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Critique of the Week

Critique of the Week

A-Burn has always said he wants his critiques to be “conversation starters not conversation enders.” Case in point, this week’s COW. A wonderful treat of provocative questions and subtle insights. THE WHIPPING MAN Anthony Bynres – KCRW The Whipping Man, Matthew Lopez’s new play, depends on a big historical conceit. It’s a bit like a […]

VIRAL: 92% - SWEET

VIRAL: 92% – SWEET

SWEET What’s more shocking than the setup is that Viral largely pulls it off. Playwright Mac Rogers has an ear for the worlds he’s trafficking in and as bizarre as the premise seems you’re willing to go along for the ride. The world we find ourselves in isn’t that distant – especially in LA. The […]

Anthony Byrnes' Favorites of Los Angeles Theater 2014

Anthony Byrnes’ Favorites of Los Angeles Theater 2014

A-Burn lays down the highlights for him in 2014. Here are the productions he really dug: An Illiad (The Broad) Reasons to Be Pretty (Geffen) Choir Boy (Geffen) Orpheus (Four Larks) Five Small Fires (Poor Dog Group) Henry V (PRT) Wedding Band: A Love-Hate Story in Black and White (Antaeus) Better (Echo Theatre Backyard (Echo […]

BLITHE SPIRIT (AHMANSON THEATRE): 82% - SWEET

BLITHE SPIRIT (AHMANSON THEATRE): 82% – SWEET

SWEET Coward’s work enables virtuosos who possess technique that’s as polished as it is effortless to reach new heights. Lansbury might as well be flying across the Ahmanson stage. Seeing her in “Blithe Spirit” is as joyful as staring at a Christmas tree being decorated by birds and elves. Charles McNulty – LA Times SWEET […]

LUNA GALE (KIRK DOUGLAS THEATRE): 100% - SWEET

LUNA GALE (KIRK DOUGLAS THEATRE): 100% – SWEET

SWEET But just as the critic Eric Bentley cautioned us when approaching Henrik Ibsen’s plays to “look for the ideas behind the ideas,” it’s important with Gilman to examine the deeper investigation lurking behind the more topical concerns of her dramas. This is especially the case with her latest work “Luna Gale,” which is currently […]

A-Burn asks CTG's Ritchie: "Why do this play in Los Angeles at the Mark Taper Forum in 2014?"

A-Burn asks CTG’s Ritchie: “Why do this play in Los Angeles at the Mark Taper Forum in 2014?”

What exactly am I talking about? The current production of Joe Orton’s seminal What the Butler Saw currently playing at the Mark Taper Forum. Anthony Byrnes at KCRW wants to know “Why this show and why now?” I have a pretty simple answer for Anthony: It’s a tried and true commodity and a “my bad” gift […]

WHAT THE BUTLER SAW (MARK TAPER): 82% - SWEET

WHAT THE BUTLER SAW (MARK TAPER): 82% – SWEET

SWEET “What the Butler Saw” represents Orton at his most sophisticatedly silly. It’s a play bursting with references to other plays, including even one of the greatest tragedies ever written, Euripides’ “The Bacchae.” Sad as it is to reflect on what this author might have gone on to accomplish had he not been cut down […]

Can Homegrown LA Theater Learn from those "Presenting" Houses Around Town?

Can Homegrown LA Theater Learn from those “Presenting” Houses Around Town?

Anthony Byrnes thinks so. This, from his somewhat disorienting diatribe this week at KCRW: So what can LA theaters and audiences learn from the rise of the imports and the slow transformation of LA into a ‘presenting town?’ In a nutshell, consistency matters. Counterintuitively, these presenters have been committing to artists in ways that our […]

KCRW's Anthony Byrnes Tries to Distill the 99 Seat Plan Debate Down to a Scam...and Fails

KCRW’s Anthony Byrnes Tries to Distill the 99 Seat Plan Debate Down to a Scam…and Fails

I’m a big A-Burn fan. He’s great at mining metaphors from the theater he sees and clearly he’s a very savvy and experienced critic when it comes to LA Theater. His conversation starters are usually excellent fodder for discussion and debate. Usually. Don’t always agree with his tastes in theater, but then again, who DOES agree with […]

WEDDING BAND: A LOVE/HATE STORY IN BLACK & WHITE (ANTAEUS): 92% - SWEET

WEDDING BAND: A LOVE/HATE STORY IN BLACK & WHITE (ANTAEUS): 92% – SWEET

SWEET This rarely produced revival delivers a blistering indictment of the South’s anti-miscegenation laws against the backdrop of a deeply moving portrait of urban black life in the early 20th century. Directed by Gregg T. Daniel, the double-cast production now playing at the Antaeus Company offers some of the finest ensemble acting currently onstage (the […]

