Stage Raw: Them's the Break/s
AT YOUR FINGERTIPS, THIS COMING WEEK'S COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS
AND LAST WEEK'S NEW THEATER REVIEWS
Note: There are no NEW THEATER REVIEWS this week due to the annual People issue. Normal theater coverage resumes next week.
THE BREAK/S: A MIXTAPE FOR STAGE
Marc Bamuthi Joseph in the break/s: a mixtape for stage Photo courtesy of REDCAT
With rapid-fire wordplay and poetic reveries combined with intense physical movement," Marc Bamuthi Joseph's the break/s: a mixtape for stage investigates the conflicts between the performer's public identity as a successful spoken word artist (he's the artistic director of the Living Word Project, and a former National Slam Poetry champion) and his private identity as a young man coming of age "in our globalized, mutli-everything era." Cornerstones Theater Company's artistic director, Michael John Garcés, directs in a percussive call-and-response format with turntablist DJ Excess and multi instrumentalist Ajayi Jackson, accompanied by video by Eli Jacobs Fantauzzi.
Performances are at REDCAT, located at the corner of Second and Hope streets inside the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex, downtown. Wednesday, April 22-Saturday, April 25, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., April 26, 3 p.m. Tickets here.
COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for April 24-30, 2009
Our critics are Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III, Martin Hernandez, Mayank Keshaviah, Deborah Klugman, Steven Leigh Morris, Amy Nicholson, Tom Provenzano, Bill Raden, Luis Reyes, Sandra Ross and Neal Weaver. These listings were compiled by Derek Thomas
OPENING THIS WEEK
AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' Broadway tribute to jazz entertainer Fats Waller. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; opens April 24; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru May 31. (213) 628-2772.
AND THE WAR CAME Collaboration by California Repertory Company about the devastating costs of war. National Guard Armory, 854 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; opens April 24; April 24-25, 8 p.m.; Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; May 8-9, 8 p.m.; thru May 9. (562) 985-5526.
APPLE Vern Thiessen's study of choices and consequences. (In rep with Incorruptible; call for schedule.). Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; opens April 25; Sat., April 25, 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Mon.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru May 24. (310) 364-0535.
DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS Musical-comedy based on the 1988 Frank Oz movie, book by Jeffrey Lane, music and lyrics by David Yazbek. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, 12700 Center Court Dr., Cerritos; Fri., April 24, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 25, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., April 26, 3 p.m.. (562) 467-8818.
DOLORES Edward Allen Baker's dark comedy about two abused sisters. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Tues., April 28, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 3, 8 p.m.; Mon., May 4, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 10, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 17, 8 p.m.. (323) 960-7822.
EMILIE Lauren Gunderson's true story of Emilie du Châtelet's affair with Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; opens April 24; Tues.-Fri., 7:45 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 & 7:45 p.m.; thru May 10. (714) 708-5555.
FUBAR Life is all fucked up in Karl Gajdusek's play. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A.; opens April 24; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 30. (323) 856-8611.
NOSTALGIA AND DREAMS White Buffalo Theatre Company presents Brett Holland's poetic drama. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens April 24; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 24. (818) 569-3037.
A NUMBER Caryl Churchill's meditation on identity. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; opens April 25; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 21. (310) 477-2055.
OUR TOWN Thornton Wilder's slice of Americana. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; opens April 25; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 30. (310) 838-4264.
PLAY WITH A KNIFE Zach Fehst's existential take on murder. Stages Theatre Center, 1540 N. McCadden Pl., L.A.; opens April 26; Sat.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru May 31. (323) 960-7784.
RATED R THEATRE Sisters by Cherie Vogelstein: It's Okay, Honey by Le Wilhelm, Choice of Vegetable by Timothy Reinhard, At Sea by Mayo Simon, The Statue of Bolivar by Eric Lane. East Theatre at the Complex, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Mon., April 27, 8 p.m.; Wed., April 29, 8 p.m.. (818) 997-6740.
YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's comedy classic about a kooky clan. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; opens April 24; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru June 6. (626) 256-3809.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGION-WIDE
ASSUME THE POSITION Comedian Robert Wuhl's history lesson. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 3. (866) 811-4111.
BACK TO BACHARACH AND DAVID The songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, performed by Mary Birdsong, Diana DeGarmo, Tom Lowe and Tressa Thomas. Music Box, 6126 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Wed.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 5 & 9 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 17, www.etix.com. (323) 464-0808.
THE BREAK/S: A MIXTAPE FOR STAGE Spoken-word/movement artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph's remixed wordplay. REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., L.A.; Through April 25, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., April 26, 3 p.m.. (213) 237-2800.
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF The Broadway hit about a Jewish milkman and his daughters, book by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. Rubicon Theater, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura; Sun., 2 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; thru April 26. (805) 667-2900.
GO GHOSTS There's nothing supernatural about Henrik Ibsen's 1881 drama: his ghosts are our own bitter memories and the old, dead ideas that continue to confine and stifle us. The form and the language may be dated, but the issues are as fresh as ever. Mrs. Alving (Deborah Strang) has crucified herself in the service of duty and respectability that narrow provincial society and her own hypocritical minister, Pastor Manders (Joel Swetow), have drilled into her. But her efforts to do the right thing have back-fired because they were based on lies, and her attempts to shield her son (J. Todd Adams) from hard truths have almost destroyed him. Ibsen has structured his play like Oedipus Rex -- or a modern whodunit. On a seemingly ordinary day, inconvenient truths keep emerging, inexorably, till everything and everyone is morally compromised or destroyed. Director-adapter Michael Murray has assembled a fine cast (including Mark Bramhall and understudy Rebecca Mozo); he calibrates their performances with precision, and reveals a sharp eye for Ibsen's dark comedy. If one wanted to quibble, one might wish the last scene had been played for a bit less melodrama, but overall it's a terrific, coherent, and always engrossing production. Nikki Delhomme provided the fine costumes. (NW) A Noise Within, 234 South Brand Blvd., Glendale; in alternating rep through May 9; call for schedule. (818) 240-0910.
GO LOUIS & KEELY: LIVE AT THE SAHARA I haven't seen this musical study of '50s lounge-act crooners Louis Prima and Keely Smith since its transcendent premiere at Sacred Fools Theatre last year, and oh, is it different. Documentary and Oscar-nominated film maker Taylor Hackford has been busy misguiding writer-performers Jake Broder and Vanessa Claire Smith's musical. Taylor took over from director Jeremy Aldridge, who brought it to life in east Hollywood. Smith and Broder have drafted an entirely new book, added onstage characters - including Frank Sinatra (Nick Cagle) who, along with Broder and Smith, croons a ditty. (As though Cagle can compete with Sinatra's voice, so embedded into the pop culture.) They've also added Prima's mother (Erin Matthews) and other people who populated the lives of the pair. The result is just a little heartbreaking: The essence of what made it so rare at Sacred Fools has been re-vamped and muddied into a comparatively generic bio musical, like Stormy Weather (about Lena Horne) or Ella (about Ella Fitzgerald). The good news is the terrific musicianship, the musical direction originally by Dennis Kaye and now shared by Broder and Paul Litteral, remains as sharp as ever, as are the title performances. Broder's lunatic edge and Bobby Darin singing style has huge appeal, while Vanessa Claire Smith has grown ever more comfortable in the guise and vocal stylings of Keely Smith. It was the music that originally sold this show, and should continue to do so. With luck, perhaps Broder and Smith haven't thrown out their original script. (SLM) Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 3:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; through May 24. (310) 208-54545.
LYDIA This L.A. premiere of Octavio Solis' poetical drama boasts many of the same actors featured when the play premiered at the Denver Theater Center. And staying with a production for so long is one possible explanation for the dynamic and richly textured performances by Stephanie Beatriz in the title role - a feisty teenage maid hired from Mexico by a dubiously assimilated Latino-American family in mid 1970s El Paso. Her mirror image is the teenage daughter, Ceci (Onahoua Rodriguez, equally enhralling), of a bitter short order cook, Claudio (Daniel Zacapa, in a perfectly modulated interpretation of brutal machismo and sensitive stoicism) and his vivacious wife, Rosa (Catalina Maynard). Ceci suffers brain damage from an auto accident that left her writhing and twitching, speaking with what one character calls a "vegetable tongue." But when Solis and director Juliette Carrillo spin out some magical realism, Ceci rises like a dancer and speaks with hidden knowledge in waves of thick poetry. At first, juxtaposed against the gentle strains of a guitar and the family's daily rituals, the effect has a transcendent beauty, but eventually this etherial device simply imposes on the play's more rudimentary aspect: investigating the mystery of what led to the terrible car crash. The answer involves a pair of brothers, one a sensitive poet (Carlo Albán), the other a fighter (Tony Sancho), and a cousin (Max Arciniega) who, early on, shows up in an INS uniform -- a sliver of foreshadowing that's every bit as bludgeoning as the many mirror images are delicate. This is a hefty play that's ultimately, without any intended irony, the kind of tele-novella (with some dream sequences) that the characters watch in their living room. Reaching for epic, it's mostly long - the difference being in the quality of the secrets unearthed. (SLM) Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through May 17.
