Stage Raw: 7 Local Theaters in Danger of Eviction

Stage Raw: 7 Local Theaters in Danger of Eviction

CURRENT STAGE FEATURE ON BENGAL TIGER AND HOLY GHOST

7 LOCAL THEATERS IN DANGER OF EVICTION

An internal memo to the Los Angeles City Council dated April 16, and co-signed by Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry F. Miller and Chief Administrative Officer Miguel A. Santana, recommends a complete overhaul of the city's Non-Profit Lease Subsidy program. This program offers a home for approximately 100 non-profit institutions ranging from adult-care facilities to after-school youth programs to live theaters, subsidized at $1 per year. The memo recommends that many (if not all) of these leaseholders demonstrate their fiscal contributions to the city in terms of, for instance, jobs they provide to homeless or unskilled workers, etc, or have their buildings returned to market-value rents -- the most likely scenario for the majority of these leaseholders.

Here's the most tricky clause in the recommendation for new leases:

"The public benefit to be derived from the services provided by a non-profit organization must be reasonably valued at an amount greater than the current market value of the proposed lease agreement."

This means that the service provided by, say the Odyssey Theatre in West Los Angeles (one of the seven live theaters affected) would have to be valued at greater than $20,000 per month.

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Artistic Director Ron Sossi, who celebrated the Odyssey Theatre's 40th anniversary last night,  said that the alternate option of leasing from the city at the current market rate of $20,000 per month would shutter his theater. (Sossi has used the break on the subsidy to do major upgrades and repairs to the facility, as well as equipping three theaters in the Odyssey Theatre complex with stages, lighting and sound systems.)

Other theaters in the line of fire include L.A. Theatre Works, The Nate Holden Theatre, L.A. Theatre Center, Lankershim Arts Center, Grupo Teatro de SINERGIA and the Frida Kahlo Theatre, and Plaza de la Raza. The matter is expected to come before the full City Council within two weeks. Meanwile a lobbying effort to save these theaters and other cultural institutions is underway by the ever tenacious Arts for L.A., which has also posted all relevant documents  and petitions.

For COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS, press the More tab directly below

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for April 30-May 4, 2010

Our critics are Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III, Rebecca Haithcoat, Martin Hernandez, Mayank Keshaviah, Deborah Klugman, Steven Leigh Morris, Amy Nicholson, Tom Provenzano, Bill Raden, Luis Reyes, Sandra Ross and Neal Weaver. These listings were compiled by Derek Thomas

Productions are sequenced alphabetically in the following cagtegories: Opening This Week, Larger Theaters regionwide, Smaller Theaters in Hollywood, Smaller Theaters in the valleys , Smaller Theaters on the Westside and in beach towns. You can also search for any play by title, using your computer's search engine.

OPENING THIS WEEK

BECOMING BUTCH Vincent James Arcuri's one-man stage show about his childhood in Queens, to his life among queens in West Hollywood. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens May 4; Tues., 8 p.m.; thru May 25. (323) 957-1884.

CANNED HAM Tom Judson performs his auto-biographical solo show. Cavern Club Theater at Casita del Campo, 1920 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; opens April 30; Fri.-Sat., 9 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 16. (323) 969-2530.

CUMBIA DE MI CURAZON In Spanish with English supertitles. Bilingual Foundation of Arts, 421 N. Avenue 19, L.A.; opens April 30; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 23. (323) 225-4044.

Jawbone of an Ass A small-town woman responds to the crises in her life by entering the Pillsbury

BAKE-OFF in this play by Nan Schmid, presented by Mortimer Olive Productions in association with Circle X Theatre Company. The Lillian Theatre, 1078 N. Lillian Way, L.A.; opens April 30; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 22. (323) 962-0046.

HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE Malibu Stage Company presents the story of a woman who learns the rules of the road and life from behind the wheel, written by Paula Vogel. Malibu Stage Company, 29243 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu; opens April 30; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru May 23. (310) 589-1998.

HOW THE OTHER HALF LIVES Alan Ayckbourn's comedy about three couples who get together for two dinner parties. International City Theatre, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; opens April 30; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 23. (562) 436-4610.

JESSE BOY Ruskin Group Theatre presents Robert Mollohan's Southern Gothic tale of one family, trapped by its own tradition. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica; opens April 30; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 5. (310) 397-3244.

THE KING OF THE DESERT CoActive Content presents a Mexican American boy's journey of self-discovery though adulthood and the realization of his dreams, written by Stacey Martino. El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., L.A.; opens May 5; Wed., May 5, 8 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; thru June 11...

MOTHER Mary-Beth Manning's one-woman show about a complex mother/daughter relationship. Elephant Theatre Lab, 1078 Lilian Way, L.A.; opens April 30; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June 12...

THE RAINMAKER The N. Richard Nash romantic comedy following a rural farm family during a drought. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; opens April 30; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru May 30. (626) 256-3809.

SELECTED SHORTS: A CELEBRATION OF THE SHORT STORY Hollywood and Broadway actors read classic and new short fiction about home. Featuring Ed Asner, Leonard Nimoy, Jane Kaczmarek and others. GETTY CENTER, 1200 Getty Center Dr., Brentwood; Sat., May 1, 3 & 7 p.m.; Sun., May 2, 3 p.m.. (310) 440-7300.

SHAHEED Anna Khaja illuminates the lives and historical forces surrounding slain Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Stephanie Feury Studio Theater, 5636 Melrose Ave., L.A.; opens April 30; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 22. (323) 463-7378.

SOUTHLAND THEATRE ARTISTS GOODWILL EVENT One-night event features artists from theater, television and cabaret performing songs they originated in musical productions. The Luckman Theatre, Cal State L.A., 5151 State University Dr., L.A.; Sat., May 1, 7:30 p.m.. (323) 343-6600.

SPOOF AND SATIRE Two one-act comedies by playwright Christopher Durang: The Actor's Nightmare and Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; opens May 1; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 23. (310) 828-7519.

THE SUNSHINE BOYS Neil Simon's comedy about wo aging ex-vaudeville stars who reluctantly re-team for a "History of Comedy" special. Luna Playhouse, 3706 San Fernando Road, Glendale; opens May 2; Sun., 2 p.m.; Sat., 7:30 p.m.; thru May 29. (818) 500-7200.

24 HOUR PLAY FESTIVAL Above the Curve Theatre presents a series of short plays which will be written, rehearsed and performed within a 24-hour period. Benefits Save the Children's Emergency Response in Haiti. Meta Theater, 7801 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sat., May 1, 8 p.m....

UMBRELLA: A POLE PLAY A story combining elements of bordello and Broadway, circus and concert, pole and dialogue. VIPER ROOM, 8852 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; Sun., May 2, 8 p.m.. (310) 962-9784.

A WOMAN'S RITE An exploration into the multifaceted emotional lives of women and their relationships, written by the women of the Lyric Theatre family. Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; opens April 30; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru May 30. (323) 939-9220.

YOUR PUNY WEAPONS CANNOT HURT ME! A collection of six 10-minute plays, by various playwrights. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A.; opens April 30; Fri.-Sat., 11 p.m.; thru May 29. (323) 856-8611.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE

ACTING: THE FIRST SIX LESSONS Adapted and performed by Beau Bridges and Emily Bridges, based on the book by Richard Boleslavsky. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 16. (323) 851-7977.

GO AWAKE AND SING Clifford Odets painted a loving portrait of the Berger family in the darkest days of the Great Depression. Three generations live together in their Bronx apartment. Matriarch Bessie (Deborah Strang) is a feisty, loyal woman who's capable of terrible things if she believes they're in her family's best interests. Her husband, Myron (Joel Swetow), is "a born follower"; her daughter Henny (Molly Leland) is pregnant by a man who has dumped her; and son Ralph (Adam Silver) is in love with a girl he can't afford to marry. But it's the grandfather, Jake (the wonderful Len Lesser), who is the household's soul, and delivers the play's message of hope and desperate optimism: "Take the world in your two hands and make it like new. Go out and fight so life shouldn't be printed on dollar bills." Jake is an old Marxist who loves his Beethoven records and his grandson, Ralph. Director Andrew J. Traister captures the play's potent blend of love, longing and frustration, along with its lyricism and zest for language. The cast includes Daniel Reichert as Moe, the man Henny loves; David Lengel as the sad-sack immigrant she marries; and Adam Blumenfeld as plutocratic Uncle Morty. They are all terrific. (Neal Weaver). A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; Through May 7, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 8, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., May 23, 2 & 7 p.m.. (818) 240-0910.

GO BENGAL TIGER AT THE BAGHDAD ZOO

Stage Raw: 7 Local Theaters in Danger of Eviction

Photo by Craig Schwartz

Rajiv Joseph's comedy presented by Center Theatre Group at the Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave.,

dwntwn.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 &

6:30 p.m.; through May 30. (213) 628-2772. See Stage feature on Wednesday

BUDDY: THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY Written by Alan Janesand Rob Bettinson, choreography by Dana Solimando, musical direction by Darryl Archibald. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru May 2. (562) 944-9801.

