Theatre to See in L.A. This Week, Including Broadway's Scottsboro Boys at the Ahmanson
|The ensemble of The Scottsboro Boys -- a minstrel show about the Jim Crow era|
Kander & Ebb's musical The Scottsboro Boys, a Broadway-import minstrel show about Jim Crow, rolled into the Ahmanson and grabbed this week's pick. Good notices also for Zayd Dohrn's immigration saga Long Way Go Down at the Art of Acting Studio, and for the silly Aussie import Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the Pantages. See below for all the latest new theater reviews and local theater listings.
This week's theater feature takes a newsy look at how the fledgling real estate boom has lowered the boom on two Hollywood theater companies that may soon to be homeless: Open Fist Theatre Company and The Celebration Theatre. The culprit: rising rents that are increasingly unaffordable for even our most established smaller theater companies.
New Theater Reviews, Scheduled for Publication June 6, 2013:
FOOL FOR LOVE
GO LONG WAY GO DOWN
|Art of Acting Studio|
|ensemble of "Long Way Go Down"|
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM Bottom is the tops in New American Theatre's take on the classic tale of love and mischief, here set in 1930s Greece. Director and company founder Jack Stehlin brings energy and cheeky wit to the character of Nick Bottom by fully exploring the hills and valleys of Shakespeare's linguistic landscape. As director, however, Stehlin doesn't get the remainder of the cast to a similar level of performative precision and understanding. The actors, while competent, never quite find the rhythms and finer contours of the language that are crucial to making Shakespeare feel contemporary while retaining his lilting lyricism. The transposition to '30s Greece also lacks dramatic justification, making Barbara Little's costuming as quizzical as it is colorful. Roger Bellon's original music and John Farmanesh-Bocca's choreography add flair to the fairies' moments onstage, but not enough to deliver whatever message about class or Orientalism is intended by reimagining them as gypsies. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; also Sun. June 30, 7 p.m.; through June 30. (310) 477-2055, NewAmericanTheatre.com/tickets.html. (Mayank Keshaviah)
|John M. Heller|
GO: PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT
PICK OF THE WEEK THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS
|The ensemble of "The Scottsboro Boys" -- a minstrel show about the Jim Crow era|
SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE - THE MUSICAL
|Tim Martin Gleason and Chadra Lee Schwartz|
TRANSLATIONS Brian Friel's 1980 play is set in 1833. England has sent British troops to carry out the first geographic survey of Ireland, with orders to translate the old Gaelic place names into English, obliterating centuries of Irish history and culture. In Gaelic-speaking Baile Beag, in Country Donegal, the reaction is decidedly mixed. The forward- looking young Maire (Sammi Smith) welcomes the move as a way of connecting their isolated backwater with the modern world, while others engage in sabotage and harbor deep resentment against the British, which escalates into violence. The first victim is the young British Lieutenant Yolland (Kurt Quinn), who's romantically involved with Maire, despite the fact that they don't speak the same language. Ironically, Yolland is a naive romantic with a deep love for all things Irish. Director Ryan Wagner leads his able cast in a solid production, despite some near-impenetrable Irish brogue. Coeurage Theatre Company at the Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Avenue; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru June 23. (323) 944-2165, coeurage.secure.force.com/ticket. (Neal Weaver)
ONGOING SHOWS IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONSIDE:
GO: Beautiful: A one-woman show, written and performed by Jozanne Marie, about victory over despair and strength in the face of abusive relationships. Directed by Geoffrey Rivas. Produced by The Latino Theater Company. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through June 16. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, www.ebellla.com. See New Reviews.
Black Angels Over Tuskegee: The story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American fighter pilots in U.S. military history, who broke racial barriers during World War II. Written by Layon Gray. Sat., June 8, 6:30 p.m. Wilshire Ebell Theatre, 4401 W. Eighth St., Los Angeles, 323-939-1128, www.ebellla.com.Chess: Like the 1980s, this revival of the Cold War-themed musical that produced the hit song "One Night in Bangkok" is kitschy, colorful and full of spectacle. Yet its return also reveals the contrived, confusing plot and threadbare characters that have perennially plagued this piece. That's to take nothing away from director Tim Dang and his ensemble, who embrace the source material and make it their own. Undergirding their efforts are Adam Flemming's cleverly tiered set and eye-catching projections, Anthony Tran's bold costumes, Dan Weingarten's kaleidoscopic lighting and Ken Takemoto's wonderfully detailed props. Dang chooses the through-sung U.K. version of the show, which heavily features his soloists, all of whom have great pipes. Joan Almedilla (Florence) soars, Elijah Rock (Anatoly) belts with gusto -- though, oddly, without a Russian accent -- and Carey Rebecca Brown (Svetlana) showcases delicate power. Victor E. Chan (Freddie) has moxie but runs hot and cold, while Ray A. Rochelle (Molokov) brings Bond-villain fun to the show. If only the story were as resonant as the vocals, this musical could really be something. (Mayank Keshaviah). Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 23. East West Players, 120 N. Judge John Aiso St., Los Angeles, 213-625-7000, www.eastwestplayers.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.
Dead Man's Cell Phone: A lonely woman is forced to confront her assumptions about morality, redemption and the need to connect in a technologically obsessed world as she steps into the life of a dead man by taking his cell phone calls. Written by Sarah Ruhl. Directed by Richard Israel. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 30. Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, 562-436-4610.
