Theater to See in L.A. This Week, Including A Snow White Christmas at Pasadena Playhouse
|Oil Can Harry's|
|From Golden Girls Live -- A Parody, left to right: CC Debut as Blanche; Peter Mac as Sophia; Paul Jacek as Rose; and DJ Schaefer as Dorothy.|
The holidays are a lean time for live theater productions. This week, we have three New Theater Reviews. You can find them and region-wide theater listings below.
This week's Stage Feature looks ahead to 2013, and what we can anticipate on our stages. Happy New Year!
NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication December 27, 2012:
CHRISTMAS MY WAY: A SINATRA HOLIDAY BASH his show, created by David Grapes and Todd Olson, with musical arrangements by bandleader Vince di Mura, might best be described as a Christmas jukebox musical, featuring songs recorded by Ol' Blue Eyes and performed here by a quartet of stylish and lively performers: Luca Ellis, Jason Graae, Heather Lee and Beth Malone. The book is mostly a collection of bad jokes ("What did Santa Claus say to the three blondes? Ho ho ho!"). But there's a generous helping of Sinatra standards, including "Come Fly with Me," "Come Rain or Come Shine" and "My Way." In addition to zingy ensemble numbers, each performer gets a solo chance to shine. Highlights include Graae's "Chicago" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas," Malone's "The Man That Got Away" and "Old Devil Moon," Ellis' "An Old-Fashioned Christmas" and Lee's "I Get a Kick Out of You." El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd. Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Dec. 31. (818) 508-4200, elportaltheatre.com. (Neal Weaver)
GOLDEN GIRLS Live: A PARODY Performed at a gay bar, this show is ideal for people who are ardent fans of sitcom The Golden Girls -- and who also may have had a few drinks. Four male performers in drag enact a "lost episode" in which Dorothy's husband has died and the three other Girls fly in from Miami to lend her support. On one recent evening, a few performers were slow on their lines. While the riffs and gags didn't seem especially funny, the audience laughed heartily. Peter Mac's Cabaret Upstairs at Oil Can Harry's, 11502 Ventura Blvd., Studio City; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Dec. 30. (310) 871-7563. (Deborah Klugman)
GO A SNOW WHITE CHRISTMAS Just in time for the holidays comes writer Kris Lythgoe's delightful reimagining of this fairy tale nicely packaged in the style of British panto, along with pop culture references, songs, music and stagecraft magic. Though it's geared more for children, there is much here for adults to enjoy. Ariana Grande (who sings beautifully) does the honors as Snow White, whose beauty raises the ire and envy of the Wicked Queen (Charlene Tilton, channeling Cruella De Vil and Bette Midler), who then dispatches Herman the Huntsman (David Figlioli) and Muddles the Jester (the hilarious Jonathan Meza) to kill her. But these softies can't do it, and Snow White eventually finds shelter at the cottage of the Seven Dwarfs. When the Queen consults her magic mirror (voiced by Neil Patrick Harris) and finds out Snow White is still alive, she visits the cottage and tricks Snow into biting a poisoned apple, which makes for a happy ending when Prince Harry (Curt Hansen) revives our heroine with a kiss. Director Bonnie Lythgoe gets fine performances from the cast and skillfully blends all the production elements. The costumes by Julia Clancey, Kleev Guessford and Donna Maas are gorgeous, as are the colorful scenic backdrops. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Tues.-Fri,. 7 p.m.; Sat.,11 a.m., 3 & 7 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m. & 3 p.m.; special Christmas Eve performances, Mon., Dec. 24, 11 a.m. & 7 p.m.; through Dec. 30. (626) 356-7529, pasadenaplayhouse.org. (Lovell Estell III)
ONGOING SHOWS IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE:
The Addams Family: Musical-comedy take on the "creepy, kooky" family, by directors/designers Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch. Saturdays, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 28, 2 & 7:30 p.m. Continues through Dec. 30, TheAddamsFamilyMusicalTour.com. Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 714-556-2787, www.scfta.org.
