Stage Raw: Getting Physical
Dracula is this week's Pick. See review by pressing the Continue Reading tab at the bottom of this section. (All New Reviews are embedded within the Comprehensive Theater Listings.) Photo by Michael Lamont
Two bills of physical comedy are being performed at Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive on Thursday and Friday, March 5 & 6 at 8 p.m. (310) 281-8337
Shoshinz is written and performed by Yanomi & Kuronatsy, two "surreal Tokyo maids who are subserviant to nothing and no one." They have toured in Canada, Egypt, Russia, Iran and many countries across Asia. This is their U.S. premiere.
Ineffable is a comedy offering from Jon Monastero and Stephen Simon. "Worlds of adventure, emotion and affection are conveyed, as a pair of hapless pallbearers get caught up in an exploration of the mysteries of life and death and hay fever."
Jillian Crane's new play is being read read at the Hayworth Theatre this Monday night, 8 p.m., with Lisa Arturo, Jillian Crane, Karen Black, Kevin Kilner, Dan Lauria, Hamish Linklater, and Wendie Malick
"Lily returns to her childhood home to prepare for her wedding. But Mom's married to a thug --Dad's always asleep --Lily's falling for the cute wedding florist -- and her fiancé's on the way!" Tickets and reservations here.
At your fingertips: This week's THEATER FEATURE on Cynthia Silver's Bridezilla Strikes Back! and Stormy Weather's Musical Director, Linda Twine; the 30th annual L.A. Weekly Theater Awards NOMINEES; and where to PURCHASE tickets.
Reviewed this week: Lanford Wilson's Burn This at Ruskin Group Theatre; Terry Johnson's adapatation of the novel and screenplay of The Graduate, at El Centro Theatre; The Miracle Worker, presented by the Hayworth Theatre at the Matrix; Oliver Mayer's new play, Laws of Sympathy presented by Playwrights Arena at Studio/Stage; Adelina Anthony's one woman show, Brusing for Besos at the Gay & Lesbian Center; Rent at the Pantages; Dracula at the NoHo Arts Center; and The Threepenny Opera presented by International City Theatre in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center
These reviews are embedded within this coming week's COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS, which can be accessed by pressing the Continue Reading . . . Tab directly below.
COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for March 6-12, 2009
(The weekend's New Reviews are embedded in
"Continuing Performances" below . You may also be able to search for
them by title using your computer's search program.)
Our critics are Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III, Martin Hernandez,
Mayank Keshaviah, Deobrah Klugman, Steven Leigh Morris, Amy Nicholson,
Tom Provenzano, Bill Raden, Luis Reyes, Sandra Ross and Neal Weaver.
These listings were compiled by Derek Thomas
OPENING THIS WEEK
BACKSTAGE GREASE Behind the scenes at a production of Grease,
by Pennkin Wright. Next Stage Theater, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second
Floor, L.A.; opens March 6; Fri., 8 p.m.; thru March 27. (323) 850-7827.
BEFORE I FORGET Kirk Douglas' autobiographical one-man show debuts
at his namesake theater. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd.,
Culver City; Fri., March 6, 8 p.m.; Sun., March 8, 2 p.m.; Fri., March
13, 8 p.m.; Sun., March 15, 2 p.m.. (213) 628-2772.
DID YOU DO YOUR HOMEWORK? Solo show by Aaron Braxton on education
issues. (In the Research Space.). Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S.
Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; opens March 7; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru
March 28. (310) 358-9936.
FRINGES-MARGINS-BORDERS Multidisciplinary performance project
featuring L.A.'s Queer Exchange. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th
St., Santa Monica; March 6-7, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., March 8, 3 p.m.. (310)
FROST/NIXON British talk-show host David Frost interviews ex-POTUS
Richard Nixon, in Peter Morgan's play. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand
Ave., L.A.; opens March 12; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; Sun., 1
& 6:30 p.m.; thru March 29. (213) 628-2772.
GREASE Summer lovers reunite in the Jim Jacobs/Warren Casey musical,
with additional songs from the 1978 film, plus a "Teen Angel" turn by >American Idol's
Taylor Hicks. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; opens March
10; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru
March 22. (213) 365-3500.
LIE WITH ME World premiere of Keith Bridges' dark comedy about a
psychologically damaged family. Art/Works Theatre, 6569 Santa Monica
Blvd., L.A.; opens March 7; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru April
5. (323) 960-7787.
MACBETH Shakespeare's tragedy. The Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd.,
Toluca Lake; opens March 7; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April
26. (818) 846-5323.
PARADISE HOTEL Man arranges tryst with his best friend's wife, in
Georges Feydeau's farce. Meta Theater, 7801 Melrose Ave., L.A.; opens
March 6; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 29,
PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso trade
shots at a Paris bar, in Steve Martin's play. (In the Studio Theater.).
Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; opens March 7;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 11. (562) 494-1014.
PICNIC William Inge's Pulitzer Prize winner about a hunky drifter in
a small Kansas town. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd.,
Sierra Madre; opens March 6; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru
April 11. (626) 256-3809.
THE QUESTION J.T. Horenstein's "indie rock ballet.". Ricardo
Montalban Theater, 1615 Vine St., L.A.; opens March 9; Mon.,
Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru March 19. (323) 962-7000.
THE SIN OF HEROES Two short comedies: Confessions of a Redneck: A 99% True Story by Todd Eller and Harry Flashman
by Brandon Hayes. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North
Hollywood; opens March 7; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 28. (323) 474-6227.
STITCHING Anthony Neilson's role-playing romance. Lillian Theatre,
1076 Lillian Way, L.A.; opens March 6; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7
p.m.; thru April 5. (323) 962-7782.
THE TAMING OF THE SHREW Shakespeare's battle of the sexes. (Schedule
varies, call for info.). A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale;
opens March 7; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru May 17.
WINGS OF NIGHT SKY, WINGS OF MORNING LIGHT Joy Harjo's
self-discovery allegory, incorporating spoken-word, storytelling and
song. Autry National Center, 4700 Western Heritage Way, L.A.; opens
March 12; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 29. (323)
Theater Special Events
AN AFTERNOON WITH GROUCHO Frank Ferrante is Mr. Marx. La Mirada
Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada;
Sun., March 8, 2 p.m.. (562) 944-9801.
HEALING ALOUD TeAda Productions' seventh-annual festival of new
work, with performance projects by Maria G. Martinez, Shyamala Moorty,
Marcella Pabros-Clark and Raquel Salinas. (Continues in May at 2100
Square Feet and in June at Miles Memorial Playhouse.). Casa 0101, 2009
E. First St., L.A.; March 6-7, 8 p.m.; Sun., March 8, 3 p.m.. (310)
A MEMORY, A MONOLOGUE, A RANT AND A PRAYER/THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES An
all-Filipino cast presents a collection of monologues, benefiting
Bantay Bata ("Child Watch") and the Center for the Pacific Asian
Family. Aratani Japan America Theatre, 244 S. San Pedro St., L.A.;
Sat., March 7, 4 & 7:30 p.m.. (213) 680-3700.
STAGE DOOR Fake Radio re-creates the 1937 broadcast of Lux Radio
Theater's dramatization of the RKO film about wannabe actresses in a
boarding house. BANG, 457 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Sun., March 8, 7:30
p.m.. (877) 460-9774.
WAR OF THE WORLDS/THE LOST WORLD Classics by H.G. Wells and Sir
Arthur Conan Doyle, presented as vintage radio broadcasts by L.A.
Theatre Works. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, 12700 Center
Court Dr., Cerritos; Sun., March 8, 3 p.m.. (562) 467-8818.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGION-SIDE
GO CANDIDA If Kathleen F. Conlin's staging of George
Bernard Shaw's romantic comedy isn't perfect, it's sure close. One
"fine morning in October, 1894," a self-satisfied local pastor Morell
(Mark Deakins), who also happens to be a socialist, finds himself
competing with a callow, 18-year-old "nervous disease" poet named
Marchbanks (Johnathan McClain) for the affections of the pastor's wife,
Candida (Willow Geer). Let your ideas compete with mine, then let her
choose, the twitchy/arrogant young man challenges his senior. By the
time Shaw's comedy has spun to is final, playful scene, everybody has
lost something, and everybody has won something, and everybody, except
Candida perhaps, has been charged and convicted of presumptuousness and
hypocrisy. The themes haven't aged a day, the dialects are pitch
perfect, yet this production hangs on the rare, meticulous brilliance
of McClain's Marchbanks. His performance is a tour-de-force of physical
comedy, a compendium of tics and an unceasing, and ceaselessly
entertaining dance of belligerent attacks and coy withdrawals, each
rolling atop the next with split-second timing. Deakins' pastor is a
glorious counter presence, a handsome rock of vigorous pomposity, an
emblem of privilege too sure of his so-called magnanimous ideas, and
ideals. The joy is in watching them crumble, and watching him struggle
with his own dignity. Grand turns also by Kate Hillinshead's
love-smitten secretary, by Matthew Henerson's as Candida's blustery
father, and Gabriel Diani's foundling-turned-aristocrat. In the title
role, the elegant and beautiful Geer is slightly mannered in Act 1, but
finds her confidence soon after. Michael C. Smith's drawing-room set
comes packed with fastidious detail, as do Sherry Linnell's costumes.
(SLM) Colony Theatre, 555 North Third Street, Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m. (added perfs Feb. 14 & 21, 3 p.m. and
Feb. 26 & March 5, 8 p.m.); through March 8. (818) 558-7000, Ext.
ELLA Jeffrey Hatcher's musical biography of Ella Fitzgerald,
starring Tina Fabrique. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road,
Laguna Beach; Sun., 2 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.;
thru March 22. (949) 497-2787.
FALLING UPWARD Meet the locals at an Irish pub, courtesy Ray Bradbury. El Portal Theatre, 5269
Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 5. (866) 811-4111.
GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT HERE George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's farce
about a city dweller's move to a farm house. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021
E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March
15. (562) 494-1014.
IXNAY Deceased Japanese-American says no way to reincarnation as a
Japanese-American, in Paul Kikuchi's play. East West Players, 120 N.
Judge John Aiso St., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March
15. (213) 625-7000.
NOISES OFF Michael Frayn's backstage comedy. South Coast Repertory,
655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 &
8 p.m.; thru March 8. (714) 708-5555.
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical about a
scarred recluse and the diva he adores. Pantages Theater, 6233
Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun.,
1 & 6 p.m.. (213) 365-3500.
