Review: ‘BECAUSE IT’S SUNNY IN L.A (Especially on Skid Row)’

‘BECAUSE IT’S SUNNY IN L.A. (Especially on Skid Row)’– Directed by Karesa McElheny, written and by Thadeuss Nagey as well as composed by Nagey and Tim Poulin– debuted on June 3, 2023 at The Hudson Backstage Theater.

The story structure of ‘BECAUSE IT’S SUNNY IN L.A. (Especially on Skid Row)’ is part drama, comedy and musical that shows the lives of several different individuals living on Skid Row, Los Angeles and how they harmoniously help each other out by connecting on a level that those of us who don’t live in severe poverty can see. The building movements in each scene tells a different story of degradation as each character narrates their story as how exactly they got there by dialogue, monologues, sometimes by breaking the fourth wall. 

The brilliance of the writing allowed each and every character to stand front and center, figuratively and literally without it being too redundant. The connection that each and every character had with the audience allowed us to live vicariously through the eyes of the cast which was shown in each applause, laugh or tear from the patrons. We wanted to know these characters. 

Alikhan Lochin “Abbott”.  (Photo by Mégan Babbitt) 

An obvious attraction to the humility and humbleness fact that the overall play was conjoined was with a modest set. The tenting and cardboard signs played a direct homage to the realistic factors that Skid Row is endowed with today and has been for years. A long term moment stuck in time. 

The cast and musicians consisted of: Veve Melendrez* as “Vanessa,” Betzi Marroquin as “Mother, ”Thaddeus Nagey* as “James” , Alikhan Lochin as “Abbott”, “Iron Donato” as “Darryl” and emelle as “Carmen” are the talented actors, singers and dancers that made the stage glow and ones to look out for. Live drums and percussion was performed by Ray Lewis and Ase Ashe, “Dancers & Drummers from the Heart.”

The avant garde and bohemian instrumentation of acting and music worked well with the plot–you can’t dim down a spirit no matter the circumstance. From the dancing, singing, rapping and usage of the stage allowed a tapestry to what the human spirit is capable of even in times of sorrow or joy.

I do have to criticize that there were times in the play where certain actor’s conversational lines were a little long and drawn out but still managed to keep the audience’s attention. The character development was superb as well with each member of the cast never losing their footing and remained believable; a great help in this instance.  

(L-R):  Iron Donato-“Darryl” (Photo by Mégan Babbitt)

The reality of how Skid Row is such a monumental flaw in Los Angeles, and how it has impacted different demographics of Los Angelenos, makes it so scary. From gay, straight, Black, white, young or old, the governmental system is so–what some may feel–hopelessly flawed, allowing the community to understand the mortality that they have financially in California and across the United States. Immigrants face that same harsh reality when the decision has been forced for them to flee and sometimes end up on the streets due to the US government having minor if any priority for their well-being. Veterans are displaced after serving for a country that they might have died for overseas and are now dying on their own land. 

Thaddeus Nagey* as “James” (Photo by Mégan Babbitt)

Yes, the play was written beautifully, the acting engaging which means the direction was on point. But looking back to what was the highest honor that each and everyone that was involved in the making of ‘BECAUSE IT’S SUNNY IN L.A. (Especially on Skid Row),’ is the ability to pass on the important message that this is an ongoing epidemic in Los Angeles and needs to be addressed further. I believe that the audiences that have been attracted to such a play have gone and will continue to go because it hits each and every patron close to home. 

(Front L-R): Front and center is Veve Melendrez* as “Vanessa,” 
Thaddeus Nagey* as “James.”  (Rear L-R):  Ray Lewis on percussion, emelle* (no last name) as “Carmen”   (Photo by Christopher Jay) 

From a critics point of view, ‘BECAUSE IT’S SUNNY IN L.A. (Especially on Skid Row)’ is not only enjoyable to watch but a necessary one as it brings a light onto a rather dark subject. I really hope they decide to extend the running date which concluded on June 24, 2023. 

Awareness is important. Knowledge is key. There is beauty in the cracks and ‘BECAUSE IT’S SUNNY IN L.A. (Especially on Skid Row)’ showed us just that. Bravo.

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