Theater Reviews: Woyzeck, Daddy's Dyin' Who's Got the Will | Theater | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly

Theater Reviews: Woyzeck, Daddy's Dyin' Who's Got the Will 

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Tuesday, Nov 25 2008
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DADDY’S DYIN’ WHO’S GOT THE WILL More than 20 years after its Los Angeles debut, Del Shores’ comedy about a dysfunctional family in 1986 Texas is still good for laughs. Director Jeff Murray has here substituted the “white trash” clan with an African-American cast. Family patriarch Buford Turnover (Sy Richardson) has one foot in the grave, and his children can’t wait to get their hands on his will. Sara Lee (Regan Carrington) is a luckless-in-love spinster, who dutifully tends to the old man. Her sister Lurlene (Michele Harrell) is a religious zealot, while Evalita (Taji Coleman), a trampy six-time divorcée, shows up with a pot-smoking, longhaired “hippie” (Matt Skaja). Orville (Hardia Madden) is the sole male heir, with a ton of emotional baggage, who constantly berates his overweight wife (Pam Trotter). Then there’s the spirited elder Mama Willis (Baadja-Lynne), whose sharp tongue and iron will keep the brood in line. For most of the evening, it’s funny watching this caustic mix of vipers playing head games and sniping at each other. Shores’ dialogue is blisteringly funny, but sometimes these qualities don’t emerge forcefully enough under Murray’s understated direction. The production is double-cast. Theatre/Theater, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Dec. 21. (323) 954-9795. (Lovell Estell III)


GROUNDLINGS SPECIAL LADY FRIEND Although this new main-stage show from the comedy troupe long known as the feeder team for TV hits like Saturday Night Live and MadTV lacks some of the ferocious energy and imaginative edge of several of the company’s previous endeavors, the genial collection of comic skits delivers what it promises: an evening of daffy, enjoyable fun. In “Special Delivery,” a group of customers at the post office watches helplessly as a mailman (Damon Jones) cheerfully smashes and drop-kicks their packages. And in “Hot for Teacher,” a new substitute teacher (Lisa Schurga) is reduced to desperate means to fend off a junior-high-school student (Jim Cashman) who has a crush on her. Although a few sketches — such as the awkward and cringe-inducing audience-suggested improvs — get the better of the cast, director Mitch Silpa’s production retains the crisp comic timing and assured ensemble work that maintains the group’s sterling comic reputation. Of the cast, standouts include the brilliantly varied turns offered by Jim Rush, who deftly morphs from solemn straight man to gibbering loon, often within the same sketch, as well as Jim Cashman, who plays hysterical anger with a comic fury that resembles a male Lucille Ball on crack. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; closed. (Paul Birchall)

click to flip through (6) ANDREW ROTHENBERG - Woyzeck
  • Andrew Rothenberg
  • Woyzeck


THE HOLY MOTHER OF HADLEY, NEW YORK What demons lurk among the populace of small-town America? In Barbara Wiechmann’s pretentious drama, it isn’t evil spirits but the Virgin Mary who has the citizens of Hadley, New York (population 2020), aflutter. After an apparition alights in one woman’s kitchen, the word spreads. Soon, other people purport to have seen, felt or spoken with Mary, whose less than benign message is that the judgment is coming. Framed by a pompous pseudoprofound narration (Joel Scher, in the role of narrator, gets mired in the schlock), the script winds through a plethora of soap-operatic plots involving dead or abandoned babies, sick and crotchety old people and troubled families or lovers. Conspicuously missing from the dialogue is any shred of irony or humor. Lots of good talent seems utterly wasted here, and it’s a mystery why the producers from this usually savvy company opted to mount this. Under Jerry Kernion’s direction, most members of the disciplined ensemble rise admirably above the material, in what unfolded as a series of very good, albeit unrelated, scene-study showcases. The best work is from Michelle Gardner, who imparts a down-to-earth vigor (and a touch of comedy as well) to her role as a troubled divorced mom and questioning Catholic. As with the performances, designer S. Wince Logan’s set creates an artful autumnal ambiance for what should have been a better play. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Dec. 14. (323) 856-8611. (Deborah Klugman)


THE KENTUCKY CYCLE: PART I When the late Manny Farber criticized formally sterile, self-aggrandizing movies with his coinage, “white elephant art,” he might well have had Robert Schenkkan’s overblown nine-play historical saga in mind. Schenkkan’s ambition is certainly mammoth — a politically corrected recasting of American history as an unbroken chain of avarice, violence and victimization all told through the fatefully intertwined lives of three Eastern Kentucky mountain clans. Part 1, which follows the Biggs, Rowen and Talbert family feud from the Revolution through the Civil War, is high in both melodramatic incident and body count. Miscreant patriarch Michael Rowen (David Vegh) commits enough murders in the first hour to give Ted Bundy a run for his money. But what makes the play a stuffed pachyderm rather than the unique work of personal vision worthy of Farber’s praise is Schenkkan’s stubbornly pedestrian language and preference for the big theme over carefully observed characterization. There’s much dialogue about the patch of bottom land that sparks the epic bloodbath but little of the nuance or poetry that might bring the antebellum landscape to dramatic life. Director Trevor Biship contributes little more than the odd (and sometimes strangely ghoulish) stage flourish. When it comes to suggesting some deeper, inner life to the characters, therefore, the onus falls squarely on the ensemble. To that end, the craggy-faced Vegh is a double delight as both the villainous Michael and his scripture-quoting, sociopathic grandson, Ezekiel. And Kyle Hall brings a fine sense of flawed nobility to the Civil War–era Rowen, Jed. National Guard Armory, 854 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; Fri., 8 p.m.; in rep with Part 2: Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; through Dec. 13. (562) 985-5526. (Bill Raden)

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