A fascinating evening with characters exploring their lives, telling their amazing stories, every one of them lit from within with passion and the need to share, to be heard and understood.
The Long Beach Repertory Theater’s maiden voyage at the Long Beach Playhouse is an effort that ought to be supported wholeheartedly. Fred Ponzlov has directed his cast with such skill and nuance that the evening flies by. Those who love theater will be impressed; those who do not frequent theater often will have a chance to experience the sublime power of the art.
Please, do yourself and the Long Beach Rep a favor and see “Talking With…”
– Sheri Leigh Myers, longtime theater-goer, writer.
Grief, fantasy, childbirth, rodeos, snakes and the healing powers of fast food are all subjects in Jane Martin’s “Talking With …,” a 10-monologue, all-woman show that premiered in the ’80s and continues to play all over the country.
The latest local production also happens to be the first for the freshly minted Long Beach Repertory Theatre. Headed by Frederick Ponzlov, the company has no permanent home, but was taken in by the Long Beach Playhouse, which is filling its trimmed 2011-12 Studio Theatre season with guest artists.
The Playhouse couldn’t have gone with a better substitute. If the Repertory Theatre continues producing work of this caliber, the company should do very well, even in this dreadful economy.
Ponzlov also directs “Talking With …,” and has gathered some fantastic actresses, each intriguing in her own way.
Talking With… is an American play by Jane Martin, published by Samuel French Incorporated. The play is composed of ten-minute titled acts, each featuring a different woman who talks about her life. It is directed by Fred Ponzlov of the Long Beach Repertory Theatre.
The extraordinarily talented cast for Talking With… includes
Kit Cannon Breckenridge – “Marks”
Deborah Cartwright – “Scraps”
Teresa Ganzel – “15 Minutes”
Afsaneh Hamedani – “Clear Glass Marbles”
CaroleAnne Johnson – “Rodeo”
Linda Wheatcroft Lee – “Handler”
Katherine McKalip – “Lamps”
Shirley Marchant – “French Fries”
Sheryl Sciallia – “Audition”
Geraldine Uy – “Dragon”
These ten women portray profound issues that define their lives. The unusual interesting multi-act format spotlights each woman in turn in her own right and gives her the stage to talk with you, the audience on a very personal and intimate level.
The former rodeo star “Big Eight” (CaroleAnne Johnson), disenfranchised by the “suits”, warns you of what could happen to you too. An actress (Teresa Ganzel), getting ready to go on, wants to meet the audience who consider her “entertainment”. A lonely wife (Deborah Cartwright) escapes to Oz. A homeless woman (Shirley Marchant), sporting a “We are the 99%” sign, has discovered a home at McDonald’s. A mundane suburban housewife (Kit Cannon Breckenridge), is now marked forever by people in her life.
Both “Rodeo” and “French Fries” address issues of our times in solidarity with the Occupy movement. “Rodeo” talks about the disenfranchisement of a former female rodeo star, with her “riding and roping” skills now passed over for a more financially lucrative “Dallas Cowgirl” type of entertainment. “French Fries” is about a homeless woman who dreams of living in a MacDonalds, where everything is so clean. These (and other scenes in the play) testify to the timeless quality of Jane Martin’s writing.
Jane Martin is the RUMORED pen-name of a playwright speculated to be retired Actors Theatre of Louisville artistic director Jon Jory. Jon Jory, Martin’s spokesperson, denies being Jane Martin but has directed the premieres of Martin’s shows. Martin has traditionally been billed as a Kentucky playwright. While speculation about her identity centers around Jory, other theories have cited other former members of the Actors Theatre of Louisville.
Jane Martin’s credits include Anton in Show Business, Back Story, Coup, Cementville, Criminal Hearts,
Flaming Guns of the Purple Sage, Vital Signs, and Talking With... Martin’s Keely and Duwon the 1994 American Theater Critics Association New Play Award and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
Talking With… will have a four week run at the Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 East Anaheim Blvd, Long Beach CA 90804. Just minutes from the Long Beach Airport, the 405 and 605 freeways and the Pacific Coast Highway.
