Stage Raw: Louis & Keely Go on the Road
Vanessa Claire Smith and Jake Broder (pictured left) are taking their hit musical, Louis & Keely Live at the Sahara, on a national tour with the aim of eventually bringing it to Broadway. The musical was born at Sacred Fools Theater in east Hollywood, under Jeremy Aldridge's direction, and then sustained an open-ended engagement at the Geffen Playhouse's second stage, under Taylor Hackford's staging. Hackford will not be involved in the tour. A new director has yet to be named. This critic was disappointed by Hackford's imposition of literal, cinematic bio-epic qualities onto a musical that had been originally staged as the surreal swirl of Prima's imagination. Smith has said that as part of the show's evolution, and continued rewrites, some aspects of that original script are being reinstated.
COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for August 28 - September 3, 2009
(The weekend's NEW REVIEWS are embedded in "Continuing Performances" below. You may also be able to search for them by title using your computer's search program.)
Our critics are Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III, Martin Hernandez, Mayank Keshaviah, 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
TicketsThu., Jun. 29, 10:00pm
Agoura Hills Dance Presents Star 2017 Joyful Joyful
TicketsFri., Jun. 30, 7:00pm
Hollywood Babble-On with Kevin Smith & Ralph Garman
TicketsFri., Jun. 30, 10:00pm
The Late Night Show with Stuart Thompson, Luke Schwartz & More!
TicketsFri., Jun. 30, 11:00pm
The 28th Annual Mariachi USA Festival
TicketsSat., Jul. 1, 6:00pm
OPENING THIS WEEK
BRIGHT IDEAS "Macbeth meets MacParenting" in Eric Coble's black comedy. International City Theatre, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; opens Aug. 29; Sat.-Sun., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 20. (562) 436-4610.
THE CONVERSATION Teen runaway overhears a stunning secret about a nun-run home, in Alpha Blair's drama. The Black Box Theater, 12420 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sun., Aug. 30, 5 p.m., www.thebattlecryempire.com/events...
GASLIGHT Victorian wife is going insane (... or is she?) in Patrick Hamilton's psychological thriller. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; opens Aug. 28; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 27. (323) 851-7977.
MANUSCRIPT Paul Grellong's drama about three college students. Elephant Stageworks, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens Aug. 28; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 3, www.plays411.com/manuscript. (323) 960-5774.
SACRED FOOLS SEASON 13 LAUNCH BASH Foolish fund-raiser!. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Sat., Aug. 29, 8:30 p.m.. (310) 281-8337.
ST. JOAN AND THE DANCING SICKNESS Julie Hebert's story of a "troubled teenager with a gift.". Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Aug. 28-29, 8 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 5, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 6, 3 p.m.; Sept. 10-11, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 13, 3 p.m.. (323) 882-6912.
TOMB OF THE VANISHING INDIAN Marie Clements' informal history of L.A.'s urban Native Americans. Autry National Center, 4700 Western Heritage Way, L.A.; Wed., Sept. 2. (323) 667-2000.
VISTING MR. GREEN Jeff Baron's bittersweet comedy about two men, one in his 80s, one in his 20s. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; opens Aug. 29; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 27. (818) 558-7000.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGION-WIDE
GO THE CHERRY ORCHARD In 1950, writer-director Josh Logan transferred Chekhov's play to the American South in an adaptation called The Wisteria Trees. Now, director Heidi Helen Davis, and Ellen Geer have reset the play near Charlottesville, Virginia, and updated it to 1970. The ex-serfs have become the descendants of slaves, and Chekhov's Madame Ranevsky has become Lillian Randolph Cunningham (Ellen Geer), the owner of the famous cherry orchard that's "mentioned in the Encyclopedia Britannica." Though it's a very free adaptation, it admirably preserves the play's flavor and spirit. And while Davis' production skewers the characters for their vanity, folly and ineptitude, it treats them with affectionate respect. She's blessed with a wonderful cast, including William Dennis Hunt as the landowner's garrulous, fatuous brother; J.R. Starr as an ancient family retainer; Melora Marshall as the eccentric governess Carlotta; and Steve Matt as the grandson of slaves ― and a go-getter businessman who longs to be the master. The production is easygoing, relaxed, faithful in its own way, and often very funny. It may be the most fully integrated (in every sense of the word) production of the play that we're likely to see. (NW) Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; call for schedule; through September 11. (310) 455-3723 or www.theatricum.com.
GO CYMBELINE What might Shakespeare have written if he'd been asked by some 17th-century counterpart of a TV producer to come up with something quick, hot and flashy? It's likely an extravagantly plotted comedy like this one, with story ideas snatched from legend, his peers and some of his own better-developed and more sublime works. Regarded today as one of Shakespeare's more minor plays, this comedy revolves around a king's daughter named Imogen (Willow Geer), banished from court by her father, Cymbeline (Thad Geer), for daring to marry the man of her choice. The plucky gal's travails intensify when a villain named Iachimo (Aaron Hendry, alternating with Steve Matt) decides willy-nilly to slander her to her husband Posthumus (Mike Peebler), who then commands a servant to assassinate her for her alleged infidelity. Her wanderings eventually land her on the doorstep of her father's old enemy, Belarius (Earnestine Phillips), who has raised two of Cymbeline's children (thus Imogen's own siblings) as her own. Director Ellen Geer has fashioned an appealing production laced with an aptly measured dose of spectacle and camp. At its core is Willow Geer's strong and likable princess. As her adoring and, later, raging, jealous spouse, Peebler's Posthumus is earnestly on the mark, while Jeff Wiesen garners deserved laughs as the foppish suitor she'd rejected. The latter meets his end at the hands of the princess' newfound brother, well-played by Matt Ducati. (DK) Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sun., 3:30 p.m.; thru Sept. 27. (310) 455-3723.
HERRINGBONE Vaudeville musical starring B.D. Wong as a tap-dancing 8-year-old. Book by Tom Cone, music by Skip Kennon, lyrics by Ellen Fitzhugh. La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla Village Dr., La Jolla; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 30. (858) 550-1010.
JULIUS CAESAR Shakespeare's tragedy. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sat., Aug. 29, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 6, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 4 p.m.; thru Sept. 26. (310) 455-3723.
GO LEGALLY BLONDE THE MUSICAL I'll admit it. I'm a bald, mustachioed, macho man who enjoyed this saccharine sweet, feel-good girly girl musical. I even found some of it amusing. A lot of the credit goes to the infectious charm and stellar performance of Becky Gulsvig in the role of Elle Woods, the blonde California sorority girl who follows her ex-beau Warner (Jeff McLean) to Harvard Law School to win him back. When it's all over, Elle has faced off with shark-attorneys, made a host of interesting friends, played matchmaker, found true love with Emmett (D.B.Bonds) and learned something about life, love and the value of being true to one's self. The book for this stage adaptation of the popular 2001 movie is by Heather Hach, and is vigorously choreographed and directed by Jerry Mitchell (La Cage Aux Folles and Hairspray). Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin's music and lyrics are not memorable, being as as sugary-sweet as the story itself. David Rockwell's grand, pink-themed sets are stunning, even a bit overwhelming at times, and the same can be said of the collage of blinding colors in Gregg Barne's costume design. Yet the show is such a guilty pleasure, I'm going back with my daughter. Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd, Tue.-Fri., 8 p.m., Sat. 2 &8 p.m., Sun., 1&6:30 p.m., thru. Sep. 6. (800) 982-2787. A Broadway L.A. production (Lovell Estell III)
LOUIS & KEELY: LIVE AT THE SAHARA I haven't seen this musical study of '50s lounge-act crooners Louis Prima and Keely Smith since its transcendent premiere at Sacred Fools Theatre last year, and oh, is it different. Documentary and Oscar-nominated film maker Taylor Hackford has been busy misguiding writer-performers Jake Broder and Vanessa Claire Smith's musical. Taylor took over from director Jeremy Aldridge, who brought it to life in east Hollywood. Smith and Broder have drafted an entirely new book, added onstage characters - including Frank Sinatra (Nick Cagle) who, along with Broder and Smith, croons a ditty. (As though Cagle can compete with Sinatra's voice, so embedded into the pop culture.) They've also added Prima's mother (Erin Matthews) and other people who populated the lives of the pair. The result is just a little heartbreaking: The essence of what made it so rare at Sacred Fools has been re-vamped and muddied into a comparatively generic bio musical, like Stormy Weather(about Lena Horne) or Ella(about Ella Fitzgerald). The good news is the terrific musicianship, the musical direction originally by Dennis Kaye and now shared by Broder and Paul Litteral, remains as sharp as ever, as are the title performances. Broder's lunatic edge and Bobby Darin singing style has huge appeal, while Vanessa Claire Smith has grown ever more comfortable in the guise and vocal stylings of Keely Smith. It was the music that originally sold this show, and should continue to do so. With luck, perhaps Broder and Smith haven't thrown out their original script. (SLM) Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 3:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; through Sept. 27. (310) 208-54545.
