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The Saturday Saying

The Saturday Saying

“However — yes, there’s usually a “however.” This past week, as I made my rounds of new productions, I was struck yet again by one of the remarkable ironies of LA theater — too often, the smallest shows are in the biggest theaters and the biggest shows are in the smallest theaters.” Don Shirley – [...]

Jamison Jones, Amy Sloan, Maura Vincent and Hugo Armstrong in “God of Carnage” at the La Mirada Theatre. Photo by Michael Lamont.

GOD OF CARNAGE (LA MIRADA THEATRE): 100% – SWEET

SWEET Carnage itself may not be particularly fun to watch, but this God Of Carnage most certainly is. Steven Stanley – StageSceneLA SWEET Armstrong is terrific, but so is Maura Vincent as his prodding wife, who initiated this disastrous session. Ditto for Jamison Jones, as the corporate lawyer whose incessant cell phone conversations drive everyone [...]

Maria Tomas, Vincent Guastaferro, David Fraioli and Jonathan Kells Phillips in “On The Money” at the Victory Theatre. Photo by Tim Sullens.

ON THE MONEY (VICTORY THEATRE): 95% – SWEET

SWEET It’s a barnburner. Don Shirley – LA Stage Watch SWEET It is a brilliant revelation of human emotion exquisitely executed by a truly stellar cast. This is live theatre at its very best. Ron Irwin – LA Examiner SWEET The Victory Theatre Center has done a remarkable job with this production. The set is [...]

Los Angeles Theater by the Numbers: Strong and Growing

Los Angeles Theater by the Numbers: Strong and Growing

At least according to the always thorough Downer Don. For his annual “let’s check with Equity and see what the hell is REALLY going on in Los Angeles Theater” survey, Don has uncovered some very interesting stats. Behold: Professional theater in LA is growing, not shrinking — at least in terms of numbers of productions. [...]

The cast of "Passion Play" at the Odyssey Theatre. Photo: Enci.

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 [...]

Jennifer Shelton, Lindsey Alley, Marc Ginsburg with Brian Baker on piano in “Let’s Misbehave” at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. Photo: Suzanne Mapes.

LET’S MISBEHAVE (ICT): 98% – SWEET

SWEET We never learn why these three are so tight to begin with, but who cares if they express their current thoughts and feelings through more than 30 of Porter’s songs? Which they do, with admirable precision and grace. Todd Nielsen directed and choreorgraphed, with musical arrangements by co-conceiver Patrick Young and music supervision by [...]

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. [...]

Armin Shimerman, David Melville and Larry Cedar in "The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson..." at NoHo Arts Center. Photo: Michael Lamont.

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THOMAS JEFFERSON, CHARLES DICKENS AND COUNT LEO TOLSTOY: DISCORD: 94% – 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 National Theatre of Scotland's "The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart" at The Broad Stage. Photo: Drew Farrell.

THE STRANGE UNDOING OF PRUDENCIA HART (BROAD STAGE): 81% – SWEET

SWEET Her story celebrates a paradox of human nature — the proudly solitary yet inescapably communal character of our lives. The production could use some tightening. The final stretch devolves into silliness that is probably more fun for those heavily imbibing. But overall the insouciant theatricality is a refreshing antidote to all the plays timidly [...]

Tim Settle and Neil Thomas in "Jason and the Argonauts" at the Wallis Annenberg Performing Arts Center. Photo: Company.

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 [...]

Denis O'Hare in "An Illiad" at the Broad Stage. Photo: Lawrence K. Ho.

AN ILIAD (BROAD STAGE): 100% – SWEET

SWEET If you’re not already convinced that this is a show you miss at your own peril — Mr. O’Hare’s performance is an hour and 40 minute tour de force. Without giving away too much — he even makes sense out of Homer’s litanies — delivering the poignant reminder that what we’d like to think [...]

Barry McGovern in “I’ll Go On” at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Photo: Craig Schwartz.

