Category Archives: reviews

The Golden Dragon: Review Rundown

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CRITIC’S CHOICE “Michetti’s production, incorporating Sara Ryung Clement’s abstract set design of metal scaffolding, projects onto the harsh narrative backdrop a Mary Zimmerman-esque whimsicality. The gushing blood from the young man’s tooth is illustrated with a red ribbon, and the cricket’s dance for the ant is conveyed through a suggestive gestural choreography with chopsticks that has a minimalist beauty all its own.

One sign of Michetti’s masterly direction is the tonal control his actors maintain over the material. They work majestically in unison, transforming as effortless as figures in Ovid to reveal to us the fractured nature of a universe contained in a steaming hot little white carton.”

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StageRawSometimes a play registers as up front and personal; one’s immediately drawn into the experience of its characters, heartrending or comic or both as the case may be…. Other times you’ll view a drama from a palpable distance as events unfold, on an expansive terrain or canvas. It’s the latter experience you’re likely to have at the Theatre at Boston Court in its production of German playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig’s The Golden Dragon, a collection of fanciful but compelling tales that poses fundamental questions about otherness and identity.

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the stage struck reviewGo and see “The Golden Dragon”. There are levels of empathy which will stay with you long after you leave, though some of it proves disturbing the more one thinks about it. And there is an amazingly smooth, well articulated piece of performance to revel in. Finally is a theatrical magic which only a live theater can make you believe.

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SoPasReviewLogoMichael Michetti’s direction is as quick and sharp as a master chef’s knife and at 80 minutes without intermission, the subtle magic of this darkly comic tale stays with you as it aims to shine a light into the dark corners of our global, migratory world. Within the banality of getting through the day, we find the beautiful and the tragic. Forget the American dream, they are just trying to get through the next hour.

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htp_header2Boston Court should be applauded for bringing meaningful, socially relevant drama to Pasadena. With The Golden Dragon, Michael Michetti delivers a top-notch production that works seamlessly to examine the social disparity and moral decay in contemporary society.

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onstagelosangelesBoston Court is a bold little theater that puts every ounce of energy into every production I’ve ever seen there. Boston  Court  CoArtistic  Director  Michael Michetti’s direction takes The Golden Dragon on a fast paced journey with side trips into Aesop’s Fables as well as fulfilling hopes and dreams in fantastic ways.

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awesometheaterblogThe cast is exceptional. With every actor taking on several roles, and every one of them completely distinct. We are able to track the journey of each different character even though the actors never leave the stage, never change their costumes, and sometimes barely move from where they were in a previous scene.

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paulmyrvoldIn a season of outstanding, innovative drama, Boston Court’s production of Roland Schimmelpfennig’s The Golden Dragon (translated by David Tushingham) stands out with boldness of concept and excellence of production. The playwright creates a universal piece that calls for actors to slip seamlessly across lines of race, gender, age and ethnicity. Women play men, men play women, but not always. Older actors play younger people, younger play older. All are Asian cooks in a Thai/Chinese/Vietnamese fast food restaurant called The Golden Dragon.

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stagesceneladotcom2RECOMMENDED
Five exceptional performances, Michael Michetti’s highly imaginative direction, and a breathtaking Theatre @ Boston Court production design add up to reason enough to check out Roland Schimmelpfennig’s The Golden Dragon despite a script more pretentious than profound.

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talkin_broadwayThe Golden Dragon, by Roland Schimmelpfennig, is one of those unusual plays in which your reaction to the play is actually more interesting than the play itself. You can immediately tell why The Theatre @ Boston Court chose to present it in its Southern California premiere—Boston Court has never been one to shy away from pieces that challenge an audience to question its own thought processes.

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wpid-x9.png.pagespeed.ic_.ijr6gp7skw.pngThe Southern California premiere of playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig’sTHE GOLDEN DRAGON benefits from the sturdy, first-rate technical production values The Theatre @ Boston Court has earned their deserved reputation for. Sara Ryung Clement has cleanly designed a bare-staged set filled only with a two-level scaffolding, complemented by Elizabeth Harper‘s intriguing string LED/fluorescent tube lighting for a variety of landmark silhouettes on the scaffolding.