GO THE MISER Director Ellen Geer delivers a hilarious and highly polished production of Moliere's comedy. It's a faithful rendition, despite the fact that she's garnished it with several original songs (written with Peter Alsop), a dog, and some creative anachronisms: Neither cod-pieces nor horn-rimmed glasses quite belong in 1668, but they prove capital laugh-getters. The production's greatest asset is Alan Blumenfeld, who delivers a wonderfully demented, larger-than-life performance as the miser Harpagon, calling on the traditions of music-hall, vaudeville and burlesque to create a portrait of monstrous greed and vanity. He's ably assisted Mike Peebler as his rebellious, clothes-horse son Cleante, Melora Marshall as the flamboyant match-maker/bawd Frosine, Ted Barton as a choleric cook/coachman, and Mark Lewis as Cleante's sly, wily side-kick, La Fleche. As the young lovers, Peebler, Samara Frame, Chad Jason Scheppner, and understudy Jennifer Schoch capture the requisite romance, while lampooning the coincidences and shop-worn theatrical conventions of the genre, and a large cast provides fine support. The lavish costumes, including Cleante's outrageous suit-of-too-many-colors, with its gloriously obscene, giggle-inducing cod-piece, are by Shon LeBlanc and Valentino's Costumes. (Neal Weaver) Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 North Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Topanga; thru September 25; in rep, call for schedule (310) 455-3723.
MONTY PYTHON'S SPMALOT Monty Python and the Holy Grail- the 1975 take on Arthurian legend -- is probably not the sharpest sendup in comedians Eric Idle & Associates' body of film work, compared to their later, blistering satire on Biblical lore contained in The Life of Brian(1979) - Brian being Jesus - and on the existential quandaries in The Meaning of Life(1983). The Holy Grailnonetheless contains what was for a generation of fans a blithely anarchistic and singularly British response to a constipated culture. Idle and John Du Prez's long-touring musical, Monty Python's Spamalot, is lifted mostly from The Holy Grailand is at its best when filching dialogue from the movie, with performances that replicate the dry wry humor of faulty assumptions taken to their most idiotic conclusions. In the film, there's a plague sketch in which the city corpse collectors go round with a cart calling, "Bring out your dead." One ill fellow protests that he's "not dead yet," and that in fact he's feeling better. This leads to bickering with the officials until his owner bonks him on the head with a shovel, assuring that he isdead. In the musical, that scene gets played out in a song called "I Am Not Dead Yet," wherein the clout with the shovel occurs twice. Evidently, the joke told once isn't sufficient. With that kind of repetition throughout the musical, the film's brisk tone shifts from the pinpoint sparks of standup comedy to the comparatively lumbering reprises of musical theater, though there's a wonderful parody of Andrew Lloyd Weber torch songs called "The Song That Goes Like This." But the larger issue resides in the motives of creation. Monty Python created comedy in reaction to, and as a comment on, the absurdities of life in Britain, and beyond. In the musical, King Arthur (John O'Hurley) seeks - in addition to the holy grail - a way to get onto Broadway. So this is no longer a vicious comedy about the world, it's a far gentler homage to Monty Python, filled with Sarah Palin jokes and mock-Academy Awards. The idea has undergone a tectonic shift from being pointedly silly to generally silly. These are really the aesthetics of marketing. The result is far more popular than penetrating. The company is unimpeachable, as is Casey Nicholaw's splendidly stupid choreography and Tim Hatley's deliberately cheesy set and costumes. (SLM) Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat. 2 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through September 6. (213) 972-4400.
GO NEVERMORE Poor Edgar. In Dennis Paoli's one-man play, beautifully directed by Stuart Gordon, Jeffrey Combs portrays the bedraggled Southern poet, Poe, in a staged reading. He's a bundle of idiosyncrasies ― tremors and a hesitation to complete sentences. The man is ill with fevers and despondent over the recent death of his wife, yet from the twinkle in Combs' eye, it's clear he rather enjoys the attention of strangers, and is deeply proud of his masterwork, "The Raven," which he'll recite when he gets around to it. His concentration, and his ability to perform, are steadily more impeded by the after effects of a bottle of whiskey, which he clutches at the inside of his suit. Fortunately, he recites "The Tell-Tale Heart" while still lucid, and what an absurd, showoff-y, macabre display it is ― pure Victorian melodrama, in the style of Chekhov's one-act, one-man show: "On the Harmfulness of Tobacco," also about man making a presentation ostensibly for one purpose, while undone by another. Chekhov's character is persecuted by his wife, or by his imaginings of her. Edgar is torn by the presence of his fiancée, who is assessing whether her groom-to-be can stay on the wagon. The harrowing answer becomes self-evident as, in one scene, he goes off on a spontaneous rant against Longfellow; and in another, as he's leaping around to a poem about bells, he abruptly falls off the stage into the orchestra pit. It's an almost unbelievably hammy turn, as mannered as the style of the era he's depciting, a gorgeous rendition of a tragic clown whose heart has been cleaved open by loss and regret. His rendition of "The Raven" is clearly an homage to his late wife, and how any hope of her return is forbidden by the reprise of this show's title. (SLM) Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; through Sept. 26. (323) 666-4268.
THE TEMPEST Many would argue that Shakespeare is not meant to be experienced in a darkened proscenium house with fancy sets, a silent audience and plush seating, but with minimal lighting and sets, a boisterous crowd and no seating at all. Those preferring the latter will find this production of Shakespeare's final play to their liking. The familiar story about the wronged former Duke of Milan who is banished to an island with his daughter, only to use his powers of sorcery to command the faeries of the isle to exact revenge on his fellow nobles is performed with traditional minimalism, but with much modern commentary and humor. Director and company co-founder Melissa Chalsma incorporates into the dialogue jokes about cell phones, Martha Stewart, and even the Barnsdall performance space. Continuing the modern aesthetic are Daniel Mahler's costumes, which feature a blend of bubble wrap, duct tape, and other shiny bits for the faeries and Prospero's cape, in styles ranging from Mafioso (Sebastian) to band geek (Trinculo) to Charlie Chaplain (Stephano). The latter two work well for the bawdy, vaudevillian duo, who along with Caliban, become the most engaging part of the performance. What's gained in comedy, however, is lost in the somber philosophical inquiry that makes up significant part of the text. A major reason for this is the setting, which, by allowing food, drink and a "family atmosphere," also suffers from the distraction of crying, talking children. And while that atmosphere is good for a summer community event, give me the darkened proscenium house for this play. (MK) Barnsdall Park, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m. (in alternating rep with Henry V, so performance dates vary); through August 30. (323) 836-0288. An Independent Shakespeare Company. Production.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS
ACME SATURDAY NIGHT ACME's flagship sketch show, with celebrity guest hosts each week., $15. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.
NEW REVIEW PICK ANITA BRYANT DIED FOR YOUR SINS
Photo by Ty Donaldson
title of Brian Christopher Williams play suggests a slick, sassy gay
comedy, and so it is--but it is much more than that, something far
richer. Growing up during the Nixon era, deeply closeted 11-year-old
gay boy Horace (a terrific Wyatt Fenner) develops a monstrous crush on
his hunky gym teacher (Nick Ballard). Horace and his family weather the
Vietnam War, and big brother Chaz (Nick Niven) flees to Canada to
escape the draft. In the recession of the 1970s, Dad (Tony Pandolfo)
has economic reverses, and Mom (Jan Sheldrick) loses her job. And when
Anita Bryant (Madelynn Fattibene) launches her militant campaign
against gay rights, Horace learns that there are people who will hate
him for who he is. He must come out to his loving but irascible
parents, and he's overcome by jealousy when he realizes his adored
teacher is having an affair with a neighbor (Sara J. Stuckey). He
retaliates by betraying the teacher, in a way he knows is shameful.
