BREWSIE AND WILLIE
Poor Dog Group's adaptation of Gertrude Stein's novella, is among the productions being reviewed this week. Photo by Scott Groller
Check back here on Monday night for reviews of THE BAKER'S OVEN West Coast premiere of Christopher Goodwin's dramatic thriller. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 7. (818) 202-4120; BEDROOM FARCE Alan Ayckbourn's suburban marriage comedy. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; opens July 24; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 26. (310) 477-2055; JAYBIRD AND HALLELUJAH Two casts ("Salvation" and "Redemption" ) perform Pel Tedder's play with two different endings., email@example.com. NoHo Actors Studios, 5215 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 9:15 p.m.; thru Aug. 7, firstname.lastname@example.org. (818) 761-2166; LADY LANCING, OR THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST Oscar Wilde's original script, courtesy Ark Theatre Company. The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 15, arktheatre.org. (323) 969-1707; A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble presents Shakespeare's comedy. Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru July 31, latensemble.com. (310) 396-3680; NOT ABOUT HEROES Stephen MacDonald's tale of the friendship of World War I British soldier-poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 22, plays411.com/heroes. (323) 960-7744.; SPEECH & DEBATE Stephen Karam's sex scandal about a gay teenager and a politician. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 22. (877) 620-7673; and THREE SISTERS AFTER CHEKHOV Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble presents Mustapha Matura's adaptation of Anton Chekhov's classic. Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Aug. 8, lowerdepththeatreensemble.org. (800) 838-3006.
COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for July 23 - 29, 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
CINDERELLA Rodgers and Hammerstein's fairy-tale musical. Thousand
Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, Fred Kavli Theater, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd.,
Thousand Oaks; opens July 23; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.;
thru Aug. 1. (805) 449-2787.
GROUNDLINGS RIVER ADVENTURE All-new sketch and improv, directed by
Damon Jones. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; opens July
23; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 8 & 10 p.m.; thru Oct. 2. (323)
THE HELEN FRAGMENTS By Euripides/Homer/Ovid/Sappho. Part of The
Antaeus Company's fifth biennial ClassicsFest. Deaf West Theatre, 5112
Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; July 27-28, 8 p.m....
AFTERMATH Written and directed by Chris DiGiovanni. Theatre West,
3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Tues., July 27, 8 p.m.. (323) 851-7977.
ALL JOIN IN: A FAIRY-TALE SINGALONG Afternoon Chris DeCarlo and
Evelyn Rudie's musical revue "for kids 2 to 102.". Santa Monica
Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; opens July 24; Sat.-Sun.,
12:30 & 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 1. (310) 394-9779.
BARD OF BLOOD Written and directed by Lloyd J. Schwartz. Theatre
West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Sun., July 25, 7 p.m.. (323)
BEDROOM FARCE Alan Ayckbourn's suburban marriage comedy. Odyssey
Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; opens July 24; Thurs.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 26. (310) 477-2055.
ELEVATOR Michael Leoni's story of seven strangers stuck in an
elevator. Hudson Guild Theater, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens
July 29; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 22,
plays411.com/elevator. (323) 960-7787.
ENGAGEMENT The Katselas Theatre Company presents Allen Barton's
dramatic comedy. Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd.,
Beverly Hills; opens July 24; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru
Aug. 22. (310) 358-9936.
LOS ANGELYNE Katherine Saltzberg one-woman show about L.A. billboard
icon Angelyne. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens
July 29; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 19,
brownpapertickets.com/event/119092. (800) 838-3006.
THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR Antaeus Company presents Shakespeare's
comedy. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood;
Sat., July 24, 3 p.m....
The Mystery of Irma Vep Charles Ludlam's satire of everything from
Hitchcock to horror. SPACE916, 916 N. Formosa Ave., L.A.; opens July
23; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 4. (323) 667-1304.
STANDARD MEN AND THEIR LADIES OF SONG Musical revue with vocalists
Kirk Smith, David McGee, Diana Briscoe, Elyse Cook, Alison Kalmus.
Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Sun.,
July 25, 7 p.m.. (626) 256-3809.
WHEN IT RAINS Gasoline Jason D. Martin's adolescence drama. With Stephen Belber's Tape.
Renegade Theatre (formerly the Actor's Playpen), 1514 N. Gardner St.,
L.A.; opens July 23; Fri.-Sat., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 7. (323) 769-5566.
THE WOODY GUTHRIE STORY Celebrating the all-American
singer-songwriter. Sing along to "This Land Is Your Land"!. Will Geer
Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Fri., July
23, 8 p.m.. (310) 455-3723.
ZELDA BING'S LOVE STORY By Debbie Kaspar. Part of the 2010 Whitefire
Solofest. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Thurs.,
July 29, 8 p.m.. (818) 990-2324.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGION-WIDE
GO BEYOND This musical extravaganza, conceived and
directed by Aurelien Roulin, is described as a cross between French
cabaret and Cirque du Soleil, but what it's really reminiscent of is
the old Folies Bergére, or Las Vegas without the bared bosoms. Like the
Folies, it features banks of stairs that the showgirls can
saunter down in their minimal costumes, adorned with maximum feathers
and glitz, and sometimes escorted by lads in loincloths. Also like the
old French show, there's audience participation, in which two sheepish
men from the audience are led onstage and decked out in preposterous
drag. The show has 17 performers, six choreographers, a stilt-walker, a
unicyclist, a bit of boogie-woogie, and exotic numbers evoking many
nations: Japan, Africa, France and India, represented by "The Forbidden
Temple," a Bollywood-style spectacle, choreographed by Kavita Rao. A
mix of Edith Piaf songs is stylishly delivered by Ripley Rader, a
couple of mildly erotic aerial sequences are performed by scantily clad
Roulin and Sunny Soriano, and there's an impressive toe-dancing
contortionist, Ganchimeg Oyunchimeg. But the greatest excitement is
unleashed when the dancers cut loose, particularly in the frenzied
cancan finale. In short, there's plenty of flash, flesh and fantasy,
suitably toned down for a family audience. (Neal Weaver)., $35-$55. El
Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Tues.-Sat.,
8:30 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 25. (818) 508-4200.
CHiPS the Musical Those masters of the mashed-up musical parody, the
Troubadour Theater, have always played by their own comedic rules. Rule
No. 1, invoked repeatedly in this uneven send-up of NBC's kitschy,
late-'70s police drama, is to follow the laughs wherever they lead. And
if that means repeatedly tossing out the script when it isn't hitting
on all cylinders -- as is the case with writers Rick Batalla and Henry
Phillips' roughly tuned lampoon -- and substituting it with the
Troubies' trademark repertoire of quick-draw ad libs, self-mocking
asides, audience-harassing gibes and an escalating onstage
hugger-muggery, so be it. Batalla and director Matt Walker fill the
famously skintight CHP uniforms (courtesy of costumer Sharon McGunigle)
of swaggering freeway heroes Ponch and John as they ride down a
marauding gang of lesbian ecoterrorists led by "synthetic albino" KG
(Beth Kennedy). Meanwhile, the new political realities are shaking up
the station, as sexist supervising sergeant "Getrear" (Mike Sulprizio)
is sent off for sensitivity training and replaced with the sexy, Pam
Grier-like ballbuster, Carmel (Michelle Anne Johnson). The 14 loony
production numbers (under Eric Heinly's musical direction), neatly
skewer the original series' generic, funk-flavored, adult-contemporary
score along with its absurdly insipid storylines -- talk about shooting
fish in a barrel! -- and even produce the occasional gem, like Caroline
Gross' hilarious, must-be-seen, aerial-birthing flashback dance. (Bill
Raden)., $26-$46. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank;
Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru July 25. 818-955-8101.
HAMLET It's anyone's guess what vision might have guided director
Ellen Geer's fervent but unfocused, Medieval-dress version of
Shakespeare's most baroque and psychologically nuanced tragedy. There's
certainly little hint of the Oedipal undercurrents or political
allegorizing that have been a mainstay of 20th-century productions. Nor
is there much sign of the paralyzing conflict between faith in purpose
and intellectual certainty, which traditionally drives its hero's
famously agonized inaction. In the case of Mike Peebler's Hamlet,
neither his mission nor its justness ever seems in doubt; Peebler
attacks the role with the zeal and righteous wrath of the recently
converted. Even his soliloquies are delivered at the audience as if
from a pulpit. Gertrude (Melora Marshall) in turn appears more pissed
off at her son's increasingly antic disposition than aggrieved by what
it might imply about his sanity. Claudius (Aaron Hendry), by contrast,
comes off as positively good-natured, a guy caught with his hand in the
cookie jar rather than his fingerprints all over a nefarious regicide.
Willow Geer is convincing as a feisty yet vulnerable Ophelia, though
even here the method of her madness seems more a response to the murder
of Polonius (a very broad Carl Palmer) than any jilting by Hamlet.
Director Geer keeps it all moving at a fast clip, but some
exasperatingly eccentric blocking divides the focus of too many
critical turning points -- most egregiously in the mousetrap scene --
all but obliterating their dramatic purpose. (Bill Raden). Will Geer
Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sat., July
24, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 25, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., July 31, 4 p.m.; Sun., Aug.
1, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 7, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 8, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug.
14, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 15, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 21, 4 p.m.; Sat., Aug.
28, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 5, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 12, 3:30 p.m.; Sat.,
Sept. 18, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 19, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 25, 5 p.m.;
Sat., Oct. 2, 4 p.m.. (310) 455-3723.
In the Heights Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show's creator,
composer-lyricist and Broadway star, reprises his lead role in the 2008
Tony winner. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Fri.,
8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru July 25.
THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE Martin McDonagh's black comedy about a
hard-boiled terrorist lured home by the news that his cat is in poor
health. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.;
Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 8. (213)
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 July 25. (323) 960-4412.
Life Could Be a Dream Writer-director Roger Bean's doo-wop jukebox
musical. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach;
Sat.-Sun., 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 7:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 29.
GO LOVE, LOSS AND WHAT I WORE Ilene Beckerman's
book, on which Delia Ephron and Nora Ephron based their "intimate
collection of stories," is the kind you'd grab from the display near
the register at a Barnes and Nobles, to serve as a dressy envelope for
a birthday check to your goddaughter or an upgraded Mother's Day card.