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Review rundown: Colony Collapse

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wpid-latimes.gifCRITIC’S CHOICE “In Kubzansky’s hands, the complex storytelling finds the seamlessness, emotional resonance and magic that are characteristic of her work at Boston Court, where she is co-artistic director, and elsewhere. Set designer Susan Gratch uses curtains of camouflage net to suggest tree trunks. In what would typically be a bucolic place, mystery deepens, foreboding builds. Yet the story is luminescent as well. This cautionary tale about a wounded America never quite gives up hope.”

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pasadena_star_logo“Take this as metaphor in the aptly named “Colony Collapse” by Stefanie Zadravec, now in a world premiere production at The Theatre at Boston Court in Pasadena. The play examines manifestations of tragedy and loss, and the human resilience that often kicks in, at least eventually, unless the people it happens to are too weakened for that to occur. Beautifully constructed to juxtapose several stories of parents whose children have disappeared against the tale of a teen whose parents are unable to parent him, it proves intense and absorbing from start to finish.”

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StageRaw“The complex and brutal dynamics of this highly dysfunctional yet entirely relatable family unfold beautifully. The realism of the main characters’ strife finds a lovely counterpoint in the theatricality of a Greek chorus of sorts — a collection of mourning parents who support the main story, along with the poetic insight delivered by an omniscient missing young lady, referred to only as “the girl” (Emily James).”

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wpid-x9.png.pagespeed.ic_.ijr6gp7skw.png“A Stunning COLONY COLLAPSE Makes For a Completely Engrossing Honey of a Production.”

“COLONY COLLAPSE opens with an intense, involving scene of seamless, overlapping lines of dialogue from the four missing children’s parents, each oh-so painfully describing the moments leading up to each of child’s disappearance. John Nobori’s moody music certainly heightens the doomed, despairing outcomes of their respective situations.”

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stagescene_wow“And then there’s The Girl, who may or may not be the teenager being searched for, a waif inhabiting a reality (or dream world?) all of her own.

As may already be evident, playwright Zadravec has bitten off a good deal in Colony Collapse, so much so that you may find yourself wondering how or if she will ever tie these disparate threads together.

Indeed questions do remain even at the end of the play’s two-hour-forty-minute running time (that’s including intermission), which is just one reason you’ll be talking and thinking about Colony Collapse long after you’ve left Boston Court.”

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stage and cinema logo“The scenes between these four characters — Mark, Julia, Jason and Nicky — positively crackle with tension, astute character-driven dialogue, and realistic conflict. And when a sheriff and an officer show up later in this 150-minute two-act drama, the fear is so palpable that I want to round up everyone I know to see how powerful theater can be.”

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Review Rundown: Seven Spots on the Sun

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wpid-x9.png.pagespeed.ic_.ijr6gp7skw.pngThe West Coast premiere of playwright Martín Zimmerman’s involving SEVEN SPOTS ON THE SUN receives a splendid, mesmerizing mounting with all the artistic elements artfully converging into one of the best and riveting theatrical experience I’ve seen in the Los Angeles theatre scene this year.

Click here to read the entire review.

wpid-cropped-header22.jpgNow at The Theatre at Boston Court in Pasadena, “Seven Spots” proves riveting and wrenching as it explores the motives and consequences of the terrifying conflicts, which have afflicted, in this case, an unnamed Latin American country. Here, as in the real El Salvador, Nicaragua, Peru or Colombia, villages change hands multiple times, with each side punishing those who aided the other one, and brutal tests of fear which harm mostly those whose compassion drives them.

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paulmyrvoldMartín Zimmerman’s extraordinary play “Seven Spots on the Sun” draws upon some of the most ancient theatrical devices to tell a complex, profoundly emotional tale of honor and love, as well as cruelty and horror set in a small Central American village suffering through a brutal civil war. Three actors collectively called The Town (Daniel Penilla,Dianna Aguilar and Michael Uribes) call to mind a Greek chorus as they join with the rest of the cast in choral speech, dance and rhythmic drumming at critical points in the play, beating their fists on the high, curved corrugated steel wall that forms the scenic background of the production.

