"TehrAngeles," a musical written and directed by Nakta Pahlevan, explores the Iranian diaspora experiences in Los Angeles during the 1980s. The narrative centers on Zohreh and her daughter Sima. Their lives intertwine with a diverse cast of characters. Each character reflects the challenges and hopes of refugees in a new land. Pahlevan's crafting of the story, co-directed with Afshin Katanchi, offers a compelling portrayal of cultural displacement and identity. Representing the Iranian refugee experience, the... Read more →

Nick James' "Unsavory Fellow" refracts ambition and delusion through the lens of dark comedy. This one-man show dissects the life of a man chasing grandiose dreams in Hollywood, a narrative as captivating as it is cautionary. With aspirations of supermodeling, gigolo ventures, and acting, James’ story unmasks the inherent absurdity and relentless drive within the entertainment industry. The performance thrives on its dual nature. It blends humor with stark reality to highlight the fragility of... Read more →

Heather Fink’s solo performance “Quicksand” is about personal tragedy and resilience. The play is a raw, unflinching examination of the most challenging aspects of human existence - caregiving, grief, and the search for meaning amidst chaos. Fink, an accomplished comedian and filmmaker, brings her many talents to the stage in a narrative that moves back and forth between dark humor and touching reflection. “Quicksand” stems from a personal event: Fink’s father suffered a paralyzing stroke.... Read more →

Stefan Marks’ “Ophelia” blends existential themes with whimsy and poignancy. It is a narrative about time, memory, and the human condition, where Marks explores the complex interplay between past and present, reality and illusion. The play’s protagonist, a middle-aged son coping with his mother’s advancing dementia, becomes a vessel for our journey through fragmented memories and elusive truths. Marks’ writing stands out with its emotional depth and intellectual rigor. The play’s structure, with its non-linear... Read more →

“Me, Myself, and Why (Am I Here?)” examines self-confrontation and existential crisis. Written, produced, and performed by Maria Margaret Wilson, the play unravels the layers of personal identity and the cumulative impact of life’s experiences. With a background in comedy and improvisation, Wilson infuses her narrative with a delicate balance of humor and gravity. The play’s premise—a 38-year-old woman grappling with her inner “baggage” as she approaches middle age—serves as a metaphor for the universal... Read more →

Written and performed by Gerry Fishman, directed by Francisco Roel, “Coming of Age at 65” is a poignant exploration of late-life rejuvenation and the complexities of familial relationships, performed with a blend of humor and introspection. Fishman’s narrative delves into the intricacies of his relationship with his father, his bond with his children and grandchild, and the personal demons he has battled. These themes are personal and relatable. They offer the audience a mirror on... Read more →

"DEAR AUNTIE B," directed by Sally Hughes and written/performed by Becca Lustgarten, explores love and grief through the lens of Auntie B, an Upper West Side advice columnist faced with a life-changing crisis. The play navigates her public persona and private turmoil, using her role as a cultural commentator and dating guru as a facade that slowly unravels. Hughes balances the contradictions within Auntie B’s character—her outward flamboyance and inner vulnerability. This duality is central... Read more →

"H*tler’s Tasters", directed by Sarah Norris and written by Michelle Kholos Brooks, stages youth, power, and survival against a backdrop of dark comedy. It occurs during the oppressive regime of the Third Reich. Set in the claustrophobic confines of Hitler's Wolf’s Lair, the play uses the historically based yet largely unknown story of young German women conscripted as Adolf Hitler’s food tasters. The story threads a delicate balance. It explores the absurdity of these young... Read more →

“GRIT,” a one-woman show written and performed by Lisa Natale, explores resilience and personal transformation with courage and grit. Her narrative examines the complex interplay between her evolving relationship with her body and the broader societal narratives surrounding trauma and recovery. Through a skillful fusion of dance, music, and monologue, the show enacts the visceral realities of domestic violence and sexual trauma. In so doing, it maps a cathartic journey towards empowerment. Natale’s performance is... Read more →

Mayuri Bhandari's "The Anti 'Yogi'," set to premiere at the 2024 Hollywood Fringe Festival, is a compelling theatrical critique of Westernized yoga culture. Through the lens of an Indian artist, Bhandari unveils the complexities of cultural appropriation and identity within the realms of spiritual disciplines that have been commodified in the West. The performance combines dance, dramedy, and poetry to navigate the personal and cultural tensions encountered by an Indian yoga professor. This approach not... Read more →

