Stage Raw: New Golden Age of British Theater?
NEW GOLDEN AGE OF BRITISH THEATRE
In today's The Guardian, Mark Lawson writes at some length on a new Golden Age of British theater.
Among the more salient quotations comes from Sam Mendes, now resident in the U.S.: "This is the first time in my memory that every single one of the major subsidised theatres - the National, RSC, Royal Court, Donmar, Almeida, Old Vic - is being well and inventively run at the same time. It is unprecedented for all of them to be firing on all cylinders together."
Lawson tosses out a number of theories to explain the success of both subsidized and commercial theaters in Britain, 1) the recession has curtailed overseas travel, so the domestic rich now spend their discretionary income on the theater rather than on holidays in Morocco, Dubai, or the South of France 2) that the impact of the recession on the film industry has unleashed a number of hitherto unavailable stars onto the legit stages, 3) screenwriters, fed up with being employees for hire in film and TV, are returning to the field where they're regarded as "painters" rather than "house-painters," and perhaps the most obvious insight, 4) that the theaters are actually putting on what a lot of people want to see.
The article does however point out that private donations to theaters are significantly down, which is also true of private donations to U.S. theaters.
Also in Los Angeles, there's no evidence of any slowdown in the number of shows being produced, but, as one local producer just put it, rents are dropping and thespians are well-equipped to cope with fiscal crises. May the bad times continue?
RANDY NEWMAN RETURNS TO THE THEATER
Center Theatre Group has announced that four-time Tony Award-winning Jerry Zaks will direct the world premiere of Randy Newman's Harps and Angels -- an idea conceived by producer and former L.A. Herald Examiner drama critic Jack Viertel. The musical is a songbook anthology featuring "I Think It's Going to Rain Today," "Sail Away," "Marie," "Rednecks," "My Country," "Louisiana 1927," "Feels Like Home," "You've Got a Friend in Me" and of course, "I Love L.A." It premieres at the Mark Taper Forum November 10 through December 19, 2010. Opening is November 21.
COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for December 4-10, 2009
(The latest NEW THEATER REVIEWS are embedded in "Continuing
Performances" below. You may also be able to search for them by title
using your computer'ssearch 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
OPENING THIS WEEK
OMAN ... O MAN! Debbie Allen Dance Academy presents the story of two
young men at a military academy, one Omani, one American. Royce Hall,
340 Royce Drive, Westwood; Dec. 10-12. (310) 825-2101.
A RUBICON FAMILY CHRISTMAS Sounds of the season, conceived and
directed by Brian McDonald, musical direction by Gerald Sternbach.
Rubicon Theater, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura; opens Dec. 5; Sat., Dec. 5,
8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; Wed.-Fri., 7 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.;
thru Dec. 27. (805) 667-2900.
SEUSSICAL Broadway musical for cats-in-the-hat of all ages. Book by
Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, music by
Stephen Flaherty. Based on the works of Dr. Seuss. Redondo Beach
Performing Arts Center, 1935 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Redondo Beach;
opens Dec. 5; Sat., Dec. 5, 5 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
Sat., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 20. (310) 937-6607.
SPIRIT CONTROL Staged reading of Beau Willimon's drama about an
air-traffic controller's crisis. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center
Dr., Costa Mesa; Mon., Dec. 7. (714) 708-5555.
ASTROGLYDE 2009 Zombie Joe's Underground presents six all-new
performance pieces. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North
Hollywood; opens Dec. 4; Fri.-Sun., 8:30 p.m.; thru Dec. 20. (818)
BOB'S HOLIDAY OFFICE PARTY It's the annual holiday bash at Iowa
insurance agent Bob Finhead's office, in Rob Elk and Joe Keyes'
ensemble comedy. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens
Dec. 4; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 20,
www.plays411.com/bobs. (323) 960-5774.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL Long Beach Shakespeare Company presents the
Charles Dickens classic, adapted for the stage by Denis McCourt.
Richard Goad Theatre, 4250 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach; opens Dec. 5;
Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 20,
www.lbshakespeare.org. (562) 997-1494.
THE CHRISTMAS PRINCESS Spoiled princess must find three magic
Christmas gifts, by Arthur M. Jolly. Promenade Playhouse, 1404 Third
Street Promenade, Santa Monica; opens Dec. 5; Fri.-Sat., 2:30 &
5:30 p.m.; thru Dec. 20, www.cruthaighproductions.com. (310) 656-8070.
CRUMBS FROM THE TABLE OF JOY L.A. Theatre Works records Lynn
Nottage's coming-of-age story. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N.
Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood; Dec. 9-11, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 12, 2:30
p.m.; Sun., Dec. 13, 4 p.m., www.latw.org. (310) 827-0889.
THE DATING GAME SHOW LIVE! "Three bachelors, eligible, one
bachelorette, blind-folded, and 7 minutes in heaven.". Tre Stage
Theatre, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.; Mon., Dec. 7, 7
& 8:30 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 21, 7 & 8:30 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 26, 7
& 8:30 p.m.. (310) 721-1732.
THE DEAD EYE BOY The Warrior Theater presents Angus MacLachlan's
play about physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Pico Playhouse, 10508
W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; Sat., Dec. 5, 8 p.m., www.warriortheatre.org...
THE EIGHT: REINDEER MONOLOGUES Santa's reindeer dish on the jolly
old soul, in Jeff Goode's Christmas confessional. The Waterfront
Concert Theatre, 4211 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey; opens Dec. 6;
Mon., Sun., 9 p.m.; thru Dec. 21, www.cruthaighproductions.com. (310)
GUEST OF HONOR Staged reading of Dave Field's play about Scott
Joplin's lost opera, presented by Playwrights 6. Meta Theater, 7801
Melrose Ave., L.A.; Wed., Dec. 9. (323) 860-6625.
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE Frank Capra's film, performed onstage as a
live radio play. The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington
Blvd., L.A.; opens Dec. 10; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru
Dec. 20. (323) 525-0661.
LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE, DIOS INANTZIN The Latino Theater Company
presents Evelina Fernandez's adaptation of the 16th-century story of
the Virgin Mary's appearance to Mexican peasants. Cathedral of Our Lady
of the Angels, 555 W. Temple St., L.A.; Dec. 10-11, 7:30 p.m.,
www.thelatc.org. (213) 489-0994, Ext. 107.
LE PHOENIX VERT Yet another awful screenplay, courtesy Magnum Opus
Theatre. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; opens Dec.
4; Fri., 11 p.m.; thru Dec. 18. (310) 281-8337.
MILLENNIUM MAGIC X Rob Zebrecky hosts this annual evening of
illusion. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Dec. 4-5, 8
p.m.; Sun., Dec. 6, 2 p.m.. (323) 851-7977.
MOIST! Mariann Aalda and Iona Morris are MILFy inspirational
sexperts. Hayworth, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 7 p.m.. (323)
N(E)IG(H)G(BO)ERS Staged reading of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins'
examination of race in America. Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave.,
L.A.; Sun., Dec. 6, 1 p.m.. (323) 852-1445.
RATED RSO: THE MUSIC + LYRICS OF RYAN SCOTT OLIVER Megan Hilty,
Lesli Margherita and other Broadway voices sing the hits. Boston Court,
70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Fri., Dec. 4, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 5, 4
& 8 p.m.. (626) 683-6883.
RAY BRADBURY'S MERRY CHRISTMAS 2116 Preview of a new musical by the
sci-fi master (music by James Hoke) about an aging husband and wife who
each buy a spouse-replacement robot as a surprise for their mate.
Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; opens Dec.
5; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 19, www.plays411.com/raybradbury. (323)
ROD MCGIRDLEBUTT STRIKES BACK, OR THE SUN SETS ON THE CYCLONE RACER
ONE LAST TIME Final installment of the Garage Theatre's serial comedy
by Jamie Sweet. Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; opens
Dec. 4; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 7 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 20.
SANTASIA: A HOLIDAY COMEDY Yuletide yuks, directed by Shaun Loeser.
Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; opens Dec. 4;
Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 26, www.santasia.com.
SERIAL KILLERS Five serials compete to continue, voted on by the
audience. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; opens Dec.
5; Sat., 11 p.m.; thru Dec. 19. (310) 281-8337.
THAT PERFECT MOMENT Baby boomers reunite their band, in Charles
Bartlett and Jack Cooper's holiday nostalgia. Little Victory Theatre,
3324 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank; opens Dec. 5; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,
3 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Jan. 17,
www.plays411.com/perfect. (323) 960-7745.
WINTER TALES: A CELEBRATION OF HOLIDAY STORIES Bryan Rasmussen
directs this annual cavalcade of comedic and dramatic monologues and
holiday songs. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks;
opens Dec. 6; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 20, www.whitefiretheatre.com..
X-MAS CABARET Alt-holiday cabaret extravaganza with singer Sixx
Carter, comedian Jay Ko, juggler Scott Nery and more. Eclectic Company
Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; opens Dec. 4;
Fri.-Sat., 9 p.m.; thru Dec. 12. (818) 508-3003.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE
GO ARIAS WITH A TWIST Poor Joey Arias, a female
impersonator here attired in black bra and panties, has just been
abducted by aliens. That unfortunate truth takes a while to reveal
itself, since the show opens with the sight of a red curtain for a
puppet show, which sloooowly rises onto another curtain that
slowly parts, revealing yet another curtain ... You get the joke.
Eventually, we see the Dream Music Orchestra -- Basil Twist's gorgeous
puppet musicians. This visage melts into a panorama of the cosmos
(video design by Daniel Brodie), a floating spaceship on which we
finally meet Mr./Ms. Arias, strapped upside down to a neon hoop and
being swiveled and probed. We see the visions dreamt by our
semiconscious protagonist: a martini glass floats by, then a
decapitated hand with the label "Jimmy Hoffa" before a puppet of Arias
plunges and plunges and plunges into the "Jungle of Eden," a
psychedelic pyschosexual collision of leafy plants, a slithering snake
and an eventual meeting of Adam and Eve. (Twist did the design, which
largely depends on the mystery of hauntingly dim and focused lighting.)
