Busting Out: More Australian Anatomy

Feminism or titillation?
Feminism or titillation?

Aussies brought us Puppetry of the Penis, which twisted male genitalia into an origami comedy. Now comes Busting Out, also born in Australia, which has been seen by an audience of more than 250,000 in Australia, will have its North American premiere at the Hayworth Theatre on October 16. 

​Musical theater performer Emma Powell (Mamma Mia and Les Miserables), took her real life experience, and her own body and created a show that employs her ample cleavage. It's described by the producers as offering a "celebration and understanding of the body." 

Check out this weekend's COMPREHENSIVE STAGE LISTINGS after the jump; as well as NEW THEATER REVIEWS and an expanded STAGE FEATURE on Bayside High School Musical at the Victory Theatre.

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for October 7 - 13, 2011

Our critics are Pauline Adamek, Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III,

Rebecca Haithcoat, Martin Hernandez, Mayank Keshaviah, Deborah Klugman,

Upcoming Events

Amy Lyons, Steven Leigh Morris, Amy Nicholson, Tom Provenzano, Bill

Raden, and Neal Weaver. The listings are compiled by Derek Thomas

Productions are sequenced alphabetically in the following

cagtegories: Opening This Week, Larger Theaters regionwide, Smaller

Theaters in Hollywood, Smaller Theaters in the valleys , Smaller

Theaters on the Westside and in beach towns. You can also search for any

play by title, using your computer's search engine

OPENING THIS WEEK

Beat Yale Cabaret Hollywood's radio-style presentation of "conspiratorial lore and poetry from the Beat Generation of the 1950s," by Paavo Hall, Jon Howard and Walt Klappert. Sat., Oct. 8, 8 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 14, 8 p.m. Cafe Metropol, 923 E 3rd St, Los Angeles, 213-613-1537, www.cafemetropol.com.

Betrayed George Packer's story of three young Iraqis working for American forces in Baghdad. Starting Oct. 13, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 13, (818) 826-3609, whitmoreeclectic.com. Lyric Theatre, 520 N La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, www.lyrictheatrela.com.

Chekhov UnScripted/Tennessee Williams UnScripted/Twilight Zone UnScripted Impro Theatre presents completely improvised versions of classics of stage and television, performed in rep. (In the Carrie Hamilton Theater.). Starting Oct. 8, Saturdays, 2, 8 & 10 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 23, ImproTheatre.com. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S El Molino Ave, Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.

The Dinosaur Within Worlds collide in John Walch's offbeat story of disappearing dinosaur footprints in the Australian outback. Starting Oct. 8, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 6. Boston Court, 70 N Mentor Ave, Pasadena, 626-683-6883, www.bostoncourt.com.

Dusk Rings a Bell Teen lovers reunite after 25 years, by Stephen Belber. Starting Oct. 8, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 13, TheBlank.com. The Blank's Second Stage Theater, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., 323-661-9827, www.theblank.com.

I've Never Been So Happy A musical ride through the American West, from gospel music to country, hip-hop to death metal. Book and lyrics by Kirk Lynn, music and lyrics by Peter Stopschinski. Starting Oct. 8, Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 23. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd, Culver City, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.

Jane Fonda in the Court of Public Opinion Workshop presentation of Terry Jastrow's play, starring Anne Archer as Jane Fonda. Starting Oct. 8, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 30, (310) 392-7327. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St, Santa Monica, www.edgemarcenter.org.

The Maiden's Prayer Phoenix Rising Theater Company presents Nicky Silver's five-way love story. Starting Oct. 8, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Nov. 13, phoenixrisingtheater.org. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave, Los Angeles, 323-644-1929, www.atwatervillagetheatre.com.

Nobody Walks Like My Daddy "A jazz song in syncopated counterpoint," by E.L. James. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Oct. 30, (800) 838-3006, brownpapertickets.com/event/201357. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, www.stellaadler-la.com.

Red Noses The Actors' Gang presents Peter Barnes' dark comedy set in 1348 France. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 19, (310) 838-4264, theactorsgang.com. Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd, Culver City.

Silent Roar Multimedia theatre piece depicting the story of a family of whales, directed and choreographed by Zina Bethune. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood, 818-508-4200, www.elportaltheatre.com/contact.html.

tick, tick ... BOOM! Jonathan Larson's autobiographical tale of a young composer at an emotional crossroads. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 23, (323) 960-7770, plays411.com/ticktick. MET Theatre, 1089 N Oxford Ave, Los Angeles, www.themettheatre.com.

To Kill a Mockingbird Stage play by Christopher Sergel, based on the Harper Lee novel. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 12. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W Sierra Madre Blvd, Sierra Madre, 626-355-4318, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.

Twisted, Spooky, Creepy All-new, original short plays with a Halloween theme. Starting Oct. 12, Wednesdays, Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 29, 11 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 30, 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 20. Little Fish Theatre, 777 S Centre St, San Pedro, 310-512-6030, www.littlefishtheatre.org/wp/.

Warrior Class Staged reading of Kenneth Lin's drama about a young politician with a secret. Mon., Oct. 10, 7:30 p.m. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr, Costa Mesa, 714-708-5555, www.scr.org.

The Woodsman Steven Fechter's lyrical play about a sex offender. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 30, (818) 849-4039, theatreunleashed.com. Underground Theatre, 1312 N Wilton Pl, Los Angeles.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE

GO The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity Samuel Goldwyn is famously quoted as snarling, "If you want to send a message, use Western Union." As demonstrated by Kristoffer Diaz's vibrant and vastly entertaining satire of TV wrestling, sometimes a stage will do just fine. In fact, Diaz's play is all about messages, specifically the incendiary and rabble-rousing kind producers use to boost ratings for the small screen's most popular pseudo-sport. In the case of Diaz's THE Wrestling franchise, no cultural stereotype is too low or harebrained for exploitation. For wrestler Macedonio "Mace" Guerra (Desmin Borges), that makes working for THE's supercilious promoter, Everett K. Olson (Steve Valentine), a mixed blessing. Though Mace is little more than ring dressing to make THE's untalented but charismatic marquee name, Chad Deity (Terence Archie), look good, the Puerto Rican Guerra is a wrestling purist. Even as a child in the Bronx he understood that, beneath the bombastic spectacle, wrestling is the kind of narrative art form with which he can "tell stories." He finally gets his chance when he recruits swaggering hoops sensation Vigneshwar "VP" Paduar (Usman Ally), a second-generation South Asian from Mumbai, who is a street-savvy, polyglot chameleon on Brooklyn's melting-pot courts. The pair become overnight TV stars, but only after Olson rechristens them as crudely demeaning pastiches of Muslim-terrorist-communist anti-American bogeymen. Though buoyed by an outstanding ensemble, it is Borges' spirited and captivating portrait of the artist as a frustrated storyteller that carries the show. Director Edward Torres' taut staging rarely falters in a production graced by Brian Sidney Bembridge's wonderfully hyperbolic wrestling-ring set, Jesse Klug's glitzy and glossy lights and costumer Christina Haatainen Jones' marvelously kitsch creations. (Bill Raden). Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 9. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave, Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.

Ghetto Klown John Leguizamo's one-man Broadway show. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. Ricardo Montalban Theater, 1615 Vine St., L.A., 323-463-0089, www.ricardomontalbantheatre.org.

Guys and Dolls Luck be a lady in this Frank Loesser musical. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 9. Norris Center for the Performing Arts, 27570 Crossfield Drive, Palos Verdes Peninsula, 310-544-0403, www.norristheatre.org.

How the World Began World premiere of Catherine Trieschmann's evolutionary debate. Tuesdays-Fridays, 7:45 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 2 & 7:45 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr, Costa Mesa, 714-708-5555, www.scr.org.

GO Iris This latest offering from Cirque du Soleil is a dazzling homage to the cinematic arts. It will have a permanent home at the Kodak Theatre, which has undergone an extensive renovation to accommodate the show, directed and choreographed by Phillipe Decoufle with an 18-member creative team. The spectacle is part burlesque, part circus, with two huge faces at both ends of the set, designed by Jean Rabasse. Danny Elfman's orchestral score is as diverse as the world of cinema itself, incorporating jazz, rock and even classical violin and cello, while the variety and design of Philippe Guillotel's costumes is mind-boggling. Like all Cirque shows, this one follows a loose narrative. Here, it's about an aspiring composer in search of his true love, a journey that takes him into a fantastical world. There are plenty of "How did they do that?" moments: aerial flights, acrobatics, movement, music, theatrical hi-jinks and much grand spectacle that's quite, well, Hollywood. What sets Iris apart from the other Cirque shows that have come through town is the variety it offers, as well as the imaginative use of video and special effects to accompany the performers. Highlights include four contortionists whose supernatural dexterity is mystically enhanced in light and shadows on a back wall, a living film strip, a choreographed frame-to-frame "movie" with live performers and a rooftop trampoline act that nods to West Side Story and gangster movies where the tough guys square off (via trampolines) on a hotel roof. (Lovell Estell III). Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through Dec. 31, (877) 943-IRIS, cirquedusoleil.com/iris. Kodak Theatre, 6801 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, www.kodaktheatre.com.