GO: Falling for Make Believe: The Colony Theatre's latest effort isn't quite there yet: Mark Saltzman's world-premiere musical about the wordsmith half of songwriting duo Rodgers and Hart requires polishing (and a hit would help get the faltering theater back on its feet). But for music lovers and nostalgic theater buffs, this revue directed by Jim Fall offers tender moments, two dozen of the pair's greatest hits and a sobering glimpse at the backstage paradox of Lorenz Hart -- snappy wit and lyric genius but a sodden, tormented closet case. Saltzman hangs the narrative on Fletcher (Tyler Milliron), a Pennsylvania Dutch farm boy who longs to hit it big, or at least find himself a talented boyfriend. After a series of go-nowhere run-ins with Hart (Ben Goldberg), the two finally connect and the play picks up tension and momentum. Their affecting dynamic creates the evening's most potent moments, but both seem slightly miscast: Saltzman's script calls for a hunkier farm boy and a homelier lyricist. Those discrepancies should be addressed, as should an oddly layered set design that leaves intimate scenes swimming in a cavernous space. Rebecca Ann Johnson adds pizzazz as Hart's Broadway muse, along with some dreamy renditions of "Bewitched" and "Blue Moon." (Jenny Lower). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 30, $29-$49. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank, 818-558-7000, www.colonytheatre.org.GO: Joe Turner's Come and Gone: For this critic August Wilson has always been eloquent on the page, a bit wordy on the stage. This second in his 10-play chronicle of the African-American experience takes place in 1911, a bare 46 years after the Civil War ended. Wilson's vibrant characters are searching -- for love, money, personal freedom or healing and spiritual salvation. Some, like boardinghouse owners Seth (Keith David) and his wife, Bertha (Lillias White), have found their place. Others, like their wild-eyed new tenant, Herald Loomis (John Douglas Thompson), have been irreparably damaged by assaults on their personhood and dignity. Directed by Phylicia Rashad, beautifully framed by John Iacovelli's atmospheric set, with its dark orange and gold hues and misty horizon, the production captures the warmth and passion of a subculture still richly imbued with the magic and myth of its African heritage. Some performances are capable, others outstanding. Chief among the latter are Glynn Turman as the community conjurer and medicine man for broken hearts, and David as his prickly, practical-minded landlord, a money-minded fellow with no time for mumbo-jumbo. Also noteworthy are White as Seth's unflappable spouse, who provides sustenance to all, and Raynor Scheine as the eccentric white peddler he banters with. While these seasoned actors take the material and run with it, others could use stronger direction. (Deborah Klugman). Saturdays, 2:30 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 9, $45-$75. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.
A Midsummer Night's Dream: A summer standard, this is the Theatricum's signature production of Shakespeare's wondrous enchanted forest tale of love, fairies, and the power of nature. Sat., June 8, 4 p.m.; Sun., June 9, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., June 15, 4 p.m.; Sun., June 16, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., June 22, 4 p.m.; Sat., June 29, 4 p.m.; Sun., July 7, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., July 13, 4 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 1, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 8, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 15, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 22, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 29, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 1, 7:30 p.m.; Mon., Sept. 2, 6:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 8, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 14, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 22, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 28, 8 p.m. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, 310-455-3723, www.theatricum.com/index.html.A Midsummer Saturday Night's Fever Dream: A disco re-imagining of Shakespeare's summer love story. Directed by Matt Walker. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 4 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through July 7. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside, Burbank, 818-955-8101, www.falcontheatre.com.
Neva: A politically charged, haunting look at theater and the revolutionary impulse, by writer/director Guillermo Calderón. In 1905 St. Petersburg, Anton Chekhov's widow, actress Olga Knipper, is huddled with fellow actors in a dimly lit rehearsal room, while striking workers are being gunned down by the tsarist regime in the streets outside. Tue., June 11, 8 p.m.; Wed., June 12, 8 p.m.; Thu., June 13, 8 p.m.; Fri., June 14, 8 p.m.; Sat., June 15, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., June 16, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.
Next to Normal: A Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical about a family trying to take care of themselves and each other. Music by Tom Kitt, book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, musical direction by Darryl Archibald, directed by Nick DeGruccio. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wednesdays, Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 23. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, 562-944-9801, www.lamiradatheatre.com.
The Pianist of Willesden Lane: A young Jewish pianist tries to pursue her musical aspirations under a Nazi regime in 1938 Vienna. Based on the book The Children of Willesden Lane by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen. Adapted and directed by Hershey Felder. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 2 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through June 9. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, 949-497-2787, www.lagunaplayhouse.com.
GO: Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical: This spectacular Broadway musical, with over five-hundred Tony Award-winning costumes, is the uplifting story about a trio of friends whom hop aboard a battered old bus searching for love in the Australian outback, and end up finding more than they could have dreamed. Fri., June 7, 8 p.m.; Sat., June 8, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., June 9, 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Tue., June 11, 8 p.m.; Wed., June 12, 8 p.m.; Thu., June 13, 8 p.m.; Fri., June 14, 8 p.m.; Sat., June 15, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., June 16, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 800-982-2787, www.broadwayla.org. See New Reviews.
PICK OF THE WEEK: The Scottsboro Boys: A musical based on the infamous "Scottsboro" case from the 1930s, about nine unjustly accused African American men whose lives would eventually spark the Civil Rights Movement. Music and Lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb. Book by David Thompson. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Thu., June 20, 2 p.m.; Sundays, 1 p.m.; Thu., June 27, 2 p.m. Continues through June 30. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.See New Reviews
Sleepless in Seattle: The Musical: Based on the Tristar Pictures film Sleepless In Seattle, about a widower and his precocious son who is searching for the perfect mother. Book by Jeff Arch, music by Ben Toth, lyrics by Sam Forman. Musical Staging by Spencer Liff, directed by Sheldon Epps. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through June 23. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org. See New Reviews.
The Taming of the Shrew: Shakespeare's rowdy romp about the lovely Bianca and her sister "Katherine the Cursed," who must be married off before Bianca is allowed to entertain suitors. Sat., June 8, 8 p.m.; Sun., June 9, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., June 15, 8 p.m.; Sun., June 16, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., June 23, 3:30 p.m.; Sun., June 30, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., July 6, 4 p.m.; Sun., July 7, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., July 14, 3:30 p.m.; Sun., July 28, 3:30 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 2, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 3, 4 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 10, 4 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 11, 3:30 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 16, 8 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 23, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 24, 4 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 30, 8 p.m.; Fri., Sept. 6, 8 p.m.; Fri., Sept. 13, 8 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 21, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 29, 3:30 p.m. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, 310-455-3723, www.theatricum.com/index.html.
