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Stage Raw: Tell Me Where You're Going, I'll Tell You Where I've Been

Stage Raw: Tell Me Where You're Going, I'll Tell You Where I've Been


Stage FEATURE on Watson (Sacred Fools) and Futura (Boston Court)


TELL ME WHERE YOU'RE GOING, I'LL TELL YOU WHERE I'VE BEEN

The 9th Annual Los Angeles Storytelling Festival takes place this coming Saturday November 13, 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Culver-Palms UMC Complex, 4464 Sepulveda Blvd. Culver City, Ca. 90230

Stories told by Cece Antoinette, Dylan Brody, Helen Brown, Slash Coleman, Ellaraino, Bess Fanning, Joe Herrington, Anneke Jong, David LeBarron, John McGee, David O'Shea, Ellen Switkes, and Sylvia Velasquez-Lawrence -- from traditional fairy and folk tales and contemporary personal stories, both tragic and comedic.

Also concerts for children and adults, and workshops "to help people discover their own personal stories." $40 to $6. Tickets can be purchased in advance, or the day of.

For the weekend's COMPLETE THEATER LISTINGS, press the More tab directly below:

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for Nov. 12-18, 2010

Our critics are Pauline Adamek, Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III, Rebecca Haithcoat, Martin Hernandez, Mayank Keshaviah, Deborah Klugman, Steven Leigh Morris, Amy Nicholson, Tom Provenzano, Bill Raden, Luis Reyes, Sandra Ross and Neal Weaver. These listings were compiled by Derek Thomas

Productions are sequenced alphabetically in the following cagtegories: Opening This Week, Larger Theaters regionwide, Smaller Theaters in Hollywood, Smaller Theaters in the valleys , Smaller Theaters on the Westside and in beach towns. You can also search for any play by title, using your computer's search engine.

OPENING THIS WEEK

CALLIGRAPHY World premiere of Velina Hasu Houston's story of two cousins, one in Los Angeles, one in Tokyo. Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A.; opens Nov. 12; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 12. (866) 811-4111.

CAUGHT IN A MIRACLE: A PERFORMANCE OF CONTEMPORARY MAGIC An evening of illusion by Magic Castle regular David Gabbay. Elephant Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens Nov. 13; Sat., 9 p.m.; thru Dec. 4, plays411.com/magic. (323) 960-7782.

CHARLIE! THE DEATH OF NANCY FULLFORCE Jasten King's rock 'n' roll musical about a reporter on the heels of a pop star. Cavern Club Theater, 1920 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; Fri., Nov. 12, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 13, 8 p.m., brownpapertickets.com/event/122493. (323) 969-2530.

COLOGNE, OR THE WAYS EVIL ENTERS THE WORLD One-night-only performance benefiting the Save the Santa Monica Playhouse Campaign. Starring Harry Hart-Browne, written and directed by Tony Abatemarco. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Fri., Nov. 12, 8 p.m.. (310) 394-9779.

DANIEL MORDEN: METAMORPHOSES/THE TROJAN WAR Britain's acclaimed master storyteller performs two classic works of literature: Ovid's Metamorphoses and a family-friendly version of The Trojan War. Getty Villa, 17985 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu; Fri., Nov. 12, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 13, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 14, 3 p.m.. (310) 440-7300.

Diaries of a K-Town Dive ... Susan Park's one-woman show set in a hole-in-the-wall bar in L.A.'s Koreatown. Elephant Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens Nov. 13; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 11. (323) 960-1054.

FIFTH ANNUAL ONE-ACT FESTIVAL Above the Curve Theatre showcases six one-act plays, including a spoof of Grease. Actors Workout Studio, 4735 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Nov. 12; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 21, abovethecurvetheatre.com. (310) 486-0051.

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO FORECLOSURE It's Melissa Vardey versus the bank in her "underwater" musical-comedy. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sun., Nov. 14, 4 p.m.. (310) 398-5218.

LOL! LATINA ON THE LOOSE! Written and performed by Mina Olivera. Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A.; opens Nov. 12; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 20. (866) 811-4111.

THE LITTLE FLOWER OF EAST ORANGE Stephen Adly Guirgis' intergenerational ghost story. Elephant Stages' Lillian Theatre, 1076 N. Lillian Way, L.A.; opens Nov. 12; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 12, elephanttheatrecompany.com. (877) 369-9112.

THE MANY MURDERS OF WALLACE T. WALKER Zombie Joe's Underground's latest comedy-thriller, wherein a newbie detective must solve a birthday-party murder. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Nov. 12; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru Dec. 4. (818) 202-4120.

MERRY FILTHY CHRISTMASMerry Filthy Christmas Produced by Darren Mangler and Theatre Unleashed. Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Nov. 12-13, 10 p.m.; Dec. 3-4, 10 p.m.. (818) 849-4039.

PANDEMONIUM From Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, the folks who brought you STOMP's can-banging and move-busting, comes a symphony orchestra whose instruments include "bottles, whirly toys, traffic cones, oil drums, wood planks, bottles, glasses, bellows, foot pumps, plastic tubes, funnels, rope, balls, metal objects, filing cabinets, kids toys, and car horns.", $20-$60. Royce Hall, UCLA, 340 Royce Dr., Westwood; Tues., Nov. 16, 8 p.m.; Wed., Nov. 17, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Nov. 18, 7 & 10 p.m., pandemoniumtheshow.com. (310) 825-2101.

POOKIE GOES GRENADING Staged reading of J.C. Lee's play, part of South Coast Rep's "NewSCRipts" series. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Mon., Nov. 15, 7:30 p.m.. (714) 708-5555.

A RAISIN IN THE SUN Staged reading of Lorraine Hansberry's civil rights story, presented by L.A. Theatre Works. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood; Nov. 17-19, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 20, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 21, 4 p.m.. (310) 827-0889.

RENDITION IN DAMASCUS John C. Plummer's dark comedy about an Episcopal priest who's lost her faith, her adulterous husband, a C.I.A. operative, and a Sunday school teacher. Working Stage Theater, 1516 N. Gardner St., L.A.; opens Nov. 12; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 10, plays411.com/rendition. (323) 960-7719.

SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS The Relevant Stage presents the frontier musical. Book by David Landay and Lawrence Kasha, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn, music by Gene de Paul, Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn. Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. Sixth St., San Pedro; opens Nov. 12; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 21, brownpapertickets.com/onsite/event/131094. (800) 838-3006.

SIDWAYS STORIES FROM WAYWOOD SCHOOL Kids' adventures in a quirky school, based on the novels by Louis Sachar, adapted for the stage by John Olive. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; opens Nov. 13; Sat., Nov. 13, 7:45 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 & 7:45 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 7:45 p.m.; thru Nov. 21. (714) 708-5555.

THE STORIES OF CESAR CHAVEZ Fred Blanco's bilingual portrayal of famed labor leader Cesar Chavez. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; opens Nov. 14; Sun., 7 p.m.; Tues., Dec. 7, 8 p.m.; Tues., Dec. 14, 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 12. (310) 281-8337.

SUMMER IN HELL Miles Brandman's tale of two young cousins' secrets at a family estate. Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; opens Nov. 13; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 18, brimmerstreet.org. (213) 290-2782.

SWEETS OF ONAN Sonia Aria Oleniak's "13 tableaux reframing the drama of Polish writer Tadeusz Razewicz's Mariage Blanc.". Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; Fri., Nov. 12, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 13, 8:30 p.m.. (310) 315-1459.

The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet The Merry War Theatre Group sets Shakespeare's play in the upscale Verona Hotel & Casino. American Legion Hollywood, 2035 N. Highland Ave., L.A.; Nov. 12-Dec. 12, 8 p.m., merrywar-theatregroup.com. (323) 851-3030.

WUNDERBAUM: LOOKING FOR PAUL World premiere of a new work by the controversial Dutch theater ensemble. REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., L.A.; Nov. 17-20, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 20, 3 p.m.. (213) 237-2800.

YES SVETLANA, THERE IS A GRANDFATHER FROST Jeff Goode's political comedy about the most wonderful time of the year in Soviet Russia. Luna Playhouse, 3706 San Fernando Road, Glendale; opens Nov. 13; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 19. (800) 838-3006.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER VENUES REGIONWIDE

BECKY SHAW Newlyweds regret setting up friends in Gina Gionfriddo's comedy. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 21. (714) 708-5555.

BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE First produced in 1958, writer John Van Druten's creaky comedy extols the notion that women may lay claim to marital bliss only when they've relinquished their power. A forerunner of the TV sitcom Bewitched, the plot revolves around a young witch named Gillian (Willow Geer), who concocts a wildly successful spell to corral the adoration of her attractive upstairs tenant, Shep (Michael A. Newcomber). Gillian's subsequent predicament is twofold: First, she cannot allow her lover to learn that she's a witch; second, she must not actually fall in love with the guy, or else she will lose her magic. With its fantastical premise, stale humor and contrived plot, the material would present a challenge to even the most adept and charismatic performers (Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer starred in the successful stage original). Under Richard Israel's direction, Geer -- decked out by costume designer Sharon McGunigle in high heels and an unflattering period dress -- appears stiff and uncomfortable throughout Act I, while Newcomber's plodding persona, though persuasive, exudes little charm. The duo fare better in Act 2, when Geer's character, having something to conceal, is presented with a real conflict. The flames of passion between them never flare, however, adding another deficit to the production. William Bradley does a respectable turn as Gillian's mischief-making brother, while both Mary Jo Catlett as her dippy aunt and Benton Jennings as a nosy writer rely on comedic shtick. (Deborah Klugman). Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 21. (818) 558-7000.

CRIMES OF THE HEART Beth Henley's Pulitzer Prize winner about three dysfunctional sisters. David Henry Hwang Theater, 120 Judge John Aiso St., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 5. (213) 625-7000.

DADDY LONG LEGS Musical based on the novel by Jean Webster, with music and lyrics by Paul Gordon, book and direction by John Caird. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada; Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 21. (562) 944-9801.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS Neil Bartlett's adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; Through Nov. 12, 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 21, 2 & 7 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 27, 2 & 8 p.m.; Through Dec. 10, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 18, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 19, 2 & 7 p.m.. (818) 240-0910.

