Stage Raw: Ten to Life

Stage Raw: Ten to Life

Last week's NEW THEATER REVIEWS are embedded in the current COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS; also, see this week's THEATER FEATURE on Kevin King's The Idea Man


TEN TO LIFE

Stage Raw: Ten to Life

"Hacienda Heights" (from Ten to Life) Photo by Nic Cha Kim

NEW REVIEW GO TEN TO LIFE Leave logic at the door  and you'll get your full quota of laughs from this quartet of one acts, each of which blends sci-fi, sex and absurdity in an entertaining way. Written by Annette Lee, "Hacienda Heights" is about a homicidal teen (Ewan Chung) living with a sexually predatory and abusive mom (Janet Song) and even more abusive grandmom  (Emily Kuroda).  Off to commit mass murder, he's forestalled when his alternate self (Feodor Chin)  arrives from another dimension to re-direct his aggression  toward the villains at home. In Nic Cha Kim's "RE:verse" (the evening funniest and most satisfying), a man (Chung) headed for his tenth high school reunion undergoes extensive cosmetic surgery at a bargain basement price; the catch is that it's for 3 days only, after which he'll revert  -- at an inconvenient moment, of course, else it wouldn't be funny  - to his former self.  Tim Lounibos' "Be Happy," concerns the power struggle between a psychiatrist (Chin) and his patient-wife (Peggy Ahn).   The set-up is confusing at first and it's a bit of a wait to the final payoff - but worth it. Judy Soo Hoo's "The Red Dress" is about a married woman (Song) who, strangely,  keeps insisting to her husband (Elpido Ebuen) that they renew the warranty on her "red dress" - a plea he rejects, precipitating hellish consequences. No small part of the production's humor comes courtesy of designer Dennis Yen's sound and Christopher M. Singleton's lighting; the latter highlights the erotic and/or gruesome scenarios that intermittently play out behind  set designer Philippe Levine's classy sliding screens. GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Toluca Lake; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 7. (818) 238-9998. A Londestone Theatre Ensemble production. (Deborah Klugman)

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For other reviews seen over the weekend, press the Continue Reading tab directly below.

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for May 22-28, 2009


(The weekend's New Reviews are embedded in "Continuing Performances"

below . You may also be able to search for them by title using your

computer's search program.)

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

OPENING THIS WEEK

ALWAYS

AND FOREVER Annoyed teenager road-trips to Tijuana for her quincea--era dress fitting, in Michael Patrick

Spillers' tribute to Latino-American culture. Casa 0101, 2009 E. First

St., L.A.; opens May 22; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru June

14. (323) 263-7684.

BABYLON HEIGHTS Munchkins go wild on the set

of The Wizard of Oz, by Irvine Welsh and Dean

Cavanaugh. Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; opens May

22; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June 20. (866) 811-4111.

COLLECTED

STORIES Donald Margulies' slices of life about an aging author and her

young mentor. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa;

opens May 22; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30

p.m.; Tues.-Wed., 7:30 p.m.; thru June 14. (714) 708-5555.

STOMP Bang a gong, get it on! Or a drum, or what have you. Long

Beach Terrace Theater, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; Fri., May 22, 8

p.m.; Sat., May 23, 4 p.m.. (800) 745-3000.

EVE'S RAPTURE Bryan

Reynolds's Garden of Eden "action comedy.". Hayworth Theatre, 2511

Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; opens May 22; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.;

thru June 27. (323) 960-7721.

FUGGEDABOUDIT Male model with

amnesia meets his "friends," by Gordon Bressack. Hollywood Fight Club

Theater, 6767 W. Sunset Blvd., No. 6, L.A.; opens May 28; Thurs.-Fri.,

8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru June 14. (323)

465-0800.

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE Charles Michael Edmonds' solo

show. Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; opens May 22;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June 27. (323) 960-5773.

MADNESS IN

VALENCIA Not the Santa Clarita suburb, but the infamous Spanish asylum

whose residents are equally crazy, courtesy playwright Lopa de Vega.

Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; opens May 22;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., May 24, 2 p.m.; Sun., June 28, 2 p.m.; thru

June 28. (310) 281-8337.

THE MIRACLE WORKER The Helen Keller

story, by William Gibson. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St.,

Santa Monica; opens May 22; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June

28. (310) 392-7327.

NIGHTS OF NOIR: MARKED FOR LOVE/OF DICKS AND

DAMES Kasey Wilson's one-acts, hosted by "burlesque goddess" Honey Ima

Home. The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd.,

L.A.; opens May 22; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June 27. (323) 960-1055.

OOOOOGY

GREEN AND OTHER FABLES After-school special about an awkward

caterpillar. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.;

Sat., May 23, 1 & 10:30 p.m.. (323) 957-1884.

OVER THE RIVER

AND THROUGH THE WOODS Italian grandparents scheme to keep their single

grandson from moving away, in Joe DiPietro's family comedy. Lonny

Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood;

opens May 22; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 27. (818)

700-4878.

THE SINGING SKELETON Stefan Marks' coming-of-age story

about a 21-year-old playwright. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood

Blvd., L.A.; opens May 22; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June 27. (888)

201-0804.

THE STICKING PLACE Chris Covics re-imagines

Shakespeare's Macbeth via "images borrowed from

the ensemble's dreams and nightmares.". Unknown Theater, 1110 N. Seward

St., L.A.; opens May 22; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru June

27. (323) 466-7781.

TOUCH THE WATER Julie Hebert's collaborative

play about the Los Angeles River. Rio de Los Angeles State Park, Bowtie

Parcel, entrance adjacent to 2800 Casitas Ave., L.A.; opens May 28;

Wed.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru June 21. (213) 613-1700, Ext. 37.

UPTON

SINCLAIR'S SINGING JAILBIRDS: THE MUSICAL The Relevant Stage Theatre

Company re-invents Sinclair's 1924 agit-prop play as a musical

extravaganza. Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. Sixth St., San Pedro; opens

May 22; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru May 31. (310) 929-8129.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGION-WIDE

GO AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' Come for Act 2. Richard Maltby, Jr. directed this music-bar revue of songs from the Fats Waller era, many composed by Waller, with words by a stream of lyricists, including Maltby, Jr. Like the director, choreographer Arthur Faria has also returned from years-long involvement with the 1978 Broadway show to streamline this revival -- dwarfed somewhat by the Ahmanson' barn-like scale. The glitz of  shimmering streams of small lights that rim the feet of stairways, or blast in an arc over John Lee Beatty's art deco set (lighting design by Pat Collins), only gets in the way. Music director William Foster McDaniel sits parked at a spinet that floats across the stage through the wonder of hydraulics. I found Act 1 insufferable, with the women in the five actor ensemble overplaying the same bits of mock-jealousy and forced, girly eroticism, as though Malby, Jr. adhered to the dubious principle that if a gag fails once, keep repeating it until it works. The interpretations of 15 songs in Act 1, including "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Squeeze Me," ranges from competent to painful, with the uber-effect of cheesiness stemming from the strain of forcing an intimate revue into the kind of overly broad performing style that it just can't accommodate. Act 2, is like a different show. The glitz recedes, and the style settles into something more earnest and simple -- even the vaudeville bits, such as Eugene Barry-Hill's terrific rendition of "The Viper's Drag" in which he wobbles amidst jazzy crooning about the pleasures of reefer. Most of the act, however, is committed to blues and ballads, sung with emotional earnestness and simple tech support, with the help of the great eight-piece band behind them, and McDaniel on piano. The show is about the music and contains a wit that 's far more savvy and wry that the style of humor in Act 1. The music also provides a mirror onto the ambitions and torments of people in the years before WWII.  When the performers (also including Doug Eskew, Armelia McQueen, Roz Ryan and Debra Walton) are left alone to do what they do best, the show takes flight. The company turns "Black and Blue" into an ethereal quintet, accompanied only by the piano, that could be been plucked from a church service. (SLM) Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave.; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through May 31. (213) 638-4017 or http://centertheatregroup.org.

 NEW REVIEW GO BENGAL TIGER AT THE BAGHDAD ZOO

Stage Raw: Ten to Life

Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo Photo by Craig Schwartz

Provoked

by an American guard named Tom (Glenn Davis), the Tiger (Kevin Tighe)

in a cage in the Baghdad zoo, circa 2002, lops off Tom's hand and is

swiftly shot by Tom's partner, Kev (Brad Fleischer). This is a story of

people, and creatures, who keep losing parts of themselves, and every

image stands for something else. The tiger was shot with a gold

revolver pillaged from the Uday Hussein's palace by Tom - along with a

gold toilet seat that he hopes will be a source of financial security

upon his return to the U.S.  Gold and the gold rush forge a pit of woe.

