Stage Raw: Lawees Around the Corner
NEW THEATER REVIEWS
STAGE FEATURE on Edward Anthony's Wish I Had a Sylvia Plath
LAWEES April 4
Has it really been a year already since last year's L.A. Weekly Theater Awards? Goodness, actually it's been longer. This year they've been pushed back so as not to coincide (like last year) with a certain Jewish holiday. Woopsie.
This year's Big Date is Monday, April 4, so bring your Big Date. doors open at 6:30, not 7:30 -- show starts at 7:30, not 8:30, and we're talking about the evening, not the morning.
If you're a nominee, email at here me to reserve your comp or RSVP at (310) 574-7208. $20 Tickets for significant others and the significant public can be purchased at laweekly.com/theaterawards -- look for the banner announcing the Theater Awards, with the picture of the goose. If the site presents you with technical difficulties, we absolutely will not refuse you or your cash at the door.
Requested attire is sleepwear, not formal-wear, for the "32nd annual L.A. Weekly Middle-School District Theater Awards Sleepover." Please bring a note from your parents giving you permission to attend. Music by Ash Panda, show co-produced by Amit Itelman and the Steve Allen Theater. Featured performers are Gertude Stein and Alice B Toklas -- two white geese we rescued. They've been busy preparing a scene from David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross. I hear, so far, it's not going well, but we hope things will improve. (Personally, I think the fault lies with the play.)
More on this tomorrow, along with the list of shows being reviewed this weekend.
For the latest COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS, press the More tab directly below.
COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS FOR MARCH 25 - 31, 2011
Our critics are Pauline Adamek, Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III, Rebecca Haithcoat, Mayank Keshaviah, Deborah Klugman, Amy Lyons, Steven Leigh Morris, Amy Nicholson, Tom Provenzano, Bill Raden, 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 IN THE TIMING A collection of comic one acts by David Ives. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Sun., May 1, 3 p.m. Continues through April 10. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, (818) 745-8527, nohoartsdistrict.com/theatreweb/crowncity.htm.
ANYTHING GOES Cole Porter's madcap oceanliner musical. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 10. Covina Center for the Performing Arts, 104 N. Citrus Ave., Covina, (626) 331-8133, covinacenter.com.
BETWEEN US CHICKENS Sofia Alvarez's story of two small-town girls new to Los Angeles. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 3. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 708-5555, scr.org.
BLIND SPOTS Colette Freedman's story of sisters fighting over the gay marriage debate. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Thursdays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 24, (818) 381-3024, blindspotsplay.com. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood.
BLINK & YOU MIGHT MISS ME Larry Blum's retrospective of his showbiz career. Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 27, (323) 960-7612, plays411.com/blink. Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, L.A., theatreasylum-la.com.
COME SUNDOWN Anthony F. Cronin's story of two young attorneys on a spiritual journey. Starting March 26, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 14. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica, (310) 397-3244, ruskingrouptheatre.com.
COPENHAGEN Black Cat Productions presents Michael Frayn's "exploration of history, science and the human spirit." Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 23, (323) 960-4420, plays411.com/copenhagen. The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A., attictheatre.org/tickets.
THE CRUCIBLE Arthur Miller's Red Scare allegory set during the Salem witch trials. Starting March 26, Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 15. The Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, (818) 846-5323, theatrebanshee.org.
ELIZABETH BATHORY, THE BLOOD COUNTESS, Memoirs of the historic serial killer, presented by Zombie Joe's Underground and B'z Shorts Productions. Starting March 26, Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through April 30. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com.
FIVE BY TENN ONE-ACT FESTIVAL Five short plays by Tennessee Williams. Starting March 26, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 1. Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., L.A., (323) 467-6688, theatre68.com.
FIVE TALES OF EDGAR ALLEN POE James Golden's adaptation of The Raven, Ruben Aguilar's adaptation of Premature Burial, Jay Parker's adaptation of The Black Cat, Gay Kinman's adaptation of The Purloined Letter, and Justin Winterhalter's adaptation of Murder in the Rue Morgue.. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 3. Lizard Theater, 112 W. Main St., Alhambra, (626) 457-5293, lizardtheater.com.
FORCED VACATION (TERRA INCOGNITO) The Fabulous Monsters' new multimedia cabaret, "a dreamlike journey through a pre-apocalyptic wonderland of brutal surprises and unexpected beauty." Fri., March 25, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., March 26, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., March 27, 7 p.m. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica, (310) 315-1459, highwaysperformance.org.
GLORY DAYS High school friends in college reunite for a prank, in Nick Blaemire and James Gardiner's one-act musical. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 24, (323) 960-7792, plays411.com/glorydays. Lillian Theatre, 1076 N. Lillian Way, L.A..
GOLDEN DRAGON ACROBATS Straight outta Hebei, China: amazing acrobatics, traditional dance and costumes, ancient and modern music. Brought to you by impresario Danny Chang and choreographer Angela Chang. Sun., March 27, 2 & 6 p.m. Torrance Cultural Arts Center, 3330 Civic Center Dr., Torrance, (310) 781-7150.
THE GOLDEN GAYS John Patrick Trapper's homotastic comedy inspired by The Golden Girls. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 10, thegoldengays.com. Meta Theater, 7801 Melrose Ave., L.A..
IT HAD TO BE YOU Renee Taylor and Joe Bologna's latest collaboration based on their own lives in showbiz. Sun., March 27, 4 p.m., (310) 440-1246. American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Dr., Bel-Air, uj.edu.
AN ITALIAN AMERICAN INDIAN Angel Vision Productions presents Angelo Masino's story of a divorced dad at a crossroads in life. Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through April 9, (310) 374-9767. 2nd Story Theatre, 710 Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach.
JAMAICA, FAREWELL Solo performance by Debra Ehrhardt detailing her journey from Jamaiaca to America in the 1970s. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through April 17. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank, (818) 955-8101, falcontheatre.com.
THE LOS ANGELES WOMEN'S THEATRE FESTIVAL March 25, 8 p.m.: "Defining Moments"; March 26, 3 p.m.: "It's a Family Affair"; March 26, 8 p.m: "Globally Speaking"; March 27, 3 p.m.: "Herstory Live!"; March 27, 7 p.m.: "Resilience." March 25-27. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice, (310) 306-1854, www.electriclodge.org.
LOST MOON RADIO: EPISODE 9 "One-hour collage of original sketches, songs, and metaphysical ramblings," this time on the theme of "Faith and Belief." Fri., March 25, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., March 26, 8:30 p.m.; Thu., March 31, 8:30 p.m.; Fri., April 1, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., April 2, 8:30 p.m.,
lostmoonradio.com. Fais Do-Do, 5257 W. Adams Blvd., L.A., (323) 931-4636.
OFFENDING THE AUDIENCE Peter Handke's 1966 anti-play starring seven children who "remove the audience from the artificiality of a critical discourse of artifice by introducing real play into a play that, for all of its avant-garde seminality is, to a contemporary ear, far too self-conscious to be listened to." March 25-27, 8 p.m., brownpapertickets.com/event/158708. The Velaslavasay Panorama, 1122 W. 24th St., L.A., (213) 746-2166, www.panoramaonview.org.
PROUD TO BE ME, WE TELL STORIIES Three multi-ethnic folktales, part of ICT's free "Saturday Family Theatre Series." Sat., March 26, 11 a.m. International City Theatre, Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, (562) 436-4610, ictlongbeach.org.
PURSUED BY HAPPINESS: It's a chance meeting and a whirlwind romance for two 40-something biochemists, by Keith Huff. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 14, RoadTheatre.org. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 752-7568.
A RAISIN IN THE SUN Phylicia Rashad directs the Ebony Repertory Theatre's production of Lorraine Hansberry's classic play. Starting March 26, Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 17, ebonyrep.org. Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, 4718 W. Washington Blvd., L.A., (323) 964-9768.
RETURN FROM THE ASHES Brad Geagley's adaptation of Hubert Monteilhet's novel about a woman impersonating a woman impersonating herself. Starting March 30, Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 24. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills, (310) 364-0535, theatre40.org.
ROCKIN' WITH THE AGES 3: Bill Reid and Mark Rodriguez's world-premiere musical, starring a cast aged 60 and over. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 1, (818) 606-6679. Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank, thevictorytheatrecenter.org.
SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD The RED Stamp presents Jason Robert Brown's musical journey, "from the deck of a 1492 Spanish sailing ship to a ledge 57 stories above Fifth Avenue." Sat., March 26, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 2, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 9, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 16, 8 p.m., (626) 344-7330. Travis Auditorium, 180 N. Oakland Ave., Pasadena.
STANDING ON CEREMONY The Gay Marriage Plays: Written by Jordan Harrison, Jeffrey Hatcher, Moises Kaufman, Neil Labute, Wendy Mcleod, Kathy Najimy, Jose Rivera, Paul Rudnick and Doug Wright, conceived and directed by Brian Shnipper. Tonight's cast: Peri Gilpen, Richard Kind, Wendie Malick, Kathy Najimy and Jean Smart. Mon., March 28, 8 p.m.; Mon., April 4, 8 p.m.; Mon., April 25, 8 p.m.; Mon., May 9, 8 p.m.; Mon., May 23, 8 p.m.; Mon., June 6, 8 p.m.; Mon., June 20, 8 p.m., StandingOnCeremony.net. Largo at the Coronet, 366 N. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., (310) 855-0350, largo-la.com.