NEW REVIEW CHICAGO Though the original 1975

production didn't fare as well as its Tony Award-winning 1996 revival

(which is still running on Broadway), the popularity of this story of

female criminals in Prohibition-era Chicago is a testament to Bob

Fosse's original choreography, and musical-theater stalwarts composer

Jon Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb. Roxie (Michelle T. Williams, formerly

of Destiny's Child) and Velma (Terra C. MacLeod) are arrested for

murder and sent to Cook County Jail, where Matron "Mama" Morton (Carol

Woods) not only shows them how to survive but also serves as promoter

for Velma's vaudeville career. Velma, however, becomes jealous of Roxie

when she is defended by slick-as-oil lawyer Billy Flynn (a charismatic

Brent Barrett) and gains her own notoriety in the press, including

through sympathetic tabloid columnist Mary Sunshine (R. Lowe). The real

victim of all this attention-whoring (besides the dead bodies, of

course) is Roxie's schlubby but lovable husband, Amos (Tom Riis

Farrell). Director Scott Faris and choreographer Gary Chryst re-create

the 1996 revival, but in terms of energy and pizzazz, this iteration

doesn't quite duplicate the work of their Tony Award-winning

predecessors. The show is nonetheless entertaining, with highlights

that include the vocal acrobatics of Woods and Lowe; the impressive

feather dance in "All I Care About"; the ventriloquist act in "We Both

Reached for the Gun," which also showcases Barrett's voice; and

Farrell's undeniable charm and understated humor throughout. MacLeod

shines as Velma, bold in her moves, mannerisms and sultry sensuality.

Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.;

Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun. 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru May 9. (800)

982-2787, broadwayla.org. A Nederlander Production (Mayank Keshaviah)

CRIMES OF THE HEART Beth Henley's Pulitzer Prize winner. Rubicon Theater, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura; Sun., 2 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru May 16. (805) 667-2900.

DEMENTIA Latino Theater Company presents play about a terminal AIDS patient throwing himself a going-away party, written by Evelina Fernandez. Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 30. (213) 489-0994.

DOCTOR CERBERUS Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's late-night horror movie spoof. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Tues.-Sun., 7:45 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 2. (714) 708-5555.

THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES Audience-participation musical for children and their families, music by Phil Orem, book and lyrics by Lloyd J. Schwartz and David Wechter. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Sat., 1 p.m.; thru July 10. (323) 851-7977.

AN EVENING WITH SUTTON FOSTER An intimate concert performance by the Broadway chanteuse. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Through April 30, 8 p.m.. (213) 628-2772.

GO JACQUES BREL IS ALIVE AND WELL AND LIVING IN PARIS When the title of your musical proclaims that Jacques Brel is alive and well, it seems perverse to stage it as his funeral, complete with onstage coffin and open grave. The piece becomes a bit lugubrious, and its darker aspects are overly emphasized. (The original off-Broadway rendition was more frankly presentational, with a wider emotional range.) Still, this production has much to recommend it, including a quartet of fine performers: Jennifer Shelton and Zachary Ford (who also plays a mean accordion) are the younger couple, while Eileen Barnet and Gregory Franklin supply the voices of experience. All four capture the charm, the passionate feeling that suffuses Brel's songs, and the lyricism and driving force of numbers like "If We Only Have Love," "Amsterdam" and the rousing "Carousel." But Brel is essentially a storyteller, and his lyrics (translated by Eric Blau and Mort Shuman) matter, yet here they are often overpowered by the accompaniment. Jon Lawrence Rivera's direction is always professional, though his sometimes over-busy staging (particularly for the men's numbers) can obscure rather than enhance. Musical director Brent Crayon and a four-man ensemble provide stirring instrumental backup, and John H. Binkley designed the handsome, semi-abstract set. The Colony Theatre, 555 North Third St., Burbank; variable schedule. Call theater for information. (818) 558-7000, ext. 15, colonytheatre.org. (Neal Weaver). Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru May 9. (818) 558-7000.

GO THE LIFE AND TIMES OF A. EINSTEIN In a piece that could be just as accurately titled Waiting for Einstein, the legendary scientist's secretary, Ellen Schöenhammer (Kres Mersky, who also wrote the play), keeps at bay a "press corps" waiting for the genius on his birthday. While delivering a steady stream of apologies for his lateness, Ellen buzzes about Einstein's Princeton, N.J., study -- with its hand-carved mahogany accents, floral motifs and ubiquitous shades of brown -- making final preparations for the party. She is at times interrupted by the telephone, on the other end of which is Anna, the incompetent hired help who frustrates the long-serving Ellen. Her description of this frustration is the first of many fingers from the past that poke out of Ellen's psychological space-time continuum. During these interludes she relates how she first came to work for Einstein and his wife, describing life in Weimar Berlin, how the German public received his theories, and even her secret attraction to the man. A veteran of stage and screen, Mersky nails both the Germanic tongue and dry sense of humor, and in weaving her self-admittedly simplistic interpretation of Einstein's theories into her storytelling, she makes us forget that we are waiting for the man himself. Director Paul Gersten keeps Mersky moving about the stage with an industry that lives up to the Germanic stereotype; he also handles time jumps with subtlety. (Mayank Keshaviah). Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 16. (323) 851-7977.

THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS Man-eating-plant musical, book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, music by Alan Menken. Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, Fred Kavli Theater, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 2. (805) 449-2787.

THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES Welcome to the 1958 Springfield High School prom, courtesy playwright Roger Bean. Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 2. (562) 985-7000.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING Shakespeare's comedy, directed by Michael Murray. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; Sat., May 1, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., May 2, 2 & 7 p.m.; Sun., May 16, 2 & 7 p.m.; Through May 21, 8 p.m.. (818) 240-0910.

NEW REVIEW NIGHTMARE ALLEY

Stage Raw: 7 Local Theaters in Danger of Eviction

Photo by Michael Lamont

So

this guy walks into a Carny show. Everyone there is a kind of depressed

because it's, well, the Depression -- not just any Depression but the

Great one. And the performers have landed here after a long slide down

from Vaudeville. And the guy says, hey, you fellas are doing this all

wrong. He spruces things up, has a little fling with little redheaded

number whose act is to electrocute herself for paying customers, and

before you know it, the freak-and-geek show is making money. Therein

lies the premise, and promise, of Jonathan Brielle's new musical. At

the Steve Allen Theater in 2008, a burly guy named Aye Jay told stories

of tricks and cons from that very world in a show called Carny Trash;

those cons were actually more riveting, because of the specificity of

the deceptions: The ticket booth was so much higher than the customers

stood, so they could see how much cash was is in the patron's wallet in

order tag suckers for pickpocketing. The den of thieves. But Brielle

won't leave it there. His interloper, Stan (James Barbour), abandons

the carny show with his redhead, Molly (Sarah Glendening), to start a

new racket as a faith healer. This way, he can fool old ladies into

giving up their homes to his "church." Here, Molly has an ethics crisis

(where none existed before), and the musical spirals into dramatic and

thematic ambiguity. There's an early scene in which the card reader's

husband (Larry Cedar -- wonderful in three roles) dies from alcohol

poisoning, a death for which Stan may or may not have been responsible.

It was an "accident," he pleads to flummoxed Mary. Barbour is so big

and earnest, with sentimental love songs such as "I Surrender" (utter

nonsense, since the larger point is that he doesn't), I don't know if

this is a study of his heart of darkness, or what. The fascinating

themes of the divide between faith and church are handled so

generically as to be stupendously uninvolving. John Arnone's intriguing

set of platforms and curtains places little twinkly lights throughout

the theater, and there are allusions to chicken heads being bitten off

backstage. There's promise in that, at least. Carny Trash's Jay

had a joke about interviewing a geek for that assignment, "You bite off

seven chicken heads a week for all the wine you can handle." The

applicant thought about it for a moment before replying, "So what's the

catch?" That's the kind of edge this musical needs. That, and a clearer

purpose. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Wstwd.; Tues.-Fri., 8

p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; through April 30.

(310) 208-5454. (Steven Leigh Morris)

GO THE PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD In John Millington Synge's 1907 comedy, young drifter Christopher Mahon (Michael Newcomer) wanders into a rural, Irish public house, confessing that he just murdered his father during a brawl between the pair, having knocked him on the head with a loy. The bar-mistress, Pegeen Mike (fiery Lindsay Gould) initially goads this reluctant confession from the exhausted, witless fellow, but as it's met with reverence, and "Christy" becomes a local hero and object of desire among the village girls, he re-tells the story of the murder with growing extravagance and pride. This is all fine, until his father (director Geoff Elliott) shows up with a seething head wound, and Christy tries again to do the job correctly. He's now not only a liar but a murderer in the eyes of the locals. The "great gap between a gallant story and a dirty deed" is the crux of the tale, and its meandering morality is part of what incited its initial audience to riot. Playboy contains underpinnings of tragedy stemming from Christy's earnestness and loneliness, and his betrayal by Pegeen Mike. And for all its perversity and farce, it contains some of the most fetching and lyrical love scenes in contemporary literature. Elliot's staging comes imbued with naturalistic detail (Soojin Lee's mud-stained torn costumes, Stephen Gifford's rustic set with sheaths of hay dangling from the ceiling, streaks of rain sliding down the one window) and an acting style to match. Elliot's pacing is just right, gentle enough to catch the emotion and the beauty of the language, yet brisk and smart enough to serve the comedy. Amidst the lovely performances are Jill Hill's Widow Quinn (who shares the dainty, word-wise qualities of Mance's Countess in Figaro); the eccentric and idiosyncratic William Dennis Hunt's Philly Cullen, and Apollo Dukakis' skeptical Michal James Flaherty. Elliot's biggest misstep is miscasting himself as the edler Mahon, when there are actors in his own production that could obviously capture the requisite anarchic lunacy. Elliott is of a classical mould, and imbues the rusty nail of a character with far too much decorum and elegance, in voice and manner. (Steven Leigh Morris). A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; Through April 30, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 9, 2 & 7 p.m.; Through May 14, 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru May 22. (818) 240-0910.

