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Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in Bitchslap!; Patty Duke and Patty Hearst in Patty: The Revival and All the Latest New Theater Reviews

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in Bitchslap!; Patty Duke and Patty Hearst in Patty: The Revival and All the Latest New Theater Reviews

John Dlugolecki


Moliere's The Learned Ladies

is this week's Pick. Nods also for Patrick Kennelly's musical mash up of Patty Hearst and Patty Duke: Patty, The Revival, at Highways Performance Space; Padua Productions' production of Murray Mednick's two new "Gary Plays," under the collective title, The Fool and the Red Queen, at the Lounge Theatre in Hollywood; Bitchslap! at West Hollywood's Macha Theatre; The Children at Pasadena's Theatre @ Boston Court, and more. For all New Theater Reviews, go to the jump.

Also, check out the current week's Stage Feature on L.A. Philharmonic's production of Don Giovanni with superstar designers, Frank Gehry, Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte, and conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.

NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication May 24, 2012

APHRODITE 2

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in Bitchslap!; Patty Duke and Patty Hearst in Patty: The Revival and All the Latest New Theater Reviews

Irene Hovey

Cornelius Schnauber's cartoonish comedy begins with promise: A rumpled, middle-aged physicist (David Bickford) places an order with a robotics expert for a custom-made female android with sizable breasts and an acquiescent nature. The precise and nerdy vendor (Joseph Beck) helpfully collaborates with his customer on the further specifications for this intended new spouse, which include an agile intellect, an erotic appetite and a detective's insatiably curious mind-set. As anticipated, the scientist acquires a ravishing temptress (Fiona Bates); unfortunately for him, she's soon inquiring about the mysterious circumstances surrounding the deaths of his three previous wives. Directed by L. Flint Esquerra, the piece would have worked well as a 20-minute comedy sketch, but Schnauber ambitiously attempts a more intricate plot with more complex intimations than his conventional writing can support. The performers successfully tailor their performances to the initial caricature, but soon are left to flounder along with the overwritten narrative. MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; Fri., June 15, 8 p.m.; thru June 17. (800) 838-3006 or brownpapertickets.com/event/245019. (Deborah Klugman)

GO BITCHSLAP!

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in Bitchslap!; Patty Duke and Patty Hearst in Patty: The Revival and All the Latest New Theater Reviews

Chris Hume

Hollywood divas Bette Davis and Joan Crawford have inspired more drag-show performances than anybody Ñ except perhaps Judy Garland. Too many of these shows have been chintzy, labored and obvious, but fortunately this one, which features both divas, is a cut above the rest. The clever, literate, well-researched script, by Canadian writer and drag artist Darrin Hagen, includes plenty of lethal one-line zingers, and it's preceded by a hilarious film montage of Davis and Crawford delivering savage slaps, slugs, shots and kicks to their co-stars. Hagen focuses on the mythic rivalry between Davis (C. Steven Foster) and Crawford (Michael Taylor Gray), egged on by formidable gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Therese McLaughlin) and culminating in the much-rumored war on the set of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Foster doesn't really look like Davis, but he has mastered her famous mannerisms and pinched voice, and expertly captures the bitter pugnacity of her later years. Crawford poses a greater challenge to Gray, because she was initially less mannered; only as time passed did she become hermetically sealed in her great-lady faade. McLaughlin is a skillful performer, but being blonde and pretty, she's more like Sheilah Graham than Hopper. Odalys Nanin provides briskly authoritative direction. Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, W. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; (added perfs Sat., June 3 & 17, 3 p.m.; no perfs June 1 & 2); through June 17. (323) 960-7724, plays411.com/bitchslap. (Neal Weaver)


GO THE CHILDREN

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in Bitchslap!; Patty Duke and Patty Hearst in Patty: The Revival and All the Latest New Theater Reviews

