Stage Raw: T.E.O.R.E.M.A.T.
INTERVIEW with Pieter-Dirk Uys and Charlize Theron
Photo by Artur Rawicz
Wroclaw, Poland -- Director Grzegorz Jarzyna's staging of Pasolini's 1968 film, Teorema, for Theatre TR Warszawa performed Tuesday night at the Wroclaw Opera House as part of the Dialog Festival here. It's scheduled to make its U.S. premiere at the Ralph Freud Playhouse at UCLA for two nights only, Nov. 18-19, as part of UCLA Live's International Theatre Festival.
The UCLA fest's two Polish entries (the other being Theatre Zar's Tryptich, slotted for the beginning of December, are both repudiations of our commonly held understanding that the spoken word is the foundation of live theater. Whereas ZAR's theatrical language results in a kind of theatrical oratorio stemming from ancient madrigals from Bulgaria, Georgia and other central/eastern European regions, T.E.O.R.E.M.A.T. is a sequence of cinematic images (with terse dialogue interspersed) aimed at demonstrating how the pressures of our contemporary global economy on domestic relations have segregated us from faith, tradition and the capacity to love. It's the story of a wealthy manufacturer whose family is destroyed by carnal attractions to an enigmatic visitor. The family members' primal attraction to the stranger is compensation for the hollowness of their own existence. One of the evenings biggest laughs came when a character asked the maid if she knew how to speak -- the laughter triggered by the awareness that the production to that point had been mostly a sequence of visual tableaux -- stunning for both their composition and their economy of gesture -- accompanied by a score and sound effects. Both Polish productions coming to L.A. reach back to the Gospels as they try to comprehend who and what we've become. More on this festival tomorrow.
COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for Oct. 16-22, 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
TicketsWed., Mar. 29, 8:00pm
TicketsWed., Mar. 29, 10:00pm
Blessed with Megan Koester, Alison Stevenson & More
TicketsWed., Mar. 29, 10:00pm
TicketsThu., Mar. 30, 8:00pm
YoungArts Los Angeles 2017 - Jazz Performance and Writers' Readings
TicketsThu., Mar. 30, 8:00pm
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
CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: KOOZA Santa Monica Pier, 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 18, 1 & 5 p.m.. (310) 458-8900.
AS WHITE AS O The Road Theatre Company presents the world premiere of Stacy Sims' synesthesia story. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Oct. 16; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 12, www.roadtheatre.org. (866) 811-4111.
BIAS CUT Performance piece interweaving the stories of a garment worker and a film-industry seamstress, by playwright Laurel Ollstein and visual artist Jane Brucker. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; Oct. 16-17, 8:30 p.m.. (310) 315-1459.
THE CHANGELING Thomas Middleton and William Rowley's Renaissance classic. Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, L.A.; opens Oct. 16; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 8. (818) 710-6306.
COMPANY OF ANGELS 50TH ANNIVERSARY GALA & AWARDS CEREMONY Honoring Star Trek's Leonard Nimoy. Plus, an auction that includes "Spock ears" from Star Trek IV valued at $10,000. Company of Angels, Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., L.A.; Sat., Oct. 17, 7 p.m.. (323) 883-1717.
CONTINUING PERFROMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE
GO AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY Tracy Letts' 2007 Great American Family Drama, or so we'd believe from the national press, four Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize, has pulled in at last to the Ahmanson Theatre in a Steppenwolf Theatre Company production, handily staged by Anna D. Shapiro. (Steppenwolf was the company that commissioned the work.) The drama, set in Oklahoma, consists of almost four hours of revelations about a truly fucked-up family, liberally peppered with dashes of Gothic humor. Oh we love our gothic family epics. Pulitzer Prizes have gone to Crimes of the Heart, The Kentucky Cycle, and now this. We meet Beverly Weston (Jon DeVries), a crusty, hard-drinking T.S. Eliot-quoting member of literati pontificating to his newly hired Cheyenne Indian housekeeper (DeLanna Studi) about the point and pointlessness of existence. (She will eventually be seen sitting cross-legged on a bed, perched at the pinnacle of Todd Rosenthal's three-tier set, as a kind of metaphor of the stoic, silent and dignified tribe these resident clowns superseded.) He's hiring the sweet-natured woman to care for his cancer-afflicted spouse (Estelle Parsons), who wanders between cogency and unconsciousness, between staggering forward and lying prone, from all the pills she's imbibing. The next thing we know, Beverly has disappeared, along with his boat, and this can't be good. What follows is a gathering of the clan, and what a clan. Imagine a cross between Long Day's Journey Into Night and Del Shore's Comedy, Daddy's Dyin', Who's Got the Will? It has some of the gravitas of O'Neill's classic and much of Shore's brand of sitcom humor. This very combination, on the four-hour boiler, results in, well, a very funny, and finely performed potboiler. Compared to O'Neill, it's a mere shadow, but compared to the gloss of so many family dramas on our stages, Letts is at least reaching for a suggestion that his clan represents the state of America in the world. "This country was always a whorehouse," is how a character recalls Beverly's conviction. "At least it had promise. But now it's just a shit hole." The reach is a bit of a strain - present a nutty, masochistic family onstage and then say, hey this is the U.S.A., and as funny as much of the farce may be, the play feels as long as it is largely because the power of subtext, of the unspoken, keeps getting punctured by the jokes. It doesn't dig deep enough to justify its length, but when it does make that subterranean plunge, and lays off the one-liners for a span or two, the power of the drama, and of these terrific actors, rumbles through the theater with exquisite grandeur. Ahmanson Theater, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown; Tues.-Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through October 18. (213) 972-4400. (Steven Leigh Morris)
CREDITORS August Strindberg's psychological thriller, adapted by Doug Wright. La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla Village Dr., La Jolla; Tues.-Wed., 7:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 25. (858) 550-1010.
ECLIPSED Playwright Danai Gurira powerfully dramatizes the ugly realities of women caught up in the Liberian Civil War. The action unfolds circa 2003, inside a derelict jungle compound occupied by the kidnapped "wives" of a guerrilla commander. Bahni Turpin, Edwina Findley and Miriam Glover pass the time chatting, grooming hair, scrounging for food, and, offstage, mechanically satisfying the sexual needs of the General. The wives are known simply as numbers, bluntly emphasizing their lack of autonomy and dehumanized condition. Turpin (No. 1) is by turns sweet and caustic, a comforter and authority figure to the younger girls. Findley, pregnant with the General's child, possesses an infectious sense of humor, while Glover (No. 4), is a study in childlike naiveté. The dynamics change when a former captive turned fighter (Kelly M. Jenrette) convinces Glover to join the cause, which puts them at odds with a government peacekeeper (Michael Hyatt), whose own daughter was kidnapped. Cast performances are quite good, even though it is difficult at times to understand the dialogue through the affected West African accents. Sibyl Wickersheimer's jungle set piece is stunning, and Robert O'Hara provides sensitive direction for this production, which in spite of its dearth of action and bleak subject matter, conveys the resilience of the human spirit. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat. 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through October 18. (213) 628-2772. (Lovell Estell III)
THE HAPPY ONES Julie Marie Myatt's Orange County story. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Sat.-Sun., 2 & 7:45 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 7:45 p.m.; thru Oct. 18. (714) 708-5555.
LOUIS & KEELY: LIVE AT THE SAHARA I haven't seen this musical study of '50s lounge-act crooners Louis Prima and Keely Smith since its transcendent premiere at Sacred Fools Theatre last year, and oh, is it different. Documentary and Oscar-nominated film maker Taylor Hackford has been busy misguiding writer-performers Jake Broder and Vanessa Claire Smith's musical. Taylor took over from director Jeremy Aldridge, who brought it to life in east Hollywood. Smith and Broder have drafted an entirely new book, added onstage characters - including Frank Sinatra (Nick Cagle) who, along with Broder and Smith, croons a ditty. (As though Cagle can compete with Sinatra's voice, so embedded into the pop culture.) They've also added Prima's mother (Erin Matthews) and other people who populated the lives of the pair. The result is just a little heartbreaking: The essence of what made it so rare at Sacred Fools has been re-vamped and muddied into a comparatively generic bio musical, like Stormy Weather (about Lena Horne) or Ella (about Ella Fitzgerald). The good news is the terrific musicianship, the musical direction originally by Dennis Kaye and now shared by Broder and Paul Litteral, remains as sharp as ever, as are the title performances. Broder's lunatic edge and Bobby Darin singing style has huge appeal, while Vanessa Claire Smith has grown ever more comfortable in the guise and vocal stylings of Keely Smith. It was the music that originally sold this show, and should continue to do so. With luck, perhaps Broder and Smith haven't thrown out their original script. (SLM) Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 3:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; through Nov, 1. (310) 208-54545.
MATTHEW MODINE SAVES THE ALPACAS Oh, dear. Blair Singer's comedy about a washed-out former celeb, Matthew Modine (played by Matthew Modine, somewhere between appealing and appalling) trying to crawl his way back onto the A-list by enlisting himself in a hip charity with the help of jaded publicist Whimberly North (Peri Gilpin) is not bad for a comedy dreamed up, as Neil Simon would say, somewhere on the 23rd floor. So down they go to the Equadorian Andes in all their Hollywood ignorance and arrogance to save a dying indigenous tribe and their alpacas, and down we go with them, wondering how could a movie-biz satire -- directed by John Lando in a deliberately goofball style somewhere between Benny Hill and Saturday Night Live - go so astray. There's such talent on this stage, from the inimitable Mark Fite of the perverse clown-show Clowntown City Limits, to French Stewart - a comedian who can milk a deadpan stare literally without blinking an eye - the mystery of what makes a comedy work seems almost terrifying. There are moments of lowbrow comedy that suggest the promise of what this could be. As is, Singer's lackadaisical comedic logic is held together with the very frayed duct tape of charm and silliness, so that the satire plays itself out as a string of jokes that skewer the obvious. (Steven Leigh Morris). Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 18. (310) 208-5454.
