Stage Raw: Hamlet, Prince of Puddles


Stage Raw: Hamlet, Prince of Puddles

Theater Feature on La Razon Blindada and A Wolf Inside the Fence and


NEW REVIEW GO HAMLET, PRINCE OF PUDDLES

Stage Raw: Hamlet, Prince of Puddles

Photo by Justin Zsebe

Scholars have teased out new layers in Shakespeare's tragedy for 400

years. A new company, L'Enfant Terrible, compresses it into a 45 minute

matinee for the kiddies -- a bold choice for a play with dead dads,

rotten step-dads, treacherous wives, drowned girlfriends, accidental

stabbings and a pile of corpses at the grand finale. Writer Angela

Berliner has kept the traumas, but translated them into kid-speak.

Here, Hamlet (Brian Kimmet) hisses to Gertrude (Natasha Midgley),

"Frailty, thy name is mommy," encourages the crowd to boo Claudius

(Nathan Kornelis), and when he damns Ophelia (Berliner) to a nunnery,

he adds the aside, "That's where bad girls go when they need a time

out." Justin Zsebe's high-octane direction and Ann Closs-Farley's

bright costumes turn the play into a circus and playful touches like

having the murdered Polonius (Nicol Razon) curl up like a dead fly

keeps the death from being too death-y. With these clowns bopping

around and spouting out rapid-fire Shakespearese, the kids were

transfixed at the performance I attended, even if they didn't know why.

Hamlet's play with in a play -- staged with finger puppets -- tries to

catch them up to speed, but when all else failed and a child in the

second row called out, "Why?", Hamlet patiently paused, turned, and

explained, "I'm having a hard time." Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly

Blvd., L.A.; Sat., noon.; thru Oct. 30. (213) 389-3856. A L'Enfant

Terrible production. (Amy Nicholson)

For NEW THEATER REVIEWS of all shows seen over the weekend, press the More tab directly below.

NEW THEATER REVIEWS (scheduled for publication October 14, 2010)

NEW REVIEW GO BLITHE SPIRIT

Stage Raw: Hamlet, Prince of Puddles

Photo by Craig Schwartz

Noel Coward's comedy faced an acid test in its first outing: It opened in the darkest days of World War II, when London was undergoing the Blitz. It kept Londoners laughing even when bombs were falling, and it has proved hilarious ever since. As research for his new novel, writer Charles Condomine (Scott Lowell) calls upon eccentric spiritualist Madame Arcati (Jane Mcfie) to conduct a séance at his house. She unwittingly summons the ghost of his predatory, provocative first wife Elvira (Abby Craden), to the distress and frustration of his second wife, Ruth (Jill Van Velzer). Endless comic complications ensue. Lowell is a dapper, slightly preening Charles, and the svelte Van Velzer turns in a waspish Ruth. Among the highlights of director Damaso Rodriguez's fresh and funny production, instead of the filmy creature we have come to expect as Elvira, Craden gives us a galumphing, earthy ghost clad in a satin-and-lace teddy and flapping crocheted peignoir. Mcfie's a brusque and business-like Arcati, and Alison Elliott scores comic points as a parlor-maid who insists on performing her duties at warp speed. Gibby Brand and Jacque Lynn Colton round out the cast as the Bradmans, a local couple summoned to witness the séance. A Noise Within, 234 South Brand Boulevard, Glendale; variable schedule. Call theatre for info at (818) 240-0910, x-1, or ANoiseWithin.org. (Neal Weaver)

NEW REVIEW GO THE BUTCHER OF BARABOO

Stage Raw: Hamlet, Prince of Puddles

Photo courtesy of Road Theatre Company

Marisa Wegrzyn's kitchen sink comedy kicks off the Road Theatre Company's twentieth season. Filled with colorful, mostly female characters, Wegrzyn's wacky slice of life snapshot is set in the small town of Baraboo in snowy, freezing Wisconsin. The loose plot concerns a handful of in-laws who feel no constraints in expressing their sentiments. Beneath the prickly conversation lies a festering mystery: What really happened to Val's husband Frank? He was pronounced dead although no corpse was ever found. Frank's brother Donal (Carl J. Johnson) and cop sister Gail (the hilarious Rebecca Jordan) harbor suspicions that their sis-in-law Val (Janet Chamberlain) did away with him, seeing as she's pretty handy with a meat cleaver. Val's grown daughter Midge (Nina Sallinen) seems to be dabbling in nefarious activities, supplying local teen meth chemists with prescription meds. But it's Midge's interference with her uncle Donal's family life that gets her into strife. Director Mark St Amant beautifully stages his cast with a sure but subtle hand, eliciting superb performances and spot-on comic timing. Jeff McLaughlin's homely set is impressively realistic - right down to a working sink - and neatly fills the small space. Road Theatre Company at the Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 11. (866) 811-4111. (Pauline Adamek)


