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Getting “Ritchie” has not Been the Antidote for LA Theater’s Dire Circumstances

Getting “Ritchie” has not Been the Antidote for LA Theater’s Dire Circumstances

This according to the Elvis of LA Theater, Bill Raden, working it out over there at Stage Rows ala Stage Raw. Check out this forward thrust: Here in Los Angeles, for example, where there is consensus only that things couldn’t be more dire, the powers at CTG apparently decided that L.A. theater’s most alarming symptoms [...]

The Visceral Company presents Karen Nicole and Mark Souza in "Recall" at the Lex Theatre. Photo: Company.

RECALL (VISCERAL COMPANY): 80% – SWEET

SWEET Clark is smart to envision a near-future, fear-based world that’s taken its cue from the chilling rash of school shootings that have occurred over the past decade or so—even if Quinn, the loner who befriends Lucy, is a little predictable in his black trench coat and military boots. The current-topicality of it engages. And [...]

On the “Impressive Carving of Second Nether Orifices”: A Response to Bill Raden of Stage Rows

On the “Impressive Carving of Second Nether Orifices”: A Response to Bill Raden of Stage Rows

Firstly, thanks for the mention Bill! At least I know you’re paying attention… The always astute though sometimes mis-guided Elvis Presley of LA Theater, Bill Raden, somehow comes to the following conclusion about a recent online debate here at the Lemon: And while it sounds to us as if Colin may be eying a spot [...]

Theatre Unleashed presents Phillip Kelly and Julia Plostnieks in "Tartuffe" at the Belfry Stage. Photo: Company.

TARTUFFE (THEATRE UNLEASHED): 67% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET Under the focused direction of Jeff Soroka, the superb cast relishes the material without ridiculing it. The hijinks that follow are treated with a sharpness that the script demands. Christine Palau – NoHoArtsDistrict BITTERSWEET Helmer Jeff Soroka, working from the 2002 translation by British-born Ranjit Bolt, marshals a 10-member ensemble through the machinations of [...]

The Saturday Saying

The Saturday Saying

“Rather than 3½ weeks, Five Small Fires has been in gestation for three full years. In terms of its process and artistic ambition, the distance from the Bootleg to the Mark Taper Forum on this day is not one of miles but light-years.” Bill Raden – LA Weekly

"Carmilla" at Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre. Photo: Richard M. Johnson.

CARMILLA (ZOMBIES JOE’S UNDERGROUND): 90% – SWEET

SWEET Carmilla is a deliciously seductive fare, one that will give you nocturnal visions, perhaps even a nightmare… Spencer Cotter – The_Detective SWEET While I myself felt that a bit more blood and a couple of tit flashes would have nailed it, the hour long experience is akin to a staged performance of Dark Shadows [...]

Leon Russom in "Henry V" at . Photo: Rob Cunliffe.

HENRY V (PORTERS OF HELLSGATE): 83% – SWEET

SWEET At worst, Shakespeare can bore a roomful of kids to disruption, texting and gossiping and running in the aisles. But the Porters held a predominantly female, under-18 audience in the palm of its hand for two and a half hours at its Henry V opening on Saturday. This, not in the seasoned second week [...]

The cast of "Bill & Joan" at Sacred Fools Theater. Photo by Jessica Sherman.

BILL & JOAN: 83% – SWEET

SWEET This scorching drama is not for the faint of heart, but for those who prefer their live theater edgy, imaginative, and adventurous – a Sacred Fools house specialty. Ed Rampell – Peoples World SWEET Sacred Fools entertains the audience with a stellar production of Bill and Joan, a glimpse into the life of William [...]

"Firemen" at the Atwater Village Theatre. Photo:

FIREMEN: 93% – SWEET

SWEET Director Chris Fields’ stylishly sleight-of-hand staging (eloquently accented by Matt Richter’s dynamic lights) and a disarmingly appealing ensemble (including Amanda Saunders and Zach Callison) strike just the right balance between uneasy laughter and unpalatable titillation to drive home Smith’s unsettling portrait of a society whose most endangered species may be the moral and emotional [...]

Alex Taber (left, on bike) and Devereau Chumrau in "The Mystery Plays" at the Lex Theatre. Photo: Jeremy Andorfer.

THE MYSTERY PLAYS (VISCERAL COMPANY): 92% – SWEET

SWEET Leave it to horror specialists the Visceral Company to concoct the perfect corrective to the season’s saccharine tide of Christmas stage fare with director Christopher Basile’s deftly mounted, minimalist revival (skillfully accented by Ric Zimmerman’s low-key lighting) of playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s arresting duet of haunting — and haunted — one-acts. Bill Raden – LA [...]

Scott Lowell, left, Adam J. Smith, Gregory North, Robert Picardo, Clinton Derricks-Carroll, Barry Pearl, Bradford Tatum, Ellis E. Williams, Jason George and Adolphus Ward in "12 Angry Men" at the Pasadena Playhouse. Photo: Jim Cox Photography.