GO MEDEA There's admirable ambition in David Sefton's first effort producing a spectacle from the ground up, for UCLA Live. And director Lenka Udovocki's lucid and visually astute rendition is right on track for the scale and substance of such an undertaking. She stages the play on a floor of sand against the rude concrete back wall of the palace beyond, with a corrugated steel door and shed (set by Richard Hoover). There's also a visual motif of power lines that crackle and short- circuit, and the play is accompanied by a chorus of Cal Arts and UCLA students, who sing much of their dialogue in unison while the Lian ensemble underscores scenes with musical riffs played live onstage with Persian instruments. This is an elegant and elegiac production. The challenge of this and, we hope, future endeavors like it, is to overcome the time constraints that mitigate against the military precision of movement and the vocal dexterity and comfort levels of ensembles that have been performing together for years. In the title role, Annette Bening reveals intelligence and raw emotional honesty but not the range so essential for this Herculean role -- compared to say Yukiko Saito's Elektra (for Tadashi Suzuki) whose voice transforms from the growl of a bear to the that of a songbird in an instant; or Maude Mitchell's Amazonian Nora in the Mabou Mines Dollhouse. Bening's Medea and her Jason (Angus Macfadyen) play out their respective agonies with unwavering conviction, which includes some evocatively harrowing tenderness, but this epic still dwarfs them. UCLA, Freud Playhouse, Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through October 18. (310) 825-2101. (Steven Leigh Morris) See Theater feature.
MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS Ron Hutchinson's story of David O. Selznick, Ben Hecht and Victor Fleming's re-writing of Gone With the Wind. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach; Sun., 2 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 1. (949) 497-2787.
GO NEVERMORE Poor Edgar. In Dennis Paoli's one-man play, beautifully directed by Stuart Gordon, Jeffrey Combs portrays the bedraggled Southern poet, Poe, in a staged reading. He's a bundle of idiosyncrasies -- tremors and a hesitation to complete sentences. The man is ill with fevers and despondent over the recent death of his wife, yet from the twinkle in Combs' eye, it's clear he rather enjoys the attention of strangers, and is deeply proud of his masterwork, "The Raven," which he'll recite when he gets around to it. His concentration, and his ability to perform, are steadily more impeded by the after effects of a bottle of whiskey, which he clutches at the inside of his suit. Fortunately, he recites "The Tell-Tale Heart" while still lucid, and what an absurd, showoff-y, macabre display it is -- pure Victorian melodrama, in the style of Chekhov's one-act, one-man show: "On the Harmfulness of Tobacco," also about man making a presentation ostensibly for one purpose, while undone by another. Chekhov's character is persecuted by his wife, or by his imaginings of her. Edgar is torn by the presence of his fiancée, who is assessing whether her groom-to-be can stay on the wagon. The harrowing answer becomes self-evident as, in one scene, he goes off on a spontaneous rant against Longfellow; and in another, as he's leaping around to a poem about bells, he abruptly falls off the stage into the orchestra pit. It's an almost unbelievably hammy turn, as mannered as the style of the era he's depciting, a gorgeous rendition of a tragic clown whose heart has been cleaved open by loss and regret. His rendition of "The Raven" is clearly an homage to his late wife, and how any hope of her return is forbidden by the reprise of this show's title. (SLM) Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; through Oct. 31. (323) 666-4268.
PARADE Alfred Uhry, Jason Robert Brown and Harold Prince's musical is based on a miscarriage of justice against Leo Frank (T.R. Knight), a Jewish man in 1913 Atlanta wrongly accused of murdering a 13-year old Mary Phalen (Rose Sezniak) in the pencil factory where she worked, and where Frank was superintendent. Rob Ashford's sumptuous staging, and Brown's caressing ragtime/pop score, are in the service of what's aiming to be tragedy of mythic proportions. Uhry's predictable storytelling, however, invites us to react to the obvious rather than reflect on the mysterious, turning the entire event into child's play. Christopher Oram's set, featuring a shape-shifting Confederate mural, under Neil Austin's lighting, is gorgeous to look at. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 p.m.; Sun., 1 p.m. & 6:30 p.m.; through Nov. 15. (213) 628-2772. A Donmar Warehouse Production. (Steven Leigh Morris)
THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG Children's musical, book by Lloyd J. Schwartz and Hope Juber, lyrics and music by Hope and Lawrence Juber. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Sat., 1 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (323) 851-7977.
STEEL MAGNOLIAS Cathy Rigby stars in Robert Harling's small-town comedy-drama. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 18. (562) 944-9801.
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.
THE TRAGEDY OF RICHARD III Director Geoff Elliott gives us a traditional production of Shakespeare's most emphatically rhetorical tragedy, setting it in its proper historical period, the 1480s. Steve Weingartner's feisty, shaven-headed Richard is zestily malevolent, alternating sly, saturnine humor and self-satisfaction with unbridled savagery. Deborah Strang plays the vengeful Queen Margaret as a raddled, ragged, witchlike creature, and Lenne Klingaman is a spunky Lady Anne. Freddy Douglas is stalwartly noble as Richard's nemesis, the Earl of Richmond; Apollo Dukakis is a venerable King Edward; and Susan Angelo plays his embattled queen with aplomb. So it remains a mystery why this staging feels so inert. Perhaps it's because of some curious choices by Elliott: Decking the ghosts who haunt Richard with Christmas lights is more gimmicky than haunting. Designer Darcy Scanlin provides the moody and somberly beautiful multileveled set, and Ken Merckx Jr. and Spike Steingasser provide dynamic fight choreography, though something seemed amiss in the climactic combat between Richard and Richmond. Sound designer Patricia Hotchkiss uses the neighing of terrified horses to startling effect, but the near-constant soundtrack of cawing crows, bird song and dripping water is often distracting. It's a fitfully impressive production, if not always a satisfying one. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; in alternating repertory; call theatre for schedule; thru Dec. 1. (818) 240-0910, Ext. 1. www.anoisewithin.org. (Neal Weaver)
UNDER POLARIS Cloud Eye Control's "epic multimedia odyssey," with live music by The Need. REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., L.A.; Through Oct. 17, 8:30 p.m.. (213) 237-2800.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS
ACME SATURDAY NIGHT ACME's flagship sketch show, with celebrity guest hosts each week., $15. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.
AMERICAN GRIND E. Yarber, Tracy Lane and Chewri Anne Johnson on modern life in America. Lyric-Hyperion Theater, 2106 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 21, www.fromthegrounduptheatre.org...
GO ANITA BRYANT DIED FOR YOUR SINS The title of Brian Christopher Williams play suggests a slick, sassy gay comedy, and so it is--but it is much more than that, something far richer. Growing up during the Nixon era, deeply closeted 11-year-old gay boy Horace (a terrific Wyatt Fenner) develops a monstrous crush on his hunky gym teacher (Nick Ballard). Horace and his family weather the Vietnam War, and big brother Chaz (Nick Niven) flees to Canada to escape the draft. In the recession of the 1970s, Dad (Tony Pandolfo) has economic reverses, and Mom (Jan Sheldrick) loses her job. And when Anita Bryant (Madelynn Fattibene) launches her militant campaign against gay rights, Horace learns that there are people who will hate him for who he is. He must come out to his loving but irascible parents, and he's overcome by jealousy when he realizes his adored teacher is having an affair with a neighbor (Sara J. Stuckey). He retaliates by betraying the teacher, in a way he knows is shameful. Williams' play becomes a funny and touching family saga as well as the tale of a bright gay kid striving to grow up. Richard Israel provides wonderfully nuanced direction, and the entire cast is splendid. (Neal Weaver)El Centro Theatre, 800 N. El Centro Ave., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., through Nov. 1. (323) 460-4443 or tix.com. A West Coast Ensemble production.
BIG RIVER: THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN Actors Co-op presents Mark Twain's classic, music and lyrics by Roger Miller, book by William Hauptman. Crossley Terrace Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 1. (323) 462-8460.
NEW REVIEW THE BLUNDERS
Photo by Brian McClosky
Berstein's site-specific comedy with music about L.A. ditherers and
sweet loons is set in an L.A. bar-cabaret - cleverly using the environs
of the Vermont Restaurant's cabaret room. This provides the opportunity
and context for Lorna (Leslie Beauvais), Gretel (Celina Stachow) and
Suzy (Lisa Donahey) to croon musical director Mitchell Kaplan's
original songs (with additional lyrics by Berstein) as well as excerpts
from Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. Meanwhile the
unrequited loves and stifled ambitions that play themselves out at the
bar resemble a sitcom based on a Sondheim musical - unapologetically
so. The parodies include Ezra (Marco Tazioli), a kind-hearted
gravel-voiced sage perpetually frustrated in romance and by his
over-the-limit credit cards, and who's mistaken for a Muppet character.
We see him somewhat spinelessly or perhaps desperately duped by
fly-by-night shrink Dr. Sylvia (Keli Daniels), a former canine
psychiatrist who makes her living applying her doggy techniques to
Angelenos. Heart-throb bartender Barry (Casey Sullivan) sends
overweight Suzy's heart aflutter in what she thinks is a mutual romance
but is merely Barry's attempt to exploit her job as a receptionist at
Capitol Records. After about 30-minutes, the concept wears thin,
because it's a dramatization of symptoms rather than underlying causes.