GO PIPPIN I know we're on the cusp of a Depression
and that theater audiences ache for frivolity and distraction, but this
one really vexes, largely because it's so damnably seductive. First,
Roger O. Hirson's book and Stehen Schwartz's music and lyrics combine
into what has been one of the most produced musicals in colleges and
high schools in the past 30 years. Add to that Jeff Calhoun's
hyper-theatrical staging and choreography of a topflight ensemble in a
style designed to accommodate the hearing-impaired actors of
co-presenter Deaf West Theater, and you've got a extremely glossy carny
show in which the central role is bifurcated between the hangdog charm
of deaf actor Tyrone Giordano, and his voiced alter-ego, Michael Arden.
The pair share the stage with a huge ensemble, one revealing through
the physicality the agony of bliss of Charlamegne's son, Pippin, as he
searches for the purpose of life, while the other gives voice to those
expressions through a dextrous vocal interpretation and Schwartz's
somewhat sappy songs rendered here with effervescent beauty. This is
the latest in a series of Candide riffs (much searching for
purpose these days), in which Pippin fights in a war, learns about sex
as well as domesticity, commits patricide, serves as king, screws up by
being benevolent to the peasants and dismantling the army while an
Enemy Beyond encroaches. Silly boy. Shut up, go home and till your
garden. Let smarter people take care of the empire. Your adopted son
will dream and make the same mistakes. Pardon me, but this is crap
posing as wisdom, truisms posing as truth, especially at a moment in
our history when doing nothing but tending our garden has landed us
collectively in the biggest sand trap in American history. I couldn't
join the standing ovation on press night. I just couldn't, I was so
pissed off - politically, philosophically. If this were just diversion,
I'd have risen to my feet. I love diversion as much as anybody. But I
felt in this production a creepy, reactionary underpinning that's even
out of touch with our new government's position on everybody taking
responsibility to pull each other up, collectively. And for this
shimmering magic act to close out by cautioning us about the seductive
qualities of veneer is a fraud of the first rank. The show is so well
done, see it for yourself, and see if you're as annoyed as me. (SLM)
Deaf West Theatre and Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum, 135 N.
Grand Ave., Downtown; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 p.m.; Sun., 1 p.m.
& 6:30 p.m.; (Jan. 31 perf at 8:30 p.m.; Feb. 17 perf at 7:30 p.m.;
no perfs Feb. 18-20); through March 15. (213) 628-2772.
NEW REVIEW GO RENT Given
how much this Tony-Award and Pulitzer-Prize winning rock opera has
permeated our culture, there is little need to reintroduce it.
Nonetheless, this touring production is special in that it features
both of the original Broadway leads (Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp),
members of the final Broadway cast, as well as original director
Michael Grief, original choreographer Marlies Yearby and original music
supervisor Tim Weil. The story, which centers on roommates Mark (Rapp)
and Roger (Pascal) and their friends, lovers and lovers' lovers, is a
wild, touching, and painful slice of life in the East Village of the
mid-1990s. For those familiar with New York, the portrayal of the AIDS
epidemic, Giuliani's "clean up" of the homeless population, and the
gentrification of Alphabet City brings back rueful memories of a city
between identities. Populating this corner of the Big Apple is a
coterie of bohemians struggling to stay warm, stay high, and stay loved
amidst the winter chill, all the while singing their hearts out. The
songs, ranging from the soulful "Take Me or Leave Me," to the spunky
"Light My Candle," to the wonderfully polyphonic "Will I?" and of
course the iconic "Seasons of Love," bring to life this beautiful story
and showcase the amazing voices of the cast. Don't miss this
spectacular revival that is sure to sell out, especially given its
brief run. The Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood;
Tue.-Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.;
through March 8. (213) 365-3500. A Broadway/L.A. Production. (Mayank
GO STORMY WEATHER Mirrors mirrors on the walls.
That's what you're seeing all over the stage in James Noone's set as
Lena Horne (Leslie Uggams), now aging in the 1980s, observes her
younger self (Nikki Crawford) through the travails of a difficult life.
Her torments include having to surrender custody of her one, infant
son, Teddy, to her estranged husband (Phil Attmore), as she chooses to
leave New York to accept an offer by MGM Studios in Hollywood. For a
light-skinned African-American chanteuse swimming upstream towards
stardom in post WWII America, the cross currents she encounters include
the kind of stock bigotry (lobbying not to play maids in the
movies) and gossip surrounding her secret, tempestuous marriage to
Jewish arranger, Lennie Hayton (Robert Torti). Another mirror image
includes the resentful adult Teddy (Joran Barbour) and Horne's father,
Teddy, Sr. (Cleavant Derricks). Ensnared in Joseph McCarthy's
anti-Communist witch-hunt of the '50s, and thereby shunned by the
Hollywood studios, Horne finds employment in France (of course) and on
Broadway. The despondency caused by waking up one day and realizing
that she's lost all the men in her life, including Teddy from kidney
disease, raises the question of how one endures life's tempests. (As
Linda says in Death of a Salesman, "Life is a casting off.") Such are the metaphysics of Sharleen Cooper Cohen's musical, suggested from the Horne' biography, Lena Horne, Entertainer,
and punctuated by over two dozen classic jazz-pop hits, including "Come
Rain or Come Shine," "The Lady is a Tramp," "Hooray for Hollywood,"
"When You're Smiling," and the eponymous "Stormy Weather" -- all
accompanied by a 12-person orchestra perfectly conducted by musical
director Linda Twine, and beautifully sung by members of the large
ensemble. In her adaptation, Cohen frames Horne's journey down memory
pain via conversations with her life friend and rival, Kay Thompson
(Dee Hoty). Though Horne's snyde attitude towards this "friend," once
attached to the Hollywood studio that betrayed her, creates a brittle
and nicely unsentimental repartee, their conversations -- being locked
in the past tense -- bog things down dramatically, making the musical
feel longer than it otherwise might. Michael Bush's staging compensates
for this drawback with sheen, partly because the songs are often so
nicely tethered to Randy Skinner's sleek choreography, must mostly
because of Crawford's knockout voice and sexy charisma, and the
tender-sassy interpretations by Uggams. (SLM) Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S.
El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.;
Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; through March 8. (626) 356-7529.
NEW REVIEW GO THE THREEPENNY OPERA Director
Jules Aaron's luscious production of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's
dark-hearted musical is a snappy dramatic delight that, in the words of
the play, "has pretty teeth, dear." The tale of sexy, villainous Mac
the Knife (Jeff Griggs), his seduction of the virtuous Polly Peacham
(Shannon Warne), and his near-destruction in an underworld inhabited by
pimps, thieves, murderers, and whores is given a powerful and
pleasingly cynical staging. Brecht purists might find some fault with
the fact that the polished and assured production lacks a slight edge
of rattiness. Yet, this reviewer isn't going to criticize the show for
being too skillfully executed - particularly as Darryl Archibald's
gorgeous musical direction contains musical renditions of the Weill
classics that approach standards of opera. Griggs, a baritone of
strikingly evocative ferocity, delivers his lines and musical numbers
with a tightly controlled roar, suggesting some kind of a sexy beast
who's just barely holding himself from running amok. Warne's Polly
artfully shifts on a dime from sweet innocent to brutal fiend, in her
rendition of "Pirate Jenny." And as the hardened prostitute who
befriends and then betrays Mac, Zarah Mahler's poignant Jenny Diver
delivers her musical numbers with a rough pathos and despair. Eileen
T'Kaye's wondrously funny snaggle-toothed hag, Mrs. Peacham, and Paul
Zegler's pompous and self pitying police chief, are also striking. The
translation, by Village Voice theater critic Michael
Feingold, is witty and vivid - even if the alteration of some of the
lines and lyrics that are well known from the famous theatrical
recordings of the show, occasionally engenders some surprise.
International City Theatre, Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 East
Ocean Blvd, Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.: through
March 22. (562) 436-4610. (Paul Birchall)
TIME STANDS STILL is Donald Margulies' newest work, being given its
world premiere at the Geffen Playhouse. It would be nice to see our
institutional theaters dip a bit deeper into the lake of American
playwrights (perhaps lesser-known ones) so that, as with the National
Theatre of Great Britain for example, the theaters can take credit for
promoting new voices, rather than just riding on the coattails of the
established ones, but that's not the world we live in. It is,
nonetheless, a relief and a pleasure to see such thoughtful and
well-crafted new writing on the stage. Margulies is a compassionate
observer of human behavior, and his play concerns a photo journalist
(Anna Gunn), just returned to her Brooklyn digs from a German hospital
after being struck by a roadside bomb in Iraq. She barks at her life
partner who's a reporter (David Harbour) over his concerned reluctance
to offer her a cup of coffee in public; her pithy attack seems on the
surface to be over nothing but a cup of coffee. The play is actually
about all that lies underneath -- the morality of her career as a
photo-journalist that feeds on the miseries on the world, and spews it
back in the form of coffee-table books. One of Margulies' sourer points
is the service such journalists provides to liberal consumers who use
bad news in the press to fuel their outrage over injustice, and to
assuage their guilt over doing nothing about it. But would the world
really be better without such journalists, and without those images?
(SLM) Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Thurs.,
7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.;
through March 15. (310) 208-5454.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS
ACME THIS WEEK ACME's flagship sketch show, with celebrity guest
hosts each week. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sat.,
8 p.m., This week: Iliza Schlesigner. (323) 525-0202.
ANGRY YOUNG WOMEN IN LOW-RISE JEANS WITH HIGH-CLASS ISSUES Matt
Morillo's comedy about "being young, female, and living in the big
city.". Hollywood Fight Club Theater, 6767 W. Sunset Blvd., No. 6,
L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 8. (323) 465-0800.
ARMSTRONG'S KID A schoolteacher is falsely accused of child
molestation, written by and starring Stanley Bennett Clay. Lucy
Florence Cultural Center, 3351 W. 43rd St., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru
March 12. (323) 293-1356.
GO THE JAZZ AGE The title phrase, coined by F.
Scott Fitzgerald about the desperate frivolity of the post WWI era,
captures the spirit if not the style of Allan Knee's fascinating,
melodramatic fantasy of life. The play shows the intersecting lives of
Fitzgerald (Luke Macfarlane), his troubled southern belle wife Zelda
(Heather Prete), and literary rival Ernest Hemingway (Jeremy Gabriel).
Fitzgerald is at the apex of his career when he tries to woo the
reluctant, soon-to-be poster boy for machismo into his world. Opposites
in style, but with both being enthusiastic expats in Paris, the
hard-drinking womanizers bond, spar and occasionally hint at urges
toward homoeroticism through more than a decade of rocky friendship.
With their live performance of exhilarating period (and some original)
music, Ian Whitcomb and his Bungalow Boys punctuate much of the play.
