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Four Larks presents "Orpheus" playing at a secret downtown LA location. Photo by Eugene Lee.

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 [...]

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. [...]

CurtainUp’s Jon Magaril’s Most Memorable Los Angeles Theater of 2013

CurtainUp’s Jon Magaril’s Most Memorable Los Angeles Theater of 2013

And yet ANOTHER best of Los Angeles Theater list for 2013. This is from one of the newest LADCC members, Jon Magaril of CurtainUp. It includes a lot of familiar productions that we’ve seen in some of the other lists and a couple of new inclusions. Here’s hoping Jon ramps up his output this year [...]

Brian Dennehy in "The Steward of Christendom" at the Mark Taper Forum. Photo: Craig Schwartz.

THE STEWARD OF CHRISTENDOM (MARK TAPER): 53% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET This devotion to verbal patterning is both his signal strength and conspicuous weakness as a dramatist. In “The Steward of Christendom,” Barry’s 1995 play now being revived at the Mark Taper Forum as a star vehicle for Brian Dennehy, retrospective prose substitutes for dramatic action. Charles McNulty – LA Times BITTERSWEET The playwright’s prose [...]

Adam Stein and Allison Pill in "Wait Until Dark" at the Geffen Playhouse. Photo: Michael Lamont.

WAIT UNTIL DARK (GEFFEN PLAYHOUSE): 92% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET The dramatic premise, of a vulnerable woman discovering unexpected resources that allow her to turn the tables on her assailants, is still the main draw. The road to the goosepimply climax, even with Hatcher’s streamlining, is cumbersome, the dramaturgy as outdated as when the work was first written. But what a gripping finish. If [...]

Lorenzo Pisoni in "Humor Abuse" at the Mark Taper Forum. Photo: Craig Schwartz.

HUMOR ABUSE: 98% – SWEET

SWEET By keeping its knee-slapping, gasp-inducing and heart-tugging elements in quietly accelerating balance, this Obie-winning solo piece about growing up with the Pickle Family Circus lands an uproarious, astounding and affecting tour de force. David C. Nichols – LA Times SWEET Pisoni’s movements are fluid and effortlessly precise and his prodigious skills are a joy [...]

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, [...]

Ta'Rea Campbell, left, Florrie Bagel and Lael van Keuren in "Sister Act" at the Pantages Theatre. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus.

SISTER ACT (PANTAGES): 90% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET Not a scintillating musical by any means, “Sister Act” offers generic exuberance for a sultry summer night when a groove and a giggle are all that’s required to send audiences home smiling. Charles McNulty – LA Times SWEET From the moment the curtain goes up and our diva is belting out a song (in [...]

Marin Ireland and Carlo Alban in "A Parallelogram" at the Mark Taper Forum. Photo: Craig Schwartz.

A PARALLELOGRAM: 82% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET Like the play as a whole, the talk is more intellectually tantalizing than dramatically meaningful. “A Parallelogram” has the distinction of making us think, but the fruits of this contemplation weren’t for me all that bountiful. Charles McNulty – LA Times SWEET A Parallelogram is a brilliantly mind-boggling play by Bruce Norris that asks [...]

in "Watson and the Dark Art of Harry Houdini" at Sacred Fools Theater. Photo Credit: Jessica Sherman.

WATSON AND THE DARK ART OF HARRY HOUDINI: 63% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET With its fractured timeline, Robledo’s plotting is more ambitious and demanding than the first installment, 2010′s Watson: The Last Great Tale of the Legendary Sherlock Holmes, yet offers deeper rewards. Pauline Adamek – LA Weekly SWEET Trust me when I say that you want to discover all of those things for yourself. All you [...]

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 [...]

Keith David and Glynn Turman in "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" at the Mark Taper Forum. Credit: Craig Schwartz.

JOE TURNER’S COME AND GONE (MARK TAPER): 93% – SWEET

SWEET This powerfully acted production of “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,” which opened Wednesday at the Mark Taper Forum under the direction of Phylicia Rashad, is a gift for audiences hungering for theatrical nourishment after being fed a steady diet of snacks. Charles McNulty – LA Times SWEET Thesps Keith David, Glynn Turman and John [...]

David St. Louis in "The Royale" at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Credit: Craig Schwartz.

THE ROYALE: 73% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET “The Royale” doesn’t penetrate all that deeply into the story of a boxer who made history for himself, his sport and his country. But its lively manner of telling reanimates this breakthrough saga for a new generation. Charles McNulty – LA Times SWEET Daniel Aukin stages a mesmerizing spectacle with a perfect five-member ensemble. [...]

Logan Marshall-Green and Lily Rabe in "Miss Julie" at the Geffen Playhouse. Credit: Michael Lamont.

