Stage Raw: Back in the Saddle
NEW THEATER REVIEWS
THIS WEEK'S STAGE FEATURE ON THE L.A. WEEKLY THEATER AWARDS
Those pesky L.A. Weekly Theater Awards (slideshowhere
) got me a little behind on this blog, but things are more or less caught up now.
LOST MOON RADIO Intergalactic rock 'n roll comedy presented by NeedTheater tonight, April 1 8:30 p.m. at Cafe Club Fais Do-Do, 5257 West Adams Blvd. Tickets here
MUSICAL THEATRE OF LOS ANGELES 2010 BENEFIT CONCERT April 7, 8 p.m.The Met Theatre, 1089 Oxford Avenue, Hollywood. Tickets here
UMBRELLA: A POLE PLAY The Kelly Maglia Vertical Theatre presents a show that combines elements of bordello and Broadway, circus and concert, pole and dialouge. Sunday, April 4 at hte Viper Room, 8852 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood Tickets here.
JERRY SEINFELD LIVE! An evening of standup benefiting Reprise Theatre Company and hosted by Jason Alexander. April 8, 8 p.m., Saban Theatre Beverly Hills (formerly the Wilshire Theater). Tickets here
COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for April 9-15, 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
MELINDA HILL: THE ACCIDENTAL BISEXUAL AND OTHER STORIES COMEDY CENTRAL STAGE, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Wed., April 14, 8 p.m.. (323) 960-5519.
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.; opens April 10; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 16. (323) 851-7977.
JACQUES BREL IS ALIVE AND WELL AND LIVING IN PARIS Production conception, English lyrics and additional material by Eric Blau and Mort Shuman, based on Jacques Brel's lyrics and commentary, music by Jacques Brel. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; opens April 10; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru May 9. (818) 558-7000.
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF A. EINSTEIN As seen by his secretary, via playwright Kres Mersky. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; opens April 10; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 16. (323) 851-7977.
OEDIPUS THE KING, MAMA! The Troubadoure Theatre Company's mash up Sophocles' Oedipus Rex with the music of Elvis Presley. Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach; Sat., April 10, 8 p.m.. (562) 985-7000.
25 PLAYS PER HOUR Two dozen (plus one!) shorts performed in under an hour. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; opens April 10; Sat., 10:30 p.m.; thru May 8, theatreunleashed.com. (818) 849-4039.
ACAEMYOF MAGIC AWARDS Neil Patrick Harris hosts the 42nd annual prestidigitation celebration., $75-$200. Avalon, 1735 Vine St., L.A.; Sun., April 11, 7 p.m.. (323) 851-3313.
ALTAR EGO Katselas Theatre Company presents James Lyons' hook-up comedy. Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; opens April 10; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 25...
BIZzZY! Rolland Jacks' 1970s musical nostalgia. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; opens April 9; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru May 16. (818) 990-2324.
THE BOYS IN THE BAND Mart Crowley's queer classic. Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; opens April 10; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 16...
DIRTY POOH Zombie Joe's Underground presents Miss Amanda Marquardt's parody of A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens April 9; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru May 1. (818) 202-4120.
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.; opens April 10; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 29, plays411.com/eo...
GHOSTS By Henrik Ibsen. North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr., Solana Beach; opens April 10; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 2. (858) 481-2155.
LANGSTON & NICOLAS Towne Street Theater presents Bernardo Solano's world-premiere about the friendship between Langston Hughes and Nicolas Guillen. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; opens April 9; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 2. (323) 465-4446.
LET IT BE ART! Harold Clurman's Life of Passion Ronald Rand is acclaimed drama critic Harold Clurman., $25-$30. North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr., Solana Beach; Wed., April 14, 7:30 p.m.. (858) 481-2155.
LOOKING FOR TROUBLE White Buffalo Theatre Company's evening of one-acts: The M Word by Alan Ball, Love in War by Simone Cook, and three new plays, Ruth,, Resin and Satiety by Brian Lennon. Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; opens April 9; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 2, whitebuffalotheatreco.com/reservations. (818) 925-4021.
$TRIP Written and directed by George Damian. 21 & over. Unfortunately: "No nudity.". Good Hurt, 12249 Venice Blvd., Mar Vista; opens April 12; Mon.-Tues., 8 p.m.; thru May 18, striptheplay.com. (800) 838-3006.
A TINY PIECE OF LAND Joni Browne-Walders and Mel Weiser's Israeli perspective on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; opens April 9; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru April 24, tix.com. (800) 595-4849.
TURKEY DAY Jeff Folschinsky's Thanksgiving comedy. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; opens April 9; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 16, eclecticcompanytheatre.org. (818) 508-3003.
THE UNSERIOUS Chekhov Theatre Unleashed turns Chekhov's frown upside down with stagings of his lesser-known comedic works. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; opens April 9; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 8, theatreunleashed.com. (818) 849-4039.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE
CAN YOU BE MORE PACIFIC? Sketch-comedy courtesy The Second City. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach; Tues.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 11. (949) 497-2787.
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.
THE LANGUAGE ARCHIVE Julia Cho's story of a linguist abandoned by his wife. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; Tues.-Wed., 7:30 p.m.; thru April 25. (714) 708-5555.
