For reasons having to do with Pasadena Playhouse's needs to lease its second space, The Carrie Hamilton Theater, and the need of Furious Theatre Company for a space with higher ceilings and less technical restrictions, the two companies have agreed to part ways after six seasons.
Furious ensemble member and Managing Director, Nick Cernoch, said, "While we would have liked to continue and expand upon the partnership that both Furious and the Playhouse have enjoyed for the past six years, the costs to our organizations combined with new operational considerations due to Pasadena Playhouse's need to lease and maintain its second stage have made that impossible at this time."
An offer to Furious Theatre Company to rent the Pasadena Playhouse for future productions remains on the table.
critics are Pauline Adamek, Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III, Rebecca
Haithcoat, Mayank Keshaviah, Deborah Klugman, Amy Lyons, Steven Leigh
Morris, Amy Nicholson, Tom Provenzano, Bill Raden, and Neal Weaver.
These listings were compiled by Derek Thomas
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
AFTERMATH Elliott Shoenman's comedic drama about a widow and her children. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; opens Feb. 4; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 13. (310) 477-2055.
BECKY SHAW L.A. Theatre Works presents Marsha Mason, Matt Letscher and Emily Bergl in a staged reading of Gina Gionfriddo's comedy. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood; Feb. 9-10, 8 p.m.; Fri., Feb. 11, 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 12, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 13, 4 p.m., latw.org. (310) 827-0889.
THE BERLIN DIG John Stuercke's archeology allegory. El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., L.A.; opens Feb. 4; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 6, brownpapertickets.com/event/141320. (800) 838-3006.
BUT NOT FOR LOVE Matthew A. Everett's comedy-drama about a controversial double wedding. Renegade Theatre (formerly the Actor's Playpen), 1514 N. Gardner St., L.A.; opens Feb. 4; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru March 13, plays411.com/forlove. (323) 960- 4443.
FIBBER McGEE AD MOLLY Mock broadcast of the classic radio comedy, re-createed complete with commercials and sound effects. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Sun., Feb. 6, 7 p.m.. (626) 256-3809.
FIREHOUSE World premiere of Pedro Antonio Garcia's drama about a rookie fireman. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; opens Feb. 4; Fri., 8 p.m.; thru April 29, theatermania.com. (323) 822-7898.
LUCHA VA VOOM'S "MY KINKY VALENTINE" Burlesque at The Mayan, 1038 S. Hill St., L.A.; Wed., Feb. 9, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Feb. 10, 8 p.m.. (213) 746-4674.
THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES Welcome to the 1958 Springfield High School prom, courtesy playwright Roger Bean. Fred Kavli Theater, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. (Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza), Thousand Oaks; opens Feb. 4; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (805) 449-2787.
THE MAIDEN'S PARAYER Nicky Silver's look at the randomness of love. Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Feb. 4; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (800) 681-5150.
MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS Ron Hutchinson's story of David O. Selznick, Ben Hecht and Victor Fleming's re-writing of Gone With the Wind. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; opens Feb. 5; Sat., Feb. 5, 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 12, 3 & 8 p.m.; thru March 6. (818) 558-7000.
NERVE Adam Szymkowicz's dark comedy set on a couple's first date. Chance Theatre, 5552 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim; opens Feb. 5; Sat., Feb. 5, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 6, 5 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (714) 777-3033.
NO. SAINTS LANE Eric Czuleger's black comedy about an insane ex-husband hunting wife and daughter. Actors Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens Feb. 4; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 6, coeurage.org/tickets/buy. (323) 882-8043.
PANTHELION Cabaret at Torrance Cultural Arts Center, 3330 Civic Center Dr., Torrance; Fri., Feb. 4, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 5, 7:30 p.m.. (310) 781-7150.
A PRETTY FILTHY EVENING: REAL STORIES (AND SONGS) FROM THE FOLKS WHO
MAKE ADULT ENTERTAINEMT One-night-only cabaret created by The Civilians. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Sat., Feb. 5, 9 p.m.. (213) 628-2772.
So Much Love Jenifer Lewis performs in this one-night-only event benefiting Rogue Machine. Tickets at roguemachinetheatre.com., $25-$500. Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, 4718 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; Fri., Feb. 4, 8 p.m.. (323) 930-0747.
REWIND SkyPilot Theatre Company's late-night series of one-acts, on everything from "how to get fired from a job" to "how to survive a zombie attack.". Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank; opens Feb. 4; Fri.-Sat., 11 p.m.; thru March 12, skypilottheatre.com. (800) 838-3006.
SPRING AWAKENING Rock musical adaptation of Frank Wedekind's 1891 play about adolescent sexuality in rural Germany. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Feb. 8-11, 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 12, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 13, 1 & 6:30 p.m.. (213) 365-3500.
STEALING BUFFALO Based on the true story of two actors whose production of Mamet's American Buffalo gets a cease-and-desist from Samuel French, by Vern Urich and Craig Shaynak. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Feb. 5; Sat., 5 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru March 6, thegrouprep.com. (818) 700-4878.
33 VARIATIONS Jane Fonda stars in Moises Kaufman's story of a 19th-century Austrian musicologist studying Beethoven. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; opens Feb. 9; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru March 6. (213) 628-2772.
WAYNE WHITE: YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO ACT ALL IMPRESSED Comedy/cabaret. Largo at the Coronet, 366 N. La Cienega Blvd., L.A.; Tues., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (310) 855-0350.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE
GO BALLROOM WITH A TWIST One of Dancing With the Stars' professional dancers, Louis Van Amstel, stages his own show after an illustrious 20-year career as a performer and competitive dancer. His fluidly staged, marvelously high-caliber entertainment (with a couple of also-ran American Idol singers, Gina Glocksen and David Hernandez, thrown into the mix), moves seamlessly from fast numbers to slow ballads, from dance to song and back again. Athletic bodies draped with Randall Designs' gorgeous costumes cavort through Van Amstel's well-orchestrated spectacle, which also celebrates diversity with its casting of various races and body shapes. Van Amstel hosts the evening, assisted by hilarious comedian Niecy Nash (his partner from the most recent season of DWTS). She brings welcome humor when not tearing up the dance floor. The costumes are figure-hugging sexy, flowing and dazzling (with rhinestones) as well as casual and relaxed for some of the modern dance numbers. Van Amstel's exceptional choreography feels liberated from the constraints and repetition of competitive ballroom regulations. Salsa, paso doble, jitterbug, quick-step, waltz and Argentine tango -- Van Amstel name-checks every dance style while employing everything from slow ballad duets to clubby dance mixes of classic and contemporary tunes -- something for everyone. (Pauline Adamek)., $25-$100. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Wed.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (818) 508-0281.
THE BREAK OF NOON Neil LaBute's profile of a modern-day prophet. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru March 6. (310) 208-5454.
CAVALIA A horse is a horse and something more: the symbol of might that helped humans conquer the world. (Cirque du Soleil wouldn't deign to stage Cowvalia.) "Helped," however, is an overstatement. We're drawn to horses despite -- or because of? -- their flagrant lack of interest in us. Lions and Labradors track their trainers with their eyes. At Cavalia, horses get rapturous applause simply for walking sideways -- we're flattered that these awesome beasts have deigned to do our will. It's empowering to see that these equine masters can literally take a horse to water and make it drink. Still, there's a limit to what a horse can actually do: walk, run, run in geometric patterns. Where the human spine can turn the body 360 degrees, theirs are stubbornly parallel. At least they make gorgeous balance beams for humans to leap, tumble and swing across their backs. And in one routine, the riders stand astride a pair of ponies like water skies. Ponderous and pretty, the show dresses up its cast in medieval and caveman garb to tap into the primal wonder of the man-horse bond, and the music and stunts seem designed not to spook the livestock. But when the riders pay homage to rodeo star Yakima Canutt with some full-speed riding tricks, the thrill of danger wakes up the crowd. The show-stopper, though, is a slow bit where trainer Sylvia Zerbini mesmerizes nine white, unbridled horses into lining up and run-ning laps on her command, thus becoming the idol of every girl in under the big white tent, especially the 4-year-old next to me who kept ex-claiming, "Horsies!" (Amy Nicholson)., $39-$199. Under the Big Top/Downtown Burbank, 777 N. Front St., Burbank; Wed.-Sun..; thru Feb. 6. 866-999-8111.
JACK AND THE BEANSTALK Interactive kids' musical, book and lyrics by Lloyd J. Schwartz, music by Ben Lanzarone. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Sat., 1 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (323) 851-7977.
