Stage Raw: Photograph 51
Photograph 51 Photo by Ed Krieger
This West Coast premiere of Anna Ziegler's powerful yet subtle play, Photograph 51, concerns Rosalind Franklin, the scientist who was instrumental in the discovery of the structure of DNA. Set against Travis Gale Lewis' cleverly accretive set and illuminated by Kathi O'Donohue's complex and variegated lighting, the play takes us into a seminal period in biophysics. No sooner are we introduced to Rosalind (Aria Alpert), her colleague Dr. Wilkins (Daniel Billet), and her graduate assistant Maurice Gosling (Graham Norris) than Rosalind declares in no uncertain terms, "Dr. Wilkins, I don't do jokes. I do science." Her confidence and professionalism leads to an uncomfortable friction with Wilkins and the rest of the chauvinistic male scientific establishment, including Watson (Ian Gould) and Crick (Kerby Joe Grubb), who are simultaneously in search of the genetic blueprint. While Rosalind remains the consummate professional, even cold at times, she does reveal slivers of her inner life through correspondence with American scientist Don Casper (Ross Hellwig). As each side gets closer to the genetic blueprint, one of Rosalind's photographs ends up becoming crucial to unlocking the mystery. Director Simon Levy efficiently orchestrates the manipulation of time and space, turning vast leaps into imperceptible segues, and inspiring powerful performances from his actors. The entire cast sparkles behind Alpert, whose portrayal of Rosalind's ruthless efficiency, biting wit, and deep pain is a tour de force that brings to mind Meryl Streep's take on Anna Wintour. This tribute to a woman who helped crack the Pyrex ceiling reminds us of the need to reexamine "his"tory, and should not be missed. The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through May 3. (323) 663-1525.
All of the weekend's NEW REVIEWS are embedded in the coming week's COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS. To access, press the "Continue Reading" tab directly below.
TicketsWed., Jan. 25, 6:00pm
Rebels of Comedy
TicketsWed., Jan. 25, 7:30pm
TicketsWed., Jan. 25, 8:00pm
Tonight At the Improv with Brian Moreno & More!
TicketsWed., Jan. 25, 8:00pm
Wednesday: a Stand-Up Comedy Show with Nikki Glaser, Tony Sam & More!
TicketsWed., Jan. 25, 10:00pm
COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for March 27-April 2, 2009
(The weekend's New Reviews are embedded in "Continuing Performances"
below . You may also be able to search for them by title using your
computer's search program.)
Our critics are Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III, Martin Hernandez,
Mayank Keshaviah, Deborah Klugman, Steven Leigh Morris, Amy Nicholson,
Tom Provenzano, Bill Raden, Luis Reyes, Sandra Ross and Neal Weaver.
These listings were compiled by Derek Thomas
OPENING THIS WEEK
AND THE AWARD GOES TO... The Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles salutes
Oscar-winning songs in this awards-show parody. Hosted by Miss Coco
Peru. Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale; Sat., March 28, 3
& 8 p.m.; Sun., March 29, 3 p.m., www.gmcla.org. (323) 467-9741.
BLACK ANGELES OVER TUSKEGEE The Black Gents of Hollywood present
Layon Gray's world-premiere drama about African-American fighter
pilots. Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., North
Hollywood; opens March 28; Sat., 7:45 p.m.; thru May 2. (818) 754-5725.
CAPTAIN DAN DIXON VS. THE MOTH SLUTS FROM THE FIFTH DIMENSON Matthew
Sklar's sci-fi sendup about space explorers and insect women. ZJU
Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens March 27;
Fri., 8:30 p.m.; Sat., 10:30 p.m.; thru April 4. (818) 202-4120.
THE DEVIL WITH BOOBS Sub-Devil First Class Barlocco possesses the
wrong body, in Dario's Fo's satire. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa
Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens March 27; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.;
thru May 16. (323) 882-6912.
42ND STREET Broadway hopeful lands the lead, music by Harry Warren,
lyrics by Al Dubin, book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble. Fred
Kavli Theatre for the Performing Arts, Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E.
Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks; opens March 27; Thurs.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 5. (805) 449-2787.
GLOVES REQUIRED "Poetic indulgence" by Zombie Joe's Underground. ZJU
Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens March 28;
Sat., 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 19. (818) 202-4120.
LAND OF THE TIGERS Tiger tale by Burglars of Hamm. Sacred Fools
Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; opens March 27; Fri.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 3. (310) 281-8337.
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE John Lahr updates Richard Condon's
political thriller. Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., Valley
Village; opens March 27; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 2,
www.theprodco.com. (800) 838-3006.
MUNCHED Kim Porter's drama about Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. El
Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., L.A.; opens March 28;
Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 2. (323) 960-5571.
MY UNCLE ARLY British theater company Hoipolloi's "family-friendly"
performance piece, inspired by the nonsense writings of Edward Lear.
UCLA Freud Playhouse, Macgowan Hall, Westwood; March 27-28, 7:30 p.m.;
March 28-29, 1 p.m.. (310) 825-2101.
THE PRODIGAL FATHER Larry Dean Harris' story of a father with
Alzheimer's and his gay son. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica
Blvd., L.A.; opens March 27; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru
April 26. (323) 957-1884.
RAIN Beatles tribute show, now in "surround sound"!. Pantages
Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; March 31-April 3, 8 p.m.; Sat.,
April 4, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., April 5, 1 & 6:30 p.m.,
www.raintribute.com. (213) 365-3500.
SEX, RELATIONSHIPS, AND SOMETIMES ... LOVE Monologues on all of the
above, by Joelle Arqueros. Actor's Playpen, 1514 N. Gardner St., L.A.;
opens March 29; Sun., 7 & 9 p.m.; thru May 10. (310) 226-6148.
SURVIVED Iraq War veteran is laid to rest, in Tom Burmester's drama.
Part of Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble's "War Cycle.". Powerhouse
Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; opens April 2; Thurs.-Sat., 8
p.m.; thru April 25. (800) 595-4849.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGION-WIDE
EVERYBODY SAY "CHEESE!" Garry Marshall's Bronx tale of a 1960s
middle-aged housewife newly inspired by women's lib. Falcon Theatre,
4252 Riverside Dr., Toluca Lake; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; Sat.,
April 11, 4 p.m.; thru April 11. (818) 955-8101.
