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Stage Raw: Losers

Stage Raw: Losers


CURRENT STAGE FEATURE ON THE PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD and THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO

I'VE BEEN READING SHAKESPEARE MY WHOLE LIFE And if you

haven't, the Los Angeles Theatre ensemble and the Powerhouse Theatre

will try to make you feel that way with the world's longest, continuous

marathon reading of Shakespeare's work, on the redwood deck of the

Powerhouse Theatre in Santa Monica. Participants will read the entire

canon around the clock, outdoors, for up to six days - all is support

of LATE's upcoming production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

It may be windy, it may be long-winded, it may be historic. Starts

Sunday, April 25, 8 a.m., 3116 Second Street, Santa Monica. http://powerhousetheatre.com


SCR's PACIFIC PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL is back, and so

are a cadre of familiar playwrights for workshops and readings: Julia

Cho, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Amy Freed, Itamar Moses, and the lesser

known Bathsheba Doran, Sofia Alvarez, and David West Read. April 23 -25

at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa http://scr.org

LOSERS A staged reading of Charles Marowitz's play

about the illusions and delusions of artistic types who aren't

particularly talented. Saturday, April 24, 8 p.m. The Workmen's Circle,

1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles $10 (310) 552-2007

FLIGHT Opera UCLA presents Jonathan Dove's opera about stranded airline passengers. Freud Playhouse, UCLA, Fri.-Sun., April 30-May 2. http://tft.ucla.edu

For COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS, and this coming weekend's review docket, press the More tab directly below

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for April 23 - 29, 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

BENGAL TIGER AT THE BAGHDAD ZOO Rajiv Joseph's dark comedy. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; opens April 25; Sun., April 25, 7 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru May 30. (213) 628-2772.

BLIND DATE INTERACTIVE The audience determines the plot in this "Choose Your Own Adventure"-style boy-meets-girl film/performance. The Space, 665 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; April 23-24, 7:30 p.m....

COPENHAGEN The Production Company presents Michael Frayn's story of a Danish physicist and his former pupil. Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village; opens April 23; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 29. (818) 786-1045.

CRIMES OF THE HEART Beth Henley's Pulitzer Prize winner. Rubicon Theater, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura; opens April 24; Sat., April 24, 7 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru May 16. (805) 667-2900.

AN EVENING WITH SUTTON FOSTER An intimate concert performance by the Broadway chanteuse. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; April 29-30, 8 p.m.. (213) 628-2772.

THE GIFT HORSE See Kay Theatre presents the West Coast premiere of Lydia R. Diamond's drama. Working Stage Theater, 1516 N. Gardner St., L.A.; opens April 23; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Mon., Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 24. (323) 851-2603.

HOLY GHOST Jon Tuttle's World War II story of a Jewish lieutenant overseeing African-American soldiers guarding Nazi POWs. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A.; opens April 23; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 30. (323) 856-8611.

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS Man-eating-plant musical, book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, music by Alan Menken. Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, Fred Kavli Theater, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks; opens April 23; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 2. (805) 449-2787.

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY Actors Co-op presents Philip Barry's rom-com classic. Crossley Terrace Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., L.A.; opens April 23; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru May 30. (323) 462-8460.

STARMITES Music and lyrics by Barry Keating, book by Stuart Ross and Keating. Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica; opens April 23; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 9. (310) 458-8634.

TEMPODYSSEY West Coast premiere of Dan Dietz's play, presented by needtheater. ArtWorks Theatre, 6567 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens April 24; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru May 23, needtheater.org. (323) 795-2215.


THE 39 STEPS Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 thriller re-imagined on stage. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; opens April 28; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru May 16. (213) 628-2772.

THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES: FILIPINAS 2010 Pussy talk with Lara Avengoza, Tia Carrere, Becca Godinez, Leslie-Anne Huff, Mona Pasquil, Jennifer Paz, Lea Salonga, Jannelle So, Tamlyn Tomita, and Giselle Tongi. Proceeds benefit Likhaan Center for Women's Health, Inc., Philippines. Aratani Japan America Theatre, 244 S. San Pedro St., L.A.; Sun., April 25, 4 p.m.. (213) 680-3700.

THE WOMEN OF BREWSTER PLACE Music, book and lyrics by Tim Acito, based on the stories by Gloria Naylor. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens April 23; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru June 6. (323) 957-1884.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE

ACTING: THE FIRST SIX LESSONS Adapted and performed by Beau Bridges and Emily Bridges, based on the book by Richard Boleslavsky. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 16. (323) 851-7977.

GO AWAKE AND SING Clifford Odets painted a loving portrait of the Berger family in the darkest days of the Great Depression. Three generations live together in their Bronx apartment. Matriarch Bessie (Deborah Strang) is a feisty, loyal woman who's capable of terrible things if she believes they're in her family's best interests. Her husband, Myron (Joel Swetow), is "a born follower"; her daughter Henny (Molly Leland) is pregnant by a man who has dumped her; and son Ralph (Adam Silver) is in love with a girl he can't afford to marry. But it's the grandfather, Jake (the wonderful Len Lesser), who is the household's soul, and delivers the play's message of hope and desperate optimism: "Take the world in your two hands and make it like new. Go out and fight so life shouldn't be printed on dollar bills." Jake is an old Marxist who loves his Beethoven records and his grandson, Ralph. Director Andrew J. Traister captures the play's potent blend of love, longing and frustration, along with its lyricism and zest for language. The cast includes Daniel Reichert as Moe, the man Henny loves; David Lengel as the sad-sack immigrant she marries; and Adam Blumenfeld as plutocratic Uncle Morty. They are all terrific. (Neal Weaver). A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; Fri., April 23, 8 p.m.; Through May 7, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 8, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., May 23, 2 & 7 p.m.. (818) 240-0910.

BUDDY: THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY Written by Alan Janesand Rob Bettinson, choreography by Dana Solimando, musical direction by Darryl Archibald. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada; Tues.-Wed., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru May 2. (562) 944-9801.

CHICAGO Kander and Ebb's Prohibition-era musical. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru May 9, broadwayla.org. (213) 365-3500.

THE EMEROR'S 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.

GO JACQUES BREL IS ALIVE AND WELL AND LIVING IN PARIS When the title of your musical proclaims that Jacques Brel is alive and well, it seems perverse to stage it as his funeral, complete with onstage coffin and open grave. The piece becomes a bit lugubrious, and its darker aspects are overly emphasized. (The original off-Broadway rendition was more frankly presentational, with a wider emotional range.) Still, this production has much to recommend it, including a quartet of fine performers: Jennifer Shelton and Zachary Ford (who also plays a mean accordion) are the younger couple, while Eileen Barnet and Gregory Franklin supply the voices of experience. All four capture the charm, the passionate feeling that suffuses Brel's songs, and the lyricism and driving force of numbers like "If We Only Have Love," "Amsterdam" and the rousing "Carousel." But Brel is essentially a storyteller, and his lyrics (translated by Eric Blau and Mort Shuman) matter, yet here they are often overpowered by the accompaniment. Jon Lawrence Rivera's direction is always professional, though his sometimes over-busy staging (particularly for the men's numbers) can obscure rather than enhance. Musical director Brent Crayon and a four-man ensemble provide stirring instrumental backup, and John H. Binkley designed the handsome, semi-abstract set. The Colony Theatre, 555 North Third St., Burbank; variable schedule. Call theater for information. (818) 558-7000, ext. 15, colonytheatre.org. (Neal Weaver). Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru May 9. (818) 558-7000.

THE LANGUAGE ARCHIVE Julia Cho's story of a linguist abandoned by his wife. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; thru April 25. (714) 708-5555.

GO THE LIFE AND TIMES OF A. EINSTEIN In a piece that could be just as accurately titled Waiting for Einstein, the legendary scientist's secretary, Ellen Schenhammer (Kres Mersky, who also wrote the play), keeps at bay a "press corps" waiting for the genius on his birthday. While delivering a steady stream of apologies for his lateness, Ellen buzzes about Einstein's Princeton, N.J., study -- with its hand-carved mahogany accents, floral motifs and ubiquitous shades of brown -- making final preparations for the party. She is at times interrupted by the telephone, on the other end of which is Anna, the incompetent hired help who frustrates the long-serving Ellen. Her description of this frustration is the first of many fingers from the past that poke out of Ellen's psychological space-time continuum. During these interludes she relates how she first came to work for Einstein and his wife, describing life in Weimar Berlin, how the German public received his theories, and even her secret attraction to the man. A veteran of stage and screen, Mersky nails both the Germanic tongue and dry sense of humor, and in weaving her self-admittedly simplistic interpretation of Einstein's theories into her storytelling, she makes us forget that we are waiting for the man himself. Director Paul Gersten keeps Mersky moving about the stage with an industry that lives up to the Germanic stereotype; he also handles time jumps with subtlety. (Mayank Keshaviah). Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 16. (323) 851-7977.

