Stage Raw: Comedy is Dead

Stage Raw: Comedy is Dead

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS
NEW REVIEWS

STAGE FEATURE on gay politics in Halam Iran and Salam Shalom

THE 31ST ANNUAL L.A. WEEKLY THEATER AWARDS

COMEDY IS DEAD

Sarah Silverman, Duncan Trussell, and Garfunkle and Oates headline an April 1 lineup of comedy and music at the Hollywood Forever Cemetary, 6000 Santa Monica Boulevard, 8 p.m. Info here  

LOS ANGELES DRAMA CRITICS CIRCLE THEATER AWARDS This coming Monday March 22, at the Colony Theatre in Burbank. Info here

Upcoming Events

L.A. WEEKLY THEATER AWARDS coming Monday, March 29, at the El Rey, are the Weekly Awards, hosted by the cast of Life Could Be a Dream.  Nominees are here.
Call (310) 574-7208 to reserve. If the line is jammed, shoot me an email at smorris@laweekly.com

BACK STAGE announced its Garland Awards March 11, but eschewed an actual ceremony.

TOV is a new dance-theater piece by Rosanna Gamson, this weekend at REDCAT.


JOHN EDGAR WIDEMAN Excerpts from his writings will be read by film and TV actors at the Santa Monica Bay Woman's Club, 1210 Fourth Street, Sunday March 21 at 3 p.m. Good way to avoid the L.A. Marathon. Presented by WordTheatre in association with PEN Center USA


AN INTIMATE EVENING WITH MARVIN HAMLISCH Reprise Theatre Company at UCLA's Freud Playhouse, Monday March 22, 8 p.m. (310) 825-2101

For COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS, and this coming weekend's review docket, press the More tab directly below

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for March 19-25 , 2010


SCROLL DOWN TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE FOR A LIST OF PRODUCTIONS BEING REVIEWED THIS WEEKEND

Our critics are Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III, Rebecca Haithcoat,

Martin Hernandez, Mayank Keshaviah, Deborah Klugman, Steven Leigh

Morris, Amy Nicholson, Tom Provenzano, Bill Raden, Luis Reyes, Sandra

Ross and Neal Weaver. These listings were compiled by Derek Thomas

Productions are sequenced alphabetically in the following

cagtegories: Opening This Week, Larger Theaters regionwide, Smaller

Theaters in Hollywood, Smaller Theaters in the valleys , Smaller

Theaters on the Westside and in beach towns. You can also search for

any play by title, using your computer's search engine.

OPENING THIS WEEK

ABOVE THE LINE Susan Rubin's comedy about the making of a Hollywood

movie. Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; opens March 19;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 24. (213) 389-3856.

AN AMERICAN TRACT Written by Barbara White Morgan. Theatre/Theater,

5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; opens March 20; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru

April 25, brownpapertickets.com/event/100569. (800) 838-3006.

AWAKE AND SING Clifford Odets' story of a Jewish clan in the

economic tumult of 1930s New York. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd.,

Glendale; Sat., March 20, 8 p.m.; Sun., March 21, 2 p.m.; Wed., March

24, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., March 28, 2 & 7 p.m.; March 31-April 1, 8

p.m.; Fri., April 23, 8 p.m.; May 6-7, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 8, 2 & 8

p.m.; Sun., May 23, 2 & 7 p.m.. (818) 240-0910.

BLACK HOLE Workshop performance of Peggy O'Brien's latest play.

Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; March 19-20,

7:30 p.m.. (310) 394-9779.

THE BLUE ROOM David Hare's modern-day adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler's once-banned Reigen. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; opens March 25; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 2. (310) 477-2055.

THE BLVD. B-movie drag queen attempts a big-screen comeback in a bio

of Divine, in Mad About the Boy Productions' parody mashup of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and Sunset Blvd..

Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood; opens March 20;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru April 18, plays411.com/theblvd.

(323) 960-1055.

THE BURNING MIC Standup by Chris Adams, Sina Amedson, Rosie Tran,

Matt Claybrooks and Mike Muratore. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St.,

L.A.; Sun., March 21, 8 p.m.. (323) 469-3113.

CAN YOU BE MORE PACIFIC Sketch-comedy courtesy The Second City.

Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach; opens March 20;

Tues.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 11. (949) 497-2787.

THE CHARM OF MAKING Timothy McNeil's story of "love, history, life

and death in a small Southern town.". Stella Adler Theatre, 6773

Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; opens March 19; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.;

thru April 25. (323) 465-4446.

THE ELEPHANT MAN Bernard Pomerance's true story of a disfigured

Englishman. Luna Playhouse, 3706 San Fernando Road, Glendale; opens

March 19; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 11,

itsmyseat.com. (818) 500-7200.

41st ANNUAL LOS ANGELES DRAMA CRITICS CIRCLE AWARDS Hosted by Jason

Graae. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; Mon., March 22, 7:30

p.m.. (818) 558-7000.

AN INTIMATE EVENING WITH MARVIN HAMLISCH Reprise Theatre Company

presents the Broadway composer. UCLA Freud Playhouse, Macgowan Hall,

Westwood; Mon., March 22, 8 p.m.. (310) 825-2101.

ISMS Zombie Joe Underground presents five mini-plays by Jim Eshom.

ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens March

19; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru April 3. (818) 202-4120.

JIMMY GAMBLE One-man stage version of Gary Bairos' screenplay.

Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sat., March 20, 8 p.m.,

www.plays411.com/jimmygamble. (323) 960-7740.

KCCLA 30th ANNIVERSARY GALA PERFORMANCE SERIES 3 One-act dramas by Korean-American playwrights: Why Does Jasmine Turn Counter Clockwise? by Philip Onho Lee and Prodigal Daughter

by Vivian Keh., $15. Korean Cultural Center, 5505 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.;

Sat., March 20, 3 p.m.; Fri., March 26, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 27, 3 p.m..

(323) 936-7141.

LEON'S DICTIONARY Celebrity staged reading of Stephanie Satie's play

about a Jewish family's attempt to emigrate from Kiev. Westside JCC,

5870 W. Olympic Blvd., L.A.; Sun., March 21, 2 p.m.. (323) 938-2531.

LOS ANGELES WOMEN'S THEATRE FESTIVAL: CHAMPAGNE GALA AND AWARDS

CEREMONY Honorees include Florence LaRue, Odalys Nanin, Connie Sawyer,

Sri Susilowati, Bea Arthur and Alaina Reed-Hall. Electric Lodge, 1416

Electric Ave., Venice; Thurs., March 25. (310) 306-1854.

NEIGHBORHOOD 3: REQUISITION OF DOOM Jennifer Haley's zombie

comedy-thriller. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.;

opens March 19; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 24. (310) 281-8337.

THE RAINBOW ROOM Sara Kumar's true story of "Myxedema Madness.".

Theatre Unlimited, 10943 Camarillo Ave., North Hollywood; opens March

20; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 11...

RFK: THE JOURNEY TO JUSTICE L.A. Theatre Works' staged reading of

Murray Horwitz and Jonathan Estrin's docudrama about Robert Kennedy, to

be recorded to radio series The Play's the Thing. Skirball

Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood; Fri., March 19, 8

p.m.; Sat., March 20, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., March 21, 4 p.m.. (310) 827-0889.

RYAN O'CONNOR EATS HIS FEELINGS One-man musical theatrical creation

of actor, singer and "YouTube celebrity" Ryan O'Connor. Celebration

Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens March 19; Fri.-Sat.,

10:30 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 28. (323) 957-1884.

SERIAL KILLERS Five serials compete to continue, voted on by the

audience. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; opens

March 20; Sat., 11 p.m.; thru April 24. (310) 281-8337.

WORDTHEATRE WITH JOHN EDGAR WIDEMAN Selections from Briefs,

performed by Amy Sloan, Barry Shabaka Henley, Edi Gathegi, Gary

Dourdan, Jason George, Keith David, Lorraine Toussaint, Philip Baker

Hall, Robert Wisdom, Roger Guenveur Smith, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, and

Theron Cook. Santa Monica Bay Woman's Club, 1210 Fourth St., Santa

Monica; Sun.,

March 21, 3 p.m.. (310) 395-1308.

PEEPSHOW MENAGERIE PRESENTS BURLSEQUELAND "Dizney"-inspired

burlesque with Venus Demille, Mimi Lemeaux, Scarlett Letter, Ava

Garter, Anna Bells, Red Snapper, Bobbie Burlesque, Sophia Sirena, Miss

Angie Cakes, Dahlia Delust, Kimberlee Rose, Anastasia Von Teaserhausen,

Fever Blister, Miss Josie Bunnie and Veronica Yune. Hosted by Dizzy Von

Damn., $15. Three Clubs, 1123 Vine St., L.A.; Mon., March 22. (323)

462-6441.

STERLING'S UPSTAIRS with New York musical theater star Beth Malone.

Vitello's, 4349 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; Sun., March 21, 7 p.m..

(818) 769-0905.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE

BACKWARDS IN HIGH HEELS Musical tribute to dancing dame Ginger

Rogers. International City Theatre, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 21. (562) 436-4610.

CATS Andrew Lloyd Webber's feline musical. Pantages Theater, 6233

Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1

& 6:30 p.m.; thru March 21. (800) 982-ARTS.

GO DREAMGIRLS This landmark homage to Motown's

heyday of the '60s and '70s has been around for almost three decades

but hasn't lost any of its winning appeal. Robert Longbottom's touring

revival doesn't boast the splashy, big-name resonance of the 2006

movie, or of the original 1981 Broadway production, which soared under

the direction of Michael Bennett, but it still makes for a very

entertaining evening. Dreamgirls (book and lyrics by Tom

Eyen, music by Henry Krieger) tells of the meteoric rise of a female

singing group, a rags-to-riches tale inspired by the Supremes. It also

chronicles some of the behind-the-scenes dirty dealings and compromises

many black artists had to make in order to gain appeal to a more

diverse audience. This show doesn't skimp on production values, headed

by William Ivey Long's collage of Technicolor costumes and Paul

Huntley's seemingly endless assemblage of stylish wigs. Robin Wagner's

scenic design (a group of digital panels) creates a dazzling world of

cityscapes, colors and imagery. Equally impressive is Longbottom's

glitzy choreography and Ken Billington's lighting schema. In the key

role of Effie, the outsized Dreamette who gets dumped for the prettier

Deena Jones (the fine Syesha Mercado), Moya Angela is no Jennifer

Holliday or Hudson. Chester Gregory channels Morris Day and James Brown

and mesmerizes the audience with his turn as James "Thunder" Early.

