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Archive for Don Shirley

Pig power plays at ‘Animal Farm.’ ‘Everybody’ is talkin’. Alanis and Hammerstein, but no Natives.

Geoff Elliott, top, with L-R Stanley Andrew Jackson III, Rafael Goldstein, Trisha Miller. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Geoff Elliott, top, with L-R Stanley Andrew Jackson III, Rafael Goldstein, and Trisha Miller. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Don Shirley – Angeles Stage

‘Animal Farm’. ‘Sanctuary City’. ‘Everybody.’ ‘Oedipus.’ ‘Jagged Little Pill.’ ‘Oklahoma!’

How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the ‘Farm’, after they’ve seen…Pasadena?

Yes, I’m paraphrasing the lyrics of an ancient pop song to make the point that Pasadena and nearby neighborhoods constitute the hottest cluster of locally-produced theater right now.

The creatures who liberate themselves from servitude in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” at east Pasadena’s A Noise Within, as well as the human audiences there, might also want to check out “Sanctuary City” at Pasadena Playhouse and “Everybody” at Antaeus in nearby Glendale. Read more…

Barding in the park, after dark

Kalean Ung and Sam Breen in Macbeth. Photo by Grettel Cortes.

Kalean Ung and Sam Breen in Macbeth. Photo by Grettel Cortes.

Don Shirley – Angeles Stage

‘Macbeth’ in Griffith Park, ‘Comedy’ in Irvine. CTG’s month of emulating Netflix. ‘Beach People,’ ‘Lavender Men,’ ‘Valley Song.’ Jason Alexander charts his Abby road.

Have you savored Shakespeare in the park this summer? This coming week might be the best possible moment for this annual ritual, as well as one of the last such opportunities. A daytime heat wave is expected this week, so you might not even need that extra wrap that you take, for example, to Topanga in June.

I’m recommending two productions far from Topanga — suiting different moods and, perhaps, with different ticket availability. If you want something wicked and wild, go to a dell in Griffith Park for Independent Shakespeare Company’s “Macbeth.” If you want something whimsical and witty, try the errrantly spelled “Comedy of Errrorrs” at New Swan Shakespeare Festival in Irvine. Read more…

When memories meet the present moment

Valerie Perri, Leo Marks, Samantha Klein. Photo by Jenny Graham

Valerie Perri, Leo Marks, Samantha Klein. Photo by Jenny Graham

Don Shirley – Angeles Stage

Don’t forget ‘If I Forget’ at the Fountain. Plus ‘Dear Evan Hansen,’ ‘A Wicked Soul in Cherry Hill,’ ‘King Liz,’ ‘Trouble the Water,’ ‘Freestyle Love Supreme,’ ‘Cookin’ with Gas’

The present moment is the essence of live performance. Everyone in the audience — or on the stage, for that matter — experiences an event that will never again be exactly replicated. More than filmed or “live” electronically recorded productions, live theater happens right now.

Of course improv-based stage productions, such as the current “Freestyle Love Supreme” at Pasadena Playhouse or the Groundlings’ “Cookin’ With Gas”, emphasize this quality. They rely on suggestions from the spectators, so the actual words and topics can change dramatically at each new performance (more about them later).

On the other hand, many scripted plays grapple so much with memories of the past that they sometimes ignore the relevance of the past to the present moment. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as the memories don’t feel musty. Read more…

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…

Put a ‘Tiger’ in your tank, LA Times

Photo by Jenny Graham

Photo by Jenny Graham

Don Shirley – Angeles Stage

Why didn’t the LA Times review the hilarious “Tiger Style!” or “Our Town” at South Coast Repertory? Plus thoughts on “Man of God,” “Metamorphoses,” and more. 

“Tiger Style!” deserves the exclamation point in its title. Mike Lew’s satire is the funniest new play I’ve seen since theaters started re-opening last year, after vaccinations began.