I've Never Been So Happy A musical ride through the American West, from gospel music to country, hip-hop to death metal. Book and lyrics by Kirk Lynn, music and lyrics by Peter Stopschinski. Starting Oct. 8, Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 23. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd, Culver City, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.

Noises Off Michael Frayn's thespian farce. Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wednesdays, Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd, La Mirada, 562-944-9801, www.lamiradatheatre.com.

Poor Behavior Theresa Rebeck's tale of "lust and deception, marriage and fidelity." Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through Oct. 16. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A., 213-628-2772. See Stage feature.

Pride and Prejudice One of the most popular novels in English literature comes to the SCR stage in a lavish production centered on a bustling, enthusiastic and discombobulated family. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Oct. 9. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr, Costa Mesa, 714-708-5555, www.scr.org.

The Ride Down Mount Morgan Isabell Mejias Fox directs this Arthur Miller play, starring Richard Johnson as Felt. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. Malibu Stage Company, 29243 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, 310-589-1998, www.malibustagecompany.org.

GO Seascape Retirees Nancy (Arden Teresa Lewis) and Charlie (Alan Schack) have found a quiet beach on which to picnic, paint watercolors and argue over how to play out the rest of their days. She yearns to travel the world; he's determined to take it easy. Just when it appears a stalemate is about to ensue, a pair of giant talking lizards -- Leslie (Paul Gunning) and Sarah (Kristin Wiegard) -- saunter up to make things interesting. Though with Seascape Edward Albee won his second Pulitzer in 1975, few critics would argue this gentler comedy surpasses his blistering Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? , which was pointedly snubbed by the award's advisory committee in 1963. Peppered with sharp lines and wisdom about what is both lost and gained in a long-term relationship, Seascape is also full of ideas, many familiar -- life is short, people can be brutes, self-awareness is a burden -- as well as a riff on difference and bigotry that probably felt more illuminating in the mid-'70s than today. Performances here are solid under Charlie Mount's smart direction, which nevertheless doesn't overcome the occasional dissonance. Lewis combines exuberance, humor and serious longing with dexterity, but displays a childlike energy at odds with Nancy's Anatole France references. Schack's Charlie, languid with resignation at the opening, skillfully reveals the fear driving his emotional shutdown, but comes off as subdued when the play begs for a little slapstick. Less encumbered by Albee's intellectualizing, the lizards ultimately get the better deal. Gunning brings a delightful preening self-seriousness to his role, and Wiegand delivers both wonder and grief well. The production values are notably high, with rocky dunes executed impeccably by set designer Jeff G. Rack and thoughtfully lit by Yancey Dunham. Director Mount also created and judiciously doles out a vaguely haunting sound design, and Gunning's reptile costumes bring the right touch of storybook to the absurdism. (Mindy Farabee). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd W, Los Angeles, 323-851-7977, www.theatrewest.org.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers Oregon mountain musical, book by Lawrence Kasha and David Landay, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, music by Gene de Paul. Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 16, 3 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 23, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 19. Glendale Center Theater, 324 N Orange St, Glendale, 818-244-8481.

Shirley Valentine Willy Russell's comedy about a lonely Liverpool housewife who jets off to Greece. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thu., Oct. 13, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 23. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Rd, Laguna Beach, 949-497-2787, www.lagunaplayhouse.com.

Shrek: The Musical DreamWorks' 2001 animated movie gone Broadway. Tuesdays-Fridays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Dr, Costa Mesa, 714-556-2746, www.scfta.org.

Shooting Star There is perhaps one genuine moment of emotional truth in Steven Dietz's otherwise dubious 2008 comic melodrama. It occurs early in the play, when Dietz's middle-aged, former college lovers, Reed McAllister (Kevin Symons) and Elena Carson (Michelle Duffy), recognize each other across an airport departure lounge (on David Potts' eerily empty air-terminal set) and quickly turn their backs, each rightly dreading even a passing reaquaintance with ghosts from their past. Then Reed inexplicably does an about-face just as a winter blizzard makes the pair captive to a closed airport and 80 of the most improbable minutes in either modern air travel or recent playwriting. For any love story to get off the ground, an audience must fall for the romantic protagonists before even the characters themselves. Symons and Duffy are both perfectly affable and charming performers, and they mine the self-consciously sardonic similes of Dietz's dialogue for all the laughs they're worth. Their characters, however, are such sourly pallid portraits of prodigal refugees from the 1970s that their mild sparring and flirtatious rehash of the past always feels unconvincing and inadvisable, never irresistible or compelling. By the time all their regrets have been uttered and their sad lives thoroughly aired, all that gets revealed is that they are as empty and shallow as 40-something adults as they were in their 20s. Director David Rose and a capable design team (including costumer Dianne K. Graebner's unsettling Stevie Nicks-riffed wardrobe) lavish the production with polish; what they are unable to lend the story is authentic heart. (Bill Raden). Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. Colony Theatre, 555 N 3rd St, Burbank, 818-558-7000, www.colonytheatre.org.

Silent Roar Multimedia theatre piece depicting the story of a family of whales, directed and choreographed by Zina Bethune. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood, 818-508-4200, www.elportaltheatre.com/contact.html.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Lee Meriwether stars in this children's musical, book by Scott Martin, lyrics by Rob Meurer, music by Richard Brent. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Continues through Feb. 25. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd W, Los Angeles, 323-851-7977, www.theatrewest.org.

South Street Every city has a "South Street" story -- tales of once-blighted neighborhoods in which cheap rents and seedy bars nurtured an '80s cultural renaissance whose very success would lead to their slow strangulation by gentrification. And while it's easy to imagine a dramatically rousing and artistically relevant stage musical version (call it Rent), composer-lyricist Richard Addrisi and librettist Craig Carlisle's saccharine spin on South Philadelphia's legendary nightclub district is not it. If there's a protagonist to be found in the show, it might be the firehouse-turned-bar Sammy's Place (handsomely rendered on Andy Walmsley's forced-perspective set). The saloon becomes ground zero for the street's resurgence with the arrival of dancer Cloe (Maria Eberline) who somehow inspires heart-of-gold owner Sammy Silverstein (Tom Shelton) and his stripper wife, Sybil (Valerie Perri), to inaugurate an annual, non-exotic dance contest called the Full Moon Festival. Its success transforms Sammy's -- and the neighborhood -- into a trendy drinking destination but separates Cloe from her true love, musician Johnny (Brent Schindele), who moves to the coast and rock stardom. Unfortunately, Carlisle's decidedly maudlin, feel-good book (which strains the term "Runyonesque" to its breaking point) rarely lends the show's mostly forgettable musical numbers dramatic coherence. And neither Addrisi's stale, adult-contemporary score nor his poetry-challenged lyrics ("When you say cheese, you can turn a frown upside down...") hint at the musical vibrancy of the era they purport to represent. Under such handicaps, it's little wonder that director Roger Castellano and an otherwise capable ensemble muster all the urgency and urban credibility of Sesame Street. (Bill Raden). Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S El Molino Ave, Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.

To Kill a Mockingbird Stage play by Christopher Sergel, based on the Harper Lee novel. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 12. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W Sierra Madre Blvd, Sierra Madre, 626-355-4318, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.

GO The Vault: Unlocked The gentrification of downtown Los Angeles is a sinister metamorphosis engineered by spoiled hipsters and well-heeled land grabbers in this whodunit parody by the Latino Theatre Company. Greedy real estate developer Ron Dillinger (Fidel Gomez) has plunged to his death from a rooftop near Spring and Sixth Street. The gory details of the maligned millionaire's end are revealed via a series of sketches and songs that create a backdrop against which he was offed. Suspects include a local dressmaker whom Dillinger couldn't buy; a down-and-out entrepreneur whose dreams were crushed when Dillinger cut him out of a deal; a kinky dominatrix; the homeless population; and Dillinger's impregnated, undocumented maid. The immigrants, drug addicts, hot dog vendors and small merchants all have a common enemy in Dillinger, and they despise the homogenous crowd his live/work developments attract. While clues to the murder are slowly gathered, hilarious song-and-dance numbers about "hurricane hipster" keep the social commentary on track. An intensely pathetic gaggle of overconfident dudes practically shoot their wads in anticipation of the downtown Art Walk, at which they intend to soak up the ironic coolness of the grimy area and "get wasted at a dive bar." The local hot dog vendor is hilariously displaced at said Art Walk by a hot dogÐeating performance artist. All of this territorial outrage is executed skillfully by the intensely cohesive ensemble, but the material sometimes meanders. Jasmine Orpilla's original musical score holds things together when the sketches get a little saggy and Francois-Pierre Couture's stylized scenic design strikes the right cartoonish note. Co-directors Aaron Garcia and Fidel Gomez adroitly manage the chaotic fun. (Amy Lyons). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 8. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A., 866-811-4111, www.thelatc.org.

