Stage Raw: Lease Subsidy Program Gets Another Lease

Stage Raw: Lease Subsidy Program Gets Another Lease

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS
NEW THEATER REVIEWS
CURRENT FEATURE ON BORN TO BE ALIVE and THE WOMEN OF BREWSTER PLACE

LEASE SUBSIDY PROGRAM GETS ANOTHER LEASE

A recommendation by L.A.'s Chief Administrative Officer Miguel

Santana to restructure (eliminate) the city's Lease Subsidy Program for non-profit

organizations ran aground Tuesday when the City Council voted to send

Upcoming Events

the proposal back to the Arts, Parks Health and Aging Committee. City

Council members including Tom LaBonge, Richard Alarcon and Janice Hahn

felt they didn't have enough information to gut a program that offers a

$1 year lease subsidy for various non-profits, from after-school youth

centers to the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble. Arts advocates regarded this

as a victory.

THE GHOSTS OF HOLY GHOST

L.A. Weekly theater critic Neal Weaver offers the following reflections on seeing Theatre of NOTE's recently closed production of Holy Ghost, which concerns German prisoners of war on U.S. soil during World War II:

"I was terribly glad to see it as it linked up in unexpected ways

with my own personal experiences. During World War II my cousin Bob

Blackburn was serving, as a buck private, in a POW camp in Ipava,

Illinois, and we visited him there. It was very strange for this 7-

year-old, in the middle of a war, to see the enemy being marched to

their work assignments in their drab grey POW uniforms, under armed

guard, or standing sullenly about behind wire fences. They seemed far

too depressed and beaten down to have much belief left in the Master

Race.

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Later,

when I was stationed with the 11th Armored Cavalry in Bavaria in

1960-61, I met a few unreconstructed Nazis. One was a former Wehrmacht

major who had been Rommel's driver -- but he was the most servile,

craven man I ever encountered. He kept trying to persuade me to

purchase things for him at the PX which he couldn't get or afford on

the civilian market. He was hired by the army to teach German classes

to GIs, but he pompously tried to teach them long intellectual

vocabulary lists and very formal German. So they fired him and assigned

me to teach the classes. This was, on the face of it, absurd since I

only knew as much German as I'd picked up from my Berlitz book, but I

tried to teach the guys to say things that would be useful for them in

fraternizing with the local frauleins. Things like, "Meet me at the

gate at 8 o'clock."

Then, later, I was doing some soldier shows, in which I did readings from a Broadway comedy called Make a Million.

I found myself summoned by the CO and informed that in 10 days, I would

do the piece in German at a dinner for German officers from the local

Kaserne. My German wasn't remotely good enough to allow me to make a

colloquial translation. But fortunately, the civillian secretary from

the Regimental Special Services Office agreed to make a German version

for me, which she did, with the assistance of a couple of actors from

the local Stadttheatre. Her name was Lil Heinrich, and she was still an

ardent Nazi, but they did an actable translation. I discovered to my

dismay that the characters couldn't be played the same way in German as

in English. The General, a southern good old boy, became, in German,

Eric von Stroheim. And a line like "Son, you'll never get to be a

general doing things the army way," became "Mein Sohn, Sie werden nie

General wenn Sie alles nach HDF machen!" (HDF was the German military

code.) Afterwards the German commandant asked me where I learned my

German,, and told me I had a Hannover accent. Berlitz must have been

written that way. He also asked me if I was a draftee or a volunteer. I

told him I was a draftee, at which point he advised me to get out as

soon as I could. (His wife was a prominent German theatre actress.) I

did my best to follow his advice.

I was also impressed with the choice of music for Holy Ghost. I Remembered every one of those songs in very

particular contexts. "We must be vigilant!" was performed on Sunday

afternoon radio by Phil Spitalny and his all girl orchestra, featuring

Evelyn and Her Magic Violin.--Neal Weaver

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for June 4-10, 2010

Our critics are 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.

OPENING THIS WEEK

DINNER WITH FRIENDS Donald Margulies' self-described "rueful comedy"

about middle age and divorce. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing

Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada; opens June 5; Sat., June 5, 8

p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.;

Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru June 20. (562) 944-9801.

HAMLET By William Shakespeare. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419

N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sat., June 5, 8 p.m.; Sun., June 13,

7:30 p.m.; Sat., June 19, 8 p.m.; Sat., June 26, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 3,

4 p.m.; Sun., July 11, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., July 17, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 24,

8 p.m.; Sun., July 25, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., July 31, 4 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 1,

3:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 7, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 8, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug.

14, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 15, 7:30 p.m.; 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.

IRA WITHOUT GEORGE: THE LYRICS OF IRA GERSHIN Starring Rex Reed,

Linda Purl, Kurt Reichenbach, Gregg Edelman, Sally Mayes, and special

guest star Polly Bergen, backed by a five-piece pop-jazz combo. John

Anson Ford Amphitheatre, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., L.A.; June 4-5, 8

p.m.. (323) 461-3673.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM In rep with Hamlet. Will Geer

Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sun., June

6, 3:30 p.m.; Sun., June 20, 3:30 p.m.; Sun., June 27, 3:30 p.m.;

Thurs., Aug. 5, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Aug. 12, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Aug. 19, 8

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

18, 8 p.m.. (310) 455-3723.

THE SOCIALIZATION OF RUTHIE SHAPIRO Barbara Nell Beery's memory play

about a mother and son. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.;

opens June 4; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 11, (No perf

July 4.). (323) 851-7977.

3 TRUTHS Cornerstone Theater Company, in partnership with Grand

Performances, presents the world premiere by Naomi Iizuka, the

conclusion to Cornerstone's Justice Cycle, a four-year series about

"how law and the pursuit of justice shape and disrupt L.A.'s

communities.". California Plaza, 350 S. Grand Ave., L.A.; opens June 4;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June 12. (213) 687-2159.

ALL MY SONS asatch Theatrical Ventures presents Arthur Miller's

first play. Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood;

opens June 5; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 25. (323)

960-4420.

ANGLES 4 ANA Benefit for Ana Adame, now fighting late-stage lymphoma, with performances by Ana Ortiz (Ugly Betty), Megan Hilty (Wicked), Jason Robert Brown (Parade, The Last Five Years, Songs for a New World), Valerie Perri (Evita), Susan Egan (Beauty and the Beast) and more. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Mon., June 7, 8 p.m.. (626) 683-6883.

BABY Music by David Shire, lyrics by Richald Maltby Jr., book by

Sybille Pearson, based on a story by Susan Yankowitz. Lonny Chapman

Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; opens

June 4; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 11. (818) 700-4878.

BOTANICUM SEEDINGS Free outdoor reading of The Rose Gardener

by Sara-Ashley Bischoff. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N.

Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sun., June 6, 11 a.m.. (310) 455-3723.

CASH ON DELIVERY Michael Cooney's farce about a Social Security

cheat. Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road,

Pacific Palisades; opens June 4; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru

July 11. (310) 454-1970.

DRUNK TALK Thomas Blake's full-immersion comedy about a local bar's

closing night, "where you're not just an audience member, but a cast

member, playing the part of an unsuspecting patron subjected to the

antics of the drinking establishment's regular cast of zany

characters.". Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens June 6;

Sun., 8 p.m.; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 1,

brownpapertickets.com/event/111874. (910) 367-6735.

FABULATION: OR THE EDUCATION OF UNDINE Lynne Nottage's satire of

social stereotypes. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.;

opens June 4; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru June 13, tix.com.

(800) 595-4849.

THE GOOD WOMAN OF SETZUAN Re-imagining of Bertolt Brecht's classic,

translated by Eric Bentley, with original music by Elizabeth Swados.

Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens June 4;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 17. (323) 882-6912.

HEPBURN SINGS! Kevin Dulude IS Katharine Hepburn!. Macha Theatre,

1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood; opens June 5; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 18, plays411.com. (323) 654-0680.

I MADE OUT WITH HIM ANYWAY Evie Peck and Kirstin Eggers' outrageous

collection of dating stories., plays411.com. Lost Studio, 130 S. La

Brea Ave., L.A.; opens June 4; Fri.-Sat., 8 & 10:30 p.m.; thru June

26. (323) 960-1055.

MAGNUM OPUS THEATRE: SURF DOGS UNITE! It's SoCal Christian surfers

versus Hell-bent bikers. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr.,

L.A.; opens June 4; Fri., 11 p.m.; thru June 25. (310) 281-8337.

A MEMORY OF WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN Zombie Joe presents Robert Riemer's

romantic new thriller. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North

Hollywood; opens June 4; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru June 26. (818)

202-4120.

SCREWED WORDTHEATRE presents Carla Gugino performing a story by

James Salter, Gary Cole performing a story by Tod Goldberg, and Adrian

Pasdar performing a story by T.C. Boyle. M Bar, 1253 Vine St., L.A.;

Sun., June 6, 7 p.m.. (323) 856-0036.

