As the month of March that is coming in like a lion and going out as a lamb (in southern California anyway), this is the time of the year where local and regional folks take part in the supposedly annual ritual called “spring cleaning”, the task where one gathers up their excess junk and make an attempt to do something with it.
     Perhaps the most common, if not downright stereotypical scenario, setting of this ordeal would go something like this. Let’s say that Mr. and Ms. Home Dweller has access to a standard household. (We use the term “Mr. and Ms.” here, but it can be intertwined toward any form of standard dwellership among a married couple, a group of people living in the same space, a domestic partnership, or a single person living on their own–you interject your own form of lifestyle!) The home dwellers live in a standard type structure consisting of a typical six room homestead with a garage that can hold one or maybe two vehicles. Unlike what a garage is used for–keeping motorcars inside, the cars are not parked there! The reason? Inside of the garage is a whole load of objects and things. Some are freestanding where they are present in plain view, while other things are stored in boxes, bags, containers, and other forms of safekeeping enclosures where they are not necessarily exposed in plain view, but one will know they are there. How? Some of the items may be stored in boxes labeled with what is suppose to be inside. However, one will know they are there because those things are underfoot wherever one goes inside of the garage! Some things such as boxes may be placed on a shelf or tabletop. Big items may be tucked away in a corner or placed against a wall. For many cases, the boxes and big items are set scattershot all around the garage that doesn’t show any rhyme or reason to why those goods are placed where they are! These goods were gathered over time and tide. Some things have been around for many years, while others were just plopped there for the moment. Over all, the garage is usually seen as one gigantic mess!
     As the weather gets sunnier, warmer, and those daylight hours appear to last longer and longer, the home dweller(s) see this mess in the garage, or any place in the house for that matter, and decide just what they want to do with these worldly treasures that are not as worldly as they used to be! This storyline is where the spring cleaning episodes comes kicking in!
     Although the situations may vary, the above description is what many homesteaders face each and ever time they look at their personal messes. It’s the case of keeping goods they feel they should have for a while, and what other goods that no longer fit their purposes and are deemed to go–and fast!
     If one glances through many of the domestic home keeping publications that are out there (i.e. the magazines that cater to a middle age female demographic), there are have many articles published that address this problem sporting headlines as “Declutter Your Home”, “How To Clean Out Your House”, “Live With Less To Get More”, or something of that ilk that tell the reader how to decide just what to keep and what to get rid of.
     The tips the writer of these articles tend to offer the same advice. Either sell the goods online, donate the goods to come charitable cause or pass the same items to somebody they may know who might want the stuff, or just plain toss the junk in the trash! They also state to either set aside a day when to undergo all of this nonsense (such as a weekend), or to do the cleaning one step at a time, starting out in a small location such as a close closet, then to work up the cleaning to other places of the home. Before long, one will have a homestead that wasn’t as messy as it used to be. That is, until the next Spring where it’s time to do the cleaning all over again since the home dweller gathered up more junk over the many weeks and months that clutter up the place as before. This time around, it’s with stuff that is new(er) and different!
     Within the last twenty five or so years (give or take a few days and months), homes being build has increased its square footage size, while the number of people living inside ‘em has shrunk. With less people and more room, the notion of having more space to keep one’s goods has ballooned. And even if somebody is living in an older home, such as a typical 1950’s era house one would find in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles where space is a bit tighter, more people are keeping more goods. In the 1990’s, one of the biggest businesses to break out their presence was the self storage garage facilities. A few are local businesses while others are part of a franchise, such as Public Storage, U-Haul, and to a greater extent, Iron Mountain where they keep a close watch on your goods. These places exist for those that want to store their items but not at where they live! Generally speaking, they rent “garage space”, a place that looks like a garage, acts like a garage, but isn’t a garage! (Many of these places will allow for one to keep a vehicle, while other won’t permit such!) However, these places are big enough to be a garage, even having roll down doors to seal up what would be contained. Of course, what’s stored here can vary, but for the most part, it’s usually a mix of large items such as furniture, along with many boxes and containers that hold smaller items. Granted, many of the things may hold some kind of value to them (not necessarily sentimental value either), but for the most part, it’s stuff that can be amusing for what they are, and that’s about it! And the cost to store such worldly possessions? That price also varies, but it can range from $40.00 per month well into the hundreds! Those figures are paid only for the privilege to store goods that will sit there and nothing much more.
