WHAT? ME WORRY!!

In this day and age, it’s not too soon when a magazine title that has been around for generations announced that they will no longer exist as a print title, meaning that their editorial content will be limited to something read and consumed through cyberspace, if at all! Many titles in recent years from Money to Playboy has changed in how they are made available to its loyal or not as loyal yet promising enough audience.

Earlier this month, a magazine that’s been around since 1952 that made plenty of influence in this domestic society while never really taking itself seriously or seriously enough, will call it (almost) quits!

The magazine, originally calling itself as “Humor in a Jugular Vein” will conclude its run with original content. That title is the ever lovin’ Mad.

Mad was originally a comic book that didn’t tell a story in the traditional sense, but it took a look at life in this nation and the nations around the world, and did all of its damndest to make light of everything, hosted by a boy child with curly hair, a toothy grin with a buck tooth missing, and really didn’t speak! This boy was named Alfred E. Newman. Again, he didn’t say much, but has a catchphrase that really didn’t make much sense as a stand along line, but went with the zany themes the magazine covered–What Me Worry?

When the title first made the scene in 1952, it was published by EC Publications, a New York based publishing firm that released comic book titles that were of the “pulp fiction” variety, such as Tales From The Crypt (horror) Weird Science Fiction (sci-fi) and Aces High (high adventure), among many others. This time, it would take on humor with its target as the passing scene, ranging from politics, popular culture, media, and fads and came, went, and came back again. It did it all well and well remembered.

In the early 1950’s, humor was changing from the notion of the vaudeville variety. Popular comedians of the era such as Jack Benny, Jimmy Durante, Eddie Canter, and a host of others were weened on humor that was first seen on a stage, telling gags and perhaps participating in slapstick humor. When TV was kicking in, these comics were seen each night to the millions that tuned in. Around that time, the biggest comedy program on was a live program that aired on Saturday night–Your Show of Shows, where much of its comedy came from satire. Other comics that took that approach used satire with a “quirky” attitude: Stan Freeberg, Ernie Kovaks, Bob Elliot & Ray Goulding (“Bob & Ray”), Steve Allen, and many others were making the scene. The Queen of comedy, Lucille Ball, didn’t rely upon quick and snarky comedy, but still used physical humor to get her laughs across. So she really didn’t compete. Mad, however, took that same notion and carried it through the ages.

Not only was it a hit, but it inspired dozens of magazines that used the same playbook using snarky humor and satire. Such titles as Panic, Trump, Whack, Snafu (written and edited by Stan Lee), and others came and went. Long time editor of Mad, William B. Gains, was said to have a list of other titles that tired to take Mad off its throne affixed on a voodoo doll. When one title bit the bust, he would stick a pin on the doll over the name of the now deceased title. He was able to even place a pin on perhaps Mad’s biggest competitor, The National Lampoon that has its peak in the 1970’s catering to the college/grad school crowd. Most likely, many of NL’s readers were weened on Mad as kids, now graduating to more mature (and rather raunchy) stuff! Although NL also sported special one-shot issues as Mad as done for years, even getting into radio and the movies (The syndicated National Lampoon’s Radio Hour, and National Lampoon’s Animal House, etc.), NL called it quits in the early 1990’s.

So what will happen to Mad? It’s operator, DC Comics, will continue its bi-monthly run with reprints, and will present an ocational special edition as its been doing since the late 1950’s. However, it won’t be the same for that title to take on anything and everything. But that’s the magazine biz! Or to use one of many of the magazine’s catchphrases, “Hoo-Haw!” (Or “How’s Your Mom, Ed?”) Eccch!
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NEWS AND REVIEWS

Theatre 40 of Beverly Hills opens their 2019-2020 season of plays with the American premier of Norm Foster’s RENOVATIONS FOR SIX, a comedy about three couples gathering for a dinner party while they are renovating their homes and themselves.

Shayna and Grant Perkins (Rebecca Driscoll and Lane Compton) are new in town. Relocating from Chicago, they are in a bright phase in their lives. They just purchased a home that needs a bit of tender loving care and are in the middle of a big renovation job. Shayna wants to open up a yoga spa, while Grant is a manager for a furniture outlet. In order to feel welcomed, they decide a host a dinner party. They pool their sources in the few people they know. So they invite three couples as part of the dinner troupe. The first couple consists of Wing Falterman (David Hunt Stafford) and his wife Billie (Gail Johnson). Wing and Billie were once in show business where they were a song and dance duo. But that was many years before as Wing is now a salesman for the furniture outlet that Grant is the manager. The third couple is Maurice Dudet (Martin Thompson and his wife Veronica (Mona Lee Wylde). Maurice gave up his previous engineer career to become a novelist, while Veronica is a psychiatrist and a member of a book club that Billie is a part of. Shayna and Grant feel that this blend of two other couples from different backgrounds would be the center of interesting company and conversation. That became the case, but not necessarily what they had in mind. Once these six meet, the dinner party turns into anything but a pleasant evening with good friends!

