Saturday, September 29, 2018

Comics Hart and Haddish Go To 'Night School'

By Darlene Donloe

When you have a movie that stars two of today’s funniest comedians, it should be a nonstop, side-splitting laughfest. Should is the operative word. 

Instead, Night School, which stars Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish, is just OK. There are laughs, but not even close to the amount the pairing should have delivered.  Haddish, who is Hollywood’s “it” girl right now, was given very little to do. She plays the straight character to Hart’s antics.
Hart seems to have one acting speed and he seldom, if ever, ventures beyond his limits. 

Unfortunately, in this film – scenes, some of which don’t make any sense, are set up to get a laugh, but some of them fall flat.

So, here’s the story.  Hart’s character, Teddy, who sells barbecues at a huge warehouse, is on the fast track to being a successful business owner when his boss confides in him that when he retires/dies, he plans to leave the barbecue business to him. Teddy is ecstatic.  With his impending good luck looming, he decides to ask his girlfriend to marry him. He brings her to the barbecue warehouse where he has set up a romantic setting complete with candles and champagne. Unbeknownst to Teddy, while popping the cork on the champagne, the cork hits a propane tank and releases the gas.  That mixed with the burning candles causes - KABOOM!

Teddy is left without a job. He quickly finds out that without a college degree – the job market looks bleak. He eventually has to take a job dressing up as a chicken to hawk an establishment called Christian Chicken. When one of his close friends tells him he could hire him if he had his GED, Teddy decides to go back to school.

As fate would have it, the night school teacher is a woman he just had a verbal spat with on the street and the principal is a kid he used to bully when the two of them went to the school decades earlier.

His classmates are a hodgepodge of adults who must also attend Night School. Fat Joe plays a prisoner taking the course via Skype; Al Madrigal is a waiter fired after an incident where Teddy tried to skip out on the check; Anne Winters is given much to do; Mary Lynn Rajskub is a mother trying to get away from her kids. She keeps reminding everyone that she is “blessed.” Rob Riggle is, well, typical Rob Riggle. And then there is Romany Malco, who tries to make sense of his conspiracy theorist. Malco who serves up a lot of the funny zings in the movie nearly steals it right out from under Hart and Haddish. That doesn’t take much.

To ensure he passes the GED, Teddy hatches a plan to steal the test. He enlists the help of his fellow classmates. It’s a purely stupid caper, followed by several stupid scenes.
While in Night School the group, helmed by Haddish’s character (Carrie Carter), decide to go to the school prom, which, not surprisingly, is happening while they are in class. Of course, they go and become hits at the party. 

Night School feels like it was a vehicle to show off the talents of Haddish and Hart. That doesn’t happen. Neither one of the powerhouse comics stands out.

Night School tries hard to be funny. It has its moments but falls short. Director Malcolm D. Lee probably thought the second time was the charm as it relates to pairing up with Haddish, whom he directed in Girls Trip.

That being said, Night School is good for a couple of giggles.

Night School, Malcolm D. Lee’s latest comedy written by Kevin HartHarry RatchfordJoey WellsNicholas StollerJohn HamburgMatthew Kellard, stars Hart, Haddish, Romany Malco, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Taran Killam and Rob Riggle.

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likable), O (oh, yeah), Night School gets an L (likable).

Rating: PG-13 (for crude and sexual content throughout, language, some drug references and violence), 1h 51m.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Roger Robinson, Tony Award-Winning Actor, Dies At 78

