Theater to See in L.A. This Week, Including One Actor's Excursion into Peruvian Drugs
This week's theater feature, on the shadows that govern our lives, looks at Shakespeare Center of L.A.'s A Midsummer Night's Dream, (in the Japanese Garden of West L.A.'s VA grounds) and Critical Mass Performance Group's Alcestis, at Boston Court.
NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication July 18, 2013
|Critical Mass Performance Group|
BRENDAN Ronan Noone's middling seriocomedy treads the familiar narrative of the newly arrived immigrant seeking to assimilate into American society. Brendan (Patrick Quinlan) is a hale and hearty Irish lad living in Boston, but his shy, reserved demeanor isn't helpful when it comes to finding that special lady. Adding to his problems is the constant presence of his mother's ghost (Kathleen M. Darcy), whose advice and hectoring furnish some of the play's funniest moments. Eventually he takes up with a prostitute (Catia Ojeda), who also doubles as his driving instructor, and he at last finds a deeper relationship with the beautiful Rose (Devereau Chumrau). Parceled into more than 30 scene/segments -- some of which are way overwritten -- this sentimental tale, which is blended with a substantial bit of melodrama, would have been better if the relationships that are at the heart of the story were more substantial. McKerrin Kelly directs a good cast. Theatre Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia, Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m..; Sun., 2 p.m..; through Aug. 18. (818) 846-5323, theatrebanshee.org. (Lovell Estell III)
PICK OF THE WEEK: CEREMONY
GO: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
|Wyatt Fenner and Paul Perri|
NINE There are two potential audiences for Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit's 1982 musical fantasia woven from Federico's Fellini's 8 1/2. The first is those evangelical cineastes that can't get enough of the auteur's highly personal baroque surrealism. The second is those who can appreciate Yeston's solid collection of reflective ballads, sizzling torch songs and clever music-hall numbers in spite of Kopit's problematically attenuated book. Unfortunately, neither will find much to like in director Marco Gomez's uninspired and decidedly un-Felliniesque revival (on Amanda Lawson's drab cinderblock set). As the story's sexually charged but woman-troubled film director, David Michael Treviño proves an unusually low-voltage romantic lead. It's a drawback that retards whatever sparks might have flown among the admittedly uneven, nearly all-female ensemble. As Luisa, Melissa Anjose nails the signature tunes "My Husband Makes Movies" and "Be on Your Own," but it is Toni Smith who shows all the right stuff in a standout turn as Claudia. DOMA Theatre Company at Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford, E. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Aug. 18. (323) 802-4990, domatheatre.com. (Bill Raden)
PACK UP THE MOON
|Ben Fuller, Emilia Richeson and David Jeffe|
GO: SISTER ACT Sister Act's story of a murder witness hiding out in a convent is similar to a summer blockbuster in that it viscerally excites despite a flimsy premise and plot points advanced through coincidences of convenience. Transposed from the 1992 movie to 1970s Philadelphia, this tuner features songs from legendary composer Alan Menken, who nicely layers in the '70s soundscape, and a book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner, sitcom veterans who don't fully disguise their oeuvre. Ta'Rea Campbell, as a spunky, funky and funny Deloris Van Cartier, plays perfectly off the delightfully dry wit of Hollis Resnik's Mother Superior. Both actresses showcase resonant voices and are supported by a solid cast with standouts that include E. Clayton Cornelious (a lovable "Sweaty" Eddie), Florrie Bagel (a tremendously energetic Sister Mary Patrick), Lael Van Keuren (the demure but feisty Mary Robert), Diane J. Findlay (Mary Lazarus) and Richard Pruitt (Monsignor O'Hara). Veteran director Jerry Zaks clearly understands comic timing, and his vision is fully realized by Klara Zieglerova's sparkly set, Natasha Katz's colorful lighting and Lez Brotherston's amazing costumes. It's hardly a groundbreaking work that lingers, but it's a fun ride while it lasts. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through July 28. (800) 982-2787, hollywoodpantages.com. (Mayank Keshaviah)
RUBY WAX: STILL OUT OF HER MIND American Ruby Wax, former script editor of TV series Absolutely Fabulous and host of several BBC comedy talk shows, is a fixture of British television, serving as a sage commentator on English custom even as she comically embodies the honking-voiced, stereotyped behavior of tacky Americans abroad. In this solo show, conceived and performed by perky Wax, she combines her assured showmanship and comic flair with a substantially darker meditation on her own lifelong battles with depression. The results of this melding of her often compelling, crisp and glib comic patter with the darker discussion of mental illness are strangely uneven, though. As a humorist, Wax's flair for one-liners and barbed banter is almost without peer and the performer's droll skewering of her targets, such as the Kardashians or a certain type of uptight, British "yummy mummy," are hilariously scathing. However, it's a tougher trick for Wax to transition from snark to sincere attempts at describing her illness -- the abrasiveness of the comedy, while humorously effective, undercuts attempts at being vulnerable. The Edye at the Broad Stage, 1310 11th Street, Santa Monica; Wed.-Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 5 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 5 p.m.; through July 21. (310) 434-3200, thebroadstage.com/ruby-wax. (Paul Birchall)
