Stage Raw: Camino Real

Stage Raw: Camino Real
Stage Raw: Camino Real

CalArts teams up with the Theater @ Boston Court to present CAMINO REAL  (reviewed here on Tuesday) at the Pasadena theater. Photo by Ed Krieger.

Another new pairing is Long Beach's Equity-Waiver Alive Theatre with the Equity Long Beach Playhouse, in presenting Alive's 4 CLOWNS in March. The production did well at the Hollywood Fringe last summer.

Other shows being reviewed over the weekend: ALCESTE, B. Walker Sampson's free adaptation of Euripides. Theatre of NOTE; BLACK VERSION, improvised "black versions" of popular films suggested by the audience, performed by African-American actors. Directed by Karen Maruyama. Groundling Theater; THE CRADLE WILL ROCK, the Blank Theatre Company presents Marc Blitzstein's 1937 musical at Hollywood's Stella Adler Theatre; DANGEROUS BEAUTY, based-on-a-true-story musical about a courtesan-poet, book by Jeannine Dominy, music by Michele Brourman, lyrics by Amanda Mcbroom, at the Pasadena Playhouse; LOVE LETTERS TO WOMEN, Ryan T. Husk's collection of intimate confessions. Casa in Boyle Heights; MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS, Ron Hutchinson's story of David O. Selznick, Ben Hecht and Victor Fleming's re-writing of Gone With the Wind, at Burbank's Colony Theatre; 100 DAYS, "After his Buddhist mother passes away, a college-circuit comedian has 100 days to marry for his mother's spirit to transition in peace," by Weiko Lin. Loft Ensemble, 929 E. Second St., No. 105, L.A.; 33 VARIATIONS, Jane Fonda stars in Moises Kaufman's story of a 19th-century Austrian musicologist studying Beethoven, at the Ahmanson Theatre

For COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS, press the More tab directly below:


Our critics are Pauline Adamek, Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III, Rebecca Haithcoat, Mayank Keshaviah, Deborah Klugman, Amy Lyons, Steven Leigh Morris, Amy Nicholson, Tom Provenzano, Bill Raden, 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.


ALCESTE B. Walker Sampson's free adaptation of Euripides. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A.; opens Feb. 11; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 12. (323) 856-8611.

THE AUTHOR Tim Crouch's story of violent abuse, with audience members onstage. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Thurs., Feb. 17, 8 p.m.; Fri., Feb. 18, 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 19, 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 20, 6:30 p.m.; Feb. 23-25, 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 26, 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 27, 6:30 p.m.. (213) 628-2772.

BECKY SHAW L.A. Theatre Works presents Marsha Mason, Matt Letscher and Emily Bergl in a staged reading of Gina Gionfriddo's comedy. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood; Fri., Feb. 11, 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 12, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 13, 4 p.m., (310) 827-0889.

THE BEST OF LOVE BITES: TEN YEARS TOGETHER . . . AND STILL NO RING Elephant Theatre Company's annual short play festival, presenting the company's best one-acts of the past decade. (Two evenings run in rep.). Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens Feb. 17; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; thru March 18, (877) 369-9112.

BOOMERMANIA Baby Boomer musical lampoon, written and directed by Debbie Kasper and Pat Sierchio. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Feb. 11; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 27, (866) 811-4111.

BREATHING MONSTER Abstract movement and sound from Polish-French composer/electric bass player Kasper Toeplitz and French dancer/choreographer Myriam Gourfink. REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., L.A.; Tues., Feb. 15, 8:30 p.m.. (213) 237-2800.

CAMINO REAL Tennessee Williams' 1953 exploration of the human condition. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; opens Feb. 12; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 13, (626) 683-6883.

THE CATHOLIC GIRL'S GUIDE TO LOSING YOUR VIRGINITY Annie Hendy's story of a Midwestern virgin who's determined to have sex before her impending 25th birthday. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank; opens Feb. 11; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru March 6. (818) 955-8101.

CATS Musical Theatre West presents Andrew Lloyd Webber's feline musical. Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach; opens Feb. 12; Sat., Feb. 12, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 13, 2 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 20, 2 & 7 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 27, 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 27, (562) 985-7000.

THE CRADLE WILL ROCK The Blank Theatre Company presents Marc Blitzstein's 1937 musical. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; opens Feb. 12; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 20, (323) 661-9827.

DANGEROUS BEAUTY Based-on-a-true-story musical about a courtesan-poet, book by Jeannine Dominy, music by Michele Brourman, lyrics by Amanda Mcbroom. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; opens Feb. 13; Sun., Feb. 13, 7 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru March 6. (626) 356-PLAY.

ETHEL MERMAN'S BROADWAY Rita McKenzie is the Broadway belter. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Feb. 17; Wed.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (818) 508-4200.

FOUR SHORT TALES Bill Ballantyne's "Limited Run," Barbara Bragg's "Ten Sleep Mail," Nance Crawford's "Buona Notte, Granna Sara," and Julius Galacki's "Five Tigers Go to the Mountain.". Berg Studio Theatre, 3245 Casitas Ave., Ste. 104, L.A.; Sun., Feb. 13, 7 p.m., (310) 499-4104.

FREE $$$ Jonas Oppenheim's faux self-improvement workshop, hosted by Robin and Randy Petraeus, Power Couple, "authors in the field of positive thought energy.". Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; opens Feb. 13; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 20. (310) 281-8337.

GIGI Lerner and Loewe's musical, based on their 1958 MGM film, based on the 1944 novel by Colette. UCLA Freud Playhouse, Macgowan Hall, Westwood; opens Feb. 16; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (310) 825-2101.

GROUNDLINGS SINGLES CRUISE All-new sketch and improv, directed by Mikey Day. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; opens Feb. 11; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; thru April 23. (323) 934-9700.

A JEW GROWS IN BROOKLYN Jake Ehrenreich's comedy musical memoir. American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Dr., Bel-Air; opens Feb. 16; Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 5 p.m.; thru March 6. (866) 811-4111.

KISS ME, KATE The Relevant Stage presents Cole Porter's play-within-a-play musical romcom. Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. Sixth St., San Pedro; opens Feb. 17; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (800) 838-3006.

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS Man-eating-plant musical, book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, music by Alan Menken. Center Stage Theatre, 8463 Sierra Ave., Fontana; opens Feb. 11; Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 7 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 6. (909) 429-7469.

LOVE LETTERS TO WOMEN Ryan T. Husk's collection of intimate confessions. Casa 0101, 2009 E. First St., L.A.; opens Feb. 11; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru March 6, (323) 263-7684.

MASTER HAROLD . . . AND THE BOYS Athol Fugard's drama about an adolescent white South African conflicted over racism. Rubicon Theater, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura; opens Feb. 11; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 6. (805) 667-2900.

A NIGHT AT THE OSCARS Peter Quilter's comedy about a thespian couple preparing to sing at the Academy Awards. Malibu Stage Company, 29243 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu; opens Feb. 11; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru March 20, (310) 589-1998.

NUNSENSATIONS Nuns go to Las Vegas in Dan Goggin's comedy about nuns. Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; opens Feb. 11; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., March 6, 7 p.m.; Sun., March 13, 7 p.m.; thru March 13. (626) 695-8283.

100 DAYS "After his Buddhist mother passes away, a college-circuit comedian has 100 days to marry for his mother's spirit to transition in peace," by Weiko Lin. Loft Ensemble, 929 E. Second St., No. 105, L.A.; opens Feb. 12; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 20, (213) 680-0392.

GO PARADISE PARK A profoundly despondent fellow (Kenneth Rudnicki) wanders into an amusement park for distraction from his agony. Inside, he slips into a fantasia of scenes -- including his own romance with a young woman (Reha Zemani) from the Midwest, igniting a bundle of neuroses that keeps them estranged; a ventriloquist/philosopher (Ann Stocking) and his bifurcated dummy (David E. Frank); a tourist couple (Bo Roberts and Cynthia Mance) at the end of the tether that's barely holding their marriage together; their irate young daughter (KC Wright) who yearns, in vain, for an effete Cuban (Tim Orona); a psychotic pizza-delivery boy (Jeff Atik); a wandering violinist (Lena Kouyoumdjian); a circus clown (Troy Dunn); and, in a directorial flourish, a guy in a chicken costume. Charles Mee's comedy is like a sonnet with a couple of repeated motifs: distraction, love and the general feeling of being cast adrift in cultural waters that are partly enchanting, partly evaporating, and partly polluted by the refuse of our ancestors, of our families, of our determination to follow impulses we barely comprehend, and to wind up unutterably lost. He's one of this company's favorite scribes, and mine, for the way in which, with the literary touch of a feather, he conjures primal truths of what keeps us at odds with ourselves and with each other, keeps us yearning for the unattainable. And though there's obviously psychology at work, the driving energies of the language and of the drama are subconscious, cultural and historical currents. Production designer Charles Duncombe anchors his platform set with a wading pool stage center, in which sits an alligator, and he decorates it above with strings of festival lights. Josephine Poinsot's costumes are thoroughly whimsical with primary colors and a feel for an America of the late 1950s -- with the possible exception of the married couple's matching shorts and T-shirts that read, "Kiss my ass, I'm on vacation." Director Frederique Michel stages the poetical riffs of text in her typically arch style, and it serves the play almost perfectly, except for the pizza-delivery scene, where the choreography distracts from the psychosis that lies at the core. Even so, I found the evening to be indescribably affecting, tapping emotions that lurk beneath the machinery of reason. This is the last production to be staged at this back-alley venue in Santa Monica, where the company has been putting on plays for 15 years. The ventriloquist's lines couldn't have been more ironic and true: "Then, because the theater is the art form that deals above all others in human relationships, then theater is the art, par excellence, in which we discover what it is to be human and what is possible for humans to be ... that theater, properly conceived, is not an escape either but a flight to reality, a rehearsal for life itself, a rehearsal of these human relationships of which the most essential, the relationship that defines most vividly who we are and that makes our lives possible, is love." (Steven Leigh Morris). Track 16 Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., C1, Santa Monica; opens Feb. 12; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 13, (310) 319-9939.

THE REVENANTS Scott T. Barsotti's relationship drama set in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Feb. 11; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 19. (818) 761-0704.

