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Stage Raw: Rebellion at Antaeus Company

Stage Raw: Rebellion at Antaeus Company


NEW THEATER REVIEWS
Stage FEATURE on Merry Wives of Windsor in Topanga Canyon and Griffith Park

Stage Raw: Rebellion at Antaeus Company

Tim Dietlein
1776

Glendale Centre Theatre's well-reviewed prodction of 1776 continues this weekend.

 

Rebellion at Antaeus: Back Stage has reported on the ousting of long-term Antaeus Company artistic director Jeanie Hackett by a cadre of actors in the membership. The article describes the friction between Hackett's efficient but top-down management in the company dedicated to classics -- a style that brought the company to prominence -- and the resentment of that style by certain members of the actor-based troupe. Some Board Members influential in securing and donating funds for the company have resigned, in support of Hackett.

 

Check back on Tuesday for reviews of Bikini Beach Bacchae Knightsbridge Theater; Dysnomia,  Lounge Theater; Fleetwood Macbeth, Troubies at the Falcon; Force 12, Electric Lodge; Othello, The Prodction Company at the Lex Theatre; Quake, D. Tucker Smith's new play at the Open Fist; The Real Housewives of William Shakespeare, Second City Hollywood; Shrek the Musical at the Pantages The War Zone Is My Bed,  Yasmine Rana's love confessional at Write Act Theater

 

Look after the jump for COMPLETE THEATER LISTINGS

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS FOR July 14-20, 2011

Our critics are Pauline Adamek, Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III, Rebecca Haithcoat, Martin Hernandez, Mayank Keshaviah, Deborah Klugman, Amy Lyons, Steven Leigh Morris, Amy Nicholson, Tom Provenzano, Bill Raden, 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

bikini Beach Bacchae Paul Miailovich reimagines Euripides' The Bacchae as a 1960s beach party. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through Aug. 7. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A., (323) 667-0955, knightsbridgetheatre.com.

Dysnomia Suburban housewife comes out of the closet in Marja-Lewis Ryan's world-premiere comedy. Starting July 16, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 21, plays411.com/dysnomia. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 469-9988.

Fleetwood Macbeth The Troubadour Theater Company's musical mashup of Fleetwood Mac and Shakespeare's tragedy. Fri., July 15, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 16, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 17, 2 p.m. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, (562) 944-9801.

Force 12 Jo D. Jonz goes inside the mind of a schizophrenic poet to an alternate universe known as Force 12. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 20, force12play.com. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice, (310) 306-1854, electriclodge.org.

The Hunter Davis Christmas Special Hunter Davis' holiday show gone awry. July 21-24, 8 p.m., (323) 960-7770, plays411.com/mychristmasspecial. Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., elephantstages.com.

Hurricane Season 2011 The Eclectic Company Theatre's eighth annual playwrights competition and new works festival. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 7. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village, (818) 508-3003, eclecticcompanytheatre.org.

It Must Be Him Kenny Solms' story of "a whiz-kid comedy writer from the heyday of variety television, who's now out of luck and out of new ideas." Starting July 16, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Sept. 4. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, (310) 399-3666, edgemarcenter.org.

Lavender Love Odalys Nanin's sex comedy about a Hollywood actress who time-travels back to the 1920s. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through July 24, (323) 960-4429, plays411.com/lavenderlove. Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood.

Othello Shakespeare's tragedy, adapted by Tiger Reel, set in modern-day Washington, D.C., and Fort Cyprus, Florida. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 20, (800) 838-3006, theprodco.com. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., L.A..

Pity of Things Five one-act plays by Jason Grote (Kawaisoo), Phinneas Kiyomura (The Little Darling), Bill Robens (Breaking), Tommy Smith (PTSD) and Delondra Williams (Desert Aria). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 7. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A., (323) 856-8611, theatreofnote.com.

Quake D. Tucker Smith's play set in Bindiger's Department Store, circa 2005. Fri., July 15, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 16, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 17, 2 p.m.; Sat., July 23, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 24, 2 p.m.; Thu., July 28, 8 p.m.; Fri., July 29, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 6, 2 p.m.; Wed., Aug. 10, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 18, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 20, 2 p.m.; Wed., Aug. 24, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 27, 8 p.m. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 882-6912, openfist.org.

'Roid Rage/Bridge Two by Willard Manus: a monologue about celebrity culture and a play about a jazz musician's nightly practice. Starting July 19, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Aug. 10. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A., (323) 469-3113, writeactrep.org.

The Screwtape Letters Stage adaptation of C.S. Lewis' Christian apologetics novel. Thu., July 21, 8 p.m.; Fri., July 22, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 23, 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., July 24, 3 p.m., screwtapeonstage.com. Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Dr., Irvine, (949) 854-4646, thebarclay.org.

Spider's Web Agatha Christie's 1954 whodunit. Starting July 21, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 21. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills, (310) 364-0535, theatre40.org.

Tape Stephen Belber's three-person motel-room drama. Starting July 16, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 6. The Little Theater L.A., 12420 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (310) 622-4482, theblackboxtheater.org.

The War Zone Is My Bed Yasmine Rana's love confessional, Sarajevo-, Kabul- and Dubrovnik-style. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 30. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A., (323) 469-3113, writeactrep.org.

Zohreh & Manouchehr Butterfly Buzz presents Iraj Mirz's musical comedy, based on Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis. Performed in Persian. Fri., July 15, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 16, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 17, 7 p.m., zohrehmanouchehr.com. Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center, Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica, (310) 434-3414, thebroadstage.com.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE

Fleetwood Macbeth The Troubadour Theater Company's musical mashup of Fleetwood Mac and Shakespeare's tragedy. Fri., July 15, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 16, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 17, 2 p.m. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, (562) 944-9801.

I Left My Heart: A Salute to the Music of Tony Bennett Created by David Grapes and Todd Olson, arrangements by Vince di Mura. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Sun., July 17, 7:30 p.m.; Thursdays, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 21. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, (949) 497-2787, lagunaplayhouse.com.

GO Les Miserables Cameron Mackintosh's 25th Anniversary tour of the international phenomenon arouses its crowds like a rock concert. The Victor Hugo novel of 19th century France's struggles with poverty and power (turned melodramatic operetta by Claud-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boubil) has never been out of theaters. This inspired new production is commercial theater at its finest. Of course singing prowess is the first responsibility of such an endeavor, and the astounding cast shows spellbinding assurance, particularly headliners J. Mark McVey as Valjean, Andrew Varela as Javert , Justin Scott Brown as Marius and Chasten Harmon as Éponine. Directors Laurence Connor and James Powell beautifully adapt Trevor Nunn's original staging to a stunning new mise en scene, utilizing the newest theatrical arts and technologies in lights (Paul Constable), sound (Mick Potter), costumes (Andreane Neofitou) and sets (Matt Kinley) - all integrated with emotionally stirring, animated rear projections. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through July 31. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A., (213) 628-2772, centertheatregroup.org.

Master Harold and the Boys Athol Fugard's South Africa story about a white teenager and his black servants. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 30. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 494-1014, lbph.com.

The Merry Wives of Windsor ISC's outdoor staging of Shakespeare's comedy. Thursdays-Saturdays, 7 p.m. Continues through July 31, (818) 710-6306, iscla.org. Griffith Park, 4730 Crystal Springs Dr., L.A., laparks.org/dos/parks/griffithPK. See Stage feature.

The Merry Wives of Windsor Theatricum Botanicum's outdoor staging of Shakespeare's comedy; in rep thru Sept. 10. Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Boulevard. (310) 455-2322. theatricum.com See Stage feature.

Moose on the Loose Back in the 1950s, the Tappino family left their home in Calabria, southern Italy, to search for work. They settled in Thunder Bay, in chilly northern Ontario, Canada, where the temperature often drops to minus-40 degrees. By 2001, they have become a large and obstreperous clan, headed by irascible paterfamilias Giuseppe (John Cygan) and his wife, Maria (Connie Mellors). Their children include studious Joseph (Nick McDow); couch potato Bruno and his Native American fiancée, Honabiji (Jemma Bosch); touchy Carmela (Corinne Shor), her husband, Darryl (Michael Lorre), and their young son Timothy (Grant Venable); and Giuseppe's other daughter, Gina (playwright Dina Morrone). Also present are Maria's parents, garrulous Rodolfo (Jack Kutcher) and acerbic Pina (Laura James), whose acid comments provide much of the comedy. Morrone's play is clearly semi-autobiographical, inspired by her family, and the day a moose wandered out of the bush and into a neighbor's backyard. Short on plot, the play centers on a big family dinner and Giuseppe's ill-starred attempt to shoot the moose. It's a pleasantly old-fashioned family comedy, affectionately but keenly observed, and deftly directed by Peter Flood. Tom Badal plays both the talkative moose and the local chief of police. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 24. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A., (323) 851-7977, theatrewest.org.

