CLIMATE CHANGE, A PLAY AND A PLEA

The edgy drama “Earthquakes in London” proffers a vivid view of climate change and the human condition, topics that should be a paramount concern in our fragile Malibu, and certainly to all beyond.

 With this in mind, I reviewed the drama, pasted below, not incidentally wearing yet a new hat as the cultural critic of the widely respected and read artsmeme.com

Earthquakes in London | Rogue Machine Theatre | thru Mar 1

On our planet’s frightening social and political seismographic scale, and by any theatrical measure, “Earthquakes in London” is definitely a shaker, especially if climate change and the human condition concern you.

Now playing at the Electric Lodge in Venice, weekends through March 1, the ambitious, edgy Rogue Machine Theatre’s production demands the conviction and talents of those on and behind the stage, and the attention and apprehensions of the audience

Talk about being timely, what with the world’s increasingly freakish weather, witness the dreadful floods abroad and disastrous fires here and in Australia. And then, of course for us in California beyond the compromising of our fragile environmental safeguards by a twisted Trump administration, there is the constant threat of earthquakes. In London, too, one might add without divulging the play’s plot.

As the playwright Mike Bartlett has notably proffered in his final tragic scenes of death and divorce there is a hope for the future, however faint and fantastical. Though if so, for us worldly wizened it would be a victory over the reality of the planet today, its possible extinction and the denial by its mindless  leaders.

But the play must go on, and despite its dire predictions and backdrop of flickering montage of disasters, actually hints optimistically at a better, life affirming destiny, embodied naturally in a new born. And to think that the play was first performed a decade ago in the once and future land of angry young men speaks to the awe-inspiring prescience of art and the imposing imagination of Bartlett.

Kudos also to the moral commitment of Rogue Machine to stage the provocative production, which consists no less than 17 actors performing with professional confidence in some 90 parts careening about a segmented stage in an intimate non equity theatre.

This conglomeration could easily have been a daunting three hours, with a intermission, if not for the innovative co direction of Hollace Starr and John Perrin Flynn, who thankfully speed the action in well orchestrated short bursts of word plays in overlapping focused scenes in varying time frames.

Helping is the imaginative counterpoint of whimsical musical numbers one of the principal characters listens to over her earphones and is brought to life by the multi talented cast. Particularly rousing was the song and dance rendition of “I Am Not a Robot,” that punches up and sends the second act forward to its dramatic finale.

Yes, there is a story line, involving three contrasting and personally challenged sisters, convincingly portrayed by Ava Bogle, Anna Khaja and Taylor Shurte. (Also appreciated was Shurte’s dancing.) Weaving them together in a grating codependency are their individual clashes with an estranged father,

Though not very sympathetic, self absorbed and guilt ridden, the father is nonetheless insightful, and not incidentally has the best and most telling lines. It helps that they delivered with a riveting aplomb by a believable Ron Bottitta.

Some 60 years plus year ago the play “Look Back In Anger” by John Osborne offered a contrast to the then escapist theater scene with a blast of social realism. Born also of Britain, Bartlett’s “Earthquakes in London” just may be a harbinger of desperately needed environmental awareness, a sort of look forward in anger — and angst. 

Earthquakes in London | Rogue Machine Theatre | Electric Lodge | thru Mar 1


Cultural critic Sam Hall Kaplan is a distinguished print and broadcast journalist, author and teacher, who has pursued parallel careers as an urban designer and creative strategist. Maverick assignments have included design critic for the LA Times, metro reporter for the NY Times, Emmy award commentator for Fox News and contributor to popular and professional publications, and NPR. Notable books include The Dream Deferred and L.A. Lost and Found. His love for the theater was nurtured as a gofer for the legendary critic Brooks Atkinson, acting in the Cornell Drama Club, alongside Gordon Davidson, and a bitpart as a judge in TV’s 90210 for which he did FX.

WILLFUL IGNORANCE SADLY PREVAILS IN MALIBU

Good to be back from afar in my treasured Malibu, warmed by a welcoming sun. But I’m sorely disappointed by the continued willful ignorance of a city council scammed by a conniving city manager building a bloated bureaucracy.  

The council’s review and raise for Reva Feldman was unconscionable, as is her pending request now for yet for more overpaid consultants to do the work she and her entourage should be doing, if they weren’t so busy scheming to preserve their sinecures..

It is an embarrassment for our fractured, beloved community being force-fed pricey propaganda, and worse for the victims of the disastrous Woolsey Fire also having to contend with a contorted, rebuild endeavor unapologetically mismanaged by “the manager of the year.”

And beyond the P.R., what of the planning and advocacy Malibu needs for the next disaster that is sure to come? Let alone the daily demands of a fragile city deluged with tourists and part- time residents. 

Valued perspectives have been suggested in the simmering social media (kudos to Janet, Jo, Mari and others), but sadly it seems the Council doesn’t listen, dismissing them as a vocal minority, as if they didn’t have valid observations and rights.  And then what of the silent dispirited majority?

 To paraphrase Machiavelli, “those who themselves are not wise cannot be well advised.”

Debatable is whether Malibu’s governance needs to suffer the time and trouble of a remake empowering a strong mayor, who may have his or her own predispositions. It seems simpler if the council would do its job and usher Reva and her parasitic personnel out the door.

Or will we have to await the next election, and hope that the usual scammers and self aggrandizing locals will yield to a concerned new majority committed to serving Malibu instead of themselves, and do the right thing?  

As the Romans used to say when an emperor went rogue, “Quis custodiet ipsos custode?”  Loosely translated: “who will manage the manager?