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Santa Monica Rep presents "The Memorandum" at the Miles Memorial Playhouse: Photo: Mitch Goldstrum.

THE MEMORANDUM (SANTA MONICA REP): 81% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET Staging this play was no easy task for Santa Monica Rep’s Director Jan Bloom, who has chosen to present it with the audience seated on either side, like at a tennis match (set by T. Cavelti). This presents multiple problems of visibility and audibility, when the actors’ faces are not in full view and [...]

Hannah Yelland and Jim Sturgeon in "Brief Encounter" at The Wallis. Photo: Jim Cox.

BRIEF ENCOUNTER (THE WALLIS): 90% – SWEET

SWEET It’s an absolutely beguiling production, psychologically simple but stylistically as rich as a tapestry. Steven Leigh Morris – LA Weekly SWEET If you love the movie (and what emotionally sentient human being doesn’t?), you’ll surely get a kick out of Kneehigh’s ingenious homage. Charles McNulty – LA Times SWEET While it’s all a bit [...]

L to R, Kirk Kelleykahn, Shawn Savage and Ricco Ross in 'The Whipping Man,' a West Coast Jewish Theatre production at the Pico Playhouse. Photo: Michael Lamont.

THE WHIPPING MAN (PICO PLAYHOUSE): 91% – SWEET

SWEET Buoyed by an excellent production design, particularly Bill Froggatt’s haunting sound, director Howard Teichman and a crackling cast render a near-optimum staging. F. Kathleen Foley – LA Times SWEET This Matthew Lopez play would have made a fascinating two-hander. But the playwright added a third character and ratcheted up the intrigue, conflict, and shaping, [...]

Barry McGovern in “I’ll Go On” at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Photo: Craig Schwartz.

I’LL GO ON (KIRK DOUGLAS THEATRE): 100% – SWEET

SWEET This performance is as fine as any performance can be. Steven Leigh Morris – LA Weekly SWEET McGovern has all the qualities of a superb Beckett interpreter. He relishes the comic brio even at its most scatological and possesses a voice that can draw out all the various hues of the verbal brilliance. Vehemence [...]

Ron West and Joe Liss in "A Christmas Carol: Twist Your Dickens!" at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Photo: Craig Schwartz.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL: TWIST YOUR DICKENS! (KIRK DOUGLAS): 86% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET As irresponsible as it may be to encourage drinking at this time of year, you are more likely to enjoy “A Christmas Carol: Twist Your Dickens!” at the Kirk Douglas Theatre if you toss back a few Tiny Tim-tinis or Scroogedrivers at the lobby bar beforehand. And not because your “naughtiest misdeed” — which [...]

TRACERS (ROGUE MACHINE/USVAA): 100% – SWEET

TRACERS (ROGUE MACHINE/USVAA): 100% – SWEET

SWEET Thirty years on, war is still hell — and DiFusco and a new ensemble, all veterans of more recent wars and military actions, have reprised the work in a powerful new production that’s every bit as harrowing as the original. Paul Birchall – LA Weekly SWEET Switching from the war to a period just [...]

Anna Theoni DiGiovanni and Jonathan Lipnicki in Rogue Machine's production of "Lost Girls." Photo: John Flynn.

LOST GIRLS: 87% – SWEET

SWEET But it was Anna Theoni DiGiovanni and Jonathan Lipnicki (yes, the child star of “Jerry Maguire” fame has grown into a gifted actor) who broke my heart as young adults on the lam. Seeing the two bravely reach beyond their wounds toward an indelible moment of genuine intimacy more than makes up for the [...]

Amy Brenneman and Lee Tergessen in "Rapture, Blister, Burn" at the Geffen Playhouse. Photo:

RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN: 84% – SWEET

SWEET The chorus of female voices, from the pre-feminist Alice to the post-post-feminist Avery, allows for a multigenerational examination of a subject that is too important to treat in a doctrinaire manner. And it is this freedom of expression, comically maximized by Kull (who steals every scene that she’s in) and crackingly delivered by Dixon, [...]

Ron House, left, Lila Dupree, Aaron Jackson and Nina Brissey in "El Grande de Coca Cola" at the Ruskin Group Theatre. Photo: Ed Krieger.

EL GRANDE DE COCA-COLA (RUSKIN GROUP): 96% – SWEET

SWEET In past productions, “El Grande” ran a leisurely two acts – a daunting amount of time to sustain such silliness. The updated, one-act Ruskin production, which features a raft of new comic material, runs a breezy 75 minutes – and the comic momentum never flags. F. Kathleen Foley – LA Times SWEET If you’re [...]

Ty Jones, left, Matt Jones and Kevin Daniels in "One Night in Miami..." at Rogue Machine. Credit: John Flynn.

ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI…: 100% – SWEET

SWEET Nonetheless, the vivid humor, ironic reversals and the larger implications hold us, right through to the bittersweet fade-out. Director Carl Cofield keeps things tautly entertaining on designer Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s excellent set, and his actors (with alternates), who express rather than mimic their real-life counterparts, are first-rate. David C. Nichols – LA Times SWEET [...]