Director Michael Matthews and the fine cast follow Knee's heavy-handed
writing with fierce dramatics that effectively play like the most
overarching characterizations of 1940s plays by Tennessee Williams -
with Prete's powerful Zelda resembling Blanche. Kurt Boetcher's set
evocatively transforms The Blank's tiny space, pairing masculine wood
frames with panels of effete Tiffany's blue. (TP) 2nd Stage Theatre,
6500 Santa Monica Bvd., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.;
through March 22. (323) 661-9827. The Blank Theatre.
GOBACKSEATS & BATHROOM STALLS: A NOT-SO
ROMANTIC COMEDY OF BAD MANNERS Rob Mersola's extravagant farce extracts
its laughs from its characters' miseries and sexual misadventures:
self-loathing, murderous competitiveness, anonymous erotic encounters.
Mersola is a clever writer, who exploits the tried-and-true farce
structure to engineer a funny final scene in which all the characters
are brought together to have their lies, deceptions and shenanigans
unmasked. A skillful cast meticulously mines the laughs in this
crowd-pleasing date show. (NW). Lyric-Hyperion Theater, 2106 Hyperion
Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 10 p.m.; thru March 28. (323) 960-7829.
GO BATTLE HYMN In a fit of passion and adoration,
young Martha (Suzy Jane Hunt), has a fling with a pretty (and pretty
oblivious) school chum, Henry (Bill Heck), as he's about to join the
Union army during the Civil War (despite the couple's Kentucky home).
Finding herself pregnant and alone, Martha eventually learns that Henry
finds other men more attractive than her. After being spurned by her
minister father (William Salyers), who banishes her to relatives far
away, Jim Leonard's lovely new play, a variation on Voltaire's Candide,
follows Martha as she traverses the country and the century, finding
herself in San Francisco's Haight Ashbury district during the Summer of
Love, still pregnant, still waiting for "the right time" to bring her
infant into the world. Leonard's play is more emotionally moving that
intellectually rigorous - a compendium of symbols that add up to a
century of clashes between America's founding principles and the
betrayals of those principles that show up through history - from
slavery to gay rights to religious hypocrisy. This land is our land?
Hardly. And yet the prevailing symbol is that of birth, and re-birth,
of ourselves. Leonard's structure has a few problems. Dwelling on the
Civil War era through Act 1, and then racing through time in Act 2, its
surrealism would be less jarring if the play's motion were more
carefully proportioned. He's been given a first rank production with
John Langs' quasi-cinematic staging, featuring some moving musical
backdrops composed by Michael A. Levine. Bryan Sidney Bembridge's set
and lighting have just the right amount of visual animation, without
too much glib winking. Hunt simply charms as Martha, with a wide-eyed
conviction that's largely blind to the betrayals that lurk around every
corner; John Short and Robert Manning, Jr. complete the finely textured
ensemble. (SLM) [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood;
Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through March 7. (323) 461-3673. A
Circle X Production.
BEGGARS IN THE HOUSE OF PLENTY John Patrick Shanley's memory play
about an Irish-American family. Theatre/Theater, 5041 W. Pico Blvd.,
L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 29. (800) 838-3006.
BENCHES, SKETCHES OF THE 1930S Two one-acts: Black, Bold & Beautiful, the story of opera singer Marian Anderson, and Let Me In, about Gone With the Wind's Hattie McDaniel. KSLG Playhouse Theater Players, 600 Moulton Ave., L.A.; Sat., 6 p.m.; thru March 7. (323) 227-5410.
BEYOND THERAPY Christopher Durang's therapy satire. Actor's Playpen,
1514 N. Gardner St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 7. (323)
BLACK WOMEN: STATE OF THE UNION Judging from this uneven assortment
of comedy sketches, dramatic playlets and poetry performance pieces,
the state of identity politics for black women in the age of Obama
hasn't appreciably changed since Ntozake Shange's landmark, 1975
choreopoem, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf.
Buoyed by a talented ensemble and briskly directed by Nataki Garrett
and Ayana Cahrr, the show is at its best when its political agenda gets
leavened with incisive humor or sharply observed characterizations.
These include Lisa B. Thompson's whimsical "Mother's Day," a satire of
African-American, maternal archetypes in the form of pre-programmed,
nanny-bot androids Tamika Simpkins, Lee Sherman and the comically
gifted Kila Kitu, who play, respectively, an overly doting Aunt Jemima
mammy, a Condoleezza Ricean hyper-achiever and a vintage, 1970s black
power militant; Nia Witherspoon's "The Messiah Complex," which takes a
more serious tack as a lesbian rap star (Lony'e Perrine) recalls her
younger, gender-confused, adolescent self (Sherman) and how a troubled
relationship with her estranged father (Paul Mabon) informed her sexual
and artistic awakening; and Sigrid Gilmer's clever "Black Girl Rising,"
in which a wannabe super heroine (Simpkins) comes to Kitu's Identity
League to be assigned crime-fighting powers only to discover the roles
allowed a black girl are somewhat less than empowering. (BR) Company of
Angels, Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., downtown; Fri.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through March 15. (323) 883-1717.
BLUES FOR CENTRAL AVENUE Willard Manus's play with music is a
spirited glimpse at downtown L.A. of yore and folklore, of Central
Avenue's storied era of jazz clubs and nightspots where the likes of
Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and others were frequent headliners. The
action unfolds in and around the famous Dunbar Hotel, where Lowell
Smith (Wallace Demarrià), fresh from a stint in the army with plans on
starting a record label, discovers the singing prowess of the lovely
Roberta Youngblood (Christian Omari) during a night out on the Avenue.
She grudgingly allows the aspiring businessman to guide her career, but
when her prodigious talents attract the attention of a Hollywood mogul
(Charles Anteby), jealousy and racial fault lines emerge, changing the
lives of those involved. The story is not overly engaging, and Manus
and director Ken Crosby do less than an artful job of telling it. Some
of Manus's characters are only slightly deeper than caricatures, and
his writing often lacks polish. Crosby's clunky direction make a play
that clocks in at ninety minutes feel like three hours. These problems
are somewhat mitigated by good acting, Lou Briggs serves up snappy
music and splendid accompaniment on the piano, and stylish dancing by
Barkia A. Croom and Jackie Marriot, proves that choreographer Anne Mesa
has done her homework. (LE3)The Little Company Hollywood Civic Light
Opera at Write Act Theatre, 6125 Yucca Ave., Hollywood; Thur.-Sat., 8
p.m., Sun., 4 p.m., through March 7. (323) 469-3113.
GO BOHEMIAN COWBOY The original title of Raymond King Shurtz's one-man show was The Gospel of Irony-
which would have been a particularly ironic title, had it stuck, since
there's not a trace of irony in Shurtz's unwaveringly sincere family
memoir, now called Bohemian Cowboy. It's all to his efforts
to understand the mystery of his father's disappearance three years
ago. The elder Shurtz drove six miles into the Nevada desert in his
pickup truck, got out and, evidently, started walking. And now the
younger Shurtz is trying to fathom whether or not it was suicide,
homicide and just some freak turn of events. The older man was not the
best of fathers, his son explains through shards of poignant stories
that are as compassionate as they are gracefully written, and spoken.
And the father was feeling some humiliation from the physical
after-effects of treatments for a form of cancer not specified in the
play. The uncredited set contains raw wood slabs of some nondescript
interior; when not showing family photographs, a video monitor overhead
frames the action with an image of the boundless Mojave. Under Kurt
Brungardt's tender direction, background sounds to Shurtz's fantastical
mystery tour to the scene of his father's disappearance include howling
wind, the rat-tat-tat of search-and-rescue helicopters. The father was
a musician, and the son juxtaposes his saga with moving ballads from
his memory, as well as his own original compositions. Near the
beginning, Shurtz quotes William Styron saying that depression is the
inability to grieve. Shurtz's performance is, indeed, a elegy, a
theater-poem of Styron-esque insight and elegance. He describes his
playwright mother as a poet, while his father was merely "poetical." He
meets Jesus in the desert, a figure "with ebony eyes and crooked
teeth," while Hamlet accompanies him for some of the drive across the
expanse. Hamlet, he says, does not care for Shurtz's song honoring
Ophelia. Shurtz performs all this with gentle, wistful intelligence
that avoids pitfalls of moroseness and melodrama. Through this deeply
personal story of fathers and sons, and marriages gone awry, Shurtz has
stumbled onto a romantic allegory, not only for a man lost in the
wilderness, but for a country, dangerously tipsy, swerving over the
broken center-line of an open road, as though between nostalgia and
despondency, beneath a canopy of stars. (SLM) Elephant Lab Theatre,
6324 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m. (no perfs March
13-14); through March 21. (323) 960-7744. A Theatre 4S Production.
BRIDEZILLA STRIKES BACK! In August of 2002, Cynthia Silver, a
struggling actress, was informed by her wedding "event designer" that a
British film company, September Films was creating a "documentary
series" called "Manhattan Brides," that followed couples through the
preparation of their nuptials. Her fiancé, Matt Silver (who still works
as a production stage manager on Broadway), was less than impressed
and, according to Cynthia's confession, said he didn't like the silky
tone of the British producers, and didn't trust them. "It's a reality
TV show," he told her. "No, hon," she replied, "It's a documentary
series. It's like Nova, but about weddings." Similarly confusing
"exposure" with "acting," she also believed that the experience might
jump start her performing career. Silver performed her show in the 2005
New York International Fringe Festival; she's now visibly pregnant, and
has regained the 15 pounds she says she lost after the gdocumentaryh
was aired. Much of the Bridezilla pedestrian, as Silver regales us - on
and around Giulio Perrone's wedding cake set piece - about her filmed
hysterics while trying to find a wedding dress that would disguise her
weight; and her spunky on-film ruminations about the cruel, exploitive
ambitions of the wedding industry. Then comes the section that's
irrefutably absorbing, when Silver finally realizes the betrayal that
we've suspected all along. Months after filming has been completed
comes the email from Britain that the gdocumentaryh has been sold to
Fox, which is turning into a reality show. The core of her identity
crisis is her obsession with what others think of her. As her husband
aptly puts it, "Why do you care? They're idiots!" But she does care,
and her endearing confession of the profound insight she's learned
rings ever so slightly hollow through her tears. She is, after all,
still doing this show, still confessing in front of strangers in a film
and TV industry town. (SLM) Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave., Los
Angeles; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; through March 29. (323)
NEW REVIEW GO BRUISING FOR BESOS In Spanish
besos means kisses but getting them in Yolanda Villamontes'
(writer/performer Adelina Anthony) family should come with combat pay.
