Registered Critic: Mark Hein

Jun

Crack Whore, Bulimic, Girl-Next-Door

"Crack Whore" begins lightheartedly enough, evoking vaudeville and burlesque. But soon, clouds appear and it becomes a cri de coeur, crying justice in a voice first raised in "The Trojan Women," assaulting our comfort with a fierceness that would make Artaud or Brecht proud. This is theatre as the ancients of all races intended it -- strong soul medicine. I don't know a woman (or an LGBTQIA+ person) whom I would not warn about the play's countless triggers. And I don't know a man I would let off the hook. See it.

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May

Richard III: Hour of the Tyrant

Adapter/ director David MacDowell Blue means to improve on Shakespeare. And he does it.
Trimming characters and scenes, adding material from other Shakespeare plays, he turns a messy history play about a remorseless villain into a clear, focused tragedy (which is what the Bard always labeled it).
Blue's thoughtful, artful revision is a serious candidate for the performing canon. TheatreANON's shoestring production is uneven. But Libby Letlow's intense, riveting performance in the title role is a piece of LA theatre history you don't want to miss. It will warm your memory (and, if you're an actor, keep teaching you) for years.

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Feb

America Adjacent

This smart, densely packed new play introduces a group of women who've come to America from the Philippines - not to become citizens, but to give birth to them.
Living with these "birth tourists," who've let themselves be uprooted in order to give their babies a chance, we feel the fears and pains that policies can inflict on individual lives.
But playwright Boni Alvarez, director Jon Lawrence Rivera, and seven top-flight actors never lecture; they let us live, day to day, in this hidden corner of America.

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Dec

Sisters Three

A lively, intelligent comedy, half realistic and half surreal. And the smart, energetic performances are worth the price of admission.

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Dec

Clarissant

After all these centuries, playwright Hailey Bachrach has found a way to fit the King Arthur myth's many pieces together. From a woman's point of view. Little Candle gives "Clarissant" a smart, smooth production for its world premiere. If you're feeling XY, you get sword fights aplenty; if you're feeling a bit more XX, you get all the powerful knights (including Arthur) portrayed by women. And almost every actor takes a turn as a ghost. Are you a Camelot fan, a lover of quasi-medieval romances, or a player of sword-and-sorcery games? You'll find much delight in "Clarisssant." Are you a woman, a feminist of any wave, or an ally? You'll enjoy it even more. This is a worthy unveiling for a happily fresh take on Arthurian myth -- and the angle from which we need to see and tell these stories from now on.

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Nov

Señor Plummer's Final Fiesta

This is an immersive experience you'll want to enter again, to see what you missed. This is an immersive experience you'll want to enter again, to see what you missed.

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Nov

Gray People (2019 Extension)

The folks at Force of Nature give this tight script one of their best productions so far. The set — by Jeff G. Rack, Redetha Deason, and Jerry Chapell — is understated and brilliant: gray flat tree shapes repeated so we see a forest, but also see it as off, wrong, ominous. Jonathan Agurcia's costumes deftly denote each character both socially and personally. And Sebastian Muñoz's direction keeps everything moving, and the lines of tension tightening. The actors are all highly skilled (that deep, deep LA talent pool again!)... it merits a longer life on stage than the current half-dozen performances.

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Jul

Arrival & Departure

Stephen Sachs has adapted Noel Coward's classic film Brief Encounter for the stage. The result is a lively, often complex comic drama - - set in the bustle of New York, not a quiet London suburb. Sachs, a co-founder of The Fountain and of Deaf West, gives us a tale about people in crisis - - some of whom are Deaf. The Fountain's staging likewise creates a modern, urban world in which Deafness is, simply and unremarkably, a part of things.

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Jun

Trojan Women

"Trojan Women" is a formidable challenge – the characters are from a world 3,000 years gone, they speak in elevated poetry, and their story is relentlessly painful. Project Nongenue meets the challenge with dedication and artistry, giving us an hour of terrible empathy that will not allow us to forget these women — nor the ones who suffer in refugee camps and prisons all over our world.

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Jun

You in Midair

"You in Midair: An Elegy for a Daughter" is not an elegy, and it's not about the daughter. A more accurate subtitle — “A Mother's Lament,” “Life with a Hole in It” ? — would better prepare us. What we experience is the long, often difficult journey of a mother whose bright child, a rising actor, was torn away by murder. Danna Schaeffer seasons the story with wit, and tells us movingly of her grief; but because she declines to enter it or share it fully, we are allowed no catharsis, no relief.

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Jun

The Importance of Being Oscar

"The Importance of Being Oscar" is literate, funny, interesting, and lively. Author Brandie June deftly uses several of Wilde's best bon mots, and throws in a few of her own. It still has some rough edges, but in brief compass, it explores the many difficulties — and discovers the real importance — of being Oscar. It seems clear that this story wants to grow into a full-length work. I can't wait to see what June does with it.

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Jun

When Skies Are Gray

In a brief hour in this small room, Steed's artwork takes us far, on journeys deep into our own lives — our fiercest loves and losses, our unspoken fears, our regrets. Ghosts fill the space, charging the air with emotion and meaning. It's a meditative, powerfully emotional hour beside death's shore, an experience like no other at Fringe. Or anywhere. We are fortunate to have this “professional make believer” (as Steed describes herself) making her art in our city.

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Jun

WOUNDED

"Wounded" is not an anti-war play. It is a quiet, respectful examination of three intersecting lives. Not just these three, but everyone in their world has suffered the costs of war. The performances are uniformly strong and real, filled with subtext and the subtle gestures that intimate theatre allows.

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Jun

Wood Boy Dog Fish

...Wood Boy Dog Fish offers a dazzling romp through the dark side of life, a carnival ride of rare energy and brilliance into the byways of our individual and communal souls. The script is a stunning achievement. This production (and edition), the fruit of years of working and reworking, testifies powerfully to what dedicated working at one's art can accomplish.

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May

The Giant Void in My Soul

Cubría's The Giant Void in My Soul is a remarkable playwriting achievement, and Ammo is giving it a delightful, virtually perfect production. Dialog as spare and contemporary — and funny — as the best of Samuel Beckett. its accuracy makes us ache — when we're not laughing. (And sometimes when we are).

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Jan

Freud's Last Session

As usual at the Odyssey, the production values are high. The writing is intelligent, witty, and often surprising; it's a shame St. Germain doesn't dig deeper than a debate and venture into the depths that Freud — and Lewis — would surely have braved.

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Oct

Mice

Overall, this is a fine production of a promising play. Which exactly suits Ensemble Studio's mission — to find and develop new works and new writers. EST/LA brings together talents any playwright would die for. And Nelson clearly has the skill needed to polish Mice into the brisk, disturbing comic drama it nearly is.

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Jul

The Cake

The Cake is a timely tale; and being timely, it's difficult to do well. (It's hard to hear durable truths through all the momentary noise.) But Brunstetter's work doesn't collapse; and it's no mere confection. It seriously addresses some of our most painful concerns, while allowing us to laugh — and to hope. That's what comedy's about, after all: affirming the hope that somehow we'll get through this. Staring at the angry abyss that has opened in our land, we need it. Thanks to Brunstetter and the folks at Echo Theater Company for taking the time to get it right.

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Jun

Why We Become Witches

This is a faithful, delightful distillation of Sylvia Townsend Warner's much-loved novel Lolly Willowes.  Lolly's gentle flowering into witchcraft has as much to do with the Celtic Green Man as with Satan.  And by her tale's end, she's diffidently voicing critiques of patriarchy as trenchant as any by Virginia Woolf or Germaine Greer.

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