Michael Van Duzer is an award-winning playwright and director. He has reviewed opera productions for a variety of print and online media since the mid-1980's. In the past few years, he has added theatre reviews to his resume. He writes features and interviews for LA Stage Alliance's online magazine @This Stage.

In the Valley of the Shadow

In commemoration of the one-year anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Rogue Machine Theatre is presenting the world premiere of Katherine Cortez’s In the Valley of the Shadow. This taut, gripping, and intensely moving new play is a powerful tribute to the lives lost that terrible night.

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NORMAL

Mancini skillfully guides the trio through a visceral and highly theatrical staging of the play. He makes effective use of the entire stage, and skillfully capitalizes on the eerily looming shadows cast when backlighting actors behind the scrim. But perhaps the most indelible visual is watching normal objects like a hammer and a pair of scissors become instruments of pain and death.

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DOGFIGHT

Peter Duchan’s book gracefully translates the qualities of the film to the stage. Pasek and Paul (they both share credit for music and lyrics) have crafted an emotionally resonant score that enhances the quick-paced story. Their lyrics are filled with character and dramatically apt. As young composers still finding their voices, the score offers telling clues to their musical influences. Sharp-eared audience members will find echoes of Stephen Sondheim and, especially, Adam Guettel.

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Pledge

Playwright Paul Shoulberg has something very different in mind. His witty and incisively written play is a satiric look at the heart of white male privilege. Recognizing that a fraternity is the perfect incubator for the slickly amoral businessmen and lawyers who populate the upper class in America, he focuses on the next generation as they flex their muscles and learn how to access their power.

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THIS SIDE OF SWEETWATER

These plays reveal Stanczyk as a playwright concerned with exploring the soul. Though the pieces vary in style, the general tone is bittersweet, and the primary focus is human interaction, mostly dealing with loving relationships struggling under some kind of pressure.

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Les Blancs

Left unfinished at her death, Lorraine Hansberry\'s play Les Blancs was completed by her husband, Robert Nemiroff, and posthumously produced on Broadway in 1970. Despite a strong cast featuring James Earl Jones, the production was not a success, and the play quickly fell into obscurity. Rogue Machine’s riveting new production makes a powerful case that the play has been unjustly neglected.

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The Lyons

The Lyons may not be Silver’s best play, nor would you care to spend time with any of these characters in real life. But a couple of hours in their company, safely protected by the Fourth Wall, is both diverting and unsettling.

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The Lady Was A Gentleman

The play uses classic farce tropes: mistaken identity, gender confusion, overheard conversations, etc. It also finds inspiration in sources as varied as Cyrano de Bergerac, Calamity Jane (the Doris Day film) and The Well of Horniness. Still, the play has structural problems and would play better with an excised subplot and no intermission.

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King of the Road

While the book is uninspired, King of the Road features crackerjack musicians, a terrific performance by Jesse Johnson, and nearly 20 dynamic musical numbers which reveal the range of Miller’s unique brand of songwriting.

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Tosca

Then there is the schadenfreude factor. Aside from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, no theatrical work can claim as many apocryphal tales of disaster as Tosca. It is impossible to enter the house for a production without considering legendary reports of under-rehearsed firing squads and bouncing sopranos.

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Yes, Virginia

Sterling and English slip into the roles with ease and volley their lines off one another with the responsiveness of Wimbledon champions.

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