With a philandering father who alternately abuses and romances her
emotionally fragile mother, Yolanda develops a distorted view of love
that clouds her relationships, most especially that with her mom. Now
as an adult on a sojourn from L.A. to visit her sick mother in San
Antonio, Yolanda is marooned with a busted radiator on a Texas highway
and flashes back to memories of her hardscrabble childhood, her budding
attraction to women, and the struggle for her and her mom to accept one
another. Anthony's solo performance chronicles a tale of dysfunction
with uproarious humor and heartfelt gravity, deftly balancing both and
delivering a riveting work. Under Rose Marcario's sturdy direction,
Anthony effortlessly embodies a host of characters, from Yolanda's'
strutting father and precocious siblings to her sexually confused high
school peer, from a fiery Puerto Rican lover to a mother aching from a
love-hate relationship. Designer Robert Selander's set, centered on a
Ford Mustang grill and car hood made of bleached bones, and John
Pedrone's evocative lighting design, combine well with Anthony's
journey of self-discovery. The Davidson/Valenti Theatre at the L.A. Gay
& Lesbian Center, 1125 N. McCadden Place, Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through March 15. (323) 860-7300. (Martín Hernández)
Bruising for Besos Photo by Allison Moon
DADDY'S DYIN', WHO'S GOT THE WILL Director Jeff Murray has here
substituted the "white trash" clan in Del Shores' comedy about a
dysfunctional family in 1986 Texas with an African-American cast. For
most of the evening, it's funny watching this caustic mix of vipers
playing head games and sniping at each other. Shores
dialogue is blisteringly funny, but sometimes these qualities don't
emerge forcefully enough under Murray's understated direction. (LE3).
Theatre/Theater-Hollywood, 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.;
Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 15. (323) 954-9795.
GO DIVORCE! THE MUSICAL Erin Kamler's witty and
entertaining new musical satire (for which she wrote the music, the
lyrics and the book) takes apart almost every emotional phase of a
marital breakup, including the horrors of dating and the hollows of
rebound sex, and sets it to chirpy and wry songs that feature some
sophisticated musical juxtapositions and harmonies. (Musical direction
and arrangements by David O) Kamler skirts the apparent danger of
triteness (setting a too familiar circumstance to music) by cutting
beneath the veneer of gender warfare. This is a study of the decaying
partnership of a resentful Brentwood radiologist (Rick Segall) and his
aspiring actress wife (Lowe Taylor), goaded by their respective
attorneys. The lawyers are the villains here - one (Gabrielle Wagner),
a Beverly Hills shark, the other (Leslie Stevens), a swirl of confusion
from her own recent divorce and now "temporarily" based in Studio City.
These vultures collude to distort the grievances of their clients, who
both actually care about their exes, and would be better off without
"representation." They might even remain married, the musical implies.
Director Rick Sparks gets clean, accomplished performances from his
five-person ensemble (that also includes Gregory Franklin, as the
Mediator - i.e. host of an absurdist game show.) Danny Cistone's cubist
set with rolling platforms masks the live three-piece band, parked
behind the action: This includes the ex-groom's impulsive decision,
based in his lawyer's misinformation, to removal all furniture from his
home, where he ex-bride continues to live -- only to find his bank
accounts and credit cards frozen. In the song, "We Stuck It Out,"
there's a kind of Sondheimian ennui to the verities of life-long
partnerships. The song is ostensibly an homage to his parents, in whose
basement he winds up living. As the Brits would say, marriage is bloody
hard work. (SLM) Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd.,
Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through March 29. (323)
ENTER THE SUNDAY All-new sketch and improv by the Sunday Company.
Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (323)
GO FILM Local playwright Patrick McGowan's new play
has no right to be as good as it is. The central character is the late
theater director Alan Schneider (Bill Robens) -- known for staging some
of the best plays by Absurdist authors, including Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? on Broadway, and introducing almost all of Samuel Beckett's plays to the American stage. Film
has no right to be so good because Schneider, in this play, is an
insufferable, flailing bully. The play is Schneider's nightmare -- an
Absurdist nightmare, naturally -- a comedy and inexplicably
scintillating entertainment about artistic failure. This biographical
story, set in 1965 New York, features Schneider trying to make a film
from a screenplay by Samuel Beckett (Phil Ward), who has come to New
York to work with Schneider. Joining them to star in the slogging,
portentous film, also named Film (now regarded by some
historians as a "masterpiece") is Beckett's favorite comedian, Buster
Keaton (Carl J. Johnson), long past his prime, spiritually at ease with
his station in life, and willing to play along with the clueless
intellectuals and a film crew whose patience gets sorely tested. Ward's
Beckett is a delightfully rueful, awkward and solitary figure, aching
in vain (of course) for the affections of the star-struck yet savvy
prop mistress (the lovely Deana Barone). Johnson's Keaton (Mandi Moss
handily plays the comedian in his younger days) has a pleasingly
bemused perspective on Schneider's insane temper tantrums. Framing the
story are slivers of Waiting for Godot in both French and
English, and, in another nod to Beckett, a vaudeville in front of a
curtain, featuring a kind of Mutt and Jeff routine, here played out by
Schneider and the source of his envy, director Mike Nichols (who
grabbed the job directing the movie of Virginia Woolf),
portrayed here as a figure of rare competence by Trevor H. Olsen.
Despite his production being slightly too long, director Trevor Biship
knows exactly what he's doing, astutely staging the action with
supplementary archived film clips on Sarah Palmrose's emblematic set of
a stage within a stage within a stage, each with its own curtain, and
together depicting the multiple, clashing realities inside Schneider's
tormented brain. (SLM) Theatre of NOTE, 1517 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through March 21. (323) 856-8611.
FLIGHT: THE RISE AND FALL OF CHARLES LINDBERGH Garth Wingfield's
bio-drama about the famous American aviator is more like a overstated,
cautionary tale about the perils of being a celebrity. Rather than
presenting a structured story with a plot or dramatic arc, the writer
gives us a montage of scenes that come across like a collection of news
headlines and interviews. Gerald Downey does a fine turn as the
Everyman pilot, whose 1927 flight from New York to Paris gave him
instant acclaim. And then there's the matter of the kidnapping of baby
Charles, and Lindy's foot-in-mouth debacle as a Nazi sympathizer, all
of which occurred in the span of 14 years, turning Lindbergh from hero
to heel. Wingfield doesn't probe these events in depth, doesn't provide
a meaningful context or perspective, which is too bad because we miss a
true sense of Lindbergh and his life. (He was also an author, scientist
and environmentalist.) Instead, the picture here is of a likable but
cranky "aw-shucks," fellow slyly exploited by a bevy of rapacious
reporters (played by Eric Charles Jorgenson), who is badly in need of a
P.R. man. The acting is spotty at best, but Robin Roy is passable as
Anne Lindbergh. James Carey provides good direction. (LE3)Attic Theater
& Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A., Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.,
Sun., 2 p.m., through March 14. (323) 525-0600.
FORKING! Daniel Heath's play, in which you, the audience, get to choose
your own adventure. FYI: The full title is "Fork Off Down Your Own
Forking Adventure Which You've Forked.". Theatre Asylum, 6322 Santa
Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 14. (323) 962-0046.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE Weekly sketch comedy. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.
NEW REVIEW THE GRADUATE British playwright Terry Johnson's fatuous adaptation of Mike Nichols 1967 film and Charles Webb's novel might have garnered laughs had it been played as a satire. No such luck, I'm afraid. Featuring the Mrs. Robinson character in the buff (the producers raked it in when Katherine Turner played the role in London and New York), Johnson's illogical script rips off highlights from the film and juxtaposes them with additional plot points: a drunken tete-a-tete between Elaine (Michele Exarhos) and Mrs. Robinson (Kelly Lloyd), a visit by Benjamin (Ben Campbell) and his parents (Jerry Lloyd and Cindy Yantis) to a psychotherapist, a strip bar sequence with a topless dancer falling into Elaine's lap, and a redo of the wedding scene at the end, with Mr. Robinson (Jim Keily) going after Benjamin with a bat. None of these inanities would matter quite so much if Johnson hadn't also stripped the story of all wit, depth and meaningful social commentary. Directed with little insight by Jules Aaron, the performances range from cartoonish to earnest to an off-putting mixture of both. To be fair, it's difficult to deliver an ultimate rendering given the dreadful material. As the predatory siren, Lloyd might have fit nicely into a well-calibrated farce. Costume designer Shon LeBLanc mysteriously makes Elaine look as dowdy as possible; nor do his designs flatter Lloyd. Set designer Stephen Gifford's drab, functional wood-paneled backdrop underscores this essentially lifeless effort. El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 5. (323) 460-4443. (Deborah Klugman)
The Graduate Photo by Ty Donaldson
GRAND MOTEL The real star of Michael Sargent's new farce is the set
- Chris Covics' stunningly realistic back yard of a Palm Springs
men-only nudist motel, replete with lawn chairs and lawn, swimming pool
containing little rubber duckies, the motel's stacco walls and a
sliding door to the room facing the pool. Early in Act 1, aging
"degenerate southern playwright" Cornelius Coffin (Dennis Christopher)
staggers from that room into the 95 degree heat at 10 a.m., dressed in
a white shroud, like Tennessee Williams or "like the men wear in
Morocco." As though jolted by a surge of electricity, he flails
backwards upon entering the heat, shielding his eyes from the glare and
staggering back into his room to retrieve his sunglasses. It's one in a
series of funny, small jokes, nicely staged by the author. Coffin is
hiding from the East Coast premiere of his latest play, or at least
hiding from the reviews that are due out any moment. There's a suicide
pact he makes with a male model (Andy Hopper) who insists he has a
girlfriend, while Coffin's so called friend, Maria St. Juiced (Shannon
Holt), arrives by scaling an eight-foot wall. Holt offers a
performances of nicely timed tics and wiggles that reveal her
character's idiosyncratic insanity. Another wall-hopper is the local,
prancing male escort (Nick Soper). The motel's co-owners (Craig Johnson
and Erik Hanson) are struggling to keep the place afloat, though we
hear that the competition across the street, another male nudist motel
called The Deep End, is fully booked. Nice comedic cameos also by Bruce
Adel and Nathaniel Stanton as an aging couple , respectively named Low
Hangers and Papa Smurf, who come to P.S. to reinvigorate their
otherwise flaccid love life. There is a plot about things not being
what they seem, but this is essentially a comedy of manners. Sargent's
structure is so languid that once the jokes about the atmosphere tumble
away, the play is left wearing mere threads, not unlike its characters.
(SLM) Unknown Theater, 1110 Seward St., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
Sun., 6 p.m.; through March 28. (323) 466-7781.
