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Archive for May 2014

DEATH OF THE AUTHOR at the Geffen Playhouse

Photo by Michael Lamont

Photo by Michael Lamont

Bob Verini -   Arts In LA

Steven Drukman’s Death of the Author is, hands down, one of the very best plays of the year. A mystery wrapped within a psychological portrait gallery within a stinging critique of academic politics, it satisfies on every level during its completely gripping 90 minutes. Angelenos lucky enough to catch it at the Geffen will steal a mark on audiences in, trust me, many, many cities around the United States in years to come. Read more…

Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter

Having narrowly escaped academe with only soaked knees before the tsunami of structuralism hit with full force, this critic has been fortunate enough to contemplate its roiling waters at safe distance over its decades of circular dominance without needing to swim perilously against its tide. While the application of such theories can generate some genuine insights and no-longer-new perspectives, “postmodern” has long forfeited its revolutionary innovation to become the standard collegiate orthodoxy, aging into cant and cliché.   Read more…

Terry Morgan  -  Talkin’ Broadway

Things aren’t what they used to be in academia. Back in the day, if one turned in a less than optimal paper, the professor would give one a poor grade, and that was that. In modern times, however, if a student fails a class, his or her parents can sue the teacher or university for damages and win. The domain of higher education has become more treacherous in unexpected ways, and Steven Drukman’s clever new play Death of the Author charts the territory with pointed wit. It’s unfortunate, however, that the brilliance of the first hour sputters out in a weak and contrived finale. Read more…

Les Spindle –  Frontiers L.A.

This world premiere play by prolific scribe Steven Drukman offers a rich brew, blending humor in academia with a sly battle of wits, spiced up with homoerotic undertones. Ace director Bart DeLorenzo and a crackerjack cast parlay this taut 90-minute dramedy into a sophisticated and enthralling experience.

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Now running through June 22.

EDUCATING RITA at Theatre 40

Photo by Ed Krieger

Photo by Ed Krieger

Neal Weaver  – ArtsInLA

Oscar Wilde’s Lady Bracknell put it this way: “Ignorance is like a delicate, exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone.” Wilde clearly intended this to be fatuous nonsense, and a dig at the intellectual pretensions of the upper middle class. But Frank, the hero of this Willy Russell play, discovers that it’s quite literally true.

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Now running through June 23.

TARTUFFE at South Coast Repertory Theatre

Photo by Ben Horak

Photo by Ben Horak

Bob Verini – Stage Raw

South Coast Repertory’s Tartuffe is something to witness, in every sense of the phrase. Audacious and thought-provoking, maddening and enlightening by turns, it’s a worthy addition to the venerable company’s anniversary celebration in its categorical refusal to follow a conventional pathway to the classic that kicked off SCR operations a half-century ago. Read more…

Now running through June 8.

AGAINST THE WALL at Theatre West

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Photo by Charlie Mount

Theatre West’s “Writers in Rep” program provides a great opportunity for playwrights, giving two new plays a repertory slot in the season. These are coveted full productions that spotlight new works. Unfortunately, one of these plays, Charlie Mount’s Against The Wall, a comedy about comedians, doesn’t fulfill its humorous promise. I laughed only twice in two hours.

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Now running through June 22.

GRUESOME PLAYGROUND INJURIES at the Rogue Machine Theatre

Photo by John Perrin Flynn

Photo by John Perrin Flynn

Bob Verini -   Arts In LA

Rogue Machine has turned itself into the go-to organization for provocative two-handers. If Rajiv Joseph’s Gruesome Playground Injuries lacks the dread of 2011’s Blackbird or the contemporary relevance of 2013’s Dying City, this production, directed by Larissa Kokernot, demonstrates anew the Pico Boulevard company’s knack for finding something precious in the confrontation of one man and one woman in space and time.  Read more…

Pauline Adamek  – Stage Raw

Playwright Rajiv Joseph gained notoriety when his politically charged play, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo — which debuted at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in May 2009 before moving to Broadway — was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Gruesome Playground Injuries had its world premiere later that same year. Both are different animals indeed. Read more…

Steven Leigh Morris  – LA Weekly

“I am big. It’s the pictures that got small,” Norma Desmond says in Sunset Boulevard.

There’s a discernible condescension in a number of reviews of Rajiv Joseph’s 2011 play, Gruesome Playground Injuries, in its early productions. Mainly these reviews keep comparing it to Joseph’s “bigger” play, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, which world-premiered at L.A.’s Kirk Douglas Theatre in 2009.   Read more…

Sharon Perlmutter  -  Talkin’ Broadway

Sometimes, a playwright will use non-linear storytelling to devastating effect. Seeing the effect before the cause can make the cause—which may have otherwise appeared trivial—all the more important. At other times, telling the tale out of order engenders greater audience involvement, as the audience tries to pull the disparate pieces together to form one coherent story. Rajiv Joseph’s Gruesome Playground Injuries doesn’t do either of these things. Instead, it appears that the story is told out of order to disguise the fact that there just isn’t much of a story here.  Read more…

Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter

Over the course of 30 years, from ages eight to 38, Kayleen (Jules Willcox) and Doug (Brad Fleischer) “meet cute” in various emergency rooms and hospitals when one or the other (and sometimes both) have been injured or otherwise grievously harmed. Doug is a risk-taking, accident-prone daredevil, Kayleen more apt to be psychically damaged, when not engaged in adolescent cutting. Read more…

Now running through July 14.

