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Weekend Theater Reviews 

Reviews of What to Wear, Tonight at 11! and Sides: The Fear is Real

Monday, Sep 25 2006
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SIDES: THE FEAR IS REAL The nightmare of the actors’ audition/performance keeps coming around — once, it was Christopher Durang’s turf in The Actor’s Nightmare — but here Mr. Miyagi’s Theatre Company of New York gives it a whirl in its ensemble-written sketch comedy about the horrors of auditioning. The cast’s vivacity and charm helps compensate for the obviousness of the complaints — idiotic casting assistants who, while reading their sides, draw more attention to themselves than to the auditioner; the terror of being caught clueless in a dance audition and so on. Director Anne Kauffman adds some nice visual touches, such as actors in a casting call wearing competing sweatshirts — “Yale” and “Juilliard.” Among the highlights is the physical humor of the perspiration seeping through Paul H. Juhn’s snappily pressed slacks and collar shirt. When he turns his back, you can see the moisture cascading in a strip from the base of his spine through his buttocks. Having entered the audition, he drops his change, and spends half his audition time on his hands and knees picking it up, coin by coin. Painfully funny. Most of the humor, however, is considerably more generic — so familiar in either experience or folklore, its bite is toothless. The fine cast also includes Sekiya Billman, Cindy Cheung, Peter Kim, Hoon Lee and Rodney To. Mr Miyagi’s Theatre Company and EAST WEST PLAYERS, 120 Judge John Aiso St., dwntwn.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 1. (213) 625-7000 or www.eastwestplayers.org. (Steven Leigh Morris)

TONIGHT AT 11! Though Fritz Coleman is probably best known as the weather commentator for KNBC for the last 24 years, he has also worked as a standup comic and written two previous solo plays, It’s Me! Dad! and The Reception. Here he takes a critical-satirical look at the TV news biz, importing voice-overs from several broadcast veterans, including newswoman Penny Griego and helicopter pilot-reporter Chip Paige. Coleman mocks his own position as “a weatherman in a city that has no weather,” and concedes that he is not a licensed meteorologist (“which means I can’t turn on the Doppler radar without another adult present”). He reminds us that TV news is a business, which can’t function without the sale of eight minutes of expensive commercials for every 22 minutes of real programming, and it serves up disasters and violence because that’s what most of us want to see. Some of his comments may be predictable or overly cute, but he also considers the responsibilities of the news organizations, their overinflated claims and their annoying “teasers” designed to keep us from tuning out during commercials. His style is laid back, charming and lightly ironic, and director Richard Kline keeps the wheels turning smoothly. FALCON THEATRE, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Oct. 1. (818) 955-8101. (Neal Weaver)

GO WHAT TO WEAR If Robert Wilson is the gold standard for contemporary spectacle, then Richard Foreman represents the 99-cent store end of the spectrum, an eccentric auteur rummaging through the Styrofoam and cardboard detritus of pop culture. He and composer Michael Gordon have created a minimalist opera based on an enigmatic, repetitious libretto whose central character (or rather, whose idea of a central character), Madeline X, endures a kind of fashion torture by the rulers of style. I’ve probably already overstated its meaning because narrative is the show’s most elusive commodity — it’s better to think of it as an ether dream in which a chorus and “movement ensemble,” nightmarishly costumed by E.B. Brooks in a version of the plaid skirts Britney Spears once popularized, are armed with striped golf woods and skulls on poles. The evening is sung through by Sarah Chalfy, Harmony Jiroudek, Marja-Liisa Kay and Marc Lowenstein, who are dressed in what seem to be accessorized hotel housecleaner uniforms, while the stage is often dominated by images of ducks that both menace and are menacing. As a diversion it works for its 65-minute length — if it lasted a minute longer you’d want to cut your throat. When asked at the next MOCA opening what What to Wear was about, viewers will get by with saying something like, “It is what it is.” But then, almost any answer would be the truth — or at least, in this age of artistic shrugs, would not be a lie. REDCAT, W. Second & Hope sts., dwntwn.; Tues.-Sun., 8:30 p.m.; thru Oct. 1 (Oct. 1 perf, 3 p.m.). (213) 237-2800. (Steven Mikulan)

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