Non-Registered Critics: Ed Rampell

Mar

FRIENDS WITH GUNS

We’ll be keeping our eye out for future work by this creepily insightful playwright—that is to say, it’s creepy how you just don’t see how sneakily some possible new ways of looking at reality all of a sudden start staring you in the face…

Despite my own reaction to the play—perhaps because of it—I believe this is a highly important play for our time. It almost demands an audience talkback after each performance to process what we have witnessed. In the meantime, I’ll be upping my donations to gun control groups in the “hope against hope” that somehow, sometime it may do some good.

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Mar

The Joy Wheel

If The Joy Wheel is ultimately a comedy, viewers pay a price for their pleasure. How is there any reconciliation possible with the fascist-mindedness of Stew’s Storm Trooper-like buddies, whose real-life counterparts are out there in frightening force—in the woods, in bivouac encampments, in Charlottesville, and in hoods? Frank asks Stella in genuine wonderment, “How did you get so strong and I got so weak?” Realignment of gender assumptions is happening, and it’s transforming society from top to bottom as we either grow more human or descend ever deeper into fear.

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Mar

FOR THE LOVE OF (OR, THE ROLLER DERBY PLAY)

Do the actresses portraying the Brooklyn Scallywags and their competitors actually wheel around onstage? Come watch Tania Verafield and her teammates reap the wild whirlwind onstage at the Kirk Douglas in the thrilling Derby and find out how they do it! Helmets and kneepads optional for audience members. Go Scallywags!

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Feb

Othello

Fresh from that championship season, A Noise Within’s Spring 2019 season blasts off with a must-see modern dress Othello that demonstrates why the Pasadena classical repertory theatre company just won the coveted Ovation Award for Best Season

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Feb

An Inspector Calls

Nevertheless, I relished this excursion into socialism via a supernatural pathway and highly recommend that theatergoers pay a call on and inspect this play. And hopefully soon our very own Inspector Goole will likewise call on Trump, Stone and company and their house of cards will end up like the home in this highly inventive play about class, consciousness and conscience.

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Feb

An Evening with John Wilkes Booth

Spiegel compellingly acts the shooting, the escape, the manhunt, et al, all out in his convincing performance and Evening’s second act is really quiet engrossing and gripping.

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Jan

1776 THE MUSICAL

Watch for the spectacularly beautiful way this stirring, must-see production of 1776 ends – literally, poetry in motion.

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Jan

Desert Rats

Angie Scott’s direction is taut where it needs to be, although her ensemble also provides moments of dark comedy. Extended from last year, theatergoers have until Jan. 20 to enjoy this rollicking ride that rocks and is choreographed inside of LATC’s most intimate space. Desert Rats was the first live play of the New Year I saw and is a kick ass way to kick off 2019.

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Dec

Sisters Three

Almost two thirds into this dialogue-driven dramedy the stage suddenly erupts. Without revealing and ruining exactly what happens, let’s just say that oral dueling gives way to some, shall we say, Errol Flynn-Basil Rathbone type of action, which is actually rather skillfully executed.

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Nov

Finks

Michael Pressman, whose father David was also blacklisted, adeptly directs his ensemble in eliciting laughs and gripping, tense performances. Richard Levinson’s tickling of the ivories also enhances a wonderful night at the theatre for the Left Coast premiere of a play which was nommed for a NY Drama Desk award and deserves to nab numerous Ovations.

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Nov

HANSEL AND GRETEL

LA Opera’s bewitching Hansel and Gretel may be the most enchanting, optically opulent opera this reviewer has ever seen at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. With its stellar stagecraft , stagemanship and eye- popping, jaw-dropping scenery designed by director Doug Fitch with lighting by Duane Schuler, the audience is transported into a spellbinding, haunted forest full of spirits, including a Dew Fairy (Georgia soprano Sarah Vautour), a Sandman (North Carolina mezzo-soprano Taylor Raven), plus a spooky witch (mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, who’s quite the ham).

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Nov

Johnny Got His Gun

The Gang’s Johnny is radical in form and content. Robbins adroitly directs the ensemble with his usual aplomb.

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Nov

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS

La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts’ crowd pleasing production of Agatha Christie’s beloved 1934 Murder on the Orient Express is a highly entertaining combination of murder, mystery, mirth and morality… Sheldon Epps, until recently Pasadena Playhouse’s artistic director, oversees and ably directs his ensemble. Costume designer Shon LeBlanc garbs the characters in convincing 1930s era period dress, down to the gents’ spats.

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Oct

Turn of the Screw

Novelist Henry James’ 1898 Gothic novella The Turn of the Screw has oft been adapted for the big and little screen, opera and in its latest incarnation by playwright Jeffrey Hatcher, it’s currently scaring the bejesus out of ticket buyers at The Harold Clurman Lab Theater – just in time for Halloween.

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Oct

Turn of the Screw

The Aussie Ms. Sulzberger conveys an increasing hysteria, as The Woman’s aspiration devolves from finding Mr. Right to encountering sheer terror. But with his continually shifting roles (with only slight costume modifications), this is really Mr. Spann’s production, as he steals the show with his onstage morphing – or “turning,” as the case may be.

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Oct

OPPENHEIMER

The American premiere of Oppenheimer is a dramatic tour-de-force… In a nutshell, Rogue Machine Theatre’s production of Oppenheimer is simply one of the best plays I’ve ever seen.

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Oct

A PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY

Even if we Angelenos live in the epicenter of the High Renaissance of plastic surgery – procedures Oscar Wilde prefigured in his 1890 novella – A Picture of Dorian Gray is not for everybody. If depictions of murder, male nudity, homosexuality and avant-garde mise-en-scene on the stage aren’t your thing you might prefer to skip this production. More adventurous ticket buyers who prefer their plays to lean towards the edgier, experimental side are more likely to enjoy this drama about obsessions with beauty and youth. Those who love to take a walk on the Wilde side may be riveted by Oscar’s vision of the importance of being beautiful and forever young.

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Sep

All Night Long

Veteran helmer Jan Munroe deftly directs his excellent ensemble and also created a superb set. The clever play includes some special effects and sight gags—keep yer peepers peeled. Insomniacs and those who enjoy their comedy to be bittersweet and full of sometimes venomous fun as it debunks shibboleths and phoniness are likely to love this piece of subversively radical theatre. Most of the opening night audience, including moi, laughed throughout this strange, bizarre two-acter full of twists and turns. For fans of genre-busting, it’s all in the family in All Night Long, as America’s conventional family gets whacked in Open Fist Theatre Company’s revival of O’Keefe’s wacky whirlwind.

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Sep

BACCHAE by Euripides

In the play, Euripides skillfully interweaves the titular Bacchae with the Greek chorus. They are mostly unattractively, unappealingly clad by Eleni Kyriacou and Lena Sands in black skirts and jackets – there is not a toga to be seen. I keep complaining about these mostly toga-less revivals of Greek classics and am beginning to suspect that contemporary showrunners feel a compulsion about needing to “update” ancient plays to make more “relatable” to 21st century auds.

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Sep

Side by Side by Sondheim

Side offers a rapturous ride down a musical memory lane and is a must-see – and hear – for all lovers of Broadway show tunes and showstoppers, delivered with pizzazz by a quartet of talented performers. It would be sheer “folly” for fans of musicals to merely merrily roll past it.

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