Stage Raw: The Future Belongs to Us?
Fire-eater Julia Prud'homme Photo by Kiff Scholl
Theatre of NOTE presents its 15th annual Performance Marathon this
coming Saturday, Jan. 16, 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. Sunday morn. Performers
include John Fleck, Taylor Negron, Leon Martell, Liam Sullivan, Ten
West, Jon Ruff and the Tuffingtons, Alison Arngrim, Kirsten Vangsness,
Julia Prud'homme, Andy Dick, Culture Clash and more. 1517 N. Cahuenga
Blvd. in Hollywood. Info here
THE FUTURE BELONGS TO US?
In order to close its budget deficit, the Los Angeles Unified School District plans to eliminate half of its elementary school arts teachers (music, dance, theater, visual arts) in 2011 and the remaining half in 2012, by which time there would be no elementary school arts instruction of any kind in our public schools. The ramifications for that are as daunting as they are obvious. Arts for L.A. is circulating a petition to the LAUSD Board of Education to reconsider its draconian plan. The petition is hereOVATIONS WINNERS ANNOUNCED at its ceremony last Monday at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. Twenty-nine awards were handed out to 17 different SoCal theater companies, in the peer-nominated competition, administrated by Los Angeles Stage Alliance. Center Theatre Group (Lydia at the Mark Taper Forum and The Little Dog Laughed at the Kirk Douglas Theatre) led with four, followed by the Troubadour Theatre Company (Alice in One Hit Wonderland and As U2 Like It) and the Louis & Keely producing team (Louis & Keely, Live at the Sahara) with three each. NoHo Arts Center Ensemble (Dracula), Musical Theatre West (The Producers), Havok Theatre Company (Kiss of the Spider Woman), Ebony Repertory Theatre (Two Trains Running) and Chalk Repertory Theatre (Family Planning) tied with two awards each. More info here.
WOOSTER GROUP RETURNS TO REDCAT in their production of North Atlantic Perfs begin Feb. 10. More info here.
AUDRA MACDONALD CROONS AT UCLA One night only, Feb. 1, 8:30 p.m. at the Freud Playhouse, as part of the Reprise Theatre Company series. Info here
COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for January 15-21, 2010
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
AGA-BOOM The Aga-Boom clowns clown around. Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach; Sat., Jan. 16, 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 17, 2 p.m., www.CarpenterArts.org. (562) 985-7000.
ARTS IN THE ONE WORLD Only at Calarts: "Presentations, performances and workshops that demonstrate how survivors, artists and scholars give testimony and bear witness to circumstances of conflict and social injustice, opening imaginative space for participation in the recovery of historical memory and social renewal.". California Institute of the Arts, 24700 McBean Pkwy., Valencia; Jan. 21-24, www.artsintheoneworld.org. (661) 253-7800.
BAAL Bertolt Brecht's tale of a profligate poet. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; opens Jan. 15; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Thurs., Jan. 28, 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 20, www.vimeo.com/8382742. (310) 281-8337.
BOB BAKER MARIONETTE THEATER'S FIESTA First of five classic Bob Baker productions celebrating the marionette theater's 50th anniversary. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., L.A.; opens Jan. 19; Tues.-Fri., 10:30 a.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru April 11, www.bobbakermarionettes.com. (213) 250-9995.
CAMELOT The Arthurian extravaganza, book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, music by Frederick Loewe. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; opens Jan. 15; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 7, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org. (626) 356-PLAY.
CONFUSIONS Quintet of interlinked plays by Alan Ayckbourn. Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; opens Jan. 15; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru March 7, www.plays411.com/confusions. (323) 960-5775.
THE 15TH ANNUAL PERFORMANCE MARATHON Featuring John Fleck, Taylor Negron, Leon Martell, Liam Sullivan, Ten West, Jon Ruff and the Tuffingtons. Hosted by Alison Arngrim and Kirsten Vangsness. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A.; Sat., Jan. 16, 2 p.m., www.theatreofnote.com. (323) 856-8611.
FIBBER MCGEE AND MOLLY Playhouse actors re-create the original radio broadcasts, complete with commercials and sound effects. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Sun., Jan. 17, 7 p.m., www.sierramadreplayhouse.org. (626) 256-3809.
"FIRESIDE AT THE MILES" Reading of Donald Margulies' Dinner With Friends, by the Santa Monica College Theatre Arts Department. Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica; Sat., Jan. 16, 8 p.m.. (310) 458-8634.
FRIENDS LIKE THESE Gregory Crafts' teen violence drama. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Jan. 15; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 30, www.theatreunleashed.com. (818) 849-4039.
