Stage Raw: How Do Actors Do It?

Stage Raw: How Do Actors Do It?

STAGE FEATURE on My Penis, In and Out of Trouble

HOW DO ACTORS DO IT? As told by Alan Mandell, who was among a dozen or so actors auditioning for the movie This Must Be the Place, starring Sean Penn. The role was for a man 94-years old. Mandell, being in his early 80s, was too young. His friend, Norman Lloyd, who is 96 was also rejected, but for being too old. Lloyd was reputed to have told them, "I can play younger."

THE LOS ANGELES WOMEN'S THEATRE FESTIVAL is currently accepting submissions for 2011. Those interested in participating in the upcoming Festival may send a DVD of the exact and entire performance under consideration, along with an application. The submission deadline is August 31st. For more information and applications, please visit or call (818) 760-0408.

Check back tomorrow for a listing of shows being reviewed over the weekend.

For COMPLETE THEATER LISTINGS, press the More tab directly below


Our critics are Pauline Amadek, Paul Birchall,

Lovell Estell III, Rebecca Haithcoat, Martin Hernandez, Mayank

Keshaviah, Deborah Klugman, Steven Leigh Morris, Amy Nicholson, Tom

Provenzano, Bill Raden, Luis Reyes, Sandra Ross and Neal Weaver. These

listings were compiled by Derek Thomas

Productions are sequenced alphabetically in the

following cagtegories: Opening This Week, Larger Theaters regionwide,

Smaller Theaters in Hollywood, Smaller Theaters in the valleys ,

Smaller Theaters on the Westside and in beach towns. You can also

search for any play by title, using your computer's search engine.



ABRAHAM Alan Ross' world premiere about who really wrote the Bard's

plays. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; opens

Aug. 20; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Sept. 26. (310) 394-9779.

GREATER TUNA Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed

Howard's small-town Texas comedy. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra

Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; opens Aug. 20; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30

p.m.; thru Sept. 25. (626) 256-3809.

LIFE OF EASE Phillip William Brock's story of an

Oklahoma grandmother and her grandson. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa

Monica Blvd., L.A.; Aug. 26-28, 8 p.m.; Wed., Sept. 1, 8 p.m.; Sat.,

Sept. 4, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 5, 2 p.m.; Thurs., Sept. 9, 8

p.m.; Sun., Sept. 12, 2 p.m.; Sept. 16-8, 8 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 18, 2

& 8 p.m.. (323) 882-6912.

MACBETH Zombie Joe's Underground presents

Shakespeare's tragedy. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North

Hollywood; opens Aug. 20; Fri., 11 p.m.; thru Sept. 10. (818) 202-4120.

MAPPING THE HEAVENS $5. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Mon., Aug. 23, 11 p.m.. (323) 908-8702.

OF GRAPES AND NUTS SeaGlass Theatre presents Doug

Armstrong, Keith Cooper and Tom Willmorth's Steinbeck parody. Victory

Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank; opens Aug. 20;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Oct. 24. (818) 841-5421.

SAD HAPPY SUCKER Lee Kirk's absurdist study of

anxiety. Lyric-Hyperion Theater, 2106 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; opens Aug.

20; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 10,

TOPDOG/UNDERDOG Suzan-Lori Parks' dark comedy about

brotherly love and family identity. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000

Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; opens Aug. 21; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3

p.m.; thru Sept. 18. (866) 811-4111.

A WITHER'S TALE Troubadour Theater Company mixes Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale

with soulful tunes by Bill Withers. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr.,

Burbank; opens Aug. 20; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Sept. 26.

(818) 955-8101.



Stage Raw: How Do Actors Do It?

Photo by Michael Lamont

A young, well-spoken and highly educated black

man is tapped to become the leader of a nation. But it's not who you

think. The year is 1828, the place is Athens, Ohio, and the man is John

Newton Templeton (Kareem Ferguson), a freed slave whose education is

facilitated by the Rev. Robert Wilson (Frank Ashmore). Wilson, a

strictly principled man, enrolls John in Ohio University. Wilson's

wife, Jane (Kathleen Mary Carthy), initially cold to Templeton when he

comes to live with them, softens over time; however, she plants doubts

in Templeton's head about Wilson's plan to make him the governor of

Liberia. Charles Smith's spare three-character study unfolds through

intimate moments and intellectual discourse, powerfully examining the

issues of its day, as well as questions surrounding citizenship and

belonging, which continue to occupy us. The dialogue is especially

refreshing for its crisp diction, for which the credit goes to both the

cast and director Dan Bonnell. The show also appeals visually, as David

Potts' set, consisting of stark silhouettes, brings to mind both the

popular 18th century portraiture and African woodcuts. Similarly, A.

Jeffrey Schoenberg's authentically plain costumes avoid the dual

pitfalls of theatrical period garb, which is often either too showy or

simply looks fake. The cast is stellar all around, taking us on a

journey that stresses the urgency of fulfilling the promises upon which

our country was built. The Colony Theater, 555 North Third St.,

Burbank; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m. & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.;

through September 12. (818) 558-7000, ext. 15;

(Mayank Keshaviah)

GRIFFITH PARK SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL Free performances of Much Ado About Nothing

by the Independent Shakespeare Co. Griffith Park, 4730 Crystal Springs

Dr., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 29. (323) 913-4688.

HAMLET It's anyone's guess what vision might have

guided director Ellen Geer's fervent but unfocused, Medieval-dress

version of Shakespeare's most baroque and psychologically nuanced

tragedy. There's certainly little hint of the Oedipal undercurrents or

political allegorizing that have been a mainstay of 20th-century

productions. Nor is there much sign of the paralyzing conflict between

faith in purpose and intellectual certainty, which traditionally drives

its hero's famously agonized inaction. In the case of Mike Peebler's

Hamlet, neither his mission nor its justness ever seems in doubt;

Peebler attacks the role with the zeal and righteous wrath of the

recently converted. Even his soliloquies are delivered at the audience

as if from a pulpit. Gertrude (Melora Marshall) in turn appears more

pissed off at her son's increasingly antic disposition than aggrieved

by what it might imply about his sanity. Claudius (Aaron Hendry), by

contrast, comes off as positively good-natured, a guy caught with his

hand in the cookie jar rather than his fingerprints all over a

nefarious regicide. Willow Geer is convincing as a feisty yet

vulnerable Ophelia, though even here the method of her madness seems

more a response to the murder of Polonius (a very broad Carl Palmer)

than any jilting by Hamlet. Director Geer keeps it all moving at a fast

clip, but some exasperatingly eccentric blocking divides the focus of

too many critical turning points -- most egregiously in the mousetrap

scene -- all but obliterating their dramatic purpose. (Bill Raden).

Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga;

Sat., Aug. 21, 4 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 28, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 5, 7:30 p.m.;

Sun., Sept. 12, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 18, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 19, 3:30

p.m.; Sat., Sept. 25, 5 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 2, 4 p.m.. (310) 455-3723.

LIFE COULD BE A DREAM Writer-director Roger Bean's

doo-wop jukebox musical. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road,

Laguna Beach; Sat.-Sun., 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 7:30 p.m.; thru

Aug. 29. (949) 497-2787.


Beckerman's book, on which Delia Ephron and Nora Ephron based their

"intimate collection of stories," is the kind you'd grab from the

display near the register at a Barnes and Nobles, to serve as a dressy

envelope for a birthday check to your goddaughter or an upgraded

Mother's Day card. But if the recipient read it instead of tossing in

onto a pile of similarly gifted minibooks, she'd find a classy little

number, a J. Peterman catalog minus the pretentiousness. With sparse

text and barebones sketches, Beckerman records her history through the

clothes she and her female relatives wore. Director Jenny Sullivan

constructs the stage version in much the same way: The star-studded

ensemble wears black (there's an ode to the color, every woman's old

faithful) while sitting in a straight line; and Carol Kane, who reads

as Beckerman, handles the main prop, a "closet" full of the book's

renderings situated on wire clothes hangers. But this is Nora Ephron,

and chumminess quickly trumps austerity. The scenes themselves are

ruminations on relationships thinly veiled as (mostly) funny riffs on

clothes -- Tracee Ellis Ross almost runs away with the show every time

the spotlight's hers but particularly so with "The Shirt." Kane, who

must be one of the most endearing actors ever, dances her monologues'

transitions so delicately and adroitly you can only marvel. There are a

couple of moments ("The Bathrobe," "Brides") during which all but those

with a particularly voracious emotional appetite will find themselves

choking on the syrup. Fortunately, though, the Ephron sisters have

nimbly stitched together the scenes so that there's far more head

nodding than eye rolling. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Geffen Playhouse, 10886

Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Fri., Sun., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8

p.m.; thru Aug. 28. (310) 208-5454.

