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  • gilwilson 9:43 PM on June 4, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Andrew Hawkes, , , Arye Gross, Ben Diskin, , concentration camps, , , incident at vichy, , , Jon Matthews, , , , , , , Robert Lesser, Shahar Sorek, socialism, ,   

    “Incident at Vichy” by Arthur Miller from “The Arthur Miller Collection” Published by L.A. Theatre Works 

    “Incident at Vichy”
    by Arthur Miller
    from “The Arthur Miller Collection” Published by L.A. Theatre Works
    starring: Ben Diskin, Arye Gross, Jamie Hanes, Andrew Hawkes, Gregory Itzin, Robert Lesser, Jon Matthews, Lawrence Pressman, Raphael Sbarge, Armin Shimerman and Shahar Sorek.
    70 minutes

    “Incident at Vichy” has got to be one of the most intense one-act plays ever. In just over one hour Arthur Miller manages to tell a story that begins with hope but ends with hopelessness. Knowing world history this is one of those plays that while the world knows the general outcome, of the treatment of the Jews by the Nazis, but this play explores the how. Looking back from our 21st century viewpoint it is really hard to see how Germany got by with what was done to the Jews and how they managed to gather all those listed as inferior and put them in Death Camps. This play demonstrates how human nature, guilt, fear, and enabled the Nazis to perpetrate the Holocaust with so little resistance.

    This one-act play takes place in a police station where a group of detainees are waiting for inspection by German officers. The detainees are all trying to deny the actual reason they were brought in (because the are suspected of being Jews) and try to tell themselves that it is a routine document check. But when some bring up that their noses were measured, and they all realize that most of them are Jews, then the fear of the real reason begins. Each one has story to tell and most of the stories are about escaping German occupied France to Vichy where they think they would be safe.

    At one point one of the detainees tells of rumors of the Death Camps and the furnaces. Some of the more able-bodied remaining detainees attempt an escape but it is thwarted by the French major who is an injured veteran of the German / French part of the war, and is now forced to assist the Germans. Each one is pulled into the interrogation room some leave to go back to work some are not seen again.

    The final scene in this play is when the last detainee is trying to convince the major to let him go and the discussion over whose life is more valuable begins.

    The play is an enlightening glimpse into the darker side of human nature and is by no means one that will lift your spirits, however,the cast in this performance are perfect in their character representations. Another great production from L.A. Theater Works.

  • gilwilson 12:51 PM on April 28, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Arye Gross, , , james farantino, julie harris, , , performance, , , ,   

    “All My Sons” by Arthur Miller from the “Arthur Miller Collection” by L.A. Theatre Works 

    “All My Sons”
    by Arthur Miller
    included in the “Arthur Miller Collection” from L.A. Theatre Works
    Performed by: James Farentino, Arye Gross, Julie Harris, Mitchell Hebert, Naomi Jacobson, Barbara Klein, Paul Morella, Michaeleen O’Neil, Nathan Taylor and Jerry Whiddon.
    Produced by L.A. Theatre Works
    Approx. 2 Hours.

    I’m continuing my run through this collection of 10 plays by Arthur Miller that is “The Arthur Miller Collection” from L.A. Theatre works and this next play is “All My Sons.”  I’m going to include this in one of the depressing plays from Arthur Miller, the entire premise is sad, and in fact this one really reminded me of a classic Greek Tragedy, in that a character committed an act that haunts him until his tragic end.  This time around the act is to allow faulty aircraft parts to go out during war and end up killing pilots.

    Before we talk about the story I have to talk about the production itself.  L.A. Theatre Works produces plays in audio format and every one I have heard, so far, has been a joy to hear.  Not necessarily due to the subject matter, as this play proves, but in the production itself.   Each performance is recorded with a live cast and with all the elements combined the listener feels as though they are placed smack-dab in the middle of the audience.  Being a student of theatre I was leery at the idea of theatrical performances in audio format.  The reason being, theatre is a visual art.  But the excellent production in all of LATW’s releases have taken the visual part out of the equation and mad these fully enjoyable in audio only format.  In all my previous listenings, LATW has pulled this off perfectly.

