Reminiscent of Kander & Ebbs Cabaret (though sans music), this adaptation by director and producer Pavel Cerny of Leonid Andreyevs 1914 Russian play, He Who Gets Slapped, shifts the setting to Weimar Germany circa 1933. A small traveling circus run by Ludwig Bricke (John Moskal) and his common-law wife/lion-tamer, Maria (Stephanie T. Keefer), serves as a haven for those at the margins of society: Jackson (Jeff Williams), a black American clown in whiteface; Tilly and Polly (Justin Hertner and Lee Biolos), a long-standing gay couple; Bezano (Patrick Koffel), the communist horse trainer; and the newly arrived mysterious clown named He (an impressively nuanced Joshua Grenrock). As the story, which takes place entirely in the circus dressing room, unfolds, multiple love triangles emerge, though the one of greatest consequence involves Bezano, Maria and the bareback rider Consuelo (Tanya Goott), who is engaged by her father Count Mancini (Kurt Hargan) to the wealthy Baron Von Reinhardt (Ed Brigadier), the head of the local SA storm troopers. While the remaining vestiges of the original melodrama detract from what could be an extremely compelling piece of theater, Cerny has done his best to minimize them, and his Brechtian-style entracte additions, such as the news clowns, provide girding for the menacing backdrop of Nazi Germany on the rise. Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; through February 14. (866) 811-4111. An Orpheum Theater Corporation Production.
Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Starts: Jan. 10. Continues through Feb. 28, 2010