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There are few things more powerful than memories of childhood Christmases, partly because of the magic and anticipation, and partly because of the traditions and familiarity. As the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas wrote, "All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street ..." Into that "wool-w…

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Ed Smith, director of the Paul Robeson Theatre’s current production of August Wilson’s “Two Trains Running,” says that he will go anywhere to direct an August Wilson play. Smith has directed seven of the plays in Wilson’s “Pittsburgh Cycle,” a series of 10 plays, each representing African-American life in a different decade of the 20th century. Smith’s first Wilson play…

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In the safe, cozy space of our new frigid reality, let’s get warm together, shall we? The 2003 holiday classic “Elf” is so, so funny. As Buddy, the full-size human raised in the North Pole by Santa and his tiny elves, Will Ferrell is boundless in his joy. He captures the innocence and optimism of youth with the erratic flair of a wacky man. It’s a little bit of “Big,” a…

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Detectives Bremen and Janetty have been partners for a while and they know the routine: Pound the suspect with doubts about his statement and then make accusations couched as theories about the crime. Eventually the guy will be so confused you'll get a confession – whether he really did it or not. The methodology might be crude, but if the confession gets tossed out lat…

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Subversive Theatre's production of the fantasy-inspired "She Kills Monsters" ticks all the boxes, as British baking judge Paul Hollywood might say, and is excellent by every measure. The cast is top-notch, their timing is spot on, the costumes and puppetry are awesome, the fights are furious and the script by playwright Qui Nguyen is a stirring mix of humor and drama. A…

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Cellino and Barnes: Even if you never met these guys, you feel as though you know them. You know their faces, their jobs, their jingle and, of course, their phone number. They are part of the local landscape; they go together like beef and weck. The only thing people aren't sure of is which one is Cellino (he often wears glasses) and which one is Barnes (he is the balding …

Theater

And now for something completely different. I promise you: You have never seen anything like “The Toxic Avenger,” not from Second Generation Theatre at least. In their promotions for the comic book comedy, the show comes across as nerdy, sci-fi with a humorous twist. That’ll be cute, you might think. In director Doug Weyand’s hands, it’s all of that turned up to volume …

Theater

Some of the best moments in "Oh My God!" occur early in the Anat Gov's comic one-act play, when Ella, a psychologist, is trying to figure out who her mysterious new client is. The guy kind of appears out of nowhere in her office (the well-appointed stage of Jewish Repertory Theatre) and won't say his real name. When asked, he gives a little smile and tells her, "I am who I…

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From 1971 until 2003, Peter Falk’s characterization of rumpled but shrewd Lt. Frank Columbo captivated the imaginations of television viewers. In fact, "Colombo" is one of the most beloved television characters of all time. Interestingly, Peter Falk was not the first actor to play Columbo. The invention of writers William Link and Richard Levenson, the Columbo charac…

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O’Connell & Company, the venerable little theater company headed by Mary Kate O’Connell, has moved from its longtime home at the Park School in Snyder to a new theater at the Ken-Ton Elmwood Commons, formerly Philip Sheridan School (3200 Elmwood Ave.). They have inaugurated the space with the big, brash and wacky 2007 Mel Brooks musical, “Young Frankenstein.” This i…

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I guess if you’re going to take a cult classic, a movie beloved the world over, and pull it apart at the seams, stuff it with padding, and sell it back to us – well, this is how you do it. “Mean Girls” is as perfect of a comedy as contemporary hits come. Though the Tina Fey-penned movie that helped make Lindsay Lohan a global superstar is now 15 years old and frankly, s…

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Musical revues can be tedious. When they force the esteemed catalog of a performer, songwriter, history or culture through an unnecessary dramatic construct, and pretend like it isn’t an infomercial. It’s the same eye-rolling we give to award show presenters. Can’t we all agree to skim the fat and get to the point? Why not produce a concert or cabaret instead, I always won…

Oh, Izzy. I thought I knew you, Izzy. We were supposed to meet at the New Phoenix, where "Izzy," the musical revue of your heretofore-unknown life as a Buffalo songwriter, entertainingly played, told through your discovered trunk songs. Your vaudeville-barroom standards, funny and sentimental in one breath, encapsulated around the idea that you should have been Buffalo’…

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Oh, what a mouth on that girl Jazmine! Her boyfriend Omari is the one in trouble -- he's the one who shoved his teacher and might be expelled, or worse -- but Jazmine is the one dropping f-bombs and going crazy. It's a great scene, coming early in Dominique Morisseau's eloquent humanizing of the school-to-prison pipeline. Frankly, "Pipeline," now playing in the new Ujim…

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The title of John Ford’s “‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore” is still shocking.  Published in 1633, this is one of the great decadent dramas written during the chaotic reign of Charles I in the years leading up to the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell, the closing of the theaters and all that mess. Now on stage at the Irish Classical Theatre Company, in a production directed by …