ROCK OF AGES It's 1987 on the Sunset Strip! Tunes courtesy Journey, Bon Jovi, Poison, et al. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; opens Feb. 15; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (800) 982-ARTS.

THE VIOLET HOUR Richard Greenberg's tale of a publisher besieged by two authors. Lillian Theatre, 1076 N. Lillian Way, L.A.; opens Feb. 12; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 13, (323) 960-1054.

WOUNDED Amy Tofte's historical narrative inspired by the Wounded Knee massacre. CalArts, Walt Disney Modular Theater (MOD), 24700 McBean Parkway, Valencia; Thurs., Feb. 17, 8 p.m.; Fri., Feb. 18, 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 19, 2 & 8 p.m.; Feb. 22-26, 8 p.m.,

ZOMBIE JOE'S UNDERGROUND'S 10TH ANNUAL FESTIVAL Five all-new mini-plays, written and directed in just two days. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., Feb. 12, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 13, 3 p.m.; Mon., Feb. 14, 8:30 p.m.. (818) 202-4120.

TOM CULVER AND DOLORES SCOZZESI Arthur Newman Theatre at the Joslyn Center Theater, 73-750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert; Sun., Feb. 13, 2 p.m....

WRINKLES World-premiere comedy by Paul Kikuchi, about a 73-year-old Internet sensation. East West Players, 120 N. Judge John Aiso St., L.A.; opens Feb. 16; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 13. (213) 625-7000.


GO BALLROOM WITH A TWIST of Dancing With the Stars' professional dancers, Louis Van Amstel, stages his own show after an illustrious 20-year career as a performer and competitive dancer. His fluidly staged, marvelously high-caliber entertainment (with a couple of also-ran American Idol singers, Gina Glocksen and David Hernandez, thrown into the mix), moves seamlessly from fast numbers to slow ballads, from dance to song and back again. Athletic bodies draped with Randall Designs' gorgeous costumes cavort through Van Amstel's well-orchestrated spectacle, which also celebrates diversity with its casting of various races and body shapes. Van Amstel hosts the evening, assisted by hilarious comedian Niecy Nash (his partner from the most recent season of DWTS). She brings welcome humor when not tearing up the dance floor. The costumes are figure-hugging sexy, flowing and dazzling (with rhinestones) as well as casual and relaxed for some of the modern dance numbers. Van Amstel's exceptional choreography feels liberated from the constraints and repetition of competitive ballroom regulations. Salsa, paso doble, jitterbug, quick-step, waltz and Argentine tango -- Van Amstel name-checks every dance style while employing everything from slow ballad duets to clubby dance mixes of classic and contemporary tunes -- something for everyone. (Pauline Adamek)., $25-$100. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Wed.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (818) 508-4200.

THE BREAK OF NOON Neil LaBute's profile of a modern-day prophet. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru March 6. (310) 208-5454. See Stage Feature

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK Interactive kids' musical, book and lyrics by Lloyd J. Schwartz, music by Ben Lanzarone. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Sat., 1 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (323) 851-7977.

JOHN LITHGOW: STORIES BY HEART John Lithgow clutches a book of stories, just about the only prop he uses. It's a musty, thick old book that, if we're to believe him, has been in his family for generations. It's the book, he says, that his parents read from in order to entertain him and his three siblings. He recalls the family favorite -- the "funny one" -- P.G. Wodehouse's story "Uncle Fred Flits By." Years later, when his father, Arthur Lithgow, was in his 80s, he had to endure abdominal surgery that broke the spirit of this very spirited man. John was the only actor among his siblings, and therefore the only child who was unemployed and "available" to care for his aging parents -- a task that sent him nightly into paroxysms of sobbing, he says. Until he discovered on the shelf of their home a musty old book of stories containing "Uncle Fred Flits By." The snorts of laughter from his dad, and his subsequent rehabilitation, is the best retort to the fatigued argument that the arts are an indulgence. The arts have, in their way, parallel capacities to an emergency ward in a hospital. And that's one answer to the questions Lithgow posits at the start of his show: Why do people tell stories? And why do people listen to them? As a persona, Lithgow is beyond amiable. He has a physical dexterity and a far-flung vocal range that can impersonate anything from the piping of Englishwomen to a Midwestern barber's gravelly drawl. Curiously, Lithgow's Act 2, a recitation of Ring Lardner's "The Haircut," translates to the stage with more of a thud, perhaps because the vehicle -- the monologue of a deranged barber in a deranged Midwestern town -- doesn't allow the actor the opportunity to vault from one character to the next. Here, Lithgow aims to home in on a gossipy barber's explanation for the death of his friend. Onstage, the point of lightness and depravity coexisting gets made in full within 15 minutes, yet the story lasts far longer. (Steven Leigh Morris)., $50-$70. 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 Feb. 13. (213) 628-2772.

THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE For some, a computer is a word-processing machine and a gateway to the Internet. As long as they are able to type documents, send e-mails and surf the web, they feel they're making full use of this machine. Others, however, use the very same machine to its full technological capacity: making complex calculations, designing eye-catching graphics or composing the next great symphony. In interpreting the work of an accomplished playwright like Martin McDonagh, directors and actors have the same options: Tell the story straightforwardly and competently, or delve deeply into the words and the spaces between them to bring out the richness of their meaning. Like the vast majority of us, director Patrick Williams chooses the former option in staging McDonagh's satire on Irish terrorism. In it, a cat belonging to Padraic (Patrick Rieger), a soldier in the Irish National Liberation Army, is found dead by Davey (Devon Armstrong) and brought to Padraic's father, Donny (John Gilbert), who's supposed to be taking care of it. When Padraic hears that his favorite feline isn't fit, he returns to Inishmore and runs into not only Mairead (Jannese Davidson), Davey's gun-toting sister who's keen to join both Padraic and the cause, but also a crew of INLA members angling to take over his turf. Violence and mayhem ensue, and liters of blood are shed, all of which is a lot funnier than you'd expect. Unfortunately, neither the acting nor directing brings the laugher to full throat. The characters are played too earnestly instead of hyperbolically, a move that injects subtlety into a piece that revels in extremes and caricature. (Mayank Keshaviah). Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 12. (562) 494-1014.

LOVING REPEATING: A MUSICAL OF GERTRUDE STEIN The most pressing question raised by director caryn desai's staid staging of Stephen Flaherty and Frank Galati's 2006 "chamber musical" is one of form. Is Galati's reductive editing of Stein's experimental poetry and prose into lyrics for Flaherty's anodyne show-tune melodies really the most fitting tribute to a woman whose life and work so fully epitomize the European avant-garde of the early 20th century? Cheryl David gives a spirited recital as the late-middle-aged Gertrude, whose lecture on her life threads through extended flashbacks comprising the bulk of the 90-minute show's 32 songs. As young Gertrude (Shannon Warne) abandons America for the art world of pre-WWI Paris, where she quickly meets her lifelong partner and muse, Alice B. Toklas (Melissa Lyons Caldretti), Galati's book drifts from a celebration of Stein as a pioneer of modernist poetics into her perhaps more enduring status as an icon of gender-identity politics. This subordination of art to romance is emblematized by Kurt Boetcher's valentine of a set (ably lit by Donna Ruzika), in which Gertrude and Alice's love story plays out under a heart-shaped wreath festooned over a stage platform painted in quasi-Picasso figurative abstractions. The musical's climax comes in the camped-up comedy of Galati and Flaherty's five-part take on the 1922 story "Miss Furr and Miss Skeene" (sung by the company). (This is where Stein first used "gay" as a sly coinage signifying same-sex gender preference.) The singers acquit themselves well enough in a score that is purposefully but wearyingly redundant. Gertrude probably would be bemused and mortified. (Bill Raden). International City Theatre, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (562) 436-4610.

THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES Welcome to the 1958 Springfield High School prom, courtesy playwright Roger Bean. Fred Kavli Theater, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. (Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza), Thousand Oaks; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (805) 449-2787.


Though critics and theater folk may blanch at yet another production of

Shakespeare's romantic dream-comedy, Mark Rucker's staging reminds us

why it remains the most popular of Shakespeare's plays. The story of

four lovers intertwined with faeries, royalty and crude workmen

sidelining as thespians is probably the most accessible of all classics,

with surefire laughs that work in almost every production. In Rucker's

take, the events materialize in an exciting pastiche of varied moments

of 20th Century pseudo-European society thrust into a slyly homoerotic

mosh-pit of punk-disco muscle sprites ruled by powerful bi-curious

Oberon (Elijah Alexander) and his Rolling Stones-esque servant Puck (Rob

Campbell). Every line of the apparently uncut text is delivered with

clarity and humor by a highly skilled cast. But the real star is the

Cameron Anderson's intense yet functional set that begins as a huge

white expanse before taking us on a whirl down into the center of the

earth, leaving a gorgeous wooded path and, at times, a wooden flying

boat out of the imaginary world of 'Wynkin, Blykin and Nod." This

stunning set is all the more remarkable is it depends simply on old

fashioned stage rigging rather than showoff hydraulics. Splendid

costumes by Nephelie Andonyadis and consummate lighting by Lap Chi Chu

complete the picture, while composer John Ballinger and choreographer

Ken Roht perfectly marry sound and movement. South Coast Repertory, 655

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

p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; Tues.-Wed., 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 20.

(714) 708-5555. (Tom Provenzano)

MOON OVER BUFFALO Ken Ludwig's backstage farce, set in 1953 New York. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (562) 494-1014.

MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS Ron Hutchinson's story of David O. Selznick, Ben Hecht and Victor Fleming's re-writing of Gone With the Wind. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; Sun., 2 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 12, 3 & 8 p.m.; thru March 6. (818) 558-7000.

SPRING AWAKENING Rock musical adaptation of Frank Wedekind's 1891 play about adolescent sexuality in rural Germany. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Through Feb. 11, 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 12, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 13, 1 & 6:30 p.m.. (213) 365-3500.

33 VARIATIONS Jane Fonda stars in Moises Kaufman's story of a 19th-century Austrian musicologist studying Beethoven. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru March 6. (213) 628-2772.

