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Mandy Levin and Benjamin Mathes in "The Sleeper," at Theatre Tribe. Credit: Nancy Savan.

THE SLEEPER (THEATRE TRIBE): 100% – SWEET

SWEET Theatre Tribe continues its long string of unconventional hits with Catherine Butterfield’s The Sleeper. Laura Hitchcock – CurtainUp SWEET Gretchen complains in the dark comedy “The Sleeper,” now at Theatre Tribe, that our country had been attacked “for no reason?” As this zippy, hilarious revival of Catherine Butterfield’s 2004 play, flawlessly directed by Theatre [...]

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 — [...]

THE HEIRESS (PASADENA PLAYHOUSE): 97% – SWEET

THE HEIRESS (PASADENA PLAYHOUSE): 97% – SWEET

SWEET The theater might want to frisk future ticketholders for produce, or add an anger-management session to the bill: It’s that hard to handle the emotions provoked by this gorgeously directed and acted revival. Margaret Gray – LA Times SWEET “The Heiress” can easily devolve into a potboiler costume drama in the wrong hands, but [...]

Jane Kaczmarek and Jon Tenney star in "Good People" at the Geffen Playhouse. Photo by Michael Lamont.

GOOD PEOPLE (GEFFEN PLAYHOUSE): 96% – SWEET

SWEET Although Kaczmarek is the shining star of the show, she isn’t the only standout in the L.A. production of Good People. The sets, by designer Craig Siebels, are stunning, changing from a back alley to a kitchen to a church hall to a suburban mansion. And Marylouise Burke is an inveterate scene-stealer as Dottie, [...]

Anteaeus presents the Samovar cast of "The Seagull" at Deaf West Theatre. Credit: Alexandra Goodman.

THE SEAGULL (ANTAEUS): 82% – SWEET

SWEET I’ll admit it. When I hear the name Chekhov, the first words that pop into my head are dull, somber, and talky. That’s why it’s such a pleasure to report that the Antaeus Company’s revival of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull not only held my attention virtually throughout, it actually had me laughing more times [...]

Tessa Ferrer and Andy Wagner in “Brilliant Traces” at the Lounge Theatre 2. Credit: Tommy Burruss.

BRILLIANT TRACES (LOUNGE THEATRE 2): 86% – SWEET

SWEET Fortunately, director John Hindman and his talented performers unearth the fraught emotionalism beneath the inscrutable exchanges. Wagner displays real depth, but it is the indescribably unusual Ferrer who fascinates in a haunting turn that should be seen. F. Kathleen Foley – LA Times BITTERSWEET Compelling at key junctures, the reiterative script comes packed with [...]

Brendan Griffin, Damon Gupton, Annie Parisse, Crystal A. Dickinson and Jeremy Shamos in the Playwrights Horizons production of "€œClybourne Park"€ at the Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum

CLYBOURNE PARK (MARK TAPER): 92% – SWEET

SWEET Can a drama be memorable if all its characters are disagreeable? Bruce Norris proves that it’s possible in “Clybourne Park,” his smart, abrasively funny and fiendishly provocative play that opened Wednesday at the Mark Taper Forum. Charles McNulty – LA Times SWEET Director Pam McKinnon adeptly guides a strong ensemble through Norris’ steady stream [...]

Anna Gunn in "Radiance: The Passion of Marie Curie" at the Geffen Playhouse. Credit: Michael Lamont.

RADIANCE: THE PASSION OF MARIE CURIE: 77% – SWEET

BITTER The Geffen Playhouse production has assembled a top-notch cast and secured a fine director, but the show’s mundane recitation of facts and misplaced focus on Curie’s love life fails to become a fitting tribute or quality drama. Terry Morgan – LAist BITTERSWEET The work is exquisitely mounted by veteran director Daniel Sullivan and features [...]

and Geoffrey Nauffts in "Next Fall" at the Geffen Playhouse. Credit: Michael Lamont.

NEXT FALL (GEFFEN PLAYHOUSE): 80% – SWEET

SWEET Director Sheryl Kaller elicits multilayered performances. Marked with sensitivity and grace, this West Coast premiere rendition is alternately hilarious and heartbreaking. Les Spindle – Backstage SWEET But all credit to the company for managing to go on with the show after the death of Geffen founder and producing director Gil Cates. This offering, worthwhile [...]

French Stewart, Laurie Metcalf and Maile Flanagan in "Voice Lessons" at the Whitefire Theatre. Credit: Ed Krieger.

VOICE LESSONS (WHITEFIRE REVIVAL): 93% – SWEET

SWEET Just when things get really interesting, the play ends. It’s a bit of a cheat, given the rampant possibilities of a second-act romance between two self-haters who yearn to be even slightly cherished. But both Metcalf and Stewart, veterans of Tanner’s bumpy comedies, know how to work every moment of this 60-minute show. They [...]

DEsnie Crosby and Jaqueline Wright in "House of Gold" at the Atwater Village Theatre. Credit: Thom Bertelson.

