THEATER REVIEWS

THEATER REVIEWS

  • L.A. theater openings, Sept. 25-Oct. 2: 'Phoebe Zeitgeist Returns to Earth' and more

    L.A. theater openings, Sept. 25-Oct. 2: 'Phoebe Zeitgeist Returns to Earth' and more

    This week: A song-filled salute to the films of Martin Scorsese, a musical prequel to Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” and an updated take on a saucy 1970s-era satire by German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Peter & the Starcatcher Tony-winning musical prequel to “Peter Pan.” Morgan-Wixson Theatre,...

  • The genius of Edward Albee and the inner voice that brought difficult truths to the stage

    The genius of Edward Albee and the inner voice that brought difficult truths to the stage

    David Mamet once described two of New York’s leading drama critics as the syphilis and gonorrhea of the American theater. Edward Albee, whose death at age 88 on Friday marked the end of his reign as the greatest living American playwright, chiseled his own choice invectives for reviewers over his...

  • A smoldering 'View From the Bridge' turns up the heat at the Ahmanson

    A smoldering 'View From the Bridge' turns up the heat at the Ahmanson

    In Ivo van Hove’s celebrated production of Arthur Miller’s “A View From the Bridge,” the direction is the star. The Belgian auteur, who leads Holland’s preeminent theater company, Toneelgroep Amsterdam, made his Broadway debut with this stylized revival that took London by storm. It’s not a common...

  • Strong cast and inspired staging command your attention in A Noise Within's 'Arcadia'

    Strong cast and inspired staging command your attention in A Noise Within's 'Arcadia'

    When a play references Fermat’s Last Theorem in the first minute of dialogue, you know you better pay close attention. That’s the case with Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia,” a dizzying blend of philosophy, physics, higher mathematics and even higher comedy that requires diligent parsing throughout its...

  • Pasadena Playhouse tweaks 1960s' 'The Fantasticks' for a post-9/11 era

    Pasadena Playhouse tweaks 1960s' 'The Fantasticks' for a post-9/11 era

    Try to remember a greener "Fantasticks," when props were leaner and sets were matchsticks ... Ah, well, memory of the original lyrics fades, and it may be hard at first to recognize the no-frills off-Broadway origins of "The Fantasticks" amid its expansive, big-budget revival at the Pasadena Playhouse....

  • L.A. theater openings, Sept. 18-25: 'Watch What Happens -- Live on Stage!' and more

    L.A. theater openings, Sept. 18-25: 'Watch What Happens -- Live on Stage!' and more

    This week: A sendup of a well-known cable-TV personality, a Mel Brooks musical, and more. (Give) Back to School Show! The Mad Jackrats improv troupe performs in this benefit for homeless children in L.A. Sacred Fools, Second Stage, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Sun., 7:30 p.m. $12, $16. www.lpnsimprov.co...

  • 'Throw Me on the Burnpile and Light Me Up': One woman's dive into the backwater of memory

    'Throw Me on the Burnpile and Light Me Up': One woman's dive into the backwater of memory

    Southern writers have a distinct advantage over their Northern counterparts. The South, as William Faulkner, Carson McCullers and Flannery O’Connor have depicted it, is so rife with flaming eccentrics that a mere trip to the grocery store can yield a flourishing crop of prize anecdotes. In her...

  • 'Barbecue' at the Geffen finds a ferociously funny way into the subject of race and identity

    'Barbecue' at the Geffen finds a ferociously funny way into the subject of race and identity

    When playwright Robert O’Hara writes comedy, outrageousness is a given. His play “Bootycandy,” a series of connected skits about growing up black and gay that was produced last year by Celebration Theatre, starts making ribald mischief with its title. “Barbecue,” which is having its West Coast...

  • Resilience and dignity are the rich, bluesy music of 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom'

    Resilience and dignity are the rich, bluesy music of 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom'

    Calls for a national conversation on race are routinely made in the wake of crises, but a better idea would be a requirement for all citizens to familiarize themselves with the work of playwright August Wilson. An excellent place to start would be the gripping production of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”...