SOMETHING HAPPENED Being "on the down low," a practice in which a black man in a committed heterosexual relationship covertly engages in homosexual behavior, became familiar territory in the early 2000s. J.L. King's memoir and subsequent Oprah appearance, a juicy New York Times Magazine cover story, and episodes of popular network TV series like NBC's ER all pitched tents on the hot-property subject. Critics quickly followed, decrying the hype. That's why L. Trey Wilson's world-premiere play feels a little late. Although he focuses more on the effects and not the phenomenon of homosexuality in the African-American community, it's unlikely the sensitive, highly educated Deanna and Doug Piper (Mashari Laila Bain and William Christian) wouldn't be Times subscribers, nor would they not read between the lines in their own house. Beyond that, however, the play is overstuffed with unnecessary characters (a superfluous couple), trite dialogue ("Life lessons -- they're everywhere"), and an unsatisfying wrap-up that's also symbolically confused. The script's weaknesses fortunately don't hide the strength of the cast: Fuschia! and Jeorge Watson stand out. Open homophobia in the black community deserves discussion, especially in an era when an African-American president is advocating pro-gay legislation; yet, the phrase "no homo" is quickly tacked on to even the most innocuous of proclamations in hip-hop culture. This attempt just won't be the moderator. Wilson also directs. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Pacific Stages, 2041 Rosecrans Avenue #170, El Segundo; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru May 16. (310) 868-2631.

THE 39 STEPS Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 thriller re-imagined on stage. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru May 16. (213) 628-2772.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS

GO ACCOMPLICE: HOLLYWOOD Part game, part theater, part tour: It all begins with a phone call disclosing a secret meeting location. Aided by clues and mysterious cast members strewn throughout various locations, such as street corners, bars, iconic landmarks and out-of-the-way spots, the audience traverses the city streets, piecing together clues of a meticulously crafted plot. (Steven Leigh Morris). Hollywood Blvd., betwn. Highland & Las Palmas aves., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., www.accomplicetheshow.com...

ACME SATURDAY NIGHT ACME's flagship sketch show, with celebrity guest hosts each week. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sat., 7 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

ACME 2NITE New sketches and old favorites, ACME style. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sat., 9 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

BAD DATES Written by Theresa Rebeck, starring Samara Frame. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 23. (323) 960-5770.

THE BALLAD OF EMMETT TILL Shirley Jo Finney directs a vivacious five-person ensemble in Ifa Bayeza's choreopoem based on the life and death of the 14-year-old black child from Chicago, brutally murdered during a 1955 working vacation in Mississippi, for the "crime" of whistling at a white, female shopkeeper. His funeral, and the open casket demanded by his mother, became a flashpoint for the nascent civil rights movement. Despite the performances' visceral intensity, its lingering, emotionally exploitive depiction of the murder helps boils the history down to a black-and-white sketch of good versus evil. It provokes righteous self-satisfaction more than our introspection. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through April 3. (323) 663-1525. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 30. (323) 663-1525.

BLANK Written by and starring Brian Stanton. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 23. (323) 960-5770.

GO THE BOYS IN THE BAND Harold (Eric Roth), now in his 40s, is aging poorly and self-consciously, and being gay doesn't help. At his Upper East Side apartment, Michael (Matt McConkey) hosts Harold's birthday party in Mart Crowley's 1968 off-Broadway play. Imagine a birthday party with eight gay men, lifted from Edward Albee's template in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, with vicious party games aimed at dismantling the illusions and delusions of the various participants. Harold arrives late, in sunglasses and suit, coiffed and manicured like a cross between a Mafia don and a queen, and Roth portrays him with just the right twinge of imperiousness, slightly fey, spouting witticisms that are supposed to be wise but don't always quite land. In the spaces after their launch and before their plunge, you can see his lips tighten and his eyes stare defiantly into the collapse of who he imagines he should be, at this point in his life, at this party. By play's end, he's been mocked for spending hours in front of the looking glass with a pair of tweezers with which he's been gouging his face in order to vanquish telltale signs of aging. This is a play in which a line such as, "Appearances aren't everything" is met with the retort "says Quasimoto," and "Beauty is skin deep" receives sarcastic chortles from the other characters. This is a world where a skin blemish is a life crisis. Such issues as fidelity, monogamy, alcoholism, drug addiction and innumerable variants of self-loathing manifest themselves in verbal and some physical lashings that are as vicariously entertaining as public executions must have been in eras of yore. Underlying the abundant wit and cynical repartee, blended into a couple of moments of affection, lies the larger metaphysics of mortality, manifested in Harold, on his birthday, with the "present" of a dim-witted prostitute (Dustin Varpness). Director Jason Crain's staging comes well-engineered, almost overcoming the impediments of large ensemble dramas that are supposed to unfold realistically. There's the inevitable awkwardness of characters lingering on the margins with nothing to do or say, while histrionics are unfolding in the middle of the room. But there are some good performances here. McConkey's host, slender Michael, combines fierce intelligence with withering wit. Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 16. (323) 965-9996. (Steven Leigh Morris). Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 16...

BUFFALO HOLE Robert Reichel Jr.'s Gothic saga offers an unlikely blend of Sam Shepard, absurdist black comedy, Grand Guignol and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Hard-drinking ex-Marine Patton Strong (Peter Gannon), who won a Congressional Medal of Honor during Desert Shield, suffered verbal abuse from his father and treats his own sons, Braggert (writer Reichel) and Jessop (Eric Bloom), much the same. He raises dogs for sale -- or for eating, earning animal-loving Braggert's vicious enmity. When Patton wins the lottery, Braggert takes him prisoner, strings him up by his feet, steals his winnings and amputates his ear and some toes. Intending to kill his old man, he summons the scattered family, including sissy Jessop and sister Sara (Maury Morgan) to say farewell. Their 60-year-old mother, Eva (Suzanne Voss), turns up mysteriously pregnant, claiming immaculate conception. If it sometimes seems that Reichel has assembled as many improbable elements as possible, neglecting to shape them into a credible, coherent whole, Zeke Rettman provides impeccable direction while an able cast acts the piece with demented zest on Danny Cistone's cluttered, ramshackle house-trailer set. (Neal Weaver). Arena Stage at Theater of Arts (formerly the Egyptian Arena Theater), 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 1. (323) 960-4443.

THE BOB BENDICK PODCAST Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Mon., 5:15 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

CANNIBALS From the endless material regarding the dreams and disappointments of stardom comes this comedy by veteran TV scribe R.J. Colleary about trying to survive in Hollywood. "I act, therefore, I am," is the motto of the United State of Actresses -- a quartet of 40-something thespians who gather weekly to salve their delicate egos and share stories about dwindling job prospects. Mo (Amy K. Murray) is a plus-size mother of three; Elizabeth (Jackie Debatin) is a half-glam, owner-operator of a school for child actors; Linda (Caryn Richman) is a married woman who can't give up the dream; the mouthy Carole (Dale Dickey) keeps finely tuned on antidepressants. The toxic admixture of personalities is good for laughs but doesn't quite offset the play's lack of action, leading to tedious stretches. A ray of light emerges when a "notable" director (Ray Abruzzo) taps the gals for a documentary, but the project is threatened when he brings his accomplished wife (the stellar Robin Riker) along, and investors insist on the participation of a younger actress (Brittany Ross). The saccharine finale holds no surprises. The cast is uniformly fine under Kathleen Rubin's direction. (Lovell Estell III). Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 23. (323) 960-7745.

DOUG BENSON'S I LOVE MOVIES free. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Tues., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 908-8702.

E.O.: AN HISTORICAL FARCE OF TRULY ELIZABETHAN PROPORTIONS World premiere of Michael Sadler's new comedy. Tre Stage Theatre, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 29, plays411.com/eo...

EVA PERON, ENIGMA OF A DESTINY The story of Evita, a world-premiere play set to music and tango. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 16. (323) 667-0955.

GO EXILES Playwright Carlos Lacamara's drama puts a powerful human face on the Mariel Boat Lift, Fidel Castro's mean joke of 1980, when Cuban-Americans were invited to come to Cuba to fetch their loved ones, to take them to the Land of Opportunity, but were instead subjected to a painful bait-and-switch. Cuban American mechanic Rolando (Alex Fernandez) sails his rickety boat to Cuba, believing that he's going to be bringing his beloved mother to his American home. Instead, the authorities force him to take Rolando's pompous brother-in-law Joaquin (Lacamara), Joaquin's sullen daughter Sadia (Heather Hemmens), and some other extra treats -- a maniac (Khary Payton) and a murderer (Mark Adair-Rios). Midway through the voyage, the boat's motor breaks and tensions flare amongst the passengers. Rolando's teenage son Roli (Ignacio Serricchio) falls for Sadia, while Rolando and his brother-in-law fight over long ago wrongs. Then the murderer makes his move. In David Fofi's emotionally rich, character-driven production the conflicts brew and simmer, aided by the claustrophobic mood provided by John Iocavelli's beautifully rickety boat set. The show's pacing sags occasionally, particularly towards the end, which feels inordinately drawn out -- and the breakdown of the boat seems like a forced plot development to keep the characters from being able to get anywhere. Yet, the the play's emotions crackle, and the piece brims with real fury and regret, whether it's the anger of Fernandez's excellently rigid Rolando, or the snappishness of Hemmens's snide but vulnerable Sadia, forced to abruptly uproot her life. Payton's haunting turn as the maniac, whose lunacy, we discover, springs from years of torture, also stands out. Hayworth Theater in association with Fixed Mark Productions. (Paul Birchall). Hayworth, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 2. (213) 389-9860.

