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Archive for September 2012

8, the Play, Public Theater Company


8, the Play by Dustin Lance Black.


Shirle Gottlieb, Gazette Newspapers

What a gorgeous building!  We’ve lived in Long Beach since we were teenagers, and this is the first time we ever set foot in the Scottish Rite Building, located at 855 Elm Ave.  As for the lavish 700-seat Ernest Borgnine Theatre within it… we didn’t even know it existed.  But it certainly does, and more than 500 people showed up to prove it. Arriving from all over the area for the Public Theatre’s debut production of “8 the Play,” the crowd came to catch a one-day performance by esteemed actors who volunteered their talents for a cause they fervently believe in.   Read more…



By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, Geffen Playhouse

Photo by Michael Lamont.


By the Way, Meet Vera Stark by Lynn Nottage.


Terry Morgan –

Lynn Nottage’s play, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, is more intriguing as a concept than a reality. It looks at the marginalization of African-American actors in the twentieth century, an undeniably interesting subject, but then stumbles in multiple ways. The fault, unfortunately, is in the writing, and the strong cast in the new production at the Geffen Playhouse isn’t able to overcome this problem.   Read more…


David C. Nichols – Backstage

In By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, playwright Lynn Nottage, a 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner for Ruined, again turns her incisive eye on the objectification of African-American women. The West Coast premiere of her 2011 satire of racial identity in the Hollywood studio system is an often enjoyable fusion of wry comedy and gritty comment, at least until polemic overtakes the proceedings.  Read more…


Pauline Adamek – ArtsBeatLA

Lynn Nottage’s play By The Way, Meet Vera Stark is light years apart from her recently staged play (also at the Geffen) entitled Ruined, which was a potent portrayal of unspeakable tragedy in war-torn Congo. Yet the main focus of this play is once again the plight of black women, to which Nottage gives thoughtful examination coupled with wry commentary.   Ostensibly a comedy, this time her primary setting is the Hollywood studio system during the 1930s. We gain an unusual insight into the close friendship between two actors. One – Gloria (Amanda Detmer) – is white, privileged and desperate for the lead role in an upcoming Southern saga. The other – Vera (Sanaa Lathan) – is black and also desperate for a good movie role – any role. Unfortunately for a ‘colored girl,’ the only screen roles available are menial ones such as maids and mammies.   Read more…


Melinda Schupmann –

Early in Hollywood’s heyday, directors discovered that caricatured black actors played well in films, especially comedies, and the actors, desperate for work, acquiesced. Male stereotypes were born: wide-eyed, lazy, superstitious, subservient characters who kowtowed to their superiors (read that white). Among the actors were Willie Best, Mantan Moreland, and Stepin Fetchit, the most highly paid stock actors in the genre. Read more…



Justin Love, Celebration Theatre

Photo by Michael Lamont.


Justin Love — Book by Patricia Cotter and David Elzer, Story by David Elzer and Bret Calder, Music by Lori Scarlett and David Manning, Lyrics by Lori Scarlett.


Sharon Perlmutter –

Justin Love gives an old plot a modern twist, shines it up with with a bright and upbeat score, adds genuinely clever dialogue and lyrics, and wraps it all up in a Hollywood that only exists in fairy tales. The result is a feel-good musical in the very best sense of the phrase—a show which (even if just for a couple hours) makes you think that dreams can come true, there are no real villains, and maybe, just maybe, barriers to equality aren’t as insurmountable as they seem.  Read more…


David C. Nichols – L.A. Times

Tinseltown tunefully outs itself in Justin Love, triumphantly opening the Celebration Theatre’s 30th anniversary season. Though not without its still-gelling aspects, this witty, full-hearted musical fable about an idealistic Hollywood assistant and the A-Lister he un-closets is as endearing an item as any in the venue’s history.   Read more…