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK Interactive kids' musical, book and lyrics by Lloyd J. Schwartz, music by Ben Lanzarone. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Sat., 1 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (323) 851-7977.

THE LION IN WINTER James Goldman's historical drama, set circa Christmastime 1183. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 11. (562) 494-1014.

MAESTRO: THE ART OF LEONARD BERSTEIN Hershey Felder re-creates the legendary composer. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 12. (310) 208-5454.

MEASURE FOR MEASURE Shakespeare's problem play. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; Sat., Nov. 13, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 14, 2 & 7 p.m.; Thurs., Nov. 18, 8 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 19, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 4, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 5, 2 p.m.. (818) 240-0910.

PETER PAN J.M. Barrie's flight of fantasy, complete with "the world's first 360-degree CGI theater set.". Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa; Tues.-Fri., 7 p.m.; Sat., 1 & 6 p.m.; Sun., 12:30 & 6 p.m.; thru Dec. 5. (714) 556-2787.

TEA AT FIVE In Matthew Lombardo's one-woman play, directed by Jenny Sullivan, Stephanie Zimbalist dons the mannish slacks of legendary actress Katharine Hepburn and shares a few stories from her life and career. In Act 1, the actress is 31 and suffering a career slump. Several movie flops in a row have earned her the deadly moniker "Box Office Poison." We hear her haranguing her agent via telephone to get her cast as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind and fending off lavish attention from suitor Howard Hughes. Her monologues to the audience are nicely broken up by telephone calls and unseen visitors at the door of her father's well-appointed Connecticut cottage (set design by Neil Prince). For Act 2, Zimbalist re-emerges as an aging Hepburn, clearly suffering the onset of "essential tremor" that plagued her final years. Mercifully, Zimbalist never overplays the distinctive vocal mannerisms Hepburn was known for. Eventually a portrait emerges of a gutsy, scrappy, single-minded and indefatigable woman who fought at every turn to preserve her independence within a spirit-crushing studio system. Flashes of self-deprecating humor and moments of vulnerability just endear us further to this cinematic icon. For almost the entire play, any mention of her clandestine 27-year love affair with Spencer Tracy is conspicuously absent. It's only within the last 15 minutes of this short play (two 45-minute acts) that the romance with her frequent leading man is briefly and almost begrudgingly discussed. (Pauline Adamek). Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Nov. 14. (818) 955-8101.

THE VAULT The multi-ethnic ensemble's mix of performance art and music. (In Theatre 4.). Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 9 p.m.; thru Nov. 20. (866) 811-4111.

VENICE Pablo Picasso is famously credited with the epigram, "Good artists copy, great artists steal." He might also have added, "And all artists invariably steal from Shakespeare; the trick is in knowing what to take." In the case of this overwrought, albeit handsomely mounted musical co-production from Kansas City Rep and Center Theatre Group, writer-director Eric Rosen's search for a plot on which to hang actor-composer Matt Sax's rousing hip-hop- and R&B-infused score eventually led him to Othello. The result is less a theft than an act of vandalism. Set in a mythical near future, in a fictional city named Venice that has been wracked by 20 years of war, the story focuses on the political and fraternal rivalry between pro-peace leader General Venice Monroe (Javier Muñoz) -- read: Othello the Moor -- and his Iago-ish half-brother, the fascistic Captain Markos Monroe (Rodrick Covington). Venice aims to inaugurate his "Sunrise" peace policy with his public wedding to childhood sweetheart and Desdemona stand-in Willow (Andrea Goss) in the city's newly restored cathedral; Markos schemes to sabotage that symbolic act. How he does so involves a scheme so obtuse and shorn of Shakespeare's psychological subtleties that it requires a roving narrator, the Clown MC (Sax), to continuously clarify the characters' motivations in bursts of hip-hop exposition. Suffice it to say that by the time Markos achieves his nefarious ends, his victims include Venice's loyal lieutenant, Michael (Erich Bergen), Michael's Lady Gagalike "love interest" (Angela Wildflower Polk), Markos' military-industrialist co-conspirator (J.D. Goldblatt) and, in the evening's most misbegotten bowdlerization of the Bard, Willow herself. The real tragedy of Rosen's self-consciously mythic melodrama is in its disservice to the show's powerhouse vocal talent and inspired production team. David Weiner's elegant lights, Meghan Raham's smart costumes and striking, bomb-ravaged church set and Jason H. Thompson's meta-theatrical projections all lend the evening a stylish polish. Sax's music emerges as the star attraction, and the audience undoubtedly will be humming the sweetly moving duet "The Wind Cried Willow," sung by Goss and the show's Emilia, Victoria Platt, on the drive home. The story, they'll likely forget before they unlock the car door. (Bill Raden). Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 14. (213) 628-2772.

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

AFTER SCHOOL GROUNDLING All-new sketch and improv, directed by Heather Morgan. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun., 8 & 10 p.m.; thru Jan. 28. (323) 934-9700.

ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT SUNDAY Jordan Black directs the Groundlings Sunday Company. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 934-9700.

NEW REVIEW

BARRYMORE

Stage Raw: Tell Me Where You're Going, I'll Tell You Where I've Been

Photo by Angela George Sharon Graphics

William Luce's (The Belle of Amherst) 1996 two-character

play studies the rakish actor John Barrymore (Jack Betts). In 1941,

Barrymore's best days are behind him. Having settled into a desperate

routine of drinking and caricaturing himself, he decides to revive his

successful 1920 production of Shakespeare's Richard III. In a

rented theater, he runs lines with fellow actor Frank (Darin Dahms).

But Barrymore can neither remember his lines nor concentrate. He just

wants to find the whiskey Frank has hidden. Barrymore reminisces about

his beloved grandmother, Louisa Drew; his mother, who died when he was

very young; and his dissolute father, Maurice. He waxes cynical about

his four wives, his rivalry with brother Lionel and his resentment of

sister Ethel's attempts to lure him away from Hollywood and back to the

theater. Performing snippets of Shakespeare while he swans about in his

Richard costumes, Barrymore strikes picturesque attitudes, until Frank

finally rebels and tells him some home truths. Betts has enormous

authority, under the slick direction of Carlyle King, and at moments he

conjures up an uncanny resemblance to Barrymore, all scurrilous, boozy

charm. Marilyn Monroe Theatre at the Lee Strasberg Creative Center,

7936 Santa Monica Blvd., W. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m.;

through Nov. 14. (323) 960-7863, plays411.com/barrymore. (Neal Weaver)

BEST OF CIRCUS THEATRICALS Festival of New One Act Plays Five one-act plays selected as "audience favorites" from Circus Theatricals' New One Act Play Festivals of 2009 and 2010. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 20. (310) 213-6955.

BOB BAKER'S NUTCRACKER The marionette characters of Bob Baker Marionette Theater's take on the holiday favorite include the Nutcracker Prince, the Sugarplum Fairies, the Mouse King, and 100 more. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., L.A.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 10:30 a.m.; thru Jan. 16. (213) 250-9995.

GO DIVING NORMAL A 2006 New York Fringe Festival favorite, playwright Ashlin Halfnight's tale of an unlikely romantic triangle between a trio of Manhattan misfits might be more aptly titled Three Compelling Characters in Search of a Play. Which is not to say that director Neil H. Weiss' production doesn't pack its share of panache and charm. In fact, it's difficult to recall when a script so deeply flawed boasted such uniformly flawless and engaging performances. Graphic novelist Fulton (Philipp Karner)lives a Manichaean fantasy of his own making. His delusional dualism, in which people are either good or evil, is straight from the pages of the superhero comics with which he makes his living. Not surprisingly, his sole friend is his neighbor with Asperger's syndrome, Gordon (the marvelous Scotty Crowe), whose guilelessness and comically over-literal and inappropriate truth-telling sustains Fulton's black-and-white worldview. All that is upended when Fulton's high school dream girl, Dana (Carly Pope), steps out of his past and onto his doorstep fresh from a mugging, the details of which don't quite add up. Dismissing Gordon's Cassandra-like misgivings, Fulton plunges blindly into romance only to discover too late that his idealized damsel in distress is decidedly damaged goods. And though Fulton's characterization lacks the complex edges for the role of dramatic fulcrum assigned him, a superb cast, along with set designer Jeff McLaughlin's ingenious lights and Leeahd Goldberg's emblematic, shapeshifting posters, comes tantalizingly close to compensating for the manifold deficits of their text. (Bill Raden). SFS Theatre, 5636 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Wed., Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 14, plays411.com/divingnormal. (323) 960- 5521.

DRUNK TALK Lance Whinery's interactive pub comedy. Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 19. (323) 466-6111.

ELEVATOR Michael Leoni's story of seven strangers stuck in a lift. Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 28, elevatortheplay.com. (323) 654-0680.

EVERYTHING WILL BE DIFFERENT: A BRIEF HISTORY OF HELEN OF TROY Teenage Charlotte (Alana Dietze) is intense, emotional and not attractive in a conventional sense. Her problems multiply when her mother dies, and she's left to deal with the dismissive contempt of her dad (Christopher Fields), who resents her for not being his now lost, beautiful wife. To cope, the unglamorous teen immerses herself in the legend of Helen of Troy, using that myth as a springboard for her fantasies of sexual power and irresistible lovability. Written by Mark Schultz, the piece sets anchor in the realm of absurdity, where Charlotte operates as a clueless narcissist, as carelessly cruel toward others as they are toward her. Schultz extracts questionable humor from her mucked-up priorities -- her career goal is to be a porn star -- and from the snarky abuse that several characters inflict on each other. Under John Lawler's direction, Dietze's sullen adolescent displays a mulishness that seems dull and depthless, but for a few exceptional moments. The most vivid and moving occurs when, narrating Hermione's futile wait for the return of her mother, Helen, the unhappy Charlotte breaks down. The capable supporting ensemble includes Liz Fenning as her chirpy gal pal and Bobby Campo as the oily dude who won't give her a second glance, except for a blowjob. Designers Frederica Nascimento's set and Jared A. Sayeg's lighting contribute to the drama's discomfitingly cold and surreal ambiance. (Deborah Klugman). Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 14. (877) 369-9112,.