GO NO-NO BOY Grief and bitterness are the unspoken but constantly present co-stars of playwright Ken Narasaki's compelling drama, adapted from John Okada's classic Asian-American novel. At the end of World War II, second-generation Japanese-American Seattle teen Ichiro (Robert Wu) is finally released from U.S. prison, where he has served time for refusing to participate in the draft. Ichiro's refusal to join the U.S. Army has nothing to do with cowardice. Rather, his choice is the result of being torn between his beloved American upbringing and his Japanese cultural roots. When he returns home, however, he finds wreckage and bitterness where he once had friends and family. His Japan-loyal mother (Sharon Omi), who drove Ichiro to make his choice, lives in denial and has nearly lost her mind, supported by Ichiro's stoic, sad-faced father (Sab Shimono). Ichiro's former best friend Kenji (Greg Watanabe), despite coming home from the war horribly crippled, is more accepting of his buddy's choice. Assisted by Narasaki's deft dialogue, exchanges that belie the depth of fury and bitterness over the American dream turned sour, the play presents characters whose piercing suffering becomes eloquent. Director Alberto Isaac's deftly subtle production never overplays its emotional hand, opting instead for an understated melancholy that is both elegant and searing. Few dramas have as effectively depicted the sense of being torn between two cultures in a time of war -- along with the unique Japanese-American tragedy arising from being simultaneously victorious and defeated. Wu's devastating boy-next-door turn as Ichiro depicts a figure desperately torn between his American upbringing and his Japanese cultural roots -- and who discovers that both bring little but sorrow. Other ferociously moving turns are offered by Shimono's pained but undemonstrative father and Omi's brittle, hate-filled mother. (Paul Birchall). Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica; Sun., 3 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; thru April 18. (310) 458-8634.
THE PSYCHIC Adam (Jeffrey Cannata) isn't a psychic. He's just a broke, self-centered writer who scrawled a cardboard sign and a stack of penciled business cards in the hope of making rent. But he knows what disasters will befall his clients: the wife (Dana Green), her murderous husband (Cyrus Alexander), his faithless mistress (Bridget Flanery) and her mobster boyfriend (Richard Horvitz). How? They're living clichés -- and to playwright Sam Bobrick, the cliché's the thing. Director Susan Morgenstern stages this trifle for broad comedy and she's given a great boost from Horvitz, whose turn as the mafioso Johnny Bubbles is a pistol whip to the funny bone. By the second act, when the corpses mount, a detective (Phil Proctor) starts sniffing around Adam's office and Horvitz yelps, "It's like we're in a bad production of Guys and Dolls," we're catching on that Bobrick is poking fun at lazy genres. But the jab is too late and too blunted. Still, an energetic cast keeps the zings flying fast enough that it's possible to enjoy the murder-mystery as featherweight froth, instead of as a satire that takes aim at such fluff. (Amy Nicholson). Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru April 18. (818) 955-8101.
GO THE WAKE "There must be a blind spot," says Ellen (Heidi Schreck), a freelance journalist and political junkie, as she examines her worldview at the start of this world premiere by Lisa Kron. The examination begins during Thanksgiving following the contentious 2000 presidential election and continues with the doings of the Bush administration as its backdrop. Surrounded by her schoolteacher boyfriend, Danny (Carson Elrod), his sister Kayla (Andrea Frankle) and her partner Laurie (Danielle Skraastad), as well as good friend Judy (Deirdre O'Connell), who has just returned from aid work in Guinea, Ellen is the prototypical East Village latte liberal. She claims that "the best thing about me is that I understand what's irritating about me," yet the love affair she begins with Amy (Emily Donahoe), a filmmaker she meets at a conference in Boston, reveals quite the opposite. Much of this revelation comes out in heart-to-hearts with Judy, who begins work in D.C. and takes in Tessa (Miriam F. Glover), a young black girl from Judy's native Kentucky, to try to better her life through education. Kron's smart dialogue is enhanced by director Leigh Silverman's orchestration of the overlapping between close friends who are comfortable with each other, though in some of the two-character scenes the pacing drags a bit. The show's design is delightful in its details, including David Korins' authentic yuppie bric-a-brac, Meg Neville's urban-hipster outfits and Alexander V. Nichols' projection frame-wrap of the proscenium. The talented cast is engaging, with standouts including Elrod, whose humor and nice-guy ethos make us feel for Danny, and O'Connell, whose mannerisms and physicality embody the unpleasantly honest nature of Judy's admonition that we Americans too often take for granted our own worth. (Mayank Keshaviah). Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru April 18. (213) 628-2772.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS
ABOVE THE LINE Hollywood stereotypes are so La-Z-Boy lived-in, a newcomer to L.A. can giggle at them right along with industry insiders. In this world premiere, playwright Susan Rubin has gotten the whole gang together again for our theater-armchair gawking. There's the screen-star-mama's-boy producer, Jeremy (Jason Stuart); the seemingly Zen Earth mother executive with silver-ring brass knuckles (Denise Dowse); the ladder-climbing Silver Lake punk composer, Christian (Stewart W. Calhoun); the triple-threat writer/bourbon drinker/asshole lady-killer, John (Nick Mennel); and his triple-threat feminist lit professor/New Yorker/desperate prey, Lucy (Heather Marie Marsden). Now watch them try to make Tea, a movie musical based on a family-heirloom journal kept circa the Boston Tea Party. Rubin knows all their soft spots and pokes judiciously: When Lucy mentions Samuel Adams, Jeremy casually tosses off, "Oh, the beer guy." Yet the entire play resembles a 15-year-old learning to drive on a stick shift. The lines, pace and relationships jerk to life and then stall; the brakes are slammed. As Lucy leaves John, all fury and fangs, and he halfheartedly stops her, you wonder for what these two are fighting. Jeremy and Christian's affair is likewise hastily erected, and both couplings suffer from either a lack of chemistry or a lack of rehearsal. Director Mark Bringelson and cinematographer Adam Soch created a neat device merging film and theater, but it's so underused -- and in the dinner-scene instance, extraneous -- they should've scrapped it and focused that energy on the play. Hmmm ... art imitates Hollywood. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 24. (213) 389-3856.
