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Archive for Deborah Klugman

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

MAN’S FAVOR DEVIL’S PLAN by The Robey Theatre Company at LATC

Nic Few and Christina Childress. Photo by Jermaine Alexander.

Nic Few and Christina Childress. Photo by Jermaine Alexander.

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Man’s Favor Devil’s Plan, by Kwik Jones, takes place on the loading dock at the rear of a hotel in Los Angeles in 1938. The story concerns the relationship between the hotel’s White owner, an unmitigated racist and an otherwise cruel and unscrupulous individual, and the hotel staff, who are African American and are forced to put up with their employer’s abuse because they cannot afford to lose their jobs, or because they are being blackmailed in some way. The play, which aims to reflect the vicious racism that permeates American culture, is set at a period in our history when people of color were even more vulnerable and less legally protected than they are now.
Read more…

Tracey Paleo – Gia On The Move

In pointing its definitive focus…to the people it 100% represents, MAN’S FAVOR, DEVIL’S PLAN becomes an especially moving vehicle to an audience, famished for representations about themselves that express their reality, past and present. More…

Through November 20

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

ACCORDING TO THE CHORUS at The Road Theatre

Photo by Peggy McCartha

Photo by Peggy McCartha

Harker Jones – BroadwayWorld

The world premiere of Arlene Hutton’s ACCORDING TO THE CHORUS is a lively slice-of-life look at the backstage antics of an unnamed Broadway show (that’s been running longer than CATS) in 1984. Set in a quick-change room devoted to six chorus girls and their three dressers, the makeshift family squabbles, complains, and supports each other over the course of 15 tumultuous months-tumultuous in the women’s personal and professional lives as well as in the world swirling around them-touching on domestic abuse, AIDS, social stratification, and eating disorders. Read more…

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Arlene Hutton’s new dramedy, According to the Chorus, promises much. Set in 1984 and billed as a fly-on-the-wall peep at the rivalry between a group of Broadway chorus dancers and the women who dress them, the play also touches on the loss and grief of the AIDS epidemic, as well as the heartache of its central character, KJ (Samantha Tan) a woman grieving her broken marriage to a man she still loves. Read more…

Through December 11

FARRAGUT NORTH by Foursome Productions at Theatre 68 Arts Complex

Paul Rubenstone and Chris King Wong. Photo by Peter Allas.

Paul Rubenstone and Chris King Wong. Photo by Peter Allas.

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Before becoming a playwright and screenwriter, Beau Willimon worked as a political operative, toiling behind the scenes on the campaigns of Chuck Schumer, Hilary Clinton, Bill Bradley and Howard Dean. Willimon left politics in 2004, subsequently translating his experiences as a ringside player in Washington into plays, film and TV, most notably the long-running and enormously popular Netflix series House of Cards. An offshoot of writer Andrew Davies’ British original, the series was brilliantly illustrative of the ruthless quest for power that drives so many politicians and the aides who surround them. Read more…

Harker Jones – BroadwayWorld

Beau Willimon, creator of the American version of “House of Cards,” knows politics. And the machinations that go on behind the scenes. His first play, FARRAGUT NORTH, which debuted off-Broadway in 2008, is in the vein of that Kevin Spacey-Robin Wright thriller series and is loosely based on Howard Dean’s 2004 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Press secretary Steve (Chris King Wong) is a swaggering twentysomething idealist who thinks he’s on top of the world. And he is, to a degree, but given info and an opportunity, will he sell his soul? He takes one fateful phone call that sets his life and career spiraling out of control and suddenly the player is getting played. Read more…

Through November 5

NINA SIMONE: FOUR WOMEN at South Coast Repertory

Arie Bianca Thompson, Chibuba Osuala, Jennifer Leigh Warren and Meredith Noël. Photo by Jenny Graham.

Arie Bianca Thompson, Chibuba Osuala, Jennifer Leigh Warren and Meredith Noël. Photo by Jenny Graham.

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

A young Nina Simone never aspired to be a singer. Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, the sixth of eight children, she studied classical piano as a child, her training paid for by the white employer of her mother, a Methodist minister who worked part-time as a housekeeper. Later she attended Juilliard on funds raised by people in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, and in 1951 applied to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia — but was rejected (in a brutal, unmistakably racist message from the Establishment), despite her overwhelming talent. With no money and needing to support herself and her family, Simone began playing piano in clubs in Atlantic City — then was told she would have to sing if she wanted to keep her job. She complied, and the career of an American musical legend was launched. Read more…

Through October 23

 

TO THE BONE by Open Fist Theatre at Atwater Village Theatre

Tisha Terrasini Banker, Jack David Sharp, and Amanda Weier. Photo by Frank Ishman.