SUBURBAN SHOWGIRL In this solo show conceived and performed by perky pro dancer-actress Palmer Davis, the travails of invented character Wendy Walker apparently hew closely to her own life experiences. Suburban Showgirl presents the trials and tribulations of a woman who's been passionate about ballet since she was young but whose leggy stature eventually steered her into glittering, plumed costumes and onto the stages of Broadway. Marriage and her first of two babies don't quite derail a white-hot career; she switches to the less demanding tasks of teaching dance while serving as a magician's assistant. Though Walker is bringing in the bread while juggling mommy duties for two toddlers, Davis stops short of dissing her unreliable, alcoholic husband, even claiming, unconvincingly, "He's a great father!" She does let his negligent behavior speak for itself, though. The first third (of the 80 minutes) feels slow, but eventually Davis wins you over with her playfulness and superb dancing prowess, often relying on mime, song and costume changes and adeptly adopting numerous personae. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; through Aug. 4. (818) 763-0086, thenohoartscenter.com. (Pauline Adamek)
ONGOING SHOWS IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE:
Cirque-A-Palooza Festival: Justin Willman: Tricked Out:
The conjurer blends comedy and magic. Fri., July 19, 8 p.m.; Sat., July
20, 8 p.m., $20 & $30 general admission for single event, festival
passes $99, VIP festival passes $150. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El
Molino Ave., Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.
Galileo: Part of the "Words Within" Wednesday-night reading series, this drama by Bertolt Brecht examines Galileo's struggles with religious authorities during the Roman Inquisition. Wed., July 24, 7 p.m. A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, 626-356-3100, www.anoisewithin.org.
I Do! I Do!: The story of Michael and Agnes and their fifty years of marriage takes place around a large four-post bed and features the musical standard, "My Cup Runneth Over." Book by Harvey Schmidt, music and lyrics by Tom Jones, directed by Alan Souza. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Sat., July 20, 2 p.m.; Thu., July 25, 2 p.m.; Sat., July 27, 2 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 1, 2 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 3, 2 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 8, 2 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 10, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 11. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, 949-497-2787, www.lagunaplayhouse.com.The Judy Show: My Life as a Sitcom: Obsessed by the fantasy families of TV shows she devotedly watched while growing up, "6-foot-2, observant Jew and lesbian mom of two" Judy Gold apparently has spent most of her adult life pitching uninterested network executives a sitcom about her unremarkable life. Instead, we have a play called The Judy Show that has nominally been transferred to the stage from a stand-up comedy club. That is to say, the 85-minute show remains an extended stand-up piece. There's an added scenic element of seven television screens of varying size positioned upstage displaying everything from baby photos and brief home movies to images from the iconic TV family sitcoms to which Gold makes frequent reference, plus an upright piano on which she occasionally bashes out a show's theme. She traces her experiences at Jewish summer camp, high school, Rutgers and, later, her career as a stand-up comedian and her family life. The jokes fall flat and Gold's story doesn't bear sharing. (Pauline Adamek). Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through July 28. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.
Legally Blonde: The Musical: In Heather Hach's lighthearted musical, Elle Woods goes back to school and surprises everyone, including herself, about how smart she really is. Look out, Harvard Law School, here she comes! Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 20, 2 p.m.; Sun., July 21, 2 p.m.; Thu., July 25, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., July 27, 2 p.m.; Sun., July 28, 2 p.m. Continues through July 28. Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 805-449-2700.
Merlin: The Untold Adventures: Written by Ellen Geer and set against an electronic musical score by composer Marshall McDaniel & Kellen McDaniel, this is a retelling of the epic about Merlin, the legendary wizard and adviser to King Arthur. Sat., July 20, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 21, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., July 27, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 28, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 3, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 4, 3:30 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 9, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 11, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 17, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 18, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 24, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 25, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 31, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 1, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 7, 8 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 14, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 15, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Sept. 20, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 22, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Sept. 27, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, 310-455-3723, www.theatricum.com/index.html.
GO: A Midsummer Night's Dream: The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles is known for its original interpretations of the Bard's plays, and this version of Shakespeare's comedy is set in L.A. in the 1950s and early 1960s. Tuesdays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 28. Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles, Japanese Gardens of the V.A. Grounds, San Vicente and Wilshire blvds., West Los Angeles. 213-481-2273, www.shakespearecenter.org. See Theater Feature.