HANGIN' OUT: THAT NAKED MUSICAL Conceiver-creator Robert Schrock is
trying to summon lightning to strike twice on much the same concept -
stark naked performers gamely crooning and dancing through songs - that
took his Naked Boys Singing from a West Hollywood hit to an
off-Broadway hit. Here, 19 writers and musical director Gerard
Sternbach, on keyboard, serve up a pastiche of almost two dozen ballads
and up-tempo musical comedy standards on themes of nakedness, sexual
awakening, sexual arousal, body image and self-esteem. These are
performed by three men (Eric B. Anthony, Marco Infante and Brent Keast)
and three women (Heather Capps, Carole Foreman and Lana Harper)
entirely in the buff, singing and prancing like nudists on a tropical
beach to Ken Roht's choreography on and around small wooden blocks on a
stage mostly defined by a lush upstage curtain. Like the remake of some
very successful movie, it pales slightly when compared to the original,
perhaps because it's trying to reinvent that earlier wheel. With a few
notable exceptions ("Patron Saint" and "Work of Art") the songs just
don't have the wit and vigor of Naked Boys. . It's slightly
paradoxical that the company, with varying body types and ages, some
buff, some less so, are so comfortable in their skin, and so charming,
that the impact of their nudity eventually wears off, exposing not
their flaws, but the those of the musical itself. They are certainly
all profiles in courage. (SLM) Macha Theatre, 1107 Kings Road, West
Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; indef. (323) 960-4443.
THE HIGH Teen drama parody, "from OMG to LOL.". COMEDYSPORTZ, 733 N. Seward St., L.A.; Fri., 10:30 p.m.. (323) 856-4796.
GO HOWLIN' BLUES AND DIRTY DOGS The spirit of the
blues pulsates resoundingly throughout this stirring musical based on
the life of feisty, soulful singer Big Mama Thornton. The strengths in
class-act vocalist Barbara Morrison's performance lie not in her effort
to re-create the historical woman but in her expressionistic portrayal
of this talented but troubled figure's essence, captured in Morrison's
earthy, heartrending vocals. Carla DuPree Clark directs a top-notch
supporting ensemble, and the music is simply topflight. (DK). Stella
Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3
& 6 p.m.; thru April 12. (310) 462-1439.
THE INCREASED DIFFICULTY OF CONCENTRATION. Absurdist playwright,
militant anti-Communist and human rights advocate Vaclav Havel is
unique as the only working playwright who was also a head of state: he
was president of both Czechoslovakia and later the Czech Republic. This
piece, translated by Stepan S. Simek, centers on social scientist Dr.
Edward Hummel (Scott Rognlien), who's writing an earnest treatise on
the nature of happiness and human needs. In private life, however, he's
an egocentric male chauvinist, liar and sexual philanderer. In addition
to his neglected wife (Kristina Hayes), he has a flamboyant mistress
(Sarah Wolter), and makes passes at his secretary (Whitney Vigil). He's
also participating in a crack-brained research project conducted by the
sex-starved academic Dr. Betty Balthazar (Amy Stiller), her odd-ball
assistants (Steve Hamill and Eric Normington), her eccentric supervisor
(Bobby Reed), and a temperamental computer named Putzig. Though all the
absurdist elements are present -- a fractured chronology, emblematic
characters and bizarre events -- it seems like a conventional sex
comedy grafted onto a philosophical farce. Director Alex Lippard has
assembled an able cast, and the results are often funny, but the play's
over-schematic structure makes for arid patches. (NW) The Lounge
Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.,
through March 28. Produced by The Next Arena. (323) 960-7788.
THE ISLAND South African prison drama by John Kani, Winston Ntshona and
Athol Fugard. Lucy Florence Cultural Center, 3351 W. 43rd St., L.A.;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 & 7:30 p.m.; thru March 8. (323)
KEN ROHT'S 99￠ ONLY CALENDAR GIRL COMPETITION Now in its sixth year,
director-choreographer Ken Roht's 99 Cents Only theater is beginning to
look like a one trick pony. As in past years, the trick is to limit his
costume (Ann Closs-Farley) and set (Jason Adams) designers to use only
what they can scrounge from the titular discount chain for Roht's
decidedly silly burlesques of Radio City-style, holiday musical
spectaculars. It's a funny gag ― thanks mainly to the wit and ingenuity
of Closs-Farley, whose show-stealing creations dress this year's
ostensible lampoon of beauty pageants in the highest of camp. It almost
makes one overlook Roht's failure to gird his polished production
numbers with the narrative spine of a coherent book. Instead, he and
co-composer John Ballinger are content to let their parody coast on
their pastiche of Godspell-vintage, R&B showtunes and the
bare structural framework of the pageant form itself. And while their
clever lyrics often connect, the lack of a story arc or character
through-lines means the evening never amounts to more than a concert of
disconnected ― and increasingly monotonous ― musical sketches. If
storytelling isn't Roht's forte, however, he once again proves his
genius at talent recruitment. This year's 28-strong, pitch-perfect
company generates enough singing and dancing power to light up an
entire Broadway season. (BR) Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.;
Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through March 29. (213) 389-3856.
THE LARAMIE PROJECT Moises Kaufman's dramatization of the Matthew
Shepard murder. Hollywood Fight Club Theater, 6767 W. Sunset Blvd., No.
6, L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 8. (323)
NEW REVIEW GO LAWS OF SYMPATHY A knock-out
cast under John Lawrence Rivera's economical direction gives a human
heartbeat to Oliver Mayer's "message play" -- the heart being the theme
of human cruelty that lies at at the center of Mayer's play about the
freeing of Bantu slaves from Somali refugee camps. Though Mayer's
dialogue suffers from didacticism. Anita Dashiell and Diarra Kilpatrick
turn in fully realized performances as two war-ravaged women in
performances that extend beyond the novelty of flushing a never before
seen toilet (the gag gets old after a while). The women arrive with
rich pasts, as well as a host if dreams, hopes and aspirations -- much
to the chagrin of the usually unflappable refugee co-coordinator
Mohammed (Ahmad Enani). His angry assistant Betty (Celelete Den)
provides some much needed color and humor throughout the play. (The
other major humorous bit comes when the Teletubbies, from one of the
refugees' favorite TV show, arrive unannounced in "person."). Mayer
does deserve credit for creating the morally ambiguous Gerald (Will
Dixon), whose plans for the refugees sound vague at best. Act I is
entirely taut, but Act 2 trots out a number of clichés and doesn't know
quite when to end. John H. Binkly's functional turntable set allows
Rivera's fast-paced direction to move quickly from scene to scene.
Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7
p.m.; through March 29. A Playwrights Arena production. (213) 627-4473.
Laws of Sympathy Photo Courtesy of Playwrights Arena
LET THE EAGLE SOAR Merchandise Productions presents sketch comedy
with a dash of video, music and dance. I.O. WEST, 6366 Hollywood Blvd.,
L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru March 19. (323) 962-7560.
GO LIGHT UP THE SKY Moss Hart's sharp, hard-boiled
1946 farce is the quintessential backstage tale of the mid-20th
century. His characters are often based on real people: fast-talking
producer Sidney Black (Benjamin Burdick) and his sassy ice-skater wife,
Frances (Andrea Syglowski), are almost certainly meant to suggest Mr.
and Mrs. Billy Rose. The characters are types, but Hart transmutes them
into archtypes, readily recognizable to those too young to remember the
era they represent. We meet them in a hotel in Boston, where they're
preparing for the out-of-town opening of a show they hope will go off
"like a roman candle in the tired face of show business." There's the
self-dramatizing star Irene (Laura Flanagan), her dim-bulb husband
(Richard Michael Knolla), and her earthy, disenchanted mother (Barbara
Schofield). The pretentious, over-emotional director (Colin Campbell)
is said to cry at card-tricks, and the callow young playwright (Dominic
Spillane) must undergo his theatrical baptism by fire. Hart's script
crackles with wit and wise-cracks, and, under the clever direction of
Bjorn Johnson, the laughter is near-constant on Victoria Profitt's
art-deco set. Burdick is a dynamo of verbal pyrotechnics, and he's
evenly matched by most of the cast, who make the most of Hart's
cynical/sentimental Valentine to show business. (NW) Open Fist Theatre,
6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m.,
through March 7. (323) 882-6912.
LOVE BITES - VOLUME 8.0 Eight new plays debut in Elephant Theatre
Company's annual short-form festival. Elephant Theater, 6322 Santa
Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 14. (323) 960-4410.
MAKIN' HAY World-premiere musical about a wealthy cowboy by Matthew Goldsby, based on Moliere's 1668 comedy George Dandin. Crossley Terrace Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru April 5. (323) 462-8460.
GO MAMMALS Persuasive performances under John
Pleshette's skillful direction lend humor and heft to this dark comedy
by first time British playwright, Amelia Bluemore. Sporting shades of
Alan Ayckbourn, the play concerns a married couple, Jane (Bess Meyer)
and Kev (Adrian Neil), who discover disturbing facts about each other's
taken-for-granted fidelity. Dealing with these hurtful revelations
becomes complicated by the demanding presence of their two willful
daughters, 4-year-old Jess and 6-year-old Betty (played by adult
performers Phoebe James and Abigail Revasch), and by their weekend
guests, Kev's old friend Phil (David Corbett) and his narcissistic
girlfriend Lorna (Stephanie Ittleson). The play takes a while to get
going by virtue of an unnecessarily lengthy scene showing the frazzled
Jane struggling to cope with the bratty kids. While no reflection on
the performers, casting adults as children -- meant to convey the
breadth of a child's presence in people's lives -- is a device whose
humor soon wears thin. But once the arena shifts to grown-up turf, the
piece gets more involving, in large part due to the performers' adept
and nuanced work. Of particular note are Meyer, unfailingly on the mark
as an intelligent but harried homemaker, Neil as a man twitching
timorously on the verge of an affair, and Corbett as his blither, more
roll-with-the-punches pal. (DK) Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave.,
Hollywood; Fri-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 4 p.m. through March 8. (800)
595-4849. Note: Roles alternate.
NEW REVIEW GO THE MIRACLE WORKER Though its
compelling subject transcends its limitations, William Gibson's
fact-based 1959 play is a product of its time, large and sprawling, yet
over-tidy in tying up loose ends. In her infancy, Helen Keller (Carlie
Nettles) suffers a high fever that leaves her blind and deaf. Science
and medicine (circa 1880) can do nothing for her, leaving her locked in
her own world. She becomes a monster child, violent, willful, and
unmanageable. But her peppery Irish teacher, Annie Sullivan (Erin
Christine Shaver), somehow perceives the indomitable intelligence
locked inside her head. With profound belief in the power of language,
Sullivan sets about teaching the girl a signing alphabet, which
eventually enables her to perceive and communicate with the world. The
struggle is arduous and violent, and frequently complicated by the
well-meaning but misguided Keller family, who indulge the child as a
retarded little animal. Director-designer Joel Daavid, faced with the
problem of numerous scene changes, has provided a vast unit set, which
is handsome but sometimes makes for awkward staging. He's fortunate in
his cast, and Nettles and Shaver boldly tackle their violent
confrontations, ably supported by Stuart W. Howard, Julie Austin
Felder, Ethan Brosowsky, and Elisa Perry. Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose
Avenue, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., through March 8.