GEORGE GERSHWIN ALONE Music and lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, starring Hershey Felder. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach; opens Jan. 17; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 24, 7 p.m.; Thurs., Jan. 28, 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 21, www.lagunaplayhouse.com. (949) 497-2787.
GRAVITYWORKS L.A. premiere of creator-director-producer Russell Boast's cabaret that's "part comedy troupe/part vaudeville act/part kick-ass music/part performance.". Cinespace, 6356 Hollywood Blvd., Second Level, L.A.; opens Jan. 21; Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 25, www.gravityworkstheshow.com. (800) 838-3006.
HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE Paula Vogel's story of survival behind the wheel. Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village; opens Jan. 15; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 20, www.theprodco.com. (800) 838-3006.
THE IMAGINARY INVALID Parson's Nose theater company performs Moliere's comedy. Pacific Asia Museum, 46 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena; opens Jan. 15; Fri.-Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 5, www.parsonsnose.com. (626) 403-7667.
IT'S CRIMINAL! THE COMEDY! Courtroom adventures with criminal defense attorney Murray Meyer. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; opens Jan. 16; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (323) 960-7780.
JACKIE MASON: NO HOLDS BARRED The funny man's comedy tour de force. Wadsworth Theatre, 11301 Wilshire Blvd. (on the Veterans Administration grounds), L.A.; Jan. 20-23, 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 24, 3 p.m., www.broadwayla.org. (800) 982-2787.
THE JAMB World premiere of J. Stephen Brantley's comedy. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; opens Jan. 15; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (818) 508-3003.
THE LEAGUE OF S.T.E.A.M. "The League creates a multi-sensory reimagining of the fascinations and foibles of the Victorian past: steam-powered thrills, ectoplasmic oddities and supernatural curiosities.", free. Renee's Courtyard Cafe, 522 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; Sun., Jan. 17, 7 p.m., www.leagueofsteam.com. (310) 451-9341.
LOYALTIES Two couples' sons enlist in the military at the height of the war on terror, in Tony Pasqualini's drama. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; opens Jan. 16; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 28, www.PacificResidentTheatre.com. (310) 822-8392.
ON THE AIR Golden Age of Radio murder-mystery musical comedy. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; opens Jan. 16; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 6, www.plays411.com/ontheair. (323) 960-4420.
ORPHEUS DESCENDING Gale Harold, Denise Crosby and Claudia Mason star
in Tennessee Williams' modern retelling of the ancient Greek legend.
Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; opens Jan. 15; Thurs.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 21,
www.brownpapertickets.com/event/92508. (800) 838-3006.
THE PEE-WEE HERMAN SHOW Paul Reubens returns as the kooky character he debuted on the Groundling stage in 1981. Club Nokia, 800 W. Olympic Blvd., L.A.; opens Jan. 20; Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 & 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 7, www.peewee.com. (800) 745-3000.
PROJECT: WONDERLAND Bootleg's take on the Lewis Carroll fantasy. Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; opens Fri., Jan. 15, 8 p.m.; perfs Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Jan. 31. (213) 389-3856.
WAITING FOR GODOT Samuel Beckett's absurdist classic. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; Sat., Jan. 16, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 17, 2 & 7 p.m.; Thurs., Jan. 21, 8 p.m.; Fri., Jan. 22, 8 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 23, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 24, 2 & 7 p.m., www.ANoiseWithin.org. (818) 240-0910.
PHIL THE VOID: THE GREAT BRAIN ROBBERY Phil Van Hest's rants and raves. Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; opens Jan. 15; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; thru Jan. 30. (866) 811-4111.
PRINCESS BEAN'S MESSY WORLD Rock & roll kids musical about a petite punk princess. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice; opens Jan. 16; Sat., 12:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 6, www.princessbean.com. (310) 490-2383.
PROOF David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize winner, starring disabled actress Teal Sherer. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Jan. 16; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (323) 960-7863.
RAY BRADBURY'S WISDOM 2116 Two by science-fiction author Ray Bradbury: Wisdom (1916), a new play, and 2116, a new musical, book and lyrics by Bradbury, music by John Hoke, developed, directed and choreographed by Steve Josephson. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; opens Jan. 16; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 27, www.Plays411.com/raybradbury. (323) 960-4451.
RUN FOR YOUR WIFE Ray Cooney's marriage farce. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; opens Jan. 16; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 13, www.johnsmithcheats.com. (310) 828-7519.
THE SENSUOUS SENATOR Michael Parker's 1988 bedroom farce. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; opens Jan. 15; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 27, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org. (626) 256-3809.
A SONG AT TWILIGHT Orson Bean, Alley Mills and Laurie O'Brien star in Noel Coward's last play. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; opens Jan. 16; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 17, 7 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 7, www.odysseytheatre.com. (310) 477-2055.
