Stage Raw: James Gammon Memorial
MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR JAMES GAMMON: Sunday, August 22, 2 p.m. at the MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Avenue in Hollywood. RSVP here
Check back Monday night for reviews of: BOY'S LIFE, Howard Korder's 1988 battle-of-the-sexes comedy. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 15. (818) 745-8527; ENGAGEMENT, The Katselas Theatre Company presents Allen Barton's dramatic comedy. Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 29. (310) 358-9936; THE EXERCISE, Lewis John Carlino's story of an actor and actress with an intimate past. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens Aug. 13; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 29, plays411.com/exercise. (323) 960-7724; FLAT: A PLAY ABOUT SMALL BREASTS AND EVERYTHING ELSE THAT'S GREAT IN LIFE, Ellen Clifford's tiny-tit tribute. The Black Box Theater, 12420 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 28; FREE MAN OF COLOR, Charles Smith's historical drama about one of the first freed slaves to graduate from college. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; opens Aug. 14; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 12. (818) 558-7000; THE GOOD NEGRO, Tracey Scott Wilson's civil-rights-era drama, set in 1963, stars three brave but flawed Black leaders, who must transcend their personal shortcomings to organize boycotts and marches in Birmingham, Alabama., $18-$20. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 19. (323) 960-1054; MY PENIS: IN AND OUT OF TROUBLE, Antonio Sacre's solo performance piece. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 28. (800) 838-3006; PARASITE DRAG, Mark Roberts' dark comedy about a small-town Illinois family and the stories that haunt them., $20. Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens Aug. 13; Thurs.-Sat..; thru Sept. 18. (213) 614-0556; WITCH BALL, Zombie Joe's Underground's supernatural adventure through space and time. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Aug. 13; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru Sept. 11. (818) 202-4120; and A WITHER'S TALE Troubadour Theater Company mixes Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale with soulful tunes by singer Bill Withers. Directed by Matt Walker., $27-$57.00. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Sept. 26. (818) 955-8101.
COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for August 13-19, 2010
Our critics are Pauline Amadek, Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III, Rebecca Haithcoat, 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
Productions are sequenced alphabetically in the following cagtegories: Opening This Week, Larger Theaters regionwide, Smaller Theaters in Hollywood, Smaller Theaters in the valleys , Smaller Theaters on the Westside and in beach towns. You can also search for any play by title, using your computer's search engine.
OPENING THIS WEEK
ALL I EVER WANTED By Elaine Ocasio. Part of the 2010 Whitefire Solofest. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Thurs., Aug. 19, 8 p.m.. (818) 990-2324.
Beshert Written by Julie Daniels. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Sun., Aug. 15, 7 p.m.. (323) 851-7977.
CHESS IN CONCERT Music by Benny Anderrson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, lyrics by Tim Rice. MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A.; opens Aug. 19; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 29. (323) 957-1152.
Deli Cats Written and directed by David P. Johnson. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Tues., Aug. 17, 8 p.m.. (323) 851-7977.
DICK VAN DYKE'S ONE TIME ONLY FUNDRAISER The legendary star of Mary Poppins, Bye, Bye, Birdie, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Music Man is joined by musical quartet the Vantastix in this benefit for the Geffen's education programs and the non-profit Determined to Succeed. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Sat., Aug. 14, 8 p.m.. (310) 208-5454.
THE EXERCISE Lewis John Carlino's story of an actor and actress with an intimate past. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens Aug. 13; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 29, plays411.com/exercise. (323) 960-7724.
FREE MAN OF COLOR Charles Smith's historical drama about one of the first freed slaves to graduate from college. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; opens Aug. 14; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 12. (818) 558-7000.
FOREVER PLAID Stuart Ross' harmony-group musical comedy. Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. Sixth St., San Pedro; opens Aug. 13; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 22. (310) 548-7672.
IF SHE REALLY WANTS A SCARY TRAVEL MOMENT, SHE SHOULD GO TO ARIZONA . Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sun., Aug. 15, 7 p.m.. (323) 962-1632.
IS LIQUOR QUICKER? Busby's East, 5364 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., Aug. 19, 7 p.m.. (323) 525-2615.
MORTIFIED LIVE Retro confessionals, courtesy The Mortified After School Orchestra. King King, 6555 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Wed., Aug. 18, 8 p.m.. (323) 960-9234.
ON THE FRITZ: AN EVENING WITH FRITZ COLEMAN The KNBC weatherman's comedic observations. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Aug. 19-21, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 22, 2 p.m.. (818) 508-0281.
PARASITE DRAG Mark Roberts' dark comedy about a small-town Illinois family and the stories that haunt them., $20. Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens Aug. 13; Thurs.-Sat..; thru Sept. 18. (213) 614-0556.
THE WAR CYCLE Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble presents three plays by Tom Burmester: Wounded, Nation of Two, and Gospel According to First Squad. Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; opens Aug. 19; Thurs.-Sat..; thru Sept. 4, latensemble.com. (310) 396-3680.
WITCH BALL Zombie Joe's Underground's supernatural adventure through space and time. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Aug. 13; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru Sept. 11. (818) 202-4120.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE
CANKERBLOSSOM Pig Iron Theatre Company presents a dark fairytale inspired by A Midsummer Night's Dream., $15-$25. La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla Village Dr., La Jolla; Thurs.-Fri., 7 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 14, 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 15, 2:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 15. (858) 550-1010.
GRIFFITH PARK SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL Free performances of Much Ado About Nothing by the Independent Shakespeare Co. Griffith Park, 4730 Crystal Springs Dr., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 29. (323) 913-4688.
HAMLET It's anyone's guess what vision might have guided director Ellen Geer's fervent but unfocused, Medieval-dress version of Shakespeare's most baroque and psychologically nuanced tragedy. There's certainly little hint of the Oedipal undercurrents or political allegorizing that have been a mainstay of 20th-century productions. Nor is there much sign of the paralyzing conflict between faith in purpose and intellectual certainty, which traditionally drives its hero's famously agonized inaction. In the case of Mike Peebler's Hamlet, neither his mission nor its justness ever seems in doubt; Peebler attacks the role with the zeal and righteous wrath of the recently converted. Even his soliloquies are delivered at the audience as if from a pulpit. Gertrude (Melora Marshall) in turn appears more pissed off at her son's increasingly antic disposition than aggrieved by what it might imply about his sanity. Claudius (Aaron Hendry), by contrast, comes off as positively good-natured, a guy caught with his hand in the cookie jar rather than his fingerprints all over a nefarious regicide. Willow Geer is convincing as a feisty yet vulnerable Ophelia, though even here the method of her madness seems more a response to the murder of Polonius (a very broad Carl Palmer) than any jilting by Hamlet. Director Geer keeps it all moving at a fast clip, but some exasperatingly eccentric blocking divides the focus of too many critical turning points -- most egregiously in the mousetrap scene -- all but obliterating their dramatic purpose. (Bill Raden). Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sat., Aug. 14, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 15, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 21, 4 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 28, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 5, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 12, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 18, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 19, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 25, 5 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 2, 4 p.m.. (310) 455-3723.
HELLO! MY BABY Based on the book by Cheri Steinkellner, the musical-comedy weaves an updated Tin Pan Alley score into a story of teenage song-pluggers, gangsters, immigrants, socialites, love triangles, gender-swapping, and ukuleles., $15-$20. Rubicon Theater, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 15. (805) 667 2900.
LIFE COULD BE A DREAM Writer-director Roger Bean's doo-wop jukebox musical. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach; Sat.-Sun., 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 7:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 29. (949) 497-2787.