MISS JULIE (GEFFEN PLAYHOUSE): 67% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET A few minutes into this “Miss Julie,” you might think that the Geffen Playhouse started out with a traditionally cast “The Heiress” and then switched plays after losing a few key supporting players. Julie’s fall at the hands of this John isn’t so devastating. But the injustice of her money and his lack of [...]

"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 [...]

"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 [...]

"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 [...]

Alex Moggridge in "Chinglish" at South Coast Repertory. Credit: Kevin Berne.

CHINGLISH (SOUTH COAST REP): 100% – SWEET

SWEET Directed by Leigh Silverman, who staged the work on Broadway, “Chinglish” gleams with witty intelligence about the dizzying divide that separates the world’s two economic superpowers. Charles McNulty – LA Times SWEET Hwang brilliantly blends character, dialogue, and the idea that even when bilingual interpreters are present, translations are fraught with errors and misconceptions, [...]

Brendan Hunt in "Absolutely Filthy" at the Sacred Fools Theater. Credit:

ABSOLUTELY FILTHY: 100% – SWEET

SWEET Devoid of Schulz’s signature innocence and simplicity, Absolutely Filthy is certainly not an authorized use of the Peanuts franchise, but this reviewer laughed enough to hope that the cease-and-desist letter demons stay far, far away from this Sacred Fools run. Mia Bonadonna – Stage and Cinema SWEET Not only did people in the audience [...]

"Backbeat" at the Ahmanson Theatre. Credit: Craig Schwartz.

BACKBEAT: 65% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER The design team turns the Ahmanson stage into a virtual black-and-white movie. It’s nice to look at, but Leveaux never finds a way to piece together the two stories, especially in act two. The Beatles glide upstage and down on a platform, Sutcliffe and Kirchherr move across stage on a series of sofas and [...]

Brian Tilley in Australia's Back to Back Theatre production "Ganesh Versus the Third Reich" at the Freud Playhouse. Credit: Jeff Busby, CAP UCLA.

GANESH VERSUS THE THIRD REICH: 93% – SWEET

SWEET These are mighty questions that “Ganesh,” a small but rippling production, leaves you pondering. It’s a piece in which a hug, proffered by the wispy Laherty to a fellow performer after a brutal scene, turns into an eloquent statement about what it means to be a human being. Charles McNulty – LA Times SWEET [...]

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, [...]

FREUD’S LAST SESSION (BROAD STAGE): 76% – SWEET

FREUD’S LAST SESSION (BROAD STAGE): 76% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET For “Freud’s Last Session” to be a deeper play it would have to take a freer hand with the characters, exploring the textures of their inner lives rather than simply surveying their intellectual positions. St. Germain playfully illuminates some of the contradictions in their characters, but the piece sticks mostly to the surface, satisfying [...]

"The Grand Irrationality" at the Lost Studio. Credit: Dima Otvertchenko.

THE GRAND IRRATIONALITY: 60% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER Kennedy’s characters may talk about big ideas and make many sales pitches, but it’s unlikely that audiences will be sold on “The Grand Irrationality.” Katherine Davis – Backstage SWEET Is this play funny? Yes. Will Kennedy’s outlet for revenge stand the test of time and become a classic for the ages? Probably not. Is [...]

Cheek by Jowl presents Gina Bramhill and Orlando James in "'Tis Pity She's a Whore" at the Frued Playhouse.  Credit: Manuel Harlan.

‘TIS PITY SHE’S A WHORE (FREUD PLAYHOUSE): 100% – SWEET

SWEET Cheek By Jowl’s revival leaves you with the same disquieting frisson of a Tarantino film or McDonagh play, raising questions about the artistic purpose of shock and horror that have no easy answers and may send you home more disturbed than entertained. Charles McNulty – LA Times SWEET The true pity would be to [...]

"Other Desert Cities" at the Mark Taper Forum. Credit: Craig Schwartz.

OTHER DESERT CITIES (MARK TAPER): 76% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET What should be a perfect storm, alas, isn’t. Working with watchable and often affecting material, Egan and his cast of five feel like they’re trying to wrestle two or three disparate plays into a shapable entity. Despite a career-stretching performance by JoBeth Williams and strong work by the consistently reliable Robert Foxworth, “Other Desert [...]

Elevator Repair Services presents "Gatz" at REDCAT. Credit: Steven Gunther.

GATZ (REDCAT): 91% – SWEET

SWEET Theatre like this arrives once in a blue moon, and you don’t want to miss a word-for-word of it. Tony Frankel – Stage and Cinema SWEET In its simultaneous devotion to Fitzgerald’s text and ingenious expansion upon it, “Gatz” looks forward to an entirely new American theatrical form. It is quite simply not to [...]