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BY THE BOG OF CATS at Theatre Banshee

Terry Morgan – LAist

Photo by Moses Umbeke

Photo by Moses Umbeke

Audience identification is an interesting phenomenon. It’s the fact that audiences will have sympathy for a possibly repellent character simply because he or she is the protagonist in a story—perhaps it’s an artistic variant of Stockholm Syndrome? This explains the continual fascination with characters such as Richard III, Sweeney Todd and Medea. Speaking of the woman who never won the mother of the year award, Marina Carr’s By The Bog of Cats is loosely inspired by the old Euripides play.
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Now running through December 8.

THE PAIN AND THE ITCH at the Zephyr Theatre

PainItch

Terry Morgan – LAist

Having seen a couple of plays written by Bruce Norris, (Clybourne Park and The Parallelogram) I’m beginning to detect a theme in his writing. He seems to find the purportedly liberal beliefs of certain rich white people worthy of ridicule, specifically convictions of a “politically correct” strain. Nowhere is this clearer than in his play The Pain And The Itch, where most of the characters are smug and self-deluded, almost to the point of caricature. Nonetheless, his writing is sharp and witty, and the new production of the show at the Zephyr Theatre is outstanding.
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Dany Margolies  -  ArtsInLA

Playwright Bruce Norris doesn’t provide his audience with comfort and hope. Apparently he’d rather we think, squirm, even cringe. So his plays are not for the faint of heart. Then again, neither is life.
The Pain and the Itch is his 2004 opus….

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Now running through December 1.

THE LIAR at Antaeus Theater Company

Bob Verini – ArtsInLA

This production is a buoyant treat from first to last. Full disclosure, this is coming from someone with a lifelong antipathy to mistaken-identity plots—you know, the ones in which one opportune word from a character would set everything right immediately, but that word is arbitrarily withheld until the 11th hour. That’s exactly how David Ives’s rhymed couplet version of a 1644 Corneille play operates, and yet such is the magic of this production that it never feels labored .Read more…

Terry Morgan  -  LAist

The Antaeus Company has delivered a sparkling production of Pierre Corneille’s 17th-century play The Liar. It’s a brilliant modern adaptation by David Ives and is one of the wittiest things I’ve seen in years. The downside of being a theatre company that specializes in the classics, such as the Antaeus Company, is that, rightly or wrongly, it accrues a sense of gravitas that might not, to a random prospective theatergoer, imply fun. It’s admirable that even though Antaeus has long been one of the most lauded and entertaining theatre companies in town, they are still trying to be even more accessible to the general audience. Read more…

liar

Photo by Geoffrey Wade

Now running through December 1.

THE CREDITORS at the Odyssey Theatre

Creditors

Photo by Jeannine Wisnosky Stehlin

It’s a good week for new adaptations of classic plays in L.A. On the east side, Antaeus has their terrific production of Corneille’s The Liar, while on the west side we’re treated to the L.A. premiere of David Greig’s adaptation of August Strindberg’s Creditors. With its combination of wit and cruelty and theme of how badly people treat each other, this 1888 play feels like something freshly written by Neil LaBute. The new co-production by the New American Theatre and the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble is superb, a razor-sharp drama highlighted by Jack Stehlin’s devilishly entertaining performance.
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Pauline Adamek  – LA Weekly

A despondent young artist, Adolf (Burt Grinstead), laments his problematic marriage, pouring his heart out to a new acquaintance, Gustav (Jack Stehlin), at a Swedish seaside resort. But as Gustav pries secrets from the weak-willed husband, smoothly poisoning him against his divorcée wife, Tekla (Heather Anne Prete), we observe tantalizing clues, revealing that this friendly fellow somehow knows too much.  Read more…

Now running through December 15.

LOVECRAFT: NIGHTMARE SUITE at the Lex Theater

LOVECRAFTTerry Morgan  -  LAist

 Scary plays are a rarity in the American theatrical landscape, but thankfully Los Angeles has several theatre companies that offer something macabre for horror aficionados. Zombie Joe’s Underground in North Hollywood delivers year-long delightful strangeness, Wicked Lit stages literary adaptations in nighttime graveyards and the Grand Guignolers create their own mix of classic French gory Grand Guignol and stylish modern humor. Finally, there is the Visceral Company…. Read more…

Now playing through November 3.

