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Archive for August 2022

VALLEY SONG at International City Theatre

Michael A. Shepperd and Belle Guillory. Photo by Kayte Deioma.

Michael A. Shepperd and Belle Guillory. Photo by Kayte Deioma.

Dana Martin – Stage Raw

International City Theatre’s latest production of South African playwright Athol Fugard’s Valley Song is a welcomed beacon of light. First produced in 1995, Valley Song is Fugard’s first work post-apartheid. He searches for hope through the messiness and confusion of a rapidly shifting world and finds it in a younger generation ready to step into a new and unknown future. Read more…

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

South African playwright Athol Fugard has written over 30 plays in his long and storied career. Most of his work dealt with the effects of Apartheid, the separation of the races as practiced in South Africa until 1994. His plays were not epics about the struggle for equality. Instead, they were intimate works about how the policy and politics affected both whites and blacks and their inter-tangled relationships in the large nation. His plays mostly consisted of small casts and he often directed and sometimes acted in them, both in South Africa and in the United States. The first play he wrote after the abolishment of Apartheid, 1995’s Valley Song, is being given a stellar revival at International City Theatre in Long Beach Read more…

Now through September 11

Barding in the park, after dark

Kalean Ung and Sam Breen in Macbeth. Photo by Grettel Cortes.

Kalean Ung and Sam Breen in Macbeth. Photo by Grettel Cortes.

Don Shirley – Angeles Stage

‘Macbeth’ in Griffith Park, ‘Comedy’ in Irvine. CTG’s month of emulating Netflix. ‘Beach People,’ ‘Lavender Men,’ ‘Valley Song.’ Jason Alexander charts his Abby road.

Have you savored Shakespeare in the park this summer? This coming week might be the best possible moment for this annual ritual, as well as one of the last such opportunities. A daytime heat wave is expected this week, so you might not even need that extra wrap that you take, for example, to Topanga in June.

I’m recommending two productions far from Topanga — suiting different moods and, perhaps, with different ticket availability. If you want something wicked and wild, go to a dell in Griffith Park for Independent Shakespeare Company’s “Macbeth.” If you want something whimsical and witty, try the errrantly spelled “Comedy of Errrorrs” at New Swan Shakespeare Festival in Irvine. Read more…

Conversation Starters: How Robert Egan Put Ojai Playwrights on the Map

Robert Egan in rehearsal at Ojai Playwrights Conference. Photo courtesy of Theatre Communications Group

Robert Egan in rehearsal at Ojai Playwright’s Conference. Photo courtesy of Theatre Communications Group

Margaret Gray – American Theatre, A publication of Theatre Communications Group

On Sunday evening, Aug. 14, Robert Egan stood up at the front of an auditorium in Ojai, Calif., to introduce the final event of the 2022 Ojai Playwright’s Conference’s (OPC) New Works Festival, a staged reading of Bill Cain’s play-in-progress, God’s Spies. Promising to keep his remarks brief, because “it’s a two-act play,” Egan reminisced about the start of his long collaboration with Cain, who went on to be “the most produced playwright” at the Ojai conference. Their relationship began in the late 1980s, when Egan was the producing artistic director at the Mark Taper Forum in L.A. and Cain had a hit there with Stand-Up Tragedy.

Egan then alluded, a bit hesitantly, to another milestone: This would be his last introduction as OPC’s artistic director/producer, a role he’s held since 2002. He had announced his decision to step down in March. Read more…

LAVENDER MEN at Skylight Theatre

Pete Ploszek, Alex Esola, and Roger Q. Mason, Photo by Jenny Graham

Pete Ploszek, Alex Esola, and Roger Q. Mason, Photo by Jenny Graham

Jonas Schwartz-Owen – Theatermania

Roger Q. Mason burns the history books with Lavender Men, a world premiere fantasia that re-envisions the passions of our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. The play, produced by Playwrights’ Arena & Skylight Theatre Company at the Skylight, is a revolutionary response to a country focused on keeping its constituents disenfranchised and invisible. As actor and writer, Mason is a force of nature, ready to bring all pillars of repressive society crashing down. Read more…

