Stage Raw: Remembering the Royal Court Theatre

Stage Raw: Remembering the Royal Court Theatre
STAGE FEATURE on August: Osage County

Playwrights Phyllis Nagy and Ron Hutchinson joined actress Katherine Tozer in a panel discussion last night, hosted by Rogue Machine, about London's Royal Court Theatre, and the role it continues to play incubating new work. (Yours Truly moderated.)

Tozer, who appeared in the Royal Court Theatre premiere of Caryl Churchill's Far Away,  is visiting from London to perform in Nagy's Never Land, which opens at Rogue Machine October 8.

Hutchinson, born near Lisburn, Norther Ireland, has been a screenwriter here for two decades. He was a writer-in-residence with the RSC, and also worked at the Donmar Warehouse. In the early 1980s, he was commissioned by the Royal Court Theatre's artistic director, Max Stafford Clark, to write "something about the Irish," a theme Hutchinson said he'd grown weary of. Nonetheless, he cranked out a play called Rat in the Skull, which went on to make Hutchinson's career, with productions around the world (including the Public Theatre and the Mark Taper Forum). Hutchinson recalled the dive that was the Royal Court Theatre, broken chairs and warnings not to go down this hallway or that, for safety reasons. He recalled stumbling upon dust-covered stage manager's notes from the theatre's 1956 production of John Osborne's Look Back in Anger (the play that defined a generation of new writing), as well as old photos of George Bernard Shaw attending rehearsals, from when the building was the English Stage Company.  An audience member noted that she showed up there in the '60s looking for a work, when she was 16. It was the place to work, she said. She said she took tickets and eventually became a stage manager.


By the time that Nagy -- a New Yorker -- arrived there, the artistic

directorship was in transition between Max Stafford Clark and Stephen

Daldry, who upped the number of plays produced from four per year to

12.  "There was no 'development,'  Nagy said. "They liked a play, they

did it," and whatever refinement there was occurred directly from the

input of the theater's artistic director. No literary committees, no

dramaturgs. They also weren't obsessed with whether a play drew

audiences or not. Their concern, Nagy said, was putting on what they

believed were good plays. The stifling impulse of American new play

development, Nagy said, is dramaturgs asking "What's this play about?"

when playwrights so often write play in order to discover what they're about. It's

a question, she said, that leads to the topical "issue" dramas the

populate television dramas and documentaries, but are so deadly in the theater.

Nagy added that American artistic directors want some kind of assurance

that a play is going to "work" before they put it on the stage. Even if

the word "work" is defined by ticket sales (which is one of many

standards), play development still isn't a science,  and the fiddling

usually interferes with the originating impulse for why the play was


"As soon as all those yellow notepads come out," Hutchinson added, you know the play is going down the toilet.

Tozer pointedly added that the American system, which is really a

TV/film system, has now been adopted by the British, and that even at

the Royal Court Theatre, any playwright who isn't named David Hare or

Caryl Churchill will have to answer to a literary committee, which

sometimes includes the actors in the play being read or workshopped.

Tozer said she felt it was neither her responsibility nor her job to

help develop a play that she's acting in.


(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.)


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


ECLIPSED Danai Gurira's study of "the wreckage of war.". Kirk

Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; opens Sept. 20;

Sun., Sept. 20, 6:30 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.;

Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru Oct. 18. (213) 628-2772.

OKLAHOMA! Civic Light Opera South Bay Cities presents the Rodgers

and Hammerstein musical. Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, 1935

Manhattan Beach Blvd., Redondo Beach; opens Sept. 19; Tues.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 4. (310) 937-6607.

ART EXPLAINED! Dr. Maxley's "Whole-Body Lecture Performance.".

Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; opens Sept. 21;

Mon., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 5. (310) 281-8337.

BOSTON MARRIAGE David Mamet's Victorian comedy. Lonny Chapman Group

Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., Sept.

19, 3 p.m.; Fri., Sept. 25, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 27, 7 p.m.; Thurs.,

Oct. 1, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 4, 3 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 10, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct.

17, 3 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 23, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 25, 7 p.m.; Thurs., Oct.

29, 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 1, 3 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 7, 8 p.m.. (818) 700-4878.

FINDING NEO Original one-acts by Denise Devin, Alex Dremann, Michael

Erger, David Garry, Mark Harvey Levine, David Lewison, Marina Palmier,

Donaco Smyth, and Ralph Tropf. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia

Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Sept. 24; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 29.

(877) 620-7673.


ART Yasmina Reza's comedy, translated by Christopher Hampton, about

three friends' differing definitions of art. East West Players, 120 N.

Judge John Aiso St., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct.

11. (213) 625-7000.


Stage Raw: Remembering the Royal Court Theatre

Photo by Robert Saferstein


Letts' 2007 Great American Family Drama, or so we'd believe from the

national press, four Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize, has pulled in

at last to the Ahmanson Theatre in a Steppenwolf Theatre Company

production, handily staged by Anna D. Shapiro. (Steppenwolf was the

company that commissioned the work.) The drama, set in Oklahoma,

consists of almost four hours of revelations about a truly fucked-up

family, liberally peppered with dashes of Gothic humor. Oh we love our

gothic family epics. Pulitzer Prizes have gone to Crimes of the Heart, The Kentucky Cycle,

and now this. We meet Beverly Weston (Jon DeVries), a crusty,

hard-drinking T.S. Eliot-quoting member of literati pontificating to

his newly hired Cheyenne Indian housekeeper (DeLanna Studi) about the

point and pointlessness of existence. (She will eventually be seen

sitting cross-legged on a bed, perched at the pinnacle of Todd

Rosenthal's three-tier set, as a kind of metaphor of the stoic, silent

and dignified tribe these resident clowns superseded.) He's hiring the

sweet-natured woman to care for his cancer-afflicted spouse (Estelle

Parsons), who wanders between cogency and unconsciousness, between

staggering forward and lying prone, from all the pills she's imbibing.

The next thing we know, Beverly has disappeared, along with his boat,

and this can't be good. What follows is a gathering of the clan, and

what a clan. Imagine a cross between Long Day's Journey Into Night at Del Shore's Comedy, Daddy's Dyin', Who's Got the Will?

It has some of the gravitas of O'Neill's classic and much of Shore's

brand of sitcom humor. This very combination, on the four-hour boiler,

results in, well, a very funny, and finely performed potboiler.

Compared to O'Neill, it's a mere shadow, but compared to the gloss of

so many family dramas on our stages, Letts is at least reaching for a

suggestion that his clan represents the state of America in the world.

"This country was always a whorehouse," is how a character recalls

Beverly's conviction. "But now it's just a shit hole." The reach is a

bit of a strain - present a nutty, masochistic family onstage and then

say, hey this is the U.S.A., and as funny as much of the farce may be,

the play feels as long as it is largely because the power of subtext,

of the unspoken, keeps getting punctured by the jokes. It doesn't dig

deep enough to justify its length, but when it does make that

subterranean plunge, and lays off the one-liners for a span or two, the

power of the drama, and of these terrific actors, rumbles through the

theater with exquisite grandeur. Ahmanson Theater, 135 N. Grand Ave.,

downtown; Tues.-Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 &

6:30 p.m.; through October 18. (213) 972-4400. (Steven Leigh Morris)

See Theater feature.


GO BRIGHT IDEAS "All the world's a stage, and our

children our players," advises a tutor to parents Genevra (Amie

Farrell) and Joshua Bradley (Brian Stanton) in Eric Coble's chipper

comedy inspired by the playwright's own preschool panic attack. The

Bradleys' offstage son Mac is on the wrong end of 3 -- in months, he'll

be 4 -- and his chances for a kind success that would be set in

concrete depend on getting him off the waiting list for the area's best

preschool, or so warn the over-achiever breeders at their playground.

The obstacle is Genevra's recently divorced co-worker Denise (Meghan

Maureen McDonough) who just bought her child's slot by donating her

family's fortunes to build the school's new Aquatics Center. When the

couple invites Denise over for some poisoned pesto -- the better to get

her tot sent away to live with his dad -- Coble's script giddily

underlines its allusions to Macbeth ("Is this a mortar and pestle I see

before me?" frets Genevra). Caryn Desai's chirpy direction prefers

laughs to moral agonies, and her comic ensemble, rounded out by Louis

Lotorto and Heather Corwin, keeps the tone quick and fun. This isn't

aiming to usurp the Bard's place in the canon, but Coble enriches his

semi-serious premise with a layer of class resentment and modern

masculinity issues that intensify as Stanton's very-funny patriarch

struggles to wash the phantom basil from his hands. (Amy Nicholson)

International City Theatre, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; Sat.-Sun.,

8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 20. (562) 436-4610.