New Jerusalem, The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656 Hector Elizondo, Andrea Gabriel, Arye Gross, Amy Pietz and Richard Easton star in a reading of David Ives' "drama of ideas," to be recorded for L.A. Theatre Works' syndicated radio show. Fri., July 15, 2:30 & 8 p.m., (310) 827-0889, latw.org. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood, skirball.org.

Night Must Fall Emlyn Williams' thriller about a charming psycho killer, an aging invalid and her beautiful daughter. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 16. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 494-1014, lbph.com.

Peer Gynt Henrik Ibsen's classic drama, adapted and directed by David Schweizer. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through July 24. La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla Village Dr., La Jolla, (858) 550-1010, lajollaplayhouse.org.

The Screwtape Letters Stage adaptation of C.S. Lewis' Christian apologetics novel. Thu., July 21, 8 p.m.; Fri., July 22, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 23, 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., July 24, 3 p.m., screwtapeonstage.com. Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Dr., Irvine, (949) 854-4646, thebarclay.org.

NEW REVIEW GO 1776 Plays and movies based on history have never been slaves to fact, but Peter Stone's book, dealing with the tempestuous wheeling and dealing surrounding the creation and passage of the Declaration of Independence, is more faithful than most. It's not entirely accurate: Martha Jefferson never went to Philadelphia (cities were regarded as unhealthy places), and John Dickinson was a man of stature, not the right-wing fanatic depicted here. But the portraits of the founding fathers are probably more accurate than in some history books. Sherman Edwards' songs lean more on musical comedy tradition. This production is blessed with a brace of strong performers. Peter Husman finds both strength and comedy in the passionate, irascible John Adams, and Victoria Strong scores as his outspoken wife Abigail. Jeff Drushal provides a stalwart, laconic Thomas Jefferson, and Michaelia Lee is effervescent as his wife Martha. John Butz captures the wit, practicality, and vanity of wily Benjamin Franklin, Joey Zangardi lends a touch of foppish elegance to the ardent defender of slavery Edward Rutledge, and Jason W. Webb is an intransigent but conscientious John Dickinson. Director Todd Nielsen has mounted a strong, clear and eloquent production, while Steven Applegate provides crisp musical direction. Angela Wood supplies the gorgeous costumes. Glendale Centre Theatre, 324 N. Orange St., Glendale; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., July 17, 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 13. (818) 244-8481. glendalecentretheatre.com (Neal Weaver)

Shrek the Musical DreamWorks Theatricals and Neal Street Productions Ltd.'s musical adaptation of the Disney animated movie, book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Jeanine Tesori. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6 p.m.; Tuesdays-Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through July 31, (800) 982-ARTS. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A., broadwayla.org.

Tartuffe, ou l'Imposteur New adaptation of Molière's comedy, with songs by Ellen Geer and Peter Alsop. Saturdays, 4 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 21, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 28, 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 1, 4 p.m. Continues through Sept. 30. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, (310) 455-3723, theatricum.com.

GO Twist: An American Musical This big, splashy musical, with book by William F. Brown and Tina Tippit, lyrics by Tena Clark, and music by Clark and Gary Prim, is loosely adapted from Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, reset in New Orleans and given a bi-racial spin: Twist is a mulatto, son of a white mother, Angela (Ava Gaudet), and a black father (Jared Grimes). They are attacked by the local Ku Klux Klan, including Angela's arrogant and unscrupulous brother Lucius (Pat McRoberts), and the infant Twist is left in an orphanage. Jump to 1928: Twist (Alaman Diadhiou) is now 10 years old, ignorant of his parentage, and still in the orphanage. But greedy Uncle Lucius, having learned that the family fortune has been left to Twist, seeks to grab him as a key to the money. Dickens' Nancy becomes the good-hearted prostitute Della (Tamyra Gray) who befriends the boy. Fagin and Bill Sykes are combined in the role of Boston (Matthew Johnson), the local vice-king, bootlegger and Della's pimp. The score is seldom memorable, but it gives the huge, terrific cast a chance to shine on Todd Rosenthal's lavish, fast-moving, New Orleans-flavored sets. Director-choreographer Debbie Allen leads the athletic dance-ensemble in several dynamic musical numbers, including a Mardi Gras parade, complete with floats, stilt walker, "native" dancers, and yards of Mardi Gras beads. (Neal Weaver). Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through July 24. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, (626) 356-PLAY, pasadenaplayhouse.org.

The Wedding Singer Musical Theatre West presents the Broadway version of the 1998 romantic-comedy about a singer and a waitress engaged to the wrong people, music by Matthew Sklar, lyrics by Chad Beguelin, book by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy. Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., July 17, 7 p.m. Continues through July 24, (562) 856-1999, musical.org. Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach, www.carpenterarts.org.

Richard III Following a couple of progressive festivals, RADAR LA and Hollywood Fringe, with a traditional staging of Shakespeare is like following a gastronomically experimental meal with a bowl of plain vanilla ice cream. It's fine, of course, but you really were hoping for the ice cream to taste like foie gras or something equally surprising. Maybe if Melora Marshall had been playing the title role --director Ellen Geer has employed cross-gender casting -- on opening night, the production wouldn't have seemed so pedestrian both conceptually and in pace. But the play, second only to Hamlet in length, needs the kind of sprightly staging that a theatre carved into the hills of Topanga Canyon just can't support. Unfortunately, the production seems to offset its innate weaknesses with overacting. From the opening monologue, Chad Jason Scheppner's Richard spends more time mugging for the audience than allowing Shakespeare's already wry verse and textual characterization of Richard as anti-hero do their work naturally -- a real shame, considering the glimpses of talent that peek out from beneath this schtick. A couple of actors fare better (notably Earnestine Phillips, whose dagger-throwing delivery works with the vitriol she spits), but none enough to make you glad you stayed for dessert. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Sat., July 16, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 17, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., July 23, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 24, 3:30 p.m.; Sun., July 31, 3:30 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 7, 3:30 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 14, 3:30 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 19, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 28, 3:30 p.m.; Mon., Aug. 29, 3:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 4, 3:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 11, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 17, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 18, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 24, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 25, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 2, 3:30 p.m. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, (310) 455-3723, theatricum.com.

Zohreh & Manouchehr Butterfly Buzz presents Iraj Mirz's musical comedy, based on Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis. Performed in Persian. Fri., July 15, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 16, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 17, 7 p.m., zohrehmanouchehr.com. Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center, Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica, (310) 434-3414, thebroadstage.com.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS

NEW REVIEW GO AS YOU LIKE IT: THE MUSICAL Even in L.A., summer weekends feel special, precious because there are so few of them. The sun lingers longer, and we welcome his warm company, letting him usher us lazily into the early evening with a gin and tonic, or a scoop of lemon sorbet. The last thing we want is to dash off to a dark, meat-locker-cold theatre. Thank goodness The Classical Theatre Lab is on the same page of our beach read. Adapting Shakespeare's rom-com As You Like It into a even more lighthearted romp-slash-musical, director Tony Tanner has done the near-impossible -- make a "Shakespeare in the Park" series the general public will want to attend for the play as much as the picnic opportunity. With virtually no set (the "stage" is a courtyard in the middle of Plummer Park), Tanner's able cast zips through a lean 90-minute version of the story: Exiled to the forest, Rosalind (a saucy, strong-voiced Jessica Pennington) takes on the guise of a boy for protection. Paul D. Masterson's Orlando, who races off in pursuit of Rosalind, buys her masculine identity as well as her offer to profess his love for Rosalind to him as practice. The adaptation tosses in modern references (as to why Orlando hasn't shown up, Rosalind sings, "As least he can't say he got stuck on the freeway or missed his connecting flight at LAX") and toys with Shakespeare's homoerotic overtones in Orlando's Brokeback Mountain-esque ballad. Daniel Mahler's costumes don't quite match the lyrics: As Rachele Gueli's Celia and Rosalind sing that they'd "quit karate and lockup my skateboard," skinny jeans and Vans would be more appropriate than '40s-style dresses and heels. Small quibble. Spend a slice of your evening here -- they even wrap in time for you to catch the sunset. The Great Hall Courtyard in Plummer Park, 7377 Santa Monica Blvd. w. Hlywd.; Sat.-Sun., 6 p.m.; thru July 31. Kings Road Park, 1000 N. Kings Road; Sat., 8/6 and 8/13, 4 p.m.; Sun., 8/7, 11:30 a.m.; Sun., 8/14, 4 p.m. FREE, but reservations recommended: 323-960-5691. (Rebecca Haithcoat)

Attack of the 50 Ft. Sunday Jordan Black directs the Groundlings Sunday Company. Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A., (323) 934-9700, groundlings.com.

