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Radar L.A. Returns Next Year, Plus the Latest New Theater Reviews

Radar L.A. Returns Next Year, Plus the Latest New Theater Reviews
Joel Daavid

Radar L.A., the festival of local and Pacific Rim performance troupes that performed last summer, has secured the funding to return to Los Angeles in September 2013. This was confirmed by Olga Garay, executive director of L.A. City's Department of Cultural Affairs, and Diane Rodriguez, director of New Play Development for Center Theatre Group. The festival in 2011 coincided with the 50th anniversary of national theater support organization Theatre Communications Group, which marked the occasion by holding its annual conference here. That festival featured performances by 14 groups, from Chile's Teatro en el Blanco (Neva), to the Rude Mechs from Austin, Texas (The Method Gun), to local companies such as Poor Dog Group (Brewsie and Willie), Moving Arts (The Car Plays) and L.A. Poverty Department (State of Incarceration). Performing in September, the 2013 Radar L.A. festival is expected to have no overlap with the Hollywood Fringe. The two 14-day festivals ran concurrently in 2011, to many people's annoyance.

Click here for the latest New Theater Reviews, or you can find them after the jump. Also check out this week's Stage Feature on The Government Inspector (Furious Theatre Company and Theatre @ Boston Court) and Poor Dog Group's The Murder Ballad, presented in the first week of REDCAT's three-week New Original Works Festival. That festival continues through Aug. 11.

NEW THEATER REVIEWS, Scheduled for publication August 2, 2012

ALL MY SONS Often staged, Arthur Miller's 1947 tragedy is a modern American classic for good reason: Its powerful message endures. On the surface, All My Sons is a slice of post-WWII, small-town family life. Beneath that homespun layer lurk cold-hearted monsters. Joe Keller (Ronald Quigley) is an old-fashioned patriarch and self-made industrialist whose factory and fortune have prospered thanks to military contracts. His domineering wife, Kate (Caroline Westheimer), refuses to accept the loss of their eldest son, a pilot missing in action. When youngest son Chris (Patrick Cavanaugh) brings home his lost brother's fiancée, Ann (Jacqueline Hickel), dark family secrets are revealed, with devastating results. While Miller's play is almost actor-proof, performances here are unremarkable until an impassioned finale to Act 2, though Leona Britten is good as the venomous and gossipy neighbor. A richly complex drama, All My Sons resonates as a scathing indictment of greed and corruption and all who profit from war. Dreamhouse Theater Company at J.E.T. Studios, 5126 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Sept. 3. thejetstudios.com. (Pauline Adamek)

THE BAT Audience members aren't the only ones groping in the dark during this tortuous tweed-and-pipe murder mystery. Directed by Martin Speer, the three-act marathon has so many dead ends that eventually even the actors stumble over lines like they're bumping into furniture in a dim attic. A wealthy matron (Veronica Cartwright) and her niece (Elizabeth Carlisle) take a summer home in a community terrorized by a cloaked, masked thief known as ... well, three guesses. Before long the Bat's signal -- the bat signal -- is beaming into their living room. Mary Roberts Rinehart (the Yankee Agatha Christie) based the play on her 1908 story "The Circular Staircase," and the embellished script suffers from an utterly pointless master villain and a hasty denouement too unsatisfying for the investment required. The leads carry the uneven cast, with Madison Mason (the wary detective), Stephen Davies (shady doctor) and Carlisle (pouty ingenue) particular standouts. Jeff Rack's elegant set, appointed with a crystal chandelier, complements the tasteful gowns. Ric Zimmerman's understated lighting sets the mood more effectively than the melodramatic music. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 S. Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills; Thurs.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Aug. 26. (310) 364-0535, theatre40.org. (Jenny Lower)
 
 GO  CLOUD 9

Shannon Holt and Adam Haas Hunter
Shannon Holt and Adam Haas Hunter
Illyrian Players