GETTING FRANKIE MARRIED . . . AND AFTERWARDS The setting for Horton Foote's bittersweet comedy is the town of Harrison, Texas, where 43-year-old bachelor Fred Willis (John Lacy) shares a home with his ailing, demanding, control freak of a mother (Judith Scarpone). His painfully ordinary girlfriend of decades, Frankie (Martha Demson), has hung in there with him, much to the consternation of her gossipy friends Isabel (Teresa Willis), Laverne (Laura Richardson) and Constance (Stephanie Erb), who feel that he should marry her. One day, out of the blue, he does just that -- despite a sexual dalliance with gorgeous Helen (Laetitia Leon), who, incidentally, is suing him for breach of promise. The marital bliss, however, is short-lived after both Frankie and Helen reveal that they're each pregnant. Stir in a friend named Carlton (Bjorn Johnson), who may be Fred's half brother, plus a couple of strange plot twists, and things get really fuzzy. Though Foote's writing, true to his form, comes laced with humor and sadness and an atmosphere that inspires gentle reflection, this clearly isn't one of his sharper works, and director Scott Paulin's leisurely pacing makes sitting through the stasis something of an endurance test. The performances are uniformly good, and set designer James Spencer's living room mock-up is stellar. (Lovell Estell III). Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 15. (323) 882-6912.

THE GIFT HORSE See Kay Theatre presents the West Coast premiere of Lydia R. Diamond's drama. Working Stage Theater, 1516 N. Gardner St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Mon., Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 24. (323) 851-2603.

HAMLET, PRINCE OF PUDDLES Presented by Bootleg Theater and l'Enfant Terrible. Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m.; thru May 9. (213) 389-3856.

THE HAPPY HAPPY SHOW April Hava Shenkman hosts this anything-goes comedy cabaret., free. El Cid, 4212 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.. (323) 668-0318.

HARLOW GOLD: EAST "Sexy, witty and gritty" cabaret created by choreographers Dominic Carbone and Tracy Phillips., $10-$25. The Bordello, 901 E. First St., L.A.; Sun., 10 p.m.. (213) 687-3766.

NEW REVIEW GO HOLY GHOST

Stage Raw: 7 Local Theaters in Danger of Eviction

Photo by Darrett Sanders

The ghosts in Jon Tuttle's play  -- in a glorious production at Theatre

of NOTE, directed by Michael Rothhaar, are the German suicides in an

American POW camp in South Carolina near the end of World War II. Among

the issues here is how the Germans are not all Germans, one is Serbian

(a heartbreaking and tender performance by Rick Steadman) and a couple

are Jews who were swept into the German army and have hidden their

identity for all too obvious reasons. The surreal story  is seen through the eyes of a main character, a newcomer to

the scene, a U.S. Army officer named Bergen (Dan Wingard), who

registered as a noncombatant due to his principles of nonviolence. He

also happens to be Jewish, which goes down only a little better in South

Carolina than it might in Nazi-occupied Berlin. And so begins Tuttle's

scintillating mash-up and spinning of stereotypes that form a vicious brand of comedy. Almost

nobody is quite what they seem, or how they've been labeled -- and

Tuttle drives home that point with irresistible humor. The German POWs

are guarded by African Americans (who have their own internal

seethings), some of whom don't quite understand the epithet schwarze

hurled at them. As though this is a competition for who is lowest on

the totem pole.  Acting as public information officer, Bergen tries to

stage a play with the  non-English-speaking Germans -- a play about

Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves. (Irony doesn't come any more

blistering than that.) The Serbian with a perfectly executed,

excruciatingly inept dialect is cast as Honest Abe. Before the big

show, he makes a break for freedom -- with fake beard glued on. The

only

English he knows are the lines from the stupid play, which he uses to

bed some hayseed's daughter (Rebecca Sigl) before showing up in a

redneck bar, chased by the private (Rich PierreLouis) who was supposed

to be guarding him. What ensues is a kind of Huckleberry Finn morality

play, with everything but the morals. The ensemble is as terrific as

the play, with standout performances by Doug Burch, Carl J. Johnson,

and a gloriously patronizing portrayal by Brad C. Light as the German

translator (an S.S. officer in disguise), Light doubles perfectly and metaphorically into the

local sheriff.  Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through May 30. (323) 856-8611.

(Steven Leigh Morris)

GO INFLUENCE The brief, scandal-ridden tenure of Paul Wolfowitz as the director of the World Bank inspired this, Shem Bitterman's third play in his Iraq War trilogy, now having its premiere production. Bitterman turns a sharp, savvy, ferociously satirical eye on the subject of political corruption and lethal infighting in Washington. Young, liberal, idealistic Midwesterner Branden (Ian Lockhart) warily accepts a position at the World Bank, despite the fact that its Director (Alan Rosenberg) is regarded as the architect of the Iraq War. Branden's girlfriend Sally (Kate Siegel), a fanatical liberal, regards the Director as the devil incarnate, but she's co-opted when the Director finds funding for a project dear to her heart: providing micro-funding for economic development in poor countries. Branden soon finds himself caught in a no-win situation between the charming but ruthless Director, and the equally ruthless reformer, Rolf (Christopher Curry), who's seeking to depose him. Heads roll. Director Steve Zuckerman provides an elegant, funny dissection of the dangerous political currents. An original score by Roger Bellon coolly defuses the melodrama, and the accomplished cast deftly underlines the proliferating ironies. Rosenberg shines as the wily but charming Director, and Jeff McLaughlin's handsome set features familiar Washington landmarks. (Neal Weaver). Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 p.m.; thru May 9...

IT'S A MUSICAL WORLD Bob Baker's marionette revue that first opened in 1978. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 10:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru July 11. (213) 250-9995.

KEEP IT CLEAN Comedy Hosted by JC Coccoli., free. 1739 Public House, 1739 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Mon., 9:30 p.m.. (323) 663-1739.

GO L.A. NOIR UNSCRIPTED After years of perfecting their sharply honed craft of improvising parodies of highbrow masters such as Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Stephen Sondheim, Impro Theatre decides to slack off a bit with this less demanding satire of film noir. A lot of wordy, mixed metaphors, some cheesy suspense music, a few light gobos representing the shadows of Venetian blinds and voilá: Sam Spade and gang of hard-boiled cynics are ready to roll. Well the gambit worked, the easy clichés and furtive looks of the genre flow out of these improvisers so fast and with such surety that they barely have time to listen to each other before letting the next hilarious banality fly. Actually this opening night the folks did get a bit sloppy in their listening -- especially to names -- but their caricatures and situations were so fun that no one was keeping track of improv rules. Company artistic director Dan O'Connor is in his element as the bitter detective, Edi Patterson looks perfectly askance as the sardonic beauty, and Lisa Fredrickson is delightful as an over-the-hill movie star; you may never see them in these specific characters, but you will see them at their comic best. (Tom Provenzano). Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June 13, plays411.com/lanoirunscripted. (323) 401-9793.

NEW REVIEW GO LANGSTON AND NICOLAS

Stage Raw: 7 Local Theaters in Danger of Eviction

Photo by Carlos San Miguel

It

was 1930 When Langston Hughes met Cuba's Poet Laureate-to-be Nicolas

Guillen, and the two young writers -- both born with the turn of that

century -- were burning with ambition and the awareness that their

mulatto skin was their fuel. Though Harlem's darling and a martyr's son

shared the same color and considered themselves soul mates, over the

next 37 years, different pressures splintered their brotherhood during

the Spanish Revolution and proved an unbridgeable gulf during the '60s,

when Hughes was persecuted in McCarthy's courtroom and Guillen was

celebrated in Castro's revolution. At stake is the power of poetry --

and the duty of the poet to back up his words. Bernardo Solano and

Nancy Cheryll Davis' lyrical, decades-spanning play is one-part plot,

one-part playtime, with frequent dips into dance, music and recitation.

The enthusiastic 17-person ensemble fills the stage, as charismatic

leads Justin Alston and Chris Rivas, and later the stately Brian Evert

Chandler and Armando Ortega, hit the big points on the time line.