Carl Crudup and Jack Axelrod in the West Coast Jewish Theatre's production of "I'm Not Rappaport" at the Pico Playhouse. Credit: Michael Lamont.

I’M NOT RAPPAPORT (WEST COAST JEWISH THEATRE): 92% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET The play, like its central characters, was showing its age. Steven Leigh Morris – LA Weekly SWEET In a tribute both to Herb Gardner’s brilliant play which, through his comically sharp dialogue, explores a myriad of social issues, especially the challenge of aging and dodging adult children who think they have your best interests [...]

"The Gift" at the Geffen Playhouse. Credit: Michael Lamont.

THE GIFT: 55% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER An appealing and capable cast keeps the flicker of hope alive that Joanna Murray-Smith’s play “The Gift” will be worth our time despite the mounting evidence to the contrary. But by the end of this 90-minute comedy even the actors seem done in by the effort of sustaining the illusion that there’s something important [...]

"Coney Island Christmas" at the Geffen Playhouse. Credit: Michael Lamont.

CONEY ISLAND CHRISTMAS: 79% – SWEET

SWEET As with many gifts, the wrapping isn’t much to speak of, in this case a weak framing narrative taken from a Grace Paley short story. But what’s inside – not one but two kid pageants superbly staged by Bart DeLorenzo, and a pan-denominational message – is a jewel to be cherished. Bob Verini – [...]

Amanda Detmer, left, and Sanaa Lathan in "By the Way, Meet Vera Stark" at the Geffen Playhouse. Credit: Michael Lamont.

BY THE WAY, MEET VERA STARK: 73% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark” would rather be antic than preachy. This is a reasonable if not an entirely necessary trade-off. But Lathan fills out the human dimension of a character Nottage clearly loves too much to weep over. Charles McNulty – LA Times BITTERSWEET The evening at the Geffen is overall something [...]

Natalie Sutherland and April Lang in "Collected Stories" at the The Odyssey Theatre. Credit: Numa Perrier

COLLECTED STORIES (ODYSSEY THEATRE): 82% – SWEET

SWEET The lives of writers are notoriously difficult to dramatize, but Margulies pulls it off persuasively, showing the two women at work, which leads to their growing intimacy. Director Terri Hanauer elicits fine performances from her cast and expertly calibrates the shifts in the women’s ever-changing relationship. Neal Weaver – Backstage SWEET Directed by Terri [...]

Joe McGovern and Lela Loren in "Sweet Thursday" at Pacific Resident Theatre. Credit: Vitor Martins.

SWEET THURSDAY (PACIFIC RESIDENT): 29% – BITTER

BITTER What results is an attenuated hodge-podge with scene after scene — including several inadequately rendered musical numbers — that do little to further the action. F. Kathleen Foley – LA Times SWEET Robb Derringer and Matt McKenzie (who also directs) have beautifully adapted novelist John Steinbeck’s sequel to Cannery Row, Sweet Thursday, into a [...]

Brynn Thayer, left, Bobby Costanzo and Michael Caldwell in 'Mutually Assured Destruction' at Odyssey Theatre. Credit: Ed Krieger.

MUTUALLY ASSURED DESTRUCTION: 70% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET The cast members are clearly enjoying themselves, but with a fair number of duds among the verbal warheads, hilarity is not always mutually assured. Philip Brandes – LA Times BITTERSWEET If a play is going to traffic in cartoons, as this one does, they really need to keep bouncing off the walls — so [...]

Patrick Quinlan, Shaun O'Hagan, Austin Hebert, Joe Pacheco, and Scott Conte in 'The Irish Curse,' now at the Odyssey Theatre. Credit: Ron Sossi.

THE IRISH CURSE: 85% – SWEET

SWEET “Curse” may be a play about insecurity, but director Andrew Barnicle’s staging has real confidence; tonally, it’s near faultless. The interplay among the men is fast and funny, with Pacheco quietly anchoring the outsized performances of his secular mates. Charlotte Stoudt – LA Times BITTERSWEET Casella’s an assured writer, and the piece gets a [...]

Cloe Kromwell, John Colella, Jonathan Bray and Julia McIlvaine in "Sideways: The Play" at the Ruskin Group Theatre. Credit: Agnes Magyari.

SIDEWAYS: THE PLAY: 92% – SWEET

SWEET Adapted by Rex Pickett from his novel (which also spawned the 2004 hit movie), their oenophilial odyssey makes an enjoyable if at times leisurely debut in its stage incarnation at Ruskin Group Theatre. Philip Brandes – LA Times BITTERSWEET In this intimate world premiere, we have a fun time swilling with the errant boys [...]

in "The Pianist of Wellesden Lane" at the Geffen Playhouse. Credit: Michael Lamont.

THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE: 94% – SWEET

SWEET That’s par for the course of the rarefied ability and captivating story that Golabek shares with us. It makes her unforgettable tribute an undiluted privilege to witness. David C. Nichols – LA Times BITTERSWEET The Pianist of Willesden Lane features world-class piano playing, a moving story, a performer who has mastered the art of [...]

