Writer: Leigh Kennicott

Leigh Kennicott has an extensive background in theatre, film and television and a Ph.D. degree in Theatre, awarded in 2002. A writer, director and actor, Leigh Kennicott began theatrical reviewing at Backstage, followed by Pasadena Weekly and Stage Happenings blog. As a director in Los Angeles, she directed a neo-realist "Romeo and Juliet" at the Secret Rose Theatre; a new play,“Charlotte Second Chance,” at DramaGarage; and “How I Learned to Drive,” “Nickel and Dimed” and “Top Girls” all at College of the Canyons. Presently, she teaches theatre topics at California State University, Northridge.
Feb

The Cripple of Inishmaan

In setting Cripple of Inishmaan on a remote island in 1934, McDonagh distances us enough that we can laugh at the foibles of an isolated population, while decrying the violence in Inishmaan’s daily lives. It’s hilarious to watch when the town gossip brings news of a visiting movie company from Hollywood, and the lives of Inishmaan’s townspeople are thrown into turmoil. As always, Antaeus doubles its actors. To director Steve Robman’s credit, the performers work seamlessly across both casts as the picture of Irish country-life heaves into focus.

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Feb

Death House

Jason Karasev’s demanding play under Michael Peretzian’s succinct direction brings the question of justice to light. Beginning with actor Sam Anderson’s well-conceived pastor, the characters in Death House build tension personally as well as philosophically. George (Sam Anderson) has been beaten down as chaplain to death row inmates and now he faces his replacement by Allen (Chase Cargill), a cocky, young seminarian. Allen is over-confident while George shows compassion that has been softened by the years. Allen’s arrogance is shaken when inmate Liliana (Verity Blanco) rejects his glib efforts to comfort her. Instead, she reveals her own humanity while admitting that in committing murder she “didn’t kill, she saved” her victim. Throughout, the audience is challenged to discern, by imposing the death penalty, whether justice indeed has been served.

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Feb

Stockholm

Stockholm Presents a Troubling Portrait of Obsessive Love. In her play, British playwright Bryony Lavery gifts us with an attractive and vivacious young couple (Kimblerly Alexander and Jamie Wollrab), who seem to have everything. But their emphasis on the city of Stockholm has subliminal, troubling implications that unfold during the action of the play. As intricate as Lavery’s play may be, Triptych’s production values hold it together. Of note: choreographer Stephen Buescher moves the couple in an undulating pas de deaux of love and cruelty. Stockholm is an absorbing and disturbing play, well performed by Alexander and Wollrab, both of whom bring laser-like commitment to Triptych’s superior production.

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Feb

A Misunderstanding

In this second dramatization of Matt Chait’s central argument for intelligent design, the debate between a scientist (Bruce Katzman) and a disgraced professor (Matt Chait) is couched in the coinciding and altogether human dilemma of two young people. Howard Blair (Dennis Renard), A prospective Ph.D. candidate, was deeply influenced by professor Bertram Cates (Chait) before his dismissal from the Biology Department for espousing spiritual views on evolution. Blair’s fiance, Melinda (Amy-Helene Carlson), is in opposition to Cates’ ideas. The couple’s opposite sides over Cate forms the emotional center of A Misunderstanding. Because Chait’s ideas lean closer to physics than the subtleties of evolution, it’s clear that Chait will continue on his journey to be understood.

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Feb

LINDA VISTA

In the character of Wheeler (Steppenwolf stalwart Ian Barford), playwright Tracy Letts manages to capture the essence of a 20th century man living in the 21st century. Linda Vista takes his hapless Everyman from a recent divorce through two groping relationships. Director Dexter Bullard keeps the focus on Wheeler as he navigates his new life, first with Jules (Cora Vander Broek), a life coach, and then, a pregnant waif named Minnie (Chantal Thuy). As our picture of Wheeler deepens, we see that the rules have changed with no clear-cut set of replacements for them. Ultimately, a chivalric yet destructive attempt to protect co-worker, Anita (Caroline Neff) leads the character, and the audience, to some sort of recognition and self-reconciliation.