Hayworth Productions. (323) 960-7863 or
http://www.plays411/miracleworker (Neal Weaver)
MY BROOKLYN HAMLET: WHERE MOTHER KILLS FATHER & MARRIES HER SISTER
Brenda Adelman's "true tale of triumph over tragedy.". BANG, 457 N.
Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Thurs., March 12, 8 p.m.. (866) 811-4111.
THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP Charles Ludlam's gothic horror farce.
Hayworth Theater, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,
7 p.m.; thru March 20. (323) 969-1707.
THE PAINTING Bill Becker's story of an artist, her male nude model,
and her husband's mysterious death. Gardner Stages, 1501 N. Gardner
St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 22. (323)
GOPOINT BREAK LIVE! Jaime Keeling's merciless
skewering of the 1991 hyper-action flick starring Keanu Reeves and Gary
Busey is loaded with laughs, as well as surprises, like picking an
audience member to play Reeves' role of Special Agent Johnny Utah. It's
damn good fun, cleverly staged by directors Eve Hars, Thomas Blake and
George Spielvogel. (LE3). Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.;
Fri., 8:30 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.. (866) 811-4111.
GO POOR, POOR LEAR In her one woman Shakespeare
show-within-a-show, Nina Sallinen nearly triples her age to play a
90-year-old Finnish diva, returning to the stage after decades away to
perform King Lear wit just a hat, a doll, and a flower to represent the
king's three ill-fated daughters. The aged actress is seemingly in
constant motion, thrilled to back in the spotlight, but her overactive
mouth, her limbs and, on occasion, her mind are betraying her. When her
stubborn legs and distracted brain cause her to freeze up on stage,
it's as electric as her shock of white hair that shakes loose in wild
directions. A solo performance of King Lear is a vanity piece, however
cleverly slummed up with nice touches like the hairdryer Sallinen
clicks on so that she can deliver the king's "Blow, winds, and crack
your cheeks!" speech into its tinny gale. But what's really at stake
for the ancient drama queen is that her estranged daughters -- and the
evening's guests of honor -- have instead gone to the movies, spinning
her into a manic depression where she acknowledges the parallels
between her characters and herself. A shattered second act soliloquy
over-explains what we've enjoyed intuiting, but when Sallinen's actress
drops her facade and asks the audience to see her for who she really
is, the moment is so kinetic that we forget we're still looking at a
fictional creation. (AN) The Complex, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd.,
Hollywood; call for schedule; through March 26. (818) 430-4835.
ROMEO AND JULIET Young lovers get all emo. MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford
Ave., L.A.; Thurs., 7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April
5. (800) 838-3006.
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE Tribute to the early years of SNL. Hollywood Fight Club Theater, 6767 W. Sunset Blvd., No. 6, L.A.; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru April 1. (323) 465-0800.
SIN, A CARDINAL DEPOSED Prosecutor demands answers from a cardinal
about sexual abuse in his archdiocese, by Michael Murphy, based on
actual court transcripts. Hayworth Theater, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.;
Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru April 2. (323) 960-4442.
SIX YEARS Sharr White's story of a World War II GI's return to his
hometown. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 22. (323) 871-1150.
SONGS TO OFFEND ALMOST EVERYONE Sharon McNight performs politically
incorrect tunes, not the least of which is Chet Atkins' "Would Jesus
Wear a Rolex.". Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.;
Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 7. (323) 957-1884.
THE TOMORROW SHOW Late-night variety show created by Craig Anton,
Ron Lynch and Brendon Small. Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for
Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Sat., midnight. (323)
YENTA: STRAIGHT FROM THE MOUTH Annie Korzen critiques life. El
Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., L.A.; Sat., 3 p.m.; Sun., 7
p.m.; thru March 22. (323) 460-4443.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS
AMERICAN GUILT Starting from the ending and then working its way
back, Nick Mills' take on the Bonnie and Clyde archetype deals with
20-somethings who are searching for meaning in their lives and try to
find it through acts of defiance. The story centers on the relationship
between Sara (Liz Vital) and Jonah (Eduardo Porto Carreiro), the former
a nymphomaniac who ironically refuses to curse and the latter a
socially awkward depressive who has been seeing his therapist, Jane
(Nicole DuPort), for seven years. Also in the mix are Sara's friends
Evan (Jeff Irwin) and Hannah (Venessa Perdua), who end up as enablers
in Sara and Jonah's scheme and as a result are grilled by Keller (Sean
Spann), a police detective investigating the devastating results of it.
While there are a few genuine moments of humor and introspection in the
writing, most of it ends up sounding like a pseudo-intellectual whine
punctuated by pop-culture debates, further exacerbated by the typical
early-20s rapid-fire ADD-esque way in which much of it is delivered.
Though Mills' directing his own work may have been a mistake, the cast
members, especially Spann and DuPort, have good energy and throw
themselves into the material fully. (MK) Theatre Unlimited Studios,
10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through March
14. (847) 800-1762. A Vitality Productions Production.
GO THE BIRD AND MR. BANKS Alternately ghoulish and
sweet, playwright Kevin Huff's darkly ironic tale is a pleasingly
twisted mix of romance and Grand Guignol horror. After she's dumped by
her louse-lover boss (Chet Grissom), corporate secretary Annie (Jenny
Kern) tries to kill herself. She receives emotional support from a
co-worker - the soft spoken, eerily staring accountant, Mr. Banks (Sam
Anderson), whom the other folks in the office have long considered
slightly creepy. After she moves into Mr. Banks' sprawling, dusty
house, Annie discovers that the co-workers don't know the half of it.
Still attached by a cast iron Oedipal apron string to parents long
since dead, Banks has furnished the home in a dusty style that can
charitably be called "Norman Bates Modern." When Annie's boss stops by
and attempts to rape her, Banks pulls out a cudgel and events take a
gruesome turn. Although the plot slightly bogs down during a needlessly
long Act Two road trip, Huff's writing is otherwise smartly edgy, full
of vituperative charm. Director Mark St. Amant's comedically tight
production punches the weird, Addams Familytone with brio,
nicely balancing horror with genuine sympathy for the characters. From
his deep, soft, insanity-steeped voice to his shambolic gait and his
half baked "drunk crazy uncle" stage persona, Anderson's turn as the
crazed killer-accountant is utterly compelling. (PB) Lankershim Arts
Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,
2 p.m.; through March 14. (866) 811-4111. Road Theater Production.
GO A DON'T HUG ME COUNTY FAIR. This crowd-pleasing
cornball musical, by Phil and Paul Olsen, suggests a home-town talent
show combined with a sort of Minnesota Folk Play, full of bad jokes,
and set in a bar called The Bunyan, on the first day of the Bunyan
County Fair. Proprietor Gunner Johnson (Tom Gibis, who also plays
Gunner's man-hungry sister Trigger) is so uncomfortable talking about
feelings that he can't pronounce the word "love." His frustrated wife,
Clara (Judy Heneghan)m seeks attention by becoming a contestant in the
Miss Walleye Contest, whose winner will have her face carved in butter.
Also in the running are Trigger and Bernice (Katherine Brunk), a
scatty-but-shapely gal who longs to star on Broadway. And there are
other competitions: karaoke-machine salesman Aarvid Gisselsen (Brad
McDonald) and camping supplies tycoon Kanute Gunderson (Tom Limmel) vie
for the hand of Bernice, while Kanute and Gunner compete in the fishing
contest. The songs, by the Olsens, are rinky-tink and derivative,
borrowing melodies from everywhere, but somehow they work. The giddy
tone is set by Doug Engalla's direction, Stan Mazin's choreography, and
an astonishingly detailed set by Chris Winfield, featuring a karaoke
machine with a mind of its own. (NW) Lonny Chapman Group Repertory
Theatre, 10900 Burbank Boulevard, N. Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.,
Sun., 2 p.m., thru Mar. 29. (818) 700-4878 www.lcgrt.com.
NEW REVIEW GO DRACULA Director Ken Sawyer, who
recently helmed the delightful Lovelace: A Rock Opera at the Hayworth,
has scored again with this stylish adaptation of Bram Stoker's vampire
tale. Co-writers Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston's liberties they
take on the story in now way diminish the quality of the production.
Robert Arbogast is splendid as the creepy count, first seen rising from
his grave to put the bite on the lovely Mina (Mara Marini), upon his
arrival in England. When Lucy Seward (Darcy Jo Martin), contacts a
mysterious illness, her mother, Lily (Karesa McElheny), who runs an
asylum, enlists the expertise of Abraham Van Helsing (Joe Hart) to find
a cure. Thrown into the mix are Lucy's betrothed Jonathan Harker (J.R.
Mangels) and the mad, bug-eating Renfield (Alex Robert Holmes). This
one's all about atmosphere. Desma Murphy's alluring set design is
cleverly accented by an enormous backdrop of an incubus sitting on a
sleeping woman, inspired by Henry Fuseli's painting "The Nightmare."
Luke Moyer's lighting schema is perfectly conceived. Sawyer uses an
arsenal of haunted house special effects here, including lots of
rolling fog and wolf howls, but they never come across as cheesy or
overdone; and there are a few scary moments during this 90-minute show,
amidst the well-placed humor. (LE3) NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia
Blvd.; N. Hlwyd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through March 22.
(818) 508-7101. (Lovell Estell III)
ELOVE - A MUSICAL.COM/EDY This world premiere musical by Wayland
Pickard explores an online romance between an older man and woman who
are newly single. After a website called "eLove" matches Frank (Lloyd
Pedersen) and Carol (Bobbi Stamm), love seems to blossom as they begin
chatting online. The opening number "I'm Single" has a catchy tune with
some clever lyrics; unfortunately the highlight of the show comes five
minutes in. The rest devolves into repetitive and unimaginative quips
punctuated by musical numbers that plunge from the pedestrian to
something akin to theme songs from '80s sitcoms. Pickard does
everything in this production but act; his staging lends it a
one-dimensional quality that might have been avoided with greater
collaboration. He is so focused on trying to milk puns for laughs that
his direction employs hackneyed devices such as talking to pets and
monologues delivered out to the audience. Stamm stumbles over one too
many lines, though she and Pederson have pleasant voices, but Chris
Winfield's cramped set allows them little freedom to physically explore
their characters. The piece, in effect, becomes an Ed Sullivan-style
stand-up routine with dialogue so trite, it makes George Lucas look
like Edward Albee. (MK) Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd.,
Toluca Lake; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru March 29. An Angry Amish
Production (818) 841-5422.
