Ever wonder if Charles Manson had any living offspring?—and if so, would you recognize them as such and would they possess that same wide-eyed maniacal countenance were you to ever meet haphazardly or, more intensely, be one of their coworkers? “Daddy Dearest” the first of seven short plays in Kaz Matamura’s Se7en Deadly Scenes, J.E.T. Studios’ latest fundraiser, poses this most harrowing question.
Set in a 7-11 out in the middle of nowhere, actor Warren G. Hall, resembling a much cleaner-shaven albeit googley-eyed doppelganger of the famed serial killer, levels his relational confession to co-star Josh Polizzi and once you see it (the resemblance that is), you simply can’t unsee it. This aptly-written play most perfectly kicks off the short play festival thoroughly living up to its namesake.
The event takes place in J.E.T. Studios’ main stage, the J.E.T. theatre on Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood’s celebrated NoHo Arts District. Within the complex reside three additional studios that can double as stages, The Streep Studio, The Lange Studio and The Hagen Studio; all named after noted actresses. J.E.T.’s fourth studio, used for film production, is named after Charlie Chaplin, aka The Chaplin Studio.
The colors of the main stage, though mostly pale gray and concrete, tempered by its hardwood floors, are exceedingly warm and inviting, rather than the gloomy austere (and scenically unrealistic) blackness of your standard black box theatre.
Oh and the bathrooms?—Much larger than your average shower stall. The women’s room anyway, sporting TWO stalls, one large and one regular-sized and the most amazing perk? You, as an audience member, are not required to walk back AND across the stage only to break the fourth wall for the evening, thusly rending both your and the actors’ theatrical journey indefinitely. Obsolete are the backstage audience-to-artist interactions peppered and punctuated by awkward “’Scuse me”s, upward nods coupled with perfunctory “How’s it goin’?”s and the obligatory, “Good job…good job…” whether you are actually impressed with the performers’ theatrical charisma or not; and most notably of course, the averted eyes lest you see too much of Romeo’s or Juliet’s wardrobe change before you see more of either of their naked bodies than they have undoubtedly had yet to share with their leading love interest.
Other stand-out plays in celebration of this year’s Dia de los Muertos include Don Nigro’s “Web” featuring a series of barely visible actors entering and exiting the dimly lit stage illuminated only by the screens of their cell phones. An eerily electronic heartbeat sounds in the background. Only one actress speaks via recording over the theatre’s loudspeakers;
“We know where you go.”
“We know what you do.”
“We know what you buy.”
“We know what music you like, what books you read.”
“We know your family.”
“We know what pets you have.”
“We know who you love.”
“We know who you hate.”
“We know your hopes.”
“We know what you’re afraid of.”
“We know your sexual fantasies.”
“We know when all your relationships begin and when they end.”
“We’re here for you. We have things to share with you…sell you…”
“We’re here on the other side of the glowing abyss…we’ll never forget you…”
“Black and Decker” by Jason Aaron Goldberg opens with Decker, played by Warren G. Hall, dressed in a sassy blonde wig, sporting large, balloonish breasts with 4-D nipples under a slightly see though shirt, a Halloween Costume to be reckoned with—until Death appears at the door. Decker has no idea who he is at first and offers him a beer. He ultimately wishes he hadn’t as death makes good on his promise to spend his “useless soul” and charge it to Hell hearkening back to Decker’s salacious declaration of selling his soul to the devil for free issues of “Hustler”. Halloween costume withstanding, it would seem Decker will die not so much doing what he loved but BEING it…
In “Re-Play” by Felix Racelis a porn director auditions older lady actresses to play his mother to work through various childhood traumas. “I’ve done Broadway and I’ve acted in and out of three marriages. Your ad said something about mother/son play acting.” declares Elizabeth played by a giggle-inducing Joyce Sindel, the woman Theodore will eventually choose as his surrogate mother. “I’m not taking my top off. No diapers and read my lips, no breast feeding.”
In “Mr. and Mrs. Liu” by Susan Cinoman an elderly couple in a nursing home finds the fountain of youth in their newly discovered penchant for vampirey. “(Wait) we didn’t serve prune juice this morning. We had fasting blood tests…Oh my god, it’s a Halloween miracle!” declares Nurse Rodriguez who eventually allows them to bite into her as the lights dim.
The festival ends with a bang in the guise of “Misfortune” by Harvey Levine as the lights come up on a Chinese restaurant. A romantic couple has just finished a wonderful dinner but their pre-connubial bliss is disturbed and distorted as Barry the male half of the couple opens a fortune which reads, “The person you’re having dinner with is going to kill you tonight.” “Well I wasn’t planning to,” quips girlfriend Cindy, “but now I guess I have to. These cookies never lie.” The piece unfolds frantically, dramatically and comedically as the couple continues to open fortune cookie after fortune cookie ultimately opening the entire box from the kitchen. They will only come to realize that this is more than a joke as a half stabbed corpse stumbles through the door and lands on their table, impaled on a straw by a most hostile girlfriend as they come to the conclusion that all the cookies they opened were meant for the presently murdered by straw man and his now insignificant other.
This is one of many in an ongoing series of short play festivals that will be performed throughout the year, admits owner and founder f J.E.T. Studios, Judith E. Taranto.
J.E.T. studios cater to all manner of theatrical creativity. It was founder and owner Taranto’s dream to fashion a space where creative people could simply get together and join forces. Play festivals are one of her current passions as “I love collaboration between the director, actors and playwright. (It’s so nice to) see how pleased the playwright is to see their play come to life (and to have) the director find things the playwright wasn’t even aware he had written, plus the actors’ connection to the audience getting them to accept and believe it.”
Hailing from New York and having studied with Uta Hagen, “work for the work’s sake” is Taranto’s passion, an aspect of the profession she feels is sorely lacking in L.A. Along with J.E.T. Studios’ numerous play festivals are offered beginning acting classes, taught by Taranto, fueled by her varied and intense education in New York.
J.E.T. Studios is state of the art and affords professional space for theatrical productions, film screenings, rehearsals, virtual and regular casting film/video shoots and all manner of special events. Featured in the back of the venue is a sunken lounge with a refrigerator and a concession area surrounded by festive round tables and stools. The studios possess a “slick Industrial look, a resident art gallery, front lobby, three restrooms, dressing rooms, central head and air”, each ADA complaint, all within easy walking distance of the Metro Red and Orange lines. Additionally, a public parking lot also resides one block north of the venue. All in all a truly workable and spacious location to rent for all manner of productions, acting classes, auditions etc…
For more information on J.E.T. Studios, its events, amenities and rental rates, please visit: