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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

2:22 – A GHOST STORY at the Ahmanson Theatre

Anna Camp, Finn Wittrock, Adam Rothenberg and Constance Wu. Phtoo by Craig Schwartz

Anna Camp, Finn Wittrock, Adam Rothenberg and Constance Wu. Photo by Craig Schwartz

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Taking a break from their usual musical fare, Center Theatre Group-Ahmanson is offering 2:22-A Ghost Story by Danny Robins through December 4. The opening night was November 4, missing Halloween by a few days. Little costumed trick or treaters may have provided more scares than what transpired on stage. The reviewers were given a list of plot items to please not mention in their reviews, the better for future audiences to enjoy the supposed thrills. Stripped of those items, Robins’s script is basically two hours of marital discord, no matter how much director Matthew Dunster attempts to jolt the audience. He often succeeds, but it is more due to Lucy Carter’s lighting design and especially Ian Dickinson for Autograph’s sound design. Otherwise, the writing, directing and acting don’t really chill or thrill. Read more…

Harker Jones – BroadwayWorld

Arguments about the meaning of life, where we come from, where we’re headed after death, the afterlife, and the like have been debated for centuries by theologians, scientists, and philosophers alike, and we’re still not any closer to clarity. That said, it can make for gripping conversations deep into the night whether you’re stoned college students, wine-drinking soccer moms, or new parents. Read more…

Dana Martin – Stage Raw

The Ahmanson Theater is hosting poltergeist. 2:22- A Ghost Story, Danny Robins’ newest psychological thriller, is an unsettling romp through a proper haunted house. The show is making its U.S. premiere after a successful West End run last year. Read more…

Terry Morgan – ArtsBeat LA

I’m a horror film fan. I probably see 75-100 horror movies a year, and have done so for a long, long time. So I can state with certain knowledge that the cheapest of all scares is the jump scare. I have nothing against them – when a jump scare is well done, it can be a thing of beauty. But a lazy, unmotivated jump scare, just to get a visceral response  AAAAAAAAA!!!! (please imagine that this is someone suddenly screaming into your ear at top volume) can be irksome. I wanted to like the new Ahmanson production of Danny Robins’ 2:22 – A Ghost Story more than I did, but a surfeit of the same jump scare over and over and a goofy twist kept my enjoyment of the show mild. Read more…

Through December 4

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre

Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

Terry Morgan – ArtsBeatLA

When Harper Lee wrote her novel To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960, she didn’t think it would be a big success. Sixty-two years later, the book has been taught to millions of students in schools, was the source of a classic 1962 film of the same name, and recently inspired a theatrical version written by Aaron Sorkin that was a Broadway hit. There are many reasons this material still speaks to modern audiences, but perhaps the most vital is that its depiction of racism feels topical again with the rise of far-right zealotry. The current production at the Pantages is effective and enjoyable, with a nice lead performance from Richard Thomas, but a few missteps keep the production from being as strong as it might be. Read more…

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960, while the movie — based on Harper’s novel and starring Gregory Peck as a white lawyer defending a black man accused of rape — came out in 1962. Both the book and the film depicted the racist South through the eyes of a child, its scenario predating the March on Washington in 1963 and the televised police assaults on the civil rights marchers that electrified the country that same year. Read more…

Katie Buenneke – Theatre Digest

I haven’t revisited this book since I read it in 7th grade, and I think, just based on watching this show, it’s a text about which I have complicated feelings. It’s an emotionally loaded story about Black trauma, told from the point of view of well-intentioned white people, and I think both Harper Lee’s autobiographical character and Aaron Sorkin, who adapted the novel into a three hour play, have similar instincts about how to tell this story, but it’s worth questioning why framing this story from a white girl’s perspective is the framing that white audiences have deemed a classic. Read more…

Tracey Paleo – Gia On The Move

I’ll be honest…watching the B-roll footage of the new play HARPER LEE’S TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD didn’t excite me too much at first. But sitting in the Hollywood Pantages theater in person for the Los Angeles premiere was a whole different experience. More…

Through November 27

THE INHERITANCE at Geffen Playhouse

Adam Kantor and Juan Castano. Photo by Jeff Lorch.

Adam Kantor and Juan Castano. Photo by Jeff Lorch.

Jonas Schwartz-Owen – Theatermania

The final five minutes in Part 1 of Matthew Lopez’s epic Tony-winning The Inheritance, now running at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, are some of the most gut-wrenching moments in theater. At the performance I attended, the entire audience sat connected — some teary-eyed, some crying — but it seemed everyone was affected somehow by the play’s sadness and other-worldly camaraderie. The entire seven-plus-hour production, which is divided into two parts, spellbinds with precise dialogue, rich characters, and an analysis of the United States as a whole.
Read more…

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Simply put, Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance is a masterpiece of writing. This six-and-a-half-hour two-part play about a group of gay men in New York City circa 2015-2018 is a worthy successor and companion piece to Tony Kushner’s epic Angels in America from nearly 20 years earlier. Where Kushner dealt with the early years of the AIDS epidemic and blended in the politics of Roy Cohn and even Ethel Rosenberg, Lopez’s gay men enjoy the freedoms earlier generations fought hard for without their really realizing what it was like to live in those near yet distant decades. The current production at Westwood’s Geffen Playhouse should not be missed. It just might be the best work to ever grace their stage since the venue opened in 1975 as the Westwood Playhouse. Read more…

Terry Morgan – ArtsBeat LA

The epigraph of E. M. Forster’s 1910 novel, Howards End, is “Only connect…” This motto mainly referred to opening oneself up to the world and other people for greater understanding and potential happiness, but it is also about the importance of remembering the past and seeing how it affects the present. When playwright Matthew López took Forster’s book as the inspiration for his play The Inheritance, he retained this theme of connection and remembrance but created something new and powerful with it in his story of modern gay men grappling with a complicated present and the legacy of AIDS. The current production of this work at the Geffen Playhouse is magnificent, a tour de force on every level, and definitely one the best plays of the year. Read more…

Tracey Paleo – Gia On The Move

As a 6-hour theatrical journey of life, death, pain, loss, suffering, discovery, ecstasy, and triumph…
…THE INHERITANCE is thoroughly astounding! More…

Dana Martin – Stage Raw

Matthew López’s sprawling saga, The Inheritance Part 1 and Part 2, is an artistically refined and emotionally raw examination of modern gay life in the aftermath of the AIDS epidemic. The Geffen’s season opener has seismic power that won’t be soon forgotten. Read more…

Don Shirley – Angeles Stage

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…

Through November 27

A GREAT WILDERNESS by Rogue Machine at The Matrix Theatre

John-Perrin-Flynn and Jeffrey-Delfin in A Great Wilderness. Photo by Alex Neher.

John-Perrin-Flynn and Jeffrey-Delfin in A Great Wilderness. Photo by Alex Neher.

Terry Morgan – ArtsBeat LA

In my experience, ninety percent of the time that there’s an issue with a theatrical production, the problem is the play itself. It’s surprisingly rare for the main trouble to be with the acting or direction or design. And so it is with Samuel D. Hunter’s A Great Wilderness. I’ve enjoyed other works by Hunter, such as Pocatello or The Whale, but Wilderness has major structural issues that derail whatever impact it might have had. Rogue Machine’s Los Angeles premiere benefits from a strong lead performance by producing artistic director John Perrin Flynn and a handsome set but ultimately can’t transcend the unfocused writing. Read more…

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

One of the marks of playwright Samuel D. Hunter’s work is how skillfully he portrays people who lead lives in desperate isolation. In A Great Wilderness, produced by Rogue Machine at the Matrix Theatre, that scenario might apply to Walt (John Perrin Flynn), an elderly man, arguably in the first stages of dementia, who’s dedicated his life to the egregious practice of conversion therapy. Read more…

Through October 31

IF I FORGET at The Fountain Theatre

Leo Marks, Sami Klein and Valerie Perri. Photo by Jenny Graham

Leo Marks, Sami Klein and Valerie Perri. Photo by Jenny Graham

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Plays about fractious families may be common but toss politics and the Holocaust into the mix and you’ll have an intriguing drama.

Steven Levenson’s If I Forget takes place in an upper middle-class home in Washington DC, circa the year 2000. The central character, Michael Fischer (Leo Marks), is a professor of Jewish studies who’s written a book blasting prevailing Jewish attitudes towards the Holocaust. In the book, he suggests that historically enshrined memories of this monstrous event — perhaps best connoted by the ubiquitous slogan “Never Forget!” — are being exploited and abused by self-interested parties. It is Michael’s belief that Jews, both as individuals and collectively, would be better served if they recognized this exploitation and moved on. In his mind, this Holocaust obsession has clouded perspectives and pushed to the background other vital issues of concern, ranging from current genocide in Rwanda to glaring injustices here at home.
Read more…

Terry Morgan – ArtsBeat LA

Religion is ever with us, for good or ill. We humans seem to be hardwired with a need for the numinous. Steven Levenson’s play, If I Forget, begins with a psalm and ends with a vision, the psalm an exhortation for Jewish people not to forget their heritage, inviting misfortune if they forget. This stark prayer sets up a compelling and satisfyingly dramatic show about the tension between religious tradition and modern secularism. The new production at The Fountain Theatre in East Hollywood, directed by Jason Alexander, is a terrific showcase for its excellent cast and Levenson’s sharp writing, although it also features one major misstep. Read more…

Returns Oct 28 – Dec 18

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…

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…

Now through July 25

UNCLE VANYA at Pasadena Playhouse

Photo by Jeff Lorch

Photo by Jeff Lorch

Terry Morgan – ArtsBeat LA

As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Technology zooms forward, but human nature remains stubbornly persistent. Thus a play such as Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, which premiered in 1899, can still speak to us today, can still cause us to laugh or cry at its characters’ folly or heartbreak. The new production of Vanya at the Pasadena Playhouse, featuring a powerhouse lead performance from Hugo Armstrong, is a clear and entertaining demonstration that humanity is the same regardless of the century it’s in. Read more…

Steven Leigh Morris – Stage Raw, Notes From Arden

Hugo Armstrong Transforms Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. Having been largely weaned on the plays of Anton Chekhov, and his turn of the 20th century mingling of regret and humor while something, always something, is ending (Chekhov wrote as the Russian Revolution was brewing), I admit to a trepidation in seeing productions of plays by the Russian literary giant, because they so rarely rise to their complex occasion. They’re usually suffocated by affectation of some kind – such as an obsequious devotion to kitchen sink realism, and samovars and wicker furniture, or, in American or British hands, an effort to invent what it means to be Russian in 1899; that rarely turns out well. Read more…

Now through June 26

WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF at Geffen Playhouse

Photo by Jeff Lorch

Photo by Jeff Lorch

Terry Morgan  -  Artsbeat LA

Bitchiness, thy name is Albee. Has there ever been a play that reveled in so much in mean-spirited badinage as Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Sour wit courses through the blackened veins of this show like acidic blood, or more specifically like the booze the characters actively embalm themselves with.  Read more…

Jonas Schwartz-Owen – Theatermania

Edward Albee’s classic Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? exposes the crud hidden behind the closed doors of American households between Eisenhower’s cheery post-war tranquility and John F. Kennedy’s focus-on-the-future optimism. No couple performs an S&M act, even without whips and chains, as depraved as George and Martha. Reveling in the play’s bitterness and booze, Zachary Quinto and Calista Flockhart make a cruel twosome in this harrowing and darkly hilarious production at the Geffen Playhouse. Read more…

