Theater Reviews: It Ain't All Confetti, Tracers, Road to Saigon 

Also, Crimes of the Heart, The Maids, Skylight and more

Thursday, Jun 3 2010

CHASING MONSTERS The eruption of laughter that opens Gabriel Gomez's drama is one of the few light moments in what is otherwise a relentlessly bleak tale. Dominic (Richard Azurdia) is celebrating with his friend Sandra (Deborah Geer) his pending nuptials at his favorite bar, anticipating a happy future. In the next scene, with a vicious, alcohol-fueled argument between Dominic and his bride-to-be Amy (Carolyn Zeller), the bottom drops out of the future, and the play. Utilizing an overlay of dreamy flashbacks, Gomez attempts to provide context to this story of generational family dysfunction. We learn of Dominic's early dependency on alcohol, his conflicted relationship with his emotionally unstable mother, Vanessa (Monica Sanchez), and brother (Xavi Moreno), and his confusion and rage toward his absentee father. Gomez and director Armando Molina show us what lies behind this family's torments but fails to eloquently or convincingly probe underlying causes that address the "why." More importantly, he fails to establish emotionally vibrant, credible connections between these characters, which makes empathy next to impossible. Dominic becomes nothing more than a hard-luck loser drunk, and everyone else just people plagued by nasty problems. Things turn painfully melodramatic after one character's terminal medical prognosis, transforming the play into a lugubrious vigil. There's no argument with the performances, which are uniformly good. Natalya Oliver rounds out the cast. Company of Angels at Son of Semele Theater, 3301 Beverly Blvd.; L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m., through June. 13. Sonofsemele.org. (Lovell Estell III)

CRIMES OF THE HEART The Magrath sisters are all back home in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, to take care of another family crisis. Mama hanged herself, Granddaddy is in the hospital and now Babe's gone and shot her husband. Yes, it's all funny; and if they didn't laugh, they might never stop crying. There are some subtle touches that do a Southern girl's heart good in the South Coast Repertory's version of Beth Henley's Pulitzer Prize–winning play: Chick (Tessa Auberjonois) sucks her finger to prevent any lipstick from bleeding onto her teeth; Babe (Kate Rylie) mixes two parts sugar to one part water in her lemonade. Under Warner Shook's direction, though, the care that Henley took to spin a delicately layered cocoon around the black-fisted blow of suicide, abuse, mental illness and racism is trampled by one-note screeching that drowns out any nuance in the script. The 1978 play is still relevant — Southern women stuck in the South resort to desperate measures on a daily basis — but this production not only rips out its heart but also its head. Henley's sharp-knifed social commentary (the sisters pity the "half-Yankee" children of a townie who married a Northerner) is dulled by an ensemble whose crimes are bad accents and brittle insouciance, and those Southern stereotypes suddenly seem true and offensive. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa; Sun., Tues., Wed., 7:30 p.m.; Thurs., Fri., Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; through June 6. (714) 708-5555. (Rebecca Haithcoat)