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wpid-latimes.gifMartín Zimmerman’s play “Seven Spots on the Sun,” now in its West Coast premiere at the Theatre @ Boston Court, dramatizes the effects of civil war on a village called San Isidro in an unidentified Latin American country. The setting is allegorical rather than naturalistic: We never learn who is fighting whom, or what either side hopes to accomplish. War is simply the environment that these characters occupy and, we learn, helplessly perpetuate.

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la_weekly_logo_265x70The atrocities of war are not confined to battlefields. It’s trite but true: War changes a man, and Seven Spots on the Sun, now playing at the Theatre@Boston Court, examines what that means, both for the men at war and those who witness the effects.

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stagescene_wowZimmerman’s script has a poetic quality too (see paragraph three) that makes it particularly apt for a stage production (with just enough español to give it sabor latino without confusing non-Spanish speakers). Bits of magical realism are scattered throughout as well, with Tom Ontiveros’s dramatically animated video design adding moments that are both magic and real. Performances could not be finer.

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SHIV: Review Rundown

wpid-latimes.gifCRITIC’S CHOICE Riffing on a modern-day incarnation of the goddess Shiva, this subtly crafted portrait of a Hindu immigrant girl’s coming-of-age in her new American homeland shapes seemingly unrelated narrative fragments into a poetic, often humorous and ultimately profound journey of self-discovery, metaphorically mapped to the wonders and terrors of space exploration.

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sangabrielvalleytribune“Shiv” is given a sensuous, mesmerizing and thoroughly thought-provoking production at The Theatre @ Boston Court in Pasadena, playing through Aug. 9. Those daring to see it should be prepared to think, feel, and reflect on whatever part of life’s path one is currently treading.

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the stage struck reviewAt a time when the entire concept of white privilege is under a microscope, it becomes especially fascinating to explore the larger concepts of European/American imperialism and what that process has done to the world we now live in. Most particularly, what has been lost as several centuries of the practice interfered with the natural self-development of the peoples of the earth. Which proves foundational to Aditi Brennan Kapil’s “Shiv,” now receiving its west coast premiere run at The Theatre @ Boston Court. As the best introspective plays often are, this tale can be approached on a number of levels, but at its core it examines what is left behind when foundational cultures clash with dominant ones. It does so through the engaging story of one immigrant family from India.

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wpid-x9.png.pagespeed.ic_.ijr6gp7skw.pngThe west coast premiere of Aditi Brennan Kapil’sShiv receives a simply gorgeous mounting at the Theatre @ Boston Court. Amazing just how far, with the proper elements, your imagination will allow you to go. Shiv relays the story of a young south asian woman transplanted from her homeland to Skoie, Illinois. Monika Jolly embodies this title character, easily convincing us that she’s in her twenties (presently) or in her teens (in the many flashbacks) as she attempts to come to grips with her puzzling relationship with her recently departed father Bapu.

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paulmyrvoldShiv, by Aditi Brennan Kapali, is a complex, fascinating, time bending fantasy that weaves in and out of conventional time and space, taking place in the present, the past, and in physical and imagined realities of Shiv and Bapu drawing inspiration from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

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robstevensYou gradually come to realize that the scenes with her father, Bapu (Dileep Rao), take place when she was a child and the family had newly emigrated from India to Skokie, Illinois. Her father was a well- respected poet in his homeland but his attempts to translate his work into English and to write original poems in English only resulted in failure and disappointment. But Shiv adored her father and lovingly recalls their adventures together and his fantastical story-telling.

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awesometheatreblogAditi Brennan Kapil’s play Shiv, playing now at The Theatre @ Boston Court takes the idea of this self discovery, and places it in a surreal, post-colonial, post-modernist setting. It gently dances with the themes of loss, identity, and culture while maintaining the narrative of a beautifully nuanced relationship drama between a father and daughter.

