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Archive for Stage Raw

THE BIRTHDAY PARTY at City Garage Theatre

Isaac Stackonis and Peggy Flood. Photo by Paul M. Rubenstein

Isaac Stackonis and Peggy Flood. Photo by Paul M. Rubenstein

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

The Birthday Party, Harold Pinter’s first full length play, opened in London in May 1958. Reviews were grim. Most critics, accustomed to the kitchen sink realism of writers like Sillitoe, Braine and Osborne, were incensed and/or bewildered by the non-sequiturs, contradictions and pauses in Pinter’s language, along with the murkiness of the play’s narrative and the perceived illogic of its characters. Collectively, they savaged it. The Daily Telegraph reviewer, referring to Petey, a character employed as a deckchair attendant at the beach, wrote, “I can give him one word of cheer. He might have been a dramatic critic, condemned to sit through plays like this.” Read more…

Now through July 23

THE FUNNY MAN, Write Act Repertory at the Brickhouse Theatre

Sam Aaron in The Funny Man. Photo by Audaur Kountz

Sam Aaron in The Funny Man. Photo by Audaur Kountz

Steven Leigh Morris – Stage Raw

Playwright Will Manus’s one-man homage to humorist and screenwriter S.J. Perelman (Sam Aaron) is a bit of throwback, and that’s a compliment. In a world as lunatic and partisan as ours, when the divide between evidence and superstition has melted across huge swaths of the country (strategically and cynically, some would argue), it’s not a bad idea to spin back to a lecture hall at U.C. Santa Barbara in 1976 and listen to a then-renowned wit describe his travels around the world, his philosophy of writing, and his associations with the Marx Brothers (for whom he wrote screenplays). Perelman was a frequent contributor to The New Yorker in the 1930s and 1940s (that gets short shrift in Manus’s play), and received an Oscar for his screenplay of Around the World in 80 Days (which gets longer shrift). He died three years after the lecture at UCSB that playwright Manus and Aaron fictionalize, under Judith Rose’s direction. Read more…

Now through July 17

4 SEASONS TOTAL SH!TSHOW at Asylum @ Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre – Hollywood Fringe Festival

Photo by Hiro Korsgaard

Photo by Hiro Korsgaard

Steven Leigh Morris – Stage Raw

The extent to which we’re governed by amoral/immoral power brokers is now evident in surveys by the Pew Research Center and the Partnership for Public Service that Americans’ confidence in government to address our problems has plunged over the past decade across party lines. Only one in 10 Americans now has strong confidence in career federal government employees to act in the best interests of the nation — about the same, anemic percentage of Americans who trust that candidates running for federal office have any interest besides their own advancement.

So if you feel cynical and jaded, no, it’s not just you. And this is why it’s hard to laugh at political sketches on Saturday Night Live, or at comedy sketches such as 4 Seasons Total Sh!tshow, which is really a variation on the themes of a typical SNL political lampoon. Read more…

Now through June 25

GRIEF: A ONE MAN SHITSHOW at The Broadwater – Hollywood Fringe Festival

Photo by Rebecca Asher

Photo by Rebecca Asher

Steven Leigh Morris – Stage Raw

“There are no words . . .”

This phrase is among the platitudes that writer-performer Colin Campbell excoriates in his solo performance about people straining to offer comfort in the aftermath of his losing his two teenage children in a car crash, on the other end of a drunk driver with already one DUI conviction who T-boned Campbell’s car. (Campbell was driving, and his wife, a fellow passenger, also survived.) There are in fact plenty of words, and Campbell has them at his disposal in his Spartan performance, directed by Michael Schlitt. “They’re in a better place,” is another. No, they’re not, he points out. They’re in a wooden box six feet underground.

There is nothing maudlin in Campbell’s colloquial, animated approach to what might be called an unimaginable horror, except that Campbell imagines it in detail, working through a multitude of aspects that accompany such heartbreak. Is losing a family so instantaneously better or worse than losing them slowly to cancer? Is it better to be present, to watch them die, as he did, or to learn about it through a phone call?
Read more…

Now through June 25

MR. CHONKERS at The Broadwater – Hollywood Fringe Festival

Mr Chonkers

Dana Martin – Stage Raw

John Norris is a serious actor who doesn’t take anything too seriously and the outcome is very funny. Mr. Chonkers defies definition. It’s a late-night rendezvous with the absurd — a completely ridiculous and thoroughly enjoyable 50 minutes.

