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Stage Raw: Sarah, Sarah

Stage Raw: Sarah, Sarah

Photo courtesy of West Coast Jewish Theatre

In playwright Daniel Goldfarb's family drama, the generation gap is

not so much of a gap as it is a gaping crevasse. In 1961, fearsome

Jewish mama Sarah Grosberg (played by Cheryl David with battle-axe

aplomb) invites the mousy fiancée (Robyn Cohen) of her beloved son

Artie (Patrick J. Rafferty) for tea and strudel, ostensibly so the two

ladies can get to know each other, but really so the possessive

mamutchka can talk the girl out of marrying him. As the intimidating

matriarch tears into the younger girl like a glutton gnawing on kugel,

it falls to Sarah's kindly housekeeper (Bart Braverman) to save the day

with an unexpected revelation about his boss. Years later, Sarah's

granddaughter Jennifer (also played by David, in such a different,

breezy, open turn that she's almost unrecognizable) journeys to China

to adopt an orphan, who turns out to be ill and possibly mentally

handicapped. Goldfarb's play is mainly set dressing for David's

splendid tour de force twin performances as the steely matriarch and

her neurotic, insecure granddaughter, turns which are beautifully

nuanced and complex. As Sarah, David depicts an immediately familiar

type, who's as much a creature of her era as is the more

immature-seeming, emotionally drifting Jennifer. Director Howard

Teichman's deceptively simple production adroitly captures the mood and

feel of two entirely different eras, exemplified by different body

languages and physical behavior. Braverman is also deft in his two

quite varied characters - though he excels as Jennifer's supportive,

yet pessimistic father in the play's second half. Pico Playhouse, 10508

W. Pico Blvd, West Los Angeles; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; , Sun., 2 p.m.;

thru June 27. (323) 821-2449 or http://www.wcjt.org. A West Coast Jewish Theatre Production. (Paul Birchall)

For all NEW THEATER REVIEWS seen over the weekend, press the More tab directly below:

NEW THEATER REVIEWS scheduled for publication May 13, 2010


NEW REVIEW BAD DATES During Act 1 of Theresa Rebeck's monodrama, Haley Walker (Samara Frame) seems to be an addle-pated fashionista with a passion for shoes to rival Imelda Marcos. As a single mother, she has parlayed her way into a job managing a restaurant (and money-laundering operation) run by Romanian Mafia. But mostly she worries about her clothes, and her unsuccessful efforts to find a good man. (She's also struck by the resemblance of her life to Joan Crawford's Mildred Pierce.) She recites a hilarious litany of disastrous first (and last) dates with losers: a pedantic Buddhist, a pompous law professor, et al. But Act 2 peels away the layers of her working life, which she manages with cleverness, hard work and spunk, out-witting the Mafiosi, and saving the restaurant. In an effective metaphor, she spends most for the early scenes applying makeup, and the later ones assiduously removing it. Under the careful direction of Carolyn Howarth, a seemingly frivolous comedy is transformed into a portrait of a tough and resourceful woman. And Frame engagingly captures both aspects of her contradictory nature. Dan Mailley's wonderfully cluttered set is crammed with enough shoes and outfits to supply a Paris Fashion Week. The Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood; Thurs. & Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m.; indef. Produced by Lone Star Ensemble. (323) 960-5770 or http://plays411.com (Neal Weaver)

NEW REVIEW GO CANNED HAM While performing at the Ahmanson Theatre in 42nd Street, performer Tom Judson shot his first scene in a porn-film, under the direction of ubiquitous entrepreneur Chi Chi LaRue, and, at age 42, he became porn star Gus Maddox. But that was only one chapter in his long, varied career. He performed on Broadway in Cabaret, playing multiple musical instruments. He has written music for TV shows (Sesame Street), Off-Broadway (Vampire Lesbians of Sodom), and film (Metropolitan), and acted Off-Broadway as well as on. It's a colorful story, and Judson tells it here in his solo performance with infectious charm and self-deprecating wit. He's done time as a professional escort, which left him feeling more like a psychotherapist than a sex object, and he was nominated (and lost) so many times for a GayVN award (the Oscars of porn), that he was compared to Susan Lucci, till he finally won as Performer of the Year. Along the way he performs some Chopin on the piano, and tells us about his long-time lover Bruce, who died of AIDS. Under the tactful direction of Kevin Maloney, it's a sweet and funny show. The Cavern Club Theater at Casita del Campo, 1920 Hyperion Avenue, Silver Lake; Fri.-Sat., 9 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m., thru May 16. Produced by TWEED Theater Works, Kearns Artist Services, and Chi Chi Larue Productions. http://brownpapertickets.com/event/100513 (Neal Weaver)