Among the living and the ghosts populating Rajiv Joseph's dreamscape is

a topiarist named Musa (Arian Moayed), though the occupying American

soldiers inexplicably call him Habib. And throughout the Magritte-like

dreamscape wanders the ghost of that Tiger, now pondering the purpose

of existence and original sin, as though being caged in war-torn

Baghdad weren't punishment enough for whatever crimes he committed as a

Tiger, kidnapped and airlifted from Bengal. Joseph's symbolism and

magic carpet ride are quite magnificent, supported by Moisés Kaufman's

staging on Derek McLane's set of blue-hued tile with a mosque archway,

rimmed with gold. And, of course Musa's topiary figurines that wander

in and out, like the growing population of ghosts. Center Theatre Group

at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Wasington Blvd., Culver City;

Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through June

7. (310) 628-2772. (Steven Leigh Morris) See Theater feature.


CROWNS This musical by Regina Taylor examines the passionate attachment of certain churchgoing African-American women for their hats. Adapted from the book by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry, Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats, it turns on the interaction between Yolanda (Angela Wildflower Polk), a tough street girl from Brooklyn raging with grief over the murder of her brother, and various women she encounters after she's shipped off to South Carolina to live with her grandmother (Paula Kelly). The book that was the musical's source material consists of an elegant collection of photo portraits and firsthand reminiscences; Taylor appropriates these as monologues, then juxtaposes them with original dialogue and gospel hymns. The thrust of the show -- increasingly churchly as the evening wears on -- is the effort to educate Yolanda regarding the importance of hats to her identity and her spirituality. Under Israel Hicks' direction, the focus is clear but its execution -- both script and performance -- is disappointing. Five female performers each deliver various monologues that simply don't add up to recognizable characters who serve the story -- itself a cobbled construct. Lackluster choreography, less than top-notch vocals and indifferent lighting also detract, as does the production's two-hour length, without intermission. The strongest element is the outstanding contribution of Clinton Derricks-Carroll in a variety of male roles, but especially as a fervently possessed, pulpit-thumping preacher. In an uneven ensemble, Vanessa Bell Calloway and Suzzanne Douglas are worthy of note, as are the instrumentals, under Eric Scott Reed's musical direction. (DK) Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, 4718 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 2 & 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., through June 14. (323) 964-9768. An Ebony Repertory Theatre/Pasadena Playhouse production.

NEW REVIEW GO DIRTY DANCING Blockbuster musicals

based on blockbuster films are multiplying like viruses, but Dirty

Dancing is different. Its approach to slapping film on a stage is the

zenith of the seamless and shameless. Instead of adding songs, original

screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein's theater translation mimics scenes with

a faithfulness to her treasured 1987 source material that's slavishly

high camp. Add in James Powell's extravagant direction and we're served

up fantastically expensive cheese that knows audiences don't just want

to see Baby (Amanda Leigh Cobb) and Johnny (Josef Brown) dancing on a

log, they want to see that log descend majestically from the ceiling

and be dismissed when it's served its momentary purpose. By duplicating

the pacing, plot, and props, Dirty Dancing revels in the luxurious

disposability that tells a crowd they're getting their money's worth.

Wow factor is key when shelling out the cost of several DVDs to watch

the exact same thing live -- the set whirls and motors, spitting up

bridges and doors and revolving platforms, dancers in great costumes

pack the stage, and giant video screens even show us the fractured

glass when Johnny punches a window. It's the kind of nonsense that

delights both cynics and fans. (Inversely, i'ts now the script's

dabbling into race and class consciousness that feels cheap.) Cobb and

Brown are twins for Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze, the charming Cobb

approaching the role with actual acting, while the muscular Brown has

fun aping Swayze's showpony dramatics. In a strong and massive cast,

standouts include Britta Lazenga as the ill-fated dancer Penny and the

very funny Katlyn Carlson as Baby's snotty sister  Lisa. Pantages

Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 &

8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru June 28. (213) 365-3500. A

Broadway L.A. production. (Amy Nicholson)

HANK

AND MY HONKY TONKY HEROES Jason Petty is country music icon Hank

Williams. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood;

Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 24.

(866) 811-4111.

LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN Oscar Wilde's satire of

Victorian-era marriage. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long

Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 13. (562) 494-1014.

LOOKING

FOR NORMAL Gender-bender comedic drama by Jane Anderson about a

middle-aged Midwesterner who decides after 25 years of marriage that he

wants a sex-change operation. Malibu Stage Company, 29243 Pacific Coast

Hwy., Malibu; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru May 24. (310)

589-1998.

GO LOUIS & KEELY:

LIVE AT THE SAHARA Documentary- and Oscar-nominated filmmaker Taylor

Hackford has been busy misguiding writer-performers Jake Broder and

Vanessa Claire Smith's musical. The good news is the terrific

musicianship is as sharp as ever, as are the title performances.

Broder's lunatic edge and Bobby Darin singing style has huge appeal,

while Smith has grown ever more comfortable in the guise and vocal

stylings of Keely Smith. It was the music that originally sold this

show, and it should continue to do so. With luck, perhaps Broder and

Smith haven't thrown out their original script. (SLM). Geffen

Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Fri.,

7:30 p.m.; Sat., 3:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; thru

June 28. (310) 208-5454.

NEW REVIEW MARRY ME A LITTLE & THE LAST FIVE YEARS

Marry Me a Little Photo by Michael Lamont

For Marry Me A Little,

Craig Lucas and Norman Rene constructed a wisp of a plot to incorporate

16 existing Stephen Sondheim songs. In it, two New Yorkers, a Man (Mike

Dalager) and a Woman (Jennifer Hubilla) each spends a lonely Saturday

night at home. Since one set serves for both apartments, we see both

obliviously pursuing their solitary lives within a single space.

Director Jules Aaron seems to distrust the original concept, allowing

them to be aware and interact, so the thematic loneliness is nullified.

The result resembles a musical revue, or an over-produced concert.  The Last Five Years,

written/composed by Jason Robert Brown, and directed by Jon Lawrence

Rivera, depicts, in 14 songs, the dissolution of a relationship, seen

from opposite perspectives by writer Jamie (Michael K. Lee) and Cathy

(Jennifer Paz): he sees their relationship chronologically, while she

views it retrospectively, leaving us to piece together the fractured

tale. The performers are all capable, but only Lee brings needed

dynamism. Since one play concerns a relationship that never happens,

and the other depicts a deteriorating one, they make for a grim

evening, though the opening night audience seemed enthusiastic. East

West Players at the David Henry Hwang Theatre, 129 Judge John Aiso

Street, Los Angeles; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., thru June 21;

(213) 625-7000 or  http://www.eastwestplayers.org. (Neal Weaver)

PUPPET

UP! UNCENSORED Henson Alternative's improv-comedy puppet show. Avalon,

1735 Vine St., L.A.; Fri., May 22, 8 p.m.; Sat., June 20, 8 p.m.. (323)

462-8900.

GO THE REHEARSAL In French dramatist Jean Anouilh's scintillating 1958 play, a group of amateur thespians is rehearsing a production of Marivaux's 18th century The Double  Inconstancy, which offers a skewed mirror image of their world, and provides a pretext for Soojin Lee's lavish Louis XVth costumes.  The Count (Robertson Dean), known as Tiger, and his wife Eliane (Susan Angelo), devote their lives to pleasure.  He has a mistress (Jill Hill), and she has a lover (Steve Coombs). Also in attendance is Hero (Geoff Elliott), Tiger's boyhood friend, now a destructive, cynical drunk. Eager to seduce the young governess, Lucile (Lenne Klingaman), Tiger casts her in the play's ingénue role. To his own astonishment, he falls deeply in love, for the first time in his life, and she returns his love. But passion and sincerity offer profound threats to their shallow, hedonistic world, and the others join forces to destroy this dangerous love, with Hero assigned to deliver the cruel coup-de-grace. Director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott gives this richly textured and sophisticated play a brilliant, handsome and finely-honed production laced with splendid performances. Special kudos for Elliott's detailed, deeply-felt Hero. (NW) A Noise Within, 234 South Brand Boulevard, Glendale; in rep, call for schedule; through May 24. (818) 240-0901, Ext. 1. 

