Queer Fests: Justin Love and Brown & Out, Plus All the Latest New Theater Reviews

Queer Fests: Justin Love and Brown & Out, Plus All the Latest New Theater Reviews
Michael Lamont

Casa 0101 and the Latino Equity Alliance present "Coming Out" Day (Thursday, October 11) in Boyle Heights, in association with the theater's Brown & Out Theater festival of short plays.

The ongoing festival focuses on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, questioning and queer Latino/a experience. The evening will kick off with pink carpet arrivals and a pre-show reception at 7 p.m., followed by a performance of the show at 8:00 p.m., concluding with a post-show Q&A with the cast, directors, and writers, and another reception. A portion of the proceeds from this event will benefit the Latino Equality Alliance. Casa 0101 Theater, 2102 First Street, Boyle Heights, casa0101.org.  
Meanwhile, the city's premiere queer stage, The Celebration Theatre, serves up this week's Pick, Justin Love. For this, and all the latest New Theater Reviews, go to the jump. Also in this week's stage feature, Yours Truly weighs in with a comparative look at two plays about the too-hidden talent of black performers in By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, and In a Circle, Everything Is Up.

A memorial service for producer Joan Stein takes place next Monday, October 8 at the Brentwood Theatre, 11301 Wilshire Blvd., West L.A. Stein died of cancer August 3 at the age of 59. RSVP required at joansteinmemorial@gmail.com

NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication October 4, 2012

Upcoming Events

AMERICAN MISANTHROPE Are the calculated flatteries of 17th-century Parisian courtly manners truly analogous to that uniquely American corruption of political culture we call the presidential race? Not if director Ron Milts' brutally Procrustean retrofit of Molière's immortal satire The Misanthrope is any measure. In Milts' interpolation, Alceste becomes Democrat Albert Ceste (the able Michael Loupe), a firebrand liberal with an absurdly off-putting determination to speak the unvarnished truth; Célimène becomes his flighty, Palin-esque Tea Party opponent, Andrea Clemens (Melelani Satsuma); Oronte iss the W-like dimwit Republican Ron Tey (Peter Monro); and Éliante is commonsensical network executive Sarah Elia (the fine Amelia Pawlak). Milts & co. score points with some clever, interstitial campaign-ad video parodies (credited to the director). But rather than illuminating any contemporary partisan absurdities, the transformation of Célimène from the object of Alceste's romantic obsession to his political enemy merely befouls the delicate tuning of Molière's farcical engine and chokes off the laughs along with the insights. Archway Studio/Theatre, 305 S. Hewitt St., dwntwn.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m.; through Oct. 20. (213) 237-9933, archwayla.com. (Bill Raden)

 GO  BACH AT LEIPZIG Risky gamble, trusting a contemporary audience accustomed to being spoon-fed sitcom jokes to engage in an intellectual comedy about classical organists (bor-ing) competing for a prestigious post in Leipzig (where?) in 1722 (snore). Yet playwright Itamar Moses not only does so but also further complicates his play with existential questions, religious sparring, classical-music jargon and references to almost every comedic device ever employed in the history of theater. Oh, and he name-drops Molière (with good reason). Who does this guy think he is?! To be sure, an adjustment period is necessary in director Stephanie Coltrin's production, and the first act drags while that occurs. The punch lines come across as a little cheesy ("What brings you here?" "Stagecoach") until the structure emerges -- cleverly, Act 2 opens with the line, "Structure is only clear in retrospect." The fun really begins then, with the cast, namely David Graham and Don Schlossman, hitting their strides and galloping through the devices of a classic farce (kudos to fight choreographer Patrick Vest). The play ends with a nod to the unseen Bach, master of the complex fugue. The production doesn't reach the lofty height of its inspirations, but its aim is good. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Oct. 27. (213) 237-9933, littlefishtheatre.org. (Rebecca Haithcoat)

GO  BY THE WAY, MEET VERA STARK Lynn Nottage's comedy about black performers in 1930s Hollywood, in its West Coast premiere at the Geffen Playhouse. See Stage feature

 GO  THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI Astra Dance Company has interpreted the twisted, sinister plot and expressionistic style of the 1920s silent horror film classic to produce a gorgeous if disquieting acrobatic ballet. A breathtakingly talented troupe of 17 neoclassical dancers, contortionists and circus artists emote and perform the melodramatic tale of murder and mystery against a projected backdrop of animation and abstract, jagged settings. Best friends Francis (a superb Gaston Askey) and Alan (Olivia Bollfrass) vie for the affections of pretty Jane (Amy Highfill). When the menacing Dr. Caligari (Roger Fojas) comes to their small German town with his traveling carnival, a series of inexplicable murders send the townspeople into a frenzy of panic and mistrust. Nichelle Bane and Chandrae Roettig's sometimes jerky and manic choreography is dynamic, dazzling and expressive. It's well complemented by Regan Remy's marvelous original score, which merges classical instruments such as violin, clarinet and bassoon with the exotic flavor of the saw and udu. Director Sasha Travis has staged her ambitious ballet well, creating vivid sequences and alluring drama. Concetta Marie Verna's beautiful costumes permit fluid movement with period style. Although silent movie-type title cards projected on side screens frequently divert our focus from the stage, the graceful and athletic ballet is engrossing. Astra Dance Company at El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Oct. 5-6, 8 p.m. (818) 508-4200, elportaltheatre.com. (Pauline Adamek)

