GO BOBRAUSCHENBERGAMERICA When Bob Rauschenberg's mother (Mari Marks) delivers her tender slide show about the rural Texas childhood of her artist son, and none of the slides matches the descriptions she's offered, you have to know something's up, conceptually. Whether or not you're familiar with the '50s-'60s collagist painter-sculptor Charles L. Mee's 2001 extrapolation of what Rauschenberg might have written in order to explain how he assembled junk into evocative reflections on our place in the world stands alone. Marina Mouhibian's set decorates the stage and the proscenium walls with vintage kitsch as the 10-member ensemble plays out a series of somewhat interconnecting sketches about romances gone awry, violence, politics and metaphysics — though there are digressions for a series of chicken jokes. Bart DeLorenzo's staging preserves the tone, inherent in the text, that's both wry and frivolous, abstract and pop, with one breakout poetical excursion into Walt Whitman–esque grandeur, delivered by a hobo (Brett Hren) and accompanied by Dvorák's Symphony From the New World. [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; through Feb. 28. (323) 461-3673. SpyAnts Theatre Company. (Steven Leigh Morris) See Theater feature.
THE CITY Director Stan Mazin's adaptation and update of Clyde Fitch's 1909 play has a lot going for it. That said, references to Lady Gaga and Desperate Housewives can't disguise the fact that it's an overly talky melodrama. Act 1 takes place in Middlebrook, where wealthy patriarch George Sr. (Klair Bybee) holds forth on the values of small-town life. However, his wife, Molly (Kady Douglas), daughters Megan (Trisha Hershberger) and Teresa (Jaclyn Marfuggi), and especially his son, George Jr. (Hector Hank), are bucking for the lights and excitement of New York City. Interloper Fred Hannock (Glenn Collins) comes to blackmail George Sr. over financial improprieties, and before his unexpected demise, George Sr. reveals to George Jr. that Hannock is his half brother. The overly long Act 2 takes place five years later in the family's new abode in New York City, where George Jr. is hoping to secure his party's nomination for senator. Lawyer Burt Vorhees (Bix Barnaba) begins the vetting process, asking George Jr. to pressure Teresa not to divorce her playboy husband (Alexander Leeb). But a bigger problem is how to get rid of the drug-addicted Hannock, who's been installed as George Jr.'s secretary. Mazin marshals the cast well, but some of the acting is uneven. Trefoni Michael Rizzi's plush scenic design can't be faulted. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Feb. 28. (818) 700-4878. (Sandra Ross)
GO CONFUSIONS Alan Ayckbourn's 1974 slate of five one-acts, under John Pleshette's tight direction of an exemplary cast, illustrates the comical consequences when we choose not to listen to each other. In "Mother Figure," a quarreling couple (Steve Wilcox and Abigail Revasch) have to revert to childhood in order to connect with each other during an encounter with a formidably maternal neighbor (Mina Badie). "Drinking Companions" offers us a traveling salesman (Brendan Hunt) in a hotel bar, masking his loneliness with pathetic yet hilarious attempts at seducing two increasingly harried young women (Revasch and Phoebe James). What a waiter (Hunt) hears is all that we hear too in "Between Mouthfuls," as the dialogue of one dining couple (Adrian Neil and Bridget Ann White) is intercut with that of another (Wilcox and James), slyly revealing a salacious secret. "Gosforth's Fete" turns into a debacle as the organizer of a charity event (Neil) learns a secret from a local teacher (Badie), which wreaks havoc for him and the teacher's fiancé (Hunt). In "A Talk in the Park," a quintet of disparate folks (Hunt, James, Neil, White and Wilcox) finds their desperate attempts to connect with each other sadly falling on deaf ears. The Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; through March 7. (323) 960-5775. (Martín Hernández)
GO DOG SEES GOD: CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE BLOCKHEAD Yes, Charlie Brown, you're still a good man. But in Bert Royal's darkly funny parody of the Peanuts comic strip, the gang is all grown up, raising hell and dealing with some very adult issues. CB (Stephen John Williams) has lost his famous beagle to rabies and is questioning the meaning of life. Van, aka Linus (Brett Fleisher), has become an affable stoner who has smoked his beloved security blanket, and his sister Lucy (Dana DeRuyck) has been incarcerated in a psych ward for setting fire to one of her classmates. Tough guy "Pig Pen" now goes by the name of Matt (Brian Sounalath) — a germaphobe with a trainload of emotional baggage. Most of what transpires entails watching the screwball antics of these foul-mouthed sex-obsessed hellions, which renders a goodly share of laughs (the "Peanuts" dance at the opening of Act 2 is a real hoot). But Royal's script isn't all about teenage angst and high jinks. The strip's original cartoonist, Charles Schulz, never backed away from controversy. Honoring that legacy, Royal's play explodes with physical and emotional abuse, and CB's coming out of the closet results in a tragic finale. This all unfolds neatly on Rebecca Patrick's set — two swings, a graffiti-pocked wall and bleachers. Director Mike Dias would do better with sharper pacing, but he has skillfully balanced the light and dark elements. Rounding out the excellent cast are Lisa Valerie Morgan, Collins Reiter and Mikayla Park. Lounge Theater, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., Jan. 31, 7 p.m., through Feb. 6. (562) 293-8645. An Urban Theatre Movement production. (Lovell Estell III)