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Robert Lesko in "B. Franklin" at SFS Theatre. Photo: Michael Lamont.

B. FRANKLIN: 100% – SWEET

SWEET Ultimately, this is a literate and entertaining examination of a vital period in our history, told with wit, humor, and perspicacity, and acted with skill. And director Bjorn Johnson keeps things moving briskly and efficiently. Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s handsome set adds considerable detail to remind us of Franklin’s time, and of his broad-ranging interests. [...]

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 [...]

Santa Monica Rep presents "The Memorandum" at the Miles Memorial Playhouse: Photo: Mitch Goldstrum.

THE MEMORANDUM (SANTA MONICA REP): 81% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET Staging this play was no easy task for Santa Monica Rep’s Director Jan Bloom, who has chosen to present it with the audience seated on either side, like at a tennis match (set by T. Cavelti). This presents multiple problems of visibility and audibility, when the actors’ faces are not in full view and [...]

Tim Cummings, left, and Michael Gladis in South Coast Repertory's "Reunion." Photo: Debora Robinson.

REUNION (SOUTH COAST REP): 83% – SWEET

SWEET However, with South Coast Repertory’s Reunion, audiences will witness a powerful work which shows an incredible range of emotional complexity about revisiting one’s past, thanks to a trio of talented actors, the deft direction of Adrienne Campbell-Holt, and a script whose sharp dialogue and three dimensional characters seem to jump out beyond the page [...]

Jason Karasev, Anna Khaja, and Joel Polis in "My Name is Asher Lev" at the Fountain Theatre. Photo by Ed Krieger.

MY NAME IS ASHER LEV: 94% – SWEET

SWEET The play isn’t an undiluted screed on behalf of unfettered art; it depicts the pain Asher’s parents undergo when they become the unwitting subjects of his masterpiece – and the conflicts this causes within the still-mostly-observant Asher. Don Shirley – LA Observed SWEET The story is not so surprising, but given the immediacy and [...]

Hannah Yelland and Jim Sturgeon in "Brief Encounter" at The Wallis. Photo: Jim Cox.

BRIEF ENCOUNTER (THE WALLIS): 90% – SWEET

SWEET It’s an absolutely beguiling production, psychologically simple but stylistically as rich as a tapestry. Steven Leigh Morris – LA Weekly SWEET If you love the movie (and what emotionally sentient human being doesn’t?), you’ll surely get a kick out of Kneehigh’s ingenious homage. Charles McNulty – LA Times SWEET While it’s all a bit [...]

Brad Schreiber

HuffPost’s Brad Schreiber’s Top Ten Los Angeles Theater Productions of 2013

I don’t see as much of Brad Schreiber’s criticism these days since Backstage folded, and frankly, HuffPost, for me, is almost as awful to circum-navigate as LA Examiner, just without the terrorizing pop-ups. Brad, if you have a regular link I can hang onto to stay in your loop then hook a brother up! Nevertheless, Brad [...]

L - R Adam Ferguson, Olivia Courtin, Heather M. Roberts, Will Thomas McFadden, and Zoë Hall in "A Queen's Family..." at Actors Gang. Photo: Company.

THE QUEEN FAMILY’S VERY SPECIAL HOLIDAY SPECIAL (ACTORS’ GANG): 72% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER This production is so busy trying to be clever and to get laughs that in the end a better time is had by those involved than by those watching. Sometimes stepping back and simplifying is one of the best things that can be done for a show. This is one of those instances. Kat [...]

Chrysalis Stage presents Santoro and Morgan in "Ghosts" at the Expo Art Center. Photo by Henning Fischer.

GHOSTS (CHRYSALIS STAGE): 100% – SWEET

SWEET Because the acting and direction are so keenly calibrated to the story, you don’t need to see the ghost of Captain Alving to appreciate the lengths to which his family deals with the consequences of his actions. It’s more horrific than a horror production because, paranormal activity and special effects aside, it’s true, because [...]

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Actors' Gang. Photo: Dianna Olivia-Day.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (ACTOR’S GANG): 87% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET The holiday humor of the play wears thin in the final stages of Robbins’ production, which could use a stronger shaping hand. The pacing stalls, and the scenes get a bit smudgy as the logistical challenges mount in a shoestring staging that requires many of its actors to take on multiple roles. Charles McNulty [...]

"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 [...]

Valerie Perri and David Burnham in Musical Theatre West's production of "Sunset Boulevard." Photo credit: Company.

SUNSET BOULEVARD (MUSICAL THEATRE WEST): 82% – SWEET

BITTER Directed by Larry Raben, Musical Theatre West’s production, crowning their 60th Anniversary season, features artists of unquestionable talent and experience, but Raben and his team do not succeed in creating a nuanced, believable environment, ultimately failing to avoid the pitfalls of this dangerously caricature-driven show. Elle Martin – Stage and Cinema SWEET Overall, MTW’s [...]

Ty Jones, left, Matt Jones and Kevin Daniels in "One Night in Miami..." at Rogue Machine. Credit: John Flynn.

ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI…: 100% – SWEET

SWEET Nonetheless, the vivid humor, ironic reversals and the larger implications hold us, right through to the bittersweet fade-out. Director Carl Cofield keeps things tautly entertaining on designer Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s excellent set, and his actors (with alternates), who express rather than mimic their real-life counterparts, are first-rate. David C. Nichols – LA Times SWEET [...]

in "Sleepless in Seattle" at the Pasadena Playhouse. Credit:

SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE (PASADENA PLAYHOUSE): 62% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER The 1993 romantic comedy “Sleepless in Seattle” has been turned into a stage musical that can best be described as pointless in Pasadena. Robert Hofler – Variety SWEET Artistic director of the Playhouse, Sheldon Epps, directs his cast adroitly around John Iacovelli’s multilevel set populated with projections and moving wagons. It’s a Broadway musical, [...]

