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Weekend Theater Reviews 

Reviews of Into the Woods, Darwin's Pâté and Everything in the Garden

Monday, Mar 6 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.; Fri.-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 Lord 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)

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 Allsopp and Rick Marcus reap abundant laughs as the two un-heroic princes, and Allsopp 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 24 & April 1, 2:30 p.m.); thru April 2. (323) 462-8460. (Neal Weaver)

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