JOHN LITHGOW: STORIES BY HEART John Lithgow clutches a book of stories, just about the only prop he uses. It's a musty, thick old book that, if we're to believe him, has been in his family for generations. It's the book, he says, that his parents read from in order to entertain him and his three siblings. He recalls the family favorite -- the "funny one" -- P.G. Wodehouse's story "Uncle Fred Flits By." Years later, when his father, Arthur Lithgow, was in his 80s, he had to endure abdominal surgery that broke the spirit of this very spirited man. John was the only actor among his siblings, and therefore the only child who was unemployed and "available" to care for his aging parents -- a task that sent him nightly into paroxysms of sobbing, he says. Until he discovered on the shelf of their home a musty old book of stories containing "Uncle Fred Flits By." The snorts of laughter from his dad, and his subsequent rehabilitation, is the best retort to the fatigued argument that the arts are an indulgence. The arts have, in their way, parallel capacities to an emergency ward in a hospital. And that's one answer to the questions Lithgow posits at the start of his show: Why do people tell stories? And why do people listen to them? As a persona, Lithgow is beyond amiable. He has a physical dexterity and a far-flung vocal range that can impersonate anything from the piping of Englishwomen to a Midwestern barber's gravelly drawl. Curiously, Lithgow's Act 2, a recitation of Ring Lardner's "The Haircut," translates to the stage with more of a thud, perhaps because the vehicle -- the monologue of a deranged barber in a deranged Midwestern town -- doesn't allow the actor the opportunity to vault from one character to the next. Here, Lithgow aims to home in on a gossipy barber's explanation for the death of his friend. Onstage, the point of lightness and depravity coexisting gets made in full within 15 minutes, yet the story lasts far longer. (Steven Leigh Morris)., $50-$70. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (213) 628-2772.
THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE For some, a computer is a word-processing machine and a
gateway to the Internet. As long as they are able to type documents, send e-mails and surf the web, they feel they're making full use of this machine. Others, however, use the very same machine to its full technological capacity: making complex calculations, designing eye-catching graphics or composing the next great symphony. In interpreting the work of an accomplished playwright like Martin McDonagh, directors and actors have the same options: Tell the story straightforwardly and competently, or delve deeply into the words and the spaces between them to bring out the richness of their meaning. Like the vast majority of us, director Patrick Williams chooses the former option in staging McDonagh's satire on Irish terrorism. In it, a cat belonging to Padraic (Patrick Rieger), a soldier in the Irish National Liberation Army, is found dead by Davey (Devon Armstrong) and brought to Padraic's father, Donny (John Gilbert), who's supposed to be taking care of it. When Padraic hears that his favorite feline isn't fit, he returns to Inishmore and runs into not only Mairead (Jannese Davidson), Davey's gun-toting sister who's keen to join both Padraic and the cause, but also a crew of INLA members angling to take over his turf. Violence and mayhem ensue, and liters of blood are shed, all of which is a lot funnier than you'd expect. Unfortunately, neither the acting nor directing brings the laugher to full throat. The characters are played too earnestly instead of hyperbolically, a move that injects subtlety into a piece that revels in extremes and caricature. (Mayank Keshaviah). Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Thurs., Feb. 10, 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 12. (562) 494-1014.
LOVING REPEATING: A MUSICAL OF GERTRUDE STEIN The most pressing question raised by director caryn desai's staid staging of Stephen Flaherty and Frank Galati's 2006 "chamber musical" is one of form. Is Galati's reductive editing of Stein's experimental poetry and prose into lyrics for Flaherty's anodyne show-tune melodies really the most fitting tribute to a woman whose life and work so fully epitomize the European avant-garde of the early 20th century? Cheryl David gives a spirited recital as the late-middle-aged Gertrude, whose lecture on her life threads through extended flashbacks comprising the bulk of the 90-minute show's 32 songs. As young Gertrude (Shannon Warne) abandons America for the art world of pre-WWI Paris, where she quickly meets her lifelong partner and muse, Alice B. Toklas (Melissa Lyons Caldretti), Galati's book drifts from a celebration of Stein as a pioneer of modernist poetics into her perhaps more enduring status as an icon of gender-identity politics. This subordination of art to romance is emblematized by Kurt Boetcher's valentine of a set (ably lit by Donna Ruzika), in which Gertrude and Alice's love story plays out under a heart-shaped wreath festooned over a stage platform painted in quasi-Picasso figurative abstractions. The musical's climax comes in the camped-up comedy of Galati and Flaherty's five-part take on the 1922 story "Miss Furr and Miss Skeene" (sung by the company). (This is where Stein first used "gay" as a sly coinage signifying same-sex gender preference.) The singers acquit themselves well enough in a score that is purposefully but wearyingly redundant. Gertrude probably would be bemused and mortified. (Bill Raden). International City Theatre, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (562) 436-4610.
MAESTRO: THE ART OF LEONARD BERSTEIN Hershey Felder re-creates the legendary composer. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach; Sun., 2 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 &
8 p.m.; thru Feb. 6. (949) 497-2787.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM Shakespeare's comedy, directed by Mark Rucker. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; Tues.-Wed., 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 20. (714) 708-5555.
MOON OVER BUFFALO Ken Ludwig's backstage farce, set in 1953 New York. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (562) 494-1014.
GO TRACES comes courtesy of Canadian company Les 7 Doigts de la Main. Though they lack the megabudget, media splash and spectacular set constructions that are fellow Canadian Cirque du Soleil's hallmarks, this young seven-member cast (six men and one woman) entertain with spellbinding precision, energy and panache. The show fuses dance, acrobatics, music, skateboarding, low-brow theater and even some basket-ball drills, all masterfully contoured by the troupe's athleticism and assured attitude. And the show possesses the intimacy lacking in Cirque pro-ductions. At the start a mic pops down from the sky and the artists introduce themselves, telling where they are from and offering a detail about their personal lives. This informal atmosphere is nicely underscored by a sparse stage consisting of an odd-looking piano, chairs, hanging tarps and two long vertical poles. At times it seems like you're hanging out at a derelict yet comfy public space, watching gifted street artists do their thing. All this is beautifully packaged by Shana Carroll and Gypsy Snider, who handle direction and choreography. (Lovell Estell III). Ricardo Montalban Theater, 1615 Vine St., L.A.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 20, broadwayla.org. (800) 982-ARTS.
WOMEN OF SPOON RIVER: THEIR VOICES FROM THE HILL Solo show performed by Lee Meriwether, adapted by Lee Meriwether with Jim Hesselman, based on the book Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (323) 851-7977.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS
ATTACK OF THE 50-FOOT SUNDAY Jordan Black directs the Groundlings Sunday Company. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 934-9700.
THE BEVERLY HILLS PSYCHIATRIST This double bill of one-acts by German scholar-educator-playwright Cornelius Schnauber makes it clear he is not a fan of psychiatry. The title play tells us about the Psychiatrist (Alexander Zale) and his maddening treatment of his long-suffering Patient (Tony Motzenbacher), a writer fraught with anxieties. The doctor is absent-minded -- he can never remember his patient's name -- and tends to fall asleep during therapy sessions; whenever he's asked a concrete question, he evades it and ends the session. This goes on for 19 maddeningly repetitious scenes, during which one can only wonder why the patient doesn't just leave. At the end, the patient finally does realize his doctor is a fraud, but it's too little and too late. Perhaps Schnauber was attempting a Pinterian conundrum, but Pinter was never this dull. The second play, "Highway One," is actually an excerpt from a longer work, consisting of a monologue by an opera singer (Lene Pedersen) as she prepares to perform Aida and worries about the daughter she gave up for adoption years before. Director Louis Fantasia stages the pieces ably enough, and there is excellent work by the three actors, but they can't save the plays from themselves. (Neal Weaver). Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 6, plays411.com/beverlyhills. (323) 960-4418.
BLACK VERSION Improvised "black versions" of popular films suggested by the audience, performed by African-American actors. Directed by Karen Maruyama. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Mon., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (323) 934-9700.
BLINK & YOU MIGHT MISS ME Me Writer-performer Larry Blum has had a curious career, ranging from production assistant to actor; dancer on Broadway, film and television; stand-in; and on-camera escort leading glamorous female stars (Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Susan Lucci) to the stage to accept their awards. He adores stars and drops their names without restraint in this amiably bitchy compendium of celebrity dish. He tells us what it was like to be groped by Van Johnson (during a stock production of How to Succeed in Business...), to lift Roseanne in a dance number and to stand in for Simon Cowell on Dancing With the Stars. He recounts a bizarre encounter with Ronald Reagan, who mistook him for a Gulf War hero, and tells us he somehow filched Lucille Ball's driver's license. He's clearly not fond of Raquel Welch or Roseanne, but he adores Lily Tomlin. His stories tend to serve up the rich and famous warts and all, and he often prefers the warts. He's a clever, funny, accomplished raconteur who filters his stories through a flamboyantly gay sensibility. Director Stan Zimmerman keeps things brisk and stylish. (Neal Weaver). Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 6, plays411.com/blink...
CABARET IDOL Season 2 James Mooney's weekly vocal competition, with winners voted on by the audience. Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill, 6122 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru April 24. (323) 466-9917.
