Brooke Shields and Richard Chamberlain and Beautiful Lighting Can't Save The Exorcist, Plus the Latest New Theater Reviews

Bo Foxworth and Ann Noble

Michael LamontBo Foxworth and Ann Noble

The Hollywood Fringe Festival continues through August in an extended program, The Best of Hollywood Fringe, sponsored by a trio local theaters: Actors Circle Theatre, Artworks, Theatre Asylum and Lab. For shows you may have missed in June, see the complete schedule following New Theater Reviews after the jump.

This week, our critics were underwhelmed with big-ticket items, La Cage Aux Faux (Pantages) and The Exorcist (Geffen Playhouse). Check out all our New Theater Reviews after the jump, plus this week's stage feature on two Macbeths -- three blocks apart on Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood.

NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication July 19, 2012

(Scroll to bottom of New Reviews for schedule of The Best of Hollywood Fringe.)

 GO  AS YOU LIKE IT Director Kenn Sabberton's wonderfully warm-hearted production of Shakespeare's comedy of gender confusion may lack flashy gimmickry and provocative innovation, but it more than makes up for it with clarity, gently introspective sense of humor and a lovely outdoor setting. Beautiful Rosalind (Tessa Thompson) disguises herself as a boy and flees the tyrannical Duke (Michael Dorn), taking refuge in the murky woods of Arden. There, she commences a Tudor-era Bromance with handsome nobleman Orlando (Peter Cambor), who can't quite figure out why he finds the new guy in the woods so ... sexy. Sabberton's staging emphasizes characterization and language to brilliant effect, with particular attention paid to the rich veins of humor often hidden unspoken beneath the lines. An excellent production for someone who has little prior familiarity with the play, the show heaps "honey as a sauce for sugar," with performances that are quickly paced, fully realized and likable, if somewhat straightforward. Thompson and Cambor's confused relationship is handled with charm and just the right amount of bemused embarrassment. In supporting roles, John Lavelle offers a hilarious, Jim Carrey-like turn as the fool Touchstone and Diane Venora's moody courtier Jaques is unexpectedly complex and nuanced. The Japanese Gardens on the VA West Los Angeles Healthcare Center Campus, 11301 Wilshire Blvd., W.L.A.; Tues.-Sun., 8 p.m.; through July 29. (800) 838-3006, (Paul Birchall)


Bo Foxworth and Ann Noble

Zombie JoeBo Foxworth and Ann Noble

Josh T Ryan's goth mental-ward adaptation of you know what. Zombie Joe's Undergground. See Stage feature.

LA CAGE AUX FOLLES Simple math explains why the touring revival of Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein's 1983 musical doesn't work. Seats at London's Menier Chocolate Factory, where this version began as an "intimate" revival: 160. Seats at L.A.'s Pantages: 2,703. Dancers in the previous, far superior 2004 Broadway revival: At least a dozen. Dancers in this production: six. Without a strong dance presence, the show's focus becomes its comedy. Oy. Starring as a drag club-owning gay couple whose son brings his fiancee's conservative family to dinner, Christopher Sieber is sympathetic as drag star Albin, and George Hamilton is at least ingratiating as he mumbles through his lines. But the maid flails around unintelligibly. The ingrate son marches in with demands. The girl's dad is an easy-target homophobe, lending a new appreciation for the humanity of Gene Hackman's character in The Birdcage. It's all by the numbers. Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd. Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through July 22. (800) 982-ARTS (2787), (Zachary Pincus-Roth)


Bo Foxworth and Ann Noble

Michael LamontBo Foxworth and Ann Noble

At a certain point in life, one feels he's sorted out his religious beliefs. The aim, then, of John Pielmeier's adaptation of William Peter Blatty's novel The Exorcist likely was to spark even the faintest hint of a doubt that might become a speed bump, slow you down and make you actually think. But the question the Geffen's gorgeously designed new production probably didn't intend to raise is why adapt a novel into a stage play when it's already been adapted into one of the most famous films of all time? Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave. Westwood; through August 12. (310) 208-5454 (Rebecca Haithcoat) See Stage feature.

Bo Foxworth and Ann Noble

Stuio C ArtistsBo Foxworth and Ann Noble

It's tough to get old and marriage is hard work. These are the main themes in Maggie Bofill's sometimes sweet but more often overly simplistic two-hander. Christina's (Rhonda Lord) world is crumbling because she's run out of her outrageously expensive face cream, a balm that she's decided is her last defense in the war against her advancing age. Christina's husband, Michael (Patrick Muñoz), wishes his wife would stop obsessing over the unavoidable consequences of time's march across her body and alienating him in the process; he still thinks she's sexy. The central question of the play becomes: To buy (expensive face cream) or not to buy? The cream is, of course, a symbol, and the superficial struggle is really a metaphor for the myriad cruelties that old age unleashes. But the play doesn't delve deep enough, so we're left with a feud over cosmetics. Yes, it's sad to see Christina struggle with her self-worth, and it's occasionally cute to witness the depth of her neuroses, but the sum of this production's parts adds up to much ado about nothing. Studio C Artists, 6448 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; through Aug. 25. (323) 988-1175, (Amy Lyons)