GO Anything Goes: New York's Roundabout Theater offers Los Angeles a glorious Christmas present in this spectacular revival of Cole Porter's signature musical comedy, staged in a broad 1930s sophisticated style but with a remarkably contemporary moral take that toys with religion, sex and organized crime. The convoluted story of shipboard romance, penned by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse and then retooled by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse (and again in the 1980s by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman), follows the antics of nightclub singer Reno Sweeney, in a nearly flawless performance by Rachel York -- her two literally show-stopping numbers, "Anything Goes" and "Blow Gabriel, Blow!," earn her the standing ovation she receives in her curtain call. She is equaled in song, dance and over-the-top acting by Erich Bergen as the lovesick Billy, who stows away and will do anything to keep his socialite lady-love, Hope (Alex Finke), from marrying English Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Edward Staudenmeyer). The cast is filled with genuine professionals who make the musical numbers by Kathleen Marshall flow with effortless joy -- her breezy staging of the clever book tells the story with a minimal interruption of the classic Broadway numbers for which the show exists. (Tom Provenzano). Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through Jan. 6. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.
A Christmas Carol: Twist Your Dickens!: When it comes to improv-derived satire, the precise alchemy that distinguishes the sizzling hot from the hopelessly hypothermic is anyone's guess. Suffice it to say that whatever blend of revealing caricature, pinpoint parody and lunatic incongruity is required for spontaneous comic combustion, it is mostly missing from this decidedly lukewarm holiday offering by Second City. It's certainly not for lack of talent. Improv veteran Ron West provides an able anchor as a flintily loutish Scrooge, and Larry Joe Campbell scores whenever he walks onstage, particularly as a Bluto Blutarsky-like Ghost of Christmas Present and a Rat Pack-ish crooner ad-libbing R-rated spins on Yuletide carols. Director Marc Warzecha and a top-notch production design (featuring Tom Buderwitz's antique proscenium set) lend the proceedings a well-oiled polish. But this parodic survey of hoary Christmas tropes (by writers Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort) rarely finds the perverse twists or subversive edges that might translate the overly familiar into satisfying belly laughs. (Bill Raden). Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 6 & 9:30 p.m.; Sundays, 3 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through Dec. 30. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.
Christmas My Way: A Sinatra Holiday Bash!: This show, created by David Grapes and Todd Olson, with musical arrangements by bandleader Vince di Mura, might best be described as a Christmas jukebox musical, featuring songs recorded by Ol' Blue Eyes and performed here by a quartet of stylish and lively performers: Luca Ellis, Jason Graae, Heather Lee and Beth Malone. The book is mostly a collection of bad jokes ("What did Santa Claus say to the three blondes? Ho ho ho!"). But there's a generous helping of Sinatra standards, including "Come Fly with Me," "Come Rain or Come Shine" and "My Way." In addition to zingy ensemble numbers, each performer gets a solo chance to shine. Highlights include Graae's "Chicago" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas," Malone's "The Man That Got Away" and "Old Devil Moon," Ellis' "An Old-Fashioned Christmas" and Lee's "I Get a Kick Out of You." (Neal Weaver). Sundays, 3 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 31. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-508-4200, www.elportaltheatre.com.
