RSSAll Entries Tagged With: "philip brandes"

POSSUM CARCASS: 75% - BITTERSWEET

POSSUM CARCASS: 75% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER Although it dutifully mirrors Chekhov’s plot in the soaring ambitions and earthbound struggles of present-day artistic types, what dooms this six-character reduction is its systematic abandonment of the subtextual layers that make the original so compelling. Philip Brandes – LA Times SWEET While nowhere near as brilliant or textured as Posner’s play, Bucci’s parody […]

THE MAGNIFICENT DUNBAR HOTEL: 93% - SWEET

THE MAGNIFICENT DUNBAR HOTEL: 93% – SWEET

SWEET Informative and engaging, this underappreciated chapter of our local history is portrayed with panache and grace. Philip Brandes – LA Times SWEET Under producer Ben Guillory’s imaginative direction we visit with Dwain A. Perry as the creative hotel owner, Lucius Lomax. Melvin Ishmael Johnson is his delightfully peevish hotel manager; Petal d’Avril Walker is […]

DR. FAUSTUS (INDEPENDENT SHAKESPEARE COMPANY): 92% - SWEET

DR. FAUSTUS (INDEPENDENT SHAKESPEARE COMPANY): 92% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET In a play about a man’s bargain with the devil, either the man or the devil – but ideally both – should fascinate or intrigue, certainly more than they do here. Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw SWEET An ISC Studio production always rides the edge. If you only know the company from its large […]

WEDDING BAND: A LOVE/HATE STORY IN BLACK & WHITE (ANTAEUS): 92% - SWEET

WEDDING BAND: A LOVE/HATE STORY IN BLACK & WHITE (ANTAEUS): 92% – SWEET

SWEET This rarely produced revival delivers a blistering indictment of the South’s anti-miscegenation laws against the backdrop of a deeply moving portrait of urban black life in the early 20th century. Directed by Gregg T. Daniel, the double-cast production now playing at the Antaeus Company offers some of the finest ensemble acting currently onstage (the […]

WHEN THE RAIN STOPS FALLING: 80% - SWEET

WHEN THE RAIN STOPS FALLING: 80% – SWEET

SWEET There’s no sugarcoating the relentlessly downbeat mood here. Vivid impressions linger from Frédérique Michel’s fierce staging, which underscores the play’s austere geometric narrative structure with underplayed, admirably uniform performances and abstract choreography; the pent-up emotional floodgates open only in carefully controlled doses. Philip Brandes – LA Times SWEET From a fish magically dropping from […]

MELISSA ARCTIC (ROAD THEATRE): 79% - SWEET

MELISSA ARCTIC (ROAD THEATRE): 79% – SWEET

SWEET In place of verse, Wright threads the piece with poetic songs (with Danny Webber on keyboard) that seldom unduly tax a cast of primarily actors rather than singers. The resulting thematic tapestry of rebirth and the restorative power of art satisfies against all narrative probability. Hard to believe, but totally true. Philip Brandes – […]

LEAR (THEATRICUM BOTANICUM): 95% - SWEET

LEAR (THEATRICUM BOTANICUM): 95% – SWEET

SWEET Given that this take on the original’s rigidly patriarchal universe is fundamentally bonkers, it’s impressive how well co-adapter/directors Ellen Geer and Melora Marshall succeed in illuminating subtext and broadening the scope of Shakespeare’s darkest tragedy. Philip Brandes – LA Times SWEET We think it’s extraordinary and perfect for a cozy evening of high-brow stimulation. […]

IN A DARK DARK HOUSE (MATRIX THEATRE): 60% - BITTERSWEET

IN A DARK DARK HOUSE (MATRIX THEATRE): 60% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET This production of In a Dark Dark House is theatre at its best! Gil Kaan – BroadwayWorld SWEET “Dark House”‘s gripping two hours at the Matrix benefits from clear visual realization and the all-pro cast’s confident navigation of the play’s language, ideas and emotions. Debra Levine – Arts Meme BITTERSWEET The play is way […]

