Theater Reviews: Camelot, IN THE COMPANY OF JANE DOE, BAAL 

Also, The Imaginary Invalid, Loyalties, Doctor Noguchi and more

Thursday, Jan 21 2010

GO  BAAL Peter Mellencamp's adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's early, poetical drama is about the cruelty and demise of a bacchanalian poet who recognizes, curses and is cursed by civilization's thin veneer. Ben Rock's staging is sometimes forced, more often intense and seductive, with Gregory Sims' growling title character bearing a physical resemblance to young Al Pacino but with a voice like Tom Waits. Sacred Fools Theatre Company, 660 Heliotrope Drive, L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m. (added perf Thurs., Jan. 28, 8 p.m.); through February 20. (310) 281-8337. (Steven Leigh Morris) See Theater feature.

CAMELOT Director David Lee's eight-actor version of Lerner & Loewe's musical chestnut uses its economical imperative to strive for an ensemble concept that makes fun of its own minimal devices. The result is somewhat tentative, a production groping for its purpose, but it's also pleasant. Shannon Stoeke is vocally pleasing and gentle King Arthur needs the machismo of Richard Burton, despite his pacifist politics, or the subtext of his wife's (Shannon Warne) erotic distraction is a wee too obvious. Warne's voice is gorgeous, as is Doug Carpenter's, who conjures memories of Robert Goulet playing Lancelot. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m. (No perfs Jan. 19, 27 and Feb. 3; added perf Feb. 3, 2 p.m.); through Feb. 7. (626) 356-7592. (Steven Leigh Morris) See Theater feature.

GO  CIRCUS WELT Reminiscent of Kander & Ebb's Cabaret (though sans music), this adaptation by director and producer Pavel Cerny of Leonid Andreyev's 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 entr'acte 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. (Mayank Keshaviah)

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DOCTOR NOGUCHI Given director-playwright Gary LeGault's pedigree, you would think that a camp meditation on celebrity, based on the star-studded body count of L.A. County's controversial former chief medical examiner, Thomas T. Noguchi (Hayden Lee), would be a comedic slam dunk. You'd be wrong. Despite a list of credits that includes working with the likes of Charles Ludlam and Warhol superstars Jackie Curtis and Holly Woodlawn, LeGault's indifferently staged, pallidly scripted evening delivers little of the outrageous burlesque or incisive social ironies those names might imply. Charting the publicity-seeking coroner's career between Marilyn Monroe's (Julia Stoddard) "suicide" in 1963 and John Belushi's (Jeremy Ebenstein) overdose in 1982, the play unwinds as a series of vignettes in which a quizzical Noguchi ponders the paradox of his illustrious clientele's self-destruction while at the peak of their fame, even as he is visited by each of their resurrected spirits seeking some sort of existential closure. But if LeGault's necrographic portraiture rarely achieves even a Wikipedia-weight likeness, the production is not without its charms. These are mainly found in Lee's slyly winsome portrayal of a flawed philosopher-poet, whose fastidious pursuit of truth becomes corrupted by his own vanity and the corrosive effects of fame by association. With decided deficits in plot and engaging conflict to fuel that performance, however, LeGault's slender conceit simply lacks the comic mileage to make it to the final curtain. Ruby Theater at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun. 2 p.m.; through January 31. (310) 360-7064. (Bill Raden)

GO  THE IMAGINARY INVALID Lance Davis' abridged 75-minute adaptation of Molière's classic eschews all subtlety in an amusing, accessible romp with plenty of flair and humor. Davis plays Argon, a mousey, myopic hypochondriac in a tizzy over his mounting medical bills. His solution: to marry off his unfortunate daughter, Angelique (Amanda Pajer), to the loutish son of a quack doctor so he may secure his in-law's services for free. Possessed of a gargantuan ego, the self-preoccupied ninny Argon swallows whole the extravagant protestations of love by his beautiful but conniving second wife (Marisa Chandler) — even as she plots with her lover (Mark McCracken) behind Argon's back — to secure all his wealth. Under Mary Chalon's direction, the production evolves with outsized brio — a stylistic approach that succeeds by virtue of Davis' considerable acting skill, in tandem with the talents of Pajer and Chandler, both of whom render their shtick with calibrated craft. Some of the other characters come across less crisply but are still good enough to keep the farce crackling. Designer Holly Victoria's lovely period costumes add professional polish. Pacific Asia Museum, 46 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena; Fri.-Sun., 7 p.m.; through February 5; (626) 403-7667, parsonsnose.com. A Parson's Nose Theater Company production. (Deborah Klugman)

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