Rant & Rave

Let it be known that I love great theatre. Let it also be known that I love Rogue Machine. If you have not seen a Rogue Machine show, you have been missing out on some of the best of LA theatre. I have a need for you to know that I am a big fan of Rogue Machine, because you will not inherently know this after you hear what I have to say about their once-a-month Monday night fundraiser,Rant & Rave.

I came with high expectations. They boast of a consistently sold out show, and the “buzz” is good… I wasn’t entirely sure what I was walking into, (which I do purposefully) but I knew there were various participants, a theme word or topic, and a host. Sounds like a Moth session or maybe a Mortified-esque thing. As a gigantic believer in both the previously mentioned institutions, I am jazzed. Let the laughter and entertainment begin.

There was laughter. And plenty were entertained. But it wasn’t me.

There is a host. For 35 “chapters” the host has been Ron Bottitta. Do the math.Rant & Rave has a once-a-month showing… they’ve been doing this for a long time. There were seven “performers,” “playwrights” and/or LA “writers.” (I still can’t entirely figure out who they are or how the chosen people were chosen). They are given a topic and a performance time limit, there is some sort of process of writing and rewriting over a week or two, and the writer reads their work to an often, if not always, sold out audience.

What went wrong? Here’s the play-by-play.

Let’s start with the host. I found Ron to be uninspired and what… tired? He phoned in his duties for the #35 food (topic de jour) chapter. He’s obviously well-respected. I can give him the benefit of the doubt and say that it was an off night. But it was an off night. There were seven performers total. I hesitate to call them performers but I’m not sure what else their title could be. Readers? Yes, folks… the performers for the evening read their pieces… their 15-ish minute pieces on the topic of food. Now, if imitation is a form of flattery Los Angelinos are very fortunate to have groups like the Moth Storytellers and the Mortified program to, let’s just say, COPY, for a brilliant storytelling night. After having the privilege to see both groups numerous times, I’m hating my time at the ‘ole Rant & Rave. The host should be one of the most talented performers in the room. The pieces should actually be performed versus read. And they should be much, much shorter. The industry standard for this type of show is about 5 minutes a performer. No one wants to listen to anyone read anything for 15 minutes. What do they say… leave them wanting more, guys. Leave them wanting more. Some of the participants were better than others. No doubt these folks had talent. Each one of them. They were simply poorly set up.

Perhaps the single strangest, even off-putting aspect of the night was the feeling that it was an insider’s event. I’m all about community and I LOVE a supportive theatre community, truly. But when an evening show open to the public is instead a club of pals… either keep the event an invite only to friends and family, or become a whole lot more inclusive. A strong majority of people in the audience knew each other, which I found endearing at first. What became irritating were the overwhelming outbursts and guffaws at, what, inside jokes made by the performer/writer? Or did the strong majority simply have a skewed notion of what was hilarious? Where laughter is usually contagious, this had the opposite effect. It was obnoxious. This should have been billed as an evening of ego boosting for members and friends of members of the Rogue Machine Theatre Company. Not so fun for a non-members or friends. Not so fun for $15 a person. The consolation prize? Rant & Rave is a fundraiser for the company. The proceeds help to produce a season of what they do much, much better… riveting, intriguing, funny, and important plays.

Rant & Rave

Rogue Machine Theatre Co./Theatre Theatre
5041 W. Pico Blvd., LA 90019

Reservations recommended (yes, they sell out):
323.930.0747 or roguemachinetheatre.com
Monday evening, once a month. Next performance 1/2013

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