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Archive for June 2022

How did Angeles Stage mark its first birthday? Via UNCLE VANYA, DRIVE MY CAR

The cast of Uncle Vanya. Photo by Jeff Lorch

The cast of Uncle Vanya. Photo by Jeff Lorch

Plus a merry but muddled ‘Windsor’ at the Theatricum, ‘King James’ and two new musicals on opposite poles of the gender discussion.

Don Shirley – Angeles Stage

Angeles Stage first appeared a year ago, as masked audiences were beginning to return to LA stages in person, after more than a year of mostly virtual-only activity. I urged “LA theater,” which meant audiences as well as creators, to “rise and shine.” A lot of productions arose within greater LA during the past year.

Pasadena Playhouse’s “Uncle Vanya” shines more brightly than any other currently-running production I’ve seen…If you don’t know Anton Chekhov’s “Vanya,” or the acclaimed Japanese film “Drive My Car” that was deeply inspired by “Vanya,” now is a great opportunity to combine them into a powerful one-two exploration of the all-too-human emotions that adults frequently face, at least during the last couple of centuries. Read more…

THE BIRTHDAY PARTY at City Garage Theatre

Isaac Stackonis and Peggy Flood. Photo by Paul M. Rubenstein

Isaac Stackonis and Peggy Flood. Photo by Paul M. Rubenstein

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

The Birthday Party, Harold Pinter’s first full length play, opened in London in May 1958. Reviews were grim. Most critics, accustomed to the kitchen sink realism of writers like Sillitoe, Braine and Osborne, were incensed and/or bewildered by the non-sequiturs, contradictions and pauses in Pinter’s language, along with the murkiness of the play’s narrative and the perceived illogic of its characters. Collectively, they savaged it. The Daily Telegraph reviewer, referring to Petey, a character employed as a deckchair attendant at the beach, wrote, “I can give him one word of cheer. He might have been a dramatic critic, condemned to sit through plays like this.” Read more…

Now through July 23

THE FUNNY MAN, Write Act Repertory at the Brickhouse Theatre

Sam Aaron in The Funny Man. Photo by Audaur Kountz

Sam Aaron in The Funny Man. Photo by Audaur Kountz

Steven Leigh Morris – Stage Raw

Playwright Will Manus’s one-man homage to humorist and screenwriter S.J. Perelman (Sam Aaron) is a bit of throwback, and that’s a compliment. In a world as lunatic and partisan as ours, when the divide between evidence and superstition has melted across huge swaths of the country (strategically and cynically, some would argue), it’s not a bad idea to spin back to a lecture hall at U.C. Santa Barbara in 1976 and listen to a then-renowned wit describe his travels around the world, his philosophy of writing, and his associations with the Marx Brothers (for whom he wrote screenplays). Perelman was a frequent contributor to The New Yorker in the 1930s and 1940s (that gets short shrift in Manus’s play), and received an Oscar for his screenplay of Around the World in 80 Days (which gets longer shrift). He died three years after the lecture at UCSB that playwright Manus and Aaron fictionalize, under Judith Rose’s direction. Read more…

Now through July 17

NOT THAT ILLEGAL at the Broadwater – Hollywood Fringe Festival

Photo courtesy of the artists

Photo courtesy of the production

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Yusuf Yildiz’s Not That Illegal started life as a 15-minute work at the 2019 Strawberry One-Act Festival in New York City where it received a Best Play nomination. Now he has expanded it to a 90-minute one-act at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. It’s about 60 minutes too long in its present form. His story is of Ali Can (Yildiz), a Turkish immigrant whose company legally fired him shortly before he was eligible for his Green Card, and his efforts to remain in the USA. Deportation is 30 days away. Read more…

Through June 26

HOUSEWIFE ’52 at The Broadwater – Hollywood Fringe Festival

Housewife 52

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Writer/director/choreographer/percussionist John Wuchte and had a big success at the 2019 Hollywood Fringe Festival with Scarlett Fever, a physical movement piece that looked behind the scenes at the search for an actress to play Scarlett O’Hara in the classic film Gone With the Wind. They are back this year with a look at the lives of wives in suburbia, Housewife ‘52. The time is “a day in 1952”, the place is “a train ride away from NYC”. It sounds so simple as life was in that last year of the Truman administration, yet Wuchte has layered so much subtext into the simplest of ideas. Read more..,

Extended through July 29

THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE, Rogue Machine at the Matrix Theatre

Photo by John Perrin Flynn

Photo by John Perrin Flynn

Tracey Paleo – Gia On The Move

It’s the late 90’s…and you’re hanging out in a boy’s basement bedroom, somewhere in suburban America with two teenagers as they stay up on a school night; chugging soda, watching MTV, and preparing for the future. As the morning approaches, their seemingly innocent sleepover reveals another purpose. Read more…

Terry Morgan – ArtsBeat LA

Mere days after the abomination of the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade, discussing a play about toxic masculinity seems almost too topical. Cisgender white men are running amok waging wars, attempting coups and reversing civil rights, so what better time to examine the root of all this madness? Except that none of this is new. There has never been a time where men acting badly wasn’t the prime source of evil in the world. This subject has been explored in countless books, films and plays. Unfortunately Tim Venable’s The Beautiful People has little original insight to offer, although the world premiere production by Rogue Machine is otherwise first-rate. Read more…

Now through July 25

PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL at the Dolby Theatre

Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

Harker Jones – BroadwayWorld

Rebooting a classic is always dicey. If it’s an exact blueprint, what’s the point? But deviating from that blueprint can alienate its fans. And how to make it fresh yet still retain the magic that made it work in the first place?

