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Archive for Stage Raw

ALL IS TRUE, or HENRY VIII by The Porters of Hellsgate

Sean Faye and Dawn Alden. Photo by Lucia Towers.

Sean Faye and Dawn Alden. Photo by Lucia Towers.

Steven Leigh Morris – Stage Raw

Confession: In all my years of reviewing theater, this is the first production I’ve ever seen of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII originally titled All is True, co-written (somebody thinks, who knows?) with Shakespeare’s peer, John Fletcher. It’s the last history play penned or co-penned by the Bard, and it’s a bit of a mess, structurally, which is likely the reason it’s staged so rarely.

The play contrasts reckless and relentless ambition with the brand of conscience that embodies compassion. In this it echoes the same themes lodged within Macbeth, Measure for Measure, Richard III, Henry V and As You Like It. Read more…

Through December 5

THE BROTHERS PARANORMAL at East West Players

East West Players, Brothers Paranormal

David Huynh and Roy Vongtama, Photo by Jenny Graham.

Terry Morgan – Stage Raw

Everyone knows that a good ghost story needs to be scary, but to be a great ghost story, it needs to move its audience as well. Where would The Sixth Sense be without the Bruce Willis character slowly realizing his fate or The Haunting of Hill House be without poor, doomed Eleanor? There have to be emotional stakes for the viewers to walk out of the theater haunted. Playwright Prince Gomolvilas understands this, and his play The Brothers Paranormal is as affecting as it is spooky. The L.A. premiere of the show at East West Players is superb, and expertly delivers all the scares and surprises that the bigger budgeted and more advertised supernatural production currently at the Ahmanson, 2:22, attempts but can’t quite achieve. Read more…

Through December 11

ANATOMY OF GRAY at Open Fist Theatre Company

Jeremy Guskin, Beth Robbins and James Fowler. Photo by Frank Ishman.

Jeremy Guskin, Beth Robbins and James Fowler. Photo by Frank Ishman.

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

First produced with the title Gray’s Anatomy at New York’s Circle Rep Theatre in 1994, Jim Leonard’s family-oriented coming-of-age fable strives for the unvarnished poignancy of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town as it recounts the story of a fatherless teen in 1880s rural Indiana. Leonard’s revised version, published as Anatomy of Gray in 2006 and currently directed by Ben Martin at Open Fist Theatre Company, doesn’t hit that mark. It does, however, serve as a platform for well-crafted performances among a seasoned ensemble. Read more…

Through January 15

CLYDE’S at Mark Taper Forum

Photo by Craig Schwartz Photography

Photo by Craig Schwartz Photography

Terry Morgan – ArtsBeat LA

According to a survey conducted by American Theater magazine, Lynn Nottage’s Clyde’s is currently the most produced play in the U.S. It’s not surprising that Nottage’s work is being done; she’s received the Pulitzer Prize twice during her illustrious career. But it’s a little disappointing that this show seems to be her most popular. I think she’s a talented playwright and have enjoyed several of her other creations, but I found this play to be meretricious and phony – I didn’t believe a minute of it. The new production of Clyde’s at the Taper is professionally done and features a capable cast, but the play itself feels more like a safe CBS TV sitcom than anything resembling reality. Read more…

Katie Buenneke – Stage Raw

A word to the wise: eat, preferably a sandwich, before seeing Clyde’s at the Mark Taper Forum. After the show ends, you’ll be hungry, not just for food like Montrellous (Kevin Kenerly), the executive chef of the titular diner, describes, but for an artistic experience that’s more substantial than what you you’ve just seen onstage. Read more…

Margaret Gray – Los Angeles Times

“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” advises a favorite proverb of tough-love advocates. And in a universe with free will and infinite possibilities, it’s probably sound advice. Don’t sit around grousing about your situation; find one you like better.

But what if there’s nowhere else to go? What if that inferno of a kitchen is your whole world? Read more…

Tracey Paleo – BroadwayWorld

“Sometimes a hero is more than just a sandwich.”

