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“If a play goes up in Los Angeles, but nobody reviews it…does it make a sound?” – Gregory Crafts

“If a play goes up in Los Angeles, but nobody reviews it…does it make a sound?” – Gregory Crafts

The always-involved, ever-industrious Greg Crafts has written an interesting post over at his newly established site This is My Blog (nice name Greg!). As you may have guessed by the title above, the post is in direct response to a chain of events that really started a couple of years ago when the LA Times started cutting [...]

in "The Ghosts of Mary Lincoln" at Theatre 40. Photo:

THE GHOSTS OF MARY LINCOLN: 92% – SWEET

SWEET Temper tantrums, mood swings, paranoia and bitter resentment are all performed with expert skill by award winning actress Michelle Tauber in her portrayal of Abraham Lincoln’s unhappy widow. Sandro Monetti – Thespian Thoughts SWEET As a workshop production, this was an entertaining piece of theater, and though the fog machine may have upstaged too [...]

Rattlestick Playwrights Theater presents Maxwell Hamilton and Seth Numrich in "Slipping" at the Lilian Theatre. Credit: Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging.

SLIPPING: 100% – SWEET

SWEET The deconstructed text is challenging – hopping back and forth in place and time utilizing a plethora of short scenes packed into eighty-five minutes – but the experience is compelling and occasionally shocking (there is also male nudity in this production). Ultimately, the play’s strength lies in its honest depiction of abuse and loneliness. [...]

The cast of "Orange Flower Water" at the SFS Theatre. Credit:

ORANGE FLOWER WATER (CREATIVE COLLECTIVE): 72% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER There are some powerful moments in Craig Wright’s “Orange Flower Water,” which deals with the shattering effect of adultery on families and innocent spouses. Unfortunately, the Creative Collective’s production suffers from a few weak performances and negligent direction. Iris Mann – Backstage SWEET A hauntingly in-depth look at the dissolution of two marriages … [...]

Jeff LeBeau and Michael Yavnieli in "Years to the Day" at the Beverly Hills Playhouse. Credit: Ed Krieger.

YEARS TO THE DAY: 82% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET Rants and strategically timed revelations are not, however, ideal substitutes for strong writing. Barton’s play is a laborious 80 minutes, 15 minutes into which angry, mortality-obsessed Dan (Yavnieli) and his sensitive, secrets-stuffed buddy Jeff (LeBeau) are inducing audience weariness. This largely obnoxious and maudlin duo may be in an empty café because, after overhearing [...]

Jonathan Kells Phillips and Michael Holmes in "Neverwhere" at Sacred Fools. Credit: Jessica Sherman.

NEVERWHERE: 67% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET Under the resourceful leadership of director Scott Leggett, utilizing every inventive trick the creative nutjobs who populate Scared Fools have to conjure, “Neverwhere” goes everywhere the imagination can take it. Travis Michael Holder – Backstage SWEET Director Scott Leggett stages the play creatively, using projections and video to create whatever locations he needs, and [...]

"The Beaux' Stratagem" at A Noise Within. Credit: Craig Schwartz.

THE BEAUX’ STRATAGEM (A NOISE WITHIN): 84% – SWEET

SWEET For educational value alone, it’s wonderful to see the play produced professionally, but under Julia Rodriguez-Elliot’s direction, A Noise Within’s production makes it clear why the play was so popular back in its day. “The Beaux’ Stratagem” is immensely funny, and it’s quite entertaining to watch such a well-crafted play. Katie Buenneke – Neon [...]

Orson Bean, Corey Brill, Carmela Corbett and Heidi Dippold in 'Smokefall" at South Coast Repertoy. Credit: Henry DiRocco.

SMOKEFALL (SOUTH COAST REP): 54% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER Those with a penchant for homespun elegy playfully whipped up may enjoy “Smokefall,” but the work is really a collection of derivative themes in search of a fleshed-out drama. Charles McNulty – LA Times BITTER Director Anne Kauffman and her talented design team contribute polish and visual wit but finally cannot disguise the fact [...]

International Business Times picks up on the Back Stage Story

International Business Times picks up on the Back Stage Story

International Business Times picked up on our Back Stage scoop and gave us a very nice mention. Though the emphasis of course is on how New York is responding to the news. That’s fine. While they’re responding, we’ll be doing something about it here in Los Angeles. C’mon now! Sorry, think I just pulled something. [...]

"Billy & Ray" at the Falcon Theatre. Credit: Chelsea Sutton.