Williams' play becomes a funny and touching family saga as well as the
tale of a bright gay kid striving to grow up. Richard Israel provides
wonderfully nuanced direction, and the entire cast is splendid. West
Coast Ensemble, El Centro Theatre, 800 N. El Centro Ave., Hollywood;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., through October 4. (323) 460-4443 or
tix.com. (Neal Weaver)
BABY IT'S YOU! American Pop Anthology presents Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux's musical biography of Scepter Records founder Florence Greenberg., www.babyitsyouthemusical.com. Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; Sun., 3 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 30. (800) 595-4TIX.
BLACKBIRD Adam Rapp's love story about a disabled veteran and an ex-stripper. Elephant Theatre Lab, 1078 Lilian Way, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 19, www.plays411.com/blackbird. (323) 860-3283.
BLOCK NINE Tom Stanczyk's play, "an unapologetically same-sex, retro noir 1930's gangster homage," is performed in two alternating versions ― one with an all-male cast, reviewed here, and the other all-female. It's less comedy of manners than comedy of the mannered, suggesting the novels of Jean Genet re-played as farce. Though the characters are cops and gangsters, like Genet's pimps and hustlers, they're more concerned with their images and gestures than their professional careers. Cop Phil (Kenny Suarez) persuades his skittish, vulnerable partner/lover Hank (Jeremy Glazer) to go undercover on Cellblock 9 to get the goods on tough mobster Lips (Matt Rimmer). Then one torrid kiss from Lips turns Hank to jello, and leaves him wallowing in a hilarious orgy of would-be submission, longing to be violated. Instead, Lips passes him along to eccentric blond muscle-man and mob-boss Cody (Max Williams), who keeps two minions on tap: naïve young Johnny (Josh Breeding), and foppish pseudo-Frenchman Armand (Louis Douglas Jacobs). Despite the pervasive haze of homoeroticism, Cody's more inclined to shoot them than to fuck them. While director Pete Uribe has assembled a highly attractive and accomplished cast, and deploys them with flair and wit, ultimately the play seems like a comic sexual tease that never quite delivers. (Neal Weaver) Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Hollywood; in rotating rep through September 20; call theatre for schedule. (323) 960-4410.
BURN THIS Lanford Wilson's offbeat romantic drama. Flight Theater at The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 13, www.burnthisplay.info. (800) 504-4849.
CHARIOT It is 1987 and the Hills are the only black family in a tidy but sterile suburb of the San Fernando Valley. In a too-successful attempt at assimilation, the family members have repressed nearly every emotional and spiritual problem that comes their way. In Steven Lee's everything-including-the-kitchen-sink melodrama, Grandmother (Gayle La Rone) arrives from the South in her chariot (an expensive sports car) to spread her wealth and shake the family loose from its self-loathing and hypocrisy. Lee's script gives each of the generally solid actors enormous scene-chewing speeches, and director Cary Thompson encourages high-powered performances, which never let up and, unfortunately, too often turn to screaming matches and chest-pounding. Lee's exhaustive list of dramatic issues centers on homosexuality, psychosis, religious rejection, alcoholism and violence. Near the end we wonder why he left out incest oh, never mind we get to that, too. Thomas (TJ) Walker provides an array of terrific costumes, which offer the visual cues not found in the simple set pieces that create the modest suburban home. (Tom Provenzano). Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 6. (323) 960-7788.
GO COMING HOME A sequel to his 1995 postapartheid play, Valley Song, Athol Fugard's latest work, Coming Home, tells of the decimation of one person's dream and the recasting of hope from its ashes. The luminous Deidrie Henry portrays Veronica, a once-aspiring singer who returns to her rural childhood home, child in hand, after 10 bitterly disappointing and difficult years in Cape Town. Resilient and nurturing despite her anguish, Veronica has a single-minded purpose: to establish a home for her son Mannetjie (Timothy Taylor and then by Matthew Elam as he ages), who will need support and protection in the event of her demise from AIDS. With her beloved grandfather, her only relative, dead, she turns for help to her childhood friend Alfred (Thomas Silcott), a sweet, slow-minded man who has always loved her dearly but whom her son despises. Spanning five years, the story depicts Veronica's transformation from a buoyant woman to a sick but seething, determined molder of her son's future to, finally, a bedridden invalid, yet with enough energy to foster her boy's burgeoning ambition to write. Part of Fugard's ongoing reflection of his native country's woes, the play contains sometimes burdensome exposition, which is offset by its masterfully drawn characters and deeply embedded humor. Under Stephen Sachs' direction, Henry shines, while Silcott is equally outstanding. As Mannetjie, whom we watch evolving into manhood, Taylor and especially Elam both impress; Adolphus Ward skillfully fashions the ghost of Veronica's grandfather. (DK) Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 29.
DON'T FORGET TO REMEMBER The title of Patricia Parker's play is a line from a poem by Andrew Baker (Shelly Kurtz), written to remind himself to hold onto his memories as he faces the encroachment of Alzheimer 's disease. His life is made still harder by the fact that his wife Dolores (Trudy Forbes) is a rigid, conservative Catholic, with a knack for denying anything in life that might be upsetting. She turns against their daughter Sarah (Lisa Clifton) when she learns the girl is a lesbian, and when Sarah decides to marry her female lover, she attempts to drive her out of the house. Her denial goes into high gear when Andrew makes her promise to help him kill himself when he starts to seriously lose his faculties. Parker is an earnest and sincere writer, but her play prolongs the agony till it grows turgid and melodramatic, despite the fine efforts of a capable cast and Kiff Scholl's mostly excellent direction. (His handling of the scenes is fine, but the "expressionist" pantomime between scenes is more confusing than helpful.) Set designer Davis Campbell makes handsome and clever use of the small space. (NW) The Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., thru September 6. (323) 960-7780 or www.Plays411.com/remember
GO EL VERDE: ¡VIVA LA FRITA! Who knows what evil lurks in the heart El Verde (writer-performer Anthony Aguilar), a masked superhero in Fictional City, U.S.A. with a fondness for green and "powers even he isn't sure of." In this third installment of the cheeky comic book spoof, pop artist Candy Warhol (Jeremiah Ocañas) is dedicating a clothing line to the dauntless El Verde but is thwarted by the nefarious Frita Kahlo (the hilarious scene-stealing Karla Ojeda), a criminal mastermind with a mania for monkeys and mind control. As El Verde matches wits with Frita, who plots to seize the cloaked crusader's popularity and expose his secret identity, his devotion to duty threatens his marriage to the long-suffering Martha (Blanca Melchor). Interspersed are parodies of TV commercials, from Dos XX's "world's most interesting man" send up, written by director Alejandra Cisneros, to hip-hopping insects in the PSA for a bug support group, penned by Gabriela Lopez de Dennis, plus playful swipes at L.A.'s own amorous mayor. Due to the small stage, Cisneros has some awkward moments in the blocking but her comic timing and exuberant cast - and mellifluous announcer Oscar Basulto - compensate for any technical blemishes.(Martín Hernández) CASA 0101, 2009 E. First Street, L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 30. (323) 263-7684.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE Weekly sketch comedy. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.
FUGGEDABOUTIT! Gordon Bressac, one of the great writing talents behind televisions iconoclastically brilliant Pinky and the Brainand Animaniacs, has sadly lost touch with his stage roots from New York's La Mama, as his West Coast premier as a theatrical auteur falls flat. His farce follows 90 minutes in the life of Guy, a male fashion model (Shaw Jones, excellent playing straight man to an assemblage of crazy characters), who, after becoming a total amnesiac in an accident, is surrounded by friends, lovers and a mafia hit-man, all trying to jog his memory. The plodding story has each visitor taking Guy through an important memory, which we witness through flashback. The characters are appropriately two-dimensional for the comic format, but acting choices are mostly weak cliches, particularly a gay couple (Charles M. Howell IV and Christopher Le Crenn) stepping right out of Boys in the Band, a pouty dumb blond (Jessica Rose) grasping for a Marilyn Monroe impression, and a cookie cutter gangster (Arman Torosyan), who has more in common with the gays than he wants to admit. The play is preceded by a pointless curtain-opener, presenting a two-bit Noel Coward and Gertude Lawrence type pair (Bressac and Mary Broderick) preparing for a stage entrance. The most enjoyable part of the evening is Andrew Murdock's ongoing audio montage of songs about memory. (Tom Provenzano) Hudson Backstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood: Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 20. (323) 960-7753.
