Theater to See in L.A. This Week, Including In the Heights in Boyle Heights
|L to R: Vivian Lamolli, Melissa Anjose,Parissa Koo and Chrissi Erickson|
NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication December 20, 2012:
GO CYMBELINE In this beautifully clear and powerful production of one of Shakespeare's more densely plot-driven dramas, co-directors Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld chart an assured course through the play's madness, comedy and tragedy. Cymbeline's patchwork quilt of horror and hilarity boasts a Queen (Emily Young, a wonderfully vampy turn) who loathes and tries to murder her stepdaughter, Imogen (Jessie Austrian). Then there's sleazy lothario Iachimo (Steinfeld, strangely likable in spite of his scuzziness), who tries to seduce Imogen and then lies about it to her husband, Posthumus (Brody), when she rebuffs him. Also there are the two orphan boys who are unmasked as the long-lost heirs to the kingdom -- and poor sap Cloten (an excellently bratty Andy Grotelueschen), who gets beheaded, even while he plots to rape Imogen. The production is playful and ferociously paced, while also being wonderfully articulate and accessible. Convoluted the story may be, but the engagingly adroit performances make it easy to follow and draw us in. And the show still manages to boast genuine dramatic surprises, as when the vile Cloten is beheaded: There's a jaw-dropping incident staged as a cunning magic trick that would make David Copperfield smile. Fiasco Theater at the Broad Stage, 1311 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica; Tues.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; through Dec. 22. (310) 434-3200, thebroadstage.com/Cymbeline. (Paul Birchall)
GO DOWN AND 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 lends an authentic flavor; even James Brown's voice sometimes maxed out the electronics. El Portal Theatre, 526 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 7 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Jan. 6. (866) 811-4111, elportaltheatre.com. (Pauline Adamek)
PICK OF THE WEEK: IN THE HEIGHTS
|L to R: Vivian Lamolli, Melissa Anjose,Parissa Koo and Chrissi Erickson|
GO RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDOORS
|L to R: 'Hermey' (Kyle Nudo), 'Rudolph' (Steven Booth) and 'Yukon Cornelius' (Mike Sulprizo)|
SEASONS GREETINGS! A DISASTER IN FOUR ACTS! Imagine a G-rated stage version of the Comedy Central show Robot Chicken and you'll have some idea of what to expect from SparkleBlob's latest puppet show. In it, Silver Lake's "most well-adjusted family" takes a trip down the L.A. River to get their pagan-revival-sustainable Christmas tree from a barge in Long Beach Ñ that is, until the "greatest earthquake ever known" sends them plummeting into a prehistoric world. The family's adventures are interspersed with comic bits -- featuring host/chanteuse Monica Howe and Alex Kenefick as the fruitcake deliveryman -- that satirize an ecofriendly, culturally sensitive, socially conscious version of the holidays. Accompanying Howe, Kenefick and the puppeteers in song is the company's live band, the Dinglebell Hollies, who jam to a soundtrack that includes the Bee Gees, Chaka Khan and Sister Sledge. While there are some laughs along the way, Shannon Gallagher and Julianna Parr's writing is uneven, and Parr's direction too often leaves awkward pauses between scenes that hamstring the show's comic momentum. Automata Arts, 504 Chung King Court, Chinatown; Fri., 8:30 p.m.; Sat., 7 & 9 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 23. (213) 819-6855, sparkleblob.org. (Mayank Keshaviah)
GO SHERLOCK'S LAST CASE
|L to R: Patrick Burke, Bert Emmett and Chris Winfield|
TOM, DICK AND HARRY MEET MARY John Clark's story about swimming midlife into the dating pool wants to be a warm-hearted play about the meaning of life and love with a side of antiwar politics. Instead, it's less romantic comedy than excessive lecturing and silly character lurches shoehorned into dialogue form. Middle-aged Mary (Donna Luisa Guinan), fresh from the convent where she has spent her entire adult life, goes online to meet some guys. She's looking for her one true love; what shows up are three self-involved windbags. Over a series of dates that plays out in her living room, each of the nonbelievers Ñ Tom (Tom Groenwald), the aging hippie living on a Berkeley commune; Dick (Alex Wells), recently gone AWOL from the Army rather than ship out to Iraq; and Harry (J. Lawrence Landis), a cynical divorce attorney -- talk religion and politics and angle for some action, without convincingly saying much about anything. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Dec. 23. (310) 477-2055, odysseytheatre.com. (Mindy Farabee)
ONING SHOWS IN LARGER THEATERS REGION-WIDE:
The Addams Family: Musical-comedy take on the "creepy, kooky" family, by directors/designers Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch. Wednesdays, Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m.; 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.