GO: The Women: Clare Boothe Luce's 1936 play about the culture of spoiled, rich women preaches some pretty outdated ideas about how to keep your man, but it still sports colorful characters and clever dialogue and, in the right hands, can be fashioned into an entertaining production. This isn't one, however. Directed by Arden Teresa Lewis, the story revolves around Mary (Maria Kress), a gracious woman who discovers her husband has been cheating with a shopgirl (Caitlin Gallogly) and must decide whether to tolerate his philandering or divorce him. Mary has lots of bitchy acquaintances, especially Sylvia (Leona Britton), who have a field day dissecting their "friend's"s woes. Unfortunately, most of the performances are over-the-top caricatures; Kress in particular displays little emotional connection to Mary's pain. Dianne Travis as a feminist writer, Sandra Tucker as Mary's mother and Deborah Webb Thomas and Heather Alyse Becker in various servant roles acquit themselves respectably. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 16. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Los Angeles, 323-851-7977, www.theatrewest.org.
Yes, Prime Minister: An award-winning British comedy of political power and intrigue, set against the backdrop of the collapsing Euro, austerity measures, and the 24-hour news cycle. Written by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, directed by Jonathan Lynn. Starting June 12, Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through July 14. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS
Bob: The Los Angeles premiere of Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's comedy exploring the American mythology of happiness and success. Born and abandoned in a White Castle bathroom in Louisville, and determined to become a "great" man, Bob takes an epic journey across America where he encounters inspiring generosity, crushing hardships, blissful happiness, stunning coincidences, true love and heartbreaking loss. Starting June 8, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through June 30. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, 323-644-1929, www.atwatervillagetheatre.com.
Bobbywood: The Longest Death Scene: Written by and starring voiceover performer Bill Ratner, a Best of Fringe 2012 Honoree and 8-time Moth Story Slam Winner. Ratner delves into the mystery of what happened to his uncle, actor Bobby Jellison, who played I Love Lucy's "Bobby the Bellboy" for thirteen episodes. Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through June 29. Ruby Theater at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-960-5774, www.complexhollywood.com.
The Boomerang Effect: A comedy, written by Matthew Leavitt, consisting of five interrelated short plays that peek into the sex lives of five different couples in various bedroom scenarios. Starting June 8, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 27. Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-852-9111.
GO: Brecht on Brecht: Playwright George Tabori assembled a huge master script -- too massive for inclusion in any one production -- of materials collected from the works of Bertolt Brecht. Directors are urged to make their own selection from the myriad pieces, which include poems, songs, scenes and transcripts of Brecht's wily testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee. This production is selected and directed by Alistair Hunter, on the 40th anniversary of his 1973 production of the piece for the Scorpio Rising Theatre, which ran for three years in repertory. It emphasizes Brecht's role as a savage, disenchanted social critic who distrusted governments -- all governments -- and includes songs from The Three-Penny Opera, Mother Courage and The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. Also in the mix are "The Jewish Wife" episode from Fears and Mysteries of the Third Reich, some clever and bitterly ironic poems and amusing anecdotes, all performed with gusto and finesse by the five-person ensemble of Gil Hagen-Hill, Daniel Houston-Davila, Belinda Howell, Susan Kussman and Gregg Lawrence. While the prose selections remind us of Brecht's quieter, more thoughtful side, it's the bitterly satiric Kurt Weill songs and ensembles that prove to be the highlights. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., June 9, 2 p.m. Continues through June 9, $25; students and seniors $18. Atwater Playhouse, 3191 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, 323-556-1636, www.atwaterplayhouse.com.
Lillias White: Performing her new show, A Woman On Love, with musical direction by American Idol's Michael Orland. Mon., June 10, 8:30 p.m., $30-$40. Catalina Bar & Grill, 6725 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-466-2210, www.catalinajazzclub.com.
Ceremony: Michael Kass' solo performance, which weaves a true tale of love, fear and Ayahuasca. In 2012, Michael met a girl who broke his heart open, so he quit his job and journeyed to Peru to delve into the world of Andean Shamanism. Sat., June 8, 1 p.m.; Thu., June 13, 11:30 p.m.; Sun., June 23, 1 p.m.; Wed., June 26, 10 p.m. Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
Cooking Oil: A play and public dialogue initiative written by BBC Award-winning Ugandan playwright Deborah Asiimwe, and directed by Emily Mendelsohn. A village reckons with the murder of a young girl, who sold free aid with a powerful, corrupt politician; she, to raise money for her school, and the politician, to raise money for political aspirations. The story unravels as the storytellers come to face their own complicity in an endless cycle. Layering traditional and contemporary music, dance, chant, and material of aid, Mendelsohn and Asiimwe interrogate dependence and the gaze at a suffering Other. The story uses contexts of international aid distribution and women's education to explore difficult justice. Featuring performances by Sammy Kamanzi, a celebrated musician and songwriter from Kigali, Esther Lutaaya, a member of Uganda's Latin Flavor, and many others. Presented by Los Angeles Performance Practice in association with the CalArts Center for New Performance, with support from the City of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Exchange International program. Fri., June 7, 8 p.m.; Sat., June 8, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., June 9, 2 & 8 p.m. AT1 Warehouse, Atwater Crossing Arts + Innovation Complex, 3245 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, www.atwatercrossing.com.
GO: Cops and Friends of Cops: The title Cops and Friends of Cops references the raucous "cops only" night held monthly at the tumbledown St. Louis bar in Ron Klier's suspenseful drama. While Dom (Paul Vincent O'Connor) prepares the bar for the night's guests, he is joined by the shabby-looking Paul (Johnny Clark), who insists on staying, in spite of Dom's repeated warnings that "the place is slammed with cops" and his prediction that things will "turn rowdy." After Emmett (Andrew Hawkes), plus Roosevelt (Rolando Boyce) and his soon-to-be-retired partner Sal (Gareth Williams), clamor in, the mood turns deeply malevolent -- fast. Emmett's inexplicable browbeating of Paul turns increasingly ugly and confrontational, while Sal's seemingly endless assortment of "all in good fun" racist jokes slowly begin to anger his young African-American partner. This initial ratcheting-up of tension, however, is nothing compared with what happens after a gun is suddenly produced and the reason for Paul's visit is revealed. What follows is anything but predictable. Klier's rough-hewn characters are completely convincing, and the script, in addition to forcefully probing issues of morality, bigotry, loss and redemption, takes hold and allows little in the way of relief, as does Klier's highly charged, violent staging. The ensemble work here is first-rate, while Danny Cistone nails his meticulously crafted bar mock-up, complete with pay phone and old-timey jukebox. (Lovell Estell III). Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 29, $25. VS. Theatre, 5453 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, www.vstheatre.org.