A Parallelogram: Bruce Norris' dark comedy examines main character Bee's ability to look into the future. Given this gift, she questions if she should reinvent destiny or accept that life is basically unalterable. Starting July 21, Sun., July 21, 7 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through Aug. 18. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772. www.centertheatregroup.org
The Royal Family: The work's the thing in George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's gentle 1927 spoof of the Barrymore dynasty, which forms the centerpiece of Theatricum Botanicum's 40th-anniversary season. The venerable, oak-nestled venue's own founding family fills in as the board-treading Cavendish clan. Artistic director Ellen Geer slings Downton Abbey-worthy zingers as dowager Fanny, while sister Melora Marshall and daughter Willow Geer carry the torch as the next generations of theatrical luminaries. All three women nail the benign entitlement and cozy security that comes from knowing you're an institution, but the dated material may be more thrilling for its cast than the audience. More compelling than the distant Barrymores is the play's exploration of pursuing the creative life at the cost of domestic and personal stability. Director Susan Angelo wisely avoids interfering with her cast's marvelous instincts, but a tighter rein would keep us from sharing Marshall's bewilderment when the madcap pace proves too frenetic. (Jenny Lower). Sat., July 20, 4 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 4, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 10, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 17, 4 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 18, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 25, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 31, 4 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 7, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 8, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 15, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 21, 4 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 28, 4 p.m. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, 310-455-3723, www.theatricum.com/index.html.Sister Act: The Musical: A feel-good musical comedy about a wannabe diva who enters into the witness protection program, and ends up bonding with an unlikely crew of sisters. With original music by Oscar award-winning composer Alan Menken. Fri., July 19, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 20, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., July 21, 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Tue., July 23, 8 p.m.; Wed., July 24, 8 p.m.; Thu., July 25, 8 p.m.; Fri., July 26, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 27, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., July 28, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 800-982-2787, www.broadwayla.org. See New Reviews.
Sunset Boulevard: Andrew Lloyd Webber's popular musical celebrates its 20th anniversary in SoCal. Faded silent-movie star Norma Desmond longs for a return to the movie screen. In her mind, her glamor never faded away, "It's the pictures that got small." When she meets screenwriter Joe Gillis, it sets in motion a volatile relationship with tragic results. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 20, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., July 21, 2 & 7 p.m.; Thu., July 25, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 27, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., July 28, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through July 28. Richard & Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach, 562-985-7000, www.carpenterarts.org.
ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS:
Beirut: Set in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, Alan Browne's dramatic play is a stunning yet sobering look at a man named "Torch" who lives in an impoverished room in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He is quarantined after testing positive to a nameless disease which sounds alot like AIDS. His girlfriend, "Blue", who is not infected, makes the journey across the quarantine line to be with him. "A Romeo and Juliet of the Burroughs but with this production, the director has cast two women". Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 4. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-465-4446, www.theatreasylum-la.com.Bob Baker's It's a Musical World!: The Bob Baker Marionette Theater continues its 53rd season with a day at the circus, a stop at an enchanted toy shop, and a visit to a teddy bear's picnic. Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Continues through Sept. 29. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., Los Angeles, 213-250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.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. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 27. Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-852-9111.
PICK OF THE WEEK: 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. Fri., July 19, 8 p.m.; Fri., July 26, 10 p.m. Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com. See New Reviews.
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 Aug. 5, $30. Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 855-585-5185, www.roguemachinetheatre.com.Garbo's Cuban Lover: Odalys Nanin's dramedy focuses on the enigmatic poet, novelist and playwright Mercedes de Acosta and her notable lovers from the Silver Screen, which included divas Greta Garbo, Nazimova and Marlene Dietrich. Starting July 20, Sat., July 20, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 21, 3 p.m.; Sun., July 28, 3 & 7 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Aug. 25. Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood, 323-654-0680, www.machatheatre.org/home.html.
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 Aug. 25. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles, 323-663-1525, www.fountaintheatre.com.
Hot Love: Rock & roll and comedy collide in Darien Dane & Darren Herczeg's rock musical about the ups and downs of a group named Hot Love. Fri., July 19, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 20, 8 p.m. Bootleg Theater, 2200 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, 213-389-3856, www.bootlegtheater.org.
The Interview: An existential look at guns, violence and the media, Michael Franco's dark comedy focuses on an American citizen who's detained for unknown reasons in an unknown location. Sun., July 21, 7 p.m.; Thu., July 25, 8 p.m. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
Just Imagine: Although the wow factor is missing, aficionados of John Lennon probably will appreciate this tribute to the iconic musician, which juxtaposes renditions of his most famous songs with a narrative of his life. Lennon impersonator and lead singer Tim Piper addresses the audience in a confiding manner as he relates events in Lennon's life -- his troubled boyhood in Liverpool culminating in the death of his mother, up through The Beatles, his marriage to Yoko Ono and his transformation into a family man and spokesman for the counterculture antiwar movement. There are no surprises in writer-director Steve Altman's script, and watching and listening to Piper, an American donning a Liverpool accent, failed to persuade me that I was hearing the real McCoy. That said, Piper's backup band, Working Class Hero, performs well and provides an opportunity for those who wish to reimagine the legend to do so. (Deborah Klugman). 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.
