Reviews

Selected Theater Press Quotes

Up to Date [UP2D8] by Laura Shamas
****(Four stars)..."Playwright Laura Shamas explores the world of internet dating from the sleazy chat rooms to the unsuccessful dates following an online encounter. Three women stand on the stage in turn to give honest monologues about their experiences in online romance. One is a confident lesbian, one is lonely and loveless, one simply wants a baby, and each woman has a different reason for being online and looking for love. Each woman is also convincing and completely genuine in her excitement and deflation in response to her unique circumstances. Men may roll their eyes and scoff at the women who proclaim the opposite sex to be shallow and single minded but these three women each have something interesting to say about relationships. (Whether they are right is a matter of opinion…) One thinks that dating a younger man is the key to her happiness; of course, it is not and she revels in her plan to have her revenge. One is a sophisticated lesbian who wishes there were more genuinely gay women in clubs rather than ‘curious’ straights. One stumbles into a virtual affair, another just wants some sperm to before her biological clock hits zero. All are amusing and clever with their monologues, mixing vulnerable emotion with the anonymity of the internet and the immediate intimacy it offers...There was something for everyone including light satire about whether relationships are aided or hindered by modern day technology and the instant connections we can create with strangers. It is food for thought; even the highly educated lady who was simply looking for a fellow enthusiast on her scientific project about internet relationships stumbled into one without noticing; exceedingly ironic and amusing.This is not an anti-male performance by any means, the females themselves are far from perfect in their judgments but the stereotypical pitfalls of the male species certainly don’t go ignored. An entertaining production for couples to attend to test their compatibility and tolerance for each other, or go alone and revel in your independence while you hear of lonely souls who need another for completion. Light-hearted and...definitely recommended" - Laura Jones, Edinburgh Screenworks [2010]

Chasing Honey 
by Laura Shamas
"The layers upon layers of analogy and metaphor in Laura Shamas's play Chasing Honey, read at The Public Theater on November 14, 2008, could, in the hands of a less adept writer, become an overwhelming muddy mess. But Shamas is, thankfully, a writer of great delicacy and depth. Her characters speak with youthful slang and colloquial carelessness to the point that we are often surprised when the full, weighty impact of a scene falls upon our heads...The entire cast felt like a who's who among Native performers, and the incredible synergy between them was palpable, lending the reading a great deal of energy and clarity...Shamas gives us all the politics of identity and reclamation that face the individual characters, but also Indian youth at large. Within the group and in their efforts to save the bees, Sandy and Len try to tease out meaning from their family units-in-crisis...It remains haunting and sad, especially because the issues of family and community are not repaired. Worse, Colony Collapse Disorder is still an issue in our own world when we leave the theater. Yet, we are left with a kernel of hope that with love and some attentive care we can relieve the pressure on the maternal and perhaps find some answers to help us repair the cycle." Directed by Alanis King. - Tom Pearson, The Online Journal of The Public Theater's Native Theater Festival

Picnic At Hanging Rock 
adapted by Laura Annawyn Shamas (from Lady Joan Lindsay's novel)
"An excellent play for a large cast of females. This is a vibrant script which provides ample opportunities for strong female portrayals. The elements of mystery provide fun, but the story is also meaningful in theme. One of the best plays I've done in 17 years."  - Richard Bellamy, Cape Cod Academy, Osterville, MA

Pistachio Stories (short version) by Laura Shamas 
"Playwright Laura Shamas' Pistachio Stories is another of the evening's highlights. Here, a young American (the talented Garth Petal) worries that he's being followed by a red van because he watches Al-Jazeera news on television. Interwoven with his story is his friend's fear that two bags of pistachio nuts that she received from Syria are a secret message from terrorists. With humor, suspense and thoughtfulness, this play effectively lays out a story of paranoia and persecution in a world of political fear. Pistachio Stories is a solid script, well directed by Mark Routhier, with strong performances from its three actors (Petal, Razavi and Danielle Levin)." - Palo Alto Daily News