UN DOMINGO EN LA ALAMEDA/ A SUNDAY IN THE ALAMEDO Diego Rivera's

mural come to life, by Lina Montalvo and Margarita Galban. Bilingual

Foundation of Arts, 421 N. Avenue 19, L.A.; June 4-5, 8 p.m.; Sun.,

June 6, 3 p.m.; Mon., June 7, 8 p.m., bfatheatre.org. (323) 225-4044.

WALK THROUGH WALLS Caleb Hammond's installation/performance piece

exploring life as "an expressionistic landscape of continually

disappearing experiences of agony and ecstasy.". Highways Performance

Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; June 4-5, 8:30 p.m.. (310) 315-1459.

WOMBMAN, THE PLAY "Four girls become their own wombmen in a world of

masculine dominance." Written and directed by poet/playwright Evy

Trezvant. The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; June 10-12, 8

p.m.; Sun., June 13, 2 p.m.. (818) 917-9142.

YELLOW WORLD Premiere of Del Shores' drama of intolerance. Coast

Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; opens June 4;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru June 27,

yellowbydelshores.com...

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE

A CHORUS LINE The Broadway blockbuster, book by James Kirkwood, Jr.

and Nicholas Dante, lyrics by Edward Kleban, music by Marvin Hamlisch.

Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat.,

2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru June 13. (213) 365-3500.

NEW REVIEW CRIMES OF THE HEART

Stage Raw: Lease Subsidy Program Gets Another Lease

Photo by Henry DiRocco/SCR

The Magrath

sisters are all back home in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, to take care of

another family crisis. Mama hung herself, Granddaddy is in the

hospital, and now Babe's gone and shot her husband. Yes, it's all

funny; and if they didn't laugh, they might never stop crying. There

are some subtle touches that do a Southern girl's heart good in South

Coast Repertory's version of Beth Henley's Pulitzer Prize-winning play:

Chick (Tessa Auberjonois) sucks her finger to prevent any lipstick from

bleeding onto her teeth; Babe (Kate Rylie) mixes two parts sugar to one

part water in her lemonade. Under Warner Shook's direction, though, the

care that Henley took to spin a delicately layered cocoon around the

black-fisted blow of suicide, abuse, mental illness, and racism is

trampled by one-note screeching that drowns out any nuance in the

script. The 1978 play's still relevant--Southern women stuck in the

South resort to desperate measures on a daily basis--but this production

not only rips out its heart, but also its head. Henley's sharp-knifed

social commentary (the sisters pity the "half-Yankee" children of a

townie who married a Northerner) is dulled by an ensemble whose crimes

are bad accents and brittle insouciance, and those Southern stereotypes

suddenly seem true and offensive. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town

Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Sun., Tues., Wed., 7:30 p.m.; Thurs., Fri.,

Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; through June 6. (714) 708-5555

(Rebecca Haithcoat)

GO

DEMENTIA Anyone who survived the deadly HIV plague years of the '80s,

when the best and brightest of the arts community were wiped out by the

disease, can't help but be moved by the pathos of playwright Evelina

Fernández's AIDS melodrama. While the play's urgency might have

diminished somewhat in the intervening years of antiretroviral

successes, director José Luis Valenzuela's restaging of the Latino

Theater Company's acclaimed, 2002 production has lost none of its

rousing panache or theatrical luster. Sal López reprises his tour de

force performance as Moises, a flamboyant theater director drifting in

and out of consciousness on his deathbed in 1995. He spends his lucid

moments planning his final exit scene in a party to be attended by his

close associates, which include his lifelong friend, gay hairdresser,

Martin (the excellent Danny de la Paz), best straight friend/writing

partner, Eddie (Geoffrey Rivas), and Eddie's wife, Alice (Lucy

Rodriguez). Moises' less-coherent spells are spent in phantasmagoric

dialogues with his conscience and drag-queen alter ego, Lupe (Ralph

Cole Jr. in a showstopping performance), who belts out disco dance hits

in between haranguing Moises about coming clean with his ex-wife,

Raquel (Fernández), on the circumstances surrounding their 15-year-old

breakup. A first-rate production design, including Francois-Pierrcs

evocative lights, Nikki Delhomme's Mackie-inspired gowns and

Christopher Ash's expressionist-surrealist set, underscores Fernández's

Eros-trumps-conventional-morality theme with elegance and eloquence. A

Latino Theater Company Production. (Bill Raden). Los Angeles Theater

Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8

p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru June 27. (213) 489-0994.

THE EMPORERS NEW CLOTHES Audience-participation musical for children

and their families, music by Phil Orem, book and lyrics by Lloyd J.

Schwartz and David Wechter. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West,

L.A.; Sat., 1 p.m.; thru July 10. (323) 851-7977.

NEW REVIEW GO IT AIN'T ALL CONFETTI!

Stage Raw: Lease Subsidy Program Gets Another Lease

Photo courtesy of El Portal Theatre

"Rip

Taylor? Isn't he dead?" opined an unkind family member upon learning

that this weekend I was reviewing the new one man show written and

starring Rip Taylor, the legendary comedian and popular culture

"character." TV viewers of A Certain Age (and older) will doubtless

recall Taylor, an omnipresent fixture of the 1970s, familiar from

countless appearances on game shows like Match Game and Password,

and also a Vegas go-to opening act for stars like Sammy Davis Jr., Judy

Garland, and Eleanor Powell. With his masterfully mugging shtick,

bugging eyes, waggling tongue, and silly one liners, Taylor's style

wasn't for anyone - and it was easy to dismiss his "character" as a

rube. And, yet, as his solo effort (directed by David Galligan) aptly

indicates, any performer who has managed to have as huge career for as

many decades as he has clearly possesses a mighty amount of talent, and

steel willpower. In the opening moments of Galligan's fast moving,

intimate production, Taylor strides onto the stage, clearly somewhat

frail but still every inch the showman. His flapping toupee perches

hilariously askew, as his pointy mustache waves. Next, he whips out a

thick pile of file cards, each containing an individual one liner -

and, in a dizzying display of jaw-dropping gagsmanship, he goes through

every one, over 80 in all, within the first 10 minutes. From there,

Taylor rips off his toupee, tosses it behind him, and switches over to

more serious subject matter (with barely a joke in sight), as he

describes his troubled childhood, his early successes as an MC at the

Atlantic City strip club circuit, his subsequent discovery for the Ed Sullivan Show

while performing at the Catskills, and the gradual honing of his

carefully calculated stage persona, which has been his bread and butter

for over half a century. Many of Taylor's revelations are fairly

surface level, dealing with his interactions with the stars he's come

across - and he often seems so in control over what he's saying, you

could starve to death waiting for any "behind the mask" information

about the performer. Yet, the show is ultimately a compelling

presentation of a life - and it's as much a must see for students and

historians of the comedy of a certain era as it is for folks who just

want to share a warm laugh with a thoroughly amiable performer. El

Portal Theatre, 11206 Waddington Street, North Hollywood. Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru June 6. www.elportaltheatre.com (866)

811-4111. (Paul Birchall)

GO LOVE, LOSS, AND WHAT I WORE Ilene 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; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; thru July 3. (310)

208-5454.

GO 1951-2006 Writer-director Donald Freed's romance

about a military veteran, Dave (Michael Matthys), who, in 1951, finds

himself confined to a wheelchair in a grubby fourth-floor New York City

walk-up, and the woman, Meg (Debra De Liso), who moves in across the

hall. Franois-Pierre Couture's set shows the hallway with

its grimy tile floor and slats emerging through the edges of the cement

walls, offering an intersection of realism and surrealism that will

play itself out in the drama -- nicely aided by Christopher Ash's

lighting schema. If you recall Bernard Slade's comedy, Same Time, Next Year

about an adulterous affair that is sliced into scenes occurring at

regular intervals through the decades -- as the culture ages along with

the characters -- that's pretty much the template here. Sound designer

John Zalewski serves up a soundscape of scene transitions that will

stir any number of associations in people who have lived through them

-- the McCarthy hearings, news reports of the unfolding details of the

JFK assassination, Nixon's resignation, Ronald Reagan's speech

celebrating the continuity of our political process as the Carter

administration handed over the reins of power. Dave is a Jewish

anarchist who, in one scene, draws the attention of the FBI

(Christopher Fairbanks), when he harbors a Black Panther Party member

accused of shooting a police officer. Dave's is a sort of attraction of

opposites to Meg, a lapsed Irish Catholic. The drama has far more

literary and political resonance than dramatic momentum, largely

because -- with the exception of the FBI raid, when the characters must

decide something in the moment -- director Freed isn't entirely

successful in drawing out the emotional tugs and pulls that lie beneath

his very intelligent, often snappy and largely reflective dialogue,

which says that this politically charged and appealingly smart couple

have a deeply abiding love; I just got the sense that they were very

friendly neighbors who enjoyed talking about politics. When Meg turns

86, a couple of hours after we saw her as a late-20-something, it's

more than evident that time is the protagonist here, and we're seeing

the aging of the progressive wing. I just wish that the romance were as

persuasive as the history is poignant. Produced by Latino Theater

Company. (Steven Leigh Morris). Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S.