 GO  COLLECTED STORIES In this powerful production of Donald Margulies' two-person play, the protagonist mistakes her student's geniality and hero worship for friendliness, when it's really just calculation and competitiveness. Acclaimed author and creative-writing professor Ruth (April Lang) tutors promising grad student Lisa (Natalie Sunderland), who arrives wide-eyed with adoration. A friendship develops between the pair and Lisa gets herself hired as Ruth's assistant, while also pumping the elder author's brains for insight and mentorship. Before long, Lisa's first novel is ready to come out -- and the plot bears some disturbing similarities to Ruth's life. Director Terri Hanauer's production unfolds at a leisurely pace, but that doesn't mean the sequences aren't fraught with genuine urgency and a sense of intense emotional need. Margulies' smart writing is rich with subtext, but in addition to the obvious All About Eve parallels, the piece's fascinating arguments about the nature of artistic inspiration and artistic ethics also resonate strongly. The acting work is compelling, and it's fascinating to watch how these two characters evolve and switch places in terms of vulnerability and power. Lang and Sunderland's onstage relationship starts out almost like mother and daughter -- but when Lisa's career takes off and Ruth is left behind, it gradually morphs into something darker and more disturbing. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd, W.L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Oct. 14. (310) 477-2055, odysseytheatre.com/collectedstories. (Paul Birchall)

 GO  POTENTIAL SPACE

Queer Fests: Justin Love and Brown & Out, Plus All the Latest New Theater Reviews
Theatre of NOTE

In Kirsten Vangsness' steamy, intrepid new play, a neurotic gal named Dulcie (Vangsness) yearns for love and a fulfilling sex life but can't seem to make either work. Instead, she inhabits a fractured inner world where a trinity composed of her brain (Lauren Letherer), her heart (Wendi West) and her noisome libido (Jennifer Flack) squabble constantly for her attention. Despite Dulcie's troubles, she refuses to go "boyless," as her gay best friend Andy (David Wilcox) recommends; trapped between rutting and romance, she begins not only to accept abuse but to encourage it. Directed by Bill Voorhees, the show registers as raunchy, reiterative, at times histrionic; it is also honest, funny and, speaking as a woman, easy to relate to. As a performer, Vangsness, who seems to specialize in loopy ladies with a forthright edge, does not disappoint. Flack is also terrific as Dulcie's unruly inner sexpot, proud of her blow-job prowess. But while sex is pivotal to the narrative, it is the character's quest for self-understanding and her denuding display of vulnerability that makes it compelling. The worthy supporting ensemble includes Eric Neil Gutierrez as Dulcie's most accomplished lover and Grace Eboigbe as a devastating rival for another love interest. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.- Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Oct. 27. (323) 856-8611, theatreofnote.com. (Deborah Klugman)

THE RED ROOM

Queer Fests: Justin Love and Brown & Out, Plus All the Latest New Theater Reviews
Rhett Benz

Christopher Knopf's play examines the plight of an old Hollywood family when the tide turns against it. Paterfamilias Edwin (Brad Blaisdell) wanted in his youth to become an actor, a career choice that earned him the sarcasm and contempt of his bullying father (Don Savage). When he loses a hand in a freak accident, Edwin pursues a film producing career instead, becoming a Hollywood icon. Then, after one too many failures, the studio asks for his resignation, blighting the hopes of his wife (Janet Fontaine) and leading him to shift the blame onto his sons, Will (Robert W. Arbogast), David (Chad Coe) and Johnny (Lane Compton, who also plays young Edwin). Edwin seems destined to crush his sons' spirits, as his own father crushed his. Director James J. Mellon elicits fine performances all around, but since the characters consistently evade confrontation, the drama seldom ignites. NoHo Arts Center Ensemble, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Oct. 28. (818) 508-7101, nohoace.com. (Neal Weaver)

PICK OF THE WEEK JUSTIN LOVE

Queer Fests: Justin Love and Brown & Out, Plus All the Latest New Theater Reviews
Michael Lamont

The tiny Celebration Theater can barely contain the energy and talent bursting from every aspect of this world-premiere musical that both blasts and lionizes Hollywood through the tale of an action-movie superstar coming out of the closet. Structurally the piece follows the classic 20th-century Broadway musical form, with the book by David Elzer (who, full disclosure, is a publicist with whom the Weekly works often) and Patricia Cotter skillfully recounting the story of fresh-faced Midwestern newbie Chris (Tyler Ledon) whose apprenticeship with Cruella-like publicist Buck (Alet Taylor) leads him to a secret affair with super-hot star Justin (Adam Huss). Sharp performances by these stars, along with an equally fine ensemble -- every one of whom can really sing and act -- make Michael Matthews' expert direction even stronger. But what makes this truly special is an extremely smart (not just clever) package of music and lyrics by Lori Scarlett and David Manning (beautifully realized by music director Gregory Nabours) that recalls the style of William Finn's Falsettos series of musicals from the 1990s.There is still some trimming and tuning in store for this piece as it grows from its present digs to a larger space, as it is likely to do. Even within the limits of this theater, the multi-use set by Stephen Gifford, with inventive use of projections by Jason H. Thompson, give the production its sense of largeness. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Nov. 18. (323) 957-1884, celebrationtheatre.com (Tom Provenzano)


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