GETTING OUT Marsha Norman's story of a mixed-up girl just released from prison. Lyric-Hyperion Theater, 2106 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 20, www.lyrichyperion.com...
NEW REVIEW GO GROUNDLINGS SPACE CAMP
Photo by Shawn Bishop
when you thought it was safe to swear off laughing forever, the
Groundlings have unleashed another solid show. Under Mikey Day's
direction, the best bits are weighted toward the beginning: John
Connor's sidekick meets his own protective Terminator, an 18-inch
dancing robot; two octogenarian '70s sitcom stars radiate diva 'tude
while fumbling through a commercial for the AARP; and, my favorite, a
post-championship rally for the Lakers where a fan opens up to Kobe
Bryant via the news, looking into the camera and vowing, "You could
make me learn to trust again." Director Day keeps things at a nice
clip, staying on top of five funny improv exercises, despite loud
insistence from a tipsy audience member (who wanted more of her
suggestions used) that everyone else in the crowd was a plant. In a
uniformly good cast, Jeremy Rowley's Kobe obsessive stands out, as do
both ladies, Stephanie Courtney and Charlotte Newhouse, the latter of
whom braved an instantly-embarrassed theatergoer's improv prompt that
she speak "Asian." Groundlings Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.,
8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; thru Oct. 3. (323) 934-9700. (Amy
THE HIGH Teen-drama parody, "from OMG to LOL.". ComedySportz, 733 Seward St., L.A.; Fri., 10:30 p.m.. (323) 871-1193.
I'M AN ACTOR, THEY DON'T GET IT Journey of an aspiring thespian, by Tiffany Black. Tre Stage Theatre, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 18, imanactortheydontgetit.eventbrite.com. (424) 204-2085.
NEW REVIEW INFLUENCES OF THE SPIRIT
Photo courtesy of the Village Theater
Jewell delivers a crackerjack performance as a drug addict, Ambrose, in
the grip of delusion. It's in "Head Trip," the first of two unevenly
crafted one-acts by playwright/co-director Albert Cowart, Jr. The play
takes place in the dilapidated living room of what had once been
Ambrose's comfortable middle-class home. Formerly a successful
engineer, the volatile Ambrose has long since lost everything,
including his dignity, his job and his wife (co-director Fatima
Cortez-Todd), who left him after he mixed it up with a streetwalking
junkie. He now spends his miserable beer-swilling days spewing venom
at apparitions of his son and his wife's lesbian lover, among others .
Cowart's writing strengths are his ear for dialogue and his believable
characters; what's problematic are the story's fuzzy details - for
example, Ambrose's wife begs him to sign an important paper but we're
never told what it is. In "Crowded Room," two lovers on the edge of a
breakup - Wanda (Kiana Tavasti) and Marvin (Michael Anderson) -- are
torn between their inner voices (Shondalyn Harris and Otis A. Harris)
pushing them to reconcile, and opposing ones (Tanisha Livingston and
Tony Paul) urging them apart. It's an amusing premise that spawns a
fractious, sometimes noisy, emotional encounter - and while that's
sometimes funny - especially Paul as Martin's indignant chauvinist
self -- it's also too long and too generic. More details about the
characters' past relationship would have made the play more involving.
Village Theater in Lucy Florence, 3351 W. 43rd St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m. (no perfs Labor Day weekend); thru Sept. 20. (323)
293-1356. (Deborah Klugman)
INTIMATELY WILDE It's easy to understand why dramatic artists might be attracted to the story of the brilliant and iconic Oscar Wilde. Unfortunately, writer-director Terra Taylor Knudson's dramatization of the life and trials of this complex and tragic figure treads familiar territory, offering little fresh insight. The play begins in Wilde's (Tom Thorn) prison cell before flashing back to accounts of his marriage, his meeting and subsequent affair with Alfred "Bosie" Douglas (Ryan Michael Hartman), and his series of trials, which culminated in his conviction for "gross indecency" and his sentencing to two years hard labor. A stilted rendering of events, the script never delves beneath the surface by attempting, for example, to explore the complicated mysteries of sexual attraction, or probing the anguish Wilde's wife (Knudson) must have undergone, first from her husband's physical rejection and later from the disgrace brought on by the trial. The production's main problem, however, is Thorn's performance, which is constrained by the image of Wilde as a dandy with a disdain for convention. That he was, but Thorn's too glib mannerisms fail to do justice to the scope of Wilde's intellect and compassion. Hartman occasionally livens things up with the antics of the spoiled Bosie, and Tom Polzin is effective as the implacably doltish Marquess of Queensberry. (Deborah Klugman) Lyric Theatre, 520 North La Brea Ave, Hollywood; Thurs-Sat. 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 13. (323) 939-9220. An Olio Theatre Works production
GO LIFE COULD BE A DREAM This affectionate doo-wop juke-box 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 Boulevard, Hollywood; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 3 & 8 p.m., and Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 27. (323) 960-4412.
NEW REVIEW LIQUID Directed and designed by Chris Covics,
Brenda Varda's farce benefits from superb technical arrangements. From
Susannah Mitchell's original costumes to Paul Bertin's sound design,
the artistry of this production is clearly on display. Most
particularly, Perry Hoberman's video and visuals are creatively
delightful--and downright scary in other places. Covics' over-the-top
direction is well-suited to the material, but not all the actors are up
to the task at hand. A bigger problem is the writing: Varda's winsome
ecological fable is undercut by stilted dialogue. The plot concerns a
scientist, Nevah (Daniella Dahmen), who is looking to save the planet
the planet from global warming through the creation of CO2 eating
algae. Nevah is set to marry Odam (Kyle Ingleman), but the terrorist
Chaet (Craig Johnson) interrupts the ceremony, intent on stealing the
scientific formula. He's thwarted when a tsunami hits the island.
Nevah, Odam and Chaet survive the tsunami, but wash up in different
places. These vignettes take them from an island made of trash to an
oil rig to a pirate ship to a floating retirement home filled with
cannibals. Varda takes potshots at multinational corporations, oil
companies and refuse disposal, but much of the writing seems
off-the-cuff. Shirley Anderson puts in a nice turn as a designer healer
for tourists who becomes a blind seer, and Bruce Adel shines in several
different roles. Unknown Theater, 1110 N. Seward St., Hollywood;
Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Oct. 4. (323) 466-7781. (Sandra
LOVE, SEX, VIOLENCE, ETC. Playwright Helena Weltman's six playlets might best be described as sketch dramedy. These character-driven slices of life boast a penchant for ironic twists, but provide little of the of the titillation that the title suggests. The outing begins auspiciously with "Saturday Night Date," in which a barroom pickup between two strangers (in fascinating portrayals by Lizze Czerner and Danny Grossman) turns into an intriguingly dangerous battle of wits, before a disappointing ending that sound like an old joke. The second offering, "Sitting in a Tree" provides a great opportunity for an actor to play appealingly crazy - Stephanie R. Keefer fulfills this mission as a woman desperate for a child. "Date" is directed with terse humor by Daniel Cerny, and "Tree" with emotional abandon by his father Pavel Cerny. Both directors successfully draw the audience into each work's disparate styles. The next four plays, however, lack the textual depth and the acting skills to match the first two. A great deal of sexual innuendo and crossed-wire communication cause human complication, but not a real sense of dramatic tension. Production values throughout are extremely simple, with only a few props and set pieces to define the worlds. Oscar Schwartz's costumes, though, are a bit more intricate and help tell the various stories. (Tom Provenzano) Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 30. (866) 811-4111.
MANISH BOY Comedian Ralph Harris returns home via his one-man show. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 7. (323) 960-1056.
NEW REVIEW GO THE NEW TESTAMENT/ HELTER SKELTER.