The event culminates in the "show" that Arias has been aching to
perform, a series of ballads, quite beautifully rendered, and
reminiscent of the Henry Mancini era. The piece may take the art of
drag into hallucinatory frontiers where no man-woman has gone before,
and despite its self-conscious sense of humor, it does all this by
ratcheting down camp clichés, and with admirable craft. You almost
believe that there's a point larger than its own artistry. That, of
course, is just another hallucination. (Steven Leigh Morris)., $35-$40,
$28-$32 students. REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8:30
p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 13. (213) 237-2800.
GO BABY IT'S YOU! Florence Greenberg (Meeghan
Holaway) was a restless Passaic housewife with two nearly grown kids
(Suzanne Petrela and Adam Irizarry) and a husband (Barry Pearl)
resentful of her love for newfangled rock & roll. (When Bernie
tells his missus, "Yakkity yak -- don't talk back," he's serious.) Flo
left to create Scepter Records, taking with her four local girls whom
she shaped into the Shirelles, the original queens of the hop. Floyd
Mutrux's splashy doo-wop, jukebox musical tracks the naive but
strong-willed exec as she discovers the brief glories of being on top
of the charts with a new man at her side, prideful lyricist and
producer Luther Dixon (Allan Louis). Mutrux and co-writer Colin Escott
see this as a story about suits, not singers: the Shirelles (Berlando
Drake, Erica Ash, Paulette Ivory and Crystal Starr Knighton, all
excellent) get stage time but no individuality except for Drake's
Shirley, who makes a play for Luther. But everything is tangential to
the music. If the second act didn't start with an endless but excellent
cabaret of oldies by composers from Ron Isley to Lesley Gore, there'd
be more plot and less applause. From the corner of the stage, a DJ
named Jocko (Geno Henderson) interrupts to set the year, and the
production is as much about a nostalgic nod to the era of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
as it is about the story of an outsider building her kingdom.
(Ironically, the least-familiar song is also the best, "The Dark End of
the Street," later covered by everyone from Dolly Parton to Frank
Black.) Still, though Flo and her teen queens deserve more development,
the evening closes with a grace note, as the five ladies sing together
in harmony, knowing that even if they didn't shake up the world, they
seized their own destinies. (Amy Nicholson)., $62-$72. Pasadena
Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4
& 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 20. (626) 356-PLAY.
BONNIE & CLYDE World-premiere musical about the infamous lovers
and their Depression-era crime spree. Book by Ivan Menchell, music by
Frank Wildhorn, lyrics by Don Black. La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla
Village Dr., La Jolla; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.;
Tues.-Wed., 7:30 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 20. (858)
GO CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: KOOZA It's been about a decade
since the blue-and-yellow Grand Chapiteau (big top) was seen at Santa
Monica Pier. This touring production marks the 25th anniversary of
Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil, and also heralds a return to the
simpler, less high-tech formats that informed earlier productions like Quidam and Allegria
-- the emphasis here being on the old circus traditions of clowning and
acrobatics. But that's not to say that there is something missing here.
On the contrary, creator-director David Shiner, who made quite a name
for himself as a clown in outings like Fool Moon, has packed
this show with drama, comedy, whimsy, music, exotica, slick
choreography, and plenty of how-do-they-do-that? moments. The show
starts with an Innocent (Stephan Landry) opening a box containing a
trickster (Mike Tyus), who reveals the magical world of the circus. And
what a world it is! The clowns pull off some dazzling and funny
routines, and interact throughout with the audience. Contortionists
Julie Bergez, Natasha Patterson and Dasha Sovik twist their tiny bodies
into letters of the alphabet, among other things. Lee Thompson amazes
with a pickpocket routine at the expense of an unsuspecting attendee.
Jimmy Ibarra and Angelo Lyerzkysky garnered a standing ovation for
their superhuman feats on the Wheel of Death -- a daunting contraption
that resembles two interconnected hamster wheels. Marie-Chantale
Valliancourt's collage of costumes are stunning. (Lovell Estell III).,
$60-$135; children $42-$94.50; students & seniors $45-$112.50.
Santa Monica Pier, 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 4
& 8 p.m.; Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 20. (310) 458-8900.
GO CRIME AND PUNISHMENT Marilyn Campbell and Curt
Columbus' adaptation of the novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Craig Bilknap
stages the work crisply with technical aplomb, though it's all a bit
actorly. (Steven Leigh Morris). A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd.,
Glendale; Sat., Dec. 5, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 13, 2 & 7 p.m.;
Wed., Dec. 16, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Dec. 17, 8 p.m.. (818) 240-0910.
GO EQUIVOCATION Bill Cain's much-heralded new play
imagines Shakespeare (Joe Spano) being commissioned by a deputy (Connor
Trinneer) of King James (Patrick J. Adams) to write a drama celebrating
the apprehension of conspirators who tried to blow up the Houses of
Parliament. As Shakespeare does his research, he finds himself in a fix
between the king's desire for propaganda and his own commitment to the
"truth." (Parallels between the aftermath of "The Gunpowder Plot" and
9/11 are more than apparent. The difficulties of telling the truth lies
at the heart of Cain's digressive and somewhat bloated play, yet his
various variations on that theme form an intricately woven fabric of
ideas. (Steven Leigh Morris). Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave.,
Westwood; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7
p.m.; thru Dec. 20. (310) 208-5454.
FROM THE HEART: JUDE NARITA AND FRIENDS Jude Narita portrays various
Asian and Asian-American women. Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln
Blvd., Santa Monica; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 6.
NEW REVIEW GO HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! THE MUSICAL
Photo by Ed Krieger
familiar yuletide tale from Dr. Seuss gets a musical facelift in a
touring version of the Broadway production. Narrator Old Max (John
Larroquette), a wiser incarnation of the dog belonging to The Grinch
(Stefan Karl), introduces the Whos of Whoville and their traditions, as
well as the Grinch's desire to put an end to their good cheer. In
addition to Albert Hague's widely known "Welcome, Christmas" and
"You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch," a number of new songs cleverly
incorporate traditional Christmas jingles but fail to achieve the
iconic status of the aforementioned numbers (though "Santa For a Day,"
featuring cute-as-a-button Kayley Stallings as Cindy-Lou Who, is
sweet). What distinguishes this compact production (90-minutes without
intermission) are John Lee Beatty's set pieces, which incorporate
Seuss' original line drawings; Robert Morgan's costumes, including the
pastel mint hues of the Whos, and the bilious green coat sported by the
Grinch; Thomas Augustine's hair and wigs, featuring mounds of colorful
curls and swirls; Angelina Avallone's wonderfully detailed makeup; and
Gregory Meeh's clever special effects, like the flying sleigh and
ubiquitous snowflakes. Director Matt August deftly manages hundreds of
moving parts and gets an appropriately over-the-top performance from
Karl, whose Grinch surpasses that of Jim Carrey. Headliner Larroquette
has a surprisingly smooth hot cocoa baritone, but his deadpan delivery
is a bit too reminiscent of Dan Fielding. Like any facelift, this one
retains some wrinkles, but makes for good family fare. Pantages
Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd.; Wed.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.;
Sat., 2, 5 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m., 2 & 5 p.m.; additional
performances Christmas week; thru December 27. (800) 982-2787. http://www.ticketmaster.com/artist/1062083 A Nederlander and Running Subway Production. (Mayank Keshaviah)
JAY JOHNSON: THE TWO AND ONLY! What about Bob? The ventriloquist from Soap
keeps the party going. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank;
Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 13. (818) 558-7000.
GO MARY POPPINS The riveting theatricality of Bob
Crowley's production design, climaxing in chimney sweep Bert (Gavin
Lee) soft-shoeing straight up, then upside down across the proscenium
arch, and culminating in a showstopping umbrella flight over the
audience by the famous titular nanny, produces an excitement that far
outshines the limited value intrinsic in much of the musical's written
material. Likewise the sublime showmanship of choreographer Matthew
Bourne and stage director Richard Eyre hides the flaws in Julian
Fellowes' disjointed script and new music by George Stiles and Anthony
Drew. Unlike most of Disney's Broadway smashes that producer Thomas
Schumacher has magically transformed from animated film to stage, this
is a hybrid between Disney's 1964 movie masterpiece, whose fun and
fanciful score by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman still holds up, and
the operetta gleaned from the original novel (with rights held by the
Cameron Mackintosh team). The two styles battle one another for
dominance, and neither wins. Most of the film's story lines are
banished in favor of closer adaptation of the P.L. Travers books with
the familiar songs wedged into the scenes, while the new songs more
closely fit the story, but lack spark. Nevertheless the production is
an audience pleaser, with demonstrable talent on or off the stage. (Tom
Provenzano)., $20-$92. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.;
Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru
Feb. 7. (213) 628-2772.
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 fiance, 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 depicting, 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, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773
Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 19. (323) 666-4268.