At first, “Tiger” is a no-holds-barred satire of two Chinese-American young-adult siblings with acute anxiety, stirred up by other Americans who seem to bar no holds in their treatment of these exemplars of the so-called “model minority.” Then it also finds a lot of laughs as these third-generational siblings belatedly blame their problems on their parents, who used “tiger style” child-rearing techniques.

 Read more…

To hell (and back?) in TOOTSIE and HADESTOWN: Plus, A Heated Discussion, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, A Doll’s House Part 2, Masao and the Bronze Nightingale, Jane Austen Unscripted

Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

Don Shirley – Angeles Stage

Just over a month ago, millions of us witnessed a dramatic descent into chaos onstage at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. At the Oscar ceremony, the usual back-patting was upstaged by the unscripted cheek-slapping of Chris Rock by Will Smith.

Now fresh drama has returned to the Dolby. Last Tuesday, the stage musical adaptation of “Tootsie” made its first LA appearance there, under the auspices of Broadway in Hollywood, depicting a very different fall from grace. It’s a contemporary take on the beloved 1982 film comedy about a man who enjoys steady employment — and even fame — while posing as a woman, before his ruse is exposed. Read more…

 

ON SONDHEIM AND ‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL’

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Don Shirley – Angeles Stage

Sondheim was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. Old Sondheim was as dead as a doornail.

Yes, those words were inspired by the opening lines of “A Christmas Carol,” but no, I’m not suggesting that Stephen Sondheim was like Scrooge’s ex-partner Jacob Marley — other than the fact that both Sondheim and “Marley” are now…dead.
Read more…

 

‘THE PRESENT’…AND THE FUZZY FUTURE OF L.A. THEATER from LA Observed

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Don Shirley – LA Observed

“There is no theater in Los Angeles.”

This line, or some variation of it, has been around for decades — sometimes spoken by real people, sometimes ascribed to fictional characters. It’s normally a snarky wisecrack, completely unrelated to the truth.

Right now, however, this line is much more accurate than usual. Like theaters in most of the rest of the world, L.A. stages — in the sense of physical spaces where actors and audiences gather — are dormant.

Read more…

‘HAMILTON’ IN LA IN THE TIME OF TRUMP

Photo by Joan Marcus

Photo by Joan Marcus

Don Shirley – LA Observed

“Hamilton” was one of the great cultural achievements of the Obama years. The president nurtured its growth by hosting a 2009 performance of the show’s titular song in the White House, before the rest of the musical was even written. Then, after “Hamilton” had opened to widespread acclaim in New York, where its story is set, Michelle Obama called it “the best piece of art that I have ever seen” at yet another White House event in 2016.

Read more…

ALL THE STREET’S A STAGE AND SACK LUNCH ‘FELLOWSHIP’ by Don Shirley

Photo by Brian Biery

Photo by Brian Biery

Don Shirley – LA Observed

January 21 was a great day for immersive theater in Los Angeles. I’m referring to one event you probably know about, the Women’s March. But I’m also writing about “fellowship” – which you probably don’t know about. The former attracted the masses; the latter has a maximum capacity of 42 for any single performance.

  Read more…

‘MERRILY’ IS A MASTERPIECE, MELTED ‘ICEBERGS’ by Don Shirley

Photo: Kevin Parry for The Wallis

Photo: Kevin Parry for The Wallis  

Don Shirley – LA Observed

Two major productions in LA right now more or less begin with scenes set in LA – which is so unusual on our larger stages that I’m happy to salute any effort to examine our own community, no matter how tentative.

Read more…

DESTINY OF DESIRE at South Coast Repertory (and other plays)

 

Photo by ​Debora Robinson/SCR.

Photo by ​Debora Robinson/SCR.

Don Shirley – LA Observed

The telenovela genre, that hotbed of steamy romance, becomes embroiled in a fervent embrace with the theater in “Destiny of Desire,” Karen Zacarias’ wildly funny play at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa. Read more…

Now running through November 20