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Theater Blogger-Critic Sarah Taylor Ellis says Goodbye to Los Angeles

Theater Blogger-Critic Sarah Taylor Ellis says Goodbye to Los Angeles

I received a lovely email a few weeks back from Sarah telling me the news that she was betraying our city and bedding down with the evil mistress herself, New York City. And now she has finally written her farewell post over at her Compositions on Theater site. Sarah and Bitter Lemons have a unique relationship, […]

THE REAL DRUNK HOUSEWIVES OF THE SAN FERNANDO VALLEY (RE-MOUNT): 75% - BITTERSWEET

THE REAL DRUNK HOUSEWIVES OF THE SAN FERNANDO VALLEY (RE-MOUNT): 75% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET At times surreal and never not funny, Kelly Holden-Bashar and Bill Haller’s new musicalette, The Real Drunk Housewives of the San Fernando Valley, is a raucous and entertaining diversion, perfect for a “gals’ night out.” Andrew Moore – MadTheatrics BITTER This reality-show musical parody starts off with a halfway decent dose of comic writing […]

LA CAGE AUX FOLLES (PANTAGES & SEGERSTROM): 76% - SWEET

LA CAGE AUX FOLLES (PANTAGES & SEGERSTROM): 76% – SWEET

SWEET Equally undeniable is that Herman’s inspiration pales in Act 2, Hamilton’s musical theater abilities are sorely limited, and the Pantages is three sizes too big a venue. Given the rapturous reception at the reviewed performance, such caveats are immaterial. Die-hard fans, reserve immediately. David C. Nichols – LA Times BITTERSWEET I saw this version […]

THE LIGHTS ARE OFF (BEST OF FRINGE): 100% - SWEET

THE LIGHTS ARE OFF (BEST OF FRINGE): 100% – SWEET

SWEET Although a few characters are unevenly written, Soson’s drama hits close to home for the eager young audience on the night I attended, and the dynamic cast of twenty-somethings sustains the show with outstanding, idiosyncratic performances. Sarah Taylor-Ellis – Stage and Cinema SWEET Great dedication and a creative design team put this show together […]

OUT THERE ON FRIED MEAT RIDGE RD.: 80% - SWEET

OUT THERE ON FRIED MEAT RIDGE RD.: 80% – SWEET

BITTERSWEET If these characters interacted this way as a spontaneous exercise in your improv class, you’d feel that something special had happened. You might think it was good enough to stage. But to someone not already in love with it, or who hadn’t smoked a joint right before the show, Fried Meat sustains interest more […]

FOLLIES (AHMANSON THEATRE): 91% - SWEET

FOLLIES (AHMANSON THEATRE): 91% – SWEET

SWEET There’s so much to praise in the blissful Broadway revival of “Follies,” which opened Wednesday at the Ahmanson Theatre on the heels of its numerous Tony nominations, but let’s pay homage first to the sheer sophistication of the show itself. After experiencing “Follies” again — an adult entertainment if ever there was one — […]

THE WOMAN IN THE WALL: 100% - SWEET

THE WOMAN IN THE WALL: 100% – SWEET

SWEET This entrancing performance takes the audience on a spiritual journey that illuminates the power of women despite intensely limiting social circumstances. Sarah Taylor-Ellis – Stage and Cinema SWEET Nevertheless, there is a plaque at the entrance to the Hall that says, “The beautiful sights greeting your eyes in this room are for the delight, […]

GHOSTS (EDGEMAR CENTER FOR THE ARTS): 60% - BITTERSWEET

GHOSTS (EDGEMAR CENTER FOR THE ARTS): 60% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER All these actors try to supply elements necessary to the play. Ms Danner displays no similar instinct; nor, unfortunately, does Mr Kaback. Jason Rohrer – Stage and Cinema SWEET Doug Kaback has directed and adapted a modern version of this haunting and classic play. And, I have to say, he’s done an excellent job […]

Sarah Taylor Ellis: from Blogger to LA Weekly Critic

Sarah Taylor Ellis: from Blogger to LA Weekly Critic

Yep. Sarah shot me a note last week to tell me the good news. This I believe is her first review for them. Our little girl is all grown up. When we found her she was working in the back alleys of her own little blog, toiling away in the UCLA phd program. It was […]

Critique of the Week

Critique of the Week

OUR TOWN Sarah Taylor Ellis – Compositions on Theatre According to a woman sitting behind me at the Broad Stage on Sunday afternoon, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town is performed at least once a day somewhere in the United States. The middle aged couple next to me remembered reading Our Town in high school, but they […]