GO Bakersfield Mist Jackson Pollock's most famous paintings have polarized critics since the artist first attacked a horizontal canvas. That polarization feeds writer-director Stephen Sachs' new play, which uses a Pollock painting as the central symbol of class war. Mouthy Maude (Jenny O'Hara) spends her days lapping up Jack Daniels and watching police procedurals in her kitsch-filled Bakersfield trailer, until a painting she buys at a yard sale steals her focus from the idiot box. Convinced the cheap buy is a bona fide Pollock, Maude summons erudite art expert Lionel (Nick Ullett) to assess the painting's authenticity and value. Immediately disgusted with the crass, tasteless Maude, Lionel aims to quickly view the so-called Pollock and flee the mobile-home scene. But Maude's initially undetectable cleverness sparks a game of one-upmanship. Sachs directs the two-hander with an abundance of spirit, smartly letting the outstanding actors brawl and emote with delightful abandon. O'Hara brings a gleeful raunchiness to Maude throughout, but forces her character out of hiding to confront the quiet sadness shrouded by all that brass. Ullett's finest moment comes in a frenzied monologue that mirrors Pollock's creative process. While Lionel tells Maude he is there to evaluate the painting, not her, the play winningly sets out to disprove this lie at every turn. Jeff McLaughlin's set makes trailer-park life seem at once enviously cozy and exhaustingly humiliating. (Amy Lyons). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 31. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A., (323) 663-1525, fountaintheatre.com.

GO Bash'd! A Gay Rap Opera Since this musical, created by Canadian writers Chris Craddock and Nathan Cuckow and composer Aaron Macri, was inspired by the spike in hate crimes in Alberta, Canada, during the national debate on equal marriage for gays and lesbians, it's particularly appropriate that it was announced, just before curtain, that New York had just legalized gay marriage. This production, skillfully directed and choreographed by Ameenah Kaplan, moves at lightning speed. Two militant gay rappers, Feminem (Sean Bradford) and T-bag (Chris Ferro), come tearing onstage, spitting clever, rousing and defiant lyrics, with pounding hip-hop moves. After hilariously skewering various straight and gay targets, they set out to tell the tale of urban Jack (Bradford) and suburban Dillon (Ferro). When naïve Dillon arrives in the city, Jack becomes his mentor, and their relationship develops into love and marriage. But their happiness is marred when Jack is attacked and seriously injured by gay bashers, provoking Dillon to becoming a vigilante straight-basher, with disastrous consequences. The two actors, moving at driving speed, portray a kaleidoscopic array of characters, including fag hags, right-wing zealots and anxious or disapproving parents. DJ Jedi provides flawless musical direction from behind the turntables on Evan Bartoletti's evocative abstract set. (Neal Weaver). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 23. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 957-1884, celebrationtheatre.com.

Bikini Beach Bacchae Paul Miailovich re: imagines Euripides' The Bacchae as a 1960s beach party. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through Aug. 7. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A., (323) 667-0955, knightsbridgetheatre.com.

GO Blackbird Privacy glass surrounds the break room of a pharmaceutical plant. The people inside need the protection. A young woman (Corryn Cummins) has arrived to confront the 55-year-old man (Sam Anderson) who slept with her when she was 12. A decade and a half later, he's moved on: After he was released from prison, he changed his name and settled into a stable life in middle management. She can't. But David Harrower's shifty drama goes bolder than the expected revenge arc as the pair recognize they still think of themselves not as victim and perp but as ex-girlfriend and ex-boyfriend. The lean, mean intermissionless production is built of clipped, overlapping dialogue, and director Robin Larsen is still helping the cast find their rhythm in the intense real-time conversation. Compact yet dense, Harrower's script is layered with questions about attraction, second chances and life-altering actions. It's tricky and daring and in peril of incensing those upset by the man's claim that the girl pursued him -- and that he was no "sick bastard," but a 40-year-old man in love. Stephanie Kerley Schwartz's miserablist set captures the paranoid mood, as do the unnamed actors pacing the halls outside the room to make the couple increasingly jumpy, these bright blobs circling the showdown like sharks who smell blood. (Amy Nicholson). Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 5 p.m.; Mon., July 18, 5 p.m. Continues through July 25, roguemachinetheatre.com. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A., (323) 422-6361, theatretheater.net.

GO Broadsword The play's title refers to a middling heavy metal band from Rahway, N.J., whose members have gathered in the basement of the home of a colleague after attending a memorial service for him. Sixteen years after their last gig, Vick (Blake Robbins), Nicky (Kenneth Allan Williams) and Tony (Tim Venable), along with Becca (Heather Sher), a metal groupie, have no clue what happened to fellow band member Ritchie, who simply vanished one day and is presumed dead. The recriminations, rage, guilt and jealousy that gradually surface during this "after party" paint an edgy portrait of terribly unhappy people, and of once lofty aspirations that were stifled by mediocrity. The mood turns even darker with the entrance of an eccentric musicologist (Morlan Higgins), who developed a long-standing association with Ritchie -- the only member of the band with real talent -- and tells the incredulous group that his disappearance is the result of occult forces. The introduction of this supernatural conceit and its consequences comes across as a tad corny but doesn't appreciably detract from Marco Ramirez's otherwise excellently written script. Kurt Boecher's junked-up, derelict basement mock-up perfectly captures the play's distinct aura of menace, made all the more so by Leigh Allen's eerie lighting schema. Mark St. Amant has drawn strong performances from this cast, which includes a chilling turn by Armin Shimerman as the enigmatic Man in White. (Lovell Estell III). Thursdays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 31, (800) 838-3006. Black Dahlia Theatre, 5453 W. Pico Blvd., L.A., www.thedahlia.com.

GO The Burning Opera: How to Survive the Apocalypse If art, as Josef Albers insisted, is concerned with the how, not the what, then Ghostlight Gypsies' musical art carnival ranks as an unqualified coup de theater. The "what" in this case is the sprawling, 25-year history of "radical self-expression" in the Nevada desert known as Burning Man, at least as reimagined by composer Mark Nichols and lyricist Erik Davis in their rousing, mythic rock pageant. The "how" is the inspired decision by Nichols and fellow directors Stephen Hues and Julie Lewis to forgo the formality of a traditional theater or mise en scene for the intimacy of a downtown artist's loft and an environmental staging (designed by Daphne Vega and Yoni Koenig) that mixes live actors (in Wendy Doyle's eye-popping fetish costumes) and shadow puppetry with deejays, art installations, roving belly dancers, and food and craft booths. The result is part rock opera and part art party that -- for those old enough to remember -- evokes the anarchic spirit of L.A.'s underground theoretical punk-rock performance art events of the late-'80s. Two large shadow screens flank a live band (Nichols sits in as musical director) as the show sets the misadventures of a pair of archetypal "newbies" (Nichols & Lewis) against the larger tale of the desert festival itself and the eventual falling-out of its founders (Nichols & Troy Guthrie) over the conflict between Burning Man's phenomenal commercial success and its nonconformist ethos. Nichols' winning score works a Hair-era musical vocabulary of R&B and acid rock by way of Kurt Weill, while Davis delivers sardonic counterpoint in the role of the wisecracking narrator, The Bunny. The evening's stars are the polished, 15-member musical ensemble, which collectively boasts one of the best sets of pipes heard on any stage in L.A. this year. The magic comes courtesy of the inventive wit of puppeteers Nathan Fairhurst, James Murray and Vega. (Bill Raden). Fri., July 15, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., July 17, 8:30 p.m.; Thu., July 21, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., July 23, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., July 24, 8:30 p.m.; Thu., July 28, 8:30 p.m.; Fri., July 29, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., July 31, 8:30 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 4, 8:30 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 5, 8:30 p.m., ghostlightgypsies.com. Syrup Loft, 939 Maple Ave., L.A..

GO Caught In the aftermath of Proposition 8 passing in November 2008, one of the regrets of those who fought valiantly for gay marriage and against the proposition was that enough wasn't done to "normalize" gay couples. And while the events in David L. Ray's world-premiere play take place in July 2008, Caught furthers the cause by dramatizing one of those healthy relationships. In it, Angelenos Kenneth (Corey Brill) and Troy (Will Beinbrink) are on the eve of their nuptials, a ceremony that will be officiated by their friend Splenda (Micah McCain), who is ordained via the Internet. This blissful scene is interrupted by a visit from Kenneth's estranged sister, Darlene (Deborah Puette), who is very Southern and very Christian, as well as her daughter, Krystal (Amanda Kaschak). In the interludes between scenes, we also see Darlene's husband, T.J. (Richard Jenik), preaching to his conservative congregation in Georgia. Secrets, lies and surprising revelations fuel the drama. Director Nick DeGruccio deftly takes Ray's strong and likable characters from page to stage, sparingly playing up stereotypes for comedy without ever reducing the characters to them. Adding to the authenticity are Adam Flemming's delightfully detailed set and Katherine Hampton Noland's colorful couture. Adding to the emotional investment in the story is a talented cast; standouts include Puette, for her rich and intense portrayal of Darlene; McCain, for balancing divalike comedy with deep sincerity; and Kaschak, for combining fresh-faced innocence and a willfulness to create a very believable teenager. (Mayank Keshaviah). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 7, (800) 595-4849, CaughtThePlay.com. Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A..