MASTER CLASS Terrence McNally's story of opera diva

Maria Callas. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon

Blvd., Topanga; Sat., Aug. 21, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 22, 7:30 p.m.; Sat.,

Aug. 28, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 4, 8 p.m.; Sat.,

Sept. 11, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 25, 4 p.m..

(310) 455-3723.


Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga;

Thurs., Aug. 26, 8 p.m.; Mon., Sept. 6, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 18, 8

p.m.. (310) 455-3723.


weatherman's comedic observations. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim

Blvd., North Hollywood; Through Aug. 21, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 22, 2 p.m..

(818) 508-0281.

ON THE VERGE Eric Overmyer's story of three

"pre-feminists" on safari. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St.,

Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 18. (562)


GO THE RENDEZVOUS It's been nearly

20 years since New burlesque emerged from the cauldron of the L.A. and

New York underground rock and dance-club scenes, which now makes it old

enough to be a freshman in women's studies at UCLA and NYU. Director,

choreographer, show creator and lead dancer, Lindsley Allen (Pussycat

Dolls) gives an eye-popping, postgraduate demonstration of the nouvelle

bump and grind as she leads her faculty of Cherry Boom Boom dancers

through a raucous evening of retro-themed, terpsichorean tease. And

what's not to like about sitting in a Hollywood Boulevard nightclub and

watching a chorus of sexy women dressed to the nines in the fetishistic

camp of skimpy, Anne Closs-Farley costumes, while lip-synching,

shimmying and shaking for 75 minutes to rock & roll and exotica

classics on designer Francois-Pierre Couture's seamy-noir set? Extra

credit goes to Kelleia Sheerin's sleight-of-hips strip while gyrating

inside a Hula-hoop; Ruthy Inchaustegui's gravity-defying, aerial sling

dance; and Sharon Ferguson leading a line of corseted dominatrixes

through a B&D whip number, fittingly set to the Cramps' "Queen of

Pain." Ferguson doubles as the evening's breezy, Texas Guinan-esque

emcee, while Angela Berliner and Brian Kimmet do exemplary narrative

duty in an engaging, bad-date comedy pantomime threaded between the

dance numbers. David Robbins' high-decibel sound and Sean Forrester's

kinetic lights set an appropriately louche, red-light mood. (Bill

Raden). King King, 6555 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Last Thursday of every

month, 9 p.m.; thru Dec. 30. (323) 960-9234.

SMOKE & MIRRORS Will Osborne and Anthony

Herrera's mystery, set on a desert island filming location. Long Beach

Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

p.m.; thru Aug. 28. (562) 494-1014.

SPEAK OF ME AS I AM It's easy to understand why

singers and dramatic artists would want to portray the legendary Paul

Robeson. Actor, athlete, intellect and man of principle, Robeson

fearlessly battled for justice -- and paid the price. This solo show,

featuring opera baritone KB Solomon, meshes some of the highlights of

Robeson's life with renditions of the songs ("Old Man River," "Going

Home") for which he's most famous. The (uncredited) script relays

information about Robeson's life in no particular order but repeatedly

returns to his battle with HUAC's hearings and their painful aftermath.

Directed by Jeffrey Anderson-Gunter, Solomon (whose bio lists music

credits but no acting) spins an expository monologue that remains on

the surface and seems most suitable for youthful audiences unfamiliar

with the material. Designer Michael Boucher has crafted a low-budget

but attractive set, and Joyce S. Long's lighting adds professional

sheen. (Deborah Klugman). Barnsdall Gallery Theater, 4800 Hollywood

Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; Through Sept. 5.; thru

Aug. 29. (323) 960-5772.

THE THREE MUSKATEERS Alexandre Dumas' swashbuckler. Will Geer

Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Fri., 8

p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 12, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 26, 7:30

p.m.; Sun., Oct. 3, 3:30 p.m.; thru Sept. 24. (310) 455-3723.


AS THE GLOBE WARMS Solo performer Heather Woodbury creates elaborate worlds. For her performance What Ever,

Woodbury elasticized herself into 100 characters for a sprawling

American epic. This follow-up is a semi-political soap opera that will

run a new installment every weekend for three months, and, gauging by

its launch, Woodbury's interested in charting the rise and fall of the

artistic class and the crystallization of the divide between the two

Americas. On the 4th of July 1985, a cowed girl picks up a video camera

and discovers she's an artist; 25 years later, she's dead and her

brother is attempting to describe her archive of tapes to a barbecue of

gentrified Californian creatives who deign to do their own sculpting

rather than hiring interns for the "dirty" work. On the other coast, a

preacher, his shrewish Tea Party wife and their daydreamy teen daughter

fret about the BP oil spill and a species of endangered frogs that

might prevent them from expanding their church's parking lot. Woodbury

has little patience for both blues and reds and loves to skewer the of

hypocrisies of both camps. To help her stay true to her own voice, she

could use a director (none is credited) to help her shape and simplify

her frantic character changes; she has a capable range of accents but

spends scenes shifting wildly around in her chair to make sure we're

following who's who. Besides the chair, the only prop onstage is a

handycam that records each episode for the internet and streams it live

on a screen against the wall. It's unclear yet if the distraction will

prove purposeful, but what's certain from the starting gate is that the

enthusiastic Woodbury has energy for miles (and months). (Amy

Nicholson). Echo Curio, 1519 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru

Oct. 2. (213) 977-1279.

ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT SUNDAY Jordan Black directs

the Groundlings Sunday Company. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave.,

L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 934-9700.

CHESS IN CONCERT Music by Benny Anderrson and Bjorn

Ulvaeus, lyrics by Tim Rice. MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A.;

Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 29. (323) 960-7735.

EAT THE RUNT A satirical comedy written by Avery

Crozier, where office politics, sexual harassment, religion, political

correctness, and societal and cultural norms are all up for grabs. In

each performance audiences decide what roles the actors will play.

Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Thurs..; thru

Sept. 9. (323) 856-8611.

THE EINSTEIN PROJECT Paul d'Andrea and Jon Klein's atomic bomb play. Plus: The Face of Jizo

by Hisashi Inoue. Junction Theatre, Barbarella Neighborhood Bar &

Kitchen, 2609 N. Hyperion Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.;

thru Sept. 4,

ELEVATOR Michael Leoni's story of seven strangers

stuck in a lift. Hudson Guild Theater, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 22, (323) 960-7787.


Stage Raw: How Do Actors Do It?

Photo by Wynsolo Photography

Lewis John Carlino's 1968 play centers on a series of

improvisations, conducted by the Actor (Daniel LaPratt, alternating

with Keith Wyffels) and the Actress (Anadel Baughn, alternating with

Susan Hanfield) in an attempt to solve some troubling acting problems.

Initially, it seems they're only casual acquaintances, but as they

work, it becomes clear that they have had a traumatic personal

relationship. Soon, they are at loggerheads in an age-old conflict:

He's concerned with simulating emotion to show the audience, while she

wants to use her acting to explore her own identity and achieve

gut-level emotional truth. He regards her as a self-indulgent emotional

masturbator, and she sees him as a coward who can never allow himself

to lose control. Eventually, she challenges him to meet her on her

terms. Though the premise is a fascinating one, the production doesn't

always work. Baughn is constantly convincing, but it's not until Act 2

that LaPratt achieves the same emotional conviction. And there's

something murky here, whether it's inherent in the script or due to a

lack of clarity in director Kenn Schmidt's production. Nevertheless,

the piece is always interesting to watch, and there's excellent work

from both actors. The Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m.; indef. (323) 960-7724, (Neal Weaver)

FIRST LOOK FESTIVAL OF NEW PLAYS Schedule at Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Through

Sept. 18. (323) 882-6912.

