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THEATER REVIEWS: HEYDRICH/HITLER/HOLOCAUST, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS 

Also, GROSS INDECENCY: THE THREE TRIALS OF OSCAR WILDE and more

Wednesday, Sep 9 2009
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GROSS INDECENCY: THE THREE TRIALS OF OSCAR WILDE There’s wonderful irony in the fact that, though Oscar Wilde’s enemies succeeded in branding him a sodomist, and sentencing him to two years’ hard labor, they accidentally conferred upon him a kind of posthumous glory, fame and historical importance he probably wouldn’t have achieved otherwise. Writer Moises Kaufman captures the tale’s ironies and complexities by taking an objective, documentary approach, and constructing his play as a mosaic of primary sources: court records, personal letters, autobiographies, memoirs and newspaper accounts. Susan Lee directs with brisk, efficient clarity, and Kerr Seth Lordygan contributes a serviceable if slightly colorless portrait of Wilde. Though Wilde’s friend and lover, Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas, was an obnoxious egotist, he must have had considerable charm and glamour to have captured Wilde’s love and loyalty, but Joshua Grant plays him as charmless, petulant and prissy. Andrew Hagan is persuasive as Wilde’s nemesis, the malicious, paranoid Marquess of Queensbury, and Darrell Philip and Dean Farrell Bruggeman score as the rival attorneys. The notion of casting women (Casey Kramer, Allie Costa, Beth Ricketson and JC Henning) as Oscar’s “rent boys” seemed initially perverse, but they provide deft characterizations and sly comedy. The Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Boulevard, N. Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m., through Oct. 11. (818) 508-3003 or brownpapertickets.com/event/77200. (Neal Weaver)

HEYDRICH/HITLER/HOLOCAUST An apostle of the Holocaust and, with Himmler, a chief engineer of the Final Solution, Reinhard Heydrich has been depicted in numerous books and films. Assassinated in 1942, this ambitious villain kept files on fellow Nazis, as well as on suspected enemies of the Reich — one reason, perhaps, for the persistent rumors about his “Jewish blood.” Playwright Cornelius Schnauber has seized upon this aspect of his biography to construct a muddled and implausible play in which Heydrich (Oliver Finn) is portrayed politicking around these insinuations. Another element in the fantastical plot is this virulent anti-Semite’s confrontational dialectic with a Jewish maid named Anna (Jessica Sherman), who has somehow maintained gainful employment at Nazi headquarters. Spokesperson for humanity, Anna implores Heydrich to recognize that Jews are human beings, promising to save his life if he helps rescue some of them. (Heydrich’s real-life brother actually did abandon Nazism to help save some Jews, before committing suicide.) Later, Anna is brought before Hitler (Don Paul, whose führer struck me as a deluded insane asylum inmate) — whom she challenges with bravado, yet survives. Stilted and declaimed with dreadful German accents, the play rolls out like a cartoonish nightmare, with much dialogue devoted to airing Nazi ideas, as if we didn’t understand these already. Under L. Flint Esquerra’s direction, little attempt is made to get beyond posturing — except for Sherman, who, against tremendous odds, manages a credible performance. MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hlywd; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Oct. 11; (323) 957-1152. (Deborah Klugman)

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS Hardcore, exploitation-cinema auteurists have probably still not forgiven Howard Ashman (book and lyrics) or Alan Menken (score) for their 1982 musical burlesque of Roger Corman’s immortal, low-budget horror allegory about the moral price of success. And, judging by director Jaz Davison’s somewhat awkward staging on John Paul De Leonardis’ clumsy, turnstile set, final absolution won’t be forthcoming. By transforming Seymour (Mark Petrie), the green-thumbed shop assistant at Mushnik’s Skid Row Florists, from the serial-killing schnook of the Corman original to merely a passive-aggressive facilitator of the botanical puppet monster Audrey II (the voice of Pamela Taylor) and her homicidal appetites, Ashman blunts Corman’s edgy black comedy into a kind of anodyne Merry Melody. Of course, it is precisely Menken’s melodies — his crowd-pleasing takeoffs of doo-wop and early Motown rock classics — that have always been this show’s irresistible soul, and under Debbie Lawrence’s capable musical direction, that remains the case here. Leslie Duke, as Seymour’s Brooklyn-honking love interest, Audrey, elevates every number she sings, particularly in her sweetly funny rendition of “Somewhere That’s Green” and her soulful turn in the duet “Suddenly, Seymour.” Taylor rocks the house with her rousing Audrey II solo, “Mean Green Mother.” But the production’s outstanding pipes belong to vocal powerhouse Cloie Wyatt Taylor, whose incandescent gospel stylings are all but wasted in the supporting, choral role of Chiffon. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Drive, L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; through Oct. 11. (323) 667-0955. (Bill Raden)

THE NIGHT IS A CHILD Charles Randolph-Wright’s play about the family of a suburban student who went on a killing spree. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; through Oct. 4. (626) 356-7529. Click here for Theater Feature.

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