GO TRACES comes courtesy of Canadian company Les 7 Doigts de la Main. Though they lack the megabudget, media splash and spectacular set constructions that are fellow Canadian Cirque du Soleil's hallmarks, this young seven-member cast (six men and one woman) entertain with spellbinding precision, energy and panache. The show fuses dance, acrobatics, music, skateboarding, low-brow theater and even some basket-ball drills, all masterfully contoured by the troupe's athleticism and assured attitude. And the show possesses the intimacy lacking in Cirque pro-ductions. At the start a mic pops down from the sky and the artists introduce themselves, telling where they are from and offering a detail about their personal lives. This informal atmosphere is nicely underscored by a sparse stage consisting of an odd-looking piano, chairs, hanging tarps and two long vertical poles. At times it seems like you're hanging out at a derelict yet comfy public space, watching gifted street artists do their thing. All this is beautifully packaged by Shana Carroll and Gypsy Snider, who handle direction and choreography. (Lovell Estell III). Ricardo Montalban Theater, 1615 Vine St., L.A.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 20, (800) 982-ARTS.


Stage Raw: Camino Real

Photo by Rebekkah Meixner

Lee Meriwether has a long history with a fictional little town. In 1962, Charles Aidman's adaptation of Spoon River Anthology,

Edgar Lee Masters' book of poems, went straight to Broadway following

its Theatre West premiere. Meriwether, the still-gleaming former Miss

America and current soap opera matriarch, was an understudy for that

production. In 2002, Theatre West staged a revival of its Broadway baby,

and Meriwether co-starred. In 2011's incarnation, Meriwether and

director Jim Hesselman have narrowed their sights, creating a one-woman

show that gives voice solely to Spoon River's female residents. The

result isn't bad, though the monologues are too brief to offer any real

chance for Meriwether to delve into any serious character exploration,

and the audience any opportunity to reciprocate with any real emotional

response (especially harsh in the more quietly devastating instances,

such as the suggested rape of one underage inhabitant). Still, Hesselman

and Meriwether have successfully distinguished each woman, no small

feat with 26 characters. The lingering question, however, is why this

show, now? Considering there's a dearth of hearty roles for women,

especially those over 40, it makes sense to write your own. But in

varnishing an antique that neither showcases your ability nor attracts a

younger demographic, both actor and theater have wrung this "River"

dry. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2

p.m.; thru February 20. 323-851-7977 (Rebecca Haithcoat)


ATTACK OF THE 50-FOOT SUNDAY Jordan Black directs the Groundlings Sunday Company. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 934-9700.

THE BERLIN DIG John Stuercke's archeology allegory. El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 6, (800) 838-3006.

THE BEVERLY HILLS PSYCHIATRIST This double bill of one-acts by German scholar-educator-playwright Cornelius Schnauber makes it clear he is not a fan of psychiatry. The title play tells us about the Psychiatrist (Alexander Zale) and his maddening treatment of his long-suffering Patient (Tony Motzenbacher), a writer fraught with anxieties. The doctor is absent-minded -- he can never remember his patient's name -- and tends to fall asleep during therapy sessions; whenever he's asked a concrete question, he evades it and ends the session. This goes on for 19 maddeningly repetitious scenes, during which one can only wonder why the patient doesn't just leave. At the end, the patient finally does realize his doctor is a fraud, but it's too little and too late. Perhaps Schnauber was attempting a Pinterian conundrum, but Pinter was never this dull. The second play, "Highway One," is actually an excerpt from a longer work, consisting of a monologue by an opera singer (Lene Pedersen) as she prepares to perform Aida and worries about the daughter she gave up for adoption years before. Director Louis Fantasia stages the pieces ably enough, and there is excellent work by the three actors, but they can't save the plays from themselves. (Neal Weaver). Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 6, (323) 960-4418.


Stage Raw: Camino Real

Photo by Monica Bivens

This long one-act by Matthew Everett, originally commissioned by the

Playshop Theatre in Meadville, Pennsylvania, tackles the hotly contested

subject of gay marriage. Eleanor (Krystal Kennedy) and her brother

Ephram (John Croshaw) are getting married in a double wedding -- and

both are marrying men, turning the event into a media circus, with

protestors, news vans, and cops camped outside the church. Both Eleanor

and Ephram's husband-to-be, Patrick (Andy Loviska), are political

activists who want their wedding to be a public statement, while Ephram

and Eleanor's fiance Roland (Chadbourne Hamblin) resent having their

private lives turned into a political spectacle. Things are further

complicated by Patrick's brother (Nick Sousa), who's a religious zealot,

determined to prevent the wedding by any means necessary, and the

minister, known as The Duchess (Natasha St. Clair-Johnson), who's a

post-operative trans-sexual. And Duke (Patrick Tiller) the cop assigned

to monitor the demonstrations, is strongly attracted to the Duchess,

unaware of her gender-change. The production, helmed by director Richard

Warren Baker, is most successful in its quieter, more human moments

than in its strident political declarations, when it topples over into

melodrama. The events are not always credible, but there are strong

performances from Sousa, St. Clair-Johnson, and Tiller. The Renegade

Theatre, 1514 North Gardner Street, Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 6

p.m., thru March 14. (323) 960-4443 or (Neal Weaver)

CABARET IDOL Season 2 James Mooney's weekly vocal competition, with winners voted on by the audience. Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill, 6122 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru April 24. (323) 466-9917.

GO CAUGHT In the aftermath of Proposition 8 passing in November 2008, one of the regrets of those who fought valiantly for gay marriage and against the proposition was that enough wasn't done to "normalize" gay couples. And while the events in David L. Ray's world-premiere play take place in July 2008, Caught furthers the cause by dramatizing one of those healthy relationships. In it, Angelenos Kenneth (Corey Brill) and Troy (Will Beinbrink) are on the eve of their nuptials, a ceremony that will be officiated by their friend Splenda (Micah McCain), who is ordained via the Internet. This blissful scene is interrupted by a visit from Kenneth's estranged sister, Darlene (Deborah Puette), who is very Southern and very Christian, as well as her daughter, Krystal (Amanda Kaschak). In the interludes between scenes, we also see Darlene's husband, T.J. (Richard Jenik), preaching to his conservative congregation in Georgia. Secrets, lies and surprising revelations fuel the drama. Director Nick DeGruccio deftly takes Ray's strong and likable characters from page to stage, sparingly playing up stereotypes for comedy without ever reducing the characters to them. Adding to the authenticity are Adam Flemming's delightfully detailed set and Katherine Hampton Noland's colorful couture. Adding to the emotional investment in the story is a talented cast; standouts include Puette, for her rich and intense portrayal of Darlene; McCain, for balancing divalike comedy with deep sincerity; and Kaschak, for combining fresh-faced innocence and a willfulness to create a very believable teenager. (Mayank Keshaviah). Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (800) 595-4849.

CLOSER Patrick Marber's study of "society's struggle with intimacy and personal identity.". Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 20. (323) 960-7785.

GO COLOGNE, OR THE WAYS EVIL ENTERS THE WORLD In this solo drama, writer-director Tony Abatemarco eloquently describes growing up gay in the 1960s in a part of rural Long Island that "looked exactly like Iowa." If the piece is not, strictly speaking, autobiographical, it's clearly highly personal. In the world of horny teen boys who haven't yet mastered the art of dealing with girls, blatant homoeroticism and rabid homophobia exist side by side (one of the boys performs a spectacular strip-tease to an enthusiastic audience). The protagonist, Harry (Harry Hart-Browne), is a gay boy who's fascinated with Robert, a truculent local hero who's already a man among boys. He sets out to seduce Robert, and to some extent succeeds. Later, when Harry is fearful of being outed, he outs Robert instead, setting him up for a severe beating by local bullies. He retains a life-long fascination with Robert, even after the Stonewall riots provide a measure of personal liberation. Oddly, the narrative is presented in the third person, which has a slightly distancing effect, perhaps necessary to keep the graphic sexual descriptions from being too personal. Hart-Browne delineates his characters sharply and with enormous conviction. (Neal Weaver). Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 19, (702) 582-8587.


Stage Raw: Camino Real

Photo by Danny Roew

Created by Tonya Cornelisse, Ryan Oliver, Danny Roew, Graham Sibley

and director Gates McFadden, this obscenely funny late night rock music

comedy sketch features Cornelisse and Sibley as a pair of Brit-trash

rockers who met in a London rehab and somehow made it it to Hollywood,

or at least to its sidewalks, in pursuit of Rock 'n' Roll stardom. Their

band is called Crack Whore, and their hourlong cabaret opens with

warmup balladeer Jackie Tohn, on acoustic guitar, crooning with

remarkable vocal dexterity about low self-esteem and love. Into her act

crash wafer thin, obnoxiously loud drummer Abbey (in shades, skirt, and

torn fishnets) and guitarist Danny Galore (in vest and ripped shirt)

wielding a shopping cart filled with mannequins and other crap for their

act. Commenting loudly on how each of Tohn's song is worse than the

next, they "set up" behind her, while she attempts to finish her act.

They smash open a rolldown screen (to be used for a preview of their sex

tape, sold after the show in the lobby). The moment when the livid Tohn

leaves the stage captures the moment when '60s folk yielded to punk.

What follows is pornography in song. You'd think Abbey is beyond a

melt-down, but in a moment of despondency, she crawls inside the

shopping cart: "I can't do this anymore, Danny, I just can't." To woo

her back, and out, he croons the love song that he wrote just for her:

"It's all clogged up/The pressure's all built up/I think I might

explode/Now I need to blow my fucking load . . ." Abbey swoons in

adoration, and they're back on track. The power of love, and of song.

They try to tell us their "story," or to sell us their story - which is

the larger point -- but can't agree on the details. She's told a wrong

version so many times, he can't quite grasp what's real anymore. There,

but for the grace of God. . . It's not a life-changing event, but the

energy electrifies, the music is surprisingly good, and the performances

are top-tier. Ensemble Studio Theater - Los Angeles at Atwater Village

Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Atwater Village; Thurs. & Sat., 10:30

p.m.; thru March 12, (323) 644-1929. (Steven Leigh Morris)

GO DADDY Dan Via's Off-Broadway hit, receiving its L.A. premiere, is set in the context of the impassioned debate over gay marriage. Handsome gay newspaper columnist Colin (Gerald McCullouch) and buttoned-down lawyer Stewart (playwright Via) have been best friends for 20 years. Despite a bit of hanky-panky in their college days, their friendship has never become a love affair, though they're closer in many respects than some lovers. When Colin begins an affair with Tee (Ian Verdun), an eager young man half his age, it's a seismic shock to the long-standing relationship. Stewart is resentful of the boy's incursion into their lives, and suspects there's more to Tee than meets the eye. But when he tries to tell Colin about his doubts and suspicions, Colin dismisses them as mere jealousy. Though Via's play gets off to a slow start, things that initially seem cryptic or merely casual prove to be of crucial importance as it progresses, and the piece builds to a startling finale. Director Rick Sparks elicits finely nuanced performances from his three principals, and Adam Flemming provides the handsome and flexible unit set. (Neal Weaver). Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; Thurs., Feb. 24, 8 p.m.; thru March 13, (323) 856-4249.

