The Real Thing

Directed by Sean F. Gray, Long Beach Playhouse takes on Tom Stoppard’s engaging exploration of life imitating art in its current production of The Real Thing. The question remains: how do we know when it truly is the real thing?No, we’re not talking about Coca Cola or Memorex – we’re talking about love – the thrill of it, the joy, the drama,the pain and all the other human emotions and complexities that sometimes drudgingly tag along as love’s sidekicks. Stoppard’s self-styled and somewhat autobiographical look at love, intimacy and fidelity places the main focus on the protagonist, British playwright Henry (Noah Wagner), and the two women in his life, Annie (Loren McJannett-Taylor) and Charlotte (Louisa Dienst).Charlotte is an actress who is performing in Henry’s successful new play “House of Cards” along with Henry’s chum, Max (Sean Hesketh).In this play-within-a-play, Charlotte’s character has been unabashedly unfaithful to Max’s character, and in the opening scene, he has a confrontation with her. Charlottesays to Max, “You’ve done everything wrong; there’s a right thing to say if you can think what it is.”In the next scene, Charlotte is very different and she has a different husband- Henry. Eventually, it comes together that the first scene was the actors in the play, and the second is the play’s reality. This may be the beginning of the story, but it is also where the assimilation of life following the blurred lines of literary art comes together. You see, in “real life,” the romantically idealist Henry is having an extramarital affair with Max’s wife, Annie. Max soon figures it out, and Annie leaves Max to be with Henry. Betrayal and infidelity has a mean way of stealing its way into Henry and Annie’s relationship as well.Although this is a very clever play, there is a slight bit of confusion since it is left completely up to the audience to figure out who the characters are inthe Henry’s play and who the characters are in “real life,” and although the set designis elegant and modernly stylish, it doesn’t always provide a clear definition of the parallel storylines as they unfold.As Henry, the suave and charismatic Wagner is undeniably the true heart of LBP’s production and Wagner’s adroit and honest performance is an illustration of a man who fights to remain positive as his own house of cards tumbles down around him.There are many layers to The Real Thing, and records’ playing a variety of music smartly reiterates thoughts and feelings through lyrics such as “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and The Everly Brothers, “Let It Be Me,” and this creative element reaches all the right notes.LBP’s The Real Thing’s cast is strong and excellent performances are by Sean Hesketh as Max, Louisa Dienst as Charlotte, Noah Wagner as Henry, Loren McJannett-Taylor as Annie, Wilhelm Peterts as Billy,m Amara Phelps as Debbie, and Antony Nash as Brodie. Director: Sean F. Gray; Assistant Director: Sophie Mura; Set Design: Naomi Kasahara; Light Design: Daniel Driskill; Sound Design: Larry Mura; Costume Design: Donna Fritsche. Long Beach Playhouse Mainstage 5021 E. Anaheim Street, Long Beach, CA 90804. For tickets: 562-494-1014. Runs through March 28.

Grilled Cheese SoundWich will be headlining band at Cypress Festival

The high energy band Grilled Cheese SoundWich will be the feature band at the Cypress Festival on July 23. Grilled Cheese SoundWich will be showcasing the history of the City of Cypress, with music from every decade of the city’s history! The band’s six members have performed all across the United States, including at the Disneyland Resort and have garnered years of experience together. Don't miss this exciting, family friendly band at the Cypress Festival on July 23.

