DISTRICT MERCHANTS

Playwright Aaron Posner offers theatergoers his 21st-century riff on Shakespeare’s The Merchant Of Venice in District Merchants, a South Coast Repertory West Coast Premiere at once unabashedly romantic, cautiously cynical, and resolutely hopeful. I loved every minute of it.
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NEVERMORE

Imagine an Edgar Allan Poe story with Poe himself as protagonist and you’ve got Nevermore, Matt Ritchey’s theatrical riff on The Fall of the House of Usher (with bits of The Pit And The Pendulum and The Tell Tale Heart thrown in for good measure), arriving at Theater Unleashed in time for Halloween in a production that could be better, but provides just enough laughs and thrills to make for ‘60s thriller movie-style fun.
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SEMINAR

What Terrence Spencer was to his tyrannized music students in Damien Chazelle’s Oscar-winning Whiplash, so novelist-turned-magazine correspondent Leonard is to the equally intimidated writers attending his uber-pricey workshop in Theresa Rebeck’s darkly comedic, dramatically potent Seminar, now being given a terrific Chance Theater Orange County Premiere.
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CHARM

Edward J. Olmos’s Jaime Escalante did it in Stand And Deliver. Michelle Pfeiffer’s Louanne Johnson did it in Dangerous Minds. Sidney Poitier’s Mark Thackery did it in To Sir With Love. And now Lana Houston’s Mama Darleena Andrews does it in Charm, transforming the lives of a classroomful of rebellious teens, only this time round the teacher in question is a transgender sexagenerian and her students an unruly bunch of homeless LGBT teens. Talk about a setup for an edgy, funny, and (you guessed it) heartstrings-tugging crowd-pleaser, the latest all-around winner from Celebration Theatre.
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MUTUAL PHILANTHROPY

Copiously consumed whisky and wine fuel a dinner party for four as playwright Karen Rizzo puts a personal face on the social divide between the super-wealthy and the other 99% of us Angelinos in her explosive dark comedy Mutual Philanthropy, now getting an excitingly acted World Premiere by Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA.
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THE TWO KIDS THAT BLOW SHIT UP

Playwright Carla Ching takes a tried-and-true formula (best friends who can’t quite get it into their noggins that they are Made For Each Other) and turns it on its head in her World Premiere dramedy The Two Kids Who Blow Shit Up, not only L.A. theater at its intimate best but a textbook example of how #diversity works.
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RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN

San Pedro’s Little Fish Theatre scores a major programming coup in offering Angelinos their first 99-seat look at Gina Gionfriddo’s Rapture, Blister, Burn, the Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright’s tangy examination of how much—and how little—women’s lives have changed from the pre-Betty Friedan 1950s to the post-post-Feminist today.
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OBAMA-OLOGY

The months leading up to Barack Obama’s election as this country’s first African-American President serve as the backdrop for Aurin Squire’s semi-autobiographical Obama-ology, the 2015 Juilliard grad’s engaging look at a pivotal moment in our nation’s history as seen through one 20something black man’s eyes.
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