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Dec

Sisters Three

In Jami Brandli’s Sisters Three the ill-fated Brontes are three eccentric women suffering the aftermath of their cherished brother’s death, now brought up-to-date, out of the vicarage and into a college student housing single. Emily Jane, played by Dana DeRuyck, has been recast as a graduate mathemetician. Her sister, Anne (a cheeky Kara Hume), has moved in to E.J.’s small student housing, dragging a two-seat canoe along with her. The play teeters irresolutely between sarcasm and satire; we are never sure if we should be amused or appalled. Evaluated as a work in progress, Sisters Three shows promise with the question to be resolved as “to what end”?

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Dec

A Christmas Story

Our 50s hero, Ralphie Parker (played interchangeably), is laser-focused on Red Ryder’s Double-action BB air rifle as his choice for Christmas. Along the way, Ralphie’s father, (Richard Van Slyke) wins an ugly lamp in a contest and insists on displaying it, much to the chagrin of Andrea Stradling as his long suffering wife. Nothing momentous happens on Cleveland Street in Hohman, Indiana, yet the warmth and recognizability of a nostalgic vision of Christmases past enable even Gen X-ers to recognize the clunky sweaters and antique toys from grandparents’ attics. These kids are good! Their fights (by Ken Merckx) have survived intact and as fresh as ever.

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Dec

Confederates

Confederates packs a wallop, not so much for the situation, as for the self-serving propensities of the characters. Playwright Suzanne Bradbeer pits Will (Darryl C. Brown) and Stephanie (Melissa R. Randel), two card-carrying news-types firmly situated in the soup of media’s sensation-seeking, 24-hour news cycle, and pressures them into making consequential decisions at the expense of Maddie (Miranda Lichtman), whose father is about to run for President. At Burbank’s Grove Theatre, Bradbeer’s play is well-acted and well-directed. Her characterizations are so well-delineated that we completely understand the psychology of each person, even while decrying the paths they choose.

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Nov

QUACK

If you want to know what’s wrong with Society, Go See Quack. Playwright Eliza Elliott skewers our celebrity culture and its empty totums in Quack. CTG Associate Artistic Director Neel Keeler helmed this fast-moving production, which boasts a top-notch cast beginning with Dan Bucatensky as Dr. Irving Baer, a “Dr. Phil” like TV celebrity. Clark brings a theatrical sense to the play when Dane Laffrey’s deceptively simple one-set design takes an extraordinary turn that fills in what the text cannot provide. Double Sweet!

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Nov

Members Only

Members Only by Oliver Mayer offers us less a play than a world. It continues the story of Pedro Quinn, who killed an opponent in the ring in Blade to the Heat, turning the entire boxing world against him. When Quinn takes a budding female fighter under his tutelage, he gives her the pass to the club’s inner sanctum, and sets in motion the exposé that will eventually bring him down. Artistic director José Luis Valenzuela facilitates the cinematic flow of places and scenes while overhead, black-and-white fight footage reminiscent of 50s TV boxing matches, unspools over identical choreography onstage. Engrossing!

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Nov

Desert Rats

In the Avalos Theatre at LATC, the production of Desert Rats unveils an ugly undertone beneath hip, happy SoCal life. Written with authority by Nate Rufus Edelman, the play pits two dysfunctional brothers − Frank (Walt Gray IV) and Jesse (Derek Chariton) − against the wiles of Amber (Lila Gavares), their upperclass, teen-aged kidnapping victim. Guided by director Angie Scott, the play explodes onto the stage and does not let up until the fireworks at the end.

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Nov

Letters From Home

Kalean Ung has unique stories to tell: three of them to be exact. Ung grew up immersed in one world, but curious about her father Chinary’s Cambodian origins. The result is a compendium of story telling, music and recitation. With the help of Director Marina McClure, Ung interweaves the discovery of her Cambodian heritage, her father’s migration and ascent in the world of symphonic music, and the horrific effects of the Khmer Rouge on his Cambodian family. The enormity of the country’s tragedy and family losses casts a long shadow over Chinary Ung’s considerable success as well as Kalean’s narrative.

