Reviews

for REDHEAD CUBAN HAUSFRAU HUSBAND The Musical, written & directed by Fletcher Rhoden, music & lyrics by Fletcher Rhoden

From EsterBoldberg's Views From A Blog

Another fabulous night of theater in Los Angeles!

From Rich Borowy's Theater Blog

by Rich Borowy The world premier of Fletcher Rhoden's REDHEAD CUBAN HAUSFRAU HUSBAND, a saga that takes a backstage look at television's first comedy couple and the sitcom that made them famous.

Joan Elizabeth Kennedy is the Redhead, Derek Rubiano is the Cuban, and Jodi Skeris and Michael-Anthony Nozzi are the Hausfrau and the Husband. When the concept of television was in its salad days, one of the most popular sitcoms of that era featured a wacky housewife married to a Cuban bandleader, while her neighbors played a supporting role; the wife was the redhead's "partner in crime", and the husband was just a friendly ally.

Off stage and off camera, these four were a different bunch. They bickered with one another, sometimes each one would upstage the next, and the Redhead nearly got in hot water with the Commie crashers (lead by none other than J. Edgar himself) because of some minor and rather innocent act she did some twenty years before. In spite of all of these antics, each player did their part providing millions with plenty of laughs that still exist to this very day!

If the above premise sounds an awful like a well known comedian, another well known Latin bandleader, while the supporting cast appears to be a pair of character performers of the 1950's, let's do a little 'splainin' around here! Sure, this storyline uses facts that peppered up with enough creative license, but playwright Fletcher Rhoden didn't (or couldn't) obtain a license to use the actual names of this foursome! That's OK though!

What makes up for a collection of nameless characters is the musical score composed by the same writer! (Guess what? He also directs this show, too--as well as operating the lighting and sound!) The songs hold a lot of wit and inspiration. Some of the score is based on a classic vaudeville type rendition, while the other tunes in the repertory showcases the rich details of an on-again off-again relationship that made this couple what they became to be, while their business side added to their conflict. Michael-Anthony Nozzi adds the choreography (assisted by Derek Rubiano) to this production that works well for the intimate stage this cast has to deal with.

This reviewer will add one element to this production that seems very fitting. Unlike traditional 99 seat-type theaters that exist around the Los Angeles area, this stage piece is performed within the lower level of Mt. Hollywood Congregational Church. The building itself dates back to 1915 making this structure historical to its neighborhood. So when one arrives, one may witness a setup consisting of an assortment of plastic lawn chairs (with a few royal blue Knoll office chairs placed within the first row), nestled semi-circle in front of a small narrow stage. Even though one is not attending a stage show in a palace, that is not the reason why one even patronizes a live show! (Who really goes to the theatre just for the theater itself?) But one will definitely become entertained with what takes place on the stage, rather than for the stage!

REDHEAD CUBAN HAUSFRAU HUSBAND is a tribute to the people behind all of the laughter that's been going on for over a half century! Sometimes the Redhead, et. al, may not have been laughing, but that is why everyone loves 'em! Or as the Redhear would exclaim, "Weeeeellll......."

 

For LAST TANGO WITH MARLON, a novella by Fletcher Rhoden (Trafford, 2008)


5.0 out of 5 stars A unique and entertaining story, well worth the read, December 6, 2008
By Midwest Book Review

What conversations does one of the most legendary Hollywood stars have with his best friend? "Last Tango with Marlon" is a novella version of Fletcher Rhoden's critically acclaimed two-act play following the relationship of an over-the-hill Marlon Brando and his best friend Wally Cox. A unique and entertaining story, "Last Trango with Marlon" is well worth the read.

Review from BookPleasures.com

by Gary Dale Cearley

Bravissimo! I swear this was one enjoyable read!
Fletcher Rhoden’s Last Tango with Marlon was entertaining and enlightening. When I read this book I not only felt that Fletcher knew these two men but that he knew them well.
The book opens with Marlon on the telephone trying to make arrangements to star in a film about the Dee Brown classic Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee. It is at this point where he first evokes the ghost of his childhood friend, fellow actor, Wally Cox.
The entire novella is a dialogue between Wally Cox and Marlon Brando about their highs and lows, their triumphs and defeats. I can certainly tell that the background research on both men was lengthy and thorough. The dialogue throughout is exceptionally believable. I didn’t know much about Wally Cox before but after reading the book I found some clips of him on YouTube and could see that character in Rhoden’s Last Tango with Marlon was indeed a true to life portrayal. Wally Cox was just as I imagined him to be.
And the character for Marlon Brando was very telling as well. With Wally he wore his short comings on his sleeve and Wally obliged the same. We learn at least what we imagine to be their deepest secrets and was also learned of their long standing regard for one another. And though Wally is just a ghost, like in the Dickens tale, he leaves Marlon Brando with the message that as bad as Brando may have mucked up his life, especially with his children, he can still change. The ball is in his court….
How true!
This short book is amazingly well written and henceforth I will read anything of Fletcher Rhoden’s that I get a chance to.