GO THE SEAFARER If you're seeking innovation in the theater, look elsewhere. Conor McPherson's Irish yarn is chip off the stock-block of Celtic-folklore  - story-telling, bullshitting, scatological jokes, card playing and a visit by somebody from the metaphysical realm, which raises the not-trivial question: what on earth are we doing with our time? Thanks to a quintet of sharp-as-they-come performances, under Randall Arney's carefully calibrated production, the event holds up. McPherson's drama isn't as menacing as in New York; Arney gives it a lighter touch, which reveals some of its holes but also skirts around both melodrama and glibness. This is starkly moral universe, filled with causes and consequences, where somebody named Mr. Lockhart (Tom Irwin, in a spit-and-polished suit) arrives to collect an old debt at the North Dublin home-tavern of Sharky (Andrew Connolly) and his disabled brother, Richard (John Mahoney) - who blinded himself while scavenging in a trash canister. The drama slowly pivots on a poker game with life and death stakes as the men, including denizens Ivan (Paul Vincent O'Connor) and Nickly Giblin (Matt Roth) - who's the new husband of Sharky's ex-wife - try to bluff their way through the night, which is really the larger allegory for existence. Imagine Harold Pinter having re-written Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol in an Irish brogue. Arney's gentle production can't mask or provide irony for the sentimental resolution, but the strength of his interpretation derives from the silent, brooding power of Connolly's victimized Sharky, and the perverse indulgences of Sharky's blind brother, played by Mahoney with a gleeful grittiness that renders him a weird blend of whining matron and the power-broker of the house. The marvelous, tawdry details of Takeshi Kata's set have little congruence with the actors' perfect teeth - one tiny reminder of how difficult it is to leave Hollywood on our stages, despite theater's magic.(SLM)  Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8:30 p.m.;Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; through May 24. (310) 208-54545.

SPIT LIKE A BIG GIRL

Clarinda Ross' one-woman memoir of growing up Southern, coping with her

father's death, and raising her disabled daughter. Rubicon Theater,

1006 E. Main St., Ventura; Sun., 2 p.m.; Wed., 2 & 7 p.m.;

Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru June 7. (805) 667-2900.
Kids

CINDERELLA:

THE MUSICAL Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie's family-friendly fairy

tale. (Resv. required.). Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa

Monica; Sat.-Sun., 12:30 & 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 27. (310) 394-9779.

CONTINUING

PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST

HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS

ACME THIS WEEK

ACME's flagship sketch show, with celebrity guest hosts each week. Acme

Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

GO BIG Director Richard Israel and his fine cast have a first-rate revival of this 1996 Broadway musical, based on the film that made Tom Hanks a star. And if you've seen the movie and think you know the story, think again: You can expect a few witty surprises here. Big (John Weidman, book; David Shire, music; Richard Maltby, lyrics) is a whimsical tale about Josh (L.J. Benet), an undersized teenager whose oversized crush on a schoolmate results in a startling metamorphosis when a carnival contraption grants his wish to be "big." When he wakes up as an adult, Josh (Will Collyer) has his hands full coping with life, his best friend, Billy (Sterling Beaumon), and a heartbroken mom (Lisa Picotte). When he stumbles into a high-caliber job with a toy company, he catches the eye of corporate climber Susan (the outstanding Darrin Revitz) and finds romance, but he ultimately discovers that life as a 13-year-old adult is not all that great. Israel has done a remarkable job staging this piece on a small stage, and manages the large cast -- which features some fine adolescent actors and actresses -- quite well. Christine Lakin's choreography is polished and attractive, with many of the dances evincing an edgy comic expressiveness. Musical director Daniel Thomas does equally fine work. (LE3) El Centro Theatre, 800 N. El Centro Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., through June 28. (323) 460-4443. A West Coast Ensemble production.

BILL W. AND DR. BOB Samuel Shem

and Janet Surrey's story of Alcoholics Anonymous. Theatre 68, 5419

Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 31. (323) 960-7827.

BINGO

WITH THE INDIANS Adam Rapp's dark comedy about scheming thespians.

Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 10:30 p.m.; Sun., 4

p.m.; thru June 7, www.roguemachinetheatre.com. (323) 960-7774.

NEW REVIEW COME BACK LITTLE HORNY  In playwright Laura

Richardson's clever sourball of a family comedy, mom Susan (Wendy

Phillips) and dad Ian (Scott Paulin) used to be artists, but now

they're retired - read "tapped out" -- and they seem to spend most of

their time sniping at each other.  Meanwhile, their closeted gay son

Loki (Brendan Bonner) and borderline schizophrenic daughter Nora

(Jennifer Erholm) still live at home, subjected to endless sneers and

veiled insults thrown in their direction.  Into this toxic atmosphere

comes the family's one successful scion, Stanford U professor and

bestselling author Raven (Danielle Weeks), who, estranged from her

clan, shows up for a visit, bringing along her newly adopted pet dog

Horny (delightfully played in canine drag by Jason Paige, whose

leg-humping, slobbery performance all but barks with the unfiltered

love that the human characters can't express to each other).  Raven's

latest book is a hostile, but truthful roman a clef about her family -

and, as they peruse the book, the clan is forced to confront the

miserable truth.  Director Martha Demson's character-driven production

artfully emphasizes the subtext underlying the family's brittle

relationship.  Not a throwaway line is spoken that seeps with layers of

corrosive backstory.  Although the pacing occasionally falters - and

the piece frankly could use some cutting, particularly during the final

third - the writing is smartly full of just the sorts of lines you hope

never to hear from your mother.  The ensemble work boasts some

ferocious acting turns, particularly from Phillips scathingly bitter

mother and Weeks's superficially loving, passively hostile daughter. 

Lost Studio Theatre, 130 S. LaBrea Ave., Hollywood: Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 4 p.m.; through June 20.  (310) 600-3682.  (Paul Birchall)

THE

COUNTRY WIFE William Wycherley's 1675 cuckold satire. Hayworth Theatre,

2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May

30. (323) 969-1707.

GO THE CRUCIBLE In the days of HUAC and Senator Joseph McCarthy, when it was dangerous for any left-leaning writer to criticize government actions, playwright Arthur Miller approached the subject indirectly, writing about the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 as a metaphor for McCarthy's reckless accusations. But as this illuminating production makes clear, the play remains eloquent and relevant, and director Marianne Savell gives it a sharp new focus. In addition to examining the plight of John and Elizabeth Proctor (Bruce Ladd and Nan McNamara), both accused of witchcraft, she highlights two of the accusers: The paranoid, egocentric, hysterical Reverend Parris (Daniel J. Roberts) is ultimately destroyed by the madness he has unleashed, while decent man of conscience Reverend Hale (Gary Clemmer) believes the charges of witchcraft until it's too late to halt the madness. The witch-hunt, launched by a toxic brew of superstition, fear, lies, self-righteousness and individual malice, becomes an inexorable force, grinding up accusers and accused. Ladd and McNamara deftly capture the flawed but powerful integrity of John and Elizabeth, while Roberts and Clemmer subtly delineate the growing despair of the two clergymen. They are given strong support by a huge and able cast. (NW) Actors Co-op, 1760 N. Gower St., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2:30 p.m., additional matinee Sat., May 16, 2:30 p.m., through June 7. (323) 462-8460.

DADDY'S DYIN', WHO'S GOT THE

WILL Director Jeff Murray has here substituted the "white trash" clan

in Del Shores' comedy about a dysfunctional family in 1986 Texas with

an African-American cast. For most of the evening, it's funny watching

this caustic mix of vipers playing head games and sniping at each

other. Shores dialogue is blisteringly funny, but

sometimes these qualities don't emerge forcefully enough under Murray's

understated direction. (LE3). Theatre/Theater-Hollywood, 1625 N. Las

Palmas Ave., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 31. (323)

954-9795.

DEAD, THEREFORE I AM Writer-director Max Leavitt's furious passion project tracks a suicidal 30-year-old named John (Leavitt), who lives in his parents' garage where he's haunted by Sophie (Karen Jean Olds) -- the obsessive goth girl next door -- and the sniping Egyptian god Anubis (Nicholas Tucci). John's depressed, and since he enters the play with his head severed by a guillotine, we know things aren't going to end well, especially as his coping mechanisms are booze, pills, and screaming at Sophie and Anubis. Both have John in their bondage: Sophie, because they're furtively, allegedly in love (though tenderness is missing from all of their interactions), while Anubis has John on a physical and emotional choke chain to train him into thinking his miserable life is nothing more than a doorway to the underworld. With its subtleties overwhelmed in histrionics, and its comedy made glum by all Leavitt's sincere agony, this is still a work in progress -- a play fumbling through the stressful business of discovering its strengths, just like its protagonist. (AN) East Theatre at the Complex, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 24. (323) 960-7714.

