Clybourne Park's Broadway Plans Derailed (See Update), Plus This Weekend's Stage Listings
Craig SchwartzCTG/Playwrights Horizons "pre-Broadway" run of "Clybourne Park" currently playing at the Mark Taper Forum
Jaws have been dropping since the New York Post broke the story yesterday
that producer Scott Rudin was walking away from plans to produce Bruce Norris' Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Clybourne Park, on Broadway later this season. The blowup between the producer and the playwright-actor appears to have been retaliation for Norris' decision to walk away from a contracted agreement to appear in an HBO pilot being produced by Rudin based on Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections. This has got to be disheartening for the Playwrights Horizons cast and director (Pam MacKinnon) currently performing Clybourne Park in what was to be its pre-Broadway run at the Mark Taper Forum, whose artistic director, Michael Ritchie, holds out hope that other producers and investors can still be found to give Norris' excellent play its moment on Broadway.
UPDATE 3/3/12: Jordan Roth, President of Jujamcyn Theatres, announced this morning that he will bring Clybourne Park to Broadway, regardless of the departure of producer Scott Rudin from the project.
Check out the local reviews of Clybourne Park and the play it's spun from, Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, produced by Ebony Repertory Theatre. For the latest New Theater Reviews, click here. For this coming weekend's Stage Listings, go to the jump.
STAGE LISTINGS FOR FEBRUARY 3 - 9, 2012
LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE
Art Written by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton, directed by David Lee. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.
Boeing-Boeing Marc Camoletti's French farce. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Feb. 12. Norris Center for the Performing Arts, 27570 Crossfield Drive, Palos Verdes Peninsula, 310-544-0403, www.norriscenter.com.
GO Clybourne Park Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772. See Stage feature
Early Morning Opera: Abacus Fri., Feb. 3, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 4, 8:30 p.m. REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., Los Angeles, 213-237-2800, www.redcat.org.
Elemeno Pea Molly Smith Metzler's new comedy. Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 714-708-5555, www.scr.org.
Flying Karamazov Brothers Bring: 4 Play Fri., Feb. 3, 8 p.m. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, 12700 Center Court Drive, Cerritos, 562-467-8818, www.cerritoscenter.com.
Old Wicked Songs Starting Feb. 4, Sat., Feb. 4, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 11, 3 & 8 p.m. Continues through March 4. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank, 818-558-7000, www.colonytheatre.org.
GO A Raisin in the Sun Presented by Ebony Repertory Theatre. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org. See Stage feature
Red Hot Patriot Kathleen Turner is "brassy Texan reporter" Molly Ivins. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com. See Stage feature.
GO Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs This musical adaptation of the fairy tale classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs offers plenty of opportunity for children's participation -- and that is its strongest appeal. In this amiably revised version, the Queen (Susan Morgenstern) is upset to learn that she's no longer considered the land's fairest -- but her remedy is relatively benign. Instead of plotting to kill Snow White (Caitlin Gallogly), she transports her out of the kingdom. Instead of feeding her a poisoned apple, she laces one with tryptophan. Instead of seven dwarves protecting the heroine, the script features one jolly performer (Anthony Gruppuso) abetted by enthusiastic helpers drafted from the audience. Neither the book (Scott Martin) nor the songs (music by Rob Meury, lyrics by Richard Brent) are especially memorable, but Gallogly is cute and charismatic, and Paul Denniston scores laughs doubling as the wise-cracking magic mirror and the puffed-up prince. For adult spectators, observing the kids' delight is the best entertainment. (Deborah Klugman). Saturdays, 1 p.m. Continues through Feb. 25. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Los Angeles, 323-851-7977, www.theatrewest.org.
SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS
GO The Beauty Queen of Leenane Martin McDonough's story of family struggles in rural Ireland. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Feb. 18. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Los Angeles, 323-871-1150.
Brilliant Traces Written by Cindy Lou Johnson. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through March 11, brillianttracesplay.com. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-469-9988.