The world is a far different place from 1979, when playwright Caryl Churchill's postmodernist blast at frustrated sexual desire and Western colonialism premiered. But if the play's satirical, gender-switched mash-up of Victorian colonial repression with modern sexual mores no longer carries quite the transgressive bite of former years, it has lost none of its comic or political teeth. Act 1 takes the form of a classic bedroom farce with a circa-1880s family in British colonial Africa hypocritically violating every sacred marital vow and sexual taboo under the old Empire's sun. Act 2 shifts from Pythonesque satire to British neorealism, ages the family 25 years and transports them to a more liberated 1980s London, where they are finally free to pursue their happiness. Director Carly D. Weckstein's accomplished revival forgoes the niceties of a full production design -- period and setting are left to Samantha Kellie's capable and colorful costumes -- while her pitch-perfect ensemble (led by Thaddeus Shafer's hilarious Victorian patriarch Clive, and Jaymie Bellous and a dazzling Katelyn Myer taking turns as Clive's clueless wife, Betty) delivers both the play's riotous burlesque and its potent poignancy with equal aplomb. Illyrian Players at the Flight Theater/The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.- Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Aug. 5. (323) 465-0383, illyrianplayers.com. (Bill Raden)

 GO  FARM BOY Under the fluid direction of David Fofi,this adaptation (by Daniel Buckroyd) of Michael Morpurgo's sequel to his children's novel War Horse gracefully achieves its simple ambitions. Sometime around the 1970s, a young man (Simon Lees) stops over at the Devon farm belonging to his grandfather (Lawrence Pressman) while on his way to college at an Australian university. The boy has grown up loving the old man as much as he loves the land, and before long the two are revisiting family history -- including an update on the ultimate fate of that famous horse -- in what essentially becomes a storytelling duet. A gentle and folksy play about fathers, sons and grandsons, the short script doesn't pack in high drama or aim for deep insights, content with uncomplicated filial bonds, quietly documenting an older way of life in the moments that it fades away. Joel Daavid's tender lighting design artfully guides Aaron Glazer's handsome set through time and place. Lees and Pressman, a veteran character actor who brings a seasoned shading to the role, embody the play's warmth without tipping too far into sentimentality. Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Aug. 26. (800) 838-3006, brownpapertickets.com/event/254780. (Mindy Farabee)

GO THE GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR

Shannon Holt and Adam Haas Hunter
Shannon Holt and Adam Haas Hunter
Ed Krieger

Adapted by Oded Gross from the play by Nikolai Gogol, Stefan Novinsky's tender, farcical staging of Gross' update/political parable isn't perfect but about as close as it comes. Furious Theatre Company and Theatre @ Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Aveenue, Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Aug. 26. (626) 683-6883, bostoncourt.com. (Steven Leigh Morris) See Stage feature.


 GO  MAGNUM OPUS THEATRE PRESENTS: SURF DOGS UNITE As with most strokes of genius, the sheer comic brilliance of Joe Jordan and Vanessa Claire Stewart's tour de force of malicious movie-biz mockery lies in the blinding simplicity of its central question: How bad can bad writing get? For an answer, Stewart assembled a jaw-dropping collection of abysmally clueless, semiliterate spec screenplays during her purgatorial stint in a Hollywood story department. In their now long-running series, Stewart and Jordan put the cache to the test in staged readings by pontifical host Thurston Eberhard Hillsboro-Smythe (Brandon Clark) and Magnum Opus' peerless crew of sardonic, script-skewering clowns. The rest is side-splitting history. This encore remounting of the born-again Christian surfer thriller Surf Dogs Unite once again finds the fornicating agnostic surf bum Dan (the hilarious Michael Lanahan) caught in a tug-of-war for his immortal soul by satanic biker Wrench (a deadpan-perfect Troy Vincent) and Bible-packing beach evangelical Joshua (Eric C. Johnson). Director Clark and the ensemble up the insanity by ceaseless visual punning on the hapless screenwriter's ludicrously purple dialogue ("Once again the sun aborts the night") and cliché-ridden prose while mercilessly pouncing on what proves to be a satirist's goldmine of typos, malapropisms and outrageous continuity blunders. Performs in repertory with Le Phoenix Vert and Star-Crossed Love. Actors Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., W. Hlywd.; Sat., 11 p.m.; through Sept. 15. (323) 380-0649,  (Bill Raden)

GO REDCAT NEW ORIGINAL WORKS FESTIVAL

Jessica Emmanel and Jesse Saler in Poor Dog Group's "The Murder Ballad"
Jessica Emmanel and Jesse Saler in Poor Dog Group's "The Murder Ballad"
Steven Gunther

Continues Thurs.-Sun., 8:30 p.m. through August. 11. at 631 W. Second Street, dwntwn. For a review of Poor Dog Group's The Murder Ballad, presented the opening weekend -- an interpretive dance set to Jelly Roll Morton's sexually explicit 30-minute ballad -- see Stage feature. 

