Non-Registered Critics: Joe Straw

Producer, Director, Writer, Actor (SAG/AFTRA) all in film and stage. Reviewer for Los Angeles stage productions and some New York. Worked on a number of films (100 +) over a twenty years span.
Feb

Gifted

The best you can say about Bob DeRosa is his play Gifted is always lively and very different - a psychic romantic comedy. The play of ordinary people flows evenly, girl meets boy, girl loses boy, and girl waits for her boy to come back.  But, there is a time element missing here, slight confusion as to where we are in time, day or night, where one gets lost in the mystical events happening on stage leading to, for lack of a better word, the denouement.  This element of time is not defined and does not progress in a manner that gives the actor’s a strong purpose or objective.  Perhaps that was DeRosa’s purpose. In the psychic world time is transcended, but in a theatrical world time reflects the urgency of a keen objective or through line.

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Jan

The Water Tribe

Tricia Small, the director, does some remarkable work keeping the pace moving, the actors in character. One wishes the characters moved to a defined conclusion. Accents were missing and the place was not definite in the program or in the dialogue. There was not a strong through line and the characters sometimes floundered.

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Dec

Fifteen Men in a Smoke-Filled Room

Finding more layers and unspoken actions may be the key to unlocking the play.

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Dec

Troy

There is much to enjoy in Amina Henry’s play. The language is raw and believable. The resemblance to The Trojan Woman by Euripides is poverty.

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Nov

The Wrong Kind of People

George W. Corbin has written a marvelous play, an oblique comedy that was enjoyable from start to finish. The Wrong Kind of People is smartly written and clever in every sense of the word. The characters are multi-dimensional and the dialogue takes this viewer back to 1942.  Placed perfectly, in the screwball comedy era of the 1940s, this show never lets up.

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Nov

THE ART OF DINING

The Art of Dining directed by Gloria Gifford is deliciously triumphant and delectable too throughout the course of the dining night. The production is filled with extreme touches of brilliance, of manner, and of style. There are some very fine bits of idiosyncrasies beyond the dialogue, and to top it off the characters are wonderfully diverse.

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Nov

Cock

Cock by Mike Bartlett is a stunning work of art that rings true to its core. It is a cockfight of two men and one woman being pulled apart in insurmountable ways. The play is a battlefield in a cock ring, poetic in manner, with characters engaged, releasing toxic words, unutterable thoughts spewed to love ones, vile words expressed that causes all to retaliate.

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Oct

The Dumb Waiter

Wonderfully directed by Julie Nunis who placed her own original stamp on this production and effectively made it her own. Guided by a strong cast, the production was smooth, sincere with many layers, wonderfully connected, and most of all frustratingly ambiguous so that, upon viewing, concentrated engagement with the characters was an absolute must.

The lower class English accents by the actors were riveting.

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Oct

Never Is Now

All told this is a fascinating night of theatre directed by Tony Abatemarco and Celia Mandela Rivera and a take on people who operate on two levels; as people of 1930’s Germany and as actors who are portraying the present-day roles. We get the point loud and clear. Quietly beautiful and wonderfully effected, it is hard to tell where Abatemarco’s directing begins and Rivera ends.

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Sep

THE HEAL

There are a lot of good things in Aaron Posner’s play. The main ideas were one of “truth” and of course “healing”. The truth takes precedent over all of it and healing is a secondary event in the play and therefore the confusion of the play. The play requires a stronger through line, and for the director a viable stamp critical for us to understand his intention or objective rather than a prévenance for the playgoers. In the end “truth” sums it all up, which is almost impossible to believe. (Sophocles version is a little more believable, if one takes stock in Greek Gods and what they are spiritually capable of doing.)

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Sep

To Dad with Love: A Tribute to Buddy Ebsen

Exceptionally directed by S.E. Feinberg, this tribute is an emotional experience and an extraordinary night of theatre...

This is, without a doubt, a show you should not miss.  Go for the music, go for the history, or go for the tap dancing.  Take your pick because it is all a powerful night of theatre.

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Aug

TRUE WEST

One can easily look at the play and view it from an impossible angle. For some reason I found myself thinking that Austin and Lee are the same man. It’s not far fetched thinking. This is Sam Sheppard. The night sent me away discovering a unique perspective, and one that would excite my overactive imagination.

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Aug

100 PLANES

There’s much to enjoy in Lila Rose Kaplan’s play, which, on second thought, seems more to be about the relationship of the players than the dream of 100 planes. Each has their own dream, their objective of what they want other than the person they are with.

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Jul

Bakersfield Mist

Amir Korangy, the director, stages a superior production. The objectives were clear, the actors knew where they were going and they worked well together. But, in the early part of this two-week run, there was something missing. There is another level of concentration to add, of thoughts that keep the actors engaged in a relationship that is constantly changing. Those are the moments that change the relationship and move the play to its ultimate conclusion.

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Jul

LOVE, MADNESS, AND SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN

The notes of his performance touch on many emotional chords and for that reason it is a show that is a must see.

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Jul

The Ruffian on the Stair

Given it was a performance seen early in the run, things happen, but this production needs a viable edge. What one saw was not a bad, in fact is was even good, but, there's more life to be had here.

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Jun

Sucker Punch

...Sucker Punch by Roy Williams is a wonderful play about the dreams of athletes and their manager. By all accounts, it is a comedy with some dramatic overtones. The timing of the dialogue is as essential as the boxing scenes in order for the comedy to hit home. There were hits and misses this night, but overall a wonderful production by the coeurage theatre company...

The play had a short run. But if you are able to see it in another venue, run, run, run!

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Jun

NAKED MAN RISING

...Kyle Durack has some wonderful moments, especially when he stops and listens, to the noise, the wind, his inner quiet thoughts, and then as he struggles to take the next step forward. And, for me, that was worth the price of admission.

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May

Brain Problems

Benardo Cubría, the director, is spot on with the actors who move effortlessly in and out of reality and through the fourth wall. Cubría takes us there and asks us to take a leap of faith, into a reality within ourselves. Life, death, time, and imagination have no boundaries in theatre and this is an example of supreme art of expressive theatre. Cubría's perspicacity and knowledge of the craft of theatre is outstanding.

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Apr

The Mother of Henry

There is a lot to enjoy from Evelina Fernández's play of The Mother of Henry, which is funny, magical and always inventive. What is remarkable are the relationships between family and friends, between the spiritual and human, and the harsh realities of everyday life played out in mortal silence.

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