Stage Raw: Pasadena Playhouse Emerges from Bankruptcy
CAPTURED AURAL PHANTASY THEATER
CAPT presents a special event tonight (Friday) night, Hooray for Hollywood Extravaganza, celebrating the legends of Our Fair City, In a style mixing radio and vaudeville. The Gallery, 1519 Griffith Park Blvd., Silver Lake, July 9, 8 p.m. Photo courtesy of Aural Phantasy
FABRIC Henry Ong's play about trafficking and modern-day slavery commemorating the 15th anniversary of the landmark 1995 Thai garment workers slavery case opens this Saturday, July 10 at 6:00 p.m. and Sunday, July 11 at 4:30 p.m., at the Company of Angeles, directed by co-artistic director Marlene Flores. Company of Angeles is located at Company of Alexandria Hotel, 3rd Floor) 501 S. Spring Street, downtown. Tickets here
PASADENA PLAYHOUSE EMERGES FROM BANKRUPTCY The
playhouse announced yesterday that its Plan of Reorganization was
approved yesterday by the United States Bankruptcy Court in Los Angeles
and emerged from Chapter 11 after nearly two months.
Check back tomorrow for a list of all productions being reviewed this weekend.
COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for July 9 - 15, 2010
Our critics are Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III, Rebecca Haithcoat, 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
Productions are sequenced alphabetically in the following cagtegories: Opening This Week, Larger Theaters regionwide, Smaller Theaters in Hollywood, Smaller Theaters in the valleys , Smaller Theaters on the Westside and in beach towns. You can also search for any play by title, using your computer's search engine.
OPENING THIS WEEK
AS THE GLOBE WARMS Heather Woodbury's one-woman eco-activist soap opera. Echo Curio, 1519 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; opens July 10; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 2. (213) 977-1279.
THE BAKER'S OVEN West Coast premiere of Christopher Goodwin's dramatic thriller. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens July 9; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 7. (818) 202-4120.
BECKY'S NEW CAR Steven Deitz's car comedy. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; opens July 10; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 15. (310) 822-8392.
BREWSIE AND WILLIE World-premiere stage adaptation of Gertrude Stein's post-World War II novella, presented by CalArts' Center for New Performance in association with Poor Dog Group. 7th Floor Penthouse, 533 S. Los Angeles St., L.A.; opens July 14; Wed.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 1, brownpapertickets.com...
COUNTRY ROADS Jill Burke, Doug Carpenter and Brenna Whitaker sing Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada; Sun., July 11, 8 p.m.. (562) 944-9801.
DOCTOR CERBERUS Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood; July 14-15, 8 p.m.; Fri., July 16, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 17, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., July 18, 4 p.m.. (310) 827-0889.
FABRIC Company of Angels presents Henry Ong's play about Thai garment workers exploited in El Monte. Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., L.A.; opens July 10; Sat., July 10, 6 p.m.; Sun., July 11, 4:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 8. (866) 811-4111.
HURRICANE SEASON 2010 Seventh annual competition/festival of short plays. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; opens July 9; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 22. (818) 508-3003.
I'M AN ACTOR, THEY DON'T GET IT Written and directed by Essence.com blogger Tiffany Black. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; opens July 9; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru July 25. (323) 465-4446.
I'M NOT HERE ANYMORE W. Colin McKay's story of a returning Gulf War veteran. Pan Andreas Theater, 5125 Melrose Ave., L.A.; opens July 10; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 28. 323-468-8062.
IN & OUT: THE U.S. OF ALIENATION World premiere of David Wally's dramedy about human connection. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; opens July 13; Tues., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 14. (866) 811-4111.
INSIDE PRIVATE LIVES Peek into the private lives of public personas in Kristin Stone Entertainment's interactive theater piece. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; opens July 10; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 31. (866) 811-4111.
THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE Martin McDonagh's carnage comedy, starring Star Trek's Chris Pine. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; opens July 9; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., July 11, 7 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 8. (213) 628-2772.
LIFE COULD BE A DREAM Writer-director Roger Bean's doo-wop jukebox musical. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach; opens July 10; Sat., July 10, 7:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 7:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 29. (949) 497-2787.
MAD CITY Reading of Meredith Stiehm's play. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada; Mon., July 12, 7:30 p.m.. (562) 944-9801.
NADYALOGUES Written and performed by "woman of a thousand voices" Nadya Ginsburg. L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, Renberg Theatre, 1125 N. McCadden Pl., L.A.; July 9-10. (323) 860-7302.
OTHELLO Presented by Shakespeare & Veterans. West Los Angeles Bandshell, 11338 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens July 10; Sat.-Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Aug. 8, shakespeareandveterans.org. (310) 694-7233.
PHIL THE VOID: THE GREAT BRAIN ROBBERY Phil van Hest's one-man philosophical comedy. Elephant Theatre Lab, 1078 Lilian Way, L.A.; opens July 10; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 7, philvanhest.com. (866) 811-4111.
PLAY DATES Sam Wolfson's comedy of the sexes. Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens July 10; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 1, plays411.com. (323) 960-7776.
REDHEAD CUBAN HAUSFRAU HUSBAND Fletcher Rhoden's backstage story of TV sitcom I Love Lucy, told in song. Mount Hollywood Theater, 4607 Prospect Ave., L.A.; opens July 9; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 4. (323) 667-9113.
ROMEO & JULIET, THE COMEDY Knightsbridge Theatre's 1970s take on Shakespeare's tragedy, "including a disco dance-off to the death.". Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A.; opens July 9; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru July 25. (323) 667-0955.
1776 Founding Fathers musical, book by Peter Stone, music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards. Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach; opens July 10; Sat., July 10, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 11, 2 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., July 18, 2 & 7 p.m.; Sun., July 25, 2 p.m.; thru July 25. (562) 985-7000.
STOOP STORIES Solo performance piece, written and performed by Dael Orlandersmith. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Fri., July 9, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 10, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., July 11, 1 & 6:30 p.m.. (213) 628-2772.
GO T-O-T-A-L-L-Y In Kimleigh Smith's one-person show, she portrays herself as a 17-year-old virgin, an ingratiating cheer-leader who speaks in Valley-girl cadences where every sentence is peppered with "totally." She endures a gang rape and the eventual recovery of her sexuality that got shut down after the attack. This is the formula for what could have been the worst one-woman show ever seen; it's actually among the best, thanks entirely to Smith's super-human vivacity, her blistering sense of humor, in which, with considerable physical heft, she performs those ridiculous high school cheers in a teensy, revealing skirt with a mania that crosses deep into mockery. She is without shame, and she's earned that right. There's not a trace of self-pity; rather, super-hero determination. And when she details her technique for seducing a lover, the result is one of the most erotic and funny scenes you're going to find on any stage, anywhere. Paula Killen directs, and obviously knows exactly what she's doing. (Steven Leigh Morris). Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sat., July 10, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 18, 7 p.m.; Sat., July 24, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 25, 7 p.m.; Sat., July 31, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 1, 7 p.m.. (323) 952-1632.
A TALE TOLD BY AN IDIOT "Inspired by William Shakespeare's Macbeth." Presented by Psittacus Productions. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; opens July 9; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 25...
TAPE LONE Collective Theatre presents Stephen Belber's study of motive, memory, truth and perception., firstname.lastname@example.org. Old Expo Furniture Warehouse, 4321 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach; opens July 9; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., July 10, 9:30 p.m.; thru July 30. (562) 639-2659.
TEDDY & TWAIN: LUNCHEON AT THE WHITE HOUSE Written by Frank Denson and Alan Freeman. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Tues., July 13, 8 p.m.. (323) 851-7977.
THREE SISTERS AFTER CHEKHOV Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble presents Mustapha Matura's adaptation of Anton Chekhov's classic. Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; opens July 9; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Aug. 8, lowerdepththeatreensemble.org. (800) 838-3006.