GO A Christmas Carol: Fantastical stagecraft is the indisputable star of co-director Geoff Elliott's adaptation of Dickens' holiday classic. Its magic appears as soon as the lights come up and Scrooge (Elliott) hobbles across the broad proscenium, a dark silhouette with top hat and cane, against a crepuscular sky. Under Andrew Ellis' technical direction, that opening heralds many fabulous visuals, drawn from lighting designer Ken Booth's lush, kaleidoscopic panoramas, Jeanine A. Ringer's whimsical set designs and Angela Balogh-Calin's imaginative costumes. Picture, for example, a giant-sized Christmas Present (Alan Blumenthal) in a long, regal robe studded with fruit, or Christmas Past (Deborah Strang) as a playful female spirit, with her own black topper and ornate, multilayered, white chiffon dress. When Marley's ghost (Mitchell Edmonds) thunderously appears, his humongous chains are suspended from the rear of the auditorium to the stage. Designer Ego Plum's fanciful sound design is part of the enchantment as well. The story, narrated in literary fashion by Robertson Dean, gets somewhat lost in the spectacle. Elliott's clownish Scrooge comes across as more intensely irritable than downright mean, and evokes our sympathy rather early in the story. Blumenthal and Rafael Goldstein as Scrooge's nephew are notable among a solid ensemble. Julie Elliott-Rodriguez co-directs. (Deborah Klugman). Fri., Dec. 21, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 22, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 23, 2 p.m. A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, 626-356-3100, www.anoisewithin.org.
Christmas My Way: A Sinatra Holiday Bash!: Sinatra stylings by Jason Graae, Heather Lee, Beth Malone, and Luca Ellis. Conceived by David Grapes and Todd Olson. Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 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. 21, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 22, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 23, 2 & 7 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 24, 8 p.m.; Wed., Dec. 26, 8 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 27, 8 p.m.; 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.
GO Cymbeline: Shakespeare's "mock-epic" romance, courtesy Fiasco Theater. Fri., Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 22, 2 & 7:30 p.m. Eli & Edythe Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica, 310-434-3414, www.thebroadstage.com. See New Reviews.
GO Down Around Brown Town: Jukebox musical
celebrating the sounds of R&B legend James Brown. Created, directed,
and choreographed by Frit and Frat Fuller. (In the Monroe Forum
Theatre.). 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. See New Reviews
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.com.
GO Nothing to Hide: See Stage feature. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7, 8 & 10:30 p.m. Continues through Jan. 20. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com. See Stage feature.
GO Other Desert Cities: Written by Jon Robin Baitz, directed by Robert Egan. See Stage feature. 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. See Stage feature.
Plaid Tidings: Written and directed by Stuart Ross. 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: The Troubadour Theater Company re-imagines the story of "the most famous reindeer of all" with a Jim Morrison soundtrack. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through Jan. 13. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside, Burbank, 818-955-8101, www.falcontheatre.com. See New Reviews.