GO THE CHERRY ORCHARD In 1950, writer-director Josh

Logan transferred Chekhov's play to the American South in an adaptation

called The Wisteria Trees. Now, director Heidi Helen Davis, and Ellen

Geer have reset the play near Charlottesville, Virginia, and updated it

to 1970. The ex-serfs have become the descendants of slaves, and

Chekhov's Madame Ranevsky has become Lillian Randolph Cunningham (Ellen

Geer), the owner of the famous cherry orchard that's "mentioned in the

Encyclopedia Britannica." Though it's a very free adaptation, it

admirably preserves the play's flavor and spirit. And while Davis'

production skewers the characters for their vanity, folly and

ineptitude, it treats them with affectionate respect. She's blessed

with a wonderful cast, including William Dennis Hunt as the landowner's

garrulous, fatuous brother; J.R. Starr as an ancient family retainer;

Melora Marshall as the eccentric governess Carlotta; and Steve Matt as

the grandson of slaves ― and a go-getter businessman who longs to be

the master. The production is easygoing, relaxed, faithful in its own

way, and often very funny. It may be the most fully integrated (in

every sense of the word) production of the play that we're likely to

see. (NW) Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd.,

Topanga; call for schedule; through September 26. (310) 455-3723 or

GO CYMBELINE What might Shakespeare have written if

he'd been asked by some 17th-century counterpart of a TV producer to

come up with something quick, hot and flashy? It's likely an

extravagantly plotted comedy like this one, with story ideas snatched

from legend, his peers and some of his own better-developed and more

sublime works. Regarded today as one of Shakespeare's more minor plays,

this comedy revolves around a king's daughter named Imogen (Willow

Geer), banished from court by her father, Cymbeline (Thad Geer), for

daring to marry the man of her choice. The plucky gal's travails

intensify when a villain named Iachimo (Aaron Hendry, alternating with

Steve Matt) decides willy-nilly to slander her to her husband Posthumus

(Mike Peebler), who then commands a servant to assassinate her for her

alleged infidelity. Her wanderings eventually land her on the doorstep

of her father's old enemy, Belarius (Earnestine Phillips), who has

raised two of Cymbeline's children (thus Imogen's own siblings) as her

own. Director Ellen Geer has fashioned an appealing production laced

with an aptly measured dose of spectacle and camp. At its core is

Willow Geer's strong and likable princess. As her adoring and, later,

raging, jealous spouse, Peebler's Posthumus is earnestly on the mark,

while Jeff Wiesen garners deserved laughs as the foppish suitor she'd

rejected. The latter meets his end at the hands of the princess'

newfound brother, well-played by Matt Ducati. (DK) Will Geer Theatricum

Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sun., 3:30 p.m.; thru

Sept. 27. (310) 455-3723.

GO GASLIGHT Patrick Hamilton's 1944 potboiler

(originally Angel Street) continues to be one of the most revived

theatrical chestnuts because its melodrama is so unapologetically

intense. In an unfashionable section of late-Victorian London, our

heroine Mrs. Manningham (Corrine Shor) is tormented by demons of

insanity and the cruel taunting of her domineering husband (John

Cygan). Additionally the master is sensually attentive to the young

buxom maid (Emily Bridges) - or is it her imagination? Jeff G. Rack's

lavishly detailed burgundy set, with perfect gaslight effects by

lighting designer Yancey Dunham, creates the ideal atmosphere for the

dripping suspense. The actors, under Charlie Mount's austere direction,

commit fully to the chilling revelations as we move slowly towards a

known outcome. Don Moss is particularly delightful as a hard-bitten

Scotland Yard detective, even though he joined the production late in

rehearsals and was still a bit shaky on his lines at the performance I

saw. Likewise the smallish role of a comic maid (in a fine performance

by Mary Garripoli) turns into a tense ally of the oppressed Mrs. M.

Costumes by Valentino round out this very satisfying production. (Tom

Provenzano) Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; opens Aug.

28; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 27. (323) 851-7977.

JULIUS CAESAR One must give director Ellen Geer credit for at

least attempting to add some tragic ballast to the usual mix of

Bard-lite romances and comedies that typically monopolize summer

Shakespeare stages. That said, Geer turns in a curiously staid and

colorless revival of what is ostensibly an Elizabethan version of a

high-octane political thriller. Given that the political arena in this

case is a Republican Rome riven by the rising dictatorship of Julius

Caesar (Carl Palmer), the thrills should be of the rhetorical,

persuasive kind as the anti-Caesarean conspirator Cassius (Melora

Marshall) sets about turning the conscience of the noble, putatively

pro-Caesarean Brutus (Mike Peebler). With Marshall's singularly

strident Cassius (in some gender-bent casting that is as close to a

staging concept as this production comes), however, there is little to

distinguish the fawning manipulator who plays on Brutus' patriotism and

vanity in Act I from the petty and corrupt quarreler to whom Brutus

finds himself joined in Act IV. The missing contrast proves fatal to

Peebler's performance, reducing Brutus from a man ensnared by his sense

of honor to the most gullible Roman of them all. Aaron Hendry delivers

a suitably athletic and ruthless Marc Antony, making the famed

"Friends, Romans, countrymen . . ." funeral oration the evening's

show-stopper, while Alan Blumenfeld's robust Casca and Susan Angelo's

ambition-inflected Portia both provide noteworthy support. (Bill Raden)

Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga;

Sun., Sept. 6, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 4 p.m.; thru Sept. 26. (310) 455-3723.

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). 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.

(SLM) 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 September 27. (310) 208-54545.


fictionalized version of himself in Blair Singer's world-premiere

comedy. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Fri., 8

p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 18. (310)


GO THE MISER Director Ellen Geer delivers a

hilarious and highly polished production of Moliere's comedy. It's a

faithful rendition, despite the fact that she's garnished it with

several original songs (written with Peter Alsop), a dog, and some

creative anachronisms: Neither cod-pieces nor horn-rimmed glasses quite

belong in 1668, but they prove capital laugh-getters. The production's

greatest asset is Alan Blumenfeld, who delivers a wonderfully demented,

larger-than-life performance as the miser Harpagon, calling on the

traditions of music-hall, vaudeville and burlesque to create a portrait

of monstrous greed and vanity. He's ably assisted Mike Peebler as his

rebellious, clothes-horse son Cleante, Melora Marshall as the

flamboyant match-maker/bawd Frosine, Ted Barton as a choleric

cook/coachman, and Mark Lewis as Cleante's sly, wily side-kick, La

Fleche. As the young lovers, Peebler, Samara Frame, Chad Jason

Scheppner, and understudy Jennifer Schoch capture the requisite

romance, while lampooning the coincidences and shop-worn theatrical

conventions of the genre, and a large cast provides fine support. The

lavish costumes, including Cleante's outrageous

suit-of-too-many-colors, with its gloriously obscene, giggle-inducing

cod-piece, are by Shon LeBlanc and Valentino's Costumes. (Neal Weaver)

Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 North Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Topanga;

thru September 24; in rep, call for schedule (310) 455-3723.

GO NEVERMORE Poor Edgar. In Dennis Paoli's one-man

play, beautifully directed by Stuart Gordon, Jeffrey Combs portrays the

bedraggled Southern poet, Poe, in a staged reading. He's a bundle of

idiosyncrasies ― tremors and a hesitation to complete sentences. The

man is ill with fevers and despondent over the recent death of his

wife, yet from the twinkle in Combs' eye, it's clear he rather enjoys

the attention of strangers, and is deeply proud of his masterwork, "The

Raven," which he'll recite when he gets around to it. His

concentration, and his ability to perform, are steadily more impeded by

the after effects of a bottle of whiskey, which he clutches at the

inside of his suit. Fortunately, he recites "The Tell-Tale Heart" while

still lucid, and what an absurd, showoff-y, macabre display it is ―

pure Victorian melodrama, in the style of Chekhov's one-act, one-man

show: "On the Harmfulness of Tobacco," also about man making a

presentation ostensibly for one purpose, while undone by another.

Chekhov's character is persecuted by his wife, or by his imaginings of

her. Edgar is torn by the presence of his fiancée, who is assessing

whether her groom-to-be can stay on the wagon. The harrowing answer

becomes self-evident as, in one scene, he goes off on a spontaneous

rant against Longfellow; and in another, as he's leaping around to a

poem about bells, he abruptly falls off the stage into the orchestra

pit. It's an almost unbelievably hammy turn, as mannered as the style

of the era he's depciting, a gorgeous rendition of a tragic clown whose

heart has been cleaved open by loss and regret. His rendition of "The

Raven" is clearly an homage to his late wife, and how any hope of her

return is forbidden by the reprise of this show's title. (SLM) Steve

Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.;

through Sept. 26. (323) 666-4268.

