This article, assuming that anyone is actually saving this stuff, can be filed under the category “Stories From Real Life”. This is because that the tales noted within this article have been extracted from past and present episodes this writer experienced. Read on…
A person yours truly knows named Mark (his real first name by the way), and his domestic partner Eric (again, another actual moniker) goes to the movies about once or twice a week. They aren’t too picky on what flicks they see. Their tastes ranges from seeing “art” movies in a theater that runs such films, to the standard Hollywood-type blockbusters that feature a whole lot of special effect explosions, gunfire, as well as other nonsense one would experience in a tentpole picture!
Although they sometimes take advance of some of the promotions that theaters use in order to get people inside of the place during slower days and times of day (i.e. Monday “happy hour” prices, etc.), Mark and Eric spends an average of some $15.00 to $20.00 for admission. (They also take advantage of “senior” rates as both of ‘em are north of 55 age-wise!!) This doesn’t include concession snacks, as Mark usually insists he wolfs down a huge bucket of corn while washing it down with a cup of soda pop! (At times, the concession costs sometimes run more than for the price to get inside of the multiplex!!)
Not too long ago, Eric found out about MoviePass, a subscription service where for $9.95 per month, one can visit a participating movie house and see a non-special feature film once a day, every day per calendar month. This would mean that if Mark and Eric wanted to go to the movies every day for the month of May, 2018 for example, it would cost them on average some 64 cents each day for the both of them. This is under the guise that they are seeing a film that doesn’t have a “3-D” surcharge, or isn’t any other special event that would hold a different price for admission. Of course, this doesn’t including concession fees as well!
Eric signed up for Mark and himself, plunking down the required $19.00 as a pair for a month’s worth of movies. Sure enough, the two of them were going to the movies a couple of times during that period. Friday and Saturday nights, with an occasional Sunday matinee, were their choices for a night (or afternoon) at the movie house. They took a look-see as some of the superhero fare, as well as some of the independent titles that were in circulation.
This ritual began in January. They were able to catch up with all of the “gimmie-an-Oscar” movies that were around at the time. They caught up with the latest Star Wars feature, as well as crowd pleaser titles such as Black Panther. Again, it really didn’t matter to them in what they saw. If they enjoyed the feature, then so be it!
Easter Sunday (April 1st) was the last time they went to the movies. All of a sudden, they stopped their movie going. Eric just placed his monthly $19.00 subscription on hold. When asked by this writer on why they stopped going, Eric replied in his standard deadpan expression, “It was just too much of a good thing!”
This writer can somewhat get the idea on why they placed their movie attending on standby. Going to the movies isn’t much of the “big thing” to do as it once was a generation before. Depending on what feature one desires to take advantage of as well as the accessibility of the movie house running the desired flick, heading off to the movies can become a bit inconvenient. For starters, one would have to get to the movie house location either by driving by car or traveling by some form of alternative transportation. After plunking down admission, one can easily bypass the concession stand by either bringing (smuggling) one’s own snacks, or by just not eating/drinking anything! Once inside the theater space, one has to hope that those around them will not talk and/or text during the feature! After the flick, one will get out of their seat to head out of the place, If one can, there’s always sneaking into another theater room for a self-made double feature!
Once upon a time, going to the movies was somewhat a big thing, nearly as to an excursion! Back when yours truly was a little shaver, my elder sister and I would make a plan to pick what movies we wanted to see. We would grab the movie section page from the local newspaper, scanning the titles of flicks that were playing in the neighborhood theaters. We did this during the era when the bigger theaters located in the downtown region would showcase the first-run movies (and charging a hefty admission price), while the outlying theaters located outside of downtown or in the suburbs would offer selections in second-run offering them “at popular prices”. Because both of us were running on a budget based on what our allowances would bare, we usually picked the local neighborhood movie houses.
After what seemed to be an hour of looking for the titles we would take advantage of, we would see if someplace nearby was running the film. If we were able to get to the movie house on our own by taking the bus, or in one case, walk to the movie house as one theater was located some three blocks away from where we were living at the time! Otherwise, good ol’ mom would have to schlep us to the theater. The same thing occurred when she had to pick us up by calling her from a pay phone in the lobby.
Since we didn’t want to pay for the concessions the movie house sold, we brought our own goodies. We popped our own corn, loading the stuff in a plastic “Baggie” that didn’t leak the amount of butter placed inside. We also gathered up boxes of our favorite candy, as well as adding a few cans of soda to wash it all down! After loading everything inside of a grocery bag, we were ready to spend a night (or afternoon) at the movies!