Warrior Class Staged reading of Kenneth Lin's drama about a young politician with a secret. Mon., Oct. 10, 7:30 p.m. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr, Costa Mesa, 714-708-5555, www.scr.org.

GO A Widow of No Importance Fun and frothy, new playwright Shane Sakhrani's insightful play presents the lighter side of the socially crippling stigma of widowhood in modern India. Although it's been two years since still-young-at-50 Deepa (an impishly cute Linda Patel) lost her husband, she insists on fasting and praying all day and refuses to leave her posh apartment. All Deepa wants before she dies is to see her gorgeous grown daughter married. But the thoroughly modern Tara (Puja Mohindra) is resisting an arranged marriage and exhorting her well-off mother to escape her largely self-imposed seclusion and enjoy life so she can head off to study abroad. Meanwhile, Deepa cooks for and commiserates with her son's childhood friend Vinod (Sunil Malhotra), the recently divorced guy-next-door, and surprises herself by succumbing to his advances. For these unconventional lovebirds, life is suddenly brimming with the vibrant colors of romance, until Deepa's grown children find out. Sakhrani's dialogue and situations are clever and realistic, and his protagonists mostly skirt caricature, though the three male "suitor" characters (all played by the hysterically funny Parvesh Cheena) do venture into broad comedy to hilarious effect. Anjali Bhimani is excellent as Deepa's fashionable best friend, the fast-talking and scheming matchmaker Lalitha. Director Shaeen Vaaz neatly inserts some slapstick moments and Bollywood flavor and keeps Sakhrani's marvelous two-act play skipping along. (Pauline Adamek). Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 9. East West Players, 120 N. Judge John Aiso St., L.A., 213-625-7000, www.eastwestplayers.org.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS

Addition by Subtraction World premiere of R.J. Colleary's play about "one man's struggle to find his purpose in the world." Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Nov. 6, (323) 960-7788, plays411.com/abs. El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., L.A..

The Artificial Jungle Charles Ludlam's send-up of film noir. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 6, (323) 960-7863, plays411.com/jungle. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..

GO Bakersfield Mist Jackson Pollock's most famous paintings have polarized critics since the artist first attacked a horizontal canvas. That polarization feeds writer-director Stephen Sachs' new play, which uses a Pollock painting as the central symbol of class war. Mouthy Maude (Jenny O'Hara) spends her days lapping up Jack Daniels and watching police procedurals in her kitsch-filled Bakersfield trailer, until a painting she buys at a yard sale steals her focus from the idiot box. Convinced the cheap buy is a bona fide Pollock, Maude summons erudite art expert Lionel (Nick Ullett) to assess the painting's authenticity and value. Immediately disgusted with the crass, tasteless Maude, Lionel aims to quickly view the so-called Pollock and flee the mobile-home scene. But Maude's initially undetectable cleverness sparks a game of one-upmanship. Sachs directs the two-hander with an abundance of spirit, smartly letting the outstanding actors brawl and emote with delightful abandon. O'Hara brings a gleeful raunchiness to Maude throughout, but forces her character out of hiding to confront the quiet sadness shrouded by all that brass. Ullett's finest moment comes in a frenzied monologue that mirrors Pollock's creative process. While Lionel tells Maude he is there to evaluate the painting, not her, the play winningly sets out to disprove this lie at every turn. Jeff McLaughlin's set makes trailer-park life seem at once enviously cozy and exhaustingly humiliating. (Amy Lyons). Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 18. Fountain Theatre Box Office, 5060 Fountain Ave, Los Angeles, 323-661-1525, www.fountaintheatre.com.

Beat Yale Cabaret Hollywood's radio-style presentation of "conspiratorial lore and poetry from the Beat Generation of the 1950s," by Paavo Hall, Jon Howard and Walt Klappert. Sat., Oct. 8, 8 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 14, 8 p.m. Cafe Metropol, 923 E 3rd St, Los Angeles, 213-613-1537, www.cafemetropol.com.

Bechnya Saviana Stanescu's war story. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 22, (323) 960-7721, plays411.com/bechnya. Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles.

Beirut Alan Bowne's controversial play. Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues through Oct. 14. Next Stage Theater, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., L.A., 323-850-7827.

Betrayed George Packer's story of three young Iraqis working for American forces in Baghdad. Starting Oct. 13, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 13, (818) 826-3609, whitmoreeclectic.com. Lyric Theatre, 520 N La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, www.lyrictheatrela.com.

Beverly Winwood Actor's Showcase Acting teacher Beverly Winwood (Susan Yeagley) showcases Hollywood's "rising stars." Mondays, 8 p.m.; Mon., Oct. 24, 8 & 10 p.m. Continues through Oct. 17. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A., 323-934-9700, www.groundlings.com.

Bob Baker's Halloween Hoop-Dee-Do More than 100 Halloween-themed puppets star in a show that first played here in 1963. Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Continues through Nov. 6. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., L.A., 213-250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.

Brown and Out Play Festival Short-play showcase celebrating the Latino/a LGBTQ experience. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Oct. 9. Casa 0101, 2009 E. First St., L.A., 323-263-7684, www.casa0101.org.

Cabaret Idol: Season 3 James Mooney's weekly vocal competition, with winners voted on by the audience. Sundays, 7 p.m., facebook.com/cabaretidol. The Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill, 6122 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, 323-466-9917, www.myspace.com/hollywoodstudiojazz.

Camp Sunday All-new sketch and improv by the Groundlings Sunday Company. Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A., 323-934-9700, www.groundlings.com.

CarnEvil: A Gothic Horror Rock Musical The more familiar we get with real-life horror stories -- a mother is tried for the first-degree murder of her own child, our country can't wake up from a fiscal nightmare -- the more we prefer our theatrical experiences escapist, preposterous. In Joe Fria and Michael Teoli's "Gothic horror rock musical," Danny (hopefully, James Lynch's melodramatic acting style is intentional) returns to the dying carnival run by his cousin Serena (ditto for Natascha Corrigan) and her brother (a convincing Joey Bybee). Nothing is quite as it seems, and when a creepy dude named Craven (Jeff Sumner) swoops in to save the day, things get even weirder. Despite a few rousing numbers ("Side Show" and "Freak!" in particular), some powerful performances (namely Geoffrey Dwyer) and director Janet Roston's entertaining choreography, Fria and Teoli's obsession with horror films blinds them to the basic premise of the best of 'em -- keep it simple, keep it simple, keep it simple. Theater can't indulge in the complexities of film: Danny's backstory, represented for a good part of Act 1 by some "thing" in a jar, and then told in nightmares of flashing lights, cutout images projected on a screen and a real-life version of childhood Danny and his parents, is more confusing than terrifying. Although Roston kept the set changes as clean as she could, there are just too many of them, which add length to an already overlong show. Cutting a few extraneous numbers, such as "Pain," would help. Sacred Fools has the template for a scary romp, and when the twist comes, it actually causes a little chill. But to make us duck our heads and squeeze our eyes shut like Freddy Krueger did, they must maximize the medium's strengths. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 22. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N Heliotrope Dr, Los Angeles, 310-281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.

Double Falsehood "A found play by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher," adapted by Lewis Theobald. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Nov. 6, coeurage.org. Actors Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., 323-882-8043, www.actorscircle.net.

DREAMS IN VARIATION Noel Coward observed that a good

musical book needs to be strong enough to stand on its own, without the

music. Director-writer Kristen Boule seems to have ignored Coward's

dictum, and the result is a generic juke-box musical. There's an

impressive array of 21 songs, culled from hit shows by Stephen Sondheim,

Jerry Herman, Alan Menken, Tim Rice and Elton John, and Steven Schwarz,

among others. But Boule seems to think that writing a musical is rather

like building a bookcase: so long as you provide an appropriate slot

for each song, the job is done. Consequently, her characters are thin,

and her plot hit-and-miss. She centers her script on four characters.