Ed Krieger

Playwright Michael Elyanow transports Euripides' Medea to the present day via a magic spell cast by a chorus member, an incantation that whisks the play's two titular protagonists away from their homicidal mother to a Maine town in the middle of a Category 5 hurricane. Once there, the production takes more than a moment to find its footing. Early on, its script relies too heavily and for too long on familiar, winking humor, making too much of both. But once the play opens up its characters, and the mystery at its center deepens, the mythic resonance turns from jokey to philosophical to heartbreaking. As a result, the play revises and redeems itself, giving the talented ensemble ample room to display impressive range. The whole is elevated by the synergy of its strikingly good production values. Jaymi Lee Smith's inspired lighting design brilliantly maximizes Francois-Pierre Couture's clever and beautifully realized scenic design, while both are enhanced by a sound design, co-created by Veronika Vorel and John Zalewski, that never strikes a false note, and is by turns nuanced, haunting and thrilling. Theatre @ Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun, 2 p.m.; through June 10. (626) 683-6883, bostoncourt.com. (Mindy Farabee)

GO THE CLOSENESS OF THE HORIZON

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in Bitchslap!; Patty Duke and Patty Hearst in Patty: The Revival and All the Latest New Theater Reviews

Ed Krieger

The early scenes of playwright Richard Martin Hirsch's elegantly melancholic drama take place in 1969, as a trio of high school pals hit the road on a youthful cross-country journey. Forty years on, one of the pals, sporting goods magnate Paul (Bruce Nozick), is called to the bedside of his estranged former pal G. (Daniel Kash), who is dying from a stroke. As the reunion unfolds, the elaborate mystery of why the three childhood friends drifted apart gradually is revealed. Events are shown in flashback and in meandering order, and incidents that at first seem astonishingly important in one period of time turn out to mean something different when filtered through time's lens. Director Darin Anthony's beautifully nuanced production of the play, which engrossingly captures the emotions underlying midlife masculinity, is full of mature humor that shifts suddenly into scathing sadness Ñ and the performances possess a sense of powerfully truthful detail. Nozick's neurotic, middle-aged businessman's realization that disappointment is often the result of youthful hope and ambition is a deft turn. Also laudable are Kash and Mandy June Turpin as G.'s wife, whose performance as a character aging from 19 to middle age is beautifully rendered. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through June 24. (323) 960-1054, plays411.com/horizon. (Paul Birchall)

GO THE FOOL AND THE RED QUEEN

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in Bitchslap!; Patty Duke and Patty Hearst in Patty: The Revival and All the Latest New Theater Reviews

Mark Barnes

"It's a protest.

It's a love story." So begins the explanation by experimental filmmakers

Chauncey and Rondell (Jack Kehler and Gray Palmer) to a world-weary

L.A. actor, Gary (John Diehl), who's in for an audition, in the latest,

integrated pair of Murray Mednick's "Gary" plays, "Gary's Nightmare

Audition" and "The Fool and the Red Queen." (There are now seven such

plays in Mednick's opus, all featuring the harrowed actor Gary, whose

son was murdered in a drug deal gone bad.) Chauncey and Rondell's

half-baked concept for the film is being improvised in the audition, an

improvisation that lands Gary the role of Ricky, a soldier guilty of a

killing spree who is doing self-inflicted penance in a fantasy-medieval

tavern. The second play takes us inside the film being conjured in the

first work. In the conjunction of the two works, cinematographer Brad L. Cooper's expert video support complements the plays' handsome staging by Guy Zimmerman, in tones both laconic and

whimsical. The theme of genocide and a sadomasochistic relationship

between the Red Queen (Julia Prud'homme in a viciously jocular turn) and

her Fool (Bill Celentano, bursting with both intelligence and

frustration at the capricious cruelty of his mistress) blend into a

phantasmagoric vision of world history and contemporary L.A. that shoots

darts of humor into its own despondency. Also, Peggy A. Blow does a

marvelous rendition of the tavern's innkeeper. Gorgeous design elements

by Ann Closs-Farley (costumes), John Zalewski (sound), Matt Richter

(lights) and Jeffrey Atherton (set). Padua Playwrights at Lounge

Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

p.m.; through June 24. (323) 960-7740, plays411/RedQueen. (Steven Leigh Morris)

IT IS DONE

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in Bitchslap!; Patty Duke and Patty Hearst in Patty: The Revival and All the Latest New Theater Reviews

