Don Shirley writes a column about LA theater for LA Observed. Don covered theater for 16 years as a staff writer for The Los Angeles Times. He also has been the theater critic of LA CityBeat and a columnist and an editor for LA Stage Times. Before his LA career, he was on the staff of The Washington Post for six years. He is a member of Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle and American Theatre Critics Association.

TROUBLE IN MIND review

The luminous performances of Earnestine Phillips and Gerald Rivers, as black actors in a white liberal's would-be anti-racism play, help raise the emotional and political stakes.

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HAMILTON review

The sound quality inside the Pantages is presumably state-of-the-art, but (as I predicted in my column a month ago) the live experience also brings aural distractions in the form of audience reactions, especially when there are 2,700 people in the room. Listening to the score in advance  is still the best way to hear and appreciate all of the sometimes fast-moving lyrics and to understand in greater depth what's happening, scene by scene. However, there were certainly moments at the Pantages that I had not yet appreciated by only listening to the score. One of them was the profound silence of those 2,700 people during the pauses as Eliza Hamilton (Solea Pfeiffer) sings "Burn." Another was a cheeky lighting effect in one of the appearances of King George (Rory O'Malley) and his deployment for a few moments outside his own solos.

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MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG review

Although it pops with Sondheim's usual lyrical wit and intelligence, it's also one of the most durably poignant productions in the entire canon of musicals. Until now, "Merrily" had never received a Broadway-caliber production in Los Angeles County. I've seen five versions here, but none of these came close to the depth and delicacy of the Wallis production, staged by Michael Arden.

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ICEBERGS review

"Icebergs" isn't especially challenging or memorable. The scope and urgency of confronting climate change, especially in the wake of the Trump victory, loom over this little play.

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