And believe it or not, we were able to bring in our bag of loot without anyone saying anything to us! Only one time a ticket tearer asked me what was inside the bag I was hauling in. I recall replying to the ticket tearer, an older man in his 60s(?) when he asked me what was inside of the bag I was carrying by saying “Uhh..popcorn and soda and stuff!” He glanced inside of the bag to see if I were telling the truth, and then motioned me inside! It was anything goes!
Of course, this writer is recalling about a time as a kid when the only way to see new(er) movies was in a movie house. Television’s take on running recent films (released up to ten years before) were limited to NBC’s Saturday Night at the Movies, The ABC Sunday Night Movie, the CBS Thursday/Friday Night Movies, and so on. The local stations ran the real old movies released before 1960. But those were old movies that were mostly shot in back & white. Home video was to be just a few years off, and cable TV really didn’t exist. (Not in my neighborhood anyway!) So going to the movies in a theater was the be-all-to-end-all thing to do. I can’t say if it was affordable then, but considering that kid’s admission was around 75 cents and adult prices ran around $1.50 tops, one can calculate how the value was based upon the rate of inflation of then verses now. (For this record, these prices are rated from c.1972!)
As if this writing, Eric is considering relaunching his MoviePass subscription. With the summer fare now in full swing, they decided to catch up with what’s out there and to make it as another “date night” for them. However, it would be a decade later when yours truly would go to the movies as a “date night” with another woman that wasn’t my sister! But that’s for another article as that stands!
NEWS AND REVIEWS
The Sierre Madre Playhouse located in the city of the same name presents PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES, a musical that takes place in a rural garage and diner whose mission is to offer quality service for your car and for your appetite.
Located somewhere between Frog Level and Smyrna, North Carolina on highway 57 sits the Double Cupp Diner where its two waitresses the Cupp sisters, Rhetta (Cori Cable Kidder) and Prudie (Emily Kay Townsend) are ready to take your order for some good ol’ down home comfort food–hot ‘n hearty and plump as you please! Across the road sits a filling station and garage manned by The Pump Boys, consisting of Bobby (Jim Miller), Jim (Michael Butler Murray), L. M. (Sean Paxton), Eddie (Kevin Tiernan) and Jackson (Jimmy Villaflor). They will tend to your car filling it with gas, unless they are fixin’ to fix your car. Each one of the Pump Boys can perform tunes that have that down home country flavor–just like the food served over across the highway! Each one can dish their speciality piping hot with such topics on fishing, taking it slow, paying tribute to mother a.k.a.. “Mamaw”, thinking about vacation time, and even when one of the boys reminisces about the night when Dolly Parton was almost his–or “mine” as the song says! It’s just another days and the nights in the life of the place to stop for gasoline for the car, and some pie for the belly and soul!
This musical with book, music, and lyrics by John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, John Schimmel, and Jim Wann, is a show that doesn’t hold much of a plot (in fact, there really isn’t one per se), but shows how a small town diner and its fix-it garage can become a fun play to visit, even if you’re just passing by!
The show itself consists of the above noted players that can all sing, shake to the choreographed dancing moves by Allison Bibicoff (who also directs), and as The Pump Boys, perform all of the music! Michael Butler Murray as Jim performs on the string guitar and dobro (a wood-bodied, single-cone resonator guitar), Sean Paxton as L.M. on piano and accordion, Kevin Tiernan as Eddie on bass, and Jimmy Villaflor as Jackson on guitar, all showing their musical talents under the direction of Sean Paxton. Each player holds plenty of comedy relief as well adding to the flavor to what this program really is–a good time location that takes place in the heartland of the USA that still exists is one looks hard enough!
Outside of the performing on stage, one must note the costuming by Angela Nicholas. The Cupp siblings sport waitress uniforms that consist of an off-orange color made famous by the Howard Johnson chain of diners once located along many an interstate. Jeff G. Rack’s set design consists of the diner itself placed on stage right with its dining booth, counter space, and cigarette machine as decor, while the garage where The Pump Boys play their tunes has all of the auto garage tools, signage, and grease stained rags about, including the front end of a 1955 Chevy sitting for either mechanical service or as a showoff piece!