THE VAGINA MOLOGOGUES The Vagina Monologues: Eve Ensler's monologues on sex, love, rape, menstruation, masturbation, birth and orgasm, benefiting Peace Over Violence. Fri., March 25, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 26, 7 & 9:30 p.m. Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, (818) 762-2272, tworoadsgallery.com.
A WEEKEND WITH PABLO PICASSO Solo show by Culture Clash's Herbert Siguenza, based on the writings of Picasso. Starting March 31, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 1. Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A., (866) 811-4111, thelatc.org.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE
BOOMERMANIA Debbie Kasper and Pat Sierchio's lively musical revue about baby boomers is much like the boomer culture itself -- fluffy and pleasant, but also somewhat sad. The show purports to be a lighthearted gambol down pop-culture memory lane, from the 1950s through the '90s, with the road of boomer excess ultimately leading to a palace of wisdom furnished with Sugar Pops, Mr. Spock, Saturday Night Fever and the Summer of Love. The decades roll by, depicted in a series of quirky skits and punctuated by renditions of rock songs whose lyrics parody the absurdities of eras past. Act 1 is fluff itself: In "Sugar Pops, Captain Crunch," a group of 1950s teens croon their affection for newly invented sugar cereals to the tune of "Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch." Later, a dazed married couple warble "Talking 'Bout My Television," a song depicting near-hypnotized enchantment with their brand-new TV (sung to the tune of "The Beat Goes On"). However, when Act 2 moves into the later decades, Kasper and Sierchio's satire takes on a more melancholy tone, particularly during a sequence at a 10-year high school reunion, in which a few adult boomers come to grips with boomer shock: They're not as special as they thought they were. The show's cast consists of strikingly youthful performers who appear too young even for their first legal cocktail, let alone speedballs at Studio 54. Yet, thanks to Mary Ekler's tightly focused musical direction, their powerful voices evoke far richer emotions than the material they're often asked to sing. While many of the musical skits are crisply performed, the narrative material often falls flat, with frequent allusions to other boomer-dated shows like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Hair only pointing out those musicals' far more inventive scores. (Paul Birchall). boomermaniathemusical.com Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 15, (866) 811-4111, boomermaniathemusical.com. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, elportaltheatre.com.
DISNEY'S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Based on the 1991 animated film, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman, book by Linda Woolverton. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through March 26. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A., (213) 365-3500.
THE FRYBREAD QUEEN Murder. Suicide. Secret liaisons. Child sexual abuse. Homicidal ghosts. Just when you think playwright Carolyn Dunn's plot has been stretched to its melodramatic max, she tosses in yet another sensational element. Set on a Navajo reservation, the story concerns the family tensions smoldering among Jesse (Jane Lind), a Native American matriarch, her two daughters-in-law, Carlisle (Shyla Marlin) and Annalee (Kimberly Norris Guerrero), and her granddaughter, Lily (Elizabeth Frances). The ladies have good reason to be on edge: Only a week earlier, Jesse's son Paul splattered his brains all over her kitchen's ceiling and walls. We learn this in little ways via dialogue between Carlisle and Annalee; otherwise it's scarcely evident in anyone's demeanor that such an overwhelmingly bloody and traumatic event has taken place. Instead, there's heated discussion about who makes the best fry bread (a Native American staple). While it's clear there's something else going on beneath this rivalry of housewives, the raw pain engendered by the recent violent death of everyone's son, father, ex-husband or former lover doesn't seem to be it. Directed by Robert Caisley, the performers struggle in vain to make an implausible scenario -- which includes possession by Paul's demonized spirit -- seem real, with only Marlin attaining some credibility as the least neurotic among them. What does work are four monologues, one from each woman, presented at various junctures throughout the play, in which a recipe for fry bread becomes a metaphor for their Indian pride and their womanhood. (Deborah Klugman). Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through March 27. Autry National Center, 4700 Western Heritage Way, L.A., (323) 667-2000, autry-museum.org.
GO IN MOTHER WORDS Simple staging and spirited acting grace this series of vignettes about motherhood. Conceived by Susan Rose and Joan Stein, the string of separate playlets by more than a dozen writers, including Beth Henley and Theresa Rebeck, gains unity in the hands of director Lisa Peterson, who arranges the material into thematic blocks. (Jan Hartley's projection design and Emily Hubley's animation design effectively move the story forward during scene transitions.) Bookended by stories about new moms and seasoned matriarchs, the smart material covers a pleasing variety of parenting terrain, from a mother parting with her war-bound son in Jessica Goldberg's "Stars and Stripes" to a male couple searching for a surrogate in Marco Pennette's "If We're Using a Surrogate." Though the four actors -- Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Jane Kaczmarek, James Lecesne and Amy Pietz -- perch on chairs in front of podiums much of the time, their collective connection with the material renders the staged-reading format a barely noticeable factor. Comedy underlines much of the show, but David Cale's "Elizabeth," a glimpse into the early stages of dementia, and Claire LaZebnik's "Michael's Date," which lays out a mother's dashed hopes for her autistic son, tug hard at the heart. (Amy Lyons). Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through March 27. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood, (310) 208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.
PRIVATE LIVES Noel Coward's comedy about exes honeymooning in the same hotel. Sundays, 2 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., March 27, 7 p.m.; Thu., March 31, 2 p.m. Continues through April 10. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, (949) 497-2787, lagunaplayhouse.com.
SOUTHERN COMFORTS Feisty widow and crusty widower discover love, by Kathleen Clark. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 10. International City Theatre, Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, (562) 436-4610, ictlongbeach.org.
THE UGLY DUCKLING Interactive kids' musical by Lloyd J. Schwartz and Adryan Russ. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Continues through July 9, (818) 761-2203. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A., theatrewest.org.
THE WEIR Conor McPherson's tales from an Irish pub. Saturdays, Sundays, 2 & 7:45 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 7:45 p.m.; Sun., April 3, 2 p.m. Continues through April 2. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 708-5555, scr.org.
CONTINUING PERFORMANES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS
ATTACK OF THE 50-FOOT SUNDAY Jordan Black directs the Groundlings Sunday Company. Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A., (323) 934-9700, groundlings.com.
GO THE BIRTHDAY PRESENT 2050 Stories about dystopian societies often risk seeming contrived, but playwright Tania Wisbar's beautifully detailed and elegiac tale depicts a world that might believably exist, say, 100 years after a Nazi takeover. In the future, poverty and disease have been eliminated, but the world is instead organized on entirely practical lines, with your right to survive being decided by the number of "points" you earn every year. On the 75th birthday of family matriarch Teresa (Salome Jens), her devoted daughter Marsha (Elyssa Davalos) thinks she has collected enough points from her two sisters and family to allow Teresa to live another year. More than just being the emotional center of her clan, Teresa is one of the last living rebels who recalls life before the odious new order came to pass. Marsha's hopes are threatened when unexpected complications amp up the charge for Teresa's right to life. In director Jonathan Sanger's beautifully melancholy staging, what could be a mechanical exercise in high-concept plotting becomes a wistful tale of how easy it would be to purge memory of the past from the world. Sanger's smoothly executed production boasts many rich details: Set designer Kis Knekt's calculatedly sterile living room is replete with decorative video screens that show 1984-esque messages from the genially sinister bureaucrat (Jeffrey Doornbos) who oversees the family's doings. Knekt's set, in conjunction with composer Karen Martin's eerie incidental music, crafts a world that's just plain crazy. The ensemble work is just as assured. Apart from Jens' powerful turn as the ferociously nonconforming grandmother, Davalos' complex performance as Marsha is exceptional: Her character is seemingly an upbeat chirper, but her good mood is so clearly artificial, it seems as though she's always about to weep. Also engaging in supporting roles are Katrina Lenk, as Marsha's venomously selfish younger sister, and Demetrius Grosse, as a guilt-haunted security agent. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 17, (323) 960-7733, plays411.com. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., L.A..
"bonded" Bolstered by director Jon Lawrence Rivera's unadorned, precise vision, Act 1 of Donald Jolly's homoerotic slave narrative set on a Virginia plantation in 1820 is a piece of earnest, thought-provoking theater. Jolly's frank but lovely storytelling graces the genre with fresh insights about the lives of slaves, traveling beyond the dehumanizing stories of sexual abuse and unspeakable human violence penned so powerfully in the firsthand accounts of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, taking us instead to a slightly reimagined slice of the old South, where sexual freedom becomes nearly as urgent as freedom from human ownership. Sonny (Terrence Colby Clemons), Lily (Toyin Moses) and Jack (Carl Crudup) are the last remaining slaves on a rapidly crumbling Virginia plantation. Enter Asa (Eric B. Anthony), a New York "house boy," whom the three plantation slaves quickly dub "new nigger." Accustomed to fetching cocktails and completing other indoor chores, Asa melts down after being shackled and scrubbed, whipped by Jack (a 70-something, self-proclaimed "true African" who wants to keep the uppity Northerner in his place) and forced to keep impossibly long hours plowing fields. When Sonny and Asa begin to bond emotionally, sexual tensions arise and eventually explode. Sadly, Act 2 is a bundle of redundancies, a drawn-out series of melodramatic manipulations that don't do justice to the first act's promise. Bob Blackburn's sound design, Adam Blumenthal's lighting and John H. Binkley's set serve the story well. (Amy Lyons). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 9, playwrightsarena.org. Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A., (866) 811-4111, thelatc.org.
