Chekhov Unscripted, Beverly Winwood Actor's Showcase, Double Falsehood and More Theater Reviews
Michael Lamont"Chekhov Unscripted"
This week, we recommend Theatre Impro's Chekhov Unscripted at the Pasadena Playhouse (see Theater Pick, along with all the latest NEW THEATER REVIEWS); The Groundlings' recurring romp over dreadful acting teachers and their students who are even worse, Beverly Winwood Actor's Showcase. Shakespeare's "lost" play, Double Falsehood at Actors Circle Theatre in West Hollywood; and The Cask of Antontillado presented by Zombie Joe's Underground in North Hollywood.
Coming Wednesday night, a review of Jane Fonda in the Court of Public Opinion at the Edgemar Center for the Arts and a feature on Stephanie Miller's Sexy Liberal Comedy Tour playing this coming weekend at the Wadsworth. Here are the COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for the remainder of the week, and the current week's features on John Leguizamo's Ghetto Klown and Catherine Trieschmann's How the World Began.
NEW THEATER REVIEWS scheduled for publication October 20, 2011
PICK OF THE WEEK CHEKHOV UNSCRIPTED
You don't have to be a Chekhov aficionado to appreciate this
entertaining and clever mock-up of his art. Directed by Dan O'Connor,
the evening's humor derives from a savvy and seasoned ensemble who
specialize in fashioning a unique, full-length parody for each
performance. Rather than a detailed lampooning of The Cherry Orchard or
The Three Sisters, the ensemble fashions its own harebrained plot,
hewing closely to the motifs -- such as unrequited love and longing --
that mark Chekhov's plays. The evening I attended, the story revolved
around a Russian family with two daughters: Anya (Patty Wortham),
lovesick and insufferably cheerful, and Olga (Edi Patterson), who
languishes in the dumps while a bevy of suitors -- including her
sister's fiancé -- vie for her favor. Meanwhile, a host of termites
attack their father's (Brian Lohmann) walnut grove, precipitating their
estate's demise. Not every scene works equally well, of course, but in
general the laughs are plentiful and hearty. Paul Rogan steals pretty
much every scene he's in as the daft and nerdy schoolmaster betrothed to
Olga, and Lisa Fredrickson is spot-on as the family's officious
matriarch. Impro Theatre at the Pasadena Playhouse (in the Carrie
Hamilton Theater), 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
Sat.-Sun. 2 p.m.; Sat. 10 p.m.; Sun. 7 p.m. (In rep. with Tennessee
Williams Unscripted and Twilight Zone Unscripted); thru Nov. 13. (626)
356-PLAY | ImproTheatre.com (Deborah Klugman)
ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION
R.J. Colleary's opaque tale of moral redemption finds ex-con Patrick (John Lacy), fresh off a four-year stretch due to a tragic accident that cost him his son and his marriage, trying to make it on the "outs." He gradually adjusts with the help of his scheming landlord (Carlos Moreno Jr.), a compassionate priest ( Marcus McGee), his cynical, hard-bitten parole officer (Lyn Alicia Henderson) and a gentle, addle-brained Home Depot co-worker (Tessa Williams). But the past soon emerges with ferocious intensity, and it isn't long before Patrick's tentative world starts to unravel along with Colleary's script, which slowly plunges into near comical density via a series of gangly twists wherein Patrick finds reclamation as a murderous vigilante. Kathleen Rubin's fine direction and the cast's compelling performances don't balance a script that is terribly overwritten, full of clich?s and doesn't come close to soundly probing the weighty philosophical matters it raises. El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro.,Hlywd.; Thur.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Nov. 6. (323) 960-7788, plays411.com/abs. (Lovell Estell III)
GO BEVERLY WINWOOD ACTOR'S SHOWCASE Acting coach Beverly Winwood gives out questionable advice ("Always work with actors of your own race," "The most important thing is memorizing the words"), but her choice of scenes and partner pairings are especially wrong-headed in this play that's formatted as an acting showcase. But one hopeful's mortifying audition is our hysterical evening: An ex-con (Phil Lamarr) and young hoodlum (Jordan Black) bellow through Death of a Salesman, an Elizabeth Taylor twin (Mary Jo Smith) and Merchant Ivory wannabe (Antoinette Spolar) make melodrama of an excerpt from The Facts of Life, a hot-tempered lawyer (Brian Palermo) suffers through "Who's on First?" with a Chinese immigrant (Karen Maruyama) who can't grasp the intonations. Director Tony Sepulveda litters the evening with grace notes that show off how talented his cast is at being untalented. It's the tension between scene partners that gets the most laughs, from a snotty Kohl's catalog model (David Jahn) who's determined to make his cowed dance partner (Mindy Sterling) break an ankle, or a randy recluse (Melissa McCarthy) weaseling an excuse to squeeze her co-star's (Rachael Harris) ass. Two hours of savage schadenfreude capped off with a Saltines and Cheez Whiz reception? Baby, you're a star. Mon., Oct. 24, 8 p.m. (sold out). Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A., (323) 934-9700, groundlings.com. (Amy Nicholson)
GO THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO
Heady helpings of malice and spite flow like flagons of the fine sherry mentioned in the title of this classic Edgar Allen Poe vignette. Halloween, Edgar Allan Poe and the craftily imaginative stylings of the local director professionally known as Zombie Joe are such a natural fit, you really suspect they ought to meld them all into a brand and call it "Zombie Edgar Allan Joe." Zombie Joe's production is less a standard "play" than it is a harrowing, performance-art dramatization of Poe's short story ﾑ the creepy tale of a gentleman's psychotic vengeance against oafish Fortunato, who stops off at Montresor's palazzo for a nice glass of the bubbly and is instead immured in a dank, skeleton-filled catacomb. A cast of eight Venetian maskﾐcaparisoned performers narrate the story, essentially reciting the Poe tale as a script, but fleshing it out with ghoulish gusto and maniacal glee, wriggling like graveyard worms as they describe the filthy catacombs in which Fortunato is to meet his horrific end. The murkiness of the Zombie Joe Underground theater and the clownishly cheerful, Tom Waitsian musical accompaniment by guitarist-keyboardists Shayne Eastin and Michael Maio artfully craft an eerie graveyard atmosphere that's as full of despair as it is hilarious. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; through Nov. 5. (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com. (Paul Birchall)