NIGHTMARE ALLEY Life and times of a carnie couple. Book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Brielle. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru April 30. (310) 208-5454.

NEW REVIEW GO PAVED PARADISE: THE ART OF JONI MITCHELL

Stage Raw: Losers

Photo courtesy of L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center


There's

a lot of love on stage in John Kelly's wryly-affectionate

performance/portrait of folk-rock legend Joni Mitchell. Which may

explain the secret to how a lanky, middle-aged man who bears no earthly

physical resemblance to the Canadian singer-songwriter can hold an

audience spellbound for the duration of his two-hour tour of the

Mitchell songbook simply by donning a blond wig and a floor-length lace

gown. Call it drag if you must, but, unlike the jugular-ripped camp of

the divas caricatured by, say, Lypsinka (a fellow alumnus of NYC's

downtown performance art scene of the '80s), Kelly's is a kinder,

gentler and altogether more transcendent art. Perhaps that's because

the objective here isn't so much to mimic the star's stage mannerisms

(though he does that to hilarious effect), as it is to capture the

underlying spirit and humanity of her performance. Thus Act 1's survey

of '60s classics (including "Chelsea Morning," "Circle Game" and a

Wigstock-tweaked version of "Woodstock") and Act 2's roster of '70s

super hits ("Amelia," "For the Roses," "Down to You") are both sweetly

interpretive and immediately familiar. Kelly's trained counter tenor

voice and actor's instinct to underplay character finds winning support

in keyboardist/musical director Zecca Esquibel and bassist Eric Holder;

while Kevin Malony's lean and fluid staging completes what amounts to a

highly entertaining argument that only by first walking in Mitchell's

shoes can a performer earn the right to inhabit her music. Renberg

Theater, 1125 N McCadden Pl., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.;

thru April 25. (323) 860-7300. (Bill Raden)

GO THE PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD

Stage Raw: Losers

Photo by Craig Schwartz


John

Millington Synge's 1907 comedy. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd.,

Glendale; Sun., 2 p.m.; Through April 30, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 9, 2 &

7 p.m.; Through May 14, 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru May 22.

(818) 240-0910. See Theater Feature

NEW REVIEW
SOMETHING HAPPENED

Stage Raw: Losers

Photo by Steve Moses


Being

"on the Down Low," a practice in which a black man in a committed

heterosexual relationship covertly engages in homosexual behavior,

became familiar territory in the early 2000s.  J.L. King's memoir and

subsequent Oprah appearance, a juicy New York Times Magazine cover

story, and episodes of popular network television series like NBC's ER

all pitched tents on the hot-property subject.  Critics quickly

followed, decrying the hype. That's why L. Trey Wilson's world premiere

play feels a little late.  Although he focuses more on the effects and

not the phenomenon of homosexuality in the African-American community,

it's unlikely the sensitive, highly-educated Deanna and Doug Piper

(Mashari Laila Bain and William Christian) wouldn't be Times

subscribers, nor would they not read between the lines in their own

house.  Beyond that, however, the play is overstuffed with unnecessary

characters (a superfluous couple), trite dialogue ("Life lessons --

they're everywhere"), and an unsatisfying wrap-up that's also

symbolically confused.  The weaknesses of the script fortunately don't

hide the strength of the cast: Fuschia! and Jeorge Watson particularly

stand out.  Open homophobia in the black community deserves discussion,

especially in an era when an African-American president is advocating

pro-gay legislature; but at the same time, the phrase "no homo" is

quickly tacked on to even the most innocuous of proclamations in

hip-hop culture.  This attempt just won't be the moderator.  Wilson

also directs. Pacific Stages, 2041 Rosecrans Ave., El Segundo;

Thurs.-Sat, 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; through May 16. (310)

868-2631 (Rebecca Haithcoat)


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


ABOVE THE LINE Hollywood stereotypes are so La-Z-Boy lived-in, a newcomer to L.A. can giggle at them right along with industry insiders. In this world premiere, playwright Susan Rubin has gotten the whole gang together again for our theater-armchair gawking. There's the screen-star-mama's-boy producer, Jeremy (Jason Stuart); the seemingly Zen Earth mother executive with silver-ring brass knuckles (Denise Dowse); the ladder-climbing Silver Lake punk composer, Christian (Stewart W. Calhoun); the triple-threat writer/bourbon drinker/asshole lady-killer, John (Nick Mennel); and his triple-threat feminist lit professor/New Yorker/desperate prey, Lucy (Heather Marie Marsden). Now watch them try to make Tea, a movie musical based on a family-heirloom journal kept circa the Boston Tea Party. Rubin knows all their soft spots and pokes judiciously: When Lucy mentions Samuel Adams, Jeremy casually tosses off, "Oh, the beer guy." Yet the entire play resembles a 15-year-old learning to drive on a stick shift. The lines, pace and relationships jerk to life and then stall; the brakes are slammed. As Lucy leaves John, all fury and fangs, and he halfheartedly stops her, you wonder for what these two are fighting. Jeremy and Christian's affair is likewise hastily erected, and both couplings suffer from either a lack of chemistry or a lack of rehearsal. Director Mark Bringelson and cinematographer Adam Soch created a neat device merging film and theater, but it's so underused -- and in the dinner-scene instance, extraneous -- they should've scrapped it and focused that energy on the play. Hmmm ... art imitates Hollywood. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 24. (213) 389-3856.

GO ACCOMPLICE: HOLLYWOOD Part game, part theater, part tour: It all begins with a phone call disclosing a secret meeting location. Aided by clues and mysterious cast members strewn throughout various locations, such as street corners, bars, iconic landmarks and out-of-the-way spots, the audience traverses the city streets, piecing together clues of a meticulously crafted plot. (Steven Leigh Morris). Hollywood Blvd., betwn. Highland & Las Palmas aves., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., www.accomplicetheshow.com...

ACME SATURDAY NIGHT ACME's flagship sketch show, with celebrity guest hosts each week. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sat., 7 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

ACME 2NITE New sketches and old favorites, ACME style. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sat., 9 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

ALL THE WRONG PLACES World premiere of four plays by Herman Poppe. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 24. (323) 469-3113.

AN AMERICAN TRACT Barbara White Morgan's irksome drama about a struggling single mom comes weighted down with hackneyed dialogue, superficial characters and gratuitous subplots. In the mid-1980s, nurse's assistant Ann (Darlene Bel Grayson) had lived in the 'hood with her two sons until a dying patient bequeathed her a house in a pretentious white suburb. Euphoric when she first moves in, Ann is soon being visited by well-meaning and hostile neighbors, who complain about her unlandscaped lawn and her son Rodney's boom box -- and demand all sorts of ownership levies she doesn't have. Meanwhile the listless Rodney (Larry "Bam" Hall) yearns to return to the projects -- even though his father was murdered there -- while Ann's boyfriend, Earl (Carl Crudup), makes it plain he too feels out of place. Her spirit unbowed, Ann soldiers on, skillfully handling the patronizing white lady next door (Jennifer Lamar), fending off her journalist husband (Darrell Philip), who keeps giving Ann hankering looks, and vanquishing the nasty patrician president of the homeowner's association (Maurice Weiss). Whatever truthful elements the story embraces are torpedoed by the typically one-note performances, under Richard Elkins' direction. Though Ann is always well groomed, her living room (designer David Mauer's set) inexplicably resembles a squatters' den, with blank, dirty walls and sheet-draped, torn upholstery. (The place finally gets spiffed up in Act 2.) Among the ensemble, Miriam Korn is the most convincing as a likable teen who penetrates Rodney's sullen defenses. (Deborah Klugman). Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru April 25, brownpapertickets.com/event/100569. (800) 838-3006.

