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Helen Hunt in Our Town, and Return of the Stage Listings . . .

David L M McIntyre as the professor from the state university, and Helen Hunt in "Our Town"
David L M McIntyre as the professor from the state university, and Helen Hunt in "Our Town"
Irish Schneider

Speaking with a disgruntled colleague at Wednesday's opening of David Cromer's much anticipated, intimate staging of Our Town at Santa Monica's Broad Stage, I told him that the production recalled the movie, Vanya on 42nd Street, where actors wander in from the street to a decrepit Broadway theater for a rehearsal of Uncle Vanya (Wallace Shawn). They're all in quasi street clothes, yet as the run-through progresses, you find yourself inhabiting the world of the play in a perfect suspension of disbelief. "But that was Chekhov!" my colleague complained.

But so is Our Town. Chekhov and Wilder were both writing at about the same time from different corners of the world, asking what people would think of their ordinary yet endearing characters in 100 or 1,000 years. And here we are, 100 years later. For reasons to be elaborated on in next week's stage feature, I found the production beautifully rendered and very moving, like a church service in a community hall. Helen Hunt, as the Stage Manager, orchestrated events with wry detachment and an unspoken compassion.

Our Town Helen Hunt stars in David Cromer's staging of Thornton Wilder's

American classic. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 730 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 730

p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Jan. 31. Santa Monica College

Performing Arts Center, Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica,

310-434-3414, www.thebroadstage.com.

Theater Listings are back . You can also find them after the jump . Click here for the latest New Stage Review s, Also, check out an interview Cirque du Soleil costumer Liz Vandal , and a feature on Kathleen Turner portraying muckraking journalist Molly Ivins , at the Geffen Playhouse

THEATER LISTINGS for January 20 -26, 2012

LARGER THEATERS REGION-WIDE

Fela! The music of Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, book by Jim Lewis and Bill T. Jones, music and lyrics by Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, additional lyrics by Jim Lewis, additional music by Aaron Johnson and Jordan McLean. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 p.m. Continues through Jan. 22. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.

Jackie Five-OH! Jackie Hoffman's new solo cabaret. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Jan. 22. Renberg Theatre, 1125 N. McCadden, Los Angeles, 323-860-7300, www.lagaycenter.org.

The L. Ron Hubbard Golden Age Theatre Saturdays, 730 p.m., $10 ($5 online). The Golden Age Theatre, 7051 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-798-1635, www.goldenagetheatre.com.

New Material With Kevin Nealon Tuesdays, 8 p.m., $20. The Laugh Factory, 8001 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-656-1336, www.laughfactory.com.

Lord Make Me Over Musical theater presented by Face II Face Productions. Sat., Jan. 21, 7 p.m. Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. 6th St., San Pedro, 310-548-7672, www.warnergrand.org.

Next Fall L.A. Theatre Works records Geoffrey Nauffts' play, with Jean Smart and original New York cast members Patrick Breen, Patrick Heusinger and Maddie Corman. Fri., Jan. 20, 8 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 21, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 22, 2 & 7 p.m., (310) 827-0889, latw.org. James Bridges Theater, UCLA, 1409 Melnitz Hall, Westwood.

GO NOISES OFF A Noise Within reprises its

popular 2009 comedy production for the third time, this time in its new

Pasadena digs, with Michael Frayn's riotous and beautifully constructed

British farce playing as well as ever. The fantastic two-story set

(designed by Adam Lillibridge) is less of a tight fit thanks to the

roomier venue. Over the course of three acts we, the audience, become

privy to the backstage shenanigans of a touring theater company's

nonsensical farce. As the play progresses from the dress rehearsal in

Act One, to an opening night one month into the tour, to another evening

later in the run, we watch the entire production unravel thanks to

disorganized and disorderly actors, complicated by various fraught

dalliances and jealousies. There are plenty of well-executed pratfalls

and hilarious costume mishaps. Mikael Salazar is excellent as the

incoherent Garry while Emily Kosloski is perfect as the busty, ditzy

blonde Brooke. Everyone's comic timing -- essential for a successful

farce -- is on point. Stick around in the auditorium for both act

changes as the hardy stagehands nimbly reverse and reposition the large

set within the 10-minute intermissions. A Noise Within, 3352 E Foothill

Blvd., Pasadena; Fri., Jan. 6 & 13, 8 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 7, 2 & 8

p.m.; Sun., Jan. 8 & 15, 2 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 14, 8 p.m. 626-356-3100,

anoisewithin.org. (Pauline Adamek) 

Our Town Helen Hunt stars in Thornton Wilder's American classic. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 730 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 730 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Jan. 31. Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center, Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica, 310-434-3414, www.thebroadstage.com.