NEW REVIEW FLAT In a tween's world, having or not having breasts is usually the

first experience of the grass being greener. For every generously

gifted fifth grader covertly and desperately binding her rapidly

blooming chest with an Ace bandage, there's a Judy Blume character

begging God for "something" to fill her training bra. Ellen Clifford

never received that something. Heavily influenced by Eve Ensler's The

Vagina Monologues, Clifford's autobiographical show recounts past and

present episodes, most of which gleefully celebrate her breasts, or

lack thereof. The problems arise less from the subject matter -- several

of the monologues could run as essays on the popular sort-of feminist

Web site, Jezebel -- than with the adolescent-awkward construction and

execution. She employs accents where none are needed (the "these my ho

boots" bit, confusing in that it's supposed to introduce her struggle

with anorexia, is especially cringe-inducing, bordering on offensive)

and interacts with the audience by passing around the gel inserts from

her push-up bra. Given that this is a show about, well, her, Clifford

seems surprisingly uncomfortable throughout the performance, which is

exacerbated by a clenched-teeth gaiety. Neither do the two unnecessary

performers accompanying her -- the precise, talented mime, Mitchel

Evans, and director Lora Ivanova, who only serve to slow the

already-bumpy pace -- benefit her. Though some refreshing confessionals

("I'm a terrible Dolly Parton impersonator," she says after

lip-synching "9 to 5") provide a smile here and there, ultimately the

show feels as artificial as a boob job. The Black Box Theater, 12420

Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through August 28. (310)

622-4482. (Rebecca Haithcoat)

GO FOUR PLACES The family outing on

display in Joel Drake Johnson's unsettling comedy resembles a gathering

of ornery, wounded jackals. Siblings Warren (Tim Bagley) and Ellen

(Roxanne Hart) motor to their parents' Chicago home to take their

diminutive, gray-haired mother Peggy (Anne Gee Byrd) out for a what is

presumably a pleasant lunch. At first blush, this seems innocent

enough, but something about Ellen's painful, labored smile as she hugs

the wheel, and Warren's cold, mummified expression, suggest that

something is amiss. It isn't long before the moral underbelly of this

clan emerges along with some ugly revelations. Mom's harmless exterior

drips away with each rum and Coke she knocks back (and every trip to

the bathroom, where she pees blood), and there emerges a subtly vicious

female, a practiced manipulator who delights in tormenting her children

with reminders of their lacerating miseries and failures. But an even

darker secret surfaces concerning Peggy's alcoholic, invalid husband

(who never appears onstage but is a towering presence, nevertheless),

and rumors that she is abusing, and even attempting to murder him. The

manner in which Drake tells this story -- blending humor and stark

ugliness, while exploring themes of sibling rivalry, marital infidelity

and even euthanasia -- is thoroughly engaging and held in sharp balance

by director Robin Larsen. The characters are fully fleshed out, both in

the writing and the performances, as disturbing for their and their

vulnerabilities as for their anger. Rounding out a superb cast is Lisa

Rothschiller. (Lovell Estell III)., (323) 960-4424. Theatre/Theater,

5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 5 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.;

thru Aug. 29. (323) 422-6361.


Stage Raw: How Do Actors Do It?

Photo courtesy of the Stella Adler Theatre

A black minister (Phrederic Semaj) stands at his

pulpit, exhorting his congregation to fight racial injustice. A member

of a "citizen's patrol" (Brian E. Smith) brutally beats a black woman

(Theresa Deveaux) for taking her child into the whites-only restroom.

These opening scenes in playwright Tracey Scott Wilson's fictionalized

account of the early civil rights movement are among its most

effective. Williams strives to bring the pages of history into human

focus by portraying the infighting among a group of activists

struggling to organize nonviolent protest in Selma, Alabama, in 1963.

At the center of the effort is the minister, James Lawrence, a

committed and charismatic leader with a beautiful, devoted wife (Numa

Perrier) -- and an adulterous penchant for pretty women. Spied upon by

the FBI, the organization is also hampered by contentiousness within

its ranks, with Lawrence's fiery second-in-command (Damon Christopher)

and a new tactical organizer from out of state (Austen Jaye) at each

others' throats. While the play offers a compelling reminder of the

vicious racism in our not-so-distant past, the script's docudrama

flavor and uncomplicated characters require much finessing on the part

of the ensemble. Under Sam Nickens' direction, that hasn't yet

happened, with performances, on opening night, ranging from serviceable

to over-the-top. The exceptions include Perrier, intense and authentic

as Lawrence's betrayed wife; and Deveaux, whose character suffers great

personal loss, and whose portrayal of sorrow ably brings home the

tragedy of events. Stella Adler Theater, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.;

Thurs.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m., through September 19. (323)

960-1054,plays411/com/good negro. Upward Bound Productions (Deborah



Stage Raw: How Do Actors Do It?

Photo by Shawn Bishop

Despite evidence of comic timing, this

Groundlings sketch comedy-improv show lacks the kind of comedic

distinction that has made the troupe's reputation. Directed by Damon

Jones, this outing is a tepid series of scripted sketches, broken up by

four improvised sequences where an emcee calls on the crowd for cues.

Early on, the audience seemed predisposed to have a good time, judging

by the hysterical laughter that seemed disproportionate to the comic

stylings onstage. Half-baked routines included a sketch depicting a

daffy Stephenie Meyers in drag, which poked fun at the popular author

and her fans, and a familiar bit involving couples playing a guessing

game called "Taboo." A three-piece band kept the mood vibrant by

playing during the interludes, while the cast slipped into yet another

fright wig or costume. But as the evening wore on, the long musical

breaks between routines provided useful opportunities for people to

check their devices. By the third improv sequence, the emcee was

fielding facetious suggestions from the audience. That, disassembling

improvs, plus some lazy writing, made for a disappointing night.

Groundling Theatre, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.: Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat.,

10 p.m.; through October 2. (323) 934-4747. (Pauline


THE HAPPY HAPPY SHOW April Hava Shenkman hosts this

anything-goes comedy cabaret., free. El Cid, 4212 Sunset Blvd., L.A.;

Thurs., 8 p.m.. (323) 668-0318.

I'M NOT HERE ANYMORE W. Colin McKay has cast his

play in the form of a mystery. Josh (Dayton Knoll) is a former GI who

has served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and suffers from

combat trauma upon his return home. He has frightening flashbacks,

which can drive him to violence, and he's haunted by two people (or are

they hallucinations?) from his time in the Gulf. Kim (Casey Fitzgerald)

is a girl who was killed by a roadside bomb, and Eddie (Sal Landi) is

his former buddy, whom he believes aims to kill him if he reveals dark

secrets about his time in the combat zone. There are also two doctors,

Mel (Brian Connors) and David (Dig Wayne), who are at odds about Josh's

treatment. But there are too many mysteries, and too few reliable

"facts" for us to know precisely what's going on. Josh is clearly an

unreliable narrator, the two ghosts/hallucinations have agendas of

their own, and so perhaps do the doctors. We can never be certain

whether Josh is dogged by psychotic fantasies, or telling uncomfortable

truths the army wants to keep under wraps by committing him to a mental

hospital. Good work from the actors and director Al Bonadies, but the

script is perplexing. (Neal Weaver). Pan Andreas Theater, 5125 Melrose

Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 28. 323-468-8062.

JEWTOPIA Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson's story of two

single men: a gentile obsessed with dating Jewish women and a Jew

obsessed with dating gentile girls. Greenway Court Theater, 544 N.

Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3:30

p.m.; thru Sept. 19. (323) 655-7679.

KARMA, THE MUSICAL "The '60s, '70s, '80s, and '90s

flash by as an older woman travels back in time to stop her younger

self from making the stupid mistakes that have ruined her life," by

Susan C. Hunter and Les Oreck. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 28. (323) 469-3113.

KEEP IT CLEAN Comedy Hosted by JC Coccoli., free.

1739 Public House, 1739 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Mon., 9:30 p.m.. (323)


LA TOOL & DIE: LIVE! Stage version of Sean

Abley's 1970s gay porn film. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica

Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 10:30 p.m.; thru Sept. 11. (323) 957-1884.

LIVE NUDE BECKETT First off, an answer to the

obvious question raised by directors Harry Kakatsakis and Jordan Davis'

provocative title: Yes, the six-member cast in this selection of short

works by Samuel Beckett are costumed solely in their birthday suits --

that is if you don't count production designer Gary Klavans'

Day-Glo-painted stripes and masks that, under technical director Zane

Cooper's all-ultraviolet lighting, gives the actors the appearance of

wearing garishly fluorescing and (alas!) opaque, stick-figure body

suits. From the program notes, the nudity conceit seems to be nothing

more than a punning afterthought, arising from the production's aim of

"stripping" the pieces "to their 'bare' essence." While such extreme

departures from the exacting intentions of a playwright so notorious

for being fastidiously protective of his work might seem a sacrilege to

some, the true disservice here is to the ensemble. Such dim and

distorting black light obscures too much of the actors' expressive

faculties, particularly in the evening's mime pieces, in effect forcing

them literally to work in the dark. Still, even in such brutalized

Beckett, occasional glimpses of the maestro's mordant wit and eloquent

anguish shine through, especially via Davis and Amy McKenzie, who give

tantalizing hints of the Beckettian voice both in 1975's Footfalls, as well as (with Natalie Rose) in the 1966, three-character "dramaticule," Come and Go.