I’LL GO ON (KIRK DOUGLAS THEATRE): 100% – SWEET

SWEET This performance is as fine as any performance can be. Steven Leigh Morris – LA Weekly SWEET McGovern has all the qualities of a superb Beckett interpreter. He relishes the comic brio even at its most scatological and possesses a voice that can draw out all the various hues of the verbal brilliance. Vehemence [...]

Jonathan Goldstein and Nikki McCauley in "The Twilight of Schlomo" at the Elephant Space. Photo: Company.

THE TWILIGHT OF SCHLOMO: 94% – SWEET

SWEET The climactic turn of Richard and Lydia could be slightly better foreshadowed in the direction and the writing, and this story screams for a synoptic stand-up epilogue. These are quibbles, because “The Twilight of Schlomo” is decidedly remarkable. Industry scouts and adventurous audiences should book tickets immediately. David C. Nichols – LA Times SWEET [...]

Megan Rippey, left, Sol Mason, Paul Sand and Shay Astar in "Kurt Weill at the Cuttlefish Hotel" at the West End Theatre. Photo: Agi Magyeri.

KURT WEILL AT THE CUTTLEFISH HOTEL (WEST END THEATRE): 90% – SWEET

SWEET Still, fans of the material may well find this sui generis item rewarding. It’s certainly a promising initial attraction, unlike anything else afloat on Southland stages. David C. Nichols – LA Times BITTERSWEET As director and musical director, Paul Sand and Michael Roth complement each other in creating evocative stage moments within each of [...]

Don Shirley, LA Stage Watch critic. Photo: Michael Chieffo.

Downer Don Shirley Rolls Out His Los Angeles Theater Highlights for 2013

As I mentioned in my faves for 2013, there are folks out there far more qualified than I to forge a list of the best of Los Angeles Theater 2013. Already gave you a taste of Chuck McNutt’s list – who had an East-West Coast thing going on - now Downer Don Shirley from LA Stage Watch [...]

WALKIN’ IN A WINTER ONE-HIT WONDERLAND (FALCON THEATRE): 86% – SWEET

WALKIN’ IN A WINTER ONE-HIT WONDERLAND (FALCON THEATRE): 86% – SWEET

SWEET Unlike their previous year-end offerings, based either on popular children’s TV specials (The Little Drummer Bowie, A Charlie James Brown Christmas) or on beloved movie hits (It’s A Stevie Wonderful Life, A Christmas Westside Story), Walking In A Winter One-Hit-Wonderland dispenses with storyline, big-cast production numbers, and even its usual second act to simply [...]

Cyrus Alexander and Chris Winfield  in "Mom's Gift" at the Lonny Chapman Theatre. Photo: Sherry Netherland.

MOM’S GIFT: 86% – SWEET

SWEET This is a talented group of actors, and the performances are credit worthy. Phil Olson’s marvelous script, and Sherry Netherland wonderful direction position this family so we see all their failings, as well as all the love they have to give. Cathy Wayne – NoHoArtsDistrict SWEET This story is a heartfelt cross between family [...]

Zombie Joe and Sebastian Munoz in "A Christmas Carol" at Zombie Joe's Underground. Photo: Adam Neubauer.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (ZOMBIE JOE’S UNDERGROUND): 100% – SWEET

SWEET The basics of the story are all here, but director Denise Devin has spiced the production with a few surprising twists, once again working theatrical magic with her customary no-frills staging, deftly marshaling a sizable ensemble in this limited performance space. Lovell Estell III – LA Weekly SWEET It wouldn’t be December without Christmas [...]

Leigh Golden, Craig McEldowney, Natalie Hope MacMillan and Chris Cooke in "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change" at Crown City Theatre. Photo: Company.

I LOVE YOU, YOU’RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE (CROWN CITY): 100% – SWEET

SWEET Truly a musical treat for eveyone! Lorenzo Marchessi – NoHoArtsDistrict SWEET As musical revues go, this show has a simple message of love and for the most part is enjoyable fare. The Crown production gets its umph and drive from its four standout performers. Don Grigware – Grigware Reviews SWEET Men may be from [...]