Spring St., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3

p.m.; thru June 13. (213) 489-0994.

GO PALOMINO The title of writer-performer-director

David Cale's solo performance about -- among other people -- a

horse-drawn carriage driver in Manhattan may refer to the breed of

horse that the womanizing driver, named Kieren, is steering. But the

story he unfurls could just as easily be called Cougars. The

30-year-old Irish protagonist begins with a reference to his 1940s

"come fly with me" fedora, boasting that it all starts with the hat.

The man he's filling in for will later hear that reference in a written

memoir penned by Kieren, and describe the author as an "asshole." And

he's sort of right, but that certainly doesn't make Kieren's story any

less engaging. Kieren tells of being approached by a woman named

Marsha, who has a business proposition, for giving a "good time" to

some female friends of hers, and he certainly gives them a ride. Cale

is an unprepossessing yet hypnotic storyteller with a bald pate and

slender build that belies the physical attraction his clients see in

him. Yet when he leaves Kieren behind, and retells the story from the

points of view of the various women whom Kieren seduces, with all their

potent observations of his charisma, his sexual style, as well as his

romantic inadequacies, the event isn't so much about any one character

as it is about a world that's conjured in slices, and how the story is

a slow reveal of an ever-more expansive world. This is, in some way, a

one-man variation of Brian Friel's Faith Healer, somehow blended into Lady Chatterley's Lover.

The piece constantly evokes the knot of romance and lust and commerce

that are infinitely fascinating and impossible to untangle. Jason H.

Thompson's projections are just perfect in their subtlety, offering a

sense of place by being literary rather than literal, which matches

many of the subtly embedded images in Cale's story. One recurring motif

is a bird -- one in a painting that's gifted to Kieren, which he later

tries to sell; another is a pigeon, captured in Thompson's projection

in flight. Not only does the literary/visual image have inexplicable

beauty, but it's an emblem for the state of being embodied in all of

Cale's characters, and an image for how we all push through life, on a

wing and prayer so to speak, with the help and hindrance of the winds.

Center Theatre Group. (Steven Leigh Morris). Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820

Washington Blvd., Culver City; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8

p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru June 6. (213) 628-2772.

NEW REVIEW GO ROAD TO SAIGON You don't need

to be a devotee of theater lore to enjoy director Jon Lawrence Rivera's

assemblage of show tunes, pop standards and showbiz anecdotes. (But it

helps.) You don't even need to be familiar with songs from the

blockbuster musical, Miss Saigon, the source of the evening's theme and

reminiscences. (Because none are present.) All you need is an

appreciation of big talents, and Rivera has gathered three of the

biggest. Besides being Filipino-American actresses, Joan Almedilla,

Jennifer Paz and Jenni Selma all cut their musical-theater teeth

playing Miss Saigon's tragic heroine, Kim, on Broadway or in a national

touring company. Their memories of winning the coveted role become the

"book" for what Rivera clearly hoped would have the appeal of a

real-life A Chorus Line. And while the results feel more like

a talky cabaret revue, what's not to like about a trio of powerhouse

singers belting out beloved Broadway favorites under Nathan Wang's

rousing musical direction (musical staging by Kay Cole). Almedilla's

soulful covers of Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind" and Burt

Bacharach and Hal David's "I Say a Little Prayer" are sensational; Paz

proves her mettle on comedy numbers like "Here I Am" from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and "In Short," from the musical Edges; and Selma sizzles on inspirational anthems like "Don't Rain on My Parade" from Funny Girl,

and Chaka Khan's "Through the Fire," as well as more wistful ballads

like the Kelly Clarkson hit, "Beautiful Disaster." East West Players at

the David Henry Hwang Theater, 120 Judge John Aiso St., Little Tokyo;

Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 13. (213) 625-7000. (Bill

Raden)

SOUTH

PACIFIC The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, presented by Lincoln

Center Theater. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Fri.,

8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru July 17.

(213) 628-2772.

THE VAULT Latino Theater Company presents a cabaret-style show for

the 21st century. Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A.;

Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; thru June 12. (213)

489-0994.

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

BEHIND THE GATES Annika Marks delivers a mesmerizing performance as

an angry American teenager whose exposure to an ultra-orthodox Jewish

sect in Israel revolutionizes her life. A crack baby who grows into a

problem child, the 17-year-old punkish Bethany (Marks) harbors venomous

rage toward her adoptive middle-class parents. Unable to cope, they

ship her off to an Israeli boarding school for girls, where they hope

she'll absorb some modesty and discipline. One day, wandering the

Jerusalem streets, Bethany encounters a rabbi (Oren Rehany) from the

fundamentalist Haredi community; he invites her home for Shabbas

dinner. The susceptible girl is struck by the seeming harmony within

his family; later, she undergoes a ritualistic conversion and joins

their sect. All this emerges at the top of playwright Wendy Graf's

discrepant drama: The central character turns out not to be Bethany but

her mother, Susan (Keliher Walsh), whose psyche radically transforms as

she searches for her lost daughter within the strangulating confines of

the Haredi ghetto. Directed by David Gautraux, the play deals with the

spell ancient Jerusalem casts on some; most fascinating is the glimpse

it offers into a cultish antifeminist society -- measuring its values

against the strengths and weaknesses of our own. Unfortunately, these

thematic virtues are undermined by a soap-operatic element that plays

out around Susan's marital problems and her personal insecurities.

Walsh offers a sensitive portrayal, but other performances are weaker

and less nuanced. Ultimately, the narrative never recoups its initial

power, despite Walsh's efforts. (Deborah Klugman). Lee Strasberg

Institute, 7936 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

p.m.; thru June 27. (323) 960- 5772.

BORN TO BE ALIVE "Diminutive actress/writer/burlesque

artist/stand-up comic/fashion model/activist" Selene Luna stars in the

story of her life. L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, Davidson/Valentini

Theatre, 1125 N. McCadden Pl., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.;

thru June 27. (323) 860-7302.

BROOKLYN, USA A true story based on real events of Murder

Incorporated, the enforcement arm of America's crime syndicate. Write

Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 31.

(323) 469-3113.

CANNIBALS From the endless material regarding the dreams and

disappointments of stardom comes this comedy by veteran TV scribe R.J.

Colleary about trying to survive in Hollywood. "I act, therefore, I

am," is the motto of the United State of Actresses -- a quartet of

40-something thespians who gather weekly to salve their delicate egos

and share stories about dwindling job prospects. Mo (Amy K. Murray) is

a plus-size mother of three; Elizabeth (Jackie Debatin) is a half-glam,

owner-operator of a school for child actors; Linda (Caryn Richman) is a

married woman who can't give up the dream; the mouthy Carole (Dale

Dickey) keeps finely tuned on antidepressants. The toxic admixture of

personalities is good for laughs but doesn't quite offset the play's

lack of action, leading to tedious stretches. A ray of light emerges

when a "notable" director (Ray Abruzzo) taps the gals for a

documentary, but the project is threatened when he brings his

accomplished wife (the stellar Robin Riker) along, and investors insist

on the participation of a younger actress (Brittany Ross). The

saccharine finale holds no surprises. The cast is uniformly fine under

Kathleen Rubin's direction. (Lovell Estell III). Zephyr Theater, 7456

Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru June 6. (323)

960-7745.

CARMEN MIRANDA: THE LADY IN THE TUTTI FRUTTI HAT World-premiere

musical tribute to the Brazilian film icon. Hudson Backstage Theatre,

6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru

June 27, plays411.com/carmen. (323) 960-7740.

NEW REVIEW CHASING MONSTERS

Stage Raw: Lease Subsidy Program Gets Another Lease

Photo by Armando Molina

The eruption of

laughter that opens Gabriel Gomez's drama is one of the few light

moments in what is otherwise a relentlessly bleak tale. Dominic

(Richard Azurdia) is celebrating his pending nuptials at his favorite

bar with his friend Sandra (Deborah Geer), anticipating a happy future.

In the next scene, with a vicious, alcohol fueled argument between

Dominic and his bride-to-be Amy (Carolyn Zeller), the bottom drops out

of the future, and the play. Utilizing an overlay of dreamy flashbacks,

Gomez attempts to provide context to this story of generational family

dysfunction. We learn of Dominic's early dependency on alcohol, his

conflicted relationship with his emotionally unstable mother Vanessa

(Monica Sanchez) and brother (Xavi Moreno), and his confusion and rage

toward his absentee father. Gomez and director Armando Molina show us

what lies behind this family's torments, but fails to eloquently or

convincingly probe underlying causes that address the "why." More

importantly, he fails to establish emotionally vibrant, credible

connections between these characters, which makes empathy next to

impossible. Dominic becomes nothing more than a hard-luck, loser drunk,

and everyone else just people plagued by nasty problems. Things turn

painfully melodramatic after one character's terminal medical

prognosis, transforming the play into a lugubrious vigil. There's no

argument with the performances, which are uniformly good. Rounding out

the cast is Natalya Oliver. Company of Angels at Son of Semele Theater,

3301 Beverly Blvd.; Los Angeles; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m., thru

June. 13. http://www.SonOfSemele.org (Lovell Estell III)

THE

CHERRY ORCHARD Oasis Theater Company presents Chekhov's classic,

produced as an interactive theater piece at a private home. Private

Residence, 1417 Ridge Way, L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 6 p.m.; thru

June 20, brownpapertickets.com. (800) 838-3006.