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.
AN AMERICAN TRACT Barbara White Morgan's irksome drama about a struggling single mom comes weighted down with hackneyed dialogue, superficial characters and gratuitous subplots. In the mid-1980s, nurse's assistant Ann (Darlene Bel Grayson) had lived in the 'hood with her two sons until a dying patient bequeathed her a house in a pretentious white suburb. Euphoric when she first moves in, Ann is soon being visited by well-meaning and hostile neighbors, who complain about her unlandscaped lawn and her son Rodney's boom box -- and demand all sorts of ownership levies she doesn't have. Meanwhile the listless Rodney (Larry "Bam" Hall) yearns to return to the projects -- even though his father was murdered there -- while Ann's boyfriend, Earl (Carl Crudup), makes it plain he too feels out of place. Her spirit unbowed, Ann soldiers on, skillfully handling the patronizing white lady next door (Jennifer Lamar), fending off her journalist husband (Darrell Philip), who keeps giving Ann hankering looks, and vanquishing the nasty patrician president of the homeowner's association (Maurice Weiss). Whatever truthful elements the story embraces are torpedoed by the typically one-note performances, under Richard Elkins' direction. Though Ann is always well groomed, her living room (designer David Mauer's set) inexplicably resembles a squatters' den, with blank, dirty walls and sheet-draped, torn upholstery. (The place finally gets spiffed up in Act 2.) Among the ensemble, Miriam Korn is the most convincing as a likable teen who penetrates Rodney's sullen defenses. (Deborah Klugman). Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru April 25, brownpapertickets.com/event/100569. (800) 838-3006.
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 April 25. (323) 663-1525.
BLOOD WEDDING Federico Garcia Lorca's 1932 tragedy. Bilingual Foundation of Arts, 421 N. Avenue 19, L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru April 11. (323) 225-4044.
THE BLVD. B-movie drag queen attempts a big-screen comeback in a bio of Divine, in Mad About the Boy Productions' parody mashup of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and Sunset Blvd.. Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru April 18, plays411.com/theblvd. (323) 960-1055.
BOB BAKER MARIONETTE THEATER'S FIESTA First of five classic Bob Baker productions in a yearlong celebration of the marionette theater's 50th anniversary. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 10:30 a.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru April 11, www.bobbakermarionettes.com. (213) 250-9995.
THE BOB BENDICK PODCAST Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Mon., 5:15 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.
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 CHARM OF MAKING Playwright Timothy McNeil's drama is one of those deep, Southern-baked ham fests in which the characters baste themselves with family guilt and grief while downing endless glasses of bourbon (which seems to have been flavored with a dash of Tennessee Williams and Osage County). Elvin (Thor Edgell) is a middle-aged gay virgin who sublimates his despair over his family's troubled pedigree by secretly dressing in a sequined gown and getting drunk in the privacy of his own Mississippi family manor. Yet, he's not the most eccentric denizen of his clan: That honor could go either to his sister Morgan (Bonnie McNeil), who wanders around the woods irrelevantly chanting a magical spell; or to his equally unhinged Aunt Lottie (May Quigley Goodman), who is so desperate for validation she throws herself at a random 18-year-old Bible student after church. The main problem with director Milton Justice's flat, Monopoly-board staging is that it's heavier than Mississippi humidity, an issue that is exacerbated by leaden pacing, which even spills over to the perfunctory attempts at Southern backbiting and spiteful repartee. The mistakes of storytelling are legion, from the torpid, cement-thick monologues and overwrought line readings to the endless discussion of characters' pointless dreams. If it weren't for the show's execution being so ponderously serious, the piece would actually come across as unintentionally funny -- particularly when Edgell's "good ole boy" Elvin shows up in his gown, or during his halting, oddly tepid first romance. Instead, even with game attempts by McNeil's unstable turn as Morgan and by Goodman's venomous Lottie, the results are ultimately an uninvolving trudge through Southern culture. Stella Adler Los Angeles Theatre Collective. (Paul Birchall). Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru April 25. (323) 465-4446.
CHICO'S ANGELS: PRETTY CHICAS ALL IN A ROW The dragtastic Angels go undercover as beauty pageant contestants. Cavern Club Theater at Casita del Campo, 1920 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; Thurs., Sun., 8 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 9 p.m.; thru April 18. (323) 969-2530.