THE NIGHT IS A CHILD A suburban kid in Brookline, Massachusetts - a

good kid, a fine student, a personable young man -- goes on a killing

spree at his local school, leaving dozens of children and teachers

dying in pools of blood. Charles Randolph Wright's play studies the

family of the teenage killer who took his own life in the bloodbath,

concentrating years later on the mother, a widow named Harriet (JoBeth

Williams). On the anniversary of the rampage, Harriet goes AWOL to Rio

de Janeiro, thereby mystifying her concerned adult son and daughter

(Tyler Pierce and Monette Magrath) as to her whereabouts. She arrives

not speaking a word of Portugese, yet she stumbles upon a vivacious,

native guide named Bia (Sybyl Walker), whose sweet energy, and that of

an inexplicably accommodating hotel owner named Joel (Maceo Oliver)

lands her a room on the otherwise overbooked Ipanema beachfront. Joel

must have had a reason for canceling somebody else's reservation in

order to make room for Harriet. If he was charmed by her befuddlement

being in a foreign country, for which she'd taken no pains to prepare

by learning even the rudiments of the language spoken there, it was a

charm I missed. Why Joel would randomly cancel the reservation of one

guest in order to make space for this tourist-in-distress is the first

in a series of improbabilities that form the glue of Randolph-Wright's

Post-It note of a play. (Steven Leigh Morris) Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S.

El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.;

Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; through Oct. 4. (626) 356-7529.

GO OEDIPUS THE KING, MAMA! Troubadour Theater

Company's musical parody of Sophocles' play, of musical shtick, of

Elvis mania and of cheesy theatrical devices comes in the tradition of

the Troubies' mashing of classic lit into pop music (Twelfth Dog Night, Alice in-One-Hit-Wonderland, Much Adoobie Brothers About Nothing).

The event's thrill hangs on the tautness of the theatrical wires that

bind the classical source material, the music and free-wheeling

improvisation. (Steven Leigh Morris) Falcon Theater, 4252 Riverside

Dr., Burbank; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; through September 27.

(818) 955-8101.


Stage Raw: Remembering the Royal Court Theatre

Photo courtesy of J. Paul Getty Trust


you don't like your walking peace symbol to be a slightly bewildered

pot-smoking goofball (John Fleck) who, during an entirely gratuitous

interlude, leads the crowd in a ditty that literally sings the praises

of masturbation ("It felt so nice, I did it twice"),  look elsewhere.

Low comedy doesn't come any lower  than this: huge balloon phalluses

poking out from tunics, or bashing audience members as the characters

parade through the crowd. We're talking Aristophanes here - the child

prodigy class-clown playwright of ancient Greece (the "class" may be

overstated) who loathed corrupt authority figures almost as much as

Molière would a couple of millennia later.  We're also talking Culture

Clash, the Latino sketch comedy trio (Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and

Herbert Siguenza)  - Montoya penned this adaptation of Aristophanes' Peace

with his compatriots - who sprung from Bay Area standup clubs with a

then unique brand of politically charged humor, a much ruder, cruder

prelude to Jon Stewart, both politically correct and incorrect in the

same breath, filled with indignation over rudimentary violations of

civil rights and civil liberties. The blending of ruthless parody with

self-confident and at times simple interpretations of Right and Wrong

has proven to be a rare, sustaining formula, and it's on full display

here, under Bill Rauch's animated and often whimsical staging.

Trygaeus, or Ty Dye (Fleck), ventures to heaven  on a "dung beetle" to

free Peace (a statue) from lockup in Heaven. A noise neighbor diva (Amy

Hill) turns in a very big cameo. Montoya, in one of Shigeru Yaji's many

stunning costumes and Lynn Jeffries' puppet masks that somehow

re-proportion the human body) plays the war machine, a thug who tries

to stifle Ty Dye's efforts at every pass. Heaven is, of course, the

Getty Villa Museum, directly behind the amphitheater stage, also

decorated with free-rolling Yoga balls, and a huge portable mound of

pop culture (or poop culture) detritus referred to as a "shit pile."

(Set by Christopher Acebo). There's a joke for every corner of the

region, from Montebello to Malibu, and Montoyoa has reconfigured the

play's finale so that Aristophanes' happy ending with a marriage gets

tossed for the visit of a sweet, silent child, who faces down War. The

update is a fine idea, particularly as the sheer energy of the hijinx

start to wear down. Yet it takes us no further than the classic Vietnam

War photograph of a female Hippie protestor facing down a National

Guard bayonet with a daisy. And that was at least four American wars

ago. If war is so bad, why do we love it so much? To trace the warring

impulse to father issues, as this adaptation does, keeps the show

enshrined in the same pop psychology that it mocks so well throughout.

The production is beautifully accompanied by the femme-trio mariachi

band, Las Colibri. Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theater at the Getty

Villa, 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

through October 3. (310) 440-7300. (Steven Leigh Morris)

PUPPET UP! -- UNCENSORED Naughty improv by Henson Alternative

puppeteers. Avalon, 1735 Vine St., L.A.; Sat., Sept. 19, 8 p.m.. (323)



Stage Raw: Remembering the Royal Court Theatre

Photo by Ed Krieger


by Octavio Paz's collection of essays, The Labyrinth of Solitude,

Evelina Fernández's drama with music attempts to explore core issues of

family, love, death and cultural identity, but the result fails to make

much of an impression. On the occasion of his mother's funeral, an

emotionally distraught Gabriel (Geoffrey Rivas) invites a small group

of friends who attended the ceremony to his luxurious penthouse for an

after-party. Present are a character simply called The Man (Robert

Beltran), Johnny (Sal López), Angel (Fidel Gomez), Ramona (Fernández)

and Gabriel's wife Sonia (Lucy Rodríguez). Amidst the revelry, the sad

story of Gabriel's relationship with his mother slowly emerges. She was

a woman he abandoned years before her death because he was ashamed by

her poverty. Other secrets come to the fore during the long evening

that reveal startling connections between the guests, and forces them

to confront the painful realities of their past and present. Fernandez

is adept at writing with cheeky humor, but is less so at exploring the

substance and soul of her characters. Much of what transpires appears

as narrative convenience or airy contrivance, particularly the

lead-heavy emotional finale, which features a moving song by Lopez in

Spanish. Urbanie Lucero's choreography is attractive, but the colorful

Mexican dancing is sometimes layed on too thick by director Jose Luis

Valenzuela. The performances are quite good, however, particularly

Beltran who has a formidable stage presence. Semyon Kobialka's cello

accompaniment is flawless, and Francois-Pierre Couture's skewed

picture-frame scenic design effectively suggests how we're skewed by

our experiences. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St.,

downtown; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.;

thru. October 3. (213) 489-0994. (Lovell Estell III)

VISITING MR. GREEN If you're Jewish -- or grew up in New York or

another American urban metropolis -- you've probably met the kind of

cantankerous old codger depicted in playwright Jeff Baron's sometimes

heartwarming but mostly preachy and predictable message play. Mr. Green

(Jack Axelrod) is a grieving 86 year old widower and an observant Jew.

He doesn't get out much nor does he care to. Into his life comes a

young gay man named Ross (Antonie Knoppers), assigned to the community

service task of assisting Mr. Green after he nearly ran him over with

his car. Unfriendly at first, Green warms to Ross after learning that

he's Jewish too ("Why didn't you say so in the first place?" ) - but

soon turns away in disgust after Ross informs him of his homosexuality.

The rest of this somewhat contrived and dated (think 1970s, though the

play premiered in 1996) plot follows the coming together of these two

individuals as Ross pours out his soul and Mr. Green reveals the

existence of a long-estranged daughter. One problem with this polarized

setup is Green's unworldly attitudes: He doesn't understand the word

gay and thinks American Express is a train. This might be credible

coming from an immigrant but hardly from a native-born former shop

owner, which Green is. That Ross doesn't know where his grandparents

emigrated from also seems a stretch). Under David Rose's direction,

Knoppers grows believably impassioned; Axelrod, on opening night,

created a convincing bigot but his performance needs more shading and

nuance. (Deborah Klugman) Colony Studio Theater, 555 N. Third St.,

Burbank; Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; (added perfs Sat., Sept. 5

& 12, 3 p.m. and Thurs., September 17 & 24, 8 p.m.; thru

September 20. (818) 558-7000.


ACME SATURDAY NIGHT ACME's flagship sketch show, with celebrity

guest hosts each week., $15. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave.,

L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.


Christopher Williams play suggests a slick, sassy gay comedy, and so it

is--but it is much more than that, something far richer. Growing up

during the Nixon era, deeply closeted 11-year-old gay boy Horace (a

terrific Wyatt Fenner) develops a monstrous crush on his hunky gym

teacher (Nick Ballard). Horace and his family weather the Vietnam War,

and big brother Chaz (Nick Niven) flees to Canada to escape the draft.

