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Ariadne of Naxos

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It’s hardly surprising that the Pacific Opera Project (POP) would want to bring their uniquely cheeky perspective to Ariadne auf Naxos. Hugo von Hofmannstahl’s libretto offers a witty and satiric look at the never-ending battle between the ideals of the “pure” artist and the practical reality of putting on a show. And, of course, Richard Strauss’ score lifts the proceedings beyond the petty egos of performers and producers.

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Samsara

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Lauren Yee, the resident playwright at the lauded Chance Theater in Anaheim is having the West Coast debut of her topical 21st-century comedy, Samsara. Performed on the Chance's newly inaugurated Bette Aitken stage, Samsara addresses modern-day issues of international parental surrogacy, labor outsourcing (pun intended), and the new mindset mandated by the ethics of globalism. What's more, it offers a talking fetus (Ray Parikh, sweetly mastering a challenging characterization).

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Row After Row

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In the Los Angeles premiere of Row After Row, playwright Jessica Dickey explores the specialized world of Civil War Re-enactors. Not the battle itself, but the “backstage” passions of the people who spend substantial money, time, and effort to achieve authenticity down to the thread count in their uniforms.

 

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Uncanny Valley

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This is not your Chatty Cathy doll or your Roomba vacuum cleaner. This is bigger than that, bigger even than Siri. This is a full-man robot with feelings and senses and, even, OMG, a conscience (sort of).

Meet Julian, a 21st Century creation of Claire, a neuroscientist, and her team of engineers and technologists.

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Pride and Prejudice

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Garnering numerous awards at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2011, it has been re-worked as a full-scale production and is McCoy Rigby Entertainment's first world-premiere musical. Fresh and imaginative, it takes the finest features of Jane Austen's classic novel and musically highlights the love stories of its principal characters.

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Abigail/1702

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It’s impossible to write about Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s Abigail/1702 without mentioning Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Though this is a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it must be frustrating to have your play linked with and compared to such a well-known work when the style and intent are so different. On the other hand, it’s hard to deny that a close kinship with an enduring mid-century classic will, presumably, excite both theater producers and audience members.

 

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A Small Fire

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With A Small Fire, playwright Adam Bock has created a tightly constructed, realistic drama of great poignancy about a catastrophic illness. He has also slyly subverted nearly every expectation a savvy audience member will project onto this scenario. This is perhaps to be expected from the creator of invigoratingly surreal black comedies like The Receptionist.

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Lady in the Dark

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Historians generally point to the 1943 opening of Oklahoma! as the moment when the American Musical Theatre came of age. But two years earlier Moss Hart, Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin created a show that was adult, sophisticated and, within its unique structure, fully integrated. The show was Lady in the Dark and it dealt with psychoanalysis, women executives, and the various pressures of modern, urban life.

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Murder for Two

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Imagine! mayhem, murder and music – or as the playbill suggests, "Murder for Two puts the laughter in manslaughter" – all stuffed into a 90-minute mash-up of homicidal events. That's what's being staged at the Laguna Playhouse, through May 17. And, quite frankly, it's a hot mess.

Murder for Two, has a book by Scott Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair, with music by the former and lyrics by the latter, and is frantically (desperately?) directed by Scott Schwartz, with undistinguished musical direction by David Caldwell and cartoonish choreography by Wendy Seyb.

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Never Givin' Up- A Second View

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"Actor" and "activist" are linguistically related terms; in the person of MacArthur Genius Award-recipient and Tony Award-nominated actress and playwright – Anna Deavere Smith – the two concepts become integrated. Known for her innovative approach to theater, Professor Smith (she's on the faculty at New York University in the Tisch School of the Arts) is accurately described as a docu-dramatist. That is, she documents current events and issues through the process of interviewing witnesses and stakeholders who are the subjects of such events and issues. After that rigorous but enlightening process, she reenacts the interviews as a series of topical monologues.

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Spotlight

LA Drama Critics Address the 99-Seat Theatre Controversy

A Statement Concerning the Proposed Equity Changes to Los Angeles Theater

The Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle views the impending changes of policy concerning the small theaters of the greater Los Angeles area with alarm. We are concerned that the inevitable result of such changes will be a drastic reduction in the amount and quality of local theater. Indeed, we foresee what could be the virtual demise of Los Angeles as a leading incubator of plays and theater of innovation and diversity.

As critics, we are the front lines of the audience. Thus, we are keenly aware of the importance of small theaters and the actors who perform at them to the cultural ecosystem of Los Angeles as a major metropolitan center for the arts. Our institutional theaters and touring roadshows provide a valuable and popular service, but they alone do not and cannot provide the vast spectrum of forms of expression which a great city requires. Within that spectrum, live theater plays an essential role.

Under current proposals, nearly all of the winners of our Margaret Harford Award for sustained excellence over the past dozen years – our highest honor – would be threatened with closure or, at best, severely curtailed activities. A majority of the shows recognized in our annual nominations and awards would likely have never been produced. Worse, the future would promise a vastly constricted, less diverse, less venturesome, less exciting theater scene.

 

The cultural loss would be incalculable, affecting the hundreds of productions staged annually in Los Angeles. The economic loss of all the businesses interdependent on that production output is calculable, but even without the numbers being run, we believe the net impact on the city could be catastrophic. If not of the order of magnitude of the recent threatened port closure, it is analogous in import and effect.

 

The inner workings of an artists’ association, like the management of a corporation, are not the public’s business unless or until the impact of those actions has a material adverse effect on civic life, the general welfare, the region’s economic well-being, or a city’s core identity. At that point, an association’s practices become an appropriate matter for intense public concern. In the current situation, it is of critical importance that discussion and debate concerning these developments take place openly and extensively in the public sphere by all affected stakeholders. The goal is a healthier, more diverse society that provides greater opportunity for all, including the freedom of artists to develop their talents as they believe themselves to be best served.

The current situation is urgent and dire. When an historic piece of eminent architecture is destroyed, a natural resource despoiled, or a species goes extinct, the loss is irreplaceable. Once the infrastructure that undergirds the best of Los Angeles small theater is destroyed, it cannot, realistically, be resurrected. By the time the pain is finally felt and the general outcry heard, the possibility of effective action will have already been long foreclosed.

The Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle urges all stakeholders in the cultural, civic and economic health of the region to involve themselves in learning about the issues and consequences of the proposals currently on the table. The Mayor, the City Council and the Board of Supervisors need to consider the economic ramifications. Foundations and opinion leaders must consider the changes’ potential impact on their missions. Major media must contribute to the disciplined and thoughtful public discourse, even as social media air opinions on all sides. All of these stakeholders have a role to play in a civic crisis, and make no mistake, a crisis is what we are facing. Moreover, it is a crisis whose quiet and parochial buildup has served to sidestep public attention and debate. Very soon, it may be too late.