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Stage Raw: Betty Garrett Turns 90

Stage Raw: Betty Garrett Turns 90

This week's NEW THEATER REVIEWS are embedded within the current COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS; Also,  see last week's THEATER FEATURE on Elephant Man at Andak Stage Company


BETTY GARRETT TURNS 90

Stage Raw: Betty Garrett Turns 90

Photo by Bob  Freeman 2009


Betty Garrett, the hoofer-singer who appeared in Hollywood's Golden Era MGM musicals, and on Broadway in Meet Me in St. Louis, Follies and Spoon River Anthology turned 90 last week, and the theater she co-founded, Theater West, threw her a moving fundraiser-bash at the Music Box Sunday night, smartly directed by David Galligan.

Garrett, still tapdancing at 90, appeared spry and sounded witty. She was parked in a downstage throne while the an onstage bleacher of theater seats gradually became filled with the people who appeared onstage to honor her with words and song: including her sons Garrett and Andrew Parks (the latter Parks quipped how he had been elevated from "Will that kid never shut up!" to "The Family Orator" ); her daugher-in-law, Kate Melody; Gogi Grant, Beau Bridges and his daughter, Emily; Garrett's granddaughter Madison Claire Parks and comedienne Carol Cook, who roasted the star, with the opening line: "I never liked her." After an unsavory remark about Garrett's age elicited groans, Cook snapped back, "Nobody here has paid enough money to criticize what I'm doing." By the end of her act, Cook turned most of the jokes back on herself.

Andrew Parks described his mother as a font of creativity, recalling how she would dab her fingers into the wax of dining room table candles, eventually, accruing enough wax to sculpt a pair of dice, using toothpicks to carve the indented dots. Another such sculpture took the form of a female torso, held together with chicken bones.

David Engel's video clips from her movies showed scenes with Frank Sinatra, in which she was tossing the young, slender crooner across her lap like a rag doll. (Garrett appeared in On the Town, Take Me Out to the Ballgame, Neptune's Daughter, and a musical version of My Sister Eileen

Click the Continue Reading tab directly below for the latest NEW THEATER REVIEWS of Lillian Hellman's Little Foxes at the Pasadena Playhouse; Cymbeline at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum; Cole Porter's Red Hot and Blue! at The Whitefire Theatre in North Hollywood; Chris Covics' makover of Macbeth, here called The Sticking Place at The Unknown Theatre; A Grand Guignol Cabaret at the Gardner Stages in Hollywood; Michael Patrick Spillers Always and Forever at Casa 0101 in East L.A.; Hugh Whitemore's Breaking the Code at the Chandler Studio Theatre; Joe DiPietro's Over the River and Through the Woods at the Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre; Lope de Vega's Madness in Valencia presented by Sacred Fools Theatre Company; and NeedTheater's production of Philip Ridley's Mercury Fur, at the Imagined Life Theater.

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for June 5-11, 2009

(The weekend's New Reviews are embedded in "Continuing Performances"

below. You may also be able to search for them by title using your

computer's search program.)

Our critics are Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III, 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

OPENING THIS WEEK

THE BRAND NEW KID Musical adaptation of Katie Couric's children's

book, music by Michael Friedman, book by Melanie Marnich, lyrics by

Friedman and Marnich. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa

Mesa; opens June 6; Sat., June 6, 11 a.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 & 4:30

p.m.; Fri., June 12, 7 p.m.; Sat., June 13, 11 a.m.; thru June 14.

(714) 708-5555.

DAME EDNA: MY FIRST LAST TOUR Barry Humphries is the "international

homemaker, talk show host, gigastar, fashion icon, swami.". Ahmanson

Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; opens June 10; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.;

Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru June 21. (213) 628-2772.

4 X 4: 4 NEW WORKS BY 4 LATINO ARTISTS R. Ernie Silva's Heavy Like the Weight of a Flame, Reina Alejandra Prado's Whipped!, Adelina Anthony's Jotalogues, and work from Yosimar Reyes' new collection For Colored Boys Who Speak Softly. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; June 5-6, 8:30 p.m.. (310) 315-1459.

THE APPLE TREE Three one-act musicals, music by Jerry Bock, lyrics

by Sheldon Harnick, book by Bock and Harnick. Crown City Theatre, 11031

Camarillo St., North Hollywood; opens June 6; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,

2 p.m.; thru June 28. (818) 745-8527.

THE CURSE OF RAVENSDURN The New Comedy Theater presents Nick Hall's

wacky history of a doomed English family. Barnsdall Gallery Theater,

4800 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; opens June 5; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June

20, www.BGTtix.com. (323) 660-4254.

EAST OF BERLIN Hannah Moscovitch's Holocaust comedy. Yes, I said

Holocaust comedy. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North

Hollywood; opens June 5; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru July 19.

(818) 508-7101.

ECSTASY, THE MUSICAL College virgins take a '70s musical sex trip,

by S. Claus. Art/Works Theatre, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens

June 6; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru July 12,

www.plays411.com/ecstasy. (323) 960-7789.

FELLOWSHIP! Musical parody of The Fellowship of the Ring,

book by Kelly Holden-Bashar and Joel McCrary, music by Alen Simpson.

Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Toluca Lake; opens June 6;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru July 12, (No perf July 4.).

(818) 955-8101.

GREETINGS FROM HEAVEN AND HELL Multimedia performance by Ricardo

Lira Acuña, based on his poetry and photography book of the same name.

Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A.; Sat., June 6, 8

p.m.. (213) 489-0994.

HARRIETT LEVY -- BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND Todd Waddington is the

"chanteuse, priestess, lounge lizard and metaphysical life coach."

Wait, I thought Dame Edna was at the Ahmanson?. Hudson Guild Theater,

6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens June 11; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 19, www.plays411.com/harriettlevy. (323)

960-7792.

INSIDE OUT Jody Vaclav's "one-person show in two persons.". Actors

Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens June 5; Fri.-Sat.,

8 p.m.; thru July 11. (310) 306-6298.

JULIUS CAESAR Shakespeare's tragedy. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum,

1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; opens June 6; Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sat., June 27, 4 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 29, 4 p.m.; Sun.,

Sept. 6, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 4 p.m.; thru Sept. 26. (310) 455-3723.

LA DIDONE The Wooster Group mashes up Francesco Cavalli's 1641 opera with 1965 sci-fi movie Planet of the Vampires.,

$50-$55. REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., L.A.; opens June 11; Tues.-Sat.,

8:30 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru June 21, (No perfs June 15 & 18.).

(213) 237-2800.

LITTLE BLACK VEIL David LeBarron and Abby Travis' "drag queen

romantic comedy musical.". Ruby Theater at the Complex, 6476 Santa

Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens June 5; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.;

thru July 5, www.littleblackveil.com. (323) 960-5774.

LOVE WATER Jacqueline Wright's meditation on friendship. Open Fist

Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens June 5; Thurs.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 11. (323) 882-6912.

NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND Zombie Joe's Underground adapts Dostoyevsky's

existentialist novella. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North

Hollywood; opens June 5; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru June 27. (818)

202-4120.

OLEANNA Bill Pullman and Julia Stiles star in David Mamet's battle

of the sexes. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; opens June 5;

Fri., June 5, 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 6:30 p.m.; thru July 12. (213) 628-2772.

RING OF FIRE Broadway tribute to Johnny Cash, featuring 38 songs by

the country hitmaker. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900

La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada; opens June 6; Sat., June 6, 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

& 7 p.m.; Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.;

thru June 21. (562) 944-9801.

SEX, LOVE, AND TIME TRAVEL Five comedy one-acts by Daniel Weisman.

Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens June 6;

Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru June 28. (323) 960-1054.

SHOSHANA SINGS STREISAND Former Wicked star Shoshana Bean sings the hits of Barbra Streisand, plus songs from her debut album, Superhero. John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., L.A.; Thurs., June 11, 8:30 p.m.. (323) 461-3673.

THE SOMETHING-NOTHING Fielding Edlow's romantic comedy set in New

York's West Village. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.;

opens June 10; Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru July 2, (No perf June 11.).

(323) 960-7753.

STRANGER Spaghetti Western musical by Eva Anderson and Kaythe

Farley, with music by Tony Bollas. Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd.,

L.A.; opens June 6; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 28.

(213) 389-3856.

TALES OF AN UNSETTLED CITY: ENCOUNTERS Late-night vignettes by

Theatre Unleashed. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North

Hollywood; opens June 6; Sat., 10:30 p.m.; thru June 27. (818) 849-4039.

TRACING SONNY Andrew Moore's story of a voice-over artist's voices

in his head. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North

Hollywood; opens June 5; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 28.

(818) 849-4039.

TRUCK STOP CAFÉ Sharon L. Graine's stage adaptation of the film Bagdad Café. Playhouse Theatre Players, 600 Moulton Ave., L.A.; opens June 5; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June 27. (323) 227-5410.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGION-WIDE

GO BENGAL TIGER AT THE BAGHDAD ZOO Provoked by an

American guard named Tom (Glenn Davis), the Tiger (Kevin Tighe) in a

cage in the Baghdad zoo, circa 2002, lops off Tom's hand and is swiftly

shot by Tom's partner, Kev (Brad Fleischer). This is a story of people,

and creatures, who keep losing parts of themselves, and every image

stands for something else. The tiger was shot with a gold revolver

pillaged from the Uday Hussein's palace by Tom -- along with a gold

toilet seat that he hopes will be a source of financial security upon

his return to the U.S. Gold and the gold rush forge a pit of woe. Among

the living and the ghosts populating Rajiv Joseph's panorama is a

topiarist named Musa (Arian Moayed), though the occupying American

soldiers inexplicably call him Habib. And throughout the Magritte-like

dreamscape wanders the ghost of that Tiger, now pondering the purpose

of existence and original sin, as though being caged in war-torn

Baghdad weren't punishment enough for whatever crimes he committed as a

Tiger, kidnapped and airlifted from Bengal. Joseph's symbolism and

magic-carpet ride are quite magnificent, supported by Moisés Kaufman's

staging on Derek McLane's set of blue-hued tile with a mosque archway,

rimmed with gold. And, of course, Musa's topiary figurines that wander

in and out, like the growing population of ghosts. (SLM) Center Theatre

Group at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City;

Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.;

through June 7. (310) 628-2772.