Though it's plenty smart, the political charge is dissipated by

intimations that the artists were more then friends -- or at least

hoped to be. It's a pointless distraction, albeit one that comes with

Ana Maria Lagasca and Maggie Palomo's charming turns as Guillen's

jealous wife. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through May 2. (323) 465-4446. (Amy

Nicholson)

GO LASCIVIOUS SOMETHING "Things often burst," intones a radio newscaster in the premiere of playwright Sheila Callaghan's simmering symbolist melodrama. That line could refer to the dream of a more equitable, progressive society that exploded with the 1980 presidential election of Ronald Reagan, the play's historical backdrop. It could represent one of the bottles of new wine in the cellars of former activist-turned-winemaker August (Silas Weir Mitchell). Or it could hint at the decadent, Dionysian fantasy August is living out with his sensual young Greek wife, Daphne (the fine Olivia Henry), on their isolated Mediterranean-island retreat. That his solipsistic existence is built on the somewhat shaky foundation of a carefully buried past is suggested both by the cache of discarded wine bottles revealed just beneath the surface of designer Sibyl Wickersheimer's cutaway hilltop set and in the ease with which August's fragile complacency is shattered by the appearance of ex-compatriot/true love Liza (a feverish Alina Phelan), who is intent on rekindling their former passion. Callaghan, whose previous work might be described as post-feminist punk incursions into the poetic turf of early Sam Shepard, here employs a more linear narrative line to push her personal-is-political agenda. Mitchell delivers a forceful performance as an erstwhile idealist wrenched from his refuge of illusions by a crushing self-knowledge. But the real fireworks are in the two women's predatory tug o' war that plays like a Western showdown. Director Paul Willis expertly torques the proceedings to their denouement, while Tom Ontiveros' subtle lights and John Zalewski's rumbling sound effectively accent Callaghan's incisive language. (Bill Raden). [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 1. (323) 461-3673.

LENNY BRUCE IS BACK (AND BOY IS HE PISSED) Ronnie Marmo is the comedy legend. Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru May 16. (323) 467-6688.

GO LIFE COULD BE A DREAM This affectionate doo-wop jukebox musical by writer-director Roger Bean (The Marvelous Wonderettes), with clever choreography by Lee Martino, handsome set by Tom Buderwitz, and spectacular lighting by Luke Moyer, is designed to incorporate hit songs of the 1960s, ranging from the goofy "Sh Boom" and "Rama Lama Ding Dong" to anthems like "Earth Angel," "Unchained Melody," "The Great Pretender," and "The Glory of Love." In small-town Springfield, the local radio station is sponsoring a rock-and-roll contest, and go-getter Denny (Daniel Tatar) is convinced he can win and become a star. He enlists his klutzy, nerdish, endearing friend Eugene (Jim Holdridge) and church-choir singer Wally (Ryan Castellino) to join him. Needing a sponsor to provide the $50 entrance fee for the contest, they apply to the proprietor of the local auto chain. He sends his top mechanic, handsome, hunky Skip (Doug Carpenter), and his pretty daughter Lois (Jessica Keenan Wynn), to audition the guys, and by the end they're incorporated in the new group, Denny and the Dreamers. This is pure fluff, and the terrific ensemble makes every note count in this rousing good-time musical. (Neal Weaver). Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 30. (323) 960-4412.

GO LOOKING FOR TROUBLE These five clever one-acts are stylishly directed by Kerrie Kean: "Resin," by Brian Lennon, the most substantial work, is a Strindbergian tale of longtime gay lovers (Carlo Serna and Brett Holland) who are at war because each is determined to impose his own definition on their relationship. In "Satiety," by Lennon and Tom Martin, a garrulous young man (Danny Junod) encounters a loony, possibly homicidal young woman (Jessica Wright) in an airport restaurant. Alan Ball's "The M Word" features Wright and Steve Rifkin as lovers who are such control freaks that even their courtship must be conducted via scheduled PowerPoint presentations. Simone Cook's sweetly comic "Love in War" presents a young couple (Cook and Keith Robinson) whose relationship is complicated by the birth of their child. And in Lennon's "Ruth," brothers Ian (Rifkin) and Jason (Junod) are staying in a bed-and-breakfast in Ireland, presided over by proprietress Ruth (Angelina Leaf), but Jason is so arrogant, opinionated and meanly argumentative that all who know him are driven to thoughts of homicide. The plays aren't all of equal merit, but all are entertaining, the casts are versatile and engaging, and the uncredited minimalist sets are elegantly appointed. (Neal Weaver). Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 2, whitebuffalotheatreco.com/reservations. (818) 925-4021.

THE LOST TOMB OF KING SUNDAY All-new sketch and improv, directed by Karen Maruyama. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 934-9700.

NEW REVIEW

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY Actors Co-op dusts off the still-kicky Philip

Barry script, on which the famous 1940 Katharine Hepburn/Cary

Grant/Jimmy Stewart film vehicle was based, to close its "American

Classic" series. Feisty socialite Tracy Lord (the stunning Tara

Battani) is set on a second marriage, to the newly monied George

Kittredge (Daniel J. Roberts), but the nuptials are threatened by both

the reappearance of her old-monied, ex-husband (Marcos Esteves) and the

arrival of a no-monied tabloid reporter (Stephen Van Dorn). There are

heaps of good performances here under Douglas Clayton's direction; and

Alison Freeman does double duty as Dinah Lord, Tracy's tomboy of a

little sister, while also serving as the production's dialect coach.

Nice details here: Gary Clemmer's (Sandy Lord) blasé inflections are

even funnier when fueled by coffee; Esteves' droll flippancy is as

carefree as a trust-fund baby's spending habit. Yet this is the

sparkling Battani's show, and she runs away with it. Considering Barry

wrote the play specifically for Hepburn, that's no small task. Battani

snaps and crackles and pops even when the show's pace gets soggy:

There's a tendency to act between the lines instead of on the lines,

which just doesn't sit well with the play's crackerjack dialogue. But

with a few more performances to grease its engine, this production

could clip along jauntily. Actors Co-op, 1760 N. Gower St., Hlywd.;

Fri.-Sat, 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; through May 30. (323) 462-8460, ext.

300 (Rebecca Haithcoat)

GO POINT BREAK LIVE! Jaime Keeling's merciless skewering of the 1991 hyper-action flick starring Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey is loaded with laughs, as well as surprises, like picking an audience member to play Reeves' role of Special Agent Johnny Utah. It's damn good fun, cleverly staged by directors Eve Hars, Thomas Blake and George Spielvogel. (LE3). Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8:30 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.. (866) 811-4111.

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE! STRIKES HOLLYWOOD Hollywood Fight Club Theater, 6767 W. Sunset Blvd., No. 6, L.A.; Mon., Wed., 8 p.m.; thru May 19. (323) 465-0800.

GO SEE WHAT I WANNA SEE Michael John LaChiusa's dynamic 2005 musical, based on short stories by Rynosuke Akutagawa, examines the nature of truth. The title refers to our proclivity for seeing only what we want to see -- and failing to report it honestly. The piece consists of four scenes. Two, set in medieval Japan, deal with the tormented relationship between two lovers, played by Lesli Margherita and Doug Carpenter. The third, "R Shomon," is set on the night of the New York premiere of Akira Kurosawa's classic film Rashomon and retells its tale in a modern setting. A brash, handsome Thief (Carpenter) sets out to seduce the brassy, sexy Wife (Margherita) away from her Husband (Perry Ojeda). By morning, the Husband is dead, and the three participants deliver wildly conflicting accounts of what happened. The dead Husband's story is told via a Medium (Suzan Solomon). A shifty, unreliable passerby (Jason Graae) provides a fourth version. The fourth scene, "Glory Day," gives Graae a chance to shine but seems to belong to a different play. LaChiusa's stirring score mingles jazz with Japanese inflections. Director Daniel Henning delivers a taut, sexy production, with impeccable music direction by David O, and all five actors provide passionate conviction. The Blank Theatre Company, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., thru May 23. (323) 661-9827, TheBlank.com. The Blank Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 23. (323) 661-9827.

GO SICK "It was an angry poop," exclaims Pamela (Vonessa Martin) to her husband, David (Ramón de Ocampo). She and their 10-year old son, Michael (an adorable Quinton Lopez), wait out the barrage of f-bombs from Gary (Johnny Giacalone), Pamela's drunk brother who is cursing out his wife, Carla (Diarra Kilpatrick), because she threw him out of the house. Pamela and David agree to take in Gary, and in the ensuing intertwined episodes over a period of months (including one unforgettable mac 'n' cheese and marijuana scene between Gary and Michael), we are exposed to the maladies that afflict these characters -- from Pamela's hypochondria and Gary's intoxication to David's libidinous yearning and Carla's cocaine cravings. Even Michael's secretly sexual pediatrician, Dr. Brown (Brendan O'Malley), and Carla's donut-downing, Jesus-loving 12-step buddy, Jeannie (Anita Dashiell), can't shake their dis-ease, until Michael, the anchor in this sea of sickness, gets some bad news of his own. The two-character scenes that dominate the piece showcase Erik Patterson's edgy and hilarious play, and Diane Rodriguez's muscular direction energizes its episodic nature, cleverly turning even the transitions into opportunities for storytelling, such as employing an onstage waiting room for offstage characters. Sandra Burns' flexible, minimalist set (with its wonderful robin-egg blue floor), appropriately illuminated by Adam Blumenthal's harsh hospital fluorescence, provides the perfect backdrop for a talented cast that is solid across the board and keeps us laughing amidst the pain. (Mayank Keshaviah). Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 16. (213) 489-0994.