In the recession of the 1970s, Dad (Tony Pandolfo) has economic

reverses, and Mom (Jan Sheldrick) loses her job. And when Anita Bryant

(Madelynn Fattibene) launches her militant campaign against gay rights,

Horace learns that there are people who will hate him for who he is. He

must come out to his loving but irascible parents, and he's overcome by

jealousy when he realizes his adored teacher is having an affair with a

neighbor (Sara J. Stuckey). He retaliates by betraying the teacher, in

a way he knows is shameful. Williams' play becomes a funny and touching

family saga as well as the tale of a bright gay kid striving to grow

up. Richard Israel provides wonderfully nuanced direction, and the

entire cast is splendid. (Neal Weaver) El Centro Theatre, 800 N. El

Centro Ave., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., through

October 4. (323) 460-4443 or A West Coast Ensemble production.

GO BLACKBIRD Adam Rapp's 2001 romance unfolds on a

rented room in NYC's Canal Street in the late 1990s, where a young

woman named Froggy (Jade Dornfeld), dressed in woolen cap and layers of

sweats, emerges from within the closet, at the beckoning of her

roommate and support system, Baylis (Johnny Clark). Despite the minor

plot and dialect quibbles, Ron Klier directs an absorbing production,

laden with attention to the sweet relationship in a bitter world.

(Steven Leigh Morris) Elephant Theatre Lab, 6324 Santa Monica Blvd.,

Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through September 19. (323) 860-4283. A

VS Theatre Company production

BLOCK NINE Tom Stanczyk's play, "an unapologetically same-sex, retro

noir 1930's gangster homage," is performed in two alternating versions

― one with an all-male cast, reviewed here, and the other all-female.

It's less comedy of manners than comedy of the mannered, suggesting the

novels of Jean Genet re-played as farce. Though the characters are cops

and gangsters, like Genet's pimps and hustlers, they're more concerned

with their images and gestures than their professional careers. Cop

Phil (Kenny Suarez) persuades his skittish, vulnerable partner/lover

Hank (Jeremy Glazer) to go undercover on Cellblock 9 to get the goods

on tough mobster Lips (Matt Rimmer). Then one torrid kiss from Lips

turns Hank to jello, and leaves him wallowing in a hilarious orgy of

would-be submission, longing to be violated. Instead, Lips passes him

along to eccentric blond muscle-man and mob-boss Cody (Max Williams),

who keeps two minions on tap: naïve young Johnny (Josh Breeding), and

foppish pseudo-Frenchman Armand (Louis Douglas Jacobs). Despite the

pervasive haze of homoeroticism, Cody's more inclined to shoot them

than to fuck them. While director Pete Uribe has assembled a highly

attractive and accomplished cast, and deploys them with flair and wit,

ultimately the play seems like a comic sexual tease that never quite

delivers. (Neal Weaver) Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Hollywood;

in rotating rep through September 20; call theatre for schedule. (323)


18TH ANNUAL DENISE RAGAN WIESENMEYER ONE-ACT PLAY FESTIVAL Four new one-act plays: Cross Purposes by Frank Cossa, Bethany/Bakol by Wendy Graf, Lessons & Carols by Demetra Kareman, Jon and Mary Go to Pluto

by Matthew Tucker. The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W.

Washington Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 3. (323) 525-0600.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE That's weekly sketch comedy done by some of the

best in the sketch biz. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.;

Fri., 8 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.


Stage Raw: Remembering the Royal Court Theatre

Photo by Michael Lamont


the late 1980s, the halcyon days of male nudity, where the promise of

on stage gay promiscuity and frontal views were surefire ticket sellers

throughout the world of waiver - well those days are back in Joe

DiPietro's all-male rendition of Arthur Schnitzler's classic 1900 play

of sexual mores, La Ronde. Ten scenes pair two strangers becoming

intimate, with one of the duo moving on to the next scene until the

circle is completed. DiPietro keeps to his generally middle-of-the-road

style of dialogue (well known from oft produced Over the River and

Through the Woods and I Love You You're Perfect, Now Change) which

actually brings a subtle reality to the more sordid moments of gay

indiscretions. Director Calvin Remsberg has gathered a fine ensemble,

mostly perfectly cast from the nearly infantile, stoned sexiness of

college boy Kyle (Michael Rachlis) to the nervous, violent energy of GI

Steve (Johnny Kostrey). Only the fine Chad Borden is miscast as a

closeted action movie-star - his characterization is just so obviously

gay. Tom Buderwitz's scene design concept with moving screens and

furniture pieces is initially fascinating, but becomes quite clumsy and

distracting. However sound by Lindsay Jones, lighting by Jeremy Pivnick

and costumes by Daavid Hawkins are all sharp and collaborative.

Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Oct. 25. (323) 957-1884.  (Tom Provenzano)

FUGGEDABOUTIT! Gordon Bressac, one of the great writing talents behind televisions iconoclastically brilliant Pinky and the Brainand Animaniacs,

has sadly lost touch with his stage roots from New York's La Mama, as

his West Coast premier as a theatrical auteur falls flat. His farce

follows 90 minutes in the life of Guy, a male fashion model (Shaw

Jones, excellent playing straight man to an assemblage of crazy

characters), who, after becoming a total amnesiac in an accident, is

surrounded by friends, lovers and a mafia hit-man, all trying to jog

his memory. The plodding story has each visitor taking Guy through an

important memory, which we witness through flashback. The characters

are appropriately two-dimensional for the comic format, but acting

choices are mostly weak cliches, particularly a gay couple (Charles M.

Howell IV and Christopher Le Crenn) stepping right out of Boys in the Band,

a pouty dumb blond (Jessica Rose) grasping for a Marilyn Monroe

impression, and a cookie cutter gangster (Arman Torosyan), who has more

in common with the gays than he wants to admit. The play is preceded by

a pointless curtain-opener, presenting a two-bit Noel Coward and

Gertude Lawrence type pair (Bressac and Mary Broderick) preparing for a

stage entrance. The most enjoyable part of the evening is Andrew

Murdock's ongoing audio montage of songs about memory. (Tom Provenzano)

Hudson Backstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood:

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 20. (323) 960-7753.

GETTING OUT Playwright Marsha Norman's best known play, 'night,

Mother, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983, was a grueling long

night's journey toward suicide. This earlier but equally grim work,

first produced in 1977, deals with the plight of a woman, Arlene (Leah

Verrill), who has been paroled after serving an 8-year prison for

robbery and manslaughter. All the cards are stacked against her: She

has a demanding, judgmental mother (Lonna Montrose), and a bullying

former lover, Carl (P.J. Marshall), who seeks to drag her back into her

old life. She's also haunted by Allie (Tracy Lane), her unregenerate

former self -- a ferocious bundle of rage, malice, and resentment,

rooted in the fact that she was sexually molested by her father. Now,

Arlene has a child, taken from her when she was sent to prison, for

whom she seeks, despite the odds, to go straight. A sympathetic but

possessive prison guard, Bennie (director Andrew Hamrick), offers help,

but makes excessive demands. Only Ruby (Cheri Ann Johnson), the tough,

unsentimental ex-con who lives upstairs, serves as a mentor. Hamrick

has assembled an able cast, and melded them into a bleakly effective,

no frills production. (Neal Weaver) The Lyric Hyperion Theatre, 2106

Hyperion Avenue, L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m., thru Sept. 20.

Produced by From the Ground Up Theatre. (Some roles are double-cast.)


irony in the fact that, though Oscar Wilde's enemies succeeded in

branding him a sodomist, and sentencing him to two years hard labor,

they accidently conferred upon him a kind of posthumous glory, fame and

historical importance that he probably wouldn't have achieved

otherwise. Writer Moises Kaufman captures the tale's ironies and

complexities by taking an objective, documentary approach, and

constructing his play as a mosaic of primary sources: court records,

personal letters, autobiographies, memoirs, and newspaper accounts.

Susan Lee directs with brisk, efficient clarity, and Kerr Seth Lordygan

contributes a serviceable if slightly colorless portrait of Wilde.

Though Wilde's friend and lover, Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas, was an

obnoxious egotist, he must have had considerable charm and glamour to

have captured Wilde's love and loyalty, but Joshua Grant plays him as

charmless, petulant and prissy. Andrew Hagan is persuasive as Wilde's

nemesis, the malicious, paranoid Marquess of Queensbury, and Darrell

Philip and Dean Farrell Bruggeman score as the rival attorneys. The

notion of casting women (Casey Kramer, Allie Costa, Beth Ricketson, and

JC Henning) as Oscar's "rent boys" seemed initially perverse, but they

provide deft characterizations and sly comedy. (Neal Weaver) The

Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Boulevard, N. Hollywood;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m., thru Oct. 11. (818) 508-3003.