COLLECTED STORIES Donald Margulies' slices of life about an aging

author and her young mentor. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center

Dr., Costa Mesa; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 &

7:30 p.m.; Tues.-Wed., 7:30 p.m.; thru June 14. (714) 708-5555.

CROWNS This musical by Regina Taylor examines the passionate

attachment of certain churchgoing African-American women for their

hats. Adapted from the book by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry,

Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats, it turns on the

interaction between Yolanda (Angela Wildflower Polk), a tough street

girl from Brooklyn raging with grief over the murder of her brother,

and various women she encounters after she's shipped off to South

Carolina to live with her grandmother (Paula Kelly). The book that was

the musical's source material consists of an elegant collection of

photo portraits and firsthand reminiscences; Taylor appropriates these

as monologues, then juxtaposes them with original dialogue and gospel

hymns. The thrust of the show -- increasingly churchly as the evening

wears on -- is the effort to educate Yolanda regarding the importance of

hats to her identity and her spirituality. Under Israel Hicks'

direction, the focus is clear but its execution -- both script and

performance -- is disappointing. Five female performers each deliver

various monologues that simply don't add up to recognizable characters

who serve the story -- itself a cobbled construct. Lackluster

choreography, less than top-notch vocals and indifferent lighting also

detract, as does the production's two-hour length, without

intermission. The strongest element is the outstanding contribution of

Clinton Derricks-Carroll in a variety of male roles, but especially as

a fervently possessed, pulpit-thumping preacher. In an uneven ensemble,

Vanessa Bell Calloway and Suzzanne Douglas are worthy of note, as are

the instrumentals, under Eric Scott Reed's musical direction. (DK) Nate

Holden Performing Arts Center, 4718 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.;

Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 2 & 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., through June

14. (323) 964-9768. An Ebony Repertory Theatre/Pasadena Playhouse

production.

NEW REVIEW GO CYMBELINE

Stage Raw: Betty Garrett Turns 90

Cymbeline. Photo by Ian Flanders


What might Shakespeare have written if he'd been asked by some

17th century counterpart of a TV producer, to come up with something

quick, hot and flashy? It's likely an extravagantly plotted comedy like

this one, with story ideas snatched from legend, his peers, and some of

his own better-developed and more sublime works. Regarded today as one

of Shakespeare's more minor plays, this comedy revolves around a king's

daughter named Imogen (Willow Geer), banished from court by her father

Cymbeline (Thad Geer) for daring to marry the man of her choice. The

plucky gal's travails intensify when a villain named Iachimo (Aaron

Hendry, alternating with Steve Matt) decides willy-nilly to slander her

to her husband Posthumus (Mike Peebler) who then commands a servant to

assassinate her for her alleged infidelity. Her wanderings eventually

land her on the doorstep of her father's old enemy, Belarius

(Earnestine Phillips), who has raised two of Cymbeline's children (thus

Imogen's own siblings) as her own. Director Ellen Geer has fashioned an

appealing production laced with an aptly measured dose of spectacle and

camp. At its core is Willow Geer's strong and likable princess. As her

adoring and later raging, jealous spouse, Peebler's Posthumus is

earnestly on the mark, while Jeff Wiesen garners deserved laughs as the

foppish suitor she'd rejected. The latter meets his end at the hands of

the princess's new-found brother, well-played by Matt Ducati. Will Geer

Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sun., 3:30

p.m.; thru Sept. 27. (310) 455-3723. (Deborah Klugman)

GO DIRTY DANCING Blockbuster musicals based on

blockbuster films are multiplying like viruses, but Dirty Dancing is

different. Its approach to slapping film on a stage is the zenith of

the seamless and shameless. Instead of adding songs, original

screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein's theater translation mimics scenes with

a faithfulness to her treasured 1987 source material that's slavishly

high camp. Add in James Powell's extravagant direction and we're served

up fantastically expensive cheese that knows audiences don't just want

to see Baby (Amanda Leigh Cobb) and Johnny (Josef Brown) dancing on a

log, they want to see that log descend majestically from the ceiling

and be dismissed when it's served its momentary purpose. By duplicating

the pacing, plot and props, Dirty Dancing revels in the luxurious

disposability that tells a crowd they're getting their money's worth.

Wow factor is key when you're shelling out the cost of several DVDs to

watch the exact same thing live -- the set whirls and motors, spitting

up bridges and doors and revolving platforms, dancers in great costumes

pack the stage, and giant video screens even show us the fractured

glass when Johnny punches a window. It's the kind of nonsense that

delights both cynics and fans. (Inversely, it's now the script's

dabbling into race and class consciousness that feels cheap.) Cobb and

Brown are twins for Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze, the charming Cobb

approaching the role with actual acting, while the muscular Brown has

fun aping Swayze's show-pony dramatics. In a strong and massive cast,

standouts include Britta Lazenga as the ill-fated dancer Penny and the

very funny Katlyn Carlson as Baby's snotty sister Lisa. (AN) Pantages

Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2

& 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through June 28. (213) 365-3500.

A Broadway L.A. production.

AN EMPTY PLATE IN THE CAFE DU GRAND BOEUF Wealthy ex-pat goes on a

solipsistic hunger strike in his own Paris restaurant, in Michael

Hollinger's dark comedy. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road,

Laguna Beach; Sun., 2 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.;

Thurs., June 11, 2 p.m.; Sun., June 21, 7 p.m.; thru June 28. (949)

497-2787.

LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN Oscar Wilde's satire of Victorian-era

marriage. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 13. (562) 494-1014.

NEW REVIEW GO THE LITTLE FOXES

Stage Raw: Betty Garrett Turns 90

The Little Foxes. Photo by Craig Schwartz

Lillian Hellman's 1939 melodrama, set in the antebellum

South of 1900, studies the voracious appetite for profit by the

middle-class Hubbard clan, who look with contempt on both the

aristocrats they've replaced, and their Black employees whom they

continue to cheat. And so the drama offers Hellman's harsh commentary

on both the economic and racial foundations of prosperity by those who

can afford it, usually at the expense of those who can't. In addition

to his perfectly paced production, director Dáal conversations. The

plot has a Swiss-watch construction, starting with a visit by William

Marshall (Tom Schmid) from Chicago, finalizing a business deal to

construct a mill in the small town. Financing would involve

contributing shares by three partners: Benjamin Hubbard (Steve

Vinovich), his brother Oscar (Marc Singer) - who married and now abuses

his aristocratic wife, Birdie (Julia Duffy) - and finally the very

reluctant Horace Giddens (Geoff Pierson), who's been recouperating for

months in Baltimore from a chronic heart condition. Horace's wife

Regina (Kelly McGillis) is the play's centerpiece, summoning her ill

husband home and engaging in all manner of negotiations, including

blackmail against the thieving Hubbards, and against her own husband,

in order to grab the most money that she can for herself. The play

contains some Chekhovian ambiance, such as when Birdie confides that

she's nevehat the theater has committed to produce. This may be an

observant play, but it's not a great one, as it can't quite crawl

inside the hearts of people it's too eager to condemn. And that's the

difference between a tragedy and a potboiler. Even McGillis

fionalization as the serial killer movies that blame the pathology on

the killer's being abused in childhood. Pierson's Horace is just grand

-- tired, wise, yet still on fire to outwit the town's sundry little

foxes. Nice turns also by Yvett Carson and Cleavant Derricks and the

servants in residence. As Regina's coy daughter, Rachel Sondag makes an

impressive transformation from sweetness to defiance as she slowly

figures out what's going on under her nose. Paradoxically, her kind of

moral outrage is also the play's undoing, serving up more of an

editorial, authorial opinion than a vision -- an impulse that Chekhov,

or Tennessee Williams, rarely succumbed to. Gary Wissman's opulent yet

frayed-at-the-edges set shows the beginning of a metaphor, but not

enough to compensate for the shortcomings of this well-crafted but

limited play. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena:

Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; through

June 28. (800) 378=7121. (Steven Leigh Morris)

LOUIS & KEELY: LIVE AT THE SAHARA I haven't seen this musical

study of '50s lounge-act crooners Louis Prima and Keely Smith since its

transcendent premiere at Sacred Fools Theatre last year, and oh, is it

different. Documentary and Oscar-nominated film maker Taylor Hackford

has been busy misguiding writer-performers Jake Broder and Vanessa

Claire Smith's musical. Taylor took over from director Jeremy Aldridge,

who brought it to life in east Hollywood. Smith and Broder have drafted

an entirely new book, added onstage characters - including Frank

Sinatra (Nick Cagle) who, along with Broder and Smith, croons a ditty.

(As though Cagle can compete with Sinatra's voice, so embedded into the

pop culture.) They've also added Prima's mother (Erin Matthews) and

other people who populated the lives of the pair. The result is just a

little heartbreaking: The essence of what made it so rare at Sacred

Fools has been re-vamped and muddied into a comparatively generic bio

musical, like Stormy Weather(about Lena Horne) or Ella(about

Ella Fitzgerald). The good news is the terrific musicianship, the

musical direction originally by Dennis Kaye and now shared by Broder

and Paul Litteral, remains as sharp as ever, as are the title

performances. Broder's lunatic edge and Bobby Darin singing style has

huge appeal, while Vanessa Claire Smith has grown ever more comfortable

in the guise and vocal stylings of Keely Smith. It was the music that

originally sold this show, and should continue to do so. With luck,

perhaps Broder and Smith haven't thrown out their original script.

