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Sex-Change Comedy (Missing Dick), in the Latest New Theater Reviews, Plus New Works Festivals Bustin' Out

Sex-Change Comedy (Missing Dick), in the Latest New Theater Reviews, Plus New Works Festivals Bustin' Out
Ed Krieger

REDCAT's annual New Original Works Festival opens this weekend with Poor Dog Group's The Murder Ballad; Opera Povera's To Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe in Recognition of Their Desperation; and puppeteer Susan Simpson's Exhibit A. For compete schedule visit redcat.org

Next week, the Ojai Playwrights Conference kicks off with special performance events by Homeboy Industries' Father Greg Boyle and playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis. The festival proper performs Aug. 10-12 with works by Liza Powell O'Brien, Luis Alfaro, Jennifer Haley, Matt Hoverman and Terrence McNally. ojaiplays.org

Click here or after the jump for all the latest New Theater Reviews. Also check out this week's Stage feature on Peter Lefcourt's new comedy, Mutually Assured Destruction, and Jay Jacobson's one-man show with songs, Mental Creatures.


NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication July 26, 2012

ALL YOUR HARD WORK

Sex-Change Comedy (Missing Dick), in the Latest New Theater Reviews, Plus New Works Festivals Bustin' Out
Brimmer Street Theatre Company

Playwright Miles Brandman's hyper-realistic date drama offers little in content but a mighty measure of contemporary romantic tension and characters created through highly literate corrosiveness that brings to mind the best of Theresa Rebeck in its rare ability to equally capture the humor and cruelties of both sexes. Director Michael Matthews pulls Brandman's sharp language exactingly onto the stage, capturing each skirmish of a could-be couple's emotional and psychological warfare. Nimble verbal skills and extraordinary acting commitment from Amy K. Harmon and Michael Grant Terry bring to ghoulish life a pair of former lovers who reconnect a decade after college. Each has an unsavory agenda served alternately by seduction and rejection. Aiding in the naturalism is a perfectly squalid studio apartment designed by Stephen Gifford with seamless lighting by Tim Swiss. Lillian Theater, 1076 N. Lillian Way, Hlywd.; Thurs-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 25. (213) 290-2782, BrimmerStreet.org. (Tom Provenzano)

EVERYTHING IS ENOUGH

Sex-Change Comedy (Missing Dick), in the Latest New Theater Reviews, Plus New Works Festivals Bustin' Out
Ehrin Marlow

Elizabeth Berger has penned a script that's part domestic drama, part romantic comedy, with a dash of psychological thriller, resulting in a muddled end product. Dennis' (Jamison Jones) seemingly comfortable middle-class life is shattered when his hardscrabble sister, Karen (Beth Robbins), comes to live with him, along with her newly adopted daughter, Audrey (Danielle Soibelman), who is unable to talk for reasons that are never really explained. This would have been a halfway decent dramatic arc, but then the narrative goes full-tilt fuddled. Dennis inexplicably and suddenly goes into midlife-crisis mode, pisses off his wife (Yvonne Woods), hits on his boss and her daughter (which gets him fired), does the same with his daughter's friend and generally makes a mess of his life while morphing into a colossal asshole. None of this has any semblance of coherence or flow. Gita Donovan directs. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlwyd.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; through Aug. 12. (323) 882-6912, openfist.org. (Lovell Estell III)

I AM CHRISSIE

Sex-Change Comedy (Missing Dick), in the Latest New Theater Reviews, Plus New Works Festivals Bustin' Out
Ed Krieger

Writer-performer Laurie O'Brien has extensive experience with mental illness, both as a psychologist, who conducted theater workshops for the mentally ill in Colorado, and as an actress: She played the schizophrenic Mary in David Edgar's Mary Barnes at L.A.'s Odyssey Theatre. Her solo drama, skillfully acted and tactfully directed by Tony Abatemarco, deals with her relations with Chrissie, a pugnacious, loquacious schizophrenic she encountered while working in mental institutions in Denver. (Chrissie is actually a composite of several patients.) After repeated encounters with Chrissie, O'Brien feels she "gets" her, though their relations remain intense and spiky. Chrissie hovers on the fringes of O'Brien's workshop sessions, and ultimately invades the class to deliver a passionate rant, which becomes the climax of the show. With mental illness there are no easy answers or simple solutions, and O'Brien wisely keeps her story open-ended. Skylight/Skylab Theatre, 1816 ½ N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz; Sun.-Mon., 7 p.m.; thru July 30. (702) 582-8587, ktctickets.com. (Neal Weaver)

PICK OF THE WEEK: LORCA IN A GREEN DRESS

Sex-Change Comedy (Missing Dick), in the Latest New Theater Reviews, Plus New Works Festivals Bustin' Out
Ed Krieger

During one flashback in Nilo Cruz's play about Spanish poet-playwright Federico Garcia Lorca, Lorca's friend Salvador Dali pronounces, "We have just seduced reality." Even if Cruz's tribute to one of Spain's great creative minds isn't the strongest theatrical work -- it's less

about telling a story than presenting a series of snapshots that, unless you already know Lorca, don't offer much cohesion -- there is a certain magic in hearing the playwright's and Lorca's evocative words float and dance in both the dreamy memories that swirl onstage and disappear with a poof, and the stark purgatory in which the play is set. Before the play

begins, Lorca is murdered by fascists during the Spanish Civil War for being both an intellectual and a presumed homosexual. He finds himself in the afterlife surrounded by less famous, also recently dead people who are there to play aspects of his psyche, re-enact scenes from and usher him out of life (capped by a weird Our Town-like visit to

