Motel 66 Review – Head East or Go West

Fox Carney and Katelyn Ann Clark in "A Different Man" from MOTEL 66 - HEAD EAST- Photo by Doug Engalla
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The always creative Group Rep has outdone itself this time! In honor of a fading (hopefully) pandemic, the historic theater group has outfitted its parking lot into an open-air theater which they dubbed “the yard-at-the-group-rep” just in time for the summer of 2021. For those who have forgotten, once upon a time there were actually living people on a real stage performing for our enjoyment – but that was before the pandemic struck. After more than a year being shuttered, the Group Rep is again open for business. And not a moment too soon.

The Yard at the Group Rep – Photo courtesy of the Group Rep

MOTEL 66 is actually a compilation of a dozen short one-act plays spread over two nights – six per evening with one intermission. So whether you choose to HEAD EAST or GO WEST (presented on alternate nights), you’ll still end up at MOTEL 66. This is a labor of love for the Group Rep. The concept allowed everyone in the troupe a chance to write – or direct – or perform in one of these entertaining little gems. It also gave the powers-that-be the chance to outfit an outdoor theater to “test the waters” and find out if the public prefers indoor or outdoor entertainment at this moment in time. Best of all, the Group Rep brought live entertainment back to Los Angeles.

First, an idea of what awaits the audience on each night. HEAD EAST includes “A Different Man” by Lloyd Pedersen directed by Larry Eisenberg and starring Fox Carney and Katelyn Ann Clark – a long-married couple who want to try something a little different – and spicy.

Paul Cady and Mark Stancato in “Cleveland and Dallas” from MOTEL 66 – HEAD EAST – Photo by Doug Engalla

The second offering is “Cleveland and Dallas” by Steve Shaw directed by Barbara Brownell and starring Paul Cady and Mark Stancato, which asks the question: How far must a friend go to help another friend?

Manny Rodriguez, Sal Valletta, and Melissa Lugo in “Midnight Meeting” from MOTEL 66 – HEAD EAST – Photo by Doug Engalla

The third offering is “Midnight Meeting” by Denise Downer, directed by Linda Alznauer and starring Kelly Goode, Melissa Lugo, Manny Rodriguez, and Sal Valletta. Some choices are tough.

Maria Kress and Erika Bowman in “The Journey” from MOTEL 66 – HEAD EAST – Photo by Doug Engalla

After an intermission, the fifth presentation is “The Journey” by JC Gafford, directed by Bruce Kimmel, and starring Erika Bowman and Maria Kress. A long journey may unravel some secrets – and some hidden talents.

Todd Andrew Ball and Jennifer Whitney in “Venus Flytrap” from MOTEL 66- HEAD EAST – Photo by Doug Engalla

“Venus Flytrap” by Van Boudreaux is directed by Heidi Mendez and stars Todd Andrew Ball and Jennifer Whitney, who play around with seduction in all its forms.

Jennifer Karraz and Chris McGahan in “Last Exit for Lodging” from MOTEL 66 – HEAD EAST – Photo by Doug Engalla

Finally, “Last Exit for Lodging” by Bill Fitzhugh and directed by Melanie Lee finished up the “East” evening. Starring Jennifer Karraz, Chris McGahan, Cathy Diane Tomlin, and William Wilson, this really is the last exit for all the nights to come.

James Lemire, Troy Whitaker, and Michael Gabiano in “Creative Differences” from MOTEL 66 – GO WEST – Photo by Doug Engalla

Now it’s time to “Go West,” with six more scenarios waiting for you. “Creative Differences” is written and directed by Tom Lazarus and stars Michael Gabiano, James Lemire, and Troy Whitaker, three men who may find themselves with different opinions.

Patrick Skelton, Lisa McGee Mann, Stephanie Colet, and Julie Davis in “Somebody Else” from MOTEL 66 – GO WEST – Photo by Doug Engalla

“Somebody Else” by Fox Carney is directed by Marie Broderick and stars Stephanie Colet, Julie Davis, Lisa McGee Mann, and Patrick Skelton as marital fidelity goes amok.

Rishi Mehta, Michele Bernath, and Aroon Nayer in “You Only Live Once” from MOTEL 66 – GO WEST – Photo by Doug Engalla

“You Only Live Once” by Craig Holland and directed by Sascha Vanderslik stars Michele Bernath, Rishi Mehta, and Aroon Nayer as people pondering meaning. After an intermission, “Saving Laura” by James J. Cox and directed by Kathleen Delaney stars Alex Brown, Jennifer Collins, and Doug Haverty in a tale of the apocalypse in the computer age.

Jennifer Collins, Doug Haverty, and Alex Brown in “Saving Laura” from MOTEL 66 – GO WEST – Photo by Doug Engalla

A Farewell to Palms” by Stan Mazin is directed by Stevie Stern and stars James J. Cox and Lloyd Pedersen getting ready to scatter some ashes.

James J. Cox and Lloyd Pedersen in “A Farewell to Palms” from MOTEL 66 – GO WEST – Photo by Doug Engalla

Finally, “Stuck in the Middle With” by Doug Haverty is directed by Helen O’Brien and stars Raquel Brooks, Truett Jean Butler, and Beccy Quinn, who seem to have entered the twilight zone. The 12 short one-act plays are clever and keep the audience’s attention through skillful direction, effective acting, and thoughtful conceptualization. Both evenings are entertaining and creative. Besides, it’s fun being outside in the balmy evenings of a Los Angeles summer. Welcome back, Group Rep.

MOTEL 66 runs through 8/1/21 with performances at 8 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. HEAD EAST plays on Thursdays and Saturdays on 6/17, 6/19, 6/24, 6/26, and 7/8, 7/10, 7/15, 7/17, 7/22, 7/24, 7/29, and 7/31 (no shows weekend of 7/4/21). GO WEST plays at 8 p.m. Fridays and Sundays on 6/18, 6/20, 6/25, 6/27, 7/9, 7/11, 7/16, 7/18, 7/23, 7/25, 7/30, and 8/1/21. There is a strong possibility that MOTEL 66 may be extended for a limited time after August 1, 2021. The Group Rep is located at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601. Tickets are $20 for each evening or $30 for both evenings. For information and reservations, call 818-763-5990 or go online.