by Nick Anis
The Pasadena Playhouse (which seats 683 and has about
15,000 season subscribers) opened its 2000 season with the West Coast
Premere of Joe DiPietro's contemporary romantic comedy, The Kiss at
City Hall, brilliantly directed by Joel Bishoff. Ticket sales
were brisk for The Kiss at City Hall, which is the first of a six part
series running this year. The Kiss at City Hall ran from January 16
through February 20, 2000.
We were fortunate to catch a 9:00 PM performance on
Saturday February 19th. - just prior to the show's closing on the 20th.
The cast of 5 (Brian Cousins as Tony, Magda Harout as Mrs. Valentini, Paul
Provenza as Dave, Robin Riker as Julie, and Sybyl Walker as Phoenix) were
brilliant. They were clearly accustomed to the set, script, and to
each other. One of the cast confided to me that "…there are
lot of transitions in this show making it a bit challenging."
But clearly they were up to the task.
The story revolves around an historic photograph taken
on April 1, 1950. Robert Disneau's photo, "The Kiss at City
Hall" was taken on a crowded Paris street capturing a young man and
woman kissing passionately, oblivious to Parisian pedestrians passing by.
Was the kiss in the photo real or staged? DiPietro
examines the "truth" of modern romance by using comedy and
exploring the delicate and complicated relationships between men and
Tony loves Julie, but he fears commitment because it may
lead to a repeat of the failures of his past relationships. Julie
loves Dave and seeks commitment. Their relationship comes to a
crossroad when Julie is offered a big promotion on the other coast.
The relationship of the other couple, Dave and Phoenix,
is strained by an unplanned pregnancy and confused and shifting emotions.
First Phoenix loves Dave, but Dave is not sure he loves Phoenix; then Dave
loves Phoenix, but Phoenix is not sure she loves Dave.
As these two couples explore the question of love and
the complexities of relationships, the audience gets to know them and (in
spite of their inadequacies or transgressions) to like them and their
Brian Cousins as "Tony" gives quite a
performance with his soliloquy about the versatility of the f-word that
rivals George Carlin's memorable diatribe "The seven words you can't
say on television." Magda Harout as "Mrs. Valentini" gives
a touching (and at times a mesmerizing) performance, at first with only
her body language, because her character can't speak English. Then
with her lines as the audience hears the letter she wrote (that her
daughter translated) read aloud in her voice with English narration.
Harout's performance is reminiscent of veteran character actor Kathleen
Coleman (the maid in Ira Levine's Deathtrap). Their comedic skills
are about matched, but Harout actually bests Colman with greater stage
presence and genuine warmth that brings tears and smiles to the audience.
Richard Hoover's sets and Karyl L. Newman's costumes
were tailor-made for this storyline - their comfortable fit is more like
what you might expect from a Broadway production rather than a regional
theatre. The cordless phone, telephone ringer, door buzzer, egg
timer, and television brought to us by Francois Bergeron really make you
feel as if you are inside Dave and Tony's apartment. Dante Cardone's
projections were imaginative and brilliant and were well coordinated with
Neil Peter Jampolis' lighting. Actually, KUDOS are well in order for
ALL - writer, director, cast, and crew.
Tony and Julie's pillow talk, which takes place in the
bedroom in the second story loft, was done quite well. The audience
was taken a bit by surprise by a brief glimpse of Tony's derriere.
Tony is attractive and lean guy and unlike, Kevin Cosner he didn't need a
bun double. I would have preferred Julie be the one doing the brief
PG-13 nude scene or at least joining Tony (smile).
It comes as no surprise that playwright Joe DiPietro
also has two long-running off-Broadway hits playing: The musical, I
Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change (currently in its fourth
year) playing in New York and the comedy, Over the River and Through
the Woods (now in its second year) playing at The Actor's Alley in Los
The Pasadena Playhouse Winter/Spring 2000 season will
continue the six part series with a new musical from the creator of Pump
Boys and Dinettes, The People vs. Mona by Jim Wann, Ernest
Chambers and Patricia Miller will run from March 3 through April 16, 2000
and open on Sunday, March 12. Generally, there are eight shows week
(Tuesday through Friday 8:00pm, Saturday, 5:00pm and 9:00pm, and Sunday,
2:00pm and 7:00pm), for six weeks, then a two-week break while preparing
for the next show in the series. There are no performances on
Mondays and Thanksgiving Thursday.
Founded in 1917, and at its present location since 1925,
the Pasadena Playhouse has produced hundreds of plays including 477 world
premieres and all 37 of Shakespeare's plays. What sets the Pasadena
Playhouse apart from other regional theaters, such as the La Mirada Civic
Center and the Muckenthaler, is all 683 seats in the theatre are
basically good seats, and it the nearby proximity to Old Town Pasadena
nearby with all its wonderful shops and palate pleasing restaurants.
The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 South El Molino
Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101 near the Old Town district from points east of
Pasadena take the 210 Freeway heading west and exit at Lake Avenue offramp.
Turn left and go four lights to Colorado Boulevard. Turn right. Go
three lights to El Molino Avenue and turn left. The theatre is 1/2 block
down the street on the right. There is unrestricted parking nearby after
6:00pm or you can park in one of the pay lots for about $3.
To order tickets for any performance in the series you
can call Tele-Charge at 1-800-233-3123 or point your browser to www.telecharge.com,
(there is an additional charge of $4.75 per ticket for this service).
During performance weeks, the box office is open Monday 10:00am to 6:00
pm, Tuesday through Friday 10:00am to 8:00pm, Saturday 10:00 am to 7:00pm,
and closed on holidays. On non-performance weeks the box office is
open Monday through Sunday 10:00am to 6:00pm and closed on holidays.
Tickets range from $33.50 to $48.50, and special row seating tickets (last
row of the orchestra and gallery) are available for $11.50 to $13.50.
For subscriptions to The Pasadena Playhouse, you can call Customer
Services at 626-356-PLAY (10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday).
Subscriptions range from $90.00 for three shows if you go to a preview
performance, to $115 for three shows if you go to a weekend performance
during the regular run. Subscribers are offered free ticket
exchange, free replacement of lost tickets and other special subscriber
# # #
Nick Anis is a food, wine, and travel
and technology writer with over 24 books in print published by
McGraw-Hill, Random House, Bantam, Ziff-Davis, Tab, and others. Nick's
articles have appeared in The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, West Coast
Media, The Family Publications Group, The Weekly News, and Travel-Watch.
His beats include food, travel, snow and waters sports, entertainment,
family recreation, consumer electronics, home improvement, and automotive.
He is responsible for the Restaurant Row Ethnic Dining Guide, co-published
by the Long Beach Press Telegram. Nick is an
accomplished downhill skier, PADI certified SCUBA diver, and when he's not
sitting on his butt goofing off, enjoys a variety of active recreation
including tennis, riding motorcycles, ATVs, wave runners, snow machines,
horses, skeet and trap shooting he's also taken a stab at riding camels,
donkeys, elephants, ostriches, lamas, dolphins, Reindeer, bulls,
mechanical bulls, and buffalo. Nick is a member (A
Secretary/Treasurer) of the International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers
Association (IFWTWA), a member of the North American Snow Sports
Journalist Association (NASJA), Computer Press Association, The Writer's
Guild, and listed in Books in Print, Media Map, and Press Access.
You can reach Nick at Editor@Travel-Watch.com.