DIRT Writer-director Bruce Gooch's barnyard gothic is set on a farm where the horses are dead, the cows sold and the dog eaten by coyotes. Mom's dead, too, and son Zac (Ryan Johnston) is in exile. This leaves Papa (John D. Johnston) alone to work the land, whether or not it needs working, because it's a sin to slack. (The Johnstons are real-life nephew and uncle.) Set designer David Potts has draped the walls in dense netting and installed a front porch that looms like a gallows. It's an apt backdrop for when Zac returns to find his muscular pops has gone dangerously senile. And as the set is stockpiled with a hatchet, knife, saw and shotgun, I'd take Dad seriously when he threatens that he won't leave his land without a fight. Though Ryan Johnston is miscast as the estranged son, his clashes with John D. Johnston spark. Too often, however, Gooch has them communicate to each other (and us) through monologues and memories; the script sidesteps as often as it allows them to butt horns head-on. Andrea Robinson is quite fine as a local waitress who swings by to check on the fellas, but the stars of the show are the evocative technics (even if in one climax, the symbolic thunder drowned out the big speech) and the elder Johnston, whose presence dominates the play like a frontier Fury. Post--Lennie Smalls, overall-clad dementia is tricky business -- at times, the play seems to want the subtitle "Of Mice and Dad" -- but veteran actor John D. Johnston pivots on a nail head from mulish to brutish to yearning, giving the play an immediacy it needs to unleash. (Amy Nicholson). Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 3 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 27, (323) 960-5563.

DOUG LOVES MOVIES Free. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Tues., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 908-8702.

ELEVATOR Michael Leoni's story of seven strangers stuck in a lift. Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 20, (323) 960-7787.

EMILY'S SONG Its promo tagline, "An epic musical journey straight to your heart," would seem to place writer-director Chet Holmes' musical in the same category as straight-to-video releases with similar epithets. Considering Holmes' background in screenwriting and his desire to tell "highly satisfying commercial stories that appeal to the masses," it's hardly surprising that his foray into musical theater fits the bill. In it, aspiring musi-cian Charlie Everson (Tom Schmid) gains a daughter and loses a wife on the same day. Though young Emily (Darcy Rose Byrnes) grows up motherless, her talent for music brings her close to her father. Then one fateful evening, Charlie disappears, leaving Emily an orphan with housekeeper and de facto nanny Rosa (Elena Campbell-Martinez) as her only family. The next 10 years involve both older Emily (Lindsey Haun) rising to stardom as a singer, and Charlie starting over after he is robbed of his memory. Although the premise is interesting, the problem is that the story is told so cinematically: There are close to 100 scenes, some of which are four lines long before a blackout. While this may work on screen, it is disjointed and jarring on stage. The songs, co-written with Amanda Holmes and Tom Shepard, are pleasantly melodic, but many are too short to be musically satisfying. Still, Haun's voice is a highlight of the show, and she and Schmid do the numbers justice. The two of them, along with the perky and precocious Byrnes, are very talented performers, but, like the rest of the cast, they're constrained by the formulaic and at times melodramatic storytelling. (Mayank Keshaviah). Hudson Backstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (323) 960-7788.

FACEBOOK The weekly show formerly known as MySpace., $5. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Wed., 9:30 p.m.. (323) 908-8702.

THE FOURTH ANNUAL TEN-MINUTE PLAY FESTIVAL This year's theme: "The Black Experience: Colored, Negro, Black, African-American; a Collection of Our Stories.". Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 20. (323) 465-4446.

FREE Are special talents a burden or a blessing? Set in a fantastical backwoods America, Barbara Lindsay's lightweight comedy concerns the woes of an itinerant performer named Free (Michael Earl Reid), whose uncanny ability to levitate and then float in the air does little to make him happy. Tired of being gawked at, he declares his intention to chuck the carny life and get a job making beds at a seedy California motel. The an-nouncement dismays his manager and longtime pal, Stoney (Greg Albanese) -- not surprisingly, since Stoney's income depends on his friend's mind-bending forte. Ultimately rescued by several comedic performances, the play is slow getting started, in part because Free's bellyaching persona is so simplistically crafted at the top, and also because it's never clear what has triggered his crisis. Directed by Wendy Worthington, the production eventually comes alive around Dagney Kerr's sidesplitting portrayal of Althea, an obsessive fan who perceives the wussy Free as the source of her own salvation. Donaco Smyth is likewise extremely funny as Althea's hulking husband with the disposition of a lamb. Also notewor-thy are McPherson as the hotel housekeeper who inspires Free's decision to change his life, and Albanese as a wannabe slick operator who turns out to really have a heart. (Deborah Klugman). [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (323) 461-3673.

GO HEAD: THE MUSICAL Composer-lyricist Kevin Fry's delightfully campy horror musical, based on Roger Corman's 1962 gore-fest The Brain That Wouldn't Die, is not only enjoyable on the level of Midnight Theater excess, it's a quick-witted show by any standard. Its catchy score and clever, bloodthirsty lyrics are in the style of Little Shop of Horrors. And how can you not love a musical that features a severed head warbling songs of love and hatred? Beautiful, virginal Jan (Stephanie Ann Saunders) is administering fellatio to her boyfriend, Bill (Charles St. Michael), in the front seat of their car as they speed through the woods -- an ill-advised, foolhardy act they soon have reason to regret as, in the ensuing car crash, Jan's head is chopped off. Not to worry, though: Bill, it turns out, is a mad scientist and has invented a formula that will keep Jan's head alive until he can find a new body onto which to transplant it. While Bill runs off to scour the strip clubs for a suitable albeit unwilling donor, Jan is left hooked up to a table, singing the blues. If the sight of a severed head dangling by its jaws from a man's manhood isn't enough to make you howl, then the image of Saunders' strangely seductive Jan, her head on a table, singing a love song to the hideous Franken-monster (Chance Havens) Bill keeps locked in the closet, will do the trick. In director L. Flint Esquerra's taut production, the ensemble assay their silly characters with glee and conviction. Fry's musical style strives for '50s doo-wop, but his comic instincts are comparatively timeless, evident in lyrics such as, "He will find you a new hottie/Chop off her head and give you her body!" Under music director Robert Shaw's helm, the ensemble's vocal work is top-notch, with droll performances that are equal parts operatic and cheesy. In addition to Saunders' perky yet monstrous Jan, particularly sprightly turns are offered by St. Michael's spooky, intense mad scientist and by Becca Battoe and Fiona Bates, playing ill-fated women of ill repute, one of whom comes to grief at Bill's hands. St. Michael, in particular, has a memorably evocative falsetto: perfectly in tune, but edged with a fierce madness that puts one in mind of Riff Raff from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. (Paul Birchall). MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A.; Fri., 9 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 12. (323) 960-5770.

GO JEWTOPIA It's been a little more than seven years since the long-running original comedy was last seen in the City of Angels. This revival is far more compact, less jaunty and slightly more cerebral. Nonetheless, the show is even funnier. It starts when childhood buddies Chris O'Connell and Adam Lipschitz (Conor Dubin and Adam Korson) happen across each other at a party for Jewish singles. Chris, a Catholic, says that he wants to marry a Jew so he "never has to make another decision," while the socially inept Adam is on the scene only to please his nagging mother, who wants him to find a nice Jewish girl. So the guys make a pact: Chris will show Adam the finer points of picking up women, if Adam will reciprocate by showing Chris the particulars of being Jewish. It's a scenario fully charged with comedic possibilities, and writer-director Bryan Fogel mines it for all its subterranean treasures -- taking aim at cultural stereotypes, customs, P.C. junkies. Korson and Dubin have magnetic chemistry and formidable skills. Rounding out a splendid cast are Thea Brooks, Bart Braverman, Cheryl David, Mark Sande and Cheryl Daro. (Lovell Estell III). Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (323) 655-7679.

KEEP IT CLEAN COMEDY Hosted by JC Coccoli., Free. 1739 Public House, 1739 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Mon., 10:30 p.m.. (323) 663-1739.

LA RAZON BLINDADA (ARMORED REASON) How does a prisoner survive without hope? Writer/director Aristides Vargas drew inspiration for this poignantly horrific black comedy from the experience of his brother, a political prisoner in Argentina during that country's military dictatorship. Confined in solitary, prisoners were permitted a brief respite on Sunday, when they could meet and talk, albeit while remaining seated and with their hands on the table. That setup provides the physical framework for this luminously surreal 80-minute one-act in which two incarcerated men come together to role-play -- one calling himself De La Mancha (Jesus Castanos Chima), the other Panza (Arturo Diaz de Sandy). The actors remain seated throughout, navigating across the stage on wooden chairs with wheels. Within these loosely assumed personae, the pair frolic through a hallucinatory landscape, clowning their way through speculations about madness, sanity, heroism and human bonding, and conjuring an elaborate fantasy of regency over an island that brilliantly mocks the nature of power. In the end, the aim of the game is survival -- not as rational beings, because reality would be too painful, but as madmen whose lunacy frees them from the shame of powerlessness. The performances are consummate and the staging, as eloquent as the text, features a videographed landscape over which their sunken shadows pass, and Faure's Elegie for Violoncello and Orchestra to underscore the pathos. (Deborah Klugman). 24th Street Theater, 1117 W. 24th St., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (800) 838-3006.

LAY SCIENCE Twenty-minute puppet play by Eric Lindley and Katie Shook, designed for one audience member at a time. RSVP at Machine Project, 1200-D N. Alvarado St.,

L.A.; Sat., Feb. 12, 1-4 & 7-10 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 13, 1-5 p.m.; Wed., Feb. 16, 6-9 p.m.; Fri., Feb. 18, 7-11 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 19, 1-4 & 7-10 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 20, 1-4 & 7-10 p.m.; Mon., Feb. 21, 6-9 p.m.; Wed., Feb. 23, 6-9 p.m.. (213) 483-8761.