GO Days of Wine and Roses J.P. Miller's story of alcoholism. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19, (323) 960-7862, plays411.com/wineandroses. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
GO Did You Do Your Homework? In his solo play, Aaron Braxton marshals his skills as writer, actor, singer and director to relate his experience as a substitute teacher in urban schools. Economically Braxton, who is black, is not that different from his students, but his teacher mother taught him solid middle-class virtues, which prove to be both a blessing and a bane. He learned what he needed to teach, but the values and language of inner-city African-American kids were as foreign to him as to any white teacher. Braxton has to overcome the communications gap and challenge the ingrained notion that a black man who learns to speak and write correctly is just "acting white." And he must find a way to check disruptive behavior and impose order without seeming like a wuss. Braxton enlivens his tale with an array of funny and touching characters, acted with exuberant affection and veracity. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Feb. 5, (800) 838-3006, brownpapertickets.com/event/210970. Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, Los Angeles, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
uncanny how uninspired directorial choices, unformed performances and
artless production design can throw the unforgiving glare of the
spotlight onto a text. For director Laurie Woolery's disappointing
staging of playwright Tanya Saracho's Mexican drug war-set adaptation of
The Cherry Orchard, the illumination proves brutally unflattering. With
the exception of the nouveau riche Lopakhin (here played by Justin Huen
as the narcotraficante Lopez), Saracho pares down Chekhov's dramatis
personae to the principal women: the nostalgia-trapped matriarch of the
impoverished, land-owning Galvan family, Maité (Yetta Gottesman); her
severe, romantically unrequited older daughter, Valeria (Isabelle
Ortega); young sister Anita (Diana Romo); and the household's uppity
chambermaid, Dunia (Sabina Zuniga Varela). But Saracho's truncation
seems a pallid compromise. Crippled by both Frederica Nascimento's drab
set and the lack of a Trofimov to articulate the anger underlying the
bloody, offstage social upheavals, the play musters precious little of
the comic absurdity or pathos implied by the word Chekhovian. Fountain
Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.;
through March 11. (323) 663-1525,
fountaintheatre.com. (Bill Raden)
EXPECTING TO FLY
Hyman's one-act surveys the wreckage of a relationship gone wrong
between two gay men. Jared's (Justin Mortelliti) tenuous life of bar
cruising, fast sex, booze and prescription drugs is brought into acute
relief by the continuous presence of the ghost of his one-time husband,
Sean (Casey Kringlen). The scenario engenders heated exchanges,
recriminations, a smoldering reservoir of guilt, a litany of
recollections about their erstwhile lives together, and the unpleasant
incidents and conditions that eventually led to Sean's leap from the
roof of the Chelsea Hotel. Hyman's decent writing doesn't offset the
dense stasis that sets in early on, or a central conceit that wears
terribly thin. The convenient Twilight Zone-inspired finale doesn't
offer much satisfaction either, but the performances are outstanding.
Elephant Space, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
Sun., 7 p.m.; through March 4. (323) 960-5772, plays411.com/fly. (Lovell Estell III)
GO Fairy Tale Theatre 18 & Over J. Michael Feldman defines a whole new type of "triple threat" by writing, puppeteering and acting in Fairy Tale Theatre: 18 & Over, this 90-minute barrel of monkey-filled laughs. But it's not just monkeys who populate this world; it's polar bears, squirrels, spiders, bees and other such mainstays of fairy-tale fare. The adult-themed stories -- like "The Bi-Polar Bear and Co-Dependent Eskimo," "The Monkeys and Their Pet" and "The Cloud Who Was Into Some Weird Shit" -- are filled with a hilariously caustic wit that's often self-referential, but not in an annoyingly hipster-ish way. Even Feldman's preshow announcement gets laughs, demonstrating his clear knack for comedy and setting the tone for the evening. His fellow players -- puppeteers Jess McKay, Matt Cook and Tina Huang, as well as castmates Courtney Pauroso and Eileen Mulanee -- are true chameleons who transform their voices, expressions and body language to endow a litany of animals with human traits. The actors truly throw themselves into the characters, lampooning highly relatable issues in outrageously funny ways. Contributing to their brilliant execution are director Annie McVey's daring choices and Stephen Rowan's colorful menagerie of props and costumes. With a go-for-broke vivacity and edginess reminiscent of Monty Python, Feldman and his crew spin comedic gold. (Mayank Keshaviah). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Feb. 11. Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-852-1445, www.matrixtheatre.com.
GO Fiesta Xylophone playing, ice skating and traditional Mexican hat dancing are just a few of the talents displayed by Bob Baker's marionettes in this south-of-the-border celebration. A favorite production at Baker's theater since its premiere in 1964, the show shines brightest when the colorful puppets interact with children in the audience, like when two peck-happy ostriches provide particularly hearty giggles by gobbling little heads. The whole show is one big happy dance featuring two-stepping cacti, smiling skeleton showgirls and a chicken/rooster duet that's a scream. The ever-present puppeteers disappear during a black-light segment in which flying puppets provide slightly spooky thrills. A piñata is broken near show's end, but no candy is in sight. This wrong is quickly righted with a post-show ice cream social. (Amy Lyons). Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., Los Angeles, 213-250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.
