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Stage Raw: Garland Awards

Stage Raw: Garland Awards


COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS
NEW THEATER REVIEWS
Stage FEATURE on Re-Animator the Musical and Alceste
L.A. WEEKLY THEATER AWARDS NOMINEES

THE GARLAND AWARDS

Back Stage has announced its 2011 Garland Awards recipients, chosen by the Los Angeles critics of the national trade magazine.

READINGS ON SUNDAY NIGHT

2 p.m.: Eva Marie Saint and Jeffrey Hayden in A.R. Gurney's Love Letters, to benefit the Epilepsy Foundation of Grater Los Angeles. Writers Guild Theatre, 130 S. Doheny, Beverly Hills.  $40-$125. (310) 670-2870

7 p.m.: John Robin Baitz's Three Hotels, with original New York production actors Christine Lahti and Ron Rifkin. Pacific Resident Theatre  $75, includes post reading buffet

For COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS, press the More tab directly below:

Stage Raw: Garland Awards

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS FOR MARCH 11 - 17, 2011

Our 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

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:

Box, Window, Door: Evelyn Stettin's story of two sisters "who suffer the effects of their parents experience in the Holocaust and retreat into their dreams." Sundays, 7 p.m.; Mondays-Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 23. The Mezz, 501 S. Spring St., L.A., (213) 622-6287.

Charles Phoenix's Retro Southern California Slide Show: The pop-culture humorist presents a quirky history of the Southland via vintage slides. Sat., March 12, 8 p.m. Torrance Cultural Arts Center, 3330 Civic Center Dr., Torrance, (310) 781-7150.

Death of a Salesman: Stacy Keach and Jane Kaczmarek star in Arthur Miller's tragedy. Wed., March 16, 8 p.m.; Thu., March 17, 8 p.m.; Fri., March 18, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 19, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., March 20, 4 p.m., (310) 827-0889, latw.org. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood, skirball.org.

The Man With F.E.E.E.T.: "A new 3-D comedic adventure for View-Master viewers." See GoLA. Wed., March 16, 8 & 9:30 p.m., $20. Downtown Independent Theater, 251 S. Main St., L.A., (213) 617-1033.

Ferdinand!: Dissident turned Czech Republic president Vaclav Havel's 1975 pair of one-act plays. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6 p.m. Continues through April 3, brownpapertickets.com/event/157750. Actors Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 882-8043, actorscircle.net.

The Frybread Queen: Carolyn Dunn's story of three generations of Indian women who come together for a funeral. Starting March 13, Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through March 27. Autry National Center, 4700 Western Heritage Way, L.A., (323) 667-2000, autry-museum.org.

Having It All: World-premiere musical inspired by Helen Gurley Brown's 1982 book, music by John Kavanaugh, book by David Goldsmith and Wendy Perelman, lyrics by David Goldsmith. Starting March 12, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 24. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 508-7101, www.thenohoartscenter.com.

Jo Who: Thirty-something woman invites seven of her past loves to a church on the same day in hopes that one will propose, by Karen Maxwell. Starting March 13, Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 3. The Actors Collective, 916-A N. Formosa Ave., L.A., (323) 251-5076, theactorscollective.com.

Judgment at Nuremberg: Abby Mann's dramatic interpretation of the historic Nazi trials. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 3. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica, (310) 394-9779, santamonicaplayhouse.com.

Love Letters: Eva Marie Saint and Jeffrey Hayden perform A.R. Gurney's play, benefiting the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Los Angeles. Sun., March 13, 2 p.m. Writers Guild Theater, 135 S. Doheny Dr., Beverly Hills, (323) 782-4525.

Madeline and the Bad Hat: ArtsPower's new touring musical based on the children's book by Ludwig Bemelmans. Sun., March 13, 1:30 & 3:30 p.m. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, (562) 944-9801.

The Next Available Operator: Kate McManus reads her childhood writings. Fri., March 11, 8 p.m., (800) 838-3006, brownpapertickets.com/event/157591. Lyric-Hyperion Theater Cafe, 2106 Hyperion Ave., L.A., lyrichyperion.com.

The Next Fairy Tale: Two princes in love versus a Fairy Godmistress, book, music and lyrics by Brian Pugach. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 24. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 957-1884, celebrationtheatre.com.

Oh, Momma! & Obama: Who's really running the country? Derek Jeremiah Reid, Kenneth McLeod and Nicholas Zill have the answer. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 1, (866) 811-4111. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena, fremontcentretheatre.com.

Our Town: Thornton Wilder's chronicle of life in Grover's Corners, New Hampshire, 1901 to 1913. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through April 16. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-4318, sierramadreplayhouse.org.

Tales From Red Vienna: Staged reading of David Grimm's play about a young widow forced into prostitution post-World War I. Mon., March 14, 7:30 p.m. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 708-5555.

Three Hotels: Christine Lahti and Ron Rifkin star in this staged reading of Jon Robin Baitz's two-character play. Sun., March 13, 7 p.m. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice, (310) 822-8392, pacificresidenttheatre.com.

Tintar Isle: Not-for-kids storytelling solo show, written and performed by Guy J Jackson. Reservations: guyjayjackson@yahoo.com Sun., March 13, 7 p.m. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 990-2324.

Treasure Island: June Chandler's Fairy Tale Theatre presents Steve and Kathy Hotchner's audience-participatory pirate tale. Starting March 12, Saturdays, 11 a.m. Continues through April 16. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-4318, sierramadreplayhouse.org.

Trio: Israela Margalit's romantic drama about Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann and a young Johannes Brahms. Starting March 12, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 10, (323) 960-4412, plays411.com/trio. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee: Rachel Sheinkin and William Finn's word-quiz musical. Starting March 12, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 9. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 828-7519, morgan-wixson.org.

The Vagina Monologues: Eve Ensler's monologues on sex, love, rape, menstruation, masturbation, birth and orgasm, benefiting City of Joy and the Los Angeles branch of Break the Cycle. Sat., March 12, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 19, 8 p.m. Lyric-Hyperion Theater Cafe, 2106 Hyperion Ave., L.A., (323) 906-8904, lyrichyperion.com.

Wish I Had a Sylvia Plath: Rogue Machine presents Edward Anthony's comedy about tragedy. Starting March 12, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 17, (855) 585-5185, roguemachinetheatre.com. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..

The Young Man From Atlanta: Horton Foote's mystery-drama. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 17, (800) 838-3006, theprodco.com. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., L.A..

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGION-WIDE

Boomermania: Debbie Kasper and Pat Sierchio's lively musical revue about

baby boomers is much like the boomer culture itself -- fluffy and

pleasant, but also somewhat sad. The show purports to be a lighthearted

gambol down pop-culture memory lane, from the 1950s through the '90s,

with the road of boomer excess ultimately leading to a palace of wisdom

furnished with Sugar Pops, Mr. Spock, Saturday Night Fever and the

Summer of Love. The decades roll by, depicted in a series of quirky

skits and punctuated by renditions of rock songs whose lyrics parody the

absurdities of eras past. Act 1 is fluff itself: In "Sugar Pops,

Captain Crunch," a group of 1950s teens croon their affection for newly

invented sugar cereals to the tune of "Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch." Later, a

dazed married couple warble "Talking 'Bout My Television," a song

depicting near-hypnotized enchantment with their brand-new TV (sung to

the tune of "The Beat Goes On"). However, when Act 2 moves into the

later decades, Kasper and Sierchio's satire takes on a more melancholy

tone, particularly during a sequence at a 10-year high school reunion,

in which a few adult boomers come to grips with boomer shock: They're

not as special as they thought they were. The show's cast consists of

strikingly youthful performers who appear too young even for their first

legal cocktail, let alone speedballs at Studio 54. Yet, thanks to Mary

Ekler's tightly focused musical direction, their powerful voices evoke

far richer emotions than the material they're often asked to sing. While

many of the musical skits are crisply performed, the narrative material

often falls flat, with frequent allusions to other boomer-dated shows

like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Hair only pointing out those

musicals' far more inventive scores. (Paul Birchall).

boomermaniathemusical.com Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.

Continues through March 27, (866) 811-4111, boomermaniathemusical.com.

El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.

