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Theater Reviews: Jamaica Farewell, A Raisin in the Sun, Glory Days 

Also, Rockin' With the Ages 3, Streep Tease

Thursday, Mar 31 2011
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BLIND SPOTS Sibling rivalry and one-upmanship reach sinister heights when two sisters with diametrically opposed beliefs clash in Colette Freedman’s patchy black comedy. The setting is a small East Coast university town. Gretchen (Vanessa Waters), a gay journalist, becomes incensed and decides to publish an editorial damning the anti-gay decrees from the liberal arts college president. Problem is, this president is her abusive, homophobic older sister, Kate (director Elise Robertson). Gretchen’s act of public humiliation ignites an all-out war between the sisters as the pair dredge up recriminations and accusations and even threaten blackmail. Meanwhile Gretchen’s cute and sporty young lover, Janna (Jade Sealey), is unaware she might get hit by some shrapnel. Playwright Freedman co-stars as Gretchen’s BFF Frieda, giving us a hilarious drunk act and some deliciously bitchy put-downs. Freedman punctuates the often inane banter and heated arguments with plaintive 1960s folk tunes by Cat Stevens and Jesse Colin Young, performed live by Logan Lozier (doubling as the sisters’ tragically departed brother). Placing Lozier upstage center, on a raised platform, lends him an angelic presence. Freedman’s play features powerful themes and quirky characters (notably the Afro-centric wacky mom Birdy, played by Helen Mary Wilson), but the writing isn’t nearly as strong as her ideas. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Thurs., 3 p.m., Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., thru April 24. (818) 381-3024, blindspotplay.com. (Pauline Adamek)


COME SUNDOWN Myriad missteps in this premiere production of Anthony Cronin’s subtext-starved play lead to its stumbling journey. Magical realism meets harsh reality when Mortimer (Jeison Azali), a money-driven developer, eyes a large swath of land occupied by a simple shaman couple, Eva (Sofia Yepes and Nancy Berggren as the young/old incarnations, respectively) and Zak (Bram Barouh and Shelly Kurtz), whose exceedingly corny devotion to each other and the land is marked by syrupy, pseudospiritual outpourings. Swooping in to save the eco-friendly day are Noelle (Shane Adler) and Tom (Timothy George), a pair of green-hearted young lawyers who refuse to let old Eva and Zak be bullied or bribed off their land. But while Noelle and Tom try to save Eva and Zak’s quaint, timeless love nest and its surrounding acreage, Eva and Zak are working their woodsy magic to heal the younger couple’s wounded hearts and make more of them than business partners. Hefty themes of overpopulation and man’s mistreatment of Mother Earth ring hollow amidst the ridiculously saccharine love story. Kurtz’s cartoonish acting style kills any chance of genuine tenderness between old Zak and Eva, while George and Adler make mechanical choices that add up to an underdeveloped love connection. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Drive, Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., thru April 14. (310) 397-3244. (Amy Lyons)


ELIZABETH BATHORY, THE BLOOD COUNTESS Writer-director Bea Egeto’s hourlong historical account of the 16th-century serial killer Elizabeth Bathory takes the audience through a fun chronology of blood, lust and justice, but falls short of capturing the complexity of the subject. The Countess Bathory had an obsession with staying young, convincing herself that the blood of young maidens could sustain her youth. She and her small circle of cohorts began kidnapping girls and covering up the disappearances. Eventually enough people suspected her of wrongdoing that she was locked away, claiming her innocence right up until she died in prison, without trial. A large, fantastic cast and razor-sharp staging keep the pace moving, and both Charlotte Bjornbak’s young Bathory and Leaha Boschen’s storytelling prisoner Bathory tap into the historical countess’s dangerous psychosis with aplomb. However, at the top of the play, when Bathory, rotting in prison, implores us to listen to her side of the story, what follows is such a straightforward interpretation of events that when she finally asks us to judge her, we never really get a sense of why she feels so steadfastly innocent. Zombie Joe’s Underground Theater, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Sat., 8:30 p.m., thru April 30. (818) 202-4120. (Luis Reyes)

click to flip through (3) PHOTO BY AGNES MAGYARI - Come Sundown
  • Photo by Agnes Magyari
  • Come Sundown
   
 

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GO  GLORY DAYS The thing about the Golden Age of one’s life is that when it’s happening you think it will never change — but somehow it always does, and rarely for the better. Composer Nick Blaemire and writer John Gardiner’s unusually wise and energetic musical is all about the inevitability of growing up and how we frequently outgrow even our most valued friends. A year after high school graduation, four small-town pals reunite on the local football field, intending to perform a silly prank at the next day’s varsity game. Group ringleader Will (Derek Klena) is deeply nostalgic about his friendship with his old pals, all of whom remember him fondly but have moved on: Wisecracking cynic Skip (Alex Robert Holmes) is attending an Ivy League college, while strong, silent Jack (Ian Littleworth) appears to have lost his zest for old pals. Only red-haired frat boy Andy (Matthew Koehler) seems to be interested in keeping the friendship going, and he’s turning into a bit of a thug. Things take a turn when one of the pals makes an unexpected revelation that pretty much reduces the friendship to post-it-in-the-memory-album status. Director Calvin Remsberg’s brisk, vivid staging beautifully conveys the passion and vigor of youth — and musical director James May’s lively interpretation of Blaemire’s sometimes haunting, sometimes ferocious rock-musical score artfully captures that moment when silly teenagers suddenly realize they’re becoming somebody else. These four characters, archetype man-boys all, easily could have strayed into sentimental cliché, but the ensemble limns the sort of tautly defined, personality-rich figures you will swear you recall from your own high school days. Klena, a likable young actor, possesses a powerhouse voice and his belts, particularly in the opening and closing numbers, show great range and harmony. Nicely sensitive turns are offered by Holmes’ sardonic but warm Skip (a Jughead surrogate if ever there was one), and by Littleworth, whose rendition of “Open Road,” a song about a year spent wandering the country, is the evocative highlight. Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., thru April 24. (323) 965-9996. (Paul Birchall)

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