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Archive for The Hollywood Reporter

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THOMAS JEFFERSON, CHARLES DICKENS AND COUNT LEO TOLSTOY at the Geffen Playhouse

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Photo by Michael Lamont

Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter

Sporting a title so long that the average online reader might not even get through it, Discord reconfigures Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit through the filter of Steve Allen’s Emmy-winning 1977-1981 PBS series Meeting of the Minds. Trapped in a locked, baldly-lit white room, three deceased geniuses articulately thrash out their contending views of Scripture as much out of the entrenched stubbornness of their morally compromised egos as their passionate convictions  Read more…

Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

olitical writer Scott Carter (executive producer of Real Time With Bill Maher) weaves the factual lives of three world icons — Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens, and Leo Tolstoy, all of whom composed a gospel of Jesus’ teachings — into a fantasy discussion about religion and the failure of our tutors to consistently practice what they preach. Read more…

Now running through November 23.

CHOIR BOY at the Geffen Playhouse

Photo by Michael Lamont

Bob Verini -   Arts In LA

Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Choir Boy is a mess but all the same a bona fide crowd pleaser. Its characters are drawn with remarkable inconsistency, and they’re put through enough subplots (touched on, though never explored fully) for a play twice its two-hour length. What pulls it through is the passion of director Trip Cullman’s cast, as well as the potency of the theme that occupies more stage time than a dozen or so others: the power of song to unite and heal. Read more...

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Steven Leigh Morris  – LA Weekly

At first, Tarell Alvin McCraney’s study of five, black prep-school students (Jeremy Pope, Nicholas L. Ashe, Donovan Mitchell, Grantham Coleman and Caleb Eberhardt), along with their stern headmaster (Michael A.Shepperd) and a visiting white professor (Leonard Kelly-Young) from the Civil Rights era, might seem schematic. Read more…

 

Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter

While few doubt the capacious talent of 33-year-old Tarell Alvin McCraney, on the evidence of his trilogy The Brother/Sister Plays, he could have been mistaken for an accessibly esoteric artist trafficking in Orisha myths and remote subcultures. Read more…

 

 

Now running through Oct. 26.

MARJORIE PRIME at the Mark Taper Forum

Bob Verini -   Arts In LA

On the heels of Spike Jonze’s award-winning film Her comes another whimsical, futuristic, seriocomic speculation about artificial intelligence’s commercial and emotional potential.

This one is Jordan Harrison’s world premiere play at the Taper, titled Marjorie Prime, and concededly it lacks the heft of Jonze’s celebrated Oscar winner, not to mention its unforgettable strain of steamy sexuality.

Photo by Craig Schwartz

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Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter

Death takes a holiday from onstage depiction in Marjorie Prime, the new play by Jordan Harrison, a writer on Orange is The New Black. The same goes for grief and loss, though the drama is suffused with a piquant sense of all of them. Instead, the deceased appear only in the form of a computer program. Its aim is to provide solace by projecting the departed’s physical presence, based on detailed input from the bereaved. Read more…

Pauline Adamek  - ArtsBeatLA

A terrible play, and depressing as well, playwright Jordan Harrison’s Marjorie Prime is set in a not-too-distant future and imagines a world where sophisticated robots have been fashioned as human companions.  Read more…

Dany Margolies – The Daily News

Center Theatre Group’s “Marjorie Prime” doesn’t teach its audiences anything new, but it raises profound questions. Its manner of storytelling is captivating and seemed to touch many who were listening. Read more…

 

Now running through October 19.

HAPPY DAYS at Boston Court

Photo by Ed Krieger

Photo by Ed Krieger

Steven Leigh Morris  – LA Weekly

Playwrights under 40 write mainly about love and politics, or so the adage goes; playwrights over 40 write mainly about death.

By the time Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days premiered in 1961, the great Irish bard was 55, which should make its subject fairly easy to guess. Originally a poet and novelist, Beckett didn’t write his first play until he was 42. Who could blame the visionary surrealist for his preoccupation with The End?  Read more…

Neal Weaver  – Stage Raw

In the midst of a desolate landscape, a huge mound of parched earth rises, occupied only by a few rocks, scraggly clumps of dead grass, and a woman, Winnie (Brooke Adams), who’s buried up to her chest in the earth. She’s slumped forward in an attitude of unconsciousness or despair. A deafening alarm bell brings her slowly to wakefulness. She surveys her surroundings, smiles, and exclaims, “Another lovely day!”  Read more…

 Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter

In perhaps the most singular, iconic image of all mid-century Theater of the Absurd, Winnie in Happy Days awakens buried “up to her titties” in a mound of sandy dirt. By Act II, she has sunk deeper into the earth, up to her chin. Yet Winnie faces each morning with a nearly indomitable optimism that somewhere in her circumscribed existence she will find enough quotidian detail or recollected reverie to will herself to another “happy day.” Read more…

Now running through October 12.

