Theater to See in L.A. This Week, Including Marilyn Monroe Kissing a Girl and Liking It
|Kelly Mullis and Katerina Radivojevic in Marilyn -- My Secret|
Why be a playwright in L.A.? Hollywood's more glamorous. The pay sucks. Find out in this week's theater issue, which includes a profile of playwright and TV writer-producer of True Blood, Alexander Woo. To add some perspective, we asked another five local playwrights why they call L.A. home. Meanwhile, our theater feature takes a look at The Bargain & The Butterfly, Ghost Road Company's adaptation of a Nathaniel Hawthorne story, and Fragments of Oscar Wilde, based on various writings by the Irish iconoclast, at Zombie Joe's Underground.Monday is the L.A. Weekly Theater Awards at Avalon Hollywood, hosted by Lost Moon Radio. The theme: theater survives post-apocalypse. Bring your Androids. Tweet the winners while checking up on the NCAA basketball finals. Sounds like paradise to me! You can still purchase tix here. Nominees RSVP to (310) 574-7208, no later than Thursday night, when the hotline will close. See you there!
NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication April 4, 2013:
GO THE BARGAIN & THE BUTTERFLY Conceived and directed by Katharine Noon, in collaboration with the ensemble, inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Artist of the Beautiful.
Presented by the Ghost Road Company. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.;
Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 7, ghostroad.org. Artworks
Theatre & Studios, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles,
323-871-1912, www.artworkstheatre.com. See Stage Feature
FOOD SEX & CONSEQUENCE When Gio, the supposedly-Italian-but-obviously-Middle Eastern proprietor (played with good humor by Ayman Samman) announces that nothing is as it seems at his haunted drippy-candle establishment, you may hope he's going to riff on cultural stereotypes and reveal how he exploits American naïveté with affected Old World charm and flourish -- but nothing so clever or unexpected occurs during this well-meaning but dull pastiche written by Monique Carmona and directed by Cassius Shuman. The screwball customers whose storylines eventually converge aren't specific enough to hold our interest, though producer Kim Estes comes closest as an unflappable private investigator fixated on chicken cacciatore. Carmona proves a better actress than scribe with her turn as a neurotic misanthrope seduced by an exotic-fish collector (Joe Coffey). The setup and storyline remain inoffensive enough, but the production asks so little of its cast, and its audience, that it struggles to succeed as comedy. Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through April 14. (323) 993-5755. (Jenny Lower)
GO FRAGMENTS OF OSCAR WILDE Vanessa Cate's adaptations of La Sainte Courtisane, A Florentine Tragedy, The Nightingale and the Rose, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Salome.
Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through May 18. Zombie Joe's Underground
Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com. See Theater Feature
THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN Drawing from G.K. Chesterton's 51 short stories about a Catholic priest who solves murder mysteries in early 20th-century London, Patrick Rieger has created a two-hour evening of theater that feels like two related one-act plays. Simply staged by co-directors Allison Darby Gorjian and Betsy Roth, the lightly comedic crime drama unfolds at an unhurried pace; this is old-fashioned storytelling from a gentler, more leisurely era. Unfortunately the presentation is frequently staid, with the action drifting to a halt as Father Brown engages in philosophical and theological debates, only occasionally enlivened by his droll wit and high-flown language. Several characters clearly echo those in Conan-Doyle's tales of Sherlock Holmes, in particular the arch-criminal Flambeau (Brandon Parrish), grumpy, exasperated detective Valentin (Adam Daniel Eliott) and smooth and cryptic sleuth Father Brown (Blake Walker), although unlike the more famous fictional detective, the clergyman's process tends to be introspective and intuitive rather than deductive. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through April 28. (626) 441-5977, fremontcentretheatre.com. (Pauline Adamek)
LUNCH LADY COURAGE
|Kevin Michael Campbell|
|Arely Diaz and Joel Jiminez|
curious show, created by Cornerstone Theater Company in partnership
with Los Angeles High School of the Arts, conflates the story of Bertolt
Brecht's Mother Courage with the tale of Ana (Page Leong), a crusading
school cafeteria employee who's determined to introduce healthy eating
among the students -- by force if necessary. Like Brecht's heroine, she
has two sons and a mute daughter, but the two stories don't quite mesh
-- a fact acknowledged by the semi-tongue-in-cheek approach, with Ana
making her entrance in a heroic pose atop a lunch wagon, like a
Soviet-era parade float. Emulating Brecht's Lehrstücke style of theater,
playwright Peter Howard gives us a didactic piece, complete with
hortatory finale, with songs by Gabe Lopez to liven up the proceedings.
How you feel about the piece depends on your appetite for preachy
theater -- and whether you agree with the sermon. The opening-night
audience seemed enthralled. Cocoanut Grove Theatre, Robert F. Kennedy
Community Schools, 701 S. Catalina St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 7:30 p.m.;
through April 13. CornerstoneTheater.org. (Neal Weaver)
PICK OF THE WEEK: MARILYN -- MY SECRET
|Kelly Mullis and Katerina Radivojevic|
|Kevin Kearns and Ron Bottitta|
GO REMEMBRANCE There's a memorably tender moment, in this production of Graham Reid's 1984 Irish play, when two widowed seniors, Bert (Mik Scriba), a Protestant, and Theresa (Diana Angelina), a Catholic, kiss for the first time. The two always meet in a cemetery, where they regularly tend the graves of their respective sons, both foully murdered amid "the Troubles" in Northern Ireland. Decent, likable people, these older folk contrast favorably with their angry, bigoted children who, ungenerous and unforgiving, oppose their parents' romance. Each character in this well-made albeit over-extended play has an intriguing story: Bert's alcoholic son, Victor (Johnny O'Callaghan), is jealous of his dead brother and distraught over a pending divorce. Theresa's daughter, Joan (Alice Cutler), suffers with guilt over her brother's death while her belligerent sister, Deirdre (Christine Joëlle), twists her sexual frustration -- her husband is a jailed- for-life militant -- into anger and aggression. Victor's compassionate ex-wife (Elizabeth Lande) fights to stay distant from a man she still cares for. Director Tim Byron Owen's deft hand is clearly visible in these skilled portraits. Michele Young's costumes create reassuring authenticity; sound designer Bill Froggatt's twittering birds add a touch of whimsy, as musically fragile as the lovers' fleeting hopes. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Drive (on the Beverly Hills High School campus), Beverly Hills; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through April 21. (310) 364-0535, theatre40.org. (Deborah Klugman)
ROUND ROCK Sam Bass is rarely mentioned in the pantheon of infamous outlaws of the Old West, but he and his gang pulled off the largest train robbery in U.S. history, and they gave law enforcement fits in the late 1800s. Drawing on historical material, writer-director Aaron Kozak dramatizes the life and times of the Sam Bass Gang. Bass (Brett Colbeth) is first seen at a farm hideout with cohorts Seaborn Barnes (Gregory Crafts) and Frank "Blockey" Johnson (Drew Farmer), divvying up the proceeds from a robbery. The action then caroms among various locales in Texas as the gang -- between stints of drinking, gambling and whoring -- elude the law and confront the ugly realities of their lawlessness. Kozak largely succeeds in sketching a convincing picture of these desperadoes. The problem is in the script's structure: There are too many scenes that don't propel the narrative or bolster the dramatic arc, and the second act is terribly overwritten. The sizable cast, however, performs well. Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through April 27. (818) 849-4039, theatreunleashed.com. (Lovell Estell III)
ONGOING SHOWS IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE:
American Buffalo: A new stage adaptation of the 1977 Broadway classic by David Mamet, in which out-of-luck and misguided misfits plot the theft of a rare coin collection. Starting April 6, Saturdays, 3 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 12, $47-$77. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.