  • Better than Bryan Cranston? Star of South Coast Rep's 'All the Way' delivers a most convincing LBJ

    Better than Bryan Cranston? Star of South Coast Rep's 'All the Way' delivers a most convincing LBJ

    There should be a special award for when one actor wins the Tony, but then another actor still finds a way to kill the role — to act the heck out of it and to make it new. I'd nominate Hugo Armstrong, who stars as Lyndon Baines Johnson in Robert Schenkkan's Tony-winning "All the Way" at South Coast...

  • One black kid, one white kid and the riveting friendship that unfolds onstage in 'Dutch Masters'

    One black kid, one white kid and the riveting friendship that unfolds onstage in 'Dutch Masters'

    What begins as an intrusive subway encounter quickly deepens into a riveting, all-too-relevant microcosm of intractable racial tensions in Rogue Machine’s superb West Coast premiere of “Dutch Masters” at the Met Theatre. Playwright Greg Keller set this taut, suspenseful two-hander in 1992, amid...

  • The Troubies turn an ancient Roman comedy into a modern 'Haunted House Party'

    The Troubies turn an ancient Roman comedy into a modern 'Haunted House Party'

    Titus Maccius Plautus (c. 254-184 BC) has been described by classicist and novelist Erich Segal as “the least admired and most imitated” of the ancient Greek and Roman dramatists. His plays, epitomizing Roman popular entertainment, are scripted vaudevilles that lead subversive mirth down a circuitous...

  • Hollywood Bowl show marks a breakthrough for homegrown L.A. dance troupes

    Hollywood Bowl show marks a breakthrough for homegrown L.A. dance troupes

    The “L.A. Dances” program at the Hollywood Bowl on Thursday arguably represented a breakthrough: Up to now, some of our more established cultural institutions have largely relegated homegrown dance ensembles to off-site plazas, annexes, courtyards or, in the case of the Bowl, pre-performance guest...

  • L.A. theater openings, Sept. 11-18: 'Teatro Moz' and more

    L.A. theater openings, Sept. 11-18: 'Teatro Moz' and more

    This week: Musicals for every taste, including a Latino-themed celebration of Morrissey, the singer formerly known as the frontman for the British rock band the Smiths. Assassins Stephen Sondheim’s darkly comic musical about John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, et al.; not recommended for children....

  • Shakespeare at the Bowl is much ado but about what?

    Shakespeare at the Bowl is much ado but about what?

    If music be the food of love, play on. Please. That oft-cited line from “Twelfth Night” was not spoken during the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s “Shakespeare at the Bowl” Tuesday night. But the sentiment surely was appreciated as British actors from Shakespeare’s Globe  joined the orchestra at the...

  • L.A. theater openings, Sept. 4-11: Patti LuPone and more

    L.A. theater openings, Sept. 4-11: Patti LuPone and more

    This week: South Coast Rep opens its season with a Tony-winning historical drama, a tune-filled August Wilson tale comes to the Taper, and a two-time Tony winner graces the stage at Segerstrom Center. Angel’s Flight A detective searches for a missing girl in 1940s L.A. in this mashup of comedy,...

  • Dynamic cast propels tale of two step-siblings across three decades

    Dynamic cast propels tale of two step-siblings across three decades

    As it turns out, “The Two Kids That Blow ... Up” at the Lounge Theatre isn’t nearly as explosive as its expletive-laden title might suggest. Tracing three decades in the complicated relationship between two Asian American urbanites struggling to find their place in the world, Carla Ching’s play...

  • A dance 'Tour de Force,' minus the force, at Segerstrom Center

    A dance 'Tour de Force,' minus the force, at Segerstrom Center

    The gala-style ballet program is an audience favorite, its international cast packed with principal dancers who normally don’t perform together. You might get stars from the Mariinsky, the Bolshoi, England’s Royal Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, all in one night. Segerstrom Center for the Arts...

  • 'Temptation of St. Antony' mixes play, dance and avant-pop concert into a show that defies labels

    'Temptation of St. Antony' mixes play, dance and avant-pop concert into a show that defies labels

    In a gutted warehouse near Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles, a ragtag repertory is acting out a story by Gustave Flaubert in a cluttered set sourced primarily from Craigslist. Actors sing and musicians dance, as an agonized Saint Antony, the fourth century Egyptian monk, is tempted...

