Non-Registered Critics: Sylvie Drake

Jun

INDECENT

What is so striking about Indecent, the Paula Vogel play that opened Sunday at the Ahmanson, is not just that it tackles lesbianism head-on, but that it does so by tackling so much more. It burrows deep emotionally to come up with the approbation of our most inalienable and fundamental passion: the fulfillment of love found, accepted and unjudged.

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May

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

The four actors in the cast, all of them dressed in black, each play many parts, and deliver some accomplished singing and acting. But most of the action is mimed and even Matthew G. Hill’s video accompaniment is in dreary black-and-white and displayed on a screen too far upstage to connect well with its audience.

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May

Daniel's Husband

So complete is the integration of the performances that singling out any one of these actors seems unfair to the others. They are exactly who they’re meant to be...

It would be easy for Daniel’s Husband to slip into melodrama. Yet it does not. Everything about this staging is measured, even its most tragic aspects.

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Apr

The Niceties

The play survives any of the easy pitfalls that could befall it because playwright Burgess is an extremely skillful debater who plays no favorites and gives equal weight to both sides of the argument. It makes for fascinating theatre that is never boring and whose suspense never dims.

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Apr

FALSETTOS

Now touring, the production, currently on The Ahmanson stage, delivers a triumphantly resilient family accommodation for the 21stcentury that is fresh and mostly upbeat...

It's a strong, often transcendent, mostly ebullient show, true to its times and an eye-opener that has earned its repeated successes...

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Apr

Faith Healer

Faith Healer is a chamber piece, its anxieties kept in check by Sossi's firm hand. It also suffers to a degree from the length and deep dive of each discourse, plus the gloom in which all is performed. But such convolutions are in the Irish DNA. If you're a Friel fan, as I happen to be, try it. It will offer the rewards only such a recalcitrant master as Friel can deliver.

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Apr

POOR YELLA REDNECKS

And a comedy it is. So much so, that Poor Yella Rednecks keeps reminding us that it, too, is intended as a Marvel comic, with projections exploding all over the firmament in perfect Marvel context (they are the excellent work of Jared Mezzocchi).

Production values are superior as they almost always are at SCR, with Arnulfo Maldonado's revolving set serving as different El Dorado locales, aided by Lap Chi Chu's lighting and Valérie Thérèse Bart's appropriately simple costumes.

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Apr

Argonautika

Except for its mildly salacious parts, Argonautika does sometimes feel like a play and production designed for an audience of children; I kept expecting wooden swords that never materialized. This has a lot to do with the fairy-tale nature of myths, but it also lies in a surprising absence of poetic writing in Zimmerman's script, which, humor aside, remains pedestrian, perhaps because she had to tell this long and busy tale at a gallop to get it all in.

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Mar

LACKAWANNA BLUES

An achievement? By all means, and yet… In spite of this being a short evening with no intermission, the telling eventually devolves into something of a ramble, with stories that are progressively more disconnected and less prepossessing as it moves along. The Taper stage is not an ideal venue for one-person shows. Or even two-person shows. Performing Lackawanna Blues on its thrust, with its width and high ceiling, deprives the material of the very intimacy it cries out for.

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Mar

The Judas Kiss

Michetti's light hand is usually more discernable than it is here, perhaps out of a desire to honor the author's wishes. Sometimes, finding a middle ground is best.

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Mar

RAGTIME: THE MUSICAL

The investment required by such an ambitious production might have scared off a lesser gambling man. The demands were all there: high budget, big show, strong material, superior talent, terrific singing, impressive design. But ultimately it is the depth of the experience that matters. This one stays with you.

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Feb

Accidental Death Of An Anarchist

This remains by far the most effective and enjoyable production of an arresting (pun intended) and challenging comedy.

Final words, not often spoken here: do not miss it. And do not miss the lobby exhibition of Ralph Steadman's cartoonish illustrations of characters in the play and more.

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Feb

An Inspector Calls

The actors are skilled and seasoned, even if they're sometimes hard to hear, especially the women. ... That's important to correct, because everything in this play depends on our ability to follow the conversations.

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Jan

LINDA VISTA

I'd love to give Letts more credit, but this part-time comedy is stuffed with every dead-end conversation you've ever had that you wish you hadn't, and it's all in the service of too few funny lines and a dreary couple of buff-naked sex scenes. Fake bad sex is not a recommended spectator sport.

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Dec

Finks

Pressman's direction is at the mercy of the overdeveloped script and therefore struggles with the built-in problems of the first act that he can't entirely overcome. As usual, the acting at Rogue Machine is solid, and the unobtrusive but constant presence at the piano of music director Richard Levinson as The Piano Man Dickie Lewis, is a welcome thread. It relieves tensions, facilitates transitions, and keeps things relentlessly moving forward.

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Dec

COME FROM AWAY

Come From Away, an upbeat, noisy, engagingly choral musical with no “stars,” but an ensemble company of eager and talented performers giving it their all and reminding us that, while human beings can be cruel, many also can be kind, helpful and resourceful.

It almost sounds sappy, I know, but Come From Away doesn't care. It delivers what it always intended to deliver, not less and not more, with musicians, actors and singers whose energy is almost always given at 110%. The show is a smoothly synchronized effort without much of a plot, music that is right for the subject matter, relying on that most popular equation of all: a communion of good persons dedicated to delivering good deeds.

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Nov

VALLEY OF THE HEART

To be clear, the intentions that went into this production are unquestionably honorable, but the results, which remain uneven, cannot help but prompt thoughts of what might have been.

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Nov

Cost of Living

Cost of Living is a stunning example of the kind of magic four good actors, able or disabled, can achieve when they're handed a good director and a remarkable piece of writing.

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Oct

QUACK

Ultimately the comedy's brilliance lies in the unsparing battle of words and character, filled with insight into the broader selfishness of the society that breeds such circumstances and such people. It's not a pretty picture and Clark makes no attempt to soften it. And yet. There is something so bemused and forgiving in both the clarity and charity of her vision that the laughter it provokes is cleansing and oddly immunizing. We leave the theatre instructed, lighthearted and uplifted.

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Oct

DEAR EVAN HANSEN

The company at the Ahmanson is exceptional in vocally and emotionally demanding roles. ...The complicated events of Steven Levenson's book risk being drowned out by the even greater complexity of the light and sound show (lighting by Japhy Weideman, sound by Nevin Steinberg), and by the fragmentation of Peter Nigrini's restless projections dancing all over David Korins' movable scenic design.

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