Non-Registered Critics: Samuel Garza Bernstein

Feb

Last Call

The characters’ circumstances are interesting and potentially involving, but the text keeps things on the surface.

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Feb

Hir

I searched for other reviews because while the stated tone and subject matter of the show are what would normally be right up my alley, my own feelings about the show are decidedly mixed. So, I am puzzled. Is my lukewarm reaction a response to the play itself or to this production?

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Jan

LINDA VISTA

Mr. Letts has created a profoundly personal, beautifully honest piece of work that deeply engages the audience. Some of it is raw and incredibly uncomfortable. Letts commits so fully to bringing the characters alive that there is little room for physical or emotional vanity.

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Jan

SMART LOVE

There are some logistical issues as well with ages and character histories… On the way out of the theater, I overheard some of the older audience members talking about how timely the subject matter is. On the surface it may seem so, but at its heart Smart Love doesn’t strike me as particularly forward looking.

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Dec

LOVE ACTUALLY LIVE

The production is wholly successful, born from a tremendous spirit of play throughout, and the iron discipline of artists giving their all. The design team does an extraordinary job of integrating the various elements with seamless elegance, with special kudos to sound designer Benjamin Soldate, vocal designer AnnMarie Milazzo, and conductor Jesse Vargas.

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Nov

Death and Cockroaches

Eric Reyes Loos has written a wonderful play. That he reveals so much about himself is the sort of thing people think of as “brave.” And it is. But what’s braver is doing the work that makes it possible to explore such personal things so effectively.

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Nov

A BRONX TALE

I have fond memories of the film, and I admire the talent of everyone involved. But in the end, the conflicting styles do not mesh, leaving the polished, ably talented performers with nowhere to go. Perhaps the co-direction of Messrs. Zaks and De Niro is the culprit. One is known for his wonderfully slick, funny, fast-paced way with Broadway musicals and comedy. The other… isn’t.

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Nov

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

We are giddy with delight every time something shifts. I felt my eyes shining throughout, and when I looked around, I saw the same expression on others: All of us looking like thrilled, expectant children. And isn’t that the point?

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Nov

Finks

French Stewart is fantastic, he wears hangdog panic like a bespoke suit, and he is quite believable as a comic of the era on the brink of mainstream stardom. It takes us inside what it feels like as each person tries to decide what to do. Finks and Oppenheimer do complement one another.

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Oct

The Little Foxes

The Little Foxes is perfection. Every creative and technical choice made by this gifted creative and technical team pays off. The show washes over you effortlessly, swift in its pleasures, profound in its understanding of human greed and misery — but also of human love and loss. It is a monumental achievement.

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Oct

Johnny Got His Gun

A great deal of intelligence and creativity has gone into this production, utilizing choral elements and highly stylized movement on a bare set. The actors are talented, and the direction is meticulous. It is always interesting. But for me it is rarely emotionally involving. The intensity level ricochets from heightened anguish to manic inspiration to soft elegy, with few shades in between.

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Oct

QUACK

Plot twists take you by surprise then seem inevitable, with people behaving in ways that are as completely in character as they are ill-advised. The forward momentum never falters. In the beginning the show seems deceptively like a sit-com. That would be fine. But it has a lot more on its mind. Quack is that rarest of projects, a fully realized commercial stage comedy that isn’t afraid to tackle moral ambiguity. This production is an unqualified success. I can easily imagine it on Broadway.

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Oct

OPPENHEIMER

Director John Perrin Flynn stages the fast-paced scenes well, and he allows the actors the space to explore their characters’ numerous psychological and emotional conflicts… Matt Richter’s lighting design is as on-point as ever — he really is a theatrical treasure in Los Angeles — and sound designer Christopher Moscatiello gets it just right.

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Oct

SILENCE! The Musical

Silence! hits its targets from all angles — sometimes quite broadly, other times with unexpected subtlety… Director, choreographer, production designer (and starring as Clarice) Amanda Conlon does a great job, milking every joke for all its worth, and staging the movement and scene changes with dead-on timing. Jon Kaplan and Al Kaplan’s score is up to the job, with some nice touches sending up other musicals and musical theater genres.

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Oct

EVERYTHING THAT NEVER HAPPENED

Theatrical magic happens when all the elements of a production come together to form a seamless whole; when the text, direction, acting, and technical contributions feel so organically intertwined that it is hard to tell where one person’s work ends, and another’s begins. Everything That Never Happened at the Boston Court is intelligent, funny, and quite beautiful. It is also magic — a complete universe unto itself. Playwright Sarah B. Mantell, director Jessica Kubzansky, a gifted team of designers and technical staff, and a marvelous cast take you into an entirely reimagined world, influenced, but not defined by, The Merchant of Venice.

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Sep

American Hero

There is superb teamwork between the actors, and when it is at its best, the play approaches Pinteresque tragicomedy… Director James Eckhouse’s staging is fantastic. He utilizes every bit of space, creating stage pictures that effortlessly flow between the play’s everchanging tones. Mr. Eckhouse makes room for the comedy without denying the characters their tragedies, yet the forward momentum and energy doesn’t flag. Ms. Wohl is a gifted playwright with a flair for telling detail. Her sharp observational skills provide the best moments of the evening. She creates memorable characters. She loves them so much herself that we can’t help but feel the same way.

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Sep

THE CAKE

Director Jennifer Chambers gets the tone just right. There are big moments of slapstick silliness involving food that open up into poignance. Ms. Chambers skillfully manages these changes in mood.

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Sep

The Untranslatable Secrets of Nikki Corona

The show is never dull, but it is also rarely as emotionally involving as it might be, especially since the cast is so engaging. There are the makings of something magical and special here, but they do not get the chance to coalesce into something wholly satisfying.

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Sep

SCHOOL GIRLS

All the creative elements in this production are top notch. Director Rebecca Taichman stages things with deceptive simplicity and expertly calibrates the flow of the talented ensemble’s shifting tones. Maameyaa Boafo is vital, funny, and ultimately heartbreaking as Paulina, making her a true antihero, and letting us feel her inner struggles. The fact that we care about her — even at her worst — is a testament to Boafo’s considerable gifts. As her classmates, Latoya Edwards, Paige Gilbert, Abena Mensah-Bonsu, and Mirirai Sithole are wonderful. Each has her moment in the sun, and each brings humanity and humor to her performance.

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Sep

Native Gardens

For a play about cultural conflict, Native Gardens is surprisingly gentle and sweet-spirited. Each of the four characters is capable of good will and reasonableness. But that’s part of why the play never truly takes flight. A plot device you see coming from miles away provides the path to resolution, and it feels unnecessary. We know these folks would have worked it all out in a spirit of neighborly cooperation long before Tania’s first labor pains hit. Nothing was ever really at stake.

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