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Stage Raw: Love Sucks

Stage Raw: Love Sucks


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Stage Raw: Love Sucks

NEW REVIEW GO LOVE SUCKS

Photo by Michael Lamont

In traditional French farce, though everybody determinedly pursues

sex, their efforts are constantly thwarted and conventional morality

triumphs by default. Here, successfully inverting that formula,

writer-director Rob Mersola sets his play in New York's Lower East Side,

and populates it with a randy bunch of characters who look for love in

all the wrong places, and eagerly indulge in sex wherever it lurks, in

beds, bars, backseats or bathroom stalls. Pretty Josie (Sadie Alexandru)

is obsessed with unreliable, opportunistic but well-endowed Harlan

(Michael Alperin). Her gay roommate Calvin (Joshua Bitton) goes in for

frequent anonymous sex; stockbroker Charlie (Daniel Ponickly) gives BJs

in public restrooms, when he isn't making wedding plans with his fiancée

(Jeni Verdon); and lecherous faux-gypsy seducer Giuseppi (Anil Kumar)

ruthlessly pursues every woman who crosses his path. In the course of 48

hours, each of them has a fling with (at least) two of the others, till

they all come together for a hilarious series of revelations and

confrontations. Mersola hones his amiably grungy plot into a

surprisingly elegant roundelay, and stages it with verve. All five

actors wield solid comic skills, acquitting themselves with style on

Burris Jakes' handsome, flexible unit set. Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa

Monica Blvd., W. Hlywd.; Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 8 & 10:30 p.m., Sun., 7

p.m. A Springtime 4 & East 4th Street Production. (866) 811-4111,

lovesucksplay.com. (Neal Weaver)

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NEW THEATER REVIEWS Scheduled for publication March 3, 2011

NEW REVIEW GO THE ADVENTURES OF PINOCCHIO

Photo by Ed Krieger

Stage Raw: Love Sucks

Like the 1883 Italian novel from which it's adapted, Lee Hall's play about a willful marionette is not a sunny tale. Skillfully staged by director Stephen Rothman, this commedia dell'arte piece follows the random adventures of a self-centered puppet named Pinocchio (Amber Zion, voiced by Darrin Revitz) who is robbed, tricked, beaten and left for dead (among other misfortunes) before being happily reunited with his elderly father, Geppetto (Matthew Henerson, signed by Colin O'Brien-Lux). Unlike the Disney version, this Pinocchio is no dreamer; he's given to sulking, throwing tantrums and sometimes acting with malice -- like answering a Cricket's (Vae) advice by killing the insect with a mallet. Nineteenth-century novelist Carlo Collodi, who wrote the original, imbued his work with an implied middle-class admonishment to children: Work hard and go to school. Hall's adaptation is well-grounded in the original, so don't come expecting profound political allegory or sizzling social satire. (One scene relates to controversy within the deaf community about the pressures of learning to speak versus communicating with sign language.) Yet the production offers an abundance of eye-catching production values and a fine ensemble gifted in the art of physical comedy. Designer Evan Bartoletti's set frames the show with a fairy tale magic, further enhanced by Joe Cerqua's sound and original music and by the collective zaniness of Ann Closs-Farley's costumes, Carol F. Doran's makeup and wigs and Lisa Lechuga's specialty hats. Henerson's booming but kindly papa and James Royce Edwards as the evil ringmaster give standout performances. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 2 & 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., Sat., March 26, 8 p.m., through March 27. (818) 762-2998. (Deborah Klugman)