FAIRIES WITH CHILDREN: THE YES ON HATE EPISODE From the lair of Gay Headquarters where a poster proclaims their three-point global takeover (Step One: Convert the Youth), a new plot is hatched. Ex-couple and agents Alan (Marco Tazioli) and Peter (Guy Windsor) must move to Pomona and pose as a straight couple to infiltrate and corrupt the conservatives. Warned by their squad leader that Cher and Madonna are too flashy for suburban wives, Peter decides to drag up as America's best bad wife, Peggy Bundy, costume complete with Alan's Al, a talking dog, an activist Kelly (Erin Muir) and a twinky Bud (Charles Romaine) who bones his mom on the sly. (At least this Al loves his shoes.) Director Sean Riley has nailed the details down to the front door, but hesitancy clouds the comedy -- although Tazioli's great at thrusting his hand down his pants. More sitcom than satire, John Trapper's script hasn't figured out its point beyond giving Windsor a glorious red bouffant. And with the Bundys leading the local anti-gay movement (the better to attract like minds), their mission is murky. They're supposed to lure in bigots and ... keep agreeing with them? Plus, the closeted right-wing senator next door (Eric Adams) and his "assistant" (Dexter de Sah) are meant to argue the opposite point: that it's bad to witch-hunt against oneself. At least their Tea Partier friend Sandy (actual Married ... With Children alum Donna Pieroni) embraces her message and, fittingly, her softshoe number "Good Morning Fox and Friends" brings down the cul-de-sac. (Amy Nicholson). Meta Theater, 7801 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 27, fairieswithchildren.com...

FESTIVITY LA 2010 Ensemble Studio Theatre-LA's annual festival of new play readings. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., L.A.; Through Nov. 14. (213) 368-9552.

FOOD FOR THE DEAD/JOHNNY TENORIO CASA 0101 celebrates Day of the Day with two Chicano one-act plays: Food for the Dead by Josefina Lopez and Johnny Tenorio by Carlos Morton. Salon de la Plaza, 1866 E. First St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru Nov. 21, casa0101.org. (323) 263-7684.

GOD'S FAVORITE The burly, crop-haired Steve Gustafson bears a fleeting resemblance to Jackie Gleason, which plays well in his portrayal of Joe Benjamin, a rags-to-riches cardboard-box magnate who remembers, as a child, a household with more than a dozen siblings. He recalls having to take a number in order to secure a sleeping space. This is a story he loves to tell his alcoholic son, David (Jeff Guilfoyle), in a hopeless attempt to instill in the foundering youth an appreciation for all that has been bestowed upon him. For all the young man's careening around the stage while inebriated and swilling the hard stuff nonstop, both Guilfoyle and Gustafson anchor the story with a grounded acting style, compared with the rest of the Benjamin clan, who swirl around the father-son nucleus like electrons. This may be suggested by the script: Ben and Sarah (Adam Dlugolecki and Rhonda Kohl) are twins with identical goofy costumes (by Vicki Conrad). Their Mutt-and-Jeff routine might have fit were Joe and David likewise comedically grotesque, but that would have devastated the already fragile underpinnings of Joe's crisis. Even if we're supposed to be a studio audience watching the taping of a sitcom, there's still a clash of styles, and the humor in Neil Simon's 1974 comedy still misfires. Joe's wife, Rose (the solid Rebecca Hayes), also bounces through the action as though on a trampoline: part spouse, part comedic foil. Things start to get interesting with the arrival of God's messenger, a schlub named Sidney Lipton (Greg Baldwin) employed part-time, and temporarily laid off during Almighty cutbacks. Lipton, almost blind, sports thick-rimmed glasses. This contributes to Baldwin's impressive comedy performance. God's Favorite is a jokey comedy, which creates a challenge for any director of sustaining an emotional connection via the one-liners, which are a deflective source of engagement. The story pulls you in, and the style of wit strategically keeps exploding that connection. After a while, you may find yourself laughing, but you're also checking out. (Steven Leigh Morris). Crossley Terrace Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 14, actorsco-op.org. (323) 462-8460.

GROUNDLINGS WILDCARD SHOWS Which Groundlings show will you get on Thursday night? It's completely random:: Chest Voice, S#!t My Folks Dont Know, Mitch & Edi or Straight to Video. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Thurs., 10 p.m.; thru Dec. 2. (323) 934-9700.

GO HEAD: THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE Composer-lyricist Kevin Fry's delightfully campy horror musical, based on Roger Corman's 1962 gore-fest The Brain That Wouldn't Die, is not only enjoyable on the level of Midnight Theater excess, it's a quick-witted show by any standard. Its catchy score and clever, bloodthirsty lyrics are in the style of Little Shop of Horrors. And how can you not love a musical that features a severed head warbling songs of love and hatred? Beautiful, virginal Jan (Stephanie Ann Saunders) is administering fellatio to her boyfriend, Bill (Charles St. Michael), in the front seat of their car as they speed through the woods -- an ill-advised, foolhardy act they soon have reason to regret as, in the ensuing car crash, Jan's head is chopped off. Not to worry, though: Bill, it turns out, is a mad scientist and has invented a formula that will keep Jan's head alive until he can find a new body onto which to transplant it. While Bill runs off to scour the strip clubs for a suitable albeit unwilling donor, Jan is left hooked up to a table, singing the blues. If the sight of a severed head dangling by its jaws from a man's manhood isn't enough to make you howl, then the image of Saunders' strangely seductive Jan, her head on a table, singing a love song to the hideous Franken-monster (Chance Havens) Bill keeps locked in the closet, will do the trick. In director L. Flint Esquerra's taut production, the ensemble assay their silly characters with glee and conviction. Fry's musical style strives for '50s doo-wop, but his comic instincts are comparatively timeless, evident in lyrics such as, "He will find you a new hottie/Chop off her head and give you her body!" Under music director Robert Shaw's helm, the ensemble's vocal work is top-notch, with droll performances that are equal parts operatic and cheesy. In addition to Saunders' perky yet monstrous Jan, particularly sprightly turns are offered by St. Michael's spooky, intense mad scientist and by Becca Battoe and Fiona Bates, playing ill-fated women of ill repute, one of whom comes to grief at Bill's hands. St. Michael, in particular, has a memorably evocative falsetto: perfectly in tune, but edged with a fierce madness that puts one in mind of Riff Raff from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. (Paul Birchall). MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A.; Sat., 8 & 10:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 20. (323) 960-5770.

NEW REVIEW

HOT A handful of well-written plays have

forged gripping dramatic material from an apocalyptic scenario: Alan

Bowne's somewhat dated AIDS-era drama Beirut and Henry Murray's

Treefall, recently staged here at Theatre/Theater, artfully probed the

complexities and bonds of human relationships in a ruined world. Here,

playwright Daniel Keleher is more interested in laughs and low farce.

In the midst of a murderous pandemic, Jones (Gregory Myhre) and Benny

(James Jordan) seem to be doing fine, ensconced in a ruddy apartment

with plenty to drink, engaging in loads of pointless frat-boy banter.

The play's pulse is felt when Horn (fine performance by Shawn Colten),

whose job entails disposing of the dead, drops in and agrees to procure

a woman for Benny, which he soon after does, dragging her onstage in a

sack. From here, under Mel Shapiro's lax direction, it only gets worse.

Act 2 opens with Benny decked out in a tux with his equally spruced-up

comatose lover, and Jones tending to his near-dead fiancée in a

wheelchair. There is a feeble attempt at gravitas made toward the end

involving the sudden appearance of a vaccine, and the morality of

euthanasia, but by then, one is past all caring. Attic Theatre and Film

Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Dec.

11. (323) 969-1707. (Lovell Estell III)

NEW REVIEW  GO HYPERBOLE: ORIGINS

Stage Raw: Tell Me Where You're Going, I'll Tell You Where I've Been

Photo by Rogue Artists  Ensemble

It's not easy to wrap sentences around this fantastical storytelling

spectacle created by a collaboration of artists under Sean T.

Calwelti's direction, and presented by Rogue Artists Ensemble. The

launching point is the mid-20th century and a laboratory whose

apparatus is the "origin" machine, a fanciful contraption reminiscent

of sci-fi circa the 1940s and 1950s. The machine is operated by a

conscientious engineer and his somewhat airheaded assistant, who, like

Icarus, dreams of strapping on wings and taking flight. Each time the

machine is activated, it precipitates an oblique and fanciful tale

about the origin of something: music, fire, sin, love/lava (jealousy),

the chicken and the egg, the rabbit in the moon -- and creation itself.

Each narrative is presented with wordless mime, elaborated on by a

profusion of lighting, sound, videography, puppetry, masks and music.

As impressive as these technical elements are, they never outrun the

stories themselves, each of which offers a quirky fable about some

aspect of the human condition. The superb production values (overseen

by tech director Daniel Geesing) include designer Katie Polebaum's

expressive masks, so many of which capture the essence of a singular

sentiment or passion, as well as Kerry Hennessy's imaginative costumes

and John Noburi's indispensably animating audio design. A terrific

seven-person ensemble displays amazing versatility in presenting this

plethora of parables and yarns. [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd.

East, Hlywd.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; through Dec.

12. (323) 461-3673. (Deborah Klugman)

IMAGOFEST Festival of original one-act plays written by Stella Adler-Los Angeles Alumni Tim McNeil, Alex Aves, and Joe Bonito. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 12, plays411.com/imagofest. (323) 960-7770.

