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Archive for On Stage and Screen

ANASTASIA at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre

Evan Zimmerman

Evan Zimmerman

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

If you, like me, grew up on the 1997 animated film version of Anastasia, you probably remember the creepy and scary Rasputin, and the titular heroine eventually defeating him by destroying a magical glass vial. While much of the plot, and all of the memorable songs, are the same in the musical version that opened last night at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre, Rasputin and all of the supernatural elements have been removed. But despite those differences, this charming production evokes strong feelings of nostalgia, telling a touching tale of a traumatized princess attempting to find her way back to herself.
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Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

The fate of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanoff of Russia was one of the greatest mysteries of the early 20th century as at least ten women came forward claiming to be her, even though she and her entire family of seven, led by Tsar Nicholas II, were said to have been murdered by their Bolshevik guards in July, 1918 after the Russian Revolution.
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Margaret Gray – LA Times

The most mysterious thing about the feisty, strawberry-blond protagonist of the musical “Anastasia,” whose national tour has landed at the Hollywood Pantages, is not her affliction by what doctors today might diagnose as retrograde amnesia or dissociative fugue. (Her story takes place in 1927, in the infancy of neuroscience, when doctors just called everyone crazy.)
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Now running through October 27

 

A KID LIKE JAKE at IAMA Theatre Company

Dean Cechvala

Dean Cechvala

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

In A Kid Like Jake, which opened this weekend in its west coast premiere at IAMA Theatre Company in Los Angeles, we never actually meet the titular character. Instead, playwright Daniel Pearle has written a smart and thoughtful exploration of parenthood in the modern age, and how to navigate raising a child who is struggling with their gender identity.
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Now running through November 3

SKINTIGHT at Geffen Playhouse

Chris Whitaker

Chris Whitaker

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

Jodi Isaac (Idina Menzel) is feeling insecure. On paper, there’s no reason she should be—she is a successful lawyer at a top firm in Los Angeles, she has more or less successfully raised two young adult sons, and her father is a fashion retail mogul. But her husband recently left her for another woman—an affair she discovered when she caught them together, in her bed
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Katie Buenneke – Stage Raw

It’s tempting to think that what playwright Joshua Harmon does is easy. His way with language seems effortless, easily conveying characters’ backstories without feeling obviously expository. This high quality and ease of storytelling can be seen in this and his other plays (including Bad Jews and Significant Other, both of which appeared at the Geffen in previous seasons).
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Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Beauty is skin deep. Families are difficult. Love is more difficult. Botox for everyone! Would you sleep on sheets made of human skin? What is the proper etiquette for sitting bare-assed on the sofa? Do Rolexes really cost nearly half a million dollars?
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Now running through October 12

THE SOLID LIFE OF SUGAR WATER at Deaf West Theatre

Brandon Simmoneau

Brandon Simmoneau

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

What does intimacy look like after two people have been forever changed by a devastating tragedy? The Solid Life of Sugar Water, a play by Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) currently in its US premiere at Deaf West Theatre in Los Angeles, follows a young couple as they attempt to connect sexually for the first time after the stillbirth of their child.
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Margaret Gray – LA Times

There’s a reason so many love stories end with the wedding. What happens later — the daily intimacy of marriage itself, with its late-night misunderstandings and morning breath — is often less picturesque.
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Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

British playwright Jack Thorne’s two-hander The Solid Life of Sugar Water is about a couple learning to recover from a horrific experience.
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Now running through October 13

LATIN HISTORY FOR MORONS at the Ahmanson Theatre

Matthew Murphy

Matthew Murphy

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

In his sixth one-man show, Tony winner John Leguizamo is back on stage with Latin History for Morons, a timely and engaging piece that is part comedy special, part solo revue, and part poignant academic lesson.
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Katie Buenneke – Stage Raw

John Leguizamo has a remarkable knack for drawing an audience in and making them feel comfortable immediately. Before you realize you’re even watching a one-man show, you’re well into it, you’ve unknowingly taken a leap of faith and you’re trusting this man to guide you through the next two hours.
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Now running through October 20

HANDJOB – Echo Theater Company at Atwater Village Theatre

Darrett Sanders

Darrett Sanders

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

When the lights rise on Handjob, a play by Erik Patterson currently in its world premiere at the Echo Theater Company in Los Angeles, we meet Keith (Steven Culp). Keith is a gay, white writer, and he has hired Eddie (Michael Rishawn), a younger black man, to provide a service that at first glance seems sexual in nature. But it turns out Keith has simply hired Eddie to clean his apartment—while shirtless.
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Terry Morgan  -  Stage Raw

Erik Patterson’s new play, Handjob, aims to be provocative, and it succeeds in its goal. While the show features the explicit depiction of a sexual act (I bet you can guess which one), the playwright is going after bigger themes than sex alone.
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Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

A gay writer hires a “shirtless cleaner” and thereby begins Eric Patterson’s World Premiere comedy Handjob at Echo Theater Company at the Atwater Village Theatre.
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Now running through October 21