NEW REVIEW BOOMERMANIA Debbie Kasper and Pat Sierchio's lively musical revue about baby boomers is much like the boomer culture itself -- fluffy and pleasant, but also somewhat sad. The show purports to be a lighthearted gambol down pop-culture memory lane, from the 1950s through the '90s, with the road of boomer excess ultimately leading to a palace of wisdom furnished with Sugar Pops, Dr. Spock, Saturday Night Fever and the Summer of Love. The decades roll by, depicted in a series of quirky skits and punctuated by renditions of rock songs whose lyrics parody the absurdities of eras past. Act 1 is fluff itself: In "Sugar Pops, Captain Crunch," a group of 1950s teens croon their affection for newly invented sugar cereals to the tune of "Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch." Later, a dazed married couple warble "Talking 'Bout My Television," a song depicting near-hypnotized enchantment with their brand-new TV (sung to the tune of "The Beat Goes On"). However, when Act 2 moves into the later decades, Kasper and Sierchio's satire takes on a more melancholy tone, particularly during a sequence at a 10-year high school reunion, in which a few adult boomers come to grips with boomer shock: They're not as special as they thought they were. The show's cast consists of strikingly youthful performers who appear too young even for their first legal cocktail, let alone speedballs at Studio 54. Yet, thanks to Mary Ekler's tightly focused musical direction, their powerful voices evoke far richer emotions than the material they're often asked to sing. While many of the musical skits are crisply performed, the narrative material often falls flat, with frequent allusions to other boomer-dated shows like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Hair only pointing out those musicals' far more inventive scores. El Portal Forum Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., through March 27. (866) 811-4111. (Paul Birchall)

NEW REVIEW GO CABARET IDOL

Photo by John Carmona

Stage Raw: Love Sucks

"There's nothing better to watch than a performer who loves to perform, except two good-looking people having sex," says host Scot Young. And in week four of season two of this live competition, Young and the packed crowd of fans, friends and family watched 14 performers anxiously take the stage and sing a number for the judges. At the end of the evening there were 12 survivors, another cull in the quest for the grand prize: new head shots, a management contract and a two-night solo show. The performance's theme was, perversely, "No Show Tunes," which had the contestants in paroxysms. Said one without a hint of sarcasm, "There really aren't that many songs that aren't show tunes!" But try they did, belting out Broadway-esque versions of Journey and Whitesnake and Cyndi Lauper before a scoring panel that didn't let them off the hook. "I want you to do a damn country song," grumbled a judge in mock exasperation. There were some good voices -- and a few great ones -- but the audience was there to tap their toes, vote for their favorites and maybe even grab some dinner or a stiff drink if they could flag down one of the waiters zipping around in the standing-room-only dark. Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill, 6122 W. Sunset Blvd., Hlywd.; Sun., 7 p.m., through April 24. (323) 466-9917 (Amy Nicholson)

NEW REVIEW THE CATHOLIC GIRL'S GUIDE TO LOSING YOUR VIRGINITY

Photo by Chelsea Sutton

Stage Raw: Love Sucks

In writer-performer Annie Hendy's comedy, a bubbly plaid-skirted gal named Lizzy (Hendy), wrestling with her staid Midwestern upbringing, impulsively decides she needs to have sex at least once in her life before she hits the quarter-century mark. But finding a guy who doesn't entirely repel her, and who is willing to do the deed, proves tougher than she imagined. What follows is a lighthearted look at the perilous dating scene via Lizzy's sojourn through a parade of weirdos, deadbeats and creeps. With its occasional direct-to-audience confessions, Hendy's play feels like a solo show that has been revamped as a two-hander. (Cyrus Alexander co-stars as all the men.) By opening up her material in this way, Hendy permits a broader examination of a single girl's dilemma with dating and self-confidence than in a one-woman show. It also allows Alexander to show his chameleonic talents, and to outshine Hendy with a virtuoso exercise, including lightning-quick costume changes. While fairly droll, Hendy's comedy doesn't offer much that is revelatory about a young Catholic woman's guilt, sexual repression, conscience-wrestling and ultimate sexual liberation. But it does provide some funny, touching and diverting scenes. Gregg W. Brevoort directs. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 4 p.m., through March 6. (818) 955-8101. (Pauline Adamek)