(SLM) Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Thurs., 8

p.m.; Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 3:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30

p.m.; through June 28. (310) 208-54545.

MARRY ME A LITTLE & THE LAST FIVE YEARS For Marry Me a Little,

Craig Lucas and Norman Rene constructed a wisp of a plot to incorporate

16 existing Stephen Sondheim songs. In it, two New Yorkers, a man (Mike

Dalager) and a woman (Jennifer Hubilla) each spend a lonely Saturday

night at home. Since one set serves for both apartments, we see both

obliviously pursuing their solitary lives within a single space.

Director Jules Aaron seems to distrust the original concept, allowing

them to be aware and interact, so the thematic loneliness is nullified.

The result resembles a musical revue, or an overproduced concert. The

Last Five Years, written/composed by Jason Robert Brown and directed by

Jon Lawrence Rivera, depicts, in 14 songs, the dissolution of a

relationship, seen from opposite perspectives by writer Jamie (Michael

K. Lee) and Cathy (Jennifer Paz): He sees their relationship

chronologically, while she views it retrospectively, leaving us to

piece together the fractured tale. The performers are all capable, but

only Lee brings needed dynamism. Since one play concerns a relationship

that never happens, and the other depicts a deteriorating one, they

make for a grim evening, though the opening-night audience seemed

enthusiastic. )NW) East West Players at the David Henry Hwang Theatre,

129 Judge John Aiso St., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through

June 21. (213) 625-7000 or eastwestplayers.org.

NEVERWONDERLAND Boom Kat Dance Theatre ask, "What if Peter Pan and

Wonderland's Alice found each other in the same fantastical world?".

Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 14. (310) 979-7196.

SPIT LIKE A BIG GIRL Clarinda Ross' one-woman memoir of growing up

Southern, coping with her father's death, and raising her disabled

daughter. Rubicon Theater, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura; Sun., 2 p.m.;

Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru June 7. (805) 667-2900.

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

ACME THIS WEEK ACME's flagship sketch show, with celebrity guest

hosts each week. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sat.,

8 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

NEW REVIEW ALWAYS AND FOREVER

Stage Raw: Betty Garrett Turns 90

Always and Forever. Photo courtesy of Casa 0101

It's easy to see what drew playwright-director Michael

Patrick Spillers to write this painfully precious if somewhat flat

tribute to Mexican-American culture. That's because the only times

Spillers' otherwise soporific, magical-realism soap opera springs to

life are when it touches on the subjects closest to the playwright's

heart: Mexico's folkloric cult of the "narco-saint," Jesús Malverde,

patron saint of drug traffickers, and the narcocorridos, the heroic

ballads that celebrate the traffickers' exploits. Though admittedly

fascinating cultural artifacts, they are but footnotes to the tale

Spillers intends to carry the dramatic load. That story concerns the

rebellious 15-year-old, Alma (Dalia Perla), who is forced by her

controlling, older sister, Celia (Michelle Castillo), on a journey from

Norwalk to Tijuana to join their extended family for the traditional

fitting of Alma's quinceañera gown. Alma, who is much more interested in meeting heartthrob corridista

singer, Adán Sánchez, conjures the mischievous spirit of Malverde

(Arturo Medina) to aid in her quest. Once south of the border, the

group is joined by Nardo (Ezequiel Guerra), a narcoleptic proselytizer

for corridos, but it is the news of Sánchez' fatal car accident that finally reconciles Alma to her quinceañera

and magically resolves the play's other half-dozen subplots. Not

surprisingly, it is the footnotes ― and funny turns by Medina and

Guerra ― that steal the show in this otherwise indifferently staged

production. Casa 0101, 2009 E. First St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 7 p.m.; thru June 14. (323) 263-7684. (Bill Raden)

APARTMENT 6 & 9 Two comedies by Matt Morillo: All Aboard the Marriage Hearse and Stay Over. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 5. (323) 960-5521.

AS YOU LIKE IT Shakespeare's comedy, courtesy Declan Adams Theatre.

Next Stage Theater, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.; Sat., 8

p.m.; thru June 20. (213) 926-2726.

GO BIG Director Richard Israel and his fine cast

have a first-rate revival of this 1996 Broadway musical, based on the

film that made Tom Hanks a star. And if you've seen the movie and think

you know the story, think again: You can expect a few witty surprises

here. Big (John Weidman, book; David Shire, music; Richard Maltby,

lyrics) is a whimsical tale about Josh (L.J. Benet), an undersized

teenager whose oversized crush on a schoolmate results in a startling

metamorphosis when a carnival contraption grants his wish to be "big."

When he wakes up as an adult, Josh (Will Collyer) has his hands full

coping with life, his best friend, Billy (Sterling Beaumon), and a

heartbroken mom (Lisa Picotte). When he stumbles into a high-caliber

job with a toy company, he catches the eye of corporate climber Susan

(the outstanding Darrin Revitz) and finds romance, but he ultimately

discovers that life as a 13-year-old adult is not all that great.

Israel has done a remarkable job staging this piece on a small stage,

and manages the large cast -- which features some fine adolescent actors

and actresses -- quite well. Christine Lakin's choreography is polished

and attractive, with many of the dances evincing an edgy comic

expressiveness. Musical director Daniel Thomas does equally fine work.

(LE3) El Centro Theatre, 800 N. El Centro Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., through June 28. (323) 460-4443. A West Coast

Ensemble production.

BINGO WITH THE INDIANS Adam Rapp's dark comedy about scheming

thespians. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 10:30

p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru June 13, www.roguemachinetheatre.com. (323)

960-7774.

THE BLANK THEATRE COMPANY'S 17TH ANNUAL NATIONWIDE YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS

FESTIVAL A month of 12 winning plays by teenage playwrights, with three

new plays each week. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 28, www.theblank.com.

(323) 661-9827.

CIRCUS THEATRICALS FESTIVAL OF NEW ONE-ACT PLAYS, . Lex Theatre,

6760 Lexington Ave., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru

June 28. (323) 960-7846.

COME BACK LITTLE HORNY In playwright Laura Richardson's clever

sourball of a family comedy, mom Susan (Wendy Phillips) and dad Ian

(Scott Paulin) used to be artists, but now they're retired -- read

"tapped out" -- and they seem to spend most of their time sniping at

each other. Meanwhile, their closeted gay son Loki (Brendan Bonner) and

borderline schizophrenic daughter Nora (Jennifer Erholm) still live at

home, subjected to endless sneers and veiled insults thrown in their

direction. Into this toxic atmosphere comes the family's one successful

scion, Stanford University professor and bestselling author Raven

(Danielle Weeks), who, estranged from her clan, shows up for a visit,

bringing along her newly adopted pet dog Horny (delightfully played in

canine drag by Jason Paige, whose leg-humping, slobbery performance all

but barks with the unfiltered love that the human characters can't

express to each other). Raven's latest book is a hostile but truthful

roman à clef about her family -- and, as they peruse the book, the clan

is forced to confront the miserable truth. Director Martha Demson's

character-driven production artfully emphasizes the subtext underlying

the family's brittle relationship. Not a line is spoken that doesn't

seep with layers of corrosive back story. Although the pacing

occasionally falters -- and the piece frankly could use some cutting,

particularly during the final third -- the writing is smartly full of

just the sorts of lines you hope never to hear from your mother. The

ensemble work boasts some ferocious acting turns, particularly from

Phillips' scathingly bitter mother and Weeks' superficially loving,

passively hostile daughter. (PB) Lost Studio Theatre, 130 S. LaBrea

Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; through June 20. (310)

600-3682.

GO THE CRUCIBLE In the days of HUAC and Senator

Joseph McCarthy, when it was dangerous for any left-leaning writer to

criticize government actions, playwright Arthur Miller approached the

subject indirectly, writing about the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 as a

metaphor for McCarthy's reckless accusations. But as this illuminating

production makes clear, the play remains eloquent and relevant, and

director Marianne Savell gives it a sharp new focus. In addition to

examining the plight of John and Elizabeth Proctor (Bruce Ladd and Nan

McNamara), both accused of witchcraft, she highlights two of the

accusers: The paranoid, egocentric, hysterical Reverend Parris (Daniel

J. Roberts) is ultimately destroyed by the madness he has unleashed,

while decent man of conscience Reverend Hale (Gary Clemmer) believes

the charges of witchcraft until it's too late to halt the madness. The

witch-hunt, launched by a toxic brew of superstition, fear, lies,

self-righteousness and individual malice, becomes an inexorable force,

grinding up accusers and accused. Ladd and McNamara deftly capture the

flawed but powerful integrity of John and Elizabeth, while Roberts and

Clemmer subtly delineate the growing despair of the two clergymen. They

are given strong support by a huge and able cast. (NW) Actors Co-op,

1760 N. Gower St., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2:30 p.m.,

additional matinee Sat., May 16, 2:30 p.m., through June 7. (323)

462-8460.

DADDY'S DYIN', WHO'S GOT THE WILL Director Jeff Murray has here

substituted the "white trash" clan in Del Shores' comedy about a

dysfunctional family in 1986 Texas with an African-American cast. For

most of the evening, it's funny watching this caustic mix of vipers

playing head games and sniping at each other. Shores

dialogue is blisteringly funny, but sometimes these qualities don't

emerge forcefully enough under Murray's understated direction. (LE3).

Theatre/Theater-Hollywood, 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave., L.A.; Sun., 3 p.m.;

thru June 28. (323) 954-9795.

