Tag Archives: Hollywood Fringe Festival

From the Stage to Screen, Actress Gaia Passaler Dazzles Audiences

Gaia Passaler
Actress Gaia Passaler

Hailing from Milan, Italy, actress Gaia Passaler has proven her unique gift for embodying strong and dynamic female characters on both the stage and screen through a plethora of highly watched productions. From her riveting performances in plays such as “MARILYN!” and “Inversion” to the award-winning Bashford brother’s films “2 Minutes to Live,” “Unspoken” and “Memoirs,” Passaler has left an indelible mark in the minds of viewers.

When asked about what drives her to perform, Passaler explained, “[It’s] the unique feeling of happiness, liberation and power that being on stage or in front of the camera gives me. And the feeling I had the first time I saw in a friend’s eyes that he had been somehow touched by what I had done on stage. Experiencing what it means to be human by putting myself into someone else’s shoes is an act of sublime compassion, that to me is the true meaning of existence.”

Earlier this year Passaler gave a dazzling performance in the modern play “Inversion,” which premiered at the Sacred Fools Theatre Company in June as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Performing to sold-out audiences each night, Passaler took to the stage in the starring role of Natalia, a beautiful and confident Russian girl, and the love interest of the main protagonist Adam, who is played by Aditya Putcha.  

Written and directed by Aditya Putcha, “Inversion” centers on Adam, an awkward mathematician who can’t seem to find the love he so desperately desires. With advice from his friend Brendan, played by Adam Daniel (“Inside Room 334,” “Murder Book,” “Betrayed”), the kind of guy who is always surrounded by women, Adam decides to lower his standards and take a chance on dating Rhonda, played by Shayna Spielman (“GodComplx”) an older woman with low self-esteem. But when Adam encounters Passaler’s character Natalia, Rhonda’s roommate, he becomes hopelessly enthralled by her, which causes understandable turmoil between the two women.

Gaia Passaler
Cast and crew of the play “Inversion” (left to right) Shayna Spielman, Gaia Passaler, Aditya Putcha, and Lena Zhani, director and producer Elise Hodge (front center), Adam Daniel (front right)

“I think [Natalia] expresses a very common kind of frustration in the difficult world of modern dating. That’s definitely my favorite part of the play,” explains Passaler. “I brought in all my negative dating experiences, they became alive again in my memory for a moment every time I was on stage fighting with Rhonda and gave me that anger and the stakes necessary that made the scene come alive, together with the desire to shake my friend from her lethargy and the desire to defend myself from the accusations.”

While Passaler has proven her inimitable talent on stage through a wide range of productions, her skill on screen has been equally as important to her overall success as an actress. Last year Passaler played a critical role in Jinh Yi Shao’s (“Lee’s Market,” “Intervention”) film “Toenail” where she acts alongside Kevin Ashworth from the Golden Globe Award nominated series “Scandal” and Dante Swain, who is known for his roles on the series “NCIS” and the two-time Golden Globe nominated series “Silicon Valley.” The film, which took home the Third Place Award from the HBO Visionaries Competition and is currently available through HBO GO and HBO NOW, gave Passaler the opportunity to prove her dramatic skill on screen where her magnetic presence came across with ease.

The actress admits, “I love characters with a lot of contradictions because they are the most interesting and the most challenging ones. And I love great, epic stories. Picking one role over another will always be based to me on how much of a complex journey the character had in the past and is going to have in the story, and how much of the human condition I am able to portray to the audience through that role.”

With an impressive repertoire of work already under her belt, it’s not at all surprising that actress Gaia Passaler has been tapped to star in several upcoming film and television productions. Up next for Passaler is the film “Cocktails & Brothers,” award-winning director Catherine C. Pirotta’s (“Dreamkiller”) thriller film “The Mystery of Casa Matusita” with Golden Globe Award nominee Malcolm McDowell (“Fantasy Island”), as well as the series “Emergency L.A.” and “Mysteries of the Unexplained.”

