The poison pen is pretty damned funny in Christopher Durang's pair of one-acts that poke fun at playwrights Tennessee Williams, Sam Shepard, David Mamet and Peter Shaffer. In "For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls," mother Amanda (Lisa Richards) is a steel magnolia headed for extinction. Her good manners aren't enough to rule over today's split-level ranch houses where one tremulous son (Brian Foyster) obsesses over glass cocktail stirrers while the other (Kenny Johnston, channeling Marlon Brando) spends nights hooking up with sailors and bringing home the wrong sort of girl for his brother to court. This night, he's toted home the butch Ginny (Alejandra Cejudo), causing Mom to cry, "There hasn't been a lesbian in this house since your grandmother died!" The cast has a ball. The chaos cranks up after intermission with "A Stye of the Eye," a Southern Gothic that stews a toxic brew of theatrical clichés about heartland folk, long beset upon by carpetbagging playwrights who think the backwoods are a perfect setting for tales of murder, incest and insanity. As one character notes, all a hack's gotta do is mix nonsense symbolism with jazz or country music and let audiences think what they want advice Durang takes to the extreme in a climax where a horny sister clashes cymbals (get it) as her fellow rednecks shriek, "There's maggots in the American flag!" Jack Heller directs both comedies with verve, and Catherine Carlen is hilarious as the devilish idiot Ma. L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, Davidson/Valentini Theatre, 1125 N. McCadden Place, Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m.; through Dec. 5. (323) 860-7302.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Dec. 3-4, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 5, 7 p.m. Starts: Nov. 5. Continues through Nov. 21, 2010