A Fake Funeral and a Roving Tuba Player in Moliere's The Bungler, and Other New Reviews...
This week's Stage feature finds similarities between Val Kilmer's study of Mark Twain, in a workshop production of a play (Citizen Twain) that Kilmer wrote and performed in (closing Thursday at the Masonic Lodge in Hollywood Forever Cemetery), and Matthew McCray's new scifi play, Eternal Thou, about the effects of rapidly changing technology.
NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication April 12, 2012
Employing playful and
inventive staging, director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott maximizes the
Italian commedia dell'arte roots of Molière's zany farce. Exposing the
acting troupe's dressing rooms upstage, concealing certain incidental
characters with masks and enlisting attention-seeking lighting effects
(courtesy of designer Ken Booth) all adds to the madcap fun. Richard
Wilbur's translation of Molière's obscure comedy, circa 1655, slightly
updates the language while preserving the rhyming couplets and witty
wordplay. In the dazzlingly convoluted scenario, wily manservant
Mascarille (JD Cullum) concocts numerous, elaborate schemes to help his
dimwitted master, Lelie (Michael A. Newcomer), win the girl of his
dreams, Célie (Emily Kosloski), away from the wealthy old gentleman to
whom she is promised. But the ingenuous Lelie has a gift for
interfering, continually undoing all of Mascarille's best-laid plans,
much to the latter's hair-tearing frustration. Mascarille's unscrupulous
talents include deft pickpocketing and elaborate improvised lies, while
his ruses include a feigned funeral and hilariously adopting the
disguise of a Swiss boarding-house landlord. Rodriguez-Elliott sprinkles
the play with original musical interludes (all composed by David O) and
makes good use of a roving tuba player (Kabin Thomas) who amusingly
punctuates various comedic moments. There's a lot going on throughout,
but The Bungler is a fun-filled romp guaranteed to give you hysterics. A
Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena; in rep, call for
schedule; thru May 27. (626) 356-3100, anoisewithin.org (Pauline Adamek)
GO EARLY AND OFTEN
Matthew McCray's new play about the effects of rapidly changing technology. Atwater Village Theater, 3269 Casitas Ave., Atwater Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m. (added perfs Thurs., April 12 & Mon., April 23, 8 p.m.); through April 23, eternalthou.eventbrite.com See Stage feature.
FEEDBACK Am I a cool person or a pathetic loser? Is my life worth
something or am I taking up space? Jane Miller's dark comedy pivots
around directionless Holly (April Grace Lowe), who pays $15,000 to a
suspiciously Orwellian corporation for a personality makeover. Holly's
"rebranding" involves submitting to a humiliating observation and
"assessment" procedure under the hawkeye supervision of her impersonal
case manager, Elizabeth (Angela Ryskiewicz), and the omnipresent
direction of the company's intimidating guru, Judith (Dorrie Braun).
Canny in its exploration of power and self-doubt, the play reflects on a
worldview that condemns living day by day and instead demands goals,
accomplishments and likability to justify one's existence. It also
challenges a value system in which appearance equates with substance.
Miller has etched her characters with irony and insight, but their
realization under Craig Jessen's direction is not as crisp or as cogent
as it might be. The onstage chemistry between Holly and her ex-boyfriend
(Cody Roberts) is especially in need of shoring up. And the play itself
would be strengthened if we knew more about Holly's recently deceased
mom, whose death has kindled her daughter's quest. Lyric Theatre, 520 N.
La Brea Ave.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., April 15 & 22, 2 p.m.;
This amusing parody about the recent financial meltdown and uber consumerism gives new meaning to the expression "blood bank." Henry Reynolds (Sam Golzari) is a middle-school teacher with a yearning for some of the finer things in life, so he visits the Dream America Bank to secure funds, but is immediately caught up in a sort of Kafkaesque nightmare. The "staff" of this institution aren't button-down business types but ashen-faced vampires, all of whom are prodded on in their bloodlust by the bank president (Fidel Gomez, in laugh-a-minute Bela Lugosi mode). Soon after, Henry is caught up in a surreal world where he visits a queen's banquet, is thrown in the slammer and encounters aliens, nasty cops and rapping gangbangers. It gets messy and difficult to comprehend, but the rambling plot doesn't detract from the laughs or fun. Directed by Vault Ensemble members Aaron Garcia and Gomez, the cast performances, if not entirely polished, are energetic and engaging. Ensemble member Jasmine Orpilla provides a suitably creepy musical score. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., dwntwn.; Thurs.-Sat., 9 p.m.; through April 21. (866) 811-4111, thelatc.org. (Lovell Estell III)
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