Stage Raw: Garland Awards
NEW THEATER REVIEWS
Stage FEATURE on Re-Animator the Musical and Alceste
L.A. WEEKLY THEATER AWARDS NOMINEES
THE GARLAND AWARDS
Back Stage has announced its 2011 Garland Awards recipients, chosen by the Los Angeles critics of the national trade magazine.
READINGS ON SUNDAY NIGHT
2 p.m.: Eva Marie Saint and Jeffrey Hayden in A.R. Gurney's Love Letters, to benefit the Epilepsy Foundation of Grater Los Angeles. Writers Guild Theatre, 130 S. Doheny, Beverly Hills. $40-$125. (310) 670-2870
7 p.m.: John Robin Baitz's Three Hotels, with original New York production actors Christine Lahti and Ron Rifkin. Pacific Resident Theatre $75, includes post reading buffet
For COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS, press the More tab directly below:
COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS FOR MARCH 11 - 17, 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:
Box, Window, Door: Evelyn Stettin's story of two sisters "who suffer the effects of their parents experience in the Holocaust and retreat into their dreams." Sundays, 7 p.m.; Mondays-Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 23. The Mezz, 501 S. Spring St., L.A., (213) 622-6287.
Charles Phoenix's Retro Southern California Slide Show: The pop-culture humorist presents a quirky history of the Southland via vintage slides. Sat., March 12, 8 p.m. Torrance Cultural Arts Center, 3330 Civic Center Dr., Torrance, (310) 781-7150.
Death of a Salesman: Stacy Keach and Jane Kaczmarek star in Arthur Miller's tragedy. Wed., March 16, 8 p.m.; Thu., March 17, 8 p.m.; Fri., March 18, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 19, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., March 20, 4 p.m., (310) 827-0889, latw.org. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood, skirball.org.
The Man With F.E.E.E.T.: "A new 3-D comedic adventure for View-Master viewers." See GoLA. Wed., March 16, 8 & 9:30 p.m., $20. Downtown Independent Theater, 251 S. Main St., L.A., (213) 617-1033.Ferdinand!: Dissident turned Czech Republic president 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.
The Frybread Queen: Carolyn Dunn's story of three generations of Indian women who come together for a funeral. Starting March 13, 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.
Having It All: World-premiere musical inspired by Helen Gurley Brown's 1982 book, music by John Kavanaugh, book by David Goldsmith and Wendy Perelman, lyrics by David Goldsmith. Starting March 12, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 24. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 508-7101, www.thenohoartscenter.com.
Jo Who: Thirty-something woman invites seven of her past loves to a church on the same day in hopes that one will propose, by Karen Maxwell. Starting March 13, Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 3. The Actors Collective, 916-A N. Formosa Ave., L.A., (323) 251-5076, theactorscollective.com.
Judgment at Nuremberg: 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.
Love Letters: Eva Marie Saint and Jeffrey Hayden perform A.R. Gurney's play, benefiting the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Los Angeles. Sun., March 13, 2 p.m. Writers Guild Theater, 135 S. Doheny Dr., Beverly Hills, (323) 782-4525.
Madeline and the Bad Hat: ArtsPower's new touring musical based on the children's book by Ludwig Bemelmans. Sun., March 13, 1:30 & 3:30 p.m. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, (562) 944-9801.
The Next Available Operator: Kate McManus reads her childhood writings. Fri., March 11, 8 p.m., (800) 838-3006, brownpapertickets.com/event/157591. Lyric-Hyperion Theater Cafe, 2106 Hyperion Ave., L.A., lyrichyperion.com.
The Next Fairy Tale: Two princes in love versus a Fairy Godmistress, book, music and lyrics by Brian Pugach. 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.
Oh, Momma! & Obama: Who's really running the country? Derek Jeremiah Reid, Kenneth McLeod and Nicholas Zill have the answer. 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.
Tales From Red Vienna: Staged reading of David Grimm's play about a young widow forced into prostitution post-World War I. Mon., March 14, 7:30 p.m. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 708-5555.
Three Hotels: Christine Lahti and Ron Rifkin star in this staged reading of Jon Robin Baitz's two-character play. Sun., March 13, 7 p.m. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice, (310) 822-8392, pacificresidenttheatre.com.
Tintar Isle: Not-for-kids storytelling solo show, written and performed by Guy J Jackson. Reservations: email@example.com Sun., March 13, 7 p.m. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 990-2324.
Treasure Island: June Chandler's Fairy Tale Theatre presents Steve and Kathy Hotchner's audience-participatory pirate tale. Starting March 12, Saturdays, 11 a.m. Continues through April 16. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-4318, sierramadreplayhouse.org.
Trio: Israela Margalit's romantic drama about Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann and a young Johannes Brahms. Starting March 12, 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..
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee: Rachel Sheinkin and William Finn's word-quiz musical. Starting March 12, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 9. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 828-7519, morgan-wixson.org.
The Vagina Monologues: Eve Ensler's monologues on sex, love, rape, menstruation, masturbation, birth and orgasm, benefiting City of Joy and the Los Angeles branch of Break the Cycle. Sat., March 12, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 19, 8 p.m. Lyric-Hyperion Theater Cafe, 2106 Hyperion Ave., L.A., (323) 906-8904, lyrichyperion.com.
Wish I Had a Sylvia Plath: Rogue Machine presents Edward Anthony's comedy about tragedy. Starting March 12, 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..
The Young Man From Atlanta: Horton Foote's mystery-drama. 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 LARGER THEATERS REGION-WIDE
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 March 27, (866) 811-4111, boomermaniathemusical.com. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.
