October 29, 2004 |
As celebrity love triangles go, among the most complicated -- and historically significant -- was one that found the 18th century French writer Voltaire caught in an emotional tug of war between his mistress, the brilliant aristocratic Emilie du Chatelet, and his admirer, Frederick the Great, the poet-warrior king of Prussia. Their amorous adventures helped shape the turbulent intellectual, political and religious currents in an age of cultural transition.
January 28, 2005 |
It takes a special leap of imagination -- a leap of faith, even -- to look at a mild-mannered Lutheran pastor and see in him Madame Ranevskaya, the disastrously sentimental widow of Anton Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard." Or, by extension, to compare the current senescence of mainline Protestantism to the destabilizing decline of Russia's landed gentry 120 years ago. But then Tom Jacobson ("Ouroboros") is no ordinary playwright.
October 26, 2002 |
The first moments of "War Music," a new play by Bryan Davidson, are meant to evoke that delicious sense of anticipation before a concert: the swirling cacophony of the instrumentalists' warm-up, followed by the conductor stepping onto the podium, raising his baton and.... Just then, an air-raid siren screams. It's a sobering bit of symbolism, inviting the viewer to think not just about war's disruptions but about all of the lives lost -- all of the music silenced forever. How to endure that?
December 20, 2013 |
In this time when news is disseminated ever more quickly, we asked our critics to list the best of culture in 2013 in tweet form: Southern California: David Mamet's "American Buffalo" was revived at the Geffen with its concussive verbal force and fierce con games intact. Christopher Shinn's "Dying City" delicately explored the slipperiness of traumatic memory in a multilayered production at Rogue Machine. John Douglas Thompson and Glynn Turman brought anguish and ecstasy to the searing Mark Taper Forum revival of "Joe Turner's Come and Gone.
October 2, 2003 |
Warning: "Kate Crackernuts" may give you a buzz. I don't mean the Ecstasy high of its club-kid chorus, but something closer to an actual buzzing in your ears -- from John Zalewski's thumping, trickling sound design to the strange, dense, brilliant wordplay of writer Sheila Callaghan. There's an equally high risk of visual and spatial intoxication.
September 5, 2000 |
Joe Orton's "Loot" fits comfortably into a summer of "Survivor" and "Big Brother," if not quite so comfortably into the Center Theater of the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. In Orton's farce from mid-'60s England, a group of people desperately scheme to win a grand prize. Sometimes they work in teams; at other times individuals don't hesitate to sever previous ties. A shadowy authority figure tells them what they can and cannot do.
April 24, 1999 |
Right up there with the ol' soft shoe, the ol' hard sell is as American a tradition as . . . well, as Eugene O'Neill. No one sold harder than our poet laureate of self-loathing and guilt and foolish, beautiful dreamers. Actors, good ones, often run into trouble when they're trying to energize O'Neill on stage. Their instincts say "Sell! Sell!" when a scene may actually call for something beyond energy--something closer to a sense of trust in themselves, of burrowing inward.
September 11, 2002 |
David Hare's "Amy's View" takes a panoramic look at a 16-year span in the lives of its characters and an indirect glimpse at cultural changes in England between 1979 and 1995. But it feels surprisingly detailed and solid, without the sketchy quality that often afflicts plays that attempt to cover so much in less than three hours.
April 21, 2000 |
Lost opportunities hover like ghosts in "The All Souls Trilogy," a cycle of plays about what people turn to--belief, beauty, one another--when life sends them reeling. AIDS and its opportunistic infections of helplessness and despair weigh heavily upon the stories' gay and lesbian characters, but the other ills that befall them are often of their own making.
March 12, 2003 |
Few plays in William Shakespeare's canon carry the ambiguities of "Measure for Measure," now opening A Noise Within's spring repertory season in Glendale. Although the Folio listings identify this 1623 study of political and sexual hypocrisy as a comedy, tragedy lurks behind every stanza. It takes place in Vienna, where Duke Vincentio (Joel Swetow) initiates the narrative by handing over governing duties to deputy Angelo (Michael Sean McGuinness).