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Archive for Stage Raw

MONIECE CLARK by Barker Room Rep at The Broadwater

Ekeme Ekanem in Moniece Clark. Photo courtesy of Barker Room Rep.

Ekeme Ekanem in Moniece Clark. Photo courtesy of Barker Room Rep.

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

LaShea Delaney’s drama, Moniece Clark is about the media’s exploitation of crimes against women and the tendency of law enforcement to downplay those crimes if the victim is a woman of color. You don’t have to look far to uncover the deplorable statistics behind those concerns, to be found in the Department of Justice’s National Missing and Unidentified Persons System or UN Women (an agency affiliated with the United Nations) which will inform you that such crimes are “under-reported, under-investigated, and under-prosecuted.” Read more…

Through October 2

A GREAT WILDERNESS by Rogue Machine at The Matrix Theatre

John-Perrin-Flynn and Jeffrey-Delfin in A Great Wilderness. Photo by Alex Neher.

John-Perrin-Flynn and Jeffrey-Delfin in A Great Wilderness. Photo by Alex Neher.

Terry Morgan – ArtsBeat LA

In my experience, ninety percent of the time that there’s an issue with a theatrical production, the problem is the play itself. It’s surprisingly rare for the main trouble to be with the acting or direction or design. And so it is with Samuel D. Hunter’s A Great Wilderness. I’ve enjoyed other works by Hunter, such as Pocatello or The Whale, but Wilderness has major structural issues that derail whatever impact it might have had. Rogue Machine’s Los Angeles premiere benefits from a strong lead performance by producing artistic director John Perrin Flynn and a handsome set but ultimately can’t transcend the unfocused writing. Read more…

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

One of the marks of playwright Samuel D. Hunter’s work is how skillfully he portrays people who lead lives in desperate isolation. In A Great Wilderness, produced by Rogue Machine at the Matrix Theatre, that scenario might apply to Walt (John Perrin Flynn), an elderly man, arguably in the first stages of dementia, who’s dedicated his life to the egregious practice of conversion therapy. Read more…

Through October 31

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

OKLAHOMA! at the Ahmanson Theatre

Sasha Hutchings and Sean Grandillo. Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade.

Sasha Hutchings and Sean Grandillo. Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade.

Steven Leigh Morris – Stage Raw

Composer-lyricists Rodgers and Hammerstein were Jewish immigrants to New York and understood very well both the American pressures of assimilation and the spurning of outsiders that culminates in the sacrifice of those who don’t belong. (The stream of victims is endless and ever-changing.) Their musical Oklahoma! opened on Broadway in 1943; central to it is the sacrifice, under dubious circumstances, of an outsider to the local community named Jud (Christopher Bannow) — a tragic thread in a musical that otherwise traffics in optimism. (“Oh, what a beautiful morning; oh, what a beautiful day. I’ve got a beautiful feeling, everything’s going my way.”) This was being sung on Broadway at the very moment the United States and its allies had prevailed in a war against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Read more…

Tracey Paleo – BroadwayWorld

It seems everybody is having one of two reactions to Director Daniel Fish’s revival of OKLAHOMA! currently playing at the Ahmanson Theatre. Love it or hate it, if you can make it to the second act, something extraordinary does happen. A gorgeous dream ballet that was formerly located at the end of the first act, is now performed exquisitely by Jordan Wynn. And it expresses the emotional life and soul of the entire story. Read more…

Through October 16

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

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

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 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

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

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