Roger Robinson 

Ebony Repertory Theatre (ERT – Producing Artistic Director, Wren T. Brown) announced today that Tony Award-winning actor Roger Robinson died Wednesday, September 26, 2018, in Escondido, California from a complicated heart condition. He was 78.
Mr. Robinson was born May 2, 1940, in Seattle Washington to Roger Robinson, a musician and Naomi Robinson, an educator. He attended school in Bellevue Washington, where he graduated from Bellevue High School in 1958. He briefly attended Everett Junior College in Everett Washington. Eager to begin a career as an actor, he moved to Los Angeles California in 1959. During his time in Los Angeles, he worked a variety of jobs before joining the United States Navy in September of 1960. He did his military basic training at the San Diego Naval Base and upon completion was sent to the Naval School of Music and then received orders to join the third Naval District Band in Brooklyn, New York, where he played the oboe and tenor saxophone.
He began studying acting with renowned director and teacher Lloyd Richards. In 1963, while still in the Navy, he auditioned and was hired for the role of a soldier in the Off-Broadway play, A Walk in Darkness. This marked his New York professional (Equity) theater debut. He continued to study acting with Mr. Richards and upon his discharge from active duty, he took an acting job in a Summer Stock Theatre based in Cape May, New Jersey. 
Mr. Robinson made his Broadway debut in 1969 in Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie? Subsequent Broadway appearances include: Ain’t Suppose to Die a Natural DeathThe Amen Corner (Musical), The Iceman ComethDrowning CrowThe Miser, and Seven Guitars, which garnered him his first Tony Award nomination. In 2009, he won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play for the revival of Joe Turner's Come and Gone.
He also appeared in over 30 Off-Broadway plays and has played major roles in most of the prestigious regional theaters in the US. At the Royal National Theatre in London, he played the role of Becker in August Wilson's Jitney (Olivier Award winner). Robinson’s final stage performance was in the Off-Broadway production of Some Old Black Man. He is the first African American to receive the Richard Seff Award, presented annually by the Actors' Equity Foundation to an actor fifty years of age or older for his performance in a supporting role in a Broadway or off-Broadway production.
Robinson's television credits include the television miniseries King, The Marcus-Nelson Murders, which was the CBS pilot for Kojak, where he played the role of Gil Weaver for four seasons. He was a Universal Studios contract player for four years and guest starred in over 75 television shows. He guest starred or recurred on IronsideStarsky and HutchThe JeffersonsA Man Called HawkLaw & OrderNew York UndercoverHomicide: Life on the StreetERNYPD BlueKate BrasherRubiconHow to Get Away with MurderThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Elementary.
His film credits include Believe in Me (1971), Willie Dynamite (1974), Newman's Law (1974), Meteor (1979), It's My Turn (1980), The Lonely Guy (1984), Who's the Man? (1993), Wedding Daze (2006), and Brother to Brother (2004). The latter won him the LA Outfest Grand Jury Award Outstanding Actor in a Feature Film and a nomination for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male. He recently completed work on the independent feature film Foreclosure.
Roger Robinson is survived by his sister Tina Robinson.
Two celebrations of his life are currently being planned to take place in Los Angeles and New York. Dates and details to be announced.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Creed II Set To Open In Theaters November 21

Life has become a balancing act for Adonis Creed. Between personal obligations and training for his next big fight, he is up against the challenge of his life. Facing an opponent with ties to his family's past only intensifies his impending battle in the ring. Rocky Balboa is there by his side through it all and, together, Rocky and Adonis will confront their shared legacy, question what's worth fighting for, and discover that nothing's more important than family. Creed II is about going back to basics to rediscover what made you a champion in the first place, and remembering that, no matter where you go, you can't escape your history.

Director: Steven Caple Jr.
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Wood Harris, Andre Ward, Florian "The Big Nasty" Munteanu, Dolph Lundgren, Russell Hornsby
Writer: Sylvester Stallone
Producers: Irwin Winkler, Charles Winkler, William Chartoff, David Winkler, Kevin King-Templeton, Sylvester Stallone
Executive Producers: Ryan Coogler, Michael B. Jordan, Guy Riedel
Distributor: MGM, Warner Bros. Pictures

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Jazz Guitarist dee Brown Is 'Remembering You'

Capturing the intoxicating love and joy he experienced after getting engaged, dee Brown exuberantly picks and scats the next chapter in his intimate musical scrapbook assembled for his late fiancée. Going for radio adds on Monday, Oct. 1, Brown and keyboardist Valdez Brantley wrote and produced “I Want You Too,” the third single from the urban-jazz guitarist’s “Remembering You” album.

Like the rest of the Innervision Records collection, “I Want You Too” is an upbeat and vibrant celebration of contemporary jazz, R&B and pop chronicling the romance and relationship Brown had with gospel singer Shaunia Edwards. In early 2016, shortly after the couple set their wedding date for that August, she became gravely ill and passed away before they could take their vows. Propped up by his unwavering faith, Brown moved past mourning and loss, instead focusing on preserving her memory by sharing the enchanting story of their love through a suite of ten songs. Evidence of Brown’s guitar heroes, George Benson, and Wes Montgomery, illuminate “I Want You Too” in the form of enticing electric guitar come-ons shadowed by a soulful scat. The heartening affair is sweetened by Valdez’s synth string embellishments and Dezie McCullers Jr.’s alto saxophone shading.   