NEW REVIEW GO Comedy of Errors

Stage Raw: Garland Awards

Photo by Craig Schwartz

A strongman, a ventriloquist, three showgirls and a mimic with 1,000

voices make up just half of the Burlesque on Brand troupe, which enters,

grandstands and immediately plunges into Shakespeare's shortest and

most slapstick comedy about two pairs of long-lost twins crisscrossing

in Ephesus. Here, servant Dromio (Jerry Kernion) wears a plaid toga,

argyle socks and saddle shoes. (The four credited costumers have done

fantastic work.) When Dromio vents to hero Antipholous (Bruce Turk) that

the chubby kitchen wench (Gibby Brand) who claims she's his betrothed

'is spherical, like a globe ' I could find out countries in her,' their

banter smacks of Abbott and Costello. Director Michael Michetti's

dynamite ensemble is held together by Turk's leading man, who, like his

Errol Flynn mustache and the production itself, is playful and

self-mocking, but never ironic. Michetti inventively turns bereft father

Egeon's (Michael Stone Forrest) tale of how he lost his four sons ' the

longest speech in Shakespeare's canon ' into a silent black-and-white

film, but the director's not above showing a pie in the face. And he

even gets laughs for Adriana (Abby Craden) and Luciana (Annie Abrams) in

their usually thankless roles. In the first few scenes, the play

threatens to become a musical, but once past the momentary misstep of

two musical numbers, the production settles into the most droll and deft

staging of The Comedy of Errors I've seen in a decade. A Noise Within,

234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; in rep, call or check website for

schedule. (818) 240-0910, anoisewithin.org (Amy Nicholson)


GO Dangerous Beauty: Though the paper-thin story line rushes toward

predictability with the passing of every prepackaged plot point,

exquisite production values and outstanding singing grace the debut of

this musical about a 16th-century courtesan. Based on a true story,

Jeannine Dominy's book centers on Veronica Franco (Jenny Powers), a poet

of simple means who suffers a blow to the heart when her lover, Marco

(James Snyder), protects his status as a future senator by marrying a

woman of superior social standing. Heartbroken and headstrong, Veronica

chooses to follow in her mother's (Laila Robins) footsteps by becoming a

courtesan, a position in which she furthers her brilliance via special

access to a bounty of books, while avenging her heartache in the beds of

princes and prelates. Witty rhymes and wanton ways make Veronica one of

the most powerful women in Venice until she gets into a spat with the

increasingly evil Maffio (Bryce Ryness) and puzzlingly trades in her

sought-after status for an exclusive affair with the now-married Marco.

Things go from fancifully romantic to blandly tragic when Veronica is

accused of witchcraft by the Inquisition. The

hooker-with-the-heart-of-gold tale doesn't get elevated to any new

heights here, but Powers sings the tunes of virtuous maiden and fallen

angel with heaven-sent pipes. Snyder holds his own, too, though his

character is too one-dimensional to account for the sexually adept and

wickedly smart Veronica's long-lasting attraction to him. Ryness brings a

rock & roll edge to his portrayal of the villain, but his lack of

control prevents a seamless connection with the rest of the ensemble;

his performance has the awkward feel of a hair-band guy trying to jam

with indie-folk types. Benoit-Swan Pouffer does subtle wonders with the

choreography and Soyon An's costumes are artful. The set, by Tom

Buderwitz, grabs focus whenever the story doesn't. (Amy Lyons).

Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7

p.m. Continues through March 13, DangerousBeautyTheMusical.com. Pasadena

Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, (626) 356-PLAY,

pasadenaplayhouse.org.Everybody Dies in the

4 Clowns.: Alive Theatre presents four clown archetypes: the sad clown,

the mischievous clown, the angry clown and the nervous clown. Conceived

and directed by Jeremy Aluma. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues

through March 19. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach,

(562) 494-1014, www.lbph.com.

GO In Mother Words: Simple staging and spirited acting grace this

series of vignettes about motherhood. Conceived by Susan Rose and Joan

Stein, the string of separate playlets by more than a dozen writers,

including Beth Henley and Theresa Rebeck, gains unity in the hands of

director Lisa Peterson, who arranges the material into thematic blocks.

(Jan Hartley's projection design and Emily Hubley's animation design

effectively move the story forward during scene transitions.) Bookended

by stories about new moms and seasoned matriarchs, the smart material

covers a pleasing variety of parenting terrain, from a mother parting

with her war-bound son in Jessica Goldberg's "Stars and Stripes" to a

male couple searching for a surrogate in Marco Pennette's "If We're

Using a Surrogate." Though the four actors -- Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Jane

Kaczmarek, James Lecesne and Amy Pietz -- perch on chairs in front of

podiums much of the time, their collective connection with the material

renders the staged-reading format a barely noticeable factor. Comedy

underlines much of the show, but David Cale's "Elizabeth," a glimpse

into the early stages of dementia, and Claire LaZebnik's "Michael's

Date," which lays out a mother's dashed hopes for her autistic son, tug

hard at the heart. (Amy Lyons). Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2

& 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through May 1. Geffen

Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood, (310) 208-5454,

www.geffenplayhouse.com.

The Ugly Duckling: Interactive kids' musical by Lloyd J. Schwartz and

Adryan Russ. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Continues through July 9, (818) 761-2203.

Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A., theatrewest.org.

Wrinkles: Paul Kikuchi's blithe, slight comedy is a paean to that most

unlikely of heroes: the dirty old man. And, really, if the tragedy of

King Lear is that of an elderly fellow who "shouldst not have been old

til (he) hadst been wise," how much nicer a world it is when a man can

be both old and a horndog. Tightly wound lawyer mom Nancy (Amy Hill)

finds a bag of sex toys in the garage and mistakenly assumes they belong

to her innocent teenage son, Jason (Ki Kong Lee). However, when the

toys turn out to belong to Nancy's octogenarian live-in dad, Harry (Sab

Shimono), her head starts spinning like the jigger on the Hello Kitty

vibrator. It turns out Harry has a burgeoning career in a niche film

industry known overseas as "elder porn." And, when Harry turns out to be

"huge in Japan," it only means complications for his bemused family.

Director Jeff Liu's cheerfully brisk pacing and the cast's engaging

comic timing help keep Kikuchi's lightweight farce from edging into dark

or disturbing terrain. Kikuchi's appealingly glib dialogue boasts

endless snarky one-liners -- he certainly gets plenty of mileage from

that old gag genre known as the "mock porn title" (Lady and the Gramps

and Joy Suck Club, to name but a pair). Yet there's also something a

little distasteful about the piece's steadfastly surface-level approach

to the porn world's creepier aspects -- and the farce's energy wanes

midway through, when the play's one joke has reached its saturation

point. Still, the show's saved by deft and hilarious turns from Hill's

ferocious "tiger mom," and by the gruff, understated Shimono, as the

world's most unlikely (yet strangely charismatic) porn star. (Paul

Birchall). Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues

through March 13. East West Players, 120 N. Judge John Aiso St., L.A.,

(213) 625-7000, www.eastwestplayers.org.

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

GO Alceste: Euripides' version of a Greek myth serves as ground zero

for playwright B. Walker Sampson's surreal comedy about the otherworldly

journey of two long-term lovers separated by death. Imaginatively

staged on a small proscenium by director Darin Dahms, the comic-strip

action takes place in a strange dreamscape (set and prop design by Naomi

Kasahara) peopled with hooded figures, squabbling ghosts, outsized

heroines and supernaturally powerful villains. Foreseeing the imminent

death of Adamet (Trevor Olsen, in drag), her beloved Alceste (Lorianne

Hill), a gentle accepting soul, follows the sinister counsel of an

unearthly scoundrel named Man With Blazing Necktie (Lynn Odell), who

proposes to take Alceste's life instead. Soon, a cloaked ferryman (Ezra

Buzzington) is escorting a timorous Alceste to the netherworld, while a

lonely and bewildered Adamet fends off the seductive embraces of Man's

titillating oracle, Woman in Bright Bathing Suit (Jennifer Flack).

Meanwhile, a secondary story line tracks the exploits of a comical

superheroine named Frigga Brenda (Julia Prud'homme), who boldly slays

giants and monsters but comes undone at the hands of the dastardly Man

and his female cohort. Oblique dialogue and the seemingly lateral

movement of the plot make the first part of the play slow going -- but

even this slack stretch comes bolstered by well-crafted performances and

striking production values, including lighting and sound design by

Michael Roman and Ryan Brodkin, respectively, along with Jeremy

McDonald's backdrop animation and Takashi Morimoto's inspired costumes.

Most memorable within the adept ensemble are Prud'homme and Odell, in

blazing command of their outrageous characters. (323) 856-8611. (Deborah

Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 12.

Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A., (323) 856-8611,

www.theatreofnote.com. See Theater Feature

Attack of the 50 Ft. Sunday: Jordan Black directs the Groundlings Sunday

Company. Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave.,

L.A., (323) 934-9700, www.groundlings.com.