GO FALLING UPWARD Ray Bradbury is better known for
his formidable achievements in the arena of Sci-Fi fiction, but he's
also penned a number of plays, including this charming, comedic fable
about the denizens of a tavern in rural Ireland. Heeber Finn's pub is
the setting, where a raucous, fun-loving band of Irishmen gather to
spin yarns, dance jigs, play music, sing and of course, "wash their
tonsils." As the play opens, the fellows sing a charming medley of
Irish songs while bending elbows under the watchful eye of Finn (Mik
Scriba). The music and singing are what gives this play its strange
magic. Nothing happens in the way of a plot. Garrity (the masterful Pat
Harrington) acts as a narrator and guide of sorts, the men share a
hilarious moment at the gravesite of a wine merchant, where, after
toasting the deceased, they piss on his marker, and there is a minor
fuss after a traffic accident. A strange contingent of tourists arrives
in Act 2, which causes some soul searching. You might say that the
playwright wins the pot with a flat hand here. The music is superb;
Jeff G. Rack's tavern set is artfully crafted, and director Tim Byron
Owen creates an atmospheric charm that's irresistible. (LE3) El Portal
Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
Sun., 3 p.m.; through April 5. (818) 508-4200.
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF The Broadway hit about a Jewish milkman and his
daughters, book by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon
Harnick. Rubicon Theater, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura; Sun., 2 p.m.;
Wed., 2 & 7 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., March 28, 2 & 8
p.m.; thru April 26. (805) 667-2900.
GO FROST/NIXON After Stacy Keach as Nixon in
Frost/Nixon, which opened last night at the Ahmanson, finished a late
night phone call to interview-host David Frost (Alan Cox) in what could
be called sculpted aria of paranoid ramblings, I heard a voice from the
row behind me: "That was the best scene in the movie." It's an
inevitable consequence of timing that Center Theatre Group's production
of Peter Morgan's play, coming two years after it closed on Broadway
with Frank Langella and Michael Sheen, would arrive so recently after
Ron Howard's much heralded film, which is so fresh, it hasn't yet
arrived on DVD. It's equally inevitable, and tedious, that people will
say, "The film was so much better than the play." I'm holding an
"advantage" of not having seen the film, though I did see Langella and
Sheen in the Broadway production, replicated at the Ahmanson with the
same design team and director (Michael Grandage). The experience is a a
bit like seeing a familiar movie in a different city, with the slightly
surreal impression that the actors are not quite the same.Morgan's play
is David and Goliath saga of a highly facile TV entertainment-host
landing a coveted four-part interview with a wounded giant
ex-president. It's a game of bait and debate, requiring momentous
preparation by each side, with its teams at war over the very high
stakes of legacy. And then comes the interview itself, broadcast "live"
on a video monitor that looms over the action.With Langella as Nixon,
the play was a Greek tragedy. With Keach, it's more of a romantic
tragedy.Keach cuts an imposing yet amiable and ferociously intelligent
figure of Nixon, not half as smarmy or snipey as Langella's, or as
press accounts detail, or as portrayed in plays by Donald Freed. It
took Keach about 15 minutes to find his strike, vocally and physically,
on press night, but once he did, he rolled through the play with the
dexterity and force of a nimble tank, eliciting considerable pathos.
Playwright Morgan also gives him such wit, that his protests about
being an perpetual outsider belie the evidence we see on the stage.
This is a guy who'd seem to do quite well at dinner parties, at least
half as well as his authentic and almost ingratiatingly above-the-fray
playboy host. (SLM) Ahmanson Theater, 135 N. Grand Ave. downtown;
Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through
March 29. http://centertheatregroup.org
NEW REVIEW GO GHOSTS There's nothing
supernatural about Henrik Ibsen's 1881 drama: his ghosts are our own
bitter memories and the old, dead ideas that continue to confine and
stifle us. The form and the language may be dated, but the issues are
as fresh as ever. Mrs. Alving (Deborah Strang) has crucified herself in
the service of duty and respectability that narrow provincial society
and her own hypocritical minister, Pastor Manders (Joel Swetow), have
drilled into her. But her efforts to do the right thing have back-fired
because they were based on lies, and her attempts to shield her son (J.
Todd Adams) from hard truths have almost destroyed him. Ibsen has
structured his play like Oedipus Rex -- or a modern whodunit.
On a seemingly ordinary day, inconvenient truths keep emerging,
inexorably, till everything and everyone is morally compromised or
destroyed. Director-adapter Michael Murray has assembled a fine cast
(including Mark Bramhall and understudy Rebecca Mozo); he calibrates
their performances with precision, and reveals a sharp eye for Ibsen's
dark comedy. If one wanted to quibble, one might wish the last scene
had been played for a bit less melodrama, but overall it's a terrific,
coherent, and always engrossing production. Nikki Delhomme provided the
fine costumes. A Noise Within, 234 South Brand Boulevard, Glendale; in
alternating rep through May 9; call for schedule. (818) 240-0910. (Neal
Ghosts Photo by Craig Schwartz
World premiere of John Kolvenbach's comedy about two mismatched college
students who fall in love. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr.,
Costa Mesa; Tues.-Sun., 7:45 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 5.
NEW REVIEW GO LOUIS & KEELY: LIVE AT THE
SAHARA I haven't seen this musical study of '50s lounge-act crooners
Louis Prima and Keely Smith since its transcendent premiere at Sacred
Fools Theatre last year, and oh, is it different. Documentary and
Oscar-nominated film maker Taylor Hackford has been busy misguiding
writer-performers Jake Broder and Vanessa Claire Smith's musical.
Taylor took over from director Jeremy Aldridge, who brought it to life
in east Hollywood. Smith and Broder have drafted an entirely new book,
added onstage characters - including Frank Sinatra (Nick Cagle) who,
along with Broder and Smith, croons a ditty. (As though Cagle can
compete with Sinatra's voice, so embedded into the pop culture.)