GO DIVORCE! THE MUSICAL Erin Kamler's witty and

entertaining new musical satire (for which she wrote the music, the

lyrics and the book) takes apart almost every emotional phase of a

marital breakup, including the horrors of dating and the hollows of

rebound sex, and sets it to chirpy and wry songs that feature some

sophisticated musical juxtapositions and harmonies. (Musical direction

and arrangements by David O) Kamler skirts the apparent danger of

triteness (setting a too familiar circumstance to music) by cutting

beneath the veneer of gender warfare. This is a study of the decaying

partnership of a resentful Brentwood radiologist (Rick Segall) and his

aspiring actress wife (Lowe Taylor), goaded by their respective

attorneys. The lawyers are the villains here - one (Gabrielle Wagner),

a Beverly Hills shark, the other (Leslie Stevens), a swirl of confusion

from her own recent divorce and now "temporarily" based in Studio City.

These vultures collude to distort the grievances of their clients, who

both actually care about their exes, and would be better off without

"representation." They might even remain married, the musical implies.

Director Rick Sparks gets clean, accomplished performances from his

five-person ensemble (that also includes Gregory Franklin, as the

Mediator - i.e. host of an absurdist game show.) Danny Cistone's cubist

set with rolling platforms masks the live three-piece band, parked

behind the action: This includes the ex-groom's impulsive decision,

based in his lawyer's misinformation, to removal all furniture from his

home, where he ex-bride continues to live -- only to find his bank

accounts and credit cards frozen. In the song, "We Stuck It Out,"

there's a kind of Sondheimian ennui to the verities of life-long

partnerships. The song is ostensibly an homage to his parents, in whose

basement he winds up living. As the Brits would say, marriage is bloody

hard work. (SLM) Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd.,

Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (323) 960-1056.

GO EL OGRITO (THE OGRELING) Jesús Castaños-Chima

stages Suzanne Lebeau's dark fairy tale (performed in Spanish with

English supertitles) with sweetness and depth. It concerns a mother

(Julieta Ortiz) trying to protect her young son (the adult Gabriel

Romero) from the heredity and instinct of blood lust. His father, you

see, was/is an Ogre, or one who eats children. After going through six

of his own daughters, he fled to give his infant son a chance. Dad

hangs offstage in the forest, watching with admiration as his son

struggles with hereditary, demonic passions to eat little animals and,

eventually, little children, while his mother strives valiantly to ban

the color red from the house, and serve him vegetarian fare grown in

the garden -- in these plays, gardens always serve as an antidote to the

horrors of who we are. (SLM) 24th Street Theater, 1117 24th St., L.A.;

Sat.-Sun., times vary, call for schedule; through June 21. (213)

745-6516.

ENTER THE SUNDAY All-new sketch and improv by the Sunday Company.

Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (323)

934-9700.

GO EVE'S RAPTURE The fall of Adam and Eve has

furnished raw material for countless works of art but one rarely as

fantastical as Bryan Reynolds' unpredictable play. A dizzying mix of

metaphors, it begins with Satan (Chris Marshall) in command of an armed

and loyal jihad of fallen angels; they are determined to take down God

by either recruiting Adam (Ryan Welsh) and Eve (Kendra Smith) to their

cause, or destroying them. Act I depicts the first couple gamboling in

the Garden, notwithstanding Eve's uneasy sense that there's more to

existence than affectionate kisses and playful body rubs. The end of

innocence comes after Satan personally tempts her to bite the apple,

then fucks her wildly -- leaving them both wowed by their unexpected

erotic rapport. Their intercourse marks the beginning of Eve's total

transformation; whereas Adam develops the doldrums, and worse. By

play's end, Eve is one gal you surely wouldn't want to mix it up with.

Part-parable, part-comic strip fable, part-action drama, the play

speaks powerfully to the unseen forces and symbols that dominate our

lives. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Eden sequences drag, layered as

they are with so much saccharine that one's soon rooting for the Devil

to break it up. As the prime mover of the action, Marshall's

performance is one of understated mastery. As his wife/daughter Sin,

Sage Howard sizzles. Robert Cohen directs. (DK) Hayworth Theatre, 2511

Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through June 27.

(323) 960-7721.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE Weekly sketch comedy. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

FUGGEDABOUDIT Male model with amnesia meets his "friends," by Gordon

Bressack. Hollywood Fight Club Theater, 6767 W. Sunset Blvd., No. 6,

L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.;

thru June 14. (323) 465-0800.

NEW REVIEW A GRAND GUIGNOL CABARET Evoking

the raucous, free-form ambiance and style of a 1920s underground Berlin

cabaret, director Amanda Harvey's show scores big on variety, less so

on quality. Hosted by the charming, garrulous Gunter (Carlos

Peñaranda), the evening opens with a lukewarm ditty called "When the

Special Girlfriend," by a riotously funny "chair dance," salaciously

performed by the female members of the ensemble to the music of "

Wagner's "Die Valkyrie," which concludes with the gals spouting water

from their mouths like fountain sculptures. Such visual engagement is

the cabaret's strength, imaginatively choreographed by Vanessa Forster.

Peñaranda's turn as a drag queen and his German-accented rendition of

"Ol Man River,"cum and straw hat don't cut it. Two short plays are also

on the bill. Haney, Dani O'Terry and Forster created The Little House in Friedrichstadt, delightful grotesquerie artfully rendered in mime, which tells of fiendish, bloody goings-on in a brothel. Eddie Muller's Orgy in the Lighthouse,

from Alfred Marchand's play, is about two brothers who entertain a pair

of whores on a holy day; this version is painfully insipid. Sunset

Gardner Stages, 1501 N. Gardner St., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.,

Sun., 7 p.m.; through June 28. www.brownpapertickets.com or

www.legrandguignolkabaret.com (Lovell Estell III)

NEW REVIEW GROUNDLINGS ENCHANTED FOREST

Stage Raw: Betty Garrett Turns 90

Groundlings Enchanted Forest. Photo courtesy of The Groundlings


This well-executed evening of comedy consists of a random

collection of skits by company member Laird Macintosh and various

co-writers. In "One Fifth Is All You Need," a man (Steve Little) who

believes himself to be of Irish extraction lands in Native-American

heaven, where he discovers he's one fifth Native-American and

immediately acquires skills in weaving, archery and hand-to-hand

combat. In the predictable but nicely performed "Be Grateful for the

Good Times," a couple (Macintosh and Wendi McLendon-Covey) on the cusp

of an amiable divorce end up at each other's throats, while a

mollycoddling divorce counselor (Ben Falcone) tries to mediate. "Soft

Butt Firm," finds Melissa McCarthy on-target as a sugar-tongued

huckster of her recently acquired product -- a super-absorbent toilet

paper. An alcoholic Dad (Little), drunk and abusive at a Thanksgiving

get-together, is urged by one and all to hit the road, in "Giving

Thanks." Directed by Roy Jenkins, the ensemble proves uniformly adept;

while the material is generally amiable and entertaining, none of the

segments delivers a knock-out comedic punch. Groundling Theater, 7307

Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; thru July 18.

(323) 934-9700. (Deborah Klugman)

GO HALF OF PLENTY Anyone still trying to trace the

roots of the great economic collapse of 2007 can stop digging.

Playwright Lisa Dillman's somewhat schematic satire argues that the

monetary debacle responsible for crippling the markets and the

existential paralysis gripping her suburbanite protagonists were both

spawned by a common corruption of spirit rather than of finance. In

fact, the instability that drives Marty Tindall (John Pollono) and his

wife, Holly (Carolyn Palmer), to regroup in the ironically named Ardor

Park housing development (and postpone having a child) has more to do

with Marty's recent bout of alcoholism and his downwardly mobile new

job at the local box factory. Complicating their effort to rebuild

their lives -- and marriage -- is Marty's Alzheimer's-afflicted father,

Jack (Robert Mandan), whose presence forces Holly to be both caregiver

and co-breadwinner by taking on medical-transcription work. The crisis

comes when Holly seeks solace in a romantic correspondence via

transcription tape with an unseen albeit married doctor/client while

Marty joins the quasi-terrorist "Neighborhood Vigil," enforcing

anti-immigrant, tract etiquette alongside the cell's creepily

charismatic Zooks (the very funny Ron Bottitta and Betsy Zajko).

Although a feebly bathetic denouement ultimately suggests Dillman is

more interested in the exposition of theme over character, Barbara

Kallir's crisp direction of a spot-on cast, aided by the polished

support of a fine design team (particularly Stephanie Kerley Schwartz's

trompe l'oeil set paintings), ably fills the gaps with laughs. (BR)

Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7

p.m. (323) 960-7774 or www.roguemachinetheatre.com. A Rogue Machine

production

THE HIGH Teen-drama parody, "from OMG to LOL.". ComedySportz, 733 Seward St., L.A.; Fri., 10:30 p.m.. (323) 871-1193.