GO Closet Land Indian-born, American-educated filmmaker Radha Bharadwaj's film about psychological and physical torture translates frighteningly to the small theater setting, where the starkness of limited production values forces focus on the two actors who portray an hour of cruelty and agony. Wayne Stribling Jr and Victoria Rabitcheff navigate the treacherous torrents of physical and emotional pain in the characters of ruthless inquisitor and bewildered suspect in a series of scenes following the violent arrest of a kiddy-book author, accused of trying to indoctrinate children against the never identified state. The title, representing childhood horror deep within the psyche of the accused, continually grows in meaning, metaphorically and literally, as the interrogation intensifies. Director John McCormick skillfully keeps the tension rising relentlessly for the full hour of this one-act, with breaks of gentleness only long enough to make the next twist of ugliness more intense. The director's sound design in perfect sync with this emotional odyssey. Dave Sousa's ability to create mood and areas with lighting are extraordinary -- especially given the limited equipment and space available. (Tom Provenzano). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 23, thevisceralcompany.com. NoHo Stages, 4934 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, noho-stages.us.

NEW REVIEW GO D IS FOR DOG begins with deceptive simplicity, as a (seemingly) entertaining parody of the mindless and stultifying conformity of the 1950s. Playwright Kate Polebaum's script focuses on the Rogers family, a robotic quartet consisting of a devoted couple, Mr. and Mrs. Rogers (Guy Birtwhistle and Nina Silver), and their enthusiastically complaisant kids (played by adults), Dick and Jane (Michael Scott Allen and Taylor Coffman). Each morning, a smiling Mrs. Rogers pirouettes through the kitchen to display its glories, and at each breakfast the family pays a jingled tribute to Maxwell House and Aunt Jemima. Only Mr. Rogers, a scientist who works for the omnipotent Conservation Company, is aware of the ominous forces threatening their home. He maintains a protective silence so as not to alarm his loved ones -- until strange phone calls start to intrude on their innocence. Director Sean T. Cawelti and tech director Tyler Stamets marshal a panoply of talent to relay what metamorphoses into a riveting sci-fi tale that, like the best of that genre, comes off as frighteningly prescient. The spot-on ensemble include Coffman's strangely aberrant child and Birtwhistle's caring Dad, a beacon of humanity amidst the bizarre landscape that envelops him. What makes this production so distinctive, however, is its staging - a coalescence of elements that includes flawlessly calibrated sound (John Nobori) and original music (Nobori and Ben Phelps), artful lighting (Haylee Freeman) and stunning graphics (Matthew T. Hill). The menacing life-size puppets are spooky enough to haunt one's nightmares for a very long time. Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A., Fri.- Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun, 4 p.m. thru Aug. 7 (323) 463-3900. studio-stage.com. (Deborah Klugman)

. A Death in Colombia Shem Bitterman has always seemed something of a conundrum -- a prolific playwright whose considerable output is perched precariously between the personal and the political. Invariably, Bitterman uses the latter like a blowtorch to burn through the complacency of characters willfully blinded to their complicity in whatever headline happens to occupy center stage. His latest offering is no exception. A plot-twisted political thriller in the mold of Costa-Gavras' 1982 muckraker Missing, the play marries an improbable woman-in-peril storyline to an even more outlandish melodramatic conceit lifted from one of the lesser Robert Ludlum novels. It proves to be a shotgun wedding. Elaborating further would spoil the intricately constructed suspense that Bitterman and director Steve Zuckerman have taken such pains to set up. Suffice it to say that when the radical-activist husband of American expat Lisa (Roxanne Hart) disappears somewhere deep in Colombia's drug-war-conflagrated interior, a proverbial mysterious stranger (Joe Regalbuto) forces his way into her Bogotá apartment (designer Jeff McLaughlin's uninspired living-room set) and violently strips away her illusions along with her apolitical naiveté. Hart is terrific as a woman rudely awakened to the fact that she is sinking in a moral quicksand of her own making, Regalbuto less so in the thankless role of a psychotic cipher ungrounded to any recognizable emotional center. Ultimately, however, the play feels irreconcilably split between the awkwardness of its genre demands and the more thoughtful exposé of a woman on the verge of self-knowledge that it aspires to be. (Bill Raden). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through July 31, (702) 582-8587), ktctickets.com. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., L.A..

Donna/Madonna Rizzo 39 Productions presents John Paul Karliak's solo show. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 8 p.m.; Mon., Aug. 1, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 10, (323) 960-4420, plays411.com/donnamadonna. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..

Dysnomia Suburban housewife comes out of the closet in Marja-Lewis Ryan's world-premiere comedy. Starting July 16, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 21, plays411.com/dysnomia. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 469-9988.

NEW REVIEW GO ENTERTAINING MR. SLOANE Joe Orton's final plays (before he was bludgeoned to death at 34 by his professionally jealous lover) were farces that crowned him master of the form. So much so that his first full-length play, Entertaining Mr. Sloane (the story of a gorgeous young layabout who sets out to hustle a frumpy woman and her dapper brother) is often presented in arch farcical tones, though its dark and violent overtones mirror the playwright's life and early death. In this very satisfying production, director Stan Zimmerman underscores Orton's scathing wit by meeting the play's dramatic potential, by rendering the humor blacker by the moment. Most remarkable is Olivia D'Abo, who discards her natural beauty in favor of frowziness as Kath, a 40-ish woman desperate for affection, especially from 20-year-old Sloane. D'Abo provides the necessary humor but which comes tightly woven into a fully developed character. Kath's brother Ed is brought to hilarious yet sad life by Ian Buchanan as a tough-guy businessman secretly as hot for Sloane as his sister is. Their ancient Da, in a delightfully tragic performance by Robin Gammell, is the only one whose lack of libido allows him to see through the boy's tricks. As the title character, Emrhys Cooper lacks the experience of his veteran co-stars, but his coy easiness on stage and physical attractiveness makes him the consummate object of their attention. The look of the production is perfectly pitched by set dresser Joel Daavid and costume designer Kevin King, who successfully balance the drabness of Kath's world with the kind of poshness that Ed and Sloane are also able to inhabit. The Actors Company, 916-A N. Formosa Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6:30 p.m.; thru July 24. plays411.com. (323) 960-7863 (Tom Provenzano)

Facebook The weekly show formerly known as MySpace. Wednesdays, 9:30 p.m., $5. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A., (323) 908-8702.


Fiction Steven Dietz's story of a married couple's memories of their separate times at a writers colony. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through July 31, (818) 849-4039, theatreunleashed.com. Underground Theatre, 1312-1314 N. Wilton Place, L.A..

Force 12 Jo D. Jonz goes inside the mind of a schizophrenic poet to an alternate universe known as Force 12. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 20, force12play.com. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice, (310) 306-1854, electriclodge.org.

GO Gypsy With its huge cast, multiple settings, book by Arthur Laurents, score by Jules Stein and catchy lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, this show has become a quintessential Broadway musical, making demands that are hard to meet in a 99-seat theater. Director Richard Israel proves it can be scaled down without losing its pizzazz. And Jan Sheldrick, as the bullying, possessive Mama Rose, takes a role that has been played by the likes of Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Rosalind Russell and Bette Midler, and makes it triumphantly her own, with quiet moments as well as brassy ones. Stephanie Wall provides a fine performance as Rose Louise -- the future Gypsy Rose Lee -- marred only by the fact that she's not always audible. The large cast, headed by Michael Matthys as Mama Rose's browbeaten swain, Eric Allen Smith as the young song-and-dance man Tulsa and Kelly Swanson as Mama Rose's other daughter, Dainty June, provides fine support, along with veteran performers Larry Lederman and Tony Pandolfo. Sara J. Stuckey, Kelly Jean Cuir and Jessica Schatz score as the strippers who sing "You Gotta Get a Gimmick." Johanna Kent's music direction and John Todd's choreography keep things lively. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through July 31. Arena Stage at Theater of Arts (formerly the Egyptian Arena Theater), 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave., L.A., (323) 595-4849.

Google My Tweet Second City alumni sketch comedy, directed by Marc Warzecha. Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 26. Second City Studio Theater, 6560 Hollywood Blvd., Second Floor, L.A., (323) 464-8542.

Hay Days Workshop production of Rob Rosiello and Jim Halloran's portrait of early gay-rights activist Harry Hay. Tue., July 19, 8 p.m.; Tue., July 26, 8 p.m. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 957-1884, celebrationtheatre.com.