Joey (Ben Pronsky) is an aspiring film-maker, Kailee (Lena Coleman)

wants to sing and act, Rosalie (Kate Bowman) is a widow whose beloved

husband left her grief-stricken but very rich and bored. And lost-child

Eve (Darby Walker) wants to be a singer, but she's also seeking a place

to belong. Some able actors, including Marcia Rodd, Corby Sullivan,

Jermanne Perry, Tiffany Roberts, and Emily Amezcua, give it their all,

musical director George DeRieux expertly leads the seven-man combo, and

choreographers Steven Nielsen and Stephanie Simpson generate some real

excitement, but the ultimate result disappoints. Hudson Backstage

Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3

p.m., thru October 16. (323) 960-7740 or plays411.com/dreamsinvariation (Neal Weaver)

Dungeon Master Celebrating its 10th Anniversary season in Los Angeles, this show combines the realms of improv acting with a role playing adventure twist. Dorks, this is your mothership. Sun., Oct. 9, 7 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 23, 7 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 6, 7 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 20, 7 p.m. Write Act Repertory Theatre, 6128 Yucca St, Los Angeles, 323-469-3113, www.writeactrep.org.

Dusk Rings a Bell Teen lovers reunite after 25 years, by Stephen Belber. Starting Oct. 8, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 13, TheBlank.com. The Blank's Second Stage Theater, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., 323-661-9827, www.theblank.com.

GO Falsettos It's interesting that composer-lyricist William Finn called Act 1 of his show "March of the Falsettos" when it was first produced in 1981. At the time it was a stand-alone piece, before being combined with what's now Act 2, "Falsettoland," in 1992 to create this Tony Award-winning show. It's interesting because Finn's music is completely the opposite of a march: It bounces, tinkles, overlaps in beautiful polyphony and segues between genres seamlessly. Fortunately, musical director Gregory Nabours and the diligent cast do it justice with crisp diction and brisk pacing. The story is that of Marvin (Jesse Einstein), who tries to be a good father to his son, Jason (Major Curda), while keeping the romance alive with his lover, Whizzer (Richard Hellstern). Complicating his task is his separation from ex-wife Trina (Lani Shipman), who has taken up with their therapist, Mendel (Chip Phillips). This "modern family" and its issues, which were no doubt more edgy and provocative in the '80s and '90s, retain their resonance, even though same-sex couples have become more accepted and the scourge of AIDS has been blunted by better medications and increased awareness. Director Richard Israel sometimes fails to play the material big enough to get the laughs it should, but he really finds its heart in Act 2, and his judicious employment of minimalist set pieces on casters, combined with the pinpoint precision in Lisa D. Katz's lighting, makes for silky smooth transitions. John Todd's choreography, though not completely innovative, is energetic and complements Finn's marvelous music. (Mayank Keshaviah). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16, (888) 718-4253, showclix.com. Third Street Theatre, 8115 W. Third St., L.A..

Facebook The weekly show formerly known as MySpace. Wednesdays, 9:30 p.m., $5. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave, Los Angeles, 323-908-8702, losangeles.ucbtheatre.com.

Four Clowns Antics of four clown archetypes: the sad clown, the mischievous clown, the angry clown and the nervous clown, conceived and directed by Jeremy Aluma. Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues through Oct. 28, (562) 508-1788, FourClowns.org. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N Heliotrope Dr, Los Angeles, www.sacredfools.org.

Garbo's Cuban Lover Odalys Nanin's lesbian love triangle between Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo and an MGM contract screenwriter. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 30, (323) 960-4429, plays411.com/garbo. Macha Theatre, 1107 N Kings Rd, West Hollywood, www.machatheatre.org/home.html.

GO Guided Consideration of a Lamentable Deed One man's guilty conscience drives the action of Frank Basloe's outstanding new play. It's the night before college graduation for the handsome Tim (Ben Kurland), but there's something depressing about his post-coital nudity. We quickly learn from an omniscient narrator (the effectively even-handed Mattie Hawkinson) that Tim's sexual encounter took place with an inebriated-to-the-point-of-unconscious girl. The rape kicks off Tim's late-night, campuswide quest for absolution, a sometimes hilariously pseudo-philosophical journey amidst drunken undergrads unready for the real world and childish faculty members modeling bad behavior. The pot-smoking Jewish intellectual clique (led by a hilariously pubescent-minded Edward Kiniry-Ostro) urges Tim to hunt for justification for his foul deed in Genesis 9:20-25, in which the noble Noah drinks too much wine and is, in one interpretation, sodomized by his son. The campus security guard (Ronald Conner) offers no consolation, as he's too busy getting joyless blowjobs from female undergrads to hide his homosexuality. Basloe's cast of intellectually superior characters lacking any signs of emotional depth is at once alarming and hilarious. This failure of academia to supply students with real-world skills is most comically represented in the character of Peter Jennings (J.B. Waterman), who is preparing the next day's commencement address, which promises to be riddled with useless platitudes. Dylan Southard directs with clarity of vision, staging early scenes upstage and pushing the action closer to the audience as intimacy becomes essential. Chris Covics' winning lighting and set design includes six movable pillars of light that create shifting moods throughout. (Amy Lyons). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 15, (323) 795-2215, needtheater.org. Club Fais Do-Do, 5257 W Adams Blvd, Los Angeles, www.faisdodo.com.

Hyper-Chondriac Brian Frazer's solo comedy, based on his memoir Hyper-Chondriac: One Man's Quest to Hurry Up and Calm Down.. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Nov. 6, (323) 960-7785, plays411.com/hyperchondriac. Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, L.A., www.theatreasylum-la.com.

I Love Lucy® Live on Stage Rick Sparks directs this "filming" of two episodes of the 1950s sitcom. Sundays, 7 p.m.; Wednesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 30, (800) 595-4849), ilovelucylive.com. Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A., www.greenwayarts.org.

Just Imagine Tim Piper's John Lennon impersonation, including performances of Beatles hits and Lennon's solo work. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Oct. 9. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., 310-213-6955, www.thehayworth.com.

Keep it Clean Comedy Hosted by JC Coccoli. Mondays, 10:30 p.m., Free. 1739 Public House, 1739 N Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, 323-663-1739, www.1739publichouse.com.

Le Misanthrope In the opening moments of this production, director Carolee Shoemaker positions the ensemble onstage; decked out in their period costumes, they silently mingle, feigning the affected mannerisms and forced gaiety of 17th-century French fops and their lady friends. This effective device captures a sense of this comedy's time and place and serves as an appropriate prelude to a play about a blunt man who cannot abide the empty prattle of his peers. Unfortunately, these initial moments are among the few engaging elements in this stagey revival of Moliere's classic. Once the performers begin to speak, the magic evaporates. Pete Caslavka plays the loquacious title character, Alceste, with valorous resolve, but never comes out from under the weight of the language. As Celimene, the flirty femme fatale who drives him to distraction, Leona Britton is miscast. The other supporting players sometimes elicit laughs from Moliere's wit with their simpering poses, but the slapstick element Shoemaker has woven into her staging wears thin with performances that hover close to careless -- as opposed to razor-sharp caricature. Elisa Richardson provides a notable exception with her fastidious portrait of Eliante, Alceste's fluttery, love-smitten cousin. While spare, John DeLeonardis' set design nicely complements designer Vicki Conrad's elaborate costumes, by far this show's star attraction. (Deborah Klugman)(In rep with Six Characters in Search of an Author.). Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr, Los Angeles, 323-667-0955, www.knightsbridgetheatre.com.

GO THE LEOPARD

Busting Out: More Australian Anatomy
William Gilinsky

Ernest

Hemingway remains an icon in American literature and culture -- at

least as famous for his machismo exploits and brash lifestyle as for his

prize-winning novels and short stories. In his youth his talent made

him a star, but his death from a self-inflicted shotgun wound at age 61

followed decades marred by mental problems, alcoholism and chronic

physical pain. Directed by T.J. Castronovo, John F. Goff's rendering of

playwright Yabo Yablonsky solo biopic draws an astute portrait of this

complex and troubled figure. As he downs the bottle of rum successfully

hidden from his wife, Goff's maverick-in-decline ruminates on personal

matters that include his aging body, his talents (or lack thereof) as a

lover, and his fading memory, exacerbated by his recent subjection to

shock therapy as a cure for his depression. His musings also extend

back to his life in Europe; at one point he talks about the

anti-Semitism of the French and, more subtly, the British. In

describing his experiences of war, he tells how he reveled in wielding a

gun until the shame of targeting another person with death was brought

home to him. Throughout, the personality on display at intervals

reveals the boy inside the man; other times, he pontificates, only to

draw back with self-disparaging reference to the bullshit machine

responsible for his ubiquitous public image. Designers Jeff Rack's

tasteful set and Ana Castronovo's costuming aptly complement this

skillful performance. Working Stage Theater, 1516 N. Gardner St, Hlywd.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 9, (323) 960-7784, plays411.com/theleopard. Deborah Klugman)


GO Love Sick "Hell hath no fury": Most of us are familiar with Congreve's famous (paraphrased) line regarding a woman scorned. In Kristina Poe's savagely funny and astonishingly perceptive play, distraught heroine Emily (Alexandra Hoover) is on a white-hot rampage. Her husband of 20 years, Jeff (Salvator Xuereb), has left her for a much younger woman, Lexi (Kate Huffman). Woe betide anyone who gets in Emily's gun sights, such as the corpse lying on the filthy bathroom floor beside her at the start of the play. Emily is perplexed by her racy mom's (Melanie Jones) new sexual lease, and intrigued by a seductive stranger (Dominic Rains). As Poe charts Emily's cathartic journey, she milks as much venomous humor as she can from the increasingly extreme situations, such as a twisted episode of group therapy. Her heightened dialogue is spiky and the scenarios are recognizable. David Fofi expertly wrangles his large cast of 11. Joel Daavid and Adam Hunter's set design cunningly transforms from an industrial bathroom to an airport bar with the simple adjustment of a triangular piece of truss. Hoover delivers a pithy performance as the scheming psycho, especially in the play's climax where Emily is confronted by a sobering truth. The writing, tech and performances combine into a hugely entertaining event. (Pauline Adamek). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 29, (877) 369-9112, elephanttheatrecompany.com. Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, www.elephanttheatrecompany.com.

