Writer: Stephen Fife

Steve is a 5-tool writer (plays, screenplays, novels, poetry, journalism) who has had 11 books published, 10 plays produced, and has written for the New York Times “Arts & Leisure”, Village Voice, New Republic, and many others. He is one of the few people on the planet who can lay claim to spending time with Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Sandy Meisner, Allen Ginsberg, Andy Warhol, and Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, as well as so many other extraordinary people who refused to color inside the lines. He is always on the lookout for the original and the incisive.
Feb

I Decided I’m Fine: A Roach Play

Nevertheless, I admired the ambition and inventiveness of The Attic Collective, especially costume/prop designer Rebecca Carr and scenic designer Lex Gernon. Young companies like The Attic are important to the eco-system of Los Angeles theater, and I look forward to seeing what projects they tackle next in the (hopefully) very near future.

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Jan

"The Unseen Hand" and "Killer's Head"

With its improvisatory energy and unpredictable shifts, Shepard’s play depends on the performers being on the same wavelength, and this error in casting throws it off balance, bringing in questions of sexual identity that don’t arise from anything in the script. The play also depends on a sense of danger to be effective, and there isn’t much of that here. This makes it feel like Shepard-Lite — amusing, entertaining, but not as consequential as it could be. Certainly not as much as I remember it being many years ago in Downtown NYC.

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Dec

LEDISI: The Legend of Little Girl Blue

...other than the story about her mother and a few other interesting anecdotes, the show lacks a gripping narrative.

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Dec

A Christmas Carol

Whether that appeals to one’s imagination in this media-saturated world is very much an individual decision. I found the show moving and heartfelt, but I also didn’t think that the stage environment at the Wallis’s Lovelace Studio did it any favors — the high ceiling and the vast emptiness surrounding Mynne made it more difficult to focus on the quiet emotions and the incremental shifts in his performance.

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Nov

Neil Simon's Musical Fools

As I watched Ron West’s production of Neil Simon’s Musical Fools, the thought kept crossing my mind: Oh yes, the holidays are coming. Because this is a perfect holiday musical. In fact, the more I think about it, it may be the perfect holiday musical for our times. - RECOMMENDED

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Nov

Constantinople

There are interesting possibilities here, but nothing is really explored, and the characters — while different in obvious ways — still seem too much like their forbearers for me to recognize them as people I might bump into on the street. Also, the writer/director has once again chosen not to bring in any sounds or images of modern life that might afford us a jolt of recognition. Perhaps another director could have made these scenes more vividly alive. As it is, I admired the characters without ever being drawn into their struggles.

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Nov

THE NEW ONE

This evening is for those who enjoy laughing about the human condition without the cynicism or bitterness brought to the forefront by the stand-up comedian in the White House. Birbiglia is the real deal and seeing him in person is essential to getting the full effect of his comic brilliance. He appeals to the audience’s imagination, intelligence and emotional core. All the critical superlatives he’s received turn out to be well-deserved. - RECOMMENDED

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Oct

Red Thread by Siegfried Tieber

Tieber, with his very original and engaging stage persona, makes a great guide through the cosmic labyrinth of our daily lives, sharing his insights into life’s big question while keeping us guessing and on the edge of our seats. - RECOMMENDED

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Oct

4.48 PSYCHOSIS by Sarah Kane

...it is Dylan Jones who makes this such a memorable event. She so fully embodies Sarah Kane’s agony (and occasional ecstasy) that we cannot take our eyes off her, cannot get her cries out of our mind long after the stage lights have dimmed. With her pale white skin and tangles of blazing red hair, she is like a priestess of pain, a Cassandra for our troubled times... But the hour that we spend in her company also feels like theatrical heaven, as she strips away layer after layer of her social self until we get down to what Shakespeare called “the thing itself” — her naked spirit. - RECOMMENDED

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Oct

A Kid Like Jake

The strength of the play lies in its insistence on regarding this couple with a steady and unflinching gaze, refusing to make them more “likable.” This is especially true for the mom, Alex. Sarah Utterback burrows deeply into her pain, furnishing a searing portrait of motherhood that will live on in my mind for quite a while, as I suspect it will for most people who see this heartrending production. - RECOMMENDED

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Sep

The Spanish Prayer Book

While all the actors acquit themselves well under the direction of Lee Sankowich, Blaize gives an especially detailed and nuanced performance. She pours every ounce of passion into the character and her conflict over whether to sell her sacred legacy or not. But all her hard work just underscores the fact that it is difficult to care about the outcome, especially given the way the playwright has set it up.

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Sep

Macbeth

It gives me no pleasure to report that the acting styles are all over the place, and most of the performers are simply not up to the very demanding task of making Shakespeare’s scenes come alive, making his brilliant words sing. There are exceptions.

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Jul

Tales From the Powder Room

...Both actors display a fearless intensity, and the scene leads to an unexpected and satisfying conclusion. Excellent performances highlight how attractive this play may prove to be for women actors of any age looking for a spotlight to shine in.

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Jul

Wigfield

The shame here is letting the play get so plot-heavy that it drowns out so many wonderfully inventive performances.

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Jul

A Night Out by Harold Pinter

It’s a dark, dour play, somewhat dated, but it still packs a punch.

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Jul

BLACKBOXING

It’s a treat for any theater-lover to see how Ritchey and director Matthew Martin keep all these balls in the air — as satire, physical comedy, original song-and-dance, primal scream, family drama, meta performance piece, and more — while continuing to shade in his portrait of a theatrical novice headed for a breakdown.

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Jul

Death of a Salesman

The outstanding performance on the Ruskin stage is given by Lee Garlington as Willy’s wife, Linda. Garlington brings Linda to life as the emotional center of the troubled Loman family, who does everything she can to reverse her husband’s downward spiral while blaming their sons for having abandoned him.

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Jul

There are other talented performers in the production, most notably the very lovely Marta Kiec-Gubala as Isabel Canto, Dali’s friend and legal representative. Picasso, Andy Warhol and Marilyn Monroe are characters too, speaking out on behalf of Dali to his enemies. Regrettably, there are no real stakes in the play, nothing we are moved to care about, and they all blend together in an absurdist celebrity stew.

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Jun

POCKETS

The hour-long musical that ensues is a combination of Oliver! and Les Miserables, borrowing from and satirizing both. The songs by Branson NeJame are knowledgeable and witty and always fun to listen to. The core ensemble of Robot Teammate is all wonderful — Dworsky, Reynolds, Primeau and especially Chris Bramante as Veegan, a master thief on the order of Fagan in Oliver Twist. His singing and dancing have never been better, and he makes every moment that he is a part of count. Dworsky is also consistently funny and provides the emotional heart of the show. - RECOMMENDED

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Jun

DANA H.

One thing not up for debate is Les Waters’ production, which is impeccable. I cannot imagine it being bettered in any regard. It is certainly among the top three productions I’ve viewed at the Douglas in the last several years. For theatergoers who have often seen shows that ape what others have done, nothing more, Dana H. is a real tonic. This is how powerful the theater can be, and it’s great to be reminded of that.

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