Tracey Paleo – BroadwayWorld

After years of development at SKYLAB*, readings in Los Angeles and at New York’s Circle in the Square, and a two-year setback by the coronavirus, LAVENDER MEN written by Roger Q. Mason (they/them), directed by Lovell Holder, has finally made its world premiere. As a high bar for gender non-conforming people, it is a shining star of storytelling. As a commentary on the life of an American icon, it is slightly hyperbolic although not entirely unsubstantiated according to whichever modern essays you might be reading about the subject matter. The term “lavender men”, in fact, is not an original concept. Read more...

Now through September 4

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

THE METROMANIACS at Theatre 40

Photo by Michèle Young

Photo by Michèle Young

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Way back in the mid 1970s, when I was just a few years into my theatre-going and theatre-reviewing career, I made the acquaintance of the lovely Viola Heigi-Swisher, who at the time was the Los Angeles theatre reviewer for the glossy, artsy New York-based monthly magazine After Dark. She was given about a column’s worth of space each month to report on all the shows she had seen. I have never forgotten her one-line pithy review of a poorly done new comedy we witnessed together at the long gone and still sorely missed Callboard Theatre. “There were five doors on stage—it must have been a farce.” Read more…

Now through August 21

XANADU at Laguna Playhouse

Photo by Matthew Saville

Photo by Matthew Saville

Dana Martin – Stage Raw

It is said that Xanadu is “a gift so grand that none of us truly knows what it is.” In that case, Xanadu (book by Douglas Carter Beane, music and lyrics by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar) is a gift that keeps on giving. Laguna Playhouse’s current production, the campy mashup of ‘80s pop rock shoved into a jukebox musical based on one of the worst movies ever made, is as lovable as it is vapid. Read more…

Now through August 21

MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET at South Coast Repertory

Chris Clark, Amrando Gutierrez, Rustin Cole Sailors, and Billy Rude. Photo by Jenny Graham/SCR.

Chris Clark, Amrando Gutierrez, Rustin Cole Sailors, and Billy Rude. Photo by Jenny Graham/SCR.

Jonas Schwartz-Owen – BroadwayWorld

South Coast Repertory presents the Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet at the Mission San Juan Capistrano under the stars as part of its new Outside SCR program, and the quality production recalls the good, old days of Summer Stock. SCR has collected a talented cast and put on an enchanting evening. Read more…

Now through August 21

THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR at Theatricum Botanicum

Seth Weaver, A.M. Sannazzaro, and Melora Marshall. Photo by Ian Flanders

Seth Weaver, A.M. Sannazzaro, and Melora Marshall. Photo by Ian Flanders

Katie Buenneke – Stage Raw

Centuries before there was a Marvel Cinematic Universe, William Shakespeare introduced a Falstaff Theatrical Universe with The Merry Wives of Windsor, a comedy that follows the foibles of Falstaff, the much disparaged knight who appears in Henry IV parts 1 and 2 (L.A. audiences may have seen him last portrayed by Tom Hanks in an abridged version of both Henry IVs in the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles staged in summer 2018). Read more…

Now through Oct 2

MIKE BIRBIGLIA: THE OLD MAN AND THE POOL at The Taper

© 2022 Craig Schwartz Photography

Mike Birbiglia. © 2022 Craig Schwartz Photography

Jonas Schwartz-Owen – Theatermania

Mike Birbiglia makes a triumphant return to the stage at the Mark Taper Forum with another intimate discussion in his disarming, everyman fashion. Riffing on family, health, exercise, and grammar, Center Theatre Group’s production of Mike Birbiglia: The Old Man and the Pool has the audience in stitches, laughing hysterically at the frailty of humanity. Read more…

