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Stage Raw: Ajax and Zappa

Stage Raw: Ajax and Zappa

For this week's New Reviews, go to http://www.laweekly.com/2008-08-21/stage/reviews-of-the-bad-arm-confessions-of-a-dodgy-irish-dancer-alley-cat-and-some-kind-of-love-story/ For the current comprehensive theater listings, scroll to the bottom of this section and press the READ ON tab. For back theater articles and reviews in L.A. Weekly, visit http://laweekly.com/theater. Each coming week's theater listings and new reviews will be regularly posted here late Monday night.

Who's story is it, anyway?

Photo by Ransom Riggs

Last week in San Diego, four actors sitting at a long table in front of microphones, read from Bryan Doerries' http://philoctetesproject.orgadaptation of Sophocles' Ajax and Philoctetes -- sagas of warriors returning home from the Trojan War. The scenes were read in front of 300 people in a ballroom of the San Diego Hyatt Hotel. Though the actors were of some celebrity -- David Strathairn (Good Night, and Good Luck), Jessie Eisenberg (The Squid and the Whale), Iraqi-American actress Heather Raffo, and Doerries (subbing for Bill Camp) –- the audience was not comprised of your average theater types who show up for the star-studded radio plays put on by, say, L.A. Theatre Works. They were military leaders and combat trauma specialists at the U.S. Marine Corps' annual Operational Stress Conference.

The two hour reading of the scenes earned a standing ovation, followed by commentary from a few guest panelists who were either military personnel or married to one. When it came time for open discussion of the plays' impact, there was silence, followed haltingly by a pair of speakers from the audience. Slowly, a line to speak grew longer. The 2,500 year old saga had wormed its way into the grief and struggles of people returning from wars, and people trying to help returning soldiers cope with their torments. Audience members obviously seized on the play's core truths, and those truths opened the guarded doorway to expression of those torments. As Doerries remarked, the theater had affected audience members and spurred them to speak in a way that normal conversation could never have done.

Doerries may have been overstating the case for theater. If this was theater, it was redacted to mere dialogue and interpretation, almost entirely devoid of spectacle. The presentation was so elemental, it was one step removed from mere storytelling -- which may be closer to what Doerries is grappling with.

A few days later, I spoke with Frank Zappa's widow, Gail, during a rehearsal for Open Fist Theater Company's production of her late husband's rock-mock musical, Joe's Garage. Her wisdom and candor were dazzling as she spoke of the burdens of managing her husband's pop-icon legacy as a composer and social satirist. The bulk of her comments are part of a story to come, but I was struck by the resentment she felt towards the arrogance of people who felt they knew and understood her husband's work better than she did, the woman who bore his children. This is among the reasons that only now has she decided to release the rights to a stage production of Joe's Garage.

This raises the question of who owns the legacy of a great artist who's now, to quote Gail Zappa, “a dead guy.”

In San Diego, in some perverse/miraculous way, audience members felt they possessed some part of Sophocles and his ancient plays. Either he belonged to them, or they belonged to him.

“All those opinionated people who have to have their own ideas by using other people's, to mess around for their own desires” was Gail Zappa's contemptuous description of unnamed "experts" about, and imitators of, her husband. But remove the contempt, and those very words could describe the audience in San Diego.

“I don't think the audience is ever new,” she said, responding to the question of whether a classic remains classical by speaking to new generations and new audiences. “It's just different versions of people who have different abilities. Most of what Frank did is musical, it doesn't have anything to do with words. So that's the legacy.”

For this week's New Reviews embedded into the current theater listings, press the READ ON tab directly below.

THEATER LISTINGS FOR AUGUST 22-29

Please find below a global, single-page comprehensive theater listings database that reflects the format you'll find in the print edition.

Because of technical difficulties with the Website, this weeks New Reviews have been embedded within the “CONTINUING PERFORMANCES” sections of these listings. They will also be available at http://laweekly.com/stage shortly.

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

OPENING THIS WEEK: LARGER THEATERS

AS U2 LIKE IT The Bard's As You Like It to the music of U2. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank; opens Aug. 22; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Sept. 14. (818) 955-8101.

EDUCATING RITA Teacher-student comedy, by Willy Russell. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; opens Aug. 23; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 21, (Added perfs Aug. 30 & Sept. 6, 3 p.m.; Sept. 11 & 18, 8 p.m.). (818) 558-7000, www.colonytheatre.org.

OPENING THIS WEEK: SMALLER THEATERS

ABIGAIL'S PARTY Mike Leigh's dark comedy about a doomed soiree. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; opens Aug. 23; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 24, 7 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 19, (7 p.m. perfs, Aug. 24 & 31, Sept. 28.). (310) 477-2055.

THE BONES OF LESSER MEN Yves Lola St. Vil's drama set in an African-American-neighborhood diner. MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A.; opens Aug. 22; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 28, (Added perfs Aug. 26-28, 8 p.m.). (323) 957-1152, www.theMETtheatre.com.

BOYLE HEIGHTS Josefina Lopez's play about a family's fear of gossip. Casa 0101, 2009 E. First St., L.A.; opens Aug. 22; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 14. (323) 263-7684, www.casa0101.org.

CRAVE Sarah Kane's "fantasia of love, lust, pain, humor, sadness, hope and resignation.". Sierra Stage, 1444 N. Sierra Bonita Ave., West Hollywood; opens Aug. 27; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 12. (213) 905-2727.