Chaz Lamar Shepherd is appropriately scurrilous as lowlife manager

Curtis Taylor. (Lovell Estell III). 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 April 4. (213) 628-2772.

THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES Audience-participation musical for

children and their families, music by Phil Orem, book and lyrics by

Lloyd J. Schwartz and David Wechter. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd.

West, L.A.; Sat., 1 p.m.; thru July 10. (323) 851-7977.

NEW REVIEW GO EXTROPIA

Stage Raw: Comedy is Dead

Photo by Keith Roenke


Imagine how sonically colorless a world without traditional music

would be. Actually, not very, according to the "retro-utopia"

environment of this show, created and originally produced by the

Seattle-based company Collaborator. Though its residents inhabit a

future drained to such grayness that it's not even as cool as The Matrix,

Foster (Sam Littlefield) wakes one morning to discover he's been

slipped a red pill that allows him to "hear too well." Fortunately,

Arial (Alexandra Fulton) has long been dancing to the beat of the, uh,

plastic straw squeaking in and out of the fast-food cup lid, and they

orchestrate all kinds of funk out of frogs croaking, birds chirping and

rocks skipping. While the performers are, as they say in this show,

"sufficient," music director Mark Sparling and musician Miho Kajiwara

deserve credit for making the show a marvel. Relying on sounds from

such "found objects" as a hairbrush, a wooden spoon and a skillet cover

(OK, and of course, the omnipresent MacBooks), they provide live sound

effects for everything from tooth-brushing to factory machine-whirring,

and turn it into music. Extropia optimistically believes in

our innate need to create, and in our ability to scrounge up something

out of nothing when those Macs get taken away, though it is actually a

protest against the yanking of public-arts funding. In that spirit,

this production plans to perform pro bono in various Los Angeles-area

schools. Night performances are followed by live acts such as On Blast,

Bullied by Strings, The Naked and Cherry Boom Boom. King King, 6553

Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru April 18. (323)

960-7721. (Rebecca Haithcoat)

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM Music and lyrics by

Stephen Sondheim, book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart. UCLA Freud

Playhouse, Macgowan Hall, Westwood; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8

p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru March 28. (310) 825-2101.

IN A GARDEN American architect vs. the Culture Minister of Aqaat, by

Howard Korder. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa;

Sat.-Sun., 2 & 7:45 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 7:45 p.m.; thru March 28.

(714) 708-5555.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING Shakespeare's comedy, directed by Michael

Murray. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; Through March 26,

8 p.m.; Sat., March 27, 2 & 8 p.m.; Through April 22, 8 p.m.; Sat.,

May 1, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., May 2, 2 & 7 p.m.; Sun., May 16, 2

& 7 p.m.; Through May 21, 8 p.m.. (818) 240-0910.

THE PRICE Arthur Miller's 1968 play about estranged brothers

disposing of their dead parents' property. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga

Blvd. West, L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 21. (323)

851-7977.

THROUGH THE NIGHT Written and performed by Daniel Beaty. Geffen

Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3

& 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru April 4. (310) 208-5454.

TRYING Joanna McClelland-Glass' story of Francis Biddle, Attorney

General under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Chief Judge of the

Nuremberg trials. Rubicon Theater, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura; Sun., 2

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

thru April 4. (805) 667-2900.

GO THE SUBJECT WAS ROSES Richly textured

performances by Frances Conroy and Martin Sheen provide the best reason

to see Neil Pepe's meticulous staging of Frank D. Gilroy's 1964

chestnut. The story concerns an only son (Brian Geraghty), home from

the Army after World War II. He's now a little more grown-up and able

to recognize the fractures of his parents' marriage. The play, and the

production, are beautifully understated, and if the climactic scene is

less cathartic than it might have been in 1964, that's no reason to

stay away. (Steven Leigh Morris). 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 March 21. (213) 628-2772.

NEW REVIEW TALES OF AN URBAN INDIAN

Stage Raw: Comedy is Dead

Though it bears the imprint of his Native American roots,

Canadian writer-performer Darrell Dennis' quasi-autobiographical solo

show weaves a story that might fit any confused youth, regardless of

background. Played out on a sparsely furnished set (a table and chair

and a few boxes), the piece recounts the coming of age of one Simon

Douglas, who lives with his teenage mother Tina and grandmother on a

reservation, until his mom is wooed by a white guy who spirits them off

to Vancouver. Later, after Tina's politically correct lover berates her

for becoming too assimilated, they return. From there, Dennis' yarn

oscillates between the two locales as it tracks Simon's sexual

awakenings, his adolescent angst, his discovery of the theater, his

descent into alcohol and drug addiction and, finally, his remorse and

redemption. Throughout, Simon is portrayed as coping with identity

issues in an unsympathetic or patronizing Caucasian world. One of the

piece's more effective dramatic highlights involves the death of

Simon's childhood friend Daniel, a young gay driven to suicide by the

cruel taunting of his peers, including Simon himself. Directed by

Herbie Barnes, the production relies on lighting shifts to mark scene

changes and intensify dramatic highlights, with variable success.

Dennis, who depicts all roles, is an animated and insightful

storyteller, but his performance at times seems set to automatic pilot;

also, his juxtaposition of a stand-up comedy approach with sequences of

emotional intensity -- such as his remorse over Daniel's death -- can be

jarring. Autry National Center, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Griffith

Park; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru

March 28. (323) 667-2000. (Deborah Klugman)

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

GO ACCOMPLICE: HOLLYWOOD Part game, part theater,

part tour: It all begins with a phone call disclosing a secret meeting

location. Aided by clues and mysterious cast members strewn throughout

various locations, such as street corners, bars, iconic landmarks and

out-of-the-way spots, the audience traverses the city streets, piecing

together clues of a meticulously crafted plot. (Steven Leigh Morris).

Hollywood Blvd., betwn. Highland & Las Palmas aves., L.A.;

Fri.-Sat., www.accomplicetheshow.com...

ACME SATURDAY NIGHT ACME's flagship sketch show, with celebrity

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

Sat., 7 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

ACME 2NITE New sketches and old favorites, ACME style. Acme Comedy

Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sat., 9 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

ARTEL: Kharmful Charms of Daniil Kharms Here's a fascinating oddity:

A series of short works by a now-almost-forgotten Russian author.

Daniil Kharms was a brilliant, early Soviet-era writer, who, like most

brilliant artists, happened to be decades ahead of his time. He may

also have been a madman, or driven mad -- after all, he died in a

lunatic asylum during Stalin's reign, starving to death during the

siege of Leningrad. Kharms, a founder of the Russian OBERIU Absurdist

movement, wrote about seemingly inconsequential incidents that are

peppered with unbearable cruelty -- or which piquantly showcase the

utterly random pointlessness of existence. A pompous historian attempts

to give a history lecture but is repeatedly interrupted by a colleague

who begins bashing his head with crocker plates. Writers Pushkin and

Gogol commence a literary argument but wind up brawling and cursing

like beasts. Later, a lecherous couple indulges in illegal precoital

love talk, leading directly to their arrest by thugs from the state

militia. A short time later, the leading thug, now alone, coos to

herself using the same love talk for which the couple has been

arrested. Director Olya Petrakova's cheerfully ironic production is

marred by pacing problems -- some skits plod, and the repetitious

nature of some of the items inevitably causes our attention to wane

about halfway through the series. Brown and her cast aim for the tone

of an old Monty Python episode, and, in particular, of the bizarre

Terry Gilliam cartoons, in which characters rip off each other's limbs

or have sex or cheat on their spouses, and then act as if nothing has

happened. Yet, the ultimate lack of context frequently leaves us

frustrated -- which is, of course, more than half of the intention. The

end result is a fascinating tour de force of unusual spectacle and

oddly mean-spirited comedy. The cast's performances are mostly amiable,

if a little flat in tone and one-dimensional characterization, coming

up short on the uniquely Eastern Bloc mix of humor, rage and confusion

seemingly required by Kharms' deceptively simple text. An ARTEL

production (Paul Birchall)., $24-$28. Artworks Performance Space, 6569

Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru March 20. (800)

838-3006.

THE BALLAD OF EMMETT TILL Shirley Jo Finney directs a vivacious

five-person ensemble in Ifa Bayeza's choreopoem based on the life and

death of the 14-year-old black child from Chicago, brutally murdered

during a 1955 working vacation in Mississippi, for the "crime" of

whistling at a white, female shopkeeper. His funeral, and the open

casket demanded by his mother, became a flashpoint for the nascent

civil rights movement. Despite the performances' visceral intensity,

its lingering, emotionally exploitive depiction of the murder helps

boils the history down to a black-and-white sketch of good versus evil.

It provokes righteous self-satisfaction more than our introspection.

Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,

2 p.m.; through April 3. (323) 663-1525. (Steven Leigh Morris).

Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,

2 p.m.; thru April 25. (323) 663-1525.

GO BLOOD AND THUNDER In the Ninth Ward of New

Orleans, Marcus (Keith Arthur Bolden) isn't scared of the newly arrived

hurricane, Katrina. Marcus is an expert on everything -- at least, he

watches a lot of TV -- and vows the water won't rise above 10 feet. But

Marcus' theories and conclusions have always gotten him, brother

Quentin (Tony Williams) and Marcus' girlfriend, Charlie (Candice Afia),

in over their heads with one bad hustling scheme after another. Still,

Marcus is convinced he's the brains of the group, even if he has to

badger Quentin and Charlie until they agree. When Quentin limps in,

sopping wet, still wearing his orange prison jumpsuit with a bullet

hole in his thigh, the two siblings have a violent score to settle.

Terence Anthony's taut one-act drama is effective agony. Two character

twists may not add up, but while the audience perches practically in

the living room of Jorge I. Velasquez's realistic, dingy set, with the

rain hammering down, the tension is as thick as the storm clouds we

imagine overhead. Solid performances keep the spell going, particularly

by Afia as the strong-willed girlfriend trying to break free of Marcus'

emotional abuse. Sara Wagner directs. (Amy Nicholson). Moving Arts,

1822 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March

28. (323) 666-3259.

