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Thursday, Dec 9 2010

GO A CHICAGO CHRISTMAS CAROL In 1906, Upton Sinclair's muckraking novel The Jungle exposed the appalling and oppressive conditions workers faced in the unsanitary U.S. meatpacking industry, and the furor that followed led to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act. William A. Reilly has devised a clever merging of this backdrop with Charles Dickens' story A Christmas Carol. With lyrics by Gary Lamb and directed by Brent Beerman, Reilly's musical transplants the familiar yuletide plotline from London to 1908 Chicago, where the stone-hearted, money-grubbing Scrooge (Lamb) is busy raising rents and turning people out on the street. With corrupt cops in his pocket, Scrooge keeps rabble-rousing union workers such as Timothy Cratchit (Mikhail Roberts) under his shoe. When Scrooge is visited by the imposing ghost of his former partner Marley (a seemingly 8-foot-tall Dave Berges, with a nice basso profundo), Scrooge reflects on the decisions of his past and his lost love. The cast of 13 is well-costumed by Tanya Apuya and Caitlin Erin O'Hare, but less well served by the tame choreography and unimaginative, unambitious songs, one of which ("Memories Past") borrows liberally from "Baby, It's Cold Outside." Yet Paton Ashbrook as Scrooge's intended, Isabella, shares a lovely duet with him in "When We Are Wed" and Sadie Calvano shines as the little girl cast out onto the street. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 19. (818) 745-8527. (Pauline Adamek)

GO EXIT 10 The formula for a classic country song is simple: Hard-livin', hard-lovin' man, born with a rambler's soul and a soft spot for whiskey and women, leaves his long-suffering lady because he knows he's no good for her. Playwright Daniel Dean Darst was a studio music writer in Nashville, so he's built his semi-autobiographical, world-premiere show on that premise. When he steps onstage as Mike, Stetson shadowing his sunglass-shaded eyes, weaving stories in a slow, low voice reminiscent of the voice of God (if God once had a pack-a-day Marlboro habit) and singing songs that blanket the audience in a haze of longing, you lean forward to breathe in every word he sighs out. But when he passes the stage on to the past, and a younger version of himself, it's a rude awakening from the sweet, sad nostalgia he's conjured. As Young Mike, Paul Teodo still has Darst's poetic words to speak, but not his gift of storytelling. Bryan Bellomo, who plays persnickety to perfection (he uses an oil rag to answer the phone in the garage in which the two men work), is more nuanced eating a doughnut in semi-darkness than Teodo is in a monologue venting his frustration to his deceased father. In Act 2, set designers Jade and Patricia Altman impress with a 1960s diner that's faithful down to its handwritten chalkboard menu (the plastic Coke bottle spied behind the counter the lone errancy), and Darst's reappearance draws relief. Too bad it's momentary. Go, but be prepared to leave wanting more of him, not of this particular production. Michael Altman directs. Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun, 7 p.m.; thru Jan. 23. (323) 501-0511. (Rebecca Haithcoat)

GO KEN ROHT'S 99 CENT-ONLY SAME-O: AN ELECTRIC BALLAD Writer-director-choreographer-composer Ken Roht originally launched his series of annual extravaganzas as shows utilizing mostly cheap materials available from 99¢ Only Stores. This year, to dramatize sustainability, he's added a subtitle, "Paper Not Plastic," and added a dazzling array of paper and cardboard from Green Paper Alliance. The results are wondrous. To craft this "whimsical-surrealist theatrical collage," Roht has assembled a cast of 18 versatile actors, singers and dancers, co-written the stirring score with musical director John Ballinger, provided the lively choreography and assembled a huge cadre of designers and visual artists. They've concocted a show that suggests the Ziegfeld Follies on acid. David Offner designed the handsome set of butcher paper and corrugated cardboard, and designer Ann Closs-Farley created the ingenious and eye-popping paper costumes, awash in butterflies and flowers. As a response to the passing of Proposition 8, Roht builds his show around a pair of male lovers, Eddie and Fred (Max Faugno and Stephen Heath), and for a finale he provides them with a lavish gay wedding. Like all the 99¢ Only shows, this is a holiday celebration, if not exactly a Christmas show. It's more like Mardi Gras or Winter Solstice. Bootleg Theatre, 2220 Beverly Blvd., Koreatown; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 19. (213) 389-3856, (Neal Weaver)

click to enlarge EXIT 10
  • EXIT 10

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THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT Stephen Adly Giurgis sets his play in Purgatory, where Judas is on trial for his betrayal of Jesus, with events and characters filtered through a decidedly modern, urban sensibility. For most of Act 1, it's engrossing stuff, but Giurgis' tone grows uncertain, and he seems to be playing both ends against the middle: After establishing an irreverent, sassy, revisionist tone, he veers into a reverent, earnest mode. And the piece goes on too long, well past the point of diminishing returns. Fortunately, director Jeremy Aluma has given it a terrific production, with a huge and sterling cast. Tony Gatto shines as the irascible judge, Nick Mills is a flamboyant prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney played by Jessica Culaciati defends her client by indicting everybody else, from Mother Teresa (Angie Light) to Caiaphas the Elder (Adam Tsekhman) and Pontius Pilate (Paul Tully). Levi Sochet's Satan is a smooth, glad-handing hipster; Lowam Eyasu is a Saint Monica with attitude; and as Judas, Vincent Mentry gives texture and credibility to a role that is largely passive until near the end. Fred Kinney and Staci Walters provide the fancifully handsome set, with ominous sound design by Adam Smith. Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., downtown; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 12. Produced by Urban Theatre Movement with Company of Angels. (Neal Weaver)

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