NEW REVIEW 

DETAINED IN THE DESERT

Stage Raw: Hamlet, Prince of Puddles

Photo courtesy of Casa 0101

Writer Josefina Lopez wrote this satiric piece as a furious critique of the new Arizona law that orders immigrants to carry their alien registration documents at all times, and requires police to question people if there's reason to suspect they're in the United States illegally. Lopez's well-targeted but uneven political comedy draws much of its humor from the spot-on performance of Carey Fox as Lou Becker, a self-righteous right-wing radio host who applauds the anti-immigrant legislation and uses his program to enflame his listeners in the name of lawful democracy. A hate-monger, he even nods his approval when a rabid cohort combs the desert, slitting water bottles left by a samaritan to help save the lives of illegals crossing the U.S. desert. It's hard not to chortle when this smug hypocrite is kidnapped, dressed in pink underwear and terrorized by three angry young Latinos, then dumped into the arid wild to see if he can survive the brutal sun. Becker's unhappy experience serves as the sturdiest and most entertaining thread in the play, which also follows the misadventures of an American citizen, Sandi Sanchez (Yvonne Delarosa), who refuses to comply when asked for her ID and eventually ends up in the desert with Becker. Though Sandi's back-story is more detailed than Becker's, the character is less ably drawn; it's unclear what motivates this apolitical person to remain in detention, repeatedly refusing to furnish ID via help from her family. Still, the play contains many strong scenes, and is worth developing. The performances are of varied strength, under Hector Rodriguez's direction. Casa 0101, 2009 E. First St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru Oct. 24. (323) 263-7684.(Deborah Klugman)

NEW REVIEW FUTURA Nobody writes letters anymore. E-mails, text messages, tweets, bbms, status updates--sure. But not letters. We have lost the art of the letter. And in Jordan Harrison's world premiere play, named for a sans-serif typeface, Harrison means that literally. In it, Professor Lorraine Wexler (Bonita Friedericy) lectures on the history of typography -- until she is abducted mid-sentence. We discover that her talk, an attempt to avenge her missing husband Edward (Bob McCracken), is more dangerous than it initially seems because "the company" has eliminated the printed word. At this point, the play fulfills its 1984-esque scenario in which Wexler, along with her kidnappers Grace (Zarah Mahler) and Gash (Edward Tournier), must operate outside of the law. Despite its length and lack of action, the opening scene engages because of its fascinating historical content, Hana Sooyeon Kim's dynamic projections, and Friedericy's wry wit and professorial demeanor. However, as in Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul, the transition into the remainder of the piece is disjointed. While Wexler retains her aplomb despite being abused by her kidnappers, the message of the piece becomes heavy-handed and the tone a bit perplexing. Still, director Jessica Kubzansky skillfully balances the elements of verbiage and violence in the text, underscoring the charming relationship between Friedericy and Tournier, both of whom deliver solid performances. Kubzansky's transitions (reminiscent of those she used in Mauritius) also showcase Myung Hee Cho's towering, elegant set. But, while Wexler claims "typography is the science of subtlety," the play could have used more of it. The Theatre @ Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru November 7. (626) 683-6883. bostoncourt.com A National Asian American Theatre Company and Portland Center Stage co-production. (Mayank Keshaviah)

GOD'S FAVORITE Neil Simon's comedy, based on the Book of Job. Crossley Terrace Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., L.A.; opens Oct. 8; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 14, actorsco-op.org. (323) 462-8460. See Theater feature on Wednesday