  • From the pulpit: The unfolding story of the 'Captain of the Bible Quiz Team'

    From the pulpit: The unfolding story of the 'Captain of the Bible Quiz Team'

    A church is a community — a family, even. When a member is in crisis, others step forward with prayers, words of encouragement, helping hands and Jell-O salads. Prolific Los Angeles playwright Tom Jacobson marvelously assembles such a family in the course of his new play “Captain of the Bible Quiz...

  • Frida Kahlo meets John Coltrane in electric dance homage

    Frida Kahlo meets John Coltrane in electric dance homage

    Frida Kahlo and John Coltrane are an unlikely pair, but at the Ford amphitheater in Hollywood, they proved an exhilarating match. The Los Angeles-based Latin dance theater troupe Contra-Tiempo opened the Ford show Saturday night with a new homage to Mexican painter Kahlo choreographed by Marjani...

  • In this 'Next to Normal,' the message is loud but not clear

    In this 'Next to Normal,' the message is loud but not clear

    "Next to Normal," the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical about a suburban mom's struggle with bipolar disorder, first arrived in Los Angeles in 2010, on its national tour. I remember feeling electrified — at once thrilled and unnerved — by the bracing honesty of Brian Yorkey's book and lyrics, the...

  • Relive the horrors of adolescence with Wendy Graf's new play 'Please Don't Ask About Becket'

    Relive the horrors of adolescence with Wendy Graf's new play 'Please Don't Ask About Becket'

    The raging hormones of adolescence can be a destructive force that leaves stunned parents sifting through the wreckage, looking for clues about what went wrong. Playwright Wendy Graf dramatizes that poignant scenario to frequently ravaging effect in Electric Footlights’ production of “Please Don’t...

  • L.A. theater openings, Aug. 28-Sept. 4: 'The Importance of Being Earnest' and more

    L.A. theater openings, Aug. 28-Sept. 4: 'The Importance of Being Earnest' and more

    This week: Women gone Wilde, plus a sendup about the making of “Gone With the Wind,” and a hit musical comedy about “the change.”  Back Off Track: Saga of a Quitter Writer-performer Carey Matthews’ new solo comedy. The Belfry Stage, Upstairs at the Crown, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood. Sun.-Mon.,...

  • The ghost of Leonard Bernstein, onscreen and onstage in Hershey Felder's 'Maestro'

    The ghost of Leonard Bernstein, onscreen and onstage in Hershey Felder's 'Maestro'

    Leonard Bernstein is on the video screen, lecturing on the art of conducting while the audience files in for “Hershey Felder as Leonard Bernstein in Maestro” at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. Bernstein, the longtime conductor of the New York Philharmonic and the composer of...

  • A troubled Filipina's battles, past and present, in 'As Straw Before the Wind'

    A troubled Filipina's battles, past and present, in 'As Straw Before the Wind'

    In “As Straw Before the Wind,” playwright Felix Racelis attempts to draw attention to two topics sorely underrepresented in the theater: the Filipino American experience during and after World War II, and the challenges facing senior citizens. The new indie production, however, presents challenges...

  • Who is Deb, anyway? In 'D Deb Debbie Deborah,' more questions than answers

    Who is Deb, anyway? In 'D Deb Debbie Deborah,' more questions than answers

    From the title of Jerry Lieblich’s play “D Deb Debbie Deborah,” I was ready for an exploration of the fluidity of identity, perhaps at different stages of a woman’s life. But in this West Coast premiere at Theatre of Note in Hollywood, the blurring of selfhood cuts a lot deeper than names. In Lieblich’s...

  • 'All My Distances Are Far' dives into the turbulent waters of teenhood

    'All My Distances Are Far' dives into the turbulent waters of teenhood

    For the last 20 years, veteran actress Leda Siskind also has been a licensed psychotherapist. She brings both disciplines to bear, with mixed results, in “All My Distances Are Far,” her new play at Theatre 40. The action, which takes place in a series of brief blackout scenes, spans one school...

  • L.A. theater openings, Aug. 21-28: 'The Temptation of St. Antony' and more

    L.A. theater openings, Aug. 21-28: 'The Temptation of St. Antony' and more

    This week: Immersive tales set in a church, a beer hall, and a mad monk’s cave. Beyond Imagination Gala launch for the Imagine Project, a new children’s theater company. The Colony Theatre, 555 N. 3rd St., Burbank. Sun., 5 p.m. Free; registration required. www.imagineprojectca.com/eventbrite. Bury...

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