THE ILLUSTRATED BRADBURY Tobias Andersen's (non-tattooed) solo performance piece, inspired by Ray Bradbury's story
Illustrated Man. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South
Pasadena; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 8. (323) 960-4429.
IT'S THE HOUSEWIVES! Domestic divas rock out, music and lyrics by
Laurence Juber and Hope Juber, book by Hope Juber and Ellen Guylas.
Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Fri.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 29. (323) 960-5563,.
LA RONDE Arthur Schnitzler's romantic roundelay. Luna Playhouse,
3706 San Fernando Road, Glendale; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 21.
LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS Roger Corman's carnivorous-plant musical,
book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, music by Alan Menken. Eclectic
Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 7
p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 15. (818) 508-3003.
A LOVELY PLACE FOR A PICNIC Ladislav Smocek's antiwar play, reset in
the jungles of Vietnam by Pavel Cerny. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura
Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Tues., 8 p.m.; thru March 24. (866) 811-4111.
MADAME BUTTERFLY: THE ORIGINAL PLAY The 1999 Secret Rose cast
reunites for the play that inspired Puccini's opera. Secret Rose
Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 22. (866) 811-4111.
MISCONCEPTIONS Seven short plays by Art Shulman. Lonny Chapman Group
Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 2 p.m.;
Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 29. (818) 700-4878.
NOSE TALES The Zombie Joe Underground sniffs out "five lovable
fools.". ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood;
Thurs., 8:30 p.m.; thru March 19. (818) 202-4120.
GO A SKULL IN CONNEMARA Playwright Martin
McDonagh -- a four time Tony nominee is known for his rhythmic,
ungrammatical dialogue and a worldview that's comic, unsparing and
just. He sets his plays in Irish villages so small and overgrown with
past grievances that neighbors remember 27-year-old slights that didn't
even involve them. Here, a part time gravedigger named Mick (Morlan
Higgins) and his sop-headed assistant, Mairtin (Jeff Kerr McGivney),
are assigned to disinter the bones of Mick's wife, dead of a car crash
officially, but the bored locals, like old widow Maryjohnny (Jenny
O'Hara) and Thomas the cop (John K. Linton), have long whispered how
she was murdered by her husband. Under Stuart Rogers' measured
direction, Higgins feels capable of dismissive violence -- say,
flinging hooch in Mairtin's eyes -- but we're reluctant to see the
killer that could be hibernating within his bearish frame. Instead of
plumbing the comedy's bleak cruelty, the production plays like a
cynical -- and highly watchable -- Sherlock Holmes story; the focus is
on the villagers' thick webs of past and present tension, which spins
itself into an obsession with fairness where characters glower," Now I
have to turn me vague insinuations into something more of an insult, so
then we'll all be quits." Jeff McLaughlin's fantastic pull down set
converts from a living room to a cemetery, with grave pits as deep as
Higgin's thighs are thick. (AN) Theatre Tribe, 5267 Lankershim Blvd.,
North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (800) 838-3006.
TARTUFFE As Madame Pernelle (Judith Scarpone) is giving her
imperious farewell lecture to the family, parading in a peach pantsuit
with flowing scarves (costumes by Leah Piehl), about a dozen of her
suitcases drop from the rafters. They hit with violent thuds, eliciting
a blithe response from the family. Such is the lunacy in this
present-day San Fernando Valley suburb (set by Ken McKenzie),
modernized by director Josh Chambers from Moliere's 17th century
Parisian estate setting. Meanwhile, Pernelle's son and master of the
house, Orgon (Tim Cummings), stands on a platform high in the sky,
dressed like a CIA agent and being caressed by an identically dressed
twin, white-gloved figure in a grey ski mask. The double is the
interloper-impostor Tartuffe (Antonio Anagaran). Orgon speaks all of
Tartuffe's lines through a microphone, so that the pair are entwined
psychologically as well as physically. Their movements are a kind of
choreographed duet, and Chambers' direction contains many operatic
elements. Though the physicalization simply renders austere what's more
amusing (and self-evident) in Moliere's baroque farce - that Tartuffe
is a demon who resides inside Orgon's soul - it's nonetheless one of
many absorbing theatrical conceits. Another is the complicating reality
that Pernelle's family is here lost in space. Granddaughter Mariane
(Megan Heyn) lounges forlornly on one of the lawn chairs, inhaling
fumes from aerosol cans that lie scattered at her feet. She's also in
the habit of cutting herself - perhaps in response to the news that her
insane father is pushing her to marry his beloved Tartuffe (i.e.
himself?) -- yet Mariane's self-mutilation reveals layers of
depressions that would go back years. Curiously, this gives some
validity to Pernelle's screed against the family's spiritual malaise.
Even Cleante (Matt Foyer) - Orgon's brother-in-law and the play's voice
of reason - gives his nicely rendered if slightly tedious advice while
lounging and swilling martinis. So we have an unhinged household
threatened by the menacing hypocrisy of a pious zealot, whose
appearances are accompanied by the dull rumble of Nathan Ruyle's sound
design. Moliere's comedic indignation has been boiled down to a
slightly glib nihilism. Donald Frame's faithful and full-bodied verse
translation is completely at odds with Chambers' staging. The rhyming
comes filled with whimsy, yet Chambers is tone-deaf to the humor
inherent in the text. Moliere's is a humor of behavior; Chambers' is
the humor of despondency. One almost wishes that Chambers would be
bolder - staging a meditation on the play rather than the play itself,
an opera based on the text rather than the full text itself. What we
have instead is bloated austerity - a meringue pie filled with air, yet
layered with steak and beans and banana cream. (SLM) Theatre @ Boston
Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.;
through March 22. (626) 683-6883.
THE TWILIGHT OF THE GOLDS Playwright Jonathan Tolins's drama of
ethics is part moral debate and part family tragedy, in which
righteousness comes into direct conflict with pragmatism. On
Manhattan's Upper West Side, a young married couple -- Suzanne
(Gretchen Koerner) and her husband Rob (Bryan Okes Fuller) -- are
delighted when they learn Suzanne is pregnant, and Rob convinces her to
allow the fetus to undergo an experimental genetics test. The test
comes back positive - positive for probable homosexuality, that is.
Much to the shock of Suzanne's charming, artistic gay younger brother
David (Eli Kranski), the couple seriously considers aborting the
infant, rather than raise a gay son - a choice that is tacitly backed
by David's seemingly kind and liberal parents (Penny Peyser and Mark L.
Taylor). The debate between David and his bewildered and increasingly
hostile family shifts from being a simple meditation on "right to life"
issues to a confrontation in which David feels he has to justify his
own existence. Although director T. K. Kolman's straightforward
production aptly conveys the subtext of hostility and mutual
incomprehension lurking beneath the apparently happy family's
relations, the staging often lacks nuance and comes across as stodgy.
Many exchanges consist of loud roaring and arm waving histrionics, a
problem exacerbated by the padded talkiness of Tolins' dialogue.
Kranski adds some haunting dimension as the hurt, appalled gay son, and
so does Koerner, as the guilt- racked older sister. (PB) Chandler
Studio Theater, 12443 Chandler Blvd, North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through March 14. The Production Company.
URBAN DEATH: A NEW DARKNESS Zombie Joe's "theatrical thrill ride of
terrors, taboos and trepidations.". ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim
Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru March 7. (818)
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS
NEW REVIEW BURN THIS Lanford Wilson's drama
about four New Yorkers and a funeral is a slippery portrait of love and
loss. Staged with a warm cast, it's flush with hope; just as easily,
though, a more aloof ensemble can flip it into a play about emotional
isolation where the polite relationship between Anna (Marisa Petroro)
and perfect-on-paper boyfriend Burton (Jonathan Blandino) casts a cold
shadow across all dynamics, making her devotion to callously funny
roomate Larry (Aaron Misakian) and temperamental lover Pale (a
wrenching and infuriating Dominic Comperatore) seem nearly like
pathological self-punishment. Director John Ruskin sees this as a love
story -- the scene breaks twinkle with sentimental music -- however his
cast isn't up to it and hasn't even been instructed to at least pretend
to be listening to each other. (Burton's confession of a random blowjob
from a strange man rolls off Anna like he was droning on about the
weather.) Comperatore's combustible Pale has four times the spark of
the rest of the ensemble -- when he bursts into the scene, we see the
gulf between what Wilson's play could be and what this staging actually
is. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through March 22. (310) 397-3244. (Amy Nicholson)
Burn This Photo Courtesy of Ruskin Group Theatre
GO CHERRY POPPIN' FESTIVAL In the Friday night bill
of its festival of new plays, Alive Theatre shows a dogged
determination to fathom the unfathomable Big Questions, through Spartan
theatricality and Absurdist jokes. Anthony Cretara and Jasper Oliver's The Adventure Play or Keep Them Babies Outta My Soup,
is a fairy tale - our Kierkegaard-quoting narrator (Calli Dunaway)
holds a wand, I think - that follows an earnest and bewildered traveler
named Zozza (nice turn by Jessica Culaciati) looking for his medieval
village, which is some place not like not unlike Oz. Zozza befriends a
Man (Eddie Chamberlain) who, with some jollity, considers the benefits
of smashing open his brain with the hook end of a hammer. In in a nifty
sliver of theatrical invention by director Jeremy Aluma, he does just
that, letting loose a demon (the rotund and jocular Paul Knox) - a
fellow who speaks with a Scottish brogue and refers to his own
"Mediterranean" dialect. With its cast of nine, the delightfully loony
one-act contains an internal battle between pretentiousness and farce.
The farce wins. There's also a shadow puppet play within the play,
designed by Robin Bott. Ryan McClary's Under the Great Booby Hatch
concerns a dissident radio host (Jasper Oliver) broadcasting from a
clandestine desert location and, with his tormented idealistic
assistant (Rebecca Patrick) is wrestling with the ethics of lying on
air, in order to boost pathetic ratings. In so doing, the play examines
the larger ramifications and ironies of truth-telling and story-telling
to a nation of loons. With its cartoon aesthetic, it settles upon the
view that there's redemption in craziness, that insanity is the only
reasonable response to the world as it is. Director Mike Dias works
with a devoted ensemble, though Oliver needs to stop mumbling, or the
playwright's point is just so much dead air. (SLM) Royal Theatre on the
Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach; in rep, Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.