The evening is full of good old-fashioned silliness. Mr. Chonkers emerges from the shadows in a cheap monk costume, a nylon sock on his head and with a giant googly eyeball in the center of his nyloned face. He performs uncanny celebrity impressions, superior hand puppetry, an Italian pasta story in a variety of styles, a curtain speech remix, a tiny hat gag, and so much more. Read more…

Now through June 25

THE RAMÓN SHOW: SPIRITUAL CHEERLEADING 101 – Hollywood Fringe Festival

The Ramon Show

Dana Martin – Stage Raw

Ramón is here for you. He’s ready to welcome you into his casa for a self-love seminar that centers around kindness, hugs, dance breaks, stretch breaks, courage and many LOLs. The Ramón Show: Spiritual Cheerleading 101 is everything you never knew you needed in a performance experience. Read more…

Now through June 23

SIGNALS at Asylum @ Thymele Arts – Hollywood Fringe Festival

Photo by Nick Griffith

Photo by Nick Griffith

Dana Martin – Stage Raw

There’s something shady going on at The Foundation. The top-secret, seemingly organized corporate hierarchy has something sinister contained within its walls. Signals, the latest innovation from Last Call Theatre, is a delicious sci- fi, choose-your-own-adventure for theater nerds. Read more…

Now through June 26

A TERMINAL EVENT at Victory Theatre Center

Photo by Tim Sullens

Photo by Tim Sullens

Terry Morgan – Stage Raw

Playwright Richard Willett has interesting things to say about the current state of the medical industry, though the difficulty inherent in writing a “message play,” such as this one – a world premiere production at the Victory Theatre Center — is that of balance. Can an author’s polemic sustain as theater? Perhaps it can, when the characters are either convincingly real or otherwise engaging. Read more…

Now through July 10

DOG at The Broadwater – Hollywood Fringe Festival

Photo by Paul Holmes

Photo by Paul Holmes

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Ben Moroski won a Best of Fringe award in 2012 for The Vicious Minute and a Top of the Fringe award in 2014 for his solo performance of The Wake. This year he’s back at The Fringe with his latest solo piece, Dog— a downer of a tale nonetheless presented with the same singular, mesmerizing intensity he brought to his earlier ones.

This time his character —we never learn this character’s given name but his yesteryear buddies call him Dog — is a 30-something alcoholic, prone to blackout bouts of drinking and other diverse forms of destructive behavior.  “Dog” has recently been given the heave-ho by his girlfriend Diane after their small pet dog somehow fell — or leapt! — from their balcony to his death. Read more…

Tracey Paleo – Gia On The Move

It’s been quite the decade for playwright and performer, Ben Moroski. Since his 2012 debut of his autobiographical one-man show, “This Vicious Minute”, Moroski has been a notable solo story creator in Los Angeles theater.

Delivering one deliciously bizarre narrative after another, his award-winning Hollywood Fringe hits like, “The Wake” (HFF14) and “TILT” (HFF16), and now a new solo play have all but proclaimed a rising trajectory that doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon. DOG, written and performed by himself and directed by Jordan Lane Shappell, confirms that Moroski’s inspiring genius has further evolved. His skills, edge, enthusiasm for storytelling, and intensity in the work have not wavered.
Read more…

Now through June 25

UNCLE VANYA at Pasadena Playhouse

Photo by Jeff Lorch

Photo by Jeff Lorch

Terry Morgan – ArtsBeat LA

As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Technology zooms forward, but human nature remains stubbornly persistent. Thus a play such as Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, which premiered in 1899, can still speak to us today, can still cause us to laugh or cry at its characters’ folly or heartbreak. The new production of Vanya at the Pasadena Playhouse, featuring a powerhouse lead performance from Hugo Armstrong, is a clear and entertaining demonstration that humanity is the same regardless of the century it’s in. Read more…

Steven Leigh Morris – Stage Raw, Notes From Arden

Hugo Armstrong Transforms Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. Having been largely weaned on the plays of Anton Chekhov, and his turn of the 20th century mingling of regret and humor while something, always something, is ending (Chekhov wrote as the Russian Revolution was brewing), I admit to a trepidation in seeing productions of plays by the Russian literary giant, because they so rarely rise to their complex occasion. They’re usually suffocated by affectation of some kind – such as an obsequious devotion to kitchen sink realism, and samovars and wicker furniture, or, in American or British hands, an effort to invent what it means to be Russian in 1899; that rarely turns out well. Read more…

Now through June 26

SLEEP WITH THE ANGELS, Latino Theater Co. at The Los Angeles Theatre Center

Photo by Grettel Cortes

Photo by Grettel Cortes

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

In Sleep With the Angels, directed by Jose Luis Valenzuela, playwright Evelina Fernandez portrays a fragmented family of Latinx extraction — but the truths she seeks to convey might resonate anywhere. Read more…

Now through June 26

BELOVED at The Road Theatre

Photo by Michele Young

Photo by Michele Young

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Beloved, a world premiere play by Canadian playwright Arthur Holden, opens in a waiting room outside a counsellor’s office at a posh school, where an affluent upper-middle-aged couple await news of their son. Thirty minutes have gone by since they’ve arrived, and no one has summoned them in, or explained why they’ve been called. Stephen (Sam Anderson), grown choleric and hostile, declares his intent to barge into the counsellor’s inner sanctum despite being asked not to enter. His wife Dorothy (Taylor Gilbert) cautions restraint, but she too is anxious and upset, and will become more so as the situation unfolds. Read more…

Now through June 19