Sunday and Monday marked two auspicious openings at the Music Center as Gordon Davidson's last season enters its final stretch, and critics are, on balance, positive about this pair of imports—one from Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre, the other from the Theatre Royal Bath.
The Times' James C. Taylor was mixed on Edward Albee's provocative play about bestiality, THE GOAT OR, WHO IS SYLVIA?, at the Taper through Mar. 20, calling its lead character Martin "one of Albee's greatest characters," and praising actor Brian Kerwin in the role for overcoming the Warner Shook's "slack direction and extended dialogue with some of Albee's most poorly written characters." Variety's Joel Hirschhorn was a bit more impressed, agreeing that the play is "not a masterpiece" but that Shook's staging exhibits "violent effectiveness" and that Cynthia Mace, as Martin's wife Stevie, is "like a multi-keyed instrument, a virtuoso producing sharply contrasting emotional chords." For my part, in my upcoming Downtown News review, I call it "an incisive, brilliantly modulated comedy of middle-class American mores strained to their ultimate extremity," and praise the cast for matching "the play's unrelenting dissonance note for note."
"What more could we want from the theater?" was the conclusion of Lewis Segal's Times review of AS YOU LIKE IT at the Ahmanson Theatre through Mar. 27. In Peter Hall's production, he finds Shakespeare's classic renewed "in ways "both surprising and profound," calling scenes between the director's daughter, Rebecca Hall, and her contemporaries "well nigh miraculous." He did quibble that "something crucial eludes" Philip Voss' cynical Jaques (and he did take a paragraph to recall the mostly disastrous productions Hall helmed at the same theatre between 1999-2001 with American actors). Variety's Joel Hirschhorn seemed to enjoy the production; he was less impressed with Rebecca Hall's Rosalind, writing that "her nervous line readings often have a hesitant, affected awkwardness," but he was blown away by Dan Stevens' Orlando, whom he compared to a "combination of Elizabethan hero and [John] Osborne's angry young man of the 1950s."