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Archive for Reviews – Page 2

RADIO GOLF at A Noise Within

Christian Telesmar. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Christian Telesmar. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Tracey Paleo – BroadwayWorld

There is a reason why August Wilson is one of the more prolifically produced playwrights in modern American theater. He just gets it. Life. Language. History. Struggle. Desire. People. This can be similarly said for Gregg T. Daniel, one of greater Los Angeles’ well-loved actors/directors. And it shows in his latest directorial effort, RADIO GOLF, currently at, A Noise Within. Read more…

Through November 13

EISENHOWER: THIS PIECE OF GROUND at Theatre West

John Rubinstein. Photo by Pierre Vuilleumier.

John Rubinstein. Photo by Pierre Vuilleumier.

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

“I Like Ike” appeared on a political campaign button in 1952 as the decorated general and political neophyte Dwight D. Eisenhower ran for the office of President of the United States as the Republican candidate. Fortunately for him and unfortunately for the Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson, most of America really did like Ike. He won 39 of the then 48 states. Ike did even better in the 1956 rematch, taking 41 states while Stevenson only won 7, which were all in the deep South, then a Democratic stronghold. The box office attendant was wearing a facsimile button and they are being offered for sale at the Theatre West as the theatre, along with New LA Repertory Company, are presenting the World Premiere of Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground. Read more…

Through November 20

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre

Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

Terry Morgan – ArtsBeatLA

When Harper Lee wrote her novel To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960, she didn’t think it would be a big success. Sixty-two years later, the book has been taught to millions of students in schools, was the source of a classic 1962 film of the same name, and recently inspired a theatrical version written by Aaron Sorkin that was a Broadway hit. There are many reasons this material still speaks to modern audiences, but perhaps the most vital is that its depiction of racism feels topical again with the rise of far-right zealotry. The current production at the Pantages is effective and enjoyable, with a nice lead performance from Richard Thomas, but a few missteps keep the production from being as strong as it might be. Read more…

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960, while the movie — based on Harper’s novel and starring Gregory Peck as a white lawyer defending a black man accused of rape — came out in 1962. Both the book and the film depicted the racist South through the eyes of a child, its scenario predating the March on Washington in 1963 and the televised police assaults on the civil rights marchers that electrified the country that same year. Read more…

Katie Buenneke – Theatre Digest

I haven’t revisited this book since I read it in 7th grade, and I think, just based on watching this show, it’s a text about which I have complicated feelings. It’s an emotionally loaded story about Black trauma, told from the point of view of well-intentioned white people, and I think both Harper Lee’s autobiographical character and Aaron Sorkin, who adapted the novel into a three hour play, have similar instincts about how to tell this story, but it’s worth questioning why framing this story from a white girl’s perspective is the framing that white audiences have deemed a classic. Read more…

Tracey Paleo – Gia On The Move

I’ll be honest…watching the B-roll footage of the new play HARPER LEE’S TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD didn’t excite me too much at first. But sitting in the Hollywood Pantages theater in person for the Los Angeles premiere was a whole different experience. More…

Through November 27

UBU THE KING – at The Actors’ Gang

Chas Harvey in Ubu the King. Photo by Ashley Randall.

Chas Harvey in Ubu the King. Photo by Ashley Randall.

Terry Morgan – Stage Raw

When the young artists of the newly formed company The Actors’ Gang did a midnight show of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu the King in 1982, informed by punk rock and an anger against the Reagan administration, I doubt that any of their number imagined that the troupe would be doing a fortieth anniversary production of it. And yet here we are — the Gang still exists and, if anything, the political situation has gotten even worse. The story of a power-mad, delusional tyrant running a country into the ground is unfortunately still relevant. The current production is energetic and full of rude fun, if a bit uneven in a few of its actors’ performances. Read more…

Through December 3

ACCORDING TO THE CHORUS at The Road Theatre

Photo by Peggy McCartha

Photo by Peggy McCartha

Harker Jones – BroadwayWorld

The world premiere of Arlene Hutton’s ACCORDING TO THE CHORUS is a lively slice-of-life look at the backstage antics of an unnamed Broadway show (that’s been running longer than CATS) in 1984. Set in a quick-change room devoted to six chorus girls and their three dressers, the makeshift family squabbles, complains, and supports each other over the course of 15 tumultuous months-tumultuous in the women’s personal and professional lives as well as in the world swirling around them-touching on domestic abuse, AIDS, social stratification, and eating disorders. Read more…

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Arlene Hutton’s new dramedy, According to the Chorus, promises much. Set in 1984 and billed as a fly-on-the-wall peep at the rivalry between a group of Broadway chorus dancers and the women who dress them, the play also touches on the loss and grief of the AIDS epidemic, as well as the heartache of its central character, KJ (Samantha Tan) a woman grieving her broken marriage to a man she still loves. Read more…

Through December 11

THE INHERITANCE at Geffen Playhouse

Adam Kantor and Juan Castano. Photo by Jeff Lorch.

