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"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 [...]

Open Fist Theater Company presents Rob Nagle, left, Martha Demson and the cast of "The Dead" at the Greenway Court Theatre. Photo: Eric Neil Guttierez.

THE DEAD (GREENWAY COURT): 100% – SWEET

SWEET A talented cast, accompanied by a very abled quartet of musicians (led by Musical Director Dean Mora), takes you back in time to an annual Christmas gathering hosted by two aunts and their niece, lovingly nicknamed “The Three Graces,” where everyone takes their turn singing for their supper. Gil Kaan – Culture Spot LA [...]

Christopher Plummer in "A Word or Two" at the Ahmanson Theatre. Photo: Craig Schwartz.

A WORD OR TWO: 96% – SWEET

SWEET McAnuff’s production has the polish we’ve come to expect from this Tony-winning director, but the show’s gleam is all Plummer, who having held this stage almost single-handedly in “Barrymore” has no trouble filling it up now completely on his own. Charles McNulty – LA Times SWEET “A Word or Two,” seduces us with words. [...]

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 [...]

Bette Midler in "I'll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers" at the Geffen Playhouse. Photo: Richard Termine.

I’LL EAT YOU LAST: A CHAT WITH SUE MENGERS (GEFFEN PLAYHOUSE): 92% – SWEET

SWEET No one does it better and, increasingly, no one does it at all. As Mengers herself might have said, “The Belle of Amherst” it’s not, but as directed by Joe Mantello, the 85-minute “I’ll Eat You Last” is a helluva lot of fun to watch. Mary McNamara – LA Times SWEET Based on what [...]

Geoff Elliott and Jeremy Rabb in “Endgame” at A Noise Within. Photo: Craig Schwartz.

ENDGAME (A NOISE WITHIN): 78% – SWEET

SWEET Both Rabb and Elliott do a great job of balancing the absurdist nature of Beckett’s dialogue with the fact that it is being presented in a real place on a real stage, going overboard when needed in their acting but still bringing the play back to the forefront of the audience’s mind. Angie Fiedler [...]

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, [...]

Ben Belack, Zippy Allen and Marco Naggar in "Revelation" at the Lillian Theatre. Photo: Joel Daavid.

REVELATION: 89% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET I am tempted to attend another performance of Revelation once the “friends and family” laugh track has died down and the actors have settled in to playing the situation and not the joke. Mr. Williams appears to be on to something here but the overbearing opening night chuckle-fest I sat through made it impossible [...]

Ashley Platz, left, Joel Swetow and Murielle Zuker in "The Assassination of Leon Trotsky: A Comedy" at the Odyssey. Photo: Ed Krieger.

THE ASSASSINATION OF LEON TROTSKY: A COMEDY: 50% – BITTER

SWEET All of the humor is broad, bawdy and cartoonish, but fast and funny nonetheless. Farce always presents a tough theatrical challenge, but the playwright and his cast manage to handle it well, helped greatly by the deft work of director Terri Hanauer. Joel Daavid’s sumptuous hacienda set is another big plus. Willard Manus – [...]

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 [...]

THE CRUCIBLE (ANTAEUS): 97% – SWEET

THE CRUCIBLE (ANTAEUS): 97% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET As for the differing styles of delivery, it’s a brave theatrical device, but it was used for one of the few plays I know that doesn’t need deconstructionist staging. It’s like chipping away at some of the marble on Michelangelo’s David to display it in a smaller museum. Yes, there were moments that I [...]

"Peter Pan: The Boy Who Hated Mothers" at the Blank Theatre. Credit:

PETER PAN: THE BOY WHO HATED MOTHERS: 97% – SWEET

SWEET Most of the seven actors play multiple roles. They are all gifted with physical agility, grace, and easily switch between different realities and characters. As important is their ability to communicate wonder and joy believably — particularly as adults playing children — and the cast at the Blank Theatre is more than up to [...]

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 [...]

The cast of "Dreamgirls" at the MET Theatre. Credit: Michael Lamont.

DREAMGIRLS (DOMA): 100% – SWEET

SWEET You’ll definitely enjoy the glitter and the spectacle. Serita Stevens – LASplash SWEET Armed with some impressive singers, this latest production of Dreamgirls does not disappoint. Darlene Donloe – Donloe’s Lowdown SWEET The latest offering “Dreamgirls” Directed by Marco Gomez is yet another glowing example of what musical theatre should be. As the cast [...]

"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 [...]

"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 [...]

Cathy Rigby in "Peter Pan" at the Pantages Theatre. Credit: Isaac James, Pantages Theatre.

PETER PAN (PANTAGES): 96% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET Without negating the freshness of Rigby’s performance, “Peter Pan” in 2013 is ripe for a genuine reinterpretation rather than just the amiable rehash at the Pantages. Lewis Segal – LA Times SWEET Barrie has been unjustly overshadowed as a writer by this domineering success: while his plays often evince the sentimentality of arrested development, [...]

Frontiers’ Best of Los Angeles Theater 2012

Frontiers’ Best of Los Angeles Theater 2012

Another top ten list to peruse. This from critic Christopher Cappiello over at Frontiers. Chris seemed to enjoy some of the larger venue offerings more than some of our other listers, but he did concur with me on this particular show: The Celebration Theatre’s world premiere of Justin Love showed that a musical about a [...]