The Evolution of the Online Theatre Critic

The Evolution of the Online Theatre Critic

Online blogger-critic-dramaturg-academic, Sarah Taylor Ellis, offers her typically poignant combination of intelligence and personal reflection in her latest blog post Celebrating 2 Years of Blogging. In it she looks back at how she has emerged (we helped a little bit) and how far she has come, while still trying to wrestle with the realities of […]

O(H): 93% - SWEET

O(H): 93% – SWEET

SWEET Smith’s elegant and supple movements are especially wonderful to observe, and while the show’s pace is uneven, even its slower sequences are interesting in their exploration of the creative process. Deborah Klugman – LA Weekly BITTERSWEET Sometimes, performances are more valuable for the things they make possible than the things they achieve. Casebolt and […]

OUR TOWN (BROAD STAGE): 92% - SWEET

OUR TOWN (BROAD STAGE): 92% – SWEET

SWEET But perhaps the biggest shocker of this “Our Town” is its refusal to bask in amber glows, wallow in folksy sentiments or indulge in shopworn sermonizing. Admittedly, the production’s power would be greater in a more intimate space. Still, this is a stunning theatrical achievement. Cromer throws dazzlingly harsh light on the truth that’s […]

The New York Times Critic Watch

The New York Times Critic Watch

This is an interesting project that is being funded by the HowlRound Microfund for Artists. Thanks to Sarah Taylor Ellis for sending along the info. The project is called The New York Times Critic Watch. Here’s the skinny from their site: Welcome to The New York Times Critic Watch project – a reader-fueled experiment attempting to give […]

A Couple more Los Angeles Critics Offer their 2011 Theatre Highlights

A Couple more Los Angeles Critics Offer their 2011 Theatre Highlights

From the always stellar Sarah Taylor Ellis of Compositions on Theatre and the sometimes stellar Charles McNulty of the LA Times. Their 2011 Theatre Highlights span both coasts from LA to NYC. I like where their opinions converge here: “Cyclops: A Rock Opera (Psittacus Productions) This raucous rock opera adaptation of Euripides’ satyr play consumed me […]

BRING IT ON: THE MUSICAL: 68% - BITTERSWEET

BRING IT ON: THE MUSICAL: 68% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER Never have I been so aware of calories burned onstage before. But who goes to a musical to vicariously sweat? “Bring It On” has interminable pep but leaves more discerning theatergoers with little to cheer about. Charles McNulty – LA Times BITTERSWEET Attractive cast, songs and production values will fuel the post-Ahmanson tour, though […]

THE DINOSAUR WITHIN: 57% - BITTERSWEET

THE DINOSAUR WITHIN: 57% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER The trouble comes first in John Walch’s script, which tries too hard to pack itself full of symbols and themes. So much of the play’s actual dialogue seems mechanical in its composition, leaving the viewer essentially begging for unglorified human relationships. The result leaves the dramaturge in her glory, while the average theatergoer remains […]

I'VE NEVER BEEN SO HAPPY (KIRK DOUGLAS): 47% - BITTER

I’VE NEVER BEEN SO HAPPY (KIRK DOUGLAS): 47% – BITTER

SWEET But in an age when musicals are patched together from Hollywood trifles and jukebox castoffs, it seems pointless to criticize “I’ve Never Been So Happy” for lacking substance. It’s no sillier than most Broadway blockbusters, but it sure is a whole lot more original. Charles McNulty – LA Times BITTER Rude Mechs executes a […]

WHAT'S WRONG WITH ANGRY?: 100% - SWEET

WHAT’S WRONG WITH ANGRY?: 100% – SWEET

SWEET Director Michael Matthews’ cogent staging underscores the strengths of a piece that breaks no new ground but handles familiar themes with sensitivity and skill. Particularly appealing is the group portrait of adolescence that rings true above and beyond any political message. Deborah Klugman – LA Weekly SWEET Wilde’s play, incisively directed by Michael Matthews […]

WHAT THE MOON SAW OR "I ONLY APPEAR TO BE DEAD": 54% - BITTERSWEET

WHAT THE MOON SAW OR “I ONLY APPEAR TO BE DEAD”: 54% – BITTERSWEET

BITTER What the Moon Saw strikes out into exciting territory conceptually, but its poetic aim currently exceeds its grasp. Although Son of Semele is to be commended for honoring the tenth anniversary of 9/11 with a new work, both the script and production need further honing. But perhaps this show (ahem) only appears to be […]

