Orange County Theatre Reviews

Costa Mesa, Costa Mesa Playhouse, Theater, Uncategorized Comments Off on Creating a Theatre Show in the OC #1 Costa Mesa Playhouse |

Creating a Theatre Show in the OC #1 Costa Mesa Playhouse

There are over 50 different theatre venues in Orange County, and they all have different methods on how they pick their shows for the season. Each month we will take the time share how one of these theatres make those challenging decisions. This month we’re spotlighting the Costa Mesa Playhouse. 


Costa Mesa Playhouse in Costa Mesa


Costa Mesa Playhouse is already in process of picking their new season right now, so if you’re reading this, you will probably have to wait until next year to apply. The process is simple. You pitch to them a play you would like to direct –original or a well known. Then you send them a sales pitch telling them why they should do it –including concept art for the set, costumes, etc.  If it’s a musical, you need to answer whether you would use tracks or musicians.  Afterwards, they read the scripts and have many discussions.  The whole process usually starts around December. The directors are interviewed between January to March, and decisions are made around May.


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Pay –  $500 flat fee for directors
 HH3 Stephanie Thomas, John Sturgeon, Kay Richey, Robin L. Watkins, Elle Grant, Gabriel Lawrence B&B 3 - Kay Richey, Suzannah Gratz, Wayne MayberryBC2-Lance Smith, Ashley Arlene Nelson. Photo by Gigi Greene

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The Darkest Family Matters -The Marriage of Bette and Boo @ Costa Mesa Playhouse in Costa Mesa – Review

Written by Alina Mae Wilson 

Indeed, a great many comedians today have proven that political and social issues can create the groundwork for sheer hilarity.   But I think matching the humor that numerous comedians bring to the table is especially difficult when attempting to do it in the form of storytelling. Black humor can be dated, it can hit too close to home, it can be so strange it doesn’t make sense in the context of the actual plot, but someway…somehow…The Marriage of Bette and Boo as done by Costa Mesa Playhouse hits just the right tone.  Continue Reading

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Costa Mesa, Costa Mesa Playhouse, podcast, Uncategorized Comments Off on Orange Curtain Review Podcast #6 Q&A Bonnie & Clyde the Musical @ Costa Mesa Playhouse 02/20/2015 |

Costa Mesa Playhouse, Musical, Review, Uncategorized Comments Off on Bonnie & Clyde The Musical @ The Costa Mesa Playhouse in Costa Mesa – Review |

Bonnie & Clyde The Musical @ The Costa Mesa Playhouse in Costa Mesa – Review

BC2-Lance Smith, Ashley Arlene Nelson. Photo by Gigi Greene

Lance Smith, Ashley Arlene Nelson. Photo by Gigi Greene

Written by Patrick Chavis 

Some people aspire to be famous, but when fame is out of reach, some reach for the Infamy card. Few people exemplify this idea more than those Great Depression era bandits Bonnie and Clyde –well at least the recreation of them does in Bonnie & Clyde the Musical playing now at the Costa Mesa Playhouse.

BC8-Lance Smith. Photo by Gigi Greene

Lance Smith. Photo by Gigi Greene

The Musical Bonnie & Clyde follows the two main characters, Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow, as they grow up idolizing different famous historical figures which conveniently shapes the fate of who they will one day become. As a younger girl Bonnie looks up to Clara Bow –a famous actress who grew in popularity during the silent movie era of the 1920s. Bonnie’s love for Clara is made quite apparent in the Song “Picture Show” featuring a young Bonnie played by Maddy Nickless, singing about wanting nothing more then to be just like the film star. In the same song, a young Clyde played by DJ Price speaks about his adoration for Billy the Kid. As Clyde gets older his hero changes to Al Capone, but his love for outlaws remains the same. As the story progresses, Bonnie and Clyde meet. It’s love at first sight, and their criminal hijinks commence.

As with many musicals, the deeper side of the characters are kind of shoved away to make room for the more flashy, widely disputable parts of the characters’ lives. But who cares about historical accuracy? It’s a musical! We get gunfights, high notes, romance and every now and then a few glimpses of reality in-between the music and dancing. The music is live in this production, and you can feel and hear it. Since this is a musical, I was glad to find the music and singing to be the best parts of the production –especially from the main actors Ashley Arlene Nelson and Lance Smith.