For those that enjoy a musical for its high sprits and good time feelings, PUMP BOYS AND DINETTE will fit the bill. It’s the first time that this musical has been performed in the Los Angeles area in over ten years; A period that has been long overdue! Although roadside diners may have been replaced by franchise fast food outlets, and gas stations just consists of self-service pumps that dispense gas and not much else, it’s still great to take part in a musical that never gets heavy or intellectual. Just make sure you save a little space for some pie as dessert! Y’all come back now, ‘hear?
PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES, presented by and performed at The Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 West Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, until July 29th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Saturday/Sunday matinees at 2:30 PM. For ticket reservations, call (626) 355-4318, or via online at
The world premier of Henry Ong’s THE BLADE OF JEALOUSY, a comical farce about a man from the country who enters the big city to meet up with a woman he’s never seen, and the mysterious “other woman” she conflicts with sparking a fit of jealousy, opens at The Whitefire Theater in Sherman Oaks for a summer lenght run.
Terry Woodberry is Melchior, a young man from the wilds of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His faithful sidekick Ventura (Eddie Mui) joins him on the journey to Los Angeles. Melchior arrives in order to meet a woman he encountered online but never met in person. Fascinated with what the City of Angels has to offer, the pair stops over at the Cathedral downtown, only to encounter Magdalena (Natalie Amenula). She sports a veil, hiding her appearance. Once Melchior sees her full faced, he loses interest in her. Magdalena then becomes jealous over the fact. Who she become jealous with is another mysterious woman who just happens to be hersellf! One episode blends to another as the man living in the big city attempts to find his real true love, adding a load of comical hijinks in the process.
This original single-act play written by Henry Ong takes its basis from another play entitled “La Celosa De Si Misma”-Jealous of Herself, written by Spanish playwright Tirso de Molina and first performed c.1622-23. The storyline moves from the back alleys of Madird in the 17th century and moves it all to Los Angeles in the early 21st century, keeping it all in and for the modern times. Its staging takes upon many forms of comical theater. Its secret recipe? Take one part of a Shakespearian play, add a dose of a Moliere-penned farce, blend with a helping of a 1930’s-era screwball comedy, attach a slice of British slapstick (i.e. a charming movie as made by Ealing Studios), top it off with a scoop of a post-modern romantic comedy (“rom-com”), shake well, and what one has is this production! For its ninety minute running time, the pacing is lighting fast. At times, it’s so rapid, one may lose its place with its characters and where they are set for the moment. But just as one may almost become lost, one will find their way back to became caught up with how the characters got themselves into and out of their jams! The characters themselves speak with verbal knack, rapid-fire wit, and a robust sense of mood and space. In other words, one will laugh with its absurdity! Terry Woodberry as Melchior is a strong players with a leading man profile resembling Danny Glover. Eddie Mui as Ventura (an appropriate character name for somebody existing in L.A.) is a “sidekick” that holds out on his own, rather than just being there assisting the leading man. (He resembles the spirit of Mexican comedian Cantinflas!) Natalie Amenula as Magdalena is the strong female lead. She too, holds a “sidekick” as well; Quinones (Cynthia Dane) that also develops at her own place. And taking up the slack is Angela (Carla Valina), and Jerpnimo (Juan Haro); Players that tighten the “screws” into this screwball-esque comedy that becomes better as it progresses.
Although there are no stage sets to speak of, Diana Cignoni’s video design shows where the characters are at both physically and vertically. A visual screen placed above where the cast pace projects the moving and still images that shows how Melchior becomes near and far to the woman who hates the other woman that is in reality herself! Denise Blassor serves two functions in this play. She designs the costuming worn by the cast, and is the stage director where the same costumed cast moves within the related stride reminiscent to a comedy team performing upon a vaudeville stage. Longo Chu performs the live incidental music score on the keyboards and the cello seperately seated off stage left. His musical performance for the play adds to the mood when the show becomes melodramatic. But before it gets too serious, the laughs resume with the same comical timing!
THE BLADE OF JEALOUSY is a hilarious charade that proves to the fact that love still conquers all. And with comedies that hail from the 17th century, it does feature a happy ending. Not bad for a play that comes from a source some four centuries old–give or take a year or two!!
THE BLADE OF JEALOUSY, presented by the Whitefire Theatre in association with Artists Against Opression, performs at The Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd. (at Sunnyslope), Sherman Oaks, until August 26th. Showtimes are Sunday evenings at 7:00 PM. For tickets, order online at https://TheBladesOfJelousy.brownpapertickets.com
The next issue (Vol. 23-No. 27) will feature ALOL’s annual “State Of the Union” address! Don’t miss it!
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