Beauty and the Beast: The Broadway musical, based on Disney's animated movie. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through April 7. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 800-982-2787, www.broadwayla.org.The Beaux' Stratagem: A road trip story set in early 18th-century English countryside, about two girl-crazy young men who find themselves hopelessly in love. Thornton Wilder's and Tappan Wilder's adaptation of Irish dramatist George Farquhar's original play. Sat., April 6, 8 p.m.; Sun., April 7, 2 p.m.; Sat., April 13, 2 & 8 p.m.; Thu., April 25, 8 p.m.; Fri., April 26, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 4, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., May 12, 2 & 7 p.m.; Fri., May 17, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 25, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., May 26, 2 p.m., $40-$60. A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, 626-356-3100, www.anoisewithin.org.
Billy & Ray: The true story of how Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler wrote the screenplay for Double Indemnity, and almost killed each other in the process. Written by Mike Bencivenga. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through April 28, Opening night $52-$57; Weds and Thurs $34.50-$37; Fri, Sat, Sun $39.50-$42; students $27. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside, Burbank, 818-955-8101, www.falcontheatre.com.
GO: Cavalia's Odysseo: This vast equestrian spectacle (the stage, the size of a hockey rink, encompasses 15,000 square feet) created by Normand Latourelle and directed by Wayne Fowkes, features 67 horses of 11 breeds as well as 45 international human performers, including riders, trainers, acrobats, aerialists, dancers, stilt walkers and musicians. The horses are beautiful, spirited and disciplined, jumping, dancing and performing elaborate feats of equine choreography. The trick riders display courage, reckless physical prowess and panache, and the scenery, projected on a huge screen, take us from the American Southwest to the steppes of Central Asia. The show consists of several episodes, featuring Cossacks, drummers, an equestrian carousel and an African village festival featuring drummers and acrobats. In a startling finale, the stage is flooded with 80,000 gallons of water so horses, riders and acrobats can splash away like mad. The production has a natural appeal for horse lovers, but you don't have to be an aficionado to appreciate the beauty of magnificent galloping horses, working in precision ensembles. The athletic human choreography is by Darren Charles and Alain Gauthier, and the equestrian direction and choreography is by Benjamin Aillaud. The show's compound is large, so walking shoes are recommended. (Neal Weaver). Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Fri., April 5, 8 p.m. Continues through April 14, $34.50-$149.50. Under the Big Top/Downtown Burbank, 777 N. Front St., Burbank, 866-999-8111, www.cavalia.net.Citizen Twain: Written by and starring Val Kilmer as Mark Twain. The performance concludes with an audience discussion as Kilmer has his extensive make-up removed in full view. Sat., April 6, 8 p.m., $45-$150; veterans $25. Valley Performing Arts Center, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge, 818-677-8800, www.valleyperformingartscenter.org.
The Circus Is Coming to Town: Interactive kids play, presented by Storybook Theatre. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Continues through July 6. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Los Angeles, 323-851-7977, www.theatrewest.org.
Divorce Party: The Musical: Mark Schwartz's jukebox musical -- a sort of fun, sometimes embarrassing and frequently excruciating spectacle -- gives new lyrics (by Jay Falzone) to oldie hits. "Gay, oh: He's so gay-oh, your husband's so gay," set to "Day-O" or an exegesis on pubic-hair styles, set to the title song of the musical Hair. Based on Dr. Amy Botwinick's book Congratulations on Your Divorce: The Road to Finding Your Happily Ever After, this is a saucy, phallus-obsessed satire of all things attached to women's single life today, from pubic-hair chic to sex toys to the reframing of divorce from something associated with failure and shame to something associated with freedom and opportunity. Because our 50 percent divorce rate serves up way more failure than any society wishes to embrace, change the meaning of the D-word to something uplifting, as this musical does, and you're doing your part to end human misery -- that's the underlying philosophy here. Divorce Party: The Musical aims to be both a lampoon of social stereotypes and a confessional about getting through. (Steven Leigh Morris). Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 6 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through April 14, divorcepartythemusical.com. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-508-4200, www.elportaltheatre.com.
GO: End of the Rainbow: Judy Garland's legendary triumphs and tragedies, dish and dirt have been chronicled so often and in so many forms, it would seem no nuance is left to be unearthed. Then there is Tracie Bennett, a performer whose colossal vocal and emotional power in End of the Rainbow pull us eagerly into a known quantity of expected bathos, then without warning sheds sentiment in favor of caustic reality, portraying Garland as less a victim than vicious miscreant. In the last year of her life, broke and desperate, the star leans on her new young fiancé,Mickey Deans (a perfectly tacky Erik Heger), to whom she is simultaneously delightfully brittle, cruel and irresistible as he arranges her last-chance gig -- a five-week concert run in London. At her side also is accompanist Anthony (smartly played by Michael Cumpsty), who represents her enormous gay following. The two men alternately join forces and skirmish, attempting to keep Garland clean, sober and stage-ready. Peter Quilter's lean and piercing script leaves little room for the maudlin, focusing instead on Garland's extremely sharp wit and lifelong addict's tricks to stay one step ahead of her keepers at all times. Masterful director Terry Johnson keeps the cast tightly connected to the material while allowing his star to soar in her myriad musical numbers, both in messy rehearsals with Anthony and during her bright moments in front of packed houses. Music director Jeffrey Saver and his band consummately create those moments through Chris Egan's classic orchestrations and the simple brilliance of Bennett's performance. (Tom Provenzano). Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through April 21. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.
GO: The Grapes of Wrath: There are no weak links in Michael Michetti's staging of The Grapes of Wrath. It is a study of characters adrift, American refugees of the Great Depression, starting with the decision of the Joad family to leave Dust Bowl-cursed Oklahoma for California. On the horizon of the dusty plains is the hope of opportunities afforded by the Golden State, where they imagine they can pluck oranges from the trees and crush grapes with their feet. Matt Gottlieb beautifully portrays an evangelical preacher turned humanist, spending much of the action off by himself pondering where on earth he's going and what on earth he's done. Mostly he's struggling for a definition of what's holy, and it usually settles on something closer to men and women than to God: "When you're working together, harnessed to the whole shebang." The stage is populated by wonderful actors, such as Deborah Strang as Ma Joad, indescribably nuanced in her portrayal of a dignified woman whose strength is cleaved by apprehension; by Lindsey Ginter as her simple husband, perpetually eager to avoid conflict and to accommodate; and by Steve Coombs as their short-tempered, ex-con son, who's quite the opposite of his dad. Amidst the brutality of what would today be called climate change, the play is a battle cry for all of us to treat each other with dignity. Its humane view is almost theological, biblical, in its depiction of one character's sacrifice for his people. (Steven Leigh Morris). Thu., April 11, 8 p.m.; Fri., April 12, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 20, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., April 21, 2 & 8 p.m.; Fri., May 3, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 11, 2 & 8 p.m. A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, 626-356-3100, www.anoisewithin.org.