They've also added Prima's mother (Erin Matthews) and other people who
populated the lives of the pair. The result is just a little
heartbreaking: The essence of what made it so rare at Sacred Fools has
been re-vamped and muddied into a comparatively generic bio musical,
like Stormy Weather(about Lena Horne) or Ella(about
Ella Fitzgerald). It used to be so much more because it was so much
less. What was a kind of musical poem is now an explanation. What was
mysterious is now explicit, not only in the play but in slide
projections.What made this musical so rare was the simplicity of its
premise: Prima, a lounge act singer whose act is dying brings in a
16-year-old, Smith, to save his act. She falls for him; he tortures her
by rebuffing her romantically and exploiting her off-stage passions on
the stage. After they eventually marry, her talent overshadows his, and
the off-stage jealousy and hostility energizes the stage act. Prima's
yearning for fame leaves him exiled and in a coma, where the play
begins and ends. This entire story was channelled through the two
characters and the onstage band. Every song, from "Basin Street Blues"
to "I've Got You Under My Skin" was a manifestation of either Prima's
quest for immortality or the jealousies occurring in their partnership.
The music met the text-book definition of how songs are supposed to
serve a musical, to express what can't be said in life. But if Frank
Sinatra grabs the stage to croon a song that comments on their
marriage, or Prima's mother stands ironing stage left, that rarefied
bubble is shattered. There was one riveting scene where young Keely
Smith approached one of the musicians for comfort - sliding
precariously down the slope of betrayal. That scene, an illustration of
how a story could be told within the strict confines of a tightly
constructed world, is gone, but so is that world. Hackford clearly
never understood or appreciated the pristine theatricality of what
Broder, Smith and Aldridge had carved. The play's core and tone have
been diminished by the cinematic expanse of a documentary, rife with
psychological theories and the gratuitous appearance of (and scenes
with) other characters. Add to that a tonal shift: The musical's
original heart of darkness has been sprayed over by a larger proportion
of upbeat numbers replacing some of the reflective ballads. Gone are
"Tenderly/Can't help Lovin' Dat Man of Mine," "Come Rain or Come
Shine", and "I've Got You Under My Skin." The good news is the terrific
musicianship, the musical direction originally by Dennis Kaye and now
shared by Broder and Paul Litteral, remains as sharp as ever, as are
the title performances. Broder's lunatic edge and Bobby Darin singing
style has huge appeal, while Vanessa Claire Smith has grown ever more
comfortable in the guise and vocal stylings of Keely Smith. It was the
music that originally sold this show, and should continue to do so.
With luck, perhaps Broder and Smith haven't thrown out their original
script. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Thurs.,
8 p.m.; Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 3:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30
p.m.; through April 26. (310) 208-54545. (Steven Leigh Morris)
Sin: A Cardinal Deposed Photo by Eric Curtis
SLOW CHILDREN CROSSING Sketch comedy "with a distinctly
African-American sensibility.". Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica
Blvd., L.A.; Tues., 8 p.m.; thru April 14. (323) 960-7745.
STITCHING Combine equal parts Harold Pinter, EC Comics and Al
Goldstein, then shake ― but not stir ― till thoroughly black and blue,
and you might approximate the acrid, psycho-sexually explicit
minimalism on tap in Anthony Neilson's bleak, 2002 relationship
melodrama. Two narrative timelines trace the final, grueling chapters
in the troubled marriage of 30-somethings Abby (Meital Dohan) and Stu
(John Ventimiglia) when infidelity and an unplanned pregnancy transform
a merely bad marriage into a nightmarishly sadomasochistic dance of
death. Alternating between past and present, the narrative effectively
juxtaposes the bickering couple's fateful choice to remain together and
have the baby with that decision's grimly ironic aftermath ― an unseen
tragedy and the increasingly self-destructive and brutal role-playing
sex games through which the couple attempts to expiate their guilt.
Neilson, a graduate of Britain's much-trumpeted "in-yer-face"
playwriting school, injects the proceedings with enough graphic sex and
violence (including a particularly grisly twist ending) to justify his
alma mater's transgressive reputation, but the intended shock effects
quickly wear thin. Despite Dohan's searing and soulful turn, Abby is
too much of a cipher for Stu's sexually degrading antics to signify as
much more than phallocentric pornography. Director Timothy Haskell
doesn't mitigate matters by smothering the delicate rhythms of
Neilson's abstract text under an overblown, kitchen-sink mise en scene
and interminably long scene changes. (BR) Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian
Way, Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru April 5. (323)
TENNESSEE WILLIAMS UNSCRIPTED Impro Theatre creates full-length
plays on the fly, all in the style of playwright Tennessee Williams.
Theatre Asylum, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,
7 p.m.; thru April 26. (800) 838-3006.
13 BY SHANLEY FESTIVAL Seven full-length plays and six one-acts by
John Patrick Shanley. (Weekly schedule alternates; call for info.).
Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., Sun., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2
& 8 p.m.; thru May 24. (323) 960-7827.
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)
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS
BEST WISHES Bill Barker's story of a family's final goodbyes to
their mother and their rural Kansas home. Crown City Theatre, 11031
Camarillo St., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru
April 19. (818) 745-8527.
GO THE BIRD AND MR. BANKS Alternately ghoulish and
sweet, playwright Kevin Huff's darkly ironic tale is a pleasingly
twisted mix of romance and Grand Guignol horror. After she's dumped by
her louse-lover boss (Chet Grissom), corporate secretary Annie (Jenny
Kern) tries to kill herself. She receives emotional support from a
co-worker - the soft spoken, eerily staring accountant, Mr. Banks (Sam
Anderson), whom the other folks in the office have long considered
slightly creepy. After she moves into Mr. Banks' sprawling, dusty
house, Annie discovers that the co-workers don't know the half of it.
Still attached by a cast iron Oedipal apron string to parents long
since dead, Banks has furnished the home in a dusty style that can
charitably be called "Norman Bates Modern." When Annie's boss stops by
and attempts to rape her, Banks pulls out a cudgel and events take a
gruesome turn. Although the plot slightly bogs down during a needlessly
long Act Two road trip, Huff's writing is otherwise smartly edgy, full
of vituperative charm. Director Mark St. Amant's comedically tight
production punches the weird, Addams Familytone with brio,
nicely balancing horror with genuine sympathy for the characters. From
his deep, soft, insanity-steeped voice to his shambolic gait and his
half baked "drunk crazy uncle" stage persona, Anderson's turn as the
crazed killer-accountant is utterly compelling. (PB) Lankershim Arts
Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,
2 p.m.; through May 2. (866) 811-4111. Road Theater Production.
