Reviews

These are all excerpts. Click any link to visit the source and read the full review.


THE POST OFFICE

“Melissa Leilani Larson’s exquisite translation—a more appropriate term than adaptation—of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s most famous play flows with elegant, accessible symbolism…. Larson impressively translates the story to an unspecified time and location while finding the right pitch to accentuate the universal tone of Tagore’s symbolism in her script.” — Les Roka, The Utah Review

“THE POST OFFICE is a moving, heartfelt show… a lovely piece that made me grateful for the life I have and the opportunities that I have to explore the world. I highly recommend this 55-minute production to anyone.” — Darby Turnbow, Utah Theatre Bloggers

THE POST OFFICE is “a moving and thought provoking experience that resonated with me long after I walked out of the theatre’s doors.” — Meg Larson, Front Row Reviewers

SWEETHEART COME

“Larson has a unique gift for inflecting the sound of language and idiom from a specific period with a texture that rings relevantly to the ears of a contemporary audience. And, the script is served well subconsciously by her own love for elegant pens, penmanship and the art of writing letters and notes. Hauck’s descent into terminal mental illness is subtle and heart-breaking. Larson’s script evokes a superb sense of chamber ensemble theater.” — Les Roka, The Utah Review

“One of the advantages of staging a world-premiere play is the ability to treat the material as a blank canvas for creative staging ideas. Pygmalion Productions and director Mark Fossen take that notion quite literally for Melissa Leilani Larson’s SWEETHEART COME and the result is one of the most fascinating pieces of small-scale physical stagecraft on a local stage in recent years…. Larson’s text provides a superb foundation, building the mystery of Emma Hauck’s love letters into a study of both Emma’s pain and the attempts by Michael to help her with that pain as best as he can understand it.” — Scott Renshaw, Salt Lake City Weekly

“Melissa Leilani Larson deftly manages to immerse the audience in a world of longing, beauty, passion, and horror…. While at first glance the play is straightforward in its high-talk, low-action plot, it belies the deep questions explored regarding the nature of womanhood, intimate relationships, and mental and emotional health.” — Miranda Giles, Utah Theatre Bloggers

“Melissa Leilani Larson is a refreshing gift. With SWEETHEART COME, she has reimagined the ‘living room play’ to be something more and have new life. Her text takes pleasure in the mundane aspects of day to day living. It is a thoughtful and thought-provoking meditation. Larson shines when exploring the fringes, those singular moments and thoughts. She is especially good at delving into the psychology of these same small moments. Her dialogue is strong. She has these wonderful touching moments tempered with struggles and raw humanity. The humor is thoughtful, and the sorrows are real. This same honesty is felt throughout all aspects of the production.” — Alisha and Jason Hagey, Front Row Reviewers

JANE AND EMMA

Eric Snider of The Crooked Marquee says that JANE AND EMMA “is the rare film that’s spiritually uplifting without glossing over the hard parts…. Larson’s tight screenplay…has the two women asking tough questions about their faith, their religion, and their faith in their religion, but it never paints either of them as wholly one thing or another.”

Camlyn Giddens reviews JANE AND EMMA for BYU Studies: “As a woman, as a person of color, and as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I am relieved that I can genuinely recommend Jane and Emma as a quality film—unique, significant, and relevant to the needs of our day.”

Sean Means of The Salt Lake Tribune reviews JANE AND EMMA: The film carries a subtly woven commentary about the strength of women during adversity. That strength is embodied by the title characters, putting this major moment in Latter-day Saint history in a new light.”

Eric Samuelsen reviews JANE AND EMMA for BYU Studies: “Credit, first, goes to Melissa Leilani Larson’s screenplay, which honors the history in which the story is rooted while fictionalizing when needed. It is a film for today, reflecting our tensions and concerns…. Ultimately, this is a film about the relationship between two beautifully drawn women. That’s a rare enough achievement. It’s wonderfully well written by perhaps Mormondom’s finest young playwright.”

Joseph Peterson of the blog This Week in Mormons calls JANE AND EMMA “history worth revisiting.” He comments specifically on the script: “Larson’s dialogue itself is both restrained and measured, full of authentic interaction—itself a writer’s feat—and occasionally dazzles with attitude, verve, and wit.”

Year of Polygamy Podcast host Lindsay Hansen Park writes that JANE AND EMMA “is beautifully written. The script is stunning and poignant…. This film honors these women. Full stop. It allows them to be complicated, messy, and real. Like I said, it is raw. It doesn't hold back.”