Photo by Amie Nicol Childers
Neil LaBute's two short, scathing one acts, the overarching theme is
the notion of extreme retaliation for wrongs committed. Both vignettes
boast characters motivated by darker aspects of the human psyche and
driven by spiteful passion. In brief, the venom gushes like oil from a
Texas oil well. In LaBute's world premiere "The New Testament,"
directed by Bjorn Johnson, a pompous playwright (Tim Banning) and a
spineless producer (Benjamin Burdick) take an actor (Peter James Smith)
out to lunch as a preface for their dumping him from the writer's play,
in which the actor has been cast to play Jesus Christ. Although one
can imagine the actor might accept the loss with grace if the firing
was handled with charm and finesse, these are qualities utterly lacking
in the boorish, foul-mouthed writer, who launches into a bigoted tirade
so offensive, the actor digs in his heels. The cavalier manner of the
actor's being fired is slightly contrived - we can't accept that the
writer would act like such a pig for fear of legal reprisals, if not
for reasons of human decency (a quality rarely found in any play by
LaBute). Yet, the interplay between the crisply defined characters is
taut and gripping. We can't wait to find out who is going to win - or,
more precisely, whether the loathsome writer will get his just
desserts. LaBute himself directs the bill's other play, the ferocious
"Helter Skelter," in which a pregnant wife (Kate Beahan) joins her
philandering husband (Ron Eldard) for a Christmas hotel lunch, which
turns into a harrowing sequence of hateful revelations and tragedy.
The play ends with a horrifying spectacle - but the actual point of the
piece is the ultimately unbearable gulf of incomprehension between the
suffering wife's desperate need for meaning and the oleaginous
husband's total lack of moral compass. Eldard is bleakly funny as the
scuzzball, while Beahan's beautifully subtle turn as the wife gradually
morphs from all American sweetie to Greek tragic heroine. The Open
Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood. Call for schedule.
(323) 882-6912. (Paul Birchall)
OUTSIDE OF THE BOX There's a Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney vibe to this talent showcase for a school of circus arts. Each act shows off its best stunt: two men (William Smith and Eric Yu) dress like bunnies and kung fu fight, a contortionist (Hannah Finn) outfitted like a mall-dwelling punk teen bends herself into a pretzel over angry poetry, a dancer (Dana Dugan) in a wet slip presses water prints against the floor. Between acts, the mute stagehand (Scott Renkes) clowns around and discovers a prop that serves as a harbinger of the next routine as the two-person Kleinkunst Kabarett (accordionist Ari DeSano and singer Morgan Lariah) wheeze musical accompaniment. Director Stephanie Abrams, who also mimes a comedic suicide routine, could stand to get more energy from her performers who move capably but tentatively through their routines -- their movements need the confident snap of a circus that knows it'll wow 'em. Burlesque dancer Christina Aimerito brandishes her fire batons with a solid amount of sass, but it's dancer Onamare who slides in wearing a sexy hajib, garters, bondage ropes and two foot-long flaming rings who burns down the house. (Amy Nicholson) Kinetic Theory Experimental Theatre and The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 29. (323) 525-0661.
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.
SAY GOODBYE TOTO Sometimes it just doesn't pay to tinker with a literary classic. Such is the case with Amy Heidish's reimagining of the Wizard of Oz. Heidish places Toto at the center of the narrative, and this dubious conceit wears thin early on. Joseph Porter does the honors as Dorothy's panting, barking traveling companion, and after the pair is transported via tornado to Oz, the canine is inexplicably mistaken for a sorcerer. Accompanying Dorothy (the fine Renee Scott) on her way to the Emerald City is a mysterious cat (Tracy Ellott), plus of course the Scarecrow (Mike Fallon), the cowardly lion (Andreas Ramacho), and Tin Man (Grant Mahnken) who, in Heidish's version, are all cursed brothers hoping that face time with the wizard can get them zapped back into human form. The most engaging moments come by way of the Wizard (Jake Elsas), whose magical manipulation of several hand puppets behind a screen is very funny. Alice Ensor does a dazzling job as the good witch, but this doesn't redeem a script with a tension that dribbles away. And Jamie Virostko's bland direction doesn't help. (Lovell Estell III) The Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd.; L.A., Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m., thru Sept. 19. (323) 969-1707. An Ark Theatre Company production
SCHOOL FOR SUCKERS Real life stuns 20-somethings, by Sascha Alexander, John Dardenne, Ben Giroux, James Robinson and Juliana Tyson. Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, L.A.; Tues.-Wed., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 30. (323) 960-7822.
NEW REVIEW THE SEAGULL
Photo by Thomas Macker/fotocoyote.com
her staging of Anton Chekhov's 1896 play (in Paul Schmidt's colloquial
translation and costumed in period by Jenny Lind Bryant), director
Marjo-Riikka Makela has actress-diva Arkadina (Devin Mills), who visits
the rustic Russian estate of her ailing brother, Sorin (Bobby Reed),
attached to an entourage. A cluster of devotees follows her every step,
as though attached by the chin to the back of her collar. It's a
slapstick device, meant to tug Chekhov's impressionistic study of
artists and unrequited love into something more expressionistic, like
one of the symbolist visions imagined by her callow playwright son,
Konstantin (Matthew Anderson). The production contains some lovely
performances: Amelia Rose's tragic Nina - the young actress with whom
Konstantin is obsessed - has the winsome quality of a reed in a marsh.
Villas' Trigorin and Mills' Arkadina, both initially too mannered,
settle into a style that straddles the divide between emotional
credibility and comedic remove that Makela aims for. Yet that divide
remains a tear rather than a seam. Act 2 is far stronger, where the
slapstick comes into focus as Konstantin's comic nightmare. It's a
refreshingly bold attempt in a work by a playwright who's almost
defined by his impressionist view of life. And though the production
suffers from some lackluster performances, the power of Act 2 suggests
that I may have seen Act 1 on an off-night. Art/Works Theatre, 6569
Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through September 12.
(323) 871-1912. (Steven Leigh Morris) See Theater Feature on Thursday.
7 DEADLY SINS Chris Berube's interwoven vignettes. Next Stage Theater, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.; Tues., 9:30 p.m.; thru Sept. 29. (323) 850-7827.
SEX, RELATIONSHIPS, AND SOMETIMES ... LOVE Monologues on all of the above, by Joelle Arqueros. Actor's Playpen, 1514 N. Gardner St., L.A.; Sat.-Sun., 7 & 9 p.m.; thru Sept. 27. (310) 226-6148.
SORRY, WE'RE CLOSED Cody Goulder's barfly story., firstname.lastname@example.org. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 30. (602) 689-771.
GO STOP KISS Manhattan traffic newscaster Callie (Deborah Puette) meets Sara (Kristina Harrison) the week the young blonde schoolteacher arrives in the city. Both have always identified themselves as straight: Callie's got her friend-with-benefits George (Christan Anderson), who she assumes she'll marry once they both stop trying to find someone better, and Sara has just left her boyfriend of seven years, Peter (Justin Okin), behind in St. Louis in her quest to find a bigger, harder, more worthwhile life. The two women gradually become best friends, deliciously tormented by their quiet hints that they both want a more physical relationship. But no sooner do they stick a tentative foot out of the closet than they're pushed out in the worst possible way -- as a news story about a violent bigot who puts Sara in a coma. Diana Son's time-jumping play about coping with the unexpected skips from their first meeting to Callie's first sitdown with the investigating cop (Jeorge Watson); we're rooting for the couple to get together under the shadow of the consequences. But Son's equal emphasis on romance makes the play looser and more inviting than a social problem drama, and the question isn't about the source of hate, but the depth of Callie's love when Peter announces that Sara's family wants to move her hospital bed back to Missouri. Under Elina de Santos and Matthew Elkin's direction, the ensemble opening night was still a little stiff, but Puette's tender performance captures a haphazard woman realizing that she's finally sure of at least one thing. (Amy Nicholson) Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 20. www.roguemachinetheatre.com. (323) 960-7774. A Rogue Machine production
SUNDAY OF THE DEAD All-new sketch and improv by the Sunday Company. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 934-9700.
THIS IS MY F-ING WEDDING Francisco Castro's amusing, but meandering
paean to bridehood centers on the third set of wedding plans for Jessie
(Adrian Bee Borden), whose first two broke down at the altar. A few
minutes into the entrance of groom Tommy (Philip Asta), it is obvious
to the audience what will doom this engagement. After this simple
beginning the play spins out of control, dropping in on life scenes of
various, somewhat related folks, most of whom are quite unpleasant.
Castro's verbal and character styles are a cross between the early
works of So Cal playwrights Del Shores, who specializes in Southern
locales; and Justin Tanner, whose works dwell in suburbs and trailer
parks. Castro's comedy, however, lacks their discipline in
storytelling. Fortunately director Tiffany Roberts has assembled a cast
of talented, focused actors, who make even the most disconnected scenes
enjoyable on their own. Still, Roberts is never quite settled as to
whether this is a character-driven comedy or a gag-ridden farce and
this lack of cohesion becomes wearing. Some of the best moments are
monologues by a clown (Anthony Marquez) that philosophize about love,
loss and marijuana. The production values are nil, nevertheless there
is a certain high energy among the cast that makes it easy to watch.