GO CAUGHT In the aftermath of Proposition 8 passing in November 2008, one of the regrets of those who fought valiantly for gay marriage and against the proposition was that enough wasn't done to "normalize" gay couples. And while the events in David L. Ray's world-premiere play take place in July 2008, Caught furthers the cause by dramatizing one of those healthy relationships. In it, Angelenos Kenneth (Corey Brill) and Troy (Will Beinbrink) are on the eve of their nuptials, a ceremony that will be officiated by their friend Splenda (Micah McCain), who is ordained via the Internet. This blissful scene is interrupted by a visit from Kenneth's estranged sister, Darlene (Deborah Puette), who is very Southern and very Christian, as well as her daughter, Krystal (Amanda Kaschak). In the interludes between scenes, we also see Darlene's husband, T.J. (Richard Jenik), preaching to his conservative congregation in Georgia. Secrets, lies and surprising revelations fuel the drama. Director Nick DeGruccio deftly takes Ray's strong and likable characters from page to stage, sparingly playing up stereotypes for comedy without ever reducing the characters to them. Adding to the authenticity are Adam Flemming's delightfully detailed set and Katherine Hampton Noland's colorful couture. Adding to the emotional investment in the story is a talented cast; standouts include Puette, for her rich and intense portrayal of Darlene; McCain, for balancing divalike comedy with deep sincerity; and Kaschak, for combining fresh-faced innocence and a willfulness to create a very believable teenager. (Mayank Keshaviah). Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (800) 595-4849.
CLOSER Patrick Marber's study of "society's struggle with intimacy and personal identity.". Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 20. (323) 960-7785.
GO COLOGNE, OR THE WAY EVIL ENTERS THE WORLD In this solo drama, writer-director Tony Abatemarco eloquently describes growing up gay in the 1960s in a part of rural Long Island that "looked exactly like Iowa." If the piece is not, strictly speaking, autobiographical, it's clearly highly personal. In the world of horny teen boys who haven't yet mastered the art of dealing with girls, blatant homoeroticism and rabid homophobia exist side by side (one of the boys performs a spectacular strip-tease to an enthusiastic audience). The protagonist, Harry (Harry Hart-Browne), is a gay boy who's fascinated with Robert, a truculent local hero who's already a man among boys. He sets out to seduce Robert, and to some extent succeeds. Later, when Harry is fearful of being outed, he outs Robert instead, setting him up for a severe beating by local bullies. He retains a life-long fascination with Robert, even after the Stonewall riots provide a measure of personal liberation. Oddly, the narrative is presented in the third person, which has a slightly distancing effect, perhaps necessary to keep the graphic sexual descriptions from being too personal. Hart-Browne delineates his characters sharply and with enormous conviction. (Neal Weaver). Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 19, katselastheatre.com. (702) 582-8587.
CRACK WHORE GALORE - LIVE! Sextastic rock 'n' rolling with Danny and Abbey Galore. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., L.A.; Thurs., Sat., 10:30 p.m.; Fri., Feb. 4, 10:30 p.m.; thru March 12, ensemblestudiotheatrela.org. (323) 644-1929.
GO CYCLOPS: A ROCK OPERA It gets so wearying -- all the satyr plays being done in L.A. ... No, hold on, sorry: Was confusing satyr plays with autobiographical solo shows. Satyr plays are an ancient Greek oddity: violent, erotic, comedic concoctions that used to be performed with three tragedies in annual festivals. Only one still exists, Cyclops by Euripides, filched from the Homeric legend of Odysseus being drawn to the shores of Mt. Aetna by the seductive love call of the Sirens. In Louis Butelli, Chas LiBretto & Robert Richmond's scintillating rock-opera adaptation, featuring a hedonistic band (The Satyrs) in goat-skin pantaloons and a bare-chested drummer (Stephen Edelstein), that love call sounds like so much caterwauling. Co-directed by the co-adapters, the event recalls Radoslaw Rychik's adaptation of Bernard-Marie Kolts' In the Solitude of Cotton Fields last year at REDCAT -- a similar kind of rock cantata backed up by the Polish band Natural Born Chillers. Here, almost everyone's eyes are rimmed in goth black paint, and half the cast have fingernails to match. The music ranges from twisted ukulele-accompanied ballads, to Mick Jagger and punk lampoons, singing the story of how Odysseus (LiBretto) subjugated (by intoxicating with wine and then blinding) the one-eyed cycloptic monster, Polyphemus (Jayson Landon Marcus), who has been holding Dionysus (Casey Brown) captive, along with almost everyone else in the shadow of the mountain. (Polyphemus is the embittered son of Poseidon, if you follow such things.) A trio of gorgeous Maenads (Nicole Flannigan, Madeleine Hamer, Liz Sydah), attired in figure-clenching silks (costumes by Caiti Hawkins), serve as back-up singers (and more). One of them mentions that cruelty in life brings a legacy of contempt, whereas kindness brings a legacy of enduring love. This beautiful idea doesn't sound particularly Greek, given their rigid codes of honor and revenge. Whether or not Homer or Euripides gave it lip service, that Shakespearean notion anchors and gives this ancient comic-book update its humanity, a moral hall pass for the hedonism it wallows in so glee-fully, and with such style and skill. (Steven Leigh Morris). Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Through Feb. 4, 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 19, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 20, 5 p.m.; Through March 4, 8 p.m., sonofsemele.org/shows/ccf2011.html...
GO DADDY Dan Via's Off-Broadway hit, receiving its L.A. premiere, is set in the context of the impassioned debate over gay marriage. Handsome gay newspaper columnist Colin (Gerald McCullouch) and buttoned-down lawyer Stewart (playwright Via) have been best friends for 20 years. Despite a bit of hanky-panky in their college days, their friendship has never become a love affair, though they're closer in many respects than some lovers. When Colin begins an affair with Tee (Ian Verdun), an eager young man half his age, it's a seismic shock to the long-standing relationship. Stewart is resentful of the boy's incursion into their lives, and suspects there's more to Tee than meets the eye. But when he tries to tell Colin about his doubts and suspicions, Colin dismisses them as mere jealousy. Though Via's play gets off to a slow start, things that initially seem cryptic or merely casual prove to be of crucial importance as it progresses, and the piece builds to a startling finale. Director Rick Sparks elicits finely nuanced performances from his three principals, and Adam Flemming provides the handsome and flexible unit set. (Neal Weaver). Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; Thurs., Feb. 24, 8 p.m.; thru March 13, plays411.com/daddy. (323) 856-4249.
DIARIES OF A K-TOWN DIVE Susan Park's one-woman show set in a hole-in-the-wall bar in L.A.'s Koreatown. Elephant Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 5, 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 10, plays411.com/ktowndive. (323) 960-4410.
DIRT Writer-director Bruce Gooch's barnyard gothic is set on a farm where the horses are dead, the cows sold and the dog eaten by coyotes. Mom's dead, too, and son Zac (Ryan Johnston) is in exile. This leaves Papa (John D. Johnston) alone to work the land, whether or not it needs working, because it's a sin to slack. (The Johnstons are real-life nephew and uncle.) Set designer David Potts has draped the walls in dense netting and installed a front porch that looms like a gallows. It's an apt backdrop for when Zac returns to find his muscular pops has gone dangerously senile. And as the set is stockpiled with a hatchet, knife, saw and shotgun, I'd take Dad seriously when he threatens that he won't leave his land without a fight. Though Ryan Johnston is miscast as the estranged son, his clashes with John D. Johnston spark. Too often, however, Gooch has them communicate to each other (and us) through monologues and memories; the script sidesteps as often as it allows them to butt horns head-on. Andrea Robinson is quite fine as a local waitress who swings by to check on the fellas, but the stars of the show are the evocative technics (even if in one climax, the symbolic thunder drowned out the big speech) and the elder Johnston, whose presence dominates the play like a frontier Fury. Post--Lennie Smalls, overall-clad dementia is tricky business -- at times, the play seems to want the subtitle "Of Mice and Dad" -- but veteran actor John D. Johnston pivots on a nail head from mulish to brutish to yearning, giving the play an immediacy it needs to unleash. (Amy Nicholson). Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 3 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 27, roguemachinetheatre.com. (323) 960-5563.
DOUG LOVES MOVIES Free. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Tues., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 908-8702.
EMILY'S SONG Its promo tagline, "An epic musical journey straight to your heart," would seem to place writer-director Chet Holmes' musical in the same category as straight-to-video releases with similar epithets. Considering Holmes' background in screenwriting and his desire to tell "highly satisfying commercial stories that appeal to the masses," it's hardly surprising that his foray into musical theater fits the bill. In it, aspiring musi-cian Charlie Everson (Tom Schmid) gains a daughter and loses a wife on the same day. Though young Emily (Darcy Rose Byrnes) grows up motherless, her talent for music brings her close to her father. Then one fateful evening, Charlie disappears, leaving Emily an orphan with housekeeper and de facto nanny Rosa (Elena Campbell-Martinez) as her only family. The next 10 years involve both older Emily (Lindsey Haun) rising to stardom as a singer, and Charlie starting over after he is robbed of his memory. Although the premise is interesting, the problem is that the story is told so cinematically: There are close to 100 scenes, some of which are four lines long before a blackout. While this may work on screen, it is disjointed and jarring on stage. The songs, co-written with Amanda Holmes and Tom Shepard, are pleasantly melodic, but many are too short to be musically satisfying. Still, Haun's voice is a highlight of the show, and she and Schmid do the numbers justice. The two of them, along with the perky and precocious Byrnes, are very talented performers, but, like the rest of the cast, they're constrained by the formulaic and at times melodramatic storytelling. (Mayank Keshaviah). Hudson Backstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (323) 960-7788.