Quite possibly, a perfect production. Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage’s Tony Award-nominated CLYDE’S at the Mark Taper Forum is heartfelt, funny, and seriously delicious.

From writing to performances, direction to delivery, costuming, scenic, sound, and lighting design, opening night saw 100% on the Richter scale of live theater. Read more…

Through December 18

STARDUST: AN IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE at Sassafras Saloon

Connor J O’Brien. Photo by Payton Jayne.

Dana Martin – Stage Raw

Have you ever wanted to be a star or would you rather remain a mere mortal? Stardust: An Immersive Theater Experience produced by Alterea Inc. at the Sassafras Saloon in Hollywood offers you the chance to experience both. Read more…

Through November 20

MAN’S FAVOR DEVIL’S PLAN by The Robey Theatre Company at LATC

Nic Few and Christina Childress. Photo by Jermaine Alexander.

Nic Few and Christina Childress. Photo by Jermaine Alexander.

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Man’s Favor Devil’s Plan, by Kwik Jones, takes place on the loading dock at the rear of a hotel in Los Angeles in 1938. The story concerns the relationship between the hotel’s White owner, an unmitigated racist and an otherwise cruel and unscrupulous individual, and the hotel staff, who are African American and are forced to put up with their employer’s abuse because they cannot afford to lose their jobs, or because they are being blackmailed in some way. The play, which aims to reflect the vicious racism that permeates American culture, is set at a period in our history when people of color were even more vulnerable and less legally protected than they are now.
Read more…

Tracey Paleo – Gia On The Move

In pointing its definitive focus…to the people it 100% represents, MAN’S FAVOR, DEVIL’S PLAN becomes an especially moving vehicle to an audience, famished for representations about themselves that express their reality, past and present. More…

Through November 20

2:22 – A GHOST STORY at the Ahmanson Theatre

Anna Camp, Finn Wittrock, Adam Rothenberg and Constance Wu. Phtoo by Craig Schwartz

Anna Camp, Finn Wittrock, Adam Rothenberg and Constance Wu. Photo by Craig Schwartz

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Taking a break from their usual musical fare, Center Theatre Group-Ahmanson is offering 2:22-A Ghost Story by Danny Robins through December 4. The opening night was November 4, missing Halloween by a few days. Little costumed trick or treaters may have provided more scares than what transpired on stage. The reviewers were given a list of plot items to please not mention in their reviews, the better for future audiences to enjoy the supposed thrills. Stripped of those items, Robins’s script is basically two hours of marital discord, no matter how much director Matthew Dunster attempts to jolt the audience. He often succeeds, but it is more due to Lucy Carter’s lighting design and especially Ian Dickinson for Autograph’s sound design. Otherwise, the writing, directing and acting don’t really chill or thrill. Read more…

Harker Jones – BroadwayWorld

Arguments about the meaning of life, where we come from, where we’re headed after death, the afterlife, and the like have been debated for centuries by theologians, scientists, and philosophers alike, and we’re still not any closer to clarity. That said, it can make for gripping conversations deep into the night whether you’re stoned college students, wine-drinking soccer moms, or new parents. Read more…

Dana Martin – Stage Raw

The Ahmanson Theater is hosting poltergeist. 2:22- A Ghost Story, Danny Robins’ newest psychological thriller, is an unsettling romp through a proper haunted house. The show is making its U.S. premiere after a successful West End run last year. Read more…

Terry Morgan – ArtsBeat LA

I’m a horror film fan. I probably see 75-100 horror movies a year, and have done so for a long, long time. So I can state with certain knowledge that the cheapest of all scares is the jump scare. I have nothing against them – when a jump scare is well done, it can be a thing of beauty. But a lazy, unmotivated jump scare, just to get a visceral response  AAAAAAAAA!!!! (please imagine that this is someone suddenly screaming into your ear at top volume) can be irksome. I wanted to like the new Ahmanson production of Danny Robins’ 2:22 – A Ghost Story more than I did, but a surfeit of the same jump scare over and over and a goofy twist kept my enjoyment of the show mild. Read more…