GO: : Dying City: When Peter (Burt Grinstead) unexpectedly shows up at Kelly's (Laurie Okin) Lower Manhattan apartment, the mood is prickly and awkward. That's understandable; Peter is the identical twin of her husband, Craig, a hard-as-nails soldier who recently died in a military accident in Iraq. But during their conversation, many questions tug at this pair, threatening to bring them down into an emotional undertow. Did Craig really die in an accident? Why is Kelly's phone number unlisted and why is she obscuring evidence she may be moving out? Christopher Shinn's writing is sophisticated and elusive, presenting only tantalizing fragments and expecting you to make the connections and piece the backstory together. The language is raw and real -- people really do talk this way -- and Shinn, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for this play, perfectly captures the discomfort of a relationship that exists only through a marital connection yet becomes cathected and extremely complicated. Director Michael Peretzian stages the one-act play well, using lighting and sound cues sparingly but above all extracting superb and deeply expressive performances from his cast of two. Both actors are called upon to negotiate some difficult emotional terrain, and Grinstead, in particular, demonstrates his range. (Pauline Adamek). Saturdays, 5 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Mondays, 8 p.m.; Mondays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 8, $30. Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 855-585-5185, www.roguemachinetheatre.com.
A Fried Octopus: A surreal night of theater, inspired by the dancing women of Toulouse Lautrec's paintings, about the male ideal of art and the feminine divine. Written by Alicia Adams and Justin Zsebe. See Stage feature: http://www.laweekly.com/2013-05-30/stage/fried-octopus-bootleg/full/. Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through June 8. Bootleg Theater, 2200 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, 213-389-3856, www.bootlegtheater.org.
Groundlings Prom After-Party: All-new sketch and improv, directed by Damon Jones. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 & 10 p.m. Continues through July 6. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-934-9700, www.groundlings.com.
Heart Song: A middle-aged Jewish woman struggling with a crisis of faith is convinced to join a flamenco class for "out of shape" women which forever changes her life. Written by Stephen Sachs. See Stage feature: http://www.laweekly.com/2013-05-30/stage/fried-octopus-bootleg/full/. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 14. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles, 323-663-1525, www.fountaintheatre.com.
Hemophelia's House of Horrors: This cheerfully ghoulish confection, conceived and directed by Dan Spurgeon, with sketches and songs by actor Matt DeNoto, is introduced by emcee Hemophelia (Lara Fisher), a white-face clown in convict-striped tights, who interacts with the audience and sings some zany songs. The horrors are generally tongue-in-cheek, geared to produce laughter rather than chills. The sketches depict a babysitter who persuades her young charges their Mommy is a murderous cyborg, a rather bemused Freddy in the 479th sequel to Friday the 13th, a pair of conjoined twin clowns who have a falling-out when one acquires a girlfriend, and a sinister doctor who eagerly harvests his brother's organs. The direction is tight, the music choices are clever, and there are enthusiastic performances by the eight-person ensemble, including, in addition to DeNoto and Fisher, Casey Christensen, Torrey Halverson, Samm Hill, Brian Prisco, Cloie Wyatt Taylor and Cynthia Zitter. The Visceral Company at the Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 10:30 p.m.; through June 8. thevisceralcompany.com. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 10:30 p.m. Continues through June 8, $15. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Los Angeles, 323-871-1150.
Hollywood Fringe Festival 2013: Over 1,000 performances of 200 plus performing arts productions will be presented at 20 venues throughout central Hollywood. Visit hollywoodfringe.org for a complete list of showtimes and locations. The Opening Night Party begins at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 12, at Fringe Central Station, the hub of the festival. The event will evoke a variety show atmosphere, with balloon twisters, freak show performers, close-up magic, a dance party and musicians playing throughout the night. Mondays-Sundays. Continues through June 30, prices vary by show, www.hollywoodfringe.org/. Fringe Central Station, 6314 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-455-4585, www.hollywoodfringe.org.
The House of Yes: A play by screenwriter and playwright Wendy McLeod, about an unbalanced familial homecoming for a young man and his new fiancé. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through June 30. Studio Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., Los Angeles, 323-463-3900, www.studio-stage.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). Sat., June 8, 7 p.m.; Sat., June 15, 7 p.m.; Tue., June 18, 8 p.m.; Sat., June 22, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., June 29, 5:30 p.m., combinedartform.com. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
Hungry Woman: A new play, written by Josefina López, based on an abridged adaptation of her novel, Hungry Woman in Paris. Rachel González stars in the central role of Canela Guerrero, a Chicano journalist who breaks off her marriage engagement, and uses tickets intended for her honeymoon to go to Paris alone so that she can find herself and the meaning of life. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through June 30. Casa 0101, 2102 E. 1st St., Los Angeles, 323-263-7684, www.casa0101.org.
I Am Google: What if Google was not a high tech search engine, but a regular guy in an apartment full of maps, calendars and reference books whose job was doing research 24 / 7 without time to crash? What if Twitter was his ex-girlfriend and currently dating Facebook. What if Wikipedia was just his know-it-all buddy giving him bad information while Bing seeks to destroy him at every turn? Come visit Google and get all your questions answered, LIVE and in person! Free cookies for all visitors! Written and performed by actor and computer expert Craig Ricci Shaynak. Thu., June 13, 2:30 p.m.; Sat., June 15, 11 p.m.; Wed., June 19, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., June 22, 10 p.m.; Fri., June 28, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., June 29, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., June 30, 5:30 p.m. Elephant Theatre Lab, 1078 N. Lilian Way, Los Angeles, 323-993-7204.
