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‘Yellow’ tackles some bold issues

September 7, 2010 1 comment

By Cynthia Citron

Cynthia Citron

WEST HOLLYWOOD, California–At last, a family that isn’t dysfunctional!  A mother and father still romantically in love after 19 years of marriage.  A football hero son who is their pride and joy.  A young daughter, a high school drama queen with lots of the usual teen-age issues, and her best friend, a sweet, gay young man whom they shelter when his own mother disowns him.

The play is Yellow, written and directed by Del Shores, and currently extending its world premiere engagement at the Coast Playhouse in response to public and critical acclaim.  And it’s well-deserved acclaim, I might add.

The play itself is gripping, but it is made even more engaging by its actors, who are unfailingly terrific.  Robert Lewis Stephenson, as the father, Bobby Westmoreland, is a happy-go-lucky high school football coach.  His wife, Kate (Kristen McCullough), is a psychotherapist.  The kids, Dayne (Luke McClure) and Gracie (Evie Louise Thompson) are appropriately rambunctious.  But even in this talented ensemble, Matthew Scott Montgomery is a standout.  Playing Kendall Parker, the gay would-be thespian, he is charming, awkward, socially inept, and timid.  As the third kid in the Westmoreland home, he plays most of his scenes with his mouth hanging open in amazement at the family’s antics.

You can understand why when you meet his termagant of a mother.  A confirmed Jesus freak, she speaks only in Bible and pours pious venom on everyone she encounters.  She is toxic, especially to Kendall, whom she insists on calling “Matthew Mark.”  She also calls herself “Sister Timothea.”  As played by the excellent Susan Leslie, Sister Timothea is a hand grenade waiting to explode. 

But the Westmoreland family explodes first.  When a rare and life-threatening illness strikes one of them, it opens a Pandora’s box of secrets and lies, tearing the family apart.

Robert Steinberg has designed a dollhouse of a set: living room, dining room, bedroom and wrap-around ivy-pillared porch.  The costumes by Craig Taggart reflect the tastes of rural Mississippi: both Bobby and Dayne wear “Ol’ Miss” shirts, and Sister Timothea is respectably frumpy.  Drew Dalzell and Mark Johnson have also done well with the sound design: crowd noises and the offstage voice of the doctor move the plot along without diverting scene changes, so the house remains intact as the actors move in and out.

And Del Shores has done a superb job of directing his ensemble, making sure there is plenty of light humor along with the intense emotions.  All in all, a very satisfying visit to the theatre.

Yellow will continue at the Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., in West Hollywood, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 and 7 through October 17th.  Call 800-595-4849 for tickets.

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Citron is Los Angeles bureau chief of San Diego Jewish World.

‘Eleemosynary’ soft landing for Moxie’s sixth season

September 7, 2010 Leave a comment
 

Rhona Gold, Rachael Van Wormer, Julia Sachs

By Carol Davis    

 

Carol Davis

SAN DIEGO –Playwright Lee Blessing (A Walk in the Woods, Two Rooms, Cobb) wrote Eleemosynary in 1985. Funny thing about family dramas, relationships and intergenerational forces, they never seem dated. Drop my family into the Westbrook family: Dorothea (Rhona Gold), Artie (Julie Anderson Sachs) and Echo (Rachael Van Wormer), change the names to protect the innocent, multiply Echo by three, tweak the grandmother a bit (let’s just say highly opinionated and domineering) and you’ve got situations, attitudes and emotions that could run chapter and verse parallel to their lives.

Blessing was nominated for both the Tony award and Pulitzer Prize for A Walk in the Woods (seen at the La Jolla Playhouse in the late 80’s) and won a 1997 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Writing for Eleemosynary. I recall seeing the play many years ago and never forgot the title Eleemosynary because it has such a poetic ring to it and I had never heard the word before. It’s no wonder Echo cherished the word, but for different reasons.

You see Echo the sixteen-year-old daughter of Artie and granddaughter of Dorothea is caught in the middle of both their worlds. We learn that she won her spelling bee with just that word and she loves it. Eleemosynary; “of or pertaining to alms; charitable.”

In her mind, if she could just win and be the spelling bee champion, she might be able to bring her mother and grandmother closer or at least talking to each other. Life however is more complicated than just winning a spelling bee, as Echo would soon find out. 

