Non-Registered Critics: Margaret Gray

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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Feb

Witness Uganda

But in the end the performances are what make “Witness Uganda” worth the ticket. The actors who play the Ugandan orphans make the charmingly written roles their own, and everyone in the ensemble, including but not limited to the Grammy-winning artist Ledisi, can really sing.

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Feb

HELLO DOLLY

If the supporting parts and story lines are cheerfully cartoonish, written mostly like ham sandwiches, the cast members bite into them with gusto. Lewis J. Stadlen is consistently entertaining as the curmudgeonly Horace. Nic Rouleau and Jess LeProtto, who play Horace's dimwitted clerks, and Analisa Leaming and Kristen Hahn as their love interests, are all fun to watch.

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Jan

CULTURE CLASH (STILL) IN AMERICA

...if Lenny Bruce were around now, he'd be doing different jokes. Culture Clash is still in America. What is it thinking right now? It might help us — even if it hurts us — to find out.

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Nov

middle8

The talented Marks, who directed as well as wrote “Middle8,” might benefit from a very severe editor to help him locate the story he wants to tell in this promising material. On the other hand, as one of Adam's bandmates says of his rock opera, “You can't possibly cut everything you need to cut.”

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Nov

WINTER SOLSTICE

So why can't Albert do anything about it but panic and sweat and swallow pills? How is it that fascism, so easy to dismiss in theory, leaves its opponents so helpless when it knocks on the door, smiling and cultured and reasonable? It's a question we've all had plenty of opportunities recently to ask, and fail to answer, and it lends a gripping urgency to this well performed dark comedy.

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Nov

The Little Foxes

Watson, one of L.A.'s busiest intimate-theater directors, has a particular skill for calibrating the emotional clockwork of a group scene. His actors know what to do, where to look, how to react at every moment, so they're just as entertaining in the background as they are at center stage. John Iacovelli's sets are almost always spectacular, but the perfection of this one — through a set of glass doors off to the right, he has placed an ingeniously foreshortened dining room, which somehow seats most of the cast — attests to how thoughtfully the Antaeus team conceived and realized this mesmerizing, subtly topical revival.

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Oct

The Other Place

I left with tears in my eyes and a sense of gratitude for whoever laid out the nice straight roads in Anaheim — since my reeling brain wasn't quite up to any more twists and turns.

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Aug

Three Days in the Country

Marber, an award-winning playwright (“After Miss Julie,” “The Red Lion”) and screenwriter (“Notes on a Scandal”) condensed Turgenev's action so that it unfolds over three days instead of a month, cutting back the marathon running time to two hours. In the process, he tightened up the banter and sight gags to satisfy a sitcom-soaked audience without resorting to glaring anachronisms.

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