Stage Raw: Remembering the Royal Court Theatre

Photo by Chris Bisente


non-fans of The Golden Girls will be amused by John Patrick Trapper's

uproarious play with music, which simultaneously spoofs the TV series

and the neuroses of aging gay men. Diagnosed with Sitcom Affective

Disorder by the unconventional Dr. Leche (Aaron Barerra), four gay men

turn to drag in order to work out their identification with characters

from The Golden Girls. Samuel (David Romano) identifies with the

acid-tongued tongued Sophia, mother of the imperious Dorothy, who's

impersonated by Damien (John W. McLaughlin). Promiscuous Blanche is

played by the equally promiscuous Blaine (John Downey III), and Roger

(Irwin Moskowitz) rounds out the quartet as the ditzy Rose. The plot is

secondary to the reprise of various scenes from the much-beloved TV

show. The uncredited costumes are hilarious, particularly Dr. Leche's

get ups, with additional kudos for dragographer ChaCha Cache. Trapper's

lyrics make the musical numbers equally hilarious, thanks in part to

musical director Robert Glen Decker. Lori J. Ness Quinn's over-the-top

direction matches perfectly with the outrageous material, which

includes lots of Bea Arthur jokes. The actors turn in superior

performances, with a special nod to McLaughlin's Dorothy. Cavern Club

Theater at Casita del Campo, 1920 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake; 

Thurs.-Sat., 9 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 10. (323) 969-2530. Wild Stance

Productions. (Sandra Ross)

GO GROUNDLINGS SPACE CAMP Just when you thought it

was safe to swear off laughing forever, the Groundlings have unleashed

another solid show. Under Mikey Day's direction, the best bits are

weighted toward the beginning: John Connor's sidekick meets his own

protective Terminator, an 18-inch dancing robot; two octogenarian '70s

sitcom stars radiate diva 'tude while fumbling through a commercial for

the AARP; and, my favorite, a post-championship rally for the Lakers

where a fan opens up to Kobe Bryant via the news, looking into the

camera and vowing, "You could make me learn to trust again." Director

Day keeps things at a nice clip, staying on top of five funny improv

exercises, despite loud insistence from a tipsy audience member (who

wanted more of her suggestions used) that everyone else in the crowd

was a plant. In a uniformly good cast, Jeremy Rowley's Kobe obsessive

stands out, as do both ladies, Stephanie Courtney and Charlotte

Newhouse, the latter of whom braved an instantly-embarrassed

theatergoer's improv prompt that she speak "Asian." (Amy Nicholson)

Groundlings Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8

& 10 p.m.; thru Oct. 3. (323) 934-9700.

HEYDRICH/HITLER/HOLOCAUST An apostle of the Holocaust and, with

Himmler, a chief engineer of the Final Solution, Reinhard Heydrich has

been depicted in numerous books and films. Assassinated in 1942, this

ambitious villain kept files on fellow Nazis as well as on suspected

enemies of the Reich - one reason, perhaps, for the persistent rumors

about his "Jewish blood." Playwright Cornelius Schnauber has seized

upon this aspect of his biography to construct a muddled and

implausible play in which Heydrich (Oliver Finn) is portrayed

politicking around these insinuations. Another element in the

fantastical plot is this virulent anti-Semite's confrontational

dialectic with a Jewish maid named Anna (Jessica Sherman), who has

somehow maintained gainful employment at Nazi headquarters.

Spokesperson for humanity, Anna implores Heydrich to recognize that

Jews are human beings, promising to save his life if he helps rescue

some of them. (Heydrich's real-life brother actually did abandon Nazism

to help save some Jews, before committing suicide.) Later, Anna is

brought before Hitler (Don Paul, whose Fuehrer struck me as a deluded

insane asylum inmate) - whom she challenges with bravado, yet survives.

Stilted and declaimed with dreadful German accents, the play rolls out

like a cartoonish nightmare, with much dialogue devoted to airing Nazi

ideas, as if we didn't understand these already. Under L. Flint

Esquerra's direction, little attempt is made to get beyond posturing --

except for Sherman who, against tremendous odds, manages a credible

performance. (Deborah Klugman) MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hlywd;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Oct. 11; (323) 957-1152.

THE HIGH Teen-drama parody, "from OMG to LOL.". ComedySportz, 733 Seward St., L.A.; Fri., 10:30 p.m.. (323) 871-1193.

HOW KATRINA PLAYS Judi Ann Mason's multimedia "docu-play" of

Hurricane Karina. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat.,

8 p.m.; thru Oct. 24, (323) 469-3113.

I'M AN ACTOR, THEY DON'T GET IT Written and directed by Tiffany

Black, this two-hour production is supported by a talented cast and

just enough good writing and variety to make it enjoyable. The thirty

plus vignettes are all themed around the hardships, struggles and

triumphs of young thespians that come to Hollywood with a dream.

Black's writing is a matter of feast or famine. Some of the pieces are

bland and insipid, such as "Family Support," where Danette Wilson

engages in a predictable phone conversation with a mother who isn't

crazy about her daughter's career choice, or "Coaches with Creds,"

where Tyler Lueck grouses on acting coaches. But the bulk of the

writing is sharp, witty and imaginative, and highlights the often

perilous, cutthroat road taken by those who want to make it in Tinsel

town. Kyoko Okazaki is a hoot as a sensuous ad lady in "Living

Headshot," while Jasmine Hughes is equally impressive as a Jamaican gal

from a poor family with her own ideas about stardom in "Passport

Performer." Some of the skits feature dancing, singing, and some nifty

tap dancing. Considering the small stage, Black does a remarkable job

marshaling the sizable cast. (Lovell Estell III) The Tre Stage Theater,

1523 N. La Brea Ave., L.A., Fri. 8 p.m., (perfs 6 & 8 p.m., Sept.


INFLUENCES OF THE SPIRIT Doug Jewell delivers a crackerjack

performance as a drug addict, Ambrose, in the grip of delusion. It's in

"Head Trip," the first of two unevenly crafted one-acts by

playwright/co-director Albert Cowart, Jr. The play takes place in the

dilapidated living room of what had once been Ambrose's comfortable

middle-class home. Formerly a successful engineer, the volatile Ambrose

has long since lost everything, including his dignity, his job and his

wife (co-director Fatima Cortez-Todd), who left him after he mixed it

up with a streetwalking junkie. He now spends his miserable

beer-swilling days spewing venom at apparitions of his son and his

wife's lesbian lover, among others . Cowart's writing strengths are his

ear for dialogue and his believable characters; what's problematic are

the story's fuzzy details - for example, Ambrose's wife begs him to

sign an important paper but we're never told what it is. In "Crowded

Room," two lovers on the edge of a breakup - Wanda (Kiana Tavasti) and

Marvin (Michael Anderson) -- are torn between their inner voices

(Shondalyn Harris and Otis A. Harris) pushing them to reconcile, and

opposing ones (Tanisha Livingston and Tony Paul) urging them apart.

It's an amusing premise that spawns a fractious, sometimes noisy,

emotional encounter - and while that's sometimes funny - especially

Paul as Martin's indignant chauvinist self -- it's also too long and

too generic. More details about the characters' past relationship would

have made the play more involving. (Deborah Klugman) Village Theater in

Lucy Florence, 3351 W. 43rd St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.

(no perfs Labor Day weekend); thru Sept. 20. (323) 293-1356.

GO KILL ME DEADLY Few literary figures seem as

blatantly ripe for satire as the gumshoe detective. Playwright Bill

Robens ably answers the call, with an entertaining spoof about an

obtuse private dick named Charlie Nichols (Dean Lemont) and his

obsession for a witless scarlet-clad siren named Mona (Kirsten

Vangsness). Called in to forestall the murder of a wealthy dowager,

Lady Clairmont (the comically skillful Kathleen Mary Carthy), he's soon

embroiled with the usual parade of tough-guy gangsters, dumb cops and

seductive debutantes. Obstacles confront Charlie everywhere ― his

client soon ends up dead ― but none prove as treacherous as his buxom,

doe-eyed lady love, whose predilection for homicide he myopically

ignores. Savvily staged by director Kiff Scholl (with fight

choreography by Caleb Terray and videography by Darrett Sanders), the

script successfully parodies the genre's multiple clichés and evocative

parlance, even as it lacks the razor-sharp edge of a top-notch farce.