(pre show band plays at 7:30 p.m.); through March 8. (562) 508-1788. or
http://alivetheatre.org. An Alive Theatre production
CINDERELLA: THE MUSICAL Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie's
family-friendly fairy tale. (Resv. required.). Santa Monica Playhouse,
1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat.-Sun., 12:30 & 3 p.m.; thru Dec.
27. (310) 394-9779.
THE CONTEST Jennifer Rowland's bizarre love triangle. Powerhouse
Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March
14. (310) 396-3680.
DOUBLE INDEMNITY James M. Cain's noir thriller, adapted by Kathrine Bates. (In rep with Violet Sharp,
call for schedule.). Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241
Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; Sun., 2 p.m.; Mon.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2
& 8 p.m.; thru March 15. (310) 364-0535.
ESCANABA IN DA MOONLIGHT Jeff Daniels' comedy about deer hunters in
upstate Michigan. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 4. (310) 512-6030.
HAMLET, THE ARTIST FORMERLY KNOWN AS PRINCE OF DENMARK Shakespeare's
tragedy set to the music of Prince. National Guard Armory, 854 E.
Seventh St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.;
Sat., March 14, 2 p.m.; thru March 14. (562) 985-5526.
LAUGH-OUT Tribute to Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. Found Theater, 599 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru March 14. (562) 433-3363.
LIONS Vince Melocchi's new play features nine men and a woman
decaying slowing in a private watering hole during an major economic
slump -- this major economic slump. Set during the 2007/2008 football
season, Melocchi's story centers on John Waite (Matt McKenzie), an
unemployed metalworker whose desire to see the Detroit Lions win the
Super Bowl supplants all other priorities in his life. As his immutable
pride keeps him from opportunity, he grows sour and angry, a textured
and nuanced transformation that McKenzie performs poetically, even at
explosive heights of cursing and fighting. The rest of the denizens
seem to spiral around him, perhaps sinking into his black hole of self
worth. Director Guillermo Cienfuegos allows us to spend time with each
of the hopeless, revealing the play's pith and brutality with a
sensitive hand. But this tends to expose the play's relatively minor
weaknesses: the conveniently contrived exits and entrances, the
shapelessness of some of the relationships -- especially considering
the large cast, clumsy dialogue that sometimes spills awkwardly into
scenes. The strong ensemble, though, piles through these uneven aspects
to deliver an all around touching portrait of middle America, a
reminder that "real Americans" need not be so reductively characterized
as simply Joe the Plumber. (LR) Pacific Resident Theater, 705 ½ Venice
Blvd., Venice; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 29. (310)
MADE ME NUCLEAR On March 1, 2006, singer-songwriter Charlie Lustman was
informed by his doctor that he had a rare OsteoSarcoma (bone cancer) of
the upper jaw. What followed was a grueling and painful siege of
therapies, involving radiation injected into his body, surgery removing
three quarters of his jawbone, surgical reconstruction, and extensive
chemotherapy. When, after two years of treatment, he was declared
cancer free, he created this touching 12-song cycle about his
experiences. He sings about the bone-numbing shock and terror of being
told he had cancer, his fear of death and sense of helplessness, the
solace provided him by his loyal wife, his children and his doctors,
memory problems caused by his chemo (mercifully temporary), and so on.
But the tone is more celebratory than grim: he's determinedly
life-affirming, full of hope and gratitude, and his songs are pitched
in an intimate, jazzy, bluesy style. He's an engaging and personable
performer (thanks in part to his skillful doctors), who brings rueful
humor and mischief to a tale that might have been unrelievedly grim. If
anything, tries a bit too hard to keep things light. We need a bit of
scarifying detail if we're to appreciate his remarkable resilience and
optimism. (NW) Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th Street, Santa Monica;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., through March 28. (866) 468-3399 or
http://www.MadeMeNuclear.com Produced by the Sarcoma Alliance.
OUR LEADING LADY Charles Busch's comedy about the thespians at
Lincoln's assassination. Neighborhood Playhouse, 415 Paseo Del Mar,
Palos Verdes Peninsula; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7:30
p.m.; thru March 8. (310) 378-9353.
TAKING STEPS Alan Ayckbourn's 1979 sex comedy boasts a variety of
riotously farcical situations, droll dialogue, and hilarious, yet
believable characters. However, like many of Ayckbourn's other plays,
at the piece's core, the underlying themes of heartbreak, midlife
disappointment and greed suggest a much darker work teetering on a
razor's edge of despair. Boorish, but wealthy bucket- manufacturing
tycoon Roland (Marty Ryan, nicely smug) plots to purchase a run down
Victorian mansion to please his trophy bride, Elizabeth (the splendidly
kitten-like Melanie Lora). But when Roland arrives home to find that
Elizabeth has packed her bags and fled, he drinks himself into
oblivion, forcing his nebbish lawyer, Tristam (Jonathan Runyan), to
spend the night in the spooky house. Complications ensue when Elizabeth
returns home, and, in the dark, mistakes a snoozing Tristam for her
horny husband. The visual gimmick behind Ayckbourn's comedy is that,
although the play is set on three floors of a mansion, all the action
takes place on the same stage level, with the actors moving amongst
each other, without connecting with each other. It's a gag that tires
fairly quickly, and co-directors Allan Miller and Ron Sossi quite
rightly underplay the wearisome gimmick in favor of emphasizing the
play's more adroit character-driven comedy. A few cavils: The British
dialects are haphazard, which inevitably causes some of the performers
to bypass some layers of irony. Still, the ensemble work is mostly
deft, with Hoff's bloated pig of a husband, Lora's selfish and flighty
wife, and Runyan's innocent waif lawyer being wonderfully vivid, three
dimensional, and unexpectedly dark characterizations. (PB) Odyssey
Theater, 2055 South Sepulveda Blvd., West L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
Sun., 7 p.m.; through March 22. (310) 477-2055.
THE TAMING OF THE SHREW Shakespeare's curiously misogynist comedy
predates Neil Strauss' The Game by 400 years, during which audiences
have yet to decide whether he's confirming or slyly eviscerating gender
roles. (In this only recently post-Guantanamo climate, breaking Kate
with starvation and sleeplessness and temporal disorientation seems
less comic.) This staging seems more concerned with mounting a handsome
production than a cohesive one. Jack Stehlin's direction takes each
scene individually, some playing up the humor into Three Stooges-style
slapstick while others burn sexual heat underneath red lighting. The
set's minimal props and checkerboard floor underscore the sense of
rootlessness - with characters standing by without much to do in a
scene, the large ensemble looks like game pieces waiting to move. The
cast turns out fine performances, each with their own tone; those that
choose naturalism fare best, particularly Geoffrey Owen's intelligent
Tranio and Stehlin's shrew-taming Petruchio, who has the easy
confidence of Clark Gable. (AN) Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda
Blvd., West L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through April 26. (310)
477-2055. A Circus Theatricals. production.
13 O'CLOCK Margaret Schugt's two-woman comedy about a writing
contest, a narcoleptic, and "a perverted Oompa Loompa.". Little Fish
Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru March 19.
GO THE TRIAL OF THE CATONSVILLE NINE In May 1968,
Father Daniel Berrigan (Andrew E. Wheeler ) and eight other peace
activists seized 378 draft documents and publicly burned them with
napalm to protest the Vietnam War and other American government
atrocities. Drawing on court transcripts, this play is an account of
their trial, which ended in conviction and prison terms for all
defendants. The script - Saul Levitt's stage adaptation of Berrigan's
original verse rendition - lays out an impassioned argument for
following the dictates of one's conscience, even when it involves
breaking the law. Each defendant relays what spurred them to take
action: a nurse (Paige Lindsey White) who witnessed American planes
bomb Ugandan villages, burning children, a couple in Guatemala (Patti
Tippo and George Ketsios) who saw American money used to outfit the
police while peasants starved, an Alliance for Progress worker (Corey
G. Lovett) who became privy to CIA machinations in the Yucatan. Taking
it all in is the presiding judge (Adele Robbins). Her sympathies,
reflecting ours, lean toward the defendants, even as she rules against
them. Under Jon Kellam's direction, cogent performances successfully
counteract the script's didactic language and cumbersome progression,
even though Robbins' performance lacks nuance. Perhaps most disturbing
is the piece's reminder that the aggression and subterfuge of the Bush
Administration constituted not a reversal of past policy, but a
radicalized extension of it. (DK) Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation
Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2
p.m.; thru March 21. (310) 838-4264.
VIOLET SHARP The world-famous Charles Lindbergh kidnapping case spawned
a web of mystery. One person to become haplessly entangled in the
tragedy was Violet Sharp (Meredith Bishop). A 27-year old domestic in
the Lindbergh household, Violet's defiant attitude and evasive answers
to routine police questioning aroused their suspicion. Playwright
William Cameron structures his melodrama around the obsessive pursuit
of Violet's confession by police inspector Harry Walsh (David Hunt
Stafford). Hunt and other authorities persuaded themselves of Violet's
complicity, despite flimsy evidence and the unwavering endorsement she
received from the Lindberghs themselves. The play scores points for its
observations about women and class and the dangerous proclivities of
some men to distort facts for the sake of their own compulsive desire
for closure. But the production, under David Coleman's direction,
leaves much to be desired. While she nails a couple of moments near the
end, Bishop's housemaid comes off more sullen than sassy (in contrast
to the historical accounts), while Hunt's driven cop gives off bombast
but no heat. Amy Lloyd does respectable triple duty as a tongue-wagging
sister, a secretary and a nurse. Many supporting performances are
overly dramatic or under rehearsed - or both. Random blocking,
gratuitous videography, Jeff Rack's drab set, and Jeremy Pivnick's
indifferent lighting underscore the more pivotal problems with the
acting and direction. (DK) Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater,
241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; (in rep, call for schedule); thru March
12. (310) 364-0535.
THE ZOO STORY It's two guys, one park bench, in Edward Albee's first
play. LOS ANGELES AREA VETERANS ARTISTS ALLIANCE, 10858 Culver Blvd.,
Culver City; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 21. (310)
SPECIAL THEATER EVENTS
THE LOFT VARIETY HOUR Puppets and performers await the debut of
Amsterdam prostitute Naughty Nancy in this sketch-comedy musical. L.A.
Fringe Theatre, 929 E. Second St., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.;
thru March 15. (213) 680-0392.
SHOSHINZ & TEN WEST Japanese comedy duo meets American comedy
duo. On Tokyo maids Shoshinz: "They will not clean your house, but they
will blow your mind.". Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr.,
L.A.; Through March 6, 8 p.m.. (310) 281-8337.
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