Magic Strings Bob Baker's marionette variety revue, featuring puppet horses on a merry-go-round, an opera diva on roller skates, a "Day at the Circus," and an all-American grand finale. Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., L.A., 213-250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.

The Maiden's Prayer Phoenix Rising Theater Company presents Nicky Silver's five-way love story. Starting Oct. 8, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Nov. 13, phoenixrisingtheater.org. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave, Los Angeles, 323-644-1929, www.atwatervillagetheatre.com.

The Missile Man of Peenemunde SPQR Stage Company presents Bill Sterritt's Space Age rocket tale. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Oct. 23. Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A., 323-463-3900, www.studio-stage.com.

The 1940s Radio Hour A radio studio circa 1943 is the staging for Walton Jones' musical. Outside, World War II and a Christmas blizzard may rage, but inside, where a bottle of Pepsi still costs a nickel, folks groove to crooners and torch singers. Director Nan McNamara's affectionate tribute to the olden days of popular culture is a mock-up of a wartime radio show, complete with musical numbers, fake commercials and attempts to keep the home fires burning for the boys who are off fighting the war across the world. McNamara describes in the program notes how the play is intended to hearken back to an era when the radio provided the only entertainment for much of the American audience. As a result, the historical trappings of the radio production are often as interesting as the show itself; you can almost imagine gathering around your radio set at home to hear Catherine Gray's beautifully brittle rendition of "Old Black Magic" or Kimi Walker's lusciously throaty "I Got It Bad." The radio show ambiance is impeccably crafted, with musical director Linda Kerns' live band creating an enchantingly lively mood and Fritz Davis' sound design (complete with Gus Corrado's radioman performing most of the effects live) being quite evocative. Unfortunately, the show is ultimately hampered by the intentionally threadbare nature of the characters, who dance and sing with engaging gusto but display little personality beyond their chorus gang smiles. Although the first half-hour consists of the performers arriving in the studio and preparing for their show, there's little attempt to define them, apart from a most perfunctory subplot involving crooner Johnny Cantone (a nicely oily Michael Downing) attempting to ditch the show to move to Hollywood. The end result is a perfectly sweet and innocuous impersonation of an historical artifact. The impression fades almost immediately upon leaving the theater. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 8, 2:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 13, (323) 462-8460, Ext. 300, ActorsCo-op.org. Crossley Terrace Theatre, 1760 N Gower St, Los Angeles, www.actorsco-op.org.

Nobody Walks Like My Daddy "A jazz song in syncopated counterpoint," by E.L. James. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Oct. 30, (800) 838-3006, brownpapertickets.com/event/201357. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, www.stellaadler-la.com.

GO Point Break Live! Jaime Keeling's merciless skewering of the 1991 hyper-action flick starring Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey is loaded with laughs, as well as surprises, like picking an audience member to play Reeves' role of Special Agent Johnny Utah. It's damn good fun, cleverly staged by directors Eve Hars, Thomas Blake and George Spielvogel. (LE3). Fridays, 8:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m., (866) 811-4111, theatermania.com. Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, www.thedragonfly.com.

Roger Wodehouse's Androgymnasium Lost Moon Radio presents Roger Wodehouse as a 1970s glam rock star turned children's show host. Saturdays, 9 p.m. Continues through Oct. 29, lostmoonradio.com. Club Fais Do-Do, 5257 W Adams Blvd, Los Angeles, 323-931-4636, www.faisdodo.com.

SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR Luigi

Pirandello's playfully pioneering, 1921 foray into metatheater has

rightly earned its permanent place on the syllabus of any comprehensive

university survey of modern stage literature. It is arguably the first

play expressly and exclusively about the nature of the theatrical, and

the intellectual forebear to contemporary deconstructionists the likes

of The Wooster Group and Richard Foreman. But does relevance in the

classroom automatically make for an engaging and compelling evening of

theater? Judging by director Stuart Calof's desultory and indifferent

production, the answer would have to be no. Calof begins on a promising

note by staging the play's fourth-wall-breaking prologue in the

Knightsbridge lobby. Once the house formally opens, however, his

invention all but abandons him. That's when Pirandello's titular

characters (who include David Stifel, Christina Zamora, Samuel Isaacs

& Elizabeth Yocam) burst in on a "rehearsal" of another play

(usually by Pirandello but here inexplicably substituted with Hamlet)

and demand that the director (Rene Guerrero) bring them to full

realization by staging their unwritten drama. Part of the trouble is

that while Pirandello's play-within-a-play conceit is modern, its

language is steeped in a risibly melodramatic verismo whose glaringly

dated artifice is allowed to stand uninterrogated. The rest of the

problem is a slapdash production design (John DeLeonardis & Joseph

P. Stachura's set; J.C. Gifford's lights), ameliorated only by Kelly

Grahm's period costumes. Knightsbridge Theatre, 1944 Riverside Drive,

Silver Lake; Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 3 p.m., Sun., 6 p.m.; 323.667.0955, knightsbridgetheatre.com. (Bill Raden)

A Still Small Voice Mitch Hale's play about four lost souls in an addiction recovery program. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16, a-still-small-voice.info. Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre And Acting Conservatory, 5636 Melrose Ave., L.A., 323-463-7378, www.sfstheatre.com.

GO The Stories of Isaac Leib Peretz Performer Matt Chait interprets a selection of stories by one of the greatest Yiddish writers of the 20th century, performed with a klezmer score by Israeli violinist Lior Kaminetsky.A cynic tracks the whereabouts of an elusive rabbi who disappears from the community during a period of Jewish penitence and prayer. A poor schlemiel, having stoically endured a lifetime of misery, appears before a heavenly tribunal to receive his due reward -- but then is too timid to collect it. An unenlightened traveler confides his marital woes to a fellow sojourner; his hysterically distraught young wife says she's "bored" and -- Can one believe it?! -- wants to spend time reading. Poet, playwright, journalist and writer of short stories, Isaac Leib Peretz was a pivotal voice in Yiddish literature and in the Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment movement of the 19th century that preached expanding secular education for Jews while encouraging them to continue to nurture their Jewish identity. As a writer Peretz both loved -- and heartily laughed at -- the people he wrote about; his stories are embedded with the fantasies and superstitions of the pious, as well as the philosophical reflections of his own more skeptical mind. Framed by a bare stage, with a few boxes as props, playwright-director Matt Chait plays multiple roles in a masterly rendering of seven of Peretz's irony-laden tales. His transitions are highlighted by designer John Toom's adept lighting and underscored by violinist Lior Kaminetsky's interim klezmer solos. Some of the narratives ramble, and at nearly two and a half hours the program is too long -- but overall it's time well spent journeying into this humane and thoughtful writer's perspective. (Deborah Klugman). Saturdays, 8:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 10, (323) 960-7780, plays411.com/peretz. Ruby Theater at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., www.complexhollywood.com.

subTEXT MESSAGES Sketch comedy written by Todd Milliner, executive producer of TV Land's Hot in Cleveland. Fridays, Saturdays, 10:30 p.m. Continues through Oct. 22, andthensomecomedy.com. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., 323-957-1884, www.celebrationtheatre.com.

tick, tick ... BOOM! Jonathan Larson's autobiographical tale of a young composer at an emotional crossroads. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 23, (323) 960-7770, plays411.com/ticktick. MET Theatre, 1089 N Oxford Ave, Los Angeles, www.themettheatre.com.

