Theater Reviews: Cave Quest, Lobby Hero, Broads!, Wirehead 

Also, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Forgiveness, Oedipus El Rey and more

Saturday, Mar 6 2010

BROADS! At retirement community Millennium Manor, four mature and feisty gals have formed a singing group called the Broads, and perform in an annual variety show — which we're seeing. Recently widowed Elaine (June Gable) founded the group, along with her plump, nearsighted sister, Myra (Barbara Niles), who interrupts the show to promote her gay songwriter son. Puerto Rican live-wire Nilda (Ivonne Coll) sashays around in a Carmen Miranda outfit, complete with towering fruit-bowl headdress, and blond, buxom Louise (Leslie Easterbrook) revels in the wonders wrought by her Botox and plastic surgery. The book, by Jennie Fahn, regales us with often corny old-age jokes, and Joe Symon's songs address subjects supposedly dear to stereotypical seniors: Social Security, Early Bird Specials, etc. Providing a wisp of a plot and a stab at realism, Louise announces, mid-show, that this is her last performance: She must leave the manor because her savings have run out. But this is musical comedy, so the problem is immediately solved. Jules Aaron offers stylish direction, with Kay Cole's clever choreography. Stephen Gifford's set is handsome, and Shon LeBlanc provides the glittery, glitzy costumes. It's the four talented women, however, who provide the chief attraction, with their accomplished performances. El Portal Forum Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., through April 4. (818) 508-4200, broadsthemusical. A Route 17 Production. (Neal Weaver)

GO  CAVE QUEST When Seattle game programmer Justin Yi (West Liang) reaches the summit of a Tibetan mountain where Buddhist nun Padma (Kim Miyori) has been meditating in silence for three years, his reaction is très 2010: He texts a photo back home to his business partner, who is tracking him on Google Earth. Meanwhile, Padma barricades the door. She's easily — and obliviously — steamrolled by the fast-talking, panic attack–prone scion of Generation Y, who, like the Web itself, respects few boundaries. The two are from different planets, though Padma was once a West Coast kid from Fresno. Justin has a proposition for the nun, who is ranked in the Top 3 on hardcorebuddhist.com (an accolade she absorbs with a blank stare): She can share with the masses the wisdom she's learned meditating for 18 hours a day in a small wooden box via a video game he wants to develop. The game's seventh level would be "enlightenment." Even "a quick fix is still a fix," he chirps. Not so, insists Padma, and Les Thomas' intellectual play becomes a snowed-in showdown between two stubborn forces. Director Diane Rodriguez captures the tiny motions that show Padma's comfort in her harsh world — and Justin's ease in upending it. Though the characters are vividly drawn, for most of the play, they dig in their heels so that their arguments become smartly, though perhaps excessively, reincarnated — an issue easily resolved with tighter plotting. East West Players, 120 N. Judge John Aiso St., Little Tokyo; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through March 14. (213) 625-7000. (Amy Nicholson)

DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS This slight musical comedy by composer-lyricist David Yazbek and playwright Jeffrey Lane closely follows the 1988 movie, filled with sight gags and overwrought farce in this story of a pair of con men who compete for marks in the French Riviera. A few amusing numbers show off the talents of Chip Phillips as the patter-singing, posh, older swindler, and Matt Wolpe as the crude pop-singing young hustler. Their moments together bring to the stage instant life, even through the goofiest of comic bits. Director Richard Israel, who normally turns small theaters and ensembles into huge, polished productions, fares less well here. Most damaging to the production is that none of the supporting cast is sufficiently skilled at singing or dancing. Only Michael Manuel, as the chief of police, rises above his limited hoofing/crooning ability with his charm. Set designers Dove Huntley and Rob Corn create some magic with the Noho Arts Center's balconies. This is an unusually large 99-seat acting space — in fact, some well-choreographed scene changes provide some of the evening's more entertaining moments. Interact Theatre Company at NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through March 21. (818) 508-7101. (Tom Provenzano)

click to enlarge PHOTO BY KURT BOETCHER - Forgiveness
  • Forgiveness

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GO  FORGIVENESS What happens to love when the specter of childhood sexual abuse rears its ugly head? Soon-to-be-married Jill (Emily Bergl) and Ben (Peter Smith) are driving to visit Jill's dad, Sam (Morlan Higgins), and stepmom, Pat (Lee Garlington), when Jill breaks it to Ben that her father raped her when she was 13. Twenty years have passed. A recovered alcoholic who served time for his crime, Sam — now a born-again Christian — actively struggles for redemption. Jill has forgiven him, but Ben, newly apprised, is horrified and repulsed. Prodded by Jill's anxious scrutiny — will this new knowledge change his feelings for her? — Ben steadily becomes angrier and more confused. Playwright David Sculner's aptly titled play meaningfully examines the various ties that bind us to our loved ones, as well as the snags and hurdles to be mended and overcome if these bonds are to remain secure. Directed by Matt Shakman, the production's weakest element appears at the beginning in the interchange between Jill and Ben, which reverberates with little more persuasiveness than a polished staged reading; also, sans lighting or sound effects, it's difficult for the performers to sustain the illusion of driving. Once the couple arrives at its destination, however, the drama becomes more compelling, as the dynamics of Sam and Pat's marriage come into play; the presence of Jill's adolescent stepsister (Kendall Toole) ups the ante for everyone. Black Dahlia Theatre, 5453 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; through March 28. (800) 838-3006, thedahlia.com. (Deborah Klugman)

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