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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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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Theater, The Most Important, Invisible Person in the Theater: The Stage Manager

The Most Important, Invisible Person in the Theater: The Stage Manager

On a Sunday afternoon in March, one lean and one muscular actor — Donal Thoms-Cappello and Chris L. McKenna, respectively — are in rehearsal for Benjamin Brand's new play, Taste. They're doing stretching exercises on the bare stage of Sacred Fools Theater Company in East Hollywood, where the play is...…
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Arts, Public Spectacle Poor Dog Group's <i>Five Small Fires</i> Looks at What Happens When a Cult Is Right (GO!)

Poor Dog Group's Five Small Fires Looks at What Happens When a Cult Is Right (GO!)

Blending techniques of New York's Wooster Group and Sheffield, England's Forced Entertainment, L.A.'s own Poor Dog Group's performance piece, under Jesse Bonnell's well-pitched direction, poses a timeless conundrum. Efren Delgadillo Jr.'s set includes pairings - of mirrors, screens, video monitors - inviting us to see the world through sundry reflections...…
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Tartuffe and The Ugly One Explore Appearance Versus Reality

German playwright Marius von Mayenburg's black comedy The Ugly One (translated by Maja Zade) has arrived at Ensemble Studio Theatre/L.A. (at Atwater Village Theatre) in Gates McFadden's ever-so-perky production, which works in marvelous juxtaposition to the play's bleak underpinnings. This is the play's West Coast premiere; it first appeared in...…
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Theater, <em>Brief Encounter</em> and <em>Villon</em>, Two Plays About Theater's Survival

Brief Encounter and Villon, Two Plays About Theater's Survival

Perhaps among the reasons that theater continues to endure, despite supposedly being in its death throes since about 300 B.C., is the playwrights and directors who, in their productions, keep ramming theater's significance into the popular consciousness and subconsciousness. One such example is Brief Encounter, director Emma Rice's adaptation of...…
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Arts, Public Spectacle L.A. Weekly Theater Awards 2014: The Nominees

L.A. Weekly Theater Awards 2014: The Nominees

Zombie Joe's Underground will host the 35th annual L.A. Weekly Theater Awards on April 7 at Exchange LA. The awards honor what the paper's committee of critics have deemed the best work performed in theaters of 99 seats or less in the 2013 calendar year. This year's Queen of the Angels Award, honoring...…
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Theater, <em>On the Money</em> and Other Plays About Vintage Ideas

On the Money and Other Plays About Vintage Ideas

Let's start with the important stuff: audience members taking selfies during a performance in an intimate theater. Craig Anton's wry staging of Solange Castro's delightfully nimble piffle of a play, Changes in the Mating Strategies of White People, opens in a brick-walled java house (set by Amanda Knehans) that's so...…
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