Non-Registered Critics: Lara J. Altunian

Mar

Law and Order: the Musical!

Law and Order: The Musical! is about as a goofy as it sounds. But for those who are either into the show or are just in the mood to see our criminal justice system rightfully caricatured, the astute production will inevitably be a good time. - RECOMMENDED

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Jan

The Water Tribe

Though the concept is a good one, the play’s execution falls flat via a cast of stagnant characters whose unwillingness to change their early-identified problematic qualities drag the plot out without providing much resolve.

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Dec

Waiting for Waiting for Godot

ull of stellar physical humor, entertaining wisecracking riffs, and philosophical discussions, the production is a string of wonderful ideas that would have better served the play had the concepts resonated a bit more consistently throughout the course of the evening.

...A little tightening and fine tuning would make this play absolutely exceptional.

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Nov

Orry

Mostly funny, at times melancholy, and overall full of 1920s flair, this tribute is an entertaining portrait of a person who became a vital cornerstone in filmmaking history. A few repetitive singsongy moments slow the plot down at points, but Hardcastle’s ability to keep the show going — particularly despite some significant technical difficulties witnessed the night I saw the production are a testament to his skill as a performer.

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Oct

Miss Lilly Gets Boned

Miss Lilly Gets Boned is a strange show with an approachable plot that tends to get lost in its grandiose messages. However, it’s good for some laughs and, after weeding through its more questionable stances and presentations, still has the power to trigger useful debates over the many issues it ask viewers to consider.

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Sep

The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck Club is a tender story that speaks to the American experience of adjusting to a new life while carrying the wounds from an old one. Its style makes it a challenging book to transform into a play. Sierra Madre wonderfully expands upon Pan Asian Repertory Theatre’s original production. Some fine tuning and a more steadily dynamic presentation could elevate this show into something incredible.

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Aug

Hannah and the Dread Gazebo

Hannah and the Dread Gazebo is a thoughtful piece that reflects on “the in-between”. Multiple elements stir the characters through limbo both literally and figuratively as they wait to find out their family members’ fates, as well as their own. A stronger ending and fewer tangents would allow that theme to be felt more deeply.

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Aug

The Direction Home

Although the story’s significance is heartwarming, an uneven plot fails to convey what could have been a well-developed plot about desire and identity. Much of the characters’ growth and development is confined to only a few scenes, making the rest of the narrative feel slow by comparison. The ending is predictable, but satisfying, and certain key moments are wonderfully crafted, but the build-up does not merit the production’s two-and-a-half-hour length. Vie’s message of sexual self-discovery is a strong one, but The Direction Home’s shortcomings unfortunately don’t allow its impact to be fully felt.

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Jul

Twelfth Night

ISC’s updated Jazz-era spin on the timeline keeps the play fresh, while their smart use of site gags and creative ad-libs makes some of the now-obscure Elizabethan innuendos accessible...

For some, three hours may be a long time to sit and digest Shakespeare, but this fairly modern, well-interpreted version of a feel-good play is worth a gander. - RECOMMENDED

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Jul

Dames at Sea

Sierra Madre Playhouse’s decision to produce the show expresses a clear desire for nostalgic naiveté, with its back-to-back songs brought to life by an amiable and hard-working six-person cast. However, for those less inclined to appreciate the simplistic innocence of the Golden Era, the dated plot is boring. Predictability distracts from the outrageously talented troupe, which otherwise sets the intimate theater ablaze with rapid-fire tapping and excellent singing skills.

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Jul

Naked Came the Neighbor

Zombie Joe’s cast does a fantastic job of keeping the material engaging throughout, making this laugh-out-loud show a brief, but playful escape to the theater. - RECOMMENDED

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Jun

Sucker Punch

Tiger Boxing Gym is an excellent mid-city setting for the play, emphasizing the theme better than any set design or collection of props ever could. Michael A. Shepperd’s direction is able to make the most use out of a tiny space as the characters brawl with each other verbally and with their fists, the latter form convincingly brought to life thanks to Jen Albert’s fight choreography.

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Jun

VIOLENCE: The Misadventures of Spike Spangle, Farmer

Predictability may be a part of the play’s message about corruption in politics, patriotism and militarism, but it felt like it could’ve built up to something more....

The play at times feels disturbing, and at others, just plain goofy. However, it never loses its point amid the chaos. Spike Spangle’s lesson is universal, though it is one that humanity may, unfortunately, never truly learn.

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May

Brain Problems

The ensemble as a whole does a good job of pushing the story forward, rolling seamlessly with much of the (literal and figurative) insanity taking place on stage. Amanda Knehans' simple set design allows for plenty of movement as the cast navigates through a few fun dance numbers (choreographed by Manor). Bernardo Cubría's direction manages the chaos well, keeping it from completely overwhelming the viewers. - RECOMMENDED

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Apr

ALL MY SONS

The play succeeds as a reminder of our struggle against history's repetitive nature, and as a warning to stay true to oneself in times of trouble and deception. - RECOMMENDED

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Mar

Little Shop of Horrors

Little Shop of Horrors sells on its nostalgia factor for all fans of off-beat, off-Broadway musicals. The show may not be for everyone, but Morgan-Wixson's revival can thrive on the cast and crew's enthusiasm once they get their sound situation fixed.

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Mar

The Old Man and The Old Moon

Overall, the experience is one-of-a-kind and can be enjoyed by people of all ages, especially fans of retro theater. Their artistic portrayal elevates the clever and touching conclusion beyond the sum of the story's parts, altogether creating a memorable new folktale not soon to be forgotten. - RECOMMENDED

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Feb

Othello

A Noise Within's production of Othello takes full advantage of these more universal and contemporary qualities and gives the plot a present-day setting that sometimes works, and at other times drags the play down. However, strong performances and direction make this undoubtedly one of the better Shakespeare adaptations I have seen.

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Feb

Love is Another Country

Rollins pulls no punches with her dialogue; Marshall consistently fires away strong and tightly-phrased pockets of punchy speech, and Stephens delivers an especially emphatic and poignant monologue as Gonee in the play's crux.

Artistic transitions full of brief dances are brought to life under Kendall Johnson's direction.

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Feb

12 Angry Jurors

RECOMMENDED - For those who have seen Lumet's version, this play is an excellent, well-performed live-theater adaptation of the same stellar story. For those who haven't yet seen the black-and-white classic, you're in for a good surprise.

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