GO Fruit Fly Written and performed by Leslie Jordan. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through Feb. 18. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-957-1884, www.celebrationtheatre.com. See Stage feature
GO God's Ear L.A. premiere of Jenny Schwartz's play. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19, (877) 369-9112, echotheatercompany.com. Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles.
GO Hermetically Sealed "Hermetically Sealed" refers to the secret festering at the heart of this layered family drama -- one that isn't uncovered until near the very end. Startling (at least to me!) at its denouement, Katherine Graf's 90-minute one-act pivots around an overworked pastry chef named Tessie (Gigi Bermingham) and her two teenage sons: the recalcitrant Jimmy (understudy Jonathan Griffin Sterling in the performance I saw), and Conor (Nicholas Podany), a smart, likable kid addicted to video gaming but savvy and sensitive enough to respond when his stressed-out mom signals for help. Their household's already precarious equilibrium upends with the meddlesome intrusion of Tessie's loudmouthed, domineering employer, Dale Jr. (Julia Prud'homme), and her sleazeball husband (Brendan Patrick Connor). Despite some rough edges on opening night, director Joel Polis marshals a vital and accomplished ensemble, adding breadth to dialogue spilling over with chatter about lemon bars and mango tarts. Bermingham's harassed but devoted matriarch is the soul of the play while Podany, most impressive given his youth -- he's a local high school sophomore -- delivers a dynamic, in-depth performance. The spot-on Connor plays a creep with humanity. Designer Jeff McLaughlin's splendidly detailed set, replete even with running water, furnishes a faultless framework for this slice of kitchen sink realism. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 12, (702) 582-8587, https://katselas.secure.force.com/ticket. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, www.bhplayhouse.com.
GO I Love Lucy® Live on Stage If you're an I Love Lucy fan, this is your moment. The show, based on the TV series that still runs in syndication 60 years after its debut, takes audience members back to Desilu studio during the 1950s, where the audience sits in on a "live" television taping of two episodes, hosted by the affable Murray Jasper (Mark Christopher Tracy). Though there never will be talents quite like Ball, William Frawley, Vivian Vance and Desi Arnaz, director Rick Sparks' terrific cast channels them with charm, intelligence and energy in this fun-filled musical comedy. Sirena Irwin plays the redhead queen of comedy with precision. Bill Mendieta has got Ricky Ricardo down, including the thick Cuban accent, and Bill Chott and Lisa Joffrey do Fred and Ethel Mertz quite well. The two original episodes, "The Benefit" and "Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined" (written by Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll Jr.), are a hoot, but so are the hilarious commercial breaks, the Lucy trivia contest and the surprising variety of musical and dance numbers. Pianist and musical director Wayne Moore does a stellar job leading the six-piece band. Aaron Henderson provides meticulously crafted sets, while Shon LeBlanc's period costumes are on the money. (Yes, there are more than a few red-and-white polka dot dresses.) (Lovell Estell III). Wednesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26, $34, (800) 595-4849, ilovelucylive.com. Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, www.greenwayarts.org.
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.
The King of the Desert Written by Stacey Martino, performed by René Rivera. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Feb. 12, thekingofthedesert.com. Casa 0101, 2009 E. First St., Los Angeles, 323-263-7684, www.casa0101.org.
Macbeth Presented by Illyrian Players. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26, brownpapertickets.com/event/217438. Lyric-Hyperion Theater Cafe, 2106 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles, 323-906-8904, www.lyrichyperion.com.
Macbeth Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19. Loft Ensemble, 929 E. Second St. No. 105, Los Angeles, 213-680-0392, www.loftensemble.com.
Mine Written by Bekah Brunstetter, directed by Dep Kirkland. Starting Feb. 9, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through March 11, (323) 960-7788, plays411.net/mine. Elephant Theatre Lab, 1078 N. Lilian Way, Los Angeles.
