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WINTER WISHES at Theatre West

Photo by Garry Kluger

Photo by Garry Kluger

Steven Leigh Morris – Stage Raw

A dozen skilled performers romp through some 30 holiday-themed and mostly traditional ditties in this seasonal cabaret, thoughtfully staged by Victoria Lavan Liberty. I have to admit to a certain squeamishness at hearing Richard Berent’s “A Kids Forever” and “Wihla Hutson and Alfred Burt’s “Some Children See Him.” The former is nicely crooned by Cody Kelepolo; the latter by Amanda Boutaud, Scottie Nevil, Zoe Miner and Alyssa Rupert: These are songs in which children commit to believing in Santa, despite evidence to the contrary. Not sure that in our era of QAnon, that celebrating — almost defiantly — fact-free realities is the best lesson, but that’s probably over-thinking things. Read more…

Through December 11

THE PENELOPIAD at City Garage

Photo by Paul M. Rubenstein

Photo by Paul M. Rubenstein

Tracey Paleo – Gia On The Move

While Odysseus went off to war…
…abandoning his family and kingdom for 20 years, it is his wife Penelope who strategically saves Ithaca. But there is a cost. Penelope now sets the record straight by recounting the story we know, with other disturbing facts that have never been discussed. More…

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Out of the mists of Hades appears Penelope, Queen of Ithaca (Peggy Flood). She wants to tell us her side of the story; the story of her husband made famous by Greek poet Homer in The Odyssey. The Penelopiad, by Canadian writer Margaret Atwood who is most famous for The Handmaid’s Tale, is being given a solid production at City Garage in Santa Monica. You know it is sure to be a heavily feminist re-telling of the epic tale, with an all-female baker’s dozen cast members playing multiple roles, under the tight and often inspired direction of Frederique Michel. Read more…

Through December 18

ANNIE at the Dolby Theatre

Ellie Pulsifer and Christopher Swan. Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

Ellie Pulsifer and Christopher Swan. Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

Harker Jones – BroadwayWorld

Little Orphan Annie has been a part of our collective consciousness for going on a hundred years, first in comic-strip form then on radio then films and finally on Broadway, where the intrepid moppet really defined her place in pop culture. The show ran for six years, won seven Tony Awards (including Best Musical), spawned four film adaptations (both big- and small-screen), and gifted us with classic numbers like “Tomorrow” and “It’s the Hard Knock Life.”

It, and she, is an American icon. Read more…

Through December 18

A PATSY CLINE HOLIDAY CONCERT at Sierra Madre Playhouse

Cori Cable Kidder. Photo by Gina Long.

Cori Cable Kidder. Photo by Gina Long.

Dana Martin – Stage Raw

Cori Cable Kidder is channeling the star power of country music icon Patsy Cline at the Sierra Madre Playhouse this holiday season. A Patsy Cline Holiday Concert promises the most wholesome two hours of country music crooning this side of anywhere. Read more…

Through December 23

ALL IS TRUE, or HENRY VIII by The Porters of Hellsgate

Sean Faye and Dawn Alden. Photo by Lucia Towers.

Sean Faye and Dawn Alden. Photo by Lucia Towers.

Steven Leigh Morris – Stage Raw

Confession: In all my years of reviewing theater, this is the first production I’ve ever seen of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII originally titled All is True, co-written (somebody thinks, who knows?) with Shakespeare’s peer, John Fletcher. It’s the last history play penned or co-penned by the Bard, and it’s a bit of a mess, structurally, which is likely the reason it’s staged so rarely.

The play contrasts reckless and relentless ambition with the brand of conscience that embodies compassion. In this it echoes the same themes lodged within Macbeth, Measure for Measure, Richard III, Henry V and As You Like It. Read more…

Through December 5

MRS. DILBER’S FABULOUS BEDCURTAINS at Loft Ensemble

Mrs. Dilber's Fabulous Bedcurtains, Loft Ensemble

Tracey Paleo – Gia On The Move

Outrage sets the stage for a righteous reset according to Dilber in Arthur Jolly’s reimagined Christmas Carol classic MRS. DILBER’S FABULOUS BEDCURTAINS at Loft Ensemble. More…

Through December 16

THE BROTHERS PARANORMAL at East West Players

East West Players, Brothers Paranormal

David Huynh and Roy Vongtama, Photo by Jenny Graham.

Terry Morgan – Stage Raw

Everyone knows that a good ghost story needs to be scary, but to be a great ghost story, it needs to move its audience as well. Where would The Sixth Sense be without the Bruce Willis character slowly realizing his fate or The Haunting of Hill House be without poor, doomed Eleanor? There have to be emotional stakes for the viewers to walk out of the theater haunted. Playwright Prince Gomolvilas understands this, and his play The Brothers Paranormal is as affecting as it is spooky. The L.A. premiere of the show at East West Players is superb, and expertly delivers all the scares and surprises that the bigger budgeted and more advertised supernatural production currently at the Ahmanson, 2:22, attempts but can’t quite achieve. Read more…

Through December 11

ANATOMY OF GRAY at Open Fist Theatre Company

Jeremy Guskin, Beth Robbins and James Fowler. Photo by Frank Ishman.