GO THE DESIGNATED MOURNER Written in the dark days when humanistic ideals seemed under siege by the barbarian imperatives of globalization (a.k.a. the Clinton-Gingrich years), Wallace Shawn's speculative fable is a pitch-black, comic lament for the demise of the belletrist class. Set in a fictional land that seems strangely to resemble New York, the play follows the travails of an aging literary lion, Howard (Don Boughton), and his hero-worshiping daughter, Judy (Sarah Boughton), as they and their genteel circle fall victim to a fascistic regime. Telling their tale is the play's titular mourner, Jack (Michael Kass), Judy's deceptively genial husband and one of the pettiest, mean-spirited and most unreliable narrators in stage literature. A member of Howard's inner circle by accident of marriage, Jack is a hopeless lowbrow whose envy for his father-in-law's highbrow stature soon turns into a toxic resentment as his own intellectual limitations exclude him from Judy and Howard's rarified world. Director Matthew McCray nimbly navigates a potentially unwieldy text -- essentially three interwoven monologues -- ably realizing all of Shawn's famously acerbic wit and savage ironies. Kass's Jack is a marvel of modulation as the affably sympathetic everyman of Act I metamorphoses into the venomous, solipsistic scoundrel of Act II. Equally fine is Sarah Boughton's sweetly captivating study in filial fidelity. It is Don Boughton, however, with his mesmerizing portrait of the play's deeply flawed patrician poet, who all but steals the show. (BR) Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Mon.-Tues., Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., May 16, 3 p.m.; thru May 23. (213) 351-3507.

GO DIVORCE! THE MUSICAL Erin Kamler's witty and entertaining new musical satire (for which she wrote the music, the lyrics and the book) takes apart almost every emotional phase of a marital breakup, including the horrors of dating and the hollows of rebound sex, and sets it to chirpy and wry songs that feature some sophisticated musical juxtapositions and harmonies. (Musical direction and arrangements by David O) Kamler skirts the apparent danger of triteness (setting a too familiar circumstance to music) by cutting beneath the veneer of gender warfare. This is a study of the decaying partnership of a resentful Brentwood radiologist (Rick Segall) and his aspiring actress wife (Lowe Taylor), goaded by their respective attorneys. The lawyers are the villains here - one (Gabrielle Wagner), a Beverly Hills shark, the other (Leslie Stevens), a swirl of confusion from her own recent divorce and now "temporarily" based in Studio City. These vultures collude to distort the grievances of their clients, who both actually care about their exes, and would be better off without "representation." They might even remain married, the musical implies. Director Rick Sparks gets clean, accomplished performances from his five-person ensemble (that also includes Gregory Franklin, as the Mediator - i.e. host of an absurdist game show.) Danny Cistone's cubist set with rolling platforms masks the live three-piece band, parked behind the action: This includes the ex-groom's impulsive decision, based in his lawyer's misinformation, to  removal all furniture from his home, where he ex-bride continues to live -- only to find his bank accounts and credit cards frozen. In the song, "We Stuck It Out," there's a kind of Sondheimian ennui to the verities of life-long partnerships. The song is ostensibly an  homage to his parents, in whose basement he winds up living. As the Brits would say, marriage is bloody hard work.  (SLM) Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through March 29. (323) 960-1056.

NEW REVIEW GO EL OGRITO (THE OGRELING)

Stage Raw: Ten to Life

El Ogrito (The Ogreling) Photo courtesy of 24th Street Theatre

Jesús

Castaños-Chima stages Suzanne Lebeau's dark fairy tale (performed in

Spanish with English supertitles) with sweetness and depth. It concerns

a mother (Julieta Ortiz) trying to protect her young son (the adult

Gabriel Romero) from the heredity and instinct of blood lust. His

father, you see, was/is an Ogre, or one who eats children. After going

through six of his own daughters, he fled to give his infant son a

chance. Dad hangs off-stage in the forest, watching with admiration as

his son struggles with hereditary, demonic passions to eat little

animals and, eventually, little children, while his mother strives

valiantly to ban the color red from the house, and serve him vegetarian

fare grown in the garden - in these plays, gardens always serve as an

antidote to the horrors of who we are.  24th Street Theater, 1117 24th

Street, Los Angeles; Sat.-Sun., times vary, call for schedule; through

June 21. (213) 745-6516. (Steven Leigh Morris) See Theater feature.


ENTER

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

Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 934-9700.

NEW REVIEW F YOURSELF: AN EVENING WITH FAMKE ROUMSTEAD

Just a few doors north of Canter's Deli in a small storefront on

Fairfax, a Rubenesque woman with close-cropped dark hair sashays about

the stage and invites you to "learn how to f yourself."  She is Famke

Roumstead, sexologist, lecturer, Manatee Community College Alumnus...as

well your Private Dancer for the evening (yes, she treats us to her

version of the Tina Turner classic).  "I don't look romantical...but I

am," she tells the audience as she begins the show with one of a number

of clever, Bush-like neologisms.  In a fairly short set (clocking in at

around 40 minutes), Famke riffs on sexual taboos, debunks sexual

stereotypes, and exposes archaic archetypes of femininity and female

sexuality.  Her deadpan style and comic timing are weirdly reminiscent

of the great Stephen Wright, though at the same time the two couldn't

be more different.  And as the show is at an improv theater, Famke

doesn't hesitate to request audience participation including engagement

in a breathing exercise to find our "genitalia spirit animals" and

calling volunteers up on stage to assist her in various

demonstrations.  While the show could use a little tightening in terms

of direction, it's a pleasant diversion. Bang Comedy Theater, 457 N.

Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; through May 30.  (323) 653-6886.

(Mayank Keshaviah)

FRAUDESTEIN,

EL MONSTRUO SIGUE VIVO Ana Francis Mor's cabaret farce interpreting the

Frankenstein story in modern Mexico. (In Spanish with English

supertitles.). Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A.;

Through May 23, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 24, 3 p.m.. (213) 489-0994.

Stage Raw: Ten to Life

Freudenstein: The Monster Lives Photo courtesy of The New LATC

FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE Weekly sketch comedy. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

FUBAR

Karl Gajdusek's new play deals with two San Francisco couples whose

lives overlap as they deal with addiction, temptation and realization.

Director Larissa Kokernot employs projections creatively, but she fails

to get much emotion from her cast and certain choices, such as on-stage

costume changes and a naturalistic cooking scene, are more confusing

than anything. Despite the accomplishments and lengthy resumes of the

playwright, director and cast, the play's characters, relationships and

scenarios just don't sing, leaving the audience with a cocktail of

ideas and images that remains beyond recognition. (MK). Theatre of

NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.;

thru May 30. (323) 856-8611.

GROUNDLINGS ENCHANTED FOREST

All-new sketch and improv, directed by Roy Jenkins. Groundling Theater,

7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; thru July

18. (323) 934-9700.

HALF OF PLENTY Lisa Dillman's satire of

modern life, lean times and neighborhood watch. Theatre/Theater, 5041

Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru June 21,

www.roguemachinetheatre.com. (323) 960-7774.

THE HIGH Teen-drama parody, "from OMG to LOL.". ComedySportz, 8033 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 10:30 p.m.. (323) 871-1193.