“Laura Shamas' story takes us back to the days right after Sept. 11, when Arab-Americans felt the radar of suspicion trained squarely on their backs. A seemingly harmless bag of nuts sets off a chain of doubts about the strange van that seems to have them under surveillance. Are they simply being paranoid? Or is there a point where homeland security tips into police state? And how would we know if we got there?” – San Jose Mercury News

"...A humorous but bittersweet story-within-a-story about the Patriot Act, a perhaps misinterpreted gift of rare red pistachios--and the breakdown of friendly meeting and conversation with the threat of surveillance." - Berkeley Daily Planet 

Pistachio Stories
 (full-length version) by Laura Shamas 
“The play centers around a group of friends that gather once a week to watch Al Jazeera and discuss events in the Middle East. However, the appearance of a bag of red pistachios on a character's car's windshield unearths stories of racism and fear from the group's Arab-American members, which eventually tears them apart. The strength of Pistachio Stories comes from the fact that it not only puts a face on the struggles of Arab Americans in a post 9/11 world, but also that it emphasizes that they are three dimensional people, not just stereotypes. Extremely moving moments, as when a character is kicked off of an airplane due to his Arab last name, are juxtaposed with lighter ones. For example, laughs were heard when an Irish-American cast member taught an Arab-American to belly dance. The characters distinct voices shone through in an excellently acted reading....Author Laura Shamas is herself a Lebanese American who originally wrote Pistachio Stories as a 10-minute play for the ReOrient Play Festival. She passionately described her play as showing the effects of xenophobia. At the performance, Shamas poignantly asked, “How does being the recipient of prejudice harm us in the long run?” and in this light, her play takes on a new, powerful mission: showing those of us privileged enough not to be subjected to racism just how detrimental it can be....The play deals with an extremely important and sensitive issue and has the potential to make powerful social commentary.” – Columbia Spectator, NYC

Venus in Orange by Paula Cizmar and Laura Shamas 
Go! Myths about the goddess of love — and truths about female sexuality — are the focus of Paula Cizmar and Laura Shamas' play with music. All eight characters are named Venus and are played by women of varying ages, races and body types, underscoring socially constructed, divergent notions about beauty, love and sexuality. The eight characters explain how the deity was venerated before the advent of Christianity, after which her temples were systematically desecrated and her icons destroyed. The mythology serves as a counterpoint to contemporary issues like rape and negative body image. Though the spotlight is on feminine identity, there's plenty here about men: rude men, cold men, brutal men, lying men, unavailable men and ass-grabbing men. Despite the emphasis on male transgressions against women, Cizmar and Shamas sidestep the rhetoric of man-bashing. Under Tom Ormeny's fluid direction, the eight actors (Shonnese C.L. Coleman, Pia Days, Heidi Fecht, Nancy Mendez, Constance Smith, Ann Stocking, Angela Tom and Randi Lynne Weidman) excel as individual performers and as an ensemble....” - Recommended, L.A. Weekly

“...An anthology of myth, monologue and movement, Paula Cizmar and Laura Shamas' eight-woman show has as its explicit purpose not drama but a straight-up celebration of the female spirit through the ages, with some commiseration and compromise along the way. As such, it has some striking moments at Victory Theatre Center, well rendered by a deliciously diverse cast. A jokey retelling of the Atalanta myth highlights the otherwise idealized Venus' jealous favoritism, and a series of solos offers a vivid spectrum from lust to apology, from rage to ambivalence. A sassy roundelay rehearses the exploitation-versus-empowerment debate stirred by such post-feminist icons as Madonna and Britney Spears....” –L.A. Times

Re-Sourcing by Laura Shamas
Playwright Laura Shamas, tilting on its axis the recent trend of outsourcing American jobs to foreign countries, has concocted a plot for Re-Sourcing that's as original as it is loaded with comic possibilities.” – Backstage West

"Shamas has a point to make about the outsourcing of U.S. jobs to other countries...There are funny moments -- such as when the workers improvise a "traditional" East Indian song during a conference call with a big boss...When disgruntled workers at a software company call center find that their entire department has been outsourced to India, they concoct a scheme to retain their jobs..." -L.A. Times