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stage and cinema logoIn her play Shiv, the third part of an immigrant-experience trilogy first workshopped in 2013, Aditi Brennan Kapil writes of a character (played by Monika Jolly) named after a Hindu god most widely known as an agent of destruction. The girl’s troubled relationship with her poet father, and her subsequent involvement with a family that contributed to his downfall, are presented as illustrations of the post-colonial Indian diaspora in the West.

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la-weekly-logoThe play freely collapses Shiv’s idolizing childhood memories of Bapu (Dileep Rao), her beloved immigrant Punjabi-poet dad (based on Kapil’s real-life father), with scenes charting the curiously charmless romance between the adult Shiv and the grandson (James Wagner) of the patrician publisher (Leonard Kelly-Young) she blames for Bapu’s dissolute fall from grace.

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My Barking Dog: Review rundown

onstagelosangelesThis is a tough ‘two hander’ (plus one) that offers a challenge for the actors as well as for the audience. Leave your expectations at home and come to Pasadena to see something just a little bit different.  Truly, Fantastic.

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la_weekly_logo_265x70Like Taste, Benjamin Brand’s recent play about a man driven to devour his own flesh, My Barking Dog by Eric Coble shocks and surprises, and in a most brilliant and entertaining way. Commencing as a portrait of two alienated souls, it builds beyond that initial rendering into a grim but droll commentary on our culture’s chilly dystopian values. Along the way it examines the macabre extremes to which alienation can spur the humblest and most vulnerable people.

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wpid-latimes.gifDirector Michael Michetti’s clarity and focus leave no doubt about the extent of both characters’ comically antisocial repression, though the alternating monologue format of the script’s first third poses a pacing challenge. The piece finds surer footing when Melinda and Toby finally meet as a result of the play’s unseen but transformative third character — a coyote foraging for food on their porches.

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sangabrielvalleytribuneAnd my, oh my, do those natures come out in full force as director Michael Michetti shepherds visible mankind and invisible beasts into this vivid but unimaginable world. His work with his actors is psychologically deep, bringing out truths about human nature. Michetti’s stagecraft, too, is fabulously imaginative. In collaboration with scenic designer Tom Buderwitz, lighting and video designer Tom Ontiveros and sound designer John Zalewski, Michetti cracks open the stage, the characters’ psyches and the audience’s minds.

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wpid-x9.png.pagespeed.ic_.ijr6gp7skw.pngPlaywright Eric Coble receives an incredibly superlative mounting of his smart, witty, theatre of absurd-esque My Barking Dog at the Theatre @ Boston Court. The Theatre’s Co-Artistic Director, Michael Michetti skillfully directs his two brilliant actors (Ed F. Martin and Michelle Azar) in a streamlined, no-fat depiction of two lonely souls possibly finding their ultimate purpose in life. In lesser hands, Coble’s very tricky piece– mundane, but realistically interesting, then slipping over to totally preposterous sci-fi– would be much less effective as an entertainment vehicle.

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stagesceneladotcom2Spectacular indeed are the surprises that scenic designer Tom Buderwitz’s initially stark urban set has in store (and which production stills purposely avoid spoiling). Spectacular too is sound designer John Zalewski’s mix of city and desert sounds coupled with that distinctive, tension-building “Zalewski hum.” Tom Ontiveros’s lighting and video design is equally striking, with Garry Lennon’s just-right costumes revealing much about Tony and Melinda and they journey each embarks upon. And there are some fabulous “body makeup effects” as well.

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Review Rundown: THE MISSING PAGES OF LEWIS CARROLL

SR_logo1“Leo Marks portrays a most endearing, humbly playful Dodgson. The chemistry between Marks and Corryn Cummins as doe eyed, sassy, knock-kneed Alice is lustrous and palpable. The production’s glowing light feels like a warm hug at dusk– just before sitting down to read aloud a story– and the reveal into Wonderland is a magical, textured space for play. A color palette of winsome, flowing ivory and beige receive pay off with the iconic blue-dress Charles presents Alice (receiving audible sighs from the audience) and the scarlet shock of Mrs. Liddell’s dress when she brilliantly transforms into the Queen of Hearts. Director Abigail Deser’s inventive staging choices establish beautiful, poetic pictures for the eye to feast on.”