GO THE IDEA MAN The unspecified manufacturing plant at the heart of Kevin King's comedy-drama has a "Gillette account," referring to the razors and razorblades being produced there, among other products. The detailed set design (credited to Elephant Stageworks) includes welding stations lined along the walls of the tiny stage. The realism in the design creates a naturalistic and enveloping atmosphere of the workplace, which supports and, in subtle ways, also stifles King's richly textured examination of the class divide within that factory and, by implication, across America's dwindling manufacturing base. When Al Carson (James Pippi), a bright machinist and union rep, visits the salubrious home of plant manager Simmons (David Franco), Al's awe and awkwardness are apparent in Pippi's expressions, while behind him, we see welding machines, which is a intrusion. As directed by David Fofi in a style that combines earthy David Mamet/Steppenwolf Theatre realism with occasional hints of a sitcom in the making, the ensemble is so good that the production rides largely on the strengths of the atmosphere and the actors. Al has just won the "suggestion of the month" prize,  for a design generating exponentially more efficiency in the production of razorblades.  The idea could be worth millions of dollars in potential savings to the company, and for this, Simmons is willing to reward Al with a check for $100 and a laminated plaque with his name on it -- on the condition that Al signs over the rights to his design. Al understands the insult; he's no fool What ensues is a series of artfully conceived scenes between the Al and staff engineer Frank (Robert Foster), who's task is to make Al's idea "work"   -- a blue collar-white collar cat-and-mouse game in which the roles of cat and mouse keep shifting. That Simmons would invite top management to fly in from God knows where, this coming weekend, no less, for a presentation on Al's suggestion -- even before Frank has had the opportunity to test it -- reveals a management style so reckless, it's hard to believe. Yet it's on this somewhat contrived stress test that playwright King builds the play's suspense. King's ideas are so fine, they deserve refining. (SLM) Elephant Theatre Company, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., through June 6. (323) 960-4410.

MEASURE FOR

MEASURE Write Act Repertory re-imagines Shakespeare's play. Write Act

Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 23. (323)

469-3113.

GO  MUNCHED Katie Paxton's two older sisters died before she was born. When she became deathly ill, the nurses and the law were convinced that her mother Marybeth (Andrea Hutchman) was killing her slowly in a sordid, attention-seeking case of Munchhausen by Proxy. Marybeth went to prison; Katie (Samantha Sloyan) recovered immediately and went into the foster system. Kim Porter's spellbinding and intimate play catches up with the Paxtons 20-years later when Katie finds a Pandora's box of letters, from her mom and to her mom, in her foster mother's attic. We're never sure if Marybeth is guilty, though she admits to giving her daughter a poisonous dose of ipecac. But what is clear is that mother and daughter share the same DNA -- both face the world with a bitter humor, Katie joking wryly about wrenching trauma, and Marybeth channeling her self-righteous anger into a sarcasm as sharp as a knife. Sloyan and Hutchman turn in two of the best performances I've seen all year. Aided by Duane Daniels' direction, they make comic agony out of deliberate pauses and askance smiles. Shirley Jordan and Peter Breitmayer are quite fine as a whirlwind of nurses, doctors, lawyers and do-gooders, each with their own agenda, and unable to see the facts of Marybeth's actions through their certainty of her psychosis or martyrdom. (AN) El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 30. (323) 960-5771.

NATIONAL VELVET Enid Bagnold's classic story,

retold in a future world. Hollywood California Improv, 8162 Melrose

Ave., L.A.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 24. (323)

651-2583.

NEW REVIEW OCHRE & ONYX: THE LANGSTON HUGHES PROJECT

Stage Raw: Ten to Life

Ochre & Onyx Photo courtesy of Watts Village Theater Company

Langston

Hughes celebrated the notion of black as beautiful long before the

slogan became a watchword for social change.   Spotlighting our

nation's ongoing racial divisions, writer Lynn Manning's message play

attempts to make a connection between  Hughes' brief coming-of-age

sojourn in Mexico in 1920-21 and the modern-day struggles of a young

slam poet named Nubia (Lauryn Whitney) who must deal with her personal

anger and prejudice.  The latter scenario ignites around Nubia's gnarly

relationship with an affable African-Latina painter, Lisa  (Melissa

Camilo), who has enthusiastically sought out their artistic

collaboration, but whom Nubia resents for her Hispanic roots.  The play

alternates between what happens with these women and the more

interesting historical drama involving Hughes (Maurice Glover) and his

crusty, domineering Dad (Rodney Gardiner) who wants the poet to give up

poetry and move to Mexico  where, as a black man, he can get some

respect.  Hughes'  early life -  his tremendous emotional conflicts and

the nascent beginnings of his inspirational ideas - is fascinating

fodder for drama, but the script strays off the mark with painfully

excessive melodrama and too much time spent showing the naïve hero

learning to carouse with more jaded companions.  Glover has a pleasant

quality but his performance is none too deep.  Whitney brings to the

role lots of fierce passion (the poetry is terrific), but she's

hampered by the script's overall didacticism.  Under Nataki Garret's

direction, both she and Camilo  come across as  symbols for opposing

attitudes rather than fully developed characters. Los Angeles Design

Center, 5955 S. Western Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.;

thru May 31. (323) 599-0811. A Watts Village Theater Company

production. (Deborah Klugman)


ONCE

UPON A MATTRESS Princess-and-pea musical, adapted from the Hans

Christian Andersen fairy tale. Music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by

Marshall Barer, book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller, and Marshall Barer.

Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

p.m.; thru June 21. (323) 939-9220.

GO PHOTOGRAPH 51 This West Coast premiere of Anna Ziegler's powerful yet subtle play  concerns  Rosalind Franklin, the scientist who was instrumental in the discovery of the structure of DNA. Set against Travis Gale Lewis' cleverly accretive set and illuminated by Kathi O'Donohue's complex and variegated lighting, the play takes us into a seminal period in biophysics.  No sooner are we introduced to Rosalind (Aria Alpert), her colleague Dr. Wilkins (Daniel Billet), and her graduate assistant Maurice Gosling (Graham Norris) than Rosalind declares in no uncertain terms, "Dr. Wilkins, I don't do jokes.  I do science."  Her confidence and professionalism leads to an uncomfortable friction with Wilkins and the rest of the chauvinistic male scientific establishment, including Watson (Ian Gould) and Crick (Kerby Joe Grubb), who are simultaneously in search of the genetic blueprint.  While Rosalind remains the consummate professional, even cold at times, she does reveal slivers of her inner life through correspondence with American scientist Don Casper (Ross Hellwig).  As each side gets closer to the genetic blueprint, one of Rosalind's photographs ends up becoming crucial to unlocking the mystery.  Director Simon Levy efficiently orchestrates the manipulation of time and space, turning vast leaps into imperceptible segues, and inspiring powerful performances from his actors.  The entire cast sparkles behind Alpert, whose portrayal of Rosalind's ruthless efficiency, biting wit, and deep pain is a tour de force that brings to mind Meryl Streep's take on Anna Wintour.  This tribute to a woman who helped crack the Pyrex ceiling reminds us of the need to reexamine "his"tory, and should not be missed.  (MK)The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through May 31.  (323) 663-1525.

PLAY WITH A KNIFE Zach

Fehst's existential take on murder. Stages Theatre Center, 1540 N.

McCadden Pl., L.A.; Sat.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru May 31. (323) 960-7784.

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.

RANTOUL AND DIE,

A ROMANTIC COMEDY WRAPPED IN RAZOR WIRE Mark Roberts' funny business

about a marriage on the edge. Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, L.A.;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 4, www.rantoulanddie.com.

(323) 960-4424.

THE REAL THING Henry boasts that he's too

superior to feel jealousy; his confusion at being cuckolded is

channeled into his brilliant, but bourgeois living room dramas, which

-- like him -- risk sounding flip. He's frustrated with drafting an

earnest love story for his new actress wife, and playwright Tom

Stoppard's self-aware digressions feel like the author's apologia for

any potential weaknesses. The brittle wit of the first act softens

after intermission when a tenderized Henry offers his definition of

fidelity. However, to breathe, these observations need a light, deft

touch. Instead director Allen Barton cranks up the emotionalism, even

ending several scenes in a deafening climax of screams and music.

Whatever Henry is bellowing at the ceiling is drowned out in the fury,

a misstep for a play that worships the power of words. (AN). Skylight

Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7

p.m.; thru June 7. (323) 960-7861.

GO RICHARD III REDUX: OUR RADICAL ADAPTATION The radical part of this stylish, modern-dress patchwork isn't so much in director John Farmanesh-Bocca's decision to preface Richard III with a flashback version of its chronological antecedent, Henry VI, Part 3. Nor is it in the Procrustean condensation required to fit both plays into an evening that clocks in at a mere 100 minutes. What is radical is the Veterans Center for the Performing Arts production's argument that doing so makes for a more sympathetic, emotionally traumatized Richard (Stephan Wolfert). If the case isn't airtight, blame Shakespeare -- even Clarence Darrow would cop a plea before the persuasive power with which the Bard prosecutes his most irredeemably sociopathic of stage villains. That the effort proves such a rollicking good time is strictly the fault of Farmanesh-Bocca and his iridescent ensemble (ably lit by Randy Brumbaugh). Wolfert's antic performance as the crook-backed usurper is almost Lon Chaney-esque in its physical dimensions, confidently spanning the valiant-defender-of-York honor in Henry and the gleefully scheming gargoyle of Richard. Bruce Cervi and Tim Halligan provide nuanced support as Richard's ill-fated brothers caught in the cross hairs of dynastic ambition, while the versatile Carvell Wallace inflects the conspiratorial Buckingham with a distinctly Kissingerian menace. The best reason for this redux, however, may be Lisa Pettett's tantalizing turn as Queen Margaret, a portrayal of matriarchal political manipulation right out of The Manchurian Candidate. (BR) Mortise & Tenon Furniture Store, 2nd floor, 446 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sun. & Mon., 8 p.m., through June 8. (888) 398-9348. A Veterans Center for the Performing Arts production.

