Phinneas Kiyomura's discerning family drama, Figure 8 at Theatre of NOTE, is this week's Pick of the Week.
Our critics were in good spirits this week, with good notices for Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's relationship drama Boom, presented by Alive Theatre, in residence at the Long Beach Playhouse; Katori Hall's Hoodoo Love at The Complex/Ruby Theatre; Theatre Movement Bazaar's adaptation of a Chekhov short story, The Treatment, at Theatre @ Boston Court; Lee Tonouchi's drama Three Year Swim Club at East West Players; and Classical Theatre Lab's rendition of Ionesco's tragicomedy Exit the King at Plummer Park's Fiesta Hall. Click here for all the latest New Theater Reviews, or go to the jump.
Late Wednesday, check out this coming week's Stage Features: a review of Ian MacKinnon's salacious one-man Gay Hist-Orgy! Part 1 and 2 at Moving Arts in Silver Lake; and one key to Pacific Resident Theater's kingdom, according to artistic director Marilyn Fox.
NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication March 1, 2012
GO BOOM So a girl (Jo, played by Julie Civiello) responds to an online ad from a guy (Jules, played by Angel Correa) and they meet at his place for their first date. The ad is for a casual encounter rather than a relationship, a fact that Jo reveals when she accosts Jules with the demand of "Sex, now!" The tiny difference between this carnal encounter and any other, however, is the fact that Jules' "place" is his marine biology lab, which he has rigged up as an underground bunker. The other tiny difference is that a comet crashes into the Earth, destroying everyone but Jo and Jules. If you're looking for a play with high stakes, Peter Sinn Nachtrieb has concocted a scenario that's hard to top. He's also concocted a clever third character in Barbara (a wryly hilarious Michelle Holmes), who lives outside the frame of Jo and Jules' existence and is part docent, part deus ex machina and part sound-effects machine. Director Caitlin Sullivan Hart successfully weaves disparate elements into an eventually coherent whole, aided by the incredible energies and bold choices of Correa and Civiello. Capping off the tale is a twist that not only organically connects Barbara to the story but also serves as clever commentary on evolution and theology. Alive Theatre at the Long Beach Playhouse Studio Theatre, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through March 10. (562) 494-1014, lbplayhouse.org. (Mayank Keshaviah)
While providing a rare and interesting glimpse at the behind-the-scenes squabbles and power struggles of a quartet of classical musicians, Damian Lanigan's drama, regrettably, relies too heavily on cliché, in both character and story. There's the supercilious British quartet leader and first violin James (Daniel Gerroll), who is constantly being challenged by his second violin, smiling young American upstart Hal (Peter Larney). Attractive cellist Beth (Elizabeth Schmidt) is desired by both men, while browbeaten viola player Paul (Skip Pipo) meekly tolerates James' abuse and mercilessly cruel jokes. When Beth starts tutoring rich rock star Jonny (Jeffrey Cannata), tensions tied to an important concert mount. Crispin Whittell's staging fluidly shifts from the rehearsal room to the rocker's pad and back, but the director fails to orchestrate a uniform acting level from his troupe; sometimes emotion is mistaken for loud volume. Glaringly absent is a scene where Beth explains her expensive new cello to her colleagues. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; through March 4. (818) 955-8101, falcontheatre.com (Pauline Adamek)
GO EXIT THE KING
Eugene Ionesco's artful tragicomedy plants its narrative tentpole in the shifting sands where surreal absurdity meets the universal truth. King Berenger (Alexander Wells) is dying -- but he refuses to believe it and instead spends his days dallying with his beautiful second wife, Queen Marie (Gina Manziello). Meanwhile, as the kingdom falls to pieces, it's left to pragmatic first wife Queen Marguerite (Ellyn Stern) to break his majesty of his foolish delusions and ready him for the inevitable. Utilizing Neil Armfield and Geoffrey Rush's playful and sophisticated translation, director Michael Matthys' staging gamely transitions from oafish farce, during the scenes in which King Berenger arrogantly deludes himself that he will live forever, to the beautifully elegiac sequences in which Queen Marguerite convinces him otherwise and guides him to the world beyond. This is a production whose early clownishness belies great philosophical wisdom. Wells' immature Berenger is a beautifully rendered realization of a self-absorbed fellow who is forced to go through all the stages of panic and bargaining in about 20 minutes. Stern, in an incredibly complex martinet-cum-savior turn as Bergenger's first wife, offers a towering performance that beautifully conveys the changes when fear of death turns to acceptance. Classical Theatre Lab at Fiesta Hall, 1200 N. Vista St., W. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sun., 7:30 p.m.; through April 1. (323) 960-5961. classicaltheatrelab.org. (Paul Birchall)
PICK OF THE WEEK: FIGURE 8 (THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS PLAYS)