for LAST TANGO WITH MARLON, a play in two acts (Fletcher Rhoden.com, 2008)

Review from What's Up magazine

by Willard Manus, Aug. 2008

Marlon Brando and Wally Cox were boyhood friends back in Evanston, Illinois. They remained close for the rest of their lives, most of which were spent in Hollywood, where Brando became rich and famous for his film work, Cox somewhat less so for his TV accomplishments (Mr. Peepers, Hollywood Squares). Their intense and revealing relationship was the subject of a recent stage play, Last Tango With Marlon, which was done in L.A. in this year. Written and directed by Fletcher Rhoden with Frank Cavestani starring as Brando, Raf Mauro as Cox, the hour-long drama is set in 1974. Brando's flagging career has been revitalized by his startling performances in The Godfather and Last Tango In Paris, but these triumphs haven't served to slay the actor's personal demons. Deeply unhappy, drinking to excess, on the verge of a nervbous breakdown, Brando summons up the ghost of his recently deceased friend Cox, who then proceeds to try and save Brando from self-destructing. Alternately lecturing, then babying Brando, Cox begins to bring his friend around. They share memories of their unhappy childhoods (parental abuse and disapproval), their struggles in show business. Soon the two of them are joking and clowning around, performing favorite song and dance routines, investigating the highs and lows of their personal lives. Mauro and Cavestani are a marvelous team; each brings his character to life with flair and fire, capturing the many sides of Brando and Cox with impressive skill. Working together effortlessly, like an old vaudeville team, they make Last Tango With Marlon a theatrical dance to remember.

Review from The Tolucan Times:

Last Tango With Marlon Explores the Friendship Between Brando and Cox
By Beth Temkin on February 06, 2008

Fletcher Rhoden has written a fascinating play about the unlikely friendship between Wally Cox and Marlon Brando, and it’s fast-moving and full of interesting tidbits.
Veteran actors Frank Cavestani as Marlon, and Raf Mauro as Wally, resemble only slightly their famous counterparts, but they make it work. There’s Frank as a heavy Marlon, complete with his familiar high-pitched and halting delivery, and then there’s Raf, as the short, bespectacled Wally, who is intensely comedic. Marlon, aware of his being fat, and distanced from Tahiti, his children, and good roles, is not in the best frame of mind, but is happier when Wally comes back from the dead after one year. The play opens with Marlon talking to Wally’s ashes.
Rhoden’s meticulous research gives the audience insight into their relationship. They knew each other from childhood on, both of their mothers were drunks, and Marlon’s father was cruel and abusive. Beyond the family connection, they were connected both intellectually and emotionally. During the 1 1/2 hour play, they match wits and act out a few scenes from Marlon’s movies, such as Viva Zapata, taking on different accents for whomever they’re portraying, and The Last Tango in Paris, where Marlon felt uncomfortably exposed. In fact, Marlon wanted to be a comedian like Wally, who shined in the TV classic game show, Hollywood Squares.
In one scene, Marlon plays the ukulele adeptly, and sings with Wally the Irving Berlin song, Mr. Jazz Himself, and later, St. James Infirmary.
In addition to directing, [Rhoden] handled the sound effects like a pro.

Review from UpCurtain.com, Feb. 4, 2008.

Though not obscure, Wally Cox is certainly less well remembered than his childhood friend and perennial buddy, Marlon Brando. In Fletcher Rhoden's new play, set in Brando's study in 1974, Cox returns from the grave to visit his aging friend who, with a gun on his desk, may be contemplating suicide.

The two recall professional ups and downs, neglected children and abusive parents. Rhoden makes the case that childhood traumas are responsible for everything else. The first act climaxes with Brando asking Cox if he committed suicide.

The dialogue is leavened with duets, fake football games and the kind of horseplay they indulged in as kids. They deny tabloid rumors of homosexuality.

Frank Cavestani has the difficult task of representing the well-known Brando. Though he has the look, the bloated handsomeness and the mannerisms, he's still growing into the part. We're looking for the gravitas and mischievousness that Brando retained even into his final interview on the Larry King show.

The play is brightened by the deliciously funny Raf Mauro as Cox, who, with exquisite comic timing, makes us understand why Brando hated to see him go.