Through December 4

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre

Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

Terry Morgan – ArtsBeatLA

When Harper Lee wrote her novel To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960, she didn’t think it would be a big success. Sixty-two years later, the book has been taught to millions of students in schools, was the source of a classic 1962 film of the same name, and recently inspired a theatrical version written by Aaron Sorkin that was a Broadway hit. There are many reasons this material still speaks to modern audiences, but perhaps the most vital is that its depiction of racism feels topical again with the rise of far-right zealotry. The current production at the Pantages is effective and enjoyable, with a nice lead performance from Richard Thomas, but a few missteps keep the production from being as strong as it might be. Read more…

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960, while the movie — based on Harper’s novel and starring Gregory Peck as a white lawyer defending a black man accused of rape — came out in 1962. Both the book and the film depicted the racist South through the eyes of a child, its scenario predating the March on Washington in 1963 and the televised police assaults on the civil rights marchers that electrified the country that same year. Read more…

Katie Buenneke – Theatre Digest

I haven’t revisited this book since I read it in 7th grade, and I think, just based on watching this show, it’s a text about which I have complicated feelings. It’s an emotionally loaded story about Black trauma, told from the point of view of well-intentioned white people, and I think both Harper Lee’s autobiographical character and Aaron Sorkin, who adapted the novel into a three hour play, have similar instincts about how to tell this story, but it’s worth questioning why framing this story from a white girl’s perspective is the framing that white audiences have deemed a classic. Read more…

Tracey Paleo – Gia On The Move

I’ll be honest…watching the B-roll footage of the new play HARPER LEE’S TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD didn’t excite me too much at first. But sitting in the Hollywood Pantages theater in person for the Los Angeles premiere was a whole different experience. More…

Through November 27

UBU THE KING – at The Actors’ Gang

Chas Harvey in Ubu the King. Photo by Ashley Randall.

Chas Harvey in Ubu the King. Photo by Ashley Randall.

Terry Morgan – Stage Raw

When the young artists of the newly formed company The Actors’ Gang did a midnight show of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu the King in 1982, informed by punk rock and an anger against the Reagan administration, I doubt that any of their number imagined that the troupe would be doing a fortieth anniversary production of it. And yet here we are — the Gang still exists and, if anything, the political situation has gotten even worse. The story of a power-mad, delusional tyrant running a country into the ground is unfortunately still relevant. The current production is energetic and full of rude fun, if a bit uneven in a few of its actors’ performances. Read more…

Through December 3

ACCORDING TO THE CHORUS at The Road Theatre

Photo by Peggy McCartha

Photo by Peggy McCartha

Harker Jones – BroadwayWorld

The world premiere of Arlene Hutton’s ACCORDING TO THE CHORUS is a lively slice-of-life look at the backstage antics of an unnamed Broadway show (that’s been running longer than CATS) in 1984. Set in a quick-change room devoted to six chorus girls and their three dressers, the makeshift family squabbles, complains, and supports each other over the course of 15 tumultuous months-tumultuous in the women’s personal and professional lives as well as in the world swirling around them-touching on domestic abuse, AIDS, social stratification, and eating disorders. Read more…

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Arlene Hutton’s new dramedy, According to the Chorus, promises much. Set in 1984 and billed as a fly-on-the-wall peep at the rivalry between a group of Broadway chorus dancers and the women who dress them, the play also touches on the loss and grief of the AIDS epidemic, as well as the heartache of its central character, KJ (Samantha Tan) a woman grieving her broken marriage to a man she still loves. Read more…

Through December 11

THE INHERITANCE at Geffen Playhouse

Adam Kantor and Juan Castano. Photo by Jeff Lorch.

Adam Kantor and Juan Castano. Photo by Jeff Lorch.

