Theatre Development Fund has just published its findings on "the life and times of the American play" in a comprehensive analysis (by Todd London with Ben Pesner, and Zannie Giraud Voss) of empirical and anecdotal evidence. Their book is called Outrageous Fortune
The research supports a bucketload of systemic problems that are common knowledge by now: 1) how non-profit theaters, created as an alternative to commercial theaters, have devolved into being more cautious in their programming than the commercial enterprises they were meant to challenge; 2) how artistic directors are more beholden than ever to boards of directors, which is a disincentive to risk-taking, 3) how major decisions in corporate theaters are made by committees rather than individuals, another disincentive to risk-taking 4) how administrative salaries and their ensuing "security" to not create risk; rather, the opposite. Fear of losing security serves up yet another disincentive for standing behind risky projects 5) how there's a crisis of leadership and vision in the America theater, for all the reasons cited above.
Most revealing in the book, however, is a kind of artistic red state/blue state divide of perceptions between theater producers and playwrights, who have clearly been relegated to outsider status, and whose opportunities for production and income have imploded (income reports show that writing for the theater is now officially a hobby rather than a profession), despite the theaters in the survey dedicating 45 percent of their total offerings over the past three years to new works.
Here are some of myth-breakers that reveal the continental divide. (Note: the playwrights surveyed were award winning, frequently produced playwrights at the top of their game):
Finding: 82 percent of the study playwrights believe that concern about audience reception is an obstacle to the production of their plays, making it by far the biggest stumbling block for a play.
Finding: Theatres do not consider concerns about audience reception a serious obstacle to the production of a new play. Less than a third of artistic directors see it as such. They rate audience concerns fifth among potential obstacles.
Finding: 67 percent of playwrights surveyed have had no plays produced as a result of an agent submission. 83 percent of the playwrights surveyed have had one or zero agent-submitted plays produced.
Finding: 62 percent of playwrights have had two or more plays produced as a result of their own direct submission.
Finding: Lack of access to artistic directors is seen as the single greatest obstacle to getting plays produced.
Finding: Plays are rarely produced by the theaters that "develop" them.
Finding: Male and female playwrights report no significant difference in the number of plays produced.
Finding: The average playwright earns $25,000 to $39,000 annually, with approximately 62 percent of playwrights earning under $40,000, and nearly a third making less than $25,000.
COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for January 8 - 14, 2010
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
AFTER HOURS SHOW Presented by Neo Acro Theatre Company. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Jan. 9; Sat., 11 p.m.; thru Jan. 30...
ALMOST, MAINE Neo Acro Theatre Company presents John Cariani's small-town play. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Jan. 8; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 30, www.neoacrotheatre.com...
AWAKE AND SING! L.A. Theatre Works' staged reading of Clifford Odets' Great Depression story. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood; Jan. 13-15, 8 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 16, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 17, 2 p.m., www.latw.org. (310) 827-0889.
BLOOD AND THUNDER Terence Anthony's play about Hurricane Katrina. Moving Arts, 1822 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; opens Jan. 8; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 666-3259.
CHAPTER TWO Neil Simon's 1977 comedy about a widowed writer. Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades; opens Jan. 9; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 14. (310) 454-1970.
CIRCUS WELT Pavel Cerny wrote and directs this world-premiere production with "20 actors, 50 costumes, 6 clowns, 6 Nazi stormtroopers, several love affairs, laughter and tears.". Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; opens Jan. 10; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 14. (866) 811-4111.
COMEDY VS. ART SMACKDOWN "Funny artists and artistic comics battle" in this monthly event, curated by Elisha Shapiro. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; opens Jan. 11; Second Monday of every month, 7:30 p.m.; thru June 14. (310) 315-1459.
11, SEPTEMBER Paul Kamp's drama about "the defining moments in our lives, those accidents of fate that change everything.". Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; opens Jan. 8; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 7, www.11septemberplay.info. (310) 477-2055.
F*CKING MEN Joe DiPietro's observations on the sex lives of modern urban gay America. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens Jan. 8; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 14. (323) 957-1884.
HELLZ KITCHEN ABLAZE Tommy Carter's drama of urban malaise, police brutality, and corruption. Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens Jan. 8; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 6, www.plays411.com/hellzkitchen. (323) 962-0046.
(H)IMPROV "A celebration of male energy in dance.". Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice; Jan. 8-9, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 10, 4 p.m., www.brownpapertickets.com/event/89855. (310) 823-0710.
IN THE COMPANY OF JANE DOE Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble presents Tiffany Atone's world premiere. Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; opens Jan. 14; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 6, www.latensemble.com. (310) 396-3680.