Peter Debruge

If you’ve ever seen Mike Birbiglia before, whether on stage or screen (or a couple months back, filling in for Jimmy Kimmel), then “The Old Man and the Pool” feels like catching up with an old friend — albeit one with a lot more health problems than you. Read more…

Katie Buenneke – Stage Raw

Mike Birbiglia is not dead. But you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise while watching his show that’s currently playing at the Taper. Yes, he’s standing in front of you, performing a comedy set, but the way he talks about his health, you might be tempted to think this is a posthumous monologue. Thankfully, though, Mike Birbiglia is alive and well, and here to perform his latest comedy set. Read more…

Now through August 28

Dream Weavers – Puck and The Sandman

Azeem Vecchio, Syanne Green, and Malik Bailey in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo by Frank Ishman

Azeem Vecchio, Syanne Green, and Malik Bailey in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo by Frank Ishman

Steven Leigh Morris – Stage Raw, Notes From Arden

At the northern edge of LA County, in Santa Clarita, The Sandman (played by adult actor Jackson Caruso) is the title character in Dane Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale, “Ole Lukøje,” (“The Sandman”), presented by Eclipse Theatre and the Santa Clarita Shakespeare Festival. Phil Lantis’s play for kids (and performed with kids), adapted from Andersen’s story and directed by Nancy Lantis, tells of this Sandman’s ability to send children to sleep (sprinkling their eyes with fairy dust) and deliver them dreams — or not. If they’ve been well-behaved, they receive pleasant dreams. If they’ve been less than well-behaved, their punishment is to receive no dreams at all. There are worse punishments, as the German Brothers Grimm had imagined, slightly before Andersen (severed limbs, baked in a witch’s oven, etc.), but perhaps that’s the difference between the Danish temperament and the Teutonic one.

Meanwhile, in the center of LA County, in Atwater Village, Puck (Monazia Smith, sly, impish and, at times, pissed off) sprinkles fairy dust into the eyes of any number of White Athenians (as in Athens, Georgia) in Open Fist Theatre Company’s adaptation (by director James Fowler) of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which Fowler sets in the American antebellum South, circa 1855. Without giving away the plantation, Fowler’s strikingly cogent concept is to endow slaves with cosmic powers (which become comic powers) over their mortal Athenian overseers — not unlike the way in which the slaves outwit their masters in their quest for freedom, in the ancient Roman comedies of Plautus and Terence. Read more…

The Sandman – through July 30

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – through Aug 13

Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Announces 2020-2021 Award Recipients

LADCC LogoThe Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle is proud to announce the award recipients for 2020 and 2021. Poor Clare (The Echo Theater Company) and The Father (Pasadena Playhouse) received the prestigious Production award, with additional honorees named in 18 other categories.

In total, 13 different productions were honored, celebrating a wide range of Los Angeles theater. Pasadena Playhouse’s The Father received the most awards for a single production and the most awards overall, with nine.

This year, out of an abundance of caution, the LADCC will once again forgo its annual event ceremony and will instead send the plaques to the honorees. Congratulations to all of the award recipients!

The complete list of award recipients for 2020 and 2021 is as follows:

Production:

  • Poor Clare, The Echo Theater Company
  • The Father, Pasadena Playhouse

McCulloh Award for Revival

  • My Fair Lady, Dolby Theatre

Lead Performance

  • Jordan Hull, Poor Clare, The Echo Theater Company
  • Alfred Molina, The Father, Pasadena Playhouse

Featured Performance

  • Sue Cremin, The Father, Pasadena Playhouse
  • Ann Noble, Poor Clare, The Echo Theater Company
  • Michael Sturgis, Poor Clare, The Echo Theater Company

Ensemble Performance

  • Poor Clare, The Echo Theater Company
  • The Father, Pasadena Playhouse

Solo Performance

  • Jim Ortlieb, Stand Up If You’re Here Tonight, VS. Theatre Company & Circle X Theatre Co.