SETUP

& PUNCH A pair of Broadway composers are forced to collaborate with

a rock star, in Mark Saltzman's comedy. The Blank Theatre, 6500 Santa

Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 21.

(323) 661-9827.

THE SHAPE OF THINGS Explore art, psychopathy,

love and intimacy in Neil LaBute's drama centering on the lives of four

young students who become emotionally and romantically involved with

each other. L.A. Fringe Theatre, 929 E. Second St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; thru May 23. (213) 680-0392.

SIX STRANGE TALES OF LOVE Sy

Rosen and Katie Echevarria Rosen's one-acts on the many incarnations of

love. Gardner Stages, 1501 N. Gardner St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

thru May 30. (818) 685-9939.

SO HARD: A BLACK GAY MAN NAVIGATES

WEST HOLLYWOOD IN A NEW AMERICA Derek Ringold's "multiple-threat"

performance mixes monologue, dance and video. Zephyr Theater, 7456

Melrose Ave., L.A.; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru May 27. (323) 623-9036.

SOMEONE

ELSE'S LOSS IS MY CHOCOLATY GOODNESS! This is a six-piece assortment of

new, short plays from Padraic Duffy, Joshua Fardon, Carey Friedman,

Nova Jacobs, David LM McIntyre and Tommy Smith, punctuated by a free

chocolate treat and a drawing for more chocolate after each of the

performances. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat.,

11 p.m.; thru May 30. (323) 856-8611.

GO STICK FLY Lydia R. Diamond's scintillating comedy is set in the elegant and expensive summer home (gorgeously designed by John Iacovelli) of Dr. Joseph Levay (John Wesley), in an elite, African-American enclave of Martha's Vineyard. The family is arriving for the weekend, and son Flip (Terrell Tilford), a successful plastic surgeon, is bringing his white fiancée Kimber (Avery Clyde) to meet the family. Writer son Kent (Chris Butler) also brings his bride-to be, Taylor (Michole Briana White), who comes from a lower rung on the social ladder. At first all is banter, horse-play and fun, but gradually fracture lines appear. Despite their wealth and privilege, the Levays are not immune to the stresses and prejudices of snobbery, race and class, conflicts between fathers and sons, and brotherly rivalries. Mom hasn't turned up for the family gathering, and secrets about sexual hanky-pank lurk beneath the surface, waiting to erupt. Meanwhile, young substitute maid-housekeeper Cheryl (Tinashe Kajese) is seriously upset about something. Diamond's play combines complex characters, provocative situations, and literate, funny dialog in this delicious comedy of contemporary manners. Director Shirley Joe Finney reveals a sharp eye for social nuance, and melds her dream cast into a brilliantly seamless ensemble. They are all terrific. (NW) The Matrix Theatre Company, 7657 Melrose Avenue, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m., thru June 28. (323) 960-7740.

GO TENNESSEE WILLIAMS UNSCRIPTED The audiences tosses in a couple of suggestions at the start of the show, from which Impro Theater spins a full-length improvised drama in the style of Tennessee Williams. Clearly the types are pre-set. Floyd Van Buskirk's "Daddy" is a compendium of Night of the Iguana's ex-Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof's Big Daddy.  Director Brian Lohmann's Marquis is a flat-footed, slightly neurotic fellow tossed out of service in WWII by a 4F army classification. His withering self-respect gets crushed beneath the boot of Buddy (Dan O'Connor), home from the service and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. There's an off-stage Veteran's Day Parade for atmosphere (one of the audience suggestions was "November," so there you go.) Tenderly comedic performances also by Jo McKinley as the repressed Widow Oleson and by Tracy Burns as the town slut Loretta, and especially by Lisa Fredrickson as the smart, aging romantic, Charlene.   Is there any hope of enduring romance in this isolated mushpot of Williams' universe? The company guides the drama into a savvy bitter-sweet resolution. This is a tougher challenge than the company's prior effort, Jane Austen Unscripted,  because the types of repression that form the essences of the comedy are comparatively languid in Williams, whereas the Austen sendup sprung from the starched collars and feelings that couldn't be expressed - because that would have been impolite. Williams' characters say what's on the mind, usually two or three times in various poetical incarnations: That's the detail that these actors nail on the head. Once that joke has arrived, the challenge is to avoid making a glib mockery of Williams' drawling explications and the sometimes ham-fisted poetry. It's a trap the company studiously avoids, so that the event lingers somewhere between satire and homage. It's a very smart choice. Nice cameo also by Nick Massouh.  (SLM) Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through May 31.  (800) 838-3006. An Impro Theater production.

13 BY SHANLEY FESTIVAL Seven full-length plays and six

one-acts by John Patrick Shanley. (Weekly schedule alternates; call for

info.). Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., Sun., 8 p.m.;

Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru May 24. (323) 960-7827.

TNA ONESIES:

THE FUTURE? The Next Arena's fourth annual comedy one-act festival.

Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

thru May 23. (323) 960-5774.

THE TOMORROW SHOW Late-night

variety show created by Craig Anton, Ron Lynch and Brendon Small. Steve

Allen Theater, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd.,

L.A.; Sat., midnight. (323) 960-7785.

TRAFFICKING IN BROKEN

HEARTS Edwin Sanchez's play about a gay hustler torn between two

lovers. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru June 7, www.tix.com. (323)

957-1884.

WILDWOOD: A WESTERN FABLE Wild West saloon turns

99-seat theater in Tom Patrick's parody. Hayworth Studio, 2509 Wilshire

Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 31,

wildwoodawesternfable@gmail.com. (213) 389-9860.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS

AND

THE WINNER IS Mitch Albom's tale of an actor desperately trying to get

to the Oscars. Stillspeaking Theatre, 2560 Huntington Dr., San Marino;

Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 24. (626) 292-2081.

BREAKING

THE CODE Hugh Whitmore's biography of Alan Turing, "the father of

modern computer science," who was criminally prosecuted and chemically

castrated for his homosexuality. Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd.,

Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., June 7, 3 p.m.; Sun., June 14,

3 p.m.; thru June 20, www.theprodco.com. (800) 838-3006.

COURTING VAMPIRES Far from the traditional fare surrounding the fanged denizens of the dark, this world premiere from playwright Laura Schellhardt explores the mindscape of straight-laced Rill Archer (Carey Peters), a woman whose free-spirited younger sister Nina (Maya Lawson) becomes seduced by a vampire named Jim Slade (Bo Foxworth, who plays all of the males roles). Seeking justice and solace, Rill, dressed in robotic gray, retells the sequence of events that led to the seduction, skipping around in time and space while revealing the sisters' relationships with each other, their father and Rill's co-worker Gill. Set against Kurt Boetcher's set design that resembles a giant file cabinet, and complemented by Tim Swiss' lighting design, the scenes in the courtroom of Rill's mind are by turns funny and gravely serious, exploring the characters' fears, desires and inhibitions. Schellhardt is clearly accomplished, penning lines chock-full of witty lingual gymnastics and unique turns of phrase. Director Jessica Kubzansky sets the bar high as usual, ensuring that her actors navigate the complex rhythms of the text and carve out their characters in sharp relief. The cast members too are talented and faithfully trace the twists and turns of their characters, especially Foxworth, whose multiple roles are clearly defined. Unfortunately, the whole doesn't end up equaling the sum of its parts, leaving the audience with numerous great moments that don't fuse into a powerful or coherent story. (MK) Theatre @ Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., through June 7. (626) 683-6883.

THE ELEPHANT MAN Bernard

Pomerance's story of the deformed Englishman. New Place Theatre, 10950

Peach Grove St., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.;

thru June 21, www.theatermania.com. (866) 811-411.

