WILLARD MANUS has been a Los Angeles-based theater reviewer since 1980, writing for such publications as L.A. Weekly, The Outlook, Northeast Newspapers and Pasadena Star-News. He also served as West Coast correspondent for Playbill.com. For the past ten years he has covered southern California theatre for Total Theatre.com. Manus is also a much-produced playwright whose recent credits include FRANK AND AVA (winner of a best-play prize at the 2014 Hollywood Fringe Festival); JOE AND MARILYN: A LOVE STORY; BIRD LIVES!; and PREZ–THE LESTER YOUNG STORY. Manus writes novels as well, the best-known of which is MOTT THE HOOPLE, thanks to the British rock band which took its name from his book. A member of Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), his film reviews are carried in lively-arts.com.

Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris

A top-notch quintet led by pianist Anthony Lucca plays Brel’s score with warmth and finesse, and the choreographers, Imani Alexander and Dara Weinberg, plus director Fishbach, do equally fine work in positioning and moving the hard-working singers around the stage during the course of this two-hour-long show.

..read full review...

Elevator

Kudos should go as well to Leoni’s cast, all of whom prove to be skilled farceurs as well as actors. Their strong, confident performances help make Elevator the trippy hit it is. David Goldstein’s atmospheric set and lighting are big pluses, as well.

..read full review...

KISS

The offbeat and complex Kiss is not an easy play to mount, but thanks to the expert and inventive direction of Bart DeLorenzo and to the superb work of its young actors, many of whom are sure to go on to stardom, this comes off as one of the most compelling and provocative plays Los Angeles has seen in recent years.

..read full review...

Punk Rock

...the play is visceral, ferocious, funny and confrontational from start to finish. Stephens’s dialogue crackles with tension and energy, his characters are vigorously alive, and his story shoots hard and fast down the rails, driven by a pounding punk-rock soundtrack.

The actors — and director Lisa James — can’t be praised enough for the contributions they have made to the success of this production. This is an ensemble, and a play, to remember.

..read full review...

The Cruise

There are moments of high-jinks and levity aboard The Majestic (deluxe set by Brittany Blouch), but for the most part, the play unfolds in a stiff, undramatic way which neither the playwright nor director can remedy.

..read full review...

Beckett5

Directed by OTE’s longtime artistic director, Ron Sossi, the bill includes four lesser-known works by Beckett (Act Without Words II, Come and Go, Catastrophe, Footfalls) and the now-famous Krapp’s Last Tape The actors, Alan Abelew, Beth Hogan, Diana Cignoni, Sheelagh Cullen, and Norbert Weisser, deliver well-honed, expert performances that bring these cryptic, metaphysical plays to life in vivid fashion.

..read full review...

Plasticity

It would be wrong to give away the ending of Plasticity; suffice to say that it is as satisfying as it is surprising. Remarkable in the way it takes an audience into the very depths of human consciousness, this is one of the finest small-theatre productions L.A. has ever seen.

..read full review...

THE CONSUL, THE TRAMP AND AMERICA'S SWEETHEART

Theater 40 has given The Consul a worthy production, starting with Jeff G. Rack’s splendid, spacious set (with Hollywood backdrop mural by Jeff Raum) and continuing with Michele Young’s period costumes and Ric Zimmerman’s clever lighting. Mustn’t forget Jules Aaron’s expert, snappy direction either.

..read full review...

THE SECOND WOMAN

It all sounds like a glorious highbrow mess, but miraculously, Chibas and her fellow actor Rebelo make it work, keeping us focused on the main thrust of the story, Angie’s fight to keep Zohra from giving up on herself.

..read full review...