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Archive for LA Weekly

YOHEN at East West Players

(Photo courtesy East West Players)

(Photo courtesy East West Players)

Deborah Klugman – LA Weekly

Set in 1986, Philip Kan Gotanda’s Yohen depicts the unraveling of a 37-year marriage. Although it tumbles off-track in its final third, the play to that point is an astute portrayal of the dynamics of a failed intimacy.
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Neal Weaver  – Stage Raw

The title of Philip Kan Gotanda’s play, Yohen, refers to the unpredictable changes that take place when pottery is placed in the kiln. The result may be disastrous, or it may create an unexpected treasure. His play refers to the disruptive changes which occur in a human relationship over the course of years.
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Frances Baum Nicholson –The Stage Struck Review

Eighteen years ago, Danny Glover and the late Nobu McCarthy shared the stage of East West Players in Philip Kan Gotanda’s “Yohen,” about the struggles of an couple coming to terms with the husband’s retirement after 37 years in the military.
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Now running through November 19

WITH LOVE AND A MAJOR ORGAN at Boston Court Performing Arts Center

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Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

Some people go through life with their heart on their sleeve, while others are much more guarded, desperate to protect their hearts from being broken. In With Love and a Major Organ, a whimsical, poignant play by Julia Lederer currently in its west coast premiere at Boston Court Performing Arts Center, this concept is taken a step further. Read more…

Paul Birchall – Stage and Cinema

Midway through playwright Julia Lederer’s feather-light, yet rather droning romantic comedy, a character literally reaches into her own chest and pulls out her heart, which thumps and pumps and leaks blood into the padded envelope she shoves it into. The lovesick woman then leaves it in a New York City subway station for the man she hopes to catch. Read more…

Deborah Klugman – LA Weekly

In playwright Julia Lederer’s With Love and A Major Organ, a West Coast premiere directed by Jessica Kubzansky at Boston Court, a warm spontaneous woman falls ardently in love with a stranger she meets on the subway.  The main idea — a quest for love requited —may be as old as the hills, but Lederer’s wit and poetical language, along with Kubzansky’s directorial finesse and state-of the-art staging, makes for a beguiling evening of theater. Read more…

Frances Baum Nicholson –The Stage Struck Review

Recently, as part of an assignment at a nearby public high school, students experimented at a local mall to see what people their age would do if a stranger (also their age) came up to try to engage them in conversation. Over and over, the subjects of their experiment would look down at their phones – use their electronic social network to avoid talking to a real person. Interestingly, that was the expected result, according to the teens.
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Now running through November 5

HEAD OF PASSES at the Mark Taper Forum

Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Frances Baum Nicholson –The Stage Struck Review

Every once in a while one comes across a performance which may outweigh the play it takes place in. In this case, a good play becomes greater because of one person who takes a playwright’s words and their own and their director’s understandings and makes of them something much more than the sum of those parts. This is Phylicia Rashad in “Head of Passes,” now open at the Mark Taper Forum.
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Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

Throughout Act 1 of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Head of Passes, now at the Mark Taper Forum, Phylicia Rashad plays a religious woman on her last legs who chooses her birthday to unravel family secrets. Nothing in that act prepares audiences for the awe-striking flow of passion that emits from the famous actor in Act 2 as she spews fury at God……..
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Deborah Klugman – LA Weekly

In Head of Passes, playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney strives to create a narrative of epic proportion, but with only moderate success. Directed by Tina Landau at the Mark Taper Forum, the play nonetheless is worth seeing for the questions it poses, the production’s finely-tuned ensemble, and the lead performance by Phylicia Rashad as a devout woman sorely tested by her God.
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Now running through October 22

 

BIG NIGHT at the Kirk Douglas Theatre

Photo by Craig Schwartz

Photo by Craig Schwartz

Deborah Klugman – LA Weekly

Big Night is one of those sitcom-like stage comedies that tries super hard to tackle big themes but trips on the very glibness it purports to satirize. Read more…

Katie Buenneke – Stage Raw

Big Night is a play with aspirations bigger than it can deliver on. The new work by playwright Paul Rudnick wants to make grand statements and provoke gnarly debates about important social issues, but complex issues need to be explored carefully — they’re not best served by being glossed over to get to the next Big Idea, a trap Big Night falls into all too often.   Read more…

Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

While it is clear that the recent tragedy at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and the regularity of mass shootings have weighed heavily on comedy writer Paul Rudnick’s mind, his distillation of these heady conversations about gun violence and mental health come wrapped in too shiny of a package in the form of his play, Big Night.
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Frances Baum Nicholson – The Daily Breeze

It’s not a new topic, but the superficiality of the film industry seems an easy and thus fairly constant pick as the foundation for an examination of modern ethics.
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 Now running through October 8

