Non-Registered Critics: Margaret Gray

Feb

SUSPENDED - Human Interest Story

“Human Interest Story” is a thorough catalog of the crises of our time and an unstinting indictment of the Trump administration.

The talented cast and inventive design team, however, have a difficult time selling it.

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Jan

Fireflies

Playwright Love is providing voices to those overlooked or erased by history — women, people of color, minorities of other sorts. (“Fireflies” is the centerpiece of a trilogy exploring queer love at pivotal moments in African American history.)

The project is an ambitious one: The past offers countless wrongs to redress and blanks to fill in. In “Fireflies,” Love may be tackling too many of them at once. It’s not that every issue he includes isn’t important, but that the brain has a natural saturation point.

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Dec

DISNEY'S FROZEN

Inevitable qualifications aside, the North American tour is irresistible in its creativity and verve, seeking and often discovering the right balance between re-creation and innovation.

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Nov

The Great Leap

The four performances are among the most moving I’ve encountered. The commanding but nuanced stage work of Eckhouse, whom I had known only as the affable dad from “Beverly Hills, 90210,” came as a wonderful surprise. And Chang broke my heart.

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Oct

The Abuelas

“The Abuelas” is the first Antaeus production developed in-house, in its Playwrights Lab — a departure from the company’s specialty, classics. They’ve done it a lot of credit, with a strong cast, lavish design and sophisticated staging. The script still feels a few drafts away from finding its story, the right balance between fact and fiction, but it totally sticks the landing. Try not to cry.

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Oct

ANASTASIA

Their songs are serviceable, if not memorable, but even the best song in the world can be exasperating if it doesn’t seem to be taking the story anywhere, and it’s hard not to suspect some of these of stalling.

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Oct

Sisters In Law

The wonderful actresses (with help from costume designer Melissa Trn and hair and wig designer Judi Lewin) look and act uncannily like the justices they’re portraying. But the play as a whole doesn’t quite bring them to life; it oversimplifies them. At moments it reminded me of those feminist paper doll kits young girls are given: Smart Brunette With Glasses and the All-American Blonde on the Supreme Court.

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Sep

The Solid Life of Sugar Water

Under Randee Trabitz’s fluid direction, they create an unusually compelling emotional landscape. Frank (a star of Deaf West’s Tony-nominated “Spring Awakening”) and Cooley (making his Deaf West premiere) occupy the spotlight, but Camunas and Apostolina aren’t just narrators on the sidelines. They’re alter egos, inner children, souls — and when needed, other characters in the story. The video projections (by Heather Fipps) are effective in differentiating action from memory. All four performers are appealingly warm and likable, and their mature, matter-of-fact approach to the graphic language sets a helpful example for the audience in getting through the yuckier bits.

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Sep

Witch

You don’t need to know anything about the original to enjoy Silverman’s riff on it, but it’s fun to read it afterward to see what she chose to use and what she didn’t.

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Jul

MISS SAIGON

Today, it’s impossible to watch Kim and Tam’s struggles without thinking of the family separations and inhumane conditions happening at our southern border. The musical remains vital not in its representation of Vietnamese culture or people — with luck, contemporary playwrights will fill our stages with many others — but as a warning to us. Being American doesn’t mean we’re good.

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Jul

Mysterious Circumstances

This metafictional romp, staged with clockwork precision and tongue-in-cheek verve by Geffen Artistic Director Matt Shakman, is merely one layer in the brain-teasing confection that is “Mysterious Circumstances.”

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Jun

EXIT THE KING

But the Guard’s puzzled melancholy and Juliette’s tart bluntness — perhaps because they are deployed less frequently — remain amusing. And Dunn is not only beautifully cast, with his aristocratic bearing and a gleam of madness in his eyes, but he displays an impressive emotional range. A remarkably natural performer, he really takes a journey here. The image of his horrified face, spotlighted by Duncombe in the phantasmagoric final tableau, kept my soul chilled all the way to the beach.

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Jun

Ladies

The four appealing actresses do their best to bring the characters to life. They generously give themselves over to sex scenes that must have been difficult to rehearse with straight faces. They find moments of humor and irony in the dialogue. Their warm performances assure us that there is a promising dramatic sensibility somewhere behind all this script’s meta-theatrical posturing. And the production, if a slog, does spark curiosity about the Bluestockings and their proto-feminism.

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Jun

Ready Steady Yeti Go

The writing does capture the ineffable delights and indignities of being 12, however, and the actors, warmly directed by Guillermo Cienfuegos, have such a good time letting their inner children out to play that they’re a treat to watch.

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May

Tigers Be Still

As Chance Theater’s regional premiere of this bumpy but ultimately charming dark comedy demonstrates, Rosenstock was chronicling the malaise of her generation with clear eyes, sympathy and quirky wit, well before journalists started writing about “millennial burnout."

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May

Anna in the Tropics

Open Fist Theatre Company’s lovely revival proves that Tolstoy isn’t the only Russian literary giant presiding over the ruin of this Cuban American family. Like Chekhov, Cruz situates his characters on the brink of cataclysmic change: A new, not necessarily better, era is dawning.

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Apr

STEEL MAGNOLIAS

The play's obliviousness to the world beyond these white characters and its veneration for stereotypical gender roles might make “Steel Magnolias” feel like a relic of its time to some audience members. But even an old-fashioned recipe, when lovingly prepared and seasoned with touches like period costumes (by Terry A. Lewis), a nostalgic soundtrack (by Cameron Combe) and authentic-sounding accents (coached by Adam Michael Rose) can taste good. Watson's “Steel Magnolias” owes a lot of its charm to six particular ingredients: Ivy Beech, Lori Berg, Deborah Marlowe, Nan McNamara, Heidi Palomino and Treva Tegtmeier.

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Apr

The Mother of Henry

The story, if summarized, might sound more bitter than sweet, but the strength of the performances, the warmth and humor of the developing relationships, the excellence of the design elements and Valenzuela's spirited direction cast an irresistible spell.

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Mar

Lights Out: Nat "King" Cole

The murky book cannot stop the performances from thrilling. Hill and Watts are galvanic together as they reenact Cole and Davis' showstopping duets. Although nobody can replicate Cole's voice, Hill does a creditable job with his songs.

The only disappointment is that often their performances — maybe to save time? — are layered under dialogue. Please don't stop the music! These voices are too good to mute.

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Mar

Canyon

The in-the-round staging means that not everybody in the audience can catch every significant expression, but director Whitney White choreographs the action with a sure hand and deft comic timing. The play stumbles only at the very end, but by then “Canyon” has unnervingly reminded us: None of us really knows how we'd behave in a crisis.

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