GO Coney Island Christmas: Donald Margulies' sweetly goofy Coney Island Christmas, based on Grace Paley's short story The Loudest Voice, is an unmitigated delight. The tale begins in Los Angeles, where young Clara (Grace Kaufman) is sick in bed. Her grandmother, Shirley Abramowitz (feisty Angela Paton), takes her on a visit to Shirley's childhood in Coney Island, circa 1935. Young Shirley (Isabelle Acres) lives with her traditional Jewish parents (Arye Gross and Annabelle Gurwitch). When English teacher Mr. Hilton (John Sloan) casts Shirley as Jesus in the grade-school Christmas play, she's overjoyed -- but her mother is appalled and forbids her to appear. With her father's collusion, Shirley defies Mama's orders, leading to the funniest Nativity play ever. Margulies deftly combines all the familiar icons of Thanksgiving and Christmas, from the Pilgrims and Squanto (Julian Evens) to Mary (Kira Sternbach) and Joseph (Andrew Walke), shepherds, angels, wise men, Santa, Miss Liberty, Mr. Scrooge, the Ghost of Christmas Present, Tiny Tim and Jesus himself on a carousel horse. Director Bart DeLorenzo gives the piece a lovingly hilarious production, full of holiday memories. Ann Closs-Farley's witty costumes, including a glorious Thanksgiving turkey, are a triumph, and Takeshi Kata's sets cleverly evoke 1930s Brooklyn. (Neal Weaver). Fri., Dec. 28, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 29, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 30, 2 & 7 p.m., $70. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.
Hansel and Gretel: Book by Lloyd J. Schwartz, music and lyrics by Hope and Laurence Juber. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Continues through March 2, (818) 761-2203. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Los Angeles, www.theatrewest.org.
GO Nothing to Hide: A telling admission in Derek DelGaudio and Helder Guimarães' magic show Nothing to Hide is that shows such as this should be antiquated by now. One of them comes right out and says it: We already live in an era of technological magic, so how can card tricks possibly compete? Apps on an Android phone tell us in the blink of an eye which roads are clogged and which are open, or how many parking spaces are available on Hollywood Boulevard, or the best Italian or Chinese restaurant nearby. If your Houdini Siberian Husky breaks out the back window, a "Tagg" GPS dog tracker will send you timed reports with a map showing the dog's location. In such an age, what could possibly motivate people to fight crosstown traffic in order to sit in the dark, among strangers, and watch two men playing with pieces of paper -- an entertainment from another century? It's like going to a carnie show, without even the macabre glee that carnie shows used to offer. And yet, under Neil Patrick Harris' direction, the show flows like silk. (Steven Leigh Morris). Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 5 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4:30 & 7 p.m. Continues through Jan. 20. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.
Other Desert Cities: Over a Christmas family reunion in 2004 Palm Springs, among a tribe led by Reagan-like Hollywood Republicans, a left-leaning, depressive daughter, Brooke (Robin Weigert, a pleasingly chirpy performance that plausibly masks her character's history of emotional collapse), returns from Sag Harbor toting an explosive, about-to-be-published family memoir, a eulogy to her black-sheep, rabidly anti-war, anti-Bush brother whom she adored, and who is understood to have committed suicide after blowing up an Army recruitment center in Long Beach. Furthermore, selections from her manuscript have been chosen for publication in The New Yorker. That magazine's looming deadline compels Brooke to get the blessing of her parents, Polly and Lyman Wyeth (JoBeth Williams and Robert Foxworth) for a work in which, with Brooke's constricted comprehension of events leading up to her brother's suicide, holds them accountable for his death. Brooke's father pleads for Brooke to hold off publishing her memoir until "after we're gone" -- not an unreasonable request, given the potential damage inflicted to soul and reputation. If George W. Bush launched an invasion of Iraq with flawed intelligence, lefty Brooke is repeating a microcosm of exactly the same crime on this stage: She's a journalist rushing to print, and consequently to war, without reliable intelligence. Thus playwright Jon Robin Baitz establishes a fascinating conundrum about truth that pits a child's right to free speech against her parents' right to privacy. One could argue that Baitz's ultimate point is that words and behaviors mean nothing, that his play's meaning is strategically ambiguous, that people will do and say anything to get by from day to day. But that's a hard-sell concept in a work so dedicated to behaviors and language. (Steven Leigh Morris). Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through Jan. 6. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772.
Plaid Tidings: Holiday edition of Stuart Ross' Forever Plaid, "swingin' harmonic renditions of musical hits from the '50s and '60s." Sundays, 2 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 30. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, 949-497-2787, www.lagunaplayhouse.com.