INHERIT THE WIND Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee's courtroom drama. Art/Works Theatre, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens Aug. 23; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Sept. 14. (323) 908-7276.

LONG DAY CUT SHORT Two one-acts by Tennessee Williams: The Unsatisfactory Supper and Hello From Bertha. Actor's Art Theater, 6128 Wilshire Blvd., No. 110, L.A.; opens Aug. 27; Wed., Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 21. (323) 969-4953, www.plays411.com/longstay.

LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna's romantic comedy. Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; opens Aug. 22; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 28. (323) 960-7827, www.plays411.net/lovers.

SISSYSTRATA Adapted from Aristophanes' Lysistrata by Allain Rochel, set in a future West Hollywood. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens Aug. 22; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 28. (323) 957-1884, www.tix.com.

THE SOUND OF MURDER William Fairchild's thriller about a children's book writer and his trophy wife. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Aug. 22; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 5. (818) 700-4878, www.lcgrt.com.

SUBURBIA Eric Bogosian's play set in a 7-Eleven parking lot. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Aug. 22-31, 8 p.m.. (323) 465-4446.

OPENING THIS WEEK: SPECIAL EVENTS

BEDLAM AT THE BALLPARK Plus “Extra Innings: A Vaudeville Revue.” All American Melodrama Theater and Music Hall, 429-E Shoreline Village Dr., Long Beach; opens Aug. 28; Thurs.-Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 4:30 & 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 23. (562) 495-5900, www.allamericanmelodrama.com.

DIVAS VS. TENORS Celebrating Ting Dang's 15th anniversary as the Asian-American theater organization's producing artistic director. East West Players, 120 N. Judge John Aiso St., L.A.; Sat., Aug. 23, 6 p.m.. (213) 625-7000.

HOME AGAIN: THE L.A. CONCERT DEBUT OF ALEXANDRA BILLINGS The drag artist debuts songs from her latest CD, The Story Goes On. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Aug. 22-23, 9 p.m.. (310) 281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.

MISS ONE-A-PUFF'S ALL-STAR REVUE "A kaleidoscopic cornucopia of music, comedy, and social commentary by comedy troupe The Puffs.". Playhouse Theater Playhouse, 600 Moulton Ave., L.A.; Fri., Aug. 22, 8:30 p.m.. (323) 227-5410.

THE ODYSSEY "Family-friendly" version of Homer's epic, by Dr. Gary Stickel. Wilshire United Methodist Church, 4350 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Sat., Aug. 23, 7:30 p.m.. (323) 934-9736.

ONEBODY Neale Donald Walsch's metaphysical musical. Agape Spiritual Center, 5700 Buckingham Parkway, Culver City; Fri., Aug. 22, 8 p.m.. (800) 867-7130, www.onebodytheatrecompany.com.

WAG THE DOG Staged reading of David Mamet's screenplay for his political satire. S. Mark Taper Foundation Amphitheatre, 12601 Mulholland Dr., Beverly Hills; Aug. 22-23, 8 p.m.. (818) 623-4877.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES: LARGER THEATERS

GO AS YOU LIKE IT Directors Ellen Geer and Melora Marshall set this evergreen Shakespearean comedy in the years after the American Civil War, but, fortunately, they apply the concept with a light, tactful hand. Ameena Maria Khawaja musical direction, Mike Peebler exciting fight choreography and Shon LeBlanc handsome costumes add to the fun. (NW). Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 28, (No perf Sept. 14.). (310) 455-3723, www.theatricum.com.

BABY Parenting musical, book by Sybille Pearson, lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr., music by David Shire. West Valley Playhouse, 7242 Owensmouth Ave., Canoga Park; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Sept. 7. (818) 884-1907.

BEETHOVEN, AS I KNEW HIM: THE MUSIC OF LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 28. (310) 208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.

DR. FAUSTUS goes to hell, and J. Paul Boehmer portrayal of the title character in a 90-minute version of Christopher Marlowe tragical history is so deliciously smug and grandiloquently preening, it a pleasure to wave him goodbye as he sails downstream. This is certainly fun for the family, but it largely drains the tragedy of import for the sake of a well-executed execution. Antony Sandoval bare-bones staging is a stylish, macabre affair. (SLM). Barnsdall Art Park, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 24. (323) 660-4254.

KING O'LEARY The Actors' Gang sets King Learduring the Gold Rush. Media Park, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m.; thru Aug. 31. (310) 838-4264.

LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT We don't seem to be able to avoid unpleasant topics,sighs Edmund Tyrone (Aaron Hendry) to his father, James (William Dennis Hunt), in Act 4 of Eugene ONeill genre-creating family melodrama. The claustrophobic parlor drama is an odd fit for the Theatricum Botanicum forested stage, as the ensemble, when not shouting, are perilously close to being drowned out by crickets. (AN). Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sat., 8 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 26. (310) 455-3723, www.theatricum.com.

GO THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES In their cotton-candy chiffon dresses, songbirds Missy, Suzy, Betty Jean and Cindy Lou (Kim Huber, Bets Malone, Julie Dixon Jackson and Kirsten Chandler) are pleased as punch to entertain their senior-class prom. As it's 1958, tonight's track list is pure bubblegum pop, soured up by cat fights over stolen songs and stolen boyfriends. Playwright-director Roger Bean, however, is only half-successful in manufacturing drama and character development from the story's personality clashes and a looming prom-queen vote. Under playwright-director Roger Bean's hand, the ladies are fine comedians and even finer singers, and the show gets a punch of energy in Act 2. (AN). Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach; Tues.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 31. (949) 497-2787.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM Shakespeare's romantic comedy. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 24, 7:30 p.m.; Mon., Sept. 1, 6 p.m.; thru Aug. 28. (310) 455-3723, www.theatricum.com.

