From left to right: Jason Frankovitz, Andrew Villarreal, Kersten Haile ,Gary Robinson, Matthew Shane, Timothy Walker, Angie Jaree, Charlie Mount, Julia Morizawa and Tara Ciabattoni
The art of Improv is a delicate one, and the margin of error is slight. The great news is that the world-premiere of Without Annette at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks flies off the stage with such a stunning energy that it renders the audience helpless with laughter.
The energy of the show is extremely high and non-stop from start to finish. The really beautiful part is that one cant really tell what is Improv and what is scripted, and that is what makes this an extremely successful show.
With a true to life script by celebrated character actor and Improv coach Jeff Doucette (Desperate Housewives, Newhart) and Hope Juber (It's The Housewives!, A Very Brady Musical), each show is a unique hybrid of scripted and Improv performance; featuring a cast of accomplished performers culled from the Groundlings, Second City, the Spolin Players, and Shplotz!, among others.
Credit must also go to producer Laurence Juber, the outstanding Grammy-Award winning guitarist and husband to co-writer and producer Hope Juber. Laurence plays before and during the show; just the privilege of hearing him play is absolutely worth the price of admission.
This is a double-cast play, and on opening night we saw the following actors performed: Mark Beltzman as comic Improv class leader Sam Wasserman; Tara Ciabattoni as a high-maintenance wanna-be actress Jeanette Parker; Jason Frankovitz as Billy Bingo, who has a dark side all his own. Kersten Haile shined as the bubbly blonde Jackie Sheridan and special note must be made of the performance by singer/actress Angie Jaree as Donna De Salles. Julia Morizawa was absolutely hilarious as Libby Martinson, Charlie Mount poignant as Hogan Connely, Gary Robinson stood out in the second act as fictional football player turned actor CJ Carter, Matthew Shane was wonderful as the dark and gloomy teen Kyle Peterson; Andrew Villarreal absolutely shined head and shoulders above the rest as the multi-talented Trevor Green and Timothy Walker stood out as Michael Gaines, the everyman through whose eyes we see the rest of the cast of characters.
Overall, this play feels close to reality. Los Angeles is a hotbed of actor prep whether between gigs, or hoped for jobs; actors spend lots of time and money preparing. This takes the form of either acting classes, showcases or in this instance, Improv class. With a combination of scripted scenes and actually improvised scenario, Without Annette it is hilarious, fresh and always funny.
If one is heavily involved in the actors world, this show rings only too true. If one is an outsider to that world, this is a fresh and funny introduction to the inner life on the actors world. This show comes highly recommended; a must see!
Cast: Alex Ball, Mark Beltzman, Tara Ciabattoni, Bill Chott, Corinne Dekker, Jeff Doucette, Donna Du Bain, Christina Engelhardt, Jason Frankovitz, Angie Jaree, Kersten Haile, Jeremy Klein, Kyle Klein, Julia Morizawa, Charlie Mount, Joell Posey, Gary Robinson, Shea Scullin, Matthew Shane, Willem Van der Vegt, Andrew Villarreal, Timothy Walker and Brice Mitchell Williams. Director: Jeff Doucette; Produced by Laurence Juber for Juber Productions & Gabrieal Griego; Green Door Productions Stage Managers: Kyle Simba Gladfelter & Liza Miranda; Incidental Music: Laurence Juber Illustration: Gary Conrad Casting and Props: Hope Juber Publicity: Nora Feldman Graphics: Jodi Ellis
Runs: Thursdays through October 2 (Dark Sept. 25th).
Venue: Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks 91423. Be warned, there is no public parking on the side streets; PLEASE READ CAREFULLY ALL PARKING SIGNAGE Please allow at least 15 minutes to park. Best to valet park at the Bone Yard restaurant on the north side across the street. Better yet, make a full evening of it and arrive early, have a meal at the Bone Yard and walk across the street to see the show!