Flubs were practically none existent in this production, until the characters stopped singing and started acting. While not everyone was on par acting wise, there were some stand out actors. Elizabeth Suzanne playing Blanche Barrow is one of them.  Elizabeth is phenomenal in this role –singing and acting her character flawlessly throughout the entire production.

BC4-Rebecca Butkivich, Holly Griffin, Gigi Greene. Photo by Mike Brown

Rebecca Butkivich, Holly Griffin, Gigi Greene. Photo by Mike Brown

The story tugs at the heart and moves so fast even the most impatient theatergoer will not be bored.


Feb 6 – Mar 8 2015

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Frighteningly Dull – The Haunting of Hill House @ Costa Mesa Playhouse in Costa Mesa – Review


Stephanie Thomas, John Sturgeon, Kay Richey, Robin L. Watkins, Elle Grant, Gabriel Lawrence

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A group of people, a haunted house.  A large and ominous mansion that at times seems to have a will of its own, psychologically controlling its hosts and keeping viewers on tenterhooks.  This premise is used in many ghost stories, including the classic horror film The Haunting, which was adapted from Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House.  Imagine a story based on psychological torment, spiritual manipulation, and a desperation for safety that contrasts sharply with a desperation for belonging–now imagine a stage production of that story which methodically strips away most of that tension and you’ve basically summed up the Costa Mesa Playhouse show.  


The year is 1960.  A scientist by the name of Dr. Montague has requested that several people join him in the dreaded Hill House, which has a history of people leaving with recommendations that the house be burned to the ground.  These people are: Eleanor–a timid woman, who once had what might be deemed an “otherworldly” encounter as a child. Theodora–a brazen artist who can identify “19 out of 20 cards” when they are held out of her view, and Luke–the young man who will one day inherit Hill House.   They are joined at intervals by the hilarious housekeeper Mrs. Dudley, and the doctor’s own wife Mrs. Montague with her assistant Arthur.  As the play progresses the group is frightened by various aspects of the house, and Eleanor’s own state of mind deteriorates more severely than anyone could have anticipated.


  With limited space the production designer created a lovely and realistic looking living room and bedroom.  The bedroom door, which plays a significant part, is well structured in its role.  While not overly spacious, the stage is sufficiently spaced and decorated for its purpose. Largely, the issues arrive not because of the space but because of the lack of movement. 

HH9 - Barbara Duncan Brown, Elle Grant

Barbara Duncan Brown, Elle Grant


The players do not move enough.   As previously stated, the audience only has access to the living room and the bedroom.  The moments that take place in the hallway or the tower are voiced by the actors offstage and then discussed later in front of the audience.  It is entirely possible for this format to work.   But that would require the characters to be moving around in the space, and they simply do not.  Instead they sit or stand in one place for long periods of time, moving only occasionally,  seemingly devoid of purpose except that an invisible director told them that it was time to switch from the chair to the sofa.  The lighting is appropriate for setting one mood, but fails to transition into a “storytelling” mode.  In a suspenseful story, things like tone are pivotal, but the lighting of this story does not adjust.  


Acting wise the Lead actress Stephanie Thomas is appropriately timid and withdrawn from the beginning, but her loss of sanity fails to come across.  Her Eleanor doesn’t change enough to make the audience feel genuine concern for her well being.  Elle Grant is miscast as Theodora, for although the character is intended to be young and beautiful, it is painful to hear Theodora refer to Eleanor as “kid” and “baby” when Eleanor appears to be in her 40s and Theodora could easily be a high school student.  Gabriel Lawrence is inconceivably monotone as  Luke.  His use of inflection and phrasing is completely devoid of feeling.  The best performance of the night is that of Barbara Duncan Brown.  Her Mrs.  Dudley is cold, purpose driven, and creepy. Honestly, rent the original (1963) movie the Haunting. It’s cheaper & you’ll actually get the scare, you were looking for.      


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Ticket Info at the website:


Location & Dates :  

661 Hamilton St, Costa Mesa, CA 92627

October 24th – November 16th 


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