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DIFFERENT WORDS FOR THE SAME THING: 75% - BITTERSWEET

DIFFERENT WORDS FOR THE SAME THING: 75% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET In the case of “different words,” the ghost finally learns, as part of the climax, exactly how she died. Unfortunately, this is the weakest moment of an otherwise fine-grained play, because the explanation introduces a complicated subplot — briefly sketched only in words, not in action — that doesn’t seem to have much relevance […]

RUTH DRAPER'S MONOLOGUES (GEFFEN PLAYHOUSE): 92% - SWEET

RUTH DRAPER’S MONOLOGUES (GEFFEN PLAYHOUSE): 92% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET Perhaps the problem, aside from the material, is in Bening’s decision to direct herself. Aside from a vocal quality onstage that always seems a bit flat and somehow forced, Bening might have needed a second critical eye to help her better differentiate each of these four annoying women from one another. Directing oneself robs […]

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (BROAD STAGE): 82% - SWEET

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (BROAD STAGE): 82% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET Still, the production, by War Horse director Tom Morris, is surprisingly uninvolving. The main quartet of lovers and their foibles feel too separate from the puppet business, a big reason that the puppets’ theatricality doesn’t translate into emotional heft. Zachary Pincus-Roth – LA Weekly SWEET Nonetheless, this inventive production will send you home with […]

HENRY V (PACIFIC RESIDENT THEATRE): 91% - SWEET

HENRY V (PACIFIC RESIDENT THEATRE): 91% – SWEET

SWEET I left the Pacific production in Venice with the feeling that I had just seen a rich and complex tale unfold before my eyes. Don Shirley – LA Observed BITTER In theory, it’s a fascinating concept. But among Henry V’s many virtues is the script’s tight construction. And the cost to the staging’s energy […]

A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN (RUBICON): 92% - SWEET

A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN (RUBICON): 92% – SWEET

SWEET Rubicon Theatre’s impassioned revival shows the mature O’Neill at the height of his powers — his arty experimental theater days behind him, masterfully employing classical fundamentals to wring hauntingly poetic truths about love and self-delusion from gritty everyday experience. Philip Brandes – LA Times SWEET A Moon for the Misbegotten was Eugene O’Neill’s grand […]

SLOWGIRL (GEFFEN): 85% - SWEET

SLOWGIRL (GEFFEN): 85% – SWEET

SWEET But Pierce has caught the rhythms of teenage girl-speak, and Gray, a credentialed actress and University of Chicago student (no relation to this reviewer) revels in them. Her wonderfully gravelly voice and quirky delivery make Becky thoroughly entertaining. And the characters’ developing bond despite their differences is touching and persuasive. Margaret Gray – LA […]

PASSION PLAY (ODYSSEY/EVIDENCE ROOM): 79% - SWEET

PASSION PLAY (ODYSSEY/EVIDENCE ROOM): 79% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET If, like me, you’re a fan of the Evidence Room, go to enjoy the familiar faces. Otherwise enjoy the small stuff and forgive the production for not tying everything up. Anthony Byrnes – KCRW BITTERSWEET Despite their many strengths, I found parts one and two curiously uninvolving. It wasn’t until Ruhl came closer to […]

JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (WALLIS ANNENBERG CENTER): 100% - SWEET

JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (WALLIS ANNENBERG CENTER): 100% – SWEET

SWEET Visible Fictions obviously believes in trusting its youthful audience; it speaks up to kids, rather than down. Consequently, the sheer energy, intelligence and fun of Jason had all its onlookers responding with whoops of laughter and joy. Daniel Padden’s evocative musical score also helped set appropriate moods. Willard Manus – Total Theater SWEET Two […]

ALADDIN AND HIS WINTER WISH (PASADENA PLAYHOUSE): 90% - SWEET

ALADDIN AND HIS WINTER WISH (PASADENA PLAYHOUSE): 90% – SWEET

BITTER As if to provide a counterpoint to the Troubies’ general excellence, Pasadena Playhouse is now hosting Aladdin and His Winter Wish, a shiny jukebox panto from the family that classed up our culture with television behemoths American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. But with a hundred times the Troubadour budget, affording […]

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

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 […]

PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (AHMANSON): 77% - SWEET

PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (AHMANSON): 77% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET If, in the first act, the wit varies so vertiginously that it flirts with the tiresome, then in a deliriously delicious opening musical number of the second act, the entire cast sings and dances in delectable drag as fish mutated by the pollution of the ocean with starstuff into cross-dressing mermaids. This sort of […]

PARFUMERIE (WALLIS ANNENBERG CENTER): 80% - SWEET

PARFUMERIE (WALLIS ANNENBERG CENTER): 80% – SWEET

SWEET That said, the crisply assured performances, and Brokaw’s clockwork pacing, give the text its best possible production, though we sometimes sense we’re seeing a show that doesn’t have much faith in the possibility of multi-dimensional psychology. Tony Frankel – Stage and Cinema SWEET Don’t get me wrong: “Parfumerie” is entertaining and a great choice […]

THE SUNSHINE BOYS (AHMANSON): 64% - BITTERSWEET

THE SUNSHINE BOYS (AHMANSON): 64% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET The jokes land with clockwork regularity, but “The Sunshine Boys” is only intermittently successful as a dramatic comedy. The play, in revival at the Ahmanson Theatre, has the dated feel of a vintage sitcom — one that predates even “Taxi,” the series in which the production’s stars, Danny DeVito and Judd Hirsch, last performed […]

RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN: 84% - SWEET

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, […]

ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD (OLD GLOBE): 100% - SWEET

ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD (OLD GLOBE): 100% – SWEET

SWEET Stoppard’s fertile wit keeps this three-act drama pulsing along without too much strain. A subtle pathos, along with the playwright’s verbal sophistication, prevents the play from degenerating into a collegiate vaudeville. The situation of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is at once a theatrical problem and an existential one. Left so often to their own devices […]

THE JUDY SHOW: MY LIFE AS A SITCOM: 67% - BITTERSWEET

THE JUDY SHOW: MY LIFE AS A SITCOM: 67% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET Gold, 50, is an enormously likable performer — except for her flawless comic timing, she could be a mom straight from the carpool line. She plays piano and sings real and made-up sitcom theme songs in an unpretentious bray. She’s sarcastic but not bitter. She doesn’t want to subvert either sitcoms or families — […]

JOE TURNER'S COME AND GONE (MARK TAPER): 93% - SWEET

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 […]

YEARS TO THE DAY: 82% - SWEET

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 […]

THE BEAUX' STRATAGEM (A NOISE WITHIN): 84% - SWEET

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 […]

AMERICAN BUFFALO (GEFFEN): 80% - SWEET

AMERICAN BUFFALO (GEFFEN): 80% – SWEET

SWEET David Mamet’s “American Buffalo” is set in a junk shop, but there are jewels to be found in the play and they are thrillingly laid out for us in the Geffen Playhouse’s dynamically acted production directed by Randall Arney. Charles McNulty – LA Times SWEET Nevertheless, Mamet’s world, despite its grounding in acute social […]

LUNCH LADY COURAGE: 67% - BITTERSWEET

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 […]

END OF THE RAINBOW: 79% - SWEET

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 […]

ON THE SPECTRUM: 82% - SWEET

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 […]

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

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 […]

TRIBES: 89% - SWEET

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: 55% - BITTERSWEET

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 […]

BACKBEAT: 65% - BITTERSWEET

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 […]

CASSIOPEIA: 71% - BITTERSWEET

CASSIOPEIA: 71% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET If you’re in a mood to give yourself over to rich imagery richly (sometimes too richly) conveyed, you’ll encounter something rare and beautiful. Bob Verini – Variety SWEET Part dream drama, part choreo-poem, the 75-minute three-character work, directed by Emilie Beck, charms both the brain and the senses. Evan Henerson – Backstage SWEET Still, […]

THE SNAKE CAN: 80% - SWEET

THE SNAKE CAN: 80% – SWEET

SWEET Yet Graf’s core instincts are sound, the quips and faceoffs suggesting actual human discourse, and Kaczmarek and Harrison form the tonal poles of a wonderful ensemble. See it with someone you love in spite of yourself. David C. Nichols – LA Times BITTERSWEET Director Steven Robman does the heavy lifting of keeping his talented […]

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 […]