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THEATER REVIEWS: BIG BRO/LIL BRO, HELLZ KITCHEN ABLAZE AND THE NUCLEAR FAMILY 

Also, The Pain and the Itch, The Tempest and Terminus Americana and More

Wednesday, Jul 29 2009
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NEW THEATER REVIEWS

GO BIG BRO/LIL BRO In playwright Jonathan Ceniceroz’s torn-between-two-lovers potboiler, a wannabe actor named Carlos (Vince Tula) leaves his mature and ailing partner to set up house with a coquettish young gent from his acting class. The wallowing melodrama commences with Carlos resolutely packing his bags, deaf to the incessant pleas of wheelchair-bound Gil (Art McDermott). We next see him in his new digs, in thrall to the alluring Jeremy (understudy David Padilla), whose clothes he’s possessively concealed in a power play seemingly intended to proscribe his new boyfriend’s coming and goings. Directed by Josh Chambers, the stilted first act unwinds with a rather depthless display of passions, as the financially pressed Carlos struggles to support his increasingly sulky and demanding inamorato. Act 2 improves, however, first because the script acquires some texture, as Jeremy evolves into a narcissistic psychopath, but more so because Padilla — in his debut stage performance — makes the most of the material to establish a beguilingly ominous presence. McDermott is persuasive as the catty but perspicacious invalid. To the playwright’s credit, the drama ultimately detours from a sensationalized denouement into one more sensible and satisfying. Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., downtown; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; through Aug. 2. (323) 883-1717. A Company of Angels production. (Deborah Klugman )

GO CYMBELINE THE PUPPET KING Shakespeare’s Cymbeline is a natural for adaptation as children’s theater since it shares many plot elements of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The play has been much shortened and simplified. Imogen’s husband, Posthumous, and his treacherous friend Iachimo have been eliminated, and the sex and violence are reduced to minimum in slapstick. In this goofy, kid-friendly adaptation by Angelina Berliner, King Cymbeline (Stephen M. Porter) is an ineffectual booby, easily manipulated by his evil, ambitious second wife (Donna Jo Thorndale), who wants to marry off her boorish, dimwitted son Cloten (Adam Jefferis) to his daughter Imogen (Erin Anderson). But feisty Imogen (she calls her unwelcome suitor Cloten the Rotten) is having none of this, and takes to the woods, where she’s befriended by Belarius (Mary Eileen O’Donnell) and his adopted son Guidarius (Kirstin Hinton), who was raised by wolves, and is given to occasional howling. Many of the jokes are probably over the heads of most children, but they’re kept amused by director Will Pellegrini’s zanily frenetic staging, and the prospect of free Popsicles. The short piece (less than an hour) is performed outdoors, and best of all, admission is free. The Actor’s Gang at The Ivy Substation, Culver City Media Park, 9070 Venice Blvd.; Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m., through August 30; ­theactorsgang.com. (310) 838-4264. (Neal Weaver)

click to flip through (4) JOSH MARGOLIN - One Night Stand: A Musical Improvisation
  • Josh Margolin
  • One Night Stand: A Musical Improvisation
     
 

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If we’re to believe playwright Mat Smart, which is probably not a good idea, the bloody rampage of a jealous lover in 1894 Columbus, Nebraska, led to the “Morgan Morality Act,” stipulating that if a woman chose a fiancé over the objections of a former lover who had taken her virginity, her first lover was entitled to challenge her fiancé in a public debate, sort of like a cross between The Dating Game and The Jerry Springer Show. After hearing arguments from both parties, the woman was free to choose her future mate. If the woman continued to rebuke the challenger, the law forbade him from contacting her or to mention her name in public. This anti-stalking bill placed profound confidence in the power of debate, in general, and argumentation, in particular, to prevent corpses from piling up, as they evidently did in 1894 Nebraska, at least according to the record cited in Smart’s play. In Act 1 of his delightful comedy, set in a contemporary Nebraska tavern — here portrayed in the site-specific environs of downtown’s Metropol Café — Smart is really grappling with the intersection of commitment and ownership. Jeff Galfer, who originated the role at New York’s Slant Theatre Project, is both horrifying and endearing as Scott P. Scooner, a snazzily dressed local denizen whose dream of making it big consists of landing the assistant-manager post at the suit shop where he now works as a salesclerk. Scooner is a romantic extrovert with a history of suicide attempts after having lost his love, Courtney (Amy Ellenberger, nicely capturing an emotional descent after floating on air) to a six-figure-salary-earning “dickwad from Sacramento” named James Alexander (Larry Heron, in a suave and smart performance). Courtney’s been dating James for two months (compared to her five-year courtship with Scooner). During the debate, Alexander offers her a vacation in the Bahamas, which only makes her swoon some more, as Scooner must endure the sight of his ex embracing and kissing his competitor while he’s trying to win her back. Thomas (Feodor Chin) gently moderates the debate in a performance of wry intelligence and absurdity, clutching a handbook on the law, which stipulates time limits and other protocol for the growingly ludicrous spectacle. After both suitors’ presentations, Courtney finds herself paralyzed by indecision, which is when the law’s more arcane articles, such as a corn-shucking competition, come into play. Act 2 flies back in time to 1894 and tracks the origins of this “morality act” via a farce with the actors in drag and impressive quick-changes. It’s a different play in a different style, which presents more of a challenge to the actors than the real-time naturalism of Act 1. It nonetheless tracks the origins of our so-called freedom, and how incapable we are of handling the responsibilities that come with it. Despite the farce’s shortcomings, Jennifer Chang stages the event, and it is an event, with a nimble touch, and Rachel Schachar’s costumes are perfect. Metropol Cafe, 923 East Third St., downtown; Sun.-Mon., 8 p.m.; through August 24; brownpapertickets.com. (800) 838-3006. A Chalk Repertory Theatre production. (Steven Leigh Morris)

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