By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Fast TimesDowntown. It's been over a year since the Timestheater critic Michael Phillips skipped town for Chicago, and his replacement has done a bang-up job. The coverage by the new drama ace is extensive, the prose erudite yet accessible. (Sorry for jumping ahead; perhaps Phillips' replacement will be named soon.)
Slavic Accents.Enter what may be a trend on local stages: erotically charged and emotionally tortured women from Eastern Europe, whose sinewy physiques suggest possible eating disorders. Two of the year's best performances came from that mold: Jacqueline Wright's cynical Romanian, abandoned by her neo-Nazi boyfriend and wooed by an American businessman, in Brian Cousins' And Still the Dogsat Ensemble Studio Theater (the L.A. Project); and Bari Hochwald's world-weary concentration-camp survivor from Poland, slithering across the Catskills in Murray Mednick's memory play Fedunnat the Odyssey Theater.
~ STAGE EXITS ~
New TimesOut. The sudden disappearance in 2002 of New Times Los Angeleswas troubling, not just because our own parent organization, Village Voice Media, was partly responsible for shutting it down as part of a trade between the two alternative-media chains, but because New Timesitself arrived on the scene by gobbling up two alternative papers — the Village View and the Reader — that had covered the local stage. If you want some good cheer this holiday season, don't try counting the number of published theater reviews per week L.A.'s lost over the past few years due to mergers and acquisitions.
Don't ASK, Don't Tell.2002 also included this year's shrinking of ASK Theater Projects from a producer of developmental readings and workshops to what appears to be a mere moneychanger. The reason? There are already so many workshop and readings series, ASK doesn't want to be redundant. The results? Yet another institution that bestows funds to other institutions rather than to artists; doublespeak; mandatory written oaths of silence for employees; and the departure to greener fields of half the staff (Mead Hunter, Matt Almos, Wendy McClellan, Alison Merkel and Bryan Davidson), who were responsible for the vitality behind the organization's most dynamic hands-on literary and kids' programs.
~ COMMODE-ITIES ~
Number 1, or Number 2? Among the bizarre entertainments at small theaters are the backstage restrooms, which provide pre-show and intermission entertainment for the 50 to 100 people who remain seated, watching as each patron tries to look cool entering a cubicle, and then observing the changed expression when returning to their seats. Theater of NOTE, ZJU Theater, Open Fist Theater and 2100 Square Feet all have this perk. Among this season's superior moments was when a woman at ZJU Theater crossed the stage and ceremoniously closed the toilet door behind her, in full public view. Unaware, the stage manager dropped the proscenium curtain in preparation for the show's start — a curtain that needed to be parted to allow for the restroom patron's return to her seat, queen for the day as she dried her hands with a paper towel. Such are the precious yet leveling moments that distinguish the theater from the movies.
~ MEA CULPA ~
Write On.In my review of Gatsby in Hollywoodat the Met Theater, I complained that Fitzgerald's pen looked just like a thin plastic uni-ball ballpoint, which hadn't been invented when Scotty was alive. Eileen from Eileen's Prop Shop called to complain that her research was diligent and that the pen she obtained for the production was authentic. But I figured the pen should have looked like a fat cigar, with the same design curves that were so prominent in American cars of the time. Then I went to a catalog of American pens and discovered an array of samplings from the era that looked just like thin plastic uni-ball ballpoint pens. Oops.