Pauline Adamek – ArtsBeatLA

Fresh and fun, the marvelous new musical about gay closet-life in Hollywood, Justin Love, was eight years in development, and the dedication shows. The storyline is sweet and not-too-predictable, the songs are snappy, upbeat and enjoyable and the direction and staging by Michael Matthews is fluid. While it could be read as a sly dig at a certain high profile actor who adamantly refuses to ‘come out,’ the plot is far more interesting and original than easy satire. Sure, it does poke fun at certain Hollywood archetypes – opportunistic gayboys, harridan bosses and sleazy tabloid journalists – but what keeps you engaged throughout is its sweet romantic core.  Read more…


Dany Margolies –

As with any fairy tale, we know the story but eagerly await the manner of its telling. The hero must make a difference, must battle demons, and probably should end up “the winner.” And likely if you have decided to see this production, you’d approve of the outcome. So, how is the telling?  Read more…


Trojan Barbie, Garage Theatre


Trojan Barbie by Christine Evans.


Shirle Gottlieb — Gazette Newspapers

The Garage Theatre celebrated its 51st production last weekend with the opening of Trojan Barbie. Written by Christine Evans, first place winner in the “Plays for the 21st Century” competition, it explores the similarities of modern warfare in the Middle East with Euripides’ Greek tragedy, The Trojan Women.   Read more…




Year of the Rabbit, Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA

Photo Credit: Betsy Newman.


Year of the Rabbit by Keliher Walsh.


Sharon Perlmutter –

I don’t think I’d ever actually considered the possibility that our soldiers fighting in the Middle East might be the children of our soldiers who fought in Vietnam. Keliher Walsh’s world premiere play, Year of the Rabbit, takes that idea and runs with it. Read more…


Pauline Adamek – LA Weekly

Watching Keliher Walsh’s multifaceted mini-saga about war feels like peering through a kaleidoscope at tiny, glittering particles that shift and tumble before locking into place to reveal a pattern. The three related storylines are presented in a fragmented fashion until the connections eventually are revealed. One involves a bomber flight duo, Lt. Bridges (Ashanti Brown) and Lt. Skinner (Will McFadden), and the impact and subsequent fallout their intimacy has on their tour of duty in the Persian Gulf. The unifying storyline is that of Lieu (Elyse Dinh), a Vietnamese child orphaned and cursed by the horrific war that destroyed her country. Lieu’s presence touches all the characters, whether they realize it or not.   Read more…


Three Views of the Same Object, Rogue Machine

Photo Credit: John Flynn.


Three Views of the Same Object by Henry Murray.


Sharon Perlmutter –

It’s a play about aging—Stop! Wait! Don’t turn away! It’s an honest, frank-and-sometimes-funny look at people making difficult life decisions at a time of life when their conversation focuses just a bit too much on bodily functions. Read more…


David C. Nichols — L.A. Times

“I feel like I’m in an airplane, looking down on my life.” That’s a fair assessment of Three Views of the Same Object in its impressive Rogue Machine production. Despite the odd tonal blip and some new-play quirks, Henry Murray’s tripartite study of an aging couple’s suicide pact is fascinating, haunting and certain to provoke post-show conversation. Read more…




Encounter, East West Players in association with Navarasa Dance Theatre, David Henry Hwang Theater

Photo by Don Perrault_LR



by Aparna Sindhoor, Anil Natyaveda, and S M Raju.


Dany Margolies, ArtsInLA

The wisdom of the adage “Show, don’t tell” quickly becomes apparent in this dance-theater piece. And symbolic “showing” can be even more evocative than realism, which may explain why the storytelling here leaves the viewer shattered. In a universal tale about shortsighted despotism and evilly wielded power, only the production’s beautiful theatricality comes out the winner.  Read more…


Mayank Keshaviah – LA Weekly

Often the more specific something is, the more universal it feels. As such, this dance drama by Navarasa Dance Theatre, about Indian farmworker-turned-freedom fighter Dopdi Mejhen (Aparna Sindhoor), could just as easily have taken place in Rwanda, El Salvador or China. Mejhen, husband Dulna Majhi (Anil Natyaveda) and their fellow adivasis (indigenous tribals) are victims of the Indian military, who orchestrate “encounters” to kill or torture so-called enemies of the state. Interestingly, both groups are played by the same actors/dancers.  Read more…



The Book of Mormon, Pantages Theatre

Photo by Joan Marcus.


The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone.