GO THE CONFUSION OF MY ILLUSION Gender-bending performer and transgender activist Kelly Mantle grew up in a small Oklahoma town, where he learned that even the most egregious trespass of community mores can be forgiven if committed "in the name of Jesus." Mixing politics, fantasy and personal reminiscence, Mantle's entertaining show presents sketches and original songs that lay out what it takes to survive -- with one's sanity intact -- in an unforgiving xenophobic world. As directed by Jon Imparato, the opening segment features Mantle as Eve: Perched on a faintly glimmering staircase, in floral wreath and gauzy garment, he hails the social revolution to come (while clarifying for right-wing Christian zealots how "in the beginning" it really was Adam and Steve). Subsequent segments include a video of the performer interviewed as his mom; his typecasting experiences as an actor in Hollywood (not another trannie-prostitute role!); and his real-live (!) meeting with George W. Bush -- on an occasion honoring his uncle, Mickey Mantle -- in which he weighs the yeas and nays of an impassioned confrontation. Along with the music and the humor are thoughtful ruminations about what it's like to live as both man and woman, and exactly what inside human beings propels some of us into fantasies of victimhood. Backup vocalists Lawrencia Dandridge and Miss Barbie Q add icing to the camp; video director Andy Putschoegl's videography, incorporating designer Allison Moon's psychedelic images, expands the spectacle. (Deborah Klugman). L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, Davidson/Valentini Theatre, 1125 N. McCadden Pl., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru April 11. (323) 860-7302.
DANNY AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA Revelation Theater presents John Patrick Shanley's drama. The Black Box Theater, 12420 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 10...
DOUG BENSON'S I LOVE MOVIES free. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Tues., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 908-8702.
GO EXTROPIA Imagine how sonically colorless a world without traditional music would be. Actually, not very, according to the "retro-utopia" environment of this show, created and originally produced by the Seattle-based company Collaborator. Though its residents inhabit a future drained to such grayness that it's not even as cool as The Matrix, Foster (Sam Littlefield) wakes one morning to discover he's been slipped a red pill that allows him to "hear too well." Fortunately, Arial (Alexandra Fulton) has long been dancing to the beat of the, uh, plastic straw squeaking in and out of the fast-food cup lid, and they orchestrate all kinds of funk out of frogs croaking, birds chirping and rocks skipping. While the performers are, as they say in this show, "sufficient," music director Mark Sparling and musician Miho Kajiwara deserve credit for making the show a marvel. Relying on sounds from such "found objects" as a hairbrush, a wooden spoon and a skillet cover (okay, and of course, the omnipresent MacBooks), they provide live sound effects for everything from tooth-brushing to factory machine-whirring, and turn it into music. Extropia optimistically believes in our innate need to create, and in our ability to scrounge something out of nothing when those Macs are taken away, though it is actually a protest against the yanking of public-arts funding. In that spirit, this production plans to perform pro bono in various L.A.-area schools. Night performances are followed by live acts such as On Blast, Bullied by Strings, The Naked and Cherry Boom Boom. (Rebecca Haithcoat). King King, 6555 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru April 18. (323) 960-7721.
GO FORGIVENESS What happens to love when the specter of childhood sexual abuse rears its ugly head? Soon-to-be-married Jill (Emily Bergl) and Ben (Peter Smith) are driving to visit Jill's dad, Sam (Morlan Higgins), and stepmom, Pat (Lee Garlington), when Jill breaks it to Ben that her father raped her when she was 13. Twenty years have passed. A recovered alcoholic who served time for his crime, Sam -- now a born-again Christian -- actively struggles for redemption. Jill has forgiven him, but Ben, newly apprised, is horrified and repulsed. Prodded by Jill's anxious scrutiny -- will this new knowledge change his feelings for her? -- Ben steadily becomes angrier and more confused. Playwright David Sculner's aptly titled play meaningfully examines the various ties that bind us to our loved ones, as well as the snags and hurdles to be mended and overcome if these bonds are to remain secure. Directed by Matt Shakman, the production's weakest element appears at the beginning in the interchange between Jill and Ben, which reverberates with little more persuasiveness than a polished staged reading; also, sans lighting or sound effects, it's difficult for the performers to sustain the illusion of driving. Once the couple arrives at its destination, however, the drama becomes more compelling, as the dynamics of Sam and Pat's marriage come into play; the presence of Jill's adolescent stepsister (Kendall Toole) ups the ante for everyone. (Deborah Klugman). Black Dahlia Theatre, 5453 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru April 11. (800) 838-3006.
FRIDA KAHLO Portrait of the artist by Rubén Amavizca-Muréa. Frida Kahlo Theater, 2332 W. Fourth St., L.A.; Through April 10, 9 p.m.; Sun., April 11, 6 p.m.. (213) 382-8133.
GETTING FRANKIE MARRIED . . . AND AFTERWARDS Written by Horton Foote. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 15. (323) 882-6912.