A Snow White Christmas: "Family-friendly magic, dancing and contemporary music, from Katy Perry's 'Firework' to Huey Lewis and the News' 'Power of Love' to Michael Jackson's 'Thriller'." 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.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 7:30 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 86'd: What would you do for a hefty slice of $5 million? Some answers come along with laughs in this dark comedy by Jon Polito and Darryl Armbruster. At an all-night Big Apple diner (masterfully designed by Danny Cistone), Dame Fortune smiles when one of the oddball regulars (Alan Ehrlich) gleefully announces he's won the lottery, displays the ticket, then dies of a heart attack. The shock and public-spirited concern from the patrons and staff soon is swapped for something more befitting the situation -- greed. Sucked into the ensuing vortex of devious dealings are waitress Angela (Jamie Kerezsi), Nick (Lou Volpe), proprietor Willie the baker (Michael Edward Thomas), Ray (Lucan Melkonian), his gal Kim (Julianna Bolles) and Mamie (the hilarious Susan Fisher), who liberally shrieks obscenities while fastidiously shredding napkins at the counter. Toss in some street toughs, a violent, degenerate gambler (Matt McVay) and a crooked cop (Ed Dyer, in a performance bordering on caricature), and the avarice turns drolly murderous. Watching these scoundrels stumble from one desperate, idiotic scheme and mishap to another is a kick, and director Ronnie Marmo keeps the comic chaos finely tuned. Notwithstanding its predictable plot twists, the show is thoroughly entertaining. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22, plays411.com. Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-960-5068, www.theatre68.com.
Angels Fall: Lanford Wilson's 1982 drama takes place on an Indian reservation in New Mexico, where six people gather anxiously in a Catholic church after authorities warn about a possible nuclear mishap. The play's most urgent conflict concerns the kind, moral parish priest (Carl J. Johnson), distressed because his foster son (Gabe Fonseca), a Native American doctor, is leaving the impoverished reservation to pursue a more lucrative career elsewhere. Less dramatically compelling plotlines track the tribulations of a loquacious, middle-aged professor (Stewart Skelton) burned out by academe, and those of a wealthy widow (Penny Peyser) catering to the whims of her youthful lover (Michael Sanchez). Directed by Alex Egan, the production's weakest link is Fonseca's simplistic rendering of the troubled young physician, a man torn between temptation and duty. Then again, all the performances appear at best under-rehearsed, with even the usually excellent Johnson seeming distanced from the good father's emotional core. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22, (800) 838-3006, theprodco.com. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Los Angeles.
GO Avenue Q: How can you not like a musical puppet show that looks a little like Sesame Street but sounds more like South Park? Director Richard Israel's charming local production of the Tony Award-winning musical proves that the show plays brilliantly on a small, intimate stage. After all, Avenue Q is at its heart a puppet show, and what's the point if you're so far back in the house you can't see the puppets? Utilizing a fast-paced staging that's rich with youthful energy, as well as angst, the show boasts some hilarious and surprisingly subtle performers, who also manipulate their puppet characters with style and acrobatic skill. Admittedly, the show is essentially a straightforward staging of the Broadway script -- a nice introduction to the work, but if you've already seen the play, it's not certain that this production adds much to it. Still, it's easy to enjoy Chris Kauffman's amusingly ironic turn as mousy puppet Princeton, and Danielle Judovits' beautifully vulnerable Kate Monster -- and it's fun to experience the lively renditions of peppy ditties on topics as diverse as masturbation, racism and puppet sex. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Feb. 3, (323) 802-4990, domatheatre.com. The Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles, www.themettheatre.com.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. Continues through Jan. 27, $20. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., Los Angeles, 213-250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.
Cartoon Dump: TV animation's lost awfulness, courtesy Jerry Beck and Frank Conniff. Fourth Monday of every month, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 24, $10. Trepany House at the Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-666-4268, www.trepanyhouse.org.
The Christmas Present: Guy Picot's dark British comedy "about a hooker, a hotel room, and some holiday magic." Fri., Dec. 21, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 22, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 23, 8 p.m. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Los Angeles, 310-281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.
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.
GO Doomsday Cabaret: This irreverent rock musical, with book, lyrics and music by Michael Shaw Fisher and direction by Chris Raymond, was inspired by the Mayan calendar, which seems to predict the end of the world on Dec. 21, 2012. The setting is a symposium at the San Bernardino Community Center on Dec. 21, and attended by a bizarre group of people who are convinced that the end will come at midnight. Attendees include notorious arsonist Kurt Billie (David Haverty); fundamentalist married couple Nathan and Lorraine Dugan (Joe Fria and Molly Cruse); the Messenger (Mark Bemesderfer), who claims to represent the Hopi people; sex pot Lady Vavoom (Liza Baron), who hopes to be experiencing orgasm when the Rapture strikes; Bee Girl Deedra Witwit (Leigh Wulf), who's obsessed with the mysterious extinction of bee colonies; and web-freak Dale Reed (Jake Regal). A vaguely defined guru (Nick Nassuet) presides over the occasion and coke-head Ed (writer-composer Fisher) serves as Emcee. The humor is anarchic and scattershot, the performers are able, and the music (played by the four-man Doomsday Band) is often rousing. The mostly young audience seemed to find it hilarious. (Neal Weaver). Fri., Dec. 21, 8 & 11 p.m. Second Stage Theater, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-661-9827, www.theblank.com.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.