JANE AND EMMA represents the best on-screen attempt to capture the complexity of Nauvoo and the staggering internal conflicts these women faced.” — Steve Evans at By Common Consent.

Lottie Peterson Johnson of The Deseret News says of JANE AND EMMA:The film is rooted in limited historical record, but it does something remarkable with that limitation: It shows us why Jane's story is one worth telling.”

“The movie finds its strength in two main areas: a clever script and solid acting…. There are several moments in the film, some light-hearted and some heavy with drama, where the script gifts to the viewer a satisfying helping of ratiocination, like a hearty meal straight from momma’s kitchen.” — Matthew Brooks, KSL Radio

THIRD WHEEL: PECULIAR STORIES OF MORMON WOMEN IN LOVE
(a book comprising the plays LITTLE HAPPY SECRETS and PILOT PROGRAM)

Rebecca Child Bateman recently reviewed Third Wheel and her response was incredibly positive: “It’s the psychology that nips at your heart and mind. You could jump into the shoes of any of these characters and feel for the conflict that they must deal with and wonder where you would land.”

2018 Association for Mormon Letters president Theric Jepson wrote a very nice response to Third Wheel on his personal blog: “My favorite aspect of both plays is how, by the end, the characters' pain is my own, and I feel they are friends of mine and that I must be there for them. This sort of empathy may be what art is for. I pray we take it with us back into our relationships with the living.”

Writer James Goldberg wrote a lovely Twitter thread this past weekend (12/17/2018) encouraging people to buy and read Third Wheel. His tweets were then collected as a review on the Association for Mormon Letters blog. A snippet (tweet?): “Mel is at her very best writing for the intimacy of the stage…. There’s a gentleness to the way these plays will break your heart.”

Julie Bowman reviews Third Wheel for the Fall 2017 issue of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. “Each burst of feeling for Brennan that Claire shares with us possesses the electricity that all of us who have ever been in love will recognize. The play's movement toward its climactic scene is gripping and breathless in its intensity.... [The protagonists’] narrations provide privileged access to their thoughts. These interventions create intimacy and interiority. This intimacy is the critical strength of these plays.... Third Wheel shows us characters with pain points that prompt us to discuss their conditions. These dilemmas matter a great deal to the spectrum of conversations currently underway in the LDS community. It's worth reading, staging, and discussing these plays.”

Conor Hilton shares some wonderful insights in his review of Third Wheel. “These are the sorts of stories that we need more of. Stories that confront some of our biggest challenges and concerns and struggles as a faith community... The way the characters respond felt so real and true. Probably the best depiction of receiving a spiritual prompting I’ve ever encountered.”

Christie Clark Rasmussen of the online literary journal Segullah reviews Third Wheel: “Few playwrights have written such rich, humorous, yet relatable contemporary female roles.”

Blogger, writer, and archivist-in-training Ted Lee reviews Third Wheel: “These two works...are more than stories about romantic yearning and heartbreak. They are stories about faith...they are also stories about the ending of worlds.”

The blog Expert Textperts reviews Third Wheel: “This book perfectly captured the fear of so many Mormon women in love... I can't recommend reading this one enough.”

THE EDIBLE COMPLEX

Les Roka writes in The Utah Review that THE EDIBLE COMPLEXexcels as imaginative children’s theater”.

9-year-old Presley Josephine Caywood found that “seeing THE EDIBLE COMPLEX made me feel better about myself.

Daisy Blake Perry of Gephardt Daily says that “THE EDIBLE COMPLEX gives audience food for thought”.

PILOT PROGRAM

Danny Bowes of Salt Lake City Weekly says that PILOT PROGRAM is a “poignant, accessible work.”

Award-winning playwright Eric Samuelsen praises PILOT PROGRAM as “lovely,” “extraordinary,” and “a searing examination of” LDS polygamy.

Les Roka of The Utah Review states that PILOT PROGRAM as “impressively executed” and that it “serves as one of Plan-B’s most definitive examples of its artistic brand.”

Salt Lake Magazine says PILOT PROGRAM is “truly groundbreaking.”

The Utah Theatre Bloggers Association’s Dave Mortensen writes “You’d do well to see this perspective on faith in Plan-B’s PILOT PROGRAM.”

Sara Katherine Staheli Hanks of the Feminist Mormon Housewives says that PILOT PROGRAM is “complex,” “rich,” and “an evening well spent.”