GO Moon Over Buffalo Ken Ludwig's zany farce centers on an acting couple on tour in Buffalo in 1953 with a repertory of Cyrano de Bergerac and Noël Coward's Private Lives. It's one of those dizzying, door-slamming affairs (James Spencer and Zachary Guiler's handsome set features five of them) with countless entrances and exits, which makes for great fun. David Ross Paterson and Wendy Phillips deliver fine performances as long-married thespians Charlotte and George Hay, whose floundering careers get a boost when happenstance sends the legendary Frank Capra to view their matinee while searching for talent for an upcoming production of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Tossed into the comic mix is George's affair with troupe member Eileen (Laetitia Leon), a cantankerous mother-in-law (Norma Campell) who despises George, a rekindled romance between the Hays' daughter Rosalind (Kate Costick) and the troupe's assistant Paul (Benjamin Burdick) and an unlikely case of mistaken identity. Complementing Ludwig's well-written script are excellent performances and savvy direction by Bjorn Johnson. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 10. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-882-6912, www.openfist.org.
No Good Deed It would be tempting to place all the blame on director Dámaso Rodriguez for the cluttered, overblown and sententious chaos that is playwright Matt Pelfrey's inchoate meditation on the act of heroism in the age of mechanical reproduction. But Pelfrey's pedestrian and attenuated tale of a wimpy, comic book-obsessed high school outcast (Nick Cernoch) accidentally thrust into self-destructive media celebrity packs neither the poetic punch of a riveting stage narrative nor the insight needed to nail down its intended examination of the hero as a social construct. Instead, the script wildly ricochets from graphic-novel homage (featuring Ben Matsuya's convincing superhero art) to brittle satire to after-school melodrama to ponderous, adolescent action-fantasy. Faced with a hopeless tonal tangle, Rodriguez throws money at the production but only exacerbates its problems with upstaging video projections (Jason H. Thompson), actor-drowning sound (Doug Newell) and what is perhaps the ugliest set in designer John Iacovelli's long and otherwise distinguished career. (Bill Raden). Wednesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 4, 2 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26. [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., Los Angeles, 323-461-3673, www.fordtheatres.org.
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.
Richard III Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Thu., Feb. 9, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 19, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 25. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Los Angeles, 310-281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.
Short Eyes Written by Miguel Piñero. Directed by Julian Acosta. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through March 11. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, 866-811-4111, www.thelatc.org.
Towne Street Theatre's 5th Annual Ten-Minute Play Festival Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19, townestreet.org. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-465-4446, www.stellaadler-la.com.
The Trojan Women There is an oft-quoted line on acting attributed to Jimmy Cagney that goes something like, "Learn your lines, plant your feet and tell the truth." Director-adaptor Steven Sabel gets it two-thirds right. In tackling Euripides' immortal antiwar drama, his actors know their lines and speak timeless truths, but the unceasing stage wandering that Sabel substitutes for cogently focused blocking in his period-dress (costumes by Sarah Kay Morris) production all too often vitiates the classic's high poetical voltage. Part of the problem is that Sabel's otherwise condensed adaptation also individualizes the chorus (to the point of assigning them each names). While this provides opportunities for some singular supporting performances (the fine Josefine Petersen and Constance Strickland are standouts), at times his intimate staging can feel like the 405 at rush hour. Fortunately, Sabel anchors it all to an unusually powerful and memorable Hecuba; the whiskey-voiced Alla Poberesky's sonorous and silky delivery could melt even the most hardened of Argive hearts. (Bill Raden). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Feb. 4. Archway Studio/Theatre, 305 S. Hewitt St., Los Angeles, 213-237-9933, www.archwayla.com.
Unscreened "Four world-premiere short plays by some of Hollywood's fastest-rising writers." Starting Feb. 6, Mondays, Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through Feb. 27, fireflyinc.com. Elephant Stages, Lillian Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-0046, www.laplays.com.
Women Inventing Theatre 3: Connections Mondays, Tuesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Feb. 21. Write Act Repertory Theatre, 6128 Yucca St., Los Angeles, 323-469-3113, www.writeactrep.org.
Yours, Isabel U.S. premiere of a new play by Christy Hall. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 18, 2:30 p.m. Continues through March 11. David Schall Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., Los Angeles, 323-462-8460, www.actorsco-op.org.
SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS
GO Absolute Black ZJU Theatre Group's 1940s film-noir-inspired thriller. Fridays, Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through Feb. 11. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.
Askance Playwright Kerr Seth Lordygan grapples with some profound subject matter in his drama set in an old people's home. The inhabitants are facing relocation and an uncertain future, so tempers are flaring. Eventually some deep and harrowing memories resurface and unexpected connections are revealed. To his credit, early on Lordygan deftly elicits sympathy for his characters, with the prickly banter between the old couple Milly (Kenlyn Kanouse) and Irving (Joseph Cardinale) cross-cut with their tender courtship decades earlier (young Mille is Beth Ricketson, young Irving an excellent Adam Coggins). RJ Farrington is great as the gruff and sassy nurse, her stern quips masking true affection for her charges, while Taylor Ashbrook delivers her usual grace as the caring nurse. Sabrina Lloyd's sensitive direction maximizes the script's nuances and allows room for meaningful glances. Less successful are the too numerous monologues from old-timer Sylvia, who has dementia, yet Ivy Jones brings some magnificence to her ramblings before the play devolves into histrionics. (Pauline Adamek). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through Feb. 13, $20-$25. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village, 818-508-3003, www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org.