NEW REVIEW GO Comedy of Errors
A strongman, a ventriloquist, three showgirls and a mimic with 1,000 voices make up just half of the Burlesque on Brand troupe, which enters, grandstands and immediately plunges into Shakespeare's shortest and most slapstick comedy about two pairs of long-lost twins crisscrossing in Ephesus. Here, servant Dromio (Jerry Kernion) wears a plaid toga, argyle socks and saddle shoes. (The four credited costumers have done fantastic work.) When Dromio vents to hero Antipholous (Bruce Turk) that the chubby kitchen wench (Gibby Brand) who claims she's his betrothed 'is spherical, like a globe ' I could find out countries in her,' their banter smacks of Abbott and Costello. Director Michael Michetti's dynamite ensemble is held together by Turk's leading man, who, like his Errol Flynn mustache and the production itself, is playful and self-mocking, but never ironic. Michetti inventively turns bereft father Egeon's (Michael Stone Forrest) tale of how he lost his four sons ' the longest speech in Shakespeare's canon ' into a silent black-and-white film, but the director's not above showing a pie in the face. And he even gets laughs for Adriana (Abby Craden) and Luciana (Annie Abrams) in their usually thankless roles. In the first few scenes, the play threatens to become a musical, but once past the momentary misstep of two musical numbers, the production settles into the most droll and deft staging of The Comedy of Errors I've seen in a decade. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; in rep, call or check website for schedule. (818) 240-0910, anoisewithin.org (Amy Nicholson)
GO Dangerous Beauty: Though the paper-thin story line rushes toward predictability with the passing of every prepackaged plot point, exquisite production values and outstanding singing grace the debut of this musical about a 16th-century courtesan. Based on a true story, Jeannine Dominy's book centers on Veronica Franco (Jenny Powers), a poet of simple means who suffers a blow to the heart when her lover, Marco (James Snyder), protects his status as a future senator by marrying a woman of superior social standing. Heartbroken and headstrong, Veronica chooses to follow in her mother's (Laila Robins) footsteps by becoming a courtesan, a position in which she furthers her brilliance via special access to a bounty of books, while avenging her heartache in the beds of princes and prelates. Witty rhymes and wanton ways make Veronica one of the most powerful women in Venice until she gets into a spat with the increasingly evil Maffio (Bryce Ryness) and puzzlingly trades in her sought-after status for an exclusive affair with the now-married Marco. Things go from fancifully romantic to blandly tragic when Veronica is accused of witchcraft by the Inquisition. The hooker-with-the-heart-of-gold tale doesn't get elevated to any new heights here, but Powers sings the tunes of virtuous maiden and fallen angel with heaven-sent pipes. Snyder holds his own, too, though his character is too one-dimensional to account for the sexually adept and wickedly smart Veronica's long-lasting attraction to him. Ryness brings a rock & roll edge to his portrayal of the villain, but his lack of control prevents a seamless connection with the rest of the ensemble; his performance has the awkward feel of a hair-band guy trying to jam with indie-folk types. Benoit-Swan Pouffer does subtle wonders with the choreography and Soyon An's costumes are artful. The set, by Tom Buderwitz, grabs focus whenever the story doesn't. (Amy Lyons). Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through March 13, DangerousBeautyTheMusical.com. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, (626) 356-PLAY, pasadenaplayhouse.org.Everybody Dies in the
4 Clowns.: Alive Theatre presents four clown archetypes: the sad clown, the mischievous clown, the angry clown and the nervous clown. Conceived and directed by Jeremy Aluma. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 19. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 494-1014, www.lbph.com.
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 May 1. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood, (310) 208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.
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.
Wrinkles: Paul Kikuchi's blithe, slight comedy is a paean to that most unlikely of heroes: the dirty old man. And, really, if the tragedy of King Lear is that of an elderly fellow who "shouldst not have been old til (he) hadst been wise," how much nicer a world it is when a man can be both old and a horndog. Tightly wound lawyer mom Nancy (Amy Hill) finds a bag of sex toys in the garage and mistakenly assumes they belong to her innocent teenage son, Jason (Ki Kong Lee). However, when the toys turn out to belong to Nancy's octogenarian live-in dad, Harry (Sab Shimono), her head starts spinning like the jigger on the Hello Kitty vibrator. It turns out Harry has a burgeoning career in a niche film industry known overseas as "elder porn." And, when Harry turns out to be "huge in Japan," it only means complications for his bemused family. Director Jeff Liu's cheerfully brisk pacing and the cast's engaging comic timing help keep Kikuchi's lightweight farce from edging into dark or disturbing terrain. Kikuchi's appealingly glib dialogue boasts endless snarky one-liners -- he certainly gets plenty of mileage from that old gag genre known as the "mock porn title" (Lady and the Gramps and Joy Suck Club, to name but a pair). Yet there's also something a little distasteful about the piece's steadfastly surface-level approach to the porn world's creepier aspects -- and the farce's energy wanes midway through, when the play's one joke has reached its saturation point. Still, the show's saved by deft and hilarious turns from Hill's ferocious "tiger mom," and by the gruff, understated Shimono, as the world's most unlikely (yet strangely charismatic) porn star. (Paul Birchall). Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 13. East West Players, 120 N. Judge John Aiso St., L.A., (213) 625-7000, www.eastwestplayers.org.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS
GO Alceste: Euripides' version of a Greek myth serves as ground zero
for playwright B. Walker Sampson's surreal comedy about the otherworldly
journey of two long-term lovers separated by death. Imaginatively
staged on a small proscenium by director Darin Dahms, the comic-strip
action takes place in a strange dreamscape (set and prop design by Naomi
Kasahara) peopled with hooded figures, squabbling ghosts, outsized
heroines and supernaturally powerful villains. Foreseeing the imminent
death of Adamet (Trevor Olsen, in drag), her beloved Alceste (Lorianne
Hill), a gentle accepting soul, follows the sinister counsel of an
unearthly scoundrel named Man With Blazing Necktie (Lynn Odell), who
proposes to take Alceste's life instead. Soon, a cloaked ferryman (Ezra
Buzzington) is escorting a timorous Alceste to the netherworld, while a
lonely and bewildered Adamet fends off the seductive embraces of Man's
titillating oracle, Woman in Bright Bathing Suit (Jennifer Flack).