"‘I Want You Too’ means I want you to be a part of everything in my life. I want you to be my friend, my wife, and ultimately my life. It encompasses all things that God has planned in his Divine Order. According to the Bible, God’s purpose was not for man to be alone, but to share life with someone. At that time, Shaunia was that someone for me and I was that someone for her,” said Brown, who finally had his August wedding after meeting another “child of God” and marrying last month.

“Remembering You” dropped in June preceded by the spring single “Hey Baby” while the second single, “Pop the Question,” hit with the arrival of summer. The effervescent “I Want You Too” bodes to charm radio playlists through autumn. Brown’s expressive and lyrical fretwork serves as an evocative narrator throughout the remembrance; sharing the cheer in Edwards’ own voice that she infused into the lives of those who knew her; reflecting the glee of their “season” together; honoring the pledges they made; ensnaring the energy and glee of their commitment and gratitude for having found each other; appreciating the beauty they shared; and ending with a resonant parting - a promise that their love will endure.

Receiving an enthusiastic response from reviewers, “Remembering You” includes performances from flutist Althea Rene, bassist Kern Brantley, and drummer Ron Otis. Keyboardists Bob Baldwin and Nate Harasim contributed to the production and writing in addition to laying down piano and keyboard tracks. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Latest Show At Geffen Playhouse Takes 'The Cake'

By Darlene Donloe

A cake is made up of a number of ingredients. In order for the cake to rise, stand on its own and taste good, all of the elements need to come together.

The concept is the same for people and life. The world is made up of a diverse population, which has to rise, stand on its own and even be full of flavor if the world is to live as one.

In Bekah Brunstetter’s The Cake, currently playing at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood, said “Cake” is central to an issue that is in the news today.

Debra Jo Rupp

The story, which takes place in present time, goes like this. Della, played by Debra Jo Rupp, is a devout Christian who owns a popular bakery in North Carolina.  She has a huge, pleasant and naturally-charming personality. One day her best
friend’s daughter, Jen (Shannon Lucio) comes to town and asks if she could/would bake her wedding cake. Della is elated until she finds out that her friend’s daughter, is in a same-sex relationship with a woman named Macy (Carolyn Ratteray).  Because of her faith, Della finds it hard to choose between her beliefs and her family. She decides that she can’t make the cake because it would be condoning something that goes against her views.

Recently, in the news, Baker Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado received notice that the U.S. Supreme Court issued a limited ruling in his favor after he refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. He is suing Colorado after officials ruled against him in another alleged discrimination case in which his shop refused to make a cake celebrating a gender transition.

(l-r) Shannon Lucio and Carolyn Ratteray

Della isn’t suing anyone, but she is sticking to her guns when it comes to her faith. She continues to tell Jen that she loves her and hopes she understands that her beliefs won’t allow her to turn a blind eye.

In the meantime, Della has some other concerns. She is looking forward to competing in a reality TV baking show while worrying about her passionless marriage with her hubby Tim, played by Rod McLachlan. He hasn’t “touched” her in 10 years, not even a tongue kiss – and Della wonders why. When he explains it to Della, she quickly tries to squelch his concerns.

(l-r) Rod McLachlan and Debra Jo Rupp 

Macy and Jen have a loving relationship, although they occasionally butt heads when Jen praises her hometown for its warmth. Macy is not feeling it, nor does she have any affection for the close-knit town. 

Brunstetter (supervising producer - This Is Us) has written a touching, poignant, thought-provoking piece that touches on the many levels of human emotion.

Each character in the show digs in their heels when it comes to defending their points of view. While they may understand and respect someone else’s opinion, they are not ready to abandon their own – even for a loved one. They all try their best not to judge – but, ultimately, it creeps in.

Macy and Della spar several times in the 90-minute, no-intermission show, with no clear winner. It’s actually like watching a fencing match. Macy tries to bring Della into 2018 but to no avail. Della just reiterates that the Bible, and the way she grew up, prevents her from being unsteady in her beliefs. It’s interesting to watch the back and forth.

(l-r) Carolyn Ratteray, Shannon Lucio and Debra Jo Rupp
(l-r) Carolyn Ratteray and Debra Jo Rupp

Macy is an intelligent black woman with natural hair, who is confident in who she is and determined to not be put in a box because she doesn’t conform to what some think is the norm.  Della is a conservative, fun-loving ball of energy that is steadfast in her principles. Watching the two hold their own is the glue that keeps this show moving forward.
Rupp brings an even balance of comedy and drama to the role. Her personality fills the stage.  Good performances all around from the supporting cast. Kudos to Morrison Keddie who provides off-stage vocals.