TWO PLAYS BY YUKIO MISHIMA Two modern Noh plays by Yukio Mishima: Hanjo and The Lady Aoi. Luna Playhouse, 3706 San Fernando Road, Glendale; opens July 9; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 1. (818) 500-7200.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE
NEW REVIEW GO BEYOND
Photo courtesy of
El Portal Theatre
This musical extravaganza, conceived and directed by Aurelien
Roulin, is described as a cross between French cabaret and Cirque de
Soleil, but what it really reminds me of is the old Folies
Bergère, or Las Vegas, without the bared bosoms. Like the Folies,
it features banks of stairs down which the show-girls can saunter in
their minimal costumes, adorned with maximum feathers and glitz, and
sometimes escorted by lads in loin-cloths. Also like the old French
show, there's audience participation, in which two sheepish men from the
audience are led onstage and decked out in preposterous drag. The show
has 17 performers, 6 choreographers, a stilt-walker, a unicyclist, a bit
of boogie-woogie, and exotic numbers evoking many nations: Japan,
Africa, France and India, represented by "The Forbidden Temple," a
Bollywood-style spectacle, choreographed by Kavita Rao. A mix of Edith
Piaf songs is stylishly delivered by Ripley Rader, a couple of mildly
erotic aerial sequences are performed by scantily-clad Roulin and Sunny
Soriano, and there's an impressive toe-dancing contortionist, Ganchimeg
Oyunchimeg. But the greatest excitement is unleashed when the dancers
cut loose, particularly in the frenzied Can-Can finale. In short,
there's plenty of flash, flesh and fantasy, suitably toned down for a
family audience. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Boulevard, North
Hollywood; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., through August 1. (818)
508-4200, (866) 811-4111, or elportaltheatre.com/events.com.html (Neal
CHiPS the Musical Those masters of the mashed-up musical parody, the Troubadour Theater, have always played by their own comedic rules. Rule No. 1, invoked repeatedly in this uneven send-up of NBC's kitschy, late-'70s police drama, is to follow the laughs wherever they lead. And if that means repeatedly tossing out the script when it isn't hitting on all cylinders -- as is the case with writers Rick Batalla and Henry Phillips' roughly tuned lampoon -- and substituting it with the Troubies' trademark repertoire of quick-draw ad libs, self-mocking asides, audience-harassing gibes and an escalating onstage hugger-muggery, so be it. Batalla and director Matt Walker fill the famously skintight CHP uniforms (courtesy of costumer Sharon McGunigle) of swaggering freeway heroes Ponch and John as they ride down a marauding gang of lesbian ecoterrorists led by "synthetic albino" KG (Beth Kennedy). Meanwhile, the new political realities are shaking up the station, as sexist supervising sergeant "Getrear" (Mike Sulprizio) is sent off for sensitivity training and replaced with the sexy, Pam Grier-like ballbuster, Carmel (Michelle Anne Johnson). The 14 loony production numbers (under Eric Heinly's musical direction), neatly skewer the original series' generic, funk-flavored, adult-contemporary score along with its absurdly insipid storylines -- talk about shooting fish in a barrel! -- and even produce the occasional gem, like Caroline Gross' hilarious, must-be-seen, aerial-birthing flashback dance. (Bill Raden)., $26-$46. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru July 25. 818-955-8101.
THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES Audience-participation musical for children and their families, music by Phil Orem, book and lyrics by Lloyd J. Schwartz and David Wechter. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Sat., 1 p.m.; thru July 10. (323) 851-7977.
GO GRACE & GLORIE Sensitive direction by Cameron Watson and distinguished performances by Beth Grant and Melinda Page Hamilton transform playwright Tom Ziegler's predictable tear-jerker into genuinely compelling theater. In a virtuoso turn with not a false note, Grant portrays Grace, an illiterate and opinionated nonagenarian who's outlived her husband and five sons, and is now living and dying alone in her backwoods Appalachian cabin. Enter Glorie (Hamilton), a hospice volunteer with an MBA from Harvard (and a wardrobe from Bloomingdale's), determined to care for the crotchety old lady despite her cantankerous objections. Grace's primitive living conditions and trust-in-the-Lord philosophy dismay the sophisticated Glorie, whose do-good resolve falters after she burns herself on Grace's wood-burning stove and confronts a rodent under the sink. The holy-rolling Grace, on the other hand, is appalled by Glorie's blasphemous language and feminist thinking. Gradually, these two very different people find common ground as they uncover each other's secrets and become open to mutual solace and support. Because Grant's character has the best lines and the choicest opportunity for laughs, she frequently steals the limelight, but Hamilton's less flamboyant persona is no less skillfully drawn. Designer Jeff McLaughlin's admirably detailed set, embellished with props by MacAndME, enfolds the drama with a rich atmospheric dimension. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through July 18. (818) 558-7000. (Deborah Klugman). Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 18. (818) 558-7000.
HAMLET It's anyone's guess what vision might have guided director Ellen Geer's fervent but unfocused, Medieval-dress version of Shakespeare's most baroque and psychologically nuanced tragedy. There's certainly little hint of the Oedipal undercurrents or political allegorizing that have been a mainstay of 20th-century productions. Nor is there much sign of the paralyzing conflict between faith in purpose and intellectual certainty, which traditionally drives its hero's famously agonized inaction. In the case of Mike Peebler's Hamlet, neither his mission nor its justness ever seems in doubt; Peebler attacks the role with the zeal and righteous wrath of the recently converted. Even his soliloquies are delivered at the audience as if from a pulpit. Gertrude (Melora Marshall) in turn appears more pissed off at her son's increasingly antic disposition than aggrieved by what it might imply about his sanity. Claudius (Aaron Hendry), by contrast, comes off as positively good-natured, a guy caught with his hand in the cookie jar rather than his fingerprints all over a nefarious regicide. Willow Geer is convincing as a feisty yet vulnerable Ophelia, though even here the method of her madness seems more a response to the murder of Polonius (a very broad Carl Palmer) than any jilting by Hamlet. Director Geer keeps it all moving at a fast clip, but some exasperatingly eccentric blocking divides the focus of too many critical turning points -- most egregiously in the mousetrap scene -- all but obliterating their dramatic purpose. (Bill Raden). Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sun., July 11, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., July 17, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 24, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 25, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., July 31, 4 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 1, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 7, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 8, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 14, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 15, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 21, 4 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 28, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 5, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 12, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 18, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 19, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 25, 5 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 2, 4 p.m.. (310) 455-3723.
HOWLIN' BLUES AND DIRTY DOGS: THE LIFE OF BIG MAMA THRONTON Sunday Scott is singer Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 11. (562) 494-1014.
IN THE HEIGHTS Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show's creator, composer-lyricist and Broadway star, reprises his lead role in the 2008 Tony winner. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru July 25. (213) 365-3500.
THE LIEUTENANT OF INSISHMORE Center Theatre Group presents this black comedy about a hard-boiled terrorist lured home by the news that his cat is in poor health., $20-$65. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 7. (213-628-2772.
GO LOVE, LOSS AND WHAT I WORE Ilene Beckerman's book, on which Delia Ephron and Nora Ephron based their "intimate collection of stories," is the kind you'd grab from the display near the register at a Barnes and Nobles, to serve as a dressy envelope for a birthday check to your goddaughter or an upgraded Mother's Day card. But if the recipient read it instead of tossing in onto a pile of similarly gifted minibooks, she'd find a classy little number, a J. Peterman catalog minus the pretentiousness. With sparse text and barebones sketches, Beckerman records her history through the clothes she and her female relatives wore. Director Jenny Sullivan constructs the stage version in much the same way: The star-studded ensemble wears black (there's an ode to the color, every woman's old faithful) while sitting in a straight line; and Carol Kane, who reads as Beckerman, handles the main prop, a "closet" full of the book's renderings situated on wire clothes hangers. But this is Nora Ephron, and chumminess quickly trumps austerity. The scenes themselves are ruminations on relationships thinly veiled as (mostly) funny riffs on clothes -- Tracee Ellis Ross almost runs away with the show every time the spotlight's hers but particularly so with "The Shirt." Kane, who must be one of the most endearing actors ever, dances her monologues' transitions so delicately and adroitly you can only marvel. There are a couple of moments ("The Bathrobe," "Brides") during which all but those with a particularly voracious emotional appetite will find themselves choking on the syrup. Fortunately, though, the Ephron sisters have nimbly stitched together the scenes so that there's far more head nodding than eye rolling. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 1. (310) 208-5454.
MASTER CLASS Terrence McNally's story of opera diva Maria Callas. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sat., July 10, 4 p.m.; Sun., July 11, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., July 18, 3:30 p.m.; Sun., July 25, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 1, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 6, 8 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 13, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 21, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 22, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 28, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 4, 8 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 11, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 25, 4 p.m.. (310) 455-3723.
