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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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ANIMAL FARM at A Noise Within

Photo by Craig Schwartz

Photo by Craig Schwartz

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

George Orwell began writing Animal Farm in the waning months of 1943. The book was conceived in response to the evils of Stalinist Russia and the disturbing tendency of many left-leaning British intellectuals to excuse the regime’s murderous excesses and cruelties. Never an officially declared socialist or communist, Orwell had been a member of Britain’s Independent Labour Party, which strove to represent the interests of the working class; in the 1930s, he also enlisted in the Popular Front in its fight against Franco. From the beginning his writings reflected empathy with the downtrodden and oppressed and, as time went on, with identifying and calling out totalitarian entities that utilized propaganda to eviscerate human rights. Read more…

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

British writer George Orwell is best known for his dystopian novel 1984, first published in 1949. Big Brother made Orwell famous. Four years earlier he published the allegorical novella Animal Farm in which animals rebel against their mean farmer and set up their own society. According to Orwell, his story reflected events leading up to the Russian Revolution and then on into the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union. Read more…

Katie Buenneke – Theatre Digest

This show is difficult to categorize, because everything about the production is top-notch, but while I respected it, I had a strong negative reaction. The cast is good, Julia Rodriguez-Elliot’s direction is strong, the songs by Adrian Mitchell and Richard Peaslee work, but I just did not like the show. Read more…

Through October 2

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