NEW REVIEW INTO THE WOODS

Stage Raw: Tell Me Where You're Going, I'll Tell You Where I've Been

Photo by Andrew R. Deutsch

Stephen Sondheim's magical musical intertwines the plots of several

Brothers Grimm fairy tales and explores the consequences of the various

characters' wishes and quests. Lucid by Proxy give it a stripped-down

treatment in a vast downtown warehouse, dispensing with the usual

lavish staging, period costuming and live orchestral music, instead

placing the focus on the vocal gymnastics of the large ensemble cast,

who warble to a prerecorded score (by Musical Theatre International).

It's a gamble that, for the most part, pays off. The spooky

raised-stage set (Jeanine A. Nicholas) and elegant costuming (Kerri

Norris) are hip and contemporary; now it's all about Little Red

Riding's hoodie (played sweetly if gluttonously by Shannon Nelson)

while Cinderella's ugly stepsisters (supremely bitchy Sarah Orr and

Jessie Withers) strut around like rejects from The Hills. The

intricate book (by James Lapine) weaves an ingenious plot that unites

the Grimms' most familiar tales with an original story involving a

baker and his wife (David Pevsner and Valerie Rachelle) and their

desire to have a child. Jessica Pennington is magnificent as the old

crone who instigates their quest. The good show would be kid-friendly

if it didn't clock in at close to three hours, somewhat tortured by the

almost superfluous (though psychologically darker) sluggish Act 2.

Lucid by Proxy at Big Art Labs, 651 Clover St., dwntwn.; Thurs.-Sat., 8

p.m., added perf Sun., Nov. 14, 7 p.m.; through Nov. 20. (800)

838-3006. (Pauline Adamek)


INTRINGULIS LAByrinth Theater Company presents Carlo Alban's story of his family's move from Ecuador to America. (In rep with The Little Flower of East Orange.). Elephant Stages' Lillian Theatre, 1076 N. Lillian Way, L.A.; Through Nov. 18; Through Nov. 24; Through Dec. 2; Through Dec. 8, labtheater.org...

GO JEWTOPIA It's been a little more than seven years since the long-running original comedy was last seen in the City of Angels. This revival is far more compact, less jaunty and slightly more cerebral. Nonetheless, the show is even funnier. It starts when childhood buddies Chris O'Connell and Adam Lipschitz (Conor Dubin and Adam Korson) happen across each other at a party for Jewish singles. Chris, a Catholic, says that he wants to marry a Jew so he "never has to make another decision," while the socially inept Adam is on the scene only to please his nagging mother, who wants him to find a nice Jewish girl. So the guys make a pact: Chris will show Adam the finer points of picking up women, if Adam will reciprocate by showing Chris the particulars of being Jewish. It's a scenario fully charged with comedic possibilities, and writer-director Bryan Fogel mines it for all its subterranean treasures -- taking aim at cultural stereotypes, customs, P.C. junkies. Korson and Dubin have magnetic chemistry and formidable skills. Rounding out a splendid cast are Thea Brooks, Bart Braverman, Cheryl David, Mark Sande and Cheryl Daro. (Lovell Estell III). Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3:30 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 6, 3:30 p.m.; thru Dec. 5. (323) 655-7679.

GO K2 When asked in 1923 why he wanted to climb the highest mountain in the world, English mountaineer George Mallory replied, "Because it's there." This somewhat apocryphal quote, often called the three most famous words in mountaineering, easily could have been the motivation for the two climbers in Patrick Meyers' play. With the world's second-highest mountain as its terrifyingly harsh backdrop, this intimate story revolves around life-or-death decisions made on a ledge at 27,000 feet where Taylor (Jake Suffian) and Harold (Sean Galuszka) are trapped after an accident that cost them Harold's leg, as well as one of only two climbing ropes they had. While Taylor desperately tries to recover the lost rope, he and Harold converse on a range of topics, from the mundane to the profane to the profound. The palpable sense of danger throughout the piece is realized through a powerful combination of the actors' performances, designer Laura Fine Hawkes' bare-bones mountain set, and Leigh Allen's icy-blue lighting. Even the decision to keep the theater below room temperature adds to the ambience. Director Damen Scranton successfully pushes his actors to the limit, eliciting from Galuszka quiet moments of introspection that contrast with Suffian's volcanic outbursts of emotion -- both of which reveal the characters gaining perspective while paradoxically losing their sanity. Ellie Follett's authentic costumes complete the picture, with her choices of snow gear effectively taking us back to 1977. So why should you see this play? Because it's there. (Mayank Keshaviah)., (800) 838-3006. Underground Theatre, 1312-1314 N. Wilton Place, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 14, K2LA.org...

KEEP IT CLEAN Comedy Hosted by JC Coccoli., Free. 1739 Public House, 1739 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Mon., 10:30 p.m.. (323) 663-1739.

KIDNAPPED BY CRAIGSLIST: THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT It has been a mere three years since Katie Goan and Nitra Gutierrez's original collection of Craigslist-inspired comedy sketches premiered in New York, and only two since director Lori Evans Taylor's L.A. production bowed for TheSpyAnts Theatre Company. In online-cultural terms, however, those 36 months might as well be a lifetime. Because, even in Taylor's recycled Halloween edition, which has been partially rewritten by Goan with a decidedly gothic spin, the show's weird and wacky assortment of cranks, kinks and jaw-dropping confessions of perversity -- pulled from the site's actual postings -- today feels like rather tepid and everyday online fare. Perhaps that's because during the interim the show has been upstaged by Craigslist itself, which in 2007 expanded from classifieds to the crime blotter in a series of user-perpetrated, headline-grabbing tragedies that have themselves become commonplace. And though the director steers clear of those real-life horrors, Taylor's transfer of her original staging's carnival sideshow to the creep show (courtesy of Adam Haas Hunter's effective lights and spiderweb-festooned, haunted-house set) turns out to be more than just seasonally fitting. MC Amy Motta is back as the Crypt-Keeper, this time in eye-popping, mistress-of-the-dark fetish drag (by costumer Marina Mouhibian). Returning as well are some of 2008's crowd-pleasers, including Motta's hilarious "I Love You. Leave My Butt Alone," a folk-song complaint about her boyfriend's penchant for anal sex, and "I Like You so Much I Farted," in which Jennifer Etienne Eckert mourns a dream date gone bad due to a bout of uncontrolled flatulence. Also returning is a crack ensemble in an unrelentingly frenetic fusillade of 40 hit-and-miss comedy skits and musical numbers whose batting average makes this 90-minute show feel a half-hour too long. (Bill Raden). Elephant Theatre Lab, 1078 N. Lilian Way, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 13, thespyants.com. (323) 860-8786.

GO LA RAZON BLINDADA (THE ARMORED REASON) How does a prisoner survive without hope? Writer/director Aristides Vargas drew inspiration for this poignantly horrific black comedy from the experience of his brother, a political prisoner in Argentina during that country's military dictatorship. Confined in solitary, prisoners were permitted a brief respite on Sunday, when they could meet and talk, albeit while remaining seated and with their hands on the table. That setup provides the physical framework for this luminously surreal 80-minute one-act in which two incarcerated men come together to role-play -- one calling himself De La Mancha (Jesus Castanos Chima), the other Panza (Arturo Diaz de Sandy). The actors remain seated throughout, navigating across the stage on wooden chairs with wheels. Within these loosely assumed personae, the pair frolic through a hallucinatory landscape, clowning their way through speculations about madness, sanity, heroism and human bonding, and conjuring an elaborate fantasy of regency over an island that brilliantly mocks the nature of power. In the end, the aim of the game is survival -- not as rational beings, because reality would be too painful, but as madmen whose lunacy frees them from the shame of powerlessness. The performances are consummate and the staging, as eloquent as the text, features a videographed landscape over which their sunken shadows pass, and Faure's Elegie for Violoncello and Orchestra to underscore the pathos. (Deborah Klugman). 24th Street Theater, 1117 W. 24th St., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 11. (213) 745-6516.

LOVE AND OTHER ALLERGIES Written by Michelle Kholos Brooks, this medley of one-acts serves as a showcase for both the writer and the 12-member acting ensemble, with mixed results. "Preschool," directed by D. Ewing Woodruff, displays the keenest satiric edge (think Jules Feiffer) and the most well-calibrated performances; in it, the mother (Beth Nintzel) of a 4-year-old finds herself in conference with officious school administrators (Jeff Blumberg and Katharine Phillips Moser, both razor-sharp). She's chillingly informed that her macaroni-and-cheese-disdaining child does not fit in. "Allergic to Walnuts," directed by Steve Oreste, is the program's most endearing segment. Infused with absurdity along the lines of Beckett or Ionesco, it involves an elderly duo (Robert Stephen Ryan and Rosemary Stevens), each an odd and reclusive character, as they timorously discuss their developing romance. "Bars," directed by Ryan, features the evening's most notable performance: Leila Arias as Rosie, a bubbly, clueless gal who visits an incarcerated-for-life serial killer (Kurt A. Boesen) with the aim of having him as a boyfriend and perhaps the father of her child. The script, resembling an overwritten comedy sketch, overreaches, but Arias' charm and skill allow her to transcend the clich. "Cab," directed by Oreste, derives its off-and-on humor from the cultural clash between a Middle Eastern cab driver (Avner Garbi) and a professional American woman (Lisa Glass) with an overblown sense of entitlement. The shtick-laden "Allergy Shot," directed by Garbi, is set in a medical clinic and concerns the encounter between a young actress (Cassandra Sanchez-Navarro) and an older woman (Eve Sigall) who insists on offering the young woman unsolicited advice about her career. (Deborah Klugman). Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 21. (323) 960-5772.

MACBEEZY: THE MACBETH HIPHOPERA Knightsbridge Theater's spin on Shakespeare, with original music, lyrics and dance numbers. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Nov. 21. (323) 667-0955.

MOM/BARRAGE Two one-act plays by Peter Basch and Ellen Sandler, presented by Ark Theatre Company. The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 12. (323) 969-1707.

