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The cast of "Songs of Bilitis" at the Bootleg Theatre. Credit: Chelsea Sutton.

SONGS OF BILITIS: 75% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET Though the temptation to overstress the element of literary fraud is thankfully eschewed, one might overall have preferred perhaps less lapidary care to the constituent elements at the expense of unbridled excess, but Songs of Bilitis succeeds as a graceful invitation into the world of imaginative creation and the glories of the senses. Myron [...]

in "Therapy" at the Secret Rose Theatre. Credit: Jonah Light.

THERAPY: 75% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET While the story is engaging and follows a plausible trajectory, tightening the threads of the plot to allow for longer development of the characters’ issues would improve the audience buy-in. At play’s end, the three therapists have begun to address their personal lives more proactively, but it is more mechanical and tidy than emotional. [...]

City Garage present Megan Kim and RJ Jones in "Caged" at the Bergamot Station. Credit: Paul M. Rubenstein.

CAGED: 92% – SWEET

SWEET Though not overly dramatic, Duncombe’s smartly written script is delightfully provocative and insightful. Performances are sharply calibrated under Frederique Michel’s direction. Lovell Estell III – LA Weekly SWEET Charles A. Duncombe’s “Caged” is itself a fascinating study, full of sharp, funny, and touching observations about the human species, in all its variations. It’s a [...]

Tom Christensen, from left, Perry Smith and Thomas F. Evans in "Happy Face Sad Face" at the Elephant Lillian Theatre. Credit: Randolph Adams.

HAPPY FACE SAD FACE: 56% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER It all sounds very intriguing, but Colleary and director Kathleen Rubin, who has helmed two of Colleary’s previous plays, have this time collaborated on a well-meaning experiment gone awry. F. Kathleen Foley – LA Times SWEET Director Kathleen Rubin has truly met the tremendous challenge of balance in the piece. While the text is [...]

"The Christmas Present" at Sacred Fools Theater. Credit: Jessica Sherman-Prince.

THE CHRISTMAS PRESENT (SACRED FOOLS): 100% – SWEET

SWEET This isn’t a wild and edgy comedy; it’s not even particularly outrageous, and we don’t quite take the danger element seriously. But when you put it all together, “The Christmas Present” is just the sort of evening that some of us have been looking for this time of year. Jennie Webb – Backstage SWEET [...]

The Group Rep presents Bert Emmett and Patrick Burke in "Sherlock's Last Case" at the Lonny Chapman Theatre. Credit: Sherry Netherland.

SHERLOCK’S LAST CASE (GROUP REP): 82% – SWEET

SWEET Sherlock’s Last Case is another notch in the belts of co-artistic directors Winfield and Eisenberg, and a real step forward for this already momentum-laden company. Radomir Luza – North Hollywood-Tolca Lake Patch SWEET A wickedly satisfying British play, loaded with saucy twists ‘n’ turns and plenty of chuckles … which makes the final outcome [...]

Alan Ehrlich, foreground, and, from left, Lucan Melkonian, Julianna Bolles and Jamie Kerezsi in "86'd" at Theatre 68. Credit: Matt McVay.

86′D: 75% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET Would that all indie films translated to the stage as well as “86’d” at Theatre 68. Jon Polito and Darryl Armbruster’s dark comedy about collective moral equivalency in a late-night diner weathers some blips in tone and casting to hold us in uncomfortably laughing thrall. David C. Nichols – LA Times BITTERSWEET But in [...]

Ron Bottitta and Kristina Lloyd in "More Dark" at the Odyssey Theatre. Credit: Joseph De Soto.

THEATRE IN THE DARK: MORE DARK (EVENING TWO): 80% – SWEET

SWEET Clever, deftly choreographed and technically impressive, the production efficiently transports its audience as far afield as the drizzly London of a randy radio play (“Forbidden Fire”) or a fairy-laden British forest (an excerpt from A Midsummer Night’s Dream), but the true setting of many of its episodes is the liminal space between consciousness and [...]

David E. Frank in "The Bald Soprano: A Christmas Anti-Play" at City Garage in Santa Monica. Credit: Paul M. Rubenstein.

THE BALD SOPRANO (CITY GARAGE): 92% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET The City Garage staging of Eugene Ionesco’s midcentury absurdist farce “The Bald Soprano: A Christmas Anti-Play” has all the ingredients for intoxication but goes down like one of Sally’s Shirley Temples – it’s a classic but lacks a certain kick. Charlotte Stoudt – LA Times SWEET It’s an early and classic example of theatre [...]

The company of "Theatre in the Dark: Dark'" at the Odyssey. Credit: Vesna Hocevar.

THEATRE IN THE DARK: DARK (EVENING ONE): 96% – SWEET

SWEET In a seamless staging, the dozen performers move through the blackness with almost uncanny agility and poise. F. Kathleen Foley – LA Times SWEET It’s creative and imaginative and full of surprises. Rose Desena – Los Angeles Post SWEET Some ideas don’t even sound good on paper. This one, however, turns out to be [...]