The Best of Love Bites: 10 Years Together ... and Still No Ring:

Elephant Theatre Company's annual short play festival, presenting the

company's best one-acts of the past decade. (Two evenings run in rep.).

ElephantTheatreCompany.com Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through

March 18, (877) 369-9112, ElephantTheatreCompany.com. Elephant Space

Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., www.elephantstages.com.

NEW REVIEW Brendan O'Lenihan Leaves Three Daughters:

Stage Raw: Garland Awards

Photo courtesy of Undergrond Anex Theater

After novelist Brendan O'Lenihan's massively successful

literary career spawns 'the greatest novel in history' (as one of

O'Lenihan's daughters puts it), the writer becomes a recluse, delves

into alternative spirituality and cuts off contact with his three

daughters. They've congregated for his funeral, and the family dynamic

that playwright William Norrett has constructed has the potential to be

much more interesting than standard sister fare. Socially speaking, he's

hit the dramatic jackpot: Kathleen (Jonica Patella) is a ghostwriter

for rappers, Annebeth (Jana Wimer) is an Oscar-winning producer who

shrinks behind her filmmaker husband, and Maureen (Bethany Orr) is a

teacher in South Africa, with a Ph.D. in physics. Yet while the

disparate paths the sisters have taken could more than satisfy the need

for conflict required in such a play, Norrett's confidence seems to have

faltered, leading him to build on a silly, ultimately irrelevant

inheritance premise, the climax of which defies the very term. Though

the male ensemble generally succeeds in its supporting roles, it's

difficult to decide if the sisters' brittle, forced emotion and general

disconnect from the material are the result of being miscast or under-

rehearsed. Underground Annex Theater, 1308 N. Wilton Place, Hlywd.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., thru March 27. (818) 688-1219. (Rebecca

Haithcoat)

But Not for Love: This long one-act by Matthew Everett, originally

commissioned by the Playshop Theatre in Meadville, Pa., tackles the

hotly contested subject of gay marriage. Eleanor (Krystal Kennedy) and

her brother Ephram (John Croshaw) are getting married in a double

wedding -- and both are marrying men, turning the event into a media

circus, with protestors, news vans and cops camped outside the church.

Eleanor and Ephram's husband-to-be, Patrick (Andy Loviska), are

political activists, who want their wedding to be a public statement,

while Ephram and Eleanor's fiancé, Roland (Chadbourne Hamblin), resent

having their private lives turned into a political spectacle. Things are

further complicated by Patrick's brother (Nick Sousa), who's a

religious zealot, determined to prevent the wedding by any means

necessary, and the minister, known as The Duchess (Natasha St.

Clair-Johnson), who's a postoperative transsexual. And Duke (Patrick

Tiller), the cop assigned to monitor the demonstrations, is strongly

attracted to the Duchess, unaware of her gender change. The production,

helmed by director Richard Warren Baker, is most successful in its

quieter, more human moments than in its strident political declarations,

when it topples over into melodrama. The events are not always

credible, but there are strong performances from Sousa, St.

Clair-Johnson and Tiller. (Neal Weaver). plays411.com/forlove Fridays,

Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through March 13, (323)

960- 4443, plays411.com/forlove. Renegade Theatre (formerly the Actor's

Playpen), 1514 N. Gardner St., L.A., www.theactorsplaypen.com/.

GO Cabaret Idol: "There's nothing better to watch than a performer who

loves to perform, except two good-looking people having sex," says host

Scot Young. And in week four of season two of this live competition,

Young and the packed crowd of fans, friends and family watched 14

performers anxiously take the stage and sing a number for the judges. At

the end of the evening there were 12 survivors, another cull in the

quest for the grand prize: new head shots, a management contract and a

two-night solo show. The performance's theme was, perversely, "No Show

Tunes," which had the contestants in paroxysms. Said one without a hint

of sarcasm, "There really aren't that many songs that aren't show

tunes!" But try they did, belting out Broadway-esque versions of Journey

and Whitesnake and Cyndi Lauper before a scoring panel that didn't let

them off the hook. "I want you to do a damn country song," grumbled a

judge in mock exasperation. There were some good voices -- and a few

great ones -- but the audience was there to tap their toes, vote for

their favorites and maybe even grab some dinner or a stiff drink if they

could flag down one of the waiters zipping around in the

standing-room-only dark. (Amy Nicholson). Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues

through April 24. Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill, 6122 W. Sunset

Blvd., L.A., (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). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues

through April 3, (800) 595-4849, CaughtThePlay.com. Zephyr Theater, 7456

Melrose Ave., L.A..

GO Cologne, Or the Ways 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). Fridays,

Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through March 18, (702) 582-8587,

katselastheatre.com. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., L.A..

GO Crack Whore Galore - Live!: Created by Tonya Corneilisse, Ryan

Oliver, Danny Roew, Graham Sibley and director Gates McFadden, this

obscenely funy late night rock music comedy sketch features Cornelisse

and Sibley as a pair of Brit-trash rockers who met in a London rehab and

somehow made it it to Hollywood, or at least to its sidewalks, in

pursuit of Rock 'n' Roll stardom. Their band is called Crack Whore, and

their hourlong cabaret opens with warmup balladeer Jackie Tohn, on

acoustic guitar, crooning with remarkable vocal dexterity about low

self-esteem and love. Into her act crash wafer thin, obnoxiously loud

drummer Abbey (in shades, skirt, and torn fishnets) and guitarist Danny

Galore (in vest and ripped shirt) wielding a shopping cart filled with

mannequins and other crap for their act. Commenting loudly on how each

of Tohn's song is worse than the next, they "set up" behind her, while

she attempts to finish her act. They smash open a rolldown screen (to be

used for a preview of their sex tape, sold after the show in the

lobby). The moment when the livid Tone leaves the stage captures the

moment when '60s folk yielded to punk. What follows is pornography in

song. You'd think Abbey is beyond a melt-down, but in a moment of

despondency, she crawls inside the shopping cart: "I can't do this

anymore, Danny, I just can't." To woo her back, and out, he croons the

love song that he wrote just for her: "It's all clogged up/The

pressure's all built up/I think I might explode/Now I need to blow my

fucking load . . ." Abbey swoons in adoration, and they're back on

track. The power of love, and of song. They try to tell us their

"story," or to sell us their story -- which is the larger point -- but

can't agree on the details. She's told a wrong version so many times, he

can't quite grasp what's real anymore. There, but for the grace of God .

. . It's not a life-changing event, but the energy electrifies, the

music is surprisingly good, and the performances are top-tier. (Steven

Leigh Morris). ensemblestudiotheatrela.org Thursdays, Saturdays, 10:30

p.m. Continues through March 12, (323) 644-1929,

ensemblestudiotheatrela.org. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave.,

L.A..

GO The Cradle Will Rock: When Orson Welles attempted to open his

production of this Marc Blitzstein musical in 1937, it had to contend

with attempts to shut it down by the U.S. Congress, the bureaucrats of

the Federal Theatre Project and Actors' Equity. The fact that it was

able to open at all was epic. In Blitzstein's work, the cradle

represents not the sleeping baby of the lullaby, but a corrupt and

immoral establishment bent on co-opting every aspect of American life.

In Steeltown, USA, in 1937, local tycoon Mr. Mister (Peter Van Norden)

has corrupted press, church, educators, artists and doctors to serve his

greed and power hunger. He's opposed only by labor organizer Larry

Foreman (Rex Smith, looking and sounding like the quintessential 1930s

working-class hero), who leads a stirring call to action. Generic names

like Reverend Salvation (Christopher Carroll) and Dr. Specialist (Rob

Roy Cesar) are standard elements of agit-prop theater, but here the

characters are given enough personal eccentricities to keep them funny

and human. In bringing back many elements of his 1995 production for

this same theater, director Daniel Henning gives us a lively, rousing,

highly stylized version and doesn't patronize us by overinsisting on the

obvious contemporary parallels. There are terrific performances from

musical director David O and a hugely talented cast of 19, with special

kudos to Smith, Gigi Bermingham as a soigné Mrs. Mister, Tiffany C.

Adams, Jack Laufer, David Trice, Will Barker, Lowe Taylor, Matt Wolpe

and several others. (Neal Weaver). TheBlank.com Thursdays-Saturdays, 8

p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 20, (323) 661-9827,

TheBlank.com. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A..

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). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7

p.m. Continues through April 10, plays411.com/daddy. Hudson Guild

Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 856-4249.

Doug Loves Movies: Tuesdays, 7:30 p.m., Free. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919

Facebook: The weekly show formerly known as MySpace. Wednesdays, 9:30

p.m., $5. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A.,

(323) 908-8702.

