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Stage Raw: Flesh and Blood

THE 31ST ANNUAL L.A. WEEKLY THEATER AWARDS


FLESH AND BLOOD X 2

Stage Raw: Flesh and Blood

Photo by Paul Outlaw

On Friday and Saturday, February 26 and 27, 8:30 p.m., Highways presents Flesh and Blood X 2 -- two theatrical works: "Crucio" by Johnny 2.0 in collaboration with horror icon Clive Barker; and "Porphryion's Revenge, written and performed by Paul Outlaw.

In "Crucio," one man must battle his faith and sexuality when confronted with them face to face. "Porphryion's Revenge" is a work of pure fantasy, a "supernatural musical" about an African American born in slavery, in a narrative that spans several centuries.

UP IN THE SKY

SkyPilot Theatre Company has revised its company mission, and now aims to "compete with this age of digital entertainment to bring our audience an authentic and moving theatre experience."

Not exactly sure what that means, but the troupe is encouraging new play submissions. Contact Literary Manger Manager Phillipe Simon at psimon620@yahoo.com Plays must not have been produced in Los Angeles. World premieres especially  encouraged.

For COMPLETE THEATER LISTINGS, press the More tab directly below.

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for February 12-18, 2010

Our critics are Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III,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

ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S BIG GAY VALENTINE BASH "Celebrating our first gay

president with queer works about love, sex, and romance, hosted by Ian

MacKinnon and featuring guests John Cantwell of The Nellie Olesons,

Flint, DeadLee, Drew Mason, Diviana X Ingravallo, Dorian Wood, Mas,

Hi-Fashion $9.99, Kevin Williamson, Tyler Dalay, and Drew Droege.".

Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; Feb. 12-13,

8:30 p.m.. (310) 315-1459.

BURLESQUE TO BROADWAY Directed by Joseph Hardy. Citrus College Haugh

Performing Arts Center, 1000 W. Foothill Blvd., Glendora; Fri., Feb.

12, 8 p.m.. (626) 963-941.

CATCH THE TIGER Melvin Ishmael Johnson's play about Black

Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey. The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd.,

L.A.; opens Feb. 12; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (323) 850-4436.

CAVE QUEST Les Thomas' story of a video gamer looking for inner

peace who tracks down a legendary American Buddhist nun in a Tibetan

cave. East West Players, 120 N. Judge John Aiso St., L.A.; opens Feb.

17; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 14. (213) 625-7000.

CELADINE Charle Evered's bawdy comedy with spying, swordfighting and

crossdressing. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; opens Feb.

13; Sat., Feb. 13, 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3

& 8 p.m.; thru March 7, www.colonytheatre.org. (818) 558-7000.

THE COFFEE CLUB World premiere of David R. Zimmerman's drama about

clients at a group therapy session. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St.,

L.A.; opens Feb. 15; Mon.-Wed., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 28, 5

p.m.; thru March 6. (323) 469-3113.

DEADLY DISCO CRUISE Mysteries en Brochette presents a disco-inspired

Valentine's evening of interactive dinner theater. Boogie down with

Captain Seaford as he officiates the shipboard wedding, try your luck

at the '70s-themed bingo game, and show off your moves at the disco

dance contest. Plus, a rare appearance by the Del Rey Village People.

On the menu: grilled salmon, coq au vin or Mediterranean penne pasta.,

$75. Marina del Rey Hotel, 13534 Bali Way, Marina del Rey; Sun., Feb.

14, 6 p.m., www.mysteriesenbrochette.com...

DIGGING UP DAD Cris D'Annunzio's story of his father's mysterious

death. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica; opens Feb.

12; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 20. (310) 397-3244.

DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS Interact Theatre Company presents the

con-man musical comedy based on the 1988 film. NoHo Arts Center, 11136

Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Feb. 12; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

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

DUAL CITIZENS Polish actress/puppeteer Anna Skubik and her

Bulgarian-American partner Anthony Nikholchev star in this

comedy-drama's American premiere. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda

Blvd., L.A.; opens Feb. 13; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 14, 2 p.m.;

Sun., Feb. 21, 7 p.m.; Sun., March 14, 7 p.m.; Sun., March 28, 7 p.m.;

thru March 28. (310) 477-2055.

ELOVE, A MUSICAL.COM/EDY Two nights of "Champagne & Chocolate,"

presented by Sideways SmileyFace Productions. Book, music and lyrics by

Wayland Pickard with additional lyrics by Sherry Netherland and Deborah

Johnson, directed and choreographed by Cate Caplin. Lonny Chapman Group

Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., Feb. 13,

3 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 14, 7 p.m.. (818) 700-4878.

GROUNDLINGS SHOWCASE SHOWDOWN All-new sketch and improv, directed by

Mikey Day. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; opens Feb. 12;

Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; thru April 24. (323) 934-9700.

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

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

(323) 668-0318.

HARRY THE DIRTY DOG ArtsPower National Touring Theatre's music

production, written by Gene Zion. Pepperdine University, Smothers

Theatre, 24255 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu; Sat., Feb. 13, 11 a.m. &

1 p.m.. (800) 982-2787.

HOT FLASH! Jenifer Lewis' one-woman show, written by Mark Alton

Brown and Jenifer Lewis. L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, Renberg Theatre,

1125 N. McCadden Pl., L.A.; opens Feb. 13; Sat., 7:30 p.m.; thru March

6. (323) 860-7302.

HOT FLICKS: LOVE SCENES FROM THE SILVER SCREEN Readings of romantic movie scenes, from Gone With the Wind to 500 Days of Summer,

courtesy literary salon WordTheatre., $27, $10 food minimum. M Bar,

1253 Vine St., L.A.; Sun., Feb. 14, 6 p.m.. (323) 856-0036.

I LOVE YOU, YOU'RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE Relevant Stage Theatre

Company presents the musical revue, with book and lyrics by Joe

DiPietro, music by Jimmy Roberts. Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. Sixth

St., San Pedro; opens Feb. 12; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 14, 7

p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (800) 838-3006.

IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE Staged reading starring Salome Jens and

Mitchell Ryan. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno

Dr., Beverly Hills; Sun., Feb. 14, 7 p.m.; Tues., Feb. 16, 8 p.m..

(310) 364-0535.

JACK AND JILL: A ROMANCE Alive Theatrevolution presents Jane

Martin's modern comedy of manners. HELLADA Gallery, 117 Linden Ave.,

Long Beach; Sat., Feb. 13, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 14, 7 p.m.; Feb. 19-20, 8

p.m., www.alivetheatre.org. (562) 818-7364.

JOEY "THE SAINT" VALENTINE'S SPEAKEASY Long Beach Playhouse

celebrates its 80th anniversary with a swanky trip back to 1929.,

$150-$250. Renaissance Hotel, 111 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; Sat.,

Feb. 13, 6:30 p.m.. (866) 777-1041.

LITTLE WOMEN Adapted by Jacqueline Goldfinger from the book by

Louisa May Alcott. North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe

Dr., Solana Beach; opens Feb. 14; Sun., Feb. 14, 2 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 20,

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

p.m.; thru March 7, www.northcoastrep.org. (858) 481-2155.

LOBBY HERO Kenneth Lonergan's murder mystery about a hapless

security guard. Pacific Stages, 2041 Rosecrans Avenue #170, El Segundo;

opens Feb. 13; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.;

thru March 14. (310) 868-2631.

LOVE BITES -- VOL. 9 The Elephant Theatre Company's annual short-play festival, including Reality Romcom: Day 98 With My Attained Pixie Dreamgirl by Kerry Carney; This Little Piggy by Marek Glinski; Empowerment by Dominic Rains; Surprise by Mark Harvey Levine; Most Likely by Gloria Calderon Kellett; Tag by Tony Foster; Rox-N, Miss Thang by Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich; Hard

by Steven Korbar. Elephant Theatre Lab, 1078 Lilian Way, L.A.; opens

Feb. 14; Sun., 7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 14,

www.plays411.com/lovebites. (323) 960-4410.

MORTIFIED "Doomed Valentines Show." Confessions of adolescence,

courtesy Mortified Live. Music by Garfunkel & Oates and the

Mortified After School Orchestra., $20. King King, 6555 Hollywood

Blvd., L.A.; Sun., Feb. 14, 8 p.m., www.getmortified.com/live. (323)

960-9234.

POLTERHEIST: A VALENTINE'S DAY PLAY Produced by Theatre

Americana/Show of Support Productions in collaboration with the County

of Los Angeles Parks and Recreation. Farnsworth Park's Davies Hall, 568

E. Mount Curve Ave., Altadena; Sat., Feb. 13, 8 p.m.,

www.theatreamericana.com...

