By Anthony D'Alessandro
By Catherine Wagley
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
GO THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT Though frayed at the edges in both the writing and the production, Stephen Adly Guirgis’ contemporary NYC trial of Judas (Robert Mollohan, still in biblical garb) — set in the “Hope Street” purgatorial subway station, with the stairwells of Danny Cistone’s set clearly marked “Uptown” and “Downtown” — offers an invigorating meditation on the paradoxical essences of forgiveness and revenge built into the core of our cultural mythology. Even with its comic approach, Guirgis’ play isn’t as glib as the works of Christopher Durang — another Catholic comedic playwright confounded by his theology. Yet Guirgis’ argumentation doesn’t come close to that of the literary masters in that realm of debate — Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Mikhail Bulgakov. This play falls somewhere between a historical pageant, a trial and a farce (Don Rickles is called in for questioning, just for the joke). There are really nice lead performances by Danny Nucci’s ingratiating prosecuting attorney, Katy Jacoby’s defense attorney with personal crises, and Max Middleton’s impatient judge. Some supporting performers are difficult to hear, and when the play turns “meaningful,” via earnest speeches near the end, it completely unravels, at least in this production. Still, it’s smart and funny enough to deserve its audience. Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru March 30. (323) 960-7827. (Steven Leigh Morris)
GO THE LAST SCHWARTZ In her witty, thoughtful play, Deborah Zoe Laufer questions the role of family and religious traditions. As the Schwartz children gather in their now empty childhood Catskills home to honor their father’s Yarzheit (the one-year anniversary of his death), an outsider stirs up issues the family prefers left undisturbed. Lee Sankowich’s direction is first-rate and designer Giulllio Perrone’s set suggests an atmosphere of barrenness, an apt metaphor considering the clan’s regretful past and uncertain future. (Martin Hernandez). Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru April 27. (323) 852-9111.
LOVE STRUCK Marie Barrientos and Odals Nanin’s romantic comedy about two Latinas in love and lust. Macha Theatre (formerly the Globe Playhouse), 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 30. (323) 960-7829.
MAN OF LA MANCHA The Veterans Center for the Performing Arts “celebrates military veterans by developing and producing their original works, as well as examining existing works from a military perspective.” In keeping with that philosophy, the first scene of this Dale Wasserman musical is set in the mental ward of a veterans’ hospital, where author Miguel Cervantes is a patient. The play becomes grand improvisation involving only Cervantes/Quixote (Eric Tucker) and another patient, the Sergeant Major (Stephan Wolfert), known collectively as Deux Bites. Limiting the cast to two actor-singers (plus guitarist/musical director Ali Nikou) tends initially to make the piece seem like a stunt, with each of them juggling multiple roles and donning a wild array of hats, skirts, tatty wigs and accents. It’s clever, inventive and anti-illusory: Wolfert sports a full beard, giving his Aldonza a decidedly rakish air. Costumes and props are improvised, and the Don’s armor consists of hockey shin guards, a plastic tablecloth cape, and a gilded bedpan for a helmet. Both actors are versatile and capable, and, once we get used to their approach, they deliver an engaging and sometimes hilarious version of the play. Veterans Center for the Performing Arts, 446 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sun.-Mon., 7 p.m.; thru April 21. Free, resv. required. (323) 533-2847 or firstname.lastname@example.org. (Neal Weaver)
MAN.GOV Shem Bitterman’s drama, set during the buildup to the second U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, studies the predicament of a senior-level government arms inspector, who finds himself in the precarious and demoralizing position of having to report on the possibility that Saddam Hussein is hiding weapons of mass destruction, though there’s no evidence to support that conclusion. Steve Zuckerman’s spartan staging, however, plays to Bitterman’s strengths: the smart, lean writing and the perversely honest relationships among family and rivals. (SLM) A Circus Theatricals Studio Theater production. Hayworth Theater, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; thru March 15. (323) 960-1054.
MR. MARMALADE Noah Haidle’s dark comedy about a young girl’s imaginary friend., www.3KO.org. Gardner Stages, 1501 N. Gardner St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 29. (818) 685-9939.
GO MY THING OF LOVE The language of Alexandra Gersten’s caustically funny and equally painful examination of a crumbling marriage navigates perfectly between heightened lyric fancy and earthy reality. We begin with an ordinary breakfast routine between spouses that soon begins to simmer, then quickly boils over into a full-blown war over infidelity that defines Gersten’s fascinating play. Johanna McKay offers a virtuoso performance as Elly, a frumpy housewife who throws down the gauntlet over her husband’s affair. As husband Jack, Josh Randall keeps pace with McKay, making their epic battle as exciting and moving as the best of Edward Albee’s early work. Kelly (Heather Fox) — the gorgeous, simple yet unapologetic object of Jack’s straying — is so comically brittle that the intensity of this production continues to grow. Only a bizarre set piece, in which a loony guidance counselor (played with caricatured frenzy by John Schumacher) comes to castigate Elly about her parenting, rings false. Fortunately, this scene fades from memory in Darin Anthony’s otherwise exquisite staging. Sherry Linnell’s witty costume design is best exemplified by Elly’s ugly, slobby sweats. Tom Buderwitz’s naturalistic home interiors are set against a too-slick set of walls that detract from the über-reality of much of the play’s action. GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (added perf Thurs., March 27, 8 p.m.); thru April 5. (800) 838-3006. A Syzygy Theatre Group production. (Tom Provenzano)