NEW REVIEW GO RESPECT: THE GIRL EM-POWERED is an engaging and fun mix of music, song, theatrical shtick. Dorothy Marcic's script is based on her book, Respect: Women and Popular Music, and wittily broaches core feminist issues -- sans sledgehammer) along with issues of love, family, heartbreak and relationship angst. It’s also a fascinating historical overview of the lives of 20th century American woman, augmented with still photos ranging from album covers, newspaper clippings, and avertising images from the '50s. The production soars on Peter J. Loewy's clever direction, and the four charming women who sing and dance to some 70-plus tunes, such as, “I will Survive,”, “I Wanna Be Loved by You,” “Que Sera Sera,” “Lollipop” and “Mister Sandman.” Susan Carr George does yeoman’s duty as a narrator and as Marcic’s stage persona. Joined by NRaca, Jackie Seiden, and Alet Taylor, this musical voyage seamlessly navigates a century of music and history with intoxicating style and humor. Ivy Thaide's costumes reflect some of the time periods, with emblematic styles such as mini-skirts and knee high boots. Musical Director Jim Vukovich pianno accommpaniment is nothing short of brilliant. (LE3) El Portal Forum Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Fri. 8 p.m.; Sat. 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 24. (818) 508-4200.

ROMEO & JULIET, TOGETHER AND ALIVE AT LAST Sandra Fenichel Asher's story of a school play. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 7. (562) 494-1014.

THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 18th-century comedy of manners. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 22, 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 p.m.; thru Sept. 27. (310) 455-3723, www.theatricum.com.

THE SPIN CYCLE David Rambo's world-premiere comedy. Rubicon Theater, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura; Sun., 2 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 24. (805) 667-2900.

TWELFTH NIGHT (In rep with Henry IVand Doctor Faustus). Barnsdall Art Park, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 24. (323) 660-4254.

GO WICKED In this musical riff on the witches of Oz (by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Hollzman), Joe Mantello directs a marvelous spectacle that looks like a diversion but is actually quite the opposite. Eden Espinoza as the green-skinned, bespectacled girl-witch Elphaba has a contagiously smart appeal. After recognizing that Elphaba's not going to power-play along with the Wizard's (John Rubinstein) Stalinist shenanigans, Mrs. Morrible (the delightful Carol Kane), starts a witch hunt for the girl, and the whole thing starts to resemble some of the tawdrier chapters in American history. (SLM). Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru Jan. 11. (213) 365-3500.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES: HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND DOWNTOWN

GO THE ACCOMPLICES Bernard Weinraub's documentary drama reminds us of WWII's less benevolent aspects. He tells the story of Peter Bergson, born Hillel Kook (Steven Schub), who devoted his life to attempting to rescue Jews from Nazi-occupied Europe. Political complexities inevitably overshadow Bergson's personal life, but they are fascinating in their own right. Deborah LaVine skillfully melds a fine cast into a gripping production. (NW). Fountain Theater, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 14. (323) 663-1525, www.fountaintheatre.com.

GO AMERICAN DEAD Brett Neveu play places its focus on the plain talk of Midwesterners whose farms are being foreclosed. Director Dado stages the kaleidoscope of scenes with meticulous attention to subtext and the language of facial ticks and flinches. A long-ago shooting of a local sheriff deputy (Deborah Puette) still haunts the woman partner, (Paul Dillon), and brother (Mark St. Amant). Overcoming the venue echoey qualities, the ensemble work is finely tuned. (SLM). Theatre/Theater, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 24. (323) 960-7726, www.roguemachinetheatre.com.

GO ASSASSINS When composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim and writer John Weidman look at assassins, their vision is wayward, tough, ambiguous, sympathetic and bitterly satiric. Richard Israel's on-target production is stark and lively; Johanna Kent's music direction is sure-footed, and the entire cast is splendid. (NW). El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 28. (323) 460-4443, www.tix.com.

NEW REVIEW THEATER PICK THE BAD ARM – CONFESSIONS OF A DODGY IRISH DANCER Máire Clerkin comes from Irish stock and grew up in London. This blend might explain her satirically grim portrait of the world she grew up in, and the cheerfully British mask she places over it. In some ways, Clerkin's one-woman show is a study in the loneliness of being ignored by her workaholic dance-teacher mother, who focused all her attention on the paying customers. This child's-eye view could be peevish stuff were Clerkin not so intractably good humored. Nor does she place herself above her mocking portraits, including at age 14 a groping suitor in the dance hall, his eyes boggling, tongue swishing lips as he grabs her hips at arms length and pushes her around the dance floor like a mop. “Hot in here” he notes. “What do you say we step outside for some fresh air.” “That sounds like a good idea,” she chirps back with wide eyed innocence, and with a politeness that forms the outer crust of British civility. Aside from her animated impersonations and snapshot transitions between them, the focal point of Clerkin's coming of age saga is her right elbow that drifts outward while performing Irish folk dances, a “bad arm” that her mother says is responsible for her placing poorly in so many competitions. The requisite of keeping both arms slammed into one's body emerges as a metaphoric constriction in a world that Clerkin captures so meticulously, with the help of Dan O'Connor's direction and Maxine Mohr's pristinely delicate sound design. Intro to snogging (French kissing) is one of many rites of passage detailed by Clerkin with a blend of intrigue and disgust, as is binge-drinking and the morning-after consequences in one high-stakes public display. Clerkin's glorious riffs of traditional Irish dance and disco, and some intermingling of both genres, make her argument for transcendence with nary a word spoken. (SLM) Bang Theatre, 457 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Aug. 31, Sept. 7, 11 & 18, 8 p.m. (323) 653-6886.