Michelle Flowers, left, Lee Sherman and Tamika Simpkins in "Ritual" part of "Black Women: State of the Union-Taking Flight" at Skypilot Theatre. Credit: BWSOTF.

BLACK WOMEN: STATE OF THE UNION-TAKING FLIGHT: 100% – SWEET

SWEET Still, the overall cohesiveness and collected wisdom imparted from the production is a far greater reward and a testament to these female playwrights who reveal their individual voices while blending their work into a satisfying whole. M.R. Hunter – EyeSpyLA SWEET Six smart, sassy playlets under the collective title Black Women: State of the [...]

Diarra Kilpatrick and cast in "In the Red & Brown Water" at the Fountain Theatre. Credit: Ed Krieger.

IN THE RED AND BROWN WATER: 100% – SWEET

SWEET Beyond the fact that it is sensational, the Fountain Theatre’s production of “In the Red and Brown Water” by Tarell Alvin McCraney is important for two reasons: It introduces Los Angeles audiences to a dramatic poet in the process of discovering his singular voice and it shows how magnificently one of L.A.’s better small [...]

Ethan Rains, from left, Deborah Puette, Johnathan McClain and Adam Silver in "Creation" at Boston Court Performing Arts Center. Credit: Ed Krieger.

CREATION: 84% – SWEET

SWEET Still, “Creation” details the birth pangs of new art, new love, new selves. In its best moments, the play pushes beyond its cerebral premise toward something urgent and fully human. Charlotte Stoudt – LA Times SWEET One of the most fascinating new plays I’ve seen this past year, Kathryn Walat’s Creation is even better [...]

THE BELLFLOWER SESSIONS: 67% – BITTERSWEET

THE BELLFLOWER SESSIONS: 67% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET A gritty, hard hitting look at the dark places people’s psyches will go … when put in compromising life situations, this is a psychologically intriguing and most involving story. Pat Taylor – Tolucan Times BITTER Despite director Rasmussen’s clever compartmentalized staging and the valiant efforts of Nagle, Monks, and Erb, “The Bellflower Sessions” is [...]

"On Golden Pond" at the Glendale Centre Theatre. Credit:  Tim Dietlein.

ON GOLDEN POND (GLENDALE CENTRE THEATRE): 60% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET On Golden Pond is really an old chestnut but has many laughs and is bound to provoke a tear or two. Robert Machray – Stagehappenings BITTER After seeing the stage version of On Golden Pond, now playing at The Glendale Centre Theatre, it’s impossible not to think how much more rewarding it would have [...]

Michael Grant and Amy K. Harmon in "All Your Hard Work" at Brimmer Street Theatre. Credit: Michael Lamont.

ALL YOUR HARD WORK: 80% – SWEET

BITTER The evening is so typical of an average theatergoing experience lately: one actor does well, the other does not; the script has interesting dialogue, but the overall play doesn’t give reason for its existence; great direction at times, but missed opportunities at others. But when the overall theatrical experience is a near-miss, it’s forgotten [...]

"Our House" at the Lounge Theatre. Credit: Ed Krieger.

OUR HOUSE (LOUNGE THEATRE): 63% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET The production is technically somewhat chaotic. Dan Mailley’s game-board setting is colorful but a bit cumbersome, and Corwin Evans’ video elements have a way to go. “Our House” has its moments, but not enough of them. Jennie Webb – Backstage BITTER Striving to combine scathing satire with black comedy, the production’s uneven tone renders [...]

Laurie O'Brien in  "I Am Chrissie" at Skylight/Skylab Theatre. Credit: Ed Krieger.

I AM CHRISSIE: 100% – SWEET

SWEET This intense solo show about O’Brien’s theater work with the mentally ill during the 1970s feels unfinished, but its passion compels. Charlotte Stoudt – LA Times SWEET Director Tony Abatemarco guides this strong performer with a sure hand, and we follow the progress of the curious relationship between the two women. Though this may [...]

The cast of "Hamlet" at Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre. Credit: Zombie Joe.

HAMLET (ZOMBIE JOE’S UNDERGROUND): 100% – SWEET

SWEET It’s usually more than a bit eerie and grisly, but this time it’s also more elevated: a barebones telling of “Hamlet,” Shakespeare’s murderous tale of revenge, that is powerful and affecting, thanks to the always game company and Rafael Goldstein’s marvelous Hamlet. Jennie Webb – Backstage SWEET Something is rotten in the state of [...]

THE WOMEN OF TU-NA HOUSE (BEST OF FRINGE): 100% – SWEET

THE WOMEN OF TU-NA HOUSE (BEST OF FRINGE): 100% – SWEET

SWEET Eng is a polished performer who delivers super characterizations, and director Ernest Abuba keeps everything moving smoothly. The writing is sharp, but the show’s poetic interludes add a sticky layer that just isn’t necessary. Jennie Webb – Backstage SWEET All are played with skill and panache by writer-performer Nancy Eng. Individual stories may be [...]