GO MACHO LIKE ME In her solo performance, the very funny Helie Lee explores the issue of male privilege from a South Korean female perspective. (Though she was born in Seoul, her family emigrated to the U.S. when she was 4.) She saw firsthand how her brother was treated as a crown prince, while she and her sister were judged purely on their marital prospects -- provoking her parents' urgent concern with getting her married. She decided to live as a man for 10 weeks, to experience the strength and freedom she attributed to men. She strapped down her bosom, had her hair cut short, acquired a masculine wardrobe and set out to gain entry to all-male enclaves; the results were not what she expected. She found that men's lives were no less constricted than women's, limited by competitive machismo and the fear of being perceived as gay. The tale is both illuminating and hilarious as she gains new insights into what it's like to live as a man and as a woman. By the end of her experiment, she's delighted to return to the familiar bonds of femininity. With director Sammy Wayne, she has forged a rich, witty, seamless tale. (Neal Weaver). Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 13, (800) 595-4849.

MAGIC STRINGS Bob Baker's marionette variety revue, featuring puppet horses on a merry-go-round, an opera diva on roller skates, a "Day at the Circus," and an all-American grand finale. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., L.A.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 10:30 a.m.. (213) 250-9995.

GO ME, AS A PENGUIN Yorkshire playwright Tom Wells' comedy, in its U.S. premiere, is a throwback to British "Kitchen Sink" dramas of the 1950s. This one might be dubbed a "Toilet Bowl" comedy. "I think you should see this," says visiting Stitch (Brendan Hunt), peeking out from the bathroom door belonging to his his very pregnant sister, Liz ( Mina Badie). "Whatever you've done, just keep flushing," she fires back from her threadbare couch. The play unfolds from her grubby living room. With his penchant for the comfort of knitting, idiosyncratic and perhaps mentally touched Stitch is visiting his sister in Hull from even more rural Withernsea, in order to check out Hull's gay scene. The tenderness between the misfit, almost mortally lonely Stitch and his very pregnant sister has much in common with Shelagh Delaney's 1958 similarly tender play, A Taste of Honey. Themes of loyalty, love, and desperate longing - intertwined with sado-masochistic behaviors -- just keep trickling across the divide of centuries, and in much the same gritty, earthy theatrical style depicted in filthy furniture (set by John Pleshette) that represents poverty, and not just the poverty of financial resources. Pleshette directs a fine production that gets to the heart of the matter, even if some of the North Country dialects drift a wee bit southwest into, say, Alabama. Hunt serves up a dynamic performance as Stitch, laced with twitches and subtle mannerisms. Bradie's Liz has a similar richness and authenticity. James Donovan plays Liz's partner, and the father of her child, Mark, with a blend of the requisite gruffness required by a guy trying to scrape out a living in Hull, masking a soft-heartedness that would get him cast out to sea, were more people to know about it. Stitch becomes obsessed with a callow aquarium attendant named Dave, played by Johnny Giacalone with an arrogant brutishness that's a pleasingly heart-hearted antidote to the eccentric humanity that shows up in the room. In her pregnancy, Liz has become almost addicted to a popular British snack called Battenberg cake. "Ah," remarks Stitch drolly, watching her opens the wrapper and melt into paroxysms of delight at the first bite: "Sponge. Jam. Marzipan. All the major food groups." What keep audiences watching new plays may not be new forms at all, but merely the references that provide the necessary inclusion. The Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; through March 6 (323) 960-7721. (Steven Leigh Morris). Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru March 6, (323) 960-7721.

MLLE. GOD Playwright Nicholas Kazan's uninspired spin on Frank Wedekind's "Lulu" plays comes as a cautionary reminder of just how difficult it is to capture libido on a stage. What some might think is the essence of the erotic mystique certainly will seem for others to be little more than an embarrassingly self-revealing mistake. That the latter proves to be the case in director Scott Paulin's pallid production is not for want of trying. Annika Marks' Lulu contains more provocative posturing per minute than one generally encounters at the average "gentlemen's club." Unfortunately for a play attempting to explore issues of feminine sexual power and the hegemony of patriarchal gender constructs, Marks' miscalculated stridency conjures all the eros of a cold shower. To be fair, even the great Louise Brooks -- whose performance in Georg Pabst's classic 1929 screen adaptation Pandora's Box continues to reign as the definitive Lulu -- would have been lost in the sophomoric self-parody of a text that calls for a gentleman admirer (Tasso Feldman, double-cast with Gary Patent) to involuntarily blurt out an ecstatic "Yes!" every time Lulu bends over. Keith Szarabajka emerges with his dignity fully intact in a fine turn as the Lulu-obsessed painter Melville (also played by Robert Trebor). Richard Hoover's versatile set and lighting designs and Jason Thompson's sci-fi-tinged video projections lend the proceedings a stylish gloss. Late in the play, a character refuses to describe Lulu's sexual appeal, adding that it is "a certain quality which I wouldn't want to ruin by naming it." Would that Kazan had taken his own advice. Performs with alternating casts. (Bill Raden). Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru March 27, (323) 644-1929.


Stage Raw: Camino Real

Photo by Charlie Fonville

What to do when you're settled, successful and sociopathic? For bored

couple Sarah (Lauren Olipra) and Ralf (Tommy French), the answer is,

terrorize Sarah's tee-totaling co-worker Edith (Kimberly Dilts) and her

meathead husband Bastian (J.T. Arbogast) at a dinner party for four.

Sarah and Ralf claim that they've killed Mr. Kolpert from Accounts and

locked him in the trunk. An enraged Bastian makes good on his claim to

kill them all, including his missus who may or may not be joking about

having an affair with Mr. Kolpert. Everyone is lying -- or "kidding" --

in David Gieselmann's comedy of lethally bad manners, and it's cruel fun

once the audience is clued in to its odd, bright artificiality. Between

the blood and fake vomit are digressions into chaos theory which hint

that there's a method in Gieselmann's madness. What sticks is his

caricature of yuppies as being so dulled by civility and Chardonnay that

the only wake-up is a sharp knife. Director Mike Monroe could scale

back Bastian's out-of-the box rage, but otherwise the cast is terrific

with Arbogast's oily charm, Olipra's feline callowness, and Dilts'

nuanced comedic turn as the perfect wife with her own axe to grind. Fake

Gallery, 4319 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Wed., 8:30 p.m.; thru March 9.

(323) 644-4946. (Amy Nicholson)

NEW REVIEW NO. SAINTS LANE The setting for Eric

Czuleger's dark comedy is a remote cabin in Scagway, Alaska, where

amidst the battering of a winter storm, Mer (Meredith Schmidt) and her

slow-witted daughter Dizzy (Kirsten Kulken), are once again on the run

from Mer's violent spouse Hunter (Adam Navarro), who has just finished

duty in the Special Forces. This time, Mer has decided to end the abuse

permanently by asking her current lover Jay (Joe Calarco), to kill her

husband. Initially, things seem to go as planned, but the celebration is

short-circuited when the batterer hobbles in bruised and bloodied, with

the intention of reclaiming his family. Up until then, the play had

some legs, albeit wobbly ones, but most of Act 2 turns in to muddled

attempt to explore the volatile dynamics of love, attraction and

repulsion, and even the effects of torture on the human psyche - little

of which is articulated or emerges from the incoherent structure. The

contrived finale is just puzzling. Cast performances are barely adquate,

with Calarco (who does fine job with the sound design), being the only

exception. Steve Jullian directs. Actors Circle Theater, 7313 Santa

Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m.; thru. March 6. (Lovell Estell III)

PLAY DATES Sam Wolfson's offbeat love story. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 6. (323) 960-7784.

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.

GO PUZZLER In writer-director Padraic Duffy's new play, Niklas Keller (Mark Bramhall) now in his 70s, sits at a desk somewhere in Germany, rifling through documents shredded by the East German secret police years ago. His pin-in-a-haystack search is for a fragment of a conversation, for a woman, his wife, for a fleeting marriage that dissolved before his eyes in a world where everybody was being watched and nothing was certain. His Quixotic search is for certainty, for an understanding of why said wife disappeared, after that conversation in which she promised somebody, some man in a trenchcoat, that she would see him later in that day. It was clandestine rendezvous in which both man and woman were each incognito (except to each other). After she met with that man, Keller never saw his wife again. Keller pieces together that conversation from shreds of tiny slips of paper found in sacks of shredded documents that the contemporary government is analyzing in order to understand the now defunct East German mentality. That conversation shows up again on film, actually a live re-enactment performed by Jessica Sherman and Jacob Sidney. Her neck is wrapped in a purple scarf, and the kind of white handbag that was de rigueur for East German spies. He's in a trenchcoat. It's all very noir. And so Duffy's romantic thriller follows a kind of Agatha Christie logic, as revealed in a smokey Fritz Lang flick where nobody is quite who they claim to be. The flashbacks provide the keenest sense of film noir that Duffy's play winks at. There's an almost choreographic panache to the swirl with which Sherman and Sidney move. Less so in the present tense, where the acting style more cinema verite than noir. The consequence is a kind of emotional investment in a sentimental love story, pinched at times by the sly visual jokes on a film style that Duffy clearly adores. His affection for the form, and for its characters, is so much more satisfying than a parody. (Steven Leigh Morris). Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 19. (310) 281-8337.

GO ROOM SERVICE Twenty-two jackals -- I mean, actors -- have run up a $1,200 bill at a posh hotel in 1930s Manhattan, and their producer, Gordon (Derek Manson), is desperate to skip out on the tab. Fat chance with manager (Phillip William Brock) and corporate heavy (Charles Dennis) blocking their escape. Since Gordon, the director (Joe Liss), the playwright (Dustin Eastman) and the rabble are on the 19th floor, they can't jump. Better options are playing sick, suffering a hunger strike, faking suicide and dabbling in bank fraud. John Murray and Allen Boretz's madcap comedy ran for 14 months on Broadway in 1937, and if the quips and the wise guys (especially Daniel Escobar's cheery lug) smack of a Marx Brothers movie, that's because it was one in 1938. Except for Eastman's guileless writer, these starving artists aren't suffering for the sake of art; their play seems secondary to saving their own skins. When real talent, a Russian waiter who studied Chekhov (Elya Baskin, excellent), auditions into their hotel room, his breathtaking monologue goes ignored. This three-act contraption gets going in Act 2 after co-directors Bjrn Johnson and Ron Orbach ease the cast into the comedy's chirpy rhythm. It's a slender pleasure, despite the directors' argument that it makes us reflect on our current economic crisis. Better just to enjoy the physical comedy that makes full use of every corner of Victoria Proffit's suite set; the ensemble leaps over furniture and gobbles down smuggled food like wild, wise-cracking animals. (Amy Nicholson). Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 12, (323) 882-6912.