GO GROUNDLINGS SHOWCASE SHOWDOWN In this sprightly, very funny revue, The Groundlings again show why they are L.A.'s go-to company for sketch comedy. Of course, the sketches, in director Mikey Day's crisply paced, surgically focused production, hew to a number of rules that are familiar by now to Groundlings fans. One rule: First dates will never turn out well -- such as the one in which a woman (Lisa Schurga) self-sabotages a promising romance by making a series of appallingly unsuitable, compulsive personal revelations, or the one in which a hilariously dorky pair of teens on prom night (Jim Rash and Annie Sertich) paw and stumble their way through their loss of virginity. Another rule: Folks who have facial hair are invariably ripe for ridicule, be it the creepy, whiskery pair of recovered addicts (Nat Faxon and David Hoffman) delivering a not entirely convincing testimonial at a rehab clinic, or the woefully white bread, mustachioed aspiring dancers auditioning ineptly for a spot on an MTV show. Judging from this outing, the company's sensibility seems to be evolving into slightly edgier terrain, with characters who sometimes appear darker and more nuanced than we've seen before. The ensemble work is tight and often brutally funny -- but particular standouts include some brilliantly versatile turns from Steve Little, as a monstrous office worker with a gluttonous appetite for break-room animal crackers, from Annie Sertich, as the world's least-coherent restaurant waitress, and from the ever-astonishing Jim Cashman, assaying a variety of roles, including half of a screechingly dysfunctional gay couple, to a dippy dude trying to create a "flash mob" video of one. Director Day commendably cuts the generally uneven "audience participation" sketches that are frequently a Groundlings show downfall. (Paul Birchall). Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; thru April 24. (323) 934-9700.
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.
HOT PANTS, COLD FEET This compendium of sketches, written and performed by Will Matthews and Cassandra Smith, with direction by Leonora Gershman, zeros in on the subject of marriage, from the disastrous proposal to the hyperkinetic ring bearer on a sugar high. The show combines live action with videos, enabling the actors to catch their breaths between sketches, and eliminate dead time. Video passages include a proposal in which attempts to create a romantic mood are punctured by nosebleeds and projectile vomiting, and an audition tape by a cornball, down-market wedding band. Other sketches focus on the difficulties of making a seating plan for the wedding dinner, a confrontational visit to a wedding boutique with Matthews as the bitchy proprietress and difficulties with rival caterers. Hip and zippy one-liners fly thick and fast, and a very friendly audience was kept in stitches. (It appeared that on the night I attended, many of those in the audience were participants in the filmed sequences.) It's a short program at about 30 minutes, but the admission price includes a full evening of performances by various sketch-comedy and improvisational groups. (Neal Weaver). I.O. West, 6366 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Tues., 8 p.m.; thru April 20, www.matthewsandsmith.com. (323) 962-7560.
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 April 26...
KEEP IT CLEAN Hosted by JC Coccoli., free. 1739 Public House, 1739 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Mon., 9:30 p.m.. (323) 663-1739.
KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN Break-Thru Theatre Company presents the Kander and Ebb musical. Hudson Backstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 11. (323) 960-5774.
L.A. VIEWS III - HUNGER AND CITY Third annual short-play festival presented by Company of Angels. Company of Angels, Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru April 25. (323) 883-1717.
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 activistturned-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 excompatriot/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 high-tension dnouement, 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.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru May 1. (323) 461-3673.
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 April 25. (323) 960-4412.
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.
PLAYING JORDAN GOLDMAN David and Andy Neiman's Jewish comedy revisits the all-too-familiar terrain of religion as racket. Flat-broke, jobless and tossed out of the apartment he shared with his girlfriend, Sarah (Alexandra Ozeri), Jordan (David Neiman) hits upon the idea of swindling money from the Jewish community by staging his own Bar Mitzvah. The idea appalls his sister Emily (Lynn Freedman), an orthodox Jew, but is fully supported by Jordan's gay friend, Matthew (Joseph George Makdisi), whose racy quips and humorous in-your-face antics provide laughs but not nearly enough to offset the script's torpor. Jordan's plan gains currency with the help of some enthusiastic corporate backers (Andy Neiman and Paul Strolli), and the sham event is even marked for television, but Jordan is eventually confronted with pangs of conscience over his ethical failings, which prompt an epiphany of sorts. In addition to the wobbly premise and bland script, the mediocre acting, and director Cynthia Levin's directorial malaise, there are far too many scene changes, which are handled with the refinement of a rugby scrum. (Lovell Estell III). Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; thru April 23. (323) 422-6361.
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.
RICHARD AND FELIX: TWILIGHT IN VENICE Written by Cornelius Schnauber, translated from the original German by Tom Schanuber. (Downstairs in the Great Scott Theater.). MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 25. (323) 957-1152.