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Nov

RETURN TO THE FORBIDDEN PLANET

It’s back and it’s better than ever! Rubicon brings Broadway to the Beach for Return to The Forbidden Planet. The Rubicon Theatre Company reprises it’s 2016 hit to celebrate its 20th year, headed by the award-winning director, Kirby Ward. The cast is stellar, including the digital guest appearance by Fred Willard; the set is appropriately configured to resemble the STAR TREK cockpit, with costumes reminiscent of the show. Part of the charm of creator Bob Carlton’s half/serious, half/hilarious spoof on such popular icons as Shakespeare, television and the entire 50s and 60s playbook is its familiarity. It’s well worth a day and evening at the beach!

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Oct

ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD

Tom Stoppard’s classic Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead borrowed the anxiety of the post-war period while A Noise Within’s co-Artistic Director, Geoff Elliott, brings a new set of resident actors together in order to portray a time when our social collective reflects the anxiety of an unhinged ruler ricocheting the ship of state toward an uncertain future. To tell the story of two tangential characters from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a series of movable set pieces (designed by Frederica Nascimento) move from indistinct mounds astride the stage to the outlines of a sailing vessel, thanks to ANW’s trademark choreographic set transformation.

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Oct

The Tempest

In The Tempest Shakespeare reputedly ripped his story from headlines about an English mercantile ship-wreck in or near Barbados. In keeping with his conception providing vignettes that we imagine take place at various parts of the island, director Rebecca Lynne has demarked her stage against a tree down the slope from the Library in Glendale’s Brand Park; their only props consist of a piece of sail and a trunk. Lynne’s cast of mostly young, skilled actors are engaging, but a series of unfortunate casting decisions mars Shakespeare’s traditional rom-com, said to be the last of his completed works.

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Oct

Showpony

Judith Leora’s Show Pony is a snappy, smart and deceptively subtle examination of hierarchical gender and racial relationships in the work place. The playwright places five women together in a board room to hash out the differences in management styles between a white-and-male-majority ad agency and an acquired African-American boutique. Just as with Nine to Five, playwright Leora presents us with a satisfying come-uppance that you’ve got to see. As Director Tom Ormany says, “Show Pony is about as current as you can get.”

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Oct

Give Me the Sun

The Lounge hosts Tony Tanner’s canny adaptation of Ibsen’s Ghosts in a production that can only be called a wonder. From its admirable setting that amplifies the Lounge 2’s tiny stage, to a succession of skillful performances from classically-trained actors, Tanner’s stripped down version of the play misses nothing from the original. …I cannot stress enough the skill behind Tanner’s adaptation, the excellent cast, and the dedicated group of artists who contributes the comfortable set design (Evan Bartoletti), costume coordination (Carin Jacobs) and lighting (James Smith III). Give Me The Sun is a sterling example of Los Angeles’ aggregation of high quality theatre.

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Sep

The Rescued

In Julie Marie Myatt’s imaginative play we realize that our suspicions are confirmed. Our pets ARE like us! Director Marya Mazor combines the expertise and empathy of a talented ensemble in order to bring the denizens of a menagerie of rescued animals to life. Each performance is extraordinary in its faithful rendition of its own species. Accompanied by appropriate songs offered in karaoke style by the performers, they comprise the body of this touching play. If you care about your pets and wonder what they think of you, this play is the one for you!

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Sep

LOST IN TIME

This is super-sweet! Danny (Kevin Comartin) is completely disoriented when he wakes up back at school with his rather dippy roommate, Robert (Andy Shephard). He sets out to altar a few key, regrettable incidents in his life, by making different choices. Alas, nothing goes as planned. Director Keith Szarabajka uses few frills, but a cohesive cast of EST/LA actors to tell the astonishing story. Does Danny manage to bring his life back around after turning his future on its head? I’ll leave it to your attendance at this can’t-miss play to see how all this gets sorted out.

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Sep

The Gin Game

D. L. Coburn hangs his deeply affecting tale about ageism onto a marathon Gin Game in a retirement home back in the late 70s. Husband and wife team, Katherine James and Alan Blumenfeld play Fonsia Dorsey and Weller Martin, respectively. Both have wound up in the Bentley Home for the Aged, a low-income retirement facility and they soon became friends over Weller’s obsession with the game of Gin Rummy. Under Christian Lebano’s well paced dynamic, their relationship builds slowly until the play’s explosive ending.

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