GO MAURITIUS Theresa Rebeck's play has serious moments, but essentially it's a comic crime caper, full of lies, betrayals, cupidity and greed. The central figure is Jackie (Kirsten Kollender), who, after years of family trauma, has inherited an old stamp collection from her mother. Then her smarmy, pretentious half-sister Mary (Monette Magrath) appears on the scene, claiming the stamps are hers because her grandfather collected them. (In the absence of a will, it's hard to say who has the legal claim, but nobody here is concerned with legalities.) Jackie gradually realizes that the rare stamps --issued in Mauritius in 1847 -- are worth millions. Mary becomes entangled with a dubious philatelist (John Billingsley), a likeable con-man (Chris L. McKenna) and a raffish gangster/gun runner (Ray Abruzzo), who, with a collectors mania, is determined to own the famous "Mauritians." Plot reversals abound, as ownership is debated, negotiated, and fought over. The piece is so cleverly constructed that we almost forget how slight it is, and director Jessica Kubzansky provides a slick and polished production, with an impeccable cast. Set designer Tom Bruderwitz makes admirable use of the theater's revolving stage, and Tim Weiske's fight choreography is convincing. (NW) Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave.,Pasadena; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; call theater for numerous schedule changes; thru April 26. (626) 356-7529.
GO OUR MOTHER'S BRIEF AFFAIR Playwright Richard Greenberg uses words very carefully, not only to a carve a tone of erudition and lyricism but in order to avoid redundancy. So when the line, "She was an average situational liar but not at all a maker of fables," is repeated in different scenes of his family drama/mystery, one can infer added significance to that sentence. The slippery divide between making fables and simply making stuff up lies at the heart of this tenth Greenberg play to be premiered by this theater. The play is bifurcated into two sections, each mirroring the other. The first part is a kind of memory play, mostly narrated by each of the characters directly to the audience and almost entirely spoken in the past tense. It's a prose-poem, really, concerning the last deluded days in the life of a New York City matriarch, Anna (Jenny O'Hara), who's in the mood to be making confessions to her gay obit-writer son, Seth (Ayre Gross), and his lesbian sister Abby (Marin Hinkle) - in for death-watch duties from Laguna Beach, California. Keep in mind that there are no morbid gurneys or hospital scenes. Under Pam MacKinnon's pleasingly blithe staging, that drifts seamlessly between Beckettian and Wildean humors, the characters are all parked comfortably on and around park benches in some metaphoric autumn of Sybil Wickersheimer's set. Besides, Anna's death may not be imminent but just another scare. This is the kind of gnarly Jewish comedienne who can even invent her own demise. She tells of a "brief affair" she once had, and the play feels like an exploration of quaint family behaviors that somehow reflect on the human condition. Then a bomb drops, which places the subject of her affair (Matthew Arkin) on the stage of world horrors. It's a tricky, tone shattering device meant to shift the scale of the play's concerns from the domestic to the mythic - which seems right in a play that's about how and why myths are invented. It sits right conceptually, less so emotionally. When we're catapulted into Greenberg's world of larger issues, it feels something like being jerked rudely up into a hot air balloon from a comedy about behaviors to one about the psychology of ethics. The play is supposed to get larger from its broader sense of scale, but it actually deflates ever so slightly from the puncture of Greenberg's pristine domestic universe, though this may be more an issue of mechanics than concept. The ideas are so rich, and the language so beautiful, the play's rude awakening certainly doesn't diminish the credence of the event, and the ensemble is perfect. (SLM) South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Tues.-Wed., 7:30 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; through May 3. (714) 708-5555.
SABRINA FAIR Samuel Taylor's romantic comedy about a chauffeur's daughter who returns from abroad a sophisticated young woman. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 2. (562) 494-1014.
THE SEAFARER John Mahoney and Andrew Connolly star in Conor McPherson's Irish poker game. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru May 24. (310) 208-5454.
THE TAMING OF THE SHREW Shakespeare's battle of the sexes. (Schedule varies, call for info.). A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru May 17. (818) 240-0910.
'TIL DEATH DO US PART: LATE NITE CATECHISM 3 Catholic nun offers lessons on marriage, by Maripat Donovan with Marc Silvia. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru May 3. (949) 497-2787.
YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU George S. Kaufman Moss Hart's 1936 comedy about an eccentric New York family. West Valley Playhouse, 7242 Owensmouth Ave., Canoga Park; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru April 26. (818) 884-1907.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS
<3 Imagine what Tristan Tzara, co-creator of Dadaism, would have done had he access to the Internet, cell phones, instant messaging and video projection. In the midst of World War I, Dada protested bourgeois culture and intellectual conformity, a mindset shared by the younger brother of the groom who texts his screed against the post-9/11 world to his blog as he mopes about a Los Angeles wedding reception. He, along with the bride and groom's friends and their dates, make up the group waiting for the happy couple to arrive in this collaboratively developed play. Each of the 20-somethings has his or her own neurosis, and most center on some aspect of love (the title of the piece if you tilt your left ear downwards to look at it). Unfortunately, due to the lack of through-line and character depth, the play ends up as episodes, as though from a teen reality show. Director Jenny Byrd employs creative blocking and gets a good effort from the cast, but even their best can't compensate for the dearth of substance in the text. The extensive use of digital projection and multimedia is interesting at times, but somewhat ham-fisted in the attempts to mimic the "ADD lifestyle" of the millennial generation. One exception is a projection of the L.A. skyline, which is both picturesque and realistically creates a rooftop view of the city. Aside from that great view, most of the event had me wondering WTF? (MK) Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through May 9. www.restartyourheart.com A Brimmer Street Theatre Co. Production.
ACME THIS WEEK ACME's flagship sketch show, with celebrity guest hosts each week. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.
THE BIG RANDOM Just minutes into Dana Yeaton's road drama, you get the unmistakable, justified feeling that the evening will be a long one. Claire (Madison Flock) is a gangly teenager with an oddly charming demeanor ; she's been confined to a mental institution because she is a "cutter." She is heavily medicated and seemingly trapped in an inner world of lurid, violent fantasies, until a sudden visit by her estranged godfather Roland (Eric Charles Jorgenson), whom she slyly cons into helping her escape. At this juncture, the story starts to take off but never quite leaves the ground. The pair head north to Canada, stop to eat, stop to sleep, get stopped by a gendarme, camp out in the woods, see the sights, and eventually wind up at a church where something spiritual occurs - a heavenly grace that feels more like a convenience for the playwright than a convincing transformation. That Yeaton fails to tell much of a story here is just part of the problem. Despite his neatly written script, he hardly scratches the surface of Claire's pathology (one that is shared by many young girls), and leaves too many questions lingering. Teenager Flock turns in a fine performance under Sam Roberts' direction. (LE3) Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A., Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru May 10. (323) 960-7776.
BILL W. AND DR. BOB Samuel Shem and Janet Surrey's story of Alcoholics Anonymous. Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 31. (323) 960-7827.
BRONZEVILLE Blacks relocate from the South to Little Tokyo, circa World War II, in Tim Toyama and Aaron Woolfolk's play. Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 17. (213) 489-0994.
THE COUNTRY WIFE William Wycherley's 1675 cuckold satire. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 30. (323) 969-1707.
DADDY'S DYIN', WHO'S GOT THE WILL Director Jeff Murray has here substituted the "white trash" clan in Del Shores' comedy about a dysfunctional family in 1986 Texas with an African-American cast. For most of the evening, it's funny watching this caustic mix of vipers playing head games and sniping at each other. Shores<0x2019> dialogue is blisteringly funny, but sometimes these qualities don't emerge forcefully enough under Murray's understated direction. (LE3). Theatre/Theater-Hollywood, 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 26. (323) 954-9795.
DEAD, THEREFORE I AM Max Leavitt's goth-punk comedy. East Theatre at the Complex, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 24. (323) 960-7714.
GO THE DEVIL WITH BOOBS Director Tom Quaintance and his cast work theatrical magic with this superb staging of Dario Fo's bawdy satire (in a finely tuned translation by Jon Laskin). Fo is as much a prankster and polemicist as he is a playwright, all of these aspects are richly displayed here. The action takes place in a town in Northern Italy where fraud, corruption and vice run amok. However, the staunchly upright Judge Alfonso de Tristano (Michael Winters) is a light amidst the darkness, a, man so pure he recoils at the sight of a pair of tits. This situation is intolerable to Master Devil Francipante (the stellar and dangerously funny Phillip William Brock) and his apprentice (Herschel Sparber), so they conspire to possess the judge's body and spirit. Unfortunately, the plan backfires and the judge's buxom housekeeper (Katherine Griffith) winds up playing host to the devil, which causes an eruption of comedy, naughty bits, and mayhem. Quaintance provides fluid, intelligent direction, but the cast is flawlessly funny. Even the musical ditties scattered throughout are nicely done (one such number by Brock had me laughing so hard I thought I'd pass out). Cristina Wright's period costumes and puppets are a riot, and Adam Rowe's set piece (composed almost exclusively of doors), adds just the right touch. (LE3) Open Fist Theater, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m, Sun. 3 p.m. thru. May 16. (323) 882- 6912.