BRENDAN O'LENIHAN LEAVES THREE DAUGHTERS After novelist Brendan O'Lenihan's massively successful literary career spawns "the greatest novel in history" (as one of O'Lenihan's daughters puts it), the writer becomes a recluse, delves into alternative spirituality and cuts off contact with his three daughters. They've congregated for his funeral, and the family dynamic that playwright William Norrett has constructed has the potential to be much more interesting than standard sister fare. Socially speaking, he's hit the dramatic jackpot: Kathleen (Jonica Patella) is a ghostwriter for rappers, Annebeth (Jana Wimer) is an Oscar-winning producer who shrinks behind her filmmaker husband, and Maureen (Bethany Orr) is a teacher in South Africa, with a Ph.D. in physics. Yet while the disparate paths the sisters have taken could more than satisfy the need for conflict required in such a play, Norrett's confidence seems to have faltered, leading him to build on a silly, ultimately irrelevant inheritance premise, the climax of which defies the very term. Though the male ensemble generally succeeds in its supporting roles, it's difficult to decide if the sisters' brittle, forced emotion and general disconnect from the material are the result of being miscast or under-rehearsed. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through March 27, (818) 688-1219. Underground Annex Theater, 1308 N. Wilton Place, L.A..
GO CABARET IDOL "There's nothing better to watch than a performer who loves to perform, except two good-looking people having sex," says host Scot Young. And in week four of season two of this live competition, Young and the packed crowd of fans, friends and family watched 14 performers anxiously take the stage and sing a number for the judges. At the end of the evening there were 12 survivors, another cull in the quest for the grand prize: new head shots, a management contract and a two-night solo show. The performance's theme was, perversely, "No Show Tunes," which had the contestants in paroxysms. Said one without a hint of sarcasm, "There really aren't that many songs that aren't show tunes!" But try they did, belting out Broadway-esque versions of Journey and Whitesnake and Cyndi Lauper before a scoring panel that didn't let them off the hook. "I want you to do a damn country song," grumbled a judge in mock exasperation. There were some good voices -- and a few great ones -- but the audience was there to tap their toes, vote for their favorites and maybe even grab some dinner or a stiff drink if they could flag down one of the waiters zipping around in the standing-room-only dark. (Amy Nicholson). Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 24. Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill, 6122 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A., (323) 466-9917.
GO CAUGHT In the aftermath of Proposition 8 passing in November 2008, one of the regrets of those who fought valiantly for gay marriage and against the proposition was that enough wasn't done to "normalize" gay couples. And while the events in David L. Ray's world-premiere play take place in July 2008, Caught furthers the cause by dramatizing one of those healthy relationships. In it, Angelenos Kenneth (Corey Brill) and Troy (Will Beinbrink) are on the eve of their nuptials, a ceremony that will be officiated by their friend Splenda (Micah McCain), who is ordained via the Internet. This blissful scene is interrupted by a visit from Kenneth's estranged sister, Darlene (Deborah Puette), who is very Southern and very Christian, as well as her daughter, Krystal (Amanda Kaschak). In the interludes between scenes, we also see Darlene's husband, T.J. (Richard Jenik), preaching to his conservative congregation in Georgia. Secrets, lies and surprising revelations fuel the drama. Director Nick DeGruccio deftly takes Ray's strong and likable characters from page to stage, sparingly playing up stereotypes for comedy without ever reducing the characters to them. Adding to the authenticity are Adam Flemming's delightfully detailed set and Katherine Hampton Noland's colorful couture. Adding to the emotional investment in the story is a talented cast; standouts include Puette, for her rich and intense portrayal of Darlene; McCain, for balancing divalike comedy with deep sincerity; and Kaschak, for combining fresh-faced innocence and a willfulness to create a very believable teenager. (Mayank Keshaviah). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 15, (800) 595-4849, CaughtThePlay.com. Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A..
CROOKED ROAD Few choices were available to respectable British women in the early 19th century. In Jane Austen's 1816 novel Persuasion, a 27- year-old unmarried woman -- considered over the hill by the standards of that time -- struggles to come to terms with the decades of humiliating spinsterhood that seemingly stretch before her. Erin Gaw's soap-operatic adaptation, in South Los Angeles, revolves around Anne (Kristal Adams), who works in her dad's real estate business and once upon a time gave up the love of her life to care for her ailing mom, now deceased. Anne's organizational skills and common sense are grossly unappreciated by her spendthrift father (Kabin Thomas), who regularly insults her; he much prefers her shallow sister, Mary (Kelicea Meadows), who bitchily flaunts her own married status before her more mature and stoical sibling. Commencing from this almost Dickensian juxtaposition of virtue and cruelty, the play plods along for a merciless three hours (the first two without an intermission), padded with commonplace dialogue, unremarkable songs and unnecessary characters. Details of staging are carelessly handled under Naisa Wong's direction; for example, in a packing scene, characters unpack, then repack, the same items. The ensemble strives earnestly, but its collective inexperience is unmistakable. Loneliness and longing surely continue to beset many unattached women, but the issues involved are ill-served when observed through a jejune periscope such as this one. (Deborah Klugman). Fri., March 25, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 26, 8 p.m.; Sun., March 27, 2 & 7 p.m. Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A., (323) 871-5830.
GO DADDY Dan Via's Off-Broadway hit, receiving its L.A. premiere, is set in the context of the impassioned debate over gay marriage. Handsome gay newspaper columnist Colin (Gerald McCullouch) and buttoned-down lawyer Stewart (playwright Via) have been best friends for 20 years. Despite a bit of hanky-panky in their college days, their friendship has never become a love affair, though they're closer in many respects than some lovers. When Colin begins an affair with Tee (Ian Verdun), an eager young man half his age, it's a seismic shock to the long-standing relationship. Stewart is resentful of the boy's incursion into their lives, and suspects there's more to Tee than meets the eye. But when he tries to tell Colin about his doubts and suspicions, Colin dismisses them as mere jealousy. Though Via's play gets off to a slow start, things that initially seem cryptic or merely casual prove to be of crucial importance as it progresses, and the piece builds to a startling finale. Director Rick Sparks elicits finely nuanced performances from his three principals, and Adam Flemming provides the handsome and flexible unit set. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 10, plays411.com/daddy. Hudson Guild Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 856-4249.
THE ELEPHANT MAN Oscar-winning makeup artist Barney Burman designed the characters in this staging of Bernard Pomerance's drama about a deformed Englishman. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through April 24, theelephantmanplay.com. El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., L.A..
ELEVATOR Michael Leoni's story of seven strangers stuck in a lift. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 3, (323) 960-7787, plays411.com/elevator. Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood.
GO ENDGAME A successful staging of Samuel Beckett's absurdist classic requires a director who can mine the play's comic and lyrical elements, and effectively meld them with the author's relentlessly harsh vision. Here, director Paul Plunkett does just that, aided by an excellent cast which maintains that crucial balance throughout. Endgame is about four pitiful characters trapped in a dismal room as the outside world collapses in decay and sterility. Unlike the forlorn tramps in Waiting for Godot, there is no expectation of relief or purpose, just the slow passage of time ending in an inevitable, painful demise. Confined in a pair of battered, industrial containers, the ghoulish-looking Nagg and Nell (Barry Ford and the striking Kathy Bell Denton) emerge sporadically to break the tedium of the central "action," which unfolds on a rickety caricature of a throne. There, the blind, crippled Hamm (Leon Russom) is unable to move and has his needs tended to by the perpetually besieged Clov (David Fraioli), in a bizarre, ongoing ritual of servitude. When, toward the end, Hamm asks about his painkiller, and is told by Clov that there isn't any more, we know that, for this outing anyway, the laughs are balm enough. As effective as Plunkett's direction is, this fine revival really soars on the wings of the cast's terrific performances. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., April 10, 7 p.m.; Sun., April 17, 7 p.m. Continues through April 23. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A., (310) 281-8337, sacredfools.org.
FERDINAND! Vaclav Havel's 1975 pair of one-act plays. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6 p.m. Continues through April 3, brownpapertickets.com/event/157750. Actors Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 882-8043, actorscircle.net.
GO THE FIX-UP SHOW Although it's ostensibly a live-onstage dating game show, creator/host J. Keith van Straaten's comedy hybrid owes less of a debt to its venerable matchmaking forebears (The Dating Game, The Love Connection) than it does to the immortal You Bet Your Life. Like that granddaddy of mock TV quiz programs, in which real-life contestants merely served as comic fodder for the ad lib genius of Groucho Marx, The Fix-Up Show is built around the mercurial wit and barbed tongue of the dryly impish Van Straaten. Following introductory repartee between the host and his tongue-in-cheek announcer, Patti Goettlicher, a hapless bachelorette is interviewed and then ensconced backstage. Two of her best friends then join a celebrity guest questioner (this week it was legendary Hitchcock heroine Tippi Hedren) to grill and then vote on three consecutive bachelor prospects during two elimination rounds. The survivor wins the girl and dinner for two next door at Amalfi on a "date" whose video recap provides the prologue for next week's show. In this instance, the friends and movie star rejected a circus owner and a JPL spacecraft engineer in favor of a TV-graphics designer from Fairbanks, Alaska. And while the amateurs on the panel prove to be the format's Achilles heel, with their extemporaneous questions hamstringing as much as helping the comedy, it is a tribute to Van Straaten's considerable comic chops that the show reaps a laugh quotient of which even Groucho would be proud. (Bill Raden). Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 30, $15. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A., (323) 525-0202, acmecomedy.com.
FREE $$$ Jonas Oppenheim's faux self-improvement workshop, hosted by Robin and Randy Petraeus, Power Couple, "authors in the field of positive thought energy." Sundays, 7 p.m.; Thu., March 31, 8 p.m. Continues through April 3. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A., (310) 281-8337, sacredfools.org.
