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Deborah Strang and Geoff Elliott in "Come Back, Little Sheba" at A Noise Within. Photo: Craig Schwartz.

COME BACK, LITTLE SHEBA (A NOISE WITHIN): 100% – SWEET

SWEET The ANW cast members inhabit their 1950 characters with stunning authenticity. G. Bruce Smith – Stage and Cinema SWEET Fortunately, the current revival of Inge’s 1950 drama “Come Back, Little Sheba” at A Noise Within largely steers clear of blatancy, thanks to the skillful co-direction of Julia Rodriguez-Elliott and Geoff Elliott. When the characters [...]

The cast of "Crazy For You" at the Candelight Pavilion. Photo: Company.

CRAZY FOR YOU (CANDLELIGHT PAVILION): 100% – SWEET

SWEET So hurry on down to Candlelight Pavilion for a true treat and enjoy a good meal and great show. Robert Machray – Stagehappenings SWEET The songs are all Gershwin, the dancing is virtually non-stop, and the entertainment value is sky-high in the Tony-winning Best Musical of 1992 Crazy For You, which Candlelight Pavilion Dinner [...]

Bruce Davison and Sharon Lawrence in "A Song at Twilight" at the Pasadena Playhouse. Photo: Michael Lamont.

A SONG AT TWILIGHT (PASADENA PLAYHOUSE): 90% – SWEET

SWEET This production of “A Song at Twilight” is a reminder that there’s more to Coward than Champagne bubbles and intoxicating quips. What could very easily have turned into a vintage case study of a closeted homosexual writer becomes a probing exposé of the concealments and deceptions that keep our most intimate relationships — with [...]

Elijah Alexander, center, Amin El Gamal, Katie Pelensky, Jeremy Rabb and Thom Rivera in "Macbeth" at A Noise Within. Photo: Craig Schwartz.

MACBETH (A NOISE WITHIN): 78% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET Elijah Alexander as Macbeth and Willcox do suggest a lot of sexual passion in their early scenes, but at least at the performance I saw, Alexander’s vocal delivery sounded lighter than expected, almost as if he were undecided about how far to pursue Macbeth’s indecision. Carpenter visually emphasizes that the Macbeths apparently lost their [...]

BATTLEDRUM: 75% – BITTERSWEET

BATTLEDRUM: 75% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET But the book and lyrics (by Doug Cooney) and the music (Lee Ahlin) lacked sophistication. The 75-minutes or so of the show had to cover too much terrain (emotional as well as physical) to remain intriguing and the use of women in the show (a mother of one of the boys, D.J. Harner, who [...]

The cast of "Harmony" at the Ahmanson Theatre. Photo:

HARMONY (AHMANSON): 78% – SWEET

SWEET Manilow’s’ ‘Harmony’ pleases despite a few sour notes. Paul Hodgins – OC Register SWEET Its leitmotif is nothing less than the true nature of harmony, which this disparate, diverse sextet found in the commingling of their voices and in their offstage unity — even as an antithetical ideology of divisiveness and conquest swept Germany, [...]

Freddy Douglas and Carolyn Ratterey in "Tartuffe" at A Noise Within. Photo: Craig Schwartz.

TARTUFFE (A NOISE WITHIN): 76% – SWEET

SWEET Overall it’s a delightful revival. If the darker nuances at times threaten the cascading hilarity, that won’t prohibit the enjoyment of so swankly appointed, proficiently acted a classical bauble as this representative company melee. David C. Nichols – LA Times SWEET Molière’s “Tartuffe,” which dates back to 1664, is not only a sire of [...]

Taraji P. Henson, Seamus Mulcahy, Joe Massingill and Kristopher Higgins in "Above the Fold" at the Pasadena Playhouse. Photo: Jim Cox.

ABOVE THE FOLD: 67% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER Henson wins us over with her likability. She provides glimpses of a conscience that Weinraub runs roughshod over, but unfortunately it’s not enough to keep us emotionally invested in this schematic play. In scoring points, the playwright forgets that in the theater the most compelling battles are the internal ones. Charles McNulty – LA [...]

Ann Noble and Michael Matthys in “An Ideal Husband” at Sierra Madre Playhouse. Photo: Geoffrey Wade.

AN IDEAL HUSBAND (SIERRA MADRE PLAYHOUSE): 83% – SWEET

SWEET It’s always a pleasant surprise to discover a gem in a most unlikely setting, and that’s what I experienced last Saturday night when I attended a performance of Oscar Wilde’s comedy An Ideal Husband at the Sierra Madre Playhouse. It was my first time at the venue, and I was delighted to discover an [...]

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. [...]

Joshua Weinstein ( center) Sara Hennessy and Shawn Lee in "Foxfinder" at the Carrie Hamilton Theatre. Photo: Owen Carey.

FOXFINDER: 85% – SWEET

SWEET Picture the witch-hunting of “The Crucible” at the hands of a modern Orwellian state and you have the broad contours of Dawn King’s “Foxfinder,” which receives an atmospheric, take-no-prisoners co-production from Furious Theatre Company in association with Oregon-based Artists Repertory Theatre. Philip Brandes – LA Times BITTERSWEET Under Dámaso Rodriguez’s direction, when the inspector [...]

