Registered Critic: Dan Berkowitz

DAN BERKOWITZ is a member of the Council of The Dramatists Guild of America, the professional association of playwrights, composers, and lyricists; and Co-Chair of The Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights, the service and support organization for playwrights in Southern California. His writing for the stage has been produced off-Broadway, at major regionals, and in other venues across the US and Canada, and includes the popular revue A… My Name Is Still Alice; There’s No Place Like Hollywood!, nominated for LA’s Ovation Award for Best Musical; and more short plays than he can remember. Dan also produces, directs, and is a script and production consultant. http://danberkowitz.com.
Mar

Born To Win

How much do you care about beauty pageants for 4-year-olds? Oh? Well, how about 8-year-olds (or thereabouts)? Still not a lot of enthusiasm? Go see Born to Win at Celebration Theatre, and you might change your mind.

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Mar

Too Heavy for Your Pocket

Watching the West Coast premiere of Jireh Breon Holder’s Too Heavy for Your Pocket at the Broadwater Black Box, I couldn’t help thinking I was eavesdropping more than watching a play. Part of it is due to the size of the small theatre, where no seat is more than three rows from the stage. Part is that the actors sometimes venture off the stage proper, to speak, argue, or sing only inches from someone in the audience. But most of all, I think, it’s because director Michael A. Shepperd has created a sense of intimacy, a feeling that we’re peeking, uninvited, through a window and seeing what four Black people in the early 1960s American South actually talk about, feel, and think when they believe no white folks are around.

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Sep

Infidel

In the end, Infidel is well-intentioned but enervating. As another theatregoer was heard to remark outside the theatre, “That was a long ninety minutes.”

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Jun

Cabaret

Most successful musicals have what I’ve come to call a “transcendent moment” – that point where the audience’s hearts grow full, eyes grow moist, and throats grow lumps, as the characters onstage experience an epiphany, achieve a goal, or “find their way.” Even that paean to rudeness, “The Book of Mormon,” has such a transcendent moment – but not “Cabaret.” It’s hard-edged and dry-eyed from beginning to end, and thankfully Mr. Matthews and his cohorts have resisted the urge to soften it at all. We’re living in a hard-edged time right now, and this “Cabaret” – alas – fits extraordinarily well.

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Apr

Bad Jews

The Bad Jews of “Bad Jews” may be bad Jews, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad company. Let me revise that. If you found yourself trapped in a room with any of these people in real life – including the one person who can’t be a bad Jew because she isn’t a Jew at all – you would most likely find yourself, depending on your temperament, either racing out the door, screaming and tearing your hair, or desperately looking for a weapon.

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Feb

Priscilla Queen Of The Desert

If you ever wondered why Celebration Theatre is called Celebration Theatre, go see “Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical,” the current occupant of the stage at the corner of Lexington Avenue and McCadden Place, and you’ll understand: there’s a party going on at every performance, and it’s a glorious, exuberant, over-the-top celebration of all things that are, well, over-the-top.

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Nov

King Charles III

Given all this, a play titled “King Charles III” – a fantasy about what happens when Mummy finally does ascend to a heavenly throne and Charles claims his birthright – might conceivably have been written as a farce. But playwright Mike Bartlett chose instead to craft a serious meditation on principles, and how much one might choose to sacrifice to preserve them. In an intelligent, handsome production at the Pasadena Playhouse, director Michael Michetti and a large and splendid cast and crew provide the sort of sumptuous entertainment we see too little of in today’s theatre. Hip Hip Hurrah!

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Nov

Rotterdam

Rotterdam is funny, it’s sad, it’s wise, it’s absurd, it’s emotional, it’s profound, and yes, it’s topical. But don’t let that scare you off.

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Sep

The View UpStairs

It’s Celebration Theatre, which, ipso facto, means the actors are good. And the director is Michael A. Shepperd, which means those good actors work hard and give it their all. With the assistance of period-appropriate choreography by Cate Caplin, vibrant music direction by Mr. Anthony, a terrific set by Alex Calle and lighting by Martha Carter, and first-rate costumes by Michael Mullen – a special shout-out for the ghostly-elegant final outfits – Mr. Shepperd has created an energetic and heartfelt production which crackles along and almost manages to overcome the weaknesses of the script and score.