GO A DON'T HUG ME COUNTY FAIR. This crowd-pleasing
cornball musical, by Phil and Paul Olsen, suggests a home-town talent
show combined with a sort of Minnesota Folk Play, full of bad jokes,
and set in a bar called The Bunyan, on the first day of the Bunyan
County Fair. Proprietor Gunner Johnson (Tom Gibis, who also plays
Gunner's man-hungry sister Trigger) is so uncomfortable talking about
feelings that he can't pronounce the word "love." His frustrated wife,
Clara (Judy Heneghan)m seeks attention by becoming a contestant in the
Miss Walleye Contest, whose winner will have her face carved in butter.
Also in the running are Trigger and Bernice (Katherine Brunk), a
scatty-but-shapely gal who longs to star on Broadway. And there are
other competitions: karaoke-machine salesman Aarvid Gisselsen (Brad
McDonald) and camping supplies tycoon Kanute Gunderson (Tom Limmel) vie
for the hand of Bernice, while Kanute and Gunner compete in the fishing
contest. The songs, by the Olsens, are rinky-tink and derivative,
borrowing melodies from everywhere, but somehow they work. The giddy
tone is set by Doug Engalla's direction, Stan Mazin's choreography, and
an astonishingly detailed set by Chris Winfield, featuring a karaoke
machine with a mind of its own. (NW) Lonny Chapman Group Repertory
Theatre, 10900 Burbank Boulevard, N. Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.,
Sun., 2 p.m., thru May 2. (818) 700-4878 www.lcgrt.com.
GO DRACULA Director Ken Sawyer, who recently
helmed the delightful Lovelace: A Rock Opera at the Hayworth, has
scored again with this stylish adaptation of Bram Stoker's vampire
tale. Co-writers Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston's liberties they
take on the story in now way diminish the quality of the production.
Robert Arbogast is splendid as the creepy count, first seen rising from
his grave to put the bite on the lovely Mina (Mara Marini), upon his
arrival in England. When Lucy Seward (Darcy Jo Martin), contacts a
mysterious illness, her mother, Lily (Karesa McElheny), who runs an
asylum, enlists the expertise of Abraham Van Helsing (Joe Hart) to find
a cure. Thrown into the mix are Lucy's betrothed Jonathan Harker (J.R.
Mangels) and the mad, bug-eating Renfield (Alex Robert Holmes). This
one's all about atmosphere. Desma Murphy's alluring set design is
cleverly accented by an enormous backdrop of an incubus sitting on a
sleeping woman, inspired by Henry Fuseli's painting "The Nightmare."
Luke Moyer's lighting schema is perfectly conceived. Sawyer uses an
arsenal of haunted house special effects here, including lots of
rolling fog and wolf howls, but they never come across as cheesy or
overdone; and there are a few scary moments during this 90-minute show,
amidst the well-placed humor. (LE3) NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia
Blvd.; N. Hlwyd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through April 26.
ELOVE, A MUSICAL.COM/EDY Wayland Pickard's musical explores an
online romance between an older man and woman who are newly single.
After a Web site called "eLove" matches Frank (Lloyd Pedersen) and
Carol (Bobbi Stamm), love seems to blossom as they begin chatting
online. The opening number "I'm Single" has a catchy tune with some
clever lyrics; unfortunately the highlight of the show comes five
minutes in. The rest devolves into repetitive and unimaginative quips
punctuated by musical numbers that plunge from the pedestrian to
something akin to theme songs from an '80s sitcom. (MK). Victory
Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Toluca Lake; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,
4 p.m.; thru March 29. (818) 841-5422.
IT'S THE HOUSEWIVES! Domestic divas rock out, music and lyrics by
Laurence Juber and Hope Juber, book by Hope Juber and Ellen Guylas.
Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Fri.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 29. (323) 960-5563,.
LA RONDE Antaeus Company presents Arthur Schnitzler's romantic
roundelay. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood;
Fri.-Sat., 10:30 p.m.; thru March 28. (818) 506-5436.
THE LETTERS John W. Lowell's drama set in the Soviet Union's
Ministry of Information. New Place Theatre, 10950 Peach Grove St.,
North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 19.
MACBETH Forget radically deconstructed concept productions or
contemporary political reinterpretations, director Sean Branney
delivers no such surprises in his traditional and somewhat generic
staging of Shakespeare's Scottish noir. With the text more-or-less
intact ― even the oft-cut first witches' scene remains ― Branney's most
brazen liberty is to goose the testosterone with the kind of onstage
swashbuckling (choreographed by Brian Danner) that Shakespeare had
intended be played offstage. Otherwise, this bard is strictly by the
book. The good news is Andrew Leman's muscular, articulate turn as
brave Macbeth. Leman's performance is nobility personified; which is to
say his regal demeanor is only occasionally ruffled by the underlying
corruption of a "vaulting ambition" that will turn Macbeth, after
Richard III, into Shakespeare's most notorious regicidal maniac. As the
play's invidious femme fatale, McKerrin Kelly compliments Leman with a
Lady Macbeth who makes even icy ruthlessness seem sexy. Other standouts
include Daniel Kaemon's dashing Malcolm, and Mike Dalager and Danny
Barclay, whose pair of scurvy-chic Murderers looks like they stepped
out of a Guns N' Roses video. For the rest of the cast, costume
designer Christy M. Hauptman eschews highland tartan for robes of a
more indeterminate, medieval kind. That nonspecificity is continued in
the raised stone altar and henge-like monoliths of Arthur MacBride's
set, whose suggestion of Neolithic pagan ritual may be a clever design
for Macbeth . . . not, however, for this one, which never otherwise
hints at such themes. (BR) The Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Toluca
Lake; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 26; (818) 846-5323.
MISCONCEPTIONS Seven short plays by Art Shulman. Lonny Chapman Group
Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 2 p.m.;
Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 29. (818) 700-4878.
PICNIC William Inge's Pulitzer Prize winner about a hunky
drifter in a small Kansas town. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra
Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru
April 11. (626) 355-4318.