Joseph Pearlman offers a refreshing perspective on the acting profession. He focuses on the importance of enjoyment and enthusiasm. His teachings embrace fun in the pursuit of acting excellence. He wants actors to liberate themselves from fear and desperation, the better to foster an environment of creativity and authentic expression. His philosophy promotes practical steps that actors can take to eliminate desperation and self-doubt. He wants actors to focus on selfless, outcome-detached performances. This increases... Read more →

INTRODUCTION. In 1914, the city of Long Beach hired two men to work as bounty hunters. Their pay? $15 a head. Their quarry? Social vagrants, i.e., gay men. Exposure for these social vagrants meant humiliation, a fine, prison, exile, or, in one case, suicide. This true story inspired The Twentieth-Century Way, written by Tom Jacobson and directed by Reed Flores for the Long Beach Playhouse Studio Theatre. The premise, direction, and acting are top notch.... Read more →

INTRODUCTION. Can a bed be a red herring? It can in Harold Pinter’s The Lover. House right, there’s a bed. A single bed. It’s there, but not really. On a small stage, it represents the bedroom. House left, the living room. Thing is, as the story develops, and you realize what’s going on, that bed, so full of possibility, literally and metaphorically, never gets used for the purpose for which the story’s title implies it... Read more →

INTRODUCTION. A few years after moving, a family has yet to unpack their stuff. This doesn’t suggest laziness as much as it represents emotional baggage. Each character in Deborah Zoe Laufer’s black comedy unpacks emotional baggage in their own peculiar way. WHAT'S IT ABOUT? 11th grader Rachel Stein’s (Tara Coffey) attitude towards life stems from events on 9/11. Her father, Arthur (Chris Bange), only just escaped from one of the Towers. Sixty-five of his financial... Read more →

"Play is the highest form of research," attributed to Albert Einstein INTRODUCTION. Under normal circumstances, I would never paint a design on a stranger’s face, much less let her paint one on mine. I would never play charades. Do pantomime. Dance with abandon, sober, during the day. Singly; with someone else; or together with an entire room of strangers. I would never fill in sentence blanks on walls. Paint something based on a wall prompt.... Read more →

INTRODUCTION. I’ve always wondered why the story’s called Antigone and not Creon. Or at least why Creon’s not given equal billing in the title. Antigone must choose between death and the mourning and burial of a dead brother. She's the visceral one. Creon is the administrative one. He has to rule a kingdom, nepotism be damned. He’s not evil. He’s just put in the position of pushing the boundaries of decency that his law and... Read more →

It’s a domestic squabble with global implications. Though it deals with international intrigue, the tone is domestic and intimate. 1930, a distinguished physicist’s library, 25 miles outside London. A stolen formula for – gasp! – an atomic bomb. The murder of said physicist. Leads abound. An Italian doctor, a suspect because he’s foreign. The physicist’s son, low in self-esteem and desperate for cash. His wife’s up-to-now unknown connection with international espionage. The physicist’s personal secretary,... Read more →

Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” directed by Phyllis B. Gitlin for the Long Beach Playhouse’s Mainstage Theatre, presents a compelling look at the choices an African-American family face at the dawn of the Civil Rights era. Set in Chicago, in a worn down, claustrophobic apartment, the production recounts the story of the Youngers, a poor family that’s about to receive a $10,000 windfall from a life insurance policy held on Walter’s (Derek Shaun’s)... Read more →

If you can picture inmates not just temporarily running an asylum but enacting a politically inflammatory play within its walls, directed by no less a personage than the Marquis de Sade, then you can picture – and immensely enjoy - “Marat/Sade: The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade,” written by Peter Weiss and directed by Andrew Vonderschmitt for... Read more →

Written and directed by Ryan McClary for the Garage Theatre, “Wet Hot American Summer...the play?” at first seems slapdash, listing, and awkward. Then it feels jejune, hormonal, and uberconfessional. All this makes sense, given that it’s a behind scenes look at a play that kids stage in a summer camp. Still, it works at first like weak beer. It’s enough to get you boisterous and loud (“I want you inside me“). But not enough to... Read more →