SLC Feminist Chelsea Kilpack describes PILOT PROGRAM as “a gut-wrenching journey of exploration.”

Artists of Utah’s 15 Bytes calls PILOT PROGRAM “excellent” and “a fine tragicomedy.”

Barbara Bannon of The Salt Lake Tribune says “Plan-B’s PILOT PROGRAM is thought-provoking and haunting.”

Jane Austen’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

Zach Archuleta of The Utah Theatre Bloggers Association says that PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is “an intimate piece of theatre full of the wit and precision of the original.” Here is his full review.

Blair Howell of The Deseret News calls Mel’s stage adaptation of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE “rich and humorous” and “a monumental achievement.” Read the rest of his review here.

 Ashley Kelly of Front Row Reviewers calls the script for PRIDE AND PREJUDICE “a breath of fresh air”. Read the full review here.

LITTLE HAPPY SECRETS

Eris91 of the Young Mormon Feminists writes a very positive and open Review of LITTLE HAPPY SECRETS.

Theater Lover Megan Pedersen reviews LITTLE HAPPY SECRETS: Keeping Secrets — “It’s What We Do!” 

Front Row Reviewers Utah’s Ben Christensen writes that In Echo Theatre’s LITTLE HAPPY SECRETS, Big Things Come in Small Packages.

Liz Lund Oppelt of the Utah Theatre Bloggers write a very positive review: LITTLE HAPPY SECRETS: a simple and honest play.

There were several solid reviews for the Salt Lake Acting Company’s Fearless Fringe staged reading of LITTLE HAPPY SECRETS, including: Utah Theatre BloggersThe Salt Lake Tribune, and Utah’s Art Magazine 15 Bytes. **Readers should be wary, however; all three of these reviews include serious spoilers.

Utah Theatre Bloggers reviews the Southern Utah University production: A little, happy production of LITTLE HAPPY SECRETS.

Mahonri Stewart wrote a 5-part review of the New Play Project anthology Out of the Mount: 19 from New Play Project, including LITTLE HAPPY SECRETS, on the Mormon literature blog A Motley Vision. You can read his reaction to the play here.

Literature scholar and professor Gideon Burton’s response to LITTLE HAPPY SECRETS: A Brave and Reverent Mormon Play.

Jane Austen’s PERSUASION

Front Row Reviewer Kara Henry’s response to PERSUASION: Zion Theatre Company’s Persuasion Would Make Jane Austen Proud.

Utah Theatre Bloggers Association staff member Amber Peck also attended: PERSUASION feels like Austen to me.

With the opening of PERSUASION at Brigham Young University came two reviews: The Deseret News and Utah Theatre Bloggers.

MARTYRS’ CROSSING

Callie Oppendisano of the Utah Theatre Bloggers Association discusses what makes MARTYRS' CROSSING: a provoking play.

Joel Applegate of Front Row Reviewers writes that MARTYRS' CROSSING: A Story of Joan of Arc.

A Theater Lover Megan Pedersen’s very positive response to MARTYRS' CROSSING at the Echo Theatre can be read here: MARTYRS' CROSSINGSoars with Beauty!

Theric Jepson shares a brief but positive reader’s response to the script of MARTYRS' CROSSING (scroll down a bit to 092).

The Deseret News names BYU’s production of MARTYRS’ CROSSING (under the title Angels Unaware) as one of the best Utah Valley theatre productions of 2006: Year-end Theater Wrap-up.

Mahonri Stewart reviews MARTYRS' CROSSING (under the title Angels Unaware) for the Association of Mormon Letters.

The Deseret News reviews MARTYRS' CROSSING (under the title: Angels Unaware).

A FLICKERING

The Deseret News reviews: A FLICKERING inspired by early films.

The Utah Theatre Bloggers Association says A FLICKERING in Provo is not to be missed.

The UVU Review reviews A FLICKERING: A theatrical glimpse into the origins of film.

STANDING STILL STANDING

“Wake up and go to STANDING STILL STANDING,” — Russell Warne, Utah Theatre Bloggers Association. Read his full review.

Gideon Burton reviews STANDING STILL STANDING: Standing Ovation for Standing Still Standing.

Rhombus Magazine reviews Standing Still Standing.

InThisWeek.com’s review: A Provo playwright delves into the surreal world of a young wife and the husband who’s sleeping through their marriage.

The Deseret News discusses the new production of STANDING STILL STANDING: Dealing with LDS cabin fever.