REFUGEES It's culture clash for an ESL teacher in Iran, Armenia and
the former Soviet bloc, written and performed by Stephanie Satie.
Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 5. (323) 960-4451.
THE SIN OF HEROES Two short comedies:
Flashman by Brandon Hayes. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North
Hollywood; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 28. (323) 474-6227.
GO A SKULL IN CONNEMARA Playwright Martin McDonagh
-- a four time Tony nominee is known for his rhythmic, ungrammatical
dialogue and a worldview that's comic, unsparing and just. He sets his
plays in Irish villages so small and overgrown with past grievances
that neighbors remember 27-year-old slights that didn't even involve
them. Here, a part time gravedigger named Mick (Morlan Higgins) and his
sop-headed assistant, Mairtin (Jeff Kerr McGivney), are assigned to
disinter the bones of Mick's wife, dead of a car crash officially, but
the bored locals, like old widow Maryjohnny (Jenny O'Hara) and Thomas
the cop (John K. Linton), have long whispered how she was murdered by
her husband. Under Stuart Rogers' measured direction, Higgins feels
capable of dismissive violence -- say, flinging hooch in Mairtin's eyes
-- but we're reluctant to see the killer that could be hibernating
within his bearish frame. Instead of plumbing the comedy's bleak
cruelty, the production plays like a cynical -- and highly watchable --
Sherlock Holmes story; the focus is on the villagers' thick webs of
past and present tension, which spins itself into an obsession with
fairness where characters glower," Now I have to turn me vague
insinuations into something more of an insult, so then we'll all be
quits." Jeff McLaughlin's fantastic pull down set converts from a
living room to a cemetery, with grave pits as deep as Higgin's thighs
are thick. (AN) Theatre Tribe, 5267 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood;
Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 28. (800) 838-3006.
TALES OF AN UNSETTLED CITY: BEGINNINGS Seven late-night vignettes by
Theatre Unleashed. Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 Magnolia
Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 10:30 p.m.; thru April 18. (818) 849-4039.
THE WAY OF THE WORLD William Congreve's Restoration comedy, updated
to modern-day L.A. Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 Magnolia
Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru April 19.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS
GO THE BOURGEOIS GENTILHOMME You'd think, from reading the
world press, that racism and, by extension, classism, had suddenly been
vanquished from the nation - overnight, by a stunning national
election. Such is the power of symbolism and hope. Sooner or later, we
will settle into a more realistic view of who we are, and were, and how
we have evolved in ways perhaps more subtle than the current "we are
the world" emotional gush would lead one to believe. It's in this more
self-critical (rather than celebratory) frame of mind that Moliè's 1670
comedy - a satire of snobbery and social climbing - will find its
relevance renewed. For now, however, Frederique Michel (who directed
the play) and Charles Duncombe's fresh and bawdy translation-adaptation
serves up a bouquet of comedic delights that offer the caution that --
though celebrating a milestone on the path of social opportunity is
worthy of many tears of joy -- perhaps we shouldn't get ahead of
ourselves with self-congratulation. Bourgeois Gentlemanwas first presented the year Tartuffe,
and it contains many of the hallmarks of its more famous cousin: a
deluded and pompous protagonist (Jeff Atik); a con man (Troy Dunn)
aiming for social advancement by speculating on the blind arrogance of
his patron; and the imposition of an arranged marriage, by the insane
master of the house, for his crest-fallen daughter (Alisha Nichols).
The play was originally written as a ballet-farce, for which composer
Jean-Baptiste Lully performed in the production before the court of
Louis XIV. Michel's visually opulent staging features scenery (designed
by Duncombe) that includes a pair of chandeliers, and costumes (by
Josephine Poinsot) in shades of red, maroon and black. Michel employs
Lully's music in a nod to the original. (The singing is far too thin
even to support the jokes about its competence.) Michel also includes a
lovely ballet by performers in mesmerizing gtears of a clownh masks,
a choreographed prance of the fops, and she has characters bounding and
spinning during otherwise realistic conversations, in order to mock
style over substance. Comedy has a maximum refrigeration temperature of
75 degrees, and when that temperature was exceeded during Act 1 on the
performance I attended, the humor ran off the tracks - despite the
broad style being sustained with conviction by the performers. By Act
2, the heat problem had been remedied and the comedy started playing
again as it should. In fact, I haven't seen a comic tour de force the
likes of Atik's Monseiur Jordain since Alan Bomenfeld's King Ubu at A
Noise Within. As Jourdain is trying to woo a countess (the striking
Deborah Knox), Atik plays him attired in silks and bows of Ottoman
extravagance, with a blissfully stupid expression - every dart of his
eyes reveals Jordain's smug self-satisfaction that's embedded with
delirious ignorance. (SLM) City Garage, 1340½ (alley) Fourth Street,
Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5:30 p.m.; through May 8. (310)
BURN THIS Lanford Wilson's drama about four New Yorkers and a
funeral is a slippery portrait of love and loss. Staged with a warm
cast, it's flush with hope; just as easily, though, a more aloof
ensemble can flip it into a play about emotional isolation where the
polite relationship between Anna (Marisa Petroro) and perfect-on-paper
boyfriend Burton (Jonathan Blandino) casts a cold shadow across all
dynamics, making her devotion to callously funny roomate Larry (Aaron
Misakian) and temperamental lover Pale (a wrenching and infuriating
Dominic Comperatore) seem nearly like pathological self-punishment.
Director John Ruskin sees this as a love story -- the scene breaks
twinkle with sentimental music -- however his cast isn't up to it and
hasn't even been instructed to at least pretend to be listening to each
other. (Burton's confession of a random blowjob from a strange man
rolls off Anna like he was droning on about the weather.) Comperatore's
combustible Pale has four times the spark of the rest of the ensemble
-- when he bursts into the scene, we see the gulf between what Wilson's
play could be and what this staging actually is. (AN) Ruskin Group
Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2
p.m.; through April 25. (310) 397-3244.
CINDERELLA: THE MUSICAL Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie's
family-friendly fairy tale. (Resv. required.). Santa Monica Playhouse,
1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat.-Sun., 12:30 & 3 p.m.; thru Dec.
27. (310) 394-9779.
NEW REVIEW DID YOU DO YOUR HOMEWORK?
