Within the previous week, this humble writer took a vast leap within the annals of so-called modern technology. After being a follower for all of the past generations in terms of high tech, (meaning that a technological “generation” lasts at least two years–maybe less), I decided that I will no longer be part of a minority, but to enter the landscape of alining with everyone else that currently exists in this domestic society.
So what kind of change did I commit that created my place in this world where I may rely upon its functions and to have those around me expect I can operate with them in the same methods that these other possess?
Yep! I finally get my first smartphone!
After running around with a basic cell phone whose major functions are to send calls and receive calls, I finally caved in to trade up for a “new” phone that can access the ‘net, receive and send messages via e-mail address, use multimedia elements (audio and video), download apps, send and receive text messages, take still images of objects, people, and those “selfies” that are all of the rage–as well as to send and receive standard voice phone calls. I have entered a new world in terms of communication and possibly peace of mind.
The phone carrier I have been with for some sixteen years offered me a deal where I can get a phone from a leading electronics company based in South Korea (but manufactured in China of course), that can do all of those above noted things and then some. It wasn’t necessarily the top of the line model, but with what I have been working with all of this time, anything that wasn’t a “do nothing” phone was to me, a major upgrade!
So after taking the offer that I wasn’t able to refuse, I started out to “play” with the phone, meaning I had to figure how in the hell do all of those apps do. It was rather frustrating at first, but after sitting myself down and attempting to set up such elements as ring tones, screen brightness configurations, and how to turn on the flashlight element embedded on its rear panel, I was have way all set up in a matter of days after having it in my hands with my fingerprints placed all over the device.
Ever since Apple first introduced their iPhone at the Macworld Conference in San Francisco in early 2007 (with a presentation conducted by none other than Steve Jobs), and offering these devices for sale later that summer, the cell phone industry never became the same again. When those iPhones first went on sale, the “hottest” cell phone device around was the Motorola Razr V3. It was known to be rather thin in dimensions, and rather fashionable looking for what it was. It was a flip phone device as nearly all cell phones of this nature were at the time, but what Apple presented was something totally different. It was a phone that people didn’t know that they wanted it, but they indeed not only desired it, they needed it and needed it badly!
After fast forwarding some nine years, the smart phone is no longer the novelty it once was, but is now part of the domestic landscape. A recent report filed by an internet marking firm noted at as of May of this year, smart phone penetration reached some 81% of users (up from 77% in late 2015, and from 65% in early ’15). There are kids as young as seven years old running around with smartphones that are better than the one I received the previous week. Companies both big and small use applications (“apps”) to conduct business via smartphones. People that take still images no longer rely on the use of a dedicated camera to capture those precious moments. (And forget using a film camera–whatever “film” is!!) They have their smartphone handy to snap an image or two, ready to send to somebody and/or to upload to their favorite social media site. Roughly speaking, smartphones as just as common to see and make reference to as much as television did back not so long ago.
Granted, not everyone has a smartphone as there are a few classic style flip phones still in usage. Those folks using these kind of phones are ones that either want the simplicity of their functions, or for those that are not as comfortable with the so-called modern tech world. These kind of folks may belong to a selected demographic–those age 60+. However, many of these same seasoned people are finding smart phone usage quite easy to use since it relies upon touch screen technology rather than small and hard to read buttons. It may take a little time to getting used to, but they do eventually rise to the occasion.
So what’s going to happen with yours truly now that I have a smart phone machine nestled inside of my pocket? Will I use the device as a phone where I will be sending and receiving call as normal, or will I turn into some kind of zombie hovering over the thing for hours (days?) with my glassy eyes consisting of spinning spirals and saying in a monotone voice, “I Will Do What Simon Says!” I can’t speak for the latter, but I will be making calls, receiving calls, and perhaps use the other functions that everyone is raving about. I’ll even take my first “selfie” with I get around to it. Right now, I’m just making sure that I can still operate the thing. Better late than never I suppose–or is there an app for that??
Loft Ensemble presents KING LEAR, the Shakespearian tragedy that speaks upon an aging ruler, his three daughters, and the family members involved to fight for their share of the kingdom–notwithstanding the downfall that occurs through the course.
Leon Russom is the title character, a ruler up in his years who upon retirement, grants his ruling body to his trio of daughters, Cordelia, Goneril and Regan, as portrayed by Marissa Galloway, Lacy Altwine, and JoAnn Mendelson. Edgar, as performed by Mike Mahaffy, is the devoted son to Gloucester (Mark Bramhall) serving as heir and Edmund (Tor Jensen Brown) is Gloucester’s illegitimate offspring. The family clan starts off as those caring for one another, but greed sets in as they fight for power and respect where such quests toward this form of lust results in various methods of death and destruction as self directed and through violent circumstance.
As this very brief rundown of this family misfortune suggests, this is the kind of Shakespeare that serves as its own legionary form and peak. It’s a timeless stage piece that holds no peaceful conclusions and where there are more deaths projected than better tidings! With all due respect with its many plots and counterplots, what makes this play worthwhile to view and view again is the complex crafting that the Loft Ensemble curtails in this theater unavailing in terms of staging, costuming, lighting, and of course, the solid performances that is witnessed on their intimate but never clustered stage as the new home for the Loft Ensemble. (More on that revised homesteading in a moment!)
For starters, Leon Russom as King Lear is about ideal for that role. Not only the fact that he show signs of being fit for a elderly ruler from back in the day, but expresses his own turn of a king from The Bard’s era with an ease. Not an ease that would be “easy” per se, but appears to know how to play the part! Marissa Galloway, Lacy Altwine, and JoAnn Mendelson as the daughters of the King as just as solid-sweet yet turning toward a diffrent attitude. And the rest of the cast (there are a total of eighteen within the ensemble) that perform as secondary and supporting parts go with their flow through the duties of director Bree Pavey. (Space doesn’t allow to list the names of all the players that appear, but this writer gives kudos to each one!)
Adding to the action as seen on stage is Mike Mahaffey’s fight direction that showcases where swords are drawn, scuffles take part, as well as a eye or two gouged! The set design by Lauren Sperling consists of a few mobile blocks drably painted with a chair or two present that serves as a throne where head royalty would take their seat. Linda Muggeridge provides the costuming that is one part classic and second part contemporary for 21st century standards. Matt Richter and Andrew Schmadke’s lighting adds toward the tense moods this program reckons throughout each turn.
This production as presented by Loft Ensemble takes place at their new theater space in Sherman Oaks, the site of the L.A. Comedy Connection theatre. After going through some remolding, the Loft Ensemble sets itself off in a very impressive ninety-nine seat theater space located in a section of Ventura Blvd. nestled among trendy eateries, unique shops, and located next door to a place that produces funny radio commercials! Generally speaking, it’s a welcomed place to experience quality stage pieces as discovered right in the San Fernando Valley.
KING LEAR doesn’t promise pleasing culminations, but shows itself off a intense theatre craft created some four hundred years after the fact! That is why The Bard’s work rings true, and the Loft Ensemble is there is carry the sprit!