Click here to read the entire review.

Untitled“This project could have gone so wrong in so many ways.  But Lily Blau and company have created an intriguing, visually fascinating, and perfectly portrayed vision of what might have been, weaving in many Alice references and visuals, including the White Rabbit, who emerges from the rabbit hole and charmingly remains throughout the story to warn, goad, and observe Mr. Dodgson/Carroll. Every actor is perfect in his or her part. The set is gorgeous and smoothly transitioned from a closed room to a room with open windows, beyond which you can see the children’s swing and an ivy-covered wall that reaches beyond where the eye can see. Although Alice is played by an adult, she is wonderfully childlike and believable as young Alice. Mrs. Liddell appears as the Red Queen in several frenzied scenes, and the transition is fun to watch.”

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wpid-latimes.gif“The remembered Alice (fetchingly played by an adult, Corryn Cummins) is a Victorian Lolita, who has a crush on Dodgson and coyly sets out to seduce him. Her mother (the imposing Erica Hanrahan-Ball) keeps stumbling in at inopportune moments and morphing into the shrill Red Queen. This matter-of-fact mingling of fantasy and reality is a clear tribute to one of Carroll’s most endearing literary strategies, and the production, under the assured direction of Abigail Deser, uses it at times magically.”

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cultural weekly“Blau also smartly injects the undefined presence of The White Rabbit (a playfully surreptitious Jeff Marlow) as a wise alter ego and warning bell for Dodgson/Carroll. Once out of his rabbit hole, White Rabbit slips in and out of the action, connecting dots and goading Dodgson. Leo Marks, who plays the fundamentally timorous Dodgson/Carroll, skillfully provides the full complexity of the man, in a lucid and furtive performance that includes the poet, the arrested child within, the stutterer and the tortured soul.”

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examiner_Logo“Intriguing, well-acted and beautifully staged “The Missing Pages of Lewis Carroll” opened to a sold out house on Saturday, January 31, 2015. Between hallucinatory dreams and “real life” Lily Blau’s new play takes the audience down the rabbit hole to find out what might have occurred in pages torn out of math professor, Charles Dodgson’s/Lewis Carroll’s, personal diary.”

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sgvtribune“Nonetheless, the careful crafting of this piece is obvious everywhere, and the playwright’s fascinating juxtaposition of the internal fantasies of a man whose social life was thwarted in numerous ways and the overt world in which he walked day by day keeps one interested from start to finish. “The Missing Pages of Lewis Carroll” is performed without an intermission, and one can see why as the tensions and angst grow slowly over the course of the piece.”

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stage and cinema logo“The director’s work with actors is particularly tasteful. Together the two leads are Deser’s most handily-wielded tool. Leo Marks’s voice (the stutter when talking to grown-ups! the orotund vowels around children!) is even more impressive than his face and body; his Dodgson is a full, complicated, completely sympathetic human being. As Alice, Corryn Cummings is not merely convincing but equally fascinating as an innocent child, a mischievous object of desire, and a disappointed adult. As the other Misses Liddell, Erin Barnes and Ashley Ruth Jones delight and effectively project the trappings of childhood as well.”

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la_weekly_logo_265x70“Cummins’ transit from willful, coquettish adolescence to recriminatory womanhood is a marvel of observation and nuance, and director Abigail Deser’s staging gets high marks for sheer polish (helped by Garry Lennon’s surreal-edged costuming, Keith Skretch’s psychedelic video projections and John Ballinger’s vivid sound).”

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wpid-x9.png.pagespeed.ic_.ijr6gp7skw.pngLeo Marks IS Charles Dodgson, stuttering, hesitating, awkward, inappropriately sexual-all! Marks’ Dodgson charms and flatters the Liddell females while having enough education and smarts to win over Professor Liddell. Time Winters‘ perfectly scholarly and patriarchic as Dean Liddell. Erica Hanrahan-Ballgives Mrs. Liddell the proper upper crust attitude and posturing of a woman wed to a man in position. (And her many gowns stun! Many thumbs up to costume designer Garry Lennon!)”