THE SOCIALIZATION OF RUTHIE SHAPIRO Anyone with personal memories of the 1960s might be forgiven for not recognizing the lunar landscape that playwright Barbara Nell Beery's colorless coming-of-age drama passes off as 1967 L.A. For a watershed year in such a culturally iconic decade, one could reasonably expect to find at least one issue of Tiger Beat or a even a Davy Jones pinup in the bedroom of Beery's 12-year-old heroine, Ruthie (Claire Partin). But designer Jeff Rack's generic jumble of set pieces is as devoid of character-defining details as Ruthie is of the hormone-roiled obsessions of real-world adolescence. Instead, Beery's "memory play" about a secular-Jewish math prodigy's quest for popularity at her new junior high school is the kind of anodyne, life-in-a-vacuum fairy tale seemingly designed to reassure parents that their little darlings aren't dreaming up anything darker than comically corny routines for the school talent show. Beery's cumbersome device of having Partin step out of character as the adult Ruth to redundantly re narrate already-played scenes proves hazardous to director Susan Morgenstern's attempt at close-focus intimacy. Worse, it wastes valuable stage time, which would have been better spent developing the implicitly imploding marriage of Ruthie's mother (Constance Mellors) and an absentee father. By the time Ruthie pays the price of being popular -- by ostracizing her naively bigoted outcast of a best friend (Heather Keller) -- the moment feels like a forced, bathetic footnote rather than the innocence-shattering act of cruelty that the grown-up Ruth claims it to be. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through July 11. (No perf July 4.) (323) 851-7977. (Bill Raden). Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 11. (323) 851-7977.
GO SOUTH PACIFIC So this tragic hero, a stern, sensible Princeton-educated U.S. Marine named Lt. Joseph Cable (Anderson Davis) finds himself in the South Pacific amidst a herd of guys from the U.S. Navy. He'd love to get some intel on what the Japs are up to, because World War II is still in play. On the nearby mystical island of Bali Ha'i (mystical because that's where all the young daughters of the local French families are hiding), Cable falls for a native daughter named Lait (Sumie Maeda), who looks about 12 years old, but she's sure a good kisser who gently strokes his hair -- and probably other parts as well. "I know what you're thinking," he chides skeptical onlookers; sure he does, because it is what we're thinking, too: You're a perv, dude. She's Cable's fantasy lover because she gazes at him adoringly and doesn't talk back. In fact, she doesn't talk at all, which is even better. Cable's anthem-in-song of love to barely pubescent Lait is "Younger Than Springtime," which is sort like an homage to the trafficking of children from exotic, faraway places. Rodgers' and Hammerstein's musical classic, presented by Lincoln Center Theater, is almost stunning for the window it offers onto the perverse America psyche, with its gardens of optimism, salvation complexes and sexual fantasies that come wrapped in a kind of national can-do solipsism. Michael Yeargan's classical storybook sets come with a backdrop of the expansive Pacific, idyllic and isolating, to unify the various settings and to conjure an American homeland far beyond the horizon. Barlett Sher's staging is a gift for a number of reasons. From this production, you can almost understand how we got into the quagmires of Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. Furthermore, his terrific ensemble performs with a vivacity that's nonetheless bereft of the showboating that comes attached to so many musicals. Even with Christopher Gattelli's musical staging with choreography that sashays and snaps, there's a sobriety and sincerity that reveal the musical for exactly what it is, and the 1950s era of Americana that spawned it. Terrific leading performances by Rod Gilfry and Carmen Cusack as the expat Frenchman and U.S.Navy ensign/nurse who play out the boy-gets-girl, boy loses girl -- maybe they stick to the formula, maybe they don't. (Steven Leigh Morris)., $20-$120. 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 July 17. (213) 628-2772.
THE THREE MUSKATEERS Alexandre Dumas' swashbuckler. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sat., July 10, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 17, 4 p.m.; Sun., July 18, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., July 24, 4 p.m.; Sat., July 31, 8 p.m.; Sun., 3:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 12, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 26, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 3, 3:30 p.m.; thru Sept. 24. (310) 455-3723.
THURGOOD Laurence Fishburne is Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in George Stevens Jr.'s biography. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 8. (310) 208-5454.
THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE Music and lyrics by William Finn, book by Rachel Sheinkin, conceived by Rebecca Feldman. North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr., Solana Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 1. (858) 481-2155.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS
REVIEW ANGELOS/DATING STORIES
by Adyan Ghebre
The setting for Tony Perzow's comedy, Angelos, is a New
York City barber shop peopled with a colorful group of regulars These
include the owner Angelo (William Knight); Uncle Mo (Jack Kandel); the
friendly mafia associate, Barry (Perzow); a bookie named Kelly the Scalp
(Jerome St. Jerome); a street hustler, Jimmy the Book (Stephen
Schwartz); a manicurist, Bocha (Tina Saddington); and Mirror (Robert
Fisher), so named because of his shoe-shining prowess. Their laid back
lives are thrown into comic disarray when a young orthodox Jew (Frank
Salinas) drops in, pulls out a gun, and demands their valuables. The
reason is love: He wants to start a new life with his gal. The ending is
predictable but still tugs at the heartstrings. If you can ignore the
clunky physical comedy under R. S. Bailey's direction, there is much to
laugh about in Perzow's writing. Opening the bill is Perzow's Dating
Stories, where three couples struggle through an evening out.
Here, the writing is as soporific as the production. Studio/Stage, 520
N. Western Ave., Los Angeles; Thur.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun, 5 p.m.; http://angelostheplay.com. (310)
807-4842. (Lovell Estell III)
THE ARMANDO SHOW A different comic/celeb each week provides the springboard for improv madness., $10. I.O. West, 6366 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Mon., 9 p.m.. (323) 962-7560.
BACK TO ONE Alex Monti Fox's darkly comic philosophical journey. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., L.A.; Sun..; thru July 11. (323) 273-4022.
BROOKLYN, USA A true story based on real events of Murder Incorporated, the enforcement arm of America's crime syndicate. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 31. (323) 469-3113.
CASH ON DELIVERY Michael Cooney's farce about a Social Security cheat. Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 11. (310) 454-1970.
A CHORUS LINE The classic musical about 17 Broadway dancers auditioning for spots on a chorus line., $23, $18 students/seniors. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 25. 310-828-7519.
COMEDY OF ERRORS The Kingsmen Shakespeare Company kicks off its 14th Annual Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival with this tale of mistaken identity involving two sets of identical twins separated at birth., $15. California Lutheran University, 60 W. Olsen Road, Thousand Oaks; Fri.-Sun., 6:45 p.m.; thru July 18. 805-493-3455.
GO DRUNK TALK Welcome to McSwiggins. For the motley assortment of career barflies, neighborhood hotheads, Walmart Casanovas and lovelorn alcoholics who make it their home away from home, the old-school Hollywood watering hole is the kind of place where everybody knows your name (or soon will, though you'll probably regret it long before last call). Playwright Lance Whinery's irresistibly goofy, one-act parody of the hallowed saloon sitcom takes the form into the kind of seedy, low-rent dramatic neighborhood where the denizens of Cheers were never drunk enough to tread. Its intentionally insipid plot, cliché-ridden characters and wincingly corny one-liners are frighteningly familiar. And in Thomas Blake's environmental staging, where the audience has ostensibly joined the regulars to toast the beloved bar's final night in business, the manner in which the actors shamelessly cheat their punch lines toward the spectators creates the impression of being a captive member of a live TV-studio audience. Then the other shoe drops: As the story and the drinking progress, and the characters' alcohol-fueled belligerence morphs into an increasingly maudlin and effusive bonhomie, Blake unleashes his cast of expert ad libbers and insult comics (standouts include David Alfano, Tobias Jelinek and Kim Estes) into the audience to harass and humiliate. But there won't be any hard feelings -- because in true sitcom logic any conflicts that erupt or are miraculously resolved will be mercifully nullified in the amnesiac haze of the morning's hangover. Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 1, brownpapertickets.com/event/111874. (910) 367-6735. (Bill Raden). Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 1, brownpapertickets.com/event/111874. (910) 367-6735.
FACEBOOK $5. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Wed., 9:30 p.m.. (323) 908-8702.
