Stage Raw: Comedy is Dead
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
Peisha McPhee & Sergiu Tuhutziu's Chopin Meets Broadway
TicketsFri., Sep. 30, 8:30pm
Andrew Dice Clay
TicketsSat., Oct. 1, 8:00pm
Panic! Productions presents Bring It On: The Musical
TicketsThu., Oct. 6, 7:30pm
TicketsThu., Oct. 6, 7:30pm
TicketsFri., Oct. 7, 7:30pm
L.A. WEEKLY THEATER AWARDS coming Monday, March 29, at the El Rey, are the Weekly Awards, hosted by the cast of
Call (310) 574-7208 to reserve. If the line is jammed, shoot me an email at email@example.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
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.
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..
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
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)
STERLING'S UPSTAIRS with New York musical theater star Beth Malone.
Vitello's, 4349 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; Sun., March 21, 7 p.m..
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
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.
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)
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
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.;
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)
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)
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)
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
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
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..
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)
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.
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)
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
NEW REVIEW GO SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM
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
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
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)
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)
NEW REVIEW GO LIBERTY INN
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.
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)
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.
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..
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.
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,
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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