All three women are independent, strong willed and somewhat eccentric. As the play opens Dorothea has suffered a stroke and granddaughter Echo is taking care of her–a role reversal because Artie, Echo’s mother, had left Echo in Dorothea’s care.

Dorothea taught her among other things the love of words and not just the English word. From the age of three months, she was preening her in Greek and Latin among other languages. In the meantime absentee mother Artee begins  holding phone conversations with her daughter about (of all things) spelling words.

Told in both real time and flashbacks we get a chance to see the relationships between Dorothea and Artie, Artie and Echo and Dorothea and Echo. When we first meet them, Dorothea is testing her theory that humans can fly with Artie donning a pair of homemade wings hooked over her shoulders. She tries to convince Artie to jump off the top of a steep hill with leaves piled on the bottom to break the fall. Artie asks her if she’s nuts!

Well Dorothea believed that anyone could fly with the proper wings. “I wish I could be flying myself, but arthritis has made that impossible”. She did manage to get some of it on film.

In a series of vignettes (the play is about 90 min long) we learn that the three Westbrook women are special, remarkable, eccentric. They are all bright, slightly bizarre and at odds with the norm. But Eleemosynary is not so much about the oddities as it is about examining relationships and connections, charity and love. However… they all do suffer from some form of dysfunction.

As Dorothea, the New Age spiritualist, dressed in a flowing and loose caftan (Jennifer Mash), who uses her eccentricities to allow her the freedom to do as she pleases, Rhona Gold is at her best and so believable. In scene after scene her odd behavior seems so normal, I started to question my own sensibilities.

Julie Anderson Sachs’ Artie is the toughest role to pull off. As a mother who abandons her only daughter for whatever reasons, there is always a question mark. The line she walks is even more difficult than say, flying off a steep hill.

We are told when and can even sympathize with the how of her being under the wings of an oddball mother, whose domineering personality makes you cringe that she did what she did.  But her reasons as to why she left her daughter (abandonment and loss of control) to be brought up by her grandmother are not easy to swallow. By play’s end though, director Chelsea Whitmore skillfully manages Artie’s character to be somewhat sympathetic and forgiving.

Rachael Van Wormer’s Echo, (who has played the role so often in other plays bearing other names) is the real conduit between her grandmother and her mother. While longing for her own connection to her mother and being so wonderfully allied with her grandmother, “My grandmother had a stroke, she can’t really talk. At least I think I can I can hear her though”, she shows a maturity beyond her sixteen years. She too walks a fine line bringing out the pathos of a child who wants it all to be all right with the aloofness of an adult whose core is in need of repair.

Van Wormer is both strong and compassionate while showing a combative almost vicious side when it comes to destroying her nearest competitor in the National Spelling bee. It works.

Lighting designer Karin Filijan illuminates space and time, Angelica Ynfante’s bare bones set of wooden platforms on different levels with stacks of books scattered around help define the play for what it is and Matt Lescault-Wood’s fine sound design brings Moxie’s sixth season in with a soft landing and room to spare. It’s a lovely play with a fine production to kick off a season.

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Sept. 4th– 26th

Organization: Moxie Theatre

Phone: 858-598-7620

Production Type: Comedy/Drama

Where: 6663 El Cajon Blvd. Ste. N San Diego, Ca 92115

Ticket Prices: $15.00-$25.00

Web: moxietheatre.com

Venue: The Rolando Theatre

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Theatre critic Davis s based in San Diego

‘Penelope’s Daughter’ makes debut at San Diego City College

September 7, 2010 Leave a comment

Laurel Corona

SAN DIEGO (Press Release)–San Diego Community College Chancellor Dr. Constance Carroll joins a cast of City College faculty and students on Friday, September 24, 2010 at the Saville Theatre on the City College campus for the launch of faculty member Laurel Corona’s novel, Penelope’s Daughter.

Published by Berkley Books, a division of Penguin USA, Penelope’s Daughter retells the story of Homer’s Odyssey from the point of view of the women, as narrated by a daughter born to Odysseus after he left for Troy.

“An Evening with the Women of the Odyssey,” begins with a talk on “Homer’s Women” by Chancellor Carroll, a classics scholar (Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh), followed by dance and dramatic performances by City College students, based on readings from the novel by Laurel Corona, who also writes for San Diego Jewish World.