Meanwhile, a secondary story line tracks the exploits of a comical
superheroine named Frigga Brenda (Julia Prud'homme), who boldly slays
giants and monsters but comes undone at the hands of the dastardly Man
and his female cohort. Oblique dialogue and the seemingly lateral
movement of the plot make the first part of the play slow going -- but
even this slack stretch comes bolstered by well-crafted performances and
striking production values, including lighting and sound design by
Michael Roman and Ryan Brodkin, respectively, along with Jeremy
McDonald's backdrop animation and Takashi Morimoto's inspired costumes.
Most memorable within the adept ensemble are Prud'homme and Odell, in
blazing command of their outrageous characters. (323) 856-8611. (Deborah
Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 12.
Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A., (323) 856-8611,
www.theatreofnote.com. See Theater Feature
Attack of the 50 Ft. Sunday: Jordan Black directs the Groundlings Sunday Company. Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A., (323) 934-9700, www.groundlings.com.
The Best of Love Bites: 10 Years Together ... and Still No Ring: Elephant Theatre Company's annual short play festival, presenting the company's best one-acts of the past decade. (Two evenings run in rep.). ElephantTheatreCompany.com Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 18, (877) 369-9112, ElephantTheatreCompany.com. Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., www.elephantstages.com.NEW REVIEW Brendan O'Lenihan Leaves Three Daughters:
Photo courtesy of Undergrond Anex Theater
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. Underground Annex Theater, 1308 N. Wilton Place, Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., thru March 27. (818) 688-1219. (Rebecca Haithcoat)But Not for Love: This long one-act by Matthew Everett, originally commissioned by the Playshop Theatre in Meadville, Pa., tackles the hotly contested subject of gay marriage. Eleanor (Krystal Kennedy) and her brother Ephram (John Croshaw) are getting married in a double wedding -- and both are marrying men, turning the event into a media circus, with protestors, news vans and cops camped outside the church. Eleanor and Ephram's husband-to-be, Patrick (Andy Loviska), are political activists, who want their wedding to be a public statement, while Ephram and Eleanor's fiancé, Roland (Chadbourne Hamblin), resent having their private lives turned into a political spectacle. Things are further complicated by Patrick's brother (Nick Sousa), who's a religious zealot, determined to prevent the wedding by any means necessary, and the minister, known as The Duchess (Natasha St. Clair-Johnson), who's a postoperative transsexual. And Duke (Patrick Tiller), the cop assigned to monitor the demonstrations, is strongly attracted to the Duchess, unaware of her gender change. The production, helmed by director Richard Warren Baker, is most successful in its quieter, more human moments than in its strident political declarations, when it topples over into melodrama. The events are not always credible, but there are strong performances from Sousa, St. Clair-Johnson and Tiller. (Neal Weaver). plays411.com/forlove Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through March 13, (323) 960- 4443, plays411.com/forlove. Renegade Theatre (formerly the Actor's Playpen), 1514 N. Gardner St., L.A., www.theactorsplaypen.com/.
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 April 3, (800) 595-4849, CaughtThePlay.com. Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A..
GO Cologne, Or the Ways Evil Enters the World: In this solo drama,
writer-director Tony Abatemarco eloquently describes growing up gay in
the 1960s in a part of rural Long Island that "looked exactly like
Iowa." If the piece is not, strictly speaking, autobiographical, it's
clearly highly personal. In the world of horny teen boys who haven't yet
mastered the art of dealing with girls, blatant homoeroticism and rabid
homophobia exist side by side (one of the boys performs a spectacular
strip-tease to an enthusiastic audience). The protagonist, Harry (Harry
Hart-Browne), is a gay boy who's fascinated with Robert, a truculent
local hero who's already a man among boys. He sets out to seduce Robert,
and to some extent succeeds. Later, when Harry is fearful of being
outed, he outs Robert instead, setting him up for a severe beating by
local bullies. He retains a life-long fascination with Robert, even
after the Stonewall riots provide a measure of personal liberation.
Oddly, the narrative is presented in the third person, which has a
slightly distancing effect, perhaps necessary to keep the graphic sexual
descriptions from being too personal. Hart-Browne delineates his
characters sharply and with enormous conviction. (Neal Weaver). Fridays,
Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through March 18, (702) 582-8587,
katselastheatre.com. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., L.A..
