Reviews"[A RECOMMENDED Pick] Writer-director Lisa Mortonís ambitious, sci-fi comedy has a decidedly Ed Wood feel. Set in the mid-21st century, it tells of an America beset by a complete breakdown in society, and is mostly played for laughs... [Troy] Harris plays morally bankrupt Jack with great panache... hilarious portrayals include those by J. Anthony McCarthy as the android security chief and Brooke Heys as a pleasure-serving female android. Sidney Wickersham also deserves praise for his terrific set design of a trashed inner city." Jim Crogan, LA WEEKLY
SPIRITS OF THE SEASON
Ran October 6, 1995 - November 19, 1995 at the Lionstar Theatre #2 in Studio City. Produced by First Stage Alert. An evening of four original horror one-acts: "Too Young To" (directed by Lonnie Schuyler), "Falling to Pieces" (directed by Don Jarman), "Silver Nitrate Blues" (directed by yours truly), and "Howlin' Monck and the Death of Music" (co-directed by myself and Lonnie S.). The idea was to take four classic monsters - the vampire, the zombie, the ghost, the werewolf - and give them very contemporary spins, nothing gothic or old here. The show was very successful - extended three weeks, drew good houses throughout, and is one of the three productions I'm proudest of (the other two are MEET THE HOLLOWHEADS and "Radio Free Albemuth").
Reviews"...it's good to see small, disadvantaged theater cop some real attitude... isn't some dumb ghoul show, but a collection of pieces riddled with disturbing thoughts. 'Too Young To' clearly establishes the evening's 'Twilight Zone' pedigree... shifting in a flash from light comedy to dread, Morton manages to avoid cheap exploitation traps and opts for some real existential resonance... Morton directs her own 'Silver Nitrate Blues', which blends two big items in the American cultural landscape - angels and AIDS - without cliches, melodrama or triteness... Grand Guignol takes center stage in the closer, 'Howlin' Monck and the Death of Music'... like the first piece, what could have been stupid horror tricks turns into a real drama with this committed cast." Robert Koehler, LA TIMES
"...['Silver Nitrate Blues' and 'Howlin' Monck and the Death of Music'] score a stake to the heart... 'Silver Nitrate Blues' is an imaginative twist on the 'highway to heaven' theme. Grant Gottschall gives a terrific, pathos-filled performance as Peter, a suicidal photographer who's dying of AIDS and looking for a coda to close out his photography book. Credit Lisa Morton's sensitive direction for keeping the brakes on Rachel Wells' solid, albeit understated performance as Ellen, Peter's ghost guide who's as lonely and despondent beyond the veil as she was on earth. [In 'Howlin' Monck'] Andy Davids gives a fiendishly good performance as Monck, a rock star turned blood-thirsty werewolf. While Monck tries to keep his murderous outbursts to a minimum by using drugs and alcohol, Darryl Armbruster provides the tension-filled counterpoint as Hardy, a roadie who's loyal to Monck's music, and who reluctantly serves up Monck's star-struck victims. Erica Hade is solid as Ashley, an air-headed, would-be groupie, while John Folger is J-Boy, a roadie-in-training, who trades his silence about the killings for money." Jim Crogan, LA WEEKLY
THE AMERICAN NIGHTMARE
Ran September 30 1994 - November 12, 1994 at the Burbage Theatre in West L.A. Produced by Zeitgeist Theatre Company. Two original one-acts written and directed by me: "Men in Black", a black comedy about conspiracies and UFO's, and "The Sins They Love to Act", a thriller. This production lived up to its title right from the start, although the bad experience was redeemed when actor Will Schaub went on to win a Dramalogue acting award for his performance as "Major Stone" in "Men in Black".