But if the recipient read it instead of tossing in onto a pile of
similarly gifted minibooks, she'd find a classy little number, a J.
Peterman catalog minus the pretentiousness. With sparse text and
barebones sketches, Beckerman records her history through the clothes
she and her female relatives wore. Director Jenny Sullivan constructs
the stage version in much the same way: The star-studded ensemble wears
black (there's an ode to the color, every woman's old faithful) while
sitting in a straight line; and Carol Kane, who reads as Beckerman,
handles the main prop, a "closet" full of the book's renderings
situated on wire clothes hangers. But this is Nora Ephron, and
chumminess quickly trumps austerity. The scenes themselves are
ruminations on relationships thinly veiled as (mostly) funny riffs on
clothes -- Tracee Ellis Ross almost runs away with the show every time
the spotlight's hers but particularly so with "The Shirt." Kane, who
must be one of the most endearing actors ever, dances her monologues'
transitions so delicately and adroitly you can only marvel. There are a
couple of moments ("The Bathrobe," "Brides") during which all but those
with a particularly voracious emotional appetite will find themselves
choking on the syrup. Fortunately, though, the Ephron sisters have
nimbly stitched together the scenes so that there's far more head
nodding than eye rolling. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Geffen Playhouse, 10886
Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug.
1. (310) 208-5454.
MASTER CLASS Terrence McNally's story of opera diva Maria Callas.
Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga;
Sun., July 25, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 1, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 6, 8
p.m.; Fri., Aug. 13, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 21, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 22, 7:30
p.m.; Sat., Aug. 28, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 4, 8
p.m.; Sat., Sept. 11, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept.
25, 4 p.m.. (310) 455-3723.
NEW ORIGINAL WORKS FESTIVAL 2010 The seventh annual festival serves
up all-new dance, theater, music and multimedia performance works.
REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 7.
NEW REVIEW GO THE
RENDEZVOUS It's been nearly 20 years since New burlesque emerged from
the cauldron of the L.A. and New York underground rock and dance-club
scenes, which now makes it old enough to be a freshman in women's
studies at UCLA and NYU. Director, choreographer, show creator and lead
dancer, Lindsley Allen (Pussycat Dolls) gives an eye-popping,
postgraduate demonstration of the nouvelle bump and grind as she leads
her faculty of Cherry Boom Boom dancers through a raucous evening of
retro-themed, terpsichorean tease. And what's not to like about sitting
in a Hollywood Boulevard nightclub and watching a chorus of sexy women
dressed to the nines in the fetishistic camp of skimpy, Anne
Closs-Farley costumes, while lip-synching, shimmying and shaking for 75
minutes to rock & roll and exotica classics on designer
François-Pierre Couture's seamy-noir set? Extra credit goes to Kelleia
Sheerin's sleight-of-hips strip while gyrating inside a Hula-hoop;
Ruthy Inchaustegui's gravity-defying, aerial sling dance; and Sharon
Ferguson leading a line of corseted dominatrixes through a B&D whip
number, fittingly set to the Cramps' "Queen of Pain." Ferguson doubles
as the evening's breezy, Texas Guinan-esque emcee, while Angela
Berliner and Brian Kimmet do exemplary narrative duty in an engaging,
bad-date comedy pantomime threaded between the dance numbers. David
Robbins' high-decibel sound and Sean Forrester's kinetic lights set an
appropriately louche, red-light mood. King King, 6555 Hollywood Blvd.,
Hlywd.; last Thursday of every month, 9 p.m. (323) 960-5765. (Bill
1776 When composer-lyricist Sherman Edwards and librettist Peter
Stone's feel-good, cartoon history became the surprise hit of the
1968-69 Broadway season, the country was mired in an unpopular war,
riven by social discord and rocked by the suspicion that maybe we
weren't the moral leaders of "the free world" after all. Forty years
later, surprisingly little has changed, so what better time to roll out
this amiable, musical reminder of our erstwhile nobility? And if the
tone seems a bit self-congratulatory or historically reductive for some
tastes, credit director Nick DeGruccio's impeccable production and a
flawless ensemble for so ably selling Stone's long-winded book and
Edward's mostly undistinguished songs. The story is, of course, the
debates leading to the signing of the Declaration of Independence,
wherein we learn that the Founding Fathers liked to have sex but didn't
necessarily like one another, and that they sold out the rights of
African-Americans for the sake of consensus. Steven Glaudini delivers
an uncanny impersonation of William Daniels as John Adams; Stephen
Vinovich is appropriately bawdy and avuncular as scene-stealer Benjamin
Franklin; and Robert J. Townsend, as South Carolina slaver Edward
Rutledge, electrifies the house with his stirring rendition of
"Molasses to Rum." Costumer Yolanda Rowell provides the eye candy with
her sumptuous collection of frock coats and lace; Steven Young's lights
lend it all a John Trumbull elegance; and Musical Director Matthew
Smedal tops it off with admirable pitch-perfection. (Bill Raden).
Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach;
Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., July 25, 2 p.m.; thru
July 25. (562) 985-7000.
THE THREE MUSKATEERS Alexandre Dumas' swashbuckler. Will Geer
Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sat., July
24, 4 p.m.; Sat., July 31, 8 p.m.; Sun., 3:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Fri.,
8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 12, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 26, 7:30 p.m.; Sun.,
Oct. 3, 3:30 p.m.; thru Sept. 24. (310) 455-3723.
GO THURGOOD There's much to recommend in George
Stevens Jr.'s generic biodrama about the legendary African-American
Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, whose career as an NAACP
attorney culminated in successfully arguing before the U.S. Supreme
Court that South Carolina's "separate but equal" defense of racial
segregation was unconstitutional. The play, if one dares to call it
that, is at its best during those trial scenes in which the event's
only actor, Laurence Fishburne reprising his Broadway appearance, plays
out scenes from the series of trials as both both Marshall and his
opponent, John W. Davis. Unfortunately, this courtroom drama, which
constitutes a fleeting if climactic segment of the piece, is the only
drama. The rest is a lecture by Marshall at Howard University in which,
for little apparent reason other than his acceptance of a lecture fee,
he reflects on his life and career. Fishburne portrays him as both
folksy and crusty, with nice physical detail as the man ages, but this
is all a bit like Hal Holbrook portraying Mark Twain: completely
dependent on wit, whimsy and legend, while bypassing so much of the
human being underneath. He refers to his difficult character, but that
darker side has no reason or context to show itself, and that would be
a show. What we get is a full dose of Marshall's courage and rectitude,
in which we're "challenged" to submit to his thesis that segregation,
lynchings and bigotry in general are really bad things, and that
they're not even constitutional. Okay, I'll keep that in mind. What
saves Leonard Foglia's production from tedium is the history lesson
itself, how in economic downturns we, like most countries, turn on the
spigot of racial hatred, which spews over so many laws that have tried
to contain it. Elaine J. McCarthy's projection designs are a cinematic
yet effective way to bring the last century into our laps. It's an
oddity but true here that an idea for a play can be more powerful than
the play itself. (Steven Leigh Morris). Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le
Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2
& 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 8. (310) 208-5454.
THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE Music and lyrics by
William Finn, book by Rachel Sheinkin, conceived by Rebecca Feldman.
North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr., Solana Beach;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 14. (858) 481-2155.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS
THE ARMANDO SHOW A different comic/celeb each week provides the
springboard for improv madness., $10. I.O. West, 6366 Hollywood Blvd.,
L.A.; Mon., 9 p.m.. (323) 962-7560.
AS THE GLOBE WARMS Solo performer Heather Woodbury creates elaborate worlds. For her performance What Ever,
Woodbury elasticized herself into 100 characters for a sprawling
American epic. This follow-up is a semi-political soap opera that will
run a new installment every weekend for three months, and, gauging by
its launch, Woodbury's interested in charting the rise and fall of the
artistic class and the crystallization of the divide between the two
Americas. On the 4th of July 1985, a cowed girl picks up a video camera
and discovers she's an artist; 25 years later, she's dead and her
brother is attempting to describe her archive of tapes to a barbecue of
gentrified Californian creatives who deign to do their own sculpting
rather than hiring interns for the "dirty" work. On the other coast, a
preacher, his shrewish Tea Party wife and their daydreamy teen daughter
fret about the BP oil spill and a species of endangered frogs that
might prevent them from expanding their church's parking lot. Woodbury
has little patience for both blues and reds and loves to skewer the of
hypocrisies of both camps. To help her stay true to her own voice, she
could use a director (none is credited) to help her shape and simplify
her frantic character changes; she has a capable range of accents but
spends scenes shifting wildly around in her chair to make sure we're
following who's who. Besides the chair, the only prop onstage is a
handycam that records each episode for the internet and streams it live
on a screen against the wall. It's unclear yet if the distraction will
prove purposeful, but what's certain from the starting gate is that the
enthusiastic Woodbury has energy for miles (and months). (Amy
Nicholson). Echo Curio, 1519 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8
p.m.; thru Oct. 2. (213) 977-1279.
BETTER DAYS Whitmore Eclectic presents Richard Dresser's
unemployment comedy. Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.;
Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 1, whitmoreeclectic.com.
BOB BAKER'S CIRCUS Marionette extravaganza, first introduced at this
very theater in 1961. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St.,
L.A.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 10:30 a.m.; thru Sept. 26,
bobbakermarionettes.com. (213) 250-9995.
BONNIE IN BRIGHTON One-woman show about a Texas girl in a British
seaside town, starring Erin Parks. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica
Blvd., L.A.; Sun., July 25, 5:30 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 15.
