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Theater Reviews 

Including Doubt, Beehive and this week's pick, Rocks in my Salsa

Wednesday, Oct 4 2006
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(Photo by Daniel Sampson)
 PICK ROCKS IN MY SALSA Writer-performer Cristina Nava says she remembers working to create atmosphere for a romantic evening by blending salsa in a molcajete bowl she had just bought in Tijuana. Unfortunately, what she didn’t do was eliminate the tiny stone chips loosely lodged in most such basalt bowls. Her boyfriend chipped a tooth, and the rocks in the salsa have emerged as a metaphor in her first solo performance for the tiny, pain-inducing obstacles that accompany being a Chicana in Hollywood. The piece, playing this weekend, was created in consultation with director/mentor Monica Palacios; it tells stories from the identity body politics of sexuality, homophobia and being a single Latina in her 30s, while her Mexican family waits anxiously for her to start a family. Nava also comments on her somewhat skewed relationship with The Biz. Playing an extra, Nava was incensed when asked to throw on a burka because, with her olive skin and brown eyes, she could pass for being Muslim. Talk about layers of oppression. “I’m trying to break into Hollywood and analyze how Hollywood analyzes me,” Nava explains. “I don’t appreciate having to be invisible.” Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., Oct. 6-7, 8:30 p.m. (310) 315-1459 or visit www.highwaysperformance.org. (Steven Leigh Morris)


ANGEL Every character in P.J. Gibson’s drama has her own unique way of coping with loneliness. Iena (Sharon Munfus) loses herself in books, Liz (Melissa Steach) drowns herself in booze and Mina (Tilda Del Toro) offers herself to Jesus. Act 1 goes something like this: Liz gets drunk and acts like a bitch; Mina chastises Liz for getting drunk and acting like a bitch; Iena smooths out the tension; repeat. The most provocative part of Act 1 occurs when prudish Iena goes on a date with a suave, younger man named Preston (Spencer Scott), whose attentive, graceful pursuit of Iena both intrigues and frightens her. Co-directors Scott and Yvette Culver stage the date scene as an entrancing tug-of-war, giving both Munfus and Scott a chance to show their acting chops. Act 2 takes a surprising turn to the metaphysical, introducing Angel (Dwight Hicks), the embodiment of Iena’s ideal man. The twist is interesting enough, and we get a very sexy glimpse of the love affair between Angel and Iena. The play moves so slowly toward the end, however, that not even this juicy romance can keep it buoyant. Unity Players Ensemble at THE STELLA ADLER THEATRE, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Oct. 15. (323) 860-3208. (Stephanie Lysaght)


THE BEASTLY BOMBING Dr. Strangelove meets HMS Pinafore in Julien Nitzberg and Roger Neill’s completely whacked operetta about our even more whacked 21st-century politics. This is one of the few occasions where you’ll find dancing al Qaeda terrorists and skinheads sashaying together in a kind of chorus line, suspects of a crime they wanted but failed to commit, now all hiding in Orthodox Jewish garb. There’s something to offend everyone in this multi-culti hatchet job, and the Gilbert and Sullivan jollity wears as thin as some of the sub-plots — as it does in most G&S light operas. But this musical has the rare virtue of proffering a theory for the senseless state of the world that actually makes some sense — more sense than any of our recently enacted national policies, or official explanations of them. Nitzberg directs with a storybook goofiness that’s deceptively well crafted. See Theater feature next week. The Secret Order of Revolutionary Operettists at the STEVE ALLEN THEATER, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 18. (800) 595-4849 or www.steveallentheater.com. (Steven Leigh Morris)


BEEHIVE This rousing jukebox musical, compiled and created by Larry Gallagher, offers an impassioned tribute to the singing groups and divas of the 1960s, and delivers a big-haired, Aqua Netted capsule history of that tumultuous decade along the way. Six high-octane performers (LaToya London, Stacy Francis, Kathleen Hennessy, Tricia Kelly, Sylvia MacCalla and Lesli Margherita) deliver vivid, snappy impressions of the divas, from Diana Ross and the Supremes, Petula Clark, Lulu, and Connie Francis to Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin and Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane. The songs are pop-rock standards and anthems, including “My Boyfriend’s Back,” “Stop in the Name of Love,” “Downtown,” “Respect,” “I’m Sorry,” “The Beat Goes On,” “Piece of My Heart” and “Go Ask Alice.” All the women contribute high energy, well-honed musical skills and satiric edge, and director Nick DeGruccio and choreographer Lee Martino keep the pace moving with a furious and funny tone on Andrew Hammer’s Mondrian-like set. Thomas G. Marquez’s witty costumes turn the proceedings into a ’60s fashion show, and musical director Jim Vukovich keeps the musical turns sharp and spirited, leading the onstage six-person band as flamboyant keyboard man. Valley Musical Theatre at EL PORTAL THEATRE, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Wed.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 8. (866) 811-4111. (Neal Weaver)


DAVE AND TOM’S: A TRIBUTE TO DAVE AND TOM The amusing conceit of this evening is that comedy team David Beeler and Tom Konkle are commemorating their talent with a live retrospective — though they’re already dead. The pair have been working together for several years in an attempt to create an American version of the brilliant John Cleese–Eric Idle sketches from Monty Python. They approach the tone, but they simply don’t succeed in being funny — ever. The cleverest piece is “Economy Bookstore,” modeled in temperament on the classic Python “Dead Parrot” bit — in this case the frustrated customer is trying to explain to the annoyingly deadpan bookseller that cheap books are not helpful if they are missing most of their pages. Several other scenes take similar stabs at stoic hilarity, but all miss the mark. Moments of outrageousness come across infantile — particularly the embarrassing toilet humor of a drag matron urinating mightily on the floor as she’s speaking to the audience. SANTA MONICA PLAYHOUSE, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 29. (310) 394-9779. (Tom Provenzano)


