COLUMBUS WHO…?

This week’s issue is posted on an American holiday that apparently has seen better days!

The day in question is Columbus Day, the day to commemorate Christopher Columbus, that famous explorer who back in 1492 set sail to discover new lands, and found one, the place that is now known known as “America”.

Any person that’s worth their salt knows about the story all too well as told (and retold) in nearly every form of media that exists, from old radio dramas to TV episodes to movies (and there’s plenty of those around) to various forms of audio and visuals found on the ‘net. In fact, just use your favorite search engine and type in “Christopher Columbus history” in the little box, and one will find enough information where one can write a couple of reports well suited to earn an “A” in history class–or at least a “B-”, depending on how one copies the info on line!

Of course, because good ol’ Chris and his gang set sail to find the place that became part (or something like that) of this nation, the USA dedicated a national holiday to remember Chris in what he did some 500+ years ago. The day was originally set for October 12th as Columbus Day. However, back in the late 1960’s, the same government decided that many of the floating holidays celebrated in the USA should be placed on the Monday closest to the date in question starting in 1971. Memorial Day, once celebrated on May 30th regardless of what day of the week the 30th fell on, was pushed to the last Monday of May. Ditto for George Washington’s birthday–once falling on February 22nd, is now on the second Monday in February. Abe Lincoln’s B-day, falling on February 12th and was never a national holiday, was crammed in with George’s b-day and is now known as “President’s Day” (For the record, Lincoln’s birthday was once a state holiday for Illinois, but now uses Prez’s Day to pay tribute to the man whose likeness is found on the penny, the five dollar bill, and on Illinois license plates!)

However, Columbus Day’s real meaning has been lost over the many years, since Chris himself wasn’t American, as well as how he met up with the indians way back when. This writer isn’t going to go into details on what history placed on their books (that is why search engines exist), but whatever the case, that respect to those indians has changed into a different light since the early-middle 1990’s when “Indians” became “Native Americans”.

But getting off the ethnic trip for the moment, Columbus Day as a whole isn’t necessarily a holiday for everyone! Banks are closed for the day, and that closure that might bring a bit of inconvenience to those that need to do some in person backing–assuming that the bank in question doesn’t charge a fee for some service that used to be for free! There won’t be any mail delivery on that day either, although many people have forgotten about mail delivery the same way they forgot about Columbus Day! Schools may be off that day as well, and this writer notes that is “may be off” since many school districts may not necessarily place Columbus Day as part of their official holiday roster!

But many employees working for companies both big and small may wind us spending another day under the clock. In spite of the fact that those same folks may not necessarily work in a traditional physical place i.e. an “office”, they must do their duties working on-line and offsite as they have been always doing–even on weekends and outside of the “nine to five” ordeal!

Back in the day when people used to work in physical places, this writer was once employed at a regional cable company owned and operated by a media corporation based in Pittsburgh, PA. The company had a policy for all of its employees–not necessarily just limited to our humble CATV facility located in a suburban bedroom community–where the employees could vote on what day we would want to take off. The vote was between Columbus Day, and the day after Thanksgiving. One doesn’t have to guess what day won that electron as it was a landslide! In fact, one employee whose name is now long forgotten by this same writer, stated “Ya mean there’s still a Columbus Day?”

So there you have it folks! It seems that Chris isn’t getting the respect he used to, assuming that Chris ever received respect in the first place! However, Halloween is just around the corner, and for many, that’s the only day in October that really matters, considering that Halloween paraphernalia has been made available since Labor Day! That’s fine for that that is, considering that many folks doesn’t start gearing up until a few days before, let along if not on October 31st! So much for spooks and ghosties!

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NEWS AND REVIEWS

      The Black Theatre in Hollywood presents the world premier of Jeff Tabnick’s SOMETHING TRULY MONSTROUS, a comedy about  a team of Hollywood legions that becomes involved in telling off their studio boss by presenting a surprise guest that comes along for the ride.

It’s May, 1942. Over at the Warner Bros. studio, Humphrey Bogart (Jason Paul Field) and Peter Lorre (Amir Levi) are finishing up Casablanca. The studio head Jack Warner is offering Lorre a seven year contract. Bogie tells him that if he signs the contract, he will be limited in paying evil and macabre roles for his duration. But Lorre needs the money to support his lavish lifestyle as well as his drug habit. Around this time, John Barrymore, one of the legionary Barrymore thespian clan members, dies. This give the two a rare opportunity to tell Mr. Warner off. They get Barrymore’s corpse in order to plop his remains at Warner’s home. But the two head upon a long joyride around town with Lorre driving, Bogie riding at his side, with Barrymore in the back seat. While on their junket around Hollywood, they stop at a restaurant downtown to pick up their costar from Casablanca, Paul Henried (Jilon Van Over). Now he becomes involved in their scheme. Did Barrymore ever arrive to Jack Warner’s place as planned? Did Lorre ever get his studio contract? Did Bogie still make pictures for the Brothers Warner? And will Henreid’s next feature Now Voyager become a big hit or just a bust?

