Registered Critic: Ed Rampell - Hollywood Progressive

Ed Rampell is an L.A.-based film historian/reviewer and co-author of “The Hawaii Movie and Television Book”.
Oct

Turn of the Screw

The Aussie Ms. Sulzberger conveys an increasing hysteria, as The Woman's aspiration devolves from finding Mr. Right to encountering sheer terror. But with his continually shifting roles (with only slight costume modifications), this is really Mr. Spann's production, as he steals the show with his onstage morphing – or “turning,” as the case may be.

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Oct

OPPENHEIMER

The American premiere of Oppenheimer is a dramatic tour-de-force... In a nutshell, Rogue Machine Theatre's production of Oppenheimer is simply one of the best plays I've ever seen.

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Oct

A PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY

Even if we Angelenos live in the epicenter of the High Renaissance of plastic surgery – procedures Oscar Wilde prefigured in his 1890 novella – A Picture of Dorian Gray is not for everybody. If depictions of murder, male nudity, homosexuality and avant-garde mise-en-scene on the stage aren't your thing you might prefer to skip this production. More adventurous ticket buyers who prefer their plays to lean towards the edgier, experimental side are more likely to enjoy this drama about obsessions with beauty and youth. Those who love to take a walk on the Wilde side may be riveted by Oscar's vision of the importance of being beautiful and forever young.

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Sep

All Night Long

Veteran helmer Jan Munroe deftly directs his excellent ensemble and also created a superb set. The clever play includes some special effects and sight gags—keep yer peepers peeled. Insomniacs and those who enjoy their comedy to be bittersweet and full of sometimes venomous fun as it debunks shibboleths and phoniness are likely to love this piece of subversively radical theatre. Most of the opening night audience, including moi, laughed throughout this strange, bizarre two-acter full of twists and turns. For fans of genre-busting, it's all in the family in All Night Long, as America's conventional family gets whacked in Open Fist Theatre Company's revival of O'Keefe's wacky whirlwind.

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Sep

BACCHAE by Euripides

In the play, Euripides skillfully interweaves the titular Bacchae with the Greek chorus. They are mostly unattractively, unappealingly clad by Eleni Kyriacou and Lena Sands in black skirts and jackets - there is not a toga to be seen. I keep complaining about these mostly toga-less revivals of Greek classics and am beginning to suspect that contemporary showrunners feel a compulsion about needing to “update” ancient plays to make more “relatable” to 21st century auds.

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Sep

Side by Side by Sondheim

Side offers a rapturous ride down a musical memory lane and is a must-see - and hear - for all lovers of Broadway show tunes and showstoppers, delivered with pizzazz by a quartet of talented performers. It would be sheer “folly” for fans of musicals to merely merrily roll past it.

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Sep

"BLACK!"

But this is not an uncomfortable “Black attack” - in fact, it's quite entertaining, as well as enlightening. Along with Rogue Machine's American Saga Gunshot Medley: Part 1, which opened the same weekend at The Met, Black! makes a valuable addition to our social discourse through theatre at a time when we - people of all ethnicities - really need it.

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Aug

Jews, Christians, and Screwing Stalin

Overall I enjoyed this comedy which mixes Groucho with Karl Marx - Lonow's background in sitcoms, producer of Lewis Black cable TV specials and as longtime co-owner of the Improv comedy clubs shines through. The play, which is subtitled A Light Comedy About Dark Jews, is more than fun than a barrel of schnorrers. You don't have to be Jewish to love Jews, Christians and Screwing Stalin - a real Jewish comedy.

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Aug

Screwball Comedy

As a veteran of the Borscht Belt and TV sitcoms, helmer Howard Storm brings his comedic chops to bear in directing his cast's crackling repartee and towards the play's ultimate Capra-esque conclusion. Overall, Screwball Comedy is an amusing diversion and throwback to those 1930s/1940s Hollywood dream factory flicks, when quips and class made audiences chuckle on the silver screen. Along with laughs galore, when they took their well-deserved bows the cast received a standing ovation the night I saw the play.

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Aug

Haiti

The spectacle, directed by Ellen Geer, features great onstage swordplay and derring-do, and makes clever use of the Topanga Canyon environs, with “campfires” and the like signifying the guerrillas' bases.

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Jul

Mayakovsky and Stalin

Playwright Murray Mednick's ambitious Mayakovsky and Stalin can be viewed as perpetuating the de-Stalinization process and rehabilitating the work and stature of socialists who suffered grievously under the so-called “Man of Steel's” iron grip and strongman rule, which butchered the Central Committee Lenin had tried to warn to expel their crude General-Secretary with show trials, ice picks in the back of the skull and so on. Indeed, this extremely intellectual two-acter grapples with highly complex, compelling subject matter and is a must see (and hear) for those interested in revolution and art.

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Jul

The Death and Life of Mary Jo Kopechne

Your response to this play will likely be determined by how you feel about the [real life] characters.

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Jul

The Chalk Garden

WGTB's thoroughly enjoyable, well-played production is good fun throughout, with underlying dramatic points about mother-daughter relations, the class structure, the prison and legal systems and more. Chalk it up to perfection.

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Jul

SLAUGHTER CITY

This proletarian drama has a vibe similar to HBO's Westworld series – although its flesh and blood assembly line laborers are no androids, they are indeed all-too-human. ... With its off-the-beaten-track look at the plight of the working class, Slaughter City proves once again that Coeurage Theatre Company earns its “union dues.” Ticket buyers and workers of the world, unite!

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Jun

The 39 Steps

Above all, Barlow's The 39 Steps is a delight for movie buffs, especially Hitchcock fans. Like Mel Brooks' 1977 High Anxiety, this genre spoof pokes fun at various Hitchcockian conventions.

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Jun

Mexican Day

This drama, in particular, has a strong statement to make about gay rights, as well as racial and human rights in general. And Lee's unfulfilled hetero character is Hisaye the Virgin no more.

Jeff Liu ably directs his ensemble, and Jacobson uses some stylistic screenwriting techniques to creatively tell his complex story. With Mexican Day, L.A.'s risk-taking Rogue Machine Theatre continues to push the dramatic envelope and the winning streak that won the company the Best Season Ovation Award for 2017. Adventurous theatergoers should take the plunge!

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Jun

AS WE BABBLE ON

It is a dramedy without a remedy. Thus, Babble's rabble remains stuck in a bubble – albeit an amusing one with some trendsetting 21st century stagecraft.

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Jun

Long Day's Journey Into Night

...this bravura production of Long Day's Journey Into Night spearheaded by the virtuoso Irons is among the best tragedies this reviewer has ever seen. It is a must see for all lovers of great acting and drama. Don't miss it. On opening night it was met with a well-deserved standing ovation. Bravo!

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Jun

Lysistrata Unbound

Eduardo Machado's reworking of Aristophanes' Lysistrata is ONE OF THE BEST… expressionistic techniques and choreography enhance the play's conventional narrative style... one suspects that Aristophanes is smiling down from Mount Olympus upon this latest adaptation of his masterpiece.

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Jun

Coriolanus

WGTB gives us what could be called “three dimensional theater.”... Especially spellbinding are the mob and battle scenes, co-directed with panache by Ellen Geer and Melora Marshall (who also co-star as Coriolanus' mother, Volumnia and Senator Menenius Agrippa). Today's jaded auds are used to CGI and other special FX rendering virtual reality on the silver screen, but this live presentation of Coriolanus, with throngs of thesps clad in togas and sandals duly dueling is extremely exciting. With more actors than this math-challenged reviewer could count, WGTB vividly brings to life fights to the death in ancient Rome.

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