Kimberly Akimbo: David Lindsay-Abaire's dark comedy examines a teenager with a rare condition that makes her age at an alarming rate. She also has to deal with a hypochondriac mom, a drunken father and a new lover. Proceeds shared with the Projeria Research Foundation. Sat., July 20, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 21, 8 p.m.; Thu., July 25, 8 p.m.; Fri., July 26, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 27, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 28, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 1, 8 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 2, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 3, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 4, 8 p.m.; Mon., Aug. 5, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 8, 8 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 9, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 10, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 11, 8 p.m. Studio Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., Los Angeles, 323-463-3900, www.studio-stage.com.
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot: Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis (The Motherfucker With the Hat) puts the Bible's most infamous traitor on trial in a modern-day courtroom and examines the meaning of forgiveness modern, urban and scathingly provocative contemplation on the meaning of forgiveness by playwright (), the Bible's most known traitor is tried in a present-day municipal courtroom. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 24. Hudson Theatres, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
The Last Days of Mary Stuart: Director Becca Wolff has created an "electro-opera," as it is designated in the program notes, about the tumultuous reign and ugly demise of the woman known as Mary, Queen of Scots. It's a mostly successful venture, but don't come expecting a lesson about this extraordinarily messy chapter in English history. Wolff has taken a bare minimum of facts and, combined with hefty creative license, crafted an entertaining musical that features some good vocals and an inviting electronica score by Byron Kahr and John Nixon. It all takes place in an intimate night-club setting, complete with tables for your drinks. Marianne Thompson does the honors as Mary Stuart, and Laila Ayad is Elizabeth I, with both actresses bringing searing passion to Wolff's lyrics. The electronica band of Kahr, Nixon and Ryan Adlaf do their part with the musical arrangements, while Elizabeth Harper furnishes an eerie but effective lighting schema. Forget the history; come for the songs and music. (Lovell Estell III). Saturdays, 8 & 10:30 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 20. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, 213-351-3507, www.sonofsemele.org.
Love Songs, A Musical: This world premiere of Steven Cagan's amorous musical hardly feels like a full-fledged production. First off, James Esposito's set is little more than some black cubes and stools on a bare stage. Add to that the fact that A. Lynn Downey's lights are wincingly and monotonously bright throughout, and the production has to be carried on the backs (and vocal cords) of the actors. The cast, portraying three couples in different stages of their relationships all staying at the same resort hotel, delivers Cagan's generically sweet melodies with aplomb, aided by Stuart Elster's yeoman piano work. The actors seem hampered by the lack of scenery, however, and mechanically execute director-choreographer Kay Cole's limited choreography and awkwardly presentational blocking. Despite Cagan's and Cole's credits, this bare-bones launch of a show, whose sung-through nature demands clearer direction and design to help the audience invest in the characters and navigate the story, seems premature. (Mayank Keshaviah). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 28, www.crtheatre.com/lovesongs.html. Chromolume Theatre, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-205-1617, www.chromolume-theatre.com.
Nickel and Dimed: Joan Holden's dramatic adaptation of Barbara Ehrenreich's bestseller examines whether a middle-aged, middle-class woman can survive when she suddenly has to make beds all day in a hotel and live on $7 an hour. Starting July 20, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Aug. 25. Hudson Theatres, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
Nine: Based on Federico Fellini's classic film 8 1/2, Arthur Kopit's musical sweeps the audience into the glamor of Italian cinema, as world-famous director Guido Contini tries to come up with a plot for his next film while trying to balance the numerous women in his life. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Aug. 18. The Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles, 323-957-1152, www.themettheatre.com. See New Reviews.
GO: One Night in Miami: Although rooted in a historic event, Kemp Powers' period piece about a meeting between Sam Cooke, Jim Brown, Malcolm X and Cassius Clay is less about these gentlemen per se than it is about the struggle of African-American men in general to deal with the ubiquitous racism that continually challenges their manhood. The play takes place in a motel room following Clay's victory over Sonny Liston in 1964. At 22, fresh off his triumph, the young boxer (Matt Jones) is both less scarred and less knowing than the others. He's also a recent convert to Islam, which raises the eyebrows of Cooke (Ty Jones) and Brown (Kevin Daniels) -- both alcohol-imbibing, womanizing, pork chop-loving hedonists. Well directed by Carl Cofield, the play heats up around the philosophical divide between Malcolm (Jason Delane) an ideologue and devout Muslim who scorns the White Establishment, and Cooke, a musician and player in the music business who's successfully worked the system for his own gain. (Sadly and ironically, both these men would be dead within a year.) Powers' perspicacious script gives the performers plenty to work with, and they make the most of it, bouncing off each other with savvy, skill and humor. Delane is excellent as an understated Malcolm, struggling to master not only his passions but his well-founded fear that his life is in danger. A charismatic Jones augments an intense portrayal with his gifted singing voice. Giovanni Adams and Jason E. Kelley add menace and levity as Malcolm's bodyguards. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Aug. 18. Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 855-585-5185, www.roguemachinetheatre.com.
Open House: An audacious real estate salesman needs to sell an overpriced house during an off season. Enter a seductive, mysterious woman new to California who senses that something wrong has happened in the house, in writer Shem Bitterman's third dramatic production at the Skylight Theater. Starting July 20, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 25. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, 323-666-2202.
