Non-Registered Critics: Charles McNulty

Aug

Hannah and the Dread Gazebo

The production, directed by Jennifer Chang, makes vivid use of urban landscape projections on Yee Eun Nam’s darkened set. But the clumsy staging turns this into an unconvincing dream.

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Aug

Fefu and Her Friends

The acting in Blasor’s production, which makes ingenious use of various spaces at the Odyssey through the detailed decor of scenic designer Frederica Nascimento and the moody lighting of Katelan Braymer, is stylized in the manner of a 1930s movie. At moments the frisky mannerisms of the women (dressed in period costumes designed by Blasor and Josh LaCour) put me in mind of George Cukor’s “The Women.” The reference isn’t completely incongruous, as there’s a frolicsome quality to Fornés’ writing. But the interaction, even when a water fight breaks out over who will do the dishes, is never nasty. A flirty, rambunctious affection prevails.

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Aug

American Saga - Gunshot Medley: Part 1

The play’s geography is lyrically rendered through Terry’s visually captivating direction, though it takes a bit of time for the uninitiated to find their bearings in a theatrical world that at times seems uncertain of its own rules.

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Aug

Scraps

Playwright Inoa, a theater and television writer who’s a story editor on AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” intriguingly complicates these relationships, though the play’s episodic structure has a looseness that occasionally feels lax. But the underlying social psychology, which comes into sharp focus when a white police officer (Stan Mayer) menacingly asserts his authority, is cogent to the point of harrowing.

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Jul

Good Boys

“Good Boys” would be stronger if it explained less and insinuated more. But it’s impossible to look away from this tale of privilege exposed and held to account. Life and art may mirror each other in this familiarly sensational story, but the theater provides a better classroom than last year’s Senate hearing room.

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Jul

Apple Season

The ending of “Apple Season” takes a daring leap, but the metaphoric flourish seems as spurious as the apples piled in crates like holiday ornaments.

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Jul

THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG

“The Play That Goes Wrong” amuses with its pranks and pratfalls, especially for those whose brains are sitting under an umbrella on the beach. But the delight becomes something of a chore as the antics stretch on to the point that the mystery of the whodunit becomes a tiresome afterthought. Still, there’s no denying the hilarity of a troupe that unfailingly turns can-do into can-don’t.

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Jun

INDECENT

The love “Indecent” bears toward “God of Vengeance” is sometimes tendentious. But in delving into the reactions to Asch’s work, Vogel and Taichman detect the dangerous currents that gave rise to 20th century atrocities. And in the beauty of this “little Jewish play,” director and dramatist find artistic redemption from historical erasure.

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Jun

DANA H.

An Obie-winning veteran who worked for several seasons at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, she’s a playwright’s actor if ever there was one, able to make the divergent styles of Sam Shepard, María Irene Fornés, Annie Baker and Lisa Kron seem tailor-made for her lived-in qualities...

In an uncanny feat of acting, O’Connell makes not only every word but every hesitation, stammer and punctuating laugh her own. Her gestures when she’s not speaking seem to be the only gestures possible in the moment. Sound designer Mikhail Fiksel and illusion and lip sync consultant Steve Cuiffo contribute to the production’s seamlessness.

Hnath, a formalist with a heart, has constructed a theatrical experience that operates on two levels: the raw material of his mother’s testimony and the artistic filter that edits, arranges and keeps at a slight intellectual remove what we’re hearing.

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May

M. Butterfly

Chiang’s production allows the conflicts between the characters to play out as a troubled dreamscape. Wielding tableaux that blend traditional Chinese culture with sleek Western modernity, Chiang turns Ralph Funicello’s swift and strategic set into a canvas for Josh Epstein’s brushstroke lighting, Annie Yee’s frolicsome choreography and Andre J. Pluess’ buoyant sound design and original music.

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May

Invisible Tango

His card tricks, performed at a table facing out to the audience, reliably astonish. Theatergoers who are asked to remember their chosen cards have the opportunity to shuffle the deck to their utmost satisfaction. What Guimarães does with these cards only a magician of his caliber can explain. The lay crowd, unable to decide whether the magic is a preternatural feat of memory or a comparatively banal sleight of hand, must surrender to amazement.

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May

Daniel's Husband

“Daniel's Husband,” a certified small-scale crowd-pleaser, is perhaps most moving in those moments it expands our understanding of family. The play, gaining strength from the intimacy of the Fountain Theatre and the general excellence of the production, begins in laughter, culminates in tears and leaves off in contemplation of the dangers in putting off for another day what matters most.

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Apr

TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS

“Tiny Beautiful Things” reveals the power of small epiphanies — the healing potential of forgiveness, the value of self-honesty, the necessity of sharing with others what seems our private burden. But the greatest epiphany — and the one that makes this show seem so vital right now — is that our characters are ours to shape. Life happens to us, but how we respond can spell the difference between corruption and salvation in our society as well as in our souls.

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Apr

The Niceties

You should see it and debate it. But rather than using the play to prove what you already think, try to open your mind to both sides of a dramatic argument that has been constructed refreshingly with as much dispassion as passion.

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Apr

POOR YELLA REDNECKS

The new play retains the unique Comic-Con theater aesthetic that Nguyen developed at his Obie-Award winning Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company. Comic-book fight scenes, cartoon projections and puppetry figure prominently and, as with “Vietgone,” these nontraditional elements find ways of intensifying the work's emotional wallop.

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Mar

Black Super Hero Magic Mama

Like certain dreams, “Black Super Hero Magic Mama” is more powerful in its overarching effect than in its moment-to-moment action. Impressively daring, the play escapes into a comic-book universe to better come to grips with an overwhelming — and all too real — American horror.

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Mar

The Wolves

Dietze's ensemble production is vivid with idiosyncratic color. And we hear every syllable of confusion and regret...

How does she quietly pull off this feat? By revealing universal tragicomic truths in ordinary jock-girl existence. To paraphrase Chekhov, characters are just kicking around a ball and shooting the breeze, but at the same time their happiness is being created, or their lives are being torn up.

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Mar

LACKAWANNA BLUES

the compact stage version at the Mark Taper Forum — written, directed and performed by Santiago-Hudson — is still the most potent way of experiencing the story.

The new production preserves the old synergy, but Santiago-Hudson's performance has grown only more relaxed and assured. Standing before a re-creation of the boardinghouse façade in vintage 1950s garb evoking the period of his youth, he conjures multitudes with his rich memory and malleable voice. But more than his gift for portraiture, it's his talent for vividly conjuring a way of life that enthralls.

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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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  • Fefu and her Friends at the Odyssey Theatre
  • DIRTY TRICKS w/ The New Bad Boys of Magic