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Theater Reviews 

For the week of March 10 - 16.

Wednesday, Mar 8 2006
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{mosimage} DARWIN’S PÂTÉ Ditsy Bonnie (Sarah Zoe Canner) lives with her infirm but abusive mom (Caren Larae Larkey) in a rundown pigsty of a house (production designer Frank Forte’s marvelously slovenly set) in Savannah, Georgia. A failed actress turned agoraphobic, Bonnie’s come to resent her cousin Margaret (Jules Bruff), a successful PR operator engaged to an up-and-coming politician (Beau Baxter) with Christian Coalition values. Staged by Mark Landsman, Elizabeth J. Musgrave’s meandering script charts Bonnie’s efforts to blackmail her smug relative by revealing her past indiscretions. The play furnishes some diverting humor but loses points by piling on too many deep, dark family secrets. Bruff is terrific as a fastidiously manipulative phony, backed up by Baxter as the trained male whose leash she knows how to yank. Canner, working hard in a difficult pivotal role, is undercut by its cutesy contrivances. Larkey and, to a lesser extent, Ed Ellington as Bonnie’s shunned beau need to rein in the shtick. Pan Andreas Theater, 5125 Melrose Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 26. (323) 960-4410. (Deborah Klugman)


GO EVERYTHING IN THE GARDEN Jenny (Dre Slaman) and Richard (Corey Pepper) are a cash-strapped couple obsessed by what they don’t have. Jenny wants a greenhouse, and Richard yearns for a power mower. Money defines their relationship, but Richard refuses to let Jenny work outside the home. Enter Mrs. Toothe (the excellent Peggy Chilton), who offers Jenny a job as a prostitute. After initially refusing her offer, Jenny starts turning tricks in the afternoons, with Richard none the wiser — until a mysterious package of cash arrives and secret stashes of money start popping up throughout the house. Richard threatens to throw her out, but only after a party for their much admired wealthy friends and neighbors, who are revealed as racists and anti-Semites. Based on a drama by Giles Cooper, Edward Albee’s dark 1967 play skewers suburban materialism. Director Charles Waxberg has wisely staged the play as a period piece, and the fast-paced direction makes the dialogue crackle, particularly in Act 2. David W.R. Inglis has some nice moments as an alcoholic neighbor who comments on the action. Dreamhouse Ensemble at The Space, 665 N. Heliotrope Dr., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru April 16. (323) 319-6130. (Sandra Ross)


FLU SEASON “This may seem aimless,” says Prologue (Catherine Reeder), “and maybe it is.” These are dangerous words for writer Will Eno to put in a play as curious and meandering as this one. A Man (Mark Frankos) and Woman (Sarah Goldblatt) are patients in a sanitarium, where everyone speaks mostly in absurdist quips. (He: “Are your parents still together?” She: “My father is.”) In Act 1, there’s a lot of philosophizing and clever meta-theatrics, and the Man and Woman fall in love. Act 2 brings on betrayal, pregnancy and suicide. Then Epilogue (Josh Nathan) intervenes to tell us that none of this happened, and his play is just a pile of words, which perhaps he should have aborted. He says he’s sick of the play and of us, and one could argue that he’s got a point. Director Stefan Novinski and a fine cast provide an exemplary production, consistently interesting and amusing, despite a script that doesn’t seem to know where it’s going, or why it’s going there. California Repertory Company at Edison Theater, 213 E. Broadway, Long Beach; Tues.-Thurs., 7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m. (added perf Sat., March 18, 2 p.m.); thru March 18. (562) 985-5526. (Neal Weaver)


GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS It is easy to see why the producers of this adult version of the classic fairy tale want audience members to BYOB. Perhaps the intoxicated can more fully appreciate this mildly amusing production, based on playwright John Morley’s adaptation, than the sober. Goldilocks (Vieve Pritchard) may sport a miniskirt and gartered stockings, but she still has the innocence of a child — or the naiveté of a stereotypical blond — and a love for animals. Her mother, Sadie Spangle (director/choreographer Christina Harris), runs a faltering circus and her rival, Benjamin “Bloodthirsty” Black (Scott Harris), means to run her out of business. But with the aid of the bareback rider Belinda the Fairy (a cross-dressing David Bardeen) and the dancing act of The Three Bears (Jeremiah LaBrue, Laura Butt and Michael McAdam), the Spangle Circus just may be saved. There are scantily clad Gypsy girls, a kidnapping or two, a slo-mo wrestling match and a swashbuckling finale. With a few beers, one can overlook the simplistic choreography and cheesy double-entendres and revel in a cast gleefully acting silly; besides, it’s only an hour. Midnight Children’s Theater at The Ark Theater, 1647 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 11 p.m.; thru March 18. (310) 954-7080. (Martín Hernández)