Lady Lunch Courage: This curious show, created by Cornerstone Theater Company in partnership with Los Angeles High School of the Arts, conflates the story of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage with the tale of Ana (Page Leong), a crusading school cafeteria employee who's determined to introduce healthy eating among the students -- by force if necessary. Like Brecht's heroine, she has two sons and a mute daughter, but the two stories don't quite mesh -- a fact acknowledged by the semi-tongue-in-cheek approach, with Ana making her entrance in a heroic pose atop a lunch wagon, like a Soviet-era parade float. Emulating Brecht's Lehrstücke style of theater, playwright Peter Howard gives us a didactic piece, complete with hortatory finale, with songs by Gabe Lopez to liven up the proceedings. How you feel about the piece depends on your appetite for preachy theater -- and whether you agree with the sermon. The opening-night audience seemed enthralled. Cocoanut Grove Theatre, Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, 701 S. Catalina St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 7:30 p.m.; through April 13. CornerstoneTheater.org. (Neal Weaver)
Little Women: Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy: The story of the March women waiting for their father to return home from the Civil War. Adapted from Louisa May Alcott's classic novel by Sandra Fenichel Asher. Fri., April 5, 7 p.m.; Sat., April 6, 1 & 5 p.m.; Sun., April 7, 1 & 5 p.m.; Thu., April 11, 10 a.m.; Fri., April 12, 10 a.m. & 7 p.m.; Sat., April 13, 1 & 5 p.m.; Sun., April 14, 1 & 5 p.m., $18-$20. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, 949-497-2787, www.lagunaplayhouse.com.
Master Class: Terrence McNally's story of opera diva Maria Callas. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 14. International City Theatre, Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, 562-436-4610, www.ictlongbeach.org.GO: Melancholia: This ensemble piece from the Latino Theater Lab serves as a disquieting reminder that the fortunate survivors of war quite often become its most heart-rending victims. Directed by Jose Luis Valenzuela, Melancholia tells the story of Mario, an idealistic young man from East Los Angeles who thought a stint in the Marines would pay his way through college, but who returns from Iraq an emotional and psychological basket case. The story is principally told from the vantage point of Mario's fractured psyche (three actors accent this division: Sam Golzari, Xavi Moreno and Ramiro Segovia) through surrealistic flashbacks alternating between past and present, fantasy and reality -- starting with a homecoming party on New Year's Eve that slowly transforms into a nightmarish recounting of Mario's life before and after his tour of duty. The contrast between the fun-loving, gung-ho youth who enlists hoping for a better life and the tormented, broken man who returns after losing his best friend -- and his own soul -- is striking. Death and mystery haunt the stage in the chilling figures of a veiled female clad in black and two impish characters (Fidel Gomez, Alexis de la Rocha). Valenzuela skillfully blends elements of music and choreography into this timely play, and his sizable ensemble performs efficiently in multiple roles. (Lovell Estell III). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 6. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, www.thelatc.org.
GO: The Nether: Jennifer Haley's virtual-reality tale. See Stage feature: . Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through April 14. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.
GO: One Night With Janis Joplin: The seductive appeal of this musical hagiography by writer-director Randy Johnson is no mystery. Nineteen-sixties rock acts have proved effective boomer bait for fundraising PBS stations for years. That the trend should have morphed into the tribute-concert stage musical merely speaks to graying subscriber demographics and the perennial weakness of the elderly for mythologizing their youth. To Johnson's credit, though his Janis portrait is decidedly soft-focused, it is anchored by both a compelling staging concept and the sheer talent of its stars. Gravel-voiced Mary Bridget Davies belts her way through the iconic Joplin catalogue, delivering convincing approximations of the singer's vocal and stage mannerisms along with the world-weary, homespun aphorisms Joplin habitually ad libbed over song breaks. Onto these monologues, Johnson overlays both biographical tidbits and the show's argument that the white middle-class Joplin deserves a place in the blues canon alongside the black women singers that influenced her. The stage incarnation of those legends -- Bessie Smith, Etta James, Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin -- are provided by the versatile gospel singer Sabrina Elayne Carten, and are one of the evening's most winning elements. Another is the precision fidelity of music supervisor Ross Seligman and his band. (Bill Raden). Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 & 8 p.m. Continues through April 21, $69-$150. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.
Sister Split: The Next Generation: San Francisco's Queer literary performance group Sister Split hosts a night of punk readings, singing mermaids, and raucous accordion wielding. Also performing will be DavEnd and TextaQueen, among others. Thu., April 11, 8:30 p.m., $15; members $12. REDCAT: Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, 631 W. Second St., Los Angeles, 213-237-2800, www.redcat.org.Smokefall: Written by Noah Haidle, this fantastical dramedy tells the story of three generations of an eccentric Midwestern family on the verge of big changes. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m.; Thursdays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 6, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., April 7, 2:30 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 13, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., April 14, 2:30 p.m.; Sat., April 20, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., April 21, 2:30 p.m.; Sat., April 27, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., April 28, 2:30 p.m. Continues through April 29. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 714-708-5555, www.scr.org.
SpectorDance's Ocean: A multidisciplinary performance collaboration with dancers, scientists, musicians, and educators about the impacts of human activity on the ocean. Sun., April 7, 7:30 p.m., $15-$25. AQUARIUM OF THE PACIFIC, 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, 562-590-3100, www.aquariumofpacific.org.Sunday Night Solo Series: February 10: Lee Meriwether in The Women of Spoon River; February 17: Jim Beaver in Sidekick; Kres Mersky in Isadora Duncan: A Unique Recital; Abbott Alexander in The Nameless One; Dina Morrone in The Italian in Me; Anthony Gruppuso in The Face Behind the Face, Behind the Face; April 7: Steve Nevil in As Always, Jimmy Stewart. Sun., April 7, 7:30 p.m. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Los Angeles, 323-851-7977, www.theatrewest.org. West Side Story: The Arthur Laurents/Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim classic is performed by a Grammy-award winning cast. Tue., April 9, 8 p.m.; Wed., April 10, 8 p.m.; Thu., April 11, 8 p.m.; Fri., April 12, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 13, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., April 14, 1 & 6:30 p.m., $25-$200. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 800-982-2787, www.broadwayla.org.
Why Do You Stand There in the Rain?: Scottish playwright Peter Arnott tells the sad but true story of the 1932 Bonus Army March in Washington, D.C., when 20,000 veterans converged on the Capitol to try to win some semblance of benefits. See GoLA. Fri., April 5, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., April 6, 7:30 p.m., $10-$15, pepperdine.edu. Smothers Theatre, 24255 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, 310-506-4522, arts.pepperdine.edu/tickets/.
ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS
GO: Hattie ... What I Need You to Know: Before there was a Sidney Poitier, a Denzel Washington, a Morgan Freeman or a Halle Berry, there was Hattie McDaniel. In the engaging bio-musical Hattie ... What I Need to Know, Vickilyn Reynolds honors the life of this extraordinary entertainer, who in 1940 became the first African-American to win an Oscar with her performance as Mammy in Gone With the Wind. Fittingly, the show opens with a video of that historic evening, after which Reynolds (who bears a noticeable resemblance to McDaniel) appears onstage and, for two hours, does a beguiling job of bringing McDaniel to life. Reynolds' script covers a lot of ground and could use some tightening, and at times her loose, conversational style distracts and meanders. Still, she and director Byron Nora succeed in making McDaniel's story an entertaining experience, recounting her early days singing in a gospel choir; difficulties with her overprotective parents; a string of unhappy marriages; struggles with racism in and outside of Hollywood; and her slow, determined rise to success, which ultimately placed her in the friendly company of stars like Clark Gable, Mae West, Bing Crosby and Marlene Dietrich. As interesting as this all is, the real payoff is hearing Reynolds sing the selection of jazz, blues and gospel songs with commanding artistry and passion. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 14, 323-960-5774. Hudson Backstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-856-4252, www.hudsontheatre.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, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 27, combinedartform.com. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.I Am Google: Writer and computer expert Craig Ricci Shaynak stars in this comedy in which he personifies the infamous search engine. Fridays, 10 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 p.m. Continues through April 28, $15. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
Little House on the Prairie-Oke!: Remember last year's Are You There God? It's Me, Karen Carpenter, the musical spoof that used Judy Blume's '70s coming-of-age book set to The Carpenters' music? Writer-director Dane Whitlock has done it again, this time integrating the decade's classic TV series Little House on the Prairie with top karaoke tunes. Little House on the Prairie-Oke! takes particular inspiration from the episode in which heroine Laura Ingalls falls in love with her future husband, Almanzo Wilder -- but not before arch-nemesis Nellie Oleson and her scheming mom try to get their hooks into him first. Almanzo is played by British musical theater actor (and former American Idol contestant) Tom Lowe, and Laura is played by Libby Baker. But who cares about Half-Pint? It's all about the town meanie, played by Drew Droege -- better known to anyone who's wasted precious work hours on YouTube as the star of those "I'm Chloe Sevigny" videos. Droege will be bringing Nellie's petticoat and blond sausage curls to life, while the rest of the fine folk of Walnut Grove sing and dance to "Call Me Maybe," "Love Shack," "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" and "Don't Stop Believin'." It's always more fun to root for the bad girl. Fridays, Saturdays, 9 p.m. Continues through April 20, $25 door; $20 advance. Cavern Club Theater, 1920 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles, 323-969-2530, www.cavernclubtheater.com.
The Lord's Lover: A cabaret collection of seven theatrical scenes, including live music, video projections, and dance, that explore the relationship between love, sex, and God. Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through April 25, $20. Los Globos, 3040 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-666-6669.
Mad Forest: When Eastern European Communism collapsed, only Romania spilled a lot of blood -- from soldiers firing on citizens to the Christmas Day execution of its husband-and-wife dictators, Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu. When familiar faces quickly regained power, Romanians wondered if the events of late 1989 should have been labeled a revolution at all. Mad Forest delves directly into that abyss, spinning history into parable via playwright Caryl Churchill's canny postmodern aesthetic. Part 1 sets the stage with tableaux of Romanian life under the secret police. Part 2 becomes an oral history of the violence, and Part 3 dramatizes the unraveling of hope, goodwill -- and, to some extent, sanity -- in the messy aftermath. Mad Forest, with its heavily expository nature, may not have stood the test of time as well as some of Churchill's other works, but its engagement with the impotent rage of those whom history treats as pawns remains on point. Director Marya Mazor stylishly wrangles her large cast and multimedia staging. (Mindy Farabee). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 4. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-882-6912, www.openfist.org.
PICK OF THE WEEK: Marilyn: My Secret: Though iconic Hollywood bombshell Marilyn Monroe's story has been examined and re-examined from almost every possible angle over the years, Marilyn -- My Secret, Odalys Nanin and Willard Manus' take, treads ground yet unworn as it explores the star's bisexuality and lesbian affairs. Just after her death in 1962, a robed Marilyn (Kelly Mullis) flits about her dressing room, regaling us with anecdotes from her colorful life (which play out in flashback), including training (and sleeping) with early acting coach Natasha Lytess (Monique Marissa Lukens) and sharing intimate moments with famous striptease artist Lili St. Cyr (Katarina Radivojevic), who advises Marilyn to maintain "moist lips and loose hips." Mullis maintains that and more as her expressive vivacity brings to life the wide-eyed, childlike quality that made Marilyn so magnetic to the men and women around her. Batting her eyes, giggling with delight and prancing about the stage, Mullis also regales the audience with songs from Marilyn's movies. Nanin's directorial use of film clips that blend into live action is creatively done, and in detailing Marilyn's hidden dalliances, including one with Bobby Kennedy (Jamie German), the script pulls no sexual punches. If the early exposition and abrupt ending were finessed and the act break excised, this 80-minute show could be a real smash. MACHA Theatre/Films, 1107 N. Kings Road, W. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m. (no perf April 12); through April 21. (323) 960-7862, machatheatre.org (Mayank Keshaviah)
Neverwhere: The stage adaptation of Neil Gaiman's story of an unlikely hero and his journey through the "London Below," a dark netherworld of fantastic creatures and forgotten humans. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 11, $25. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Los Angeles, 310-281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.
No Exit: Jean-Paul Sartre's existentialist play focuses on three sisters locked in a room together for eternity, the circumstance which bore his famous quote, "Hell is other people." Directed by Don Boughton for the Nether World Theatre Group. Starting April 6, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 29, $20; students/seniors $15. Elephant Stages, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
On the Spectrum: Young Mac (Dan Shaked) is in the process of applying to law school when his mother (Jeannie Hacket) informs him they are about to lose the family home. What for anyone would qualify as a stressful event becomes for Mac both a deeply unsettling confrontation with the idea of change and an opportunity to prove that all those years of intense therapy for his high-functioning Asperger's Syndrome have given him what it takes to cut it in a neurotypical world. Across town, Iris (a wondrous Virginia Newcomb) never leaves her Queens apartment, spending her days fashioning an elaborate website she's dubbed The Other World. Locked into the more extreme end of the autism scale, she has no interest in meeting society on its own terms. When she hires Mac to design her graphics, the two must negotiate not only the strange territory of human attraction, but also the larger question of whether falling "on the spectrum" is an identity or a disability. Ultimately, the play -- by and large witty and poignant -- falls prey to a reductively feel-good ending. What's flawless is the luminous collaboration between scenic designer John Iacovelli and video designer Jeff Teeter, with agile strokes of light and sound by R. Christopher Stokes and Peter Bayne, respectively. (Mindy Farabee). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 28. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles, 323-663-1525, www.fountaintheatre.com.Orange Flower Water: Craig Wright's adultery drama. Wednesdays, Fridays, Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 20. Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre And Acting Conservatory, 5636 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-463-7378, www.sfstheatre.com.