NEW REVIEW GO THE FIX-UP SHOW

Photo courtesy of Acme Comedy Theatre

Stage Raw: Love Sucks

Although it's ostensibly a live-onstage dating game show, creator/host J. Keith van Straaten's comedy hybrid owes less of a debt to its venerable matchmaking forebears (The Dating Game, The Love Connection) than it does to the immortal You Bet Your Life. Like that granddaddy of mock TV quiz programs, in which real-life contestants merely served as comic fodder for the ad lib genius of Groucho Marx, The Fix-Up Show is built around the mercurial wit and barbed tongue of the dryly impish Van Straaten. Following introductory repartee between the host and his tongue-in-cheek announcer, Patti Goettlicher, a hapless bachelorette is interviewed and then ensconced backstage. Two of her best friends then join a celebrity guest questioner (this week it was legendary Hitchcock heroine Tippi Hedren) to grill and then vote on three consecutive bachelor prospects during two elimination rounds. The survivor wins the girl and dinner for two next door at Amalfi on a "date" whose video recap provides the prologue for next week's show. In this instance, the friends and movie star rejected a circus owner and a JPL spacecraft engineer in favor of a TV-graphics designer from Fairbanks, Alaska. And while the amateurs on the panel prove to be the format's Achilles heel, with their extemporaneous questions hamstringing as much as helping the comedy, it is a tribute to Van Straaten's considerable comic chops that the show reaps a laugh quotient of which even Groucho would be proud. ACME Comedy Theatre, 135 N. LaBrea Ave., Hlywd.; Wed., 8 p.m., through March 30. (646) 450-4349, thefixupshow.com. (Bill Raden)

NEW REVIEW A HOUSE NOT MEANT TO STAND

Photo by Ed Krieger

Stage Raw: Love Sucks

Empty butterscotch wrappers scattered on a cheap coffee table, an afghan in shades of brown clutching a grubby couch, an old Christmas-themed popcorn tin catching one of the ceiling's countless leaks -- Misty Carlisle's prop design is so on-target, if she isn't from the South, she must have spent summers there. Yet her efforts, and Jeff McLaughlin's picture-perfect set, can't save the soul of this production of Tennessee Williams' tragicomedy. The premise is dyed-in-the-wool Williams: Hard-driving father Cornelius (Alan Blumenfeld) and his regressed-from-depression wife, Bella (Sandy Martin), arrive home from burying their gay son in Memphis. ("You encouraged him to design clothes [and] try 'em on," Cornelius berates his wife.) Their youngest, kinda sneaky, kinda sweet son (Daniel Billet) is home (after losing another job) with a similarly out-of-work girlfriend (Virginia Newcomb). The play, Williams' last, isn't his best; soliloquies directed at the audience weaken the action and disrupt the script's flow. But in not clearly revealing the kind of seminal Williams-esque conflict between a deep well of despair and the near-instinctual impulse to hide anything unpleasant, director Simon Levy has ignored the desperate sadness here, turning the play into a carnival of caricatures. Fortunately, Lisa Richards, a cougar before the term even existed, soft-pedals her approach as a nosy neighbor, and her scene near the end with Bella is the first in the production that intrigues. The real shame, in fact, is that Martin's performance as the mentally clouded yet still feisty Bella is stranded in this production. Tennessee Williams always saved his best for his women, and Martin more than does him justice. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., through April 17. (323) 663-1525. (Rebecca Haithcoat)

NEW REVIEW GO IN MOTHER WORDS

Photo courtesy of the Geffen Playhouse

Stage Raw: Love Sucks

Simple staging and spirited acting grace this series of vignettes about motherhood. Conceived by Susan Rose and Joan Stein, the string of separate playlets by more than a dozen writers, including Beth Henley and Theresa Rebeck, gains unity in the hands of director Lisa Peterson, who arranges the material into thematic blocks. (Jan Hartley's projection design and Emily Hubley's animation design effectively move the story forward during scene transitions.) Bookended by stories about new moms and seasoned matriarchs, the smart material covers a pleasing variety of parenting terrain, from a mother parting with her war-bound son in Jessica Goldberg's "Stars and Stripes" to a male couple searching for a surrogate in Marco Pennette's "If We're Using a Surrogate." Though the four actors -- Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Jane Kaczmarek, James Lecesne and Amy Pietz -- perch on chairs in front of podiums much of the time, their collective connection with the material renders the staged-reading format a barely noticeable factor. Comedy underlines much of the show, but David Cale's "Elizabeth," a glimpse into the early stages of dementia, and Claire LaZebnik's "Michael's Date," which lays out a mother's dashed hopes for her autistic son, tug hard at the heart. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Wstwd.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 2 & 8 p.m., Sun., 2 & 7 p.m., through May 1. (310) 208-5454. (Amy Lyons)