GO Crack Whore Galore - Live!: Created by Tonya Corneilisse, Ryan
Oliver, Danny Roew, Graham Sibley and director Gates McFadden, this
obscenely funy late night rock music comedy sketch features Cornelisse
and Sibley as a pair of Brit-trash rockers who met in a London rehab and
somehow made it it to Hollywood, or at least to its sidewalks, in
pursuit of Rock 'n' Roll stardom. Their band is called Crack Whore, and
their hourlong cabaret opens with warmup balladeer Jackie Tohn, on
acoustic guitar, crooning with remarkable vocal dexterity about low
self-esteem and love. Into her act crash wafer thin, obnoxiously loud
drummer Abbey (in shades, skirt, and torn fishnets) and guitarist Danny
Galore (in vest and ripped shirt) wielding a shopping cart filled with
mannequins and other crap for their act. Commenting loudly on how each
of Tohn's song is worse than the next, they "set up" behind her, while
she attempts to finish her act. They smash open a rolldown screen (to be
used for a preview of their sex tape, sold after the show in the
lobby). The moment when the livid Tone leaves the stage captures the
moment when '60s folk yielded to punk. What follows is pornography in
song. You'd think Abbey is beyond a melt-down, but in a moment of
despondency, she crawls inside the shopping cart: "I can't do this
anymore, Danny, I just can't." To woo her back, and out, he croons the
love song that he wrote just for her: "It's all clogged up/The
pressure's all built up/I think I might explode/Now I need to blow my
fucking load . . ." Abbey swoons in adoration, and they're back on
track. The power of love, and of song. They try to tell us their
"story," or to sell us their story -- which is the larger point -- but
can't agree on the details. She's told a wrong version so many times, he
can't quite grasp what's real anymore. There, but for the grace of God .
. . It's not a life-changing event, but the energy electrifies, the
music is surprisingly good, and the performances are top-tier. (Steven
Leigh Morris). ensemblestudiotheatrela.org Thursdays, Saturdays, 10:30
p.m. Continues through March 12, (323) 644-1929,
ensemblestudiotheatrela.org. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave.,
GO The Cradle Will Rock: When Orson Welles attempted to open his production of this Marc Blitzstein musical in 1937, it had to contend with attempts to shut it down by the U.S. Congress, the bureaucrats of the Federal Theatre Project and Actors' Equity. The fact that it was able to open at all was epic. In Blitzstein's work, the cradle represents not the sleeping baby of the lullaby, but a corrupt and immoral establishment bent on co-opting every aspect of American life. In Steeltown, USA, in 1937, local tycoon Mr. Mister (Peter Van Norden) has corrupted press, church, educators, artists and doctors to serve his greed and power hunger. He's opposed only by labor organizer Larry Foreman (Rex Smith, looking and sounding like the quintessential 1930s working-class hero), who leads a stirring call to action. Generic names like Reverend Salvation (Christopher Carroll) and Dr. Specialist (Rob Roy Cesar) are standard elements of agit-prop theater, but here the characters are given enough personal eccentricities to keep them funny and human. In bringing back many elements of his 1995 production for this same theater, director Daniel Henning gives us a lively, rousing, highly stylized version and doesn't patronize us by overinsisting on the obvious contemporary parallels. There are terrific performances from musical director David O and a hugely talented cast of 19, with special kudos to Smith, Gigi Bermingham as a soigné Mrs. Mister, Tiffany C. Adams, Jack Laufer, David Trice, Will Barker, Lowe Taylor, Matt Wolpe and several others. (Neal Weaver). TheBlank.com Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 20, (323) 661-9827, TheBlank.com. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A..
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.
Doug Loves Movies: Tuesdays, 7:30 p.m., Free. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919
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. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A., (323)
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 24, 8 p.m.; Thu., March 31, 8 p.m. Continues through April 3. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A., (310) 281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.
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.,
Groundlings Singles Cruise: All-new sketch and improv, directed by Mikey Day. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 & 10 p.m. Continues through April 23. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A., (323) 934-9700, www.groundlings.com.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.
NEW REVIEW 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. Studio C Artists, 6448 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; variable schedule, thru April 10. Check website for information and reservations. igetknockeddown.eventbrite.com. (Neal Weaver)
NEW REVIEW 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. Arena Stage at Theater of Arts, 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., thru March 26. (323) 595-4849. (Amy Lyons)
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.
Keep it Clean Comedy: Hosted by JC Coccoli. Mondays, 10:30 p.m., Free.
1739 Public House, 1739 N. Vermont Ave., L.A., (323) 663-1739.
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.; Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Continues
through March 13, $30; $25 seniors; $20 students. Actors Co-op, 1760 N.
Gower St., L.A., (323) 462-8460.
The L. Ron Hubbard Golden Age Theatre: Saturdays, 7:30 p.m., $10 ($5
online). The Golden Age Theatre, 7051 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.,
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)
GO Macho Like Me: In her solo performance, the very funny Helie Lee explores the issue of male privilege from a South Korean female perspective. (Though she was born in Seoul, her family emigrated to the U.S. when she was 4.) She saw firsthand how her brother was treated as a crown prince, while she and her sister were judged purely on their marital prospects -- provoking her parents' urgent concern with getting her married. She decided to live as a man for 10 weeks, to experience the strength and freedom she attributed to men. She strapped down her bosom, had her hair cut short, acquired a masculine wardrobe and set out to gain entry to all-male enclaves; the results were not what she expected. She found that men's lives were no less constricted than women's, limited by competitive machismo and the fear of being perceived as gay. The tale is both illuminating and hilarious as she gains new insights into what it's like to live as a man and as a woman. By the end of her experiment, she's delighted to return to the familiar bonds of femininity. With director Sammy Wayne, she has forged a rich, witty, seamless tale. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 12, (800) 595-4849, macholikeme.com. Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., L.A..
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.
Mother: Mary-Beth Manning's one-woman show about a complex mother/daughter relationship. plays411.com/mother Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 16, (323) 960-5774, plays411.com/mother. Hudson Guild Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..
Nunsensations!: Nuns go to Las Vegas in Dan Goggin's comedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., March 13, 7 p.m. Continues through March 13, (626) 695-8283. Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., L.A., www.lyrictheatrela.com.
