Antaeus Company Double Dips The Seagull, and More New Theater Reviews
Antaeus Company's double-cast production of Chekhov's The Seagull scored this week's Pick of the Week.
Also, check this week's Stage feature on a mixed reaction to Hollywood's A-List (Clooney, Pitt, Bacon, Sheen) taking to the stage for same-sex marriage rights.
Here is a list of all the 2012 L.A. Weekly Theater Awards nominees; ceremony on April 2 at the Avalon, hosted by Lost Moon Radio; further information on whether you are a nominee can be found here. Nominees, please RSVP at (310) 574-7208. Tickets for guests and the public can be found at laweekly.com/theaterawards.
THEATER NEW REVIEWS, scheduled for publication March 8, 2012
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA
Fast-paced and chaotic, A Noise Within's production of Shakespeare's romantic tragedy plays up the comedy and bacchanalian passions of its mature leading pair of star-crossed lovers at the expense of its dramatic civil war plot line. Flanked by handmaidens in jingly harem-wear and clad in gorgeous, flowing ombre silk gowns plus wigged with a mess of curls, Susan Angelo's Cleopatra is feisty and capricious, voracious and high-maintenance. Yet even when she later switches to the familiar blunt-fringed bob wig and costume designer Julie Keen's sleeker dress (incongruously teamed with capri leggings), Angelo fails to command the stage with the regality expected of the Queen of the Nile. A vivid recounting of her opulent and entourage-laden floating barge only demonstrates the gulf between the stage embodiment and the myth of the royal personage that captivated the imagination of so many poets and warlords. Providing a backdrop to the romance is the intrigues of war involving the Roman Empire, while triumvirate member Antony's loyalties are split between his Egyptian mistress and his country. Playing Antony, Geoff Elliott shares directing duties with his wife and company co-artistic director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott. Designer Tom Buderwitz' glowing oblong pond downstage center, faux-marble tiled floor and bi-level scaffolding set permits some interesting staging options, including thrilling entrances via ropes from the ceiling catwalk. Battles and swordplay are well choreographed by Ken Merckx, but poorly executed by a timid ensemble of centurions. Laura Karpman's gorgeous, ethnic-flavored score features plaintive duduk melodies and beautifully drives the action with its pounding rhythms. Max Rosenak shines as Octavius Caesar, thanks to his quiet but commanding presence. A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena; in rep, call for schedule; thru May 13. (626) 356-3100, www.anoisewithin.org. (Pauline Adamek)
GO COBB No matter what kind of myth you are, another man eventually will come along and replace you. Ty Cobb set around 90 records in baseball, many of them still standing. Yet just as he dwarfed the impressive legacy of the "Black Ty Cobb," Oscar Charleston, so Babe Ruth replaced him in the nation's memory. Lee Blessing's 1989 bio-drama is devoted to explaining the complicated Cobb, separating him into three ages and allowing them to interact with each other as well as Charleston (Jason Delune). Instead of the angry young man maturing into hateful old man, Blessing softens Cobb -- whose racism is less shocking than his aggressive temper -- as he ages. All four actors are fine, especially Daniel Sykes' stereotype of a gum-smacking ballplayer, eyes lowered into smug slits, cheek scrunched from his smirk. Gregg T. Daniel's direction is crisp, and the production clips along. Blessing, however, loses the game. While Cobb is a fascinating character whose violence seems inherited (his mother was arrested and acquitted for voluntary manslaughter after shooting his father, who suspected her of cheating) and whose retirement feels especially poignant ("I couldn't do the one thing that made me special"), Blessing attempts to turn Cobb's story into an overreaching statement on race and power. In doing so, he again pushes Cobb off the pedestal. Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., N. Hlywd.; in rep, call for schedule; thru April 7. (818) 763-5990. (Rebecca Haithcoat)
BRANDEE BUILT ON CRAZEE In her cheerful solo show, performer Brandee Tucker, who co-wrote the script with co-directors Michael Steger and Sean Hankinson, confesses to having entered a beauty pageant at age 15. She won, if not the first prize, an award for best personality. And that, in fact, might characterize Tucker's monologue as a whole: She's a delightful performer -- energetic and affable -- and one has the sense while watching her that she'd be the perfect friend to hang out with at a party or in a club. However, the show she spins is somewhat lightweight, relying on a set of depictions of members of her family and childhood circle, with little connection to any narrative. Yes, Tucker rightly earns her laughs with her portrayal of her crusty grandmother and also with her depiction of her first boyfriend, a ghoulish young Mormon boy who dreamed of creating a gal harem with Tucker in the pole position. But the weak script makes it hard to recommend the show to anyone who doesn't already know the people she's mimicking. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 24. (323) 465-4446, brownpapertickets.com/event/221442. (Paul Birchall)
A FEW GOOD MEN
Aaron Sorkin's military drama is a huge show, employinga large cast, many short scenes and frequent scene changes todramatize the court-martial of two Marine enlisted men who are falsely accused of murder. Director Kenne Guillory tackled the near-impossible when he set out to shoe-horn this massive drama into a small, black-box theatre. He has assembled a fine cast, but the awkward scene changes undermine the rhythm and pace of the piece, one important speech is virtually obliterated by the sound of moving
furniture, and another is drowned out by over-loud sound effects. Still, there are many fine performances. Marlon Sanders shines as the arrogant colonel, who ordered the infamous Code Red and the ensuing cover-up. Also very fine are Ethan McDowell as a fanatically gung-ho lieutenant, and Ryan Mercado as the defense attorney who strives to