THE DEVIL'S EYE Even among avowed Bergman-philes, the late Swedish

auteur's 1960 film, The Devil's Eye, is considered a middling effort, a

footnote, really, to a financing deal for Virgin Spring

(1960), which required him to deliver a comedy in addition to the

austere, medieval morality tale he wanted to make. While the movie is

deceptively theatrical, it must have been an act of sheer hubris that

led director Michael Moon to separate even a minor Bergman script

(translated by Moon and Anna Lerbom) from the eloquence of the

maestro's cinematic mise-en-scéne for the Demon Theater's inaugural

production. The result is an occasionally amusing though oddly flat,

pseudo-Shavian story about the confrontation between innocence and

worldliness. Tormented by the impending marriage of a chaste minister's

daughter (Lerbom), Satan (a Broderick Crawford-like Craig Patton) sends

Don Juan (Dave Buzzotta) and his manservant, Pablo (Omar Leyva), back

to Earth to claim the country maiden's virginity. Juan sets about

seducing the girl by using sophisticated wiles, as Pablo makes a more

direct assault on the marital fidelity of the minister's disaffected

wife (Jolene Adams). While virtue eventually triumphs, albeit in ironic

ways, it is no thanks to Moon's anemic staging and an almost

cripplingly indifferent production design (Lerbom's bedroomless,

bedroom-farce set, Matt Richter's problem-plagued lights). Inspired

comic turns by John Combs as the simpleminded father and Ebb Miller as

a mincing, Edward Everett Horton-esque demon aren't enough to salvage

this fundamentally misguided endeavor. A Demon Theater Production.

(Bill Raden). Arena Stage at Theater of Arts (formerly the Egyptian

Arena Theater), 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru

June 12. (323) 960-7863.

DISILLUSIONED: CONFESSIONS OF A SERIAL MAGICIAN Matt Marcy has been

entertaining people with his trademark blend of comedy and magic for

decades. He showcases his skills in this 90-minute production, which

features some amazing feats. Marcy's charm and wit are matched by his

self-effacing humor. If you think you've seen card tricks, you're in

for a few surprises. Early on he performs what he calls "the world's

simplest card trick," which will leave you scratching your head in

wonder. Ditto for the trick he performs at show's end, with a sword he

fashions from a balloon, then uses to cut an apple in half and spear a

card from a deck thrown into the air -- which happens to be the exact

one selected by an audience member minutes into the show. Marcy also

gives us a brief, sketchy account of his life, touching upon his

childhood in Santa Monica, high school crushes and antics, and his

early years as an amateur magician. He and director Nicole Blaine

aren't nearly as effective here, as many of these narrative digressive

segments are gratuitously silly; they also rely too heavily on video

media. But these shortcomings pale in comparison to Marcy's

mind-blowing sleights of hand. Jules Hartley is equally engaging as

Marcy's assistant. (Lovell Estell III). Imagined Life Theater, 5615 San

Vicente Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June 19. (800) 838-3006.

AN EVENING WITH ELEANOR, THE TOUR WHORE Rich Fulcher's one-(wo)man

show. See GoLA., $15. The Cinefamily, 611 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.;

Through June 4, 8 p.m.. (323) 655-2510.

FORBIDDEN ZONE: LIVE IN THE 6TH DIMENSION "What was banal can, with

the passage of time, become fantastic," Susan Sontag famously noted. At

least such is the hope of adaptor Michael Holmes and director Scott

Leggett in their anarchic musical tribute to film director Richard

Elfman and composer Danny Elfman's failed, 1980 dadaist sci-fi fantasy,

Forbidden Zone. A crude, lewd and urgently outré attempt at a

John Waters-like burlesque of middle-class mores, the movie stands as

an exercise in clownish impudence; its story of a Venice Beach family's

adventure in a bizarre, Alice in Wonderland dimension they

enter via a portal in their basement, is almost beside the point.

Holmes happily excises some of Elfman's more gratuitous racial and

anti-Semitic caricatures while contributing judicious narrative tweaks,

primarily in expanding the character of Satan (a leering Marz Richards)

into a lipsticked, vamping, Tim Curry-esque narrator/emcee. Leggett and

his talented production-design team provide the polish, including the

glam dazzle of Wes Crain's costumes and Kat Bardot's makeup, and the

cartoon razzle of Tifanie McQueen's scatological set. The pleasure

comes courtesy of musical director Ryan Johnson and his 14-piece band,

Natasha Norman's Max Fleischer-inspired choreography, and an

enthusiastic cast that sings and dances the collection of mainly

early-20th century pop tunes only lip-synched in the movie (Bryan

Krasner's rendition of the Yiddish Theater classic, "Giter Brider Itzik,

is a standout). The problem is in Holmes' cultist fidelity to his

source, which carries over into Elfman's sneering contempt for his

characters, thus robbing the show of the heart and pathos it so

desperately needs. (Bill Raden). Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N.

Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., June 13, 7 p.m.; Sun.,

June 20, 7 p.m.; thru June 26. (310) 281-8337.

FACEBOOK $5. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Wed., 9:30 p.m.. (323) 908-8702.

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). Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd.,

L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru June 13. (323) 422-6361.

GROUNDLIGS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT In a departure from the

Groundlings' trademark irreverent, take-no-prisoner sketch comedy that

made laughing as involuntary as breathing, this new show, directed by

Karen Maruyama, is distinctly low-key and only funny in patches. The

evening's biggest disappointment were the two improv segments that

bracket the show, where comedians do routines based on audience

suggestions. The absence of ease, craft and imagination was palpable.

These failings were apparent in other sketch routines as well.

"Caltech" has a crew of seismic scientists engaging in silly

wisecracking and a overwrought spate of physical comedy and demolition

derby with their chairs. "Next Step" finds Charlotte Newhouse and Scott

Beehner as teenagers trying to get their sexual desires in sync, but

there isn't much wit. A husband becomes vexed trying to relate to his

wife in "I'm Listening," which is equally unfunny. "Concert Footage" is

a pleasant surprise. After a Taylor Swift concert, Damon Jones playing

a P.R. guy interviews and coolly insults members of the audience.

Michael Naughton is still one of the funniest guys around, and his

talents are evident in "Mirror Image," where a special software program

allows you a glimpse of what you'll look like in the future, and

"Animal Stars," where he is one of a pair of animal trainers. (Lovell

Estell III). Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.;

Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; thru July 10. (323) 934-9700.

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.

HARLOW GOLD: EAST "Sexy, witty and gritty" cabaret created by

choreographers Dominic Carbone and Tracy Phillips., $10-$25. The

Bordello, 901 E. First St., L.A.; Sun., 10 p.m.. (213) 687-3766.

IT'S A MUSICAL WORLD Bob Baker's 1978 marionette revue, with stops

at an Enchanted Toy Shop, a teddy bear's picnic, and an Independence

Day finale. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., L.A.;

Tues.-Fri., 10:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru July 11. (213)

250-9995.

KEEP IT CLEAN Comedy Hosted by JC Coccoli., free. 1739 Public House,

1739 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Mon., 9:30 p.m.. (323) 663-1739.

THE KING OF THE DESERT Solo performer Rene Rivera delivers an

energetic performance in this quasi-biographical work about a

Mexican-American boy from the barrio who defies low cultural

expectations to become a professional actor. Written by Stacey Martino,

the piece derives its title from tales of Rivera's father, about their

people's rich cultural heritage -- stories that filtered into the boy's

imagination to become part of his identity, along with the more raw

experiences of violence, racial prejudice and domestic strife that

shaped his everyday life. Eventually the narrative travels to New York

(later Hollywood), where Rivera's alter ego awakens to a broader

landscape that includes women, drugs and alcohol. Directed by Valentino

Ferreira, the densely layered chronicle moves at a swift pace that

later becomes hypersonic, with few quiet moments to set off the

increasing number of melodramatic highlights that culminate in a rather

conventional declaration of personal pride and acceptance. Throughout,

Rivera undertakes all roles with professional adeptness and the vocal

power of a trained actor. What's missing, paradoxically, is the sense

of a vital connection between this performer and the experiences he is

relaying -- a disconnect that detracts from the play's emotional punch.

Constrained by limited resources, designer Tony Sanders' lighting fails

to underscore the numerous transitions of time and place, and set

designer Danuta Tomzynski's backdrop is also something of a cluttered

distraction; this piece might more effectively play on a barer stage. A

CoActive Content Production. (Deborah Klugman). El Centro Theatre, 804

N. El Centro Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; thru June 11. (323)

960-5774.