GO NOISES OFF There are many stars in Geoff
Elliott's accomplished staging of Michael Frayn's oft-produced
backstage farce, but the ones that shine brightest may be the
stagehands, who, between acts, hand-swivel Adam Lillibridge's
elaborate, two-tiered living room set -- which represents the
multitiered living room set of a play within the play, being performed
somewhere in the British provinces -- inside out, so that the faux
living room transforms into backstage directly behind the set, where
the actors await their entrances. This is no easy feat, as the set
almost touches the theater ceiling, but on opening night, they pulled
it off in under 12 minutes, earning a round of applause from those
standing by to watch. Frayn's farce is well known by now -- a theater
production of a farce on the rails, with a world-weary director
(Elliott) who's more than ready to move on to his next production, Richard III;
a needy cast, one of whom (Stephen Rockwell) keeps insisting on
psychological explanations for what's obviously a series of gags;
another (Emily Kosloski, playing a dim-witted sex bomb) who keeps
losing her contact lenses; and an elderly resident alcoholic (Apollo
Dukakis) who creates dramatic tension from the question of whether or
not he'll even show up to make his entrance. As the
play-within-the-play continues its tour, in a production that grows
increasingly chaotic, the ineptitude gets compounded by sexual
dalliances among director, cast and crew that leave a trail of bruised
feelings. Elliott's touch is both gentle and conservative, sidestepping
many low-comedy sex gags that have accompanied other productions. It is
nonetheless skillfully rendered, with lovely performances also by
Deborah Strang, Mikael Salazar, Lenne Klingaman, Jill Hill and Shaun
Anthony. (Steven Leigh Morris). A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd.,
Glendale; Sun., Dec. 6, 2 & 7 p.m.; Through Dec. 11, 8 p.m.; Fri.,
Dec. 18, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 19, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 20, 2 p.m..
PO BOY TANGO In Kenneth Lin's ambitious but uninspiring script,
Taiwanese immigrant Richie Po (Dennis Dun) calls upon an
African-American woman named Gloria B (Esther Scott) to help him
resurrect his deceased mother's recipes. The occasion is his daughter's
wedding; the two had became acquainted years ago, after Gloria helped
nurse his daughter when she battled cancer. For guidance, they rely on
videotapes sent by Mama Po (Jeanne Sakata) to her son -- tapes about
her cooking in which she also reminisces on Richie's childhood. The
play aims to illustrate how food -- nourishing the spirit as well as
the body -- can bridge the gaps among individuals from vastly different
backgrounds. Unfortunately, too much of the dialogue consists of
"remember when" chitchat that carries little dramatic imperative.
Toward the end, a fierce argument concerning race finally does erupt
after an angry Gloria accuses Richie of disrespecting her, but the
conflict seems forced. Likewise, although Mama's narrative includes a
single compelling incident, it's mostly quotidian detail from which a
clear portrait of the past fails to emerge. The play is directed by
Oanh Nguyen; some production decisions do little to augment its
underachieved intentions. While Nathan Wang's original music is a plus,
designer Shaun L. Motley's sterile set underscores the material's
enervated dynamic. And a play that emphasizes the miracle properties of
broth should bring some to the stage. (Deborah Klugman). East West
Players, 120 N. Judge John Aiso St., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2
p.m.; thru Dec. 6. (213) 625-7000.
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.
THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG Children's musical, book by Lloyd J.
Schwartz and Hope Juber, lyrics and music by Hope and Lawrence Juber.
Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Sat., 1 p.m.; thru Feb.
27. (323) 851-7977.
RICHARD III Director Geoff Elliott gives us a traditional production
of Shakespeare's most emphatically rhetorical tragedy, setting it in
its proper historical period, the 1480s. Steve Weingartner's feisty,
shaven-headed Richard is zestily malevolent, alternating sly, saturnine
humor and self-satisfaction with unbridled savagery. Deborah Strang
plays the vengeful Queen Margaret as a raddled, ragged, witchlike
creature, and Lenne Klingaman is a spunky Lady Anne. Freddy Douglas is
stalwartly noble as Richard's nemesis, the Earl of Richmond; Apollo
Dukakis is a venerable King Edward; and Susan Angelo plays his
embattled queen with aplomb. So it remains a mystery why this staging
feels so inert. Perhaps it's because of some curious choices by
Elliott: Decking the ghosts who haunt Richard with Christmas lights is
more gimmicky than haunting. Designer Darcy Scanlin provides the moody
and somberly beautiful multileveled set, and Ken Merckx Jr. and Spike
Steingasser provide dynamic fight choreography, though something seemed
amiss in the climactic combat between Richard and Richmond. Sound
designer Patricia Hotchkiss uses the neighing of terrified horses to
startling effect, but the near-constant soundtrack of cawing crows,
bird song and dripping water is often distracting. It's a fitfully
impressive production, if not always a satisfying one. In alternating
repertory; call theater for schedule. (Neal Weaver). A Noise Within,
234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 12. (818)
GO THE RIVER NIGER Joseph Walker was among a
handful of black playwrights who came to prominence during the Civil
Rights era and won acclaim for their dramas about the black experience
in America. This is a solid, spirited revival of his 1974 Tony
Award--winning drama about a family tested by a critical moment of
reckoning. The action unfolds in the Harlem residence of Johnny
Williams (a dynamic performance by Ben Guillory), a housepainter who
writes poetry and whose love for his long-suffering wife, Mattie
(Margaret Avery), is matched only by his love of the bottle. The two
are anxiously anticipating the arrival of their son Jeff (Dane
Diamond), who they believe is returning as a successful U.S. Air Force
navigator. But his eventual return instead brings disappointment and
trouble for the family. Adding to the crisis are Mattie's cancer
diagnosis and the sudden appearance of four of Jeff's old buddies who
are now members of a militant black revolutionary group. This is
essentially a dated melodrama, but one that nevertheless holds our
attention and has fruitful poignancy because of the well sketched,
robust humanity of the characters. Director Dwain Perry could do better
with more rigorous pacing. Cast performances are uniformly good,
particularly Alex Morris, who is superb as Dr. Dudley Stanton. (Lovell
Estell III). Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A.;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 20. (213) 489-0994.
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)
WINTER WONDERETTES It's the most wonderful time of the year for
Roger Bean's musical revue. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road,
Laguna Beach; Sun., 2 p.m.; Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 5, 2 &
8 p.m.; Thurs., Dec. 10, 2 p.m.; Thurs., Dec. 24, 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 30.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS
ABSINTHE, OPIUM, & MAGIC: 1920S SHANGHAI The Grand Guignolers
take a luxury cruise to Shanghai, the most decadent city of the 1920s.
Artworks Performance Space, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat.,
8:15 p.m.; Sun., 6:45 p.m.; thru Jan. 3. (800) 838-3006.
ACCOMPLICE: HOLLYWOOD Part game, part theater, part tour: "It all
begins with a phone call disclosing a secret meeting location. Aided by
clues and mysterious cast members strewn throughout various locations
such as street corners, bars, iconic landmarks and out-of-the-way
spots, the audience traverses the city streets, piecing together clues
of a meticulously crafted plot." Tickets: www.AccompliceTheShow.com.
Hollywood Blvd., TBA, L.A.; Fri.-Sat....
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.
ANTIGONE The classic Sophocles tragedy. Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La
Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 6. (323)
BACKSTAGE GREASE Behind the scenes at a production of Grease, by
Kristian Steel. Next Stage Theater, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor,
L.A.; Wed., 8 p.m.. (323) 850-7827.
NEW REVIEW GO BLACK LEATHER
Photo by Chris Covics
Robert Krapplethorpe -- an unmistakable twist on Mapplethorpe - is a
brazen narcissist. Manic when he's coked up, marginally less so when he
isn't, he's an outsized provocateur who revels in outraging others with
abrasive remarks and abusive behavior. As portrayed by playwright
Michael Sargent, the sexually promiscuous Robert interacts with the
world- "finguratively" speaking - with a permanently erect and extended
middle finger. In this raucous satire, directed and designed by Chris
Covics, the people at the receiving end of Robert's umbrage include his
well-heeled lover and patron Sam (Jan Munroe), a gallery owner named
Jilly, with lots of money to lose if Robert should screw up (Kathy Bell
Denton), his African-American S&M partner Milton (Kevin Daniels),
his assistant Ed (Dustin David) and his gal pal and former sweetheart,
ostensibly modeled after Patti Smith, Ratty Spit (Liz Davies). Only
with Ratty does Robert evince the barest trace of genuine love and
caring. Not for the prim or classical-minded, the production - aptly
billed as a "comedy of desperation" -- features lots of bare ass and
graphic simulation of rough homoerotic sex. Between and sometimes
during scenes, cacophonous music throbs. The ensemble is solid,
although the frenetic pace, reverberating noise and the main
character's grating persona create a distraction from appreciating the
fragile humanity beneath the clatter. Unknown Theater, 1110 N. Seward
St., Hollywoodl Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Dec. 19. (323)
466-7781. (Deborah Klugman)
GO BLEEDING THROUGH Adapted from Norman Klein's
novella of the same title, this world premiere, co-written and
co-directed by Theresa Chavez and Rose Portillo, explores historical
Angelino Heights (not coincidentally the location of the theater) and
the ghosts of its glamorous past. The Unreliable Narrator (David
Fruechting) introduces us to the world of the play as it moves fluidly
between the past and present. He speaks with Ezra (Ed Ramolete) and
Molly (Lynn Milgrim), now two elderly residents of the neighborhood, as
he researches a potential murder. Through their memories we learn of a
younger Molly (Elizabeth Rainey), who came from Indiana and worked in
men's clothing, which naturally brought her into contact with a number
of men, including husbands Jack (Brian Joseph) and Walt (Pete Pano), as
well as Jack's father and longtime customer Harry (James Terry). Chavez
and Portillo's expansive "surround" set, designed by Akeime
Mitterlehner, offers a unique staging that, along with the
accompaniment of live musicians Scott Collins and Vinny Golia, immerses
the audience in the noir world. Francois-Pierre Couture's angular
lighting, Pamela Shaw's wonderfully detailed costumes, Claudio Rocha's
well-integrated videography and Diane Arellano's installation of
historical artifacts -- which the audience is allowed to explore at
intermission -- all enhance the ambiance as well. Rainey and Milgrim
play their double roles with aplomb, but the piece's main drawback is
the lack of dramatic momentum in the writing, making older Molly's
line, "at some point, a place becomes more important than a person,"
ring all the more true. (Mayank Keshaviah). Shakespeare Festival/LA,
1238 W. First St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec.
6. (800) 595-4TIX.
