California Literary Review

Theatre

Broadway Review: Private Lives

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November 23rd, 2011

Luckily, any such anti-Tinseltown prejudices are quickly dispelled within the first few minutes of Private Lives. Cattrall and Gross, who both sport impressive theatrical résumés in addition to their IMDB credits, are perfectly at home with Coward’s pacing, elegance and theatricality. At the same time, they wisely steer clear of old school stiffness or stock deliveries of the play’s well known zingers.

Broadway Review: Venus in Fur

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November 18th, 2011

Anyone who has been through the process will recognize the exasperation, drive and excitement of Dancy’s eerily accurate portrayal of a playwright birthing a new piece (although few of us look as good doing it). He is an apt foil for Arianda, who navigates the hairpin turns of the story with ferocious speed and stunning comic imagination.

Theater Review: Godspell on Broadway

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November 16th, 2011

Most haunting of all is the ballad Beautiful City, in which Christ speaks not of a kingdom of heaven awaiting us after death, but of faith in the possibility of a better world here on earth. The pained relationship between Jesus and Judas Iscariot is played with moving delicacy by Parrish and Smith. The crucifixion scene, which could easily have been cringeworthy, is instead cathartic and powerful, thanks in part to the way David Weiner lights its Rembrandt-like tableau.

Theater Review: Chinglish

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November 7th, 2011

Only whipsmart playwright David Henry Hwang could have written Chinglish, the new biting comedy of manners that depicts the gulf between Chinese and American cultures through the misadventures of language in translation.

Theater Review: Relatively Speaking

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October 20th, 2011

In Woody Allen’s Honeymoon Motel, young bride Nina Roth (Ari Graynor) enters a gaudy roadside inn with not-so-young novelist Jerry Spector (Steve Guttenberg). They’re excited to get away from all the wedding hoopla and take pleasure in simple joys like pizza and tacky furniture. Obviously, this is no typical pair of newlyweds. In fact, as it is soon revealed, they aren’t a couple at all. Nina was betrothed to Jerry’s stepson, but has run off with Jerry in an impulsive moment.

The Weekly Listicle: Method In Our Movie Madness

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October 7th, 2011

The practice of blessing mass entertainment with the bard’s prose confers a kind of loftiness upon it, or at least that must be the idea. A quick glance indicates that Shakespeare has provided titles for an alarming number of Star Trek episodes, just for starters. This week, lend your ears to Brett Harrison Davinger and me (Dan Fields) as we look at some of our favorite films to borrow a title from the works of Shakespeare.

Theater Review: Follies, Starring Bernadette Peters

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September 14th, 2011

For Stephen Sondheim’s 1971 Follies, however, the Broadway revival creates the perfect situation to reflect on the musical’s themes of regret, nostalgia, and getting older. With a book by James Goldman and music and lyrics by Sondheim, song and story intertwine to reveal that a show-stopping musical number is the only way these characters can express who they really are.

San Francisco Opera: Heart of a Soldier

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September 13th, 2011

For its world premiere of Heart of a Soldier at San Francisco Opera, the creators chose to concentrate on the personal story of Morgan Stanley’s security head Rick Rescorla, whose actions led over 2,700 World Trade Center South Tower workers to safety, only to lose his own life when he reentered the building to search for stragglers. The opera focuses on his journey from childhood in Cornwall, England, to his role in the tragic events on 9/11. An exploration of a life that culminated in those heroic actions is a story worth examining.

Unfortunately, it was poorly told.

The Bobbed-Haired Bandit, New York International Fringe Festival

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August 28th, 2011

Book and lyric writer Anna Marquardt and composer Britt Bonney capture the exuberance of the time with a menu of tuneful, cleverly worded songs that incorporate tango, foxtrot and jazz motifs

The Woman in White, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford

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August 25th, 2011

Collins’ strong suit is suspense tinged with bafflement. When it works, you’re reeling from the last twist in the plot, and wondering where it’ll go next. When it doesn’t, you’re still trying to work out whose will has just been overturned by the return of the mysterious stranger who looks exactly like the missing heiress whose marriage records…and so the next twist is rather a moot point.

The Tutor, New York International Fringe Festival

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August 22nd, 2011

In the age of equality, is it bad to be sexy? Fun to be bad? Which costume is more empowering: the corporate suit or the Victoria’s Secret intimates? The troubled protagonist of The Tutor doesn’t quite find the answers, but attracts plenty of fun and trouble as she embarks on her quest.

The Turn of the Screw at Glyndebourne, Live Streamed via The Guardian

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August 22nd, 2011

Glyndebourne: one of the names in the British calendar. Up there with Wimbledon, Henley and other occasions which involve large quantities of strawberries being consumed in extremely specific clothing. With the added attraction of some of the best opera in the world.

Anne Boleyn, at Shakespeare’s Globe, London

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August 22nd, 2011

Despite the subject matter, and the evident success of the play, the particular style of performance the Globe encourages seemed to throw the play off kilter a few times. There was too much “playing at naughtiness”, an easy iconoclasm feeding off the sense that jokes about sex are risky and daring in a play about the Renaissance in Shakespeare’s “own” theatre.

Butley, at the Duchess Theatre, London

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August 19th, 2011

Where West’s incarnation as Detective McNulty was part of a sprawling, panoramic vision of a social and political system in crisis, Butley hones in on one man frenetically working his own destruction in an academic office. Gestures are made towards student radicalism and changing mores, but Butley’s existential battle is conducted on viciously hand-to-hand terms.

The 39 Steps at the Criterion Theatre, London

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August 18th, 2011

The fact that it can now boast of being the longest-running comedy currently in the West End suggests that it taps pretty successfully into a tradition as firmly British as Hannay himself: a need to mock the idea of hearty “Britishness”, even as we celebrate it at one remove.

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