LET’S BE CAREFUL OUT THERE!

That was the line as quoted by Sergeant Phil Esterhaus, as played by Michael Conrad in the 1980‘s TV series Hill Street Blues. His character would say that line when he took roll call to the line of cops he would address during the start of their shift. He was just giving some advice to his men (and a few women) stating that it was pretty bad out there, and one must watch their backs before heading off to the city on their beats.

That’s a line that has been stated many times latest over the virus that has been going around the last few weeks, the virus called COVID-19, or better known as the coronavirus.

It’s been a big concern since many industry event of late has been altered, if not totally cancelled, to avoid the spread of this virus. These events that ranged from a Facebook developers conference, to a TV marketing convention and conference in Cannes, France. Many of these events were global in nature, so people from other nations would be in attendance. This rang true to Asian nations, (China mostly) where the virus had first broken out.

And as this writer was compiling this piece, MGM announced that the feature No Time To Die, the latest entry in the James Bond franchise, had its opening pushed from April to late November-November 25th in North America, yet will open in the U.K. some two weeks before. This will allow movie goes to stay away from crowds until the virus is curtailed a bit. It’s also a good move for MGM as November 25th is the day before Thanksgiving, a time where folks normally flock to the local movie houses to get away from Thanksgiving antics, and to see J.B. back in action. But this is all besides the point!

And not only industry event has been altered, there has been a big concern on the fate of the Summer Olympics to be held in Tokyo from July 24th through August 9th. The Summer Olympics in one of the few sporting events that attract a huge following around the world, and the USA is one of those followers. NBC, who had held the TV rights to the summer games since 1988, find this event a big cash cow for the network, reaping millions of dollars in terms of advertising and marketing. It’s one of the few TV telecasts that attract big audience ratings outside of the annual events such as the Super Bowl.

This is also rather rare for a program that airs in the summertime where folks are usually out in the air and sunshine. However, thanks to NBCUniversal’s big presence in streaming, one can view any of the games on any device that sports a video screen wherever they go just as long as there an internet connection to plug them in. In spite of the concerns, the Olympics are still being labeled as a “go”! (Stay tuned for updates!)

But meanwhile, back at the home front, folks are taking a lot of precautions in making sure they are safe. Many of the drug store chains are reporting a lead in sales of hand sanitizer, paper face masks, and other methods to distract themselves in avoiding the virus. Although as of press time, a few isolated cases of the virus has been reported occurring stateside, it’s not very likely that a huge spread of this virus will occur. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to keep in check with what’s going on wherever one may be.

Only time will tell when this virus will be curtailed. Thanks to many elements from modern medicine to vast communication devices, people can be informed on updates on the progress of slowing down, if not stopping, the virus in its tracks. But of course, one must take the best way to stay safe regardless.

Although standards methods of life may be altered a bit, it’s also best to “keep calm and carry on”-a phrase first used in Great Britain during the days of World War II, and has since been reused, misused, and abused through the media. However, the idea is just the same. Just live your life as always. Or to also re-quote the good Sgt. in Hill Street Blues, let’s just be careful out there!
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NEWS AND REVIEWS

The Sacred Fools Theatre Company of Hollywood rounds out their prime season with Nadhuri Shekar’s ANTIGONE, PRESENTED BY THE GIRLS OF ST. CATHERINE’S, a play about a group of high school that appear in their school’s theater production, only to encounter more drama off stage than on.

The setting is St. Catherine’s, a Catholic boarding high school for young ladies. Their drama club is preparing for a production of the Greek tragedy Antigone, directed by drama teacher Mr. Reed. (Luis Fernandez-Gil) He’s a Spaniard who teaches his troupe with emotional fire laced with theater passion. The players that appear in this production are Marilyn (Emma Mercier), Susan (Scarlet Sheppard), Tamsin (Jessica Ma), Anna (Jenny Griffin), and Lilly (Chloe Wray Gonzalez). Each one holds their own personal trails and tribulations as any adolescent would possess. As Mr. Reed attempts to place his directing chops toward his cast, it appears that Marilyn is paying more attention to the director than the production itself. This habbit isn’t boding too well with the others. Although they all are reaching toward adulthood, they still do have their shares of gossip and secrets between one another. As opening night slowly approaches, it seems that the drama they encounter has nothing to do with their show. What’s going on between Marilyn and Mr. Reed? And is the gossip that’s moving around speaking about truths, is is it just that–gossip?