GO ROCK 'N RIDICULE The country might be flat broke 'n broken, but we have an embarrassment of riches in material for political and social satire, which this new show by Acme Comedy Theatre cleverly demonstrates. Howard Bennett and the four member Rock N' Ridicule Band are showstoppers, spinning off jazz, blues and R&B tunes with the utmost precision, and also providing some well-timed sound effects. Nicholas Zill's book and lyrics are equally impressive, as is the nine-member cast who prove themselves remarkably versatile under Robert Otey's direction. With few exceptions, the 24 skits are very funny, mixing song-and-dance routines that are humorously blended with just the right mix of physical comedy. No sacred cows here: El Presidente takes it on the chin more than a few times. "We Will Barack You" (sung to the tune of Queen's "We Will Rock You"), is a hilarious ditty performed by the entire company, while in "Barack A Bye Baby," the Commander In Chief (a hilarious Derek Reid, who also does a great take on Tiger Woods), is smitten with insomnia and resorts to some unusual remedies. Natascha Corrigan is a hoot in several turns as Sarah Palin, the funniest being a golf lesson she gets from Reid. Louie Sadd steals the show with his clueless stare, eyes-blinking, language-contorting take on (almost) everybody's favorite foil and punch line. George W. (323) 525-0202. (Lovell Estell III). Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru April 25. (323) 525-0202.
THE ROSE BOWL QUEENS This Rose Bowl isn't in Pasadena. It's a bowling alley in St. Jerome, Texas, presided over by widowed owner Rose McPhee (Asunta Fleming), which serves as a home away from home for its regulars. The Queens are the gals (Judy Nazemetz, Leann Donovan and Terri Homburg-Olsen) who make up the Friday-night bowling team, along with their male counter-parts (Jon Powell, Meyer De Leeuw, Kevin High and Kyle Nudo). Sleazy building inspector Manny Lacuzzo (Paul Zegler) has amorous designs on Rose, and threatens to close down the Bowl unless she succumbs to his dubious powers of seduction. Her loyal customers pitch in to fix the building-code violations, and get the goods on the blackmailing Lacuzzo, enabling Rose to team up with her longtime beau (Powell). This folksy musical, with book, music and lyrics by Barbara Hart and Cheryl Gimbel, and music direction by Mary Ekler, combines a gaggle of mostly country songs and deliberately lame jokes, with good-hearted but nave dramaturgy. Director-choreographer Kay Cole has assembled a lively, colorful cast, and marshals them with panache. Much of the material is predictable, cornball stuff, but it's largely redeemed by enthusiasm and down-home charm. Joel Daavid's set and Sherrell Martin's costumes add Texas flavor. (Neal Weaver). Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 11, www.plays411.com/queens. (323) 960-7712.
SALAM SHALOM Saleem's story of an Arabic Ph.D candidate housed with an Israeli graduate student at UCLA. Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru April 16, www.SalamShalomThePlay.com. (323) 655-7679.
SAVE SHELDON! Kristina Haddad's solo show about an environmental activist's attempts to save an ancient Sequoia tree. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru April 17. (213) 389-9860.
SERIAL KILLERS Five serials compete to continue, voted on by the audience. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Sat., 11 p.m.; thru April 24. (310) 281-8337.
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., 2 p.m.; thru April 18. (323) 525-0661.
THE STORY OF MY LIFE Neil Bartram and Brian Hill's nostalgic musical about two childhood best friends, Alvin (Chad Borden) and Thomas (Robert J. Townsend), is set among packed bookshelves stretching nearly 15 feet high. They represent both the bookstore where Alvin spent his entire life and the memories the two boys made together -- each typed, bound and filed away. On one occasion, Alvin urged Thomas to pick a memory and write it down; he did, and promptly left Alvin behind in their small, rural town for big-city fame. Now, Thomas is back in the bookstore/memory bank and pressed to write Alvin's eulogy, a grim task continually derailed by his former best friend's sunny ghost, who flits around forgivingly to remind him of moments that mattered -- touchstones like snow angels, butterflies and It's a Wonderful Life, which were for them mutual obsessions and are for us heavy-handed metaphors. Directed by Nick DeGruccio, the likable production never gels; like the feckless Thomas, it never commits. Even postmortem, Alvin is so selflessly sweet that their seismic tensions register as inconsequential tremors. A few intense cheek kisses ask, "Were the lifelong bachelors in love love?" -- a question this staging is unsure how to answer. Musical director Michael Paternostro guides the duo through an amiable evening of songs, the standouts being "1876" (Thomas' ode to his influence, Mark Twain), and "People Carry On" (Alvin's farewell to his dead mother's bathrobe and to the tangibles that slowly usurp the memories they represent, and the people who created them -- not unlike the books of Tom Buderwitz's set.) (Amy Nicholson). Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 18. (818) 505-1875.
STREEP TEASE Meryl Streep monologues performed by dudes. BANG, 457 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Sat..; thru April 24. (323) 653-6886.
SURVIVAL EXERCISE A play by Don Ponturo, set in a corporate conference room. 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.
THE TEMPEST Shakespeare's play, presented by Action! Theatre Company. Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 17. (323) 463-3900.
TERRARIUM Michael Vukadinovich's story of war and romance. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru April 25...
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.
THERE IS TRUTH, LOVE IS REAL Doug Oliphant's music-video-like production about a musician's journey to fame. Flight Theater at The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru April 11, brownpapertickets.com/event/99650. (323) 465-0383.
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.
WHAT THE WHAT?! Sketch-comedy, including an "Obama Rap.", $10. Second City Studio Theater, 6560 Hollywood Blvd., Second Floor, L.A.; Fri., 9:30 p.m.; thru April 23, whatthewhatshow.com. (323) 464-8542.
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
DA Hugh Leonard's story of a Londoner haunted by his father's ghost. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 17. (626) 256-3809.