THE OHIO 4TH This backstage farce by Daniel Schoenman is set in a theater in Marion, Ohio, on the opening night of a play based on the life of former president Warren G. Harding. (I'd consider this far-fetched if I hadn't once seen a musical based on the life of Vice President Alben Barkley.) When the star (Michael Butler Murray) drops dead onstage, all hell breaks loose. For reasons never entirely clear, producer Emily (Cori Clark Nelson) decides they must conceal the death -- and the corpse. She enlists the aid of director Josh (John Lavelle), the head of the local cultural center (Weston I. Nathanson) and the actors to join the cover-up and fend off the visiting VIP, Senator Will Peck (Murray). Schoenman's script is so slapdash that it sometimes seems the actors are making it up as they go along, but he provides some funny situations and director Annie McVey makes the most of them, assisted by a nimble cast. Lavelle is a master of low-key but hilarious reactions, and Kim Swennen shines as both an affected actress and the senator's ambitious trouble-shooter. Chloe Peterson and Allen Cutler neatly round out the cast. (Neal Weaver). Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 21, plays411.com/ohio4th. (323) 960-7714.

ON EMOTION "All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better." This quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson is apropos for both the Son of Semele Ensemble and for its latest offering from Mick Gordon and neuropsychologist Paul Broks. Their collaboration centers on a question voiced early on by cognitive behavioral therapist Stephen (Michael Nehring), who asks, "Are we just puppets of our emotions?" The subject of the question and his experiment is Anna (Melina Bielefelt), a disturbed artist who has been befriended by Stephen's daughter Lucy (Sami Klein), who herself is experimenting with older men. It is also no coincidence that Anna makes puppets; her latest creation is an astronaut puppet for Stephen's autistic son Mark (Alex Smith), who is obsessed with stars and Star Trek. Mark, sadly, does not repay her in kind, as his inadvertent experiments with his eidetic memory bring to light uncomfortable truths. Director Matthew McCray utilizes Adam Flemming's clever video design, Sarah Krainin's awesome "starry floor" and Ian Garret's lighting to full effect in the transitions between scenes, which are nicely choreographed. However, the script's lack of stakes and character empathy make McCray's job difficult within the scenes, which are filled with tepid emotions that feel manufactured. But while the result of this theatrical experiment is not wholly successful, the ensemble is to be commended for embodying the words of Erasmus Darwin: "A fool is a man who never tried an experiment in his life." (Mayank Keshaviah). Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Mon., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 15, sonofsemele.org...

100% HAPPY 88% OF THE TIME Barrington Moore Jr. wrote a treatise called Reflections on the Causes of Human Misery and Upon Certain Proposals to Eliminate Them.

Beth Lapides' cabaret show is a sweet-natured and understandably facile

fly-by over the depths probed by Moore. It features composer Mitch

Kaplan on keyboards (the original music is written and performed by the

pair, except for music by Howie B and Peter Matz), and blends some

pointed satire of Hollywood culture ("The absence of yes over time

equals no") and focuses on Lapides trying to carve meaning from the

crisis of her unexpected eviction from L.A., due to a home sale by the

owner, and her relocation to Palm Springs. The attempt to convert

formulas for sanity, contentment and even happiness gets projected onto

charts where she relocates the traditional focal points of unhappiness,

happiness and merely being "fine" -- which is equated with purgatory.

Change creates anxiety and crisis, yet crisis is necessary for

discovery, self-discovery and new perspectives. It's a sweet lecture

with some songs, both new age and a new-age parody at the same time.

Lapides is an amiable performer with an unexceptional voice. But the

voice is not the point. The show was created to both entertain and to

sort out a coping mechanism for life's anxieties. The lessons aren't

exactly earth-shattering, but the show is engaging nonetheless. Improv

Comedy Lab, 8162 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Wed., Nov. 10, 8:30 p.m. (sold

out), Wed., Nov. 24, 8:30 p.m., Wed., Dec. 1, 8 & 15, 8:30 p.m. bethlapides.com. (323) 651-2583. (Steven Leigh Morris)


PHANTOM LUCK John Steppling's play about an aging professional gambler and his partner. Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 28. (323) 933-6944.

PIPPIN DOMA Theatre Company presents the Stephen Schwartz musical. Hudson Backstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 21. (323) 960- 5773.

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.

PROOF David Auburn's play about a mysterious mathematical proof. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Mon.-Wed., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 14, plays411.com/proof. (323) 960-4429.

THE QUARRY John Markland's quiet and largely uneventful play captures the awkward silences and elliptical exchanges between disaffected youth in Midwestern America. As two taciturn teenagers chug beers and converse by a waterlogged, disused quarry, the image of a small-town, dead-end existence is lightly sketched. Pete (played with deep intensity by Zachary Shields) is a tough loner, prone to goading and bullying his friend Gary (Max Barsness). With numerous cartoony, homemade tattoos decorating his arms, fingers and torso, plus his incessant chain-smoking and fascination for guns, Pete is a closed book you don't want to open. Gary's heading for college and urges his mate to visit his girlfriend Jessie's (Addison Timlin) hip preacher father, RD (Nicholas Guest). Pete does, and gains some guidance from the kindly father figure. In the process, he becomes entangled in Jessie's dark secret. Markland's direction of his own work lacks the necessary distance and perspective to open up the material for greater impact. Important plot points have to be inferred from the sparse script and it certainly doesn't help that all of the actors, save Timlin, mumble their lines. Straining to hear them in this small, deep space is almost like eavesdropping on a conversation next door. The penultimate scene may or may not contain a creepy undertone that propels the tragic finale -- it's hard to tell. Markland squanders the opportunity to have both that scene and the preacher's final sermon impart the drama they deserve. (Pauline Adamek). Moth Theatre, 4359 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 14, brownpapertickets.com/event/126184...

ROCCOPELLA George Spielvogel's a-capella one-man show. Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Dec. 19. (323) 466-6111.

ROCK 'N' ROLL Tom Stoppard's take on Eastern Bloc Czechoslovakia's democratic movement. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 18. (323) 882-6912.

THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW Richard O'Brien's cult sensation, presented by Coeurage Theatre Company. The Space, 665 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 20, CoeurageTheatre.com/rsvp...

SERIAL KILLERS Late-night serialized stories, voted on by the audience to determine which ones continue. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Sat., 11 p.m.; thru Dec. 11. (310) 281-8337.

SIT 'N' SPIN Storytelling by Jill Soloway, Maggie Rowe, Jaclyn Lafer and assorted guests of varying hilarity; www.sitnspin.org., free. COMEDY CENTRAL STAGE, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Every other Thursday, 8 p.m.. (323) 960-5519.

SUGAR DADDY Fielding Edlow's comedy about one woman's battle with cupcakes. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 20. (323) 469-9988.

THE SUNSET LIMITED Cormac McCarthy's story of an ex-con and his suicidal college professor. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 5 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 19. (323) 422-6361.

GO TAKE ME OUT Baseball star Darren Leming (Ary Katz), the central figure in Richard Greenberg's provocative 2002 comedy-drama, is a paragon of talend, skill and virtue. Half black and half white, he has become baseball's golden boy, admired and adored by teammates and fans until he impulsively decides to come out as gay, and the press runs with the story. He thinks that because he's young and rich and famous and talented and handsome, he's immune to negative consequences. But like a rock dropped into a pond, his revelation produces ever- widening ripples that undermine his world. Bigotry and religious fanaticism rear their heads, as irate fans accuse him of desecrating the sacred sport. As for his teammates, it's a loss of innocence: Theyre forced to confront the homoeroticism that underlies their comfortable locker-room intimacy. Most deeply affected is newly recruited relief pitcher Shane Mungitt (Garrett Matheson), a naive, dim, barely literate orphan from the deep South, where racism and homophobia were bred in his bones. He's ultimately both victim and aggressor, driven by feelings he doesn't understand, to an act of ambiguous but lethal violence. Greenberg probes issues of sexual identity, moral ambiguity, personal responsibility and baseball, in pungent, idiosyncratic dialogue laced with subversive wit. Director Michael Matthews has assembled an almost perfect cast on Kurt Boetchers intimate in-the-round set, and he explores the play's complexities with finely focused exuberance. Katz skillfully charts Leming's transformation from Apollonian serenity to a man forced to acknowledge his failings and vulnerability. Tom Costello brings comic chops and rich conviction to the shortstop Kippy, the play's narrator, who's shattered when his sentimental do-good-ism produces disastrous results. And theres a deliciously deft comedy performance by Thomas James O'Leary as Leming's fey, gay financial manager, who regards his boss as a hero and finds a wondrous epiphany in the world of baseball. His aria comparing baseball to democracy is as penetrating as it is funny. They receive solid backup from the sterling cast. Tim Swiss' lighting design and Veronica J. Lancaster's sound are integral to the action. This is Celebration Theatre's most ambitious and impressive production in years. (Neal Weaver). Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 19. (323) 957-1884.

TEEN WITCH! THE MUSICAL Directed and adapted for the stage by Mike Zara and Colleen Smith. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Mon., Nov. 15, 8 p.m.. (323) 934-9700.

TERRE HAUTE It is one of the odder ancillary anecdotes of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that, shortly before his execution, Timothy McVeigh -- murderer and mastermind of the attack which killed 168 people -- struck up a peculiar, intimate correspondence with renowned author and social gadfly, Gore Vidal. The two men never met in person, but the idea of what might have happened if they had provides the intriguing premise of playwright Edmund White's 2001 drama, in which McVeigh's fictional surrogate summons Vidal's to a prison death row for a final series of interviews. This is the play that caused Vidal to famously quip about White, "He's a filthy low writer." Yet, White's drama is so inconsequential in presentation, mired in stodgy dramatics and plodding, superficially didactic dialogue, it's hard to understand why Vidal would be so riled. White's Vidal surrogate, named "James" (Mike Farrell), arrives at the prison to interview McVeigh surrogate "Harrison" (James Parrack). James has written articles to about Harrison and even defended his actions on TV interviews; Harrison is suitably grateful and wants James to write his life story and bear witness to his imminent execution. White's play hints at the idea that James's attraction to Harrison's fierce ideals is due, in part, to the fact that Harrison strongly resembles James's long dead boyhood lover. Yet, director Kirsten Sanderson's stiff, haltingly and glumly humorless production all but misses the inherent irony and bizarre spectacle of mutual incomprehension between a flamboyant, elderly queen and an uber-serious, philosophically deluded mass murderer. As the Vidal character, Farrell captures the famous author's well known mischievous sparkle and adroit articulacy, but Parrack's Harrison is a one dimensional and unexplored stick figure in an orange jumpsuit. The play's main weakness lies in the pair's relationship being trivialized as the creepy lambada between a sophisticated elder and his rough trade flirtation. (Paul Birchall). The Blank's Second Stage Theater, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 28, theblank.com. (323) 661-9827.

