In her one-woman Shakespeare show-within-a-show, Nina Sallinen nearly triples her age to play a 90-year-old Finnish diva, returning to the stage after decades away to perform King Lear with just a hat, a doll and a flower to represent the king's three ill-fated daughters. The aged actress is seemingly in constant motion, thrilled to be back in the spotlight, but her overactive mouth, her limbs and, on occasion, her mind are betraying her. When her stubborn legs and distracted brain cause her to freeze up onstage, it's as electric as her shock of white hair that shakes loose in wild directions. A solo performance of King Lear is a vanity piece, however cleverly slummed up with nice touches like the hair dryer Sallinen clicks on so that she can deliver the king's "Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks!" speech into its tinny gale. But what's really at stake for the ancient drama queen is that her estranged daughters and the evening's guests of honor have instead gone to the movies, spinning her into a manic depression where she acknowledges the parallels between her characters and herself. A shattered second act soliloquy overexplains what we've enjoyed intuiting, but when Sallinen's actress drops her facade and asks the audience to see her for who she really is, the moment is so kinetic we forget we're still looking at a fictional creation. The Complex, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Fri., 8 p.m., thru March 13; Thurs., 8 p.m., thru March 26. (818) 430-4835.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m. Starts: Feb. 6. Continues through March 26, 2009