Mona Golabek, in The Pianist of Willesden Lane, the Kennedy Center's Follies and the Latest New Theater Reviews

in The Pianist of Willesden Lane at the Geffen, based on her book, and the Kennedy Center's Follies, now at the Ahmanson after a Broadway transfer. Click here for all the latest New Theater Reviews, or after the jump.

We asked artistic directors from around the region what they would produce had they unlimited resources and the cast of their dreams. See what our theater would look like without such constraints in this week's Stage Feature.

NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication May 17, 2012

 GO  CAMP LOGAN Celeste Bedford Walker's compelling drama is based on an obscure incident from the paleolithic era of American race relations. The script follows a small company of black WWI soldiers (Dorian C. Baucum, Bill Lee Brown, Kaylon Hunt, Dwain A. Perry), bivouacked in Houston, who are enthusiastically awaiting their chance to fight in the Great War and gain some measure of respect. But their raw eagerness soon crashes into an entrenched barrier of prejudice from an alcoholic, redneck officer (Jacob Sidney) and in the city, where threats and assaults by citizens and civil authorities are everyday occurrences. When a horribly bloody incident occurs, it sets off the ensuing rebellion that would come to be known as the Camp Logan Riots of 1917, the largest mutiny in American history. Bedford's script is humorous and detailed, featuring characters that are as animated and sympathetic as they are emotionally accessible. The narrative also is nicely embellished with fascinating period film footage. Rodney Rincon and Phil Buono's rudimentary barracks mock-up is surprisingly effective, and the performances are quite good under Alex Morris' direction. Rounding out the cast is the outstanding Lee Stansberry as Sgt. McKinney. Robey Theater Company, Sparkling City Entertainment and Juvee Productions at the Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St., dwntwn.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 27. (866) 811-4111, (Lovell Estell III)

CHARITY: PART III OF A MEXICAN TRILOGY Matriarch Nana (Ofelia Medina), the central figure in Evalina Fernandez's play about three generations of a Mexican-American family, is 110 years old. Born in the 19th century, she is still going strong in the 21st. Her children are all dead, and she lives with granddaughter Gina (playwright Fernandez) and her family. Gina resents being saddled with the old lady, and she's riddled with grief and guilt over the death of her son Emiliano (Sam Golzari) in Iraq. The play, well-salted with humor and enriched with several songs, has much to recommend it, but director Jose Luis Valenzuela's production is too busy for its own good. It plays itself out on Francois-Pierre Couture and Tesshi Nakagawa's spectacular two-story set. On the upper level is Nana's room, where she is visited by both dead and living relatives. The play is in both English and Spanish; subtitles in both languages are projected on the walls, and there's live musical accompaniment, near-constant visual projections and a droning TV to compete with the dialogue. The show would profit hugely from simplification to relieve sensory overload. Latino Theatre Company at Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring Street, dwntwn.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through June 3. (866) 811-4111, (Neal Weaver)


Mona Golabek, in The Pianist of Willesden Lane, the Kennedy Center's Follies and the Latest New Theater Reviews
Craig Schwartz

In the Kennedy Center's rapturously haunting production of Follies,

directed by Eric Schaeffer, the Stephen Sondheim/James Goldman musical

makes a triumphant transfer from Broadway to the Ahmanson Theatre. At

the final reunion of the Weismann Follies, aging ex-chorus girls

confront the ghosts of their starry-eyed former selves. This ensemble

show overflows with show-stopping star turns by Broadway legends who

have survived good times and bum times and lived to tell the tale: Jayne

Houdyshell stuns with "Broadway Baby," and Elaine Page gives a gristly

performance of "I'm Still Here."

At the heart of the show are two couples -- Buddy and Sally (Danny

Burstein and Victoria Clark), Benjamin and Phyllis (Ron Raines and Jan

Maxwell) -- haunted by the romantic possibilities of their past. The

true revelation of this production is Victoria Clark in the role of

Sally, whose girlish affections for Ben linger after three decades. As

Sally's naive hope to rekindle a relationship with Ben is stripped away,

Clark's character ages vocally and physically, leading to a

heart-wrenching performance of "Losing My Mind."  The fantastical

"Loveland" sequence in Act 2 -- showcasing Gregg Barnes' glittering

array of costumes and Warren Carlyle's playful pastiche choreography --

revivifies a Golden Age of musical theater with nostalgic longing.

Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat.,

2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through June 9. (213)

628-2772, (Sarah Taylor Ellis)


Mona Golabek, in The Pianist of Willesden Lane, the Kennedy Center's Follies and the Latest New Theater Reviews
Courtesy: Janice Allen

Joe Besecker's drama about Tennessee Williams portrays the great writer as a fractured soul, his mature self (Jack Heller) tormented by a blonde, female inner demon (Tamara Braun) that is both sneering and salacious. This promising concept unfortunately plays out as a depthless melodrama in which subtlety takes a backseat to theatrical display. Much like an alluring feline, Braun moves beautifully, but her one-note leering performance in the axiological first scene grates. Heller, who has played Williams before, lends gravitas to the character but can't transcend the pageant of drug and alcohol abuse that's called for in the script. Robert Standley brings defined presence to multiple roles that include a young hustler and Frank Merlo, Williams' longtime lover; Louise Davis scores some of the production's best moments as Williams' half-mad mother, Edwina. The tiny proscenium and unchanging set prove problematic for a story that spans decades and locations. Sal Romeo directs. Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Drive, Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 20. (800) 838-3006, (Deborah Klugman)


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