Stage Raw: Not to Be

Stage Raw: Not to Be
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Also, see the current NEW REVIEWS and STAGE FEATURE on two love stories at the Elephant Theatre complex, by Adam Rapp and by Paul Grellong
NEW REVIEW NOT TO BE
Stage Raw: Not to Be

Photo by Amanda Marquardt

For reasons she chooses not to explain, director-adapter Amanda Marquardt stages excerpts from every death scene (compiled with Adam Neubauer) sifted from Shakespeare's canon  -- and there's a lot of them. The piece is called Not To Be, now at Zombie Joe's Underground in North Hollywood. It's a romp, a macabre variation on what the Reduced Shakespeare Company does with perhaps more craft, but no less humor. Nine barefoot actors in jeans and white tops fly through scenes from Macbeth to Hamlet, with pit stops at Troilus and Cressida, Romeo and Juliet, all of the history plays, and more. Some of the daggers are mimed, while the rapiers in Hamlet's (Mark Nager) climactic duel with Laertes (Paul Etuk) appear in their rubber-tipped steel incarnations. There are also some plastic intestines that get thrown around the stage. The featured players, however, are the blood capsules. The actors start out clean-scrubbed. By play's end, they are are saturated in the red goo, as is the plastic sheet that covers the mat on which they convulse, gasp, scream, choke, shudder and engage so gleefully in eye-rolling paroxysms of agony.  A few scenes simply entail an actor appearing and trembling to his or her death, blackout. Wish the company were better with the language, but the 60-minute dance of death, accompanied by Neubauer's pleasingly frivolous soundtrack of light classical music, makes a virtue of the relentless. Zombie Joe's Underground, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sun., 8:30 p.m.; through September 13. (818) 202-4120. (Steven Leigh Morris) See Theater Feature on Thursday.

For more New Reviews, press the Continue Reading tab directly below.

NEW REVIEWS (Scheduled for publication: September 10, 2009)

NEW REVIEW  GROSS INDECENCY: THE THREE TRIALS OF OSCAR WILDE

Stage Raw: Not to Be

Photo by Susan Lee

There's wonderful irony in the fact that, though Oscar Wilde's enemies succeeded in branding him a sodomist, and sentencing him to two years hard labor, they accidently conferred upon him a kind of posthumous glory, fame and historical importance that he probably wouldn't have achieved otherwise. Writer Moises Kaufman captures the tale's ironies and complexities by taking an objective, documentary approach, and constructing his play as a mosaic of primary sources: court records, personal letters, autobiographies, memoirs, and newspaper accounts. Susan Lee directs with brisk, efficient clarity, and Kerr Seth Lordygan contributes a serviceable if slightly colorless portrait of Wilde. Though Wilde's friend and lover, Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas, was an obnoxious egotist, he must have had considerable charm and glamour to have captured Wilde's love and loyalty, but Joshua Grant plays him as charmless, petulant and prissy. Andrew Hagan is persuasive as Wilde's nemesis, the malicious, paranoid Marquess of Queensbury, and Darrell Philip and Dean Farrell Bruggeman score as the rival attorneys. The notion of casting women (Casey Kramer, Allie Costa, Beth Ricketson, and JC Henning) as Oscar's "rent boys" seemed initially perverse, but they provide deft characterizations and sly comedy.  The Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Boulevard, N. Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m., thru Oct. 11. (818) 508-3003 or http://brownpapertickets.com/event/77200. (Neal Weaver)

NEW REVIEW  HEYDRICH/HITLER/HOLOCAUST

Stage Raw: Not to Be

Upcoming Events

Photo by Tom Ellis

An apostle of the Holocaust and, with Himmler, a chief engineer of the Final Solution, Reinhard Heydrich has been depicted in numerous books and films.   Assassinated in 1942, this ambitious villain kept files on fellow Nazis as well as on suspected enemies of the Reich - one reason, perhaps, for the persistent rumors about his "Jewish blood." Playwright Cornelius Schnauber has seized upon this aspect of his biography to construct a muddled and implausible play in which Heydrich (Oliver Finn) is portrayed politicking around these insinuations.  Another element in the fantastical plot is this virulent anti-Semite's confrontational dialectic with a Jewish maid named Anna (Jessica Sherman), who has somehow  maintained gainful employment at Nazi headquarters.  Spokesperson for humanity, Anna implores Heydrich to recognize that Jews are human beings, promising to save his life if he helps rescue some of them.  (Heydrich's real-life brother actually did abandon Nazism to help save some Jews, before committing suicide.)  Later, Anna is  brought before Hitler (Don Paul, whose Fuehrer struck me as a deluded insane asylum inmate) - whom she challenges with bravado, yet survives. Stilted and declaimed with dreadful German accents, the play rolls out like a cartoonish nightmare, with much dialogue devoted to airing Nazi ideas, as if we didn't understand these already. Under L. Flint Esquerra's direction, little attempt is made to get beyond posturing  -- except for Sherman who, against tremendous odds, manages a credible performance. MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hlywd;  Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Oct. 11; (323) 957-1152. (Deborah Klugman)

