By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
EYE MOUTH GRAFFITI BODYSHOP & 20 PLAYS IN 20 MINUTES And the Beat goes on. The poetry in Ron Allen’s choreo-poem about the ultimate short circuit in the city’s grid (violence, erotic provocation, spiritual ennui and poetry) is electrically charged and often more declarative than evocative (“Skin is a coffin ... Chance is the road to Nirvana ... Ten-cent orgasms of telemarketing heroes”). The experience feels assailed by a street-corner poet, whose words are enacted by an ensemble of 12, a feeling that’s as invigorating and discomfiting as standing in the cold breeze of an alleyway. Jemal McNeil’s sharp direction and Drew D’Andrea’s sassy choreography expand the words into relationships and movement that’s both ritualized and saucy — largely played out around a stage-center shrine that embodies the city’s detritus. The performances, by dancers Brixey Blankenship, Victoria Brown, Aaron Davis and Kalen Salima and actors Justin Alston, Phillip C. Curry, David Ibrahim, Jo D. Jonz, Lynn Odell, Marja-Lewis Ryan and Wendi West, are first-rate. Nonetheless, it’s hard work to keep fathoming lines such as “Take the air from the lip of heavy want/Take this raw weight on my tongue/This sweet tobacco of indulgence ...,” only to watch the ensemble gunned down by rifle fire. This poem’s despondency is more assumed than earned — assumed from the brutal experience of the streets and the love of language — yet 90 minutes of assumption, in place of debate, becomes more blistering than inviting, despite the oozing sensuality of the music and dance. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hlywd.; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru March 27. (323) 856-8611 or www.theatreofnote.com. (Steven Leigh Morris)
THE FLU SEASON In Will Eno’s promising play, a Man (Tim Wright) and a Woman (Jamey Hood) meet in a psychiatric institution and fall in love. Two characters named Prologue and Epilogue (Michael McColl and Christopher Goodson, respectively), narrate the scenes we are about to watch. More narrators (David Fruechting and Christina Mastin) also take a hand at editorializing. There is some funny, provocative repartee here, but our interest sags beneath the weight of Eno’s self-referential irony. Jonathan Westerberg directs. (SM). [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru March 29. (323) 461-3673.
GO FROZEN The chill in Bryony Lavery’s 2004 play creeps up on you. 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. Add to the mix a visiting American clinical psychiatrist (Deanne Dawson) out to prove that serial killers’ absence of compassion stems from a brain dysfunction rather than inherent evil. With this, the play probes how we come to be humane, and Billy Hayes’ detailed staging brings renders the play with awesome beauty. (SLM). Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 22. (323) 960-5521.
GO GROUNDLINGS SWIMSUIT EDITION Drawing on a variety of current themes and issues, the Groundlings shine in their newest show that, following a Groundlings tradition, has nothing to do with the title. Featuring strong comedic writing, the sketches also incorporate music, including “Womanisms,” a song about (f)e-mails women forward to each other. Director Karen Maruyama keeps the evening moving at a brisk pace, never letting the audience settle into apathy. (MK). Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 10 p.m.; thru April 19. (323) 934-9700.
HARM’S WAY Shem Bitterman’s play is a thoughtful, stateside view of America’s actions in Iraq, centered on an Army atrocity that is investigated by a military father (Jack Stehlin) whose daughter (Katie Lowes) falls in love with the case’s chief suspect (Ben Bowen). While it doesn’t completely fulfill its dramatic potential, the two-hour show, directed by Steve Zuckerman, mostly avoids editorializing, preferring instead to question how good people do terrible things. (In rep with Man.gov.) A Circus Theatricals Studio Theater production. (SM). Hayworth Theater, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 15. (323) 960-1054.
ICELAND Roger Guenveur Smith’s globetrotting saga of a painter and a dancer. REDCAT, W. Second & Hope sts., L.A.; Sat., March 15, 8 p.m.; Sun., March 16, 3 p.m. (213) 237-2800.
GO JAMES JOYCE’S THE DEAD Under Charles Otte’s tender staging, Richard Nelson’s adaptation of James Joyce’s literary gem is nothing short of superb. Nelson’s book stirs and then sweetens all of the poignant subtleties of Joyce’s prose, and it’s all neatly complemented by Nelson and Shaun Davey’s music and lyrics, under Dean Mora’s splendid musical direction, in which the oft-singing characters are accompanied by piano, cello, violin and some Celtic percussion. During a Christmas holiday party, food, song, dance, revelry and music are richly displayed; but inexorably, some portent of change looms. (LE3). Open Fist Theater, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 12. (323) 882-6912, www.openfist.org.
L.A. WOMEN: FROM THE ASHES TO THE STAGE Scenes about the diverse ladies of Los Angeles, by Jennifer Tracy and Sabrina Hill. Bang, 457 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru March 20. (323) 653-6886.