THIS IS OUT YOUTH Kenneth Lonergan's tale of drugs, ennui, and vintage toys. The Acting Center, 5514 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 21. (323) 962-2100.

GO THE TRAIN DRIVER South African playwright Athol Fugard's plays have dealt with the havoc wrought in his country by apartheid, but his more recent works also often possess the feel of a ghost story, as they grow to encompass the guilt and grief that were the legacy of his homeland's decades of racial inequity. This is particularly true in his powerful new play, in which the spirits of the forgotten dead are all around us, unseen. As he drives his locomotive through the black shantytown area of the city, Roelf (Morlan Higgins) accidentally runs over a mother and infant, after the mother commits suicide by stepping onto the tracks before Roelf can stop. There's nothing the train driver could have done to save them, but he is consumed with guilt over his role in the death. At the graveyard where indigent, unidentified bodies are buried, Roelf searches for the dead mother's grave so he can expiate his guilt. Elderly, impoverished grave digger Simon (Adolphus Ward) is sympathetic, but also desperate to send Roelf home, before the white driver's presence in the black region of the country causes disaster. Although Fugard's plot is narratively smaller than what is found in many of his other plays, the overall mood of sorrow and resigned, barely controlled rage at how the universe is arranged is powerfully palpable. A deep-seated, thought-provoking pessimism about men's nature is constantly evident. Director Stephen Sachs' character-driven production is stunning, from the dusty squalor of Jeff McLaughlin's desolate, gravel-covered shanty set to the dense, evocative acting work. Higgins' mingled rage and sorrow -- anger over being forced to kill someone he didn't know, along with his grief over the pair's death -- is powerful, but it's Ward's slightly ironic, underplayed turn as the grave digger that captures attention every moment he's onstage. Fugard has written that the play is a metaphor for the moral blindness of an overclass that has ignored the plight of the hopeless -- but the play cunningly concludes with a tragic coda suggesting that, to the underclass, even white guilt is a luxury that harms more than it heals. (Paul Birchall). Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 12. (323) 663-1525.

GO VON BACH Owen Hammer's zany farce tells the tale of Dr. Von Bach (think Dr. Frankenstein) whose adventures are being told in the 100th remake "not counting the porn versions" of his story. Fanatical screenwriter Minna (Maia Peters) is hell-bent on creating a definitive version, surpassing the legendary 1940 film, but they can't find an actor with sufficient charisma. She and studio exec Hillary (Kristina Hayes) decide to produce a computer-generated clone of the actor, Krupa, who played the role in 1940. But Krupa's grandson Connor (Jason Frost) claims to own the rights to grandpa's image. Eventually, the real Von Bach (Zoran Radanovich) returns to life, enraged that all the films and tales have presented him as a mad doctor, when he just wanted to serve humanity. This external story is only a pretext for showing hilarious clips from the 1921, 1940, 1964 and 1993 films, plus the Andy Warhol version, the Abbott and Costello variant and the 1999 sci-fi rendition, not to mention Von Bach: The Musical. These delicious clips, directed by playwright Hammer and director Scott Rognlien, and featuring a cast of 24, become a nutty, slapstick history of the movies. Before the dust clears, Von Bach finds himself shilling for a drug to cure Twitching Ear Syndrome. (Neal Weaver). Art/Works Theatre, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 20. (323) 805-9355.

GO WATSON Sacred Fools Theatre Company presents Jaime Robledo's take on Sherlock Holmes' sleuthing partner. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Thurs., Nov. 18, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Dec. 2, 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 11. (310) 281-8337. See Stage Feature.

WHAT HAPPENED IN MAYVILLE? Small-town drama by Joy Howard, story by Adam Chambers. LoLa Downtown, 929 E. Second St., Studio 105, L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 9 p.m.; thru Nov. 13, loftensemble.com. (213) 680-0392.

YARD SALE SIGNS What price beauty? In Jennie Webb's comedy, the cost is 90 minutes of female bonding in a dressing room that -- metaphor alert -- has no walls. As any Cathy comic can tell you, women forge a complicated relationship with their clothes: inspiration, ambition, comfort, judgment, insult. From their hangers, they hiss, "Where are you going to wear me?" "What are you going to do about those thighs?" The closest parallel to the female/fabric struggle these five women and token gay male have is with their mothers, none of whom are present except in continual conversation. Webb's allegories name the ladies "The Focused Woman," "The Scattered Woman," "The Selfless Woman" and "The Woman With Children," the latter of which slowly and physically collapses over the course of the play as though her three kids have torn her limb from limb. Elina de Santos' chirpy direction has fun with the play's sight gags, particularly a giant purse that chucks up a cooler, a clothing rack, four dozen yard sale signs and a U-Haul's worth of boxes. The broad humor and big rants can't earn the closing round of hugs. Instead, our attention is occupied by designer Eva Franco's heaps of colorful original clothing (all for sale after the show) than the characters pawing through it as they pick apart their psyches. Presented by Rogue Machine. (Amy Nicholson). Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 14. (323) 960-4424.

GO YELLOW Del Shores' family comedy-drama studies, once more, the mores and traditions of the Deep South, perhaps the country's most extreme forms of religiosity and homophobia, which have been haunting the playwright for all these years. How does one get out alive, with the curses of the underworld hanging over a believer: change or be changed? Does one run to New York City, or San Francisco or West Hollywood? Lead a double life? Become a playwright? Yellow is neither tragedy nor soap opera; its "disease-of-the-week" dimension surges between the two along a riptide of sentimentality. That said, Yellow is a rippingly entertaining show, thanks largely to Shores' precision-bombing satire of self-absorbed teenagers and drama clubs. (Steven Leigh Morris). Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 5...

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS

25 PPH (PLAYS PER HOUR) Theatre Unleashed's ensemble portrays more than 50 characters in 25 original short plays, all in one hour. Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 4, theatreunleashed.com. (818) 849-4039.

ANNA IN THE TROPICS Pulitzer Prize-winning romantic drama by Nilo Cruz. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 13. (626) 256-3809.

GO THE AUTUMN GARDEN Lillian Hellman was in her mid-40s when she wrote this astute comedy about the pitfalls and perils of middle age and the accompanying sense of loss that filters through our lives. A kind of Chekhovian group portrait, it takes place in 1949 in a genteel boarding house on the Gulf of Mexico coast. The establishment caters exclusively to the longtime friends of its sweet-natured spinsterish proprietress, Constance (Lily Knight), still pining for beau Nick (Stephen Caffrey), who left her high and dry for his still current wife, Nina (Jane Kaczmarek), 20 years ago. Nick is now an artist of some renown, and his return for a brief visit stirs excitement, especially for Constance's friend Rose (Faye Grant), a simpering Southern coquette whose marriage is on the rocks. The play's secondary motif -- the masquerade of ignorance surrounding homosexuality in the mid-20th-century South -- emerges in the engagement between Constance's French niece, Sophie (Zoe Perry), and Frederick (Joe Delafield), the son of Constance's prim and proper friend Mary (Jeanie Hackett). Directed by Larry Biederman, the production begins somewhat stiffly before gathering steam as the multiple plotlines unwind, then coalesce, and the intimacies -- especially between the married couples -- are finessed. As Constance, Knight's touching vulnerability draws you in. Perry is excellent as the shrewd, long-suffering Sophie; so is Anne Gee Byrd as Mary's mother, a deliciously sardonic grand dame who minces no words. As the story's villain, Caffrey's skill is unimpeachable, but his drunken predator is so unappealing that it's hard to see how he might ever have charmed anyone. (The production is double-cast.) Antaeus.org (Deborah Klugman)., antaeus.org. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; thru Dec. 19, antaeus.org. (818) 506-1983.

BILLIE: BACKSTAGE WITH LADY DAY Life and times of jazz singer Billie Holiday (Synthia L. Hardy). Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Fri., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 19. (323) 960-4418.

BOBBY AND MATT Kevin Cochran's story of two unlikely friends, one a brigadier general, the other a renowned gay writer. GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 13. (818) 528-6622.

GO THE BUTCHER OF BARABOO Marisa Wegrzyn's kitchen-sink comedy kicks off the Road Theatre Company's 20th season. Filled with colorful, mostly female characters, Wegrzyn's wacky slice-of-life snapshot is set in the small town of Baraboo in snowy, freezing Wisconsin. The loose plot concerns in-laws who feel no constraints expressing their sentiments. Beneath the prickly conversation lies a festering mystery: What really happened to Val's husband, Frank? He was pronounced dead, although no corpse was found. Frank's brother, Donal (Carl J. Johnson), and cop sister, Gail (the hilarious Rebecca Jordan), harbor suspicions that their sister-in-law, Val (Janet Chamberlain), did away with Frank, seeing as she's pretty handy with a meat cleaver. Val's grown daughter, Midge (Nina Sallinen), seems to be dabbling in nefarious activities, supplying local teen meth chemists with prescription meds. But it's Midge's interference with her uncle Donal's family life that causes her strife. Director Mark St. Amant beautifully stages his cast with a sure but subtle hand, eliciting superb performances and spot-on comic timing. Jeff McLaughlin's homely set is impressively realistic -- right down to a working sink -- and neatly fills the small space. (Pauline Adamek). Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 11. (866) 811-4111.

THE COMEDY OF ERRORS William Shakespeare's farce, by the Porters of Hellsgate. Actors Forum Theatre, 10655 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 p.m.; thru Nov. 28. (818) 506-0600.

