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  A Play Is a Poem at Mark Taper Forum

A Play Is a Poem

Mark Taper Forum
135 North Grand Ave. Los Angeles

If the audience laughs it was a comedy. If the audience nods with new understanding it was a drama. If the audience both laughs and nods but can’t say why it’s funny or what they’ve understood, it might be A Play Is a Poem, the new collection of one-acts by celebrated playwright and filmmaker Ethan Coen. The hillbilly hollows of Appalachia, the executive suites of Hollywood, a New York tenement apartment, a magnolia-scented gazebo in Natchez, Mississippi — each holds a different story. Together they make for an eccentric look at life across America as only Ethan Coen (or perhaps Sam Shepard or Mark Twain) could deliver.

Thru - Oct 13, 2019

Tuesdays: 8:00pm
Wednesdays: 8:00pm
Thursdays: 8:00pm
Fridays: 8:00pm
Saturdays: 8:00pm
Sundays: 1:00pm & 6:30pm



Price: $65

Show Type: Comedy

Box Office: 213-628-2772

www.centertheatregroup.org/theatres/mtf/


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  A Play Is a Poem Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Los Angeles Times - Not Recommended

"...The production, an embarrassment of riches, cannot conceal the poverty of the playwriting. Singer-songwriter Nellie McKay enchants in her dreamy musical sequences that distract from the set changes with the sound of retro Americana given a moody modern gloss. But what does it say that I grew resentful whenever she stopped diverting me from the tedium of the writing?"
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Charles McNulty


Stage and Cinema - Not Recommended

"...Ethan Coen’s A Play Is a Poem at the Mark Taper Forum strikes me as neither a poem, nor, strictly speaking, theater. I don’t know what it is. For the most part the five short playlets come across as sketches — and not in a good way. Coen attempts to project the audiences into startlingly different situations and time periods, but each scene emerges as pastiche rather than something with a fresh point of view."
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Samuel Garza Bernstein


The Hollywood Reporter - Somewhat Recommended

"...What A Play Is a Poem lacks in depth it compensates for in canny direction and harmonious ensemble performances. Neil Pepe, the artistic director of off-Broadway's Atlantic Theater Company, has been working with Coen for roughly 11 years, staging his first collection of one-acts, 2008's Almost an Evening, followed by another trio with 2011's Happy Hour. His grasp of Coen's cadences and tone make him a perfect collaborator, intuiting laughs beyond the text in timing, rhythm and attitude."
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Jordan Riefe


Total Theater - Recommended

"...Written by Ethan Coen, half of the writing/directing team that has given us such iconic movies as "Fargo" and "The Big Lebowski," A Play is a Poem takes satirical aim at such familiar targets as father-son relationships, private-eye stories, the movie industry, and southern belles. Director Neil Pepe goes for a quick-blackout style to give the show pace and pizzazz, and the eleven actors in the ensemble prove be gifted at the kind of edgy comedy Coen specializes in."
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Willard Manus


Cultural Weekly - Not Recommended

"...One cannot tout A Play Is a Poem as any more than what it is-a kind of throwback to the years before television, when such small skits were still considered worthy theatrical fare. We've had sturdier stuff on our not-so-small TV screens since, let alone on our theatre stages. Because yes, times have changed."
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Sylvie Drake


Stage Raw - Not Recommended

"...Director Neil Pepe gets solid performances from his cast, but his staging is somewhat tepid. “At the Gazebo” is particularly problematic; punctuated by the sighs of flagging audience members, it soon slows to a crawl. Coen is undeniably a very talented writer, and several of these pieces display his wit (“You were born with a stick up your ass. Life has not worked it free.”). However, the shorter segments feel more like fragments than plays; they end abruptly or don’t have much point. “At the Gazebo” attempts to be a high-minded character study; instead it’s a stultifyingly endless barrage of stilted verbiage that goes nowhere."
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Terry Morgan


Haines His Way - Somewhat Recommended

"...Except for the opener these non-poetic plays take too long in getting to their endings. Add in the non-essential scene change musical numbers by Nellie McKay (who proves adept at vocals as well as on piano, banjo and xylophone) and you have 100 minutes without an intermission that feels at last twice that length. Neil Pepe directed."
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Rob Stevens


Its Not About Me - Somewhat Recommended

"...This is where I have to acknowledge that A Play is a Poem starts out so promisingly, but doesn't stay so, with the nadir being the third act. It does have the prettiest set, though, featuring a charming gazebo; I just wanted to rush down to the stage and bask in its beauty. But the old man next to me slept through that entire episode, as did a young guy in the row in front of me. Then I started noticing that about every six people were dozing! Brad Pitt's bodyguard even left his post during this one. I don't know if it was actually uber-long or just felt that way. Perhaps this scene is Ethan Coen's attempt at serious writing because there are very few laughs in it."
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Karen Salkin


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