As we head into the holidays, here's a list of shows, ranked more or less in order of best-reviewed to worst-reviewed, to guide your last few weeks of theatregoing this year--and not a traditional holiday show in the lot (Peace Squad Goes 99 and the Scientology Pageant would seem to be great counter-programming for the festivity-minded).
EXITS AND ENTRANCES at the Fountain Theatre through Dec. 18. Four rave reviews (and probably more) for Athol Fugard’s memory play.
CAROLINE, OR CHANGE at the Ahmanson Theatre through Dec. 25.
Four raves, one mixed-positive, and one mixed-negative review. “A whompin’ American hymn: half gospel, half davening, an ode to despair and a prayer for deliverance.”
A VERY MERRY UNAUTHORIZED CHILDREN’S SCIENTOLOGY PAGEANT at the Powerhouse Theatre through Dec. 19. Four raves, one mixed-negative review. "A provocative mix of Christmas-pageant sincerity, Christopher Durang-like irony, and unexpected rage.”
LIKE A DOG ON LINOLEUM at the Elephant Asylum Theatre through Jan. 30, 2005. Three rave reviews for Leslie Jordan’s solo show. "House-shaking hilarity and heart-tugging candor.”
OUROBOROS at the Road Theatre through Dec. 18. Three rave reviews for Tom Jacobson’s play about couples on a spiritual quest in Italy. ”An enchanting metaphysical etude.”
A FLEA IN HER EAR at A Noise Within through Dec. 11. Two rave reviews, one strongly positive review, and one mixed-positive review for this production of Feydeau’s farce. “Dense with details and zipping along at an ever-accelerating pace.”
PEACE SQUAD GOES 99 at the Evidence Room through Dec. 19. Two rave reviews for this holiday extravaganza.
This troupe's most inventive, therapeutic round of 99-cent necromancy yet.”
DRY CLEANING at the 24th Street Theatre through Jan., 2005. One rave and one strongly positive review for Kronis and Alger’s espionage-styled retelling of the Orpheus/Eurydice myth. “Jaw-dropping performance art at its finest.”
LETTING GO OF GOD at the Hudson Backstage through Dec. 19. Two raves and one mixed-positive review for Julia Sweeney’s solo show about losing her religion. “Brave, hilarious, and ultimately moving.”
THE CIDER HOUSE RULES at Long Beach’s Edison Theatre through Dec. 11. Two rave reviews of the two-part epic. “Eminently stageworthy, even more so than at the much larger Taper.”
THREE at Electric Lodge through Dec. 4. Two raves and one positive review for Patricia Cotter’s new play about relationships. ”A fresh and tender comedy.”
MACBETH (A MODERN ECSTASY) at REDCAT through Dec. 12. One rave and one mixed-positive review for this one-man deconstruction of Shakespeare. “Extravaganzas of emotion.”
THE LESSON at City Garage through Dec. 12. Three strongly positive reviews. “If you've never seen any Ionesco, this serves as a great introduction.”
BASIC TRAINING at the 2nd Stage Theatre through Dec. 19. Two strongly positive reviews and two mixed-positive reviews. ”Nonstop energy and world-class humor.”
DEALING WITH CLAIR at the Matrix Theatre through Dec. 19. Two strongly positive reviews and one mixed-positive review for Martin Crimp's mysterious drama. "A production that shames us, shakes us... makes us think.”
BOLD GIRLS at the Matrix Theatre through Dec. 17. One rave, one mixed-positive review, and one all-around mixed review for Rona Munro's play about women in Belfast. “Artfully mingles the pedestrian and the profound… alternately wrenchingly funny and just plain wrenching.”
THE CONQUEST OF THE SOUTH POLE at the Odyssey Theatre through Dec. 12. Two strongly positive reviews and one mixed-positive review for Manfred Karge’s epic play. “Simultaneously whimsical and gut-wrenching”
MODERN DANCE FOR BEGINNERS at the Little Victory, indefinite run. Two strongly positive reviews, one mixed-positive review, and one mixed-negative review for Sarah Phelps’ sex comedy. “An abbreviated La Ronde, with more laughs.”
HEART OF A DOG at the Lillian through Dec. 19. One strongly positive review, one positive review, and one mixed-positive review for this staging of the Bulgakov novel. "As funny as it is provocative."
DOGEATERS at SIPA Performance Space in Filipinotown through Dec. 12. One strongly positive and two mixed-positive reviews for Jessica Hagedorn’s play. "Almost a historical circus… more Dos Passos than Brecht.”
QUIET, PLEASE at Hollywood’s Sacred Fools Theatre through Dec. 17. One strongly positive review and one mixed-positive review Corey Klemow’s staging of two classic radio plays. “Succeeds in transporting us back [in] time.
