Archive for the ‘REVIEWS’ Category

This was posted on our last performance but I found out about iut just this last week.  But in the fairness of it all; thought I’d share:

Night out takes me back to live theater – what a joy Posted on June 26, 2011 by stevewhitmore I did something this past Saturday night that I haven’t done in years. I went with my wife of lo’ these many years to the thee-a-tah along with my oldest son. That’s right. I went to the theater in Santa Paula, Calif., of all places. For those of you who are geographically challenged, Santa Paula is about a dozen miles east of Ventura. Most assuredly not the first place one thinks of when speaking of attending live theater. But there it is, hidden behind a park on a side street. It’s called the Santa Paula Theater Center, and I highly recommend it. The play we saw this past Saturday, “Directing Hamlet” was wonderful. Yes, it had its flaws, like the cell-phone gimmick that ended the play in an unsurprising and disappointing way. That is the fault of the writer, Michael Perlmutter, who probably should take a second look at this gimmick because it takes away from an otherwise stellar evening of storytelling. Mr. Perlmutter also directed this production and did so deftly. Usually, you don’t want your actors with their backs to the audience, but this time, it worked. It helped create the space where actors and directors work. And this play is about that space. Yes, much more as well, but it is most assuredly about the space in which human beings escape to create. The two character play features the capable Joe Boles, as the troubled director, Lee, trying to connect with his young actor played by an astonishingly fresh and exciting talent, Curtis Cline, who played Brian. Cline brings an authenticity to his character that is both unusually bright and disciplined that leads to a theatrical freedom. And this freedom allows the audience to jump on board. Good stuff. Boles and Cline also work well together, performing a high-wire act of ostensibly rehearsing Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” which of course leads us into realms of self-discovery. Also, good stuff. Obviously, the play is about much more than the play, “Hamlet,” and that’s the only place I believe it stumbles. I’m not going to address the gimmick because it is central to the story. Just this thought: subtlety is the key to the cathartic moment. We, the audience, should not know before hand what is going to take place. When we do, and when the expected does take place, it loses its punch. We leave slightly adrift. Not because of the mystery but because of the lack of it. Enough of the criticism, which is so easy to offer. My late father, actor James Whitmore, use to say that critics were “eunuchs at an orgy.” He was right, I believe, and this play was well worth the $12-per-head – senior and student discounts – we had to pay. I have seen many productions in my day and this ranks as one of the best. No kidding and not an overstatement. There are moments where time literally stands still, and the moment on stage becomes our moment; the essence of good theater is when the audience is lost in the story, listening, feeling, seeing and understanding. That happens here – time and time again. By way of an example, I am a notorious clock watcher. I did not look at my watch but twice during this play. That is something. At least, for me. As earlier mentioned, I hadn’t been to a play in many years. Life just gets busy. Shame on me. “Directing Hamlet” has encouraged me to go again. I plan to do so. “Directing Hamlet” closes today, Sunday, June 26. More information about the The Santa Paula Theater Center is available at Check it out. You won’t regret it. About stevewhitmore Former award-winning newspaperman and broadcast journalist, both radio and TV, spanning three decades. Army-trained paralegal, court bailiff and prosecutor’s lead investigator for the 8th Infantry Division’s Judge Advocate General’s Corp., Mainz, Germany. 1973-1975. View all posts by stevewhitmore →


‘Directing Hamlet’ is rich with subtext

A probing look at life and the theater

By Rita Moran

Thursday, June 23, 2011

“Directing Hamlet,” Michael Perlmutter’s well-wrought and well-acted drama,  is in the Backstage space at the Santa Paula Theater Center, but is surely  destined for a main stage. Perlmutter, whose career includes acting, directing and playwriting, is on a roll locally. Another of his plays (“My Perfect Alibi”) was staged recently at  the Bell Arts Factory in Ventura.

But there’s nothing hidden about his talent, which shines in the sophistication of the subject matter and dialogue in “Directing Hamlet.” Dealing with a has-been director and a novice actor (played keenly by Joe Boles and Curtis Cline, respectively), Perlmutter turns a coaching session for Shakespeare’s tragedy into a probing look into life and theater, mixing and matching the old saying “Art imitates life,” or occasionally, “Life imitates art.”

