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Archive for Don Shirley – Page 2

25 HIGHLIGHTS OF LA THEATER IN 2014

Don Shirley – LA Observed

Photo by Debora Robinson/SCR.

Photo by Debora Robinson/SCR.

I don’t believe in year-end Top 10 lists, especially if the components are listed in order of best to, say, tenth best. Why is it necessary to draw such distinctions between creations with very different goals and styles? Are apples really better than oranges — or is it vice versa?

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FLOYD COLLINS at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts

Photo by Michael Lamont

Photo by Michael Lamont

Bob Verini -   Arts in LA

One of the most ambitious art musicals of recent years, Floyd Collins by Adam Guettel (music and lyrics) and Tina Landau (book and additional lyrics) is receiving an outstanding mounting from helmer Richard Israel and the management of the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts. The producers, who regularly bring you the likes of Peter Pan and Cats, have blocked off their huge auditorium to place Rich Rose’s multilevel black-box set onto a three-quarter thrust with intimate seating.  Read more…

Margaret Gray – LA Times

I had never seen anything quite like it, and it grew on me slowly. But I can’t stop thinking about, and humming snippets from, La Mirada Theatre’s revival of “Floyd Collins,” the odd, haunting musical about the Kentucky cave explorer who got himself trapped underground in 1925. Read more.

Sharon Perlmutter  -  Talkin’ Broadway

Floyd Collins is not an easy show to direct. The show’s protagonist spends the majority of the play trapped underground in a cave and Adam Guettel’s score—which is discordant at times—can be a difficult sell. The last time I saw a production of the show in Los Angeles, I came out humming the direction of Richard Israel, who approached the task with skill, creativity and confidence, putting together a surprisingly effective production of the musical in a small space.  Read more…

Don Shirley – LA Observed

One of the best midsize venues for professional theater in LA County has a somewhat unusual location – its 199 seats are on located on the stage of La Mirada Theatre,
adjacent to the actors.

Normally, La Mirada tries to fill its proscenium-style theater’s 1,251 seats in the conventional way — with the audience facing the stage — but to get to the current “Floyd Collins,” the audience bypasses the regular auditorium. The ushers direct the spectators to chairs placed temporarily on the stage itself — in a raked, three-sided thrust around the action.

Read more…

Now running through April 13.

 

HARMONY at the Ahmanson Theatre

Photo by Craig Schwartz

Photo by Craig Schwartz

Les Spindle –  Edge on the Net

Beloved pop songwriter-singer Barry Manilow (“Copacabana,” “Mandy”) and his longtime collaborator, lyricist-librettist Barry Sussman, are fulfilling a longtime dream with “Harmony,” their seriocomic musical. The show was introduced in an appealing production in 1997 at La Jolla Playhouse in Southern California. This project had always aimed for Broadway, though additional work on the piece was clearly called for in that initial rendition. Read more…

Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

In the new musical with music by Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman, Jews and gentiles find Harmony together, celebrating their differences in a fascistic world that stomps on individuality. The play may still need a little fine-tuning, but as a whole, Harmony is an enriching experience with several memorable numbers. Many flaws can be overlooked due to this production’s excellent cast and insightful staging by Tony Speciale. Read more…

Neal Weaver  – Stage Raw

This potent new musical, with music by Barry Manilow and book and lyrics by Bruce Sussman, focuses on a fascinating, little-known footnote to history. It tells the largely factual tale of the Comedian Harmonists, the six-man singing group who were the first boy-band to become, in the 1930s, an international success. (Composer Manilow calls them the Beatles of their day.)  Read more..

