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Archive for Haines His Way

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

 

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

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

2:22 – A GHOST STORY at the Ahmanson Theatre

Anna Camp, Finn Wittrock, Adam Rothenberg and Constance Wu. Phtoo by Craig Schwartz

Anna Camp, Finn Wittrock, Adam Rothenberg and Constance Wu. Photo by Craig Schwartz

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Taking a break from their usual musical fare, Center Theatre Group-Ahmanson is offering 2:22-A Ghost Story by Danny Robins through December 4. The opening night was November 4, missing Halloween by a few days. Little costumed trick or treaters may have provided more scares than what transpired on stage. The reviewers were given a list of plot items to please not mention in their reviews, the better for future audiences to enjoy the supposed thrills. Stripped of those items, Robins’s script is basically two hours of marital discord, no matter how much director Matthew Dunster attempts to jolt the audience. He often succeeds, but it is more due to Lucy Carter’s lighting design and especially Ian Dickinson for Autograph’s sound design. Otherwise, the writing, directing and acting don’t really chill or thrill. Read more…

Harker Jones – BroadwayWorld

Arguments about the meaning of life, where we come from, where we’re headed after death, the afterlife, and the like have been debated for centuries by theologians, scientists, and philosophers alike, and we’re still not any closer to clarity. That said, it can make for gripping conversations deep into the night whether you’re stoned college students, wine-drinking soccer moms, or new parents. Read more…

Dana Martin – Stage Raw

The Ahmanson Theater is hosting poltergeist. 2:22- A Ghost Story, Danny Robins’ newest psychological thriller, is an unsettling romp through a proper haunted house. The show is making its U.S. premiere after a successful West End run last year. Read more…

Terry Morgan – ArtsBeat LA

I’m a horror film fan. I probably see 75-100 horror movies a year, and have done so for a long, long time. So I can state with certain knowledge that the cheapest of all scares is the jump scare. I have nothing against them – when a jump scare is well done, it can be a thing of beauty. But a lazy, unmotivated jump scare, just to get a visceral response  AAAAAAAAA!!!! (please imagine that this is someone suddenly screaming into your ear at top volume) can be irksome. I wanted to like the new Ahmanson production of Danny Robins’ 2:22 – A Ghost Story more than I did, but a surfeit of the same jump scare over and over and a goofy twist kept my enjoyment of the show mild. Read more…

Through December 4

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

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 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

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…

Harker Jones – BroadwayWorld

EVERYBODY, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ contemporary riff on a 15th-century morality play, is a creative and chaotic allegory about Christian salvation which is, in the end, an uneven production for the usually consistent Antaeus Theatre Company.
Read more…

Through October 17

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…

Closed

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

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