At times the show is heartbreaking, but this is where we live. It’s a tough subject to take on, but Brunstetter does a good job of presenting all sides.

Times, they are a-changin'.

The Cake, written by Bekah Brunstetter and directed by Jennifer Chambers, stars Debra Jo Rupp, Carolyn Ratteray, Shannon Lucio, Rod McLachlan, and Morrison Keddie.

The Cake, Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles, Tues. – Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat. 3 and 8 p.m.; Sun. 2 and 7 p.m. through October 21, 2018; $30 - $120. Tickets available in person at the Geffen Playhouse box office, by phone at 310 208-5454 or online at Fees may apply.

Rush tickets for each day’s performance are made available to the general public 30 minutes before showtime at the box office. $35 general/ $10 student.

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (oh, yeah) and E (excellent), The Cake gets an E (excellent).

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

McQueen's 'Widows' Set To Open November 16

SYNOPSIS: From Academy Award®-winning director Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) and co-writer and bestselling author Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl”) comes a blistering, modern-day thriller set against the backdrop of crime, passion, and corruption. “Widows” is the story of four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities. Set in contemporary Chicago, amid a time of turmoil, tensions build when Veronica (Oscar® winner Viola Davis), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) and Belle (Cynthia Erivo) take their fate into their own hands and conspire to forge a future on their own terms. “Widows” also stars Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Daniel Kaluuya, Lukas Haas and Brian Tyree Henry.

Cast: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Garret Dillahunt, Carrie Coon, Jacki Weaver, Jon Bernthal, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo with Robert Duvall and Liam Neeson

Directed by: Steve McQueen
Produced by: Iain Canning, p.g.a., Emile Sherman, p.g.a., Steve McQueen, p.g.a., Arnon Milchan, p.g.a.

Written by: Gillina Flynn and Steve McQueen

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

CTG To Present Workforce Readiness Symposium

            Center Theatre Group invites representatives from the Southern California higher education community to attend the free Workforce Readiness Symposium on Saturday, September 22, at East Los Angeles College from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

The Workforce Symposium is a daylong event for members of the higher education community who work with students studying theatre to connect with colleagues, learn more about hiring challenges and needs in the field and develop a collaborative framework for how best to prepare theatre students to go from college to working in their desired career pathway.

This event will begin with a series of brief presentations from Center Theatre Group and other employers, the results of a survey that collected information on career training from 300 local theatre program alumni, and snapshots of innovative campus career training models. 

After lunch, attendees will break out into working groups focused on different specializations to collaborate on best practices and suggestions around workforce readiness. Groups include Acting (including musical theatre acting), Arts Management & Administration, Costume Design & Technology, Directing, Lighting and Projection Design & Technology, Playwriting & Dramaturgy, Scenic Design & Technology, Sound Design & Technology, Stage Management, Technical Direction & Production Management, Department Chairs, Supporting Diverse Students and Community Colleges. 

The keynote speech will be given by playwright and educator Luis Alfaro.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Celebs Attend Bergman's 9th Style Lounge & Party

By Darlene Donloe

The day of Doris Bergman’s 9th Annual Style Lounge & Party, an event held in celebration of the upcoming 70th Annual Emmy® Awards, it was 84 degrees in Los Angeles. That was nothing compared to the amount of heat generated inside the event by the throngs of Emmy nominees, industry VIPs and other celebrities who packed Fig & Olive restaurant in West Hollywood.

Fig & Olive

Once again, Bergman’s soiree was the place to be. There was food, drink, fellowship and an enviable Hollywood gifting suite.

Doris Bergman

Fig & Olive passed around hors d'oeuvres as the invited guests hob-nobbed and networked. The restaurant later served a scrumptious lunch.

This highly anticipated invitation-only event, hosted by Green HoriZen and presented by Precious Vodka, featured couture gowns, skin & hair care, jewelry, Napa Valley wines, gourmet cuisine, unique spirits, and more!

Precious Vodka 
My Saint My Hero
Amy D'Ambrn and Megan Lyne

Twisted Silver

The party wouldn’t be complete without returning fan favorites - Deborah Mitchell’s 
Twisted Silver,, My Saint, My Hero blessing bracelets, Hint Water, Beauty Kitchen, Porto Vino handbags and messenger bags, Precious Vodka and Sue Wong Couture and Fragrance.