HOUSE OF GOLD: 77% – SWEET

SWEET The beauty of McFadden’s and her professional crew’s efforts for this production and the other shows I’ve seen at the Atwater Village Theatre is that they spend the energy and truly invest talent and cash to commit fully to the edgy and innovative productions they opt to mount. This is disturbing material and though [...]

The "Epps Cocoa" cast of Noel Coward's “Peace In Our Time” at the Deaf West Theatre.  Credit: Geoffrey Wade

PEACE IN OUR TIME (THE ANTAEUS COMPANY): 90% – SWEET

SWEET This handsome production will get an audience – with this many cast members, how could it not – but it especially ought to be seen by young people, and most specifically by those who don’t think they like theater. Disguised as imagined history, like all great art it’s about the future. It’s a very [...]

Justin Okin, Amanda Mauer and Edward Tournier in "Monkey Adored" at Rogue Machine. Credit: Photo by John Flynn

MONKEY ADORED: 77% – SWEET

SWEET An uneven production of an uneven text, the audacious vest-pocket spectacle is nevertheless one of the most captivating attractions around right now. Bob Verini – Variety BITTERSWEET Still, the idea of an underground society of animals who ape humans and hate humans at the same time is fascinating, I wish the irony of these [...]

Dakin and Baba in "The Tragedy of the Commons" at the Ruskin Group Theatre. Credit: Agnes Magyari.

THE TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS: 95% – SWEET

SWEET The otherwise well-done play lacks a certain cohesion, so the final climactic scenes leave something to be desired in terms of passion and heightened emotion. But that aside, Metcalfe has written a thoughtful bit of prose about the tragedies that shape our common lives, and the Ruskin has done it justice. Jessica Pauline Ogilvie [...]

Johanna Day and Reg Rogers in "Poor Behavior" at the Mark Taper Forum. Credit: Craig Schwartz/Center Theatre Group

POOR BEHAVIOR (MARK TAPER): 73% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET Poor Behavior’s talented quartet of actors engage in a wonderful game of verbal volleyball, taking place in the wonderful world of he said, she said, bouncing from one character to the next, without any signs of any performer dropping the ball. Johanna Day, Sharon Lawrence, Reg Rogers and Christopher Evan Welch work as a [...]

Charlie Saxton, Abigail Revasch and Andrew Ableson in "End Days" at the Odyssey Theatre. Credit: Enci.

END DAYS: 88% – SWEET

SWEET Laufer’s characters are broad, predictable, and obvious, but director Lisa James and her able cast bring enough zest and humor of their own to keep things amusing, until the writer abandons her satiric edge for a feel-good ending and the proceedings go dramatically limp. Neal Weaver – Backstage BITTER Unfortunately, such feeble whimsies rarely [...]

Christina Pickles and Hal Linden in "On Golden Pond" at the Colony Theatre. Credit: Michael Lamont.

ON GOLDEN POND (COLONY THEATRE): 100% – SWEET

SWEET The 30-year-old play is gentle and darkly humorous but strikes a chilling chord as we watch this charmer’s self-aware terror at the descent into oblivion. No small amount of credit goes to 80-year-old Hal Linden in the central role of cantankerous articulate 79-year-old Norman Thayer. Laura Hitchcock – CurtainUp SWEET But a brilliant cast [...]

Gabriel Sunday and Polly Draper in "The Escort" at the Geffen Playhouse.  Photo courtesy of Stefano Paltera / For The Times

THE ESCORT: 91% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET The play, a world premiere, is on the road to a destination that hasn’t yet been discovered. Some of this has to do with Anderson’s expository writing style, and some with director Lisa Peterson’s punching scene transitions that obscure some reflective essences in Anderson’s writing. Some with lapses of credibility and some with the [...]

Jeff Daniels, Marcia Gay Harden,  Hope Davis, James Gandolfini. Bottom: Gandolfini and Harden in "God of Carnage" at the Ahmanson. Photo courtesy of Barbara Davidson/Los Angeles Times

GOD OF CARNAGE (AHMANSON): 100% – SWEET

SWEET The play’s insights hardly constitute breaking news, but what great fun it is watching these characters tear into one another’s self-regard. The performances are broader than they were on Broadway — the Ahmanson requires the actors to ratchet up their technique — but they’re still a chomping treat. Charles McNulty – LA Times SWEET [...]

"Small Engine Repair" presented by Rogue Machine Theatre at Theatre/Theater.  Photo courtesy of John P. Flynn.

SMALL ENGINE REPAIR: 100% – SWEET

SWEET Director Andrew Block extracts such realistic performances from his cast that we almost forget we are watching a play, as the appalling action unfolds mere inches away. Pauline Adamek – LA Weekly SWEET Let’s simply say there’s much more than gears and pistons churning in this greasy repair shop. Director Andrew Block’s pitch-perfect world-premiere [...]