Unlike an ordinary knot, a mathematical knot, such as a figure 8, cannot be untied. Likewise, the troubled souls in Phinneas Kiyomura's discerning drama stay inextricably linked, sometimes by blood, sometimes by chance and always by their fallibly human behavior. Co-directed by Kiyomura and Jerry Kernion, the play ignites around a celebrity musician named E (Alex Elliott-Funk, in some of the evening's best work) as he wrestles with the vituperative goading of two invisible interviewers. The scene blazes to a climax, followed by seven scenes depicting E's family and associates as they engage in adultery, incest and assault, among other sordid pursuits. The most entertaining performance within this grim albeit humor-laced panorama comes from Kirsten Vangsness as a loopy gal who initiates her own porn enterprise after she's fired from her job (her dismissal prompts her to attack and permanently brain-damage her supervisor (Michelle Gardner). Also notable are Trevor H. Olsen as a man wrestling with remorse and Eleanor Van Hest in an eerie portrayal of a coke-addicted schoolmarm displaced from reality. Videographer Bryan Maier's camera records the onstage action throughout, projecting it in real time on either side of the tiny proscenium to bring about a heightened emotional punch. Not every segment is equally strong; several might be intensified with pruning. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri- Sat, 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; Thurs., March 1, 8 p.m.; thru March 24. (323) 856-8611, www.theatreofnote.com (Deborah Klugman)
GO HOODOO LOVE
1930s Memphis blues and African-American traditional folk magic add moody layers to Katori Hall's narrative about an oppressed woman struggling toward uncertain success. Toulou (Andrea Meshel) has escaped cotton picking to chase her dreams of onstage stardom on Beale Street. Ace (Elijah Rock), Toulou's often absentee lover, also wants to make it on the blues scene, but it will take a love spell from resident conjurer Candy Lady (Karen McClain) to curb Ace's wandering urges. Enter Jib (understudy Mark Anthony William), Toulou's Bible-thumping brother, and things go from somewhat down-and-out to horrifically bad for Toulou. The scenery chewing in this production is extensive, but it mostly serves the story. The somewhat uneven musical performances are not helped by onstage mimed guitar playing, but musical director Haskel Joseph saves the day with live guitar strains that please. The standout musical highlight is a duet featuring McClain and Rock, a number that's worth the price of admission. AGST Theatre at The Complex/Ruby Theatre, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; through April 1. (323) 642-7358, www.hoodoolove.eventbrite.com. (Amy Lyons)
If the measure of a Macbeth may be found in its witches, then director Carly D. Weckstein's tantalizing, satanic-scented take on the Bard's blood-soaked tale of vaulting ambition is nothing less than inspired. Among the many brilliant conceits packed into her richly atmospheric and reverse-gender-cast staging, Weckstein weaves her trio of writhing and toothless apparitions (Kelsey Ritter, Elitia Daniels, Katelyn Myer) throughout the action to vividly underscore the diabolical corruption that has turned brave Macbeth (Lindsay LaVanchy) against nature itself. Weckstein's stylish, leather-and-trench-coat costumes and a driving Gothic-metal rock score lend the mise-en-scène the dark, seductive camp of a black mass as performed in a mid-'90s Goth club. In fact, the profusion of breathtaking invention all but crowds out Shakespeare himself. The result is both mesmerizing and maddening, with acting that runs the gamut from a show-stopping Porter (Caitlin Bower) to some of the most tone-deaf line readings heard on any stage. Lyric-Hyperion Theater Cafe, 2106 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Feb. 26. (323) 906-8904, www.illyrianplayers.com. (Bill Raden)
GO THREE YEAR SWIM CLUB
Set on the island of Maui in the 1930s, Lee Tonouchi's drama tells the little-known story of schoolteacher Soichi Sakamoto, who took a group of youngsters from the sugar plantations and forged them into a world-class Olympic swim team. It's one of those feel-good sports tales that tugs at the heart, even though it's somewhat predictable. Blake Kushi does the honors as the determined coach who, without the use of a pool, trained his charges in plantation irrigation ditches. As the aspiring Olympians, Jared Asato, Kelsey Chock, Mapuana Makia and Chris Takemoto-Gentile invest their characters with infectious energy and humor, despite the fact that at times the pidgin English they speak is hard to understand. As the sole female member, Makia brings a convincing edge of attitude and confidence to her role. A large part of the enjoyment of this play is watching the cast "swim," which director-choreographer Keo Woolford has cleverly envisioned as mimicking the rhythm and movements of hula dancing. Adam Fleming's island-inspired set is handsome. East West Players, David Henry Hwang Theater, 120 N. Judge John Aiso St., dwntwn.; Wed.-Sat., 8.p.m.; Sun. 2 p.m.; through March 11. (213) 625-7000, www.eastwestplayers.org. (Lovell Estell III)
GO THE TREATMENT
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The late Martha Graham liked to say that the body does not lie, that movement does not lie. With writer-partner Richard Alger, director-choreographer Tina Kronis and her Theatre Movement Bazaar company have developed Graham's ethos into a strikingly original and expressive form of physical theater whose thrilling lyricism and cool élan have powered an impressive cycle of playfully probing adaptations of Chekhov. The pair's latest entry in the series does not disappoint. This time out, Kronis and Alger use Chekhov's wryly satirical short story "Ward No. 6" as inspiration for a captivating, Brechtian parable of cupidity, solipsism and self-deceptive illusion. After years of pining away for intellectually stimulating company, Dr. Ragin (Mark Doerr), the impotent director of a pestilential provincial hospital, believes he has met his match in Gromov (the fine Mark Skeens), an articulate but hopelessly paranoid psychotic condemned to the institution's infamous lunatic wing, Ward 6. Ragin actually taking an interest in a patient only sets off an ironic chain reaction of his undoing. Alger peppers the play with enough anachronisms and contemporary cultural references to drive home the parallel to our own perilous times, while Kronis stirs the pot with exhilarating dance sequences executed by her precision-perfect ensemble and given added lift by a polished, poetic production design. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through March 25. (626) 683-6883, www.bostoncourt.com. (Bill Raden)