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. Continues through Dec. 22, combinedartform.com. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
I'm Dop3!: Afia Fields' solo performance begins with a quote from Marilyn Monroe: "Dogs never bite me. Just humans." The statement is telling in that it's a nod to both the cruel comments Fields, a burn victim, has heard all her life and to her steadfast ambition to become a star, despite her circumstances. When Fields was 3, a space-heater fire in her Baltimore home took the lives of her cousin and baby brother and left her in a coma with third-degree burns all over her body. In relating her journey of healing in the wake of such tragedy, Fields employs song and dance as well as graphic photos of her surgeries. She and director Debra DeLiso cleverly use the photos to implicate the audience: Will we choose to listen to her describe her pain, or will our eyes fixate -- consciously or unconsciously -- on the harrowing visual evidence of it? While the piece still needs some dramatic development, there's something about witnessing courage in action that is powerful and inspiring, and Field's ability to make it "through the fire" (as Chaka Khan once put it) speaks to just how dope she really is. (Mayank Keshaviah). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Jan. 19, $30, (443) 928-5941, saiproarts.org. Elephant Studio Theater, 1076 Lillian Way, Los Angeles.
In HEAT In Hollywood HO HO HO: Despite an evening that leaves its star naked save for a strategically placed baseball cap, David Trudell's one-man show never quite dispels the impression that he's holding something back. Under Michael Kearns' direction, the affable New York transplant delves into funny-serious fare about coming out to his chain-smoking mother and a Hodgkin's lymphoma scare as a young man. But after an early thematic peak, the 40-something Trudell comes in for a slow landing. These cocktail-party anecdotes (like his one-night stand with an infantilist) lack substance beyond their fleeting shock value; they unfold onstage like setups awaiting a punchline. This weakness is most apparent in the third-act sketch, where the diverting, if bewildering, narrative feels forced to a close with a false revelation. And what of the intrepid grandmother, the sympathetic father, the caretaker ex? Trudell hints at unexplored byways. You can't help wishing for a little more character, and a little less butt crack. (Jenny Lower). Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 23, (702) 582-8587, www.katselastheatre.com. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles.
PICK OF THE WEEK In the Heights: Music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, book by Quiara Alegría Hudes. Presented by Teatro Nuevos Horizontes. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22, www.tnhcompany.com. Casa 0101, 2009 E. First St., Los Angeles, 323-263-7684, www.casa0101.org. See New Reviews.
It's Christmas! (F#*k The Mayans!): Mack and Poppy's holiday celebration, with Jack Cheddar on piano. Sat., Dec. 22, 8 & 10 p.m. Cavern Club Theater, 1920 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles, 323-969-2530, www.cavernclubtheater.com.GO A Mulholland Christmas Carol: Ten years after its debut, writer Bill Robens' hilarious holiday offering remains as satirically razor-sharp and relevant as ever. A live hoedown band serves up the musical landscape for a plot melding the basics of the Scrooge story with a historically based narrative about ruthless financiers who divert water from an agricultural community -- destroying the livelihood of the locals -- to an emergent Los Angeles. Christopher Neiman plays the petulant plutocrat, William Mulholland, who disdains the poor and can't spare a cup of water for a thirsty kid. Sporting a terrific-sounding brogue, Trevor H. Olsen invokes the younger Mulholland, who starts out kind and conscientious but turns corrupt and miserly along the way. A splendid ensemble -- teamwork at its finest -- sings, dances and acts through an endlessly diverse series of roles and riffs, illuminating class warfare and the cluelessness of the rich and selfish with incisive skill. Let not my admiration for the material's social and political critique discourage anyone; this is comic entertainment at its best. Notable production elements include Lindsay Martin's choreography and Kimberly Freed's eye-catching period costumes. Gene Michael Barrera is a standout as Poquito Pablito, the comedy's counterpart of Tiny Tim. Alina Phelan directs. (Deborah Klugman). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 23, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 23. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-856-8611, www.theatreofnote.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.Scrooged Up!: David Duman's holiday comedy, set in the 1930s WPA-era theatre scene. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 23. Archway Studio/Theatre, 305 S. Hewitt St., Los Angeles, 213-237-9933, www.archwayla.com.