Actors Workout Studio, 4735 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 30. (818) 506-3903. (Tom
GO TREEFALL The most primal aspects of erotic attraction, and the dynamics of competition among siblings and parents, and even the foundations of civilization itself, play themselves out in Henry Murray's post-apocalyptic drama, set on and around a mountain that's being scorched by a global warming sun, as modern civilization lies in ruins. Four characters (West Liang, Brian Norris, Brian Pugach and Tania Verafield) play-act through the detritus of the world as they try to fathom the purpose of continuing, and the meaning of being human. The play is utterly despondent and achingly true, without a hint of morbidity, and even glimpses of humor, under John Perin Flynn's studied direction. (Steven Leigh Morris) Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through September 6. (323) 960-7774. A Rogue Machine production
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.
WWJD ... WHAT WOULD JIMI DO? The Racket Collective presents Felicia D. Henderson's story of her relationships with her dysfunctional family, Hollywood agents and Jimi Hendrix. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Hollywood; Mon., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 31, www.the-racket-collective.ticketleap.com...
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS
NEW REVIEW BABES & BRIDES
Photo courtesy of the NoHo Actors Studio
the "Whatever could they have been thinking of?" department comes this
mystifyingly erratic revival of satirist Eric Berlin's tepid, 1992
suite of one-act misfires on Clinton-era mating mores. In "The Line
That's Picked Up 1000 Babes (And How It Can Work for You!)," Berlin
parses the semantics of a suburban singles wilderness in which a
successful pickup depends less on what is said than the raw desperation
of his alienated sexual explorers to connect, however briefly, to
another human being. If the play's elliptical, quick-cut structure and
shallow, sexual mentors (Asa Holley and Jennifer Flynn) paired with
bitterly skeptical neophytes (Evan Olman and Heather Fox) seems
familiar, it may have something to do with Berlin's near-plagiaristic
looting of David Mamet's Sexual Perversity in Chicago. For the
bottom-billed "The Midnight Moonlight Wedding Chapel," Berlin shifts
the action to Las Vegas and the theme to marital commitment as a
tourist (Holley) and a casino waitress (Flynn) drunkenly persuade a
chapel-owner (Julie Mann) to legitimize their one-night connubial lark.
Without a suitable Mamet to mine this time around, however, Berlin's
anemic characterizations and feeble situational contrivances seem
almost incidental to the didactic moralizing that passes for dialogue.
Marc Morales' every-actor-for-himself staging proves especially hard on
Holley and Mann, who seem cut adrift rather than directed, while
terrific, commanding turns by the obviously talented Flynn and Fox
transform an otherwise forgettable evening into something approaching a
gross injustice. NoHo Actor's Studio, 5215 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., thru August 29. (303) 329-3683. (Bill Raden)
GO CLOSER THAN EVER This musical revue is a compendium of 23 numbers by Richard Maltby, Jr., and David Shire (Big and Baby), directed by Chil Kong, with crisp and inventive musical direction by Akira Nakano, and choreography by the late RedRunningbear Savage. The songs emphasize the comic, the wry and the rueful, but they embrace a wide range of subjects, from aging and midlife crisis to fatherhood, lesbian motherhood, and unrequited love. Six principals players (Kong, Sharline Liu, DT Matias, Blythe Matsui, Paul Nakauchi, and Erin Quill) perform the songs with panache, complemented by an ensemble of four (EJ Ariola, Jully Lee, Jiehae Park, and Miley Yamamoto). Quil and Nakauchi offer standout performances with fine support all the way down the line. Musical highlights include the comic "She Loves Me Not," sung by Matias, Matsui and Nakauchi, the wacky "Miss Byrd," with Liu, Nakauchi's touching song about a father's legacy "If I Sing," and Nakauchi and Quill's ironic account of a muddled marriage, "There." Quill shines in "Life Story," and the stirring ensemble numbers include the title song and the grimly humorous "The March of Time." Kong directs (and performs) with wit and style. (NW) Lodestone Theatre Ensemble at CTG Burbank, 1111-B West Olive Avenue, Burbank; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., thru August 30. (323) 993-7245.
CONTEMPORARY CONSTRUCTIONS: ALL IN THE TIMING Frequently performed and durably diverting, this series of six short plays by David Ives takes ironic potshots at our established notions of time, language and genius. In "Sure Thing," a meeting between Bill (Jacob Smith) and Betty (Erin Frisbie) replays with numerous permutations, its varying outcome linked to the choice of words Bill employs to win Betty's favor. In "Variations on the Death of Trotsky," Trotsky (a comically bewigged Smith, with an axe planted in his skull) repeatedly learns of his death from an encyclopedia but fails to forestall it. In "Words, Words, Words," three chimps set out to write Hamlet, testing an experimenter's theory that given enough time, great literature will emerge from even the most unpromising quarters. In "The Philadelphia" (as a Philadelphia native, I have an especial appreciation for this one), a distraught and frustrated fellow named Mark (Sean Fitzgerald) learns from his buddy Al (Joe Neuhaus) that he's stuck in a philadelphia - a metaphysical abyss where things always go wrong. The antidote for this unhappy state, Al explains, is to consistently demand the opposite of what one truly desires - a winning strategy illustrated after their contrary waitress (Katie Sikkema) brings Mark what he really wants after he's tried ordering everything else. Directed on a shoestring by Carlos Martinez, the production features an uneven ensemble, but the humor is mostly sustained, with Frisbie, Smith and Neuhaus proving to be most versatile and adept. (DK) Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; (In rep, call for schedule.); thru Aug. 30. (818) 849-4039. A Theatre Unleashed Production.
GO EQUUS Director-set designer August Viverito and his colleagues have mastered the art of clarity and intensity when working in a tiny space such as this. Peter Shaffer's drama has always told the harrowing tale of psychiatrist Martin Dysart (Jim Hanna), who must discover why a severely troubled teenager, Alan Strang (Patrick Stafford), has gouged out the eyes of six horses with a hoof pick. What's different here is that Hanna's Dysart suffers an anguish at least as deep as the boy's, and this carries the play from clever melodrama into the realm of tragedy. Dysart slowly realizes that Alan has evolved his own bizarre religion, in which horses are his gods ― and has enacted a strange Passion Play. The doctor understands that to cure the boy, he must take from him the richest and most profound experience of his life. The boy's fierce passion forces Dysart to recognize the barrenness and aridity of his own existence. Viverito has cast it beautifully, with riveting performances by Hanna, Stafford and a splendid supporting cast, who make us feel the play, as well as understand it. The Chandler Studio Theatre, 12443 Chandler Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; selected Sundays, 3 p.m.; through August 22. (800) 838-3006, or www.theprodco.com. (Neal Weaver)
GROOVALOO "Jaw-dropping displays of physicality, vibrant musical score and powerful spoken-word poetry" by the hip-hop dancers. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 30, 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 29, www.groovaloo.com. (818) 508-0281.