GO Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReinDOORS: This spoof of the Burl Ives-narrated, animated holiday classic is in clown troupe Troubadour Theater Company's solid, witty, raunchy and scatological hands. As Sam the Snowman (Paul C. Vogt) pointed out to a child before the show began, "You're gonna grow up real fast tonight." The Troubies now have a long tradition of finding almost no reason to match some classic movie or stage work with music in the style of some pop or rock band, except for the play on words of the resulting title. Here, it's The Doors, and so the plot gets twisted into knots around its own testicles in order to justify "Light My Fire." In truth, the musical style of The Doors is so disconnected from the story of Rudolph, one can only watch in amazement as the troupe attempts to cram the square peg into the round hole. Yes, there are splinters. Some improvised lines land, some don't. The point, under Matt Walker's yeoman direction, lies in the effort, even when the totality doesn't quite equal the sum of its parts. The band is terrific; Sharon McGunigle's lurid costumes set the ditzy tone; and in addition to Steven Booth's endearing Rudolph, there are some terrific cameos: Mike Suprezo's Yukon Cornelius, Beth Kennedy's Blitzen, Walker's Donner and Rick Batella's Santa Claus, among many others. (Steven Leigh Morris). Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through Jan. 13. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside, Burbank, 818-955-8101, www.lagunaplayhouse.com.
GO A Snow White Christmas: Just in time for the holidays comes writer Kris Lythgoe's delightful reimagining of this fairy tale nicely packaged in the style of British panto, along with pop culture references, songs, music and stagecraft magic. Though it's geared more for children, there is much here for adults to enjoy. Ariana Grande (who sings beautifully) does the honors as Snow White, whose beauty raises the ire and envy of the Wicked Queen (Charlene Tilton, channeling Cruella De Vil and Bette Midler), who then dispatches Herman the Huntsman (David Figlioli) and Muddles the Jester (the hilarious Jonathan Meza) to kill her. But these softies can't do it, and Snow White eventually finds shelter at the cottage of the Seven Dwarfs. When the Queen consults her magic mirror (voiced by Neil Patrick Harris) and finds out Snow White is still alive, she visits the cottage and tricks Snow into biting a poisoned apple, which makes for a happy ending when Prince Harry (Curt Hansen) revives our heroine with a kiss. Director Bonnie Lythgoe gets fine performances from the cast and skillfully blends all the production elements. The costumes by Julia Clancey, Kleev Guessford and Donna Maas are gorgeous, as are the colorful scenic backdrops. (Lovell Estell III). Tuesdays-Fridays, 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 11 a.m., 3 & 7 p.m.; Sundays, 11 a.m. & 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 30. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.
Winter Wonderettes: Creator-director Roger Bean's holiday revue. Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 30. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, 562-944-9801, www.lamiradatheatre.com.
ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS:
GO Bob Baker's Nutcracker: If you're a parent or grandparent of little ones and/or you love marionettes, you might consider patronizing Bob Baker's The Nutcracker, a presentation from Baker's five-decades-old puppet-theater company. Geared to the preschool set, it's a loose adaptation of the classic Nutcracker tale staged in a spacious room, with high ceilings, ornate chandeliers and shimmery accoutrements. The star feature is a host of rainbow-hued marionettes, gorgeously costumed and representing the story's full spectrum of family, toys and fairies. (Deborah Klugman). Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m.; Mon., Dec. 31, 10:30 a.m. Continues through Jan. 27, $20. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., Los Angeles, 213-250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.