GROUNDLINGS MYSTERY TRAIN The Groundlings’ latest outing of 17 vignettes runs mostly cold, padded with gratuitous physical shtick and writing that often flounders. “Brokeback Office” (you can guess what this is about) finds Mitch Silpa and Jeremy Rowley experiencing an “I wish I could quit you” moment. Amusing, but very predictable. “Sermon” is an epic snoozer with Ben Falcone as a minister saturating his congregation with tepid anecdotes and self-confessions instead of the requisite homily. “Is Hard to Do” features Edi Patterson and Silpa, who kiss and make up and decide they want to stay together. That’s it. There were some bright moments. Rowley is great as an immigrant worker wreaking havoc in a respectable business. And I laughed till I cried with Jordan Black as a gay, ethnically overloaded black man who meets his lover’s (Silpa) parents before they tie the knot. Deanna Oliver directs while Howard Greene and Larry Treadwell provide dazzling musical accompaniment. Groundlings Theater Company, 7307 Melrose Ave., W. Hlywd.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; indef. (323) 934-4747. (Lovell Estell III)


GO INTO THE WOODS Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s wry musical compendium of fractured fairy tales has a proven track record, and in this rendition, Act 1 sparkles. But Act 2 does drag on a bit, despite the excellent cast. Director Jon Lawrence Rivera takes a refreshingly non-literal approach to the material, providing a forest of 30-odd ladders, designed by Gary Lee Reed, and dressing Milky White the Cow (Tannis Hanson) in a white lace dress with a girdle of baby bottles, by costumer Paula Higgins. Rivera and musical director Brent Crayon employ amplification (design by Chris Grote) to make Sondheim’s quick and tricky lyrics crystal clear, and the large ensemble delivers them with verve and spirit. Louis Tucker and Callan White shine as the Baker and his Wife, and Deborah Lynn Meier provides a feisty Little Red Riding Hood. John Allsop and Rick Marcus reap abundant laughs as the two unheroic princes, and Allsop doubles as the hungry Wolf. Cate Caplin supplies energetic choreography, and Kathi O’Donohue’s lighting is beautiful, despite disconcerting dark spots downstage center. Actors Co-op at Crossley Terrace Theater, 1760 N. Gower St., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m. (added perfs Sat., March 25 & April 1, 2:30 p.m.); thru April 2. (323) 462-8460. (Neal Weaver)


SCENES FROM AN EXECUTION In a beautifully appointed, cavernous white space designed by director-designer Chris Covics and complemented with Jill Fouts’ striking white-on-white costumes, an ambitious tale of conflict between art and politics begins to unravel. Galactia (Tia Odiam), a rare female, post-Renaissance Venetian artist, is chosen by the Doge (John Payne) to memorialize a great battle on a giant canvas. An age-old battle of wills between artistic hubris and powerful patronage threatens to destroy both the painter and the society. Howard Barker’s overwrought drama is taken beyond the edge of melodramatic in director Covics’ highly charged production, which begins fascinatingly but soon becomes so wrapped up in its own importance that it substitutes ponderous oration for dramatic action. By the middle of the play most of the actors (particularly the initially radiant Odiam) begin posing and pontificating rather than portraying characters — only Payne keeps a sense that Barker’s script is supposed to be as much filled with humor as pathos, as his Doge characterization becomes more and more hopelessly ineffectual. Unknown Theater, 1110 N. Seward St., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru April 1. (323) 466-7781. (Tom Provenzano)


WAIT UNTIL DARK During Frederick Knott’s Hollywood career (he wrote the 1954 screenplay, based on his own play, for Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder), he specialized in intimate, hemmed-in fright fests containing a kind of genteel tension. Here, director Cate Caplin bridges the screen and stage mediums, giving this tale of a newly blinded woman (Veronique Ory) — bedeviled by three robbers of varying sadistic capabilities (Jon Emm, John Richard Peterson and Lorin McCraley) — a cinematic feel. Set designer Jennifer Fulmer has compiled an array of naturalistic decorations that surpass theater’s demands, right down to the smallest spatula. The dastardly threesome have invaded the blind woman’s home in search of a doll containing drugs that her husband (Tim Maloney) received from their offstage partner in crime. While some performances are shaky (Caplin and actor Samantha Klein need to decide if Klein’s character, a neighbor, is a nymphet or a third-grader, for one), Knott’s suspenseful script stands the test of time and is well-served by Michael Bergfeld’s lighting design, which prods empathy for its fumbling heroine. Athena Theater at the Lounge Theater, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 25. (818) 754-1423. (Amy Nicholson)
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