(Bill Raden). Next Stage Theater, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor,

L.A.; Sat., 9:45 p.m.; thru Aug. 21. (917) 340-5895 or (818) 720-9651.

MARY LYNN SPREADS HER LEGS Writer-performer Mary

Lynn Rajskub cruises the low road in this raunchy obstreperous

one-woman show about childbirth and motherhood, directed and developed

by Amit Ittelman. Adopting a pugnacious in-your-face persona at the

top, the performer first describes -- then graphically illustrates --

how she abandoned her intellectual self to metamorphose into a

fun-loving hottie. An unexpected pregnancy alters her life -- though

not her smug irreverence leveled nonstop at doctors, midwives, family

members, producers and fans (all of whom she portrays). When her

colicky child (also depicted by Rajskub) refuses her milk, she's filled

with fantasies of infanticide. Straddling standup, Rajskub's

performance contains a humor that hits home with a strata of her

audience, while irritating or offending others. Her skills are without

question: the expressiveness of her body language or the split-second

changes in countenance convey a shift from one character to the next.

Notwithstanding these qualities and some entertaining moments, there's

not much that's witty or insightful or ribald about this material. It

would be helpful if there were some likable character or sentiment to

counterbalance the story's bitter, hollow message. (Deborah Klugman).,

$20. Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773

Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 30. (323) 666-4268.

GO MEDEA Euripides' tragedy

concerning a betrayed woman and her monstrous revenge remains a

timeless examination of humanity's struggle with its darker, primal

urges. With the exception of a misstep at play's end, Travis Terry

brilliantly directs a superb cast, relocating the story to a

contemporary lunatic-asylum setting. The text reveals a few

contemporary words -- and ,i\>trash -- while preserving the antique

language that's so rich with imagery and passion. Adalgiza Chermountd's

Medea is first heard wailing from behind a white paper wall, part of

designer Dionne Poindexter's central set piece of Medea's quarters,

which rotates with ease. "Whipping her grief-tormented heart into a

fury," Chermountd has a disheveled yet formidable presence, and her

multihued interpretation ranges from coherent and ferocious to

deranged. Her unspeakable deed is chillingly depicted. Commenting in

unison, the chorus of young girl (Shaina Vorspan), mother (Lauren

Wells) and grandmother (Karen Richter) double as asylum orderlies, with

Shaina Vorspan giving an especially expressive performance. There are

some welcome moments of levity in R. Benito Cardenas' playful

interpretation of Aegeus, one of Medea's fellow lunatics. A highlight

is the scene when Medea's duplicitous ex-husband, Jason (Max Horner),

attempts to "correct her exaggeration" with his version of events.

Aside from a tacked-on happy ending that feels utterly false, this

unpretentious production holds many rewards. (Pauline Adamek).

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

Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Aug. 29. (323) 667-0955.

MOTHER Mary-Beth Manning's one-woman show about a

complex mother/daughter relationship. Elephant Theatre Lab, 1078 Lilian

Way, L.A.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 12. (323) 960-7714.


been 18 years since this manor mystery was the No. 1-produced play in

America, and it hasn't worn out its welcome. In a dreary, rural house,

the widowed master (Kevin Remington) has brought home a bride (Michael

Lorre), a tremulous blond actress who might not have the wits to

survive the local vampires and werewolves (or the grudging maid and

infatuated stable boy). Charles Ludlam's fleet-footed thriller comedy

is in the key of camp, but this production tampers down the winks and

nudges, staging it as an exercise in theatrical imagination. Lorre's

sparse set design is a model of how to turn a small budget into an

asset. The furniture and decorations are drawn with thin, white lines

on flat, black-painted wood, and the actors set the tone by first

finishing the final touches with chalk. Irma Vep is always staged as a

play for two performers, and Remington and Lorre (who also directs) are

great sports, changing from a bumpkin with a wooden leg to a

bare-breasted Egyptian princess in less time than it takes to tie your

shoes. The actors' physicality is great, but dresser Henry Senecal and

stage manager Akemi Okamura also take deserved bows at the end. (Amy

Nicholson). SPACE916, 916 N. Formosa Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 4. (323) 667-1304.

NOT ABOUT HEROES Playwright Stephen MacDonald's 1982

drama about the World War I friendship between British poets Siegfried

Sassoon and Wilfred Owen is an Anglophile's orgy of poetry and irony.

The stage simmers with repressed sexuality and doomed talent -- chilled

with that stiff upper lippiness that has boys quoting poetry as they

march off to get slaughtered in the Somme. In 1917, at the Scottish

mental hospital where they have both been committed for shell shock,

wide-eyed novice poet Owen (Robert Hardin) nervously approaches his

idol, celebrated war bard Sassoon (Josh Mann), to ask for his autograph

and to get his opinion of his own verses about the horrors of WWI. The

two men kindle a warm mentor-prodigy relationship that stops an inch

short of a lip-lock -- and, even though they never declare their

obvious romantic love, Sassoon is left bereft after Owen returns to his

unit and dies pointlessly in the trenches. MacDonald's drama is

incredibly well-researched -- some might say overresearched, as the

piece strives to shoehorn into the text almost every single fact about

its subjects' lives. Yet, director Bill Hemmer's elegant if unevenly

paced production limns the shifting power dynamic between the two

poets, as well as offers a compelling portrait of a war that literally

crushed a whole generation of young men into the mud. Hardin's

delightfully boyish Owen matures and become ravaged by the conflict,

before our eyes -- while Mann's subtly arch turn as Sassoon belies the

affection for his prodigy lurking below the surface of his snarky

ironic exterior. Although the play is ultimately perilously overwritten

and a bit static, the production itself recalls the mood and tone of

those fringe British dramas that are frequently staged in the backrooms

of London pubs, in which nothing ever seems more crucial than art and

beauty. (Paul Birchall). Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 22,

(323) 960-7744.

GO OPUS Because classical music can

be such a sublime art form, one tends to regard those musicians as

inhabiting a more celestial sphere than the rest of us. Playwright and

classically trained violist Michael Hollinger confutes that notion with

this percipient drama, which examines the political and emotional

fracas within a string quartet. In Hollinger's canny script, the

tensions generated among members of a prominent musical group have been

exacerbated by an affair between two of them: Elliot (Christian

Lebano), a domineering egotist with little tolerance for opposition;

and Dorian (Daniel Blinkoff), a supersensitive artist with a history of

emotional problems. When Dorian up and quits prior to a prestigious gig

at the White House, he is replaced by Grace (Jia Doughman), a

conscientious novice with tremendous talent and the inner aplomb to

withstand Elliot's needling and increasingly truculent demands.

Directed by Simon Levy, the drama begins with a studied manner before

launching into full dynamism, as the particulars of the players'

dilemmas and entanglements come into focus. In a solid ensemble,

Doughman is noteworthy for her character's impeccable truth; likewise

Cooper Thornton is highly effective as Alan, the down-to-earth second

violinist who reacts with growing consternation and dismay to

snowballing events. The performers mime their concerts in admirable

sync (sound design is by Peter Bayne, with input from musical advisers

Roy Tanabe and Larry Sonderling). Complemented by designer Ken Booth's

lighting, Frederica Nascimento's backdrop, with its cubes in autumnal

colors, seems reflective of the quartet's rich but cloistered world.

(Deborah Klugman). Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 26. (323) 663-1525.

NEW REVIEW GO PARASITE DRAG As screwed-up families go, the one on exhibit in

Mark Roberts' ultra-dark comedy makes a serious run for the top prize.

The first glimpse of Gene (Robert Foster) reveals a sullen man hunched

over a kitchen table, with an ice pad on his eye, as he nurses a shiner

he got from his wife, Joellen (Mim Drew); she sits, staring out of the

door, wryly commenting on the impending tornado about to strike their

tiny Midwestern town. Eight years without sex, and trapped in a

loveless marriage, they are bonded only by the conventions of

small-town propriety, shallow pretense and Gene's fanatical Christian

beliefs. The real twister, however, comes in the form of Gene's

boorish, foul-mouthed brother, Ronnie (the outstanding Boyd Kestner),

and his countrified wife, Susie (Agatha Nowicki), who drop in

unexpectedly. Apparent from the outset is the seething resentment

between Gene and Ronnie, which Roberts' fine script slowly heats to

critical mass, uncovering a dark undercurrent of shared emotional and

psychological mutilation. Sordid revelations emerge about the family's

troubled past, their mother's bloody suicide and the sexual molestation

of a drug-abusing sister, who is now dying of AIDS in a hospital. The

final plot turn is raw and dirty. Notwithstanding the play's bleak

tapestry, Roberts instills plenty of comic relief into his writing. The

characters are well sketched and without a trace or urbanity. David

Fofi delivers spot-on direction and draws very good performances from

his cast, particularly Nowicki, who artfully blends Southern charm and

simplicity with trailer-trash attitude. Elephant Theatre Company, 6322

Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat, 8 p.m.; through September 18.

