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Theater Reviews 

Reviews of Die! Mommy! Die! Fully Loaded, Dirty White Tuxedo Pants and a Brown Plastic Bag and more

Wednesday, Jul 19 2006
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BARBERDASHERS is the slightly pretentious name of a black barbershop in Brooklyn owned and operated by charming, egocentric, competitive Dashel (Ted Lange), whose smug arrogance makes one long for his comeuppance. His fellow barbers include married-but-restless Jim (Art Evans), and Yabari (playwright/director Bless ji Jaja), a hipster who wants to modernize the shop. Their customers include widowed Yvonne (Thyais Walsh) and her young son, Ian (Earl Moore). Writer ji Jaja has a real feeling for characters, their eccentricities, and the comic frictions of everyday life, but the play’s structure is less secure. The main plot (involving a rivalry between Yabari and Dashel for both the widow and the shop, and Yabari’s on-the-side drug dealing) doesn’t really kick in until Act 2. Tenuously linked incidents proliferate (three chess matches, a highly charged monologue by Yvonne, and a rhyming spoken rap by Yabari). Though ji Jaja shows considerable skill as both actor and director, an outside director might have helped shape the material and cut the sometimes trying repetitions. All the actors turn in fine performances, and Del Torro’s handsome set centers on three antique barber’s chairs. Sons & Daughters at the STELLA ADLER THEATER, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 6. (323) 960-7862. (Neal Weaver)


GO DIE! MOMMY! DIE! The gags fly fast and furious in Gregory Christian’s turbocharged direction of Charles Busch’s campy comedy. Washed up songbird Angela Arden (Chris Benton in drag) wants to dispose of her husband, Sol (Fred Dekom), a movie producer who blames her for his run of flops. Their daughter Edith (Dana R. Amromin) is livid that her mother is having an affair with out-of-work actor Tony Parker (Sebastian Kadlecik), though it doesn’t stop Edith from having her own dalliance with him. Shortly after Edith’s brother Lance (James Michael Bobby) returns home to Beverly Hills — he’s been kicked out of college for instituting an orgy — Edith and Lance slip LSD to their mother, in the hope that she’ll answer the mystery of their father’s murder. Director Christian elicits hilarious over-the-top performances from the cast, particularly from Benton, a glamazon whose height draws laughs in every entrance and exit — he’s so tall he has to duck under doorways. The play is lots of fun, but the frenetic second act might be better served by lowering the volume a tad. Rebel Theaterworks in association with the RAVEN PLAYHOUSE, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru July 30. (818) 985-9903. (Sandra Ross)


GO DIRTY WHITE TUXEDO PANTS AND A BROWN PLASTIC BAG Like a modern day Mother Courage, homeless veteran H.G. (Michael McFall) pushes his shopping cart through every intersection of Los Angeles. He’s scrambling to survive, but his wild and woolly dreadlocks, cackling, belligerence and schizophrenic tales of whiskey and midgets make everyone give him a wide berth rather than a job. Opportunistic newsman Chad Garcia Washington Suzuki (Tohoru Masamune) knows that a blond teen hooker (Kasey Haley) gets better ratings than the cantankerous vet, while H.G.’s social worker (Patricia A. Lewis) wields a bureaucratic newspeak that translates to apathy. (“Homelessness is merely mortgage-free living,” she chirps.) Despite its sensitivity, frustration and pointed theme — the walls lined with graffiti’d political signs highlight the failings of the government to give more than lip service to its troops — McFall’s tribute to his uncle’s time on the streets is staged with wit and a dollop of Brechtian artifice by Vinnie K. DeRamus and Josiah Polhemus. The six-member New Directions Choir (George Hill, Sharon Frochen, Gary Bergner, John E. Hill, Glenn Berry and Carleton Griffin) acts as a chorus to this “journey to crazy,” as Anthony Belcher’s announcer dubs it. (All of them spent time in the military before bottoming out on the streets, and their sweet harmonies add to the hope that other veterans like H.G. could have a third-act redemption.) GLOBE PLAYHOUSE, 1107 N. Kings Road, W. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 12. (323) 960-7829. (Amy Nicholson)


GO FULLY LOADED Paula Killen and Lisa Orkin perform their two-person show “about the serious nature of nothing in particular,” a description that’s both accurate and slightly too self-effacing, given their artfully framed snapshot of people flailing, slightly bewildered and with skeptical determination, through a loneliness that runs rampant in the culture. The show depicts two women in their 30s driving around the city, their moods rising and falling to the tone of the songs they’re punching out on the radio, while discussing the intricacies of sex, broken marriages and frayed romantic relationships. The pair of comedians employs a nonchalant, seemingly improvisatory style that breaks away into sections of audience participation and substories: “My Cancer Moment” is Killen’s ode to her process of dealing with breast cancer, delivered in a tone that’s slightly mocking of the strategically harrowing timbre of Women’s Channel specials. Where Killen wears an expression of perpetual doe-eyed wonder, as though having spent a lifetime trying to fathom the mysteries of romantic attachments and detachments, Orkin comes off as comparatively brazen and nervy, with her husky voice and cavalier attitude. On the night I attended, a male jock in the audience was dragged up onstage for an improvisation called “How to Break Up in Starbucks.” Some imagined relationship was severed by his partner (Killen) without him having to say a word, which is serious and as far from “the nature of nothing in particular” as men are from women. Shira Piven directs. UPRIGHT CITIZENS’ BRIGADE THEATER, 5919 Franklin Ave., Hlywd.; Fri., July 21, 8 p.m.; then various Fridays thru Nov. 24; call for schedule. (323) 908-8702. (Steven Leigh Morris)