GO LOVE, LOSS, AND WHAT I WORE Ilene Beckerman's book, on which Delia Ephron and Nora Ephron based their "intimate collection of stories," is the kind you'd grab from the display near the register at a Barnes and Nobles, to serve as a dressy envelope for a birthday check to your goddaughter or an upgraded Mother's Day card. But if the recipient read it instead of tossing in onto a pile of similarly gifted minibooks, she'd find a classy little number, a J. Peterman catalog minus the pretentiousness. With sparse text and barebones sketches, Beckerman records her history through the clothes she and her female relatives wore. Director Jenny Sullivan constructs the stage version in much the same way: The star-studded ensemble wears black (there's an ode to the color, every woman's old faithful) while sitting in a straight line; and Carol Kane, who reads as Beckerman, handles the main prop, a "closet" full of the book's renderings situated on wire clothes hangers. But this is Nora Ephron, and chumminess quickly trumps austerity. The scenes themselves are ruminations on relationships thinly veiled as (mostly) funny riffs on clothes -- Tracee Ellis Ross almost runs away with the show every time the spotlight's hers but particularly so with "The Shirt." Kane, who must be one of the most endearing actors ever, dances her monologues' transitions so delicately and adroitly you can only marvel. There are a couple of moments ("The Bathrobe," "Brides") during which all but those with a particularly voracious emotional appetite will find themselves choking on the syrup. Fortunately, though, the Ephron sisters have nimbly stitched together the scenes so that there's far more head nodding than eye rolling. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Fri., Sun., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 28. (310) 208-5454.
MASTER CLASS Terrence McNally's story of opera diva Maria Callas. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Fri., Aug. 13, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 21, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 22, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 28, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 4, 8 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 11, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 25, 4 p.m.. (310) 455-3723.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM In rep with Hamlet. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Thurs., Aug. 19, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Aug. 26, 8 p.m.; Mon., Sept. 6, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 18, 8 p.m.. (310) 455-3723.
SMOKE & MIRRORS Will Osborne and Anthony Herrera's mystery, set on a desert island filming location. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 28. (562) 494-1014.NEW REVIEW SPEAK OF ME AS I AM
It's easy to understand why singers and dramatic artists would want to portray the legendary Paul Robeson. Actor, athlete, intellect and man of principle, Robeson fearlessly battled for justice -- and paid the price. This solo show, featuring opera baritone KB Solomon, meshes some of the highlights of Robeson's life with renditions of the songs ("Old Man River," "Going Home") for which he's most famous. The (uncredited) script relays information about Robeson's life in no particular order but repeatedly returns to his battle with HUAC's hearings and their painful aftermath. Directed by Jeffrey Anderson-Gunter, Solomon (whose bio lists music credits but no acting) spins an expository monologue that remains on the surface and seems most suitable for youthful audiences unfamiliar with the material. Designer Michael Boucher has crafted a low-budget but attractive set, and Joyce S. Long's lighting adds professional sheen. Gallery Theater in Barnsdall Park, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun 3 p.m.; through September 5. (323) 960-7779, firstname.lastname@example.org. (Deborah Klugman)
THE THREE MUSKATEERS Alexandre Dumas' swashbuckler. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sun., 3:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 12, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 26, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 3, 3:30 p.m.; thru Sept. 24. (310) 455-3723.
THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE Music and lyrics by William Finn, book by Rachel Sheinkin, conceived by Rebecca Feldman. North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr., Solana Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 14. (858) 481-2155.
A WITHER'S TALE Troubadour Theater Company mixes Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale with soulful tunes by singer Bill Withers. Directed by Matt Walker., $27-$57.00. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Sept. 26. (818) 955-8101.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCESIN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS
THE ARMANDO SHOW A different comic/celeb each week provides the springboard for improv madness., $10. I.O. West, 6366 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Sat., Aug. 14, 9 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 21, 9 p.m.. (323) 962-7560.
AS THE GLOBE WARMS Solo performer Heather Woodbury creates elaborate worlds. For her performance What Ever, Woodbury elasticized herself into 100 characters for a sprawling American epic. This follow-up is a semi-political soap opera that will run a new installment every weekend for three months, and, gauging by its launch, Woodbury's interested in charting the rise and fall of the artistic class and the crystallization of the divide between the two Americas. On the 4th of July 1985, a cowed girl picks up a video camera and discovers she's an artist; 25 years later, she's dead and her brother is attempting to describe her archive of tapes to a barbecue of gentrified Californian creatives who deign to do their own sculpting rather than hiring interns for the "dirty" work. On the other coast, a preacher, his shrewish Tea Party wife and their daydreamy teen daughter fret about the BP oil spill and a species of endangered frogs that might prevent them from expanding their church's parking lot. Woodbury has little patience for both blues and reds and loves to skewer the of hypocrisies of both camps. To help her stay true to her own voice, she could use a director (none is credited) to help her shape and simplify her frantic character changes; she has a capable range of accents but spends scenes shifting wildly around in her chair to make sure we're following who's who. Besides the chair, the only prop onstage is a handycam that records each episode for the internet and streams it live on a screen against the wall. It's unclear yet if the distraction will prove purposeful, but what's certain from the starting gate is that the enthusiastic Woodbury has energy for miles (and months). (Amy Nicholson). Echo Curio, 1519 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 2. (213) 977-1279.
BONNIE IN BRIGHTON One-woman show about a Texas girl in a British seaside town, starring Erin Parks. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 15. (323) 962-1632.
CIRCLE OF WILL William Shakespeare wrote his greatest works before 1608 -- so what was he ruminating on in 1610? Directed by Brian Herskowitz, writers Bill Cakmis and Jack Grapes' scenario imagines a contentious exchange between the Bard (Grapes) and his friend and leading man, Richard Burbage (Joe Briggs). A stumbling attempt at satire, the piece portrays Shakespeare as a lesser literary light and Burbage as a cretinous narcissist, fed up with dramas about death and threatening to walk unless he gets to be a hero in a play with a positive ending. The problem lies not in the lampoon of the theater but in the script itself, which strives for laughs by utilizing misquotes and scrambled references to various Shakespearean plays and characters. Done well, this device would work brilliantly; here, lacking conceptual underpinnings and continuity, it falls flat. Midway through, the actors acknowledge they're on stage and break the fourth wall, appealing to the audience to help resolve their existential dilemma and hasten the comedy to a conclusion. At that point (if not before) shades of Shakespeare for Middle School begin to infiltrate the evening. As to the performances, Grapes is likable, while Briggs' evident gift for larger-than-life burlesque deserves better material. Designers Martin C. Vallejo's set and Anasuya Engel's costumes add period flavor. (Deborah Klugman). Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 15, www.plays411.com/circleofwill. (323) 960-7822.
EAT THE RUNT A satirical comedy written by Avery Crozier, where office politics, sexual harassment, religion, political correctness, and societal and cultural norms are all up for grabs. In each performance audiences decide what roles the actors will play., $18-$22. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Thurs..; thru Sept. 9. (323) 856-8611.
THE EINSTEIN PROJECT Paul d'Andrea and Jon Klein's atomic bomb play. Plus: The Face of Jizo by Hisashi Inoue. Junction Theatre, Barbarella Neighborhood Bar & Kitchen, 2609 N. Hyperion Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 4, brownpapertickets.com...
ELEVATOR Michael Leoni's story of seven strangers stuck in a lift. Hudson Guild Theater, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 22, plays411.com/elevator. (323) 960-7787.
