Non-Registered Critics: Taylor Kass

Feb

A BODY OF WATER

A Body of Water is a dark, funny and emotionally vivid metaphor for the often precarious peace that keeps marriage afloat, but it’s also about how we shape our identities. Are we the items we collect? The list of our accomplishments? The feelings we have? The way someone describes us?

As for that new ending, it’s bold in its theatricality and feels appropriately shocking in a play with so many twists. - RECOMMENDED

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Jan

All My Sons

Now in an extended run, the Pacific Resident Theatre’s production of this seminal American classic successfully encompasses the play’s emotional peaks and valleys yet lacks the forward momentum that drives the story to its dramatic conclusion. And with a script this close to perfect, any less-than-stellar moments stand out.

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Jan

Musket and the Rat

... this world is rich and engrossing. The detailed dialogue and rich characterizations make clear that playwright Sammy Horowitz is speaking from personal experience;...

Musket and the Rat is a well-structured play with a well-earned twist, although the final moments could use a bit more breathing room to allow the surprise ending to land.

RECOMMENDED

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Dec

Bad Habits

While Mazur’s script has moments of clever dialogue, almost all the scenes are purely expository. Any dramatic tension within the plot and among the characters is never fully fleshed out, so the stakes seem low.

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Nov

Before

As Pontius, Pat Kinevane can’t escape his own talents. Even though the character is a self-described simple Irish farmer, Kinevane always moves with a dancer’s grace and delicacy. For all his jokes about the corniness of musical theatre, Kinevane is at his most sincere when he’s dancing.

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Sep

Never Is Now

Staging by co-directors Celia Mandela Rivera and Tony Abatemarco is simple and graceful, and intelligently highlights the unique talents of each ensemble member. Additionally, projection design by Lilly Bartenstein underscores the play’s most pivotal moments and makes the past feel present. - RECOMMENDED

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Sep

The Gin Game

The grand, rustic Theatricum Botanicum is simply the wrong setting for The Gin Game, a realistic two-hander only remarkable for its intimate, narrow focus on a slow-burn relationship. During long stretches of text detailing the rules of gin, or painfully extended scene transitions, it’s easy to let your attention drift to Theatricum’s stunning natural backdrop of trees. Outdoor theatre works best with larger-than-life stories that invoke the nature that surrounds it, and at Theatricum, The Gin Game feels out of place.

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Sep

THE CHINESE LADY

If playwright Lloyd Suh’s goal is to give voice to a historically voiceless figure, he doesn’t quite succeed. That’s because Shu’s highly-stylized performance is the only context in which we perceive Afong Moy — we never see the unfiltered feelings and desires behind her mask of fake smiles.

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Aug

Dope Queens

Playwright/director Grafton Doyle builds the world of the play through masterful, vivid storytelling, as the action heats slowly to a heart-pounding final scene.

...Dope Queens isn’t a play about issues. It’s a play about people, whose stories need to be told onstage. Character is queen here, and these three memorable characters played by three magnetic actors earn Dope Queens its crown. - RECOMMENDED

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Aug

GOOD MOURNING

While this self-reflection is wholly worthwhile for any individual experiencing loss, it feels too self-indulgent and inwardly focused to create the audience-performer bond that makes solo performance captivating.

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Aug

Tattered Capes

The production’s DIY special effects range from the creative — fight scenes in shadow, stage-hands in black hoodies openly assisting with flying — to the cursory: running back and forth across the stage, using vague “magic” gestures. While the premise shows promise, Tattered Capes’s sloppy execution and alarming gender politics prevent it from taking flight.

Playwright Gregory Crafts’s writing is underdeveloped and poorly structured, resulting in scattered monologues, stilted dialogue, and psychologically ill-defined characters. Corey Lynn Howe’s staging is similarly mishandled, resulting in random, directionless wandering to match the rambling script’s cheap twists. However, Soda Persi’s choreography is an effective and watchable blend of dance and combat.

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Aug

Under Milk Wood

The ensemble, onstage for the entirety of the production, masterfully inhabit each of the wonderfully weird residents of Llareggub. From high-spirited children to dreamy teenagers to frustrated wives to lonely old men, these stellar performers bring both wacky humor and poignant dignity to each role they play. - RECOMMENDED

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Jul

King Lear

It’s heartening to see a production of Shakespeare that puts the language front and center, that has faith in the story. The simplicity of staging, design and acting makes us tune into every word, so that the themes of the play become more palpable. The repetition of “nothing,” “naught,” “sight,” and “eyes” are key to the fundamental psychological struggles at the core of this drama — the fear of departing this life without leaving anything or anyone behind, and, perhaps worse, of moving through this world blind to the truth. The Harold Clurman Theatre Laboratory Company plays King Lear with a refreshing lucidity that makes the play’s existential crisis all the more impactful. - RECOMMENDED

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Jul

The Last Days of Don Juan

Nick Dear’s adaptation of the original text is fresh and fast-paced while retaining a sprinkling of beautiful, lyrical textual images...

This production is clear, accessible and entertaining enough to speak for itself.

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Jul

Dinner With Friends

Dishearteningly, the only takeaway from Dinner with Friends is that marriage is a fundamentally flawed social institution, doomed to end in a fiery explosion of toxicity and resentment or, alternatively, lovelessly putter along on autopilot for eternity.

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Jul

URBAN DEATH for kidz

So, should you bring your kids? Yes — if they’re keen on scary movies, haunted houses, and the like. If they’re easily spooked (like this reviewer), it might be best to wait a few years. But does Urban Death for Kidz also pack a punch for the over-18 crowd? It might not be as intense as Urban Death, but there are enough chills and thrills for audience members of any age. - RECOMMENDED

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Jun

EXIT THE KING

City Garage impressively pulls off a metaphysical play without any special effects other than Michel’s staging. Her direction is simple yet stylized, with a sprinkling of heightened movement and gesture. And while Exit the King’s technical design is minimal throughout the show, its final image is arresting and haunting thanks to Duncombe’s lighting.

...Exit the King is thoroughly disturbing and absurd, all too real but oddly comforting...

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Jun

Aristophanes' THE BIRDS

The Birds kills two birds with one stone: It contains an astute political critique about the dangers of unchecked power and it’s a ridiculous story about birds who threaten to poop on the audience. This production understands the heart of this comedy and, quite rightly, doesn’t take itself too seriously. But it also feels unfinished and haphazard, with cluttered staging and offbeat comedic timing. For all of its best intentions, The Birds can’t quite take flight.

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Jun

Start Swimming

Nonetheless, this cast of LACC students is crisp and well-rehearsed, tackling synchronized movement and overlapping text with ease. As the characters wake up to the injustice they face, the ensemble transforms from a judgmental Greek chorus to a band of revolutionaries.

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Jun

Happy Days

The 2016 Yale Rep production of the simultaneously hilarious and depressing Happy Days is now at the Mark Taper Forum under the direction of James Bundy. This well-executed rendering is one you won’t be able to forget. - RECOMMENDED

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