ANACONDA (BEST OF FRINGE): 67% – BITTERSWEET

ANACONDA (BEST OF FRINGE): 67% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET Doyle is a gifted writer who gives us a number of marvelous moments. Nevertheless, despite some amazing performances, “Anaconda” never quite coalesces. Jennie Webb – Backstage SWEET Anaconda is definitely not for the faint-hearted; there are some descriptions of graphic violence that made this critic queasy. Nevertheless, Sarah Doyle’s effective play is well worth [...]

Roberto Garza), Miguel Santana, Henry Aceves Madrid, Larry Costales and Andrea Santana in "Trio Los Machos" at Casa 0101 Theater. Credit: Martin Rojas.

TRIO LOS MACHOS: 58% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET Although the production feels bumpy and under-rehearsed, its portrait of the trio glows with a deep and memorable sympathy. Margaret Gray – LA Times SWEET The cast members are stronger musicians than they are actors, and the gifted guitarists and impassioned singers carry the play to its greatest emotional heights. Sara Taylor Ellis – [...]

"Language Rooms" at LATC. Credit: David Allen Studios.

LANGUAGE ROOMS: 93% – SWEET

SWEET Go see Language Rooms now. Tony Frankel – Stage and Cinema SWEET This particular room should have been packed. I’m hardly alone in my belief that this play creates the kind of excitement mentioned above, the kind of excitement that too many people feel that they have to fly to New York for. This [...]

"Aftershocks" at the Lyric Theatre. Credit: Richard M. Johnson.

AFTERSHOCKS (LYRIC THEATRE): 60% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET Aftershocks is at times lighthearted and at times shockingly raw and does a good time balancing and juxtaposing the two, although I found the latter better done and decidedly more memorable than the former. Joel Elkins – LA Theatre Review SWEET Once again, Mr. Haverty has written a play worth seeing. Nancy Bianconi – [...]

Cloe Kromwell, John Colella, Jonathan Bray and Julia McIlvaine in "Sideways: The Play" at the Ruskin Group Theatre. Credit: Agnes Magyari.

SIDEWAYS: THE PLAY: 92% – SWEET

SWEET Adapted by Rex Pickett from his novel (which also spawned the 2004 hit movie), their oenophilial odyssey makes an enjoyable if at times leisurely debut in its stage incarnation at Ruskin Group Theatre. Philip Brandes – LA Times BITTERSWEET In this intimate world premiere, we have a fun time swilling with the errant boys [...]

Andre Hollins, Lynette Alfaro, and Page Leong in "Café Vida'" at LATC. Credit: John Luker.

CAFE VIDA (LATC): 100% – SWEET

SWEET Regardless of what you think about this brief interruption, the production as a whole coheres persuasively, as directed by Cornerstone artistic director Michael John Garcés. I missed 3 Truths in 2010, but otherwise I think I’ve seen all of Cornerstone’s major productions since Garcés took the helm of the company six years ago, and [...]

Harold Surratt, from left, Warner Joseph Miller, LeRoy McClain, Pascale Armand and Cheryl Lynn Bruce in Danai Gurira's "The Convert."  Credit: T. Charles Erickson /

THE CONVERT: 89% – SWEET

SWEET The devastating clash between Western culture and religion and African tradition and spirituality is at the heart of this masterful new work. Director Emily Mann has mounted a production that’s as compelling as it is gorgeous. Jennie Webb – Backstage SWEET Brought to life by Emily Mann’s subtle direction, a splendid set by Daniel [...]

Caitlin Gallogly, left, and Patricia Canale in "No Time to Weep" at the Matrix Theatre. Credit: Steven Beitler.

NO TIME TO WEEP (MATRIX THEATRE): 67% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER Not since Mel Brooks’ outrageous “Springtime for Hitler” has there been a Holocaust musical as ill-conceived and badly performed as No Time to Weep, now onstage at L.A.’s Matrix Theater. Cynthia Citron – LA Examiner SWEET Standing ovations at the Matrix Theatre greeted the actors of Lucy Deutsch’s Holocaust life story, No Time To [...]

John D. LeMay, Bryan Bertone, Bjørn Johnson and Ehrin Marlow in "Early and Often" at Open Fist Theatre. Credit: Maia Rosenfeld.

EARLY AND OFTEN: 75% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET It’s unclear how many of the period jokes and references will register with viewers not steeped in the legacy of former Mayor Richard J. Daley’s political machine, but the intricately plotted shenanigans tap a cynicism that never goes out of style. With inanimate corporations now enjoying the same rights as people, the idea of [...]

Fidel Gomez and Sam Golzari in "The Vault: Bankrupt" at LATC. Credit: Koury Angelo.

THE VAULT: BANKRUPT: 100% – SWEET

SWEET Credit too to Hazel Kuang’s scenic design, Jasmine Orpilla’s original music and video appearances, and Patsy McCormack’s lighting. Their scrappy yet stylish efforts do a nice job framing this evening of smart and silly satire. Jennie Webb – Backstage SWEET Yet although the message is somewhat murky, the show still works as pure entertainment [...]