BLOOD WEDDING Federico Garcia Lorca's 1932 tragedy. Bilingual

Foundation of Arts, 421 N. Avenue 19, L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru

April 11. (323) 225-4044.

BOB BAKER MARIONETT THEATER'S FIESTA First of five classic Bob Baker

productions in a yearlong celebration of the marionette theater's 50th

anniversary. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., L.A.;

Tues.-Fri., 10:30 a.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru April 11,

www.bobbakermarionettes.com. (213) 250-9995.

THE BOB BENDICK PODCAST Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Mon., 5:15 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

BROAD COMEDY "Six irreverent and hilarious, multi-talented women,

known for high-energy musical numbers, left-wing politics, women's

issues, and R-rated shenanigans about, well, women's shenanigans.".

Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru

March 25. (323) 525-0202.

CHICO'S ANGELS: PRETTY CHICAS ALL IN A ROW The dragtastic Angels go

undercover as beauty pageant contestants. Cavern Club Theater at Casita

del Campo, 1920 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; Thurs., Sun., 8 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 9

p.m.; thru April 18. (323) 969-2530.

CLOUD NINE Distinguished by cross-gender casting, Caryl Churchill's

1979 play starts as a penetrating lampoon of gender and class

stereotypes among upper-class Brits in 1880 colonialist Africa.

(Evoking African wildlife, designer Christine Ownby's sound furnishes a

droll prologue in an otherwise nondescript production design.) Stuffy

and myopic, Clive (Joyanna Crouse) holds rigid ideas about the place of

women and blacks, so he's oblivious to his son Edward's (Lindsay Evans)

effeminacy, his servant's (Chad Evans) simmering rage, and his wife,

Betty's (Thomas Colby) obsession with their libertine houseguest (Derek

Long). In Act 2, the time frame shifts to the 1970s; social and sexual

repression remain the themes, but the web of events ensnaring the

contemporary characters, while still farcical, becomes more

recognizably real. Carnal shenanigans -- and the emotional chaos that

accompanies them -- proliferate. These involve Betty and her children,

Edward and Victoria -- held over from Act I. (Though 100 years have

elapsed, the trio has only aged 25.) Directed by Colby and Lisa Coombs,

the production's opening half is shrill, flat and lacking crispness,

with only Colby comically consistent as the feather-brained Betty. But

the show improves considerably when recalibrated to the present. The

performers have switched roles. Though miscast as Clive, Crouse springs

to life as a lesbian enamored of a married woman. Lindsay Evans

delivers a nuanced portrayal of an unhappy wife at a crossroads. Chad

Evans as the vulnerable grown-up Edward, and Dorrie Braun as his lonely

mother, are also effective. (Deborah Klugman). Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La

Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 28. (323)

939-9220.

COMEDY DEATH-RAY $5. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Tues., 8:30 p.m.. (323) 908-8702.

CONTROL ME/PARENTS WHO LOVE TOO MUCH Playwright Michael Sargent (Hollywood Burning, The Projectionist)

has an eye for oddballs. Merciless toward the delusional, and wary of

the Man, he spins his suspicions into outlandish satire. These two

world-premiere one-acts, loudly directed by Chris Covics, both scream

"Beware!" The first, "Parents Who Love Too Much," starts quietly as the

nine-person ensemble slips one by one into the theater lobby and sets

up chairs for their eponymous support group. Their name is a misnomer,

or really a self-mollifying feint -- each of the parents is there

(often ordered by the court) because the children they adore have met

with bad ends. Says one, she'd rather let her kid live with the

aborigines than visit her ex on the weekend -- not that she knows where

her disappeared daughter is, of course. The gang swaps stories, fights

break out, their therapist, Cherokee (Tina Preston), fights to be

heard, and it all feels aimlessly outr. "Control Me," the

longer of the two, is set in a '90s-era battered Manhattan radio studio

(Kovics' set design stretches asbestos panels across the stage,

recalling the opening credits of Star Wars). Long John Silver

(Bruce Katzman) and charm-school queen Cherry Rogers (Maria O'Brien)

broadcast shows about Waco and Area 51 to the after-midnight

conspirators and crackpots hovering for the inside scoop. The co-hosts

agree with guests, who belt out, "The CIA, FBI and Mob are all the

same!" Tonight, they have as guests two supposed CIA sex slaves

(Jaqueline Wright and Andrew McReynolds), one hanger-on (Dan Oliverio)

and an attention-seeking psychologist (Suzanne Elizabeth Fletcher), who

would validate anyone except her offstage overweight daughter, who's

locked herself in the studio bathroom. Again, Sargent dishes out bitter

one-liners and a glimpse of the need to feel special for anything. Like

his characters, Sargent is full of wild tales, but he needs a more

compelling reason for us to hear them. There's a dark tide swelling

beneath these two pieces, and on the surface, some very fine acting.

The result, though, feels as shapeless as the surf crashing onto the

rocks. (Amy Nicholson). Unknown Theater, 1110 N. Seward St., L.A.;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru March 27. (323) 466-7781.

CUBA AND HIS TEDDY BEAR The Actors Collective presents Reinaldo

Povod's story of a single dad on the mean streets of the Lower East

Side., (323) 463-4639. The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.;

Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru April 4. (323) 465-0383.

DOLORES/NORTH OF PROVIDENCE SFS Theatre Company presents Edward

Allan Baker's sibling plays. Stephanie Feury Studio Theater, 5636

Melrose Ave., L.A.; Wed., Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 20. (323)

463-7378.

GO THE EVENT/THE INTERVIEW John Clancy's one-person narrative The Event, and Lawrence Bridges' unscripted world premiere The Interview. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Thurs..; thru March 25, www.needtheater.org...

GO FORGIVENESS What happens to love when the

specter of childhood sexual abuse rears its ugly head?

Soon-to-be-married Jill (Emily Bergl) and Ben (Peter Smith) are driving

to visit Jill's dad, Sam (Morlan Higgins), and stepmom, Pat (Lee

Garlington), when Jill breaks it to Ben that her father raped her when

she was 13. Twenty years have passed. A recovered alcoholic who served

time for his crime, Sam -- now a born-again Christian -- actively

struggles for redemption. Jill has forgiven him, but Ben, newly

apprised, is horrified and repulsed. Prodded by Jill's anxious scrutiny

-- will this new knowledge change his feelings for her? -- Ben steadily

becomes angrier and more confused. Playwright David Sculner's aptly

titled play meaningfully examines the various ties that bind us to our

loved ones, as well as the snags and hurdles to be mended and overcome

if these bonds are to remain secure. Directed by Matt Shakman, the

production's weakest element appears at the beginning in the

interchange between Jill and Ben, which reverberates with little more

persuasiveness than a polished staged reading; also, sans lighting or

sound effects, it's difficult for the performers to sustain the

illusion of driving. Once the couple arrives at its destination,

however, the drama becomes more compelling, as the dynamics of Sam and

Pat's marriage come into play; the presence of Jill's adolescent

stepsister (Kendall Toole) ups the ante for everyone. (Deborah

Klugman). Black Dahlia Theatre, 5453 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun.,

8 p.m.; thru March 28. (800) 838-3006.

NEW REVIEW GO GROUNDLINGS SHOWCASE SHOWDOWN

Stage Raw: Comedy is Dead

Photo by Shawn Bishop

In this sprightly, very funny revue, The Groundlings once again show

why they are L.A.'s go-to company for sketch comedy. Of course, the

sketches, in director Mikey Day's crisply paced, surgically focused

production, hew to a number of rules that are familiar by now to

Groundlings fans. One rule: First dates will never turn out well -- such

as the one in which a woman (Lisa Schurga) self-sabotages a promising

romance by making a series of appallingly unsuitable, compulsive

personal revelations, or the one in which a hilariously dorky pair of

teens on prom night (Jim Rash and Annie Sertich) paw and stumble their

way through their loss of virginity. Another rule is that folks with

facial hair are invariably ripe for ridicule, be it the creepy,

whiskery pair of recovered addicts (Nat Faxon and Steve Little)

delivering a not-entirely-convincing testimonial at a rehab clinic, or

the woefully white bread, mustachioed aspiring dancers auditioning

ineptly for a spot on an MTV show. Judging from this outing, the

company's sensibility seems to be evolving into slightly edgier

terrain, with characters who sometimes appear darker and more nuanced

than we've seen before. The ensemble work is tight and often brutally

funny -- but particular standouts include some brilliantly versatile

turns from Steve Little, as a monstrous office worker with a gluttonous

appetite for break room animal crackers, from Annie Sertich, as the

world's least coherent restaurant waitress, and from the

ever-astonishing Jim Cashman, assaying a variety of roles, including

half of a screechingly dysfunctional gay couple, to a dippy dude trying

to create a "flash mob" video of one. Director Day commendably cuts the

generally uneven "audience participation" sketches that are frequently

a Groundlings show downfall. Groundlings Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave.,

L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 10 p.m.; thru April 24. (323)

934-4747. (Paul Birchall)

HARAM IRAN Jay Paul Deratany's dramatization of the real-life trial

and execution of two teenagers convicted of being gay in Iran in 2005.

Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 4. (323) 957-1884. See

Theater feature

HARLOW GOLD: EAST "Sexy, witty and gritty" cabaret created by

choreographers Dominic Carbone and Tracy Phillips., $10-$25. The

Bordello, 901 E. First St., L.A.; Sun., 10 p.m.. (213) 687-3766.

THE HAPPY HAPPY SHOW April Hava Shenkman hosts this anything-goes

comedy cabaret., free. El Cid, 4212 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m..

(323) 668-0318.

NEW REVIEW HOT PANTS, COLD FEET This

compendium of sketches, written and performed by Will Matthews and

Cassandra Smith, with direction by Leonora Gershman, zeros in on the

subject of marriage, from the disastrous proposal to the hyperkinetic

ring-bearer on a sugar high. The show combines live action with videos,

enabling the actors to catch their breaths between sketches, and

eliminate dead time. Video passages include a proposal in which

attempts to create a romantic mood are punctured by nosebleeds and

projectile vomiting, and an audition tape by a corn-ball, down-market

wedding band. Other sketches focus on the difficulties of making a

seating plan for the wedding dinner, a confrontational visit to a

wedding boutique with Matthews as the bitchy proprietress and

difficulties with rival caterers. Hip and zippy one-liners fly thick

and fast, and a very friendly audience was kept in stitches. (It

appeared that on the night I attended, many of those in the audience

were participants in the filmed sequences.) It's a short program at

about 30 minutes, but the admission price includes a full evening of

performances by various sketch comedy and improvisational groups. I.O.