Nicole Paggi, Brooke Shields, Andrea Bendewald and Constance Zimmer in "Girls Talk" at the Lee Strasberg Theatre.  Photo courtesy ofce: Michael Lamont)

GIRLS TALK: 100% – SWEET

SWEET That events become so absorbing despite the contrivance is partly because Kumble sets aside the details for an incisive consideration of motherhood vs. career in general. Mostly it’s due to the cast’s skill: Shields has never been more confident or winning, and Bendewald and Zimmer are equally matched as formidable confidantes at cross purposes. [...]

WISH I HAD A SYLVIA PLATH: 88% – SWEET

WISH I HAD A SYLVIA PLATH: 88% – SWEET

SWEET Nonetheless, it’s a show not be missed, whether you’re a theatre techie, an acting nut, or simply a person who wants to see a show that teaches an important lesson, which is that death is most certainly not the end of life. Joshua Morrison – FineArtsLA SWEET Davidson, in a full-skirted red dress, can [...]

Jesse Merlin and George Wendt in "Re-Animator: The Musical" at the Steven Allen Theatre.  Photo courtesy of the Steven Allen Theatre.

RE-ANIMATOR: THE MUSICAL (HAYWORTH REVIVAL): 100% – SWEET

SWEET The keys to this kingdom, however, are the combination of the brilliant comic ensemble and Gordon’s pristine craftsmanship as a director — his perfect unity of styles, and his sculpting of each short scene to bring narrative turning points to the fore, supplemented by Jeff Ravitz’s lighting and musical director/arranger Peter Adams’ building of [...]

Photos: Top: Samantha Mathis, Jane Fonda, Greg Keller in "33 Variations" at the Ahmanson Theatre. Photo courtesy of Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times.

33 VARIATIONS (AHMANSON): 100% – SWEET

SWEET Fonda may overplay Katherine’s crisp authoritarianism, and her Cosmo covergirl styling crazily suggests that musicologists have the same disposable income as Hollywood royalty. But she offers a moving, vanity-free depiction of her character’s physical descent. And the spiritual enlightenment that follows, bringing her all sorts of epiphanies into Beethoven’s work and the precious value [...]

STORIES BY HEART: 100% – SWEET

STORIES BY HEART: 100% – SWEET

SWEET Don’t get me wrong: Lithgow is excellent company, and his personal story is compactly conveyed with genuine poignancy. (Not for nothing is he a bestselling children’s book author.) “Stories by Heart” also serves as a reminder in this age of increasingly gargantuan spectacles that simplicity can more than hold its own onstage. But the [...]

Emily Kuroda and Melody Butiu in "Calligraphy" at Los Angeles Theatre Center. Credit: Ed Krieger.

CALLIGRAPHY: 75% – Sweet [UPDATED]

SWEET Houston’s intimate focus benefits from moving performances in Jon Lawrence Rivera’s sensitive, finely tuned staging for this joint Playwrights’ Arena–Latino Theatre Company/LATC production. “Calligraphy” is not a play about huge events, but the emotional stakes are high as Hiromi and her cousin try to bring about a face-to-face reconciliation between their feuding mothers while [...]

Photo: Jane Kaczmarek and Stephen Caffrey in "The Autumn Garden" at Deaf West Theatre, presented by Antaeus Theatre Company. Credit: Ed Krieger.

THE AUTUMN GARDEN: 100% – Sweet [UPDATED]

SWEET It’s a treat to see so many accomplished Los Angeles actors in this intimate setting, and the production marks the close of an ambitious first year for this classical theater company. I found myself curious to see the other cast, whose members include Kurtwood Smith and Shannon Holt. “Autumn” may not be revolutionary, but [...]

"Bell, Book and Candle" at the Colony Theatre. Photo by Michael Lamont.

BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE: 63% – Sweet [UPDATED]

BITTER With its fantastical premise, stale humor and contrived plot, the material would present a challenge to even the most adept and charismatic performers (Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer starred in the successful stage original). Under Richard Israel’s direction, Geer — decked out by costume designer Sharon McGunigle in high heels and an unflattering period [...]

Adolphus Ward and Morlan Higgins in "The Train Driver" at the Fountain Theatre. Credit: Ed Krieger

THE TRAIN DRIVER: 88% – Sweet [UPDATED]

BITTERSWEET Ward’s Simon — quietly watchful, full of natural grace and settled peacefully into his solitude — contrasts with Higgins’ Roelf, a frenzied being caught between worlds and at home in neither. Together they bear witness to a difficult truth: This unwelcoming stretch of South African earth ultimately makes brothers of all races. Now if [...]

Brooke Shields, Nicholas Barasch and Raúl Esparza. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

LEAP OF FAITH: 38% – Bitter [UPDATED]

BITTERSWEET With a creative team that includes Disney movie composer and Academy Award-hoarder Alan Menken, the musical strives to turn the fable into a feel-good affair, complete with a tambourine-slapping gospel choir and Brooke Shields as Jonas’ love interest, Marva, the mother of a crippled boy who’s obviously a miracle waiting to happen. This erratic [...]