BOB BAKER'S HOLIDAY SPECTACULAR Marionettes take kids on a journey
to Santa's Workshop, through the eight days of Hanukkah, and more, in
this musical revue. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St.,
L.A.; Sat., 10:30 a.m. & 2:30 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; Tues.-Fri.,
10:30 a.m.; thru Jan. 10. (213) 250-9995.
GO CARNIVAL KNOWLEDGE: LOVE, LUST AND OTHER HUMAN
ODDITIES The two words that come to mind in describing this one-woman
show by Naomi Grossman are "colorful" and "physical." The former hits
you as you enter the theater and are treated to the circus-tent
backdrop festooned with posters that would make P.T. Barnum proud
(courtesy of designers Steven K. Barnett and April Lawrence). The
latter becomes quickly evident in Grossman's storytelling style,
beginning with a lively game of "Whack-a-Weenie" in which she takes a
mallet to male members masquerading as moles (don't bring the kids).
Though Grossman has the air of a wide-eyed ingenue, her contortionism
along with the dirty details of nine of her dates -- from the stock boy
at Trader Joe's, to her yoga instructor, to Argentine soccer players
(in the plural) -- prove otherwise. But all is not wine and roses in
this comic carnal romp, especially toward the end, when she tackles the
darker side of love. Richard Embardo's efficient direction, along with
Christopher Ash's nimble lighting and Kelley Rodgers' whimsical
soundtrack, helps Grossman quickly move between stories as she darts
about the stage, putting to good use the fungible, Willy Wonka--hued
set pieces. And while her characters are not quite as sharply drawn as
they could be, her energy, impressive physicality and the occasionally
clever pun in the writing carry the piece. (Mayank Keshaviah). Lex
Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 13. (323)
NEW REVIEW GO EXTINCTION
Photo by Kurt Boetcher
McKinley's play starts out as a fast, funny, hip buddy comedy, but
grows steadily darker. Fast-talking hedonist and prosperous businessman
Max (Michael Weston) regards women as disposable and interchangeable,
and has no use for marriage, monogamy or fidelity. His real connection
is to his male buddies--including grad student Finn (James Roday). Max
is fixated on their college days spent boozing, snorting, gambling and
chasing girls, so he arranges a spectacular weekend with Finn in
Atlantic City. Finn, however, has outgrown Max's kind of
self-indulgence. When he reveals that he's married and expecting a
child, Max sees it as a betrayal, and a dangerous threat to his own
self-image. He cajoles, threatens, manipulates and bribes Finn into
joining his revels, and brings in a couple of working girls (Amanda
Detmer and Stefanie E. Frame) to spice things up. But enforced fun
proves to be a kind of hell, leading to disillusion brutality and
several kinds of extinction. Weston and Roday give finely etched and
contrasting performances, and Wayne Kasserman directs with a skillful
but unobtrusive hand this merciless evisceration of whatever it means
to have character. Kurt Boetcher provides the clever, beautiful,
black-and-white set. Elephant Space, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd.;
Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 13. (323)
960-7784 or http://www.plays411.com/Extinction. Produced by Red Dog
Squadron. (Neal Weaver)
FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE That's weekly sketch comedy done by some of the
best in the sketch biz. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.;
Fri., 8 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.
GAY APPAREL: A CHRISTMAS CAROL Dickens get dicked: Jason Moyer's
homoerotic re-imagining of Charles Dickens' holiday classic.
Lyric-Hyperion Theater, 2106 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 20. (800) 838-3006.
THE GAY MAFIA Queer sketch and improv comedy. Macha Theatre, 1107 N.
Kings Road, West Hollywood; Wed., Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m., www.plays411.com.
GEOGRAPHY OF A HORSE DREAMER Sam Shepard's story of a kidnapped
cowboy. Moth Theatre, 4359 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 13, www.brownpapertickets.com/event/90738.
NEW REVIEW GO HAMLET SHUT UP!
Photo by Diane Meyer
Jonas Oppenheim's whimsical re-imagining of Shakespeare's play as a
silent movie (music composed and performed by Josh Senick) comes packed
with theatrical imagination and a robust sense of humor. It also opens
the question of what body language can express, and in so doing just
grazes the surface of Shakespeare's multi-textured play. Sacred Fools
Theatre Company 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.
(added perf Thursday, Dec. 17, 8 p.m.); thru Dec. 19. (310) 281-8337.
(Steven Leigh Morris) See Theater feature on Wednesday night.
THE HOUSE OF BESARAB A new environmental adaptation of "Dracula"
with Travis Holder. Audience members eat and drink in the venue's
historic Deco Bar before the show. Hollywood American Legion, 2305 N.
Highland Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 9 p.m.; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 20.
GO LA RONDE DE LUNCH Peter Lefcourt's amusing
Hollywood farce transpires at lunchtime in "the most pretentious
restaurant" in town, where everyone meets but no one eats, since the
purpose of getting together is less to fortify the body than to pump up
the ego and the wallet. Lefcourt constructs his play, inspired by
Schnitzler's La Ronde, as a series of two-person scenes. Each
participant in this power-driven game of musical chairs wants something
from his or her lunch partner -- and all crave an audience with Clive,
a mysterious mover-and-shaker whose films gross hundreds of millions
worldwide. Among the players are an aging actress (understudy Sondra
Currie) with a Bette Davis complex, a burned-out alcoholic writer
(Brynn Thayer) smitten with her personal fitness trainer (Haley
Strode), a smarmy agent (Joe Briggs), a sugary but calculating bimbo
(Fiona Gubelmann), her prey (a wealthy aging lawyer played by Robert
Trebor) and, ultimately, Clive himself (understudy Bryan Callen, in a
spot-on performance as the quintessentially smug superstar). No small
part of the fun is generated by the waitstaff: a quintet of servers,
all named Bruce, who comment, Greek-chorus-like, on the goings-on, as
well as interacting with the customers and performing a stylistically
different musical parody between each scene. Designer Jeff McLaughlin's
appealing set, Shon LeBlanc's lively costumes and Tracy Silver's upbeat
choreography add to the production's beguiling charm. Terri Hanauer
directs. (Deborah Klugman). Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave.,
L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 20. (310) 358-9936.
GO LAND OF THE TIGERS Burglars of Hamm mingle and mangle The Crucible with Planet of the Apes
in a vibrant and painful satire of theater-making in Los Angeles, and
the cult of the acting-teacher/director-guru. (Steven Leigh Morris).
Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec.
13, 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 13, www.brownpapertickets.com/event/86591. (310)
THE LAST ANGRY BROWN HAT Alfredo Ramos' story of four Chicano
friends, former Brown Berets, confronting their past. Hayworth, 2509
Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 9, (No perfs Nov.
26, Dec. 25, Dec. 31.) www.thehayworth.com. (323) 960-4442.
NEW REVIEW GO A LIE OF THE MIND As an inaugural staging,
Studio Five Productions' revival of Sam Shepard's complex, 1985,
fractured-memory fable proves an auspicious and appropriate debut.
Director John Langs' vibrant production is not only handsomely mounted
and caustically funny, but, for a play about self-deception and
misremembering, it goes a long way towards finally wiping away the
memory of the Taper's austere, 1988, Robert Woodruff-helmed L.A.
premiere. Believing he's killed his wife Beth (Natalie Avital) in a
jealous rage, Jake (Lance Kramer) flees to his Southern California,
boyhood home to hide out with his overly doting, widowed mother,
Lorraine (Casey Kramer), and black-sheep sister Sally (Maury Morgan).
Unbeknownst to Jake, Beth has survived the assault and been whisked
away by her overprotective brother, Mike (P.J. Marshall), to the rural
Montana home of their bombastic father, Baylor (John Combs) and ditsy
mother, Meg (Jennifer Toffel). While Jake and Beth recover from their
respective traumas -- his a self-lacerating guilt that has transformed
him into a cowering wreck; hers a severe concussion that has left her
both physically and mentally impaired -- the story's one truth seeker,
Jake's brother Frankie (Logan Fahey), is himself crippled when the
befuddled Baylor literally shoots the messenger. And while a myriad of
hidden truths will eventually out, it's not before Shepard lays bare
the self-deluding, foundational myths of each family in blistering
parodies of Greek tragedy and frontier lore. Along the way, Langs and
his flawless ensemble nimbly navigate the difficult transition between
brutal domestic violence and sly, screwball farce, aided by Dwayne
Burgess' elegantly expressionistic set, Travis McHale's atmospheric
lights and the dramatic punch of Tim Labor's sound. Studio/Stage, 520
N. Western Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 20,
www.studiofiveproductions.org. (888) 534-6001. Studio Five Productions. (Bill Raden)
GO LIFE COULD BE A DREAM This affectionate doo-wop jukebox musical by writer-director Roger Bean (The Marvelous Wonderettes),
with clever choreography by Lee Martino, handsome set by Tom Buderwitz,
and spectacular lighting by Luke Moyer, is designed to incorporate hit
songs of the 1960s, ranging from the goofy "Sh Boom" and "Rama Lama
Ding Dong" to anthems like "Earth Angel," "Unchained Melody," "The
Great Pretender," and "The Glory of Love." In small-town Springfield,
the local radio station is sponsoring a rock-and-roll contest, and
go-getter Denny (Daniel Tatar) is convinced he can win and become a
star. He enlists his klutzy, nerdish, endearing friend Eugene (Jim
Holdridge) and church-choir singer Wally (Ryan Castellino) to join him.
Needing a sponsor to provide the $50 entrance fee for the contest, they
apply to the proprietor of the local auto chain. He sends his top
mechanic, handsome, hunky Skip (Doug Carpenter), and his pretty
daughter Lois (Jessica Keenan Wynn), to audition the guys, and by the
end they're incorporated in the new group, Denny and the Dreamers. This
is pure fluff, and the terrific ensemble makes every note count in this
rousing good-time musical. (Neal Weaver). Hudson Mainstage Theatre,
6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8
p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 27. (323) 960-4412.
