Review: BLOODLETTING Opens Center Theatre Group's Block Party 2018 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre

Review: BLOODLETTING Opens Center Theatre Group's Block Party 2018 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre

As it did last year with its first Block Party, Center Theatre Group continues to strengthen its relationships within the Los Angeles theatre community by creating additional avenues for the organization to work with local playwrights, actors, directors and designers to gain more exposure for their work in greater Los Angeles. This year, Center Theatre Group received 53 submissions for Block Party 2018 from intimate theatre companies in the greater Los Angeles area who each submitted one production that opened at their location between January 1, 2016, and May 30, 2017.

This year's first Block Party 2018 selection is the Playwrights' Arena production of BLOODLETTING, written by Boni B. Alvarez and directed by Playwrights' Arena Artistic Director Jon Lawrence Rivera. The play opened at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City on Saturday, March 31 and closes Sunday, April 8. Block Party 2018 will also remount Critical Mass Performance Group's production of "Ameryka" from April 19 through 29 and Celebration Theatre's production of "Die, Mommie, Die!" from May 10 through 20. The three visiting companies will receive the full support of Center Theatre Group and its staff in order to fund, stage and market each production.

Review: BLOODLETTING Opens Center Theatre Group's Block Party 2018 at the Kirk Douglas TheatreBLOODLETTING takes place on a tropical island called Palawan in the Philippines. Farrah (Myra Cris Ocenar) and Bosley (playwright Boni B. Alvarez), two Filipino American siblings who recently lost their father, arrive on the island to scatter his ashes when a typhoon hits and they are forced to seek shelter at a tiny café. Jenry, the peculiar café owner (Alberto Isaac) and his granddaughter LeeLee (Anne Yatco) are both intrigued and shocked at how the siblings speak to each other with such venom and derision.

As the play unfolds, Review: BLOODLETTING Opens Center Theatre Group's Block Party 2018 at the Kirk Douglas TheatreLeeLee and Jenry share tales about aswangs (witches) with the siblings in an attempt to keep them from tossing their father's ashes in a remote and sacred area. But all soon realize there is more going on than meets the eye, especially when Farrah admits and then demonstrates her own strange psychic abilities, including being able to move not only art work hanging on the café walls but to also create real bodily pain for her long-suffering and always over-eating brother.

Each of these four actors command your attention with their stage presence, Review: BLOODLETTING Opens Center Theatre Group's Block Party 2018 at the Kirk Douglas Theatremaking their characters vividly real in both appearance and attitude. Yatco is especially effective in the opening scene as she takes center stage and proceeds to envelope herself into an over-the-top spiritually invigorating aswang experience. Scenic designer Christopher Scott Murillo creates the illusion of a tropical forest in which a large open-air café set piece slides into place when the action shifts indoors. Sound designer Howard Ho creates such realistic rainstorms, it's easy to imagine sheets of water really are falling on the stage!

Playwright Alvarez shares, "Aswangs are essentially Filipino witches who over the past few centuries, Review: BLOODLETTING Opens Center Theatre Group's Block Party 2018 at the Kirk Douglas Theatrehave transformed from terrifying demonic monsters with enormous bloodshot eyes, fangs, and wings into contemporary human shapeshifters with an "evil" eye. Their special powers are activated at night, and with the aid of the Moon, they cause headaches and food poisoning. Aswangs also have the ability to fly by shapeshifting into birds, or turn into pigs that feast on humans, or turn other people into aswangs." All of these elements, as well as discussions about various types of human sexuality, come into play during BLOODLETTING, making it not recommended for children. The show's run time is 90 minutes without an intermission.

Review: BLOODLETTING Opens Center Theatre Group's Block Party 2018 at the Kirk Douglas TheatreTickets for all three Block Party 2018 productions are available by calling (213) 628-2772, online at www.CenterTheatreGroup.org, at the Center Theatre Group Box Office at the Ahmanson Theatre or at the Kirk Douglas Theatre Box Office two hours prior to performance. Tickets for each individual production range from $25 - $70 with a Block Party Party Pass available for $75, which includes a ticket to all three productions as well as a complimentary cocktail (or non-alcoholic beverage) at each performance. The Party Pass is available by phone or in-person through April 8. The Kirk Douglas Theatre is located at 9820 Washington Blvd. in Culver City, CA 90232. Free three hour covered parking at City Hall with validation (available in the Kirk Douglas Theatre lobby).

Photo credit: Lawrence K. Ho


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