FACEBOOK The weekly show formerly known as MySpace., $5. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Wed., 9:30 p.m.. (323) 908-8702.
THE FOURTH ANNUAL 10-MINUTE PLAY CONTEST This year's theme: "The Black Experience: Colored, Negro, Black, African-American; a Collection of Our Stories.". Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 20. (323) 465-4446.
FREE Are special talents a burden or a blessing? Set in a fantastical backwoods America, Barbara Lindsay's lightweight comedy concerns the woes of an itinerant performer named Free (Michael Earl Reid), whose uncanny ability to levitate and then float in the air does little to make him happy. Tired of being gawked at, he declares his intention to chuck the carny life and get a job making beds at a seedy California motel. The an-nouncement dismays his manager and longtime pal, Stoney (Greg Albanese) -- not surprisingly, since Stoney's income depends on his friend's mind-bending forte. Ultimately rescued by several comedic performances, the play is slow getting started, in part because Free's bellyaching persona is so simplistically crafted at the top, and also because it's never clear what has triggered his crisis. Directed by Wendy Worthington, the production eventually comes alive around Dagney Kerr's sidesplitting portrayal of Althea, an obsessive fan who perceives the wussy Free as the source of her own salvation. Donaco Smyth is likewise extremely funny as Althea's hulking husband with the disposition of a lamb. Also notewor-thy are McPherson as the hotel housekeeper who inspires Free's decision to change his life, and Albanese as a wannabe slick operator who turns out to really have a heart. (Deborah Klugman). [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (323) 461-3673.
GO HEAD: THE MUSICAL Composer-lyricist Kevin Fry's delightfully campy horror musical, based on Roger Corman's 1962 gore-fest The Brain That Wouldn't Die, is not only enjoyable on the level of Midnight Theater excess, it's a quick-witted show by any standard. Its catchy score and clever, bloodthirsty lyrics are in the style of Little Shop of Horrors. And how can you not love a musical that features a severed head warbling songs of love and hatred? Beautiful, virginal Jan (Stephanie Ann Saunders) is administering fellatio to her boyfriend, Bill (Charles St. Michael), in the front seat of their car as they speed through the woods -- an ill-advised, foolhardy act they soon have reason to regret as, in the ensuing car crash, Jan's head is chopped off. Not to worry, though: Bill, it turns out, is a mad scientist and has invented a formula that will keep Jan's head alive until he can find a new body onto which to transplant it. While Bill runs off to scour the strip clubs for a suitable albeit unwilling donor, Jan is left hooked up to a table, singing the blues. If the sight of a severed head dangling by its jaws from a man's manhood isn't enough to make you howl, then the image of Saunders' strangely seductive Jan, her head on a table, singing a love song to the hideous Franken-monster (Chance Havens) Bill keeps locked in the closet, will do the trick. In director L. Flint Esquerra's taut production, the ensemble assay their silly characters with glee and conviction. Fry's musical style strives for '50s doo-wop, but his comic instincts are comparatively timeless, evident in lyrics such as, "He will find you a new hottie/Chop off her head and give you her body!" Under music director Robert Shaw's helm, the ensemble's vocal work is top-notch, with droll performances that are equal parts operatic and cheesy. In addition to Saunders' perky yet monstrous Jan, particularly sprightly turns are offered by St. Michael's spooky, intense mad scientist and by Becca Battoe and Fiona Bates, playing ill-fated women of ill repute, one of whom comes to grief at Bill's hands. St. Michael, in particular, has a memorably evocative falsetto: perfectly in tune, but edged with a fierce madness that puts one in mind of Riff Raff from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. (Paul Birchall). MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A.; Fri., 9 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 12. (323) 960-5770.
GO JEWTOPIA It's been a little more than seven years since the long-running original comedy was last seen in the City of Angels. This revival is far more compact, less jaunty and slightly more cerebral. Nonetheless, the show is even funnier. It starts when childhood buddies Chris O'Connell and Adam Lipschitz (Conor Dubin and Adam Korson) happen across each other at a party for Jewish singles. Chris, a Catholic, says that he wants to marry a Jew so he "never has to make another decision," while the socially inept Adam is on the scene only to please his nagging mother, who wants him to find a nice Jewish girl. So the guys make a pact: Chris will show Adam the finer points of picking up women, if Adam will reciprocate by showing Chris the particulars of being Jewish. It's a scenario fully charged with comedic possibilities, and writer-director Bryan Fogel mines it for all its subterranean treasures -- taking aim at cultural stereotypes, customs, P.C. junkies. Korson and Dubin have magnetic chemistry and formidable skills. Rounding out a splendid cast are Thea Brooks, Bart Braverman, Cheryl David, Mark Sande and Cheryl Daro. (Lovell Estell III). Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (323) 655-7679.
KEEP IT CLEAN COMEDY Hosted by JC Coccoli., Free. 1739 Public House, 1739 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Mon., 10:30 p.m.. (323) 663-1739.
GO MACHO LIKE ME In her solo performance, the very funny Helie Lee explores the issue of male privilege from a South Korean female perspective. (Though she was born in Seoul, her family emigrated to the U.S. when she was 4.) She saw firsthand how her brother was treated as a crown prince, while she and her sister were judged purely on their marital prospects -- provoking her parents' urgent concern with getting her married. She decided to live as a man for 10 weeks, to experience the strength and freedom she attributed to men. She strapped down her bosom, had her hair cut short, acquired a masculine wardrobe and set out to gain entry to all-male enclaves; the results were not what she expected. She found that men's lives were no less constricted than women's, limited by competitive machismo and the fear of being perceived as gay. The tale is both illuminating and hilarious as she gains new insights into what it's like to live as a man and as a woman. By the end of her experiment, she's delighted to return to the familiar bonds of femininity. With director Sammy Wayne, she has forged a rich, witty, seamless tale. (Neal Weaver). Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 13, macholikeme.com. (800) 595-4849.
MAGIC STRINGS Bob Baker's marionette variety revue, featuring puppet horses on a merry-go-round, an opera diva on roller skates, a "Day at the Circus," and an all-American grand finale. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., L.A.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 10:30 a.m.. (213) 250-9995.
GO ME, AS A PENGUIN Yorkshire playwright Tom Wells' comedy, in its U.S. premiere, is a throwback to British "Kitchen Sink" dramas of the 1950s. This one might be dubbed a "Toilet Bowl" comedy. "I think you should see this," says visiting Stitch (Brendan Hunt), peeking out from the bathroom door belonging to his his very pregnant sister, Liz ( Mina Badie). "Whatever you've done, just keep flushing," she fires back from her threadbare couch. The play unfolds from her grubby living room. With his penchant for the comfort of knitting, idiosyncratic and perhaps mentally touched Stitch is visiting his sister in Hull from even more rural Withernsea, in order to check out Hull's gay scene. The tenderness between the misfit, almost mortally lonely Stitch and his very pregnant sister has much in common with Shelagh Delaney's 1958 similarly tender play, A Taste of Honey. Themes of loyalty, love, and desperate longing - intertwined with sado-masochistic behaviors -- just keep trickling across the divide of centuries, and in much the same gritty, earthy theatrical style depicted in filthy furniture (set by John Pleshette) that represents poverty, and not just the poverty of financial resources. Pleshette directs a fine production that gets to the heart of the matter, even if some of the North Country dialects drift a wee bit southwest into, say, Alabama. Hunt serves up a dynamic performance as Stitch, laced with twitches and subtle mannerisms. Bradie's Liz has a similar richness and authenticity. James Donovan plays Liz's partner, and the father of her child, Mark, with a blend of the requisite gruffness required by a guy trying to scrape out a living in Hull, masking a soft-heartedness that would get him cast out to sea, were more people to know about it. Stitch becomes obsessed with a callow aquarium attendant named Dave, played by Johnny Giacalone with an arrogant brutishness that's a pleasingly heart-hearted antidote to the eccentric humanity that shows up in the room. In her pregnancy, Liz has become almost addicted to a popular British snack called Battenberg cake. "Ah," remarks Stitch drolly, watching her opens the wrapper and melt into paroxysms of delight at the first bite: "Sponge. Jam. Marzipan. All the major food groups." What keep audiences watching new plays may not be new forms at all, but merely the references that provide the necessary inclusion. The Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; through March 6 (323) 960-7721. (Steven Leigh Morris). Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru March 6, plays411.com/me. (323) 960-7721.