This play written by Canadian playwright Norm Foster is a piece that shows how three married couples of unique traditions as well as age groups battle with one another (if not between themselves), all as a series of comical follies and foibles. Its first act shows and establishes the connections of all six, while its second act develops into a scene where secrets are uncovered where nobody even bothers to snack on the cheese, crackers, and pickles! The cast of the six players show how different they are, although the younger ones–Shayna and Grant as portrayed by Rebecca Driscoll and Lane Compton, has yet to obtain the burdens that married life presents. Bille and Wing, as played by Gail Johnston and David Hunt Thompson (who also serves as Theatre 40’s artistic director), along with Maurice and Veronica (Martin Thompson and Mona Lee Wylde) holds on to more emotional baggage than they can carry. This so-called “baggage” provides most of the play’s comic relief.

Howard Storm, who has directed a number of TV sitcoms of such hit series as Rhoda, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, Taxi, and a host of others, directs his comic talents and timing that is witnessed throughout. Granted, much of the comedy projected is focused on the other character’s emotional expenses. However, since comedy is based on tragedy, the humor formula is fully on track!

Jeff G. Rack, Theatre 40’s residential set designer, provides a set where the Perkins’ home is seen, complete with furniture that are draped in drop cloths, walls with uneven paint jobs, and a lot of home renovation tools scattered about. These elements are something one would find in a house that is going through its “during” stage.

RENOVATIONS FOR SIX is a charming and rather comical play. The moral of the story can be described as to be careful who you invite to a home based dinner party. Egg could wind up on your face if you don’t watch out, or wash up!!

RENOVATIONS FOR SIX, presented by Theatre 40 and performs at the Reuben Cordova Theatre, located within the campus of Beverly Hills High School, 241 South Moreno Drive (off little Santa Monica Blvd.) Beverly Hills, until August 18th. Showtimes are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday afternoons 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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Antaeus Theatre Company of Glendale closes out their 2018-19 season with THE CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE, Bertolt Brecht’s play about a young peasant woman’s rescue of a babe in arms, and the natural mother’s attempt to gain her child back.

The setting is the Caucasion Mountains located in what was then known as The Republic of Georgia. It is shortly after the Second World War where a village still feels the aftermath of the destruction the battles presented. The local farmers are at a “war” among themselves, seeking how to use the land to their best ability. One set of farmers desires to raise goats and to use their land for grazing. The other half wants to plant an orchard for growing fruit. This battle leads toward the creation of a play with music called The Chalk Circle that has the ruling governor George Abashwili, executed during a revolution. His wife Claudia flees for her life, leaving their young son Michael behind. Grusha Vashadze, a lowly peasant kitchen maid, rescues the young child and raises him as her own sans a father figure. When the revolution ends, Claudia returns to claim her son. This leads toward a court of law that decides the fate of the child, using a method of a “chalk circle” where whoever pulls the child from a spot on the ground boarded by a circular line drawing made of chalk can have custody, and to provide that Michael will become heir as the ruling Governor.

This is a play written by Bertolt Brecht when he was living in the USA in the 1940’s. It was first presented as a student production at Carleton College of Northfield, Minnesota, located south of Minneapolis. This play has a feel of a college based work, although that was not of its original intention. (It was meant to play on a Broadway-type theater!) This work has been called as an “epic” production. Not so much because it’s presented in a grand scale, but it’s created with a number of elements going on at once. (And early version of experimental?) This method of creativity may be a bit different to follow, especially for those that are used to experience theater works set in a more linear fashion.

That non-linear forge is what makes this play rather appealing for how it stands, complete with lots of rich dialogue, interesting characters direct from the “old country”, as well as a conclusion where the Georgian village’s state never qualified for a Marshall Plan. Alistair Beaton’s English translation from the original German enhances the for noted productive dialogue that is far better that how an uneducated peasant could normally speak.