FIRST LOOK FESTIVAL OF NEW PLAYS Schedule at openfist.org. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Through Sept. 18. (323) 882-6912.
GO FOUR PLACES The family outing on display in Joel Drake Johnson's unsettling comedy resembles a gathering of ornery, wounded jackals. Siblings Warren (Tim Bagley) and Ellen (Roxanne Hart) motor to their parents' Chicago home to take their diminutive, gray-haired mother Peggy (Anne Gee Byrd) out for a what is presumably a pleasant lunch. At first blush, this seems innocent enough, but something about Ellen's painful, labored smile as she hugs the wheel, and Warren's cold, mummified expression, suggest that something is amiss. It isn't long before the moral underbelly of this clan emerges along with some ugly revelations. Mom's harmless exterior drips away with each rum and Coke she knocks back (and every trip to the bathroom, where she pees blood), and there emerges a subtly vicious female, a practiced manipulator who delights in tormenting her children with reminders of their lacerating miseries and failures. But an even darker secret surfaces concerning Peggy's alcoholic, invalid husband (who never appears onstage but is a towering presence, nevertheless), and rumors that she is abusing, and even attempting to murder him. The manner in which Drake tells this story -- blending humor and stark ugliness, while exploring themes of sibling rivalry, marital infidelity and even euthanasia -- is thoroughly engaging and held in sharp balance by director Robin Larsen. The characters are fully fleshed out, both in the writing and the performances, as disturbing for their and their vulnerabilities as for their anger. Rounding out a superb cast is Lisa Rothschiller. (Lovell Estell III)., (323) 960-4424. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 5 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 29. (323) 422-6361.
THE GOOD NEGRO Tracey Scott Wilson's civil-rights-era drama, set in 1963, stars three brave but flawed Black leaders, who must transcend their personal shortcomings to organize boycotts and marches in Birmingham, Alabama., $18-$20. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 19. (323) 960-1054.
GROUNDLINGS RIVER ADVENTURE All-new sketch and improv, directed by Damon Jones. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; thru Oct. 2. (323) 934-9700.
THE HAPPY HAPPY SHOW April Hava Shenkman hosts this anything-goes comedy cabaret., free. El Cid, 4212 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.. (323) 668-0318.
I'M NOT HERE ANYMORE W. Colin McKay has cast his play in the form of a mystery. Josh (Dayton Knoll) is a former GI who has served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and suffers from combat trauma upon his return home. He has frightening flashbacks, which can drive him to violence, and he's haunted by two people (or are they hallucinations?) from his time in the Gulf. Kim (Casey Fitzgerald) is a girl who was killed by a roadside bomb, and Eddie (Sal Landi) is his former buddy, whom he believes aims to kill him if he reveals dark secrets about his time in the combat zone. There are also two doctors, Mel (Brian Connors) and David (Dig Wayne), who are at odds about Josh's treatment. But there are too many mysteries, and too few reliable "facts" for us to know precisely what's going on. Josh is clearly an unreliable narrator, the two ghosts/hallucinations have agendas of their own, and so perhaps do the doctors. We can never be certain whether Josh is dogged by psychotic fantasies, or telling uncomfortable truths the army wants to keep under wraps by committing him to a mental hospital. Good work from the actors and director Al Bonadies, but the script is perplexing. (Neal Weaver). Pan Andreas Theater, 5125 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 28. 323-468-8062.
JEWTOPIA Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson's story of two single men: a gentile obsessed with dating Jewish women and a Jew obsessed with dating gentile girls. Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3:30 p.m.; thru Sept. 19. (323) 655-7679.
KARMA: THE MUSICAL "The '60s, '70s, '80s, and '90s flash by as an older woman travels back in time to stop her younger self from making the stupid mistakes that have ruined her life," by Susan C. Hunter and Les Oreck. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 28. (323) 469-3113.
KEEP IT CLEAN Comedy Hosted by JC Coccoli., free. 1739 Public House, 1739 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Mon., 9:30 p.m.. (323) 663-1739.
KILL YOUR TELEVISION Jeff Gardner's dialogue-free solo comedy. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sat., Aug. 14, 6 p.m., brownpapertickets.com/event/119084. (800) 838-3006.
LA TOOL & DIE: LIVE! Stage version of Sean Abley's 1970s gay porn film. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 10:30 p.m.; thru Sept. 11. (323) 957-1884.
LADY LANCING, OR THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST The Ark Theater Company's fetching idea of staging Oscar Wilde's farce has, at its core, the original, unrevised script and four-act format. The addition of a minor character and some name changes do little to alter the story or to temper the fun. It's the rough edges of this production that keep that fun at bay. The play is, after all, a gentle comedy with farcical overtones. Here, the tone and pace turn those gentle qualities into a kind of sedative, under the ultralight touch of co-directors Douglas Leal and Derek Livingston. Notwithstanding some glaring instances of flubbed lines (a contagion that spread throughout the cast with the consequence of seeming to dull Wilde's otherwise pointed wit), Kenn Johnson and Leal acquit themselves well in the roles of Jack and Algernon, the two puffed-up dandies whose name-swapping high jinks and romantic foibles lie at the play's heart. JoAnna Jocelyn infuses the requisite imperious dignity and stuffiness to her role of Lady Brancaster, while Anna Quirino and Caroline Sharp are quite good as Jack and Algernon's love interests, despite Sharp's wobbly British accent. Osa Danam's costumes are beautifully understated, and Christina Silvioso's painted backdrops add a visual comic touch. (Lovell Estell III). The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 15, arktheatre.org. (323) 969-1707.
LIVE NUDE BECKETT First off, an answer to the obvious question raised by directors Harry Kakatsakis and Jordan Davis' provocative title: Yes, the six-member cast in this selection of short works by Samuel Beckett are costumed solely in their birthday suits -- that is if you don't count production designer Gary Klavans' Day-Glo-painted stripes and masks that, under technical director Zane Cooper's all-ultraviolet lighting, gives the actors the appearance of wearing garishly fluorescing and (alas!) opaque, stick-figure body suits. From the program notes, the nudity conceit seems to be nothing more than a punning afterthought, arising from the production's aim of "stripping" the pieces "to their 'bare' essence." While such extreme departures from the exacting intentions of a playwright so notorious for being fastidiously protective of his work might seem a sacrilege to some, the true disservice here is to the ensemble. Such dim and distorting black light obscures too much of the actors' expressive faculties, particularly in the evening's mime pieces, in effect forcing them literally to work in the dark. Still, even in such brutalized Beckett, occasional glimpses of the maestro's mordant wit and eloquent anguish shine through, especially via Davis and Amy McKenzie, who give tantalizing hints of the Beckettian voice both in 1975's Footfalls, as well as (with Natalie Rose) in the 1966, three-character "dramaticule," Come and Go. (Bill Raden). Next Stage Theater, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.; Sat., 9:45 p.m.; thru Aug. 21. (917) 340-5895 or (818) 720-9651.
LOS ANGELYNE Katherine Saltzberg's one-woman show about L.A. billboard icon Angelyne. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 19, brownpapertickets.com/event/119092. (800) 838-3006.
THE LOST TOMB OF THE KING SUNDAY Karen Maruyama directs the Sunday Company. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 934-9700.