Seasons Greetings! A Disaster in Four Acts!: SparkleBlob's "multidimensional musical puppet adventure involving faith, freight and fruitcake." Fri., Dec. 21, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 22, 7 & 9 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 23, 3 & 7 p.m., sparkleblob.org. Automata, 504 Chung King Court, Los Angeles, 213-819-6855, www.automata-la.org. See New Reviews.Slipped Disc: Bertolt Brecht, in defining his vision of "epic theater," coined the term Verfremdungseffekt, or "alienation effect," which implied that in order to be effective, theater should keep an audience from fully losing itself in the story being told. Playwright Ingrid Lausund, also German, seems to have embraced Brecht's vision, but she and Green Card Theatre perhaps take the concept of alienation further than the master had intended. Set in a nondescript office, this play consists of a series of vignettes that attempt to satirize the cutthroat environment of corporate culture. There is little plot, character development or story to speak of, all of which hinder audience engagement. Add to that a preponderance of earsplittingly loud shrieks, howls and buzzer sounds, and the audience is only further alienated, but in a way that ironically subverts Brecht's vision. Director Christopher Basile and the cast give it their all, but if there were anything engaging or impactful in Lausund's original, the effekt has sadly been lost in translation. (Mayank Keshaviah). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 23. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, 213-351-3507, www.sonofsemele.org.
ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS:
Golden Girls Live on Stage: Reunion and Christmas Episodes - A Parody: 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 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. 5. NoHo Arts Center, 11020 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-763-0086, www.thenohoartscenter.com.
Santasia: A Holiday Comedy: Produced by Loser Kids Productions. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 24, (800) 838-3006, santasia.com. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, www.whitefiretheatre.com.
GO Sherlock's Last Case: Written by Charles Marowitz, directed by Larry Eisenberg. 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. See New ReviewsThe Tortoise and the Hare Make a Holiday Wish: Presented by the Limecat Family Theatre Company. Sundays, 1 & 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 23. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.
ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS:
GO Bald Soprano: A Christmas Anti-Play: Even after 60 years and counting, Eugene Ionesco's classic absurdist farce The Bald Soprano is still one of France's most popular and frequently produced plays. And as director Frederique Michel demonstrates in this steadfastly enjoyable revival, it's still good for a load of laughs. The opening tableau reveals a middle-aged Parisian couple, the Smiths (Jeff Atik, David E. Frank in drag, skillfully blending impertinence and camp), relaxing at home. She decorates the Christmas tree and discusses banal details about dinner, while he responds with outbursts of guttural gibberish from behind a newspaper. Things turn even more bizarre with the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Martin (Bo Roberts, Cynthia Mance) -- who initially don't seem to even know each other -- and a loquacious Fire Chief (Mitchell Colley). The evening gradually segues into a frenetic outbreak of meaningless chatter, jarring non sequiturs, grade-school storytelling and oddball silliness, all of which Michel and her cast (which includes Lena Kay as a ditzy maid) serve up with impeccable comedic skill and elan. Ionesco satirizes middle-class manners and banality, and at the same time constructs a dramatic environment where logic, language and reality are wittily disassociated, and therein is the fun and laughs in the piece. Cast performances under Michel's direction are first-rate. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through Dec. 23, brownpapertickets.com/event/289020. City Garage at Bergamot Station Arts Center, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, 310-453-9939, www.citygarage.org.
