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The local's Guide for events,
places to go, and things to do.
EDITOR: Andrea Kirk
Michele Hunter
Mark Share

By Sheelagh O'Connor


The Andak Stage Company produced this delightful inspiring play at the “New Place Studio Theatre” in North Hollywood. If you want to feel special some evening, go there. It is absolutely charming, comfy elegant gold velvet chairs, a bookcase in the back and armchair viewing for all.

I will try to write this review based on what I learned from our heroine last night, to let go of your will and follow your heart. The play is set in a museum in Leningrad in 1956. It is about a mother and daughter relationship, it is about an oppressive society, it is about art, love and change.

Anne Gee Bryd is compelling as Valentina Nrovka, the mother who is asked to authenticate a painting by Matisse. She wears a severe black dress and has all the elegance and grace of an aging beautiful woman, dabbing her neck with a little perfume from an elegant handkerchief. Her early life had the essence of freedom, living in Paris, going to art classes with the great artists, loving them, sleeping with them. This all changed when she had a child. She brought the child back to Russia where they lived in relative poverty and under the severe oppression of Russian society in those days. “There is no such thing as freedom” Valentina says harshly to her daughter.

Sophia Nrovka, Valentina’s love child, is played by Annie LaRussa. Sophia is married with children of her own. Her husband is a wealthy prosperous member of “The Party”. However, she wants to leave this life of prosperity to follow a gentler path with a man of no distinction or prosperity, old enough to be her father, but who loves her and wishes only for her happiness. There were four characters, mother, daughter, older man and “party” curator, all locked into roles they wanted to escape, but how?

This play is only about 80 minutes long, but sure packs in a lot about relationships, love, and listening, to others and to your own heart. We don’t know until the end if the painting is a real Matisse or not. How do we find out? Not with words, but with the memory of love in the face of our heroine. She embraces the painting and remembers. She recalls how Matisse said no one could paint the sun, yet his works were bursting with light, the sun was everywhere in them. This painting in question did not have a figure in it, the woman had been removed. It was just pure beauty and light. It was beyond the struggle for freedom and joy from oppression.

Dakin Matthews is the Producer and inspiration behind this lovely theater. We were all treated to Russian tea cakes and fresh quiche on this opening night. We were gathered together for a finale that embraced each and every one of us. We were all asked to stand up and recite one line of Shakespeare. Wow, beautiful! Children and adults all had a little Shakespeare in their hearts, bouncing out so merrily in this impromptu setting.

We came home with many gifts from the heart of this theater.

--Sheelagh O'Connor

The Bay at Nice through May 20, 2007. Performances at the New Place Theatre, 10950 Peach Grove Street in North Hollywood, CA 91601. Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm with matinees on Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30 pm. Tickets are $15 and may be purchased by calling (866) 811-4111 or on-line through or a link on

Photo by Katie Graham - Annie LaRussa, Anne Gee Byrd, and John Combs in THE BAY AT NICE.

Want to know what other Theatre Critics are saying? Check out Bitter Lemons to see if others have reviewed this production.

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