MARY LYNN SPREADS HER LEGS Writer-performer Mary Lynn Rajskub cruises the low road in this raunchy obstreperous one-woman show about childbirth and motherhood, directed and developed by Amit Ittelman. Adopting a pugnacious in-your-face persona at the top, the performer first describes -- then graphically illustrates -- how she abandoned her intellectual self to metamorphose into a fun-loving hottie. An unexpected pregnancy alters her life -- though not her smug irreverence leveled nonstop at doctors, midwives, family members, producers and fans (all of whom she portrays). When her colicky child (also depicted by Rajskub) refuses her milk, she's filled with fantasies of infanticide. Straddling standup, Rajskub's performance contains a humor that hits home with a strata of her audience, while irritating or offending others. Her skills are without question: the expressiveness of her body language or the split-second changes in countenance convey a shift from one character to the next. Notwithstanding these qualities and some entertaining moments, there's not much that's witty or insightful or ribald about this material. It would be helpful if there were some likable character or sentiment to counterbalance the story's bitter, hollow message. (Deborah Klugman)., $20. Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 30. (323) 666-4268.NEW REVIEW GO MEDEA
Euripides' tragedy concerning a betrayed woman and her monstrous revenge remains a timeless examination of humanity's struggle with its darker, primal urges. With the exception of a misstep at play's end, Travis Terry brilliantly directs a superb cast, relocating the story to a contemporary lunatic-asylum setting. The text reveals a few contemporary words -- kid and trash -- while preserving the antique language that's so rich with imagery and passion. Adalgiza Chermountd's Medea is first heard wailing from behind a white paper wall, part of designer Dionne Poindexter's central set piece of Medea's quarters, which rotates with ease. "Whipping her grief-tormented heart into a fury," Chermountd has a disheveled yet formidable presence, and her multihued interpretation ranges from coherent and ferocious to deranged. Her unspeakable deed is chillingly depicted. Commenting in unison, the chorus of young girl (Shaina Vorspan), mother (Lauren Wells) and grandmother (Karen Richter) double as asylum orderlies, with Shaina Vorspan giving an especially expressive performance. There are some welcome moments of levity in R. Benito Cardenas' playful interpretation of Aegeus, one of Medea's fellow lunatics. A highlight is the scene when Medea's duplicitous ex-husband, Jason (Max Horner), attempts to "correct her exaggeration" with his version of events. Aside from a tacked-on happy ending that feels utterly false, this unpretentious production holds many rewards. Knightsbridge Theatre, 1944 Riverside Drive, Silver Lake; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; through August 29. (323) 667-0955. (Pauline Adamek)
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.
MOTHER Mary-Beth Manning's one-woman show about a complex mother/daughter relationship. Elephant Theatre Lab, 1078 Lilian Way, L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 12. (323) 960-7714.
MY PENIS: IN AND OUT OF TROUBLE Antonio Sacre's solo performance piece. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 28. (800) 838-3006.
GO THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP It's been 18 years since this manor mystery was the No. 1-produced play in America, and it hasn't worn out its welcome. In a dreary, rural house, the widowed master (Kevin Remington) has brought home a bride (Michael Lorre), a tremulous blond actress who might not have the wits to survive the local vampires and werewolves (or the grudging maid and infatuated stable boy). Charles Ludlam's fleet-footed thriller comedy is in the key of camp, but this production tampers down the winks and nudges, staging it as an exercise in theatrical imagination. Lorre's sparse set design is a model of how to turn a small budget into an asset. The furniture and decorations are drawn with thin, white lines on flat, black-painted wood, and the actors set the tone by first finishing the final touches with chalk. Irma Vep is always staged as a play for two performers, and Remington and Lorre (who also directs) are great sports, changing from a bumpkin with a wooden leg to a bare-breasted Egyptian princess in less time than it takes to tie your shoes. The actors' physicality is great, but dresser Henry Senecal and stage manager Akemi Okamura also take deserved bows at the end. (Amy Nicholson). SPACE916, 916 N. Formosa Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 4. (323) 667-1304.
NOT ABOUT HEROES Playwright Stephen MacDonald's 1982 drama about the World War I friendship between British poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen is an Anglophile's orgy of poetry and irony. The stage simmers with repressed sexuality and doomed talent -- chilled with that stiff upper lippiness that has boys quoting poetry as they march off to get slaughtered in the Somme. In 1917, at the Scottish mental hospital where they have both been committed for shell shock, wide-eyed novice poet Owen (Robert Hardin) nervously approaches his idol, celebrated war bard Sassoon (Josh Mann), to ask for his autograph and to get his opinion of his own verses about the horrors of WWI. The two men kindle a warm mentor-prodigy relationship that stops an inch short of a lip-lock -- and, even though they never declare their obvious romantic love, Sassoon is left bereft after Owen returns to his unit and dies pointlessly in the trenches. MacDonald's drama is incredibly well-researched -- some might say overresearched, as the piece strives to shoehorn into the text almost every single fact about its subjects' lives. Yet, director Bill Hemmer's elegant if unevenly paced production limns the shifting power dynamic between the two poets, as well as offers a compelling portrait of a war that literally crushed a whole generation of young men into the mud. Hardin's delightfully boyish Owen matures and become ravaged by the conflict, before our eyes -- while Mann's subtly arch turn as Sassoon belies the affection for his prodigy lurking below the surface of his snarky ironic exterior. Although the play is ultimately perilously overwritten and a bit static, the production itself recalls the mood and tone of those fringe British dramas that are frequently staged in the backrooms of London pubs, in which nothing ever seems more crucial than art and beauty. (Paul Birchall). Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 22, plays411.com/heroes. (323) 960-7744.
GO OPUS Because classical music can be such a sublime art form, one tends to regard those musicians as inhabiting a more celestial sphere than the rest of us. Playwright and classically trained violist Michael Hollinger confutes that notion with this percipient drama, which examines the political and emotional fracas within a string quartet. In Hollinger's canny script, the tensions generated among members of a prominent musical group have been exacerbated by an affair between two of them: Elliot (Christian Lebano), a domineering egotist with little tolerance for opposition; and Dorian (Daniel Blinkoff), a supersensitive artist with a history of emotional problems. When Dorian up and quits prior to a prestigious gig at the White House, he is replaced by Grace (Jia Doughman), a conscientious novice with tremendous talent and the inner aplomb to withstand Elliot's needling and increasingly truculent demands. Directed by Simon Levy, the drama begins with a studied manner before launching into full dynamism, as the particulars of the players' dilemmas and entanglements come into focus. In a solid ensemble, Doughman is noteworthy for her character's impeccable truth; likewise Cooper Thornton is highly effective as Alan, the down-to-earth second violinist who reacts with growing consternation and dismay to snowballing events. The performers mime their concerts in admirable sync (sound design is by Peter Bayne, with input from musical advisers Roy Tanabe and Larry Sonderling). Complemented by designer Ken Booth's lighting, Frederica Nascimento's backdrop, with its cubes in autumnal colors, seems reflective of the quartet's rich but cloistered world. (Deborah Klugman). Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 29. (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.
REDHEAD CUBAN HOUSEFRAU HUSBAND Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were pioneer celebrities who set the standard for clean, white-bread television comedy. They also were one of Hollywood's original power couples amassing a fortune from ownership of their own studios. But in his self-described musical homage to the I Love Lucy show, writer-director Fletcher Rhoden falls short of telling their story or of telling any story that's the least bit compelling. The herky-jerky script contains no semblance of narrative cohesiveness or flow, though it comes spiced here and there with historic details about Ms. Ball's life. Performer Joan Elizabeth Kennedy fails to channel Lucy convincingly, and is consistent only in singing off-key. Ditto for Derek Rubiano, whose Cuban accent wobbles in a remedial performance. Rhoden's music and lyrics are competent though without a hint of any Latin-American origins or influence in the music. Rhoden's direction does little to shore up the holes in his script. Jodi Skeris and Michael Anthony Nozzi are presumably standing in for other actors as the zany neighbors, but that's hard to tell from the program. (Lovell Estell III). Mount Hollywood Theater, 4607 Prospect Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 4. (323) 667-9113.