POST OFFICE Staged reading of the mail musical, book and lyrics by

Melissa James Gibson, music by Michael Friedman. Kirk Douglas Theatre,

9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Feb. 17-18, 8 p.m.; Feb. 20-21, 8

p.m.. (213) 628-2772.

THE PRICE Arthur Miller's 1968 play about estranged brothers

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

Blvd. West, L.A.; opens Feb. 12; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru

March 21. (323) 851-7977.

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; opens Feb. 17; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 7

& 9:30 p.m.; Sun., 5 & 7:30 p.m.; thru March 14...

SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION Knightsbridge Theatre's "Greek chorus"

adaptation of John Guare's drama. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside

Dr., L.A.; opens Feb. 13; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 27.

(323) 667-0955.

V-DAY: THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES (In the Coffeehouse Theater.) Proceeds

benefit the SCV Domestic Violence Center. California Institute of the

Arts, 24700 McBean Pkwy., Valencia; Sun., Feb. 14, 3-5 p.m.. (661)

253-7800.

THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES By Eve Ensler, directed by Joni Panotta.

Proceeds benefit V-Day.org and OPCC Sojourn, a battered women's shelter

in Santa Monica. NoHo Actors Studios, 5215 Lankershim Blvd., North

Hollywood; Feb. 12-13, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 14, 2 p.m.. (818) 761-2166.

VALENTINE'S DAY LOVE SPECTACULAR Captured Aural Phantasy Theater

presents live readings of pulp romance comics, including 1953's A Marriage Made in Heaven and 1955's Nightmare Lover., $10. Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., L.A.; Feb. 12-13, 8 p.m., www.capturedauralphantasy.com. (866) 811-4111.

VAUDE Hart Pulse Dance Company's Valentine's weekend of vaudeville,

featuring guest choreographers Samantha Giron (Samantha Giron Dance

Project) and Rachel Pace, plus HPDC's own Amanda Hart, Sophie Olson and

Holly Fletcher. Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa

Monica; Feb. 12-13, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 14, 1 & 6 p.m.,

www.brownpapertickets.com/event/90830. (661) 755-2182.

WIREHEAD The Echo Theater Company presents the world premiere of a

new play by Matthew Benjamin and Logan Brown. Stage 52 Theatre, 5299 W.

Washington Blvd., L.A.; opens Feb. 13; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.;

thru March 14. (800) 413-8669.

WITH LOVE ON VALENTINE'S DAY Upright Cabaret presents Broadway star

Sheryl Lee Ralph in an evening of solo cabaret. Vermont, 1714 N.

Vermont Ave., L.A.; Sun., Feb. 14, 8 p.m.. (323) 661-6163.

A WRINKLE IN TIME South Coast Rep's original adaptation of Madeleine

L'Engle's young adult novel. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center

Dr., Costa Mesa; opens Feb. 13; Sat., 11 a.m., 2 & 4:30 p.m.; Sun.,

2 & 4:30 p.m.; Fri., Feb. 19, 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (714) 708-5555.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE

THE ANDREWS BROTHERS Roger Bean's 1940s musical parody, musical

direction by Lloyd Cooper, choreography by Roger Castellano. Thousand

Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, Fred Kavli Theater, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd.,

Thousand Oaks; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 14.

(805) 449-2787.

AURÉLIA'S ORATORIO Created and directed by Victoria Thierrée

Chaplin, starring Aurélia Thierrée. La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla

Village Dr., La Jolla; Tues.-Wed., 7:30 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.;

Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (858) 550-1010.

THE COLOR PURPLE Starring American Idol Season 3 winner

Fantasia Barrino. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.;

Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru

Feb. 28. (213) 365-3500.

DOUBT: A PARABLE John Patrick Shanley's Tony- and Pulitzer

Prize-winning play. 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 Feb. 21. (805) 667-2900.

THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES Annette Bening stars in Joanna

Murray-Smith's farce. With David Arquette, Mireille Enos, Julian Sands.

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

Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru March 14. (310)

208-5454.

FENCES August Wilson's sixth entry in his Pittsburgh Cycle, set in

the 1950s. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; Tues.-Wed., Sun., 7:30 p.m.;

thru Feb. 21. (714) 708-5555.

GEORGE GERSHWIN ALONE Music and lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira

Gershwin, starring Hershey Felder. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon

Road, Laguna Beach; Sun., 2 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8

p.m.; thru Feb. 21, www.lagunaplayhouse.com. (949) 497-2787.

NOISES OFF There are many stars in Geoff Elliott's accomplished

staging of Michael Frayn's oft-produced backstage farce, but the ones

that shine brightest may be the stagehands, who, between acts,

hand-swivel Adam Lillibridge's elaborate, two-tiered living room set --

which represents the multitiered living room set of a play within the

play, being performed somewhere in the British provinces -- inside out,

so that the faux living room transforms into backstage directly behind

the set, where the actors await their entrances. This is no easy feat,

as the set almost touches the theater ceiling, but on opening night,

they pulled it off in under 12 minutes, earning a round of applause

from those standing by to watch. Frayn's farce is well known by now --

a theater production of a farce on the rails, with a world-weary

director (Elliott) who's more than ready to move on to his next

production, Richard III; a needy cast, one of whom (Stephen

Rockwell) keeps insisting on psychological explanations for what's

obviously a series of gags; another (Emily Kosloski, playing a

dim-witted sex bomb) who keeps losing her contact lenses; and an

elderly resident alcoholic (Apollo Dukakis) who creates dramatic

tension from the question of whether or not he'll even show up to make

his entrance. As the play-within-the-play continues its tour, in a

production that grows increasingly chaotic, the ineptitude gets

compounded by sexual dalliances among director, cast and crew that

leave a trail of bruised feelings. Elliott's touch is both gentle and

conservative, sidestepping many low-comedy sex gags that have

accompanied other productions. It is nonetheless skillfully rendered,

with lovely performances also by Deborah Strang, Mikael Salazar, Lenne

Klingaman, Jill Hill and Shaun Anthony. (Steve Leigh Morris). A Noise

Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 &

7 p.m.; thru Feb. 14. (818) 240-0910.

NORTH ATLANTIC The Wooster Group performs James Strahs' political

satire. REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., L.A.; Tues.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 7

p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (213) 237-2800.

GO POINT BREAK LIVE! Jaime Keeling's merciless

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

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

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

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

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

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

GO THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG Geared to the

7-and-under set, this good-natured interactive musical exudes appeal

beyond its demographic. Inspired by a German folktale, writers Lloyd

Schwartz and Hope Juber's adaptation features a good fairy named

Hyacinth (Mary Garripoli) as the prime mover of events. After she

welcomes the audience with a song about the importance of "doin' good,"

along comes a prince (understudy Iain Gray) who sings about "lookin'

good." His attitude so annoys Hyacinth that she turns him into a frog,

stipulating that he can only return to his natural form if kissed by a

princess. The rest of the story proceeds along more or less traditional

lines: The frog recovers the lost ball of a querulous princess (Jenn

Wiles) who is reluctant to keep her promise to kiss him until pressured

by her father, the king (Anthony Gruppuso). Much of the piece's charm

stems from the delight -- and the unintended comedic faux pas --

displayed by the youngsters called up on the stage to participate. The

non-patronizing performers seem to be enjoying themselves as well. A

song "Croak Croak, Ribbit, Ribbit" involving a couple of frog puppets

is contagiously entertaining, whatever one's age. The uncredited

costumes are fun too. Barbara Mallory Schwartz directs, with songs by

Hope Jube and musical director Laurence Juber. (Deborah Klugman).

Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Sat., 1 p.m.; thru Feb.

27. (323) 851-7977.

