Nov 22, 2004

Still More Review Reviews

A FLEA IN HER EAR at Glendale’s A Noise Within got its first mixed review, after a series of unanimous raves, from the LA Weekly’s persnickety Deborah Klugman. She opined that Feydeau’s farce contains “variously entangled subplots… [which,] when interpreted at their best, create a pricelessly antic portrayal of human foibles. Here, however, a number of key players rely heavily on the situation, the staging or the lines to garner their laughs. In neglecting their personal resources, they dilute the punch.” Whatever that means, exactly, she did praise the performances of Steve Weingartner, Richard Soto, and the universally praised Louis Lotorto.

The Weekly’s Erin Aubry Kaplan added her praise to the general plaudits for A CONSTANT STAR at the Laguna Playhouse, calling Tazewell Thompson’s play about early 20th century anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells a “heartfelt tribute that avoids being a hagiography, an unabashed message play that wears its faith boldly on its leg-o’-mutton sleeve but doesn’t preach… brash, illuminating and, yes, patriotic, in the best sense of that word.”

The Latin music revue FOUR GUYS NAMED JOSE… AND UNA MUJER NAMED MARIA at Long Beach’s International City Theatre got generally positive notices, though Variety’s Julio Martinez aired a major caveat: “The singers display an impressive understanding of the various genres,” he wrote, “but the accompanying trio is woefully inadequate when attempting the pulsating underscoring needed to communicate thee music of Prado, Puente, and Martin.” Back Stage West’s Madeleine Shaner and the Long Beach Press-Telegram’s Shirle Gottlieb were apparently unbothered by any such shortcomings, with Shaner raving that the show is a “an utterly alive medley of Latin-tinged songs” that “rocks the house as the audience is compelled to sway to the Latin rhythms,” and Gottlieb calling it “a warm-hearted crowd-pleaser that will send you home with a big smile on your face.” All three critics agreed, though, that Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer is the show’s highlight in what Martinez called a “comically endearing performance.”

Two more critics weighed in on Kahlil Ashanti’s solo show BASIC TRAINING, at the 2nd STage Theatre in Hollywood, and neither differs much from the consensus. In Variety, Joel Hirschhorn wrote that Ashanti “brings vitality to… material that ranges from fiery to overly familiar,” and that he “handles all 24 parts and makes them all distinctive.” He went on to offer this helpful career nod: “This confident magnetism will clearly work in film when he makes his inevitable motion picture debut.” The Times’ David C. Nichols agreed that the show is “a surefire showcase for its star,” and elaborated that Asanti’s “liquid mug, stand-up chops, emotional energy and physical courage… suggest the emerging John Leguizamo.” Nichols did qualify his praise, saying that the show’s “wholehearted narrative history just misses the revelation of self that would supply universal reach.”

Next: Only about a dozen more shows to sum up.

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