GO L.A. NOIR UNSCRIPTED After years of perfecting

their sharply honed craft of improvising parodies of highbrow masters

such as Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Stephen Sondheim, Impro Theatre

decides to slack off a bit with this less demanding satire of film

noir. A lot of wordy, mixed metaphors, some cheesy suspense music, a

few light gobos representing the shadows of Venetian blinds and voilá:

Sam Spade and gang of hard-boiled cynics are ready to roll. Well the

gambit worked, the easy clichés and furtive looks of the genre flow out

of these improvisers so fast and with such surety that they barely have

time to listen to each other before letting the next hilarious banality

fly. Actually this opening night the folks did get a bit sloppy in

their listening -- especially to names -- but their caricatures and

situations were so fun that no one was keeping track of improv rules.

Company artistic director Dan O'Connor is in his element as the bitter

detective, Edi Patterson looks perfectly askance as the sardonic

beauty, and Lisa Fredrickson is delightful as an over-the-hill movie

star; you may never see them in these specific characters, but you will

see them at their comic best. (Tom Provenzano). Theatre Asylum, 6320

Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June

13, plays411.com/lanoirunscripted. (323) 401-9793.

GO LIFE COULD BE A DREAM This affectionate doo-wop jukebox musical by writer-director Roger Bean (The Marvelous Wonderettes),

with clever choreography by Lee Martino, handsome set by Tom Buderwitz,

and spectacular lighting by Luke Moyer, is designed to incorporate hit

songs of the 1960s, ranging from the goofy "Sh Boom" and "Rama Lama

Ding Dong" to anthems like "Earth Angel," "Unchained Melody," "The

Great Pretender," and "The Glory of Love." In small-town Springfield,

the local radio station is sponsoring a rock-and-roll contest, and

go-getter Denny (Daniel Tatar) is convinced he can win and become a

star. He enlists his klutzy, nerdish, endearing friend Eugene (Jim

Holdridge) and church-choir singer Wally (Ryan Castellino) to join him.

Needing a sponsor to provide the $50 entrance fee for the contest, they

apply to the proprietor of the local auto chain. He sends his top

mechanic, handsome, hunky Skip (Doug Carpenter), and his pretty

daughter Lois (Jessica Keenan Wynn), to audition the guys, and by the

end they're incorporated in the new group, Denny and the Dreamers. This

is pure fluff, and the terrific ensemble makes every note count in this

rousing good-time musical. (Neal Weaver). Hudson Mainstage Theatre,

6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8

p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru June 20. (323) 960-4412.

THE LOST TOMB OF KING SUNDAY All-new sketch and improv, directed by

Karen Maruyama. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30

p.m.. (323) 934-9700.

MAN VERSES MOON In a theater, a playwright-director named Federico

Lorca (Adrian Kaley) is trying to work actors through an interpretation

of a play that looks very much like Blood Wedding, while

being warned that soldiers are poised to arrest him as a dissident.

This theater is no haven. And writer-director Dan Oliverio's collage of

Lorca's play, his poems, classical mythology and homegrown surrealism

sends Lorca and his company into netherworlds and moonscapes. The

"theater" itself is claustrophobic and barren -- compared to when the

set's "walls" roll away to reveal a dreamscape of cascading sheets and

kaleidoscopic lighting. Designer Chris Covics employs rigs and pulleys

and actors to move drapery and flats into some scintillating

compositions. And Dan Mailley's costumes -- grounded in the 1930s but

also taking off into flights of fancy -- front-load the event with

exotic appeal. This is conspicuously a labor of love on Oliverio's

part, an homage to Lorca and the various agonies he suffered --

including what's generally believed to be his execution at the

beginning of the Spanish Civil War. But the portrait and the purpose

are lost in the coming together of texts and styles, so that the result

is less an understanding than a feeling: one of lunacy (to borrow from

the play's dominant image of the moon) that's nonetheless locked in one

of the prisons of 1930s Spain. The event presumes a depth of knowledge

that would be better teased out in the piece itself. The kind of

romantic/surreal horrors Lorca wrote about are no strangers to our

century. What's so odd about this production is that they appear to

belong to place and time far away and long ago. (Steven Leigh Morris).

Unknown Theater, 1110 N. Seward St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6

p.m.; thru June 20. (323) 466-7781.

GO MORE LIES ABOUT JERZY This West Coast premiere

of David Holmes' fascinating drama about whether truth lies in facts or

in fiction hangs on the title performance of Jack Stehlin as Jerzy

Lesnewski -- obviously based on the late Polish novelist-screenwriter

Jerzy Kosinski, and the scandals surrounding what he eventually claimed

was his fictional Holocaust memoir, The Painted Bird. Either

by omission or design, Kosinski neglected to clarify at the outset that

the memoir was anything but autobiography -- until, according to

Holmes, Poles from his past (Jordan Lund and Cameron Meyer) showed up

in New York, peeved that the famous author was discrediting the very

people who had protected young Jewish Jerzy from the Nazis. Aside from

a swirl of wives and mistresses (Meyer and Kristin Malko) orbiting the

womanizing author, the play drives along the investigation by

journalist Arthur Bausley (Adam Stein) -- once a fan and eventually an

investigator -- clearly troubled by Jerzy's continuing penchant to play

fast and loose with the facts. They won't ask if he lying, Arthur goads

him, They're only going to ask why is he lying. Holmes plays just as

nimbly with the facts as Kozinski did, which would be an affront if

Holmes were really out to discredit his protagonist, as the Village Voice did in 1982. (That discrediting is a central issue in the play, which anachronistically unfolds between 1972 and 1974.) In the Voice,

Geoffrey Stokes and Eliot Fremont-Smith published an article accusing

the five-time best-selling author not only of having denied

co-authorship or editor credit to the English "translators," who may

have actually written The Painted Bird, based on Kozinski writings in Polish, but they also claimed that Kozinski plagiarized his short story (made into film), Being There, from 1932 Polish best seller The Career of Nicodemus Dyzma

-- which few people outside Poland knew about. Holmes' Jerzy has a

potent defense and an almost tragic downfall -- made all the more so by

Stehlin's gregarious, petulant and charismatic interpretation, with

just the right tinge of Polish dialect. Argues Jerzy: Truth does not

lie in facts but in symbols and myths and legends -- an argument he

could have lifted from W.B. Yeats, who said much the same. Holmes'

journalist tries to psychoanalyze why Jerzy would make stuff up so

habitually -- perhaps a war trauma or something -- and Jerzy ridicules

that process as petty psychoanalysis. The degree to which Jerzy may be

right is the degree to which this play gets very interesting, veering

from its dangerous trajectory of celebrity bashing. David Trainer

directs an efficient production with enough momentum to compensate for

its tangled relationships. But it's the play, and Stehlin, that are

stage center. And speaking of truth, they probably shouldn't clink

those plastic champagne tumblers when toasting. That rings even less

true than many of Jerzy's excuses. (Steven Leigh Morris). Hayworth

Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June 26. (213)

389-9860.

OJALA Jennifer Barry's play about a young, Mexican nanny (Claudia

Duran) in 1960s Los Angeles helping a young affluent white woman

(Lindsay Lane) care for her accidental child is best when it gets away

from its cliché beats and delves into the fragile relationship between

its two protagonists. A standout performance from Duran urges the play

toward this, and Elizabeth Otero de Espinoza's direction favors the

scenes of intimacy between employer and employee. But the plot

definitely works against this, pushing the story toward disappointing

melodrama. And Barry steps conveniently around the language-barrier

issue, which could have helped layer the class tension supposedly at

the center of this piece. The play's most beautiful moment is an

interstitial that features three Mexican maids engaged in their

repetitive domestic labor while one of them sings a doleful song in

Spanish. If only the rest of the play could have been consistently as

conscious of its theme. (Luis Reyes). Casa 0101, 2009 E. First St.,

L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru June 6. (323) 263-7684.

GO POINT BREAK LIVE! Jaime Keeling's merciless

skewering of the 1991 hyper-action flick starring Keanu Reeves and Gary

Busey is loaded with laughs, as well as surprises, like picking an

audience member to play Reeves' role of Special Agent Johnny Utah. It's

damn good fun, cleverly staged by directors Eve Hars, Thomas Blake and

George Spielvogel. (LE3). Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.;

Fri., 8:30 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.. (866) 811-4111.

SERIAL KILLERS - THE PLAYOFFS! Eight serials face off, with a time

limit of five minutes each, and only two will be chosen, by your vote,

to continue. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Sat.,

11 p.m.; thru June 26. (310) 281-8337.

SEX, RELATIONSHIPS, AND SOMETIMES . . . LOVE 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.

SMALL CRAFT WARNINGS Tennessee Williams' story of a community of

Southern California outsiders. Fiesta Hall, 1200 N. Vista St., West

Hollywood; Sun., 2 p.m.; Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 7:30 p.m.; thru

June 12. (800) 838-8006.

SODA POP 1950s musical comedy spoof by The Knightsbridge Theatre's

Youth Company. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 27. (323) 667-0955.

SPIKE HEELS Theresa Rebeck's four-sided love triangle.". Theatre 68,

5419 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru June 27,

facebook.com/spikeheels. (323) 467-6688.

