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Theater Reviews: Fucking Hollywood, Educating Rita 

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Tuesday, Sep 2 2008
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GO  AS U2 LIKE IT See Stage feature.

 
GO  BOUNCERS Thirty years after its Edinburgh Fringe Festival debut, John Godber’s portrait of the frenetic Yorkshire disco scene has lost none of its poignancy and bounce. Under the expert direction of Cinda Jackson (who also choreographed), performers Chris Coppola, David Corbett, Mark Adair-Rios, Dan Cowan and Phillip Campos play multiple roles, switching repeatedly, and with lightning skill, between portraying the menacing sentinels at an alcohol-sodden after-hours club and that establishment’s hard-partying, working-class patrons. The latter include randy blokes maniacally bent on getting laid, and the alternately coy and bold young women (the ensemble’s female impersonations are especially hilarious) who may be looking for romance but are equally in heat. What pushes the play from comical to compelling is the characters’ desperation confronting a bleak future as society’s expendables — a desperation that frames the coarse antics and fast-paced music. The material gets repetitive toward the end, and the heavy regional accents sometimes make the dialogue difficult to follow — but not so much that it sabotages the laughs we glean from performers who are clearly having so much infectious fun. There’s nary a missed beat nor false note throughout, with Coppola a standout as Lucky Eric — whose occasional meditations on the sordidness of the game separate him from the fray. The Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Sept. 27. (323) 933-6944. (Deborah Klugman)

 
BOYLE HEIGHTS This seldom-produced work by Josefina Lopez (famous for Real Women Have Curves) is an exploration of the Rosales family through the eyes of 26-year-old Dalia (Nicole Ortega), an artistic soul who writes poetry, talks to the moon and gets grief from her family for not having a “real job.” Set in the family’s Boyle Heights neighborhood in the present and during various times in the past, the play also transports us to Mexico 35 years earlier, as well as to Paris, where Dalia and her sister Rosana (Yolie Cortez) go on vacation. The material has potential in terms of exploring the cyclical mistakes of successive generations, as well as the suffocating gossip of Mexican-American enclaves. However, the text suffers from obvious exposition, compounded by director Hector Rodriguez’s decision to have the actors “play out” to the audience in a heavy-handed theatrical style. The amateurish tone this choice creates is occasionally transcended in the acting — namely that of Rosana’s husband, Jaime (Eric Neil Gutierrez), and Dalia’s crush, Chava (Eddie Diaz) — but a couple of good performances are unable to save the show. While Lopez has created moving work over the years and Casa 0101 remains an important voice in its community, both have definitely done better work. Casa 0101, 2009 E. First St., E.L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 14. (323) 263-7684. (Mayank Keshaviah) 

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GO  EDUCATING RITA Director Cameron Watson’s lovingly staged production of British playwright Willy Russell’s updated 1980 stage play for two actors (probably better remembered for its 1983 film adaptation) couldn’t re-emerge at a better time in this country. Just as we’re getting increasingly dire reports on the blowback of our economic recession on public education — rural schools cutting back to a four-day week, bus service curtailed, the cost of school lunches being jacked up as the rate of families evicted from their foreclosed homes keeps escalating — along comes Russell’s homage to the capacities of learning to change minds and lives. A precocious beauty (Rebecca Mozo) wanders into the extended-education course of a musty, aging college professor (Bjørn Johnson), a failed poet who teaches at a university in the north of England. They’re both addicts — she to cigarettes, he to booze — but she has an insatiable curiosity about poetry and literary criticism. Her early essays are emotional responses, and he tutors her — in that crusty, Shavian way depicted in Pygmalion — to become more objective in her responses. She does, and he gets more than he bargained for. Through the course of their lessons, her life opens up, despite her shattering marriage; meanwhile, caught in pangs of jealousy and personal remorse, his life stumbles toward oblivion. The general pattern has a generic shape of A Star Is Born, but the emotional complexities that come with addictions and self-loathing are revelatory. The fire in Mozo’s Rita is hypnotic — though her dialect keeps intruding like a small thorn, wavering between the south of England, the north of England and Alabama. Johnson is more credible than compelling in a workmanlike performance. Even with these drawbacks, the play’s inner tensions come through, and Victoria Profitt’s library-office set and Terri A. Lewis’ costumes say as much about what’s going on between these two as any of their words. Colony Theatre Company, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m. (added perfs Sat., Sept. 6, 3 p.m.; Thurs., Sept. 11 and Sept. 18, 8 p.m.); thru Sept. 21. (818) 558-7000, Ext. 14. (Steven Leigh Morris)

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