RSSAll Entries Tagged With: "paul birchall"

O'NEILL'S GHOSTS (ODYSSEY THEATRE): 46% - BITTER

O’NEILL’S GHOSTS (ODYSSEY THEATRE): 46% – BITTER

BITTERSWEET Showing O’Neill working on a play years after neurological disease forced him to quit writing, and misstating the nature of a major character’s death are among the historical inaccuracies—or creative licenses, if you prefer—that limit the conclusions to be drawn about the complicated life of Eugene O’Neill. Phillip Brandes – LA Times BITTER The […]

MEET & GREET (ELEPHANT THEATRE): 79% - SWEET

MEET & GREET (ELEPHANT THEATRE): 79% – SWEET

SWEET Zimmerman’s direction is fast and furious, which ideal for a piece like this as the one-liners just keep flying. Most all of them hit their intended targets. No subject is safe — social media, Netflix series, reality television and the general vapidity of Hollywood are all skewered. There’s a twist near the end that […]

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S THE TEMPEST (T.U. STUDIOS): 72% - BITTERSWEET

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S THE TEMPEST (T.U. STUDIOS): 72% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET And with all the asides to the audience, along with more contemporary language, those less familiar with Shakespeare may find this production a good introduction to the Bard. However, please be forewarned this is a very LOUD presentation in a very small space. From the title music to the ear-piercing shrieks of characters confronting […]

TURNING THIRTY: 100% - SWEET

TURNING THIRTY: 100% – SWEET

SWEET Veteran director/actor/playwright Chris DeCarlo directs this delightful cast in this very entertaining and humorous play. Carol Kaufman Segal – Stagehappenings SWEET This sweet froth, smoothly directed by Chris DeCarlo, contains performances that boast a nice amount of energy, sincerity, and warmth. And there’s certainly a place in the world for a cheerful, unassuming good-time […]

SACRED ELEPHANT: 90% - SWEET

SACRED ELEPHANT: 90% – SWEET

SWEET The play, which is about the world’s largest mammal, is powerful, and boasts an unsettling performance. It’s an adaptation of Heathcote Williams’s 15-part long poem about the elephant species, and the perils it faces on account of incurable human ignorance. This powerful production brings to the Odyssey’s stage one of South Africa’s most celebrated […]

THE SEXUAL LIFE OF SAVAGES: 74% - BITTERSWEET

THE SEXUAL LIFE OF SAVAGES: 74% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET Still, “Savages” is a ribald, intelligent and promising new work. Adventurous playgoers and/or fans of premium cable fare will likely embrace it. David C. Nichols – LA Times BITTERSWEET All in all, this is a play that wants to tell us to “relax, it’s just sex,” but seems to have forgotten to tell most […]

THE BROTHERS SIZE (FOUNTAIN THEATRE): 97% - SWEET

THE BROTHERS SIZE (FOUNTAIN THEATRE): 97% – SWEET

SWEET The battle over Oshoosi’s fate plays out with thrilling immediacy in this staging by Shirley Jo Finney, who also directed “In the Red and Brown Water” at the Fountain. She is ably assisted by Hana S. Kim’s evocative, abstract set, Ameenah Kaplan’s powerful choreography, Peter Bayne’s original music arranged by Brenda Lee Eager, and […]

Everyone's a Critic

Everyone’s a Critic

  The web site for which I am a critic, Stage and Cinema, has enjoyed a boom recently from which I am grateful to benefit. Not that I get paid; there are people who know how to work the internet for money, but we are not among them. There are a few advertising dollars but Tony […]

LINDEN ARDEN STOLE THE HIGHLIGHTS (HOLLYWOOD FRINGE): 100% - SWEET

LINDEN ARDEN STOLE THE HIGHLIGHTS (HOLLYWOOD FRINGE): 100% – SWEET

SWEET I’d never heard Van Morrison’s “Linden Arden Stole the Highlights” before I saw Colin Mitchell’s play of the same name. Frankly, it doesn’t matter, because Mitchell has taken the rather obscure lyrics of that 1974 song and created a fully fleshed-out character whose story makes for riveting theater. Kurt Gardner – Blog Critics SWEET […]

AJAX IN IRAQ (MILES MEMORIAL PLAYHOUSE): 82% - SWEET

AJAX IN IRAQ (MILES MEMORIAL PLAYHOUSE): 82% – SWEET

BITTER If you’re going to update a classic work, ask why. If its themes resonate with you, and remind you of contemporary issues, do you really need to rewrite the thing? Mightn’t that classic text still serve a really pointed, personal director’s vision? Even a literal one? You could teach McLaughlin’s Ajax in Iraq in […]

FALSE SOLUTION: 54% - BITTERSWEET

FALSE SOLUTION: 54% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER Written and directed by Oren Safdie, the idea of a young neophyte attacking a successful architect in his studio, in the manner that the play took, seemed too out of the ordinary and unbelievable. As for the attraction to one another, I found that even more incongruous. The play is extremely verbose, and though […]

PREMEDITATION: 71% - BITTERSWEET

PREMEDITATION: 71% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET “Premeditation” — as with several other plays developed by Fernandez and her director and husband Jose Luis Valenzuela (who happens to be a UCLA professor) — achieves a genuine comic brio, on the edge of satire, as it delves into the state of middle-aged marriage. Don Shirley – LA Observed SWEET With Premeditation, Fernández […]

KNOCK ME A KISS (ROBEY THEATRE COMPANY): 76% - SWEET

KNOCK ME A KISS (ROBEY THEATRE COMPANY): 76% – SWEET

  BITTER Even though Moses’ nicely-vulnerable Yolande is the show’s lead, all characters orbit around Guillory’s blustery turn as Du Bois. It is unfortunate that Smith’s writing is unable to convey the man’s genius. Instead, he’s depicted as a boorish bully, harrumphing around the stage and browbeating his daughter into doing something she really doesn’t […]

THE MEMORANDUM (SANTA MONICA REP): 81% - SWEET

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 […]

5O SHADES! THE MUSICAL: 70% - BITTERSWEET

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 […]

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

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 […]

DISASSEMBLY: 100% - SWEET

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 […]

VILLON: 70% - BITTERSWEET

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 […]

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

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, […]

BILL & JOAN: 83% - SWEET

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 […]

PASSION PLAY (ODYSSEY/EVIDENCE ROOM): 79% - SWEET

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 […]

RX: 94% - SWEET

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, […]

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

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 […]

THE QUEEN FAMILY'S VERY SPECIAL HOLIDAY SPECIAL (ACTORS' GANG): 72% - BITTERSWEET

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 […]

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

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 […]

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

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 […]

PLAY DEAD: 97% - SWEET

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 […]