 

DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP at Sacred Fools Theatre

and2

Photo by Jessica Sherman

 

Terry Morgan – LAist

Late great science fiction author Philip K. Dick’s two thematic questions that ran through almost all of his work were “What is reality” and “What does it mean to be human?” While his novel The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is an example of the former question, a nightmarish tale of drug users on the ultimate unending bad trip, his book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? deals effectively with the latter question.
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Pauline Adamek  – ArtsBeatLA

Creating a mysterious, melancholy and futuristic world that immediately ensconces and transports you, Edward Einhorn has brilliantly adapted novelist Philip K. Dick’s 1968 existential science-noir tale for the stage. The same source material was famously turned into Ridley Scott’s iconic 80s movie Blade Runner. Not having yet read the book, I imagine this stage adaptation is more true to the source material than the movie was, so Philip K. Dick fans will find this show a must-see.  Read more…

Bob Verini -   ArtsInLA

Edward Einhorn has done a capable job in reducing Philip K. Dick’s classic, dystopic Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? to stageworthy dimensions. A brave job, too, considering that Ridley Scott’s cult hit Blade Runner has already mined the source material to such epic effect.   Read more…

Now running through October 19.

THE NORMAL HEART at the Fountain Theatre

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Photo by Ed Krieger

 

Les Spindle – Edge on the Net

In chronicling the beginning of a momentous chapter in the history of gay culture, namely the initial outbreak of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, Larry Kramer’s watershed play “The Normal Heart” offers a deeply moving snapshot of an era, while imparting timeless truths.
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Bob Verini – ArtsInLA

Almost 30 years after its premiere, Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart still packs a wallop, though it’s a different kind of wallop from that which first stunned audiences in the record-breaking long run at New York’s Public Theater. Back then, the fury over governmental, institutional, and (to a large extent) public indifference to the “gay plague” …..
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Neal Weaver – LA Weekly

When the AIDS plague emerged in 1981, writer-activist Larry Kramer was devastated to learn that the larger society wasn’t remotely concerned that gay men were dying by the thousands, and the gay community was refusing to admit its own responsibility. He set out to call the world to account, and tell unpopular truths to power. Driven by his own passionate concern, he launched ham-fisted attacks in all directions, making himself hated and resented.
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Terry Morgan  -  LAist

When Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart premiered in 1985, its urgent message about the AIDS crisis somewhat (and understandably) overshadowed its success as a brilliant piece of theatre. While that message of caution is still timely as people have mistakenly begun to believe that AIDS is a thing of the past, the primary joy of the Fountain Theatre’s current revival of the show is the demonstration of what a strong, smart, character-driven play it is. The production is excellent on all levels, from Simon Levy’s dynamic direction to the outstanding ensemble, with Tim Cummings delivering an electrifying, career-best lead performance. Read more…

Now running through November 3.

RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN at the Geffen Playhouse

rap

Photo by Michael Lamont

Bob Verini -   ArtsInLA

Gina Gionfriddo’s Rapture, Blister, Burn is a report from the feminist front. Folded within a thin narrative is a lot of intriguing conversation, which in the course of two acts brings out numerous perspectives on what women do (and should) need and what they do (and should) want. The talk is often witty and almost as often wise, and to the extent to which you enjoy being pummeled by ideas, while having enough leisure to relate them to your own life, you will likely have a great time at the Geffen’s latest attraction (direct from New York with the original cast). But…
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Pauline Adamek – ArtsBeatLA

Playwright Gina Gionfriddo’s new (to LA) comedy examines the evolution of feminist ideology over the past decades, both theoretical and practical, but above all presents a fantasy scenario throughout. Read more…

Steven Leigh Morris – LA Weekly

“I don’t have time for men,” a female colleague recently told me — and she’s not a lesbian. She’s hard-working, ambitious, very smart, attractive, in her early 30s and professionally successful. She’s also been dating a stream of men for at least a decade. Through all that time, she’s been saying she’d love to find a guy to start a family with, but the males of her generation, she has discovered, are “boys, not men.”  Read more…

Terry Morgan  -  LAist

Many times when I’ve heard a show I’m going to see described as “a play of ideas,” it turns out that I’m getting to sit through a thinly disguised lecture, a master’s thesis with actors. For every playwright who handles this sort of thing brilliantly, such as Tom Stoppard, there are dozens who mistake exposition for theatre. Happily, Gina Gionfriddo is one of the former type of playwrights, and her Rapture, Blister, Burn is a show that blends its discussion of changing views of feminism over the last several decades with a compelling story.
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Now running through September 22.