GO SUPERNOVA Mabel (Bonnie Hunt), a naive Des

Moines housewife, calls a graveyard-shift salesman named Joe in Los

Angeles (Timothy McNeil), to order an expensive watch for her son's

18th birthday. She can't yet go through with the purchase -- her

loutish husband (Tony Gatto) says the boy (Edward Tournier) doesn't

deserve it, and once we meet him, we agree. But these two strangers

both have a black hole of loneliness, and she keeps calling Joe back

until both allow themselves a sharp sliver of hope that they might

still redeem the mess they've made of their lives. McNeil's play flags

under slow plotting, but he has a merciless, intuitive ear for how

bullies manipulate their prey. In nearly every scene, Gatto, Tournier

and a sales boss played by Micah Cohen (alternating the role with James

Pippi) destroy these two secret sweethearts, as well as Mabel's

divorce neighbor Gina Garrison, who's insecure enough to

start her own secret affair with the teen. These three villains are so

terribly good, it's a miracle that a rattled audience member hasn't

slashed the actors' tires during intermission. And when Mabel and Joe

cling to each other on the phone, we're happy they're happy. Director

Lindsay Allbaugh's fantastic ensemble sells us on each individual

scene, even if the play as a whole doesn't add up to more then some

well-acted catharses. Kelly Elizabeth and Joe Wiebe join in for the

furious climax as two fellow high schoolers who bear witness to what

even the adamantly optimistic Mabel admits is the world's worst

birthday party. (Amy Nicholson). Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa

Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru June 20.

(323) 962-0046.

THE TOMORROW SHOW Late-night variety show created by Craig Anton,

Ron Lynch and Brendon Small. Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for

Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Sat., midnight. (323)

960-7785.

NEW REVIEW GO TRACERS

Stage Raw: Lease Subsidy Program Gets Another Lease

Photo courtesy of the Loft Ensemble

Thirty years after its Los Angeles debut, writer John DiFusco's

anti-war drama retains its relevance and power. Written collaboratively

in the 1970s by DiFusco and seven other Vietnam vets, and directed by

Christina Howard with insight and skill, it portrays the trauma of

young military recruits plucked from mainstream American life and

thrust -- inadequately trained and poorly equipped -- into the

nightmare of combat. Howard, displaying a metaphysical perspective,

stages the production on a deep cavernous proscenium. Prior to curtain,

an intense, almost suffocating, scent of incense permeates the theater;

meanwhile, for perhaps 20 minutes, the six "trainees" jog in military

unison, the rhythms of their booted tread being ominous and haunting.

When at last the performers do, individually, speak, it's in a darkness

resourcefully illuminated by handheld flashlights; indeed, throughout

the play, the lighting design (consultant Tiger Reel) registers as a

quintessential element of the spectacle. The talents of Howard's adept

ensemble collectively emerge in a sequence depicting the recruits'

initial training under the command of an abusive drill sergeant (the

terrific Tucker Smallwood) who addresses them as "maggots" while

forcing them to undergo arbitrary punitive discipline. Once in Vietnam,

the men medicate their brutalized psyches with dope, alcohol and

infantile horseplay -- understandable given their tasks, which include

sorting through body parts to try to match limbs with torsos. While not

every component of this production is unimpeachable -- the sound design

(Howard) and vocal soundtrack, effective in part, can be intrusive --

the imaginative production is compelling. Loft Ensemble at L.A. Fringe

Theatre, 929 E. Second St., Studio 105, L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6

p.m.; thru June 27, LOFTensemble.com. (213) 680-0392. A (Deborah

Klugman)

WHAT'S

UP, TIGER LILY? Maria Bamford and Melinda Hill bring excellent standups

every week -- really, like Blaine Capatch, Patton Oswalt, Matt Besser

-- you get the idea., free. Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill, 6122

Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Mon., 8 p.m.. (323) 466-9917.

GO THE WOMEN OF BREWSTER PLACE In its many

incarnations, Gloria Naylor's episodic novel about struggle and triumph

among a disparate group of African-American women in a dilapidated

urban project anywhere in the country, circa 1975, offers moving,

character-driven drama, comedy and social commentary. Tim Acito's

musical adaptation captures much of Naylor's storytelling brilliance

through his series of mostly solo songs. These explore the women's

individual lives in a structure that resembles Studs Terkel's musical, Working.

The stories ultimately meet, as the women turn to one another both in

anger and for support. Acito eschews the temptation to pigeonhole the

music into 1975 black genres, instead allowing such rhythms to infuse

his more classical 20th-century musical-theater styles. The result is a

stirring hybrid of emotionally charged and simply fun songs that give

the extraordinary cast of singer-actors exciting material to perform.

Musical director Gregory Nabours works expertly with the strong cast,

as he does with his skilled musicians, to create a production of

immense scale in this tiny venue. Scenic designer Kurt Boetcher offers

just enough set to suggest the slum conditions but stays out of the way

of the actorsm and it's all nicely supported by Naila Aladdin Sanders'

delightful costume design. (Tom Provenzano). Celebration Theatre,

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

thru June 27. (323) 957-1884.

THE WOMEN OF JUAREZ Grupo de Teatro Sinergia presents Ruben

Amavizca-Murua's story of murder and corruption. Frida Kahlo Theater,

2332 W. Fourth St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru June 6.

(213) 382-8133.

YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL Twelve plays by American teenagers.

Schedule at youngplaywrights.com. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood

Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 27, . (323)

661-9827.

ZOMBIENCE! An Improvised Zombie Musical Directed by Patrick Bristow

and Jayne Entwistle. Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, L.A.; Thurs., 8

p.m.; thru June 10...

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IM THE VALLEYS

BARELY A BEAR A children's play about a bear cub raised by humans

and a girl raised by bears who team up to save the forest from

developers. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood;

Sat., 2 p.m.; thru June 26. (877) 620-7673.

BOOM An underground lab, a central fish tank and an adjoining

control booth with a timpani (meticulously designed by Kurt Boetcher)

provide the setting for Julia Duffy's silent entrance in the L.A.

premiere of Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's play. Duffy arrives filled with a

sense of exasperated sarcasm as she peeks at the audience and then

begins to manipulate computers, operate switches and pound on the drum.

It is soon apparent that she is a godlike figure controlling the

actions of a young biologist (Nick Cernoch) and the woman (Megan

Goodchild) he lures to his lab through a sexual-encounter ad. She is

naturally surprised when he announces his homosexuality, and doubtful

as he predicts a worldwide catastrophe. Duffy then prevents any escape

from this lunatic situation. The mood and situation quickly darken, as

the nonsexual relationship deteriorates, but there is always a sense of

sly comedy, and irony ultimately wins out in what is essentially an

unsatisfying 90-minute sketch in the vein of The Twilight Zone.

Still, the appeal and skills of the three actors under Dámaso

Rodriguez's airtight direction create such an enjoyable theatrical

evening, one might even forgive the script's many, probably purposeful

holes. Furious Theatre Company. (Tom Provenzano). Pasadena Playhouse,

39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.;

thru June 20. (626) 356-PLAY.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST Oscar Wilde's early experiment in

Victorian melodrama; part satire, part comedy of manners and part

intellectual farce. Westchester Playhouse, 8301 Hindry Ave., L.A.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June 12. (310) 645-5156.

IT'S JUST SEX Jeff Gould's comedy takes the underpinnings of sexual

fantasy, fidelity and money and puts all of those nuances onstage in a

contemporary comedy about three married couples. The wife-swapping plot

is straight out of Hugh Hefner's pad, circa 1975. That the play

resonates today, in the ashes of the sexual revolution, is one

indication of how little has changed, despite how much has changed.

(Steven Leigh Morris). Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio

City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (818) 762-2272.

MADAGASCAR J.T. Rogers' story of three Americans -- at three

different times -- who find themselves alone, in the same hotel room

overlooking the Spanish Steps in Rome. With Rogers' White People. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June 26...

ll)

NEW REVIEW THE MAIDS

Stage Raw: Lease Subsidy Program Gets Another Lease

Photo by Armina LaManna

French poet,

playwright, novelist and thief Jean Genet, dubbed a criminal/saint by

Jean-Paul Sartre, was an eternal outsider who embraced themes of

oppression, betrayal, transgression, and opposition to accepted social

values. Here, he tells the bizarre tale of two sisters, Solange (Rachel

Kanouse) and Claire (Nicole Erb) who are employed by Madame (Meagan

English) as maid-servants. Corroded with self-loathing, they bitterly

resent their menial existence, and become enmeshed in an intense

love/hate relationship with each other and with their employer, whom

they hate, envy, adore, and fantasize about murdering. They have

already, via an anonymous letter, sent Madame's lover to jail, and

whenever she is out, they act out sadistic fantasies of murder and

rebellion. Inevitably the end-game is lethal. Director Armina LaManna

begins the piece with Edith Piaf recordings and a choreographic

interlude that establishes the perverse erotic bond between the

sisters. The actors skillfully and meticulously navigate the shoals of

shifting fantasy and reality. J.C. Gafford provides a handsomely

baroque set, all red velvet, flowers, and ornate porcelain. And Rachel

Sachar designed the costumes, which cleverly dress the sisters in

positive and negative variations on the same uniform. However, Genet is

so subjective and personal that there are no apertures the mind can

slip in through. The Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon

Boulevard, Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m., and

Thursdays June 17 & 24, 8 p.m., through June 27. (818) 508-3003 or

http://www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org (Neal Weaver)

THE

RAINMAKER The N. Richard Nash romantic comedy following a rural farm

family during a drought. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre

Blvd., Sierra Madre; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June 5. (626) 256-3809.

