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Arts, Public Spectacle Haters and Lovers in <em>Venus in Fur</em> and <em>Banshee</em>

Haters and Lovers in Venus in Fur and Banshee

David Ives' Tony-nominated 2010 sexual comedy, Venus in Fur, is to eroticism what Yasmina Reza's Art is to painting. Both are beguiling, erudite parlor games that keep fluttering around the issues they purport to investigate. Venus in Fur, now at South Coast Repertory and the basis of Roman Polanski's recent...…
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Arts, Public Spectacle <em>Marjorie Prime</em> and <em>The Behavior of Broadus</em> Examine the Mechanics of Our Brains (GO!)

Marjorie Prime and The Behavior of Broadus Examine the Mechanics of Our Brains (GO!)

For the first time in years, Center Theatre Group is showing glimmers of what a flagship theater is supposed to do — allow the questions posed in one production to correspond to questions posed in another. I'm referring to three concurrent presentations in which CTG had a hand: the now-closed...…
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Arts, Public Spectacle <i>Choir Boy</i> Looks at Homosexuality in a Black Prep School (GO!)

Choir Boy Looks at Homosexuality in a Black Prep School (GO!)

At first, Tarell Alvin McCraney’s study of five, black prep-school students (Jeremy Pope, Nicholas L. Ashe, Donovan Mitchell, Grantham Coleman and Caleb Eberhardt), along with their stern headmaster (Michael A.Shepperd) and a visiting white professor (Leonard Kelly-Young) from the Civil Rights era, might seem schematic. The “group drama” about opportunity...…
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Arts, Public Spectacle <em>Happy Days</em> and <em>Cock</em> Take on Love and Mortality

Happy Days and Cock Take on Love and Mortality

Playwrights under 40 write mainly about love and politics, or so the adage goes; playwrights over 40 write mainly about death. By the time Samuel Beckett's Happy Days premiered in 1961, the great Irish bard was 55, which should make its subject fairly easy to guess. Originally a poet and...…
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Arts, Public Spectacle David Mamet's <em>Race</em> Misses the Mark at the Kirk Douglas Theatre

David Mamet's Race Misses the Mark at the Kirk Douglas Theatre

David Mamet's play Race, about a rich, white guy seeking a law firm to defend him from accusations of raping a black woman, ought to feel ripped from the headlines — even though it premiered on Broadway nearly five years ago. The play's L.A. premiere, at the Kirk Douglas Theatre,...…
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Two Plays Involving Fried Meat (Sort of)

Actor-playwright Keith Stevenson is one lucky fellow, having a top-flight ensemble to write comedies for; and having a director, Guillermo Cienfuegos, with such a sympathetic comprehension of the strands threaded through his humor; and, to top it all, being able to act in a pivotal role in his own plays...…
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REDCAT's New Original Works Festival: From a Table-Puppet Show to a Hip-Hop Ballet

There is no discernible guiding principle for the selection of the New Original Works Festival's compilation of choreography, spoken word, song and enveloping visual images. The minute you might say, "Ah, these are works that look at the world through symbols," along comes Overtone Industries' Iceland with its old-fashioned love...…
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A Sex Play That's Not Really About Sex

Oh, sex: Can we ever get over it? And if we do, what will there be to write about? What would the state of the world be if it weren't largely defined by overt and subliminal sexual impulses? Ian MacAllister-McDonald's new play, The Sexual Lives of Savages, presented by Skylight...…
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Arts, Public Spectacle A Star Trek Parody Meets British Bedroom Farce

A Star Trek Parody Meets British Bedroom Farce

Playwright-director Jonas Oppenheim is one clever, funny guy. Among his past treasures is a site-specific interactive/guerrilla performance piece, I’m Going to Kill the President, in which a prank call to the White House resulted in a police raid on the venue – was it real or was it theater? Oppenheim’s...…
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Stupid Fucking Bird Is the Best Chekhov Adaptation in Two Decades

In Anton Chekhov's play The Seagull, about the theater and its ambiguous relationship to life, neurotic young playwright Konstantin Treplev speaks about the calcification of theater and of the necessity to create "new forms." As Treplev ages, he evolves and devolves into a long-suffering, modestly successful author of quasi-inventive plays...…
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Mash-Ups of Classic Plays (Featuring Abba!)

