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Archive for Theatre Digest

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

THE SEARCH FOR SIGNS OF INTELLIGENT LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE at the Mark Taper Forum

Cecily Strong. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Cecily Strong. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Katie Buenneke – Theatre Digest

Your opinion of this solo performance will likely be determined by your opinion of Cecily Strong. Personally, prior to seeing this show, I found her skilled, but not thrilling, and spending 96 minutes with her here reinforces that assessment. Read more…

Harker Jones – BroadwayWorld

When THE SEARCH FOR SIGNS OF INTELLIGENT LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE originally launched on Broadway in 1985, it was an immediate sensation. The one-woman show won star Lily Tomlin Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics’ Circle awards, and brought author Jane Wagner a Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience. In 1991, it was turned into a successful film, and now it has been relaunched and updated by Wagner, to mixed effect. Read more…

Through October 23

BABE, Echo Theatre Company at Atwater Village Theatre

Sal Viscuso, Wylie Anderson and Julie Dretzin in Babe. Photo by Cooper Bates.

Sal Viscuso, Wylie Anderson and Julie Dretzin in Babe. Photo by Cooper Bates.

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Babe, Jessica Goldberg’s incisive, skillfully wrought play about sexual harassment (and what should or should not be deemed politically correct), is so titled because, in the course of the narrative, it’s applied, rather casually, to Abigail (Julie Dretzin), one of the playwright’s four exceedingly well-drawn characters. Read more…

Katie Buenneke – Theatre Digest

This is a strange play, because I feel like it has a lot of potential, but this world premiere staging feels unfinished. The performances felt more like rehearsal than opening night, the transitions were sluggish, and the script clocked in at a slow 70 minutes, ending in a way that could be interpreted as intermission if the cast hadn’t come out for bows. But there’s a lot of interesting, exciting groundwork laid out in the interplay between an old-school record exec (played by Sal Viscuso), who’s pretty much a walking microaggression (you know the type), his colleague Abigail (Julie Dretzin), who’s done more work than she’ll ever get credit for, and Kaitlyn (Wylie Anderson), a millennial who thinks her workplace should be less toxic. Read more…

Through October 24

EVERYBODY at Antaeus Theatre Company

Harry Groener and Nicole Erb in Everybody. Photo by Jenny Graham.

Harry Groener and Nicole Erb in Everybody. Photo by Jenny Graham.

Terry Morgan – Stage Raw

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins has been one of the most promising new playwrights of the past decade. His plays are widely produced and he’s been a Pulitzer finalist twice. I’ve loved about half (Neighbors and Gloria) of the five shows of his I’ve seen, was mildly entertained by another (Appropriate) and underwhelmed by the other half, one of which was An Octoroon and the other of which unfortunately is Everybody. This rewriting of the 15th-century morality play Everyman feels more like an academic exercise than actual drama. The talented cast of Antaeus Theatre Company’s new production of the show can’t quite give it the desired emotional resonance that isn’t present in Jacobs-Jenkins’ prose. Read more…

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Everyman is a late 15th century morality play that uses allegorical characters to examine the question of Christian salvation and what Man must do to attain it. That text might be a bit too dry and pedantic for today’s audiences. In 2017, playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins gave it a more modern spin and retitled it Everybody. Antaeus Theatre Company in Glendale is currently presenting the 90-minute dramedy. If morality plays are your thing, you should check it out. The cast of nine features some stand out performers. Read more…

Katie Buenneke – Theatre Digest

This production is the definition of a mixed bag. When it’s great, it soars, but when it fumbles, it’s tough. Much of this, I suspect, comes from the text, an adaptation of a centuries-old play of unknown origin, which, in playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ retelling, obliterates the fourth wall. Read more…

Harker Jones – BroadwayWorld

EVERYBODY, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ contemporary riff on a 15th-century morality play, is a creative and chaotic allegory about Christian salvation which is, in the end, an uneven production for the usually consistent Antaeus Theatre Company.
Read more…

Through October 17

ANIMAL FARM at A Noise Within

Photo by Craig Schwartz

Photo by Craig Schwartz

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

George Orwell began writing Animal Farm in the waning months of 1943. The book was conceived in response to the evils of Stalinist Russia and the disturbing tendency of many left-leaning British intellectuals to excuse the regime’s murderous excesses and cruelties. Never an officially declared socialist or communist, Orwell had been a member of Britain’s Independent Labour Party, which strove to represent the interests of the working class; in the 1930s, he also enlisted in the Popular Front in its fight against Franco. From the beginning his writings reflected empathy with the downtrodden and oppressed and, as time went on, with identifying and calling out totalitarian entities that utilized propaganda to eviscerate human rights. Read more…

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

British writer George Orwell is best known for his dystopian novel 1984, first published in 1949. Big Brother made Orwell famous. Four years earlier he published the allegorical novella Animal Farm in which animals rebel against their mean farmer and set up their own society. According to Orwell, his story reflected events leading up to the Russian Revolution and then on into the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union. Read more…

Katie Buenneke – Theatre Digest

This show is difficult to categorize, because everything about the production is top-notch, but while I respected it, I had a strong negative reaction. The cast is good, Julia Rodriguez-Elliot’s direction is strong, the songs by Adrian Mitchell and Richard Peaslee work, but I just did not like the show. Read more…

Through October 2

THE PROM at the Ahmanson Theatre

National Touring Company of The Prom. Photo by Deen van Meer

National Touring Company of The Prom. Photo by Deen van Meer

Dana Martin – Stage Raw

Prom night is a big theme at the Ahmanson this season, what with the January’s production of Everybody’s Talking about Jamie, and now The Prom (book by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin, music by Matthew Sklar and lyrics by Chad Beguelin), which is the very model of a clichéd musical. The show aims to appeal to a younger generation by celebrating the acceptance and inclusion of queer youth in our communities while simultaneously relying on old-school musical theater tropes.
Read more...

Katie Buenneke – Theatre Digest

This is a show that I just don’t connect with. I think it’s a mostly fine show, though the latter two thirds of the first act really drag. While the movie was fine (Andrew Rannells was terrific casting), I think it works better as a stage show; I’m more inclined to believe Emily Borromeo as a forgotten, longtime Broadway performer than the objectively very famous Nicole Kidman. Read more…

Now through September 11