achieve justice for the accused. It's difficult for costumers like Sybill Mosely to assemble multiple correct uniforms on a limited budget. But in a play whose plot hinges on the military's obsession with keeping up appearances, these things matter. And a defense
attorney who shows up at a formal court-martial, as this one does, in a striped necktie, and with his shirt-tails hanging out below his dress uniform jacket, would lose the respect of the court before he ever opened his mouth. Note: This production is triple cast. The Rise Above Theatre Movement at the Sky Lounge, 4930 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; call for schedule, (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com/
GHOST-LANDS OF AN URBAN NDN
If one must sit in a choir, one could do far worse than be preached to by storyteller Robert Owens-Greygrass, whose greatest virtue is a stand-up comedian's sense of comic timing. Which means you don't necessarily need to be a member of his Church of the Shat-Upon Racial Minority to reap the respectable laugh quotient or digest the politically barbed sermon contained in this semi-autobiographical, one-man gallery of Native American characters. Owens-Greygrass' text is about the psychic duality experienced by anyone of mixed race growing up in America, and more specifically about the spiritual journey of sorting through his own American Indian-French-Irish, Southern Baptist heritage and claiming his Lakota cultural identity during the searing political ferment of the 1960s. The performer is at his best when his wit is edged with righteous anger at the despoiling legacy of "guilt, blame and shame" waged by the country's Judeo-Christian hegemony; less convincing is his optimistic belief in the rectifying power of human enlightenment. Wells Fargo Theater, Autry National Center, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Griffith Park; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., thru March 17. (323) 667-2000, ext. 354, NativeVoicesattheAutry.org. (Bill Raden)
PRIVATE LIVES Viewed as risque when it premiered in 1930, Noël Coward's comedy about the marital escapades of urbane British socialites now seems passe. The plot revolves around a divorced couple, Elyot (Lenny von Dohlen) and Amanda (Stasha Surdyke), who meet while honeymooning with their new spouses. Alas, Elyot's new wife, Sybil (Annie Abrams), is an irksome blonde, while Victor (Jeff Witzke), Amanda's new husband, is a dreary gasbag. Realizing they've each made a mistake, Elyot and Amanda chuck their tedious new mates and run off together. The class- and culture-bound script is top-heavy with outdated repartee, and it takes forever for the story to move along. Still, some parts are extremely funny; Coward well understood the green-eyed monster, and both Surdyke's stylish woman of the world and Abrams' ditzy dimwit are thoroughly engaging. Von Dohlen oozes suavity, but as a man with the hots for his ex-wife, he's not quite convincing. Jules Aaron directs. GTC Burbank, George Izay Park, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 25. (323) 960-7738, plays411.com/privatelives. (Deborah Klugman)
The crew at Zombie Joe's can almost always be counted on for a great show and a good time, but they have completely misfired with this DOA clunker by Robert Riemer. Alaura (Alexis Justman, whose performance is the only one that approaches credibility) and Bobby Venus (Henry Maixner Jr.) awake on a park bench after a night of partying, and after some small talk and a lot -- a whole lot -- of kissing, agree to return. Their spot soon is taken by George (Kelby Cross) and his nerdy brother Dick (Roger Weiss), both of whom eventually fall prey to the self-serving connivances of the astonishingly mundane Wendy (Georgan George). They are eventually pitted against each other when she's forced to choose between the two. That's about all, folks. Things wrap up much the way they started, with no raison d'etre, much like this play. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Sat., 8: 30 p.m.; thru March 31. (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com. (Lovell Estell III)
PICK OF THE WEEK: THE SEAGULL
The ridiculous wallowing of unfulfilled artists and unrequited lovers is the crux of the comedy in Chekhov's dialogue-heavy commentary on art in general, theater in particular and human foibles en masse. In this double-cast Antaeus Company production, shrewd director Andrew J. Traister strikes Chekhovian gold with one cast and makes less layered choices with the other.In 19th-century Russia, when Irina Arkadina (Gigi Bermingham/Laura Wernette, though Wernette played the role in both performances reviewed here), a self-congratulatory actress past her prime, visits her brother, Sorin (Gregory Itzin/Michael McShane), at their lakeside country home, she finds her son, Treplev (Joe Delafield/Antonio Jaramillo), working on a new play. The angst-ridden Treplev is toiling to find new forms in theater, but Arkadina thinks his work is symbolist trash. Treplev's ill will toward his mother is worsened by the presence of her lover, Trigorin (Bo Foxworth/Adrian LaTourelle), a famous writer who captures the heart of Nina (Abby Wilde/Jules Wilcox), Treplev's lover. Wernette firmly grasps the narcissistic nature of Arkadina, playing her as an oxygen-stealing prima donna whose prancing ludicrousness is laughable until it takes a toll on her son. Wilde plays Nina with an awkward girlishness that is more impactful than Wilcox's Nina, a somewhat self-assured beauty. And Foxworth is nothing short of revelatory as the tortured Trigorin, whose self-loathing and obsessive work habits have ruined his life. Joanna Strapp is rancor incarnate as the alcoholic, snuff-addicted Masha, whose endless brooding would be tragic were it not so hilarious. Jaramillo's blending of genuine pain and childish histrionics makes him the standout Treplev, while Delafield plays none of the role's requisite comedy. Both Itzin and McShane bring insightful shades to the unsatisfied Sorin, though each makes drastically different stylistic choices. Itzin's Sorin is introspective about his failing mind and body, while McShane's Sorin faces his laundry list of life regrets with bumbling bombast. Antaeus Company at Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 15. (818) 506-1983, antaeus.org. (Amy Lyons)
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