GO 100 Days: The title of Weiko Lin's two-character play is derived from an old Taiwanese Buddhist tradition, which dictates that when the parent of an unmarried child passes away, the child must find a spouse within 100 days in order for the spirit of the deceased to transition peacefully. But matrimony is the last thing on the mind of Will (Eric Martig), who revels in his debauched, hand-to-mouth existence as a traveling comedian on the college circuit, where there is a steady supply of booze and female company. But for Miki (Joy Howard) -- Will's love of 15 years removed -- life is nothing but painful drudgery, made all the more so by old emotional wounds, an unhappy marriage, middle-class monotony and her fear of having children. When Will attends a funeral service for his mother, he encounters a family friend who sets in motion a chain of events that eventually brings Miki and Will together again, allowing another chapter of their relationship to play out. Notwithstanding a somewhat tedious Act 2 involving an overcooked night of drinking and reminiscing, there is much that is engaging. Lin's script bristles with energy and humor, and he invests these characters with a simple, captivating humanity. The cast delivers high-quality performances, under Brett Erickson's direction. (Lovell Estell III). LOFTensemble.com Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through March 20, (213) 680-0392, LOFTensemble.com. Loft Ensemble, 929 E. Second St., No. 105, L.A., www.loftensemble.com.
One Night To Die For: Scott Dittman directs two comedies in one night, Audience, by Michael Frayn, and Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through March 21, $20; $18 students/seniors. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A., (323) 667-0955, knightsbridgetheatre.com.Pippin: DOMA Theatre Company's dark take on the Stephen Schwartz musical. plays411.com/pippin Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through March 13, (323) 960- 5773, plays411.com/pippin. MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A., www.theMETtheatre.com.
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..
Re-Animator The Musical
Photo by Thomas Hargis
Stuart Gordon directs this musical stage version of his 1985 horror
film, based on the H.P. Lovecraft story. Starting March 5,
Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 27. Steve Allen Theater,
at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.,
1-800-595-4TIX (1-800-595-4849). See Theater Feature
GO Room Service: Twenty-two jackals -- I mean, actors -- have run up a
$1,200 bill at a posh hotel in 1930s Manhattan, and their producer,
Gordon (Derek Manson), is desperate to skip out on the tab. Fat chance
with manager (Phillip William Brock) and corporate heavy (Charles
Dennis) blocking their escape. Since Gordon, the director (Joe Liss),
the playwright (Dustin Eastman) and the rabble are on the 19th floor,
they can't jump. Better options are playing sick, suffering a hunger
strike, faking suicide and dabbling in bank fraud. John Murray and Allen
Boretz's madcap comedy ran for 14 months on Broadway in 1937, and if
the quips and the wise guys (especially Daniel Escobar's cheery lug)
smack of a Marx Brothers movie, that's because it was one in 1938.
Except for Eastman's guileless writer, these starving artists aren't
suffering for the sake of art; their play seems secondary to saving
their own skins. When real talent, a Russian waiter who studied Chekhov
(Elya Baskin, excellent), auditions into their hotel room, his
breathtaking monologue goes ignored. This three-act contraption gets
going in Act 2 after co-directors Bjørn Johnson and Ron Orbach ease the
cast into the comedy's chirpy rhythm. It's a slender pleasure, despite
the directors' argument that it makes us reflect on our current economic
crisis. Better just to enjoy the physical comedy that makes full use of
every corner of Victoria Proffit's suite set; the ensemble leaps over
furniture and gobbles down smuggled food like wild, wise-cracking
animals. (Amy Nicholson). openfist.org Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.
Continues through March 12, openfist.org. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa
Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 882-6912, www.openfist.org.
GO 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 3. Davidson
Valentini Theatre, 1125 N. McCadden Pl., L.A., (323) 860-7300,
GO The Sunset Limited: 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.; Mondays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 27. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A., (323) 422-6361, www.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.Violators Will Be Violated: Casey Smith's solo mime show. circlextheatre.org Fridays, Saturdays, 10:30 p.m. Continues through March 19, (323) 644-1929, circlextheatre.org. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., L.A..
The Violet Hour: Richard Greenberg's tale of a publisher besieged by two authors. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through March 13, (323) 960-1054, plays411.com/violethour. Lillian Theatre, 1076 N. Lillian Way, L.A..
NEW REVIEW Women in Shorts
Performed by Joanna Miles and Louise Davis, this sextet of short plays by different writers and directors rarely rises above workshop standard. The setting for all is New York's Central Park. By far the most involving is 'Magic Rabbit,' written by John Fazakerley and directed by Robert Burgos. It's an encounter between a homeless woman (Miles) and the wife of an infamous embezzler (Davis) whose apartment building is currently besieged by the press (the allusion to Ruth Madoff seems obvious). Gradually it comes to light that the homeless woman also was once a person of privilege, and that the now-hounded matron once worked for her husband. The play's ironic message comes across in the wealthy woman's dawning recognition of the humanity she shares with this shabby person she initially scorns. Jim McGinn's 'Divorces R Us' unwinds like a comedy sketch with a predictable twist; under Bennett Cohon's direction, Davis plays a dissatisfied housewife, with Miles a divorce counselor who advises her on how to squeeze the most from her husband. In 'Sisters,' by Gloria Goldsmith, directed by Judy Chaikin, a fiscally responsible woman (Miles) clashes with her profligate spending sister, who cons money from others. Writer Tom Baum's 'The Great Outdoors,' directed by Asaad Kelada, presents a conflict between a reclusive widow (Miles) and her exasperated, resentful daughter (Davis). In 'Park Strangers,' by Brian Connors, directed by T.J. Casanova, the performers play two actors in a commercial for a vaginal itch product. In need of pruning, 'Ladies of the State,' by Miles Brandman, directed by Matthew Reilly, is set pre'World War I; it depicts an anxious mother (Davis) pleading in vain with a well-connected acquaintance (Miles) to help get her son exempted from the draft. In general, excepting small character adjustments, the performances in each piece evoke a sameness and little directorial creativity. Much of the writing comes off like an exercise, with varying success. Working Stage Theater, 1516 N. Gardner St., L.A.; Fri-Sat, 8 p.m., Sun, 3 p.m., thru March 20. (800) 838-3006, brownpapertickets.com/event/143986. (Deborah Klugman)
NEW REVIEW 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 John 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. Studio/Stage Theatre, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8
p.m., Sun., 7 p.m., thru April 3. (323) 871-5826. (Paul Birchall)
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.; Saturdays, 2
& 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Sat., March 26, 8 p.m. Continues through
March 27. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood,
NEW REVIEW GO The Birthday Boys Stop me if you've heard this one: Three U.S. NEW 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. NoHo Stages, 4934 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., thru March 27. (818) 849-4039, theatreunleashed.com. (Mayank Keshaviah)
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.