(213) 614-0556. (Lovell Estell III)


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.


Desi Arnaz were pioneer celebrities who set the standard for clean,

white-bread television comedy. They also were one of Hollywood's

original power couples amassing a fortune from ownership of their own

studios. But in his self-described musical homage to the I Love Lucy

show, writer-director Fletcher Rhoden falls short of telling their

story or of telling any story that's the least bit compelling. The

herky-jerky script contains no semblance of narrative cohesiveness or

flow, though it comes spiced here and there with historic details about

Ms. Ball's life. Performer Joan Elizabeth Kennedy fails to channel Lucy

convincingly, and is consistent only in singing off-key. Ditto for

Derek Rubiano, whose Cuban accent wobbles in a remedial performance.

Rhoden's music and lyrics are competent though without a hint of any

Latin-American origins or influence in the music. Rhoden's direction

does little to shore up the holes in his script. Jodi Skeris and

Michael Anthony Nozzi are presumably standing in for other actors as

the zany neighbors, but that's hard to tell from the program. (Lovell

Estell III). Mount Hollywood Theater, 4607 Prospect Ave., L.A.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 4. (323) 667-9113.


Monologues on all of the above, by Joelle Arqueros. Renegade Theatre

(formerly the Actor's Playpen), 1514 N. Gardner St., L.A.; Sun., 6,

7:30 & 9 p.m.; thru Sept. 26. (323) 769-5566.

SHAKE A man named Bill (Jo Egender) and his ex,

Peggy (Alina Phelan), stand eight uneasy feet apart after a chance

encounter in a park. She's homeless; he's a lapsed alcoholic. What

turned their love upside-down? Joshua Fardon's chronological play ticks

backward every month for a year, from August 2002 to September 10,

2001, and unpacks the affairs and betrayals and guilts sprung from

strangers named Matt (Troy Blendell), Julia (Michelle Gardner) and

Robin (Bridgette Campbell). The mystery comes in the reverse momentum.

Told forward, it's a soap opera -- going back, a parlor game. We know

this drama traces back to the fall of the towers, but when we get

there, we realize Bill and Peggy's relationship was already headed to

destruction -- 9/11 simply changed the route. More catastrophic is the

entrance of Claire (Hiwa Bourne), a femme fatale who uses the disaster

for her own ends, though even she, too, is scrabbling for a purpose.

Kiff Scholl's direction knows that with every scene, the characters

know less and hope more. Under his guidance, Phelan's New York naif is

especially heartbreaking. She's a girl with simple dreams, and within

the year, even those are impossibly far away. (Amy Nicholson). Theatre

of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.;

thru Sept. 5. (323) 856-8611.

SIT 'N' SPIN Storytelling by Jill Soloway, Maggie

Rowe, Jaclyn Lafer and assorted guests of varying hilarity;, free. COMEDY CENTRAL STAGE, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd.,

L.A.; Every other Thursday, 8 p.m.. (323) 960-5519.

SOMETHING TO CROW ABOUT About! $20, seniors $15,

children under 2 free. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St.,

L.A.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 10:30 a.m.; thru Sept. 26.

(213) 250-9995.

STILL STANDING Playwright Shyla Martin sets out to

tell the tale of Laura (Venessa Peruda), a Los Angeles woman who

discovers a startling letter while sorting through the belongings of

her deceased father. In it, the writer, Celeste Ellis (Monique

McIntyre), informs Dad that she has borne him a daughter, and asks for

child support. Laura is thunderstruck to discover that she has a

half-sister. Her Aunt Sarah (Eileen T'Kaye) urges her to go to

Katrina-ravaged New Orleans to track down the mysterious sister. But

the meeting with that sister, Tracey (Nichelle Hines), proves awkward

because, though both women had white fathers and African-American

mothers, Laura is ostensibly white and Tracey is recognizably black.

When the two women eventually form a bond, it's threatened by

unforeseen events. The story is potentially interesting, but Martin's

naive dramaturgy dilutes its power. Many short scenes, in different

locales, make for long, debilitating scene changes; plot details emerge

in haphazard, confusing fashion; and there are red herrings: Tracey's

brother (Rondrell McCormick) elaborately hides a mysterious packet,

which is never explained or referred to again. Director Nick Mills has

assembled a capable cast, but the play's fragmentary scenes and

shifting focus defuse their efforts. (Neal Weaver). Theatre Asylum,

6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun..; thru Sept. 12. (323)


GO STREEP TEASE "Meryl Streep, gay

icon?" I asked Google. She's no Judy Garland, but enough affirmative

results returned that, when considered alongside creator Roy Cruz's

all-male review of some of Streep's finest screen scenes, she seems

well on her way. In her roles, she's checked off, among others, driven

activist, "guilty-until-proven-innocent" outsider, and frost-bitten

bitch. In her "real" life, she's eschewed ascribing to Hollywood's

rigid standards of beauty, becoming successful on her own terms. Cruz

and director Ezra Weisz have constructed a well-structured, tight show

that's over almost before you want it to be, even though the theater is

stuffy to the point of sweaty (further proof of their sense of humor --

hand-held fans emblazoned with Streep's face are given as trivia

prizes). In case you lack an "inner Streep," Cruz prefaces each

monologue with a synopsis of the movie. Mimicking the Academy Awards'

setup, a swell of music sweeps the performer down the aisle and up the

stage, and he poses dramatically as the lights fade. Since the cast

chose their own pieces, they're all well reenacted; naming a favorite

is really more about your own favorite "Meryl moment." That said, Trent

Walker's scene from Silkwood is white-trashtastic; and Taylor Negron's from Sophie's Choice

coalesces the audience into one being, collectively holding our breaths

and back our tears. The show's great affection for the un-diva is best

revealed in its gentle ribbing, though: Mike Rose's re-creation of a

scene from The River Wild should be included if Ms. Streep

ever gets a roast. (Rebecca Haithcoat). BANG, 457 N. Fairfax Ave.,

L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 29. (323) 653-6886.

A TALE TOLD BY AN IDIOT "Inspired by William Shakespeare's Macbeth." Presented by Psittacus Productions. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 29...

[TITLE OF SHOW] "Musical about making a musical."

Music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen, book by Hunter Bell. Celebration

Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3

p.m.; thru Sept. 5. (323) 957-1884.


Booth are bizarre monikers for a pair of siblings. In this solid

revival of Suzan-Lori Parks' Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, capably

directed by Martin Papazian, names aren't the only ironic peculiarity

here. Lincoln (A.K Murtadha) and Booth (M.D. Walton) are

African-Americans, named by a neglectful, long-gone father as a joke;

they now cling to one another for survival yet harbor volcanic

resentments toward each other. The play's potency lies in this

attraction-repulsion dynamic and the resultant venomous acrimony, which

Parks so neatly dissects. Lincoln, the oldest, is kicked out by his

wife and forced to move into Booth's sleazy, trash-strewn apartment.

Life isn't unbearably wretched for him; he has a "real" job as an

arcade attraction playing the Great Emancipator -- complete with

whiteface, fake beard, stovepipe and trashy overcoat -- while patrons

shoot him for recreation. Once a master of the three-card monte street

hustle, he now salves what's left of his dignity with false hopes and

Jack Daniels. His pistol-packing brother, however, dreams of being the

ultimate monte player, seeing the game as his ticket out of poverty and

an affirmation of his manhood. Parks sketches an ugly portrait of

thwarted urban life, sibling rivalry and crippling self-delusion.