GO DIVORCE! THE MUSICAL Erin Kamler's witty and entertaining new musical satire (for which she wrote the music, the lyrics and the book) takes apart almost every emotional phase of a marital breakup, including the horrors of dating and the hollows of rebound sex, and sets it to chirpy and wry songs that feature some sophisticated musical juxtapositions and harmonies. (Musical direction and arrangements by David O) Kamler skirts the apparent danger of triteness (setting a too familiar circumstance to music) by cutting beneath the veneer of gender warfare. This is a study of the decaying partnership of a resentful Brentwood radiologist (Rick Segall) and his aspiring actress wife (Lowe Taylor), goaded by their respective attorneys. The lawyers are the villains here - one (Gabrielle Wagner), a Beverly Hills shark, the other (Leslie Stevens), a swirl of confusion from her own recent divorce and now "temporarily" based in Studio City. These vultures collude to distort the grievances of their clients, who both actually care about their exes, and would be better off without "representation." They might even remain married, the musical implies. Director Rick Sparks gets clean, accomplished performances from his five-person ensemble (that also includes Gregory Franklin, as the Mediator - i.e. host of an absurdist game show.) Danny Cistone's cubist set with rolling platforms masks the live three-piece band, parked behind the action: This includes the ex-groom's impulsive decision, based in his lawyer's misinformation, to removal all furniture from his home, where he ex-bride continues to live -- only to find his bank accounts and credit cards frozen. In the song, "We Stuck It Out," there's a kind of Sondheimian ennui to the verities of life-long partnerships. The song is ostensibly an homage to his parents, in whose basement he winds up living. As the Brits would say, marriage is bloody hard work. (SLM) Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through May 17. (323) 960-1056.
DOOMSDAY KISS Four plays intertwine with musical performances and an art installation in this apocalyptic multimedia collaboration. Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 10. (213) 389-3856.
ENTER THE SUNDAY All-new sketch and improv by the Sunday Company. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 934-9700.
EURYDICE The myth of Orpheus and his bride, told from Eurydice's perspective, by Sarah Ruhl. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 16. (323) 960-7726.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE Weekly sketch comedy. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.
GO GROUNDLINGS, IN THE STUDY, WITH THE CANDLESTICK. If you want a "clue" as to the subtle new direction LA's premier venerable comedy troop has taken with this new show, you have only to take note of these past paced, if ever-so-slightly disturbing sketches, which are often hilarious, even as they crackle with undercurrents of irony and unease. If previous seasons of The Groundlings have felt perhaps overly influenced by shows such as Saturday Night Liveand MadTV- shows for which the stage company is admittedly the farm team - these vignettes, crisply directed by Jim Rash, possess echoes of the character-driven comedy of Catherine Tate or of the Little Britainseries. The result is a series of gags that boast a coterie of unusually vivid grotesques -- even though we're sometimes tempted to withdraw from what inevitably turns into a Freaks Parade. The striking standouts include a hateful, brittle, borderline abusive elementary school math teacher (Annie Sertich), who whizzes past class algebra questions with sadistic intensity because she's not being allowed to go on the singles cruise she wants; to the towering, creepy, dirty old dad (Kevin Kirkpatrick), who introduces his sex kitten girlfriend (Edi Patterson) to his appalled son (Nat Faxon). Other particularly hilarious skits include one featuring a pair of slackers (Mikey Day and Andrew Friedman), who don 3-D glasses to enjoy the a frighteningly realistic three dimensional sword and sorcery epic -- and a spooky skit in which a pair of psychotic high school age Christian fundamentalists (Kirkpatrick and Sertich, again) warn of the dire consequences if they don't wind up being elected co-class presidents. Some of the skits peter out long before they should, while a few others go on for much longer than they ought. However, the unusual quirkiness of the production suggests an intriguing and fresh new direction for the group that should continue to be explored. (PB) Groundlings Theatre, 7307 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood; Fri. 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; through April 25. (323) 934-4747.
THE HIGH Teen-drama parody, "from OMG to LOL.". ComedySportz, 8033 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 10:30 p.m.. (323) 871-1193.
GO HOME SIEGE HOME With a calculated blend of ancient lyricism and contemporary humor, Ghost Road Theater Company rolls out its free-wheeling and substantively edited adaptation of Aeschylus' trilogy, The Oresteia, told over two separate bills. (Depending on the schedule, they can be seen in one day with a dinner break, or on two separate evenings.) If you're not familiar with the epic, you really should know that it hinges on a series of murders, though the first is technically a sacrifice. Seeking to "rescue" his brother's wife, Helen of Troy, from an "abduction" which triggered the Trojan War, General Agamemnon (Ronnie Clark) sacrifices his own daughter, Iphigineia, to the god Artemis in order to obtain favorable sea winds for his Troy-bound ships. And in Part 1 (Clytemnestra), though Agamemnon feels truly rotten about the deed (he slit his own daughter's throat), his wife Clytemnestra (Trace Turville in Part 1, Christel Joy Johnson in Part 2) feels even more rotten, obsessively mercilessly rotten: Upon her hubby's heroic homecoming, she butchers him in their bed. Excised from Ghost Road's interpretation are a couple of characters who complicate our emotional attachments. In her husband's absence, Clytemnestra took a lover, Aegisthus, who aided in the murder and who doesn't appear here. Furthermore, Agamemnon pulled into the driveway with Roman slave-mistress Cassandra in his chariot. Such a publicly displayed sex toy would certainly put a kink in director Katharine Noon's "Hi, honey, I'm home" '50s suburban aesthetic. So Cassandra is also in absentia. What remains is a nuclear family and a house, like the House of Atreus that could really be in Covina, crumbling, slowly. Noon and company aim to conjure the psychological and cosmic forces that lead to the end of an era, which is pretty much what we're feeling right now in our sliver of history, so it's not hard to find connective tissue. In Part 2 (Elektra), the eponymous daddy's girl (a role shared by Mandy Freund and Christel Joy Johnson) is the now seething daughter of Clytemnestra and the murdered Agamemnon. She sets up camp in an alley, broadcasting her rage against her mother's deed over a makeshift radio, like some ignored and increasingly deranged revolutionary, while awaiting the return of her brother Orestes (Ronald Wingate in Part 1, Clark in Part 2). Her bro does eventually arrive, though still a little soft in the masculinity department. With Elektra's goading, he blusters his way to murder his mother, Clytemnestra, in order to avenge his father's death - that would be killing number three, setting in place cycles of violence that will spin for centuries. And if Orestes doesn't feel ambivalent enough over what he just did, the Three Furies (the entrancing Sarah Broyles, with JoAnna Senatore, and Madelynn Fattibene) torment him to the margins of already precarious sanity in Part 3 (Orestes), when they're not lounging around in cocktail dresses sipping martinis and playing bridge. Noon's production grows increasingly absorbing as it progresses. Among its strengths is the visual unity of Maureen Weiss' set - a house that folds up into a suitcase. (Tattered suitcases and their symbol of exile anchor Noon's lucid point of view.) By Part 3, as their world is crumbling, the characters play their scenes in allegorically constricted compartments. The performances are never less than competent and often inspired. Though Turville's Clytemnestra offers little of the magnetic force and comedy that Jacqueline Wright brought to an earlier version of this project, Clyt at Home, Turville comes into her own with wry authority as bitch-goddess Athena, bossing around Apollo (Wingate) in Part 3. The dialogue careens from petulant platitudes ("You murdered someone who was really important to me" and "The world is fucking complicated. It's not black and white.") to snippets of exalted poeticism. Brian Weir plays Helen of Troy's daughter Hermione in drag, yet without a trace of campiness. She's the outcast, and our narrator. "I don't belong to this house," she says tenderly, "but it belongs to me." As it does to all of us. [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood; in rep, call for schedule. (323) 461-3673. A Ghost Road Company production. (Steven Leigh Morris)
GOHOWLIN' BLUES AND DIRTY DOGS The spirit of the blues pulsates resoundingly throughout this stirring musical based on the life of feisty, soulful singer Big Mama Thornton. The strengths in class-act vocalist Barbara Morrison's performance lie not in her effort to re-create the historical woman but in her expressionistic portrayal of this talented but troubled figure's essence, captured in Morrison's earthy, heartrending vocals. Carla DuPree Clark directs a top-notch supporting ensemble, and the music is simply topflight. (DK). Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Sun., April 26, 3 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun., May 3, 3 p.m.; Sat., May 9, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 10, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 16, 3 p.m.; thru May 15. (310) 462-1439.
L.A. VIEWS II: TALES OF PRESENT PAST The Alexandria itself stars in this remembrance of the hotel's celebrity past and reflection on its place in the present. Company of Angels, Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru May 10. (323) 883-1717.
GO LAND OF THE TIGERS Act 1 of the Burglars of Hamm's hilarious and thought provoking comedy outlandishly crosses Cats with Planet of the Apes. In a whimsical world where felines walk upright and speak English (but thankfully don't caterwaul "Memory") a veritable Kingdom of Tigers prance around in feathered wigs and top coats, while debating important matters (to cats, anyway) in the Tigressional Congress. Amongst this group, the great warrior Sabertooth (Hugo Armstrong) goes into lustful cat heat for sultry she-tiger Sheba (Devin Sidell), which outrages Sheba's fierce brother Fang Stalkington (Tim Sheridan), who has already fathered several litters with the young beauty (remember, this is the Tiger World, we're talking about). Full of bizarre cat mating dances, and scenes in which characters shift instantly from conversing into snarling Tiger-style, the Burglars' comedy is staged by Matt Almos with acrobatic dexterity, a tongue-in-cheek tone, and perfect comic timing. The reasons for slight touches of campiness become evident in Act Two, however, which follows the cast of dimwitted and absurdly self important actors as they are increasingly brainwashed by their tyrannical, ego tripping director (a fabulous Dean Gregory, whose eyes glitter with madness). Although the concept possesses slight echoes of Noises Off, the Burglars cunningly explore a totally different avenue, elegantly satirizing the sense of collective delusion that frequently befalls performers in a mediocre show. The acting work is particularly sprightly, and it's delightful how the bumbling tiger actors of Act 1 are subsequently revealed as the optimistic, dedicated, yet benighted ensemble of Act 2. The end result, more than calculatedly dippy comedy about cats, is an often compelling meditation on the creation of theater itself, and how the audience will never glimpse the many dramas within a play's production. (PB) Sacred Fools theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8, p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through May 3. (310) 281-8337. A Burglars of Hamm, Sacred Fools Co-Production.