Writer/performer Aaron Braxton has passion and talent - both amply
evident in this promising work-in-progress about the difficulties of
teaching in the urban classroom. A 13-year veteran with L.A. Unified,
Braxton builds his piece around his early experience as a substitute
teacher filling in for an old-timer - 33 years on the job - who one day
ups and quits. A gift for mimicry brings the performer's characters
into clear comic focus: himself as the beleaguered Mr. Braxton, several
colorful problem students, their even more colorful and problematic
parents and another staff member -- a well-meaning elderly bureaucrat
in charge of the school's counterproductive testing program. At times
Braxton steps away from dramatizing the action to speak to the audience
directly about the frustrations of trying to make a difference,
contrasting his own upbringing as the son of a teacher, taught to
respect education, with the imperviously disdainful attitude of his
pupils. He also sings 4 songs, displaying a beautiful voice. The main
problem with the piece is its disjointedness and discontinuity; the
songs, reflective of Braxton's message, are only tenuously connected to
the narrative, itself a patchwork collection of anecdotes juxtaposed
against addresses to the audience. This gives the show a hybrid feel -
part performance, part moral exposition, part musical showcase. Yet
there's plenty of power and potential here. Kathleen Rubin directs. Beverly Hills Playhouse,
254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through April
18. (310) 358-9936. (Deborah Klugman)
ESCANABA IN DA MOONLIGHT Jeff Daniels' comedy about deer hunters in
upstate Michigan. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 4. (310) 512-6030.
NEW REVIEW JUMPING THE MEDIAN Playwright
Steve Connell's collection of four one act plays may bill itself as
"unexpected," but for the most part the vignettes are sadly prosaic,
mining familiar romantic tropes and themes. Strongest of the set is the
promisingly stark "Us And Them," in which a bubbly young couple (Tyler
Moore and Sara Sido) move into their new home, which was previously
owned by a miserable, older couple (In-Q and Elizabeth Maxwell).
Imaginatively staged by co-directors Connell and Emily Weisberg, the
set is divided into two quadrants, showing both couples in the same
house at different times - and the piece artfully hints at the haunting
(if not necessarily logical) idea that the young loving couple must
inevitably turn into the older miserable couple. Sadly, the other
vignettes are not able to rise to the same emotionally nuanced level.
"Jumping the Median" is a plodding, overwritten opus about the long,
long, long courtship of a young couple (Ida Darvish and Connell), who
endlessly woo each other at that hoariest of one act play locales, the
iconic park bench. In "Love Thy Neighbors," whose choppy dialogue and
clumsily cartoonish tone has the sloppy and random feel of having been
written in haste, a suburban mom (Sara Sido) welcomes the neighbors for
dinner - and the neighbors somewhat inexplicably turn out to be literal
characters out of ancient Greek drama. Connell is a slam poet of some
national reputation, so it's natural that he and Weisberg's crisp
staging has a dark, streetwise edge. It's just a pity the writing
itself devolves so frequently into dull cliché. The Other Space at
Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th Street, Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through April 19.
http://www.plays411.com/jumpingthemedian. (Paul Birchall)
Jumping the Median Photo by Michael Farmer Photography
LIONS Vince Melocchi's new play features nine men and a woman
decaying slowing in a private watering hole during an major economic
slump -- this major economic slump. Set during the 2007/2008 football
season, Melocchi's story centers on John Waite (Matt McKenzie), an
unemployed metalworker whose desire to see the Detroit Lions win the
Super Bowl supplants all other priorities in his life. As his immutable
pride keeps him from opportunity, he grows sour and angry, a textured
and nuanced transformation that McKenzie performs poetically, even at
explosive heights of cursing and fighting. The rest of the denizens
seem to spiral around him, perhaps sinking into his black hole of self
worth. Director Guillermo Cienfuegos allows us to spend time with each
of the hopeless, revealing the play's pith and brutality with a
sensitive hand. But this tends to expose the play's relatively minor
weaknesses: the conveniently contrived exits and entrances, the
shapelessness of some of the relationships -- especially considering
the large cast, clumsy dialogue that sometimes spills awkwardly into
scenes. The strong ensemble, though, piles through these uneven aspects
to deliver an all around touching portrait of middle America, a
reminder that "real Americans" need not be so reductively characterized
as simply Joe the Plumber. (LR) Pacific Resident Theater, 705 ½ Venice
Blvd., Venice; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 29. (310)
MADE ME NUCLEAR On March 1, 2006, singer-songwriter Charlie Lustman was
informed by his doctor that he had a rare OsteoSarcoma (bone cancer) of
the upper jaw. What followed was a grueling and painful siege of
therapies, involving radiation injected into his body, surgery removing
three quarters of his jawbone, surgical reconstruction, and extensive
chemotherapy. When, after two years of treatment, he was declared
cancer free, he created this touching 12-song cycle about his
experiences. He sings about the bone-numbing shock and terror of being
told he had cancer, his fear of death and sense of helplessness, the
solace provided him by his loyal wife, his children and his doctors,
memory problems caused by his chemo (mercifully temporary), and so on.
But the tone is more celebratory than grim: he's determinedly
life-affirming, full of hope and gratitude, and his songs are pitched
in an intimate, jazzy, bluesy style. He's an engaging and personable
performer (thanks in part to his skillful doctors), who brings rueful
humor and mischief to a tale that might have been unrelievedly grim. If
anything, tries a bit too hard to keep things light. We need a bit of
scarifying detail if we're to appreciate his remarkable resilience and
optimism. (NW) Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th Street, Santa Monica;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., through May 20. (866) 468-3399 or
http://www.MadeMeNuclear.com Produced by the Sarcoma Alliance.
MISALLIANCE George Bernard Shaw's comedy of manners, marriage
proposals, and matrimony. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.,
L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 26. (310) 477-2055.
PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso trade
shots at a Paris bar, in Steve Martin's play. (In the Studio Theater.).
Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 11. (562) 494-1014.