THE FANTASTICKS It's mostly forgotten, and seldom acknowledged by the producers, but Tom Jones'/Harvey Schmidt's musical was loosely adapted from a once-popular play called The Romanticks, by Edmond Rostand, author of Cyrano de Bergerac. The sweetly sentimental first act examines the sappy idealism of young lovers, Matt (Michael David) and Louisa (Madison Mitchell), but Act II turns darker, as they encounter bitter experience and disillusion. Though the original Off-Broadway production gave full value to the pain, most renditions since, including this one, have soft-pedaled and conventionalized it, making the piece seem lighter than originally intended. This version, by a new young company called The Tribe, suffers from some clunky staging in the limited space, but their youth and freshness offer some compensation. Director Christopher Chase elicits engaging performances from his cast. David and Mitchell are fine in the earlier scenes but don't plumb the depths of the later ones. Christopher Carbo is a laid-back El Gallo, Tony Oliver and Alissa-Nicole Koblentz score comic points as the manipulative parents, and Darryl Maximilian Robertson and Stacy Lynn Baker are effective as hammy roving players. Setareh Khatibi deserves special mention as the ever-engaged, confetti-dispensing Mute. (Neal Weaver). The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru July 11. (323) 465-0383.
FORBIDDEN ZONE - LIFE IN THE 6TH DIMENSION "What was banal can, with the passage of time, become fantastic," Susan Sontag famously noted. At least such is the hope of adaptor Michael Holmes and director Scott Leggett in their anarchic musical tribute to film director Richard Elfman and composer Danny Elfman's failed, 1980 dadaist sci-fi fantasy, Forbidden Zone. A crude, lewd and urgently outré attempt at a John Waters-like burlesque of middle-class mores, the movie stands as an exercise in clownish impudence; its story of a Venice Beach family's adventure in a bizarre, Alice in Wonderland dimension they enter via a portal in their basement, is almost beside the point. Holmes happily excises some of Elfman's more gratuitous racial and anti-Semitic caricatures while contributing judicious narrative tweaks, primarily in expanding the character of Satan (a leering Marz Richards) into a lipsticked, vamping, Tim Curry-esque narrator/emcee. Leggett and his talented production-design team provide the polish, including the glam dazzle of Wes Crain's costumes and Kat Bardot's makeup, and the cartoon razzle of Tifanie McQueen's scatological set. The pleasure comes courtesy of musical director Ryan Johnson and his 14-piece band, Natasha Norman's Max Fleischer-inspired choreography, and an enthusiastic cast that sings and dances the collection of mainly early-20th century pop tunes only lip-synched in the movie (Bryan Krasner's rendition of the Yiddish Theater classic, "Giter Brider Itzik," is a standout). The problem is in Holmes' cultist fidelity to his source, which carries over into Elfman's sneering contempt for his characters, thus robbing the show of the heart and pathos it so desperately needs. (Bill Raden). Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 10. (310) 281-8337.
GO FOUR PLACES The family outing on display in Joel Drake Johnson's unsettling comedy resembles a gathering of ornery, wounded jackals. Siblings Warren (Tim Bagley) and Ellen (Roxanne Hart) motor to their parents' Chicago home to take their diminutive, gray-haired mother Peggy (Anne Gee Byrd) out for a what is presumably a pleasant lunch. At first blush, this seems innocent enough, but something about Ellen's painful, labored smile as she hugs the wheel, and Warren's cold, mummified expression, suggest that something is amiss. It isn't long before the moral underbelly of this clan emerges along with some ugly revelations. Mom's harmless exterior drips away with each rum and Coke she knocks back (and every trip to the bathroom, where she pees blood), and there emerges a subtly vicious female, a practiced manipulator who delights in tormenting her children with reminders of their lacerating miseries and failures. But an even darker secret surfaces concerning Peggy's alcoholic, invalid husband (who never appears onstage but is a towering presence, nevertheless), and rumors that she is abusing, and even attempting to murder him. The manner in which Drake tells this story -- blending humor and stark ugliness, while exploring themes of sibling rivalry, marital infidelity and even euthanasia -- is thoroughly engaging and held in sharp balance by director Robin Larsen. The characters are fully fleshed out, both in the writing and the performances, as disturbing for their and their vulnerabilities as for their anger. Rounding out a superb cast is Lisa Rothschiller. (Lovell Estell III)., (323) 960-4424. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 5 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 25, roguemachine.com. (323) 422-6361.
NEW REVIEW GO THE GIRL WHO
WOULD BE KING
by Christopher Moscatiello
Better to die a man than be born a woman -- even a princess. Inspired
by a Mark Twain short story about a girl raised as a boy in order to
claim the crown, Jan O'Connor's brisk comedy embraces the sexism of its
setting to great effect. Manhood means never apologizing, commands the
Duke of Lesser Flugel (Warren Davis) to his daughter Basil (Riley Rose
Critchlow), as he stuffs socks down her trousers. But if men are rocks,
women are water, appearing to yield to their betters while impressing
their will through patience and subtlety. When Basil is sent to his
uncle King Heimlich's (Ross Gottstein) court as the rightful male heir,
s/he's smashed by the wiles of the very femme Princess Clotilda (Whitton
Frank), who with her nimbus of red curls is as ripe and soft as a
tomato. The cast and casting are spot-on, as is Richard Tatum's
direction which allows us to peek at the layers underneath this
superficially simple society. In less detailed hands, it'd simply be a
funny, feminist trifle, but while Tatum plays up the humor, he also
grasps the pathos in a tomboy forced to shun her own biology and to see
her mother (Adriana Bate) as a cowed creature she deigns to visit every
six years. El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 1. (323) 230-7261. Presented by Absolute
Theatre and Full Circle Theatrics (Amy Nicholson)
GO THE GOOD WOMAN OF SETZUAN Gods are no help to man in Bertolt Brecht's bleak parable of a play (translated by Eric Bentley with music by Elizabeth Swados). The question Brecht poses: How does one stay a good person in a bad world? The hapless pivotal character Shen Te (Lauren Lovett) is a former prostitute, who uses her limited funds to help anyone who asks for it -- and everyone does. Her most shameless exploiter is her lover, Yang Sun (Benny Wills), who feels no compunction about draining her of her last penny. To protect herself, the lovesick Shen Te devises an alter ego: She poses, in male drag, as her tougher-minded capitalist cousin, Shui Ta, who takes over her affairs when she's "away." The ruse works for a time, but eventually Shen Te must abandon it and continue opting to do others' will even when it runs counter to her self-interest -- which it always does. Director Charles Otte has assembled a panoply of impressive technical and onstage talent to present an ambitious and artful staging that communicates the chaos, corruption and senseless suffering inherent in the playwright's vision. Most striking are Alex Wright and Dean Mora's sound design and original music, respectively (the music is live), and the arresting video imagery (Otte's design), which at times even simulates the town of Setzuan's drenching melancholic rain. The problem is that Brecht's epic theater deals with archetypes, and that's the plane on which Lovett and most of the ensemble so capably perform. The result is a dramatic piece worthy of respect rather than one to which I responded emotionally. (Deborah Klugman). Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 17. (323) 882-6912.
GRIFFITH PARK SHAKSPEARE FESTIVAL Free performances of Othello (July 8-Aug. 1) and Much Ado About Nothing (Aug. 5-29) by the Independent Shakespeare Co. Griffith Park, 4730 Crystal Springs Dr., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 1. (323) 913-4688.
GROUNDLINGS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT In a departure from the Groundlings' trademark irreverent, take-no-prisoner sketch comedy that made laughing as involuntary as breathing, this new show, directed by Karen Maruyama, is distinctly low-key and only funny in patches. The evening's biggest disappointment were the two improv segments that bracket the show, where comedians do routines based on audience suggestions. The absence of ease, craft and imagination was palpable. These failings were apparent in other sketch routines as well. "Caltech" has a crew of seismic scientists engaging in silly wisecracking and a overwrought spate of physical comedy and demolition derby with their chairs. "Next Step" finds Charlotte Newhouse and Scott Beehner as teenagers trying to get their sexual desires in sync, but there isn't much wit. A husband becomes vexed trying to relate to his wife in "I'm Listening," which is equally unfunny. "Concert Footage" is a pleasant surprise. After a Taylor Swift concert, Damon Jones playing a P.R. guy interviews and coolly insults members of the audience. Michael Naughton is still one of the funniest guys around, and his talents are evident in "Mirror Image," where a special software program allows you a glimpse of what you'll look like in the future, and "Animal Stars," where he is one of a pair of animal trainers. (Lovell Estell III). Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; thru July 10. (323) 934-9700.
