Registered Critic: Jill Weinlein

Nov

The Thanksgiving Play

The cast of The Thanksgiving Play is three white thespians and one white director creating an original Thanksgiving message during Native American Heritage Month. It's filled with cultural missteps, as they try to figure out how to be politically correct.

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Oct

THE NEW ONE

Comedian, writer and performer Mike Birbiglia bares his soul about his relationship with his couch, wife and daughter as he takes the stage at the Ahmanson Theatre. Direct from Broadway, Birbiglia with additional writing by Jennifer Hope Stein, and directed by Seth Barrish (“Sleepwalk with Me”) begins by declaring his fondness of a couch he discovers that was left on a street years ago. The story evolves on how this piece of furniture offers comfort for sitting, sleeping, watching television, eating meals and finally cradling “The NEW ONE” a baby.

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Oct

A Kid Like Jake

Parenting is not easy for Alex (Sarah Utterback) and Greg (Tim Peper) with their precocious son Jake in the West Coast Premiere “A Kid Like Jake” by Daniel Pearle and presented by IAMA Theatre Company. Marriage isn’t a piece of cake either, as we see in this explosive drama about a couple whose son prefers to dress up as Cinderella, instead of playing with trucks or G.I. Joe figures.

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Sep

BLUE MAN GROUP

It’s loud from the beginning when this blue trio enters onstage and pull a gong out of the bag to bang. With each strike, lights on the back wall sparkle along the chaotic floor to ceiling set by Jason Ardizzone-West. One soon realizes their senses will be challenged and at times overloaded by New York-based lighting designer Jen Striver’s enhancements.

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Sep

Skintight

Tony Award-winning actress Idina Menzel is wickedly good in Joshua Harmon’s newest play SKINTIGHT at the Geffen Playhouse. I sat frozen in my seat watching her magically change for the better, as Jodi, a neurotic Jewish mother, and daughter of successful fashion designer Elliot (Harry Groener).

Jodi arrives in Elliot’s modern two-story New York townhome after a red-eye flight to surprise her father on his 70th birthday. Lauren Helpern’s set oozes high-end luxury in gray hues, rich wood paneling, and a contemporary stairway.

As a divorced, empty nester mother with two adult boys, Jodi is “holding on by a thin thread.” Feeling jilted that her ex-husband is about to marry a “skintight” 24-year-old Soul Cycle “spinner” who takes classes to maintain her tiny waist and large breasts.

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Sep

LATIN HISTORY FOR MORONS

“Latin History for Morons” concludes with “Latins are so American that it hurts. They have shed blood for America in every war in America, and are the most decorated soldiers.” If all this information was put into history books for our children to read, imagine how Americans would see Latin people and how Latin people would see themselves.

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Sep

Witch

WITCH leaves the audience wondering how much a soul is worth, when hope is hard to come by today. Elizabeth Sawyer (Maura Tierney, Golden Globe Winner) is the most reviled woman in her village, inciting people to stare and whisper about her in their midst. When she meets Scratch (Evan Jonigkeit) chemistry heats up and Elizabeth isn't ready to give away the only thing she has in life.

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Aug

Hannah and the Dread Gazebo

My favorite part of Hannah and the Dread Gazebo is after the final bow when Director Jennifer Chang has the cast perform “A Sweet Potato Woman” to bright lights and music. Dancing standouts include Hahn Cho and Gavin Lee.

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Aug

Early Birds

"Early Birds” at the Atwater Village Theatre is about two widows in their Golden Years meeting on a cruise. This hilarious comedy will have you laugh out loud and shed a tear or two.

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Jul

MISS SAIGON

Kim’s flash back (Fall of Saigon 1975) is another dramatic scene at the American Embassy, as we watch Chris frantically search for Kim standing behind a tall chain link fence with razor wire. She is among the desperate people begging to leave on the last helicopter to America, before the city fell to advancing North Vietnamese troops. Chris and other Americans board a life-size helicopter as it comes down onto a rooftop. Lighting designer Bruno Poet enhances this scene to appear as if the helicopter takes off and flies over the audiences heads. The faces of desperate Vietnamese losing hope of escaping, will stay in my soul for quite some time.