THE SURVEILLANCE SOLOS Dance-theater work by Rebecca Alson-Milkman. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; Jan. 15-16. (310) 315-1459.
TFN TILTED FRAME NETWORK Live improv comedy, simultaneously broadcast via Internet from L.A. and San Francisco. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens Jan. 15; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 29. (323) 962-1632.
UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL Glen Berger's tale of a library book returned 133 years overdue. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; opens Jan. 20; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 28. (310) 512-6030.
WEST Steven Berkoff's 1983 working-class London play. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice; opens Jan. 15; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 6, www.hellion-pictures.com/west. (310) 823-0710.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE
AWAKE AND SING! L.A. Theatre Works' staged reading of Clifford Odets' Great Depression story. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood; through Jan. 15, 8 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 16, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 17, 2 p.m., www.latw.org. (310) 827-0889.
GO FROSTY THE SNOW MANILOW Take one measure of maudlin, '70s TV holiday kitsch; add a dozen, inappropriate pop melodies from the same decade's premier adult-contemporary hit maker; fold in generous helpings of sardonically retooled lyrics and camped-up choreography; season to taste with puerile puns, off-color double entendres and relentlessly self-mocking ad libs; and half-bake for an hour with an ensemble of crack clowning parodists. This, in a roasted chestnut shell, is the winning recipe for the Troubadour Theater Company's annual, off-kilter Christmas confections. To their die-hard fans, it is immaterial that this year's musically mashed-up targets are the treacly 1969 cartoon special, Frosty the Snowman, or the sentimental mewling of the Barry Manilow songbook. With top chef/director Matt Walker again at the controls of the comedy Cuisinart, all that matters is that the resulting purée is flavored with his peerless timing and mischievously wry sensibility. Paul C. Vogt fills designer Sharon McGunigle's appropriately ludicrous Frosty costume as the magically animated snowman who hates kids but is nonetheless resigned to being saved from melting by the cloyingly effusive schoolgirl, Karen (Christine Lakin). Walker is the evil magician, Hinkle, who throws plot complications and one-liners in their path. Standouts include Beth Kennedy, who literally stops the show to perform insult standup as the Winter Warlock (think Juliette Lewis on stilts); Rick Batalla as the Station Master with Vegas ambitions; Jack McGee as the cantankerous narrator and a jive-talking Santa; and the always remarkable musical director, Eric Heinly, and his Troubadour band. (Bill Raden)., $32.50 & $40. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Wed.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 & 7 p.m.; thru Jan. 17. (818) 955-8101.
HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL Directed by Obba Babatunde, Choreography by Rena Phillips and Sherman Steward, Musical Direction by DeBorah Sharpe-Taylor. Madrid Theater, 21622 Sherman Way, Canoga Park; Fri., 7 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru Jan. 16. (818) 347-9938.
GO MARY POPPINS The riveting theatricality of Bob Crowley's production design, climaxing in chimney sweep Bert (Gavin Lee) soft-shoeing straight up, then upside down across the proscenium arch, and culminating in a showstopping umbrella flight over the audience by the famous titular nanny, produces an excitement that far outshines the limited value intrinsic in much of the musical's written material. Likewise the sublime showmanship of choreographer Matthew Bourne and stage director Richard Eyre hides the flaws in Julian Fellowes' disjointed script and new music by George Stiles and Anthony Drew. Unlike most of Disney's Broadway smashes that producer Thomas Schumacher has magically transformed from animated film to stage, this is a hybrid between Disney's 1964 movie masterpiece, whose fun and fanciful score by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman still holds up, and the operetta gleaned from the original novel (with rights held by the Cameron Mackintosh team). The two styles battle one another for dominance, and neither wins. Most of the film's story lines are banished in favor of closer adaptation of the P.L. Travers books with the familiar songs wedged into the scenes, while the new songs more closely fit the story, but lack spark. Nevertheless the production is an audience pleaser, with demonstrable talent on or off the stage. (Tom Provenzano)., $20-$92. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 7. (213) 628-2772.