NEW REVIEW GO HAMLET, PRINCE OF PUDDLES

Stage Raw: Hamlet, Prince of Puddles

Photo by Justin Zsebe

Scholars have teased out new layers in Shakespeare's tragedy for 400 years. A new company, L'Enfant Terrible, compresses it into a 45 minute matinee for the kiddies -- a bold choice for a play with dead dads, rotten step-dads, treacherous wives, drowned girlfriends, accidental stabbings and a pile of corpses at the grand finale. Writer Angela Berliner has kept the traumas, but translated them into kid-speak. Here, Hamlet (Brian Kimmet) hisses to Gertrude (Natasha Midgley), "Frailty, thy name is mommy," encourages the crowd to boo Claudius (Nathan Kornelis), and when he damns Ophelia (Berliner) to a nunnery, he adds the aside, "That's where bad girls go when they need a time out." Justin Zsebe's high-octane direction and Ann Closs-Farley's bright costumes turn the play into a circus and playful touches like having the murdered Polonius (Nicol Razon) curl up like a dead fly keeps the death from being too death-y. With these clowns bopping around and spouting out rapid-fire Shakespearese, the kids were transfixed at the performance I attended, even if they didn't know why. Hamlet's play with in a play -- staged with finger puppets -- tries to catch them up to speed, but when all else failed and a child in the second row called out, "Why?", Hamlet patiently paused, turned, and explained, "I'm having a hard time." Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Sat., noon.; thru Oct. 30. (213) 389-3856. A L'Enfant Terrible production. (Amy Nicholson)

NEW REVIEW HEIRESS '69 It is one of the morbid ironies of the true crime genre that our fascination is invariably reserved for the perpetrators rather than their victims. Whether it's the pirates of the Spanish Main or the mastermind of 9/11, it is the names of the murderers that linger in the historical imagination while the identities of the murdered tend to dissolve into the mists of time. It is precisely this cultural injustice that writer-performer Venessa Verdugo attempts to redress in her one-woman portrait of the late coffee heiress, Abigail Folger, who, at the tender age of 25, had the misfortune of sleeping over at the wrong house and on the worst possible evening. In terms of Folger's memory, however, perhaps her greater misfortune was not only to be stabbed to death by members of the Charles Manson family, but to be overshadowed in that fate by starlet Sharon Tate at the precise moment the media establishment was poised to seize on such a lurid crime in order to discredit the burgeoning late-60s' counterculture. Unfortunately for Verdugo, the burden of such sensational history simply overwhelms the scant biographical facts of a young woman whose abbreviated life might be summed up as a poor little rich girl from a broken home who had a fatal attraction both to bad boyfriends (fellow victim Wojciech Frykowski) and the celebrity sex-and-drugs demimonde then colonizing the Hollywood Hills. Director Elizabeth Romaine Rolnick only undermines Verdugo's efforts with uneven pacing and a dismally static, pathos-smothering staging. Elephant Stages, Studio Stage Theater, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 23. (323) 463-3900 or plays411.com/heiress69. (Bill Raden)

LEAP OF FAITH World-premiere musical based on the 1992 Steve Martin movie, music by Alan Menken, book by Janus Cercone with Glenn Slater, and lyrics by Glenn Slater. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 24. (213) 628-2772. See Theater feature on Wednesday

NEW REVIEW GO LOVELAND

Stage Raw: Hamlet, Prince of Puddles

Photo by Leland Auslender


What a rare experience it is, when a character that's as

maniacal, sexually overheated and as transparently off the rails as a

sketch comedy goofball from SNL or a Groundlings show can be the

centerpiece of a such a deeply moving play. Lying beneath its clowning

hijinx, Ann Randolph's solo performance concerns the fleeting essences

of memory and home, of a character grappling with sanity, with

mortality, and with the erosion of life leading to beauty. All you have

to do is imagine the landscape below the aircraft on which the

despondent Franny Potz (Randolph) is returning "home" to Ohio from

California, and you can imagine the wrinkles in the desert, like those

carved by the snaking Colorado River, like the wrinkles on the face of

almost anybody who has endured a life worth living. Franny comes up

with these images - hard to imagine from somebody who can't look at you

without her tongue involuntarily swirling around her lower lip and her

eyes boggling out, and who prides herself on singing from Handel's "The

Messiah" dead off-key. There's a "businessman" sitting next to her,

he's a bit of an asshole but you can understand his skepticism with

this loon by his side. The major accomplishment in Randolph's 90-minute

show is to slowly transfer our empathy from him to her. And this is

done through re-enactments of Franny's friendship with her crusty

mother, perhaps the only friend she has, and of how with limited

financial resources, Franny ushered the older woman into a care

facility on the heels of a stroke. The piece careens from the ribald

humor of Franny's sexual fantasy with the aircraft's pilot to the

heartbreak of Franny seeing her mother in the "home," and the older

woman failing to recognize her own daughter - until memory snaps back

with the re-functioning of some decayed synapse. The piece combines

child-like, even infantile, humor with profundities about time's

inexorable march over all of us. This unorthodox blend results in a

performance that's silly and tender in the same breath. Its wisdom and

beauty are almost indescribable. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth

St., Santa Monica; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 13, brownpapertickets.com. (800) 838-3006. (Steven Leigh Morris)

NEW REVIEW TERRE HAUTE

Stage Raw: Hamlet, Prince of Puddles

Photo by Rick Baumgartner

It is one of the odder ancillary anecdotes of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that, shortly before his execution, Timothy McVeigh -- murderer and mastermind of the attack which killed 168 people -- struck up a peculiar, intimate correspondence with renowned author and social gadfly, Gore Vidal. The two men never met in person, but the idea of what might have happened if they had provides the intriguing premise of playwright Edmund White's 2001 drama, in which McVeigh's fictional surrogate summons Vidal's to a prison death row for a final series of interviews. This is the play that caused Vidal to famously quip about White, "He's a filthy low writer." Yet, White's drama is so inconsequential in presentation, mired in stodgy dramatics and plodding, superficially didactic dialogue, it's hard to understand why Vidal would be so riled. White's Vidal surrogate, named "James" (Mike Farell), arrives at the prison to interview McVeigh surrogate "Harrison" (James Parrack). James has written articles to about Harrison and even defended his actions on TV interviews; Harrison is suitably grateful and wants James to write his life story and bear witness to his imminent execution. White's play hints at the idea that James's attraction to Harrison's fierce ideals is due, in part, to the fact that Harrison strongly resembles James's long dead boyhood lover. Yet, director Kirsten Sanderson's stiff, haltingly and glumly humorless production all but misses the inherent irony and bizarre spectacle of mutual incomprehension between a flamboyant, elderly queen and an uber-serious, philosophically deluded mass murderer. As the Vidal character, Farrell captures the famous author's well known mischievous sparkle and adroit articulacy, but Parrack's Harrison is a one dimensional and unexplored stick figure in an orange jumpsuit. The play's main weakness lies in the pair's relationship being trivialized as the creepy lambada between a sophisticated elder and his rough trade flirtation. Blank Theatre Company, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 14. (323) 661-9827. (Paul Birchall)

NEW REVIEW LA VICTIMA

Stage Raw: Hamlet, Prince of Puddles

Photo by Ed Krieger

Written by El Teatro de La Esperanza in 1976, this agitprop musical testifies to the spirit of the Mexican immigrant population, but its worthy message and superior stagecraft can't quite compensate for the script's limitations. Directed by Jose Luis Valenzuela, with music and vocals performed by rock duo Cita and Ricardo Ochoa, the story revolves around several generations of the Villa family, who first emigrate from Mexico in 1915. Over the next 50 years its members are forced back and forth across the border as the US. economy fluctuates and Uncle Sam's immigration policy alters along with it. At a critical point, the central character, Amparo (Lupe Ontiveros), is accidentally separated from her young son Samuel; she is deported to Mexico, while he remains in the U.S., where ironically, he later lands a position with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. Despite the accounts of poverty and exploitation, this is a celebratory play whose essence radiates in Cita's stirring vocals. The music, however, overwhelms the script, which is swamped by polemics. The ensemble does its best, and engaging scenes include a comic encounter between Lupe's younger son (Luis Aldana) and a smitten acquaintance who pursues him (Alexis de la Rocha), and a cathartic confrontation between the adult Samuel (Geoffrey Rivas) and his daughter (de la Rocha), a college activist appalled by her father's job. Scenic designer Teshi Nakagawa's backdrop of dark vertical slats -- intimating the desert on the one hand, imprisonment on the other - and Urbanie Lucero's lively choreography add vibrant texture to the spectacle. Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Oct. 31. (866) 811-4111. (Deborah Klugman) A Latino Theater Company production (Deborah Klugman)

Newsletters

All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories
    Send:

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >