“Twelve O’Clock Tales with Ava Gardener”

Alessandra Assaf as Ava Gardner. Makeup by Suzi Hale. Photo by Mary Lou Sandler/3Cubed Studios.

[NoHo Arts District, CA] – A NoHo Arts theatre review of “Twelve O’Clock Tales with Ava Gardener” written by Alessandra Assaf and Michael Lorre, directed by Michael A. Shepperd, and starring Alessandra Assaf, running every Sunday through March 5 at The Whitefire Theatre’s Solofest.

The tricky thing about playing an icon is to convince the audience to believe in the magic of illusion. For them to be so entranced with the performance that they accept wholeheartedly the ruse. They choose to fully commit to believing, as much as the actor who portrays the role.  It doesn’t always work if I’m honest. However, when it does, it quite takes one’s breath away.

“Twelve O’Clock Tales with Ava Gardener” works…beautifully. Alessandra Assaf is Ava Gardener. To a tee.  

Alessandra Assaf as Ava Gardner. Makeup by Suzi Hale. Photo by Mary Lou Sandler/3Cubed Studios.

She plays Ms Gardener towards the end of her career, in the 70s, on a break during the filming of the movie “Earthquake,” while the set is being made ready for the next scene. We catch up with her in her dressing room as she talks about her life, her loves and fields calls from Frank Sinatra, begging her to marry him. She’s sharing all this with her long-time companion Reenie, her closest friend and assistant. Rennie is a Black woman and Ms Gardener was famously a huge supporter of the NAACP even though she was born into a poor family in North Carolina and was probably surrounded by racism and segregation growing up.

I love this kind of deep dive into the mind of a character, and Ava Gardener was a character, a role, played by a very clever, compassionate and fiercely independent woman. In Hollywood in the 40s and 50s women had little to no control over their careers, the roles they were able to play, the actors they played opposite, and the money they could earn. It took a group of famous actresses, and Ava Gardener was one, to close ranks and quietly insist on more money, more control and the respect they were due. Ava Gardener was quite something…a real feminist long before the term was coined. She was brave and far ahead of her time. One of her closest friends was Lena Horn and she walked the walk, every single day.

To even begin to inhabit her on stage takes an actress with presence, stature and an enormous amount of sass.  Alessandra Assaf has it all.  As well as a healthy amount of that elusive x-factor.  

She strides across the stage, every ounce the icon. She truly embodies this incredible stylish, gutsy woman. And what’s more she gives her life. She becomes fascinating, alluring, dazzling, funny, warm, courageous and charming.  The tales she shares of Ava’s life are just as compelling as the star.  One moment sweet, the next hilarious, and the next enough to raise every hair on the back of your neck.

“Twelve O’Clock Tales with Ava Gardener” is a brilliantly spun illusion of one of the most glamorous, talented and memorable movie stars who has ever lived. 

There have been many who have tried to copy her, but there can only ever be one Ava Gardener….unless of course your name is Alessandra Assaf, then perhaps in an evening in a little theatre in Sherman Oaks, we can share space with Ms Gardener once again.

Tickets:

https://whitefire.stagey.net/projects/9509

When:

Every Sunday through March 5 

Where: 

The Whitefire Theatre Solofest

13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91243