KING LEAR, presented by the Loft Ensemble theatre company and performs at the Loft Ensemble theatre space located at 13442 Ventura Blvd. one half block east of Sunnyslope and one quarter block west of Greenbush, Sherman Oaks. Showtimes are Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday evenings at 7:00 PM.
     For more information and for ticket reservations, visit
The Kentwood Players present OLIVE AND THE BITTER HERBS, Charles Busch’s comedy about a seasoned actress and the people around her, all sharing a common bond with another person long departed.
Gail Bernardi is Olive Fisher, a Jewish woman in one’s dotage who acted for a living. She never ranked beyond secondary player, only appearing as bit roles in television shows as well as a few TV commercials, including a spot for sausage that became an advertising classic from a decade or three past. She lives alone in her apartment in lower Manhattan, dwelling there well before she became that “sausage queen”!  She takes life on her own terms, although that those around her hold some concern over her well being. Wendy (Alison Mattiza) who is employed in an administrative position at the local actor’s equity guild, looks over her in a mother-daughter-esque relationship. Living in the same building is neighbors Robert (Ken MacFarlane) and his domestic partner Trey (Daniel Kruger), who tends to tolerate Olive’s curmudgeon attitudes, always making some kind of peace with her. Rounding out this troupe is Sylvan (Martin Feldman) who is the father of the building’s superintendent i.e. the “super”- the person who is in charge of fixing things in the building when they go into disorder. Sylvan shares a few common elements as Olive as they are both of the same persuasion, and could be ideal for one another. In spite of the peace she and the others make with her, down to suggesting her hosting a Seder she first objects to but eventually gives in toward the idea, there is another person of mysterious origins that come in play. This other being is a man known as Howard who became recently deceased. His image supposedly resides in an antique-type mirror that hangs on Olive’s living room wall. But who is this Howard? What relationship does she has with him? And how do the others around Olive know about this man in the mirror?
This comedy by playwright Charles Busch, known for composing stage works and related scripts that fall within the notion of “camp”, creates a play that is witty and charming for what it is, although it tends to teeter toward being a bit heated at times, but gets back to the comedy sense before the effects begin to sink in with its audience. As for this Kentwood Players production, Gail Bernardi as Olive plays her part that rings true to its title. She does become bitter as to the noted herbs, but can sport a heart of gold when she wants to. Ken MacFarland and Daniel Kruger as Robert and Trey can be set as a classic comedy team performing their jokes in a mellow motion. They don’t spit out rapid fire “who’s on first” gags, although the Tray character is more of the fall guy and Robert the “straight” man. Martin Feldman as Sylvan is more of a “latin lover”, without much Latin flavor with a hint of “lover” that lingers. And Alison Mattiza as Wendy is the sweet middle aged woman who is a spinster in the making. It’s an eccentric mix of characters that creates an appeal, thanks to the master stage direction of Kirk Larson that adds to the realism of the cast and their roles–kinda like what one would find in so-called “real life”!
Also to note, Tony Pereslete’s set design shows Olive’s apartment well lived in with some places tidy with other places a bit of a disarray. It also resembles a place that hasn’t been redecorated for over forty years! (Again, reflecting a real life unit where elderly women would reside until they breath their last!) And Elizabeth Summerer’s costuming has everyone dressed up, middle, and even down–but not that far down!
OLIVE AND THE BITTER HERBS is comical in terms of jokes and gags, dramatic in conditions to subjects expressed, and is yet another slice of life that could be found in any apartment building that is changing with the times while a few niches are experiencing its life passing right by. There is nothing bitter about this play, and the olives are just as brisk as those found in a martini. To that we say l’chaim!

OLIVE AND THE BITTER HERBS, presented by The Kentwood Players, and performs at the Westchester Playhouse, 8301 Hindry Avenue, two blocks north of Manchester and two blocks west of the 405 freeway, Westchester, until August 13th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM.
     For tickets reservations or for more information, call (310) 645-5156, or via on line at
WIthin the review of Orange Is The New Musical-The Unauthorized Parody that appeared in last week’s issue (Vol. 21-No. 27), we listed two of the band member’s names incorrectly. Gilbert DeSoto performed on bass, and Remy Grey performed on keyboards.

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