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Author Archive for LADCC critics

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

MONIECE CLARK by Barker Room Rep at The Broadwater

Ekeme Ekanem in Moniece Clark. Photo courtesy of Barker Room Rep.

Ekeme Ekanem in Moniece Clark. Photo courtesy of Barker Room Rep.

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

LaShea Delaney’s drama, Moniece Clark is about the media’s exploitation of crimes against women and the tendency of law enforcement to downplay those crimes if the victim is a woman of color. You don’t have to look far to uncover the deplorable statistics behind those concerns, to be found in the Department of Justice’s National Missing and Unidentified Persons System or UN Women (an agency affiliated with the United Nations) which will inform you that such crimes are “under-reported, under-investigated, and under-prosecuted.” Read more…

Through October 2

A GREAT WILDERNESS by Rogue Machine at The Matrix Theatre

John-Perrin-Flynn and Jeffrey-Delfin in A Great Wilderness. Photo by Alex Neher.

John-Perrin-Flynn and Jeffrey-Delfin in A Great Wilderness. Photo by Alex Neher.

Terry Morgan – ArtsBeat LA

In my experience, ninety percent of the time that there’s an issue with a theatrical production, the problem is the play itself. It’s surprisingly rare for the main trouble to be with the acting or direction or design. And so it is with Samuel D. Hunter’s A Great Wilderness. I’ve enjoyed other works by Hunter, such as Pocatello or The Whale, but Wilderness has major structural issues that derail whatever impact it might have had. Rogue Machine’s Los Angeles premiere benefits from a strong lead performance by producing artistic director John Perrin Flynn and a handsome set but ultimately can’t transcend the unfocused writing. Read more…

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

One of the marks of playwright Samuel D. Hunter’s work is how skillfully he portrays people who lead lives in desperate isolation. In A Great Wilderness, produced by Rogue Machine at the Matrix Theatre, that scenario might apply to Walt (John Perrin Flynn), an elderly man, arguably in the first stages of dementia, who’s dedicated his life to the egregious practice of conversion therapy. Read more…

Through October 31

Pig power plays at ‘Animal Farm.’ ‘Everybody’ is talkin’. Alanis and Hammerstein, but no Natives.

Geoff Elliott, top, with L-R Stanley Andrew Jackson III, Rafael Goldstein, Trisha Miller. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Geoff Elliott, top, with L-R Stanley Andrew Jackson III, Rafael Goldstein, and Trisha Miller. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Don Shirley – Angeles Stage

‘Animal Farm’. ‘Sanctuary City’. ‘Everybody.’ ‘Oedipus.’ ‘Jagged Little Pill.’ ‘Oklahoma!’

How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the ‘Farm’, after they’ve seen…Pasadena?

Yes, I’m paraphrasing the lyrics of an ancient pop song to make the point that Pasadena and nearby neighborhoods constitute the hottest cluster of locally-produced theater right now.

The creatures who liberate themselves from servitude in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” at east Pasadena’s A Noise Within, as well as the human audiences there, might also want to check out “Sanctuary City” at Pasadena Playhouse and “Everybody” at Antaeus in nearby Glendale. Read more…

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

THE WILD PARTY at Morgan-Wixson Theatre

Serenity Ariel Robb and Deonte Allen

Serenity Ariel Robb and Deonte Allen in The Wild Party

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Before gaining real star power with her roles as Elphaba in Wicked and the voice of Elsa in Disney’s animated Frozen, Idina Menzel and her Rent co-star Taye Diggs led the cast of Andrew Lippa’s off-Broadway The Wild Party. Also, earlier in 2005 in Glendale and Long Beach, Musical Theatre Guild did an amazing job with a staged concert version of this standout score that featured the powerful voices of and full-out performances by Eric Anderson, Misty Cotton, David Engel, Beth Malone, Tami Tappan among others. Lippa focused on the love triangle and turned the heat up high. Now the Morgan-Wixson Theatre in Santa Monica has departed from their usual family-friendly fare to present a truly raunchy, decadent and stunning production. Read more…

Through October 9

OKLAHOMA! at the Ahmanson Theatre

Sasha Hutchings and Sean Grandillo. Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade.

Sasha Hutchings and Sean Grandillo. Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade.