Michael James Trimble

Is the fact that a script specifies a barroom setting sufficient reason to stage it in an actual, working tavern (the Pig N' Whistle in Hollywood)? For playwright Alex Goldberg's contemporary one-act horror Gothic, the answer is decidedly no. But going hyperrealistic is, perhaps, the least of the play's problems. When Jonas (Andre Tenerelli) is literally blown into a "deserted" dive bar "90 miles from nowhere," his gruff anxiety isn't allayed by the genial if onanistic bartender (Michael McCartney) or the arrival of sexy but surly skip tracer Ruby (Catia Ojeda), sidelined while tracking a debtor. What begins as a flirty road comedy, however, awkwardly hairpins into supernatural mystery and never quite recovers. The old Amicus horror omnibus films routinely melded the comic and the gothic. But they knew that the crucial reveal was also the denouement (Goldberg sputters on for another 20 minutes). The incontrovertible presence of a full audience packed into the supposedly empty bar only denies director Michael Michetti's staging the purgatorial eeriness it requires. Pig N' Whistle, 6714 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Mon.-Tues., 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through June 12. Itisdonetheplay.com. (Bill Raden)


PICK OF THE WEEK: THE LEARNED LADIES

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in Bitchslap!; Patty Duke and Patty Hearst in Patty: The Revival and All the Latest New Theater Reviews

John Dlugolecki















Four hundred years haven't dulled the comic edge or the timeliness of this little-known gem of Molière's. Director Heather Chesley has done a crafty job of fine-tuning the shtick and physical comedy, emphasizing the supple wordplay of Richard Wilbur's sparkling translation. The plot concerns lovers Henriette and Clitandre (Tannis Hanson, Thomas Chavira), whose desired nuptials shake the rafters of hearth and home. Henriette lives in a world of mammoth intellectual pretension and class snobbery fostered by her controlling mother, Philamente (Lori Berg), an aunt, Belise (Rhonda Kohl), and a sister, Armande (Rory Patterson). These "learned ladies" have a panting admiration for scholar, poet and scoundrel Trissotin (Stephen Van Dorn), whom they insist Henriette marry. But Henriette's boneless suckling of a father, Chrysale (William Bower), wants to stand up to his insufferably domineering wife and say that Henriette should wed the man of her choosing. Toss in some competition from another pompous, educated suitor, Vadius (Michael Dye), and you have the makings for a load of laughs. This show soars on delightful cast performances, but it also boasts complementary production elements. Mark Svastics' beautiful latticework set, Krys Fehervari's hair and makeup design and Vicki Conrad's extravagant costumes are tantalizing eye candy. Actors Co-op, 1760 N. Gower St., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; through June 17. (323) 462-8460, ActorsCo-op.org (Lovell Estell III

GOPATTY: THE REVIVAL

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in Bitchslap!; Patty Duke and Patty Hearst in Patty: The Revival and All the Latest New Theater Reviews

Trevor Baker

Meshing Patty Duke and Patty Hearst, creator-director Patrick Kennelly's musical explores our fixation on the cult of personality and our obsession with molding young celebrity girls into pop tartlets. Patty (played by four performers, representing her id, ego, superego and "shadow") is portrayed as a sacrificial lamb in today's entertainment-saturated culture. "Who will be the bright star of the future?" an announcer in the must-see "pop musical event" sing-songs. "I like posting pictures of myself on the Internet!" a vapid contestant answers in Auto-Tune. Down to the 5-plus-inch heels the talented, 15-member, all-female (!) cast struts around on for almost two hours, Kennelly nails the idea of how expectations help to cripple women in the public eye. In the show's frankest moment, the entire cast turns on the Pattys, chanting, "Kill yourself." Jonathan Snipes and Kristin Erickson's original music drips with satire and is as catchy as anything on the radio. Pilar Macchione's sculptural fashion design is commentary, too; the dresses are just so flattering. This will be one of the most exhilarating eviscerations in L.A. this year. Don't miss it. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; Wed.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru May 26. (310) 315-1459. (Rebecca Haithcoat)