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Paul Birchall 

Calendar, Archive Kurt Weill at the Cuttlefish Hotel

Kurt Weill at the Cuttlefish Hotel

Director-adapter Paul Sand's tour de force of ferocious Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht lieder collaborations, Kurt Weill at the Cuttlefish Hotel, boasts many of the trappings of a night of difficult theater: The venue, a shabby restaurant backroom at the end of the dodgy area of the Santa Monica Pier,...…
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Calendar, Archive Tracers

Tracers

In the 1980s, author-director John DiFusco, along with a group of other veterans of the Vietnam War, conceived and executed the play Tracers, channeling their military experiences into what would become one of the most important dramas written about the war. Thirty years on, war is still hell -- and...…
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Calendar, Archive The Burnt Part Boys

The Burnt Part Boys

With a hardscrabble Appalachian setting and a score that engagingly echoes the melodies of Copland, Bernstein and Sondheim, this captivating new musical (book by Mariana Elder, music by Chris Miller, and lyrics by Nathan Tysen) is both a sensitive meditation on grief and a heartfelt coming-of-age tale. Ten years after...…
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Calendar, Archive The Last Days of Judas Iscariot

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot

Judas on trial! Yes, in playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis' courtroom drama, the man who double-crossed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver is tried for his treachery, with the case being heard in a magical courtroom somewhere in Purgatory. Fiery defense attorney Fabiana (Sarah Ruth Ryan), a recently deceased modern gal,...…
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Calendar, Archive We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South-West Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915

We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South-West Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915

Don't let the disconcerting title put you off: We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915. Playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury's compelling drama is a stunning work of ferociously creative stagecraft. In director Jillian...…
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Calendar, Archive Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical

Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical

Caparisoned in more sequins than there are stars in the heavens, Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott's Broadway adaptation of Elliott's 1994 film parks its own tour bus at the Pantages -- and it's hard not to be won over by the sparkle, whimsy and, yes, charm of the production. Elliott...…
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Calendar, Archive One White Crow

One White Crow

Playwright Dale Griffiths Stamos' drama boasts a charged debate about faith versus science that's engagingly even-handed and surprisingly evocative. Renowned TV celebrity psychic Judith Knight (Michelle Danner) offers an exclusive interview to hard-boiled reporter Teresa (Jane Hajduk), who is mystified by the request, given that she is a fierce disbeliever...…
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Calendar, Archive Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness

In his haunting, solo adaptation of Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness, playwright-actor Brian T. Finney navigates his craft directly through the work's core themes of madness, imperialistic exploitation and, well, the horror. Finney reimagines the story as monologue, artfully orchestrated by director Keythe Farley's psychologically nuanced and ferociously energetic...…
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Calendar, Archive Dreamgirls

Dreamgirls

Director Marco Gomez's mostly straightforward but pleasingly intimate staging of Tom Eyer and Henry Krieger's now classic Motown rock musical engagingly captures the ferocious ambition, passion and inevitable disappointments of the story of the rise of a girl band -- a tale whose incidents eerily echo the narrative of The...…
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Calendar, Archive What May Fall

What May Fall

In Peter Gil-Sheridan's thought-provoking drama What May Fall, a man plummets to his death from a Minnesota skyscraper. It's a terrible event (particularly for the poor fellow), but the random incident becomes the inciting incident for a meditation on how death affects us all. Death, of course, is everywhere and...…
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Calendar, Archive A Heap of Livin'

A Heap of Livin'

In Elliot Schoenman's evocative family drama, Lawrence Pressman plays iconic folk singer "Ramblin'" Harry Roe, whose impeccable, 1960s left-wing credentials include marching with Dr. King, singing with Pete Seeger and protesting at Kent State. Now elderly and frail, sustained mainly by his memories of the good old days, Harry's a...…
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Calendar, Archive Walking the Tightrope

Walking the Tightrope

Given that so many examples of children's theater are simply appalling -- the equivalent of Muffin the Puppet singing "Sharing Is Caring and Obey your Parents" or some such rubbish -- what a pleasure it is to see a work, aimed at a young audience, that possesses both intellectual heft...…
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Calendar, Archive Cymbeline

Cymbeline

In this beautifully clear and powerful production of one of Shakespeare's more densely plot-driven dramas, co-directors Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld chart an assured course through the play's madness, comedy and tragedy. Cymbeline's patchwork quilt of horror and hilarity boasts a Queen (Emily Young, a wonderfully vampy turn) who loathes...…
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Calendar, Archive Nora

Nora

Ingmar Bergman's adaptation of A Doll's House restructures Henrik Ibsen's fierce family drama, stripping the play to its emotional essence, a goal that's underscored by director Dana Jackson's spartan but evocative production. On a simple set consisting of some chairs, a Christmas tree in the back and, later, a bed,...…
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Calendar, Archive Avenue Q

Avenue Q

How can you not like a musical puppet show that looks a little like Sesame Street but sounds more like South Park? Director Richard Israel's charming local production of the Tony Award-winning musical proves that the show plays brilliantly on a small, intimate stage. After all, Avenue Q is at...…
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Calendar, Archive Theatre in the Dark

Theatre in the Dark

This collection of vignettes is performed entirely in the dark. No, really — upon arrival, you'll notice a solitary candle burning at stage center, which after the preshow announcements is blown out, plunging us into 90 minutes of inky darkness, only very occasionally alleviated by a momentary flash or murky...…
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Calendar, Archive And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None

In this era of high-tech TV police procedurals, every so often you just want to enjoy an old-fashioned whodunit mystery, in which red herrings are knocked off one by one and near-omniscient murderers ply their maniacal trade without fear of DNA testing or security cameras. If this is the mood...…
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Calendar, Archive Collected Stories

Collected Stories

In this powerful production of Donald Margulies' two-person play, the protagonist mistakes her student's geniality and hero worship for friendliness, when it's really just calculation and competitiveness. Acclaimed author and creative-writing professor Ruth (April Lang) tutors promising grad student Lisa (Natalie Sunderland), who arrives wide-eyed with adoration. A friendship develops...…
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Calendar, Archive Silence! The Musical

Silence! The Musical

In the daft and campy Silence! The Musical, based on beloved Grand Guignol horror film The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal (the Cannibal) Lecter doesn't just eat a liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti: He also sings in a lovely baritone. This droll retelling of the film —...…
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Calendar, Archive Elephant Room

Elephant Room

With this tour de force of magic and comedy (created by Trey Lyford, Geoff Sobelle and Steve Cuiffo) performed by a trio of big-haired, bug-eyed magicians wearing black-light-art-covered shirts and resembling the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers -- and staged on a set suggesting a circa 1980s shag-rug-and-vomit-green-wall-lined suburban recreation center...…
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