NEW REVIEW EVA PERON: ENIGMA OF A DESTINY Though Angela Nicholas and Anibal Silveyra's new translation and adaptation of Anibal Aprile's original play aspires to, according to its press release, peel back the paint to discover Eva Peron's true colors, this is little more than a fawning, reverential homage to the much-adored, rags-to-riches wife of Argentinian President Juan Peron. The production, which touches briefly on young Evita's (Julia Szilagyi) destitute childhood before following Eva's (Angela Nicholas) journey from actress to First Lady in Buenos Aires, attempts to integrate tango and music as a means of enriching the story. Unfortunately, while Zita Gonzalez's choreography is fine, the dance sequences are more disorienting than complementary. Worse yet, they feel like filler for a story that doesn't have enough to say. There's nothing inherently wrong with theatrically chronicling a historical figure's life. But if it's already been done, both famously and with extensive productions (Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Evita), a company should have something more substantial to contribute to the conversation before joining in. Anibal Silveyra, who stars as Juan Peron, also directs. Knightsbridge Theatre, 1944 Riverside Dr. Silver Lake; Fri.-Sat, 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; through May 16. (323) 667-0955 (Rebecca Haithcoat)

NEW REVIEW FULL DISCLOSURE The extremely intriguing set up of Ruth McKee's site-specific play invites the audience to a real home for sale in a secret suburban location to enact the role of prospective buyers at an open house. We are greeted by overeager, aptly named realtor Sunny (Amy Ellenberger), who insists shoes be removed or covered with booties. Sunny's over-the-top enthusiasm and pushiness (and plate full of fresh cookies) is an auspicious beginning of what looks to be a participatory environmental theater piece. But the prospects soon dim into a long, seriocomic monologue about Sunny's complicated relationship to the house and its owners. The title does not refer to the problems of the house itself, but of the annoying personalities who inhabit it. Ultimately the evening is an exercise in Sunny's self-pity, and audiences may feel as though trapped in an airplane with a seat mate who won't stop talking about her problems, so obviously stemming from her self-absorption, and who fails to recognize how her poor judgement and faulty ethics were the cause of all her troubles. Sometimes a character's blindness is intriguing. Not so here. Chalk Repertory Theatre; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m..; Sun, 7 p.m. 800-838-3006. In order to protect the privacy of the home hosts specific addresses will only be given at the time of purchase. (Tom Provenzano)

NEW REVIEW THE GIFT HORSE

Stage Raw: Sarah, Sarah

Photo by Austen Hoogen

In his director's notes, Benjamin Haber Kamine points out that his is only the second staging of playwright Lydia R. Diamond's 2002 melodrama. That's not surprising. Rather than another production, this unwieldy, convoluted and rambling soap opera could have benefited far more from a second draft. Diamond, who has made something of a career out of dramatizing the emotional travails of the black professional class (Stick Fly), here explores its darker side in the story of Ruth (Ajarae Coleman), the daughter of a sexually abusive, offstage psychiatrist, and Ruth's lifelong friendship with Ernesto (Arturo Aranda), her gay, Latino college roommate. The play charts their sometimes barren and often bumpy love lives, first as Ernesto gets the raw end of a relationship with a sociopathic, Typhoid Mary of an HIV-infected boyfriend (Steven Koller), then as Ruth falls for her psychotherapist, Brian (Horace V. Rogers), as he plumbs the puzzle of why she can't bring herself to sleep in her expensive, Pottery Barn bed. Kamine elicits some fine performances, including Aranda's wonderfully nuanced, 20-year leap from timid freshman to trauma-tempered survivor, and Rogers' chillingly convincing turn as Ruth's stolid if unethical love interest. But a lackluster production design (Aviva Fersht's dual living room set, Austen Hoogen's lights) and a text top-heavy with un-actable narration, un-stageable scene crosscutting and overly cute audience asides all but annihilate Diamond's less-than-convincing moral on the redemptive power of unconditional love. Working Stage Theater, 1516 N. Gardner St., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.-Mon., 7 p.m.; thru May 24. (323) 851-2603. A See Kay Theatre Production. (Bill Raden)