GO Camino Real: Told that the rarely performed play was by one of the
great 20th-century playwrights, you'd guess the author was Tom Stoppard
before Tennessee Williams. The 40-character limbo-land puzzler mashes up
Don Quixote (Lenny Von Dohlen), Casanova (Tim Cummings), Lord Byron
(Michael Aurelio) and the Hunchback of Notre Dame's gypsy femme fatale
Esmeralda (Kalean Ung) in the town of Camino Real (pronounced KA-mino
REE-al, à la gringo, so as to distinguish it from the country of CaMIno
ReAL just next door). Inside the gates, the hamlet is divided further
still between the Haves, who sip brandy with Gutman (Brian Tichnell) at
his sumptuous hotel, and the Have-Nots, who lay their heads at the
fleabag Ritz Men Only, or worse. Between them, there are enough liars
and whores that a chipper innocent like Kilroy (the fantastic Mike
Goodrich), a former boxing champ with a heart as big as a baby, is
humbled within 10 minutes of hitting town. But this isn't about his
escape. It's about his destruction and whether he -- and the rest of the
captives -- will be able to face their fate when the murderous cleaners
(Frank Raducz Jr. and Murphy Martin) come to sweep them away. The only
people not trying to leave town are the people too damaged to try, a
motley crew of pawnbrokers, pickpockets and a taco salesman whom
director Jessica Kubzansky keeps in motion, each slipping out in time to
pop up in another role. Camino Real is most famous for bombing on
Broadway in 1953 and temporarily tarnishing the careers of Williams and
director Elia Kazan. (There's even a play about the flop, The Really Big
Once, which opened last fall in New York.) Williams' episodic structure
lacks momentum, particularly in the second act during a long scene
between Kilroy and Esmeralda (who needs more heat). But the decades have
given us a better perspective on the questions Williams, then at the
anxious peak of his stage career, was asking himself: Can you still love
when you're old and cynical? Can art survive amid crass capitalism? And
is being a former talent a source of pride or shame? Kubzansky's
ensemble is outstanding, even wringing a knowing chuckle from the
faux-naif line, "Why does disappointment make people unkind?" With all
technical contributions including Silvanne E.B. Park's costumes hitting
high marks, Camino Real is a curiosity that you're not likely to see
again -- let alone this well. (Amy Nicholson). bostoncourt.com
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 13,
bostoncourt.com. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena, (626)
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.
Melodrama: Adam Neubauer's absurd comedy about a man's quest to find his father's murderer. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 12. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.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.
New Eyes: Yafit Josephson gives an accomplished performance in her solo show about a Jewish actress facing down Hollywood's cultural stereotypes. It's marred only by a poorly designed slideshow. Josephson slips easily into various personae, combining characters with caricatures to good comedic effect. The opening has her switching from a formidable military officer to her nervous young self on her first day of compulsory military training in the Israeli army. Highlights include a hilarious mime sequence where she uncomprehendingly attempts yoga and another scene where she gives a goofy impression of a macho guy in an Israeli nightclub. Josephson's tall, slender build, piercing eyes and chiseled face lend her a commanding presence, but it's her prominent proboscis that relegates her to the usual gamut of villainous roles, from terrorist to evil witch -- "And no, they didn't have to use a fake nose," she jokes. Her adult journey takes her from the New World back to Israel, where she touches base with her culture, returning to Hollywood with newfound strength of character. Beneath the comedy lies a serious undercurrent stemming from the ongoing war in the Middle East: Land equals identity. (Pauline Adamek). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 12, (323) 960-7712, plays411.com/neweyes. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.GO Oedipus the Tyrant: In Jamey Hecht's poetical, lucid translation of Sophocles classic, director Thomas Bigley opts for a staid togas-and-sandals approach, with Jessica Pasternak's silky earth-tone costumes. A female chorus recites in unison Sophocles' meditations on the action, sometimes performing to Taylor Fisher's choreography of arms flung from torsos simultaneously, or the percussive effect of punctuating a line with a group stamp of the foot or slap of the palm. Combine that with Nicholas Neidorf's subtly brooding sound design and original compositions, plus a performance style that gets to the translation's formality with an emotional spontaneity and truthfulness, and what transpires is absorbing. This is remarkable, given the dangers lurking in the artifice -- the symmetry of Bigley's staging and Fisher's art design, the inherent possibilities of overacting and self-parody. These dangers almost never become manifest to choke this earnest endeavor. In the title role, the youthful Charles Pasternak makes for a sometimes relaxed, sometimes tempestuous monarch, with a charm that makes it apparent how he could have wandered into Thebes after a road-rage incident and stolen the heart of Queen Jocasta (the powerful Kate O'Toole). Dylan Vigus has a thunderous presence as the Priest who opens the play, and Hecht cuts plausible distinctions between his jaded Teiresias and his callow Messenger. The strongest aspect, which should please translator Hecht no end, is the commanding articulation of the poetical prose. (Steven Leigh Morris). brownpapertickets.com/event/149704 Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 13, (818) 325-2055, brownpapertickets.com/event/149704. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood.
