Non-Registered Critics: Tony Frankel

Sep

The Solid Life of Sugar Water

While the production values are positively tremendous, this may not have been the best script for such a device. The British playwright Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) has written plays based on other material, so it makes sense that his original two-hander is pocked with poetry (the “sugar water” in the title is Phil’s reference to Alice’s breast milk) but lacks a dramatic arc. By nature of the writing, which is still very beautiful, the non-linear play interrupts itself and the lines are dripping in poetic-speak and pseudo-realism, as if to copy the way we really think and talk, but in a theatrical way. Because of this, I was never bored for the 80 minutes, but neither was I fully engaged.

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Sep

Witch

Silverman’s script is full of dark humor that not only allows us to be fully engaged throughout the 95-minute one act, it helps to take in the heavier critique of modern times.

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Sep

LATIN HISTORY FOR MORONS

Director Tony Taccone, who just left his helm at Berkeley Rep, elucidates just why these one-man shows need leadership. Adding stage nuances that the book lacks, and adding super-tight light and music cues, Taccone takes what could have delved into a brow-beating White-shaming lecture and turns it into a show that is for everyone, even those who could get perturbed at the professorially clad Leguizamo’s mocking display of cultural stereotypes. In almost two hours, 3000 years simply flies by.

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Aug

West Side Story

I’m so grateful that I get to hear the orchestrations and arrangements exactly as they were heard on opening night in 1957. This earnest production and it’s rocko-socko-boffo leads will make anyone happy to be alive.

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Aug

Another Roll of the Dice at North Coast Repertory Theatre

With six endearing, vocally awesome — and I mean AWESOME — actors playing thirty characters, this new Runyonland definitely diverts. With names like Haystack Duggler, Ledge Dugan, and Tobias “The Terrible” Tweeney, we get enough Runyonisms and funny wisecracks to wile away the evening. Larry Sousa’s dashing direction and combustible choreography gets a boost from Jack Lipson’s orchestrations and Cris O’Bryon’s sparkling music direction.

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Aug

Scraps

Perhaps Ms. Inoa knew there was no way to resolve her superb story. The awful, messy section that ends the 90-minute one-act keeps this endeavor from being a theatrical epiphany, and it robs the audience of experiencing the stunning devastation which occurs when we are confronted by that almost inconceivable phenomenon: the human condition. The amazing beginning had me pondering race relations to the hilt, and was the best kind of political art. The message had been delivered. I didn’t need it hammered home.

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Jul

MISS SAIGON

Under Laurence Connor’s vigorous direction, the production’s technical elements are astounding by any measure, but especially impressive given that this is a very large tour — about five buses and six trucks. Thus, the Engineer still has his pink Cadillac with the looming grotesque face of the Liberty Statue behind him in “The American Dream.” When he joyfully humps the hood of the car it strikes you as a kind of metaphor for the entire mess of the Vietnam War. Plus, it’s awfully engaging, as is this production of Miss Saigon. Whatever the show’s flaws, it’s definitely worth a look, and just as impressively, a listen. If only it weren’t for that damned sound problem…

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Jul

THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG

You’ll either find it convulsively hilarious, shrug your shoulders with “It is what it is,” or deem it a tedious, forced and overlong concoction of heavy-handed — and at times shockingly unfunny — sight gags, collapsing props, assorted accidents, and a waste of great actors playing hammy thespians.

My vote is with the latter.

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Jul

Mysterious Circumstances

It’s a jumble of information thrown at us in a variety of ways, but it’s so cunningly constructed that puzzlers and theatergoers alike will be in heaven. Adroitly played by a chameleonic cast of seven on Brett J. Banakis’s puzzle-box set, Shakman uses illusion artists Francis Menotti and David Kwong to create images that will stay with you long after the show...

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Jul

Good Boys

Good Boys is strong enough to update, and improve on, Tea and Sympathy, in which a student is accused of being gay and sleeps with an instructor’s wife to prove his masculinity. Here, we see how internalized homophobia creates the thinking that it’s far worse to be gay than to be a rapist. This sad and still-topical issue could be the crux of Good Boys, which has all the insights it needs. It just requires more depth.

