Click here for comprehensive theater listings.
FIT FOR SOCIETY is a pastiche of war veterans’ stories, written by Brian Monahan (who is from a military family) and Stephen Wolfert (a veteran of the U.S. Army). Some are direct, personal accounts, some are first-person dramatic monologues delivered straight to the audience, and some are monologues to an invisible character. While the work is earnest and, at times, powerful, the stylistic disunity weakens the overriding idea. And because the evening runs scattershot over a wide range of veteran themes — most of which have been introduced to us in media coverage of the last 40 years of war — we aren’t challenged by the kind of specificity that opens up new ways of understanding the futility, waste and tragedy of war. Director Stephan Wolfert, however, shapes the performances of his excellent cast well, inspiring an authentic, gripping tone throughout. Standouts include Ian Casselberry’s infantryman divested of his humanity and Arnell Powell’s brusque drill sergeant. And Randy Brumbaugh’s lights are particularly effective on the small, open stage. But what we ultimately see is a truly inspired series of previews for several potentially stirring plays. The Veterans Center for the Performing Arts, 446 S. La Brea, L.A.; Sat. & Mon., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; Tues. perf. Nov. 11, 8 p.m.; through Nov. 11. (888) 398-9348. (Luis Reyes)
GO GOOD BOBBY Few families have commanded more public fascination — or newsprint — than the Kennedy clan. In his engaging character study, Brian Lee Franklin constructs a compelling portrait of the “other son,” Robert Francis Fitzgerald, and the historical milieu that shaped him. The play opens at a 1958 subcommittee hearing with “Bobbie” (Franklin) and Senator John McClellan (William Stone Mahoney) aggressively interrogating Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa (R.D. Call, in a convincing turn) about Hoffa’s mob connections. From the outset, Franklin creates a profoundly flawed and conflicted image of Kennedy, one that is steadily and skillfully nuanced throughout this production. Nowhere is this more in evidence than in his relationship with his father, Joe, (Steve Mendillo), whose vaulting ambition contoured the lives of all of his sons, and whose approval of “good Bobby” was desperately sought by RFK but, according to Franklin’s play, never fully realized. We follow RFK’s rise to national prominence, his battles during the civil rights era as U.S. Attorney General, his involvement in his brother John’s presidential campaign (and more than a few unsavory deeds during that time), the aftermath of JFK’s assassination, and Bobby’s gradual ascension in the Democratic Party, resulting in his becoming its presidential nominee in 1968. The script is well written, and Franklin can be forgiven for some questionable Oliver Stone moments involving a shadowy CIA agent (Jim Metzler). The performances are uniformly high caliber under Pierson Blaetz’s fine direction. Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 4 p.m., through Nov. 23. (323) 655-7679. (Lovell Estell III)
GO HALO Nately, Nova Scotia — a town too small for a movie theater — has just been blessed with a major tourist attraction: an image of Jesus on the brick wall of the local Tim Horton’s coffee shop. The Savior makes for good publicity and great business. Horton manager Bob (Gary Ballard) has doubled his receipts, the local chicken shack is selling a 12-piece Apostle Meal, and everyone’s wearing obnoxious baseball hats crowned with a fuzzy halo — made in China, notes agnostic barista Casey (Frances Manzo). Midway through Act 1, it becomes clear that playwright Josh MacDonald is mining for richer stuff than small-town satire. He’s interested in the murky intersections of faith and cynicism, commerce and celebration and miracles and delusion. All of his characters, including Casey’s newly devout jock boyfriend, Jansen (Glen Brackenridge), a fired-up newscaster (Christine Joelle), a hippie priest (John T. Cogan), and a coma patient’s grieving father and daughter (David Hunt Stafford and Emily Button) are fumbling in the dark. Though director Bruce Gray’s ensemble occasionally wavers, the production is strong, nicely framed by set designer Jeff G. Rack’s glowing halo, which hovers above the stage.Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; Mon.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; through Nov. 6. (310) 364-0535 or www.theatre40.org. (Amy Nicholson)
MONEY SHOT It’s been all of five Earth years since NASA’s famously overachieving rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, began wandering the Martian terra firma in hopes of identifying traces of extraterrestrial life. If only the space bots had touched down on Daniel Keleher’s pseudo-Labutian burlesque of amateur online pornographers instead. Keleher’s two-hour roar of sexual invective, off-color cliché and raunchy non sequitur is fairly teeming with inhuman caricatures alien to earthly drama. A four-man fuck-film crew, calling themselves the Super Cocks, pin their hopes for the Web-sex bigtime to legendary porn auteur, the Cunt (Kahlil Joseph), who agrees to helm their upcoming gangbang opus. Never mind that the horse-hung, star performer (Shawn Colten) has broken under the strain of concealing an affair with the scriptwriter (Dante Walker) from the group’s violently homophobic, resident sociopath (Gregory Myhre). He needn’t have worried. The loathsome leader is far too preoccupied with seducing Cocks member James Jordan’s new girlfriend, Tiffany (Danielle See), to notice. When the inexplicably compliant girl accepts a particularly degrading role as the film’s multiple-penetrated sex object, the resulting insult and injury expose the men’s overexaggerated macho swagger as the more malevolent expression of sexual violence. Long before that happens, however, any remaining motivational logic is simply drowned out by a mind-numbing, locker-room misogyny that Keleher evidently believes to be witty repartee. Director Justin Huen’s limited range of moods — loud and louder — is not surprisingly less than helpful to his overwhelmed ensemble. The Alexandria, 501 S. Spring St., Third Floor, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Nov. 23. (323) 960-7776 or www.plays411.com/moneyshot. (Bill Raden)