David C. Nichols – Backstage

With a subversive chortle and a heart bigger than the Great Salt Lake, The Book of Mormon hits Los Angeles and triumphantly becomes the hottest attraction in town. The joyous West Coast premiere of Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone’s Tony-winning gusher doesn’t just meet expectations; it tramples them. Neither Broadway musicals nor tuner devotees will ever be quite the same. Read more…


Pauline Adamek – ArtsBeatLA

It’s funny, it’s outrageous and the company’s energy is off the charts. Whatever you may have heard about The Book Of Mormon, check your preconceived notions at the door and surrender to an evening of laughter and song. Written by the creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, in collaboration with Robert Lopez (Avenue Q), The Book Of Mormon is a super fun and clever musical satire that looks lavish and expensive and is extremely well staged. Yes, it’s a mild send-up of the more wacky beliefs of the Mormon faith (and religion in general) and the storyline also touches on some seriously dark themes (such as AIDS, forced female circumcision, poverty and the brutality wrought by militia-run dictatorships), but the writers have also created a story that is brimming with heart and sweetness.  Read more…


LADCC announces location & date for upcoming year’s awards show

The Los Angeles Theatre Center.

The Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle has announced that its awards for qualifying year 2012 will be held on Monday evening, March 18, 2013, at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 South Spring St. in downtown Los Angeles. In addition, the Circle’s invitation-only nominees’ reception will be held at the same location two weeks earlier, on Monday evening, March 4, 2013.

The Los Angeles Theatre Center is a facility of the City of Los Angeles and is operated by the Latino Theater Company, which in January, 2006 was awarded a 20-year lease from the City of Los Angeles. The company received a $4 million grant from the California Cultural and Historic Endowment to refurbish the building, which was re-opened in October, 2007 as the new Los Angeles Theatre Center.

“With all due respect to the various wonderful venues that have graciously housed the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle awards ceremony over the years,” said David C. Nichols, Circle president, “there’s something incredibly apt about this year’s location, the Los Angeles Theatre Center. Since its inception, LATC has been one of the treasures of the local theatrical community, and we sincerely hope that having the LADCC awards there will remind said community just how great a resource we have in our revitalizing downtown pocket.”

Details about the awards event’s host, theme and ticket availability will be forthcoming later in the year, according to Bob Verini, this year’s awards chair.

The Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle was founded in 1969. It is dedicated to excellence in theatrical criticism, and to the encouragement and improvement of theatre in Greater Los Angeles.


Euripides’ Helen, Getty Villa

Photo by Craig Schwartz.


Euripides’ Helen, by adapted by Nick Salamone.


Dany Margolies, ArtsInLA

Nick Salamone is most gracious in crediting Euripides as the writer here, merely listing himself as adaptor. He has riffed on the Greek tragicomedy original, working with historical plot and characters but blending in elements of Hollywood movie musicals and characters from Hollywood’s Golden Age. Read more…


Pauline Adamek – LA Weekly

Euripides’ fanciful version of the legend of Helen of Troy (the beauty whose abduction triggered a ten year war between the Trojans and the Achaeans) was first produced in 412 BC. In it he posits that Helen was supplanted by a phantom (fashioned by the mischievous gods) to ensure a war while the real Helen was spirited away to exile on a remote Egyptian island.  Read more…




Natalie Portman, the Musical!, The Attic

Tara Pitt.


Natalie Portman, the Musical!  Book and lyrics by Brittany Garms, music by Frankie Marrone and Tara Pitt.


Dany Margolies, ArtsInLA

“What were they thinking?” That’s the polite form of the question critics ask rhetorically when theater productions don’t work. Fortunately regarding this production, the answer is apparent from start to finish. Unfortunately another question hangs over it. “What’s missing?” we wonder. What is making it good but keeping it from being great?  Read more…




Collected Stories, Odyssey Theatre

Photo by Numa Perrier.


Collected Stories by Donald Margulies.


Dany Margolies, ArtsInLA

The quality of this production is undoubtable. Much thought and skill and time have gone into the onstage product. But whether director Terri Hanauer and her duet of fine actors ring all the possible tones in Donald Margulies’s script is another think. Read more…