Theater Reviews: Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story, Bachelorette | Theater | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly

Theater Reviews: Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story, Bachelorette 

Also: Departures, The Time Machine and more

Monday, Jan 28 2008

GO BACHELORETTE Writer-director Leslye Headland's fast-paced dark comedy is the second part of her seven-play series — each segment dealing with one of the Seven Deadly Sins. The theme for this particular entry is "Gluttony," but judging from all the boozing, boinking and hate-filled malice on display, the topic could just as easily have been Lust, Wrath or Pride. On the night before her wedding, sweet but dim bride-to-be Becky (Stefanie Black) has the poor judgment to let Regan (Laila Ayad), her unaccountably embittered and jealous maid of honor, spend the night in the wedding suite, while she spends the night with her future hubby. Regan invites Becky's two former high school rivals to party hearty with her. Much champagne is guzzled, cocaine is snorted off coffee tables, the wedding dress is spitefully shredded, and men are picked up at random from a nearby bar. Along the way, the women learn some harsh truths about themselves and how they truly feel about each other. Headland's ear for taut, brittle dialogue makes for some cruel, but scathingly funny, exchanges — and the performances nicely balance the characters' personal weaknesses with unexpectedly sympathetic vulnerabilities. As the self-medicating, manipulative maid of honor, Ayad creates an antiheroine who's both hateful and oddly tragic. Black's doelike Becky is also unusually touching, as is Adam Shapiro, as one of the women's golden-hearted one-night stand. Working Stage Theater, 1516 N. Gardner St., W. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 24. (Paul Birchall)

Sondi Kroeger Foley and Michael John Walters in A Brief History of Penguins and Promiscuity
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Robert W. Arbogast

Roger Ainslie, J.R. Mangels and Andrea Lockhart in Departures
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Michael Lamont

Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story: How to make a killing
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A BRIEF HISTORY OF PENGUINS AND PROMISCUITY Seven years ago in a Parisian hotel, linguist Julia (Sondi Kroeger Foley) conceived a son. On the anniversary of the blessed impregnation, the potential fathers have assembled to duke it out over young Ernest's parentage: Julia's tweedy husband, Albert (Jonah Hamilton Keel); his best friend King (Michael John Walters), a warty and hook-nosed Antarctic biologist; and Roquefort (Travis Clark), the French waiter from downstairs. "It's like a slutty Brigadoon," moans the cuckolded Albert. The reason behind the straight-laced Julia's lapse in judgment was a vial of pheromonally potent penguin musk belonging to King, and even now, when she catches a whiff, her unappealing ex-lovers transform into a strapping beefcake (Ryan McCann) — a funny flourish that keeps Walters, Clark and McCann flinging themselves behind a convenient sofa. James McLindon's lampoon of a British sex farce boasts plenty of bawdy puns and a set that demands stage designer Leonard Ogden cover every square foot with those titular beady-eyed ice birds. It could motor along quite well if it were crisper and more sure-footed, yet despite smart turns by Keel and Clark, director Kevin Cochran allows the frenzy to lapse into stridency — and, worse yet, niceness. GTC BURBANK, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank; perfs Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 9. (818) 238-9998. (Amy Nicholson)

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GO THE CAVALIER JEW Writer-performer Jon Ross is Jewish and highly observant, but that doesn't make him an observant Jew. Though he has tremendous affection for the joys of Yiddish, with its colorful vocabulary and irreverent attitude, he has an inborn distrust of all organized religion. He favors rational examination, but, he says, most religions react to that "the way Dracula reacts to a silver crucifix." He celebrates Catskill comedians, derived from Yiddish tummlers, and he bases the title of his piece on the fact that while attending the University of Virginia, he was a mascot for the Virginia Cavaliers. Much of his spiel is centered on the tale of his brother Ricky, who was his childhood hero. Ricky's life described an improbable arc that led from adolescent basketball star to marijuana dealer, to becoming a certified accountant, a lawyer and a highly successful businessman. When a heroin addiction put the kibosh on his business career, he set out to learn Hebrew, and embraced a rigid Orthodox Judaism, trying, as Ross suggests, to "out-Jew Dad." He moved to Israel, married a woman who speaks only Hebrew and distanced himself from his family. Ross is a very funny man, but here he's more thoughtful storyteller than standup comedian. THE FANATIC SALON, 3815 Sawtelle Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru March 16. (800) 838-3006 or (Neal Weaver)

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