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Archive for July 2022

When memories meet the present moment

Valerie Perri, Leo Marks, Samantha Klein. Photo by Jenny Graham

Valerie Perri, Leo Marks, Samantha Klein. Photo by Jenny Graham

Don Shirley – Angeles Stage

Don’t forget ‘If I Forget’ at the Fountain. Plus ‘Dear Evan Hansen,’ ‘A Wicked Soul in Cherry Hill,’ ‘King Liz,’ ‘Trouble the Water,’ ‘Freestyle Love Supreme,’ ‘Cookin’ with Gas’

The present moment is the essence of live performance. Everyone in the audience — or on the stage, for that matter — experiences an event that will never again be exactly replicated. More than filmed or “live” electronically recorded productions, live theater happens right now.

Of course improv-based stage productions, such as the current “Freestyle Love Supreme” at Pasadena Playhouse or the Groundlings’ “Cookin’ With Gas”, emphasize this quality. They rely on suggestions from the spectators, so the actual words and topics can change dramatically at each new performance (more about them later).

On the other hand, many scripted plays grapple so much with memories of the past that they sometimes ignore the relevance of the past to the present moment. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as the memories don’t feel musty. Read more…

IF I FORGET at The Fountain Theatre

Leo Marks, Sami Klein and Valerie Perri. Photo by Jenny Graham

Leo Marks, Sami Klein and Valerie Perri. Photo by Jenny Graham

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Plays about fractious families may be common but toss politics and the Holocaust into the mix and you’ll have an intriguing drama.

Steven Levenson’s If I Forget takes place in an upper middle-class home in Washington DC, circa the year 2000. The central character, Michael Fischer (Leo Marks), is a professor of Jewish studies who’s written a book blasting prevailing Jewish attitudes towards the Holocaust. In the book, he suggests that historically enshrined memories of this monstrous event — perhaps best connoted by the ubiquitous slogan “Never Forget!” — are being exploited and abused by self-interested parties. It is Michael’s belief that Jews, both as individuals and collectively, would be better served if they recognized this exploitation and moved on. In his mind, this Holocaust obsession has clouded perspectives and pushed to the background other vital issues of concern, ranging from current genocide in Rwanda to glaring injustices here at home.
Read more…

Terry Morgan – ArtsBeat LA

Religion is ever with us, for good or ill. We humans seem to be hardwired with a need for the numinous. Steven Levenson’s play, If I Forget, begins with a psalm and ends with a vision, the psalm an exhortation for Jewish people not to forget their heritage, inviting misfortune if they forget. This stark prayer sets up a compelling and satisfyingly dramatic show about the tension between religious tradition and modern secularism. The new production at The Fountain Theatre in East Hollywood, directed by Jason Alexander, is a terrific showcase for its excellent cast and Levenson’s sharp writing, although it also features one major misstep. Read more…

Now through September 10

GREEN DAY’S AMERICAN IDIOT at Chance Theater

Sophia Barajas, Angie Chavez, Eric Dobson, Wyatt Hatfield, and Kristin O’Connell. Photo by Camryn Long

Sophia Barajas, Angie Chavez, Eric Dobson, Wyatt Hatfield, and Kristin O’Connell. Photo by Camryn Long

Dana Martin – Stage Raw

This is calling out to Idiot America: Chance Theater would like to offer a healthy, full-throated Fuck You to the American Establishment with their latest production, Green Day’s American Idiot (music by Green Day, lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong, book by Armstrong and Michael Mayer) — an angsty pop-punk-protest rock opera about a generation of scapegoats who’ve been collectively traumatized, unfairly blamed for society’s shortcomings, and burdened with a dismal future. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Read more…

Extended through August 21

AIR PLAY by Acrobuffos at The Broad Stage

Seth Bloom and Christina Gelsone. Photo courtesy of the artistis

Seth Bloom and Christina Gelsone. Photo by Nicola Milatovic

Tracey Paleo – BroadwayWorld

Silly and tender, this might be one of the most beautiful performances you will ever see.

