Performance and Spirit: ‘Lovers and Other Strangers’ at Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio Fri-Sat nights only thru Feb 2024
Performance and Spirit Stand out with “Lovers and Other Strangers” at Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio.“Lovers and Other Strangers” runs at Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio Fri-Sat nights only through February 2024. The Taylor Acting Studio is an indie theater that hosts actors workshops, classes and shows at 2401 W. Magnolia Blvd in Burbank, CA.
For those unaware of “indie theater”, it’s a typical “black box” theater. What it lacks in production budget, it makes up for in spirit and talent. It’s a place where you discover hidden gems. And tonight, we found several.
The concern was how well would a risque 1970s sex comedy play in LA’s woke 2024.
Let’s find out…
Lovers and Other Strangers at Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio
I didn’t walk into the show thinking of it as a “Girls Night Out”, but tonight it definitely played in that direction. The packed theater was 70% women, who laughed, giggled and gasped throughout.
Scene 1: Brenda & Jerry
Starring Charly Taylor, Bradley Holzer
What if your best and worst date was the same date? Holzer’s “Jerry” tries to make his date night a little sexier while Taylor’s Brenda terrorizes him with naive or not-so-much wishy-washy responses.
Taylor’s Brenda is electric as she walks on stage against Holzer’s kinetic energy. It’s a high energy, flirty scene that stays fresh thanks to the performer’s chemistry.
Painfully relatable. Hilarious. And it sets the tone for the night. Laughing. Squirming. Following these characters through a maze of love, romance, disgust, bitterness.
Scene 2: Hal & Cathay
Starring Phillip Latini, Elizabeth Kyokwijuka
Do you love dialogue? Phillip Latini and Elizabeth Kyokwijuka clearly love their dialogue and are having so much fun.
Like a tennis match where they volley their bleeding hearts (and heartache) back and forth. Heartbreak, swing, betrayal, swing, jealousy, embrace. Then repeat. Latini offers a sneering performance demanding Kyokwijuka’s intensity and delicious she delivers. Great scene!
Scene 3: Johnny & Wilma
Starring Art Santoro and Eugenia Kuzmina
If you’ve seen Kuzmina’s work on the big screen before you know how easily she holds her stage presence.
Tonight Kuzmina’s “Wilma” steals the scene in the first few moments with a quiet confidence and a misbehaving perfume bottle. Then like a cat and mouse game, she taunts, teases and plays Santoro’s Johnny until he can’t take it anymore. He’s a mountain of a guy who’s gentle until he’s not. When Santoro fires back it becomes a chess match. Physically, emotionally, psychologically. Tossing and turning – the more they fight, the more their chemistry builds and what does that say about love?
Scene 4: Susan & Mike
Starring Charly Taylor and Nathaniel Wyatt
In tonight’s opening scene, Taylor is electric. Now she visits us again. In this scene she shows another side – calmly keeping pace while Wyatt takes the spotlight burning through his dialogue. He bares his soul with vulnerability, angst, anger, desperation.
Nathaniel Wyatt has leading man relatability. Think Tom Hanks in 1984’s massive hit “Splash”. If he and Charly Taylor aren’t pitching themselves (Hanks and Darryl Hannah, respectively) to the studios for a remake, the movie-loving world is missing out.
Scene 5: Bea, Frank, Rickie & Joan
Starring Eugenia Kuzmina, Sergio Lanza, Sergio Lopez, Jordan Whitney.
Throughout the night we’ve seen couples wrestling with every quirk and detail of relationships, healthy and not. Here we see two married couples, one older, one younger – and how both couples are dealing with all of romance’s issues.
Sergio Lopez should win acclaim for his performance in this scene. In a room full of bombastic characters, your eyes keep going back to him as he makes the subtlest of feelings quake the entire theater.
Sergio Lanza brings heart to the room and a baseline to Lopez’s reactions. Lopez and Lanza should work together more often. As Lanza’s internal boiling builds, he fills the room with emotion that all of the actors play off in the second half of the scene. The ensemble harmony is so flavorful and fun.
Cue Jordan Whitney’s entrance who brings sunshine on a cloudy day. Moments later, she informs Kuzmina’s performance in one of the highlights of the evening.
Eugenia Kuzmina reveals herself as a character actress
Eugenia Kuzmina reveals herself as a character actress. You know her best from several turns in Hollywood blockbusters, most notably gangsters and spies in big-budget Guy Ritchie movies.
But tonight she’s having a blast playing against type. She’s moody and vulnerable. Playing a lowly housewife with a lifetime of regrets. A woman in the audience goes from sobbing to full-on guffawing within seconds thanks to Kuzmina’s heartbreaking monologue in the second half of the scene.
One specific beat is so raw, honest, yet bitterly funny. Kuzmina captures the mood.
It’s the perfect scene to end the show on.
Indie Theater at Burbank’s Taylor Acting Studio is a fun date night
Why is indie theater important? Because in a town like LA, you can be sure these guys aren’t doing it for the money or the fame. They’re performing for you tonight because they love it.
Years ago, I was sitting in a black box theater and after the show I noticed an Oscar-winning filmmaker getting up from his seat in the back row. On the walk out, I nudged him about why he was there. He replied, “Eh, I had a tough week. Got me cynical. These kids helped remind me that I love storytelling.”
If you love storytelling, give indie theater a try. Pick a restaurant within walking distance. Make it as date night.