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Michelle Kholos Brooks’ 5 quickies open Friday

October 14, 2010

Photo by Louella Allen

It’s one of those writer-friendly families. Husband Max wrote The Zombie Survival Guide in 2003. His second book, World War Z, is being adapted for film (Brad Pitt announced that he will star). Both of Max’s books were on the New York Times bestseller list. Father-in-law Mel won an Oscar for screenwriting The Producers in 1968 (and he’s written a few other movies you might have heard of: Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, among others). Now, with an MFA in hand and while shopping around her first novel, Michelle Kholos Brooks has teamed up with Vox Humana for Love and Other Allergies, five short plays.

Brooks began writing 10-12 minute plays about five years ago. “I once took a playwriting class from Simon Levy [Artistic Director, Fountain Theatre] at UCLA and he gave us an assignment to eavesdrop on a conversation. We were to write pieces off these conversations, growing our own play from there. That’s where [one of the five short works] Allergy Shots came from. It was a delightful exercise, a great way to spark imagination and take someone else’s life and reconfigure it for your own amusement.”

Brooks equates a ten-minute play to a short story. “I love trying to shovel a lot of stuff into a short period of time. It’s very satisfying. Many years ago I read a book of short stories by Stephen King and I remember in the introduction he said that short stories are like a kiss in the dark because they come out of nowhere and give you this enormous pleasure and then disappear. I always kept that image with me and I feel the same way about short plays.”

Allergy Shot proved to be her most difficult piece, in part, because it was her first in the series. “It has three characters; most of mine have two. I didn’t want the audience to know whether she was crazy or not crazy, so walking that fine line was challenging for me.”

Brooks draws inspiration from her father-in-law, although her writing style is her own. “For anyone to see a play of mine with the expectation that it’s influenced by Mel Brooks’ style, they’re going to be disappointed. What I hope I get from him is the ability to be brave. He likes to tell me, ‘If you’re going to walk up to the bell, ring it.’ He’s also wonderful about saying what works and what doesn’t.”

He’s been an honest critic, she says. “He’ll tell me when something works and when it doesn’t. He gives me a lot of perspective on working with actors, too. He’s had some of the same frustrations I’ve had, though on quite a different level.”

And now she has a novel and series of short plays. “I love both. And while I’m in the throes of rejection for my novel,” she says, not quite stifling a laugh, “I’m fortunate that Vox Humana was interested in doing my plays. It’s a completely different kind of joy because novel writing is so isolating. It’s nice to collaborate with actors.

The five short plays in LOVE AND OTHER ALLERGIES are:

Cab

Directed by Steve Oreste

Cast: Avner Garbi and Lisa Glass

A high-powered business woman and a New York City cab driver argue like a married couple. In the course of their argument they discover that both of them feel that their real marriages are in jeopardy.

Bars

Directed by Robert Stephen Ryan

Cast: Kurt Boesen and Leila Arias (Friday and Saturday performances) and Steve Oreste and Leila Arias (Sunday performances)

A sassy young Puerto Rican woman and an older, Anglo, incarcerated serial killer explore a romance after meeting on-line.

Allergy Shot

Directed by Avner Garbi

Cast: Eve Sigall, Cassandra Sanchez-Navarro and Collins Reiter

An aspiring actress and an older, jaded actress meet in the waiting room of an allergist’s office. The younger actress is faced with the uncomfortable reality of the life she may face in the future.

Preschool

Directed by D. Ewing Woodruff

Cast: Katharine Phillips Moser, Jeff Blumberg and Beth Nintzel

A mother is told by her son’s preschool teachers that her son is different from the other kids. She must decide if she is going to change her child based on the ludicrous recommendations they offer to help her son fit in.

Allergic to Walnuts

Directed by Steve Oreste

Cast: Robert Stephen Ryan and Rosemary Stevens

An awkward older couple declare their love for each other and, in the course of conversation, discover that it’s their first time being loved.

LOVE AND OTHER ALLERGIES plays from October 8 – November 21, 2010 with the official press opening on Friday, October 15 at The Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., in Hollywood.  There is ample street parking. Performance schedule is Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 7:00 p.m.  There will be no performance on Sunday, October 31.   All tickets are $20.00.  Tickets are available by phone at 323-960-5772 or online at http://www.Plays411.com/allergies.  For additional information call 323-769-5794. 

Michelle Kholos Brooks’ credits: Off-Broadway production of Two Parents, Two Weddings, Two Years at the Wings Theatre (produced in 2004 by Pipedreams Entertainment Forum), which later had its West Coast premiere at the Hollywood Court Theater (presented in 2006 by the Laurelgrove Theatre Company); and See How We Are, a collection of short plays at the Hollywood Court Theater (presented in 2007 by the Laurelgrove Theater Company). Brooks is a former writer and producer for public radio programs such as Marketplace and the Savvy Traveler. She recently received her MFA in Fiction from Otis College of Art and Design and has written a novel titled, “Big Leather Jacket.”  She lives in Venice with her husband best-selling author Max Brooks and their son.

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