Non-Registered Critics: Daryl H. Miller

Mar

Othello

Kubzansky is a wonderfully insightful director, as she’s demonstrated time and again in such projects as the Shakespearean riff “Everything That Never Happened,” presented last fall at what is now called Boston Court Pasadena, where she is co-artistic director. She has thought richly and deeply about “Othello,” spelling out her ideas in a persuasive director’s note printed in the program. Much of that is also expressed onstage, but frustratingly, not all.

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Feb

Hir

Humor tips into horror and back again, a seesaw experience fearlessly propelled by director Bart DeLorenzo and his actors.

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Jan

1776 THE MUSICAL

Some of L.A.’s most dependable actors have been assembled here, including Peter Van Norden, Teri Bibb and Michael Rothhaar. Jeff Rizzo leads an orchestra of eight.

Directed by Glenn Casale, the staging is solid, although it’s merely diligent and studious where it should be urgent and inspired. The material’s erudition makes it a bit stodgy; acceleration is required to keep things moving.

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Dec

Jane Austen’s EMMA

Despite its concision, the musical effectively captures a key strength of the novel: an understanding that love cannot be predicted or channeled; it goes where it will.

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Dec

ELF the Musical

Fortunately, the Musical Theatre West team knows how to keep an audience happy, glossing over structural problems by sustaining the spirit of irrepressible optimism that has always been this story’s chief stock in trade.

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Nov

Cleo, Theo & Wu

She and the 12 other cast members draw laughs, though more for their delivery than the lines themselves, and the piece does arrive, toward the end, at a moment of powerful insight.

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Nov

Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta

All routes culminate in the title’s promised fiesta, by which point you won’t want the adventure to end.

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Nov

Kings

SCR has assembled a terrific artistic team and given the show this timely production slot. The script, though, is too coldly wonkish. Engage our minds — yes, please, but you’ll soon lose us if you don’t also capture our hearts.

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Nov

VALLEY OF THE HEART

“Valley of the Heart” sometimes seems to be shaped along the lines of a soap opera. It’s not just that there’s so much momentous action. Valdez adopts an “and then this happened” approach to the storytelling. The plot swells like an old-fashioned novel, and with so much material the broadly drawn characters can get lost in the shuffle… Valdez’s focus is on the American story, which is to say on the story of immigrants. Politics informs the narrative path, but the overriding agenda is one of compassion and common humanity. The play is an oasis from cable news.

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Nov

BLISS (or Emily Post is Dead!)

Funny and powerful in equal measure, “Bliss (or Emily Post Is Dead!)” is a terrific spirit-rouser at a time when women everywhere are calling out bad behavior and demanding equality — and, this week, boosting their numbers in the halls of government. Moving Arts energetically brings Jami Brandli’s script to life in a presentation at Atwater Village Theatre.

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Oct

American Hero

Eckhouse and the boundlessly funny actors find just the right tone for every scene, whether conveying the repetitious, ritualized motions of the sandwich line or Sheri’s work-exhausted dream involving a human-size sandwich with a nightmarishly echoey voice and lettuce spilling out of his jacket sleeves like Liberace lace.

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Aug

Haiti

The Theatricum’s wooded amphitheater in Topanga Canyon is a terrific location for this tale about the fight for what the French called Saint-Domingue and the revolutionaries called by the indigenous name Haiti. Shouts and drums reverberate across the hillside as the action progresses from 1802, a decade into the revolution, toward independence in 1804 — and the beginning of the end of slavery in the New World… Director Ellen Geer marvelously deploys a cast of 20, keeping the story moving and emotions running high.

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Aug

Side by Side by Sondheim

In a pleasant if less than scintillating revival at the Odyssey Theatre in West L.A., the show feels like a trip into the past… The singers have pleasant, artful voices. No one turns on the pipes in a way to make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, but Fishbach and his performers are attuned to what’s most essential in Sondheim’s songs: emotion, intent and psychological landscape. These are moments of introspection on which we find ourselves eavesdropping.

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Aug

Arrival & Departure

Although similar to the movie in theme and construct, “Arrival & Departure” is invigoratingly original and of-the-moment. It is also boundlessly enriched by being performed in both spoken English and American Sign Language.

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Jul

Big Fish

“Big Fish,” however, proves a lot slipperier, partly due to problems with the story’s construction and partly to weaknesses in the cast. These deflate a production that’s otherwise quite wonderful.

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Jul

Mexican Day

CRITICS CHOICE – An inspiring tale of people working together to try to redeem the past and re-chart the future.

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Jun

Ripe Frenzy

Under any circumstances, this powerful piece is bound to hit hard. In Saturday’s charged atmosphere, it was delivered with tears on stage and sniffles in the audience.

The Greenway Arts Alliance presentation builds to this level with restraint, lyricism and even beauty.

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Jun

VIOLET

Delicate as a prayer, “Violet” reveals a place where miracles occur — the world as we’d like to see it, where we all are seen for who we are.

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Apr

The Madres

The Skylight production is most effective at capturing family interplay, quarrelsome when boundaries are overstepped, fond when common ground is regained. Although the first act drags through stretches of exposition, the second half sparks to life in the simultaneously tender and fierce emotions surging between Ortiz’s Carolina and Natalie Llerena as a visitor who’s only half-expected. Their haunted minutes together are raw and real — a riveting depiction of all that’s precious.

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Mar

El Nino

Storms of laughter drench Justin Tanner’s ‘El Niño. – Critics’ Choice

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