TROJAN WOMEN (AFTER EURIPIDES) (SITI COMPANY): 78% - SWEET

TROJAN WOMEN (AFTER EURIPIDES) (SITI COMPANY): 78% – SWEET

SWEET Poetically adapted by Jocelyn Clarke to include modern insights through temporary suspension of the fourth wall, this standing ovation worthy SITI Company production brims with sophistication and powerful dramatic performances perfectly contextualized within the Villa’s outdoor Greek-style theater. Mialka Bonadonna Morano – LAist BITTERSWEET But the collective force of the play — an overwhelming, […]

THE COMEDY OF ERRORS (POWERHOUSE THEATRE): 100% - SWEET

THE COMEDY OF ERRORS (POWERHOUSE THEATRE): 100% – SWEET

SWEET Shakespeare’s stage directions for this opening moment of The Comedy of Errors are sparse and straightforward: “Enter Duke Solinus, Aegeon, Gaoler, Officers, and other Attendants.” It is in the wildly farcical physicalization of the Bard’s words that Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble’s must-see production springs to life. This madcap comedy of mistaken identities promises fun […]

MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE: 70% - BITTERSWEET

MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE: 70% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET The controversy surrounding “My Name Is Rachel Corrie” will not likely dissipate with its forthright Los Angeles premiere at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum. Still, local audiences of all ideological stripes can finally put this much-debated work into context, thanks to a remarkable title performance by Samara Frame. David C. Nichols – LA Times […]

STRANGER THINGS: 66% - BITTERSWEET

STRANGER THINGS: 66% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET Johnson endows Helga with a curious charm, and the show’s somber, claustrophobic tone is leavened by dry wit (Mother: “This is what God is doing to us.” Helga: “God doesn’t care about us. We’re not his type.”). And just when the story seems predictable, it twists into something genuinely chilling. Charlotte Stoudt – LA […]

"I am actually in love with the art of listening." - Sarah Taylor Ellis

“I am actually in love with the art of listening.” – Sarah Taylor Ellis

Check out this exquisitely personal and tremendously important post entitled Are We Listening? from Sarah Taylor Ellis at her Compositions on Theater blog. As always Sarah is able to blend the intimate with the intellectual and say something that resonates with a profound simplicity. In this latest offering the topic is, believe it or not, listening. […]

Critique of the Week

Critique of the Week

GOSPEL ACCORDING TO FIRST SQUAD Sarah Taylor Ellis – Compositions on Theatre Sometimes, theater criticism becomes a chore. On several of our recent theater dates, Tony Frankel and I have lamented that writing a review of a mediocre show seems hardly worth our (unpaid) time and effort. Do our reviews matter? Who is reading? Does […]

THIS (KIRK DOUGLAS THEATRE): 67% - BITTERSWEET

THIS (KIRK DOUGLAS THEATRE): 67% – BITTERSWEET

SWEET Director Daniel Aukin, who helmed the play’s 2009 premiere at New York’s Playwrights Horizon, leads a brilliant ensemble, including three members of the original cast. The alternately funny and melancholy work plays out like a wistful 21st-century distillation of Chekhovian hope and longing. Les Spindle – Backstage SWEET It’s uncategorizable moments like these that […]

GOSPEL ACCORDING TO FIRST SQUAD: 100% - SWEET

GOSPEL ACCORDING TO FIRST SQUAD: 100% – SWEET

SWEET A prismatic glimpse into an ever-shifting conflict and culture, this “Gospel” is chapter and verse one of the finest war plays in recent memory. F. Kathleen Foley – LA Times SWEET Yes, it’s another war play, but the first act moves so swiftly and the themes are presented so seamlessly, you find yourself gasping […]

ON GOLDEN POND (COLONY THEATRE): 100% - SWEET

ON GOLDEN POND (COLONY THEATRE): 100% – SWEET

SWEET The 30-year-old play is gentle and darkly humorous but strikes a chilling chord as we watch this charmer’s self-aware terror at the descent into oblivion. No small amount of credit goes to 80-year-old Hal Linden in the central role of cantankerous articulate 79-year-old Norman Thayer. Laura Hitchcock – CurtainUp SWEET But a brilliant cast […]

IT MUST BE HIM: 46% - BITTER

IT MUST BE HIM: 46% – BITTER

SWEET Things begin on a perilously wobbly note, but this romp — well-suited for the intimate Edgemar Center’s black box — finds its (old-fashioned) groove with a mix of breezy comedy, dirty jokes and tuneful numbers from Emmy-winning composer Larry Grossman and lyricist Ryan Cunningham. Charlotte Stoudt – LA Times BITTER At its best, It […]