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Theater Reviews 

For the week of March 17 - 23

Wednesday, Mar 15 2006
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GO COLORED CONTRADICTIONS This potpourri of African-American music, dance, poetry and satire exhibits a caliber and exuberance that lift it above its essentially showcase format. The lengthiest segment is a vibrant adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston’s 1942 short story, Story in Harlem Slang. Directed by Nancy Cheryll Davis, it’s a comic face-off, relayed in vivid patois, between two strutting street hustlers (Charles Allen and Freddy DeGrate) desperate to score a meal and some cash off a passing woman (Angie Browne) wise to their antics. The night I attended featured Paul Harris, a master of erotic metaphor, as the evening’s spoken-word artist, as well as Amy Lewis, the ensemble’s only Caucasian performer, whose insightful poem contemplates the experience of a white woman expecting a child of color. In other excerpts, Steve Luther’s Looting the Met, directed by Stevie Johnson, skewers the nouveau riche by portraying a wealthy couple (Damon Standifer and Chanell Jones) who ignorantly revel in their power to hoard expensive art, while Paula Mitchell Manning’s musical Fade to Black, directed by Angela Duckett, lampoons the ludicrously sad experience of the many gifted black artists historically forced into demeaning roles. Company of Angels, 2106 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 18. (323) 883-1717. (Deborah Klugman)

GO FOREWORD: A Housewarming Hereandnow Theater Company’s performance collage is at once an incisive commentary on the ethnic-American experience and a testament to how little needs to be explained to people anymore. The players move through nearly a dozen vignettes that range from storytelling to ritual to dance/movement to song and video (and sometimes a mixture of all of them). The cast is mostly strong, a little uneven at times, but thoroughly engaging. Among the highlights is November Morris’ gesticulated telling of the Hawaiian myth of Maui, and Andrea Apuy’s hilarious account (scored by a snappy trio of vocalists imitating jazz instruments) of how, when a wealthy white woman mistook her for Japanese in a sushi restaurant, she just went with it. And the dance pieces are spellbinding. As a whole, the evening is beautifully curated and celebrates how far cultural diversity has gone in transforming and shaping the American identity. The show itself assumes that we live in a time and place of complete and seamless cultural integration and therefore avoids talking down to its audience, a refreshing development in the world of minority-based theater companies. Armory Northwest, 965 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena; Fri.-Sat., 7:30 & 9:30 p.m.; thru March 18. (626) 744-0380. (Luis Reyes)

GO FORNICATIONALLY CHALLENGED Newly liberated from her former spouse, whom she dubs the “Ex-hole,” a 40-something female tries to learn the new rules of dating. She attends a singles party, but feels marked as one-night-stand material. Worried about sexually transmitted disease, she goes to buy condoms, and — never having purchased them before — tries to size them like pantyhose. She dates a series of younger men, all of whom want children, causing a girlfriend to proclaim that “35-year-old men are the new women.” (She wonders where an out-of-work actor with three roommates would put the kids.) Frustrated with the dating scene, she goes back to college, finds a job and then promptly resigns in order to date her new boss, a relationship that fizzles before it even begins. The series of dating mishaps is consistently amusing as delivered by Judi Lee Brandwein in her semi-autobiographical one-woman show. The aptly named characters, including the Coffee Guy, Ashton, and the Puppy, all have distinct voices, and Brandwein is a confident performer under Mark Travis’ crisp direction. The intimate space is well-used, and at 65 minutes the fast-paced show is highly entertaining. Hudson Guild Theater, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 2. (323) 960-7721. (Sandra Ross)

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HAMLET: A Tragic Thrance In Outlaw Style Thrance Company’s approach to the Shakespeare classic, Elsinore is a world devoid of discrimination based on race, gender and sexual orientation, a noble endeavor. On the other hand, as envisioned by director-choreographer Jessica Schroeder, the production also utilizes “thrance” — the combination of theater and dance — to move the story along, which tends to muddle an already severely truncated text. In this version, Hamlet (Atim Udoffia) is a Danish princess instead of a prince and is the offspring of her recently murdered father, King Hamlet (Scot Shamblin), and his husband, the Duke Gerard (Joseph Beck), rather than King Hamlet and Queen Gertrude. And it is the king’s sister Claudia (Konima Parkinson-Jones) whom Gerard weds, a premature move in Hamlet’s eyes that exacerbates her already fragile psyche. At times the thrance concept is engaging, such as when Hamlet fends off her lover, Ophelia (Kelly Grete Ehlert), to the strains of Elvis Costello’s “The Name of This Thing Is Not Love.” But mostly the dance movements, which are well-executed, are superfluous, as in Polonius’ (Morgan Peter Brown) sly moves on Fiona Apple’s “Extraordinary Machine.” Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru April 9. (323) 860-6503. (Martín Hernández)

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