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BLITHE SPIRIT (AHMANSON THEATRE): 80% - SWEET

BLITHE SPIRIT (AHMANSON THEATRE): 80% – SWEET

SWEET Coward’s work enables virtuosos who possess technique that’s as polished as it is effortless to reach new heights. Lansbury might as well be flying across the Ahmanson stage. Seeing her in “Blithe Spirit” is as joyful as staring at a Christmas tree being decorated by birds and elves. Charles McNulty – LA Times SWEET […]

Critique of the Week

Critique of the Week

Karen Weinstein brings such an interesting psycho-analytical approach to her reviews. This is a prime example. INTO THE WOODS Karen Weinstein – Culture Vulture Trip thee lightly into the woods my darlings but beware the eternal dangers lurking there. Thus it is and thus it shall always be. The woods are full of wolves, giants, […]

The Saturday Saying

The Saturday Saying

“The world does not need a sanitized version of “Into The Woods” and children do not need all the production values of a Disney blowout (though Meryl Streep will probably do the Witch’s role justice). The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has produced a musical that truly works magic across generations. Some may protest that parts of […]

INTO THE WOODS (OREGON SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL/THE WALLIS): 92% - SWEET

INTO THE WOODS (OREGON SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL/THE WALLIS): 92% – SWEET

SWEET This OSF production at the Wallis may not have the star power of the screen version coming out on Christmas Day, but it has the buoyancy and complexity of feeling that have turned Sondheim and Lapine’s work into a modern classic. I can’t think of a better holiday treat than seeing this dark fantasy […]

WHAT THE BUTLER SAW (MARK TAPER): 82% - SWEET

WHAT THE BUTLER SAW (MARK TAPER): 82% – SWEET

SWEET “What the Butler Saw” represents Orton at his most sophisticatedly silly. It’s a play bursting with references to other plays, including even one of the greatest tragedies ever written, Euripides’ “The Bacchae.” Sad as it is to reflect on what this author might have gone on to accomplish had he not been cut down […]

The Saturday Saying

The Saturday Saying

“I began this review by discussing the advantage to theaters of producing one-person shows, and the short-cut writing a personal memoir offers. Orlandersmith often consulted a notebook as she expounded on her story. But the number of times she seemed to stumble suggests it was not well rehearsed and undermines the notion that the notebook […]

FOREVER: 67% - BITTERSWEET

FOREVER: 67% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET From a theatrical perspective, unmodulated rage works best in small doses; too much of it stuns the senses. Subtler moments, as when she confesses her dreams of marrying the Irish cop who was kind to her after her rape, can be more effective. Margaret Gray – LA Times SWEET Forever concludes with the death […]

THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL (AHMANSON THEATRE): 97% - SWEET

THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL (AHMANSON THEATRE): 97% – SWEET

SWEET Ultimately, what makes this harrowing “Trip” endurable, even uplifting, is Carrie’s hard-won humor and wisdom, and the peace she is able to make with her own unhappiness before she is caught and marched back to Houston. “There are worse things,” she dryly retorts when the sheriff reflects on her childhood friend’s “lonely death alone […]

MARJORIE PRIME: 67% - BITTERSWEET

MARJORIE PRIME: 67% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER A terrible play, and depressing as well, playwright Jordan Harrison’s Marjorie Prime is set in a not-too-distant future and imagines a world where sophisticated robots have been fashioned as human companions. Harrison’s one-act drama doesn’t really have a plot — it’s more of a character study. We see a series of scenes within which […]

CHOIR BOY (GEFFEN PLAYHOUSE): 86% - SWEET

CHOIR BOY (GEFFEN PLAYHOUSE): 86% – SWEET

BITTER Tarell Alvin McCraney’s 2012 Choir Boy is a tantalizing, underdeveloped play-with-music not entirely improved by Trip Cullman’s direction, now at the Geffen a year after the production’s Manhattan Theater Club bow. Jason Michael Webb’s tasteful vocal arrangements sound terrific via Fitz Patton’s crisp sound design, but the very assurance and gravity of the “negro […]

BUYER AND CELLAR: 98% - SWEET

BUYER AND CELLAR: 98% – SWEET

SWEET Wicked without being unnecessarily cruel, Buyer and Cellar takes jabs at the cult of celebrity while reminding us why we’re so fascinated by it in the first place. Streisand’s eccentric behavior is counterbalanced by nice moments of humanity — awkwardly comforting a distraught Alex or revealing a painful childhood secret. But then Barry makes […]