WITCH at Geffen Playhouse

Jeff Lorch

Jeff Lorch

Terry Morgan  -  Talkin’ Broadway

When The Witch of Edmonton (written by William Rowley, Thomas Dekker and John Ford) premiered in 1621, its tale of a woman selling her soul to the devil to gain revenge on her neighbors was played as a tragic drama. Jen Silverman’s new version of the story, simply titled Witch, is very much a comedy, although tragedy is still present.
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Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

At the beginning of Witch, a funny and insightful play by Jen Silverman now in its west coast premiere at the Geffen Playhouse, the titular character (Maura Tierney) addresses the audience, posing a bit of a warning.
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Margaret Gray – LA Times

In “Witch,” Jen Silverman’s delightful recasting of the obscure 1621 tragicomedy “The Witch of Edmonton,” characters find themselves in Jacobean dress and Jacobean circumstances, but they speak like Americans today. Nary a “prithee” or “forsooth” to be heard.
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Jonas Schwartz – Theatermania

Witch, receiving its West Coast premiere at the Geffen Playhouse, explores sexual politics and humanity’s bloodlust for power. Loosely based on William Rowley, Thomas Dekker, and John Ford’s 1621 play The Witch of Edmonton, this one-act battle of the sexes proves that little in human nature has changed since the 1600s.
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Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

From Dante’s Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost to Disney’s Fantasia and Broadway’s Damn Yankees, The Devil has been a popular character in books, music, film and stage works.
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Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Witch, Jen Silverman’s incisive illuminating play directed by Marti Lyons at Geffen Playhouse, draws inspiration from The Witch of Edmonton, a Jacobean melodrama conceived around the real-life tragedy of an elderly woman named Elizabeth Sawyer, burned as a witch in the British community of Edmonton in 1621.
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Now running through September 29

 

FRANKENSTEIN at A Noise Within

Craig Schwartz

Craig Schwartz

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

Since the publication of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein in 1818, it has been interpreted and adapted in many ways. In 2011, a stage adaptation by Nick Dear debuted at the National Theatre in London, and this weekend its California premiere opened at A Noise Within in Pasadena.
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Jonas Schwartz – Broadway World

The California Premiere of Nick Dear’s adaptation of FRANKENSTEIN features a heartbreaking performance by Michael Manuel as a creature born innocent but ugly, taught to hate and rebel against humanity. Manuel carries the production on his hulking shoulders, which becomes crippling due to a confounding script and unusually lifeless direction from Los Angeles star director Michael Michetti.
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Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

From a literary standpoint, Nick Dear’s stage adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is neither complicated nor opaque.
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Now running through September 8

 

THE UNAUTHORIZED MUSICAL PARODY OF A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN at Rockwell Table & Stage

Bryan Carpender

Bryan Carpender

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

There’s no crying in baseball, or at Rockwell Table & Stage, where the Unauthorized Musical Parody of A League of Their Own is currently hitting a homerun.
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Now running through September 29

INTO THE WOODS at the Hollywood Bowl

Craig T. Mathew and Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging

Craig T. Mathew and Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging

Jonas Schwartz – Arts In LA

Dreams can come true. The Hollywood Bowl, under the auspices of Broadway director Robert Longbottom, has collected remarkable talent to present the classic Into the Woods. The actors invest in their roles and treat this vast arena as an intimate space, providing almost 16,000 audience members a giant thrill.
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Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

There is always something special about seeing Into the Woods performed outside, and there is plenty of magic to be found in the all-star production at the iconic Hollywood Bowl.
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MISS SAIGON at the Pantages Theatre

Matthew Murphy

Matthew Murphy

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

Miss Saigon, the musical by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil with lyrics by Boublil and Richard Maltby Jr., opened this week at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood following a successful Broadway revival in 2017 and 2018. Based on Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly, it takes place in 1970s Saigon during the Vietnam War and tells the story of a South Vietnamese woman and a United States Marine who fall in love.    Read more…

Margaret Gray – LA Times

“I’m an American. How can I fail to do good?”

That’s the rhetorical question sung by the ex-G.I. Chris in the musical “Miss Saigon,” which opened last week at the Hollywood Pantages — one that resonates differently now than it would have in 1978, when the scene is set, and in 1991, when the musical premiered on Broadway.     Read more…

Now running through August 11

 

FRIENDS! THE MUSICAL PARODY at the Kirk Douglas Theatre

Benjamin Skigen

Benjamin Skigen

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

Fans of the TV show Friends who want a night off from watching reruns on Netflix might be tempted to check out FRIENDS! The Musical Parody, currently in its Los Angeles premiere at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, where it opened Wednesday in a guest production after successful runs Off-Broadway and around the country. But ultimately, this parody is about as uneven and frustrating as season nine, with weak music and lyrics sucking the potential fun out of a solid concept.
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Now running through August 4