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Archive for TheaterMania – Page 2

MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM at the Mark Taper Forum

L-R: Jason Dirden, Glynn Turman, Damon Gupton, Keith David and Lillias White in August Wilson?s ?Ma Rainey?s Black Bottom,? directed by Phylicia Rashad, playing through October 16, 2016, at Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum at the Los Angeles Music Center. For tickets and information, please visit CenterTheatreGroup.org or call (213) 628-2772. Contact: CTGMedia@ctgla.org/ (213) 972-7376. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Paul Birchall  – Stage Raw

At the Opening Night performance of director Phylicia Rashad’s powerful staging of playwright August Wilson’s modern classic Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, I found myself seated next to a gentleman who claimed to be one of the agents for one of the performers in the show. He promptly loosened his tie and shrugged off his blazer. “Better make myself comfortable,” he noted. “It’s kind of warm in here and Wilson doesn’t write short.” Read more…

Dany Margolies – The Daily Breeze

The late, greatly missed August Wilson wrote 10 plays for the 10 decades of the last century. Some of them come through Los Angeles often enough that we can compare productions, particularly because Mark Taper Forum and Fountain Theatre have a penchant for, and a talent for, Wilson’s works. Read more…

Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

Center Theatre Group’s vibrant production of August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom fills the Mark Taper Forum stage with powerhouse performances. Lillias White brings down the house with her rendition of the title song, but it is the four band members, played by Keith David, Glynn Turman, Damon Gupton, and Jason Dirden, who take center stage with electricity and chemistry. Read more…

Now running through October 16

AS STRAW BEFORE THE WIND at The Ruby Theatre at THE COMPLEX

Michael Helms Photography

Michael Helms Photography

Deborah Klugman – Capital & Main

Most Americans have limited knowledge of the history and hardships of ethnic groups and nationalities outside their own (despite the best efforts of progressive educators in some of our urban schools to have it otherwise). With As Straw Before the Wind, Filipino-American playwright Felix Racelis aims to fill some of the gaps that audiences may have when it comes to the Filipino experience. Read more…

Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

It is difficult to revere the creators’ intentions for the Ruby Theater’s world-premiere production of As Straw Before the Wind at the Ruby Theatre at the Complex, because the story is so muddled. Both of its subjects — post-traumatic stress disorder and the plight of the elderly — deserve to be under the microscope, but this pedantic and draggy play gives neither topic its due. Read more…

David C. Nichols – LA Times

In “As Straw Before the Wind,” playwright Felix Racelis attempts to draw attention to two topics sorely underrepresented in the theater: the Filipino American experience during and after World War II, and the challenges facing senior citizens.     Read more…

Now running through September 4

GREY GARDENS at the Ahmanson Theatre

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(© Craig Schwartz)

Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

Grey Gardens, based on the 1975 cult classic documentary, is a gem of a one-act musical. Unfortunately, there are two acts. In wanting to flesh out the characters who were captured in the film, book author Doug Wright, composer Scott Frankel, and lyricist Michael Korie focus the entire first act on backstory that drags the show down.  Read more...

Deborah Klugman – LA Weekly

In concept, Grey Gardens The Musical, about two women who (seemingly) had it all and then lost it, resonates with meaning, especially if you’re a woman. For one thing, it’s a mother-daughter story, of which, unfairly, there are far fewer than father-son. Read more…

Dany Margolies – The Daily Breeze

Edith and Edie Bouvier Beale were the last century’s East Coast mother and daughter scions who plummeted from wealth to filth. Neither their own inordinate affluence and celebrity nor those of their relatives could save this pair from the physical and mental decay ravaging their lives.     Read more…

Paul Birchall  – Stage Raw

A pair of cantankerous older ladies, mother and daughter, rattle around their enormous derelict mansion in this smash musical based on a legendary 1970s documentary about the downwardly mobile lives of Big and Little Edie Bouvier of the Hamptons. Read more…