SEX, DREAMS AND SELF CONTROL Kevin Thornton's one-man show about growing up gay. Cavern Club Theater at Casita del Campo, 1920 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; Third Tuesday of every month, 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 17. (323) 969-2530.
SEX, RELATIONSHIPS AND SOMETIMES . . . LOVE Monologues on all of the above, by Joelle Arqueros. Renegade Theatre (formerly the Actor's Playpen), 1514 N. Gardner St., L.A.; Sun., 6, 7:30 & 9 p.m.; thru Sept. 26. (323) 769-5566.
SHAKE A man named Bill (Jo Egender) and his ex, Peggy (Alina Phelan), stand eight uneasy feet apart after a chance encounter in a park. She's homeless; he's a lapsed alcoholic. What turned their love upside-down? Joshua Fardon's chronological play ticks backward every month for a year, from August 2002 to September 10, 2001, and unpacks the affairs and betrayals and guilts sprung from strangers named Matt (Troy Blendell), Julia (Michelle Gardner) and Robin (Bridgette Campbell). The mystery comes in the reverse momentum. Told forward, it's a soap opera -- going back, a parlor game. We know this drama traces back to the fall of the towers, but when we get there, we realize Bill and Peggy's relationship was already headed to destruction -- 9/11 simply changed the route. More catastrophic is the entrance of Claire (Hiwa Bourne), a femme fatale who uses the disaster for her own ends, though even she, too, is scrabbling for a purpose. Kiff Scholl's direction knows that with every scene, the characters know less and hope more. Under his guidance, Phelan's New York naif is especially heartbreaking. She's a girl with simple dreams, and within the year, even those are impossibly far away. (Amy Nicholson). Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 5. (323) 856-8611.
SOMETHING TO CROW ABOUT! $20, seniors $15, children under 2 free. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., L.A.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 10:30 a.m.; thru Sept. 26. (213) 250-9995.
NEW REVIEW STILL STANDING Playwright Shyla Martin sets out to tell the tale of Laura (Venessa Peruda), a Los Angeles woman who discovers a startling letter while sorting through the belongings of her deceased father. In it, the writer, Celeste Ellis (Monique McIntyre), informs Dad that she has borne him a daughter, and asks for child support. Laura is thunderstruck to discover that she has a half-sister. Her Aunt Sarah (Eileen T'Kaye) urges her to go to Katrina-ravaged New Orleans to track down the mysterious sister. But the meeting with that sister, Tracey (Nichelle Hines), proves awkward because, though both women had white fathers and African-American mothers, Laura is ostensibly white and Tracey is recognizably black. When the two women eventually form a bond, it's threatened by unforeseen events. The story is potentially interesting, but Martin's naive dramaturgy dilutes its power. Many short scenes, in different locales, make for long, debilitating scene changes; plot details emerge in haphazard, confusing fashion; and there are red herrings: Tracey's brother (Rondrell McCormick) elaborately hides a mysterious packet, which is never explained or referred to again. Director Nick Mills has assembled a capable cast, but the play's fragmentary scenes and shifting focus defuse their efforts. Theatre Asylum, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m., through September. Produced by Vitality Productions. (323) 960-7863, plays411.com/stillstanding. (Neal Weaver)
SUPPER'S READY Jeff Singer brings a monthly lineup of comics, who, like the 23-minute Genesis song the show is inspired by, perform comedy that is big-thinking, with many time changes. Special drop-ins a high possibility., $5. M Bar, 1253 Vine St., L.A.; Third Monday of every month, 8 p.m.. (323) 856-0036.
A TALE TOLD BY AN IDIOT "Inspired by William Shakespeare's Macbeth." Presented by Psittacus Productions. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 29...
TAXI STORIES David O'Shea recounts his years as a New York City taxi driver. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sat., Aug. 14, 8 p.m.. (800) 838-3006.
[title of show] "Musical about making a musical." Music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen, book by Hunter Bell. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 5. (323) 957-1884.
NEW REVIEW GO TOPDOG/UNDERDOG
Lincoln and Booth are bizarre monikers for a pair of siblings. In this solid revival of Suzan-Lori Parks' Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, capably directed by Martin Papazian, names aren't the only ironic peculiarity here. Lincoln (A.K Murtadha) and Booth (M.D. Walton) are African-Americans, named by a neglectful, long-gone father as a joke; they now cling to one another for survival yet harbor volcanic resentments toward each other. The play's potency lies in this attraction-repulsion dynamic and the resultant venomous acrimony, which Parks so neatly dissects. Lincoln, the oldest, is kicked out by his wife and forced to move into Booth's sleazy, trash-strewn apartment. Life isn't unbearably wretched for him; he has a "real" job as an arcade attraction playing the Great Emancipator -- complete with whiteface, fake beard, stovepipe and trashy overcoat -- while patrons shoot him for recreation. Once a master of the three-card monte street hustle, he now salves what's left of his dignity with false hopes and Jack Daniels. His pistol-packing brother, however, dreams of being the ultimate monte player, seeing the game as his ticket out of poverty and an affirmation of his manhood. Parks sketches an ugly portrait of thwarted urban life, sibling rivalry and crippling self-delusion. Though not much happens in this two-hour comedy, the writing is thoroughly engaging. Yet it's Walton and Murtadha's rugged, emotionally charged performances that work the magic. Lillian Theater, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; through September 12. (323) 960-7719. (Lovell Estell III)
GO TRACERS Thirty years after its Los Angeles debut, writer John DiFusco's antiwar drama retains its relevance and power. Written collaboratively in the 1970s by DiFusco and seven other Vietnam vets, and directed by Christina Howard with insight and skill, it portrays the trauma of young military recruits plucked from mainstream American life and thust -- inadequately trained and poorly equipped -- into the nightmare of combat. Howard, displaying a metaphysical perspective, stages the production on a deep, cavernous proscenium. Prior to curtain, an intense, almost suffocating, scent of incense permeates the theater; meanwhile, for perhaps 20 minutes, the six "trainees" jog in military unison, the rhythms of their booted tread being ominous and haunting. When at last the performers do, individually, speak, it's in a darkness resourcefully illuminated by handheld flashlights; indeed, throughout the play, the lighting design (consultant Tiger Reel) registers as a quintessential element of the spectacle. The talents of Howard's adept ensemble collectively emerge in a sequence depicting the recruits' initial training under the command of an abusive drill sergeant (the terrific Tucker Smallwood), who addresses them as "maggots" while forcing them to undergo arbitrary punitive discipline. Once in Vietnam, the men medicate their brutalized psyches with dope, alcohol and infantile horseplay -- understandable given their tasks, which include sorting through body parts to try to match limbs with torsos. While not every component of this production is unimpeachable -- the sound design (Howard) and vocal sound track, effective in part, can be intrusive -- the imaginative production is compelling. (Deborah Klugman). L.A. Fringe Theatre, 929 E. Second St., Studio 105, L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 14. (213) 680-0392.
