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Archive for December 2022

CHRISTMASTIME ORIGINS at Group Repertory Theatre

Lareen Faye. Photo by Doug Engalla.

Lareen Faye. Photo by Doug Engalla.

Martίn Hernández – Stage Raw

Welcome to the studios of K-GRT 73, North Hollywood’s home of radio theatre, otherwise known as the upstairs space of the Group Repertory Theatre. Artistic Director Doug Haverty has adapted four works from veteran Los Angeles theater journalist and playwright Julio Martinez’s The Eight Plays of Christmas: A Series of Radio Dramas. While this reviewer falls into the “bah, humbug” camp when it comes to Christmas, the nostalgic production under Kathleen Delaney’s sturdy direction presents some touching backstories of classic holiday songs and stories. We are also treated to a mixed bag of other holiday ditties, which the large and lively ensemble delivers with gusto. Read more…

Through January 15

SUSTAINED RELEASE at The Larking House

Photo by Matthew M. Hayashi and Gennie Kauper.

Photo by Matthew M. Hayashi and Gennie Kauper.

Patrick Chavis – The Orange Curtain Review

I watched the World premiere of Sustained Release yesterday, written by local Orange County Playwright Matthew M. Hayashi, in a 3-car garage. Don’t be fooled by this humble location. The Larking house isn’t fixing cars in here. They’ve created art.
Read more…

Through December 17

Troubies, Tanner, and a Top Tenth list

Matt Walker and Rick Batalla. Photo by Douglas Leadwell.

Matt Walker and Rick Batalla. Photo by Douglas Leadwell.

Don Shirley – Angeles Stage

Plus ‘Annie,’ ‘Clyde’s,’ ‘Invincible,’ Sheldon Epps’ memoir.

Tis the season for Troubadour Theater’s annual holiday hoot. As usual, it’s a refreshing antidote to too many competing “Christmas Carol”s.

This year Troubies director Matt Walker takes aim at the 1988 shoot-’em-up film “Die Hard.” Its setting — a corporate holiday party in a Century City high-rise — is the excuse for the timing in December. The Troubie title is “Die Heart,” because the show includes melodies and riffs, if not the precise lyrics, of some of the songs from the rock group Heart. Read more…

INVINCIBLE at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

Kay Sibal and Khamary Rose. Photo by Sean Daniels/DVR Productions.

Kay Sibal and Khamary Rose. Photo by Sean Daniels/DVR Productions.

Katie Buenneke – Theatre Digest

If you’re a long-time subscriber to this newsletter, you know that I love to check out a new musical that mashes up pop songs with a classic story. Sometimes, those shows are good and fun (e.g. Six, & Juliet). Sometimes they are not (Once Upon a One More Time). Sometimes they’re in between (Head Over Heels). This show, which grafts Pat Benatar songs onto something approximating the plot of Romeo and Juliet, is, unfortunately, terrible. Read more…

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Invincible The Musical is currently receiving its World Premiere production at The Wallis in Beverly Hills. The tagline is “Romeo & Juliet reimagined through the music of Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo”. If it is true that “Love is a Battlefield,” then this reimagining of R&J is a bombed-out wasteland. Sort of like the three-story graffiti and bullet-riddled structure that Scenic Designer Arnel Sancianco has created as the backdrop for the mindless action Director Tiffany Nichole Greene has staged.
Read more…

Through December 18

 

DIE HEART, Troubadour Theater Company at the Colony Theatre

Matt Walker and Rick Batalla. Photo by Douglas Leadwell.

Matt Walker and Rick Batalla. Photo by Douglas Leadwell.

Terry Morgan – Stage Raw

There has been much discussion in recent years on social media concerning whether or not the 1998 film Die Hard qualifies as “a Christmas movie.” On the surface, the Bruce Willis actioner may not seem to be a good candidate for “holiday classic,” what with its brutal murders, hangings and cocaine abuse. Indeed, the “classics” are rather a motley bunch, including mutant reindeer, a near suicide off a bridge, a child’s malnourished Christmas tree and the vanishingly unlikely spectacle of a rich miser suddenly becoming empathetic. Here to answer this controversial question with a definitive yes, the Troubadour Theater Company’s Die Heart (Die Hard featuring the music of the band, Heart) is a hilarious adaptation of its source material that will make the holidays much brighter. Read more…

Through December 18

LITTLE THEATRE at Rogue Machine

Zachary Grant, Jenny O’Hara, Ryan Brophy. Photo by Jeff Lorch.

Zachary Grant, Jenny O’Hara, Ryan Brophy. Photo by Jeff Lorch.

Martίn Hernández – Stage Raw

In the 1990s, playwright Justin Tanner was the wunderkind of small venue L.A. theatre. Tanner churned out hit after hit, like Pot Mom, Zombie Attack, and Teen Girl, for the now defunct Cast Theatre, where he was resident playwright. The Cast was also where artistic director Diana Gibson reigned supreme, raking in the bucks from Tanner’s prolific output while raking him over the coals over, in her esteemed opinion, his paltry writing skills. Read more…

Terry Morgan – ArtsBeat LA

Memory plays are a tricky proposition. Hew strictly to the truth and the story may not be dramatic enough; indulge in creative license and literal-minded people might object. The Glass Menagerie stands as a successful example of the form, whereas the unfinished novel Answered Prayers by Truman Capote so outraged its real-life subjects that it essentially ended his writing career. I’d like to say that Justin Tanner’s new play about his decade of working at the Cast Theatre during the 90s with artistic director Diana Gibson is as successful at capturing the past as Menagerie. Although I enjoyed the show’s humor and performances, it unfortunately feels more like the Capote work and comes off more as a venting of old grievances than a balanced play. Read more…