Now running through August 14

BLUE SKY at the Geffen Playhouse

Photo by Darrett Sanders

Photo by Darrett Sanders

Deborah Klugman – LA Weekly

The marital problems of an upper-middle-class couple (with particular focus on the vague discontent of an adulterous wife) are the stuff of soap opera.   Read more…

Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

Broadway director John Rando brings the witty comedy Big Sky to the Geffen with a talented cast and a script that plays on conventions of the 1980s, but reflects how times have not changed when it comes to American’s obsession with wealth above all. Read more…

Pauline Adamek  – ArtsBeatLA

A family faces a confluence of crises during an Aspen blizzard. Making its world premiere at the Geffen Playhouse is playwright Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros’ dramedy Big Sky, directed by John Rando. It’s a lively work, full of relatable, if affluent (at least at first glance) white characters, who are definitely privileged.  Read more…

Now running through July 17

THE MADWOMAN IN THE VOLVO at the Pasadena Playhouse

 

(© Jim Cox Photography)

(© Jim Cox Photography)

Jonas Schwartz – TheaterMania

Sandra Tsing Loh has a lot to say about menopause and the suffering and confusion it causes for women. The award-winning essayist’s first play, The Madwoman in the Volvo, reveals very personal travails, but does it in a superficial way, so that the audience cannot always identify with her or understand the motives for the major upheavals she makes in her life.   more…

 

STAGE KISS at the Geffen Playhouse

 

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Photo by Michael Lamont

Jenny Lower – LA Weekly

More than any contemporary playwright who comes to mind, Sarah Ruhl’s characters inhabit worlds wholly her own. Even when she adopts a historical setting, as with In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play), her lyrical sensibility fashions heightened realities, where a house of string or a dead man’s perpetually ringing cellphone seem natural. Read more…

Jonas Schwartz – TheaterMania

Stage Kiss, now featured at the Geffen Playhouse, offers both belly laughs and belly aches. Many zingers leave audiences gasping for air between chortles, but the play feels empty because of sketchy characterizations and a fuzzy interpretation of Shakespeare’s frequently quoted, “All the world is a stage.” Read more…

Pauline Adamek – ArtsBeatLA

Sarah Ruhl’s insular comedy is set in the world of the theater. Act One begins with an audition then sees its way through to opening night. Act Two follows our leading pair and the aftermath of their off-stage love affair. Stage Kiss is chock full of in-jokes and ‘theaterly’ sight gags and business, but none of it proves all that funny. Read more…

Now running through May 15

DREAMGIRLS at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts

Photo by Michael Lamont

Photo by Michael Lamont

Bob Verini  -   Stage Raw

Let’s start by talking about the song, and if you’re reading about Dreamgirls you already know what song I mean. It’s the one that everyone’s always waiting for, the one that practically single-handedly justifies a revival of the Tom Eyen-Henry Krieger-Michael Bennett 60s pop musical in and of itself. It stands as America’s national anthem of the love that dare not say “get the f— out, you bastard.”    Read more…

Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts pulled a 42nd Street and unleashed an understudy who roars as Effie White. Amma Osei is a dream as the volatile singer. Because she is an alternate, she may have been more polished had she performed more often with the cast, but her raw energy is fiery, and she is the diamond of an already accomplished production. Read more…

Now running through April 17

CASA VALENTINA at the Pasadena Playhouse

Photo by Jim Cox Photography

Photo by Jim Cox Photography

Myron Meisel – Stage Raw

I remember, back when young and impecunious, sneaking into the house during first intermission to catch the last two acts of Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy, only to be so smitten that I returned the following day to buy a ticket to see the first act and stay again for the rest. Read more…

Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

Fierstein’s play shines a light on hatred in unlikely places with Casa Valentina, given a sly interpretation David Lee, who adds extra bite to this 2014 dramedy. Read more…