NEW REVIEW GO A WOLF INSIDE THE FENCE
"You can't lose your way in a history class. You can only go backwards," says Linus McBride (Arthur Hanket), a history teacher who seems to be losing his passion, and possibly his marbles. The target of the advice is Marion McNeely (Charlotte Chanler), a troubled transfer student at the public Oregon high school where he teaches. In addition to having recently inherited a farm from his late father, Linus has just been told by colleague-turned-principal Judy Bench (Amanda Weier) that his classes are being cut. Adding to his agitated state is the fact that Marion, with her leather-and-motorcycle boots-tough-girl exterior, hangs out in his room before and after class, prodding him with impertinent questions while revealing her troubled past that includes stints in foster care and the big house. With dark secrets of his own, Linus cultivates an attachment to Marion. At the same time, Judy cultivates an interest in the girl, with whom she shares more than she would care to admit, while losing interest in her boyfriend, Math teacher Harold Carson (Colin Walker). What develops is an intense series of events as these wounded animals become entwined in each other's lives. Playwright Joseph Fisher weaves a rich tapestry of dark chocolate secrets and twisted desires, pairing it perfectly with a dry champagne wit that sparkles in the mouths of this talented cast. Hanket, particularly, wields Fisher's rapier wit with impeccable comic timing and an understated manner that leads to some devastatingly funny lines. The credit for this must of course be shared with director Benjamin Burdick, who strikes a fine balance between the humor and the horror of the piece. Especially refreshing is the unexpectedness of laugh-lines that blindside us with their keen observation and sharp wit. All in all, the minimally staged performance is a good reminder that when fancy sets, lighting, and other aspects of modern stagecraft are put away, the heart of good drama is compelling characters and a well-crafted text. Open Fist Theater, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (performance dates vary); thru September 11. (323) 882-6912. www.openfist.org (Mayank Keshaviah)
GO YELLOW Del Shores' family comedy-drama studies, once more, the mores and traditions of the Deep South, perhaps the country's most extreme forms of religiosity and homophobia, which have been haunting the playwright for all these years. How does one get out alive, with the curses of the underworld hanging over a believer: change or be changed? Does one run to New York City, or San Francisco or West Hollywood? Lead a double life? Become a playwright? Yellow is neither tragedy nor soap opera; its "disease-of-the-week" dimension surges between the two along a riptide of sentimentality. That said, Yellow is a rippingly entertaining show, thanks largely to Shores' precision-bombing satire of self-absorbed teenagers and drama clubs. (Steven Leigh Morris). Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 5...
YO LA PUTA Written and directed by Emanuel Loarca. Spanish performances only. Frida Kahlo Theater, 2332 W. Fourth St., L.A.; Sun., 6 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 15. (213) 382-8133.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCESIN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS
AMADEUS Written as Theophilus (from the Greek) on his birth certificate, Mozart's middle name can be interpreted as either "lover of God" or "loved by God." Antonio Salieri clearly believed the latter, and his jealousy of Mozart fuels the drama in Peter Shaffer's 1979 award-winning play. As court composer, Salieri (Peter Swander) has the favor of Emperor Joseph II (David Robert May) and admires Mozart's music -- until he meets the young prodigy. Mozart's (Patrick Stafford) sexuality and vulgarity drive the devout Catholic wild, and as Salieri can't reconcile the philistine with the ethereal music he creates, he becomes determined to destroy Mozart. In that quest, Swander often speaks of passion, yet it rarely feels as if his character possesses the passion his words suggest. Part of this may have been director August Viverito's desire for a slow build, even though it does eventually pay off in Act 2. Stafford's Mozart, on the contrary, is id perfectly personified, with occasional glimpses of the genius hiding behind the schoolboy pranks. Danielle Doyen, who plays his wife, Constanze, pairs well with Stafford, and like the rest of the cast, is capable. However, her 1980s, Madonna-style outfits, along with Mozart's gold pants and the emperor's raspberry zoot suit, are questionable choices by designer Shon LeBlanc. While for Salieri "a note of music is either right or it's wrong," for me the show had a pleasant melody but not one that stuck with me for long. (Mayank Keshaviah). Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 28. (800) 838-3006.
NEW REVIEW BECOMING NORMAN
Utah native Norman P. Dixon has had two coming-out parties: first, as a gay man and second as an artist. At times, he's been one or the other -- say, when he graduated with a drama degree from BYU -- but this solo show marks the 45-year-old's insistence on claiming both after spending the last 15 years toiling in office work and retail. The first half of the night follows the artist as pretty blond boy slowly learning that (a) there was a closet, and (b) he was in it. No quick revelation in Orem, Utah, a town, as Dixon describes, "where people didn't even think Boy George was gay." Dixon is a handsome blond with a theatrical voice, and he powers through his life story with a blend of self-congratulation and insecurity. This serves him less well when his autobiography decamps from Salt Lake to Los Angeles and we hit waves of tales wherein his talents are spotted, he's offered a semi-big break and he sabotages himself in fear. Dixon's journey is both topical and familiar -- who hasn't moved out to L.A. with big dreams? -- and its only surprises come from his warm support network. When the former Mormon sent out four dozen letters announcing he was gay, only two respondents were upset. Between anecdotes, Dixon belts out songs he wrote about his struggle, built around words like dreams and wings and flying. We're happy he's happy. Debra De Liso directs. NOHO Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Sept. 12. (800) 595-4849. (Amy Nicholson)
BOY'S LIFE Howard Korder's 1988 battle-of-the-sexes comedy. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 15. (818) 745-8527.
BURN Ingez Rameau's solo show about personal demons. Actors Forum Theatre, 10655 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 15, burntheplay.com. (818) 506-0600.
THE GOOD BOOK OF PEDANTRY AND WONDER Moby Pomerance's witty story of a 19th-century editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 29. (626) 683-6883.
HURRICANE SEASON 2010 Seventh annual competition/festival of short plays. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 22. (818) 508-3003.
IN & OUT: THE U.S. OF ALIENATION World premiere of David Wally's dramedy about human connection. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Tues., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 14. (866) 811-4111.
IT'S JUST SEX Jeff Gould's comedy takes the underpinnings of sexual fantasy, fidelity and money and puts all of those nuances onstage in a contemporary comedy about three married couples. The wife-swapping plot is straight out of Hugh Hefner's pad, circa 1975. That the play resonates today, in the ashes of the sexual revolution, is one indication of how little has changed, despite how much has changed. (Steven Leigh Morris). Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (818) 762-2272.
GO KING LEAR The old loon hasn't looked so good in some time. Bart DeLorenzo's staging for Antaeus Company's Classicsfest 2010 comes with two casts -- "The Fools" and "The Madmen." I saw the "The Madmen" and must reserve comment on the uberconcept until checking out "The Fools" this coming week. No need to reserve any enthusiasm for Harry Groener's Lear. Though his silver beard still doesn't help Groener look a stitch younger than 60 (Lear is supposed to be 80-plus), his gives a magnetic interpretation filled with surprises. But first, he renders the words sparklingly, with clarity and sensitivity. When his Fool (JD Cullum, also great -- nimble and smart without being a smart-ass) grills with his riddles, Groener's Lear listens and responds with a childlike innocence that is a cloak for growing despondency. And it's that sojourn toward spiritual oblivion that Groener carves with such intrigue, step by step, with alternate bursts of rage and defeat. He's magnificent and ably matched by Allegra Fulton's richly textured Goneril, who conjures memories of Estelle Parsons, mingled with the late, local actress Pamela Gordon. Gregory Itzin's Kent is grand, as is Nick Cagle's Oswald. Less so some of the supporting players, who render comparatively callow and shallow renditions compared to the masters at the helm. DeLorenzo stages a modernist interpretation that starts with Napoleanic military chic (costumes by A. Jeffrey Schoenberg) -- all those boots stretching up to the thigh! -- and evolves to contemporary desert warfare attire. No, this is not an imposition or a gimmick. It fits snugly into the play's expedition into the surreal, in a work about aging and senility, the blessings and curses of time. DeLorenzo's staging suggests that what is unfolding is the history of our times, through ellipses of power and its abuses. He's on firm terra ether. (Steven Leigh Morris). Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 15. 818-506-1983.