BREWSIE AND WILLIE World-premiere stage adaptation of Gertrude
Stein's post-World War II novella, presented by CalArts' Center for New
Performance in association with Poor Dog Group. 7th Floor Penthouse,
533 S. Los Angeles St., L.A.; Wed.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 1,
NEW REVIEW GO BROOKLYN, USA
Photo courtesy of Write-Act Repertory
This crime melodrama by John Bright and Asa Bordages, who
wrote many of the classic Warner Bros. gangster flicks, was first
produced on Broadway in 1941. Today, it seems like a time capsule of
Brooklyn, and of America in the 1940s, and this feeling is further
enhanced by the wonderful period props. True to its time, the play has
a huge cast and a leisurely pace as it tells the tale of a mob led by
Albert Anastasia (Johnny Crear). But the action centers on hired killer
Smiley Manone (Rico Simonini, looking startlingly like a young Jimmy
Smits), his naive hooker girlfriend (Danitha Bockoven), who explains
plaintively, "I'm not a hustler, I'm a lady of joy." Shelly Kurtz is
impressive as Louie, a Jewish barber who's lured into the mob action by
Anastasia's promise to get his parents out of Nazi Germany. Elisabeth
Noone scores as the tough, bighearted proprietress of the neighborhood
candy store. There's fine support from a large cast, including Johnny
Williams as a portly hit man, Will Beinbrink as a union organizer
murdered by the mob, and Adriana Demeo as his girlfriend. Director T.J.
Castronovo evokes the style of the old gangster films, and meticulously
preserves the period flavor, assisted by Thomas Brown's detailed sets
and Sherry Coon's costumes. Write Act Repertory, 6128 Yucca Ave.,
Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., through July 31. (323) 469-3113. (Neal
NEW REVIEW CIRCLE OF WILL
Photo by Alexis Fancher
Shakespeare wrote his greatest works before 1608 -- so
what was he ruminating on in 1610? Directed by Brian Herskowitz,
writers Bill Cakmis and Jack Grapes' scenario imagines a contentious
exchange between the Bard (Grapes) and his friend and leading man,
Richard Burbage (Joe Briggs). A stumbling attempt at satire, the piece
portrays Shakespeare as a lesser literary light and Burbage as a
cretinous narcissist, fed up with dramas about death and threatening to
walk unless he gets to be a hero in a play with an up ending. The
problem lies not in the lampoon of the theater but in the script
itself, which strives for laughs by utilizing misquotes and scrambled
references to various Shakespearean plays and characters. Done well,
this device would work brilliantly; here, lacking conceptual
underpinnings and continuity, it falls flat. Midway through, the actors
acknowledge they're on stage and break the fourth wall, appealing to
the audience to help resolve their existential dilemma and hasten the
comedy to a conclusion. At that point (if not before) shades of
Shakespeare for Middle School begin to infiltrate the evening. As to
the performances, Grapes is likable, while Briggs' evident gift for
larger-than-life burlesque deserves better material. Designers Martin
C. Vallejo's set and Anasuya Engel's costumes add period flavor. Macha
Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, W. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7
p.m.; through Aug. 15, plays411.com/circleofwill. (323) 960-7822. (Deborah Klugman)
GO DRUNK TALK Welcome to McSwiggins. For the motley
assortment of career barflies, neighborhood hotheads, Walmart Casanovas
and lovelorn alcoholics who make it their home away from home, the
old-school Hollywood watering hole is the kind of place where everybody
knows your name (or soon will, though you'll probably regret it long
before last call). Playwright Lance Whinery's irresistibly goofy,
one-act parody of the hallowed saloon sitcom takes the form into the
kind of seedy, low-rent dramatic neighborhood where the denizens of
Cheers were never drunk enough to tread. Its intentionally insipid
plot, clich-ridden characters and wincingly corny
one-liners are frighteningly familiar. And in Thomas Blake's
environmental staging, where the audience has ostensibly joined the
regulars to toast the beloved bar's final night in business, the manner
in which the actors shamelessly cheat their punch lines toward the
spectators creates the impression of being a captive member of a live
TV-studio audience. Then the other shoe drops: As the story and the
drinking progress, and the characters' alcohol-fueled belligerence
morphs into an increasingly maudlin and effusive bonhomie, Blake
unleashes his cast of expert ad libbers and insult comics (standouts
include David Alfano, Tobias Jelinek and Kim Estes) into the audience
to harass and humiliate. But there won't be any hard feelings --
because in true sitcom logic any conflicts that erupt or are
miraculously resolved will be mercifully nullified in the amnesiac haze
of the morning's hangover. Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.;
Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 1, brownpapertickets.com/event/111874. (910)
367-6735. (Bill Raden). Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sun.,
8 p.m.; thru Aug. 1, brownpapertickets.com/event/111874. (910) 367-6735.
NEW REVIEW FABRIC
Photo by Kila Kitu
On August 2, 1995, federal authorities raided a sweatshop
in EL Monte, where 72 Thai garment workers, mostly young women, were
being held captive. Lured to this country under false pretenses, they
lived as many as 12 to a room, laboring 17 hours a day for $300 a
month. Commendable as a vehicle of instruction, playwright Henry Ong's
heavy-handed docudrama chronologically depicts their recruitment,
onerous captivity, rescue, and the trial and conviction of their
employer, another Thai national whom the workers dutifully addressed as
Auntie Suni (Dian Kobayashi). The drama adds fuel to our moral outrage,
when the question of what to do with the rescued illegals becomes an
issue, with prominent government officials callously supporting their
deportation. Devoid of nuance, the script's villains materialize as
stark caricatures, especially the pivotal Auntie, who could easily give
Snow White's stepmother a run for her money. From an artistic
standpoint the production is saved by the performances of Jennifer
Chang, Jully Lee and Jolene Kim as three of the trapped women; each
relays her character's story with sensitive and compelling grace. Diana
Toshiko in multiple roles and Ben Wang as a labor commissioner who
takes action at last are also worth mention. Designer Luis Delgado's
sweatshop set is appropriately dreary; Pia Smith's costumes add color.
Marlene Forte and Tchia Casselle co-direct. Company of Angels at the
Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,
4:30 p.m.; through Aug. 8. (866) 811-4111. (Deborah Klugman)
FACEBOOK $5. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Wed., 9:30 p.m.. (323) 908-8702.
GO FOUR PLACES The family outing on display in Joel
Drake Johnson's unsettling comedy resembles a gathering of ornery,
wounded jackals. Siblings Warren (Tim Bagley) and Ellen (Roxanne Hart)
motor to their parents' Chicago home to take their diminutive,
gray-haired mother Peggy (Anne Gee Byrd) out for a what is presumably a
pleasant lunch. At first blush, this seems innocent enough, but
something about Ellen's painful, labored smile as she hugs the wheel,
and Warren's cold, mummified expression, suggest that something is
amiss. It isn't long before the moral underbelly of this clan emerges
along with some ugly revelations. Mom's harmless exterior drips away
with each rum and Coke she knocks back (and every trip to the bathroom,
where she pees blood), and there emerges a subtly vicious female, a
practiced manipulator who delights in tormenting her children with
reminders of their lacerating miseries and failures. But an even darker
secret surfaces concerning Peggy's alcoholic, invalid husband (who
never appears onstage but is a towering presence, nevertheless), and
rumors that she is abusing, and even attempting to murder him. The
manner in which Drake tells this story -- blending humor and stark
ugliness, while exploring themes of sibling rivalry, marital infidelity
and even euthanasia -- is thoroughly engaging and held in sharp balance
by director Robin Larsen. The characters are fully fleshed out, both in
the writing and the performances, as disturbing for their and their
vulnerabilities as for their anger. Rounding out a superb cast is Lisa
Rothschiller. (Lovell Estell III)., (323) 960-4424. Theatre/Theater,
5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 5 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru
July 25, roguemachine.com. (323) 422-6361.
GO THE GIRL WHO WOULD BE KING Better to die a man
than be born a woman -- even a princess. Inspired by Mark Twain's short
story about a girl raised as a boy in order to claim the crown, Jan
O'Connor's brisk comedy embraces the sexism of its setting to great
effect. Manhood means never apologizing, commands the Duke of Lesser
Flugel (Warren Davis) to his daughter Basil (Riley Rose Critchlow), as
he stuffs socks down her trousers. But if men are rocks, women are
water, appearing to yield to their betters while impressing their will
through patience and subtlety. When Basil is sent to his uncle King
Heimlich's (Ross Gottstein) court as the rightful male heir, s/he's
smashed by the wiles of the very femme Princess Clotilda (Whitton
Frank), who with her nimbus of red curls is as ripe and soft as a
tomato. The cast and casting are spot-on, as is Richard Tatum's
direction, which allows us to peek at the layers underneath this
superficially simple society. In less detailed hands, it'd simply be a
funny, feminist trifle, but while Tatum plays up the humor, he also
grasps the pathos in a tomboy forced to shun her own biology and to see
her mother (Adriana Bate) as a cowed creature she deigns to visit every
six years. Presented by Absolute Theatre and Full Circle Theatrics.
(Amy Nicholson). El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., L.A.;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 1...
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..
HARLOW GOLD: EAST "Sexy, witty and gritty" cabaret created by
choreographers Dominic Carbone and Tracy Phillips., $10-$25. The
Bordello, 901 E. First St., L.A.; Sun., 10 p.m.. (213) 687-3766.
HELLO OUT THERE and The Dustbowl Revival: An Evening of Theater and Music William Saroyan's Hello Out There
with music from The Dustbowl Revival. Bar Lubitsch, 7702 Santa Monica
Blvd., L.A.; Mon., Wed., 7:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 4. (323) 654-1234.
HURRICANE SEASON 2010 Seventh annual competition/festival of short
plays. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley
Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 22. (818) 508-3003.
I'M AN ACTOR, THEY DON'T GET IT Written and directed by Essence.com
blogger Tiffany Black. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd.,
L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru July 25. (323) 465-4446.
I'M NOT HERE ANYMORE W. Colin McKay has cast his play in the form of
a mystery. Josh (Dayton Knoll) is a former GI who has served multiple
tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and suffers from combat trauma upon his
return home. He has frightening flashbacks, which can drive him to
violence, and he's haunted by two people (or are they hallucinations?)
from his time in the Gulf. Kim (Casey Fitzgerald) is a girl who was
killed by a roadside bomb, and Eddie (Sal Landi) is his former buddy,
whom he believes aims to kill him if he reveals dark secrets about his
time in the combat zone. There are also two doctors, Mel (Brian
Connors) and David (Dig Wayne), who are at odds about Josh's treatment.