LITTLE WOMEN -- THE MUSICAL A feminist critic once observed that Louisa May Alcott's beloved novel was told from the point of view of the jailers, not the inmates. In less loaded language, it represented the values of the parents, not the children. This was often the price of writing in the 19th century, which required edifying morals in its stories. Yet Alcott was able to inject enough reality in her tale to make it memorable. This version, however, adapted by Allan Knee, with songs by Jason Howland and Mindi Dickstein, hews strictly to the musical comedy formula, rendering it genteel and predictable. Every song delivers precisely what we expect, and that tends to bore. One wishes they'd stop singing and get on with the story. Still, this rendition is sometimes superior to the Broadway production: it's more emotionally coherent and touching, if less handsomely designed. Director Thomas Colby serves the piece faithfully, and the performances are generally good. Cassandra Marie Nuss's Jo is over-brassy but serviceable, Kaitlyn Casanova deftly manages Amy's transition from bratty child to beautiful woman, and Bonnie Snyder restores the pepper to irascible Aunt March. As for the rest, what they really need is sharper, less sentimental material. Lyric Theatre, (NW) 520 North La Brea Avenue, Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., thru April 26. (323) 939-9220.
LUMINOUS BIRCH: AND THE SPLENDOR OF THE COLORLESS LIGHT OF EMPTINESS Ever since the days of Artaud, the seemingly irreconcilable ontological differences between the live stage and the motion picture have led to an uneasy truce that can be expressed roughly as, "render unto cinema the things which are cinema's . . . and let theater do the rest." Writer-director Randy Sean Schulman is having none of that. In this deeply personal, solo-performance work (co-directed by Jane McEneaney), Schulman attempts an audacious shotgun marriage of the two media by interacting with a screening of his own, fully realized, widescreen version of a Mack Sennett-styled silent film. Sort of a cryptic, Hegelian meditation on time, mortality and the transcendent power of love, the piece opens onscreen with the Chaplinesque castaway, Luminous Birch (Schulman), separated from his true love, Tangerine (Delcie Adams), by a sea mishap. Birch, who literally climbs out of the onscreen pantomime into the theater, can only impotently prowl the stage as Tangerine is harried by the nefarious Absurd Conquistador (Roy Johns) in the movie. Unfortunately, despite lush production values (John Burton's set, Cameron Lowe's cinematography and Ingrid Ferrin's costumes are all outstanding), even Schulman's seductive stage alchemy can't make oil and water mix. The filmed spectacle so overshadows its live counterpart that the formal tensions upon which Schulman relies to make sense of the proceedings are all but lost. (BR) Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru May 10. (323) 655-7679.
GO MAGNUM OPUS THEATRE: LOVE WRITTEN IN THE STARS The fury of reading through piles of crappy screenplays for exploitive wages has to be what motivated this vicious comedy series. As playwright Jon Robin Baitz once said, L.A. theater offers a response to the "toxicity of living in a company town," and Magnum Opus Theatre is a very strong response to just that. In director Joe Jordan's crisp as toast style, a company of nine performs this excruciating screenplay with unfettered mockery, with Your Host Thurston Eberhard Hillsboro-Smythe, a.k.a. "Thursty" (Brandon Clark, in red dinner jacket and the droll pomposity of Alistaire Cooke in Masterpiece Theatre) reading all the stage directions, including misspellings. This is the story of a chubby girl named Amber (Franci Montgomery, who is not chubby at all, which is part of the joke), abused like Cinderella by her beer-swilling aunt (CJ Merriman), who curses her, slaps her and calls her a pig -- a Punch and Judy show by any other name. Amber has a fantasy lover, the ghost of a Hollywood actor (Michael Lanahan) accidentally slain during the filming of a gangster gun battle. Through plot convolutions to tedious to enumerate, Amber winds up in Hollywood, in a movie about her travails, for which she receives an Academy Award. As the plot slid into its final trajectory, the crowd shouted out "noooooh", as it became cognizant of where this was heading. Any play can be ridiculed simply by employing theatrical devices used here: Whenever "Thursty" reads: "Jeff gives her a passionate kiss," Lanahan uses his fingers to withdraw a sloppy kiss from his mouth, which he then palms off to Montgomery's hand, who then slips the "kiss" into her blouse. But even this wildly presentation brand of theatrical ridicule can't disguise the artlessness of the dialogue and stage directions. What emerges through the event's cruelty, besides the mercifully unnamed screenwriter's ineptitude, is a portrait of the writer, for whom Amber is an obvious standin. As the lampoon wears itself out, we're left with something underneath that's gone beyond parody to the pathetic - the reasons that somebody would have written such a story in the first place, and the hollow, generic fantasies that serve as balm for her feelings of isolation. Watching this show is like watching well trained runners pushing somebody out of a wheelchair. That's a comic bit from old sketch TV shows, but 90 minutes of it leaves you feeling that the company's comic fury is so strong, and its skills so sharp, the joke has been propelled beyond its target to a very dark place indeed. (SLM) Sacred Fools Theatre, 660 N. Heliotrope, L.A.; Fri., 11 p.m.; through May 1. (310) 281-8337.
MADE ME NUCLEAR On March 1, 2006, singer-songwriter Charlie Lustman was informed by his doctor that he had a rare OsteoSarcoma (bone cancer) of the upper jaw. What followed was a grueling and painful siege of therapies, involving radiation injected into his body, surgery removing three quarters of his jawbone, surgical reconstruction, and extensive chemotherapy. When, after two years of treatment, he was declared cancer free, he created this touching 12-song cycle about his experiences. He sings about the bone-numbing shock and terror of being told he had cancer, his fear of death and sense of helplessness, the solace provided him by his loyal wife, his children and his doctors, memory problems caused by his chemo (mercifully temporary), and so on. But the tone is more celebratory than grim: he's determinedly life-affirming, full of hope and gratitude, and his songs are pitched in an intimate, jazzy, bluesy style. He's an engaging and personable performer (thanks in part to his skillful doctors), who brings rueful humor and mischief to a tale that might have been unrelievedly grim. If anything, tries a bit too hard to keep things light. We need a bit of scarifying detail if we're to appreciate his remarkable resilience and optimism. (NW) Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th Street, Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., through March 28. (866) 468-3399 or http://www.MadeMeNuclear.com Produced by the Sarcoma Alliance.
GO MUNCHED Katie Paxton's two older sisters died before she was born. When she became deathly ill, the nurses and the law were convinced that her mother Marybeth (Andrea Hutchman) was killing her slowly in a sordid, attention-seeking case of Munchhausen by Proxy. Marybeth went to prison; Katie (Samantha Sloyan) recovered immediately and went into the foster system. Kim Porter's spellbinding and intimate play catches up with the Paxtons 20-years later when Katie finds a Pandora's box of letters, from her mom and to her mom, in her foster mother's attic. We're never sure if Marybeth is guilty, though she admits to giving her daughter a poisonous dose of ipecac. But what is clear is that mother and daughter share the same DNA -- both face the world with a bitter humor, Katie joking wryly about wrenching trauma, and Marybeth channeling her self-righteous anger into a sarcasm as sharp as a knife. Sloyan and Hutchman turn in two of the best performances I've seen all year. Aided by Duane Daniels' direction, they make comic agony out of deliberate pauses and askance smiles. Shirley Jordan and Peter Breitmayer are quite fine as a whirlwind of nurses, doctors, lawyers and do-gooders, each with their own agenda, and unable to see the facts of Marybeth's actions through their certainty of her psychosis or martyrdom. (AN) El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 2. (323) 960-5771.
GO PHOTOGRAPH 51 This West Coast premiere of Anna Ziegler's powerful yet subtle play, Photograph 51, concerns Rosalind Franklin, the scientist who was instrumental in the discovery of the structure of DNA. Set against Travis Gale Lewis' cleverly accretive set and illuminated by Kathi O'Donohue's complex and variegated lighting, the play takes us into a seminal period in biophysics. No sooner are we introduced to Rosalind (Aria Alpert), her colleague Dr. Wilkins (Daniel Billet), and her graduate assistant Maurice Gosling (Graham Norris) than Rosalind declares in no uncertain terms, "Dr. Wilkins, I don't do jokes. I do science." Her confidence and professionalism leads to an uncomfortable friction with Wilkins and the rest of the chauvinistic male scientific establishment, including Watson (Ian Gould) and Crick (Kerby Joe Grubb), who are simultaneously in search of the genetic blueprint. While Rosalind remains the consummate professional, even cold at times, she does reveal slivers of her inner life through correspondence with American scientist Don Casper (Ross Hellwig). As each side gets closer to the genetic blueprint, one of Rosalind's photographs ends up becoming crucial to unlocking the mystery. Director Simon Levy efficiently orchestrates the manipulation of time and space, turning vast leaps into imperceptible segues, and inspiring powerful performances from his actors. The entire cast sparkles behind Alpert, whose portrayal of Rosalind's ruthless efficiency, biting wit, and deep pain is a tour de force that brings to mind Meryl Streep's take on Anna Wintour. This tribute to a woman who helped crack the Pyrex ceiling reminds us of the need to reexamine "his"tory, and should not be missed. (MK)The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through May 31. (323) 663-1525.