Adam Kantor and Juan Castano. Photo by Jeff Lorch.

Jonas Schwartz-Owen – Theatermania

The final five minutes in Part 1 of Matthew Lopez’s epic Tony-winning The Inheritance, now running at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, are some of the most gut-wrenching moments in theater. At the performance I attended, the entire audience sat connected — some teary-eyed, some crying — but it seemed everyone was affected somehow by the play’s sadness and other-worldly camaraderie. The entire seven-plus-hour production, which is divided into two parts, spellbinds with precise dialogue, rich characters, and an analysis of the United States as a whole.
Read more…

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Simply put, Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance is a masterpiece of writing. This six-and-a-half-hour two-part play about a group of gay men in New York City circa 2015-2018 is a worthy successor and companion piece to Tony Kushner’s epic Angels in America from nearly 20 years earlier. Where Kushner dealt with the early years of the AIDS epidemic and blended in the politics of Roy Cohn and even Ethel Rosenberg, Lopez’s gay men enjoy the freedoms earlier generations fought hard for without their really realizing what it was like to live in those near yet distant decades. The current production at Westwood’s Geffen Playhouse should not be missed. It just might be the best work to ever grace their stage since the venue opened in 1975 as the Westwood Playhouse. Read more…

Terry Morgan – ArtsBeat LA

The epigraph of E. M. Forster’s 1910 novel, Howards End, is “Only connect…” This motto mainly referred to opening oneself up to the world and other people for greater understanding and potential happiness, but it is also about the importance of remembering the past and seeing how it affects the present. When playwright Matthew López took Forster’s book as the inspiration for his play The Inheritance, he retained this theme of connection and remembrance but created something new and powerful with it in his story of modern gay men grappling with a complicated present and the legacy of AIDS. The current production of this work at the Geffen Playhouse is magnificent, a tour de force on every level, and definitely one the best plays of the year. Read more…

Tracey Paleo – Gia On The Move

As a 6-hour theatrical journey of life, death, pain, loss, suffering, discovery, ecstasy, and triumph…
…THE INHERITANCE is thoroughly astounding! More…

Dana Martin – Stage Raw

Matthew López’s sprawling saga, The Inheritance Part 1 and Part 2, is an artistically refined and emotionally raw examination of modern gay life in the aftermath of the AIDS epidemic. The Geffen’s season opener has seismic power that won’t be soon forgotten. Read more…

Don Shirley – Angeles Stage

When a narrative work of art attains “classic” stature, it often settles comfortably into collegiate required-reading lists — but loses its share of the current limelight. So if E.M. Forster or Homer were alive today and sampling theater on the west side of Los Angeles County, would they be delighted that their creations are again being mentioned outside the classroom?Or would they be disturbed that their works are reference materials for playwrights with distinctively 21st-century perspectives — and that these writers are adapting the originals to reflect previously unrepresented points of view?

I’m talking about the West Coast premiere of Matthew López’s “The Inheritance” at Geffen Playhouse in Westwood and the professional LA premiere of Margaret Atwood’s “The Penelopiad” at City Garage in Santa Monica. Read more…

Through November 27

THE ELABORATE ENTRANCE OF CHAD DEITY at Chance Theater

James Michael McHale and Rudy Solis III. Photo by Camryn Long.

James Michael McHale and Rudy Solis III. Photo by Camryn Long.

Dana Martin – Stage Raw

The Chance Theatre is pulling nothing but power moves this season. Kristoffer Diaz’s 2009 Pulitzer Prize Finalist, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, is masculinity on overdrive.

Macedonio Guerra, or The Mace (Rudy Solis III) knows his wrestling history. What’s more, he reveres the form as high art worthy of praise and recognition. He’s a pro wrestler himself, and he’s not just good at his job — he’s great. It’s a childhood dream realized but with a caveat: rather than fame and fortune, The Mace is a “jobber to the stars,” meaning he gets paid to lose matches to stars like Chad Deity (Londale Theus Jr.). Chad Deity is the ultimate anti-hero: he’s rich, flashy, and has an ego the size of Alaska, despite being a mediocre-at-best wrestler. Read more…

Through October 23

FARRAGUT NORTH by Foursome Productions at Theatre 68 Arts Complex

Paul Rubenstone and Chris King Wong. Photo by Peter Allas.

Paul Rubenstone and Chris King Wong. Photo by Peter Allas.