West, 5366 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; Tues., 8 p.m.; thru April 20.

(323) 962-7560. (Neal Weaver)

GO INFLUENCE The brief, scandal-ridden tenure of

Paul Wolfowitz as the director of the World Bank inspired this, Shem

Bitterman's third play in his Iraq War trilogy, now having its premiere

production. Bitterman turns a sharp, savvy, ferociously satirical eye

on the subject of political corruption and lethal infighting in

Washington. Young, liberal, idealistic Midwesterner Branden (Ian

Lockhart) warily accepts a position at the World Bank, despite the fact

that its Director (Alan Rosenberg) is regarded as the architect of the

Iraq War. Branden's girlfriend Sally (Kate Siegel), a fanatical

liberal, regards the Director as the devil incarnate, but she's

co-opted when the Director finds funding for a project dear to her

heart: providing micro-funding for economic development in poor

countries. Branden soon finds himself caught in a no-win situation

between the charming but ruthless Director, and the equally ruthless

reformer, Rolf (Christopher Curry), who's seeking to depose him. Heads

roll. Director Steve Zuckerman provides an elegant, funny dissection of

the dangerous political currents. An original score by Roger Bellon

coolly defuses the melodrama, and the accomplished cast deftly

underlines the proliferating ironies. Rosenberg shines as the wily but

charming Director, and Jeff McLaughlin's handsome set features familiar

Washington landmarks. (Neal Weaver). Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N.

Vermont Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 p.m.; thru April 4...

KEEP IT CLEAN Comedy Hosted by JC Coccoli., free. 1739 Public House,

1739 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Mon., 9:30 p.m.. (323) 663-1739.

KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN Break-Thru Theatre Company presents the

Kander and Ebb musical. Hudson Backstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica

Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 11. (323)

960-5774.

GO LIFE COULD BE A DREAM This affectionate doo-wop jukebox musical by writer-director Roger Bean (The Marvelous Wonderettes),

with clever choreography by Lee Martino, handsome set by Tom Buderwitz,

and spectacular lighting by Luke Moyer, is designed to incorporate hit

songs of the 1960s, ranging from the goofy "Sh Boom" and "Rama Lama

Ding Dong" to anthems like "Earth Angel," "Unchained Melody," "The

Great Pretender," and "The Glory of Love." In small-town Springfield,

the local radio station is sponsoring a rock-and-roll contest, and

go-getter Denny (Daniel Tatar) is convinced he can win and become a

star. He enlists his klutzy, nerdish, endearing friend Eugene (Jim

Holdridge) and church-choir singer Wally (Ryan Castellino) to join him.

Needing a sponsor to provide the $50 entrance fee for the contest, they

apply to the proprietor of the local auto chain. He sends his top

mechanic, handsome, hunky Skip (Doug Carpenter), and his pretty

daughter Lois (Jessica Keenan Wynn), to audition the guys, and by the

end they're incorporated in the new group, Denny and the Dreamers. This

is pure fluff, and the terrific ensemble makes every note count in this

rousing good-time musical. (Neal Weaver). Hudson Mainstage Theatre,

6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8

p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 25. (323) 960-4412.

Li'l Abner Musical version of the Al Capp comic strip, book by Norman

Panama and Melvin Frank, music by Gene De Paul, lyrics by Johnny

Mercer. Presented by Kentwood Players. Westchester Playhouse, 8301

Hindry Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 17.

(310) 645-5156.

LOST MOON RADIO Needtheater's original sketches, songs and

"metaphysical ramblings.". Fais Do-Do, 5257 W. Adams Blvd., L.A.; Fri.,

March 19, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., March 27, 8:30 p.m.; Thurs., April 1, 8:30

p.m.. (800) 838-3006.

THE LOST TOMB OF KING SUNDAY All-new sketch and improv, directed by

Karen Maruyama. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30

p.m.. (323) 934-9700.

Love You! Lily Ann's musical spoof of the Hollywood nightclub

lifestyle. Pan Andreas Theater, 5125 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru March 28, www.lilyannsloveyou.com. (323)

284-7982.

MEETING OF MINDS If you don't remember who Steve Allen was, here's a

primer: The bespectacled writer, radio personality, TV talk and game

show host (he was the first Tonight Show host), musician and

composer ("This Could Be the Start of Something Big") was ahead of his

time -- Bill Maher, David Letterman, Johnny Carson and David Frost

rolled into one. He asked guests hard questions, was book-smart,

inimitably witty and took chances. One chance that paid off and set a

precedent for intelligent TV (now there's an oxymoron) was his PBS show

Meeting of Minds, which consisted of teleplays featuring

roundtable "interviews" with historical figures such as Cleopatra,

Teddy Roosevelt, Attila the Hun and Plato. The show ran from 1977 to

1981 and became hugely popular as an entertaining and riveting way to

learn about history. Now, you can witness live performances of Allen's

actual scripts in a revival of the original shows. Steve Allen Theater,

at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Third

Sunday of every month, 7 p.m.. (323) 666-4268.

M.O.I.S.T.! Mariann Aalda and Iona Morris are MILF-y inspirational

sexperts, heading (so to speak) the Multiple Orgasm Initiative for

Sexual Transformation. Hayworth, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 7

p.m.; thru March 28. (213) 389-9860.

PLAYING JORDAN Goldman David and Andy Neiman's story of extortion

via bar mitzvah. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8

p.m.; thru April 23. (323) 422-6361.

GO POINT BREAK LIVE! Jaime Keeling's merciless

skewering of the 1991 hyper-action flick starring Keanu Reeves and Gary

Busey is loaded with laughs, as well as surprises, like picking an

audience member to play Reeves' role of Special Agent Johnny Utah. It's

damn good fun, cleverly staged by directors Eve Hars, Thomas Blake and

George Spielvogel. (LE3). Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.;

Fri., 8:30 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.. (866) 811-4111.

PUPPETRY OF THE PENIS: THE ANCIENT AUSTRALIAN ART OF GENITAL ORIGAMI

Extra-bendy male performers twist their private parts into shocking

works of art la balloon animals. Warning: Not for kids,

and probably not for most adults., $45-$39. Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa

Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 7 &

9:30 p.m.; Sun., 5 & 7:30 p.m.; thru March 28...

NEW REVIEW GO ROCK 'N RIDICULE The country

might be flat broke 'n broken, but we have an embarrassment of riches

in material for political and social satire, which this new show by

Acme Comedy Theatre cleverly demonstrates. Howard Bennett and the four

member Rock N' Ridicule Band are showstoppers, spinning off jazz. Blues

and R&B tunes with the utmost precision, and also providing some

well-timed sound effects. Nicholas Zill's book and lyrics are equally

impressive, as is the nine-member cast who prove themselves remarkably

versatile under Robert Otey's direction. With few exceptions, the 24

skits are very funny, mixing song and dance routines that are

humorously blended with just the right mix of physical comedy. No

sacred cows here: El Presidente takes it on the chin more than a few

times. "We Will Barack You" (sung to the tune of Queen's "We Will Rock

You"), is a hilarious ditty performed by the entire company, while in

"Barack A Bye Baby," the Commander In-Chief (a hilarious Derek Reid,

who also does a great take on Tiger Woods), is smitten with insomnia

and resorts to some unusual remedies. Natascha Corrigan is a hoot in

several turns as Sarah Palin, the funniest being a golf lesson she gets

from Reid. Louie Sadd steals the show with his clueless stare,

eyes-blinking, language-contorting take on (almost) everybody's

favorite foil and punch line, George W. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N.

LaBrea Ave., Los Angeles; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru April 25. (323) 525-0202.

(Lovell Estell III)

THE ROSE BOWL QUEENS World-premiere bowling alley musical by Barbara

Hart and Cheryl Foote Gimbel. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd.,

L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 11,

www.plays411.com/queens. (323) 960-7712.

SALAM SHALOM Saleem's story of a Palestinian Ph.D. candidate housed

with an Israeli graduate student at UCLA. Greenway Court Theater, 544

N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru

April 16, SalamShalomThePlay.com. (323) 655-7679. See Theater feature

NEW REVIEW GO SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM

Stage Raw: Comedy is Dead

Stephen Sondheim has graced the musical theater landscape

with wry urbanity for over 50 years. This 1976 revue of the composer

and lyricist's work will delight devotees and features songs from a

vast cross-section of his work, some familiar and some obscure, all

rendered in fine fashion. Brian Shipper has designed an understated set

consisting of a large, framed black-and-white photo of a Broadway

venue, flanked by bar stools and two panels displaying a collage of

smaller pictures of the Great White Way. Coupled with this small

venue's intimacy, it creates a cabaret-style atmosphere that accents

many of the songs' delicacies and of the composer's devilishly witty

lyrics. Director Dane Whitlock has assembled a splendid quintet of

performers (Jenny Ashman, Jennifer Blake, Joe Donohoe, Morgan Duke,

Nick Sarando), who sing and dance their way through 30 of Sondheim's

songs without one dropped note, sometimes prefacing the selections with

interesting historical information about the productions. Also featured

is music by Leonard Bernstein, Mary Rodgers, Richard Rodgers and Julie

Styne, all of whom Sondheim collaborated with on many shows. (The songs

are drawn from West Side Story, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, Gypsy, Company, Sweeney Todd and others, as well as lesser-known productions like The Seven Percent Solution and Evening Primrose.

Musical Director Richard Berent provides stellar accompaniment on the

piano. Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.,

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through April 17. (323) 525-0661.

(Lovell Estell III)

SIT 'N' SPIN Storytelling by Jill Soloway, Maggie Rowe, Jaclyn Lafer

and assorted guests of varying hilarity; www.sitnspin.org., free.

COMEDY CENTRAL STAGE, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Every other

Thursday, 8 p.m., THis week (March 18): Eddie Pepitone, Marc Evan

Jackson, David Chrisman, Melinda Hill, Jane Brucker and a special

musical guest.. (323) 960-5519.