GO The Fix-Up Show: Although it's ostensibly a live-onstage dating game

show, creator/host J. Keith van Straaten's comedy hybrid owes less of a

debt to its venerable matchmaking forebears (The Dating Game, The Love

Connection) than it does to the immortal You Bet Your Life. Like that

granddaddy of mock TV quiz programs, in which real-life contestants

merely served as comic fodder for the ad lib genius of Groucho Marx, The

Fix-Up Show is built around the mercurial wit and barbed tongue of the

dryly impish Van Straaten. Following introductory repartee between the

host and his tongue-in-cheek announcer, Patti Goettlicher, a hapless

bachelorette is interviewed and then ensconced backstage. Two of her

best friends then join a celebrity guest questioner (this week it was

legendary Hitchcock heroine Tippi Hedren) to grill and then vote on

three consecutive bachelor prospects during two elimination rounds. The

survivor wins the girl and dinner for two next door at Amalfi on a

"date" whose video recap provides the prologue for next week's show. In

this instance, the friends and movie star rejected a circus owner and a

JPL spacecraft engineer in favor of a TV-graphics designer from

Fairbanks, Alaska. And while the amateurs on the panel prove to be the

format's Achilles heel, with their extemporaneous questions hamstringing

as much as helping the comedy, it is a tribute to Van Straaten's

considerable comic chops that the show reaps a laugh quotient of which

even Groucho would be proud. (Bill Raden). Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Continues

through March 30. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A., (323)

525-0202, www.acmecomedy.com/.

Free $$$: Jonas Oppenheim's faux self-improvement workshop, hosted by

Robin and Randy Petraeus, Power Couple, "authors in the field of

positive thought energy." Sundays, 7 p.m.; Thu., March 24, 8 p.m.; Thu.,

March 31, 8 p.m. Continues through April 3. Sacred Fools Theater, 660

N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A., (310) 281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.

The Golden Gays: John Patrick Trapper's homotastic comedy inspired by

The Golden Girls. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues

through April 10, thegoldengays.com. Meta Theater, 7801 Melrose Ave.,

L.A..

Groundlings Singles Cruise: All-new sketch and improv, directed by Mikey

Day. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 & 10 p.m. Continues through

April 23. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A., (323) 934-9700,

www.groundlings.com.

A House Not Meant To Stand: Empty butterscotch wrappers scattered on a

cheap coffee table, an afghan in shades of brown clutching a grubby

couch, an old Christmas-themed popcorn tin catching one of the ceiling's

countless leaks -- Misty Carlisle's prop design is so on-target, if she

isn't from the South, she must have spent summers there. Yet her

efforts, and Jeff McLaughlin's picture-perfect set, can't save the soul

of this production of Tennessee Williams' tragicomedy. The premise is

dyed-in-the-wool Williams: Hard-driving father Cornelius (Alan

Blumenfeld) and his regressed-from-depression wife, Bella (Sandy

Martin), arrive home from burying their gay son in Memphis. ("You

encouraged him to design clothes [and] try 'em on," Cornelius berates

his wife.) Their youngest, kinda sneaky, kinda sweet son (Daniel Billet)

is home (after losing another job) with a similarly out-of-work

girlfriend (Virginia Newcomb). The play, Williams' last, isn't his best;

soliloquies directed at the audience weaken the action and disrupt the

script's flow. But in not clearly revealing the kind of seminal

Williams-esque conflict between a deep well of despair and the

near-instinctual impulse to hide anything unpleasant, director Simon

Levy has ignored the desperate sadness here, turning the play into a

carnival of caricatures. Fortunately, Lisa Richards, a cougar before the

term even existed, soft-pedals her approach as a nosy neighbor, and her

scene near the end with Bella is the first in the production that

intrigues. The real shame, in fact, is that Martin's performance as the

mentally clouded yet still feisty Bella is stranded in this production.

Tennessee Williams always saved his best for his women, and Martin more

than does him justice. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 18, $25-$35; $18 students.

Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A., (323) 663-1525,

fountaintheatre.com.

NEW REVIEW I Get Knocked Down

Stage Raw: Garland Awards

Photo courtesy of Studio C Artists

When writer-performer Evan McNamara first appears in this one-man

show, he's wearing a T-shirt that reads 'ARISE' and pointy elf ears. He

is, he tells us, a member of an elf clan, and his sister, Raven, is a

vampire who for years drained him of vitality. He then assumes the role

of a Guardian Angel who revels in his own self-esteem. 'God loves me,'

he claims, 'because I make heaven look so cool.' The elf tells about the

woman he loved, hard-hearted Hannah, who married him and bore him two

children, but then announced she'd been unfaithful from the start. We

then meet Evan's other suffering alter egos: a prisoner shackled till he

frees himself through an act of will, a martyr who embraces his pain, a

scholar who alternates between raging against his fate and philosophic

acceptance, a clown who wraps himself in a cloak of protective humor,

and a hipster in stylish shades who doesn't contribute much to the

story. McNamara is an appealing and energetic actor, but his bromidic

ending is announced (self-knowledge is the key) rather than dramatized,

so the show, though pleasant, seems both short (40 minutes) and slight.

Director John Coppola might have been wise to insist on more substance.

Studio C Artists, 6448 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; variable schedule,

thru April 10. Check website for information and reservations. igetknockeddown.eventbrite.com. (Neal Weaver)

NEW REVIEW Jump/Cut Depicting the

crushing debilitations of mind and spirit that are by-products of

bipolar disorder is no easy task. Neena Beber's 2003 play makes a

worthwhile effort to invoke compassion for those coping with the jarring

highs and soul-destroying lows of the illness, but an overabundance of

on-the-nose dialogue about the nature of depression gives way to tidily

scripted outpourings of emotion that render the play a forced

contrivance bereft of an essential resemblance to real life. Paul (Brett

Mack) lets best buddy Dave (Michael Perl) crash on his couch, a living

arrangement born of misguided but entirely plausible loyalty on Paul's

part. Dave is, after all, an old friend in need, a young man who can't

get his life on track due to the crippling effects of mental illness.

Paul, a filmmaker whose nose is pressed firmly and admirably to the

grindstone, has fun sharing the same space with Dave for a short while,

until Paul meets Karen (Melissa Lugo), falls in love and soon finds

himself ensnared in a love triangle. It turns out that Karen is more

attracted to the romantic availability and neediness of a depressive

than the unavailability of a go-getter. The narrative engine breaks down

beyond repair when Paul and Karen decide to make Dave's depression the

subject of a film project. Focus quickly gets split between romantic

entanglements, the hardships of the creative process and serious mental

illness. The acting is solid across the board and director Paul Millet

keeps the pacing sharp and quick. Arena Stage at Theater of Arts, 1625

N. Las Palmas Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., thru March 26. (323)

595-4849. (Amy Lyons)

Just Imagine: Tim Piper's John Lennon impersonation, including

performances of Beatles hits and Lennon's solo work. Fridays, Saturdays,

8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 24, (323) 960-4442.

Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., www.thehayworth.com.

Keep it Clean Comedy: Hosted by JC Coccoli. Mondays, 10:30 p.m., Free.

1739 Public House, 1739 N. Vermont Ave., L.A., (323) 663-1739.

King Lear: Director Marianne Savell takes Shakespeare's foolish old king

to the climes of 1850 Northern California where he meets True Grit

during the Gold Rush, but the production squanders the potential of its

own concept. If the opening scene concerns Lear subdividing his land

among his daughters, and the ensuing avarice of two said daughters

combines their greed with their father's folly, it seems almost

negligent to ignore the Gold Rush, the elephant outside the imagined

windows of Gary Lee Reed's saloon set. In a production in which the text

has been slashed and changed willy-nilly, there's not even a visual

wink to that historical, epic rush for treasure, and its myths that

defined our corner of America. The cutting (this version clocks in at a

fleeting two hours) severs some of the most emotionally substantive

lines -- such as France's (Montelle Harvey) defense of Lear's spurned

daughter, Cordelia (a lovely performance by Tawny Mertes). It would

appear that the purpose of the cutting was to focus on the plot, often

at the expense of the ideas behind the plot. If the length and grandeur

of King Lear is so daunting, perhaps they should have done a shorter

play. If the goal of the production is to show how the play-ending

invasion from France parallels the melodrama of spaghetti Westerns, that

point landed -- though to what purpose is unclear. It is nonetheless a

well-recited and serviceable production. Bruce Ladd's Irish-brogued Lear

belts through the travails of aging and suffering the reduction of his

world, with more emotional dexterity than depth. His vigor defies much

of the play's point -- because the octogenarian character so obviously

appears to be in his 60s. Steve Gustafson's John Wayne-ish Gloucester

struts with some animal magnetism into his own despair. Nathan Bell's

bastard Edmund wisely hangs the character's overt venality in the back

of the closet, allowing the lines to do most of the work. And Richard

Soto's Native American Kent is on the road to something interesting,

stranded in an unexplored concept. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays,

Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Continues

through March 13, $30; $25 seniors; $20 students. Actors Co-op, 1760 N.