NEW REVIEW SOUVENIR The fascinating idea at the heart of Stephen Temperley's bio-comedy

is the gaping divide between the music we hear in our hearts, and that

same music heard by those around us. In the early 20th century,

Florence Foster Jenkins made a career as an opera diva in New York,

evidently oblivious that she couldn't sing in tune. Not only could she

not manufacture a note anywhere near what others would call on pitch,

she also couldn't hear the mocking laughter of her audiences. According

to Temperley's play, she was in love with the music she heard in her

head, as well as the fame it brought her via record sales and concert

appearances. This is what makes the imperious stridency of Constance

Hauman's performance as Jenkins so endearing. Unfortunately, every

interesting insight the play offers gets overly narrated to us by her

accompanist, Cosmo McMoon (Brent Schindele, who's terrific on the baby

grand that anchors Mike Jespersen's set), and the two-character drama

hangs on his moral struggle and failure to tell the truth to his

employer, and thereby cash in on her delusions. Even with its elegant

production design, including an NYC skyline that pops up when needed

via slide projections, and Nick McCord's delicate lighting design,

Gregg W. Brevvort's production is a one-trick pony. In her various

songs and arias, rather than pursuing the elusive notes, which would

create an excruciating tension from a musical game of cat-and-mouse,

Hauman is (deliberately) seven miles away, and remains so. Meanwhile,

Schindele's accompanist too often mugs his expressions of horror, when

a more muted, droll response would not only be funnier, it would

underscore his hidden agenda. The result is one very obvious joke about

the essences of delusion, which are anything but obvious. Falcon

Theater, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.;

thru Feb. 28. (818) 955-8101. (Steven Leigh Morris)

GO SWEENEY TODD Thirty years ago, Stephen

Sondheim's gothic melodrama arrived on Broadway as the game-changer

that would usher in an era of operatic opulence in musical theater --

paving the way for the juggernaut of Les Miserables, Miss Saigon and The Phantom of the Opera. In the decades that followed, Sweeney

enjoyed revivals throughout regional theater, joined the repertoire of

legit opera companies and was finally revived in a reduced concept in

which the 10 performers also doubled as their own small orchestra. But

now Musical Theatre West has returned Sweeney to his Grand Guignol

roots, with a vast productions, faithful to Hal Prince's original

effort. Director Calvin Remsberg, who toured as Beadle Bamford with the

original Broadway cast, has re-created the original's power and majesty

with help from a uniformly outstanding cast, partnered with musical

director John Glaudini and his full orchestra. Not a moment of the

nearly three hours lags in this gruesome story of the vengeful barber

and the bakeshop proprietress, Mrs. Lovett, who contrive to make meat

pies from unsuspecting tonsorial clients. Norman Large earns his last

name in his huge performance as the cutthroat, and Debbie Prutsman is

truly as fine as Angela Lansbury was in 1979. A Musical Theatre West

production. (Tom Provenzano). Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200

Atherton St., Long Beach; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.;

Sun., Feb. 14, 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 14. (562) 856-1999 x 4.

THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE Music and lyrics by

William Finn, book by Rachel Sheinkin, conceived by Rebecca Feldman,

choreography by DJ Gray, musical direction by David O, directed by Jeff

Maynard. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada

Blvd., La Mirada; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.;

Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (562) 944-9801.

NEW REVIEW GO WRECKS

Stage Raw: Flesh and Blood

Photo courtesy of the Geffen Playhouse

The loaded situation in writer-director Neil LaBute's "love story"

allows for a kind of velvet glove to reach inside one's heart, and then

it swirls around the intestines for a while before making its

withdrawal. This leaves us, well, touched, but in a way that's far

from sentimental. Ed Harris stars in this monologue, set in a Northern

Illinois funeral home. His wife's casket forms the centerpiece of Sibyl

Wickersheimer's set - her photo perched on its lid. Cricket S. Meyers'

sound design offers the whispers and echoes of voices in an ante-room,

where our bereaved widower Ed Carr (Harris) ostensibly floats - that

would be his public self. But that's not what we're seeing. He refers

to himself being "back there" with "them" while he speaks to us through

the mirror of his subconscious. What we get is his real eulogy, with

the secrets he won't tell them, because he's a private person, he

insists. (There are some secrets, such as his wife's final four words,

that he won't tell us, either.) He has a blazingly clear reason to be

so private, and that's the melodramatic revelation near play's end that

forces us to confront the definition of love, and how that definition

rubs up against social propriety. I didn't buy that revelation, not

within the colloquial, ruminative and realistic confines of LaBute's

direction. But that's a small matter. The big matter is the gorgeous

combination of LaBute's digressive and piercingly insightful love

letter with Harris' tender-furious child-like and ultimately profound

interpretation. Ed Carr is a bit like a chain-smoking Dostoevskian

narrator, who, while drifting onto free-associated topics and bilious

commentary (on anti-smoking campaigns, for example), he is, finally, on

message. And his message about the essence of love is upsetting and

unimpeachable in the same breath. Geffen Playhouse, Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.;

Sat, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 7. (310) 208-5454.

(Steven Leigh Morris)

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., TBA, L.A.; Fri.-Sat., www.accomplicetheshow.com...

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

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

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

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

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

THE ANTARCTIC CHRONICLES Jessica Manuel's autobiographical comedy

about her days working on the frozen underside of the earth. Hudson

Guild Theater, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru March

10. (323) 960-7744.

AS THE GLOBE WARMS Heather Woodbury's improv story of small-town

America colliding with the World Wide Web. ECHO CURIO, 1519 Sunset

Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (213) 977-1279.

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.

GO BAAL Peter Mellencamp's adaptation of Bertolt

Brecht's early, poetical drama is about the cruelty and demise of a

bacchanalian poet who recognizes, curses and is cursed by

civilization's thin veneer. Ben Rock's staging is sometimes forced,

more often intense and seductive, with Gregory Sims' growling title

character bearing a physical resemblance to young Al Pacino but with a

voice like Tom Waits. (Steven Leigh Morris). Sacred Fools Theater, 660

N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 20,

www.vimeo.com/8382742. (310) 281-8337.

BARBRA'S WEDDING Daniel Stern's comedy about Barbra Streisand's

Malibu neighbors. Second Stage Theater, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 28, 2 p.m.; Sun., March 7, 2 p.m.; thru

March 7, www.barbraswedding.com. (866) 811-4111.

BEWARE OF CUPID Julia Cho directs a collection of original scenes

and monologues all about love. Actor's Playpen, 1514 N. Gardner St.,

L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 21,

www.bewareofcupid.com. (323) 874-1733.

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 Feb.

28. (323) 666-3259.

BOB BAKER MARIONETTE 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.

GO BOBRAUSCHENBERGAMERICA When Bob Rauschenberg's

mother (Mari Marks) delivers her tender slide-show about the rural

Texas childhood of her artist son, and none of the slides matches the

descriptions she's offered, you have to know something's up,

conceptually. Whether or not you're familiar with the '50s-'60s

collagist painter-sculptor, Charles L. Mee's 2001 extrapolation of what

Rauschenberg might have written in order to explain how he assembled

junk into evocative reflections on our place in the world stands alone.

Marina Mouhibian's set decorates the stage and the proscenium walls

with vintage kitsch as the 10-member ensemble plays out a series of

somewhat interconnecting sketches about romances gone awry, violence,

politics and metaphysics - though there are digressions for a series of

chicken jokes. Bart DeLorenzo's staging preserves the tone, inherent

the text, that's both wry and frivolous, abstract and pop, with one

breakout poetical excursion into Walt Whitmanesque grandeur, delivered

by a hobo (Brett Hren) and accompanied by Dvorak's Symphony from The

New World. (Steven Leigh Morris). [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga

Blvd. E., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru Feb.

28. (323) 461-3673.

CALLIOPE ROSE Bill Sterritt's mythological comedy. Studio/Stage, 520

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

(323) 463-3900.

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

GO CONFUSIONS Alan Ayckborn's 1974 slate of five

one-acts, under John Pleshette's tight direction of an exemplary cast,

illustrates the comical consequences when we choose not to listen to

each other. In "Mother Figure," a quarreling couple (Steve Wilcox and

Abigail Revasch) have to revert to childhood in order to connect with

each other during an encounter with a formidably maternal neighbor

(Mina Badie). "Drinking Companions" offers us a traveling salesman

(Brendan Hunt) in a hotel bar masking his loneliness with pathetic yet

hilarious attempts at seducing two increasingly harried young women

(Revasch and Phoebe James). What a waiter (Hunt) hears is all that we

hear too in "Between Mouthfuls," as dialogue of one dining couple

(Adrian Neil and Bridget Ann White) is intercut with that of another

(Wilcox and Jones), slyly revealing a salacious secret. "Gosforth's

Fete" turns into a debacle as the organizer of a charity event (Neil)

learns a secret from a local teacher (Badie) that wreaks havoc for him

and the teacher's fianc (Hunt). And in "A Talk in the

Park," a quintet of disparate folks (Hunt, James, Neil, White and

Wilcox) finds their desperate attempts to connect with each other sadly

falling on deaf ears. (Martín Hernández). Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea

Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru March 7,

www.plays411.com/confusions. (323) 960-5775.

NEW REVIEWS COOL NEGROES The opening tableau

of writer-director Tony Robinson's "dramedy of generational proportion"

is a tumbledown city park circa 1972, where a raucous cadre of black

militants is protesting segregation. The revolutionary banter and

posturing is soon silenced by police gunfire and the dropping of

bodies. After this jarring scene, a flash forward takes us to the

present day where the park is a haunt for a group of regulars: college

professor Louis(Sammie Wayne, IV); Deborah(Teressa Taylor) a former

flower child; Joe(Alex Morris), a city bureacrat; a gay cop named

Mod(Mark Jones); the only caucasian in the group, Eric(Tom Hyler); a

Buppie named Al( Dane Diamond); and the irrepressible Mother Barnes

(the fine Diane Sellers), a blind sage. Not much transpires here; there

is a lot of talking, which, thanks to Robinson's wit and ear for

dialogue, somewhat allays the static structure of the play. But one

gets the feeling that these entertaining characters overstay their

welcome, thanks to a script that is overwritten and languorous. From

the mix, Robinson constructs a flimsy storyline about black

advancement, interracial romance, political correctness, spiritual

redemption, the burden of guilt, and generational angst and conflict.