Dirty Filthy Love Story: Rob Mersola's comedy about a romance between a hoarder and a trash man. See Stage feature. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 & 10 p.m. Continues through Dec. 29. Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 855-585-5185, www.roguemachinetheatre.com. See Stage feature.Finding Barb: Barbara Heller has taken her personal quest for her spiritual path and turned it into an earnest and sweet musical. The show's pretty songs -- beautifully sung -- are composed by Avi Avliav, who performs live on electric piano, conveying sensitivity and flair. (Two songs are credited to co-composer Katie Thompson.) Heller, who wrote the book and lyrics and also stars, dominates the stage with her confessional, acting out episodes from her life alongside co-star David Scales. Scales plays every male Barb encounters, including her father, doctor, rabbis and various boyfriends. Heller's younger sister is shown on video as a hand puppet, dispensing sage advice. Unafraid to play dorky, sometimes childish and ever hopeful, Heller brings a fearless approach to her story that proves endearing. Director Eve Minemar has selected a bare-bones staging approach that complements Heller's courageous, unvarnished performance. While somewhat appealing, this tale is not all that compelling. (Pauline Adamek). Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Jan. 10, findingbarbshow.com. Working Stage Theater, 1516 N. Gardner St., Los Angeles, 323-851-2603, www.workingstage.com.The God Particle Complex: Chris Bell and Joshua Zeller's "tragic one-act science farce about high energy particle physics, time travel, and the abrupt end of our universe." Saturdays, 10 p.m. Continues through Feb. 9, brownpapertickets.com/event/297800. Artworks Performance Space, 6585 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-871-1912.
Groundlings Holiday Show: Like most evenings of sketch comedy, this one offers a mixed bag, with some sketches proving truly hilarious and others only so-so -- but the seven versatile performers are skillful enough to ensure that even the weaker items garner plentiful laughter. Among the best: At an office party, a teetotaling spinster (Annie Sertich) is persuaded to sample the Christmas punch and turns into a sexually predatory dancing menace. A bemused host (Jim Rash) finds himself saddled with a guest (Tony Cavalero) who's experiencing a seasonal emotional meltdown and wallowing in noisy self-loathing. And a lecherous Cirque de Soleil performer (Alex Staggs) gets sexually aggressive with his audience. The protean Rash (who acts in TV's Community and won an Oscar for co-writing The Descendants) is a highlight of the evening whenever he appears, and the entire cast is skillful at utilizing wigs to achieve startling physical transformations. (Neal Weaver). Saturdays, 8 & 10 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through Jan. 26, $20. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-934-9700, www.groundlings.com.
The Happy Happy ReBegin Day Celebration!: See GoLA. Sat., Dec. 29, 7 p.m., $13. Spirit Studio Silverlake, 2601 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles, 323-319-7836.
How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse: It would take a cultural philosopher to adequately explain why zombies have so profoundly resonated with audiences at this historical moment. One does not, however, need to be a Gilles Deleuze to understand its baroque potential for satire. Which is to say that anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the genre rules laid down by George Romero will find a lot to like in director Patrick Bristow's amiable, Americanized version of this improv-derived British fringe import by Ben Muir, Jess Napthine, David Ash and Lee Cooper. Bristow is zombiologist Dr. Bobert Dougash. Jayne Entwistle, Mario Vernazza and Chris Sheets are his seminar's panel of conspicuously underqualified experts, who take very seriously the ludicrous prospect of surviving a fictional, species-exterminating epidemic. Bristow expertly leads the crew through some clever wordplay routines worthy of Abbott & Costello, padded out with some genial barbs directed at audience targets of opportunity. (Bill Raden). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Feb. 24, combinedartform.com. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.GO Point Break Live!: Jaime Keeling's merciless skewering of the 1991 hyper-action flick starring Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey is loaded with laughs, as well as surprises, like picking an audience member to play Reeves' role of Special Agent Johnny Utah. It's damn good fun, cleverly staged by directors Eve Hars, Thomas Blake and George Spielvogel. (LE3). Saturdays, 8 p.m., (866) 811-4111, theatermania.com. Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, www.thedragonfly.com.
