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Joseph Fuqua and Rebekah Tripp in "A Moon for the Misbegotten" at the Rubicon Theatre. Photo:

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 [...]

Jason Karasev, Anna Khaja, and Joel Polis in "My Name is Asher Lev" at the Fountain Theatre. Photo by Ed Krieger.

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 [...]

Kevin Brief, Meredith Thomas and Nick Stabile in "The Trip Back Down" at the Whitefire Theatre. Photo: Ed Krieger.

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 [...]

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 [...]

Eric Curtis Johnson, Robynn Rodriguez and Andrew Borba in "Noises Off" at the Rubicon Theatre. Photo: Company.

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 [...]

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 [...]

Aris Alvarado and Steven Stanton in "Storefront Church" at NoHo Arts Center. Photo: Michael Roud.

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 [...]

Pete Caslavka in "Live! From the Last Night of My Life" at Sacred Fools. Photo: Sacred Fools Publicity.

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 [...]

Erin Barnes, Rebecca Wackler, Talyan Wright, Joseph Patrick O'Malley, Barry Lynch and Kacey Camp in the Theatre Banshee production of "By The Bog of Cats." Photo: Moses Umbeke.

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, [...]

(Ellen Crawford and Brian Ibsen in "The Miracle on South Division Street" at the Colony Theatre. Photo: Michael Lamont.

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 [...]

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 – [...]

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 [...]

Elyse Mirto and Freddy Douglas in "The Guardsman" at A Noise Within. Photo: Craig Schwartz.

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 [...]

Alex Smith and Laurie O'Brien star in "Lake Anne," at the Road Theatre on Magnolia. Photo: Deverill Weeks.

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 [...]

Karan Kendrick and Elijah Rock in "Breath and Imagination" at the Colony Theatre. Photo: Michael Lamont.

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.” [...]

Katherine James and Alan Blumenfeld in "Tone Clusters" at Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum. Photo: Chris Sibley.

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 [...]

Ruby Hinds and Jolie Oliver in "The Old Settler" at the Pico Playhouse. Photo: Ed Krieger

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 [...]

Don Huston and Lee Meriwether in "A Short Stay at Carranor" at Theatre West. Photo: Thomas Mikulcz.

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, [...]

Porters of Hellsgate present Kevin Stidham and Timothy Portnoy in "Sherlock Through the Looking Glass" at the Whitmore Theatre. Photo: Rob Cunliffe.

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 [...]

Zachary Barton and Carmen Lezeth Suarez in "Nickel and Dimed" at the Hudson MainStage. Photo: Olivier Riquelme.

NICKEL AND DIMED (HUDSON MAINSTAGE): 78% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET As social criticism, therefore, “Nickel and Dimed” has lost none of its importance or urgency. That being said, when considered on its theatrical merits there’s very little about the stage adaptation that can’t be found in the more complete and better written book. Philip Brandes – LA Times BITTERSWEET Joan Holden’s stage adaptation dramatizes [...]

Andy Stokan and Willow Geer in "The Royal Family" at Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum. Photo: Miriam Geer.

THE ROYAL FAMILY (THEATRICUM BOTANICUM): 96% – SWEET

SWEET It’s a lovely way to see this remarkable production featuring the dynamic and multi-generational Geer family. Shari Barrett – BroadwayWorld SWEET It’s a win win for the LA public. Marvin Vasquez – Living Out Loud Los Angeles SWEET Well directed by Susan Angelo, this enduring production will keep you laughing and the beautiful setting [...]

SkyPilot Theatre presents from left: Ali Perkins, Jason Kobielus, Mark Ostrander, JR Esposito, Jude Evans, Catherine Cox and Lindsey Mixon in "The Island" at T.U. Studios. Photo: Heidi Marie Photography.

THE ISLAND: 57% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER If you’re thinking of messing with a classic, a helpful rule is to either build on it or leave it alone. Unfortunately, almost all the changes here are subtractive — starting with language dumbed down into tastelessly crude vernacular and characters reduced to their broadest traits, with diminished IQs and common sense to match. [...]

Kat Johnston, rear, Leah Harf, Saffron Mazzia, Cynthia Mance in "Opheliamachine" at the City Garage. Photo credit: Paul M. Rubenstein.

OPHELIAMACHINE: 86% – SWEET

SWEET If you’re looking for a play or a company that ties everything into neat little knots – this probably isn’t for you. If you’re willing to tackle a play as much as experience it – you won’t be disappointed you spent 60 minutes in their world. Anthony Byrnes – KCRW SWEET Though Ophelia’s quest [...]

Matt Walker, top rear, and his multitalented ensemble in "A Midsummer Saturday Night's Fever Dream" at the Falcon Theatre and La Mirada Theatre. Credit: Chelsea Sutton.

A MIDSUMMER SATURDAY NIGHT’S FEVER DREAM (TROUBIES): 89% – SWEET

SWEET Even by the Troubies’ typically reliable comic standards, this commedia dell’arte-infused mash-up of classical lit and pop culture is an exceptionally hilarious and energetic romp. Philip Brandes – LA Times BITTERSWEET The current incarnation, once again helmed by Troubie founder Matt Walker, is more polished than the original but less surprising and not as [...]

(Johnny Clark, foreground)  and Andrew Hawkes in "Cops and Friends of Cops" at the VS. Theatre. Credit: Kate Compton.

COPS AND FRIENDS OF COPS: 86% – SWEET

SWEET Klier’s script builds to a riveting first-act climax with masterful pacing and economy. The second half would benefit from further development, particularly in the placement of some character revelations and digressive conversations that defy credibility given the high-stakes situation that’s been so skillfully established. Still, the fine performances keep this new piece as gripping [...]

Lloyd Pedersen and Bert Emmett in "Someone Who'll Watch Over Me" at the Lonny Chapman Theatre. Credit: Sherry Netherland.

SOMEONE WHO’LL WATCH OVER ME (GROUP REP): 93% – SWEET

SWEET Director Gregg T. Daniel brilliantly conveys the energy and black humor that keeps the men alive, and Gary Lee Reed (Set); Kim Smith (Lighting); Steve Shaw (Sound) and Elizabeth Nankin (costumes) capture the desolation. Morna Murphy Martell – Theatre Spoken Here SWEET A must see for all L.A. theater enthusiasts! This spellbinding and intensely [...]

The cast of "American Misfit" at the Theatre @ Boston Court. Credit: Ed Krieger.

AMERICAN MISFIT: 63% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET Via songs by Mr. Dietz and Phillip Owen, painstaking and inventive direction by Michael Michetti, and the enthusiastic participation of a four-man rockabilly band and a cast of eight (some overlap there), this show shouts encouragement to those who would participate in a collective political and spiritual evolution. If the show were a person, [...]

"The Beaux' Stratagem" at A Noise Within. Credit: Craig Schwartz.

THE BEAUX’ STRATAGEM (A NOISE WITHIN): 84% – SWEET

SWEET For educational value alone, it’s wonderful to see the play produced professionally, but under Julia Rodriguez-Elliot’s direction, A Noise Within’s production makes it clear why the play was so popular back in its day. “The Beaux’ Stratagem” is immensely funny, and it’s quite entertaining to watch such a well-crafted play. Katie Buenneke – Neon [...]

Blake Walker and Brandon Parrish in "The Innocence of Father Brown" at the Fremont Center Theatre. Credit: Ellie Roth.

THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN: 75% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER The result as a play is not bad – interesting characters that surprise us – but the company’s production of this work makes a hash of what are quaint and difficult ideas almost a hundred years on. Co-directors Allison Darby Gorjian and Betsy Roth have failed in a major way with errant casting and [...]