Posing as an affectionate nod to life in our Industry town, it
unwittingly provides grist to outsiders convinced of our city's
superficiality. The sound design and/or actors' use of mikes needs
modifying in order to prevent distortion, though Donahey in particular
has a gorgeous singing voice, and knows how to use it. Upright Cabaret
at Vermont, 1714 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles; Wed., 9 p.m. (doors open
at 7 p.m.; no minimum for dinner or drinks); through October 21.
http//the blunders.com (Steven Leigh Morris)
GO BOBBY BENDON GETS BY In an unnamed town in the Inland Empire, somewhere between the releases of Van Halen's "1984" and "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge," young married couple Glen (Nicholas D. Clark) and Trish (Audrey Malone) dream of Los Angeles -- or specifically, the oasis of Reseda, where before the baby arrives they want to buy a three-bedroom house and run into Goldie Hawn at the grocery store. The first step is getting Glen's metal band, Torch, signed at next week's Battle of the Bands. But guitarist Bobby (Liam Springthorpe), Glen and Trish's high school best friend, is having a near meltdown over the public access seductress Mamazon (Erin Anderson), who he fancies is his girlfriend, even though she hangs up whenever he calls in, looking for a date. Brian Soika's dramedy is heavy on spandex and wigs and light on dramatic thrust, though it works well as an honest, slim story about the need to be better than average at something, be it love or music. Marah Morris directs a strong ensemble who looks resplendently retro in costume designer Ayesha Mesinger's Scrunchies, tube socks and torn jeans. With musicians Andy Creighton, Jonathan Hylander and Sean Johnson rocking out stage right on Torch hits like "Stilettos" (a CD comes in the program). Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; through October 25. email@example.com. (323) 320-0127. (Amy Nicholson)
CARNIVAL KNOWLEDGE: LOVE, LUST AND OTHER HUMAN ODDDITIES Naomi Grossman's solo comedy. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Hollywood; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 8, www.plays411.com/carnivalknowledge. (323) 930-1804.
DON JUAN TENORIO By Jose Zorrilla. Bilingual Foundation of Arts, 421 N. Avenue 19, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 8. (323) 225-4044.
FAKE RADIO Old-time radio dramas performed live: Meet Me in St. Louis (Thursdays), The Lone Ranger (Fridays), The Philadelphia Story (Saturdays; see New Reviews). Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 24, www.fakeradio.net. (877) 460-9774.
GO F*CKING MEN Ah, the late 1980s, the halcyon days of male nudity, where the promise of on stage gay promiscuity and frontal views were surefire ticket sellers throughout the world of waiver - well those days are back in Joe DiPietro's all-male rendition of Arthur Schnitzler's classic 1900 play of sexual mores, La Ronde. Ten scenes pair two strangers becoming intimate, with one of the duo moving on to the next scene until the circle is completed. DiPietro keeps to his generally middle-of-the-road style of dialogue (well known from oft produced Over the River and Through the Woods and I Love You You're Perfect, Now Change) which actually brings a subtle reality to the more sordid moments of gay indiscretions. Director Calvin Remsberg has gathered a fine ensemble, mostly perfectly cast from the nearly infantile, stoned sexiness of college boy Kyle (Michael Rachlis) to the nervous, violent energy of GI Steve (Johnny Kostrey). Only the fine Chad Borden is miscast as a closeted action movie-star - his characterization is just so obviously gay. Tom Buderwitz's scene design concept with moving screens and furniture pieces is initially fascinating, but becomes quite clumsy and distracting. However sound by Lindsay Jones, lighting by Jeremy Pivnick and costumes by Daavid Hawkins are all sharp and collaborative. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Oct. 25. (323) 957-1884. (Tom Provenzano)
FLIGHT: AN EVENING OF SHORT PLAYS BY E.M. LEWIS . Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 28.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE That's weekly sketch comedy done by some of the best in the sketch biz. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.
THE GLORY OF LIVING Rebecca Gilman's story of a 15-year-old runaway and her car-thief boyfriend. El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 21, www.elcentrotheatre.com. (323) 230-7261.
GOGOL PROJECT Director Sean T. Cawalti's production of playwright Kitty Felde's adaptation of three short stories by Russian Absurdist Nikolai Gogol is a whirligig of ferocious creativity. In "The Nose," a pompous small-town politician (Tom Ashworth) wakes up to discover that his nose has decided to go AWOL, and he's frustrated when the wandering member transforms into an enormous schnoz capable of rescuing dogs from wells and romancing local lovelies. "Diary of a Madman" shows a low-level drone of a civil servant (Ben Messmer, wonderfully bug-eyed) spurned in love and going insane, imagining he hears local dogs sending each other love letters. In "The Overcoat," a mild-mannered postal clerk (Kristopher Lee Bicknell, sweetly channeling Charlie Chaplin) buys a new overcoat, which ultimately brings him nothing but tragedy. Performers caparisoned in Pat Rubio's stunning Commedia-style masks interact with the dazzling puppets designed by the production's six-person mask crew in a manner that often suggests a spooky Russian tragic version of Mister Roger's Neighborhood. The astonishing, Big Bird-sized nose puppet, snorting up Danishes provided by the town baker, is a particular delight. Elsewhere, the show's imagination is best showcased in details, from the sequence in which a murderous barber's fantasies of killing his client are projected in shadow puppet form on the wall behind him, to the scenes involving the talking dogs, whose beautiful puppet forms are manipulated Bunraku-style with masked puppeteers. Ultimately, though, Felde's workmanlike script is so broad and perfunctory, we feel little emotional connection to the characters or the situations, and the production's admittedly gorgeous artifice essentially upstages the storytelling. The end result is an experience that is undeniably provocative but also assaultive and occasionally hyperactive. Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 3 p.m. Call theater for additional performances; through November 1. (800) 838-3006 or rogueartists.org. A Rogue Artists Ensemble Production. (Paul Birchall)
GO THE GOLDEN GAYS Even non-fans of The Golden Girls will be amused by John Patrick Trapper's uproarious play with music, which simultaneously spoofs the TV series and the neuroses of aging gay men. Diagnosed with Sitcom Affective Disorder by the unconventional Dr. Leche (Aaron Barerra), four gay men turn to drag in order to work out their identification with characters from The Golden Girls. Samuel (David Romano) identifies with the acid-tongued tongued Sophia, mother of the imperious Dorothy, who's impersonated by Damien (John W. McLaughlin). Promiscuous Blanche is played by the equally promiscuous Blaine (John Downey III), and Roger (Irwin Moskowitz) rounds out the quartet as the ditzy Rose. The plot is secondary to the reprise of various scenes from the much-beloved TV show. The uncredited costumes are hilarious, particularly Dr. Leche's get ups, with additional kudos for dragographer ChaCha Cache. Trapper's lyrics make the musical numbers equally hilarious, thanks in part to musical director Robert Glen Decker. Lori J. Ness Quinn's over-the-top direction matches perfectly with the outrageous material, which includes lots of Bea Arthur jokes. The actors turn in superior performances, with a special nod to McLaughlin's Dorothy. Cavern Club Theater at Casita del Campo, 1920 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake; Thurs.-Sat., 9 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 18. http://plays411.com/thegoldengays. (323) 969-2530. Wild Stance Productions. (Sandra Ross)
HEYDRICH/HITLER/HOLOCAUST An apostle of the Holocaust and, with Himmler, a chief engineer of the Final Solution, Reinhard Heydrich has been depicted in numerous books and films. Assassinated in 1942, this ambitious villain kept files on fellow Nazis as well as on suspected enemies of the Reich - one reason, perhaps, for the persistent rumors about his "Jewish blood." Playwright Cornelius Schnauber has seized upon this aspect of his biography to construct a muddled and implausible play in which Heydrich (Oliver Finn) is portrayed politicking around these insinuations. Another element in the fantastical plot is this virulent anti-Semite's confrontational dialectic with a Jewish maid named Anna (Jessica Sherman), who has somehow maintained gainful employment at Nazi headquarters. Spokesperson for humanity, Anna implores Heydrich to recognize that Jews are human beings, promising to save his life if he helps rescue some of them. (Heydrich's real-life brother actually did abandon Nazism to help save some Jews, before committing suicide.) Later, Anna is brought before Hitler (Don Paul, whose Fuehrer struck me as a deluded insane asylum inmate) - whom she challenges with bravado, yet survives. Stilted and declaimed with dreadful German accents, the play rolls out like a cartoonish nightmare, with much dialogue devoted to airing Nazi ideas, as if we didn't understand these already. Under L. Flint Esquerra's direction, little attempt is made to get beyond posturing -- except for Sherman who, against tremendous odds, manages a credible performance. (Deborah Klugman) MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hlywd; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Oct. 25. (323) 957-1152.
NEW REVIEW HIGH CEILINGS
Photo courtesy of Storey Productions
not clear whether writer-performer Jillian Crane was attempting to
write a whacky sitcom, an absurdist farce, or an old fashioned madcap
comedy, but the outcome is way more inane than amusing. Crane's
heroine, Lily--a role she also plays--is apparently intended to be a
charming kook, but she emerges as a pushy, bullying, insensitive and
inconsiderate nut who, on the eve of her nuptials, carries on with the
florist (Lauchlin MacDonald), mistreats and ignores her husband-to-be
(Chris Smith), and creates a scandal at the wedding rehearsal by
attempting to marry her depressive, heavily medicated, and usually
comatose father (Patrick Pankhurst). Her prospective bridegroom
immediately dumps her -- the play's only sensible act. There's little
rhyme, reason, logic, psychology, or credibility to the proceedings.
