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in "The Pianist of Wellesden Lane" at the Geffen Playhouse. Credit: Michael Lamont.

THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE: 94% – SWEET

SWEET That’s par for the course of the rarefied ability and captivating story that Golabek shares with us. It makes her unforgettable tribute an undiluted privilege to witness. David C. Nichols – LA Times BITTERSWEET The Pianist of Willesden Lane features world-class piano playing, a moving story, a performer who has mastered the art of [...]

Harold Surratt, from left, Warner Joseph Miller, LeRoy McClain, Pascale Armand and Cheryl Lynn Bruce in Danai Gurira's "The Convert."  Credit: T. Charles Erickson /

THE CONVERT: 89% – SWEET

SWEET The devastating clash between Western culture and religion and African tradition and spirituality is at the heart of this masterful new work. Director Emily Mann has mounted a production that’s as compelling as it is gorgeous. Jennie Webb – Backstage SWEET Brought to life by Emily Mann’s subtle direction, a splendid set by Daniel [...]

Tom O’Leary, below, and Jason Paul Field in “The Lonesome West” at the Ruskin Group Theatre. Credit: John DiCindis.

THE LONESOME WEST (RUSKIN GROUP): 50% – BITTER

BITTER It’s a delicious premise, but McDonagh hasn’t delivered on it. Unlike “The Lieutenant of Inishmore,” with its ruthless efficiency, “West” suffers from lazy storytelling. The intimate space at the Ruskin is ideal for this claustrophobic tale, yet no amount of careful scene work by director Mike Reilly can disguise McDonagh’s shoddy construction. Charlotte Stoudt [...]

"Stations: A Los Angeles Holiday Story" at the Miles Memorial Playhouse. Credit: Company.

STATIONS: A LOS ANGELES HOLIDAY STORY: 100% – SWEET

SWEET I can think of no other Christmas production that has so filled me with the joys of the season that this brilliantly conceived and executed, highly original piece of theatrical magic. Steven Stanley – StageSceneLA SWEET Although the plot is occasionally hard to follow — the result of a tendency to balletic whimsy that [...]

Carrie Keranen, John Halbach and Brendan Hunt in "Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake)" at Sacred Fool Theater. Credit: Ed Krieger

CRUMBLE (LAY ME DOWN, JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE) (SACRED FOOLS): 68% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET Crumble made me think about Detroit, a city that once—like The Apartment—knew grander and happier times. Crumbled buildings, crumbling hopes. Silent screams from broken windows. They say “the walls have ears” but do we? Well, perhaps Crumble will provoke different musings in you. See this play and find out. You may receive a holiday [...]

Anne Archer and Terrence Beasor in "Jane Fonda in the Court of Public Opinion" at the Edgemar Center for the Arts. Credit: Ed Krieger

JANE FONDA IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION: 66% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET Be ready to shred a few tears near the end of this effective, makes-you-think hour-and-45-minute show. Gil Kaan – Culture Spot LA BITTERSWEET This is why the topic of Jastrow’s play, co-directed by Michelle Danner, is so hypnotic — more so than the play itself, or this production of it. Steven Leigh Morris – [...]

Timoth Lee Buckley in "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot" at studio/stage. Credit: Heather Holt.

THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT (RATMO): 100% – SWEET

SWEET Full of memorable characters, compelling drama and imaginative writing, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot may be long and difficult, but it is definitely worth the effort. Barnaby Hughes – Socal.com SWEET This must be said: Rise Above Theatre Movement’s (RATMO) production of “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” has a running time of [...]

in "The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity" at the Geffen Playhouse. Credit: Geffen Playhouse.

THE ELABORATE ENTRANCE OF CHAD DEITY: 84% – SWEET

SWEET It’s unlikely we’ll see any offering this season that remotely resembles playwright Kristoffer Diaz’s balls-out theatrical happening. His vision is flamboyantly brought to life in collaboration with Edward Torres’ electrifying direction, an inspired design team, and an energetic and committed cast. Les Spindle – Backstage SWEET This production, directed by Edward Torres, whose lengthy [...]

"Dolls" at the Santa Monica Playhouse. Credit: C. More.

DOLLS: 75% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET A beautifully conceived show, Dolls features fine acting and gorgeous design to tell the story of children’s toys come to life in search of love and fulfillment. Mary Mallory – Tolucan Times BITTERSWEET Yet despite a fascinating premise, the pairing of a simple love story and commedia dell’arte archetypes with high-flown wordplay and allusions [...]

Judith Chapman in "Vivien" at Theatre/Theater. Credit: John Flynn.

VIVIEN: 78% – SWEET

SWEET Actor Judith Chapman and director Elina de Santos offer much to savor in this smart and elegant showcase, including guilty-pleasure theatrics, great humor and poignancy, and an opportunity to learn tantalizing tidbits about an indelible showbiz legend. Les Spindle – Backstage SWEET But you can’t deny a grande dame her grandiosity. More than one [...]