SLAUGHTER CITY There's a lot of anger onstage in poet-playwright

Naomi Wallace's 1995 agitprop. Certainly the union meatpackers who work

in the play's foul sausage factory -- Sarah Krainin's viscera-strewn,

blood-spattered set looks like it hasn't been cleaned since the

publication of The Jungle -- are bitter, mainly at the

dithering plant manager, Baquin (Bart Petty), with whom they're

deadlocked in stalled contract negotiations. And black floor supervisor

Tuck (Brent Jennings) is no less happy with the condescending

indignities heaped on him by a racist, white management. Not all the

grievances are job-related. Veteran gutter Roach (Christina Ogunade)

has rage and intimacy issues stemming from a childhood molestation. And

her illiterate, would-be suitor, Brandon (Christopher Emerson), still

bears the raw, psychic scars from an extreme act of employer violence

dating from his youth. Throw in anti-Semitism, homophobia and gender

discrimination, add several musical numbers (courtesy of composer

Andrew Ingkavet) and a dose of comic relief, and you'd have enough plot

material for 10 such shows. But Wallace then adds the parallel

storyline of the otherworldly, ambisexual scab, Cod (Noelle Messier),

his/her love for Roach's gal pal, Maggot (Sarah Boughton), and hate for

the mysterious, Mephistophelian Sausage Man (Alexander Wells), and the

play's message -- along with its indignation -- all but disappears in

the resulting fog of metaphors. Director Barbara Kallir and a talented

ensemble's efforts to bring clarity to the chaos are only occasionally

rewarded. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 7 p.m.; Mon., 8 p.m.; through March 15. (Bill Raden). Son of

Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru

March 21...

SPIKE HEELS Theresa Rebeck's contemporary comedy of manners. Two

Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru

March 27, www.theatermania.com. (818) 392-7526.

NEW REVIEW THE STORY OF MY LIFE Neil Bartram

and Brian Hill's nostalgic musical about two childhood best friends,

Alvin (Chad Borden) and Thomas (Robert J. Townsend), is set among

packed bookshelves stretching nearly 15 feet high. They represent both

the bookstore where Alvin spent his entire life and the memories the

two boys made together -- each typed, bound and filed away. On one

occasion, Alvin urged Thomas to pick a memory and write it down; he

did, and promptly left Alvin behind in their small, rural town for

big-city fame. Now, Thomas is back in the bookstore/memory bank and

pressed to write Alvin's eulogy, a grim task continually derailed by

his former best friend's sunny ghost, who flits around forgivingly to

remind him of moments that mattered -- touchstones like snow angels,

butterflies and It's a Wonderful Life that were for them

mutual obsessions and are for us heavy-handed metaphors. Directed by

Nick DeGruccio, the likable production never gels; like the feckless

Thomas, it never commits. Even post-mortem, Alvin is so selflessly

sweet that their seismic tensions register as inconsequential tremors.

A few intense cheek kisses ask, "Were the lifelong bachelors in love

love?" -- a question this staging is unsure how to answer. Musical

director Michael Paternostro guides the duo through an amiable evening

of songs, the standouts being "1876" (Thomas' ode to his influence,

Mark Twain), and "People Carry On" (Alvin's farewell to his dead

mother's bathrobe and to the tangibles that slowly usurp the memories

they represent, and the people who created them -- not unlike the books

of Tom Buderwitz's set.) Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Hollywood:

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 4. havoktheatre.com. (Amy

Nicholson)

STREEP TEASE Meryl Streep monologues performed by dudes. BANG, 457 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Sat..; thru April 24. (323) 653-6886.

THAT HOOTCHIE Write Act Repertory presents Shoshannah's one-woman

show about a notorious party girl. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St.,

L.A.; Mon.-Wed., 8 p.m.; thru March 31. (323) 469-3113.

3RD DEGREE BURN Sketch comedy, courtesy Write Act Repertory. Write

Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.; Sun., March 21, 7 p.m.; Sun., May 2,

7 p.m., www.writeactrep.org. (323) 469-3113.

THE TOMORROW SHOW Late-night variety show created by Craig Anton,

Ron Lynch and Brendon Small. Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for

Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Sat., midnight. (323)

960-7785.

GO THE UNEXPECTED MAN As in Yasmina Reza's mid-'90s hit Art,

her immediate follow-up play also features characters in a strained --

and perhaps losing -- battle to align themselves in perfect

counterbalance with art. However, here, rather than three egos

colliding in a comedically vitriolic clash of egos, Reza's characters,

in pensive retrospection of a lifetime spent deriding sentimentality,

move through an elegantly painful self-analysis that reveals them each

to be longing for some sentimental feelings. These two middle-aged

people, a man and a woman (the excellent Ronald Hunter and Judy Jean

Berns), ride a train from Paris to Frankfurt sitting across the aisle

from each other; the man a famous writer in the twilight of his career,

the woman an avid consumer of his books. They first acknowledge each

other in their respective imaginations before eventually speaking to

each other directly. Even when in conversation, it is beautifully

unclear (deftly shaped by director David Robinson), whether their

exchange is actually occurring just in their minds. Chrystal Lee's set

emphasizes the distinctive isolation of each world, and the uncredited

montage of images that roll by slowly on two upstage screens offers

subtle but powerful punctuation to the play's themes. (Luis Reyes).

Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 3 p.m.; Fri.-Sat.,

8 p.m.; thru March 28. (323) 960-7779.

WHAT'S UP, TIGER LILY? Maria Bamford and Melinda Hill bring

excellent standups every week -- really, like Blaine Capatch, Patton

Oswalt, Matt Besser -- you get the idea., free. Hollywood Studio Bar

& Grill, 6122 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Mon., 8 p.m.. (323) 466-9917.

GO WIT Playwright Margaret Edson won the Pulitzer

Prize for this intense drama about an English poetry professor who must

wrestle with her painful and imminent death. Directed by Marianne

Savell, Nan McNamara delivers a peerless performance as Vivian Bearing,

a 50-year-old expert on the poetry of John Donne, who unexpectedly

finds herself diagnosed with the fourth and final stage of metastatic

ovarian cancer. Bearing's doctor (Phil Crowley) and his research

assistant (Daniel J. Roberts) are scientists first, with concern for

their patients' comfort being an afterthought. So they have no

compunction about insisting that Bearing undertake a full regimen of

powerful chemotherapy in order to document its physiological effects on

the human body. Edson's commentary on American medical practice,

however salient, merely lays the groundwork for the play's most

compelling and universal theme: the human struggle not only with

mortality's looming oblivion but with the unfamiliar and sometimes

humiliating infirmity that precedes it. That Bearing's lifelong subject

of scholarly study -- the poet Donne -- was himself consumed by this

topic adds another involving layer to the brew. Tough, unsentimental,

yet increasingly vulnerable, McNamara's understated duelist-with-death

is pitch-perfect. She's supported across the board by a worthy

ensemble. Tawny Mertes is especially winning as the kind young nurse

whose humanity imparts the play's final message. (Deborah Klugman).

Crossley Terrace Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru March 28. (323) 462-8460.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS

BAGELS Art Shulman's senior romance. Secret Rose Theater, 11246

Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru

March 21, www.secretrose.com. (877) 620-7673.

BEIRUT Alan Bowne's play about "love in the plague years.".

Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Tues., 8 p.m.;

thru March 23. (818) 990-2324.

BROADS! At retirement community Millennium Manor, four mature and

feisty gals have formed a singing group called the Broads, and perform

in an annual variety show -- which we're seeing. Recently widowed

Elaine (June Gable) founded the group, along with her plump,

nearsighted sister, Myra (Barbara Niles), who interrupts the show to

promote her gay songwriter son. Puerto Rican live-wire Nilda (Ivonne

Coll) sashays around in a Carmen Miranda outfit, complete with towering

fruit-bowl headdress, and blond, buxom Louise (Leslie Easterbrook)

revels in the wonders wrought by her Botox and plastic surgery. The

book, by Jennie Fahn, regales us with often corny old-age jokes, and

Joe Symon's songs address subjects supposedly dear to stereotypical

seniors: Social Security, Early Bird Specials, etc. Providing a wisp of

a plot and a stab at realism, Louise announces, mid-show, that this is

her last performance: She must leave the manor because her savings have

run out. But this is musical comedy, so the problem is immediately

solved. Jules Aaron offers stylish direction, with Kay Cole's clever

choreography. Stephen Gifford's set is handsome, and Shon LeBlanc

provides the glittery, glitzy costumes. It's the four talented women,

however, who provide the chief attraction, with their accomplished

performances. (Neal Weaver). El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd.,

North Hollywood; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru

April 4. (818) 508-4200.

GO COUSIN BETTE Drawn from Balzac's La Comédie

humaine, playwright Jeffrey Hatcher's adaptation revolves around a

cunning woman's campaign to avenge herself on the rich relatives who

have callously dismissed her as shabby and unimportant. Sheltered, and

fed with scraps of food off her pretty cousin's plate, poor-relation

Bette Fischer (Nike Doukas) grows up nurturing her hate, eventually

evolving into a plain-faced spinster who is everybody's confidante but

nobody's friend. Brilliantly Machiavellian, Bette's fastidious plot to

destroy the family involves arranging a liaison between her attractive

neighbor and abused wife, Valerie (Jen Dede), and Hector (John Prosky),

the lecherous and profligate husband of her virtuous cousin, Adeline

(Emily Chase ). Bette also acquires wealth (and thus power) by

promoting the work of a young Polish sculptor, Steinbock (Daniel Bess),

with whom she's fallen in love -- unfortunately for her, since he ends

up betrothed to Adeline's daughter, Hortense (Kellie Matteson).

Directed by Jeanie Hackett, the production purposefully underscores the

source material's melodramatic elements -- for example, heightening the

narrative's key points with the melancholy refrains of Chopin. At least

one key performance is overladen with shtick, and some fine-tuning of

others is in order. Still, Doukas is terrific, delivering a consummate

performance that arouses, for her long-suffering deceitful character,

pity, disdain -- and admiration. Alongside the story's bathos is its

salient reminder of what cruelty, indifference and injustice can do to

the human spirit. (Deborah Klugman). Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim

Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru

March 28. (818) 506-5436.

DA Hugh Leonard's story of a Londoner haunted by his father's ghost.

Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 17. (626) 256-3809.

THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON The Berubian Company interprets Pink Floyd.

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

p.m.; thru March 28. (323) 850-7827.