GO POINT BREAK LIVE! Jaime Keeling's merciless skewering of the 1991 hyper-action flick starring Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey is loaded with laughs, as well as surprises, like picking an audience member to play Reeves' role of Special Agent Johnny Utah. It's damn good fun, cleverly staged by directors Eve Hars, Thomas Blake and George Spielvogel. (LE3). Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8:30 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.. (866) 811-4111.
GO THE PRODIGAL FATHER Those worried that Larry Dean Harris' breezy drama about a gay playwright and his bigoted, Alzheimer's-addled father might have something to do with terminal brain disease can rest easy. The soul-destroying illness is little more than the thinnest of medical MacGuffins in a story whose true subject is the sometimes-paradoxical ways in which codes of masculinity are transmitted and reified in male bonds. For Bible Belt-bred, stage scribe Jamey Sanders (Allain Rochel), that means the same hyper-macho traits so reviled in Earl (Max Gail), Jamey's estranged, Korean War-veteran bear of a father, are precisely what attracts him to Nick (Joe Rose), his older, construction-worker bear of a lover. When the memory-challenged Earl unexpectedly flees his Tennessee convalescent home and lands on the gay couple's Chicago doorstep, Jamey must resolve long-deferred Oedipal issues if he is to both hold onto Nick and effect the story's bizarre reconciliation while Earl still has half a mind. Along the way, Harris offers the unseemly narrative novelty of employing Earl's spells of dementia as dramatic flashbacks to some metaphorically murky coon hunts from Jamey's childhood. Nevertheless, brisk direction by Michael Matthews and strong performances from a veteran cast (Josette DiCarlo is particularly fine doubling as the boys' flamboyantly flirty friend and Jamey's deceased mother) make it an entertaining ride. (BR) Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 26. (323) 957-1884.
RICHARD III REDUX: OUR RADICAL ADAPTATION The Veterans Center for the Performing Arts mashes up Shakespeare's Richard III and Henry VI, Part 3 as a study of post-traumatic stress disorder. Mortise & Tenon Furniture Store, Second Floor, 446 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Mon., Sun., 8 p.m.; thru June 8. (888) 398-9348.
R.U.R. "Rossum's Universal Robots" revolt in Kael <0x010C>apek's 1921 play. Art/Works Theatre, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 16. (800) 838-3006.
SERIAL KILLERS Late-night serialized stories, voted on by the audience to determine which ones continue. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Sat., 11 p.m.; thru May 2. (310) 281-8337.
SEX, RELATIONSHIPS, AND SOMETIMES ... LOVE Monologues on all of the above, by Joelle Arqueros. Actor's Playpen, 1514 N. Gardner St., L.A.; Sun., 7 & 9 p.m.; thru May 10. (310) 226-6148.
SIN: A CARDINAL DEPOSED The 2002 deposition of Cardinal Bernard Law had all the elements of great theater: small heroes, a giant villain, and a troublesome morality that raised more questions than it answered. But while all the pieces are there, they still need to be shaped, and playwright Michael Murphy simply trims the transcripts and presents a fictionally synthesized laywer (Steven Culp) and his inquisition of the publicly disgraced (but Vatican-condoned) Cardinal (Joe Spano). It's smart and interesting, but wearisomely literal. This leaves director Paul Mazursky little to do but stage it as a stiff tableaux -- the Catholic Church's last ethically superior supper -- centered on the deposition table. At that table, the Cardinal is flanked by his lawyer (Carl Bressler) and his fictionalized opponent. Add to this trio two actors who read the letters of witnesses, truth seekers, and church officials (Edita Brychta and Jack Maxwell, both great at shifting through a dozen accents) and a molestation victim (Christian Campbell) who oversees it all in silence. While the cast is quite good, that all are reading from scripts adds to the inertia, leaving us restless enough to wish that Murphy had dug beneath the surface and unearthed questions he only gestures towards, such as the coexistence of good and evil in priests whose six days of benevolence will never balance their afternoons of selfish harm. (AN) Hayworth Theater, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru May 6. (323) 960-4442.
GO STICK FLY Lydia R. Diamond's scintillating comedy is set in the elegant and expensive summer home (gorgeously designed by John Iacovelli) of Dr. Joseph Levay (John Wesley), in an elite, African-American enclave of Martha's Vineyard. The family is arriving for the weekend, and son Flip (Terrell Tilford), a successful plastic surgeon, is bringing his white fiancée Kimber (Avery Clyde) to meet the family. Writer son Kent (Chris Butler) also brings his bride-to be, Taylor (Michole Briana White), who comes from a lower rung on the social ladder. At first all is banter, horse-play and fun, but gradually fracture lines appear. Despite their wealth and privilege, the Levays are not immune to the stresses and prejudices of snobbery, race and class, conflicts between fathers and sons, and brotherly rivalries. Mom hasn't turned up for the family gathering, and secrets about sexual hanky-pank lurk beneath the surface, waiting to erupt. Meanwhile, young substitute maid-housekeeper Cheryl (Tinashe Kajese) is seriously upset about something. Diamond's play combines complex characters, provocative situations, and literate, funny dialog in this delicious comedy of contemporary manners. Director Shirley Joe Finney reveals a sharp eye for social nuance, and melds her dream cast into a brilliantly seamless ensemble. They are all terrific. (NW) The Matrix Theatre Company, 7657 Melrose Avenue, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m., thru May 31. (323) 960-7740.
GO TENNESSEE WILLIAMS UNSCRIPTED The audiences tosses in a couple of suggestions at the start of the show, from which Impro Theater spins a full-length improvised drama in the style of Tennessee Williams. Clearly the types are pre-set. Floyd Van Buskirk's "Daddy" is a compendium of Night of the Iguana's ex-Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof's Big Daddy. Director Brian Lohmann's Marquis is a flat-footed, slightly neurotic fellow tossed out of service in WWII by a 4F army classification. His withering self-respect gets crushed beneath the boot of Buddy (Dan O'Connor), home from the service and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. There's an off-stage Veteran's Day Parade for atmosphere (one of the audience suggestions was "November," so there you go.) Tenderly comedic performances also by Jo McKinley as the repressed Widow Oleson and by Tracy Burns as the town slut Loretta, and especially by Lisa Fredrickson as the smart, aging romantic, Charlene. Is there any hope of enduring romance in this isolated mushpot of Williams' universe? The company guides the drama into a savvy bitter-sweet resolution. This is a tougher challenge than the company's prior effort, Jane Austen Unscripted, because the types of repression that form the essences of the comedy are comparatively languid in Williams, whereas the Austen sendup sprung from the starched collars and feelings that couldn't be expressed - because that would have been impolite. Williams' characters say what's on the mind, usually two or three times in various poetical incarnations: That's the detail that these actors nail on the head. Once that joke has arrived, the challenge is to avoid making a glib mockery of Williams' drawling explications and the sometimes ham-fisted poetry. It's a trap the company studiously avoids, so that the event lingers somewhere between satire and homage. It's a very smart choice. Nice cameo also by Nick Massouh. (SLM) Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through April 26. (800) 838-3006. An Impro Theater production
13 BY SHANLEY FESTIVAL Seven full-length plays and six one-acts by John Patrick Shanley. (Weekly schedule alternates; call for info.). Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., Sun., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru May 24. (323) 960-7827.
THE TOMORROW SHOW Late-night variety show created by Craig Anton, Ron Lynch and Brendon Small. Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Sat., midnight. (323) 960-7785.
GO VOICE LESSONS Justin Tanner's very funny sitcom shoots darts at a trio of characters who are tied to the dart board by their transparent lunacies and hubris, which makes it an exercise in almost pointless cruelty, though the broadness of Bart DeLorenzo's staging may have contributed to the sense of this Punch & Judy Show masquerading as a satire. In earlier plays, like Pot Mom, Tanner stumbled onto an insight that unearthed the unseen side of a stereotype. His skills at structure, one-liners and caricature are so sharply honed, his persisting challenge is finding something worth saying. Tanner's parody is directed at the vicious and deluded vanity of a hopelessly obviously talentless and aging pop singer, Virginia (Laurie Metcalf), trying to claw her way to TV fame. Can a target get any easier? She cements her ambitions to a voice teacher, Nate (French Stewart), whose initial mask of respectability and ethics slithers down the greasy pole of his own personal desperation. Maile Flanagan further inflates the farce, portraying Nate's zaftig live-in girlfriend, setting up a catfight over the forlorn and increasingly sleazy teacher. For all its petulant ambitions, the evening is wildly entertaining thanks to the irrepressible talents of the cast. It's hard to see how this play would survive without these actors. With a deep and slightly nasal voice, and deadpan responses that should be copyrighted for the mountain of silent thoughts they reveal, Stewart provides the perfect foil for Metcalf's meticulously executed tornado of psychosis and Flanagan's lovely cameo. DeLorenzo deserves credit for the comedy's sculpted timing, and Gary Guidinger's set and lighting depicts with realistic detail the frayed fortress of Nate's living room. (SLM) Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through May 17. (323) 960-7711.
