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Archive for On Stage and Screen

KEY LARGO at Geffen Playhouse

Jeff Lorch

Jeff Lorch

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

Key Largo was first a 1939 Broadway play, then a 1948 film starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, and finally, it is now at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles in a new world premiere adaptation. Adapted by Andy Garcia and Jeffrey Hatcher, this play shifts some of the focus to the character of Johnny Rocco (played by Garcia), a notorious gangster who takes the inhabitants of a Florida Keys hotel hostage during a hurricane.
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Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

In Key Largo, a 1948 film classic, Humphrey Bogart played a disillusioned anti-hero, an ex-army officer in World War II who, despite his cynicism, musters up enough moral conviction to stand up to Edward G. Robinson’s sneering gangster, Johnny Rocco.
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Jonas Schwartz – Theatermania

Batten down the hatches— a hurricane has come to the Geffen. Key Largo, the new adaptation of the 1948 John Huston film, creates thunder and lightning with visual effects that turn the theater into ground zero of a devastating storm. The technical team brilliantly crafts a mood of claustrophobia and despair.
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Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Key Largo is one of the classic Warner Bros. gangster movies. The film was the fourth and final pairing of legendary screen couple Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. It also featured the fifth screen pairing of tough guys Bogart and Edward G. Robinson.
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Now running through December 15

THE GREAT LEAP at the Pasadena Playhouse

Jenny Graham

Jenny Graham

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

Sometimes the most compelling drama in sports does not happen on the court or field, but behind the scenes. In The Great Leap, a play by Lauren Yee that opened in its Los Angeles premiere this weekend at the Pasadena Playhouse, in association with the East West Players, basketball serves as an entry point into an ambitious story about familial, cultural, and political conflict.
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Margaret Gray – LA Times

You may not know — I didn’t — that basketball is huge in China. Missionaries introduced the sport there in 1895, soon after it was invented, and when the Communists came into power in 1949, it was one of the few Western cultural contributions they didn’t criminalize. Apparently Chairman Mao was a fan.

Lauren Yee’s stunning play “The Great Leap,” now at the Pasadena Playhouse in a gorgeous co-production with East West Players….
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Now running through December 1

THE THANKSGIVING PLAY at Geffen Playhouse

Jeff Lorch

Jeff Lorch

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

The version of Thanksgiving most of us were taught in school is certainly problematic. From outdated, disrespectful views of Native Americans and erasure of their role to the generous portrayals of the first white settlers on this continent, the narrative around the whole holiday is due for reexamination. This discussion sets the stage for The Thanksgiving Play, a satirical comedy by Larissa FastHorse currently playing at the Geffen Playhouse.
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Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Thanksgiving, that most American of holidays (not counting The Fourth of July), has long been shrouded in myth, perpetuated for decades by classroom images of earnest Pilgrims, helpful “Indians” and cheerful squawking turkeys. No longer, however, does it serve as an unsullied symbol of a generous, sharing national spirit.
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Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

In today’s world of seemingly absolute, complete, no excuses accepted political correctness, even the most holy of venerated saints would have a hard time saying, doing perhaps thinking anything the least bit outre without being shouted down by some fractional segment of the PC community. For example—how do you celebrate Thanksgiving and Native American Heritage Month while creating an elementary school pageant?
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Jonas Schwartz – Theatermania

Native American playwright Larissa FastHorse has written a rambunctious and edgy satire of wokeness, The Thanksgiving Play, now running at the Geffen, in which she satirizes America’s precarious relationship to racial issues and gives a Native American writer’s perspective on the so-called white man’s burden.
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Now running through December 6

SUMMER – THE DONNA SUMMER MUSICAL at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre

Matthew Murphy

Matthew Murphy

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

Jukebox bio-musicals are seemingly a dime a dozen these days—The Temptations, Gloria Estefan, Carole King, Tina Turner, and Cher have all recently inspired Broadway musicals. The latest to make its way to the Hollywood Pantages Theatre after a run on Broadway last year is Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. 
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Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Donna Summer, as much as she detested it, was the acknowledged Queen of Disco in the late 1970s. She finally got to display her real vocal prowess with her recording of Jimmy Webb’s “MacArthur Park” which was also her first No. 1 hit on the Billboard charts.
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Now running through November 24

 

BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY at the Fountain Theatre

Jenny Graham

Jenny Graham

Jonas Schwartz – Broadway World

BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY, which makes its Los Angeles debut at The Fountain Theatre, is a hard-hitting drama about wanderers, those unattached, ungrounded people who lack the support to make smart choices, but still deserve grace and hope. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2015, the play features all that one expects from playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis:
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Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Stephen Adly Guirgis draws his characters — addicts, ex-cons and others who might generously be characterized as imperfect citizens — from the edges of polite society. Vivid communicators, often given to erratic behavior, they are inclined to be voluble and to express opinions colored with unconventional logic. Yet in their openness these folks are frequently guileless and sympathetic— traits which make the plays they inhabit engaging, entertaining and sometimes compelling.
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Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen
What happens when your life has been gutted to the point where practically all that remains are your grudges? Between Riverside and Crazy, a play by Stephen Adly Guirgis currently in its Los Angeles premiere at the Fountain Theatre, is a dark comedy that explores serious issues of racism among police officers and the consequences of police shootings. But it is also a thoughtful exploration of family, forgiveness, and deciding what is important when life has not gone the way you imagined.
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Now running through December 15

THE ABUELAS at Antaeus Theater Company at the Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center

Jenny Graham

Jenny Graham

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

The Abuelas is the second play by Stephanie Alison Walker to address the tragedy of Los Desaparecidos — Argentinian citizens who opposed the military junta that governed the country between 1976 and 1983 and who fell prey to the right-wing death squads that kidnapped, tortured and murdered thousands.
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Margaret Gray – LA Times

Stephanie Alison Walker’s “The Abuelas,” now at Antaeus Theatre Company in Glendale, is the kind of play that makes staff dramaturgs earn their keep: so much history to contextualize.
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Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

In March 1976, a military junta took control of Argentina, ready to dispose of anyone who opposed them. In the years that followed, it is estimated that as many as 30,000 people disappeared as a result of the “Dirty War.” The “disappeareds” included many young pregnant women who gave birth in captivity before being murdered. Their babies were taken from them and illegally adopted out to families with connections to the military.
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Now running through November 25

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