GO BEVERLY WINWOOD PRESENTS THE ACTORS SHOWCASE With her chrome-plated red bob, and toothy smile, private acting coach Beverly Winwood (Susan Yeagly) presents the second annual showcase of her talentless students best scenes. Tony Sepulveda staging rises above last year mere mockery of pointless ambition. This is a one long, almost metaphysical joke about failure. It does not redeem the human spirit in any way, and it one of the funniest shows around. (SLM). Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Mon., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 25. (323) 934-4747, www.groundlings.com.

BODY POLITIC Jessica Goldberg's thought-provoking drama explores the ugly cost of our war in Iraq, opening with a short but haunting scene at Walter Reed Hospital. Goldberg characters possess a poignant simplicity and honesty that are skillfully blended with haunting psychological complexity. Chris Field directs with intelligence and draws fine performances from this cast. (LE3). Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 24. (800) 413-8669.

BOUNCERS John Godber's discoteque play. Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Sept. 27. (323) 933-6944.

GO CARNY TRASH A burly man named Aye Jaye spins yarns from his life in the carny. Jaye has a rich background in the art of con art. His lecture-demonstration paints a vivid portrait of Americana, mid-20th-century, a rare blend of garishness and romanticism, a study in how Minnesota farmers were dazzled and tricked before there was TV. (SLM). Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.. (323) 666-4268.

THE COMEDY OF ERRORS is a reminder that even the father of our modern mother tongue had to learn while he earned. So it is with director Ron West and his Open Fist ensemble's creaky, modern-dress version of Shakespeare's mistaken-identity protofarce. West moves the action from ancient times to "the beach community of Ephesus, circa 1964," a bare-bones setting consisting of little more than grips dressed as beach cops on bicycles, which is more of a non sequitur sight gag than fully realized production concept. Certainly, it's no help to West's cast members, who must resort to desperate mugging rather than a thorough mastering of their text. (Bill Raden). Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 30. (323) 882-6912, www.openfist.org.

THE COMICAL TRAGEDY OR TRAGICAL COMEDY OF MR. PUNCH This lavishly mounted, highly ambitious adaptation of writer Neil Gaiman and illustrator Dave McKean 1995 graphic novel is a marvel of expressionistic spectacle. Unfortunately, no amount of scenic splendor can camouflage a torpid, overly elliptical script lacking even rudimentary character shadings or conflict-driven scenes. (Bill Raden). Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Aug. 31. (213) 389-3856, www.bootlegtheater.com.

DARK SIDE OF THE MOON Interpretive piece set to the music of Pink Floyd. Next Stage Theater, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.; Sun., 8 & 9:30 p.m.. (323) 850-7827.

DELEARIOUS Lyricist-playwright Ron West and composer Phil Swann overly ambitious travesty about King Lear, modern musicals and the King James Bible is often fun, always energetic but ultimately overbearing. West and Swann also stage, musically direct and play featured roles in this rollicking, far-too-long exercise. (TP). Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 30. (323) 882-6912, www.openfist.org.

DESERT SUNRISE At the heart of Misha Shulman's flawed rumination on humanity's struggle to achieve peace is a well-orchestrated pas de deux by performers Dominic Rains and Oren Dayan. Up to a point, we're caught up in the fierce dynamic ignited by Rains and Dayan's deftly nuanced portrayals, under Ellen Shipley's direction. Unfortunately, the appearance of the unrestrainedly strident Layla marks a sharp downturn in the plot's credibility. (DK). Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 23. (323) 960-7784, www.plays411.com/desertsunrise.

NEW REVIEW THE DIVINE MADNESS OF ISABELLA One-person shows often deal in household names (i.e. Harry Truman, Samuel Clements, Eleanor Roosevelt). That way the audience can meet the performer halfway between official history and a living, breathing interpretation of a hallowed cultural monument. But playwright-performer Wendy Gough is having none of that. Her subject is the all but obscure Isabella Andreini. Gough tells us that Andreini was a renowned 16th century Italian scholar, poet, and actress credited with raising the nascent commedia dell’arte from a low burlesque into the expressive art form that certain university professors and Italian buffs celebrate today. Trouble is, Gough spends so much time relating the history of Isabella and commedia that her play becomes bogged down in a quagmire of drama-smothering exposition. Among the casualties is Gough’s real objective — the tightrope journey of the artist from the safe and rational to the grand inspiration found only at the edge of insanity. Gough’s use of commedia elements in her storytelling proves her an accomplished mask maker, a wry puppeteer, a capable historian, and an earnest performer. Unfortunately, artist biographies come with their own Catch 22: the talent onstage must be equal to the artist they’re portraying. Director John Achorn’s insipid stage compositions and Gough’s ultimate failure to transmute lifeless documentary fact into compelling dramatic tension is the best evidence that this pair is not. (BR) Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Aug. 24. (323) 469-3113.

