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Theater Reviews 

Including this week's pick, As You Like It

Wednesday, Jul 5 2006

PICK GO AS YOU LIKE IT The Independent Shakespeare Company proves it can muster the wit, verve, lightness of touch and cheeky irreverence to make Shakespeare’s comedy genuinely funny. Two performances define and dominate it: Melissa Chalsma’s Rosalind is beautiful, sweet, clever and sometimes zany, finding comedy in unexpected places. In her scenes with her handsome, hunky Orlando (Sean Pritchett), the chemicals sizzle and charm. David Melville transforms the clown Touchstone into a deadpan star turn. He’s already shown us an antic Hamlet, but here he’s anarchic, wielding his jester’s cap and bells in ways that verge on pornographic. Directors Sanford Robbins and Chalsma provide the fast-paced staging, and the large cast lends admirable support. Andrea Gwynnel Morgan’s Celia is a fine foil for Rosalind, Hayden Adams is appropriately sinister as evil Oliver, and Freddy Douglas is unexpectedly elegant as melancholy Jacques, while Jennifer Mefford and Aisha Kabia score as sluttish Audrey and love-lorn Phebe, respectively. Rachel Ford Pritchett’s excellent no-period costumes add exotic touches as needed. Best of all, the show is free — but make reservations. And bring a blanket. Independent Shakespeare Company, the Great Lawn of Barnsdall Art Park, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; in rep, call for schedule; thru Aug. 13. (818) 710-6306. (Neal Weaver)THE CHICAGO CLUB RUMBOOGIE Despite an uneven production, Jerry Jones’ new play about a Southside Chicago club in the 1940s has much to recommend it. Two brothers, Ben and Ed Powell (Carl Crudup and Fitz Houston), get into bed with the Mob to repay a debt: Gangster Tony Castalla (Bobby Jasmin) is now calling the shots. Demanding a 60-40 split, Tony fronts Ben and Ed enough money to turn their modest bar into a swinging nightclub. The mobster also wants the brothers to secure the cooperation of an incorruptible neighborhood cop, Two-Gun Pete (Kenneth Foster in a firecracker performance). Under Chris Palmquist’s clumsy direction (actors bump into furniture, entrances and exits are frequently awkward, stage business is unwieldy), the story moves in fits and starts. However, the play surges to life with the appearance of the nightclub’s tremendous five-piece band (Elijah Anderson, Bobby Brown, Kozy Washington, Sigmond Dillard and Bill Eddings). Unfortunately, the play can’t quite sustain the same energy level, but the band takes center stage for a considerable portion of the evening. Singers Carla Stephanie Bagnerise and Constance Denise are equally terrific. MET THEATER in association with Carl Crudup Productions, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 13. (323) 957-7752. (Sandra Ross)DEATH OF A SALESMAN The story of Willy Loman, the ultimate Everyman, is unquestionably as relevant today as it was when Arthur Miller wrote it in 1949. The depiction of the market forces that weigh against him, plus Willy’s inability to accept his lot in life and his subsequent descent into self-deception, is timeless. In Elina de Santos’ staging, however, Willy (Richard Fancy) comes off as so miserable and aggressive that he closes all windows to empathy. Sharron Shayne also misfires as Willy’s wife, Linda: By accentuating her excessive worship of her husband, she becomes merely ignorant of his myriad shortcomings rather than being stoically perceptive. Toward the end of Act 1, Shayne finally demonstrates Linda’s acumen when she reprimands her sons for disrespecting their father. “He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being,” asserts Linda, with such wisdom and sincerity that, for the first time, her audience is hard-pressed not to sympathize with Willy. Those qualities are fixed in the lines, however, and it may be too little, too late for this staging. Linda’s sons, Happy (David Clayberg) and Biff (Greg Vignolle), share a playful rapport that refreshes the production in its slower patches, though they sacrifice their believability in the flashback scenes by playing so young. PACIFIC RESIDENCE THEATER, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., & Sun., 3 p.m.; thru July 23. (310) 822-8392. (Stephanie Lysaght)

THE ID AND BOB Matt (Ken Barnett) is a young, handsome and witty gay New Yorker who seems incapable of getting laid or holding a job that pays more than minimum wage. Oh, and did I mention he’s white and educated? These facts alone, if not placing Jed Seidel’s dating-game comedy in the realm of gay science fiction, then at least position it as a kind of perverse, inside-out Walter Mitty yarn — the story of a man who has everything going for him yet still can’t make anything click. Nevertheless, director Joe Salazar’s production has its charms, thanks to Kurt Boetcher’s spare but suggestive set and Lisa D. Katz’s ambitious lighting plot. Barnett is engaging enough in his role, and Rex Lee turns in a feisty performance as Matt’s repulsively self-centered blind date, Bob, whose relative success in life should make us all think twice about what we wish for. LILLIAN THEATER, 1076 Lillian Way, Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 22. (866) 794-7529. (Steven Mikulan)

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