestern life. The screenplay by Bob Nelson has these characters talk quite a bit; Not mindless talk, but dialogue that speak toward one another with plenty of close ups seen on the screen to boot! Phedon Papamichael’s black & white cinematography shows each scene to be hard and gray, along with plenty of empty rural streets and wide open fields that have a ghostly emotion. This look and feel to this feature, along with the talking between Woody, David, Kate, and the rest of the townsfolks, makes up for the “action”–or lack of it, that other movies would otherwise cram in. (This isn’t a tent pole picture anyway!)
     As to the cast, Bruce Dern’s performance shows a frail man that was once a tough soul that knew how to take care of things; that is, until he started hitting the sauce many years before! Will Forte as David is the sanest of the group, still taking care of his ol’ man no matter what. June Squibb as Kate also shows her midwestern toughness, even though she was once the “hottle” in town from a long forgotten era. And in a supporting role, Stacy Keatch plays Ed Pegram, a man who knew the old man and was once a business partner in an auto garage with Woody, finally meeting up with one time associate after many long years. Ed learns that his pal from way back when has hit the jackpot and thus, attempts to collect a long forgotten debt!
     Directed by native Nebraskian Alexander Payne, NEBRASKA is one of the many “Gimmie an Oscar” titles that are floating around (or will be) between now and the end of the year. Will this feature win that golden award, or any award for that matter? Perhaps, since the folks that vote for the said awards, as well as those that fob ‘em out, tend to be more of a mature (read: older) crowd. And since the leading man’s film career’s peak was around forty or so years ago (and is also the same age of those same voters), those elements alone will ring true. If Dern himself doesn’t grab the goods for his performance, somebody behind the scenes will! (Director, editor, cinematographer, etc.) That’s great for Dern and the rest of the gang. And the movie viewer, voter or otherwise, will be indeed pleased with the results.
     This feature is rated “R” for general cussing. Currently playing in selected theaters.
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     FROZEN (Disney) tells the saga of Anna and her sister Elsa (voiced by Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel), who are the children of the king and queen of Arendelle, a kingdom located deep within the fjords of Norway. Anna posses a magical power she has had since birth to conger icicles through her fingertips. As young children, both siblings were at play when Anna through accident, “hits” Elsa with her magic, knocking her unconscious. She is taken to a “specialist” who brings her back, only to have the young Elsa emotionally disconnected with her sister with the fear that she will be once again hurt in the same way. Years later when the king and queen pass on, Elsa succeed to the throne. During the coordination celebration, Anna meets with Prince Hans (Santino Fontana), and they hit it off, fall in love, with Hans proposing to Anna, all within that short period of time. But Elsa as queen, won’t allow her sister to marry somebody she’s just met, and thus, places a curse of the town making it winter year round. The queen flees, and Anna must get her back in order to relieve the curse. With the prince now in charge, he summons a team to bring back the queen. One of these volunteers is Kristoff ( Jonathan Groff) a rugged outdoorsman who harvests ice blocks for a living, doing his job with the help of his trusty reindeer Sven. (No voice credit!) They, with Anna in the lead, search the back icy forest areas to find Elsa to break the curse of the forever winter.
     This latest release from the Walt Disney Animation Studio (who competes with its “partner in crime” Pixar) brings yet another tale that holds to the classic and traditional Disney-style animated releases. (The only element that isn’t traditional so to speak, is that  its another CGI creation rather than “cell” animation that’s more of a cartoon!) Based upon the tale of “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Anderson, it offers many notions bringing this narrative ideal for kids (girls mostly, as Disney knows how to handle younger females than attracting boys, unless one counts the Marvel super hero line), whilei it’s just as entertaining for adults as well. The animation itself is far better than what was seen in earlier WDAS releases, such as Tangled, and Chicken Little, thanks to faster computer processors and better software no doubt! The music score by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez is lush and enjoyable. The song move the story along, with a few “I want” numbers added that isn’t necessarily another sappy song added to the mix. (After all, it is a Disney title!) Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, and Shane Morris’s screen story takes a timeless reference (The Snow Queen) and keeps it the same way, yet adds a few mildly post modern references within, making this movie appealing to those that are custom to the “gross” humor level seen in Nickelodeon properties. (This grossness is enough to have an actual disclaimer about one line referenced in the end credits; Look for it!)
     But as noted before, the real appeal to this movie is girls aged 12 and younger, the ones that go for the Disney Princess line. Since Elsa is Queen (a somewhat evil one) and Anna is a Princess (his innocence shows through), these two characters will become part of the mass merchandising that will keep Disney’s coffers pleased well into the holiday buying season!
    And yes..there is a comedy relief character found in the bunch; a short and goofy snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad) who desires to discover warmth, joining up with the team seeking the Queen through her Ice kingdom.
     PS: It’s also in 3-D, making this feature a bit more magical as the 3-D effects are all placed properly, rather than being used as an element where junk it thrown at the screen for sole visual effect. (In fact, no junk is tossed to the viewing audience–so there!)
     FROZEN is directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, and is rated “PG” for action sequences and mild rude humor. (See disclaimer!) Opens the day before Thanksgiving (November 27th) at multiplexes nationwide.
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TIFFI’S FRIENDS SAY…
(As posted on her Facebook “wall”)
Off to see Catching Fire with my girl and a bunch of her buddies (I’m the chaperone tossing pop corn at then from the back)
-April

just woke up from a nap. Little Mama is watching the movie Titanic. ON THE SPANISH CHANNEL. that is all.
-Sharon

I’m thankful for blue skies and the tiny chickadees that seem to drip from fir branches.
-Kathleen

Today Facebook is showing me that one friend, Tonia is using her web based computer while another friend, Lashanta is using her mobile phone to be on Facebook. WHY do I need to know? Makes me feel like a stalker or something….
-Lorrie

Homemade Tuscan Bean, Veggies & Chicken Soup with Garlic Bread. That’s what I’m having for dinner.
-Sandra

Guess what time it is? Yummy cooked chocolate pudding. (I won’t eat the instant). : ) can’t wait to dig in!
-Patrica
As of November 25th, Tiffi as 1,936 “firends” and counting
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     On behalf of the staff and management of Accessibly Live Off-Line, we wish each and everyone of you a Happy Thanksgiving. (Happy Hanukkah, too!)
     We’ll be back next week with more of the news and information you care about. See you then!
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