Room 105: The Highs and Lows of Janis Joplin: It takes singer Sophie B. Hawkins a song or two to perfect Janis Joplin's gravelly growl, but she gets there just in time and maintains the requisite throaty cackle of the bad-girl icon throughout. Though Hawkins' girl-next-door prettiness needs a bit more roughing up to achieve a true Joplin metamorphosis, her singing carries the show. But writer-director Gigi Gaston's thin storyline tells us nothing new about Joplin and veers into caricature territory far too often. Fans of the Joplin songbook likely will enjoy the covers, but those expecting any glimpses beyond the streetwise flower-girl public persona Joplin perfected before her untimely death will feel shortchanged. (Amy Lyons). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 30. Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood, 323-654-0680, www.machatheatre.org/home.html.
ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS:
GO Down Around Brown Town: One good thing about this exuberant jukebox song-and-modern-dance tribute to the legendary soul singer is that nobody tries to "do" James Brown. Instead, we have singers, such as Promise Marks, with powerhouse voices of their own, warbling classic R&B hit tunes such as "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" and "I Feel Good" (over taped accompaniment) while a multicultural troupe of classically trained dancers interpret the songs through modern ballet choreography. The groovy, toe-tapping and fun one-act show zips along in a swift 75 minutes. Regrettably, the ballet corps lacks cohesion. It's as if the creators, dancer-choreographers Frit and Frat Fuller, glanced around their weekly dance class and decided to harness the phenomenal talent within. Hence we have an abundance of agile pirouettes and fleet-footed leaps and more than one nod to the style of Alvin Ailey and his dance theater. Soloists such as Princess Mecca Romero and Junji Dezaki shine when they take the stage, but all fail to move in pleasing unison when dancing in groups. Occasional distorted singing is an unfortunate byproduct of radio mics, but ut lends an authentic flavor; even James Brown's voice sometimes maxed out the electronics. (Pauline Adamek). Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Jan. 6, $25, (866) 811-4111. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, www.elportaltheatre.com.
GO The Gayest Christmas Pageant Ever!: That this campy romp falls apart in Act 2 and still gets a "Go" says plenty about Joe Marshall's knack for comedic dialogue and director Paul Storiale's casting. Rod (the terrific Adam Loyd) is the loud, proud, disaster-penning playwright (sample titles: Okahomo!, The Wizard of Odd) for a small, gay WeHo theater company. When the producers decide they can't survive another shitshow, they bring in another playwright, which blows up in their faces, before hiring a lesbian director to direct Rod's original script because Rod has been hospitalized after a light in the theated falls onto his head and -- well, listen, the plot is engaging for about the first half-hour before you realize maybe Marshall based the pot-addled tech-director character (a charming Josh Patton) on himself. Luckily, the actors almost all have terrific comedic timing, and the dialogue is pointed, fearless and funny -- Rod's script is described as "the birth of Christ that goes into some gay shit with Brokeback Mountain cowboys as shepherds" and Barbara Ann Howard's hilarious narcoleptic/racist mother refers to her cabbie as having "rolled right out of bed -- he had a pillowcase wrapped around his head." Sure, the plot is dangling as tenuously as the light that crashes onto Rod, but we haven't laughed out loud so often in a theater all year. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Sat., Dec. 29, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 30, 8 p.m. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-766-9100.
Golden Girls Live on Stage: Reunion and Christmas Episodes - A Parody: Performed at a gay bar, this show is ideal for people who are ardent fans of sitcom The Golden Girls -- and who also may have had a few drinks. Four male performers in drag enact a "lost episode" in which Dorothy's husband has died and the three other Girls fly in from Miami to lend her support. On one recent evening, a few performers were slow on their lines. While the riffs and gags didn't seem especially funny, the audience laughed heartily. (Deborah Klugman). Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wednesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 30, brownpapertickets.com/event/297806. Oil Can Harry's, 11502 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-760-9749, www.oilcanharrysla.com.One Day Play™: The Eclectic Company Theatre creates a full-length play from page to stage in 24 hours. Mon., Dec. 31, 8 & 10 p.m., $12. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village, 818-508-3003, www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org.