Earth). Director Jennifer Sage Holmes wisely keeps the set clean and simple, allowing Christopher Davis' original music and the dialogue ("They say at night, your heart takes the shape of a shoe and you walk all the way back to Granada") to paint a backdrop. A couple actors standout (Rajesh Gopie is exuberant and charming as Dali), but language that

seduces you into pondering your own mortality is the real reason to go. Casa 0101 Theater, 2102 E. First St., E.L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; through Aug. 26. (323) 263-7684. (Rebecca Haithcoat)

GO MENTAL CREATURES

Sex-Change Comedy (Missing Dick), in the Latest New Theater Reviews, Plus New Works Festivals Bustin' Out
Kedar Lawrence

Jay Jacobson performs his ruminative if sometimes maudlin one-man show about a trio of characters in various life crises. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through Aug. 18.(323) 960-7738, plays411.com (Steven Leigh Morris) See Stage feature.  

THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR The fact that such a young company as the Porters of Hellsgate is dedicated to staging Shakespeare's works is heartening and laudable. This time around, director Charles Pasternak and company reimagine the Bard's original as a raucous 1930s bar romp to parallel the screwball comedies of the era, a take that is interesting and not overly conceptual, as such adaptations tend to be. While the conception is clever, the execution all but loses the nuance in the writing, as Pasternak's furious pacing rarely leaves space for jokes to land fully. Instead, the attempt at '30s-style patter makes the show feel like Shakespeare in fast-forward, with actors often throttling through their lines like runaway trains. Such velocity combined with zany, over-the-top acting choices unfortunately undermines the rhythm and poetry of the language, glossing over puns and turns of phrase, obfuscating plot and story and confusing a number of audience members. Whitmore Theatre, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; closed. (Mayank Keshaviah)

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM How does one mount a fanciful classic on a tiny stage with a shoestring budget? One way is to compensate for your simple set and technical constraints with colorful costumes and an exotic motif. Directed by Steven Sabel, this show aims to infuse Shakespeare's scenario with Hindu and yogic elements: For example, the fairies practice yoga and the program suggests a parallel between these sprites and Hindu divinities. This conceit, however, is largely window dressing for a traditional dramatic rendering that includes a limber and graceful Annie Freeman (the company's yoga instructor) as a sensual and charismatic Titania. The ensemble generally performs capably, although some of the slapstick needs to be crisper. The production's greatest liability is the less-than-adequate illumination in the forest scenes, probably a fault of limited equipment. The final sequence -- the players' play-within-a-play featuring Eric Castro as the addled Bottom -- is the most entertaining. Archway Studio/Theatre, 305 S. Hewitt St., dwntwn.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Aug. 18. (213) 237-9933, archwayla.com. (Deborah Klugman)

MISSING DICK

Sex-Change Comedy (Missing Dick), in the Latest New Theater Reviews, Plus New Works Festivals Bustin' Out
Gordon Bressack

A sex-change operation is at the center of writer-director Gordon Bressack's comedy. When regular guy Dick becomes blonde bombshell Charlotte (Cat LaCohie), confusion and chaos ensue. Charlotte's pack of goofy dude friends are leftovers from her days as Dick, and they still want to slug beers and chum around, but they also want to hop in the sack with their newly sexy pal. Dan (Jody Barton), Dick's closest confidant, is dating Dick's ex (Mia Eden), and the three of them eventually end up in a sexual triangle. Throw in a few twists in the form of people from Charlotte's very recent past, and we're off to the rather superficial races. Bressack's script is good for a few laughs, but the one-dimensional characters and silly scenarios lose comic steam early on. It's hard to care what happens to a cast of characters who don't resemble actual humans, with problems that exist only as transparent setups to disappointing punch lines. The comedy is broad, the ensemble's acting hamfisted across the board. Magic Mirror Theater (formerly NoHo Stages), 4934 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; through Aug. 4. mirrortheater.com. (Amy Lyons)

MUTUALLY ASSURED DESTRUCTION

Sex-Change Comedy (Missing Dick), in the Latest New Theater Reviews, Plus New Works Festivals Bustin' Out
Ed Krieger

Peter Lefcourt's comedy about marital infidelity. Theatre Planners at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., WLA; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Aug. 26.  (323) 960-5772, plays411.com. (Steven Leigh Morris) See Stage feature

THE PARIS LETTER Whoever said time heals all wounds was most certainly not a dramaturge. Or at least when it comes to playwright Jon Robin Baitz's 2005 Manhattan melodrama, seven years on the shelf is apparently not nearly long enough to effect a cure for what continues to afflict this thoughtful but deeply flawed misfire. Set against the demimonde of New York's gay café society (on Chris Winfield's tasteful if awkward sliding-panel set), the play's fine-grain portrait of fiercely closeted gay investment banker Sandy Sonnenberg (Larry Eisenberg) focuses on the mounting toll of friends and lovers selfishly sacrificed to his 40-year odyssey of self-delusional denial. Baitz is undeniably a writer of elegance and even occasional wit -- Julia Silverman's canny caricature of Sandy's dilettante dowager mother is a standout. But the play's overall aridity, strained plot contrivances and pallid, unlikable characters ultimately defeat the best efforts of even director Jules Aaron's uniformly fine ensemble and his otherwise handsome staging. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Sept. 2. (818) 700-4878, thegrouprep.com. (Bill Raden)


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