Non-Registered Critics: Charles McNulty

Feb

RAGTIME: THE MUSICAL

The musical still has its embarrassing storytelling moments, and when the waves of honky-tonk piano give way to saccharine power ballads, the score loses its rich historical flavor. But trust me, musical theater lovers: The show, pulled off with polish and panache, is one you won’t want to miss.

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Feb

MAN OF GOD

Moench’s play darts from comedy to thriller without ever losing its sense of humor. Suspense builds, but the plot is secondary to what the interplay among the teens reveals about the ubiquity of sexual violence and female exploitation in the world…

Although tensely gripping, “Man of God” seems unfinished.

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Feb

Accidental Death Of An Anarchist

The Actors’ Gang deserves our gratitude for bravely tackling a play that, despite some arthritis in its joints, hasn’t lost its punch.

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Feb

An Inspector Calls

“An Inspector Calls” is not subtle. The sensibility is more Edwardian than modernist, but Daldry serves it up with expressionistic élan. Rather than shy away from the moralizing, the production embraces a critique of inequality that never seems to lose any of its pertinence.

Priestley’s point, while as timely today as it was when he wrote the play, is heavy-handed. But Daldry’s spry production makes the lesson sting with liveliness.

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Feb

SWEENEY TODD – THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET

…the Grand Guignol spirit survives in this entertaining South Coast Rep production. “Sweeney Todd,” a glorious musical thriller set in a society that has become morally unhinged, lives again in a production that is greater than the sum of its individual parts.

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Jan

LINDA VISTA

The episodic nature of this nearly three-hour work turns playgoing into binge-watching. The dramatic writing has a kinetic kick. Letts’ dialogue is potently funny and the psychological dynamics are often riveting in their accuracy. But the overall structure is saggy. The compulsive wit, as a consequence, can feel laborious in places.

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Nov

Hughie & Krapp’s Last Tape

“Hughie & Krapp’s Last Tape,” a double-shot of desolation, aren’t meant to be yoked together. But Dennehy’s commanding stage presence charges the bill with theatrical significance even when the production falters.

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Nov

COME FROM AWAY

“Come From Away” doesn’t need a perfect production to work. The staging at the Ahmanson, good enough to get the job done, more than satisfies the hunger for uplifting goodness that has made this musical such a runaway hit.

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Nov

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

But this “Christmas Carol” is genuinely scary because, following the lead of the novella, so much is left to our imaginations. Only near the end does Arden supply us with an occult figure. Throughout he takes a more Henry Jamesian approach, connecting the supernatural to the psychological.

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Nov

Cost of Living

The production, scrupulously directed by John Vreeke, balances discretion with daring exposure. Every naked (in all senses of the word) moment is dramatically accounted for — and with enormous care for the dignity of the actors.

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Sep

The Untranslatable Secrets of Nikki Corona

The play deals with death, grief and the afterlife. But Rivera can’t seem to decide whose story he’s telling. As a consequence, there isn’t enough emotional fuel for the journey. It’s not simply that the adventure is cockamamie. It’s that the play doesn’t give us enough incentive to care about its careening twists and counterintuitive turns.

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Sep

Gloria

We follow where the playwright leads, never sure where the story will end up but grateful to be in the company of such a sharp-eyed dramatic intelligence. The play is also bitingly funny… The generational, economic and ethical battles are deeply human concerns, even if the combatants are too engrossed in their own career blips to notice the bigger picture. Fields’ actors, nearly all of whom play more than one role, ably handle the tightrope between send-up and sincerity.

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Sep

BACCHAE by Euripides

Anne Bogart is an ideal auteur to take on this formidable masterpiece. Her combination of directorial freedom and formal elegance is exactly what’s required to make “Bacchae” live again. The new production at the Getty Villa’s outdoor Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theater, a collaboration with Bogart’s SITI Company, might not satisfy purists. But it’s by far the most theatrically assured rendition of the play I’ve encountered. The fluid translation by Aaron Poochigian is as mercurial as the staging.

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Apr

BELLEVILLE

“Belleville” is deviously difficult to pin down. This uneven Pasadena Playhouse production complicates matters further, but the arresting drama unfolds in the mind like a scary dream that demands to be decoded in the cold light of day.

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Apr

Significant Other

The glorious new production of Joshua Harmon’s play, which opened Wednesday at the Geffen’s Gil Cates Theater under the direction of Stephen Brackett, doesn’t have to italicize jokes to captivate a large New York crowd concerned about getting its money’s worth. I’m happy to report that in L.A. the wittiness of Harmon’s vibrant dialogue and the resplendent neuroticism of his characters are all that are required to win us over.

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Mar

A Streetcar Named Desire

Michael Michetti’s revitalizing production of Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” at the Boston Court Performing Arts Center shakes out the cobwebs of an American classic that hasn’t felt this fresh in a long time…His Boston Court production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” represents intimate L.A. theater at its best.

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Feb

Ironbound

There are two main reasons to see “Ironbound.” First and foremost is Ireland’s nuanced handling of a figure traditionally relegated to the margins of American drama — and society. Darja is hardly the most pleasant or charming of characters, but she is piercingly human. Ireland, who’s able to slough off years from her character’s age by simply turning her head, reveals all that has been lost over time in a portrait that connects history with psychology and fate with brute economic facts. The other important reason to see the play is for the way it illuminates the American experience through the immigrant’s journey.

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Feb

ELLIOT, A SOLDIER’S FUGUE

…Whatever you do, don’t miss the middle masterpiece.

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Feb

Pirates of Penzance

For those who have dreamed of being part of the merriment of a Gilbert & Sullivan light opera, the opportunity of a lifetime is waiting for you at Pasadena Playhouse.

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Nov

SPAMILTON

The production can get surreally silly at points, but Alessandrini treats Miranda’s masterpiece with the rambunctious love this watershed musical deserves.

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