Non-Registered Critics: Frances Baum Nicholson

Frances Baum Nicholson has spent over thirty-five years as a theatrical critic for Los Angeles suburban newspapers, beginning in the late 70s with the Altadena Chronicle (which, after her time there, became the Pasadena Weekly). In 1982 she began writing for the Pasadena Star-News. With its purchase by what is now the Southern California Newspaper Group, her reviews began to appear in several of their other papers as well. In June of 2011 she also began posting reviews on her blog, The Stage Struck Review, allowing her work to reach an even wider audience. Born in an “educational trunk” (her mother and grandmother both performed in and taught the subject), she studied theater at The University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, and holds an MFA in writing from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. When not at the theater, she teaches in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program at Pasadena's Blair High School. Under the name F.M. Nicholson she is the author of two published collections of poetry.
Sep

American Hero

It is a play worth seeing, filled with images one really needs to put in the back of one's mind for the next time one walks into a fast food establishment.

sweet - ...read full review

Sep

The Gin Game

An articulate, well-known play is produced with great polish and passion. The visuals are evocative. The performers are impressive. The net result is well worth the price of admission.

sweet - ...read full review

Sep

SWEAT

A portrait of the disintegration of the traditional manufacturing towns of the midwest, it answers for the uninitiate multiple questions about the elements of malaise which have infected that part of the country, from amplified racism to opioid abuse. That it does so without preaching or reaching for easy answers, and with considerable humor, makes “Sweat” a gift to watch.

sweet - ...read full review

Sep

Native Gardens

Still, it is — on occasion — quite funny, it is beautiful to look at thanks to David Meyer's terrific garden set, and nobody can argue it isn't superbly acted. Now if only one didn't have to wonder if laughing was affirming something one would rather not affirm.

sweet-sour - ...read full review

Sep

HOLE IN THE SKY

“Hole in the Sky” has the potential to have something important to say as to why there aren't any easy answers when climate change threatens an entire way of life. The arguments of ranchers, officials and the native population, though repetitive, are all treated with a sense of truth. What is lacking, and what may be lacking in society as well, is any sense of what — other than erasure — can be done. This may be truth, but makes for a fuzzy dramatic arc.

sweet-sour - ...read full review

Aug

I AM SOPHIE

Take a look at “I Am Sophie,” if only to capture a lovely tale, but mostly because it is likely to make you hold up your own mirror to check who you are.

sweet - ...read full review

Aug

YELLOW FACE

All of these actors and characters intertwine in an elaborate choreography at the hands of director Robert Zimmerman. The minimalist staging works splendidly, and the finesse with which the cast handles the fast-paced, sometimes overlapping storytelling keeps the audience engaged, even occasionally on the edge of their collective seats, throughout. “Yellow Face” remains profound, even as it also remains very humorous.

sweet - ...read full review

Aug

Pump Boys and Dinettes

Some are better singers than actors, and some better actor/performers than singers. Still, the energy and general charm carries this piece through, and one is surprised that the show has ended, when it does. ...if you are looking for a place to rest your brain and have an evening of tuneful fun, “Pump Boys and Dinettes” offers just that – yet another sign of the reputation SMP is building for itself.

sweet - ...read full review

Aug

THE HUMANS

Director Joe Mantello choreographs the thing as much as directs it, using David Zinn's two-tiered set with real finesse. The sense of family, of separation and togetherness, of tension and softening, ebb and flow as such a gathering does. A nod also to Fitz Patton's sound design, creating as it does the character of an upstairs neighbor we essentially never even see, but whose presence proves startlingly intrusive at oddly apt moments. “The Humans” is fine, fine theater.

sweet - ...read full review

Aug

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

There a young, diverse and enthusiastic company brings this silly, wonderful play to life in a particularly accessible way. The vision is large, the al fresco setting clever, and though the performances are a bit variable, the net result ranges from pleasant to endearing.

sweet - ...read full review

Aug

Cry It Out

Director Lindsay Allbaugh truly understands these people, and makes this dialogue-heavy piece fill with movement and moments of visual intensity which give it power. Francois-Pierre Couture's seemingly simple set design, combined with Rose Malone's subtle lighting changes, give a sense of season and openness which flesh in, and humanize, the tale... Funny, wrenching, and achingly recognizable as truth, the play will definitely leave an impression, and one worth mulling over.

sweet - ...read full review

Aug

Screwball Comedy

Although Foster himself has created a play which honors all the above, with dialogue only slightly more ridiculous than the real thing, and just as deliciously improbable a plot, the current production does little with the rest. With a few exceptions the casting (or at very least character interpretation) is problematic, and the direction by Howard Storm profoundly uneven.

sour - ...read full review

Sep

Ain't Misbehavin'

In short, this show is very, very good. If you have any interest in jazz from the first half of the 20th Century, or you love classic blues, or even just want to have a great time at the theater, run, do not walk, to get tickets to this “Ain't Misbehavin'”. It's not here for long, but you'll regret not seeing it if you don't find a way.

sweet - ...read full review

Sep

Welcome to the White Room

“Welcome to the White Room” is challenging and fascinating to watch. The performances are very strong, and the results prove compelling. In an era which often uses elaborate technology to enhance a theatrical experience, this underscores the entertainment value in a production focused on a single set, solid acting, and puzzle which will take a while even after the play to digest. This is theater of the intellect, and thus a particular kind of refreshing.

sweet - ...read full review

Sep

The Marriage Zone

The concept of the piece is actually quite intriguing, but with the necessary filter missing the result is impressively sub-par. The playwright's choice to direct – in other words, to have to listen only to his own views on the script, stage movement, pacing, etc. – means that there was nobody left to push the play to its potential.

sour - ...read full review

Aug

Sequence

What proves most fascinating in all of this are the handoffs: the moments when a statement made in one duo's argument is answered or added to as the other duo's discussion begins. The beauty with which this is handled lies largely at the feet of director Bruce Gray, who gives the piece — performed without intermission — a seamless quality bordering on dance. The performers are also impressive, handling fantastically detailed dialogue, said in most cases at a furious pace, with grace and articulation.

sweet - ...read full review

Jul

KING OF THE YEES

Yee has the ability to make pointed, apparently autobiographical commentary in a way that enriches, entertains, and affirms.

sweet - ...read full review

Jul

HEISENBERG

Stephens' script is delightful and wistful by turns, but never sentimental. There are moments of startling, delicious humor, and others of ponderable introspection. But most of all, in the hands of these two extraordinarily skilled actors, there is a particular kind of aching humanity – that delicate need for human connection that a modern social system makes easy to overlook.

sweet - ...read full review

May

The House in Scarsdale: A Memoir for the Stage

There is no doubt that the production is splendid, or that the script is articulate, complex and compelling.

sweet - ...read full review

Apr

Man of La Mancha

In the end, with the new underscore of continuing spaces of despairing imprisonment and horror in our world, the main sentiments of “Man of La Mancha” come through: hope may seem madness, but can lift up those who choose it. And that is just as apt today as it was for the original creators of the musical, or Cervantes himself. It could have been more even in presentation, but it is definitely there.

sweet-sour - ...read full review

ADS
  • La Vie En Rose with Julia Migenes

Featured LemonAide