I Wasn't Trying To Be Funny: Comedian Sue Costello's one-woman show, about her life as she goes from nerdy kid to television star. After loosing it all, Costello is faced with the fact that the superficiality of the material world was the only thing propping her up. Thu., June 13, 8 p.m.; Fri., June 14, 8 p.m.; Sat., June 15, 8 p.m.; Sun., June 16, 8 p.m. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea, Los Angeles, 323-525-0202, www.acmecomedy.com.
Just Imagine: Backed by a live band, Tim Piper channels John Lennon in this multimedia rock 'n roll tribute that celebrates Lennon's life and music. Starting June 8, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Sat., July 6, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 7, 3 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Aug. 25. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-213-6955, www.thehayworth.com.Little Pussy: John Grady's one man performance of his true tales of being picked on, chased down, and beat up, from childhood to adulthood. Chosen as "Best of the FrigidNY Festival." Sun., June 9, 8 p.m.; Thu., June 20, 10 p.m.; Sat., June 22, 2 p.m.; Thu., June 27, 10 p.m.; Sat., June 29, 1:25 p.m. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-856-8611, www.theatreofnote.com.
GO: Long Way Go Down: In the shifting sands of the Southwest desert, two people desperate for a new beginning undergo an expensive and dangerous journey in the bottom of a semi-truck, piloted by a smuggler who expects payment on the other side. Written by Zayd Dohrn. Directed by Don K. Williams. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 7. Art of Acting Studio, 1017 N. Orange Drive, Los Angeles, 323-601-5310. See New Reviews
The Katrina Comedy Fest: In 2006, the mayor of New Orleans proposed celebrating Hurricane Katrina's first anniversary with a fireworks display and comedy hour, which was canceled due to public outrage. Through the words of five New Orleans residents, experience the heartbreak, humanity, and "comedy" of those who rode out the storm. Written by Rob Florence, directed by Misty Carlisle. Starting June 13, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 30. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-469-9988.
GO: The Matchmaker: Thornton Wilder, who wrote this zany philosophical farce, is a paradoxical figure. He was both deeply conservative -- intent on conserving the theatrical conventions and traditions of the past -- and an innovator who burst the bounds of realistic theater with plays like The Long Christmas Dinner, Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth. But perhaps his most memorable creation is the title character of this piece, Dolly Gallagher Levi (Lori Berg), the irrepressible matchmaker and all-around busybody, who sets her cap for wealthy businessman Horace Vandergelder (Dimitri Christy), and along the way solves the romantic dilemmas of everybody in the vicinity. Director Heather Chesley provides a production that initially seems pedestrian and heavy-handed but gains in momentum as it progresses. Most innovative are the increasingly frantic and loony dance interludes, by choreographer Julie Hall, employed to cover the set changes. In addition to those mentioned above, there are engaging performances by Ellis Greer as the determined milliner Irene Molloy, Joseph Barone as the naive clerk Barnaby and Katie Buderwitz as a vivacious Minnie Fay. Their performances, combined with Wilder's sunnily subversive wit, give the proceedings an air of festive celebration that sends the audience out beaming. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Sat., June 15, 2:30 p.m. Continues through June 16. David Schall Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., Los Angeles, 323-462-8460, www.actorsco-op.org.The North Plan: It's not so easy to milk laughter from a political nightmare. Or at least that seems to be the lesson offered by director David Fofi's staging of playwright Jason Wells' uneasy 2010 mix of paranoid conspiracy and black comedy. The play imagines the Department of Homeland Security engineering a coup whose success or failure pivots on retrieving an incriminating flash-drive file stolen by a dissenting State Department official (Chris Game). When he winds up in the hands of nefarious DHS agents (Dominic Rains, John Forest) at a podunk Missouri police station (on Joel Daavid's convincing set), the fate of the nation rests on whether he can enlist his thick-headed trailer-trash cellmate (Kerry Carney) to join the resistance. Though the farce fitfully kicks in with Act 2, a tediously expository first act and Carney's sledgehammer performance lends the evening all the comic appeal of Seven Days in May as played by Lucille Ball. (Bill Raden). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 8, opening night $35; regular performances $25; pay-what-you-can Thurs. May 2 only. Elephant Stages, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
One Night In Miami: Kemp Powers' historical fiction explores the night in 1964 that Cassius Clay defeated Sonny Liston to become heavyweight champion of the world, and Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and football player Jim Brown threw a party for him at a small hotel. Starting June 8, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through July 28. Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 855-585-5185, www.roguemachinetheatre.com.
