New Theater Reviews 

For the week of April 28 - May 4

Wednesday, Apr 26 2006

GO ALL MY SONS From its ominous opening tableau to its equally striking climax, director Randall Arney’s staging of Arthur Miller’s 1947 morality play is a superlative production. “To have sons, it’s an honor,” declares Joe Keller (Len Cariou), a man whose fortune was built from supplying parts for U.S. fighter planes in World War II. But Joe’s alleged war profiteering may well have dishonored the war service of his own sons Larry, a fighter pilot lost in action, and Chris (Neil Patrick Harris), who now works for Joe. The production is blessed with stellar performances from Cariou as Joe, whose outward likability masks a cunning businessman, and Laurie Metcalf as Joe’s wife, Kate, whose selfishly manipulative belief in Larry’s resurrection thwarts the budding romance between Chris and Ann (Amy Sloan), Larry’s onetime fiancée. But it’s Harris who is riveting as the conflicted Chris, whose once unquestioning love for his father, and by extension the country he defended, turns to aching disillusion. In Arney’s capable hands, Miller’s classic, even 60 years after its Tony-winning debut, remains a stinging indictment of unbridled capitalism and a clarion call for human decency. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 LeConte Ave., Wstwd.; Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8:30 p.m.; thru May 18. (310) 208-5454. (Martín Hernández)

THE BRIDE CAN’T STOP COUGHING The bride isn’t a smoker, but she is very, very nervous, walking and coughing down the aisle to the strains of “Ave Maria,” dressed in white (including the orthopedic shoes), at the tender age of 55. Writer-director-performer Linda Lichtman’s autobiographical solo show runs the gamut of good, bad and truly awful relationships. In college, she went to great lengths to create a make-believe boyfriend to impress her gals in her dorm. Her ruse is discovered, and her parents send her to a shrink. Tips from Cosmo aren’t helping — she repeatedly blurts out, “After we get married,” which causes dates to flee. She eventually loses her virginity to a sexy Jamaican gigolo, but not without feeling guilty. Despite a few flings, the 1960s sexual revolution leaves her lonely. During the 1970s, she hooks up with an abusive man who nearly crushes her spirit. Relocating to L.A. from N.Y., she meets the love of her life in, of all places, a Laundromat. Lichtman is very funny, and her playful interaction with the audience is a delight. But the self-directed two-act show could benefit from some trimming — several of the vignettes go on a tad too long. Actor’s Playpen, 1514 N. Gardner St., Hlywd.; Mon., 8 p.m.; thru July 31. (310) 560-6063. (Sandra Ross)

CONVERSATIONS ’BOUT THE GIRLS What Eve Ensler did for vaginas, Sonia Jackson aims to accomplish for breasts. Like Ensler, her play is a series of monologues (mostly) spoken by a rainbow of women with a dishware store’s worth of cup sizes, and opens with a list of euphemisms for the body part in question. Jugs. Bongos. Melons. As Jackson’s one-act inadvertently finds, you can ascribe a lot of names to breasts, but it’s a struggle to ascribe that much significance. No question, breasts are truly awesome, but the short pieces tend to lump boobs in three categories: seduction, nuture or, most devastatingly, cancer. The stories that revolve around the latter are rich with the strength — and physical vulnerability — of women, just over 13 percent of whom can expect a diagnosis of the disease in their lifetimes, and Jackson’s exploration of its accompanying pain, anger and insecurities is clear-eyed and relevant. Still, it’s odd to note that in such zoomed-in, female-centered works such as this and Ensler’s, the ladies’ conversations always veer to men and what they think about women’s bodies, and it’s when hashing over cleavage for the third time that this testament to the genuine wonders of the female body feels, ahem, padded. McCadden Place Theater, 1157 N. McCadden Pl., Hlywd.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 14. (323) 960-4451. (Amy Nicholson)

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GO EQUINOX Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, among the most important British painters of the early 20th century, were members of the much revered and reviled Bloomsbury Group. The Bloomsberries (as they called themselves) were a loose congregation of “advanced” writers, artists and intellectuals, including Vanessa’s husband, Clive Bell; her sister, Virginia Woolf; homosexual biographer Lytton Strachey; and economist John Maynard Keynes. They rebelled against the moral, sexual and artistic rigidity of Victorianism to celebrate freedom, feeling, creativity and iconoclasm. Vanessa and Duncan were also lovers, whose indestructible relationship continued until her death, despite Duncan’s promiscuous homosexuality. Writer Joyce Sachs imagines a weekend at Vanessa’s country house, Charleston, in 1923, when Vanessa (a radiant Carolyn Hennesy) has sent family and friends away to be alone with Duncan (Robert Stephenson). Her plans go awry when noted mountain climber George Mallory (Ralph Lister) arrives, uninvited, to persuade Duncan to join him on an expedition to Mount Everest. The ensuing three-sided flirtation is pleasant, literate, amusing and bland in a Masterpiece Theatre way. There’s a great deal of talk and very little real action, but director Jules Aaron and his handsome, capable cast make the most of what they’re given, and set designer Tom Buderwitz superbly captures the shabby/elegant bohemianism of Charleston. Judy Arnold Productions at Odyssey Theater, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 28. (310) 477-2055. (Neal Weaver)

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