A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE at Pacific Residents Theatre Ensemble

Terry Morgan – LAist

When one thinks of Arthur Miller’s body of work, one doesn’t immediately think “chronicler of Italian-American experience,” but with A View From The Bridge, he revealed a further breadth of his talent. The lead characters of most of Miller’s plays are imperfect men, from Willy Loman and John Proctor, and Eddie Carbone from View fits right in.
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Dany Margolies – Arts In LA

“I want my respect!” insists Eddie Carbone continually—and ambiguously. Sadly for him, but thrillingly for audiences since 1955, when Arthur Miller’s magnificently crafted play premiered, Miller’s protagonist Eddie has no idea what respect means nor how to earn it.
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Now running through August 25.

WATSON AND THE DARK ART OF HARRY HOUDINI at SACRED FOOLS

WatsonHoudini

Photo by Jessica Sherman

Pauline Adamek  – LA Weekly

Sequels are tough. Expectations are generally high and you can never attain the novelty factor of the first outing. Writer-director Jaime Robledo’s Watson and the Dark Art of Harry Houdini, the second installment in his Watson series, is less dazzling (far fewer action set-pieces) and more talky than the first but maintains his inventive staging and bizarre humor, sending his beloved characters on an ultimately darker, more spiritual journey.
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Terry Morgan – LAist

In November 2010, a play called Watson: The Last Great Tale of the Legendary Sherlock Holmes was one of my favorite shows. It combined clever writing, an expert ensemble and constantly inventive direction to be a true showcase of great L.A. theatre. Its writer/director, Jaime Robledo, is clearly possessed of abundant talent. It is thus with regret that I have to report that the new sequel premiering at Sacred Fools, Watson And The Dark Art of Harry Houdini, is disappointing, a pale imitation of the original that only sporadically works.
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Neverwhere, Sacred Fools Theatre Company

Photo by Jessica Sherman.

 

Neverwhere by Robert Kauzlaric, adapted from the novel written by Neil Gaiman.

 

Pauline Adamek – LA Weekly

After assisting a distraught and injured woman named Door (Paula Rhodes), a milquetoast office worker named Richard (Bryan Bellomo) embarks on a journey that draws him into a fantastical subterranean world that lies beneath London. Neil Gaiman’s Wizard of Oz-esque story promises a magical subculture of strange characters, terrifying beasts and exciting twists and turns, but director Scott Leggett’s disappointing production delivers a meandering fairytale of a series of myth-like quests that lack tension or genuine threat.  Read more…

 

 

 

Terry Morgan – LAist

Over the years I’ve come to respect Sacred Fools Theater Company as one of the most adventurous theatre groups in town. Its history is full of big shows that seem too ambitious for the space and financial means, but time and again the company triumphs, from shows such as The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Gorey Stories in the past to Watson and Stoneface in the present. They’ve done it again with Neverwhere, a big-canvas fantasy that, while rough around the edges, still preserves the charm and magic of Neil Gaiman’s novel.   Read more…

 

 

Intimate Apparel, Pasadena Playhouse

Photo by Jim Cox.

 

Intimate Apparel by Lynn Nottage.

 

Pauline Adamek – ArtsBeatLA

A persuasive melodrama, Intimate Apparel is perhaps Lynn Nottage’s best known play, although she won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Ruined in 2009. Written and first staged at Center Stage in Baltimore almost ten years ago, Intimate Apparel has a pleasing contemporary relevance. Although Nottage’s drama is set in New York City in 1905, in the love letter romance there are parallels with the perils of contemporary online dating, as well as a slight nod to the pretext of Cyrano de Bergerac.   Read more…

 

Terry Morgan – LAist

There’s a lot to be said for the virtues of a compelling tale well told. It hearkens back to the initial reasons people get interested in narrative art in the first place: the seduction of story. While it’s great that some plays have important messages and others are triumphs of style and wit, it’s worthwhile to remember the considerable pleasures of investing in the trials and tribulations of a sympathetic character. Such is the appeal of Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel, receiving a solidly satisfying production right now at the Pasadena PlayhouseRead more…