Peter Debruge – Variety

The trick of stage acting comes in playing the same thing every night as if it were happening for the first time, right there in front of the audience’s eyes. But once-controversial American classic “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” calls for something different. Edward Albee wrote a play in which we get to observe the latest round in a cruel and competitive game of escalating insults between career-stalled history professor George and Martha, the wife who makes vicious sport of her disappointment. Read more…

Harker Jones – BroadwayWorld

Edward Albee’s Tony Award-winning play about discontent and despair in 1960s academia is brought to blazing, blistering life by director Gordon Greenberg at The Geffen Playhouse, its themes and anxieties as relevant as ever on its 60th anniversary. Read more…

Now running through May 29

BRIGHT HALF LIFE at the Road Theatre on Magnolia

Photo by Elizabeth Kimball

Photo by Elizabeth Kimball

Terry Morgan  -  ArtsBeat LA

Plays that chart the course of a romantic relationship have long been a staple of theater. Stories told in a nonlinear way are less common but not unheard of. When you take the previous two structures and apply them to the topic of a lesbian interracial marriage, the result is a work that one doesn’t often see in American theater, which is refreshing. What’s better is that Tanya Barfield’s Bright Half Life is more than the sum of its diverse parts…. Read more…

Harker Jones – BroadwayWorld

Pulitzer Prize nominee Tanya Barfield‘s brilliant BRIGHT HALF LIFE is smartly and artfully realized by director Amy K. Harmon at the Road Theatre on Magnolia. With just two actors, the energy never flags, but it does fluctuate, veering as it does from high comedy to pathos to heart-rending drama… Read more…

Tracey Paleo – Gia On The Move

BRIGHT HALF LIFE at The Road Theatre in North Hollywood is nothing less than exhilarating; genuine theater baddassery in your face – empathetic and very personal.  Sit up front… Read more…

Now running through May 8

 

A PUBLIC READING OF AN UNPRODUCED SCREENPLAY ABOUT THE DEATH OF WALT DISNEY at the Odyssey Theatre

Photo by Jenny Graham

Photo by Jenny Graham

Terry Morgan  -  Artsbeat LA

I have a rule about avant-garde theater: if an artist chooses to deliberately obscure his/her/their meaning via unusual methods or flirts dangerously with pretentiousness, the play had better validate those choices by demonstrating how they were necessary. Most experimental pieces, in my experience, fail that test, but when they succeed it’s thrilling. Read more…

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Lucas Hnath is a young American playwright whose work (The Christians, Red Speedo, A Doll’s House, Part 2) I have found interesting and worth experiencing. Read more…

Jonas Schwartz-Owen – Broadway World

Lucas Hnath is an ambitious playwright. He turned his mother’s harrowing recollections of being abducted in the ’90s into a riveting, intimate one-woman tale, Dana H, where the actress lip-syncs to the recording that his mother had made. Read more…

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

John Updike once called Mickey Mouse “the most persistent and pervasive figure of American popular culture in his century.” The mouse came into being in 1928, birthed by a young animator named Walt Disney. Read more…

Now running through May 1

IN THE NEXT ROOM, OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY at Atwater Village Theatre

Photo by Frank Ishman

Photo by Frank Ishman

Terry Morgan  -  Artsbeat LA

When I told people I was going to see a new production of Sarah’s Ruhl’s play, In the Next Room, I received a series of blank stares, but when I included its subtitle, or the vibrator play, I saw instant comprehension. Sex gets people’s attention. Read more…

Tracey Paleo – Gia on the Move

Vibrating objects shoved up women’s vaginas to release their private floodgates in full view on a table.  Does that give you pause?  Shock you to the core?  An embarrassing giggle perhaps?  Or a secret desire (that you’d never admit out loud) to be a voyeur in the room?   Wait…what?!  (…momentary pause in convo resulting in head cocked to the side). Read more…

Now running through April 23