MLLE. GOD Playwright Nicholas Kazan's uninspired spin on Frank Wedekind's "Lulu" plays comes as a cautionary reminder of just how difficult it is to capture libido on a stage. What some might think is the essence of the erotic mystique certainly will seem for others to be little more than an embarrassingly self-revealing mistake. That the latter proves to be the case in director Scott Paulin's pallid production is not for want of trying. Annika Marks' Lulu contains more provocative posturing per minute than one generally encounters at the average "gentlemen's club." Unfortunately for a play attempting to explore issues of feminine sexual power and the hegemony of patriarchal gender constructs, Marks' miscalculated stridency conjures all the eros of a cold shower. To be fair, even the great Louise Brooks -- whose performance in Georg Pabst's classic 1929 screen adaptation Pandora's Box continues to reign as the definitive Lulu -- would have been lost in the sophomoric self-parody of a text that calls for a gentleman admirer (Tasso Feldman, double-cast with Gary Patent) to involuntarily blurt out an ecstatic "Yes!" every time Lulu bends over. Keith Szarabajka emerges with his dignity fully intact in a fine turn as the Lulu-obsessed painter Melville (also played by Robert Trebor). Richard Hoover's versatile set and lighting designs and Jason Thompson's sci-fi-tinged video projections lend the proceedings a stylish gloss. Late in the play, a character refuses to describe Lulu's sexual appeal, adding that it is "a certain quality which I wouldn't want to ruin by naming it." Would that Kazan had taken his own advice. Performs with alternating casts. (Bill Raden). Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru March 27, ensemblestudiotheatrela.org. (323) 644-1929.
MR. KOLPERT Norton People presents David Gieselmann's contemporary German farce. Fake Gallery, 4319 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Wed., 8:30 p.m.; thru March 9. (323) 644-4946.
NEVERMORE Writer-director Matt Ritchey's far-afield imagining of the life of Edgar Allan Poe is set in a decrepit manse owned by Monty (Briton Green), who hosts a weekend visit by his childhood friend, Edgar Allan (Joseph Gilbert). Hard times have forced the sale of the place where the two played together as kids. Soon after Edgar's arrival, things start to swirl in the vortex of a clubfooted plot that implodes into Gothic chaos. There's murder, parricide, drug addiction, alcoholism and ever-diminishing intrigue. The crowning touches are a dash of incest and a love triangle involving Monty, Edgar and Lenore (Chloe Whiteford), Monty's ailing sister, magically risen from the grave. Dramatic license is one thing, but the conspicuous absence of logic and coherence is quite another. On the upside, Ritchey's staging provides creepy atmospheric density, including the forlorn "caw" of a raven. Patrick Emswiller's dour music is superb, as are the period costumes of Sarah Register. David Graybill's lighting scheme is well conceived, with a portrait of Lenore hanging over a mantle beautifully accented with light. The set by Davis Campbell is simple yet effective. Rounding out the capable cast are William Knight as Dudley the groundskeeper and Steve Patterson as a lawyer named Catherwood. (Lovell Estell III). El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 5, plays411.com/nevermore. (323) 960-1055.
99 WAYS TO FUCK A SWAN Kim Rosenstock's exploration of desire. Part of Son of Semele's Company Creation Festival. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Sat., Feb. 5, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 6, 5 p.m.; Through Feb. 18, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 5, 8 p.m.; Sun., March 6, 5 p.m., sonofsemele.org/shows/ccf2011.html...
PLAY DATES Sam Wolfson's offbeat love story. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 6. (323) 960-7784.
GO POINT BREAK LIVE! Jaime Keeling's merciless skewering of the 1991 hyper-action flick starring Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey is loaded with laughs, as well as surprises, like picking an audience member to play Reeves' role of Special Agent Johnny Utah. It's damn good fun, cleverly staged by directors Eve Hars, Thomas Blake and George Spielvogel. (LE3). Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8:30 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.. (866) 811-4111.GO
PUZZLER In writer-director Padraic Duffy's new play, Niklas Keller (Mark Bramhall) now in his 70s, sits at a desk somewhere in Germany, rifling through documents shredded by the East German secret police years ago. His pin-in-a-haystack search is for a fragment of a conversation, for a woman, his wife, for a fleeting marriage that dissolved before his eyes in a world where everybody was being watched and nothing was certain. His Quixotic search is for certainty, for an understanding of why said wife disappeared, after that conversation in which she promised somebody, some man in a trenchcoat, that she would see him later in that day. It was clandestine rendezvous in which both man and woman were each incognito (except to each other). After she met with that man, Keller never saw his wife again. Keller pieces together that conversation from shreds of tiny slips of paper found in sacks of shredded documents that the contemporary government is analyzing in order to understand the now defunct East German mentality. That conversation shows up again on film, actually a live re-enactment performed by Jessica Sherman and Jacob Sidney. Her neck is wrapped in a purple scarf, and the kind of white handbag that was de rigueur for East German spies. He's in a trenchcoat. It's all very noir. And so Duffy's romantic thriller follows a kind of Agatha Christie logic, as revealed in a smokey Fritz Lang flick where nobody is quite who they claim to be. The flashbacks provide the keenest sense of film noir that Duffy's play winks at. There's an almost choreographic panache to the swirl with which Sherman and Sidney move. Less so in the present tense, where the acting style more cinema verite than noir. The consequence is a kind of emotional investment in a sentimental love story, pinched at times by the sly visual jokes on a film style that Duffy clearly adores. His affection for the form, and for its characters, is so much more satisfying than a parody. (Steven Leigh Morris). Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 19. (310) 281-8337.
LA RAZON BLINDADA (THE ARMORED REASON) How does a prisoner survive without hope? Writer/director Aristides Vargas drew inspiration for this poignantly horrific black comedy from the experience of his brother, a political prisoner in Argentina during that country's military dictatorship. Confined in solitary, prisoners were permitted a brief respite on Sunday, when they could meet and talk, albeit while remaining seated and with their hands on the table. That setup provides the physical framework for this luminously surreal 80-minute one-act in which two incarcerated men come together to role-play -- one calling himself De La Mancha (Jesus Castanos Chima), the other Panza (Arturo Diaz de Sandy). The actors remain seated throughout, navigating across the stage on wooden chairs with wheels. Within these loosely assumed personae, the pair frolic through a hallucinatory landscape, clowning their way through speculations about madness, sanity, heroism and human bonding, and conjuring an elaborate fantasy of regency over an island that brilliantly mocks the nature of power. In the end, the aim of the game is survival -- not as rational beings, because reality would be too painful, but as madmen whose lunacy frees them from the shame of powerlessness. The performances are consummate and the staging, as eloquent as the text, features a videographed landscape over which their sunken shadows pass, and Faure's Elegie for Violoncello and Orchestra to underscore the pathos. (Deborah Klugman). 24th Street Theater, 1117 W. 24th St., L.A.; opens Feb. 5; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (800) 838-3006.
GO ROOM SERVICE Twenty-two jackals -- I mean, actors -- have run up a $1,200 bill at a posh hotel in 1930s Manhattan, and their producer, Gordon (Derek Manson), is desperate to skip out on the tab. Fat chance with manager (Phillip William Brock) and corporate heavy (Charles Dennis) blocking their escape. Since Gordon, the director (Joe Liss), the playwright (Dustin Eastman) and the rabble are on the 19th floor, they can't jump. Better options are playing sick, suffering a hunger strike, faking suicide and dabbling in bank fraud. John Murray and Allen Boretz's madcap comedy ran for 14 months on Broadway in 1937, and if the quips and the wise guys (especially Daniel Escobar's cheery lug) smack of a Marx Brothers movie, that's because it was one in 1938. Except for Eastman's guileless writer, these starving artists aren't suffering for the sake of art; their play seems secondary to saving their own skins. When real talent, a Russian waiter who studied Chekhov (Elya Baskin, excellent), auditions into their hotel room, his breathtaking monologue goes ignored. This three-act contraption gets going in Act 2 after co-directors Bjrn Johnson and Ron Orbach ease the cast into the comedy's chirpy rhythm. It's a slender pleasure, despite the directors' argument that it makes us reflect on our current economic crisis. Better just to enjoy the physical comedy that makes full use of every corner of Victoria Proffit's suite set; the ensemble leaps over furniture and gobbles down smuggled food like wild, wise-cracking animals. (Amy Nicholson). Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 12, openfist.org. (323) 882-6912.
SERIAL KILLERS Serialized stories compete to continue, voted on by the audience. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Sat., 11 p.m.; thru Feb. 19. (310) 281-8337.
GO SMUDGE The birth of a child usually is seen as a joyful event -- but what if it isn't? In Rachel Axler's disturbing play, the lives of an expectant couple -- Colby (Heather Fox) and Nicholas (Mark Thomsen) -- are upended when Colby gives birth to a limbless being with a single eye. The infant is not only strange to look at; it also responds weirdly -- or, more commonly, not at all -- to attempts to communicate. At home all day, Colby reacts to it with despair and rage, but the ingenuous Nick, a census official, falls head over heels for his new baby girl -- although that doesn't keep him from concealing her oddity from his family, or forestall his mailing out a dissentious questionnaire to the public titled "What Could You Kill?" (Sample question: Could you kill a pig?) Nick's peculiar behavior corners the concern of his brother Peter (Bart Tangredi), a snide guy whose cynicism, within this piece, stands in for the world at large. Axler strews her unsettling story with harsh humor that might have offended but doesn't. Instead, higher motifs -- the definition of life, the limitations of love and the human struggle to adjust one's expectations to painful realities -- remain the production's paramount focus, under Darin Anthony's discerning direction. Tangredi's smarmy dude adds an edgy dynamic, while Thomsen is especially affecting as a man struggling for his illusions -- and his sanity. Joe Slawinski's sound design elaborates nicely on the couple's nightmare. Presented by Syzygy Theatre. (Deborah Klugman). GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 19. (800) 838-3006.