Perry Ojeda, from left, Addi McDaniel, Nate Dendy and Anthony Carillo in "The Fantasticks" at South Coast Repertory. Credit: Henry DiRocco.

THE FANTASTICKS (SOUTH COAST REP): 94% – SWEET

SWEET Purists may howl — I noted scattered walkouts at intermission — but that’s their loss, because ultimately this ingenious revival is enchanting. David C. Nichols – LA Times SWEET Tricks and illusions give ‘Fantasticks’ magical new life. Paul Hodgins – OC Register SWEET It’s easy to see why The Fantasticks is the longest running [...]

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 [...]

"The Parisian Woman" at South Coast Repertory. Credit: Henry DiRocco.

THE PARISIAN WOMAN (SOUTH COAST REP): 85% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET The result, at least in this entertaining if ultimately puzzling world premiere — which unites the star power of rising director Pam MacKinnon (“Clybourne Park”); actors Dana Delany, Steven Culp and Steven Weber; scenic designer Marion Williams; and sound designer Cricket S. Myers — still feels stuck between two genres, its transformation incomplete. Margaret [...]

Brian T. Finney in the Actors' Gang production of "Heart of Darkness" at the Ivy Substation. Credit: Jean-Louis Darville.

HEART OF DARKNESS (ACTORS’ GANG): 100% – SWEET

SWEET This stripped-down Actors’ Gang production zooms in on Finney’s intensely contained performance as Marlow, the seaman who tells the story of his obsessive pursuit of the mysterious Kurtz, an ivory trader who has come to symbolize, among other things, the insatiable greed of imperial conquest. Charles McNulty – LA Times SWEET The Actor’s Gang [...]

Winnie Holzman and Paul Dooley in "Assisted Living" at the Odyssey Theatre. Credit:

ASSISTED LIVING: 87% – SWEET

SWEET Holzman/Dooley fans (as well as fans of quality theatre in Los Angeles) are in for a treat as their absorbing, witty and intricately woven, Assisted Living, is making its world premiere at The Odyssey Theatre in West Los Angeles running weekends through May 12. Xaque Gruber – Huffington Post SWEET This amiable item from [...]

Ron Eldard, Freddie Rodriguez, andBill Smitrovich in "America Buffalo" at the Geffen Playhouse. Credit:

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 [...]

Richard Perloff and Trisha Miller in "Chapter Two" at the Little Fish Theatre in San Pedro. Credit: Mickey Elliot.

CHAPTER TWO (LITTLE FISH): 100% – SWEET

SWEET Neil Simon’s Chapter Two is but the latest reason for Los Angeles theatergoers to head on down the 110 to San Pedro and check out this gem of a Little Fish in our very big L.A. theater pond. Steven Stanley – StageSceneLA SWEET The four actors who perform this riveting piece are not only [...]

"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 [...]

and Meredith Bishop in "Complete" at the Matrix Theatre. Credit: Ed Krieger.

COMPLETE: 58% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET The play is always interesting and fun to watch, and director Jennifer Chambers keeps the comedy in the forefront, but the insistently nonlinear structure sometimes proves distracting. Credibility also is an issue. Neal Weaver – LA Weekly SWEET The play goes back and forth in time, and director Jennifer Chambers, who was once a [...]

"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 [...]

"Walking the Tightrope" at the 24th Street Theatre. Credit: Cindy Marie Jenkins.

WALKING THE TIGHTROPE: 100% – SWEET

SWEET Director Debbie Devine and her cohorts have fashioned from scratch something incredibly special, suggesting the feeling of a sweet summer dream staged by Federico Fellini. Travis Michael Holder – Backstage SWEET Devine’s staging is quite entrancing, and White even overcomes the perils of being a grown woman cast as a young girl. Don Shirley [...]

Diane Cary, left, Sharon Sharth and Jane Kaczmarek in "The Snake Can" at the Odyssey Theatre. Credit: Ed Krieger.

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 [...]

THE MOTHERFUCKER WITH THE HAT (SOUTH COAST REP): 94% – SWEET

THE MOTHERFUCKER WITH THE HAT (SOUTH COAST REP): 94% – SWEET

SWEET If it’s possible to write a play about addiction and attempted recovery that’s both darkly earnest and ruthlessly funny, then Stephen Adly Guirgis has done exactly that. His incisive 2011 Broadway hit “The Motherfucker With the Hat,” about drugs and drinking, love and infidelity, pulls no punches in depicting characters who are messed up [...]

Robert Standley and Tanna Frederick in "The Rainmaker" at Edgemar Center for the Arts. Credit: Ron Vignone.

THE RAINMAKER (EDGEMAR CENTER FOR THE ARTS): 91% – SWEET

SWEET All the players are ablaze in this terrific version of N. Richard Nash’s classic play, thanks to Jack Heller’s careful direction, Christopher Stone’s beautiful set design, Juliet Klanchar’s lighting, and Kelly Fluker’s costumes. But, bottom line, the play belongs to Tanna Frederick, and Meryl Streep couldn’t do it better. Cynthia Citron -LA Examiner SWEET [...]

Huffington Post’s Top Los Angeles Theatre Productions of 2012

Huffington Post’s Top Los Angeles Theatre Productions of 2012

This latest Best of LA Theater List over at HuffPo is from writer Brad Schreiber. It’s a very eclectic offering. And when I say “eclectic” I mean that I saw almost none of them. Which means nothing really, as many of these were on a lot of the Best Of Lists which you can peurse [...]