(The show goes on a bit too long.) Still the adroit supporting ensemble

makes the most of the piece's convoluted subplots ― among them Nicholas

S. Williams as Lady Clairmont's effete son Clive, Phinneas Kiyomura as

an eyewitness to her murder and Ezra Buzzington as her suspiciously

implicated butler. As the hero, Lemont demonstrates facileness. With

her pouty lips and batting eyelids, Vangsness' outrageous Mona becomes

the show's star. (DK) Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd.,

Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; through Oct. 3.

(323) 856-8611.

GO LIFE COULD BE A DREAM This affectionate doo-wop juke-box musical by writer-director Roger Bean (The Marvelous Wonderettes),

with clever choreography by Lee Martino, handsome set by Tom Buderwitz,

and spectacular lighting by Luke Moyer, is designed to incorporate hit

songs of the 1960s, ranging from the goofy "Sh Boom" and "Rama Lama

Ding Dong" to anthems like "Earth Angel," "Unchained Melody," "The

Great Pretender," and "The Glory of Love." In small-town Springfield,

the local radio station is sponsoring a rock-and-roll contest, and

go-getter Denny (Daniel Tatar) is convinced he can win and become a

star. He enlists his klutzy, nerdish, endearing friend Eugene (Jim

Holdridge) and church-choir singer Wally (Ryan Castellino) to join him.

Needing a sponsor to provide the $50 entrance fee for the contest, they

apply to the proprietor of the local auto chain. He sends his top

mechanic, handsome, hunky Skip (Doug Carpenter), and his pretty

daughter Lois (Jessica Keenan Wynn), to audition the guys, and by the

end they're incorporated in the new group, Denny and the Dreamers. This

is pure fluff, and the terrific ensemble makes every note count in this

rousing good-time musical. (Neal Weaver) Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539

Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 3 & 8

p.m., and Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Oct. 25. (323) 960-4412.

LIQUID Directed and designed by Chris Covics, Brenda Varda's farce

benefits from superb technical arrangements. From Susannah Mitchell's

original costumes to Paul Bertin's sound design, the artistry of this

production is clearly on display. Most particularly, Perry Hoberman's

video and visuals are creatively delightful--and downright scary in

other places. Covics' over-the-top direction is well-suited to the

material, but not all the actors are up to the task at hand. A bigger

problem is the writing: Varda's winsome ecological fable is undercut by

stilted dialogue. The plot concerns a scientist, Nevah (Daniella

Dahmen), who is looking to save the planet the planet from global

warming through the creation of CO2 eating algae. Nevah is set to marry

Odam (Kyle Ingleman), but the terrorist Chaet (Craig Johnson)

interrupts the ceremony, intent on stealing the scientific formula.

He's thwarted when a tsunami hits the island. Nevah, Odam and Chaet

survive the tsunami, but wash up in different places. These vignettes

take them from an island made of trash to an oil rig to a pirate ship

to a floating retirement home filled with cannibals. Varda takes

potshots at multinational corporations, oil companies and refuse

disposal, but much of the writing seems off-the-cuff. Shirley Anderson

puts in a nice turn as a designer healer for tourists who becomes a

blind seer, and Bruce Adel shines in several different roles. (Sandra

Ross) Unknown Theater, 1110 N. Seward St., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Oct. 4. (323) 466-7781.

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS Hard-core, exploitation-cinema auteurists have

probably still not forgiven Howard Ashman (book & lyrics) or Alan

Menken (score) for their 1982 musical burlesque of Roger Corman's

immortal, low-budget horror allegory about the moral price of success.

And, judging by director Jaz Davison's somewhat awkward staging on John

Paul De Leonardis' clumsy, turnstile set, final absolution won't be

forthcoming. By transforming Seymour (Mark Petrie), the green-thumbed

shop assistant at Mushnik's Skid Row Florists, from the serial-killing

schnook of the Corman original to merely a passive-aggressive

facilitator of the botanical puppet monster Audrey II (the voice of

Pamela Taylor) and her homicidal appetites, Ashman blunts Corman's edgy

black comedy into a kind of anodyne Merry Melody. Of course, it is

precisely Menken's melodies -- his crowd-pleasing takeoffs of doo-wop

and early Motown rock classics -- that have always been this show's

irresistible soul, and under Debbie Lawrence's capable music direction,

that remains the case here. Leslie Duke, as Seymour's Brooklyn-honking

love interest, Audrey, elevates every number she sings, particularly in

her sweetly funny rendition of "Somewhere That's Green" and her soulful

turn in the duet, "Suddenly, Seymour." Taylor rocks the house with her

rousing Audrey II solo, "Mean Green Mother." But the production's

outstanding pipes belong to vocal powerhouse Cloie Wyatt Taylor, whose

incandescent gospel stylings are all but wasted in the supporting,

choral role of Chiffon. (Bill Raden) Knightsbridge Theater, 1944

Riverside Dr., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Oct. 11. (323)


LOST IN RADIOLAND World premiere of Ryan Paul James and Denny

Siegel's 1940s-era comedy. Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., L.A.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 17. (323) 467-6688.

MANish BOY Writer-actor-comedian Ralph Harris is a clever writer,

and a very funny man. His eloquent and affectionate portrait of his

feisty 94-year-old grandfather is a comic gem, strongly rooted in

reality: This is not merely stand-up comedy, but fine, richly detailed

acting through which he conjures his African-American family. He also

presents sketches of his "devil dad" father, and a drug-saturated

uncle. But there's a dis-connect between his individual sketches, and

the framing device he chose. He begins his tale with a phone call from

a girl-friend of 20 years ago, informing him that she thinks her son is

his child. She wants him to come back to Philadelphia to take a DNA

test. He must face the possibility that he has a 20-year-old son. He

returns to South Philly, and his mother's basement, where he dredges up

memories of his past. The possible son is a red herring, not

organically connected to his other stories, so the performance seems

contrived. This is unfortunate because, though his best material is

really wonderful, the shape of this production, broken up by many

unnecessary blackouts, is awkward and distracting. Director Mark E.

Swinton serves Harris well when he leaves him free to perform his

character portraits, but he allows too many distractions to impede the

flow. (Neal Weaver) Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Boulevard,

Hollywood; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 7. (323) 960-1056 or

MANUSCRIPT Paul Grellong's 2005 play is impossible to describe

without ruining its many intricate plot turns. Let's just say it

involves three recent Ivy League college chums settling into a party in

a Brooklyn Heights home owned by the family of Harvard student, David

(Adam Shapiro). At the start, childhood friends David and Chris

(Patrick J. Adams) appear jittery over the visit of Chris' new

girlfriend, Elizabeth (Katharine Brandt). But nothing in this play is

what it seems. (Steven Leigh Morris) Elephant Theatre, 6322 Santa

Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through October 3. (323)

960-5774. Tall Blonde Productions and Elephant Stageworks.

GO POINT BREAK LIVE! Jaime Keeling's merciless

skewering of the 1991 hyper-action flick starring Keanu Reeves and Gary

Busey is loaded with laughs, as well as surprises, like picking an

audience member to play Reeves' role of Special Agent Johnny Utah. It's

damn good fun, cleverly staged by directors Eve Hars, Thomas Blake and

George Spielvogel. (LE3). Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.;

Fri., 8:30 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.. (866) 811-4111.


Stage Raw: Remembering the Royal Court Theatre

Photo by Ed Krieger


theater-in-the-round set for Boni B. Alvarez's dramedy about a Filipina

college student named Ruby (Ellen D. Williams, in a great performance)

puts its actress on a center pedestal and encourages the audience to

take in a 360-degree view of a self-described "fat girl" as she tries

to wriggle into her tightest jeans. Director Jon Lawrence Rivera

confronts the audience head on with Williams' weight: She strips,

straddles her boyfriend (Kacy-Earl David) and above all, stands with

confidence, daring us to deny her sex appeal - and it's hard to deny

when she struts her vamp walk. Her mother Edwina (Fran De Leon),

however, disagrees. A former Miss Manila, she'd rather hide Ruby away

like a fairy tale beast while she presses her more timid daughter

Jemmalyn (Marc Pelina) to practice around the clock for first prize in

the Miss Sunnyvale pageant. Backed by her sassy chorus of junk

food-loving friends (Angel Felix, Alison M. De La Cruz, and Regan

Carrington), Ruby vows to take the crown herself, even if her imposed

group diet turns her posse into the Lord of the Fries. Alvarez's play

has an up-with-Ruby cheer that undermines its call for equality and

empowerment: Ruby's quest for the crown reveals her care only about the

swimsuit, not the talent or the interview, and Jemmalyn's legit

argument that she alone has put in the effort to win gets dismissed by

the playwright as being petulant. A subplot where Edwina betrays her

husband Jepoy (Robert Almodovar) with wealthy white neighbor Kline

(Mark Doerr) hints that beautiful women are limited by their reliance

on looks, but largely seems designed only to give the gorgeous villain

more stage time. Alvarez and Rivera's climax obliges in a Grand Guignol

finale that turns this into a play about child abuse, not fat pride.