The cast of "Peter and the Starcatcher" at the Ahmanson Theatre. Photo: Terry Shapiro.

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 [...]

Daniel J. Roberts and Bruce Ladd in "A Perfect Likeness" at the Fremont Center Theatre. Photo: Will Hastings.

A PERFECT LIKENESS: 95% – SWEET

SWEET Charles Dickens meets Lewis Carroll, literally, in “A Perfect Likeness” at Fremont Centre Theatre in South Pasadena. This beautifully appointed two-hander about the authors of “Great Expectations” and “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” isn’t exactly deep-dish, but it should appeal to those seeking a pleasantly literate 90 minutes in the theater. David C. Nichols – [...]

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 [...]

GIDION’S KNOT: 100% – SWEET

GIDION’S KNOT: 100% – SWEET

SWEET Nothing would work in this perilously tricky play without the utter commitment and attentive shading brought to the roles by these two contrastingly arresting performers. Cale Lisbe (five seasons as Joanie Hansen on Providence) and Martin (a founding member of The Furious) are riveting, supplying utmost conviction even when the character development may be [...]

"Endgame" at A Noise Within. Photo: Craig Schwartz.

Critique of the Week

And then, finally, we get a thoughtful, almost whimsical response to the same play for our final and penultimate COW for this week. Frances seems practically Yoda-esque in her response to ANW’s production. Then again, with “Endgame” it should be nothing but. ENDGAME Frances Baum Nicholson – The Stage Struck Review In the trio of [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

The cast of "The Lion in Winter" at Sierra Madre Playhouse. Photo: Gina Long.

THE LION IN WINTER (SIERRA MADRE PLAYHOUSE): 88% – SWEET

SWEET In the new production at the Sierra Madre Playhouse, the smaller stage emphasizes this sense of captivity, enhanced as it is by Gary Wissman’s versatile, representational set. There, director Michael Cooper has gathered a cast ranging from good to very good indeed, all of whom live the characters they wear. Frances Baum Nicholson – [...]

Danny Devito and Judd Hirsch in "The Sunshine Boys" at the Ahmanson Theatre. Photo: Craig Schwartz.

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 [...]

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 [...]

Paige Lindsey White and John Sloan in the Theatre @ Boston Court's production of "R II." Pjoto: Ed Krieger.

R II (BOSTON COURT): 95% – SWEET

SWEET Sometimes this casting gambit can devolve, almost of necessity, into vestiges of a stunt. Yet while this great, less-heralded work can become, even in the most accomplished staging, a tad enervating (particularly at full-length), RII maintains its energy and daring throughout and reclaims the poetry and insight of the original with unstinting immediacy and [...]

John J. Malone and Jack David Frank in "Auto Parts" at the Fremont Centre Theatre. Photo: Company.

AUTO PARTS: 67% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET Auto Parts utilizes audience-appointed structural randomness to remind theater-goers that they are an integral part of any given production. Art is never just for art’s sake. Lydia Kapp – LifeInLA SWEET In sum, four conversations in and around a car create a drama which proves both intriguing and compelling. And you should go see [...]

Mike Rosenbaum and Jason Thomas in "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" at Sierra Madre Playhouse". Photo: Aaron Lyons.

THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER (SIERRA MADRE PLAYHOUSE): 100% – SWEET

SWEET This polished and entertaining adaptation of Mark Twain’s coming-of-age classic The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a rare case of family entertainment done well. Deborah Klugman – LA Weekly SWEET It is the deep and sincere understanding of this childish wonder that colors Leason’s adaptation with such a refreshing brilliance and makes a night [...]

Eric Bailey, Desmond Clark, Gary Lewis, and Lawrence Cummings in “Sounds of Motown” at the Claremont Candlelight Pavilion. Photo: Company.

THE SOUND OF MOTOWN: 88% – SWEET

SWEET The hits of the Motor City reign Supreme in beautiful downtown Claremont as a dozen Wonder-fully talented young performers bring The Sound Of Motown to Candlelight Pavilion, entertaining audiences of all ages with over 4 dozen hits that are each and every one of them absolutely, positively Tops. Steven Stanley – StageSceneLA SWEET It [...]

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 [...]

"God's Man in Texas" at the Sierra Madre Playhouse. Credit: Company.

GOD’S MAN IN TEXAS (SIERRA MADRE PLAYHOUSE): 67% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET Though I can’t help wishing that Rambo had pruned down the Act One sermonizing that this particular reviewer found so alienating, God’s Man In Texas turns out to be quite a play, and one well worth driving over to picturesque Sierra Madre to experience. Steven Stanley – StageSceneLA BITTER Director Nancy Youngblut’s staging employs [...]

"The Beaux' Stratagem" at A Noise Within. Credit: Craig Schwartz.

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 [...]

Blake Walker and Brandon Parrish in "The Innocence of Father Brown" at the Fremont Center Theatre. Credit: Ellie Roth.

THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN: 75% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER The result as a play is not bad – interesting characters that surprise us – but the company’s production of this work makes a hash of what are quaint and difficult ideas almost a hundred years on. Co-directors Allison Darby Gorjian and Betsy Roth have failed in a major way with errant casting and [...]

Tracie Bennett in "End of Rainbow" at the Ahmanson Theatre. Credit: Craig Schwartz.

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 [...]