But there are too many mysteries, and too few reliable "facts" for us
to know precisely what's going on. Josh is clearly an unreliable
narrator, the two ghosts/hallucinations have agendas of their own, and
so perhaps do the doctors. We can never be certain whether Josh is
dogged by psychotic fantasies, or telling uncomfortable truths the army
wants to keep under wraps by committing him to a mental hospital. Good
work from the actors and director Al Bonadies, but the script is
perplexing. (Neal Weaver). Pan Andreas Theater, 5125 Melrose Ave.,
L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 28. 323-468-8062.
JEWTOPIA Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson's story of two single men: a
gentile obsessed with dating Jewish women and a Jew obsessed with
dating gentile girls. Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave.,
L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3:30 p.m.; thru Sept.
19. (323) 655-7679.
KEEP IT CLEAN Comedy Hosted by JC Coccoli., free. 1739 Public House,
1739 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Mon., 9:30 p.m.. (323) 663-1739.
KILL YOUR TELEVISION Jeff Gardner's dialogue-free solo comedy.
Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri., July 23, 8 p.m.;
Sat., July 31, 6:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 14, 6 p.m.,
brownpapertickets.com/event/119084. (800) 838-3006.
LADY LANCING, OR THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST Oscar Wilde's
original script, courtesy Ark Theatre Company. The Attic Theatre and
Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2
p.m.; thru Aug. 15, arktheatre.org. (323) 969-1707.
GO LEIRIS/PICASSO "We try not to have so many
guests. It disturbs what's left of the neighbors," says Michel as he
stumbles around his Paris home in the dark, falling down stairs,
knocking over crudités, and scalding himself on a teakettle. It's all
rather amusing ... until you realize that it's 1944 and there's a Nazi
patrol outside. This just the sort of dark humor that characterizes
writer-director David Jette's farcical take on an actual evening at the
house of Michel Leiris (Michael Bulger) when members of the French
Resistance produced Pablo Picasso's play, Desire Caught by the Tail.
The play itself is nonsensically awful (but oh, how the man could
paint), so Jette has instead written about the circumstances
surrounding its production, a sort of play without a play. In it,
Leiris, his wife Zette (Jenny Byrd), Albert Camus (Tyler Jenich),
Jean-Paul Sartre (Patrick Baker), Simone de Beauvoir (Amy K. Harmon),
and Picasso's mistress Dora Maar (Melissa Powell) scramble to set up
while they wait for the master. Besides their own petty but hilarious
squabbles, they also have to deal with a Nazi (Joseph L. Roberts) who
keeps popping up, as well as the leader of the resistance, Sam Beckett
(Dan Gordon). Jette's direction keeps all the moving parts well
synchronized as the actors enter and exit Juliana de Abreu's
well-designed, multi-door set. The ensemble is strong overall, though
Baker's over-the-top bombastic caricature of Sartre and Bulger's
sincerity as the put-upon host stand out. And while the work isn't
historically accurate, it succeeds because, as Camus says, sometimes
"happiness feels better than truth." Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly
Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 24. (213) 290-2782,
BrimmerStreet.org (Mayank Keshaviah). Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly
Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 24. (213) 389-3856.
THE LOST TOMB OF KING SUNDAY Karen Maruyama directs the Sunday
Company. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m..
NEW REVIEW GO LOVE, CONNIE
Photo by Gabriel Goldberg
Connie, our blond-wigged and hirsute heroine
(writer-performer John Cantwell, from The Nellie Olesons), regales us
with energetic flash dancing and pageantry, all set to raucous '80s pop
tunes. The dance numbers are interspersed with sinister, projected
minimovies that feature the menacing presence of a black leather-clad
stalker with evil designs on Connie's precious white cat.
Lightning-speed costume changes and high-energy dance routines keep the
slightly demented Connie on her toes, and director Michael Bodie
maintains a cracking pace. The 50-minute show co-stars Molly Cranna as
the shapely cat "Vickie," complete with kitten mask and four sets of
feline nipples. Her sweet pas de deux with Connie, set to Madonna's
"Beautiful Stranger," signifies a flashback to when Connie adopted her
beloved kitty. The only dialogue in this hilarious, risqué evening is
an onscreen chunk of venomous exposition by villain Bambi (Kelly
Mantle) explaining her deadly motivation. With its suggestive groping
and simulated broomstick penetration, Love, Connie is not for
delicate sensibilities. Then again, why not take your mom or grandma
along? She might laugh her ass off. Cavern Club Theater at Casita del
Campo, 1920 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake; Fri.-Sat., 9 p.m.; through July
24. cavernclubtheater.com. (Pauline Adamek)
MARY LYNN SPREADS HER LEGS Writer-performer Mary Lynn Rajskub
cruises the low road in this raunchy obstreperous one-woman show about
childbirth and motherhood, directed and developed by Amit Ittelman.
Adopting a pugnacious in-your-face persona at the top, the performer
first describes -- then graphically illustrates -- how she abandoned
her intellectual self to metamorphose into a fun-loving hottie. An
unexpected pregnancy alters her life -- though not her smug irreverence
leveled nonstop at doctors, midwives, family members, producers and
fans (all of whom she portrays). When her colicky child (also depicted
by Rajskub) refuses her milk, she's filled with fantasies of
infanticide. Straddling standup, Rajskub's performance contains a humor
that hits home with a strata of her audience, while irritating or
offending others. Her skills are without question: the expressiveness
of her body language or the split-second changes in countenance convey
a shift from one character to the next. Notwithstanding these qualities
and some entertaining moments, there's not much that's witty or
insightful or ribald about this material. It would be helpful if there
were some likable character or sentiment to counterbalance the story's
bitter, hollow message. (Deborah Klugman)., $20. Steve Allen Theater,
at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat.,
8 p.m.; thru Aug. 27. (323) 666-4268.
GO MORE LIES ABOUT JERZY This West Coast premiere
of David Holmes' fascinating drama about whether truth lies in facts or
in fiction hangs on the title performance of Jack Stehlin as Jerzy
Lesnewski -- obviously based on the late Polish novelist-screenwriter
Jerzy Kosinski, and the scandals surrounding what he eventually claimed
was his fictional Holocaust memoir, The Painted Bird. Either
by omission or design, Kosinski neglected to clarify at the outset that
the memoir was anything but autobiography -- until, according to
Holmes, Poles from his past (Jordan Lund and Cameron Meyer) showed up
in New York, peeved that the famous author was discrediting the very
people who had protected young Jewish Jerzy from the Nazis. Aside from
a swirl of wives and mistresses (Meyer and Kristin Malko) orbiting the
womanizing author, the play drives along the investigation by
journalist Arthur Bausley (Adam Stein) -- once a fan and eventually an
investigator -- clearly troubled by Jerzy's continuing penchant to play
fast and loose with the facts. They won't ask if he lying, Arthur goads
him, They're only going to ask why is he lying. Holmes plays just as
nimbly with the facts as Kozinski did, which would be an affront if
Holmes were really out to discredit his protagonist, as the Village Voice did in 1982. (That discrediting is a central issue in the play, which anachronistically unfolds between 1972 and 1974.) In the Voice,
Geoffrey Stokes and Eliot Fremont-Smith published an article accusing
the five-time best-selling author not only of having denied
co-authorship or editor credit to the English "translators," who may
have actually written The Painted Bird, based on Kozinski writings in Polish, but they also claimed that Kozinski plagiarized his short story (made into film), Being There, from 1932 Polish best seller The Career of Nicodemus Dyzma
-- which few people outside Poland knew about. Holmes' Jerzy has a
potent defense and an almost tragic downfall -- made all the more so by
Stehlin's gregarious, petulant and charismatic interpretation, with
just the right tinge of Polish dialect. Argues Jerzy: Truth does not
lie in facts but in symbols and myths and legends -- an argument he
could have lifted from W.B. Yeats, who said much the same. Holmes'
journalist tries to psychoanalyze why Jerzy would make stuff up so
habitually -- perhaps a war trauma or something -- and Jerzy ridicules
that process as petty psychoanalysis. The degree to which Jerzy may be
right is the degree to which this play gets very interesting, veering
from its dangerous trajectory of celebrity bashing. David Trainer
directs an efficient production with enough momentum to compensate for
its tangled relationships. But it's the play, and Stehlin, that are
stage center. And speaking of truth, they probably shouldn't clink
those plastic champagne tumblers when toasting. That rings even less
true than many of Jerzy's excuses. (Steven Leigh Morris). Hayworth
Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 31. (213)
MOTHER Mary-Beth Manning's one-woman show about a complex
mother/daughter relationship. Elephant Theatre Lab, 1078 Lilian Way,
L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; thru July 30, plays411.com/mother. (323) 960-7714.
MY PENIS: IN AND OUT OF TROUBLE Antonio Sacre's solo performance
piece. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.;
thru Aug. 5, brownpapertickets.com/event/118963. (800) 838-3006.
NEW REVIEW GO NANO NATION
Photo by Eva Blume
Since their founding in 2007, L.A.-based performance
provocateurs Poor Dog Group are quickly establishing a reputation as a
sort of poor man's Wooster Group. Their targets tend to be American
mythologies of all stripes, as they are promulgated, passed on and
reified across the cultural spectrum. Theirs is a theater of gesture
rather than of plot-driven narrative or even dramatic language. Thus,
in this riveting, nonverbal, solo-movement piece by
dancer-choreographer Jessica Emmanuel, dance becomes the means of
stripping away misogynistic cultural overlays and exposing raw meaning
-- in this case, attitudes toward women in African-American folk and
music traditions, which continue to inform contemporary rap and
hip-hop. In front of a projected, black-and-white video montage,
combining vintage clips from Hollywood silent melodramas with
increasingly abstract compositions (directed by Jesse Bonnell),
Emmanuel performs an intensely plaintive, physical corollary to Jelly
Roll Morton's epic 30-minute, seven-part "Murder Ballad." The Morton
blues classic is a revelation in itself -- the saga of a woman who
futilely murders "the bitch" with whom her boyfriend is cheating, only
to be sent to prison, where she takes a female lover while her
boyfriend merely replaces her with another woman. Technical director
Adam Hunter (who also contributes the moody, low-key lighting) provides
a final touch of video alienation by monitoring the onstage proceedings
on a vintage, black-and-white TV with an out-of-whack horizontal hold.
Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Sat., 10 p.m.; through
July 24. brownpapertickets.com/event/119059. (800) 838-3006. (Bill Raden)
NOT ABOUT HEROES Stephen MacDonald's tale of the friendship of World
War I British soldier-poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. Lounge
Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7
p.m.; thru Aug. 22, plays411.com/heroes. (323) 960-7744.
GO OPUS Because classical music can be such a
sublime art form, one tends to regard those musicians as inhabiting a
more celestial sphere than the rest of us. Playwright and classically
trained violist Michael Hollinger confutes that notion with this
percipient drama, which examines the political and emotional fracas
within a string quartet. In Hollinger's canny script, the tensions
generated among members of a prominent musical group have been
exacerbated by an affair between two of them: Elliot (Christian
Lebano), a domineering egotist with little tolerance for opposition;
and Dorian (Daniel Blinkoff), a supersensitive artist with a history of
emotional problems. When Dorian up and quits prior to a prestigious gig
at the White House, he is replaced by Grace (Jia Doughman), a
conscientious novice with tremendous talent and the inner aplomb to
withstand Elliot's needling and increasingly truculent demands.
Directed by Simon Levy, the drama begins with a studied manner before
launching into full dynamism, as the particulars of the players'
dilemmas and entanglements come into focus. In a solid ensemble,
Doughman is noteworthy for her character's impeccable truth; likewise
Cooper Thornton is highly effective as Alan, the down-to-earth second
violinist who reacts with growing consternation and dismay to
snowballing events. The performers mime their concerts in admirable
sync (sound design is by Peter Bayne, with input from musical advisers
Roy Tanabe and Larry Sonderling). Complemented by designer Ken Booth's
lighting, Frederica Nascimento's backdrop, with its cubes in autumnal
colors, seems reflective of the quartet's rich but cloistered world.
(Deborah Klugman). Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.;
Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.;
thru Aug. 29. (323) 663-1525.
GO OTHELLO Othello Shakespeare must've been
orchestrating from his grave: Three times during Independent
Shakespeare Company's production of Othello in Griffith Park, a pack of
coyotes burst into laughter. Fitting that nature should interject its
opinion on that most futile of human emotions that motorizes the action
of Shakespeare's tragedy. "O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the
green-ey'd monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on ..." the
kingpin Iago ironically warns Othello. Director Melissa Chalsma has
elicited smart, sharp, funny interpretations from her cast, notably
Cameron Knight, Andre Martin, David Melville and Bernadette Sullivan;
and even with the distractions that accompany an outdoor performance
(bring blankets and sweaters), the audience was rapt throughout. As
Othello, Knight precisely navigates the slippery slope into paranoia,
gradually unraveling until he becomes near-primal, the "black ram" Iago
first described him as and now has led him to be. Melville, a
charismatic villain, transforms physically as Iago, bounding
confidently at Act 1 opens, only to become hunched and shuffling as if
shackled by mid-play. Shakespeare proves to have been a cultural seer
-- he set an African as commander-in-chief long before we even
considered the idea -- commenting on interracial marriage ages before
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and promoting feminist ideology centuries
before Gloria Steinem became a Playboy Bunny. Universal truths keep him
relevant; here, it's how susceptible we are to doubt and how jealousy
erects a steel coffin around the mind. The desire to exact justice
after being provoked by senseless injustices keeps Shakespeare
satisfying, despite the inevitable high body count that revenge can
accrue. Here, justice is served by a woman choosing truth over
matrimonial obedience, while the revenge is as misguided as it is
pointless. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Griffith Park, 4730 Crystal Springs
Dr., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 1. (818) 710-6306.
NEW REVIEW GO PHIL THE VOID; THE GREAT BRAIN ROBBERY
Photo by Noelle Darling
With his full, finely trimmed beard and unknotted bow
tie, Phil van Hest looks like the best man at a wedding of
ichthyologists. He knows he looks smart and works to discredit himself
first in an opening story about himself, a beer, a joint and a bra
slingshot; and second, by telling us the reason he's certain he's dumb:
the Internet. At age 31, he's of the perfect age to grasp Life 2.0's
impact -- he's old enough to remember memorizing phone numbers and
young enough to feel pressured to keep up with 4-chan memes. "I do not
laugh out loud as often as I claim to," he intones in a Hamlet pose,
and to make his case that outsourcing our minds to Google will drive us
all mad, he draws upon rhesus monkeys, Vietnam tortures and Theseus.
Directed by David Fofi, van Hest delivers his sermon like a first-rate
street preacher -- he knows when to let his doomsaying loom over our
heads and when to pop the tension with a joke. A leap to Alan Greenspan
and his school of evil fools allows van Hest to glom his case to the
idea that the entire modern world's gone to rubbish. In his epilogue,
he announces his plan to launch a commune in the Bay Area -- and by
then, we're swayed to come with. Elephant Theatre Lab, 1078 Lilian Way,
Hlywd.; Sat., 8 p.m.; through Aug. 7, philvanhest.com. (866) 811-4111. (Amy Nicholson)
NEW REVIEW GO PLAY DATES
Photo by Ed Krieger
Relationships would ride so much more smoothly if the elementary
survey Will You Be My Girlfriend? Check "Yes" or "No," could be
given/taken before every action. Do you want me to take out the trash
right this minute? Will you be passive-aggressive if I have a quick
drink with my friend, the one you hate? Do you have any intention of
marrying and having children with me? The trick, of course, is
answering honestly and earnestly, and not pouting like a
kindergartener. In three short acts strung discreetly together,
playwright Sam Wolfson takes a crack at love and relationships. The
first, "Boy Meets Girl," is the sharpest of the trio. In their 48-hour
romance, Stacey and Sam (Elizabeth Bond and a nicely understated Rob
Nagle) connect over chitchat on the playground. "I'm a day trader," Sam
says -- "in the lunchroom: Snowballs, Star Crunches -- desserts,
mostly." The second act, "Dr. Love," is the weakest, mostly due to the
now exhausted smart/shock-culture of both Dr. Drew and Howard Stern, on
whom the title character seems to be based. Fortunately, it's short.
Though the third, "Honeymoon Period," is a little too precious, if
you've ever been long-coupled, the bedtime ritual that opens the act
will be embarrassingly, hilariously familiar. "We were performing a
scene from Gorillas in the Mist!" a horrified Katie (Kristin
Lee Kelly) exclaims. Wolfson's dialogue is on par with the best sketch
and sitcom writing, which means plenty of cozy pop culture references
cushioning a Big Lesson. When the subject's love, no matter how much
the ending resembles an episode of Friends, most audiences
will relate. Kurt Boetcher's efficient set deserves mention, a very
funny Brian Monahan rounds out the cast, and Jennifer Chambers directs.
Green Beetle Productions, Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica
Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; through August 1. (323) 960-7776.
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.
REDHEAD CUBAN HAUSFRAU HUSBAND Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were
pioneer celebrities who set the standard for clean, white-bread
television comedy. They also were one of Hollywood's original power
couples amassing a fortune from ownership of their own studios. But in
his self-described musical homage to the I Love Lucy show,
writer-director Fletcher Rhoden falls short of telling their story or
of telling any story that's the least bit compelling. The herky-jerky
script contains no semblance of narrative cohesiveness or flow, though
it comes spiced here and there with historic details about Ms. Ball's
life. Performer Joan Elizabeth Kennedy fails to channel Lucy
convincingly, and is consistent only in singing off-key. Ditto for
Derek Rubiano, whose Cuban accent wobbles in a remedial performance.
Rhoden's music and lyrics are competent though without a hint of any
Latin-American origins or influence in the music. Rhoden's direction
does little to shore up the holes in his script. Jodi Skeris and
Michael Anthony Nozzi are presumably standing in for other actors as
the zany neighbors, but that's hard to tell from the program. (Lovell
Estell III). Mount Hollywood Theater, 4607 Prospect Ave., L.A.;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 4. (323) 667-9113.
ROMEO & JULIET, THE COMEDY Knightsbridge Theatre's 1970s take on
Shakespeare's tragedy, "including a disco dance-off to the death.".
Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
Sun., 6 p.m.; thru July 25. (323) 667-0955.
SEX, RELATIONSHIPS AND SOMETIMES . . . LOVE Monologues on all of the
above, by Joelle Arqueros. Renegade Theatre (formerly the Actor's
Playpen), 1514 N. Gardner St., L.A.; Sun., 6, 7:30 & 9 p.m.; thru
Sept. 26. (323) 769-5566.
SIT'N SPIN STORYTELLING by Jill Soloway, Maggie Rowe, Jaclyn Lafer
and assorted guests of varying hilarity; www.sitnspin.org., free.
COMEDY CENTRAL STAGE, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Every other
Thursday, 8 p.m.. (323) 960-5519.
GO ST. NICOLAS Irish playwright Conor McPherson
mirthfully paints a theater critic as a bloodsucker in his early
mono-drama, which receives a standout revival by director Scott Paulin.
Michael McGee does the honors as an anonymous, ego-bitten and self
described "well-paid hack" (i.e. drama critic), who becomes a willing
procurer for a clan of vampires. "People were afraid of me," he quips,
reflecting on his power to make or break careers, with a pen he
joyfully wielded like an envenomed rapier. However, the utter
corruption of his existence finds its fullest expression when he falls
for an actress he encountered at a performance of Salome. Unbeknownst
to the poor fellow, she is a member of a vampire clan, and it isn't
long before he is willingly luring unsuspecting victims into their den,
where they are plowed with drink, revelry and relieved of their blood,
as well as all memories of the encounter. Call it vampire light, void
of Stoker but with a touch of Anne Rice. McPherson's tinkering with the
vampire myth is a clever literary sleight of hand, but the ease of his
narrative and its animated density, the shades of humor and poignancy,
and McGee's textured performance make for a terrific outing. (Lovell
Estell III). SFS Theatre, 5636 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
thru July 24. (323) 463-7378.
STREEP TEASE: AN EVENING OF MERYL STREEP MONOLOGUES Performed by an
All-Male Cast Re-interpretations of the actress' most iconic scenes.