Gower St., L.A., (323) 462-8460.

The L. Ron Hubbard Golden Age Theatre: Saturdays, 7:30 p.m., $10 ($5

online). The Golden Age Theatre, 7051 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.,

GoldenAgeTheatre.com.

GO 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). Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues

through March 26. 24th Street Theater, 1117 W. 24th St., L.A., (800)

838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.org.

GO Love Sucks: In traditional French farce, though everybody

determinedly pursues sex, their efforts are constantly thwarted and

conventional morality triumphs by default. Here, successfully inverting

that formula, writer-director Rob Mersola sets his play in New York's

Lower East Side, and populates it with a randy bunch of characters who

look for love in all the wrong places, and eagerly indulge in sex

wherever it lurks, in beds, bars, backseats or bathroom stalls. Pretty

Josie (Sadie Alexandru) is obsessed with unreliable, opportunistic but

well-endowed Harlan (Michael Alperin). Her gay roommate Calvin (Joshua

Bitton) goes in for frequent anonymous sex; stockbroker Charlie (Daniel

Ponickly) gives BJs in public restrooms, when he isn't making wedding

plans with his fiancée (Jeni Verdon); and lecherous faux-gypsy seducer

Giuseppi (Anil Kumar) ruthlessly pursues every woman who crosses his

path. In the course of 48 hours, each of them has a fling with (at

least) two of the others, till they all come together for a hilarious

series of revelations and confrontations. Mersola hones his amiably

grungy plot into a surprisingly elegant roundelay, and stages it with

verve. All five actors wield solid comic skills, acquitting themselves

with style on Burris Jakes' handsome, flexible unit set. (Neal Weaver).

Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 & 10:30 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.

Continues through April 11, LoveSucksPlay.com. Coast Playhouse, 8325

Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood.

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). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues

through March 12, (800) 595-4849, macholikeme.com. Matrix Theatre, 7657

Melrose Ave., L.A..

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. Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30

p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W.

First St., L.A., (213) 250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.

Mexican History 101: Attempting to resurrect the carpa style of theater

(loosely, a Mexican vaudeville), playwright and director Rubén

Amavizca-Murúa puts hundreds of years of history on parade in a

satirical and very Brechtian way. The frame for all this is a

grandfather (José de Jesús Martínez) educating his grandson Ernesto

(Alex Ángeles), who reveals that he neither knows nor cares much for his

heritage. The vignettes, beginning in Aztec times and running all the

way through the 20th century, include Aztec princesses with prickly-pear

iPads, a talk show featuring Moctezuma, Benito Juárez as the Mexican

Statue of Liberty, and of course the ubiquitous presence of "Tia Juana's

tacos," which are freely offered and eaten, despite their debilitating

digestive effects. The preponderance of toilet humor, sex jokes,

buffoonishly gay characters and randomly inserted anachronistic pop

culture references detract from the political themes, which are

occasionally affecting. It's possible that, as with telenovelas, the

humor of the genre is lost in translation (and the Spanish asides garner

laughs from the largely Latino audience), but the piece nonetheless

feels overly broad and underdeveloped. The cornucopia of colorful

costumes -- courtesy of Jeanette Godoy, Mariana Marroquín and Apolinar

Delgadillo -- is a grand sight, but Amavizca-Murúa's haphazard blocking,

on the already large stage, circumvents an acting style that plays best

in intimate spaces. (Mayank Keshaviah). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through March 27. Frida Kahlo Theater, 2332 W.

Fourth St., L.A., (213) 382-8133, fridakahlotheater.org.

Mother:
Mary-Beth Manning's one-woman show about a complex

mother/daughter relationship. plays411.com/mother Wednesdays, 8 p.m.

Continues through March 16, (323) 960-5774, plays411.com/mother. Hudson

Guild Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..


Nunsensations!:
Nuns go to Las Vegas in Dan Goggin's comedy. Fridays,

Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., March 13, 7 p.m. Continues through March 13,

(626) 695-8283. Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.,

www.lyrictheatrela.com.

GO 100 Days: The title of Weiko Lin's two-character play is derived

from an old Taiwanese Buddhist tradition, which dictates that when the

parent of an unmarried child passes away, the child must find a spouse

within 100 days in order for the spirit of the deceased to transition

peacefully. But matrimony is the last thing on the mind of Will (Eric

Martig), who revels in his debauched, hand-to-mouth existence as a

traveling comedian on the college circuit, where there is a steady

supply of booze and female company. But for Miki (Joy Howard) -- Will's

love of 15 years removed -- life is nothing but painful drudgery, made

all the more so by old emotional wounds, an unhappy marriage,

middle-class monotony and her fear of having children. When Will attends

a funeral service for his mother, he encounters a family friend who

sets in motion a chain of events that eventually brings Miki and Will

together again, allowing another chapter of their relationship to play

out. Notwithstanding a somewhat tedious Act 2 involving an overcooked

night of drinking and reminiscing, there is much that is engaging. Lin's

script bristles with energy and humor, and he invests these characters

with a simple, captivating humanity. The cast delivers high-quality

performances, under Brett Erickson's direction. (Lovell Estell III).

LOFTensemble.com Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through

March 20, (213) 680-0392, LOFTensemble.com. Loft Ensemble, 929 E. Second

St., No. 105, L.A., www.loftensemble.com.

One Night To Die For: Scott Dittman directs two comedies in one night,

Audience, by Michael Frayn, and Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound.

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through March 21,

$20; $18 students/seniors. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr.,

L.A., (323) 667-0955, knightsbridgetheatre.com.

Pippin: DOMA Theatre Company's dark take on the Stephen Schwartz

musical. plays411.com/pippin Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.

Continues through March 13, (323) 960- 5773, plays411.com/pippin. MET

Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A., www.theMETtheatre.com.

Play Dates: Sam Wolfson's offbeat love story. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8

p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 17, (323) 960-7784,

plays411.com/playdates. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..

Re-Animator The Musical

Stage Raw: Garland Awards

Photo by Thomas Hargis

Stuart Gordon directs this musical stage version of his 1985 horror

film, based on the H.P. Lovecraft story. Starting March 5,

Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 27. Steve Allen Theater,

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

1-800-595-4TIX (1-800-595-4849). See Theater Feature

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 Bjørn 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). openfist.org Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.

Continues through March 12, openfist.org. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa

Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 882-6912, www.openfist.org.

GO The Sonneteer: Nick Salamone's play examines the ways in which

homophobia, guilt, self-delusion and hypocrisy cause the gradual

disintegration of the Cardamones, a first-generation Italian-American

family. Louie Cordero (Paul Haitkin), his younger brother, Michael (Ray

Oriel), and their friend Joey (Ed Martin) go off to serve in World War

II. Michael and Joey, serving in France, secretly become lovers. After

the war, Louie marries his sweetheart, Livvy (Sandra Purpuro), but he

also discovers the relationship between Michael and Joey, and his

virulent homophobia is aroused. Pressured by salty, bossy older sister

Vita (Cynthia Gravinese), who wants to save him for middle-class

respectability, Michael marries a sweetly naïve hospital nurse, Ella

(Victoria Hoffman), whom he'd like to love, but doesn't. Meanwhile,

Livvy, desolate over Louie's death, writes sonnets to relieve her pain.

Director Jon Lawrence Rivera sensitively explores the rich characters

and understated subtleties of Salamone's play, with fine assistance from

his able and faithful cast. Haitkin, in particular, scores as both

homophobic Louie and his scholarly pro-gay son. (Neal Weaver). Fridays,

Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 3. Davidson

Valentini Theatre, 1125 N. McCadden Pl., L.A., (323) 860-7300,

www.lagaycenter.org.

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). Saturdays, 5 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.;

Mondays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 27. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico

Blvd., L.A., (323) 422-6361, www.theatretheater.net.

Ten-Minute Play Festival: From the Circle X Theatre Co. Writers' Group,

nine short plays about love and sex. For tickets and more info please

visit www.circlextheatre.org. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues

through March 27, $10. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., L.A.,

(213) 368-9552.