Performed on a nearly bare stage, this ghost play's eeriest moment comes at the end when Brando is alone, a knock comes at the door and a voice says, "Dad, it's Christian." The actor's son Christian Brando died last week and it's too bad he couldn't get to see his father's pain expressed here one last time.

from Joseph Mailander, Mayorsam.blogspot.com:

A funny and touching play is playing in the amiable church basement at Prospect and Rodney known as the Mt. Hollywood Theater: Last Tango with Marlon. Written by Fletcher Rhoden, who knew more than a few of those Hollywood Squares as a kid, and draws from some of that too. Raf Mauro as the ghost of Wally Cox is a constant delight. Notable aside at wikipedia: "Cox and Brando remained very close friends for the rest of Cox's life, and Brando is reported to have kept Cox's ashes in his bedroom and conversed with them nightly." Bet you didn't recall that Wally Cox and Marlon Brando were childhood friends, and maintained the friendship all the way up until Cox's death in the early 1970's. Brando's ashes were ultimately scattered with Cox's.

 

for THE TRIAL OF DAVY CROCKETT a fact-based novella (Trafford, 2001)

Review from The Midwest Book Review, November 11, 2001.
The Trial Of Davy Crockett is a speculative fiction novella. Author Fletcher Rhoden questions whether Davy Crockett was truly killed during the battle for the Alamo -- or whether he was captured and executed by the Mexicans. The Trial Of Davy Crockett presents a hypothetical dialogue between Crockett and Generalissimo Antonio López de Santa Anna, which collide in an articulate, wry, thought-provoking, and no-holds-barred verbal conflict regarding the Texian Revolution and America's unrestrained expansionism. Neither Crockett or Santa Anna is stereotyped in the roles of hero or villain; their opposing points of view are given a clear and fair hearing, for all to see and judge for themselves. Based entirely on the facts of the revolution, The Trial Of Davy Crockett is a "must" for Texas history buffs and not to be missed.

Review from The Midwest Book Review's library newsletter, The Bookwatch, October 2001.
One of the obscure facts about the famous stand at the Alamo during the Texas war for liberation from Mexico is that Davy Crockett and a handful of others were captured alive by Santa Anna' forces when the mission-turned-fort fell. He and the others were summarily executed soon afterwards. Fletcher Rhoden has carefully crafted a novella that is based on the facts of the Texas revolution that gives fair and equal expression to both sides of the conflict and is thoughtful yet riveting reading from first page to last.

The Trial of Davy Crockett: A Fascinating Meeting of Minds, January 27, 2002
By 
Adrienne Armstrong (Fallbrook, CA USA)

I read "The Trial of Davy Crockett" by Fletcher Rhoden last week. From the moment I picked it up I couldn't put it down, and now that I've finished reading it I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. It's an extremely well-written and carefully-crafted piece, and the author obviously took great pains with his research. I'm interested in Texas history, but I'm certainly not an aficionado of the genre. What really fascinated me was the humanistic approach that Rhoden took with the meeting of these two larger-than-life historical characters, Davy Crockett and Generalissimo Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, at the battle for the Alamo. It somehow combined the fanciful, what-if philosophy of "The Last Temptation of Christ" with the delicious possibilities presented in the best episodes of "Meeting of Minds or Steve Martin's wonderful play, "Picasso at the Lapin Agile". I recommend this book to anyone interested in American history, but more importantly, to anyone who enjoys a chance to listen in on what might have transpired between great men with great thoughts had they had the opportunity to really get into each other's heads.

Thought provoking view of Latino History, December 22, 2001
By "dgncc1701" (New York)

The Trial of Davy Crockett offers more than simply a must for Texas history buffs. In this novella, based in fact, author Fletcher Rhoden examines a dynamic character in Santa Anna and in so doing allows the reader a compelling account of Mexican history at a time when that country was shrinking under American expansionism. A subject all too often ignored by many American historians. The character of Davy Crockett does not wane in the shadow of Santa Anna. Written in a style so unique and intelligent, the reader cannot help but to keep turning the page. Santa Anna has become a sort of ogre in American eyes because of the slaughter at the Alamo and the brutality of the massacre at Goliad. The author's presentation of this dynamic historical period through the eyes of Santa Anna, definitely gives the reader a thought-provoking view of Latino History.

for THE CHRISTOPHER WALKEN ECSTATIC DANCE ACADEMY a dv short subject (Mighty One Prod. 2000)

L. A. Free For All by Gregory Weinkauf, Los Angeles New Times, March 8-14, 2001 "Best in show...The Christopher Walken Ecstatic Dance Academy... easily match[es] the best output of Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels... A brief but intense encounter between a seemingly awkward fellow (Robbie Rist, an old friend of the director's whom many may remember as 'Cousin Oliver' from The Brady Bunch), his groovy girlfriend (Christy McBrayer), and the acting god, the movie features Quinton Flynn in the title role, sporting tics and mannerisms as thick as his prosthetic makeup. It's hilarious... and we're treated to [Rhoden's] immensely hummable tune, Can't Stop Talkin' Like Christopher Walken."

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