Non-Registered Critics: Lara J. Altunian

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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Dec

A CAROL CHRISTMAS

The performers are all undeniably good singers. Kimmel's direction helped balance some of the productions' blandness with well-executed routines that do not overwhelm the narrative.

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Dec

Remembering Boyle Heights

In addition to sharp writing, Dominguez's direction transports audience members back in time. César Retana-Holguín's simple set, complete with a few purposely askew pieces of art reflecting historical buildings, along with Masha Tatarinsteva's projection design was enough to paint a portrait of a town one may find themselves wishing to have grown up in by the end of the evening.

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Dec

Blue Surge

A lot of Blue Surge's plot points are unfortunately predictable. However, the acting and back-and-forth quips between the characters help create the very human connection the show strives to achieve, presenting a familiar story from a different, often less-visited angle that will leave viewers rooting for the main characters no matter what.

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Nov

My Date With Death - A Musical Romance

MY DATE WITH DEATH's saving grace is undoubtedly its message to value all life no matter what. However predictable the ending, it's a sweet stab at analyzing the reasons why people become depressed, what's worth fighting for, and how to find the balance in all of life's ups and downs. A cleaner approach to the already complex topics may have resulted in a more coherent production.

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Oct

THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE

A stellar cast expertly navigates through each acidic scene, every exchange painting a realistic picture of resentment at its very worst. - RECOMMENDED

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