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Sep

Grey Nomad

All the actors are splendid, terrifically funny but utterly believable, and Mr. Sinclair’s direction keeps things crackling…. Grey Nomad is Dan Lee’s first produced play, and the Australian Theatre Company has done a bang-up job with it. Here’s to hearing much more both from Mr. Lee and the Company!

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Sep

Arsenic and Old Lace

“Arsenic and Old Lace” isn’t “cutting edge” in any way – even the murders are done with poison, not cutlery – but it’s a good, solid, old-fashioned play being given a good, solid, old-fashioned production. Warm and fuzzy is kinda nice, come to think of it.

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Jul

The Cake

That [Debra Jo Rupp] is here now in Los Angeles, and appearing onstage in Bekah Brunstetter’s The Cake through August 6, is proof that God indeed loves the world, smiles on California, and wishes our civilization to flourish.

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Jun

Crimes of the Heart

Ms Henley’s delightful play – sharply funny yet profoundly moving – and Mr. Yankee’s fluid direction celebrate women and sisterhood, and make for a fine (and slightly mad) night at the theatre.

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May

KISS

The whole thing is all very earnest. But a little bit of earnestness goes a long way , and too much quickly devolves into pretentiousness. And while many plays start obliquely , then clear things up by the end , “Kiss”” is a play which starts confusingly , then spirals down into aggressive incoherence. It’s full of sound and fury , signifying… well , if you can figure it out , I wish you’d tell me.”

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Apr

Farragut North

The characters talk a lot, but we never get a sense of what they’re thinking or feeling underneath the words. It’s “what you see is what you get” – in this case, an engrossing (if nasty) story with some interesting (if nasty) characters, but with no hint of where they came from, or what propels them to do what they do the way they do it. It’s an attractive and polished surface, but I wish we had occasionally gone a little deeper.

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Apr

Of Mice and Men

“Of Mice and Men”” is about dreams , and how difficult – and often impossible – they are to fulfill. In their striving for peace and happiness , for companionship if not love , and for at least a bit of security , these characters are timeless.”

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Apr

Pure Confidence

“Pure Confidence”” is a dynamic and challenging work by Carlyle Brown , being given a splendid production by the Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble. Like Lower Depth’s previous production “”Dontrell , Who Kissed the Sea ,”” “”Pure Confidence”” shows us another facet of the African-American life experience. It does so with confidence , talent , and compassion , and is thoroughly engaging. Go.”

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Feb

DIE, MOMMIE, DIE!

Die, Mommie, Die! is a curiosity, an old-fashioned example of gay theatre on the cusp of change. It’s arch, it’s stylish, and though it relies on the same camp sensibility as shows such as Women Behind Bars, its carefully-constructed artifice reminds one more of Oscar Wilde than Tom Eyen. If the reaction of the opening night audience is any indication, it should have a wilde-ly successful run at Celebration Theatre.

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Feb

The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Mean Gurlz

A few confessions right off the bat: 1. I have never seen the movie “Mean Girls,” which, not surprisingly, is the basis for “The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Mean Gurlz” – which means virtually everyone else in the audience probably got about 100,000 more in-jokes than I did; and 2. I’m not a follower of popular music, which means when virtually everyone else in the audience was singing along with the score to the show, I was sitting there dumb (in more ways than one). So you’d think I wouldn’t like it, right? Wrong. The good news is that “The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Mean Gurlz” – one of a series of musical takeoffs of popular films – is ferociously entertaining, even for someone as clueless as I am.

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Feb

CANNIBALS ALONE

Okay, the bad news right up front: no one eats anyone in “Cannibals Alone.” Which was a real disappointment. Not because I’m particularly bloodthirsty, but because I was really looking forward to seeing how cannibalism would be done onstage. On TV or in the movies, sure – but a real live version of “Santa Clarita Diet” on the tiny Belfry Stage in NoHo? Now that I was looking forward to! The good news is that if you’re a fan of mayhem, chaos, violence, gunshots, characters manhandling each other – actually, since it’s an all-female cast, I suppose it should be womanhandling each other – “Cannibals Alone” is for you. So there’s no flesh-eating? Feh!

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