Don Shirley – LA Observed

Center Theatre Group has been obsessed with young guys’ bands in recent years. Just since 2013 began, CTG offered the forgettable new musicals “Backbeat” (about the early Beatles) and “The Black Suits” (about a Long Island garage band.) The 2011-12 season at CTG’s Ahmanson Theatre included post-Broadway runs of the dramatically threadbare “American Idiot” (with a Green Day score) and “Fela!” (about the Afro-pop star.) Read more…

Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter

 A long-gestating dream project by composer Barry Manilow and his collaborating wordsmith Bruce Sussman (Copacabana: The Musical, the neglected Disney animated feature Oliver and Company), Harmony is an ambitious musical doggedly committed to mimicking its betters: near beer Sondheim, watered down Kander & Ebb, tempered Rodgers & Hammerstein. Read more…

Now running through April 13.

MY NAME IS ASHER LEV at the Fountain Theatre

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Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter

Chaim Potok’s 1972 bestseller My Name is Asher Lev has been deftly adapted by Aaron Posner and receives a peerless realization by a splendid cast. Posner reduces the novel to its essential conflicts, yet rather than diluting the impact he effectively intensifies the immediacy of the emotional payoffs. Read more…

Don Shirley – LA Observed

…….at the Fountain Theatre in east Hollywood, “My Name Is Asher Lev” explores another form of Jewish liberation — only here the escape isn’t from slave masters but from the family-enforced strictures of a Chasidic brand of orthodox Judaism itself. Read more…

Neal Weaver  – ArtsInLA

The novel My Name Is Asher Lev, by the late Chaim Potok, is a bildungsroman about the youth and coming of age of a young artist, whose vocation as a painter puts him at odds with his religious faith, his family, and his community. The novel offers an interior drama, as well as an expansive view covering a period of 20 years with a multitude of characters. Read more…

Now running through April 13.

TARTUFFE at A Noise Within

tartuffe-shirley

Photo by Craig Schwartz

Don Shirley – LA Observed

Con artistry requires the ability to get the victims to suspend disbelief – the same quality that theatrical artistry usually requires of audiences.  Read more…

 

David C. Nichols – LA Times

“Tartuffe” returns to A Noise Within’s repertoire after 22 years, and it proves worth the wait. Molière’s deathless assault on religious hypocrisy could hardly be more pertinent at present, which gives Julia Rodriguez-Elliott’s elegantly quirky staging an extra soupçon of satirical thrust.  Read more…

Now running in rep through May 24.

VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE at the Mark Taper Forum

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Photo by Craig Schwartz

Bob Verini -   ArtsInLA

So you’re a distinguished playwright in your early 60s: a very Chekhovian age; an age when the mind drifts toward dreams once grasped, then compromised, then lost, and fixates on memories of simpler, happier times. You look around your Bucks County farmhouse and think, “Gosh, this looks a lot like one of those summer homes to which Chekhov’s characters retire to brood and despair and make one last lunge toward life.” There are even a few cherry trees—why, almost an orchard!—out back. And you say to yourself, “What if some modern Chekhovian characters lived here?   Read more…

Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter

With its Tony Award for Best Play, Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike presents the strongest comedy Broadway has to offer in a distinguished, sleekly professional production that makes the most of his frolicsome mash-up of melancholy and regret. A crazy-like-a-fox quilt of character and plot strands from The Sea Gull, The Three Sisters, The Cherry Orchard and Uncle Vanya set in today’s Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where the playwright lives, the story unfolds over an action-packed 24 hours that punctuates the otherwise uninterrupted monotony of the lives of siblings Vanya (Mark Blum) and Sonia (Kristine Nielsen) when their movie star sister Masha (Christine Ebersole) arrives for a visit with her boy-toy, hunky aspiring actor Spike (David Hull).    Read more…

Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

Despite the title, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is not a revival of a lost Anton Chekhov play, but a refashioning of Chekhovian themes in a modern setting. Acclaimed parodist Christopher Durang has written a hysterical comedy of family most foul that has been seamlessly transferred to the Mark Taper Forum, with apt direction by David Hyde Pierce, who played Vanya in the Broadway production. Read more…

Terry Morgan  -  Talkin’ Broadway

I’ve found that at least once a year there is a show that is loved and lauded by public and critics alike, a play that garners awards and big box office, and yet bafflingly leaves me completely cold. This year, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is that show. I was looking forward to seeing it; I like Christopher Durang and Anton Chekhov. I wasn’t in a bad mood and I held no grudge against the theatre company. Read more…

Les Spindle –  Frontiers L.A.