Unfortunately, these motifs are neither skillfully nor insightfully

probed. The acting is mostly passable, and Sellers is outstanding.

Rounding out the cast are Prema Rosaura Cruz, Tené Carter Miller, and

Leslie La'Raine. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd (2nd floor),

Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.,m.; thru Feb. 28. (213)

624-4796 A Towne Street Theatre production. (Lovell Estell III)

DITCH Taylor Coffman's "humorous look at the trials and tribulations

of love.". Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, www.plays411.com/ditch. (323)

960-7787.

GO DOG SEES GOD: CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE BLOCKHEAD

Yes, Charlie Brown, you're still a good man. But in Bert Royal's darkly

funny parody of the Peanuts comic strip, the gang is all

grown up, raising hell and dealing with some very adult issues. CB

(Stephen John Williams) has lost his famous beagle to rabies and is

questioning the meaning of life. Van, aka Linus (Brett Fleisher), has

become an affable stoner who has smoked his beloved security blanket,

and his sister Lucy (Dana DeRuyck) has been incarcerated in a psych

ward for setting fire to one of her classmates. Tough guy "Pig Pen" now

goes by the name of Matt (Brian Sounalath) -- a germaphobe with a

trainload of emotional baggage. Most of what transpires entails

watching the screwball antics of these foul-mouthed sex-obsessed

hellions, which renders a goodly share of laughs (the "Peanuts" dance

at the opening of Act 2 is a real hoot). But Royal's script isn't all

about teenage angst and hijinks. The strip's original cartoonist,

Charles Schulz, never backed away from controversy. Honoring that

legacy, Royal's play explodes with physical and emotional abuse, and

CB's coming out of the closet results in a tragic finale. This all

unfolds neatly on Rebecca Patrick's set --two swings, a graffiti pocked

wall and bleachers. Director Mike Dias would do better with sharper

pacing, but he's skillfully balanced the light and dark elements.

Rounding out the excellent cast are Lisa Valerie Morgan, Collins Reiter

and Mikayla Park. (Lovell Estell III). Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa

Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (323) 469-9988.

GO EXILES Playwright Carlos Lacamara's drama puts a

powerful human face on the Mariel boat lift, Fidel Castro's mean joke

of 1980, when Cuban-Americans were invited to come to Cuba to fetch

their loved ones, to take them to the Land of Opportunity but were

instead subjected to a painful bait and switch. Cuban-American mechanic

Rolando (Alex Fernandez) sails his rickety boat to Cuba, believing he's

going to be bringing his beloved mother to his American home. Instead,

the authorities force him to take Rolando's pompous brother-in-law,

Joaquin (Lacamara), Joaquin's sullen daughter, Sadia (Heather Hemmens),

and some other extra treats -- a maniac (Khary Payton) and a murderer

(Mark Adair-Rios). Midway through the voyage, the boat's motor breaks

and tensions flare amongst the passengers. Rolando's teenage son Roli

(Ignacio Serricchio) falls for Sadia, while Rolando and his

brother-in-law fight over long-ago wrongs. Then the murderer makes his

move. In David Fofi's emotionally rich, character-driven production the

conflicts brew and simmer, aided by the claustrophobic mood provided by

John Iocavelli's beautifully rickety boat set. The show's pacing sags

occasionally, particularly toward the end, which feels inordinately

drawn out -- and the breakdown of the boat seems like a forced plot

development to keep the characters from being able to get anywhere.

Yet, the the play's emotions crackle, and the piece brims with real

fury and regret, whether it's the anger of Fernandez's excellently

rigid Rolando, or the snappishness of Hemmens' snide but vulnerable

Sadia, forced to abruptly uproot her life. Payton's haunting turn as

the maniac, whose lunacy, we discover, springs from years of torture,

also stands out. Hayworth Theater in association with Fixed Mark

Productions. (Paul Birchall). Hayworth, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (323) 960-4442.

F*CKING MEN Joe DiPietro's observations on the sex lives of modern

urban gay America. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd.,

L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 14. (323) 957-1884.

GEOGRAPHY OF A HORSE DREAMER Neither a major nor even a very

memorable member of the Sam Shepard canon, this 1974 script dates from

the London-exile period in which Shepard was still trying to crack the

nut of the beginning-middle-end dramatic structure. Which means it

belongs to a handful of tween plays that share little of the poetical

fireworks of the '60s or the craft and thematic riches of his

post-Pulitzer prize work. Nevertheless, Shepard did write Geography of a Horse Dreamer

as a comedy, and that's where director Jamie Wollrab and the playwright

part company. Kris Lemche is Cody, a Wyoming cowboy whose onetime

ability to dream horse-race winners has turned into a losing streak

after he's kidnapped and imprisoned by gamblers Beaujo (John Markland)

and Santee (the fine Scoot McNairy). When effete mob boss Fingers (an

inspired Dov Tiefenbach) demotes the men to the dog tracks, Cody's

prognosticative powers are temporarily restored but at the cost of his

sanity, which leads Fingers' cadaverous, henchman/quack, the Doctor

(Thurn Hoffman), to salvage Cody's valuable "dreaming bone" by cutting

it out of the back of his neck. Essentially a seduction-of-the-artist

allegory embroidered by a pastiche of plot and character archetypes

from vintage Warner Bros. gangster melodramas, Shepard's surrealist

aims -- along with their intended laughs -- are all but lost in

Wollrab's realistic mise-en-scéne and some wildly uneven

performances. (Bill Raden). Moth Theatre, 4359 Melrose Ave., L.A.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 6, www.brownpapertickets.com. (323)

666-2296.

GRAVITYWORKS L.A. premiere of creator-director-producer Russell

Boast's cabaret that's "part comedy troupe/part vaudeville act/part

kick-ass music.". Cinespace, 6356 Hollywood Blvd., Second Level, L.A.;

Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 25, www.gravityworkstheshow.com. (800)

838-3006.

NEW REVIEW GO HAMLET

Stage Raw: Flesh and Blood

Photo courtesy of The Porters of Hellsgate

When this Hamlet (Charles Pasternak) says he'll "put an antic

disposition on," he really means it. Pasternak's Prince is sometimes

maniacal, bounding around and turning somersaults. He brandishes his

wit savagely and at times -- as in the closet scene with Gertrude

(Jessica Temple) -- he can be downright brutal. He's particularly good

in the comic scenes with Rosencrantz (director Thomas Bigley) and

Guildenstern (Gus Krieger). There's not much of the "sweet prince"

about him, but it's a performance that works. He receives solid support

from Temple, Jack Leahy, doubling as Claudius and the Ghost, Jamey

Hecht as Polonius, and Taylor Fisher as Ophelia. Director Bigley

provides a mostly direct and straightforward production, despite a few

gaffes: the First Actor's speech about Pyrrhus is so tricked out with

superfluous business that it's both awkward and absurd. On the plus

side, Bigley gives us a generous portion of the text, tactfully edited.

Costumer Jessica Pasternak is clearly battling budgetary limitations,

but her decision to try to convert modern men's suits into period

costumes is more distracting than helpful. It's a long evening (over 3

hours) but an engrossing one. The Flight Theatre, 6472 Santa Monica

Boulevard. Produced by The Porters of Hellsgate. Thurs. & Sat., 8

p.m.; thru Feb. 13. Playing in repertory with Rosencrantz and

Guildenstern Are Dead. (951) 262-3030 (Neal Weaver)

JUST A SONG AT TWILIGHT Willard Manus has chosen an interesting

subject -- growing up in a Jewish household with a deaf mother in the

years of 1928-1942 -- but his autobiographical script seldom gains

momentum. Henriette (Lene Pedersen) and her older sister Marion (Janne

Halleskov Kindberg) hoped for singing careers, but both lose their

hearing in early adulthood. The play centers on the plight of

Henriette, her self-proclaimed Bolshevik husband, Izzy (Ilia Volok),

and their son, Ben (Michael Hampton), who yearns to try out for the

Giants before he's sent off to World War II. Stifling any sense of a

dramatic trajectory, every scene introduces new and different thematic

materials: a discourse on ear surgery in the 1920s; a debate over the

relative merits of lipreading versus sign language; an argument about

capitalism versus communism; rivalry between sisters;, father-son

conflicts;, a lesson in lipreading taught by an amorous teacher (Darin

Dahms); and a wartime romance between Ben and his girlfriend (Julie

Bersani). All these elements could be combined in a successful drama,

but here they don't mesh. There's good work by the cast, but director

John DiFusco isn't able to focus the play's rambling structure. Songs

of the times and a historical slide show do provide evocative period

flavor. (Neal Weaver). Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.;

Thurs.-Sun..; thru Feb. 27. (323) 469-3113.