Writing

  • Chiara Atik, Poor Clare, The Echo Theater Company
  • Florian Zeller (translation by Christopher Hampton), The Father, Pasadena Playhouse

Writing Adaptation

  • Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, An Octoroon, The Fountain Theatre

Musical Score

  • Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, Frozen, Hollywood Pantages Theatre
  • David Yazbek, The Band’s Visit, Dolby Theatre

Music Direction

  • John Bell, My Fair Lady, Dolby Theatre
  • Andre Cerullo, Hamilton, Hollywood Pantages Theatre
  • Adrian Ries, The Band’s Visit, Dolby Theatre
  • Ryan Whyman, Lizastrata, Troubadour Theater Company

Choreography

  • Jess Coffman, Suzanne Jolie, L.T. Martinez, Matt Walker, Lizastrata, Troubadour Theater Company
  • Christopher Gatelli, My Fair Lady, Dolby Theatre

Direction

  • Alana Dietze, Poor Clare, The Echo Theater Company
  • Jessica Kubzansky, The Father, Pasadena Playhouse

Set Design

  • David Meyer, The Father, Pasadena Playhouse
  • Frederica Nascimento, An Octoroon, The Fountain Theatre

Lighting Design

  • Elizabeth Harper, The Father, Pasadena Playhouse
  • Natasha Katz, Frozen, Hollywood Pantages Theatre
  • Azra King-Abadi, Poor Clare, The Echo Theater Company

Costume Design

  • Christopher Oram, Frozen, Hollywood Pantages Theatre
  • Halei Parker, Lizastrata, Troubadour Theater Company
  • Catherine Zuber, My Fair Lady, Dolby Theatre

Sound Design

  • John Zalewski, The Father, Pasadena Playhouse

CGI/Video

  • Kaitlyn Pietras, Jason H. Thompson, Revenge Song, Geffen Playhouse
  • Finn Ross, Frozen, Hollywood Pantages Theatre

Streaming Design

  • Corwin Evans, Bree Pavey, UnRavelled, Global Brain Health Institute, based at the University of California, San Francisco; and Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin, Ireland
  • Andrew Schmedake, The Ballad of Emmett Till, The Fountain Theatre

Specialty

  • Lily Bartenstein, Prop Design, Lizastrata, Troubadour Theater Company
  • Jeremy Chernick, Visual Effects, Frozen, Hollywood Pantages Theatre
  • Joe Seely, Puppet Design, The ODDyssey, Troubadour Theater Company

Every effort has been made to ascertain proper credits for our award recipients. We regret any errors or omissions. Any that come to our attention will be corrected on our LADCC website and (when applicable) on a recipient’s award plaque.

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.

The 2020-2021 membership consisted of:
Lara J. Altunian, Stage Raw, L.A. Dance Chronicle
Katie Buenneke, Stage Raw, Theater Digest
Erin Conley, On Stage & Screen
Peter DeBruge, Variety
Ellen Dostal, BroadwayWorld, Musicals in LA
Lovell Estell III, Stage Raw, ArtsInLA.com
Margaret Gray, Los Angeles Times
Hoyt Hilsman, Cultural Daily, Pasadena Now, Riot Material
Harker Jones, BroadwayWorld, ArtsInLA.com
Deborah Klugman, Stage Raw, Capital and Main, Gia On The Move
Dany Margolies, ArtsInLA.com, Southern California News Group
Dana Martin, Stage Raw
Myron Meisel, Stage Raw
Terry Morgan, ArtsBeatLA.com, Stage Raw
Steven Leigh Morris, Stage Raw
Melinda Schupmann, Showmag.com, ArtsInLA.com
Jonas Schwartz-Owen, Theatermania.com, BroadwayWorld, ArtsInLA.com
Don Shirley, Angeles Stage
Rob Stevens, haineshisway.com