    With that said there was one minor scene in this story that just didn’t work right for me.  I’m not sure if it was because I was missing something visually or what but it just didn’t feel right.  It’s the scene where Kate’s brother, George comes back to confront Joe about the criminal act that put George & Kate’s father in prison while Joe went free.  When he arrives he was very angry, then suddenly in the scene he was congenial and ready to go out to dinner, only to immediately go back to being angry and storming off.  The mood changes in this scene seemed forced and just didn’t make sense at the moment.  However the scene is needed and later on in the performance all goes back to being perfectly performed and produced that that scene is forgiven.   By no means let that keep you from listening to this otherwise stellar performance of “All My Sons.”

    Another aspect of all the productions of LATW is the casting.  Each time I hear one of these performances I love knowing the actors names.  In this performance Arye Gross portrays Chris the son who is the center of the play, and he owns the part.  His portrayal is spot on and superb.  Sure, he’s got the support of James Farantino and Julie Harris, but Gross just makes the character come to life in his performance.

    In August 1946 Joe Keller, a self-made businesmann,  who once manufactured parts for the war effort, is contemplating a tree that has been taken down by a recent storm.  The tree was planted in memory of his son, Larry, who died in the war.   His son, Chris, is visiting and has invited Larry’s girlfriend to the homestead to ask her to marry him.   The problem with all of this is that Kate, Joe’s wife and Chris’s mother, believes Larry is still alive and will coming back.

    Ann’s father is in prison for selling faulty engine blocks for p-40 aircraft that ended up killing the pilots that flew with them.  He claims that he alerted Joe to the problem but Joe had the parts sent out anyway so he wouldn’t lose the government contract.  Joe says he was sick the day that Steve, Ann’s father, called and did not know.  A neighbor reveals that everyone on the block thinks Joe is guilty.

    Kate says Joe cannot be guilty because that would mean he killed their son and all those other boys.   In a play where family secrets are kept tight and the final outcome could destroy everyone, Arthur Miller has written a depressing yet eye-opening play.  The idea of business matters over safety is a lesson that is apropos even today.

    • Tanya/ dog eared copy 1:37 PM on April 28, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      I just posted my own review of this same production on my own blog a couple of days ago and I find interesting that we both mentioned the scene with George as being problematic and; that we both referred to Greek Tragedy! However, whereas you saw that scene as an anomaly in an otherwise excellent production, I was less impressed with the overall performance. I found the unrelenting fervor a bit wearing.


      • gilwilson 2:40 PM on April 28, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        Just went over to your blog and read…yeah you weren’t too happy overall.
        I thought the play was very strong otherwise, Arye Gross seemed to carry this performance for me. And yes that scene….ugh…It just didn’t quite make sense as it happened, but later in the play I understood what happened, but (and this is coming from an audio professional) i think the problem with this may have been an editing problem. I think there should have been longer silences or bigger gaps between the emotional changes. I would love to see this performed live and try to figure out what is missing in that scene.

        While I don’t full agree, i do like your “ham-fisted” description of the scene…just the term ham-fisted, i guess.

        When I read this play in college my comparison back then was to a Greek Tragedy as are most of Arthur Miller’s plays. He definitely wrote some tragic plays…death of a salesman was also a good Greek Tragedy type play. (btw, since you have the same collection I have, you’ll be listening to that one soon, I’m guessing, Stacy Keach rules that performance.)

        I also see you are listening to “We’re Alive” I loved that series…how’s that one going for you?


  • gilwilson 2:56 PM on March 17, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Arye Gross, contemporary drama, contemporary play, Dane DeHaan, deborah zoe laufer, , Josh Clark, Kate Rylie. end days, Kenneth Houston, , ,   

    “End Days” by Deborah Zoe Laufer 

    “End Days”
    by Deborah Zoe Laufer
    Full-cast performance featuring: Josh Clark, Shannon Cochran, Dane DeHaan, Arye Gross, Kenneth Houston and Kate Rylie.
    Produced by L. A. Theatre Works
    2 Hours and 22 minutes

    Being a fan of theatre, I get a little anxious when I see coming up on my reading list something from L.A. Theatre works. I think even more so when it is a contemporary play such as this one. By the way, Yes, I make a list of books to read.