NEW REVIEW ROCKIN' WITH THE AGES II

Stage Raw: Lease Subsidy Program Gets Another Lease

Photo courtesy of The Whitefire Theatre

Considering

the paucity of employment opportunities for older performers, it's not

surprising that they should band together to create their own show,

cast entirely with singers and dancers over the age of 60. Most

performers are eager for love and approval, but when it becomes too

obvious, as it does here, it gets embarrassing. They've put together a

lively show, consisting largely of show tunes, plus a few evergreen

standards like "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," performed by Susan Lacroix,

Carmelita Pittman, and Bobbi Stamm, and "The Tennessee Waltz," given a

heart-felt rendition by Sue Smart. "Puttin'on the Ritz" is a lively

tap-dance number, featuring the Razzmatappers and Dennis Wickham. Raffi

Mauro provides a sweetly funny version of "Mr. Cellophane," and joins

forces with Stamm and Hallie Richman in an antic "Two Ladies," from Cabaret.

Big ensemble numbers include "Hey, Big Spender," "Money, Money," and a

raunchy "Cell Block Tango." With such a huge cast, it's impossible to

single out individual performers, but most are able and thoroughly

professional. One wishes some younger performers could see them and be

reminded that with a little old-fashioned projection, one can be heard

loud and clear without relying on body microphones. Whitefire Theatre,

13500 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., matinees

Wed., Thurs., & Sun., 2 p.m. Produced by The Pink Lady and Senior

Star Power Productions. (818) 606-6679 or

mailto:PinkLady7@earthlink.net (Neal Weaver)

NEW REVIEW SKYLIGHT

Photo by Paul Skipper

Stage Raw: Lease Subsidy Program Gets Another Lease

Along with his works Plenty and The Secret Rapture,

David Hare's 1995 drama is one of his "Big Lady" plays, in which a

strong willed female protagonist is ultimately hoisted by the petard of

her own glittering ideals. In this case, the woman in question is

sensitive Kyra (Erin Shaver), who has broken up with her former

restaurant tycoon lover Tom (Stuart W. Howard), after his wife found

out about their affair. Kyra, now punishing herself by living in a

frosty flat in an unfashionable part of London, where she ekes out a

living teaching inner city schoolkids, is unexpectedly visited by Tom,

who, now that his wife has died of cancer, is eager to rekindle their

flame. The romantic sparks start to sputter, though, when the piece

sidelines into a fiery debate about the principles and flaws of

Capitalism and Liberalism, which, frankly, is Hare's real concern. It's

possible that in a few weeks director Ken Meseroll's stodgy production

of the seething drama will gel to reflect the play's subtle emotional

shifts and nuances in a more involving way. At this point, though,

Meseroll's staging is merely workmanlike with flat line readings and

stiff blocking, while also missing the psychological edge and layering

implied by Hare's delicate, yet fiercely intelligent script. Shaver

offers a likable, if emotionally restrained turn as Kyra, while Howard

is nicely oily and pompous as Tom. However, it's hard to believe for a

moment that the pair would have had an affair. In addition, the

performers are often so hamstrung by their attempts to wrestle with the

British dialect, you almost wish they had jettisoned it entirely. Set

designer Joel Daavid crafts a beautifully detailed, warm, and intimate

living room set which nevertheless feels utterly at odds with the

frigid description of the location in the play itself. Fremont Centre

Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave, South Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3

p.m.; thru June 20. (866) 811-4111. (Paul Birchall)

SUGAR

HAPPENS A-lee Lulee Productions presents this one-girl show by Sherry

Coben and starring Rachel Bailit comedy, based on Bailit's life about a

nice Jewish girl's life choices and where they take her. Sidewalk

Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Wed., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7

p.m.; thru June 20. 800-838-3006.

TREASURE ISLAND Kids from the audience participate, playing the crew

on the ship in this version of the classic pirate tale. Sierra Madre

Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Sat., 2 p.m.; thru

June 5. (626) 256-3809.

GO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY WAY Based on a

little-known incident in L.A. history, this thriller explores the

collision of reality and fantasy as two actors juggle various roles to

entrap homosexuals for "social vagrancy" in the public restrooms of

1914 Long Beach. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 6. (626) 683-6883.

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

Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 11 p.m.. (818)

202-4120.

USS PINAFORE In addition to directing this production, Jon Mullich also did the adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta, H.M.S. Pinafore

to the Starship Enterprise. This obviously includes restringing the

lyrics and even song titles, so that "He Is an Englishman" becomes "He

Is an Earthling Man." The concept is a mash-up of Star Trek and Galaxy Quest

-- with accompanying jokes on both -- all played upon designer Tony

Potter's terrific starship brig set. The transference of Gilbert and

Sullivan's social satire into a few quips on our pop culture feels like

a reduction of scale but nothing compared to the reduction served up in

the tinny sound track. Delivering the goods with confident glee, this

excellent ensemble deserves better. In fact, this would be a sinking

ship were it not for the ensemble's charisma and the first-rate

performances and voices of some key players, including James Jaeger's

physically nimble, sonorously voiced Dick Deadeye -- imagine French

Stewart as a lizard man. Jesse Merlin's Captain Corcoran is also

magnificent, the embodiment of swagger, with facial muscles locked into

a smirk and a voice that just keeps going. Ashley Cuellar's musical

chops are similarly apparent as the Captain's daughter, Josephine. Her

stage presence is perfectly adequate, but her voice hits the moon.

(Steven Leigh Morris). Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North

Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru June 27.

1-800-838-3006.

Weird on Top Improvisational comedy by Danielle Cintron, Tiffany Cole,

Mason Hallberg, Kerr Seth Lordygan, Sarah McCann and Alex Sanborn.

Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village;

Thurs., June 10, 8 p.m.; Thurs., July 15, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Aug. 12, 8

p.m.. (818) 508-3003.

YOU'RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN Based on the "Peanuts" comic strip;

book, music and lyrics by Clark Gesner. Open Stage West, 14366 Ventura

Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., June 6, 2 p.m.; thru June

19...

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS

GO THE ARSONISTSIn Max Frisch's trenchant work of

surreal irony, which may be better known by its alternate (and perhaps

more whimsically satisfying) title, Biedermann and the Firebugs,

decent people invite evil into their homes, try to befriend it, ignore

its obvious nature -- and, by doing nothing, are ultimately complicit

in its wicked goals. When Frisch wrote the dark comedy in 1958, he was

clearly attempting to craft a metaphor for the rise of Nazis amongst

the otherwise sensible German population one to two decades prior.

Alistair Beaton's new translation amplifies certain of the text's

thematic undercurrents of moral blindness to put us in mind of the

paranoia and impotence suffusing the so-called War on Terror.

Mild-mannered hair-tonic dealer Biedermann (Norbert Weisser) has been

told to be on the lookout for a band of diabolical arsonists sweeping

through the neighborhood, setting houses ablaze. Yet, this doesn't stop

him from inviting into his home a brutish goon named Schmitz (John

Achorn), who shows up on his doorstep asking for food and lodging. We

quickly deduce that Schmitz has a certain pyromaniacal bent -- and even

Biedermann and his primly brittle, suburban wife (Beth Hogan) start to

twig that something is wrong when Schmitz and his seemingly psychotic

pal, Eisenring (Ron Bottitta), move huge barrels of fuel and bomb

detonators into their home's attic. Yet, Biedermann, complacent in his

"it can't happen to me" attitude, refuses to see what's happening right

in front of him. The performances, as well as the flames, crackle in

Ron Sossi's slyly sardonic staging -- performances that combine perfect

comic timing with dense, rich personalities. Weisser's nervous (and

increasingly delusional) Biedermann and Hogan's uptight wife are

hilarious -- but the true scene-stealers are Achorn's rubber-faced,

diabolical Schmitz and Bottitta's ghoulish Eisenring, who are

simultaneously so chillingly funny and matter of fact, you almost want

to invite them to dinner yourself, despite the potentially blazing

ramifications. Set designer Birgitte Moos' beautiful two-level set

(1950s-style living room and attic) is ingenious, while Sean Kozma's

eerie sound design adds a beautifully sinister atmosphere to the

goings-on. (Paul Birchall). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.,

L.A.; Wed., June 9, 8 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5:30 p.m.; thru

June 20. (310) 477-2055.

BACKSTREET: THE MUSICAL Playhouse Jewish Heritage Series presents

this family of Backstreet Ladies in a house of Jewish "working girls"

in the New York ghetto, circa 1905. The Other Space at Santa Monica

Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.;

thru June 20. (310) 394-9779.