The free event begins at 7 p.m. on Friday, September 24, at the Saville Theatre, located on the City campus at 15th and C Streets downtown. It kicks off the International Book Fair, which runs September 24 to October 2, and is co-sponsored by the City College World Cultures Program and Penguin USA.

Publishers Weekly calls Penelope’s Daughter a “variant and dreamy confection of Greek mythology and romance [that] achieves, thanks to Xanthe’s first-person account, a great deal of intimacy. Booklist says that “women who once wept for their lost men are given the voice and power they deserve. In Corona’s tale, women turn a tragedy into opportunity, finding a way to thrive in a world full of men. Penelope’s Daughter provides new insight into the lives of Homer’s women while giving voice to the inventiveness, creativity, and ingenuity of all those left behind.”

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Preceding provided by Laurel Corona

Despite sanctions, Iran continues to stockpile nuclear materials

September 7, 2010 Leave a comment

VIENNA (WJC)–Iran is steadily stockpiling enriched uranium, even in the face of toughened international sanctions, according to a report by inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna (IAEA).

The report raises new concerns about the ability to monitor parts of Tehran’s nuclear program that could be used to make a bomb. Citing a broad pattern of obstruction, the IAEA said that it could not confirm quantities of certain nuclear materials, has a growing list of unanswered questions about enrichment sites.

Overall, the UN agency “remains concerned about the possible existence in Iran of past or undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military organizations.” The report states that for the past two years the Iranian regime refused to answer questions about possible undisclosed nuclear activities, including those related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile. The IAEA also said Iran had failed to comply with longstanding requests from its inspectors and that Tehran’s “repeated” objections to personnel appointments were disrupting its work.

Iran’s nuclear chief said Tehran had the right to bar the inspectors from monitoring its nuclear program. In June, the regime barred two experienced UN nuclear inspectors from entering the country because of what the regime said were their “false and wrong statements.” The IAEA has rejected the criticism.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

California group seeks to land ‘aid’ plane in Gaza

September 7, 2010 Leave a comment

EL CERRITO, California (WJC)–A pro-Palestinian group in the United States has announced plans to Israel’s sea blockade of Gaza by flying a planeload of aid into the Hamas-controlled coastal strip. The California-based Free Palestine Movement said on its website that it would “raise the ante and challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza by air.” Gaza airspace can be entered without overflying Israeli or Egyptian territory, the website announcement said. 

“Breaking the blockade by air may be even more feasible than by sea. An aircraft cannot be boarded while in flight, and the right aircraft can land almost anywhere in Gaza,” the website said in an apparent reference to Israel’s interception of the organization’s Gaza-bound flotilla at the end of May. Nine passengers were killed during violence that erupted when Israeli commandos raided a Turkish ship.

The group reportedly has been raising funds in order to charter a plane that can land without a runway. Israel’s ‘Channel 2’ television has identified the ‘aid’ as consisting of communications equipment.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Sights and sounds of Rosh Hashanah in Jerusalem

September 7, 2010 Leave a comment

By Judy Lash Balint

Judy Lash Balint

JERUSALEM–Anyone venturing into the shuk or even a local supermarket in Israel this week could be forgiven for thinking that a famine was imminent in the land.

Shoppers laden with huge nylon bags bulging with every kind of produce, fish, meat and bread may be seen staggering under the weight of their purchases, secure in the knowledge that they have sufficient provisions for the three days when stores are closed for the holiday and Shabbat.

Certain foods are traditional to eat on Rosh Hashana, and the markets are full of the most beautiful pomegranates, succulent dates and crisp apples. All the produce is local—pomegranate trees grow everywhere, even in private gardens; dates are from the Jordan Valley and apples from the Golan.

For some, the three-day Jerusalem shutdown of entertainment and shopping is a little much. One of my more secular neighbors informed me she’s running off to a hotel in Tel Aviv for the duration. Tel Aviv’s beaches are generally packed on every holy day.

Other secular Israelis, however, are intrigued by the pre-Rosh Hashana traditions, and join 3 a.m. tours of the selichot (forgiveness) services at Jerusalem synagogues in the old neighborhoods. It’s mostly the Sephardic congregations that host the melodic recitation of penitential prayers in the month before Yom Kippur. Late at night, the Old City is jammed with visitors making their way down to the Kotel for selichot, and taking a walking tour of the back alleys along the way. At 11:30 p.m in the square in front of the renovated Hurva Synagogue, industrious groups of young yeshiva guys feverishly unload panel after panel of plywood and 2 by 4 poles to construct the sukka there.