GO HORROR FEST These four horror-themed vignettes run the gamut from the darkly humorous to ghoulish. The bill opens with Zombie Joe's creepy "Procession of Devils." As directed by Denise Devin, it's a delightfully grotesque danse macabre with Kyle Clare, Amelia Megan Gotham, Conrad Lawson, Billy Minogue, and Rhea Richardson as a brood of flesh-eaters whose insatiable appetites cause them to turn on one of their own. The script is as unsettling as the performers' eerie, orgiastic movements. Adam Neubauer directs Greg Kaczynski's "End of The Road" with Jim Eshom and Amelia Megan Gotham portraying tattered survivors of an apocalyptic event who are forced to inhabit an abandoned building. Reduced to eating polluted canned goods and reminiscing about their former lives, they eventually fall prey to the darker forces surrounding them. Prosaic writing doesn't complement the actors' energetic performances, and the director's overuse of gory effects doesn't help. In Eshom's "A Lesson Learned," Jana Wimer and Lucas Salazar are forced to take refuge in a derelict house because of a storm; the house's bloody history and restless spirits make the evening fatally memorable. Gotham's direction and technical design are nothing short of superb. Neubauer's "Growing" is a riotously funny take on a mad scientist. Dr. Scofield (the fine Conrad Lawson) plays a desperately unhinged inventor whose master plan is to create a new life form called "Victa Proventus" (Andrew Fish in a hoot of a creaturely costume). But, alas, the experiment goes awry and starts to feast on everything in sight. Jana Wimer cleverly directs.( Lovell Estell III) Zombie Joe's Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, Fri.-Sat. 8:30 p.m. through Aug. 29 (818) 202-4120.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST Koni McCurdy gives a fierce performance as Lady Bracknell, under Patricia Wylie's functional direction of Oscar Wilde's comedy. Otherwise, the play is pretty limp. There were a number of stepped-on lines the night this critic attended. A bigger problem is Jason Perlman's overly rapid delivery as Algernon -- many of Wilde's best lines are so rushed, the audience has no time to react. Brent Hamilton and Betsy Rice make a serviceable pair of lovers as Jack and Gwendolyn. However, the accents are all over the place, particularly from Betsy Reisz who has difficulty pulling off the role of well-bred Cecily -- the object of Algernon's affection. Wilde might be spinning in his grave, but the essential comedy is still amusing. The plot concerns two gentlemen who both call themselves Earnest, and a comedy of mistaken identities ensues. Osa Danam brings some charm as the befuddled governess Miss Prism, but McCurdy's performance deserves special praise because it offers a slightly vicious twist on Lady Bracknell. Jeri Deiotte's costumes are fine, and Victoria Profitt's practical set design eases the transitions between scenes. (Sandra Ross) Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; no perf Sun.,. Aug. 16; thru Sept. 26. (626) 256-3809.
INSIDE PRIVATE LIVES Audience members interact with infamous or celebrated personages from the 20th century, as re-created in a series of monologues. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 30. (866) 811-4111.
NEW REVIEW GO OEDIPUS THE KING, MAMA!
Photo by Chelsea Sutton
Theater Company's musical parody of Sophocles' play, of musical shtick,
of Elvis mania and of cheesy theatrical devices comes in the tradition
of the Troubies' mashing of classic lit into pop music (Twelfth Dog Night, Alice in-One-Hit-Wonderland, Much Adoobie Brothers About Nothing).
The event's thrill hangs on the tautness of the theatrical wires that
bind the classical source material, the music and free-wheeling
improvisation. Falcon Theater, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Wed.-Sat.,
8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; through September 27. (818) 955-8004. (Steven
Leigh Morris) See Theater feature on Thursday.
RAY BRADBURY'S YESTERMORROWS The sci-fi author's short stories "The Meadow," "Cistern" and "A Device Out of Time," adapted for the stage. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 5, www.plays411.com/raybradbury. (323) 960-4451.
TALES OF AN UNSETTLED CITY: REVELATIONS Third chapter of Theatre Unleashed's collection of late-night vignettes. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 10:15 p.m.; thru Aug. 30. (818) 849-4039.
TINY VAUDEVILLE 826LA hosts this once-a-month variety show benefiting children's writing and tutoring programs. The Echoplex, 1154 Glendale Blvd., L.A.; Last Monday of every month, 8:30 p.m.; thru Dec. 28, www.826la.org/store-tickets/. (213) 413-8200.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WEST SIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS
GO ADELINE'S PLAY "This play is just about the swellest thing on paper."
That's one example of the oozy '30s-style language in Kit Steinkellner's new comedy at the Powerhouse Theatre in a knockout production by Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble that sneaks up on you and then won't let go. Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 2nd Street, Santa Monica; through September 25. Tickets at http://latensemble.com. (Steven Leigh Morris)
BREAKING AND ENTERING A young woman named Milly (Meredith Bishop), a fan of American literature, and of great novelist Wallace Trumbull (Steven Shaw), breaks into the now aging and secluded writer's home one stormy night, on the seventh of the World Series, which Trumbull is trying to follow on his battery-powered radio, since the electricity has blown. It's a marathon game of absurdist proportions, broadcast by commentators (Lary Ohlson and Chrstopher Gehrman), who appear periodically behind a translucent screen built into Jeff G. Rack's gothic living room set. One of the commentators is - perhaps too coincidentally -- a Trumbullophile, liberally peppering his sports commentary with Trumbullisms that understandably annoy his on-air partner, since the witticisms are not particularly witty or relevant. Such is the idiosyncratic humor of Colin Mitchell's comedy-mystery. The play is a touch too schematic: Milly breaks in bearing an original manuscript of her own novel, which she hopes to get Trumbull to read. That there is no copy of her opus (which is really a prophetic book of revelations telling the story of her break-in) is used in one of the play's many intriguing plot twists. I didn't believe that she'd bring her only version to a stranger's house and offer to leave it there, no matter how famous the guy is. If she were fibbing about that detail in order to up the ante, I'm not convinced the savvy Trumbull would have believed it either. This is a tiny but significant detail in a very clever play that grapples and compares dueling themes: reality and illusion, fame and fraud. The play sparks and shines when it reaches the intersection of these two ideas, but the road to that intersection is a bumpy one. This may have less to do with the writing, and more to do with Mark L. Taylor's staging, with the way Shaw's tentative performance is juxtaposed against Bishop's sometimes grating impudence and indignance. Bishop's Milly may be more clever than we'd thought, but she's also more annoying than we'd anticipated. I'm guessing a more accomplished production would be of greater service to Mitchell's intricate play. (Steven Leigh Morris) Theatre 40, Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 Moreno Dr. (on the Beverly Hills High School campus); Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through September 13.
CINDERELLA THE MUSICAL I attended writer-director Chris De Carlo & Evelyn Rudie's musical adaptation of the timeless fairy tale with my 9-year-old niece, Rachel. We found ourselves joined by a birthday party of kids who appeared to be around 6, though there was a smattering of infants and adults. These kids were obviously smitten with the broad comedic antics of the stepsisters (Celeste Akiki and Billie Dawn Greenblatt) and their mom (Serena Dolinksy, doubling, in a rare, high-concept moment of intended irony, as Cinderella's Fairy Godmother). The actors' goggle-eyed expressions and broad-as-a-barn reactions generated screams of laughter from the kids, who were also riveted by the songs (ranging in style from pop ballads to Gilbert and Sullivan parodies). This production has been chugging on and off for 25 years now. Actor John Waroff has dedicated a quarter century of his adult life strutting the boards as King Isgood, so points scored for perseverance, which is more than can be said for Rachel, who promised to write this review and then left it to me. Can't not mention Ashley Hayes' lush costumes, nor the tinny sound design that left the singers marooned. Rachel said she really liked the stepsisters and Cinderella (Melissa Gentry) but wished somebody had been more cruel, as in the story. Everybody here was just so nice, and Rachel was aching for something meaner or weirder. I concur. Rachel also said some unkind things about some of the performances, but if she wants those aired, she can write a review herself. (SLM) Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat.-Sun., noon & 3 p.m.; through December 27. (310) 394-9779.
GO CYMBELINE THE PUPPET KING Shakespeare's Cymbeline is a natural for adaptation as children's theatre since it shares many plot elements of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The play has been much shortened and simplified. Imogen's husband Posthumous and his treacherous friend Iachimo have been eliminated, and the sex and violence are reduced to minimum in slapstick. In this goofy, kid-friendly adaptation by Angela Berliner, King Cymbeline (Stephen M. Porter) is an ineffectual booby, easily manipulated by his evil, ambitious second wife (Donna Jo Thorndale), who wants to marry off her boorish, dim-witted son Cloten (Adam Jefferis) to his daughter Imogen (Erin Anderson). But feisty Imogen (she calls her unwelcome suitor Cloten the Rotten) is having none of this, and takes to the woods, where she's befriended by Belarius (Mary Eileen O'Donnell) and his adopted son Guidarius (Kirstin Hinton), who was raised by wolves, and is given to occasional howling. Many of the jokes are probably over the heads of most children, but they're kept amused by director Will Pellegrini's zanily frenetic staging, and the prospect of free popsicles. The short piece (under an hour) is performed outdoors, and best of all, admission is free. (NW) The Actor's Gang at The Ivy Substation, Culver City Media Park, 9070 Venice Boulevard; Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m., thru September 30. Info: (310) 838-4264 or http://theactorsgang.com.