By the Way, Meet Vera Stark

Pulitzer Prize winning and diverse playwright, Lynn Nottage strips away the glitz of 1930s Hollywood with a square punch to the gut and a long hard look at racism in the film industry; and yet, Nottage brings an unexpected biting comedic flair and unmistakable zing to the brilliance of her unforgettable play, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark.The fictional character of Miss Vera Stark gets her soul from the enticingly beautiful, ambitious and talented black actress, Therese Harris, who embarked on an acting career during the days of the Great Depression. Harris became an obvious symbolic figure in the struggle against racial discrimination in the early days of moving pictures, and although she was a busy working actress, Harris was never given the chance to get past the stereotyped role of slave, servant, maid, or “straight man” (to the ones who got the laugh and immediate recognition).By the Way, Meet Vera Stark includes three chronological settings: 1933, 1973, and 2003. Gleefully bursting onto Long Beach Playhouse’s Mainstage, Act I carries the most weight and embraces Vera’s optimistic hopefulness in a slam dunk screwball comedy rich with witty repartee and major league comedic performances.Our heroine, Vera Stark (Adanna Kenlow), fervently pursues her dream of “making it” in Hollywood while she continues to work as a confidant and maid to America’s sweetheart and flaxen-haired starlet, Gloria Mitchell (Sierra Marcks). Mitchell’s glamorous and posh Hollywood apartment is a far cry from the working class digs that Vera shares with her roommates, Lottie (Lotonya Kitchen and talented singer) and Anna Mae (Veronica Simms), also aspiring African-American actresses.Light brown-skinned Anna Mae pretends to be Brazilian to better her chances at “breaking in,” and if it takes dating the director, well, her philosophy is – put on a red hot number and go for it, pra carumba! Lottie, the more resigned of the group, will settle for any role she can get – just as long as she lands a part.There is studio exec Fredrick Slasvick (Skip Blas) who will nix any idea that does not result in a family-friendly film, Gloria’s chauffeur, Leroy (Bryan Allen Taylor) who’s got a thing for Vera, and Director Von Oster (Robert Agiu who wants to make a film with meaning and depth. Act II is a very different vibe. It is 2003 and set in a scholastic-type forum where there is a panel consisting of a moderator and two film authorities. During the discussion, there is a 1973 film clip that clearly demonstrates the older Vera’s frustration in having to talk about the movie she became known for.Who was Vera Stark? What was her relationship with her white glamour star employer? The audience is privy to what made her tick and what made her so interesting. Perhaps the humiliation and shame of any type of discrimination is not that long ago and too close to ignore, but maybe the fact that people of all colors can sit collectively as one and engage in laughter is progress.Vera Stark gives audiences plenty to laugh about, and Director, Gregory Cohen says, “…Let us, as observers, then ignore what she stands for and instead cherish the humor and humanity that surrounds her.” Under Cohen’s fine direction, the entire cast (with most actors portraying dual roles) is dazzling; however, the “knock-it-out-of-the-park” performances are unmistakably Adanna Kenlow in the lead role as Vera Stark in the 1930s, Sierra Marcks as Gloria Mitchell in the 1930s, Latonya Kitchen as Lottie McBride, Veronica Simms as Anna Mae Simpkins/Afua Assata Ejobo, Robert Agiu as Max Von Oster, and Bryan Allen Taylor as Leroy Barksdale. Director: Gregory Cohen; Set Design: Sean Gray; Light Design: Elisheva S. Siegel; Sound Design: Larry Mura; Costume Design: Donna Fritsche; Projection Design: Andrew Vonderschmitt. Long Beach Playhouse 5021 E. Anaheim St, Long Beach, CA 908104. Phone 562-494-1014. The play runs through May 9.

M. Patmos Resort 2018

Marcia Patmos approached resort from a practical, retail-oriented viewpoint. “It delivers December/January, so I was trying to think of things you can wear in New York when it’s still a little chilly,” she said, pointing out a cardigan. “But then you have this cute dress to throw in your suitcase for vacation.” In other words, the collection featured the best of both worlds. The line was rooted in black-and-white and navy-and-white patterns, plus a few colorful and sparkly pieces. A set of slouchy cotton cashmere sweatpants and a cropped jogger sweater was woven with Lurex. There were the occasional pops of color, inspired by a book Patmos picked up a few years back while working in Tokyo, “An Incomplete Dictionary of Show Birds,” which features portraits of birds in “fun and happy” colors. Ababy blue shearling jacket with three-quarter sleeves reversed to metallic gold leather. On the brighter, lighter side wasa red smocked sundress with a matching cardigan.Also noteworthy was a range of nontoxic scarves woven in Peru and dyed in New York by Audrey Louise Reynolds, a natural dyer, who infused the yarns with bonus features. For example, a yellow scarf was made from expeller-pressed turmeric, the blue was activated charcoal, a black version came from overripe banana peels, and pink was made from rose petals and Himalayan sea salt. “That one has extra vitamin D that your skin absorbs,” said Patmos.

Anna Sui Resort 2018

The Seventies is the gift that keeps on giving at Anna Sui. The designer has been doing boho festival for a long time — yet always finds ways to keep it fresh. Her inspirations this time around were her favorite photographers — from Sara Moon to Guy Bourdin to Deborah Turbeville. “I love the romantic, moodiness of their photos so I wanted to capture that in the colors and prints that we chose,” she explained. The result, moody, floral, short dresses that could be used as tunics if layered over fluid pants, romantic lacework frocks featuring fairies and shooting star patterns, and star patterned tulle overlays.There were also the playful silhouettes that Sui says her customer loves. Most memorable: a printed spaghetti strap camisole with ruffled chiffon worn with a cropped matching ruffled hem pant.See More From the 2018 Resort Collections:

Stella McCartney Resort 2018

Stella McCartney is a smooth operator. From the beginning she has put strong values — sustainability, cruelty-free clothes, environmental protection, female empowerment — at the core of her brand. They’re mini campaigns really, but handled on the sly, packaged as beautiful fashion or presented in a fizzy, fun atmosphere like her annual resort garden party held June 7 in New York. McCartney knows preaching is not chic.Among the famous friends of Stella, including Alec Baldwin, Chris Rock, Lily Collins and Lauren Hutton, who mingled to the tranquil steel drum Bob Marley covers of Ky-Mani Marley, were Cyrill Gutsch, the founder of Parley, and Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.“If we’re not lucky by 2050 there will be more plastic bottles in the ocean than living life…but it’s all going to be OK because we made them into a really pretty handbag in honor of Captain Watson,” said McCartney. “This man is a pirate. He’s about as punk rock as it gets. He’s fearless. He’s amazing.”