LOVE WILL TEAR US APART In this play by Michael Hyman a young gay
man is visited each night by the voice of a former lover and is
confronted by his inability to get close with anyone and his related
substance addictions. Hudson Guild Theater, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd.,
L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 13. (323) 960-5773.
GO MOLLY SWEENEY Those who can see imagine
blindness to be barren of detail. But for 41-year-old Molly Sweeney
(Melina Bielefelt), blind since 10 months old, her dark world is
intricate and alive: she can tell flowers by feel, and dance wildly
through her home without a bruise. In Irish playwright Brian Friel's
stark 1996 drama, when Molly's newlywed husband Frank (Matthew
McCallum) -- a man bursting with the type of passion that creates (and
destroys) civilizations -- convinces alcoholic optician Mr. Rice (John
Ross Clark) to "heal" his wife, all three admit the peril. Molly must
be taught to see, to spot a peach without touch or smell. "There's a
difference between learning and understanding," cautions the doctor,
but neither of the men grasp that their real motive for the surgery is
personal ego. (The triumphant headlines Frank imagines focus on his
joyful tears.) Randee Trabitz directs her excellent ensemble on a stage
divided by two translucent scrims. As Molly retreats in to "her world"
-- the one Friel validates for the audience (during his first draft of
the play, he also underwent cataract surgery) -- she slips behind them
until toward the end, we can scarcely see her at all. We're as blind to
Molly as her doctor and her husband are to her as well, though we
suspect she sees through us all just fine. (Amy Nicholson). Son of
Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru
Dec. 13. (800) 838-3006.
NIBBLER Just graduated from high school, aspiring musician Adam
(Nicholas S. Williams) and his pals hang at the local diner, exchanging
the casually benign blather ubiquitous among ennui-saturated suburban
youth. Gradually, personal issues emerge. Adam's father is dead and his
estranged mom sleeps with another guy. Matt's (Rick Steadman) harping
dad thinks he's a loser. Pete (Ron Morehouse) suspects but fiercely
denies to himself that he's a "faggot." Tara (Joanie Ellen) worries
because none of her guy friends want to screw her. The precocious
Hayley (Alana Dietz) sidelines as a phone sex worker. Enter the Nibbler
-- manifested first as flashing lights and strange sounds but soon
materializing as a black specter with giant claws, whose touch
radically alters each of their lives. Or so the premise goes. In fact,
playwright Ken Urban's nascent horror spoof never gets past the
listlessness that overwhelms its characters. There are revitalizing
junctures, as when Matt, post-Nibbler encounter, transforms into a
Republican fundamentalist and lets loose a scabrous dialogue that
exposes the profound schizophrenia of the Religious right. But such
smart sharp writing -- along with the Nibbler's laughably scary
appearances -- come only at intervals. Riddled with loose threads, the
play suffers its own schizoid split: Is it a send-up, a social
commentary or a quasipersonal reminiscence? In an apparent attempt at
all three, it scores well at none. Under Mark Seldis' direction, the
performances, like the play itself, compel only sporadically. (Deborah
Klugman). Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 12. (323) 856-8611.
OKLOHOMO! Hollywood troupe attempts a gaytastic version of the
Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, Justin Tanner ensues. Celebration
Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 10:30 p.m.; thru
Dec. 19, www.celebrationtheatre.com. (323) 957-1884.
PANDORA Neo Acro Theatre's story of two young women from different
worlds. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun.,
8 p.m.; thru Dec. 20. (323) 465-4446.
NEW REVIEW POST
Photo by Ravi Gahunia
doubtless will be many fine plays written in the future about the Iraq
war and its effect on the men and women who served there. This,
however, is not one of them. In Donavan Thomas' superficial tale about
the war's impact on two longtime friends, Michael(Thomas) returns from
the war and moves into the shabby digs (nicely constructed by Erin
Sellnow) of fellow veteran and friend Chuck (Nathanyael Grey). The
atmosphere of bonhomie quickly starts to evaporate when Chuck's
girlfriend Autumn(Jamie Renee Smith) suddenly and inexplicably starts a
romance with Michael. It doesn't take a genius to see at this point
that the plot is headed for a tragic love triangle; and a big part of
the problem with this clunky script is that the predictable
blood-soaked finale takes too long to arrive. Between drinking
themselves silly and exchanging barbs, there is some mention of Chuck
and Michael's past experiences as soldiers, but they hardly scratch the
surface or explain how these two admittedly fucked up, guys got that
way. Timothy Gagliardo's tepid direction doesn't help. The Flight at
the Complex Theater, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd. Hlywd. Thur.-Sat., 8 p.m.,
Sun. 7 p.m., thru Dec. 20. (323) 960-7740. Loaded Dice Films (Lovell
REAL, REAL LIFE Neil Labute's one-act plays "Medea Redux", "Coax",
"The Liar's Club" and "A Gaggle of Saints.". The Black Box Theater,
12420 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 12,
theblackboxtheater.org. (310) 622-4482.
THE SANTALAND DIARIES Nicholas Brendon stars in David Sedaris's
one-man play about an out-of-work writer who takes a job as a Macy's
Christmas elf. The Blank Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.;
Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 20, www.theblank.com.
GO SHINING CITY Conor McPherson's pristine study in
urban loneliness, first produced in 2004, unfolds in a Dublin walkup
where a sexually confused therapist, Ian (William Dennis Hurley),
listens, and listens, and listens some more to the half completed
sentences spewed by his despondent client, John (Morlan Higgins), who
keeps bursting into paroxysms of sobbing over the loss of his wife,
killed in an auto accident. Making matters worse, the couple were
estranged at the time, and what will eventually unfold is John's story
of his blazingly pathetic and unconsumed adultery with someone he met
at a party -- his blunderings, his selfishness, and his need not so
much for sex but for the validation that comes from human contact,
which his now--late wife couldn't provide to his satisfaction. John is
haunted by her ghost, and Ian must ever so gently tell him that what he
saw or heard was real, but ghosts simply aren't. (That gently yet
smugly articulated theory will be challenged, along with every other
pretense of what's real, and what isn't.) While listening to his
forlorn client, and answering with such kindness and sensitivity, Ian
is himself going through hell: A former priest, he must now explain to
his flummoxed wife (Kerrie Blaisdell, imagine the multiple reactions of
a cat that's just been thrown out a window) that he's leaving her, and
their child, though he will move mountains to continue to support them
financially. Ian's plight becomes a tad clearer with the visit of a
male prostitute (Benjamin Keepers) in yet another pathetic and almost
farcical endeavor to connect with another human being. Director Stephen
Sachs' meticulous attention to detail manifests itself in the
specificity with which Ian places his chair, in the sounds of offstage
footsteps on the almost abandoned building's stairwell (sound design by
Peter Bayne), in the ebbs and flows of verbiage and silence, in
Higgins' hulking tenderness, and in the palate of emotions reflected in
the slender Hurley's withering facial reactions. This is a moving
portrait, in every sense: delicate, comical, desolate and profoundly
humane. It's probably a bit too long, the denouement lingers to margins
of indulgence, but that's a quibble in a production of such rare
beauty. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave.,
L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 19. (323) 663-1525.
SLASHER Allison Moore's comedy thriller. Zephyr Theater, 7456
Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 13,
www.plays411.com/slasher. (323) 960-7776.
SLOW CHILDREN CROSSING Sketch comedy by the African-American troupe.
Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Through Dec. 5. (323)
STATED INCOME Two guys plot to cheat the tax system, by Hugh Gross.
Pan Andreas Theater, 5125 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,
7 p.m.; thru Dec. 20. (323) 962-6207.
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)
THREE TALL WOMEN Edward Albee's study of contemporary womanhood. El
Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,
3 p.m.; thru Dec. 20, www.westcoastensemble.org. (323) 460-4443.
GO TREE An elderly black woman, Jessalyn Price
(Sloan Robinson) suffers from dementia in an upstairs bedroom in
Chicago's South Side, circa 2000, where she lives with her caretaker
son, Leo (Chuma Gault). The story of Jessalyn's past, and of her
impassioned, forbidden love, emerges through her too-poetical
ramblings, in Julie Hbert's otherwise riveting family
drama. The saga comes into clear focus, however, with the help of a
Caucasian interloper, Didi Mercantel (Jacqueline Wright) -- a single,
emotionally brittle brianiac from Louisiana who "suffers" from some
gender ambiguity, and who claims to be the daughter of the man, just
deceased, who once loved and abandoned the woman upstairs. Just when
you thought August: Osage County had put the family drama to
rest for a while, here comes a new play that doesn't ride on the
macabre or the Gothic; rather, it's propelled by a kind of
anthropological dig of detritus and handwritten missives from decades
past, revealing the tugs of history, society and circumstance on a
white Southern youth and his black girlfriend, both from Louisiana,
trying to build a life together in the land of the free. Leo's
daughter, J.J. (Tessa Thompson) chastises Didi that she has no right to
seek consolation for her father's death by bursting in their door.
"You're not family," J.J. declares. Whether that declaration is a
truth, a truism, or a cruel editorial opinion lies at the heart of what
this play says about our relations to each other in a nation of
interlopers. Jessica Kubzansky's staging brings the characters' wry
intelligence to the fore. (Steven Leigh Morris). [Inside] the Ford,
2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E, L.A.; Thurs.-Sun..; thru Dec. 13. (323) 461-3673.
NEW REVIEW GO VIOLATORS WILL BE VIOLATED
Photo courtesy of Circle X Theatre Company
Casey Smith's solo mime-show (he does scream a lot, but there are
almost no decipherable words) consists of 17 brief sketches accompanied
by a swath of musical selections in which the silver-haired actor
reveals a meticulously crafted and demented insanity. Each character,
from a decathlon athlete to a female stripper, is an unwaveringly
merciless portrait of self-destruction, which is the evening's theme.