GO SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM Stephen Sondheim has graced the musical theater landscape with wry urbanity for more than 50 years. This 1976 revue of the composer and lyricist's work will delight devotees and features songs from a vast cross section of his work, some familiar and some obscure, all rendered in fine fashion. Brian Shipper has designed an understated set consisting of a large, framed black-and-white photo of a Broadway venue, flanked by bar stools and two panels displaying a collage of smaller pictures of the Great White Way. Coupled with this small venue's intimacy, it creates a cabaret-style atmosphere that accents many of the songs' delicacies and of the composer's devilishly witty lyrics. Director Dane Whitlock has assembled a splendid quintet of performers (Jenny Ashman, Jennifer Blake, Joe Donohoe, Morgan Duke, Nick Sarando), who sing and dance their way through 30 of Sondheim's songs without one dropped note, sometimes prefacing the selections with interesting historical information about the productions. Also featured is music by Leonard Bernstein, Mary Rodgers, Richard Rodgers and Julie Styne, all of whom Sondheim collaborated with on many shows. (The songs are drawn from West Side Story, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, Gypsy, Company, Sweeney Todd and others, as well as lesser-known productions like The Seven Percent Solution and Evening Primrose. Musical Director Richard Berent provides stellar accompaniment on the piano. (Lovell Estell III). The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., May 2, 2 & 7 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 16. (323) 525-0661.

SIT 'N' SPIN Storytelling by Jill Soloway, Maggie Rowe, Jaclyn Lafer and assorted guests of varying hilarity; www.sitnspin.org., free. COMEDY CENTRAL STAGE, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Every other Thursday, 8 p.m., THis week (March 18): Eddie Pepitone, Marc Evan Jackson, David Chrisman, Melinda Hill, Jane Brucker and a special musical guest.. (323) 960-5519.

SURVIVAL EXERCISE In Don Ponturo's new play Mason (Mark Sande) is a corporate exec too expensive to be kept around. Now that he's been unceremoniously dumped, can he drag his younger colleagues with him to a new enterprise? Is that really betrayal of a system that has betrayed him, and will inevitably betray his survivors? Or is betrayal now the expectation, and therefore not betrayal, according to a much-revised social contract? Keep in mind, the project worked on by the quartet is a "talking house" -- which Mason thinks is so lame an idea, he presumes it's a corporate-engineered setup, and is trying to fob off the sales presentation of this concept onto neurotic, young Andrew (Michael Sweeney), who knows perfectly well what's going down, and is himself trying to wheedle out of the pitch that's supposed to begin in mere moments. The "talking house" is a computerized in-home instruction system based, I think, on some kind of GPS technology, though the details are deliberately muddy, because they're not really the play's point, which is the lack of details, the lack of guidance, the lack of rules, the lack of having any sense of bearing on what one is supposed to do in the unspecified corporation, what the rules are, and what the consequences are for obeying or disobeying them. The only consistent aspect of their lives is jargon. In other words, it's purgatory, and Ponturo's play has some striking resemblances to Sartre's No Exit. In some ways, it's better, because it doesn't bog down in cumbersome psychology. It's all about souls struggling to make sense of a reality that can't be known. The remaining souls include Sharon (Cheryl Bricker) -- aging and gunning to replace Mason; and young Susan (Michelle Murphy). Director Duane Daniels' set consists of four steel chairs; the sexual alliances and betrayals unfold in a conference room and a meeting room in a hotel. Daniels stages a raw production that's a bit dull around the edges, but by Act 2, as the realization sinks in that we're really in no-man's-land, the cleverness of the concept and the scope of the metaphysics provide their own kind of heat, like the effect of a blanket that slowly enshrouds the room. (Steven Leigh Morris). Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru May 2, plays411.com/survival. (323) 960-7776.

NEW REVIEW GO TEMPODYSSEY

Stage Raw: 7 Local Theaters in Danger of Eviction

Photo courtesy of NeedTheater

Dan

Dietz's absurdist comedy attempts to be both a coming-of-age story and

a zany satire. The two intentions don't always mesh, but the piece is

clever, provocative and great fun to watch. In rural Georgia, young

Genny (Devin Sidell) is recruited to work as a chicken choker in her

family's poultry business. The job preys on her mind, particularly when

she discovers that all those she likes/loves come to grief. Convinced

that she is a danger to anyone close to her, she flees to Seattle,

where she becomes an office temp because it offers safe isolation. She

goes to work for the bizarre Ithaca TechnoSolutions, a bomb

manufacturer, and a company so impersonal that all temps are called

either Jane or Jim. She's befriended by the current Jim (Liam

Springthorp), who believes that only temping -- and a stolen executive

key card -- offer real freedom and independence. He introduces her to

the Jane's Revenge, a lethal bomb he's stolen from the lab and secreted

in the subterranean file room. The loony tale is enlivened by Emily

Weisberg's slick direction, and wonderfully engaging performances by

Sidell and Springthorp, with solid support from Melli Vytlacil, John

Schumacher as Genny's father, and Ted Jonas as a mad scientist.

Art/Works Theatre, 6567 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.,

Sun., 5 p.m., through May 23. Produced by NeedTheater. (323) 795-2215, http://needtheater.org (Neal Weaver)

T.F.N.: TILTED FRAME NETWORK Live improv show simultaneously broadcast via the Internet. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru May 13. (800) 838-3006.

3RD DEGREE BURN Sketch comedy, courtesy Write Act Repertory. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.; Sun., May 2, 7 p.m., www.writeactrep.org. (323) 469-3113.

THE TOMORROW SHOW Late-night variety show created by Craig Anton, Ron Lynch and Brendon Small. Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Sat., midnight. (323) 960-7785.

TWO WRONGS Scott Caan's love story set in a therapist's office. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru May 9. (323) 960-1057.

NEW REVIEW GO THE WOMEN OF BREWSTER PLACE

Stage Raw: 7 Local Theaters in Danger of Eviction

Photo by David Elzer

In

its many incarnations, Gloria Naylor's episodic novel about struggle

and triumph among a disparate group of African-American women in a

dilapidated urban project anywhere in the country, circa 1975, offers

moving, character-driven drama, comedy and social commentary. Tim

Acito's musical adaptation captures much of Naylor's storytelling

brilliance through his series of mostly solo songs. These explore the

women's individual lives in a structure that resembles Studs Terkel's 

musical, Working. The stories ultimately meet, as the women turn to one

another both in anger and for support. Acito eschews the temptation to

pigeonhole the music into 1975 black genres, instead allowing such

rhythms to infuse his more classical 20th-century musical-theater

styles. The result is a stirring hybrid of emotionally charged and

simply fun songs that give the extraordinary cast of singer-actors

exciting material to perform. Musical director Gregory Nabours works

expertly with the strong cast, as he does with his skilled musicians,

to create a production of immense scale in this tiny venue. Scenic

designer Kurt Boetcher offers just enough set to suggest the slum

conditions but stays out of the way of the actorsm and it's all nicely

supported by Naila Aladdin Sanders' delightful costume design.

Celebration Theater, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., W.Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat.,

8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through June 6. (323) 957-1884. (Tom Provenzano)

ZOMBIENCE An Improvised Zombie Musical Directed by Patrick Bristow and Jayne Entwistle. Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru June 10...

WHAT'S UP, TIGER LILY? Maria Bamford and Melinda Hill bring excellent standups every week -- really, like Blaine Capatch, Patton Oswalt, Matt Besser -- you get the idea., free. Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill, 6122 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Mon., 8 p.m.. (323) 466-9917.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS

BIZZZY! Rolland Jacks' 1970s musical nostalgia. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru May 16. (818) 990-2324.

NEW REVIEW GO COPENHAGEN

Stage Raw: 7 Local Theaters in Danger of Eviction

Photo courtesy of The Production Company

Though

playwright Michael Frayn's virtues as a historian have been hotly

debated in the decade since his speculative historical whodunit played

on Broadway, no one can deny his instincts as a crack storyteller.

After all, dramatic stakes don't come higher than moral responsibility

for the development of the atomic bomb. Frayn's thesis is that the

Allies' mistaken belief that the Nazis were actively engaged in a bomb

program -- a conviction that culminated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki --

can be traced to a fateful 1941 meeting in occupied Copenhagen between

German physicist Werner Heisenberg (Skip Pipo), author of the

uncertainty principle and head of the Nazi uranium program, and his

former mentor, Dutch theoretical physicist Niels Bohr (David Ross

Paterson), the father of quantum mechanics and contributor to the

Manhattan Project. The circumstances of that meeting, and the

conflicting memories of exactly what was said or was understood by the

two principals, are argued and reenacted from the perspective of some

otherworldly realm. Bohr's wife, Margrethe (Sarah Lilly), who was

present but out of earshot of the disputed conversation, serves as a

kind of prosecuting catalyst to the action. The good news is that the

intimacy of director August Viverito's pared parlor staging (Viverito

is also credited for production design) does away with the ostentatious

redundancy of the Broadway production's grand tribunal set; this allows

the play's human dimensions -- and riveting, nuanced performances by a

terrific ensemble -- to take center stage. Chandler Studio, 12443

Chandler Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.;

through May 29. (800) 838-3006. A Production Company production (Bill

Raden)

GO DIRTY POOH How does Zombie Joe's Underground make A.A. Milne's short story "In Which Pooh Goes Visiting and Gets Into a Tight Place" NSFW? When Winnie the Pooh (John Byford) gets stuck in Rabbit's (Catherine Weiss) hole, ZJU doesn't mean 'burrow.' That's the capper of four radically reimagined tales from Pooh Corner -- or should I say, the Pooh Corner confessions. Writer Adam Neubauer and director Miss Amanda Marquardt have set a new high -- or low -- for fractured fairy tales: Christopher Robin (Lisa Younger) is a drunk, Tigger (Devavani Conroy) a sex fiend, Eeyore (Neubauer) a guyliner addict, and Piglet (Jonica Patella) is a pint-sized, tits-mad, manic masturbator who sticks a balloon of coke up her ass. As for Pooh, he's so devoted to licking every last drop of honey from his beloved hunny pot (charming silent comedienne Jaclyn Ngan), I blushed harder than a 12-year-old watching a sex scene with his grandma. But Dirty Pooh doesn't flinch. The cast and creative team are so do-or-die committed that you'd swear everyone in Pooh Corner had balls of steel -- if their spandex outfits hadn't already given you a good look. Go, but get a babysitter or prepare to answer even tougher questions than "What's a Tigger?" (Amy Nicholson). ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru May 1. (818) 202-4120.

