WATCHING A BOWL GAME FROM AFAR

About two or so weeks ago, yours truly received an invitation to attend a Super Bowl “watching” party taking place in the person’s home. As one can expect, the party will consist of a potluck lunch along with lots of snack food items, while the folks in attendance may watch or not watch the annual early February sporting event to beat all sporting events. The person hosting the event has a 48” high def TV device placed in the center of the living room. If the weather holds out (where in Los Angeles, this is most likely), a BBQ will be fired up along the back patio area where a chef (i.e. the “boyfriend” of the hostess) will be manning the device serving the grilled goods.

The person who will be having the event, a retired teacher with the public school system, has been having these events on and off at her home for the past few years. She herself doesn’t really care for football, or any other sports for that matter! Her boyfriend Tony is more of the sports nut, watching games as her place whenever possible. She tolerates this behavior, but because he is the man about the house (so to speak), she takes everything for what its worth.

As for this writer, it isn’t known if I’ll make an appearance next Sunday afternoon. Don’t get me wrong. I do adore a nice house party event where a number of people-some I know, a few I know of, and the rest that are total strangers to me–will gather to eat, drink, smooze, and overall have a pleasant time. Oh, yes! They may watch the game itself, or to be accurate, watch the over blown commercials that at times are more entertaining that the game itself!

Stating the obvious, the Super Bowl has been perhaps the biggest type of television program ever aired. It still receives the big numbers in terms of viewers, and in many cases, holds the record for the most watched single show airing, an honor once held by traditional entertainment based programs.

There are many reasons for this distinction for the big game to really be the big game, if not the only game! For starters, it’s a live event, meaning that this game will air in its current state one time only. Second, a good number of viewers tend to watch this event with others, be in at a sports bar, or at a private watching party. In many parts of the nation, the mid winter blahs are taking its toll. Cabin fever, the state where one feels they are are cooped up in one’s domain for too long, is playing havoc on people’s mental state. Hosting a party during this time would relieve the pressure of staying indoors for way too long. And as with our hostess, it’s just an excuse to have some of the gang over for some BBQ and the good company that comes along with such

And sports dosen’t always take a leading role of live events that draw the TV numbers. A few folks will be hosting a watching party set around the 87th Academy Awards presentation, taking place at the end of this month on February 22nd. However, this kind of Oscar watching parties tend to appeal to more of a female demographic. But it still draws big viewing numbers, far from the other three awards shows; the Grammys, Emmys, and the Tonys, the award show that draws the smallest amount of viewers.

Whatever the case, whoever attends will have a good time for what it is. Just as long as the hostess knows what teams are playing, perhaps the event will hold greater appeal, if the commercials don’t get in the way!

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NEWS AND REVIEWS

     Continuing its run as a guest production at the Odyssey Theatre is SMOKE AND MIRRORS, a mystic theatrical show that features the nearly lost art of magic and illusion.

Albie Selznick is featured as himself. He tells his story on how he got into this art of stage phantasm. From the time he was a young boy, he became interested in working with magic tricks taking his cue from his father who taught him a few life lessons; The most notable one of these facts of life speaks of overcoming his fears. Upon knowing of the sudden death to his father while he was on a business trip in New Zealand, the young Albie took hold of these traits as dispensed by his dad, and mastered the theories of fooling those by way of the notion of the slight of hand, giving nods to the great Harry Houdini, perhaps the greatest figure in magic and illusion. In this show, Albie performs a series of classic magic tricks. Some of these gambits are ones that have been performed countless times (many involving doves), while others are ones that may be so old, they are new again! With the aid of an ensemble of assistants as both human and rabbit(!) figures, Albie wows his audience with his talent that proves that folks still love to be fooled, even in these post modern days where everything can be discovered thanks to the “magic” of electronic devices that can access the ‘net, create phone calls, and fits snugly in one’s pocket or purse!

This is a show that audiences of all ages (children or otherwise) will find as entertaining, amazing, and of course–magical! Albie is a magician in the vintage sense. His act is just as thrilling as it was when magicians would be seen during the earlier days of vaudeville and television a la The Ed Sullivan Show. That doesn’t make this show stale. In fact, it’s just as up to date and those for noted magical electric devices that everyone seems to carry around, except that those same phone contraptions can’t do card tricks, make doves disappear (or reappear), or use the unique relief of the “Oracle of the Hill”–a sprit being that dons a white face with red painted lips as projected on an inflatable balloon orb. This Oracle knows all and tells all, and becomes the highlight of this magic showcase! (One has to see it to believe it!!)