It's unabashedly puerile, scatological, nihilistic and as funny as
hell. Son of Semele Theater, 3301 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles;
Fri.-Sat., 11 p.m.; thru Dec. 19. http://circlextheatre.org (Steven Leigh Morris) See Theater feature on Wednesday night.
WACADEMIA Joe Camhi's satirical comedy about a hit man who has to
take care of his father, whom he tries to teach political correctness
in the same environment with his wife, who is suing an academic
colleague for sexual harassment. Actor's Playpen, 1514 N. Gardner St.,
L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 19. (323) 874-1733.
WOMEN BEHIND BARS Sendup of women-in-prison B-movies, by Tom Eyen.
Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 20. (323) 957-1884.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS
AS WHITE AS O Against the backdrop of a New York art show titled
"The Innocents: 30 Years of Outsider Art in America," this world
premiere of novelist Stacy Sims' first dramatic endeavor explores
synesthesia, a condition in which senses are cross-wired so that
feelings are "tasted" and letters and numbers appear in specific
colors, among other things. The "outsiders," in this case, are Jack
(Vince Tula) and his father, Sam (Mark St. Amant), who both spent much
of Jack's childhood in Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, festooning their modest
backwoods cabin with the detritus of our consumer society. While such
decoration was therapeutic for them after losing Jack's mother, Grace
(Elizabeth Sampson), they are discovered by Clara (Lauren Clark), a
documentary filmmaker who becomes interested in the house and in Sam.
Running parallel to this story line, adult Jack is the subject of
another work in the same show by Ed (Ramon Campos), who interviews and
videotapes Jack in order to create his piece. The play fluidly
oscillates between the present and the past, and accomplished director
Sam Anderson deftly handles the transitions, though his pacing and
shaping of his characters' emotional climaxes are a bit uneven. Desma
Murphy's set, enhanced by Jeremy Pivnick's subtly shifting lighting, is
wonderfully detailed and spatially enhances the piece's thematic
elements. The cast has moments of inspiration, but only Sampson
consistently delivers the emotional energy required of Sims' script,
which itself would be strengthened by fewer tangential story lines, and
a stronger central plot. (Mayank Keshaviah). Lankershim Arts Center,
5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2
p.m.; thru Dec. 12, www.roadtheatre.org. (866) 811-4111.
THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER It's the neighborhood church lady
versus a clan of ill-behaved kids, just in time for the holidays, in
Barbara Robinson's comedy. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre
Blvd., Sierra Madre; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30
p.m.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 17. (626) 256-3809.NEW REVIEW
CHATSWORTH Matt Robertson's study of living in
the margins of the megalopolis - a commune of actors, models and
assorted showbiz wannabes who have gravitated to the San Fernando
Valley -- might be defined as weirdly Chekhovian, with its tangle of
unrequited loves and the often farcical romantic-erotic escapades of it
its characters on their road to nowhere. Chekhov's inebriating snuff
here gets translated into coke - the function is the same. Or maybe
this is closer to Gorky's The Lower Depths. Director Roger Mathey plays
the central role, Matthew (same name as the playwright, huh) -- a
corpulent fellow and one-hit-wonder screenwriter who's as spiritually
bankrupt as his so-called career - an insight he's trying to keep to
himself. Skinny new kid in town (Ry Higdon) gets hooked on an amateur
photographer (Dana Wing Lau) who toys and then steps on the callow guy.
Mathey's staging is kind of clumsy - the actors have to fling open
curtains on the side of the stage to reveal their hidden bedrooms, or
wherever. And sometimes that's just for a peek at some gratuitous
nudity, including a moment of urophilia in case you were drifting off.
The guy who yearns to be peed on is the cad playing several women at
once - which is a nice insight. If only the actor weren't so
transparently a player. The theme of breaking or broken dreams doesn't
resonate because, well, in Chatsworth, what else would one expect? It's
just all a little too obvious, and a touch too leering, to rise above
the pedestrian. Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks;
Wed., 8 p.m; through Dec. 16. http://plays411.com/chatsworth (Steven Leigh Morris)
A CHRISTMAS CAROL The Dickens story, adapted by Richard Hellesen,
music and lyrics by David De Berry. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory
Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.;
Sun., 2 & 7:30 p.m.; thru Dec. 20, www.thegrouprep.com. (818)
EIGHT Four one-act plays by Adam Kraar, followed by four more
one-acts by Michael Bassett. Alliance Repertory Company, 3204 W.
Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 5 p.m.;
thru Dec. 20. (800) 595-4849.
8 SHADES OF ALICE "A young girl relives her life through eight
different personalities on the day she commits suicide," by Layon Gray.
Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood;
Sat., Dec. 5, 9 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 12, 9 p.m.. (818) 761-0704.
NEW REVIEW GRACE KIM & THE SPIDERS FROM MARS
Photo by Nic Cha Kim
by Jeff Liu, Phillip W. Chung's pedestrian romantic comedy centers on
the rivalry between two estranged sisters for one man's affections.
It's Christmas: Maysie (Elaine Kao) returns home from L.A. to suburban
New Jersey, with her fiancé Wayne (Hanson Tse), an up- and-coming
Beverly Hills surgeon, in tow. Along with the rest of her family,
Wayne gets introduced to Maysie's maverick sister Grace (Elizabeth Ho),
a medical school dropout and a restless spirit since their mom's death
10 years prior. Inexplicably (like any number of other random
incidents), Wayne chooses this occasion to announce that he's decided
to pull up stakes from L.A. and move to a rural village in China, in
order to start a pediatric AIDS clinic. This upsets the astounded
Maysie, who's been cherishing the idea of a cozier more conventional
future. Later that night, Wayne and Grace find themselves drawn to each
other. One of the biggest recurring jokes is how all the various women
periodically gather teary-eyed round the TV soap opera and weep
quietly - as, secretly, does lovable buffoon Dad (Kelvin Han Yee). At
junctures, some popular ballad is piped in and the characters sing,
though not well. In need of wit, surprise and character development,
the script hobbles to its reconciliatory bittersweet conclusion. Some
of the dreariness is abated by the charismatic Ho, who performs with a
stylish authenticity that allows you to momentarily ignore the
material. GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank; Thurs.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 20. (323) 993-7245. A Lodestone Theatre
Ensemble Production (Deborah Klugman)
HOLIDAY HANGOVER: AN ANTHOLOGY FOR THE SEASONALLY AFFECTED Theatre
Unleashed's collection of original works all taking place the day after
Christmas. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood;
Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 12, www.theatreunleashed.com. (818)
IF YOUR EYES ARE CLEAR... Saghatel Harutyunyan's Soviet-era drama,
adapted by Aramazd Stepanian. Luna Playhouse, 3706 San Fernando Road,
Glendale; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 12. (818) 500-7200.
GO JUST IMAGINE The fun of seeing and hearing Tim
Piper's great John Lennon impersonation in an intimate setting with an
outstanding band, under Greg Piper's musical direction, is just
undeniable. The evening, which includes a large portion of the Beatles
catalog followed by Lennon's solo work, never misses a beat or lick
with Piper's perfectly pitched and accented voice and expert
instrumentation: Don Butler's hot guitar, Morley Bartnoff's keyboard
and Don Poncher's drums. The guys scruffily kowtow to Lennon's lead,
creating the perfect illusion of superstar power. Jonathan Zenz's sound
design achieves a powerful volume without killing our ears in the small
Noho Arts Center space. Lighting by Luke Moyer along with Tim Piper's
video images complete the double fantasy of Lennon before and after
Yoko. The musical portion is so enjoyable, under the overall eye of
director Steve Altman, that we hopefully forget the lame one-man play
that slips between the songs. Perhaps the plan is to pull Lennon off
his lofty saintlike perch, but the result of a plodding timeline
narrative bio leaves Lennon sounding dull and whiny, until the music
returns him to his proper place. (Tom Provenzano). NoHo Arts Center,
11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.;
thru Jan. 2. (818) 508-7101, Ext. 7.
THE MENOPAUSE "CRACK-UP" Judith E. Taranto's solo dramedy about the
onset of menopause. NoHo Actors Studios, 5215 Lankershim Blvd., North
Hollywood; Fri., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 18. (818) 761-2166.
MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET Adapted by Patricia DiBenedetto Snyder, Will
Severin and John Vreeke, from the novel by Valentine Davies. Canyon
Theatre Guild, 24242 Main St. (formerly San Fernando Rd.), Newhall;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 13, www.canyontheatre.org.