One November Yankee: "Art imitates life imitates art" observes one of the characters in writer-director Joshua Ravetch's ambitious, idea-packed new play. The two don't so much "imitate" each other as merely "intersect" in Ravetch's trio of tales about art's mystical power to provide healing catharsis. Harry Hamlin and Loretta Swit play three pairs of conflicted, middle-aged siblings in four scenes anchored by the towering wreck of set designer Dana Moran Williams' crumpled Piper Cub. In one scene, the plane serves as installation artist Hamlin's sculptural metaphor for "civilization in ruins." In another, it is the still-smoking air disaster that has sidelined Swit and her fatally injured brother in the wilderness. In a third, it is the chance discovery by sibling backpackers that finally brings closure to a traumatizing family tragedy. Hamlin and Swit are fine, but not even these venerable TV veterans can breathe life into Ravetch's forced, pedestrian dialogue and patently contrived situations. (Bill Raden). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Jan. 12. NoHo Arts Center, 11020 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-763-0086, www.thenohoartscenter.com.
GO Sherlock's Last Case: In Charles Marowitz's comedy-thriller, Dr. Watson (Bert Emmett), fed up with Sherlock Holmes' condescension and superiority, launches a diabolical plot to take revenge. He invents Damian, fictitious son of Holmes' former nemesis, the late Dr. Moriarty, and uses this imaginary figure as a decoy to lure Holmes (Chris Winfield, who also designed the handsome Victorian set) to the cellar of an abandoned building and do him in. Marowitz embraces all the conventions of the Conan Doyle stories -- the all-wise, all-knowing Holmes who uses his powers of observation and deduction to solve crimes that stymie Inspector Lestrade (Patrick Burke), the loyal housekeeper Mrs. Hudson (Hersha Parady), the myopic, bumbling of Dr. Watson and, inevitably, a mysterious woman, Lisa (Allison King), who sets the plot a-boiling. The play's essentially an orchestration of clever gimmicks, but the gimmicks are clever, and they're deployed with considerable finesse. Winfield's Holmes is vain, urbane and insufferably smug, while Watson's very real loyalty and awe are undermined by abiding resentment. Parady's Mrs. Hudson is bossy, emotional and snobbish, with an excessive belief in her own charms. Director Larry Eisenberg presides over a production that is more than adequate but less than brilliant. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Jan. 13. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-700-4878, www.thegrouprep.com.
ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS:
GO Nora: Ingmar Bergman's adaptation of A Doll's House restructures Henrik Ibsen's fierce family drama, stripping the play to its emotional essence, a goal that's underscored by director
Dana Jackson's spartan but evocative production. On a simple set consisting of some chairs, a Christmas tree in the back and, later, a bed, Jackson's staging puts its emphasis where the play's money is -- on the subtext driving the car crash that is the marriage of Nora and
Torvald Helmer. Brad Greenquist's brutally curt and entitled Torvald comes across as the sort of business executive who sees a trophy wife as being merely part of his resume, while Jeanette Driver's Nora, with surface-level bubbliness belying an interior desperation and, yes, horror, is subtle and touching. Add to this Martha Hackett's wan, hard-used Mrs. Linde and Scott Conte's self-loathingly desperate Krogstad, and the production boasts some incredibly nuanced
characterizations. Although the decision (by Bergman, not Jackson) to add a dramatic, pace-interrupting sex scene to the final act jars, the clarity and power of the show's performances make this a textbook dynamic production of the tragic drama. (Paul Birchall). Sundays, 3
p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Jan. 27. Pacific
Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice, 310-822-8392, www.pacificresidenttheatre.com.
Smoke and Mirrors: Spooky illusions by Albie Selznick. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 31, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 31, (800) 595-4849, smokeandmirrorsmagic.com. Promenade Playhouse, 1404 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, www.promenadeplayhouse.com.