Durang Durang Christopher Durang's collection of comedic one-acts. XRT, 1581 Industrial St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 23. (213) 536-4331.

GHOSTS By Henrik Ibsen. North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr., Solana Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 2. (858) 481-2155.

HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE Driving lessons come with molestation in Paula Vogel's Pulitzer Prize winner. Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 9. (818) 720-2009.

GO MY SISTER IN THIS HOUSE In 1933 France, two submissive churchgoing maids named Christine and Lea Papin brutally murdered their employer and her daughter, a crime that riveted the country and set off a firestorm of debate about the conditions of the working poor. Director Michael Unger's signed and spoken production of Wendy Kesselman's handsomely staged drama speculates around that event. Stockpiled with the minutiae of the maids' daily routine, it explores the increasingly bizarre psychological dynamics between the perpetrators -- the fastidiously capable Christine (Deanne Bray, voiced by Darrin Revitz) and her clumsier, dependent sister, Lea (Amber Zion, voiced by Lindsay Evans), as well as their relationship with their mean "Madame" (Casey Kramer) and her docile daughter, Isabelle (Jennifer Losi). Performed without an intermission, the plot's unhurried rhythm reflects the excruciatingly slow pace of life in the setting's time and place. Bray and Zion are lovely and expressive in communicating the sisters' bond, forged ever more tightly in response to Madame's nitpicking cruelty, though Christine's dark side could be underscored more emphatically. Kramer's villainess is so fulsomely drawn as to border on caricature; this apparent directorial choice, made to emphasize the melodrama, is handled by this performer with considerable skill. And Losi projects an effective foil as the petulant Isabelle, whose impulses toward kindness are ultimately annihilated by her mother. Tom Buderwitz's set, Leigh Allen's lighting and A. Jeffrey Schoenberg's costumes create an ambience of musty money contrasting aptly with this dark, disturbing tale. (Deborah Klugman). Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 30...

POT! THE MUSICAL Marijuana musical-comedy, book by Diane Shinozaki, music by Steven Huber, lyrics by Steven Huber and Diane Shinozaki. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 2, potthemusical.com. (800) 838-3006.

SAVED BY THE PARODY Musical parody of 1990s TV sitcom Saved by the Bell, written and directed by Ren Casey. Presented by Renegade Zombie. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Sat., 10:45 p.m.; thru May 29, renegadezombie.com. (866) 811‐4111.

SLEEPING BEAUTY Presented by June Chandler's Faerie Tale Theatre. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Sat., 2 p.m.; thru May 8. (626) 256-3809.

TEA AT FIVE Matthew Lombardo's solo drama about Katharine Hepburn (Cissy Conner), set in her home in Fenwick, Conn., examines her life and loves from two different points of view. In Act 1, set in 1938, she's still reeling from a series of film flops, and the fact that movie exhibitors have branded her box-office poison. Act 2 takes place in 1983, at the end of her career, when Warren Beatty was attempting to persuade her to take on her last movie role, and deals with her declining health, the suicide of her brother and her relations with Spencer Tracy. The piece is largely a compendium of familiar Hepburn stories, but Lombardo tells them well, and he captures the familiar style and accents of her public persona: cheerfully egocentric and monumentally eccentric, alternating earthy common sense with movie-star flamboyance. Conner doesn't resemble Hepburn physically, but she deftly captures her flavor, particularly as the aging Kate in Act 2, complete with the throaty, slightly strangled voice. It's an engaging and skillful performance, which plays on our affection for and familiarity with the original. Set designer Scott Umfress was clearly working under financial limitations, but his minimalist set is evocative if not always historically on the mark. (Neal Weaver). Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru May 2, tea-at-five.com. (800) 838-3006.

TURKEY DAY Jeff Folschinsky's Thanksgiving comedy. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 16, eclecticcompanytheatre.org. (818) 508-3003.

25 PLAYS PER HOUR Two dozen (plus one!) shorts performed in under an hour. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 10:30 p.m.; thru May 8, theatreunleashed.com. (818) 849-4039.

NEW REVIEW

THE UNSERIOUS CHEKHOV Frustrated by a nasty review and a tardy

director, a troupe of actors gathered for rehearsal decides to pass the

time by performing five of Chekhov's lesser-known dramas, translated by

George Malko. So begins this quirky outing from Theatre Unleashed,

which renders equal servings of vexation, entertainment and

befuddlement. The spontaneous-workshop conceit that frames the show is

initially humorous but turns distinctly sloppy as the show progresses.

"Dirty Tragedians and Leprous Playwrights," directed by Gregory Crafts,

follows a playwright sitting on a volcano, while seeking inspiration.

Staged with an overabundance of theatrical shenanigans, tumbledown

props and costumes, it's oddly charming, mainly because of the cast's

wild antics. Andrew Moore directs "On the Main Road," a tale of class

conflicts, drunken men and villainy, which takes place in a tavern.

Donald Agnelli is stellar as an axe-wielding criminal in this the

evening's most interesting piece, and is also very funny. Carlos

Martinez and Kim Shannon play the sun and moon in conversation in

"Before the Eclipse," directed by Erin Scott. "The Bear," directed by

Pamela Moore, takes place in a cabin in Russia, where Darren Mangler

portrays a boorish creditor who calls on a widower (Courtney Bell), to

collect. The business visit, however, turns into a comical tale of love

and lust. Scott also directs "The Night Before the Trial," with Ben

Atkinson as a convict awaiting the sentence of the court. The Sherry

Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., N.Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through May

8. (818) 849-4039, http://theatreunleashed.com (Lovell Estell III) 

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS

ALTAR EGO With the gulf of incomprehension that frequently gapes between men and women, it's a wonder that anyone ever hooks up. That's the underlying theme in this collection of eight interrelated monologues (credited to playwright James Lyons) about the world's oldest hobby: Yammering about sex until it seems about as interesting as discussing the deboning of a fish fillet. Although the youthfully energetic eight-person ensemble briskly tackles the glib vignettes, the material itself is never able to evade a faint scent of triviality. Lyons (who really should learn how to spell "alter," though it is spelled correctly in the press materials) portrays a cheerfully amoral husband who defends his frequent extra-marital dalliances with the traditional excuse that he truly loves his wife -- but he has needs. Later, Audrey Moore, in a nicely sour turn, portrays the man's wife, who's understandably miffed about the case of the clap she has mysteriously come down with. A particularly droll turn is offered by Leila Vatan, playing an Iranian-American woman, who, caparisoned in the mandatory chador, bemoans her lack of sexual opportunities. And Mike Horton's monologue about a man who has a tiny penis but enormous anger-management issues starts out humorously before shifting unexpectedly into tragedy. In directors Audrey Moore and Leila Vatan's character-driven production, the performers sit onstage in a semicircle, as though they're attending an AA meeting, while watching as each briefly takes center stage. Chuckling gently and indulgently as they observe each other's excesses and humiliations, the mood is both ironic and sweetly forgiving of sexual weakness. However, in the end, the monologues' talky nature is less exciting than actual dramatic interaction would have been. (Paul Birchall). Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 15...

GO THE ARSONISTS In Max Frisch's trenchant work of surreal irony, which may be better known by its alternate (and perhaps more whimsically satisfying) title, Biedermann and the Firebugs, decent people invite evil into their homes, try to befriend it, ignore its obvious nature -- and, by doing nothing, are ultimately complicit in its wicked goals. When Frisch wrote the dark comedy in 1958, he was clearly attempting to craft a metaphor for the rise of Nazis amongst the otherwise sensible German population one to two decades prior. Alistair Beaton's new translation amplifies certain of the text's thematic undercurrents of moral blindness to put us in mind of the paranoia and impotence suffusing the so-called War on Terror. Mild-mannered hair-tonic dealer Biedermann (Norbert Weisser) has been told to be on the lookout for a band of diabolical arsonists sweeping through the neighborhood, setting houses ablaze. Yet, this doesn't stop him from inviting into his home a brutish goon named Schmitz (John Achorn), who shows up on his doorstep asking for food and lodging. We quickly deduce that Schmitz has a certain pyromaniacal bent -- and even Biedermann and his primly brittle, suburban wife (Beth Hogan) start to twig that something is wrong when Schmitz and his seemingly psychotic pal, Eisenring (Ron Bottitta), move huge barrels of fuel and bomb detonators into their home's attic. Yet, Biedermann, complacent in his "it can't happen to me" attitude, refuses to see what's happening right in front of him. The performances, as well as the flames, crackle in Ron Sossi's slyly sardonic staging -- performances that combine perfect comic timing with dense, rich personalities. Weisser's nervous (and increasingly delusional) Biedermann and Hogan's uptight wife are hilarious -- but the true scene-stealers are Achorn's rubber-faced, diabolical Schmitz and Bottitta's ghoulish Eisenring, who are simultaneously so chillingly funny and matter of fact, you almost want to invite them to dinner yourself, despite the potentially blazing ramifications. Set designer Birgitte Moos' beautiful two-level set (1950s-style living room and attic) is ingenious, while Sean Kozma's eerie sound design adds a beautifully sinister atmosphere to the goings-on. (Paul Birchall). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 23. (310) 477-2055.