And since every magician that knows their craft needs a faithful aid to bring the illusions to its astonished audience, those assistances that do their “magic” consist of (as listed in their alphabetical order), Michelle Cameron, Meagan Daine, Joseph Dworsky, Kyle Bryan Hall, Michael Heiman, Laurie Huff, Herb Mendelsohn, and Roberto Villalobos. They don’t necessarily appear on stage all at once, so Albie is still the leading magic man! David Schweizer directs this stage piece that will stupefy the audience for nearly every moment of its ninety minute running time.

This production made its first appearance at The Road Theatre Company’s original stage space in North Hollywood, and has thrilled its audience for months at a time. Now taking this production to West Los Angeles, it still keeps the illusions profound through trickery, slight of hand, and explores the question “What Are You Afraid Of?”. However, if one is seeking scary moments, look somewhere else! If one wants to be fooled with keeping a smile on one’s face, then SMOKE AND MIRRORS will do the trick! (Pun intended?) Just pick a card–any card!!

SMOKE AND MIRRORS, presented by Disappearing, Inc and The Road Theatre Company, performs at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 South Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, until March 15th. Showtimes are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday matinees at 3:00 PM. For tickets reservations, call (310) 477-2055 ext. 2, or via online at http://www.OdysseyTheatre.com.

     Visit Smoke and Mirrors through social media on Twitter @SmokeAndMirrorsShow, like ‘em on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/SmokeAndMirrorsMagic, or visit the official website at http://www.SmokeAndMirrorsMagic.com

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TIME STANDS STILL, Donald Marguiles’ play about a couple working within the same field and the hazards the occupation brings to them, both as professionals and as people, currently performs at North Hollywood’s Secret Rose Theatre.

Presciiana Esparolini and Aidan Bristow are Sarah and James. This couple works for a magazine that writes and reports on current issues. They both share a loft in a former warehouse in Brooklyn, NY. Sarah is a photojournalist whose assignment are in various places around the globe, many of these places are dangerous, taking her in locations of strife. James is the man that writes about what is going on in these war torn locals. The play open when Sarah returns back home from a grievous spot, badly injured from nearly surviving an explosion. Both of them are aware that their field can be rather treacherous, but offers them a fulfilling sense of assignment. Once back home, they meet with their editor Richard (Troy Ruptash) on what James is writing on and what Sarah captured with her camera. They also meet Richard’s latest girlfriend Mandy (Niik Isbelle), a generation younger than he. As Sarah recovers from her physical wounds, both she and James’s own personal relationship takes a drastic turn. Their jobs, as thrilling as it may appear, is getting the best, or not so best, of the two. They may act married, but are not as such assignments won’t allow for any type of domestic lifestyle. So the two must decide what is best for themselves, in spite of the tasks they perform.

This melodrama written by playwright Donald Marguiles speaks for a number of issues. It tells a narrow saga of a couple married in theory but not through common bond, as well as the profession they chose. The cast of four players in this production play their roles as a quartet that become rather believable, down to a point where one can feel for the characters of Sarah and James; Two people can make better for themselves in something much healthier, but doesn’t necessarily offer the same fulfilling challenge. The production itself is very tight and intimate, meaning that this play is ideal for a small stage setting. Vicky Jenson direct this show that holds a number of emotions, from respect to jealousy and  compassion, with touches of delight, hope, and of course, a bit of humor to break the tension such conflicts command within the human stain.

Among the technical mentions, Tim Pacalsdo’s set design of the loft Sarah and James live in is as spacious and industrial as such warehouse turned dwelling units can be, from oversized factory style windows, brick laden walls, and a sliding steel door for its entrance. Craig Richey’s incidental music score sets the mood to this play as the action and conflicts unfold throughout. The same elements also goes for Maarten Cornelis’ moody lighting design.

This stage piece examines a number of concerns about becoming occupied in important lines of employment that serve a purpose, especially is those same methods of work can become rather dire–both on the job and off. TIME STANDS STILL does the opposite to what the title suggests. It brings a rather moving experience that remain in a post modern macrocosm.

     TIMES STANDS STILL, performs at the Secret Rose Theatre, 11246 Magnolia Blvd. (one block west of Lankershim), North Hollywood, until February 8th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sundays at 2:00 and 7:00 PM. Ticket reservations are taken online at http://www.BrownPaperTickets.com/event/969532.