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Before becoming a playwright and screenwriter, Beau Willimon worked as a political operative, toiling behind the scenes on the campaigns of Chuck Schumer, Hilary Clinton, Bill Bradley and Howard Dean. Willimon left politics in 2004, subsequently translating his experiences as a ringside player in Washington into plays, film and TV, most notably the long-running and enormously popular Netflix series House of Cards. An offshoot of writer Andrew Davies’ British original, the series was brilliantly illustrative of the ruthless quest for power that drives so many politicians and the aides who surround them. Read more…

Harker Jones – BroadwayWorld

Beau Willimon, creator of the American version of “House of Cards,” knows politics. And the machinations that go on behind the scenes. His first play, FARRAGUT NORTH, which debuted off-Broadway in 2008, is in the vein of that Kevin Spacey-Robin Wright thriller series and is loosely based on Howard Dean’s 2004 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Press secretary Steve (Chris King Wong) is a swaggering twentysomething idealist who thinks he’s on top of the world. And he is, to a degree, but given info and an opportunity, will he sell his soul? He takes one fateful phone call that sets his life and career spiraling out of control and suddenly the player is getting played. Read more…

Through November 5

NINA SIMONE: FOUR WOMEN at South Coast Repertory

Arie Bianca Thompson, Chibuba Osuala, Jennifer Leigh Warren and Meredith Noël. Photo by Jenny Graham.

Arie Bianca Thompson, Chibuba Osuala, Jennifer Leigh Warren and Meredith Noël. Photo by Jenny Graham.

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

A young Nina Simone never aspired to be a singer. Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, the sixth of eight children, she studied classical piano as a child, her training paid for by the white employer of her mother, a Methodist minister who worked part-time as a housekeeper. Later she attended Juilliard on funds raised by people in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, and in 1951 applied to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia — but was rejected (in a brutal, unmistakably racist message from the Establishment), despite her overwhelming talent. With no money and needing to support herself and her family, Simone began playing piano in clubs in Atlantic City — then was told she would have to sing if she wanted to keep her job. She complied, and the career of an American musical legend was launched. Read more…

Through October 23

 

Remembering humbug hunter Dan Sullivan. ‘Search’ slackens. ‘Simone’ simmers.

Dan Sullivan at his desk. Photo provided by Ben Sullivan.

Dan Sullivan at his desk. Photo provided by Ben Sullivan.

Don Shirley – Angeles Stage

Plus ‘Desert Stories for Lost Girls” at LATC, ‘Babe’ and ‘To the Bone’ in Atwater.

Dan Sullivan, the former LA Times theater critic who ushered LA readers into the modern theatrical world, died last week at the age of 86. It’s time to remember him, before moving on to current fare such as “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe” at the Mark Taper Forum and “Nina Simone: Four Women’ at South Coast Repertory.

During the ‘70s and ‘80s — two decades when theater in Greater LA was rapidly proliferating — Sullivan was its most important chronicler. And he helped expand public awareness of the region’s theater not only by bearing witness but by bringing a winning wit to that task. The often playful quality of his prose probably drew readers who weren’t all that interested in theater, as well as the fervent fans. Read more…

TO THE BONE by Open Fist Theatre at Atwater Village Theatre

Tisha Terrasini Banker, Jack David Sharp, and Amanda Weier. Photo by Frank Ishman.

Tisha Terrasini Banker, Jack David Sharp, and Amanda Weier. Photo by Frank Ishman.

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

Writer/director Catherine Butterfield’s women-centered dramedy is set in a working-class community south of Boston, where two sisters of Irish-Catholic extraction, Kelly (Tisha Terrasini-Banker) and Maureen (Amanda Weier), share a house once owned and occupied by their grandmother. The place is a throwback to a distant past, its walls replete with black and white family photos from generations back, as well as the requisite crucifix strategically displayed. Read more…

Tracey Paleo – Gia On The Move

If ever there was a dark comedy about “hard girls”…
… this one definitely sticks. More…

Through November 5

DESERT STORIES FOR LOST GIRLS by Native Voices at the Autry and Latino Theater Company

Katie Anvil Rich and Carolyn Dunn. Photo by Grettel Cortes Photography.

Katie Anvil Rich and Carolyn Dunn. Photo by Grettel Cortes Photography.

Terry Morgan – Stage Raw

When I was reading the press material for Lily Rushing’s Desert Stories for Lost Girls, I encountered the term genízaro for the first time. One definition of the word I discovered online defines it as: “…detribalized Native Americans, through war or payment of ransom, [who] were taken into Hispano and Puebloan villages as indentured servants in New Mexico, southern Colorado and other parts of the southwestern United States.” I was unaware of this history, and so was intrigued to see a play about the subject. Unfortunately, this world premiere production by Native Voices at the Autry and Latino Theater Company suffers from Rushing’s unclear writing, which works neither as education nor effective drama. Read more…

Tracey Paleo – BroadwayWorld

There is an essential account that needs to be told in DESERT STORIES FOR LOST GIRLS. That’s clear. What’s not quite working in this Native Voices/Latino Theater Company co-production and world premiere, however, is the narrative framework, staging, and direction. But the importance of this largely untold and untaught chronicle is nevertheless undiminished. Read more…

Through October 16