Registered Critic: Elaine L. Mura - LA Splash

Born and raised in New Jersey, Elaine Mura moved to New York City as an adult, where she completed her doctorate in psychology and worked in one of New York’s many State hospitals. Subsequently, she decided to scratch a persistent itch to travel and spent ten years living and working in Denmark, Germany, Portugal, and Iran – with shorter stops in the many scenic spots in between. She aplied her skills all over the world doing research, clinical practice, and academic pursuits. Since relocating to Los Angeles, she taught students in the graduate program at Pepperdine University for many years and spent the last 20 years as a forensic psychologist with the California State prison system. But the writing bug forever lay just beneath the surface, and she is currently writing magazine articles and theater reviews while working on a play, a novel, and a book of short stories.
Mar

Postponed - SHOW ME A HERO

SHOW ME A HERO is a fascinating study taken from real life and should appeal to audiences interested in history, especially Greek history. At the same time, this is a love story which will draw in audiences captivated by deeply emotional themes. The parallel between stories from ancient Greek theater and these contemporary characters will certainly keep the audience involved.

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Mar

Postponed - Found

The songs and choreography are bouncy and fun, and the idea is cute in a “Mad Lib” sort of way. Laughs abound amidst toe tapping and a generally upbeat production. A big hit in New York has crossed the continent to entertain West Coast audiences. Although a little long – with a first act which tends to drag – FOUND picks up the beat in the second act for an enjoyable and at times hilarious evening.

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Mar

Human Interest Story

HUMAN INTEREST STORY is a timely – and often incendiary – look at life in America today. This thought-provoking account should foster lots of conversation – and maybe even some controversy – in audiences. One thing is sure. No one will leave the theater without some strong opinions, old and new.

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Feb

Frankenstein

For those seeking an unusual multimedia experience containing song, dance, and the occasional verbalizations, FRANKENSTEIN will prove a gold mine. The Four Larks production of FRANKENSTEIN is certainly different, occasionally gripping, and eerie in its own way. For those hoping for a more predictable, standard version of the classic novel, FRANKENSTEIN may prove confusing, chaotic, and even off-putting. Audiences will no doubt self-select on this, the two hundredth anniversary of FRANKENSTEIN.

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Feb

The Manor: Murder and Madness at Greystone

With set design by David Hunt Stafford and Jackie Petras – but really by the opulence of a mansion itself – THE MANOR gives the audience a peek into the life of the 1920’s rich and famous. As the audience is led through the house by James, the butler (David Hunt Stafford), Ursula, the housekeeper (Katherine Henryk), and Ellie, the maid (Esther Levy Richman), they will savor the splendiferous surroundings which serve as everyday life for the wealthy family. Directed by Martin Thompson and produced by David Hunt Stafford, THE MANOR remains a not-to-be-missed production.

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Feb

ALL PERFORMANCES CANCELED BY CTG - THE BOOK OF MORMON

Directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker with musical supervision and vocal arrangements by Stephen Oremus, THE BOOK OF MORMON is almost the perfect musical. The talented and enthusiastic cast is excellent. The entire production team does a bang-up job of scenic design (Scott Pask), costumes (Ann Roth), lighting (Brian MacDevitt), sound (Brian Ronan), and all the other tasks needed to bring THE BOOK OF MORMON to vivid life. This is a not-to-be-missed production.

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Feb

THE $5 SHAKESPEARE COMPANY

Director Joel Zwick does an excellent job of defining each actor while allowing the ensemble mood to take over. The actors cleverly dig into their characters, probably at least partially based on how the reality of the script echoes their daily lives.

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Feb

Law and Order: the Musical!

LAW AND ORDER, THE MUSICAL is a clever concept paying tribute to an audience favorite of many years. Despite the obvious hard work and creative juice going into the production, however, the show seems to miss the boat. Often, the laughs feel forced; and it is sometimes difficult to follow the involved lyrics and quick scene changes. At the same time, some of the songs are rousing and fun, thanks to musical direction by composer Jeremy Adelman and choreography by Lou Becker.

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Feb

CANCELED - A BODY OF WATER

Director Nan McNamara does a powerful job of helming a play filled with fear, pain, and humor as she carefully dissects the lives of three individuals and their interactions with each other.