Though not much happens in this two-hour comedy, the writing is

thoroughly engaging. Yet it's Walton and Murtadha's rugged, emotionally

charged performances that work the magic. (Lovell Estell III). Lillian

Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

& 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 12. (323) 960-7719.


can't lose your way in a history class. You can only go backwards,"

says Linus McBride (Arthur Hanket), a history teacher who seems to be

losing his passion, and possibly his marbles. The target of the advice

is Marion McNeely (Charlotte Chanler), a troubled transfer student at

McBride's public Oregon high school. With dark secrets of his own,

Linus cultivates an attachment to Marion. At the same time, Judy

cultivates an interest in the girl, with whom she shares more than she

would care to admit, while losing interest in her boyfriend, Math

teacher Harold Carson (Colin Walker). What develops is an intense

series of events as these wounded animals become entwined in each

other's lives. Playwright Joseph Fisher weaves a rich tapestry of dark

chocolate secrets and twisted desires, pairing it perfectly with a dry

champagne wit that sparkles in the mouths of this talented cast.

Hanket, particularly, wields Fisher's rapier wit with impeccable comic

timing and an understated manner that leads to some devastatingly funny

lines. The credit for this must, of course, be shared with director

Benjamin Burdick, who strikes a fine balance between the piece's humor

and horror. The minimally staged performance is a good reminder that

when fancy sets, lighting and other aspects of modern stagecraft are

put away, the heart of good drama is compelling characters and a

well-crafted text. (Mayank Keshaviah). Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa

Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sat., Aug. 21, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 29, 2

p.m.; Through Sept. 3, 8 p.m.; Through Sept. 11, 8 p.m.. (323) 882-6912.

GO YELLOW Del Shores' family

comedy-drama studies, once more, the mores and traditions of the Deep

South, perhaps the country's most extreme forms of religiosity and

homophobia, which have been haunting the playwright for all these

years. How does one get out alive, with the curses of the underworld

hanging over a believer: change or be changed? Does one run to New York

City, or San Francisco or West Hollywood? Lead a double life? Become a

playwright? Yellow is neither tragedy nor soap opera; its

"disease-of-the-week" dimension surges between the two along a riptide

of sentimentality. That said, Yellowwis a rippingly

entertaining show, thanks largely to Shores' precision-bombing satire

of self-absorbed teenagers and drama clubs. (Steven Leigh Morris).

Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 5...


AMADEUS Written as Theophilus (from the Greek) on

his birth certificate, Mozart's middle name can be interpreted as

either "lover of God" or "loved by God." Antonio Salieri clearly

believed the latter, and his jealousy of Mozart fuels the drama in

Peter Shaffer's 1979 award-winning play. As court composer, Salieri

(Peter Swander) has the favor of Emperor Joseph II (David Robert May)

and admires Mozart's music -- until he meets the young prodigy.

Mozart's (Patrick Stafford) sexuality and vulgarity drive the devout

Catholic wild, and as Salieri can't reconcile the philistine with the

ethereal music he creates, he becomes determined to destroy Mozart. In

that quest, Swander often speaks of passion, yet it rarely feels as if

his character possesses the passion his words suggest. Part of this may

have been director August Viverito's desire for a slow build, even

though it does eventually pay off in Act 2. Stafford's Mozart, on the

contrary, is id perfectly personified, with occasional glimpses of the

genius hiding behind the schoolboy pranks. Danielle Doyen, who plays

his wife, Constanze, pairs well with Stafford, and like the rest of the

cast, is capable. However, her 1980s, Madonna-style outfits, along with

Mozart's gold pants and the emperor's raspberry zoot suit, are

questionable choices by designer Shon LeBlanc. While for Salieri "a

note of music is either right or it's wrong," for me the show had a

pleasant melody but not one that stuck with me for long. (Mayank

Keshaviah). Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 28. (800) 838-3006.

BECOMING NORMAN Utah native Norman P. Dixon has had

two coming-out parties: first, as a gay man and second as an artist. At

times, he's been one or the other -- say, when he graduated with a

drama degree from BYU -- but this solo show marks the 45-year-old's

insistence on claiming both after spending the last 15 years toiling in

office work and retail. The first half of the night follows the artist

as pretty blond boy slowly learning that (a) there was a closet, and

(b) he was in it. No quick revelation in Orem, Utah, a town, as Dixon

describes, "where people didn't even think Boy George was gay." Dixon

is a handsome blond with a theatrical voice, and he powers through his

life story with a blend of self-congratulation and insecurity. This

serves him less well when his autobiography decamps from Salt Lake to

Los Angeles and we hit waves of tales wherein his talents are spotted,

he's offered a semi-big break and he sabotages himself in fear. Dixon's

journey is both topical and familiar -- who hasn't moved out to L.A.

with big dreams? -- and its only surprises come from his warm support

network. When the former Mormon sent out four dozen letters announcing

he was gay, only two respondents were upset. Between anecdotes, Dixon

belts out songs he wrote about his struggle, built around words like dreams and wings and flying.

We're happy he's happy. Debra De Liso directs. (Amy Nicholson). NoHo

Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 12. (800) 595-4849.

NEW REVIEW BOYS' LIFE Watching director Dan Velez's uninspired production, it

might seem hard to believe that Howard Korder's acerbic vignettes of

slackers and their caddish sexcapades was a Pulitzer finalist in 1988.

Which is not to denigrate either the judgment of the Pulitzer committee

or the efforts of a clearly capable cast but merely to question the

vision behind a revival that steamrolls the pathos and ulterior probing

of an astute script into a pancake-flat excuse for sketch-comedy

laughs. Jack (Ben Rovner), Don (David Rispoli) and Phil (Jason Karasev)

are a trio of 30-something buddies stuck on the pot-addled threshold

between perennial adolescence and defining themselves as men. The

group's enabler is the married, albeit savagely cynical Jack, who goads

his bachelor comrades into misadventures with women who invariably

prove more than their equal. Phil is the most plaintively romantic of

the bunch and therefore the most tragically susceptible to Jack's

self-serving manipulations. Only slightly more resilient is Don, who

surmounts a potentially fatal infidelity to finally break free of

Jack's corrupting influence, thanks mainly to the understanding and

maturity of his fiancée (Tori Ayres Oman). Rovner gives a standout

performance, but Jack's underlying strains of fear and despair -- the

comedy's critical dramatic ballast -- are too often lost in the saucy

surfaces of Velez's staging. Tanya Apuya's costumes lend occasional

wit, but barely perfunctory (and uncredited) lighting and Sarah

Kranin's impoverished set prove more hindrance than help. Crown City

Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., N.Hlywd.; Thurs. & Sun., 8 p.m.;

through Sept. 12. (818) 745-8527, (Bill Raden)


Pomerance's witty story of a 19th-century editor of the Oxford English

Dictionary. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 29. (626) 683-6883.

HURRICANE SEASON 2010 Seventh annual

competition/festival of short plays. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312

Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.;

thru Aug. 22. (818) 508-3003.

IN & OUT: THE U.S. OF ALIENATION World premiere

of David Wally's dramedy about human connection. Whitefire Theater,

13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Tues., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 14. (866)


IT'S JUST SEX Jeff Gould's comedy takes the

underpinnings of sexual fantasy, fidelity and money and puts all of

those nuances onstage in a contemporary comedy about three married

couples. The wife-swapping plot is straight out of Hugh Hefner's pad,

circa 1975. That the play resonates today, in the ashes of the sexual

revolution, is one indication of how little has changed, despite how

much has changed. (Steven Leigh Morris). Two Roads Theater, 4348

Tujunga Ave., Studio City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (818)


QUICKIES T(h)REE: Comedy al Fresco "Eight brand new,

park-themed, 10-minute plays.". Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd.,

Sherman Oaks; Fri., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 27. (818) 627-8425.

SPEECH & DEBATE Stephen Karam's hit 2007

off-Broadway play riffs on the presumed nerdiness of high-schoolers who

opt for forensics over sports. In this case, three outcasts are also

determined to triple their misfit status via drama, the school

newspaper and a "gay-straight-alliance." The journey through youthful

angst begins as gay Howie (Matt Strunin) trolls online for sex only to

discover, to his major gross-out, that he's sexting with the theater

teacher. Meanwhile, ambitious but untalented would-be coloratura Diwata

(Tiffany Jordan) captures Howie's attention with her "blogalog" about

the same teacher's unjust casting policies. Also pulled into the

electronic circle is aspiring reporter Solomon (Simon Daniel Lees), who

is obsessed with sexual predators. Through a series of scenes,

subtitled with Speech and Debate rules, the three find a mutual

attraction bordering on friendship, which ultimately allows them to

find solace in their eccentricities. Finally they collaborate on a

bizarre musical performance-art piece mixing aspects from the plays of

Arthur Miller and Wicked among several mismatched

ingredients, which is fascinating in its pure awfulness. Though not

quite convincing in terms of youth, the acting of the students is

superb, compassionately exploring the constant pain and few joys the

characters experience. Unfortunately the same is not true of Nina

Donato in a pair of adult roles that fly into caricature -- a choice

seemingly pushed by director Jon Cortez to get some laughs, which prove

to be at the expense of the production. Cortez also keeps the pace so

sluggish through clumsy scene breaks, they interfere with the crispness

of his young stars. Mike Rademaekers' clever set easily transforms

between schoolroom and bedrooms, which provide the unfollowed cues for

agile scene transitions. (Tom Provenzano). Secret Rose Theater, 11246

Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru

Aug. 22. (877) 620-7673.