[See the You Tube video ]

Newspaper polls report that only 47 percent of Israelis plan on attending synagogue services to pray during Rosh Hashana, but hotels all over the country report 95 percent occupancy rates. The traffic jams generated by all that coming and going are truly monumental. In the hours leading up to the leyl Rosh Hashana family dinner, it seems as if the entire country is on the road. Roads anywhere near shopping centers have been packed for days now, so we should be used to it.

A uniquely Israeli tradition is the “haramat cosit” literally, “lifting of the glass”, in honor of the New Year. Government ministries, corporations and municipal offices all host toasts where wine and good cheer flow. The fleet of diplomatic vehicles double-parked outside the official presidential residence in Jerusalem is an indication that President Shimon Peres is hosting the diplomatic corps for the traditional New Year bash.

No doubt, the foreign emissaries were discussing the tensions of the day, which this year, once again include the Iranian nuclear threat and the current direct peace talks.

So as we prepare to sign off for a few days of introspection and stocktaking, we take this opportunity to wish Jewish readers and their families a year of health, fulfillment and success—oh yes, and peace and quiet.

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Judy Lash Balint is a freelance writer whose posts may be found regularly on the blog: Jerusalem Diaries:In Tense Times

Jewish Healing Center announces new groups

September 7, 2010 Leave a comment

SAN DIEGO (Press Release) — The Jewish Healing Center is dedicated to providing a uniquely Jewish and spiritual perspective to everyday challenges and crisis situations. Are you dealing with the recent lost of a loved one? Struggling with the bereavement process? Looking to talk to a Rabbi, even though you’re not affiliated with a congregation? Have you recently been diagnosed with a chronic illness or cancer? Are you interested in exploring Jewish spiritual practices, like yoga or meditation? If you answered yes to any of the above, the Jewish Healing Center can help.

Listed below are some of our upcoming events. All workshops are held at Jewish Family Service – Turk Family Center (8804 Balboa Avenue, San Diego 92123). For more information and to register, visit the Jewish Healing Center website  or call (858) 637-3070.

Jewish Bereavement Support Group
Tuesdays, September 14 – November 2 • 3:00-4:30pm;  $18.00 Per Person • Registration Required

Have you experienced the loss of a loved one? Healing is enhanced by reaching out to others who have experienced loss. Together, we will address the social, religious, psychological, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of the bereavement process. Facilitated by Rabbi Aliza Berk, LMFT, Director of the Jewish Healing Center.

Our Daily Practice: Using Jewish Ethics and Meditation in Our Everyday Lives
Wednesdays, September 15 & 29 and October 13 & 27 • 6:00–7:30pm;  $18.00 Per Person • Registration Required

Explore ways to combine contemplative Jewish practices and Mussar, Jewish ethics. The study of Mussar is intended to help individuals find a practical pathway to spiritual self development. Text study will focus on a specific middot of daily life such as gratitude, patience, and compassion. Meditation, prayer, journaling, and creative expression will also enrich our study. Participants will be matched with a study partner to deepen their practice.

Coping With Holiday Challenges, Wednesdays, November 3, November 10, November 17 • 6:00-7:30pm;   $18.00 Per Person • Registration Required

A different topic each session will focus on coping with the religious and spiritual challenges we face when everyone else around us seems joyous during the winter holidays. The group is intended for those suffering with emotional turmoil, chronic illness, or coping with bereavement. Group discussions, contemplative practice, and journaling will be used to enrich participation.

Untying the Bonds: For Separated and Divorcing Individuals,  Wednesdays, December 8 – January 12 • 6:30-8:00pm,  $18.00 Per Person • Registration Required

A support group which discusses all issues surrounding the emotional turmoil involving divorce. Topics will include mourning the loss of your relationship, rebuilding self-esteem, handling stress and depression, moving away from disappointment, navigating family relationships, and dating again. Facilitated by Rabbi Aliza Berk, LMFT, Director of the Jewish Healing Center.

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Preceding provided by the Jewish Healing Center