Pack Up the Moon: Directed by Amy K. Harmon, this not-ready-for-prime-time production concerns a married gay couple, Andre (David Jette) and Carter (Brad Harris), whose relationship sours following the death of their adopted infant son. Distraught over their empty nest, the fragile Carter persuades his flaky cousin, T-Anne (Emilia Richeson), to become a surrogate for the couple's second child. Tension between Andre, the biological father, and T-Anne segues into physical attraction after she begins carrying his baby. Christina Cigala's soap operatic script is an uphill challenge; the play's first half is especially uninvolving as a result of the lack of visible chemistry between the spouses and the noisy and/or unshaded performances from the three primary performers. Richeson is a potentially watchable presence whose ditzy mother-to-be would fit nicely into some screwball comedy. But this is serious drama, in which her character's clamorous shtick becomes a distraction. The problem seems directorial. As for the script, despite its shortcomings it hints at insight into human interaction on the part of the playwright, and a recognition of the triggers that can ignite self-destructive behavior. As a midwife/counselor, Ben Fuller is believable and refreshingly low-key. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 13. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-469-9988.
Peter Pan: The Boy Who Hated Mothers: A radical retelling of the J.M. Barrie classic, written by Michael Lluberes. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 28. The Blank Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-661-9827, www.theblank.com.
Philosophy in the Boudoir: A dramatic play, based on the Marquis de Sade's novel, that introduces a young virgin girl to a hedonistic philosophical system by two scheming libertines. Fri., July 19, 10 p.m.; Sat., July 20, 10 p.m.; Thu., July 25, 10 p.m.; Fri., July 26, 10 p.m.; Sat., July 27, 10 p.m. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
Pieces (of ass): A series of original "Pieces," delivered by a cast of twelve of the country's most dynamic and beautiful performers, exploring what defines an attractive woman, from the perks and privileges to the problems and pressures. Fri., July 19, 11 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 16, 11 p.m.; Fri., Sept. 20, 11 p.m. Beacher's Madhouse at The Roosevelt Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-785-3036, www.thompsonhotels.com.
Rebecca's Gamble: Complications arise in Art Shulman and Robert Begam's drama when a beautiful woman doctor overdoses a willing patient, before freezing his body with the intention of reviving him in the future. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Sept. 1. Theatrecraft Playhouse, 7505 1/2 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-876-1100.
Resurrection of the Ants: A twisted comedy by Paul Fontana about a struggling author's misconception about how his life will be after his novel gets published. See Stage feature: http://www.laweekly.com/2013-07-11/stage/one-night-in-miami-resurrection-ants/full/. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through July 28, plays411.com. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-213-6955, www.thehayworth.com.
Revelation: A black comedy written by Samuel Brett William about being prepared for the rapture by fleeing the big city of New York to Arkansas in the hopes of finding the New Jerusalem. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 25. Elephant Stages, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
GO: revolver: Chris Phillips' cannily written play examines the need to stand up against oppression and avenge violence with violence versus the necessity for love and forgiveness. The six scenes are alternately comic, brutal and surreal. The piece initially seems fragmented, but the interrelatedness of the scenes, and their thematic unity, gradually emerge. Among the more striking scenes are a flamboyant tango danced by Jesus Christ (Terrance Spencer) and Judas (Daniel Montgomery), wittily choreographed by Janet Roston, and a posthumous encounter between Matthew Shepard (Daniel Montgomery) and his assailant Aaron (AJ Jones). Ryan Bergmann has assembled a terrific team of actors, and directs them with skill and nuance. Robert Paterno scores as Jim, who's bent on wreaking terrible revenge on the man (John Colella) who raped and abandoned his lover. And there's a gem of a performance from Matthew Scott Montgomery, who brings fatalistic charm, fearful vulnerability, and impeccable comic timing to his two roles: He's Nelly, an effeminate actor who's limited to playing gay bit parts, while his ex-lover Butch (Jones), whom he both loves and resents, achieves far greater success by "acting straight." And he's also a young gay reporter interviewing his hero, a crusading gay journalist (Colella). (Neal Weaver). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 21. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-957-1884, www.celebrationtheatre.com.
Rodeo Town: In Graham Bowlin's dramatic play, a dentist goes on a road trip and pulls into a small desert town, where he witnesses and partakes in a strange annual ritual. Fri., July 19, 7 p.m.; Sat., July 20, 7 p.m.; Sun., July 21, 7 p.m. East Theatre at the Complex, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
The Saint of F'd Up Karma: A Punk Rock Musical: Paul Abramson's hourlong musical has a cast of two people and features music by Nine Inch Nails' Robin Finck as performed by the band Crying 4 Kafka. Fri., July 19, 9 p.m.; Sat., July 20, 9 p.m. Fais Do Do Ballroom, 5257 W. Adams Blvd., Los Angeles.
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.