SERIAL KILLERS Serialized stories compete to continue, voted on by the audience. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Sat., 11 p.m.; thru Feb. 19. (310) 281-8337.

GO SHADOW ANTHROPOLOGY Ten years after 9/11, the plight of rural Afghans caught in the crossfire between U.S. forces and the Taliban remains dire. Playwright-director Rick Mitchell lays bare the cruel urgency of their circumstances in this unpolished but potentially compelling production. Utilizing music (composer Max Kinberg) and puppetry (shadow artist Maria Bodmann), and depicted with the broad strokes of Brechtian-style theatrics, it begins with the recruitment by a Blackwater-type firm of a post-grad in anthropology named Fe (Lymari Nadal). A left-leaning Puerto Rico native, Fe has the job of interviewing Afghans for the U.S.'s human terrain project. Touted as a way to win hearts and minds, the project is a devious attempt to root out insurgents through entrapment. Overseeing the program is a well-paid defense operative named Evan (David Lee Garver), an unprincipled superpatriot whose sprawling ego is pumped up by his coke-and-heroin habit and his steady intake of Viagra. A practiced slimeball, Evan nonetheless proves no match for the region's chief warlord, Gulab (Andrew Qamar Johnson), a brazen villain with no compunction about engineering the murder of a hapless farmer (Ray Haratian), whose 21-year-old daughter (Claudia Vazquez) he has procured in marriage for his septuagenarian uncle (Eduardo R. Terry). Despite roughness around the edges on opening night, the performances are on track, especially Garver's and Johnson's, whose scenes together zone in on the ubiquitous venality on both sides. Illustrating Afghan women's nightmares is another grotesquely funny segment in which Vazquez's martyred bride undertakes, for her family's survival, to fornicate with her moribund but still lecherous spouse. Part of Son of Semele's Company Creation Festival. (Deborah Klugman). Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Sat., Feb. 12, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 13, 5 p.m.; Through Feb. 25, 8 p.m.,

GO THE SUNSET LIMITED John Perrin Flynn's top-notch staging of Cormac McCarthy's 1996 two-character play shows the author is a gifted dramatist as well as a superb novelist. A life-and-death struggle emerges in the dingy apartment of an ex-con named Black (Tucker Smallwood), who has just rescued White (Ron Bottitta) from a suicide leap off a subway platform. That their names are racial signifiers is just one of the dynamics McCarthy uses to mine the ironies in this simple scenario. Black is poor, uneducated and a committed man of faith, an inner-city Good Samaritan whose redemption came in prison and who unwaveringly believes in the value of life and God's grace. White is a hyper-rationalist, a successful university professor and defiant atheist who is weighted down with crushing despair and hopelessness. It's a high-stakes intervention where both men state their cases with unbridled passion and eloquence engendering a back-and-forth shift of empathies, and one never gets the sense of an immutable moral center or of merely listening to lectures. McCarthy, who is noted for his sparse dialogue and powerful imagery, exhibits an uncanny ear for ghetto argot, but just as nimbly utilizes the idiom of the academic. When, at the end, White erupts and expresses a weltanschauung of the darkest hue, one is reminded of Nietzsche's remark about staring into the abyss. Complementing Flynn's fine direction are the equally superb performances. (Lovell Estell III). Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 5 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; Mon., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 422-6361.

GO TAKE ME OUT Baseball star Darren Leming (Ary Katz), the central figure in Richard Greenberg's provocative 2002 comedy-drama, is a paragon of talent, skill and virtue. Half black and half white, he has become baseball's golden boy, admired and adored by team-mates and fans -- till he impulsively decides to come out as gay, and the press runs with the story. He thinks that because he's "young and rich and famous and talented and handsome," he's immune to negative consequences. But like a rock dropped into a pond, his revelation produces ever- widening ripples that undermine his world. Bigotry and religious fanaticism rear their heads, as irate fans accuse him of desecrating the sacred sport. As for his teammates, it's a loss of innocence: They're forced to confront the homo-eroticism that underlies their comfortable locker room intimacy. Most deeply affected is newly recruited relief pitcher Shane Mungitt (Garrett Matheson), a nave, dim, barely literate orphan from the deep South, where racism and homophobia were bred in his bones. He's ultimately both victim and aggressor, driven by feelings he doesn't understand, to an act of ambiguous but lethal violence. Greenberg probes issues of sexual identity, moral ambiguity, personal responsibility, and baseball, in pungent, idiosyncratic dialog laced with subversive wit. Director Michael Matthews has assembled an almost perfect cast, on Kurt Boetcher's intimate in-the-round set, and he explores the play's complexities with finely-focused exuberance. Katz skillfully charts Leming's transformation from Apollonian serenity to a man forced to acknowledge his failings and vulnerability. Tom Costello brings comic chops and rich conviction to the shortstop Kippy, the play's narrator, who's shattered when his sentimental do-good-ism produces disastrous results. And there's a deliciously deft comedy performance by Thomas James O'Leary as Leming's fey, gay financial manager, who regards his boss as a hero, and finds in the world of baseball a wondrous epiphany. His aria comparing baseball to democracy is as penetrating as it is funny. They receive solid backup from the sterling cast. Tim Swiss's lighting design and Veronica J. Lancaster's sound are integral to the action. This is Celebration Theatre's most ambitious and impressive production in years. (Neal Weaver). Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 19. (323) 957-1884.

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD It's easy to understand why playwright Christopher Sergel's 1970 stage adaptation of Harper Lee's sentimental Southern Gothic novel was adopted for its annual pageant by Lee's hometown of Monroeville, Ala. Its depiction of a noble white patrician defending a helpless, subservient black field hand from being framed for rape by ignorant white-trash extremists is undoubtedly how the South would like to view its Jim Crow past. Why the Production Company chose Sergel's Sunday-school chestnut to inaugurate their new home at the Lex Theatre, however, remains a mystery. The chief virtue of director T.L. Kolman's by-the-book production (amid designer August Viverito's lamentably clumsy clapboard-facade set pieces) is in allowing the company's versatile stock players to strut their stuff in the play's numerous supporting roles: Ferrell Marshall as the story's wryly astute narrator, Maudie Atkinson; a nuanced Jim Hanna as Maycomb's perspicacious Sheriff Heck Tate; Inda Craig-Galvan and Lorenzo T. Hughes' twin portraits of dignity under duress as Calpurnia and Tom Robinson; Skip Pipo being diabolical as inbred bigot Bob Ewell. Beside these veterans, juveniles Brighid Fleming, L.J. Benet and Patrick Fitzsimmons hold their own with confidence as, respectively, Scout, Jem and Dill. But it is James Horan's weirdly accomplished, cadence-perfect mimicry of Gregory Peck's film performance as Atticus that proves the evening's perversely guilty pleasure. (Bill Raden). Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 20. (800) 838-3006.

GO TWELFTH NIGHT Twelfth Night marks the worthy launch of this theater's 17th season. With its multilayered plot, theatrical high jinks, silly sweetness and romance, Twelfth Night is one of the Bard's most popular works. With a nod to the traditional yuletide celebration after which the play is named, director J.C. Gafford's production features music, caroling, dancing and revelry. The setting of Illyria is here re-created as a large, raised platform, surrounded by a table set for a feast, kegs and some old boxes. Though not especially picturesque, it has a certain rustic appeal, and changes in scenes are smoothly handled by a member of the troupe with hand-painted placards. Kristina Mitchell does a fine turn as Viola, the main character in this romp of romance and mistaken identity, who is shipwrecked and separated from her twin brother, Sebastian (Jackson Thompson), on a different part of Illyria. She goes in disguise as a boy named Cesario, employed by the lovesick Duke Orsino (Jim Kohn), who uses her to court (on his behalf) his beloved but less-than-requiting Lady Olivia (Amy Clites). But Viola has herself fallen for her employer, the Duke, while his would-be mistress, Lady Olivia, finds herself smitten with the "boy" Viola is impersonating. The unraveling of this romantic knot makes for lively comedy under Gafford's smart direction, with uniformly good performances. Seth Margolies is a riot as the bumbling Sir Toby Belch. Casey E. Lewis, who puts one in mind of Stan Laurel, is equally funny as the comically foiled Malvolio, while Jason Rowland provides tons of laughs as the fool, Feste. (Lovell Estell III). Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (323) 667-0955.

UNSCREENED New short plays by Emily Halpern, Leslye Headland, Beth Schacter, and Susanna Fogel and Joni Lefkowitz., (310) 424-5085. Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Mon., Feb. 14, 7:30 p.m.; Mon., 8 p.m.; thru March 7. (323) 852-9111.

WAYNE WHITE: YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO ACT ALL IMPRESSED Largo at the Coronet, 366 N. La Cienega Blvd., L.A.; Tues., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (310) 855-0350.