ITALIAN AMERICAN RECONCILIATION John Patrick Shanley's comedy about two lifelong friends. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica; opens Jan. 8; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Jan. 23. (310) 397-3244.
JUST A SONG AT TWILIGHT Willard Manus' drama about growing up in a deaf household. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.; opens Jan. 14; Thurs.-Sun..; thru Feb. 28. (323) 469-3113.
THE LAST 5 YEARS Boy-meets-girl story, "from beginning to end, and from end to beginning." Music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. David Henry Hwang Theater, 120 Judge John Aiso St., L.A.; Sat., Jan. 9, 8 p.m., www.eastwestplayers.org/BroadwayCares. (818) 358-2730.
LOVE IN BLOOM By Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; opens Jan. 8; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (310) 394-9779.
NEW BEGINNINGS Neo Acro Theatre Company presents six original short plays by local writers. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Jan. 10; Sun..; thru Jan. 31...
THE NEW SHANGHAI CIRCUS See GoLA., $35, kids $20. Pepperdine University, Smothers Theatre, 24255 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu; Sun., Jan. 10, 5 p.m.. (310) 506-4522.
NEW YEAR NEW WORKS FESTIVAL Theatre West Writers' Workshop's readings of new plays. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Jan. 14-16, 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 17, 12 & 3 p.m.. (323) 851-7977.
ORDINARY DAYS Adam Gwon's musical ode to New York. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; opens Jan. 8; Fri., Jan. 8, 7:45 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 & 7:45 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 7:45 p.m.; thru Jan. 24. (714) 708-5555.
THE PEE-WEE HERMAN SHOW Paul Reubens returns as the kooky character he debuted on the Groundling stage in 1981. Club Nokia, 800 W. Olympic Blvd., L.A.; previews start Jan. 12; Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 & 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 7, www.peewee.com. (800) 745-3000.
PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE Steve Martin's 1993 comedy. East Theatre at the Complex, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens Jan. 8; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (323) 960-7714.
PICK OF THE VINE Nine original short plays selected from submissions by playwrights from around the world. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; opens Jan. 8; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 31, 7 p.m.; Thurs., Feb. 11, 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (310) 512-6030.
PROJECT: WONDERLAND Bootleg's take on the Lewis Carroll fantasy. Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; opens Jan. 9; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Jan. 31. (213) 389-3856.
RIVERDANCE The Irish step-dancing spectacular. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; opens Jan. 12; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru Jan. 24, www.broadwayla.org. (213) 365-3500.
SHAKESPEARE UNSCRIPTED Impro Theater improvises the Bard. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens Jan. 10; Sun., 8 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 14, www.plays411.com/shakespeareunscripted. (323) 401-9793.
SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION The Kentwood Players present John Guare's drama. Westchester Playhouse, 8301 Hindry Ave., L.A.; opens Jan. 8; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 13, www.kentwoodplayers.org. (310) 645-5156.
TWENTY-TWO Julia Morizawa's story of cocaine addiction. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A.; opens Jan. 8; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 30. (323) 667-0955.
PLAYWRIGHTS 6 STAGED READING SERIES Free readings of plays by finalists in the 2010 Play Contest, including three new pieces by Los Angeles playwrights. Underground Theater, 1312 N. Wilton Pl., L.A.; Tues., Jan. 12, 8 p.m.; Tues., Jan. 26, 8 p.m.; Tues., Feb. 9, 8 p.m.. (323) 467-0036.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE
GO FROSTY THE SNOW MANILOW Take one measure of maudlin, '70s TV holiday kitsch; add a dozen, inappropriate pop melodies from the same decade's premier adult-contemporary hit maker; fold in generous helpings of sardonically retooled lyrics and camped-up choreography; season to taste with puerile puns, off-color double entendres and relentlessly self-mocking ad libs; and half-bake for an hour with an ensemble of crack clowning parodists. This, in a roasted chestnut shell, is the winning recipe for the Troubadour Theater Company's annual, off-kilter Christmas confections. To their die-hard fans, it is immaterial that this year's musically mashed-up targets are the treacly 1969 cartoon special, Frosty the Snowman, or the sentimental mewling of the Barry Manilow songbook. With top chef/director Matt Walker again at the controls of the comedy Cuisinart, all that matters is that the resulting puree is flavored with his peerless timing and mischievously wry sensibility. Paul C. Vogt fills designer Sharon McGunigle's appropriately ludicrous Frosty costume as the magically animated snowman who hates kids but is nonetheless resigned to being saved from melting by the cloyingly effusive schoolgirl, Karen (Christine Lakin). Walker is the evil magician, Hinkle, who throws plot complications and one-liners in their path. Standouts include Beth Kennedy, who literally stops the show to perform insult standup as the Winter Warlock (think Juliette Lewis on stilts); Rick Batalla as the Station Master with Vegas ambitions; Jack McGee as the cantankerous narrator and a jive-talking Santa; and the always remarkable musical director, Eric Heinly, and his Troubadour band. (Bill Raden)., $32.50 & $40. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Wed.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 & 7 p.m.; thru Jan. 17. (818) 955-8101.