NEW REVIEW GO THE SCHOOL FOR WIVES The
central character in Molière's comedy, here translated and adapted by
Frédérique Michel & Charles Duncombe could be and often is a
punching bag. But not here. Arnolphe is another in a stream of
Molière's aging, patronizing nitwits (like Orgon on Tartuffe) who
presume that they can control the devotions and passions of young women
in their care. In Tartuffe, when Orgon's daughter protests his
insistence that she break her wedding plans to her beloved suitor in
order to marry the clergyman he prefers, Orgon figures her rebellion is
just a impetuous, child-like phase. In The School for Wives, there's a
similar mind-set to Arnolphe (Bo Roberts), who has tried to sculpt his
young ward, Agnes (Jessica Madison), into his future wife. He's known
her since she was 4, and he's strategically kept her closeted, as
though in a convent, hoping thereby to shape her obedience and
gratitude. Just as he's about to wed her, in stumbles young Horace
(Dave Mack) from the street below her window, and the youthful pair are
smitten with eachother, soon conniving against the old bachelor.
Horace, not realizing that Arnolphe is the man keeping Agnes as his
imprisoned ward, keeps confiding in the older man about his and Agnes'
schemes, fueling Arnolphe's exasperation and fury. Perhaps it's the use
of director Michel's tender, Baroque sound-tracks, or the gentle
understatement of Roberts' performance and Arnolphe, but the play
emerges less as a clown show, and more as a wistful almost elegiac
rumination on aging and folly. Arnolphe tried to create a brainless
wife as though from a petri dish, an object he can own, and the more
she rejects him, the more enamored he becomes of her, until his heart
breaks. The pathos is underscored by the obvious intelligence of
Madison's Agnes - an intelligence that Arnolphe is blind to. The
production's reflective tone supersedes Michel's very stylized,
choreographic staging (this company's trademark). The ennui is further
supported by a similarly low-key portrayal by David E. Frank as
Arnolphe's blithe friend and confidante, Chrysalde. In In fact, when
lisping, idiot servants (Cynthia Mance and Ken Rudnicki) keep running
in circles and crashing into each other, Michel's one attempt at
Commedia physicality is at odds with the production rather than a
complement to it. Company costumer Josephine Poinsot (surprising she
doesn't work more) provides luscious period vestments and gowns, and
Duncombe's delightful production design, includes a gurgling fountain,
a tub of white roses, and abstract hints of some elegant, Parisian
court. City Garage, 1340½ Fourth Street (alley entrance); Sat., 8 p.m.;
Sun., 5:30 p.m.; through May 31. (310) 319-9939. (Steven Leigh Morris)
School for Wives Photo by Paul Rubenstein
THE SECRET GARDEN Musical take on Frances Hidgon Burnett's
children's novel, music by Lucy Simon, book and lyrics by Marsha
Norman. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 11. (310) 828-7519.
TAKING STEPS Alan Ayckbourn's 1979 sex comedy boasts a variety of
riotously farcical situations, droll dialogue, and hilarious, yet
believable characters. However, like many of Ayckbourn's other plays,
at the piece's core, the underlying themes of heartbreak, midlife
disappointment and greed suggest a much darker work teetering on a
razor's edge of despair. Boorish, but wealthy bucket- manufacturing
tycoon Roland (Marty Ryan, nicely smug) plots to purchase a run down
Victorian mansion to please his trophy bride, Elizabeth (the splendidly
kitten-like Melanie Lora). But when Roland arrives home to find that
Elizabeth has packed her bags and fled, he drinks himself into
oblivion, forcing his nebbish lawyer, Tristam (Jonathan Runyan), to
spend the night in the spooky house. Complications ensue when Elizabeth
returns home, and, in the dark, mistakes a snoozing Tristam for her
horny husband. The visual gimmick behind Ayckbourn's comedy is that,
although the play is set on three floors of a mansion, all the action
takes place on the same stage level, with the actors moving amongst
each other, without connecting with each other. It's a gag that tires
fairly quickly, and co-directors Allan Miller and Ron Sossi quite
rightly underplay the wearisome gimmick in favor of emphasizing the
play's more adroit character-driven comedy. A few cavils: The British
dialects are haphazard, which inevitably causes some of the performers
to bypass some layers of irony. Still, the ensemble work is mostly
deft, with Hoff's bloated pig of a husband, Lora's selfish and flighty
wife, and Runyan's innocent waif lawyer being wonderfully vivid, three
dimensional, and unexpectedly dark characterizations. (PB) Odyssey
Theater, 2055 South Sepulveda Blvd., West L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
Sun., 7 p.m.; through April 5. (310) 477-2055.
THE TAMING OF THE SHREW Shakespeare's curiously misogynist comedy
predates Neil Strauss' The Gameby 400 years, during which audiences
have yet to decide whether he's confirming or slyly eviscerating gender
roles. (In this only recently post-Guantanamo climate, breaking Kate
with starvation and sleeplessness and temporal disorientation seems
less comic.) This staging seems more concerned with mounting a handsome
production than a cohesive one. Jack Stehlin's direction takes each
scene individually, some playing up the humor into Three Stooges-style
slapstick while others burn sexual heat underneath red lighting. The
set's minimal props and checkerboard floor underscore the sense of
rootlessness - with characters standing by without much to do in a
scene, the large ensemble looks like game pieces waiting to move. The
cast turns out fine performances, each with their own tone; those that
choose naturalism fare best, particularly Geoffrey Owen's intelligent
Tranio and Stehlin's shrew-taming Petruchio, who has the easy
confidence of Clark Gable. (AN) Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda
Blvd., West L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through April 26. (310)
477-2055. A Circus Theatricals. production.
NEW REVIEW TRAGEDY, A TRAGEDY There are some
good ideas in absurdist playwright Will Eno's metaphysical satire of
the vapid, spectacle-driven infotainment that is local TV news.
Unfortunately, stretching what is at best a one-gag comedy sketch into
80 intermissionless minutes isn't one of them. The pity is that it
should have been a joke worth telling. When a mysterious, cosmic
calamity extinguishes all starlight, including the sun's, and thereby
plunges the earth into perpetual darkness, a hapless and incredibly
inept local news team is left grappling with how to provide live TV
coverage of the biggest story in history when there is literally
nothing to see. As a deadpan studio anchor (Christopher Spencer)
juggles remote feeds from field reporters Stephanie Dorian, Jeff
McGinness, and Paul Knox, the realization of having nothing meaningful
to communicate soon takes its toll. Unable to report on the outside
world, the crew's malaprop-mangled ad libbing slowly turns inward on
the terror and emptiness of their own existence. And while an able cast
(Spencer and Dorian are particularly fine) nails the insipid banalities
and portentous posturing of their characters, the material's comic
potential too soon evaporates. Director Eric Hamme fails to find either
the rhythms or the timing needed to extend the laughs, while Gisela
Valenzuela's bleak, all-black minimalist set and an overbearing sound
design by Matari 2600 only add to the crushing boredom. Garage Theatre,
251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 18.