Jonas Schwartz-Owen – Theatermania

The final five minutes in Part 1 of Matthew Lopez’s epic Tony-winning The Inheritance, now running at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, are some of the most gut-wrenching moments in theater. At the performance I attended, the entire audience sat connected — some teary-eyed, some crying — but it seemed everyone was affected somehow by the play’s sadness and other-worldly camaraderie. The entire seven-plus-hour production, which is divided into two parts, spellbinds with precise dialogue, rich characters, and an analysis of the United States as a whole.
Read more…

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Simply put, Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance is a masterpiece of writing. This six-and-a-half-hour two-part play about a group of gay men in New York City circa 2015-2018 is a worthy successor and companion piece to Tony Kushner’s epic Angels in America from nearly 20 years earlier. Where Kushner dealt with the early years of the AIDS epidemic and blended in the politics of Roy Cohn and even Ethel Rosenberg, Lopez’s gay men enjoy the freedoms earlier generations fought hard for without their really realizing what it was like to live in those near yet distant decades. The current production at Westwood’s Geffen Playhouse should not be missed. It just might be the best work to ever grace their stage since the venue opened in 1975 as the Westwood Playhouse. Read more…

Terry Morgan – ArtsBeat LA

The epigraph of E. M. Forster’s 1910 novel, Howards End, is “Only connect…” This motto mainly referred to opening oneself up to the world and other people for greater understanding and potential happiness, but it is also about the importance of remembering the past and seeing how it affects the present. When playwright Matthew López took Forster’s book as the inspiration for his play The Inheritance, he retained this theme of connection and remembrance but created something new and powerful with it in his story of modern gay men grappling with a complicated present and the legacy of AIDS. The current production of this work at the Geffen Playhouse is magnificent, a tour de force on every level, and definitely one the best plays of the year. Read more…

Tracey Paleo – Gia On The Move

As a 6-hour theatrical journey of life, death, pain, loss, suffering, discovery, ecstasy, and triumph…
…THE INHERITANCE is thoroughly astounding! More…

Dana Martin – Stage Raw

Matthew López’s sprawling saga, The Inheritance Part 1 and Part 2, is an artistically refined and emotionally raw examination of modern gay life in the aftermath of the AIDS epidemic. The Geffen’s season opener has seismic power that won’t be soon forgotten. Read more…

Don Shirley – Angeles Stage

When a narrative work of art attains “classic” stature, it often settles comfortably into collegiate required-reading lists — but loses its share of the current limelight. So if E.M. Forster or Homer were alive today and sampling theater on the west side of Los Angeles County, would they be delighted that their creations are again being mentioned outside the classroom?Or would they be disturbed that their works are reference materials for playwrights with distinctively 21st-century perspectives — and that these writers are adapting the originals to reflect previously unrepresented points of view?

I’m talking about the West Coast premiere of Matthew López’s “The Inheritance” at Geffen Playhouse in Westwood and the professional LA premiere of Margaret Atwood’s “The Penelopiad” at City Garage in Santa Monica. Read more…

Through November 27

THE ELABORATE ENTRANCE OF CHAD DEITY at Chance Theater

James Michael McHale and Rudy Solis III. Photo by Camryn Long.

James Michael McHale and Rudy Solis III. Photo by Camryn Long.

Dana Martin – Stage Raw

The Chance Theatre is pulling nothing but power moves this season. Kristoffer Diaz’s 2009 Pulitzer Prize Finalist, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, is masculinity on overdrive.

Macedonio Guerra, or The Mace (Rudy Solis III) knows his wrestling history. What’s more, he reveres the form as high art worthy of praise and recognition. He’s a pro wrestler himself, and he’s not just good at his job — he’s great. It’s a childhood dream realized but with a caveat: rather than fame and fortune, The Mace is a “jobber to the stars,” meaning he gets paid to lose matches to stars like Chad Deity (Londale Theus Jr.). Chad Deity is the ultimate anti-hero: he’s rich, flashy, and has an ego the size of Alaska, despite being a mediocre-at-best wrestler. Read more…

Through October 23