Steven Leigh Morris – Stage Raw

Composer-lyricists Rodgers and Hammerstein were Jewish immigrants to New York and understood very well both the American pressures of assimilation and the spurning of outsiders that culminates in the sacrifice of those who don’t belong. (The stream of victims is endless and ever-changing.) Their musical Oklahoma! opened on Broadway in 1943; central to it is the sacrifice, under dubious circumstances, of an outsider to the local community named Jud (Christopher Bannow) — a tragic thread in a musical that otherwise traffics in optimism. (“Oh, what a beautiful morning; oh, what a beautiful day. I’ve got a beautiful feeling, everything’s going my way.”) This was being sung on Broadway at the very moment the United States and its allies had prevailed in a war against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Read more…

Tracey Paleo – BroadwayWorld

It seems everybody is having one of two reactions to Director Daniel Fish’s revival of OKLAHOMA! currently playing at the Ahmanson Theatre. Love it or hate it, if you can make it to the second act, something extraordinary does happen. A gorgeous dream ballet that was formerly located at the end of the first act, is now performed exquisitely by Jordan Wynn. And it expresses the emotional life and soul of the entire story. Read more…

Through October 16

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…

Through October 17

JAGGED LITTLE PILL at the Hollywood Pantages

Heidi Blickenstaff, Allison Shepard and Jena VanElslander. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Heidi Blickenstaff, Allison Shepard and Jena VanElslander. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Margaret Gray – Los Angeles Times

As a singer and songwriter, Alanis Morissette has one of the most distinctive voices in rock ’n’ roll. Her raw, quirky, brainy lyrics, idiosyncratic diction and powerfully expressive range mean that nobody in the universe sings quite like her. But if you subscribe to the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, there’s another universe somewhere in which everybody — whether teen, adult, male, female or nonbinary — sings just like Alanis Morissette. Read more…

Tracey Paleo – Gia On The Move

It’s the kind of play that…Florida Republicans would create legislation to ban. Mostly, though, JAGGED LITTLE PILL the musical is a re-imagined, “Mamma Mia-style”, kick-ass, modern teenage anthem as bold as the Alanis Morrissette lyrics it is set to. Read more…

Jonash Schwartz-Owen – Theatermania

Alanis Morissette has transformed her groundbreaking 1995 album Jagged Little Pill into a musical — one that promotes forgiveness, diversity, and affirmation. But by pounding it over the audience’s head with a loud, convoluted thud, the production at the Pantages is less a transformative experience and more a splitting headache. Read more…

Through October 2

13 at Simi Valley Performing Arts Center

Mia Akemi Brown, Peter Umipig and Ethan Daugherty. Photo courtesy of Panic Productions.

Mia Akemi Brown, Peter Umipig and Ethan Daugherty. Photo courtesy of Panic Productions.

Steven Leigh Morris – Stage Raw

This 2008 musical (with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, book by Dan Eilish and Robert Horn) is aimed at 13-year-olds and performed almost entirely by teens. (Netflix has just released a movie adaptation). The tropes within its theme of pre-adolescent angst — including its stock boy-gets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl again arc — somehow emerge here as something larger, approaching wisdom. Read more…

Through September 18

GHOSTS at Odyssey Theatre

Pamela J. Gray and Barry Del Sherman in Ghosts. Photo by Cooper Bates.

Pamela J. Gray and Barry Del Sherman in Ghosts. Photo by Cooper Bates.

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Plays we now regard as classics aren’t always well-received when they debut. Like The Birthday Party (reviewed on this site in June), Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts was much disparaged when it appeared in 1881— not for being too cryptic, which was the complaint lodged against Pinter, but for being salacious and grossly offensive. Launched in book form before it was staged (as was often the custom at that time), Ghosts stirred widespread indignation for taking on taboo topics like free love, euthanasia and venereal disease, the latter an especially hush-hush matter among that era’s “genteel” classes. Read more…

Through October 23

BEACH PEOPLE at City Garage

City Garage, Beach People

Henry Thompson and Angela Beyer. Photo by Paul M. Rubenstein.

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

During this long, seemingly endless Heat Wave that has been plaguing Los Angeles for nearly a month, if you did not have central air or a heavy-duty air conditioner, you might have considered a day at the beach. The sun would still be unbearable, but you could cool off in the ocean waves. If you did not mind the sand and sand flies getting into various orifices. Or you could have spent at least 90 minutes in the air-conditioned comfort of City Garage at its beautiful, comfy, intimate space at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica watching a quartet of actors in their swimsuits pretending to be enjoying the beach. Read more…

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