Brock Collection Resort 2018

To all the hopelessly romantic women who daydream of dressing like a Renaissance maiden in a period piece yet know how that would look (ridiculous), there’s hope for you in Brock Collection. Laura Vassar and Kristopher Brock have found a way to bring the fairy tale ethos into modern-day without resorting to costume drama. Their antique floral-driven resort collection was a great example of this.“We wanted the concept of floral on floral without being overwhelmed by a bunch of different florals,” said Brock, noting that they used a similar floral motif in different colors, scales and bases throughout the collection, which also pushed corset dressing in a versatile, unrestrictive way. Pretty and elegant, the whole lineup had a rustic, faded dreaminess to it, as Vassar and Brock worked in tulle, silk, taffeta and soft burlap.A burlap off-the-shoulder corset top was layered over a tea-stained tulle floral print turtleneck and matching long pleated skirt. A sturdier tea-length silk dress with a corset bodice was trimmed in sculptural ruffles, one or two of them lined with horsehair to accentuate the female form. A lightweight sundresses with smocking details was sweet and naive. Two burlap corset dresses — one ivory, one flax-colored — were cut off the shoulder with ribbon details and long sleeves and a diagonal hook and eye closure up the front. They could be worn closed as a dress or open over a pair of jeans, just as any of their corset tops could be. Therein was the modernizing magic of Vassar and Brock’s take on old-fashioned romance.

Rebecca Taylor Resort 2018

Rebecca Taylor took both a pragmatic and fanciful approach to resort. The former, as the designer explained, due to timing. “For us, it’s more about the holiday aspect because when we are talking about seasonality and when we ship, when retail is really selling this — it does not align with what a classic resort package would be — people are not buying resort-y stuff in November,” she said.The latter refers more to the creative approach Taylor took. “I got really inspired by Victoriana — watching the series ‘Victoria’ on Netflix, all the voluminous sleeves and cinched waists just feel so right now,” she explained.The result was a superfeminine holiday lineup filled with frilly dresses and flirtatious silhouettes. Sleeves took on the most hype, done in puffy proportions on pretty floral prints or crispy white cottons. Elsewhere, a micro polka-dot print in flowy chiffon showed up on a stretchy, gathered bodice jumpsuit and dress version. Taylor is known for her girly jackets, so this season she offered a great leather floral-print one with dropped shoulders and a fitted waist, as well as a versatile black tuxedo with ruffled shoulder details. “Iam loving things that feel fitted in the waist; I think the waist is an important area, like the jackets that have that Nineties fit fall right there,” she said.

Derek Lam Resort 2018

“It’s Morocco and men’s wear. So a little bit of Ilsa and a little bit of Rick,” Derek Lam noted of his dual inspiration for resort, referencing one of the most famous celluloid glamour couples of all time. Several months ago, Lam happened upon “Casablanca” on TCM. He watched it over and over, and thought, why not? “I feel like everybody tries to start from an obscure reference point,” he said. “I was just like, why not just do something that’s universal, something that everybody knows and enjoys, but reinterpret it?”Therein lies the key to the consistent appeal of Lam’s work. Whether he’s working a famous movie inspiration or something more arcane, he always interprets it within a context of practical chic. The movie viewing led to a deeper research dive, an exploration of old black-and-white photos of Casablanca itself; hence the mostly black-and-white palette.That strong neutrality put the attention on the collection’s clean, polished shapes that integrate bold details while retaining a relaxed attitude. Case in point: a white tuxedo, its jacket finished with a black, raw-edged collar and black back panel. The Moroccan inspiration showed up in djellaba references, including great-looking artisanal handknits and crochets with deep-fringed borders. And how does one reference Casablanca without a trench? This lineup featured several, including one without a collar and one with a white back and no sleeves. Play it again, Lam, and make it look new. A tune worth humming.

Prabal Gurung Resort 2018

The works of London-based Moroccan photographer Hassan Hajjaj informed Prabal Gurung’s resort collection. “He takes concepts such as globalization and immigration and questions the whole idea of race and identity,” said Gurung, who is also interested in all of those subjects, as well as the face value of Hajjaj’s photos. For example, many of his subjects are wearing polka-dot caftans.Gurung drew on Moroccan landscapes and colors — beautiful spicy yellows and oranges — and referenced the local culture in the silhouettes and shapes. Flirtatious ruffles accentuated everything from a cotton poplin shirtdress with point d’esprit overlay to a white floral off-the-shoulder midlength dress. As for the polka dots from Hajjaj’s photos, Gurung worked them throughout a flamenco-inspired maxiskirt paired with a matching top with tiered sleeves, as well as a white chiffon flared skirt.For more minimal clients, he also included plenty of his signature sleek looks: a green camisole over a powder-blue flared skirt, a fluid paneled satin cami and matching drawstring pants, and a pink spaghetti strap bias-cut dress.“Multiculturalism — it’s such an interesting conversation right now,” said Gurung. To that end, he didn’t leave his references only in Morocco. He also paired up with Iranian Italian jewelry designer Arlette Sarkissians for round earrings to compliment the collection.