DIALOGUE BETWEEN A PROSTITTUE AND HER CLIENT Written by Dacia

Maraini. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 18. (866) 811-4111.

DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS This slight musical comedy by composer-lyricist

David Yazbek and playwright Jeffrey Lane closely follows the 1988

movie, filled with sight gags and overwrought farce in this story of a

pair of con men who compete for marks in the French Riviera. A few

amusing numbers show off the talents of Chip Phillips as the

patter-singing, posh, older swindler, and Matt Wolpe as the crude

pop-singing young hustler. Their moments together bring to the stage

instant life, even through the goofiest of comic bits. Director Richard

Israel, who normally turns small theaters and ensembles into huge,

polished productions, fares less well here. Most damaging to the

production is that none of the supporting cast is sufficiently skilled

at singing or dancing. Only Michael Manuel, as the chief of police,

rises above his limited hoofing/crooning ability with his charm. Set

designers Dove Huntley and Rob Corn create some magic with the Noho

Arts Center's balconies. This is an unusually large 99-seat acting

space -- in fact, some well-choreographed scene changes provide some of

the evening's more entertaining moments. (Tom Provenzano). NoHo Arts

Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,

3 p.m.; thru March 21. (818) 508-7101.

THE DIVINERS The Production Company presents Jim Leonard Jr.'s

Depression-era Bible Belt fable. Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd.,

Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 10,

www.theprodco.com. (310) 869-7546.

DON JUAN DISPENSO A feminist revision of the Don Juan legend might

have struck a resounding chord on the sexual front of 40 years ago. But

in the age of Hillary Clinton and Lady Gaga, director-playwright Tony

Tanner's earthy, anachronistic take on literature's most unregenerate

rake seems like so much preaching to the choir. Don Juan (Ahmad Enani)

is a sociopathic, silver-tongued beguiler of women, resorting to any

ruse to sexually dominate and then callously dispose of any moment's

object of desire. These include his stepsister, Constanza (Gina

Manziello), his university professor, Dona Ana (Julie Evans), a pair of

decadent Americans from Omaha (Debra "D.J." Harner and Scott Ryden) and

their young daughter (Sarah Casolaro). Ignoring the protests of his

horrified valet -- and the play's conscience -- Sam (Kevin Scott

Allen), Juan continues his predations until his moral and physical

dissipation bring ironic comeuppance in prison, where survival means

submitting as the female in matters sexual. While the (uncredited)

set's dominant four-poster bed becomes a de facto stage within the

stage, the bedroom-as-theater metaphor only underscores the

production's profoundly unerotic ambience. If the smoky-eyed Enani

rarely stokes the Don's legendary libido with sufficient fire, blame

Tanner; he transposes his characters to modern times (a period nicely

suggested in designer Daniel Mahler's '20s gowns) without updating his

antique, baroque archetypes with psychological nuances contemporary to

his theme. The result is that the Don's rascally, seductive charms,

along with the play's, simply go missing in action. (Bill Raden).

Missing Piece Theatre, 2811 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; Sun., 3 p.m.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 4. (800) 838-3006.

HELL HATH NO FURY Surprise party goes awry when the ladies discover

they're all seeing the same guy. Written and directed by Ben Gillman,

presented by Above the Curve Theatre. Actors Workout Studio, 4735

Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.;

thru March 21. (310) 486-0051.

GO JUST IMAGINE The fun of seeing and hearing Tim

Piper's great John Lennon impersonation in an intimate setting with an

outstanding band, under Greg Piper musical direction, is just

undeniable. The evening, which includes a large portion of the Beatles

catalogue followed by Lennon's solo work, never misses a beat or lick

with Piper's perfectly pitched and accented voice and expert

instrumentation: Don Butler's hot guitar, Morley Bartnoff's keyboard

and Don Poncher's drums. The guys scruffily kowtow to Lennon's lead,

creating the perfect illusion of superstar power. Jonathan Zenz's sound

design achieves a powerful volume without killing our ears in the small

Noho Arts Center space. Lighting by Luke Moyer along with Tim Piper's

video images complete the double fantasy of Lennon before and after

Yoko. The musical portion is so enjoyable, under the overall eye of

director Steve Altman, that we hopefully forget the lame one-man play

that slips between the songs. Perhaps the plan is to pull Lennon off

his lofty saint-like perch, but the result of a plodding timeline

narrative bio leaves Lennon sounding dull and whiney, until the music

returns him to his proper place. (Tom Provenzano). Platinum Live, 11345

Ventura Blvd., Studio City; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.. (866)

811-4111.

NEW REVIEW GO LIBERTY INN

Stage Raw: Comedy is Dead

Photo by John Demita

Carlo Goldoni's La Locandiera, first produced in

Venice circa 1750, has held the stage sporadically ever since,

providing a vehicle for such theatrical divas as Eleonora Duse. Now

it's been made into a musical, with book and lyrics by Dakin Matthews

and music by B.T. Ryback. Matthews emphasizes a feminist slant, and

transfers the action to Liberty, N.Y., in 1787. Mirandolina (Deborah

May), the clever, independent proprietor of the Liberty Inn, inspires

amorous feelings in her guests, including a rich English count (John

Combs) and a vain, impecunious French marquis (John DeMita). She humors

her lovesick swains for the sake of business, but a woman-hating

Hessian captain (Norman Snow) offers a challenge, so she sets out to

enchant him. Her flirtation is so successful that her loyal servant

Faber (Bill Mendieta) must rescue her from the violently enamored

captain. Part of the fun is, ironically, the plot's predictability. The

songs, with Matthews' playfully rhyming lyrics, are more clever than

memorable, but director Anne McNaughton stages the piece con brio, and

the cast (including Charlotte DiGregorio and Mark Doerr) plays it with

zest, aided by Dean Cameron's lavish colonial costumes and classically

simple set. NewPlace Studio Theatre, 10950 Peach Grove St., North

Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m. (no perfs Easter

weekend); thru April 25. Produced by Andak Stage Company. (866)

811-4111 or Andak.org (Neal Weaver)

NEW REVIEW MEN OF TORTUGA Jason Wells'

behind-the-scenes examination of a corporate assassination plot takes

us into the executive suite (nicely detailed by set designer Sara Ryung

Clement), where power brokers Jeff King (Alan Brooks) and Tom Avery

(William Salyers) discuss with hired gun Taggart (Robert Pescovitz) the

trajectory of a proposed bullet through a glass window, in

forensics-level specifics. As their discussion, monitored by senior

group member Kit Maxwell (Dana J. Kelly Jr.), continues, we come to

learn of a business deal gone sour and of a revenge plot to rectify it.

The spanner in the works, however, is Kit's decision to take young

idealist Allan Fletcher (Michael Matthys) under his wing. The

Bourne-style plot by this corporate cabal that begins promisingly in medias res

at the top of the show unfortunately doesn't pay off as expected.

Alexis Chamow's direction is partially responsible, as it lacks the

dynamism and menacing energy necessary to create suspense, but Wells'

writing, especially in the second scene, is equally weighed down by

stretches of dialogue that stagnate in a discussion of ideas instead of

a dramatic execution of them. The cast is capable, and Doug Newell's Mission Impossible-style

music is a nice touch, but neither can rescue the interest of the

audience, which ends up as the plot's true victim. Carrie Hamilton

Theatre at the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru March 28. (626) 356-7529. A

Furious Theatre Company Production. (Mayank Keshaviah)

GO OEDIPUS EL REY Brilliantly staged by director

Jon Lawrence Rivera, Luis Alfaro's transmogrification of the story of

Oedipus to prison and the barrio makes for powerful stuff. A chorus of

inmates unveils the saga: A gang leader, Laius (Leandro Cano), informed

that his infant son will one day destroy him, orders his henchman,

Tiresias (Winston J. Rocha), to take the child away and kill him.

Fast-forward a generation: Both Tiresias and his "son" Oedipus (Justin

Huen) are incarcerated together in North Kern State Prison.

(Intellectuals of sorts, they frequent the prison library.) On his

return to the barrio after his release, Oedipus meets up with and slays

Laius, before falling for Jocasta (Marlene Forte) -- the two flagrantly

light each other's fire, to the community's displeasure. As per

Sophocles' original, the tale unwinds to a tragic and enlightening

denouement, with all the classic themes evident: the folly of pride,

the immutability of fate, the reluctance of human beings to confront

obvious truth. Alfaro spins much of this in a colloquial lexicon that

makes it all the more forceful. Some of his passages -- Tiresias'

musings on what a father really is, after Oedipus has beaten and

reviled him (beautifully played by Rocha) -- are memorable and moving.

Huen is charismatic, the ensemble is strong and the production design

-- lighting (Jeremy Pivnick), scenic design (John H. Binkley) and sound

and music composition (Robert Oriol) -- is impeccable. (626) 683-6883.

(Deborah Klugman). Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 28. (626) 683-6883.

GO OLD GLORY When last we saw a production by

Chicago expat scribe, Brett Neveau, it was American Dead at Rogue

Machine/Theatre Theater -- a tenderly written study of a murder

investigation in a small Midwest town. Lo and behold, Neveau's latest

is a murder investigation, similarly filled with subterranean currents

of subtext beneath vividly colloquial dialogues whose main purpose is

often to avoid the harsher truths that these very good actors' body

language and facial tics can expose, as though with a spotlight.

(Scenes between the soldiers are often lighted by each holding a

flashlight.) The murder in Old Glory occurs in Fallujah where

-- never mind the War -- two American GIs (Jarrett Sleeper and James

Messenger) who share a barracks drive each other to paroxysms of mutual

loathing. (So no, Gertrude, this is not really a play about the War but

about the homefront.) After one of the soldiers ends up splayed in his

barracks with a hole in his chest, his father (Pete Gardner) takes a

sojourn to a Berlin bar, seeking out the CO (Tom Ormeny), who might

know what really happened. Meanwhile, back in New Mexico, the victim's

best friend (Chris Allen) struggles to tell what he knows to the

victim's mother (Kathy Baily). And so, Brett Snodgrass' set trifurcates

the stage into the three realistic settings -- New Mexico, Fallujah and

Berlin -- so that the action's mosaic unfolds within these

compartments. The ensuing stasis is almost belligerently

anti-theatrical, compounded by Allen's lugubrious interpretation of the

best friend in his scenes with the grief-stricken mother. (Bailey is

particularly adept at burying her despondency beneath strata of terse

propriety.) Director Carri Sullens elicits performances that flow with

crosscurrents of hardship and fury, yet with a delicacy that's almost

amiable. Ormeny and Gardner excel with these gifts. And the latent

violence simmering between the soldiers -- one a devotee of graphic

novels, the other of real novels -- speaks head-on to why the United

States can't seem to generate a reasonable discourse with herself about

anything that actually matters. The isolation of the three scenic

compartments underscores that point but at a cost, rendering this

production more cinematic than theatrical, despite some emotional

volatility, as though the action aches for close-ups and camera angles

deprived us in this room. Yet, like American Dead, it's

another penetratingly written rumination, a lament even, for something

indescribable that's been lost in this country -- and to this country.