STRING OF PEARLS Four actresses play 27 characters

in Michele Lowe's drama. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900

Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept.

5. (818) 700-4878.

URBAN DEATH Zombie Joe's Underground's horror show.

ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 11

p.m.; thru Oct. 30. (818) 202-4120.

A WALK IN THE WOODS Lee Blessing's play is set in

Geneva, during a disarmament conference, where two negotiators seek to

construct a treaty acceptable to both sides. Stodgy, naive, idealistic

American John Honeyman (owlish Fox Carney) believes in rationality, and

wants to make the world safe from nuclear holocaust. Andre Botvinnik

(volatile Larry Eisenberg), a canny, cynical Russian with an impish

sense of humor, knows the two powers, the U.S. and Russia, are more

interested in seeming to want a disarmament agreement than in actually

wanting one. He no longer believes in the reality of their mission, and

hopes to make life more palatable by making a friend of Honeyman. He

attempts amusingly frivolous conversation, but Honeyman is incapable of

frivolity, and likes it that way. Their friendship can only bumble

along, with two steps back for every step forward. Their debates are

clever, literate and passionate, and their halting steps toward

friendship are touching and funny. Richard Alan Woody directs with

finesse and draws fine performances from his actors, but he never

manages to convince us that the stakes are particularly high, when they

couldn't be higher. (Neal Weaver). Lonny Chapman Group Repertory

Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4

p.m.; thru Sept. 4. (818) 700-4878.


Stage Raw: How Do Actors Do It?

Photo by Adam Neubauer

Centuries ago, a Romanian craftsman blew a glass ball for a widow

pestered by a horny, tickling ghost. The blue orb was the size of a

large onion and had ten times as many layers. If a human happened on

it, they'd lose themselves in its dense levels. So, too, would passing

spirits who were quite literally sucked into the witch ball and

trapped. Glass, unless shattered, is destined to outlive its owner. And

so Zombie Joe's efficient, energetic ensemble of eight -- Jonica

Patella, Ashton Reese, Alexandra Ozeri, Christopher Goodwin, Andrew

Graves, Nicole Fabbri, Jenny Dylana and Kyle Clare -- take us on the

ball's adventure from the Carpathian hills to the Inland Empire with

owners that include a wolf pack, a Salem housewife, a serial murderer

and a white raccoon. Zombie Joe's episodic script has sharply drawn

characters and savage humor, and he frames it as a story about

storytelling, about how every tale (and every life) has a beginning, a

climax and a denouement. (Though some endings linger on after death the

ball watches a corpse slowly decompose.) Directed by Alison Cardoso

with ZJU's unique joie de goofing, it's a tribute to yarn-spinning with

puppets on sticks and simple silver masks asking audiences to imagine

with them in a saga populated by gorillas and lions and demons. Pauline

Noriega and Jeri Batzdorff's playful make-up and costuming round out

the fleet and fantastical show. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim

Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru Sept. 11. (818)

202-4120. (Amy Nicholson)



Eleven new plays in 12 days, presented by Alive Theatre. Hotel

Lafayette, 528 E. Broadway Ave., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru

Sept. 11,

ALL MY SONS Arthur Miller's classic American

drama. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat.,

8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 2. (310) 397-3244.


woman says she wants a new house, she really wants a new husband. When

she says she wants a new car, she really wants a new life." In Steven

Dietz's smart if tonally uneven new play, these are the prophetic words

of amiable and grounded Becky Foster (Joanna Daniels), who worries that

she has squandered her best years as an office manager drudge at a car

dealership, while saddled with a lumpen husband (Jon Eric Preston) and

patronizing grad student son (Nick Rogers). A chance for a new life

comes prancing into Becky's dealership, when slightly spacey

billionaire billboard tycoon Walter (Brad Greenquist) randomly chooses

Becky as the sales agent for his mass-purchase of cars for all the

employees at his company. Walter, grieving over the death of his wife,

is inexplicably attracted to the earthy "real world" Becky, whose own

moral compass starts swinging around like a drunken sailor as she

contemplates ditching her family for a life of glamour and wealth.

Dietz's play receives its Los Angeles premiere in director Michael

Rothhaar's whimsical production that comes laced with melancholy. The

play's genesis is worthy of some note: The work was a personal

commission by a Seattle arts patron as a gift for his wife. As such,

the material occasionally tries a little too hard to please, with a

narrative that occasionally emulates the mood of 1930s screwball

comedies -- a style that is an uneven alchemical fit with the

underlying tone of midlife despair, in which the work is also deeply

steeped. However, when Dietz is willing to let the play rise to silly

froth, the results are splendid. Scenes in which Daniels' bubbly Becky

repeatedly invites opinions from audience members -- some of whom are

roped onstage into helping her with a wonderfully droll costume change

moment -- balance charmingly with moments in which she finds herself

swept away by Greenquist's charismatic Walter. Although the

contrivances of the play's final third are too preposterous to sustain

even willing disbelief, the ensemble overall crackles with witty,

sympathetic performances -- including Rogers as Becky's goofy son and

by Suzanne Ford's graceful turn as a prickly rival for Walter's

affections. (Paul Birchall). Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice

Blvd., Venice; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 26. (310)



is apt, since the action occurs in three radically different bedrooms

in a 1975 English suburb. Kate (blond and taffy-voiced Kate

Hollinshead) and Malcolm (buff and playful Jamie Donovan) are having a

party in their new flat. Nick (Scott Roberts) and Jan (Ann Noble) are

invited, but Nick has put his back out and is confined to his bed in

agony -- and he's annoyed that Jan is going to the party without him.

Obstreperous and self-obsessed Trevor (Anthony Michael Jones) and his

noisily neurotic wife, Susannah (Regina Peluso), are also invited, but

their tempestuous marriage is rocked by one of its endless crises. When

Trevor makes a pass at former girlfriend Jan, Susannah goes into

massive hysterics, wrecking the party. Trevor descends on bedridden

Nick to "explain" his behavior, while Susannah runs to Trevor's bemused

parents, Ernest (Robert Mandan) and Delia (Maggie Peach), for solace.

Alan Ayckbourn's play plumbs no great depths, but he's unflaggingly

inventive in exploring comic surfaces, and director Ron Bottitta has

assembled a likable and deftly stylish cast to keep the pot boiling on

Darcy Prevost's huge and handsome set. Kathryn Poppen's trendy '70s

costumes add further charm. (Neal Weaver). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S.

Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept.

26. (310) 477-2055.


City Public Theatre. Dr. Paul Carlson Memorial Park, Motor Ave. &

Braddock Dr., Culver City; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 22. (310)



Stage Raw: How Do Actors Do It?

Photo by Ed Krieger

In writer-director Allen Barton's unexpectedly sour

romantic comedy, you can tell that the love match made in hell between

smart, emotionally withholding Republican, commitment-phobe Mark

(Everette Wallin) and warm, free-spirit liberal Nicole (Audrey Moore)

is careening off the rails when Mark tries to propose to her at a fancy

restaurant but must instead run from the table to vomit. Mark is glib,

funny and negative, while Nicole dreams of a soul mate with whom she

has a deep connection. And, while each partner sees the other's flaws,

they also think that they will be able to change him or her into the

perfect mate -- an operation that ends predictably in tears. Barton's

play intends to skewer the notion of modern romance -- e.g., the

characters' dealings are interspersed with complaints about Facebook

and Twitter, and the inevitable diminishment of the need for human

contact that these devices bring. However, more than a commentary about

the superficial technical devices that add clutter to our own emotional

confusion, the piece's theme truly explores a more timeless concept:

the emptiness of valuing being clever over feeling. That said, Barton's

writing is not always up to the challenge: The dialogue is talky and

repetitious while sometimes being so stridently mean, we can't

understand why either of the two lovers would stay in the same room

with each other. One problem may be that Barton's coolly ironic, snarky

staging never builds any sense of a love that can so quickly change to

hate -- it's just hate that turns into more hate. The show is

double-cast, but on the night reviewed, Wallin's snarky man-boy was

strangely moving while still being thoroughly bilious, and Moore

offered a nicely melancholic turn as the increasingly wearied Nicole.

