Theater Reviews: Jen and Angie, I'm Just Wild About Harry | Theater | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly

Theater Reviews: Jen and Angie, I'm Just Wild About Harry 

Also, Money & Run, Boise U.S.A. and more

Monday, Jun 2 2008

GO  BOISE U.S.A. Playwright Gene Franklin Smith’s character-driven drama about gay persecution in the ’50s avoids politically correct preachiness, and instead conveys a powerful message through crackling stagecraft. In 1956, Boise, Idaho, is on the brink of becoming a big city, complete with all the urban troubles and crimes that come with it. Amid this atmosphere of civic insecurity, 17-year-old hustler Eldon (Westley Thornton, nicely weasely) gets arrested for lewd behavior — and to save his skin, he publicly names his many clients, sparking a witch hunt. The subsequent prosecutions spread from child molesters to homosexuals to political opponents of the town’s Machiavellian mayor (George McDaniel). Caught in the trap is respected bank vice president Joe Moore (Kris Kamm), who watches as his happy family life crashes and burns. Director Arturo Castillo’s energetic and taut staging fiercely renders the ironic contrast between the era’s Norman Rockwell wholesomeness and the savagery of the prosecutions for homosexuality. The play is remarkably well cast with performers who look as though they are truly denizens of their era. In the role of an increasingly appalled psychiatrist (imported to provide lip service to the clinical value of the mayor’s prosecutions), understudy Scott Victor Nelson gives his introspective character a searingly haunted quality. Other moving turns are offered by McDaniel as the oily and bigoted mayor, Kamm as the destroyed banker, and Melissa Kite as the banker’s equally shattered wife. Matrix Theater, 7657 Melrose Ave., Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru June 29. (323) 960-4420. A Salem K Theatre Company Production. (Paul Birchall)

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Money and Run

GO  I’M JUST WILD ABOUT HARRY As if Charley’s Aunt were not flighty enough for an early-20th-century chestnut featuring cross-dressing — nor Frank Loesser’s 1948 musical version, Where’s Charley? — impresarios William A. Reilly and Gary Lamb have taken the story another step into silliness. Long on dreams and ideas but short on budget, these producers have taken the public domain original, set it in a 1912 college and paired it with a set of 21 songs also from the public domain, including “Daisy, Daisy,” “Aba Daba Honeymoon” and the title tune. The result, though technically shaggy, is delightful. Every song is a sentimental chunk of Americana and musical director Reilly plays them with bouncy perfection. The energetic cast dances through what’s left of the original dialogue and happily croons through the music. Casey Zeman is particularly charming as Babbs, who is tricked by his two buddies into pretending to be a very rich aunt from Brazil (“where the nuts come from”) to help them propose to their gals — whom they cannot see unchaperoned. Reilly and Lamb direct the whole show “louder and faster!” and this cast never lets them down. Crown City Theater, 11031 Camarillo St., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat ., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 15. (818) 377-4055. (Tom Provenzano)

JEN AND ANGIE Ohmygod, Angelina Jolie just gave birth to Brad Pitt’s twins in France! I saw the rumor broadcast last night on an MTA TV news bulletin while riding up Fairfax on the 217 bus. Jolie’s manager denies the story. If you just have to know what’s going on in the lives of Jolie and her former rival for Pitt’s affections, his ex Jennifer Aniston, check out this two-woman comedy act featuring Christina Casa as the very pregnant, pouty-lipped United Nations–humanitarian-award winner — a credit she references multiple times, somewhere near her deep-throated warning to Aniston, “Don’t touch my lips, they’re for blowjobs.” Through big, dark shades, Jolie shows no contempt for Aniston, merely an imperious, impervious devotion to Greater Causes. Sara Chase turns in a sweet performance as the perpetually exasperated Aniston, who finds herself in the same section of the same plane occupied by Jolie and a floppy life-size mannequin of Brad Pitt, in a hauntingly evocative portrayal. The plane crashes and the trio find themselves on a deserted island, home to a sweet reversal of fortune. Backstage after the show, Casa and Chase said they keep reworking the act, using fresh reports from the tabloids. Their portrayals are rough-hewn shadows of characters whom some people, I guess, are really invested in — which is part of the joke. To make fun of royalty, you have to believe that it matters. The show, which has run six months in New York, was written by Laura Buchholz and Casa, and is tartly directed by Susanah Becket. Upright Citizens Brigade, 5919 Franklin Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs., June 5, 8 p.m. (323) 908-8702. (Steven Leigh Morris)

THEATER PICK  LOUIS AND KEELY LIVE AT THE SAHARA See Stage feature. Sacred Fools Theater Company, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 29. (310) 281-8337. (Steven Leigh Morris)

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