THREE YEAR SWIM CLUB This production is a remounting of Lee Tonouchi's play, which premiered at East West Players back in February and March. It's a feel-good sports tale -- a tad sugary and predictable -- agreeably timed to coincide with the opening of the London Summer Olympic Games, telling the true story of Soichi Sakamoto, a teacher in Maui in the 1930s whose determination and unorthodox training methods transformed a group of youngsters from the island's sugar plantations into a formidable Olympic swim team. Jared Asato, Kelsey Chock, Mapuana Makia and Chris Takemoto-Gentile turn in spirited performances in this reprise of their roles as team members, with Blake Kushi as the hard-driving, charismatic coach Sakamoto. One of the most attractive features of this show is choreographer Keo Woolford's artful use of the mechanics of hula dancing to simulate swimming, while Adam Flemming's wood-and-bamboo set piece is equally striking. Kaliko Kauahi rounds out the cast. East West Players, David Henry Hwang Theater, 120 N. Judge John Aiso St., dwntwn.; Fri.-Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun. 2 p.m.; through Aug. 19. (213) 625-7000, eastwestplayers.org. (Lovell Estell III)

PICK OF THE WEEK: TO QUIET THE QUIET

Radar L.A. Returns Next Year, Plus the Latest New Theater Reviews
Joel Daavid

Joel Daavid

In

an apartment kitchen, a man, Quinn (Michael Marc Friedman), is

questioning a raddled, nervous woman, Kathy (Lisa Richards). He seems

initially to be a defense attorney coaching his client on testimony

about some crime she has committed. As the scene progresses, her

behavior becomes stranger and stranger: She's giddy, forgetful,

flirtatious, argumentative and seductive by turns, but he's oddly

unmoved. In Christy Hall's probing psychological drama To Quiet the

Quiet, nothing is ever quite what it seems. Quinn leaves, and the

woman's former husband, Todd (Stephen Mendillo), arrives. He's uneasy,

reluctant to stay and uncertain why he's been invited. She accuses him

of stealing their daughter. But she's not a reliable witness, and it's

obvious she still loves/needs him. As the mysteries and contradictions

accumulate, it becomes clear that we're inside the mind of this woman,

driven by loneliness and isolation to desperate measures.Director

Barbara Bain leads us subtly but unerringly from clue to clue to the

final unraveling of the mystery -- and she elicits fine performances from

her actors. Richards revels in the complexity of her role, exuberantly

revealing its ever-changing facets. Joel Daavid's set is made up,

appropriately enough, of outsize jigsaw puzzle pieces. --Neal Weaver

Elephant Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 5 p.m.; through Aug. 12. (323) 960-5773, plays411.com/toquiet (Neal Weaver)

WHEN MEN DANCE ... FUSION EXOTICA
Part of Highways' annual "Behold" performance festival, veteran choreographer Saleem's dance tour de force explores notions of male-male attraction within the contexts of different world cultures. The results are an intriguingly mixed multicultural bag. Dancers Gabriel Romero and Justo Leonard, as a pair of Mexican men cruising each other before settling down to a night of romance, passionately capture a fascinating mix of machismo and lust in their crackling pas de deux. Ben Jacobs, in flowing Arabic robes, assays a seductive drag siren -- an Indian Hajira, perhaps? -- while Clarence Leonard, portraying a fierce African tribal sex icon, woos him. In addition to providing the evocative, febrile choreography, Saleem himself performs several belly dance routines. And while he's undeniably a "dancer of a certain age," his maturity adds emotional dimension to his movements. His obvious passion for his art is compelling, if not strictly speaking erotic. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; closed. (310) 315-1459, highwaysperformance.org. (Paul Birchall)



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