Now running through April 17

SEX WITH STRANGERS at the Geffen Playhouse

Photo by Michael Lamont

Photo by Michael Lamont

Margaret Gray – LA Times

It could be the setup for a Harlequin romance: A beautiful novelist curls on a couch in a bed-and-breakfast in rural Michigan, proofreading a manuscript, completely alone. Heavy snow has deterred other guests, and even the proprietor has been called away on family business. Read more…

Jonas Schwartz –  Theatermania

Laura Eason’s exploration of egos, insecurities, and drowning in digital communication features a fiery performance by Stephen Louis Grush as a mysterious stranger who struggles to separate from a bad-boy persona in the Geffen Playhouse production of Sex With Strangers.

Dany Margolies – The Daily Breeze

The title “Sex With Strangers” may be the most exciting thing about this production. A flat script, uninspired direction and a robotic performance turn it to lead. Read more…

Les Spindle –  Frontiers L.A.

Premiering at Chicago’s Steppenwolf company in 2011 and having its New York bow in 2014, Laura Eason’s two-character play offers a seriocomic glimpse at fervent career ambitions and provocative romance in the internet age. Read more…

Now running through April 10

AN ACT OF GOD at the Ahmanson Theatre

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Photo by Jim Cox

Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

God has returned to earth and borrowed Sean Hayes’ body to impart wisdom to the audience at the Ahmanson Theatre and deliver an updated 10 Commandments for the new millennium. Playwright David Javerbaum hilariously skewers humanity’s assumptions about God’s purpose using the popular TV comedian Hayes as a perfect vessel. Read more…

Deborah Klugman – LA Weekly

Directed by Joe Mantello, An Act of God is one of those comedies that will be disappointing if you go in expecting to split your sides laughing, but perfectly acceptable if you’re content to be reasonably entertained. Read more…

Dany Margolies – The Daily Breeze

So, Sean Hayes is playing God. The actor who once stood out among a quartet of standouts in the television series Will & Grace—playing the really funny second fiddle in a funny group of friends—stands out in this not-quite-solo show for playing the Judeo-Christian deity. Read more…

Now running through March 13

EMPIRE THE MUSICAL at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts

 

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Photo by Michael Lamont

Bob Verini  -   Variety

The stunningly appointed “Empire The Musical,” world premiering at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (and no relation to the hit Fox series), gains strength from the entire company’s shared desire to erect the unprecedentedly tall Empire State Building, in stubborn defiance of the Great Depression. Alas, authors Caroline Sherman and Robert Hull willfully betray their storytelling judgment and taste…

Read more…

Margaret Gray – LA Times

New evidence suggests it’s easier to build the world’s tallest skyscraper than to create an original American musical. Read more…

Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

The new musical Empire pays homage to the musicals of the ’20s and ’30s. The original score by Caroline Sherman and Robert Hull contains snappy songs and captures the bubbly effervescence of the classic age. Read more…

Melinda Schupmann – Arts In LA

On May 1, 1931, the Empire State Building was completed as the world’s tallest skyscraper, at 102 stories. That it was successfully done during the difficult days of the Depression was a testament to the vision of its creators and, more important, the hardworking builders who erected it. Read more…

 

Now running through February 14

THOM PAIN (BASED ON NOTHING) at the Geffen Playhouse

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Photo by Michael Lamont

Myron Meisel – Stage Raw

…Will Eno’s acclaimed Thom Pain (based on nothing) arrives in Los Angeles after a decade of playing virtually everywhere else. Read more…

Jonas Schwartz -  TheaterMania

Thom Pain is antagonistic toward his audience. He shouts at them, starts tangents that he suddenly drops, draws seemingly interminable pauses, and rambles on about stories that lead nowhere. This Pulitzer Prize finalist, written by Will Eno, will invigorate or infuriate one depending on their perspective but it is doubtful audiences have seen anything resembling this monologue before. Read more…

Now running through February 14.