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Theater Review: Just 45 Minutes From Broadway: “A New Play By Henry Jaglom”

Just 45 Minutes From Broadway, in its world premiere at the Edgemar Center for the Arts, is the story of the Isaac family, a theatrical clan who sometimes live on the edge of reality. Independent film director and playwright, Henry Jaglom’s brisk, entertaining script is well written and in his usual manner, delves into the human condition in a most probing way.

The action revolves around the family gathering that includes two sisters, the born-in-a-trunk Pandora or “Panda,” played by Tanna Frederick, and Betsy, who gave up show business to become a “civilian.” She has just become engaged to Jimmy, played by David Garver and has brought him home to meet the family. Suffice it to say the family dynamics explode. David becomes disenchanted with Betsy and smitten with Panda, whose boyfriend has broken up with her, and the mother refers to Betsy as “the bad seed” because she wants to sell the run-down family home and move them into a retirement community.

The patriarch of the family is George Isaacs, “Grisha”, tenderly played by Jack Heller. A third-generation star of the Yiddish theatre who transitioned into English-speaking theatre, “Grisha” deals with his declining career but is constantly buoyed by his wife Vivien, a former stage actress played with the right amount of pathos and flights of fancy by Diane Salinger. Vivien’s actor brother Larry, fabulously portrayed by David Proval, lights up the stage with his fully realized performance. At one point “Grisha” thinks his family would make a nice play to which Larry responds, “You’re too old to play yourself.”

The production, well directed by Gary Imhoff, who elicited solid performances from the ensemble, is supported by a fabulous, Broadway-caliber set designed by Joel Daavid and a wonderful sound design by Mike Shear who used Al Jolson recordings that underscored the life and times of the Isaacs. The only negative is the middle of the second act, which began to sag in the middle and could use some cutting.

Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main Street, Santa Monica, Ca 90405

Runs Thurs.–Sun. through Jan. 31

Tickets: 310.392.7327

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