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Archive for February 2014 – Page 2

FIREMEN at Atwater Village Theatre


Photo by Jeff Galfer Photography

Bob Verini -   ArtsInLA

The Echo Theater Company has gone to some lengths to sidestep, in its pre-opening publicity, the subject matter of Tommy Smith’s remarkable new play titled Firemen. The world premiere drama is described as “a different kind of love story” that “explores an unthinkable love relationship,” though what proves unthinkable is discussing the work without giving away what’s at its heart: namely, the extended sexual intimacy between a 14-year-old middle schooler and his school’s main-office secretary.    Read more…

Margaret Gray – LA Times

Pyromaniacs, at ease: No firefighters actually appear in Tommy Smith’s new play “Firemen,” in a world premiere by the formerly nomadic Echo Theater Company in its new home, Atwater Village Theatre. There are a few references to an offstage character said to be a fireman, but otherwise the flames in this black comedy are all metaphorical. Read more…

Deborah Klugman – ArtsBeatLA

Firemen is one of those intense discomfiting plays that can have you squirming in your seat, wishing you’d opted to see something less painfully and graphically real. It’s also, despite the spot-on dialogue, drawn out: the individual scenes could be briefer and the story could be told more concisely.  Read more..

Hoyt Hilsman  -  The Huffington Post

Beginning with the trial and conviction of schoolteacher Mary Kay Letourneau for having an affair with an underage student, the national media have taken a predictably salacious view of affairs between female teachers and male students. But in his world premiere play, Firemen at the Echo Theater in Los Angeles, playwright Tommy Smith paints a more nuanced and penetrating portrait of the tragic dynamics of this illicit and illegal liaison. Read more…

Now running through March 16.

NOCTURNE at The Other Space


Photo by Ute Ville

Neal Weaver  – ArtsInLA

Adam Rapp’s haunting solo-drama startles with its very first line: “Fifteen years ago I killed my sister.” Then the narrator, who is identified only as The Son (Belgian actor George Regout), goes on to reveal the circumstances of the death. When he was 19, he was driving home on a dark night and suddenly saw the figure of his little sister looming up before him. He tried frantically to stop, but his brake-line was broken. The car hit his sister and decapitated her. Read more…

David C. Nichols – LA Times

“Fifteen years ago I killed my sister.” That stark, matter-of-fact statement launches “Nocturne,” and its embedded significance is inexorable and intense.

Adam Rapp’s hypnotic, intricately written elegy for the fallout from an unimaginable family tragedy receives a resolute production, in which noted Belgian actor George Regout makes an impressive North American stage debut as a 32-year-old former piano prodigy struggling to transcend the event that decimated his family and upended his life.
Read more…

Now running through March 9.

AN IDEAL HUSBAND at the Sierra Madre Playhouse


Photo by Geoffrey Wade

Deborah Klugman – ArtsBeatLA

Oscar Wilde is famous for his sparkling wit, but there’s not much spark to this humdrum production of An Ideal Husband, Wilde’s moral-minded comedy about a prominent public figure facing a choice between sacrificing his principles or destroying his career. Read more…

Now running through February 23.



Photo by Craig Schwartz

Bob Verini -   ArtsInLA

So you’re a distinguished playwright in your early 60s: a very Chekhovian age; an age when the mind drifts toward dreams once grasped, then compromised, then lost, and fixates on memories of simpler, happier times. You look around your Bucks County farmhouse and think, “Gosh, this looks a lot like one of those summer homes to which Chekhov’s characters retire to brood and despair and make one last lunge toward life.” There are even a few cherry trees—why, almost an orchard!—out back. And you say to yourself, “What if some modern Chekhovian characters lived here?   Read more…

Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter

With its Tony Award for Best Play, Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike presents the strongest comedy Broadway has to offer in a distinguished, sleekly professional production that makes the most of his frolicsome mash-up of melancholy and regret. A crazy-like-a-fox quilt of character and plot strands from The Sea Gull, The Three Sisters, The Cherry Orchard and Uncle Vanya set in today’s Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where the playwright lives, the story unfolds over an action-packed 24 hours that punctuates the otherwise uninterrupted monotony of the lives of siblings Vanya (Mark Blum) and Sonia (Kristine Nielsen) when their movie star sister Masha (Christine Ebersole) arrives for a visit with her boy-toy, hunky aspiring actor Spike (David Hull).    Read more…

Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

Despite the title, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is not a revival of a lost Anton Chekhov play, but a refashioning of Chekhovian themes in a modern setting. Acclaimed parodist Christopher Durang has written a hysterical comedy of family most foul that has been seamlessly transferred to the Mark Taper Forum, with apt direction by David Hyde Pierce, who played Vanya in the Broadway production. Read more…

Terry Morgan  -  Talkin’ Broadway

I’ve found that at least once a year there is a show that is loved and lauded by public and critics alike, a play that garners awards and big box office, and yet bafflingly leaves me completely cold. This year, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is that show. I was looking forward to seeing it; I like Christopher Durang and Anton Chekhov. I wasn’t in a bad mood and I held no grudge against the theatre company. Read more…

Les Spindle –  Frontiers L.A.

In its West Coast premiere, Center Theatre Group’s uproariously funny and surprisingly heartrending production of Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike offers endless delights. With character names, themes, plot elements and seamless shifts between humor and heartbreak that all evoke the masterworks of the great Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, Vanya feels like an affectionate tribute to the legendary scribe’s oeuvre, infused with up-to-the-minute satirical relevance. Read more…

Don Shirley – LA Observed

If you’re aware that it won the Tony Award for best play last year, you might assume that it was, well, the best new play — at least among the shallow pool of new plays that appear on Broadway. Also, many theatergoers – include me in this group – might look forward to Durang’s latest because of fond memories of some of his earlier work and the plays of Chekhov, which Durang is gently spoofing here.  Read more…

Pauline Adamek  – ArtsBeatLA

Learning that Christopher Durang’s comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike—now playing at the Mark Taper Forum until March 16—won the 2013 Tony Award and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play fills me with some degree of sadness. Read more…

Now running through March 16.

A CAT NAMED MERCY at Casa 0101


Photo by Ed Krieger

Margaret Gray – LA Times

“A Cat Named Mercy,” a new play by Josefina López (“Real Women Have Curves”) premiering at Casa 0101 Theater, is full of reformist passion but feels underbaked. Perhaps it was rushed into production to capitalize on the Obamacare controversy. A cautionary tale about U.S. health insurance, “Cat” has the fervor and subtlety of an Affordable Care Act public service message. Read more…

Now running through February 23.

ABOVE THE FOLD at the Pasadena Playhouse

photo by Jim Cox

photo by Jim Cox

Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

The model for Bernard Weinraub’s play Above the Fold, premiering at the Pasadena Playhouse, is Tom Wolfe’s Pulitzer Prize winner Bonfire of the Vanities. Though parallels can be seen between both works, the indictment of politicians, the press, and Caucasian and African-American leaders for instigating and celebritizing the racial divide, Weinraub’s work also maintains a ripped-from-the-headlines feel. Read more…

Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter

Once upon a time journalism, at least as depicted on stage and film, looked like fun: crusading underpaid reporters uncovered dark secrets while wisecracking one another in fierce, playful competition. The 24-hour news cycle has leached much of the joy, and romance, from the profession, replacing it with celebrity, vanity and rhetorical cat-calling. Read more…

Pauline Adamek  – ArtsBeatLA

A toothless drama, Bernard Weinraub’s Above the Fold takes an inflammatory crime ‘ripped-from-the-headlines’ (based on the 2006 Duke University Lacrosse team rape case) and fails to convert it into compelling theater. Ambitious newspaper reporter Jane (Taraji  P. Henson) flies from New York to a Southern university where three white fraternity boys have been accused of raping a young African-American woman.  Read more…

Now running through February 23.

OLD BLACK MAGIC: A HAUNTED MUSICAL at the Long Beach Playhouse Studio Theatre


obShirle Gottlieb – Gazette Newspapers

The Olio Theatre Works is back with a new version of its all-time favorite production — one that OTW first produced 10 years ago.