     And if anyone is a fan of those so-called reality TV programs that feature people that participate in those storage warehouse auctions where the management auctions the contents to a storage space due to the renter not paying their monthly rent, let this writer tell you out there that yes, those auctions do exist from time to time. However, most of the time (as must as 97% of all case) what is being bid upon are usually collections of abandon junk that holds minimal value in terms of resale. Boxes can contain anything from personal papers, recent photographs, maybe ceramic knickknacks that can be resold for about five dollar each, but nothing like what’s seen on TV! With few exception, nobody would want to store anything of high value in such a garage. And if they did, they would make sure that their monthly rental fees are up to date!
     So as the sun shines, the bids chirp, the flowers bloom, the temps become warmer, and everyone catches their own version of spring fever, it’s time to smell the flowers and to get cracking on the closets, the garage, the storage sheds, and other places where one keeps their junk. One can do it now, or put it off until later if that “later” ever arrives!
                                       NEWS AND REVIEWS
     A SHRED OF EVIDENCE, R. C. Sherriff’s tense thriller about a man who may have been involved in a fatal hit and run accident, the attorney set to prove his innocence, and the shadowy pair who offers to clear his name for a price, opens as the fifth production of Theatre 40’s 2015-2016 season.
     David Hunt Stafford plays Richard Medway who lives in a homestead in a rural part of England, not too far off from London. His household consists of his spouse Laura (Alison Blanchard) and his young adult daughter Pamela. (Katy Yoder). Things are looking rather bright for Richard and company as he is set for a promotion at his firm while his daughter will take on a program at Oxford studying ancient diggings. One evening while in London attending a reunion from days playing for a rugby team, Richard arrives home rather late and slightly under the influence. The next morning, he hears about an accident involving a car hitting a bicycle killing the cyclist. However, there are some strange situations to the accident. He finds his car has a dent on its front. The accident occurred around the time and place he drove home, and he did consume alcohol before he took control of his car. Richard had no recollection of hitting the bicycle, although the evidence states otherwise. With the assistance of Richard’s attorney friend John Cartwright (John Wallace Combs), he insists to  keep his statement of innocence. But the cards are turned against Richard as a police inspector (Daniel Lench) comes to call with his investigation. And there are two rather mysterious folks, Mr. and Mrs. Bennett (Peter McGlynn and Esther Richman) that claim they witnessed the entire accident. They offer Richard a testimony to the police stating he didn’t do it–for their personal fee! Richard’s life is at stake between a police inspector and a pair of blackmailers that can change his good fortune into a world of shame, disgrace, and a manslaughter charge to boot!
     This play, making its Los Angeles premier, is a classic form of British style theater in terms of thrills, excitement, and mystery. It’s not a “whodunit” in the traditional sense, but that notion comes pretty close as it offers many clues, false leads, and twists that comes in at crucial moments! The lead player in this production, David Hunt Stafford, has appeared in many previous Theatre 40 shows, usually as a supporting performer. This time, he’s in full control as Richard, the man that may have “dunnit” or not! (David also serves as Theatre 40’s artistic and managing director.) And since this play has an English setting, each cast member, including additional performer Richard Hoyt Miller as Captain Foster–another character that can provide an alibi for Richard, speak with British accents! This method of verbalizing with dialects can become a challenge to some American bread actors, but every player pulls this form of speech off in a convincing fashion. (Another cast member, Richard Carner playing a police constable, has no speaking lines and thus, doesn’t count here in terms of vocal tones!)
     And a special note will go to Theatre 40’s resident set designer Jeff G. Rack with his stage dressing of the Medway home, a pleasantly furnished habitat that fits to the period this play takes place. (Latter 1950’s)
     Directed by Jules Aaron, A SHRED OF EVIDENCE will keep its audience in tight thrills until the final moment. Although this reviewer won’t give the outcome, the same writer can state that the butler didn’t do it! That ending is for another mystery!

     A SHRED OF EVIDENCE, 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 11th. Showtimes are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 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
     The Gloria Gifford Conservatory presents DOWN ON YOUR KNEES AND UP TO THE MOON, currently performing at North Hollywood’s T.U. Studios, is a musical comedy that sets its plot at a fancy hotel in New York City around the period of two separate worlds fairs.     
     Its basic plot involves a set of inventors that have created ideas that would be showcased in these world fairs. Their devices would be part of a future that would eventually assist society making its world a much better as well as creating a more progressive point to be. Within the hotel is its nightclub that involve the power players with their prestige and wealth, along with its entertainment; Singers, dancing girls, and the romance that becomes part of this kind of landscape. The difference here that the world fairs in question take place some twenty five years apart. In the first act, the setting involves the 1939 world’s fair. In act II, it’s the 1964 world’s fair, where the music, romantic plotting, and the inventions become unique.
