Non-Registered Critics: Daryl H. Miller

Feb

CANCELLED - The Winter's Tale

The two parts seem like different plays, but Elliott homes in on their connecting logic, trimming the text for focus and flow. Momentum slows occasionally, and performances sometimes turn leaden, but overall, Elliott is well served by his cast of 15 and by his designers (Frederica Nascimento, sets; Ken Booth, lights; and Garry Lennon, costumes).

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Feb

ALL PERFORMANCES CANCELED BY CTG - THE BOOK OF MORMON

When the jokes land, as they often do, the audience responds with cascades of laughter. Songs are met with whoops and thundering applause. Mormons and faith in general come off pretty well. Belief, after all, binds us in communities, and working together, perhaps we really can make a paradise of Earth.

But in its depiction of black people, “The Book of Mormon” has always carried a fatal flaw.

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Feb

Fun Home

Director Marya Mazor expertly builds the family’s mini-dramas toward their powerful resolution while artfully deploying the cast of nine (which includes two more incredible youngsters: Reese Hewitt and Christopher Patow) around Bradley Kaye’s spare yet encompassing set.

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Feb

RED INK

This is small theater at its best. Visually, a lot is created out of a little, and much of the audience, capped at a capacity of 50, sits within inches of the action.

Morris, who went on to found the digital journal Stage Raw, artfully blends the worlds of journalism and theater. It’ll be hard to forget the images he’s created or such incisive lines as a newspaper owner’s chilling assessment that America “can’t even agree on what a fact is anymore.”

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Oct

Orwell's 1984

The Gang has returned to this story time and again since an initial production in 2006 and has toured the world with it. One sad truth of Orwell’s novel is that, somewhere in the world, some part of it will always feel uncomfortably real.

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Oct

The Vandal

...What unfolds from there is somewhat eerie but also amusing and, finally, poignant. Lasting just more than 70 minutes, the play feels slight, yet its philosophy and raw humanity worm themselves deep into viewers’ minds.

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Sep

GRUMPY OLD MEN: THE MUSICAL

The songs, with their clever wordplay, are a nice addition. Otherwise, ugh. Plot tweaks tilt the feud toward mean-spiritedness. The characters’ cartoonishness hollows the story. The dialogue’s amplified sexuality develops an edge. And the story’s resolution — its heart — gets rushed.

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Sep

Deadly

The show offers the women a chance at solidarity, at least. They linger as ghosts, their numbers increasing, their voices intensifying.

Appropriately, the score is devoted mostly to women’s voices, with songs that evoke parlor songs, church hymns, gospel numbers and horror-movie tropes...

Disappointment is in direct proportion to the project’s potential. The dead deserve to be heard. Let them roar.

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Sep

Handjob

the show plunges into enough hot-button social issues to fuel a week’s worth of TV news round tables: consent, harassment, privilege, visibility, racial and sexual stereotyping, and more. In all of this, the show ably succeeds, supported by terrific acting, directing (by the Echo’s artistic director, Chris Fields) and production elements.

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Aug

The Skin of Our Teeth

Director Ellen Geer and a company of 20 have a grand time with all of this — perhaps too grand, as their exaggerated hilarity sometimes undercuts the gravity of what’s going on. Still, the material delivers chills of recognition as it wraps in environmental calamity, a refugee crisis, mass violence, political and social division, arrogant exceptionalism, smear politics, a presidential sex scandal and more.

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Jul

The Producers

The big problem, though, is that Matthews and his actors have little aptitude for the Brooks style of comedy. Instead of full-body, explosive-emotion gags, we get merely a wide-eyed Bloom and a loud Bialystock, both racing through the funny business (although Jones does deliver some effectively bull-charging Bialystock moments).

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Jul

Ragtime

The Chance’s “Ragtime” is a roaring success...

Even when circumstances are at their bleakest, hopeful citizens try to dream America forward, finding unity in diversity and leaving us with a final image of what the nation could and should be. This is powerfully inspiring stuff.

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Jun

Moby Dick - Rehearsed

Ellen Geer artfully directs a cast of 19 in this rarely encountered script, which honors the power of imagination.

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Jun

Bronco Billy - The Musical

Director Hunter Bird and a cast of 14 keep the tone playfully artificial, but the material, cotton-candyish as it is, manages to tug at the heartstrings with its notions about dreamers intent on making their lives — and, possibly, the world — a little bit better.

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May

Happy Days

This is one of theater’s most difficult roles: an hour and 40 minutes of text spoken by one person, with little input from the other actor — or reference points of any kind. And there’s not just spoken text. Beckett inserted extensive stage directions indicating Winnie’s movements, her pauses, how the lines should be delivered.

Wiest handles it all with poise, precision and empathy.

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May

JULIUS WEEZER

“Julius Weezer” is more serious than most Troubie shows, but not to worry: You'll laugh plenty...

Company leader Matt Walker adapted and directed the piece, in which Shakespeare's immortal lines get name-checked amid one-liners, topical references and lots of clown-like comedy...

Think: togas, pancake makeup, amusingly bad, bowl-cut wigs — and a cast of 13 creating brainy mayhem.

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May

THE SECRET GARDEN

Rich in big voices, this production is especially powerful whenever Nicandros, as Uncle Archibald, lets his soaring baritone go husky with emotion or Jeanette Dawson, as Archibald's ghostly wife, calls out to the living in her glittering soprano.

Parts of this production really blossom; too bad so much else gets lost in the weeds.

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Apr

FALSETTOS

The show itself, though, can be a challenge. It's a series of songs with no connecting dialogue, so the storytelling is elliptical. Your ears must be on high alert at all times. Add to that melodies that, in capturing the characters' neuroses, are often jumpy and frenetic. Plus: All these sharp-edged personalities put some people off.

I've seen “Falsettos” with friends who've laughed and sniffled through it and with others who've been restlessly, audibly frustrated. Either response is understandable.

But when the agitated melodies relax into lyricism — oh, my. The music and words reach deep inside and trigger all sorts of emotions.

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Apr

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN

Ably handling the Lockwood role is Michael Starr, a rising talent who's been popping up everywhere, including Reprise's “The World Goes ‘Round” and La Mirada's “1776.” As Selden, Kimberly Immanuel contributes a winning soprano and a fun-loving spirit. Sara King, playing Lamont, keeps the audience giggling with her piercing voice (“and I caaan't stan 'im”) but also makes clear that she's no dim-bulb pushover. Portraying Brown, Brandon Burks handles the jokey face-making, pose-striking duties well, and ever-reliable Peter Van Norden amiably smooths the sharp edges of studio chief R.F. Simpson. A 16-musician orchestra is led by Keith Harrison.

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Apr

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY

Despite the production's fumbles, the source material — and memories of it in other versions — seem to keep much of the audience happy, and lots of theatergoers bring kids.

Maybe the sight of all those sweets is bliss enough. The show's truest line is Wonka's declaration that chocolate is “quite simply, the greatest invention in the entire history of the world.”

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