>NEW REVIEW GO FABLES DU THEATRE The three tales in director Chris Covics' imaginative if occasionally assaultive tour de force are just the top layer of an unpredictable theatrical experience which veers between being jaw-dropping creativity and brattiness. At the start of playwrights Brenda Varda and Marva Lewis's trio of one acts, the entire venue appears to be in a state of chaotic ruin – an actor is laughing drunkenly and slobbering all over an audience member, while other cast members, covered in blood, emerge from behind the stage curtain. The ensemble, finally wrangled like cats into their proper places, perform the vignettes: In "The Stage Coffeehouse," a coffeehouse owner (Ramiq Sayer, flamboyantly channeling The Nutracker's Drosselmyer) oversees the ill-fated romance between two of his patrons. In "Xeera's Night," a succubus (a splendidly sultry Tulie Bouquess) genuinely falls in love with her victim, with horrific results. The play's delicate text is frequently interrupted by mishaps: Fired performers storm the stage, and a rumpled, hirsute critic (not from this paper, thankfully) repeatedly bawls out the cast from his seat. Covics' production shifts in tone from scene to scene – one moment, a genuine homage to French-lite sentiment, as in "The Little Prince"; the next, a playful spoof of theatrical pretentiousness. The result's an unpredictable show that doesn't just blow out the fourth wall, but hits the fifth and sixth walls as well. (PB) Unknown Theater, 1110 N. Seward St., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Sept. 27. (323) 466-7781. An Unknown Theater and Immanence Theatre Artists Co-Production.

GO FINALLY Stephen Belber haunting Rashomon-styled drama is powered by Morlan Higgins strong, emotionally nuanced performance. He plays four characters: a washed-up semipro football player; a damaged, miserable wife; a dog with a penchant for Byron and Tennyson; and a football coach. These people are linked by a common thread of guilt, violence and betrayal. Matt Shakman staging is simple but forceful. (LE3). Black Dahlia Theatre, 5453 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.. (800) 838-3006, www.thedahlia.com.

GRANNY DEAREST Viktoria Bozsoki's play about "life, loss, acceptance, and pearls of wisdom form the other side.". The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Through Aug. 24, 8 p.m.. (323) 206-1842.

GROOVE AU GOGO Brilliant shards sparkle in what otherwise a broken plate-glass window -- what creator Jason M. Solomon calls an acid vaudeville/variety show.Beat-poet rantsagainst social contradictions of modern society (performed by Mike Estime and Jonathan Kite) get mired in the wafer-thin lighting design that plagues the evening. The shadows, echoes and lingering moments of an empty stage betray the abundant talent on the stage, under Kal Clarke direction. (SLM). Theatre/Theater, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; Mon., 8 p.m.. (323) 954-9795.

THE GROUNDLINGS, YOUR BODY AND YOU All-new sketch and improv, directed by Ted Michaels., $21.50. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.. (323) 934-9700, www.groundlings.com.

GO JUST LIKE WHITE PEOPLE This world premiere from 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors, the curiously named but well-established Asian-American improv troupe, is an eclectic collection satirizing stereotypes, with Eastern twists on Western paradigms, and some zany antics. Topical and creative sketches are, at times, uneven, but when they find their target, they are incisive and hilarious, performed by a cast that deftly executes numerous quick changes. (MK). The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 24. (818) 754-4500, www.brownpapertickets.com/event/38603.

LA CAGE AUX FOLLES The French farce by Jean Poiret. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Aug. 24. (323) 667-0955, www.knightsbridgetheatre.com.

MACBETH Chris Berube turns Shakespeare's play into a modern-day political thriller. Next Stage Theater, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 30. (323) 850-7827, www.berubians.com.

MAGNUM OPUS THEATRE: ABI'S CHOICE Late-night Masterpiece Theatreparody. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Fri., 11 p.m.. (310) 281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.

MEN FAKE FOREPLAY Michael Dugan's comedy. Actor's Art Theater, 6128 Wilshire Blvd., No. 110, L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 23. (323) 969-4953, www.plays411.com/menfake.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM Chris Berube's take on Shakespeare's romantic comedy. Next Stage Theater, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 5. (323) 850-7827.

GO MONEY & RUN Wayne Rawley's popular Seattle serial, inspired by The Dukes of Hazzardand Miami Vice, debuts with its first installment, "Money, Take Run," in which two hot-blooded criminals, Money (Johanna Watts) and Run (Joshua Sliwa), meet-cute when holding up the same liquor store. When the narrator tells us to "stay tuned for scenes from the next episode," we can only hope that theater's fun is less disposable than this show's TV origins. (AN). Lyric-Hyperion Theater, 2106 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 10:30 p.m.. (800) 595-4TIX, www.moneyandrun.net.

THE PAVILION Craig Wright's comedy-drama about a high school reunion. Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Oct. 5. (323) 939-9220.

PLASTIC CRYSTAL In his new drama, playwright-actor Jason Greenfield plays Michael, an affable young man, who, though fully functional, is challenged with a form of obsessive compulsive disorder. Greenfield play suffers from narrative flaws, including an excessively sincere writing style. Yet director Abby Craden psychologically nuanced staging balances the characters darker traits with likable personality qualities. (PB). Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 23, 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 28. (323) 882-6912, www.openfist.org.