Harold Surratt, from left, Warner Joseph Miller, LeRoy McClain, Pascale Armand and Cheryl Lynn Bruce in Danai Gurira's "The Convert."  Credit: T. Charles Erickson /

THE CONVERT: 89% – SWEET

SWEET The devastating clash between Western culture and religion and African tradition and spirituality is at the heart of this masterful new work. Director Emily Mann has mounted a production that’s as compelling as it is gorgeous. Jennie Webb – Backstage SWEET Brought to life by Emily Mann’s subtle direction, a splendid set by Daniel [...]

Jane Kaczmarek and Jon Tenney star in "Good People" at the Geffen Playhouse. Photo by Michael Lamont.

GOOD PEOPLE (GEFFEN PLAYHOUSE): 96% – SWEET

SWEET Although Kaczmarek is the shining star of the show, she isn’t the only standout in the L.A. production of Good People. The sets, by designer Craig Siebels, are stunning, changing from a back alley to a kitchen to a church hall to a suburban mansion. And Marylouise Burke is an inveterate scene-stealer as Dottie, [...]

Tanna Frederick in "Why We Have a Body" at the Edgemar Center for theArts. Credit: Ron Vignone.

WHY WE HAVE A BODY: 44% – BITTER

SWEET As a director, Tanna has done a great job of moving the play along and getting excellent performances out of her talented ensemble cast. Irene Rubaum-Keller – Huffington Post BITTERSWEET Chafee has a knack for creating engagingly oddball characters and finding the humor in their eccentricities, but her disjointed narrative sometimes makes “Body” seem [...]

Richard Fancy and Marco Naggar i "New Jerusalem" at the Pico Playhouse. Credit: Hope Burleigh.

NEW JERUSALEM: 57% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER Breathing life into those ideas, however, requires performers who understand them. Setting aside flubbed lines, cadences and delivery frequently do not reflect a good handle on their meaning. Instead, emotional peaks arrive at arbitrary overacted moments, with insignificant sound and fury. Philip Brandes – LA Times BITTERSWEET Ives strives to make the theological debate [...]

Tom O’Leary, below, and Jason Paul Field in “The Lonesome West” at the Ruskin Group Theatre. Credit: John DiCindis.

THE LONESOME WEST (RUSKIN GROUP): 50% – BITTER

BITTER It’s a delicious premise, but McDonagh hasn’t delivered on it. Unlike “The Lieutenant of Inishmore,” with its ruthless efficiency, “West” suffers from lazy storytelling. The intimate space at the Ruskin is ideal for this claustrophobic tale, yet no amount of careful scene work by director Mike Reilly can disguise McDonagh’s shoddy construction. Charlotte Stoudt [...]

Tacey Adams, Joseph Culp, center, and Raymond J. Barry in “Awake in a World that Encourages Sleep.” Credit: Lee Wexler.

AWAKE IN A WORLD THAT ENCOURAGES SLEEP: 100% – SWEET

SWEET Although sometimes outlandish in how it delivers its message, this cracked polemic’s originality and full-throttle attack are unmistakable. David C. Nichols – Backstage SWEET But on the stage, “Awake,” starring Barry with Joseph Culp (Don Draper’s surly father in those stylish “Mad Men” flashbacks) and the lovely Tacey Adams, is a masterpiece of comic [...]

Kathleen Turner stars as Molly Ivins in the "Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins" at Geffen Playhouse. Photo from Philadelphia Theatre Company production. Credit: Mark Garvin.

RED HOT PATRIOT: THE KICK-ASS WIT OF MOLLY IVINS: 65% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET Kathleen Turner, who portrays Ivins in “Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins,” which opened Wednesday at the Geffen Playhouse, can’t quite duplicate the light East Texas drawl. (Turner’s signature husky tone sounds as though she’s been treating a sore throat by gargling with bourbon.) But the veteran actress has that same [...]

Anne Archer and Terrence Beasor in "Jane Fonda in the Court of Public Opinion" at the Edgemar Center for the Arts. Credit: Ed Krieger

JANE FONDA IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION: 66% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET Be ready to shred a few tears near the end of this effective, makes-you-think hour-and-45-minute show. Gil Kaan – Culture Spot LA BITTERSWEET This is why the topic of Jastrow’s play, co-directed by Michelle Danner, is so hypnotic — more so than the play itself, or this production of it. Steven Leigh Morris – [...]

The cast of "The Robber Bridegroom" at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. Credit:

THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM (INTERNATIONAL CITY THEATRE): 90% – SWEET

SWEET The Disney charade doesn’t fool anyone, however, as the PG-13 content arouses giggles and gasps from the audience. Full of laughter and levity, “The Robber Bridegroom” doesn’t spark much deep emotional catharsis, but it will certainly give you a jolly ol’ time. Sara Itkis – Neon Tommy SWEET If you’re looking for a night [...]

Karen Kalensky and Adam Korson in "The God of Isaac" at the Pico Playhouse. Credit: Michael Lamont.

THE GOD OF ISAAC: 71% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET That said, under the sharp direction of Darin Anthony, the cast gives a uniformly professional, entertaining performance, bringing to life a play that does not have a single original idea, thought, or word. What Sherman has written instead is a play filled with recycled Jewish stereotypes spewing jokes that have been around for years. [...]