Philosophy in the Boudoir: Brazilian theater company Os Satyros performs this explicit stage adaptation of the Marquis de Sade's 1795 book. This show contains frontal nudity, sex, and extreme violence. Audience discretion is advised. Thu., June 13, 8 p.m.; Fri., June 14, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., June 15, 10 p.m.; Sun., June 16, 7 p.m.; Mon., June 17, 9 p.m.; Wed., June 19, 10 p.m.; Thu., June 20, 10 p.m.; Sat., June 22, 12:30 p.m.; Mon., June 24, 10:30 p.m.; Tue., June 25, 10 p.m.; Thu., June 27, 8:30 p.m.; Fri., June 28, 11:59 p.m.; Sat., June 29, 10:30 p.m. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
Rent: Because of its repetitive musicality, rock opera Rent lives or dies on the vocal strength of its cast. This production has mostly excellent, robust and irrepressible singing that is only occasionally obliterated by the mediocre live band. The plot of Jonathan Larson's legendary Broadway smash in some ways clings to its source material (Henri Murger's novel and Puccini's opera), gaining gravitas with its contemporary updating to Manhattan in the mid-'90s. Tuberculosis becomes AIDS, the oppressed mobilize and artists sell out. This production's highlights include the hilarious "Tango: Maureen" (sung by Reagan Osborne and Kate Bowman) and "Light My Candle" (Juan Lozano and the sultry Lauren Joy Goss as a sexed-up Mimi). Jonathon Grant steals the show with his dynamite performance as cheeky drag queen Angel, especially in his athletic first solo, "Today 4 You." Director Kristen Boulé never finds the balance between the show's rock & roll power and its quiet, reflective ballads, and commencing Act Two in full house lights undermines the dreamy, multipart harmonies of "Seasons of Love." (Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through June 30. Hudson Theatres, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.Rodeo Town: A yuppie dentist gets pulled into the lore of a dusty, unmarked place called Rodeo Town when his Range Rover breaks down in the middle of a road trip. Written by Graham Bowlin. Directed by Cameron Strittmatter. Fridays, Saturdays, 7 p.m. Continues through June 29. East Theatre at the Complex, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
The Ruby Besler Cabaret: A funny, sexy show starring principal writer and producer Anastasia Barnes. Her character, Ruby, goes to secretarial school in Manhattan while pursuing the dream of being a Broadway star. Along the way, she beds and loses a great love before moving on to the next chapter of an adventurous life. Tue., June 11, 8:30 p.m.; Fri., June 14, 7 p.m.; Thu., June 20, 10 p.m.; Tue., June 25, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., June 29, 10 p.m. Elephant Stages, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
Sewer Rats at Sea: A genre-bending production exploring what happens when a stowaway sneaks aboard a yacht and falls for a stunning woman whose wit matches his own. The drama plays out at sea as characters, trapped, find their secrets slipping out. Written by 20-year-old playwright ZK Lowenfels. Sat., June 8, 5:30 p.m.; Sun., June 16, 2:30 p.m.; Thu., June 20, 11:30 p.m.; Mon., June 24, 7 p.m.; Sat., June 29, 8:30 p.m. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
GO: The Size of Pike: Boys will be boys and men will be men, though the distinction between the two is more likely one of personal income rather than emotional maturity. Or so it is with the three middle-aged children (Dennis Delsing, Jon Amirkhan and Gregg Christie) who explore their frayed adult bonds in this engaging revival of playwright Lee Wochner's poignant 1996 comedy. Part of Moving Arts' "20/20 Vision," its 20th-anniversary season of retrospective restagings, the watchwords of director Sara Wagner's audience-immersive production (on Aaron Francis' shabbily un-chic apartment set) are up close and personal -- any closer and you'd be sitting in the actors' laps. The play's action takes place on the eve of the trio's annual fishing trip. Its highlight is Amirkhan playing Costello to Delsing's Abbott in a hilariously extended riff involving a tall tale about a six-inch pike. But such fish stories are central to Wochner's meditation on changing generational codes of masculinity -- a shift that has left Delsing's truculent but physically ravaged carpenter increasingly at odds with his office-working childhood chums as he quixotically tries to live up to a model of pride and rugged self-reliance that no longer has meaning or relevance in a world defined solely by the commodity. (Bill Raden). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 15, $20. Moving Arts, 1822 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles, 323-666-3259, www.movingarts.org.
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.
Translations: The story of a small community of impoverished Irish farmers in the early 19th century, and the British soldiers who set up camp in their village during a mission to translate every geographic name from Gaelic into English. Written by Brian Friel. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through June 23. Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, 323-871-5830. See New Reviews.
21st Annual Young Playwrights Festival: Including: The Gates by Margaret Abigail Flowers, Interlochen, MI, Age 17; Mom, Put Your Flask Away by Eliana Pipes, Altadena, CA, Age 16; Downsizing by Nick Mecikalski, Madison, AL, Age 19; Sox by Spencer Emerson Opal-Levine, Sarasota, FL, Age 10; Eve by Patric Verrone, Pacific Palisades, CA, Age 17; Survival Strategy by Nicole Acton, Galesburg, IL, Age 19; Sam's Birthday Party by Tanner Laguatan, Coto de Caza, CA, Age 17; Reve D'Amour by May Treuhaft-Ali, Jackson Heights, NY, Age 17; Black Ice by Max Friedlich, New York, NY, Age 18; Not A Good Time by Hanel Baveja, Ann Arbor, MI Age 16; Gay Means Happy by Rachel Kaly, Forest Hills, NY, Age 17; and The Empty Man by Danny Rothschild, Interlochen, MI, Age 19. Visit youngplaywrights.com for a full schedule and list of performances. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 30, www.youngplaywrights.com/. The Blank Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-661-9827, www.theblank.com.
We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South-West Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915: The West Coast premiere of Jackie Sibblies Drury's chilling and funny new work about a group of actors who lose control of their play and discover some startling hidden truths. What could possibly go wrong when a group of eager young amateur actors attempt to dramatize genocide? Starting June 8, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 11. Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-852-1445, www.matrixtheatre.com.
White Hot: A dark, psychological thriller by playwright Tommy Smith, about a love triangle between a troubled woman, her sexy sister, and her opportunistic husband. Fri., June 7, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., June 15, 10 p.m.; Tue., June 18, 10 p.m.; Tue., June 25, 7 p.m.; Fri., June 28, 7 p.m. Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
Attack of the Rotting Corpses: Zombie Joe's disgusting new thriller-comedy about a condo complex in the San Fernando Valley, where the water supply becomes contaminated with a dangerous microbe, transforming the residents (and their pets) into ravenous, flesh-eating zombies. Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues through July 12. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.Cooperstown: Brian Golden's drama is a well-intentioned homage to the monumental career of Jackie Robinson, with the action set in a diner (a stunner by Desma Murphy) in Cooperstown on the eve of Robinson's Hall of Fame induction. Junior (Cecil Burroughs), a black man, hopes to wheedle a promotion to manager of the diner from its white owner, whose cynical political ambitions would be aided by hosting the induction dinner. Trouble looms, however, because of a planned civil-rights protest by Junior's ultra-militant sister (Jamye Grant) and her cohorts. On site for the ceremony is an endearing baseball groupie (TJ McNeill), whose amorous puppy-dog attachment to waitress Dylan (Alexa Shoemaker) makes for a humorous diversion but is as insubstantial as Junior's puzzling relationship with the owner's neglected wife (Ann Hu). There is much to enjoy here, especially if you're a baseball fan. Director Darryl Johnson's cast perform consistently well, but Golden's winding, here-and-there script makes disappointingly ineffective use of the rich potential of the subject matter. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 20. NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd., Los Angeles.