One of the actors, citing her skills in the production’s playbill, says she’s a “things meshed together” artist. She acts, she sings, and she makes music. Throw in the making of art and that’s what Four Larks’ spectacular production of “The Temptation of Saint Antony” is, a things meshed together multimedia phantasmagoria, aka junkyard opera. Created and directed by Four Larks (Mat Diafos Sweeney and Sebastian Peters-Lazaro), it’s adapted from Gustav Flaubert’s “La Tentation de... Read more →

Mostly well done, Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing, directed by Sean Gray for the Long Beach Playhouse Mainstage Theatre, recounts the story of Henry (Noah Wagner), a brilliant and celebrated playwright. Successful, highly regarded, he is to the articulation of words and integrity of ideas as another Henry, Henry Higgins, is to proper pronunciation and good grammar. Though he’s high-minded, he’s not high browed. He prefers pop to classical music. He does believe, though, in... Read more →

In olden times, to commemorate a rite of passage, young people would gather in a public space in the company of chaperones to sing with and dance to music. The music was a confession, it was a catharsis. It told of crushes, first loves, and all manner of attendant, tempest in a teacup sorrows. Compared to now, the lyrics were innocent. Music was life’s soundtrack, its scrapbook. Years later you could hear a song on... Read more →

The party prelude hooks you. There’s a Door Girl (Danielle Kaufman), a vampy pre-Henry Higgins Eliza Doolittle. A long, dark passageway - wait, is this Halloween? Rooms (so many possibilities but, alas, locked) off to the side. You emerge from this dim lit vaguely Christmassy birth canal and - gasp! - light. Crowd noise, music, a bar — red and green potent potables for one, please. A vampire, burlesque girls, a ghost, a clown and... Read more →

Credibility begets anticipation. Having earned an imprimatur with their prior production of “The Lady of Shalott,” the verdict that awaited San Pedro Rep’s production of “Oedipus,” directed by David Mancini, was a foregone conclusion. The eyes have it. It’s not so much an enactment of a Sophocles play as a collaboration with the Greek playwright. The production is set in a contemporary lounge, an actual, drink-serving lounge. We’re citizens as well as audience. The setting,... Read more →

Richard Wagner thought a gesamtkunstwerk, an integration of all the arts, would be the purest form of theatre. “The Lady of Shalott: A Journey Beyond Arthurian Legend,” conceived and directed by Aaron Ganz for TE San Pedro Rep, grounds gesamtkunstwerk in unbelievable storytelling and enchanting spectacle. The result? A sensual and passionate example of the way art can come to life. To appreciate the extraordinary thing Ganz and his troupe have done here, consider the... Read more →

It takes place in a small room. No windows, no mirrors, no way out. Uptown Estelle (Genevieve Simon) is attracted to Garcin (Anthony B. Cohen). Inez (Natalie Beisner) is attracted to Estelle. Garcin has other things on his mind so he rebuffs Estelle. The manipulative Inez tries to step into the breach of Estelle’s affections. Epic failure. Garcin warms up to Estelle and she warms up right back. This makes Inez furious. It goes on... Read more →

When someone’s said to be quixotic, it’s meant that they’re too impractical and idealistic for their own good. Enter “Man of La Mancha, written by Dale Wasserman, with words and music by Joe Darion and Mitch Leigh. Directed by Drew Fitzsimmons for the San Pedro Theatre Club, this hugely entertaining production doesn’t confirm or deny the practicality of chivalry, courtesy, and civility, it celebrates the quest. It’s a complex tale, though you don’t notice it... Read more →

Bertolt Brecht’s “The Threepenny Opera,” directed by Eric Hamme for the Garage Theatre IN COLLISION WITH Alive Theatre, offers a rambunctiously cynical look at London’s demimonde, at the corporatization of its street beggars, at the doings of its criminal underworld. It’s also a love story, of sorts. Mostly, though, exquisitely staged and acted, it’s a hoot. Jonathan Peachum (Mark Piatelli) has a monopoly on London’s beggars. He’s not so much corrupt as he’s oppressive. Poor... Read more →

Old habits die hard. Especially when the habits are religious traditions and the agents of change seek to persecute those traditions. “Fiddler on the Roof,” written by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, directed by Phyllis B. Gitlin for the Long Beach Playhouse Mainstage Theatre, is a moving and painful account of the conflict. Set in 1905, in the village of Anatevka, Russia, the story features Tevye (Martin Feldman). He’s a... Read more →