This comedy about old Hollywood rides upon the rumor that Lorre and Bogie did take the late Barrymore out for a ride shortly after he died. If that story is true or not is besides the point as this one act play is a rio as it is! The cast of three that appear in this production are of top form. Amir Levi as Peter Lorre and Jilon Van Owver as Paul Henreid match there roles rather close to their genuine characters. Jason Paul Field as Humphrey Bogart doesn’t quite match, but the illusion of the real Bogie, or the one his public is aware of, is ever present. He speak in Bogie-esque tones, but nothing stereotypical as uttering “schweetheart” or even a “Alright Looie drop that gun” line to make things up. Daniel Henning, The Blank Theatre’s founding artistic director, directs this play that is indeed funny, amusing, and is the kind of stuff that dreams are made of!

Of course, there are others involved in this production. Allison Dillard’s costuming shows Bogie and company in their period ware, right down to Bogie donning a white tux! Ginnie Ann Held’s set design is simple, yet to the point! And Rick Baumgarter & Eric Carabasi’s video design is within the style of an old Hollywood picture, right down to the rear screen projection illustrating that the trio is indeed joy riding around town using rear screen stock footage to prove the point.

WIth a title as SOMETHING TRULY MONSTROUS, one may believe that this play is a horror piece, full of strange beasts lurking about causing all kinds of terror. It’s not so much of that, but something that is very comical, rather than fearful. Besides, Universal Pictures had all of the monsters working for their studio. Warner Bros. had Bogie, Lorre, Henreid, and Joan Leslie! However, Joan’s character doesn’t appear in this play! (*sigh!*)

     SOMETHING TRULY MONSTROUS, presented by The Blank Theatre Company, and performs at the Blank’s 2nd Stage Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Boulevard (at Wilcox), Hollywood, until November 8th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM. For ticket reservations or for more information, call (323) 661-9827, or via online at http://http://www.TheBlank.com.

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The West Coast Jewish Theatre presents Hindi Brook’s comedy ROMANCE.COM, a tale of two people meeting for romance in a high tech world, even though they depict themselves as someone else!

The story opens with Nora (Marcia Rodd) and her granddaughter Terry (Olivia Henrey). Nora raised Terry since she was young, so the two see each other as a mother-daughter relationship, although they are a generation once removed. Terry works as an accountant, working hard in the tax filing season. Nora, long retired and a widow, lives at home, always worrying that Terry will place her in a retirement home to live the rest of her days should she live so long! She doesn’t have much to do, so Terry gives her a laptop to get aquatinted with. Terry hopes that she can learn a new skill with this device, as well as having her catch up with the 21st century. Meanwhile in another part of the neighborhood, Benny (Bart Braverman) a mature man, plays with his laptop while hanging at the local deli. He’s good friends with Don (Michael J. Silver) who works at the deli while he’s not out performing as an actor–his second job! Benny stumbles upon a chat room found on an internet dating site. On the other end, Nora, finally getting the gumption on getting online herself, lands on at the chat room to find somebody responding–Benny! Benny creates a persona that borrows Don’s personalities, while Nora uses Terry’s qualities. Terry herself has a semiserious relationship with Ira (Joseph Michael Harris) a man who is on an ultra health kick, staying fit while eating alfalfa sprouts and tofu. But will Benny and Nora, two people who could use some real romance in their lives, ever get together as themselves? And is Terry the right choice for Ira, although he may be the most fit man found around the neighborhood!

This play by the late playwright Hindi Brooks is a very witty and very charming theater piece. The dialogue holds plenty of genuine wit and repartee withstanding a very sweet personality. The characters are appealing, their attitudes hold charisma, and haolds a simple yet complex plotting without any confusion normally found in complex plots! The cast of five players that appear in this piece are ideal for their parts. Indeed, the medium of comedy is at sitcom level, but that form isn’t necessarily an inferior notion. In fact, it’s on the opposite track. Howard Teichman, the artistic director of the West Coast Jewish Theatre company, directs this presentation that keeps its comical timing throughout. This is also a one act play, just clocking in at around eighty minutes. This tight running time gives this play a firm structure, meaning there is no moment or opportunity to have stagnant episodes or holding tired and repetitious dialogue.

As to the visual elements found on the stage, Kurtis Bedford designs a set that makes a great divide of sorts between Nora home, Benny’s deli space, and Terry’s office where the play’s climax makes its mark.

ROMANCE.COM is set in a high tech world where people who were framed in a lower tech domestic universe can find what they want, even if they just get a bit of a push. As the tag line of this production notes, love is just a click away!

ROMANCE.COM, presented by the West Coast Jewish Theatre, and performs at The Pico Playhouse, 10508 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, until November 15th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 3:00 PM. For more details and for ticket reservations, call (323) 821-2449, or online at http://www.wcjt.com

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