All stories by Philip Brandes on BroadwayStars

Saturday, May 18, 2019

New in L.A. theater: Liberal politics, heavy metal and an Asian ‘Mamma Mia!’ by Philip Brandes

If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother — a bit of bumper sticker wisdom, perhaps, but on the heels of Mother’s Day it’s an apropos adage for three of this week’s selections from…

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 08:05AM
Monday, May 6, 2019

Review: In 'Smart Love' in Venice, the dysfunctional family heads into sci-fi territory by Philip Brandes

“Smart Love” at Pacific Resident Theatre appears destined to be a garden-variety dysfunctional family portrait, but then Brian Letscher’s new comedy unexpectedly pivots into a quirky t…

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 10:29PM
Friday, April 19, 2019

Review: In ‘Everything Is Illuminated,’ family skeletons in the stage spotlight by Philip Brandes

What begins as a comic road trip of ancestral rediscovery takes a hairpin turn into tragic history as “Everything Is Illuminated” makes its Southern Californian stage debut courtesy of S…

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 03:20PM

New in L.A. theater: ‘Sister Act’ at Casa 0101, ‘Diana of Dobson’s’ at Antaeus and more by Philip Brandes

Questions of gender and identity drive headlines daily, so it’s only natural to find the topic taking center stage in our theaters. With emotional tones ranging from light to dark, this we…

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 09:00AM
Friday, March 22, 2019

Review: In David Lindsay-Abaire’s ‘Fuddy Meers,’ a wacky web of secrets and lies by Philip Brandes

If you’ve ever had the dizzying feeling you’re watching the world through the twisted reflection of a fun-house mirror, you’re already familiar with the central metaphor of “Fuddy Me…

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 06:20PM

'Steel Magnolias,' ‘Argonautika,’ 'Elephant Man' and more at L.A. theaters by Philip Brandes

Perseverance in the face of adversity is a common theme this week on “The 99-Seat Beat,” our selections from L.A.’s theater scene. The human spirit endures, whether in the mythic quest…

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 08:00AM
Friday, February 22, 2019

The 99-Seat Beat: Rap and race, immigration and equality, Molière and 'Morrie' by Philip Brandes

In the face of moral ambiguity, what does integrity look like? This week, promising shows from the intimate theater scene include a hip-hop-infused drama with a Black Lives Matter story line…

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 09:00AM
Friday, January 25, 2019

The 99-Seat Beat: Martin McDonagh, Viola Davis and Alfred Molina projects hit L.A. theaters by Philip Brandes

“Do the right thing” is more easily said than put into practice, especially when there’s no moral compass to guide our choices. Quandaries that resist tidy solutions figure in this wee…

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 09:00AM
Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Review: New moms 'Cry It Out' via the Echo Theater by Philip Brandes

Unless you’ve lived them, chances are the disruptive travails of new motherhood charted in Molly Smith Metzler's “Cry It Out” will come as a shock — and an unexpectedly sobering rebu…

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 04:45PM
Friday, July 6, 2018

The 99 Seat Beat: 'Big Fish' at the Chance in Anaheim, free Shakespeare in Griffith Park by Philip Brandes

It’s summer, and love is in the air — and in the story lines of this week’s small-theater offerings. Romance figures comically in Shakespeare’s ode to midsummer frolics, tragically i…

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 09:00AM
Friday, May 18, 2018

'Native Son': Antaeus Theatre gives new voice to Richard Wright's enduring questions by Philip Brandes

Among the many unsettling questions raised by the murderous protagonist of Antaeus Theatre Company’s electrifying Southern California premiere of “Native Son,” the least difficult to a…

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 01:10PM
Friday, May 11, 2018

The 99-Seat Beat: French Stewart, 'Pinocchio' reimagined and 'Dorothy Parker UnScripted' by Philip Brandes

This week in L.A.'s small-theater scene: "Forever Bound" at Atwater Village Theatre, Rogue Artists Ensemble's "Wood Boy Dog Fish" at the Garry Marshall Theatre in Burbank, Buzzworks's "Sex" …

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 09:00AM
Friday, April 13, 2018

The 99-Seat Beat: Dorothy Parker, plus Ayad Akhtar times two by Philip Brandes

This week in L.A.'s small-theater scene: "The Willows" at the Bootleg Theater, "The Dorothy Parker Project" at Pacific Resident Theatre. "Disgraced" at L.A. Theatre Works and "The Invisible …

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 09:00AM
Friday, March 23, 2018

In Ventura, a pared but no less potent 'King Lear' by Philip Brandes

Stop me if you’ve seen this one: An aging, tempestuous, narcissistic ruler craves adulation, exiles those who question him, and neglects those who suffer on the fringes of society. We’re…

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 09:00AM
Friday, March 16, 2018

The 99-Seat Beat: Are we ready for some plays about moral responsibility? by Philip Brandes

This week's picks from L.A.'s small-theater scene: "All's Well That Ends Well" at ISC Studio, "Pigs and Chickens" at Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA, "An Undivided Heart" at Atwater Village Theat…

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 09:00AM
Friday, February 16, 2018

The 99-Seat Beat: Dreamers, Van Gogh, 'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert' and more by Philip Brandes