THE BALLAD OF EMMETT TILL Shirley Jo Finney directs a vivacious five-person ensemble in Ifa Bayeza's choreopoem based on the life and death of the 14-year-old black child from Chicago, brutally murdered during a 1955 working vacation in Mississippi, for the "crime" of whistling at a white, female shopkeeper. His funeral, and the open casket demanded by his mother, became a flashpoint for the nascent civil rights movement. Despite the performances' visceral intensity, its lingering, emotionally exploitive depiction of the murder helps boils the history down to a black-and-white sketch of good versus evil. It provokes righteous self-satisfaction more than our introspection. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through April 3. (323) 663-1525. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 30. (323) 663-1525.

THE BOB BENDICK PODCAST Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Mon., 5:15 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

GO THE BOYS IN THE BAND Mart Crowley's queer classic. Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 16. Stage feature here.

BUFFALO HOLE Robert Reichel Jr.'s Gothic saga offers an unlikely blend of Sam Shepard, absurdist black comedy, Grand Guignol and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Hard-drinking ex-Marine Patton Strong (Peter Gannon), who won a Congressional Medal of Honor during Desert Shield, suffered verbal abuse from his father and treats his own sons, Braggert (writer Reichel) and Jessop (Eric Bloom), much the same. He raises dogs for sale -- or for eating, earning animal-loving Braggert's vicious enmity. When Patton wins the lottery, Braggert takes him prisoner, strings him up by his feet, steals his winnings and amputates his ear and some toes. Intending to kill his old man, he summons the scattered family, including sissy Jessop and sister Sara (Maury Morgan) to say farewell. Their 60-year-old mother, Eva (Suzanne Voss), turns up mysteriously pregnant, claiming immaculate conception. If it sometimes seems that Reichel has assembled as many improbable elements as possible, neglecting to shape them into a credible, coherent whole, Zeke Rettman provides impeccable direction while an able cast acts the piece with demented zest on Danny Cistone's cluttered, ramshackle house-trailer set. (Neal Weaver). Arena Stage at Theater of Arts (formerly the Egyptian Arena Theater), 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 1. (323) 960-4443.

NEW REVIEW CANNIBALS From the endless

material regarding the dreams and disappointments of stardom comes this

comedy by veteran T.V. 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; while the mouthy Carole (Dale Dickey) keeps finely tuned on

anti-depressants. The toxic admixture of personalities is good for

laughs, but doesn't quite offset the play's lack of much happening,

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. Zephyr

Theatre, 7406 Melrose Ave.; Hlywd. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun. 7 p.m.;

thru. May 23. (323) 960-7745.   http://www.//plays411.com/cannibals (Lovell Estell III)


THE CHARM OF MAKING Playwright Timothy McNeil's drama is one of those deep, Southern-baked ham fests in which the characters baste themselves with family guilt and grief while downing endless glasses of bourbon (which seems to have been flavored with a dash of Tennessee Williams and a soupion of Osage County). Elvin (Thor Edgell) is a middle-aged gay virgin who sublimates his despair over his family's troubled pedigree by secretly dressing in a sequined gown and getting drunk in the privacy of his own Mississippi family manor. Yet, he's not the most eccentric denizen of his clan: That honor could go either to his sister Morgan (Bonnie McNeil), who wanders around the woods irrelevantly chanting a magical spell; or to his equally unhinged Aunt Lottie (May Quigley Goodman), who is so desperate for validation she throws herself at a random 18-year-old Bible student after church. The main problem with director Milton Justice's flat, Monopoly-board staging is that it's heavier than Mississippi humidity, an issue that is exacerbated by leaden pacing, which even spills over to the perfunctory attempts at Southern backbiting and spiteful repartee. The mistakes of storytelling are legion, from the torpid, cement-thick monologues and overwrought line readings to the endless discussion of characters' pointless dreams. If it weren't for the show's execution being so ponderously serious, the piece would actually come across as unintentionally funny -- particularly when Edgell's "good ole boy" Elvin shows up in his gown, or during his halting, oddly tepid first romance. Instead, even with game attempts by McNeil's unstable turn as Morgan and by Goodman's venomous Lottie, the results are ultimately an uninvolving trudge through Southern culture. Stella Adler Los Angeles Theatre Collective. (Paul Birchall). Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru April 25. (323) 465-4446.

DOUG BENSON'S I LOVE MOVIES free. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Tues., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 908-8702.

E.O.: AN HISTORICAL FARCE OF TRULY ELIZABETHAN PROPORTIONS World premiere of Michael Sadler's new comedy. Tre Stage Theatre, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 29, plays411.com/eo...

GO EXILES Playwright Carlos Lacamara's drama puts a powerful human face on the Mariel Boat Lift, Fidel Castro's mean joke of 1980, when Cuban-Americans were invited to come to Cuba to fetch their loved ones, to take them to the Land of Opportunity, but were instead subjected to a painful bait-and-switch. Cuban American mechanic Rolando (Alex Fernandez) sails his rickety boat to Cuba, believing that he's going to be bringing his beloved mother to his American home. Instead, the authorities force him to take Rolando's pompous brother-in-law Joaquin (Lacamara), Joaquin's sullen daughter Sadia (Heather Hemmens), and some other extra treats -- a maniac (Khary Payton) and a murderer (Mark Adair-Rios). Midway through the voyage, the boat's motor breaks and tensions flare amongst the passengers. Rolando's teenage son Roli (Ignacio Serricchio) falls for Sadia, while Rolando and his brother-in-law fight over long ago wrongs. Then the murderer makes his move. In David Fofi's emotionally rich, character-driven production the conflicts brew and simmer, aided by the claustrophobic mood provided by John Iocavelli's beautifully rickety boat set. The show's pacing sags occasionally, particularly towards the end, which feels inordinately drawn out -- and the breakdown of the boat seems like a forced plot development to keep the characters from being able to get anywhere. Yet, the the play's emotions crackle, and the piece brims with real fury and regret, whether it's the anger of Fernandez's excellently rigid Rolando, or the snappishness of Hemmens's snide but vulnerable Sadia, forced to abruptly uproot her life. Payton's haunting turn as the maniac, whose lunacy, we discover, springs from years of torture, also stands out. Hayworth Theater in association with Fixed Mark Productions. (Paul Birchall). Hayworth, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 2. (213) 389-9860.

GETTING FRANKIE MARRIED . . . AND AFTERWARDS The setting for Horton Foote's bittersweet comedy is the town of Harrison, Texas, where 43-year-old bachelor Fred Willis (John Lacy) shares a home with his ailing, demanding, control freak of a mother (Judith Scarpone). His painfully ordinary girlfriend of decades, Frankie (Martha Demson), has hung in there with him, much to the consternation of her gossipy friends Isabel (Teresa Willis), Laverne (Laura Richardson) and Constance (Stephanie Erb), who feel that he should marry her. One day, out of the blue, he does just that -- despite a sexual dalliance with gorgeous Helen (Laetitia Leon), who, incidentally, is suing him for breach of promise. The marital bliss, however, is short-lived after both Frankie and Helen reveal that they're each pregnant. Stir in a friend named Carlton (Bjorn Johnson), who may be Fred's half brother, plus a couple of strange plot twists, and things get really fuzzy. Though Foote's writing, true to his form, comes laced with humor and sadness and an atmosphere that inspires gentle reflection, this clearly isn't one of his sharper works, and director Scott Paulin's leisurely pacing makes sitting through the stasis something of an endurance test. The performances are uniformly good, and set designer James Spencer's living room mock-up is stellar. (Lovell Estell III). Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 15. (323) 882-6912.

GO GROUNDLINGS SHOWCASE SHOWDOWN In this sprightly, very funny revue, The Groundlings again show why they are L.A.'s go-to company for sketch comedy. Of course, the sketches, in director Mikey Day's crisply paced, surgically focused production, hew to a number of rules that are familiar by now to Groundlings fans. One rule: First dates will never turn out well -- such as the one in which a woman (Lisa Schurga) self-sabotages a promising romance by making a series of appallingly unsuitable, compulsive personal revelations, or the one in which a hilariously dorky pair of teens on prom night (Jim Rash and Annie Sertich) paw and stumble their way through their loss of virginity. Another rule: Folks who have facial hair are invariably ripe for ridicule, be it the creepy, whiskery pair of recovered addicts (Nat Faxon and David Hoffman) delivering a not entirely convincing testimonial at a rehab clinic, or the woefully white bread, mustachioed aspiring dancers auditioning ineptly for a spot on an MTV show. Judging from this outing, the company's sensibility seems to be evolving into slightly edgier terrain, with characters who sometimes appear darker and more nuanced than we've seen before. The ensemble work is tight and often brutally funny -- but particular standouts include some brilliantly versatile turns from Steve Little, as a monstrous office worker with a gluttonous appetite for break-room animal crackers, from Annie Sertich, as the world's least-coherent restaurant waitress, and from the ever-astonishing Jim Cashman, assaying a variety of roles, including half of a screechingly dysfunctional gay couple, to a dippy dude trying to create a "flash mob" video of one. Director Day commendably cuts the generally uneven "audience participation" sketches that are frequently a Groundlings show downfall. (Paul Birchall). Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; thru April 24. (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., April 29: Ashkon Broadway from Berkely and Sidechild from Sweden. (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.

