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
THE TIME MACHINE It’s a safe bet that writer-director Phil Abatecola and producer-performer Julian Bane are big fans of this H.G. Wells science-fiction classic and have always wanted to stage it. The story tells of a Time Traveler (Bane) propelled hundreds of thousands of years into the future; there he attempts to liberate a defenseless community of young people called the Eloi from their carnivorous oppressors, the Morlocks. This adaptation appropriates chunks of dialogue and even the prop time machine from the film on which it’s based. The tech elements are proficient, the performances, less so. (DK)., www.timemachinetheplay.com. Women’s Club of Hollywood, 1749 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri., Sun., 8 p.m.; thru March 14. (310) 473-4422.
THE TOMORROW SHOW Late-night variety show created by Craig Anton, Ron Lynch and Brendon Small. STEVE ALLEN THEATER, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Sat., midnight. (323) 960-7785.
GO VARLA JEAN MERMAN LOVES A FOREIGN TONGUE Drag star Jeffery Roberson’s alter ego (spawn of Ernest Borgnine and Ethel Merman) regales us with her insanely banal reflections on traveling abroad. Her observations are blithely condescending (“Foreign people aren’t like us”), while Varla’s conversations with audience members prove to be exquisitely crass. (“How do you say, ‘This sore is not contagious’?”) The familiar Varla Jean personality traits are all here: jawdropping shallowness, abject professional failure and incurable nymphomania. But Robeson’s character also turns a neat trick that makes the evening slightly political. (SM). Ultra Suede, 661 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood; Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; thru March 27, www.groovetickets.com.
GO VICTORY Athol Fugard’s newest play takes a hard look at exactly what “freedom” means, nearly 20 years after the end of South African apartheid, revealing Fugard’s transition from artist-advocate to tragedian. A mixed-race teenage girl, Vicky (Tinashe Kajese), and an accomplice (Lovensky Jean-Baptiste) loot the home of the old man (Morlan Higgins) who helped teach Vicky to read. So much for the new South Africa. The three performances are ravishingly beautiful under Stephen Sachs’ thoughtful and loving direction. (SLM). Fountain Theater, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 23. (323) 663-1525, www.fountaintheatre.com.
THE WOMEN OF JUAREZ Ruben Amavizca’s story of murder and corruption. (Perfs alternate in English and Spanish; call for schedule.). Frida Kahlo Theater, 2332 W. Fourth St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru April 20. (213) 382-8133.
THE ALL-FEMALE 1929 SKIDOO REVIEW Revue of music, dance and comedy skits from yesteryear, by Eugene H. Butler. Actors Forum Theatre, 10655 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 13, (No perf March 23.). (818) 506-0600.
A GOOD SMOKE Writer-director Don Cummings adeptly captures the chaos enveloping a collapsing family in his dark, one-act comedy. Eldest son Dave (Henry Gummer) has returned to his family’s home in the hopes of straightening out the latest mess. His direction is as fast-paced as the dialogue, and Barbara Gruen delivers a tremendous performance as a deceptive matriarch, a manipulative drug addict. (Sandra Ross). Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 29. (800) 838-3006.
HENRY IV, PART ONE Shakespeare’s history plays sometimes seem like pageants, with one or two star performers presiding over a mere spectacle, full of alarums and excursions. But in more able hands, they’re revealed as huge ensemble pieces, with every role a gem, given an actor who can fill it. Here, we’re presented with the ailing King Henry (Robertson Dean), his seemingly scapegrace son Prince Hal (Freddy Douglas), and Hal’s disreputable mentor and sidekick, the fat knight Falstaff (co-director Geoff Elliott). And Hal, determined to restore honor to his name, becomes the mortal rival of the willful, tempestuous Harry Hotspur (J. Todd Adams). Directors Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott give the piece a traditional and admirably straightforward production, garnished with Michael C. Smith’s handsome set, Soojin Lee’s lavish costumes, and rousing battle scenes excellently choreographed by Kenneth R. Merckx. Elliott gives us a flamboyant and funny Falstaff, but never taps into the earthy, cynical wisdom that Stacy Keach and John Goodman found in the role. Douglas provides a stalwart Hal, with admirable support from a large cast. Yet Adams’ passionate and athletic Hotspur comes close to dominating the production. One wishes for greater verbal clarity, particularly in the early scenes, but it is, overall, an exciting production. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; in rep, call for schedule; thru May 18. (818) 240-0910, Ext. 1, or www.ANoiseWithin.org. (Neal Weaver)
THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME This adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel (book and lyrics by Gary Lamb, music by William A. Reilly) is more like an old-fashioned operetta (with a dash of 19th-century melodrama thrown in) than a modern musical. There’s something enduringly touching about the hopeless love of the hideous, deformed bell ringer, Quasimodo (Bill Mendieta), for the beautiful Gypsy girl Esmeralda (Amy Bloom). But the adapters have been too faithful to the original novel: The Gypsy is so deceived by the transparently vicious guardsman that she often seems like a ninny. (NW)., www.crowncitytheatre.com. St. Matthew’s Lutheran GLBT Church, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. (818) 942-6684.