STANDING ON CEREMONY: THE GAY MARRIAGE PLAYS Written by Jordan Harrison, Jeffrey Hatcher, Moises Kaufman, Neil Labute, Wendy Mcleod, Kathy Najimy, Jose Rivera, Paul Rudnick and Doug Wright, conceived and directed by Brian Shnipper., $25. Largo at the Coronet, 366 N. La Cienega Blvd., L.A.; Mon., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 7, StandingOnCeremony.net, Tix.com. (800) 595-4849.
GO THE SUNSET LIMITED John Perrin Flynn's top-notch staging of Cormac McCarthy's 1996 two-character play shows the author is a gifted dramatist as well as a superb novelist. A life-and-death struggle emerges in the dingy apartment of an ex-con named Black (Tucker Smallwood), who has just rescued White (Ron Bottitta) from a suicide leap off a subway platform. That their names are racial signifiers is just one of the dynamics McCarthy uses to mine the ironies in this simple scenario. Black is poor, uneducated and a committed man of faith, an inner-city Good Samaritan whose redemption came in prison and who unwaveringly believes in the value of life and God's grace. White is a hyper-rationalist, a successful university professor and defiant atheist who is weighted down with crushing despair and hopelessness. It's a high-stakes intervention where both men state their cases with unbridled passion and eloquence engendering a back-and-forth shift of empathies, and one never gets the sense of an immutable moral center or of merely listening to lectures. McCarthy, who is noted for his sparse dialogue and powerful imagery, exhibits an uncanny ear for ghetto argot, but just as nimbly utilizes the idiom of the academic. When, at the end, White erupts and expresses a weltanschauung of the darkest hue, one is reminded of Nietzsche's remark about staring into the abyss. Complementing Flynn's fine direction are the equally superb performances. (Lovell Estell III). Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 5 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; Mon., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 422-6361.
GO TAKE ME OUT Baseball star Darren Leming (Ary Katz), the central figure in Richard Greenberg's provocative 2002 comedy-drama, is a paragon of talent, skill and virtue. Half black and half white, he has become baseball's golden boy, admired and adored by team-mates and fans -- till he impulsively decides to come out as gay, and the press runs with the story. He thinks that because he's "young and rich and famous and talented and handsome," he's immune to negative consequences. But like a rock dropped into a pond, his revelation produces ever- widening ripples that undermine his world. Bigotry and religious fanaticism rear their heads, as irate fans accuse him of desecrating the sacred sport. As for his teammates, it's a loss of innocence: They're forced to confront the homo-eroticism that underlies their comfortable locker room intimacy. Most deeply affected is newly recruited relief pitcher Shane Mungitt (Garrett Matheson), a nave, dim, barely literate orphan from the deep South, where racism and homophobia were bred in his bones. He's ultimately both victim and aggressor, driven by feelings he doesn't understand, to an act of ambiguous but lethal violence. Greenberg probes issues of sexual identity, moral ambiguity, personal responsibility, and baseball, in pungent, idiosyncratic dialog laced with subversive wit. Director Michael Matthews has assembled an almost perfect cast, on Kurt Boetcher's intimate in-the-round set, and he explores the play's complexities with finely-focused exuberance. Katz skillfully charts Leming's transformation from Apollonian serenity to a man forced to acknowledge his failings and vulnerability. Tom Costello brings comic chops and rich conviction to the shortstop Kippy, the play's narrator, who's shattered when his sentimental do-good-ism produces disastrous results. And there's a deliciously deft comedy performance by Thomas James O'Leary as Leming's fey, gay financial manager, who regards his boss as a hero, and finds in the world of baseball a wondrous epiphany. His aria comparing baseball to democracy is as penetrating as it is funny. They receive solid backup from the sterling cast. Tim Swiss's lighting design and Veronica J. Lancaster's sound are integral to the action. This is Celebration Theatre's most ambitious and impressive production in years. (Neal Weaver). Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; re-opens Feb. 4; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 19. (323) 957-1884.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD It's easy to understand why playwright Christopher Sergel's 1970 stage adaptation of Harper Lee's sentimental Southern Gothic novel was adopted for its annual pageant by Lee's hometown of Monroeville, Ala. Its depiction of a noble white patrician defending a helpless, subservient black field hand from being framed for rape by ignorant white-trash extremists is undoubtedly how the South would like to view its Jim Crow past. Why the Production Company chose Sergel's Sunday-school chestnut to inaugurate their new home at the Lex Theatre, however, remains a mystery. The chief virtue of director T.L. Kolman's by-the-book production (amid designer August Viverito's lamentably clumsy clapboard-facade set pieces) is in allowing the company's versatile stock players to strut their stuff in the play's numerous supporting roles: Ferrell Marshall as the story's wryly astute narrator, Maudie Atkinson; a nuanced Jim Hanna as Maycomb's perspicacious Sheriff Heck Tate; Inda Craig-Galvan and Lorenzo T. Hughes' twin portraits of dignity under duress as Calpurnia and Tom Robinson; Skip Pipo being diabolical as inbred bigot Bob Ewell. Beside these veterans, juveniles Brighid Fleming, L.J. Benet and Patrick Fitzsimmons hold their own with confidence as, respectively, Scout, Jem and Dill. But it is James Horan's weirdly accomplished, cadence-perfect mimicry of Gregory Peck's film performance as Atticus that proves the evening's perversely guilty pleasure. (Bill Raden). Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 20. (800) 838-3006.
GO TWELFTH NIGHT marks the worthy launch of this theater's 17th season. With its multilayered plot, theatrical high jinks, silly sweetness and romance, Twelfth Night is one of the Bard's most popular works. With a nod to the traditional yuletide celebration after which the play is named, director J.C. Gafford's production features music, caroling, dancing and revelry. The setting of Illyria is here re-created as a large, raised platform, surrounded by a table set for a feast, kegs and some old boxes. Though not especially picturesque, it has a certain rustic appeal, and changes in scenes are smoothly handled by a member of the troupe with hand-painted placards. Kristina Mitchell does a fine turn as Viola, the main character in this romp of romance and mistaken identity, who is shipwrecked and separated from her twin brother, Sebastian (Jackson Thompson), on a different part of Illyria. She goes in disguise as a boy named Cesario, employed by the lovesick Duke Orsino (Jim Kohn), who uses her to court (on his behalf) his beloved but less-than-requiting Lady Olivia (Amy Clites). But Viola has herself fallen for her employer, the Duke, while his would-be mistress, Lady Olivia, finds herself smitten with the "boy" Viola is impersonating. The unraveling of this romantic knot makes for lively comedy under Gafford's smart direction, with uniformly good performances. Seth Margolies is a riot as the bumbling Sir Toby Belch. Casey E. Lewis, who puts one in mind of Stan Laurel, is equally funny as the comically foiled Malvolio, while Jason Rowland provides tons of laughs as the fool, Feste. (Lovell Estell III). Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (323) 667-0955.
UNSCREENED New short plays by Emily Halpern, Leslye Headland, Beth Schacter, and Susanna Fogel and Joni Lefkowitz., (310) 424-5085. Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Mon., 8 p.m.; Mon., Feb. 14, 7:30 p.m.; Mon., 8 p.m.; thru March 7. (323) 852-9111.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS
GO AMERICAN DOLLHOUSE Forget weddings -- little girls dream of their dollhouses coming to life. In this "theatrical exhibit" of living dolls, co-creators Chris Barnett and Leah Johnston stage a multimedia production that succeeds not only in indulging childhood fantasies but also in expanding the idea of what theater can be. Tucked away in the nooks and crannies of Glendale's Gallery Godo, three days in the life of a suburban family in 1955 play out as the family members roam among the audience and amid a fascinating collection of mixed-media artwork all loosely related to dolls and the era. Pop art paintings of Elvis and Marilyn Monroe by Mateo Saucedo are clustered around the bedroom of teenage daughter Suzy (Leah Johnston, who, with Barbie-like webbed hands and a Leave It to Beaver--ready vocal cadence, runs away with the show). Colter Freeman's charred, hypodermic needle--ridden baby dolls frame and foreshadow the action in the dining room. Johnston's props are period-precise, down to a box of Trix cereal and a loaf of Mrs. Baird's white bread. The play itself comes to a predictable conclusion, and its subject matter is strongly rooted in fields that have already been harvested by Ibsen's A Doll's House and Todd Haynes' 2002 film Far From Heaven. But by conceptualizing theater as such an all-inclusive medium that calling American Dollhouse a play doesn't do it justice, Barnett and Johnston may be showing us a glimpse of theater's future. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Gallery Godo, 6749 San Fernando Rd., Glendale; Fri., Feb. 4, 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 5, 8 p.m., TheAmericanDollhouse.com. (818)-641-4369.
BROTHERS GRIMM'S SHUDDER Zombie Joe's Underground's adaptation of the Grimm fairy tale "The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was.". ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri., 11 p.m.; Fri., 11 p.m.; thru Feb. 25. (818) 202-4120.