HOLDING THE MAN: 89% - SWEET

HOLDING THE MAN: 89% – SWEET

SWEET There were a number of Australians in the audience opening night and they were obviously, warmly familiar with Holding the Man as evidenced by their hearty laughter and proud ovations. It is by no means a play only for gay theatergoers. Despite this production’s perceived shortcomings, anyone who has experienced love and loss will […]

FAT PIG (HUDSON MAINSTAGE): 93% - SWEET

FAT PIG (HUDSON MAINSTAGE): 93% – SWEET

SWEET This unconventional love story about body image and peer pressure is sometimes harsh and brutal but often quite brilliant. Sandro Monetti – Thespian Thoughts SWEET Fat Pig’s fine cast and expert direction help make this production the success it is. Hazel Kuang’s cleverly designed set is a big plus, as well. Willard Manus – […]

A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN (RUBICON): 92% - SWEET

A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN (RUBICON): 92% – SWEET

SWEET Rubicon Theatre’s impassioned revival shows the mature O’Neill at the height of his powers — his arty experimental theater days behind him, masterfully employing classical fundamentals to wring hauntingly poetic truths about love and self-delusion from gritty everyday experience. Philip Brandes – LA Times SWEET A Moon for the Misbegotten was Eugene O’Neill’s grand […]

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 […]

THE TRIP BACK DOWN (WHITEFIRE THEATRE): 62% - BITTERSWEET

THE TRIP BACK DOWN (WHITEFIRE THEATRE): 62% – BITTERSWEET

BITTERSWEET A full-throttle Whitefire Theatre revival revs “The Trip Back Down” up for a new spin, but unfortunately doesn’t restore John Bishop’s dated 1975 NASCAR-themed drama to street-legal status. Philip Brandes – LA Times SWEET Taking us into the world of competitive racecar drivers in 1975 … from the bawdy “rough ‘n tumble” lifestyle, to […]

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 […]

NOISES OFF (RUBICON THEATRE): 100% - SWEET

NOISES OFF (RUBICON THEATRE): 100% – SWEET

SWEET Unencumbered by extraneous cerebral ballast, Frayn’s romp revels in slapstick and stereotype, both capably executed by a nine-member ensemble in which no particular performances outshine the others — this is equal opportunity satire for anyone who’s ever wondered whether what takes place behind the scenes can be more fun than what happens onstage. Philip […]

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 […]

STOREFRONT CHURCH: 90% - SWEET

STOREFRONT CHURCH: 90% – SWEET

SWEET The cast is diverse and complex in every way, exposing riveting and heartfelt performances which i immensely enjoyed. These seasoned actors held the production together like glue, strong and steady with evey word, giving dynamics and ground breaking monologues. Donica Denene – LASplash BITTERSWEET At times, their changes of heart are improbably abrupt, but […]

LIVE! FROM THE LAST NIGHT OF MY LIFE: 13% - BITTER

LIVE! FROM THE LAST NIGHT OF MY LIFE: 13% – BITTER

BITTER Wayne Rawley’s play failed. I didn’t make it fail. It did by his conceit. He broke a pact several times over. What do you want from me? I tell the truth, painful, harsh, sexual explicit but dammit all to hell you know where I stand. M.R. Hunter – EyeSpyLA BITTER Rawley’s structurally problematic script […]

BY THE BOG OF CATS: 94% - SWEET

BY THE BOG OF CATS: 94% – SWEET

SWEET It’s not a perfect piece of writing—it could use some trimming and the first act is very exposition-heavy—but the L.A. premiere of the show by Theatre Banshee features a couple of superb performances and is ultimately quite powerful. Terry Morgan – LAist SWEET Ably directed by Sean Branney, the cast, led by Camp’s powerful, […]

