[NoHo Arts District, CA] – A NoHo Arts theatre review of Because It’s Sunny in L.A., written and produced by Thaddeus Nagey, in the hope of creating awareness of the homeless population in Los Angeles, running June 3 – 24.
Because It’s Sunny in L.A. focuses on a community that most people have heard of or know nothing of the people that inhabit this area, Skid Row. We, the audience, wander in and find our seats, and are welcomed to an alternate world of hunger, violence, sickness, misery, and hopelessness. But what seemed to be my first impression of the show changed, as it progressed, and I was drawn in by the power and authenticity of the cast members. I can tell you without any hesitation that this production was riveting, powerful and thought provoking because of the stories, the situations, and the fascinating, well-crafted characters. All of this was possible with the underlying rhythms of the fine musicians; Ray Lewis and Marcos Mayes, drumming the messages into our ears and touching our hearts.
Each of the cast members brought to life a world that I was totally unfamiliar with, other than giving dollar bills or a bottle of water to a fellow human being standing at the off ramps of the freeways, or on the streets. Abbott was played by Ailkhan Lochin, with an intensity that was only matched by his vulnerability. Costella, played by Lorinida Hawkins Smith, holds the audience with eyes that amplify the pain her character tries to hide. Veve Melendrez as Vanessa, plays her part with great relatability and a grace that is heartbreaking. Carmen is played by Emelle, a tricky role that could have been nothing more than a stereotype of the powers that be, but the very capable hands of Emelle brings a dignity and a resolution to the character I didn’t expect. Betzi Marroquin plays Mother, an authentic performance that had me reaching out to comfort her from her pain. Darryl is played by Iron Donato and his presence alone completed the ensemble with a gentleness of a healer and the energy of a man that has been there and done that. The cast was exquisite and powerful.
I must also point out that the direction by Karesa McElheny was wonderful. She was the conductor of this symphony of the human condition. I went into The Hudson Theatre in one state of mine and left in another. I witnessed a community coming together against a sea of troubles and misunderstandings as they navigated enduring homelessness in the richest country in the world. I was educated. I was moved. I was changed. I saw that hopelessness can be turned into resilience.
Because It’s Sunny in L.A. Tickets:
The Hudson Theatre
6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90038
Directed by Karesa McElheny
Written and Produced by Thaddeus Nagey
Composed by Tim Poulin & Thaddeus Nagey
Musical Direction by Garth Herberg
Director of Choreography, Elizabeth Ellie Rodríguez
Poster Art and Graphic Design by AwildOun
Sound Design by Tim Poulin
Light & Visual Design by Thaddeus Nagey
Ray Lewis and Ase Ashe Dancers & Drummers from the Heart (Drums and Percussion)
Set & Costume Design by Karesa McElheny and Thaddeus Nagey
“Abbott” – Alikhan Lochin
“Costella” – Lorinda Hawkins Smith**
“Mother” – Betzi Marroquin
“Vanessa” – Veve Melendrez**
“Carmen” & “Disembodied Voice” – emelle**
“Police Officer,” “Darryl” & “Disembodied Voice #2” – Iron Donato
“James” Thaddeus Nagey**
Adam Kreindle – Prerecorded Voiceover for Audiobook
** Member of Actor’s Equity Association