Bananas! A Day in the Life of Josephine Baker A show that revolves around a woman who brought her diamond-collared pet cheetah onstage, volunteered to spy for a country she wasn't born in, had a "Rainbow Tribe" of adopted children long before Brangelina and performed dance while practically nude -- in 1925 -- shouldn't be dull. Despite glimpses of writer-star Sloan Robinson's obvious talent, though, the almost-two-hour show drags to the point of being downright boring. Set in Paris, Robinson's one-woman show follows Josephine Baker's life through remembrances. As she tries on sequined gown after feathered dress, Robinson delivers a running monologue directed to a framed photo of her mother. The writing feels too canned to do much in the way of bringing such an exhilarating figure to life, and the extended slideshow prior to the curtain call is painful. Naila Sanders' costumes, which fit the star like second skins, end up sparkling more than Robinson's performance. Directed by Joyce Maddox. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Feb. 29, (818) 358-3453, josephinebaker.eventbrite.com. J.E.T. Studios, 5126 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, www.thejetstudios.com.
Blood Water Joe Musso's "brutal story of love, lust, blood and betrayal." Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues through Feb. 24. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.
Cinderella Book by June Chandler, music and lyrics by Jane Fuller. Starting Feb. 4, Saturdays, 11 a.m. Continues through March 3. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, 626-355-4318, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.
Cracked Open: Let Go and Let Gook Suzanne Whang's solo show. Sun., Feb. 5, 8:30 p.m. Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, 681 Venice Blvd., Venice, 310-822-3006, www.beyondbaroque.org.
Crowley: The Vehement Appetite of the Beast Rehearsed reading of a new musical. Book and music by E.R. Clark. Lyrics from the poems of Aleister Crowley. Mon., Feb. 6, 8 p.m. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village, 818-508-3003, www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org.
Danny and the Deep Blue Sea John Patrick Shanley's two-hander about a pair of lonely, self-loathing bar rats who bond by way of confessions, cursing and beer guzzling gets an inspired staging in the hands of director John McNaughton. Danny (Matthew J. Williamson) meets Roberta (Juliet Landau) after a fistfight in which he thinks he's killed someone. Unfazed by his potential for homicide, Roberta woos Danny and reveals to him her long-kept, shameful secret. A night laced with violence and awkward affection soon evolves into phase one of a plan for healing and redemption. Shanley's script leaves almost no other choice than over-the-top acting near play's end, and Landau goes for a full-tilt brand of mania that almost slips into unintentionally comic territory. Still, both actors bring significant substance to the streetwise characters, and their easy chemistry makes the quick love connection believable. Keiko Moreno's efficient set impresses. (Amy Lyons). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, 818-745-8527, www.crowncitytheatre.com. See Stage feature
Finding Fossils Written by Ty DeMartino, directed by Suzanne Hunt. Sundays, 7 p.m.; Wednesdays, Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 25. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-752-7568, www.lankershimartscenter.com.
Hemingway: American Original Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Feb. 12. Mosaic Lizard Theater, 112 W. Main St., Alhambra, 626-457-5293, www.lizardtheater.com.
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., Studio City, 818-762-2272, www.tworoadsgallery.com.
Madam Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan Written by David Belasco. Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through Feb. 24. Luna Playhouse, 3706 San Fernando Road, Glendale, 818-500-7200, www.lunaplayhouse.org.
Plane Talk Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26. T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, 818-205-1680.
Seatbelts Required In this Rashomon of familial dramas, an evil mother has died and her three estranged daughters by three men reunite at the old homestead to sift through her things and their bad, bad memories -- none of which match up. The bitter eldest (Elizabeth Kimball) claims mom was the devil, the favored youngest (Chelsea Pitillo) argues she was a saint and the neglected middle (Cynthia Manous) just wants to make peace. The first act is spent fighting. So, too, is the second, only now there's a bottle of tequila and Pitillo's vow to "let every fucking cat out of every fucking bag." The play is structured like a roller coaster with a dozen detours, but author Kimberly Demmary (who hints that her story is semi-autobiographical) has a steady hand on the psychological beats. Still, the emotions are too often overplayed -- the cast is capable enough that director John Barker could scale back on the eye rolls. (Amy Nicholson). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Feb. 12. Actors Workout Studio, 4735 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-506-3903, www.actorsworkout.com.
