Dec 11, 2004

The Home Stretch

Apologies for the light blogging in recent days. The holidays are a weird mix of catch-up and slow-down, which makes corned-beef hash of my already tenuous time (mis)management. I'm actually sitting at a Barnes and Noble coffeeshop at South Coast Plaza--an appropriately purgatorial destination for a late critic. I was scheduled to review South Coast Rep's A Christmas Carol at 2:30 p.m. but only gave myself an hour and 15 minutes to get there from Los Feliz. The 5 freeway had other ideas, so I've been roaming the vicinity, biding time till the 7:30 p.m. show. Gives me some time for the beginning of an update...

More report cards are in on Brian Bedford’s THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL at the Taper, and they give unanimously high marks. I’ve already noted my hearty approval (my Downtown News review is up here. Both the Daily News’ Evan Henerson and the LA Times’ Daryl H. Miller saw contemporary parallels for Sheridan’s gossip-fueled world, with Henerson calling the play “as fresh and exciting as Paris Hilton's latest reported escapade” (I’d have to counter that Scandal is rather more exciting, and arguably less calculated for public consumption, than anything that weird sister has ever done), while Miller compared the show’s gossip network of late 18th century London” to Celebrity Justice and Inside Edition, and reference the character’s “lifestyles of the rich and famous.” These references, it seems to me, are a tribute to the supreme accessibility of Bedford’s experty trimmed and shaped rendition; as Henerson puts it, “We're laughing and involved before we even realize, ‘Hey, isn't this supposed to be a stuffy classic?’ ” For his part, Variety’s Joel Hirschhorn did remark that “the show's indictment of vicious, poisonously gleeful gossip is remarkably contemporary," but otherwise praised it on its own “woundingly witty” terms, without recourse to pop-culture touchstones. After all, if a wise and witty play well done isn’t the best sort of popular culture, what is?

Is this guy’s name really Tom D’Angora? That seems a little too on-the-nose for his oh-so-gay tribute to DIVAS I’VE DONE at Room 5 Lounge in Hollywood, in which D’Angora gives tribute to a rather eclectic list of icons: Jane Wyman, Princess Di, Fran Drescher, Liza, Ellen Greene, and, natch, The Golden Girls. (What, no Tammy Faye? And with a name like D’Angora, no Jayne Mansfield or Betty Page?) The Weekly’s Neal Weaver was indulgent, admitting that “it’s a slender premise to build a show around, and one unlikely to thrill those who don’t share D’Angora’s tastes” but writing that D’Angora “performs with flair and insistent charm.” Back Stage West’s Les Spindle was a lot more enthusiastic, hailing D'Angora's “captivatingly warm sense of humor and… ability to hold a capacity audience in the palm of his hand,” and saluting the show’s novelty tunes as “some of the funniest song parodies this side of Forbidden Broadway.” He also noted with pleasure the encore by the real-life Greene, singing Little Shop’s “Somewhere That’s Green” and a new composition by her husband, Christian Klikovits—another great name that doesn’t quite sound real to me.

Playwright/performer/director Marty Barrett has made a bit of a splash with DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE, three one-acts that highlight his “very sharp, strange, and clever writing,” as Back Stage West’s Jennie Webb put it. Her mixed-positive review conceded that it’s a “blissfully short, low-tech evening” with “a kind of offhand, in-your-face intellectual inaccessibility that's miss-or-hit but also oddly charming.” The Weekly’s Martín Hernández was less charmed, opining that “mere oddity… is not enough to hit a satisfactory comedic note.”

Still to come: More reviewed reviews, a year-end wrap-up (yes, I do plan to post more than just a list on this count), and a rant about the intellectual poverty of so much "political" theatre--you know, just the usual holiday fare.

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