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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…

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…

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

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…

How did Angeles Stage mark its first birthday? Via UNCLE VANYA, DRIVE MY CAR

The cast of Uncle Vanya. Photo by Jeff Lorch

The cast of Uncle Vanya. Photo by Jeff Lorch

Plus a merry but muddled ‘Windsor’ at the Theatricum, ‘King James’ and two new musicals on opposite poles of the gender discussion.

Don Shirley – Angeles Stage

Angeles Stage first appeared a year ago, as masked audiences were beginning to return to LA stages in person, after more than a year of mostly virtual-only activity. I urged “LA theater,” which meant audiences as well as creators, to “rise and shine.” A lot of productions arose within greater LA during the past year.

Pasadena Playhouse’s “Uncle Vanya” shines more brightly than any other currently-running production I’ve seen…If you don’t know Anton Chekhov’s “Vanya,” or the acclaimed Japanese film “Drive My Car” that was deeply inspired by “Vanya,” now is a great opportunity to combine them into a powerful one-two exploration of the all-too-human emotions that adults frequently face, at least during the last couple of centuries. Read more…

L.A.’s Fountain Theatre responds to the fall of Roe with part obituary, part call to action

Aleisha Force and Kate Middleton. Photo by Jenny Graham

Aleisha Force and Kate Middleton. Photo by Jenny Graham

Margaret Gray – Los Angeles Times

On Friday, after the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned Roe vs. Wade, the cast and the audience at L.A.’s Fountain Theatre discussed the ruling across the footlights, right in the middle of a live show.

Performer Christina Hall reminded the crowd that all three of the justices appointed by former President Trump had promised at their confirmation hearings that they would not overturn precedents set by previous courts. “And then they did!” Hall shouted.

“Liars!” replied an audience member, prompting claps and grumbles of agreement.

But then we all settled down and watched as Hall delivered the rest of her lines. She wasn’t breaking character. She was playing Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who represented Jane Roe before the Supreme Court in 1973, in a staged reading of Lisa Loomer’s 2016  play “Roe.” Read more…

Put a ‘Tiger’ in your tank, LA Times

Photo by Jenny Graham

Photo by Jenny Graham

Don Shirley – Angeles Stage

Why didn’t the LA Times review the hilarious “Tiger Style!” or “Our Town” at South Coast Repertory? Plus thoughts on “Man of God,” “Metamorphoses,” and more. 

“Tiger Style!” deserves the exclamation point in its title. Mike Lew’s satire is the funniest new play I’ve seen since theaters started re-opening last year, after vaccinations began.

At first, “Tiger” is a no-holds-barred satire of two Chinese-American young-adult siblings with acute anxiety, stirred up by other Americans who seem to bar no holds in their treatment of these exemplars of the so-called “model minority.” Then it also finds a lot of laughs as these third-generational siblings belatedly blame their problems on their parents, who used “tiger style” child-rearing techniques.

 Read more…

To hell (and back?) in TOOTSIE and HADESTOWN: Plus, A Heated Discussion, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, A Doll’s House Part 2, Masao and the Bronze Nightingale, Jane Austen Unscripted

Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

Don Shirley – Angeles Stage

Just over a month ago, millions of us witnessed a dramatic descent into chaos onstage at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. At the Oscar ceremony, the usual back-patting was upstaged by the unscripted cheek-slapping of Chris Rock by Will Smith.

Now fresh drama has returned to the Dolby. Last Tuesday, the stage musical adaptation of “Tootsie” made its first LA appearance there, under the auspices of Broadway in Hollywood, depicting a very different fall from grace. It’s a contemporary take on the beloved 1982 film comedy about a man who enjoys steady employment — and even fame — while posing as a woman, before his ruse is exposed. Read more…

 

ON SONDHEIM AND ‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL’

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Don Shirley – Angeles Stage

Sondheim was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. Old Sondheim was as dead as a doornail.

Yes, those words were inspired by the opening lines of “A Christmas Carol,” but no, I’m not suggesting that Stephen Sondheim was like Scrooge’s ex-partner Jacob Marley — other than the fact that both Sondheim and “Marley” are now…dead.
Read more…

 

‘THE PRESENT’…AND THE FUZZY FUTURE OF L.A. THEATER from LA Observed

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Don Shirley – LA Observed

“There is no theater in Los Angeles.”

This line, or some variation of it, has been around for decades — sometimes spoken by real people, sometimes ascribed to fictional characters. It’s normally a snarky wisecrack, completely unrelated to the truth.

Right now, however, this line is much more accurate than usual. Like theaters in most of the rest of the world, L.A. stages — in the sense of physical spaces where actors and audiences gather — are dormant.

Read more…

A Conversation with Matt Walker and Beth Kennedy, the King and Queen of Troubie Land

weezer david 3x750

Ellen Dostal – Broadway World

When it comes to developing a loyal fan base, Troubadour Theater Company has found the secret: do outstanding work, stay true to your aesthetic, and give the people what they want – a great time at the theater. Artistic Director Matt Walker started the troupe and, with the help of longtime friend and foil, Beth Kennedy, continues to lead his merry band into the great theatrical unknown. Next up for the company is JULIUS WEEZER, which combines Shakespeare’s JULIUS CAESAR and the music of Weezer to tell its tale of political intrigue Troubie style. Today, they talk about what it’s like putting together a new show and why they keep on coming back for more.

Read more…

NIGHTWALK IN THE CHINESE GARDEN at the Huntington Library’s Chinese Garden

Angel Origgi

Angel Origgi

Ellen Dostal – Broadway World

When writer/director Stan Lai has an idea for a new play, people take notice………Now, he brings a breathtaking new play to the Huntington Library’s Chinese Garden, the Garden of Flowing Fragrance, Liu Fang Yuan.
Read more…

 Now running through October 26