DOUBT John Patrick Shanley’s Catholic thriller opens as Father Flynn (Chris McGarry) delivers a riveting sermon in which he proclaims doubt to be as strong a bond between individuals as faith. In fact, suspicion, mistrust and uncertainty are the fuel of this drama, set in 1964 at St. Nicholas Church School in the Bronx. Based on some telling circumstantial evidence, the elementary school’s principal, Sister Aloysius (Cherry Jones) knows — just knows — that the charismatic priest is molesting boys in the rectory. (If Father Flynn embraces the liberal Vatican Council II, the vinegary Sister Aloysius’ comfort zone lies somewhere between the first and second Nicaean councils.) She sets out to prove her charges against him to a young nun, Sister James (Lisa Joyce), who in a way represents the clueless public of the time. The play is structured as a detective story (Aloysius is Miss Marple in a habit) and works best on that level. It’s a taut, 90-minute work without intermission but, seen the second time, also seems a smaller play than when first viewed. Although this is the Tony-winning Doug Hughes–directed production (Jones reprises her role, as does Adriane Lenox as the mother of an African-American boy allegedly assaulted by Father Flynn), I found last year’s Pasadena Playhouse version, with Linda Hunt as Aloysius and directed by Claudia Weill, to have been a crisper and more coherent telling — and a production more in touch with the script’s Gothic atmosphere. AHMANSON THEATRE, 135 N. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7:30 p.m.; thru Oct. 29 (no eve perfs Oct. 5 & 29; added perf Oct. 26, 2 p.m.). (213) 628-2772 or www.centertheatregroup.org. (Steven Mikulan)


THE QUEEN OF BINGO This week, America’s movie theaters pulled in approximately $70 million. Not bad, but bingo parlors still smoked ’em with a total gross of $90 million. For the game’s devotees, bingo is more than entertainment — it’s their hobby, distraction, social hour, prayer and daily dose of hope. Accordingly, to Jeanne Michels and Phyllis Murphy’s slim comedy, the drama isn’t the constant calls of “B-11! N-42!” but the way that drumbeat pushes two middle-aged, Middle-American sisters to the brink. Sis (Shane Partlow) anchors her empty days at the tables of every bingo hall from the local parish to the Indian reservation, while her bursting-at-the-seams younger sister, Babe (Rowan Joseph, who also directs), wheedles and rages at her losing cards and burgeoning thighs. (Yes, they’re in drag, but Joseph’s direction smartly has the comedy spring from their characters, not their bosoms.) While the performances, bingo gags and the snarky, gossipy jabs against people with better luck are silly fun, ultimately the one-act is an extended sketch with a pat ending; the biggest swell of tension rises when Father Mac (Peter Colburn) has the audience play for a frozen turkey. CORONET THEATRE (upstairs), 366 N. La Cienega Blvd., W. Hlywd.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 5 p.m.; indef. (310) 657-7377. (Amy Nicholson)


THE 60S Trish Soodik’s comedy is a winsome tale about the enduring mysteries of love and commitment between two children of the ’60s, and their bumpy journey into their golden years. Although divorced for four years, Norman (Steve Vinovich) and Grace (Marlette Hartley), are still very much in love and unable to stay out of each other’s orbit. Trouble is, Norm’s a philanderer (the reason for their divorce), and resents the loss of care-free youth, so he goes about setting the night club scene of his Culver City neighborhood on fire, eventually hooking up with trouble in the form of an unhappily married woman (Dana Dewes), much to the chagrin of his petulant and resentful son, Adam (Kevin Rahm). It isn’t until a crisis erupts involving Grace’s health that the lasting bond and love between the two becomes apparent. Soodik’s script is smartly written, notwithstanding some stretches when it lags, particularly in Act 2. Most engaging are Soodik’s characters, who, warts and all, are artfully sketched and fully dimensional (Jerry Sroka’s addle-brained Joe is a real piece of work). Director Paul Linke draws excellent performances from his cast. Jeff Henry’s winning soundtrack features hits from such period icons as Jimi Hendrix, The Fifth Dimension and The Rolling Stones. PACIFIC RESIDENT THEATRE, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 19. (310) 822-8392. (Lovell Estell III)


TALLEY’S FOLLY Lanford Wilson’s 1979 Pulitzer Prize–winning play, set in 1944, drives from the emotional dynamic between Sally (Amy Honey), a liberal-minded unmarried woman from a bigoted WASP family, and Matt (William Salyers), the loquacious, highly intelligent Jewish accountant who wants to marry her. After a year’s separation, the pair reunite in her family’s old boathouse, where they are surrounded by lush foliage (beautifully evoked by designer’s Jason Z. Cohen set), surely ideal for rekindling a romance. Sally spends most of the work’s 97 intermission-less minutes playing a hard-to-get coquette and insisting that a happy future for the two of them would be impossible. It’s a noxious, script-embedded aspect of the character, unfortunately exacerbated by Honey’s feigned delivery, which displays little of the charm or rebellious spirit that propels her odd-duck spinster to entertain Matt’s attentions in the first place. In command throughout, Salyers delivers a strong, capable performance, but the core chemistry between the two performers is missing. When secrets are outed toward the end, the piece finally ignites. It’s a long wait. Darin Anthony directs. GTC BURBANK, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Oct. 14. (323) 254-9328. (Deborah Klugman)

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