FREUD REVOLTS

Lyda L. McPherson's dramedy about a psychiatrist and her patients.

Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 24, www.plays411.com/freudrevolts. (818)

720-2009.

INSIDE PRIVATE LIVES Audience members interact with

infamous or celebrated personages from the 20th century, as re-created

in a series of monologues. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave.,

South Pasadena; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru June 28, www.insideprivatelives.com.

(866) 811-4111.

LOVELY DAY Husband and wife debate whether their

only son should enlist in the military, in Leslie Ayvazian's play. Luna

Playhouse, 3706 San Fernando Road, Glendale; Sat., May 23, 8 p.m.;

Sun., May 24, 3 p.m., www.itsmyseat.com. (818) 500-7200.

NOSTALGIA

AND DREAMS White Buffalo Theatre Company presents Brett Holland's

poetic drama. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North

Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 24. (818) 569-3037.

RICHARD

II The Porters of Hellsgate take on Shakespeare's doomed king.

Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3:30 p.m.; thru May 31. (818) 761-0704.

Stage Raw: Ten to Life

"Hacienda Heights" (from Ten to Life) Photo by Nic Cha Kim

NEW REVIEW GO

TEN TO LIFE Leave logic at the door  and you'll get your full quota of

laughs from this quartet of one acts, each of which blends sci-fi, sex

and absurdity in an entertaining way. Written by Annette Lee, "Hacienda

Heights" is about a homicidal teen (Ewan Chung) living with a sexually

predatory and abusive mom (Janet Song) and even more abusive grandmom 

(Emily Kuroda).  Off to commit mass murder, he's forestalled when his

alternate self (Feodor Chin)  arrives from another dimension to

re-direct his aggression  toward the villains at home. In Nic Cha Kim's

"RE:verse" (the evening funniest and most satisfying), a man (Chung)

headed for his tenth high school reunion undergoes extensive cosmetic

surgery at a bargain basement price; the catch is that it's for 3 days

only, after which he'll revert  -- at an inconvenient moment, of

course, else it wouldn't be funny  - to his former self.  Tim Lounibos'

"Be Happy," concerns the power struggle between a psychiatrist (Chin)

and his patient-wife (Peggy Ahn).   The set-up is confusing at first

and it's a bit of a wait to the final payoff - but worth it. Judy Soo

Hoo's "The Red Dress" is about a married woman (Song) who, strangely, 

keeps insisting to her husband (Elpido Ebuen) that they renew the

warranty on her "red dress" - a plea he rejects, precipitating hellish

consequences. No small part of the production's humor comes courtesy of

designer Dennis Yen's sound and Christopher M. Singleton's lighting;

the latter highlights the erotic and/or gruesome scenarios that

intermittently play out behind  set designer Philippe Levine's classy

sliding screens. GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Toluca Lake;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 7. (818) 238-9998. A

Londestone Theatre Ensemble production. (Deborah Klugman)


YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU

George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's comedy classic about a kooky clan.

Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru June 6. (626) 256-3809.

CONTINUING

PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND

IN BEACH TOWNS

THE ACCOMPLICES Bernard Weinraub's

documentary drama about an activist's efforts to rescue Jews from

Nazi-occupied Europe. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 14. (310) 477-2055.

APPLE Emotional bonfires crackle around the infidelity of an ordinary, married guy, Andy (Albie Selznick), with a beautiful woman, Samatha (Carmit Levité), who just happens to be a medical technician whom Andy's wife, Evelyn (Ellyn Stern), sees frequently during her breast-cancer diagnoses and treatments. Evelyn is dying, there's no question, and her philandering husband lies stretched on a rack of grief and self-loathing - careening between his physical passion for his healthy mistress and his torment as a care-taker for his fading wife. Does his expressed adoration of his spouse stem from something larger than guilt and self-recrimination? "I'm rotten," he confesses to her. She knows what's going on, and thank goodness she's no peach herself. Foul-mouthed and sometimes petulant, she reveals a mean-streak, telling hubbie that she never loved him. That could be true, but it's more likely to be the only kind of revenge she can inflict. The larger question explored in Canadian Vern Thiessen's absorbing play hangs in the murky territory between lust and love, and Rachel Goldberg's wisely abstracted and seductive production tries to clarify that distinction, despite stretches of gratuitous poetical narration that tilt the tone towards the mawkish. Jeff G. Rack's park bench set and the projected images of Benjamin Goldman's animation design contribute to the sense of a poem in motion. On opening night, the ensemble was just starting to find the play's unspoken truths, and will doubtless unearth more through the production's run. Levité's smart, charming mistress finds herself smitten with Andy for reasons still vague, though in one scene at the clinic, her defiant defense of Evelyn's wishes, overriding Andy's will, could be a kind of punishment of him. Stern's ill Evelyn is further along, handily negotiating cross currents of wisdom and peevishness, while Selznick nicely handles Andy's sometimes cloying yet convincing earnestness and he tries to man up. The production invites no easy moralizing, though there is the suggestion that the vow "till death do us part" probably shouldn't be rushed along - the parting or the dying. (SLM) Theatre 40, 241 Moreno Dr. (on the Beverly Hills High School Campus), Beverly Hills; in rep, call for schedule; through May 24. (310) 364-0535.

DID YOU DO YOUR HOMEWORK? Writer/performer Aaron Braxton has passion and talent - both amply evident in this promising work-in-progress about the difficulties of teaching in the urban classroom.   A 13-year veteran with L.A. Unified, Braxton builds his piece around his early  experience as  a substitute teacher filling in for an old-timer - 33 years on the job - who one day ups and quits.  A gift for mimicry brings the performer's characters into clear comic  focus: himself as the beleaguered Mr. Braxton,  several colorful problem students, their even more colorful and problematic parents and another staff member -- a well-meaning elderly bureaucrat in charge of the school's counterproductive  testing program.  At times Braxton steps away from dramatizing the action to speak to the audience directly about the frustrations of trying to make a difference, contrasting his own upbringing as the son of a teacher, taught to respect education, with the imperviously disdainful attitude of his pupils.  He also sings  4 songs, displaying a beautiful voice.  The main problem with the piece is its disjointedness and discontinuity; the songs, reflective of Braxton's message, are only tenuously connected to the narrative, itself a patchwork collection of anecdotes juxtaposed against addresses to the audience. This gives the show a hybrid feel -  part performance,  part moral exposition, part musical showcase.   Yet there's plenty of power and potential here. Kathleen Rubin directs. (DK) Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through May 30. (310) 358-9936.

FENCES

August Wilson's story of an African-American family's unyielding

struggle to overcome the barriers of bigotry in the 1950s. (May 15 show

is by invitation.). Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa

Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 30. (310) 828-7519.

FIFTH

OF JULY Lanford Wilson's farm-family drama. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021

E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 23. (562)

494-1014.

HAY FEVER Noel Coward's 1924 comedy. Little Fish

Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 23.

(310) 512-6030.

HELLO HERMAN John Buffalo Mailer's multimedia

examination of violence and fame. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437

Main St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 23. (310) 392-7327.

THE

HERETIC MYSTERIES Religious inquisition tears apart a 14th-century

mountain village in David Bridel's play, based on the book

Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error by

historian Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie. Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St.,

Santa Monica; Thurs.-Sat., 7 p.m.; thru June 6, www.latensemble.com.

(800) 595-4849.

NEW REVIEW I'LL GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT Even by

the standards of the venerable, 12-step confessional, Jonathan Coogan's

one-man memoir of growing up amid the pot smoke, promiscuity and

pernicious parenting of the freewheeling Hollywood of the '70s is

fairly tepid stuff. Which is not to say Coogan doesn't have a lot going

for him as a performer. With a wry, self-deprecating manner and an

engaging stage presence, he clearly knows his way around a one-liner.