FUTURA Nobody writes letters anymore. E-mails, text messages, tweets, bbms, status updates -- sure. But not letters. We have lost the art of the letter. And in Jordan Harrison's world premiere play, named for a sans-serif typeface, Harrison means that literally. In it, Professor Lorraine Wexler (Bonita Friedericy) lectures on the history of typography -- until she is abducted mid-sentence. We discover that her talk, an attempt to avenge her missing husband Edward (Bob McCracken), is more dangerous than it initially seems because "the company" has eliminated the printed word. At this point, the play fulfills its 1984-esque scenario in which Wexler, along with her kidnappers Grace (Zarah Mahler) and Gash (Edward Tournier), must operate outside of the law. Despite its length and lack of action, the opening scene engages because of its fascinating historical content, Hana Sooyeon Kim's dynamic projections, and Friedericy's wry wit and professorial demeanor. However, as in Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul, the transition into the remainder of the piece is disjointed. While Wexler retains her aplomb despite being abused by her kidnappers, the message of the piece becomes heavy-handed and the tone a bit perplexing. Still, director Jessica Kubzansky skillfully balances the elements of verbiage and violence in the text, underscoring the charming relationship between Friedericy and Tournier, both of whom deliver solid performances. Kubzansky's transitions (reminiscent of those she used in Mauritius) also showcase Myung Hee Cho's towering, elegant set. But, while Wexler claims "typography is the science of subtlety," the play could have used more of it. (Mayank Keshaviah). Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 14. (626) 683-6883. See Stage Feature

GETTING TO KNOW . . . ONCE UPON A MATRESS "Authorized version of the classic musical acted by young performers." Book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller and Marshall Barer, music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by Marshall Barer. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 7 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 21, ctgsc.org. (818) 508-3003.

NEW REVIEW HERALDS The setting: A bustling office with

phones ringing off the hook, constant interruptions announcing yet

another sale, barely lidded excitement; a newspaper. Wait, a newspaper?

Yes, down to the inevitable transfer to news online and a tryst sparked

by a woman's arousal over the executive editor's "power," Jon Cellini's

play feels a little dated. After all, dailies have already transitioned

through a couple of stages of grief over the imminent demise of the

"way they were," and have settled into grimacing acceptance of the

uncertain future. To give Cellini credit, he does nod to the

obsoleteness of his subject matter when a character comments on how "we

philosophize after our expired lives -- ironic considering this show,

right?" Still, he uses the now-tired controversy over a cartoon about

creationism as a launching pad for a discussion on the dangers of the

religious right advocating censorship. Though he's spliced this humdrum

dilemma with visits from a Socrates who watches TMZ, a Galileo who

scoffs at LeBron James and a Goebbels who blames Saturday Night Live

for America's "weak" men, Cellini also rests on tired stereotypes such

as a Godfather-esque queenpin of a church secretary (Maia Danziger).

Director Stuart Rogers smooths the busy show to a nice flow, but he

allows too much slack in the pace precisely when it's in dire need of

tautness. The play's not bad, but all the good stuff is buried in the

back pages. It would be remiss not to mention the able-bodied cast,

especially the restrained, excellent performance of Heather Robinson as

Gert. Theatre Tribe, 5267 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8

p.m.; through Dec. 18. (800) 838-3006. (Rebecca Haithcoat)

IT'S JUST SEX Jeff Gould's comedy takes the underpinnings of sexual fantasy, fidelity and money and puts all of those nuances onstage in a contemporary comedy about three married couples. The wife-swapping plot is straight out of Hugh Hefner's pad, circa 1975. That the play resonates today, in the ashes of the sexual revolution, is one indication of how little has changed, despite how much has changed. (Steven Leigh Morris). Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (818) 762-2272.

NEW REVIEW

LUCIA MAD

Stage Raw: Tell Me Where You're Going, I'll Tell You Where I've Been

Photo by Steven Jarrard

To anyone who's had the dubious honor of being personally acquainted

with an artistic genius, it will come as no surprise to learn that

James Joyce, the English-language father of the modern novel, also

sired a hopelessly insane daughter, Lucia. Given the epic levels of

obsession, ambition and self-involvement required to produce a

monumental work of art, the artist understandably has little quality

time left over to devote to anything so mundane as parenting. What

makes Don Nigro's sad literary footnote of a drama particularly

fascinating, at least to the playwright, is that the story of Lucia

(Meg Wallace) includes not one but two portraits of the artist -- that

of Joyce (Ian Patrick Williams) and of his one-time amanuensis and

inventor of the modern drama, Samuel Beckett (Robert Ross in a

show-stealing performance). According to Nigro, it was Lucia's

unrequited infatuation with the future author of Waiting for Godot that

eventually bumped the sensitive, volatile girl from the neurotic

borderline into the bottomless abyss of full-blown schizophrenia. But a

footnote, no matter how alluring, does not a full-length play make. So

Nigro pads out the Lucia-Beckett nonrelationship with a series of arch

and overly redundant absurdist vaudevilles. Clever as they are, under

Steve Jarrard's direction, which underscores farce over nuance, Nigro's

brittle comedy routines exhaust themselves long before intermission.

Fine support from Pamela Daly as the long-suffering Nora Joyce, along

with an effective production design (Jarrard's set; Dan McNamara's

nicely etched lights). Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 5 p.m.; through Nov. 21. (323) 860-6569, plays411.com/luciamad. (Bill Raden)

OBAMANOLOGUES R.M. Peete's bipartisan monologues on President Barack Obama. Actors Workout Studio, 4735 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Sun., 2 & 6 p.m.; thru Nov. 21, obamanologues.com. (323) 207-6384.

THE PUB PLAYS: WAR Celebrated Irish novelist Roddy Doyle sets his play on the battlefield of a large, packed Dublin pub where rival teams of locals scuffle it out during a rowdy and riotous quiz night. As the empty bottles of Guinness pile up, the increasingly intoxicated participants trade wit, useless trivia and abuse, vying to claim bragging rights and an electric kettle. Doyle's play is ostensibly an energetic comedy, but flashpoint tempers, ferocious shouting matches, strident accusations of cheating, vulgar gestures and various colorful insults ("fookin' eejit!") wear you down after a while. Add the interspersed flashbacks to the casually abusive home life of the most volatile character, George (Tim Cummings), and suddenly all that bellowing isn't so funny, especially when his gentle wife, Briget (Kacey Camp), is cowering in the corner. Of course this is Doyle's point, but he makes it with a tightly clenched fist, pounding away. Alice Ryan is good as the cute barmaid who keeps the lecherous lads at bay with her arsenal of comebacks. Passable Irish accents from the hardworking cast of 16. In repertory with John B. Keane's drama The Field. (Pauline Adamek). The Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 12. (818) 846-5323.

TWELFTH NIGHT Musical version of Shakespeare's comedy by Zombie Joe's Underground. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri., 11 p.m.; thru Nov. 12. (818) 202-4120.

Halloween

URBAN DEATH Zombie Joe's Underground's horror show. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 11 p.m.; Sat., 11 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 8, 11 p.m.; thru Dec. 18. (818) 202-4120.

THE WIZARD OF OZ Presented by June Chandler's Fairy Tale Theatre. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Sat..; thru Nov. 13. (626) 256-3809.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN THE DOWNTOWN AREAS

ANNIE Andrea McArdle, Broadway's original Annie, stars as Miss Hannigan in the little orphan musical. Musical Theatre West, 4350 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; Sun., 2 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 14, musical.org. (562) 856-1999.

ANNIE Kentwood Players present the little orphan musical, music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, book by Thomas Meehan. Westchester Playhouse, 8301 Hindry Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 11, kentwoodplayers.org. (310) 645-5156.

BACKSTREET: THE MUSICAL Jewish immigrant musical, book, music and lyrics by Chris DeCarlo, Evelyn Rudie an Matthew Wrather. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6:30 p.m.; thru Dec. 12. (310) 394-9779.

BLOODY RED HEART Stage adaptation of Amy Goldwasser's book RED: Teenage Girls in America Write On What Fires Up Their Lives Today. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 21. (310) 477-2055.

BREAK THE WHIP The epic sprawl of Tim Robbins' staging of his new play, Break the Whip, may be justified by the scale of its ambitions. He is, after all, dramatizing creation myths -- three, to be precise: that of the Powhatan tribes that once flourished along the eastern seaboard of what's now the United States; a Christian creation myth as held by English settlers of the Jamestown colony in the early 17th century; and a creation myth from Angola, as embraced by the first slaves brought to the Jamestown colony. Each of these myths is depicted in a shadow-puppet playlet designed by Johnny Burton, and interspersed throughout the main drama that unfolds in the years between 1609 and 1621, in Jamestown where the three cultures converge. The drama entails a series of fragile political negotiations and liaisons among the cultures for food, security and some crude vestiges of civilization. Each actor dons a commedia mask so that, even when the English settlers are cannibalizing their own spouses, or burying them in pieces wrapped in cloth, the stylistic treatment contains echoes of an Italian clown show. In one scene, a squatty English buffoon (Stephen M. Porter) rages by "beating" his indentured servant (Chris Schultz) with fey humor -- merely swaying his torso so that his limp arm barely scrapes the victim, ostensibly because he hasn't the energy to employ more severity than that. In another scene, an African slave woman (Giselle Jones) gets whipped for having an affair with that same servant. Nothing fey there. We see the lashes as red cloth taped to her back. Upon seeing this, other characters -- her fellow slaves and members of the local tribe -- recoil in horror. Stylistically, these are mixed messages. Are we supposed to be emotionally estranged -- for the comedy -- or engaged by the horror? One scene is in the style of a Monty Python sketch; the other, lifted from the TV epic Roots, but in harlequin attire. Add to this Robbins' very political decision to give voice to each culture in its native tongue, with English-language supertitles of the Algonquian and Kimbundu languages simultaneously projected onto a screen above the stage. That choice does inspire respect for the fastidious research it must have entailed, the cost being yet one more layer of emotional distraction: huge swaths of text delivered to English speakers on a suspended screen, as though this were an opera with music overtaking the primacy of language. It isn't; the music here is accompaniment rather than an engine. Roping us back in is the story's sentimental heart, a story of elopement whereby the beaten African slave and her forbidden English lover join a band of rebels to find refuge with the deeply skeptical natives, who are in the midst of their own internal strife. The performance by Scott Harris as a slightly bewildered, very thoughtful and ultimately compassionate tribal leader grows increasingly endearing. Perhaps the sentimentality is needed to counter the mix of styles and the diversions, but the result is an inverted rendition of the traditional storybook histories of the Americas that get taught in schools, against which Robbins is reacting. (Steven Leigh Morris). Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Sat., 7 p.m.; Wed.-Fri., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 13. (310) 838-4264.