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.
PALESTINE, NEW MEXICO When U.S. Army Captain Catherine Siler (Kirsten Potter) stumbles into "Bumfuck" -- a New Mexico Indian reservation -- she's already tripping, exhausted from crossing the desert, dehydrated and addicted to her now-terminated prescription meds for pain and stress. That's before she drinks a peyote-laced beverage given to her by one of the natives, for dehydration. So in Richard Montoya's mess of a new play, which contains the germ of a beautiful idea, there are dreams, and then there are dreams. I tracked at least four plays, each in different styles, and for a 90-minute experience without intermission, that's the dramaturgical definition of a cake just been put in the oven, with ingredients still bumping up against each other. Lisa Peterson directs. (Steven Leigh Morris). Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Sun..; thru Jan. 24. (213) 628-2772.
GO THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG Geared to the 7-and-under set, this good-natured interactive musical exudes appeal beyond its demographic. Inspired by a German folktale, writers Lloyd Schwartz and Hope Juber's adaptation features a good fairy named Hyacinth (Mary Garripoli) as the prime mover of events. After she welcomes the audience with a song about the importance of "doin' good," along comes a prince (understudy Iain Gray) who sings about "lookin' good." His attitude so annoys Hyacinth that she turns him into a frog, stipulating that he can only return to his natural form if kissed by a princess. The rest of the story proceeds along more or less traditional lines: The frog recovers the lost ball of a querulous princess (Jenn Wiles) who is reluctant to keep her promise to kiss him until pressured by her father, the king (Anthony Gruppuso). Much of the piece's charm stems from the delight -- and the unintended comedic faux pas -- displayed by the youngsters called up on the stage to participate. The non-patronizing performers seem to be enjoying themselves as well. A song "Croak Croak, Ribbit, Ribbit" involving a couple of frog puppets is contagiously entertaining, whatever one's age. The uncredited costumes are fun too. Barbara Mallory Schwartz directs, with songs by Hope Jube and musical director Laurence Juber. (Deborah Klugman). Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Sat., 1 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (323) 851-7977.
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.
RICKY JAY: A ROGUE'S GALLERY -- AN EVENING OF CONVERSATION AND PERFORMANCE See GoLA., $65-$125. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Sun., 7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 10. (310) 208-5454.
THE TOMORROW SHOW Late-night variety show created by Craig Anton, Ron Lynch and Brendon Small. Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Sat., midnight. (323) 960-7785.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE WEST SIDE
GO ABSINTHE, OPIUM, & MAGIC: 1920S SHANGHAI 1920s Shanghai is the setting of Debbie McMahon's wonderfully environmental tour de force of clowning, dancing and blood, which evokes, with ferocious imagination, not just a bygone era but also the atmosphere of the Grand Guignol. Upon arrival at the theater, we are ushered into an ante-chamber outside the actual auditorium, which has been set up to resemble a Shanghai bazaar. There are sallow-eyed maidens serving tea -- and also warm absinthe, strained through sugar, Thomas De Quincey-style. The scent of the absinthe wafts through the entire theater, melding with dry ice and creating a mood that elegantly mixes pleasure and decay. The play's first act, "Sing Song Girl Sings Last Song," is a haunting ballet of despair, involving a cast that includes jaded "Sing Song Girl" prostitute Bright Pearl (Tina Van Berckelaer), a young virgin protege (Amanda Street) who dreams of becoming Top Whore, and calculating Madame Old Bustard (Dinah Steward), who plots to sell the virgin to be raped and mutilated by a piglike mobster (Roy Starr). Anchored by Jeanne Simpson's pleasingly melodramatic choreography, the dance tackles a compelling story of rage, despair and vice. Steward's charmingly sinister Old Bustard steals every scene she's in -- but Street's scheming, loathsome virgin is a standout as well. Act 2's vignette, Chris Bell's "The Cabinet of Hands," is a gripping horror tale, with a sharp twist of quirky humor. A prissy young French couple (Robin Long and Zachary Foulkes), vacationing in Shanghai, gets more than they bargain for when they go slumming at the opium den owned by a seemingly kind old woman (Elyse Ashton). As the thrill-seeking Westerners get happily stoned on The Dragon's Tail, the old woman's diabolical true nature shows through. The final scene consists of a jaw-dropping gorefest that will have you simultaneously howling with terror and laughter (while slipping your hands in your pockets for safekeeping). Ashton's wicked old woman is the perfect embodiment of mysterious evil -- and the horrific fate of Long's ill-fated naif hilariously suggests an anti-drug teaching moment that's very effective. (Paul Birchall). Artworks Performance Space, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Jan. 23. (800) 838-3006.