GO INFLUENCE The brief, scandal-ridden tenure of Paul Wolfowitz as the director of the World Bank inspired this, Shem Bitterman's third play in his Iraq War trilogy, now having its premiere production. Bitterman turns a sharp, savvy, ferociously satirical eye on the subject of political corruption and lethal infighting in Washington. Young, liberal, idealistic Midwesterner Branden (Ian Lockhart) warily accepts a position at the World Bank, despite the fact that its Director (Alan Rosenberg) is regarded as the architect of the Iraq War. Branden's girlfriend Sally (Kate Siegel), a fanatical liberal, regards the Director as the devil incarnate, but she's co-opted when the Director finds funding for a project dear to her heart: providing micro-funding for economic development in poor countries. Branden soon finds himself caught in a no-win situation between the charming but ruthless Director, and the equally ruthless reformer, Rolf (Christopher Curry), who's seeking to depose him. Heads roll. Director Steve Zuckerman provides an elegant, funny dissection of the dangerous political currents. An original score by Roger Bellon coolly defuses the melodrama, and the accomplished cast deftly underlines the proliferating ironies. Rosenberg shines as the wily but charming Director, and Jeff McLaughlin's handsome set features familiar Washington landmarks. (Neal Weaver). Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 p.m.; thru May 9...

IT'S A MUSICAL WORLD Bob Baker's marionette revue that first opened in 1978. 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.

NEW REVIEW GO

L.A. NOIR UNSCRIPTED After years of perfecting their sharply honed craft

of improvising parodies of high-brow masters such as Shakespeare, Jane

Austin 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 voila: Sam Spade and gang of

hard-boiled cynics are ready to roll.  Well the gambit worked, the easy

cliches 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 score of improv rules. Company artistic

director Dan O'Connor is especially 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. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd.,

Hollywood; Fri-Sat. 8 p.m.; Sun. 7 p.m.; thru June 13. (323) 401-9793. 

(Tom Provenzano)

L.A. VIEWS III - HUNGER AND THE CITY Set in a restaurant, this compendium of eight short plays takes hunger as its theme -- not the craving for food so much as the human longing for fame, love, acceptance and justice. (Gay identity and the issues surrounding it are also recurring motifs.) By far the most accomplished is writer John Dubiel's character-driven "Steaks," in which a casting director named Pax (Pat Cochran) dangles the possibility of a major film role before a straight stage actor (Joe Sofranko) in exchange for sexual favors. Directed by Danny Munoz, Cochran is entertaining as a barmy Hollywood player, impervious to anyone's needs but his own, while Sofranko delivers a nicely calibrated portrait of his prey. The other pieces suffer variously from thin characterizations, a surfeit of earnestness or tepid humor. Tira Palmquist's "Table for Three" sets up a simplistic polemic between two carriers of HIV: Jordan (Leilani M. Smith), a young mother and ardent activist; and Ruben (Art McDermott), an older gay man who prefers remaining cynical and detached. Michael Patrick Spillers' disjointed "Follow" concerns two lovers (Sofranko and Anthony Mark Barrow), already under strain, who dispute whether to continue patronizing a restaurant after the owner (Jully Lee) votes yes on Prop. 8. Henry Ong's "Who's Fucking the Horse" and Leon Martell's "Bleeding Sergeants" both go over the top with unamusing plots built around manipulative women who use guns to compel reluctant males to do their bidding. While the quality varies, the show's direction and performances tend to be workshop standard. (Deborah Klugman). Company of Angels, Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru April 25. (323) 883-1717.

LANGSTON AND NICOLAS Towne Street Theater presents Bernardo Solano's world-premiere about the friendship between Langston Hughes and Nicolas Guillen. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 2. (323) 465-4446.

GOLASCIVIOUS SOMETHING "Things often burst," intones a radio newscaster in the premiere of playwright Sheila Callaghan's simmering symbolist melodrama. That line could refer to the dream of a more equitable, progressive society that exploded with the 1980 presidential election of Ronald Reagan, the play's historical backdrop. It could represent one of the bottles of new wine in the cellars of former activist-turned-winemaker August (Silas Weir Mitchell). Or it could hint at the decadent, Dionysian fantasy August is living out with his sensual young Greek wife, Daphne (the fine Olivia Henry), on their isolated Mediterranean-island retreat. That his solipsistic existence is built on the somewhat shaky foundation of a carefully buried past is suggested both by the cache of discarded wine bottles revealed just beneath the surface of designer Sibyl Wickersheimer's cutaway hilltop set and in the ease with which August's fragile complacency is shattered by the appearance of ex-compatriot/true love Liza (a feverish Alina Phelan), who is intent on rekindling their former passion. Callaghan, whose previous work might be described as post-feminist punk incursions into the poetic turf of early Sam Shepard, here employs a more linear narrative line to push her personal-is-political agenda. Mitchell delivers a forceful performance as an erstwhile idealist wrenched from his refuge of illusions by a crushing self-knowledge. But the real fireworks are in the two women's predatory tug o' war that plays like a Western showdown. Director Paul Willis expertly torques the proceedings to their high-tension denouement, while Tom Ontiveros' subtle lights and John Zalewski's rumbling sound effectively accent Callaghan's incisive language. (Bill Raden). [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru May 1. (323) 461-3673.

LENNY BRUCE IS BACK (AND BOY IS HE PISSED) Ronnie Marmo is the comedy legend. Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru May 16. (323) 467-6688.

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 May 30. (323) 960-4412.

NEW REVIEW GO LOOKING FOR TROUBLE

Stage Raw: Losers

Photo courtesy of White Buffalo Theatre Company

These

five clever one-acts are stylishly directed by Kerrie Kean: "Resin," by

Brian Lennon, the most substantial work, is a Strindbergian tale of

long-time gay lovers (Carlo Serna and Brett Holland) who are at war

because each is determined to impose his own definition on their

relationship. In "Satiety," by Lennon and Tom Martin, a garrulous young

man (Danny Junod) encounters a loony, possibly homicidal young woman

(Jessica Wright) in an airport restaurant. Alan Ball's "The M Word"

features Wright and Steve Rifkin as lovers who are such control freaks

that even their courtship must be conducted via scheduled PowerPoint

presentations. Simone Cook's sweetly comic "Love in War" presents a

young couple (Cook and Keith Robinson) whose relationship is

complicated by the birth of their child. And in Lennon's "Ruth,"

brothers Ian (Rifkin) and Jason (Junod) are staying in a

bed-and-breakfast in Ireland, presided over by proprietress Ruth

(Angelina Leaf), but Jason is so arrogant, opinionated, and meanly

argumentative that all who know him are driven to thoughts of homicide.

The plays aren't all of equal merit, but all are entertaining, the cast

is versatile and engaging, and the uncredited minimalist sets are

elegantly appointed. The Lost Studio, 130 South La Brea Avenue, Los

Angeles; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m., thru May 2. Produced by White

Buffalo Theatre Company. (818) 925-4021.  (Neal Weaver)

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.

Loyalties In Tony Pasqualini's drama, Frank (Michael Rothhaar) and Joy (Robin Becker) have lost a son, Andy, to the war in Iraq. Now they have become fanatical superpatriots, eager to condemn anyone who questions the war. Their best friends, Mel (Sarah Brooke) and Andrew (Pasqualini), also have an adopted son, Michael (Albert Meijer), an émigré from a Muslim country. Andy and Michael were inseparable friends throughout their childhood, but their paths diverged. While Andy enlisted and went to his death in battle, Michael also enlisted but decided it was a mistake and deserted his post. Though Mel and Andrew are sympathetic to their son, Frank and Joy are determined to force the boy to face his fears and accept his duty, even by reporting his whereabouts to the authorities. This issue becomes a catalyst, leading to disaster for both families. Pasqualini's play is not really a thesis drama, but it often sounds like one, treating its characters as mouthpieces. There are, however, some potent scenes. Though we're clearly intended to sympathize with Michael, he's too whiny and self-centered to take seriously. Director David Gautreaux has able actors but sometimes allows them to succumb to wearisome hysteria and shouting. (Neal Weaver). Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 25. (310) 822-8392.