This single act play making its west coast premier at The Sacred Fools is a production that deeds out as a very mature “young adult” story that isn’t of the same variety one would find on The Disney Channel or Nickelodeon. It’s more of a piece that’s suitable for those adults far beyond high school age. The play appearing on stage features the usual antics that would take place in a Catholic girls high school, such as the girls going through their growing pains, friends breaking up and making up, the anticipation of college life, and the for noted gossip sessions. But every episode is taken within a serious mode, although there are some humor antidotes added to get this piece away from be labeled as too sobering!

Along with the drama seen on stage with its players, there’s other notes to consider. Amanda Knehans’ set design consists of a stage area on stage left with a few Greek pillars posted around with a backdrop that has a spattering of graffiti placed in various points. (Is St. Catherine’s school located in an area yet to be gentefied?) Nancy Dobbs Owen’s costuming dresses the girls in typical Catholic girls school clothing fodder. (Navy blue sweater-blouses donned with a school logo, grey skirts, knee socks, etc.) These elements brings this play into its truer light.

It’s rather difficult to call this play a “tragedy”. However, it’s very amusing for what it is and may even bring back some nostalgia, especially if one did attend a Catholic girl’s high school. Most of these school tend to present fluff pieces for their theater shows rather than performing Greek plays long forgotten. But this isn’t a story about lost youth. It’s really a tale about youth lost!

ANTIGONE, PRESENTED BY THE GIRLS OF ST. CATHERINE’S, presented by the Sacred Fools Theatre Company, and performs at The Bradwater Main Stage, 1078 Lillian Way (off Santa Monica Blvd., one block west of Vine Street), Hollywood, until April 11th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, with Sunday matinees March 22nd, 29th, and April 5th at 3:00 PM, with an additional performance on Monday, March 30th at 8:00 PM.

For ticket reservations and for more details, visit http://www.SacredFools.org
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Performing at the Edgemar Center For The Arts in Santa Monica is the improv show MURDER MAFIA, a self titled program where ten suspects are rounded up with suspicion of a murder. It’s up to the audience to find out who was the killer i.e who’s part of this “Murder Mafia”.

This program stars Derek Jeremiah Reid as the detective. He’s gathered these suspects that comes from all walks of life and backgrounds that may or may have not done the deed(s)! Those players consist of (as listed through their order of the alphabet), Vanessa Gelacio, Carly Harper, Deia Jain, Marion Maclou, Malu Martins, Albi Neziri, Meitar Paz, Mariana T. Restrepo, Manni J. Santamaria, Salvatore Tabone, Rory V, Josefine Wallensgaard, and Sashil Zakwai. Once they are all in the same room, another person is bumped off. By the time the program comes to its conclusion, one person remains! So who dunnit already?

This program uses its plotting based upon suggestions solicited from the audience. The detective, as played by Derek Jeremiah Reid who also directs this show, has selected audience members write down a word or phrase on an index card that the detective asks for. (A food item, a lyric from a song, etc.) Then those idioms as gathered are integrated into the improvised dialogue the characters a.k.a. suspects speak as those suggestions are added into the humorous elements.

The idea of such a show is rather promising. For its running time at eighty or so minutes, it could play out as a much tighter program for its plotting and pacing. Whatever the case, the show contains a setting where everyone is innocent until proven worthy enough to ice off the unlucky victim. That to in itself is enough to blend into its comic relief!

MURDER MAFIA performs at The Edgemar Center For The Arts, 2437 Main Street, Santa Monica, until March 28th. Showtimes are Saturday nights at 8:00 PM.