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Feb

West Adams

The talented cast eagerly enters into the battle with ferocious antagonism that rapidly devolves into an assaultive onslaught on the enemy. Attacking timely issues like race, class, gentrification, and immigration, WEST ADAMS is certainly a thought-provoking study of people caught in the cross-hairs.

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Feb

"The Unseen Hand" and "Killer's Head"

From a historical perspective which honors Sam Shepard’s early work in experimental theater, this double bill was intriguing. At the same time, both plays often prove confusing and difficult to follow. They clearly reflected the ethos of the hippie era – both comic and tragic – but times and styles change. Shepard’s early work might almost be seen as the male version of the feminist movement, in that he studies the world from the perspective of the macho guy and all that viewpoint entails. Aficionados of Shepard’s work, as well as drama history buffs, will clearly enjoy the double bill. However, early Shepard might also be seen as an acquired taste.

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Feb

This Side Of Crazy

THIS SIDE OF CRAZY is faultlessly written and directed by Del Shores with the invaluable aid of four very talented performers – one better than the next. Playwright Shores has managed to elegantly parse these women’s personalities and dig into their individual deep-rooted drives with compassion, humor, and flashes of the poignant. Tom Buderwitz’s scenic design fits right in, as do Shon Le Blanc’s costumes, Matthew Brian Denman’s lighting, and Drew Dalzell’s sound. As the Blaylock Sisters sing their signature song, it’s obvious that musical director Blake McIver is having fun with the gospel scene. THIS SIDE OF CRAZY is a not-to-be-missed production which showcases the talents of everyone involved.

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Jan

UNTIL THE FLOOD

Director Neel Keller does an excellent job of bringing to life each of Orlandersmith’s alter-egos – whether they be black, white, male, female, young, or old. Takeshi Kata’s scenic design is simple but artful as Orlandersmith glides from personality to personality and center stage to corner space...

But above all, this is Orlandersmith’s show as she cleverly invites the audience to peek at the inner lives of so many interesting people experiencing the after-effects of trauma and racial bias. With subtle changes of expression, movement, and speech, she projects the dissimilarities – and similarities – of the individuals she spoke to. UNTIL THE FLOOD is a thought-provoking production which turns the philosophic into human form with all the faults, foibles, hopes, and dreams of real people.

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Jan

ARSENIC AND OLD LACE

ARSENIC AND OLD LACE is a fun play which will charm and entertain. Don’t look for depth in this light, laugh-inducing, hilarious production. This is a play to enjoy, and the audience clearly loved it.

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Jan

Sunday Dinner

Director/author Tony Blake does an excellent job of building up the inevitable progression of secrets coming to light with the aid of a talented ensemble cast who can deliver a quip as well as a painful confession with equal skill. As always, Jeff G. Rack’s set is flawless, as well as Michele Young’s costumes, Brandon Baruch’s and Gregory Crafts’ lighting, and Joseph Slawinski’s sound.

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Jan

THE LAST SHIP

The writer of the new book, Lorene Campbell, also serves as director for THE LAST SHIP; he proves to be efficient and successful in both endeavors. The cast is large and multi-talented, singing and dancing with abandon. Like the director, Sting had a dual role as composer of the music and lyrics and also one of the lead actors, Jackie White. The music ranges from melancholy to rousing, and the lyrics tell their story effectively. Again, Sting shines in both roles.

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Jan

Nowhere On The Border

NOWHERE ON THE BORDER is timely and thought-provoking in an era where political realities may often clash with humanitarian concerns. The talented cast successfully tell the story while treading the fine line between melodrama and reality, kindness and anger, dreams and the mystical.

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Jan

It's Only A Play

T’S ONLY A PLAY is an entertaining comedy/farce/satire which alternates between raucous and ridiculous – all the while keeping the audience on their toes in a laugh-a-minute fest. Theater audiences will enjoy seeing how “the other half” – those in front of the lights rather than behind – lives and survives. IT’S ONLY A PLAY proves that sometimes the biggest laughs happen offstage. To quote the 2014 New York Times review: “These are among the funniest lines to roll off a stage in years.” This critic for one thinks that the Morgan-Wixson has outdone itself in this superb production.

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Jan

WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME

Directed with a firm hand by Oliver Butler, who manages to tell Schreck’s story through her memories and then in real time, WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME is highly effective and involving.

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Jan

Earthquakes in London

The talented cast give their all to this tale of potential death and destruction – with a little bit of hope thrown in at the end.

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