      This showcase conceived and directed by Gloria Gifford, with book by Gifford with Lucy Walsh, Jade Warner, Lauren Plaxco, Chad Doreck, Billy Budinich, and Danny Siegel, takes its music score from established songs from the era as sung by its ensemble cast. Most of the tunes performed are presented a cappella style where the vocals and harmonies stand out as their own. Many of its same cast (and those same cast members are way too numerous by number to mention here by name) either sing, dance, or both! As to its plotting, much of the story setting and dialogue may be at times common, although what it witnessed has plenty of entertaining value. Granted, the stage (and well as its theater) is rather intimate, so selected scenes can become a bit tight. This form of tautness realizes how robust this presentation establishes itself.
     Gloria Gifford, the Executive Producer of the Gloria Gifford Conservatory for the Performing Arts, has made the T.U. Studios theater space its home for the past few seasons, presenting many other comparable stage programs as to this specific show. The cozy performing space concentrates the talent that this production company churns out. Through this said talent and effort, it’s always a real treat to view far and wide.

     DOWN ON YOUR KNEES AND UP TO THE MOON, presented by The Gloria Gifford Conservatory and Jamaica Moon Productions, performs at the T. U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo Blvd. (at Lankershim), North Hollywood, until April 30th. Showtimes are Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday evenings at 7:30 PM. For ticket reservations, call (310) 366-5505, or online at http://www.Tix.com
     The Santa Monica Playhouse presents the tenth anniversary presentation of AUDITION! THE MUSICAL, a cabaret style showcase on one of the standard rituals an actor eventually has to face; Auditioning for an open part in a program and what it takes to nab that role.
     Serena Dolinsky, Evelyn Rudie, and Cynthia Zitter star as a select group of thespians at a casting office auditioning for a unspecified role for an unspecified production appearing in an unspecified medium. The three play different actors (actresses?) that are present for this part. There’s the casting director (portrayed by Rudie) with clipboard in hand, attending to the would-be cast. Many of the attendees are rather young in age, although there are a few that’s well seasoned! (One was a former child star from not so long ago who’s still working!) The others in attendance range from a fierily redheaded Scot, a street smart player with a hip-hop attitude, a model figure, a woman who brings her mother (also an actress) along–possibly for good luck or as for a take-along “coach”, and others that have the desire to grab that part. They know what they are up against in the dog-eat-dog world of show biz. But in spite of the odds, they do have an upbeat stance as they express their feelings and hopes in songs knowing that they are going to make it through no matter what!
     This musical with book by Chris DeCarlo & Evelyn Rudie with musical score by Rude with Matthew Wrather is very witty, charming, and very tight. Although the plot isn’t too much to speak for, what makes this show appealing in the vigor emoted by this cast of three. Within this ninety minute show, there is plenty of high energy depicted as these budding stars set themselves inside the casting agency office (also unspecified) that would do better if they are present to audition for a musical!
     With such a show, the stage setting holds an intimate viewpoint. (Casting agent offices are not as huge to begin with!) James Cooper provides the set and lighting design of the office consisting for a desk off stage right a few chairs (stage left) along with some scattering of magazines (the trades?) set to read while waiting. Ashley Hayes provides the costuming consisting of jet black outfits and a few other pieces worn when the performers play their other roles. Cydne Moore choreographs the show that is fast paced even in such a small stage backdrop, and Fritz Davis created the moving image visuals projected at the top area of the stage, used to depict some of the scenarios told in selected musical numbers.
      Directed by Chris DeCarlo with Serena Dolinsky, AUDITION! THE MUSICAL is a real treat to experience. It’s not necessarily known if what’s described is this show is based upon actual episodes and events. However, it’s real theme is for anyone who’s ever wanted to be their best–at anything! These few words works well to recount this production. And for those budding actors and actresses out there, inside the theater’s program are a few audition tips to follow. Just make sure one avoids the “casting couch”, but that’s for another show, and perhaps for another musical! (PS…Break that leg, too!)

     AUDITION! THE MUSICAL, presented by and performs at The Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th Street (at Wilshire Blvd.), Santa Monica, until April 24th. Showtimes are Saturday nights at 7:30 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 3:30 PM. For ticket reservations or for more information, call (310) 394-9779 ext. 1, or via online at http://www.SantaMonicaPlayhouse.com
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