Theater Reviews: All in the Timing, Hair, Life Could Be a Dream 

Also, 7DS, Cannibal! The Musical, Fernando and more

Wednesday, Aug 12 2009

ALL IN THE TIMING Frequently performed and durably diverting, this series of six short plays by David Ives takes ironic potshots at our established notions of time, language and genius. In “Sure Thing,” a meeting between Bill (Jacob Smith) and Betty (Erin Frisbie) replays with numerous permutations, its varying outcome linked to the choice of words Bill employs to win Betty’s favor. In “Variations on the Death of Trotsky,” Trotsky (a comically bewigged Smith, with an ax planted in his skull) repeatedly learns of his death from an encyclopedia but fails to forestall it. In “Words, Words, Words,” three chimps set out to write Hamlet, testing an experimenter’s theory that given enough time, great literature will emerge from even the most unpromising quarters. In “The Philadelphia” (as a Philadelphia native, I have an especial appreciation for this one), a distraught and frustrated fellow named Mark (Sean Fitzgerald) learns from his buddy Al (Joe Neuhaus) that he’s stuck in a philadelphia — a metaphysical abyss where things always go wrong. The antidote for this unhappy state, Al explains, is to consistently demand the opposite of what one truly desires — a winning strategy illustrated after their contrary waitress (Katie Sikkema) brings Mark what he really wants after he’s tried ordering everything else. Directed on a shoestring by Carlos Martinez, the production features an uneven ensemble, but the humor is mostly sustained, with Frisbie, Smith and Neuhaus proving to be most versatile and adept. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd. (in rep, call for schedule); through Aug. 30. (818) 849-4039. A Theatre Unleashed production. (Deborah Klugman)

AS YOU LIKE IT One argument for setting Shakespeare’s gender-bending romantic romp in the ’80s is that androgynous pop stars defined that decade. Boy George, Michael Jackson and Siouxsie Sioux are here via Amiens (Dana DeRuyck), Touchstone (Allana Barton) and the depressive Jaques (Terra Shelman), though it’s tough to disassociate and think of them as the Bard’s men, particularly when Touchstone moonwalks. The rest of Paul Miailovich’s cast is made of Valley girls and dream boyfriends, as though from a John Hughes flick, plus several drag queens — most notably Rene Guerrero’s Rosalind, who is both a knockout and a darned fine actor. Her performance, along with Scott Hartman’s Orlando and Amanda Vermillion’s Celia, does what it can to inject some actual Shakespeare into what’s essentially just a happy, fun time stunt complete with sing-alongs. It has the all-ages crowd tapping their toes to “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” At two and a half hours, it runs an hour past its welcome — and Miailovich never met a double-entendre he couldn’t accentuate with a crotch grab — but I suppose it’s a way to get kids to see a Shakespeare, even if at the end, they couldn’t explain what happened. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Drive, Silver Lake; in rep with Snoopy: The Musical; call for schedule. (323) 667-0955. (Amy Nicholson)

GO  CANNIBAL! THE MUSICAL Humankind can be said to be divided into two, mutually exclusive populations: those who believe South Park co-creator Trey Parker is the second coming of Molière, and those who dismiss his loopy brand of scatological satire as the sophomoric product of a developmentally arrested mind. Unbeknownst to the latter, the former have rescued Parker’s cinematic freshman effort, his 1996 feature-length genre spoof, Alferd Packer: The Musical, from cult obscurity and transferred it to the live stage (most notably at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival). Judging by director Jessica Variz’s rough-and-tumble version, the True Believers should be placated; even if the film’s MGM-dance-number send-ups are irremediably absent, the surviving book, music and crude production values are all pure Parker. The primary joke is in the inappropriate nature of Parker’s source material — the 1874 trial of guide Alferd Packer (Bill Woods), who was charged with surviving a harrowing winter’s stranding in the Colorado Rockies by eating the five men (Eric Ruiter, Eric Hamme, M.S. Cliff E. Threadgold, Daniel Theyer, Andrew Pedraza) he had been leading to the Breckenridge gold camps. Throw in a little bestiality in the form of Packer’s beloved horse, Liane (Calli Dunaway), her human rival, Polly Pry (Sara Collins, the show’s only trained voice), the odd, puerile pun (“Fudge, Packer?”), and you have a Trey, Trey risqué ode to the redemptive power of romantic, human love. Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through Aug. 22. (866) 811-4111 or thegaragetheatre.org. (Bill Raden)

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GO  CLOSER THAN EVER This musical revue is a compendium of 23 numbers by Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire (Big and Baby), directed by Chil Kong, with crisp and inventive musical direction by Akira Nakano, and choreography by the late RedRunningbear Savage. The songs emphasize the comic, the wry and the rueful, but they embrace a wide range of subjects, from aging and midlife crisis to fatherhood, lesbian motherhood and unrequited love. Six principal players (Kong, Sharline Liu, D.T. Matias, Blythe Matsui, Paul Nakauchi and Erin Quill) perform the songs with panache, complemented by an ensemble of four (E.J. Ariola, Jully Lee, Jiehae Park and Miley Yamamoto). Quill and Nakauchi offer standout performances with fine support all the way down the line. Musical highlights include the comic “She Loves Me Not,” sung by Matias, Matsui and Nakauchi, the wacky “Miss Byrd,” with Liu, Nakauchi’s touching song about a father’s legacy, “If I Sing,” and Nakauchi and Quill’s ironic account of a muddled marriage, “There.” Quill shines in “Life Story,” and the stirring ensemble numbers include the title song and the grimly humorous “The March of Time.” Kong directs (and performs) with wit and style. Lodestone Theatre Ensemble at CTG Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Aug. 30. (323) 993-7245. (Neal Weaver)

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