Liza Seneca plays Grusha, the peasant woman who brings up Michael. Paul Baird plays George, the Governor. Claudia Elmore is The Governor’s wife. The rest of the ensemble cast, including John Apicella, Noel Arthur, Gabriela Bonet, Turner Frankosky, Troy Guthrie, Steve Hofvendahl, Connor Kelly-Eiding, Michael Khachanov, Alex Knox, Mehrnaz Mohammadi, Madalina Nastase, Jamellen Steininger, and George Villas portray others within the community, all sharing other roles represented within this piece. Stephanie Shroyer’s stage direction keeps the flow going with its blend of vast characters and broad circumstances.

Frederica Nascimento’s senic design appearing on stage shows the village as a place loaded with worn wooden stands that shows off the area in a bit of disarray, proving that the war’s aftereffects made the community placed in a worse state, unless it was never in any better shape to begin with!

Along with the setting, there are a few musical interludes embedded in the continuity. This is only to bring one episode linked to another, but nobody really breaks out in song as to what one would find in a traditional musical.

It’s not often to see a play as THE CAUCASINA CHALK CIRCLE perform in any legit theater. For those that desire something light and snappy, it’s recommended to venture off to another playhouse. For those that are bold enough to experience a play that is more fruitful in spirit, this is the production to take advantage of. It’s indeed worth its time and space!

THE CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE, presented by the Antaeus Theatre Company, and performs at the Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center, 110 East Broadway, located between Artsakh Avenue and North Brand Blvd., Glendale, until August 26th. Showtimes are Monday, Fridays and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 PM. For ticket reservations and for more information, call (818) 506-1983, or via online at http://www.Antaeus.org
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THE LION KING (Disney) tells the legion of Simba (voiced by John Glover), the cub that was born to Mufasa (James Earl Jones) the royal leader of their kingdom on the African plains, and his “queen” Sarabi (Alfre Woodard). Simba would one day become the next heir to rule as king. Although the king’s animal subjects welcome this latest entry to the royal family, one animal isn’t very keen to its welcome. Mufasa’s elder sibling Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) feels that he should have been king as he is the eldest, and never forgave his younger lion brother obtaining his rule. Scar has an evil plan to overthrow Mufasa’s dominance. Teaming up with Shenzi (Florence Kasumba) the leader of a pack of hyenas, they plan to get rid of Mufasa and his son in order to gain control of their native land.

This latest re-imagined version of the 1994 release of the same name that became the “crown” of The Walt Disney Company’s animation renaissance period, is what can be called a film with a “live action” twist where all of the animals and the African landscaped wilderness backdrops resembles a realistic looking setting. In fact, everything seen in this feature has been created as highly detailed computer generated imagery, or “CGI” as its known in the industry. In other terms, it’s another animated feature, but not to be confused as another two dimensional “cartoon”. Unlike the original ’94 release where all of its imagery is akin to a traditional “cell and hand drawn” cartoon–the type that made Disney world famous, this one looks realistic, feels realistic, and resembles an actual setting where all of the animals can talk by moving their lips and mouths, and act and move on cue. But again, it’s all moving imagery that remain as digital pixels and related computer generated files housed on massive hard drives!

The movie itself has all of the main characters found in the original, such as Zazu (John Oliver), the “footbird” to the king, the wise baboon Rafiki (John Kani), Nala (Beyonce Knowles Carter), Simba’s friend and future queen, and Pumbaa and Timon (Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner) who serve at the film’s comic relief; characters that are oblatory in Disney cartoons.

The many similarities that are found to the original ’94 film and this ’19 version is its plot. Jeff Nathanson’s screenplay is based on the original script penned by Irene Mecchi and Jonathan Robert and Linda Woolverton that uses the same content flow while adding a few bits and pieces of dialogue that makes this movie more appealing to an early 21st century crowd, as well as adding its comical touches with a bit more snarkiness. It also maintains the same music score by Hanz Zimmer and the songs that made this title famous as penned by Tim Rich and Elton John. These touches were kept for continuity purposes.

Directed by Jon Favreau, THE LION KING is a title that is well know to Disney fans and the domestic families that were and are weened to the lifestyle this media company has created. It was perhaps the biggest of all of the “cash cows” extracted from this company before they were involved in Marvel Comics and Star Wars properties, and when Disney got into the musical theater business. (The Lion King stage musical still plays on Broadway!!) In spite of those sucesses, this feature is ideal for those that grew up with the original cartoon, and for the later generations that view this title by way of home video and through streaming. Kids under the age of eight may be a bit overwhelmed, while the older ones might find it as appealing as the adults.

For those still seeking live action versions of the Disney animated features, there will be more arriving down the pike from The Little Mermaid to Mulan, all coming soon to a theater near you!

This film is rated “PG” for non-graphic intense violence. Now playing at multiplexes nationwide.
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