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Jul

Dames at Sea

Now, Sierra Madre Playhouse delivers the fluff big-time with Jeffrey Scott Parson’s great tap numbers, and director Joshua Finkel’s smooth direction.

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Jun

Sucker Punch

Director Michael A Shepperd’s pile-driving, extraordinarily well-choreographed West Coast premiere — with intense fight moves by Jen Albert — pulls no punches in galvanizing U.K. playwright Roy Williams’ pugilistic 2010 play about “Black British” dreamers...

Sucker Punch may have more axes to grind than points to make, but Williams’ action painting is nonetheless dynamic — in drive if not destination. Not one person working on or behind this show escapes getting covered in glory. Now all we need is for the first act to bre-e-e-e-ath and some serious diction.

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Jun

HARVEY

...maybe director Andre Barnicle’s perfect, perfect, perfect cast may be a bit too manic to make the playwright’s point of just who is crazy, but darn it if this 75-year-old warmly textured period piece with gorgeous production values doesn’t leave you warmer and fuzzier, well, than a rabbit. Hop to it.

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Jun

Anna in the Tropics

Cruz’s poetic dialogue matches the timelessness of literature itself and wafts through your senses like a balmy breeze, even as this decent production at Atwater Village isn’t as steamy and profound as it could have been. While the casting and direction by Jon Lawrence Rivera isn’t always accurate for Open Fist Theatre Company, we definitely experience some sultry and stirring moments that make up for those which are overwrought or misguided or lacking tension or power or specificity. Overall, you’ll be glad you saw this beautiful work.

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Jun

Bronco Billy - The Musical

For a brand new, good-time, offbeat musical to come swinging out of the gate with a great story and this much charm is a shocker. That it has moments of tenderness and hilarity is a plus. That it has a large cast with talent on steroids is infectious. That we leave with a smile — given the show’s issues — is a miracle. But this is one of those outings with so much heart and such sterling production values — the set, the band, the sound, the choreography — that it keeps us from concentrating on the project’s deficiencies: the confusing context; the uneven tone; and the non-character-defining, inconsequential, pedestrian songs that wear thin.

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Apr

EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED

There's no equivocation about the love put into Ensemble Theatre Company's sumptuous production with some truly wonderful moments involving accents, character, expressiveness, and more. Wonkily told, it's still a great story, one that casts its light on a vast and unforgivable darkness.

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Apr

FALSETTOS

The combination of whimsy, joy and gut-wrenching poignancy is like nothing you've seen before. At nearly three hours, you won't want it to end.

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Mar

ROALD DAHL'S MATILDA THE MUSICAL

But 5-Star pulls off a tough show very well — one of their best, really. Young audiences will revel over the dazzling performances and pumped-up musical arrangements (Jennifer Lin is a powerhouse conducting the live orchestra), while older attendees will recognize the tale's important message about becoming the hero of our own story. Just like the drama's heroine, Matilda is extraordinary, magical and worthy of special attention. Yet it is a sparkling young thespian named Olivia Marcum as Matilda who truly steals the show.

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Mar

Accidental Death Of An Anarchist

The show may, at times, possess a certain amateurish, “fuck the establishment” charm, but it quickly becomes clear that this is all the play has up its sleeve. It serves not so much as a rousing call to action for anarchy, but rather a cautionary tale that a little order goes a long way.

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Mar

The Wolves

What begins as a funny, sometimes searing, indictment of gossiping, belonging, and clique-like behavior (with incredibly tight workout choreography but stretching that looks fake) wears on our nerves after 30 of these 90 minutes because it's all muscle and no bone to hold it up.

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ADS
  • Fefu and her Friends at the Odyssey Theatre
  • Give Up the Ghost at the First Christian Church of Whittier
  • DIRTY TRICKS w/ The New Bad Boys of Magic

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