(Steven Leigh Morris). Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd.,

Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru April 25. (818) 841-5421.

THE PAJAMA GAME The 1954 Broadway musical set in a unionized pajama

factory, music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, book by

George Abbott and Richard Bissell. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312

Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 7 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.;

thru March 28, www.ctgsc.org. (818) 508-3003.

GO A PRAYER FOR MY DAUGHTER A sweltering New York

City summer; Son of Sam is still at large. A massive citywide blackout

is around the corner. The year is 1977, and on the verge of bankruptcy,

a city barely keeps it together, not unlike detectives Francis Kelly

(Kevin Brief) and Jack Delasante (Matthew J. Williamson), two of NYPD's

finest, who have nabbed two of its worst: Jimmy Rosario, a.k.a. Jimmy

Rosehips (Matthew Thompson), and Simon Cohn, a.k.a. Sean de Kahn (Gary

Lamb). A dry-cleaners is held up. Its owner, Mrs. Linowitz, is shot

point-blank. There's hell to pay, especially when the boys in blue have

no qualms about beating a confession out of these low-life suspects.

Problem is, Jimmy and Simon are no rookies, and their ability to

manipulate the demons that plague the seemingly hard-boiled Kelly and

Delasante turns up the sweltering July heat inside the police station.

First performed at the Public Theater in 1978, this revival of Thomas

Babe's gritty interrogation drama is masterfully orchestrated by

director Albert Alarr, whose fluid blocking and brutally realistic

fight choreography make full use of Sarah Krainin's impeccably

authentic set. The entire ensemble shines, showcasing both the humor

and suffocating pain of a text that poignantly explores "the light" and

"the dark" sides of our natures. (The show does contain full-frontal

nudity.) Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., N. Hollywood;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through March 6. (800) 838-3006,

brownpapertickets.com. (Mayank Keshaviah). Crown City Theatre, 11031

Camarillo St., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 20.

(800) 838-3006.

RENT Santa Clarita Regional Theatre presents Jonathan Larson's rock

musical about young NYC artists too poor to pay for their apartments in

the East Village. The Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center, College of

the Canyons, 26455 Rockwell Canyon Road, Valencia; Sat., 8 p.m.; Fri.,

March 19, 8 p.m.; thru March 20. (661) 476-3800.

SAVED BY THE PARODY Musical parody of 1990s TV sitcom Saved by the Bell,

written and directed by Ren Casey. Presented by Renegade Zombie.

Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Sat., 10:45 p.m.;

thru May 29, renegadezombie.com. (866) 811‐4111.

GO SIDHE Otherworldly shadows inhabit playwright

Ann Noble's intense drama about two fugitives from Ireland and their

ravaging effect on others' lives. On the run, smoldering Conall

(Patrick Rieger) and his oddly passive companion, Jacquelyn (Jeanne

Syquia), rent a dingy room above a Chicago bar from its tight-lipped

owner, Louise (Noble). Louise's steadiest customer is her alcoholic

brother-in-law, Vernon (the standout Rob Nagle), who remains

inconsolable over the shooting death of his philandering wife, Amy,

whom he'd worshipped unrequitedly. Bitter and unhappy, both Louise and

Vernon are wont to tear at each other fiercely -- but their problems

pale next to those of Louise's tenants, whose mysterious past hints at

savage violence and unspeakable secrets. Just how terrifically

unimaginable the latter prove to be is something we don't learn until

well into Act 2. Adding a supernaturalistic element to this already

densely miasmic plot is Jacquelyn's proclivity for experiencing strange

apparitions: namely, the "Sidhe," a mythic tribe of pre-Gaelic fairies

with startling powers to affect human -- in this case Jacquelyn's --

behavior. Full of dark turns, Noble's story is so packed with tension

and conflict that at times it's hard to believe only four characters

are taking part. Not every twist is credible, even given the play's

supernatural standards. And sometimes the heavy Irish brogue makes

essential details difficult to grasp. These qualifications

notwithstanding, the production is often riveting, under Darin

Anthony's direction. (Deborah Klugman) A Road Theatre production.

Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 20, www.roadtheatre.org. (866) 811-4111.

SWEET SUE The Group Rep presents A.R. Gurney's May-December romance.

Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North

Hollywood; opens March 19; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April

25. (818) 700-4878.

TORRID AFFAIRE Theatre Unleashed presents Andrew Moore's sex comedy.

Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; thru March 27...

(YOU'VE NEVER SEEN) FIGHT CLUB?!? As an afficionado of the bizarre

brilliance that is Zombie Joe's Underground, I thought I knew what kind

of satirical lunacy to expect from a late-night event with the above

title. But far from the anticipated burlesque of the 1999 film,

adaptor-director Amanda Marquardt (who claims never to have seen it)

presents her own, somber theatrical vision of Chuck Palahniuk's novel.

With the three lead actors, Mark Nager as the unnamed protagonist;

Lamont Webb, portraying Tyler Durden; and Dana DeRuyck as Marla, she

nearly succeeds. Each brings conviction to their roles in this fantasy

of two men building a worldwide underground, fighting army of

anarchists. Webb is particularly engrossing in his role as the

mysterious creator of Fight Club. The power of their fights,

choreographed by Aaron Lyons, is intensified in the tiny venue, and

Nicole Fabbri's extreme makeup effects make it all the more effective.

The rest of the cast and Marquardt's ultimate direction, however,

suffer from the lack of skillful acting. The venue's intimacy, so

supportive of the fight scenes, becomes merely claustrophobic, as the

piece devolves into a jumble. At two hours, the show, sans

intermission, might have been been reduced to a bearable length by

truncating interminable blackouts that punctuate the event every few

moments, grinding its momentum to a series of halts. (Tom Provenzano).

ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat.,

10:30 p.m.; thru March 20. (818) 202-4120.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND ON BEACH TOWNS

AN ADULT EVENING OF SHEL SILTERSTEIN Shel Silverstein's American

vignettes. Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat.,

8 p.m.; thru March 27. (866) 811-4111.

GO THE BROWNING VERSION Though not as widely known or

acclaimed as his contemporary British playwrights, Terence Rattigan was

a superb dramatist and chronicler of human emotions. Here, Rattigan's The Browning Version,

the gloomy story of an aging schoolteacher crushed by failure and

disappointment, receives a stellar mounting by director Marilyn Fox. A

well-regarded scholar of the classics, Andrew Crocker-Harris (the

superb Bruce French) has spent the last 18 years as an instructor at a

public school in England but must leave the position because of failing

health to take a less-stressful job elsewhere. Now the object of jokes

and ridicule by his students, and denied a pension by the school, he

has a bearing that is subdued by sadness, yearning and a palpable

"gallows" surrender to circumstance. His wife, Millie (Sally Smythe),

has given up on being happy with him and has contented herself with

numerous dalliances with his colleagues (which she delights in

reminding him of), and cruelly undermining what remains of his sense of

manhood. Her current lover, Frank (understudy David Rogge), is torn

between a sense of guilt, his admiration for Andrew, and the dying

embers of lust for Millie. It is only when the professor is presented

with a rare translation of Agamemnon from a student (Justin

Preston) that his mask of stoic restraint melts to reveal a desperately

fragile inner life. From this sedate tapestry of characters, Rattigan

artfully probes marriage, relationship and our perverse capacity to

embrace lacerating emotional pain and self-deceit, which all unfolds

beautifully on Norman Scott's cleverly designed sitting-room mock-up.

Fox directs this piece with masterful subtlety and draws devastatingly

convincing performances from her actors.(Lovell Estell III). Pacific

Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,

3 p.m.; thru March 28. (310) 822-8392.

GO BUG The set design in USVAA's production of

Tracy Letts' play is uncredited, but whoever littered Agnes' (Maribeth

Monroe) motel-room home with bottles of Boone's Farm and Maker's Mark

(empty but likely kept as a memento of an "upscale" night), and

decorated it with a dorm-room refrigerator and once-white lamp shades

that emit a dingy bedside glow, deserves a big ol' country music round

of applause. Letts knows how to orchestrate multicharacter vehicular

collisions on emotionally desolate Okie roads (as in his 2008 Pulitzer

Prize-winning August: Osage County), but the crash in Bug

is particularly spectacular. The hurtle toward that wreck clips right

along, gathering the speed and intensity of a cranked-up trucker; then

the abrupt change in tone after such a high-octane death race feels too

calm, and the climax is, well, anticlimactic. Don't mind that too much,

as the acting more than compensates. Monroe, with a

wrong-side-of-the-tracks voice made more ragged by cheap cocaine drain,

is a tightly wound ball of pent-up loneliness and fear; her descent

eventually leaves her backed onto the corner of her bed like a feral

cat. She's the star here, but as her newfound protector and lover,

Christopher Sweeney matches her degeneration with tics that gradually

become a manic flurry of paranoia. As Agnes' just-paroled ex-husband,

Casey Sullivan's brute swagger is compounded by his gittin' religion.

The play is a darkly comedic commentary on the murky role the

government plays in wars both abroad and at home, and director Keith

Jeffreys' subtle touches -- whirring helicopters, a doctor who hits the

crack pipe -- are so effective at drawing the audience into this shifty

world, you'll likely leave with a niggling urge to crush the bugs in

Agnes' room. (Rebecca Haithcoat). USVAA Theater, 10858 Culver Blvd.,

Culver City; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 20. (310) 559-2116.

DIGGING UP DAD Cris D'Annunzio's story of his father's mysterious

death. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat.,

8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 21. (310) 397-3244.