THE TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS

Busting Out: More Australian Anatomy
Agnes Magyari

Stephen

Metcalfe's play starts off like a slow-moving, genteel, domestic

comedy, in which Dakin (Brian Kerwin) bickers with his wife Macy (Leslie

Hicks) over her vegetarian cooking, and she complains about his

spending too much time writing his blog. Nothing much seems to be at

stake till their old friend and next door neighbor Carl (Edward Edwards)

announces that he's selling his house and moving to Seattle. Dakin is

immediately beset with fears that the new owner will rebuild and block

his cherished view--a subject on which he quickly becomes fanatical and

obsessive. His pugnacious wrong-headedness becomes so violent that he

antagonizes Macy, Carl, his lawyer daughter Ellen (Austin Highsmith),

and Dan (Jeffrey Stubblefield), the new owner of the property, who does

indeed rebuild, block out the view, and drive Dakin round the bend. A

violent ending seems inevitable. Then, only at the end, Metcalfe reveals

that he's sounding a "save the planet" alarm, and speaking out against

destruction of natural resources. But Dakin has been so irrational and

cantankerous that he's hardly qualified to serve as raissoneur. Though

the play is intelligently written, and director Dave Florek and his

actors, including Lane Compton, give the piece a fine and faithful

production, they can't overcome the play's muddled intentions: plot and

message stubbornly refuse to mesh. Ruskin Group Theatre, 3000 Airport

Road, Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 6. (310)

397-3244, ruskingrouptheatre.com. (Neal Weaver)

Waiting for Lefty By Clifford Odets. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 8. Art of Acting Studio, 1017 N. Orange Dr., L.A., 323-876-5481.

What Happened in Mayville? 2 Christina Joy Howard's sequel to her one-act horror play. Saturdays, 9 p.m.; Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 30. Loft Ensemble, 929 E. Second St., No. 105, L.A., 213-680-0392, www.loftensemble.com.

GO What the Moon Saw Despite their target audience of children, more than a tinge of the macabre colors fairy tales. A salivating wolf hunts down a little girl on the way to her grandmother's; another little girl freezes to death while selling matches. Inspired, then, is Stephanie Fleischmann's decision to intersect the paths of one of the most famous fairy-tale authors, Hans Christian Andersen, and New York City, circa 9/11, in her world-premiere play. Stringing together the four stories, all riffs on classic Andersen tales, is another of the Dane's works, "What the Moon Saw," in which the moon overlooks a civilization in decline -- which is personified here by Leah Harmon, who hangs over the action playing a pearlescent accordion. That's just one of the excellent design team's fanciful touches, which lend the production the delightful feel of a children's pop-up book: Work boots hold stage lights; when the "sky falls," a bucketful of sand suspended from the ceiling is tipped over; cutouts and silhouettes dance behind a scrim. Though many of Fleischmann's ideas are earthy, director Matthew McCray allows a tendency toward preciousness. In "Friction/Steadfast," Michael Nehring gets shrill as a cross-dressing aunt, and during "Match or Spooky Action at a Distance," Allie Costa and Whitton Frank strip the text of its drama by adding too much into the acting. Still, the latter vignette, inspired by one of Andersen's most heart-wrenching tales, "The Little Match Girl," is the most striking of the night. As a member of the NYFD (a terrifically restrained Alex Smith) digs through the aftermath of 9/11, he says he thinks about the "molecular composition of the firemen's indestructible rubber boots." The contrast between that image and time, 10 years of which have blown away like ash, is a reminder far more indelible than the phrase "Never forget." (Rebecca Haithcoat). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through Oct. 9. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A., www.sonofsemele.org.

What's Up, Tiger Lily? Maria Bamford and Melinda Hill bring excellent standups every week -- really, like Blaine Capatch, Patton Oswalt, Matt Besser -- you get the idea. Mondays, 8 p.m., Free. The Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill, 6122 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, 323-466-9917, www.myspace.com/hollywoodstudiojazz.

GO What's Wrong With Angry? In 1993, when this play was first produced, the British age of consent for same-sex activity was 21 (16 for straight people) and speaking positively about homosexuality in schools was legally proscribed. Playwright Patrick Wilde's drama takes place in an insular suburb of London and revolves around a gay teen named Steven (Daniel Taylor) who confidently embraces his sexuality even as he endures the homophobic barbs and brutal beatings of his classmates. One day, frequenting the public loo, he has a sexual encounter with his school's star jock, John (Miles Heymann), a boy he has long had a crush on. The remainder of the play charts the duo's on-again/off-again relationship, a behind-closed-doors affair based on real affection and caring but circumscribed by John's -- unlike Steven -- to acknowledge his feelings, either publicly or to himself. Director Michael Matthews' cogent staging underscores the strengths of a piece that breaks no new ground but handles familiar themes with sensitivity and skill. Particularly appealing is the group portrait of adolescence that rings true above and beyond any political message. The ensemble does fine work all around, but Heymann is particularly affecting as the troubled John, and Kelly Schumann frequently steals the limelight as Linda, Steven's savvy and stalwart teen confidante. Matthew Henerson also deserves note in his double role of headmaster and Steven's father, both of whom stand in for the forces of intolerance. (Deborah Klugman). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 26. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., 323-957-1884, www.celebrationtheatre.com.

The Women of Juarez Ruben Amavizca's story of murder and corruption. (Perfs alternate in English and Spanish; call for schedule.). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 29. Frida Kahlo Theater, 2332 W. Fourth St., L.A., 213-382-8133, www.fridakahlotheater.org.

The Woodsman Steven Fechter's lyrical play about a sex offender. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 30, (818) 849-4039, theatreunleashed.com. Underground Theatre, 1312 N Wilton Pl, Los Angeles.

The World's Worst Play, Ever Ryan Paul James' comedic play-within-a-play. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 8. Theatre 68, 5419 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, 323-960-5068, www.theatre68.com.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS

BAYSIDE HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL

Busting Out: More Australian Anatomy
Courtesy The Renegade Gang

Ren Casey's musical parody of the '90s sitcom Saved by the Bell.

The Renegade Gang at the Victory Theatre, 3326 Victory Blvd., Burbank;

Wed., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 26. (818) 841-4404,

baysidehighschoolmusical.com, thevictorytheatrecenter.org. See Stage feature.

Big Bad Armo Show: World Domination Armenian sketch comedy, written by Lory Tatoulian. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through Oct. 9, itsmyseat.com. Dance Conservatory of Pasadena, 496 S Arroyo Pkwy, Pasadena.

Chekhov UnScripted/Tennessee Williams UnScripted/Twilight Zone UnScripted Impro Theatre presents completely improvised versions of classics of stage and television, performed in rep. (In the Carrie Hamilton Theater.). Starting Oct. 8, Saturdays, 2, 8 & 10 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 23, ImproTheatre.com. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S El Molino Ave, Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.

Dead of Night The Visceral Company presents six short plays based on horror stories by Stephen King: Nona, Strawberry Spring, Harvey's Dream, The Man Who Loved Flowers, Mute and The Ten O'Clock People. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 6, thevisceralcompany.com. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd, Los Angeles, 818-752-7568, www.lankershimartscenter.com.

The Dinosaur Within Worlds collide in John Walch's offbeat story of disappearing dinosaur footprints in the Australian outback. Starting Oct. 8, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 6. Boston Court, 70 N Mentor Ave, Pasadena, 626-683-6883, www.bostoncourt.com.

Do Not Go Gentle: An Evening With Dylan Thomas Mick Thyer is Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Fridays, Saturdays, 11 p.m. Continues through Oct. 15, wix.com/mickthyer/donotgogentle. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd, North Hollywood, 302-656-9797, www.sherrystickets.com.

GO DON'T HUG ME, I'M PREGNANT This latest addition to Phil Olson's goofy Don't Hug Me musicals offers its share of wholesome humor (think Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In

on steroids). And like all the others, the play is set in Bunyan

County, Minnesota, where the proprietors of the local bar, Gunner and

Clara (Patrick Foley and Rebekah Dunn), await the arrival of their first

child and are throwing a shower of sorts. Clara is about ready to pop,

but hubby has his mind on other things, like the opening of duck hunting

season, and downing beer with the establishment's resident fool and

foil, Kanute (Bert Emmett). They are later joined by friends Aarvid and

Bernice (Greg Barnett and Natalie Lander), who have their own romantic

thing going. Because of a vicious snowstorm, Clara has to have the kid

in the kitchen, an awkwardly protracted finale that takes up most of

Act. 2. Not much really goes on here, and there are times when it

occasions a lot of gratuitous "filler" nonsense and gags. The comic

tinder is largely provided by Phil Olson's outrageously funny song

lyrics, Paul Olson's zany musical score, and Stan Mazin's choreography.