Bo Foxworth and Ann Noble

Kevin MillsBo Foxworth and Ann Noble

Lilly Thomassian's one-dimensional biopic tells the life story of composer and musicologist Komitas Vartaped (Jesse Einstein), a revered artist among Armenians who survived the Holocaust only to fall tragically ill after surviving its horrors. The play tracks the artist's life from his orphaned childhood, when his talent was discovered, through his ordainment as a priest and his subsequent struggles with the church, brought on by his passionate friendship with a beautiful soprano to whom marriage was forbidden. Thomassian's dialogue is predominantly expositional, devoid of the poetry and probing one would wish for in a drama about a gifted, complex and troubled man. Einstein's performance fails to illuminate the character; among the ensemble only Katie Hilliard and Christopher Basile cultivate texture in their performances. Directed by Pavel Cerny, the production's strengths include Henrik Mansourian's lighting and Fernando Belo's choreography, most effective in underscoring the ominous onset of the 1915 Turkish massacre. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Atwater Village; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; through Aug. 1. (818) 551-1234, (Deborah Klugman)


Bo Foxworth and Ann Noble

Daniel BlinkoffBo Foxworth and Ann Noble

Jessica Kubzansky directs Shakespeare's classic for Antaeus Company in North Hollywood. See Stage feature


Brooke Shields and Richard Chamberlain and Beautiful Lighting Can't Save The Exorcist, Plus the Latest New Theater Reviews

Uranium Madhouse

Ordinarily any revival of Bertolt Brecht's 1925 anti-colonialist farce would earn an automatic A for ambition. And while Uranium Madhouse director-translator Andrew Utter gets high marks for the overall handsomeness of his production and for its inspired, curtain-raising flourish of tableaux vivants, the exasperatingly solemn two hours that follow get a final grade of F for funny-as-lead. Written during the period in which Brecht was most under the thrall of the great clowns of Weimar music hall and Hollywood silent film, the story of three conniving British Raj soldiers (Ian Forester, Andrew Perez and Alex Sell) who con simpleton dockworker Gayly Gay (Terence Leclere) in order to cover up a robbery ideally should carry the feel and the laugh quotient of, say, a Buster Keaton film. Despite composer Alex Fishkin's accomplished score, however, Erik Flatmo's overly intricate set and costumer Gwyneth Conaway-Bennison's superfluous Vietnam War-vintage battle dress only belabor a bewilderingly laughless evening. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Atwater Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through Aug. 4. (323) 644-1929, (Bill Raden)


Brooke Shields and Richard Chamberlain and Beautiful Lighting Can't Save The Exorcist, Plus the Latest New Theater Reviews

Maia Rosenfeld

Neil LaBute is renowned for his often brutally vulgar dialogue and scathing portrayals of misogynistic and devious men. In his plays and screenplays, he strips away the polite veneer of social interactions, daring to expose the ugly truth lurking behind human relationships and gender divisions. A collection of five of his short works, now playing at Open Fist, is definitely from the less confrontational end of his spectrum. Nevertheless, LaBute toys with our expectations, exploring the edges of discomfort and frequently ripping the rug out from under the audience with an unexpected plot twist. Not bad for 10-minute playlets. (A couple of these were originally short films.) In "Sexting," a garrulous young woman, with a disproportionate sense of entitlement, harangues a woman who struggles to be heard. In "The Wager," a bully antagonizes a homeless man, to the dismay of his female companion. A distraught woman confides in her duplicitous "BFF." All five shorts are linked by their edgy, ironic humor. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat, 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Aug 4. (323) 882-6912, (Pauline Adamek)

THE TWYLIGHT ZONE: THE 6th DIMENSION Writer-director David Gallic's parody of four vintage Twilight Zone episodes is a decidedly hit-and-miss affair. It isn't necessary to be a TZ buff to reap some enjoyment here, but it helps, as Gallic has spiced the script with a few "insider" jokes and allusions to other segments. With cigarette in hand, Kyle Overstreet is in humorous Rod Serling mode, prefacing each episode with the requisite commentary. In "Night Call," a bedridden Elva Keene (Louise Martin) is victimized by mysterious late-night phone calls. Tepid writing and sloppy full-tilt shtick is problematic here, and also in "Nick of Time," with newlyweds (Ray Fallon and Alex Bueno) literally bewitched by a fortune-telling machine. Infinitely better -- and funnier -- are "The Hitch Hiker," where Bueno is haunted by an enigmatic stranger during a cross-country drive, and "A World of His Own," about a playwright (Matt Stevens) with a supernatural knack for creating characters. Studio/Stage Theater, 520 N. Western Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through July 28. (Lovell Estell III)