THE HOLLOW at the Westchester Playhouse

Photo by Shari Barrett

Photo by Shari Barrett

Dany Margolies  -  Arts In LA

This Agatha Christie play might be a classic murder mystery, but the legendary author underpins the script with her perceptiveness about human behavior. As directed by George Kondreck, Kentwood Players’ production, pretty much finds the undercurrents. They flow while the characters spend a long weekend in 1948 at an English country manor, where embers of old loves are fanned into flames—albeit British ones. Read more…

Now running through June 21.

HIT at the Los Angeles Theatre Center

Photo by Ed Krieger

Photo by Ed Krieger

Margaret Gray – LA Times

Whenever I read about the artistic scandals of the past — the near-riot provoked by Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” for example — I glumly conclude that we have grown so jaded that art has lost its power to appall. Read more…

Steven Leigh Morris – Stage Raw

Playwright Alice Tuan’s description of her own play’s title, Hit, as explained in her program note, suggests a work so fragmented that one scene has little to do with the next: “I started by writing five scenes where each scene had some sort of hit in it; hit by a car, hit on by an older woman, hit of a joint, a hit in the eye. . . ” Read more…

Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

The new play Hit by Alice Tuan, currently playing Los Angeles Theatre Center, unevenly shifts from hard-hitting drama to black comedy to avant-garde theater yet never makes clear its intentions. And though the actors are skilled professionals, they are not able to make the script’s unlikable characters relateable.  Read more…

 
Now running through June 8.

AJAX IN IRAQ at the Miles Memorial Playhouse

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Photo by Anthony Roldan

David C. Nichols – LA Times

Sophocles and post-traumatic stress disorder commingle in “Ajax in Iraq” at the Miles Memorial Playhouse, to dazzling, disturbing effect.

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Now running through June 1.

THE GUARDSMAN at the Noho Arts Center

Photo by Ed Krieger

Photo by Ed Krieger

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Hungarian playwright  Ferenc Molnar’s The Guardsman has been viewed in this country mostly as a theatrical confection, an entertaining comedy about a jealous actor who undertakes an elaborate charade to establish his wife’s fidelity, or lack thereof. Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne brought it to the stage in 1924, then reprised their performances in a 1931 film. Molnar’s original script was actually much weightier than the Lunt/Fontanne version… Read more…

Margaret Gray – LA Times

The NoHo Arts Center is the latest company to revive Ferenc Molnár’s “The Guardsman,” a perennially popular, gentle skirmish in the battle between the sexes. (Lunt and Fontanne starred in its 1924 Broadway premiere and in the 1931 film; Harold Pinter used it as inspiration for his more overtly sadomasochistic play “The Lover.”) Read more…

Now running through June 22.

 

BLOOD RELATIONS at the Raven Playhouse

Photo by Mani Horn

Photo by Mani Horn

Pauline Adamek  – Stage Raw

Writer-director Sharon Pollock’s sluggish two-hour, two-act play attempts to dramatize the mystery of the Lizzie Borden murders with a puzzle-like plot, but her convoluted approach and inept staging simply make for a confusing and excruciating experience.

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Now playing through June 15

GAMES ON A BOMBED OUT BEACH at the Macha Theatre

Photo by Ed Krieger

Photo by Ed Krieger

Neal Weaver  – Stage Raw

Shirl Hendryx’s play is set in an inn on a small Mediterranean island off the coast of Greece, where a group of movie-makers have gathered to prepare for a location shoot. Socially conscious American movie star Branson (Richard Chassler), who’s scheduled to head the cast, has insisted on the hiring of Brit director Paul Deckard (Jonathan Salisbury), unaware that his wife once had an affair with Deckard.   Read more…

Steven Leigh Morris  – LA Weekly

An initial impulse upon discovering a new play about Hollywood types making a movie in an exotic location is to get down on your knees and pray, “Please Lord, not another play by and about dissolute filmmakers grappling with their purpose in life.” Read more…

Now playing through June 22.

THE LAST ROMANCE at the Torrance Theatre Company

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Photo by Brad La Verne

Dany Margolies  -  Arts In LA

Late in their lives, a man and woman meet cute at a New Jersey dog park. He’s an easygoing, teasing but overly friendly chap. She’s a dignified, pretty but fearful gal. “Oh, no,” one thinks. “Don’t let this oil-and-water twosome end up together. They’ll make each other miserable.” Read more…

Now running through June 14.