NEIGHBORHOOD 3: REQUISITION OF DOOM It probably looked great on paper: a teen horror-comedy about an online, multi-player, zombie-invasion game that employs cutting-edge GPS and satellite technology -- and not a little hocus-pocus -- to merge the players' own neighborhood and families into the virtual-game scape with frighteningly real-world consequences. On-stage, however, playwright Jennifer Haley's Hollywood-worthy high concept makes for a rather schizophrenic ride. Part gaming parody, part suburban-dystopia satire, the production scores early with director Jaime Robledo's deftly staged send-up of the video-game environment, replete with eerie voice-over (Eric Vesbit), comically crude projected game icons (by Kwasi Boyd), ominous lighting (courtesy of designer Matt Richter) and set designer James W. Thompson Jr.'s clever triptych of Sim City-like, dormered house faades. Haley then splits the subsequent play between scenes of the clueless neighborhood parents (all played with wonderful, quick-change panache by Eric Curtis Johnson and Lynn Odell) and those of their disaffected, game-addicted kids (Amy Talebizadeh and Adam Trent). It is in the parents' bewildered reality where Haley is at her best, neatly skewering the insular, over-controlled sterility of subdivision life and the generational alienation that have driven their angry offspring to the comforting camaraderie and ultra-violence of their virtual world. Unfortunately, the children's side of the divide is all too soon taken over by a too-complicated and uninteresting explication of the thriller plotline, rendering the play's ultimate synthesis of the real and the virtual a discordant, melodramatic anticlimax. (Bill Raden). Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 24. (310) 281-8337.

PLAYING JORDAN GOLDMAN David and Andy Neiman's Jewish comedy revisits the all-too-familiar terrain of religion as racket. Flat-broke, jobless and tossed out of the apartment he shared with his girlfriend, Sarah (Alexandra Ozeri), Jordan (David Neiman) hits upon the idea of swindling money from the Jewish community by staging his own Bar Mitzvah. The idea appalls his sister Emily (Lynn Freedman), an orthodox Jew, but is fully supported by Jordan's gay friend, Matthew (Joseph George Makdisi), whose racy quips and humorous in-your-face antics provide laughs but not nearly enough to offset the script's torpor. Jordan's plan gains currency with the help of some enthusiastic corporate backers (Andy Neiman and Paul Strolli), and the sham event is even marked for television, but Jordan is eventually confronted with pangs of conscience over his ethical failings, which prompt an epiphany of sorts. In addition to the wobbly premise and bland script, the mediocre acting, and director Cynthia Levin's directorial malaise, there are far too many scene changes, which are handled with the refinement of a rugby scrum. (Lovell Estell III). Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; thru April 23. (323) 422-6361.

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.

RICHARD AND FELIX: TWILIGHT IN VENICE Considerable detail went into Paul Koslo's set -- marble pillars crowned with potted plants, a painted vista of the Grand Canal -- depicting the rented quarters in Venice, where Richard Wagner (Don Deforest Paul) went to die in 1883. The makeup is just as detailed, with Paul's eyes rimmed in red, and pallid, sunken cheeks that perfectly complement his hacking cough and paroxysms of agony stemming from a blocked intestine. Amidst this cinematic realism in L. Flint Esquerra's staging of Cornelius Schnauber's play, Wagner is visited by the ghost of Jewish Felix Mendelssohn (Jerry Weil), who died almost four decades earlier, and has shown up to guide him to the other side, or perhaps just to torment the anti-Semite. A gramophone player with wax records -- toyed with by Mendelssohn for a moment -- is a bit odd, given that Emile Berliner didn't patent the contraption until four years after this play takes place. There are also two women, one named Carlotta, Wagner's muse (the gorgeous Addie Daddio), who spends much of the play reclined on a divan being muselike; the other, Franz Liszt's daughter and Wagner's second wife, Cosima (Kathryn Larsen), urges on her husband's less-than-latent anti-Semitism. Mendelssohn was a composer of lyrical works, the popularity of which still torments Wagner, according to Schnauber's play. Here Mendelssohn expends quite a bit of energy looking smug and predicting the arrival of Adolf Hitler, which Wagner can scarcely believe as he gasps out his final breaths. The crux is a long, long conversation between the musicians, mostly about the past, recalling names of characters and compositions that will doubtless intrigue devotees while leaving everyone else out in the cold. Schnauber may or may not be blaming Wagner for Hitler's ascent. Hitler praised and borrowed from many artists and philosophers. Does that make them all culpable for the Holocaust? It's a question worth considering but in a drama that has more going for it than rumination. In this play about music, there's almost none to be heard. Things perk up for a sex scene that ultimately reveals Wagner's erectile dysfunction. At least it relieves the torpor. (Steven Leigh Morris). MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 25. (323) 957-1152.

GO ROCK 'N RIDICULE The country might be flat broke 'n broken, but we have an embarrassment of riches in material for political and social satire, which this new show by Acme Comedy Theatre cleverly demonstrates. Howard Bennett and the four member Rock N' Ridicule Band are showstoppers, spinning off jazz, blues and R&B tunes with the utmost precision, and also providing some well-timed sound effects. Nicholas Zill's book and lyrics are equally impressive, as is the nine-member cast who prove themselves remarkably versatile under Robert Otey's direction. With few exceptions, the 24 skits are very funny, mixing song-and-dance routines that are humorously blended with just the right mix of physical comedy. No sacred cows here: El Presidente takes it on the chin more than a few times. "We Will Barack You" (sung to the tune of Queen's "We Will Rock You"), is a hilarious ditty performed by the entire company, while in "Barack A Bye Baby," the Commander In Chief (a hilarious Derek Reid, who also does a great take on Tiger Woods), is smitten with insomnia and resorts to some unusual remedies. Natascha Corrigan is a hoot in several turns as Sarah Palin, the funniest being a golf lesson she gets from Reid. Louie Sadd steals the show with his clueless stare, eyes-blinking, language-contorting take on (almost) everybody's favorite foil and punch line. George W. (323) 525-0202. (Lovell Estell III). Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru April 25. (323) 525-0202.

NEW REVIEW

GO SEE WHAT I WANNA SEE

Stage Raw: Losers

Photo by Rick Baumgartner


Michael

John LaChiusa's dynamic 2005 musical, based on short stories by

Rynosuke Akutagawa, examines the nature of truth. The title refers to

our proclivity for seeing only what we want to see in any situation --

and failing to report it honestly. The piece consists of four scenes.

Two, set in Medieval Japan, deal with the tormented relationship

between two lovers, played by Lesli Margherita and Doug Carpenter. The

third, "R Shomon," is set on the night of the New York premiere of

Akira Kurosawa's classic film Rashomon and re-tells its tale in a

modern setting. A brash, handsome Thief (Carpenter) sets out to seduce

the brassy, sexy Wife (Margherita) away from her Husband (Perry Ojeda).

By morning, the Husband is dead, and the three participants deliver

wildly conflicting accounts of what happened. The dead Husband's story

is told via a Medium (Suzan Solomon). A shifty, unreliable passerby

(Jason Graae) provides a fourth version. The fourth scene, "Glory Day,"

gives Graae a chance to shine, but seems to belong to a different play.

LaChiusa's stirring score mingles jazz with Japanese inflections.

Director Daniel Henning delivers a taut, sexy production, with

impeccable music direction by David O, and all five actors provide

passionate conviction. The Blank Theatre Company, 6500 Santa Monica

Boulevard, Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., thru May 23.

(323) 661-9827 or  http://www.TheBlank.com (Neal Weaver)  


SERIAL KILLERS Five serials compete to continue, voted on by the audience. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Sat., 11 p.m.; thru April 24. (310) 281-8337.

NEW REVIEW GO SICK

Stage Raw: Losers

Photo by Adam Blumenthal


"It

was an angry poop," exclaims Pamela (Vonessa Martin) to her husband

David (Ramón de Ocampo). She and their 10-year old son Michael (an

adorable Quinton Lopez) wait out the barrage of f-bombs from Gary

(Johnny Giacalone), Pamela's drunk brother who is cursing out his wife

Carla (Diarra Kilpatrick) because she threw him out of the house. 

