Hosea Nova, Who's Your Daddy? and More New Theater Reviews

Hosea Nova, Who's Your Daddy? and More New Theater Reviews
Luis Reyes

The first clue that director-playwright Luis Reyes' solo-performer portrait of the late U.N. ambassador and U.S. special envoy is less than a hagiography is the cutting irony of its comic-book title. Why Holbrooke (played with fierce self-assurance by co-director Bruno Oliver) failed so miserably as a self-appointed world savior and was ultimately frustrated in his grand aspiration to become secretary of state is its wryly barbed point. With broad strokes and insinuating juxtapositions, Reyes (a former L.A. Weekly theater critic) and Oliver sketch an abrasive, egotistical and blindly ambitious State Department insider whose weakness for moral compromise to advance his political career makes him something of a latter-day Franz von Papen, who was the chancellor of Germany before Hitler. The workshop production is at its best when it playfully parses Holbrooke's own words to expose their Orwellian self-contradictions. With fine-tuning and deeper excavation of its latent ironies, it could be a trenchantly persuasive evening of political theater. ZJU Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Dec. 18. (818) 202- 4120, (Bill Raden)

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. Victory Theatre Center, 3326 Victory Blvd., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; through Dec. 18. (818) 841-4404, (Pauline Adamek)


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