RACE at the Kirk Douglas Theatre

Photo by Craig Schwartz

Steven Leigh Morris  – LA Weekly

David Mamet’s play Race, about a rich, white guy seeking a law firm to defend him from accusations of raping a black woman, ought to feel ripped from the headlines — even though it premiered on Broadway nearly five years ago. Read more…

Melinda Schupmann – Showmag

A David Mamet play is always cerebral, generally provocative, and often leads one to debate issues raised in the storyline at the conclusion of the production. Moreover, its craftsmanship is to be admired. Read more…

Pauline Adamek  – ArtsBeatLA

A slight plot is merely a framework for David Mamet’s talky and sordid play Race. A partnership comprised of a paralegal assistant and two lawyers — one black, one white — discuss a case they reluctantly agree to defend whereby a wealthy white man has been accused of raping a black woman. Read more…

Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter

In David Mamet’s Race, two veteran criminal lawyers, the white Jack Lawson (Chris Bauer of True Blood and The Wire) and the black Henry Brown (Dominic Hoffman), banter and badger in the playwright’s patented patois. They show professional perspicacity about a legal process predicated not on justice, but on trial by combat between competing self-interests and prejudices.   Read more…

Now running through Sept. 28.

THE TEMPEST at South Coast Repertory

Photo by Smith Center/Geri Codey

Photo by Smith Center/Geri Codey

Terry Morgan  -  Stage Raw

The current production of The Tempest at South Coast Repertory is the best version of the play I’ve ever seen.

It does something seemingly obvious, yet not so obvious that I’ve seen it before: It focuses on the magic. This isn’t to say that it skimps on vengeance, forgiveness or young love, but director/adaptors Aaron Posner and Teller bring the magic to the forefront, and it’s dazzling.  Read more… 

Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter

There are no less than five productions of The Tempest this late summer in Southern California, a testament perhaps to the durable appeal of the play’s autumnal vision, all promising fresh variations — including no less than two female Prosperos. So perhaps tricking out the play’s fantastical manipulations of the elements and minds of men with stage prestidigitation (masterminded by celebrity co-director and adapter Teller) may not be such an outre innovation. Read more…

Now running through Sept. 27.

PERSIANS at the Getty Villa

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Photo by Craig Schwartz

Dany Margolies  -  Arts In LA

The weighty ideas expressed in this piece have retained their potency from nearly 2,500 years ago. The skills and vibrancy of the actors here are flawless. Had the two elements meshed, this would be a perfect production. Read more…

Bob Verini  -   Stage Raw

Reviewing the 2011 Getty Villa production of Euripides’ Trojan Women, staged by Anne Bogart with her New York-based SITI Company, I called it “essential viewing for anyone interested in the conversation between timeless texts and modern theatrical practice,” expressing my conviction that Bogart and co. had “unearthed the vital, immediate drama within.” All of the above applies in equal measure to their current Getty attraction, Aeschylus’s Persians.   Read more…

Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter

Essentially the ancient-world equivalent of a story torn from the headlines, Persians recounts how overwhelmingly outnumbered Greek ships defeated the invading fleet of Xerxes’ navy at the Battle of Salamis in 480 B.C.E., an event fresh in the minds of the Athenian audiences at the festival of Dionysos a scant eight years later. Read more…

Now running through Sept. 27.

BULRUSHER at the Skylight Theatre

Photo by Ed Krieger

Photo by Ed Krieger

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Eisa Davis’s drama about an 18-year-old motherless clairvoyant exhibits an element of magic that manifests most richly in this production’s opening moments. Read more…

Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter

1955 was the summer of tortured teen James Dean in East of Eden and the real-life tortured and murdered youth Emmett Till in Money, Mississippi. Back then, the eponymous heroine of Eisa Davis‘ Bulrusher (played by a remarkable Bianca Lemaire) leads a hardscrabble yet idyllic rural existence around the village of Boonville, California, a little more than 100 miles north of San Francisco. Read more…

Now running through Sept. 28.

REASONS TO BE PRETTY at the Geffen Playhouse

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Photo by Michael Lamont

Neal Weaver  – Arts In LA

Playwright Neil LaBute is so prolific, and has created in so many different and varied media, that it’s virtually impossible to generalize about his work. (His program bio is downright intimidating.) But in many of the scripts for which he is best known—Fat Pig, In the Company of Men, The Shape of Things, and Your Friends and Neighbors—he seems to be convicting his characters of succumbing to other people’s values, cruelty, callousness, indifference, and moral cowardice. Read more…

Margaret Gray – LA Times

New York is only three hours ahead of L.A., but in theatrical time, the distance often seems greater. Broadway events, like starlight from distant galaxies, can take years to reach us.