GO ACCOMPLICE: HOLLYWOOD Part game, part theater, part tour: It all begins with a phone call disclosing a secret meeting location. Aided by clues and mysterious cast members strewn throughout various locations, such as street corners, bars, iconic landmarks and out-of-the-way spots, the audience traverses the city streets, piecing together clues of a meticulously crafted plot. (Steven Leigh Morris). Hollywood Blvd., 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.
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.
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.
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.
GO THE GLASS MENDACITY Devotees of Tennessee Williams will surely delight in this send-up of the playwright's best-known dramas. Maureen Morley and Tom Willmorth have blended characters and motifs from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire into one big, irreverent stew of laughs. Gathered together at the Belle Reeve plantation are Mitch (Ken Johnson, who doubles as a narrator), Amanda (Stephanie Strand), Maggie (Renee Scott), Brick (a dummy named Eliot Barrymore), Stanley (Joe Dalo) and Blanche (Catherine Cronin, who traveled by way of a certain streetcar). The occasion is Big Daddy's (a hilarious Quincy Miller) arrival from the hospital and a celebration of his birthday. As in Cat, the cigar-smoking patriarch has cancer but is told he is suffering only from a "spastic colon." And we must not forget dear Laura Dubois (Strand), who limps and vomits her way throughout, while fixated on her menagerie of animals made of ice cubes. From this disparate collection of Williams' familiars, the writers weave a quirky narrative involving lust, insanity, infidelity, sibling rivalry, intrigue and lots of mendacity. It probably helps if you have some knowledge of Williams' plays, (in one scene Stanley calls out "Starland," instead of Stella). Andrew Crusse provides the solid direction. (Lovell Estell III). Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Jan. 30, arktheatre.org. (323) 969-1707.
HAMLET The Porters of Hellsgate present Shakespeare's tragedy. Flight Theater at The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (951) 262-3030.
THE HOUSE OF BESARAB Anyone expecting Tamara II may want to give a pass to this disappointing adaptation of Dracula. Though the production shares the venue -- the landmark Hollywood American Legion Post -- that housed the legendary environmental stage hit and promises a similarly immersive theatrical experience, playwrights Terance Duddy (who directs and is also the set and light designer) and Theodore Ott's anemic text simply pales before the full-blooded characterizations and labyrinthine simultaneity that made Tamara so richly rewarding. Here the Post stands in for Castle Dracula as Dracula (Michael Hegedus) himself appears in the atrium to welcome the assembled audience "to witness a battle between good and evil." In point of fact, what ensues is essentially the final chapter of Bram Stoker's novel embroidered with the reincarnation-romance subplot of Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 film version and a bizarre, mad-scientist twist worthy of Roger Corman. The audience can either follow the Count and his servile assistant, Renfield (David Himes) into "the Great Hall" or wait for Dr. Van Helsing (Travis Michael Holder), Dr. Seward (Jessica Pagan understudying for Terra Shelman) and Harker (Dane Bowman), who soon arrive with a somnambulent Mina (Chase McKenna) on a mission to save her vampire-baptized soul. (Hint: Follow Van Helsing; he's where the action -- and the better writing -- is.) Despite the capable cast's game effort and some elegant costuming by Sara Spink (who also does a fine turn as one of Dracula's very pregnant brides), a lackluster production design and stolid direction only compound the exposition-laden script's failure to realize its environmental-theater ambitions. (Bill Raden). Hollywood American Legion, 2305 N. Highland Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 9 p.m.; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 17. (310) 203-2850.
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.
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 Jan. 31. (323) 960-4412.
MOIST! Mariann Aalda and Iona Morris are MILF-y inspirational sexperts, heading (so to speak) the Multiple Orgasm Initiative for Sexual Transformation. Hayworth, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, www.MoistOnStage.com. (323) 960-4442.
SUNDAY OF THE DEAD All-new sketch and improv by the Sunday Company. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 934-9700.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS
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ONE MAN, TWO PLAYS Dan Hildebrand in The Nonsense by Kevin Cotter and Whatever Gets You Through the Night by Andrew Kazamia. Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 25. (323) 960-5650.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSDIE AND IN BEACH TOWNS
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 Feb. 14. (310) 822-8392.
AN OAK TREE Tim Crouch's dark comedy about a hypnotist and his subject. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 14. (310) 477-2055.