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Theater Reviews: Friends Like These, The Crossing, Peace, Somebody’s Somebody 

Also, F*ucking Men, The Kingdom Come, The Golden Gays and more

Tuesday, Sep 15 2009
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GO  AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY Tracy Letts’ 2007 Great American Family Drama, or so we’d believe from the national press, four Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize, has pulled in at last to the Ahmanson Theatre in a Steppenwolf Theatre Company production, handily staged by Anna D. Shapiro. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Tues.-Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through October 18. (213) 972-4400. (Steven Leigh Morris) See Theater feature.

GO  THE CROSSING Whatever might be meant by a “Scottish national voice,” say something between the Romantic lyricism of Robert Burns and the sentimental whimsy of filmmaker Bill Forsyth, writer-performer Rachel Ogilvy certainly speaks it fluently. Her hourlong, first-person dramatic monologue fairly bristles with the saccharine-dipped eccentrics and evocative local colors of her story’s Edinburgh setting. Chiefly, though, it echoes in the melodious burr of her hard-nosed, high-strung heroine, Rose. A young substitute math instructor who finds herself throughst into the stress-torquing environs of a new job among hostile, teacher-eating 14-year-olds, Rose is not what one would call a “people person.” Blame a severe, emotionally distant mother and the childhood trauma of her loving, half-remembered father’s mysterious suicide, which has left her a haunted, withdrawn outsider primed for a nervous breakdown. Rather than heading for the nearest psychoanalyst’s couch, Rose embarks on the somewhat quixotic pursuit of winning over her disinterested students by turning to her late father’s obsession with the Golden Gate Bridge as the centerpiece of an elaborate lesson plan in analytic geometry. The effort quickly turns into a harrowing journey of relived memories; it takes her to Edinburgh’s Forth Rail Bridge — the site of her father’s fatal leap and a perilous emotional precipice of unresolved guilt. She must cross it to survive. Ogilvy uplifts her potentially weighty tale with brittle humor and a sweetly effective performance in a production benefited by Paul Christie’s fluid, economical direction. Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Drive, Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; (added perfs Thurs., Sept. 17 & 24, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 20 & 27, 2 p.m.); through October 3. (818) 558-5702. (Bill Raden)

GO  FRIENDS LIKE THESE Playwright Gregory Crafts’ drama is billed as a show about teen violence, conjuring images of gangs with guns or distraught loners firing wildly into a crowd of peers. In fact, while the latter event eventually finds its way into Crafts’ story, that’s not its central focus. Instead, the play is mostly about some of the pernicious perils of adolescence — specifically the targeting of geeks by jocks, and the painful experience of the outcast in a teen community worshipful of its own rigid standard of “coolness.” At the heart of the plot is the blossoming friendship between Garrett (Matthew Scott Montgomery), a sullen geeky kid, and Nicole (Sarah Smick), a pretty cheerleader who has just called it quits with her boyfriend, Jesse (Alex Yee). Disgusted by Jesse’s arrogance and infidelity, Nicole finds herself drawn in by Garrett’s candidness and unassuming manner. To the surprise of all, and the chagrin of some, their relationship blooms. Especially disturbed are Jesse — stunned that Garrett has become his rival — and Diz (Sari Sanchez), Garrett’s former girl chum, who believes him to be her soul mate and now seethes with jealousy. Understated from the top, Montgomery’s performance deepens and expands as his character gradually undergoes changes. Smick is likewise layered and sympathetic, and Sanchez plays her one-note role exceptionally well. Yee, and Ryan J. Hill as everyone’s buddy are also effective. Designer Andrew Moore’s visually grating and incongruent backdrop needs rethinking. Sean Fitzgerald and Vance Roi Reyes co-direct. The Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through October 17. (818) 849-4039. A Theatre Unleashed production. (Deborah Klugman)

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GO  F*CKING MEN Ah, the late 1980s, the halcyon days of male nudity, when the promise of onstage gay promiscuity and frontal views were sure-fire ticket sellers throughout the world of waiver — well, those days are back in Joe DiPietro’s all-male rendition of Arthur Schnitzler’s classic 1900 play of sexual mores, La Ronde. Ten scenes pair two strangers becoming intimate, with one of the duo moving on to the next scene until the circle is completed. DiPietro keeps to his generally middle-of-the-road style of dialogue (well-known from oft-produced Over the River and Through the Woods and I Love You You’re Perfect, Now Change), which actually brings a subtle reality to the more sordid moments of gay indiscretions. Director Calvin Remsberg has gathered a fine ensemble, mostly perfectly cast from the nearly infantile, stoned sexiness of college boy Kyle (Michael Rachlis) to the nervous, violent energy of GI Steve (Johnny Kostrey). Only the fine Chad Borden is miscast as a closeted action-movie star — his characterization is just so obviously gay. Tom Buderwitz’s scene-design concept with moving screens and furniture pieces is initially fascinating but becomes clumsy and distracting. However, sound by Lindsay Jones, lighting by Jeremy Pivnick and costumes by Daavid Hawkins are all sharp and collaborative. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through October 25. (323) 957-1884. (Tom Provenzano)

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