NEW YEAR NEW WORKS FESTIVAL Theatre West Writers' Workshop's readings of new plays. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Through Jan. 16, 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 17, 12 & 3 p.m.. (323) 851-7977.NEW REVIEW ORDINARY DAYS
Though meant to be ironic because it is a story of New York City which, of course, is always extraordinary, the title is actually prophetic about Adam Gwon's light, predictable pop-musical "ode to New York" that only occasionally rises above the ordinary. Four whimsical young characters (played by Nick Gabriel, Deborah S. Craig, David Burnham and Nancy Anderson) try to navigate through the turbulence of Manhattan searching for love and purpose. Unfortunately most of the 18 songs are pattery ditties that give the talented cast little to work with. Only Burnham gets to let loose with his belting voice. At one point, in the Metropolitan Museum, Gwon's composition actually moves into high-gear with some complicated rhythms, beautifully handled by musical director Dennis Castellano, that actually sound like an homage to Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George. The characters in simple situations of youthful angst -- though a moving tribute to 9/11 stops the show with unearned emotion. The evening's best aspect is Fred Kinney's mechanical stage design of Manhattan architecture, complemented by Jason H. Thompson's clever projections. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Sat.-Sun., 2 & 7:45 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 7:45 p.m.; thru Jan. 24. (714) 708-5555. (Tom Provenzano)
PALESTINE, NEW MEXICO When U.S. Army Captain Catherine Siler (Kirsten Potter) stumbles into "Bumfuck" --a New Mexico Indian reservation --she's already tripping, exhausted from crossing the desert, dehydrated and addicted to her now-terminated prescription meds for pain and stress. That's before she drinks a peyote-laced beverage given to her by one of the natives, for dehydration. So in Richard Montoya's mess of a new play, which contains the germ of a beautiful idea, there are dreams, and then there are dreams. I tracked at least four plays, each in different styles, and for a 90-minute experience without intermission, that's the dramaturgical definition of a cake just been put in the oven, with ingredients still bumping up against each other. Lisa Peterson directs. (Steven Leigh Morris). Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Sun..; thru Jan. 24. (213) 628-2772.
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 PRINCESS AND THE FROG Geared to the 7-and-under set, this good-natured interactive musical exudes appeal beyond its demographic. Inspired by a German folktale, writers Lloyd Schwartz and Hope Juber's adaptation features a good fairy named Hyacinth (Mary Garripoli) as the prime mover of events. After she welcomes the audience with a song about the importance of "doin' good," along comes a prince (understudy Iain Gray) who sings about "lookin' good." His attitude so annoys Hyacinth that she turns him into a frog, stipulating that he can only return to his natural form if kissed by a princess. The rest of the story proceeds along more or less traditional lines: The frog recovers the lost ball of a querulous princess (Jenn Wiles) who is reluctant to keep her promise to kiss him until pressured by her father, the king (Anthony Gruppuso). Much of the piece's charm stems from the delight --and the unintended comedic faux pas --displayed by the youngsters called up on the stage to participate. The non-patronizing performers seem to be enjoying themselves as well. A song "Croak Croak, Ribbit, Ribbit" involving a couple of frog puppets is contagiously entertaining, whatever one's age. The uncredited costumes are fun too. Barbara Mallory Schwartz directs, with songs by Hope Jube and musical director Laurence Juber. (Deborah Klugman). Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Sat., 1 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (323) 851-7977.
RIVERDANCE The Irish step-dancing spectacular. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru Jan. 24, www.broadwayla.org. (213) 365-3500.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS
GO ABSINTHE, OPIUM, & MAGIC: 1920S SHANGHAI 1920s Shanghai is the setting of Debbie McMahon's wonderfully environmental tour de force of clowning, dancing and blood, which evokes, with ferocious imagination, not just a bygone era but also the atmosphere of the Grand Guignol. Upon arrival at the theater, we are ushered into an ante-chamber outside the actual auditorium, which has been set up to resemble a Shanghai bazaar. There are sallow-eyed maidens serving tea -- and also warm absinthe, strained through sugar, Thomas De Quincey-style. The scent of the absinthe wafts through the entire theater, melding with dry ice and creating a mood that elegantly mixes pleasure and decay. The play's first act, "Sing Song Girl Sings Last Song," is a haunting ballet of despair, involving a cast that includes jaded "Sing Song Girl" prostitute Bright Pearl (Tina Van Berckelaer), a young virgin protégé (Amanda Street) who dreams of becoming Top Whore, and calculating Madame Old Bustard (Dinah Steward), who plots to sell the virgin to be raped and mutilated by a piglike mobster (Roy Starr). Anchored by Jeanne Simpson's pleasingly melodramatic choreography, the dance tackles a compelling story of rage, despair and vice. Steward's charmingly sinister Old Bustard steals every scene she's in --but Street's scheming, loathsome virgin is a standout as well. Act 2's vignette, Chris Bell's "The Cabinet of Hands," is a gripping horror tale, with a sharp twist of quirky humor. A prissy young French couple (Robin Long and Zachary Foulkes), vacationing in Shanghai, gets more than they bargain for when they go slumming at the opium den owned by a seemingly kind old woman (Elyse Ashton). As the thrill-seeking Westerners get happily stoned on The Dragon's Tail, the old woman's diabolical true nature shows through. The final scene consists of a jaw-dropping gorefest that will have you simultaneously howling with terror and laughter (while slipping your hands in your pockets for safekeeping). Ashton's wicked old woman is the perfect embodiment of mysterious evil --and the horrific fate of Long's ill-fated naif hilariously suggests an anti-drug teaching moment that's very effective. (Paul Birchall). Artworks Performance Space, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Jan. 23. (800) 838-3006.