Patrick Chavis – LA Theatre Bites

Old People say the Darndest Things: World Premiere: Little Theatre @ Rogue Machine Theatre – Review. More…

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Playwright Justin Tanner was a mainstay of the Los Angeles 99-seat theatre scene in the 1990s. He was the resident playwright at The Cast theatre where productions of his plays—Bitter Women, Teen Girl, Coyote Woman, Pot Mom-all premiered. His play Zombie Attack, written with Andy Daley, played there for ten years. Thanks to founder Ted Schmitt, The Cast had a reputation for nurturing playwrights and presenting World Premiere productions. After his death, Diana Gibson took over the theatre and the mentoring. Tanner was her prize protégé although an LA Weekly cover story on Tanner labeled him “The Prisoner of El Centro Avenue”. Tanner’s association with Gibson and Gibson’s with The Cast ended in 1999. Read more…

Through January 8

BOB’S HOLIDAY OFFICE PARTY at Beverly Hills Playhouse

Photo by Marissa Drammissi.

Photo by Marissa Drammissi.

Socks Whitmore – Stage Raw

It’s December in Los Angeles and ‘tis the season for LA’s self-proclaimed longest-running “holiday hit,” Bob’s Holiday Office Party. Written by Joe Keyes and Rob Elk, this outrageous comedy began as an “improvised romp” in 1995, and since then has made an appearance each year everywhere from the late Tamarind Theatre on Franklin Ave., to Atwater Village Theatre, to the Zephyr. This production marks the show’s first appearance at the Beverly Hills Playhouse and the 25th season of shenanigans starring insurance agent Bob Finhead and his eclectic mix of friends and clients. Every year, Bob gathers his fellow small-town white bread Americans for a holiday bash in his office, and every year, chaos seems to ensue. Read more…

Through December 18

ALBEE/PINTER at Pacific Resident Theatre

Anthony Foux and Jason Downs. Photo by Myrna Gawryn.

Anthony Foux and Jason Downs. Photo by Myrna Gawryn.

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

In 1960, Edward Albee and Harold Pinter were young playwrights whose work challenged theatrical convention and the expectations of critics and audiences. Both Albee’s brief two-hander, Fam and Yam, and Pinter’s lengthier one-act, The Dumb Waiter, received English language premieres that year — Albee’s at the Music Box Theatre on Broadway and Pinter’s at the Hampstead Theatre Club in London.

Different in style and substance, each nonetheless harbors the influence of Samuel Beckett and an absurdist perspective which posits the human experience as, at best, uneasy, uncertain and unsettling. Read more…

Through February 5

THE EMPIRE STRIPS BACK at Montalbán Theatre

Kanie Freeman. Photo by Kevin Berne.

Kanie Freeman. Photo by Kevin Berne.

Martίn Hernández – Stage Raw

Ranging from the hypnotic to the hilarious, the sublime to the silly, director Russell S. Beattie’s loving burlesque lampoon of the Star Wars movie canon offers up a bevy of ecdysiasts displaying a different way of The Force. Depicting various classic characters, the show highlights the balletic and gymnastic talent of these gorgeous gals – and the few guys – but also offers some of that traditional bump and grind endemic to the fine art of strip tease. It is great fun for the whole family – if the family is 18 and over. Read more…

Through January 8

WINTER WISHES at Theatre West

Photo by Garry Kluger

Photo by Garry Kluger

Steven Leigh Morris – Stage Raw

A dozen skilled performers romp through some 30 holiday-themed and mostly traditional ditties in this seasonal cabaret, thoughtfully staged by Victoria Lavan Liberty. I have to admit to a certain squeamishness at hearing Richard Berent’s “A Kids Forever” and “Wihla Hutson and Alfred Burt’s “Some Children See Him.” The former is nicely crooned by Cody Kelepolo; the latter by Amanda Boutaud, Scottie Nevil, Zoe Miner and Alyssa Rupert: These are songs in which children commit to believing in Santa, despite evidence to the contrary. Not sure that in our era of QAnon, that celebrating — almost defiantly — fact-free realities is the best lesson, but that’s probably over-thinking things. Read more…

Through December 11

THE PENELOPIAD at City Garage

Photo by Paul M. Rubenstein

Photo by Paul M. Rubenstein

Tracey Paleo – Gia On The Move

While Odysseus went off to war…
…abandoning his family and kingdom for 20 years, it is his wife Penelope who strategically saves Ithaca. But there is a cost. Penelope now sets the record straight by recounting the story we know, with other disturbing facts that have never been discussed. More…

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Out of the mists of Hades appears Penelope, Queen of Ithaca (Peggy Flood). She wants to tell us her side of the story; the story of her husband made famous by Greek poet Homer in The Odyssey. The Penelopiad, by Canadian writer Margaret Atwood who is most famous for The Handmaid’s Tale, is being given a solid production at City Garage in Santa Monica. You know it is sure to be a heavily feminist re-telling of the epic tale, with an all-female baker’s dozen cast members playing multiple roles, under the tight and often inspired direction of Frederique Michel. Read more…

Through December 18

ANNIE at the Dolby Theatre

Ellie Pulsifer and Christopher Swan. Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

Ellie Pulsifer and Christopher Swan. Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

Harker Jones – BroadwayWorld

Little Orphan Annie has been a part of our collective consciousness for going on a hundred years, first in comic-strip form then on radio then films and finally on Broadway, where the intrepid moppet really defined her place in pop culture. The show ran for six years, won seven Tony Awards (including Best Musical), spawned four film adaptations (both big- and small-screen), and gifted us with classic numbers like “Tomorrow” and “It’s the Hard Knock Life.”

It, and she, is an American icon. Read more…

Through December 18