Violators Will Be Violated: Casey Smith's solo mime show.

circlextheatre.org Fridays, Saturdays, 10:30 p.m. Continues through

March 19, (323) 644-1929, circlextheatre.org. Atwater Village Theatre,

3269 Casitas Ave., L.A..

The Violet Hour: Richard Greenberg's tale of a publisher besieged by two

authors. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through

March 13, (323) 960-1054, plays411.com/violethour. Lillian Theatre,

1076 N. Lillian Way, L.A..

NEW REVIEW Women in Shorts

Stage Raw: Garland Awards

Photo by Ed Krieger

Performed by Joanna Miles and Louise Davis, this sextet of short

plays by different writers and directors rarely rises above workshop

standard. The setting for all is New York's Central Park. By far the

most involving is 'Magic Rabbit,' written by John Fazakerley and

directed by Robert Burgos. It's an encounter between a homeless woman

(Miles) and the wife of an infamous embezzler (Davis) whose apartment

building is currently besieged by the press (the allusion to Ruth Madoff

seems obvious). Gradually it comes to light that the homeless woman

also was once a person of privilege, and that the now-hounded matron

once worked for her husband. The play's ironic message comes across in

the wealthy woman's dawning recognition of the humanity she shares with

this shabby person she initially scorns. Jim McGinn's 'Divorces R Us'

unwinds like a comedy sketch with a predictable twist; under Bennett

Cohon's direction, Davis plays a dissatisfied housewife, with Miles a

divorce counselor who advises her on how to squeeze the most from her

husband. In 'Sisters,' by Gloria Goldsmith, directed by Judy Chaikin, a

fiscally responsible woman (Miles) clashes with her profligate spending

sister, who cons money from others. Writer Tom Baum's 'The Great

Outdoors,' directed by Asaad Kelada, presents a conflict between a

reclusive widow (Miles) and her exasperated, resentful daughter (Davis).

In 'Park Strangers,' by Brian Connors, directed by T.J. Casanova, the

performers play two actors in a commercial for a vaginal itch product.

In need of pruning, 'Ladies of the State,' by Miles Brandman, directed

by Matthew Reilly, is set pre'World War I; it depicts an anxious mother

(Davis) pleading in vain with a well-connected acquaintance (Miles) to

help get her son exempted from the draft. In general, excepting small

character adjustments, the performances in each piece evoke a sameness

and little directorial creativity. Much of the writing comes off like an

exercise, with varying success. Working Stage Theater, 1516 N. Gardner

St., L.A.; Fri-Sat, 8 p.m., Sun, 3 p.m., thru March 20. (800) 838-3006, brownpapertickets.com/event/143986. (Deborah Klugman)

NEW REVIEW GO The Woodpecker

Stage Raw: Garland Awards

Photo by Amber Hamilton

In playwright Samuel Brett Williams' angry drama of despair, we are

introduced to a coterie of tragic characters who virtually line up to

debase themselves and turn a potentially pleasant existence into a

horror show. Idealistic young Jimmy (Brian Norris) loathes his family

life: He's a college dropout who can't find a job and spends his days

snorting glue rather than face his miserable existence in the trailer

home he shares with his parents. Mom Martha (Tamara Zook) dreamed of

being a singer but now lives in a pill-stoked daze, while abusive dad

Harold (Mark Withers), in a wheelchair due to a long-ago accident, is so

suffused with bitterness, his insane rages frequently threaten to spill

over into incoherence. Jimmy pins his hopes for the future on joining

the Army, which he believes will turn him into the hero he has always

dreamed of being. However, when he arrives in Iraq, events don't turn

out as expected. Williams' play so piles on the brutality, bitterness

and rage that the piece occasionally threatens to short-circuit into

camp. Still, in director John Cohn's darkly moody staging, the drama's

sense of existential rage is urgent and evocative, while its ferocious

emotional charge outweighs the contrived plotting. Norris offers a

particularly strong and moving performance as the increasingly tortured

son, almost appearing to age and become hollow before our eyes.

Compelling turns also are offered by Zook's spacey white-trash mother

and by Withers' almost-too-monstrous dad. A Mutineer Theatre Company

production. Studio/Stage Theatre, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m., Sun., 7 p.m., thru April 3. (323) 871-5826. (Paul Birchall)

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS

GO The Adventures of Pinocchio: Like the 1883 Italian novel from which

it's adapted, Lee Hall's play about a willful marionette is not a sunny

tale. Skillfully staged by director Stephen Rothman, this commedia

dell'arte piece follows the random adventures of a self-centered puppet

named Pinocchio (Amber Zion, voiced by Darrin Revitz) who is robbed,

tricked, beaten and left for dead (among other misfortunes) before being

happily reunited with his elderly father, Geppetto (Matthew Henerson,

signed by Colin O'Brien-Lux). Unlike the Disney version, this Pinocchio

is no dreamer; he's given to sulking, throwing tantrums and sometimes

acting with malice -- like answering a Cricket's (Vae) advice by killing

the insect with a mallet. Nineteenth-century novelist Carlo Collodi, who

wrote the original, imbued his work with an implied middle-class

admonishment to children: Work hard and go to school. Hall's adaptation

is well-grounded in the original, so don't come expecting profound

political allegory or sizzling social satire. (One scene relates to

controversy within the deaf community about the pressures of learning to

speak versus communicating with sign language.) Yet the production

offers an abundance of eye-catching production values and a fine

ensemble gifted in the art of physical comedy. Designer Evan

Bartoletti's set frames the show with a fairy tale magic, further

enhanced by Joe Cerqua's sound and original music and by the collective

zaniness of Ann Closs-Farley's costumes, Carol F. Doran's makeup and

wigs and Lisa Lechuga's specialty hats. Henerson's booming but kindly

papa and James Royce Edwards as the evil ringmaster give standout

performances. (Deborah Klugman). Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2

& 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Sat., March 26, 8 p.m. Continues through

March 27. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood,

(818) 762-2998.

Bar Talk: Jay Parker's comedy set in a local bar. Fridays, 8 p.m.;

Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m., lizardtheater.com. Lizard

Theater, 112 W. Main St., Alhambra, (626) 457-5293,

www.lizardtheater.com.

NEW REVIEW GO The Birthday Boys Stop me if

you've heard this one: Three U.S. NEW  Marines walk into an Iraqi storage

room. OK, they don't walk. They get dragged into it. Point being, there

are three of them, and they're together in this room. 'Seems a bit dark

and serious a scenario for a punch line,' you think to yourself, but you

would be wrong, because Aaron Kozak, who won the 'Fringe First' award

at last year's Hollywood Fringe Festival for this play, makes it much

funnier than you would expect. Without being disrespectful to the

gravity of military service or the war in Iraq, Kozak finds dark humor

in the humanity of three Marines 'privates Chester Gullette (Gregory

Crafts), Lance Tyler (Sean Fitzgerald) and Colin Carney (Jim Martyka) '

who have been captured from Al Asad air base by members of the Mahdi

Militia. All three are bound hand and foot with duct tape and

blindfolded, which limits their interactions but generates some solid

physical comedy, such as when Lance tries to fight Colin and they end up

writhing around like angry inchworms. Director Jacob Smith's spot-on

timing effectively modulates transitions from lighter discussions of

women and home lives to darker topics such as war and impending doom.

Fitzgerald, as the most intense and combative of the three, genuinely

makes us dislike him at times; Martyka, though quiet for long spells,

believably exudes shame for attempting to abandon his brothers; Crafts,

as the most mature and levelheaded of the men, pleasantly subverts the

stereotypical Marine. And to top it all off, there's an unexpected twist

that takes the comedy to a whole new level. A Theatre Unleashed

production. NoHo Stages, 4934 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., thru March 27. (818) 849-4039, theatreunleashed.com.

(Mayank Keshaviah)


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." Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues through March 25. ZJU Theater

Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 202-4120,

zombiejoes.com.