GO POINT BREAK LIVE! Jaime Keeling 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. The city banks are being hit by a gang of robbers known as the Ex Presidents, surfers who always wear the masks of former chief executives while making their withdrawals (in this version Ms. Condi Rice makes an appearance). Utah gets his man, but not before a Grand Guignol scene of blood and guts that so hideously over the top you cant stop laughing. (LE3). Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.. (866) 811-4111, www.theatermania.com.

POUR SOME SUNDAY ON ME All-new sketch and improv by the Sunday Company. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 934-9700, www.groundlings.com.

PROBLEM CHILD Part one of George F. Walker's "Suburban Motel" series. Tres Stage Theatre, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.. (323) 461-3673, www.fordamphitheatre.org.

SERIAL KILLERS Late-night serialized stories, voted on by the audience to determine which ones continue. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Sat., 11 p.m.. (310) 281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.

>NEW REVIEW GO SOME KIND OF LOVE STORY This strange, almost Pirandellian one-act is not what we expect from Arthur Miller. A former New York policeman turned private investigator, Tom (Jack Kehler), is hell-bent on freeing a man he believes has been falsely imprisoned for murder. His only real lead is the woman in the case, Angela (Beege Barkette), but she stubbornly refuses to reveal what, if anything, she knows. Over a five year period, their sparring has continued: they have been lovers, adversaries, and mutual tormentors. He feels that his love for her has brought him back from living death — but he knows he can’t trust her. She insists that if she gives him the information he seeks, she will lose him. Neither we nor he can tell if she is a pathological liar, a devious whore, a schizophrenic with multiple personalities, a virtuoso con-artist and opportunist, or all of the above. In a single, brilliantly written scene, they play out their story of mutual obsession. Michael Arabian directs with sensitive precision, and his actors serve him with finesse. Barkette is endlessly fascinating as the mercurial, protean Angela, and Kehler provides an admirable foil as an ordinary guy trapped on an emotional roller-coaster. (NW) The Hayworth Theatre, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m., thru Aug. 31. (323) 960-4442 or www.thehayworth.com.

NEW REVIEW GO SONA TERA ROMAN HESS Cuban-born playwright Dennis Miles has composed a elegy to lost love and distant battles, set -- as he mentions in the program -- somewhere in the world, sometime in the past. An old farmer marries a young girl, who ends up running off with the farmer's even younger son. Miles doesn't bother much with that part of the drama, instead beginning his play with the couple, pregnant and broke, returning to the embittered old farmer for help and forgiveness. Into this scenario Miles drops a traveling circus troupe and the encroaching front line of a devilish war, thus spinning the action toward the kind of surrealism this playwright is known for, full of heightened language and stylized charm. Director Kiff Scholl's production strives for--but falls shy of--matching that style entirely, making for a lopsided experience. Unspecific blocking and characterization muddy some of the more poetic moments, and though Greg Wall as the farmer and Kathleen Mary Carthy as his cat-crazy companion deliver some strong performances, the rest of the cast appear somewhat lost in this miasma. Davis Campbell's set nails the fractured reality of the world, though actors at times self-consciously avoid smacking their heads into slanted rafters. And Becky Gradjeda's sound design lends a haunting rhythm to the words. The Lounge Theater, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri-Sat, 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 21. (323)960-7864. (Luis Reyes)

GO SUMMER CAMP AT SACRED FOOLS The late-night shows change every week, but if Fun Time With Quirk & Rayneris an accurate indication of the standard, the rest of the run is worth a visit. Magician, mind-reader and charlatan Rob Zabrecky opened the evening, with the appearance and temperament of your local undertaker. Droll comedian Moira Quirk followed with a slide show about her two kids with hubby -- and main act -- Michael Rayner, whose oddity is a source of self-respect. (SLM). Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Fri., 10 p.m.; Sat., 9 p.m.; thru Aug. 23. (310) 281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.

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.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES: THE VALLEYS

THE FOREIGNER Larry Shue's farce. Lincoln Stegman Theatre, 6020 Radford Ave., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 24. (818) 509-0882.

GO FREEDOM OF SPEECH In her solo show, actor Eliza Jane Schneider conjures the people she met on a cross-country sojourn in a decommissioned ambulance. She displays a remarkable ability to conjure a character through sounds and snippets of words. By design, the piece roams as much as Schneider did on her sojourn. This renders the performance a facile tour de force in a presentation still distilling its larger meaning. Sal Romeo directs. (SLM). Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Sat.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 7. (818) 754-4264.

GO GULLS Playwright Nick Salamone and composer Maurice McIntyre have loosely adapted Chekhov The Seagullto America of the 1950s, handily transforming the Russian classic about artistic idealism and despair into an American musical about commerce and repression. It a savvy move, translating the artistic tensions of late-19th-century Russia into those of mid-20th-century America. Jessica Kubzansky textured staging includes wonderful performances. (SLM). Boston Court Theatre, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 24. (626) 683-6883.

THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME This adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel (book and lyrics by Gary Lamb, music by William A. Reilly) is more like an old-fashioned operetta (with a dash of 19th-century melodrama thrown in) than a modern musical. There's something enduringly touching about the hopeless love of the hideous, deformed bell ringer, Quasimodo (Bill Mendieta), for the beautiful Gypsy girl Esmeralda (Amy Bloom). But the adapters have been too faithful to the original novel: The Gypsy is so deceived by the transparently vicious guardsman that she often seems like a ninny. (NW). St. Matthew's Lutheran GLBT Church, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.. (818) 942-6684, www.crowncitytheatre.com.