THE CAPULETS AND THE MONTAGUES The star-crossed lovers get an astrological realignment in this comedy by Shakespeare's Spanish contemporary, Lope de Vega. Seeming to send up Romeo and Juliet, Lope's play is, in fact, not a skewering of the Bard's tragedy but a farcical rendering of the same source material, Matteo Bandello's novella Giulietta e Romeo. Dakin Matthews' thoughtful English translation centers squarely on the frivolity of lovesickness, the foolhardiness of relentless family loyalty and the potential for comedy amidst the murkiness of communication breakdown. For every fatal turn Shakespeare's text takes, Lope's version veers into the gleefully ridiculous: Juliet (Nicol Zanzarella-Giacalone) comes on to Romeo (Benny Wills) like a tigress in heat at the masquerade ball, Capulet (John Achorn) plans to marry his niece (Kellie Matteson) to ensure an heir when Juliet is pronounced dead, Romeo stumbles around like a frightened man-child in Juliet's dark tomb. Though there's promise of great fun in seeing this underperformed play in a careful translation that pays close attention to the lighthearted impact of rhyming verse, the production is in desperate need of directorial attention. In the hands of Anne McNaughton, the potential for out-and-out comedic outrage and unabashed farcical tomfoolery is lost. Instead, we get a dramatically lukewarm retelling of a well-known story, a tone-deaf production begging to be so much more than a famous tragedy with a jocular spin. The able lead actors suffer under the tonal ambiguities. As nurse Celia, Etta Devine carries many of the comic scenes with her excellent timing and sure-handed delivery. The biggest laughs come when Celia and servant Marin (Bruce Green) revel in low comedy, mocking the wooing process as the lead lovers wax poetic. Dean Cameron's costumes are flawless. (Amy Lyons). New Place Theatre, 10950 Peach Grove St., North Hollywood; Sun., 2 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 27, (866) 811-4111.

CINDERELLA World Premiere interactive musical for kids, book by June Chandler, music and lyrics by Jane Fuller. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Sat., 11 a.m.; thru Feb. 19. (626) 256-3809.


Stage Raw: Camino Real

Photo by Jason Bonzon

Unlike police officers, who are so often feared or mistrusted,

firefighters almost always engage the appreciation and respect of the p

eople they serve. Playwright Pedro Antonio Garcia's message-minded

melodrama jumpstarts around the community's perceived betrayal of that

covenant, and the pressure brought to bear on a firefighter named Perry

(Kamar de los Reyes) to make a bogus choice between loyalty to his unit

and loyalty to his Puerto Rican ethnic group. A 20 year department vet,

Perry is on the cusp of retirement when a crisis erupts at the South

Bronx firehouse after a colleague named Boyle (Gerald Downey) rescues

another firefighter from a burning building but leaves behind a 12 year

old child. Boyle steadfastly maintains he didn't see the girl for the

smoke, but his credibility is open to question -- in no small part

because of his personal history as a former cop who was tried and

acquitted for shooting an unarmed civilian. Whereas the community,

represented here by Perry's fiancée Aida (Jossara Jinaro), a criminal

defense attorney, is up in arms, most of Boyle's buddies give him the

benefit of the doubt and pressure Perry to do the same. Garcia gleaned

aspects of his story from real life headlines in this effort to offer up

an intrepid examination of how our native prejudices cloud our

judgment. Too often, however, the characters seem mere

profanity-riddled mouthpieces for one side or another's point of view, a

problem exacerbated by Bryan Rasmussen's overheated direction. Most

discrepant is Jinaro's counselor-at-law, unconvincing as a perspicacious

professional not only by virtue of her mini-skirted and otherwise

revealing attire but in her strident insistence that Perry take her side

for personal reasons rather than principled ones. Whitefire Theatre,

13500 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks; Fri, 8 p.m., thru April 29. (323)

822-7898 or (Deborah Klugman)

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST Oscar Wilde's Victorian comedy endures as a hilarious comedy of manners, its buoyant text brimming with comic hyperbole and epigrammatic couplets, delighting each new generation of audiences. The Chrysalis Stage places their modest sets and seating on the raised platform of the vast Whittier High School auditorium. Andrea Gwynnel Morgan directs and costumes her mostly young cast; she also stars as the pompous yet vulgar Lady Bracknell, performing well, despite an overemphasis on nasal vocal tics and guttural wheezing. Regrettably too old for the part of Jack (the idle young gentleman who invents a fictitious relative to shirk his social duties), Gregory Zide lets the team down with bizarre gestures, a distractingly fake moustache and an attempt at a London society accent that instead wildly rambles throughout the colonies from South Africa to Australia to Canada. Playing Jack's sneaky, foppish friend Algernon, the mouthpiece of Wilde, Harry Vaughn is fey and playful, while Alyson King is clever as the prim and shallow socialite Gwendolen. Jeena Yi's interpretation of precocious Cecily is pure perfection with every line reading, gesture and exemplary comic timing. (Pauline Adamek). Vic Lopez Auditorium, Whittier High School, 12417 E. Philadelphia St., Whittier; Fri., Feb. 11, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 13, 2 p.m.; Mon., Feb. 14, 7 p.m.; Fri., Feb. 18, 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 19, 2 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 20, 2 p.m., (562) 212-1991.

I'TS 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.

THE MAIDEN'S PRAYER Nicky Silver's look at the randomness of love. Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (800) 681-5150.

A MIXED TAPE Eric Edwards' retrospective of a lonely guy's love life. Playhouse West Repertory Theater, 10634 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru March 27, (818) 332-3101.

NERVE Adam Szymkowicz's dark comedy set on a couple's first date. Chance Theatre, 5552 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (714) 777-3033.

NEW EYES Yafit Josephson gives an accomplished performance in her solo show about a Jewish actress facing down Hollywood's cultural stereotypes. It's marred only by a poorly designed slideshow. Josephson slips easily into various personae, combining characters with caricatures to good comedic effect. The opening has her switching from a formidable military officer to her nervous young self on her first day of compulsory military training in the Israeli army. Highlights include a hilarious mime sequence where she uncomprehendingly attempts yoga and another scene where she gives a goofy impression of a macho guy in an Israeli nightclub. Josephson's tall, slender build, piercing eyes and chiseled face lend her a commanding presence, but it's her prominent proboscis that relegates her to the usual gamut of villainous roles, from terrorist to evil witch -- "And no, they didn't have to use a fake nose," she jokes. Her adult journey takes her from the New World back to Israel, where she touches base with her culture, returning to Hollywood with newfound strength of character. Beneath the comedy lies a serious undercurrent stemming from the ongoing war in the Middle East: Land equals identity. (Pauline Adamek). Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 13, (323) 960-7712.

99 IMPOSSIBLE THINGS Though Chelsea Sutton's play is not set in Central Perk (there's no Rachel or Monica, no Ross or Chandler or Joey in Sutton's Magic Bean Coffee Shop locale), there is a Phoebe of sorts. Actually, there are six of them. But instead of performing amusingly absurd guitar songs, or recounting childhood tales of woe in hilarious ways, these "Phoebes," along with two imaginary friends and a guardian angel, simply ramble on about "what's real" and what's not through 12 largely incoherent scenes. There's barely a plot, a story, dramatic stakes or a protagonist, and the central conflict (the soul of the drama) emerges sporadically. Most of the dialogue sounds like a college improv show in which someone said, "OK, you hang out in a coffee shop, you have an imaginary friend but you're not sure why, and nobody else is either: Go!" Sutton's serving as writer, director and producer suggests a reason behind the absence of a critical or collaborative eye. Even the performances, save that of RJ Farrington (who portrays the guardian angel), lack sheen. The highlight of the production is Bryan Forrest's authentically detailed coffee shop set. (Mayank Keshaviah). Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (818) 508-3003.

REWIND SkyPilot Theatre Company's late-night series of one-acts, on everything from "how to get fired from a job" to "how to survive a zombie attack.". Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 11 p.m.; thru March 12, (800) 838-3006.

SCHMUTZIGEN DEUTSCHE KABARETT This latest, late-night creation from sardonic, surrealist director-choreographer Amanda Marquardt is so straightforward and simple in its concept and execution that it's a wonder no one thought of it before. Take the Kander & Ebb musical classic Cabaret, jettison the treacly and preachy Joe Masteroff book, and stage the results as a brisk and breezy, melodrama-free evening of simulated Weimar nightclub entertainment. The schmutzigen is provided by the indecently flamboyant Luke Wright, who, from opener "Willkommen" through his solo on "I Don't Care Much" to the show's finale, vamps his way through an endless string of double entendres to stake a creditable claim to the role of MC that made Broadway stars of Joel Grey and Alan Cumming. Marquardt herself appears as Sally Bowles (replete with Liza-like false eyelashes), displaying an appealing set of pipes on such signature numbers as "Don't Tell Mama," "Cabaret" and "Mein Herr." Wright returns (wearing little more than an uncredited but campy pair of tuxedo briefs) with chorines Skye Noel (also credited as dance captain and co-choreographer) and Eva Ganelis, as the trio strut their comic stuff in "Two Ladies." But, you might ask, if there's no book, what about the musical's politics -- and what does that have to do with us? Relax. Marquardt gets in her licks, and puts the Deutsche Kabarett, political-satire bite back into Cabaret with "High Chancellor," a hilarious, show-stealing strip number, with Jonica Patella in Hitler drag, bumping, grinding and goose-stepping to the Nazi march "Erika." (Bill Raden). ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 11 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (818) 202-4120.

GO SMUDGE The birth of a child usually is seen as a joyful event -- but what if it isn't? In Rachel Axler's disturbing play, the lives of an expectant couple -- Colby (Heather Fox) and Nicholas (Mark Thomsen) -- are upended when Colby gives birth to a limbless being with a single eye. The infant is not only strange to look at; it also responds weirdly -- or, more commonly, not at all -- to attempts to communicate. At home all day, Colby reacts to it with despair and rage, but the ingenuous Nick, a census official, falls head over heels for his new baby girl -- although that doesn't keep him from concealing her oddity from his family, or forestall his mailing out a dissentious questionnaire to the public titled "What Could You Kill?" (Sample question: Could you kill a pig?) Nick's peculiar behavior corners the concern of his brother Peter (Bart Tangredi), a snide guy whose cynicism, within this piece, stands in for the world at large. Axler strews her unsettling story with harsh humor that might have offended but doesn't. Instead, higher motifs -- the definition of life, the limitations of love and the human struggle to adjust one's expectations to painful realities -- remain the production's paramount focus, under Darin Anthony's discerning direction. Tangredi's smarmy dude adds an edgy dynamic, while Thomsen is especially affecting as a man struggling for his illusions -- and his sanity. Joe Slawinski's sound design elaborates nicely on the couple's nightmare. Presented by Syzygy Theatre. (Deborah Klugman). GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 19. (800) 838-3006.


Stage Raw: Camino Real

Photo by Sherry Netherland

Profanity, perversion, and a pig iron do not a Mamet play make. While

the "master" is known for his liberal use of the f-word, the c-word,

and other unmentionables, his machine-gun dialogue generally contains an

undercurrent of danger, social commentary, and revelation of character.