GO  IT AIN'T ALL CONFETTI! "Rip Taylor? Isn't he dead?" opined an unkind family member upon learning that this weekend I was reviewing the new one-man show written and starring Rip Taylor, the comedian and pop culture "character." TV viewers of A Certain Age (and older) will doubtless recall Taylor, an omnipresent fixture of the 1970s, familiar from countless appearances on game shows like Match Game and Password, and also a Vegas go-to opening act for stars like Sammy Davis Jr., Judy Garland and Eleanor Powell. With his masterfully mugging schtick, bugging eyes, waggling tongue and silly one-liners, Taylor's style wasn't for anyone — and it was easy to dismiss his "character" as a rube. Yet, as his solo effort (directed by David Galligan) aptly indicates, any performer who has managed to have as big a career for as many decades as he has clearly possesses a mighty amount of talent — and steel willpower. In the opening moments of Galligan's fast-moving, intimate production, Taylor strides onto the stage, clearly somewhat frail but still every inch the showman. His flapping toupee perches hilariously askew, as his pointy mustache waves. Next, he whips out a thick pile of file cards, each containing an individual one-liner — and, in a dizzying display of jaw-dropping gagsmanship, he goes through every one, more than 80 in all, within the show's first 10 minutes. From there, Taylor rips off his toupee, tosses it behind him, and switches to more serious subject matter (with barely a joke in sight), as he describes his troubled childhood, his early successes as an emcee on the Atlantic City strip-club circuit, his discovery while performing at the Catskills and subsequent appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, and the gradual honing of his carefully calculated stage persona, which has been his bread and butter for more than half a century. Many of Taylor's revelations are fairly surface-level, dealing with his interactions with the stars he's come across — and he often seems so in control over what he's saying, you could starve to death waiting for any "behind-the-mask" information about the performer. The show is ultimately a compelling presentation of a life — and it's as much a must-see for students and historians of the comedy of a certain era as it is for folks who just want to share a warm laugh with a thoroughly amiable performer. El Portal Theatre, 11206 Waddington St., N.Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through June 6. elportaltheatre.com, (866) 811-4111. (Paul Birchall)

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF EL PORTAL THEATRE - It Aint All Confetti
  • It Aint All Confetti

Related Stories

Related Content

Now Trending

  • Mash-Ups of Classic Plays (Featuring Abba!)

    There are no sly topical winks in Kenneth Cavander's problematic adaptation of the Oedipus trilogy. Cavander's new play, The Curse of Oedipus, which just opened at Antaeus Company, is pure classical gas. Nor are there any modern-day army fatigues or national insignias worn on shoulders in Casey Stangl's beautiful, skillful...
  • Stupid Fucking Bird Is the Best Chekhov Adaptation in Two Decades

    In Anton Chekhov's play The Seagull, about the theater and its ambiguous relationship to life, neurotic young playwright Konstantin Treplev speaks about the calcification of theater and of the necessity to create "new forms." As Treplev ages, he evolves and devolves into a long-suffering, modestly successful author of quasi-inventive plays...


  • Ringo Starr's #PeaceRocks Birthday Party
    Ringo Starr's 74th Birthday celebration was held at Capitol Records Monday. The birthday boy, along with fashion designer John Varvatos, launched the #peacerocks campaign to raise funds for Starr's Peace & Love fund, which is a part of David Lynch's non-profit organization. Starr's wife Barbara, and countless musician friends, showed up to support Starr and his fundraiser by posting selfies galore on social media with #peacerocks hashtags, raising $1 per hit. After blowing out candles and greeting fans, Starr handed out bracelets and cupcakes for all to join his celebration. All photos by Michele McManmon.
  • Moon Crisis: A Sailor Moon Tribute Art Show
    Rothick Art Haus opened the Moon Crisis Art Show, curated by Katie McAtee, Stephanie Ignacio Han and Jane Kim Estantino, on Saturday night, and the superfans lined up to celebrate all things Sailor Moon. The event featured artwork by Miss Kika, Greg DeStefano, Jamie Meckel Tablason, Creature of Habit, Carlton, Elizabeth Beals, Aimee Steinberger, The Quarter House and more. All photos by Shannon Cottrell.
  • TwentyWonder @ The Doll Factory
    TwentyWonder celebrated its fifth year of wonderment by taking over the L.A. Derby Dolls' home at the Doll Factory on July 13th. TwentyWonder, run by Jim Hodgson (brother of MST3K's Joel Hodgson), is a one-of-a-kind, one-night only event featuring Roller Derby, Cirque Berzerk, H.R. Pufnstuf "Mayor of Living Island," Dengue Fever, The Lampshades and more. All proceeds benefit DSALA's efforts to support those born with Down syndrome in the greater Los Angeles area. All photos by Star Foreman.