HARLOW GOLD: EAST "Sexy, witty and gritty" cabaret created by choreographers Dominic Carbone and Tracy Phillips., $10-$25. The Bordello, 901 E. First St., L.A.; Sun., 10 p.m.. (213) 687-3766.
THE HAPPY HAPPY SHOW April Hava Shenkman hosts this anything-goes comedy cabaret., free. El Cid, 4212 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.. (323) 668-0318.
HELLO OUT THERE AND THE DUSTBOWL REVIVA: AN EVENING OF THEATER AND MUSIC William Saroyan's Hello Out There with music from The Dustbowl Revival. Bar Lubitsch, 7702 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Mon., Wed., 7:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 4. (323) 654-1234.
HEPBURN SINGS! Kevin Dulude IS Katharine Hepburn!. Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 18, plays411.com. (323) 654-0680.
NEW REVIEW I AM A TREE The
might make you think that writer-actor Dulcy Rogers' solo show is the
autobiography of an Ent, one of the talking tree creatures from the Lord
of the Rings series. However, the performer's opus is instead the
elegiac tale of young Claire (Rogers) attempting to learn more about
the mother she barely knew - a high spirited creative type who lost her
sanity years ago and has spent most of her life in a mental institution,
leaving Claire to be raised by her coldly distant scientist father.
Claire's search for information leads her to contact her three estranged
aunts, a trio of flamboyant eccentrics, who regale her with their
memory of the mother, which in turn prompts the daughter to make some
unexpected discoveries about herself. Rogers' monologue frequently bogs
down in cerebral metaphors and symbols, which leave the impression that
the work is more involving as a literary read than as a performance
piece. However, director Bob Koherr's intimate staging is unexpectedly
effective at evoking the atmosphere of a children's story -- including
the three wise Aunts who seem right out of A Wrinkle In Time
and a portrait of contemporary Manhattan that's both enchanting and
timeless. The problem is that the writing opts for arch coolness over
any passionate feeling that might involve us in the story. Rogers plays
all the characters with commendable versatility, but she's unable to
enliven the monologue's drier elements. Elephant Space Theatre, 6322
Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 17. (323)
962-0046. (Paul Birchall)
IT'S A MUSICAL WORLD Bob Baker's 1978 marionette revue, with stops at an Enchanted Toy Shop, a teddy bear's picnic, and an Independence Day finale. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 10:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru July 11. (213) 250-9995.
GO THE JESUS HICKEY Billboards, potato chips, freeway underpasses, tree stumps and pigeon coops are just some of the places Christ's image has appeared, or alleged to appear, in recent years. In Luke Yankee's ticklish comedy, the Savior-sighting takes place in the Emerald Isle city of Sligo, and comes by way of a girl as pure as the Virgin mother herself. Agnes Flynn (Anastasia Lofgren) is a wholesome teenager who shares a home with her imperious grandmother (Barbara Tarbuck), and her gruff, barfly father Sean (Harry Hamlin). They seem like a happy bunch, in spite of money problems due in large measure to Sean's drinking and troubles on the job. But a miracle is in the offing, as one night Agnes and her young beau Seamus (Aaron Leddick) slip away for some quiet time together, and he plants a "love bite," on her neck. As it turns out, the hickey is the face of Jesus and has miraculous healing powers, even curing the dim-witted Father Boyle (Tom Killam) of chronic back pain. In Act 2, we see Agnes transformed into an angelic figure and a media sensation, with all that implies, making the rounds in Europe -- and making a lot of money for her avaricious father. Unfortunately, the fame comes with a price for all concerned that may be too much to pay. Yankee's well-written script nimbly skirts the boundaries between morality play, satire and comedy. Performances are quite good under Yankee's direction. Tarbuck is especially engrossing as a saintly woman with a penchant for foul language. Katselas Theatre Company at the Skylight Theater, 1816 N. Vermont Ave., LA., Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through July 18. (310) 358-9936. (Lovell Estell III). Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 11, katselastheatre.org...
KEEP IT CLEAN Comedy Hosted by JC Coccoli., free. 1739 Public House, 1739 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Mon., 9:30 p.m.. (323) 663-1739.
GO LEIRIS/PICASSO "We try not to have so many guests. It disturbs what's left of the neighbors," says Michel as he stumbles around his Paris home in the dark, falling down stairs, knocking over crudités, and scalding himself on a teakettle. It's all rather amusing ... until you realize that it's 1944 and there's a Nazi patrol outside. This just the sort of dark humor that characterizes writer-director David Jette's farcical take on an actual evening at the house of Michel Leiris (Michael Bulger) when members of the French Resistance produced Pablo Picasso's play, Desire Caught by the Tail. The play itself is nonsensically awful (but oh, how the man could paint), so Jette has instead written about the circumstances surrounding its production, a sort of play without a play. In it, Leiris, his wife Zette (Jenny Byrd), Albert Camus (Tyler Jenich), Jean-Paul Sartre (Patrick Baker), Simone de Beauvoir (Amy K. Harmon), and Picasso's mistress Dora Maar (Melissa Powell) scramble to set up while they wait for the master. Besides their own petty but hilarious squabbles, they also have to deal with a Nazi (Joseph L. Roberts) who keeps popping up, as well as the leader of the resistance, Sam Beckett (Dan Gordon). Jette's direction keeps all the moving parts well synchronized as the actors enter and exit Juliana de Abreu's well-designed, multi-door set. The ensemble is strong overall, though Baker's over-the-top bombastic caricature of Sartre and Bulger's sincerity as the put-upon host stand out. And while the work isn't historically accurate, it succeeds because, as Camus says, sometimes "happiness feels better than truth." Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 24. (213) 290-2782, BrimmerStreet.org (Mayank Keshaviah). Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 24. (213) 389-3856.
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 July 25. (323) 960-4412.
A Midsummer Night's Dream Vanguard Repertory Company's irreverent adaptation of William Shakespeare's comedy. Byrnes Amphitheater, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, 440 St. Katherine Dr., La Canada Flintridge; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru July 11, vanguardrep.com. (818) 745-3327.
Music Out of Nowhere (A Love Story of the 1930s) A nostalgic look back at the Great Depression. Music, lyrics, and story by Bruce Lloyd Kates. Unitarian Universalist Church, 12355 Moorpark St., Studio City; Sat., 2 p.m.; thru July 17. (818) 769-5911.
THE LOST TOMB OF KING SUNDAY All-new sketch and improv, directed by Karen Maruyama. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 934-9700.
NEW REVIEW MARY LYNN SPREADS HER LEGS
courtesy of Steve Allen Theatre
Writer-performer Mary Lynn Rajskub cruises the low road in this
raunchy obstreperous one woman show about childbirth and motherhood,
directed - and developed - by Amit Ittelman. Adopting a pugnacious
in-your-face persona at the top, the performer first describes - then
graphically illustrates -- how she abandoned her intellectual self to
metamorphose into a fun-loving hottie. An unexpected pregnancy alters
her life -- though not her smug irreverence leveled nonstop at doctors,
midwives, family members, producers and fans (all of whom she portrays).
When her colicky child (also depicted by Rajskub) refuses her milk,
she's filled with fantasies of infanticide. Straddling standup,
Rajskub's performance contains a humor hits home with a strata of her
audience, while irritating or offending others. Her skills are without
question: The expressiveness of her body language or the split-second
changes in countenance that convey a shift from one character to the
next. Notwithstanding these qualities and some entertaining moments,
there's not much witty or insightful or ribald about this material. It
would be helpful if there were some likable character or sentiment to
counterbalance the story's bitter, hollow message. Steve Allen Theater,
at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8
p.m.; thru Aug. 27. (323) 666-4268. (Deborah Klugman)
THE OBLIVION SERIES Justine Warrington's look at the modern world as seen by the modern woman. Plus: comedian Ruthy Otero's one-woman show Crazy Is What Crazy Does. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 18. (323) 465-4446.