KING LEAR A Wild West staging of Shakespeare's classic tragedy, set in the sprawling California of the 1850s. Directed by Marianne Savell., $30; $25 seniors; $20 students. Actors Co-op, 1760 N. Gower St., L.A.; opens Feb. 25; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 p.m.; thru March 13. (323) 462-8460. See Theater feature on Wednesday

NEW REVIEW LOVE SUCKS

Stage Raw: Love Sucks

Photo by Michael Lamont

In traditional French farce, though everybody determinedly pursues sex, their efforts are constantly thwarted and conventional morality triumphs by default. Here, successfully inverting that formula, writer-director Rob Mersola sets his play in New York's Lower East Side, and populates it with a randy bunch of characters who look for love in all the wrong places, and eagerly indulge in sex wherever it lurks, in beds, bars, backseats or bathroom stalls. Pretty Josie (Sadie Alexandru) is obsessed with unreliable, opportunistic but well-endowed Harlan (Michael Alperin). Her gay roommate Calvin (Joshua Bitton) goes in for frequent anonymous sex; stockbroker Charlie (Daniel Ponickly) gives BJs in public restrooms, when he isn't making wedding plans with his fiancée (Jeni Verdon); and lecherous faux-gypsy seducer Giuseppi (Anil Kumar) ruthlessly pursues every woman who crosses his path. In the course of 48 hours, each of them has a fling with (at least) two of the others, till they all come together for a hilarious series of revelations and confrontations. Mersola hones his amiably grungy plot into a surprisingly elegant roundelay, and stages it with verve. All five actors wield solid comic skills, acquitting themselves with style on Burris Jakes' handsome, flexible unit set. Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., W. Hlywd.; Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 8 & 10:30 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m. A Springtime 4 & East 4th Street Production. (866) 811-4111, lovesucksplay.com. (Neal Weaver)

NEW REVIEW MEXICAN HISTORY 101 Attempting to resurrect the carpa style of theater (loosely, a Mexican vaudeville), playwright and director Rubén Amavizca-Murúa puts hundreds of years of history on parade in a satirical and very Brechtian way. The frame for all this is a grandfather (José de Jesús Martínez) educating his grandson Ernesto (Alex Ángeles), who reveals that he neither knows nor cares much for his heritage. The vignettes, beginning in Aztec times and running all the way through the 20th century, include Aztec princesses with prickly-pear iPads, a talk show featuring Moctezuma, Benito Juárez as the Mexican Statue of Liberty, and of course the ubiquitous presence of "Tia Juana's tacos," which are freely offered and eaten, despite their debilitating digestive effects. The preponderance of toilet humor, sex jokes, buffoonishly gay characters and randomly inserted anachronistic pop culture references detract from the political themes, which are occasionally affecting. It's possible that, as with telenovelas, the humor of the genre is lost in translation (and the Spanish asides garner laughs from the largely Latino audience), but the piece nonetheless feels overly broad and underdeveloped. The cornucopia of colorful costumes -- courtesy of Jeanette Godoy, Mariana Marroquín and Apolinar Delgadillo -- is a grand sight, but Amavizca-Murúa's haphazard blocking, on the already large stage, circumvents an acting style that plays best in intimate spaces. Frida Kahlo Theater, 2332 W. Fourth St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 6 p.m., Friday shows in English, Saturday and Sunday shows in Spanish, through March 27. A Groupo de Teatro Sinergía Production. (213) 382-8133, fridakahlotheater.org. (Mayank Keshaviah)

GO OEDIPUS THE TYRANT

Photo courtesy of The Porters of Hellgate

Stage Raw: Love Sucks

The Porters of Hellsgate present a new translation of Sophocles' classic, translated by Jamey Hecht. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 13, brownpapertickets.com/event/149704. (818) 325-2055. See Theater Feature on Wednesday.