Case in point: We’re still gathering evidence of a great emotional shift in the work of Neil LaBute, whose “Reasons to Be Pretty,” nominated for the Tony Award for best play in 2009, has at last arrived at the Geffen Playhouse, where it proves to be a humane, tenderhearted coming-of-age story. Read more… 

Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter

More in sorrow than in anger, and more in annoyance than rancor, it must be said that the talented, thoughtful and tirelessly prolific Neil LaBute finally made his bones on Broadway in 2009, scoring a Tony nomination for best play with probably his least bold and uncharacteristically pandering effort, Reasons to Be Pretty. At least that’s the view based on this conscientiously mounted local premiere. Read more…

Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

Reasons to Be Pretty, Neil LaBute’s only play to be mounted on Broadway, asks very few questions about its characters, leaving the audience to fill in the blanks — and not always in the characters’ favors. The play leaves you longing for more depth from the script, but luckily the talented actors at the Geffen Playhouse shed light on their roles despite the murkiness of the text. Read more…

Now playing through August 31.

BROADWAY BOUND at the Odyssey Theatre

 

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Photo by Enci

Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter

The last of Neil Simon’s trilogy of quasi-autobiographical accounts of his coming-of-age years in the Brighton Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn, Broadway Bound stands among his plays as perhaps the most free from easy nostalgia, and therefore the most honest. In this sturdy 1986 drama, the requisite comedy arrives more or less organically, out of family humor or professional drive and ambition, and even seemingly harmless jokes can have unforeseen consequences for the wisecrackers and those they love. Looking toward posterity, this may be Simon’s best. Read more…

Jonas Schwartz -  Arts In LA

Jason Alexander, co-star of the original Broadway cast of Broadway Bound, directs this nostalgic piece with enough pathos and humor to stir audiences’ hearts. Led by the sensitive actor Gina Hecht, the top-caliber cast mines Neil Simon’s jokes for all their potency, while remaining grounded in this touching memoir of a family collapsing. Read more…

Bob Verini -   Stage Raw

Broadway Bound, the 1986 final installment in Neil Simon’s avowedly autobiographical trilogy that began with Brighton Beach Memoirs, receives a warm and affectionate revival at the Odyssey. Maybe too warm, though not too warm for comfort.
Read more…

Now playing through September 21.

BUYER AND CELLAR at the Mark Taper Forum

Photo by Joan MarcuLes Spindle – Edge on the Net

Les Spindle – Edge on the Net

Michael Urie proves to be a virtuoso clown, a consummate actor, and a force of nature, all rolled into one, in his tour de force solo turn in Jonathan Tolins ‘ irresistible showbiz comedy, “Buyer & Cellar.” Read more…

Pauline Adamek  – Stage Raw

Sweet and snarky, with a few cheap shots and a lot of belly laughs, Buyer & Cellar is a hilarious one-person show about a struggling actor’s brief period of working for a major celebrity. Read more…

Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter

Fresh off an acclaimed New York run where it won multiple awards for best solo show and performance, Jonathan Tolins’ snarky yet sneakily sentimental Buyer & Cellar, starring Emmy nominee Michael Urie (Marc St. James in the long-running series Ugly Betty), represents some kind of ne plus ultra of a mainstream gay one-hander. Read more…
Now running through August 17.

THE SEXUAL LIFE OF SAVAGES at the Beverly Hills Playhouse

Photo by Ed Krieger

Photo by Ed Krieger

David C. Nichols – LA Times

In its basic contours and execution, Ian MacAllister-McDonald’s “The Sexual Life of Savages” at the Beverly Hills Playhouse is an edgy dramedy of postmillennial eroticism that certainly keeps us watching. Read more…

Myron Meisel – The Hollywood Reporter

A couple planning on romance is instead waylaid by argument, a fundamental kernel of dramatic conflict with potential for rueful recognition by the audience. Hal (Luke Cook), a well-spoken guy with nagging reactionary tendencies, persists in pressing eminently sensible girlfriend Jean (Melissa Paladino) to reveal the extent of her past lovers, apparently determined to provoke his own recriminations. Read more…

Dany Margolies  -  Arts In LA

Ian MacAllister-McDonald’s world premiere script broaches several slices of life not usually seen onstage. The topic, as his play’s title responsibly hints, is the sexuality of his five characters. The dialogue is exceedingly explicit, and we’re not talking an occasional F-bomb. But the situations his characters put themselves in and the conversations the play will undoubtedly provoke in its audiences are unique.  Read more…

Steven Leigh Morris  – LA Weekly

Oh, sex: Can we ever get over it? And if we do, what will there be to write about? What would the state of the world be if it weren’t largely defined by overt and subliminal sexual impulses? Read more…

Now running through August 16.