GO THE GOOD PRISONER It's not difficult to draw parallels between the pre-war reminiscences in Kit Steinkellner's world premiere, set in an unspecified time and place somewhat like the United States, and recorded recollections of life in pre-Nazi Germany. White vans loom outside houses, foreshadowing the apparitions the victims will become when they're forced to surrender. Families splinter when one decides if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Neighbors revert to a "survival of the first" mode, dialing the authorities upon suspicion that someone might be about to drop a dime on them. While the opening scene, in which Paige Lindsey White's guard viciously sneers and straddles the silent, pallid Prisoner (Emmalinda MacLean), sets off an inward alarm (not more torture porn, you groan), Steinkellner smartly leaves most of the terror to your imagination. She and director Louise Hung also rely on the audience to be smart; scenes past, present and outside time seem to be shuffled and played as they land, entrusting you to arrange the action mentally. Still, in less capable hands, this could be the kind of cringe-worthy play marked by sequential confusion. But the exceptional ensemble gives up only enough to ensure that you continue to follow the bread trail they leave as they wind you further and further into this tangled forest. What you find when you reach the last crumb is nothing so horrific as the Holocaust, but something that still reminds you that the heart and mind are often at odds. One's just more convincing than the other, and predicting which will win is a losing game. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 13, latensemble.com. (310) 396-3680.

HEDDA GABLER Henrik Ibsen's classic. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 13. (310) 512-6030.

GO FROM HOBOKEN TO HOLLYWOOD: A JOURNEY THROUGH THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK The big-band show in this musical (book by Luca Ellis, Paul Litteral and Jeremy Aldridge) is staged as a behind-the-scenes live taping of a late-1960s television special with a star identified in the program only as "The Crooner." James Thompson's authentic set comes with sound booth, TV cameras, microphones, lighting, a spacious bandstand and stage, overhead video screens and neon applause signs. Adding to the realism is lots of backstage banter, numerous gaffes, miscues and retakes, and some well-placed comedy and drama played out between director Dwight (Al Bernstein) and his overworked and underappreciated assistant Andy (Pat Towne). There are also cheeky commercial breaks for Shmimex watches and the all-new Ford Mustang. Musical director Litteral and his nattily dressed 12-member band (Jessica Olson's costumes are entirely on cue) combine into a flawless, robust performance redolent of the best of Ellington or Basie. Luca Ellis is a knockout from start to finish as the Crooner. How good is he? If you close your eyes while he sings familiar tunes such as "That's Life," "New York, New York" and "Fly Me to the Moon," you'd swear the Chairman himself had come back for one last encore. As masterfully woven together by director Aldridge, the material is so good that the applause signs aren't really needed. (Lovell Estell III). Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 12, edgemarcenter.org. (310) 392-7327.

LAST OF THE RED HOT LOVERS Neil Simon's 1969 play (among his earliest) evokes the permissive decade of "free love." Barney Cashman (John Combs) is a paunchy, balding and married nebbish who wants to join the sexual revolution before it's too late. A gentle, inept soul, he attempts three seductions: a sexpot who likes cigarettes, whiskey and other women's husbands; a delightfully daffy wannabe actress whom he discovers is a nutcase; and his wife's best friend, who turns out to be a depressed nihilist. The play hasn't been staged in L.A. for almost 20 years, perhaps because of its dated feel, drawn-out second act and lack of satisfying payoff. This production by the West Coast Jewish Theatre is solid in its direction and staging (by Howard Teichman) and its performances. Playing potential mistress No. 1, Maria Spassoff is seductive and suave, channeling the alluring sexuality of Streisand in her heyday. She combats Barney's awkward fumblings with dry sarcasm until her enthusiastic determination is eventually quenched. As the goofy hippy-chick, Ashley Platz brings a zany charm to her role. Tracy Winters also does well with the uptight and melancholic housewife who, in a smidgen of nihilistic humor, confesses she's seeing a therapist until she's well enough to drive off a bridge and end it all. (Pauline Adamek). Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 21, wcjt.org. (323) 821-2449.

LULU'S LAST STAND World premiere of Veronica DiPippo's dark dramedy. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 21. (310) 364-0535.

THE NIGHT OF JANUARY 16TH Ayn Rand's courtroom drama, whose ending is determined by an audience jury. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 14. (310) 477-2055.

GO PARADISE PARK A profoundly despondent fellow (Kenneth Rudnicki) wanders into an amusement park for distraction from his agony. Inside, he slips into a fantasia of scenes -- including his own romance with a young woman (Reha Zemani) from the Midwest, igniting a bundle of neuroses that keeps them estranged; a ventriloquist/philosopher (Ann Stocking) and his bifurcated dummy (David E. Frank); a tourist couple (Bo Roberts and Cynthia Mance) at the end of the tether that's barely holding their marriage together; their irate young daughter (KC Wright) who yearns, in vain, for an effete Cuban (Tim Orona); a psychotic pizza-delivery boy (Jeff Attik); a wandering violinist (Lena Kouyoumdjian); a circus clown (Troy Dunn) and, in a directorial flourish, a guy in a chicken costume. Charles Mee's comedy is like a sonnet with a couple of repeated motifs: distraction, love and the general feeling of being cast adrift in cultural waters that are partly enchanting, partly evaporating, and partly polluted by the refuse of our ancestors, of our families, of our determination to follow impulses we barely comprehend, and to wind up unutterably lost. He's one of this company's favorite scribes, and mine, for the way in which, with the literary touch of a feather, he conjures primal truths of what keeps us at odds with ourselves and with each other, keeps us yearning for the unattainable. And though there's obviously psychology at work, the driving energies of the language and of the drama are subconscious, cultural and historical currents. Production designer Charles Duncombe anchors his platform set with a wading pool stage center, in which sits an alligator, and he decorates it above with strings of festival lights on a string. Josephine Poinsot's costumes are thoroughly whimsical with primary colors and a feel for an America of the late 1950s -- with the possible of exception of the married couple's matching shorts and T-shirts that read, "Kiss my ass, I'm on vacation." Director Frederique Michel stages the poetical riffs of text in her typically arch style, and it serves the play almost perfectly, except for the pizza-delivery scene, where the choreography distracts from the psychosis that lies at the core. Even so, I found the evening to be indescribably affecting, tapping emotions that lurk beneath the machinery of reason. This is the last production to be staged at this back-alley venue in Santa Monica, where the company has been putting on plays for 15 years. The ventriloquist's lines couldn't have been more ironic and true: "Then, because the theater is the art form that deals above all others in human relationships, then theater is the art, par excellence, in which we discover what it is to be human and what is possible for humans to be ... that theater, properly conceived, is not an escape either but a flight to reality, a rehearsal for life itself, a rehearsal of these human relationships of which the most essential, the relationship that defines most vividly who we are and that makes our lives possible, is love." (Steven Leigh Morris). City Garage, 1340 1/2 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 28. (310) 319-9939.

PUTTING IT TOGETHER Musical revue of songs by Stephen Sondheim. Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 12. (310) 454-1970.

ROSENCRANZ AND GILDENSTERN ARE DEAD Alive Theatre presents Tom Stoppard's riff on Hamlet. Naples Fine Art Center, 5700 E. Second St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 14, 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 27...

THE SURVIVOR Susan Nanus' story of Jewish teenager smugglers in the Warsaw Ghetto, based on actual events. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice; Through Nov. 13, 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 14, 2 p.m.. (310) 306-1854.

TALES FROM HOLLYWOOD A 1982 Taper commission, playwright Christopher Hampton's quasi-Stoppard-esque marriage of literary history and City of Nets-like biographical melodrama is at best a shotgun wedding. Hampton's subject is Hollywood during the Nazi era, when Hitler's rise to power in Germany doused the fecund cultural cauldron of the Weimar Republic and sent its greatest creative minds running for cover to the West's dwindling, fascist-free zones -- including the place least equipped to comprehend the prize catch of refugee riches suddenly residing in its precincts. The play's most brittle conceit is its resurrection of playwright-novelist Ödön von Horvath (Gregory Gifford Giles) from his real-life freak death in Paris in 1938. The Hungarian-born, German-language writer serves as a kitsch-loving ironic lens through which Hampton observes the tragic absurdity of such eminent artists as Bertolt Brecht (Daniel Zacapa) and Heinrich Mann (Walter Beery) eking out an existence in the B-movie script mills of the lowest of the lowbrow studio establishment. But the device also creates the dramatic bind of having the wraithlike protagonist always hovering but never quite meshing with the piece's most poignant material -- namely, the difficult relationship between the principled but impoverished Mann, his mentally unstable wife, Nelly (Ursula Brooks), and Mann's rich and famous, albeit less deserving, novelist brother, Thomas Mann (Kent Minault). Despite director Michael Peretzian's sleek production -- which includes Tom Buderwitz's handsome swimming-pool set, Elizabeth Harper's fine lights and incisive performances by Beery and Minault -- Hampton's postmodernist stab at an L.A. Travesties never quite gels. (Bill Raden). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 19. (310) 477-2055.

LE TICK TOCK Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 18. (310) 392-7327.

THE WILD PARTY Based on Joseph Moncure March's 1928 poem of the same name, written by Michael John La Chuisa. Malibu Stage Company, 29243 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru Dec. 5. (310) 589-1998.


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