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
’DA KINK IN MY HAIR Trey Anthony’s story of the “womyn” passing through a West Indian hairdresser’s salon.com. Actor’s Playpen, 1514 N. Gardner St., Hlywd.; Mon., Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 30. (323) 874-1733, www.plays411.
GO DICKIE & BABE: THE TRUTH ABOUT LEOPOLD & LOEBNathan Leopold and Richard Loeb get reinvented in Daniel Henning’s exhaustively researched play, which largely devotes its focus to the formative years of the boys’ friendship. Rumors of the pair’s homosexual affections follow them all the way to the Chicago courthouse, where they stand charged with murdering a child. Some moments cry out for deletion, but the actors carve out two distinct personalities and carry out Henning’s attempt to present the pair as both villains and victims of their own fantasies. (SM) The Blank Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 30. (323) 661-9827, www.theblank.com.
THE DYING GAUL Craig Lucas’ decade-old play, set in 1995, receives a commendable L.A. premiere under Jon Lawrence Rivera’s taut yet compassionate direction. Robert (Patrick Hancock) is a screenwriter about to sell his first script. Hollywood producer Jeffrey (Ken Arquelio) wants to buy Robert’s screenplay — if Robert, who recently lost his companion to AIDS, will heterosexualize his gay-themed love story. We soon learn two lessons: A million dollars cuts away a lot of gay pride, and macho movie producers are never what they seem. The fire behind the play, though, is Jeffrey’s wife, Elaine (Mary-Ellen Loukas), a pensive beauty who becomes obsessed with Robert. Using information purloined from Robert’s psychiatrist (Nick Salamone), she impersonates the screenwriter’s dead lover in Internet chat-room conversations with him. Lucas’ play is a funny tragedy peopled with intelligent figures who make stupid decisions. Rivera’s actors display an emotional grace even as their characters unravel — Arquelio especially exudes the dark intensity of a man who naturally deceives himself and others in pursuit of what he believes is true. “You can do anything you want,” he tells Robert, “as long as you don’t name it for what it is.” Gary Lee Reed’s simple set makes efficient use of upstage sliding panels, though the stage’s center of gravity will appear seriously distant for audience members closest to the theater’s entrance. Bonnie Bailey Reed deserves credit for recreating a world, now merely 13 years ago, that seems so distant because of its brick-sized cell phones and double-floppy-drive laptops. Elephant Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 pm.; thru Apr 19. (323) 960-7745. A Master Class Players Production. (Steven Mikulan)
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.; thru March 29. (323) 461-3673.
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.
IMAGOFEST Three one-acts: The Divorce Party by Matt Sauter, The Other Side to Everything by Alex Aves, and Twice on Sunday by Allan Smith. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru April 6. (323) 465-4446, www.plays411.com/imagofest.
GO INVASION OF THE MINNESOTA NORMALS In Jen Ellison’s play, Ruth McKinley (Deborah F. Reed) plays hostess on a rainy night in a 1950s Chicago suburb. As the guests arrive, they remark on the absence of her husband, but nonetheless consume considerable liquor, enjoying snide chitchat and questions from a personality test that Roy had brought home a few days earlier. Tensions escalate, cracking the veneer of domestic Midwestern tranquillity. Melissa Denton’s deft direction of a great cast keeps multiple balls in the air. (MK) Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 19. (323) 960-5771, www.plays411.com/mninvasion.
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., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 12. (323) 882-6912, www.openfist.org.