His autobiographical material, however, just doesn't generate the highs

-- no pun intended -- or lows demanded by the shopworn, victim-recovery

formula. Perhaps that's because, in the land of medical marijuana,

having been a teenaged stoner-turned-weed-dealer scared straight by a

brush with the law seems so, well, underwhelmingly ordinary. More

likely it's because this "addiction" story, at least as it's framed

here by Coogan and his co-writer, director Dan Frischman, seems to

constantly shrink before a pair of far more compelling characters

always looming in the background -- namely Coogan's colorful,

pot-smoking, New York Jew parents. In fact, judging by the unresolved

bitterness permeating the piece, its real star is Rosy Rosenthal,

Coogan's Ralph Kramden-esque wisecracker of a father (tellingly the

mother's name is never uttered). Far more than any clichés about a

"higher power," it is Rosy and his spare-the-fist-spoil-the-child

version of tough love that determines the psychic trajectory of

Coogan's life and is this tale's true heart and soul. Beverly Hills

Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

thru June 13, www.katselastheatre.org. (310) 358-9936. (Bill Raden)

GO IS HE DEAD? Mark Twain's farce, here adapted by David Ives, follows the imagined plight of painter Jean-François Millet (Perry Ojeda) -- whose works loom over Stephen Gifford's stylish and utilitarian set design. ("The Gleaners" is probably Millet's most famous painting, capturing the rustic humanity of French peasants working in the fields.) A young artist named Agamemnon Buckner (Brian Stanton) helps fathom the plot to help generate income for a garrett of young starving artists in a province outside Paris in 1846. If they can spread the news that Millet is near death, the value of his paintings could go through the roof -- as opposed to lying in their current marsh while the painter is known to be alive. So Millet fakes his own illness and death, returning into society in drag as his own grieving sister. Millet leaves behind an equally grieving sweetheart, Marie Leroux (Suzanne Petrela), whose failure to recognize her beau-in-a-dress adds to the farce. Stir in a villain plucked from melodrama -- an art dealer, naturally -- named Bastien Andre (Steve Marvel), who tries to usurp the "dead" painter's works in exchange for the exorbitant interest he's owed on a loan he made to Millet. Joe Fria is marvelously, physically odd in an array of roles, prancing with his rear end extended backward and out of joint, in roles ranging from Englishmen to the King of France. By Act 2, Gifford's set has melted into a series of doors lining the back of the stage -- all there to be slammed. During one entrance, poor Agamemnon got stuck when he slammed a door upon entering, leaving his coattails jammed in the now shut door. It just took a second of him groping helplessly for forward motion before he realized his plight, reopened the door behind him and set himself free, while the audience dissolved in paroxysms of laughter. Even the planned humor, under Shashin Desai's gorgeous staging, was a bouquet of completely stupid wit, based on mistaken identities, a coffin filled with bricks and pungent lindberger cheese, in order to fool the authorities. Millet, pretending to be his own sister, meets his oblivious sweetheart and plants on her a lingering kiss. Goodness, Marie exclaims, after this seeming display of lesbian lust, "You must stop smoking." (SLM) International City Theatre at Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., through May 24. (562) 436-4610.

THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT Odyssey

Theatre's Outreach Program and the Los Angeles City College Theatre

Department present Stephen Adly Guirgis' tragicomedy. Odyssey Theatre,

2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru

May 24. (310) 477-2055.

THE LAY OF THE LAND Performance artist

Tim Miller's State of the Gay Union address. Highways Performance

Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; Through May 23, 8:30 p.m.. (310)

315-1459.

MADE ME NUCLEAR On March 1, 2006, singer-songwriter Charlie Lustman was informed by his doctor that he had a rare OsteoSarcoma (bone cancer) of the upper jaw. What followed was a grueling and painful siege of therapies, involving radiation injected into his body, surgery removing three quarters of his jawbone, surgical reconstruction, and extensive chemotherapy. When, after two years of treatment, he was declared cancer free, he created this touching 12-song cycle about his experiences. He sings about the bone-numbing shock and terror of being told he had cancer, his fear of death and sense of helplessness, the solace provided him by his loyal wife, his children and his doctors, memory problems caused by his chemo (mercifully temporary), and so on. But the tone is more celebratory than grim: he's determinedly life-affirming, full of hope and gratitude, and his songs are pitched in an intimate, jazzy, bluesy style. He's an engaging and personable performer (thanks in part to his skillful doctors), who brings rueful humor and mischief to a tale that might have been unrelievedly grim. If anything, tries a bit too hard to keep things light. We need a bit of scarifying detail if we're to appreciate his remarkable resilience and optimism. (NW) Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th Street, Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., through May 30. 866) 468-3399 or  http://www.MadeMeNuclear.com Produced by the Sarcoma Alliance.

A NUMBER A widower (John Heard) discovers that a hospital has bred clones of his bachelor son (the aptly named Steve Cell), making him a father to an unknown number of identical young men. The son, Bernard, is confused, but open to meeting his brothers; the dad immediately cries "lawsuit!" -- allowing playwright Caryl Churchill to plunge straight away into her themes about the boundaries, rights and values of an identity. (And when Bernard suspects he's not the original, is that even worse?) Churchill argues that personality is separate from genetics and introduces us to three Bernards as distinct as Goldilocks' bears: one bitter, one sweet, and one conflicted. Cell plays all three, and it's hard not to interpret director Bart DeLorenzo's decision to signify the role-switching by having Cell button, unbutton or strip off his overshirt as a lack of trust in either the performer or the audience. Their father is clearly hiding a secret, and Heard captures him as a man defeated before the play even begins -- he resolves every confrontation by telling the Bernards what they want to hear. If there is one truth under his lies, it'd be the play's only singularity: While the clones share a disgust for him, it springs from different reasons. "You don't look at me the same way," the widower says of how he tells them apart. But unlike him, we never see the clones or their father as people, only players in a fable that's constrained by the very dichotomies it wants to explore. (AN) Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., through June 21. (310) 477-2055.


GO OUR TOWN Upon learning that one of L.A.'s most daring theater companies, the Actors' Gang, is tackling Thornton Wilder's beloved three-act stage perennial about life, love and death, one is keen to witness the group's "take" on the play's universal themes. This play is, after all, the hoop through which almost every high school theater department must jump. Interestingly enough, director Justin Zsebe's interpretation in his intimate yet powerful production is one of surprising and sincere faithfulness to the play's tone and mood. This is a beautifully rendered and moving Our Town. Narrated by Steven M. Porter's genial yet crusty Stage Manager, the play's story of life in a small New England town, centering on the romance and marriage of sweet young Emily (a luminous Vanessa Mizzone) and her beloved George (Chris Schultz), receives a staging whose basic simplicity belies unexpected depths of subtly articulated feeling. Zsebe admittedly tosses in a couple of visual conceits that might cause Wilder to whirl in his grave: There's a character who performs a dazzling yet wholly irrelevant acrobatic dance from a long sash, seemingly just because it looks good; and, during the play's third act, set in the underworld, the deceased characters hang from playground swings, when simple chairs are called for in the script. Yet the ensemble work is deft and subtle -- and moments that are often corny in other, lesser productions evoke laughter and tears here -- from the beautiful scene in which Ma Webb (Lindsley Allen) and Ma Gibbs (Annemette Andersen) shuck their peas, to the touching one in which Schultz's George suffers his wedding night-cum-fear of mortality jitters at the altar. (PB) Ivy Substation, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., through June 16. (310) 838-GANG. An Actors' Gang production.

PAY ATTENTION: ADHD IN HOLLYWOOD, ON THE ROCKS WITH A

TWIST Frank South's hypomanic, alcoholic one-man show tells how a New

York waiter/performance artist unleashes all his issues and finds

himself capapulted onto the TV-writing fast track. The Other Space at

Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru June 7. (310) 394-9779.

GO THE SCHOOL FOR WIVES Arnolphe has known his future

wife Agnes since she was 4, and he's strategically kept her closeted,

as though in a convent, hoping thereby to shape her obedience and

gratitude. Just as he's about to wed her, in stumbles young Horace from

the street below her window, and the youthful pair are smitten with

each other, soon conniving against the old bachelor. Under

Frerique Michel's direction, the

Moliere's play emerges less as a clown show and more as a

wistful, almost elegiac, rumination on aging and folly. (SLM). City

Garage, 1340 1/2 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5:30

p.m.; thru May 31. (310) 319-9939.

THEATER SPECIAL EVENTS

CABARET

NIGHT Entertainers include The 4 Friends, comedian David Zasloff, John

Greenwood as Dean Martin, and Swing Era tunes by Remember When. Sierra

Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Sun., May 24,

7 p.m.. (626) 355-4318.

CIRCLE X FREE READING SERIES Full

schedule at www.circlextheatre.org. Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave.,

L.A.; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru May 27. (323) 463-3900.

TINY VAUDEVILLE

826LA hosts this once-a-month variety show benefiting children's

writing and tutoring programs. The Echoplex, 1154 Glendale Blvd., L.A.;

Last Monday of every month, 8:30 p.m.; thru Dec. 28,

www.826la.org/store-tickets/. (323) 413-8200.


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