The producers of PRETTY WOMAN the musical learned the hard way just how difficult it is to replicate the alchemy of the 1990 rom-com that established Julia Roberts as the leading female movie star of the last decade of the 20th century. The film oozed PG-13 charm and, having been sanitized from its original, gritty concept, the Disney-owned Touchstone picture was a smash, grossing $178 million (almost $400 million in today’s dollars) and even garnering an Oscar nom for Roberts. It was a sensation. It’s iconic. And it’s a hard act to follow. Read more…

Now through July 3

L.A.’s Fountain Theatre responds to the fall of Roe with part obituary, part call to action

Aleisha Force and Kate Middleton. Photo by Jenny Graham

Aleisha Force and Kate Middleton. Photo by Jenny Graham

Margaret Gray – Los Angeles Times

On Friday, after the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned Roe vs. Wade, the cast and the audience at L.A.’s Fountain Theatre discussed the ruling across the footlights, right in the middle of a live show.

Performer Christina Hall reminded the crowd that all three of the justices appointed by former President Trump had promised at their confirmation hearings that they would not overturn precedents set by previous courts. “And then they did!” Hall shouted.

“Liars!” replied an audience member, prompting claps and grumbles of agreement.

But then we all settled down and watched as Hall delivered the rest of her lines. She wasn’t breaking character. She was playing Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who represented Jane Roe before the Supreme Court in 1973, in a staged reading of Lisa Loomer’s 2016  play “Roe.” Read more…

THE LEGEND OF D.C. COLORADO at The Broadwater – Hollywood Fringe Festival

The Legend of D.C. Colorado2

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

If you are seeing a new musical at the Hollywood Fringe Festival that starts off with a character known as Cockman who wakes up the sleepy town every morning singing about choking his chicken, you would think you were in for a wild and fun time. Unfortunately, those first few minutes of The Legend of D.C. Colorado are the highpoint of its 90-minute run time. It’s strictly downhill from there. There are a few laughs garnered about a mother who feeds her two idiot bastard sons slop every meal and makes them shuck corn every day. Read more…

Now through June 22

4 SEASONS TOTAL SH!TSHOW at Asylum @ Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre – Hollywood Fringe Festival

Photo by Hiro Korsgaard

Photo by Hiro Korsgaard

Steven Leigh Morris – Stage Raw

The extent to which we’re governed by amoral/immoral power brokers is now evident in surveys by the Pew Research Center and the Partnership for Public Service that Americans’ confidence in government to address our problems has plunged over the past decade across party lines. Only one in 10 Americans now has strong confidence in career federal government employees to act in the best interests of the nation — about the same, anemic percentage of Americans who trust that candidates running for federal office have any interest besides their own advancement.

So if you feel cynical and jaded, no, it’s not just you. And this is why it’s hard to laugh at political sketches on Saturday Night Live, or at comedy sketches such as 4 Seasons Total Sh!tshow, which is really a variation on the themes of a typical SNL political lampoon. Read more…

Now through June 25

GRIEF: A ONE MAN SHITSHOW at The Broadwater – Hollywood Fringe Festival

Photo by Rebecca Asher

Photo by Rebecca Asher

Steven Leigh Morris – Stage Raw

“There are no words . . .”

This phrase is among the platitudes that writer-performer Colin Campbell excoriates in his solo performance about people straining to offer comfort in the aftermath of his losing his two teenage children in a car crash, on the other end of a drunk driver with already one DUI conviction who T-boned Campbell’s car. (Campbell was driving, and his wife, a fellow passenger, also survived.) There are in fact plenty of words, and Campbell has them at his disposal in his Spartan performance, directed by Michael Schlitt. “They’re in a better place,” is another. No, they’re not, he points out. They’re in a wooden box six feet underground.

There is nothing maudlin in Campbell’s colloquial, animated approach to what might be called an unimaginable horror, except that Campbell imagines it in detail, working through a multitude of aspects that accompany such heartbreak. Is losing a family so instantaneously better or worse than losing them slowly to cancer? Is it better to be present, to watch them die, as he did, or to learn about it through a phone call?
Read more…

Now through June 25

MR. CHONKERS at The Broadwater – Hollywood Fringe Festival

Mr Chonkers

Dana Martin – Stage Raw

John Norris is a serious actor who doesn’t take anything too seriously and the outcome is very funny. Mr. Chonkers defies definition. It’s a late-night rendezvous with the absurd — a completely ridiculous and thoroughly enjoyable 50 minutes.

The evening is full of good old-fashioned silliness. Mr. Chonkers emerges from the shadows in a cheap monk costume, a nylon sock on his head and with a giant googly eyeball in the center of his nyloned face. He performs uncanny celebrity impressions, superior hand puppetry, an Italian pasta story in a variety of styles, a curtain speech remix, a tiny hat gag, and so much more. Read more…

Now through June 25