In this week's small-theater guide: Open Fist's "One Year Later," Sacred Fools' "The Art Couple," Actors Co-op's "A Walk in the Woods" and Celebration's "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert - The…

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 09:00AM
Friday, January 12, 2018

The 99-Seat Beat: Marja-Lewis Ryan, Michael Kearns and 'Freud's Last Session' by Philip Brandes

Sigmund Freud, C.S. Lewis, Michael Kearns, Disney’s “Splash” and the ’80s soap “Dynasty” all factor into this week’s roundup of “The 99-Seat Beat,” our weekly highlights fr…

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 09:00AM

The 99-Seat Beat: Marja-Lewis Ryan, Michael Kearns and 'Freud's Last Session' by Philip Brandes

This week's highlights in the small-theater scene include Michael Kearns' show "Bloodbound" at Highways, Lounge Theatre's "Bugaboo & the Silent One" and "Freud's Last Session" at the Odyssey.

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 09:00AM
Friday, December 1, 2017

The 99-Seat Beat: A twist on Dickens, a 'Latina Christmas Special' and more by Philip Brandes

This week in L.A.'s small-theater scene: Independent Shakespeare Company's "A Christmas Carol With Charles Dickens," 24th Street Theatre's "Pang!," the Latino Theatre Company's "The Latina C…

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 09:00AM
Friday, November 10, 2017

In 'Mr. Burns,' Sacred Fools mines a classic 'Simpsons' episode for dark comedy by Philip Brandes

Never take your pop culture for granted. Today’s animated sitcom might just turn out to be tomorrow’s sacred text — an evolution ingeniously depicted by Sacred Fools Theater Company in…

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 09:00AM
Friday, November 3, 2017

The 99-Seat Beat: The play staged in the art gallery, Mary Zimmerman's 'Secret' and more picks by Philip Brandes

The immersive art-gallery theater piece "Caught," IAMA Theatre's "Redline" and "Sinner's Laundry," Coeurage Theatre's "The Secret in the Wings" and "The Red Dress" at the Odyssey are this we…

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 09:00AM
Friday, October 27, 2017

Lenny Bruce's fire and fury light up Theatre 68 by Philip Brandes

In case turning back the clock to the stability and prosperity of the early 1960s seems an enticing alternative to today’s sociopolitical turbulence, consider the fate of Lenny Bruce. The …

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 09:00AM
Friday, October 6, 2017

The 99-Seat Beat: An Actors' Gang 'Carnival,' a riff on 'Heart of Darkness' and more by Philip Brandes

This week in L.A.'s small-theater scene: "Captain Greedy's Carnival" at the Actors' Gang, "Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play" at Sacred Fools, "Ridiculous Darkness" at Son of Semele and "Mrs. …

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 09:00AM
Friday, September 8, 2017

In 'Blackbird,' the wreckage of childhood abuse, laid out on the table by Philip Brandes

There are no easy outs in the Grove Theater Center revival of David Harrower’s “Blackbird” — not for its two characters locked in brutal psychological warfare, nor for anyone in the …

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 09:45AM

The 99-Seat Beat: DACA drama, Lenny Bruce and new Nick Payne by Philip Brandes

With DACA ending, a Dreamer's tale of navigating the American immigration system leads our list of small-theater picks for the week.

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 05:00AM
Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Christian conservative baker, a gay wedding and the smart, funny play 'The Cake' by Philip Brandes

What does it say about us when that quintessential symbol of union and hope — the wedding cake — becomes a flashpoint in the culture war? Bekah Brunstetter’s new dramedy, “The Cake,…

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 04:00PM
Friday, February 17, 2017

The Red Riding Hood fable as serial killer drama? That's 'Grimly Handsome' by Philip Brandes

The boundaries between human civilization and the animal kingdom become very blurry indeed in “Grimly Handsome,” an appropriately titled grim fairy tale from Santa Monica’s longtime pu…

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 07:45PM
Friday, January 20, 2017

For a new Hollywood theater company, the Holocaust drama 'Bent' proves overly ambitious by Philip Brandes

With ominous stories of right-wing extremism in parts of the world, there’s a solid case to be made for a revival of the Holocaust drama “Bent” so soon after the high-profile Mark Tape…

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 03:40PM
Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Shakespeare as a sci-fi rock musical: 'Return to the Forbidden Planet' overflows with fun by Philip Brandes

Can a sci-fi-themed, classic rock musical stand measure to measure with Shakespeare? “Return to the Forbidden Planet” at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura seeks to boldly go where no outer …

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 09:00PM
Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Shakespeare meets Oliver Stone in 'The Tragedy of JFK' by Philip Brandes

Friends, readers, theatergoers, lend me your eyes; I come to praise “The Tragedy of JFK (as told by Wm Shakespeare)” at the Skylight Theatre, not to bury it. Daniel Henning’s adaptatio…

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 12:00PM
Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Pasadena Playhouse tweaks 1960s' 'The Fantasticks' for a post-9/11 era by Philip Brandes

Try to remember a greener "Fantasticks," when props were leaner and sets were matchsticks ... Ah, well, memory of the original lyrics fades, and it may be hard at first to recognize the no-f…

Linked From Los Angeles Times at 09:00PM

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