LIFE-BANLANCED?

Taking another page from the book o’ life (available as an app too, one supposes), it seems that people have more on their plate than ever before. Thanks to that wonderful thing called “technology” that was created so we, the humans existing in domestic life, can have less stress and more time to do other things because those machines, invented by folks who know more than we do, are doing all of that work! However, in order to have those same machines to do all of the work we once did, somebody’s gonna have to make sure they are doing their jobs so we don’t have to! In other words, instead of technology doing all of our work, we are working harder than ever in order to have them for us!

Once upon a time when people were mostly employed, a standard form of job was to head on over to an office type space and spend eight or so hours toiling away on a series of dull and mundane tasks. After those eight or so hours have passed usually until five in the afternoon, the job was done and over for the day. Those formally busy people would leave their work space to do other things, from spending happy hour time at a bar, or heading off to home to make dinner for the family brood. One would wind up spending forty hours a week at work in a special location, and spend the rest of the same week at home or any other place that wasn’t connected to work or the work space. One did that for many years until they turned the age of sixty five, where the man (usually men in this case) would receive a gold watch (or something equivalent), and have the bosses thanking them for a wonderful service they provided to the company. Then the man (along with the wife of course) would spend the rest of their lives in an invisible world called “retirement” where the couple can play golf or bridge, go fishing, bake cookies and pies, and spend lots of quality time with the grandkids. After a few years of that, they die–the end!

It isn’t quite known if that little episode of life really did occur in the so-called “good old days”, but in today’s real world, the above described scenario may still be around but for the most part, it really ain’t happening that way! Thanks to those electronic toys called smart phones, laptops, electronic pads, the batteries needed to run them, as well as an internet connection to make it all happen, many folks works 40+ hours a week on any and all days of the week. Loosely speaking, one is always on duty 24/7, whenever they are getting paid to perform those practicable tasks or not!

And depending in what demographic one belongs to, the notion of balance in life differs quite a bit. The classic “9 to 5” description of work in the above noted method comes from the life and times of the baby boomer generation, those aged from 51 through 69 using this year (2015) as its base. The Gen Xers, those aged 36 through 50, were the first ones to discover that working for a living wasn’t necessarily limited to hanging around the office for those eight hours weekdays. That age group learned how to use those computer machines where one can do some work at home, eventually taking that work around with them by way of a laptop that did the same functions as a desktop. This story line leads toward to the Millennials, (age 35 and under) that were weaned on having these electronic devices within reach and where a WiFi connection was everywhere. They work just as long, but not necessarily from nine to five. They can work providing that the job gets done!

Because of this always wired way of life, it appears based upon a recent survey conducted by from digital health and wellness media platform MindBodyGreen, these Millennials have the strong desire to break away from their phones and related devices and to escape from technology.

Among the findings found within this report, nearly every response (99% to be exact) agreed to the statement “I’m trying to find balance in my life”, while 95% are increasingly focused on managing or minimizing stress. The report did state that this demographic do not necessarily define themselves on what they do as work, but what they perform to do within their lives.

When it comes to spirituality, Millennials find themselves within that track, but not necessarily being part of a traditional faith as 90% say they see themselves as more spiritual than religious. They hold the meaning of wishing to do good not only for themselves, but for others that exist within the world as they know of it!

This notion of performing for the good of others also reflects upon their career choices. When asked if they would be willing to take on a job or assignment with either a social or environmental impact for 15% less salary, nearly half of those stated that they would! These so-called “kids” do want to make some good for themselves while latching on a concern for issues that would make the planet and the human race dwelling within a better place while not being a slave to work and the technology connected to it all.

So as the next generation becomes ready, willing, and able to take hold in being somebody or another, expects seem to agree that being true to one’s self while being productive in life can be achieved. It just takes a little time, effect, and to make sure that there will always be an app for that!

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NEWS AND REVIEWS

     Theatre 40 of Beverly Hills presents the Los Angeles premier of Lisa Dillman’s AMERICAN WEE-PIE, a saga about a man’s change of life over the passing of a family member, and his awaking upon the art of a delectable desert.

Caleb Slavens is Zed. He grew up in a small town in the Midwest (Illinois perhaps), but left once reaching adult stage to take on his life, moving up the ranks of being an editor for textbooks. (Nothing thrilling, but somebody has to perform this important role!) However, his mother had just passed on, so he returns back to his town of his younger days to make the necessarily arrangements with his sibling Pam. (Elizabeth Lande). Although the notion of his mom’s death isn’t what made the difference is Zed’s life. Through a chance meeting, he reunites with a woman he knew in high school named Linz (Deidra Edwards). Linz knew of him rather well, and tells him about a business she and her spouse Pableu (Christopher Franciosa) had set up, a boutique cupcake emporium. Pableu, a master chef speaking with a (fake?) French accent, creates a selection of unique and rather fancy cupcakes, even inviting those to taste test them blindfolded. (The blindfolds will allow those to savor what’s inside these mini cakes!) Zed discovers that these cupcakes are part of his second calling. Before long, he is working at this shop, eventually creating a new delicacy of his own doing. But as change creeps inward, all those around him make a discovery of their own, thanks to a variety of a desert that’s been part of the domestic dinner tables for some time.