SCREWBALL ARRANGEMENTS "A one-man 'moir," written and performed by John Dyer V. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Wed., 8:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 18. (877) 620-7673.
SPEECH & DEBATE Stephen Karam's hit 2007 off-Broadway play riffs on the presumed nerdiness of high-schoolers who opt for forensics over sports. In this case, three outcasts are also determined to triple their misfit status via drama, the school newspaper and a "gay-straight-alliance." The journey through youthful angst begins as gay Howie (Matt Strunin) trolls online for sex only to discover, to his major gross-out, that he's sexting with the theater teacher. Meanwhile, ambitious but untalented would-be coloratura Diwata (Tiffany Jordan) captures Howie's attention with her "blogalog" about the same teacher's unjust casting policies. Also pulled into the electronic circle is aspiring reporter Solomon (Simon Daniel Lees), who is obsessed with sexual predators. Through a series of scenes, subtitled with Speech and Debate rules, the three find a mutual attraction bordering on friendship, which ultimately allows them to find solace in their eccentricities. Finally they collaborate on a bizarre musical performance-art piece mixing aspects from the plays of Arthur Miller and Wicked among several mismatched ingredients, which is fascinating in its pure awfulness. Though not quite convincing in terms of youth, the acting of the students is superb, compassionately exploring the constant pain and few joys the characters experience. Unfortunately the same is not true of Nina Donato in a pair of adult roles that fly into caricature -- a choice seemingly pushed by director Jon Cortez to get some laughs, which prove to be at the expense of the production. Cortez also keeps the pace so sluggish through clumsy scene breaks, they interfere with the crispness of his young stars. Mike Rademaekers' clever set easily transforms between schoolroom and bedrooms, which provide the unfollowed cues for agile scene transitions. (Tom Provenzano). Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 22. (877) 620-7673.
STRING OF PEARLS Four actresses play 27 characters in Michele Lowe's drama. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 5. (818) 700-4878.
SUPER SIDEKICK An original children's musical presented by Theatre Unleashed, book by Gregory Crafts, music and lyrics by Michael Gordon Shapiro. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Sun., 1 & 4 p.m.; thru Aug. 15, theatreunleashed.com. (818) 849-4039.
URBAN DEATH Zombie Joe's Underground's horror show. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 11 p.m.; thru Oct. 30. (818) 202-4120.
A Walk in the Woods Lee Blessing's play is set in Geneva, during a disarmament conference, where two negotiators seek to construct a treaty acceptable to both sides. Stodgy, naive, idealistic American John Honeyman (owlish Fox Carney) believes in rationality, and wants to make the world safe from nuclear holocaust. Andre Botvinnik (volatile Larry Eisenberg), a canny, cynical Russian with an impish sense of humor, knows the two powers, the U.S. and Russia, are more interested in seeming to want a disarmament agreement than in actually wanting one. He no longer believes in the reality of their mission, and hopes to make life more palatable by making a friend of Honeyman. He attempts amusingly frivolous conversation, but Honeyman is incapable of frivolity, and likes it that way. Their friendship can only bumble along, with two steps back for every step forward. Their debates are clever, literate and passionate, and their halting steps toward friendship are touching and funny. Richard Alan Woody directs with finesse and draws fine performances from his actors, but he never manages to convince us that the stakes are particularly high, when they couldn't be higher. (Neal Weaver). Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 p.m.; thru Sept. 4. (818) 700-4878.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS
GOBECKY'S NEW CAR "When a woman says she wants a new house, she really wants a new husband. When she says she wants a new car, she really wants a new life." In Steven Dietz's smart if tonally uneven new play, these are the prophetic words of amiable and grounded Becky Foster (Joanna Daniels), who worries that she has squandered her best years as an office manager drudge at a car dealership, while saddled with a lumpen husband (Jon Eric Preston) and patronizing grad student son (Nick Rogers). A chance for a new life comes prancing into Becky's dealership, when slightly spacey billionaire billboard tycoon Walter (Brad Greenquist) randomly chooses Becky as the sales agent for his mass-purchase of cars for all the employees at his company. Walter, grieving over the death of his wife, is inexplicably attracted to the earthy "real world" Becky, whose own moral compass starts swinging around like a drunken sailor as she contemplates ditching her family for a life of glamour and wealth. Dietz's play receives its Los Angeles premiere in director Michael Rothhaar's whimsical production that comes laced with melancholy. The play's genesis is worthy of some note: The work was a personal commission by a Seattle arts patron as a gift for his wife. As such, the material occasionally tries a little too hard to please, with a narrative that occasionally emulates the mood of 1930s screwball comedies -- a style that is an uneven alchemical fit with the underlying tone of midlife despair, in which the work is also deeply steeped. However, when Dietz is willing to let the play rise to silly froth, the results are splendid. Scenes in which Daniels' bubbly Becky repeatedly invites opinions from audience members -- some of whom are roped onstage into helping her with a wonderfully droll costume change moment -- balance charmingly with moments in which she finds herself swept away by Greenquist's charismatic Walter. Although the contrivances of the play's final third are too preposterous to sustain even willing disbelief, the ensemble overall crackles with witty, sympathetic performances -- including Rogers as Becky's goofy son and by Suzanne Ford's graceful turn as a prickly rival for Walter's affections. (Paul Birchall). Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 15. (310) 822-8392.
GO BEDROOM FARCE The title is apt, since the action occurs in three radically different bedrooms in a 1975 English suburb. Kate (blond and taffy-voiced Kate Hollinshead) and Malcolm (buff and playful Jamie Donovan) are having a party in their new flat. Nick (Scott Roberts) and Jan (Ann Noble) are invited, but Nick has put his back out and is confined to his bed in agony -- and he's annoyed that Jan is going to the party without him. Obstreperous and self-obsessed Trevor (Anthony Michael Jones) and his noisily neurotic wife, Susannah (Regina Peluso), are also invited, but their tempestuous marriage is rocked by one of its endless crises. When Trevor makes a pass at former girlfriend Jan, Susannah goes into massive hysterics, wrecking the party. Trevor descends on bedridden Nick to "explain" his behavior, while Susannah runs to Trevor's bemused parents, Ernest (Robert Mandan) and Delia (Maggie Peach), for solace. Alan Ayckbourn's play plumbs no great depths, but he's unflaggingly inventive in exploring comic surfaces, and director Ron Bottitta has assembled a likable and deftly stylish cast to keep the pot boiling on Darcy Prevost's huge and handsome set. Kathryn Poppen's trendy '70s costumes add further charm. (Neal Weaver). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 26. (310) 477-2055.
8 MIDSUMMER QUICKIES Eight short plays, written and directed by Caroline Marshall, Tracy Merrifield, Marnie Olson and Kyle T. Wilson. Psychic Visions Theatre, 3447 Motor Ave., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 4. (310) 535-6007.
ENGAGEMENT The Katselas Theatre Company presents Allen Barton's dramatic comedy. Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 29. (310) 358-9936.
FLAT: A PLAY ABOUT SMALL BREASTS AND EVERYTHING ELSE THAT'S GREAT IN LIFE Ellen Clifford's tiny-tit tribute. The Black Box Theater, 12420 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 28...