GO KATAKI Shimon Wincelberg's two-hander is set

during World War II on a remote Pacific island (wonderfully depicted in

painstaking detail by designer Potsch Boyd). Protagonist Alvin Coombs

(Fernando Aldaz) literally drops into the story after he is forced to

parachute from his plane during combat. Much to his dismay, the island

is not deserted, and he finds himself at the hands of Kimura (Yas

Takahashi), an armed Japanese solider who frisks him at knifepoint,

taking his cigarettes and cash. Worse, Kimura speaks almost no English,

and Alvin almost no Japanese. What begins as grunts, gestures and

improvised sign language, however, soon turns into true communication,

as the mortal enemies get to know each other. None of this is smooth by

any means, but it stokes the drama, providing moments of humor, tension

and poignancy. Director Peter Haskell brings out this emotional depth

in the text, masterfully massaging stretches of silence into powerful

conflict, and his elongated transitions between scenes come to embody

the Beckettian pace of life for this stranded pair. Haskell is aided by

Louis Roth's fight choreography, which is at times scary in its

violence, and of course by Aldaz and Takahashi's moving performances,

so authentic in their humanity. What is most enjoyable, though, is the

return to theater's origins in basic movement and expression. This

creates an atmosphere reminiscent of a time when we took more than a

moment to contemplate life. (Mayank Keshaviah). McCadden Place Theatre,

1157 N. McCadden Pl., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 13,

www.kataki2010.com. (323) 856-0665.

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.

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.

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 WRITTEN IN THE STARS Magnum Opus Theatre stages an awful

unsolicited screenplay. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr.,

L.A.; Fri., 11 p.m.; thru Feb. 19. (310) 281-8337.

MALINCHE The life and influence of Malintzin Tepenal

by Victor Hugo Rascon Banda. (Alternating perfs in English and Spanish;

call for schedule.). Frida Kahlo Theater, 2332 W. Fourth St., L.A.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Feb. 28,

www.fridakahlotheater.org. (213) 382-8133.

THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR Shakespeare's comedy, set in the frontier

mining town of Windsor, Colorado. Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave.,

L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 14,

www.LyricTheatreLA.com. (323) 939-9220.

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 Feb. 28, www.MoistOnStage.com. (323) 960-4442.

NAKED IN THE TROPICS Writer/director/producer Odalys Nanin's play

(with a few songs by Nanin and Daniel Indart) focuses on lesbian

immigration lawyer Alicia (Nanin), who is embarking on a love affair

with the beautiful Isis (Natalie Salins). But Isis has a teenage son,

Andy (Carlos Moreno, Jr.), and Andy is a very busy boy. In addition to

impregnating his girlfriend, Linda (Castille Landon), he has also

teamed up with Joe (Daniel Rivera), who introduces him to performing

seminude (in faintly obscene peekaboo loincloths), gay sex, drugs and

drug dealing. When Joe frames Andy to take the fall in a drug arrest,

the boy is threatened with deportation to Cuba -- though he was born in

the U.S. Lawyer Alicia must defend him in court, where her defense

hinges on finding the midwife (drag performer Carey Embry, who plays

the role as a Kate Hepburn wannabe, complete with accent, mannerisms

and the Hepburn quiver) who delivered him, just north of the Mexican

border. Nanin's predictable soap-opera script combines countless genres

-- including lesbian romance, boylesk, after-school special, musical

and courtroom drama -- to very little purpose, and the author's slack

direction doesn't help. The cast strives mightily to score with thinly

written characters who are trapped within the lackluster material.

(Neal Weaver). Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (323) 960-1057.

ON CARING FOR THE BEAST Cornerstone Theater Company presents Shishir

Kurup's play "exploring the struggle between spirit and flesh, hope and

despair, love and fear.". Inner City Arts, 720 Kohler St., L.A.;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 24,

www.CornerstoneTheater.org. (213) 627-9621.

GO ORPHEUS DESCENDING Lou Pepe stages Tennessee

Williams' study of a singer-songwriter, Val Xavier (Gale Harold) who

wanders into a Southern mercantile shop, a reluctant seducing machine

living in and belonging to a different world. Being both a updated

interpretation of the Orpheus' visit to the underworld, with Biblical

allusions heavily laced into the plot, Williams' saga is study in the

how the otherworldy artist becomes scapegoated and sacrificed to the

prosaic reality of the here-and-now. The theater is a bit of an echo

chamber, and Brandon Baruch's murky lighting doesn't really help Pepe's

decisions to eliminate distracting details such as walls and knicknacks

in order to place us inside Val Xavier elevated head and heart. That

said, the ensemble saves and elevates the event, particularly Denise

Crosby, Claudia Mason and Francesca Casale as the women whose hearts

become wrenched by the musician in the house. (Steven Leigh Morris).

Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

p.m.; thru Feb. 21, www.brownpapertickets.com/event/92508. (800)

838-3006.

NEW REVIEW PARADISE STREET

Stage Raw: Flesh and Blood

Photo courtesy of Title3

Title3 is a new company dedicated to giving women strong, unusual,

fascinating roles. For their first production, they've chosen Constance

Congdon's dark sociological piece about class resentment and privilege.

Jane (Molly Leland), a brilliant, assured and beautiful professor of

gender and semiotics -- who drops phrases like "The nomenclature of the

patriarchal case for hegemony" as easily as ordering a club sandwich --

has just moved to a small college town with her self-centered elderly

mother (Danielle Kennedy). Just before the semester starts, Jane's

battered into a coma by a homeless woman (Lane Allison, in a menacing

portrayal), who's bitter at being one of society's invisibles. As Jane

struggles to make at best a partial recovery from irreversible brain

damage, her attacker steals Jane's identity, and is delighted to find

that she's treated as an icon. (At conferences, she's paid $1000 to sit

on stage and grunt one word answers like Buddha -- let the masses, or

the critics, figure out what she means. It's true: the Haves get more

while the Have-nots suffer. The mechanics of Congdon's plot don't make

a lick of sense, but we're hooked by the premise, and by director

Courtney Munch's great ensemble -- filled out by Jiehae Park, Jane

Montosi and Lorene Chesley in a variety of roles. By intermission,

however, the play has made its point. It nonetheless continues to pad

along, wedging in scenes where a Puerto Rican social worker shows

Jane's mother how to use a Kegel exerciser, one of Montosi's characters

silently mops an entire floor, and the homeless attacker babysits her

publisher's drug-addicted daughter. To paraphrase a program note,

Congdon needs to appraise this two-and-a-half hour muddle and chip away

everything that doesn't look like the very smart play about class

tensions buried inside. The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W.

Washington Blvd., L.A.; opens Jan. 29; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.;

thru Feb. 21. (323) 525-0661. A Title3 production. (Amy Nicholson)

NEW REVIEW THE PEACOCK MEN

Stage Raw: Flesh and Blood

Photo courtesy of Company of Angels

Deconstructing American masculinity can be a sticky thicket even in

the best of analyses. Add issues of race and representation to the mix,

however, and its order of complexity increases exponentially. So it's

no surprise that playwright Ronald McCants' idea-packed, satiric foray

into the psychic minefield of black male identity can be as profoundly

disorienting as it is provocative. For McCants' hapless cast of

circus-performing Peacock Men -- African-Americans who, like their

brilliantly plumed namesake, have been domesticated into gender-warped

docility -- the ride is also downright deadly. One performer, Robert

Mapplethorpe's horse-hung The Man in the Polyester Suit (Hari

Williams), has already succumbed after his reduction to an erotically

objectified exhibit and his mysterious disappearance by the sadistic,

white-faced Ringmaster, Steve (Will Dixon). So when avaricious street

rapper Cash (Chris P. Daniels) signs on as a replacement, he finds

himself with a job both physically and existentially more perilous than

he bargained for. Turns out Steve's circus is more of a torture

funhouse in which Cash and his cohorts (John J. Jordan & Michael A.

Thompson) are subjected to humiliations and acts of violence scripted

right out of real-world headlines (Rodney King, Amadou Diallo, etc.).

And while Ayana Cahrr's staging loses crucial dramatic momentum during

some of the play's lengthier, overly didactic passages (the show could

easily benefit from a judicious, 30-minute trim), McCants' nightmare

vaudeville proves a field day for its terrifically talented ensemble.

