By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH Agatha Christie’s radical reworking of her mystery novel, complete with a different killer. West Valley Playhouse, 7242 Owensmouth Ave., Canoga Park; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (818) 884-1907.
BOSTON MARRIAGE David Mamet’s drawing-room comedy. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Wstwd.; Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru March 12. (310) 208-5454 or (213) 365-3500.
DIVA Redefined and reclaimed over the decades by VH1 specials and glittered T-shirts, sitcom writer turned playwright Howard Michael Gould here re-establishes the concept of diva as pejorative. Deanna Denninger (Annie Potts), star of the Emmy-winning, humbly titled comedy Deanna, drives with Gould’s license, acting like a right bitch. Potts is a fine comedian, trapped here in an irredeemably unfunny role. The lack of onstage chemistry or credibility compounds this show’s problems, which include momentum-stifling reversal of sequences in the plot. David Lee directs. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 5 & 9 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 19. (626) 356-7529. (AN)
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST Who could possibly argue with Oscar Wilde and lines such as, “If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life”? There’s not a sincere line in the play, which, in a work about double lives and social deceptions, is part of its brilliance. You wouldn’t know from Peter Hall’s production that Wilde was tortured in prison for his homosexuality, and that his irreverence and humanity paved the way for Joe Orton. You wouldn’t know this because no trouble has been taken by Hall to do much beyond fulfill expectations of what Earnest has always looked and sounded like. Lynn Redgrave’s Lady Bracknell displays contagious glee in the way she contorts her lips around Wilde’s lovely epigrams, and spits them out. The problem with this, however, as with the ensemble, is a kind of over-articulated stiffness, particularly by James Waterston’s Jack Worthing. Robert Petkoff’s Algernon fares better, as do Bianca Amato as Gwendolen and the particularly wry and rueful Charlotte Parry as Cecily. Ahmanson Theater, 135 N. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7:30 p.m. (no eve perfs Feb. 19 & March 5; added 2 p.m. perfs Feb. 16 & March 2); thru March 5. (213) 628-2772. (SLM)
GO JAY JOHNSON: The Two and OnlyVentriloquist Jay Johnson’s show is a genre-bender, combining a history of ventriloquism, a bit of autobiography, hilarious comedy and the moving tale of an ex-vaudevillian who came out of retirement to carve Squeaky for young Jay, and shared with him his rich craft. In addition to Squeaky, there’s belligerent Bob from Soap, a severed head or two, a talking snake who’s afraid of snakes, a jive-talking monkey who goes ape and a vulture who calls himself the Bird of Death. Johnson considers ventriloquism an art, and he is truly an artist — as remarkable for his near-magical skill as for his anarchic wit, charm and humanity. Richmark Entertainment at the Brentwood Theater, Veterans Administration grounds, 11301 Wilshire Blvd., W.L.A.; Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 3 & 7 p.m. (added perfs some Wed., 2 p.m., call for schedule); thru Feb. 19. (213) 365-3500. (NW)
THE LION IN WINTER James Goldman’s play about King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, circa Christmas 1183. Theater West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 1. (323) 851-7977.
MAMMA MIA! You know you love ABBA, just admit it. Pasadena Civic Auditorium, 330 E. Green St., Pasadena; Fri., Feb. 10, 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 11, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 12, 2 & 7:30 p.m. (213) 365-3500. Also at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; Tues.-Fri., Feb. 14-17, 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 18, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 19, 2 & 7:30 p.m. (714) 740-2000.
OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS Joe Dipietro’s rumination on a pivotal moment in the life of a young, successful man draws out the laughs, tugs on the heartstrings and plumbs microscopic depths. Joel Bishoff directs a fine cast, and Neil Peter Jampolis’ set is beautiful and unimposing. And if one doesn’t mind the overly expository — and unnecessary — addresses to the audience by nearly every character, and a seemingly interminable epilogue to the action, this is a pleasant, unchallenging night of theater. La Mirada Theater, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 12. (562) 944-9801. (Luis Reyes)
GO PERMANENT COLLECTION (Note: This review is of a production that opened last year and has transferred to the current venue.) Thomas Gibbons sets his eloquent and revelatory drama in and around a suburban gallery of mostly Impressionist masters, where the new director — an African-American executive from the business world — clashes with the museum’s white director of education over adding African treasures to the main exhibit, setting off a maelstrom of public charges. The knot of bigotry in this country is wound so tightly with guilt and indignation, it’s beyond rational discussion, yet in his play Gibbons loosens it ever so slightly, through the woman who stands between the two gallant, stubborn opponents. Harry J. Lennix and Dwain Perry co-direct this quite wonderful production. Robey Theater Company and the Greenway Arts Alliance at the Kirk Douglas Theater, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 12. (213) 628-2772. (SLM)