The Hunter Davis Christmas Special Hunter Davis' holiday show gone awry. July 21-24, 8 p.m., (323) 960-7770, plays411.com/mychristmasspecial. Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., elephantstages.com.

The Interlopers In a doctor's waiting room two unconventional people meet: Michelle (Trevor Peterson), a shy pre-op transsexual transitioning from male to female, and Lou (Diarra Kilpatrick), her gregarious polar opposite, also transsexual, but looking to transition from female to male. Lou is immediately smitten; Michelle, reluctant to engage, is eventually won over by Lou's flattering professions of devotion. From there, the drama expands to examine the dangerous discord within their families: Michelle's unhappy overweight mom (Tara Karsian ) supports her child's choice, but her splenetic dad (RD Call ) insists that his son "Michael" is, and always will remain, a male. Lou's widowed father (Leandro Cano), a blue collar Hispanic, likewise cannot accept that his little girl "Louisa" wants to be a man. Written by Gary Lennon, the script features engaging moments of humor and a compelling message about identity and tolerance, but it lays out its story with the overly broad strokes of an "issue' play, leaving depth and nuance to the disposition of the (fortunately) adept ensemble. The plot also relies on a couple of iffy contrivances - including a not entirely plausible catharsis - to power its dynamic. Director Jim Fall opts for video images to depict locales - the Hollywood Hills or a street of shops - as well as to flash back to the past with family snapshots; these latter photos - in tandem with Mervyn Warren's score - add a soapy veneer to the drama. Anchoring the production, Peterson transcends the bathos in an eloquently subdued performance. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through July 23. Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A., (213) 389-3856, bootlegtheater.com.

NEW REVIEW IT'S GOOD 2 BE CRAZY Meet Merryl (Lindsay Seim) and Joel (Nick Warnock). Actually, you've met them already. They're two of the thousands of young L.A. couples with big dreams and boring realities. Merryl's a valet parker aching to be a singer. Joel is a benefits clerk claiming to be saving for law school. In truth, they're stuck. Until Joel calls Merryl's bluff: he'll support her for a year if she'll actually, you know, write some songs and record a demo. Joanclair Richter's sitcom soap opera is set entirely in the couple's apartment where every few months, she checks in to gauge Merryl's wavering creativity and Joel's increasing frustration. To the play's credit, the lovebirds have their flaws: she's pouty, self-obsessed and passive-aggressive; he's a doting lunkhead happy to have the focus off his own dull life. But there's little momentum in watching two 20-something non-artists talk about art and director Lynne Moses can't inject energy in a play mostly spent conversing on the couch. In the final scene, there's a frisson of drama with the entrance of Doug (Max Decker, sleazily great), a record executive who tests how much Merryl really wants a contract. But the play's blessing and its curse is over-familiarity. Any Hollywood transplant can identify with Merryl and Joel, but they could also just call up their real-life counterparts and take them out to a much-needed dinner. Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 14. (323) -960-5774 plays411.com/goodcrazy (Amy Nicholson)

Just Imagine Tim Piper's John Lennon impersonation, including performances of Beatles hits and Lennon's solo work. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Aug. 28. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., (310) 213-6955, thehayworth.com.

Keep it Clean Comedy Hosted by JC Coccoli. Mondays, 10:30 p.m., Free. 1739 Public House, 1739 N. Vermont Ave., L.A., (323) 663-1739.

The Last Five Years Bright Eyes Productions presents Jason Robert Brown's musical about an ill-fated marriage, told from opposite perspectives in time. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through July 24, plays411.com/lastfiveyears. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 469-9988.

Lavender Love Odalys Nanin's sex comedy about a Hollywood actress who time-travels back to the 1920s. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through July 24, (323) 960-4429, plays411.com/lavenderlove. Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood.

GO Mad Women Known for his mastery of the intimate, character-driven performance, John Fleck does not disappoint in this offbeat, yet strangely heartfelt solo show. It consists of dramatic portraits of two women, iconic diva Judy Garland and Fleck's own mother, who died from Alzheimer's-related issues some time ago. At the start of the show, Fleck bursts through a stage door and launches into a lip-synch of portions of one of Judy Garland's final performances -- her famous turn at the Cocoanut Grove, where she interrupted her performance to bawl incoherent, self-hating, drug-laced insanity. From there, the story drifts into Fleck's memories of his own beloved mother, as she slowly lost her mind and entered a world of dreams. At first, it's unclear what the two stories can possibly have to do with each other, but as Fleck's haunting storytelling unfolds, the parallel themes coalesce into a simultaneously funny and melancholy meditation on the nature of insanity, dreams and, incidentally, the creative spirit. At one point, Garland's rambling actually subtly shifts into Fleck's mother's unearthly monologue, and we find ourselves unsure which woman we're actually listening to. In director Ric Montejano's breezy, seemingly simple staging, Fleck almost convinces us that's he's just hanging out with us and telling a story. However, the intimacy is deceptive and the adroit performance gracefully dances through powerful issues with emotional truthfulness. Many performers try to "do" Garland in their show, but Fleck is less interested in impersonating the singer (this isn't a drag show, except arguably for one short sequence toward the end) than he is in trying to touch on her deeper meaning. Eyes a-bugging and tongue a-waggling, Fleck himself mugs joyfully, peppering the show with ad libs and unexpected asides to particular members of the audience, but he's utterly on point when hitting precisely effective, emotionally charged notes. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through July 31, (702) 582-8587. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., L.A..

Magic Strings Bob Baker's marionette variety revue, featuring puppet horses on a merry-go-round, an opera diva on roller skates, a "Day at the Circus," and an all-American grand finale. Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., L.A., (213) 250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.

A Midsummer Night's Dream Shakespeare's comedy, presented by Ark Theatre Company. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 17, (323) 969-1707, arktheatre.org. The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A., attictheatre.org.

GO 100 Saints You Should Know All the characters in Kate Fodor's play, now receiving its West Coast premiere, are searching for some sort of validation, though they seek it in counterproductive ways. Single mom Theresa (Cheryl Huggins) cleans houses to support her randy teenage daughter, Abby (Kate Huffman). When she takes a job at the local Catholic church, her rudimentary faith is revived and she becomes convinced that the priest, Father Matthew (Brendan Farrell), can provide some answers. But Matthew has problems too: He's finding it impossible to pray, and he's been suspended from his parish because of some George Platt-Lynes photos of male nudes found in his room. He takes refuge in the home of his mother, Colleen (Pamela Roylance), a conventionally devout Irish Catholic. There he encounters Garrett (Marco Naggar), the touchingly naive young man who delivers Colleen's groceries. Garrett fears he might be gay, and seeks out Matthew because his dad said Matthew's a fag. When skeptical Abby (she equates Bible stories with Babar the Elephant,) meets up with Garrett and a bottle of hooch, the stage is set for disaster. Director Lindsay Allbaugh deftly mines the rich comedy provided by Fodor's quirky characters and elicits lovely performances from all her actors. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 16, (877) 369-9112. Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., elephantstages.com.

Othello Shakespeare's tragedy, adapted by Tiger Reel, set in modern-day Washington, D.C., and Fort Cyprus, Florida. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 20, (800) 838-3006, theprodco.com. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., L.A..

Pity of Things Five one-act plays by Jason Grote (Kawaisoo), Phinneas Kiyomura (The Little Darling), Bill Robens (Breaking), Tommy Smith (PTSD) and Delondra Williams (Desert Aria). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 7. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A., (323) 856-8611, theatreofnote.com.

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). Fridays, 8:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m., (866) 811-4111, www.theatermania.com. Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., thedragonfly.com.

Poison Apple Sean Galuszka's "sexy psycho thriller." Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 23, brownpapertickets.com/event/185973. SPACE 916, 916 N. Formosa Ave., L.A..

Quake D. Tucker Smith's play set in Bindiger's Department Store, circa 2005. Fri., July 15, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 16, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 17, 2 p.m.; Sat., July 23, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 24, 2 p.m.; Thu., July 28, 8 p.m.; Fri., July 29, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 6, 2 p.m.; Wed., Aug. 10, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 18, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 20, 2 p.m.; Wed., Aug. 24, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 27, 8 p.m. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 882-6912, openfist.org.