Company of Angels, Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., downtown;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 7. (323) 883-1717. (Bill

Raden)

Stage Raw: Flesh and Blood

Photo courtesy of Chalk Repertory Company

The idea of traipsing through a dark, damp graveyard on a weekend

night to watch a Shakespeare play may be a daunting prospect, but at

least audiences who attend director Jerry Ruiz's smooth and energetic

production will be assured of seeing a engaging rendition of one of the

Bard's jolliest comedies. The show is actually presented inside the

picturesque (and grave-free) Masonic Lodge on the cemetery property,

which provides a striking, dramatic backdrop for any play. (The

beautifully constructed, colorfully decorated ceiling beams of the

auditorium are worth seeing, even aside from the play.) Viola (Hilary

Ward) dresses in drag to serve Count Orsino (Owiso Odera) and falls in

love with him, but the woman Orsino has his eye on, beautiful Olivia

(Teri Reeves), falls for Viola. Meanwhile, Olivia's drunkard Uncle, Sir

Toby Belch (Matt Gaydos) and his ne'er do well pals play a mean

spirited prank on Olivia's prissy, Puritan steward Malvolio (Charles

Janasz). Ruiz's staging is both intelligently introspective and

energetic, even though some of the comic shtick doesn't seem to

naturally flow from the text and comes across as being weakly timed.

Still, the production possesses a commendable clarity, which itself

makes it a fine, competently rendered version of the show. It also

boasts some remarkably well defined character work. Reeves's nicely

brittle Olivia warms amusingly to Ward's befuddled Viola, while

Guilford Adams's glum fool Feste plays nicely off of Gaydos's decadent

Sir Toby. However, it's Janasz's brilliantly uptight Malvolio, and his

ghoulishly hilarious attempts to woo Olivia all cross gartered and

leering like a gassy Jack O'Lantern, that truly offers this show's

standout performance. Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica

Blvd, Hollywood: Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (800)

838-3006. Chalk Repertory Company. (Paul Birchall)

TWENTY-TWO A friend once explained his decision to quit cocaine as

his weariness of the disreputable types with whom he was forced to deal

and of the even scarier places where they invariably dealt. So it is in

actor-playwright Julia Morizawa's hyperkinetic, autobiographical

addiction nightmare. For Leila (Morizawa), the story's 22-year-old

heroine, however, no amount of unsavory associations can deter her from

her unapologetic, single-minded snorting of coke with the fierce

efficiency of a Shop-Vac. Her unbridled enthusiasm for the powder soon

ensnares her two best friends, Zoe (Shaina Vorspan) and the musician,

Danny (Matthew Black), whose cluttered apartment becomes Leila's de

facto drug den. With her boyfriend/dealer, Eric (Raymond Donahey), as

their enabler/supplier, the friends' walk on the sordid side quickly

careens into a coked-up version of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Director

Donahey intensifies the luridness of the proceedings by seating the

audience on the set like so many uninvited guests. But Morizawa's

restricting focus on the outward spectacle of her characters' free fall

rarely musters pathos for their plunge. While the play hints at deeper

demons whetting Leila's manic appetite (i.e., fear and self-loathing),

the evening's most poignant and revealing moment belongs not to its

protagonist but to its bogeyman, Sol (the fine James Adam Patterson),

when the unscrupulous street dealer speaks with pride over a daughter's

scholastic achievements. Had Morizawa been as generous with her other

characters, she might have delivered something more engaging than

sideshow debasement and morbid, voyeuristic thrills. (Bill Raden).

Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

thru Feb. 13. (323) 667-0955.

NEW REVIEW WHO IS CURTIS LEE?

Stage Raw: Flesh and Blood

Photo by Lynne Conner

The titular question of this play by Ashford J. Thomas (who also

plays Curtis Lee) set in 1950s Greensboro, North Carolina is sparked by

the appearance of a young man in a ramshackle tavern who immediately

attracts the attention of regulars Herman (Gerrence George) and Otis

(Carl Crudup), as well as owner Joe (Logan Alexander). Despite his

shabby appearance, the visitor Curtis claims to be a songwriter for

radio icon Miss Wanda Denise (Kelley Chatman), as well as being a

boxer. Herman and Otis don't buy either story, but Curtis' buying them

drinks keeps them mollified. Unfortunately Curtis has no money,

bringing him into conflict with the normally staid Joe, who, after

threatening Curtis, takes pity on him and puts him to work.

Complicating this situation are Calvin Hunt (Richard Lewis Warren), a

greedy white developer trying to force Joe to sell the place, Mitchell

(James E. Hurd, Jr.), a black gangster to whom Curtis owes money, and

Angel (Paris Rumford), Otis' ironically-named promiscuous daughter.

Director L. Flint Esquerra skillfully mines the comedy in the text, and

Paul Koslo's weathered set provides an authentic mise-en-scène.

Alexander shines in his gruff, pained portrayal of Joe, Crudup and

George have solid comic timing, and Hurd, Jr. is menacing in his brief

appearance. Thomas delivers the sincerity and hotheaded anger of youth,

but his writing, characterized by powerful, resonant themes, doesn't

always cohere. MET Theatre, downstairs in the Great Scott Theatre, 1089

N. Oxford Ave., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru

February 28. (323) 957-1152. www.themettheatre.com A Thought Collective

Productions Production. (Mayank Keshaviah)

NEW REVIEW GO WHY TORTURE IS WRONG, AND THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE THEM

Stage Raw: Flesh and Blood

Photo by Rick Baumgartner

Christopher Durang's Loony Tunes aesthetic - with the help

of Daniel Henning's perfectly modulated direction - gets swashed onto

our so-called war on terror. Thank goodness Durang has moved beyond

family dysfunction. Still, you'd think our recent history, propelled by

some deranged Might Makes Right cabal from a powerful coven of loons,

has been exhausted by American playwrights by now. Durang's outrage and

piety, however, get channeled into breaths of comedic napalm,

something like a cross between The Marriage of Bette and Boo and Dr. Strangelove.

Durang has now joined ranks with Dario Fo. Sweet Felicity (stylish Rhea

Seehorn, trying to be sensible in a world with no sense) wakes up in

bed with a stranger, Zamir (Sunil Malhotra), after a night out at a

bar. Turns out, Zamir slipped her a drug, raped and married her -- none

of which she remembers. The "priest" was Zamir's friend, porno film

maker Reverend Mike (Nicholas Brendon, sort of like Owen Wilson with a

slow-mo brain). Zamir has anger management issues and feels badly that

most of the women in his family are dead. This is cold comfort for

Felicity. Yet she finds herself compelled to defend her "husband" when

her Dick Cheney-emulating father, Leonard (Mike Genovese) - a volunteer

in the "shadow government" -- drags Zamir into the torture chamber

that he's been claiming is a private closet for his butterfly

collection. Narrator and power-drill wielding torture-room assistant

Loony Tunes (Alec Mapa) encourages Leonard to "bweak a finger, bweak a

finger" -- all of which is based on a misunderstanding by Leonard's

spy, Hildegard (Catherine Hicks, spending a good portion of the play

with underwear swishing around her ankles), that Zamir's overheard

conversation about a porno movie was actually a terrorist plot. Durang

re-runs the ending a couple of times, trying to capture the moment

where it all -- "it" being the sad plight of our country - went so

wrong. I particularly enjoyed Christine Estabrook as Leonard's

blissed-out seething wife, Luella, who can't stop talking about the

theater,

even while torture is being committed upstairs, because theater is

what's "real." And what has she seen lately? "250 plays by Martin

McDonagh and David Hare." Britain of course dominates our theater's new

plays, obviously because "Americans are stupid." Durang is getting a

lot off his chest, and off ours. The laughter he generates is from

nonsense about nonsense, unnervingly true and cathartic, and

beautifully performed. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd. (2nd

floor), Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through March 14.

(323) 661-9827 http://theblank.com A Blank Theatre Company production.

(Steven Leigh Morris)

WISEGUYS Scenes from Casino, Carlito's Way, Bronx Tale, Scarface, Goodfellas, Raging Bull and The Godfather.

Hollywood Fight Club Theater, 6767 W. Sunset Blvd., No. 6, L.A.; Wed.,

8 p.m.; thru March 3, www.hollywoodfightclub.com. (323) 465-0800.

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.

CINDERELLA The MainStreet Theatre Company's kids musical, book by

Phylis Ravel, music and lyrics by David Coleman. Lewis Family

Playhouse, Victoria Gardens Cultural Center, 12505 Cultural Center Dr.,

Rancho Cucamonga; Sat., 1 & 4 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (877) 858-8422.