BILLY & RAY: 97% – SWEET

SWEET Still, the most fascinating aspect of “Billy & Ray” is Bencivenga’s smart, knowing script, which captures an important era in filmmaking fueled by two great minds who rose above their shared belief that “if there’s one thing Hollywood hates, it’s originality.” Travis Michael Holder – Backstage SWEET Mike Bencivenga’s World Premiere play Billy & [...]

"Lunch Lady Courage" presented by Cornerstone Theatre. Credit: Kevin Michael Campbell.

LUNCH LADY COURAGE: 67% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET The cast of local teenagers, community members, and professional actors revives old material to tackle modern social issues and creates something that is relevant, memorable, and moving. Katherine Davis – Backstage BITTERSWEET The experience of watching Lunch Lady Courage is estranging and ultimately feels like an extraordinarily well-produced amateur talent show rather than Theater [...]

The Blogosphere is Set Ablaze by BackStage Theater Review Policy Change

The Blogosphere is Set Ablaze by BackStage Theater Review Policy Change

Rob Weinert-Kendt over at his Wicked Stage site pivots off the news and the Twitter frenzy to this and questions the very necessity of the critic. Here is the essence of his article: What I didn’t realize I was taking for granted, and I guess it was staring me right in the face, was the intrinsic value [...]

BackStage Theater Review Policy Change Sets Twitter A-flutter

BackStage Theater Review Policy Change Sets Twitter A-flutter

Found this bevy of tweets on a site called Storify. The Tweeting was strong after we broke the news nationally that Back Stage would no longer be reviewing theater and film. That’s right, the little old Lemon got the scoop on this one thanks to our sources in the field. Love saying that. This long page [...]

Backstage to Halt all Theater Reviews

Backstage to Halt all Theater Reviews

Yep. A little birdie told me that the decision has been made by Executive Editor Daniel Holloway and the powers that be, that after the April 11th, 2013 print version of Backstage has been published all theater and film reviews will stop. Forever. I believe April 8th is the final day that new reviews will be posted. [...]

"Rank" at the Odyssey Theatre. Credit:

RANK: 82% – SWEET

BITTER “Rank,” by Irish playwright Robert Massey, is an unremarkable, derivative, and predictable piece that is neither fish nor foul. Billed as a “darkly comic thriller,” it is hardly noirish enough to be a thriller, nor is it funny enough to be considered a comedy. Because the script lacks any dramatic or comedic tension, we [...]

"The Nether" at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Credit: Craig Schwartz.

THE NETHER: 97% – SWEET

SWEET Like the hard-core radical voyeurs in Jennifer Haley’s terrific sci-fi play “The Nether,” you won’t want to leave the Hideaway, that site on a futuristic Internet that caters to men in search of Victorian children. Nor will you want to leave the Kirk Douglas Theater, which gave Haley’s play its world premiere. Robert Hofler [...]

Tracie Bennett in "End of Rainbow" at the Ahmanson Theatre. Credit: Craig Schwartz.

END OF THE RAINBOW: 79% – SWEET

SWEET No real-life tragic heroine has ever gone into that good night quite as ungently as Garland does in “End of the Rainbow,” which manages to send you out wondering whether you’ve just seen a cautionary bummer or a high-on-life theatrical thrill-aganza. Better that we don’t have to decide and can just agree to mark [...]

Jenn Robins and Salome Jens in "Tomorrow" at the Skylight Theatre. Credit: John Flynn.

TOMORROW: 91% – SWEET

SWEET Though this outstanding show will speak particularly to theater people, audiences of every stripe are sure to be enthralled. Iris Mann – Backstage SWEET That the emphasis of the play was not clear (at least to this critic) doesn’t diminish the effective impact of his love of the theatre and why it counts. Dale [...]

Ann Gee Byrd in "Mrs. Warren's Profession" at the Antaeus Company. Credit: Geoffrey Wade.

MRS. WARREN’S PROFESSION (ANTAEUS): 95% – SWEET

SWEET Shaw’s 1893 ground-breaker makes an exciting return to Los Angeles as The Antaeus Company premieres another if its couldn’t-be-better revivals starring the incomparable Anne Gee Byrd in the title role. Who could ask for anything more? Steven Stanley – StageSceneLA SWEET A strong, able cast led by Robin Larsen’s firm direction makes George Bernard [...]

Matthew Arkin and in "The Whale" at South Coast Repertory. Credit: Scott Brinegar.

THE WHALE (SOUTH COAST REP): 72% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET Director Martin Benson championed “The Whale” since he first encountered it, and his enthusiasm shows in every aspect of this production. Thomas Buderwitz’s cluttered set and Michael Roth’s thoughtful and subtle sound design are wonderfully effective. Each performance is filled with life and urgency, and we realize from the first moment that the stakes [...]