This dramity (i.e. comedy-drama) holds plenty of messages within. It takes a somewhat everyday man who works in a rather dull occupation who reveals that he has a creative side to him; a side that he wasn’t fully aware of. He also bonds with his sis, who also becomes aware that she holds another side for herself-not necessarily creating cupcakes! Although the tone of this play can be called a “dark comedy”, it really isn’t anything that’s macabre nor ghastly, but hints a sense of loneliness for the lead character, not really knowing where he is heading emotionally or physically.

This production features a robust cast of players that have personalities of their own. About the others appearing within Zed’s small town world is James Schendel as Phil, a cemetery plot dealer that holds the same charm and appeal as a used care salesman; friendly yet creepy! Frederick Dawson is Malcom, a letter carrier that knew of Zed and Pam’s late mother, seeing her while on his rounds as he delivered the “junk mail” on a near daily basis. Rounding out the line of players is Steve Keys appearing as Pete, a fellow classmate of Zed and Linz that had died a few years before, reappearing as somebody from the great beyond, still riding a bicycle while telling off color jokes, just like he did those many years before!

Beyond the acting by this set of troupers, there are the stage effects and settings to take note upon. Jeff G. Rack designs the stage set that centers upon the cupcake shop, dressed in various shades of pink and red a la “dollhouse” motif. Michele Young provides the costuming that’s nothing out of the ordinary (it’s all street clothes), but adds to the character’s aforementioned personalities. Joseph “Sloe” Slawinski provides the sound design that ranges from ambient noises to mysterious sounding tones that suggest something out of the twilight zone- a place that Zed may have stepped into!

Directed by Steward J. Zully, AMERICAN WEE-PIE is as tasty as a butter cream cupcake topped with brightly colored frosting that’s made of sugar free substance. The cupcake’s dressing is to make it appealing, while the sans sugar effect doesn’t create an over sweet effect. It’s more of a bittersweet affair, just as the mood of this play But life is too short, another reason why one should eat dessert first!

AMERICAN WEE-PIE, presented by Theater 40, and performs in the Reuben Corova Theater located on the campus of Beverly Hills High School, 241 South Moreno Drive (off Santa Monica Blvd.) Beverly Hills, until April 13th. Showtimes are Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Monday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM. 

     For ticket reservations or for more information, call (310) 364-0535, or via online at http://www.Theatre40.org

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GLOBAL TAXI DRIVER, Leilani Chan’s stage work about the name occupation and those behind the wheel from all around the global world, makes its first appearance in Los Angeles as a guest production of the East West Players.

In this piece, an ensemble of six performers (Shaan Dasani, Elyse Dinh, Kenesha Hemmings, Joshua R. Lamount, Marcos Najera, and Ova Saopeng) appear in skits and short segments that speak about driving a car for hire called a “taxi”-a word that means this form of public transportation in many languages, in nations near and afar across its local and regional cultures. Many of these pieces are comical and high spirited in nature, while a few show some darkness, expressing that this form of work can be dangerous in all parts of the world. It also signifies that this work can be rather hard to keep up with. Domestically, it’s the first kind of work for the immigrant nation no matter where they may be, from those from the former Soviet Union settling in Alaska, to Somali refugees in Minneapolis(!) And in recent times, thanks to ride sharing through organic means–friends sharing rides for friends and acquaintances, in additional to new commercial outlets with odd sounding trade names as Uber and Lyft, taxis hold a stiffer competition. This doesn’t count the many gypsy drivers and cabs that exist in tight neighborhood pockets within larger cities! These, as well as many other aftereffects and notes, are expressed in this showcase.

This play isn’t really a “play” per se, as there is no linear story line or plot. With this team of six performers, it presents a multicultural experience as each cast member presents their roles based upon the skit’s basic setting and theme; Spanish is spoken from cab drivers  within Latin America, or in America via East Los Angeles. Ditto for when the taxi drivers in Southeast Asia make the scene. (Not necessarily in Spanish!) However, it’s English as it primary form of communication for this show. Also, much of what is focused settles upon poorer nations and communities a la the third world nation variety. Leilani Chan, the playwright who conceived and directs this stage presentation, collected an assortment of taxi stories over a number of years, and transcribed these antidotes for this form of theater, revising each episode over time. The result is an anthology of internationally based spots where cab drivers make their presence known for the good or for otherwise. There are no real monologues present spoken by a sole performer, but has a cast that holds a lot of energy, never letting their pace (and meters) stop!