GO ACCOMPLICE: HOLLYWOOD Part game, part theater, part tour: It all begins with a phone call disclosing a secret meeting location. Aided by clues and mysterious cast members strewn throughout various locations, such as street corners, bars, iconic landmarks and out-of-the-way spots, the audience traverses the city streets, piecing together clues of a meticulously crafted plot. (Steven Leigh Morris). Hollywood Blvd., TBA, L.A.; Fri.-Sat. http://accomplicetheshow.com
ACME SATURDAY NIGHT ACME's flagship sketch show, with celebrity guest hosts each week., $15. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.NEW REVIEW GO BLOOD AND THUNDER
In The Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Marcus (Keith Arthur Bolden) isn't scared of the newly arrived hurricane, Katrina. Marcus is an expert on everything -- at least, he watches a lot of TV -- and vows the water won't rise above 10 feet. But Marcus' theories and conclusions have always gotten him, brother Quentin (Tony Williams) and Marcus' girlfriend Charlie (Candice Afia) in over their heads with one bad hustling scheme after another. Still, Marcus is convinced he's the brains of the group, even if he has to badger Quentin and Charlie until they agree. When Quentin limps in, sopping wet and still in his orange prison jumpsuit with a bullet hole in his thigh, the two siblings have a violent score to settle. Terence Anthony's taut one-act drama is effective agony. Two character twists may not add up, but while the audience perches practically in the living room of Jorge I. Velasquez's realistic dingy set, with the rain hammering down, the tension is as thick as the storm clouds we imagine overhead. Solid performances keep the spell going, particularly by Afia as the strong-willed girlfriend trying to break free from Marcus' emotional abuse. Sara Wagoner directs. Moving Arts, 1822 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 666-3259. (Amy Nicholson)
DOCTOR NOGUCHI Gary LeGault's story of an L.A. County coroner and the ghosts of celebrities past. Ruby Theater at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun..; thru Jan. 31. (310) 360-7064.
F*CKING MEN Joe DiPietro's observations on the sex lives of modern urban gay America. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 14. (323) 957-1884.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE That's weekly sketch comedy done by some of the best in the sketch biz. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.
GO THE GLASS MENDACITY Devotees of Tennessee Williams will surely delight in this send-up of the playwright's best-known dramas. Maureen Morley and Tom Willmorth have blended characters and motifs from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire into one big, irreverent stew of laughs. Gathered together at the Belle Reeve plantation are Mitch (Ken Johnson, who doubles as a narrator), Amanda (Stephanie Strand), Maggie (Renee Scott), Brick (a dummy named Eliot Barrymore), Stanley (Joe Dalo) and Blanche (Catherine Cronin, who traveled by way of a certain streetcar). The occasion is Big Daddy's (a hilarious Quincy Miller) arrival from the hospital and a celebration of his birthday. As in Cat, the cigar-smoking patriarch has cancer but is told he is suffering only from a "spastic colon." And we must not forget dear Laura Dubois (Strand), who limps and vomits her way throughout, while fixated on her menagerie of animals made of ice cubes. From this disparate collection of Williams' familiars, the writers weave a quirky narrative involving lust, insanity, infidelity, sibling rivalry, intrigue and lots of mendacity. It probably helps if you have some knowledge of Williams' plays, (in one scene Stanley calls out "Starland," instead of Stella). Andrew Crusse provides the solid direction. (Lovell Estell III). Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Jan. 30, arktheatre.org. (323) 969-1707.
HAMLET The Porters of Hellsgate present Shakespeare's tragedy. Flight Theater at The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (951) 262-3030.
HELLZ KITCHEN ABLAZE Tommy Carter's drama of urban malaise, police brutality, and corruption. Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 6, www.plays411.com/hellzkitchen. (323) 962-0046.
