Theater Reviews: The Receptionist, Legally Blonde the Musical | Theater | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly

Theater Reviews: The Receptionist, Legally Blonde the Musical 

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Wednesday, Aug 19 2009
BLOCK NINE Tom Stanczyk’s play, “an unapologetically same-sex, retro noir 1930s gangster homage,” is performed in two alternating versions — one with an all-male cast, reviewed here, and the other all-female. It’s less comedy of manners than comedy of the mannered, suggesting the novels of Jean Genet replayed as farce. Though the characters are cops and gangsters, like Genet’s pimps and hustlers, they’re more concerned with their images and gestures than their professional careers. Cop Phil (Kenny Suarez) persuades his skittish, vulnerable partner/lover Hank (Jeremy Glazer) to go undercover on Cellblock 9 to get the goods on tough mobster Lips (Matt Rimmer). Then one torrid kiss from Lips turns Hank to JELL-O, and leaves him wallowing in a hilarious orgy of would-be submission, longing to be violated. Instead, Lips passes him along to eccentric blond muscleman and mob-boss Cody (Max Williams), who keeps two minions on tap: naive young Johnny (Josh Breeding) and foppish pseudo-Frenchman Armand (Louis Douglas Jacobs). Despite the pervasive haze of homoeroticism, Cody’s more inclined to shoot them than to fuck them. While director Pete Uribe has assembled a highly attractive and accomplished cast, and deploys them with flair and wit, ultimately the play seems like a comic sexual tease that never quite delivers. Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Hollywood; in rotating rep through September 20; call for schedule. (323) 960-4410. (Neal Weaver)

BREAKING AND ENTERING A young woman named Milly (Meredith Bishop), a fan of American literature, and of great novelist Wallace Trumbull (Steven Shaw), breaks into the now-aging and secluded writer’s home one stormy night, on the seventh game of the World Series, which Trumbull is trying to follow on his battery-powered radio, since the electricity has blown. It’s a marathon game of absurdist proportions, broadcast by commentators (Lary Ohlson and Christopher Gehrman) who appear periodically behind a translucent screen built into Jeff G. Rack’s gothic living-room set. One of the commentators is — perhaps too coincidentally — a Trumbullophile, liberally peppering his sports commentary with Trumbullisms that understandably annoy his on-air partner, since the witticisms are not particularly witty or relevant. Such is the idiosyncratic humor of Colin Mitchell’s comedy-mystery. The play is a touch too schematic: Milly breaks in bearing an original manuscript of her own novel, which she hopes to get Trumbull to read. That there is no copy of her opus (which is really a prophetic book of revelations telling the story of her break-in) is used in one of the play’s many intriguing plot twists. I didn’t believe that she’d bring her only version to a stranger’s house and offer to leave it there, no matter how famous the guy is. If she were fibbing about that detail in order to up the ante, I’m not convinced the savvy Trumbull would have believed it either. This is a tiny but significant detail in a very clever play that grapples with and compares dueling themes: reality and illusion, fame and fraud. The play sparks and shines when it reaches the intersection of these two ideas, but the road to that intersection is a bumpy one. This may have less to do with the writing, and more to do with Mark L. Taylor’s staging, with the way Shaw’s tentative performance is juxtaposed against Bishop’s sometimes grating impudence and indignance. Bishop’s Milly may be more clever than we’d thought, but she’s also more annoying than we’d anticipated. I’m guessing a more accomplished production would be of greater service to Mitchell’s intricate play. Theatre 40, Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 Moreno Drive (on the Beverly Hills High School campus); Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through September 13. (Steven Leigh Morris)

FUGGEDABOUTIT! Gordon Bressac, one of the great writing talents behind TV’s iconoclastically brilliant Pinky and the Brain and Animaniacs, has sadly lost touch with his stage roots from New York’s La Mama, as his West Coast premiere as a theatrical auteur falls flat. His farce follows 90 minutes in the life of Guy, a male fashion model (Shaw Jones, excellent playing straight man to an assemblage of crazy characters), who, after an accident becomes a total amnesiac. He is surrounded by friends, lovers and a mafia hit man, all trying to jog his memory. The plodding story has each visitor taking Guy through an important memory, which we witness via flashback. The characters are appropriately 2-D for the comic format, but acting choices are mostly weak clichés, particularly a gay couple (Charles M. Howell IV and Christopher Le Crenn) stepping right out of Boys in the Band; a pouty dumb blonde (Jessica Rose) grasping for a Marilyn Monroe impression; and a cookie-cutter gangster (Arman Torosyan), who has more in common with the gays than he wants to admit. The play is preceded by a pointless curtain-opener, presenting a two-bit Noël Coward– and Gertude Lawrence–type pair (Bressac and Mary Broderick) preparing for a stage entrance. The most enjoyable part of the evening is Andrew Murdock’s ongoing audio montage of songs about memory. Hudson Backstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood: Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Sept. 20. (323) 960-7753. (Tom Provenzano)

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