By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
GO ARIAS WITH A TWIST Poor Joey Arias, a female impersonator here attired in black bra and panties, has just been abducted by aliens. That unfortunate truth takes a while to reveal itself, since the show opens with the sight of a red curtain for a puppet show, which sloooowly rises onto another curtain that slowly parts, revealing yet another curtain ... You get the joke. Eventually, we see the Dream Music Orchestra — Basil Twist’s gorgeous puppet musicians. This visage melts into a panorama of the cosmos (video design by Daniel Brodie), a floating spaceship on which we finally meet Mr./Ms. Arias, strapped upside down to a neon hoop and being swiveled and probed. We see the visions dreamt by our semiconscious protagonist: A martini glass floats by, then a decapitated hand with the label “Jimmy Hoffa” before a puppet of Arias plunges and plunges and plunges into the “Jungle of Eden,” a psychedelic pyscho-sexual collision of leafy plants, a slithering snake, and an eventual meeting of Adam and Eve. (Twist did the design, which largely depends on the mystery of hauntingly dim and focused lighting.) The event culminates in the “show” that Arias has been aching to perform, a series of ballads, quite beautifully rendered, and reminiscent of the Henry Mancini era. The piece may take the art of drag into hallucinatory frontiers where no man-woman has gone before, and despite its self-conscious sense of humor, it does all this by ratcheting down camp clichés, and with admirable craft. You almost believe that there’s a point larger than its own artistry. That, of course, is just another hallucination. REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., downtown; schedule varies; through Dec. 13. (213) 237-2800 (Steven Leigh Morris)
GO EQUIVOCATION Bill Cain’s much-heralded new play imagines Shakespeare (Joe Spano) being commissioned by a deputy (Connor Trinneer) of King James (Patrick J. Adams) to write a drama celebrating the apprehension of conspirators who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament. As Shakespeare does his research, he finds himself in a fix between the king’s desire for propaganda and his own commitment to the “truth.” (Parallels between the aftermath of “The Gunpowder Plot” and 9/11 are more than apparent. The difficulties of telling the truth lies at the heart of Cain’s digressive and somewhat bloated play, yet his various variations on that theme form an intricately woven fabric of ideas. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Wstwd.; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 20. (310) 208-5454 or geffenplayhouse.com. (Steven Leigh Morris) See Theater feature.
GO LA RONDE DE LUNCH Peter Lefcourt’s amusing Hollywood farce transpires at lunchtime in “the most pretentious restaurant” in town, where everyone meets but no one eats, since the purpose of getting together is less to fortify the body than to pump up the ego and the wallet. Lefcourt constructs his play, inspired by Schnitzler’s La Ronde, as a series of two-person scenes. Each participant in this power-driven game of musical chairs wants something from his or her lunch partner — and all crave an audience with Clive, a mysterious mover-and-shaker whose films gross hundreds of millions worldwide. Among the players are an aging actress (understudy Sondra Currie) with a Bette Davis complex, a burned-out alcoholic writer (Brynn Thayer) smitten with her personal fitness trainer (Haley Strode), a smarmy agent (Joe Briggs), a sugary but calculating bimbo (Fiona Gubelmann), her prey (a wealthy aging lawyer played by Robert Trebor) and, ultimately, Clive himself (understudy Bryan Callen, in a spot-on performance as the quintessentially smug superstar). No small part of the fun is generated by the waitstaff: a quintet of servers, all named Bruce, who comment, Greek-chorus-like, on the goings-on, as well as interacting with the customers and performing a stylistically different musical parody between each scene. Designer Jeff McLaughlin’s appealing set, Shon LeBlanc’s lively costumes and Tracy Silver’s upbeat choreography add to the production’s beguiling charm. Terri Hanauer directs. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 20. (310) 358-9936. A Katselas Theatre Company production. (Deborah Klugman)
LAND OF THE TIGERS Burglars of Hamm mingle and mangle The Crucible with Planet of the Apes in a vibrant and painful satire of theater-making in Los Angeles, and the cult of the acting-teacher/director-guru. The Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; resumes Dec. 4, Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Sun., Dec. 13, 8 p.m. (310) 440-0221. (Steven Leigh Morris) See Theater feature.
LOVE IN BLOOM If you can imagine what one of Shakespeare’s romantic comedies would be like if it were set to music and lyrics, you’d have a good idea of the delightful whimsy concocted here by Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie. It’s a bold, ambitious piece of musical theater with touches of commedia dell’arte and Gilbert and Sullivan plus lots of unexpected turns and plot twists, all of which make the viewing more fun. The story is narrated by Orion (DeCarlo) and Talia (Rudie), the rulers of the Fairy Kingdom, and the setting is the mythical kingdom of Hamelot, where the arranged marriage of the Prince (Tyner Pesch) is to take place. The fate of the kingdom depends, however, on the prince finding his true love, which the King and Queen of fairyland are determined to make happen in order to “restore the balance of both worlds.” Tossed in is a mélange of rogues, damsels, courtly intrigues, romance, spells, even a frog prince. Following the goings-on it gets a bit ponderous (opening act two is “The Recap” to refresh our memories), but it does pay off. DeCarlo’s direction is spot on, while Matthew Wrather and Rudie’s music and lyrics provide a level of enjoyment of their own under the playful touch of musical director Selena Dolinsky. Kudos to Ashley Hayes for fairy tale-inspired costumes. The Other Space at Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Dec. 13. (310) 394-9779. (Lovell Estell III)