Solofest 2012 Performers include Michael Bonnabel, Jed Mills, Stogie Kenyatta, Joy Nash, Synthia Hardy, Carla Collins, Brian Stanton, Michael Thyer, Richard Currier, Rachel Kiser, Gerald Rivers, Guy Jackson, Vincent Cook, Jasmynne Shaye, Kapry, Ruthy Otero, and Vincent Mann. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 5, 2 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 12, 2 & 7:30 p.m. Continues through Feb. 12. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-990-2324, www.whitefiretheatre.com.
TROILUS AND CRESSIDA
Courtesy Porters of Helgate
the outset of this "problem play" -- a difficult Shakespearean text to
categorize owing to its historic, tragic and romantic elements -- the
Trojan War has been raging for seven years and the battle over Helen
(Eliza Kiss) finds the Greeks stuck on Trojan soil sans a winning
strategy. As the story builds toward a key standoff between Achilles (an
impressively athletic Matt Calloway) and Hector (a likewise
battle-ready Napolean Tavale), a love story also blooms between Trojan
soldier Troilus (Alex Parker) and the high-born Trojan Cressida (Taylor
Fisher, whose ability to hit the requisite beats and follow the
emotional transitions of her character is admirable), but Cressida's
father has sided with the Greeks, a bad omen for the lovers. Minimalist
staging is the right choice for the small space at the Whitmore-Lindley;
the absence of scenic design puts the focus on the able ensemble.
Charles Pasternak's fight choreography thrills to no end. As director,
Pasternak mines the war story skillfully but never finds the sizzle or
urgency integral to the central love story. Porters of Hellgate at the
Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Feb. 19. brownpapertickets.com/event/216520. (Amy Lyons)
Twentieth Century Adapted by Ken Ludwig. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through March 17. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, 626-355-4318, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.
The Water's Edge Even without its awkwardly implanted parallel to the Oresteia, Theresa Rebeck's family drama is a hollow disappointment. It begins when middle-aged narcissist Richard (Albie Selznick) returns to his wife, Helen (Nicole Farmer), after a 17-year absence. Richard aims to reclaim both his children's love and the property they and their mother inhabit. So clueless is this guy that he brings his current girlfriend along, stoking Helen's already flaming resentments. Rebeck's script is mostly dull, bromidic fare, but it does provide opportunities for the actors to create compelling characters. Unfortunately, Selznick's Richard is a drab and enervated villain, and on opening night Farmer's performance remained hemmed in by her dialogue. The best reason to see the show is Patick Rieger's performance as the couple's psychologically damaged son, Nate -- a portrayal that escalates in the problematic second act from uncertain simmer to riveting boil. Sam Anderson directs. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 10. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-752-7568, www.lankershimartscenter.com.
GO Who's Your Daddy? In this stand-up act with heart, writer-performer Johnny O'Callaghan takes us on a harrowing, emotional roller coaster as he relates the story of his efforts to adopt a 3-year-old Tutsi in fractious, civil war-torn Uganda. Humorous (though more smiles than laughs), brutally honest and contemptuous of the blatant avarice and corruption, O'Callaghan tells his often heartbreakingly true tale with vivid intensity, describing the sights, sounds and smells of this exotic land, into which he stumbles when on a suicidal bent. At an orphanage he likens to a "dog pound," he bonds immediately with a little boy and then recalls a spookily prophetic dream. Convinced he is meant to be the toddler's daddy, O'Callaghan moves heaven and earth and greases many palms to make it happen. Although nicely directed by Tom Ormeny, the stakes aren't as high as they should be throughout. Despite the numerous obstacles, the play moves inexorably toward a happy resolution. In his emotional and well-calibrated performance, O'Callaghan doesn't have to dig deep for tears to flow. He frequently breaks through the fourth wall, at times disconcertingly glaring at the audience, but elicits audience adulation by the end of his horrifying yet ultimately uplifting tale. (Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19. Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank, 818-841-4404, www.thevictorytheatrecenter.org.
SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS
GO casebolt and smith's O(h) As casebolt and smith, the L.A.-based duo of Liz Casebolt and Joel Smith follow e.e. cummings' lead eschewing capital letters, but arrive home armed with a fistful of fine reviews from the premiere of O(h) at New York's Joyce Theater to various festivals. In O(h), they segue easily from dance to commentary to song in an hour-long excursion brimming with humor including a send up of Tina Turner's intro to "Proud Mary" and a primer on modern dance gesture that wryly debunks modern dance taking itself too seriously. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19, $30, $22 seniors & students. The Actors Company, 916-A N. Formosa Ave., Los Angeles, 323-960-7863.
Cracked Open: Let Go and Let Gook Suzanne Whang's solo show. Sun., Feb. 5, 8:30 p.m. Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, 681 Venice Blvd., Venice, 310-822-3006, www.beyondbaroque.org.
GO DREAMS OF THE WASHER KING
is the play that marries a supernatural bent with a nonlinear
narrative: With story lines leaping back and forth in time, adding a
spectral element blurs the line of reality even further, and risks
confusing an audience whose brains are already working overtime.
Although that seemed to be the case on the opening night of Christopher
Wall's West Coast premiere, his gamble almost works. Teenage Ryan (Aaron
Shand), obsessed with catching a trace of his deceased father on tape,
and his emotionally broken bank-teller mother (Ann Hearn) eke out an
existence in a tiny Maine town until the unsettling Wade (Dirk Etchison)
and his daughter (Jennifer Levinson) move in next door. Wall begins
dropping hints as to his master plan in the first scene, tantalizing
bits that hook you in and keep you curious through intermission. The
problem, however, is the second half shies away from the shocking reveal
that closes the first act, and what was an unusual and interesting
buildup falls flat in a series of messy scenes that stop and start
jerkily. Unfortunately, Wall and director Andre Barron didn't consider
the limitations of the theater -- this would play out more gracefully
on-screen. Still, there's promise here, especially with a reworking of
the second act and a more tightly defined identity. Theatre 40, 241 S.
Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through
Feb. 26. (310) 364-0535, theatre40.org. (Rebecca Haithcoat)
Filthy Talk for Troubled Times Director Frederique Michel's intriguing reinvention of this early drama by playwright Neil LaBute is set in a high-end art gallery, where a trio of beautiful women (nude save some cunningly draped hat boxes) are the prime exhibit. Several horny male "art admirers" wander about the exhibits and engage in conversations about "fuckin' those 'bitches' over there," even as chardonnay-wafting cocktail waitresses mull over the men who have boinked and abused them. LaBute's play was originally set in a strip club, and Michel's new setting in an art gallery allows the otherwise unpleasant ramblings to morph into an amusingly ironic commentary about the thin line between aesthetics and sexual desire. Sadly, though, the adaptation adds little luster to the sometimes irritatingly shrill characters, who are acted gamely if stiffly by the cast. LaBute often has been accused of depicting misogynist attitudes in an attempt to critique male behavior, but in this early work, the unpleasant toxicity of his language is so over-the-top and repetitive, it becomes numbing and tedious. (Paul Birchall). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26. City Garage, Track 16 Gallery, Bergamot Station Arts Complex, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, 310-319-9939, citygarage.org.
Finding Fossils Written by Ty DeMartino, directed by Suzanne Hunt. Sundays, 7 p.m.; Wednesdays, Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 25. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-752-7568, www.lankershimartscenter.com.
Hunger: In Bed With Roy Cohn The eponymous and infamous aide to Sen. Joseph McCarthy flails in purgatory in Joan Beber's vaudeville/fantasia. Barry Pearl plays the title role seamlessly as a kind of Costello to Cheryl Davi's Abbott, Dora Cohn, i.e., his mom, to whom he here remains connected at the navel. Amidst the fitfully amusing songs and dance (sleekly choreographed by Kay Cole), historical figures wander through: young Ronald Reagan (a mercilessly gormless impression by David Sessions), Barbara Walters (Liza de Weerd), Cohn's lithe younger self (who slithers in and out of the bed that forms the centerpiece of John Iacovelli's marble-hued set), Cohn's barely secret lover G. David Shine (Tom Galup) and Purgatory's Latina maid, Lizette (the sultry Presciliana Esparolini). Cohn's agony, however, is reserved for the indignantly stoic portrayal of Julius Rosenberg (a striking portrayal of rectitude by Jon Levenson), whom Cohn sent to the electric chair when he was a federal prosecutor. Waiting for judgment, Cohn is a little boy trying to be a big one. That core idea isn't half as interesting as the kaleidoscopic swirl of history, so well performed and cleanly staged by Jules Aaron. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 11. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.