Ditties like the hip-hop inspired "Bun in the Oven," and "If Men Had

Babies, We'd All Be Extinct," make the evening memorable, as does Chris

Winfield's attractive bar mock-up. Doug Engalia directs. Secret Rose

Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlwd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

p.m.; thru Nov. 20, (323) 822-7898, web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/855905. (Lovell Estell III)

It's Just Sex Jeff Gould's comedy takes the underpinnings of sexual fantasy, fidelity and money and puts all of those nuances onstage in a contemporary comedy about three married couples. The wife-swapping plot is straight out of Hugh Hefner's pad, circa 1975. That the play resonates today, in the ashes of the sexual revolution, is one indication of how little has changed, despite how much has changed. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave, Los Angeles, 818-762-2272, www.tworoadsgallery.com.

Kowalski Brando auditions for A Streetcar Named Desire, in Gregg Ostrin's play. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave, Los Angeles, 818-762-2272, www.tworoadsgallery.com. See Stage feature

Kvetch Steven Berkoff's Jewish family comedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16, seaglasstheatre.org. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd, Los Angeles, 818-990-2324, www.whitefiretheatre.com.

Pescador Michael Erger's dark comedy about a female professor desperate for sperm. Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 23. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd, Los Angeles, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

Preposterous There is a lesson taught to beginner playwrights that falls under the rubric of "engaging the audience." The idea is that a narrative derives its urgency not from the charm of the characters or the quirks of their situation but from some question or mystery vital to them that lies tantalizingly just offstage. It isn't necessary for Godot to make an entrance, but without him in the play, the audience is waiting -- and exasperatingly -- only for the final curtain. In playwright Jason Britt's drifting and digressive slice-of-life drama, that wait can seem endless. Six incestuously close-knit 20-somethings come together for three boozy backyard bacchanals (on Michael Harris' uninspired back-porch set). There is the brooding Allen (Britt), the volatile Kevin (John Klopping) and his doting girlfriend, Jackie (Laura Lee Bahr), the free-spirited John (Erik Saari) and his girl, Wendy (Rachel Kanouse), and the reserved and enigmatic Miranda (Angela Landis). They carouse. They reminisce. They play drinking games. They mourn. They break up. They hook up. (Not necessarily in that order.) And, when the opportunity presents itself, they cheat on one another. Unable to find a discernible through-line that might tie together the evening's inaction, director Taylor Ashbrook lets her actors off the leash to mug what they can from Britt's amiable but aimless scenes. Though Britt touches on some weighty themes -- i.e., commitment and the contradictory ways of love -- the fact that he could cut any one of the play's three acts with little effect suggests that those thoughts ultimately lead nowhere. (Bill Raden). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 9. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd, Los Angeles, 818-508-3003, www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org.

Pulling Leather: Ted Ryan's world premiere about a pro bronco rider. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 30, (323) 822-7898, web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/869535. Actors Forum Theatre, 10655 Magnolia Blvd, North Hollywood, www.actorsforumtheatre.org.

GO Romeo & Juliet Director Denise Devin is having quite a run staging abridged versions of the classics over at Zombie Joe's. Not long ago, there was a hilarious version of Hamlet, cum vampires and zombies, and then an equally entertaining version of Tartuffe -- turbo-injected. Now comes the Bard's timeless fable of bickering families and star-crossed lovers spiced with an ample amount of jokes, and clocking in at just over an hour. Despite the compressed format, the play's essential elements are melded into a smoothly flowing, coherent narrative, mostly employing Shakespeare's text. As with most of the shows here, the production values are minimal. There are some crates of varying sizes and a small but mighty scaffold, which provides the necessary support for the balcony scene; Jeri Batzdorff has designed neatly understated, serviceable costumes. Devin marshals her 11-member cast around this small stage. Robert Walter's boyish good looks and charm serve him well as Romeo. Alexis Justman complements nicely as Juliet, although she could dial down the pubertal giddiness a notch. Also noteworthy are Rafael Goldstein and Curtiss Johns as, respectively, Mercutio and Benvolio. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through Oct. 8. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd, Los Angeles, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

Salome Oscar Wilde's biblical tragedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Mosaic Lizard Theater, 112 W Main St, Alhambra, 626-457-5293, www.lizardtheater.com.

The Tempest Zombie Joe's takes on the Shakespearean classic. Directed by Denise Devin. Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues through Oct. 28. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd, Los Angeles, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

That's Amore! An American Italian Songbook Written by Gilmore Rizzo, musical direction by Bryan Miller, directed by Ginny McMath. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Oct. 23. Noho Performing Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd, North Hollywood, 818-763-0086, www.thenohoartscenter.com.

TO CARRY THE CHILD

Busting Out: More Australian Anatomy
Steve Jarrard

After

the first of many long-simmering tensions spills over, Libby (nicely

played by Pamela Daly) announces to her two daughters she and their

father had stopped the movie Terms of Endearment midway

through. "Neither one of us was enjoyin' it. I remember likin' it so

much the first time," she says. Playwright Jon Courie uses the reference

as both illumination of his influences and casual foreshadowing, and

because he smartly places it so near the top of the action, we prepare

and forgive him in advance for any sappiness that might follow. Plenty

does, but an inexplicably unlikable protagonist and director Steve

Jarrad's unfortunate casting mar what is a promising tearjerker. Ashley

(Meg Wallace), running from the triple threat of a floundering career,

failing relationship with her lesbian lover, and a physical setback,

leaves New York City in an attempt to find solace at her family's home

on the coast of North Carolina. Once there, however, she seems more

intent on counterproductively nursing her still-raw childhood wounds

than allowing them to heal. Though she lashes out "mean as a copperhead"

at everyone, including her sweetly dim sister Sissy (the charming

Christine Haeberman), she reserves her most venomous strikes for her

father, the blue collar Bo (Robin Nuyen): He never approved of her being

a lesbian, he loved Sissy more, he was always working, he didn't

encourage her career. But the complaints begin to fall on deaf ears, as

Bo repeatedly attempts to prove his love, however clumsily. As opposed

to Wallace's dead-eyed delivery and one-note performance, the excellent

Nuyen is so nuanced that he easily becomes the most sympathetic

character onstage. You'll use your tissues for him. Collaborative

Artists Ensemble at the The Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., N.

Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru October 16. (323)

860-6569, collaborativeartistsensemble.com (Rebecca Haithcoat)

Total Improv Kids: Boo Us! Halloween-themed improv show featuring kids and young adults ages 8 to 20. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 29, (818) 481-8072, totalimprovkids.com. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd, North Hollywood.

Urban Death Horror show by Zombie Joe's Underground. Saturdays, 11 p.m. Continues through Oct. 29. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd, Los Angeles, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

Xanadu Roller disco musical, based on Olivia Newton-John's cult classic movie. Fridays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 7 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. Center Stage Theatre, 8463 Sierra Ave., Fontana, 909-429-7469, www.centerstagefontana.com.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS

GO Day Drinkers Set in the kind of downtown L.A. bar (set by Gary Guidinger) that has denizens pounding on the door at 9 a.m. to be let in and start drinking, Justin Tanner's best comedy in years is a deceptively facile look at what draws people to and from each other. Old Mick (Tom Fitzpatrick) is enamored with Val (Danielle Kennedy), cashing out a retirement account to buy her a $7,000 ring, which Val pawns for a pittance and puts up little resistance to the seductions of Mick's son, Bradley (Jonathan Palmer). Meanwhile, barkeep Daniel (Todd Lowe) can't even get wife Jenny (Chloe Taylor) to kiss him anywhere near the lips, because of a recent fling she had with her stud brother-in-law, Caleb (Cody Chappel). Maile Flanagan and Melissa Denton pass through, as a pair of lesbians en route to a family gathering in Lodi -- can their marriage endure the pressures of the trip, or of each other? Beneath what looks like the stuff of almost nothing, couched in marvelous physical humor under Bart DeLorenzo's direction, and a string of very funny one-liners, emerges a clear and larger vision. This is a love story (or stories) in which so many core decisions are made from perceived opportunity and economics. Bradley shows up for the sole purpose of preventing his geezer dad from squandering the potential legacy of his last remaining funds. Despite what looks like a romantic reunion in a troubled marriage, Jenny tells Caleb that if she were 10 years younger, she'd leave her barkeep husband, but now she's put whatever money she had into the bar. Whether their marriage endures or doesn't, that bitter truth will underlie it, meaning her husband is doomed if he harbors any serious hope for reciprocated affections. If you read between the lines and the laughs, there's a fury at work, a rage at cold-hearted self-interest that is, and always was, the driving engine of most societies. The rest is garbage, and few writers can satirize garbage with Tanner's skill. It's hard to tell if the balance between comedy and anger that so delicately keeps insight from teetering into petulance comes as much from the writing as from DeLorenzo's taut staging. As comedy ensembles go, the eight actors are like the well-oiled cylinders in a fine old gas-guzzling Caddie, blowing smoke in our eyes, masking roadkill and other horrors of the highway. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 30. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.