There's not much director Valerie Landsburg and her talented cast can
do with such material. I don't have a clue as to what the title means,
or why anybody chose to produce this farrago. The Hayworth Theatre,
2509 Wilshire Boulevard, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., thru
Nov. 9. (800) 838-3006 or http://www.thehayworth.com Produced by
Storey Productions. (Neal Weaver)
GO HOW KATRINA PLAYS The late Judi Ann Mason's character study swirling around the tempests of hurricane Katrina is partly an act of devotion to her brother, journalist BJ Mason (Christopher Carrington), who died at his computer while reporting on the effects and aftereffects of the disaster. The play is a poetical docudrama, accompanied (too sparingly) by the fine Bourbon Street Band. A montage of scenes intersect. Drag queen Bella Sera (Wil Bowers) emcees a traditional hurricane party, with the vivacious ensemble, but in this story, it's the hurricane and not the party that gets out of hand. Director Tchia Casselle guides a series of monologues and scenes that depict an elderly woman (Elisabeth Noone) abandoned and trapped in a nursing home as the waters rise; a mother (Kvon Harris) and her 10-year-old son (Justin Galluccio) separated by the flood, and who then spend the play seeking each other, sometimes in different cities; a mixed-race couple (Barika A. Croom and Jacob White) on their honeymoon hold each other in an attic, as the floodwaters rise. And Kimberly Niccole turns in a tender, harrowing performance as a young woman seething with racism. Beamed, still images from the disaster accompany the narrative, which, via words and the performances, provides a visceral sense of what it must have been like in the filthy holding pen of the Houston Astrodome. The performance is a memorial filled with a grim, grimy and a sometimes animated testament to who we are, and what we become, in the wake of disaster. Write Act Repertory Theater, 6128 Yucca Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through October 24. (323) 469-3113. (Steven Leigh Morris)
GO THE ILLUSION Translator Ranjit Bolt's adaptation of Corneille's 17th-century classic starts out stodgily but soon swerves merrily into comic gear. A remorseful father (Kevin McCorkle) seeks the help of a magician (Alexander Wright) in tracking down his estranged son. It turns out the young man, Clindor (Benny Wills) -- attached to a fatuous nobleman named Matamore (Jon Monastero) -- has been acting as emissary for this overblown buffoon to a lady named Isabelle (Nicole Disson). Something of a Don Juan, Clindor has clandestinely wooed both Isabelle and her maid, Lyse (Kendra Chell), who now smolders with jealousy, aware that her opportunistic paramour has upped his sights on the social ladder. Directed by David Bridel, the production gets laughs from Monastero's lisping braggart-nobleman, whose grandiose claims to be a mighty warrior and lover evaporate at the mere whiff of a challenge. As the maid, Chell airs much of the script's wit and wisdom in a smart, snappy performance. Disson and other supporting players also deliver the goods. Wills is fine as the dashing hero, but the production might have been more interesting if he'd played it less upright and instead exploited the character's deviousness a little more. Eventually the play's humor deflates, as the magician's tale mutates into a portrait of adultery and of the marriage between Isabelle and Clindor gone awry. Christina Wright's costumes add color and charm. Open Fist Theater, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through November 21. (323) 882-6912. (Deborah Klugman)
JUST WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, YOUNG LADY? Aliza Murrieta presents performances by "ambitious women who want to change the world, not talk about their children.". BANG, 457 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Thurs., Oct. 22, 8 p.m.. (323) 653-6886.
GO LIFE COULD BE A DREAM This affectionate doo-wop juke-box musical by writer-director Roger Bean (The Marvelous Wonderettes), with clever choreography by Lee Martino, handsome set by Tom Buderwitz, and spectacular lighting by Luke Moyer, is designed to incorporate hit songs of the 1960s, ranging from the goofy "Sh Boom" and "Rama Lama Ding Dong" to anthems like "Earth Angel," "Unchained Melody," "The Great Pretender," and "The Glory of Love." In small-town Springfield, the local radio station is sponsoring a rock-and-roll contest, and go-getter Denny (Daniel Tatar) is convinced he can win and become a star. He enlists his klutzy, nerdish, endearing friend Eugene (Jim Holdridge) and church-choir singer Wally (Ryan Castellino) to join him. Needing a sponsor to provide the $50 entrance fee for the contest, they apply to the proprietor of the local auto chain. He sends his top mechanic, handsome, hunky Skip (Doug Carpenter), and his pretty daughter Lois (Jessica Keenan Wynn), to audition the guys, and by the end they're incorporated in the new group, Denny and the Dreamers. This is pure fluff, and the terrific ensemble makes every note count in this rousing good-time musical. (Neal Weaver) Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 3 & 8 p.m., and Sun., 3 p.m.; indef. (323) 960-4412.
LOST IN RADIOLAND World premiere of Ryan Paul James and Denny Siegel's 1940s-era comedy. Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 17. (323) 467-6688.
LOVE SCENES Moe Bertran stars in David Pumo's study of gay New Yorkers. Cavern Club Theater at Casita del Campo, 1920 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 9 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 25, www.plays411.com/lovescenes. (323) 969-2530.
MIX TAPE: TAKING FLIGHT Six original one-acts by Little Bird Productions. Elephant Stageworks, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 17. (323) 960-7770.
MOVING ARTS' 15TH ANNUAL PREMIERE ONE-ACT FESTIVAL For full schedule, go to www.movingarts.org. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 30. (323) 666-3259.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NUTHIN Shakespeare's comedy, transported to 1940s Tennessee. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 21, www.arktheatre.org. (323) 969-1707.
GO NAKED BOYS SINGING When this musical, written and directed by Robert Schrock, debuted at the Celebration Theatre in 1998, it was the first show to acknowledge candidly that it featured nudity for its own sake, without explanation, justification or apologies. (The opening number was, and is, called "Gratuitous Nudity.") Some audiences were astonished to discover that, when the actors are relaxed, uninhibited and enjoying the situation, nudity is remarkably unshocking. The show has achieved enduring worldwide success, though a brief L.A. revival a couple of years ago was decidedly lackluster. One wondered if the show would hold up, now that the novelty is gone. Not to worry. This new production, featuring eight talented and very naked men (Eric B. Anthony, Jeffrey A. Johns, Jack Harding, Timothy Hearl, Marco Infante, Tony Melson, Daniel Rivera, and Victor Tang), proves that when performed with wit, insouciance and skill, the show still has the capacity to charm. It's exuberant, and full of joie de vivre, and when the actors are having fun, the audience has fun. Though not all the voices are strong, the cast are all engaging, Schrock's direction is crisp and fast-paced, and the songs offer ample wit and humor. Gerald Sternbach provides excellent musical direction. Macha Theatre, 1107 Kings Road, W. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m., through November 22. (323) 960-4424. (Neal Weaver)
NEW REVIEW GO NEVER LAND
Photo by Arsonistphotography.com
Nagy is a New Yorker who's spent the larger part of her playwriting
career in Britain, and is now a naturalized citizen of the U.K. (Her
poetical and unflinchingly brutal works were embraced by Stephen
Daldry's Royal Court Theatre, and she currently has commissions with
both the National Theatre of Great Britain and the Royal Shakespeare
Company.) She's here to direct the U.S. premiere of her play, Never Land,
a comedy of sorts that grapples firmly and unsentimentally with many
facets of exile. In the rain-soaked south of France, a native, Henri
Joubert (Bradley Fisher), his wife Anne (Lisa Pelikan) and their
beautiful, aging daughter, Elisabeth (Katherine Tozer), possess the
language, dialect and attitudes of upwardly mobile Brits. They simply
lack the lineage and resources - what with Henri working as a hired
hand at the local perfumery for a jocular, world-wise boss (William
Dennis Hunt). Henri's woes are compounded by his masochistic daughter's
engagement to a presumptuous black man, Michael (William Christopher
Stephens), and by Michael's offer to sweep her out of France - an offer
Henri's wife envies and covets. Henri, also has an offer - or, like his
daughter, he believes he does. An Englishman, Nicholas Caton-Smith
(Christopher Shaw), who lives half the year in France, runs a series of
bookshops in lackluster British cities. Henri believes that his future
happiness lies in managing one of his neighbor's shops in Bristol.
(Shannon Holt has a beguiling twitchy humor as Caton-Smith's poodle of
a wife.) The murkiness of these promises forms the strategically
wobbling axis of Nagy's absurdist and ultimately despondent comedy that
speaks as much in symbols and dreams as it does in the gently unfolding
story -- not unlike a latter-day Woyzeck. The family portraits
that decorate Frederica Nascimento's stark set get removed, one-by-one,
as the scenes progress, as the rain pours down unrelentingly. The
comedy is lyrical, urbane and erotically charged (largely by Swinda
Reichelt's silky costumes), yet technical problems intrude upon what
should be a kind of haunting. In one scene, the sound of the rain is so
severe, crucial dialogue becomes muffled. Moreover, the play's flow
depends on a descent from a comedy of British manners into the marsh
created by the emotional and atmospheric tempests of a foreign land.
Despite the caliber of the actors, the blithe and witty repartee of Act
1 is more mannered than crackling, giving the production a layer of
artifice it can ill-afford, with its already built-in shifts to the
laconic and the violent. This beautiful, difficult play deserves a
fully accomplished production to match its brilliance. It could
approach that standard as its run progresses. Rogue Machine in
Theater/Theatre, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2
p.m.; thru Nov. 15. (323) 960-7774. (Steven Leigh Morris)
NOT A GENUINE BLACK MAN Brian Copeland's solo show. Hayworth Studio, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Wed., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 21, www.briancopeland.com. (213) 389-9860.
NEW REVIEW THE PHILADELPHIA STORY
Photo courtesy of Fake Radio
This is one of three productions (with Meet Me in St Louis and The Lone Ranger)
Fake Radio is staging for their new season. This troupe specializes in
authentic recreations of broadcasts from the "golden age of radio", cum
stylish period costumes, scripts held-in-hand, commercial breaks, and a
palpable sense of infectious goofiness. Co-produced and directed by
David Koff (who also performs), the show boasts an outstanding cast and
an alternating line-up of guest stars (the night I attended, Marcia
Wallace did the honors). Opening the show, a trio of ladies took their
place in front of three on-stage microphones and sang a rendition of
"Rum and Coca-Cola," a song popularized by the Andrews Sisters. They
were followed by an episode of The Adventures of Superman, with the
funny Jon Stark as the caped superhero, and Dave Cox as Batman. Denny
Siegel was a blast as Tracy Lords, the ditzy socialite whose pending
nuptials precipitate a comic run in with her ex husband (Koff), fiancée
(Stark) and family in The Philadelphia Story. Koff mentions
early on that the script has been tweaked for effect, but it's very
difficult to tell. Everything that transpires, even the breaks for
sponsor Lux Soap and war bonds, have a delightful tone, and feel of
authenticity. Dan Foegelle's sound design is superb. Fake Radio at the
Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct.
24. (877) 460-9774. (Lovell Estell III)
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.