 

HAMILTON at the Pantages Theatre

Photo by Joan Marcus

Photo by Joan Marcus

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

So much has been written about Hamilton since its debut two and a half years ago. This musical, which has won just about every award it was eligible for including the Best Musical Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, has embedded itself in the pop culture zeitgeist more than any musical ever has. Read more…

Deborah Klugman – LA Weekly

When Hamilton was performed for the Obamas in 2016, Michelle Obama is said to have called it “the best piece of art in any form that I have ever seen in my life.” Did she overstate things? Now that I’ve seen the show (for the first time), I don’t think she did. Read more…

Jonas Schwartz - TheaterMania

So often, expectations can overwhelm an actual experience, but the gripping Hamilton at the Pantages lives up to the hype.   Read more…

Dany Margolies  -  Arts In LA

How.” That’s the first word of Hamilton. The word, as a question, repeats throughout.    Pretty much everyone who has seen or heard this musical agrees it is genius. The question remains, how did Lin-Manuel Miranda come up with this miracle? Read more…

Pauline Adamek  -  ArtsBeatLA

When a touring Broadway show finally comes to town, coasting on a tidal wave of hype and critical acclaim, it’s difficult to make a clear-headed assessment of its value. Following its fêted move from the East Village to Broadway, composer and performer Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton has taken up residence at the glamorous Pantages Theater in Hollywood. There will performances through December 30, 2017.  Read more…

Now running through December 30

TILDA SWINTON ANSWERS AN AD ON CRAIGSLIST at the Celebration Theatre

Photo courtesy of Celebration Theatre

Photo courtesy of Celebration Theatre

Deborah Klugman – LA Weekly

In Byron Lane’s shtick-drenched comedy at the Celebration Theatre, a flamboyant figure claiming to be actress Tilda Swinton (Tom Lenk) shows up on the doorstep of a suicidal man named Walt (Lane) and inspires him to accept himself and get on with his life. Read more…

Terry Morgan  -  Stage Raw

There’s a special subset of shows that parody or examine a particular celebrity, such as Mindy Kaling and Brenda Withers’ Matt & Ben (about the titular Good Will Hunting creators), or Jonathan Tolins’ examination of life in Streisand’s home mall in Buyer and Cellar. Read more…

Now running through August 31

 

SHOUT SISTER SHOUT! at the Pasadena Playhouse

Jim Cox Photography

Jim Cox Photography

Deborah Klugman – LA Weekly

Born in 1915, Sister Rosetta Tharpe has been called the godmother of rock & roll for her profound influence on a legion of famous vocalists, including Elvis Presley, Tina Turner and Johnny Cash (who noted in his induction speech into the Hall of Fame that she was his favorite singer). Read more…

Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

Rosetta Tharpe was a pioneer rock artist who inspired many individuals and the future of rock and roll itself, but Randy Johnson and Cheryl L. West, the creators of Shout Sister Shout!, do not seem to trust the power of Tharpe’s story on its own merits. Instead, they structure a convoluted fantasy around this life story that feels as if it was directly cribbed from Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life.   Read more…

Frances Baum Nicholson – The Daily News

If you love classic rock ’n’ roll and have never heard of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, shame on you.
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Now running through August 20

KING OF THE YEES at the Kirk Douglas Theatre

Photo by Craig Schwartz

Photo by Craig Schwartz

Katie Buenneke – Stage Raw

Fans of the fourth wall — that imaginary wall separating performers from their audience — should steer clear of Lauren Yee’s new play King of the Yees, now playing at the Kirk Douglas in Culver City. But for more adventurous folks, those willing to throw caution (and conventional theatrical tradition) to the wind, the show proves a fun ride, full of twists and turns. Read more…

Deborah Klugman – LA Weekly

The many pleasures of King of the Yees, directed by Joshua Kahan Brody at the Mark Taper Forum, emerge not from playwright Lauren Yee’s rambling unfocused script but from the abundant talents of its versatile ensemble and the production’s colorful staging. Read more…

Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

There are intriguing themes considered in Lauren Yee’s comedy King of the Yees, currently running at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, particularly about the playwriting process and how artists begin with a preconceived notion only to broaden their scope as they discover the truth of these subjects.
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Frances Baum Nicholson – The Daily Breeze

There is a moment toward the end of a favorite documentary where people who grew up in the then-segregated African-American neighborhood around Central and Slauson in L.A. talked about the loss of that neighborhood with regret. Entrance into the mainstream was great, they say, but they lost those close-knit community ties. Read more…

Now running through August 6

HEISENBERG at the Mark Taper Forum

Photo by Craig Schwartz

Photo by Craig Schwartz

Hoyt Hilsman  -  Huffington Post

In the finest tradition of the theatrical two-hander, British playwright Simon Stephens (adapter of the Tony-award winning Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night) has imagined a random encounter between a forty-something eccentric woman and a very ordinary seventy-five year old butcher. Read more…

Deborah Klugman – LA Weekly

British playwright Simon Stephens’ Heisenberg tracks the ups and downs in the relationship of an American woman in her 40s and an Irishman in his 70s. First produced at the Manhattan Theatre Club in 2015 and later remounted on Broadway, the play shares its appellation with physicist and 1932 Nobel Prize winner Werner Heisenberg.