(866) 811-4111. (Bill Raden)
GO THE TRIAL OF THE CATONSVILLE NINE In May 1968,
Father Daniel Berrigan (Andrew E. Wheeler ) and eight other peace
activists seized 378 draft documents and publicly burned them with
napalm to protest the Vietnam War and other American government
atrocities. Drawing on court transcripts, this play is an account of
their trial, which ended in conviction and prison terms for all
defendants. The script - Saul Levitt's stage adaptation of Berrigan's
original verse rendition - lays out an impassioned argument for
following the dictates of one's conscience, even when it involves
breaking the law. Each defendant relays what spurred them to take
action: a nurse (Paige Lindsey White) who witnessed American planes
bomb Ugandan villages, burning children, a couple in Guatemala (Patti
Tippo and George Ketsios) who saw American money used to outfit the
police while peasants starved, an Alliance for Progress worker (Corey
G. Lovett) who became privy to CIA machinations in the Yucatan. Taking
it all in is the presiding judge (Adele Robbins). Her sympathies,
reflecting ours, lean toward the defendants, even as she rules against
them. Under Jon Kellam's direction, cogent performances successfully
counteract the script's didactic language and cumbersome progression,
even though Robbins' performance lacks nuance. Perhaps most disturbing
is the piece's reminder that the aggression and subterfuge of the Bush
Administration constituted not a reversal of past policy, but a
radicalized extension of it. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation
Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2
p.m.; thru March 29. (310) 838-4264. (Deborah Klugman)
WHO LIVES? Christopher Meeks' play is engulfed in death: JFK has
just been shot, schoolkids duck and cover, and renal disease is
inescapably fatal. When blackhearted lawyer Gabriel (Matt Gottlieb)
learns his kidneys are shot, it feels like karmic revenge for him being
such a prick. Meeks has set the stage for Gabriel's Scrooge-like
redemption, and when we learn that an anonymous group of citizens will
vote on whether he merits a slot in an experiment, and highly
competitive dialysis program, his life is literally at stake. Of
course, he fails to get accepted into the program. In desperation, he
threatens to sue, thus negotiating a deal which gets him both a machine
and a spot on the seven-person board that decides whose life earn a
reprieve. Here, Meeks' plot grinds to a halt as the rest of the play
alternates between scenes of Gabriel and his estranged wife Margaret
(Monica Himmel) arguing, and of the group -- each a symbolic
personality -- debating cases that touch on racism, religion, and
suicide. Director Joe Ochman pushes the play dangerously close to
didacticism -- people don't talk, they yell -- and the overbearing
black and white set and costuming bleaches out much of the humanity
that needs to be at the heart of this story about life and death. (AN)
Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
Sun., 2 p.m. & 7 p.m.; through March 29. (310) 204-4440.
THEATER SPECIAL EVENTS
DOES HE KNOW? Experimental performance piece by Leslie K. Gray,
mixing solo show with shadow play in a story about broken
relationships. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice; Sat.-Sun., 4
& 7 p.m.; thru March 29. (310) 823-0710.
HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD EXTRAVANGZA Retro variety show by Captured
Aural Phantasy Theater, including art, music, and readings of vintage
comic books. Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8
p.m.; thru March 28, www.myspace.com/capturedauralphantasy. (866)
KISS MY BUTT Monthly sketch-comedy show by Theatre Unleashed's Die
Grüppe. El Cid, 4212 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Wed., April 1, 10 p.m.. (818)
LOS ANGELES WOMEN'S THEATRE FESTIVAL 16th annual celebration of
theater, dance, music, poetry and performance art by women of diverse
ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds. Highways Performance Space,
1651 18th St., Santa Monica; Fri., March 27, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 28, 2
& 8 p.m.; Sun., March 29, 2 & 7 p.m.. (818) 760-0408.
PERSONAL IS POLITICAL Poetry/performance festival, curated by
Michael Datcher. Includes a poetry slam and round-robin readings.
Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; April 2-4,
8:30 p.m.. (310) 315-1459.
PIÑATA Christine Schoenwald's personal-confession show, this month
with Kelly Carlin McCall, Penelope Lombard, Cary Odes, Adam Gropman,
Roy Cruz and Lan Tran. BANG, 457 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Thurs., April
2, 8 p.m.. (323) 653-6886.
REFERENCES TO SALVADOR DALI MAKE ME HOT Army wife awaiting her
husband's return from overseas loses herself in fantasy, in José
Rivera's play. Museum of Latin American Art, 628 Alamitos Ave., Long
Beach; Sun., March 29, 5 p.m.; Fri., April 10, 8 p.m.. (562) 437-1689.
THE SACRED PROSTITUTE Santo Cervello's play about "the union of the
masculine and feminine essence in the presence of the divine." Followup
presentation by Grace Lebecka. Church in Ocean Park, 235 Hill St.,
Santa Monica; Sat., March 28, 7:30 p.m.. (310) 664-3767.
SKETCHCOMEDYSHOW.COM Sketch, improv and film, courtesy Projekt
NewSpeak. East West Players, 120 N. Judge John Aiso St., L.A.; Sat.,
March 28, 7 p.m., www.sketchcomedyshow.com. (213) 625-7000.
TINY VAUDEVILLE 826LA hosts this once-a-month variety show
benefiting children's writing and tutoring programs. The Echoplex, 1154
Glendale Blvd., L.A.; Last Monday of every month, 8:30 p.m.; thru Dec.
28, www.826la.org/store-tickets/. (323) 413-8200.
THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES See GoLA., $40-$125. Santa Monica College
Performing Arts Center, Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica; Fri.,
March 27, 8 p.m.. (800) 595-4849.
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