It is not often I go to a theatre in Los Angeles, where I see such joy as I saw from the Actors Workout Studio.
From the moment I walked in, everyone was genuinely excited and glad to be part of part of this theater. The co-directors were working the door and set the perfect tone for a lovely evening.
The show consisted of six short plays…scenes really. The title of the compilation was “Taboo,” so I was expecting to have the limits of decency pushed. I was disappointed a bit on that front, but was not disappointed by the level of talent involved in this production.
The first piece, “Offender,” was about a registered sex offender just trying to do his job and inform the neighbors of his presence. The twists and turns create a funny scenario about a serious and taboo subject as he is the target of some crazy energies and has to squirm his way through it. Miles Faber played the titular character and held his own against the “over-the-top” characters played by Joey Jupiter-Levin and Rachel Christianson. Faber was a bit behind on the comic timing of the scene, but his mugging and dedication to the character made up for it. Director Ian McClure guided the actors to the line of uncomfortability, made sure they never crossed it, and gave them permission to pour themselves into it. I was very impressed with what he created.
The second piece, “What are you going to be?” was a bit more labored. The piece revolved around parents dealing with a potentially racist Halloween costume choice by their daughter. I did not get almost any familial chemistry between any of the actors. The dialogue seemed to lag and cues seemed to be left on the stage for the crew to pick up. It just seemed off and half-hearted. Near the end of the piece, it picked up and it seemed like the actors got their groove. However, I wish there was more chemistry between the actors, less pausing, and more of something to grab onto.
The third piece, “Don & Eva,” was very strange. It involved two people going home together after meeting in a bar. Fun setup, good commitment shown by both actors, Joey Jupiter-Levin and Siaka Massaquoi, but there was an escalation to the scene that seemed off. The energy and pacing seemed to be suffering from a rare form of tourettes, sporadically shifting from quiet and calm to outbursts of noise and dialogue. I actually enjoyed it overall and felt the actors dealt with the delicate issues of race and one night standsnwell, but I wish there was a more natural, organic flow to how the scene evolved.
The fourth piece, “I’m Chris Hansen,” was fantastic!
Regan Talleh presented a monologue about her obsession with Chris Hansen. It was so captivating and enjoyable, I found myself wanting to google Chris Hansen and fall in love myself. There was an odd direction given, where she was speaking to one person, in the upper left hand corner of the audience, which made me feel like I was missing something behind me, but once I got used to it, I gave in fully to her diatribe. Talleh sold the piece with her whole self, body and speech. Major kudos Stacy Ann Raposa for directing such a great piece. A monologue in a show full of fully cast scenes is not easy, but these two managed to work it out and show us something great.
The fifth piece, “When Babies Fly,” was the perfect piece for its two actors. Miles Faber and Saige Ryan were funny, engaging, and committed. The comedic timing was on point and let me see what these two actors could do far beyond the first scenes they were in that night. They walked a line with how awful people can be while still being relatable and charming…and they did it perfectly. There was an energy dip at the end of the scene, almost like they were getting tired, but overall a great piece. The director, Raposa, knew how to steer these two to realize their potential.
The last piece of the evening, “Shake My Hand,” was another stab at race in America. The actors seemed competent and committed to the characters, but I felt that they were not directed fully. The personalities may have been too much to handle. The actors seemed lost in an odd mixture of ego and reticence. The scene and its players needed to be reined in and led to the heart and core of the scene. Sadly, they were not nor were they able to discover it for themselves.
Overall, I would highly recommend this show. It has its high points and its lows, but it made me laugh, made me think, and I enjoyed the evening. Director Stacy Ann Raposa is a pro and handled her scenes with a deft hand. Director Ian McClure is very talented and I look forward to watching him grow and evolve as a director and hope he continues making great art.
Actors Workout Studio
4735 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91602