BETTER: 83% - SWEET

BETTER: 83% – SWEET

SWEET Stephen Gifford’s beautifully executed set with subtle lighting by R. Christopher Stokes creates the perfect atmosphere for the story to unfold. Goldberg’s ability to bring these three dimensional characters to life: emerging through twenty months of workshopping by The Echo pays off. Michael Sheehan – OnStageLosAngeles SWEET Fresh and funny and touching and wise, […]

CHOIR BOY (GEFFEN PLAYHOUSE): 86% - SWEET

CHOIR BOY (GEFFEN PLAYHOUSE): 86% – SWEET

BITTER Tarell Alvin McCraney’s 2012 Choir Boy is a tantalizing, underdeveloped play-with-music not entirely improved by Trip Cullman’s direction, now at the Geffen a year after the production’s Manhattan Theater Club bow. Jason Michael Webb’s tasteful vocal arrangements sound terrific via Fitz Patton’s crisp sound design, but the very assurance and gravity of the “negro […]

THE BEHAVIOR OF BROADUS: 100% - SWEET

THE BEHAVIOR OF BROADUS: 100% – SWEET

SWEET As delightfully self-assured as it is comically self-referential, made up of equal parts whimsy, wacky, profane and profound, this cracked experiment in satirical musical development is a wickedly entertaining watershed for Sacred Fools Theater Company, the Burglars of Hamm, Center Theatre Group and the general theatrical landscape. David C. Nichols – LA Times SWEET […]

THE TEMPEST (SOUTH COAST REP): 93% - SWEET

THE TEMPEST (SOUTH COAST REP): 93% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET I wish I could report that the acting was equal to the scenic imagination. This still strikes me as a production that doesn’t have all that much faith in Shakespeare’s ability to captivate a modern audience. Charles McNulty – LA Times SWEET To avoid being the one person in your circle not to have […]

PERSIANS (GETTY VILLA): 78% - SWEET

PERSIANS (GETTY VILLA): 78% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET Twice or three times in ninety minutes, arresting images are allowed to loiter unto dissipation. There is less of permanence in this production than of stasis. Perhaps its primary historical draw is the chance to experience what theater was like in Brooklyn in 1994. Jason Rohrer – Stage and Cinema BITTERSWEET In general, the […]

KCRW's Anthony Byrnes on the Economic Realities of LA's 99 Seat Plan

KCRW’s Anthony Byrnes on the Economic Realities of LA’s 99 Seat Plan

More Sturm und Drang on that old 99 Seat Plan, this time from T-Burn over at KCRW. Here’s the meat of his matter: What’s missing from this dialogue is the broader point and economic reality – all non-profit theater is subsidized. There isn’t a non-profit theater in Los Angeles, from the largest to the smallest, where […]

Critique of the Week

Critique of the Week

A-Burn at his best. An authentically “Los Angeles” voice no doubt. Not many can draw out the metaphors between stage and city better than this dude. HIT Anthony Byrnes – KCRW Okay – there’s Zankou Chicken falling from the ceiling, there’s sex after a car crash, there’s Cafe Tropical, continual comparisons to New York, and […]

HIT: 80% - SWEET

HIT: 80% – SWEET

BITTER The new play Hit by Alice Tuan, currently playing Los Angeles Theatre Center, unevenly shifts from hard-hitting drama to black comedy to avant-garde theater yet never makes clear its intentions. And though the actors are skilled professionals, they are not able to make the script’s unlikable characters relatable. Jonas Schwartz – TheaterMania BITTERSWEET Still, […]

DEATH OF THE AUTHOR: 75% - BITTERSWEET

DEATH OF THE AUTHOR: 75% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET It is smart, suspenseful, surprising, downright sensational writing, and with DeLorenzo in the director’s chair and a superb cast giving it added layers and depth, it makes for a play and production I could easily see again and again. Steven Stanley – StageSceneLA SWEET Early on, the jokes and exposition feel a bit sitcom-y […]

DIFFERENT WORDS FOR THE SAME THING: 75% - BITTERSWEET

DIFFERENT WORDS FOR THE SAME THING: 75% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET In the case of “different words,” the ghost finally learns, as part of the climax, exactly how she died. Unfortunately, this is the weakest moment of an otherwise fine-grained play, because the explanation introduces a complicated subplot — briefly sketched only in words, not in action — that doesn’t seem to have much relevance […]

