Live Nude Girl

Ellen Dubin was in Los Angeles performing in the world premier of the funny,
moving and sexy play, LIVE NUDE GIRL by Monica Himmelheber,  at
THE LOUNGE THEATER at 6201 Santa Monica Blvd. The play ran 5
consecutive Mondays at 8 pm – Sept. 20th, Sept. 27th, Oct. 4th, Oct. 11th and Oct 18th.

Critics rave about Ellen’s performance –  “Ellen Dubin brilliantly creates two very different characters, Deanna’s  frustrated mom  and a sultry been-there-done-that Russian stripper named Love.” says Steven Stanley of Stagescenela.com.

The website is below with more details.

http://www.livenudegirltheplay.com/index.html
Ellen and the rest of the cast recently did a thirty minute version of LIVE NUDE GIRL in January 2011 at the prestigious comedy venue the UPRIGHT CITIZEN’S BRIGADE in Los Angeles.

LIVE NUDE GIRL REVIEW

Monica Himmel is Deanna, an actress in search of professional and personal fulfillment in Monica Himmelheber’s Live Nude Girl, now playing Mondays at Hollywood’s Lounge Theatre.

If Live Nude Girl has an autobiographical ring to it, it’s probably because Himmelheber is a writer in search of professional and personal fulfillment, and Himmel … Well, if you haven’t yet guessed, Himmelheber and Himmel are one and the same.

Also, if Live Nude Girl has the air of a solo performance (albeit with a cast of eleven), it’s probably because it began as a one-woman show, written by Himmelheber and performed by Himmel—which the writer/actress has now expanded into the showcase it provides for both its playwright/star and her ten castmates, each of whom plays numerous, quite different roles. (And quite effectively, for that matter.)

We first meet Monica—sorry, make that Deanna—as she models nude in front of a class of would-be artists under the professorship of a rather pretentious teacher, one who insists upon being called by his first name because “Professor is so—‘old.’”

Though we see Himmel only from the back in this first scene, the actress soon turns towards us to flash “frontal” nudity that cleverly manages not to be full frontal—you won’t hear the secret to Himmel’s modesty here—as she guides a tramful of tourists through a Hollywood studio/theme park.

The “nudity” ends with this scene, as Himmel dons a yellow sundress for the rest of the first act, which follows Deanna through her life as an art model, with flashbacks to her childhood as the precocious daughter of estranged parents. (Her mother blamed the failure of her own Hollywood dreams on hubby.) Monica poses (clothed) for a classroomful of old biddies and later for an obnoxious group of self-described artists. There’s even a fantasy sequence in which Deanna imagines her life (and body) being discussed in aeronautic terms by a group of NASA engineers.         When Deanna learns that the niece of a fellow tour guide makes $2000 to $3000 “on a good weekend” simply by swinging from a pole in Las Vegas, Deanna determines to follow her example—in Act Two, which transports us to a Vegas strip club.

Though an earlier incarnation of what has turned into Live Nude Girl was written by Himmelheber as a solo piece for Himmel, Live Nude Girl (the full-length play) is at its most effective as a talent showcase for its ten supporting actors, each of whom gets to play a pair of diametrically different roles, plus several others. That’s not to say that Himmel doesn’t give a committed, highly personal performance, including some Act Two pole dancing that is is indeed impressive. It’s just that the characters she’s surrounded by are the juicier roles.

Paul McKinney has great fun as a Cockney artist, then changes gears totally in Live Nude Girl’s most compelling scene, as a sensitive strip club customer who lends Himmel’s Deanna a sympathetic ear without hidden agenda. Michael Harris impresses as well, first as an eager, fresh-faced art student and then as Joey, a boorish, brutal club customer. Lyn Michele Ross is a hoot as a sassy West Indian tram driver and later as the strip club “Housemom.” Ellen Dubin brilliantly creates two very different characters, Deanna’s frustrated mom and a sultry been-there-done-that Russian stripper named Love. Matt Crabtree is excellent as Deanna’s pal Marcus (a “career studio tour guide”) and as club customer Gary, with special snaps going to the matronly, turbaned, pearl-wearing art student he dons drag for.         Yelba Zoe Osorio doubles as an art instructor and—hilariously–as a perpetually pisssed Latina stripper named Jasira.         Completing the cast in terrific fashion are Ian Stanley as Deanna’s full-of-himself art prof and a slick strip club owner, Charmain L. Crook as an elderly art student and a sassy cocktail waitress, Steve Gelder as Monica’s cranky dad and a NASA scientist, and Stacey Moseley as a children’s photographer and a tough cookie of a stripper named Kimmie (or Savannah) depending on whether she’s offstage or on.

Not all of Live Nude Girl works as well as its best moments. An extended Act Two opening scene set in a Vegas strip club went on too long for this reviewer, and Himmelheber still hasn’t found quite the right ending for Deanna’s story. (All this, for three lines in a Spielberg movie?) And finally, it’s hard to see the logic in Deanna staying “nude” beyond the opening scene. Either she’s undressed for the whole first act, or she puts her clothes on once the art class sequence has ended, the latter option making more dramatic sense.

One thing that is certain, Himmel is quite an amazing pole dancer, astounding and impressing this reviewer with her athletic prowess and seemingly gravity-free dexterity, the seductive choreography provided by Jackey Puumala.

Credit for the cast’s fine performances must be shared between actors and director Joe Ochman, who insures that people on stage remain real, and never descend into the realm of caricature.

Sica Schmitz has created a marvelous variety of costumes.         There is no credited lighting, sound, or set designer, the show running on a nearly bare stage (or should that be live nude stage?).         Jennifer Palumbo is stage manager.

Himmelheber (and Himmel) deserve credit for doing something other than the typical “This Is My Life” solo performance, and the ten supporting actors owe Himmelheber (and Himmel) a debt of gratitude for the acting challenges and rewards provided to them by Live Nude Girl.

The Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles.         Through October 18. Mondays at 8:00. Reservations:         http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/120242  http://www.livenudegirltheplay.com

–Steven Stanley

September 13, 2010