Bob's Holiday Office Party: Seventeen years in, this wonderfully demented L.A. theater tradition always plays out roughly the same. On a cold night in Neuterberg, Iowa, small-town, small-time insurance salesman Bob Finhead (Rob Elk, co-writer of the piece with Joe Keyes) calls together a few of his favorite friends and clients to celebrate the holidays. Flamboyantly closeted town mayor Roy (David Bauman) and his hard-drinking AA sponsor, Sheriff Joe (Keyes), always stop by, as do Roy's wife/Bob's mistress Margie (Andrea Hutchman), the permanently stoned Marty (Cody Chappel), and La Voris (Linda Miller) and La Donna (Maile Flanagan) Johnson, a pair of boozy Fox News junkies embodying the most outlandish contradictions of red-state morality. Beleaguered Bob fantasizes about leaving them all behind for the bright lights of Des Moines, where he can live out his dream of becoming a professional inventor. Happy chaos takes the place of actual plot, making good use of the ensemble's excellent collective timing. Though this year's cast might not be the production's absolute strongest, this crazy stew of sight gags, throwaway one-liners and set pieces gives plenty of opportunities for many of its performers to shine, including two Ann Randolph cameos, in her dual role as Carol the neurasthenic folksinger and Brandy the town slut/beautician. (Mindy Farabee). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22, plays411.com/bobs. Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-204-4440, www.picoplayhouse.com.
A Fried Meat Christmas: Keith Stevenson's holiday sequel to 2012's Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road. Fri., Dec. 21, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 22, 10 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 23, 5 p.m. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice, 310-822-8392, www.pacificresidenttheatre.com.
The Last Romance: It's a pity that a play nominally devoted to taking chances manages so few of its own. This capable production of Joe DiPietro's geriatric love story retreads familiar plot devices, dredging up exhausted clichés -- those kids these days and their rap music! -- that may comfort but offer little to challenge or excite. An affable Italian-American octogenarian (Howard Storm) living with his caretaker sister (Dorothy Sinclair) falls for the AARP hottie (Mariko Van Kampen) at the local dog park. Storm's self-deprecating humor is pitch-perfect, but the underwritten women struggle to not come across as shrill or grating. Older folks deserve a play that speaks to their concerns, but this script treads water on themes better dealt with in Moonstruck. Michèle Young's costumes artfully telegraph character, but the honeyed operatic interludes of Matthew Ian Welch, as young Ralph, are easily the most transporting. Directed by James Paradise. (Jenny Lower). Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 23. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno, Beverly Hills, 310-364-0535, www.theatre40.org.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.
SIDDOWN!!! Conversations With the Mob: Everyone loves a good mob story, but writer-director Sam Henry Kass' trio of slight one-act plays amounts to little more than three sets of goombahs blustering at each other over inconsequentialities. In "What's It All Mean, Hah?" an inept professional robber (Cris D'Annunzio) tries to convince his malevolent mob overboss (Jason Paul Field) to let him do one last job, incompetence notwithstanding. Field's performance is nicely menacing, while D'Annunzio's motor-mouthed weasel reminds us of those guys who are inevitably their own worst enemy. However, Kass mystifyingly opts to stress a brooding atmosphere over the work's comic elements, and the piece devolves into repetitive chit-chat. Oddly enough, a similar dramatic situation recurs in "Dice & Cards," in which another mob boss (Ray Mancini) berates an underling (Leo Mancini) for ruining a mob card game. The comedy here is better orchestrated but the acting itself is rough and awkwardly uneven. Best sketch of the set is "Lefty and Squinty," a mob version of Abbot and Costello's "Who's on First," in which a pair of dingbat mob goofs (drolly smirking Jeff Adler and a nicely twitchy Field) cheer on their mob boss at his racketeering trial. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 23. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport, Santa Monica, 310-397-3244, www.ruskingrouptheatre.com.
Smoke and Mirrors: Written by and starring Albie Selznick. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 31, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 31, (800) 595-4849, www.smokeandmirrorsmagic.com. Promenade Playhouse, 1404 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica.
Tom, Dick and Harry Meet Mary: John Stark's comedy about a nun's failed attempts at online dating. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 23. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com. See New Reviews.