Friday November 3, 2006
On a Dark and Stormy Night in NoHo

By Michele E. Buttelman
Signal Escape Editor

On a "dark and stormy night" at The Hub Theater in NoHo a group of Santa Clarita Valley teens and their mentors from the Showdown Theater Academy present a comedic version of Edgar Allan Poe's classics in "Usher."

The teen comedy, brilliantly written by Flip Kobler and Cindy Marcus, takes bits and pieces of nearly a dozen Poe works and weaves them into a charming script with wit and humor.

It's entertaining to try to match the plot points and the entertaining characters to Poe's dark work.

The show begins with a group of high school thespians making their way from their broken school bus into the "spooky old mansion."

Some of Poe's masterpieces are easy to spot, as in "The Mask of the Red Death," personified at unlikely moments in the show by James Kozeluh's energetic performance.

"Monty" (Racheal Odle) and "Fortunato" (Taylor Morgan Lewis) bring "The Cask of Amontillado" to life as "Raven" (Michelle Muldoon) flutters about the stage, fretting... "nevermore."

Jonathan Brett as "William" and Steven Pallares as "Wilson" are the humorous incarnation of "William Wilson," Poe's story about a man who meets another man who could be his double.

Nick Palatas is spectacularly gloomy as "Roderick" - the troubled inhabitant of the house with his sister, "Annabell Lee," played with great warmth by Annie Horak.

Ian Shin receives several laughs as poor "Valdemar" - who received a knock to his head and spends the show in a stupor. A take-off on Poe's "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar."

The Hub Theater is a funky space in North Hollywood's exciting NoHo arts district. Formerly an antique store, the small theater offers comfy seating with good views of the small stage.

Director Marcus makes good use of the tiny space positioning actors in the audience (or running through the audience) and creating a two-level stage by using the space atop a small room on one side of the stage.

The "ghosts" who inhabit the house offer up some of the funniest moments of the afternoon as they try to drive the teens out of the mansion.

Unlike Poe's works, this "Usher" has a happy ending.

The cast also includes "Lauren Cassis as "Pym," Josh Albrecht as "Edgar," Cameron Shim as "MeChelle," Zoie Pulkka as "Dupin," Brooke Bovee and Brynn
Samuelson as "Elenora," "Stephanie Cassis as "Maillard," Daniel Scott Marcus and Brook Bovee as "Tarr," Nicholas-Antonio Grimes as "Tamerlane," Virginia Pinkers as "Eulalie," Allison Reed as "Lillian," Cierra Snow as "Una," Hannah Hart as "Eliza Beth" and Racheal O'Rourke as "Madeline."

It's not surprising the script is as accomplished as it is, Kobler and Marcus wrote "The Lion King 2" and "Beauty and the Beast: Enchanted Christmas" for
Disney.

The show was nicely augmented by Dennis Poore's (composer of "Earth Girls are Easy") music and sound.

This show is a cut above what you'd normally see with a cast of teens. It's good fun.


"Usher" will play two more Saturdays at 2 p.m. Nov. 4 and Nov. 11 at the Hub Theater, 5245 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Tickets: $7. Info: Glenda
(661) 645-8692 or ShowdownStageCo.com.

Copyright:The Signal