Theater Reviews: Eve's Rapture, Half of Plenty, The Country Wife | Theater | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly

Theater Reviews: Eve's Rapture, Half of Plenty, The Country Wife 

Also, Trafficking in Broken Hearts, Setup and Punch and more

Wednesday, May 27 2009

GO  THE COUNTRY WIFE Adapted and directed by Richard Tatum, William Wycherley’s 1675 bawdy satire is a sexual cream puff of delight. In cahoots with Dr. Quack (Jim Hanna), Harry Horner (Darin Toonder) passes himself off as a eunuch to polite society — all with the mind to be trusted alone with the wives of gentlemen. His impotency is the focus of much conversation, until the wives find out the truth and start lining up for his services. One who doesn’t trust him with his wife — or with any man for that matter — is Jack Pinchwife (Antony Ferguson), who keeps his wife, Margery (Caroline Sharp), under lock and key. When he finally relents after her constant pleading to see London, he dresses her as a boy, but the duplicity doesn’t fool Horner. She responds to Horner’s kisses, and a mix-up of letters ensues. There’s a subplot involving Pinchwife’s sister Althea (Tracy Eliott), who loves the sober-minded Frank Harcourt (Kenn Johnson) but has been promised in marriage to the foolish Mr. Sparkish (Peter Ross Stephens), an ignorant fop who yelps for wit yet can say nothing witty himself. Stephens turns in an eye-catching performance as the foppish dullard and very nearly steals the show. Tatum handles the ribald humor with flair, and costume designer Denise Nakamura adds hilarity with the outrageousness of the gentlemen’s wigs. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through May 30. (323) 969-1707. An Ark Theatre Company produciton. (Sandra Ross)

GO  THE ELEPHANT MAN Andak Stage Company at the New Place Studio Theatre, 10950 Peach Grove Street, North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through June 21. (866) 811-4111. See Stage Feature.

GO  EVE’S RAPTURE The fall of Adam and Eve has furnished raw material for countless works of art but one rarely as fantastical as Bryan Reynolds’ unpredictable play. A dizzying mix of metaphors, it begins with Satan (Chris Marshall) in command of an armed and loyal jihad of fallen angels; they are determined to take down God by either recruiting Adam (Ryan Welsh) and Eve (Kendra Smith) to their cause, or destroying them. Act I depicts the first couple gamboling in the Garden, notwithstanding Eve’s uneasy sense that there’s more to existence than affectionate kisses and playful body rubs. The end of innocence comes after Satan personally tempts her to bite the apple, then fucks her wildly — leaving them both wowed by their unexpected erotic rapport. Their intercourse marks the beginning of Eve’s total transformation; whereas Adam develops the doldrums, and worse. By play’s end, Eve is one gal you surely wouldn’t want to mix it up with. Part-parable, part–comic strip fable, part–action drama, the play speaks powerfully to the unseen forces and symbols that dominate our lives. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Eden sequences drag, layered as they are with so much saccharine that one’s soon rooting for the Devil to break it up. As the prime mover of the action, Marshall’s performance is one of understated mastery. As his wife/daughter Sin, Sage Howard sizzles. Robert Cohen directs. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through June 27. (323) 960-7721. (Deborah Klugman)

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GO  HALF OF PLENTY Anyone still trying to trace the roots of the great economic collapse of 2007 can stop digging. Playwright Lisa Dillman’s somewhat schematic satire argues that the monetary debacle responsible for crippling the markets and the existential paralysis gripping her suburbanite protagonists were both spawned by a common corruption of spirit rather than of finance. In fact, the instability that drives Marty Tindall (John Pollono) and his wife, Holly (Carolyn Palmer), to regroup in the ironically named Ardor Park housing development (and postpone having a child) has more to do with Marty’s recent bout of alcoholism and his downwardly mobile new job at the local box factory. Complicating their effort to rebuild their lives — and marriage — is Marty’s Alzheimer’s-afflicted father, Jack (Robert Mandan), whose presence forces Holly to be both caregiver and co-breadwinner by taking on medical-transcription work. The crisis comes when Holly seeks solace in a romantic correspondence via transcription tape with an unseen albeit married doctor/client while Marty joins the quasi-terrorist “Neighborhood Vigil,” enforcing anti-immigrant, tract etiquette alongside the cell’s creepily charismatic Zooks (the very funny Ron Bottitta and Betsy Zajko). Although a feebly bathetic denouement ultimately suggests Dillman is more interested in the exposition of theme over character, Barbara Kallir’s crisp direction of a spot-on cast, aided by the polished support of a fine design team (particularly Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s trompe l’oeil set paintings), ably fills the gaps with laughs. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. (323) 960-7774 or A Rogue Machine production (Bill Raden)

THE HERETIC MYSTERIES Adapted from the microhistory by Emmanuel Leroy Ladurie, this offering from playwright and director David Bridel centers on the French village of Montaillou in the age of the Cathar heresy. During the late 13th century, the Cathars, who referred to themselves as Good Men and Women, protested what they perceived to be the moral, spiritual and political corruption of the Catholic Church. As such, they were tried as heretics by a tribunal headed by Bishop Fournier (Isaac Wade), who would later become Pope Benedict XII. The play’s three-act structure (a triptych of sorts) follows the same set of events in and around the town from three different perspectives: those of the kind-hearted shepherd Pierre Maury (David Hardie); the corrupt priest Pierre Clergue (Matt Weedman); and Guillaume Belibaste (Lucas Caleb Rooney), a Good Man possessed by demons. Because of its length, the play has two intermissions during which a puppet show in the courtyard recaps the events of each act in bawdy, farcical style — a creative touch that helped evoke the time period. Bridel’s direction facilitates the swift and imperceptible shifts between time periods and locations, and the cast members, the rest of whom make up the inhabitants of Montaillou, earnestly embody their characters. At more than three hours, however, the piece would benefit from a significant edit not only to clarify its message, which gets lost in the faithful documentation of history, but also to amplify its emotional impact. The Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; Thurs-Sat., 7 p.m.; through June 6. (323) 653-6886. A Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble Production (Mayank Keshaviah)

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