Theater Reviews: Burn This, Manish Boy, Bright Ideas | Theater | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly

Theater Reviews: Burn This, Manish Boy, Bright Ideas 

Also, Visiting Mr. Green, Gaslight and more

Wednesday, Sep 2 2009

GO  BRIGHT IDEAS “All the world’s a stage, and our children our players,” advises a tutor to parents Genevra (Amie Farrell) and Joshua Bradley (Brian Stanton) in Eric Coble’s chipper comedy inspired by the playwright’s own preschool panic attack. The Bradleys’ offstage son, Mac, is on the wrong end of 3 — in months, he’ll be 4 — and his chances for a kind of success that would be set in concrete depend on getting him off the waiting list for the area’s best preschool, or so warn the overachieving breeders at their playground. The obstacle is Genevra’s recently divorced co-worker Denise (Meghan Maureen McDonough), who just bought her child’s slot by donating her family’s fortunes to build the school’s new Aquatics Center. When the couple invites Denise over for some poisoned pesto — the better to get her tot sent away to live with his dad — Coble’s script giddily underlines its allusions to Macbeth (“Is this a mortar and pestle I see before me?” frets Genevra). Caryn Desai’s chirpy direction prefers laughs to moral agonies, and her comic ensemble, rounded out by Louis Lotorto and Heather Corwin, keeps the tone quick and fun. This isn’t aiming to usurp the Bard’s place in the canon, but Coble enriches his semi-serious premise with a layer of class resentment and modern masculinity issues that intensify as Stanton’s very funny patriarch struggles to wash the phantom basil from his hands. International City Theatre, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; Sat.-Sun., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru September 20. (562) 436-4610. (Amy Nicholson)

GO  BURN THIS This revival of Lanford Wilson’s 1974 play is distinguished by nuanced performances. David Watson’s superior direction emphasizes the quiet moments in what could be an over-the-top drama — it’s clear that the actors are listening to one another. The plot begins after the tragic death of Robbie, the third roommate in an apartment shared by Anna (Melanie Hawkins) and Larry (Mark Thornton). Both are distraught, and Anna is comforted by her boyfriend Burton (Eli Mahar), a successful screenwriter. Anna is a choreographer who had worked with Robbie, a gay dancer, on various projects. Anna regales Larry, also gay, with tales of the funeral, where the family assumed she was Robbie’s girlfriend. A month after the burial, Robbie’s brother Pale (Ben McGroarty) bursts into their apartment at 5 a.m. to retrieve Robbie’s belongings. Disturbed by the drunken, obnoxious Pale, who has a strong resemblance to Robbie, Anna nevertheless sleeps with him. Burton, of course, learns of the affair, and angrily storms off, only later, he will try to win Anna back. As Larry, a very funny Thornton provides dry humor throughout, and McGroarty is persuasive as the violent yet sensitive Pale. Travis McHale’s set and lighting design complement the production. Flight Theater at The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru September 13. (800) 504-4849. (Sandra Ross)

GO  GASLIGHT Patrick Hamilton’s 1944 potboiler (originally Angel Street) continues to be one of the most revived theatrical chestnuts because its melodrama is so unapologetically intense. In an unfashionable section of late-Victorian London, our heroine, Mrs. Manningham (Corrine Shor), is tormented by demons of insanity and the cruel taunting of her domineering husband (John Cygan). Additionally the master is sensually attentive to the young, buxom maid (Emily Bridges) — or is his preoccupatoin only a figment of the Mrs.’ imagination? Jeff G. Rack’s lavishly detailed burgundy set, with perfect gaslight effects by lighting designer Yancey Dunham, creates the ideal atmosphere for the dripping suspense. The actors, under Charlie Mount’s austere direction, commit fully to the chilling revelations as we move slowly toward a known outcome. Don Moss is particularly delightful as a hard-bitten Scotland Yard detective, even though he joined the production late in rehearsals and was still a bit shaky on his lines at the performance I saw. Likewise the maid (in a fine performance by Mary Garripoli), whose role is small but comic, turns into a tense ally of the oppressed Mrs. M. Costumes by Valentino round out this very satisfying production. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru September 27. (323) 851-7977. (Tom Provenzano)

click to flip through (5) RYAN CORRELL - Burn This
  • Ryan Correll
  • Burn This

GETTING OUT Playwright Marsha Norman’s best-known play, ’night, Mother, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983, was a grueling long night’s journey toward suicide. This earlier but equally grim work, first produced in 1977, deals with the plight of Arlene (Leah Verrill), who has been paroled after serving an eight-year prison for robbery and manslaughter. All the cards are stacked against her: She has a demanding, judgmental mother (Lonna Montrose), and a bullying former lover, Carl (P.J. Marshall), who wants to drag her back into her old life. She’s also haunted by Allie (Tracy Lane), her unregenerate former self — a ferocious bundle of rage, malice and resentment, rooted in the fact that her father molested her. Now, Arlene has a child, taken from her when she was sent to prison, for whom she seeks, despite the odds, to go straight. A sympathetic but possessive prison guard, Bennie (director Andrew Hamrick), offers help but makes excessive demands. Only Ruby (Cheri Ann Johnson), the tough, unsentimental ex-con who lives upstairs, serves as a mentor. Hamrick has assembled an able cast, and melded them into a bleakly effective, no frills production. The Lyric Hyperion Theatre, 2106 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m., thru September 20. (Neal Weaver)

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