GO DUAL CITIZENS What a difference a continent

makes. I saw Anna Skubik's "Broken Nails" last year in Wroclaw, Poland,

where a dim, suspended lightbulb and a stark pool of light (lighting by

Anna Cecelia Martin) are just part of the Grotowskian theatrical

landscape. Despite the recession, we're a comparatively buoyant

culture, and that stark aesthetic feels exotic on an L.A. stage, where

half of our theaters, it seems, are dedicated to musicals that parody

movies. In and around a huge suitcase, an 80-something Marlene Dietrich

(a life-size cloth puppet) engages with Skubik. In one scene they're

attached at the hip. Dietrich is hammering out the inner meanings of

words like fame, while taking painful injections to defy her

obvious age. With her fiery red hair, Skubik is her nurse/keeper, and

the relationship is as touchy as in Ronald Harwood's The Dresser.

There are moments when Dietrich/Skubik sings, which is not this

production's strength. It flies, however, on the intricacy of the

relationship between the two women, both quite animated, despite one

being inanimate. That single idea, of what's alive and what isn't, of

what is an imitation of life, and what isn't, caught in the frame of an

aging diva, is a source of infinite fascination. And Dietrich's various

reactions to Skubik's proddings hold an almost childlike appeal. In one

scene, we hear extended applause, and Dietrich asks, "How long does a

moment last?" It's a question anyone in the theater should relate to,

and probably anyone beyond the theater, too. Romuald Wicza-Pokojski

directs. The evening's first half is also a solo show, Look, What I Don't Understand

(if one doesn't count the puppet), written and performed by Skubik's

partner, American actor Anthony Nikolchev, and directed by Yuriy

Kordonskiy. Also set around suitcases, but with the compelling

centerpiece of a wire cage, Nikolchev portrays an array of characters

with telling idiosyncrasies in the story of his Bulgarian family's

entrapment by the Soviets, and their eventual exile to an Italian

refugee camp, where they wait as they hope to enter the

communist-phobic United States. The study in tyranny and living in

margins is harrowing in its authenticity, ensnared by the truthfulness

of the performance. (Steven Leigh Morris)., $25. Odyssey Theatre, 2055

S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., March 28, 7 p.m.;

thru March 28. (310) 477-2055.

ESCANABA IN LOVE Jeff Daniels' sequel to Escanaba in da Moonlight.

Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., March 28, 7 p.m.; Thurs., April 1, 8 p.m.; thru April 3. (310)

512-6030.

A GIANT ARC IN THE SKYSPACE OF DIRECTIONS Is playwright Michael

Vukadinovich's sprawling (and occasionally impenetrable) comedy a Bible

spoof? Or is it a deeply philosophical, absurdist meditation on the

notion that a life of scientific reason offers as little comfort as a

life of religious faith? Of course, the two themes are not mutually

exclusive -- even though we wish that Vukadinovich's text didn't lurch

from extreme idea to idea in such a baffling and scattershot fashion.

In a dark time of humanity -- you know it's wicked because women are

giving birth to turkey dinners and one-legged men are raping dogs --

scientist Abe (Kevin Broberg) is surprised when his beloved wife, Sarah

(Coco Kleppinger), becomes pregnant in a seemingly immaculate

conception. Sarah is loved from afar by defrocked priest Eamon (Ryan

Bergmann) but seeks comfort from kindly blind lady, Rachel (Dee Amerio

Sudik), who is awaiting the return of her long-lost son Esau (Eric

Martig), a young man who is either a prophet or a killer. The waters

rise, the family dogs get raped, and Abe commences a mysterious sea

voyage. Sometimes Vukadinovich's writing crackles with cleverness and

wit -- but, honestly, the plot's disjointed concepts and random

incidents undercut attempts to draw the audience into the situations:

It's part parable, part babble. Still, director Efrain Schunior's

attempts to marry the unwieldy text with a character-driven production

bear fruit with poignant performances in acting that's both taut and

nuanced. This includes Sudik's beautifully feisty Rachel, Bergmann's

sweetly twisted priest Eamon and Kleppinger's gently maternal Sarah. A

Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble production (Paul Birchall). Powerhouse

Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March

27, www.latensemble.com. (310) 396-3680.

GO JUST 45 MINUTES FROM BROADWAY Suffused with a

near-Chekhovian mix of the wistful and the melancholy, playwright Henry

Jaglom's world premiere comedy is a delight -- an intimate and

thoughtful ensemble piece which is as much a paean to the theater as it

is a meditation on the perils of living entirely by emotion. In a

picturesque but run down country house in upstate New York (realized in

Joel Daavid's beautiful detailed set), a theatrical clan spends what is

probably for them a typical fall weekend of histrionics and melodrama.

These are people who have lived their whole lives for art -- which, one

might say, means that dinner is never on time and no one gets up before

noon. Elderly thespian George (Jack Heller) and his beloved wife Vivien

(Diane Louise Salinger) are in the twilight of their careers, but

regret nothing about a life spent on the road performing small plays.

Also staying in their home is their beautiful, unstable daughter

Pandora (Tanna Frederick), who is taking a "rest" from acting after

getting over a recent failed romance. The typically "artsy" family

chaos turns even more tumultuous with the arrival of the family's

estranged eldest daughter Betsy (Julie Davis), who has grown weary of

her eccentric family. When Betsy introduces her lawyer fiance Jimmy

(David Garver) to the family, sparks unexpectedly fly -- but the sparks

are between Jimmy and free-spirited Pandora. Some overwritten sequences

teeter on self indulgence, yet the piece is also wise to the follies of

human behavior -- and director Gary Imhoff's subtle staging elegantly

juxtaposes the warmth and frustration underscoring the relationships

within so many families. The ensemble work is sensitive, yet comically

charged, with Frederick's calculatedly daffy turn as the

ever-performing Pandora smartly offset by Davis' increasingly angry

Betsy. Heller's leonine elderly actor-dad and Salinger's actress mom,

tender and sad, wonderfully craft the sense of elders who have never

truly grown up, and are amazed by what has happened to their bodies

while their minds remain youthful. A Rainbow Theatre Company

production. (Paul Birchall). Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main

St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru April 25.

(310) 399-3666.

LOYALTIES In Tony Pasqualini's drama, Frank (Michael Rothhaar) and

Joy (Robin Becker) have lost a son, Andy, to the war in Iraq. Now they

have become fanatical superpatriots, eager to condemn anyone who

questions the war. Their best friends, Mel (Sarah Brooke) and Andrew

(Pasqualini), also have an adopted son, Michael (Albert Meijer), an emigre from a Muslim country. Andy and

Michael were inseparable friends throughout their childhood, but their

paths diverged. While Andy enlisted and went to his death in battle,

Michael also enlisted but decided it was a mistake and deserted his

post. Though Mel and Andrew are sympathetic to their son, Frank and Joy

are determined to force the boy to face his fears and accept his duty,

even by reporting his whereabouts to the authorities. This issue

becomes a catalyst, leading to disaster for both families. Pasqualini's

play is not really a thesis drama, but it often sounds like one,

treating its characters as mouthpieces. There are, however, some potent

scenes. Though we're clearly intended to sympathize with Michael, he's

too whiny and self-centered to take seriously. Director David Gautreaux

has able actors but sometimes allows them to succumb to wearisome

hysteria and shouting. (Neal Weaver). Pacific Resident Theatre, 703

Venice Blvd., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 28,

www.PacificResidentTheatre.com. (310) 822-8392.

PALISADES PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL Four evenings of plays written by

Pacific Palisades playwrights Diane Grant, Richard Martin Hirsch, Gene

Franklin Smith, and Noelle Donfeld and Sandra Shanin. Theater

Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific

Palisades; Tues., March 23, 7:30 p.m.; Tues., April 13, 7:30 p.m.;

Tues., April 20, 7:30 p.m.. (310) 454-1970.

PRINCESS BEAN'S MESSY WORLD Rock & roll kids musical about a

petite punk princess. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice; Sat..

(310) 306-1854.

HARLOW GOLD: WEST "Sexy, witty and gritty" cabaret created by

choreographers Dominic Carbone and Tracy Phillips., $10-$25.

Harvelle's, 1432 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Thurs.. (310) 395-1676.

RENT Santa Clarita Regional Theatre presents Jonathan Larson's rock

musical about young NYC artists too poor to pay for their apartments in

the East Village. The Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center, College of

the Canyons, 26455 Rockwell Canyon Road, Valencia; Sat., 8 p.m.; Fri.,

March 19, 8 p.m.; thru March 20. (661) 476-3800.

PRODUCTIONS SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW THIS WEEKEND:

ABOVE THE LINE Susan Rubin's comedy about the making of a Hollywood movie. Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; opens March 19; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 24. (213) 389-3856.

AN AMERICAN TRACT Written by Barbara White Morgan. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; opens March 20; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thruApril 25, brownpapertickets.com/event/100569. (800) 838-3006.

AWAKE AND SING Clifford Odets' story of a Jewish clan in the economic tumult of 1930s New York. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; Sat., March 20, 8 p.m.; Sun., March 21, 2 p.m.; Wed., March 24, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., March 28, 2 & 7 p.m.; March 31-April 1, 8 p.m.; Fri., April 23, 8 p.m.; May 6-7, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 8, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., May 23, 2 & 7 p.m. (818) 240-0910.

THE CHARM OF MAKING Timothy McNeil's story of "love, history, life and
death in a small Southern town.". Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood
Blvd., L.A.; opens March 19; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru April 25.
(323) 465-4446.

THE DIVINERS The Production Company presents Jim Leonard Jr.'s
Depression-era Bible Belt fable. Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd.,
Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 10,
www.theprodco.com.

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Bert Shevelove and Larry Gelbart. UCLA Freud Playhouse, Macgowan Hall, Westwood; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru March 28. (310) 825-2101.

IN A GARDEN American architect vs. the Culture Minister of Aqaat, by Howard Korder. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Sat.-Sun., 2 & 7:45 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 7:45 p.m.; thru March 28. (714) 708-5555.

NEIGHBORHOOD 3: REQUISITION OF DOOM Jennifer Haley's zombie comedy-thriller. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; opens March 19; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 24. (310) 281-8337.

PLAYING JORDAN Goldman David and Andy Neiman's story of extortion via bar mitzvah. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; thru April 23. (323) 422-6361.

THROUGH THE NIGHT Written and performed by Daniel Beaty. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru April 4. (310) 208-5454.

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