THE CAPULETS AND THE MONTAGUES The star-crossed lovers get an astrological realignment in this comedy by Shakespeare's Spanish contemporary, Lope de Vega. Seeming to send up Romeo and Juliet, Lope's play is, in fact, not a skewering of the Bard's tragedy but a farcical rendering of the same source material, Matteo Bandello's novella Giulietta e Romeo. Dakin Matthews' thoughtful English translation centers squarely on the frivolity of lovesickness, the foolhardiness of relentless family loyalty and the potential for comedy amidst the murkiness of communication breakdown. For every fatal turn Shakespeare's text takes, Lope's version veers into the gleefully ridiculous: Juliet (Nicol Zanzarella-Giacalone) comes on to Romeo (Benny Wills) like a tigress in heat at the masquerade ball, Capulet (John Achorn) plans to marry his niece (Kellie Matteson) to ensure an heir when Juliet is pronounced dead, Romeo stumbles around like a frightened man-child in Juliet's dark tomb. Though there's promise of great fun in seeing this underperformed play in a careful translation that pays close attention to the lighthearted impact of rhyming verse, the production is in desperate need of directorial attention. In the hands of Anne McNaughton, the potential for out-and-out comedic outrage and unabashed farcical tomfoolery is lost. Instead, we get a dramatically lukewarm retelling of a well-known story, a tone-deaf production begging to be so much more than a famous tragedy with a jocular spin. The able lead actors suffer under the tonal ambiguities. As nurse Celia, Etta Devine carries many of the comic scenes with her excellent timing and sure-handed delivery. The biggest laughs come when Celia and servant Marin (Bruce Green) revel in low comedy, mocking the wooing process as the lead lovers wax poetic. Dean Cameron's costumes are flawless. (Amy Lyons). New Place Theatre, 10950 Peach Grove St., North Hollywood; Sun., 2 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 27, Andak.org. (866) 811-4111.
CINDERELLA World Premiere interactive musical for kids, book by June Chandler, music and lyrics by Jane Fuller. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Sat., 11 a.m.; thru Feb. 19. (626) 256-3809.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST Oscar Wilde's Victorian comedy endures as a hilarious comedy of manners, its buoyant text brimming with comic hyperbole and epigrammatic couplets, delighting each new generation of audiences. The Chrysalis Stage places their modest sets and seating on the raised platform of the vast Whittier High School auditorium. Andrea Gwynnel Morgan directs and costumes her mostly young cast; she also stars as the pompous yet vulgar Lady Bracknell, performing well, despite an overemphasis on nasal vocal tics and guttural wheezing. Regrettably too old for the part of Jack (the idle young gentleman who invents a fictitious relative to shirk his social duties), Gregory Zide lets the team down with bizarre gestures, a distractingly fake moustache and an attempt at a London society accent that instead wildly rambles throughout the colonies from South Africa to Australia to Canada. Playing Jack's sneaky, foppish friend Algernon, the mouthpiece of Wilde, Harry Vaughn is fey and playful, while Alyson King is clever as the prim and shallow socialite Gwendolen. Jeena Yi's interpretation of precocious Cecily is pure perfection with every line reading, gesture and exemplary comic timing. (Pauline Adamek). Vic Lopez Auditorium, Whittier High School, 12417 E. Philadelphia St., Whittier; Fri., Feb. 4, 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 5, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 6, 2 p.m.; Fri., Feb. 11, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 13, 2 p.m.; Mon., Feb. 14, 7 p.m.; Fri., Feb. 18, 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 19, 2 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 20, 2 p.m., chrysalisstage.com. (562) 212-1991.
IT'S JUST SEX Jeff Gould's comedy takes the underpinnings of sexual fantasy, fidelity and money and puts all of those nuances onstage in a contemporary comedy about three married couples. The wife-swapping plot is straight out of Hugh Hefner's pad, circa 1975. That the play resonates today, in the ashes of the sexual revolution, is one indication of how little has changed, despite how much has changed. (Steven Leigh Morris). Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (818) 762-2272.
A MIXED TAPE Eric Edwards' retrospective of a lonely guy's love life. Playhouse West Repertory Theater, 10634 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru March 27, amixedtape.com. (818) 332-3101.
NEW EYES Yafit Josephson gives an accomplished performance in her solo show about a Jewish actress facing down Hollywood's cultural stereotypes. It's marred only by a poorly designed slideshow. Josephson slips easily into various personae, combining characters with caricatures to good comedic effect. The opening has her switching from a formidable military officer to her nervous young self on her first day of compulsory military training in the Israeli army. Highlights include a hilarious mime sequence where she uncomprehendingly attempts yoga and another scene where she gives a goofy impression of a macho guy in an Israeli nightclub. Josephson's tall, slender build, piercing eyes and chiseled face lend her a commanding presence, but it's her prominent proboscis that relegates her to the usual gamut of villainous roles, from terrorist to evil witch -- "And no, they didn't have to use a fake nose," she jokes. Her adult journey takes her from the New World back to Israel, where she touches base with her culture, returning to Hollywood with newfound strength of character. Beneath the comedy lies a serious undercurrent stemming from the ongoing war in the Middle East: Land equals identity. (Pauline Adamek). Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 13, plays411.com/neweyes. (323) 960-7712.
99 IMPOSSIBLE THINGS Though Chelsea Sutton's play is not set in Central Perk (there's no Rachel or Monica, no Ross or Chandler or Joey in Sutton's Magic Bean Coffee Shop locale), there is a Phoebe of sorts. Actually, there are six of them. But instead of performing amusingly absurd guitar songs, or recounting childhood tales of woe in hilarious ways, these "Phoebes," along with two imaginary friends and a guardian angel, simply ramble on about "what's real" and what's not through 12 largely incoherent scenes. There's barely a plot, a story, dramatic stakes or a protagonist, and the central conflict (the soul of the drama) emerges sporadically. Most of the dialogue sounds like a college improv show in which someone said, "OK, you hang out in a coffee shop, you have an imaginary friend but you're not sure why, and nobody else is either: Go!" Sutton's serving as writer, director and producer suggests a reason behind the absence of a critical or collaborative eye. Even the performances, save that of RJ Farrington (who portrays the guardian angel), lack sheen. The highlight of the production is Bryan Forrest's authentically detailed coffee shop set. (Mayank Keshaviah). Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (818) 508-3003.
SCHMUTZIGEN DEUTSCHE KABARETT This latest, late-night creation from sardonic, surrealist director-choreographer Amanda Marquardt is so straightforward and simple in its concept and execution that it's a wonder no one thought of it before. Take the Kander & Ebb musical classic Cabaret, jettison the treacly and preachy Joe Masteroff book, and stage the results as a brisk and breezy, melodrama-free evening of simulated Weimar nightclub entertainment. The schmutzigen is provided by the indecently flamboyant Luke Wright, who, from opener "Willkommen" through his solo on "I Don't Care Much" to the show's finale, vamps his way through an endless string of double entendres to stake a creditable claim to the role of MC that made Broadway stars of Joel Grey and Alan Cumming. Marquardt herself appears as Sally Bowles (replete with Liza-like false eyelashes), displaying an appealing set of pipes on such signature numbers as "Don't Tell Mama," "Cabaret" and "Mein Herr." Wright returns (wearing little more than an uncredited but campy pair of tuxedo briefs) with chorines Skye Noel (also credited as dance captain and co-choreographer) and Eva Ganelis, as the trio strut their comic stuff in "Two Ladies." But, you might ask, if there's no book, what about the musical's politics -- and what does that have to do with us? Relax. Marquardt gets in her licks, and puts the Deutsche Kabarett, political-satire bite back into Cabaret with "High Chancellor," a hilarious, show-stealing strip number, with Jonica Patella in Hitler drag, bumping, grinding and goose-stepping to the Nazi march "Erika." (Bill Raden). ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 11 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (818) 202-4120.
SYLVIA A.R. Gurney's empty-nester comedy. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 19. (626) 256-3809.
'TIL DEATH DO US PART: LATE NIGHT CATECHSIM3 Catholic nun offers lessons on marriage, by Maripat Donovan. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (818) 700-4878.
TOPDOG/UNDERDOG Suzan-Lori Parks' Pulitzer Prize winner about two African-American brothers. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (866) 811-4111.
THE TRIAL OF LIZZIE BORDEN For all the talk of our sociocultural evolution, look no further than the sixth installment of the gory-glorifying serial killer movie series Saw, or the rapt attention given to an especially gasp-inducing murder trial, as a gauge of Americans' fascination with the instinct to kill. Not just kill, either -- the stronger the scent of blood, the hungrier the public's appetite. You could finger Lizzie Borden's 1892 trial as the trigger for this obsession. Writer-director Steven Sabel's world premiere is adapted from the transcripts of the double hatchet murders of Abby and Andrew Borden, for which their daughter Lizzie was arrested and ultimately acquitted. Sabel wisely keeps the stage bare, focusing instead on recollections that twist so sharply you almost need a crib sheet to keep up. Jeremy Mascia's lead prosecutor, Hosea Knowlton, relies on overbearing theatrics as his primary cross-examination tactic, but it's in line with the typical portrayal of the courtroom in film; Annie Freeman is as wide- and wild-eyed as famous photos of the accused. The play feels lacking, but perhaps that's more a reflection of our CSI culture than of the material. Tom Newman's icy original music, particularly the hollow whispering of the children's jump-rope rhyme "Lizzie Borden took an ax," is literally hair-raising. (Rebecca Haithcoat). ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 5. (818) 202-4120.