GO CIRCUS WELT Reminiscent of Kander & Ebb's Cabaret (though sans music), this adaptation by director and producer Pavel Cerny of Leonid Andreyev's 1914 Russian play, He Who Gets Slapped,

shifts the setting to Weimar Germany circa 1933. A small traveling

circus run by Ludwig Bricke (John Moskal) and his common-law

wife/lion-tamer, Maria (Stephanie T. Keefer), serves as a haven for

those at the margins of society: Jackson (Jeff Williams), a black

American clown in whiteface; Tilly and Polly (Justin Hertner and Lee

Biolos), a long-standing gay couple; Bezano (Patrick Koffel), the

communist horse trainer; and the newly arrived mysterious clown named

He (an impressively nuanced Joshua Grenrock). As the story, which takes

place entirely in the circus dressing room, unfolds, multiple love

triangles emerge, though the one of greatest consequence involves

Bezano, Maria and the bareback rider Consuelo (Tanya Goott), who is

engaged by her father Count Mancini (Kurt Hargan) to the wealthy Baron

Von Reinhardt (Ed Brigadier), the head of the local SA storm troopers.

While the remaining vestiges of the original melodrama detract from

what could be an extremely compelling piece of theater, Cerny has done

his best to minimize them, and his Brechtian-style entr'acte additions,

such as the "news clowns," provide girding for the menacing backdrop of

Nazi Germany on the rise. An Orpheum Theater Corporation Production.

(Mayank Keshaviah). Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman

Oaks; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (866) 811-4111.

THE CITY Director Stan Mazin's adaptation and update of Clyde

Fitch's 1909 play has a lot going for it. That said, references to Lady

Gaga and Desperate Housewives can't disguise the fact that it's an

overly talky melodrama. Act 1 takes place in Middlebrook, where wealthy

patriarch George Sr. (Klair Bybee) holds forth on the values of small

town life. However, his wife Molly (Kady Douglas), daughters Megan

(Trisha Hershberger) and Teresa (Jaclyn Marfuggi), and especially his

son, George Jr. (Hector Hank), are bucking for the lights and

excitement of New York City. Interloper Fred Hannock (Glenn Collins)

comes to blackmail George Sr. over financial improprieties, and before

his unexpected demise, George Sr. reveals to George Jr. that Hannock is

his half-brother. The overly long Act 2 takes place five years later in

the family's new abode in New York City, where George Jr. is hoping to

secure his party's nomination for senator. Lawyer Burt Vorhees (Bix

Barnaba) begins the vetting process, asking George Jr. to pressure

Teresa not to divorce her playboy husband (Alexander Leeb). But a

bigger problem is how to get rid of the drug addicted Hannock who's

been installed as George Jr.'s secretary. Mazin marshals the cast well,

but some of the acting is uneven. Trefoni Michael Rizzi's plush scenic

design can't be faulted. (Sandra Ross). Lonny Chapman Group Repertory

Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,

3 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, www.thegrouprep.com. (818) 700-4878.

THE COLUMBINE PROJECT Paul Storiale directs an all-new cast in his

play about the Columbine high school massacre. Avery Schreiber Theater,

11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Sun., 5 & 8 p.m.; thru Feb.

28. (818) 766-9100.

CONFESSIONS OF A VINTAGE BLACK QUEEN Billie Hall's autobiographical

survival story ("child molestation, rape, physical abuse, homophobia,

racism, and church abuse"). Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia

Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (818) 766-9100.

NEW REVIEW GO COUSIN BETTE

Stage Raw: Flesh and Blood

Photo by Michele K. Short

Drawn from Balzac's La Comedie Humaine, playwright Jeffrey

Hatcher's adaptation revolves around a cunning woman's campaign to

revenge 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 and 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), whom she's fallen in

love with - 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 over laden 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. Tony Amendola's licentious merchant is

also top-notch. And alongside the story's bathos is its salient

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

human spirit. (The show is double-cast.) Deaf West Theatre, 5112

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

p.m.; thru March 21. (818) 506-5436. An Antaeus Company production.

(Deborah Klugman)

DOROTHY AND THE WIZARD OF OZ Musical adventure by Steve and Kathy

Hotchner, based on L. Frank Baum's classic fantasy. Sierra Madre

Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Sat., 11 a.m. &

2 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (626) 256-3809.

HEAD OVER HEELS Eric Czuleger's new play follows the journey of six

women. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood;

Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (800)

838-3006.

GO HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE "Sometimes to tell a

secret, you first have to teach a lesson," announces L'il Bit (Joanna

Strapp) in the first lines of Paula Vogel's highly acclaimed and richly

awarded play (including the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Drama). Set in

1960s rural Maryland, the non-linear, episodic plot focuses on L'il

Bit's questionable relationship with her Uncle Peck (David Youse)

during the different stages of her adolescence. Because she is more

educated than her blue-collar family and becomes well endowed at a

young age, L'il Bit always feels out of place, finding solace in Peck's

company, even if his advances aren't always appropriate. In addition to

the two leads, the three members of the Greek chorus (Skip Pipo,

Jennifer Sorenson, and Allie Grant--of Showtime's Weeds in her stage

debut) fill out the cast, playing the other members of this

dysfunctional family as well as secondary characters. Director August

Viverito, who also designed the set, finds the perfect balance between

the emotion and humor in the text, all while choreographing the rapid

scene changes seamlessly. Strapp and Youse are captivating in their pas

de deux, subtly expressing powerful emotions, and the chorus members

convincingly shift personas while enhancing the theatricality of the

piece with their secondary function as transition markers and set

movers. As has been its hallmark, this company tackles the challenge of

mounting theatrical classics in a "closet," and once again succeeds

admirably, especially with such an intimate piece. (Mayank Keshaviah).

Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 20, www.theprodco.com. (800) 838-3006.

INDULGENCES IN THE LOUISVILLE HAREM John Orlock's story of two

spinster sisters in 1902 Kentucky. Theatre Unlimited, 10943 Camarillo

Ave., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 14.

(818) 238-0501.

IT'S JUST SEX Jeff Gould's comedy about "lust and trust.". Two Roads

Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30

p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (818) 762-2282.

THE JAMB Tuffer (Kerr Seth Lordygan) and Roderick (Brad C. Wilcox)

are gay men who have been friends for 20 years. Though they seem to

love one another, they've never had sex. Now they're on the scary

threshold of age 40, and their conflicts are looming large. Tuffer is

addicted to sex, alcohol, and meth, while Roderick is an angry control

freak with a messiah complex. Tuffer can no longer bear Roderick's

constant disapproval, while Roderick is fed up with having to rescue

Tuffer from his own self-destructive impulses. In hopes of curing

Tuffer's immaturity, Roderick invites him to come along with him on a

visit to his ex-hippie mother (Kenlyn Kanouse) in New Mexico -- but

Tuffer will come only if he can bring his boy-toy Brandon (Garrett

Liggett), with whom, it emerges, he has never had sex. Gay men who only

want to cuddle? Playwright J. Stephen Brantley gives a clever and

quirkily amusing account of his oddball characters, and achieves a

resolution of sorts. But his play doesn't always convince, and one

senses a more complex, unexplored level beneath this tangle of

relationships. Director Susan Lee provides a brisk, straightforward

production, and elicits fine performances from the four actors. (Neal

Weaver). Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley

Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (818) 508-3003.

GO JUST IMAGINE The fun of seeing and hearing Tim

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

outstanding band, under Greg Piper musical direction, is just

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

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

with Piper's perfectly pitched and accented voice and expert

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

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

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

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

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

video images complete the double fantasy of Lennon before and after

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

811-4111.

GO THE KINGS OF THE KILBURN HIGH ROAD What is home

to the emigrant? Is it, in the lowercase sense, merely the place where

one lays ones hat? Or is it a more mythic capital -- an idea of both

origin and aspiration in which the psychic distance between the two

becomes the self-measure of the man? In Dublin playwright Jimmy

Murphy's remorselessly probing elegy, the question is more than

academic. For Murphy's six, middle-aged Irish expatriates who, 25 years

earlier, left County Mayo to seek their fortunes in London's

working-class Kilburn district, home has become a kind of spiritual

sickness that, for one of them, has already proved fatal. And as the

survivors gather in a local pub to mourn his passing, a potent cocktail

of whisky, guilt and recrimination dissolves what's left of their

camaraderie and dreams of youth to reveal only the bitter

disillusionments and regrets of old men. Under Sean Branney's

sure-handed direction, Dan Conroy gives a blistering performance as

Jap, the hard-drinking men's bellicose, hair-triggered leader who, with

his sidekick and flatmate, Git (the fine Matt Foyer), has the least to

show for the lost years while being the most intransigent in his

denial. Maurteen (a simmering Dan Harper) and Shay (John Jabaley)

occupy a middle-ground of resigned acceptance of their meager

circumstances, while Joe (Steve Marvel), as the group's single,

successful exception, serves as the truth-seeking provocateur needling

the friends to a lacerating self-knowledge. (Bill Raden). The Banshee,

3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru

Feb. 28, www.theatrebanshee.org. (818) 846-5323.

MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's musical

take on the 1934 Kaufman and Hart play. Chance Theatre, 5552 E. La

Palma Ave., Anaheim; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 &

8 p.m.; thru March 7. (714) 777-3033.

ON THE AIR Golden Age of Radio murder-mystery musical comedy.

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

thru March 6, www.plays411.com/ontheair. (323) 960-4420.

ONE MAN, TWO PLAYS Dan Hildebrand in The Nonsense by Kevin Cotter and Whatever Gets You Through the Night by Andrew Kazamia. Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 25. (323) 960-5650.

A PRAYER FOR MY DAUGHTER Thomas Babe's cop drama. Crown City

Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

thru March 6. (800) 838-3006.

GO PROOF What's the link between mathematics and

madness? If you inherit your father's genius, will you also fall heir

to his lunacy? Playwright David Auburn garnered a Pulitzer Prize and a

Tony Award for this play that poses these questions within the

framework of a family drama. The story begins a week after the death of

Robert, an acclaimed mathematician (Brad Blaisdell, appearing in

flashback ); mentally ill in his last years, he'd been cared for by his

mirthless, troubled daughter, Catherine (Teal Sherer). Alone and

grieving on her 25th birthday, Catherine can just barely tolerate the

presence of Hal (Ryan Douglas) a former student of Robert's searching

through his papers for some shred of intellectual value. More annoying

to Catherine is her older sister Claire (Collette Foy), in from New

York and intent on whisking Catherine back with her -- an option

Catherine resents and resists. At the nub of the plot is whether, as

Catherine claims, she wrote the mathematical proof uncovered in a

locked drawer, or whether, as Hal and Claire suspect, Robert devised it

during a period of clarity. For this critic, Auburn's script has always

registered as contrived and lacking subtlety - but this production

blows away this bias by virtue of Sherer's uniquely winning portrayal.

That the character - like the performer -- is wheelchair-bound adds a

layer of vulnerability that brings the play to life for me as it hadn't

before. Make no mistake: Sherer's accomplished performance stands on

its own; it's the material that's been enriched. Kudos also to Foy for

excellent work. (Deborah Klugman). NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia

Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 21.

(323) 960-7863.

QUICKIES TOO! SCENES FROM A BAR Original short plays by seven

writers, one director, and 23 actors. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura

Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Fri., 8 p.m.; thru March 12. (818) 990-2324.

RAY BRADBURY'S WISDOM 2116 Two by science-fiction author Ray Bradbury: Wisdom (1916), a new play, and 2116,

a new musical, book and lyrics by Bradbury, music by John Hoke,

developed, directed and choreographed by Steve Josephson. Fremont

Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 27, www.Plays411.com/raybradbury. (323)

960-4451.

THE SENSUOUS SENATOR Michael Parker's 1988 bedroom farce. Sierra

Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 27, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.

(626) 256-3809.

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.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 20, www.roadtheatre.org.

(866) 811-4111.

SIX DEGREES OF FORNICATION World premiere of David Wally's sex

comedy. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Thurs., 8

p.m.; thru March 4. (866) 811-4111.

TWELFTH NIGHT Presented by Chrysalis Stage. Vic Lopez Auditorium,

12417 E. Philadelphia St., Whittier; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.;

thru Feb. 21, www.chrysalisstage.com...

URBAN DEATH: ONCE UPON A NIGHTMARE Horror show by Zombie Joe's

Underground. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood;

Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (818) 202-4120.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS

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 14. (310) 822-8392.

CHAPTER TWO Neil Simon's 1977 comedy about a widowed writer. Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 14. (310) 454-1970.

THE COLLECTOR John Fowles' psychological and cunning thriller, adapted by Mark Healy. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 6. (310) 397-3244.

COULD I HAVE THIS DANCE? Doug Havery's story of two daughters and their mother's incurable muscular degeneration. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (310) 364-0535.

THE EXONERATED Presented by the Long Beach Shakespeare Company. Old Expo Furniture Warehouse, 4321 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 7 p.m.; thru March 6...

IT'S CRIMINAL! THE COMEDY! Courtroom adventures with criminal defense attorney Murray Meyer. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (323) 960-7780.

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. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main Street, Santa Monica. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (310) 392-7327. 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 Feb. 28. (310) 399-3666.

LEAVING KIEV West Coast Jewish Theatre presents Theodore Apstein's play about his family's migration during the Russian Revolution. Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 28. (323) 506-8024.

LOVE IN BLOOM By Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (310) 394-9779.

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 migr 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.

MURDER ON THE HIGH C'S Book and Lyrics by Scott Ratner, music and lyrics by Tim Nelson. Westminster Rose Center Theater, 14140 All American Way, Westminster; Fri.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 21...

GO AN OAK TREE On the simplest storytelling level, actor-performer Tim Crouch's play is the tale of a hypnotist falling apart at the seams, who after accidentally striking and killing a young girl with his car, one day finds the victim's father on his stage. Wrenching stuff. But on a conceptual level, the event takes this very emotional saga and uses it as a kind of Ping-Pong ball to bat around the idea of suspension of disbelief -- realities that we create through suggestion. In order to accomplish this, for each performance he employs a different actor, whom he meets less than one hour before the performance, and who reads the role of the father from a script. And so, through a frame of hypnotism that's just one of the play's many artifices, begins a breathtaking examination of the blurred line between what is real and what is suggested, of how we live in dream worlds in order to get by, and how theater itself is a kind of hypnosis that serves this very same purpose. Its brilliance is unfettered, and inexplicably moving, for being such a head trip. (Steven Leigh Morris). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (310) 477-2055.

PICK OF THE VINE Nine original short plays selected from submissions by playwrights from around the world. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (310) 512-6030.

PRINCESS BEAN'S MESSY WORLD Rock & roll kids musical about a petite punk princess. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice; Sun., Feb. 14, 12:30 p.m., www.princessbean.com. (310) 490-2383.

RUN FOR YOUR WIFE Ray Cooney's marriage farce. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 13, www.johnsmithcheats.com. (310) 828-7519.

SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION The Kentwood Players present John Guare's drama. Westchester Playhouse, 8301 Hindry Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 13, www.kentwoodplayers.org. (310) 645-5156.

GO A SONG AT TWILIGHT "I've been in America too long. It's so lovely to see a steak that doesn't look like a bedroom slipper! . . . Memory is curiously implacable. It forgets joy, but rarely forgets humiliation." That's probably not the Noel Coward that you've ever heard before, but Noel Coward it is. Given that this 1966 bittersweet comedy was one of Coward's final plays, it's startling to learn that this James Glossman's beautifully mature staging is actually the show's West Coast premiere (a pruned one act version of the play was produced here in 1975 in a nationally touring double-bill called Noel Coward in Two Keys, starring Hume Cronyn.) Is it too late to nominate Coward for some kind of a "best new writer" award? Some have theorized that the show's explicit homosexuality-related themes were Coward's attempt at "coming out" - but even if one doesn't totally agree with the idea, the show still appears to be years ahead of its time - and this partially explains why it's so ripe for rediscovery. Ensconced in his Swiss hotel suite for the season, elderly author-legend Sir Hugo Latymer (Orson Bean) spits venom at his long suffering, astonishingly supportive wife Hilde (Alley Mills), who also serves as his secretary and dogsbody. In fading health, Sir Hugo realizes that his best days are behind him, but an unexpected visit an unexpected visit from from his former mistress, Carlotta (Laurie O-Brien), can still bring out the elderly writer's flamboyant rage. Retired leading lady actress Carlotta wants permission to publish their long ago love letters in her upcoming autobiography, but when Hugo refuses, it turns out the woman has an ace in her sleeve, involving other love letters to someone even further back in Hugo's past, and memory. Glossman's elegantly melancholy staging showcases both Coward's glittering writing and the unexpectedly piquant themes of regret and bitterness. Bean's crusty, curmudgeonly Sir Hugo may miss the smooth, veneer of civility we expect, but he adroitly conveys the sense of a twisted, petulant old tool, who's as dismayed by the loss of his physical faculties as he is regretful of his past mistakes. O'Brien's faded vixen is wonderfully snarky, with a mischievous malice suggesting a hurt creature who is enjoying her spiteful vengeance. Mills' understanding, but coolly clear-eyed wife, turns out to be unexpectedly powerful. (Paul Birchall). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 7, www.odysseytheatre.com. (310) 477-2055.


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