Porto Vino

Beauty Kitchen

Sue Wong Couture and Fragrance

Sue Wong of Sue Wong Couture and Fragrance

“I love Doris, said Sue Wong of 
Sue Wong Couture and Fragrance. “I’ve been coming for about five or six years. I think this is the classiest gifting suite there is. Doris is a classy lady who puts on a beautiful event that is well attended. It's glamorous.”

Nourish Modern Wellness Skin Care

Let's Cake

Green HoriZen

Sunder Sparkling Beverages

Mind In Sole 

Kam Shield

Lollies & Lace

VIP sponsor Emporium Thai's coco mango salad

There were also envious gifts from Lollies & Lace couture baby clothing, Sunder Sparkling Beverages, Nourish Modern Wellness Skin Care, Emporium Thai, Kam Shield, Goldinger’s Print Tees, Let’s Cake (cake and cupcake decorating parties), Zirconmania Diamond Veneer, Mind In Sole insole foot massage, Emmy’s Hope Dog Accessories, Rhonda Shear Aah Bras, Rock Your Hair, Zangu Language App, Bitmar Streaming Subscriptions, Filam Luxury Coffee, Junkless Granola Bars, Shark Tank winning BeatBox Portable Party Punch,  Planet Beauty, Popsockets phone accessories, The Hollywood Trinity, Popcornopolis and VIP gift bags provided by Emmy’s Hope & Kam Shield.

 Emmy nominated actress Kelly Jenrette (The Handmaid’s Tale) 
with VIP sponsor Chef John Sunfungkmee of Emporium Thai 

Fig & Olive was packed with a number of celebrities including 2018 Emmy nominees Kelly Jenrette (The Handmaid’s Tale), Lee Garlington (Broken), Miles Tagtmeyer (Broken), Melvin Jackson, Jr. (This Eddie Murphy Role is Mine, Not Yours), Naomi Grossman (Control Alt Delete), Sam Sokolov (executive producer Genius:  Picasso), Sharon Bialy and Sherry Thomas (casting directors for Handmaid’s Tale & Barry). 

(l-r) Tricia Leigh Fisher and Joely Fisher

Kelsey Scott shows off her Twisted Silver
Megan Lyne, actor Sherman Augustus (Into The Badlands) and Amy D'Ambrn
My Saint My Hero

Presenting sponsor Precious Vodka and Patrika Darbo

Actress Kelsey Scott enjoys some Emporium Thai with 
VIP sponsor Chef John Sunfungkmee of Emporium Thai 
Michael Irby (Mayans M.C.)

Diego Tinoco (On My Block) with Porto Vino

Former Emmy winners were also on hand including Kim Estes (Best Actor Dicks 2017), Patrika Darbo (Best Actress Acting Dead 2016), former Emmy nominees Kelsey Scott and Khandi Alexander, Grammy winners Bonnie and Anita Pointer (Pointer Sisters), Lou Ferrigno (The Hulk), Michael Irby (Mayans M.C.), Michael Campion (Fuller House), Gleb Savchenko (Dancing With The Stars), Diego Tinoco (On My Block), Joely Fisher, John Brotherton (Fuller House), Matt Cedeno (Power), Lisa Vidal (Being Mary Jane), and Michele Weaver (Love Is).

In the spirit of giving back and in order to create awareness, guests and sponsors made monetary donations and/or donated unwrapped gifts for young adults (ages 13-18) for a pre-holiday gift drive benefiting ‘Wednesday’s Child’ -- a weekly segment airing on KTTV FOX 11 News, Los Angeles, with Anchor Christine Devine.  ‘Wednesday’s Child’ highlights ‘harder to place’ young adults in the LA County foster care system who are in need of adoptive families. 

Each year Bergman invites at least two foster children to join in on the festivities and experience what it feels like to be treated as a VIP.


One of this year’s Wednesday’s Child was 12-year-old Devon, who said he had, “Never tried anything like this before,” referring to attending a Hollywood bash. A child who likes acting and has done several plays, Devon said he hoped to meet someone from the Disney Channel because all of the actors on the network are his favorite.

“In Los Angeles County, alone, there are over 30,000 children receiving child welfare services,” said social worker, Dr. William Wong.