End Days Verisimilitude, psychological depth and emotional truth aren't necessarily requisites for a winning stage comedy. But they help. So do a measure of genuine wit, a certain subtlety of craft and, well, some occasional belly laughs. Stint on too many of these and the result could easily resemble playwright Deborah Zoe Laufer's seriously unfunny fractured-family fable. Laufer's one-note joke rests on the character of Sylvia Stein (Abigail Revasch), a supremely self-involved and over-controlling Jewish mother whose history of phobic manias have produced a dour, resentful and rebellious outcast of a punk-rock teen daughter, Rachel (Zoe Perry). Worse, Sylvia's recent conversion to Rapture-proselytizing, evangelical Christianity has made Rachel's home life a living hell and sent her father (Loren Lester) into a near-catatonic depression (the less said of his nonsensical brush with 9/11, the better). Sylvia's religious hysteria also has provided her with her own personal savior -- a figment of Jesus (the hilarious Andrew Ableson) that follows her around, vamping poses from kitschy fundamentalist Christ paintings (in the production's sole, genius sight gag). For the rest of the family, the Messiah proves to be Rachel's dweebish, love-struck classmate, Nelson (Charlie Saxton), a fellow outcast in an Elvis jumpsuit whose sympathetic, nonjudgmental guilelessness inexplicably redeems the household. Unfortunately, such feeble whimsies rarely rise above the implausible and are more commonly reduced to shrill caricature by director Lisa James. Designer Jeff McLaughlin's clumsy kitchen-sink set hampers rather than helps either the ensemble or the comedy, while Jeremy Pivnick's lighting runs the gamut of illumination, from off to on. (Bill Raden). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 23. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.

Equus Horseplay by Peter Shaffer. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 9. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, 310-828-7519, www.morgan-wixson.org.

The God of Isaac James Sherman's comedy about a Jewish-American journalist exploring his ethnicity. Sundays, 3 p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 25, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 26, 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 27, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 20, (323) 860-6620, westcoastjewishtheatre.org. Pico Playhouse, 10508 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, www.picoplayhouse.com.

Jane Fonda in the Court of Public Opinion Workshop presentation of Terry Jastrow's play, starring Anne Archer as Jane Fonda. Starting Oct. 8, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 30, (310) 392-7327. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St, Santa Monica, www.edgemarcenter.org.

JIMMY & SAM

Busting Out: More Australian Anatomy
Ed Krieger

Two

old geezers with thick accents, one Jewish, the other Irish, are long

time pals who enjoy their morning breakfast ritual on a New York City

park bench. When Sam (Howard Storm) confesses to Jimmy (Clement E.

Blake) that his retirement fund is all tapped out, Jimmy wastes no time

offering him a lifeline and inviting him to move in to his

rent-controlled apartment. The octogenarian pair of widowers prove

perfect companions, sharing groceries and heading off to dances

together. But when Sam meets a bubbly Carol (Kathrine Henryk), the

delicate balance of the friendship is slightly upset. Written by Pat

Harrington, Howard Storm and the late Michael Rhodes, this is a sweet

play about aging and the joys and heartbreaks of enduring friendships.

As we listen to them share their oft-told life stories and fond

reminiscences about their deceased wives or humorously discuss the

concept of reincarnation, the gentle humor evokes cozy 1950s sitcoms.

This is the kind of play where you wonder which of the three is going to

kick the bucket. But when the inevitable happens, the scenes that

follow are touching nonetheless. Under Tim Byron Owen's direction, Storm

is good as the likable and easygoing Sam. Henryk is great as the

dynamic new flame, and Blake's Jimmy stands out as a sometimes-grouch.

Theatre 40 at the Rueben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr. (on the Beverly

Hills High School campus); Beverly Hills; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru

Oct. 30. (310) 364-0535, theatre40.org. (Pauline Adamek)

The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer The father of the atomic bomb meets biblical demons and T.S. Eliot references in Carson Kreitzer's dark trek through the mind of a guilt-stricken genius. Director Joanne Gordon sometimes has her finger on the pulse of Oppenheimer's (Craig Anton) angst with this moody production, but the story meanders too much and the actors never generate enough collective chemistry, scientific or otherwise, to gel as an ensemble. Toiling away with his Manhattan Project peers, Oppenheimer can't wait to see his life's work come to fruition. But long before the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oppenheimer becomes filled with conflict over the paradoxically destructive nature of what will be his finest creation. Oppenheimer has plenty of reasons to feel panicky. Both his martini-glugging wife, Kitty (Sarah Underwood Saviano), and his emotionally unstable mistress, Jean Tatlock (Anna Steers), have communist ties, and J. Edgar Hoover doesn't like the scientist's political leanings. This pressure-cooker atmosphere is nicely supported by the stark scenic design (by Cory Buddemeyer, David Lee, Joseph Lee and Brenda Rosero), especially an ever-present iron orb that resembles an atom. Interesting design elements aside, the production ultimately lacks cohesion, and the actors are forced to make their way through long monologues without an objective in sight. Oppenheimer famously studied the Bhagavad Gita, and even references to that sacred text fall flat. (Amy Lyons). Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 8 p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays, 6 p.m. Continues through Oct. 15, (562) 985-5526, calrep.org. Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Hwy, Long Beach, www.queenmary.com.

Naked Short Sales Marvin Kruege's contemporary comedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 15, (800) 838-3006, brownpapertickets.com/event/196481. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th St, Santa Monica, www.santamonicaplayhouse.com.

Red Noses The Actors' Gang presents Peter Barnes' dark comedy set in 1348 France. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 19, (310) 838-4264, theactorsgang.com. Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd, Culver City.

Ripe Wendy Hammers' dramedy about the loss of a friend and her "big, fat, Jewish ass." Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 19, ripetheplay.com/tickets.html. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th St, Santa Monica, 310-394-9779, www.santamonicaplayhouse.com.

Some of My Parts Darith Lallou Mackenzie takes on six roles in one hour in her one-woman show. Mondays-Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 26, goldstar.com/events/beverly-hills-ca/some-of-my-parts.html. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 S Moreno Dr, Beverly Hills, 310-364-0535, www.theatre40.org.

Surprises: Stories of Fortunes, Fate and Food Short works by Mark Harvey Levine. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Oct. 9. Grove Theater Center, 1111 W Olive Ave, Burbank, 818-528-6622, www.gtc.org.

Sylvia "Always remember your dog is a dog . . . and woman names make trouble," a stranger (Tom Ayers) warns Greg (Stephen Howard), an empty nester in the thrall of a Labradoodle named Sylvia (Tanna Frederick). The stray bitch solicited Greg at the park, bounded into his Manhattan apartment and immediately made enemies with his wife (Cathy Arden), a smart careerist blonde just getting settled into having the house - and her husband - to herself. Greg, naturally, struggles to stick to the man's advice. So, too, does the audience, as the dog is played by a redhead in a tutu who references The Odyssey and calls Greg her "knight in shining armor." What man could resist? Underneath the tutu, Frederick wears kneepads and with good reason: for two hours, she crawls, leaps, and tumbles with the humans taking turns dragging her around the stage. It's a showy gig and director Gary Imhoff has Frederick - an actress of boundless energy - frolic as if failure meant the pound. If you find Frederick too manic, as I certainly did, you soon side with the missus in wanting to call the dogcatcher. Playwright A.R. Guerney's decision to make a human play canine sharpens the love triangle between man, woman and beast. When Frederick sprawls spread-eagled on the ottoman, what wife wouldn't glare? But Gurney's smart observations about the cross-species bond clash with his sell-out, feel-good ending (was he afraid dog lovers would torch the building?), a flaw further thrown out of whack by Imhoff's need to earn laughs by any means necessary, even updating the 1995 script with Sarah Palin jokes and a dance break to Lady Gaga. By the time the cast takes their final bow to "Who Let the Dogs Out?" all but the most dog-obsessed are eager to vow their allegiance to Team Cat. (Amy Nicholson). Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 2, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 3, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 4, 5 p.m. Continues through Nov. 20. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St, Santa Monica, 310-399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.

Twisted, Spooky, Creepy All-new, original short plays with a Halloween theme. Starting Oct. 12, Wednesdays, Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 29, 11 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 30, 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 20. Little Fish Theatre, 777 S Centre St, San Pedro, 310-512-6030, www.littlefishtheatre.org/wp/.

Way to Heaven Juan Mayorga's true story of a fake Nazi village constructed at a concentration camp to mislead Red Cross inspectors in 1944 Germany. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 18. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.

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