VOX HUMANA PRESENTS "LITTLE THEATER" Overtones by Alice Gerstenberg; Trifles by Susan Glaspell; The Rope by Eugene O'Neill. Hollywood Court Theatre, Hollywood United Methodist Church, 6817 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru May 10. (323) 769-5794.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALL THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS
AND THE WINNER IS Mitch Albom's tale of an actor desperately trying to get to the Oscars. Stillspeaking Theatre, 2560 Huntington Dr., San Marino; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 24. (626) 292-2081.
BENEATH RIPPLING WATER Sybyl Walker portrays three women in love. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; Through May 16, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 17, 3 p.m.; thru May 3. (866) 811-4111.
GO THE BIRD AND MR. BANKS Alternately ghoulish and sweet, playwright Kevin Huff's darkly ironic tale is a pleasingly twisted mix of romance and Grand Guignol horror. After she's dumped by her louse-lover boss (Chet Grissom), corporate secretary Annie (Jenny Kern) tries to kill herself. She receives emotional support from a co-worker - the soft spoken, eerily staring accountant, Mr. Banks (Sam Anderson), whom the other folks in the office have long considered slightly creepy. After she moves into Mr. Banks' sprawling, dusty house, Annie discovers that the co-workers don't know the half of it. Still attached by a cast iron Oedipal apron string to parents long since dead, Banks has furnished the home in a dusty style that can charitably be called "Norman Bates Modern." When Annie's boss stops by and attempts to rape her, Banks pulls out a cudgel and events take a gruesome turn. Although the plot slightly bogs down during a needlessly long Act Two road trip, Huff's writing is otherwise smartly edgy, full of vituperative charm. Director Mark St. Amant's comedically tight production punches the weird, Addams Familytone with brio, nicely balancing horror with genuine sympathy for the characters. From his deep, soft, insanity-steeped voice to his shambolic gait and his half baked "drunk crazy uncle" stage persona, Anderson's turn as the crazed killer-accountant is utterly compelling. (PB) Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through May 2. (866) 811-4111. Road Theater Production.
BLACK ANGELS OVER TUSKEGEE The Black Gents of Hollywood present Layon Gray's world-premiere drama about African-American fighter pilots. Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 7:45 p.m.; thru May 2. (818) 754-5725.
THE CATERER LeVar Burton stars in Brian Alan Lane's drama as a vendor of "appropriate" death. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 8 p.m.; thru May 10, www.thecatererplay.com. (818) 990-2324.
THE COLUMBINE PROJECT Paul Storiale examines the Colorado high school massacre. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 9. (818) 766-9100.
GO A DON'T HUG ME COUNTY FAIR. This crowd-pleasing cornball musical, by Phil and Paul Olsen, suggests a home-town talent show combined with a sort of Minnesota Folk Play, full of bad jokes, and set in a bar called The Bunyan, on the first day of the Bunyan County Fair. Proprietor Gunner Johnson (Tom Gibis, who also plays Gunner's man-hungry sister Trigger) is so uncomfortable talking about feelings that he can't pronounce the word "love." His frustrated wife, Clara (Judy Heneghan)m seeks attention by becoming a contestant in the Miss Walleye Contest, whose winner will have her face carved in butter. Also in the running are Trigger and Bernice (Katherine Brunk), a scatty-but-shapely gal who longs to star on Broadway. And there are other competitions: karaoke-machine salesman Aarvid Gisselsen (Brad McDonald) and camping supplies tycoon Kanute Gunderson (Tom Limmel) vie for the hand of Bernice, while Kanute and Gunner compete in the fishing contest. The songs, by the Olsens, are rinky-tink and derivative, borrowing melodies from everywhere, but somehow they work. The giddy tone is set by Doug Engalla's direction, Stan Mazin's choreography, and an astonishingly detailed set by Chris Winfield, featuring a karaoke machine with a mind of its own. (NW) Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Boulevard, N. Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., thru May 2. (818) 700-4878 www.lcgrt.com.
GO DRACULA Director Ken Sawyer, who recently helmed
the delightful Lovelace: A Rock Opera at the Hayworth, has scored again
with this stylish adaptation of Bram Stoker's vampire tale. Co-writers
Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston's liberties they take on the
story in now way diminish the quality of the production. Robert
Arbogast is splendid as the creepy count, first seen rising from his
grave to put the bite on the lovely Mina (Mara Marini), upon his
arrival in England. When Lucy Seward (Darcy Jo Martin), contacts a
mysterious illness, her mother, Lily (Karesa McElheny), who runs an
asylum, enlists the expertise of Abraham Van Helsing (Joe Hart) to find
a cure. Thrown into the mix are Lucy's betrothed Jonathan Harker (J.R.
Mangels) and the mad, bug-eating Renfield (Alex Robert Holmes). This
one's all about atmosphere. Desma Murphy's alluring set design is
cleverly accented by an enormous backdrop of an incubus sitting on a
sleeping woman, inspired by Henry Fuseli's painting "The Nightmare."
Luke Moyer's lighting schema is perfectly conceived. Sawyer uses an
arsenal of haunted house special effects here, including lots of
rolling fog and wolf howls, but they never come across as cheesy or
overdone; and there are a few scary moments during this 90-minute show,
amidst the well-placed humor. (LE3) NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia
Blvd.; N. Hlwyd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through April 26.
THE FOOD CHAIN Nicky Silver's sex comedy about former gay lovers, a married couple, and eating disorders. Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 3. (323) 860-6569.
GOTHMAS Kerr Seth Lordygan and Laura Lee Bahr's goth (or really, nu metal) musical opens on Halloween when depressive Helena (Bahr) slits her wrists. The debut production itself would benefit from its own cruel cuts. At its black, festering, wonderful heart, Gothmasis a love triangle between self-absorbed best frenemy roommates -- hetero Helena, gay Garth (Lordygan) and their selfish bisexual hustler lover Joe (Kadyr Gutierrez, who capitalizes on the duo's need for freakdom by suggesting they share him. Clocking in at three-hours, this bleak charm of this 12-member ensemble's behemoth would be better served if every element were chopped in half. There's a fantastic piece buried in here, especially once director Justin T. Bowler doubles the cast's narcissism and hysteria, which would help the play find consistent footing between songs that ache with betrayal and ones that sting with unrepentant, grim glee. (And once Joel Rieck's choreography eases away from the literal -- when Helena sings she's got "nothing to lose, nothing to grab," the entire cast clutches at the air.) This run is worth seeing, however, as a midnight cult fave-in-process with some inspired axe murders. (AN) Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 17. (323) 960-7712.
THE LAST HIPPIE: A WESTERN NOVEL Monologues by Vincent Mann about the 1970s waning of hippie counterculture. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Tues., 8 p.m.; thru May 12. (818) 783-6784.
MACBETH Forget radically deconstructed concept productions or contemporary political reinterpretations, director Sean Branney delivers no such surprises in his traditional and somewhat generic staging of Shakespeare's Scottish noir. With the text more-or-less intact ― even the oft-cut first witches' scene remains ― Branney's most brazen liberty is to goose the testosterone with the kind of onstage swashbuckling (choreographed by Brian Danner) that Shakespeare had intended be played offstage. Otherwise, this bard is strictly by the book. The good news is Andrew Leman's muscular, articulate turn as brave Macbeth. Leman's performance is nobility personified; which is to say his regal demeanor is only occasionally ruffled by the underlying corruption of a "vaulting ambition" that will turn Macbeth, after Richard III, into Shakespeare's most notorious regicidal maniac. As the play's invidious femme fatale, McKerrin Kelly compliments Leman with a Lady Macbeth who makes even icy ruthlessness seem sexy. Other standouts include Daniel Kaemon's dashing Malcolm, and Mike Dalager and Danny Barclay, whose pair of scurvy-chic Murderers looks like they stepped out of a Guns N' Roses video. For the rest of the cast, costume designer Christy M. Hauptman eschews highland tartan for robes of a more indeterminate, medieval kind. That nonspecificity is continued in the raised stone altar and henge-like monoliths of Arthur MacBride's set, whose suggestion of Neolithic pagan ritual may be a clever design for Macbeth . . . not, however, for this one, which never otherwise hints at such themes. (BR) The Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Toluca Lake; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 26; (818) 846-5323.
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE John Lahr updates Richard Condon's political thriller. Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 2, www.theprodco.com. (800) 838-3006.
MR. MARMALADE Noah Haidle's black comedy about a 4-year-old girl's imaginary friend, a combative, cocaine-fueled porn addict. Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 17. (800) 838-3006.
NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY Detective chases serial killer in this musical adaptation of William Goldman's novel. Book, music and lyrics by Douglas J. Cohen. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Toluca Lake; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru May 17. (818) 558-7000.
NOSE TALES The Zombie Joe Underground sniffs out "five lovable fools.". ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Fri., 8:30 p.m.; thru April 24. (818) 202-4120.
SONG OF ST. TESS Chris Collins' tragedy about a San Francisco divorc<0x00E9>e. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 10. (323) 960-7735.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK Stephen Mallatratt's ghost story, adapted from the novel by Susan Hill. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru May 13. (866) 262-6253.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS
GO THE ACCOMPLICES Bernard Weinraub's documentary drama reminds us of WWII's less benevolent aspects. He tells the story of Peter Bergson, born Hillel Kook (Steven Schub), who devoted his life to attempting to rescue Jews from Nazi-occupied Europe. Political complexities inevitably overshadow Bergson's personal life, but they are fascinating in their own right. Deborah LaVine skillfully melds a fine cast into a gripping production. (NW). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 14. (310) 477-2055.