THE BLUE ROOM "I think men talk to women so they can sleep with them," Jay McInerney wrote in Brightness Falls, "and women sleep with men so they can talk with them." In director Elina de Santos' production of The Blue Room, David Hare's version of this sexual merry-go-round, what should be a hypnotic swirl offers instead the slight chill of dead energy between actors Christina Dow and Christian S. Anderson. That could be perceived as a fault, but you hope it's a conscious choice -- a variation on a theme, the opposite tactic taken in Closer, fellow Brit Patrick Marber's highly flammable play that debuted just a year before Hare's. Or maybe we've run around this particular playground so often, we're bored with it: This is, after all, an adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler's 1900 play, Reigen. As beds rotate, the handful of characters Dow and Anderson each play blur into their aptly named singulars ("The Woman," "The Man"). Here and there a line emerges like a cry of exhilaration, or fear, from the speed; it's hard to tell the difference sometimes. "I'm fuckin' a married woman!" shouts Anderson as a jittery student (duration of copulation: 0 minutes). The almost impenetrable barrier between the sexes is fortified most noticeably by class, which makes the decision to break the theatrical fourth wall -- and by whom -- the most thought-provoking moment of the production. Original music by Arthur Loves Plastic is noteworthy. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 2. (310) 477-2055.

FULLY COMMITTED Sam Lloyd is an out-of-work actor in Becky Mode's one-man play. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru May 6. (310) 512-6030.

HARLOW GOLD: WEST "Sexy, witty and gritty" cabaret created by choreographers Dominic Carbone and Tracy Phillips., $10-$25. Harvelle's, 1432 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Thurs.. (310) 395-1676.

A HELL OF A MESS or OH, WHAT A BLOODY CIRCUS By Eugene Ionesco. Alive Theatre, 3838 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 8. (562) 818-7364.

GO JUST 45 MINUTES FROM BROADWAY Suffused with a near-Chekhovian mix of the wistful and the melancholy, playwright Henry Jaglom's world premiere comedy is a delight -- an intimate and thoughtful ensemble piece which is as much a paean to the theater as it is a meditation on the perils of living entirely by emotion. In a picturesque but run down country house in upstate New York (realized in Joel Daavid's beautiful detailed set), a theatrical clan spends what is probably for them a typical fall weekend of histrionics and melodrama. These are people who have lived their whole lives for art -- which, one might say, means that dinner is never on time and no one gets up before noon. Elderly thespian George (Jack Heller) and his beloved wife Vivien (Diane Louise Salinger) are in the twilight of their careers, but regret nothing about a life spent on the road performing small plays. Also staying in their home is their beautiful, unstable daughter Pandora (Tanna Frederick), who is taking a "rest" from acting after getting over a recent failed romance. The typically "artsy" family chaos turns even more tumultuous with the arrival of the family's estranged eldest daughter Betsy (Julie Davis), who has grown weary of her eccentric family. When Betsy introduces her lawyer fiance Jimmy (David Garver) to the family, sparks unexpectedly fly -- but the sparks are between Jimmy and free-spirited Pandora. Some overwritten sequences teeter on self indulgence, yet the piece is also wise to the follies of human behavior -- and director Gary Imhoff's subtle staging elegantly juxtaposes the warmth and frustration underscoring the relationships within so many families. The ensemble work is sensitive, yet comically charged, with Frederick's calculatedly daffy turn as the ever-performing Pandora smartly offset by Davis' increasingly angry Betsy. Heller's leonine elderly actor-dad and Salinger's actress mom, tender and sad, wonderfully craft the sense of elders who have never truly grown up, and are amazed by what has happened to their bodies while their minds remain youthful. A Rainbow Theatre Company production. (Paul Birchall). Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; Fri., May 21, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 23, 5 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru July 31. (310) 399-3666.

LOYALTIES In Tony Pasqualini's drama, Frank (Michael Rothhaar) and Joy (Robin Becker) have lost a son, Andy, to the war in Iraq. Now they have become fanatical superpatriots, eager to condemn anyone who questions the war. Their best friends, Mel (Sarah Brooke) and Andrew (Pasqualini), also have an adopted son, Michael (Albert Meijer), an migr from a Muslim country. Andy and Michael were inseparable friends throughout their childhood, but their paths diverged. While Andy enlisted and went to his death in battle, Michael also enlisted but decided it was a mistake and deserted his post. Though Mel and Andrew are sympathetic to their son, Frank and Joy are determined to force the boy to face his fears and accept his duty, even by reporting his whereabouts to the authorities. This issue becomes a catalyst, leading to disaster for both families. Pasqualini's play is not really a thesis drama, but it often sounds like one, treating its characters as mouthpieces. There are, however, some potent scenes. Though we're clearly intended to sympathize with Michael, he's too whiny and self-centered to take seriously. Director David Gautreaux has able actors but sometimes allows them to succumb to wearisome hysteria and shouting. (Neal Weaver). Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 2. (310) 822-8392.

The Maids The Help presents Jean Genet's drama. Moth Theatre, 4359 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sun..; thru May 16...

GO THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO Figaro (Troy Dunn) and Suzanne (Janae Burris) are about to be wed. Figaro is valet to the Count (David E. Frank), while Suzanne is chambermaid to the Countess (Cynthia Mance). At play's start, Suzanne watches Figaro measuring the proportions for a bed that's to be installed in their new quarters - within earshot of the Count. A bit of a dolt, Figaro doesn't realize (until Suzanne fills him in) that the closeness of the quarters to their respective employers is actually in the service of the Count's lechery. And so begins a series of traps to ward off the indignity of the Count's attempted restoration of an old right called primae noctis, in which the master of the house is entitled to deflower a bride from a lower class before her wedding. Following the plot's intricacies is like trying to follow the motions of moths around a lamp, though it does sort itself out, not unlike the ribbons and bows in Josephine Poisot's period costumes. And the new translation transfers the subtleties of French idiom very smoothly into English -- with the added delight of actors occasionally lip synching from excerpts of Mozart's opera. The technique on display in Michel's production isn't yet pristine, but on opening night, it was close enough to make its point. The shenanigans unfold on Duncombe's production design of burgundy and blue, accented by two suspended chandeliers. The set's symmetry and elegance works in pleasing juxtaposition against the mayhem of interlopers hurling themselves out of windows, or pretending to. The solid ensemble works in tight conformity to the style: Frank's lecherous count is a comic standout of barely concealed slime, offset by the grace of Mance's weary, dignified Countess. And Maria Chirstina Benthall offers vivacious delight as the libidinous niece of the gardner. (Steven Leigh Morris). City Garage, 1340 1/2 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5:30 p.m.; thru May 30. (310) 319-9939.

PRINCESS BEAN'S MESSY WORLD Rock & roll kids musical about a petite punk princess. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice; Sat..; thru May 1. (310) 306-1854.

PROOF David Auburn's story of an ailing math professor. Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 9. (310) 454-1970.

STARMITES Music and lyrics by Barry Keating, book by Stuart Ross and Keating. Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 9. (310) 458-8634.

STRIP Unfortunately: "No nudity." Written and directed by George Damian. 21 & over. Good Hurt, 12249 Venice Blvd., Mar Vista; Mon., 8 p.m.; thru May 18, striptheplay.com. (800) 838-3006.

TOOTH AND NAIL Gena Acosta's New Jersey-family comedy. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., May 16, 7 p.m.; Thurs., May 20, 8 p.m.; thru May 22. (310) 512-6030.

NEW REVIEW

TROG AND CLAY Michael Vukadinovich's droll comedy is based on

intrinsically fascinating subject matter -- the first execution in the

19th century of a murderer by electric chair, and the fracas

surrounding it. Much of the tale is told through transcripts of the

trial of wife-murdering thug William Kemmler (Ariel Goldberg), a

leering, tongue-wagglingly unregenerate brute who ultimately becomes

guinea pig for the road test of the "chair that zaps a thousand volts."

However, the testimony also includes attempts by electric-chair

proponent Thomas Edison (a nicely oily Matt Weedman) to get the device

powered by the alternating current invented by his archrival George

Westinghouse (Mike Kindle), part of a Machiavellian scheme to have

Westinghouse's type of electricity "branded" with death and executions.

If only the play relied purely upon history, it would pack a huge jolt.

However, even though the often-surreal comic text Vukadinovich

shoehorns between the courtroom sequences is smartly arch and

intelligent, full of cerebral puns and philosophical repartee, it lacks

the connecting wires needed to jump from the page to the stage. Worse,

director Gary Gardner's fast-paced but otherwise workmanlike production

zips but doesn't zap, relying on cartoonish characters and random,

sometimes disconnected incidents, which craft an experience that's more

clever than involving, while also unintentionally approaching

campiness. In the ensemble, the performers impose impressively strong

personalities on their internally disjointed characters, such as

Goldberg's turn as the dim brute Kemmler and Paige White's

scene-stealing performance as Westinghouse's treacherous and shallow

wife. Powerhouse Theater, 3116 2nd St., Santa Monica; Thurs.-Sat., 8

p.m.; through May 15. http://latensemble.com Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble (Paul Birchall)


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