THE HOUSE OF BESARAB Anyone expecting Tamara II may want to give a pass to this disappointing adaptation of Dracula. Though the production shares the venue --the landmark Hollywood American Legion Post --that housed the legendary environmental stage hit and promises a similarly immersive theatrical experience, playwrights Terance Duddy (who directs and is also the set and light designer) and Theodore Ott's anemic text simply pales before the full-blooded characterizations and labyrinthine simultaneity that made Tamara so richly rewarding. Here the Post stands in for Castle Dracula as Dracula (Michael Hegedus) himself appears in the atrium to welcome the assembled audience "to witness a battle between good and evil." In point of fact, what ensues is essentially the final chapter of Bram Stoker's novel embroidered with the reincarnation-romance subplot of Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 film version and a bizarre, mad-scientist twist worthy of Roger Corman. The audience can either follow the Count and his servile assistant, Renfield (David Himes) into "the Great Hall" or wait for Dr. Van Helsing (Travis Michael Holder), Dr. Seward (Jessica Pagan understudying for Terra Shelman) and Harker (Dane Bowman), who soon arrive with a somnambulent Mina (Chase McKenna) on a mission to save her vampire-baptized soul. (Hint: Follow Van Helsing; he's where the action -- and the better writing -- is.) Despite the capable cast's game effort and some elegant costuming by Sara Spink (who also does a fine turn as one of Dracula's very pregnant brides), a lackluster production design and stolid direction only compound the exposition-laden script's failure to realize its environmental-theater ambitions. (Bill Raden). Hollywood American Legion, 2305 N. Highland Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 9 p.m.; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 17. (310) 203-2850.
THE INTERNATIONALISTS Poor Dog Group re-creates the space race. Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 30, www.plays411.com...
JUST A SONG AT TWILIGHT Willard Manus' drama about growing up in a deaf household. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun..; thru Feb. 28. (323) 469-3113.
GO LIFE COULD BE A DREAM This affectionate doo-wop jukebox musical by writer-director Roger Bean (The Marvelous Wonderettes), with clever choreography by Lee Martino, handsome set by Tom Buderwitz, and spectacular lighting by Luke Moyer, is designed to incorporate hit songs of the 1960s, ranging from the goofy "Sh Boom" and "Rama Lama Ding Dong" to anthems like "Earth Angel," "Unchained Melody," "The Great Pretender," and "The Glory of Love." In small-town Springfield, the local radio station is sponsoring a rock-and-roll contest, and go-getter Denny (Daniel Tatar) is convinced he can win and become a star. He enlists his klutzy, nerdish, endearing friend Eugene (Jim Holdridge) and church-choir singer Wally (Ryan Castellino) to join him. Needing a sponsor to provide the $50 entrance fee for the contest, they apply to the proprietor of the local auto chain. He sends his top mechanic, handsome, hunky Skip (Doug Carpenter), and his pretty daughter Lois (Jessica Keenan Wynn), to audition the guys, and by the end they're incorporated in the new group, Denny and the Dreamers. This is pure fluff, and the terrific ensemble makes every note count in this rousing good-time musical. (Neal Weaver). Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 960-4412.
MEETING OF MINDS If you don't remember who Steve Allen was, here's a primer: The bespectacled writer, radio personality, TV talk and game show host (he was the first Tonight Show host), musician and composer ("This Could Be the Start of Something Big") was ahead of his time --Bill Maher, David Letterman, Johnny Carson and David Frost rolled into one. He asked guests hard questions, was book-smart, inimitably witty and took chances. One chance that paid off and set a precedent for intelligent TV (now there's an oxymoron) was his PBS show Meeting of Minds, which consisted of teleplays featuring roundtable "interviews" with historical figures such as Cleopatra, Teddy Roosevelt, Attila the Hun and Plato. The show ran from 1977 to 1981 and became hugely popular as an entertaining and riveting way to learn about history. Now, you can witness live performances of Allen's actual scripts in a revival of the original shows. Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Third Sunday of every month, 7 p.m.. (323) 666-4268.
MOIST! Mariann Aalda and Iona Morris are MILF-y inspirational sexperts, heading (so to speak) the Multiple Orgasm Initiative for Sexual Transformation. Hayworth, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, www.MoistOnStage.com. (323) 960-4442.
PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE Steve Martin's 1993 comedy. East Theatre at the Complex, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (323) 960-7714.NEW REVIEW GO SHAKESPEARE UNSCRIPTED The Impro Theatre specializes in improvising full-length plays in the literary style of prominent writers, including, in the past, Jane Austen, Tennessee Williams, and Stephen Sondheim. Here, under the direction of artistic directors Brian Lohman and Dan O'Connor, they're tackling the Bard, taking the most minimal suggestions from the audience and spinning them into dizzily amusing mock-Shakespearean epics. At the performance I attended, they created a comedy that might be called Much Ado About Blue-Birds. Miranda (Lisa Frederickson) is the slightly deaf daughter (she seems to hear clearly only the songs of blue-birds) of the Duke of Kent (Lohman). Kent has decided to marry her off to the elderly Duke of York (Floyd Van Buskirk), but she has already developed a fancy for Price (O'Connor), a young man from the village who loves her, and has learned to tweet like a blue-bird to woo her. The course of true love is threatened by a couple of mischievous fairies (Brian Jones and Edi Patterson) and a man-eating bear until the blissful final scene, which is as sententious as any old Will created. The company (including Michele Spears and Stephen Kearin) is clever, nimble and quick on its feet, and the result is an amiable, crowd-pleasing divertissement. Theatre Impro at Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m., thru Feb. 14. (323) 401-9793. (Neal Weaver)
SUNDAY OF THE DEAD All-new sketch and improv by the Sunday Company. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 934-9700.NEW REVIEW TWENTY-TWO A friend once explained his decision to quit cocaine as his weariness of the disreputable types with whom he was forced to deal and of the even scarier places where they invariably dealt. So it is in actor-playwright Julia Morizawa's hyperkinetic, autobiographical addiction nightmare. For Leila (Morizawa), the story's 22-year-old heroine, however, no amount of unsavory associations can deter her from her unapologetic, single-minded snorting of coke with the fierce efficiency of a shop vac. Her unbridled enthusiasm for the powder soon ensnares her two best friends, Zoe (Shaina Vorspan) and the musician, Danny (Matthew Black), whose cluttered apartment becomes Leila's de facto drug den. And with her boyfriend/dealer, Eric (Raymond Donahey), as their enabler/supplier, the friends' walk on the sordid side quickly careens into a coked-up version of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Director Donahey intensifies the luridness of the proceedings by seating the audience on the set like so many uninvited guests. But Morizawa's restricting focus on the outward spectacle of her characters' freefall rarely musters pathos for their plunge. While the play hints at deeper demons whetting Leila's manic appetite (i.e. fear and self-loathing), the evening's most poignant and revealing moment belongs not to its protagonist but to its bogeyman, Sol (the fine James Adam Patterson), when the unscrupulous street dealer speaks with pride over a daughter's scholastic achievements. Had Morizawa been as generous with her other characters, she might have delivered something more engaging than sideshow debasement and morbid, voyeuristic thrills. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., Silver Lake; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 30. (323) 667-0955. (Bill Raden)
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.
THE WINDUP PUPPET SHOW Windup puppets come to life to the music of Manheim Steamroller. Created by Chris Berube, directed and co-written by Wendy Carter. Next Stage Theater, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 28, www.berubians.com. (323) 850-7827.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS
AFTER HOURS SHOW Presented by Neo Acro Theatre Company. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 11 p.m.; thru Jan. 30. www.neoacrotheatre.com.NEW REVIEW ALMOST, MAINE Love is very much in the air in the idyllic community of Almost, Maine, the setting for John Cariani's homage to Cupid's often strange, unpredictable machinations. The play is formatted as a series of star filled, romantic encounters that are mostly sugary sweet, with a sprinkling of salt for good measure. Director Ashley Archambeau does a fine job marshaling the cast of 18, all of whom turn in good performances. This more than makes up for the sillier, vacuous moments that spring up during some of these vignettes. A good example of this would be "They Fell," with Erout Dolen and Adam Sandroni as two pals whose underlying sexual attraction for each other causes them to fall on the floor. It's funny for all of 10 seconds, but the skit lasts far longer. Ditto for "This Hurts," where a bout of head bashing with ironing boards turns gratingly sentimental and silly. "Where it Went" is a heart wrenching meditation on love lost with Luke Wright and Arianna Arias as a couple whose once magical attraction has evaporated. "Sad and Glad" tosses in a bit of the mysterious with Greyson Lewis and Lauren Andrea as strangers brought together by a misspelled tattoo. Neo Acro Theatre Company at the Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd.; North Hollywood.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., thru Jan. 30. http://NeoAcroTheatre.com (Lovell Estell III)
A BIG GAY NORTH HOLLYWOOD WEDDING Interactive homo-nuptials by William A. Reilly and Ben Rovner. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Jan. 23. (818) 605-5685.
CIRCUS WELT Pavel Cerny wrote and directs this world-premiere production with "20 actors, 50 costumes, 6 clowns, 6 Nazi stormtroopers, several love affairs, laughter and tears.". Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 14. (866) 811-4111.
GBLT: GAYS, BACON, LETTUCE AND TOMATO Tasty treats from Theatre Unleashed's sketch comedy troupe Die Gruppe. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Through Jan. 16, 10:30 p.m.; Wed., Jan. 27, 9 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 30, 10:30 p.m., www.theatreunleashed.com. (818) 849-4039.
NEW BEGINNINGS Neo Acro Theatre Company presents six original short plays by local writers. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Sun..; thru Jan. 31...