GO Camino Real: Told that the rarely performed play was by one of the

great 20th-century playwrights, you'd guess the author was Tom Stoppard

before Tennessee Williams. The 40-character limbo-land puzzler mashes up

Don Quixote (Lenny Von Dohlen), Casanova (Tim Cummings), Lord Byron

(Michael Aurelio) and the Hunchback of Notre Dame's gypsy femme fatale

Esmeralda (Kalean Ung) in the town of Camino Real (pronounced KA-mino

REE-al, à la gringo, so as to distinguish it from the country of CaMIno

ReAL just next door). Inside the gates, the hamlet is divided further

still between the Haves, who sip brandy with Gutman (Brian Tichnell) at

his sumptuous hotel, and the Have-Nots, who lay their heads at the

fleabag Ritz Men Only, or worse. Between them, there are enough liars

and whores that a chipper innocent like Kilroy (the fantastic Mike

Goodrich), a former boxing champ with a heart as big as a baby, is

humbled within 10 minutes of hitting town. But this isn't about his

escape. It's about his destruction and whether he -- and the rest of the

captives -- will be able to face their fate when the murderous cleaners

(Frank Raducz Jr. and Murphy Martin) come to sweep them away. The only

people not trying to leave town are the people too damaged to try, a

motley crew of pawnbrokers, pickpockets and a taco salesman whom

director Jessica Kubzansky keeps in motion, each slipping out in time to

pop up in another role. Camino Real is most famous for bombing on

Broadway in 1953 and temporarily tarnishing the careers of Williams and

director Elia Kazan. (There's even a play about the flop, The Really Big

Once, which opened last fall in New York.) Williams' episodic structure

lacks momentum, particularly in the second act during a long scene

between Kilroy and Esmeralda (who needs more heat). But the decades have

given us a better perspective on the questions Williams, then at the

anxious peak of his stage career, was asking himself: Can you still love

when you're old and cynical? Can art survive amid crass capitalism? And

is being a former talent a source of pride or shame? Kubzansky's

ensemble is outstanding, even wringing a knowing chuckle from the

faux-naif line, "Why does disappointment make people unkind?" With all

technical contributions including Silvanne E.B. Park's costumes hitting

high marks, Camino Real is a curiosity that you're not likely to see

again -- let alone this well. (Amy Nicholson). bostoncourt.com

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 13,

bostoncourt.com. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena, (626)

683-6883, www.bostoncourt.org.

End: Late-night comedy one-acts by Theatre

Unleashed. Fridays, Saturdays, 10:15 p.m. Continues through March 25,

theatreunleashed.com. NoHo Stages, 4934 Lankershim Blvd., North

Hollywood, noho-stages.us.

Firehouse: Unlike police officers, who are so often feared or

mistrusted, firefighters almost always engage the appreciation and

respect of the people they serve. Playwright Pedro Antonio Garcia's

message-minded melodrama jump-starts around the community's perceived

betrayal of that covenant, and the pressure brought to bear upon a

firefighter named Perry (Kamar de los Reyes) to make a bogus choice

between loyalty to his unit and loyalty to his Puerto Rican ethnic

group. A 20-year department vet, Perry is on the cusp of retirement when

a crisis erupts at the South Bronx firehouse after a colleague named

Boyle (Gerald Downey) rescues another firefighter from a burning

building but leaves behind a 12-year-old child. Boyle steadfastly

maintains he didn't see the girl for the smoke, but his credibility is

open to question -- in no small part because of his personal history as a

former cop who was tried and acquitted for shooting an unarmed

civilian. Whereas the community, represented here by Perry's fiancée,

Aida (Jossara Jinaro), a criminal defense attorney, is up in arms, most

of Boyle's buddies give him the benefit of the doubt and pressure Perry

to do the same. Garcia gleaned aspects of his story from real-life

headlines in this effort to offer up an intrepid examination of how our

native prejudices cloud our judgment. Too often, however, the characters

seem mere profanity-riddled mouthpieces for one side or another's point

of view, a problem exacerbated by Bryan Rasmussen's overheated

direction. Most discrepant is Jinaro's counselor-at-law, unconvincing as

a perspicacious professional not only by virtue of her mini-skirted and

otherwise revealing attire but in her strident insistence that Perry

take her side for personal reasons rather than principled ones. (Deborah

Klugman). theatermania.com Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 29,

(323) 822-7898, theatermania.com. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura

Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

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). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7:30 p.m.

Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, (818) 762-2272,

www.tworoadsgallery.com.


Melodrama: Adam Neubauer's absurd comedy about a man's quest to find his

father's murderer. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March

12. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818)

202-4120, zombiejoes.com.

A Mixed Tape: Eric Edwards' retrospective of a lonely guy's love life.

amixedtape.com Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 27,

amixedtape.com. Playhouse West Repertory Theater, 10634 Magnolia Blvd.,

North Hollywood, (818) 332-3101, www.playhousewest.net.

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). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues

through March 12, (323) 960-7712, plays411.com/neweyes. Whitefire

Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

GO Oedipus the Tyrant: In Jamey Hecht's poetical, lucid translation of

Sophocles classic, director Thomas Bigley opts for a staid

togas-and-sandals approach, with Jessica Pasternak's silky earth-tone

costumes. A female chorus recites in unison Sophocles' meditations on

the action, sometimes performing to Taylor Fisher's choreography of arms

flung from torsos simultaneously, or the percussive effect of

punctuating a line with a group stamp of the foot or slap of the palm.

Combine that with Nicholas Neidorf's subtly brooding sound design and

original compositions, plus a performance style that gets to the

translation's formality with an emotional spontaneity and truthfulness,

and what transpires is absorbing. This is remarkable, given the dangers

lurking in the artifice -- the symmetry of Bigley's staging and Fisher's

art design, the inherent possibilities of overacting and self-parody.

These dangers almost never become manifest to choke this earnest

endeavor. In the title role, the youthful Charles Pasternak makes for a

sometimes relaxed, sometimes tempestuous monarch, with a charm that

makes it apparent how he could have wandered into Thebes after a

road-rage incident and stolen the heart of Queen Jocasta (the powerful

Kate O'Toole). Dylan Vigus has a thunderous presence as the Priest who

opens the play, and Hecht cuts plausible distinctions between his jaded

Teiresias and his callow Messenger. The strongest aspect, which should

please translator Hecht no end, is the commanding articulation of the

poetical prose. (Steven Leigh Morris).

brownpapertickets.com/event/149704 Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2

p.m. Continues through March 13, (818) 325-2055,

brownpapertickets.com/event/149704. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia

Blvd., North Hollywood.

The Revenants: Not only do the protagonists in this zombie play break

the age-old cautionary rule (in zombie-prone regions) of avoiding the

basement at all costs, but they manage to hunker down below ground with

two members of the rapidly multiplying undead population. Thus, a long

and tediously unfolding chain of events is set in motion by characters

entirely lacking sound decision-making skills. All of this stupidity

would be fine were it a remotely intelligent commentary on human folly,

but nothing in Scott T. Barsotti's text resembles satire or keen irony.

Instead, we witness the agonizingly uninteresting plight of Gary (Carl

Bradley Anderson) and Karen (Anne Westcott), a pair of old friends whose

respective spouses, Molly (Lara Fisher) and Joseph (Rafael Zubizarreta

Jr.), have turned zombie. While the uninfected couple make feeble

attempts to devise a plan of action, they chain Molly and Joseph to the

wall. For the play's duration, Molly and Joseph halfheartedly strain

against their bindings while Gary and Karen talk about old times, argue

over the extent to which their spouses are lost and question their

marriages. There isn't a nail-biting moment in sight here; the constant

presence of the zombies creates a tolerance factor that renders them

about as threatening as a pair of uncouth houseguests unaware of the

late hour. Because Gary and Karen are entirely unremarkable characters,

the stakes are further purged. If the goal is to make us root for the

zombies (think George Romero's smirk at rabid consumerism in the

shopping-mall setting of Dawn of the Dead), then the failure is one of

narrative scope: Focusing on four characters in a static setting is no

way to build an audience of gleeful zombie sympathizers. (Amy Lyons).

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 19,

thevisceralcompany.com. Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 Magnolia

Blvd., North Hollywood.

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." skypilottheatre.com Fridays, Saturdays, 11 p.m.

Continues through March 12, (800) 838-3006, skypilottheatre.com. Victory

Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank, '.

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). Saturdays, 11 p.m.; Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues through

April 22. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood,

(818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com.

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). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8

p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 13. Odyssey Theatre, 2055

S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A., (310) 477-2055.

