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Theater Reviews: Sexy Laundry, Stupid Kids 

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Monday, Feb 18 2008

CABARET Looming over Jules Aaron's production of Fred Ebb and John Kander's now-classic 1966 musical about an American writer in Berlin, as Nazis slither in and around the Kit Kat Club, hangs the question, why are they staging this? As though Joel Grey's and Liza Minnelli's images, and Bob Fosse's staging in the 1972 movie, aren't etched into our consciousness. As though brownshirts aren't still bad, and the people they persecute aren't still forlorn. The only answer I can conjecture is, because they can. Brian Paul Mendoza's jerky, bottom-slapping choreography has Fosse written all over it, and Erin Bennett's Sally Bowles channels Liza, right down to her cropped 'do. Bennett is fine, but she's playing a dangerously presumptuous game of imitation. Jason Currie's MC dances on similarly thin ice, with a voice and charisma that are shadow presences of Grey's. Aaron has amped up the gay quotient, both with Soojin Lee's rubbery costumes and with a platoon of boy-on-boy innuendoes. Christopher Carothers' American-lost-in-Germany has a particularly appealing charm and silky voice, but this show goes to supporting players Eileen T'Kaye, Paul Zegler and Joshua Ziel — respectively as the kindhearted but expedient German landlady, the Jewish retiree who loves her, and the Nazi operative working largely in disguise, until the sky falls. International City Theatre, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 9. (562) 436-4610. (Steven Leigh Morris)

Shashin Desai


Ross Mackenzie

The Flu Season

Joan Rivers

THE FLU SEASON Will Eno's play is set on promising ground — a Man (Tim Wright) and a Woman (Jamey Hood) meet in a psychiatric institution and fall in love. From the start, though, we sense our David and Lisa expectations will be thwarted. First, the evening is introduced by two characters named Prologue and Epilogue (Michael McColl and Christopher Goodson, respectively), who will narrate the scenes we are about to watch, as well as comment on them later. They won't merely discuss the couple's affair, but also its relationship to language and what might be called the pathology of theater. As if it weren't bad enough having two Wilderesque stage managers onboard, more narrators, the Doctor and the Nurse (David Fruechting and Christina Mastin), also take a hand at editorializing, and the Man and Woman often speak to each other as though they're quoting themselves to other people. By unconventionally stressing certain words, they bestow ambiguity on some lines or add unexpected meaning to others — it's as though Barbara Kruger had written the script. There is some funny, provocative repartee here, but before long, our interest sags beneath the weight of Eno's self-referential irony. "This is neither a not-winter nor a not-summer," one character exhales; at least as an acting spectacle, the evening is a not-disappointment under Jonathan Westerberg's direction, with Hood making a lasting impression as one very fragile patient. [Inside] the Ford at John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hlywd.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru March 2. (323) 461-3673. A Circle X Theatre Co. production. (Steven Mikulan)

Not unlike an ice floe, the chill in Bryony Lavery's 2004 play creeps up on you, before working its way into your bones. In the first half-hour, we learn of a girl's abduction somewhere in the north of England through a series of interweaving monologues told by the child's mother (Jenette Goldstein) and the pedophile (Hugh Mason) who led the girl to his van, and much of the play's first half is about the mother's activism on behalf of missing children — a thin veneer for her stoic, fraying hope. This all arrives in a blanket of domestic minutiae — the mother's wavering relations with her other daughter and her husband, for instance, which almost undoes the play's small tug of mystery. Add to the mix a visiting American scholar, a clinical psychiatrist (Deanne Dawson) out to prove that serial killers' absence of compassion is directly related to a malady in a frontal brain lobe rather than inherent evil. With this, the play turns into a probing examination not only of criminal pathology, but of how we come to be humane. Lavery's twists and turns, when the mother finally meets her daughter's killer, come marbled with deeply human contradictions stemming from primal emotions, which director Billy Hayes' stark but relentlessly detailed staging (with Leif Gantvoort's delicate lighting, Sal Valdez's understated sound design and Scott Siedman's Spartan set) eventually brings to the fore with awesome beauty. Lillian Theater, 1076 N. Lillian Way, Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 22. H&D Productions. (Steven Leigh Morris)

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