GO JUST 45 MINUTES FROM BROADWAY Suffused with a near-Chekhovian mix of the wistful and the melancholy, playwright Henry Jaglom's world premiere comedy is a delight -- an intimate and thoughtful ensemble piece which is as much a paean to the theater as it is a meditation on the perils of living entirely by emotion. In a picturesque but run down country house in upstate New York (realized in Joel Daavid's beautiful detailed set), a theatrical clan spends what is probably for them a typical fall weekend of histrionics and melodrama. These are people who have lived their whole lives for art -- which, one might say, means that dinner is never on time and no one gets up before noon. Elderly thespian George (Jack Heller) and his beloved wife Vivien (Diane Louise Salinger) are in the twilight of their careers, but regret nothing about a life spent on the road performing small plays. Also staying in their home is their beautiful, unstable daughter Pandora (Tanna Frederick), who is taking a "rest" from acting after getting over a recent failed romance. The typically "artsy" family chaos turns even more tumultuous with the arrival of the family's estranged eldest daughter Betsy (Julie Davis), who has grown weary of her eccentric family. When Betsy introduces her lawyer fiance Jimmy (David Garver) to the family, sparks unexpectedly fly -- but the sparks are between Jimmy and free-spirited Pandora. Some overwritten sequences teeter on self indulgence, yet the piece is also wise to the follies of human behavior -- and director Gary Imhoff's subtle staging elegantly juxtaposes the warmth and frustration underscoring the relationships within so many families. The ensemble work is sensitive, yet comically charged, with Frederick's calculatedly daffy turn as the ever-performing Pandora smartly offset by Davis' increasingly angry Betsy. Heller's leonine elderly actor-dad and Salinger's actress mom, tender and sad, wonderfully craft the sense of elders who have never truly grown up, and are amazed by what has happened to their bodies while their minds remain youthful. A Rainbow Theatre Company production. (Paul Birchall). Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru Sept. 19. (310) 399-3666.
KATIE THE CURST The Actors' Gang's adaptation of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, a free summer show for all ages. Media Park, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m.; thru Aug. 29, theactorsgang.com...
GO PROCREATION The plays of Justin Tanner are like Rice Krispies. They crackle when you pour in the right actors -- and the actors here from his own company are just right -- and then they kind of wash away. Maybe that doesn't matter. That crackling is the sound of Tanner's satirical barbs directed at the foibles and delusions of L.A. suburban white-trash types. (His latest farce is set in Highland Park.) He does for (or to) L.A. what Del Shores does for (or to) the South. Shores' plays come with more of a message and smidgen more sentimentality. Tanner brings on a gallery of types, lets them go until somebody lands on a revelation, or confession, which may or may not make a jot of difference to the lunatic world being depicted. Maybe it's apt that a play called Procreation should have 13 characters. One of them, Ruby (Danielle Kennedy), is a pregnant grandmother (awaiting octuplets -- she's even brought the sonograms with her) with a sanctimonious gigolo beaux, played wonderfully cocky by Jonathan Palmer. (They both visit SoCal from Colorado, and he offers lectures on healthy lifestyle and self-discipline. He may as well be preaching on the virtues of vitamins to drug dealers.) Everybody here is in debt. Mom Hope (Melissa Denton) runs a novelty store called "Wish on a Rainbow," which smug hubby Michael (nicely goofy by Michael Halpin) announced must liquidate immediately. Can they afford to send their corpulent 15-year-old, bed-wetting son, Gavin (Kody Batchelor), to the fat farm? (He tosses his urine-drenched blanket at his relatives, for his own amusement. He will surely grow up to become a playwright.) Hope's sister Deanie (goggle-eyed Patricia Scanlon) hoards other people's garbage, while her terminally unemployed, good-natured husband, Bruce (Andy Marshall Daley), makes a career out of asking his relatives for loans. There are drug deals, offstage blow jobs and an entire subplot of gay intrigue. Tanner's satire of behaviors roasts not so much a culture of greed as a culture of need -- derived from the cruelty of snarky jokes and emotional neglect. One character says, perhaps ironically, "Let's try to be more mindful of what we say from now on," as though that would fix anything. Call it Molière ultralite. Sitcoms like this depend on the unspoken reactions to the torrent of one-liners. Director David Schweizer has the cartoons just right, but he drives the play on the fuel of its quips rather than the comedic agony that lies beneath them. Which may be why the farce begins to wilt after an hour or so, despite the effervescence of ongoing amusement. The uncredited costumes are very witty. (Steven Leigh Morris). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 7 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 22, plays411.com. (310) 477-2055.
STRIPPED (A COMEDY ABOUT A DRAMA) Who'd have guessed that the gaudy neon sign around the corner advertising Psychic Readings could be hiding a theater. There is indeed a tiny space upstairs for storytelling that is probably more real that the storytelling going on downstairs. In this case, the story is Kirsten Severson's tale of the tumultuous end to her five-year relationship with "The Prince." Accompanied onstage by two video screens, Severson describes the good times in their relationship (including the clever "Peas in a Pod" video montage) before transitioning to the fateful voice mail that begins her descent into insecurity and heartbreak. Originally a solo show titled I Think You Went a Little Far With the Herpes Thing ..., the piece has since been developed into a feature film, and now returns as a half-film/half-staged solo show. The combination of media unfortunately doesn't gel, and despite some good lines and moments, director Carlos Velasco's pacing drags in a number of spots and Severson's stage presence feels halfhearted at times. Instead the video sequences -- which are well lit and crisply edited -- are the show's most engaging aspect. As a short film it could prove visually arresting; as a piece of theater, however, it's little more than another love story gone awry. (Mayank Keshaviah). Psychic Visions Theatre, 3447 Motor Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 27. (310) 535-6007.
SUMMER NEW WORKS FESTIVAL Ojai Playwrights Conference presents readings, solo shows and special performances by Kate Fodor, Bess Wohl, Len Jenkin, Trieu Tran and more. Features a new work by Brothers & Sisters creator Jon Robin Baitz. For additional event locations see www.ojaiplay.org. Matilija Junior High School Auditorium, 703 El Paseo Rd., Ojai; Tues., Thurs.-Sun..; thru Aug. 15. (805) 640-0400.
GO THE TRUE STORY OF JACK AND THE BEANSTALK For the past 12 summers, the Culver City Public Theatre has been staging free plays in cozy Carlson Park for families. Audiences bring picnics, blankets and chairs and gather under shady trees for an hour or so of entertainment -- generally crowd-pleasing fare such as popular Shakespeare comedies and kid-friendly classics. Now playing is an imaginative adaptation (by director Heidi Dotson) of the fairy tale "Jack and the Beanstalk." Dotson cleverly blends the tale of the golden goose with the familiar story of simpleton Jack, who trades the family cow for a handful of magic beans. Nicely expanded into two acts that fill an hour, the retooled story presents the usually terrifying giant (Dean Edward) as a struggling poet with a devious wife (Ronnie Loaiza), and fashions a thoroughly happy ending. Beautifully narrated by the cow, Milky White (Rachanee Kitchel) -- whom, hilariously, only the audience can understand -- this sweet, magical play had little kids and adults giggling. Cute sets, costumes and props, as well as the lovely cast, make this is a delightful, low-tech production. A Children's Popcorn Theater production. (Pauline Amadek). Dr. Paul Carlson Memorial Park, Motor Ave. & Braddock Dr., Culver City; Sat.-Sun., noon.; thru Aug. 22. (310) 712-5482.