As her venomously embittered roomie who finds an unexpected lover

herself, Ellie Schwartz delivers the show's most ferocious yet

emotionally nuanced performance. Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S.

Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.;

through August 22. (310) 358-9936. Katselas Theatre Company (Paul


FOREVER PLAID Stuart Ross' harmony-group

musical comedy. Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. Sixth St., San Pedro;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 22. (310) 548-7672.

40 IS THE NEW 15 The Academy for New Musical

Theatre presents Cindy O'Connor and Larry Todd Johnson's world-premiere

musical about former high school chums hitting the big 4-0. NoHo Arts

Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sun..; thru Aug.

22. (818) 508-7101.

8 MIDSUMMER QUICKIES Eight short plays,

written and directed by Caroline Marshall, Tracy Merrifield, Marnie

Olson and Kyle T. Wilson. Psychic Visions Theatre, 3447 Motor Ave.,

L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 4. (310) 535-6007.


BROADWAY From Broadway Suffused with a near-Chekhovian mix of the

wistful and the melancholy, playwright Henry Jaglom's world premiere

comedy is a delight -- an intimate and thoughtful ensemble piece which

is as much a paean to the theater as it is a meditation on the perils

of living entirely by emotion. In a picturesque but run down country

house in upstate New York (realized in Joel Daavid's beautiful detailed

set), a theatrical clan spends what is probably for them a typical fall

weekend of histrionics and melodrama. These are people who have lived

their whole lives for art -- which, one might say, means that dinner is

never on time and no one gets up before noon. Elderly thespian George

(Jack Heller) and his beloved wife Vivien (Diane Louise Salinger) are

in the twilight of their careers, but regret nothing about a life spent

on the road performing small plays. Also staying in their home is their

beautiful, unstable daughter Pandora (Tanna Frederick), who is taking a

"rest" from acting after getting over a recent failed romance. The

typically "artsy" family chaos turns even more tumultuous with the

arrival of the family's estranged eldest daughter Betsy (Julie Davis),

who has grown weary of her eccentric family. When Betsy introduces her

lawyer fiance Jimmy (David Garver) to the family, sparks unexpectedly

fly -- but the sparks are between Jimmy and free-spirited Pandora. Some

overwritten sequences teeter on self indulgence, yet the piece is also

wise to the follies of human behavior -- and director Gary Imhoff's

subtle staging elegantly juxtaposes the warmth and frustration

underscoring the relationships within so many families. The ensemble

work is sensitive, yet comically charged, with Frederick's calculatedly

daffy turn as the ever-performing Pandora smartly offset by Davis'

increasingly angry Betsy. Heller's leonine elderly actor-dad and

Salinger's actress mom, tender and sad, wonderfully craft the sense of

elders who have never truly grown up, and are amazed by what has

happened to their bodies while their minds remain youthful. A Rainbow

Theatre Company production. (Paul Birchall). Edgemar Center for the

Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru Sept. 19. (310) 399-3666.

KATIE THE CURST The Actors' Gang's adaptation of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew,

a free summer show for all ages. Media Park, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver

City; Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m.; thru Aug. 29,


Justin Tanner are like Rice Krispies. They crackle when you pour in the

right actors -- and the actors here from his own company are just right

-- and then they kind of wash away. Maybe that doesn't matter. That

crackling is the sound of Tanner's satirical barbs directed at the

foibles and delusions of L.A. suburban white-trash types. (His latest

farce is set in Highland Park.) He does for (or to) L.A. what Del

Shores does for (or to) the South. Shores' plays come with more of a

message and smidgen more sentimentality. Tanner brings on a gallery of

types, lets them go until somebody lands on a revelation, or

confession, which may or may not make a jot of difference to the

lunatic world being depicted. Maybe it's apt that a play called Procreation

should have 13 characters. One of them, Ruby (Danielle Kennedy), is a

pregnant grandmother (awaiting octuplets -- she's even brought the

sonograms with her) with a sanctimonious gigolo beaux, played

wonderfully cocky by Jonathan Palmer. (They both visit SoCal from

Colorado, and he offers lectures on healthy lifestyle and

self-discipline. He may as well be preaching on the virtues of vitamins

to drug dealers.) Everybody here is in debt. Mom Hope (Melissa Denton)

runs a novelty store called "Wish on a Rainbow," which smug hubby

Michael (nicely goofy by Michael Halpin) announced must liquidate

immediately. Can they afford to send their corpulent 15-year-old,

bed-wetting son, Gavin (Kody Batchelor), to the fat farm? (He tosses

his urine-drenched blanket at his relatives, for his own amusement. He

will surely grow up to become a playwright.) Hope's sister Deanie

(goggle-eyed Patricia Scanlon) hoards other people's garbage, while her

terminally unemployed, good-natured husband, Bruce (Andy Marshall

Daley), makes a career out of asking his relatives for loans. There are

drug deals, offstage blow jobs and an entire subplot of gay intrigue.

Tanner's satire of behaviors roasts not so much a culture of greed as a

culture of need -- derived from the cruelty of snarky jokes and

emotional neglect. One character says, perhaps ironically, "Let's try

to be more mindful of what we say from now on," as though that would

fix anything. Call it Molière ultralite. Sitcoms like this depend on

the unspoken reactions to the torrent of one-liners. Director David

Schweizer has the cartoons just right, but he drives the play on the

fuel of its quips rather than the comedic agony that lies beneath them.

Which may be why the farce begins to wilt after an hour or so, despite

the effervescence of ongoing amusement. The uncredited costumes are

very witty. (Steven Leigh Morris). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda

Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 7 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 22.

(310) 477-2055.

STOP KISS "Love, prejudice, and women

collide" in Diana Son's play. Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St., Long

Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 28. (866) 811-4111.

STRIPPED (a comedy about a drama) Who'd have

guessed that the gaudy neon sign around the corner advertising Psychic

Readings could be hiding a theater. There is indeed a tiny space

upstairs for storytelling that is probably more real that the

storytelling going on downstairs. In this case, the story is Kirsten

Severson's tale of the tumultuous end to her five-year relationship

with "The Prince." Accompanied onstage by two video screens, Severson

describes the good times in their relationship (including the clever

"Peas in a Pod" video montage) before transitioning to the fateful

voice mail that begins her descent into insecurity and heartbreak.

Originally a solo show titled I Think You Went a Little Far With the Herpes Thing ...,

the piece has since been developed into a feature film, and now returns

as a half-film/half-staged solo show. The combination of media

unfortunately doesn't gel, and despite some good lines and moments,

director Carlos Velasco's pacing drags in a number of spots and

Severson's stage presence feels halfhearted at times. Instead the video

sequences -- which are well lit and crisply edited -- are the show's

most engaging aspect. As a short film it could prove visually

arresting; as a piece of theater, however, it's little more than

another love story gone awry. (Mayank Keshaviah). Psychic Visions

Theatre, 3447 Motor Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 27. (310)



AND THE BEANSTALK For the past 12 summers, the Culver City Public

Theatre has been staging free plays in cozy Carlson Park for families.

Audiences bring picnics, blankets and chairs and gather under shady

trees for an hour or so of entertainment -- generally crowd-pleasing

fare such as popular Shakespeare comedies and kid-friendly classics.

Now playing is an imaginative adaptation (by director Heidi Dotson) of

the fairy tale "Jack and the Beanstalk." Dotson cleverly blends the

tale of the golden goose with the familiar story of simpleton Jack, who

trades the family cow for a handful of magic beans. Nicely expanded

into two acts that fill an hour, the retooled story presents the

usually terrifying giant (Dean Edward) as a struggling poet with a

devious wife (Ronnie Loaiza), and fashions a thoroughly happy ending.

Beautifully narrated by the cow, Milky White (Rachanee Kitchel) --

whom, hilariously, only the audience can understand -- this sweet,

magical play had little kids and adults giggling. Cute sets, costumes

and props, as well as the lovely cast, make this is a delightful,

low-tech production. A Children's Popcorn Theater production. (Pauline

Amadek). Dr. Paul Carlson Memorial Park, Motor Ave. & Braddock Dr.,

Culver City; Sat.-Sun., noon.; thru Aug. 22. (310) 712-5482.

THE WAR CYCLE Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble presents three plays by Tom Burmester: Wounded, Nation of Two, and Gospel According to First Squad. Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; Thurs.-Sat..; thru Sept. 11, (310) 396-3680.


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