Registered Critic: Rob Stevens

Rob Stevens began reviewing in 1973for the monthly community theatre magazine, Showcase, covering the professional theatres in Los Angeles. He served as editor/co-publisher of It’s Showtime in 1996-98. He has also been a reviewer/interviewer for Dimension, Data-Boy Magazine, The Civic Star, Frontiers, Frontiers After Dark, Drama-Logue, Backstage West, L.A. Reader, Santa Barbara Independent and a few others. In 1988 he began writing the column West Coast Stages in the national publication Backstage. In recent years he has written for the websites Showmag.com, Theatremania.com, and StageHappenings.com. He is the founder of The Robby Awards which began as a listing in Showcase magazine in 1975 and has since grown into an annual awards show. The 30th Robby Awards were presented in February, 2016. He is a member of the LA Drama Critics Circle.
May

Diana of Dobson's

Cicely Hamilton (1872-1952) was a British actress, playwright, journalist, feminist and suffragist whose work really needs to be rediscovered if her play Diana of Dobson's is any indication of her talent. She comes across as a more feminine, less dogmatic writer than her contemporary, George Bernard Shaw. In Diana, receiving a wonderful revival by Antaeus Theatre Company in Glendale, she delves into the world of the working class shop girl, struggling to make a living for meager wages in Edwardian England.

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May

Boxing Lessons

...local playwright John Bunzel has created a family that towers over the others, at least in cataloguing and reveling in their depravities. Child abuse, infidelity–hetero and homosexual, alcoholism, bedwetting, internet porn, opioid addiction etc. Name your vice, I'm sure it's mentioned sometime during the play. It contains just about everything except the kitchen sink but that off stage item is mentioned several times. There are just way too many secrets revealed in a 90-minute one-act to be believable...

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Apr

Birdland Blue

An added bonus is the trio of live jazz musicians—Marion Newton on bass, Ricardo Mowatt on percussion and playwright Ross himself on saxophone. Robey, along with the expertise of set designer Ernest Gardner, have converted LATC's Theatre 4 into an intimate cabaret room where the audience sits at cozy four-tops to view the action that happens on stages around them. With Birdland Blue, Ross, Guillory and company have created an immersive dive into vintage jazz.

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Apr

Othello

Shakespeare's tragic play Othello, originally written in 1603, was set during the Venetian-Ottoman wars of the 15th and 16th centuries. In the current production at Pasadena's A Noise Within, director Jessica Kubzansky has decided to set it in modern day Washington, D.C. Kubzansky lays out her reasoning in her “Director's Note” in the program but little of it transfers to the stage. Even though the action is set in the army during wartime, Othello is a very small scale, personal play about jealousy, in love and in brotherhood. The setting is not that important; the emotional nuances are and Kubzansky has elicited very strong performances from her cast.

sweet-sour - ...read full review

Apr

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY

Adults who fondly remember the Gene Wilder fronted 1971 film version of the story, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, will probably be disappointed by the stage incarnation. Even devotees of Tim Burton's 2005 remake, starring Burton regular Johnny Depp as Wonka, will probably be let down by this stage adaptation...Grieg's jokes are as tasteless as rotten cabbage, eliciting more groans than giggles, and his characters are more caricatures.

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Apr

Argonautika

Even though the Argonauts sailed across the open sea, Zimmerman did not put her cast back in the water. Neither has director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott in the highly theatrical production which recently opened at A Noise Within in Pasadena. But there are harpies and dragons and flying rams, oh my! Goddesses and heroes and villains, oh my!..Zimmerman has creatively written the various adventures, imbuing many of them with plenty of humor. Rodriguez-Elliott has inventively staged this highly theatrical stage outing.

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Apr

STEEL MAGNOLIAS

Director Cameron Watson has assembled a talented sextette of women and deftly guided them through the laughs and the tears of Harling's tale. It's amazing to hear so many iconic lines and realize that they first engendered laughs in this play. Harling's first writing effort was a delicate blend of comedy and tragedy...

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Mar

The Glass Menagerie

Geoff Elliott's sublime direction and the beautifully detailed performances from his quartet of actors makes this production of The Glass Menagerie truly one for the memory.

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Mar

Two Trains Running at Matrix

Director Michele Shay has mounted a strong production with a fine ensemble of actors at the Matrix Theatre... As with most of Wilson's plays, I think he could have used a good editor. The nearly three-hour running time begins to drag at times. But with such masterful storytelling and masterful storytellers as Ward on hand, the time is well spent.

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Mar

Lights Out: Nat "King" Cole

Dule Hill gives a commanding performance as Cole, looking and sounding like the star in his prime. Most of the singer's big hits get some play, in full or in part, by either Hill or one of the many other fine singers in the cast...The writing gets heavy handed as the show progresses and could use some smoothing out. The direction also needs to be clarified. The performers are ready; give them the material to really sell this story.

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Mar

ANNA KARENINA

The talented ensemble of six play many and varied characters over Anna Karenina's two-and-a-half hours but Abramian and Barone hold the center stage with their performances.

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Feb

The Cripple of Inishmaan

Steven Robman has deftly directed the many scenes and his cast is a finely meshed ensemble. There are plenty of laughs unearthed by this cast, as well as some lovely, heartfelt emotions. The Cripple of Inishmaan is a lovely way to spend a couple of hours with some truly colorful characters.

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Feb

RAGTIME: THE MUSICAL

The cast size has been condensed to a robust group of 21, most playing multiple roles. With the limited playing area and the smaller cast, director David Lee has skillfully crafted a very intimate and deeply touching production.... This Ragtime demands to be seen. So see it!

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Jan

The Diary Of Anne Frank

It's unclear if it is the new material in the script or the choice the director and Ochoa made in playing the role, but Anne comes off as much more of a peevish brat here than in previous productions this reviewer has seen. As a result, it is difficult to feel warmly towards her. The cacophonous staging of the arrest also masks one of Anne's most memorable lines “In spite of everything, I still believe people are good at heart.”

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Dec

LOVE ACTUALLY LIVE

The singers did not just sing a song as underscoring; they sang it full out, filled with emotional punch and pizazz...Love Actually Live put me into the true spirit of the holidays, like nothing I have seen in a very long time. Bravo to all involved.

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Nov

COME FROM AWAY

The writing is exemplary and Christopher Ashley has done a superb job of directing...In this season of holiday giving, I can't think of a greater gift to give my readers than the advice to see Come From Away and re-learn that there is still human decency, kindness and comfort to be found in this world. And it sings!

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Nov

Steambath

(Paul) Rodriguez dominates the proceedings as God really should do. His comic timing is perfectly matched to Friedman's surreal humor. Don't miss this opportunity to see this time capsule gem of a comedy to offend everyone. Visit Steambath, breathe in the steam and luxuriate in the totally un-PC but outrageously funny humor.

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Nov

A CAROL CHRISTMAS

Now in the age of #MeToo, playwright Doug Haverty has written a feminized, modernized update entitled A Carol Christmas...The original musical score by Bruce Kimmel is the show's best asset but also may be its biggest problem. Cramming 17 songs into a 90 minute running time leaves little time for character development.

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Nov

The Little Foxes

Cameron Watson has directed the piece as if it were a malevolent concert with each actor getting at least one solo spot to shine, and these actors don't misplay a moment in the spotlight... Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes is a true American classic and Antaeus has given it a sterling revival to be remembered for years to come.

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Nov

Finks

Gilford, along with director Michael Pressman, are both children of blacklisted parents so the material has a deeper resonance for them and it shows both in the clever and detailed writing and in the polished direction of the show.

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