Erich Bergen and Rachel York in "Anything Goes" at the Ahmanson Theatre. Credit: Joan Marcus.

ANYTHING GOES (AHMANSON THEATRE): 90% – SWEET

SWEET After seeing opening night of “Anything Goes” at that Ahmanson, I’m still humming the tunes this morning. In these dark economic times this top notch Roundabout Theatre Company production is a great pick me up. Jana Monji – LA Examiner SWEET Could tap-dancing possibly be as fun as Rachel York makes it look? She [...]

AVENUE Q (DOMA THEATRE): 100% – SWEET

AVENUE Q (DOMA THEATRE): 100% – SWEET

SWEET With its unique blend of humor and heart, complete with puppet sex, inappropriate language, Internet porn, partial puppet nudity, and a final message that reminds us that “Everything in life is only for now,” I guarantee you’ll leave with a smile on your face. Ellen Dostal – Musicals in LA SWEET DOMA Theatre Company [...]

Jason Dechert and Jules Willcox in 'The Doctor's Dilemma' at A Noise Within. Credit: Craig Schwartz.

THE DOCTOR’S DILEMMA (A NOISE WITHIN): 85% – SWEET

SWEET Fortunately, in the play’s lively current staging at A Noise Within, director Dámaso Rodríguez and a ready cast ride Shaw’s hobbyhorse themes at a full gallop, blowing past the piece’s occasional stodginess with sheer comical verve F. Kathleen Foley – LA Times BITTERSWEET Shaw’s passionate distrust and satirical takedown of the medical profession is [...]

Jeff Goldblum in "Seminar" at the Mark Taper Forum. Credit: Craig Schwartz.

SEMINAR: 70% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET Theresa Rebeck’s “Seminar” is a sturdy example of a genre that once ruled Broadway but is now more or less defunct: the intellectual light comedy. With its literary lion (Jeff Goldblum) roaring and sniffing out red meat among his writing group’s eager acolytes, “Seminar” is fueled more by plot mechanics than by the thrum [...]

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 [...]

The cast of "Justin Love" at the Celebration Theatre. Credit: Michael Lamont.

JUSTIN LOVE: 88% – SWEET

SWEET “Justin Love” could thrive from a move to larger quarters, where production numbers could be as grand as Lori Scarlett and David Manning’s catchy score and Scarlett’s delightfully irreverent lyrics, without losing the sweetness and simplicity of what ultimately emerges as a great Hollywood-style love story. Travis Michael Holder – Backstage SWEET Though a [...]

XANADU (DOMA): 92% – SWEET

XANADU (DOMA): 92% – SWEET

SWEET DOMA Theatre Company has hit it out of the park, er, out of the skating rink, with its production of “Xanadu,” a fun-filled, high-energy, camp evening of strong voices, good dancers and feel-good 1980s songs. Gil Kaan – Culture Spot LA BITTERSWEET The script is full of clever lines and funny quips and boisterous [...]

Julanne Chidi Hill and Morlan Higgins in "The Blue Iris" at the Fountain Theatre. Credit: Ed Krieger.

THE BLUE IRIS: 57% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET “The Blue Iris” may not represent the author of “Boesman and Lena,” “‘Master Harold’ … and the Boys” and “Valley Song” at the peak of his powers, but it provides tantalizing insight into an artist who continues to do his country and world theater proud service. Charles McNulty – LA Times BITTERSWEET Clocking in [...]

Bo Foxworth, Fran Bennett, Elizabeth Swain, Susan Boyd Joyce in "Macbeth" at Antaeus Company Theatre. Credit: Daniel Blinkoff.

MACBETH (ANTAEUS): 95% – SWEET

SWEET From that heartbreaking opening funeral—director Kubzansky’s invention which informs the rest of the play—the couple’s intensity and depth of feeling for each other is riveting. Mr. Nagle gives the lord a humanity that is by turns appealing and appalling. Ms Auberjonois’ decent into madness is truly effective. Steve Peterson – Grigware Blogspot SWEET At [...]

"War Horse" at the Ahmanson Theatre. Credit: Brinkhoff Mogenburg.

WAR HORSE (AHMANSON THEATRE): 88% – SWEET

SWEET If you can only see one play this year, make it “War Horse.” Jean Lowerison – SDGLN SWEET Yes, it’s sentimental. Yes, there are scenes that might have given even as inveterate a melodramatist as Charles Dickens pause. But this 2011 best play Tony winner, which launched its national tour at the Ahmanson Theatre [...]

Michael Taylor Gray, Therese McLaughlin, and C. Stephen Foster in 'BitchSlap!' Credit: Chris Hume.

BITCHSLAP!: 79% – SWEET

BITTER Director Odalys Nanin has staged it with some cleverness but cannot overcome the problem of drag artistes overplaying their characters, which includes the sole female, Therese McLaughlin, as Hedda Hopper, one of the two major gossip columnists of the era. Michael Taylor Gray does a better job of finding the quiet reality of his [...]