    The production quality behind L.A. Theatre Works’ releases is always high, which is why I look forward to these audio theatre performances. The casts of all their works are perfect, but what makes it even more entertaining, is that while these are plays for viewing L.A. Theatre Works takes the time to produce these into great audio drama. The sound effects, music, and acting all place the listener into the middle of the audience.

    This time around the play “End Days,” came up on my list and I wasn’t sure what to think. Reading the synopsis on the L.A. Theatre Works website (http://www.latw.org )gave me a good idea.

    “In Deborah Zoe Laufer s End Days, a suburban family is undergoing a spiritual crisis following the September 11th attacks. Sylvia Stein has turned to Christianity to save her disaffected husband Arthur and her rebellious teenage daughter Rachel. But as Sylvia races around preparing for the Rapture, Rachel is learning that there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in her philosophy.” The performance also includes an interview with physicist and theologian Robert John Russell (Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences).

    Science and Religion both represented in one play? I knew there was going to be some sort of clash and then a ripping apart of the very fabric of reality. But no, that wasn’t quite it. To look at this play you have to first examine the quirks of each of the main characters.

    First off we have Nelson Steinburg who lost both his parents. His mother was a big fan of Elvis and one year for halloween he dressed as Elvis and his mother loved it. At her funeral and ever since he has dressed as Elvis. This strange way of dressing gets him beat up a lot in school, but Nelson is so optimistic about life that it doesn’t bother him. With his new “Step-Parents” he is converting to Judaism and is getting ready for his Bar Mitzvah and memorizing sections of the Torah. He has also become infatuated with the new neighbor, Rachel Stein. He gives her a copy of the Stephen Hawking book “A Brief History of Time,” telling her it will changer her life. Nelson is not only uber optimistic, he is also eager to please everyone.

    Rachel Stein is the daughter of Sylvia and Arthur Stein. The Stein family has recently uprooted and fled Manhatten after the events of 9/11. The family has all been devastated by the tragedy and have coped with the devastation in their own way. Rachel has become a bit anti-social and Goth. But when she read’s the Hawking book, she soon starts getting spiritual guidance from an etherial Stephen Hawking.

    Sylvia Stein has decided to take Jesus into her life, maybe more than that, she seems to have conversations with Jesus every moment in her life. He even offers her sweetener when she’s having coffe, “yes, thank you, Jesus.” To which Jesus replies, “You’re welcome, I love you.” Sylvia has taken it upon herself to have everyone in the world know Jesus. She hands out pamphlets all day, and holds prayer vigils. When Jesus comes to her in a dream and let’s her know the Rapture is coming, she does everything she can to make sure her family is taken in the Rapture.

    Arthur Stein was in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 and was the only person in his company to escape and survive. Since leaving Manhatten has never left the house, even worse he has never even gotten out of his pajamas. He lives life only to nap and suffer his own depression. And with all the family members coping in their own way he only sinks deeper.

    Nelson is the catalyst which stirs up the whole family and gets them on the path to healing and feeling. He confesses his love for Rachel to Arthur, even if he’s only known her a couple of days. Eventually he convinces Arthur to get dressed and go to the store when Rachel gets upset about never having any food in the house. Rachel wants cereal and only Nelson can save this crisis. Not knowing what kind of cereal his own daughter likes, Arthur is convinced by Nelson to buy one of each.

    Nelson also shows Rachel that Science is a great way to finding answers to everything and that even if you don’t find the answers it’s the questioning that will lead you to the right path.

    Sylvia is convinced the Rapture is Wednesday and insists that all the family stay together that day and pray. Nelson even offers to make the dip and the family, including Nelson, prepare for the Rapture.

    This play is one of the most uplifting performances I’ve heard in a long time. Everything from helping the depressed, finding truth, and even questioning life is included in this performance. While listening to this performance I ran the gamut of emotions, a bit of sadness, elation, pure joy. Each one of these included outbursts that I’m glad I was alone while listening, anyone seeing me go through these emotions in such a short period would have probably thought I was a bit unstable. But the writing and the performance in this kept me alert and at the end I was emotionally cleansed.

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