GO GIRLS TALK Roger Kumble's new seriocomedy sets out to debunk that famous feminist promise that women can have it all -- the career, the family and their sanity. As lights go up on a beached Brooke Shields, a milk pump attached to each breast, Kumble softens up his audience with broad comic strokes and entertainment industry in-jokes. He even pokes fun at racism before settling in to a serious examination of four power moms in Brentwood, and the dilemmas they face. As mother of three Lori, Shields shows up in a pink hoodie and Uggs, but pretty soon sky-high wedge heels and hefty designer handbags take over the stage (costumes by Ann Closs-Farley). She slobs about the solid, trilevel set (design by Tom Buderwitz) as the other, more pretentious moms arrive. Meanwhile Lori's former writing partner, Claire (Constance Zimmer), wants to lure her back to the cutthroat world of TV with an irresistible opportunity -- a meeting with Oprah herself. But what about Lori's commitments to her eldest kid's preschool fundraiser? Eileen Galindo is underused as Lori's uncomprehending temp nanny. Andrea Bendewald is magnificent as alpha mom Jane, especially when she unleashes her vicious tongue, completely annihilating Scarlett (Nicole Paggi), the needy Southern mom who is trying so hard to be Jewish ("Holla for challa!"). But Jane gets her comeuppance, courtesy of Claire, a fearless non-mom. This play is full of squabbly little victories, some distasteful, some victorious. It concludes abruptly on a cliffhanger, but by then Kumble has well and truly made his point. (Pauline Adamek). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 24, (800) 595-4849, tix.com. Lee Strasberg Institute, Marilyn Monroe Theatre, 7936 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..
GO GROUNDLINGS SINGLES CRUISE "A" cast of master
improv artists reliably fall into three categories: "inspired" -- in
which all the right notes of exaggeration, situation and universal
recognition ignite an uncontrolled chain reaction of belly laughs;
"merely great" -- in which an incisive caricature carries the potential
for critical comedy frisson but melts down before the finish; and "back
to the workshop" -- or not recommended for public viewing at this time.
Fortunately, this edition racks up enough of the first and so few of the
last that it warrants a medical warning for laugh-induced abdominal
cramps. At the top of the heap are the pieces that bear the writing
credits of Andrew Friedman, Michael Naughton or Mitch Silpa. In
"Honeymoon," Friedman and Silpa's irritating preteen ghost twins, Kevin
and Kyle, hilariously connect the horrors of The Shining to the
hauntings of Eros-deflating parenting. With "Q&A," Naughton and
Friedman expertly excoriate the absurd insipidity of play readings and
those who attend them. "The Terrys" features Jillian Bell and Silpa
striking satiric pay dirt in the surreal fashion faux pas and
entertainment non sequiturs perpetrated by TV comedy variety shows of
the early '70s. Charlotte Newhouse, Lisa Schurga, Jill Matson-Sachoff
and Edi Patterson all shine in respective leaps into the perverse depths
of depraved feminine grotesquerie. And director Mikey Day keeps it all
moving at a comedy-conducive clip ... not counting the tediously long
scene blackouts, when audiences must bide their time with the tasty
licks of musical director Willie Etra and his jam-seasoned band. (Bill
Raden). Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 & 10 p.m. Continues through
April 23. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A., (323) 934-9700,
Happy Birthday Tennessee: The Katselas Theatre Company's monthly INKubator series celebrates Tennessee Williams' 100th birthday with One Arm (adapted by Tony Abatemarco), Confessions of a Nightingale (with Michael Kearns essaying the role of Williams) and Tennessee's Women (compiled and directed by Richard Hochberg). Sat., March 26, 3 p.m., (702) 582-8587, katselastheatre.com. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., L.A..
A HOUSE NOT MEANT TO STAND Empty butterscotch wrappers scattered on a cheap coffee table, an afghan in shades of brown clutching a grubby couch, an old Christmas-themed popcorn tin catching one of the ceiling's countless leaks -- Misty Carlisle's prop design is so on-target, if she isn't from the South, she must have spent summers there. Yet her efforts, and Jeff McLaughlin's picture-perfect set, can't save the soul of this production of Tennessee Williams' tragicomedy. The premise is dyed-in-the-wool Williams: Hard-driving father Cornelius (Alan Blumenfeld) and his regressed-from-depression wife, Bella (Sandy Martin), arrive home from burying their gay son in Memphis. ("You encouraged him to design clothes [and] try 'em on," Cornelius berates his wife.) Their youngest, kinda sneaky, kinda sweet son (Daniel Billet) is home (after losing another job) with a similarly out-of-work girlfriend (Virginia Newcomb). The play, Williams' last, isn't his best; soliloquies directed at the audience weaken the action and disrupt the script's flow. But in not clearly revealing the kind of seminal Williams-esque conflict between a deep well of despair and the near-instinctual impulse to hide anything unpleasant, director Simon Levy has ignored the desperate sadness here, turning the play into a carnival of caricatures. Fortunately, Lisa Richards, a cougar before the term even existed, soft-pedals her approach as a nosy neighbor, and her scene near the end with Bella is the first in the production that intrigues. The real shame, in fact, is that Martin's performance as the mentally clouded yet still feisty Bella is stranded in this production. Tennessee Williams always saved his best for his women, and Martin more than does him justice. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 18, $25-$35; $18 students. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A., (323) 663-1525, fountaintheatre.com.
I GET KNOCKED DOWN When writer-performer Evan McNamara first appears in this one-man show, he's wearing a T-shirt that reads "ARISE" and pointy elf ears. He is, he tells us, a member of an elf clan, and his sister, Raven, is a vampire who for years drained him of vitality. He then assumes the role of a Guardian Angel who revels in his own self-esteem. "God loves me," he claims, "because I make heaven look so cool." The elf tells about the woman he loved, hard-hearted Hannah, who married him and bore him two children, but then announced she'd been unfaithful from the start. We then meet Evan's other suffering alter egos: a prisoner shackled till he frees himself through an act of will, a martyr who embraces his pain, a scholar who alternates between raging against his fate and philosophic acceptance, a clown who wraps himself in a cloak of protective humor, and a hipster in stylish shades who doesn't contribute much to the story. McNamara is an appealing and energetic actor, but his bromidic ending is announced (self-knowledge is the key) rather than dramatized, so the show, though pleasant, seems both short (40 minutes) and slight. Director John Coppola might have been wise to insist on more substance. (Neal Weaver). Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 24, igetknockeddown.eventbrite.com. Studio C Artists, 6448 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 988-1175.
THE MERCY SEAT Neil LaBute, a writer renowned for his lacerating portraits of narcissistic cads and the arrested adolescent within, doesn't exactly spring to mind when one speaks of a "9/11 play." So it comes as something of a relief that this 2002 drama set in lower Manhattan on the day after the terrorist attacks is less concerned with collapsing office towers than it is with the imploding illusions of its feuding pair of illicit lovers. In fact, the only disaster in sight turns out to be of the emotional kind. The curtain opens on Ben (Johnny Clark), a husband and father so paralyzed by callow self-pity and passive-aggressive guilt that he is unable to answer his incessantly ringing cell phone or move from his armchair for nearly the entire play. Turns out that he was only spared from dying in the conflagration because he skipped a meeting at Ground Zero for an early-morning assignation with his boss and mistress, Abby (Michelle Clunie), at her luxury loft. When Ben compounds his callous indifference to the loss of life outside by cynically seizing on his own presumed death in a scheme to abandon his family and run off with her, Abby is finally jolted into a belated reappraisal of their three-year affair. Clunie all but steals the show with an artfully nuanced performance that galvanizes Abby's tough exterior with affecting currents of wounded vulnerability and frustrated yearning. Unfortunately, with the exception of exhilarating flourishes provided by Derrick McDaniel's poetic lights, director Ron Klier's staging is so weighted down by Danny Cistone's distractingly overelaborate and hyperrealistic set that the production rarely achieves LaBute's intended metaphoric lift. (Bill Raden). Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 24. [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., L.A., (323) 461-3673, fordtheatres.org.
THE INSOMNIA PLAY When you have insomnia, what keeps you up at night? Worries, or a stalker ordering you to put on a prettier nightgown? For Georgina (Liz Vital), it's both. On her first sleepover with new guy George (Nick Mills), she's kept up by the Sandman (Jeff Irwin) needling her that she's too crazy to keep a man. In Jessica Brickman's short play, the Sandman's obviously standing in for Georgina's insecurities: He knows she's flighty, fluttery and prone to emotional meltdowns. But he's also his own man with a complicated relationship with his sexy sheep assistant (the kind you count at night, played by Jessica Culaciati, hugely pregnant and an energetic comedian). His own insecurities include a jealous streak that's got him trying to sabotage Georgina's fledgling relationship, even sending the sheep into the bed to seduce George. (Set designer Robert Tintoc has made a bed big enough to swallow a circus act.) There's a haziness about the play, as if we, too, are strapped for sleep and a little confused about what's happening. But if director Gioia Marchese can't shape much of a message out of the play, she's got a good handle on its standout scene, where the Sandman shifts forward and backward seven months in George and Georgina's relationship, forcing the actors to make hairpin turns between infatuation and ennui. (Amy Nicholson). Fridays, Sundays, 8 p.m.; Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 10, (847) 800-1762, vitality.publishpath.com. Lyric-Hyperion Theater Cafe, 2106 Hyperion Ave., L.A., lyrichyperion.com.
JO WHO 30-something woman invites seven of her past loves to a church on the same day in hopes that one will propose, by Karen Maxwell. Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 3. The Actors Collective, 916-A N. Formosa Ave., L.A., (323) 251-5076, theactorscollective.com.