CABARET The onstage and backstage action at Berlin's raunchy and

satirical Kit Kat Klub in 1931. Macgowan Little Theater, 340 Royce

Drive, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., June 5, 2 p.m.; thru June 5.

(310) 825-2101.

THE CLEAN HOUSE Sara Ruhl's theatrical and comedic play abut class and

the nature of love. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru June 16. (310)

477-2055.

HARLOW GOLD: WEST "Sexy, witty and gritty" cabaret created by

choreographers Dominic Carbone and Tracy Phillips., $10-$25.

Harvelle's, 1432 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Thurs.. (310) 395-1676.

THE ICE BREAKER David Rambo's play about a young geologist who

sparks intellectual and romantic chemistry with her reclusive mentor.

Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly

Hills; Wed.-Sun., 2 & 6 p.m.; thru June 6. (310) 364-0535.

JESSE BOY Plenty of writers have trodden down the thickets of

dysfunction, which apparently overrun the rural South (my own little

Southern hometown must be the lone exception). Certainly, there are

families with histories of secrets buried so deep you'd need a backhoe

to unearth them. But to cram a play to bursting with every last and

most lurid of them, as does Robert Mollohan, playwright and star of

this world premiere, feels like little more than shock value for the

sake of shock value. Richie (Mollohan), an Elvis impersonator/car

salesman and Abigayle (Jaimi Paige), his girlfriend/former lady of the

night, live in a state of vague dissatisfaction dotted with bouts of

uneasy peace. The tension in their trailer home is pulled

rubberband-tight by Abigayle's live-in mentally handicapped brother,

Jesse (the excellent Zach Book), Jesse's physically handicapped

stripper/babysitter Mary-Lou (Kathleen Nicole Parker), and Richie's

homeless uncle, Red (Chris Mulkey). The performances are, across the

board, as impressive and nuanced as the range of Southern accents the

cast employs. But as the second act hurriedly pulls tricks out of its

hat and as the build to the predictable climax barrels toward the

audience, the characters' emotional evolutions get lost. Richie's

chance for at least a moment of sympathy is especially squandered -- if

you're going to stack every card in the deck against a character, you

have to give the audience a reason to care much earlier than the last

15 minutes of the play. Karen Landry directs. (Rebecca Haithcoat).

Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; thru June 12. (310) 397-3244.

GO JUST 45 MINUTES 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.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru July 31. (310)

399-3666.

LONDON'S SCARS The preshow announcement in the style of the London

Underground's famous "mind the gap" admonition takes us to Thurloe

Square, the site of a recent bus bombing in the world premiere of

Richard Martin Hirsch's latest work. The bombing is discussed by

psychologists Bronwyn (Imelda Corcoran) and Margaret (Ann Noble); the

former is an art therapist and becomes saddled with Mary (Meredith

Bishop), a young woman who witnessed the tragedy and is consequently a

person of interest to MI5 field agent Dowd (Rob Nagle). In their

sessions, Mary is initially reticent, responding only with book

quotations. As Bronwyn uses art to delve into Mary's psyche, however,

Mary opens up, revealing her occupation as a call girl and her

association with Habib (Ammar Ramzi), the Pakistani man thought to be

responsible for the bombing. Hirsch's ear for the British idiom,

especially London slang, is undeniable, and his characters are

fascinating -- especially the tortured souls of Mary and Habib. However

the simmering tension Hirsch strives to build into "explosive" (sorry)

moments unfortunately lacks the requisite danger and menace to keep us

in anticipation. Director Darin Anthony employs creative staging of the

numerous flashbacks and movements in space and time, aided by Christie

Wright's nimble lighting, Stephen Gifford's flexible set, and Bill

Froggatt's soundscape of London calling. The solid cast is punctuated

by standouts Nagle, notable for his chameleonic shifts in playing two

other minor characters as well, and Bishop, whose tortured intensity is

palpable. A Coffeehouse Production. (Mayank Keshaviah). Odyssey

Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

p.m.; thru June 27. (310) 477-2055.

GO THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO Figaro (Troy Dunn) and

Suzanne (Janae Burris) are about to be wed. Figaro is valet to the

Count (David E. Frank), while Suzanne is chambermaid to the Countess

(Cynthia Mance). At play's start, Suzanne watches Figaro measuring the

proportions for a bed that's to be installed in their new quarters -

within earshot of the Count. A bit of a dolt, Figaro doesn't realize

(until Suzanne fills him in) that the closeness of the quarters to

their respective employers is actually in the service of the Count's

lechery. And so begins a series of traps to ward off the indignity of

the Count's attempted restoration of an old right called primae noctis,

in which the master of the house is entitled to deflower a bride from a

lower class before her wedding. Following the plot's intricacies is

like trying to follow the motions of moths around a lamp, though it

does sort itself out, not unlike the ribbons and bows in Josephine

Poisot's period costumes. And the new translation transfers the

subtleties of French idiom very smoothly into English -- with the added

delight of actors occasionally lip synching from excerpts of Mozart's

opera. The technique on display in Michel's production isn't yet

pristine, but on opening night, it was close enough to make its point.

The shenanigans unfold on Duncombe's production design of burgundy and

blue, accented by two suspended chandeliers. The set's symmetry and

elegance works in pleasing juxtaposition against the mayhem of

interlopers hurling themselves out of windows, or pretending to. The

solid ensemble works in tight conformity to the style: Frank's

lecherous count is a comic standout of barely concealed slime, offset

by the grace of Mance's weary, dignified Countess. And Maria Chirstina

Benthall offers vivacious delight as the libidinous niece of the

gardner. (Steven Leigh Morris). City Garage, 1340 1/2 Fourth St., Santa

Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5:30 p.m.; thru June 20. (310)

319-9939.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM William Shakespeare's comedy about the

adventures of four young Athenian lovers. Hermosa Beach Playhouse, 710

Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June 5. (310)

372-4477.

GO SARAH, SARAH In playwright Daniel Goldfarb's

family drama, the generation gap is not so much a gap as it is a gaping

crevasse. In 1961, fearsome Jewish mama Sarah Grosberg (played by

Cheryl David with battle-ax aplomb) invites the mousy

fiance (Robyn Cohen) of her beloved son, Artie (Patrick

J. Rafferty), for tea and strudel, ostensibly so the two ladies can get

to know each other but really so the possessive mamutchka can

talk the girl out of marrying her son. As the intimidating matriarch

tears into the younger girl like a glutton gnawing on kugel, it falls

to Sarah's kindly housekeeper (Bart Braverman) to save the day with an

unexpected revelation about his boss. Years later, Sarah's

granddaughter Jennifer (also played by David, in such a different,

breezy, open turn that she's almost unrecognizable) journeys to China

to adopt an orphan, who turns out to be ill and possibly mentally

handicapped. Goldfarb's play is mainly set dressing for David's

splendid tour de force twin performances as the steely matriarch and

her neurotic, insecure granddaughter, turns that are beautifully

nuanced and complex. As Sarah, David depicts an immediately familiar

type, who's as much a creature of her era as is the more

immature-seeming, emotionally drifting Jennifer. Director Howard

Teichman's deceptively simple production adroitly captures the mood and

feel of two eras, exemplified by different body languages and physical

behavior. Braverman is also deft in his two characters -- he excels as

Jennifer's supportive yet pessimistic father in the play's second half.

(Paul Birchall). Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 27...

TWO FIGURES The Ahimsa Collective presents Matthew

Chester's play developed from hundreds of sexual fantasy submissions.

Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.;

thru June 20. (310) 396-3680.

NEW REVIEW A TYRANT'S TALE Pared down to 80 minutes, writer-director Lisa Wolpe's breakneck adaptation of The Winter's Tale

opens with a fatal temper tantrum. King Leontes (Scott McRae) believes

his wife (Heidi Rose Robbins) is hugely pregnant with the child of his

friend -- and now, sworn enemy -- Polixenes (Andrew Heffernan). Inshort

order, the king has banished or doomed nearly his entire court, though

before she's hauled off and declared dead, Robbins, whose character is

weak from torture and tall with dignity, commands the stage with a

killer last speech. Miraculously, Apollo will set this night, but en

route, the actors rush, shout and muddy their lines with neeedless

accents, and risk losing the audience in so doing. In such a taut

tragedy, Wolpe could easily cut the scene of comic relief between a

shepherd (McRae) and his idiot son (David Glasser) and amp up the heat,

especially in the steamy dance of love between a prince (Glasser) and a

secret princess (Laura Covelli). With tweaks, this very likable staging

could be a pocket-sized success. Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln

Blvd., Santa Monica; Thurs.-Sun..; thru June 27, brownpapertickets.com.

(800) 838-3006. (Amy Nicholson)

THE WICKED WILDE SHAKESPARE FESTIVAL

The Los Angeles Women's Shakespeare Company presents a five-week summer

theater festival of gender-bent classics. Miles Memorial Playhouse,

1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica; Thurs.-Sun..; thru June 27,

brownpapertickets.com. (800) 838-3006.


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