BETRAYAL Harold Pinter's bizarre love triangle. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sun., May 3, 7 p.m.; thru May 14. (310) 512-6030.
GO THE BOURGEOIS GENTILHOMME You'd think, from reading the world press, that racism and, by extension, classism, had suddenly been vanquished from the nation - overnight, by a stunning national election. Such is the power of symbolism and hope. Sooner or later, we will settle into a more realistic view of who we are, and were, and how we have evolved in ways perhaps more subtle than the current "we are the world" emotional gush would lead one to believe. It's in this more self-critical (rather than celebratory) frame of mind that Moliè's 1670 comedy - a satire of snobbery and social climbing - will find its relevance renewed. For now, however, Frederique Michel (who directed the play) and Charles Duncombe's fresh and bawdy translation-adaptation serves up a bouquet of comedic delights that offer the caution that -- though celebrating a milestone on the path of social opportunity is worthy of many tears of joy -- perhaps we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves with self-congratulation. Bourgeois Gentlemanwas first presented the year Tartuffe, and it contains many of the hallmarks of its more famous cousin: a deluded and pompous protagonist (Jeff Atik); a con man (Troy Dunn) aiming for social advancement by speculating on the blind arrogance of his patron; and the imposition of an arranged marriage, by the insane master of the house, for his crest-fallen daughter (Alisha Nichols). The play was originally written as a ballet-farce, for which composer Jean-Baptiste Lully performed in the production before the court of Louis XIV. Michel's visually opulent staging features scenery (designed by Duncombe) that includes a pair of chandeliers, and costumes (by Josephine Poinsot) in shades of red, maroon and black. Michel employs Lully's music in a nod to the original. (The singing is far too thin even to support the jokes about its competence.) Michel also includes a lovely ballet by performers in mesmerizing gtears of a clownh masks, a choreographed prance of the fops, and she has characters bounding and spinning during otherwise realistic conversations, in order to mock style over substance. Comedy has a maximum refrigeration temperature of 75 degrees, and when that temperature was exceeded during Act 1 on the performance I attended, the humor ran off the tracks - despite the broad style being sustained with conviction by the performers. By Act 2, the heat problem had been remedied and the comedy started playing again as it should. In fact, I haven't seen a comic tour de force the likes of Atik's Monseiur Jordain since Alan Bomenfeld's King Ubu at A Noise Within. As Jourdain is trying to woo a countess (the striking Deborah Knox), Atik plays him attired in silks and bows of Ottoman extravagance, with a blissfully stupid expression - every dart of his eyes reveals Jordain's smug self-satisfaction that's embedded with delirious ignorance. (SLM) City Garage, 1340½ (alley) Fourth Street, Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5:30 p.m.; through May 8. (310) 319-9939.
BUNNY TALES EPISODE: IV: BUNNY WARS West of Broadway Theater Company and Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California adapt the story of Peter Rabbit, "for children of all ages.". Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 26. (310) 392-7327.
BURN THIS Lanford Wilson's drama about four New Yorkers and a funeral is a slippery portrait of love and loss. Staged with a warm cast, it's flush with hope; just as easily, though, a more aloof ensemble can flip it into a play about emotional isolation where the polite relationship between Anna (Marisa Petroro) and perfect-on-paper boyfriend Burton (Jonathan Blandino) casts a cold shadow across all dynamics, making her devotion to callously funny roomate Larry (Aaron Misakian) and temperamental lover Pale (a wrenching and infuriating Dominic Comperatore) seem nearly like pathological self-punishment. Director John Ruskin sees this as a love story -- the scene breaks twinkle with sentimental music -- however his cast isn't up to it and hasn't even been instructed to at least pretend to be listening to each other. (Burton's confession of a random blowjob from a strange man rolls off Anna like he was droning on about the weather.) Comperatore's combustible Pale has four times the spark of the rest of the ensemble -- when he bursts into the scene, we see the gulf between what Wilson's play could be and what this staging actually is. (AN) Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through May 9. (310) 397-3244.
CINDERELLA: THE MUSICAL Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie's family-friendly fairy tale. (Resv. required.). Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat.-Sun., 12:30 & 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 27. (310) 394-9779.
GO DESPERATE WRITERS: THE FINAL DRAFT This demented farce by Joshua Grenrock and Catherine Schreiber should be catnip for those who love Hollywood in-jokes. Ashley (Kate Hollingshead) and David (Brian Krause) are lovers and writing partners; though they've been writing for years, they've never sold a script. Ashley's convinced that producers never actually read their scripts, so she kidnaps three of them (writers Grenrock and Schreiber, and Andrew Ross Wynn) at gunpoint, locking them in a wire cage in her living room (built before our eyes by trusty techies). She prepares a gourmet meal for the producers, while David reads to them -- despite their protests -- a new script. The reading is punctuated by phone calls from agent Vanessa (Jennifer Taub), a death by apoplectic fit, an earthquake, a resurrection, and a home invasion by a pair of robbers (Scott Damian and Stephen Grove Malloy) who drop off their pix and resumes on their way out. And, oh, yes, the rental agent (Vivian Bang) arrives to show the house to prospective tenants (Damian and Eden Malyn). The actors are game and skillful, and director Kay Cole keeps the action spinning along on Francoise-Pierre Couture's set, cleverly designed as an architect's blueprint. (NW) Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 & 7 p.m., thru May 10. (800) 838-3006 or http://desperatewriters.com.
DID YOU DO YOUR HOMEWORK? Writer/performer Aaron Braxton has passion and talent - both amply evident in this promising work-in-progress about the difficulties of teaching in the urban classroom. A 13-year veteran with L.A. Unified, Braxton builds his piece around his early experience as a substitute teacher filling in for an old-timer - 33 years on the job - who one day ups and quits. A gift for mimicry brings the performer's characters into clear comic focus: himself as the beleaguered Mr. Braxton, several colorful problem students, their even more colorful and problematic parents and another staff member -- a well-meaning elderly bureaucrat in charge of the school's counterproductive testing program. At times Braxton steps away from dramatizing the action to speak to the audience directly about the frustrations of trying to make a difference, contrasting his own upbringing as the son of a teacher, taught to respect education, with the imperviously disdainful attitude of his pupils. He also sings 4 songs, displaying a beautiful voice. The main problem with the piece is its disjointedness and discontinuity; the songs, reflective of Braxton's message, are only tenuously connected to the narrative, itself a patchwork collection of anecdotes juxtaposed against addresses to the audience. This gives the show a hybrid feel - part performance, part moral exposition, part musical showcase. Yet there's plenty of power and potential here. Kathleen Rubin directs. (DK) Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through May 2. (310) 358-9936.
FIFTH OF JULY Lanford Wilson's farm-family drama. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 23. (562) 494-1014.
HAY FEVER Noel Coward's 1924 comedy. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., May 17, 7 p.m.; Thurs., May 21, 8 p.m.; thru May 23. (310) 512-6030.
INCORRUPTABLE Michael Hollinger's Dark Ages farce. (In rep with Apple, call for schedule). Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; Mon.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru May 21. (310) 364-0535.
LIONS Vince Melocchi's new play features nine men and a woman decaying slowing in a private watering hole during an major economic slump -- this major economic slump. Set during the 2007/2008 football season, Melocchi's story centers on John Waite (Matt McKenzie), an unemployed metalworker whose desire to see the Detroit Lions win the Super Bowl supplants all other priorities in his life. As his immutable pride keeps him from opportunity, he grows sour and angry, a textured and nuanced transformation that McKenzie performs poetically, even at explosive heights of cursing and fighting. The rest of the denizens seem to spiral around him, perhaps sinking into his black hole of self worth. Director Guillermo Cienfuegos allows us to spend time with each of the hopeless, revealing the play's pith and brutality with a sensitive hand. But this tends to expose the play's relatively minor weaknesses: the conveniently contrived exits and entrances, the shapelessness of some of the relationships -- especially considering the large cast, clumsy dialogue that sometimes spills awkwardly into scenes. The strong ensemble, though, piles through these uneven aspects to deliver an all around touching portrait of middle America, a reminder that "real Americans" need not be so reductively characterized as simply Joe the Plumber. (LR) Pacific Resident Theater, 705 ½ Venice Blvd., Venice; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 2. (310) 822-8392.
MADE ME NUCLEAR On March 1, 2006, singer-songwriter Charlie Lustman was informed by his doctor that he had a rare OsteoSarcoma (bone cancer) of the upper jaw. What followed was a grueling and painful siege of therapies, involving radiation injected into his body, surgery removing three quarters of his jawbone, surgical reconstruction, and extensive chemotherapy. When, after two years of treatment, he was declared cancer free, he created this touching 12-song cycle about his experiences. He sings about the bone-numbing shock and terror of being told he had cancer, his fear of death and sense of helplessness, the solace provided him by his loyal wife, his children and his doctors, memory problems caused by his chemo (mercifully temporary), and so on. But the tone is more celebratory than grim: he's determinedly life-affirming, full of hope and gratitude, and his songs are pitched in an intimate, jazzy, bluesy style. He's an engaging and personable performer (thanks in part to his skillful doctors), who brings rueful humor and mischief to a tale that might have been unrelievedly grim. If anything, tries a bit too hard to keep things light. We need a bit of scarifying detail if we're to appreciate his remarkable resilience and optimism. (NW) Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th Street, Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., through May 30. (866) 468-3399 or http://www.MadeMeNuclear.com Produced by the Sarcoma Alliance.