Rent: Producer Michael Smith re-imagines the musical theatre classic. Proceeds will benefit HIV/AIDS outreach organization The Stigma Project. Fri., April 5, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 6, 8 p.m., $15-$50. Founders Healing Center of Prayer, 3281 W. 6th St., Los Angeles, 213-388-5270.
Round Rock:Sam Bass is rarely mentioned in the pantheon of infamous outlaws of the Old West, but he and his gang pulled off the largest train robbery in U.S. history, and they gave law enforcement fits in the late 1800s. Drawing on historical material, writer-director Aaron Kozak dramatizes the life and times of the Sam Bass Gang. Bass (Brett Colbeth) is first seen at a farm hideout with cohorts Seaborn Barnes (Gregory Crafts) and Frank "Blockey" Johnson (Drew Farmer), divvying up the proceeds from a robbery. The action then caroms among various locales in Texas as the gang -- between stints of drinking, gambling and whoring -- elude the law and confront the ugly realities of their lawlessness. Kozak largely succeeds in sketching a convincing picture of these desperadoes. The problem is in the script's structure: There are too many scenes that don't propel the narrative or bolster the dramatic arc, and the second act is terribly overwritten. The sizable cast, however, performs well. Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through April 27. (818) 849-4039, theatreunleashed.com. (Lovell Estell III)
Sexsting - Based on True Events: Predator or Prey?: Playwright Doris Baizley consulted with defense attorney Anne Raffanti before writing this revealing one-act about a law-enforcement officer who realizes that the man he wants to entrap is not that different from himself. Estranged from his family, stressed-out FBI agent Richard Roe (Gregory Itzin) labors on a sting operation, visiting online chat rooms and posing as a young girl to provoke the interest of possible sex offenders. His latest assignment targets none-too-bright, middle-aged John (JD Cullum), who likes fishing and country music and whose marital sex life has stalled. But while John nurtures baneful fantasies about young teens, he does exercise self-control, trying hard to stay "just friends" with (he believes) the young female person he's met online. At his superior's insistence, however, Richard continues to entice John with revealing photos and pleas for them to meet -- all so the FBI can score an arrest. Baizley's setup is somewhat simplistic, but Itzin is riveting as a scrupulous man forced to act against his conscience. Cullum communicates smarminess and vulnerability, but his demeanor suggests he's talking to someone directly rather than communicating by email -- a fine point but one that nonetheless diminishes his credibility. Jim Holmes directs. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 14, 702-582-8587, ktcla.com. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles.
GO Tomorrow: Skylight Theatre Company, Rogue Machine, and York Theatre Royal present Donald Freed's new play. See Stage Feature: Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 21, 702-582-8587, ktcla.com. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles.
Slipping: A coming-of-age story, written and directed by Daniel Talbot, about a high school senior who moves to Iowa after losing his father, where he develops a close relationship with another boy at school. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 & 7 p.m. Continues through May 5, $34; $15 seniors; $10 students. Elephant Stages, Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Los Angeles.
Snapshot: A one-women play written and performed by Mitzi Sinnott, who shares her personal journey to find her father, a veteran haunted by his experience in Vietnam. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 22, $20. Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, 323-655-7679, www.greenwayarts.org.
GO: S.O.E.: Build a better mousetrap, it is said, and the world will beat a path to your door. Or at least to Atwater Village, where playwright Jami Brandli's clever, three-character riff on the venerable West End murder mystery The Mousetrap is attempting to give Agatha Christie a run for her money. Call it a hipster whodunit. Actually, "who-maybe-dunit" might be the better descriptive, because in Brandli's ironic puzzler of red herrings and drifting ambiguities, the ostensible murder ratcheting its mystery-plot mechanics might not have even occurred. Brandli's recipe is deceptively familiar: Take a connivingly ambitious, aspiring-writer grad student (Diana Wyenn); place her in the blizzard-isolated Boston apartment (by set and lighting designer Aaron Francis) of an absent breakout novelist; mix in an achingly needy and sexually insecure roommate (Michael Kass); introduce a chronically possessive editor-lover with a bad disposition and a tripwire temper (Jessica Hanna); season to taste with betrayal, double dealing and buried family secrets. Then bring to a rapid boil and stand back. Director Darin Anthony stirs Brandli's irresistible, toxic stew of psychological grotesques with a sure hand and a comic touch, while Joseph "Sloe" Slawinski's sound helps crank the mounting paranoia and uncertainty all the way up to 11. (Bill Raden). Saturdays, Sundays, 8 p.m.; Mondays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 15, soetheplay.com. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, 323-644-1929, www.atwatervillagetheatre.com.
Something to Crow About: The Bob Baker Marionettes' musical "Day on the Farm." Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., Los Angeles, 213-250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.
Songs of Bilitis: French writer Pierre Louys titillated literary circles with erotic lesbian poems that he claimed were the writings of an ancient Greek courtesan. Adapted from Louys' 1891 book, this multimedia piece centers on Pierre (Christopher Rivas), a self-indulgent libertine (Louys' alter-ego?) who guzzles liquor, imbibes drugs and loves to screw his tantalizing Algerian mistress (Estela Garcia). Their sex life decelerates, however, after Pierre begins to obsess over an imaginary woman, Bilitis (Aryiel Hartman), and her carnal journey from innocent to whore. Both Rivas and Garcia are terrific as the hapless debauchee and his earthy seductress, respectively, and so long as the play loiters in Pierre's here and now, it's fun to watch. But each time Katie Polebaum's script ventures into Pierre's imagination, the production loses steam. Director Sean T. Calweti marshals some fanciful stagecraft, but it never quite coheres, nor does it compensate for a sophomoric narrative and innocuous characters. Matt Hill's fantastic videography lights up the stage; it's a feast for the eyes and deserves a better story. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through April 6. Bootleg Theater, 2200 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, 213-389-3856, www.bootlegtheater.org.
Tamales De Puerco (Pork Tamales): A trilingual play (English, Spanish, American Sign Language) written by Mercedes Floresislas, about a mother who flees to escape her husband's violent behavior towards their deaf son. Recommended for mature audiences only. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through April 28, $25 opening night; $20 all other nights; $17 seniors; $15 students and Boyle Heights residents. Casa 0101, 2102 E. 1st St., Los Angeles, 323-263-7684, www.casa0101.org.
Terminator Too Judgment Play: Interactive sci-fi spoof, from the folks who brought you Point Break Live!. Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through April 27, brownpapertickets.com/event/306759. Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-466-6111, www.thedragonfly.com.