GO SAVIN' UP FOR SATURDAY NIGHT A thunder'n'lightinin' romance between ex-spouses crackling around a restraining order lies in the vain heart of Jeff Goode (book) and Richard Levinson's (songs) new musical, set in an undisclosed locale that sounds a whole lot like west Texas. And though this is a countrified variation on Erin Kamler's urban and urbane Divorce! The Musical, that played at the Coast Playhouse earlier this year, director Jeremy Aldridge does double-duty to seduce us into an environment, as he did with last year's hit at this same theater, Louis & Keely, Live at the Sahara. David Knutson's set transforms the theater into small town canteen/gas station, with plastic L.P records and American flags pinned to the wall. Jaimie Froemming's Texas costumes can make you feel a tad out of place for leaving that shirt with the fringe and the cowboy boots in the closet. And there are other striking similarities between Savin' Up and Louis & Keely: a marriage on the rocks, an onstage band (honky-tonk rather than jazz, consisting of musical director/guitarist John Groover McDuffie, who's also on Pedal Steel; Peter Freiberger on bass; Dave Fraser on piano; John Palmer on drums; and Al Bonhomme, alternating on guitar). Levinson's songs are a throwback to early Elton John, when he was working with Bernie Taupin, with a twist of Randy Newman's harmonic grandeur. Each of the two acts opens with a ballad accompanied just by piano ("Dr. Bartender" and "Small Town") that have simple yet haunting harmonic progressions from John's earliest albums, and the shit-kicking Act 2 "Gotta Lotta Rockin' To Do" is a musical nod to John's "Saturday Night's Alright (for Fighting)." Also echoing Louis & Keely is a dimension that makes this show just right for L.A. -- a prevalent tension between narcissism and the capacity to give of oneself, that's perfectly embodied in the delusions of Eldridge, Jr. (Brendan Hunt), a local homophobe who believes he possesses the charisma and style of Elvis Presley. In fact, he has a slight speech impediment and a deranged glint in his eye. His singing act dominates the bar, with his name in lights as a backdrop. (A number of the bulbs tellingly need replacing, like in his own emotional circuitry.) Can he win back his ex, Lucinda (the vivacious Natascha Corrigan) - a woman of machine-gun wit and fury who works double time to penetrate the impenetrable veneer of Eldridge's ego? Things get touchy, when Eldridge's long time friend, bartender Doc (the bear-like Bryan Krasner) finally has the guts to make a move of Lucinda, while sweet Patsy (Courtney DeCosky) cares for Eldridge - but not that much. It's a thin entertainment, enhanced by Allison Bibicoff's sashaying choreography, but an entertainment nonetheless. Its tone of sentimentality sprinkled with metaphysics is embodied in the song "Here," beautifully rendered by Rachel Howe, who plays a daffy waitress. The place and people can make you so insane, you want to flee, she croons: "And I know someday/We're all just gonna disappear/So I want to take the time right now to say/I really love it here." Sacred Fools Theatre, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct 4 & 11, 7 p.m.; through Oct. 24. (310) 281-8337. (Steven Leigh Morris
GO SHINING CITY Conor McPherson's pristine study in urban loneliness, first produced in 2004, unfolds in a Dublin walkup where a sexually confused therapist, Ian (William Dennis Hurley), listens, and listens, and listens some more to the half completed sentences spewed by his despondent client, John (Morlan Higgins), who keeps bursting into paroxysms of sobbing over the loss of his wife, killed in an auto accident. Making matters worse, the couple were estranged at the time, and what will eventually unfold is John's story of his blazingly pathetic and unconsumed adultery with someone he met at a party -- his blunderings, his selfishness, and his need not so much for sex but for the validation that comes from human contact, which his now-late wife couldn't provide to his satisfaction. John is haunted by her ghost, and Ian must ever so gently tell him that what he saw or heard was real, but ghosts simply aren't. (That gently yet smugly articulated theory will be challenged, along with every other pretense of what's real, and what isn't.) While listening to his forlorn client, and answering with such kindness and sensitivity, Ian is himself going through hell: A former priest, he must now explain to his flummoxed wife (Kerrie Blaisdell, imagine the multiple reactions of a cat that's just been thrown out a window) that he's leaving her, and their child, though he will move mountains to continue to support them financially. Ian's plight becomes a tad clearer with the visit of a male prostitute (Benjamin Keepers) in yet another pathetic and almost farcical endeavor to connect with another human being. Director Stephen Sachs' meticulous attention to detail manifests itself in the specificity with which Ian places his chair, in the sounds of offstage footsteps on the almost abandoned building's stairwell (sound design by Peter Bayne), in the ebbs and flows of verbiage and silence, in Higgins' hulking tenderness, and in the palate of emotions reflected in the slender Hurley's withering facial reactions. This is a moving portrait, in every sense: delicate, comical, desolate and profoundly humane. It's probably a bit too long, the denouement lingers to margins of indulgence, but that's a quibble in a production of such rare beauty. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through December 19. (323) 663-1525. (Steven Leigh Morris)
GO THE SOMETHING - NOTHING An excessively late start, covered by pounding, annoying club music led this reviewer to notice only the flaws in the first part of this outing -- but Fielding Edlow's smart script and the fine acting eventually prevailed. Three solipsistic New Yorkers nearing 30 pride themselves on their cynical worldliness while simultaneously hiding their desperate loneliness and fear of intimacy. Liza (Annika Marks) awkwardly uses the most complicated words in conversation, which is ironically laced with the youthful crutch of "like" several times per sentence. She persists in trying to keep up with those she secretly believes are her intellectual superiors. She is alternately adored and scorned by her near-psychotic lesbian roommate Luna (a delightfully grotesque performance by Robyn Cohen) as well as by her love interest, a narcissistic would-be writer (played with sexual zeal and emotional vacancy by Michael Rubenstone). The three characters spiral down into self-pity, lifted occasionally by some moments of genuine human contact -- generally shut down by the receiving party. Edlow's dialogue bounces between razor-sharp and languid, creating a weird uneasiness. She ends the second act with a character shouting, "This is not a Neil LaBute play" -- a remarkable insight, as the play does feel like a female response to LaBute's constant woman-baiting. Director Kiff Scholl smartly allows his hand to disappear, giving over the storytelling to the richly textured, sad characters. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; (323) 960-7721. (Tom Provenzano)
GO STOP KISS Manhattan traffic newscaster Callie (Deborah Puette) meets Sara (Kristina Harrison) the week the young blonde schoolteacher arrives in the city. Both have always identified themselves as straight: Callie's got her friend-with-benefits George (Christan Anderson), who she assumes she'll marry once they both stop trying to find someone better, and Sara has just left her boyfriend of seven years, Peter (Justin Okin), behind in St. Louis in her quest to find a bigger, harder, more worthwhile life. The two women gradually become best friends, deliciously tormented by their quiet hints that they both want a more physical relationship. But no sooner do they stick a tentative foot out of the closet than they're pushed out in the worst possible way -- as a news story about a violent bigot who puts Sara in a coma. Diana Son's time-jumping play about coping with the unexpected skips from their first meeting to Callie's first sitdown with the investigating cop (Jeorge Watson); we're rooting for the couple to get together under the shadow of the consequences. But Son's equal emphasis on romance makes the play looser and more inviting than a social problem drama, and the question isn't about the source of hate, but the depth of Callie's love when Peter announces that Sara's family wants to move her hospital bed back to Missouri. Under Elina de Santos and Matthew Elkin's direction, the ensemble opening night was still a little stiff, but Puette's tender performance captures a haphazard woman realizing that she's finally sure of at least one thing. (Amy Nicholson) Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 20. www.roguemachinetheatre.com. (323) 960-7774. A Rogue Machine production
SUNDAY OF THE DEAD All-new sketch and improv by the Sunday Company. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 934-9700.
10-MINUTE PLAY FESTIVAL Info and tickets at www.attictheatre.org. The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 1. (323) 525-0661.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS
A BIG GAY NORTH HOLLYWOOD WEDDING Interactive homo-nuptials, by William A. Reilly and Ben Rovner. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 25. (818) 745-8527.
BOSTON MARRIAGE David Mamet's Victorian comedy. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., Oct. 17, 3 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 23, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 25, 7 p.m.; Thurs., Oct. 29, 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 1, 3 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 7, 8 p.m.. (818) 700-4878.
CHESAPEAKE Lee Blessing's magical-realist fable. GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 31. (800) 838-3006.
GO CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD Most productions of Mark Medoff's pioneering 1979 drama about the romance between a deaf student and her hearing-abled teacher are directed and staged from the point of view of a hearing audience, who are introduced to the world of the hearing-challenged. Yet, director Jonathan Barlow Lee's haunting production of the play, staged by Deaf West Theater to celebrate the piece's 30th anniversary and the epochal role the drama played in the advent of Deaf Theater, is compellingly told from the point of view of the deaf, with those who can hear being subtly poised as outsiders. The play tells the story of beautiful, deaf student Sarah (Shoshannah Stern), a pupil at a school for the deaf who steadfastly refuses to learn how to communicate - either verbally or through ASL. Although Sarah's choice exiles her from any contact with the hearing world, the young communications instructor assigned to her, James (Matthew Jaeger), finds her fiery spirit irresistible - and they eventually fall in love, a romance that is ultimately threatened by the stresses of their two hugely different worlds. Though Act 2's focus on 1970s earnest-revolutionary issues inevitably causes the dramatic momentum to sag, Medoff's play has aged less in terms of its activist stance for the deaf and more in terms of the tightening of protocol in teacher-student relationships over the decades: The romance between a teacher and his student now actually seems somewhat creepy, and we can't help but wonder whether James' kind concerns for his student would be so intense if she weren't so physically attractive to him. Still, Lee's production -- orchestrated for audiences at all level of hearing ability -- dazzles, and the ensemble, encompassing hearing, deaf, and hard-of-hearing actors, offer beautiful, subtle acting turns. Stern's ferocious performance as Sarah is particularly powerful. With the exception of one elementally searing moment, the actress doesn't utter a sound - yet, we're struck by how much passion and love can be communicated via ASL during her operatic, yet paradoxically silent performance. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Nov. 1. (866) 811-4111. (Paul Birchall)
FINDING NEO Original one-acts by Denise Devin, Alex Dremann, Michael Erger, David Garry, Mark Harvey Levine, David Lewison, Marina Palmier, Donaco Smyth, and Ralph Tropf. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 29. (877) 620-7673.
FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS World-premiere play with music by Laurie Stevens and Ronald Jacobs. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 31. (877) 620-7673.
THE FOREIGNER Larry Shue's comedy. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 14. (626) 256-3809.
GO FRIENDS LIKE THESE Playwright Gregory Crafts' drama is billed as a show about teen violence, conjuring up images of gangs with guns or distraught loners firing wildly into a crowd of peers. In fact, while the latter event eventually finds its way into Crafts' story, that's not its central focus.Instead, the play is mostly about some of the pernicious perils of adolescence - specifically the targeting of geeks by jocks, and the painful experience of the outcast in a teen community worshipful of its own rigid standard of "coolness." At the heart of the plot is the blossoming friendship between Garrett (Matthew Scott Montgomery), a sullen geeky kid, and Nicole (Sarah Smick), a pretty cheerleader who's just called it quits with her boyfriend Jesse (Alex Yee). Disgusted with Jesse's arrogance and infidelity, Nicole finds herself drawn in by Garrett's candidness and unassuming manner. To the surprise of all, and the chagrin of some, their relationship blooms. Especially disturbed are Jesse - stunned that Garrett has become his rival, and Diz (Sari Sanchez), Garrett's former girl chum, who believes him to be her soul mate and now seethes with jealousy. Understated from the top, Montgomery's performance deepens and expands as his character gradually undergoes changes. Smick is likewise layered and sympathetic, and Sanchez plays her one note role exceptionally well. Yee and Ryan J. Hill as everyone's buddy are also effective. Designer Andrew Moore's visually grating and incongruent backdrop needs rethinking. Sean Fitzgerald and Vance Roi Reyes co-direct. The Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 17. (818) 849-4039. A Theatre Unleashed production. (Deborah Klugman)
NEW REVIEW GOD SAVE GERTRUDE
Photo by Ed Krieger
Playwright Deborah Stein's melodramatic, musical mash-up of '70s punk rock and Hamlet
is eerily reminiscent of a beer-fueled, college-dorm-room debate over
what constitutes a punk aesthetic -- albeit the losing side. As
suggested by Stein's fictional ex-punk superstar turned vodka-swilling
First Lady, Gertrude (Jill Van Velzer), the play argues that punk was a
politically idealistic movement agitating for social revolution. Maybe,
but real-life veterans of New York's CBGB's or Max's Kansas City --
Gertrude's erstwhile, formative music scenes -- might remember
something slightly more sardonic, skeptical and nihilistic.
Nevertheless, in this Bizarro Shakespeare, where a besieged Elsinore is
under bombardment by an anarchist army, Gertrude takes refuge in a
decrepit theater (on Susan Gratch's war-torn set) to perform an
impromptu concert of old songs interspersed with regrets over her
betrayal of that alleged punk spirit. Her remorse includes complicity
in the murder of a first husband by her current President/spouse (James
Horan) that has left her rising, rock-star son (Steve Coombs)
smoldering with resentment. But if Van Velzer's portrayal of a
grasping, narcissistic diva doesn't exactly resonate with the Bard's
Gertrude, Stein and composer David Hanbury prove more in tune as a
lyricist-songwriter team for the show's half-dozen, faux-vintage punk
numbers. Van Velzer belts them out with credible gusto, though director
Michael Michetti's somewhat lumbering production could have benefited
from the energy of live accompaniment instead of musical director Rob
Oriol's prerecorded band in a can. Theater @ Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor
Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 8. (626)
683-6883. (Bill Raden)
IT'S JUST SEX Jeff Gould's comedy about "lust and trust.". Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 8. (818) 762-2282.
NEW REVIEW GO JUST IMAGINE
Photo by Jacki Korito
fun of seeing and hearing Tim Piper's great John Lennon impersonation
in an intimate setting with an outstanding band, under Greg Piper
musical direction, is just undeniable. The evening, which includes a
large portion of the Beatles catalogue followed by Lennon's solo work,
never misses a beat or lick with Piper's perfectly pitched and accented
voice and expert instrumentation: Don Butler's hot guitar, Morley
Bartnoff's keyboard and Don Poncher's drums. The guys scruffily kowtow
to Lennon's lead, creating the perfect illusion of superstar power.
Jonathan Zenz's sound design achieves a powerful volume without killing
our ears in the small Noho Arts Center space. Lighting by Luke Moyer
along with Tim Piper's video images complete the double fantasy of
Lennon before and after Yoko. The musical portion is so enjoyable,
under the overall eye of director Steve Altman, that we hopefully
forget the lame one-man play that slips between the songs. Perhaps the
plan is to pull Lennon off his lofty saint-like perch, but the result
of a plodding timeline narrative bio leaves Lennon sounding dull and
whiney, until the music returns him to his proper place. NoHo Arts
Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,
3 p.m.; thru Nov. 8. www.justimaginetheshow.com. (818) 508-7101, Ext. 7. (Tom Provenzano)
GO THE MATCHMAKER When playwright Thornton Wilder lifted the character Frosine from Molière's The Miser, and transplanted her in his adaptation of a 19th Century Viennese farce by Johan Nestroy, he can't have realized that he was launching her as one of the most enduringly popular characters in 20th Century American theatre. Renamed Dolly Gallagher Levi, she became the formidable protagonist of both The Matchmaker and the Jerry Herman musical version, Hello, Dolly! The play remains a delicious piece of faux Americana, which doesn't need the songs to be a zany theatrical warhorse. Dolly (Amanda Carlin) is playing matchmaker for wealthy Yonkers merchant Horace Vandergelder (James Gleason), but she's actually out to capture him for herself. When Horace heads for Manhattan to woo widowed Mrs. Molloy (Alyss Henderson), his two clerks, Cornelius (Patrick Rafferty) and Barnaby (Colin Thomas Jennings), take advantage of his absence to run off for a Manhattan adventure of their own. Comic confusions, mistaken identities, and multiple romances result. Director Dave Florek's production is sturdy rather than brilliant, but he elicits plenty of charm from his large, engaging cast. Particularly noteworthy are Don Fischer and James Greene in goofy featured roles. Jeff McLaughlin's sets and Sherry Linnell's costumes capture the period flavor. The Victory Theatre Center, 3326 West Victory Boulevard, Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 4 p.m., thru Oct. 18. Produced by Interact Theatre Company. (818) 765-8732. (Neal Weaver)
GO MOM'S THE WORD Six mothers wrote these intertwined jokes and rants about parenting, and even those who haven't undergone birth themselves (a minority in the audience I was part of) feel sympathy pangs after Kimleigh Smith starts the show by screaming and pleading for the pain to go away. That agonizingly true opener arcs from "What have I done?" to "How couldn't I have done this?" Though the trajectory of the show is a vindication of motherhood, the five actors (all parents themselves) cathartically focus on the smelly, slimy, exhausting, self-denigrating, unsexy, paranoid and bewildering qualities motherhood elicits. This certainly isn't a Precious Moments valentine to parenting; happy moments are so rare, it's a small feat that director Jerry London makes the closing sufficiently upbeat that the parents in the house don't immediately make a dropoff at the nearest orphanage. In a nifty bit of casting, Smith, Gina Torrecilla, Becky Thyre and Cathy Schenkelberg are joined by real-life gay dad Hutchins Foster, who steps into an originally female role with just a few tweaks. This casual and enthusiastic evening is worth a babysitter for moms and dads who want to hear others speak the unspeakable. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., N.Hlywd.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through November 8. (818) 508-0281. (Amy Nicholson)
NOT WITH MONSTERS Zombie Joe Underground presents Adam Neubauer's "madcap race through time and classic horror monsters.". ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru Oct. 31. (818) 202-4120.
PRIVATE EYES Steven Dietz's comedy of suspicion. Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 25, http://www.privateeyesla.com. (323) 960-7782.
PULP GRAVEYARD Theatre Unleashed takes on "comic books, pulp fiction and dime-store novels," old-time live radio drama style. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 10:30 p.m.; thru Oct. 17, www.theatreunleashed.com...
REP*A*TROIS Three plays in rotating rep: Heroes by Gerard Sibleyras, Painting Churches by Tina Howe, and Boston Marriage by David Mamet. (Call for schedule.). Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sun..; thru Nov. 7. (818) 700-4878.