Pamela and David agree to take Gary in, and in the ensuing intertwined

episodes over a period of months (including one unforgettable mac &

cheese & marijuana scene between Gary and Michael), we are exposed

to the maladies that afflict these characters -- from Pamela's

hypochondria, to Gary's intoxication, to David's libidinous yearnings,

to Carla's cocaine cravings.  Even Michael's secretly sexual

pediatrician Dr. Brown (Brendan O'Malley) and Carla's donut-downing,

Jesus-loving 12-step buddy Jeannie (Anita Dashiell) can't shake their

dis-ease, until Michael, the anchor in this sea of sickness, gets some

bad news of his own.  The two-character scenes that dominate the piece

showcase Erik Patterson's edgy and hilarious play, and Diane

Rodriguez's muscular direction energizes its episodic nature, cleverly

turning even the transitions into opportunities for storytelling, such

as employing an onstage waiting room for offstage characters.  Sandra

Burns' flexible, minimalist set (with its wonderful robin-egg blue

floor), appropriately illuminated by Adam Blumenthal's harsh hospital

fluorescence, provides the perfect backdrop for a talented cast that is

solid across the board and keeps us laughing amidst the pain.  Los

Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., downtown; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 16. (213) 489-0994, ext. #107.  http://www.thelatc.org A Playwright's Arena and Latino Theatre Company Production.  (Mayank Keshaviah)

GO SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM Stephen Sondheim has graced the musical theater landscape with wry urbanity for more than 50 years. This 1976 revue of the composer and lyricist's work will delight devotees and features songs from a vast cross section of his work, some familiar and some obscure, all rendered in fine fashion. Brian Shipper has designed an understated set consisting of a large, framed black-and-white photo of a Broadway venue, flanked by bar stools and two panels displaying a collage of smaller pictures of the Great White Way. Coupled with this small venue's intimacy, it creates a cabaret-style atmosphere that accents many of the songs' delicacies and of the composer's devilishly witty lyrics. Director Dane Whitlock has assembled a splendid quintet of performers (Jenny Ashman, Jennifer Blake, Joe Donohoe, Morgan Duke, Nick Sarando), who sing and dance their way through 30 of Sondheim's songs without one dropped note, sometimes prefacing the selections with interesting historical information about the productions. Also featured is music by Leonard Bernstein, Mary Rodgers, Richard Rodgers and Julie Styne, all of whom Sondheim collaborated with on many shows. (The songs are drawn from West Side Story, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, Gypsy, Company, Sweeney Todd and others, as well as lesser-known productions like The Seven Percent Solution and Evening Primrose. Musical Director Richard Berent provides stellar accompaniment on the piano. (Lovell Estell III). The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; Fri., April 23, 8 p.m.; Sun., April 25, 2 & 7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., May 2, 2 & 7 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 16. (323) 525-0661.

Sleeping Beauty Presented by June Chandler's Faerie Tale Theatre. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Sat., 2 p.m.; thru May 8. (626) 256-3809.

STREEP TEASE Meryl Streep monologues performed by dudes. BANG, 457 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Sat..; thru April 24. (323) 653-6886.

SURVIVAL EXERCISE A play by Don Ponturo, set in a corporate conference room. Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru May 2, plays411.com/survival. (323) 960-7776. Stage feature here

THE TEMPEST Stewardesses Stephanie (Jennifer Gabbert) and Trinculo (Amy Mucken) offer you complimentary snacks as you board Action! Airlines for a flight to the distant island setting of Shakespeare's tale of sorcery and magic, adapted by director Tiger Reel. It's on the island that the "airship" is wrecked by Prospero (a capable Gretchen Koerner) with the aid of Ariel (Becca Fuchs), a sprite who is bound to Prospero and helps her cast spells on Prospero's brother Antonio (Brian Helm) and his co-conspirators who ousted her as the rightful Duke (or Duchess?) of Milan. The gender-bending cuts across the cast as, in addition to Prospero, Stephanie and Trinculo, Francisco (Cloie Taylor) and Gonzala (April Barnett) are also played by women. Reel's infusion of modernism to this island brew also includes live drums (Jesse Torrilhon as an island spirit) and singing (the lovely vocals of Fuchs and her sister spirits), as well as original music. Of course Stephanie and Trinculo's volleys of minibar bottles catapulted about the stage in their scenes with a curiously gas-masked Caliban (Jacob Sidney) provide some laughs, but the juxtaposition of hip-hop with hogsheads of wine is more baffling than revealing. Even Vicki Conrad's costumes, which give Ariel a fearsome Slash-meets-Madonna look, end up an eclectic cocktail of aviator apparel and colonial-explorer garb, perhaps an apt metaphor for a show with compelling elements that doesn't quite tame its own tempestuous nature. An Action! Theatre Company Production. (Mayank Keshaviah). Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 24. (323) 463-3900.

TERRARIUM Michael Vukadinovich's story of war and romance. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru April 25...

T.F.N.: TILTED FRAME NETWORK Live improv show simultaneously broadcast via the Internet. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru May 13. (800) 838-3006.

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.

WHAT THE WHAT?! Sketch-comedy, including an "Obama Rap.", $10. Second City Studio Theater, 6560 Hollywood Blvd., Second Floor, L.A.; Fri., 9:30 p.m.; thru April 23, whatthewhatshow.com. (323) 464-8542.

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.

WHO LOVES YA, BABY? Tom DiMenna's cabaret salute to Telly Savalas. M Bar, 1253 Vine St., L.A.; Tues., April 27, 8 p.m.. (323) 856-0036.

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 IN THE VALLEYS

BIZzZY! Rolland Jacks' 1970s musical nostalgia. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru May 16. (818) 990-2324.

NEW REVIEW GO DIRTY POOH

Stage Raw: Losers

Photo courtesy of Zombie Joe's Underground


How

does Zombie Joe's Underground make A.A. Milne's short story, "In Which

Pooh Goes Visiting and Gets Into a Tight Place," NSFW? When

Winnie-the-Pooh (John Byford) gets stuck in Rabbit's (Catherine Weiss)

hole, ZJU doesn't mean 'burrow.' That's the capper of four

radically-reimagined tales from Pooh Corner -- or should I say, the

Pooh Corner Confessions. Writer Adam Neubauer and directs Amanda

Marquardt have set a new high -- or low -- for fractured fairy tales:

Christopher Robin (Lisa Younger) is a drunk, Tigger (Devavani Conroy) a

sex fiend, Eeyore (Neubauer) a guyliner addict, and Piglet (Jonica

Patella) is a pint-sized, tits-mad, manic masturbator who sticks a

balloon of coke up her ass. As for Pooh, he's so devoted to licking

every last drop of honey from his beloved Hunny Pot (charming silent

comedienne Jaclyn Ngan), I blushed harder than a 12-year-old watching a

sex scene with his grandma. But Dirty Pooh doesn't flinch. The cast and

creative team are so do-or-die committed that you'd swear everyone in

Pooh Corner had balls of steel -- if their spandex outfits hadn't

already given you a good look. Go, but get a babysitter or prepare to

answer even tougher questions than, "What's a Tigger?" ZJU Theater

Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens April 9;

Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru May 1. (818) 202-4120. (Amy Nicholson)

DOWN THE ROAD Written by Lee Blessing. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 24. (818) 766-9100.

GHOSTS By Henrik Ibsen. North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr., Solana Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 2. (858) 481-2155.

HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE Driving lessons come with molestation in Paula Vogel's Pulitzer Prize winner. Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 9. (818) 720-2009.

GO LIBERTY INN: THE MUSICAL Carlo Goldoni's La Locandiera, first produced in Venice circa 1750, has held the stage sporadically ever since, providing a vehicle for such theatrical divas as Eleonora Duse. Now it's been made into a musical, with book and lyrics by Dakin Matthews and music by B.T. Ryback. Matthews emphasizes a feminist slant, and transfers the action to Liberty, N.Y., in 1787. Mirandolina (Deborah May), the clever, independent proprietor of the Liberty Inn, inspires amorous feelings in her guests, including a rich English count (John Combs) and a vain, impecunious French marquess (John DeMita). She humors her lovesick swains for the sake of business, but a woman-hating Hessian captain (Norman Snow) offers a challenge, so she sets out to enchant him. Her flirtation is so successful that her loyal servant, Faber (Bill Mendieta), must rescue her from the violently enamored captain. Part of the fun is, ironically, the plot's predictability. The songs, with Matthews' playfully rhyming lyrics, are more clever than memorable, but director Anne McNaughton stages the piece con brio, and the cast (including Charlotte DiGregorio and Mark Doerr) plays it with zest, aided by Dean Cameron's lavish colonial costumes and classically simple set. (Neal Weaver). New Place Theatre, 10950 Peach Grove St., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 25. (866) 811-4111.