NEW REVIEW MOLLY
Photo by Tim Sullens
British playwright Simon Gray (Butley and Inadmissible Evidence)
based this play loosely on the sensational 1930s murder trial of Alma
Rattenbury. He focuses the drama on Molly (Giselle Wolf), a sort of
junior grade Hedda Gabler, who's fighting off the approach of
middle-age. She gets her way with everybody by ruthless flirtation, and
her catch-phrase is, "Pretty please with sugar on it." Seeking
security, she has married a rich, elderly Canadian businessman Teddy
(Don Moss), but he's a deaf semi-invalid, their marriage is sexless,
and she has strong sexual needs. When she's attracted to Oliver (Max
Roeg), a sullen, lower-class boy from the village, she hires him as her
chauffeur, and proceeds to seduce him, despite the disapproval of their
respectable spinster housekeeper Eve (Ann Gee Byrd). When she moves
Oliver into their house to facilitate their nightly trysts, Molly
becomes so reckless that even Teddy catches on. He fires and humiliates
the unstable Oliver, precipitating disaster. Yet Gray's play is more
of a character study than thriller, almost saved from banality by his
intriguing portrait of the volatile, neurotic and vulnerable title
character. But it goes flat in the perfuctory, final scene. Director
Jeffery Passero directs his fine cast with finesse on Elizabeth
Hayden-Passero's impeccably tasteful set. Victory Theatre Center, 3326
West Victory Boulevard, Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru
December 20. (818) 841-5421. (Neal Weaver)
MRS. CAGE Nancy Barr's story of robbery, mayhem, and murder in the
supermarket parking lot. NoHo Actors Studios, 5215 Lankershim Blvd.,
North Hollywood; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 20. (818)
POLYESTER THE MUSICAL "You can leave disco, but disco never leaves
you," say the Synchronistics, a four-piece ABBA-esque band that broke
up on the eve of what would have been their big national break: an
appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. True
enough. It's 20 years later, but the blonde (Pamela Donnelly) is still
so furious about the brunette (Gwendolyn Druyor) "schtupping" her
husband (Christopher Fairbanks) that that lusty night at the Howard
Johnson's in Green Bay feels like yesterday. In two decades, none of
them has moved on to a new career or love interest. (Fourth member Jim
Staahl still lives at home with his mom.) The Synchronistics have
reunited for one last performance for a fund-raiser on the
public-access station that gave them their start, and everyone's future
depends on it. The stakes are so hard-hammered that by the end of Act
I, no less than a disco hall of fame, the station's existence, the
announcer's (Robert Moon) career, a new tour, an illegitimate child and
two marriages depend on the squabbling band raking in $10,000. Phil
Olson and Wayland Pickard's musical isn't trying for subtlety. Each of
the 16 songs relates directly to the band's mood, and in case we miss
the message in disco ditties like "I Want You, But I Hurt You," the
characters rehash their feelings afterward -- or in one instance, into
a number with, "I'd like to do a song about what we were just talking
about." Pickard and Doug Engalla's direction similarly understates
nothing, though both Druyor and Staahl manage to soft-shoe in hilarious
turns as the not-so-supergroup's humble dolts. (Amy Nicholson). Actors
Forum Theatre, 10655 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 20. (818) 506-0600.
ROBBIE JENSEN: THE 12 STEPS OF CHRISTMAS Tony Matthews and Matt
Schofield's comedy takes the audience to a "Robbie Jensen Life Skills
Workshop.". NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 20,
www.plays411.com/robbiejensen. (323) 960-1053.
SIN Wendy Macleod's story of a helicopter traffic reporter in San
Francisco on the eve of the 1989 earthquake of 1989. Playhouse West
Repertory Theater, 10634 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri., Dec. 4,
8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 6, 7 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 13, 2 & 7 p.m.,
www.playhousewest.net. (818) 332-3101.
TENT MEETING Discredited evangelist and con-man Rev. Edward O.
Tarbox (Gary Ballard) uses his religion and talent for gospel-shouting
to bully and browbeat his son Darrell (Travis Hammer) and daughter
Becky Ann (Amanda Deibert). He's in danger of being run out of town,
partially because slightly simple Becky Ann has given birth to a
monstrous baby -- and there's no visible father. Tarbox convinces
himself that the vegetable-like baby is the second coming of Christ,
and he wants to christen him Jesus O. Tarbox. His self-serving visions
urge him to pack up his family and his tent, drive to Moose Jaw,
Saskatchewan, and hold a revival meeting where he'll reveal the baby as
the reborn Messiah. The script by Levi Lee, Larry Larson and director
Rebecca Wackler is wildly uneven in tone, alternating stark drama with
broad farce. Some of the funniest and most interesting scenes hint
there's supernatural influence at work, but the hints lead nowhere.
Wackler elicits fine performances from the three actors, and the piece
is frequently fun to watch, but it's ultimately frustrating because it
doesn't add up, and too many plot elements are left floating in limbo.
Mark Colson and PJ King provide the interesting house-trailer set.
(Neal Weaver). The Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; Fri.-Sat.,
8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 13. (818) 846-5323.
THA' INTIMATE PHIL Philip Bell's solo show, with music by Phil 'n'
Nem. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood;
Mon., Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru Dec. 28. (323) 674-5024.
WEIRD ON TOP Improv comedy, apparently. Eclectic Company Theatre,
5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; Thurs., Dec. 10, 8 p.m..
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS
ANOTHER PLAY OF THE DEAD Roadkill Productions presents a series of
short plays by John Bozeman, Tom Coash, Caroline Marshall, Tracy
Merrifield, Marnie Olson, and Janet Rathert. Psychic Visions Theatre,
3447 Motor Ave., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 12. (310) 535-6007.
GO THE BROWNING VERSION Though not as widely known
or acclaimed as his contemporary British playwrights, Terence Rattigan
was a superb dramatist and chronicler of human emotions. Here,
Rattigan's The Browning Version, the gloomy story of an aging
schoolteacher crushed by failure and disappointment, receives a stellar
mounting by director Marilyn Fox. A well-regarded scholar of the
classics, Andrew Crocker-Harris (the superb Bruce French) has spent the
last 18 years as an instructor at a public school in England but must
leave the position because of failing health to take a less-stressful
job elsewhere. Now the object of jokes and ridicule by his students,
and denied a pension by the school, he has a bearing that is subdued by
sadness, yearning and a palpable "gallows" surrender to circumstance.
His wife, Millie (Sally Smythe), has given up on being happy with him
and has contented herself with numerous dalliances with his colleagues
(which she delights in reminding him of), and cruelly undermining what
remains of his sense of manhood. Her current lover, Frank (understudy
David Rogge), is torn between a sense of guilt, his admiration for
Andrew, and the dying embers of lust for Millie. It is only when the
professor is presented with a rare translation of Agamemnon
from a student (Justin Preston) that his mask of stoic restraint melts
to reveal a desperately fragile inner life. From this sedate tapestry
of characters, Rattigan artfully probes marriage, relationship and our
perverse capacity to embrace lacerating emotional pain and self-deceit,
which all unfolds beautifully on Norman Scott's cleverly designed
sitting-room mock-up. Fox directs this piece with masterful subtlety
and draws devastatingly convincing performances from her actors.(Lovell
Estell III). Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice;
Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 20. (310) 822-8392.
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. 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. (SLM).
Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat.-Sun., 12:30
& 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 27. (310) 394-9779.
CURRENT NOBODY Melissa James Gibson's take on The Odyssey
centers on a photojournalist mom and a stay-at-home dad. Queen Mary,
1126 Queens Hwy., Long Beach; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru
Dec. 12, www.calrep.org. (562) 985-5526.
DETENTION OF THE DEAD The George A. Romero High School has been
overrun by zombies, and five stereotypical teenagers have taken refuge
in the detention room, where the teacher has been decapitated. They've
barricaded the door, but the zombies lurk outside. Star jock Brad (Mike
Horton) is grieving because his best friend/teammate, Jimmy, has just
been devoured, while his girlfriend, sex-pot cheerleader, Janet
(Crystle Lightning), is hell-bent on having a man -- any man -- break
out to rescue her. Bad-boy/class clown Ashbury (Michael Petted) copes
with anxiety by getting stoned. Self-dramatizing Goth-girl Willow
(Samantha Sloyan) decides death is not so appealing if it's actually
imminent. And nerdly Eddie (Alex Weed) thinks he might survive the
zombie attack because he's a virgin, and in zombie movies it's always
the kids who smoke, drink, dope and have sex who die. One by one,
they're picked off, in increasingly bloody, bizarre ways. Rob Rinow's
script is a heavy-handed, predictable send-up of generic horror flicks.
It has some funny lines, but most of the laughs come from the actors'
manic performances and physical comedy. Director Alex Craig Mann keeps
the action broad and violent, and David Bartlett provides the effective
if sometimes deafening sound. (Neal Weaver). Beverly Hills Playhouse,
254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.;
thru Dec. 20. (310) 358-9936.
AN EVENING OF HAROLD PINTER'S POETRY READ BY JULIAN SANDS Including
recollections of Sands' time studying under the playwright. Odyssey
Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Wed., Dec. 9, 8 p.m.. (310)
EVERYBODY NOSE: A CHRISTMAS CAROL Clown troupe Everybody Nose
presents an all-clown version of Charles Dickens' Christmas classic.
Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; Sat., 2 & 8
p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 13,
ahimsacollective.com/everybodynoseachristmascarol. (310) 396-3680.
ITALIAN AMERICAN RECONCILIATION John Patrick Shanley's comedy about
two lifelong friends. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa
Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 19. (310) 397-3244.
GO JUST 45 MINUTES FROM BROADWAY Suffused with a
near-Chekhovian mix of the wistful and the melancholy, playwright Henry
Jaglom's world premiere comedy is a delight - an intimate and
thoughtful ensemble piece which is as much a paean to the theater as it
is a meditation on the perils of living entirely by emotion. In a
picturesque but run down country house in upstate New York (realized in
Joel Daavid's beautiful detailed set), a theatrical clan spends what is
probably for them a typical fall weekend of histrionics and melodrama.
These are people who have lived their whole lives for art -- which, one
might say, means that dinner is never on time and no one gets up before
noon. Elderly thespian George (Jack Heller) and his beloved wife Vivien
(Diane Louise Salinger) are in the twilight of their careers, but
regret nothing about a life spent on the road performing small plays.
Also staying in their home is their beautiful, unstable daughter
Pandora (Tanna Frederick), who is taking a "rest" from acting after
getting over a recent failed romance. The typically "artsy" family
chaos turns even more tumultuous with the arrival of the family's
estranged eldest daughter Betsy (Julie Davis), who has grown weary of
her eccentric family. When Betsy introduces her lawyer fiance Jimmy
(David Garver) to the family, sparks unexpectedly fly - but the sparks
are between Jimmy and free-spirited Pandora. Some overwritten sequences
teeter on self indulgence, yet the piece is also wise to the follies of
human behavior - and director Gary Imhoff's subtle staging elegantly
juxtaposes the warmth and frustration underscoring the relationships
within so many families. The ensemble work is sensitive, yet comically
charged, with Frederick's calculatedly daffy turn as the
ever-performing Pandora smartly offset by Davis' increasingly angry
Betsy. Heller's leonine elderly actor-dad and Salinger's actress mom,
tender and sad, wonderfully craft the sense of elders who have never
truly grown up, and are amazed by what has happened to their bodies
while their minds remain youthful. (Paul Birchall). Edgemar Center for
the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5
p.m.; thru Jan. 31. (310) 392-7327.