Many Mamet imitators fail to grasp this subtext, and, like Vern Urich

and Craig Ricci Shaynak, create pieces that superficially resemble

Mamet's patterns but lack his depth. In this take on American Buffalo, Jed (Urich) enters like Teach from the original, uttering a string of f-bombs followed by the word Mamet instead of Ruthie.

He has again failed to get the rights to put on his favorite play in

Los Angeles. Jed's rotund friend Stu (Shaynak), also an actor, is having

troubles of his own with women. After a lengthy lecture by Jed on

"bangin' broads" (a phrase that becomes noisome from repetition), the

two concoct a scheme to "steal" Mamet's work. A strange attempt to fuse

Mamet-speak and Swingers, this unending string of one-liners

quickly ventures into tedium, with its numerous tangents, such as a

listing of all the celebrities whose sign is Sagittarius, replacing an

actual story. The pizza box-laden set (presumably an homage to Mamet's

junk shop) lacks any sense of design, and the literal projections only

elongate the tangential riffs on pop culture that bring the action

grinding to a halt. While the inspiration for the piece is Urich's own

experience, the result lacks the stakes and tension to turn documentary

into drama. Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood;

Sat., 5 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru March 6. (818) 700-4878. (Mayank Keshaviah)

SYLVIA A.R. Gurney's empty-nester comedy. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 19. (626) 256-3809.

'TIL DEATH TO US PART: LATE NIGHT CATECHISM 3' Catholic nun offers lessons on marriage, by Maripat Donovan. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (818) 700-4878.

TOPDOG/UNDERDOG Suzan-Lori Parks' Pulitzer Prize winner about two African-American brothers. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (866) 811-4111.

THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL Horton Foote's nostalgia story. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 6. (818) 700-4878.

WEIRD ON TOP Improvisational comedy by Danielle Cintron, Tiffany Cole, Mason Hallberg, Kerr Seth Lordygan, Sarah McCann and Alex Sanborn. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; Thurs., Feb. 17, 8 p.m.; Tues., March 1, 8 p.m.; Thurs., April 21, 8 p.m.; Thurs., May 12, 8 p.m.; Thurs., June 9, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 17, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Aug. 18, 8 p.m.. (818) 508-3003.


GO ADDING MACHINE: A MUSICAL In Joshua Schmidt and Jason Loewith's adaptation of Elmer Rice's 1923 satire of accountants slaving for The Man in cubicles, a shlub named Zero (Clifford Morts, in a marvelously cantakerous turn reminiscent of the late Carroll O'Connor) eagerly awaits some reward on the 25th anniversary of his hiring. Instead, he's fired, having been replaced by an adding machine. Rice's play was written before the days of pensions and labor unions and the kinds of post War labor protections that, incidentally, accompanied the most robust economic boom this country has every experienced. It was also written five years before the Great Depression. It now arrives as almost all those protections have been swept away, and our economy teeters precariously once more -- cursed by economic conditions and employment practices that in so many ways, resemble those of 1923. Yet neither the play nor this musical adaptation is primarily about economics, but rather about metaphysics, which would explain director Ron Sossi's fascination with it. The operatic, often dissonant and percussive music has almost no melody, which is exactly right in a story that drives a spike through the heart of sentimentality and romance. Zero's wife is a hideous, jealous, nagging monstrosity -- that would be the character, not Kelly Lester's spirited interpretation that contains echos of Angela Lansbury. The colleague who loved Zero unrequitedly (the marvelous Christine Horn) joins him in the after-life. For the way God really works, and the way dead souls are recycled, you have to see the show. Sossi directs a strong production, though with minimal silk drops representing the afterlife, it didn't look much different from the drab life herein. That minimalism does subvert the moral joke. Patrick Kenny's musical direction strikes nice balances between the onstage band and the singers. The actors just need to settle in and push out the fun they're already having. (Steven Leigh Morris). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 27, 7 p.m.; thru March 13. (310) 477-2055.

NEW REVIEW AFTERMATH Elliot Shoenman's comedic

drama studies a widow named Julie (Annie Potts), and her almost adult

children, still struggling to come to terms with her husband's suicide

three years previously. More like an emotionally raw drama with a

sprinkling of good laughs, Shoenman's play unfolds like a typical 1950s

kitchen-sink drama, the strip-mining kind where secrets and

recriminations are laid bare and the obligatory catharsis ensues. This

notion is visually supported by co-producer and set designer Gary

Guidinger's realistic kitchen and teenager-bedroom set. What isn't

necessary is the slide show across the back flats repeatedly displaying

the pathetically inadequate suicide note Julie was left with, and which

also illustrates her children's passage to adulthood. Everyone in the

capable cast gets at least one monologue, from the hostile son Eric

(Daniel Taylor) to the mild-tempered daughter Natalie (Meredith Bishop)

to their father's former best friend and Mom's possible new boyfriend

Chuck (Michael Mantell). With her pixie haircut and thick NY accent,

Potts wavers from droll to distraught, only sometimes stridently

overcompensating for first-night nerves and an ensemble performance that

occasionally seemed to lose its rhythm. At its best, the incisive

dialogue volleys back and forth like an enthralling game of tennis. Mark

L. Taylor directs this slice of dysfunction well. A guest production at

the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 13. (310) 477-2055. (Pauline Adamek)

CAUGHT IN THE NET Ray Cooney's Internet-inspired sequel to sex farce Run for Your Wife. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 19. (310) 828-7519.

GO CYRANO DE BERGERAC Director Rae Allen revels in the equal measure of might assigned to pen and sword in Edmond Rostand's word-centric, swashbuckling classic. Allen's sure hand in guiding the text along a well-paced tragicomic trajectory begins with her decision to slash the first scene significantly, depositing the legendary lead character and his protruding nose onstage within a few minutes of the outset. John Colella tackles the titular role with an overabundance of seething anger and outward frustration at Cyrano's self-described ugliness, neglecting at times the character's inherent charm, a crucial hinge upon which the play's front door hangs: We have to fall in love with Cyrano if we are to feel the requisite frustration over Roxanne's (an arresting Olivia D'Abo) ill-informed choice of the doltish but adorable Christian (a sufficiently hapless Toby Moore) rather than her eloquent, adoring cousin. Romantic flatness aside, Colella successfully thrusts home poetic parlance, bringing an effortlessness of speech to the verbose role. Jonathan Redding does smarmy to perfection as the pining Comte De Guiche, and Mark Rimer bumbles beautifully as Raggeneau. Swordplay and balcony climbing are skillfully staged in the small space. (Amy Lyons). Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 20. (310) 397-3244.

THE FARNDALE AVENUE HOUSING ESTATE TOWNSWOMEN'S GUILD DRAMATIC SOCIETY MURDER MYSTERY Kentwood Players present David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin Jr.'s detective-thriller spoof. Westchester Playhouse, 8301 Hindry Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 19. (310) 645-5156.

FIVE UNEASY PIECES Todd Waring's study of diverse characters, including an elderly Southern woman, an Aussie art teacher, and a French singer. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 27, (323) 960-5521.

GO HOBOKEN TO HOLLYWOOD; A JOURNEY THROUGH THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK The big-band show in this musical (book by Luca Ellis, Paul Litteral and Jeremy Aldridge) is staged as a behind-the-scenes live taping of a late-1960s television special with a star identified in the program only as "The Crooner." James Thompson's authentic set comes with sound booth, TV cameras, microphones, lighting, a spacious bandstand and stage, overhead video screens and neon applause signs. Adding to the realism is lots of backstage banter, numerous gaffes, miscues and retakes, and some well-placed comedy and drama played out between director Dwight (Al Bernstein) and his overworked and underappreciated assistant Andy (Pat Towne). There are also cheeky commercial breaks for Shmimex watches and the all-new Ford Mustang. Musical director Litteral and his nattily dressed 12-member band (Jessica Olson's costumes are entirely on cue) combine into a flawless, robust performance redolent of the best of Ellington or Basie. Luca Ellis is a knockout from start to finish as the Crooner. How good is he? If you close your eyes while he sings familiar tunes such as "That's Life," "New York, New York" and "Fly Me to the Moon," you'd swear the Chairman himself had come back for one last encore. As masterfully woven together by director Aldridge, the material is so good that the applause signs aren't really needed. (Lovell Estell III). Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (310) 399-3666.

GO JULIA Playwright Vince Melocchi's sweet, melancholy drama artfully makes the point that, of all the sorrows, nothing beats the sadness of being haunted by guilt over a long-ago romantic misdeed. Lou (Richard Fancy), a frail old man who clearly does not have too much sand left in the hourglass, shambles into a run-down Pittsburgh coffeehouse, ostensibly to witness the razing of the local department store where he worked some 50 years ago. However, his real purpose in returning to the scene is an attempted reconciliation with his long-lost sweetheart, Julia, whom he feels guilty for spurning many years ago. However, Julia (Roses Prichard), who now has Alzheimer's disease, doesn't even remember her own son, Steve (Keith Stevenson). Melocchi's writing is deceptively top-heavy with conversations that at first appear pointless but gradually coalesce to construct the psychological underpinnings of strikingly plausible blue-collar characters. In director Guillermo Cienfuegos' mostly subtle and emotionally nuanced production, the pacing could stand some amping up, but the feeling of reality encompassed by the interactions and confrontations is haunting at times. In his turn as the gruff, cranky Lou, Fancy builds on our expectation that the character is a feeble old coot, gradually shifting him into a figure whose regret and rage are all too understandable. Prichard is unusually believable as the tragically blank Julia. Dramatically vivid work also is offered by Stevenson's glum, disappointed Steve and by Haskell Vaughn Anderson III, as a family friend who remembers all the parties when they were young. (Paul Birchall). Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (310) 822-8392.

PICK OF THE VINE Nine plays, selected from more than 450 submissions from around the world, including Scripted by Mark Harvey Levine and Trace Evidence by Jeff Stewart. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Thurs., Feb. 17, 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 19. (310) 512-6030.

TUCUMCARI Riley Steiner's story of "love, choices, tough times, and Western music on Route 66.". Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (310) 364-0535.

2 PIANOS 4 HANDS Semi-autobiographical musical journey from Bach to Billy Joel by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt, performed by Mark Anders and Carl Danielsen. North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr., Solana Beach; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (858) 481-2155.

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