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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 [...]

TALHOTBLOND: 25% – BITTER

TALHOTBLOND: 25% – BITTER

BITTER The underlying sadness and tragedy of how anyone may be so swept away by fantasy lacks essential power to bring the audience emotionally into the fray. Thomas’s feelings and commitment waffle back and forth time and again, even in the face of his being found out by his wife, Cheryl (Katleen O’Grady). Unlike Catfish [...]

Critique of the Week

Critique of the Week

I have to say Paul Birchall has been flourishing – in my humble opinion – since he’s been writing for Stage and Cinema. He’s been a longtime critic in this town, writing for many reputable publications, but since he took up tenure at S&C his voice has really evolved into something unique. Which is not [...]

Sheila O'Connor, Tiffany Dissette, Alexis Field and (top) Eileen Patterson in "50 Shades! The Musical" at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Photo: Davidson Choy.

5O SHADES! THE MUSICAL: 70% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET While this musical parody may never reach the hilarious heights of the gold standard for this sort of japery, The Book of Mormon, confined as it is to a rather pedestrian target, this gleeful cataloguing of flavors of sex beyond plain vanilla hits the giggly bulls-eye with unerring consistency. Myron Meisel – The Hollywood [...]

The Wooster Group presents "Cry, Trojans!" at REDCAT. Photo: Steven Gunther.

CRY, TROJANS! (TROILUS AND CRESSIDA): 55% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET The result is an uncharacteristically tame production, one that left me time to ponder the awkward politics of an overwhelmingly white ensemble horsing around with cultural caricatures of race. Charles McNulty – LA Times BITTERSWEET Still and all, though the monotony of its stubborn deviations from conventional dramaturgy demands hard effort from the audience [...]

The cast of "Disassembly" at Theatre of NOTE. Photo: Eric Neil Gutierrez.

DISASSEMBLY: 100% – SWEET

SWEET That said, Beyer’s crisply assured staging hits its marks with precision and skillful comic timing. The production is full of enjoyable, if disturbing surprises, mainly having to do with unexpected revelations and reversals. Paul Birchall – Stage and Cinema SWEET Credit director Tom Beyer and this talented ensemble (in this L.A. premiere at Theatre [...]

Peggy Ann Blow, Kevin Weisman, Carl J. Johnson, and Alana Dietze in "Villon" at the Odyssey Theatre. Photo by Miki Turner.

VILLON: 70% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER A play about a murderous French poet, told by a troupe of vaudevillian-style actors, seems it would be enough to spark some interest in an audience, but unfortunately Murray Mednick’s “Villon” falls seriously flat in its execution. Savannah L. Barker – Neon Tommy SWEET Like Villon’s troupe, these actors make sturdy, faithful companions to [...]

L to R, Kirk Kelleykahn, Shawn Savage and Ricco Ross in 'The Whipping Man,' a West Coast Jewish Theatre production at the Pico Playhouse. Photo: Michael Lamont.

THE WHIPPING MAN (PICO PLAYHOUSE): 91% – SWEET

SWEET Buoyed by an excellent production design, particularly Bill Froggatt’s haunting sound, director Howard Teichman and a crackling cast render a near-optimum staging. F. Kathleen Foley – LA Times SWEET This Matthew Lopez play would have made a fascinating two-hander. But the playwright added a third character and ratcheted up the intrigue, conflict, and shaping, [...]

The cast of "Bill & Joan" at Sacred Fools Theater. Photo by Jessica Sherman.

BILL & JOAN: 83% – SWEET

SWEET This scorching drama is not for the faint of heart, but for those who prefer their live theater edgy, imaginative, and adventurous – a Sacred Fools house specialty. Ed Rampell – Peoples World SWEET Sacred Fools entertains the audience with a stellar production of Bill and Joan, a glimpse into the life of William [...]

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 [...]

Jonathan Pessin and Mina Badie in "RX" at the Los Studio. Photo: Michael Lamont.