JUMP/CUT Depicting the crushing debilitations of mind and spirit that are by-products of bipolar disorder is no easy task. Neena Beber's 2003 play makes a worthwhile effort to invoke compassion for those coping with the jarring highs and soul-destroying lows of the illness, but an overabundance of on-the-nose dialogue about the nature of depression gives way to tidily scripted outpourings of emotion that render the play a forced contrivance bereft of an essential resemblance to real life. Paul (Brett Mack) lets best buddy Dave (Michael Perl) crash on his couch, a living arrangement born of misguided but entirely plausible loyalty on Paul's part. Dave is, after all, an old friend in need, a young man who can't get his life on track due to the crippling effects of mental illness. Paul, a filmmaker whose nose is pressed firmly and admirably to the grindstone, has fun sharing the same space with Dave for a short while, until Paul meets Karen (Melissa Lugo), falls in love and soon finds himself ensnared in a love triangle. It turns out that Karen is more attracted to the romantic availability and neediness of a depressive than the unavailability of a go-getter. The narrative engine breaks down beyond repair when Paul and Karen decide to make Dave's depression the subject of a film project. Focus quickly gets split between romantic entanglements, the hardships of the creative process and serious mental illness. The acting is solid across the board and director Paul Millet keeps the pacing sharp and quick. (Amy Lyons). jumpcut2011.tix.com Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 26, jumpcut2011.tix.com. Arena Stage at Theater of Arts (formerly the Egyptian Arena Theater), 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave., L.A., (323) 595-4849.
JUST IMAGINE Tim Piper's John Lennon impersonation, including performances of Beatles hits and Lennon's solo work. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 24, (323) 960-4442. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., www.thehayworth.com.
KING LEAR Director Marianne Savell takes Shakespeare's foolish old king to the climes of 1850 Northern California where he meets True Grit during the Gold Rush, but the production squanders the potential of its own concept. If the opening scene concerns Lear subdividing his land among his daughters, and the ensuing avarice of two said daughters combines their greed with their father's folly, it seems almost negligent to ignore the Gold Rush, the elephant outside the imagined windows of Gary Lee Reed's saloon set. In a production in which the text has been slashed and changed willy-nilly, there's not even a visual wink to that historical, epic rush for treasure, and its myths that defined our corner of America. The cutting (this version clocks in at a fleeting two hours) severs some of the most emotionally substantive lines -- such as France's (Montelle Harvey) defense of Lear's spurned daughter, Cordelia (a lovely performance by Tawny Mertes). It would appear that the purpose of the cutting was to focus on the plot, often at the expense of the ideas behind the plot. If the length and grandeur of King Lear is so daunting, perhaps they should have done a shorter play. If the goal of the production is to show how the play-ending invasion from France parallels the melodrama of spaghetti Westerns, that point landed -- though to what purpose is unclear. It is nonetheless a well-recited and serviceable production. Bruce Ladd's Irish-brogued Lear belts through the travails of aging and suffering the reduction of his world, with more emotional dexterity than depth. His vigor defies much of the play's point -- because the octogenarian character so obviously appears to be in his 60s. Steve Gustafson's John Wayne-ish Gloucester struts with some animal magnetism into his own despair. Nathan Bell's bastard Edmund wisely hangs the character's overt venality in the back of the closet, allowing the lines to do most of the work. And Richard Soto's Native American Kent is on the road to something interesting, stranded in an unexplored concept. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through April 4, $30; $25 seniors; $20 students. Actors Co-op, 1760 N. Gower St., L.A., (323) 462-8460.
GO LA RAZON BLINDADA (THE ARMORED REASON) How does a prisoner survive without hope? Writer/director Aristides Vargas drew inspiration for this poignantly horrific black comedy from the experience of his brother, a political prisoner in Argentina during that country's military dictatorship. Confined in solitary, prisoners were permitted a brief respite on Sunday, when they could meet and talk, albeit while remaining seated and with their hands on the table. That setup provides the physical framework for this luminously surreal 80-minute one-act in which two incarcerated men come together to role-play -- one calling himself De La Mancha (Jesus Castanos Chima), the other Panza (Arturo Diaz de Sandy). The actors remain seated throughout, navigating across the stage on wooden chairs with wheels. Within these loosely assumed personae, the pair frolic through a hallucinatory landscape, clowning their way through speculations about madness, sanity, heroism and human bonding, and conjuring an elaborate fantasy of regency over an island that brilliantly mocks the nature of power. In the end, the aim of the game is survival -- not as rational beings, because reality would be too painful, but as madmen whose lunacy frees them from the shame of powerlessness. The performances are consummate and the staging, as eloquent as the text, features a videographed landscape over which their sunken shadows pass, and Faure's Elegie for Violoncello and Orchestra to underscore the pathos. (Deborah Klugman). Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 26. 24th Street Theater, 1117 W. 24th St., L.A., (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.org.
GO LOVE SUCKS In traditional French farce, though
everybody determinedly pursues sex, their efforts are constantly
thwarted and conventional morality triumphs by default. Here,
successfully inverting that formula, writer-director Rob Mersola sets
his play in New York's Lower East Side, and populates it with a randy
bunch of characters who look for love in all the wrong places, and
eagerly indulge in sex wherever it lurks, in beds, bars, backseats or
bathroom stalls. Pretty Josie (Sadie Alexandru) is obsessed with
unreliable, opportunistic but well-endowed Harlan (Michael Alperin). Her
gay roommate Calvin (Joshua Bitton) goes in for frequent anonymous sex;
stockbroker Charlie (Daniel Ponickly) gives BJs in public restrooms,
when he isn't making wedding plans with his fiancée (Jeni Verdon); and
lecherous faux-gypsy seducer Giuseppi (Anil Kumar) ruthlessly pursues
every woman who crosses his path. In the course of 48 hours, each of
them has a fling with (at least) two of the others, till they all come
together for a hilarious series of revelations and confrontations.
Mersola hones his amiably grungy plot into a surprisingly elegant
roundelay, and stages it with verve. All five actors wield solid comic
skills, acquitting themselves with style on Burris Jakes' handsome,
flexible unit set. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 &
10:30 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 11,
LoveSucksPlay.com. Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., West
Magic Strings: Bob Baker's marionette variety revue, featuring puppet horses on a merry-go-round, an opera diva on roller skates, a "Day at the Circus," and an all-American grand finale. Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., L.A., (213) 250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.
MEXICAN HISTORY 101 Attempting to resurrect the carpa style of theater (loosely, a Mexican vaudeville), playwright and director Rubén Amavizca-Murúa puts hundreds of years of history on parade in a satirical and very Brechtian way. The frame for all this is a grandfather (José de Jesús Martínez) educating his grandson Ernesto (Alex Ángeles), who reveals that he neither knows nor cares much for his heritage. The vignettes, beginning in Aztec times and running all the way through the 20th century, include Aztec princesses with prickly-pear iPads, a talk show featuring Moctezuma, Benito Juárez as the Mexican Statue of Liberty, and of course the ubiquitous presence of "Tia Juana's tacos," which are freely offered and eaten, despite their debilitating digestive effects. The preponderance of toilet humor, sex jokes, buffoonishly gay characters and randomly inserted anachronistic pop culture references detract from the political themes, which are occasionally affecting. It's possible that, as with telenovelas, the humor of the genre is lost in translation (and the Spanish asides garner laughs from the largely Latino audience), but the piece nonetheless feels overly broad and underdeveloped. The cornucopia of colorful costumes -- courtesy of Jeanette Godoy, Mariana Marroquín and Apolinar Delgadillo -- is a grand sight, but Amavizca-Murúa's haphazard blocking, on the already large stage, circumvents an acting style that plays best in intimate spaces. (Mayank Keshaviah). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through March 27. Frida Kahlo Theater, 2332 W. Fourth St., L.A., (213) 382-8133, fridakahlotheater.org.
THE MOTOR TRADE Alex Morris and Dan Martin star in Norm Foster's "black comedy." Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through March 27. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A., (323) 422-6361, theatretheater.net.
GO THE NEXT FAIRY TALE Writer-composer Brian Pugach uses a fractured fairy tale to deliver a message of tolerance and acceptance. Four Fairy Godmothers assemble, under the direction of their den mother/director Minerva (a formidable Gina Torrecilla), to create a new fairy tale. The Magic Mirror (campy and flouncy Charls Sedgwick Hall) announces that the hero of the new tale is to be Prince Copernicus (sweetly sappy Christopher Maikish), who doesn't believe in fighting: His weapons are smiles and hugs. When homophobic Minerva learns that Copernicus' true love is another male, Prince Helio (Patrick Gomez), she's appalled and determined to foil their match, lest the world's children be corrupted by a gay fairy tale. She assigns him Hazel (Rachel Genevieve), the most incompetent of the fairy godmothers, to ensure his failure and employs magic spells (including a poisoned apple) to stop him. Director Michael A. Shepperd stages Pugach's goofy musical with an engaging faux naivete, ably assisted by a lively ensemble and richly enhanced by Raffel Sarabia's whimsical fairy-tale costumes. (Neal Weaver). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 24. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 957-1884, celebrationtheatre.com.
