Registered Critic: Vanessa Cate

Vanessa Cate is the Assigning Editor for Stage Raw and the Editor-in-Chief for @thisstage.la. Vanessa is a performance artist, writer, and jack of all trades, and can be found on stage, in strange audiences, and in interesting situations.
Mar

The Glass Menagerie

However, once the gentleman caller exits the stage, the energy is once again deflated. The final image we are left with is a director’s choice, not in the script, which references the real life tragic fate of the writer’s sister, a stage picture that feels both hopeless and a cliche.

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Feb

Too Heavy for Your Pocket

While the play features familiar dramaturgical stereotypes, it achieves poignancy and freshness by focusing on the Civil Rights movement through the prism of class and gender.

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Feb

The Importance of Being Earnest

The unfortunate downfall throughout this production is a prevailing clumsiness; actors tripping over lines, tripping over furniture, mugging and upstaging each other inappropriately. The grace and class of the characters is often found wanting: gentlemen chewing crumbling muffins with their mouths open and wiping their mouths on the tablecloth is a prime example.

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Oct

A PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY

No production at A Noise Within has ever felt as vital or as alive as Michael Michetti’s ‘A Picture of Dorian Gray’. Michetti, who adapted and directed, seems to have invested as much of his own life essence into this work as Oscar Wilde did his. The result is a complex, beautiful and impressively theatrical representation of a formidably subtle and verbose text.

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Sep

BACCHAE by Euripides

So, the technicality of the text is well-handled, and the cast is comprised of highly talented and effective players. However, whether we look at producing “Bacchae” as an artistic challenge or as a ritual act of observance to the god itself, the vital — and necessary — feeling of pleasure is woefully missing. “Bacchae” may talk a big game, but this production feels undeniably prudish. If you’re looking for Bacchic revelry, sorry, you’ll have to settle for academia.

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Jun

STILL

Writer/director Olivia Fischer has conceived a gentle approach to the subject of rape. Inspired by her own personal experience, Fischer led her actors in a process of improvisation to fully flesh out the script, making the piece at least partially devised. The acting and directing style are incredibly naturalistic, which serves nicely amid such a delicate stage atmosphere… Depictions and descriptions are never graphic, but a trigger warning is still issued for the obviously upsetting and collectively prescient subject matter.

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Jun

Easy Targets: Artists and Heroes

The actors are actually all really good and perform their respective monologues unflinchingly through the onslaught of socks. “All About Me,” written by Jon Beauregard and performed by Selina Merrill, is about an actress who was born for the stage. Matt Almos’ “An Evening with Abraham Lincoln,” performed by Eric Curtis Johnson, acquaints you with the 16th president of the United States. Tracey Leigh performs Selina Merrill’s spoken word “Word Magic.” And Jaime Robledo’s “Space Man (or How I Found Myself in Low Earth Orbit)” deals with lone astronaut Hugo Armstrong. And all of them are just as deliciously horrible as they sound.

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Jun

GLORIA

The program does not note a director. Waller, a strong performer, could have used an outside eye to refine her performance. Still, her talent is apparent, and scenes of montage, dance choreography, film noir-style drama, and the use of props are exceptionally impressive for a one-person show in the Hollywood Fringe Festival.

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Jun

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

Essentially, while boasting a top-notch immersive prologue, this is mostly a show performed ala theatre in the round. “Chronic Patients” are audience members who stay on the safe and slightly distant seating around the perimeter. “Acute Patients” get to jump right in to group meetings and other moments, while acting as veritable free labor background actors. It’s a brilliant choice, and after seeing this production I can no longer conceive of Cuckoo’s Nest staged in a traditional way. RECOMMENDED

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Jun

Spiritual Ecstasy

After watching an evening full of performances of varying quality, this show was the one that left the biggest impression. Whether the goal of dramatic art is to entertain or incite retrospection, Spiritual Ecstacy, strangely enough, fits the bill. Consider it a New Age take on immersive theatre.

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Feb

Pizza Man

Combined with the almost passive aggressive pre-show (a projected music video of women singing about how they hate all men and fake advertisements plastered in the restroom showing women dominating men), plus a slew of sexist dialogue (for instance, can we not make fun of a size 2 woman for being fat?), this play misses both of theater’s higher goals – to incite or inspire. If Pizza Man has achieved any of art’s strivings, it is to entertain. But to be entertained by this kind of content makes us as an audience complicit in the apparent endorsement of abuse.

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Feb

Henry V

However, when all is said and done, all other elements of the play might succeed or fail but the weight of the work would still rest on the shoulders of the actor playing Henry V…Though young, Goldstein possesses a composure and gravitas beyond his years. What better choice, then, for the young charismatic king of legend? – RECOMMENDED

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Feb

Priscilla Queen Of The Desert

One might wonder how it might be possible to transpose the drag epic and its titular tour bus into an intimate black box theatre. This ambitious paring down is the truest magic of Celebration Theatre’s effort, and the biggest slam-dunk of Jessica Hanna’s direction. Pete Hickok recreates night clubs, bars, dressing rooms, the desert expanse, and a tour van from several ingenious moveable set pieces. In such a small space, this easy transformation is a wonder, but it’s not the only one: Roman Pantoja’s choreography cheekily defies the limitations of the tight quarters – high heels and all! – RECOMMENDED

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Feb

THE CHINESE WALL

The play is overly long and very messy. The point of the original script is clear almost immediately, with nothing much new or exciting added during the slog.

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Jan

Nothing Is the Same

Added to the noble pursuit of bringing theatre to patrons and students alike, Nothing is the Same can be forgiven for at least some of its shortcomings.

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Nov

Kaidan

With such an ambitious undertaking, wrinkles in the fabric are bound to exist. Further exploration, a refinement of theme, and clarifying the rules for the audience could have made this show great. Still, this is a fascinating look into another world, an admirable experiment, a successful collaboration, and a perfect Halloween event for a discerning theater-goer.

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Oct

A Tale of Two Cities

The source material is a brilliant if sluggish read, a historical fiction that takes place in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. But the epic scope of its setting, themes and characters makes it difficult to pare down and present in a two-and-a-half-hour stage play to any great affect. In fact, the liberal cuts leave the piece neutered.

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Sep

Arsenic and Old Lace

The problem with this production is that a lot of energy is required from the performers, and the ensemble largely fails to deliver. Elina de Santos’ direction is sluggish and inorganic. Kudos to Michael Antosy who, though cast in the small role of Officer O’Hara, provides the vigor the play so needs. All said, the actors are able. Colton and Cullen in particular are well cast as the saccharine murderesses. The performances just need to be dialed up — especially the larger-than-life character of Teddy, whose physicality is written to engulf the stage.

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Jun

Debauchers

The choreography, while uncredited, is sometimes good but mostly executed ineptly. Direction (Luciani is credited as director) seems mostly non-existent, though the actors, bless them, really could have used it.

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Jun

The Girl Who Jumped Off The Hollywood Sign

It’s hard to say whether Hartstone achieves greater success as a writer or as a performer. Her story incorporates personal fiction alongside juicy Hollywood history. As an actress, she carries her one-woman show through seventy minutes of Old Hollywood bliss. Her character, Mid-Atlantic dialect, and singing (yes, singing!) are all on point: stylistically, you almost feel as if you are watching a scene from a 1940s classic.

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