It’s summer. That means we need beach type entertainment material. Navigable, fun, not too ponderous. It also means road trips, planned as much as one can plan a road trip, a chance to connect with family, and, also, fun. Mama Won’t Fly, written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten and directed by James Rice for Little Fish Theatre, is both navigable and fun. Savannah Honeycutt (Amanda Karr) and and her mother Norleen Sprunt... Read more →

Photos courtesy of Mike Hardy. Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was a writer and a doctor. He said that “Medicine is my lawful wife and literature is my mistress.” It makes perfect sense, then, that Chekhov Shorts, directed by Diane Benedict for the Long Beach Playhouse Studio Theatre, should prescribe laughter as the best remedy. It’s a clever arrangement of three short stories. The Bear and The Marriage Proposal are sandwiched between The Bet. The Bear tells... Read more →

At first we can’t name the protagonist in Richard Greenberg’s “Night and Her Stars,” directed with pitch perfect precision by Matt Anderson for The Garage Theatre In Collision With Alive Theatre. It could be Dan Enright (Robert Edward) and Martin Freedman (Joe Howells). They’re co-producers of the real life “Twenty One,” a late-50s quiz show. It could be either of the show’s two best-known contestants. Herbert Stempel (Anthony Galleran) is churlish, savant if not idiotic,... Read more →

In George Bernard Shaw’s The Philanderer, directed by Elaine Herman for the Long Beach Playhouse Mainstage Theatre, Leonard Charteris (Andy Gerges) is a cad that masquerades as a progressive lover. He finds himself in a pickle. He dallies with both Grace Tranfield (Sarah Green), a widow, and Julia Craven (Darcy Porter-Phillips), a young actress. He loves Grace, who, because of some crazy idee fixee, won’t marry him because she loves him. Julia loves him, but,... Read more →

A Midsummer’s Night Scream, written and directed by Paul Vander Roest for Act Out Mystery Theatre, begins with a script, a cast, and a hungry audience. It continues with a murder mystery and some outlandish attempts to solve it. Red herrings aren’t on the dinner menu but they sure complicate the sleuthing. It ends with the solution-by-committee of a murder as well as an uncommon sense of community with your tablemates. If theatre — and... Read more →

A playwright sets her story against a historical or otherwise significant backdrop to provide verisimilitude, credibility, and context. Sometimes the backdrop is as interesting as the story. That’s the case with Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play. Directed by Robert Craig for the Long Beach Playhouse Studio Theatre, the production is moving and outrageous. It presents a classic tale of a wife who feels under loved and unappreciated. It also shows... Read more →

Photos courtesy of Ed Krieger. This musical-within-a-comedy couldn’t be more beguiling. A Man in Chair (Larry Raben) seeks to lift his spirits by listening to a recording of a 1928 musical, “The Drowsy Chaperone”. In the musical, stage actress Janet Van de Graaff (Jessica Ernest) plans to marry oil tycoon Robert Martin (Eric Michael Parker). By the end, the Man manages to shake his blues. To say the marriage doesn’t go off without a hitch... Read more →

Directed by Joanne Gordon for Cal Rep, “Next To Normal,” with music by Tom Kitt, and story and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, tells the story of a family’s reaction to a mother’s mental illness. The mental illness itself is a reaction to the death of an infant son. In well- enacted (and -sung) detail, it shows how hard it to diagnose much less treat the disease. It shows the effect it has on family members,... Read more →

Photos courtesy of Louella Allen. For all its insistence on the proper use of words, Wouldn’t It Be Lovely?, conceived and directed by Aaron Ganz for San Pedro Rep and adapted from George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and the musical My Fair Lady, presents an enchanting spectacle that melds dialogue with song, dance and setting. As with Four Larks’ recent production of Orpheus, it fantastically updates a classic, makes it relevant for a new audience. And,... Read more →

Photos courtesy of Eugene Lee; collage courtesy of Stephanie Butterworth. Orpheus: A Junkyard Opera, directed by Mat Sweeney and Sebastian Peters-Lazaro, marks Four Larks’ auspicious Los Angeles debut. It’s an odyssey of love and loss portrayed, appropriately enough, as an opera, a junkyard opera, that takes place in hell. Its experience is edgy and ethereal. The costumes and set material are made from repurposed objects. The space is a fabric warehouse set in a dodgy... Read more →