In its West Coast premiere, Center Theatre Group’s uproariously funny and surprisingly heartrending production of Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike offers endless delights. With character names, themes, plot elements and seamless shifts between humor and heartbreak that all evoke the masterworks of the great Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, Vanya feels like an affectionate tribute to the legendary scribe’s oeuvre, infused with up-to-the-minute satirical relevance. Read more…

Don Shirley – LA Observed

If you’re aware that it won the Tony Award for best play last year, you might assume that it was, well, the best new play — at least among the shallow pool of new plays that appear on Broadway. Also, many theatergoers – include me in this group – might look forward to Durang’s latest because of fond memories of some of his earlier work and the plays of Chekhov, which Durang is gently spoofing here.  Read more…

Pauline Adamek  – ArtsBeatLA

Learning that Christopher Durang’s comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike—now playing at the Mark Taper Forum until March 16—won the 2013 Tony Award and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play fills me with some degree of sadness. Read more…

Now running through March 16.

PASSION PLAY at the Odyssey Theatre

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Photo by Michael Gend

Steven Leigh Morris – LA Weekly

A quartet of Big Idea plays has opened over the past two weeks, exploring the intersections of art, psychology and history. Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play, co-presented by the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble and Evidence Room, has been around since at least 2005, with productions at Arena Stage in Washington, Chicago’s Goodman Theatre and Yale Rep. No worries that it took so long to get here: A theological fantasia about a medieval passion play performed in a 1575 English village, then in 1934 Germany, and finally in South Dakota of the late 1960s isn’t going to age quickly. Read more…

Don Shirley – LA Stage Times

…. At the other end of the spectrum, Bart DeLorenzo and Evidence Room are introducing Ruhl’s intricate Passion Play to LA at the 99-seat Odyssey, which is co-producing it.

I recently wrote that Ruhl’s In the Next Room, or the vibrator play was her masterpiece of her plays that I had seen, although I noted that I hadn’t yet seen Passion Play.  Read more…

Terry Morgan  -  Talkin’ Broadway

Evidence Room has long been one of Los Angeles’ best and most ambitious theatre companies. The group has never been afraid to take on artistic challenges, from huge shows such as Pentecost or Berlin Circle to more intimate pieces such as Annapurna, not to mention a stylistic tour de force such as Margo Veil. It then makes perfect sense that the company would choose to do a play by Sarah Ruhl, one of the most adventurous modern American playwrights. Her work Passion Play examines how three groups of people in three different time periods (from 1575 to current day) are affected by performing the “passion play” detailing the arrest, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Read more…

Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter

With its three acts set in 1575 Lancashire, 1934 Oberammergau in Nazi Germany, and from 1969-1984 in Spearpoint, South Dakota, the epically ambitious Passion Play presents the millennium-long tradition of local amateur stagings of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus as a kaleidoscopic metaphor for the aspirations of the individual and the community of faith in tension with the power of the State. Its amplitude marks an interestingly dogged departure from the more familiar allusive lyricism and incisive comedy of Sarah Ruhl’s other work (The Clean House, Dead Man’s Cell Phone, Eurydice). Read more…

Dany Margolies  -  Arts In LA

Doesn’t it gently smack of hubris when people play Christ and the Virgin Mary, whether onstage in the safety of a theater, or in communally staged Passion plays, or in the re-enactments the fervently religious attempt? Because, as Sarah Ruhl repeatedly shows in her Passion Play, most of us are deeply flawed. Read more…

Now running through March 16.