“This particular play is indeed one of the more original ideas seen on the stage in quite some time. It's quite witty, and even educational to boot!...Re-Sourcing is a play to enjoy as the tale of the 'little guy' trying to get even with the 'fat cats'. If a theater patron seeing this show was in reality an outplaced worker, one may feel the pain, but it's been said that laughter cures all. Maybe this is what the 'doctor' ordered!" - Accessibility Live

Lady-Like by Laura Shamas
“It is impossible to leave Lady-Like without affection for the dramatis personae, amusement at the dialogue, and satisfaction at having learned a welcome history lesson....this Off-Off Broadway evening is more on target than many a Broadway one.” – John Simon, New York Magazine

“Before Gertrude and Alice, before Vita and Virginia, there were Eleanor and Sarah. Daughters of the Irish aristocracy of the 18th century, Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, the focus of Laura Shamas's Lady-Like at the Grove Street Playhouse, bolted from their families and the expectations of their class to share a life in rural Wales for half a century. The Ladies of Llangollen, as they were known, created splendid gardens that became a mecca for such illustrious contemporaries as Lord Byron, the young Charles Darwin and members of the British royal family, with whom they corresponded regularly...More recently, feminist historians have identified them as a happy harbinger of same-sex unions. Whether their relationship was actually sexual is doubtful. (Although Eleanor kept a journal, she did not, like her friend Byron, kiss and tell.) But there is little question that they created a real marriage, rooted in a bedrock of self-contained affection...Lady-Like is a pleasantly acted, efficiently told study of a couple adapting to each other over the decades. It is equal parts girl's adventure story (in its first act, in which the women elope dressed in men's clothing) and a lesbian variation on The Fourposter, Jan de Hartog's sentimental chronicle of a marriage. The play follows Eleanor (Laura Jane Salvato) and Sarah (Angela McKinney) from 1778 (when they were 39 and 23, respectively) to 1831, the year of Sarah's death, from their heady flight from Ireland to their decades in Wales, with cycles of arguments and reconciliation overseen by their devoted maid, Mary Carryl (Jenny Bass). Ms. Shamas packs in a lot of information about each of her characters' confining backgrounds and, by extension, the social fetters clamped on women of all classes at that time.” - Ben Brantley, New York Times

“A touching tale of courage and loyalty.” - Variety 

"Like John Iacovelli's minimalist set seemingly borne into the clouds, Laura Shamas' elegant, effervescent biographical play Lady-Like at the Court Theatre in West Hollywood is shot through with the artist's desire to transport the mind. Shamas' material is so willfully and intelligently selective that it's charming to notice what she left out of her story. What she has left in is more than charming. It is as solid yet fragile as cut crystal. Shamas' ladies, though, are made of other material. They face the world, as dogged and tenacious as their 18th-Century Irish blood allows them to be--and certainly beyond what Irish society permitted....This outline would suit a staid BBC-approved drama, but Shamas has taken a different path altogether. Her first act is fleecy, free, slightly irreverent...Her second act slows to an autumnal pace, as death enters the now famous household. The whole corps of British literati, it seems, passed through their doors, but Shamas never shows them. Her story obsessively fixes on the triangular friendship (Plato's spirit rules here), becoming an extraordinary fable on how interdependent souls feed and fulfill each other...And so it is for the entire, shimmering production." Directed by Jules Aaron. - Critics' Choice, L.A. Times

"
...Charming and wispy and straightforward...Shamas relates these true events in a series of brief scenes, played out with a minimum of props on John Iacovelli's sky-blue interior/exterior set. Her women speak in the formal cadences of the period, which might be expected to inhibit communication to a modern audience but doesn't. The effect is rather like having an 18th-century novel - think of Richardson's Pamela, since the women are familiar with it - come to life...it's less a drama than a fairy tale, a vision of perfect love played out in an evanescent mist of enchantment and good feeling." - Philadelphia Inquirer 