TWELVE ANGRY MEN (PASADENA PLAYHOUSE): 81% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET Artistically speaking, “12 Angry Men” is a relatively safe choice, guaranteed to appeal to theatergoers who appreciate comfortable familiarity and an edifying moral tone. Epps injects some risk by making his production about racial bias, but I wish he and his theater were more ambitious. The play is too blunt an instrument for a [...]

L-R: Will Roland, Harrison Chad, Coby Getzug and Jimmy Brewer in "The Black Suits" at The Kirk Douglas Theatre. Photo: Ed Krieger.

THE BLACK SUITS: 54% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET This world premiere musical, now at Kirk Douglas Theatre, manages to get plenty of new wine into very old, if not downright dusty, bottles. The saga of the making of the eponymous garage band soars despite a paper-thin, clichéd plot; derivative character types; and QED themes of friendship and youthful dream-making. What gets it [...]

Jeff Alan King in "Exit the King" at the NoHo Actors Studios. Photo: Company.

EXIT THE KING (NOHO ACTORS STUDIO): 80% – SWEET

SWEET This production is outstanding. Director Pat Towne is keen on maximizing the talent of each of the actors. The pacing and performance exceed the script, which does at times embrace the absurd. A story that explores the boundaries of existentialism without divulging in didactics can be tricky. But they pull it off. Long live [...]

Critique of the Week

Critique of the Week

There just aren’t many theater critics – if any – better than LA Weekly’s Bill Raden who can say so much in such a short amount of time. 160 words and I feel as if I know everything I need to know about this production. And he does it week in and week out. I [...]

Jacqueline King, left, Marshall McCabe and Melissa Sullivan in "The Interview" at Studio/Stage. Photo: Steven Gunther.

THE INTERVIEW: 75% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET Overall the smart drama entertains: Wyenn fosters an understated style that softens the spikier plot developments, and the performances, particularly Sullivan’s, engage even when they don’t entirely convince. Margaret Gray – LA Times BITTER In breaking the unity of both time and place, Ms. Josephs inadvertently hijacks her own play. After the third or [...]

Elyse Mirto and Freddy Douglas in "The Guardsman" at A Noise Within. Photo: Craig Schwartz.

THE GUARDSMAN (A NOISE WITHIN): 85% – SWEET

SWEET Toss in a seamless supporting ensemble and first-rate production values, and you couldn’t ask for a finer example of how captivating and downright fun live theater can be. Philip Brandes – LA Times BITTERSWEET Unfortunately, director Michael Michetti’s otherwise handsome revival (on Tom Buderwitz’s elegant set and under Adam Frank’s bravura lighting) can’t quite [...]

Karesa McElheny, Scott Kradolfer and Irene-Roseen in "The Light Bulb" at the NoHo Arts Center. Photo: Company.

THE LIGHT BULB: 60% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET The NoHo Arts Center Ensemble scores another hit with the world premiere of “The Light Bulb.” The talented cast gives full life to the smart, witty and cohesive dialogue written by Joshua Ravetch (previously seen last year at the NoHo Arts with his other hit and world premiere “One November Yankee”). Artistic Director James [...]

Alison Janes and Adam Meyer in “Marilyn … Madness & Me” at the El Portal. Photo:

MARILYN…MADNESS & ME: 80% – SWEET

SWEET A hypnotically unique evening of theater … I was mesmerized from start to finish! In a two character play … Marilyn Monroe and a man whose life she touched deeply, we are privy to a most personal and moving story. Pat Taylor – Tolucan Times SWEET Let your imagination take flight and visit the [...]

Eric Curtis Johnson in "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" at Sacred Fools Theatre. Photo courtesy of: Jessica Sherman Photgraphy.

DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? (SACRED FOOLS): 67% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER As dull as its premise is exciting, Jaime Robledo’s production of Edward Einhorn’s 2010 play, adapted from Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, could not be further divorced from its source. The novel is a philosophical visit to the defining boundaries of human nature, and (like most of Mr. Dick’s [...]

THE POKEMUSICAL (THEATRE ASYLUM): 87% – SWEET

THE POKEMUSICAL (THEATRE ASYLUM): 87% – SWEET

SWEET While “The Pokemusical” takes plenty of artistic liberty with the Japanese franchise, twisting wholesome characters, like Ash’s mom, into a busty, chain-smoking boozehound, and Ash into a power hungry zealot, there’s a level of charming authenticity that remains constant through the performance. Shane Scott – EdgeLosAngeles BITTERSWEET I’ve sat through more than a few [...]

Photo by Kelly McShane.

A BRIGHT ROOM CALLED DAY (COEURAGE THEATRE): 75% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER The friends are a motley crew, badly directed by Jeremy Lelliott, and none of them is a good enough actor to engender any empathy—or connection—with the audience. Cynthia Citron – Cynthia Citron SWEET Director Jeremy Lelliott works wonders with Tony Kushner’s A Bright Room Called Day, turning a play that in other hands might [...]