GO: Trainspotting: Director Roger Mathey and Seat of the Pants Productions return with a solid revival of their 2002 production about four lower-class Edinburgh youths prematurely entombed in a hellish world of sex, heroin addiction and violence. The story is based on the 1993 novel by Irvine Welsh (the source material for Danny Boyle's 1996 film) and adapted for the stage by Harry Gibson. Mathey sacrifices nothing in the way of raw, nausea-inducing moments in this outing (shit really does fly, and there is full nudity), and this time he efficiently uses a larger cast, with some actors taking on multiple roles. Justin Zachary returns as narrator-protagonist Mark Renton, who in spite of numerous attempts at rehab can't kick the habit. Also returning are David Agranov as Mark's close friend Tommy, who eventually succumbs to heroin's lethal allure; Matt Tully as Begbie; and Jonathan Roumie as Sick Boy. In spite of the dismal subject matter, Mathey unearths some necessary humor, a lot of it coming from Mark's often ironic, understated commentary. Still, at times the Scottish accents make it near impossible to understand the dialogue (Tully often sounds like he's chewing a mouthful of oatmeal). Jason Rupert's scenic design consisting of a platform that doubles as a home interior, bracketed by two graffiti-pocked walls, is suitably raunchy. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 13, 323-960-7785, plays411.com/trainspotting. Elephant Stages, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
GO: The Trouble With Words: Composer and musical director Gregory Nabours' 90-minute musical is smart, sexy, funny and heartbreaking, with 18 appealing songs (five of them new for this production). Presented as the opening number, the title tune is catchy enough to hook you in immediately. The attractive and searingly talented cast of six -- Julianne Donelle, Aimee Karlin, Jamie Mills, Chris Roque, Ryan Wagner and Robert Wallace -- sings and dances their way through a thematically connected song cycle. The show dispenses with the typical musical storyline. Rather, it adroitly explores the complexities of communication in a contemporary urban world, examining issues of isolation, romance and sexual attraction. "Gotta Get Laid" is crude and hilariously forthright, while "The Busiest Corner in Town," a song about feeling alone in a bustling city, features Karlin's heart-wrenching solo backed by pretty themes on piano, strings, flute and acoustic guitar. The six equally accomplished musicians (also onstage, and led by Nabours on piano) perform everything from tender, plaintive ballads to rock-infused numbers to jazz and tango-flavored tunes. Janet Roston's choreography is sublime. The theater company does not charge for admission -- you can pay what you wish at the end of the show. And trust me, after you see The Trouble With Words, you'll be happy to open your wallet. (Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 12, 323-944-2165. Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles.
GO: Walking the Tightrope: Given that so many examples of children's theater are simply appalling -- the equivalent of Muffin the Puppet singing "Sharing Is Caring and Obey your Parents" or some such rubbish -- what a pleasure it is to see a work, aimed at a young audience, that possesses both intellectual heft and genuinely involving emotion. Playwright Mike Kenny's drama Walking the Tightrope is about grief, but the handling of the subject is deft and nuanced, while also being told from a child's point of view. The play takes place in a British seaside town, circa 1950s, as little girl Esme (a beautifully gamine but not obnoxious Paige Lindsay White) arrives for her annual visit to her grandparents. She discovers that her grandmother is nowhere to be found and her sad grandfather (Mark Bramhall) fibs that she has gone to join the circus, a lie that Esme quickly realizes is meant to keep the old man from accepting the truth himself about his wife's passing. Richly evocative, director Debbie Devine's heartfelt production is touching and truthful without descending into mawkish sentimentality. Bramhall's crusty, grieving granddad and White's thoughtfully perky Esme are great together. Tony Duran also delivers a standout turn, as the ghostly presence of the grandmother's spirit. (Paul Birchall). Saturdays, 2 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 18. 24th Street Theater, 1117 W. 24th St., Los Angeles, 213-745-6516, www.24thstreet.org.
Wolves: For a few minutes Steve Yockey's horror spoof -- pretentiously billed as a psychological drama -- shows literary promise. A narrator (Katherine Skelton) with an air of foreboding tells us about Ben (Nathan Mohebbi), a nebbishy guy from a small town who salves his loneliness with casual lovers, then freaks when they don't want to commit. When his ex, Jack (Matt Magnusson), now a platonic roommate, brings home a handsome "wolf" (Andrew Crabtree), Ben loses it big-time and the blood flows. Hinting at deep truths and dark revelations, the piece then segues into banal dialogue among three guys in a sex triangle. Anyone who's ever been caught up in a dating scene, gay or straight, could improvise this drivel. None of the performers rises above the material, including Skelton, whose storyteller assumes a grating simper. Designer Tim Swiss' lighting displays accomplished talent and Cricket S. Myers' sound is effectual. Michael Matthews directs. (Deborah Klugman). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 5. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-957-1884, www.celebrationtheatre.com.
ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS
Belz! The Jewish Vaudeville Musical: An ersatz cross between Fiddler on the Roof and Cabaret, writer and director Pavel Cerny's 1979 show enjoyed a successful 1984 run at the now defunct Callboard Theatre. But like the Callboard, the show's best days may be behind it. The story follows aspiring Jewish comedian Hugo Schwartz (Andy Hirsch) from a 1917 shtetl in Galicia (modern Ukraine) to New York. Episodes in Hugo's life are interspersed with cabaret numbers featuring Jewish shtick and songs in Yiddish, Hungarian, Czech and German, accompanied by Ait Fetterolf's live piano. Though the history provides fascinating source material and designer Travis Thi artfully costumes over 50 characters, the timeworn jokes fall flat, the songs are delivered with scant emotion and the ensemble generally lacks the chutzpah necessary to pull off vaudeville material in this jaded age. The frequent blackouts, sudden shifts from humor to pathos and back, and uncomfortably on-the-nose dialogue all limit the effectiveness of both the show's humor and its tender moments. While an older Jewish audience may appreciate the nostalgia the evening conjures, a firmer directorial hand might allow others the same experience. (Mayank Keshaviah). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 14, brownpapertickets.com/event/276015. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-990-2324, www.whitefiretheatre.com.
Company: Stephen Sondheim composed the lyrics and score to his innovative "concept musical" in 1970, with book by George Furth. For a comedy musical about love, it proves resolutely unromantic and honest. And, surprisingly, its acerbic wit and laserlike scrutiny of marriage, dating and relationships does not feel at all dated. Director Albert Marr's incorporation of cellphones and Facebook effortlessly adds a contemporary feel. The loose story centers on Robert (a charismatic Ben Rovner), a handsome, single, mid-30s New Yorker surrounded by well-meaning but smug married friends. Their cheerful efforts to push him toward joining their club are undermined by their conjugal lives, which are fundamentally flawed or dysfunctional. The ensemble's vocal skills are good but not stellar, though Julie Black sings brilliantly as funky girlfriend Marta. Also impressive is musical director William A. Reilly's furious piano and synth live accompaniment. Despite some appealing performances, this company's average Company barely matches Sondheim's marvelous material. (Pauline Adamek). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 28, crowncitytheatre.com. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, 818-605-5685, www.crowncitytheatre.com.Food, Sex, and Consequences: When Gio, the supposedly-Italian-but-obviously-Middle Eastern proprietor (played with good humor by Ayman Samman) announces that nothing is as it seems at his haunted drippy-candle establishment, you may hope he's going to riff on cultural stereotypes and reveal how he exploits American naïveté with affected Old World charm and flourish -- but nothing so clever or unexpected occurs during this well-meaning but dull pastiche written by Monique Carmona and directed by Cassius Shuman. The screwball customers whose storylines eventually converge aren't specific enough to hold our interest, though producer Kim Estes comes closest as an unflappable private investigator fixated on chicken cacciatore. Carmona proves a better actress than scribe with her turn as a neurotic misanthrope seduced by an exotic-fish collector (Joe Coffey). The setup and storyline remain inoffensive enough, but the production asks so little of its cast, and its audience, that it struggles to succeed as comedy. Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through April 14. (323) 993-5755. (Jenny Lower)
GO Fragments of Oscar Wilde: Vanessa Cate's adaptations of La Sainte Courtisane, A Florentine Tragedy, The Nightingale and the Rose, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Salome. Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through May 18. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com. See Theater Feature
Golden Girls Live: A Drag Parody: Pay tribute to your favorite sitcom senior citizens with this hilarious drag show. Priority seating includes a slice of cheesecake. Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 29, $22.50-$34. Oil Can Harry's, 11502 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-760-9749, www.oilcanharrysla.com.