NEW REVIEW OKLAHOMA! With its
spectacular 1943 Broadway debut, Rodgers and Hammerstein's immortal
classic redefined the book musical. By seamlessly weaving its
deceptively sunny songbook into a comic-romantic libretto stitched with
dark threads of violence and sexual yearning, the show's complex fabric
of tension-teasing counterpoints (driven by the Americana vitality of
Agnes de Mille's folk-derived choreography) set new benchmarks for
sophistication and box-office success. That storied history may come as a
surprise to anyone whose introduction to Oklahoma! comes via
director Robert Marra's clumsy and dismally one-dimensional staging. The
tone is set the moment Derrick McDaniel's serviceable lights come up on
Craig Pavilionis' non sequitur jumble of strewn hay and bulky,
adobe-looking set pieces, and costumes whose provenance looks more
mid-'90s Super Thrift than something "designed" by Ann McMahan.
Individual performances range from passable (Travis Dixon's Curly, Jean
Altadel's Laurey) to overly broad (Maura Smith's Aunt Eller, Jillian
Gomez's Ado Annie) to utterly forgettable (Matt Dorio's Ali Hakim, James
Petrillo's Andrew Carnes). And while choreographer Tania Possick pulls
off a creditable echo of de Mille in the rousingly acrobatic "box
social" dance number, the lush, emotional grandeur of Rodgers' score
mostly eludes the grasp of musical director Greg Haake's tinny-sounding
live band and the ensemble's uneven vocal abilities. The one exception
is Jay Rincon's menacing Jud Fry and the brooding sympathy he brings to
his solo on "Lonely Room." MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A.;
Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru July 18. (323) 960-7735. A
Musical Theatre of Los Angeles production. (Bill Raden)
GO OPUS Because classical music can be such a sublime art form, one tends to regard those musicians as inhabiting a more celestial sphere than the rest of us. Playwright and classically trained violist Michael Hollinger confutes that notion with this percipient drama, which examines the political and emotional fracas within a string quartet. In Hollinger's canny script, the tensions generated among members of a prominent musical group have been exacerbated by an affair between two of them: Elliot (Christian Lebano), a domineering egotist with little tolerance for opposition; and Dorian (Daniel Blinkoff), a supersensitive artist with a history of emotional problems. When Dorian up and quits prior to a prestigious gig at the White House, he is replaced by Grace (Jia Doughman), a conscientious novice with tremendous talent and the inner aplomb to withstand Elliot's needling and increasingly truculent demands. Directed by Simon Levy, the drama begins with a studied manner before launching into full dynamism, as the particulars of the players' dilemmas and entanglements come into focus. In a solid ensemble, Doughman is noteworthy for her character's impeccable truth; likewise Cooper Thornton is highly effective as Alan, the down-to-earth second violinist who reacts with growing consternation and dismay to snowballing events. The performers mime their concerts in admirable sync (sound design is by Peter Bayne, with input from musical advisers Roy Tanabe and Larry Sonderling). Complemented by designer Ken Booth's lighting, Frederica Nascimento's backdrop, with its cubes in autumnal colors, seems reflective of the quartet's rich but cloistered world. (Deborah Klugman). Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 25. (323) 663-1525.
THE PINK CHATROOM Latina lesbian musical, book by June Vertucci and Trudy Ardizzone, music by June Vertucci. Casa 0101, 2009 E. First St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 11, casa0101.org. (323) 263-7684.
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.
SEX, RELATIONSHIPS AND SOMETIMES . . . LOVE Monologues on all of the above, by Joelle Arqueros. Renegade Theatre (formerly the Actor's Playpen), 1514 N. Gardner St., L.A.; Sun., 6, 7:30 & 9 p.m.; thru Sept. 26. (323) 769-5566.
SIT 'N' SPIN Storytelling by Jill Soloway, Maggie Rowe, Jaclyn Lafer and assorted guests of varying hilarity; www.sitnspin.org., free. COMEDY CENTRAL STAGE, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Every other Thursday, 8 p.m.. (323) 960-5519.
SORORITY QUEEN IN A MOBILE HOME Michael DiGaetano and Kevin A. Mahoney's pair of monologues twirl on and around Scenic Consultant James Spencer's bifurcated set of a Bakersfield trailer and a local-occupancy hotel. These are lived in respectively by a former sorority queen, Grace (Amanda Weier), and her ex, now down-and-out husband, Dennis (Colin Walker). Act 1 belongs to Grace, who pretty much explains the story of her life, with a brief interlude for a scene with her dotty real estate agent "friend," Judith (Caitlin Rene Campbell), who's trying to persuade her to sell the trailer in order to purchase a local home. There's also a nerd Boy Scout (Conor Lane) drop-in to this gentle comedy as though from a Christopher Durang farce. Judith has fantasies of being a country singing star in Las Vegas, and she's saving her pennies. Under Paul Kampf's direction, the play accrues almost no momentum because of Weier's show-and-tell interpretation, which leaves little to the imagination, subtext or the humor that Weier keeps straining at. She broadcasts every attitude and opinion of this frustrated hausfrau, resulting in a parade of the obvious. Weier was terrific and stylish in this theater's earlier production of Light Up the Sky, so this would appear to be an issue of guidance rather than talent. Her former Hubby takes focus for Act 2, retelling the same events from his perspective. Walker's performance is comparatively understated and wry, but his account is almost identical to Judith's, so even the Rashomon structure feels pointless. His conflict with friend Woody (Tom Burrus) brings the production to life, but it's late in the game, in a play about being late in the game. (Steven Leigh Morris). Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru July 15. (323) 882-6912.
NEW REVIEW GO ST. NICHOLAS Irish playwright
Conor McPherson mirthfully paints a theater critic as a bloodsucker in
his early mono-drama, which receives a standout revival by director
Scott Paulin. Michael McGee does the honors as an anonymous, ego-bitten
and self described "well-paid hack" (i.e. drama critic) who becomes a
willing procurer for a clan of vampires. "People were afraid of me," he
quips, reflecting on his power to make or break careers, with a pen he
joyfully wielded like an envenomed rapier. However, the utter corruption
of his existence finds its fullest expression when he falls for an
actress he encountered at a performance of Salome. Unbeknownst
to the poor fellow, she is a member of a vampire clan, and it isn't long
before he is willingly luring unsuspecting victims into their den,
where they are plowed with drink, revelry, and relieved of their blood,
as well as all memories of the encounter. Call it vampire light, void of
Stoker but with a touch of Anne Rice. McPherson's tinkering with the
vampire myth is a clever literary sleight of hand, but the ease of his
narrative and its animated density, the shades of humor and poignancy,
and McGee's textured performance make for a terrific outing. SFS
Theater, 5636 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun. 4 p.m.,
thru July 25. (323) 960-5296. (Lovell Estell III)
GO TRACERS Thirty years after its Los Angeles debut, writer John DiFusco's antiwar drama retains its relevance and power. Written collaboratively in the 1970s by DiFusco and seven other Vietnam vets, and directed by Christina Howard with insight and skill, it portrays the trauma of young military recruits plucked from mainstream American life and thust -- inadequately trained and poorly equipped -- into the nightmare of combat. Howard, displaying a metaphysical perspective, stages the production on a deep, cavernous proscenium. Prior to curtain, an intense, almost suffocating, scent of incense permeates the theater; meanwhile, for perhaps 20 minutes, the six "trainees" jog in military unison, the rhythms of their booted tread being ominous and haunting. When at last the performers do, individually, speak, it's in a darkness resourcefully illuminated by handheld flashlights; indeed, throughout the play, the lighting design (consultant Tiger Reel) registers as a quintessential element of the spectacle. The talents of Howard's adept ensemble collectively emerge in a sequence depicting the recruits' initial training under the command of an abusive drill sergeant (the terrific Tucker Smallwood), who addresses them as "maggots" while forcing them to undergo arbitrary punitive discipline. Once in Vietnam, the men medicate their brutalized psyches with dope, alcohol and infantile horseplay -- understandable given their tasks, which include sorting through body parts to try to match limbs with torsos. While not every component of this production is unimpeachable -- the sound design (Howard) and vocal sound track, effective in part, can be intrusive -- the imaginative production is compelling. (Deborah Klugman). L.A. Fringe Theatre, 929 E. Second St., Studio 105, L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 14. (213) 680-0392.