Photos courtesy of Mitch Goldstrom. Josef Gross (Bart Petty) is the managing director of a business. We know neither the company’s name nor its line of business. He’s given a memo — the one we see projected on a screen as we walk in; on the same screen that later shook like bejeezus during the earthquake — that’s written in a gibberish language otherwise known as “Ptydepe.” Trying to get the memo translated, he runs... Read more →

Three chums meet up in a motel room after their 25th high school reunion. It’s the same room they had 25 years ago, after graduation. There’s ritual, there’s anticipation, and there’s the chance to compare how much each has moved on. Two have left town. One stayed put. One has twin sons and two-week-old daughter. One is divorced, with a son. And one, unmarried, still lives in his parents’ house. Is this an occasion to... Read more →

Photos courtesy of Jeremy Daniel, Ed Krieger, and Justin Barbin. “Luuucy!” She’s home, home being the Segerstrom Center for the Arts where, for an excruciatingly brief run, Rick Sparks is directing I Love Lucy: Live on Stage. Set in the Desilu Playhouse, the production situates the performance’s audience as the live audience for the 1952 filming of two I Love Lucy episodes, “The Benefit” and “Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined.” Depending on your age, the... Read more →

Based on past productions, the Little Fish Theatre appears to have been custom made to feature plays set in cabins. Cozy, rustic (viz. pomp-less), and, for the audience (lucky us), accessible. Norman Foster’s “The Melville Boys,” directed by Paul Vander Roest, is no exception. The show’s perfectly paced. It begins frat kegger funny and then, almost in a whisper, becomes sad as hell. It ends neither maudlin nor tragic. Instead, to Vander Roest’s credit, it... Read more →

Silence, El Segundo Museum of Art, by James Scarborough

As befits an art space that calls itself a “lab,” the interior of the El Segundo Museum of Art is sparse. In the center of the space rests a chair and, piled with art books, a small table. The walls are lab white, the ceiling high. The room is as much lit by the sunlight that streams in through the front door as by the overhead bulbs. “Lab” suggests clinical, sterile, perhaps; but the exhibition... Read more →

Deathtrap, Long Beach Playhouse Mainstage Theatre, by James Scarborough

Never judge a playwright’s source material, even if it’s the inadvertent aftermath of a carefully plotted murder. That’s the message of Ira Levin’s Deathtrap, a comedic thriller directed by Gregory Cohen for the Long Beach Playhouse Mainstage Theatre. Nicely plotted, well acted, the story is set in Westport, Connecticut in 1978. Sidney Bruhl (Gene Godwin) finds himself, if not a one hit wonder, then at least in a creative slump. He lives in a well-appointed... Read more →

The 39 Steps, The Norris Center for the Performing Arts, Rolling Hills Estates, by James Scarborough

Talk about a production whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Directed by Ken Parks for the Norris Center for the Performing Arts, The 39 Steps adapted by Patrick Barlow and based on the novel by John Buchan and the eponymous movie by Alfred Hitchcock, presents an outlandishly funny and incredibly staged story of love and espionage. Presented with a minimum of means, it’s got the moment-by-moment wit of a Marx Brothers... Read more →

‘A Picasso,’ Promenade Playhouse, Santa Monica, by James Scarborough

Photographs courtesy of Charles de Lartigue. Jeffrey Hatcher’s “A Picasso” begins as Miss Fischer (Natalia Lazarus), a Nazi cultural attaché (how’s that for an oxymoron?), interrogates Pablo Picasso (Vincent Lappas) in an underground vault in Paris in 1941. She wants him to authenticate three of his pieces for inclusion in a degenerate art show curated by Joseph Goebbels. He does whereupon she informs him, oops, that the work will fuel a degenerate art bonfire. You... Read more →

Sin, The Garage Theatre, Long Beach, CA, by James Scarborough

Avery Bly (Christine Cummings) works as an air traffic reporter in the Bay Area. Pride has made her life a mess. She has no compassion for anyone: her estranged husband (Matthew Anderson); a horrible date (Clayton Steacker); a smarmy pick-up artist (Joe Howells); her fast-food gorging roommate (Kaliko Kauahi); her boss (Matt Stevens); and her helicopter pilot (Jason Rogel). Then, in a come to Jesus moment, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake strikes at the moment... Read more →