Tisha Terrasini Banker, Jack David Sharp, and Amanda Weier. Photo by Frank Ishman.

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Writer/director Catherine Butterfield’s women-centered dramedy is set in a working-class community south of Boston, where two sisters of Irish-Catholic extraction, Kelly (Tisha Terrasini-Banker) and Maureen (Amanda Weier), share a house once owned and occupied by their grandmother. The place is a throwback to a distant past, its walls replete with black and white family photos from generations back, as well as the requisite crucifix strategically displayed. Read more…

Tracey Paleo – Gia On The Move

If ever there was a dark comedy about “hard girls”…
… this one definitely sticks. More…

Through November 5

MONIECE CLARK by Barker Room Rep at The Broadwater

Ekeme Ekanem in Moniece Clark. Photo courtesy of Barker Room Rep.

Ekeme Ekanem in Moniece Clark. Photo courtesy of Barker Room Rep.

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

LaShea Delaney’s drama, Moniece Clark is about the media’s exploitation of crimes against women and the tendency of law enforcement to downplay those crimes if the victim is a woman of color. You don’t have to look far to uncover the deplorable statistics behind those concerns, to be found in the Department of Justice’s National Missing and Unidentified Persons System or UN Women (an agency affiliated with the United Nations) which will inform you that such crimes are “under-reported, under-investigated, and under-prosecuted.” Read more…

Through October 2

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

BABE, Echo Theatre Company at Atwater Village Theatre

Sal Viscuso, Wylie Anderson and Julie Dretzin in Babe. Photo by Cooper Bates.

Sal Viscuso, Wylie Anderson and Julie Dretzin in Babe. Photo by Cooper Bates.

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Babe, Jessica Goldberg’s incisive, skillfully wrought play about sexual harassment (and what should or should not be deemed politically correct), is so titled because, in the course of the narrative, it’s applied, rather casually, to Abigail (Julie Dretzin), one of the playwright’s four exceedingly well-drawn characters. Read more…

Katie Buenneke – Theatre Digest

This is a strange play, because I feel like it has a lot of potential, but this world premiere staging feels unfinished. The performances felt more like rehearsal than opening night, the transitions were sluggish, and the script clocked in at a slow 70 minutes, ending in a way that could be interpreted as intermission if the cast hadn’t come out for bows. But there’s a lot of interesting, exciting groundwork laid out in the interplay between an old-school record exec (played by Sal Viscuso), who’s pretty much a walking microaggression (you know the type), his colleague Abigail (Julie Dretzin), who’s done more work than she’ll ever get credit for, and Kaitlyn (Wylie Anderson), a millennial who thinks her workplace should be less toxic. Read more…

Through October 24

GHOSTS at Odyssey Theatre

Pamela J. Gray and Barry Del Sherman in Ghosts. Photo by Cooper Bates.

Pamela J. Gray and Barry Del Sherman in Ghosts. Photo by Cooper Bates.

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Plays we now regard as classics aren’t always well-received when they debut. Like The Birthday Party (reviewed on this site in June), Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts was much disparaged when it appeared in 1881— not for being too cryptic, which was the complaint lodged against Pinter, but for being salacious and grossly offensive. Launched in book form before it was staged (as was often the custom at that time), Ghosts stirred widespread indignation for taking on taboo topics like free love, euthanasia and venereal disease, the latter an especially hush-hush matter among that era’s “genteel” classes. Read more…

Through October 23

ANIMAL FARM at A Noise Within

Photo by Craig Schwartz

Photo by Craig Schwartz

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

George Orwell began writing Animal Farm in the waning months of 1943. The book was conceived in response to the evils of Stalinist Russia and the disturbing tendency of many left-leaning British intellectuals to excuse the regime’s murderous excesses and cruelties. Never an officially declared socialist or communist, Orwell had been a member of Britain’s Independent Labour Party, which strove to represent the interests of the working class; in the 1930s, he also enlisted in the Popular Front in its fight against Franco. From the beginning his writings reflected empathy with the downtrodden and oppressed and, as time went on, with identifying and calling out totalitarian entities that utilized propaganda to eviscerate human rights. Read more…

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

British writer George Orwell is best known for his dystopian novel 1984, first published in 1949. Big Brother made Orwell famous. Four years earlier he published the allegorical novella Animal Farm in which animals rebel against their mean farmer and set up their own society. According to Orwell, his story reflected events leading up to the Russian Revolution and then on into the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union. Read more…

Katie Buenneke – Theatre Digest

This show is difficult to categorize, because everything about the production is top-notch, but while I respected it, I had a strong negative reaction. The cast is good, Julia Rodriguez-Elliot’s direction is strong, the songs by Adrian Mitchell and Richard Peaslee work, but I just did not like the show. Read more…

Through October 2