GO THE IDEA MAN The unspecified manufacturing plant

at the heart of Kevin King's comedy-drama has a "Gillette account,"

referring to the razors and razorblades being produced there, among

other products. The detailed set design (credited to Elephant

Stageworks) includes welding stations lined along the walls of the tiny

stage. The realism in the design creates a naturalistic and enveloping

atmosphere of the workplace, which supports and, in subtle ways, also

stifles King's richly textured examination of the class divide within

that factory and, by implication, across America's dwindling

manufacturing base. When Al Carson (James Pippi), a bright machinist

and union rep, visits the salubrious home of plant manager Simmons

(David Franco), Al's awe and awkwardness are apparent in Pippi's

expressions, while behind him, we see welding machines, which is a

intrusion. As directed by David Fofi in a style that combines earthy

David Mamet/Steppenwolf Theatre realism with occasional hints of a

sitcom in the making, the ensemble is so good that the production rides

largely on the strengths of the atmosphere and the actors. Al has just

won the "suggestion of the month" prize, for a design generating

exponentially more efficiency in the production of razorblades. The

idea could be worth millions of dollars in potential savings to the

company, and for this, Simmons is willing to reward Al with a check for

$100 and a laminated plaque with his name on it -- on the condition that

Al signs over the rights to his design. Al understands the insult; he's

no fool What ensues is a series of artfully conceived scenes between

the Al and staff engineer Frank (Robert Foster), who's task is to make

Al's idea "work" -- a blue collar-white collar cat-and-mouse game in

which the roles of cat and mouse keep shifting. That Simmons would

invite top management to fly in from God knows where, this coming

weekend, no less, for a presentation on Al's suggestion -- even before

Frank has had the opportunity to test it -- reveals a management style

so reckless, it's hard to believe. Yet it's on this somewhat contrived

stress test that playwright King builds the play's suspense. King's

ideas are so fine, they deserve refining. (SLM) Elephant Theatre

Company, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., through

June 6. (323) 960-4410.

INVISIBLE HEROES Storytelling by Here and Now Theatre Company.

Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru June

28, www.hereandnowtheatrecompany.com. (323) 463-3900.

NEW REVIEW GO MADNESS IN VALENCIA

Stage Raw: Betty Garrett Turns 90

Madness in Valencia. Photo courtesy of Sacred Fools Theatre Company

We get a look-in on Spain's Golden Age via

playwright-poet Lope de Vega's 1590 farce about love and lunacy, in

David Johnston's pleasing and somewhat audacious 1998 translation.

(Johnston's version adds a second, alternate ending.) Across the

English Channel at around the same time de Vega and Calderon were

fusing dreams and life in their writings, Shakespeare was toying with

similar ideas in both The Winter's Tale and A Midsummer Nights Dream. In Madness,

however, we get no magic potions concocted by the sprites in order to

fool mortals into believing that they're donkeys, or "enamored of an

ass." De Vega worked from the presumption that people are either mad,

or pretend to be so, without any medicinal help. Floriano (Michael

Holmes) arrives in the woods around Valencia in a panic that, for the

love of a woman, he's murdered a local prince. He confesses this fear

to a young beauty, Erifila (Vivian Kerr) - a trusting confession to say

the least. Erifilia fled with a servant from her father and his plans

to bind her future to an arranged marriage. (The servant strands her in

the woods after robbing her of her jewelry and outer-garments.) In

order to escape notice, the pair choose to seclude themselves in the

safest place around -- Valencia's famed mental asylum - where the pair

pretend to be nuts, and where the play's enveloping metaphor for

society, and for lovers, takes root. There's an amiable goofiness in

Suzanne Karpinski's staging of her 13-member ensemble, and this is the

right company to pull off a show so influenced by the Italian Commedia

clowning. Holmes' Floriano has a hangdog charm that makes him both a

persuasive leading man and the idiot savant, depending on whom he's

trying to fool, while Kerr possesses a vivacious esprit that spins,

when needed, into the requisite arrogance that accompanies

sanctimonious betrayal. Kurt Boetcher's relies heavily on burlap and

cloth drapery to symbolize the woods, in hues of green and purple. And

though Karpinski's tone is a bit languid at the start, the play's

tangles of attraction, and their accompanying pangs of jealousy, grow

increasingly absorbing. For all the technical details and the abundant

merits of Karpinski's production, one does get the feeling that the

play has been more staged than interpreted. The canvas on which the

play unfolds contains few striking visual motifs that offer an urgent

idea of why this play is being performed - beyond the obvious

explanation that a few people sort of liked it. As such, it's a

delightful museum piece that could be much more, with a greater breadth

of vision. Terrific performances also by Laura Napoli, Juliette Angeli, Brandon Clark, and Paul Byrne, among others. Sacred Fools Theatre,

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m. (added perf Sun., June 28, 2 p.m.); through June 28.

(310) 281-8337. (Steven Leigh Morris)

NEW REVIEW GO MERCURY FUR A cross between A Clockwork Orangeand

the plays of Sarah Kane, British playwright Philip Ridley's

controversial drama, set in a dystopian London under siege, follows a

group of young men desperate to survive. Elliot (Edward Tournier) and

his brother Darren (Andrew Perez) clean up an abandoned apartment to

prepare for a party organized by their friend and gang leader Spinx

(Greg Beam). They are assisted by Naz (Jason Karasev), a friend who

happens to live in the building, and their drag queen friend Lola (Jeff

Torres), who arrives with a costume for the Party Piece (Ryan Hodge), a

barely-conscious "Paki" boy who becomes the center of attention. Once

Spinx finally arrives, along with The Duchess (Nina Sallinen), final

preparations are made for the Party Guest (Kelly Van Kirk) who will be

their salvation from this hellhole, but as the party starts, things go

awry in a series of twisted, violent events. Like the songs of the

British trance band Prodigy, one of which plays in the final scene, the

drama's layers slowly unfold, culminating in an apocalyptic climax that

is foreshadowed, yet nonetheless blows you away with its brutality and

horror. Dado's direction brings out the intensity of her actors who

throw themselves headlong into this nightmarish world and reveal their

characters to be at once gritty, reprehensible, funny, and pitiable. I

left the theater disturbed and affected, which after all is the point.

Imagined Life Theatere, 5615 San Vicente Blvd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 5 p.m.; through June 28. (800) 838-3006. BrownPaperTickets.com. A

Needtheater production. (Mayank Keshaviah)

NIGHTS OF NOIR: MARKED FOR LOVE/OF DICKS AND DAMES In this pair of

one-acts, writer-director Kasey Wilson parodies 1940s film noir by

introducing private eye Bolt, who though not exactly Sam Spade, is

nevertheless good for some laughs. There is more style than substance

here, but it eventually adds up to an evening of fun. (LE3). The Attic

Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; thru June 27. (323) 960-1055.

ONCE UPON A MATTRESS Princess-and-pea musical, adapted from the Hans

Christian Andersen fairy tale. Music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by

Marshall Barer, book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller, and Marshall Barer.

Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

p.m.; thru June 21. (323) 939-9220.

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.

RANTOUL AND DIE Mark Roberts' bleak comedy has four great characters

and a half-dozen great speeches in search of a point. Set in Rantoul,

Illinois, it opens with Gary (Paul Dillon) counseling heartbroken bud

Rallis (Rich Hutchman) on his pending divorce from Debbie (Cynthia

Ettinger), who works down at the Dairy Queen. Gary is a redneck mystic

and self-described tiger; his approach to keeping Rallis from slicing

his wrists is to choke the fear of death in him. With the entrance of

the cruel and curvaceous Debbie (who's hell-bent on keeping the house

and Honda) and her cat-lady boss Callie (Lisa Rothschiller), Roberts

opens several inviting routes for his play to explore grief, guilt and

mercenary lust. Instead, it stalls, with repetitive arguments and

shocks that don't register as the nasty fun we crave. Director Erin

Quigley gets fun performances from her four leads and gives each their

moment to hold court over production designer David Harwell's

painstakingly accurate suburban ranch house, complete with dogs that

bark each time a character slams the front door in frustration. (AN)

Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 7 p.m.; through July 4. (323) 960-4424 or www.rantoulanddie.com.

THE REAL THING "Loving and being loved is so illiterate," sighs

playwright Henry (Jay Huguley) in Tom Stoppard's dramedy about

commitment to your amour and emotions. Henry boasts that he's too

superior to feel jealousy; his confusion at being cuckolded is

channeled into his brilliant, but bourgeois living room dramas, which

-- like him -- risk sounding flip. He's frustrated with drafting an

earnest love story for his new actress wife (Susan Duerden), and

Stoppard's self-aware digressions feel like the author's apologia for

any potential weaknesses. Luckily, such meanderings are few. Before

long, Henry's loudmouthed cynicism eases into a convincing case that

he's the last romantic in England. The brittle wit of the first act

softens after intermission when a tenderized Henry offers his

definition of fidelity. However, to breathe, these observations need a

light, deft touch. Instead director Allen Barton instead cranks up the

emotionalism, even ending several scenes in a deafening climax of

screams and music. Whatever Huguley is bellowing at the ceiling is

drowned out in the fury, a misstep for a play that worships the power

of words. (AN) Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru June 7. (323) 960-7861. A

Katselas Company production

GO RICHARD III REDUX: OUR RADICAL ADAPTATION The

radical part of this stylish, modern-dress patchwork isn't so much in

director John Farmanesh-Bocca's decision to preface Richard III with a

flashback version of its chronological antecedent, Henry VI, Part 3.

Nor is it in the Procrustean condensation required to fit both plays

into an evening that clocks in at a mere 100 minutes. What is radical

is the Veterans Center for the Performing Arts production's argument

that doing so makes for a more sympathetic, emotionally traumatized

Richard (Stephan Wolfert). If the case isn't airtight, blame

Shakespeare -- even Clarence Darrow would cop a plea before the

persuasive power with which the Bard prosecutes his most irredeemably

sociopathic of stage villains. That the effort proves such a rollicking

good time is strictly the fault of Farmanesh-Bocca and his iridescent

ensemble (ably lit by Randy Brumbaugh). Wolfert's antic performance as

the crook-backed usurper is almost Lon Chaney-esque in its physical

dimensions, confidently spanning the valiant-defender-of-York honor in

Henry and the gleefully scheming gargoyle of Richard. Bruce Cervi and

Tim Halligan provide nuanced support as Richard's ill-fated brothers

caught in the cross hairs of dynastic ambition, while the versatile

Carvell Wallace inflects the conspiratorial Buckingham with a

distinctly Kissingerian menace. The best reason for this redux,

however, may be Lisa Pettett's tantalizing turn as Queen Margaret, a

portrayal of matriarchal political manipulation right out of The

Manchurian Candidate. (BR) Mortise & Tenon Furniture Store, 2nd

floor, 446 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sun. & Mon., 8 p.m., through June

8. (888) 398-9348. A Veterans Center for the Performing Arts production.

SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK LIVE TOO! Teacher saves his favorite hangout from

foreclosure through the magic of songs from "Schoolhouse Rock.".

Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Sun., 4 p.m.; Fri.,

7:30 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 7:30 p.m.; thru July 26. (323) 655-7679.

SERIAL KILLERS: THE PLAYOFFS Facebook factors into this serialized

improv competition: Log in and vote each week on which serials

continue, until there is only one! (Final round and awards ceremony,

July 11.). Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Sat., 11

p.m.; Sat., July 11, 8 p.m.; thru June 27. (310) 281-8337.

GO SETUP & PUNCH Director Daniel Henning

seamlessly moves the action between the past and the present in Mark

Saltzman's highly original new comedy. After a bitter 10-year breakup

with former writing partner Vanya (Hedy Burress), Brian (Andrew Leeds)

contacts her about the copyright to a children's show they co-produced.

Through a series of letters, the breakup of the once happy writing duo

is laid bare. The two met at Cornell, and Vanya followed Brian to New

York City to kick-start his Broadway aspirations. They audition for a

revue, but are told to collaborate with Jan (a mesmerizing P.J.

Griffith), a rock star and composer. As the twosome becomes a

threesome, Vanya's unrequited love for Brian, a deeply closeted gay

man, spills through. However, Jan, a sexual libertine, opens the closet

door for Brian. The sexual tension is one contributing factor to Vanya

and Brian's breakup, but when Vanya is hired for a TV series they had

both been working on, Brian goes ballistic. All of this is revealed

through a series of letters, which become e-mails, which become phone

calls, as the two draw near a rapprochement. Performed without an

intermission, Henning keeps the action moving at a brisk pace, even as

the two compose letters. Griffith also performs in the smaller role of

Miguel, a once-raucous Cornell classmate who has diverged onto a

spiritual path. (SR) Second Stage Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd.,

L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through June 21. (323)

661-9827. A Blank Theatre Company production

THE SINGING SKELETON The first hour of Stefan Marks' satire of

actors and their odd relationship to theater finds hilarious truth in

the absurdity of the odyssey of inexperienced but emotionally connected

artists trying to find a path through Hollywood. Spouting eye-rolling

platitudes about acting techniques and script-writing, several

characters might easily become two-dimensional jokes, but Marks' ear

for actor lingo and a fine cast allow the play to weave a tight fabric

of reality out of the ludicrous. Most successful is Barrett Shuler,

with a brilliant, deadpan portrayal of Brandon, a first-time playwright

nearly as passionate about the work as he is about gorgeous Hannah

(Jessica Kepler), whom he hopes to cast (and kiss) as his star. Brian

Taubman as his clueless best friend; Mark Gadbois as an aging and

idiotic macho actor; and Matt Weight as an Australian pretty boy join

in to make this journey through Equity Waiver heartbreakingly funny.

The title is not metaphoric but literal, as a singing skeleton (Marks)

punctuates the play and play-within-a-play with pithy songs beautifully

sung to acoustic guitar. Sadly, Act 2 disintegrates into cheap sketch,

still garnering laughs, but from feeble jokes rather than clever

insights. Occasionally the foolishness pauses for a melodramatic

moment, but the play never regains the polish and painfully funny

beauty of Act 1. (TP) Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd.,

Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through June 27. (888) 201-0804.

Crooked Arrow Productions

GO STICK FLY Lydia R. Diamond's scintillating

comedy is set in the elegant and expensive summer home (gorgeously

designed by John Iacovelli) of Dr. Joseph Levay (John Wesley), in an

elite, African-American enclave of Martha's Vineyard. The family is

arriving for the weekend, and son Flip (Terrell Tilford), a successful

plastic surgeon, is bringing his white fiancée Kimber (Avery Clyde) to

meet the family. Writer son Kent (Chris Butler) also brings his

bride-to be, Taylor (Michole Briana White), who comes from a lower rung

on the social ladder. At first all is banter, horse-play and fun, but

gradually fracture lines appear. Despite their wealth and privilege,

the Levays are not immune to the stresses and prejudices of snobbery,

race and class, conflicts between fathers and sons, and brotherly

rivalries. Mom hasn't turned up for the family gathering, and secrets

about sexual hanky-pank lurk beneath the surface, waiting to erupt.

Meanwhile, young substitute maid-housekeeper Cheryl (Tinashe Kajese) is

seriously upset about something. Diamond's play combines complex

characters, provocative situations, and literate, funny dialog in this

delicious comedy of contemporary manners. Director Shirley Joe Finney

reveals a sharp eye for social nuance, and melds her dream cast into a

brilliantly seamless ensemble. They are all terrific. (NW) The Matrix

Theatre Company, 7657 Melrose Avenue, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun. 3

p.m., thru June 14. (323) 960-7740.

NEW REVIEW THE STICKING PLACE As Shakespeare

drafted Macbeth, he thought, "This is solid stuff -- but what if I set

it in a swimming pool?" Or not. But director Chris Covics has gone

ahead and set it in one anyway for the sole purpose of paralleling

Macbeth's doom to the pool's water level. As the Thane's guilt rises,

the water surges from the floor and rains down overhead on the four

female ensemble (Brittany Slattery, Angela Stern, Erica Stone and Amy

Tzagournis) whose white robes tangle and drag with the wet weight. For

a few minutes, it's chillingly effective. The ladies enter blindfolded,

fumbling their way like primordial lizards in a cave, as though Covics

is prodding us to think about the Macbeths' drive to survive and the

centuries we've spent reliving their fate. But the miserablist new

setting has consequences: drains that gurgle over speeches, distracting

fears for the actors' safety, and worst of all, the director's reliance

on his gimmick to compensate for the complete mess he's made of

Shakespeare's play. It's impossible to follow. Not just because the

actors trade off roles fluidly in mid-speech, but because they haven't

been directed to articulate the lines in either pronunciation or

performance. Happy, scared, female, male, Banquo or Lady M, everything

is delivered in a fearful psychotic squeal. At best, it's a Macbethtone

poem -- an unpleasant one for audience and actor alike. Or rather,

since the 60-minute production closes with the "Tomorrow" speech,

Covics has deliberately made the end-all of nouveau-nonsense

Shakespeare adaptations, sending us out of the theater with "Signifying

nothing" ringing in our heads as a lesson to the cock-eyed creatives.

Unknown Theater, 1110 N. Seward St., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 6 p.m.; thru June 27. (323) 466-7781. (Amy Nicholson)

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.

TOUCH THE WATER Julie Hébert's collaborative play about the Los

Angeles River. Rio de Los Angeles State Park, Bowtie Parcel, entrance

adjacent to 2800 Casitas Ave., L.A.; Wed.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru June 21.

(213) 613-1700, Ext. 37.

GO TRAFFICKING IN BROKEN HEARTS There's something

hauntingly familiar about Edwin Sanchez's lowlife romance, and I don't

mean its pre-Giuliani, 42nd Street locale, so palpably invoked by

Sanchez and director Efrain Schunior's blistering stage poetry. The

block's sordid miasma of peepshows, seedy hotel rooms, gay movie houses

and Port Authority men's rooms -- cleverly represented in designer

Marika Stephens' triptych of skeletal, neon-trimmed, box scaffolds --

comprises the track where Puerto Rican street veteran Papo (a soulful

Ramon Camacho) hustles the tricks of his rough trade. It's also where

he falls for Brian (Stephen Twardokus), a chronically repressed

attorney and 26-year-old virgin so tangled in the apron strings of a

domineering mother that he can't consummate a hooker-john liaison much

less engage in an openly gay relationship. In the meantime, Papo will

have to settle for the runaway, Bobby (Elijah Trichon), a 16-year-old

package of dangerously damaged goods, who only wants to make Papo a

good wife. The arrangement quickly develops into a volatile mix of

vulnerability, unrequited desire and wounded pride just waiting for the

inevitable spark. Of course, Papo is no hard-bitten Ratso Rizzo; he's

descended from an even more ancient line of Hollywood hokum: the

proverbial hooker with a heart of gold. Credit Schunior's skillful

sleight of hand, and riveting performances by Camacho and Twardokus for

selling such a shamelessly adolescent fantasy, which may be the

greatest hustle of the show. (BR) Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa

Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through June 7.

(323) 957-1884 or www.tix.com.

GO VOICE LESSONS Justin Tanner's very funny sitcom

shoots darts at a trio of characters who are tied to the dart board by

their transparent lunacies and hubris, which makes it an exercise in

almost pointless cruelty, though the broadness of Bart DeLorenzo's

staging may have contributed to the sense of this Punch & Judy Show

masquerading as a satire. In earlier plays, like Pot Mom,

Tanner stumbled onto an insight that unearthed the unseen side of a

stereotype. His skills at structure, one-liners and caricature are so

sharply honed, his persisting challenge is finding something worth

saying. Tanner's parody is directed at the vicious and deluded vanity

of a hopelessly obviously talentless and aging pop singer, Virginia

(Laurie Metcalf), trying to claw her way to TV fame. Can a target get

any easier? She cements her ambitions to a voice teacher, Nate (French

Stewart), whose initial mask of respectability and ethics slithers down

the greasy pole of his own personal desperation. Maile Flanagan further

inflates the farce, portraying Nate's zaftig live-in girlfriend,

setting up a catfight over the forlorn and increasingly sleazy teacher.