GO RE-ANIMATOR: THE MUSICAL is based on Stuart Gordon's 1985 film, and Gordon is on hand to direct the new musical. The centerpiece is a love story (of course) that's a joke on every love story ever written. Idealistic young hospital intern Dan Cain (Chris L. McKenna) has a poor time accepting the death of patients. Standing by a gurney, over the body of a woman who has flatlined, Dan administers CPR in vain, prodding her with electro pads, until the chorus of medics has to sing, "She's dead, Dan/Get it through your head, Dan." His distress over the cessation of life becomes an obsession that threatens his impending marriage to beautiful Meg Halsey (Rachel Avery), daughter of the local university's dean (George Wendt). Big Dean Halsey is an amiable, conservative fellow who's accepting of Dan as a potential son-in-law, despite his lack of old-money social credentials. Well, amiable until he's accidentally murdered, as he later interrupts a gooey romantic interlude between Meg and Dan by crashing through the door as a psychotic zombie. The romance is wrapped around a conflict between dueling scientists: self-proclaimed plagiarist Dr. Hill (Jesse Merlin, in a mop wig, whose pinched facial expressions would creep out the most openhearted social worker) and a newcomer to Hill's lab, Herbert West (Graham Skipper, possessing the salty charm -- and costume -- of an embittered undertaker). While Hill drools over Meg, West rents a room from Dan (since Meg won't move in until they're wed). When the romantic couple's pet cat disappears, then ghoulishly reappears post-mortem via West's experiments (props by Jeff Rack), Dan enters a Faust-like partnership with West, seeing the potential fulfillment of his God-defying desire to harness the science of immortality. Mark Nutter's music and very witty lyrics (recalling songs by Tom Lehrer) careen from modern opera to light opera, from melodramatic wailing to -- when the story gets really gruesome -- Gilbert and Sullivanstyle patter songs. The special effects (by Tony Doublin, John Naulin, John Buechler, Tom Devlin and Greg McDougall), such as a body decapitated with a shovel and intestines unstrung from a corpse, are about as good as it gets -- gory without being so naturalistic as to bypass parody. The keys to this kingdom, however, are the combination of the brilliant comic ensemble and Gordon's pristine craftsmanship as a director, supplemented by Jeff Ravitz's lighting and musical director/arranger Peter Adams' building of suspense. Adams performs the score on a synthesizer tucked into the side of the hall, creating the slightly cheesy ambiance that's the life force of Grand Guignol. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 29, (800) 595-4849. Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A..
RENT The Royal Underground Theatre presents Jonathan Larson's rock opera. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 23, (323) 960-7822, plays411.com/rent. Hudson Backstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., hudsontheatre.com.
SERIAL KILLERS Late-night serialized stories, voted on by the audience to determine which ones continue. Saturdays, 11 p.m. Continues through April 23. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A., (310) 281-8337, sacredfools.org.
SMALL ENGINE REPAIR Rogue Machine presents the world premiere of John Pollono's comic drama about reunited friends and revealed secrets. Starting March 28, Mondays, 8 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 10:30 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 30, (323) 960-4424, roguemachinetheatre.com. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A., theatretheater.net.
THE SONNETEER Nick Salamone's play examines the ways in which homophobia, guilt, self-delusion and hypocrisy cause the gradual disintegration of the Cardamones, a first-generation Italian-American family. Louie Cordero (Paul Haitkin), his younger brother, Michael (Ray Oriel), and their friend Joey (Ed Martin) go off to serve in World War II. Michael and Joey, serving in France, secretly become lovers. After the war, Louie marries his sweetheart, Livvy (Sandra Purpuro), but he also discovers the relationship between Michael and Joey, and his virulent homophobia is aroused. Pressured by salty, bossy older sister Vita (Cynthia Gravinese), who wants to save him for middle-class respectability, Michael marries a sweetly naïve hospital nurse, Ella (Victoria Hoffman), whom he'd like to love, but doesn't. Meanwhile, Livvy, desolate over Louie's death, writes sonnets to relieve her pain. Director Jon Lawrence Rivera sensitively explores the rich characters and understated subtleties of Salamone's play, with fine assistance from his able and faithful cast. Haitkin, in particular, scores as both homophobic Louie and his scholarly pro-gay son. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 17. Davidson Valentini Theatre, 1125 N. McCadden Pl., L.A., (323) 860-7300, www.lagaycenter.org.
STREEP TEASE Meryl's famous monologues get the treatment by some top comic actors. Saturdays, 8 p.m. Bang, 457 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A., (323) 653-6886, bangstudio.com.
GO THE SUNSET LIMTED John Perrin Flynn's top-notch staging of Cormac McCarthy's 1996 two-character play shows the author is a gifted dramatist as well as a superb novelist. A life-and-death struggle emerges in the dingy apartment of an ex-con named Black (Tucker Smallwood), who has just rescued White (Ron Bottitta) from a suicide leap off a subway platform. That their names are racial signifiers is just one of the dynamics McCarthy uses to mine the ironies in this simple scenario. Black is poor, uneducated and a committed man of faith, an inner-city Good Samaritan whose redemption came in prison and who unwaveringly believes in the value of life and God's grace. White is a hyper-rationalist, a successful university professor and defiant atheist who is weighted down with crushing despair and hopelessness. It's a high-stakes intervention where both men state their cases with unbridled passion and eloquence engendering a back-and-forth shift of empathies, and one never gets the sense of an immutable moral center or of merely listening to lectures. McCarthy, who is noted for his sparse dialogue and powerful imagery, exhibits an uncanny ear for ghetto argot, but just as nimbly utilizes the idiom of the academic. When, at the end, White erupts and expresses a weltanschauung of the darkest hue, one is reminded of Nietzsche's remark about staring into the abyss. Complementing Flynn's fine direction are the equally superb performances. (Lovell Estell III). Saturdays, 5 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through March 27. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A., (323) 422-6361, theatretheater.net.
TEN-MINUTE PLAY FESTIVAL From the Circle X Theatre Co. Writers' Group, nine short plays about love and sex. For tickets and more info please visit www.circlextheatre.org. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 27, $10. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., L.A., (213) 368-9552.
TRIO Israela Margalit's romantic drama about Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann and a young Johannes Brahms. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 10, (323) 960-4412, plays411.com/trio. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..
WISH I HAD A SYLIVA PLATH Rogue Machine presents Edward Anthony's comedy about tragedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 17, (855) 585-5185, roguemachinetheatre.com. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..
GO THE WOODPECKER In playwright Samuel Brett Williams' angry drama of despair, we are introduced to a coterie of tragic characters who virtually line up to debase themselves and turn a potentially pleasant existence into a horror show. Idealistic young Jimmy (Brian Norris) loathes his family life: He's a college dropout who can't find a job and spends his days snorting glue rather than face his miserable existence in the trailer home he shares with his parents. Mom Martha (Tamara Zook) dreamed of being a singer but now lives in a pill-stoked daze, while abusive dad Harold (Mark Withers), in a wheelchair due to a long-ago accident, is so suffused with bitterness, his insane rages frequently threaten to spill over into incoherence. Jimmy pins his hopes for the future on joining the Army, which he believes will turn him into the hero he has always dreamed of being. However, when he arrives in Iraq, events don't turn out as expected. Williams' play so piles on the brutality, bitterness and rage that the piece occasionally threatens to short-circuit into camp. Still, in director Jon Cohn's darkly moody staging, the drama's sense of existential rage is urgent and evocative, while its ferocious emotional charge outweighs the contrived plotting. Norris offers a particularly strong and moving performance as the increasingly tortured son, almost appearing to age and become hollow before our eyes. Compelling turns also are offered by Zook's spacey white-trash mother and by Withers' almost-too-monstrous dad. A Mutineer Theatre Company production. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 3, (323) 871-5826, mutineertheatre.com. Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A., studio-stage.com.
GO THE YOUNG MAN FROM ATLANTA Hollywood has trained us well: Midway through Horton Foote's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, your mind is racing ahead, tugging at a loose thread in the plotline, guessing what twist lies underneath. But Foote's storytelling style is like a lazy Southern Sunday afternoon spent on the front porch: He lays the play's cards on the table right from the start, then sits back and lets its stories draw you in like the mesmerizing back-and-forth of a rocking chair. Will Kidder (Dick DeCoit) and his wife, Lily Dale (Eileen Barnett), have just settled into a grand new house in Houston, mostly in an effort to avoid painful reminders of their only son, who recently drowned. The title character, their son's roommate who's never seen in the play, is a boogeyman. Though a comfort to Lily Dale, Will squeezes his eyes tight against his existence, hoping he'll just go away. The play's themes are proposed so subtly -- aging ("Thirty-eight years ... where'd they go?" Will asks), race relations (one of Lily Dale's old maids, played by Cyndi Martino, smiles warmly, "You haven't changed a bit! And look at me, wore out from cookin' in others' kitchens"), religion, homosexuality, generational conflict, gender roles -- that you only feel their full impact upon later reflection. Director August Viverito wisely allows the play's inaction to stand, but his finest decision was casting DeCoit to lead the cast. In less capable hands, Foote's chunks of text easily could bore an audience; but as DeCoit navigates them, verve giving way to slumped shoulders, the crumbling descent of Will's life is just as riveting as it is heartbreaking. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 17, (800) 838-3006, theprodco.com. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., L.A..