Portrait of a Nude
 by Laura Shamas
“In Portrait of a Nude, Laura Shamas' splendidly-wise, philosophically rich, and deliciously clever play, she traces issues of censorship, political correctness, and aesthetics over 200 years, showing us that art never has been about just pretty pictures on a wall...Rarely has a play so well dramatized the concept that art needs to affront and excite to be successful. It's the sort of imaginatively intelligent playwriting we wish we saw more of in the City of Angels. “- Backstage West

“Intriguing piece by Laura Shamas...examines the reaction through history to the “Naked Maja,” painted by Francisco Goya in 1798....the play raises interesting questions...the juxtaposition of the different reactions to the painting over two centuries is tantalizing..."--Variety

A picture of a naked lady can cause quite a stir. That might be too bald a summation of Portrait of a Nude, which the Walnut Street Theatre is presenting as part of its ``Studio'' series, but it grabs the attention. And attention is certainly what the subject of the play, Goya's painting The Naked Maja, has attracted in the 200 years since it was created. The work has always held the attention of art lovers as one of art history's great nude paintings, but the attention playwright Laura Shamas dramatizes is its notoriety as an allegedly salacious picture. Her play, each scene spun off likely or actual historical events, is both instructive and entertaining...” - Philadelphia Inquirer

“The shifting tensions between artistic expression and social propriety receive wry scrutiny in Laura Shamas' Portrait of a Nude....Thoughtful, carefully researched...Shamas scores more direct hits with deft satire in the contemporary- era second half...” – L.A. Times

"Apparently Francisco Goya's famous nude portrait The Naked Maja was considered extremely shocking when he painted it in 1798....American playwright Laura Shamas has attempted to use this historical brouhaha as the launch-pad for an examination of the relationships between art, social/sexual mores and politics then and since - an imaginative tack on an interestingly thorny theme..." - The Scotsman 

Telling Time by Laura Shamas
"Annie works at a library, and once a week she's s the story lady. She weaves fantasies for the boys and girls. Then one day, she's raped. In Laura Shamas' Telling Time at West Coast Ensemble, that's only the beginning of the story. Annie's problems double. Immediately after the attack, Annie can't face reality. She sinks into her own fantasy world to blot out the awful truth of what's happened to her. Her gynecologist Monica becomes Glinda, the good witch of Oz, her mother Mrs. Nesbitt turns into a devilish Roman Catholic demon swathed in scarlet, with a mitered hat, and her best friend Cheryl appears to her as a giddy Snow White. Even her fiancé becomes a swashbuckling pirate....Approached here with insight and more than a little humor, a difficult subject becomes as simple as a children's story, but don't be fooled: though the author might have gone deeper, she provides some wisdom and maybe even a couple of answers. " - L.A. Times

"The subject of rape is tackled in a perceptive piece of work by Laura Shamas that goes beyond the parameters of victimization by assault. It's difficult enough to portray brutal assault but to do an artful job of examining the complex emotions of rape and then to use rape as a metaphor for what we are to ourselves compared with what we are to other people is really masterful...The play is constructed so that you take in the real significance of the victim's plight along with the other characters at the end of the play. It is at once suspenseful, emotional, and enlightening...Telling Time is an excellent work..." - Colorado Public Radio, KVOD 

Amelia Lives 
by Laura Shamas

"
On this year's Fringe one-woman shows abound: this one from Colorado is a must for anyone who wants to see a fascinating portrait...The play opens with Amelia meeting her death over the Pacific when in 1937 she attempted a flight around the world. It's an exuberant and entirely convincing performance...Clever sound effects help to bring verisimilitude to the flying scenes which Laura Shamas, as playwright, has cleverly written. Her script, combined with Christine MacDonald's performance, make this show a fine and memorable one." Directed by Jane Page. -The Scotsman, Fringe First Award Winner

"
A funny, breathless celebration of adventure..." - Denver Post

"
The play's ending is stunning as the sky turns golden, and Amelia, fancying herself to be the Greek god Icarus whose waxen wings melted when he flew too near the sun, crashes. But she goes down knowing that was the price she had to pay for seeing the world from above. Amelia Lives is a euphoric celebration of adventure, heroism, womankind, and, most of all, flying." - The Coloradoan

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