[title of show]: Hunter Bell's musical drama examines the creative challenges of writing and submitting a musical to a festival with only a few weeks until deadline. Sun., July 21, 7 p.m. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
Tom Rubin: Success Guru: A one-man comedy by Tom Rubin that skewers and mocks a self-help seminar. Fridays, 9 p.m. Continues through Aug. 30. Dorie Theater at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-465-0383, www.complexhollywood.com.
GO: Trouble in Chiozza: Kings Road Park is a small, bucolic gem, plunked down amid our urban sprawl, and a perfect venue for the city of West Hollywood's Free Theatre in the Parks program. This play, produced by the Classical Theatre Lab, is by Carlo Goldoni and was first performed in 1762. But the approach is anything but purist: Director Louis Fantasia has updated it by adding Italian-flavored pop songs such as "Mambo Italiano," "That's Amore" and "Che Sera." The busy plot, set in a small fishing village, hinges on four embattled pairs of lovers, all at odds because of gossip, backbiting, jealousy and stubborn pride. Chaos reigns till a frazzled public official (Michael Matthys) is brought in to engineer the happy ending required by a good folk comedy. Fantasia keeps the action moving at a nice clip, with engaging performances by the cast of 14, including Daniel Jimenez as an extroverted flirt, Christine Avila as a local matriarch, Carolyn Crotty as her nubile daughter, Lucietta, Paul David Story as Lucietta's jealous lover and Steve Peterson in a fine comic turn as the garrulously incoherent Fortunato. Dorothy MacLean provides the colorful peasant costumes and Mother Nature supplies the setting, beneath a spreading gingko tree. (Neal Weaver). Saturdays, Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through July 28. Kings Road Park, 1000 Kings Road, Los Angeles, 310-657-2616.
GO: Watson and the Dark Art of Harry Houdini: Sequels are tough. Expectations are generally high and you can never attain the novelty factor of the first outing. Writer-director Jaime Robledo's Watson and the Dark Art of Harry Houdini, the second installment in his Watson series, is less dazzling (far fewer action set-pieces) and more talky than the first but maintains his inventive staging and bizarre humor, sending his beloved characters on an ultimately darker, more spiritual journey. Estranged for the past 10 years, sleuthing duo Dr. Watson (Scott Leggett) and Sherlock Holmes (Joe Fria) reunite to solve a string of grisly murders marked by signs of the occult. Their hunt takes them to New York City, where they encounter a legendary escape artist, the mysterious Harry Houdini (a charismatic Donal Thoms-Cappello), who seems to know more than he's letting on. Meanwhile, Watson is spooked by visions of his departed wife, Mary (CJ Merriman). With its fractured timeline, Robledo's plotting is more ambitious and demanding than the first installment, 2010's Watson: The Last Great Tale of the Legendary Sherlock Holmes, yet offers deeper rewards. He neatly incorporates cinematic conventions, such as showing a murder re-enact itself in slow-motion rewind. Nods to Hitchcock (a runaway carousel, cleverly staged) and Bruce Lee (the hall-of-mirrors sequence) delight, as do numerous pop-culture references. Carrie Keranen is a welcome addition as Violet Hunter (a minor character from Doyle's novels and Watson's love interest) and her gowns (period costuming is by Linda Muggeridge) are especially gorgeous. (Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 27. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Los Angeles, 310-281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.
GO: 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: Don't let the disconcerting title put you off: We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915. Playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury's compelling drama is a stunning work of ferociously creative stagecraft. In director Jillian Armenante's deceptively improvised-seeming production, a group of actors, under the leadership of a young, angry actor (Julanne Chidi Hill, fierce), attempt to stage a play about a 19th-century African atrocity during which the German army slaughtered entire populations of African tribes. It sounds dire, I know, but the tale is told impressionistically, sometimes as a rehearsal exercise, sometimes as a dreamlike set of dances, fights and interactions. A ladder becomes a railroad trestle, a Sparkletts water bottle becomes a tribal drum, and Spolin-esque theater games are mocked but then utilized to make searingly powerful emotional points about race and morality. Through exercises meant to channel an atrocity, the cast simultaneously juggle a number of issues, from the near-comic self-absorption of actors, to the ultimate inability to depict true evil, to a final, unbearably disturbing coda that suggests the past is not nearly as distant as one would wish. Armenante's assured intellectualization and the perfect comic and dramatic timing of the cast together craft a rare work of charged political agitprop that awakens us to the pure imaginative potential of the theater. (Paul Birchall). 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.
ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS:
GO: Alcestis: How do we live with the fact of our death every moment of every day? According to stage collagist Nancy Keystone's reworking of Euripides, the specter of our end informs everything we do. Not an especially original thought, perhaps, but as presented by Keystone's Critical Mass Performance Group, it forms the basis for a visually inventive and wryly ironic meditation on the bathetic pomp and occasionally incredible circumstance of mortality. At its center is Keystone's modern-dress riff on the myth of Queen Alcestis (Kalean Ung), whose uxorial virtues extend to substituting her own life for that of her husband, Admetus (Jeremy Shranko), in a deal brokered by Apollo (Lorne Green) to circumvent the king's untimely demise. Like Euripides, Keystone's version examines the manifold repercussions of Admetus' self-centeredness (hint: not good), albeit with side trips into metaphysical philosophy, scathing satire and allegorical vaudeville. Throughout it all, a precision ensemble expertly navigates the drama -- Ung and Shranko's breakfast-nook coda is a tour de force of nonverbal eloquence -- along with Keystone's dance movements, which include cool quotations of Lucinda Childs and Pina Bausch. The highlights are Sarah Brown's chic costumes, Randall Tico's witty sound and Nick Santoro as Herakles in a show-stealing cross between wrestler Roddy Piper and musician Andrew W.K. (Bill Raden). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 28. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena, 626-683-6883, www.bostoncourt.com. See Theater Feature.
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 Aug. 9. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.Brendan: Ronan Noone looks at a young Irish immigrant set loose in the wilds of New York City in this comic play. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 18. The Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, 818-846-5323, www.theatrebanshee.org. See New Reviews.
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. Continues through July 20. NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd., Los Angeles.
Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven: This production, directed by Zombie Joe, consists of four adaptations of short works by Edgar Allan Poe: the short story "The Oval Portrait," two short poems -- "Song" and "Alone" -- and the longer narrative poem "The Raven," with its haunting refrain of "Nevermore!" All four pieces are narrated rather than dramatic, and reflect the 19th century's fondness for horror stories and Romantic despair. "The Oval Portrait" and "The Raven" are presented as choral readings, with interpretive movement, dance and gesture, by an ensemble of six actors (Redetha Deason, Donna Noelle Ibale, Oriko Ikeda, Katie Lynn Mapel, Tim McCord and Sebastian Munoz). The two poems are sung by composer Christopher Reiner, who also wrote background music for the narrative pieces. His incidental music is effective, but the songs' contemporary feel is at odds with Poe's Victorian locutions. It's an interesting experiment, but in the end it seems pretty rarefied and bloodless. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through July 26. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.
The Fourth Wall: Peggy, a woman of generally good taste, has left one wall undecorated in her living room, to the consternation of her husband, Roger. A comedy with songs by Cole Porter. Written by A.R. Gurney, directed by Randall Gray. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 20. Stages of Gray, 299 N. Altadena Drive, Pasadena, www.stagesofgray.com.Holding On, Letting Go: Bryan Harnetiaux's dramatic play examines a longtime married couple faced with issues of mortality and the choices they must make between fighting for life and making preparations for a graceful exit. Fri., July 19, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 20, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 21, 3 p.m. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena, 626-441-5977, www.fremontcentretheatre.com.
The Island: Jonathan Price has written a new musical that re-imagines Shakespeare's The Tempest in a modern-day alternate timeline where queens, dukes and sorceresses all vie for control of Italy's city-states. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 18. T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, 818-205-1680.
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.Suburban Showgirl: A one-woman drama written by and starring Palmer Davis, whose main character must balance her life between being a professional dancer, wife and mother. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through Aug. 4. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-763-0086, www.thenohoartscenter.com. See New Reviews.
GO: Sweet Karma: Henry Ong's drama Sweet Karma is inspired by the life and tragic death of Haing S. Ngor, the Cambodian-American doctor and author who won an Academy Award in 1985 for his portrayal of journalist Dith Pran in the 1984 film The Killing Fields, which chronicled the barbarous regime of the Khmer Rouge. The play's action takes place in Cambodia and Los Angeles, and opens with the murder of Dr. Vichear Lam (Jon Jon Briones), after which Vichear awakens in the presence of a mysterious woman known only as Devi (Pauline Yasuda). Through a series of dreamy flashbacks, Devi takes Vichear on a survey of significant moments in his life, and an often painful re-examination of the choices he made. Included is the exhilarating night he won an Oscar; the day he met the love of his life and future wife, Suriya (Constance Parng); the ugly compromises he made with the Khmer Rouge; and a particularly repulsive incident in which he walked away from a dying man in the middle of surgery in order to save his own skin.It's unsettling but equally enlightening for its unpretentious wisdom concerning the choices we make and the consequences we are forced to accept. It is directed with uncanny sensitivity by Kevin Cochran, who gets fine performances from his cast. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 20. Grove Theater Center, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank, 818-528-6622, www.gtc.org.
Hurrican Season 2013 - 10th Annual Hurricane Season Competition of Short Plays: The Blizzard, The Improvisation, The Possethsion: Hurricane Season features a program of one-act plays that have never been produced before in California. The first weekend has three short plays, beginning with Chip Bolcik's The Blizzard, in which a couple ventures into the middle of an Arctic blizzard while trying to improve their marital status. The Improvisation, written by Andrew Osborne, follows an actor trying to keep her wits while auditioning for a neurotic writer/producer with a gun. Ron Burch's The Possethsion examines a couple's 12-year-old demon-child daughter. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 21. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village, 818-508-3003, www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org.