GO: The Crucible: Arthur Miller's play, first produced on Broadway in 1953, was Miller's impassioned response to McCarthyism and the witch-hunts launched by the House Un-American Activities Committee. But the fact that it has become an oft-produced American classic and the basis for two films (including a French version with screenplay by Jean-Paul Sartre) reminds us that it's not just a political screed. Miller presents the Salem witch trials, and the ensuing executions, as a lethal combination of greed, personal resentment, religious fanaticism and hysteria, ordinary human fears and the need to find someone to blame for all misfortunes. It was a climate in which honesty and integrity were dangerous, and lies and manipulation could thrive. Co-directors Armin Shimerman and Geoffrey Wade have given the piece a highly presentational production, in which the actors deliver their lines directly to the audience rather than to each other. This approach drives the ideas home with force and clarity but some loss of psychological subtlety. The large ensemble (all roles are double-cast) delivers a production that is powerful and always engrossing. There are especially fine portrayals, in the performance reviewed, by James Sutorious as Deputy Governor Danforth, Bo Foxworth as John Proctor and Ann Noble as Reverend Hale. (Neal Weaver). Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 6. The Antaeus Company and Antaeus Academy, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, antaeus.org
Fool For Love: A 1983 Sam Shepard play about Eddie, a rodeo stuntman, and May, his "forever connection," whom he finds living in a motel in the Mojave Desert. Directed by Gloria Gifford. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through June 23, www.tix.com/Schedule.asp?ActCode=92083. T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, 818-205-1680. See New Reviews.
GO: Mahmoud: Like it or not, in a country of melting-pot mongrels, the dislocating immigrant experience is part of our cultural DNA. So it is no surprise that performer Tara Grammy's partly autobiographical solo show (co-written with Tom Arthur Davis) about Toronto's Iranian expatriate community should resonate with such poignant and universal familiarity. Grammy interweaves multiple characters: Mahmoud, a middle-aged cab driver and refugee from the Khomeini revolution; a flamboyant Spanish gay man and his Iranian boyfriend, who has returned to Tehran on family business; and Grammy herself, both as an adolescent born in Tehran but raised in Canada, and as an adult struggling to launch a career in Toronto's film and TV industry. The freshest and funniest material -- aided by Davis' smart and brisk staging -- belongs to the 11-year-old Tara and her fixation on somehow mitigating the physical differences between her own dark complexion and that of her class's most popular blond, blue-eyed girl. What ultimately thwarts all the characters, however, is an Iran of the imagination whose relation to the truth becomes increasingly problematic as headlines from that country's 2009 elections hint at a more complicated and disturbing reality. (Bill Raden). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 29. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-990-2324, www.whitefiretheatre.com.Perennial: A new play about love and how we screw it up, written by and starring Tammy Minoff. Friends enter into new relationships and struggle to keep old ones together in New York City. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 29. Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Drive, Burbank, 818-558-5702, www.sidewalkstudiotheatre.com. See New Reviews.
Republic County: Joe Musso's comedy about a county unemployment office manager and her mission to restrain shiftless, hell-bent poets (including Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Edgar Allan Poe), from devouring free government cheese. Starting June 8, Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through July 6. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.GO: Shakespeare's Richard III: Shakespeare's account of the deformed, devious usurper to England's throne runs the longest of the history plays, coming in just slightly shorter than Hamlet. Zombie Joe's version, Shakespeare's Richard III, edited and directed by Denise Devin, pares the tale to its most salacious bits in a breathlessly plotted, hourlong production. From Richard's snarling opening monologue, the action charges ahead at a breakneck pace, with several castmates doubling or tripling in the minor roles. This is Shakespeare for the very busy, and for those who like their Bard with a helping of humor and horror. From Richard's (W. Lochridge O'Bryan) casual handling of Hastings' (Tyler McAuliffe) detached head to the aggressively corporal spirits who shriek "Despair, and die!" on the eve of his ousting, the evil is satisfying if not particularly subtle. O'Bryan gives a delicious performance as the humpbacked, villainous king, who disposes of brothers, nephews, friends and wife on his grim ascent to the throne. Richard's coffin-side seduction of Lady Anne (Anna Gillcrist) crackles with lust, while his later entreaties to Queen Elizabeth (Sarah Fairfax) to marry her daughter, his niece, disgust with their attendant creepiness. Devin keeps a tight rein on the production, though a few more beats would give these scenes the rest they deserve. (Jenny Lower). Fridays, 8:30 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through June 16. 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 Aug. 25, 800-595-4849, smokeandmirrorsmagic.com. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, www.lankershimartscenter.com.
Stuck in Neutral: What's it like to be an intelligent person with a rich inner life yet be unable to communicate? in this adaptation of Terry Trueman's novel, the main character, Shawn (Jonathan D. Black), has cerebral palsy and cannot speak or use his limbs. yet his inner self responds to life with all the kinetic energy and sexual curiosity of a typical adolescent. Shawn's mother (Mary Carrig) and siblings love him unconditionally, but his father (David Michael Trevino) is profoundly disturbed by Shawn's disability; he believes his son is suffering and contemplates killing him to spare him pain. adapted by Allison Cameron Gray and Matt Chorpenning and directed by David P. Johnson, the play raises important questions, but needs considerably more work to be transformed from an earnest exploration of the issues to a solid, character-centered drama. As Shawn, Black is appropriately cheeky but in other ways miscast. Trevino is stiff and unconvincing as his dad. Several supporting performers display more gravitas but are held in check by the melodrama, including Carrig, Amy Greenspan as Shawn's sister, Swati Kapila as his dream girl and John Walcutt as an inmate who went to prison for murdering his disabled child. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m..; Sun., 2 p.m.; through June 9. themightyorbits.com/stuck_in_neutral/. (Deborah Mlugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 9. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, 877-620-7673, www.secretrose.com.