MIRACLE ON SOUTH DIVISION STREET: 100% - SWEET

MIRACLE ON SOUTH DIVISION STREET: 100% – SWEET

SWEET At first glance, Miracle On South Division Street might not seem edgy enough to attract audiences outside the Colony’s subscriber demographic, but stick around for those revelations and the family’s reactions to them and younger, hipper theatergoers may find themselves pleasantly surprised. And you don’t have to like holiday plays to enjoy this zesty […]

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

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 – […]

Critique of the Week

Critique of the Week

Holy couplets, Batman!   You rarely see someone at the LA Times try one of these types of reviews: the entire critique written in rhyming iambic pentameter. And I know some of y’all find this type of thing abhorrent and more about the critic than the production, but for me it can sometimes illuminate the […]

THE GUARDSMAN (A NOISE WITHIN): 85% - SWEET

THE GUARDSMAN (A NOISE WITHIN): 85% – SWEET

SWEET Toss in a seamless supporting ensemble and first-rate production values, and you couldn’t ask for a finer example of how captivating and downright fun live theater can be. Philip Brandes – LA Times BITTERSWEET Unfortunately, director Michael Michetti’s otherwise handsome revival (on Tom Buderwitz’s elegant set and under Adam Frank’s bravura lighting) can’t quite […]

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 […]

LAKE ANNE: 60% - BITTERSWEET

LAKE ANNE: 60% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER Awash with clumsy, filler-laden scripting and uneven performances, Marthe Rachel Gold’s play revolves around Anne (Laurie O’Brien), a former star dancer bitterly mourning a career shipwrecked by the birth of her son Will (Alex Smith), now 23 but mentally stuck in pre-adolescence. Philip Brandes – LA Times SWEET They are known for doing world […]

BREATH AND IMAGINATION: 94% - SWEET

BREATH AND IMAGINATION: 94% – SWEET

SWEET The Colony Theatre’s Breath and Imagination is one of the finest shows on offer in greater LA. It’s one of the finest shows Burbank has ever seen. Musical Director RAHN COLEMAN wasn’t exaggerating when he said to me just before the opening night’s performance, “Nothing will prepare you for what you’re about to see.” […]

TONE CLUSTERS (THEATRICUM BOTANICUM): 95% - SWEET

TONE CLUSTERS (THEATRICUM BOTANICUM): 95% – SWEET

SWEET For anyone familiar with Oates’ fiction, it will come as no surprise that the piece is dark, elliptical and uncompromising in its intellectual rigor. Written in 1990, it also proved eerily prescient in depicting the media’s ever-increasing voracious and invasive exploitation of tragedy. Philip Brandes – LA Times SWEET This brutal drama leaves you […]

THE OLD SETTLER (PICO PLAYHOUSE): 100% - SWEET

THE OLD SETTLER (PICO PLAYHOUSE): 100% – SWEET

SWEET What elevates this revival is the riveting interplay between Oliver and Hinds as the estranged siblings facing deep-seated conflicts with naked emotional honesty — there’s no plot safety net to coast on here. As icing on the cake, the songs threaded through the play showcase Hinds’ background as an opera singer — by the […]

A SHORT STAY AT CARRANOR: 56% - BITTERSWEET

A SHORT STAY AT CARRANOR: 56% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER In a love story, the overly used device of having a character dying of a fatal disease has been done to death (no pun intended), and in order for any story to overcome such a barrier, it should include fresh, innovative, or at least satirical set of subplots to surround it. This play, however, […]

SHERLOCK THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (ODYSSEY RE-MOUNT): 85% - SWEET

SHERLOCK THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (ODYSSEY RE-MOUNT): 85% – SWEET

BITTER The mystery-driven first half moves at a fairly brisk pace, but a second-act plunge into Carroll’s Wonderland proves pretentious and interminable as 12 cast members in cheesy stylized masks chant and hop in unison through barely intelligible recitations from Carroll’s text. The minimalist black box set forgoes all opportunity for imaginative design. Philip Brandes […]