Boles as Lee, the grumpy, sometimes preoccupied director, and Cline as Brian, the young man at the beginning of an acting career, enjoy a rough-and-tumble relationship from the very first word of Brian’s attempt to recite “Speak the speech, I pray you ,” one of Hamlet’s singular moments.

Perlmutter’s pair of actors is charged not only with speaking the speech but also with conveying the subtext of each man’s shaping moments and relationships offstage, the incremental revelation of which leads to an understanding of what the brief coaching sessions are really about.

Despite the serious undertone, Perlmutter provides wit along with wisdom. The opening scene, in which Lee overruns every attempt by Brian to finish a line, or even a phrase, is as amusing to the audience as it is frustrating to the young actor.

But the point is made, missed so often in performances both professional or amateur, that Shakespeare’s lines actually mean something and should be delivered less as declamatory speeches and more as conversational communication.

The lesson dawns on Brian to some satisfaction for Lee, despite the answer to his original question about why the young man wants to play Hamlet, surely one of the Bard’s most difficult roles: “Because it would look good on my résumé.” That’s not the soul-searching response Lee wants to hear, but it is honest, and probably rings true for many actors.

Despite the gap between the two men in age, philosophy and to some extent, life experiences, they find their way to understanding through the inch-by-inch personal exchanges pushed by Lee. A final revelation is abrupt, though not totally unexpected. Perlmutter might add just a few more lines to make that final point, though the shock effectively leaves audiences gasping.

Boles, who near the conclusion of the play gets to recite the great “To be or not to be” lines (and aces them), and Cline do well by Shakespeare’s text, and by Perlmutter’s. Audiences are bound to want to hear more of the latter in future plays by the skilled writer.

Email Rita Moran at

John Nichols/Contributed photo<br />
A grumpy director (Joe Boles, left) and a young actor (Curtis Cline) eventually find a bit of common ground in "Directing Hamlet." Michael Perlmutter's play takes a probing look at life and the theater.<br />

Watching the directors

What the Bard’s most famous play says about acting, art and life

By Jenny  Lower 06/16/2011

The first scene of Directing Hamlet, playing now at Santa Paula Theater Center’s Backstage through June 26, unfolds like a series of Russian nesting dolls. Our play starts off during rehearsals for another play: Seasoned director Lee is coaching greenhorn actor Brian through Hamlet. As if that weren’t meta enough, they dive in with Hamlet’s Act 3, Scene 2 speech to the players, the one where he instructs them to “speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue.” Of course, poor Brian can hardly get the words out, so tripped up is his own tongue.

It quickly becomes clear that we are in for a play where language and the nature of acting itself will become the primary focus of meditation.

Playwright Michael Perlmutter, coming off a March production of My Perfect Alibi at the Bell Arts Factory in downtown Ventura, also directs this talky but skillful two-hander that manages to stay nimble and funny enough to keep the audience engaged throughout the nearly two-hour running time. Though the story advances to a somewhat predictable conclusion, Perlmutter is a local playwright worth watching to see what else he has up his sleeve.

The play opens at the first all-day rehearsal session between Brian (Curtis Cline), a 19-year-old using Shakespeare to beef up his resume, and Lee (Joe Boles), a formerly award-winning director who has backslid into regional theater after two divorces and various professional setbacks. Lee provokes Brian to get him past his stiff, self-conscious acting, pressing him to reveal details of his personal life in the process. The push and pull between actor and director, the antagonism embedded in the creative process, and the nature of art as both escape hatch and therapy all become fodder for the play’s gradual, circular advancement.

A product of the Stella Adler Conservatory in New York, Boles brings a Method actor’s naturalism to the role of Lee, who himself urges Method techniques on Brian. He is utterly convincing as the no-nonsense director prone to flights of metaphysical fancy. His jokes range wide, with eclectic references to Monty Python, the rhythm method and David Mamet, and turn on a dime. The play charges forward in the space between the jokes, then crumples as the pair’s delicate intimacy collapses like a house of cards.