Grimm Nights Vol.1: Hollywood: Grimm's classic fairy tales set against the mean streets of modern-day Hollywood. Written by Vanessa Cate, Matt DeNoto, Samantha Levenshus, Sebastian Muñoz, and Adam Neubauer. Starting April 7, Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 5, $15. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.
The Importance of Being Earnest: While the latest offering from the Banshees is surely earnest, director Sean Branney and the ensemble don't quite capture the delicate rhythms of Oscar Wilde's language nor the precise comic timing necessary to properly realize Earnest. The conflict between Jack (Cameron J. Oro) and Algernon (Kevin Stidham) initially misses the mark, as Oro is too congenial to delineate the contrast between the bachelors, leading Stidham to overdo the cheek a bit. Their dynamic soon recovers but it never finds Jack's stringent propriety, which provides the necessary foil to Algernon's antics. Andrew Leman's Lady Bracknell, while quite different from Dame Edith Evans' classic portrayal, comes into her own and continues the tradition of male casting for the role. Gwendolen (Sarah van der Pol) and Cecily (Erin Barnes) are pleasant and perky, but their claws aren't razor sharp in their classic tête-à-tête over tea, though Barnes' energy gives Cecily a youthful exuberance. There is brilliance in Branney's "set-change ballet" between Acts II and III, showcasing Arthur MacBride's artfully crafted set, but it's not enough to elevate a merely competent take on the classic. (Mayank Keshaviah). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 5. The Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, 818-846-5323, www.theatrebanshee.org.
The Innocence of Father Brown: Drawing from G.K. Chesterton's 51 short stories about a Catholic priest who solves murder mysteries in early 20th-century London, Patrick Rieger has created a two-hour evening of theater that feels like two related one-act plays. Simply staged by co-directors Allison Darby Gorjian and Betsy Roth, the lightly comedic crime drama unfolds at an unhurried pace; this is old-fashioned storytelling from a gentler, more leisurely era. Unfortunately the presentation is frequently staid, with the action drifting to a halt as Father Brown engages in philosophical and theological debates, only occasionally enlivened by his droll wit and high-flown language. Several characters clearly echo those in Conan-Doyle's tales of Sherlock Holmes, in particular the arch-criminal Flambeau (Brandon Parrish), grumpy, exasperated detective Valentin (Adam Daniel Eliott) and smooth and cryptic sleuth Father Brown (Blake Walker), although unlike the more famous fictional detective, the clergyman's process tends to be introspective and intuitive rather than deductive. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through April 28. (626) 441-5977, fremontcentretheatre.com. (Pauline Adamek)
Jane Austen Unscripted: Presented by Impro Theatre. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 14. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot: Just when you hope that the final nail has been driven into the coffin of the celestial courtroom drama, along comes playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis with a pry bar and this misguided exhumation from 2005. The theological paradoxes at the heart of Guirgis' wide-ranging meditation on pride, divine mercy and the possibility of redemption have all been handled far more adroitly elsewhere (i.e., Michael Tolkin's 1991 film The Rapture). Here, Guirgis employs a Purgatory criminal court (on Caley Bisson's drab set) to debate the fate in the afterlife of the play's titular Christ betrayer (Robert Walters). A prosecutor (Robert Paterno) and defense attorney (Sharon Freedman) grill an assortment of biblical characters and church fathers -- all in archly anachronistic New York City street drag. Apart from a show-stealing cameo by John Gentry as Pontius Pilate, director Patrick Riviere's muddied staging is unable to inject dramatic insight or urgency into Guirgis' tendentious excuse for a Jesuitical catechism class. (Bill Raden). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 6, brownpapertickets.com/event/314649. Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank, 818-841-4404, www.thevictorytheatrecenter.org.
GO: Mommune: Dorothy Fortenberry's world premiere, Mommune, spirits us to a not-too-distant future where women get national maternity leave and unfit mothers sidestep prison with sentences at minimum-security re-education centers. Chalk Repertory Company's site-specific approach transforms a contemporary kids learning center into one of these cheery gulags and audience members into "pre-parents," shepherded through their government-mandated pre-conception counseling requirements. The failures of these "bad mothers" are real enough; several are ripped-from-the-headlines accounts of poor parenting. The distrustful Charlotte (Hilary Ward) arrives at the "mommune" fresh from her high-stakes lab research, and immediately butts heads with "momtor" Mrs. Jensen (a regal Ursaline Bryant). Her fellow inmates -- a lesbian Christian, a former pageant queen and a voluntary mute -- aim to rack up enough points for "assessment" and eventual reunion with their children, but Charlotte's antagonism and refusal to follow simple rules challenges the intended day-spa atmosphere. The actors mine the satire for laughs, but Larissa Kokernot's deft direction points to the self-punishing tragedy behind the cult of mommydom. The play's steady pacing loses focus toward the end, although Fortenberry's setup doesn't lend itself to easy answers. The cast's engagement with the space is ingenious, but audiences should be prepared to relocate and stand through parts of the show. (Jenny Lower). Saturdays, Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 7, chalkrep.com. Pint Size Kids, 13323 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 310-339-7452, www.pintsizekids.com.
Mrs. Warren's Profession: George Bernard Shaw made his case for women's lib in this 1894 play, involving the contentious struggle between an assertive young feminist and her brothel-managing mom. Educated at Cambridge, Vivie (Rebecca Mozo) exemplifies a new breed of woman who loves her work and is lukewarm to the attentions of various men. Raised at boarding schools and by governesses, she knows little about the background of her mother (Anne Gee Byrd), who eluded poverty by becoming a successful madam. Shaw's insight and ironic wit have survived the decades, but the production is too static, especially in Act I. Directed by Robin Larsen, the performers often struggle to sound authentically British, and their portrayals, while sometimes on target, are uneven. Byrd, an exception, is altogether compelling as a sly woman of the world wounded to the core by her daughter's rebuff. Neither Francois-Pierre Couture's humdrum set nor Jeremy Pivnick's underused lighting add dimension to the story. (Deborah Klugman). Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 21. The Antaeus Company and Antaeus Academy, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.
