Non-Registered Critics: F. Kathleen Foley

Mar

Hype Man

Let’s face it, most stage audiences do not appear to be of the hip-hop generation. But even those who are not fans of the genre will find “Hype Man” an overdue immersion into a cultural phenomenon.

Buoyed by superb technical elements — James Maloof’s set, Chu Hsuan Chang’s lighting, Malik Allen’s sound, Michael Mullen’s costumes and Shen Heckel’s props — director Deena Selenow elicits first-rate performances from her tight-knit cast, including galvanic rap sequences buoyed by beat maker Romero Mosley. As Verb, Hancock is a suppressed ball of concentrated energy who never walks when he can bound. Even if his character frequently lapses into diatribe, Hancock makes his every utterance richly believable — no mean feat.

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Mar

The Old Man and The Old Moon

Stuart Carden, credit as co-director with the members of PigPen, briskly orchestrates the keenly marshaled mayhem. The cast, which includes Matt Nuernberger, Dan Weschler, Ben Ferguson, Curtis Gillen and Arya Shahi, doubles as musicians and singers who perform toe-tapping, Gaelic-seasoned music from the company’s debut album. Their combined musicianship is a highlight, but the music is just the tip of their onstage responsibilities. All perform a dizzying array of roles: actors, puppeteers, prop masters, lighting specialists, Foley artists.

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Mar

The Judas Kiss

In a beautifully paced and sensitive staging, director Michael Michetti has assembled a mostly workmanlike cast that deftly handles the permutations of Hare’s challenging text. The action unfolds in Se Hyun Oh’s minimalistic scenic design, well lighted by David Hernandez, with costume designer Dianne K. Graebner cladding Nagle in epicene finery…

In a performance not to be missed, Nagle shows us the internalized anguish behind Wilde’s deceptive passivity — the thwarted brilliance and loss behind his valiant savoir-faire.

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Feb

Two Trains Running at Matrix

…the heart of this production is the superb performances under the direction of Michele Shay, a veteran Wilson performer and director who was nominated for a Tony for her 1996 performance in Wilson’s “Guitar Lessons.” The actors give such towering performances that to single one out for praise would be a fool’s errand. They are an ensemble in the truest sense of the word — a family of equals who support one another generously and magnificently.

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Feb

The Cripple of Inishmaan

The play receives a hit-and-miss treatment from director Steven Robman, who doesn’t separate the gritty from the twee in this checkered production.

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Nov

I am Sophie

…Still, Sophie’s pursuit of identity is no narcissistic exercise, but a fascinating journey into what constitutes an individual, and how one is defined not only by society but in one’s innermost self.

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Nov

The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man

Under Huskey’s guidance and Richard An’s musical direction, the entire cast functions as a seamless ensemble, from realistic emotional interchanges to precisely mechanized group choreography, sort of Grotowski movement exercises by way of the Rockettes. And although the pulp elements of the piece sometimes run away with the narrative, this nearly indescribable fusion of text, music, movement and fantasy takes us inside the mind of a fascinating woman, whose refusal to be hampered by the conventions of her times led her through uncharted territory and new frontiers.

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Nov

Steambath

Dry and effectively offhand, Rodriguez anchors the show with a bracing naturalism that underscores its surreal aspects.

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Oct

Showpony

The show’s excellent technical elements — including Evan Bartoletti’s set, Carol Doehring’s lighting, David Duarte’s sound and Lauri Fitzsimmons’ stylishly glitzy costumes — provide the unobtrusive backdrop for a gem of a show. But the real standout is Ormeny’s slam-bang, briskly calibrated staging. Ormeny melds his gifted performers into an impressively organic ensemble, a sort of extended family that is richly believable on every level. The actors’ beautifully realized characters are workplace warriors who keep us entertained — and moved — as they struggle to win a rigged game.

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Aug

Jews, Christians, and Screwing Stalin

Subtler staging might have helped, but Lonow encourages excess at every turn. At least the droll and diverting cast — Pleshette as the patriarch, Ladman as his wife, Julian as the boarder — invest characters with a genuine humanity that transcends stereotypes and atones for much of the sophomoric silliness.

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Aug

Under Milk Wood

CRITIC’S CHOICE…. takes us into the lives of the vibrant inhabitants of Llareggub, lost and lonely souls who sing, drink, rollick and roister before collapsing into their beds and their ghost-ridden dreams… lively and beautifully paced…blissfully poetic

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Jul

Hostage

Fluid staging… emotionally shattering. Lockwood’s deceptively unassuming performance is a beacon of authenticity that lights the stage. The action seamlessly transitions from the Tehran embassy to the Timm home.

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Jul

100 Aprils

There’s certainly the germ of a geopolitically relevant play here. There are also the makings for a plangent absurdist comedy. Unfortunately, “Aprils” falls precipitously into the divide between surrealism and political didacticism. Not knowing how to react or what to think, we remain at a troubling emotional disconnect throughout Ayvazian’s well-intentioned but failed experiment.

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May

SOLO MUST DIE: A Musical Parody

Whether stylistically intentional or not, a scattershot quality extends to all levels of the production, from choreography to lighting to costumes — a combination of the purposely cheesy and the merely makeshift.

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May

Forever Bound

Despite its crucial lapse into illogic, “Bound” is elevated by the technical proficiency of the performers and a dynamic staging. If, like Alice, you can practice believing impossible things and suspend your disbelief, it may be worth a try.

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May

Through The Eye of a Needle

“Through the Eye of a Needle,” Jami Brandli’s new play at the Road on Lankershim, is not perfect by any means… Despite its faults, Brandli’s old-school drama is so heartfelt — and in director Ann Hearn Tobolowsky’s emotionally acute staging, so well performed — that we forgive its shortcomings. Keep a couple of hankies handy, because the play will likely soften the flintiest hearts in the audience.

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May

Auto Draft reviewed by

The main problem is that “Solo” meanders from gag to gag and situation to situation without ever getting to light speed. The architects of this production should be advised that sheer outlandishness, unmoored by sense or structure, strands the audience in the wormhole of failed intentions.

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May

Bad Jews

Director Dana Resnick delivers a comically acute production that goes gleefully over-the-top yet remains authentic. Deutsch and James are gloriously ill-tempered in their high-decibel exchanges, while Hood and Rogers are hilarious in their less showy turns.

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Apr

Bad Jews

A dip in an acid-laced bubble bath, Joshua Harmon’s effervescently corrosive comedy about a fanatical Jewish ideologue and her more secular-minded cousin’s dispute over a religious artifact left behind by their Holocaust survivor grandfather receives a blissfully high-decibel staging from director Dana Resnick and a pitch-perfect cast. Harmon’s brilliantly caustic play frames serious issues of Jewish identity within a breathtaking blitzkrieg of invective guaranteed to make your eardrums smolder.

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Apr

Pigs and Chickens

The able performers do their best to smooth over certain scattershot motivations and segues. Yet in its current form, Glinski’s overlong and occasionally inaccessible play could use a bit more technical support.

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