THE INDIANS ARE COMING TO DINNER
playwright Jennifer W. Rowland's new comedy, it's 1984 and boorish San
Francisco cement company CEO Harold Blackburn (Michael Rothhaar), a
Reagan-era alpha male if ever there was one, essentially destroys his
family to pursue his unrealistic dream of being named the next
ambassador to India -- a goal he hopes to achieve by throwing a fancy
dinner to woo a well-placed Indian politician. Boasting some winning
one-liners and artful emotional interactions, Rowland's play teems with
complex themes and ideas centering on Reagan-era entitlement and the
despair of upper-middle-class mediocrity. However, the work would
benefit from another draft or two to cull some sequences of aimless
dialogue and to nuance the sometimes shrill characterizations. Director
Julia Fletcher's character-driven production suffers from occasional
pacing lapses, but Rothhaar's blustering performance as the family's
Jackie Gleason-like King Baby Patriarch is a compelling, tragic turn.
Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
Sun., 3 p.m.; through March 25. (310) 822-8392, pacificresidenttheatre.com. (Paul Birchall)
A Jew Grows in Brooklyn Starring Jake Ehrenreich. Starting Feb. 7, Mondays-Thursdays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 19, 2 & 5 p.m. Continues through Feb. 25, (866) 811-4111, ajewgrowsinbrooklyn.com. American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel-Air, www.uj.edu.
The Lonesome West Written by Martin McDonagh. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 4. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport, Santa Monica, 310-397-3244, www.ruskingrouptheatre.com.
Pentagon Papers Adapted and directed by J-Powers. Starting Feb. 5, Sundays, 3:30 p.m. Continues through March 25. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica, 310-394-9779, www.santamonicaplayhouse.com.
Pick of the Vine Nine one-act plays selected from over 480 submissions. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 18. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro, 310-512-6030, www.littlefishtheatre.org/wp/.
WHAT THE BUTLER SAW
Alan Patrick Kenny's staging of Joe Orton's classic demonstrates how
even accomplished American actors can stumble when trying to pull off
British farce. The play jump-starts around the efforts of a lecherous
psychiatrist (John Walcott) to conceal his attempted seduction of a
pretty job applicant (Amanda Troop) from his battle-ax wife (Melinda
Parrett). Chaos ensues, aggravated further by the arrival of a loony
government official (Geoffrey Wade) bent on uncovering madness and
dissipation in every corner. Written in 1967, when homosexuality in
Britain was still illegal, the play relentlessly skewers psychiatry,
gender roles, inept dysfunctional bureaucrats, prissy good manners and
the whole notion of what constitutes sane and insane in a hypocritical
society. Time has frayed the edges of Orton's once-insurrectionary
lampoon; a bigger problem in this production is the ensemble's failure,
despite individually capable performances, to collectively replicate the
mindset that spurred Orton's outrage. Odyssey Theater Ensemble, 2055
Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (no mat. perf
March 4); also March 4, 7 p.m.; Wed., Feb. 8 & 22, 8 p.m.; Thurs.,
Feb. 2 & 16, March 1 & 8, 8 p.m.; through March 11. (310)
477-2055, odysseytheatre.com. (Deborah Klugman)
WHO'S HUNGRY? Using an assortment of toy cars, miniature trees
and puppets, including Delft figurines, shadow puppets and a 2-foot-high
manipulated Bunraku figure that spews expletives, Dan Froot and Dan
Hurlin's experimental tabletop drama attempts to humanize the
increasingly common experience of homelessness and hunger. Ironically
presented on a long banquet table, five individual stories of Santa
Monica's down-and-outs are ingeniously acted out in miniature, each
loosely sketching a downward trajectory toward destitution and rescue.
These oral histories are sometimes heard as a prerecorded voice-over
from the subject, at other times spoken by one of the four barefoot
dancers gracefully manipulating the props and puppets. The whimsical
show is sparsely accompanied by appropriately quirky music that includes
vaguely derivative melodies, an instance of tuneless singing and simple
percussion played live by a trio of musicians, including composer Amy
Denio. The meandering, occasionally baffling tales offer some insight
but little resolution, and peter out after an hour's presentation.
Highways, 18th Street Arts Center, Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.;
Sat., 5 p.m.; through Feb. 4. whoshungryproject.com. (Pauline Adamek)
Get the Arts Newsletter
Get the latest news and offers from the LA art scene sent directly to your email address. Exclusive events and art related sales you won't hear about anywhere else!