Paul Denk, Lane Compton, Jason Paul Field, Nick Similuca in "A Memory of Two Mondays" at the Ruskin Group Theatre. Photo:

A MEMORY OF TWO MONDAYS (RUSKIN GROUP): 90% – SWEET

SWEET Thanks to Ms. Mulkey and this wonderful cast, ‘A Memory Of Two Mondays’ is a play you will definitely remember long after you leave the theater. Joan and John Schwartz – LA Examiner SWEET The Ruskin is right next to the Santa Monica Airport and they have a busy calendar of varied and fresh [...]

Devin Williamson and Larry Gesling in “Sand in the Air” at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre. Photo courtesy of Morgan-Wixson.

SAND IN THE AIR: 50% – BITTER

BITTER If this sounds like the stuff of an engaging comedy of the grotesque, director Terésa Dowell-Vest’s creaky staging plays it as more-or-less straight melodrama, which only exacerbates the play’s fatal lack of focus. Thomas Brown’s banal set and William Wilday’s incomprehensible lighting only add malpractice to this dramaturgical mistrial of a production. Bill Raden [...]

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 [...]

The cast of "Spelling Bee" at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre.  Photo courtesy of Joel Castro.

THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE (MORGAN-WIXSON): 100% – SWEET

SWEET Once again nine triple-threats bring The Spellers (Barfee, Chip, Leaf, Logainne, Marcie, and Olive) and The Grown-Ups (Rona Lisa, Vice Principal Panch, and Mitch) to vivid life, and I’m happy to report that Morgan-Wixson’s non-Equity cast is as terrific as the best I’ve seen, due in great part to the inspired direction of Valerie [...]

Alexis Jones as the Sad Clown in "Four Clowns". Photo courtesy of Jonathan David Lewis.

FOUR CLOWNS (SACRED FOOLS REVIVAL): 97% – SWEET

SWEET Aluma may be saying that human pain is at once particular and universal; what’s certain is his cast is gifted, including musical director Ellen Warkentine as the one woman orchestra in the wings. Amy Nicholson – LA Weekly (Fringe Review) SWEET The physicality of the actors was one of the most exciting things to [...]

Todd Waring and Lyman Medeiros in 'Five Uneasy Pieces' at the Santa Monica Playhouse. Photo courtesy of Virginia Anzengruber.

FIVE UNEASY PIECES: 100% – SWEET

SWEET This sometimes brisk 70+min reveal, gleefully showcases not only Waring’s committed embodiment of rogues, thugs, blowhards and prissies, but also his unique ability to create arm’s length atmosphere with direction and drive. Craig Parish – Socal.com SWEET Five Uneasy Pieces is delightful, provocative, and joyously gratifying. Mialka Bonadonna-Morano – LAist BITTERSWEET Five Uneasy Pieces [...]

Kevin Anderson in "The Break of Noon" at the Geffen Playhouse.  Photo courtesy of

THE BREAK OF NOON: 47% – BITTER

BITTER The production, directed by Jo Bonney, is sleek and modern, but it’s not a miracle worker. A flashy presentation can’t cover up weaknesses in the writing, and the propulsive lighting (David Weiner) and sound design (Darron L. West) only italicize an emptiness in the drama. Charles McNulty – LA Times BITTER Director Jo Bonney [...]

Photo: On balcony, Toby Moore and Olivia D'Abo, underneath, John Colella in "Cyrano De Bergerac" at the Ruskin Group Theatre. Credit: Michael Myers.

CYRANO DE BERGERAC (RUSKIN GROUP): 78% – SWEET

SWEET Still, the show has a gallant Cyrano at its center, a deft and understated John Colella, as much at ease with the play’s rhythms as his Cyrano is riven by self-loathing. Olivia D’Abo (“The Wonder Years”) delivers an elegant and self-possessed Roxanne, a worthy object of desire but never merely an object. Even Mark [...]

"The Last Days of Judas Iscariot" at the Alexandria Hotel.

THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT (URBAN THEATRE/COMPANY OF ANGELS): 100% – Sweet [UPDATED]

SWEET This eccentric work from the pen of Stephen Adly Guirgis is a loopy fantasia, bringing biblical and real-life characters from different eras together in a courtroom in purgatory, where Judas Iscariot, betrayer of Jesus Christ, is on trial. The iconoclastic script combines audacious burlesque humor with heady philosophical ruminations on life, death, and theology. [...]

Photo by Jeff Ellingson

ELEKTRA (GETTY): 89%- Sweet [updated]

SWEET In this very immediate production, the House of Atreus may be royalty on speaking terms with the gods, but the characters types are quite of our everyday world. Elektra is an angry, rebellious young woman bent on avenging her father’s murder. She is also the provoked child of relatively miscreant parents. Her mother, Clytemnestra, [...]