The Revenants: Not only do the protagonists in this zombie play break the age-old cautionary rule (in zombie-prone regions) of avoiding the basement at all costs, but they manage to hunker down below ground with two members of the rapidly multiplying undead population. Thus, a long and tediously unfolding chain of events is set in motion by characters entirely lacking sound decision-making skills. All of this stupidity would be fine were it a remotely intelligent commentary on human folly, but nothing in Scott T. Barsotti's text resembles satire or keen irony. Instead, we witness the agonizingly uninteresting plight of Gary (Carl Bradley Anderson) and Karen (Anne Westcott), a pair of old friends whose respective spouses, Molly (Lara Fisher) and Joseph (Rafael Zubizarreta Jr.), have turned zombie. While the uninfected couple make feeble attempts to devise a plan of action, they chain Molly and Joseph to the wall. For the play's duration, Molly and Joseph halfheartedly strain against their bindings while Gary and Karen talk about old times, argue over the extent to which their spouses are lost and question their marriages. There isn't a nail-biting moment in sight here; the constant presence of the zombies creates a tolerance factor that renders them about as threatening as a pair of uncouth houseguests unaware of the late hour. Because Gary and Karen are entirely unremarkable characters, the stakes are further purged. If the goal is to make us root for the zombies (think George Romero's smirk at rabid consumerism in the shopping-mall setting of Dawn of the Dead), then the failure is one of narrative scope: Focusing on four characters in a static setting is no way to build an audience of gleeful zombie sympathizers. (Amy Lyons). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 19, thevisceralcompany.com. Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood.
Rewind: SkyPilot Theatre Company's late-night series of one-acts, on everything from "how to get fired from a job" to "how to survive a zombie attack." skypilottheatre.com Fridays, Saturdays, 11 p.m. Continues through March 12, (800) 838-3006, skypilottheatre.com. Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank, '.
Schmutzigen 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.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS
GO Adding Machine: A Musical: In Joshua Schmidt and Jason Loewith's
adaptation of Elmer Rice's 1923 satire of accountants slaving for The
Man in cubicles, a shlub named Zero (Clifford Morts, in a marvelously
cantakerous turn reminiscent of the late Carroll O'Connor) eagerly
awaits some reward on the 25th anniversary of his hiring. Instead, he's
fired, having been replaced by an adding machine. Rice's play was
written before the days of pensions and labor unions and the kinds of
post War labor protections that, incidentally, accompanied the most
robust economic boom this country has every experienced. It was also
written five years before the Great Depression. It now arrives as almost
all those protections have been swept away, and our economy teeters
precariously once more - cursed by economic conditions and employment
practices that in so many ways, resemble those of 1923. Yet neither the
play nor this musical adaptation is primarily about economics, but
rather about metaphysics, which would explain director Ron Sossi's
fascination with it. The operatic, often dissonant and percussive music
has almost no melody, which is exactly right in a story that drives a
spike through the heart of sentimentality and romance. Zero's wife is a
hideous, jealous, nagging monstrosity - that would be the character, not
Kelly Lester's spirited interpretation that contains echos of Angela
Lansbury. The colleague who loved Zero unrequitedly (the marvelous
Christine Horn) joins him in the after-life. For the way God really
works, and the way dead souls are recycled, you have to see the show.
Sossi directs a strong production, though with minimal silk drops
representing the afterlife, it didn't look much different from the drab
life herein. That minimalism does subvert the moral joke. Patrick
Kenny's musical direction strikes nice balances between the onstage band
and the singers. The actors just need to settle in and push out the fun
they're already having. (Steven Leigh Morris). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8
p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 13. Odyssey Theatre, 2055
S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A., (310) 477-2055.
AfterMath Elliot Shoenman's comedic drama studies a widow named Julie (Annie Potts), and her almost adult children, still struggling to come to terms with her husband's suicide three years previously. More like an emotionally raw drama with a sprinkling of good laughs, Shoenman's play unfolds like a typical 1950s kitchen sink drama, the strip-mining kind where secrets and recriminations are laid bare and the obligatory catharsis ensues. This notion is visually supported by co-producer and set designer Gary Guidinger's realistic kitchen- and teenager-bedroom set. What isn't necessary is the slide show across the back flats repeatedly displaying the pathetically inadequate suicide note Julie was left with, and which also illustrates her children's passage to adulthood. Everyone in the capable cast gets at least one monologue, from the hostile son, Eric (Daniel Taylor), to the mild-tempered daughter, Natalie (Meredith Bishop), to their father's former best friend and Mom's possible new boyfriend, Chuck (Michael Mantell). With her pixie haircut and thick N.Y. accent, Potts wavers from droll to distraught, only sometimes stridently overcompensating for first-night nerves and an ensemble performance that occasionally seemed to lose its rhythm. At its best, the incisive dialogue volleys back and forth like an enthralling game of tennis. Mark L. Taylor directs this slice of dysfunction well. (Pauline Adamek). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through March 13. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A., (310) 477-2055.