A GIFT FROM HEAVEN at the Beverly Hills Playhouse through Dec. 19. Two positive reviews and one mixed-positive review for David Steen’s Southern tale. “Unadulterated Southern Gothic.”
URGENT AND CONFIDENTIAL: DEAN CAMERON’S NIGERIAN SPAM SCAM SCAM at Sacred Fools Theatre through Dec. 18. Two positive reviews for this satire of an actual ongoing email exchange between a con artist and an actor. “Doubly hilarious for being true.”
ANATOL VS. at the Met Theatre through Dec. 19. Two positive reviews, one mixed review for L. Flint Esquerra’s boxing-ring adaptation of Schnitzler’s Anatol. The LA Weekly’s Deborah Klugman found the tweaking “Delightfully unpredictable.”
THAT MAY WELL BE TRUE at the Hudson Mainstage through Dec. 19. One positive review and two mixed-positive reviews for Jay Reiss’s play about a friendship strained by an authorship dispute. “High concept… for the most part stays airborne.”
LAST SUMMER AT BLUEFISH COVE at the Davidson/Valenti Theatre through Dec. 18. One positive review and one mixed-positive review for this revival of Jane Chambers’ 1980 play about lesbian pals on holiday. “Exceptionally strong… ensemble work.”
SCAPINO! at NoHo’s Company Rep through Dec. 11. One positive review and one mixed-positive review for this staging of Frank Dunlop and Jim Dale’s Molière adaptation. ”Energetic and effusive.”
LIGHT at Theatre @ Boston Court through Dec. 11. Three mixed-positive reviews for Jean Claude Van Itallie’s intellectual love triangle. “Engaging and evocative, if somewhat overwritten.”
THE FOREIGNER at the Odyssey Theatre through Jan. 30, 2005. Two mixed-positive reviews for Larry Shue’s comedy. “Charm prevails.”.
MACHINAL at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Center through Dec. 11. Two mixed-positive reviews for Sophie Treadwell’s symbolic drama. “A strange and wonderful piece of Expressionistic theater that seems of-the-moment all over again.”
THE CIRCLE at the Stella Adler Theatre through Dec. 18. One strongly positive review, one mixed-positive, and one mixed-negative for Shem Bitterman’s anguished post-Columbine drama. “A huge, almost unbearable concept… daring in execution, fierce in intention.”
2 ACROSS at the Santa Monica Playhouse through Dec. 19. One strongly positive review, one mixed-positive review, and one mixed-negative review for Jerry Mayer's romantic comedy. "Comically well-timed staging and two undemonstrative yet heartfelt performances.”
KITH AND KIN at the Hudson Guild through Dec. 18. One strongly positive, one positive, and one negative review for Oliver Hailey’s white-trash funeral comedy. “A specialized yet satisfying immorality play.”
FOOL FOR LOVE at Theatre 68 in Hollywood through Dec. 12. Two positive reviews and one mixed-negative review for this Sam Shepard revival. “Elicits sympathy.”
CATERPILLAR SOUP at the Ruskin Group Theatre through Dec. 18. One positive review and one mixed-negative review for Lyena Strelkoff’s solo show. “Straightforward, pragmatic, cautionary.”
MACBETT at West Hollywood’s Globe Playhouse through Dec. 12. One positive review, one mixed-positive review, and one negative review for Neno Pervan’s production of Ionesco’s absurdist reading of Shakespeare’s tragedy. “Gratifyingly revisionist staging.”
PAINT YOUR WAGON at the Geffen Playhouse through Jan. 9, 2005. One mixed-positive and one mixed-negative review for this reworking of Lerner and Leowe’s Gold Rush musical. “Doesn't just need a new coat of paint but a complete overhaul.”
ANGEL STREET at Actors’ Co-op through Dec. 12. One mixed-positive review and two negative reviews for Patrick’s Hamilton’s thriller. “Doesn’t brake for subtleties.”
A WORD WITH ORLANDO at the Odyssey Theaetre through Dec. 19. One mixed-negative and one negative review for David T. Chantler’s play about an American couple in Sicily. Little more than an exercise in dialogue writing.”
FREEDOMLAND at the Sidewalk Studios in Burbank through Dec. 18. Two negative reviews and one mixed-negative review for this revival of Amy Freed’s play about a multigenerational family. “Neither particularly funny nor insightful.”
OUT OF TIME at the Paul E. Richards Theater Place through Dec. 11. Two negative reviews for this piece about six characters “Flounders in its endeavor to find an emotional center.”
DEAD STRANGERS at Gardner Stages through Dec. 12. Two strongly negative reviews for this gay murder mystery. “Like a slow-motion train wreck.”