Jeremy Guskin, Beth Robbins and James Fowler. Photo by Frank Ishman.

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

First produced with the title Gray’s Anatomy at New York’s Circle Rep Theatre in 1994, Jim Leonard’s family-oriented coming-of-age fable strives for the unvarnished poignancy of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town as it recounts the story of a fatherless teen in 1880s rural Indiana. Leonard’s revised version, published as Anatomy of Gray in 2006 and currently directed by Ben Martin at Open Fist Theatre Company, doesn’t hit that mark. It does, however, serve as a platform for well-crafted performances among a seasoned ensemble. Read more…

Through January 15

BROKEN STORY at The Sherry Theater

Photo courtesy of Matt Kamimura

Photo courtesy of Matt Kamimura

Harker Jones – BroadwayWorld

In the West Coast premiere of Cyndy A. Marion’s BROKEN STORY, Jess (Lindsay Danielle Gitter), a Manhattan journalist, relates her childhood obsession with a mobster’s daughter whose parents died under mysterious circumstances. Years later, that daughter, Jane Hartman (Lynn Adrianna Freedman), has moved to Los Angeles and become a successful author. When she’s found dead on Christmas Eve, Jess, still obsessed, makes her way to the City of Angels on her own dime and inserts herself into both the investigation into what is being viewed as a murder (Was it a mob hit? A crime of passion? A friend? A lover?) and into Jane’s life prior to her death, leading to revelations she could never foresee. Read more…

Through November 27

CLYDE’S at Mark Taper Forum

Photo by Craig Schwartz Photography

Photo by Craig Schwartz Photography

Terry Morgan – ArtsBeat LA

According to a survey conducted by American Theater magazine, Lynn Nottage’s Clyde’s is currently the most produced play in the U.S. It’s not surprising that Nottage’s work is being done; she’s received the Pulitzer Prize twice during her illustrious career. But it’s a little disappointing that this show seems to be her most popular. I think she’s a talented playwright and have enjoyed several of her other creations, but I found this play to be meretricious and phony – I didn’t believe a minute of it. The new production of Clyde’s at the Taper is professionally done and features a capable cast, but the play itself feels more like a safe CBS TV sitcom than anything resembling reality. Read more…

Katie Buenneke – Stage Raw

A word to the wise: eat, preferably a sandwich, before seeing Clyde’s at the Mark Taper Forum. After the show ends, you’ll be hungry, not just for food like Montrellous (Kevin Kenerly), the executive chef of the titular diner, describes, but for an artistic experience that’s more substantial than what you you’ve just seen onstage. Read more…

Margaret Gray – Los Angeles Times

“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” advises a favorite proverb of tough-love advocates. And in a universe with free will and infinite possibilities, it’s probably sound advice. Don’t sit around grousing about your situation; find one you like better.

But what if there’s nowhere else to go? What if that inferno of a kitchen is your whole world? Read more…

Tracey Paleo – BroadwayWorld

“Sometimes a hero is more than just a sandwich.”

Quite possibly, a perfect production. Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage’s Tony Award-nominated CLYDE’S at the Mark Taper Forum is heartfelt, funny, and seriously delicious.

From writing to performances, direction to delivery, costuming, scenic, sound, and lighting design, opening night saw 100% on the Richter scale of live theater. Read more…

Through December 18

Confrontations with classics: THE INHERITANCE and PENELOPIAD

Adam Kantor, Bill Brochtrup, August Gray Gall and Juan Castano in The Inheritance Part 1. Photo by Jeff Lorch

Adam Kantor, Bill Brochtrup, August Gray Gall and Juan Castano in The Inheritance Part 1. Photo by Jeff Lorch

Don Shirley – Angeles Stage

Also: ’2:22,’ ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ ‘Rent,’ ‘Eisenhower’

When a narrative work of art attains “classic” stature, it often settles comfortably into collegiate required-reading lists — but loses its share of the current limelight.

So if E.M. Forster or Homer were alive today and sampling theater on the west side of Los Angeles County, would they be delighted that their creations are again being mentioned outside the classroom?Or would they be disturbed that their works are reference materials for playwrights with distinctively 21st-century perspectives — and that these writers are adapting the originals to reflect previously unrepresented points of view?

I’m talking about the West Coast premiere of Matthew López’s “The Inheritance” at Geffen Playhouse in Westwood and the professional LA premiere of Margaret Atwood’s “The Penelopiad” at City Garage in Santa Monica. Read more…

STARDUST: AN IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE at Sassafras Saloon

Connor J O’Brien. Photo by Payton Jayne.

Dana Martin – Stage Raw

Have you ever wanted to be a star or would you rather remain a mere mortal? Stardust: An Immersive Theater Experience produced by Alterea Inc. at the Sassafras Saloon in Hollywood offers you the chance to experience both. Read more…

Through November 20