January 11, 2013 |
Before Quentin Tarantino, Martin McDonagh and all the other sadistic bad boys of film and theater, there was the 17th century dramatist John Ford testing his audience's tolerance for perverse blood sport. In his most popular play, " 'Tis Pity She's a Whore," now at Freud Playhouse through Saturday in an international touring production by the acclaimed London-based company Cheek by Jowl, Ford does his best to out-Jacobean the Jacobean playwrights he was weaned on. Revenge isn't just the main dish - it's the theme of his entire buffet.
September 7, 2012 |
Just a few years after writing his antiwar masterpiece, "The Trojan Women," Euripides was even more despondent about the reckless imperialist course of Athenian foreign policy. His response wasn't a louder shriek of lament but a rollicking romantic melodrama - escapist fare, really, but with a radical Euripidean twist. Conceived of during a low point in the long and costly Peloponnesian War, "Helen," a sentimental adventure tale with a biting undercurrent of social criticism, dares to debunk the rationale for the Trojan War by imagining an alternative narrative about the faithless beauty who infamously launched a thousand Greek ships.
May 19, 2010 |
While filming "The Big Sleep," Howard Hawks asked author Raymond Chandler who killed a certain victim. Chandler's famous response: He had no idea. Hard-boiled plots can get lost in their own fog, a danger that bedevils "LA Noir Unscripted," the latest improvisational hijinks from Impro Theatre. The deadpan troupe, which has created original comic plays nightly in the style of Jane Austen, Tennessee Williams and Shakespeare, now dons fedoras and fishnets for this droll excursion into B-movie territory.
October 8, 2012 |
Charles Smith is just your average, bumbling occupant of the Oval Office. Up for reelection, he doesn't stand much of a chance of gaining a second term. His wife is already asking whether she can take one of the White House couches she had reupholstered when they leave. Even those seeking favors are apt to remind him that his poll numbers are "lower than Gandhi's cholesterol. " From this desperate political situation, David Mamet, playwriting's graying enfant terrible, spins a retro farce that will have many wondering whether the ghost of Sid Caesar has taken possession of the author of such foul-mouthed dramatic landmarks as "American Buffalo" and "Glengarry Glen Ross.
June 20, 2012 |
Enda Walsh's "The New Electric Ballroom" has returned to Los Angeles in a Rogue Machine production directed by John Perrin Flynn at Theatre/Theater. The play is rather hermetic in a neo-Beckettian fashion, and I don't think I fully appreciated it when the beautifully acted Druid Ireland production was presented by UCLA Live in 2009 along with its companion piece "The Walworth Farce," which I liked a good deal more. Some plays require repeated exposures before their secret music can be discerned.
August 26, 2012 |
At 80, South African playwright Athol Fugard is still turning out plays at a rate that would be daunting for a dramatist half his age. A crucial witness to the warping effect of apartheid on his country's soul, Fugard has continued in the post-apartheid era to track the difficult moral journey of characters heeding and resisting the national imperative of reconciliation. His latest play, "The Blue Iris," receiving its U.S. premiere at the Fountain Theatre, is in keeping with the distilled, backward-looking, frankly mournful style that has dominated his late works.
January 3, 1996 |
Agatha Christie's talent for ingenious twists was never sharper than in "Witness for the Prosecution," and for devotees of the mystery genre, the surprise ending is probably worth wading through her stage adaptation. But in dramatic terms, the play's creaky construction and endless exposition make for very slow going, and Robert Craig's staging for Pasadena's Knightsbridge Theatre is further hampered by uneven casting and awkward blocking.
March 15, 1995 |
Sometimes a good novel is just that: a good novel. Its tone, plot and characters remain stubbornly resistant to transmutation into a theatrical form. When it comes to F. Scott Fitzgerald novels, this seems particularly true, as evidenced by Hollywood's pathetic string of "Great Gatsbys." None of these past failures intimidated playwright Simon Levy. He bravely adapted Fitzgerald's "Tender Is the Night" for the inaugural production of the American Literature Theatre Lab at the Fountain Theatre.
December 7, 1994 |
Clearly playwright Don L. Freeman doesn't want to hide his intentions in "God and Other Terrorists," at the Laguna Festival of the Arts Forum Theatre through Dec. 17. When you name your central character Emmet Surrey Force, you are putting something more than a character on stage: You're creating a presence as much as a person. Which is all to the good: The best characters are presences who resonate.
August 22, 2012 |
Enigmatic anecdote is the currency of Martin Crimp's "The City," having its U.S. premiere at Son of Semele Theater in a production directed by artistic director Matthew McCray. The characters don't so much engage in dialogue as indulge in a cryptic form of storytelling, in which puzzling incidents are set against a background of warfare, brutality and personal desolation. A foreboding air of menace invokes the work of Harold Pinter, though Crimp, a playwright better known in the States for his springy translations of French dramatic classics, is more abstract and diffuse.