ICEBERG AHEAD! Jay Parker's backstage comedy about an heiress and a theater producer. Lizard Theater, 230 W. Main St., Alhambra; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 7 p.m.. (626) 371-0014, www.lizardtheater.com.

LOST ON LANKERSHIM This slate of several one-acts, written by John Falchi, offers its share of entertaining moments. Cowboy Goodbyesis a minivignette, with a cowboy costume being the highlight. Falchi directs the dangerously funny Closing,the riotous gem of the evening. Tommy Mastak (William Norrett) is the epitome of the smooth-talking pitchman who can talk his way into a deal or contract for just about anything, including sex. (LE3). ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 23. (818) 202-4120, www.zombiejoes.com.

GO MRS. WARREN'S PROFESSION Banned and reviled, George Bernard Shaw 1893 satire concerns a modern Victorian girl, Vivie (Joanna Strapp), who discovers that her estranged mother, Kitty (Gillian Doyle), is a wealthy whore. Something slightly off in director August Viverito pacing. Yet the ensemble is strong, underscoring Shaw insinuation that well-married girls are the true prostitutes. (AN). Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 24. (800) 838-3006, www.theprodco.com.

SCAREDYCATS Cheryl Bascom's comedy about a neighborhood watch group. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 28. (866) 811-4111.

GO SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER In Tennessee Williams' 1958 melodrama, Catherine (Elaine Kao) is lobotomized by her niece, Violet Venable (Kim Miyori), in order to silence Catherine's scandalous report about Violet's late son. Though it initially disconcerting to see an Asian cast speaking in Southern drawls, as director Chil Kong suggests, the play reflects Chinese and Korean preoccupation with saving face and honoring the dead. (NW). GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 24. (323) 993-7245.

YOU WILL MOST LIKELY DIE Dynamite Kablammo's San Fernando Valley comedy. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Tues., 8:30 p.m.; thru Sept. 2. (818) 202-4120, www.zombiejoes.com.

ZASTROZZI George F. Walker quirky comedy thriller, loosely based on a novel by Percy Bysshe Shelley, is about a mismatched conflict between bland sweetness and dark malice. The production, co-directed by Sara Botsford and Christopher CBBrown, crackles with villainous betrayals. Yet the directors decision to set the play in the 1940s, with gallons of liquid-ice smoke creating the murky mood of a film noir movie, imposes ideas on the drama. (PB). NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 24. (818) 508-7101, www.nohoartscenter.com.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES: WESTSIDE, BEACHES

NEW REVIEW GO ALLEY CAT Marnie Olson plays voluptuous Carma in her play (co written with director Caroline Marshall) about a female sex addict trying to fathom the depths of her self-destructive compulsions, and whether they're part of some desire for, or resistance to, intimacy. She relishes her power over men, she explains to her skeptical therapist (Elisabeth Blake, who also turns in an affecting cameo as the understandably troubled, newly pregnant wife of Carma's musician-boyfriend, Rocky (Tui Ho Chee). The production straddles the line between a comedic drama and a soap opera, but it's salvaged largely by the delicate performances of the entire ensemble, the truthfulness of which passes the severe test of playing in a venue the size of a living room. Excellent portrayals also include Michael Patrick McCaffrey's petty-thief/“recovering” coke-addict/New Age bookstore clerk, clearly missing some major brain circuitry; and Suzie Kane's gypsy card reader, Wanda -- “Money up front, in the Buddha please.” Though Olson and Marshall's script hovers dangerously close to being trite, it avoids that plunge with the buoyancy of its intelligence and humor. As an actor, Olson probes the crisis of her intimacies and loneliness with such a deft mixture of deflective mockery and inner torment, her struggles take on the universal qualities of a culture plagued by addictions and despair. The larger question -- why are we all so alone? -- comes blazing from the stage with blanching heat, and that temperature is this comedy's higher purpose. (SLM) Psychic Visions Theater, 3447 Motor Ave., W.L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 31. (310) 535-6007. Roadkill Productions

BAD PENNY consists of speeches and dialogues by Mac Wellman that accrue into an existential theatrical poem/meditation on American life. Production designer Charles Duncombe and director Frederique Michel provide a beautiful NYC scenic backdrop and well-coordinated presentation style. Theyre working with a largely young company that makes the language perfectly intelligible, but the interpretation fails to reach the needed depths of experience. (SLM). City Garage, 1340 1/2 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 7. (310) 319-9939.

BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE FLIGHT ATTENDANTS: BEYOND RETIREMENTCynthia Galles' Social Security comedy. Found Theater, 599 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 30. (562) 433-3363.

BLITHE SPIRIT Noel Coward's farce. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 23. (562) 494-1014.

BURY THE DEAD Irwin Shaw's antiwar story. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 13. (310) 838-4264.

GO GREAT EXPECTATIONS Margaret Hoorneman delightful adaptation of Charles Dickens saga (book by Brian VanDerWilt and Steve Lozier, music by Richard Winzeler, and lyrics by Steve Lane) remains so faithful to the novel that the epic twists and turns of fate, and of social ascension and decline, emerge. They emerge at the cost of the musical impetus, but it may be worth that sacrifice. (SLM). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 31. (310) 477-2055, www.greatexpecationsmusical.com.

THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT Stephen Adly Guirgis puts Jesus' disciple on trial. Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 6. (866) 811-4111.

GO LOST IN YONKERS Neil Simon won his first Pulitzer prize in 1991 for this darkest of his plays. Set against the financial hardships of World War II, six family members depend on help from their bitter, immigrant grandmother. Grandma Kurnitz (Nan Tepper) holds her progeny fiscally and emotionally hostage to her rage against life. Director Howard Teichman fares as well as his perfectly cast ensemble. (TP) (In rep with Pen, call for schedule.). Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; Mon.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 28. (310) 364-0535.

GO MY ANTONIA Playwright Scott Schwartz's compelling adaptation of the Willa Cather novel clocks in at nearly three hours, but the work's elegant sprawl allows us to become fully immersed in Cather's powerful and nuanced elegy to the nature of memory. Although director Schwartz's production occasionally suffers from lackadaisical pacing, the work's intimacy and a strong ensemble craft an experience that's as passionate and as personal as the memory of young love. (PB). Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 24. (310) 822-8392, www.pacificresidenttheatre.com.

NEW REVIEW PEN Seventeen year old Matt (Dennis Bendersky) is a good kid who wants to do right by his disabled Mom, Helen (Jill Remez), an MS victim confined to a wheelchair. But Helen is such a bitter, bile-spewing individual that it’s difficult to spend an hour with her, let alone days, months and years. Besides her illness, Helen broods over the desertion of her husband, Jerry (Robert Mackenzie), soon to marry a younger woman and move 3000 miles away. Encouraged by his Dad, the college-bound Matt also plans to flee the thorny maternal nest. Written by David Marshall Grant, the play takes on a fundamental moral dilemma: How much do we owe a loved one in need, and how much do we owe ourselves? Drama triggered by this kind of conflict could pack a gritty punch, but this production -- at least its first act -- unwinds as a lukewarm melodrama despite the characters’ heated sturm und drang, delivered at a too unvaried pace under Jeff G. Rack’s direction. Notwithstanding her dour expression and sharp tongue, Remez’ insufficiently nuanced portrayal never really pinpoints the pain at the core of this unhappy woman’s existence. Bendersky does fine as a frustrated teenager, but here again more finely-tuned direction could yield so much more. Mackenzie’s conflicted pleasure-loving Jerry is the most probing performance of the three. The play turns fantastical in the second act, an artistic choice intended to address the invisible bonds among individuals but one that, in terms of storytelling, left me thoroughly confused. (DK) Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; in rep, call theater for schedule; thru Aug. 31. (310) 364-0535.

GO ROSE Playwright Martin Sherman and actor Naomi Newman combine forces to tell the tale of Rose, born in an obscure shtetl near Chernobyl. Though a fictional character, the 80-year-old is endowed with an almost documentary life story that embraces many of the 20th century's major events. The piece is intimate and epic, compassionate and tough, tragic and funny. Newman plays it with magnificent eloquence, passion and restraint. (NW). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 31. (310) 477-2055.

TURPENTINE JAKE Set in the Florida Turpentine camps of the 1930s, this gritty tale of black workers under the debt peonagesystem is dramatized by the grandson of one of these workers, James E. Hurd Jr. (who also directs and stars), and Linda Bannister. The play starts from a traditional dramatic premise of racial tensions fueled by an accidental stabbing, before dissolving into a a series of vignettes. (MK). Loyola Marymount University, Del Rey Theater, 1 LMU Dr., North Hall, L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 24. (310) 338-7588.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES: SPECIAL THEATER EVENTS

CELEBRATE THE WORLD Eight days of spoken-word, performance, plays and film. Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Through Aug. 26. (323) 655-7679, www.greenwayarts.org.

HURRICANE SEASON 2008 The fifth annual competition/festival of short plays. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 24. (818) 508-3003, www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org.

MYSTERIES EN BROCHETTE The beachside hotel dishes out dinner and mystery delights in its Saturday shows with four different performances that alternate., $75, includes dinner. Marina Del Rey Hotel, 13534 Bali Way, Marina del Rey; Sat., 7 p.m.. (310) 301-1000.

PAPA SPEAKEASY'S BURLESQUE Lovely ladies entertain you. Stages Theatre Center, 1540 N. McCadden Pl., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 11 p.m.. www.theatreyawp.com.

PUPPET UP! UNCENSORED Naughty improv by Henson Alternative puppeteers. Avalon, 1735 Vine St., L.A.; Sat., Aug. 23, 8 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 20, 8 p.m.. (213) 480-3232, www.avalonhollywood.com.

WALKING WITH DINOSAURS: THE LIVE EXPERIENCETheatrical arena show about prehistoric creatures, based on the BBC television series. Honda Center, 2695 Katella Ave., Anaheim; Wed.-Sat., 7 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m. & 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 24. (213) 480-3232.

Smaller Theaters

SUFFER THE LONG NIGHT Writer Mary Ruth Clarke and writer-director-actor-producer Greg Glienna tell the dizzy tale of an inept community theater. There plenty of hilarious stuff here and some engaging performances (including Brandon Alexander as an addled high school athlete), but the piece desperately needs sharper editing, pruning and timing. (NW). Meta Theater, 7801 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 14. (323) 960-7745.

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