The Trip to Bountiful Horton Foote's nostalgia story. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 6. (818) 700-4878.
2 PIANOS 4 HANDS Semi-autobiographical musical journey from Bach to Billy Joel by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt, performed by Mark Anders and Carl Danielsen. North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr., Solana Beach; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; Wed., 7 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (858) 481-2155.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS
GO ADDING MACHINE: A MUSICAL In Joshua Schmidt and Jason Loewith's adaptation of Elmer Rice's 1923 satire of accountants slaving for The Man in cubicles, a shlub named Zero (Clifford Morts, in a marvelously cantakerous turn reminiscent of the late Carroll O'Connor) eagerly awaits some reward on the 25th anniversary of his hiring. Instead, he's fired, having been replaced by an adding machine. Rice's play was written before the days of pensions and labor unions and the kinds of post War labor protections that, incidentally, accompanied the most robust economic boom this country has every experienced. It was also written five years before the Great Depression. It now arrives as almost all those protections have been swept away, and our economy teeters precariously once more -- cursed by economic conditions and employment practices that in so many ways, resemble those of 1923. Yet neither the play nor this musical adaptation is primarily about economics, but rather about metaphysics, which would explain director Ron Sossi's fascination with it. The operatic, often dissonant and percussive music has almost no melody, which is exactly right in a story that drives a spike through the heart of sentimentality and romance. Zero's wife is a hideous, jealous, nagging monstrosity -- that would be the character, not Kelly Lester's spirited interpretation that contains echos of Angela Lansbury. The colleague who loved Zero unrequitedly (the marvelous Christine Horn) joins him in the after-life. For the way God really works, and the way dead souls are recycled, you have to see the show. Sossi directs a strong production, though with minimal silk drops representing the afterlife, it didn't look much different from the drab life herein. That minimalism does subvert the moral joke. Patrick Kenny's musical direction strikes nice balances between the onstage band and the singers. The actors just need to settle in and push out the fun they're already having. (Steven Leigh Morris). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 27, 7 p.m.; thru March 13. (310) 477-2055.
AWAKE IN A WORLD THAT ENCOURAGES SLEEP Raymond J. Barry's one-act work in progress. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 6, brownpapertickets.com/event/141520. (310) 306-1854.
CAUGHT IN THE NET Ray Cooney's Internet-inspired sequel to sex farce Run for Your Wife. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 19. (310) 828-7519.
GO CYRANO DE BERGERAC Director Rae Allen revels in the equal measure of might assigned to pen and sword in Edmond Rostand's word-centric, swashbuckling classic. Allen's sure hand in guiding the text along a well-paced tragicomic trajectory begins with her decision to slash the first scene significantly, depositing the legendary lead character and his protruding nose onstage within a few minutes of the outset. John Colella tackles the titular role with an overabundance of seething anger and outward frustration at Cyrano's self-described ugliness, neglecting at times the character's inherent charm, a crucial hinge upon which the play's front door hangs: We have to fall in love with Cyrano if we are to feel the requisite frustration over Roxanne's (an arresting Olivia D'Abo) ill-informed choice of the doltish but adorable Christian (a sufficiently hapless Toby Moore) rather than her eloquent, adoring cousin. Romantic flatness aside, Colella successfully thrusts home poetic parlance, bringing an effortlessness of speech to the verbose role. Jonathan Redding does smarmy to perfection as the pining Comte De Guiche, and Mark Rimer bumbles beautifully as Raggeneau. Swordplay and balcony climbing are skillfully staged in the small space. (Amy Lyons). Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 20. (310) 397-3244.
THE FARNDALE AVENUE HOUSING ESTATE TOWNSWOMEN'S GUILD DRAMATIC SOCIETY MURDER MYSTERY Kentwood Players present David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin Jr.'s detective-thriller spoof. Westchester Playhouse, 8301 Hindry Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 19. (310) 645-5156.
FIVE UNEASY PIECES Todd Waring's study of diverse characters, including an elderly Southern woman, an Aussie art teacher, and a French singer. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 27, plays411.com/five. (323) 960-5521.
GO HOBOKEN TO HOLLYWOOD: A JOURNEY THROUGH THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK The big-band show in this musical (book by Luca Ellis, Paul Litteral and Jeremy Aldridge) is staged as a behind-the-scenes live taping of a late-1960s television special with a star identified in the program only as "The Crooner." James Thompson's authentic set comes with sound booth, TV cameras, microphones, lighting, a spacious bandstand and stage, overhead video screens and neon applause signs. Adding to the realism is lots of backstage banter, numerous gaffes, miscues and retakes, and some well-placed comedy and drama played out between director Dwight (Al Bernstein) and his overworked and underappreciated assistant Andy (Pat Towne). There are also cheeky commercial breaks for Shmimex watches and the all-new Ford Mustang. Musical director Litteral and his nattily dressed 12-member band (Jessica Olson's costumes are entirely on cue) combine into a flawless, robust performance redolent of the best of Ellington or Basie. Luca Ellis is a knockout from start to finish as the Crooner. How good is he? If you close your eyes while he sings familiar tunes such as "That's Life," "New York, New York" and "Fly Me to the Moon," you'd swear the Chairman himself had come back for one last encore. As masterfully woven together by director Aldridge, the material is so good that the applause signs aren't really needed. (Lovell Estell III). Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (310) 399-3666.
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GO JULIA Playwright Vince Melocchi's sweet, melancholy drama artfully makes the point that, of all the sorrows, nothing beats the sadness of being haunted by guilt over a long-ago romantic misdeed. Lou (Richard Fancy), a frail old man who clearly does not have too much sand left in the hourglass, shambles into a run-down Pittsburgh coffeehouse, ostensibly to witness the razing of the local department store where he worked some 50 years ago. However, his real purpose in returning to the scene is an attempted reconciliation with his long-lost sweetheart, Julia, whom he feels guilty for spurning many years ago. However, Julia (Roses Prichard), who now has Alzheimer's disease, doesn't even remember her own son, Steve (Keith Stevenson). Melocchi's writing is deceptively top-heavy with conversations that at first appear pointless but gradually coalesce to construct the psychological underpinnings of strikingly plausible blue-collar characters. In director Guillermo Cienfuegos' mostly subtle and emotionally nuanced production, the pacing could stand some amping up, but the feeling of reality encompassed by the interactions and confrontations is haunting at times. In his turn as the gruff, cranky Lou, Fancy builds on our expectation that the character is a feeble old coot, gradually shifting him into a figure whose regret and rage are all too understandable. Prichard is unusually believable as the tragically blank Julia. Dramatically vivid work also is offered by Stevenson's glum, disappointed Steve and by Haskell Vaughn Anderson III, as a family friend who remembers all the parties when they were young. (Paul Birchall). Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (310) 822-8392.
PICK OF THE VINE Nine plays, selected from more than 450 submissions from around the world, including Scripted by Mark Harvey Levine and Trace Evidence by Jeff Stewart. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 6, 7 p.m.; Thurs., Feb. 17, 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 19. (310) 512-6030.
GO STATE OF INCARCERATION Scared Straight! has nothing on this often compelling piece of political theater from the Los Angeles Poverty Department, a scathing indictment of the California penal system. The production, by co-directors John Malpede and Henriette Brouwers, starts out unpromisingly enough, with the presentation of a rather tedious Skype video call from attorney Michael Bien, one member of the legal team involved with suing the state for prison overcrowding and inhumane conditions. While this sequence drags, it undeniably provides the expository Parabasis, skewering prison conditions and laws such as "three strikes" that have helped to bloat the incarcerated population to farcical levels. The scene also sets the stage for the far more powerful second part, in which the theater curtain is pulled and we find ourselves in the center of a prison dormitory. In some shows, one may feel like one is in prison; in this one, that intent is deliberately visceral. Metal bunk beds line the walls and center of the theater, and audience members are crammed into the room, often sharing bunk beds with the actors playing the inmates. The directors intersperse disturbing silences between a series of monologues and starkly delivered poems that illustrate the despair and hopelessness of prison life. In one such silence, convicts recline on their beds as the guards patrol every inch of the room. The charged quiet belies the undercurrents of seething rage, and the piece approaches the claustrophobia, sorrow and anger of being in prison. Although it's true that sitting on a nice bunk bed surrounded by a pleasant assortment of theater people and NPR listeners is by no means comparable to being in the hole at Pelican Bay, Malpede and Brouwers' taut production is evocative and edgy, enhanced by the ensemble's passionate and committed performances. (Paul Birchall). Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; Fri., Feb. 4, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 5, 8:30 p.m.. (310) 315-1459.
TUCUMCARI Riley Steiner's story of "love, choices, tough times, and Western music on Route 66.". Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (310) 364-0535.