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. 12. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.

Topdog/Underdog Suzan-Lori Parks' Pulitzer Prize winner about African-American brothers. Tuesdays-Sundays, 7:45 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Jan. 29. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 714-708-5555, www.scr.org.

The Word Begins Written and performed by Steve Connell and Sekou Andrews. Fri., Jan. 20, 8 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 21, 8 p.m. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 714-708-5555, www.scr.org.

SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS

Baby Doll In this first-rate staging of Tennessee Williams' rarely produced drama Baby Doll, Tony Gatto turns in a stellar performance as Archie Lee Meighan, the owner of a broken-down cotton gin in Tiger Tail, Miss., whose luscious 19-year-old bride, Baby Doll (Lulu Brud), refuses to consummate their marriage until she reaches her 20th birthday. Having lost his furniture to a loan company, and desperate for money and his wife's sexual indulgences, Archie burns down the cotton gin of a competitor, Sicilian immigrant Silva Vacarro (Ronnie Marmo), but is soon trapped in an unyielding snare of lust, avarice and revenge. Joel Daavid's direction deftly balances the play's humorous and dour underpinnings (the use of the ensemble as a type of Greek chorus is especially effective), and he draws excellent performances from the cast. Gatto is a platter of rage, redneck buffoonery and arrogance, while Brud's ever-beckoning sensuality is as polished as Marmo's understated menace. Daavid's design of the mutlilevel set slyly evokes rural simplicity and deprivation. Jaques Lynn Colton is a hoot as an addle-brained aunt. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Jan. 22, (323) 960-4420, plays411.com/babydoll. Elephant Stages, Lillian Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, www.laplays.com.

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.

Blood Fruit This autobiographical solo show is the coming-of-age story of a young gay man from an Iraqi-Catholic background. Like many other gay individuals, writer-performer Majd Murad anguished over coming out to his family -- an intense decision given his parents' religious bent and homophobic mindset. Directed by Bethany Kraemer on a bare proscenium, Murad's narrative begins with his childhood, then goes on to tell of his loneliness, his first crush, his first sexual experience, his contracting HIV from a callous partner and its subsequent successful treatment. Murad projects a likable and unassuming persona, ably depicting multiple characters and injecting enough humor and personal charm into his performance to compensate for the material's familiar theme and its overextended (90 minutes) length. (Deborah Klugman). Sat., Jan. 21, 3 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 28, 3 p.m., brownpapertickets.com/event/205399. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-469-9988.

casebolt and smith's O(h) See GoLA. 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.

Cartoon Dump Fourth Monday of every month, 8 p.m., $10. The Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-666-4268, www.steveallentheater.com.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Groundlings Science Fair This 19-sketch offering from the Groundlings is a hit-and-miss affair, though the signature improv segments that accompany the show are consistently funny and well performed. Director Karen Maruyama frequently amps up the physical comedy, but the payoff isn't impressive, such as the overdone "Pan Am Constellation," in which a pair of mustached pilots struggles with severe turbulence, and "Dating Life," where two ladies feverishly try to stuff their rears into size-small jeans. Lazy writing appears in many of the sketches, such as "Renewing our Vows," where Jill Sachoff and Timothy Brennen entertain guests at a knot-tying ceremony with low-voltage gags and dialogue, and "French Woman Don't Get Fat," which is dull and over-long. Performances also are spotty, the exceptions being Scott Beehner and Michael Naughton. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 8 & 10 p.m. Continues through Jan. 28, $19. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-934-9700, www.groundlings.com.

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.; Sun., Jan. 22, 2 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.

Ian MacKinnon's Gay Hist-Orgy! Part 1 & 2 The history of homosexuals by performance artist and activist Ian MacKinnon. Starting Jan. 21, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 24, brownpapertickets.com/event/214106. Moving Arts, 1822 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles, 323-666-3259, www.movingarts.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.