Who could ever imagine that mere swaths of fabrics and plastics, a few balloons, and fluttering paper could hold attention as the emotional centerpiece of any single theatrical performance? And yet, here is the proof that the visual poetry of ACROBUFFOS’ AIR PLAY, without words, has the ability to transcend the mind, touch the heart, elevate the spirit and bring to life the very air we breathe. Read more…

Now through July 31

A WICKED SOUL IN CHERRY HILL at Geffen Playhouse

Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper and Rivkah Reyes. Photo by Jeff Lorch

Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper and Rivkah Reyes. Photo by Jeff Lorch

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

There are many things to like about A Wicked Soul in Cherry Hill, a musical by composer/lyricist Matt Schatz that was developed in a writers’ workshop at Geffen Playhouse, where the production now runs through July 24. A lively upbeat score (performed on stage by a five-member band, musical direction/orchestration by Scott Anthony), clever lyrics that tell a good story, and a well-disciplined ensemble under Mike Donahue’s very able direction are among the production’s strengths. Read more…

Jonas Schwartz-Owen

If you ever wondered what it would be like for composer William Finn (Falsettos) to musicalize an episode of Dateline, your dream has come true. A world premiere folk musical, A Wicked Soul in Cherry Hill, now running at the Geffen Playhouse, features the germ of a good idea, but the execution is sloppy and confounding. Read more…

Now through July 24

KINKY BOOTS at the Hollywood Bowl

Wayne Brady and ensemble. Photo by Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging

Wayne Brady and ensemble. Photo by Greg Grudt/Mathew Imaging

Jonas Schwartz-Owen – Theatermania

Last weekend, Wayne Brady sashayed onto the runway at the Hollywood Bowl as the iconic drag queen Lola in the Tony-winning musical Kinky Boots. His vibrant performance prevented a miscast Jake Shears from dragging the evening down.

With a score by Cyndi Lauper and a book by Harvey Fierstein, the 2013 musical focuses on Charlie (Shears), an English lad wanting to leave his small town and the family business of shoe manufacturing behind. His father’s death and the financial woes of the business, though, force him to return and bail out a company he never cared about — and only because it would devastate the lives of his employees. A chance encounter with a towering drag queen, Lola (Brady), plants an idea that just might save the company: ladies boots made for men who like to dress like women. The closed-minded employees balk at the “humiliating” new product, but Lola’s spirit and integrity affect everyone for the better. Read more…

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COMPANY at Long Beach Playhouse

Photo courtesy of Long Beach Playhouse

Photo courtesy of Long Beach Playhouse

Steven Leigh Morris – Stage Raw, Notes From Arden

When it debuted on Broadway in 1970, Stephen Sondheim’s musical Company (book by George Furth) rattled both social and theatrical sensibilities. Imagine having a boy-meets girls scenario where the boy, Robert (Cris Cortez), starts and ends the musical single. Why? He just doesn’t see the point of marriage and/or he’s unable to connect/commit. Psychotherapy meets existential ennui as another institution (marriage) bites the dust. Or is something else going on?

Robert, or Bobby as he’s frequently called, is a kind of theatrical cipher. Even Hamlet, still attending university (Bobby opens the play celebrating his 35th birthday) is far younger, more depressed and agitated than Bobby. Like Bobby, Hamlet waltzes through his play sabotaging his most intimate relationships, but at least the reasons for his behavior are evident, and he eventually does something about it. Bobby, however, just swirls among five hetero married couples, who each in their respective ways tries to get him to settle down, grow up and get married – as most people felt compelled to do 50-plus years ago. Read more…

Now through August 7

CLOWNFISH at Theatre of NOTE

Sean Michael Boozer, Susan Louise O’Connor, Mara Shuster-Lefkowitz and Omari Williams. Photo by Brad C. Light

Sean Michael Boozer, Susan Louise O’Connor, Mara Shuster-Lefkowitz and Omari Williams. Photo by Brad C. Light