BANG, 457 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru
Aug. 29. (323) 653-6886.
TAPE LoneCollective Theatre presents Stephen Belber's study of
motive, memory, truth and perception.,
email@example.com. Old Expo Furniture Warehouse, 4321
Atlantic Ave., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 30. (562)
TAXI STORIES David O'Shea recounts his years as a New York City taxi
driver. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sat., July 24, 5
p.m.; Sat., Aug. 14, 8 p.m.. (800) 838-3006.
THEY CALL ME MR. FRY Jack Freiberger's recollection of his job as a
South-Central schoolteacher. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd.,
L.A.; Sat., July 24, 3 p.m.; Sat., July 31, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 7, 3
p.m.. (323) 962-1632.
GO T-O-T-A-L-L-Y In Kimleigh Smith's one-person
show, she portrays herself as a 17-year-old virgin, an ingratiating
cheer-leader who speaks in Valley-girl cadences where every sentence is
peppered with "totally." She endures a gang rape and the eventual
recovery of her sexuality that got shut down after the attack. This is
the formula for what could have been the worst one-woman show ever
seen; it's actually among the best, thanks entirely to Smith's
super-human vivacity, her blistering sense of humor, in which, with
considerable physical heft, she performs those ridiculous high school
cheers in a teensy, revealing skirt with a mania that crosses deep into
mockery. She is without shame, and she's earned that right. There's not
a trace of self-pity; rather, super-hero determination. And when she
details her technique for seducing a lover, the result is one of the
most erotic and funny scenes you're going to find on any stage,
anywhere. Paula Killen directs, and obviously knows exactly what she's
doing. (Steven Leigh Morris). Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd.,
L.A.; Sat., July 24, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 25, 7 p.m.; Sat., July 31, 8
p.m.; Sun., Aug. 1, 7 p.m.. (323) 952-1632.
A TALE TOLD BY AN IDIOT "Inspired by William Shakespeare's Macbeth." Presented by Psittacus Productions. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 25...
THREE SISTERS AFTER CHEKHOV Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble presents
Mustapha Matura's adaptation of Anton Chekhov's classic. Lost Studio,
130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Aug.
8, lowerdepththeatreensemble.org. (800) 838-3006.
[TITLE OF SHOW] "Musical about making a musical." Music and lyrics
by Jeff Bowen, book by Hunter Bell. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa
Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 5.
GO TRACERS Thirty years after its Los Angeles
debut, writer John DiFusco's antiwar drama retains its relevance and
power. Written collaboratively in the 1970s by DiFusco and seven other
Vietnam vets, and directed by Christina Howard with insight and skill,
it portrays the trauma of young military recruits plucked from
mainstream American life and thust -- inadequately trained and poorly
equipped -- into the nightmare of combat. Howard, displaying a
metaphysical perspective, stages the production on a deep, cavernous
proscenium. Prior to curtain, an intense, almost suffocating, scent of
incense permeates the theater; meanwhile, for perhaps 20 minutes, the
six "trainees" jog in military unison, the rhythms of their booted
tread being ominous and haunting. When at last the performers do,
individually, speak, it's in a darkness resourcefully illuminated by
handheld flashlights; indeed, throughout the play, the lighting design
(consultant Tiger Reel) registers as a quintessential element of the
spectacle. The talents of Howard's adept ensemble collectively emerge
in a sequence depicting the recruits' initial training under the
command of an abusive drill sergeant (the terrific Tucker Smallwood),
who addresses them as "maggots" while forcing them to undergo arbitrary
punitive discipline. Once in Vietnam, the men medicate their brutalized
psyches with dope, alcohol and infantile horseplay -- understandable
given their tasks, which include sorting through body parts to try to
match limbs with torsos. While not every component of this production
is unimpeachable -- the sound design (Howard) and vocal sound track,
effective in part, can be intrusive -- the imaginative production is
compelling. (Deborah Klugman). L.A. Fringe Theatre, 929 E. Second St.,
Studio 105, L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 14. (213) 680-0392.
WAITING FOR GODOT Revelation Theater presents Samuel Beckett's
existentialist classic. The Black Box Theater, 12420 Santa Monica
Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 31, theblackboxtheater.org...
THE WASTE LAND Filament Theatre Co. presents a workshop performance
of the T. S. Eliot poem. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.;
Sat., July 24, 9:30 p.m.; Sat., July 31, 10 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 7, 8 p.m..
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 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Mon., 8 p.m.. (323) 466-9917.
GO YELLOW Del Shores' family comedy-drama studies,
once more, the mores and traditions of the Deep South, perhaps the
country's most extreme forms of religiosity and homophobia, which have
been haunting the playwright for all these years. How does one get out
alive, with the curses of the underworld hanging over a believer:
change or be changed? Does one run to New York City, or San Francisco
or West Hollywood? Lead a double life? Become a playwright? Yellow
is neither tragedy nor soap opera; its "disease-of-the-week" dimension
surges between the two along a riptide of sentimentality. That said, Yellow
is a rippingly entertaining show, thanks largely to Shores'
precision-bombing satire of self-absorbed teenagers and drama clubs.
(Steven Leigh Morris). Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., West
Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 5...
ZOMBIENCE! "An Improvised Zombie Musical," directed by Patrick
Bristow. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.;
thru July 30, brownpapertickets.com/event/102759. (800) 838-3006.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS
GO ALL MY SONS If even a thread of a silver lining
can be found in the BP gulf oil-spill madness, it might just be that
the appalling incident has breathed new life into Arthur Miller's
powerful tragedy about the twin evils of reckless capitalism and false
sanctimony. Director Kiff Scholl's powerful and well-acted production
never overtly channels the spill -- but the parallels between the cabal
of greedy oil-company CEOs and the dark heart of corruption that lie at
the center of the family in Miller's play are apparent. The play
concerns seemingly genial war-parts manufacturer Joe (Mark Belnick),
whose family life is splintering ostensibly over the fact that his
beloved but emotionally fragile wife, Kate (CaroleAnne Johnson), is
unwilling to give up believing that their son Larry, dead in a war
plane crash, is still alive. Meanwhile Joe's other son Chris (Nicholas
S. Williams) is plotting to marry beautiful Annie (Lauren Dobbins
Webb), the daughter of Joe's former partner, who's serving a prison
term for sending faulty plane parts to the front. Of course, the real
truth of how those faulty parts got to the front is far more horrible
-- and ultimately tragic to all concerned. Staged in a theater so small
it often seems to creak at the seams of the play's aching themes of
rage, disgust and greed, Scholl's sturdy production is unflinching,
with the intimacy only adding to its beauty. The ensemble's vivid and
psychologically nuanced characters lead to the feeling that we "know"
we "know" these people, like friends -- from Belnick's backslappin',
bonhomie bloat-spouting Joe, whose "big man" attitude is quickly
abraded into weasel-eyed oiliness, to Johnson's beautifully fragile but
increasingly darkly complicit Kate. Webb's sweet, then fierce turn as
Annie becomes surprisingly complex as she ultimately wields a weapon
that puts the final nail in the villain's coffin -- while Williams'
shift from dorky rich-boy idealist to ferocious avatar of justice is
strikingly powerful. (Paul Birchall). Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim
Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 25.
AMADEUS Written as Theophilus (from the Greek) on his birth
certificate, Mozart's middle name can be interpreted as either "lover
of God" or "loved by God." Antonio Salieri clearly believed the latter,
and his jealousy of Mozart fuels the drama in Peter Shaffer's 1979
award-winning play. As court composer, Salieri (Peter Swander) has the
favor of Emperor Joseph II (David Robert May) and admires Mozart's
music -- until he meets the young prodigy. Mozart's (Patrick Stafford)
sexuality and vulgarity drive the devout Catholic wild, and as Salieri
can't reconcile the philistine with the ethereal music he creates, he
becomes determined to destroy Mozart. In that quest, Swander often
speaks of passion, yet it rarely feels as if his character possesses
the passion his words suggest. Part of this may have been director
August Viverito's desire for a slow build, even though it does
eventually pay off in Act 2. Stafford's Mozart, on the contrary, is id
perfectly personified, with occasional glimpses of the genius hiding
behind the schoolboy pranks. Danielle Doyen, who plays his wife,
Constanze, pairs well with Stafford, and like the rest of the cast, is
capable. However, her 1980s, Madonna-style outfits, along with Mozart's
gold pants and the emperor's raspberry zoot suit, are questionable
choices by designer Shon LeBlanc. While for Salieri "a note of music is
either right or it's wrong," for me the show had a pleasant melody but
not one that stuck with me for long. (Mayank Keshaviah). Chandler
Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,
3 p.m.; thru Aug. 28. (800) 838-3006.
GOARCADIA When sophisticated, rapid-fire dialogue
is whizzing about the stage, mathematical and scientific principles are
being dissected in the language of those who dissect them
professionally, and the past is bleeding into the present, the question
is not if, but when, your head will start to spin. Set in an English
estate in both 1809 and present day, Tom Stoppard's exploration of the
seeming dichotomies of chaos and order, science and art, head and
heart, might err on the side of the cerebral -- thrillingly yet too
bewilderingly -- if it weren't so ripe with the great equalizers: humor
and sex. Director Barbara Schofield notes that the play's themes are
all based on passion, and her staging arches its back toward reflecting
such. Just as you begin to follow one of Stoppard's intricate,
essential arguments down the intellectual rabbit hole, Schofield yanks
you back by the gut. The logical Valentine (Paul Romero) casually
posits the supremacy of science to Bernard (a combustible Benjamin
Burdick), who preaches poetry in response; the scene immediately
following, between T.J. Marchbank's smoldering Septimus and Kendra
Chell's commanding Lady Croom, so pulses with lust restrained by the
thinnest of threads, that when Septimus burns a letter, you feel
helpless to stem the flush spreading throughout your own body. The cast
is uniformly good, though the frequent shouting matches repeatedly
reach a decibel level that quickly overwhelms such an intimate theater.
Regardless that they skip so nimbly through the fascinating maze
Stoppard's constructed is a relief, and reason enough to go. (Rebecca
Haithcoat). Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra
Madre; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru July 31. (626) 256-3809.