DIALOGUE BETWEEN A PROSTITUTE AND HER CLIENT Written by Dacia Maraini. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 18. (866) 811-4111.
GO THE DIVINERS Writer Jim Leonard Jr. sets his Depression-era fable in the Indiana community of Zion, population 40. C.C. Showers (Nathan Graham Smith), a disillusioned former preacher, arrives in Zion seeking work, and encounters a strange boy, Buddy (Rob Herring), a simpleminded savant. At age 4, Buddy nearly drowned; his mother died attempting to save him. His long immersion left him with strange powers, including the ability to find water during a drought, but he's also terrified of water. Showers befriends the boy, and attempts to cure him of his fears, but Bible-thumping religious zealot Norma Henshaw (Jennifer Lynn Davis) believes the former preacher has come to save the town. Her bossy interference leads to catastrophe. Leonard's attempt to give his tale cosmic significance doesn't entirely convince, but as a sweet folk tragi-comedy, his play is highly engaging. Smith makes Showers completely persuasive, Herring is funny and touching as Buddy, and, under TL Kolman's able direction, the cast offers fine support. Alex Egan and Reed Armstrong find rich comedy in the village elders, Lauren Schneider provides a sympathetic portrait of Buddy's loyal sister, and Chris Blim, Reed Windle and Ferrell Marshall are colorful locals. Produced by The Production Company. (Neal Weaver). Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 10, www.theprodco.com. (310) 869-7546.
THE ELEPHANT MAN Bernard Pomerance's true story of a disfigured Englishman. Luna Playhouse, 3706 San Fernando Road, Glendale; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 11, itsmyseat.com. (818) 500-7200.
JOURNEY SEEKERS: A STEAMPUNK ADVENTURE Steampunk shenanigans, courtesy Eugene Docena and Stefanie Warner. Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru April 18, azure-lorica.org. (866) 811-4111.
GO LIBERTY INN: THE MUSICAL Carlo Goldoni's La Locandiera, first produced in Venice circa 1750, has held the stage sporadically ever since, providing a vehicle for such theatrical divas as Eleonora Duse. Now it's been made into a musical, with book and lyrics by Dakin Matthews and music by B.T. Ryback. Matthews emphasizes a feminist slant, and transfers the action to Liberty, N.Y., in 1787. Mirandolina (Deborah May), the clever, independent proprietor of the Liberty Inn, inspires amorous feelings in her guests, including a rich English count (John Combs) and a vain, impecunious French marquess (John DeMita). She humors her lovesick swains for the sake of business, but a woman-hating Hessian captain (Norman Snow) offers a challenge, so she sets out to enchant him. Her flirtation is so successful that her loyal servant, Faber (Bill Mendieta), must rescue her from the violently enamored captain. Part of the fun is, ironically, the plot's predictability. The songs, with Matthews' playfully rhyming lyrics, are more clever than memorable, but director Anne McNaughton stages the piece con brio, and the cast (including Charlotte DiGregorio and Mark Doerr) plays it with zest, aided by Dean Cameron's lavish colonial costumes and classically simple set. (Neal Weaver). New Place Theatre, 10950 Peach Grove St., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 25. (866) 811-4111.
GO OLD GLORY When last we saw a production by Chicago expat scribe, Brett Neveau, it was American Dead at Rogue Machine/Theatre Theater -- a tenderly written study of a murder investigation in a small Midwest town. Lo and behold, Neveau's latest is a murder investigation, similarly filled with subterranean currents of subtext beneath vividly colloquial dialogues whose main purpose is often to avoid the harsher truths that these very good actors' body language and facial tics can expose, as though with a spotlight. (Scenes between the soldiers are often lighted by each holding a flashlight.) The murder in Old Glory occurs in Fallujah where -- never mind the War -- two American GIs (Jarrett Sleeper and James Messenger) who share a barracks drive each other to paroxysms of mutual loathing. (So no, Gertrude, this is not really a play about the War but about the homefront.) After one of the soldiers ends up splayed in his barracks with a hole in his chest, his father (Pete Gardner) takes a sojourn to a Berlin bar, seeking out the CO (Tom Ormeny), who might know what really happened. Meanwhile, back in New Mexico, the victim's best friend (Chris Allen) struggles to tell what he knows to the victim's mother (Kathy Baily). And so, Brett Snodgrass' set trifurcates the stage into the three realistic settings -- New Mexico, Fallujah and Berlin -- so that the action's mosaic unfolds within these compartments. The ensuing stasis is almost belligerently anti-theatrical, compounded by Allen's lugubrious interpretation of the best friend in his scenes with the grief-stricken mother. (Bailey is particularly adept at burying her despondency beneath strata of terse propriety.) Director Carri Sullens elicits performances that flow with crosscurrents of hardship and fury, yet with a delicacy that's almost amiable. Ormeny and Gardner excel with these gifts. And the latent violence simmering between the soldiers -- one a devotee of graphic novels, the other of real novels -- speaks head-on to why the United States can't seem to generate a reasonable discourse with herself about anything that actually matters. The isolation of the three scenic compartments underscores that point but at a cost, rendering this production more cinematic than theatrical, despite some emotional volatility, as though the action aches for close-ups and camera angles deprived us in this room. Yet, like American Dead, it's another penetratingly written rumination, a lament even, for something indescribable that's been lost in this country -- and to this country. (Steven Leigh Morris). Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru April 25. (818) 841-5421.