Through a Glass Darkly: In playwright Jenny Worton's adaptation of Ingmar Bergman's 1964 brooding film, the often transcendent sadness of the cinematic original makes only a tepidly involving transition to the stage. Sparks fly and despair settles in like the crust atop chocolate pudding for members of a Swedish family during its vacation. The escalating mental illness of daughter Karin (Meg Wallace) is prompting her to say things like, "Vacations mean you have all the time to look into the abyss!" As Karin disappears more into a world of delusion, dad David (Anthony Auer) seems more interested in finishing his novel -- with tragic results. Director Steve Jarrard's staging captures the underlying melancholy of the film, but the adaptation lacks the subtlety of Bergman's original -- this production is claustrophobic and ponderous. Wallace offers a genuinely moving turn as the emotionally decomposing daughter, but Auer's bristly, self pitying David misses the gravitas needed to locate his character's sympathetic elements. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through July 7. Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-720-2009, www.ravenplayhouse.com.
Urban Death: Zombie Joe's Underground's horror stories. Saturdays, 11 p.m. Continues through June 8. 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: Annapurna: Husband and wife actors Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman star in this drama by Sharr White, about two old lovers who reunite for the first time in twenty years. See Stage feature: http://www.laweekly.com/2013-04-25/stage/a-pair-of-two-person-shows-one-starring-comedy-couple-nick-offerman-and-megan-mullaly-lt-em-gt-annapurna-lt-em-gt-and-lt-em-gt-years-to-the-day-lt-em-gt-reviewed/. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 9, $25-$30. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged): ALL the comedies, ALL the tragedies, ALL the histories, and even a nod to the sonnets, all compressed neatly into a 97-minute package, performed by three actors. Written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through June 30. Promenade Playhouse, 1404 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, 310-656-8070, www.promenadeplayhouse.com.
I'm Not Rappaport: A new stage production of the Tony award-winning comedy by Herb Gardner, in which seniors Midge, an African American, and Nat, a Jewish man, meet in Central Park and develop a friendship. Directed by Howard Teichman. See Stage feature: http://www.laweekly.com/2013-05-02/stage/colorblind-im-not-rappaport/full/. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through June 23, $35. Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-204-4440, www.picoplayhouse.com.
Ionescopade, A Musical Vaudeville: Taken from the works of "Theatre of the Absurd" playwright Eugène Ionesco, this is a zany musical vaudeville featuring mime, farce and parody. Music and lyrics by Mildred Kayden, original concept by Robert Allan Ackerman, directed and choreographed by Bill Castellino. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thu., June 13, 8 p.m.; Wed., June 19, 8 p.m.; Thu., June 27, 8 p.m.; Thu., July 11, 8 p.m.; Wed., July 17, 8 p.m.; Thu., July 25, 8 p.m.; Wed., July 31, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 11. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.
A Midsummer Night's Dream: William Shakespeare's tale of four young lovers, a traveling troupe of actors, and the mystical fairies who manipulate them all. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., June 30, 7 p.m. Continues through June 30. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.
GO: One White Crow: Playwright Dale Griffiths Stamos' drama boasts a charged debate about faith versus science that's engagingly even-handed and surprisingly evocative. Renowned TV celebrity psychic Judith Knight (Michelle Danner) offers an exclusive interview to hard-boiled reporter Teresa (Jane Hajduk), who is mystified by the request, given that she is a fierce disbeliever in the occult and is also the daughter of Christopher Hitchens-like religious skeptic Robert. Robert has recently died and Teresa is sure that Judith is scheming some sort of fake séance for PR purposes -- but the real truth turns out to be far more ambiguous and disturbing. Director Deborah LaVine's nicely character-driven staging crafts figures who represent two extreme poles of dogmatic belief -- Teresa and her Richard Dawkins-like boyfriend Alex (a nicely prickly Rob Estes) contrast arrestingly with Danner's Knight, whose inscrutable, Paula Dean-meets-carnival fortune-teller persona is fascinating. Although Stamos' plot runs out of steam at the end, and the dialogue occasionally falters into banality, the premise is enough to make the play intellectually intriguing. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through June 23, $35. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, 310-399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.
Opening Night: This mildly entertaining backstage comedy about the ill-fated debut of an awful play features a talented cast under Bruce Gray's able direction. But Norm Foster's screwball story stays afloat on a raft of cliches and pointed winks: A cultural philistine and his long-suffering wife ring in their silver anniversary during Game Seven of the World Series. An oily director manages his buxom ingenue under his girlfriend's watchful eye, while a starry-eyed waiter banters with a washed-up Shakespearean. Et cetera. The caricatures are meant to make us feel superior to the rubes onstage, but the half-funny jokes grow forced. Despite pitch-perfect performances (Gail Johnston, John Combs and David Hunt Stafford are special standouts), some tender moments and a second act that's snappier than the first, we can see the character arcs coming from a mile away. For a play whose characters grandly extemporize on the magic of theater, this show could use more of its own. (Jenny Lower). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 16. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno, Beverly Hills, 310-364-0535, www.theatre40.org.
GO: 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 June 30. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, 310-399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.
TRU Benefit Reading: Robert Morse stars in this benefit reading of his Tony Award-winning play. Written by Jay Presson Allen, from the works of Truman Capote. Sat., June 8, 8 p.m. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice, 310-822-8392, www.pacificresidenttheatre.com.
GO: Years to the Day: A dark comedy written by Allen Barton about two 40-something men who have been friends for decades, and who finally get together for coffee after only staying in touch via social media. See Stage feature: http://www.laweekly.com/2013-04-25/stage/a-pair-of-two-person-shows-one-starring-comedy-couple-nick-offerman-and-megan-mullaly-lt-em-gt-annapurna-lt-em-gt-and-lt-em-gt-years-to-the-day-lt-em-gt-reviewed/. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 29, $25-$35. Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310-855-1556, www.bhplayhouse.com.