By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
3. I really enjoyed George Bernard Shaw's 1919 Heartbreak House in the open air at Theatricum Botanicum. Nothing about Shaw's creaky yet timely comedy or Ellen Geer's direction of actors such as William Dennis Hunt and Melora Marshall was innovative, yet I found myself grinning in delight throughout the production, which revealed why Shaw, though a renowned windbag, also was a wit.
2. Back at Boston Court, in a co-production with Furious Theatre Company, Nikolai Gogol's farce The Government Inspector — a comedy that almost never works because its satire is so locally Russian and its humor is so redundant — got an updated, raucous and rat-smart spin by Oded Gross. It's the story of a con man who's mistaken by the local town leaders as the dreaded "government inspector" — opening a faucet of mistaken identities and corruption. Adam Haas Hunter in the title role served up another of the great performances of the year, bounding across the stage like a living cartoon and not missing a physical or verbal beat. Tina Haatainen-Jones' costumes were beautifully lurid, and Stefan Novinski directed.
1. Shared honors here, because we weren't supposed to go beyond 10 (and there are plenty more): When Red Bastard first showed up at the Hollywood Fringe, Eric Davis came onstage wrapped in a kind of red body stocking, with only his calves, feet and white-painted face exposed. Red paint around his eyes enhanced the demonic glint of a psychotic chicken that would inform his show, co-written with directors Deanna Fleysher and Sue Morrison. In his ballooning costume, he moved ever so gracefully, belittling his adoring audience, until one young patron left after being insulted. Davis, often self-deprecating, mostly hilarious, embodied the evil clown, and the dangers of trusting strangers.
A far more somber performance unfolded at REDCAT, this time under the auspices of local troupe Poor Dog Group, re-enacted through Jesse Bonnell's lugubrious direction and, again, some evocative interpretive dance. The Murder Ballad, based on Jelly Roll Morton's extended, gruesome and profane ballad — which played throughout — concerned a woman (Jessica Emmanuel) imprisoned for murdering a rival whom her "man" had been visiting (it also featured Jesse Saler). Sharing many of the qualities of Gatz and In the Red and Brown Water, The Murder Ballad used theater's living three dimensions to engage us in an act of hypnosis, so that we could barely feel time pass.