RX: 94% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET There are consolations, though, in the performances of Michael Dempsey, who plays an ad exec and a scientist (he also adds flair to the frequent set changes on the slapdash set credited to director Pleshette), and Joseph “Sloe” Slawinski’s soundtrack of popular songs enhanced with mood-drug references. Margaret Gray – LA Times SWEET True, [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

ORWELLIAN: 80% – SWEET

ORWELLIAN: 80% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET With his lanky frame and emotionally subtle voice, Cedar is a brilliant storyteller and Orwell’s words come to life through his dryly ironic narration. However, clocking in at well under an hour, the piece’s brevity and straightforward simplicity ultimately work against it, and the material feels more like an academic exercise than a dramatic [...]

David Hunt Stafford, Bryan Bertone, Stephanie Erb, Flora Plumb and Meredith Thomas in "Light Up the Sky" at Theatre 40. Photo: Ed Krieger.

LIGHT UP THE SKY (THEATRE 40): 100% – SWEET

SWEET Laugh out loud funny, this fast paced comedy lights up the Los Angeles theatre scene this winter. Sandro Monetti – Thespian Thoughts SWEET Light Up the Sky by Moss Hart, directed by David McClendon, and produced by David Hunt Stafford at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills has a very predictable story and is a [...]

Michael Marinaccio, left, Kip Gilman and Todd Cattell in "Aspirin & Elephants" at the Santa Monica Playhouse. Photo: Cydne Moore.

ASPIRIN & ELEPHANTS (SANTA MONICA PLAYHOUSE): 83% – SWEET

SWEET Despite some formulaic aspects, playwright Jerry Mayer’s boulevard comedy about intergenerational marital issues on a cruise ship is a surefire date show, a high-end sitcom with flashes of emotional heft. David C. Nichols – LA Times SWEET There is misunderstanding between the daughters and parents, but through amusing dialogue, humor, warmth, and understanding, all [...]

Todd Robbins in "Play Dead" at the Geffen Playhouse. Photo: Michael Lamont.

PLAY DEAD: 97% – SWEET

SWEET The illusions themselves vary in impressiveness. Maybe not all will blow your mind. It won’t matter. The dark, the gore, the morbid anecdotes — and that eye-twinkle — will put you into a state of nervous excitement like nothing since pre-teen slumber parties. Margaret Gray – LA Times SWEET In “Play Dead,” there is [...]

Good People Theater Company presents Gordon Goodman in "Barrymore" at the Greenway Court Theatre. Photo: Kimberly Fox.

BARRYMORE (EL PORTAL RE-MOUNT): 90% – SWEET

SWEET It’s a fusty, dusty tribute to a man and to an art form that once trafficked in fame, and now have been largely relegated to anecdotes of antiquated glories. There’s something harrowingly moving about that. Steven Leigh Morris – LA Weekly SWEET I caught a mind-bendingly powerful one man production on the weekend. Solo [...]

Critique of the Week

Critique of the Week

Paul has been doing solid work for years, mostly at the LA Weekly, but this particular review at Stage and Cinema really stood out for me, as much for the turns of phrase and literary gymnastics as for the way he mines the metaphors of rock and roll in such a vivid and colorful fashion. [...]

The ensemble of "Titus Andronicus: A Vaudeville" at the Stella Adler Theatre Lab. Photo: Julio J. Vargas.

TITUS ANDRONICUS: A VAUDEVILLE (STELLA ADLER LAB THEATRE): 17% – BITTER

BITTER Very little about Shakespeare’s blood-soaked earliest tragedy lends itself to reimagining the play as an old-time variety show, and lacking the ingenuity to make the concept work Stella Adler Theatre Lab’s “Titus Andronicus: A Vaudeville” is an overreach so ill-advised it seems to have been guided by some planet in retrograde. Philip Brandes – [...]

L-R: Will Roland, Harrison Chad, Coby Getzug and Jimmy Brewer in "The Black Suits" at The Kirk Douglas Theatre. Photo: Ed Krieger.

THE BLACK SUITS: 54% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET This world premiere musical, now at Kirk Douglas Theatre, manages to get plenty of new wine into very old, if not downright dusty, bottles. The saga of the making of the eponymous garage band soars despite a paper-thin, clichéd plot; derivative character types; and QED themes of friendship and youthful dream-making. What gets it [...]

Kiara Lisette Gamboa, left, April Adams, Eric Hunicutt and Beverly Hynds in the Zephyr Theatre's "The Pain and the Itch." Photo: Ed Krieger.