NEW REVIEW GO MY SISTER IN THIS HOUSE

Stage Raw: Losers

Photo by Theresa Halzle

In

1933 France, two submissive church-going maids named Christine and Lea

Papin brutally murdered their employer and her daughter, a crime that

riveted the country and set off a firestorm of debate about the

conditions of the working poor.  Handsomely staged, director Michael

Unger's signed and spoken production of Wendy Kesselman's drama

speculates around that event.  Stockpiled with the minutiae of the

maids' daily routine, it explores the increasingly bizarre

psychological dynamics between  the perpetrators - the fastidiously

capable Christine (Deanne Bray, voiced by Darrin Revitz) and her

clumsier dependent sister, Lea (Amber Zion, voiced by Lindsay Evans),

as well as their relationship with their mean "Madame" (Casey Kramer)

and her docile daughter, Isabelle (Jennifer Losi).  Performed without

an intermission, the plot's unhurried rhythm reflects the

excruciatingly slow pace of life in the setting's time and place.  Bray

and Zion  are lovely and expressive in communicating the sisters' bond,

forged ever more tightly in response to Madame's nitpicking cruelty,

though Christine's dark side could be underscored more emphatically.

Kramer's villainess is so fulsomely drawn as to border on caricature;

this apparent directorial choice, made  to emphasize the melodrama, is

handled by this performer with considerable skill. And Losi projects an

effective foil as the petulant Isabelle, whose impulses towards

kindness are ultimately annihilated by her mother. Designers Tom

Buderwitz' set, Leigh Allen's lighting and A. Jeffrey Schoenberg's

costumes create an ambience of musty money contrasting aptly with this

dark disturbing tale. Deaf West Theater, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., N.

Hlywd.; Thurs.- Sat., 8 p.m,.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 30. (818)

762-2773. http://www.deafwest.org (Deborah Klugman)

GO OLD GLORY When last we saw a production by Chicago expat scribe, Brett Neveau, it was American Dead at Rogue Machine/Theatre Theater -- a tenderly written study of a murder investigation in a small Midwest town. Lo and behold, Neveau's latest is a murder investigation, similarly filled with subterranean currents of subtext beneath vividly colloquial dialogues whose main purpose is often to avoid the harsher truths that these very good actors' body language and facial tics can expose, as though with a spotlight. (Scenes between the soldiers are often lighted by each holding a flashlight.) The murder in Old Glory occurs in Fallujah where -- never mind the War -- two American GIs (Jarrett Sleeper and James Messenger) who share a barracks drive each other to paroxysms of mutual loathing. (So no, Gertrude, this is not really a play about the War but about the homefront.) After one of the soldiers ends up splayed in his barracks with a hole in his chest, his father (Pete Gardner) takes a sojourn to a Berlin bar, seeking out the CO (Tom Ormeny), who might know what really happened. Meanwhile, back in New Mexico, the victim's best friend (Chris Allen) struggles to tell what he knows to the victim's mother (Kathy Baily). And so, Brett Snodgrass' set trifurcates the stage into the three realistic settings -- New Mexico, Fallujah and Berlin -- so that the action's mosaic unfolds within these compartments. The ensuing stasis is almost belligerently anti-theatrical, compounded by Allen's lugubrious interpretation of the best friend in his scenes with the grief-stricken mother. (Bailey is particularly adept at burying her despondency beneath strata of terse propriety.) Director Carri Sullens elicits performances that flow with crosscurrents of hardship and fury, yet with a delicacy that's almost amiable. Ormeny and Gardner excel with these gifts. And the latent violence simmering between the soldiers -- one a devotee of graphic novels, the other of real novels -- speaks head-on to why the United States can't seem to generate a reasonable discourse with herself about anything that actually matters. The isolation of the three scenic compartments underscores that point but at a cost, rendering this production more cinematic than theatrical, despite some emotional volatility, as though the action aches for close-ups and camera angles deprived us in this room. Yet, like American Dead, it's another penetratingly written rumination, a lament even, for something indescribable that's been lost in this country -- and to this country. (Steven Leigh Morris). Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru April 25. (818) 841-5421.

SAVED BY THE PARODY Musical parody of 1990s TV sitcom Saved by the Bell, written and directed by Ren Casey. Presented by Renegade Zombie. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Sat., 10:45 p.m.; thru May 29, renegadezombie.com. (866) 811‐4111.

GO SWEET SUE A.R. Gurney's stock in trade is as an erudite chronicler of Wasp culture and romantic conundrums. Here, he is not at his witty, engaging best, but director Ernest Figueroa and a stalwart cast make this problematic play worth a viewing. Sweet Sue is a variation on that old standby, the May-December romance. The action unfolds in the spacious Philadelphia home of Sue Weatherall, a middle-of-the-road artist who has a fling with Jake, a college buddy and roommate of her son Ted. Because Jake is rooming at her house for the summer, he agrees to do some nude modeling for Sue, which, to no one's surprise, gradually turns into a romantic fixation. That not much occurs in this highly talky play is not the problem. The two characters are played by four actors, two Sues and two Jakes. The artifice allows for dual perspectives and approaches, but this double representation becomes confusing, especially when all four actors are onstage, and when the author splices time segments, which he often does. What's more, notwithstanding some humorous moments, there really isn't a lot here that forcibly engages. The romance predictably fizzles. The upside is the fine acting: Figueroa's cast members (Laurie Morgan, Janet Wood, Sean McGee and Brandon Irons) work well together. Wood is especially artful in her portrayal of the older, mature Susan. (Lovell Estell III). Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 25. (818) 700-4878.

TEA AT FIVE Matthew Lombardo's solo drama about Katharine Hepburn (Cissy Conner), set in her home in Fenwick, Conn., examines her life and loves from two different points of view. In Act 1, set in 1938, she's still reeling from a series of film flops, and the fact that movie exhibitors have branded her box-office poison. Act 2 takes place in 1983, at the end of her career, when Warren Beatty was attempting to persuade her to take on her last movie role, and deals with her declining health, the suicide of her brother and her relations with Spencer Tracy. The piece is largely a compendium of familiar Hepburn stories, but Lombardo tells them well, and he captures the familiar style and accents of her public persona: cheerfully egocentric and monumentally eccentric, alternating earthy common sense with movie-star flamboyance. Conner doesn't resemble Hepburn physically, but she deftly captures her flavor, particularly as the aging Kate in Act 2, complete with the throaty, slightly strangled voice. It's an engaging and skillful performance, which plays on our affection for and familiarity with the original. Set designer Scott Umfress was clearly working under financial limitations, but his minimalist set is evocative if not always historically on the mark. (Neal Weaver). Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru May 2, tea-at-five.com. (800) 838-3006.

TURKEY DAY Jeff Folschinsky's Thanksgiving comedy. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 16, eclecticcompanytheatre.org. (818) 508-3003.

25 PLAYS PER HOUR Two dozen (plus one!) shorts performed in under an hour. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 10:30 p.m.; thru May 8, theatreunleashed.com. (818) 849-4039.

THE UNSERIOUS CHECKHOV Theatre Unleashed turns Chekhov's frown upside down with stagings of his lesser-known comedic works. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 8, theatreunleashed.com. (818) 849-4039.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WEST SIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS

NEW REVIEW ALTAR EGO With the gulf of incomprehension

that frequently gapes between men and women, it's a wonder that anyone

ever hooks up.  That's the underlying theme in this collection of eight

interrelated monologues (credited to playwright James Lyons) about the

world's oldest hobby: Yammering about sex until it seems about as

interesting as discussing the deboning of a fish fillet. Although the

youthfully energetic eight-person ensemble briskly tackles the glib

vignettes, the material itself is never able to evade a faint scent of

triviality. Lyons (who really should learn how to spell "alter", though

it is spelt correctly in the press materials) portrays a cheerfully

amoral husband who defends his frequent extra-marital dalliances with

the traditional excuse that he truly loves his wife - but he has

needs.  Later on, Audrey Moore, in a nicely sour turn, portrays the

man's wife, who's understandably miffed about the case of the clap she

has mysteriously come down with.   A particularly droll turn is offered

by Leila Vatan, playing an Iranian-American woman, who, caparisoned in

the mandatory chador, bemoans her lack of sexual opportunities.  And

Mike Horton's monologue about a man with a tiny penis but with enormous

anger management issues starts out humorously before shifting

unexpectedly into tragedy.   In directors Audrey Moore and Leila

Vatan's character-driven production, the performers sit on onstage

chairs in a semi-circle, as though they're attending an AA meeting,

while watching as each briefly takes center stage.  Chuckling gently

and indulgently as they observe each other's excesses and humiliations,

the mood is both ironic, yet sweetly forgiving of sexual weakness. 