WAITING FOR GODOT Revelation Theater presents Samuel Beckett's existentialist classic. The Black Box Theater, 12420 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 31, theblackboxtheater.org...
WEIRD ON TOP Improvisational comedy by Danielle Cintron, Tiffany Cole, Mason Hallberg, Kerr Seth Lordygan, Sarah McCann and Alex Sanborn. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; Thurs., July 15, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Sept. 23, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Oct. 21, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Nov. 11, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Dec. 9, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Jan. 20, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Feb. 17, 8 p.m.; Tues., March 1, 8 p.m.; Thurs., April 21, 8 p.m.; Thurs., May 12, 8 p.m.; Thurs., June 9, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 17, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Aug. 18, 8 p.m.. (818) 508-3003.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS
GO ALL MY SONS If even a thread of a silver lining can be found in the BP gulf oil-spill madness, it might just be that the appalling incident has breathed new life into Arthur Miller's powerful tragedy about the twin evils of reckless capitalism and false sanctimony. Director Kiff Scholl's powerful and well-acted production never overtly channels the spill -- but the parallels between the cabal of greedy oil-company CEOs and the dark heart of corruption that lie at the center of the family in Miller's play are apparent. The play concerns seemingly genial war-parts manufacturer Joe (Mark Belnick), whose family life is splintering ostensibly over the fact that his beloved but emotionally fragile wife, Kate (CaroleAnne Johnson), is unwilling to give up believing that their son Larry, dead in a war plane crash, is still alive. Meanwhile Joe's other son Chris (Nicholas S. Williams) is plotting to marry beautiful Annie (Lauren Dobbins Webb), the daughter of Joe's former partner, who's serving a prison term for sending faulty plane parts to the front. Of course, the real truth of how those faulty parts got to the front is far more horrible -- and ultimately tragic to all concerned. Staged in a theater so small it often seems to creak at the seams of the play's aching themes of rage, disgust and greed, Scholl's sturdy production is unflinching, with the intimacy only adding to its beauty. The ensemble's vivid and psychologically nuanced characters lead to the feeling that we "know" we "know" these people, like friends -- from Belnick's backslappin', bonhomie bloat-spouting Joe, whose "big man" attitude is quickly abraded into weasel-eyed oiliness, to Johnson's beautifully fragile but increasingly darkly complicit Kate. Webb's sweet, then fierce turn as Annie becomes surprisingly complex as she ultimately wields a weapon that puts the final nail in the villain's coffin -- while Williams' shift from dorky rich-boy idealist to ferocious avatar of justice is strikingly powerful. (Paul Birchall). Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 25. (323) 960-4420.
AMADEUS Written as Theophilus (from the Greek) on his birth certificate, Mozart's middle name can be interpreted as either "lover of God" or "loved by God." Antonio Salieri clearly believed the latter, and his jealousy of Mozart fuels the drama in Peter Shaffer's 1979 award-winning play. As court composer, Salieri (Peter Swander) has the favor of Emperor Joseph II (David Robert May) and admires Mozart's music -- until he meets the young prodigy. Mozart's (Patrick Stafford) sexuality and vulgarity drive the devout Catholic wild, and as Salieri can't reconcile the philistine with the ethereal music he creates, he becomes determined to destroy Mozart. In that quest, Swander often speaks of passion, yet it rarely feels as if his character possesses the passion his words suggest. Part of this may have been director August Viverito's desire for a slow build, even though it does eventually pay off in Act 2. Stafford's Mozart, on the contrary, is id perfectly personified, with occasional glimpses of the genius hiding behind the schoolboy pranks. Danielle Doyen, who plays his wife, Constanze, pairs well with Stafford, and like the rest of the cast, is capable. However, her 1980s, Madonna-style outfits, along with Mozart's gold pants and the emperor's raspberry zoot suit, are questionable choices by designer Shon LeBlanc. While for Salieri "a note of music is either right or it's wrong," for me the show had a pleasant melody but not one that stuck with me for long. (Mayank Keshaviah). Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru July 31. (800) 838-300
NEW REVIEW GO
by Donald Songster
When sophisticated, rapid-fire dialogue is whizzing about the stage,
mathematical and scientific principles are being dissected in the
language of those who dissect them professionally, and the past is
bleeding into the present, the question is not if, but when, your head
will start to spin. Set in an English estate in both 1809 and present
day, Tom Stoppard's exploration of the seeming dichotomies of chaos and
order, science and art, head and heart, might err on the side of the
cerebral - thrillingly yet too bewilderingly -- if it weren't so ripe
with the great equalizers: humor and sex. Director Barbara Schofield
notes that the play's themes are all based on passion, and her staging
arches its back towards reflecting such. Just as you begin to follow one
of Stoppard's intricate, essential arguments down the intellectual
rabbit hole, Schofield yanks you back by the gut. The logical Valentine
(Paul Romero) casually posits the supremacy of science to Bernard (a
combustible Benjamin Burdick), who preaches poetry in response; the
scene immediately following, between T.J. Marchbank's smoldering
Septimus and Kendra Chell's commanding Lady Croom, so pulses with lust
restrained by the thinnest of threads, that when Septimus burns a
letter, you feel helpless to stem the flush spreading throughout your
own body. The cast is uniformly good, though the frequent shouting
matches repeatedly reach a decibel that quickly overwhelms such an
intimate theatre. Regardless, that they skip so nimbly through the
fascinating maze Stoppard's constructed is a relief, and reason enough
to go. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru July 31. (626) 355-4318
FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE WHEN THE RAINBOW IS NOT ENUF Ntozake Shange's 1975 choreopoem. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 7, plays411.com/forcoloredgirls. (818) 990-2324.
THE GOLDEN AURORA Steve Fechter's story of love between a man and man's best friend. Alliance Repertory Company, 3204 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 31. (818) 284-6799.
IT'S JUST SEX Jeff Gould's comedy takes the underpinnings of sexual fantasy, fidelity and money and puts all of those nuances onstage in a contemporary comedy about three married couples. The wife-swapping plot is straight out of Hugh Hefner's pad, circa 1975. That the play resonates today, in the ashes of the sexual revolution, is one indication of how little has changed, despite how much has changed. (Steven Leigh Morris). Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (818) 762-2272.
IT'S TOP SECRET A new "Marx Brothers" musical comedy by Muro & Davis. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru July 11, itstopsecretthemusical.com. (818) 508-7101.
GO KING LEAR The old loon hasn't looked so good in some time. Bart DeLorenzo's staging for Antaeus Company's Classicsfest 2010 comes with two casts -- "The Fools" and "The Madmen." I saw the "The Madmen" and must reserve comment on the uberconcept until checking out "The Fools" this coming week. No need to reserve any enthusiasm for Harry Groener's Lear. Though his silver beard still doesn't help Groener look a stitch younger than 60 (Lear is supposed to be 80-plus), his gives a magnetic interpretation filled with surprises. But first, he renders the words sparklingly, with clarity and sensitivity. When his Fool (JD Cullum, also great -- nimble and smart without being a smart-ass) grills with his riddles, Groener's Lear listens and responds with a childlike innocence that is a cloak for growing despondency. And it's that sojourn toward spiritual oblivion that Groener carves with such intrigue, step by step, with alternate bursts of rage and defeat. He's magnificent and ably matched by Allegra Fulton's richly textured Goneril, who conjures memories of Estelle Parsons, mingled with the late, local actress Pamela Gordon. Gregory Itzin's Kent is grand, as is Nick Cagle's Oswald. Less so some of the supporting players, who render comparatively callow and shallow renditions compared to the masters at the helm. DeLorenzo stages a modernist interpretation that starts with Napoleanic military chic (costumes by A. Jeffrey Schoenberg) -- all those boots stretching up to the thigh! -- and evolves to contemporary desert warfare attire. No, this is not an imposition or a gimmick. It fits snugly into the play's expedition into the surreal, in a work about aging and senility, the blessings and curses of time. DeLorenzo's staging suggests that what is unfolding is the history of our times, through ellipses of power and its abuses. He's on firm terra ether. (Steven Leigh Morris). Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 8. 818-506-1983.
PATRIOTISM UNLEASHED Unleashed! Sketch-comedy show, produced by Theatre Unleashed. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs., 9 p.m.; Sat., 10:45 p.m.; thru July 31...