Mary Bridget Davies stars in "One Night With Janis Joplin" at the Pasadena Playhouse, with, from left,Tricia Kelly, Shay Saint-Victor, Kimberly Yarbrough and Sabrina Elayne Carten. Credit: Jim Cox.

ONE NIGHT WITH JANIS JOPLIN: 95% – SWEET

SWEET In a cosmic collusion of persona and perception, this electrifying concert musical resurrects the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll with the sort of seismically sensational results normally encountered at stadiums and pop festivals. David C. Nichols – LA Times BITTERSWEET What with Carten carrying half the show, “One Night” is hardly a re-creation of [...]

in "On the Spectrum" at the Fountain Theatre. Credit: Ed Krieger.

ON THE SPECTRUM: 82% – SWEET

SWEET Watching the beautiful work of Virginia Newcomb and Dan Shaked Iris and Mac, two challenged young people trying to negotiate something resembling first love, is witnessing a flag being planted for hope, sensitivity, and artistic progress. The production that director Jacqueline Schultz surrounds them with ain’t shabby either. Evan Henerson – Backstage SWEET On [...]

Stephen Anthony and chorus in "Catch Me If You Can" at the Pantages Theatre. Credit: Carol Rosegg.

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (PANTAGES/SEGERSTROM CENTER): 67% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER Unfortunately, there’s nothing about “Catch Me If You Can” that inspires a repeat visit. While the cast is working hard, the material they’re working with is too flawed to make the show an enjoyable experience. Katie Buenneke – Neon Tommy BITTERSWEET These tireless touring actors nearly con us into thinking we’re seeing a show [...]

Bree, Trista and Lynne in "Mommune" presented by Chalk Repertory at Pint Sized Kids. Credit: Dave Brewer.

MOMMUNE: 75% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET Even with fun ideas and poignant moments, this piece lacks a follow through that requires either, well, poignancy or fun… or both. As of this moment, in spite of some solid performances and the good use of a nontraditional setting, Mommune ultimately lacks a strong payoff and falls flat due to its meandering conclusion. [...]

John Combs and William Jones in "Alabama Baggage" at Theatre Asylum. Credit: Doug Dobransky and Nick Weber.

ALABAMA BAGGAGE: 13% – BITTER

BITTER Taking aim at a topic as loaded as the revolver with which its characters take turns menacing one another, Buddy Farmer’s “Alabama Baggage” centers on the traumatic scars of childhood sexual abuse. The drama’s first full staging at Theatre Asylum falls short of its serious intentions, however, with the need for further development still [...]

Carla Rae Holland, Robert Owens-Greygrass and Randy Reinholz in "The Bird House" at the Autry Museum. Credit: Craig Schwartz.

THE BIRD HOUSE: 75% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET Run and take someone who likes the very simple things in life. Joe Straw – Joe Straw #9 BITTERSWEET Events move toward a predictable outcome, and that’s the problem of the play. It is a moving telling of a story that may be playing out in many places to real people, but it lacks [...]

The cast of "Songs of Bilitis" at the Bootleg Theatre. Credit: Chelsea Sutton.

SONGS OF BILITIS: 75% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET Though the temptation to overstress the element of literary fraud is thankfully eschewed, one might overall have preferred perhaps less lapidary care to the constituent elements at the expense of unbridled excess, but Songs of Bilitis succeeds as a graceful invitation into the world of imaginative creation and the glories of the senses. Myron [...]

"Trainspotting" at the Elephant Theatre. Credit: Tyson Wade Johnston.

TRAINSPOTTING (ELEPHANT THEATRE): 90% – SWEET

SWEET “Trainspotting” is definitely not for the squeamish or faint of heart. It is often as gag-inducing as it is thought-provoking, but with strong direction and performances the production finds the right balance between grim and funny. Katherine Davis – Backstage BITTER The play lives up to expectations – a waste of time. Serita Stevens [...]

"Wolves" at Celebration Theatre. Credit: Matthew Brian Denman.

WOLVES: 69% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET Director Michael Matthews and his game cast intently embrace the darkness, but Yockey’s newest work doesn’t seem ready to be honored with such a ferociously ardent effort to make it whole. Travis Michael Holder – Backstage BITTER He directs the actors, to the varying degrees that they can take direction, toward real motivations and [...]

"Tribes" at the Mark Taper Forum. Credit: Craig Schwartz.

TRIBES: 89% – SWEET

SWEET With actors this emotionally connected, words are secondary. More to the point of Raine’s play, hearing is shown to depend more on an open heart than fully functioning ears. Charles McNulty – LA Times SWEET The conversation Tribes inspires about communication and community in the deaf world more than justifies this production. It’s unfortunate [...]