GO Re-Animator: The Musical is based on Stuart Gordon's 1985 film, and Gordon is on hand to direct the new musical. The centerpiece is a love story (of course) that's a joke on every love story ever written. Idealistic young hospital intern Dan Cain (Chris L. McKenna) has a poor time accepting the death of patients. Standing by a gurney, over the body of a woman who has flatlined, Dan administers CPR in vain, prodding her with electro pads, until the chorus of medics has to sing, "She's dead, Dan/Get it through your head, Dan." His distress over the cessation of life becomes an obsession that threatens his impending marriage to beautiful Meg Halsey (Rachel Avery), daughter of the local university's dean (George Wendt). Big Dean Halsey is an amiable, conservative fellow who's accepting of Dan as a potential son-in-law, despite his lack of old-money social credentials. Well, amiable until he's accidentally murdered, as he later interrupts a gooey romantic interlude between Meg and Dan by crashing through the door as a psychotic zombie. The romance is wrapped around a conflict between dueling scientists: self-proclaimed plagiarist Dr. Hill (Jesse Merlin, in a mop wig, whose pinched facial expressions would creep out the most openhearted social worker) and a newcomer to Hill's lab, Herbert West (Graham Skipper, possessing the salty charm -- and costume -- of an embittered undertaker). While Hill drools over Meg, West rents a room from Dan (since Meg won't move in until they're wed). When the romantic couple's pet cat disappears, then ghoulishly reappears post-mortem via West's experiments (props by Jeff Rack), Dan enters a Faust-like partnership with West, seeing the potential fulfillment of his God-defying desire to harness the science of immortality. Mark Nutter's music and very witty lyrics (recalling songs by Tom Lehrer) careen from modern opera to light opera, from melodramatic wailing to -- when the story gets really gruesome -- Gilbert and Sullivanstyle patter songs. The special effects (by Tony Doublin, John Naulin, John Buechler, Tom Devlin and Greg McDougall), such as a body decapitated with a shovel and intestines unstrung from a corpse, are about as good as it gets -- gory without being so naturalistic as to bypass parody. The keys to this kingdom, however, are the combination of the brilliant comic ensemble and Gordon's pristine craftsmanship as a director, supplemented by Jeff Ravitz's lighting and musical director/arranger Peter Adams' building of suspense. Adams performs the score on a synthesizer tucked into the side of the hall, creating the slightly cheesy ambiance that's the life force of Grand Guignol. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays-Sundays, 3:30 p.m. Continues through Aug. 14, (800) 595-4849. Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A..

'Roid Rage/Bridge: Two by Willard Manus a monologue about celebrity culture and a play about a jazz musician's nightly practice. Starting July 19, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Aug. 10. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A., (323) 469-3113, writeactrep.org.

GO Streep Tease If you're a fan of Meryl Streep you'll like director Ezra Weisz's campy homage to the academy award winning actress. The show debuted two years ago and is the brainchild of stand-up comedian Roy Cruz, who has added a few tweaks without altering any of its ticklish appeal. The show uses seven male actors who perform monologues from a sampling of Streep's oeuvre.. This reviewer is a big fan and has seen all of the movies selected (which helps in appreciating the saucy humor on display), although even if you're not familiar with Streep's work, Streep Tease offers lot of fun and laughs. In addition to the performances, Cruz picks audience members to participate in a contest to test their "Streep Wise," worthiness, with a gift going to the winner. Matthew Nouriel, does a riotously funny take on Sara Woodruff, from the French Lieutenant's Woman (complete with the foggy backdrop), and then does an even funnier version set in a Muslim country with all the customary restraints. Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada is brought to life by Cruz, who does a wickedly bitchy turn salted with just the right tinge of icy detachment. And who could forget the nun from hell, the bossy, fussy bullying Sister Aloysius Beauvier from Doubt, here fully realized with knuckle-busting ruler, two rosaries and bonnet, by Bryan T. Donovan. (Lovell Estell III). Saturdays, 8 p.m. Bang, 457 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A., (323) 653-6886, bangstudio.com.

Summer Playwright's Festival The Road Theatre Company's second-annual summer festival of new works by playwrights from around the world. Through July 15, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 16, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., July 17, 2, 5 & 8 p.m., roadtheatre.org. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 752-7568.

Super Sidekick Theatre Unleashed's superhero musical for kids, written by Gregory Crafts with music by Michael Gordon Shapiro. Sundays, 1 & 4 p.m. Continues through July 31, (818) 849-4039, theatreunleashed.com. Underground Theatre, 1312-1314 N. Wilton Place, L.A..

Tape Stephen Belber's three-person motel-room drama. Starting July 16, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 6. The Little Theater L.A., 12420 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (310) 622-4482, theblackboxtheater.org.

The Trouble With Words Gregory Nabours' musical revue has six singers, six musicians and 19 songs, all searching for a point. The theme, loosely, is miscommunication, and from that broad platform spring numbers about fatherhood, seduction, sloganeering and Christmas. If he trims the Disney ballad filler, Nabours has a full act of songs that deserve attention: Chris Roque's radio-friendly "Listen," Aimee Karlin's heated "Fool's Gold," Josh Eddy's slippery "Kid With a Heart on" and Ryan Wagner's "Tongue Tied" (the second-act opener that rewards those who stay past intermission). Packed onto the stage are a piano, xylophone, violin, guitar, cello, saxophone and full set of drums, together loud enough to drown out the lyrics. Joked the couple behind me, "I guess The Trouble With Words is that you can't hear them." Patrick Pearson directs. (Amy Nicholson). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 16. Actors Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 882-8043, actorscircle.net.

The War Zone Is My Bed Yasmine Rana's love confessional, Sarajevo-, Kabul- and Dubrovnik-style. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 30. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A., (323) 469-3113, writeactrep.org.

Weird on Top Improvisational comedy by Danielle Cintron, Tiffany Cole, Mason Hallberg, Kerr Seth Lordygan, Sarah McCann and Alex Sanborn. Sun., July 17, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 18, 8 p.m. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village, (818) 508-3003, eclecticcompanytheatre.org.

What's Up, Tiger Lily? Maria Bamford and Melinda Hill bring excellent standups every week -- really, like Blaine Capatch, Patton Oswalt, Matt Besser -- you get the idea. Mondays, 8 p.m., Free. Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill, 6122 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A., (323) 466-9917.

GO The Word Begins A theatrical machine gun might be an apt description of this two-man show written and performed by Steve Connell and Sekou Andrews: rapid-fire, dangerous, powerful, and unpredictable. Though a West Coast premiere, the piece was originally developed at the Ojai Playwright's Conference, so it might be just as accurate to say "the word returns." What that "word" is, however, varies over the course of a compact but energetic 75 minutes that touch on politics, race, religion, love, and hope. Ensconced in Sarah Ryung Clement's wide-open "graffiti-scape" with minimal set pieces and props, the duo launches on a mission to "take back the word." Beginning with childhood dreams and notions of heroism, Connell and Andrews seamlessly pick up each other's poetic threads as they segue into various dialectics about what's going on, Marvin Gaye style. Yet they're just as much Barry White (albeit a raunchier version of him) in riffing on Hallmark cards and relationships, or suggesting that the solution to racism is to "fuck until everyone is beige." Interspersed in their mash up of theatre, spoken-word, and stand-up comedy are Corwin Evans' video montages that succinctly showcase iconic images to powerfully bring home the duo's message. At times, like a machine gun, the piece sends its ammunition in all directions, losing focus and landing astray of the mark. However Connell and Andrews' palpable energy overcomes the occasional meandering, keeping the audience engaged throughout. Director Robert Egan's taut pacing and full use of the stage likewise contributes to the dynamism of a piece that reminds us, "Until you imagine a better world, you cannot have it." A Rogue Machine, Hip-Hop Theater Festival, and Prana Theatre Group Production. (Mayank Keshaviah). Mondays, Thursdays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 24, (855) 585-5185, roguemachinetheatre.com. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A., theatretheater.net.


CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS

A Book by Its Cover Damon Chua's story of the shifting fortunes of America and China, as seen by a Chinese-American. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through July 23. GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank, (818) 528-6622, gtc.org.

Cinderella Interactive musical for kids, book by June Chandler, music and lyrics by Jane Fuller. Saturdays, 11 a.m. Continues through July 30. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-4318, sierramadreplayhouse.org.

ClassicsFest 2011 The Antaeus Company's seventh-annual festival of theater workshops, readings, and special events. Schedule at antaeus.org. Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through Aug. 21, (818) 506-1983, antaeus.org. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, deafwest.org.

Departures Travelers share stories, by Michael Catlin, Effie Hortis, Jim Lunsford, James J. Mellon, Duane Poole, Penelope Richards, Jed Schlanger and Mark Wyrick. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 23. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 508-7101, thenohoartscenter.com.

Hamlet, Prince of Darkness Zombie Joe's Underground's Shakespeare-inspired "dark adventure-comedy-thriller," written by Richard Nathan . Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues through July 29. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com.

Hurricane Season 2011 The Eclectic Company Theatre's eighth annual playwrights competition and new works festival. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 7. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village, (818) 508-3003, eclecticcompanytheatre.org.