LA POSADA MAGICA (THE MAGICAL JOURNEY) Octavio Solis' Christmas
musical, "performed in English with a Latin beat.". Odyssey Theatre,
2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8
p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 24. (310) 477-2055.
LOVE IN BLOOM If you can imagine what one of Shakespeare's romantic
comedies would be like if it were set to music and lyrics, you'd have a
good idea of the delightful whimsy concocted here by Chris DeCarlo and
Evelyn Rudie. It's a bold, ambitious piece of musical theater with
touches of commedia dell'arte and Gilbert and Sullivan plus lots of
unexpected turns and plot twists, all of which make the viewing more
fun. The story is narrated by Orion (DeCarlo) and Talia (Rudie), the
rulers of the Fairy Kingdom, and the setting is the mythical kingdom of
Hamelot, where the arranged marriage of the Prince (Tyner Pesch) is to
take place. The fate of the kingdom depends, however, on the prince
finding his true love, which the King and Queen of fairyland are
determined to make happen in order to "restore the balance of both
worlds." Tossed in is a mlange of rogues, damsels,
courtly intrigues, romance, spells, even a frog prince. Following the
goings-on it gets a bit ponderous (opening act two is "The Recap" to
refresh our memories), but it does pay off. DeCarlo's direction is spot
on, while Matthew Wrather and Rudie's music and lyrics provide a level
of enjoyment of their own under the playful touch of musical director
Selena Dolinsky. Kudos to Ashley Hayes for fairy tale-inspired
costumes. (Lovell Estell III). The Other Space at Santa Monica
Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6
p.m.; thru Dec. 13. (310) 394-9779.
LUNCH: THE 8TH GRADE BRIDGE PROJECT . Cal State Dominguez Hills,
University Theater, 1000 E. Victoria St., Carson; Through Dec. 5, 8
p.m.; Sun., Dec. 6, 7 p.m.. (310) 243-3589.
NEW REVIEW GO MERCY WARREN'S TEA
Photo by Miriam Geer
first truly American woman playwright, Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1815),
is such an intrinsically fascinating historical figure, it's almost
astonishing that she isn't far better known in the theatrical
pantheon. Almost immediately upon learning about this early
"Republican mother," we only wish we could see her satire, The Adulateur,
in which she apparently skewered the corrupt British governor in
Pre-Revolutionary Massachusetts. However, instead of such intriguing
material, we get playwright Jovanka Bach's plodding historical
treatment. In 1783, playwright-historian Mercy (Donna Luisa Guinan)
holds a tea party for her pal Abigail Adams (a nicely starchy Mona Lee
Wylde), whose husband John Adams is one of Mercy's major intellectual
mentors. Mercy is plotting to write the definitive history of the
Revolution - and, for research, she has invited none other than Mrs.
Benedict Arnold (Susan Ziegler), to join them, so she can tell her side
of the story of her husband's betrayal of the American cause. Mrs.
Adams and Mrs. Arnold argue bitterly - which was pretty much what the
observational journalist Mercy was hoping for when she brought the pair
together, one suspects. The basic situation of these daughters of the
American Revolution meeting in one room is clever - but Bach's drama is
not, with its stilted, over-researched dialogue that often feels as
though it was ripped whole cloth from some history text. Worse, the
script lets go of Mercy's story midway through to focus on the much
less compelling interactions between Adams and Arnold. Director John
Stark's straightforward staging is functional, underscoring the
pedantic tone. Ziegler's sultry, twisted Mrs. Arnold is engagingly
multi-dimensional, considering the script's fustiness - and so is
Wydle's tightly controlled Mrs. Adams. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S.
Sepulveda Blvd, West L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec.
20. (310) 477-2055. (Paul Birchall)
GO NO MAN'S LAND When Harold Pinter's drama was
first produced at Britain's National Theatre in 1975, it was a star
vehicle, offering virtuoso acting by John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson.
Now that the star glamour has worn off, it's possible to see the play
more clearly. At times Pinter appears to be imitating Pinter, bringing
out all the familiar tropes. Nevertheless, the writing is rich, and
director Michael Peretzian gives it an elegant, well-acted production.
Two elderly writers, Hirst (Lawrence Pressman) and Spooner (Alan
Mandell) meet by chance in a Hampstead pub, and Hirst invites Spooner
to his townhouse for a drink. At first, the two seem to be strangers,
but gradually it emerges that they have been rivals -- sexual and
professional -- since their days at Oxford. Hirst has won the success
game, while Spooner lives in genteel poverty. Prosperity and alcohol
have left Hirst semi-embalmed, while Spooner is very much alive, and
angling for employment as Hirst's secretary-companion. But two slightly
menacing caretakers are already in place -- Briggs (Jamie Donovan) and
Foster (John Sloan). Their position is ambiguous: Are they Hirst's
employees or his captors? Mysteries and contradictions proliferate in
an evening of perverse wit and skillful acting. (Neal Weaver). Odyssey
Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2
p.m.; thru Dec. 19. (310) 477-2055.
RABBIT HOLE David Lindsay-Abaire's 2007 Pulitzer Prize winner about
a family turned upside-down after the death of a child. Long Beach
Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru
Dec. 19. (562) 494-1014.
SOUTHERN COMFORTS Kathleen Clark's comedy about a
"December-December" romance between a Southern grandmother and a Yankee
widower. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr.,
Beverly Hills; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 20. (310)
THINGS WE DO FOR LOVE Alan Ayckbourn's romantic farce. Theater
Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific
Palisades; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 13. (310)
GO THE TROJAN WOMEN In his adaptation of the
ancient Greek tragedy (so freely swiped from the original that
Euripides' byline doesn't appear on the program), Charles Duncombe
takes a macroscopic, brutal and unrelenting look at the end of the
world. Genocide in Rwanda and Sierra Leone, unsustainable population
growth and climate change carry the day, and the play, with excursions
into a theme that has punctuated Duncombe's earlier adaptations of
texts by Sophocles and Heiner Müller: the relationship between gender
and power. Scenes depicting physical mutilation and rape in war zones
-- choreographed by director Frédérique Michel -- contain an
excruciating authenticity, even in the abstract. Michel undercuts this
harrowing tone by incorporating elements of farce in other scenes. This
is still very much a work-in-progress, conceived for all the right
reasons. As is, the directorial tones wobble like a top, and the
adaptation contains far too much explication. The evening also reveals
why theater matters, and how this kind of work wouldn't stand a chance
in any other medium. It's too smart and too passionate to dismiss.
(Steven Leigh Morris). City Garage, 1340 1/2 Fourth St., Santa Monica;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (310) 319-9939.
THE WANTING The purgatory of unrequited desire is the underlying
theme of this balletic rock concert from "Moxy Phinx," the
pseudo-anonymous alter ego of local performer (and L.A. Weekly Theater
Awards winner) Katrina Lenk. Audiences who recall Lenk's offbeat,
tuneful turn as the tragically exploited Linda Lovelace in Lovelace: The Musical,
will be fascinated by the edgy alternative performance she offers here
in her "Phinx" persona. Caparisoned in flowing rags and furs that
suggest a thrift store goth Goddess, "Phinx" performs a series of
haunting songs, accompanied by a group of dancers, portraying members
of a family who look like they might be right out of Norman Rockwell --
except, within minutes of starting the show, the clan suddenly shifts
into being something from an Edward Gorey nightmare. In the bizarre
family grouping, Dad (Michael Quiett) rapes his wife (Whitney Kirk) and
longs to do the same to the gorgeous nanny (Jackie Lloyd). Meanwhile,
the adorable youngest son (Daniel Huynh) gropes his twin sisters (Liz
Sroka and Jennifer Cooper), and also fondles the nanny, before donning
a dress. (Thanksgiving should be a blast at this clan's place.)
"Phinx"'s haunting voice finds itself somewhere in between the dark
throatiness of Ute Lemper and the jaded melancholy of Neko Case -- not
a bad place in which to find oneself, really. Director Janet Roston's
choreography is tight, energetic, and extremely sophisticated -- at
times, so much is happening onstage, you almost don't know where to
watch. The sense of detail in the movement suggests a mood that's both
kinky and beguiling -- just note Huynh's rictus of what could either be
lust or rage as he woos his vacantly smiling sisters. The problem is
that the dance seems to have little to do with the songs, which,
frankly, all start to sound the same before long -- and that the lack
of context for any of the material gradually becomes frustrating.
Still, the gleefully sour ball atmosphere is ultimately effective at
crafting the sad yet bleakly funny meditation on the abject emptiness
of longing. (Paul Birchall). Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St.,
Santa Monica; Sun., Dec. 6, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 13, 7:30 p.m.; Fri.,
Dec. 18, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 19, 8:30 p.m.. (310) 315-1459.
A WINTER'S TALE: A MUSICAL DICKENS OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL Lively
musical adaptation showcasing both the humor and pathos of Dickens'
1843 story of spiritual renewal and redemption. No show Nov. 8.
Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; Sat.-Sun., 2
p.m.; thru Dec. 12. (310) 828-7519.
WTF?! FESTIVAL Singer/songwriter series, film talkback series,
theater and dance series, and literature series, each curated by actor
Tim Robbins. Complete schedule at www.wtffestival.com. Actors' Gang at
the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City;
Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Fri., 9 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8:30 p.m.; thru Dec.
19. (310) 838-4264.
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