     More information can be found at http://www.TimeStandsStill.la

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STRANGE MAGIC (Touchstone Pictures) is an animated feature that takes place in a fairy type setting.

It seems that the fairy kingdom, never named, is divided between two lands. One side–The Bright Forest, is the home of lush gardens full of fairies, elfs, and other content creatures usually found in such places. The other side, the Dark Forest, consists of murky hollows, tenebrous bogs, and a lot of scary looking creatures. On this good side is fairy Marianne, voiced by Evan Rachel Wood. She is about to wed Roland (Sam Palladio). He’s a male fairy who is charming, gallant, and has some cockiness to him, a fairy who would place himself first rather to the fairy he would eventually wed. While Marianne and her good natured yet flirty sister Dawn (Meredith Anne Bull) prepares for the wedding with the blessings of their father who serves as the king of the fairies, named Fairy King (Alfred Molina), the bride-to-be catches Roland in a passionate kiss with another fairy (never named). She becomes very heartbroken, placing a vow to herself to never fall in love again! She dons a sprit where she becomes a fighter (for a fairy) complete with welding a sword, and will become free from love and being in love, in spite of her father’s wishes. One of the inhabitants of the fairy kingdom, a lovelorn elf named Sunny (Elijah Kelley), attempts to get Marianne back into being a fairy who can love once more. However, a long time before, a fairy called the Sugar Plum Fairy (Kristin Chenweth) once created a love potion that would make any creature become love struck, but was captured by the leader of the beings living on the dark side of the forest, a bug-type creature called The Bog King (Alan Cumming). Sunny, wishing to help Marianne, heads on into the forbidden kingdom to not only rescue The Sugar Plum Fairy, but to have her mix a love potion in order for Marianne to once again experience the art of love. Of course, it won’t be an easy task for the good hearted Sunny, as he, along with Marianne, must deal with these rather evil hinted beings in order to save the day and win the hearts of those that need love and all that comes with this form of passion.

This feature created by Lucasfilms (the first animated feature produced by this company under the Disney banner), is very lively, witty, and serves as a musical! Unlike other animated features where the characters break out in song, there are no original tunes that the characters belt out at prime moments. The songs selected are culled from musical numbers from the 1950’s through the 00’s, where Marianne and company belt out tunes that were made famous from the likes of such artists as Mickey & Sylvia (“Love Is Strange”), Elvis (“Can’t Help Falling In Love”), Queen (“Crazy Little Thing Called Love”) the title tune as made famous by ELO, among many other juke box hits. The songs used into the story work rather well while its cast of characters range from personas that are cute (lead fairies Marianne and her sis Dawn), gruesome (Bog King, etc.) to downright comical! Sunny, as voiced by Elijah Kelley, is the feature’s main comedy relief. Many of the other creatures from the Bog King’s kingdom are just as comical as well, such as the Bog King’s two henchman–or “hench-goblins” Stuff and Thang (Bob Einstein and Peter Stormare), a mischievous ”rat” named Imp, to the Bog King’s mother Griselda (Maya Rudolph), who is portrayed as a “Jewish mother” type that looks after her son, even if he is the king of the dark and scary looking bog! The screen story takes its cues from Willy Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, and is written by David Berenbaum, Irene Mecci, and Gary Rydstrom (who also directs), with story by George Lucas. This screenplay is in par to any post modern animated tale that holds charm for its appeal, and cocky humor for kids weaned on animated fare seen on Nickelodeon, and of course, The Disney Channel, but never ventures into “bathroom humor” fodder! It also holds attraction to all age groups and demographics. The girls will love it because of the two female leads, fairies Marianne and Dawn. The boys will like it because if hosts an ensemble of ugly looking goblins and trolls, and the adults will enjoy it because of its selection of music that the grownups can relate to! Marius Dries, the person behind the musical score and direction to the feature film Moulin Rouge serves here as the musical director and composer of the inessential score. And with other animated films of late that make obvious attempts to pump up its voice cast, this movie doesn’t! In fact, the one sheet posters–the kind found in front of the multiplexes that play this title, has none of the cast named listed, just a line stating that this tale “..comes from the mind of George Lucas”; a subtle hint that the next Star Wars saga (as presented through Disney), is coming soon! That next episode will be overloaded with CGI effects, along with plenty of action packed action–the kind fans want and desire! But that’s another feature release, and another movie review!

STRANGE MAGIC is rated “PG.” for cartoon type action and depictions of scary yet comical looking creatures. Now playing at all multiplexes nationwide.

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