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“The Boy From Oz” Reviewed by Dan Berkowitz

Amazingly, Mr. Shepperd and his cast have managed to recreate the joyous abandon of that show, along with the satisfaction quotient of a full-scale Broadway musical, on the postage-stamp sized stage of Celebration. Mr. Shepperd’s philosophy seems to be, if you’re in a small space, don’t scale things down – make ‘em bigger! It’s a great philosophy, and the result is brash and loud and over the top – in other words, a triumph. Go.

“Dinner at Home between Deaths” bills itself as “A Pitch Black Comedy.” While it’s well-done and handsome to look at, the color of the completed dish turns out to be less pitch-black than one of the fifty shades of grey. The whole thing is much too polite; if only there were more enthusiastically rude touches, this show might have fulfilled its pitch-black promise.

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People who work in the theatre generally start out with high hopes and great expectations, good intentions and contagious enthusiasm. They work hard, do their best, and strive, with a goal of creating a work of art which will entertain, move, and perhaps even enlighten an audience. I applaud all of them, and count myself proud to be among them. Which is why it pains me to say that I found “Dirt,” now playing at the Raven Playhouse in NoHo, awful in just about every imaginable way.

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I commend Lisa Dring for her bravery – and bravura – in walking onstage and sharing her own very personal experiences with death, as well as her feelings of inadequacy in its face. Paradoxically, however, this deeply-felt memoir left me dry-eyed and unmoved.

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A conversation with Casey Stangl, director of Caryl Churchill’s outrageous play “Cloud 9” at Antaeus Theatre Company

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“Only the Moon Howls” by Dean Farell Bruggeman and directed by Eric Cire runs through March 12 at Theatre Unleashed in North Hollywood.

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Robert Allan Ackerman has directed just about everyone in just about everything. He’s now back in LA with “Blood” a play he wrote and directed which is inspired by true events involving AIDS-contaminated blood.

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So here I am, sitting in New York City, in an apartment without wifi or TV.

Well, of course, I’m clearly not sitting in that apartment at the moment, since I’m posting this on the web, thanks to borrowing Rose Desena’s wifi while she checks on the renovation of her new apartment. You may remember Rose as the previous critic for the LA Post. She’s now living in New York, and based on the panicked phone call she just made on her return, the renovation is a disaster.

As an aside, living for a week in an apartment with no wifi or TV has made me feel as if I’ve been on an obscure island in the 1940s. Except it’s Manhattan. Oh well, at least it’s been cold and rainy…

Back in Los Angeles, Todd Salovey has adapted and directed The Blessing of a Broken Heart, a play which won him the Edgerton Foundation New Play Award…

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The word “charming” has fallen into disuse, if not disrepute, in recent years. It implies a quiet, small pleasure, a bijou rather than the Hope Diamond. The word tends to be used as a putdown, but I intend it as a compliment when I say that “Altman’s Last Stand” is a charming play, a small but thoroughly satisfying delight.

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Not too long ago, Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop became the focus of controversy. The two-character play, which premiered in London, won the 2010 Olivier Award for Best New Play, and was produced on Broadway with Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett, was chosen for production at Kent State University in Ohio. The director, an African-American faculty member, double-cast the male role, with a black actor set to play it at some performances and a white actor at others.

The controversy arose because the role was that of Martin Luther King, Jr., the iconic civil rights leader: the play imagines an encounter between him and a maid at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis the night before his assassination in 1968.

The Kent State director said he wanted to explore issues of “ownership and authenticity” and discover whether King’s words would have the same power coming from a white man. Playwright Hall was outraged, and added a clause to the play’s licensing agreement that casting actors who are not “African-American or Black” was henceforth prohibited without her prior approval.

Sadly, on the evidence of the production currently at the Matrix Theatre, the controversy is more engaging than the play.

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