— I enjoyed it, as did my guest -Mesmorizingly Moving & Thoroughly Touching …. For a reviewer seeing Lotsa’ Plays each year- such daring productions as this bring a “Welcome Challenge”
Lots of good fortune (& future SRO Attendance) to your new concept of sometimes providing LB-P/H Studio Stage to some worthy diverse Local Groups -like L.B. Repertory —-josephS
–Joseph Sirota —
The Long Beach Repertory Theatre Company
The Long Beach Playhouse
Written by Jane Martin
Directed by Frederick Ponzlov
Talk about their Personal Lives
Nov 11 to Dec 4, 2011
“Talking with…”: When Women Bare their Souls on Stage
by Lila Ghobady
“Let them mark you. The best among us have had so many imprints left upon them that it is like embroidery.” /“Marks” acted by Kit Breckenridge
Talking With… is a series of monologues by 11 women written by award-winning and Pulitzer-nominated Kentucky playwright mysterious Jane Martin. First performed in 1982, it is now being shown at the Long Beach Playhouse for the first time. Ten local actresses play the brilliantly written female characters in Talking With…
The first character is an actress preparing to go onstage, performed by comedian Teresa Ganzel. The other nine women present a series of moving monologues, their life changing experiences from the commercialization of rodeo to the death of one’s mother:
“Study French. She said she had made a pledge to herself years ago that she would die bilingual. Dad and I cried a lot, but she didn’t.”
“Clear Glass Marbles” performed by Afsaneh Hamedani
“Dear St. Margaret, patron saint of childbirth, let me live, let my child live, and enough with the labor OK? I thought after 23 hours of this they either had to give you a C-section or a hairdresser.”
“Dragons” performed by Geraldine Uy
Shirley Marchant’s remarkable portrayal of an old homeless woman who spends her days in McDonald’s is one of the best performances in the show. She smartly references current day-issues by adding the sign “The 99%” on her shopping cart. This serves to add a deeper layer of irony to her character, whose idea of heaven on earth is McDonald’s and strongly believes that plastic is the most important thing that God has ever created.
CaroleAanne Johnson’s washed-up rodeo rider was also one of the memorable character. She is frustrated by the dominance of commercialism in America, “In a society that takes whatever you love and sells it back to you… Now they bought the rodeo. Them. Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola, Marlboro damn cigarettes. . . . Hell, tobacco wasn’t made to smoke, honey, it was made to chew. Lord wanted ya filled up with smoke he would have set ya on fire. . . . “
The production is by The Long Beach Repertory Theater in association with The Long Beach Playhouse. It is directed by the award-winning actor, screenwriter, director and New York art graduate, Fredrick Ponzlov, who currently is residing as the Artistic Director of the Long Beach Repertory Theater. Ponzlov explains about his reasons behind directing the play: “I was thoroughly taken with Talking With…. from the first monologue I read. So few plays offer the incredible variety and depth of women’s roles that exist in this one theatrical event. Complex, amusing, and disturbing aspects of all these women exist in all of us. And their plights, dreams and experience touch our own humanity…”
After all, as snake handler character believes:
“If you got the spirit, snake don’t bite. If he bites you, you know you ain’t got the spirit.”
Talking With… has a spirit and it is in Long Beach. The performance of these ten strong women should not be missed…
Talking With… opened on November 11th at Long Beach Play House and runs through Dec 4th.
Long Beach Repertory Theatre Opens its L.B. Playhouse Studio Stay with Daring “Talking With…” Production
By Joseph Sirota
Playwright Jane Martin’s Talking With…. leads us down ten challenging paths in the lives of ten diverse female characters. At first glimpse, each appears distinctly and markedly different in every aspect. But after taking-in their brief but most revealing personal current life mini-narrations (all written by Ms Martin), we find that the writer has woven a trail of life’s undeniable impacts and markers that pierce and deeply influence each character (and perhaps on all-women… which may be the movingly esoteric play’s theme).