NERVE

Helen Hunt in Our Town, and Return of the Stage Listings . . .
Nancy Lamb

Nancy Lamb

In

Adam Szymkowicz's play, the saying that misery loves company is played

out in a NYC dive bar where Elliot (Adam Silver) and Susan (Anna Rubley)

meet on their first date and eventually connect over their shared

misfortune. Each is tentative and awkward in first date fashion;

however, the comedy that typically ensues from such miscues is

diminished by Elliot's uncharacteristic forwardness and hyperawareness.

Susan also unexpectedly zags in a dark direction when she pulls a Bowie

knife from her purse so that Elliot can carve their initials into the

table. Surprises and heightened realism are common currency in drama; in

fact, without them, the form strays into tedious verisimilitude. But

when such surprises both seem out of character and don't clearly connect

to a deeper subtext, they create confusion and hinder engagement with

the characters. Director Michael Matthews doesn't ameliorate the

situation because he allows the actors to project their awkwardness

without embodying it, and his tight rein on the pacing of an already

short show stifles the breathing room needed to let the comedic moments

land. While the emotions in the piece don't always resonate, Stephen

Gifford's set does, with its surprisingly authentic Wurlitzer jukebox

streaming Cricket S. Myers' fittingly hipster-ish '80s soundscape. El

Centro Theater - Chaplin Stage, 804 N. El Centro Ave., Hlywd.;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 28. 6avenue.org (Mayank Keshaviah)


GO On Holy Ground Religion or politics should never be discussed in polite circles, so they say, but Stephanie Liss' world-premiere play does both, focusing on the Israeli-Palestine conflict as seen through the eyes of three interconnected women. Henrietta Szold (Salome Jens), who proposed a binational state in Palestine and was a co-founder of Hadassah, the Woman's Zionist Organization of America, provides historical perspective in Act 1. In the second act, two mothers, one Jewish (Lisa Richards) and the other a Jihadist (Abbe Rowlins), share a loss. Separated by just a fence, their ideologies stretch the distance between them into an insurmountable length. Though Liss' script needs a good trimming, especially in Act 1, she fleshes out a complicated political situation. Meanwhile, director L. Flint Esquerra's cast takes what could be a dry textbook and gives it a throbbing heart. Jens has the difficult job of sustaining attention while never leaving her chair, and though she seemed at first to be reading lines from the book sitting on her lap, she's talented enough to eventually sweep the audience up. But the real power of the script comes from the story of the two mothers, as Richards and Rowlins both find the cores of their characters. Rowlins sheds light on the surprisingly convincing motivation of a devout Jihadist, and while Liss' script attempts to focus more on a discussion of the maternal instinct, it's far more interesting to consider that religious zealotry trumps all inherent tendencies. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Jan. 22, (800) 838-3006, brownpapertickets.com/event/211058. MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles, www.themettheatre.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.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Feb. 4. Archway Studio/Theatre, 305 S Hewitt St., Los Angeles, 213-237-9933, www.archwayla.com.

WinterFest 2012 Three weeks of staged readings, presented by Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA. Through Jan. 22; Through Jan. 29. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, 323-644-1929, www.atwatervillagetheatre.com.

SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS

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/. 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.

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 Written and performed by Sloan Robinson. 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.

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 Jan. 29. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, 818-745-8527, www.crowncitytheatre.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.

Perilous! Serialized mystery-adventure-comedy, written by Taylor Ashbrook, Elizabeth Dement, Jeff Folschinsky and Tyler Tanner. Fridays, Saturdays, 11 p.m. Continues through Jan. 28. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village, 818-508-3003, www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org.

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. Actors Workout Studio, 4735

Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through

Feb. 12. 818-506-3903. (Amy Nicholson)

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., Jan. 22, 7:30 p.m.; Wed., Jan. 25, 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 29, 7:30 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 & Cressida The Porters of Hellgate stage Shakespeare's tragedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19, brownpapertickets.com/event/216520. Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood.

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

Dreams of the Washer King West Coast premiere of Christopher Wall's dark drama. Starting Jan. 26, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno, Beverly Hills, 310-364-0535, www.theatre40.org.

FILTHY TALK FOR TROUBLED TIMES

Helen Hunt in Our Town, and Return of the Stage Listings . . .
Paul M. Rubenstein

Paul M. Rubenstein

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. City Garage, Bergamot Station, 2525

Michigan Ave., Santa Monica; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; through

Feb. 25. 310-319-9939, citygarage.org. (Paul Birchall)

What the Butler Saw Wednesdays-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.


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