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS
GO THE ADVENTURES OF PINOCCHIO Like the 1883 Italian novel from which it's adapted, Lee Hall's play about a willful marionette is not a sunny tale. Skillfully staged by director Stephen Rothman, this commedia dell'arte piece follows the random adventures of a self-centered puppet named Pinocchio (Amber Zion, voiced by Darrin Revitz) who is robbed, tricked, beaten and left for dead (among other misfortunes) before being happily reunited with his elderly father, Geppetto (Matthew Henerson, signed by Colin O'Brien-Lux). Unlike the Disney version, this Pinocchio is no dreamer; he's given to sulking, throwing tantrums and sometimes acting with malice -- like answering a Cricket's (Vae) advice by killing the insect with a mallet. Nineteenth-century novelist Carlo Collodi, who wrote the original, imbued his work with an implied middle-class admonishment to children: Work hard and go to school. Hall's adaptation is well-grounded in the original, so don't come expecting profound political allegory or sizzling social satire. (One scene relates to controversy within the deaf community about the pressures of learning to speak versus communicating with sign language.) Yet the production offers an abundance of eye-catching production values and a fine ensemble gifted in the art of physical comedy. Designer Evan Bartoletti's set frames the show with a fairy tale magic, further enhanced by Joe Cerqua's sound and original music and by the collective zaniness of Ann Closs-Farley's costumes, Carol F. Doran's makeup and wigs and Lisa Lechuga's specialty hats. Henerson's booming but kindly papa and James Royce Edwards as the evil ringmaster give standout performances. (Deborah Klugman). Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Sat., March 26, 8 p.m. Continues through March 27, Sold out. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 762-2998.
BAR TALK Jay Parker's comedy set in a local bar. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m., lizardtheater.com. Lizard Theater, 112 W. Main St., Alhambra, (626) 457-5293, lizardtheater.com.
GO THE BIRTHDAY BOYS Stop me if you've heard this one: Three U.S. Marines walk into an Iraqi storage room. OK, they don't walk. They get dragged into it. Point being, there are three of them, and they're together in this room. "Seems a bit dark and serious a scenario for a punch line," you think to yourself, but you would be wrong, because Aaron Kozak, who won the "Fringe First" award at last year's Hollywood Fringe Festival for this play, makes it much funnier than you would expect. Without being disrespectful to the gravity of military service or the war in Iraq, Kozak finds dark humor in the humanity of three Marines --privates Chester Gullette (Gregory Crafts), Lance Tyler (Sean Fitzgerald) and Colin Carney (Jim Martyka) -- who have been captured from Al Asad air base by members of the Mahdi Militia. All three are bound hand and foot with duct tape and blindfolded, which limits their interactions but generates some solid physical comedy, such as when Lance tries to fight Colin and they end up writhing around like angry inchworms. Director Jacob Smith's spot-on timing effectively modulates transitions from lighter discussions of women and home lives to darker topics such as war and impending doom. Fitzgerald, as the most intense and combative of the three, genuinely makes us dislike him at times; Martyka, though quiet for long spells, believably exudes shame for attempting to abandon his brothers; Crafts, as the most mature and levelheaded of the men, pleasantly subverts the stereotypical Marine. And to top it all off, there's an unexpected twist that takes the comedy to a whole new level. A Theatre Unleashed production. (Mayank Keshaviah). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 2, (818) 849-4039, theatreunleashed.com. NoHo Stages, 4934 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, noho-stages.us.
BROTHERS GRIMM'S SHUDDER Zombie Joe's Underground's adaptation of the Grimm fairy tale "The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was." Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues through March 25. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com.
EVERYBODY DIES IN THE END Late-night comedy one-acts by Theatre Unleashed. Fridays, Saturdays, 10:15 p.m. Continues through March 25, theatreunleashed.com. NoHo Stages, 4934 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, noho-stages.us.
FIREHOUSE Unlike police officers, who are so often feared or mistrusted, firefighters almost always engage the appreciation and respect of the people they serve. Playwright Pedro Antonio Garcia's message-minded melodrama jump-starts around the community's perceived betrayal of that covenant, and the pressure brought to bear upon a firefighter named Perry (Kamar de los Reyes) to make a bogus choice between loyalty to his unit and loyalty to his Puerto Rican ethnic group. A 20-year department vet, Perry is on the cusp of retirement when a crisis erupts at the South Bronx firehouse after a colleague named Boyle (Gerald Downey) rescues another firefighter from a burning building but leaves behind a 12-year-old child. Boyle steadfastly maintains he didn't see the girl for the smoke, but his credibility is open to question -- in no small part because of his personal history as a former cop who was tried and acquitted for shooting an unarmed civilian. Whereas the community, represented here by Perry's fiancée, Aida (Jossara Jinaro), a criminal defense attorney, is up in arms, most of Boyle's buddies give him the benefit of the doubt and pressure Perry to do the same. Garcia gleaned aspects of his story from real-life headlines in this effort to offer up an intrepid examination of how our native prejudices cloud our judgment. Too often, however, the characters seem mere profanity-riddled mouthpieces for one side or another's point of view, a problem exacerbated by Bryan Rasmussen's overheated direction. Most discrepant is Jinaro's counselor-at-law, unconvincing as a perspicacious professional not only by virtue of her mini-skirted and otherwise revealing attire but in her strident insistence that Perry take her side for personal reasons rather than principled ones. (Deborah Klugman). theatermania.com Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 29, (323) 822-7898, theatermania.com. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.
HAVING IT ALL At Gate B26 in an airport convincingly designed by Stephen Gifford, five women sit judging each other's clothing. The lady in Prada pumps (Jennifer Leigh Warren) assumes the woman in sneakers (Shannon Warne) must be an immature free spirit; the woman in sneakers is convinced that Prada pumps is a rotten mother. The entrance of a country girl in awkward heels (Kim Huber) provokes condescension; a hipster with crutches (Lindsey Alley) moves Warren to sneer she's a "30-year-old yenta dressed up like the cast of Rent." And when a dizzy hippie (the very funny Alet Taylor) bops in with her yoga mat, the ladies are aghast that she's barefoot. Still, between snipes, each looks at the others and sighs, "How I'd love to be in her shoes." The metaphor of footwear for femmepowerment is staler than the olives at Carrie Bradshaw's fave martini bar, but at least David Goldsmith and Wendy Perelman's well-intentioned musical about the hair-pulling pressure to "have it all" is blessed with a gifted cast, which Richard Israel directs with energy and bite. The ensemble sings numbers about motherhood, marriage, J-Date and downward-facing dog. It's all pleasant, but the show is held back by the homogeneity of the songs, in both John Kavanaugh's music and Gregory Nabours' musical direction, which takes five strong voices and molds them all to the same Broadway bombast. The audience for the musical already knows everything it aims to say; it's simply an excuse to rally a gang of girlfriends for a night at the theater, which seems to suit this production just fine. (Amy Nicholson). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 24. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 508-7101, thenohoartscenter.com.
I'TS 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). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, (818) 762-2272, tworoadsgallery.com.
A MIXED TAPE Eric Edwards' retrospective of a lonely guy's love life. amixedtape.com Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 27, amixedtape.com. Playhouse West Repertory Theater, 10634 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 332-3101, www.playhousewest.net.
OH, MOMMA! & OBAMA Penned by Derek Reid, Nicholas Zill and Kenneth McLeod, this send-up of Barack Obama's female-infested household is fraught with familiar grievances and worn-out jokes, stumbling blocks that prevent the material from growing a serious pair of satirical legs. Barack Obama's (Derek Jeremiah Reid) mother-in-law, Marian Robinson (Lakendra Tookes), meddles in matters of state and thinks she knows best when it comes to her granddaughters, Malia (Alexis Matthews) and Sasha (Nay Nay Kirby). Her daughter, Michelle (Constance Reese), tries and fails to keep the peace between hubby and mom. When Marian gets busted snooping through classified documents, the commander in chief decides enough is enough and sends her to Guantanamo Bay. Meanwhile, Malia and Sasha are up to no good. Reid's Obama parody is the best thing about the production -- he's spot-on vocally and physically. Tookes comes out of the gate with an over-the-top shrillness that never ceases and quickly grows tiresome. A standout of the supporting cast is Natascha Corrigan as Sarah Palin, but the material's trite ring (Sarah Palin is stupid! Sarah Palin talks funny! Sarah Palin is not to be taken seriously!) hinders her. Bill O'Reilly (Robb Wolford), Bill Clinton (Phillip Wilburn) and George W. Bush (Wolford) all appear, but nothing new or striking is revealed about any of them. Piped in music by Howard Bennett and the Rock 'n' Ridicule Band feels canned and flat; Laura Pinho's choreography is clumsy. A TV intermittently broadcasts the real-life people being impersonated onstage, a puzzling device that smacks of mistrust of the audience. (Amy Lyons). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 1, (866) 811-4111. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena, fremontcentretheatre.com.
OUR TOWN Thornton Wilder's chronicle of life in Grover's Corners, New Hampshire, 1901 to 1913. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through April 16. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-4318, sierramadreplayhouse.org.
PLAY DATES Sam Wolfson's offbeat love story. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 17, (323) 960-7784, plays411.com/playdates. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..
THE PRISONER OF SECOND AVENUE Neil Simon's rat race comedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 17, (323) 960-7862, plays411.com/prisoner. GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank, gtc.org.
SHADOW OF THE REAVEN Duffy Hudson is Edgar Allan Poe. Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 3. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com.
