Reviewed by Julio Martinez
Gloria Gifford Conservatory at Gray Studios
Through April 23
Veteran actress/director Gloria Gifford has called upon over fifty members of her conservatory (GGC Players) to march through a plethora of pieces. These are mostly lame, out-of-date comedy sketches, all of which are penned by two other old pros, the writing/acting team Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna. The short sketches which satirize the “follies and foibles of love and lovers” have seen better days. What is listed as a Los Angeles premiere is in part culled from Samuels French’s published collection of scenes designed for students.
Gifford’s directorial technique focuses on getting as many people on stage as possible (even in what should be an intimate scene). The evening’s opening dalliance, Eleanor’s Magical Moment is centered around two dissatisfied marrieds — Eleanor (Tejaj Signori) and Herb (Dannie Siegel) who have long been toying with the idea of an extra-marital fling. The performances are what one would expect from beginning acting students.
The action and the writing are both elevated during the highly physical showbiz antics of Tony & Madelaine (Jade Warner & Chad Doreck), who chew up the scenery (and each other) as over-the-top film stars lamenting their aging careers and faded love life. Both characters are accompanied by a Greek chorus of empathetic sycophants. Doreck and Warner are to be congratulated for their no-holds-barred approach to their performances, but the supporting players do little more than fill up the space.
In the sketch Love of Susan’s Life, Nick (Nevada Schaefer) is delightfully understated as the ultimate nice guy trying to break up with his clueless girlfriend, Susan (Raven Bowens).
The best written scene of the lot, Benny and the Woman, is one that puts geeky and inhibited movie fan Bobby (Michael Barker) in the uncomfortable position of having to talk to an equally shy woman (Samiyah Swann). Unable to converse beyond quoting film reviews, Benny misses his cue when the woman hesitantly reaches out in an effort to make some kind of connection. Barker and Swann, relying solely on the surface of the text, fail to uncover the ocean of unexplored sadness and despair inherent in the writing.
The first act closer, Biff, Dickie, Carmel & Roberta focuses on the male bonding of Biff (Danny Siegel) and Dickie (Jeff Hamasaki Brown) to the exclusion of their wives, Carmel (Lucy Walsh) and Roberta (Lauren Plaxco), while vacationing at Club Med. The hyperactive macho physicality between the men becomes abrasive in its excess.
The second act, comprised of seven short scenes, spotlights a strategically placed satin-covered king size bed. This serves as the main objective for our young lovers as they whisk through their romantic entanglements, mostly failing at their assignations. The highlight is the game show scene, You Waste Your Life, wherein host Eddie (Joe Filippome) guides young couple Bill (Jeff Hamasani Brown) and Mary (Irini Gerakas) through the many downsides of their relationship.
Though love often inspires, in this case the best thing about this evening are the pop hits from the 50s and 60s broadcast throughout the theater’s excellent sound system between scenes.
Gray Studios, 5250 Vineland Ave, North Hollywood ; Sat., 8 p.m; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; through Apr. 23. (310) 366-5505. Running Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes, www.tix.com, one intermission.