Cline hits his stride in the second half, with Brian’s breakthrough moments as Hamlet far more convincing than Brian’s self-conscious fumbling as himself. His quick flashes of anger early on burn bright but cool; it’s hard to buy his brief explosions as anything deeper than adolescent exasperation. But Cline, when he allows Brian to become real — as in Hamlet’s speech after he comes upon Claudius praying — can be magical.

A theater lover’s play, Directing Hamlet invites more than a passing knowledge of the Bard’s most famous tragedy to make sense of its deeper levels. Unsurprisingly, much is said about fathers and sons; and, like Hamlet, Brian is beset by indecision. Should he trust himself to this zany director, or be rid of him? Though the resolution, in which we learn why Brian has put up with Lee’s bantering all day despite being tempted numerous times to storm out, is a bit too neat, and Lee’s own back story remains underdeveloped, the conclusion remains satisfying nonetheless.

It should be enough to say the play is a very solid effort worth seeing, and that Perlmutter will no doubt develop further with time — but what do I know? Lee says it best when he tells Brian not to worry too much about the critics.

“Reviews,” he says, and I paraphrase here, “only end up in your family’s scrapbook — or online, next to the porn ads.”

Directing Hamlet, June 10 to 26, Santa Paula Theater Center Backstage, 126 S. Seventh St., 525-4645 or No performance June 18.

Two on the Aisle  (Ventura Breeze June 15th –

Backstage with Hamlet at Santa Paula

by Jim Spencer & Shirley Lorraine

The world premiere of “Directing Hamlet,” by award-winning Ventura County playwright Michael Perlmutter, opened last weekend as one of Santa Paula Theater Center’s intimate Backstage Productions.

The script lets the audience discover the circles within circles in the tenuous relationship between a newly cast young actor and a seasoned director while rehearsing for aproduction of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

It is also a play written by an actor/director for actors and directors. Anyone who has been on stage will see patches of familiarity in the director’s obsession with clarity, and the actor’s confusion in his attempts to please the director. For those who have not been “on the boards,” the tight dialogue and characterizations open windows into the hard work that goes into creating what an audience ultimately sees.

Joe Boles (the director) and Curtis Cline (Brian, the actor) are clearly up to their twofold task. Not only do they tackle the spot-on frustration of interpretive clashes in the modern day rehearsal setting, they are also up to the challenge of presenting Shakespeare. A heady combination they both handle extremely well.

The multi-layered script is well written, containing thoughtful insights among a web of intriguing interactions between the characters, all punctuated in just the right places with lines that elicit laughs to break the moments of tension.

The show is also directed by playwright Perlmutter. It turns out his directorial skills rival his talent as a playwright, which is not often the case. But in this production it allows Perlmutter to effectively give full effect to his vision as a playwright by helping his cast extract all the intended nuances of his demanding script.

As a world-premiere production, “Directing Hamlet” is a work in progress. In our opinion, the ending is one area where additional polishing may ultimately take place. The piece has two story lines. As a theatrical experience the first is 95% finished by the final blackout. The second story line, although touching, appears late in the play, is not fully developed, winds up quickly, and so is not fully satisfying. Nonetheless, the play, especially with these actors and director, is excellent.

The comfortable nature of the Backstage Production venue heightens the show’s impact. What’s a Backstage Production? Well, in addition to its regular season of Main Stage plays, the Santa Paula Theatre Center also produces new, small cast and experimental works to give authors, actors and audiences opportunities to stretch and grow. As some extra space is available (since the building was not originally designed as a theater), these shows are presented in an area that is literally part of the backstage of the main stage. Hence, the name – Backstage Productions.

“Directing Hamlet” continues Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. (except Saturday, June 18 when there will be a concert on the main stage) and Sundays at 4 p.m. Tickets are $15. Contact the theater at 805-525-4645 or The theater is located at 125 So. Seventh Street, Santa Paula.