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Frances Baum Nicholson –The Stage Struck Review

The uncertainty principle of German scientist Werner Heisenberg states that the position and velocity of any object cannot both be measured exactly at the same time. In Simon Stephens’ much-celebrated play, “Heisenberg,” that theory is applied to people – two impressively dissimilar adults who meet awkwardly in a London train station…
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Terry Morgan  -  Stage Raw

I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all seen plenty of “manic pixie dreamgirl” romantic comedies, and even enough of the subset of May/December relationship dramas — but these are sturdy tropes that will always be with us. The latest theatrical iteration of this genre is Simon Stephens’ Heisenberg……   Read more…

Dany Margolies  -  Arts In LA

Playwright Simon Stephens puts two characters onstage, captures them in conversation, and leaves us knowing no more about themselves our ourselves than we knew at the start of this 80-minute work.

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Pauline Adamek – ArtsBeatLA

Annoying, pointless and utterly dated — Simon Stephens’ play Heisenberg perpetuates not only the myth of the ‘manic pixie dream girl’ but fails to question the normalcy and acceptability of May/December romances. Neither are desirable nor relevant outlooks for the 21st century stage.

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Now running through August 6

LOVE IS A DIRTY WORD at the VS Theatre

(Photo by Aaron Epstein)

(Photo by Aaron Epstein)

Deborah Klugman – LA Weekly

There are many fine elements in Giovanni Adams’ autobiographical solo show, and it’s hard to decide which to mention first: the cadenced flow of his beautifully detailed 80-minute spoken word poem, the open and disarming manner of his delivery, or the production’s flawless pacing under Becca Wolff’s accomplished direction.   Read more…

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

In the home where Giovanni Adams grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, sex was never a dirty word.

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Now running through July 15

LES BLANCS – Rogue Machine Theatre at the Met

Photo by John Perrin Flynn

Photo by John Perrin Flynn

Terry Morgan  -  Stage Raw

It’s kind of amazing that a major play by Lorraine Hansberry is just having its Los Angeles premiere now. Perhaps the tide of criticism that caused the play to close after one month on Broadway in 1970 tainted its reputation in some way, or its need for a 24-member cast scared producers off. Thankfully, Rogue Machine decided to rectify this situation, and its current production is a smart, exciting theatrical event. Read more…

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Lorraine Hansberry was the first black woman to write a play that was produced on Broadway when her classic A Raisin in the Sun opened in 1959. At the age of 29, she won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award becoming the youngest playwright to do so.   Read more…

Deborah Klugman – LA Weekly

Lorraine Hansberry’s Les Blancs is set in colonial Africa sometime in the mid–20th century, and while much has changed since then, the play’s moral dilemmas and the racism and hypocrisy that give rise to them remain with us. Read more…

Margaret Gray – LA Times

The playwright Lorraine Hansberry died of cancer in 1965 when she was only 34, leaving behind incomplete drafts of “Les Blancs” (“The Whites”), a play she had begun writing in 1960, soon after “A Raisin in the Sun” made her famous.Read more…

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Now running through July 3

ACTUALLY at the Geffen Playhouse

Christ Whitaker

Photo by Chris Whitaker

Margaret Gray – LA Times

He said, she said. Then he said more, and then she said more. They both kept saying things. But no matter how much they said, it was impossible to determine what had actually happened between the two freshmen in the Princeton University dorm room when they were very drunk. Was it consensual sex or rape? Read more…

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

“Um, actually.” These seemingly innocuous words are critical to the events of the aptly named Actually, a new play by Anna Ziegler currently playing at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles in a co-world premiere with the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Read more…

Dany Margolies  -  Arts In LA

We see the kiss twice: once at the play’s beginning and once at its end. Her hands express her uncertainty. They don’t push him away, but they don’t embrace him. Her left hand hovers near his shoulder, a question mark over the moment and certainly over the play. Read more…

Deborah Klugman – LA Weekly

In Anna Ziegler’s smart and penetrating play Actually, now premiering at the Geffen Playhouse, Tom (Jerry MacKinnon), a freshman at Princeton, recounts an incident in which his best buddy Sunil leans in and kisses him on the mouth. Read more…

Now running through June 11