Non-Registered Critics: Samuel Garza Bernstein

Jul

We Should Hang Out Sometime

He and wife Ashley Sundquist are methodically building a brand. That they go about it with such humor and grace is admirable. That they are fearless and doggedly persistent is what will make all the difference. If they conquer the world one day, I won’t be a bit surprised.

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Jun

Ready Steady Yeti Go

David Jacobi writes from a place of understanding the chasm between intention and effect. He pokes fun at “The More You Know…” NBC’s public service announcement campaign from the 1990s that often took up issues of tolerance and diversity. Certainly, allowing Carly to take control from a white character playing her mother is a nod to that understanding. Yet over the course of the evening, the play inadvertently becomes the very thing it takes aim at: a white response to racism that makes white people feel better about themselves.

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Jun

Happy Days

Scenic designer Izmir Ickbal uses almost the entire stage with his brilliant, brooding hill. It seems to have a life of its own. Costume designer Alexae Visel’s and lighting designer Stephen Strawbridge’s work is equally vibrant and vital. And director James Bundy’s sure hand is as invisible as it is powerful.

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Apr

MY LIFE ON A DIET

If timing is everything with comedy Renée Taylor in My Life on a Diet is proof positive. This revival of her one-woman show, based on her 1986 memoir of the same title, is a master class in getting laughs. She takes sentences that wouldn't necessarily be funny on the page and makes them soar, most enduringly with a running callback joke about how her mother would introduce herself to celebrities, reaching for a handshake, saying, “I'm Frieda.” Not funny when I write it down, hysterical by the time Ms. Taylor says it for the fifth or sixth time. Even her pauses are genius. Especially her pauses...

My jaw ached at the end from laughing so much. After a standing ovation she got a little teary. “All the love you give me when you laugh,” she says, “I feel that love and give it back to you.” She is a Hebrew National Treasure.

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Mar

Faith Healer

Director Ron Sossi does sensitive, imaginative work here, but Faith Healer asks a lot of the audience. It employs the kind of Irish storytelling that thrives on repetition and the poetic rhythm of language. Without enough emotional energy, it can sink into itself. The show's long monologues offer no direct interplay between characters, and the flow of so many words can have a hypnotizing effect. Regrettably, on the night I went, several people in the audience fell asleep. Others stood and cheered at the end.

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Mar

Too Much Sun

This is a fine piece of work. The text is a bit more expository than it needs to be here and there, and there is an epilogue that feels unnecessary, but Silver forges an involving and emotionally expansive world in the zone where comedy and drama meet. And he astutely explores the possibilities marriage might hold for characters passing their middle years....

Director Bart DeLorenzo expertly calibrates the changing emotional tones that give the play its resonance and impact.

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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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