MAN IN A CASE (BROAD STAGE): 56% - BITTERSWEET

MAN IN A CASE (BROAD STAGE): 56% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER Instead, Lazar and his cohorts have kicked Chekhov aside and substituted their own sensibilities for his. Subtle realism has been replaced by vaudeville shtick. In other words, the director has declared himself superior to the lonely Greek teacher in a small Russian town. Clad in a black suit and porkpie hat, Baryshnikov channels Buster […]

THE SUIT (FREUD PLAYHOUSE): 86% - SWEET

THE SUIT (FREUD PLAYHOUSE): 86% – SWEET

SWEET Three years ago, also with the help of Estienne and Krawczyk, Brook reduced Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” down to its ritualistic essences, removing the magic and retaining the humanity. In the “The Suit,” however, the horrors won’t go away. But by making theater, music and dance inseparably one, Brook’s art reaches that cleansing Bachian […]

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (BROAD STAGE): 82% - SWEET

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (BROAD STAGE): 82% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET Still, the production, by War Horse director Tom Morris, is surprisingly uninvolving. The main quartet of lovers and their foibles feel too separate from the puppet business, a big reason that the puppets’ theatricality doesn’t translate into emotional heft. Zachary Pincus-Roth – LA Weekly SWEET Nonetheless, this inventive production will send you home with […]

ORPHEUS (FOUR LARKS): 93% - SWEET

ORPHEUS (FOUR LARKS): 93% – SWEET

SWEET Throughout, the beige-clad and slight grubby (!) performers move, sway, declaim, sing and either perform percussion or play musical instruments—all in a deftly choreographed and pleasingly natural fashion, like the ebb and flow of a gentle tide. Pauline Adamek – ArtsBeatLA BITTERSWEET Orpheus is lovely in so many ways, but makes a couple of […]

WHITE (THE WALLIS): 100% - SWEET

WHITE (THE WALLIS): 100% – SWEET

SWEET The space, and its cute set, is entirely white. Audience members perch on low, white, wooden benches and there are little mats on the floor for kids to lounge on. The show is only 30 or so minutes long—perfect for short attention spans. The little ones who attended the show were completely enchanted by […]

CRY, TROJANS! (TROILUS AND CRESSIDA): 55% - BITTERSWEET

CRY, TROJANS! (TROILUS AND CRESSIDA): 55% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET The result is an uncharacteristically tame production, one that left me time to ponder the awkward politics of an overwhelmingly white ensemble horsing around with cultural caricatures of race. Charles McNulty – LA Times BITTERSWEET Still and all, though the monotony of its stubborn deviations from conventional dramaturgy demands hard effort from the audience […]

VILLON: 70% - BITTERSWEET

VILLON: 70% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER A play about a murderous French poet, told by a troupe of vaudevillian-style actors, seems it would be enough to spark some interest in an audience, but unfortunately Murray Mednick’s “Villon” falls seriously flat in its execution. Savannah L. Barker – Neon Tommy SWEET Like Villon’s troupe, these actors make sturdy, faithful companions to […]

VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE: 84% - SWEET

VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE: 84% – SWEET

SWEET The show, directed by David Hyde Pierce following Nicholas Martin’s Broadway staging, opened at the Mark Taper Forum on Sunday in tiptop shape. Indeed, you can mark this down as a shimmering example of an out-of-town production improving the touted original. Charles McNulty – LA Times SWEET An actor must deliver in the here […]

PASSION PLAY (ODYSSEY/EVIDENCE ROOM): 79% - SWEET

PASSION PLAY (ODYSSEY/EVIDENCE ROOM): 79% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET If, like me, you’re a fan of the Evidence Room, go to enjoy the familiar faces. Otherwise enjoy the small stuff and forgive the production for not tying everything up. Anthony Byrnes – KCRW BITTERSWEET Despite their many strengths, I found parts one and two curiously uninvolving. It wasn’t until Ruhl came closer to […]

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THOMAS JEFFERSON, CHARLES DICKENS AND COUNT LEO TOLSTOY: DISCORD (GEFFEN PLAYHOUSE RE-MOUNT): 88% - SWEET

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THOMAS JEFFERSON, CHARLES DICKENS AND COUNT LEO TOLSTOY: DISCORD (GEFFEN PLAYHOUSE RE-MOUNT): 88% – SWEET

SWEET Carefully compiled references and biographical details whiz by in Matt August’s finely tuned staging, with superb performances illuminating the clashing personalities that drive three discordant takes on Christianity. Philip Brandes – LA Times SWEET Strong acting, design, and writing enliven NoHo Arts’ Center’s entertaining, thought-provoking world premiere production of The Gospel According to Thomas […]