Frances Baum Nicholson has spent over thirty-five years as a theatrical critic for Los Angeles suburban newspapers, beginning in the late 70s with the Altadena Chronicle (which, after her time there, became the Pasadena Weekly). In 1982 she began writing for the Pasadena Star-News. With its purchase by what is now the Southern California Newspaper Group, her reviews began to appear in several of their other papers as well. In June of 2011 she also began posting reviews on her blog, The Stage Struck Review, allowing her work to reach an even wider audience. Born in an “educational trunk” (her mother and grandmother both performed in and taught the subject), she studied theater at The University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, and holds an MFA in writing from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. When not at the theater, she teaches in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program at Pasadena's Blair High School. Under the name F.M. Nicholson she is the author of two published collections of poetry.

HEISENBERG

Stephens’ script is delightful and wistful by turns, but never sentimental. There are moments of startling, delicious humor, and others of ponderable introspection. But most of all, in the hands of these two extraordinarily skilled actors, there is a particular kind of aching humanity – that delicate need for human connection that a modern social system makes easy to overlook.

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Man of La Mancha

In the end, with the new underscore of continuing spaces of despairing imprisonment and horror in our world, the main sentiments of “Man of La Mancha” come through: hope may seem madness, but can lift up those who choose it. And that is just as apt today as it was for the original creators of the musical, or Cervantes himself. It could have been more even in presentation, but it is definitely there.

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GOD'S WAITING ROOM

Given the current script, it could have at least been nuanced by a director into a better, though not great, piece of theater. As it is, “God’s Waiting Room” has absolutely nothing new to say, and says it in a most imperfect way.

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The Complete History of Comedy (abridged)

Stephen Gifford’s set is just about perfect, setting a specific tone from the very start and facilitating all those costume changes. Those costumes, by A. Jeffrey Schoenberg, and Warren Casey’s many and varied comic props, do as much as absolutely possible to make this show as funny as it is.

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42nd Street

The skills of the performers are solid and highly entertaining to watch. The singing, under the musical direction of Douglas Austin, proves so organic it makes one forget the fact the orchestra was recorded ahead of time.

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FREE OUTGOING

Under the carefully paced direction of EWP’s artistic director Snehal Desai, this mother’s internal wrestle with culture, ethics, love and pain speaks volumes about powerlessness in the face of disaster.

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THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE

This production by the Druid theater company of Galway, features essential elements of their premiere of the work in the 1990s: from director, and Druid Artistic Director, Garry Hynes (the first woman to win a Tony for directing, for the New York production of this piece), to award-winning actress Marie Mullen, who created one role in the original production and returns to play another. Add to this strong new performances by from Druid regulars, and you have a work steeped in modern Irish thought and culture, filled with unforgettable characters recognizable as funny, infuriating, and, on occasion, grippingly awful.

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