ONE MAN, TWO PLAYS Dan Hildebrand in The Nonsense by Kevin Cotter and Whatever Gets You Through the Night by Andrew Kazamia. Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 25. (323) 960-5650.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS
GO THE BROWNING VERSION Though not as widely known or acclaimed as his contemporary British playwrights, Terence Rattigan was a superb dramatist and chronicler of human emotions. Here, Rattigan's The Browning Version, the gloomy story of an aging schoolteacher crushed by failure and disappointment, receives a stellar mounting by director Marilyn Fox. A well-regarded scholar of the classics, Andrew Crocker-Harris (the superb Bruce French) has spent the last 18 years as an instructor at a public school in England but must leave the position because of failing health to take a less-stressful job elsewhere. Now the object of jokes and ridicule by his students, and denied a pension by the school, he has a bearing that is subdued by sadness, yearning and a palpable "gallows" surrender to circumstance. His wife, Millie (Sally Smythe), has given up on being happy with him and has contented herself with numerous dalliances with his colleagues (which she delights in reminding him of), and cruelly undermining what remains of his sense of manhood. Her current lover, Frank (understudy David Rogge), is torn between a sense of guilt, his admiration for Andrew, and the dying embers of lust for Millie. It is only when the professor is presented with a rare translation of Agamemnon from a student (Justin Preston) that his mask of stoic restraint melts to reveal a desperately fragile inner life. From this sedate tapestry of characters, Rattigan artfully probes marriage, relationship and our perverse capacity to embrace lacerating emotional pain and self-deceit, which all unfolds beautifully on Norman Scott's cleverly designed sitting-room mock-up. Fox directs this piece with masterful subtlety and draws devastatingly convincing performances from her actors.(Lovell Estell III). Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 14. (310) 822-8392.
CHAPTER TWO Neil Simon's 1977 comedy about a widowed writer. Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 14. (310) 454-1970.NEW REVIEW 11, SEPTEMBER
Playwright-performer Paul Kampf may have come up with the perfect rationalization for writing what would seem, at face value, the most implausible plot twists for his psychological thriller. It concerns an affair between a mathematician, Martin Healy (Kampf), visiting New York from his London home to attend a conference, and a waitress, Angela Madison (Liz Rebert), with whom he becomes smitten. Under Gita Donovan's direction, the actors' waves of attraction and repulsion (from mutual distrust that slowly and hauntingly seeps out) have a truthfulness that matches the authenticity of the uncredited studio apartment set, where the entire saga plays out. A rising tension from the violence in the air and some very intriguing inter-connections adds to play's capacity to entrance, and Chris Cash's musical compositions help segue the many scenes with a delicate solemnity, giving the event a cinematic feel. References to chaos theory and conspiracy theory become the philosophical frame for plot developments what might otherwise raise eyebrows in skepticism. The play rides the line between exploring and exploiting coincidences, yet it gets bogged down in its own psychological realism. This raises questions that can't be answered by chaos theory, or any other - such as why the characters sometimes blurt out incendiary details of their past, given how neither is particularly trust-worthy, or why Martin would drop by uninvited and wind up reading Angela's diary, conveniently left in her bed. Breadline Productions at the Odyssey Theater, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Feb. 7. (310) 477-2055. (Steven Leigh Morris)
IN THE COMPANY OF JANE DOE Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble presents Tiffany Atone's world premiere. Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 6, www.latensemble.com. (310) 396-3680.
ITALIAN AMERICAN RECONCILIATION John Patrick Shanley's comedy about two lifelong friends. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Jan. 23. (310) 397-3244.
LOVE IN BLOOM By Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (310) 394-9779.NEW REVIEW GO AN OAK TREE
On the simplest story-telling level, actor-performer Tim Crouch's play is the tale of a hypnotist, falling apart at the seams, who accidentally struck and killed a girl with his car, and how he one day finds the victim's father on his stage. Wrenching stuff. But on a conceptual level, the event takes this very emotional saga and uses it as a kind of ping pong ball to bat around the idea of suspension of disbelief - realities that we create through suggestion. In order to accomplish this, he employs a different actor for each performance, whom he meets less than one hour before the performance, and who reads the role of the father from a script. And so, through a frame of hypnotism that's just one of the play's many artifices, begins a breathtaking examination of the blurred line between what is real and what is suggested, of how we live in dream worlds in order to get by, and how theater itself is a kind of hypnosis that serves this very same purpose. Its brilliance is unfetttered and inexplicably moving, for being such a head-trip. Odyssey Theater, 2055 Sepulveda Boulevard, West Los Angeles; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Feb. 14. (310) 477-2055. (Steven Leigh Morris) See Theater feature on Wednesday night.
PICK OF THE VINE Nine original short plays selected from submissions by playwrights from around the world. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 31, 7 p.m.; Thurs., Feb. 11, 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (310) 512-6030.
SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION The Kentwood Players present John Guare's drama. Westchester Playhouse, 8301 Hindry Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 13, www.kentwoodplayers.org. (310) 645-5156.