By adding music and lyrics to “Old Black Magic,” Terra Taylor-Knudson and Lauren Nave have turned their Voodoo comedy into a high-spirited “Haunted Musical.” (Get it? The double meaning of “spirit” is intended.) On stage this at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday, “Old Black Magic” is part of the Collaborative Series in the Long Beach Playhouse Studio Theatre.  Read more…

Now running through February 9.

THE DEAD at Greenway Court Theatre

Photo by Eric Neil Guttierez

Photo by Eric Neil Guttierez

Bob Verini -   ArtsInLA

For this chamber musical, Shaun Davey and Richard Nelson have crafted Irish faux folk tunes that rely more on vocal brio than beauty. And let’s face it, the characters’ increasing insobriety lowers the bar on singing quality as the play’s Christmastime celebration progresses. But the adaptation of James Joyce’s brilliant, deep novella—possibly the best of its kind in the English language—is a bitch to stage, with its tonal shifts, huge cast, multiple settings, and thematic ambiguities.    Read more…

Now running through February 22.



NIGHT WATCH at Theatre 40


Photo by Ed Krieger


Neal Weaver  – Arts In LA

Prolific playwright Lucille Fletcher is best known for the suspense drama Sorry, Wrong Number—which began life as prizewinning 1948 radio play, starring Agnes Morehead, and in 1950 was made into a film noir that garnered an Oscar nomination for its star, Barbara Stanwyck.
Fletcher’s Night Watch is also a suspense drama, in which nothing is quite what it appears. Elaine Wheeler (Jennifer Lee Laks) is a wealthy heiress who lives with her husband in a posh apartment in the Kips Bay neighborhood of Manhattan. But she is a chronic insomniac, and during one of her sleepless vigils, standing at her window, she sees something alarming in the supposedly abandoned building across the way. Read more…

Now running through February 24.

THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA at South Coast Repertory Theater

lt piz

Bob Verini -   ArtsInLA

The Light in the Piazza’s cross-cultural love story, in which red-state Americans fall victim to the allure of Florence circa the early 1950s, is musically alluring, although helmer Kent Nicholson eschews the glamorous spectacle that characterized Bartlett Sher’s Broadway original. With the NY chorus halved, and musical director Dennis Castellano strongly marshaling a pared-down orchestra, Craig Lucas and Adam Guettel’s romantic passeggiata is brought closer to its more modest roots in its long-ago Seattle premiere. Read more…

Now running through February 23.









Now running through February.

ON THE MONEY at the Victory Theatre Center


 Les Spindle –  Frontiers L.A.

Reaching back to its early years, the 34-year-old Victory Theatre Center is offering a new production of Kos Kostmayer’s On the Money, previously presented there in 1982. The play takes a stab at exploring certain themes still relevant in modern times, primarily the desperate challenges of many American citizens to make financial ends meet when the odds against that can seem insurmountable. Read more…

Deborah Klugman – ArtsBeatLA

In Kos Kostmayer’s On the Money, directed by Tom Ormeny, three overworked and underpaid employees with pressing financial problems debate whether or not to steal from their boss whose sole concern is his own profit. Read more…

Steven Leigh Morris  – LA Weekly

If you also miss the 20th century, and how it paved the way for today, you might want to check out Kos Kostmayer’s On the Money at Burbank’s Victory Theatre. This same company staged this same play 30 years ago. Its presentation now is part of the Victory’s 35th-anniversary season. Read more…

Now running through March 2.

THE PRODUCERS at Plummer Auditorium


Photo by Isaac James Creative

Melinda Schupmann – Arts In LA

Preposterously silly, Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan’s  comes to Fullerton and Redondo Beach via 3-D Theatricals season opener. It is another hit in the theater company’s chain of musicals that last season included Shrek the Musical and Parade. In this one, Max Bialystock’s (Jay Brian Winnick) Broadway play, Funny Boy: A Musical Version of Hamlet, has opened and closed in one night, as have his other recent efforts.
Read more…

Now running through February 15.