GO MISALLIANCE Be warned that G.B. Shaw's wordy comedy of manners lopes for along for almost the entire first act before finally taking off. And then it really flies. It's Set in 1909, in the plush home (artfully realized by designer Stephen Gifford) of a successful underwear retailer named Tarleton (Greg Mullavey), whose daughter Hypatia (Abigail Rose Solomon) has become engaged to a whiny aristocratic nerd (Orestes Arcuni). At first the play totters under the weight of Shavian didactics: a plethora of chitchat about generational and class conflicts, the experience of aging and the liberation of women. The bright spot in this intermittently sleep-inducing stretch is Solomon's captivating turn as a sharp young gal chafing under the strictures of her gender; she's seconded in her charm by Maggie Peach, endearing as her wise, albeit mildly ditzy mother. Happily, Act 2 gets a lot livelier when an airplane piloted by a dashing young aviator (Nick Mennell) and a liberated lady acrobat (Molly Schaffer) crashes into the family greenhouse, followed by the clandestine entry of a pistol-packing gunman (David Clayberg) determined to do Tarleton in. The confrontation between the merchant and his would-be assassin forms the nub of the second act's considerable humor, and it's heightened further by the on-target performances of Mennell as Hypatia's new love interest and Schaffer as the latest object of Tarleton's philandering affections. By play's end, under Elina de Santos' direction, the production has redeemed its dullish beginnings, delivering up more than our ticket's worth of laughs. (DK) Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 30. (310) 477-2055.
GO THE SCHOOL FOR WIVES The central character in Moliè's comedy, here translated and adapted by FrééMichel & Charles Duncombe could be and often is a punching bag. But not here. Arnolphe is another in a stream of Moliè's aging, patronizing nitwits (like Orgon on Tartuffe) who presume that they can control the devotions and passions of young women in their care. In Tartuffe, when Orgon's daughter protests his insistence that she break her wedding plans to her beloved suitor in order to marry the clergyman he prefers, Orgon figures her rebellion is just a impetuous, child-like phase. In The School for Wives, there's a similar mind-set to Arnolphe (Bo Roberts), who has tried to sculpt his young ward, Agnes (Jessica Madison), into his future wife. He's known her since she was 4, and he's strategically kept her closeted, as though in a convent, hoping thereby to shape her obedience and gratitude. Just as he's about to wed her, in stumbles young Horace (Dave Mack) from the street below her window, and the youthful pair are smitten with eachother, soon conniving against the old bachelor. Horace, not realizing that Arnolphe is the man keeping Agnes as his imprisoned ward, keeps confiding in the older man about his and Agnes' schemes, fueling Arnolphe's exasperation and fury. Perhaps it's the use of director Michel's tender, Baroque sound-tracks, or the gentle understatement of Roberts' performance and Arnolphe, but the play emerges less as a clown show, and more as a wistful almost elegiac rumination on aging and folly. Arnolphe tried to create a brainless wife as though from a petri dish, an object he can own, and the more she rejects him, the more enamored he becomes of her, until his heart breaks. The pathos is underscored by the obvious intelligence of Madison's Agnes - an intelligence that Arnolphe is blind to. The production's reflective tone supersedes Michel's very stylized, choreographic staging (this company's trademark). The ennui is further supported by a similarly low-key portrayal by David E. Frank as Arnolphe's blithe friend and confidante, Chrysalde. In In fact, when lisping, idiot servants (Cynthia Mance and Ken Rudnicki) keep running in circles and crashing into each other, Michel's one attempt at Commedia physicality is at odds with the production rather than a complement to it. Company costumer Josephine Poinsot (surprising she doesn't work more) provides luscious period vestments and gowns, and Duncombe's delightful production design, includes a gurgling fountain, a tub of white roses, and abstract hints of some elegant, Parisian court. (SLM) Garage, 1340½Fourth Street (alley entrance); Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5:30 p.m.; through May 31. (310) 319-9939.
THE TAMING OF THE SHREW This staging of Shakespeare's curiously misogynist comedy seems more concerned with mounting a handsome production than a cohesive one. Jack Stehlin's direction takes each scene individually, some playing up the humor into Three Stooges<0x2013>style slapstick, while others burn sexual heat underneath red lighting. The cast turns out fine performances, each with their own tone; those who choose naturalism fare best. (AN). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 26. (310) 477-2055.
TUNA DOES VEGAS Texan townsfolk head to Sin City in Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard's fourth installment of their "Greater Tuna" satire. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada; Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru May 3. (562) 944-9801.
GO THE WAR CYCLE: SURVIVED Playwright Tom Burmester's powerful drama, the second installment of his "war cycle" about the Iraqi War, mostly reigns in any implied disapproval for America's Misbegotten 21st Century Foreign Adventure to focus on more universal themes of family grief. It's been about a year since U.S. soldier Mike Harper was killed during an Iraqi ambush, and the dead man's family is still coping - or, more accurately, not coping - with their sorrow. Dad Sam (James W. Sudik) is holed away in his cellar, designing an annex to the family home for Sophia (Melissa Collins), the dead boy's shattered widow, to live in, even though the idea flatly appalls her. Meanwhile, mom Lilith (a nicely brittle Dee Amerio Sudik) engages in a fierce and totally irrelevant feud with Sophia about what to do with the dead soldier's ashes. Into this already semi-toxic atmosphere unexpectedly comes Sgt. Taylor (Jonathan Redding), a former war buddy of Mike's, bringing tragic details of his pal's death which shake up the family even more. Burmester's drama, co-directed with Danika Sudik, displays unusually skill at articulating a family's shaky façade of icy normalcy, as it gives way to rage and despair. Although the piece sometimes falls prey to some stock thematic tropes of the "War Story Genre" (the work occasionally feels as though the playwright wants to be writing about the Vietnam War, a very different military action), the emotions still ring true. Collins' Sophia, bewildered by sadness even as she makes tentative gestures at moving on, is particularly compelling - as is Redding, offering a complex, disturbing turn as the war buddy. (PB) Powerhouse Theater, 3112 2nd Street, Santa Monica; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through April 25. (800) 595-4849. A Los Angeles Theater Ensemble production.
THEATER SPECIAL EVENTS
CIRCLE X FREE READING SERIES Full schedule at www.circlextheatre.org. Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru May 27. (323) 463-3900.
DAVID COPPERFIELD: AN INTIMATE EVENING OF GRAND ILLUSION The smoove daddy of magic's tricks and treats. Long Beach Terrace Theater, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; Mon., April 27, 5:30 & 8:30 p.m.. (800) 745-3000.
DEBBIE REYNOLDS: AN EVENING OF MUSIC AND COMEDY . El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens April 30; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; Wed., May 6, 2 p.m.; thru May 10. (866) 811-4111.
EAST WEST PLAYERS VISIONARY AWARDS Honoring filmmaker Jessica Yu and dance troupe Quest Crew, plus a performance by Filipina singer Lea Salonga. Hilton Universal City, 555 Universal Hollywood Dr., Universal City; Mon., April 27, 7 p.m.. (818) 506-2500.
GO FAMILY PLANNING In a remount of Julia Edwards' examination of fertility treatments, Chalk Repertory Theatre stages the production in four different private homes during its run. In a well-appointed Sherman Oaks dwelling, Olivia (Alina Phelan) comes home from work, hormone addled and ready to conceive with her husband Hamish (David Heckel). To Olivia's chagrin, Hamish's childhood buddy Rosen (David Ari) and his pre-med, teenybopper girlfriend Jilly (Elia Saldana) have dropped in during their cross-country road trip. As if getting rid of them to take advantage of Olivia's ovulation window wasn't awkward enough, Hamish's clingy mother Greta (Danielle Kennedy) drops by as well. What ensues is a raw and emotional whirlwind of resentment, shame and angst, culminating in a waterfall of bile and vitriol as one secret after another is dredged to the surface, reminiscent in many ways of Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. The intimate setting, slightly disconcerting at first, provides a surreal hybrid between the close-ups of film and the living, breathing tangibility of theatre. director Larissa Kokernot masterfully manipulates the elements of this environment, such as having the audience move between the living room and the kitchen for different scenes, and brings out stellar performances from the cast who adjust admirably to the proximity of the audience. For those tired of the stodgy proscenium, this production provides a wonderful respite as well as a reminder of the voyeuristic thrill of live theatre. (MK) Private homes around Los Angeles (call for locations); Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through April 26. (800) 838-3006. BrownPaperTickets.com.
L.A. STREET SCENES 3: EVERYONE HAS A STORY Tales from a Los Angeles emergency room, based on actual events. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Thurs., April 30, 6:30 p.m., www.createnow.org. (310) 392-7327.
THE SQUEEZE-BOX SWAMI SHOW Zen Buddhist accordion player Michael Attie leads an evening of "Dharma Polkas, Samadhi Waltzes and Headless Tangos.". Subud Building, 5828 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Sun., April 26, 7 p.m.. (323) 932-8418.
STANDARD MEN Male vocalists perform standards from the Great American Song Book. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Sun., April 26, 2 p.m.. (626) 256-3809.
TINY VAUDEVILLE 826LA hosts this once-a-month variety show benefiting children's writing and tutoring programs. The Echoplex, 1154 Glendale Blvd., L.A.; Last Monday of every month, 8:30 p.m.; thru Dec. 28, www.826la.org/store-tickets/. (323) 413-8200.