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Archive for On Stage and Screen

THE FATHER at the Pasadena Playhouse

Jenny Graham

Jenny Graham

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

Perspective is crucial to the understanding of both life and theater, and in the Pasadena Playhouse production of The Father, which opened this week, an intentionally disorienting point-of-view offers a dramatic and moving look at late-stage dementia. Written by Florian Zeller, the play premiered in 2014 and many consider it one of the most acclaimed of the recently concluded decade.
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Dana Martin– Stage Raw

Getting old is painfully difficult. Pasadena Playhouse’s newest production, The Father, is a fascinating yet frustratingly unclear story that examines a rapidly shifting dynamic between parent and child as the line between reality and delusion becomes increasingly blurred.
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Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

As life expectancy continues to grow, so does the concern for the wellbeing of our aging population. It’s a subject that hits close to home for everyone—whether it is providing care for a parent or thinking about our own future as we reach retirement age and beyond.
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Now running through March 1

 

NEVER BEEN KISSED: THE UNAUTHORIZED MUSICAL at Rockwell Table & Stage

Andrew Gomez

Andrew Gomez

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

The latest movie to receive the Rockwell Table & Stage parody treatment is Never Been Kissed, the 1999 romantic comedy about a late-blooming reporter who goes undercover at her old high school to research teenage culture and ends up having her own belated coming-of-age experience.
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Now running through February 23

 

THE LAST SHIP at the Ahmanson Theatre

Matthew Murphy

Matthew Murphy

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

At first blush, the shipbuilding industry does not seem the most obvious topic for a musical. The Last Ship, an original musical with music and lyrics by Sting and a new book by Lorne Campbell, opened this week at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles with some of the problems you might expect given the show’s tumultuous journey the last few years. But impressive design elements, a talented cast, and a surprising amount of heart save the production from running aground.
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Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

The Last Ship is a good match for anyone with powerful empathy for the working-class men and women whose livelihoods over the past 50 years have been devastated by ruthless corporatism. It’s probably an agreeable one for theatergoers who, in their restless rebellious youth, may have pulled up roots to venture out into the world, leaving friends and family behind. And the show is a fortuitous opportunity for fans of Sting, the internationally famous British musician who birthed the idea behind it, wrote the score and lyrics, and is featured among the ensemble.
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Now running through February 16

WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME at the Mark Taper Forum

Joan Marcus

Joan Marcus

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

When playwright Heidi Schreck was in high school, she traveled the country participating in Constitutional debate competitions. It was primarily a scheme cooked up by her mother to pay for college tuition with prize money (it worked), and she became an expert at defending or opposing various amendments to panels of judges that almost always consisted of exclusively old, white men.
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Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

In attendance last Friday at What the Constitution Means to Me, Heidi Schreck’s droll insightful play directed by Oliver Butler at the Mark Taper Forum, I had the rare experience of  bonding with the rest of my fellow audience members.
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Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Heidi Schreck’s What the Constitution Means to Me arrives as the Mark Taper Forum with a lot of advance hype—Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize nominations, etc. It certainly is relevant given the current political climate in the United States……
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Now running through February 28

FROZEN at the Pantages Theatre

Deen van Meer

Deen van Meer

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

Between the holiday season, the recent release of Frozen 2 in movie theaters, and the arrival of the musical version of Frozen at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre, things are feeling quite festive.
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Margaret Gray – LA Times

Remember L.A. in 2013 at the peak of the mania for the Disney movie “Frozen”? When the clarion command to “Let It Go” rang through the air? When little girls wore blue satin and blond fishtail braids and conjured fearsome powers that they, like Princess Elsa, struggled to hold back?
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Now running through February 2

 

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