DID YOU DO YOUR HOMEWORK? Writer/performer Aaron Braxton has passion and talent - both amply evident in this promising work-in-progress about the difficulties of teaching in the urban classroom. A 13-year veteran with L.A. Unified, Braxton builds his piece around his early experience as a substitute teacher filling in for an old-timer - 33 years on the job - who one day ups and quits. A gift for mimicry brings the performer's characters into clear comic focus: himself as the beleaguered Mr. Braxton, several colorful problem students, their even more colorful and problematic parents and another staff member -- a well-meaning elderly bureaucrat in charge of the school's counterproductive testing program. At times Braxton steps away from dramatizing the action to speak to the audience directly about the frustrations of trying to make a difference, contrasting his own upbringing as the son of a teacher, taught to respect education, with the imperviously disdainful attitude of his pupils. He also sings 4 songs, displaying a beautiful voice. The main problem with the piece is its disjointedness and discontinuity; the songs, reflective of Braxton's message, are only tenuously connected to the narrative, itself a patchwork collection of anecdotes juxtaposed against addresses to the audience. This gives the show a hybrid feel - part performance, part moral exposition, part musical showcase. Yet there's plenty of power and potential here. Kathleen Rubin directs. (DK) Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through August 28. (310) 358-9936.
GO HEAVY LIKE THE WEIGHT OF A FLAME While R. Ernie Silva's older brothers were doing hard drugs, he hid out in his room and watched Masterpiece Theater. Silva wasn't a nerd; he break-danced, liked weed, and grew dreadlocks. But he lived in Bushwick, and to cops, bosses and his mom, being a young, black male in Bushwick meant you were and would always be just like everyone else. Railroaded into a life headed for rehab or death, Silva grabbed a boxcar heading west to go on an American walkabout. Silva is a charismatic talent with slender build and wide grin. The story of his travels, co-written with James Gabriel and directed by Mary Joan Negro, taps into his charm and energy, sending him up and around a set of simple black boxes, strumming his guitar, Savannah, and impersonating the noteworthy, from Richard Pryor and Jimi Hendrix to August Wilson. The travails of young artists and their search for self-definition are a familiar solo show trope, but even the heightened moments ― the death of a brother, an auspicious visit from an eagle ― feel earned, not manufactured. I expect we'll see a lot more of Silva, and this very solid monologue is a good place to get acquainted. (AN) Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through September 5. (310) 477-2055.
NEW REVIEW IN ARABIA WE'D ALL BE KINGS Playwright Stephen
Adly Guirgis is a poet-laureate of the insulted and injured, exploring
the dark under-belly of urban society. Here, he examines the suckers,
wannabes, low-lifes and losers who inhabit a seedy bar in NYC's Hell's
Kitchen, unaware that they're about to be driven out by the forces of
gentrification. His writing is compassionate yet objective, but it also
offers a safe, vicarious walk-on-the-wild-side for theatre-goers with
more sheltered lives. Director Jeremy Aluma expertly puts his large
cast through their paces, though the vastness of the performance space
saps intensity and compromises audibility. Among the fine performances
are Frank Stasio as an ex-con who craves more respect than he can earn,
and Tracy Ali as his elegant former girlfriend. Andrew McReynolds plays
a hapless, drug-addled junkie, Bri Price scores as a gun-toting Latina
who tries to support her baby via prostitution, and Andrew Bloch is
persuasive as an old boozer still mourning his late wife. Jessica Diz
plays a flamboyant crack whore, and Sharif Nasr is a bar-tender who
turns to petty theft when his job disappears. It's all very well done,
but largely because of the problems of the venue, the play may be more
fun for the actors than for the audience. Old Expo Furniture Warehouse,
4321 Atlantic Avenue, Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., thru Sept. 12. An
Alive Theatre production. (562) 818-7364. (Neal Weaver)
MUTINY AT PORT CHICAGO ]During the American Revolution, George Washington opposed arming African-Americans, "lest they turn our weapons against ourselves." This attitude prevailed in the American military until after World War II. The Navy allowed black seaman to serve only as noncombatant cooks and day laborers, and at Port Chicago, near San Francisco, they were deployed as stevedores, loading volatile explosives onto transport ships. Neither white officers nor black workers received training in handling explosives, safety rules were ignored, workers were driven to meet dangerous, impossible quotas, and workers were told the ammo "couldn't possibly explode." But on July 17, 1944, it did explode, killing 320 men and injuring 390. Fifty black seamen, ably represented here by actors J. Teddy Garces, Eric Bivens-Bush, Pedro Coiscou and Durant Fowler, refused to return to ammo-loading duties under the same terrible conditions, and were falsely accused of conspiracy/mutiny. White officers fabricated evidence in a kangaroo court, where the attorney for the defense (the excellent Maury Sterling) was hamstrung at every turn. Because the issues were so completely black and white, playwright Paul Leaf can't avoid melodrama. His brief Act 1 is a setup for effective trial scenes in Act 2. An uneven production is graced with some solid performances. (NW) Ruskin Group Theatre, 3000 Airport Ave., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Aug. 29. (310) 397-3244.
THE RECEPTIONIST If there is a premise behind playwright Adam Bock's superficial political satire, it might be the notion that even Adolf Eichmann had a beloved mother, and, no doubt, an efficient receptionist too. It is in the latter's domain of a generic, office waiting room (in Chris Covics' appropriately bland-moderne set) that Bock places his comic cautionary study in the mindless, bureaucratic surrender of moral judgment to the dictates of duty ― what Hannah Arendt meant by "the banality of evil." And there are few duties more banal than Beverly Wilkins' (Megan Mullally of NBC's Will & Grace). Holding down the front desk of the innocuous-sounding "Northeast Office," the veteran employee sorts the mail, makes the coffee and screens the incoming calls for her harried boss, Mr. Raymond (Jeff Perry), at least when she isn't gossiping on the phone or giving relationship advice to Mr. Raymond's flighty, love-hungry assistant, Lorraine (Jennifer Finnigan). It is only with the surprise visit of the Central Office's affable Martin Dart (Chris L. McKenna) and Mr. Raymond's inexplicable absence that Beverly's comfortable routine begins to unravel and the horrific nature of the Northeast Office's "services" is finally brought to light. Though Mullally nails the officious manner and mercurial pettiness of the practiced office functionary, Bart DeLorenzo's detail-mired direction ultimately proves unable to bridge the miscalculated disconnect between Bock's cobweb-thin characterizations and the discordant heft of his message. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 20. (310) 477-2055. (Bill Raden) An Evidence Room/Odyssey Theatre Ensemble production.
GO ST. JOAN OF THE SLAUGHTERHOUSES For a lucid analysis of the malfunctioning global financial markets, one could do worse than Bertolt Brecht. And it's hard to imagine doing Brecht any better than director Michael Rothhaar in this electrifying staging of the Marxist maestro's classic, anti-morality play, St. Joan of the Slaughterhouses. Set in the Chicago meatpacking markets of the 1930s (wittily caricatured in Danielle Ozymandias' costumes), the story cleverly inverts the Jeanne d'Arc legend in the character of Joan Dark (a dynamic Dalia Vosylius), an antipoverty crusader whose "Warriors of God" mission caters to packers left destitute by slaughterhouse closings. Joan's efforts to get the men back to work lead her to financier Pierpont Mauler (the fine Andrew Parks), unaware that it is his stock manipulations that are responsible for the closings and that Mauler is cynically using Joan's appeals to further his scheme. When she subsequently refuses a Mauler bribe for the financially strapped mission, she is cast into the street, where she belatedly realizes the pointlessness of good intentions without collective action. Powered by Peter Mellencamp's vivid, new translation and an unerring ensemble (including standouts Robin Becker, Ed Levey, Tony Pasqualini and Daniel Riordan), Rothhaar's production is a perfectly pitched tribute to the principles of epic theater. (It's also a showcase for the multitalented Norman Scott, who lights his own set design and shines as Mauler's scurvy hatchet man.) Rothhaar & Co. not only prove that the old, dialectical dogmatist still has teeth but that Brecht's bark and his bite are both wickedly entertaining. (BR) Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 30. (310) 822-8392.
THE TRIAL OF THE CATONSVILLE NINE True story of Catholic activists on trial for protesting the Vietnam War. Sunday's performance features a post-show gala hosted by Tim Robbins and UTA ($250). Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Through Aug. 29, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 30, 2 p.m.. (310) 838-4264.
UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL Glen Berger's tale of a library book returned 123 years overdue. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 3. (310) 512-6030.
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