GO SCHMUTIZEN DEUTSCHE KABARETT This latest, late-night creation from sardonic, surrealist director-choreographer Amanda Marquardt is so straightforward and simple in its concept and execution that it's a wonder no one thought of it before. Take the Kander & Ebb musical classic Cabaret, jettison the treacly and preachy Joe Masteroff book, and stage the results as a brisk and breezy, melodrama-free evening of simulated Weimar nightclub entertainment. The schmutzigen is provided by the indecently flamboyant Luke Wright, who, from opener "Willkommen" through his solo on "I Don't Care Much" to the show's finale, vamps his way through an endless string of double entendres to stake a creditable claim to the role of MC that made Broadway stars of Joel Grey and Alan Cumming. Marquardt herself appears as Sally Bowles (replete with Liza-like false eyelashes), displaying an appealing set of pipes on such signature numbers as "Don't Tell Mama," "Cabaret" and "Mein Herr." Wright returns (wearing little more than an uncredited but campy pair of tuxedo briefs) with chorines Skye Noel (also credited as dance captain and co-choreographer) and Eva Ganelis, as the trio strut their comic stuff in "Two Ladies." But, you might ask, if there's no book, what about the musical's politics -- and what does that have to do with us? Relax. Marquardt gets in her licks, and puts the Deutsche Kabarett, political-satire bite back into Cabaret with "High Chancellor," a hilarious, show-stealing strip number, with Jonica Patella in Hitler drag, bumping, grinding and goose-stepping to the Nazi march "Erika." (Bill Raden). Saturdays, 11 p.m.; Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues through April 22. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com.
GO 'TIL DEATH DO US PART Late Nite Catechism 3: First there was The Flying Nun, then Nunsense (and its sequels), then Sister Act (and its sequels), and now the latest in the series of Late Nite Catechism shows from the gently hilarious Maripat Donovan. Bottom line: Nuns are funny. In this iteration of the long-running Chicago-based original, the focus is on two sacraments: Marriage and the Blessing of the Sick. That is, if you can call a floodlight "focused." While Donovan incorporates pre-written material, weaving it seamlessly into her ad-libbing, the largest laughs are generated from her interactions with the audience. From berating latecomers (like a good Catholic school teacher), to interviewing married couples about their personal stories, to a "Catholic Q&A" session, and finally inviting two couples on stage to play the "Compatibility Game," Donovan is nimble, quick-witted and incredibly engaging. With the house lights on during the performance, she lets few escape, but even those who became the inadvertent targets of her jokes can't stop smiling. Incorporating pop-cultural references in lines like, "You can learn a lot about world religions from South Park" and "There's a famous philosopher I follow ... Beyoncé," Donovan ensures the material stays current. Co-writer and director Marc Silvia keeps Donovan puttering about the stage in a purposeful way, and the set pieces used -- especially the tinsel-festooned backdrop for the "Compatibility Game" -- are authentically detailed. The snippets from Herb Alpert's "Spanish Flea" played during the game are a nice finishing touch to a piece that will bless your evening with laughter, whether you're Catholic or not. (Mayank Keshaviah). Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through April 4. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, (626) 356-PLAY, pasadenaplayhouse.org.
TREASURE ISLAND June Chandler's Fairy Tale Theatre presents Steve and Kathy Hotchner's audience-participatory pirate tale. Saturdays, 11 a.m. Continues through April 16. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-4318, sierramadreplayhouse.org.
THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM SPELLING BEE Rachel Sheinkin and William Finn's spelling-bee musical. Fridays, Saturdays, 7 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 27, ctgsc.org. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village, (818) 508-3003, eclecticcompanytheatre.org.
WRITER'S BLOCK Two one-acts by Woody Allen. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 9, thevagabondplayers.com. Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 720-2009, ravenplayhouse.com.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS
GO GO BROKEN GLASS Arthur Miller's searing 1995 drama ostensibly deals with the theme of Jewish assimilation and the price of ignoring evil in the rest of the world. In the end, though, the issue is a metaphor for the moral rot fragmenting a loveless marriage. In 1938, American Jewish housewife Sylvia (Susan Angelo) reads in the papers of the atrocities taking place in Germany and develops what appears to be a hysterical, psychosomatic paralysis. Sylvia's husband, uptight mortgage broker Phillip (Michael Bofshever), is justifiably alarmed, but as he seeks help from kindly Dr. Hyman (Stephen Burleigh), the real problems underlying his wife's condition begin to emerge. For his part, Phillip is contemptuous of his own Jewish heritage and is so self-hating he pretends to be Finnish, rather than Polish, even as he's forced to suck up the subtle anti-Semitism at his workplace. In director Elina de Santos' beautifully empathetic staging, the pacing is unhurried, but the emotions rise in tension and pitch until, finally, they reach Shakespearean heights of tragedy. There's so much simmering below the surface here -- especially the notion of how, under certain circumstances, self-loathing and guilt can actually be physically manifested. The acting work crackles with subtext and organic emotion. At first the prickly, unforgiving Phillip seems monstrously dismissive -- but in Bofshever's increasingly subtle, pragmatic turn, we gradually start to realize the insecurities underlying his self-loathing. The show's engrossing moral center, however, is Angelo's wonderfully vulnerable performance as Sylvia, who is played as part giggling ingénue and part world-weary social activist trapped in a life that, for the most part, she cannot control. (Paul Birchall). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 18, (323) 821-2449. Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., L.A., picoplayhouse.com.
GO HOBOKEN TO HOLLYWOOD: A JOURNEY THROUGH THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK The big-band show in this musical (book by Luca Ellis, Paul Litteral and Jeremy Aldridge) is staged as a behind-the-scenes live taping of a late-1960s television special with a star identified in the program only as "The Crooner." James Thompson's authentic set comes with sound booth, TV cameras, microphones, lighting, a spacious bandstand and stage, overhead video screens and neon applause signs. Adding to the realism is lots of backstage banter, numerous gaffes, miscues and retakes, and some well-placed comedy and drama played out between director Dwight (Al Bernstein) and his overworked and underappreciated assistant Andy (Pat Towne). There are also cheeky commercial breaks for Shmimex watches and the all-new Ford Mustang. Musical director Litteral and his nattily dressed 12-member band (Jessica Olson's costumes are entirely on cue) combine into a flawless, robust performance redolent of the best of Ellington or Basie. Luca Ellis is a knockout from start to finish as the Crooner. How good is he? If you close your eyes while he sings familiar tunes such as "That's Life," "New York, New York" and "Fly Me to the Moon," you'd swear the Chairman himself had come back for one last encore. As masterfully woven together by director Aldridge, the material is so good that the applause signs aren't really needed. (Lovell Estell III). Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 23. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, (310) 399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.
JUDGEMENT AT NURENBERG Abby Mann's dramatic interpretation of the historic Nazi trials. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 3. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica, (310) 394-9779, santamonicaplayhouse.com.
GO JULIA Playwright Vince Melocchi's sweet, melancholy drama artfully makes the point that, of all the sorrows, nothing beats the sadness of being haunted by guilt over a long-ago romantic misdeed. Lou (Richard Fancy), a frail old man who clearly does not have too much sand left in the hourglass, shambles into a run-down Pittsburgh coffeehouse, ostensibly to witness the razing of the local department store where he worked some 50 years ago. However, his real purpose in returning to the scene is an attempted reconciliation with his long-lost sweetheart, Julia, whom he feels guilty for spurning many years ago. However, Julia (Roses Prichard), who now has Alzheimer's disease, doesn't even remember her own son, Steve (Keith Stevenson). Melocchi's writing is deceptively top-heavy with conversations that at first appear pointless but gradually coalesce to construct the psychological underpinnings of strikingly plausible blue-collar characters. In director Guillermo Cienfuegos' mostly subtle and emotionally nuanced production, the pacing could stand some amping up, but the feeling of reality encompassed by the interactions and confrontations is haunting at times. In his turn as the gruff, cranky Lou, Fancy builds on our expectation that the character is a feeble old coot, gradually shifting him into a figure whose regret and rage are all too understandable. Prichard is unusually believable as the tragically blank Julia. Dramatically vivid work also is offered by Stevenson's glum, disappointed Steve and by Haskell Vaughn Anderson III, as a family friend who remembers all the parties when they were young. (Paul Birchall). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 10. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice, (310) 822-8392, pacificresidenttheatre.com.
GO LOCKED AND LOADED Ever hear the joke about the two guys with terminal brain tumors who decide to beat death to the punch? A Jew and a WASP dress up in tuxes, rent a presidential suite stocked with their favorite booze and call some hookers to help them go orgasmic into that good night. OK, so the subject matter and setup of, and even the quietly heartbreaking backstories in, actor-playwright Todd Susman's play are a little derivative -- Leaving Las Vegas and Marsha Norman's play 'Night, Mother spring to mind -- but some very clever writing and smart performances make this West Coast premiere much funnier and more mystical than the approach its predecessors took. Particularly interesting is Susman's deliberate trafficking in stereotypes. Old-monied Dickie Rice (Andrew Parks) is haughty as he hurls three strikes in quick succession at an African-American hooker, sniffing, "Do you know who I am?" and referring to her "Aunt Jemima" style of speaking. Sad-clown sitcom writer Irwin Schimmel (Paul Linke) turns his poison pen on himself and his Jewish heritage, and Catorce Martinez's (Terasa Sciortino) inability to understand English subtleties is the source of many jokes. But in electing Princess Lay-Ya (a very sharp Sandra Thigpen) queen pin, Susman gives the underdog the upper hand, which Lay-Ya uses to force the superficialities aside to reveal the very real, raw pain coursing beneath. After such deep diving, the resurface at play's end is a little easy; nevertheless, the whole shebang is a much more entertaining evening than the premise portends. Chris DeCarlo directs. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3:30 p.m. Continues through April 16. The Other Space at Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica, (310) 394-9779.
OTHELLO William Shakespeare's tragedy. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 16, latensemble.com. Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica, (310) 396-3680.THE SUGAR BEAN SISTERS Nathan Sanders' story of "swampland sisterhood." Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., March 27, 7 p.m.; Thu., April 7, 8 p.m. Continues through April 9. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro, (310) 512-6030, littlefishtheatre.org.