GREENSWARD R. Hamilton Wright’s comedy is a variant of The Man in the White Suit genre of economic fable, in which an apparently great scientific invention breeds universal unhappiness. Here, a scientist (Adam Paul) develops a strain of grass that requires virtually no watering or cutting. Wright pokes some broad fun at the political, commercial and environmental interests that try to shut down the botanist’s project, but he seems reluctant to flesh out his story’s darker implications. CIRCUS THEATRICALS STUDIO THEATER AT THE HAYWORTH, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; in rep, call for schedule; thru Aug. 12. (323) 960-1054 or www.circustheatricals.com. See Stage feature next week. (Steven Mikulan)


GO I DO! I DO! When newlyweds Michael (Tom Schmid) and Agnes (Julie Dixon Jackson) first climb into bed together, they are both riddled with the anxiety of wedding-night jitters. (Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt’s musical opened back in 1966.) The two lie side by side in their new four-poster bed with a massive, red “God Is Love” pillow stuffed awkwardly between them. Tom Buderwitz’s set, like the newlyweds’ bed, is strictly divided into his side and her side. As the show progresses, however, Michael’s possessions start turning up on Agnes’ side of the formerly immaculate room, signaling the fact that their lives, for better or for worse, have become wholly entwined. We follow the pair through their 50-year marriage, replete with professional successes and failures, the births of their two children, and plenty of tiffs and reconciliations. Although off-putting at first, the play’s antiquated approach to sexuality soon becomes as strangely comforting as watching an I Love Lucy marathon. Also, like Lucy and Ricky, the chemistry between Michael and Agnes, both when they bicker and when they make up, is nothing short of magical. Nick DeGruccio is directing this musical in repertory with The Last Five Years (see abbreviated review in Larger Theater listings; full review at laweekly.com), a more modern take on the marriage musical. PASADENA PLAYHOUSE, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; in rep, call for schedule; thru Aug. 6. (626) 356-PLAY. (Stephanie Lysaght)


THE REUNION This largely improvised interactive piece about a 10-year high-school reunion has the audience partaking of nibbles and alcoholic beverages as they track the alumni through school corridors, classrooms and a plaza. Set in 1994, the play’s tangle of subplots often references a dead classmate whose untimely end affected many. The troubled graduates include a Bible-pounding born-again Christian (Stasia Patwell), a catty Hollywood wannabe (Natalie Compagno), a feminist performance artist (Melissa Lee, whose T-shirt reads, “The person in bed with you is your oppressor”) and a closeted lawyer (Jerry Pappas) struggling to make his marriage work. Danny Lopes fashions one of the better performances as an intimidating cop who once ran over and maimed for life his best friend, a promising athlete. In one interesting moment, he smolders at Johnny Cochran (Kim Estes) over the O.J. case and at the lawyer’s presumed tryst with his companion, a white woman. (Cochran is there as someone’s escort, which I had a hard time believing.) Slow getting started, the piece improves somewhat as both the characters and the audience become inebriated. Despite a few focused performances, however, it never rises above slushy melodrama. SpyAnts Theater Company at the HOWARD FINE ACTING STUDIO, 1445 N. Las Palmas Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 5. (323) 860-8786. (Deborah Klugman)


THIEVES’ CARNIVAL Staged in a public park, director Chris Berube’s production of Jean Annouilh’s 1934 farce about the misadventures of three professional pickpockets has plenty of spirit, but it lacks polish and a sharp comedic edge. We first see these cutpurses (Dean Edward, Steven Lekowicz, Jared Krichevsky) at work in the city of Mardi Gras, changing outfits and disappearing like phantoms while they steal the goods of hapless citizens. They decide to con a family of aristocrats, taking on the guises of a dead nobleman and his two sons and worming their way into Lady Hurf’s (Heidi Dotson) graces, taking up residence at her estate. These bungling thieves get more than they bargain for when Gustave (Lekowicz), falls for Hurf’s niece, Julliette (Dayna Schaaf), and their “big game” score falls apart at the seams. The story has comic charm, but you won’t find much of that in this staging, with its labored physical comedy, and Berube’s inattention to subtlety soon shows itself. Both Schaaf and Dotson give fine performances, while others are middling to awful. Rounding out the cast are Seth Bateman, Eric Billitzer, Tom Hyer, Olivia Figueroa and Janet Osborne. Culver City Public Theater at DR. PAUL CARLSON MEMORIAL PARK, Motor Ave. & Braddock Dr., Culver City; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 20; free. (310) 712-5482. (Lovell Estell III)

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