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Theater Reviews: How Katrina Plays, Mom’s the Word, Elections and Erections, To Kill a Mockingbird 

Also, Secrets of a Soccer Mom, All’s Well That Ends Well, The Illusion, and more

Wednesday, Oct 7 2009
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ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL Poor but smart surgeon’s daughter Helena (Michelle Terry) cures the king of France (Oliver Ford Davies) of a potentially fatal illness, and the grateful monarch grants her wish to marry the handsome young nobleman Bertram (George Rainsford), whom she has always loved from afar. Bertram, appalled at the idea of marrying a peasant, flees the court with his slimeball buddy Parolles (Conleth Hill), enraging the king and horrifying Bertram’s mother (Claire Higgins). However, Helena sets into action a complex scheme to get what she wants. On October 1, the National Theater of Great Britain broadcast the closing night of Marina Warner’s glittering production of Shakespeare’s most Machiavellian romantic comedy, taped live from London’s Olivier Stage. The show is the second in the National Theater’s new Travelex-supported season of live plays, filmed in High Definition and beamed to movie theaters around the world. Most filmed stage productions are flat and one-dimensional, but director-for-the-screen Robin Love uses multicamera angles and choreographed closeups to elegantly capture simultaneously the intimacy of the character-driven tragicomedy and the scope of designer Rae Smith’s toweringly gothic Ghormengastly set. Warner’s production generally favors melancholy over laughter — not an unnatural choice for this most emotionally dark of Shakespearean comedies. Terry offers a crackling, ferocious turn as the driven Helena, one that’s just a few steps short of being a full-on stalker. As the object of her obsessive affection, Rainsford is hilariously gormless, suggesting the difference in emotional maturity between young men and women. Higgins’ angst-filled yet beautifully sympathetic mother contains a power better suited for tragedy than comedy. And Hill’s prissily oafish Parolles, done up with greasy, long hair recalling Meatloaf, is a joyously loathsome performance. Admittedly, L.A. is a city that has plenty of fine theater, but these digital productions offer an unmissable opportunity to see one of the great theater companies of the world, at least in some incarnation. Mann’s Chinese Theater, 6925 Hollywood Blvd., L.A. Closed. A production of the National Theatre of Great Britain. For information on the next show in the series, go to ntlive.com. (Paul Birchall)

GO  BOBBY BENDON GETS BY In an unnamed town in the Inland Empire, somewhere between the releases of Van Halen’s “1984” and “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge,” young married couple Glen (Nicholas D. Clark) and Trish (Audrey Malone) dream of Los Angeles — or specifically, the oasis of Reseda, where before the baby arrives they want to buy a three-bedroom house and run into Goldie Hawn at the grocery store. The first step is getting Glen’s metal band, Torch, signed at next week’s Battle of the Bands. But guitarist Bobby (Liam Springthorpe), Glen and Trish’s high school best friend, is having a near meltdown over the public access seductress Mamazon (Erin Anderson), who he fancies is his girlfriend, even though she hangs up whenever he calls in, looking for a date. Brian Soika’s dramedy is heavy on spandex and wigs and light on dramatic thrust, though it works well as an honest, slim story about the need to be better than average at something, be it love or music. Marah Morris directs a strong ensemble who looks resplendently retro in costume designer Ayesha Mesinger’s Scrunchies, tube socks and torn jeans. With musicians Andy Creighton, Jonathan Hylander and Sean Johnson rocking out stage right on Torch hits like “Stilettos” (a CD comes in the program). Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; through October 25. bluehousereservations@gmail.com. (323) 320-0127. (Amy Nicholson)

GO  ELECTIONS AND ERECTIONS As his character Evita Bezuindenhout, Pieter-Dirk Uys is South Africa’s answer to Barry Humphries’ Dame Edna Everage — a balding, white drag queen who has built a career on ridiculing authority figures and celebrities. Uys, however, doesn’t skewer his audiences, which Humphries’ Edna does with glee. (The nightmare in one of Edna’s shows is to be singled out and commented on for one’s lack of fashion sense, or spouse, or hometown, or any arbitrary aspect the satirist will hold up high for ridicule.) Comparatively speaking, Uys is deadly serious, because the social issue that concerns him most is so deadly — the AIDS epidemic, which Uys sees as tantamount to genocide, in his homeland. For this reason, he takes his one-man creations into schools and tries to start conversations about sexuality, conversations that have been traditionally silenced by British Colonial and Afrikaaner rule. Imagine Puck’s dad, and you might get a sense of the wit that animates Uys’ performance. He stands in front of three milk crates, which contain his dresses and shoes — so essential for drag, as he ably demonstrates. “The back straightens and the balls just disappear.” Impersonations of Desmond Tutu and ex-president Pieter Botha show meticulous technique, and are a window onto a world far away, in both geography and history. Americans will find points of connection, however, in the varying ways that bigotry and sexual repression are universal phenomena. Though Uys insists that if he needs to explain where he’s coming from, he’d rather just move on with his entertainment, his act (which also features an array of fictitious belles) comes laced with political and sexual commentary. The need to discuss sex openly, and protect oneself from whatever deadly diseases accompany it, would seem obvious, but if that weren’t a difficult discussion in both nations, Uys wouldn’t have an act, or a purpose. His show has a wondrous blend of political cynicism (he now ribs the ruling ANC Party as he had once mocked Botha) and optimism. The latter derives from a love of life — even one ensconced in death — that gives this show its energy. REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., dwntwn.; Fri., Oct. 9, 8:30 p.m. Also at Renberg Theater, 1125 N. McCadden Place, Hlywd.; Sat., Oct. 10, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 11, 7 p.m. (323) 860-7300. (Steven Leigh Morris) See Stage sidebar.

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