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Monday, March 12, 2018

"Between Riverside and Crazy" @ Artists Rep.

The excitement of anticipation is always fun, but it's even more fun, (and rare) when the object lives-up to the hype you have created in your head, when it's everything you'd hoped it would be. Such is the case with "Between Riverside and  Crazy." This is the show I've been rubbing my hands together for since the Season Announcement. Stephen Adly Guirgis is, in my view, the New David Mamet, because The Old David Mamet went senile. That line will get a giggle out of the Theatre Geeks, but here's what I want the Non-Geek Readers to hear: If you've ever wondered why I go to the theatre, it is because I hope to see a show exactly like this.

"The Magic Play" @ PCS

It is surprising to me that "The Magic Play" is my favorite show so far in PCS's Season. We all have things we look for in pieces of art, our favorite themes or "ingredients." I am keenly aware of my own "checklist" at the moment, because Artists Rep's "Between Riverside and Crazy" ticks all of my boxes. "The Magic Play" shares nearly nothing with my wishlist, (I'm not particularly fond of relationship dramas, for instance.) But, I was enthralled with "The Magic Play" from curtain-up. The magic and the drama are 8n perfect balance, it could easily have been a situation where the magic overshadowed the traditional play-elements, or the drama could've been so "heavy" as to make the magic seem out-of-place, or gimmicky. If there's one thing I can say about "The Magic Play" it's that you'll be surprised, surprised by the tricks, surprised by how well all the elements work together, and perhaps even surprised that you liked it as much as you did.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

"Kodachrome" @ PCS

"Kodachrome" is a play of small moments, much like the photographs at its center. It is full of ruminations on the large and little things of life, and how one can sometimes turn into the other. It is a shoe perfectly-suited to its space in the Ellyn Bye Studio, the intimate size of the theatre makes for easy viewing of the frequent projections. The only element that is too small is the size of its cast. Meaning the number of characters each actor is supposed to play at times seemed to exceed a reasonable limit, causing the brief but somewhat frustrating loss of each individual arc as the viewer has to shift between them. The photographer/narrator helps a bit with some scene-setting that sometimes includes reminders about facts revealed much earlier in the play, but she too often seems to be talking a mile a minute, cramming quite a lot into ninety minutes without an intermission. Even with those minor quibbles, the play as a whole does manage to be emotionally resonant. (And since "Kodachrome" was not the play's original title, I can't even feel teased by the absence of the song.)

Monday, January 29, 2018

"Murder for Two" @ Broadway Rose.

Broadway Rose knows its way around a murder-farce. In fact, those are my favorite kind of shows to see there. It is high-time they did another, the last one being "Whodunit" which feels like ages ago. The "two" in "Murder for Two" refers to the two actors, one of whom, David Saffert plays an astonishing number of characters. Other reviews have compared "Murder for Two" to "The Mystery of Irma Veo", but I'd say it's closer to "The 39 Steps", which I saw at PCS before this website began in earnest. Saffert's performance is every bit as skilled as one would expect to be able to take on such a daunting task, but there are times when I wished he was given more to work with than a single prop to signify each. By far the best moment in the show is "Steppin' Out of the Shadows." I wish they had sent a Press Photo from that number. It is hilarious and worth the price of admission all by itself.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

"Astoria" Parts One & Two

"Epic" has become somewhat stripped of its true meaning, overused to mean merely "cool." Yet, "epic" must certainly be used here with its original definition: "a work of sweeping scope." Chris Coleman's "Astoria" fits that description to the letter. It's a truly massive Two-part work, chronicling the settlement of Astoria by fur-traders. It says in Coleman's Director's Note that author Peter Stark expressed doubts about the book's suitability for the stage, but there are moments of seafaring drama, particularly in Part One, that have a feeling of realism made possible by little more than sound effects. It's quite impressive, as is the entire work.

Unfortunately, Part One only had a brief seven-day revival, I am surprised that it did not run as its own entry in the Season because I remember missing it last year due to rioting Downtown, and I would imagine quite a few others faced the same predicament.

