Registered Critic: Erin Conley

Erin developed a love for theater growing up in upstate New York, just a couple hours from Broadway. A resident of Los Angeles since 2011, she began reviewing theater in 2014 and founded On Stage & Screen. In addition, she is a Los Angeles critic for OnStage and a 2017 member of the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle.
Oct

ANASTASIA

If you, like me, grew up on the 1997 animated film version of Anastasia, you probably remember the creepy and scary Rasputin, and the titular heroine eventually defeating him by destroying a magical glass vial. While much of the plot, and all of the memorable songs, are the same in the musical version that opened last night at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre, Rasputin and all of the supernatural elements have been removed. But despite those differences, this charming production evokes strong feelings of nostalgia, telling a touching tale of a traumatized princess attempting to find her way back to herself.

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Oct

A Kid Like Jake

While the scenes are enjoyable to watch, thanks to smart dialogue and keen performances, by the end you wonder if this series of conversations actually led anywhere. All of the issues raised are compelling and important ones, but without a clear conclusion the character arcs feel incomplete and a bit unsatisfying.

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Oct

Never Is Now

There is a lot of very poignant material here, and it is well performed by the refreshingly diverse cast, but this is not the right format to properly service it. The amount of ground to cover is too ambitious for the short running time, and the themes are too heavily emphasized to the point where there is no room left for imagination or personal interpretation.

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Sep

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS

This is not your mother’s Little Shop of Horrors that opened at the Pasadena Playhouse last night—most of the camp has been replaced with grit in an iteration that illuminates the realities of Skid Row life. But the results are mixed—while some performances and choices are successful, others miss the mark and seem to be the result of a confused creative vision.

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Sep

Skintight

Beauty is an important commodity, and Skintight, a play by Joshua Harmon currently in its west coast premiere at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, is a biting and astute look at age, appearance, and how they affect our relationship with the world. Overall, Skintight is an entertaining look at complicated people, with ideas that go beyond skin deep.

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Sep

The Solid Life of Sugar Water

Despite jumping around in time, the story moves seamlessly, held together by the strong emotional thread of the core relationship. Overall, this play is a perfect choice for Deaf West, and beautifully realized in this production, which is a brutally honest look at coping and connecting in the face of tragedy.

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Sep

LATIN HISTORY FOR MORONS

But in addition to being informative and fun to watch, what really pushes Latin History for Morons from good to great is how surprisingly touching it is, particularly in its final moments when the throughline of his son’s heroes project is paid off beautifully.

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Sep

Handjob

Ultimately, Handjob wants to start a conversation, but does not take any real stand as a piece of writing, which is unfortunate because under different circumstances—including, perhaps, being produced by a different theater company—it would be a conversation very much worth having.

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Sep

Witch

In adapting a play nearly 400 years old, Silverman has managed to tap beautifully into our current zeitgeist, asking all of the right questions. And this stellar production, chock full of strong performances, manages to deliver a startlingly somber message with levity and emotional authenticity.

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Aug

Nick Dear's Frankenstein | California Premiere

While Dear’s adaptation is in some ways problematic, this production does its best to mitigate that, with the Creature taking center stage in a reexamination of the nature versus nurture debate that is so inherent to the source material. Issues with pacing aside, the design elements of this production are impressive, particularly the lighting (Jared A. Sayeg) and sound (Robert Oriol).

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Jul

MISS SAIGON

There are aspects of the story of Miss Saigon that are problematic, and the show has seen its fair share of controversy over the years. Sure, Miss Saigon has a beautiful score, and some striking staging—the scene where a helicopter takes Chris and the rest of his platoon out of Vietnam as locals attempt to climb the fence, desperate for a ticket out, is the best known set piece, and it is impressive. But, the female ensemble spends nearly the entire show gyrating and wearing next to nothing while being objectified and abused by men.

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Jul

FRIENDS! THE MUSICAL PARODY

This parody is about as uneven and frustrating as season nine, with weak music and lyrics sucking the potential fun out of a solid concept.

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Jul

THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG

Once the action begins, it does not slow down for a second, with the hijinks and laughter coming seemingly a mile a minute. It is a good, old-fashioned farce reminiscent of the classic Noises Off, and its broad comedy and slapstick humor evoke a simpler time.

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Jul

THE LAST FIVE YEARS

While the interactive elements feel much more forced here than they did with Cuckoo’s Nest, the innovation is still something to be admired. The extra bells and whistles may not be necessary, but what’s important is that there is a really strong performance of a great musical at the core of this “experience,” one that is very much worth seeing.

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Jul

Scraps

Provocative and bold, this stylistic piece blends slam poetry and surrealism into the story, resulting in a piece that makes a statement and holds nothing back. It seems designed to be polarizing, especially given what a departure it is from the mostly conventional first half, but it is what makes Scraps stand out as something radical and different, unafraid of probing into uncomfortable territory.

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Jul

The Caucasian Chalk Circle

The cast is exceptional in this fast-moving and demanding piece, easily switching between characters and scenes, often while singing and playing instruments such as the accordion. Hofvendahl really shines in the second act as the witty Azdak takes center stage, and Seneca is affecting as Grusha, whose heart is always in the right place. At the core of the drama is the question of how we can really decide what is best for someone else, or who has a rightful claim to a person or a thing, and the answer presented is a thoughtful one that can be applied to many modern situations.

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Jun

INDECENT

Overall, this is important theater that sheds light on why we make theater in the first place, and why supporting it is so important, especially in difficult times.

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Jun

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

Fans of this show and its instantly recognizable score will be pleased with this production, which preserves all of the classic elements while refreshing some of the staging so that it feels like something just a little bit new.

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Jun

DANA H.

Directed by Les Waters, it is a fascinating staging conceit that feels constantly risky, but O’Connell never misses a beat, perfectly matching every inflection, stammer, and sigh. Hearing Ms. Higginbotham’s actual voice only adds to the impact of the already incredibly powerful material. The emotion does not need to be created, it is already there in this extraordinary first-person recount of a story that will leave you stunned. The story itself lends itself so easily to this medium—particularly in a society so fascinated by true crime—that next to no onstage bells and whistles are needed to help it land.

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May

LES MISÉRABLES

Incorporating new scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo, this iteration features a slightly pared-down staging that does not include the turntable the show has often been known for.

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