Theater Reviews: Dirty Pooh, L.A. Noir Unscripted, Looking for Trouble 

Also, My Sister in This House, Paved Paradise: The Art of Joni Mitchell and more

Thursday, Apr 22 2010

ALTAR EGO With the gulf of incomprehension that frequently gapes between men and women, it's a wonder that anyone ever hooks up. That's the underlying theme in this collection of eight interrelated monologues (credited to playwright James Lyons) about the world's oldest hobby: Yammering about sex until it seems about as interesting as discussing the deboning of a fish fillet. Although the youthfully energetic eight-person ensemble briskly tackles the glib vignettes, the material itself is never able to evade a faint scent of triviality. Lyons (who really should learn how to spell "alter," though it is spelled correctly in the press materials) portrays a cheerfully amoral husband who defends his frequent extra-marital dalliances with the traditional excuse that he truly loves his wife — but he has needs. Later, Audrey Moore, in a nicely sour turn, portrays the man's wife, who's understandably miffed about the case of the clap she has mysteriously come down with. A particularly droll turn is offered by Leila Vatan, playing an Iranian-American woman, who, caparisoned in the mandatory chador, bemoans her lack of sexual opportunities. And Mike Horton's monologue about a man who has a tiny penis but enormous anger-management issues starts out humorously before shifting unexpectedly into tragedy. In directors Audrey Moore and Leila Vatan's character-driven production, the performers sit onstage in a semicircle, as though they're attending an AA meeting, while watching as each briefly takes center stage. Chuckling gently and indulgently as they observe one another's excesses and humiliations, the mood is both ironic and sweetly forgiving of sexual weakness. However, in the end, the monologues' talky nature is less exciting than actual dramatic interaction would have been. Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through April 25. (310) 358-9936. Katselas Theatre Company. (Paul Birchall)

CANNIBALS From the endless material regarding the dreams and disappointments of stardom comes this comedy by veteran TV scribe R.J. Colleary about trying to survive in Hollywood. "I act, therefore, I am," is the motto of the United State of Actresses — a quartet of 40-something thespians who gather weekly to salve their delicate egos and share stories about dwindling job prospects. Mo (Amy K. Murray) is a plus-size mother of three; Elizabeth (Jackie Debatin) is a half-glam, owner-operator of a school for child actors; Linda (Caryn Richman) is a married woman who can't give up the dream; the mouthy Carole (Dale Dickey) keeps finely tuned on antidepressants. The toxic admixture of personalities is good for laughs but doesn't quite offset the play's lack of action, leading to tedious stretches. A ray of light emerges when a "notable" director (Ray Abruzzo) taps the gals for a documentary, but the project is threatened when he brings his accomplished wife (the stellar Robin Riker) along, and investors insist on the participation of a younger actress (Brittany Ross). The saccharine finale holds no surprises. The cast is uniformly fine under Kathleen Rubin's direction. Zephyr Theatre, 7406 Melrose Ave.; Hlywd. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun. 7 p.m.; through May 23. (323) 960-7745, plays411.com/cannibals. (Lovell Estell III)

GO  DIRTY POOH How does Zombie Joe's Underground make A.A. Milne's short story "In Which Pooh Goes Visiting and Gets Into a Tight Place" NSFW? When Winnie the Pooh (John Byford) gets stuck in Rabbit's (Catherine Weiss) hole, ZJU doesn't mean "burrow." That's the capper of four radically reimagined tales from Pooh Corner — or should I say, the Pooh Corner confessions. Writer Adam Neubauer and director Miss Amanda Marquardt have set a new high — or low — for fractured fairy tales: Christopher Robin (Lisa Younger) is a drunk, Tigger (Devavani Conroy) a sex fiend, Eeyore (Neubauer) a guyliner addict, and Piglet (Jonica Patella) is a pint-sized, tits-mad, manic masturbator who sticks a balloon of coke up her ass. As for Pooh, he's so devoted to licking every last drop of honey from his beloved hunny pot (charming silent comedienne Jaclyn Ngan), I blushed harder than a 12-year-old watching a sex scene with his grandma. But Dirty Pooh doesn't flinch. The cast and creative team are so do-or-die committed that you'd swear everyone in Pooh Corner had balls of steel — if their spandex outfits hadn't already given you a good look. Go, but get a babysitter or prepare to answer even tougher questions than "What's a Tigger?" ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., N.Hlywd.; opens April 9; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; through May 1. (818) 202-4120. (Amy Nicholson)

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GO  L.A.NOIR UNSCRIPTED After years of perfecting their sharply honed craft of improvising parodies of highbrow masters such as Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Stephen Sondheim, Impro Theatre decides to slack off a bit with this less demanding satire of film noir. A lot of wordy, mixed metaphors, some cheesy suspense music, a few light gobos representing the shadows of Venetian blinds and voilà: Sam Spade and gang of hard-boiled cynics are ready to roll. Well the gambit worked, the easy clichés and furtive looks of the genre flow out of these improvisers so fast and with such surety that they barely have time to listen to one another before letting the next hilarious banality fly. Actually this opening night the folks did get a bit sloppy in their listening — especially to names — but their caricatures and situations were so fun that no one was keeping track of improv rules. Company artistic director Dan O'Connor is in his element as the bitter detective, Edi Patterson looks perfectly askance as the sardonic beauty, and Lisa Fredrickson is delightful as an over-the-hill movie star; you may never see them in these specific characters, but you will see them at their comic best. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Fri-Sat. 8 p.m.; Sun. 7 p.m.; through June 13. (323) 401-9793. (Tom Provenzano)

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