GO DOUBLE FALSEHOOD In 1727, scholar-editor Lewis Theobald published this text, which he claimed was the "lost" play Cardenio, by John Fletcher and William Shakespeare. He was never able to furnish proof of the play's authenticity, and it has been surrounded by controversy ever since. If it is by Shakespeare, it adds no luster to his reputation, but it has a neatly worked-out plot that resembles Two Gentlemen of Verona. Like that play, it's centered on a caddish young man, Henriquez (Jeremy Lelliot), who woos and then rapes the unfortunate Violante (gamine redhead Valerie Curry). He rationalizes the rape as forceful seduction, and abandons Violante to pursue Leonora (Sammi Smith), who loves and is loved by his friend Julio (understudy TJ Marchbank in the performance reviewed). Director Kirsten Kuiken gives the piece a brisk, bare-bones, modern-dress production, garnished with some odd musical selections, including "Rhapsody in Blue" and "Follow the Drinking Gourd." This is clearly no lost masterpiece, but the production offers a rare opportunity to see a play that has sparked curiosity and controversy for three centuries. Actors Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m. Produced by Coeurage Theatre Company. coeurage.org. (Neal Weaver)
HEY, MORGAN! Four guitars, a keyboard player and one drummer rock out upstage, launching Matthew Fogel, Isaac Laskin and David Richman's sweet musical tribute to Laskin's real-life former roommate, Morgan (Martha Marion), and it's a promising start. Laskin strums acoustic guitar and narrates this cute and zippy little musical, which features hooky riffs and funny, candid lyrics, with direction by Matt Shakman. It charts the rather uneventful life of an upper-class Jewish girl from Brentwood, from her first fumbling teen romance at Camp Echo through the anxiety of a rite-of-passage nose job and then on to college, her first job and true love. At 55 minutes, the upbeat show of wall-to-wall songs is Fringe-ready but sorely needs developing as well as some diversity in the musical style. The section of Morgan's life that presumably inspired the show, in which Laskin shared an apartment with her, is conspicuously absent. The supporting cast of two (Meagan English and Adam Shapiro) work hard dancing, singing and switching costumes to portray Morgan's doting parents, various boyfriends and BFFs. The savvy, L.A.-specific lyrics are ironic but never meanspirited. Black Dahlia Theatre, 5453 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun., 8 & 10 p.m.; through Nov. 19. (800) 838-3006, thedahlia.com. (Pauline Adamek)
The dehumanization of which T.S. Eliot wrote in The Hollow Men is similar in both time period and tone to the soulless, mechanized world Sophie Treadwell explores in her best-known play. In it, nine episodic scenes trace five years in the life of Helen (Charlotte Chanler), a working-class girl in 1920s New York. They include interactions with her flirtatious boss (later husband) Mr. Jones (a nimble and engaging Arthur Hanket), her overbearing Mother (Marilyn McIntyre) and her paramour, Mr. Roe (Dylan Maddalena). The ambience of the piece is enhanced by sound designer Peter Carlstedt's urban streetscape, and Jim Spencer's two-tiered set allows for some clever staging. Director Barbara Schofield, however, is somewhat heavy-handed with the metaphor of mechanization, and the "period patter" common to comedies of the era seems misplaced. Chanler, too, takes the idea of a woman "trapped in the machine" a bit literally, projecting a persona that at times seems more robotic than suffocated. As a result, the brutality of the final scene lacks the proper emotional resonance, ending the play not with a bang but a whimper. Open Fist Theater, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Nov. 20. (323) 882-6912, openfist.org. (Mayank Keshaviah)
ROGER WODEHOUSE'S ANDROGYMNASIUM!
Courtesy Lost Moon Radio
Imagine a 1970s BBC children's television show fronted by a British glam-rock icon in the mold of Gary Glitter and you'll have an idea of the age-inappropriate one-liner behind Lost Moon Radio's genre-bending musical parody. And to the extent that writers Ryan Harrison, Frank Smith, Lauren Ludwig and Dylan Ris stick to their twin targets ﾑ the insipidity of educational kids' programming, and the wan narcissism and sexual ambivalence of the show's eyeliner-and-spandex-attired host (nicely realized by Harrison) ﾑ the evening remains on a firm footing. These elements get their most hilarious satiric comeuppance in the Ziggy Stardust-riffed rocker "The Most Mysterious Letter of the Alphabet," in which Harrison leads back-up band Chelsea Telegram in a pitch-perfect spoof of glam and educational TV clich?s. From that high point, however, the comic energy slackens as the evening settles into a series of mostly amusing if middling sketches (performed by Dan Oster, Jen Burton and Frank Smith) that have only the most tenuous connection to the titular theme. Director Ludwig keeps things at a brisk pace in a staging graced by the visual wit of costumer Rachel Weir and the rock & roll atmospherics of Brandon Baruch's lights. Club Fais Do-Do, 5257 W. Adams Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 9 p.m.; through Oct. 29. (323) 931-4636, lostmoonradio.com. (Bill Raden)
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