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., April 11, 2 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 2, potthemusical.com. (800) 838-3006.
GO A PRAYER FOR MY DAUGHTER A sweltering New York City summer; Son of Sam is still at large. A massive citywide blackout is around the corner. The year is 1977, and on the verge of bankruptcy, a city barely keeps it together, not unlike detectives Francis Kelly (Kevin Brief) and Jack Delasante (Matthew J. Williamson), two of NYPD's finest, who have nabbed two of its worst: Jimmy Rosario, a.k.a. Jimmy Rosehips (Matthew Thompson), and Simon Cohn, a.k.a. Sean de Kahn (Gary Lamb). A dry-cleaners is held up. Its owner, Mrs. Linowitz, is shot point-blank. There's hell to pay, especially when the boys in blue have no qualms about beating a confession out of these low-life suspects. Problem is, Jimmy and Simon are no rookies, and their ability to manipulate the demons that plague the seemingly hard-boiled Kelly and Delasante turns up the sweltering July heat inside the police station. First performed at the Public Theater in 1978, this revival of Thomas Babe's gritty interrogation drama is masterfully orchestrated by director Albert Alarr, whose fluid blocking and brutally realistic fight choreography make full use of Sarah Krainin's impeccably authentic set. The entire ensemble shines, showcasing both the humor and suffocating pain of a text that poignantly explores "the light" and "the dark" sides of our natures. (The show does contain full-frontal nudity.) (Mayank Keshaviah). Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood; Through April 10. (818) 745-8527.
THE RAINBOW ROOM Sara Kumar's true story of "Myxedema Madness.". Theatre Unlimited, 10943 Camarillo Ave., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 11...
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) 811-8208;4111.
GO SWEET SUE A.R. Gurney's stock in trade is as an erudite chronicler of Wasp culture and romantic conundrums. Here, he is not at his witty, engaging best, but director Ernest Figueroa and a stalwart cast make this problematic play worth a viewing. Sweet Sue is a variation on that old standby, the May-December romance. The action unfolds in the spacious Philadelphia home of Sue Weatherall, a middle-of-the-road artist who has a fling with Jake, a college buddy and roommate of her son Ted. Because Jake is rooming at her house for the summer, he agrees to do some nude modeling for Sue, which, to no one's surprise, gradually turns into a romantic fixation. That not much occurs in this highly talky play is not the problem. The two characters are played by four actors, two Sues and two Jakes. The artifice allows for dual perspectives and approaches, but this double representation becomes confusing, especially when all four actors are onstage, and when the author splices time segments, which he often does. What's more, notwithstanding some humorous moments, there really isn't a lot here that forcibly engages. The romance predictably fizzles. The upside is the fine acting: Figueroa's cast members (Laurie Morgan, Janet Wood, Sean McGee and Brandon Irons) work well together. Wood is especially artful in her portrayal of the older, mature Susan. (Lovell Estell III). Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 25. (818) 700-4878.
TEA AT FIVE Cissy Conner is Katharine Hepburn in Matthew Lombardo's biographical showcase. 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.
WHAT YOU WILL: or, TWELFTH NIGHT Shakespeare's cross-dressing comedy. Arthur Murray, 4633 Van Nuys Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 18, lastmetrocompany.com. (323) 639-3562.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS
THE ARSONISTS Max Frisch's absurdist comedy. 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.
CHARLOTTE'S WEB A Kentwood Kids production by Joseph Robinette. Westchester Playhouse, 8301 Hindry Ave., L.A.; Sat., 11 a.m. & 2 p.m.; thru April 17. (310) 645-5156.
THE COLLECTOR John Fowles' psychological thriller, adapted by Mark Healy. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 10. (310) 397-3244.
COMEDY VS. ART SMACKDOWN "Funny artists and artistic comics battle" in this monthly event, curated by Elisha Shapiro., $5. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; Second Monday of every month, 7:30 p.m.; thru June 14. (310) 315-1459.
THE DRAWER BOY Boy Michael Healey's tale of two friends. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 25. (310) 364-0535.
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.; thru May 30. (310) 399-3666.
LI'L ABNER Musical version of the Al Capp comic strip, book by Norman Panama and Melvin Frank, music by Gene De Paul, lyrics by Johnny Mercer. Presented by Kentwood Players. Westchester Playhouse, 8301 Hindry Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 17. (310) 645-5156.
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 émigré 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 April 25. (310) 822-8392.
PALISADES PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL Four evenings of plays written by Pacific Palisades playwrights Diane Grant, Richard Martin Hirsch, Gene Franklin Smith, and Noelle Donfeld and Sandra Shanin. Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades; Tues., April 13, 7:30 p.m.; Tues., April 20, 7:30 p.m.. (310) 454-1970.
PRINCESS BEAN'S MESSY WORLD Rock & roll kids musical about a petite punk princess. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice; Sat.. (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.
SOMETHING HAPPENED It's a marriage and family in crisis, by Trey Wilson. 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.
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