Broken Glass: Elina de Santos directs this Arthur Miller play, set in
late 1930s Brooklyn. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.
Continues through April 18, $27-$30; students $20, (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.
GO The Hyacinth Macaw: An unabridged dictionary can be a dangerous
thing, particularly when it's wielded with the playfully pleonastic
dexterity of a stage poet like Mac Wellman. Like a deranged Dr. Seuss
for adults, Wellman marries a love of wordplay with a mischievously
subversive wit that entertains even as it teases out the unspeakable
fears festering at the fringes of American complacency. In director Jim
Martin's handsomely mounted production of Wellman's 1994 fractured fairy
tale, the playwright zeros in on our gullible faith in the empty,
"pneumatic" bromides and hackneyed romantic tropes that form the fragile
mythologies from which we make sense of a larger, unknowable reality.
In the case of the Moredent family of Bug River, all of their
assumptions about their very identities are upended with the arrival of
Mister William Hard (Jerry Prell), "a doctor of divinity, equidistance
and gradualist" from "the land of evening," who announces that they are
all orphans. It seems the father, Ray (Craig Anton) is an "inauthentic
duplicate" of Hard and the two must trade places to redress the error.
Blithely accepting the news, Ray packs his bag and departs, freeing wife
Dora (Lysa Fox) to run off with an itinerant vagabond (Simon Brooke),
while daughter Susannah (Anna Steers) remains behind to help Hard bury
the eerily glowing remains of the dying moon. While Martin's staging
underscores the text's whimsical non-sense at the expense of its more
mordant phenomenological musings, Cristina Bejarano's imaginative,
angular set and Nick Davidson's hauntingly evocative lights eloquently
support Wellman's off-kilter cosmos. (Bill Raden). calrep.org
Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 12, (562) 985-5526,
calrep.org. Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Hwy., Long Beach,
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.
NEW REVIEW A Night at the Oscars: Well past the autumn of their careers, aging Hollywood film star William Chance (Brian Pietro) and his has-been art house actress wife, Diana (Susan Kohler), are invited to make a cameo appearance on an Academy Awards telecast. They meet with their flamboyant TV commercial agent (an engaging Ernie Brandon), are flattered by an adoring network production assistant (Jason Kaye), perform their spot and enjoy a nostalgic dance. Pietro and Kohler's twin portraits of doddering affability and fading feminine vanity offer sporadic instances of sentimental charm. But in the service of Peter Quilter's stale stab at Noel Coward'esque comedy, whose idea of wit is repeated allusions to Viagra and Preparation H, such moments only underscore the play's lack of authenticity, insight or discernible purpose. Ralph Romo's overly literal set and Jennifer Still's pointless video sequences only exacerbate the clumsiness of Diane Carroll's staging. Malibu Stage Company, 29243 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 5 p.m., thru March 20. (310) 589-1998, brownpapertickets.com. (Bill Raden)
O Paradise Park: A profoundly despondent fellow (Kenneth Rudnicki)
wanders into an amusement park for distraction from his agony. Inside,
he slips into a fantasia of scenes -- including his own romance with a
young woman (Reha Zemani) from the Midwest, igniting a bundle of
neuroses that keeps them estranged; a ventriloquist/philosopher (Ann
Stocking) and his bifurcated dummy (David E. Frank); a tourist couple
(Bo Roberts and Cynthia Mance) at the end of the tether that's barely
holding their marriage together; their irate young daughter (KC Wright)
who yearns, in vain, for an effete Cuban (Tim Orona); a psychotic
pizza-delivery boy (Jeff Atik); a wandering violinist (Lena
Kouyoumdjian); a circus clown (Troy Dunn); and, in a directorial
flourish, a guy in a chicken costume. Charles Mee's comedy is like a
sonnet with a couple of repeated motifs: distraction, love and the
general feeling of being cast adrift in cultural waters that are partly
enchanting, partly evaporating, and partly polluted by the refuse of our
ancestors, of our families, of our determination to follow impulses we
barely comprehend, and to wind up unutterably lost. He's one of this
company's favorite scribes, and mine, for the way in which, with the
literary touch of a feather, he conjures primal truths of what keeps us
at odds with ourselves and with each other, keeps us yearning for the
unattainable. And though there's obviously psychology at work, the
driving energies of the language and of the drama are subconscious,
cultural and historical currents. Production designer Charles Duncombe
anchors his platform set with a wading pool stage center, in which sits
an alligator, and he decorates it above with strings of festival lights.
Josephine Poinsot's costumes are thoroughly whimsical with primary
colors and a feel for an America of the late 1950s -- with the possible
exception of the married couple's matching shorts and T-shirts that
read, "Kiss my ass, I'm on vacation." Director Frederique Michel stages
the poetical riffs of text in her typically arch style, and it serves
the play almost perfectly, except for the pizza-delivery scene, where
the choreography distracts from the psychosis that lies at the core.
Even so, I found the evening to be indescribably affecting, tapping
emotions that lurk beneath the machinery of reason. This is the last
production to be staged at this back-alley venue in Santa Monica, where
the company has been putting on plays for 15 years. The ventriloquist's
lines couldn't have been more ironic and true: "Then, because the
theater is the art form that deals above all others in human
relationships, then theater is the art, par excellence, in which we
discover what it is to be human and what is possible for humans to be
... that theater, properly conceived, is not an escape either but a
flight to reality, a rehearsal for life itself, a rehearsal of these
human relationships of which the most essential, the relationship that
defines most vividly who we are and that makes our lives possible, is
love." (Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays, Saturdays, 8
p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 13, (310) 319-9939,
citygargage.org. Track 16 Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., C1, Santa Monica,