Whore's Bath: Robert Riemer's theatrical re-imagining of the Biblical travails between King David and Saul, and their attempt to attain "the throne of man." Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through Aug. 10. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.
Wrap Your Heart Around It: Written, composed and performed by LynnMarie Rink, this musical one-woman show chronicles the story of the writer's struggles with her father's alcoholism, her religious beliefs and the difficulty of raising a special-needs child. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 & 7:30 p.m. Continues through Aug. 11. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank, 818-955-8101, www.falcontheatre.com.
ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUTATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS:
The Assassination of Leon Trotsky: A Comedy: Precariously perched between a history play and Pirandellian farce, playwright Peter Lefcourt's fever dream of a metadrama satirizes one of the fundamental paradoxes -- and purposes -- of the narrative arts: When it comes to the singular historical event, any representation is a distortion. In the case of this play about a play about the murder of Leon Trotsky (Joel Swetow), the deformation begins with the playwright (Greyson Lewis), whose burlesque of Trotsky's circle in Mexico has already caricatured figures including Diego Rivera (Joe J. Garcia) and Frida Kahlo (Murielle Zuker) into sexual gargoyles. But when the actors rebel against the text in a mid-performance attempt to restore dignity to the revolutionary leader, the resulting travesty verges on the Stoppard-esque. Where Stoppard's intellectual virtuosity and comic ingenuity are always in perfect sync, however, in director Terri Hanauer's otherwise polished staging (on Joel Daavid's playful hacienda set), Lefcourt's clever ideas rarely connect with their intended laughs. (Bill Raden). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through July 28. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.
El Grande de Coca Cola: This musical comedy by Alan Shearman, John Neville Andrews & Ron House is set in the nightclub of a small town somewhere south of the border. Pepe Hernandez (Senor Show Business) has persuaded his uncle, a manager of the local Coca-Cola bottling plant, to advance him enough money to rent the club for three nights. It's showtime for Pepe's ambitious extravaganza, "Parada de las Estrellas" (Parade of the Stars). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 31. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport, Santa Monica, 310-397-3244, www.ruskingrouptheatre.com.
A Midsummer Night's Dream: Tim Robbins directs this workshop production of Shakespeare's summer tale about mystical romance and foolish humans. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 27. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City, 310-838-4264, www.theactorsgang.com.
GO: Ophiliamachine: "I expel all the semen which I have received. I transform the milk of my breasts into deadly poison." Lifted from Heiner Muller's eternally confounding Hamletmachine, the words are a fitting part of the opening tableau of Polish playwright Magda Romanska's similarly themed postmodernist drama, now in its world premiere at City Garage. Seated behind an old typewriter on a stage that's segmented into halves, Ophelia is realized as something of a triadic entity -- brain/narrator, terrorist and madwoman (Kat Johnston, Megan Kim, Saffron Mazzia), while Hamlet (Joss Glennie Smith), situated in the other half of the stage, mostly watches television. Romanska uses this framework for a vigorous deconstruction of the feminine psyche, image and gender roles, and her script -- heavy laden with dense imagery and symbolism -- explores love, sex, violence, politics, class sensibilities, feminist aesthetics, the vacuities of mass culture and the timeless mystery of death. This is theater that's not easily accessible and is devilishly bleak at times, but it's not without shards of humor, and is relentlessly provocative and challenging under imaginative direction by Frederique Michel. The production is nicely embellished with a collage of visuals projected on a huge screen and two monitors. Cynthia Mance, RJ Jones and Leah Harf round out the cast. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through July 28. City Garage at Bergamot Station Arts Center, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, 310-453-9939, www.citygarage.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 Aug. 31. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, 310-399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.
Tanglin' Hearts: Zora Margolis wrote this country Western musical set in contemporary Texas about a greedy businessman who wants to establish a resort next to a toxic waste dump but is opposed by his own brother. Starting July 25, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 25. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno, Beverly Hills, 310-364-0535, www.theatre40.org.
A View From the Bridge: Many consider Arthur Miller's dramas moral tragedies, but you also can think of them as mysteries, as their narratives contain events whose true meaning only becomes clear at the end. Longshoreman Eddie (Vince Melocchi) is a salt-of-the-earth type who thinks he's doing a good deed when he lets a pair of his wife's distant cousins, both illegal immigrants from the old country, move in with his family. He soon has reason to rue this decision, though, as his lovely niece, Catherine (Lisa Cirincione), falls in love with the more handsome of the two cousins, Rodolpho (Jeff Lorch) -- and Eddie is destroyed by his own inexplicably over-the-top jealousy. This is a mostly powerful, admirably straightforward production by co-directors Marilyn Fox and Dana Jackson, which stumbles slightly during the clumsy, frenetically staged final sequence. The production is anchored by Melocchi's nicely gruff Eddie, whose turn suggests a character swept along by passions he lacks the articulacy to express. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 25. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice, 310-822-8392, www.pacificresidenttheatre.com.