A worthwhile evening of multiple short playlets has requirements– in return for us (audience) giving up a longer, more fully designed/constructed/“well-arced” storyline and unveiling character development. We, deserve to be impressed and won-over by a “Wow” feeling, that in just brief minutes, we come to “know”, “understand” (if not fully “get”), and most of all – become “moved” to “care-about” each character, whether or not we’d like to be their close pal, vs. keep a prudent distance. In this play we might ask, “If each sub-playlet’s character, speaks to us directly about their life, their feelings, their wants, and hurts, is the writer cheating?” Hey, aren’t WE supposed to learn by deciphering storylines, then taking under our emotional wings the angers, wants and dreams of each character by OUR seeing each life unfold (rather than by having the character simply face us, and explain it all?. OK, if this were Olympic High-Diving, we might subtract some points. But this show does succeed in deeply moving us, and does make us care. So breaking the 4th Wall is in fact, a different realm of theater, I find still worthy.
Quite interestingly, (oft insightful) “key recurring life issues” show up in even such un-alike characters’ lives including: Stress in fading careers and not reaching early goals; Loss of feeling needed in relationships, family or society; Feeling downward turning-points after a particular age (late thirties and beyond most prominent); Recognition of starting to withdraw more into a lifestyle considered “strange” or even (as one character put it), being thought “as Mad as the Mad Hatter”; loss of the stability of a romance, or marriage; And, finally, just plain being more and more alone to fend for oneself in life’s harshness.
The cast, under fittingly naturalistic direction by Frederick Ponzlov, indeed did (as I felt essential) stir our inner caring for each character, and truly worrying about them. Indeed, our “worry” measures these actors’ success – like applause. With so many vignettes, I can only offer some samples of the impressive impacts. In the area of careers, Teresa Ganzel electrifies as an actress about to go on stage– to be Pretty, Sexy, Funny & “The Entertainment” –all while her real life is sliding downhill. CarolAnne Johnson shines as funny, rowdy, angry & tossed aside from her career as powerful, brave Rodeo Rider. Her skills aren’t “in vogue” anymore– as she’s no clown or sex queen. Sheryl Scialla delivers a deeply intense portrait of a fading actress, whose auditions now are at the edge of dangerous. Knowing she sadly has no chance at the parts, she is threatening.
There are equally striking sagas of women moving deeper into their own separate worlds. Deborah Cartwright shakes us as she retreats daily into her lone world of OZ childhood books. Kit Breckenridge hypnotizes with her account of evolving from bland upper-middle-class reserve to a borderline S&M sexual life, opening her to darker excitements. Katherine McKalip mildly/warmly presents her love of playing & bathing in lights, as she ages and withdraws from people. Afsaneh Hamedani offers a kind tale of now carrying clear glass marbles that gave her beloved dying mother peace—and will now help her too. Geraldine Uy explosively faces her fright of giving birth to an abnormal newborn by entering a world of mythic true Dragons. Linda Wheatcroft Lee explains her life as a snake handler in evangelist ceremonies, “you may get bit-but not deadly poisoned if the snakes sense you’re real inside”. Shirley Merchant totally wins our hearts as an odd, yet upbeat homeless woman, whose life focus is friendly survival– centering on McDonald Golden Arches fast food places. She insists Big Macs are healing, as are the clean plastic tabletops to rest her head on… Her life dream? — for the kind young workers to get higher-permission for her to sleep safely in McDonald’s at night.
I’d say Long Beach Playhouse’s opening their Studio Stage to diverse local theatrical talent got off to a fine start with this first Long Beach Rep daring production. There were moments of smiles, moments of shock, and many moments of emotional caring. Blended together, it created an evening of theater that surely – expands the envelope, and makes audiences think and feel.
–Talking With by the Long Beach Repertory Theatre on the Long Beach Playhouse Studio Stage, 5021 E. Anaheim St Long Beach. Fri Sat 8PM, Sun 2PM Closes: Dec 4. Tkts: (Call to Ask-discounts/groups)– Call: 562-494-1014 ext. 550 Websites: LBplayhouse.org or this website