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stagescene_wow“As playwright Blau delves deeper into what may have been in those titular missing pages, sound designer/composer John Ballinger, lighting designer Jaymi Lee Smith, and above all video designer Keith Skretch combine their prodigious talents to take us on a vertiginous journey into what might be either fantasy or memory, the White Rabbit averring that memory is but “a vivid form of fantasy,” to which Charles responds that “fantasy is to memory what desire is to action.” You be the judge.

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ustheater“Blau’s play, which supposedly occurs on the day when Alice has planned a visit to Dodgson for one last photograph before she marries Hargreaves, is a sad one, not only because it calls up all the quandaries of reality and imagination that, no matter how he actually lived his life, Dodgson surely faced, but because it finally reveals that his great failure in life was not doing some dreadful deed, but doing nothing.”

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theatreghost“Into this void — where lurid fantasies and undocumented theories have rushed — Blau lets something simpler and truer emerge.  A young girl finds she can be loveable to someone outside her family, and takes a shy practice step toward the terra incognita of romance.  A young man finds, to his consternation, that a young girl can be both innocent and desirable.  Perhaps, a kiss.  Perhaps.”

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talkin_broadway“The story begins in the early 1860s, when Dodgson (Leo Marks), a mathematics professor at Oxford, befriended Dean Henry Liddell (Time Winters) and his family. Dodgson took photographs of the family and entertained the three daughters with stories, one starring 10-year-old Alice (Corryn Cummins) in particular. Dodgson wrote the story down and had it published under the pen name of Lewis Carroll, and became ever more intrigued with Alice, now taking her picture alone. Years later, Dodgson defends himself to the White Rabbit (Jeff Marlow), saying he never did anything improper, but the Rabbit points out that several pages are missing from his diary, and in those pages Dodgson will find the truth he’s been running from.”

Click here to read the entire review.

bitterlemons

**

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Samuel Beckett’s HAPPY DAYS: Review Rundown

wpid-latimes.gifChalk this sighting up to the uncanny familiarity of Brooke Adams’ Winnie in Andrei Belgrader’s superb revival of “Happy Days,” now at the Theatre @ Boston Court. The unforced neighborliness of her performance allowed me to experience the play with new eyes — and spot the Winnies all around us.

This production — which features Broadway veteran and multiple Emmy winner Tony Shalhoub, Adams’ real-life husband, in the role of Willie, Winnie’s there-but-not-there life partner — preserves the universality of Beckett’s vivid stage metaphor while making it seem right at home in Southern California.

Click here to read the entire review.

la-weekly-logoThis production’s perfect blend of scorching pointlessness and humor approaches the slapstick of a Buster Keaton movie and also the pathos of tragedy, yet only flirts with — rather than plunges into — either extreme.

To call Andrei Belgrader’s direction “restrained” would be off-point: Shalhoub’s Willie blows his nose for a good minute and a half in an extended crescendo, and pops his head up and down from behind his ravine like a Jack-in-the-box. Yet circumventing such slapstick rhythms, Adams’ Winnie luxuriates in the time it takes to brush her teeth and probe her gums, and relishes the sight of a crawling insect — the only sign of non-human life.

Click here to read the entire review.

wpid-cropped-header22.jpgDirector Andrei Belgrader balances the grim, unforgiving quality of set and situation with just enough humor to keep the darkness from descending too soon. He also establishes a pace which makes room for the performers’ art and interpretation without stretching the necessarily repetitive script to a point where the audience disengages. This is a major element in this production’s success.

Takeshi Kata’s diorama-like set falls well into Beckett’s vision for the scene at hand. Melanie Watnick’s costumes evoke the barren, the bleached, the dirty and the worn. The thing looks right, which becomes particularly important in a play where setting is almost a character.

In short, this play – like many others, new and old, produced at Boston Court – asks an audience to absorb, discuss and ponder. “Happy Days” may be listed as a classic, but not one commonly done. It proves most certainly to be a tour de force for Adams, and worth watching if only for that. For all these reasons, go see this “Happy Days”. Then feel free to ask yourself and everyone around you what the answer is to that ending question. You may learn much in the process.