NEW REVIEW GROUNDLINGS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT In a departure from the Groundlings' trademark irreverent, take-no-prisoner sketch comedy that made laughing as involuntary as breathing, this new show, directed by Karen Maruyama, is distinctly low-key and only funny in patches. The biggest disappointment of the evening was the two improv segments that bracket the show, where comedians do routines based on audience suggestions. The absence of ease, craft and imagination was palpable. These failings were apparent in other sketch routines as well. "Cal Tech," has a crew of seismic scientists engaging in silly wisecracking and a overwrought spates of physical comedy and demolition derby with their chairs. "Next Step," finds Charlotte Newhouse and Scott Beehner as teenagers trying to get their sexual desires in sync, but there isn't much wit. A husband gets vexed trying to relate to his wife in "I'm Listening," which is equally unfunny. "Concert Footage" is a pleasant surprise. After a Taylor Swift concert, Damon Jones playing a P. R. guy interviews and coolly insults members of the audience. Michael Naughton is still one of the funniest guys around, and his talents are evident in "Mirror Image," where a special software program allows you a glimpse at what you'll look like in the future, and "Animal Stars," where he is one of a pair of animal trainers. The Groundlings Theater, 7307 Melrose Avenue, L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 10.p.m.; thru. July 10. (323) 934-4747, ext 37. http://groundlings.com (Lovell Estell III)

NEW REVIEW OJALÁ!

Stage Raw: Sarah, Sarah

Photo by Len Jacobson

Jennifer Barry's play about a young Mexican nanny (Claudia Duran) in 1960s Los Angeles helping a young affluent white woman (Lindsay Lane) care for her accidental child is best when it gets away from its cliché beats and delves into the fragile relationship between its two protagonists. A standout performance from Duran urges the play toward this, and Elizabeth Otero de Espinoza's direction favors the scenes of intimacy between employer and employee. However the plot definitely works against this, pushing the story toward disappointing melodrama. And Barry steps conveniently around the language barrier issue, which could have helped layer the class tension supposedly at the center of the piece. The most beautiful moment of the play is an interstitial that features three Mexican maids engaged in their repetitive domestic labor while one of them sings a doleful song in Spanish. If only the rest of the play could have been consistently as conscious of its theme. Casa 0101 2009 E. First St., East LA. Fri.-Sat., 8 pm; Sun., 5 pm; thru June 6th. (323) 263-7684. (Luis Reyes)

NEW REVIEW GO SARAH, SARAH

Stage Raw: Sarah, Sarah

Photo courtesy of West Coast Jewish Theatre

In playwright Daniel Goldfarb's family drama, the generation gap is not so much of a gap as it is a gaping crevasse. In 1961, fearsome Jewish mama Sarah Grosberg (played by Cheryl David with battle-axe aplomb) invites the mousy fiancée (Robyn Cohen) of her beloved son Artie (Patrick J. Rafferty) for tea and strudel, ostensibly so the two ladies can get to know each other, but really so the possessive mamutchka can talk the girl out of marrying him. As the intimidating matriarch tears into the younger girl like a glutton gnawing on kugel, it falls to Sarah's kindly housekeeper (Bart Braverman) to save the day with an unexpected revelation about his boss. Years later, Sarah's granddaughter Jennifer (also played by David, in such a different, breezy, open turn that she's almost unrecognizable) journeys to China to adopt an orphan, who turns out to be ill and possibly mentally handicapped. Goldfarb's play is mainly set dressing for David's splendid tour de force twin performances as the steely matriarch and her neurotic, insecure granddaughter, turns which are beautifully nuanced and complex. As Sarah, David depicts an immediately familiar type, who's as much a creature of her era as is the more immature-seeming, emotionally drifting Jennifer. Director Howard Teichman's deceptively simple production adroitly captures the mood and feel of two entirely different eras, exemplified by different body languages and physical behavior. Braverman is also deft in his two quite varied characters - though he excels as Jennifer's supportive, yet pessimistic father in the play's second half. Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd, West Los Angeles; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; , Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 27. (323) 821-2449 or http://www.wcjt.org. A West Coast Jewish Theatre Production. (Paul Birchall)

NEW REVIEW GO TOOTH AND NAIL

Stage Raw: Sarah, Sarah

Photo by Ed Krieger

Based on a little-known incident in LA history, this thriller explores the collision of reality and fantasy as two actors juggle various roles to entrap homosexuals for "social vagrancy" in the public restrooms of 1914 Long Beach. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 6. (626) 683-6883. See Theater feature on Wednesday



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