"Kitchen Witches" at the Little Fish Theatre. Photo: Mickey Elliott.

KITCHEN WITCHES (LITTLE FISH THEATRE): 67% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET The Kitchen Witches provides a nifty gender balance to Richard Dresser’s (male) odd-couple comedy Rounding Third, running concurrently on the Little Fish stage, adding up to a pair of mid-summer crowd pleasers for San Pedro’s intimate theater gem. Steven Stanley – StageSceneLA BITTERSWEET Though “Kitchen Witches” is a minor comedy, Little Fish Theatre makes [...]

Valorie Hubbard, Anastasia Charalambous and San La France in "Blistered Hands and Bloody Mouths" at Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre. Photo: Valerie Wattlington.

BLISTERED HANDS AND BLOODY MOUTHS: 100% – SWEET

SWEET Stage horror can be many things. In the hands of a master, it can tap the unspoken nightmares of an audience to power an allegory about life’s dystopian realities. Then there’s the kind presented here by playwright-actor Sam LaFrance — a Grand Guignol thrill ride of ratcheting grotesquerie, viscerally shocking switchbacks and plunging moral [...]

Chalk Repertory presents "Lady Windermere's Fan" at the Library. Photo: Company.

LADY WINDERMERE’S FAN (CHALK REP): 100% – SWEET

SWEET Clever director Jennifer Chang brings new life to a classic with excellent performances by her non-traditional cast. Morna Murphy Martell – Theatre Spoken Here SWEET Apart from providing an atmospheric backdrop for Wilde’s epigrammatic assault on late-Victorian bourgeois respectability, director Jennifer Chang’s environmental, modern-dress (courtesy of costumer Halei Parker) staging lends an engaging, naturalistic [...]

DOMA Theatre Company presents the cast of "Nine" at the Met Theatre. Photo credit: Michael Lamont.

NINE (DOMA): 79% – SWEET

SWEET Known for some pretty terrific singing, DOMA accepts the challenges of Nine and with director Marco Gomez pulling out the stops and letting his skilled cast reach for the stars, this production works on many levels, will entertain you, and even make you muse from time to time. Don Grigware – Grigware Reviews SWEET [...]

Kalean Ung and Jeremy Shranko in "Alcestis" at the Boston Court Performing Arts Center. Photo Credit: Ed Krieger.

ALCESTIS (BOSTON COURT): 89% – SWEET

SWEET However, their festival-ready work doesn’t always mesh the piece’s narrative and thematic aims. The copious references, self-comment and abstractions hinder emotional connection as often as support it. Nonetheless, as theatrical exercises go, “Alcestis” is certainly impressive. David C. Nichols – LA Times BITTERSWEET The writing is frequently fascinating, and Ms. Keystone’s stage pictures are [...]

Jud Williford, Alana Dietze, Ahmed Best and Jacqueline Wright in "Bob: A Life in Five Acts" at the Atwater Village Theatre. Credit:

BOB: A LIFE IN FIVE ACTS: 75% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET Go see it by any means possible. If you have to drag yourself there with nothing but two arms and determination, and must collect the price of admission from fallen change, do it. This is one of the finest productions in Los Angeles this year, and I must recommend the viewing of it to [...]

Ian Ruskin is "Thomas Paine" at the Lillian and Electric Lodge. Credit: Thomas Paine Productions.

TO BEGIN THE WORLD OVER AGAIN: THE LIFE OF THOMAS PAINE: 90% – SWEET

SWEET So nuanced and layered is Ruskin’s performance, and so enlightening is his script, it’s as if Paine has been brought to back life just to speak to us. Ben Miles – Showmag BITTERSWEET Despite director Shanga Parker’s seductive stage polish (including Sarah Nash Gates’ period-perfect costuming) and Ruskin’s own amiable and engaging stage presence, [...]

"The Scottsboro Boys" at the Ahmanson Theatre. Credit:

THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS (AHMANSON): 90% – SWEET

BITTER With “Scottsboro,” it doesn’t help that Stroman has pushed her actors, as she did on Broadway, to perform minstrel as if they were in a high-school production, as if egregiously over-the-top bad acting would indicate the genre’s inherent awfulness. It’s curious how a director could make us laugh at the soulless gay characters in [...]

Tara Grammy in "Mahmoud" at Whitefire Theatre. Credit: Linn Øyen Farle.

MAHMOUD: 83% – SWEET

SWEET The freshest and funniest material — aided by Davis’ smart and brisk staging — belongs to the 11-year-old Tara and her fixation on somehow mitigating the physical differences between her own dark complexion and that of her class’s most popular blond, blue-eyed girl. Bill Raden – LA Weekly BITTERSWEET Despite duo Fringe kudos, there [...]