However, in the end, the monologues' talky nature is less exciting than

actual dramatic interaction would have been.  Beverly Hills Playhouse,

254 S. Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.;

thru April 25.  (310) 358-9936.  Katselas Theatre Company (Paul

Birchall)


GO THE ARSONISTS In 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.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 23. (310) 477-2055.

THE BLUE ROOM "I think men talk to women so they can sleep with them," Jay McInerney wrote in Brightness Falls, "and women sleep with men so they can talk with them." In director Elina de Santos' production of The Blue Room, David Hare's version of this sexual merry-go-round, what should be a hypnotic swirl offers instead the slight chill of dead energy between actors Christina Dow and Christian S. Anderson. That could be perceived as a fault, but you hope it's a conscious choice -- a variation on a theme, the opposite tactic taken in Closer, fellow Brit Patrick Marber's highly flammable play that debuted just a year before Hare's. Or maybe we've run around this particular playground so often, we're bored with it: This is, after all, an adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler's 1900 play, Reigen. As beds rotate, the handful of characters Dow and Anderson each play blur into their aptly named singulars ("The Woman," "The Man"). Here and there a line emerges like a cry of exhilaration, or fear, from the speed; it's hard to tell the difference sometimes. "I'm fuckin' a married woman!" shouts Anderson as a jittery student (duration of copulation: 0 minutes). The almost impenetrable barrier between the sexes is fortified most noticeably by class, which makes the decision to break the theatrical fourth wall -- and by whom -- the most thought-provoking moment of the production. Original music by Arthur Loves Plastic is noteworthy. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 2. (310) 477-2055.

GO THE BROWNING VERSION Though not as widely known or acclaimed as his contemporary British playwrights, Terence Rattigan was a superb dramatist and chronicler of human emotions. Here, Rattigan's The Browning Version, the gloomy story of an aging schoolteacher crushed by failure and disappointment, receives a stellar mounting by director Marilyn Fox. A well-regarded scholar of the classics, Andrew Crocker-Harris (the superb Bruce French) has spent the last 18 years as an instructor at a public school in England but must leave the position because of failing health to take a less-stressful job elsewhere. Now the object of jokes and ridicule by his students, and denied a pension by the school, he has a bearing that is subdued by sadness, yearning and a palpable "gallows" surrender to circumstance. His wife, Millie (Sally Smythe), has given up on being happy with him and has contented herself with numerous dalliances with his colleagues (which she delights in reminding him of), and cruelly undermining what remains of his sense of manhood. Her current lover, Frank (understudy David Rogge), is torn between a sense of guilt, his admiration for Andrew, and the dying embers of lust for Millie. It is only when the professor is presented with a rare translation of Agamemnon from a student (Justin Preston) that his mask of stoic restraint melts to reveal a desperately fragile inner life. From this sedate tapestry of characters, Rattigan artfully probes marriage, relationship and our perverse capacity to embrace lacerating emotional pain and self-deceit, which all unfolds beautifully on Norman Scott's cleverly designed sitting-room mock-up. Fox directs this piece with masterful subtlety and draws devastatingly convincing performances from her actors. (Lovell Estell III). Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; Sat., April 24, 8 p.m.. (310) 822-8392.

THE DRAWER BOY When a production leaves you not once, but twice, surreptitiously wiping tears from the corners of your eyes, it's difficult to speak against it. Despite the surge of emotion director Melanie MacQueen's cast elicits, this staging of Michael Healey's quiet, pastoral 1999 play is just too rolling -- so rolling there are moments you wish you could lie down in the Canadian hay with Angus (Daniel Leslie) and doze off staring at the stars, too. Angus' and longtime friend Morgan's (Robert Mackenzie) military service during World War II led them to London during the Blitz, which left Angus with a head injury: "Before [the doctor] could close it up, his memory escaped." Thirty years later, in 1972, Miles (Kris Frost), a wide-eyed lamb of an actor who moves in to work and research life on their Ontario farm for a new play, threatens to crack the friends' carefully constructed peaceful existence. Hold actors Leslie and Mackenzie responsible for the waves of emotion that sneak up and knock you over. Mackenzie's recitation of his and Angus' story is done with the delicate delivery and calm joy of a father telling his child a bedtime story. Leslie carefully builds the gentle giant Angus, playing neither for laughs nor tears; so when he tumbles, you're desperate to gather up all the pieces and put him together again. The pace in between, however, is so drowsy it makes the already too-hastily tied-with-a-bow ending feel even more drastic and improbable. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 25. (310) 364-0535.

FULLY COMMITTED Sam Lloyd is an out-of-work actor in Becky Mode's one-man play. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru May 6. (310) 512-6030.

Fully Committed Sam Lloyd portrays more then 40 characters in his one-man show. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru May 26. (310) 512-6030.

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.

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., May 21, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 23, 5 p.m.; 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.

GO THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO

Stage Raw: Losers

Photo by Paul Rubenstein


New

translation of Pierre Beaumarchais' comedy, by Frederique Michel and

Charles Duncombe. City Garage, 1340 1/2 Fourth St., Santa Monica;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5:30 p.m.; thru May 30. (310) 319-9939. See

Stage Feature .

POT! THE MUSICAL Marijuana musical-comedy, book by Diane Shinozaki, music by Steven Huber, lyrics by Steven Huber and Diane Shinozaki. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 2, potthemusical.com. (800) 838-3006.

PRINCESS BEAN'S MESSY WORLD Rock & roll kids musical about a petite punk princess. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice; Sat..; thru May 1. (310) 306-1854.

Theater

PROOF David Auburn's story of an ailing math professor. Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 9. (310) 454-1970.

STRIP Unfortunately: "No nudity." Written and directed by George Damian. 21 & over. Good Hurt, 12249 Venice Blvd., Mar Vista; Mon.-Tues., 8 p.m.; thru May 18, striptheplay.com. (800) 838-3006.

A TINY PIECE OF LAND This worthy but heavy-handed drama by playwrights Joni Browne-Walders and Mel Weiser is a well-intentioned attempt to articulate the pro-Israeli side in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. To its credit, director Weiser's production hits its stride most engagingly during the intellectually astute scenes in which characters argue about Israel's right to exist -- issues about which the playwrights have powerful opinions. Sadly, though, it's when Browne-Walders and Weiser's bloated text attempts to operate as drama that the show goes off the rails into clumsily executed melodrama. After the untimely death of his wife, Jewish-American dentist Barry (Robert G. Bledsoe) impulsively flies to Israel to be reunited with his long-estranged younger brother, Yosi (Cliff Smith), Yosi's loving wife, Aviva (Andrea Dovner) and their daughter Rachel (Anat Gerber). A proverbial Babe in this Holy Land, Barry almost immediately causes consternation within his clan by arrogantly opining his belief that the Israelis are as much at fault as the Palestinians are in the conflict. But when terrorist attacks hit the area, Barry gradually discovers that the complexities of the battle can't be easily defined and understood by outsiders -- even by Americans Jews. Weiser's straightforward staging is workmanlike, with some embarrassingly stiff blocking and overly mawkish line readings. Yet a larger problem is the lackluster script, which, while slightly redeemed by the friction generated by the political debate, is ultimately set back by scene after scene of small talk and flat-footed character exposition. Dovner's fiery performance as Israeli family matriarch Aviva and Gerber's angsty turn as daughter Rachel convey the passionate nature of Israeli personality -- but other performers are stiff, seemingly unable to overcome the play's preaching hamstrings. (Paul Birchall). Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 24, tix.com. (800) 595-4849.

TOOTH AND NAIL Gena Acosta's New Jersey-family comedy. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., May 16, 7 p.m.; Thurs., May 20, 8 p.m.; thru May 22. (310) 512-6030.

TROG AND CLAY: AN IMAGINED HISTORY OF THE ELECTRIC CHAIR Michael Vukadinovich's Thomas Edison comedy. Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 15, latensemble.com. (310) 396-3680.