NEW REVIEW ROCKIN' WITH THE AGES Following in the footsteps of such shows as Too Old For the Chorus,
this musical revue gives the over-60 set a chance to sing, dance, kick
up their heels, and prove they're not too old to cut the mustard. Not
surprisingly, the songs tend to be nostalgic golden oldies, ranging
from "My Man" to "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'", "The Music of the
Night," and "Summertime." But there's some real talent here, a number
of terrific voices, and a sequin-and-feather-clad tap-dancing ensemble
called The Razzmatappers, who prove they're as spry and energetic as
most 20-year olds. Vocal high-lights include David Lara's operatic
renditions of "Summertime," and "O Solo Mio," Carl Jacobs' "Dream the
Impossible Dream," Susan La Croix's sassy rendition of "Anything Goes,"
and Klyda Hill Mahoney's "Stormy Weather." Director Warren Berlinger
keeps the show moving along nicely, emcee Hank Garrett adds dollops of
naughty Catskill-type humor, and Ron Rose provides deft keyboard
accompaniments. There's a huge cast, but the lineup seems to vary from
performance to performance. The show is obviously a big hit with
seniors, but it's hard to say how much appeal it'll have for younger
audiences. Actors Forum Theatre, 10655 Magnolia Boulevard, North
Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., thru Oct. 25. (818)
506-0600. (Neal Weaver)
SCARECROW Playwright Don Nigro's Midwestern Gothic makes for an uneasy fit on a legitimate stage. Perhaps that's because the one-act psychological horror began life as the script for a 1979 experimental video shot at the Iowa Writer's Workshop, in which the cinematic, windswept vistas of Iowan corn fields stood in for the roiling subconscious of Nigro's sexually frustrated young heroine, Cally (Linda Tomassone). In director Antony Berrios' production, those fields are necessarily pruned to a dozen, desiccated stalks (on designer Vincent Albo's farmhouse set), thereby diminishing the figurative effect and throwing the poetic onus onto Nigro's humorless, derivative text. The tale deals with the troubled, claustrophobic relationship between 18-year-old Cally and her reclusive, repressive, evil-obsessed mother, Rose (Deborah Lemen) -- think Carrie and Margaret White, albeit without Stephen King's telekinetic fireworks. Their chief contention is over boys and sex, both of which Rose considers ultimate threats to be kept apart from her virginal daughter with a shotgun. Rose's vigilance cannot extend into the adjacent corn fields, however, into which Cally daily disappears to rendezvous with the mysterious Nick (Ian Jerrell), a beguiling drifter who may either be a figment of her romantic fantasies or the malevolent incarnation of Rose's worst fears. Both Tomassone and Lemen acquit themselves well in the melodramatic clinches (though Cally appears more salon-groomed than corn-fed), and while Jerrell delivers a measure of dash, he misses the menace that might stoke Nigro's otherwise suspense-starved story. Avery Schreiber Theatre, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., N.Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through October 17. (818) 859-3160. (Bill Raden)
GO SECRETS OF A SOCCER MOM Playwright Kathleen Clark's comedy is a funny and touching tale about rekindling lost dreams or letting them go. It's another soccer Sunday and three middle-class, suburban housewives are teamed up against their 8-year-olds in a mom-versus-son tournament. Nancy (Jennifer L. Davis) is a 40-ish former model seemingly resigned to a less glamorous life, Lynn (Tammy Taylor) is a 30-something who single-handedly and thanklessly runs the local PTA, and Allison (Michelle Coyle) is in her 20s and new to the unnamed neighborhood, as well as to soccer -- she totes a copy of Soccer for Dummies. Despite Allison's protests, they decide to throw the game so their kids can feel good, a choice they later realize is a metaphor for how they sacrifice their own goals and feelings for the sake of their families. "How can you feel trapped by what you love?" one of them laments as they reveal their true feelings and end up bonding as a team, both on and off the field. Clark's balance of snappy one-liners and serious reflection (especially an Act 2 monologue delivered by Davis) makes up for the play's predictability. The cast is exceptional under Donald Shenk's first-rate direction. StillSpeaking Theatre, 2560 Huntington Drive, San Marino; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through October 18. (626) 292-2081. (Martín Hernández)
SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's musical thriller. Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 22, www.theprodco.com. (800) 838-3006.
THAT PERFECT MOMENT What is it about rock & roll that makes it so stubbornly resistant to conventional dramatic representation? Perhaps it's that the rock metanarrative -- the collective absurdity of backstage misbehavior, egocentric pettiness and self-destructive excess that is somehow transcended in the artistry and catharsis of the live performance -- runs so close to self-parody that it can only be captured in documentary or satire (or both, i.e., This is Spinal Tap). Whatever the reason, playwrights Charles Bartlett and Jack Cooper's warmed-over band-reunion dramedy misses the mark by an L.A. mile. When ponytailed, 60-something literature professor, Mark Vanowen (Tait Ruppert), hears that a label is interested in his former, never-signed, '60s protest band, The Weeds, for an oldies compilation, he promptly recalls his old bandmates to discuss reforming for a support tour. The problem is former drummer Skip (Bruce Katzman), now a prosperous Republican with a McMansion in Calabasas, who holds the song rights along with a vindictive grudge against Mark for jumping ship at the moment of The Weeds' almost-success. Complicating matters is Mark's wife, Sarah (Kelly Lester), who abruptly walks out after he chucks his department's chairmanship for a last stab at rock & roll glory. Though director Rick Sparks elicits spirited performances from a stellar cast (including Sha Na Na's Guerin Barry and the comically gifted John Bigham), neither Adam Flemming's sterile apartment set nor the play's atonal text musters the authenticity needed to make this production rock. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., N.Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through November 8. plays411.com/perfect. (323) 960-7745. (Bill Raden)
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD Christopher Sergel's stage adaptation of Harper Lee's classic novel suffers from a lack of narrative drive due to the inclusion of an adult narrator. In the much-beloved story, Scout (Rachel Arnold), her brother, Jem (Dalton O'Dell), and friend Dill (Taylor Cosgrove Scofield) spend a long, hot summer in 1935 Macomb, Alabama, trying to get Boo Radley (Price Carson) to come out of his house. Scout also observes how her lawyer father, Atticus (Jim Gleason), handles a trumped-up rape charge against a black man named Tom Robinson (Myron Primes), levied by the racist Bob Ewell (David Wells) and his daughter Mayella (Hayden Wyatt). Although well-intentioned, this adaptation's use of a both 7-year-old Scout and her adult self (Penny Louise Moore, who also directs) gives the play a strained earnestness. However, the acting can't be faulted, and director (and set designer!) Moore astutely marshals the large cast on the small stage, which also benefits from her set design. The child actors are terrific, particularly Scofield. Gleason achieves the right gravitas as Atticus, and Wells makes an outstanding snarling villain. Actors Repertory Theater at Missing Piece Theatre, 2811 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through October 25. brownpapertickets.com/event/74143. (800) 838-3006. (Sandra Ross)
UNDERGROUND WOMAN Very loosely based on Fyodor Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground, Victoria E. Thompson's dark comedy focuses on a cynical woman who just wants to be left alone. Thompson performs as Delia Donovan, a woman who desires only to drink herself to death. Her dysfunctional family has other plans, however. Led by therapist Elise Rosen (Maaren Edvard), her family stages an intervention. Self-mutilating daughter Rachel (Maegan McConnell) can barely hide her resentment as she tells her mother she loves her. Newly sober son David (Chris Kerrigan) is illiterate, unable to read the letter penned by the therapist to his mother. Bitter adult sister Harriet (Hilarie Thompson) resurrects old grudges and blames her older sister for her not becoming a cheerleader in high school. Delia's husband, Don (James Loren), writes a convincing enough intervention love letter -- until it's revealed that he's having an affair with the therapist. Director Anita Khanzadian elicits superior performances from Thompson and Edvard, but some of the supporting players are a bit overblown, bordering on shrill. Two exceptions: Adam Sherman does an excellent job as Delia's equally cynical nephew, and director Khanzadian is fine as Delia's mother. Victoria Profitt's homey set adds to the persuasiveness of the play. The Michael Chekhov Studio in association with Theatre Unlimited, 10943 Camarillo Ave., N.Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through October 18. (818) 238-0501. (Sandra Ross)
WONDER OF THE WORLD David Lindsy-Abaire's divorce comedy. Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Nov. 1. (818) 841-5421.
THE WONDERFUL ICE CREAM SUIT Ray Bradbury's fantastical comedy. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 14, www.plays411.com/raybradbury. (323) 960-4451.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN
CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT Dramatic musical based on Dracula author Bram Stoker. Book, music and lyrics by Scott Martin. Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 1. (310) 358-9936.
CINDERELLA THE MUSICAL I attended writer-director Chris De Carlo & Evelyn Rudie's musical adaptation of the timeless fairy tale with my 9-year-old niece, Rachel. We found ourselves joined by a birthday party of kids who appeared to be around 6, though there was a smattering of infants and adults. These kids were obviously smitten with the broad comedic antics of the stepsisters (Celeste Akiki and Billie Dawn Greenblatt) and their mom (Serena Dolinksy, doubling, in a rare, high-concept moment of intended irony, as Cinderella's Fairy Godmother). The actors' goggle-eyed expressions and broad-as-a-barn reactions generated screams of laughter from the kids, who were also riveted by the songs (ranging in style from pop ballads to Gilbert and Sullivan parodies). This production has been chugging on and off for 25 years now. Actor John Waroff has dedicated a quarter century of his adult life strutting the boards as King Isgood, so points scored for perseverance, which is more than can be said for Rachel, who promised to write this review and then left it to me. Can't not mention Ashley Hayes' lush costumes, nor the tinny sound design that left the singers marooned. Rachel said she really liked the stepsisters and Cinderella (Melissa Gentry) but wished somebody had been more cruel, as in the story. Everybody here was just so nice, and Rachel was aching for something meaner or weirder. I concur. Rachel also said some unkind things about some of the performances, but if she wants those aired, she can write a review herself. (SLM) Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat.-Sun., noon & 3 p.m.; through December 27. (310) 394-9779.
DEAD GUILTY Richard Harris' suspense thriller. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 7. (562) 494-1014.
NEW REVIEW THE DOCTOR DESPITE HIMSELF
Photo courtesy of Ipanema Theatre Troupe
Molière's farce, oafish woodcutter Sganarelle (Charles Fathy) takes a
(rubber) mallet and beats his wife Martine (Clara Bellar) like a dirty
carpet - and -- why not? -- since she kind of likes it. However, this
doesn't prevent Martine from spitefully telling a passing dolt (Brad
Schmidt) that Sganarelle is a famous surgeon who enjoys being paid for
his toils by receiving even more savage beatings. The dolt beats
Sganarelle like a brass gong and then hires him to cure his master's
daughter (Raquel Brussolo) of muteness. Of course, it turns out that
the girl is only pretending to be mute so she can trick her dullard dad
(Steven Houska) and marry the handsome student (Brad Schmidt) she
loves. More beatings ensue. The first thing you need to know, even
before watching the play's casual thumpings, is that director Gulu
Montiero's madcap production is steeped in the art of the clowning.
The show has the wonderfully shrill pitch and frantic pace of a living
cartoon. The cast know the way around the 17th century gags - and the
goofiness is heightened by designer Swinda Reichelt's jaw-dropping
costumes, which turn these classical characters into outlandish figures
risen from some other dimension. In his leering turn as Sganarelle,
Fathy's grinning mug floats in what appears to be a blubbering
multi-colored beach ball, and when he turns into "the doctor," he is
fitted with a bizarre collar with dangling tassles that your cats would
adore. Sganarelle's spiteful wife wears plastic-y a swoop skirt
covered with rubber balls - and she then returns later as a sexy
housemaid, wearing weird plastic blonde braids and gigantic plaster
breasts. The results of all this artistry is a production that is both
timeless and yet cracklies with the freshness of a living children's
picture book. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave, Venice; Fri.-Sat., 8
p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; through Nov. 8. (310) 823-0710.
http://www.electriclodge.org An Ipanema Theatre Troupe production
DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE The Robert Louis Stevenson classic, adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 8. (310) 364-0535.
THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED Douglas Carter Beane's look at Hollywood dealmaking. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 17. (310) 828-7519.
GO THE NEED TO KNOW In a much-evolved solo show that she first presented at Burbank's tiny Sidewalk Studio Theatre seven years ago, and which she's been touring ever since, April Fitzsimmons has grown into the role. Given that her show is autobiographical, this is a bit like saying she's grown into herself, which is also probably true. Perhaps the show has taught her more about the complexities of life, but it's also taught her how to act. Her impersonations of family and friends, her vocal range, her physical dexterity and her comedic timing are now more fully accomplished, and a scene referring to Obama has been added. What starts as a domestic romp from her childhood in Montana and her fling with a man engaged to somebody else, slides into an adventure monitoring Russia and the Middle East as part of a U.S. Air Force intelligence team. Partly to spite her father and her family's Navy heritage (her father refused to support her wish to pursue an acting career in L.A.), she joined the Air Force, and found herself in the south of Italy, working as an intelligence analyst. Even then, she had a raw morality that simply bristled at evidence of nuclear materials being illegally trafficked across foreign lands, evidence that never made it into the press, because the "need-to-know" standard, and U.S. relations with those foreign governments, prevailed against it. That bristling was also the germinal fuel of Fitzsimmons' eventual antiwar activism: It's not wars that protect our freedom, it's the Bill of Rights, she tells a heckler at a beachfront, antiwar ceremony honoring U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. Having marched with an M-16, and been privy to the byzantine workings of the military-intelligence network, Fitzsimmons' has earned the right to stage an agitprop performance. She describes being a teenager in the south of Italy, living on the estate of an older Mafioso as refuge from her barracks. He sidles up to her and complains of his "tensseeon," that the cure is "amoooree." Yet Fitzsimmons flips this cheesy pickup line into poetry, when, at show's end, she speaks of the tensions in the world, and how the only cure is amore. Steven Anderson directs. Actors Gang, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; through October 24. (310) 838-4264. (Steven Leigh Morris)
RICHARD III Shakespeare's history play. Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 24. (866) 811-4111.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS
CINDERELLA: THE MUSICAL I attended writer-director Chris De Carlo & Evelyn Rudies musical adaptation of the timeless fairy tale with my 9-year-old niece, Rachel. Rachel said she really liked the stepsisters and Cinderella (Melissa Gentry) but wished somebody had been more cruel, as in the story. Everybody here was just so nice, and Rachel was aching for something meaner or weirder. I concur. (SLM). Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat.-Sun., 12:30 & 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 27. (310) 394-9779.
NEW REVIEW GO FESTEN Thomas Vinterberg's 1998 Danish
film, Festen, distributed under the English title, The Celebration, is
the basis of David Eldridge's English-language stage adaptation. The
story is based on the hoax of a man announcing on Danish radio that his
father had molested him. The play - which thrived in Britain from 2004,
including a successful West End run in 2005 before it withered on
Broadway in 2006 -- is doggedly faithful to the film's cinematic
repartee of multiple, simultaneous conversations around a dining room
table at the 60th birthday celebration of patriarch Helge (Jeff Paul).
As part of an "honorary" toast, Helge's middle-aged son, Christian
(David Vegh, possessing just the right jumpy blend of gentleness and
smugness) announces that in the past, Helge routinely sodomized him and
his twin sister, who just committed suicide. And in the shock of that
toast, we become jurors: There's plenty of evidence to suggest that
Christian is mentally unhinged, though being sodomized by one's father
would be a plausible cause of such instability. The rest of the comedy
is a study in the violence that floats just beneath the surface of this
large family, of its inability to grapple with Christian's accusation
as well as with the blatant bigotry expressed by Christian's swaggering
brother, Michael (Josh Nathan), against their other sister's (Anna Steers)
latest black boyfriend (Jarrell Hall). Meanwhile, doddering
Grandfather (Ken Rugg) ludicrously keeps warning that a bawdy joke he's
aching to tell might be too shocking. Eldridge's acerbic sarcasm in
this minefield of brutality amidst the trappings of civility give s the
play its Pinter-esque trappings, and to her credit, director Joanne
Gordon yanks this production from the play's cinema-verite moorings,
using an increasing expansive physical stylization (including an archly
choreographed, robotic dining sequence) that physicalizes Christian's
growing nightmare. The writing plays a clever, facile game with pop
psychology that's more provocative than penetrating, yet this nicely
acted and sleekly designed production is never less than absorbing.
Royal Theatre aboard the Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach;
Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 6 p.m.; through Oct. 17. (562)
985-5526. A California Repertory Company production. (Steven Leigh
THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED Douglas Carter Beane's look at Hollywood dealmaking. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 17. (310) 828-7519.
THE NEED TO KNOW April Fitzsimmons' journey from military recruit to peace activist. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 24. (310) 838-4264.
THE NERD Larry Shue's comedy about a nerd. Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 11. (310) 454-1970.
THE RECEPTIONIST If there is a premise behind playwright Adam Bock's superficial political satire, it might be the notion that even Adolf Eichmann had a beloved mother, and, no doubt, an efficient receptionist too. It is in the latter's domain of a generic, office waiting room (in Chris Covics' appropriately bland-moderne set) that Bock places his comic cautionary study in the mindless, bureaucratic surrender of moral judgment to the dictates of duty -- what Hannah Arendt meant by "the banality of evil." And there are few duties more banal than Beverly Wilkins' (Megan Mullally of NBC's Will & Grace). Holding down the front desk of the innocuous-sounding "Northeast Office," the veteran employee sorts the mail, makes the coffee and screens the incoming calls for her harried boss, Mr. Raymond (Jeff Perry), at least when she isn't gossiping on the phone or giving relationship advice to Mr. Raymond's flighty, love-hungry assistant, Lorraine (Jennifer Finnigan). It is only with the surprise visit of the Central Office's affable Martin Dart (Chris L. McKenna) and Mr. Raymond's inexplicable absence that Beverly's comfortable routine begins to unravel and the horrific nature of the Northeast Office's "services" is finally brought to light. Though Mullally nails the officious manner and mercurial pettiness of the practiced office functionary, Bart DeLorenzo's detail-mired direction ultimately proves unable to bridge the miscalculated disconnect between Bock's cobweb-thin characterizations and the discordant heft of his message. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru November 23. (310) 477-2055. (Bill Raden) An Evidence Room/Odyssey Theatre Ensemble production.
RICHARD III Shakespeare's history play. Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 24. (866) 811-4111.
SOCK & SHOE The "Sock" portion of this pair of clown and puppet acts features former Cirque du Soleil maestro Daisuke Tsuji in the latest incarnation of the nouveau pantomimist's quest to take clowning out of the circus and onto the performance-art stage. Call it clowning for those who hate clowns. "Death and Giggles" (co-created by Tsuji and puppeteer Cristina Bercovitz) eschews the Cirque's more egregious audience pandering and slapstick grotesquerie for an often lyrical and richly metaphoric exploration into the metaphysics of dying. Framed by an ocean-surf drowning, the narrative has Tsuji, who is made up in simple whiteface and dressed in a sports coat and tie, on a balloon-strewn stage, improvising and miming his way through a series of life memories, ranging from a petulant, hyper-active child being called to dinner, to a school cafeteria food fight, to the sexual awakening of adolescence, through adult experiences of love, marriage and loss. Each scene is punctuated by the wit and vivid atmospherics of composer Jonathan Snipes' striking sound design which, in what may be the show's cleverest conceit, is cued by Tsuji's bursting of successive balloons as each, drowning breath is released. The evening's curtain-raiser, "Sole Mate," an ingratiatingly cute exercise in close foot puppetry, has Bercovitz's sneaker sing the titular, romantic ballad (music by Snipes, lyrics by Snipes, Bercovitz & Jessica Erskine) as it searches through Erskine's mismatching footwear for its missing mate. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Fri., 9 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m., Sept. 26 & Oct. 10; thru Oct. 23. (310) 838-4264. (Bill Raden)
THREE SISTERS As with much of Anton Chekhov's work, this play about the Prozorov family deals with the decay of the pre-Soviet Russian aristocracy at the end of the nineteenth century and the uncertain future that lies ahead for the country. Set in a provincial town, the story centers on the lives of the titular femmes, Olga (Vanessa Waters), Maria (Susan Ziegler) and Irina (Murielle Zuker), who have lost their father and live in the family home with their older brother Andrey (Scott Sheldon) and his wife Natalia (Cameron Meyer), while they long to return to the glamour and excitement of Moscow. The challenge with Chekhov, of course, is striking the fine balance between the almost slapstick comedy and heartbreaking tragedy that alternately define the lives of his characters. Company co-founder and director Jack Stehlin does a laudable job with the humor in the text, and his balletic transition between Acts III and IV is innovative; however he never fully draws out the emotional weight of loss in the piece, leaving it to ubiquitous Russian "philosophizing." Kitty Rose's layered set facilitates the numerous entrances and exits, and Zale Morris' finely detailed costumes have the appropriate period feel to them. The cast, too, is solid, but Meyer stands out in completing her emotional journey on stage and making us feel something, even if hatred, for the vicious figure she becomes. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West L.A.; Wed., 8 p.m. (Wed. perfs until Oct. 14 only); Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (Sun. perfs Oct. 18 and Nov. 8, 7 p.m.); thru November 8. (310) 477-2055, ext. 2. A Circus Theatricals Production. (Mayank Keshaviah)
THE VALUE OF NAMES West Coast Jewish Theater presents Jeffrey Sweet's comedy-drama. Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 22, www.wcjt.org. (323) 506-8024.
WTF?! FESTIVAL Singer/songwriter series, film talkback series, theater and dance series, and literature series, each curated by actor Tim Robbins. Complete schedule at www.wtffestival.com. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Fri., 9 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8:30 p.m.; thru Dec. 19. (310) 838-4264.
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