Nuttin' but Hutton: Betty Hutton was known in her heyday as the Blonde Bombshell. After a brief Broadway career, and a stint as a band singer, she made her name in Hollywood in screwball comedies like The Miracle at Morgan's Creek and became famous for her manic, zany, over-the-top performances of comic novelty songs such as "I'm Just a Square in the Social Circle," "Murder, He Says" and "His Rocking Horse Ran Away." She went on to triumph in the film version of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun and Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth, only to abandon her Hollywood career and wind up as a dishwasher in a Catholic convent. Writer-performer Diane Vincent clearly idolizes Hutton and set out to celebrate her. But instead of relying on Hutton's own potent story, Vincent has chosen to tell the hackneyed tale of a singer trying to mount a show about Hutton, featuring a large array of Hutton's signature numbers, with snippets of information of her life and career shoehorned in. Vincent is an able performer, and her show is a labor of love, but Hutton would have been better served by a more straightforward treatment of her life and talent. (Neal Weaver). Sundays, 3 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through April 28, 800-595-4849, nuttinbuthutton.com. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, www.thenohoartscenter.com.
The Owl and the Pussycat: In this comedy, two polar opposites, would-be writer Felix and would-be actress Doris bring mischief and spark into each others lives. Written by Bill Manhoff. Starting April 6, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 12, $20. T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, 818-205-1680.
Sculptress of Angel X: Zombie Joe's "epic drama about a passionate young woman's erotic journey to redemption through her art." Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues through May 10. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.
GO: Smoke and Mirrors: If you've forgotten the childlike joy and sublime wonderment of seeing magic performed, Albie Selznick's theatrical show is an enchanting reminder. The accomplished actor-magician puts on a bewildering tour de force that has more "how did he do that" flashes than can be counted. The show also has a personal element, as Selznick recounts his long path to becoming a master magician, starting when he lost his father at the age of 9 and used magic to escape reality, and then as a means of challenging and overcoming his fears. He knows how to work the crowd, and uses members of the audience in a number of his routines. Toward show's end, he swallows some razors (kids, don't try this), then regurgitates them on a long string, and wows with a demonstration of fire eating and juggling some wicked-looking knives. Other amazing moments are the eerie conjuring of doves out of nowhere and a mind-blowing exhibition of midair suspension. Like all good magicians, Selznick has highly capable assistants -- Brandy, Kyle, Tina and Daniel -- who dazzle with their own magic in a stylish preshow. Paul Millet directs. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 26, 800-595-4849, smokeandmirrorsmagic.com. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, www.lankershimartscenter.com.
Urban Death: Zombie Joe's Underground's horror stories. Saturdays, 11 p.m. Continues through April 27. 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
Assisted Living: A funny, touching look at interpersonal relationships, written and performed by husband and wife team Paul Dooley and Winnie Holzman. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 13, $45 opening night; $25 Fridays; $30 Saturdays and Sundays. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.Chapter Two: Neil Simon's romantic comedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 6. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro, 310-512-6030, www.littlefishtheatre.org.
Hammer Down Reprise: Written and directed by Adam Macy. Starting April 6, Saturdays, 9 p.m. Continues through April 27. The Improv Space, 954 Gayley Ave., Westwood, www.theimprovspace.com.
Heart Of Darkness: A one-man show, performed and adapted from Conrad's novel by Brian T. Finney. Starting April 6, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 18, $35; students/seniors $30. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City, 310-838-4264, www.theactorsgang.com.
PICK OF THE WEEK: The Rainmaker: A con-man/drifter walks into a small town, usually in the Midwest, and seduces a vulnerable local female. He not only seduces her, he awakens her to her true self and potential, which the opinions of others -- her family and society -- have been suffocating. Oh, brother. Get the broom and sweep off the cobwebs. In lesser hands than director Jack Heller's, watching The Rainmaker would be like trudging through a slightly dank, primeval marsh without rubber boots -- the kind of experience where you might say, "Well, isn't this historic and curious. Where can I dry my socks?" The production is saved in part by its linchpin, Tanna Frederick's droll, rat-smart Lizzie. With subtlety and composure that often belies the text, she knows who she is and what she wants. Though the play is over-written, Frederick's performance lies so entrenched beneath the lines, it's as though she absorbs the play's excesses so that they don't even show. Her terrific performance is not enough to turn the play into a classic, but it does provide enough of an emotional pull to reveal the reasons why it keeps getting staged. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through May 19. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, 310-399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.
Rank: In Irish playwright Robert Massey's dramedy, the collection of low-life characters on offer proves that one needn't have an American passport to be a scoundrel and a reprobate -- the same sort of crooked sleazes may be found even on the Emerald Isle. Carl (Kevin Kearns), a sad-sack Dublin taxi driver with a gambling addiction, is in debt to local thug boss Jackie (Ron Bottitta), who has given Carl half a day to come up with the money he owes. When Carl's father-in-law, George (David Schaal), who happens to be Jackie's former underworld ally, teams with Carl to perform a heist, double crosses ensue -- albeit of the most predictable type. Like many plays from Ireland, Massey's piece possesses a distinctive verbal style -- the dialogue is meandering, sometimes lyrical, and full of wit. However, director Wilson Milam's drab production suffers from sluggish pacing, which exacerbates awareness of the narrative's often glaring logical flaws. Performances possess an intriguing intensity suggesting danger, but it's left to Bottitta's leering, blustering, Jack Nicholson-like mob boss to carry the show with his multidimensional personality. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; through May 12. (310) 477-2055, odysseytheatre.com. (Paul Birchall)
Remembrance: There's a memorably tender moment, in this production of Graham Reid's 1984 Irish play, when two widowed seniors, Bert (Mik Scriba), a Protestant, and Theresa (Diana Angelina), a Catholic, kiss for the first time. The two always meet in a cemetery, where they regularly tend the graves of their respective sons, both foully murdered amid "the Troubles" in Northern Ireland. Decent, likable people, these older folk contrast favorably with their angry, bigoted children who, ungenerous and unforgiving, oppose their parents' romance. Each character in this well-made albeit over-extended play has an intriguing story: Bert's alcoholic son, Victor (Johnny O'Callaghan), is jealous of his dead brother and distraught over a pending divorce. Theresa's daughter, Joan (Alice Cutler), suffers with guilt over her brother's death while her belligerent sister, Deirdre (Christine Joëlle), twists her sexual frustration -- her husband is a jailed- for-life militant -- into anger and aggression. Victor's compassionate ex-wife (Elizabeth Lande) fights to stay distant from a man she still cares for. Director Tim Byron Owen's deft hand is clearly visible in these skilled portraits. Michele Young's costumes create reassuring authenticity; sound designer Bill Froggatt's twittering birds add a touch of whimsy, as musically fragile as the lovers' fleeting hopes. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Drive (on the Beverly Hills High School campus), Beverly Hills; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through April 21. (310) 364-0535, theatre40.org. (Deborah Klugman)