Click here to read the entire review.

wpid-screenshot_2014-07-02-23-47-47-1.pngAny actress who tackles the role of Winnie faces the nearly impossible task of keeping us interested and involved for two longish acts while she’s almost totally immobilized. But Adams rises to the occasion handsomely, keeping the opening night audience in thrall, by exploiting the comedy of Winnie’s ever-shifting moods, her unflagging spirits, and her ability to survive in increasingly desperate circumstances.

Shalhoub, as Willie, makes the absolute most of a seemingly constricted role: He says little, and is mostly invisible in Act 1. We see the back of his bald head, fringed with wispy white hair, we see his eyes peering over the edge of his pit, and we even get a glimpse of his bare backside, but we never see his face till almost the end of the play, when he emerges from his burrow dressed unaccountably as a down-at-heel banker, in cutaway coat, striped trousers, spats, and a battered top hat. He clowns shamelessly and zestfully, takes pratfalls, and seems to be enjoying himself immensely.

Click here to read the entire review.

hollywoodreporterlogoThis impeccable rendition of Beckett’s bleak evergreen harmonizes the Irish playwright’s craggy temperament with a peculiarly Southern California optimism.

Brooke Adams achieves her own originality of conception with a vocabulary of simple, deliberate gestures, meticulously delineated. Her sunny disposition is conceived in mannerisms recognizable to anyone in the audience, effectively suggesting that Winnies are all about us — and within us, too.

Adams performs efficiently and economically yet is utterly in touch with the demands of the play’s bleak vision. This is an all-American Winnie, and Takeshi Kata‘s set design, however inflexibly dictated by the text, allusively suggests a sense less of an Anglo-Irish seashore than a desert not so far off a freeway.

Click here to read the entire review.

glendale news pressFor a strikingly fresh, definitive revival of Samuel Beckett’s 1961 existential tragicomedy, “Happy Days,” look no further than Theatre @ Boston Court in Pasadena.

Directed by Andrei Belgrader, this superlative production features Brooke Adams as the literally earthbound, endearingly and determinedly optimistic Winnie, well-matched by her fellow stage and screen veteran (and husband) Tony Shalhoub in the nearly wordless and nearly unseen role of Winnie’s lowbrow mate, Willie.

In the post-apocalyptic bleakness of heat-blasted terrain (effectively rendered by scenic designer Takeshi Kata and light designer Tom Ontiveros as consciously theatrical yet all-too-believable in this time of extreme drought), Winnie, confined in the dirt, cultivates acceptance.

“Ah, well, seen enough,” she says, when wondering if she’s losing her sight.

Click here to read the entire review.

artsinlaBritish director Peter Hall once expressed that Beckett’s much-dissected work was “as much about mime and physical precision as about words”—an observation clearly buttressing the perception that the gossamer directorial vision of Andrei Belgrader, guiding an actor as fearless as Brooke Adams, has inspired something truly remarkable. With her body stuck in a massive mound of dirt from just below her chest throughout Act One, only Adams’s arms, her incredibly mobile face, a scattering of everyday items pulled from a large leather satchel, and a few scattered groans and mumbles emanating from the mostly out-of-sight Tony Shaloub as her husband Willie are available to help her keep our attention.

Click here to read the entire review.

stageandcinemaTheater of the Absurd can easily go awry if too much license is taken by a creative team. Beckett saw his intentions as inviolate, potentially devastated by irreverence or meddling, and anyone who’s seen a student production of Pirandello knows he was right to worry. Belgrader does not meddle, but neither does he prostrate himself. Adams, and her husband Tony Shalhoub as Willie, seem to be inventing this scenario in real time.

In bits scattered through the entire show, but especially in a phenomenal display of physical dexterity in the second act, Shalhoub provides the hideous counterpoint to the existentialist question: What if living means losing what makes life worth the effort? Well, as Winnie shows, that needn’t happen; no matter how much is taken from us, there’s always something for which to be grateful. The strain of sentimentalism that runs through Beckett’s work has never sounded so hip to me as now, because this Winnie made me want to live as vibrantly as she does.