NEW REVIEW  LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS

Stage Raw: Not to Be

Photo courtesy of Knightsbridge Theatre

Hard-core, exploitation-cinema auteurists have probably still not forgiven Howard Ashman (book & lyrics) or Alan Menken (score) for their 1982 musical burlesque of Roger Corman's immortal, low-budget horror allegory about the moral price of success. And, judging by director Jaz Davison's somewhat awkward staging on John Paul De Leonardis' clumsy, turnstile set, final absolution won't be forthcoming. By transforming Seymour (Mark Petrie), the green-thumbed shop assistant at Mushnik's Skid Row Florists, from the serial-killing schnook of the Corman original to merely a passive-aggressive facilitator of the botanical puppet monster Audrey II (the voice of Pamela Taylor) and her homicidal appetites, Ashman blunts Corman's edgy black comedy into a kind of anodyne Merry Melody. Of course, it is precisely Menken's melodies -- his crowd-pleasing takeoffs of doo-wop and early Motown rock classics -- that have always been this show's irresistible soul, and under Debbie Lawrence's capable music direction, that remains the case here. Leslie Duke, as Seymour's Brooklyn-honking love interest, Audrey, elevates every number she sings, particularly in her sweetly funny rendition of "Somewhere That's Green" and her soulful turn in the duet, "Suddenly, Seymour." Taylor rocks the house with her rousing Audrey II solo, "Mean Green Mother." But the production's outstanding pipes belong to vocal powerhouse Cloie Wyatt Taylor, whose incandescent gospel stylings are all but wasted in the supporting, choral role of Chiffon. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Oct. 11. (323) 667-0955. (Bill Raden)

NEW REVIEW  THE NIGHT IS A CHILD

Stage Raw: Not to Be

Photo by Craig Schwartz

A suburban kid in Brookline, Massachusetts - a good kid, a fine student, a personable young man --  goes on a killing spree at his local school, leaving dozens of children and teachers dying in pools of blood. Charles Randolph Wright's play studies the family of the teenage killer who took his own life in the bloodbath, concentrating years later on the mother, a widow named Harriet (JoBeth Williams). On the anniversary of the rampage, Harriet goes AWOL to Rio de Janeiro, thereby mystifying her concerned adult son and daughter (Tyler Pierce and Monette Magrath) as to her whereabouts. She arrives not speaking a word of Portugese, yet she stumbles upon a vivacious, native guide named Bia (Sybyl Walker), whose sweet energy, and that of an inexplicably accommodating hotel owner named Joel (Maceo Oliver) lands her a room on the otherwise overbooked Ipanema beachfront. Joel must have had a reason for canceling somebody else's reservation in order to make room for Harriet. If he was charmed by her befuddlement being in a foreign country, for which she'd taken no pains to prepare by learning even the rudiments of the language spoken there, it was a charm I missed. Why Joel would randomly cancel the reservation of one guest in order to make space for this tourist-in-distress is the first in a series of improbabilities that form the glue of Randolph-Wright's Post-It note of a play. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; through Oct. 4. (626) 356-7529. (Steven Leigh Morris) See Theater Feature on Thursday.

NOT TO BE For reasons she chooses not to explain, director-adapter Amanda

Marquardt stages excerpts from every death scene (compiled with Adam

Neubauer) sifted from Shakespeare's canon  -- and there's a lot of

them. The piece is called Not To Be, now at Zombie Joe's Underground in

North Hollywood. It's a romp, a macabre variation of what the Reduced

Shakespeare Company does with perhaps more craft, but no less humor.

Nine barefoot actors in jeans and white tops fly through scenes from

Macbeth to Hamlet, with pit stops at Troilus and Cressida, Romeo and

Juliet, all of the history plays, and more. Some of the daggers are

mimed, while the rapiers in the Hamlet's (Mark Nager) climactic duel

with Laertes (Paul Etuk) appear in their rubber-tipped steel

incarnations. There are also some plastic intestines that get thrown

around the stage. The featured players, however, are the blood

capsules. The actors start out clean-scrubbed. By play's end, they are

are saturated in the red goo, as is the plastic sheet that covers the

mat on which they convulse, gasp, scream, choke, shudder and engage so

gleefully in eye-rolling paroxysms of agony.  A few scenes simply

entail an actor appearing and trembling to his or her death, blackout.

Wish the company were better with the language, but the 60-minute dance

of death, accompanied by Neubauer's pleasingly frivolous soundtrack of

light classical music, makes a virtue of the relentless. Zombie Joe's

Underground, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sun., 8:30

p.m.; through September 13. (818) 202-4120. (Steven Leigh Morris) See

Theater Feature on Thursday.

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