For all its petulant ambitions, the evening is wildly entertaining

thanks to the irrepressible talents of the cast. It's hard to see how

this play would survive without these actors. With a deep and slightly

nasal voice, and deadpan responses that should be copyrighted for the

mountain of silent thoughts they reveal, Stewart provides the perfect

foil for Metcalf's meticulously executed tornado of psychosis and

Flanagan's lovely cameo. DeLorenzo deserves credit for the comedy's

sculpted timing, and Gary Guidinger's set and lighting depicts with

realistic detail the frayed fortress of Nate's living room. (SLM)

Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,

7 p.m.; through June 28. (323) 960-7711.

WHO WROTE THIS SH!T Patrick Bristow directs an improv ensemble

through the Hollywood script process, from pitch meeting to DVD review.

Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., 8:30 p.m.; thru

July 30. (800) 838-3006.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS

NEW REVIEW GO BREAKING THE CODE Brilliant,

eccentric mathematician Alan Turing (Sam R. Ross) did vital work for

British intelligence during World War II, breaking the Nazi Enigma

Code, which saved thousands of allied lives, and materially helped

defeat the Axis powers. But because his efforts were top secret, he

received only posthumous public recognition. (Later, building on his

work on the code machines, he pioneered the modern computer.) But as

playwright Hugh Whitemore observes here, he broke other codes as well:

moral, legal, professional, and personal, including the homosexual's

20thcentury code of silence. Gay, guileless, awkward, ruthlessly

honest, and socially inept, he was often oblivious of his effect on

others. When a sexual encounter with a bit of rough trade (Adam Burch)

led to a police investigation, he rashly admitted to the inspector

(Armand DesHarnais) that he had sexual relations with the young man. He

found himself, like Oscar Wilde, prosecuted for "gross indecency," his

life and career wrecked. Writer Whitehouse and actor Ross provide an

eloquent, touching, richly detailed portrait of Turing, and director

Robert Mammana has assembled a fine supporting cast, including Sarah

Lilly as Turing's garrulous, loving mother, and David Ross Patterson as

a hilarious dim-bulb bureaucrat. The Chandler Studio Theatre, 12443

Chandler Boulevard, North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m.;

thru June 20. http://theprodco.comor (800) 838-3006. The Production

Company.(Neal Weaver)

COURTING VAMPIRES Far from the traditional fare surrounding the fanged

denizens of the dark, this world premiere from playwright Laura

Schellhardt explores the mindscape of straight-laced Rill Archer (Carey

Peters), a woman whose free-spirited younger sister Nina (Maya Lawson)

becomes seduced by a vampire named Jim Slade (Bo Foxworth, who plays

all of the males roles). Seeking justice and solace, Rill, dressed in

robotic gray, retells the sequence of events that led to the seduction,

skipping around in time and space while revealing the sisters'

relationships with each other, their father and Rill's co-worker Gill.

Set against Kurt Boetcher's set design that resembles a giant file

cabinet, and complemented by Tim Swiss' lighting design, the scenes in

the courtroom of Rill's mind are by turns funny and gravely serious,

exploring the characters' fears, desires and inhibitions. Schellhardt

is clearly accomplished, penning lines chock-full of witty lingual

gymnastics and unique turns of phrase. Director Jessica Kubzansky sets

the bar high as usual, ensuring that her actors navigate the complex

rhythms of the text and carve out their characters in sharp relief. The

cast members too are talented and faithfully trace the twists and turns

of their characters, especially Foxworth, whose multiple roles are

clearly defined. Unfortunately, the whole doesn't end up equaling the

sum of its parts, leaving the audience with numerous great moments that

don't fuse into a powerful or coherent story. (MK) Theatre @ Boston

Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m.,

through June 7. (626) 683-6883.

GO THE ELEPHANT MAN In his very romantic and even

sentimental Tony-award winning 1979 play, Bernard Pomerance challenges

our presumptions as to where monstrosity resides. A scientist named

Treves, portrayed by Andrew Matthews with bright-eyed, bow-tied

self-assurance, presumes he understands the entirety of a situation he

simply does not, when he rescues a the pathologically deformed John

Merrick (Daniel Reichert) from a carnival freak show in Victorian

London. Director John Demita stages the nine-member ensemble on the

tiny almost bare stage around a trio of portable, translucent screens,

like hospital screens, which come to represent the thin veneer of

privacy in the hospital clinic where Merrick spends his final days.

(Set designed by Steven Markus.) True to the Broadway staging, and in

direct contrast to David Lynch's 1980 movie, the monstrosity of

Merrick's condition is revealed without a spec of makeup or any

plastic-cloth constructions. Rather, Reichert contorts his body, down

to the fused fingers we hear about in the dialogue and see in projected

photographs. Pomerance's Merrick is a tortured angel, something of a

prophet. The production is meticulously acted, with superb performances

also by Abbey Craden as an actress who captures Merrick's heart, by

Norman Snow as hospital administrator Carr Gomm, by Brian George

doubling as Merrick's carney-barker patron-thief, as well as a local

Bishop. I wish it weren't so staid. The director introduces his

ensemble with the promising tones of a Street Violinist (Max Quill),

and a juggler (Aandrea Reblynn), who returns to show how Treves'

attempts to sustain funding for a ward are a juggling act, yet the show

doesn't quite push beyond the tone of the clinic where its action

finally settles -- despite Kim DeShazo Wilkinson's lush and colorful

costumes. Andak Stage Company at the New Place Studio Theatre, 10950

Peach Grove Street, North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.;

through June 21. (866) 811-4111.

INSIDE PRIVATE LIVES Audience members interact with infamous or

celebrated personages from the 20th century, as re-created in a series

of monologues. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South

Pasadena; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru June 28, www.insideprivatelives.com. (866)

811-4111.

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE Charles Michael Edmonds' solo show. Two Roads

Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June

27. (323) 960-5773.

THE MUSCLES IN OUR TOES Former classmates at their high school

reunion vow to rescue a kidnapped friend, in Stephen Belber's

world-premiere comedy. (In the Forum Theatre.). El Portal Theatre, 5269

Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.;

thru June 28. (866) 811-4111.

NEW REVIEW OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS

Stage Raw: Betty Garrett Turns 90

Over the River and Through the Woods Photo by Doug Engalla

Joe DiPietro's oft-produced farce about Italian-American

family life depends on a few minutes of soppy sentimentality to balance

out two hours of caricature. 29-year-old Nick (Ren Bell) spends every

Sunday night in Hoboken for dinner with both sets of grandparents -

four nearly imbecilic characters who fuss and rant, but never listen to

their grandson, who, in turn, constantly yells at them.. When Nick

tells them he is moving to Seattle for a big promotion, the old folks

move into overdrive to stop him - their big weapon: a blind date with

the lovely Caitlin (sweetly played by Alyse Courtney). She shames him

for his mistreatment of the grands, which leads to enough household

calm to explore some deeper emotions and finally tone the hollering

down for the characters to find resolution. The writing is quite funny

in its Everybody Loves Raymond style, and the over-the-top

performances by Irene Chapman, Klair Bybee, Michele Bernath and

director Larry Eisenberg (filling in for Robert Gallo) garnered

constant laughs from an appreciative audience. While the script

alternates between bombastic and cloying, Eisenberg keeps his actors

fully committed to each moment. Chris Winfield's very naturalistic

suburban living room set also helps keeps the cast grounded in some

reality. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd.,

North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 27. (818)

700-4878. (Tom Provenzano)

NEW REVIEW RED, HOT AND BLUE!

Director-choreographer Joe Joyce tries to blow the dust off Cole

Porter's antiquated musical, but with mixed success. The music and

lyrics by Porter can't be faulted other than they have little to do

with Howard Lindsy and Russel Crouse's antediluvian book, grafted onto

a musical comedy. The very thin plot line concerns "Nails" O'Reily

Dusqusque (Allyson Turner) auctioning off the true love of her life,

Bob Hale (Kyle Nudo). These two are fine but some of the minor roles

are grating. Richard Horvitz (channeling Joe Pesci) plays the comic

foil way over the top. Worse though is Sandra Purpuro as Peaches, who

strives for a Betty Boop voice and achieves something more akin to

nails scratching a chalkboard. Choreographer Joyce does what he can on

a postage-stamp-size stage. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd.,

Sherman Oaks. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. thru July 5. (800)

838-3006. By George Productions. (Sandra Ross)

GO TEN TO LIFE Leave logic at the door and you'll get your full quota

of laughs from this quartet of one-acts, each of which blends sci-fi,

sex and absurdity in an entertaining way. Written by Annette Lee,

"Hacienda Heights" is about a homicidal teen (Ewan Chung) living with a

sexually predatory and abusive mom (Janet Song) and even more abusive

grandmom (Emily Kuroda). Off to commit mass murder, he's forestalled

when his alternate self (Feodor Chin) arrives from another dimension to

redirect his aggression toward the villains at home. In Nic Cha Kim's

"RE:verse" (the evening's funniest and most satisfying), a man (Chung)

headed for his 10th high-school reunion undergoes extensive cosmetic

surgery at a bargain-basement price; the catch is that it's for three

days only, after which he'll revert -- at an inconvenient moment, of

course, else it wouldn't be funny -- to his former self. Tim Lounibos'

"Be Happy" concerns the power struggle between a psychiatrist (Chin)

and his patient-wife (Peggy Ahn). The setup is confusing at first and

it's a bit of a wait to the final payoff -- but worth it. Judy Soo Hoo's

"The Red Dress" is about a married woman (Song) who, strangely, keeps

insisting to her husband (Elpido Ebuen) that they renew the warranty on

her "red dress" -- a plea he rejects, precipitating hellish

consequences. No small part of the production's humor comes courtesy of

designer Dennis Yen's sound and Christopher M. Singleton's lighting;

the latter highlights the erotic and/or gruesome scenarios that

intermittently play out behind set designer Philippe Levine's classy

sliding screens. (DK) GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Toluca Lake;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through June 7. (818) 238-9998. A

Londestone Theatre Ensemble production.

YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's comedy

classic about a kooky clan. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre

Blvd., Sierra Madre; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June 6. (626) 256-3809.

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

THE ACCOMPLICES Bernard Weinraub's documentary drama about an

activist's efforts to rescue Jews from Nazi-occupied Europe. Odyssey

Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

p.m.; thru June 14. (310) 477-2055.

BABYLON HEIGHTS Munchkins go wild on the set of The Wizard of Oz,

by Irvine Welsh and Dean Cavanaugh. Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St.,

Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June 20. (866) 811-4111.

CINDERELLA: THE MUSICAL Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie's

family-friendly fairy tale. (Resv. required.). Santa Monica Playhouse,

1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat.-Sun., 12:30 & 3 p.m.; thru Dec.

27. (310) 394-9779.

DID YOU DO YOUR HOMEWORK? Writer/performer Aaron Braxton has passion

and talent - both amply evident in this promising work-in-progress

about the difficulties of teaching in the urban classroom. A 13-year

veteran with L.A. Unified, Braxton builds his piece around his early

experience as a substitute teacher filling in for an old-timer - 33

years on the job - who one day ups and quits. A gift for mimicry brings

the performer's characters into clear comic focus: himself as the

beleaguered Mr. Braxton, several colorful problem students, their even

more colorful and problematic parents and another staff member -- a

well-meaning elderly bureaucrat in charge of the school's

counterproductive testing program. At times Braxton steps away from

dramatizing the action to speak to the audience directly about the

frustrations of trying to make a difference, contrasting his own

upbringing as the son of a teacher, taught to respect education, with

the imperviously disdainful attitude of his pupils. He also sings 4

songs, displaying a beautiful voice. The main problem with the piece is

its disjointedness and discontinuity; the songs, reflective of

Braxton's message, are only tenuously connected to the narrative,

itself a patchwork collection of anecdotes juxtaposed against addresses

to the audience. This gives the show a hybrid feel - part performance,

part moral exposition, part musical showcase. Yet there's plenty of

power and potential here. Kathleen Rubin directs. (DK) Beverly Hills

Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

through June 20. (310) 358-9936.

THE HERETIC MYSTERIES Adapted from the microhistory by Emmanuel

Leroy Ladurie, this offering from playwright and director David Bridel

centers on the French village of Montaillou in the age of the Cathar

heresy. During the late 13th century, the Cathars, who referred to

themselves as Good Men and Women, protested what they perceived to be

the moral, spiritual and political corruption of the Catholic Church.

As such, they were tried as heretics by a tribunal headed by Bishop

Fournier (Isaac Wade), who would later become Pope Benedict XII. The

play's three-act structure (a triptych of sorts) follows the same set

of events in and around the town from three different perspectives:

those of the kind-hearted shepherd Pierre Maury (David Hardie); the

corrupt priest Pierre Clergue (Matt Weedman); and Guillaume Belibaste

(Lucas Caleb Rooney), a Good Man possessed by demons. Because of its

length, the play has two intermissions during which a puppet show in

the courtyard recaps the events of each act in bawdy, farcical style --

a creative touch that helped evoke the time period. Bridel's direction

facilitates the swift and imperceptible shifts between time periods and

locations, and the cast members, the rest of whom make up the

inhabitants of Montaillou, earnestly embody their characters. At more

than three hours, however, the piece would benefit from a significant

edit not only to clarify its message, which gets lost in the faithful

documentation of history, but also to amplify its emotional impact.

(MK) The Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; Thurs-Sat.,

7 p.m.; through June 6. (323) 653-6886. A Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble

Production

I'LL GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT Even by the standards of the

venerable 12-step confessional, Jonathan Coogan's one-man memoir of

growing up amid the pot smoke, promiscuity and pernicious parenting of

the freewheeling Hollywood of the '70s is fairly tepid stuff. Which is

not to say Coogan doesn't have a lot going for him as a performer. With

a wry, self-deprecating manner and an engaging stage presence, he

clearly knows his way around a one-liner. His autobiographical

material, however, just doesn't generate the highs -- no pun intended --

or lows demanded by the shopworn victim-recovery formula. Perhaps

that's because, in the land of medical marijuana, having been a teenage

stoner turned weed dealer scared straight by a brush with the law seems

so, well, underwhelmingly ordinary. More likely it's because this

"addiction" story, at least as it's framed here by Coogan and his

co-writer, director Dan Frischman, seems to constantly shrink before a

pair of far more compelling characters always looming in the background

-- namely Coogan's colorful, pot-smoking New York-Jew parents. In fact,

judging by the unresolved bitterness permeating the piece, its real

star is Rosy Rosenthal, Coogan's Ralph Kramden-esque wisecracker of a

father (tellingly, the mother's name is never uttered). Far more than

any clichés about a "higher power," it is Rosy and his

spare-the-fist-spoil-the-child version of tough love that determines

the psychic trajectory of Coogan's life and is this tale's true heart

and soul. )BR) Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly

Hills; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through June 13. (310) 358-9936.

THE MIRACLE WORKER The Helen Keller story, by William Gibson.

Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 28. (310) 392-7327.

A NUMBER A widower (John Heard) discovers that a hospital has bred

clones of his bachelor son (the aptly named Steve Cell), making him a

father to an unknown number of identical young men. The son, Bernard,

is confused, but open to meeting his brothers; the dad immediately

cries "lawsuit!" -- allowing playwright Caryl Churchill to plunge

straight away into her themes about the boundaries, rights and values

of an identity. (And when Bernard suspects he's not the original, is

that even worse?) Churchill argues that personality is separate from

genetics and introduces us to three Bernards as distinct as Goldilocks'

bears: one bitter, one sweet, and one conflicted. Cell plays all three,

and it's hard not to interpret director Bart DeLorenzo's decision to

signify the role-switching by having Cell button, unbutton or strip off

his overshirt as a lack of trust in either the performer or the

audience. Their father is clearly hiding a secret, and Heard captures

him as a man defeated before the play even begins -- he resolves every

confrontation by telling the Bernards what they want to hear. If there

is one truth under his lies, it'd be the play's only singularity: While

the clones share a disgust for him, it springs from different reasons.

"You don't look at me the same way," the widower says of how he tells

them apart. But unlike him, we never see the clones or their father as

people, only players in a fable that's constrained by the very

dichotomies it wants to explore. (AN) Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S.

Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., through June

21. (310) 477-2055.

GO OUR TOWN Upon learning that one of L.A.'s most

daring theater companies, the Actors' Gang, is tackling Thornton

Wilder's beloved three-act stage perennial about life, love and death,

one is keen to witness the group's "take" on the play's universal

themes. This play is, after all, the hoop through which almost every

high school theater department must jump. Interestingly enough,

director Justin Zsebe's interpretation in his intimate yet powerful

production is one of surprising and sincere faithfulness to the play's

tone and mood. This is a beautifully rendered and moving Our Town.

Narrated by Steven M. Porter's genial yet crusty Stage Manager, the

play's story of life in a small New England town, centering on the

romance and marriage of sweet young Emily (a luminous Vanessa Mizzone)

and her beloved George (Chris Schultz), receives a staging whose basic

simplicity belies unexpected depths of subtly articulated feeling.

Zsebe admittedly tosses in a couple of visual conceits that might cause

Wilder to whirl in his grave: There's a character who performs a

dazzling yet wholly irrelevant acrobatic dance from a long sash,

seemingly just because it looks good; and, during the play's third act,

set in the underworld, the deceased characters hang from playground

swings, when simple chairs are called for in the script. Yet the

ensemble work is deft and subtle -- and moments that are often corny in

other, lesser productions evoke laughter and tears here -- from the

beautiful scene in which Ma Webb (Lindsley Allen) and Ma Gibbs

(Annemette Andersen) shuck their peas, to the touching one in which

Schultz's George suffers his wedding night-cum-fear of mortality

jitters at the altar. (PB) Ivy Substation, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver

City; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m. (no perfs June 18-21); through

July 11. (310) 838-GANG. An Actors' Gang production.

GO PAY ATTENTION: ADHD IN HOLLYWOOD, ON THE ROCKS

WITH A TWIST In his engaging solo show, writer-actor Frank South

describes himself as beset by "attention deficit hyperactivity

disorder, hypomania, alcoholism and issues with authority." Despite --

or perhaps because of -- that baggage, he survived 20 years in Hollywood

as a writer-director-producer for such TV classics as Melrose Place, Cagney & Lacey and Baywatch.

Like a metaphor for his affliction, South unflappably jumps from one

tale to another and back again, giving us a taste of his often-jumbled

world. Under Mark Travis' direction, South chillingly personifies his

affliction as a screeching imp who constantly orders him to do the

wrong thing at the wrong time. South's stories about two of his mentors

-- the maverick director Robert Altman, who lectured the insecure South

to trust his own judgment; and the consummate Hollywood insider Aaron

Spelling, whom South claims stabbed him in the back -- are hilarious,

instructive and poignant. At times struggling for lines and almost

forgetting the name of an actress with whom he worked, South overcomes

these dilemmas to deliver a funny and bittersweet tale of someone who,

while not conquering them, has at least been able to keep his demons in

check. (MH) Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St.; Santa Monica;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; through June 7. (323) 960-7738. A

Guest Production

THEATER SPECIAL EVENTS

BOTANICUM SEEDLINGS: A DEVELOPMENT SERIES FOR PLAYWRIGHTS Public readings of new plays: The Power of Birds by Robin Rice Lichtig (June 7), How To Shoot a Bull Moose by Jonathan A. Goldberg (June 14), Awake

by Michael David (June 21). Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N.

Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; opens June 7; Sun., 11 a.m.; thru June

21. (310) 455-3723.


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