AfterMath Elliot Shoenman's comedic drama studies a widow named Julie

(Annie Potts), and her almost adult children, still struggling to come

to terms with her husband's suicide three years previously. More like an

emotionally raw drama with a sprinkling of good laughs, Shoenman's play

unfolds like a typical 1950s kitchen sink drama, the strip-mining kind

where secrets and recriminations are laid bare and the obligatory

catharsis ensues. This notion is visually supported by co-producer and

set designer Gary Guidinger's realistic kitchen- and teenager-bedroom

set. What isn't necessary is the slide show across the back flats

repeatedly displaying the pathetically inadequate suicide note Julie was

left with, and which also illustrates her children's passage to

adulthood. Everyone in the capable cast gets at least one monologue,

from the hostile son, Eric (Daniel Taylor), to the mild-tempered

daughter, Natalie (Meredith Bishop), to their father's former best

friend and Mom's possible new boyfriend, Chuck (Michael Mantell). With

her pixie haircut and thick N.Y. accent, Potts wavers from droll to

distraught, only sometimes stridently overcompensating for first-night

nerves and an ensemble performance that occasionally seemed to lose its

rhythm. At its best, the incisive dialogue volleys back and forth like

an enthralling game of tennis. Mark L. Taylor directs this slice of

dysfunction well. (Pauline Adamek). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 2 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through March 13. Odyssey

Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A., (310) 477-2055.

Broken Glass: Elina de Santos directs this Arthur Miller play, set in

late 1930s Brooklyn. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.

Continues through April 18, $27-$30; students $20, (323) 821-2449. Pico

Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., L.A., picoplayhouse.com.

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). Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Fridays, 8

p.m.; Saturdays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 23. Edgemar Center for

the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, (310) 399-3666,

www.edgemarcenter.org.

GO The Hyacinth Macaw: An unabridged dictionary can be a dangerous

thing, particularly when it's wielded with the playfully pleonastic

dexterity of a stage poet like Mac Wellman. Like a deranged Dr. Seuss

for adults, Wellman marries a love of wordplay with a mischievously

subversive wit that entertains even as it teases out the unspeakable

fears festering at the fringes of American complacency. In director Jim

Martin's handsomely mounted production of Wellman's 1994 fractured fairy

tale, the playwright zeros in on our gullible faith in the empty,

"pneumatic" bromides and hackneyed romantic tropes that form the fragile

mythologies from which we make sense of a larger, unknowable reality.

In the case of the Moredent family of Bug River, all of their

assumptions about their very identities are upended with the arrival of

Mister William Hard (Jerry Prell), "a doctor of divinity, equidistance

and gradualist" from "the land of evening," who announces that they are

all orphans. It seems the father, Ray (Craig Anton) is an "inauthentic

duplicate" of Hard and the two must trade places to redress the error.

Blithely accepting the news, Ray packs his bag and departs, freeing wife

Dora (Lysa Fox) to run off with an itinerant vagabond (Simon Brooke),

while daughter Susannah (Anna Steers) remains behind to help Hard bury

the eerily glowing remains of the dying moon. While Martin's staging

underscores the text's whimsical non-sense at the expense of its more

mordant phenomenological musings, Cristina Bejarano's imaginative,

angular set and Nick Davidson's hauntingly evocative lights eloquently

support Wellman's off-kilter cosmos. (Bill Raden). calrep.org

Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 12, (562) 985-5526,

calrep.org. Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Hwy., Long Beach,

www.queenmary.com.

The Laramie Project: The aftermath of the murder of Matthew Shepard, by

Moisés Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project. Fridays, Saturdays, 8

p.m. Continues through March 19. Promenade Playhouse, 1404 Third Street

Promenade, Santa Monica, (310) 656-8070, promenadeplayhouse.com.

GO Locked and Loaded: Ever hear the joke about the two guys with

terminal brain tumors who decide to beat death to the punch? A Jew and a

WASP dress up in tuxes, rent a presidential suite stocked with their

favorite booze and call some hookers to help them go orgasmic into that

good night. OK, so the subject matter and setup of, and even the quietly

heartbreaking backstories in, actor-playwright Todd Susman's play are a

little derivative -- Leaving Las Vegas and Marsha Norman's play 'Night,

Mother spring to mind -- but some very clever writing and smart

performances make this West Coast premiere much funnier and more

mystical than the approach its predecessors took. Particularly

interesting is Susman's deliberate trafficking in stereotypes.

Old-monied Dickie Rice (Andrew Parks) is haughty as he hurls three

strikes in quick succession at an African-American hooker, sniffing, "Do

you know who I am?" and referring to her "Aunt Jemima" style of

speaking. Sad-clown sitcom writer Irwin Schimmel (Paul Linke) turns his

poison pen on himself and his Jewish heritage, and Catorce Martinez's

(Terasa Sciortino) inability to understand English subtleties is the

source of many jokes. But in electing Princess Lay-Ya (a very sharp

Sandra Thigpen) queen pin, Susman gives the underdog the upper hand,

which Lay-Ya uses to force the superficialities aside to reveal the very

real, raw pain coursing beneath. After such deep diving, the resurface

at play's end is a little easy; nevertheless, the whole shebang is a

much more entertaining evening than the premise portends. Chris DeCarlo

directs. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3:30

p.m. Continues through April 16. The Other Space at Santa Monica

Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica, (310) 394-9779.

NEW REVIEW A Night at the Oscars:  Well past

the autumn of their careers, aging Hollywood film star William Chance

(Brian Pietro) and his has-been art house actress wife, Diana (Susan

Kohler), are invited to make a cameo appearance on an Academy Awards

telecast. They meet with their flamboyant TV commercial agent (an

engaging Ernie Brandon), are flattered by an adoring network production

assistant (Jason Kaye), perform their spot and enjoy a nostalgic dance.

Pietro and Kohler's twin portraits of doddering affability and fading

feminine vanity offer sporadic instances of sentimental charm. But in

the service of Peter Quilter's stale stab at Noel Coward'esque comedy,

whose idea of wit is repeated allusions to Viagra and Preparation H,

such moments only underscore the play's lack of authenticity, insight or

discernible purpose. Ralph Romo's overly literal set and Jennifer

Still's pointless video sequences only exacerbate the clumsiness of

Diane Carroll's staging. Malibu Stage Company, 29243 Pacific Coast Hwy.,

Malibu; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 5 p.m., thru March 20. (310) 589-1998,

brownpapertickets.com. (Bill Raden)

O Paradise Park: A profoundly despondent fellow (Kenneth Rudnicki)

wanders into an amusement park for distraction from his agony. Inside,

he slips into a fantasia of scenes -- including his own romance with a

young woman (Reha Zemani) from the Midwest, igniting a bundle of

neuroses that keeps them estranged; a ventriloquist/philosopher (Ann

Stocking) and his bifurcated dummy (David E. Frank); a tourist couple

(Bo Roberts and Cynthia Mance) at the end of the tether that's barely

holding their marriage together; their irate young daughter (KC Wright)

who yearns, in vain, for an effete Cuban (Tim Orona); a psychotic

pizza-delivery boy (Jeff Atik); a wandering violinist (Lena

Kouyoumdjian); a circus clown (Troy Dunn); and, in a directorial

flourish, a guy in a chicken costume. Charles Mee's comedy is like a

sonnet with a couple of repeated motifs: distraction, love and the

general feeling of being cast adrift in cultural waters that are partly

enchanting, partly evaporating, and partly polluted by the refuse of our

ancestors, of our families, of our determination to follow impulses we

barely comprehend, and to wind up unutterably lost. He's one of this

company's favorite scribes, and mine, for the way in which, with the

literary touch of a feather, he conjures primal truths of what keeps us

at odds with ourselves and with each other, keeps us yearning for the

unattainable. And though there's obviously psychology at work, the

driving energies of the language and of the drama are subconscious,

cultural and historical currents. Production designer Charles Duncombe

anchors his platform set with a wading pool stage center, in which sits

an alligator, and he decorates it above with strings of festival lights.

Josephine Poinsot's costumes are thoroughly whimsical with primary

colors and a feel for an America of the late 1950s -- with the possible

exception of the married couple's matching shorts and T-shirts that

read, "Kiss my ass, I'm on vacation." Director Frederique Michel stages

the poetical riffs of text in her typically arch style, and it serves

the play almost perfectly, except for the pizza-delivery scene, where

the choreography distracts from the psychosis that lies at the core.

Even so, I found the evening to be indescribably affecting, tapping

emotions that lurk beneath the machinery of reason. This is the last

production to be staged at this back-alley venue in Santa Monica, where

the company has been putting on plays for 15 years. The ventriloquist's

lines couldn't have been more ironic and true: "Then, because the

theater is the art form that deals above all others in human

relationships, then theater is the art, par excellence, in which we

discover what it is to be human and what is possible for humans to be

... that theater, properly conceived, is not an escape either but a

flight to reality, a rehearsal for life itself, a rehearsal of these

human relationships of which the most essential, the relationship that

defines most vividly who we are and that makes our lives possible, is

love." (Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays, Saturdays, 8

p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 13, (310) 319-9939,

citygargage.org. Track 16 Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., C1, Santa Monica,

www.track16.com.

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