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

In comedy, silly plots are easily forgiven if the writing is witty or insightful, or if one or more performers is so engaging that other shortcomings can be overlooked. With Clownfish, Theatre of NOTE’s premiere production following the hiatus of the pandemic, none of this is so

Written by Amy Dellagiarino, the play takes place in an isolated cabin on the top of a mountain near Denver in the middle of winter. A wedding party has gathered to prepare for the wedding of Katie (Mara Shuster-Lefkowitz), a woman with a “wild” past, and Jake (Omari Williams), a conventional guy who has planned the event and who’s chosen this inauspicious locale because, well, it’s cheap. Outside the air is bitter cold, with snow drifts piling up, so you suspect from the start that Jake may come to regret his choice. Read more…

Harker Jones – BroadwayWorld

Theatre of NOTE returns after an enforced Covid break with a world premiere of a raucous ghost story. Six friends descend upon a Colorado mountain cabin in the middle of winter for a DIY wedding as a storm descends. Chaos and insanity ensue in addition to the eternal question: What is normal? Read more…

Now through August 6

MOULIN ROUGE! THE MUSICAL at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre

The ensemble of Moulin Rouge, The Musical!, North American Tour. Photo by Matthew Murphy for Murphy Made

Moulin Rouge, The Musical!, North American Tour. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

Terry Morgan – Stage Raw

The dumbing down of American musical theater continues apace with Moulin Rouge! The Musical, which throws the past 50 years of popular music into a moronic Mixmaster and performs the stitched-together “songs” with the regrettable aesthetic of a cut-rate Vegas revue or a taste-free ‘70s TV variety show. It’s doubly unfortunate, because the source material, Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film, had originality, charm and visual panache to spare, but you would never guess that from this dreadful adaptation. The new production at the Pantages isn’t entirely without merit – a couple of the performers are clearly talented and the lighting design is impressive – but ultimately it’s three hours of your time that would be infinitely better spent elsewhere. Read more…

Jonas Schwartz-Owen – BroadwayWorld

There have been jukebox musicals for decades, but never has a jukebox been so overstuffed that the 45s came spiraling out of the cabinet, spinning off the stage to decapitate the audience. This Tony-winning musical extravaganza is completely ridiculous and utterly intoxicating. It pounds you into submission, and before you know it, you’re having a marvelous time. Read more…

Now through September 4

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM at Open Fist Theatre Company

Monazia Smith. Photo by Frank Ishman

Monazia Smith. Photo by Frank Ishman

Harker Jones – BroadwayWorld

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, originating in the 1500s and one of William Shakespeare’s most beloved and produced plays, has been adapted in countless ways over the past few centuries, including as films, musicals, ballets, operas, an animated Disney short, and even a disco-oriented off-Broadway takeoff called The Donkey Show, while having an impact felt in everything from The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, Dead Poets Society, and Woody Allen (A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy). Following all that, it is given a fresh spin by the Open Fist Theatre Company, changing the setting from Athens, Greece, to Athens, Georgia, in the antebellum South to mixed results. Leaving the original text intact, the comedy takes place on a plantation and focuses on both the wealthy family living there as well as their slaves, who are tasked with putting on a show for the gentry’s amusement. Hilarity ensues with magic, fairies, and shapeshifting. Read more…

Now through August 13

QUEEN OF FISHTOWN at Namba Arts

Katierose Donohue Enriquez. Photo by Annie Lesser

Katierose Donohue Enriquez. Photo by Annie Lesser

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

“Few neighborhoods have changed as quickly and dynamically as Fishtown,” proclaims the website visitphilly.com, a promotional site for the City of Brotherly Love. The text goes on to explain how this once rundown working class neighborhood in the northeast part of the city is now home to a renaissance in culture, dining and nightlife. Displayed are photos of young people with backpacks and bicycles and a diversity of diners sampling the delights the restaurants there have to offer. Read more…

Now through July 9