For ticket reservations, call (310) 392-7327, or via online at http://EdgemarCenter.org
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ONWARD (Disney/Pixar) takes place in a world of fantasy loaded with wizards, gnomes, and unicorns, but not in any traditional sense. The fantasy world is the village of New Mushroomton, a community that resembles a domestic suburban bedroom community. Living with this place loaded with cookie-cutter thatched homes, strip malls, auto traffic (for suburbia), and other traits of urban life is Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland), an elf creature that resembles a teen aged boy. He has an elder brother Barley (Chris Pratt) who is a total opposite. Ian is a rather thin and awkward lad-elf that acts meek and rather confused. Barley is more of the “rad”-type who dons a leather jacket loaded with patches expressing his personalty, drives a beat-up van, along with the fact he is more portly and knows how and where to have fun in his life. Ian’s mother Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is a middle aged mom-type that cares for her kids. Their father Wilden has since passed on shortly before Ian was born. But he left an important artifact for his kids, a large staff that resembles a wizard’s wand. The boys discover that if a magic jewel is placed on its top part and resite some magic words through an instruction sheet was enclosed with this staff, they can bring their dad back for just only one day. When they attempt to bring their dad back, the jewel only holds enough power to bring back dad from the waist down. Barley has an idea to make a heroic quest to find another jewel that can complete the job. But they only have a day to do it since their half dad will be gone forever within twenty four hours. So with a lot of enthusiasm and a little hope, Ian and Barley goes upon their quest (as well as a road trip), to get that magic jewel and just to find out if there indeed is a little magic left in their post-modern suburban fantasy world.

This latest title from Pixar is another animated feature that caters to a slightly older audience: those boys over the age of twelve that enjoy a good “buddy” movie (as this one is) that speaks to them and for them. The humor and general attitude isn’t anything that could be considered as “cute”! Although there is stuff as rainbows (sort of) and unicorns contained in this picture, it isn’t the kind of unicorns, etc. that would be for those that are fans of Frozen (both I and II) as those fans consist of girls under the age of twelve! (Although Frozen is part of The Walt Disney Company, this feature comes from the Pixar side of things, but this is besides the point!)

The story and screenplay by Dan Scanlon (who also directs), Jason Headley & Keith Bunin is a tale that is fast, adventurous (for an animated film), and rather amusing. It doesn’t present itself as a standard Pixar release that features characters that are likable, holds plenty of heart, and has a plot to match. It performs more as a typical CGI animation release created by one of Pixar’s competitors. That doesn’t make this notion a negative one, but don’t expect this title as another so-called “Pixar classic”. (It ain’t no Toy Story for sure!!) But is does perform as a crowd pleaser as Pixar films tend to be, loaded with the cocky and snarky humor one could get away with through a PG-13 realm. (The rating is mostly for its “scary” scenes!)

And there is the rest of the cast that uses their voice talents to make this so-called “magic” happen. Octavia Spencer is featured as The Manticore, a winged character that knows where the jewel can be found. Kyle Bornheimer is dad Wilden, Lena Waithe is Officer Spector, a half man-half horse who is currently Laurel’s boy/horse friend, Ali Wong is Officer Gore, Grey Griffin is Pixie Dusters Leader Dewdrop (yep, it has a gang of motorcycle driving pixies in this feature!), Tracey Ullman is hock shop owner Grecklin, Wilmer Valderrama is Wilden’s old college buddy Gaxton, George Psarras is Officer Avel, and in keeping with having his voice heard in every single Pixar feature film ever released, John Ratzenberger is construction Worker Fenwick.

ONWARD is one of those movies that may not be within the same category as the Cars franchise, per se, but is fun enough to something that is very entertaining. And it will be one of two Pixar features that will be released within the same calendar year. (It’s other title Soul will be hitting the multiplexes later in the season!) But until then, just grab the extra large popcorn bucket topped off with butter flavored grease, the oversized cup of iced fizzy sugar water, and perhaps a box or two of Jujubes and enjoy! After all, movies are supposed to be fun! That is where the magic really remains!

Now playing at those same multiplexes nationwide!
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