Michael Blomgren in "Blood of Macbeth" at Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre. Credit: Zombie Joe.

BLOOD OF MACBETH (ZOMBIE JOE’S UNDERGROUND): 100% – SWEET

SWEET So if you’re looking for a traditional MacBeth look elsewhere. If you want a 50-minute darkly sexual, inappropriately funny, thrill ride…don’t miss this one. Anthony Byrnes – KCRW SWEET It too is full of sound and fury, enacted collectively but signifying a manic swath of angst. It spits in our faces and winks. It [...]

MISSION TO MATE: 83% – SWEET

MISSION TO MATE: 83% – SWEET

SWEET Mitchell’s writing, with each “movement” interwoven in clever ways almost undetectable unless one pays sharp attention, is the star here. Travis Michael Holder – Backstage SWEET All in all though, it is a lovely way to spend an evening at the theater. Larry Pontius – Bitter Lemons SWEET What can I say, I laughed, [...]

"War Horse" at the Ahmanson Theatre. Credit: Brinkhoff Mogenburg.

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 [...]

The cast of "Very Still & Hard to See" at the Lex Theatre. Credit:

VERY STILL & HARD TO SEE: 83% – SWEET

BITTER Even with some wonderful dialogue, the playwright’s self-indulgent construction eschews an overarching story, which renders it impenetrable and not worth recommending, but if you want to witness the wickedly inventive Story Theatre-like staging of Michael Matthews, consistently the best director in Los Angeles, then by all means go to Hell. Tony Frankel – Stage [...]

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 [...]

The cast of "Follies" at the Ahmanson Theatre. Credit:

FOLLIES (AHMANSON THEATRE): 91% – SWEET

SWEET There’s so much to praise in the blissful Broadway revival of “Follies,” which opened Wednesday at the Ahmanson Theatre on the heels of its numerous Tony nominations, but let’s pay homage first to the sheer sophistication of the show itself. After experiencing “Follies” again — an adult entertainment if ever there was one — [...]

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 [...]

Thomas Viincent Kelly in "Bedfellows" at the McCadden Place Theatre. Credit:

BEDFELLOWS (NEW AMERICAN THEATRE): 75% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET Still, Bedfellows otherwise gathers enough momentum to, well, win an election or two. And how rare is it to see a play that’s set in the world of local LA politics? Don Shirley – LA Stage Watch SWEET Rose’s script intelligently defines these moral conflicts, and a committed cast make them visceral. The campaign [...]

Troy Kotsur and Paul Raci in "Cyrano" at the Fountain Theatre. Credit:

CYRANO (DEAF WEST/FOUNTAIN THEATRE): 94% – SWEET

SWEET Sachs and director Simon Levy have embarked on a major mission: bringing Rostand’s poetry-spewing protagonist to life using ASL, spoken word, and e-language. Thanks to Jeffrey Elias Teeter’s projections, flashed onto eight omnipresent monitors incorporated into Jeff McLaughlin’s versatile bare-bones set, nothing is lost in this superbly crafted production besides a large tub of [...]

"The Fix" at International City Theatre. Credit: Carlos Delgado.

THE FIX (INTERNATIONAL CITY THEATRE): 67% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET Even more fortuitously, director Randy Brenner (who helmed a previous production of the show at Musical Theatre Guild), manages to balance the book’s melodrama and the satire. He makes sure that the actors on the stage aren’t mouthpieces, but convey that they believe every line they say and sing. Jonas Schwartz – TheaterMania BITTERSWEET [...]

THE GIRL MOST LIKELY TO: 100% – SWEET

THE GIRL MOST LIKELY TO: 100% – SWEET

SWEET Even if someone living under that proverbial rock doesn’t know the fate of Araujo, it would be difficult to anticipate a happy ending as Premsrirat’s story unfolds, but under the bold, erotically charged leadership of director Jon Lawrence Rivera, who is blessed with a gamely inspired cast and design team, all the razzle-dazzle helps [...]