LIFE ON THE EDGE: TALES OF URBAN HORROR
Ran June 25, 1993 - July 31, 1993 at the Wooden-O Theatre in West L.A. Produced by TheatrePhantastique (a short-lived attempt at forming a company dedicated to producing genre material on the stage). This evening consisted of four one-acts and three monologues: "The Dead Line", adapted by Rocky Heck from the story by Dennis Etchison (directed by Rocky Heck), "The Territorial Imperative", by me (directed by Lonnie Schuyler), "Savings and Lones" by me (again with Mr. S. at the helm), "Choosing a Weapon" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (directed by Rocky Heck), "The Man Who Collected Barker", adapted by Rocky Heck from a story by Kim Newman (directed by Rocky Heck), "I'm Not Norman", by me (and I directed), and "The Graveyard Reader" adapted by me from the story by Theodore Sturgeon.
"...original one acts by Lisa Morton... have an impressive energy and structure... a comic delight, 'The Territorial Imperative' by Lisa Morton [is] a witty examination of one man's losing battle against the cockroach and his 26 billion evil insect brethren. Lonnie Schuyler's direction of Michael Robert Nyman makes imaginative use of the Wooden-O's space, and Nyman's performance has just the right balance of humor and vigor. He reminds us of one of Edgar Allan Poe's protagonists, quite mad and extremely compelling... 'Savings and Lones'... besides being a pointed examination of how America is faring in our current economy, Morton makes a good argument warning against the danger of being close to a disoriented human being. [Mary Beth] DeLucia looks every bit as worn as Bill (played by Schuyler with impressive conviction), and there is no more horrible aspect to this production than the hideous sense of defeat we read in her expressive eyes... ['THE GRAVEYARD READER'] is eloquent in tone... An excellent cast - consisting of David LaPorte, sweetly enigmatic as The Reader; Lonnie Schuyler, profoundly determined as The Pupil; and Michael Robert Nyman, casually curious as the Caretaker - gives top-of-the-line performances." Bruce Feld, DRAMALOGUE
"...I tried to play it cool on my way out of the Wooden-O Theater, but, truth to tell, I felt all ooky, like there were spiders or roaches just below the surface of the skin of my hands... Not for the kiddies, this... excellent... Michael Robert Nyman had everyone screaming with Lisa Morton's one-man vignette, 'The Territorial Imperative'... David La Porte is wonderfully sensitive in Theodore Sturgeon's 'The Graveyard Reader'... all in all, quite thought-provoking and very scary... " Stacey A. Morse, EASY READER
"This anthology of seven playlets is united by an obsession with gothic horror - bloodletting, creepy-crawlies and dementia - that walks a tightrope between fetishism and parody... The terror becomes more somber and social in 'Savings and Lones', about a woman (Mary Beth DeLucia) who watches, powerless, as her laid-off husband (sic) (Schuyler) slowly disintegrates into a neurotic lightning-rod of conspiracy theories... Steven Leigh Morris, LA WEEKLY
"...'The Territorial Imperative' by Lisa Morton, directed by Lonnie Schuyler, stars Michael Robert Nyman as an urban G.I. Joe who has declared war on the cockroaches that infest his apartment. In this, the evening's most successful vignette, the audience gets a close look at obsession taken to its limit. Schuyler's flawless direction emphasizes the humorous aspects of high-degreed compulsiveness as he moves Nyman around and over the audience, utilizing the entire theater... [In 'The Graveyard Reader'] the two actors turn in quietly moving performances as they examine the issue of letting the dead rest in peace while the living get on with their lives... [the company is] to be commended for taking a risk with such an unusual bill of fare... " Michael Frym, LA READER
RED, WHITE AND BRUISED
Ran March 7, 1993 - April 25, 1993 at the Burbage Theater in West L.A. Produced by Zeitgeist Theatre Company. Five one-acts: "Impasto", written and directed by John Benjamin Martin", "Savings and Lones", written and directed by me, "The Maid", written and directed by Casey Kramer, "All the Rage", me all over again, and "Collateral Damage", written by Grant Gottschall (directed by Casey Kramer). A Sunday night run that was distressingly little-seen.