Though riveting and well-acted, the alternately chipper and dark play

feels as bipolar as the undiagnosed Edwina herself. Los Angeles Theater

Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.;

thru Oct. 11. (213) 489-0994. A Playwrights Arena production (Amy


SAY GOODBYE TOTO Sometimes it just doesn't pay to tinker with a

literary classic. Such is the case with Amy Heidish's reimagining of

the Wizard of Oz. Heidish places Toto at the center of the narrative,

and this dubious conceit wears thin early on. Joseph Porter does the

honors as Dorothy's panting, barking traveling companion, and after the

pair is transported via tornado to Oz, the canine is inexplicably

mistaken for a sorcerer. Accompanying Dorothy (the fine Renee Scott) on

her way to the Emerald City is a mysterious cat (Tracy Ellott), plus of

course the Scarecrow (Mike Fallon), the cowardly lion (Andreas

Ramacho), and Tin Man (Grant Mahnken) who, in Heidish's version, are

all cursed brothers hoping that face time with the wizard can get them

zapped back into human form. The most engaging moments come by way of

the Wizard (Jake Elsas), whose magical manipulation of several hand

puppets behind a screen is very funny. Alice Ensor does a dazzling job

as the good witch, but this doesn't redeem a script with a tension that

dribbles away. And Jamie Virostko's bland direction doesn't help.

(Lovell Estell III) The Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd.; L.A.,

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m., thru Sept. 19. (323) 969-1707. An Ark

Theatre Company production

SCHOOL FOR SUCKERS Real life stuns 20-somethings, by Sascha

Alexander, John Dardenne, Ben Giroux, James Robinson and Juliana Tyson.

Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, L.A.; Tues.-Wed., 8 p.m.; thru Sept.

30. (323) 960-7822.

7 DEADLY SINS Chris Berube's interwoven vignettes. Next Stage

Theater, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.; Tues., 9:30 p.m.;

thru Sept. 29. (323) 850-7827.

SEX, RELATIONSHIPS, AND SOMETIMES ... LOVE Monologues on all of the

above, by Joelle Arqueros. Actor's Playpen, 1514 N. Gardner St., L.A.;

Sat.-Sun., 7 & 9 p.m.; thru Sept. 27. (310) 226-6148.


Stage Raw: Remembering the Royal Court Theatre

Photo by Fritz Davis


Louise's monodrama centers on her role as a black child in search of a

family.  She was abandoned by both her mother and father. Over the

years she was sent to more than 30 foster homes, most of which she

fled. A counselor in a children's home where she was sent loved her and

wanted to adopt her -- but the authorities forbid it, since the

counselor was white, and they insisted that she needed a black

upbringing. She desperately wanted to be with someone who cared about

her, but that didn't concern the bureaucrats. It's a fascinating

rags-to-riches tale (she eventually wrote and sold a successful

autobiography), but there's something slightly schizophrenic about the

way she tells it. She talks about her utter powerlessness to control

her own destiny, yet she emerges as a highly confident, competent, and

savvy young woman. Would be nice to know how she got there. She tells

us she has a son, but we never learn the circumstances of his birth, or

the identity of the father.  Louise is a deft writer-actor and singer

who threads songs through her narrative. But I kept ruminating on the

story's crucial aspects that she left out. Lee Sankowich directs. The

Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 5. (323) 960-7738 or  

http:/'ssomebody" (Neal Weaver) 

GO STOP KISS Manhattan traffic newscaster Callie

(Deborah Puette) meets Sara (Kristina Harrison) the week the young

blonde schoolteacher arrives in the city. Both have always identified

themselves as straight: Callie's got her friend-with-benefits George

(Christan Anderson), who she assumes she'll marry once they both stop

trying to find someone better, and Sara has just left her boyfriend of

seven years, Peter (Justin Okin), behind in St. Louis in her quest to

find a bigger, harder, more worthwhile life. The two women gradually

become best friends, deliciously tormented by their quiet hints that

they both want a more physical relationship. But no sooner do they

stick a tentative foot out of the closet than they're pushed out in the

worst possible way -- as a news story about a violent bigot who puts

Sara in a coma. Diana Son's time-jumping play about coping with the

unexpected skips from their first meeting to Callie's first sitdown

with the investigating cop (Jeorge Watson); we're rooting for the

couple to get together under the shadow of the consequences. But Son's

equal emphasis on romance makes the play looser and more inviting than

a social problem drama, and the question isn't about the source of

hate, but the depth of Callie's love when Peter announces that Sara's

family wants to move her hospital bed back to Missouri. Under Elina de

Santos and Matthew Elkin's direction, the ensemble opening night was

still a little stiff, but Puette's tender performance captures a

haphazard woman realizing that she's finally sure of at least one

thing. (Amy Nicholson) Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 20. (323) 960-7774. A Rogue Machine production

SUNDAY OF THE DEAD All-new sketch and improv by the Sunday Company.

Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (323)


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)


NEW REVIEW THY KINGDOM COME In his theatrical debut,

playwright Jarad Sanchez explores a little known corner of Mexican

history, dramatizing how the inhabitants of the village of Yanga

overthrew their colonial masters and became the first free town in the

Americas.  While the African slave Yanga (Joel Virgil), for whom the

town was named, primarily orchestrated the battle against Spain, a

fierce Aztec slave named Santiago (Ryan De Mesa) becomes the focus of

the play's action when he is forced to care for the infant of a

colonial master who is killed during a revolt.  Despite the rich source

material, and the important story, the heavy-handed exposition and the

lack of depth in both the dialogue and character relationships fail to

mask the fact that Sanchez initially wrote this for the screen. 

Elizabeth Otero's direction similarly doesn't theatricalize the

material effectively, with her brisk pacing of the short scenes leaving

one hungry for higher stakes and fuller character exploration, as well

as greater use of nonverbal nuance.  Tony Carranza's costumes, however,

are both aesthetically appealing and appear historically accurate. As

always, CASA 0101 fulfills an important role in the community and

should be applauded for presenting a story that, with some adjustments,

has the potential to powerfully dramatize the intersection of African

and Latino colonial history.  CASA 0101, 2009 E. First St., East L.A.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru October 4. (323) 263-7684. 

(Mayank Keshaviah)

YO, LA PUTA Written and directed by Emanuel Loarca. Frida Kahlo

Theater, 2332 W. Fourth St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.;

thru Sept. 20. (213) 382-8133.


CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD Mark Medoff's story of a romance between a

deaf student and her teacher. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd.,

North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 11. (866)



Stage Raw: Remembering the Royal Court Theatre

Photo courtesy of SST Productions


might be meant by a "Scottish national voice," say something between

the Romantic lyricism of Robert Burns and the sentimental whimsy of

filmmaker Bill Forsyth, writer-performer Rachel Ogilvy certainly speaks

it fluently. Her hour-long, first-person, dramatic monologue fairly

bristles with the saccharine-dipped eccentrics and evocative local

colors of her story's Edinburgh setting. Chiefly, though, it echoes in

the melodious burr of her hard-nosed, high-strung heroine, Rose. A

young, substitute math instructor who finds herself thrust into the

stress-torquing environs of a new job among hostile, teacher-eating

14-year-olds, Rose is not what one would call a "people person." Blame

a severe, emotionally distant mother and the childhood trauma of her

loving, half-remembered father's mysterious suicide, which has left her

a haunted, withdrawn outsider primed for a nervous breakdown. Rather

than heading for the nearest psychoanalyst's couch, Rose embarks on the

somewhat quixotic pursuit of winning over her disinterested students by

turning to her late father's obsession for the Golden Gate Bridge as

the centerpiece of an elaborate lesson plan in analytic geometry. The

effort quickly turns into a harrowing journey of relived memories that

takes her to Edinburgh's Forth Rail Bridge -- the site of her father's

fatal leap and a perilous emotional precipice of unresolved guilt which

she must cross to survive. Ogilvy uplifts her potentially weighty tale

with brittle humor and a sweetly affective performance in a production

benefited by Paul Christie's fluid, economical direction. Sidewalk

Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; (added

perfs Thurs., Sept. 17 & 24, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 20 & 27, 2

p.m.); thru Oct. 3. (818) 558-5702. (Bill Raden)

DIARY OF A CATHOLIC SCHOOL DROPOUT Layon Gray's profile of a young

woman contemplating suicide. Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006

Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru Sept. 27, (818) 761-0704.

FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS World-premiere play with music by Laurie Stevens

and Ronald Jacobs. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North

Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 31. (877)



Stage Raw: Remembering the Royal Court Theatre

Photo courtesy of Theatre Unleashed


Gregory Crafts' drama is billed as a show about teen violence,

conjuring up images of gangs with guns or distraught loners firing

wildly into a crowd of peers. In fact, while the latter event

eventually finds its way into Crafts' story, that's not its central

focus.Instead,  the play is mostly about  some of the pernicious perils

of adolescence - specifically the targeting of geeks by jocks, and the

painful experience of the outcast in a teen community worshipful of its

own rigid standard of "coolness." At  the heart of the plot is the

blossoming friendship between Garrett (Matthew Scott Montgomery), a

sullen geeky kid, and Nicole (Sarah Smick), a pretty cheerleader who's

just called it quits with her boyfriend Jesse (Alex Yee). Disgusted

with Jesse's arrogance and infidelity, Nicole finds herself drawn in by

Garrett's  candidness and unassuming manner.   To the surprise of all,

and the chagrin of some, their relationship blooms.  Especially

disturbed are Jesse - stunned that Garrett has become his rival, and 

Diz (Sari Sanchez), Garrett's former girl chum, who believes him to be

her soul mate and now seethes with jealousy.  Understated from the top,

Montgomery's performance deepens and expands as his character gradually

undergoes changes.  Smick  is likewise layered and sympathetic, and

Sanchez plays her one note role exceptionally well.   Yee and Ryan J.

Hill as everyone's buddy are also effective. Designer Andrew Moore's

visually grating and incongruent backdrop needs rethinking. Sean

Fitzgerald and Vance Roi Reyes co-direct. The Sherry Theatre, 11052

Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 17. (818)

849-4039.  A Theatre Unleashed production. (Deborah Klugman)


performance as Lady Bracknell, under Patricia Wylie's functional

direction of Oscar Wilde's comedy. Otherwise, the play is pretty limp.

There were a number of stepped-on lines the night this critic attended.

A bigger problem is Jason Perlman's overly rapid delivery as Algernon

-- many of Wilde's best lines are so rushed, the audience has no time

to react. Brent Hamilton and Betsy Rice make a serviceable pair of

lovers as Jack and Gwendolyn. However, the accents are all over the

place, particularly from Betsy Reisz who has difficulty pulling off the

role of well-bred Cecily -- the object of Algernon's affection. Wilde

might be spinning in his grave, but the essential comedy is still

amusing. The plot concerns two gentlemen who both call themselves

Earnest, and a comedy of mistaken identities ensues. Osa Danam brings

some charm as the befuddled governess Miss Prism, but McCurdy's

performance deserves special praise because it offers a slightly

vicious twist on Lady Bracknell. Jeri Deiotte's costumes are fine, and

Victoria Profitt's practical set design eases the transitions between

scenes. (Sandra Ross) Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd.,

Sierra Madre; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; no perf Sun.,. Aug.

16; thru Sept. 26. (626) 256-3809.


Stage Raw: Remembering the Royal Court Theatre

Photo by Amanda Troop


playwright Thornton Wilder lifted the character Frosine from Molière's

The Miser, and transplanted her in his adaptation of a 19th Century

Viennese farce by Johan Nestroy, he can't have realized that he was

launching her as one of the most enduringly popular characters in 20th

Century American theatre.  Renamed Dolly Gallagher Levi, she became the

formidable protagonist of both The Matchmaker and the Jerry Herman

musical version, Hello, Dolly! The play remains a delicious piece of

faux Americana, which doesn't need the songs to be a zany theatrical

warhorse. Dolly (Amanda Carlin) is playing matchmaker for wealthy

Yonkers merchant Horace Vandergelder (James Gleason), but she's

actually out to capture him for herself.  When Horace heads for

Manhattan to woo widowed Mrs. Molloy (Alyss Henderson), his two clerks,

Cornelius (Patrick Rafferty) and Barnaby (Colin Thomas Jennings), take

advantage of his absence to run off for a Manhattan adventure of their

own. Comic confusions, mistaken identities, and multiple romances

result. Director Dave Florek's production is sturdy rather than

brilliant, but he elicits plenty of charm from his large, engaging

cast.  Particularly noteworthy are Don Fischer and James Greene in

goofy featured roles. Jeff McLaughlin's sets and Sherry Linnell's

costumes capture the period flavor. The Victory Theatre Center, 3326

West Victory Boulevard, Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 4 p.m., thru

Oct. 18. Produced by Interact Theatre Company. (818) 765-8732. (Neal


A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM Outdoor Shakespeare by the Crown City

Theatre Company. Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Dr., La Canada

Flintridge; Through Sept. 20, 6 p.m.. (818) 949-4200.

PULP GRAVEYARD Theatre Unleashed takes on "comic books, pulp fiction

and dime-store novels," old-time live radio drama style. Sherry

Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 10:30 p.m.; thru

Oct. 17,

REP*A*TROIS Three plays in rotating rep: Heroes by Gerard Sibleyras, Painting Churches by Tina Howe, and Boston Marriage

by David Mamet. (Call for schedule.). Lonny Chapman Group Repertory

Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sun..; thru Nov.

7. (818) 700-4878.

SCARECROW Don Nigro's psychological thriller. Avery Schreiber

Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru

Oct. 17. (818) 766-9100.

UNDERGROUND WOMAN Delia Donovan's hippie-turned-curmudgeon comedy.

Theatre Unlimited, 10943 Camarillo Ave., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 18. (818) 238-0501.


CINDERELLA THE MUSICAL I attended writer-director Chris De Carlo

& Evelyn Rudie's musical adaptation of the timeless fairy tale with

my 9-year-old niece, Rachel. We found ourselves joined by a birthday

party of kids who appeared to be around 6, though there was a

smattering of infants and adults. These kids were obviously smitten

with the broad comedic antics of the stepsisters (Celeste Akiki and

Billie Dawn Greenblatt) and their mom (Serena Dolinksy, doubling, in a

rare, high-concept moment of intended irony, as Cinderella's Fairy

Godmother). The actors' goggle-eyed expressions and broad-as-a-barn

reactions generated screams of laughter from the kids, who were also

riveted by the songs (ranging in style from pop ballads to Gilbert and

Sullivan parodies). This production has been chugging on and off for 25

years now. Actor John Waroff has dedicated a quarter century of his

adult life strutting the boards as King Isgood, so points scored for

perseverance, which is more than can be said for Rachel, who promised

to write this review and then left it to me. Can't not mention Ashley

Hayes' lush costumes, nor the tinny sound design that left the singers

marooned. Rachel said she really liked the stepsisters and Cinderella

(Melissa Gentry) but wished somebody had been more cruel, as in the

story. Everybody here was just so nice, and Rachel was aching for

something meaner or weirder. I concur. Rachel also said some unkind

things about some of the performances, but if she wants those aired,

she can write a review herself. (SLM) Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211

Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat.-Sun., noon & 3 p.m.; through

December 27. (310) 394-9779.

THE NEED TO KNOW April Fitzsimmons' journey from military recruit to

peace activist. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice

Blvd., Culver City; Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 24. (310)


THE NERD Larry Shue's comedy about a nerd. Theater Palisades'

Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 11. (310) 454-1970.

THE RECEPTIONIST If there is a premise behind playwright Adam Bock's

superficial political satire, it might be the notion that even Adolf

Eichmann had a beloved mother, and, no doubt, an efficient receptionist

too. It is in the latter's domain of a generic, office waiting room (in

Chris Covics' appropriately bland-moderne set) that Bock places his

comic cautionary study in the mindless, bureaucratic surrender of moral

judgment to the dictates of duty ― what Hannah Arendt meant by "the

banality of evil." And there are few duties more banal than Beverly

Wilkins' (Megan Mullally of NBC's Will & Grace). Holding

down the front desk of the innocuous-sounding "Northeast Office," the

veteran employee sorts the mail, makes the coffee and screens the

incoming calls for her harried boss, Mr. Raymond (Jeff Perry), at least

when she isn't gossiping on the phone or giving relationship advice to

Mr. Raymond's flighty, love-hungry assistant, Lorraine (Jennifer

Finnigan). It is only with the surprise visit of the Central Office's

affable Martin Dart (Chris L. McKenna) and Mr. Raymond's inexplicable

absence that Beverly's comfortable routine begins to unravel and the

horrific nature of the Northeast Office's "services" is finally brought

to light. Though Mullally nails the officious manner and mercurial

pettiness of the practiced office functionary, Bart DeLorenzo's

detail-mired direction ultimately proves unable to bridge the

miscalculated disconnect between Bock's cobweb-thin characterizations

and the discordant heft of his message. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S.

Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov.

21. (310) 477-2055. (Bill Raden) An Evidence Room/Odyssey Theatre

Ensemble production.

THREE SISTERS Anton Chekhov's provincial Russian tale. Odyssey

Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

p.m.; thru Oct. 31. (310) 477-2055.

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