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Jul

THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG

“The Play That Goes Wrong” will have you laughing from the moment you take your seat all the way through the curtain call. What I enjoyed about “The Play That Goes Wrong” is that it’s a play within a play, as “The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society" perform their newest murder mystery “The Murder at Haversham Manor.” Disasters befall the cast, props are misplaced, coat hooks break, there are multiple sound effect errors, lines forgotten, cues missed, and a lot of ad-libbing. It’s very silly at times, yet fun to watch.

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Jul

Mysterious Circumstances

Based on true events that occurred in 1894 and 2004, Director Matt Shakman discovered a fascinating article in The New Yorker titled "Mysterious Circumstances: The Strange Death of a Sherlock Holmes Fanatic" by David Grann. He pitched the idea to be turned into a play to Executive Director of the Geffen Playhouse Gil Cates Jr. Playwright Michael Mitnick was raised by a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle aficionado and applied his enthusiastic prose to this true story about Richard Lancelyn Green, a world scholar obsessed about Detective Sherlock Holmes.

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Jun

HERSHEY FELDER: A PARIS LOVE STORY

Hershey Felder does it again! This time he magically transforms into one of the greatest French composers Claude Debussy.

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Jun

Twelfth Night

Every time I visit the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, I feel as if I am on vacation. Set among ancient oak trees in the bucolic Topanga Canyon, this is by far the most picturesque outdoor amphitheater in Southern California.

Recently I saw on the main stage the romantic comedy Twelfth Night. Set on the magical Isle of Ilyria, Director Ellen Geer adds her own personal spin and flair to this beloved Shakespeare comedy. Together with the help from composer Marshall McDaniel, they orchestrate and arrange Shakespeare’s words written in 1601, into lyrics elevating the language to a greater understanding for the audience.

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Jun

Invisible Tango

Go see the one man show “Invisible Tango” starring Portuguese storyteller and master card illusionist Helder Guimarães­ premiers at the Geffen Playhouse. Under the direction of Frank Marshall (Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, Seabiscuit, The Color Purple, Sully, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), the performer shares his personal perspective of experiencing serendipity through telling a story about the occurrence and development of events.

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Apr

FALSETTOS

There are a lot of things I liked about the Tony Award-winning musical “Falsettos,” now at The Ahmanson Theatre. I fully understand why it was nominated for five 2017 Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical, however at almost three hours long, with 37 songs by composer/lyricist William Finn and playwright and director James Lapine it needs to be cut down to 120 minutes for this LA audience.

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Apr

MY LIFE ON A DIET

Now in her 80s, this adorable curly haired blonde reflects on how she was groomed by her wanna-be movie star mother to be the next Betty Hutton. Her momma encouraged her to lose weight starting at the age of 11. “My mother was concerned I was built like a sugar cube,” said Taylor, so she believed that if she ate like a star, she might look and live like one.

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Apr

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY

There are so many winning elements to the hit Broadway touring musical, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, now at the Pantages Theatre. First the show's music by Grammy, Emmy and Tony Award winner Marc Shaiman, and lyrics by Grammy and Tony Award winners Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman. Besides familiar toe-tapping songs "Pure Imagination," "The Candy Man," songs, new-to-Broadway includes “A Letter from Charlie Bucket.”

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Mar

Black Super Hero Magic Mama

The world premiere of the wildly theatrical Black Super Hero Magic Mama tackles real life social injustice with fantasy comic book super heroes. Playwright Ida Craig-Galvan tries to instill humor into a tragic event, yet it gets lost in its exec

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Mar

LACKAWANNA BLUES

Ruben Santiago-Hudson re-enacts over 20 characters that include a couple of drunks, a few mentally challenged individuals and some physically scarred characters. His smooth storytelling is enhanced by his pleasing voice, fluid movements and exquisite harmonica playing.

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