The is a must-see because it dramatises a pivotal moment in your country's history in vivid and unexpected ways.

Monday, November 27, 2017

"Your Holiday Hit Parade" @ Broadway Rose

"Your Holiday Hit Parade" is the best of the Broadway Rose Holiday Revues I have seen. I'm going to be jokingly egotistical for a moment and claim credit for the newest offering having more of a "book" which i have been advocating for each year. The story revolves around 2 stranded motorists and the ghost who haunt an abandoned hotel. (The show was written by Dan Murphy and Rick Lewis, though I suspect it may have been "ghostwritten" by Jack Skelington, of "The Nightmare Before Christmas" fame.) Boy, I am just full of jokes.... There is also more of a set than in previous Broadway Rose holiday productions. As always, the band is fantastic, and the score features a moment my percussionist Mitch Wilson which stands out so much that it merits being projected on stage in silhouette.

I saw the first Sunday Matinee, which followed Thanksgiving, placing it on the cusp of acceptability for a Christmas-themed show. It was enough to push me over the threshold into a festive mood. I suspect it will do the same for you.

The Humans @ Artist's Rep

"The Humans" is somewhat difficult to review. I'll start by saying that it is quite simply splendid. The difficulty in writing about it lies in trying to explain why. The best, and most succinct way is to describe and laud its realism. Usually, "realism" is used as a synonym for "gritty." I use it here as the best way I can think of to denote that few other plays I've seen have been so true-to-life. The mother, Diedre, (Luisa Sermol)  seems achingly motherly. A woman who is both exasperating and endearing. The father, Erik Blake, (Robert Pescovitz) is equally Dad-ish, an incessant worrier about maintenance issues, and the like. Vanna O'Brien is outstanding in her role as the matriarch suffering from dementia, believable to frightening degree when she loses her grip.

It is as if playwright Stephen Karam recorded a Thanksgiving Meal and then simply transcribed it. Even the jokes seem unnervingly natural. Which makes it all the stranger when the play takes a breakneck turn towards a sadder tone. This turn is welcome, if sudden and arguably incongruous. The final minutes are bewildering, perhaps not in a negative way, though the people I chatted with at the Reception were similarly confused, so at least i'm not alone. None of this diminishes the remarkableness of the production as a whole, I suspect you will see someone you know represented by at least one these characters. Their sheer humanity is that striking.   

Sunday, November 19, 2017

"To Kill a Mockingbird" @ Lakewood

"To Kill a Mockingbird" is one of those shows that just demands to be seen. It's a show that despite the backing-up of my personal schedule, I still had to make sure I attended, even though it is now late in the all to brief run. See it before the explosion of yuletide cheer. See it for its unfortunate contemporary relevance. In short: See it as soon as possible. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

"Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles" @ PCS

There is much to admire in"Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles" There's the dreamlike Magical Realist set, with its beautifully askew angles, and truly remarkable bits of stage-magic. There's biting contemporary social-commentary, concerning all-too-urgent issues of immigration and assimilation. And I have joust now gained an appreciation for the Greek Mythological skeleton upon which the play is built. Unfortunately, I gained this insight too late to assist me in deciphering some of the play's more confusing moments, because I did not arrive in time to peruse the playbill adequately, and the relevant section is buried on the last page page of that play's section in the playbill which serves all three of PCS's current and upcoming productions. Something so crucial should be given more pride-of-place. Now that you know to look for it, you may have an even better time than I did.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

"The Events" @ Third Rail Rep

"The Events" is a harrowing play, and unfortunately a topical one. My guess is that it was inspired by the massacres of Anders Behring Breivik, given the shooting's racial motivations. Sadly, in recent times, David Greig could have taken inspiration from any number of mass-shootings. Given the motive, it is a daring, yet confusing choice to cast a black actor in the role of the shooter. It is also just a mindbender of a play, and there are moments when more than two actors would have made the narrative easier to follow. However, Joseph Gibson is more than up to the task.

It is a cliche to call it haunting, but I think the word is apt, when it takes a day of "digestion" to write about the play. I wholeheartedly recommend "The Events". Catch it before it's all to brief run is over.