Hermione (Monica Schneider), Polixenes (Matt Merchant), and Leontes (Matt Walker) in A Withers Tale. PHOTO COURTESY OF TROUBADOUR THEATRE COMPANY

A WITHER’S TALE: 92% – Sweet – UPDATED

SWEET A Withers Tale is a nice change of pace for the Troubadour Company but as they are so cosmically gifted at side-splitting silly stuff, let’s hope that their next production is more seriously funny. Lynne Bronstein – Santa Monica Mirror SWEET The somber saga builds to Walker’s showstopping rendition of “Ain’t No Sunshine,” enhanced [...]

Tessa Auberjonois and Tory Kittles. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

BONES: 89% – Sweet – UPDATED

SWEET There’s a double-whammy irony about the power of the past to shape our lives: the more traumatic the event, the less reliable our ability to recall it accurately — and the more remote the possibility of moving past it becomes. Such is the equation of psychological paralysis that playwright Dael Orlandersmith charts with devastating [...]

Photo: Robert Mandan and Maggie Peach. Credit: Ron Sossi.

BEDROOM FARCE: 67% – Sweet – UPDATED

SWEET Director Ron Bottitta wisely keeps this soufflé in period, abetted by designers Kathi O’Donohue (lighting), Kathryn Poppen (costumes) and Bill Froggatt (sound). His players form a first-rate ensemble, the odd dialect glitch or overstressed beat trivial when set beside such unified light-comic style. The play remains middlebrow boulevard fare, albeit written by a master [...]

Zoe Perry and Chris Pine. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE: 100% – Sweet

SWEET This kind of theatrical blood sport won’t be for everyone. (Pity the crew assigned to clean up the mess after each performance.) But if a flincher like me found himself tittering with open eyes, maybe you’ll be tickled by McDonagh’s malign mirth as well. Charles McNulty – LA Times SWEET Playwright Martin McDonagh taps [...]

Abby Crade and Anne Goen Nemer in “The Three Musketeers” (Credit: Miriam Geer)

THE THREE MUSKETEERS: 86% – Sweet – UPDATED

SWEET Ellen Geer, doyenne of the leafy Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon, employs some 50 thesps for almost three hours in Alexandre Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers,” adapted in the cram-it-all-in-there spirit of the RSC’s “Nicholas Nickleby” and Steppenwolf’s “The Grapes of Wrath.” Cinematic rather than theatrical — which is to say, played as straight naturalism [...]

Rod Gilry and Carmen Cusack in "South Pacific". Credit: Bret Hartman / For the Los Angeles Times

SOUTH PACIFIC: 100% – Sweet – UPDATED

SWEET But this “South Pacific” is to be treasured above all for Cusack, whose interpretation of her character’s embarrassment of Rodgers & Hammerstein riches is so stunningly suffused with heart that it was as if I were hearing the songs for the first time. Nellie vainly tries to “wash that man right outta” her hair, [...]

BACKSTREET: 60% – Sweet – UPDATED

BACKSTREET: 60% – Sweet – UPDATED

BITTER This musical—with a book by Evelyn Rudie, Matthew Wrather, and director Chris DeCarlo—has an engaging premise but was much more effective when originally produced at the Santa Monica Playhouse in 1998. During the first act of the current revival, the music so overpowers the singers that their voices are virtually inaudible, while most of [...]

JESSE BOY: 60% – Sweet – UPDATED

JESSE BOY: 60% – Sweet – UPDATED

BITTER I know I will probably be in the minority of people who don’t like this play, there is everything here to arouse the sensibilities of the modern theatre audience — domestic violence, rape, molestation, dysfunctional relationships, obsessive love, sex, alcoholism, father/son relationships, murder, convicts with a heart of gold, strippers with a heart of [...]

Carol Kane, from left, Caroline Aaron, Rita Wilson, Tracee Ellis Ross and Natasha Lyonne in "Love, Loss, and What I Wore." Credit: Michael Robinson-Chavez / Los Angeles Times

LOVE, LOSS, AND WHAT I WORE: 90% – Sweet – UPDATED

SWEET Sullivan has the cast occasionally act out bits of dialogue, which adds a sense of theatricality to the reading, and breaking up “Gingy’s Story” adds cohesion to the evening. Even the weakest stories have interesting elements, and performed by this cast, they are engaging and entertaining. Jeff Favre – Backstage SWEET “What I Wore” [...]

Photo: David Cale. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

PALOMINO: 89% – Sweet – UPDATED

SWEET As it happens, Kieren tries to get Edward, who has a connection to Vallie, interested in publishing his tell-all diaries. This coincidence enables Cale to take his theme of the bartering of love in a more generous direction. The outcome is far from inevitable, but Cale’s initial conceit sparks enough fascination to sustain our [...]