REVIEW(Yep, just one again)
"...['All the Rage'] is a well-written play, convincingly performed... " Larry Jonas, DRAMALOGUE
Originally part of the evening "Twisted Romance", which ran December 10, 1992 through January 24, 1993, produced by Zeitgeist Theatre Company. Also ran April 13 -May 2, 1993 at the William Redfield Theatre in New York. (Seventh Seal Ensemble), and was initially performed for two performances only at the Iguana Cafe in North Hollywood. I got the magic clean-sweep of rave reviews on this one:
REVIEWS"...Of the five, Lisa Morton's 'Sane Reaction', directed by the playwright, is the strongest. It also has the strongest performances - by Mary Beth DeLucia and John Benjamin Martin as a couple who met at a party neither was invited to, bound for a deliciously macabre date neither expected, taking 'Extremities' to extremes... " T. H. McCulloh, LA TIMES
"...The production begins powerfully wtih 'Sane Reaction', which re-enacts a familiar scene - girl meets guy at party and takes him home. But the short play, written and directed by Lisa Morton, then takes the viewer into unexpected terrain, offering a unique, surprise twist and adept acting by Marybeth DeLucia and John Benjamin Martin... Another high point of the evening, 'What a Riot' (a second work by Morton) offers a look at dysfunctional marriage, showcased by the dysfunctional events in the city of L.A. - the setting is the recent riots. The show features solid performances from Katie Schwartz and Lonnie Schuyler." Connie Benesch, VILLAGE VIEW
"... 'Sane Reaction' contains moments of incredibly uncomfortable tension as a torturer-murderer (John Benjamin Martin) menaces his prey (Marybeth DeLucia). Surprising plot twists by Morton (who also directed with precision) relieve the tension and make the play work as both pitch-black comedy and frightening drama." Tom Provenzano, LA WEEKLY
"...'Sane Reaction, written and directed by Lisa Morton, is a chilling and bleakly funny encounter between two strangers whose one-night stand leads to a deadly game of cat-and-mouse... 'Sane Reaction' may sound grisly, but Morton springs her deceptively casual script with the precision of a mousetrap. She expertly manipulates the play's emotional shifts, from terror to humor and then to perverse satisfaction when Anne turns the tables on her oppressor. While there are moralistic underpinnings about the dangers of promiscuity, the play also comments on the rage women feel at the hands of men who exploit them. Morton's direction is as lean as her script, and McBride and Martin play their game with humorous confidence and grim purpose... " Clifford Gallo, LA READER
"RADIO FREE ALBEMUTH"
Ran 1/22/91 - 2/27/91 at Theatre of N.O.T.E. in Hollywood, produced by Mookie Martorana. I adapted from the Philip K. Dick novel of the same name, and directed. This remains my personal favorite of everything I've done.
"Science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick treads the fine line between genius and lunacy in 'RADIO FREE ALBEMUTH'. The story is set in an alternative present, where President Fremont (James Higdon) promises to mobilize the country to fight a nonexistent conspiracy called "Aramchek." He is opposed by Nick Brady, a record executive, who is visited by aliens who tell him to release a song with subversive subliminal messages in an attempt to overthrow Fremont. Add to this a frustrated wife, a skeptical best friend (Dick wrote himself into the story), and a couple of sinister Hitler-Youth-like government agencies, and you get the mood of this unusual play. It's challenging material to bring to the equity waiver stage, and if the production is a little long and the acting uneven, at least it's interesting. Much of the material seems like a satire of current times. Amazing, considering that Philip K. Dick died in 1982." Jim Pickrell, LA READER
"...For those of you lucky enough to live in L.A., put the Theatre of N.O.T.E. on your 'must see' list. If 'RADIO FREE ALBEMUTH' is any indication of their craft, you can depend on them for quality theatre that does what theatre is supposed to do: take you out of your world and into the world of the play... we were not remembering 1976 - we were in 1976. Thanks to Mookie Martorana's production, Lisa Morton's play, and the acting of Christina Artelis, Paul Clemens, David LaPorte, Esther Ives Williams, Hy Pike and the other cast members, the alternate America of VALIS became real to us... " Doris Elaine Sauter, The PKDS Newsletter