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Archive for Katie Buenneke

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

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

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

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

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.
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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 MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR at Theatricum Botanicum

Seth Weaver, A.M. Sannazzaro, and Melora Marshall. Photo by Ian Flanders

Seth Weaver, A.M. Sannazzaro, and Melora Marshall. Photo by Ian Flanders

Katie Buenneke – Stage Raw

Centuries before there was a Marvel Cinematic Universe, William Shakespeare introduced a Falstaff Theatrical Universe with The Merry Wives of Windsor, a comedy that follows the foibles of Falstaff, the much disparaged knight who appears in Henry IV parts 1 and 2 (L.A. audiences may have seen him last portrayed by Tom Hanks in an abridged version of both Henry IVs in the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles staged in summer 2018). Read more…

Now through Oct 2

MIKE BIRBIGLIA: THE OLD MAN AND THE POOL at The Taper

© 2022 Craig Schwartz Photography

Mike Birbiglia. © 2022 Craig Schwartz Photography

Jonas Schwartz-Owen – Theatermania

Mike Birbiglia makes a triumphant return to the stage at the Mark Taper Forum with another intimate discussion in his disarming, everyman fashion. Riffing on family, health, exercise, and grammar, Center Theatre Group’s production of Mike Birbiglia: The Old Man and the Pool has the audience in stitches, laughing hysterically at the frailty of humanity. Read more…

Peter Debruge

If you’ve ever seen Mike Birbiglia before, whether on stage or screen (or a couple months back, filling in for Jimmy Kimmel), then “The Old Man and the Pool” feels like catching up with an old friend — albeit one with a lot more health problems than you. Read more…

Katie Buenneke – Stage Raw

Mike Birbiglia is not dead. But you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise while watching his show that’s currently playing at the Taper. Yes, he’s standing in front of you, performing a comedy set, but the way he talks about his health, you might be tempted to think this is a posthumous monologue. Thankfully, though, Mike Birbiglia is alive and well, and here to perform his latest comedy set. Read more…

Now through August 28

ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL at A Noise Within

Photo by Craig Schwartz

Photo by Craig Schwartz

Katie Buenneke – Stage Raw

All’s Well That Ends Well is one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays,” texts that can’t easily be categorized as either comedy or tragedy. All’s Well has all of the trademarks of a Shakespearean comedy: a marriage plot, mistaken identity, a clown or two, and a happily married couple in the finale. But the ending is not exactly cause for celebration, which ends up being the problem director Nike Doukas doesn’t quite solve. Read more…

Now running through March 6

FOUND at IAMA Theatre Company

Jeff Lorch

Jeff Lorch

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

It all begins with a note on a car and a case of mistaken identity. Found, a musical based on the books and magazines of the same name by Davy Rothbart, opened this past weekend in its west coast premiere at IAMA Theatre Company in Los Angeles.
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Katie Buenneke – Stage Raw

If you’ve ever wondered if a talented musical theater composer could take literally anything and turn it into music, Found, now playing at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, is proof that that’s possible. Composer Eli Bolin, who wrote a number of winning songs for the Netflix special John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch, works with book writers Hunter Bell and Lee Overtree to take the notes that people misplace and turn them into a musical.
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Now running through March 23

SKINTIGHT at Geffen Playhouse

Chris Whitaker

Chris Whitaker

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

Jodi Isaac (Idina Menzel) is feeling insecure. On paper, there’s no reason she should be—she is a successful lawyer at a top firm in Los Angeles, she has more or less successfully raised two young adult sons, and her father is a fashion retail mogul. But her husband recently left her for another woman—an affair she discovered when she caught them together, in her bed
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Katie Buenneke – Stage Raw

It’s tempting to think that what playwright Joshua Harmon does is easy. His way with language seems effortless, easily conveying characters’ backstories without feeling obviously expository. This high quality and ease of storytelling can be seen in this and his other plays (including Bad Jews and Significant Other, both of which appeared at the Geffen in previous seasons).
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Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Beauty is skin deep. Families are difficult. Love is more difficult. Botox for everyone! Would you sleep on sheets made of human skin? What is the proper etiquette for sitting bare-assed on the sofa? Do Rolexes really cost nearly half a million dollars?
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Now running through October 12

LATIN HISTORY FOR MORONS at the Ahmanson Theatre

Matthew Murphy

Matthew Murphy

Erin Conley – On Stage & Screen

In his sixth one-man show, Tony winner John Leguizamo is back on stage with Latin History for Morons, a timely and engaging piece that is part comedy special, part solo revue, and part poignant academic lesson.
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Katie Buenneke – Stage Raw

John Leguizamo has a remarkable knack for drawing an audience in and making them feel comfortable immediately. Before you realize you’re even watching a one-man show, you’re well into it, you’ve unknowingly taken a leap of faith and you’re trusting this man to guide you through the next two hours.
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Now running through October 20

EARLY BIRDS at Moving Arts

Benjamin Simpson

Benjamin Simpson

Katie Buenneke – Stage Raw

When it comes to buffets, it seems the early bird does catch the worm — or at least, the early bird gets to eat her food before anyone else touches it. This is the conclusion that Nora (Jean Gilpin) and Ivy (Jayne Taini) reach in Dana Schwartz’s Early Birds. Moving Arts presents this world premiere at the Atwater Village Theatre.
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Now running through September 7