By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
The dialogue careens from petulant platitudes (“You murdered someone who was really important to me” and “The world is fucking complicated. It’s not black and white”) to snippets of exalted poeticism. Brian Weir plays Helen of Troy’s daughter Hermione in drag, yet without a trace of campiness. She’s the outcast, and our narrator. “I don’t belong to this house,” she says tenderly, “but it belongs to me.” As it does to all of us. [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood; in rep, call for schedule. (323) 461-3673. A Ghost Road Company production. (Steven Leigh Morris)
GO MAURITIUS Theresa Rebeck’s play has serious moments, but it’s essentially a comic crime caper full of lies, betrayals, cupidity and greed. The central figure is Jackie (Kirsten Kollender), who, after years of family trauma, has inherited from her mother an old stamp collection. Then her smarmy, pretentious half-sister Mary (Monette Magrath) appears on the scene, claiming the stamps are hers because her grandfather collected them. (In the absence of a will, it’s hard to say who has the legal claim, but nobody here is concerned with legalities.) Jackie gradually realizes that the rare stamps — issued in Mauritius in 1847 — are worth millions.
Mary becomes entangled with a dubious philatelist (John Billingsley), a likable con man (Chris L. McKenna) and a raffish gangster/gun runner (Ray Abruzzo), who, with a collector’s mania, is determined to own the famous “Mauritians.” Plot reversals abound, as ownership is debated, negotiated and fought over. The piece is so cleverly constructed that we almost forget how slight it is, and director Jessica Kubzansky provides a slick and polished production, with an impeccable cast. Set designer Tom Bruderwitz makes admirable use of the theater’s revolving stage, and Tim Weiske’s fight choreography is convincing. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; call theater for numerous schedule changes; through April 26. (626) 356-7529. (Neal Weaver)
GO MISALLIANCE Be warned that G.B. Shaw’s wordy comedy of manners lopes along for almost the entire first act before finally taking off. And then it really flies. It’s set in 1909, in the plush home (artfully realized by designer Stephen Gifford) of a successful underwear retailer named Tarleton (Greg Mullavey), whose daughter Hypatia (Abigail Rose Solomon) has become engaged to a whiny aristocratic nerd (Orestes Arcuni). At first, the play totters under the weight of Shavian didactics: a plethora of chitchat about generational and class conflicts, the experience of aging and the liberation of women. The bright spot in this intermittently sleep-inducing stretch is Solomon’s captivating turn as a sharp young gal chafing under the strictures of her gender; she’s seconded in her charm by Maggie Peach, endearing as her wise, albeit mildly ditzy mother.
Happily, Act 2 gets a lot livelier when an airplane piloted by a dashing young aviator (Nick Mennell) and a liberated lady acrobat (Molly Schaffer) crashes into the family greenhouse, followed by the clandestine entry of a pistol-packing gunman (David Clayberg) determined to do Tarleton in. The confrontation between the merchant and his would-be assassin forms the nub of the second act’s considerable humor, and it’s heightened further by the on-target performances of Mennell as Hypatia’s new love interest and Schaffer as the latest object of Tarleton’s philandering affections. By play’s end, under Elina de Santos’ direction, the production has redeemed its dullish beginnings, delivering up more than our ticket’s worth of laughs. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through April 26. (310) 477-2055. (Deborah Klugman)
GO MUNCHED Katie Paxton’s two older sisters died before she was born. When she became deathly ill, the nurses and the law were convinced that her mother, Marybeth (Andrea Hutchman), was killing her slowly in a sordid, attention-seeking case of Munchhausen by Proxy. Marybeth went to prison; Katie (Samantha Sloyan) recovered immediately and went into the foster system. Kim Porter’s spellbinding and intimate play catches up with the Paxtons 20 years later, when Katie finds a Pandora’s box of letters, from her mom and to her mom, in her foster mother’s attic.
We’re never sure if Marybeth is guilty, though she admits to giving her daughter a poisonous dose of ipecac. But what is clear is that mother and daughter share the same DNA — both face the world with a bitter humor, Katie joking wryly about wrenching trauma, and Marybeth channeling her self-righteous anger into a sarcasm as sharp as a knife. Sloyan and Hutchman turn in two of the best performances I’ve seen all year. Aided by Duane Daniels’ direction, they make comic agony out of deliberate pauses and askance smiles. Shirley Jordan and Peter Breitmayer are quite fine as a whirlwind of nurses, doctors, lawyers and do-gooders, each with their own agenda and unable to see the facts of Marybeth’s actions through their certainty of her psychosis or martyrdom. El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through May 2. (323) 960-5771. (Amy Nicholson)