Outside of the team of actors doing their part, there are visuals added to this piece. Kedar Lawrence creates a moving image backdrop located behind where the players take charge. Those visuals consist as projected from behind and onto a reflective screen placed among a frame lined with PVC piping. As to props, a few rolling physical car seats affixed with wheels are used to supply the virtual cabs. Shyanala Moorty provides the choreography and Kim Harrington’s costuming shows the variations of dress when taxi drivers and their passengers are within their nations and settlements.

This show doesn’t cover every nation where cabs and their drivers exist. (No London-type taxis are ever spoken or implied. Ditto for rickshaws–still used in isolated areas of Asian communities.) But this is a work of theater, not a documentary. However, as a ninety minute presentation, the audience will get to where they want to go, no matter how and through what means. Be their cabs be yellow, green, checkered, or as in the form of a regular passenger can summoned by a smart phone app, it’s just a ride and the drivers that do take those from points A to B!

     GLOBAL TAXI DRIVER, presented by TeAda Productions in association with the East West Players, performs at the David Henry Hwang Theater at East West Players, 120 North Judge John Aiso Street, downtown Los Angeles, until March 29th. Showtimes are Thursday through Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 PM. For more information and for ticket reservations, call (310) 998-8765, or via online at http://www.teada.org

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THIEVES, Charlotte Miller’s play about an overdue reunion of a domestic clan due to the death of the family matriarch and the “bonding” it creates, currently makes its world premier run at the Monroe Forum Theatre at North Hollywood’s El Portal Theatre complex.

The setting is a run down farm homestead located within a small community in East Texas, a universe away from the cattle and oil riches of Houston, the glitz and glamor of Dallas, and the high tech development of Austin. Lottie (Samantha Soule) the eldest of three children and the sole family member still dwelling in the home she grew up in, is currently taking care of affairs over the recent death of her mother. Her baby sister Lana (Sarah Shaefer) who left the Godforsaken community years before moving to New York, has just arrived, not only to mourn he loss of her mother, but to claim the goods left within the estate. There are others near and within the household that must be dealt with firsthand. There’s Jason (Chris Bellant) who was the caretaker for the late mom, the father Gordon (John Wojda) who is just as distant to the family especially over the last times of mom’s life as well as the long absent brother Walter (Macleod Andrews) who was believed to be missing, dead, or possibly both. Adding to the mix is Holly (Addie Johnson) a woman Lottie knew when the two were in active duty in the armed forces. By the time these folks meet, all hell breaks loose, from their fighting (emotionally and physically) over the estate, the bringing back of events that occurred over a distant past–long forgotten until now, with a love triangle thrown in for good measure! It’s a tale of a backwards family bonding where the bonds become unbroken. Mater, along with the rest of this motley crew, won’t ever rest in peace!

This one act play written by playwright Charlotte Miller is an earthy and feisty stage piece from the moment of “go”! It contains characters that exist in a backwoods community that plays themselves as too realistic. Although they should love one another, they don’t, or as least not for the proper grounds! The emotional tensions never let down (even in the still scenes), totally loaded with two-fisted action! The ensemble cast hold plenty of chemistry with one another, even with the fact that the chemistry is just as toxic as a poison dump! According to the playwright’s notes, the piece is a family play that involved a wedding and was later changed into a funeral. It’s a good notion for the writer to make this change, since funerals bring out more of the inner family s#it than a wedding could ever present. (Weddings are funny-humorous. Funerals are funny-idiosyncratic!)

As to the technical side of things, kudos go out for Deb O’s set design of the family ranch, complete with a kitchen setup that hasn’t changed since the 1970’s (typical for a home located in the middle of nowhere), along with a dirt filled front yard laden with real dirt! Jack Rodriguez’s sound design consists of ambient sonancy coming from a radio station playing classic county hits with the occasional sounds of Christian appeal. And Mike Mahaffey’s fight direction adds to the deep flavor when the family has more of their loving moments!

Directed by Daniel Talbott, THIEVES is yet another tale of a dysfunctional family getting together for all of the wrong reasons. The only happy ending to this play is the fact that the audience members will be pleased that their own families aren’t as f*cked-up as this one portrayed on stage. (Or one assumes anyway!) This play is highly recommended!

     THIEVES, presented by Rising Phoenix Rep, Weathervane Productions, and Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, performs at the Monroe Forum Theatre at North Hollywood’s El Portal Theatre complex, 5269 Lankershim Blvd. (one block north of Magnolia Blvd off Weddington), North Hollywood, until April 4th. Showtimes are Thursday through Saturday nights at 7:00 PM, and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM. For more information and for tickets, call (818) 508-4200, or via online at http://www.RisingPhoenixRep.org/Upcoming

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is a presentation of Linear Cycle Productions

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ACCESSIBLY LIVE OFF-LINE (C) 2015 Linear Cycle Productions.

All rights reserved. The views and opinions are those of the writers, and not necessarily of the staff and management. ‘Nuff said!

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