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cultural weeklyJessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn performed this play together, as did French actors Madeleine Renaud and Jean-Louis Barrault. In each case the actors were married to each other. The production @ Boston Court also is performed by a married couple: Brooke Adams and Tony Shalhoub. This may seem like a trifling observation, but the intimacy of the offstage relationship has theatrical relevance. It helps to enhance the onstage chemistry.

The primary focus in this quasi-monologue is on Winnie, who talks more or less nonstop, while Willie says next to nothing in his own very eloquent way. Winnie speaks, she tells us, because the preternatural silence is too deafening. She focuses first on the big things, announcing at the start of her day, “No change. No pain. Wonderful thing that. Nothing like it,” followed at frequent intervals for a variety of reasons by a gratitude she’s intent on maintaining. “Great mercies, great mercies” is heard quite often.

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lifeinla logoAs Willie, Tony Shalhoub has a fantastic physicality. At times, he moves with such oafish fatigue and painstaking resolve that it’s hard not to wince when watching him. He is not seen for most of the play, but when he is he knows how to embody the desperation and the sloth of Willie—a less than charming combination—and his comic timing is exquisite.

But this really is Brooke Adam’s play. As Winnie, she is outstanding. What a challenge for an actress to be mostly buried, with her face straight out to the audience, unable to fully move, and still completely captivate an audience. She holds us in the palm of her hand and we never deter from her. She imbues Winnie with a sweetness that is infectious, and a sorrow that is heartbreaking. We empathize so much with her because, in a sense, she is us. And Ms. Adam’s is able to convey that humanity, that everyday quality with such precision and tender sadness that you’ll want to jump out of your seat and free her from her gravelly prison.

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onstagelosangelesAdams is a beauty. She impressed me as a Marilyn Monroe at first. Blonde and buxom. Frilly white dress. All she has to work with are the words and her arms. Her facial expressions, especially in Act Two are priceless. The black bag and her concern for Willie engage. In Act One all we really see of Willie is the back of his balding head and stringy hair, as he attempts to relieve the heat of the day and protect himself from the sun. Shalhoub’s elegant gestures: spare and complete, allow us to understand that great acting can still be accomplished silently by an actor who ‘gets it!’ A broken straw boater is carefully placed and then given a rakish tilt. It defines unfortunate Willie.

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examinerUnexpectedly poignant, Samuel Beckett’s “Happy Days” directed by Andrei Belgrader stars Brooke Adams in a tour de force performance and real-life husband, Tony Shaloub. This production of Beckett’s infrequently performed allegorical play explores the resilience of the human spirit on a desolate barren landscape as two souls struggle to connect.

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ustheaterBoth actress Brooke Adams and her husband Tony Shalhoub performed admirably as the doomed couple. For a short while in act one, I must admit, that I felt (like Los Angeles Times reviewer Charles McNulty) that the purposely slow pace of Adams’ actions and observations created a kind of tedium that, while perhaps conveying the emptiness of Winnie’s world, made the play itself a bit tedious. But quite soon thereafter I began to see her performance as a subtle indication of Winnie’s endless thought-processes, as revealing the mind behind her never-ending but constantly shifting fantasies of possibility that she daily invented in her delirium.

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stagehappeningslogoSo what to make of Beckett’s Winnie (as sunnily depicted by Brooke Adams)? Buried waist-deep in a huge mound that takes up the entire stage at Boston Court, Winnie’s smile belies the desperation of her circumstance.  It is astonishing that her difficulty is never remarked upon.  She seems to be oblivious to her surroundings as she creates a series of tasks, murmuring about the “many mercies” that make up her life. The presence of Willie (Tony Shalhoub), seems to provide her with the grounding that makes living bearable, although his mono-syllabic responses punctuating her running monologue seem hardly to penetrate.

Although a play where nobody moves and nobody complains might be wearing, this production hums along and never lets down. As impeccably directed by Andrei Belgrader, Adams embarks on her trajectory with a sunny disposition that never fails her all the while sinking deeper into the mound.

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