GO Iceberg Ahead! While the story deals with a seafaring issue, don't expect things to get too deep in actor/writer/set designer/director Jay Parker's side-splitting farce. Bawdy jokes, exaggerated performances and a plot rife with mistaken identities, double entendres and slapstick buffoonery make for a show that is just plain silly and damn proud of it. After the Montroses, wealthy Manhattan theater patrons, go down with the Titanic, Broadway impresario David Rickman (Jose Garcia) desperately needs a new meal ticket to keep his theater afloat. Aided by his haughty leading lady, Lydia Felby (Lindsey Warm) -- and a vintage red wine -- Rickman manipulates the Montroses' daughter, Emily (Bryana Pickford), a novice dipsomaniac, into backing a show on her parents' tragic fate. Soon Emily and her maid, Conception (Maia Villa), get confused with Irish actor Billy O'Sullivan (Parker) and his son, Danny (Cameron Parker) -- don't ask why -- while Lydia tries to get Rickman's psycho sister, Agnes (Victoria June), to an asylum run by the aptly named Dr. Twist (Ruben Aguilar). Parker serves as straight man to these loonies with a deadpan delivery that complements his impudent text. June's Agnes, who talks to Shakespeare and vice versa, and Parker's Danny, with a novel way of keeping his dad off the booze, bring a bit of sympathy amidst the madness. (Note: some roles double-cast.) (Martín Hernández). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 30. Mosaic Lizard Theater, 112 W. Main St., Alhambra, (626) 457-5293, lizardtheater.com.

I'm Just Wild About Harry Gary Lamb and William A. Reilly's musical adaptation of Brandon Thomas' Charlie's Aunt. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through July 17. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, (818) 745-8527, nohoartsdistrict.com/theatreweb/crowncity.htm.

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). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, (818) 762-2272, tworoadsgallery.com.

Kowalski Marlon Brando auditions for A Streetcar Named Desire, in Gregg Ostrin's world-premiere play. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Aug. 7. Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, (818) 762-2272, tworoadsgallery.com.

La Canada Flintridge Shakespeare Festival Vanguard Repertory Company's summer celebration of the Bard. Thursdays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 31, vanguardrep.com. Byrnes Amphitheater, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, 440 St. Katherine Dr., La Canada Flintridge, (818) 745-3327.

NEW REVIEW OF MICE AND MEN John Steinbeck's saga about a pair of itinerant, depression era ranch hands in search of a place under the sun, and the tragic derailing of that dream, is nearly 75-years old yet retains its power as a compelling parable about moral ambiguity and human frailties. Director Scott Travers' otherwise respectable staging suffers from the lack of polished, disciplined performances from the two principle actors. As the childlike Lennie, Paulo De Sousa's large, hulking presence is well suited to the role, but his performance consistently wavers between being fully convincing and a gross caricature. There are many times when he comes off as a grinning, hyper-giddy lunatic rather than the slow-witted, gentle giant, whose penchant for touching and caressing soft things leads to a tragic, accidental murder. As Lennie's cynical caretaker, fellow roamer and only friend, George, Ronnie Gunter turns in an adequate performance, but his overheated hard edge too often eclipses the emotional complexities of his character. Chase Green is outstanding as Curley, the boss's always angry, sawed off son, as is Benjamin Corns as the affable Slim, and Mandy Brown as Curley's flirtatious wife. Jessica Hayes' rustic, bunkhouse beds and props are well done. The Missing Piece Theatre, 2811 West Magnolia Blvd. Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 6. comeseetheplay.com (Lovell Estell III)

Oscar Wilde's Salome The biblical tragedy, as presented by Zombie Joe's Underground and Fabulous Monsters Performance Group. Fridays, Saturdays, 8:30 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Aug. 6. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com.

Sex and Education Lissa Levin's West Coast premiere about a high school English teacher versus a jock. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through Aug. 7. Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank, (818) 841-5421, thevictorytheatrecenter.org.

Small Engine Repair Laced with casual expletives, John Pollono's one-act play packs a powerful punch. When a trio of longtime mates from Manchester, New Hampshire get together for some heavy drinking in Frank's car mechanic workshop -- David Mauer's beautifully realized set -- they reminisce about old times and chat about women, the internet and the virtues of social networking. The pals, confident Frank (John Pollono), ladies man Swaino (Jon Bernthal) and nervy guy Packie (Michael Redfield) indulge in trading insults and mocking digs as they chew the fat. Inappropriate comments, harsh words and hasty apologies are exchanged, but nobody's sure why Frank is busting out the good whiskey. A young college kid (Josh Helman) arrives to do a quiet drug deal with Frank and all of a sudden the scene erupts into terrifying violence. Pollono's script is an exquisitely-modulated gem of a play, gripping the viewer with a storyline that is both shocking and sobering in its commentary on modern interactions in the technological age. Director Andrew Block extracts such realistic performances from his cast that we almost forget we are watching a play, as the appalling action unfolds mere inches away. (Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through July 31, roguemachinetheatre.com. Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills.

NEW REVIEW THE SOLID GOLD CADILLAC A satire about corporate greed never seems to go out of style. The jokes in George S. Kaufman and Howard Teichmann's comedy feel just as timely today as they probably did when the hit play was first staged on Broadway in 1953. Their lively wordplay requires a certain acting style and velocity to work - crucial elements that, regrettably, are absent in this production. A middle-aged former actress named Mrs. Partridge (the fine Georgan George) owns a modest ten shares in the powerful corporation, General Products When she attends the annual stockholder's meeting at their New York offices, her naïve and tremulous queries regarding the four company heads' fat salaries and pay raises set off a chain of unintended consequences. The four actors playing the corrupt businessmen give lackluster performances, though the production brightens up after Mrs. Partridge visits Washington on behalf of the company, and meets the company's millionaire, widower founder (well played by Michael Bruce). Bruce's frazzled demeanor and propensity for breaking into exercise routines during a beleaguered day at the office bring some giggles back to the play. Given a more rigorous treatment, this is probably a very funny play. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madra Blvd., Sierra Madre: Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru July 30. (626) 355-4218. sierramadreplayhouse.org (Pauline Adamek)

South of Delancey Forty years before The People's Court first packaged binding arbitration proceedings for daytime reality TV, the Jewish-American Board of Peace and Justice was adjudicating the domestic disputes of New York City's Lower East Side faithful over the airwaves of Yiddish radio. Director-creator Karen Sommers has sifted through the original acetate recordings and selected three woefully irreconcilable couples from the rabbinical court's cases, interweaving their stories -- and her invented backstories -- into a persuasive evening of re-enactment and speculative docudrama. Abigail Marks and Michael Rubenstone are Faye and Marty, a war bride and her combat-scarred husband, who are unable to negotiate a postwar peace for their rash and precipitous marriage. Jordana Oberman and Kal Bennett play Helen and Lenore, roommate sisters whose blood ties can no longer take the strain of personalities divided by dysfunction and temperament. Barry Alan Levine and Jodi Fleisher provide comic relief with mismatches Herman and Lilly, whose marital mix of business and pleasure behind a dry-goods counter proves an unmitigated disaster. The show's most fascinating moments occur when Sommers incorporates the original recordings and the Yiddish-speaking judge can be heard feebly throwing rabbinical bromides and blandishments at cases of such hopelessly intractable incompatibility. Sommers' tight staging (with Carol Doehring's crisp lights and period-perfect costumes by Lois Tedrow) and a powerful ensemble lend the proceedings considerable polish, with the exception of Dove Huntley's sprawling apartment set, which has more in common with a Van Nuys split-level than any tenement north or south of Delancey. (Bill Raden). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through July 31, (866) 811-4111. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena, fremontcentretheatre.com.

The Taming of the Shrew Shakespeare's comedy, presented as part of the Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival in Kingsmen Park. Fri., July 15, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 16, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 17, 8 p.m., (805) 493-3455, kingsmenshakespeare.org. California Lutheran University, 60 W. Olsen Road, Thousand Oaks.

The Tunnel of Love Lani Ridley Pedrini's jukebox musical, with songs from the 1920s to the '80s. Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through July 24. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-4318, sierramadreplayhouse.org.

Urban Death Horror show by Zombie Joe's Underground. Saturdays, 11 p.m. Continues through Aug. 13. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS

Barrie: Back to Back: Two by J.M. Barrie 1912's Rosalind and 1917's The Old Lady Shows Her Medals. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Aug. 7. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice, (310) 822-8392, pacificresidenttheatre.com.

Bedtime Stories Roadkill Productions presents 10 short plays that all take place in a bed. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Psychic Visions Theatre, 3447 Motor Ave., L.A., (310) 535-6007, psychicvisionstheatre.com/.

Behold!: A Queer Performance Festival Two months of new LGBTQ "performance, dance, spoken word, theater, multimedia, and ritual." Full schedule at highwaysperformance.org. Fridays, Saturdays; Mon., July 25; Sun., Aug. 28; Mon., Aug. 29. Continues through Aug. 20. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica, (310) 315-1459, highwaysperformance.org.