THE PAIN AND THE ITCH (ZEPHYR THEATRE): 73% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET Initially provocative, the tart humor grows rancid, the plotting feels heavy-handed and the characters are eviscerated so balefully that you may, defiantly, start to sympathize with them. If you do remember them at your own Thanksgiving table, you will also be glad you didn’t invite Bruce Norris. Margaret Gray – LA Times SWEET While [...]

TRACERS (ROGUE MACHINE/USVAA): 100% – SWEET

TRACERS (ROGUE MACHINE/USVAA): 100% – SWEET

SWEET Thirty years on, war is still hell — and DiFusco and a new ensemble, all veterans of more recent wars and military actions, have reprised the work in a powerful new production that’s every bit as harrowing as the original. Paul Birchall – LA Weekly SWEET Switching from the war to a period just [...]

Lauren Patten, Daniel David Stewart and Adam Dingeman in "The Burnt Part Boys" at the Third Street Theatre. Credit: Elizabeth Mercer.

THE BURNT PART BOYS (THIRD STREET THEATRE): 69% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET Within the heavy-handed framework, the cast acquits itself sincerely and honorably, though Patten seems to have been glued to Annie Get Your Gun while Pete was over at The Alamo. In her relish at waving her rifle around and singing about the joys of roasting squirrels and gophers, she can make one nostalgic for [...]

Trip Langley and Sarah Schulte in "Tanglin' Hearts" at Theatre 40. Photo: Ed Krieger.

TANGLIN’ HEARTS (THEATRE 40): 86% – SWEET

SWEET All in all, TANGLIN’ HEARTS is a simple tale of brotherly rivalry and love’s confusion told with lots of music and stereotypical Texas gold ol’ boys and the women who love them. Those who know Shakespeare’s comedy “As You Like It” will certainly appreciate this modern adaptation. Shari Barrett – BroadwayWorld BITTER In director [...]

Ben Belack, Zippy Allen and Marco Naggar in "Revelation" at the Lillian Theatre. Photo: Joel Daavid.

REVELATION: 89% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET I am tempted to attend another performance of Revelation once the “friends and family” laugh track has died down and the actors have settled in to playing the situation and not the joke. Mr. Williams appears to be on to something here but the overbearing opening night chuckle-fest I sat through made it impossible [...]

John Szura & Robert Paterno in "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot" at the Hudson Backstage. Photo courtesy of Breedlove Productions.

THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT (HUDSON BACKSTAGE): 85% – SWEET

SWEET Behind the humor, the banter, the over emoting and the seemingly light hearted mood there is a very powerful story lurking here. Some actors had double and triple roles and even then we counted about seventeen actors. This is where director Josh T. Ryan displays his unparalleled genius, not just keeping chaos from taking [...]

The cast of "The Baby" at the Lex Theatre. Credit: The Visceral Company.

THE BABY: 100% – SWEET

SWEET No one would call this cheeseball material anything more than trivial, but Spurgeon’s often hilarious production boasts crisp comic timing and a delicious campiness. Wimer, resplendent in her hideous, beige, 9 to 5-esque officewear, offers a wonderfully deadpan performance, which is engagingly offset by Blocker’s leering, bug-eyed turn as Mama. Paul Birchall – LA [...]

Lisa Cirincione and Vince Melocchi in 'A View from the Bridge' at Pacific Resident Theatre. Photo credit: Vitor Martins.

A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE (PACIFIC RESIDENT THEATRE): 82% – SWEET

SWEET The miracle of Miller is that his characters are so eloquently inarticulate. Co-directors Marilyn Fox and Dana Jackson get the blend of working class and Italian dialects just right — the first but necessary step in their wrenchingly truthful staging that, while larger-than-life, never lapses into overstatement. As for the actors, from Melocchi’s towering [...]

Matthew Scott Montgomery and Terrence Spencer in "revolver" at the Celebration Theatre. Credit: Sean Lambert.

REVOLVER: 92% – SWEET

SWEET In director Ryan Bergmann’s engagingly intimate world premiere of revolver, a six-person ensemble assays a half dozen plays that dig more deeply into many of the standard gay tropes. Paul Birchall – Stage and Cinema SWEET The always-consistent Celebration Theatre successfully mounts the world premiere of Chris Phillips’ “revolver,” a stunning collection of intense [...]