PEACE IN OUR TIME The Antaeus Company presents Nol Coward's post-war tale. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., July 10, 3 p.m., Antaeus.org. (818) 506-1983.
GO PRAYING SMALL Clifford Morts' intelligent drama about one man's struggle with alcoholism speaks compellingly of love, loss, the quest for self-forgiveness. An alcoholic named Sam (Morts) with a good job and a loving wife (Tara Lynn Orr) loses both. Filled with rage but unwilling to seek help, he's finally picked up by the police -- and only then does he begin his long, slow climb back to sobriety and self-respect. Relayed in nonlinear flashback, the play rivets our attention through the depth and breadth of the central character, an intrepid, introspective Everyman with a strong sense of irony, who references Thomas Wolfe and repeatedly mulls why it is that one can't go home again. There's humor here, too. The likable Morts delivers a dynamic performance, supported by a strong ensemble that includes Rob Arbogast as Sam's former drinking buddy, a sad fellow who sinks to the dregs of existence and never finds his way out. Designer Lacey Alzec's black, minimalist set comes off as unduly oppressive, while Coby Chasman-Beck's lighting effectively underscores the play's various shifts. Victor Warren directs. (Deborah Klugman). NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru July 18. (818) 508-7101.
NEW REVIEW GO PRISCILLA'S PERFECT DAY Young
Priscilla Periwinkle (Courtney DeCosky) has an annoying but good-hearted
little brother Billy (Matt Valle), whose idea of a great time is to
belittle his sibling with peurile jokes, such as calling her "Prisilly",
until she's at boiling point. They find themselves at their great
aunt's house in Maine for a family vacation with mom and dad (Natascha
Aldridge and Stephen Simon) - like in a parody of Father Knows Best.
They also brought along the semi-articulate family pooch, Roscoe
(Victor Isaac, in brown fur and floppy ears). Mom really runs things,
though Dad is whimsically smug enough to persuade you that he knows what
he's doing. And on this first day of the clan's getaway, it starts
pouring with rain. Priscilla likes to draw with crayons and, lo and
behold, she finds crayons with magical properties -- to transport
herself, along with Billy and Roscoe, to a land of her imagining, a
bucolic utopia depicted in Chris Winfield and Monica Martin's mural of
portable panels. When Billy gets hungry, Priscilla simply draws Billy's
favorite pancakes, and they materialize. This could be described as a
family musical about the Possibilites of Art (book by Diana Martin,
songs by Richard Levinson, who accompanies the actors on a spinet), but
that's probably not in the minds of the kiddies packed into the theater
on Saturday mornings, who really respond to the the musical's arbitrary
but effective element of danger, the Loch Ness Lobster. (For no apparent
reason, bright red claws appear intermittently from the wings, like in a
parody of Jaws.) There's also an odd local denizen named Mr.
Berrymore (Brian Wallis) and a Clam Chorus (Sarah Coker, Ben Freiberger,
Kaylena Mann and Martin). The Clams sing/plead for their lives before a
clam-bake. Levinson's songs stick around after the closing curtain -
particularly "Pancakes for Roscoe" that gets reprised in a curtain-call
sing-a-long. A bit slow going at the outset, the musical finds its
stride under Jeremy Aldridge's staging, thanks largely to the delightful
and accomplished performances, and the magical qualities of those
crayons, which enhance the familiar almost generic family with a streak
of wonder. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd.,
North Hollywood; Sat., 11 a.m.; thru July 17. (818) 700-4878. Produced
in association with Catawba Club Productions. (Steven Leigh Morris)
STEEL MAGNOLIAS Robert Harling's story of six Southern women. Missing Piece Theatre, 2811 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 & 8 p.m.; thru July 11...
THIS WAY TO YOUR RITUAL LOBOTOMY Felix Pire's new one-man stage comedy. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 24, ticketleap.com. (818) 766-9100.
TWELFTH NIGHT Shakespeare isn't usually the hottest ticket in town (that honor currently belongs to In the Heights), but that's more the fault of buttoned-up high school standards that refuse literature teachers the freedom to explore and explain the rampant bustier-and-trouser unbuttoning in the First Folio. Director Jeff Soroka continues modern theater's attempt to unclothe the plays in Theatre Unleashed's production of the comedy that, typical of Shakespeare, derives its plot from mistaken identity. Sprawled drunkenly between two of his harem at the start of the show, Shawn Cahill's Orsino is one of the most animalistic incarnations of a Shakespearean character in recent memory -- the audience smells before it sees him. Yet he rises both to the heightened language and demystifies it with a bold physicality; Darci Dixon, as Viola, has a fine command of the language, but her energy is so contained and her reactions so muted, she seems to be performing for the camera as opposed to the stage. Fortunately, the show's jesters -- Thomas W. Ashworth as Feste, Paul Bond as Sir Toby Belch, and Jim Martyka as Sir Andrew Aguecheek -- are respectively as witty, bawdy and stupid as intended; and Noah James Butler's excellent turn as the fraught Malvolio provides the prissy tautness to Cahill's alpha-male dispassion. Though Soroka's eye is on upping the sexual ante with his staging, unintentionally comical modern-dancing belly dancers and a boring, throwaway final scene (ah, Shakespeare's ever-problematic wrap-ups) leave the audience answering the eternal conjugal question, so often inspired by the Bard, with the reply: "No, that wasn't so good for me." (Rebecca Haithcoat). Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 31, theatreunleashed.com. (818) 849-4039.
URBAN DEATH Zombie Joe's Underground's horror show. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 11 p.m.. (818) 202-4120.
USS PINAFORE In addition to directing this production, Jon Mullich also did the adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta, H.M.S. Pinafore to the Starship Enterprise. This obviously includes restringing the lyrics and even song titles, so that "He Is an Englishman" becomes "He Is an Earthling Man." The concept is a mash-up of Star Trek and Galaxy Quest -- with accompanying jokes on both -- all played upon designer Tony Potter's terrific starship brig set. The transference of Gilbert and Sullivan's social satire into a few quips on our pop culture feels like a reduction of scale but nothing compared to the reduction served up in the tinny sound track. Delivering the goods with confident glee, this excellent ensemble deserves better. In fact, this would be a sinking ship were it not for the ensemble's charisma and the first-rate performances and voices of some key players, including James Jaeger's physically nimble, sonorously voiced Dick Deadeye -- imagine French Stewart as a lizard man. Jesse Merlin's Captain Corcoran is also magnificent, the embodiment of swagger, with facial muscles locked into a smirk and a voice that just keeps going. Ashley Cuellar's musical chops are similarly apparent as the Captain's daughter, Josephine. Her stage presence is perfectly adequate, but her voice hits the moon. (Steven Leigh Morris). Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru July 11. 1-800-838-3006.
THE WHO'S TOMMY Book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff, music and lyrics by Pete Townshend, additional music and lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon. Chance Theatre, 5552 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 8. (714) 777-3033.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS
ALL CAKE, NO FILE "Johnny Cash Prison Tribute Comedy Cooking Show/Concert," written and performed by Donna Jo Thorndale. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Fri.-Sat., 9 p.m.; thru July 31. (310) 838-4264.
BLACK COFFEE Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot mystery. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 1. (310) 364-0535.
HARLOW GOOD: WEST "Sexy, witty and gritty" cabaret created by choreographers Dominic Carbone and Tracy Phillips., $10-$25. Harvelle's, 1432 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Thurs.. (310) 395-1676.
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. A Rainbow Theatre Company production. (Paul Birchall). Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru Sept. 19. (310) 399-3666.
NEW EYES Yafit Josephson's autobiographical one-woman show. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Thurs., 8:30 p.m.; Sat., July 10, 8:30 p.m.; thru July 15, neweyesplay.com. (310) 500-0680.
SHAKESPEARE UNSCRIPTED Presented by Shakespeare by the Sea. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 1. (310) 512-6030.
SONGS AND DANCES OF IMAGINARY LANDS Overtone Industries' contemporary opera, directed by O-Lan Jones. Vacant Culver City Car Dealership, 8840 Washington St., Culver City; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 18, overtoneindustries.org...
TWELFTH NIGHT/JULIUS CAESAR Presented by Shakespeare by the Sea. Point Fermin Park, 807 Paseo del Mar, San Pedro; Thurs.-Sat., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 8. (310) 548-7705.
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