“Laughing Wild” Theatre Review

Constantin Wenzel (left) and Samantha D'Alessio (right) on the flyer for "Laughing Wild"
Constantin Wenzel (left) and Samantha D’Alessio (right) on the flyer for “Laughing Wild”

 

Actors Constantin Wenzel and Samantha D’Alessio took the stage by storm last month in the production of Christopher Durang’s hilarious and relevant dark comedy “Laughing Wild” at the Let Live Theatre in Los Angeles.

The two-person show had an incredibly successful with four showings taking place in June as a part of the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival.

“Laughing Wild” director Kymberly Harris says, “The play is absurd and experimental and wacky as all get out, so I think it’s a very fun piece to have in a one-hour high energy dose at the Fringe! We are honored to be part of such an iconic and free spirited theatre festival.”

Both Wenzel and D’Alessio give knock out performances that will leave you laughing, quite possibly to the point of tears. The characters that these two bring to life, no matter how extreme they are, offer up a mirror of the neurotic thought processes we have all experienced at one point or another.

Harris explains, “The message of the play is that we effect each other, and in ways that are deeper than even we are consciously aware of sometimes. It is easy to judge someone’s exterior or to “judge a book by its cover”, without stopping to think about why people behave and respond the way they do.”

From Constanin’s character who attempts to draw conclusions regarding why other people do the things they do, to Samantha’s character, who desperately wishes to find a connection with others but whose extreme emotion-driven actions lead her to be viewed as crazy, we see how two completely opposite people suffer from a similar ailment: a disconnect in their relationships with, and understanding of, other people.

The play opens with a 15 to 20 minute monologue given by Constantin whose character wishes to share how a personality workshop on positive thinking has transformed his life; but through a forced smile and starch-stiff posture his palpable anxiety concerning the unpredictable nature of life tells a very different story.

As he lists depressing events like Chernobyl, national mass murder, and other occurrences that he feels make it impossible to stay positive, he quickly becomes engulfed in trying to make sense of a traumatic experience that took place in the grocery store earlier that day when an impatient woman knocked him over the head with her fist in order to get to a can of tuna fish.

Constantin’s character repeatedly tries to establish a positive mindset and become a “glass half full” kind of guy through deep sweeping breaths and affirmations, however upon the utterance of one affirmation he falls prey to a Freudian slip proclaiming: “this glass is not half full, it’s half empty!”

Correcting his mistake apologetically he soon fades off stage with the breadth of his dilemma unresolved, and Samantha D’Alessio moves into the spotlight.

An emotionally unstable woman, Samantha’s character engulfs our attention in a tangent ridden recounting of the events of her day, which come to reveal her as the woman from the store.

While her perspective on the grocery store debacle fails to make hitting a man out of the blue in order to get to the tuna seem any less crazy, her monologue helps us to understand that her drastic responses are just a side effect of a lack of connection with others and a life lived perpetually misunderstood.

With each being a player in the other’s dream, the two characters reconvene on stage reenacting the scenario from the store in a multitude of ways in an attempt to reconcile how the chain of events could have unfolded differently.

“I think the play speaks to the importance of empathy in today’s world, and that is what my concept for the play is- to create troubled characters who reject each other and slowly discover through compassion and truth that they actually need each other to become fully self realized,” explains Harris.

In the end, we see through these two characters that regardless of how messed up their thought processes are or however hysterical their actions, they can each find peace within themselves by allowing the space for understanding towards the other.

“Sam and Constantin had to be completely different types and energies for the play to work, in this case, she is kind of wild and untamed, and he is seemingly anxiety ridden and conservative, so when they come together there’s a lot of room to travel from dissonance to understanding. They have both entered into the worlds of their characters deeply so they can take this journey every night on stage.”

In addition to starring in “Laughing Wild,” Constantin, who is originally from Germany, has starred in the theatrical productions of “Vieux Carre,” “Sweet Charity” and “Motherfucker with the Hat,” as well as the films Think Like a Shrink, Johnny, Brooklyn Bridge, Luke and Ellis, and Electric Pink.

Samantha, who is originally from Canada, is known for her roles in the films Chess Club, The Broadcast, Lights Out, Teenage Counseling, and Sick Twisted Legend, as well as the stage production of “Roger World.”

These two diversely talented actors gave captivating performances that are sure to be talked about for years to come.