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Showing posts from March, 2019

'The Elephant Man' at El Portal Theatre

Based on a true story, The Elephant Man, directed by Robyn Cohen, follows the life of Joseph Merrick, a man who began developing societally deemed grotesque deformities at the age of 5 due to a rare condition called Proteus Syndrome. The play, written by Bernard Pomerance, begins with Merrick (Tom Vitorino) "performing" as a human oddity spectacle in 1884 England. He is soon rescued from the abusive humiliation the traveling circus had been subjecting him to by a doctor named Frederick Treves (the solid, believable John Ralston Craig). Dr. Treves takes Merrick in to live at the London Hospital where he works. In the hospital, Merrick is taunted by workers and shrieked at by passers-by. These taunters and shriekers are immediately punished and scolded by Dr. Treves, in an effort to set an example for the rest of the hospital staff and inhabitants, and to teach Merrick that, in the hospital, he can expect to be treated with respect.

Slowly, Merrick transforms from a feared fo…

'Lackawanna Blues' at the Mark Taper Forum

Lackawanna Blues: "a magical, musical reminiscence," the Mark Taper Forum program promises.

Ruben Santiago-Hudson is the writer, director, and sole performer of this imaginative, character-driven tale. Accompanying him on stage is typically Chris Thomas King (though in this performance I had the pleasure of watching Daryl Darden) on guitar. The original music featured in the production was composed by Bill Sims Jr., who passed away this year and who this show is dedicated to.

This is not the first time Santiago-Hudson has performed Lackawanna Blues. It originally premiered at The Public Theater in New York in 2001, where it was produced by George C. Wolfe and directed by Loretta Greco. Eighteen years later and Santiago-Hudson has taken the directorial reins himself.

After seeing the show, it only made sense to me that Santiago-Hudson is now his own director. The characters and storytelling are so deeply personal. Were another person to impose their direction, it might have c…

Matthew Bourne's 'Cinderella' at the Ahmanson Theatre

Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella (playing at the Ahmanson Theatre until March 10), with music by Prokofiev,takes place in London in the early 1940s. Before any music, any movement, an instructional video from the time represented is shown about what to do if and when a bomb drops from the sky. “Don’t look up.” “Head for the underground.” “Mind the sirens.” The screen the film was projected on lifts, and a grand, grey set is revealed.

I was immediately taken aback by how expressive the dancers’ facial expressions were–reminiscent of the facial expressions of silent film stars. The costumes are monochromatic–different shades of grey. The sound effects, staging, and prop-use are incredibly cinematic. It was easy to forget you were watching a live performance and not an old black and white movie about finding love in the midst of World War II.

Many of the story’s classic pillars are still there: Cinderella’s stepsisters are cartoonishly mean; Cinderella’s father, in his wheelchair, is heartbre…