GO Blood Wedding In Federico Garcia Lorca's classic tragedy of passion, love brings anything but joy -- it's a source of rage, insanity and violence. A handsome young Bridegroom (Willie Fortes) seeks to marry a beautiful Bride (Nikki McKenzie) over the mild objections of his Mother (Sharon Omi), who recalls that the Bride once dated a man whose family is her family's enemy. The Bride is more than happy to marry the Bridegroom -- but her unresolved past with her ex-lover, the hot, manly Leonardo (Joshua Zar), ultimately brings sorrow to everyone at the wedding. Making good use of the subtext lurking within Tanya Ronder's febrile and intense translation, director Jon Lawrence Rivera's exceptional production of Lorca's drama crackles with emotional tension and undercurrents of unease. Rivera casts the production with mostly actors from the Asian-American community, giving the piece a folkloric mood -- a feeling that's enhanced by his ritualized choreographic blocking and by John H. Binkley's beautifully rendered, moon-shaped platform set design. The performances swing powerfully between emotional extremes, frequently achieving near-operatic heights of intense feeling. McKenzie's desperate, miserable turn as the Bride -- driven by lustful forces beyond her control and horrified by it -- frequently astonishes, as does Omi's brutal shift from prissy mom to flinty, embittered monster. Also engaging is Zar's James Dean-like turn as the virile Leonardo, which is counterbalanced by Fortes' sweeter but intentionally more boyish turn as the Bridegroom. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wednesdays, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 11, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 3. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A., (310) 477-2055, odysseytheatre.com.

Chicago The Kander and Ebb Prohibition-era musical. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 30. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 828-7519, morgan-wixson.org.

In Bed With Tenn Six short plays by Tennessee Williams: Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen, Hello From Bertha, The Lady of Larkspur Lotion, Green Eyes, The Big Game and The Pronoun "I.". Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 23, plays411.com/bedwithtenn. Promenade Playhouse, 1404 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, (310) 656-8070, promenadeplayhouse.com.

It Must Be Him Kenny Solms' story of "a whiz-kid comedy writer from the heyday of variety television, who's now out of luck and out of new ideas." Starting July 16, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Sept. 4. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, (310) 399-3666, edgemarcenter.org.

L.A. Cafe Plays Ruskin Group Theatre concocts five short plays in 10 1/2 hours. Third Sunday of every month, 7:30 & 9 p.m. Continues through Dec. 18. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica, (310) 397-3244, ruskingrouptheatre.com.

GO Margo Veil Moody, mysterious and comedic - Len Jenkin's noir fantasy takes us on a surreal trip as its central character, third-rate actress Margo Veil (Dorie Barton), endures some bizarre shape-shifting adventures guided by an ancient Lithuanian spirit statue. Similar to Alice's journey down the rabbit hole (Lewis Carroll's classic is overtly referenced), our plucky heroine accepts a questionable assignment from her talent agent; assuming the identity of a mourner to accompany a corpse on the train. Instead of gaining a paid passage back to her home country town, Margo is somehow abducted into an underworld where her body is used as a shell for other persons to inhabit. Dream-like logic ensures delightful unpredictability while the cyclical nature of the story provides a neat ending. Contemporary pop-culture references clash with the retro-noir flavor and costuming (elegantly realized by Ann Closs-Farley). Self-conscious narration hands off from character to character and the tone swings wildly from broad comedy strokes and exaggerated acting to a more serious second half (85 mins, no intermission). Much of the humor comes from live sound effects provided by cast members in addition to John Zalewski's expert sound design. While enjoyable, one is left with the impression that had director Bart DeLorenzo the courage to take this material into darker, more sinister Lynchian territory, we'd have an edgier result. Colleen Kane stands out in numerous roles while Jeremy Shranko plays a mean air guitar, redneck-style.(Pauline Adamek). Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 31. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A., (310) 477-2055, odysseytheatre.com.

mate The Actors' Gang presents a workshop production of Lolly Ward's play about chess champion Bobby Fisher. Starting July 21, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 6, (310) 838-4264, theactorsgang.com. Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City.

NEW REVIEW A MEMORY OF TWO MONDAYS Very few writers are able to maintain a high level of quality across their works, and Arthur Miller is no exception. The giant of the American stage graced us with Death of the Salesman, The Crucible, and All My Sons (which received a bang-up revival here last year), but his 1955 one-act about a bookish young man who works in a Manhattan auto parts warehouse during the early years of the Great Depression (like Miller himself did) is revived infrequently for a reason. Strictly speaking, it has no plot. It focuses on character and characters -- 14 of them. And while some argue that it's more Chekhovian than Miller's classics, Chekhov at least had four acts to develop his characters. At a scant 75 minutes filled with much hustle and bustle, the slice-of-life drama is a nostalgia play, and like After The Fall, may have been too close to Miller's own experience to transcend biography into credible drama. That said, director Amelia Mulkey and her ample cast give it their all, creating some dynamic moments on stage. Richard Leighton's unabashedly demonstrative Gus, Nick Cimiluca's Irish "good boy" Kenneth, and Julia McIlvaine's feisty Patricia stand out in particular. The Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Rd., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru August 14. (310) 397-4322.. ruskingrouptheatre.com. (Mayank Keshaviah)

Pinkalicious The Musical Family musical about a girl's obsession with the color pink, book by Elizabeth Kann and Victoria Kann, music by John Gregor, lyrics by John Gregor, Elizabeth Kann and Victoria Kann, based on the children's book by Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann. Saturdays, 11 a.m. & 2 p.m.; Sundays, 11 a.m. Continues through July 24, YESplays.org. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 828-7519, morgan-wixson.org.

NEW REVIEW REVISITING WILDFIRE Anyone for an orgy of 1980s nostalgia? In playwright Kari Floren's drama of midlife crisis, it's time to whip out the cocaine and the old Lou Reed albums. There are two kinds of dramas about midlife crises: One in which the characters spot their advancing maturity and fight it, and one in which the characters baste themselves in the memories of bygone excesses and droop about like bloated fish. Sadly, Floren's play is of the latter idiom. Not having heard from her lifelong best pal Theresa (Jamie Rose) for months, Ohio housewife Pam (Denise Crosby) jets into New York to surprise her on her birthday. What Pam discovers, though, is that her pal is in a slough of deep despondency that can only be cured with plenty of booze and by replaying, repeatedly, some horrible song about ponies. Pam, it turns out, has her own crises to resolve - and soon the two friends are recalling the good old days, while snorting coke and dancing to Lou Reed. In many respects, the situations play like an episode of Absolutely Fabulous, except one in which the sharp wit, eye for detail, and imagination have been leeched. The dialogue plods, and the characterizations are so weak, there's no hint of why these people stay in the same room, let alone what they could have seen in each other back in the blow-fueled day. The problem is not necessarily director Eve Brandstein's competent, if sluggish staging, it's the drabness of Floren's script, which marries self absorbed characters to perfunctory revelations and easily resolved plot points. Crosby possesses good comic and emotional timing and is clearly better than the material she has been given, while Rose makes as much as she can with a shrill role that is nothing but quirks. A guest production at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 Sepulveda Blvd, W.L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m. Sun., 2p.m.; thru July 31. (310) 477-2055 . (Paul Birchall)

Spider's Web Agatha Christie's 1954 whodunit. Starting July 21, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 21. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills, (310) 364-0535, theatre40.org.

Sylvia "Always remember your dog is a dog . . . and woman names make trouble," a stranger (Tom Ayers) warns Greg (Stephen Howard), an empty nester in the thrall of a Labradoodle named Sylvia (Tanna Frederick). The stray bitch solicited Greg at the park, bounded into his Manhattan apartment and immediately made enemies with his wife (Cathy Arden), a smart careerist blonde just getting settled into having the house - and her husband - to herself. Greg, naturally, struggles to stick to the man's advice. So, too, does the audience, as the dog is played by a redhead in a tutu who references The Odyssey and calls Greg her "knight in shining armor." What man could resist? Underneath the tutu, Frederick wears kneepads and with good reason: for two hours, she crawls, leaps, and tumbles with the humans taking turns dragging her around the stage. It's a showy gig and director Gary Imhoff has Frederick - an actress of boundless energy - frolic as if failure meant the pound. If you find Frederick too manic, as I certainly did, you soon side with the missus in wanting to call the dogcatcher. Playwright A.R. Guerney's decision to make a human play canine sharpens the love triangle between man, woman and beast. When Frederick sprawls spread-eagled on the ottoman, what wife wouldn't glare? But Gurney's smart observations about the cross-species bond clash with his sell-out, feel-good ending (was he afraid dog lovers would torch the building?), a flaw further thrown out of whack by Imhoff's need to earn laughs by any means necessary, even updating the 1995 script with Sarah Palin jokes and a dance break to Lady Gaga. By the time the cast takes their final bow to "Who Let the Dogs Out?" all but the most dog-obsessed are eager to vow their allegiance to Team Cat. (Amy Nicholson). Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Aug. 14. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, (310) 399-3666, edgemarcenter.org.


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