There are no sly topical winks in Kenneth Cavander's problematic adaptation of the Oedipus trilogy. Cavander's new play, The Curse of Oedipus, which just opened at Antaeus Company, is pure classical gas. Nor are there any modern-day army fatigues or national insignias worn on shoulders in Casey Stangl's beautiful, skillful...…
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The Brothers Size and Drop Dead!, Reviewed

Tarell Alvin McCraney's tender, poetical drama The Brothers Size (Fountain Theatre) and Billy Van Zandt & Jane Milmore's meta-theatrical farce Drop Dead! (presented by Theatre 68, at North Hollywood's NoHo Arts Center) share one salient commonality: Each production has moments when the actors recite stage directions about their own characters...…
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Calendar, Archive The Brothers Size

The Brothers Size

The Brothers Size homes in on a pair of brothers: Ogun (Gilbert Glenn Brown) owns an auto shop and is caring for his younger, parolee brother, Oshoosi (Matthew Hancock). Through the intervention of Oshoosi's jailhouse friend Elegba (Theo Perkins), Oshoosi finds himself a fugitive, sorely testing the love and loyalty...…
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Theater, Rajiv Joseph's <em>Gruesome Playground Injuries</em> Examines Why People Hurt Themselves (and Others)

Rajiv Joseph's Gruesome Playground Injuries Examines Why People Hurt Themselves (and Others)

"I am big. It's the pictures that got small," Norma Desmond says in Sunset Boulevard. There's a discernible condescension in a number of reviews of Rajiv Joseph's 2011 play, Gruesome Playground Injuries, in its early productions. Mainly these reviews keep comparing it to Joseph's "bigger" play, Bengal Tiger at the...…
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Games on a Bombed-Out Beach: Finally, a Play With a Fresh Take on Hollywood

An initial impulse upon discovering a new play about Hollywood types making a movie in an exotic location is to get down on your knees and pray, "Please Lord, not another play by and about dissolute filmmakers grappling with their purpose in life." After a few minutes watching writer-director Shirl...…
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Theater, <em>Detective Partner Hero Villain</em> Is a Comic Book Play for Our Ambivalent Age

Detective Partner Hero Villain Is a Comic Book Play for Our Ambivalent Age

Pointless killings lie at the heart of playwright Brett Neveu's world. Through senseless murders, the author grasps for the purpose of life in an indifferent world. Perhaps without even meaning to, his latest play grapples with a fundamental shift in the way Americans see themselves. Through the construct of the...…
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Film, Richard Montoya Adapts His Famed East L.A. Play <em>Water & Power</em> Into a Film

Richard Montoya Adapts His Famed East L.A. Play Water & Power Into a Film

In the summer of 2006, the core trio of Latino sketch comedy troupe Culture Clash — Richard Montoya, Herbert Sigüenza and Ric Salinas — were gathered for a photo shoot at the Paradise Motel at Sunset and Beaudry, near downtown. The shoot was for an L.A. Weekly article on Montoya's...…
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Theater, Two Paul Robeson Plays in L.A., One Way Better Than the Other

Two Paul Robeson Plays in L.A., One Way Better Than the Other

In terms of international stature and influence, Paul Robeson, who died in 1976, was the most direct antecedent — politically, philosophically and even in the way he conduced his personal life — to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Both men linked the tenets of their Christianity to progressive causes; the...…
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Theater, <em>My Name Is Asher Lev</em> Shows the Fight Between Tradition and Artistic Freedom

My Name Is Asher Lev Shows the Fight Between Tradition and Artistic Freedom

When you've got a reclusive Hassidic kid in 1950s New York City who speaks, often annoyingly, through his sketches and paintings, you've got a provocative clash of cultural assimilation and artistic expression. Aaron Posner's stage adaptation of Chaim Potok's novel My Name Is Asher Lev brings an absorbing, retrospective story...…
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Arts, Public Spectacle Hey <i>Vanity Fair</i>, We Don't Need Movie Reenactments to "Save" L.A. Theater

Hey Vanity Fair, We Don't Need Movie Reenactments to "Save" L.A. Theater

Vanity Fair has its head lodged so far up its ass, it's seeing stars. In Jimmy Im's April 10 story on how For The Record (a cabaret/theater show now in West Hollywood) is going to "save" L.A. theater from itself, he opens with fighting words: "Los Angeles is teeming with actors, so...…
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