Non-Registered Critics: Laura Foti Cohen

Feb

A BODY OF WATER

Under director Nan McNamara’s skilled guidance, the talented cast builds their characters both as independent and intimately entwined.

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Feb

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill

The group’s latest, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, by Lanie Robertson, runs through March 1 and is a noble addition to the company’s storied history. Brown’s directorial debut for ERT is a showcase for this moving portrait of icon Billie Holiday, as channeled by Karole Foreman.

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Jan

Sunday Dinner

Fortunately, the action focuses on the family dynamics and those relationships all ring true, as does blaming Ellen DeGeneres for “everybody saying they’re gay.” This is a compelling work that will make you feel like a part of a family hopefully more dysfunctional than your own.

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Nov

Bad Habits

Writer Steve Mazur, whose extensive writing credits include numerous hit movies, has created fully drawn characters and a Catholic world brilliantly positioned between past and future. The set, by Brad Bentz, ideally frames the action. The opening scene could easily be cut but otherwise the show is tight and fulfilling on multiple levels.

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Nov

The Great Leap

There are surprises that beautifully dovetail into a carefully crafted tale and an inevitable path toward Tiananmen Square, which adds yet another layer of tension to the already tense proceedings. Despite only four cast members, and only one of them a player, the basketball game generates real emotion and suspense as do the men’s personal decisions and likely consequences.

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Nov

THE ART OF DINING

As presented in this well-decorated space, it’s a feast for all the senses. It’s also a peek behind the acting school curtain...

It’s acting with a side of finishing school and it’s definitely worth experiencing.

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Nov

The Best Man

...the three women shine, and it’s hard not to wish for an alternative reality where Mrs. Gamadge takes control, the women move to the forefront and the men head to a bar to reminisce about their days of glory.

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Nov

The 7 Stages of Grieving

This is a heavy load for a cast, even more so on a single performer. Yet Chenoa Deemal owns the Skylight’s stage, whether creating concentric circles of pebbles, rifling through the contents of a box and a suitcase, or just speaking directly to the audience. This feels like her story, a tribute to her performance and the timelessness of the script by Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman, written when Deemal was likely a small child...

7 Stages beautifully represents the Aboriginal tradition of storytelling and, in a larger context, First Nation peoples finding their voices. There is grieving, yes, but also healing. As Deemal notes in 7 Stages, “Everything has its time.” Now is the time for this show.

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Nov

Between Riverside and Crazy

There’s humor and wordplay and fantastic music – even a touch of Rudy Giuliani. The theme of fatherhood is attacked from land, sea and air but somehow manages to hold up.

Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis wrote the 2011 play The MotherF-er with the Hat, so the language, while rough, isn’t unexpected. We’re left feeling like voyeurs looking in on but unable to advise a group of people making bad choices who somehow win us over. Director Guillermo Cienfuegos does the script proud in a set decorated to rundown Riverside Drive perfection by Shen Heckel.

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Oct

Andy Warhol’s Tomato

Andy Warhol’s Tomato tells us—and shows us—that art is a living thing, always open to new interpretations. It asks big questions: Who decides what is art? What makes a man? How can we find common ground when the divide feels so wide? More importantly, it offers beautiful answers to those questions.

This is art.

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Oct

All My Sons

This production, sensitively directed by Elina de Santos, finds every nuance of Miller’s brilliant script. De Santos accurately described the play as “”timeless and timely” when she introduced the performance.

Spot-on scenic design by Dillon G. Artzer makes remarkable use of a small stage. As the clear-eyed father trying to salvage normalcy for his family, Richard Fancy leads the cast with an awe-inspiring performance. Supporting players add context but it’s the family and Ann who are given the most to do and, here on Venice Boulevard, they deliver in spades.

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Oct

Deadly

The production, six years in the making, features an effectively creepy set by Stephen Gifford with a hotel structure that evokes both a gallows and guillotine. The victims are outfitted in brilliant costumes by Linda Muggeridge. The cast moves to impressive choreography spanning musical numbers and fights to the death through the laudable efforts of choreographers Brin Hamblin and Jo Ann Mendelson.

Sacred Fools has a thing for serial killers. For years it has produced a series called Serial Killers (Season 15 opens in January 2020). The company went all in on Deadly. Mounting an original two-and-a-half-hour musical with a cast of 10, a live orchestra and a lot of moving parts requires massive levels of commitment from dozens of company members. It’s unfortunate that the resulting show feels mean-spirited and plodding.

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Oct

Last Swallows

Sensitive casting and the actors’ talent built a group that feels like a family. As the mother who used to be able to call the shots for her kids, Purnell rings impeccably true. Telford is subtle yet forceful as the father. Daughter-in-law Moira in particular moves the story forward, and Smith plays her with great empathy.

Thoughtful touches abound. Well-curated music from Talking Heads to Portugal. The Man introduces and punctuates the action; it would make a great Spotify playlist. Even the program insert listing cast and crew is beautifully designed. Swallows is a class act.

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Oct

Never Is Now

Directors Tony Abatemarco and Celia Mandela Rivera keep the show moving, making the most of the sparse set and employing projections to powerful effect.

The year 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps; survivors’ ranks are dwindling. Thanks to the efforts of the many who have endeavored to memorialize them, their words and lives can continue, as lessons and inspiration, for generations. Never Is Now plays a role in ensuring we will Never Forget.

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Oct

A Kid Like Jake

The play, by Daniel Pearle, is multi-layered, allowing audience members to relate in a multitude of different ways to the characters’ dilemmas and choices. Director Jennifer Chambers expertly guides the action, including elegant transitions between scene locations on DeAnne Millais’ well-designed set.

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Oct

The Abuelas

The couple’s marital issues are a distraction that takes the audience back from the edge of their seats. The Abuelas shines when its focus is on the complex relationships between the women.

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Jul

Scraps

We don’t see the impact of such a shooting on the friends, lovers and others whose life the deceased touched. Playwright Geraldine Inoa sees, and she has given them voices.

The voices are not the typical Six O’Clock News soundbites. They’re tumbles of howls and wails and words. They offend. They incite. They’re accessorized with the artifacts of slavery and death. They simultaneously break and harden your heart.

Scraps, directed by Stevie Walker-Webb, interrupts its own story with spoken word and a fever dream of shocking imagery. It doesn’t always hang together but the emotions expressed are clear and raw.

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Jul

Miss America's Ugly Daughter: Bess Myerson & Me

It’s a tour de force for Grant, whose passion and pathos are evident throughout. And the technical side of things is masterful, including direction by Eve Brandstein, scenic design by Elisa Schaefer, lighting by Ian James, projections and sound design by Tom Jones, original music by Mark Adler, and the pitch-perfect voice of Myerson, Monica Piper.

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Jun

The Scorpion and the Frog: a time-killer

Playwright Spencer Green slices and dices the story, deconstructing it, switching up roles, exploring philosophical meanings and psychological games. The word play is dazzling when the scorpion and frog negotiate, power shifting as deals are made and wishful thinking gives way to nature’s rules.

...The acting is first-rate. There’s even original music, well-played and sung.

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Nov

SHE LOVES ME

The familiar storyline makes the ending a foregone conclusion, but the journey is a lark. Fabulous period costumes by Michael Mullin add to the joy. The clever scenic design by Stephen Gifford works like a box with secret compartments, transforming beautifully for multiple locations. Ending on a note of Christmas shopping, She Loves Me is an ideal holiday show.

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