FOR COLORED BIRLS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE WHEN THE RAINBOW IS ENUF
Is Enuf Ntozake Shange's 1975 choreopoem. Whitefire Theater, 13500
Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 7,
plays411.com/forcoloredgirls. (818) 990-2324.
THE GOLDEN AURORA Steve Fechter's story of love between a man and
man's best friend. Alliance Repertory Company, 3204 W. Magnolia Blvd.,
Burbank; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 31. (818) 284-6799.
IN & OUT: THE U.S. OF ALIENATION World premiere of David Wally's
dramedy about human connection. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd.,
Sherman Oaks; Tues., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 14. (866) 811-4111.
INSIDE PRIVATE LIVES Peek into the private lives of public personas
in Kristin Stone Entertainment's interactive theater piece. Fremont
Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru
July 31. (866) 811-4111.
IT'S JUST SEX Jeff Gould's comedy takes the underpinnings of sexual
fantasy, fidelity and money and puts all of those nuances onstage in a
contemporary comedy about three married couples. The wife-swapping plot
is straight out of Hugh Hefner's pad, circa 1975. That the play
resonates today, in the ashes of the sexual revolution, is one
indication of how little has changed, despite how much has changed.
(Steven Leigh Morris). Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio
City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (818) 762-2272.
JAYBIRD AND HALLELUJAH Two casts ("Salvation" and "Redemption" )
perform Pel Tedder's play with two different endings.,
firstname.lastname@example.org. NoHo Actors Studios, 5215 Lankershim Blvd.,
North Hollywood; Sat., 9:15 p.m.; thru Aug. 7, email@example.com.
GO KING LEAR The old loon hasn't looked so good in
some time. Bart DeLorenzo's staging for Antaeus Company's Classicsfest
2010 comes with two casts -- "The Fools" and "The Madmen." I saw the
"The Madmen" and must reserve comment on the uberconcept until checking
out "The Fools" this coming week. No need to reserve any enthusiasm for
Harry Groener's Lear. Though his silver beard still doesn't
help Groener look a stitch younger than 60 (Lear is supposed to be
80-plus), his gives a magnetic interpretation filled with surprises.
But first, he renders the words sparklingly, with clarity and
sensitivity. When his Fool (JD Cullum, also great -- nimble and smart
without being a smart-ass) grills with his riddles, Groener's Lear
listens and responds with a childlike innocence that is a cloak for
growing despondency. And it's that sojourn toward spiritual oblivion
that Groener carves with such intrigue, step by step, with alternate
bursts of rage and defeat. He's magnificent and ably matched by Allegra
Fulton's richly textured Goneril, who conjures memories of Estelle
Parsons, mingled with the late, local actress Pamela Gordon. Gregory
Itzin's Kent is grand, as is Nick Cagle's Oswald. Less so some of the
supporting players, who render comparatively callow and shallow
renditions compared to the masters at the helm. DeLorenzo stages a
modernist interpretation that starts with Napoleanic military chic
(costumes by A. Jeffrey Schoenberg) -- all those boots stretching up to
the thigh! -- and evolves to contemporary desert warfare attire. No,
this is not an imposition or a gimmick. It fits snugly into the play's
expedition into the surreal, in a work about aging and senility, the
blessings and curses of time. DeLorenzo's staging suggests that what is
unfolding is the history of our times, through ellipses of power and
its abuses. He's on firm terra ether. (Steven Leigh Morris). Deaf West
Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 12. 818-506-1983.
PATRIOTISM UNLEASSHED! Sketch-comedy show, produced by Theatre
Unleashed. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood;
Thurs., 9 p.m.; Sat., 10:45 p.m.; thru July 31...
SPEECH & DEBATE Stephen Karam's sex scandal about a gay teenager
and a politician. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North
Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 22. (877)
SUPER SIDEKICK An original children's musical presented by Theatre
Unleashed, book by Gregory Crafts, music and lyrics by Michael Gordon
Shapiro. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Sun., 1
& 4 p.m.; thru Aug. 15, theatreunleashed.com. (818) 849-4039.
THIS WAY TO YOUR RITUAL LOBOTOMY Felix Pire's new one-man stage
comedy. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 24, ticketleap.com. (818) 766-9100.
TWELFTH NIGHT Shakespeare isn't usually the hottest ticket in town (that honor currently belongs to In the Heights),
but that's more the fault of buttoned-up high school standards that
refuse literature teachers the freedom to explore and explain the
rampant bustier-and-trouser unbuttoning in the First Folio. Director
Jeff Soroka continues modern theater's attempt to unclothe the plays in
Theatre Unleashed's production of the comedy that, typical of
Shakespeare, derives its plot from mistaken identity. Sprawled
drunkenly between two of his harem at the start of the show, Shawn
Cahill's Orsino is one of the most animalistic incarnations of a
Shakespearean character in recent memory -- the audience smells before
it sees him. Yet he rises both to the heightened language and
demystifies it with a bold physicality; Darci Dixon, as Viola, has a
fine command of the language, but her energy is so contained and her
reactions so muted, she seems to be performing for the camera as
opposed to the stage. Fortunately, the show's jesters -- Thomas W.
Ashworth as Feste, Paul Bond as Sir Toby Belch, and Jim Martyka as Sir
Andrew Aguecheek -- are respectively as witty, bawdy and stupid as
intended; and Noah James Butler's excellent turn as the fraught
Malvolio provides the prissy tautness to Cahill's alpha-male
dispassion. Though Soroka's eye is on upping the sexual ante with his
staging, unintentionally comical modern-dancing belly dancers and a
boring, throwaway final scene (ah, Shakespeare's ever-problematic
wrap-ups) leave the audience answering the eternal conjugal question,
so often inspired by the Bard, with the reply: "No, that wasn't so good
for me." (Rebecca Haithcoat). Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd.,
North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 31, theatreunleashed.com.
GO TWO PLAYS BY YUKIO MISHIMAPerhaps most notorious
in the West for his sensational, 1970 suicide by seppuku, controversial
poet-novelist Yukio Mishima was also a playwright of both contemporary
dramas and works blending the modern with traditions drawn from the
classical Japanese stage. This fascinating evening features two of
Mishima's modernized Noh texts from 1956 (translated by Donald Keene)
that play like a Gothic mix of Tennessee Williams and Edgar Allen Poe.
With Hanjo, directed by Aramazd Stepanian, Mishima takes the
theme of pure love into the tortured extreme of the Noh madness play.
Jitsuko (Hiroko Imai) is a 40-year-old painter who, though she has
never found love, has discovered the perfect embodiment of it as a
subject for her paintings in Hanako (Kazumi Zatkin), a beautiful geisha
driven insane by the agony of futilely waiting for the return of true
love Yoshio (Yutaka Takeuchi). In The Lady Aoi, Toshi Toda
directs Mishima's surreal twist on the vengeful ghost play. Hikaru
(Toshiya Agata) arrives at a strange clinic to find his sedated young
wife, Aoi (Miho Ando), tormented by "the ghost of a libido," the
still-burning love/hate of Hikaru's jilted former lover (Fay Kato).
Toda also directs a traditional, short Kyogen interlude piece, the
farcical Hana-Ko. Though the production has its share of rough edges, a
delightful cast and supple direction (accented by Chris Edinjikilian's
misty scenic painting and Sandy Gabucan's effective lights) neatly
illuminate Mishima's dark and uncompromising obsessions. (Bill Raden).
Luna Playhouse, 3706 San Fernando Road, Glendale; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 1. (818) 500-7200.
URBAN DEATH Zombie Joe's Underground's horror show. ZJU Theater
Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 11 p.m.. (818)
THE WHO'S TOMMY Book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff, music and
lyrics by Pete Townshend, additional music and lyrics by John Entwistle
and Keith Moon. Chance Theatre, 5552 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim;
Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru
Aug. 8. (714) 777-3033.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS
ALL CAKE, NO FILE "Johnny Cash Prison Tribute Comedy Cooking
Show/Concert," written and performed by Donna Jo Thorndale. Actors'
Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City;
Fri.-Sat., 9 p.m.; thru July 31. (310) 838-4264.
GO BECKY'S NEW CAR "When a woman says she wants a
new house, she really wants a new husband. When she says she wants a
new car, she really wants a new life." In Steven Dietz's smart if
tonally uneven new play, these are the prophetic words of amiable and
grounded Becky Foster (Joanna Daniels), who worries that she has
squandered her best years as an office manager drudge at a car
dealership, while saddled with a lumpen husband (Jon Eric Preston) and
patronizing grad student son (Nick Rogers). A chance for a new life
comes prancing into Becky's dealership, when slightly spacey
billionaire billboard tycoon Walter (Brad Greenquist) randomly chooses
Becky as the sales agent for his mass-purchase of cars for all the
employees at his company. Walter, grieving over the death of his wife,
is inexplicably attracted to the earthy "real world" Becky, whose own
moral compass starts swinging around like a drunken sailor as she
contemplates ditching her family for a life of glamour and wealth.
Dietz's play receives its Los Angeles premiere in director Michael
Rothhaar's whimsical production that comes laced with melancholy. The
play's genesis is worthy of some note: The work was a personal
commission by a Seattle arts patron as a gift for his wife. As such,
the material occasionally tries a little too hard to please, with a
narrative that occasionally emulates the mood of 1930s screwball
comedies -- a style that is an uneven alchemical fit with the
underlying tone of midlife despair, in which the work is also deeply
steeped. However, when Dietz is willing to let the play rise to silly
froth, the results are splendid. Scenes in which Daniels' bubbly Becky
repeatedly invites opinions from audience members -- some of whom are
roped onstage into helping her with a wonderfully droll costume change
moment -- balance charmingly with moments in which she finds herself
swept away by Greenquist's charismatic Walter. Although the
contrivances of the play's final third are too preposterous to sustain
even willing disbelief, the ensemble overall crackles with witty,
sympathetic performances -- including Rogers as Becky's goofy son and
by Suzanne Ford's graceful turn as a prickly rival for Walter's
affections. (Paul Birchall). Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice
Blvd., Venice; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 15. (310)
BEHOLD: A QUEER PERFORMANCE FESTIVAL Song, dance and performance by
Tim Miller, Raquel Gutierrez, Ian MacKinnon, jhon r. stronks, Alex
Davis, Sounds of Asteroth, Corey Saucier, Chris Doggett, Hank
Henderson, and more., $20 per performance, all-access pass $75.
Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; Through Aug.
2. (310) 315-1459.
BLACK COFFEE Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot mystery. Theatre 40 at
the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; Wed.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 1. (310) 364-0535.
A CHORUS LINE The classic musical about 17 Broadway dancers
auditioning for spots on a chorus line., $23, $18 students/seniors.
Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 25. 310-828-7519.
THE CLEAN HOUSE Sarah Ruhl's comedy about "the true nature of
love.". Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 2 p.m.;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 1. (310) 477-2055.
HARLOW GOLD: WEST "Sexy, witty and gritty" cabaret created by
choreographers Dominic Carbone and Tracy Phillips., $10-$25.
Harvelle's, 1432 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Thurs.. (310) 395-1676.
GO JUST 45 MINUTES FROM BROADWAY Suffused with a
near-Chekhovian mix of the wistful and the melancholy, playwright Henry
Jaglom's world premiere comedy is a delight -- an intimate and
thoughtful ensemble piece which is as much a paean to the theater as it
is a meditation on the perils of living entirely by emotion. In a
picturesque but run down country house in upstate New York (realized in
Joel Daavid's beautiful detailed set), a theatrical clan spends what is
probably for them a typical fall weekend of histrionics and melodrama.
These are people who have lived their whole lives for art -- which, one
might say, means that dinner is never on time and no one gets up before
noon. Elderly thespian George (Jack Heller) and his beloved wife Vivien
(Diane Louise Salinger) are in the twilight of their careers, but
regret nothing about a life spent on the road performing small plays.
Also staying in their home is their beautiful, unstable daughter
Pandora (Tanna Frederick), who is taking a "rest" from acting after
getting over a recent failed romance. The typically "artsy" family
chaos turns even more tumultuous with the arrival of the family's
estranged eldest daughter Betsy (Julie Davis), who has grown weary of
her eccentric family. When Betsy introduces her lawyer fiance Jimmy
(David Garver) to the family, sparks unexpectedly fly -- but the sparks
are between Jimmy and free-spirited Pandora. Some overwritten sequences
teeter on self indulgence, yet the piece is also wise to the follies of
human behavior -- and director Gary Imhoff's subtle staging elegantly
juxtaposes the warmth and frustration underscoring the relationships
within so many families. The ensemble work is sensitive, yet comically
charged, with Frederick's calculatedly daffy turn as the
ever-performing Pandora smartly offset by Davis' increasingly angry
Betsy. Heller's leonine elderly actor-dad and Salinger's actress mom,
tender and sad, wonderfully craft the sense of elders who have never
truly grown up, and are amazed by what has happened to their bodies
while their minds remain youthful. A Rainbow Theatre Company
production. (Paul Birchall). Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main
St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
Sun., 5 p.m.; thru Sept. 19. (310) 399-3666.
LOST IN RADIOLAND Theatre Palisades' comedy set in the 1940s
Hollywood. Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon
Road, Pacific Palisades; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru July 24. (310)
THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR (NEW JERSEY) Culver City Public Theatre
reworks Shakespeare. Dr. Paul Carlson Memorial Park, Motor Ave. &
Braddock Dr., Culver City; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 1. (310)
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble presents
Shakespeare's comedy. Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa
Monica; Fri.-Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru July 31, latensemble.com. (310)
NEW REVIEW GO OTHELLO
Photo courtesy of Shakespeare and Veterans
When you think Shakespeare in the Park, the first of the
Bard's plays to spring to mind as one that makes sense to be staged in
an outdoor setting is probably not the tale of the tragic Moor who is
tricked into throttling his hapless wife as if she were a rubber
chicken. But director Stephan Wolfert's unpretentious, moving
production, staged in the outdoor band shell behind the Felicia Mahood
Senior Center, unspools with an artful combination of psychologically
depth and brisk military precision -- a fitting mash-up for a theater
company whose members consist of professional actors who are a mix of
military veterans and civilians. Although Shakespeare's text suffers
from being trimmed to the bone to make the show's 90-minute performance
time, Wolfert's production nevertheless boasts some rich character
work. Wolfert's turn as the diabolical Iago, whose bitterness over
being passed up for promotion drives him to trick his master, Othello
(Arnell Powell), into killing his lovely wife, Desdemona (Jody
Carlson), is fascinatingly complex. He plays the villain with surface
geniality, wheedling his falsely friendly encouragements with an oily
smile that makes it only too clear why Othello prefers the handsome,
more obviously loyal Cassio (an appealingly charismatic Daniel Kucan).
Powell assays Othello as a shrewd (but unexpectedly unworldly) military
genius, attracted to the innocence of his Desdemona. He finds himself
completely lost amidst the currents of psychological manipulation and
warfare -- an easy, naive mark for Wolfert's cerebrally wily Iago. The
straightforward simplicity of the brutal scene in which Othello
strangles Desdemona (Carlson plays her like some high school
sweetheart) is so barbaric, it's far more profoundly disturbing than
one sees in most productions of this work. The West L.A. Bandshell,
behind the West L.A. Library, 11338 Santa Monica Blvd., W. L.A.;
Sat.-Sun., 6 p.m.; Free. (310) 559-2116; through Aug. 8. Shakespeare
and Veterans Productions. (Paul Birchall)
NEW REVIEW GO PROCREATION
Photo by Ed Krieger
The plays of Justin Tanner are like Rice Krispies. They crackle when
you pour in the right actors -- and the actors here from his own company
are just right -- and then they kind of wash away. Maybe that doesn't
matter. That crackling is the sound of Tanner's satirical barbs
directed at the foibles and delusions of L.A. suburban white-trash
types. (His latest farce is set in Highland Park.) He does for (or to)
L.A. what Del Shores does for (or to) the South. Shores' plays come
with more of a message and smidgen more sentimentality. Tanner brings
on a gallery of types, lets them go until somebody lands on a
revelation, or confession, which may or may not make a jot of
difference to the lunatic world being depicted. Maybe it's apt that a
play called Procreation should have 13 characters. One of
them, Ruby (Danielle Kennedy), is a pregnant grandmother (awaiting
octuplets -- she's even brought the sonograms with her) with a
sanctimonious gigolo beaux, played wonderfully cocky by Jonathan
Palmer. (They both visit SoCal from Colorado, and he offers lectures on
healthy lifestyle and self-discipline. He may as well be preaching on
the virtues of vitamins to drug dealers.) Everybody here is in debt.
Mom Hope (Melissa Denton) runs a novelty store called "Wish on a Rainbow,"
which smug hubby Michael (nicely goofy by Michael Halpin) announced
must liquidate immediately. Can they afford to send their corpulent
15-year-old, bed-wetting son, Gavin (Kody Batchelor), to the fat farm?
(He tosses his urine-drenched blanket at his relatives, for his own
amusement. He will surely grow up to become a playwright.) Hope's
sister Deanie (goggle-eyed Patricia Scanlon) hoards other people's
garbage, while her terminally unemployed, good-natured husband, Bruce
(Andy Marshall Daley), makes a career out of asking his relatives for
loans. There are drug deals, off-stage blow jobs and an entire sub-plot
of gay intrigue. Tanner's satire of behaviors roasts not so much a
culture of greed as a culture of need -- derived from the cruelty of
snarky jokes and emotional neglect. One character says, perhaps
ironically, "Let's try to be more mindful of what we say from now on,"
as though that would fix anything. Call it Molière ultralite. Sitcoms
like this depend on the unspoken reactions to the torrent of
one-liners. Director David Schweizer has the cartoons just right, but
he drives the play on the fuel of its quips rather than the comedic
agony that lies beneath them. Which may be why the farce begins to wilt
after an hour or so, despite the effervescence of ongoing amusement.
The uncredited costumes are very witty. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S.
Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 7 & 9:30 p.m.; Sun., 7
p.m.; through Aug. 15, plays411.com. (310) 477-2055. (Steven Leigh
SHAKESPEARE, UNSCRIPTED Presented by Shakespeare by the Sea. Little
Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Aug.
1. (310) 512-6030.
GO SONGS AND DANCES OF IMAGINARY LANDS Pretend that
you are a 5-year-old at an art museum: The concepts of line,
perspective, medium and tone mean nothing to you. In fact, if imposed
on your experience, they would only detract from it. But despite your
age, on a visceral level you are seduced by the vibrancy of color and
the familiarity of shape. In the same way, this site-specific
contemporary opera, developed by director and co-choreographer O-Lan
Jones, resonates with sight, sound and spectacle, despite the
difficulty in imposing traditional meaning on it. Where once Mazdas
were sold, now theater is happening, and Jones serves up a feast for
the senses, along with musical director David O, set and costume
designer Snezana Petrovic, and a cast and crew of dozens of artists.
The feast consists of a series of songs, dances, short scenes and
videos that thematically interweave elements of both human history and
the stages of our lives. Depending on the price of their tickets,
audience members can either ride in "trains" or walk and carry their
folding chairs between performance venues in the 25,000-square-foot
space. In addition to the obvious commentary on social class, this
unique seating arrangement never lets you become restless. And though
the vignettes are uneven, what impresses most are Petrovic's
imaginative use of the space and the coordination required to keep so
many moving parts working together harmoniously. (Mayank Keshaviah).
Vacant Culver City Car Dealership, 8840 Washington St., Culver City;
Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 25...
TWELFTH NIGHT/JULIUS CAESAR Presented by Shakespeare by the Sea.
Point Fermin Park, 807 Paseo del Mar, San Pedro; Thurs.-Sat., 7 p.m.;
thru Aug. 8. (310) 548-7705.
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THE TRUE STORY OF JACK AND THE BEANSTALK Children's Popcorn Theatre
show, written and directed by Heidi Dotson. Dr. Paul Carlson Memorial
Park, Motor Ave. & Braddock Dr., Culver City; Sat.-Sun., noon.;
thru Aug. 22. (310) 712-5482.