THE TALLEST TREE IN THE FOREST (MARK TAPER FORUM): 64% - BITTERSWEET

THE TALLEST TREE IN THE FOREST (MARK TAPER FORUM): 64% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET Daniel Beaty brings this story to the Mark Taper Forum in his solo show “The Tallest Tree in the Forest,” a respectful and intelligent if dramatically disappointing recap of Robeson’s life. Charles McNulty – LA Times SWEET Whether or not you’ve heard of Paul Robeson, once you see the new play written by and […]

The Saturday Saying

The Saturday Saying

“Which brings me back to the original point: how much should, or do, we care about revisiting Ruth Draper? Put another way, would most of us be interested in this project if it were not being performed by someone of Annette Bening’s stature? Bening is reverential to the original Draper. Admittedly she is a pleasure […]

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 […]

MY NAME IS ASHER LEV: 94% - SWEET

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 […]

VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE: 84% - SWEET

VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE: 84% – SWEET

SWEET The show, directed by David Hyde Pierce following Nicholas Martin’s Broadway staging, opened at the Mark Taper Forum on Sunday in tiptop shape. Indeed, you can mark this down as a shimmering example of an out-of-town production improving the touted original. Charles McNulty – LA Times SWEET An actor must deliver in the here […]

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THOMAS JEFFERSON, CHARLES DICKENS AND COUNT LEO TOLSTOY: DISCORD (GEFFEN PLAYHOUSE RE-MOUNT): 88% - SWEET

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THOMAS JEFFERSON, CHARLES DICKENS AND COUNT LEO TOLSTOY: DISCORD (GEFFEN PLAYHOUSE RE-MOUNT): 88% – SWEET

SWEET Carefully compiled references and biographical details whiz by in Matt August’s finely tuned staging, with superb performances illuminating the clashing personalities that drive three discordant takes on Christianity. Philip Brandes – LA Times SWEET Strong acting, design, and writing enliven NoHo Arts’ Center’s entertaining, thought-provoking world premiere production of The Gospel According to Thomas […]

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 […]

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 […]

HUMOR ABUSE: 98% - SWEET

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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

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

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 […]

BY THE WAY, MEET VERA STARK: 73% - BITTERSWEET

BY THE WAY, MEET VERA STARK: 73% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark” would rather be antic than preachy. This is a reasonable if not an entirely necessary trade-off. But Lathan fills out the human dimension of a character Nottage clearly loves too much to weep over. Charles McNulty – LA Times BITTERSWEET The evening at the Geffen is overall something […]

CHERRY DOCS: 67% - BITTERSWEET

CHERRY DOCS: 67% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET Overall this is a play worth seeing and since it is at one my favorite venues it is definitely worth a trip to Topanga Canyon. Mickala Jauregui – ALittleNightMusic SWEET The inviting natural setting of the Will Greer Theatricum Botanicum could only enhance any play that performs here and that is more so for […]

RED (MARK TAPER): 94% - SWEET

RED (MARK TAPER): 94% – SWEET

SWEET Alfred Molina’s volcanic incarnation of painter Mark Rothko is reason enough to rush to the Taper for John Logan’s “Red,” to say nothing of the involving text and visual audacity of helmer Michael Grandage’s impeccably imported Donmar Warehouse production. Bob Verini – Variety SWEET In their finest moments, Logan’s script and Molina’s performance combine […]

THE EXORCIST (GEFFEN PLAYHOUSE): 46% - BITTER

THE EXORCIST (GEFFEN PLAYHOUSE): 46% – BITTER

BITTER The physical production is just so much more persuasive than the dramatic encounters contained within it. The casting of Brooke Shields, lovely as always to look at, doesn’t enhance the work’s credibility, although I think she would be terrific in an alternative camp version directed by John Waters. Playing actress Chris MacNeil, the bewildered […]

WAR HORSE (AHMANSON THEATRE): 88% - SWEET

WAR HORSE (AHMANSON THEATRE): 88% – SWEET

SWEET If you can only see one play this year, make it “War Horse.” Jean Lowerison – SDGLN SWEET Yes, it’s sentimental. Yes, there are scenes that might have given even as inveterate a melodramatist as Charles Dickens pause. But this 2011 best play Tony winner, which launched its national tour at the Ahmanson Theatre […]

LOS OTROS: 46% - BITTER

LOS OTROS: 46% – BITTER

BITTERSWEET “Los Otros” is curious about the manifold layers of personal identity, but in a desultory way that deprives the work of sufficient dramatic pressure. The Southern California lens adds local interest, but that and first-class underscoring aren’t enough to transform these essayistic compositions into riveting theater. Charles McNulty – LA Times BITTERSWEET While some […]