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Stage Raw: Extropia

Stage Raw: Extropia


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NEW REVIEW GO
EXTROPIA

Stage Raw: 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)

For all of the weekend's NEW REVIEWS, press the More tab directly below


NEW THEATER REVIEWS scheduled for publication March 18, 2010:

NEW REVIEW GO EXTROPIA

Stage Raw: 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)

NEW REVIEW GO GROUNDLINGS SHOWCASE SHOWDOWN

‚Äč

Stage Raw: Extropia

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 on Wednesday

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)

NEW REVIEW GO LIBERTY INN

Stage Raw: Extropia

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)

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)

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

on Wednesday.

NEW REVIEW GO SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM

Stage Raw: Extropia

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)

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)

NEW REVIEW TALES OF AN URBAN INDIAN

Stage Raw: Extropia

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)


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